Hands still greasy with oil clay, Nana is back at her terminal. Once again the icon for email reads NONE. Once again her teeth indent her lower lip—reconfigured this time to betray a mounting pique; 2:56 by her clock meaning, 11:56 by his, meaning late in 4 more minutes—not to be tolerated; "DRINKER" the one demerit in an otherwise faultless profile; O’Rourke was recommended regardless; "HIGHLY TRAINED," "INCORRUPTIBLY DISCREET." The Prince’s uncle himself had extolled the Private Eye’s qualifications; though Sheikh Hadithah’s sources were pointedly un-revealed. Nana’s steadfast petition was bold enough; nobody, heretofore, had ever dared to ask a favor of The Exalted One, the Royal Family’s reputed mover and shaker, the procurer of all personnel, he whose hand merely waved and problems got solved—as if by necromancy, Nana’s very access an unexplained coup; circumventing protocol, she had appealed to the Sheikh directly; all the more audacious for failing to tell the Prince; on top of which she got the counsel she desired, begging the question: how did Nana Wolffmüller come to wield such influence?

Ready to launch a protest at the stroke of 3 pm, Nana eyes her unit's digital clock, its countdown interrupted by D. O'ROURKE's transmission.




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