Chapter 2

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The pink shoe is a prop from a Halloween store, but the sight of it still bubbles Zandra's molten heart. It's intended to be reminiscent of Elle Carey's pink shoe, a centerpiece of Zandra's recent high-profile case. Whoever sent it read about the shoe or saw it on TV. Six months later, the media is still dissecting Zandra's misadventures at Soma Falls.

It's not even the right kind of shoe, asshole.

Zandra gives the shoe a squeeze before heading inside Sneak Peek. It makes a squeaky wheeze.

This supposed to be a dog toy? What kind of freak gives their dog a foot to chew on?

More unsettling than the corny prop is what's missing from the shoe, other than the rest of its matching leg. It didn't come in an envelope or package. Someone included another note in typewritten block letters taped to the ankle. This could only mean Zandra's "admirer" is a local.

Gene? No. Still too early. He's wrapped up with his campaign anyway.

Stepping into Sneak Peek, Zandra lights a cigarette and an apple pie candle on her desk. She takes care not to touch the note itself as she reads it.

"YOUR ASFAKEAS THIS SHOU," the letters spell out.

What?

Zandra reads it again.

Oh, it's a typo. It must mean, "YOU'RE AS FAKE AS THIS SHOE."

The words beneath that line make better sense. In unevenly spaced characters, they spell, "I HAV PROOF."

Proof?

Zandra tosses the shoe on the desk. It's a commanding oak behemoth that took three workers all afternoon to install. She bought it instead of a new car, given her newfound enthusiasm for walking. Now she's feeling a little buyer's remorse. Should've spent the money on security cameras at Sneak Peek. Could've recorded the drop at the mailbox.

That's the double-edged sword – or lawnmower knife, in Zandra's case – of Sneak Peek. It needs to look like a private place to unload what's on the minds of her clientele, despite it being anything but discreet. Security cameras don't invoke the kind of trust Zandra needs to build. It's why she invested in miniature microphones and a digital recording system. Sneak Peek's cramped interior is bugged, from floor to ceiling.

Despite the new technology, Zandra still writes files by hand on her clients, stored in a high-tech fire safe bolted to the floor of her apartment. No more junky locks and filing cabinets. The recordings provide a fail-safe and reminders on the specifics. With her fame came a host of distractions, and it's becoming more difficult to concentrate on the damning details that made her original files so deadly.

Add to that the amount of research required ahead of her high-buck readings, and Zandra's becoming downright sloppy. It's hard to say "no" to celebrity clients willing to pay thousands of dollars for an hour of her time. It's even more difficult to resist cramming four or five of those clients into a week.

That's when she started asking clients to sign non-disclosure agreements at the start of each reading. She framed it as protecting her clients' secrets and revelations, but it also covered her own ass. A few movie stars with names anyone would recognize left in the middle of their readings, frustrated by Zandra's contradicting insights.

The good readings still outnumber the bad, though. She briefly considered hiring an agent or manager or someone to help steer her ship of bullshit. But that would be letting others get too close to her.

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