Amelia Broadway and I were painting each other’s toenails when my insurance agent knocked at the front door. I’d picked Roses on Ice. Amelia had opted for Mad Burgundy Cherry Glacé. She’d finished my feet, and I had about three toes to go on her left foot when Greg Aubert interrupted us.
Amelia had been living with me for a month, and it had been kind of nice to have someone else sharing my old house. Amelia is a witch from New Orleans, and she was hanging out with me because she had a magical misfortune she didn’t want any of her witch buddies in the Big Easy to know about. Also, since Katrina, she really doesn’t have anything to go home to, at least for a while. My little hometown of Bon Temps was swollen with refugees.
Greg Aubert had been to my house after I’d had a fire that caused a lot of damage. As far as I knew, I didn’t have any insurance needs at the moment. I was pretty curious about his purpose, I confess.
Amelia had glanced up at Greg, found his sandy hair and rimless glasses uninteresting, and completed painting her little toe while I ushered him to the wingback chair.
“Greg, this is my friend Amelia Broadway,” I said. “Amelia, this is Greg Aubert.”
Amelia looked at Greg with more interest. I’d told her Greg was a colleague of hers, in some respects. Greg’s mom had been a witch, and he’d found using the craft very helpful in protecting his clients. Not a car got insured with Greg’s agency without having a spell cast on it. I was the only one in Bon Temps who knew about Greg’s little talent. Witchcraft wouldn’t be popular in our devout little town. Greg always handed his clients a lucky rabbit’s foot to keep in their new vehicles or homes.
After he turned down the obligatory offer of iced tea or water or Coke, Greg sat on the edge of the chair while I resumed my seat on one end of the couch. Amelia had the other end.
“I felt the wards when I drove up,” Greg told Amelia. “Very impressive.” He was trying real hard to keep his eyes off my tank top. I would have put on a bra if I’d known we were going to have company.
Amelia tried to look indifferent, and she might have shrugged if she hadn’t been holding a bottle of nail polish. Amelia, tan and athletic, with short glossy brown hair, is not only pleased with her looks but really proud of her witchcraft abilities. “Nothing special,” she said, with unconvincing modesty. She smiled at Greg, though.
“What can I do for you today, Greg?” I asked. I was due to go to work in an hour, and I had to change and pull my long hair up in a ponytail.
“I need your help,” he said, yanking his gaze up to my face.
No beating around the bush with Greg.
“Okay, how?” If he could be direct, so could I.
“Someone’s sabotaging my agency,” he said. His voice was suddenly passionate, and I realized Greg was really close to a major breakdown. He wasn’t quite the broadcaster Amelia was—I could read most thoughts Amelia had as clearly as if she’d spoken them—but I could certainly read his inner workings.
“Tell us about it,” I said, because Amelia could not read Greg’s mind.
“Oh, thanks,” he said, as if I’d agreed to do something. I opened my mouth to correct this idea, but he plowed ahead.
“Last week I came into the office to find that someone had been through the files.”
“You still have Marge Barker working for you?”
He nodded. A stray beam of sunlight winked off his glasses. It was September, and still very warm in northern Louisiana. Greg got out a snowy handkerchief and patted his forehead. “I’ve got my wife, Christy, she comes in three days a week for half a day, and I’ve got Marge full-time.” Christy, Greg’s wife, was as sweet as Marge was sour.
“How’d you know someone had been through the files?” Amelia asked. She screwed the top on the polish bottle and put it on the coffee table.
Greg took a deep breath. “I’d been thinking for a couple of weeks that someone had been in the office at night. But nothing was missing. Nothing was changed. My wards were okay. But two days ago, I got into the office to find that one of the drawers on our main filing cabinet was open. Of course, we lock them at night,” he said. “We’ve got one of those filing systems that locks up when you turn a key in the top drawer. Almost all of the client files were at risk. But every day, last thing in the afternoon, Marge goes around and locks all that cabinet. What if someone suspects . . . what I do?”