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"What if I said yeah, we are?"

Tae's highball glass hit the table. She stared at Narumi. The blood shot back into her cheeks all at once. "Then I'd say shame on you, for taking advantage of an employee! And for corrupting a child who's half your age--"

"He's older than that." If not by much. Narumi took a swig of his Scotch and soda, and then another for good measure. "I don't make the kid do anything, Tae. You've seen him fight. He could cut me into pretty ribbons and tie the ribbons in a bow before I even dropped my pants."

For a second he thought she might throw her drink at him, but she settled for pulling a hideous face. Narumi was glad she hadn't wasted the whisky. She was taking this well, all things considered.

"Maybe he could," she said, "and I sure think he should, but he wouldn't, he's a good boy--has he ever once disobeyed you?"

"He has, now that you mention it. Once."

Tae looked surprised to hear it. "Really?" She waited. "And?"

"And it was for my sake, and I'm glad he did. End of story." Narumi smiled at the memory, then shifted his glass and watched the ice rearrange itself. "You're right, he's a good kid. He knows right from wrong, and he doesn't put up with wrong from anybody. If he thought I had wrong on my agenda, I think he'd tell me where to stick it."

She pulled the hideous face again. "Do you have to use such crude language? I'm a writer, it offends my sensibilities."

"Just telling it like I see it, sister." Narumi reached for the bottle of Scotch to freshen his drink. "Anyhow, this is all hypothetical."

Tae blinked. "It is?"

"I said 'if.'" He raised his glass to her. "Cheers."


At that moment Raidou and Gouto came through the door, back from their little jaunt to Shinoda. Raidou tipped his hat politely to Tae. Narumi watched him walk down the office steps with his cape swaying all dramatic-like. Tae was watching him watch him, her eyes drawing a suspicious bead.

"Raidou," said Narumi, "the lady here thinks I'm taking advantage of you. Set her straight, will you?"

Raidou paused and addressed Tae. "He's not."

"Fine. Good!" wailed Tae. "But what about my original question?!" Her face had turned the color of unripe plums. She never could hold her liquor. Narumi figured it was the one feminine weakness keeping her from becoming an ace reporter for real. To run with the press club boys you had to be able to throw back like one. She needed more practice, was all. Good thing he was around to oversee her training.

To Raidou he explained: "She still wants to know if you and me are 'like that.'"

Raidou gave him an inquiring look.

"You know." Narumi waggled his eyebrows. "'That.'"

The inquiring look persisted. Narumi wondered if the kid was playing dumb.

"If you're HAVING INTERCOURSE," wailed Tae, plum-faced.

Raidou blinked. He pulled his hat brim down and turned away. They could see that his neck had flushed faintly pink.

"There it is," said Narumi. "Straight from the horse's mouth."

"But he didn't say anything!"

"Horses usually don't. Funny how that is." You couldn't blame her for trying, though. It was a reporter's job to nab the juicy quotes. Grinning, Narumi stood up and herded her out of her chair. "All right, Miz Kichou, interview's over. Time to go home and sleep it off. C'mon, I'll call you a rickshaw."

She batted him away. "I can call my own rickshaw, I'm an independent woman!"

"Yeah, yeah."

He saw her to the front door of the building despite her fussing. When he got back to the office, Raidou had shed his gear and was leafing through a case file. Gouto was ensconced on the couch. They both glanced up at Narumi's entrance. Raidou's gaze returned to the file.

"You shouldn't tease her so much," he said quietly, neutrally, as if stating a fact.

Ooh, a scolding. Verbal, even. Narumi did his level best not to purr. "Why not? If she's going to sit here and drink all my liquor." He went to the table, hefted the bottle and swirled what was left in it. "Want me to pour you one?"

Eyes on the case file, Raidou shook his head.

"Aw, don't make the old man drink alone, that's just uncongenial. I'll fix you a weak one. The junior version."

Raidou's mouth flattened. He put down the case file and said if Narumi was going to fix one regardless, please fix it right.