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32

Fleeced

The cocktail party was going strong in the main reception room of the Paisley Hotel. Law-enforcement professionals and the writers who wrote about their line of work were meeting and greeting each other with great merriment. The lectures and seminars had all gone well. People were already talking about the next crime convention and topics that would be of interest.

Luke had joined Nora for the party, and then they were heading out to dinner with friends.

Have you talked to Regan? he asked Nora.

Not since this morning.

I was talking with Austin today, Luke began as he accepted a glass of wine from the bartender. Austin was his right-hand man at the funeral parlors. I told him about Regans new assignment over at the Settlers Club. He said he knew someone who went to a singles party there on Valentines Day. It turns out that the girl who ran it is the one we heard about last year who lived in Hoboken. Remember the Connolly brothers telling the story about the old woman who no one knew had a lot of money and left it to her neighbor? The woman had been waked at their funeral home and had planned a modest funeral for herself in advance. The Connollys had given her a break on the price, then found out later she had a couple million bucks in the bank!

I remember that! Nora said. I swear theres more gossip in the funeral industry than any other!

Well, this girl inherited all the money, and the Connollys barely broke even. Now shes in a penthouse apartment at the Settlers Club and is running a dating service. Then when the Connollys had a charity drive, and they solicited a contribution from her, she stiffed them.

Nora raised her eyebrows. Well, did whoever went to her gathering have a good time?

Immediately after the party he got back together with his wife.

Nothing like a happy ending, Nora said wryly. Maybe you should let Regan know.

I will, Luke said.

Next to Luke and Nora at the bar was someone very practiced in the art of eavesdropping. The reporter Nora had spoken to earlier in the day had come back, at Noras invitation, to the cocktail party. So why didnt you tell me your daughter was at the Settlers Club when I mentioned it earlier? Mary Ruffner wondered as she waited for her drink. Now I have to make it a point to get down there today.

She tapped Nora on the shoulder. How are you? she gushed. She turned to Luke. And you must be Regan Reillys father.


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