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our condolences

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“Signatures,” Robin announced, dropping a stack of assorted papers atop his desk. “And promptly, if you please, I’d like to make today’s post.”

Strike grabbed the top paper and twirled his pen about to jot his name on the line. “What is all this, then?”

“Mostly just formalities, client confidentiality, new contracts, the like,” Robin said, accepting the signed forms one by one.

“This one isn’t a formality,” Strike said, holding up the last item in the pile.

“No, that’s a condolence card,” Robin replied smartly. “Go on, add your name.”

Strike signed his name beside Robin’s, his eyebrows raised. “To whom are we sending a condolence card, and why?”

“Because when a good client’s mother dies, we send a card. That’s how you keep them coming back,” she said.

He scanned the card, which was brief, containing a sentiment about “a life well lived” and wishing the recipient “comfort in the midst of pain.” It was in Robin’s own distinct handwriting.

Strike leaned back in his chair. “I never would have thought to do this.”

Robin shrugged, arms folded around her pile of papers. “It’s the sort of thing my mum taught me to do. It’s a bit old-fashioned, I know.”

“Maybe,” he said, “but it’s also… kind. How did you know about it? The death, I mean.”

She smiled. “I saw it in the paper.”

“And you knew that the sort of person whose mum gets an obit in the paper is the sort we ought to send a card to.” Strike gave Robin an admiring sort of look. “Very clever.”

“Well,” Robin said, half-shrugging and with an impish grin, “you don’t keep me around just because I’m pretty.”

Before he could come up with a reply, Robin snatched the card up and whirled out of the room.