Chapter 6

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That peppermint smells familiar.

"Enjoying yourself? A little birdie told me you were filming at Target," Gene Carey says from Zandra's chair behind the oak desk inside Sneak Peek.

"Gene Carey? What the hell are you doing here?" Zandra says, the rehearsed smoothness of her made-for-TV voice defaulting back to its original chalky croak.

As head of an insurance empire, Gene is one of Wisconsin's most successful – and corrupt – businessmen. Twenty-five years ago, he murdered Zandra's husband, David, out of fear of exposing his company's scams. Although Zandra had her suspicions, she could never prove Gene killed David.

That all changed six months ago, when Zandra used her psychic "powers" to track down Gene's missing daughter. Gene confessed to David's murder to provide a sense of closure for Zandra. He also used in influence to keep her out of prison, given all the mayhem she caused in the process of finding his daughter.

In exchange, Zandra agreed to keep quiet about the secrets in the files she gathered on Stevens Point's most corruptible citizens. Although Gene wound up keeping the files, Zandra's memory would prove more than enough to bring down the entire town.

The shaky truce means Zandra is free to enjoy the fruits of her newfound celebrity, and Gene is able to gear up for a gubernatorial race next year without interference. He'll need all the focus he can get. If elected, he'd be one of Wisconsin's oldest governors.

Of course, neither specified how long the agreement should last.

Maybe that's why he's here. To tell me the deal is off. Wouldn't be the worst timing. He's sitting pretty close to the drawer with the lawnmower knife.

Gene pops a peppermint into his mouth. Zandra catches a glimpse of his perfect teeth. They didn't used to look that way.

Veneers. He's getting ready to be governor. A little premature when he hasn't even won his party's nomination yet. But it's something for him to spend money on. The "burden of success" is such a bitch.

"Why the hostility? Can't an old friend stop by for a visit?" Gene says. The loose skin draped over the bony architecture of his face fold into a grin. He holds his hand out. "Peppermint?"

Zandra takes a step toward the desk. "I'll pass. I'm more interested in how you got inside a locked building," she says.

"Didn't you hear? They gave me the key to the city, along with everything else in it," Gene says. He rises from the chair and offers it to Zandra. "I'll have the key to the entire state soon."

Zandra takes back her seat at the desk. She can't help but notice that the picture of David is knocked over.

You bastard.

Her fingers itch for the drawer with the lawnmower knife.

"So you want to talk about your campaign, is that it? I'd like to talk about something else first," Zandra says.

"Oh, really? What's that?" Gene says as he feigns interest in the occult trinkets and books for sale.

Zandra drops the pink shoe prop onto the desk with a hollow thunk. "This look familiar?" she says.

Gene wrinkles his nose. "I have no interest in macabre dog toys, thank you very much," he says.

Nothing in his body posture or facial expressions indicate Gene is lying. Then again, Gene isn't the type of person to do the dirty work himself.

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