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Dawn bathed the city streets in its revealing radiance, highlighting the grime, the ugly marks of wear and deterioration normally overlooked in the evening's neon glamour. The fronts of the modern skyscrapers and complexes were unanimously shined and sharp, but beyond these facades the festering mouths of crumbling alleys and dingy byways yawned wide, baring all in the fresh morning light. Most people never saw Verweald in such a way. They only saw its mask, that pretty front Amoroth molded and designed to drape over her abominable child. They never thought of what lay beneath.

I couldn't see all of the ugliness. I'd only opened my eyes to the disturbing, subliminal nature of this place a few weeks ago. Sometimes it felt as if years had passed since Tara's death—at other times, minutes. Seconds. I stood at the bottom of Klau Incorporated's headquarters, troubled by the ugly spots of reality clinging to my peripheral vision. I tucked my hair behind an ear and used the move to glance across the street. IMOR was there, but it was no longer my destination. It had become a fixture in my past, a marker on the dismal road that was my life.

I squared my shoulders and marched forward.

Klau's lobby was as I remembered it, though the pond had been refilled and the resident koi returned to their watery home. There were new, incongruous metal detectors hulking inside the guarded doors, and one of the men flanking the ugly things stepped forward when I walked through. He asked me to open my purse and I did so to allow him a cursory peek inside before he waved me on.

Amoroth's text at six in the morning had jerked me from a sound sleep, and her demand for me to arrive at work in one hour set my teeth on edge. I nearly threw the phone across the room and decided to ignore the irritating woman, but I eventually mustered enough energy to fall out of bed and prepare for the day. With no choice in the matter and a need for the continued income, I tempered my willful pride and agreed to work for Amoroth. If anything, Klau Tower was a safer place for me to be than my own house.

The atmosphere within the lobby was reasonably subdued for the early hour. A loose handful of businesswomen and men drifted through the space as they spoke in soft tones and walked with resigned purpose to their destinations. I stopped at the reception counter, feeling out of place in my navy skirt and rumpled cardigan, but I far too sleepy and annoyed by the situation to care. The single receptionist behind the desk stopped typing at her computer and looked me over, smiling.

"Good morning, and welcome to Klau Incorporated. My name is Angela. How may I assist you?"

I remembered the bright woman from my first visit to Klau. She wore the same well-made uniform with her dark hair brushed into a tamed bun, and she didn't seem to recognize me, but considering the hulking monstrosity of mind-altering crystals looming above our heads, I wasn't surprised. I wondered how the chandelier affected the poor woman's short-term to long-term memory progression. Though I felt fine for the moment, I wondered if I would be fuzzy-headed and confused when I returned home.

"Hi," I said as I disregarded my misgivings concerning the lobby's décor. "I'm Sara. I'm supposed to be starting here today."

Angela's mouth popped open in a soundless circle. "Oh! Oh, that's right!"

My brow rose as I fought a nervous smile. I didn't understand her surprised reaction.

As if reading my mind, Angela blushed and began fussing with the items on her desk. "Sorry, it's just we haven't very many people applying for work, let alone showing up." Her voice dropped to precarious levels. "You know, with the...murders...."

I hummed in agreement, though I couldn't quite meet her gaze. Little did Angela know, the murders were the reason I was here. Amoroth thought I was in collusion with the killer. "I've seen the news. Terrible."

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