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The wheels of a government facility often turn at notoriously sluggish speeds, but I was astounded by the haste the tax revenue office could muster when a woman like Grace Amoroth storms into their office on a Thursday morning and demands to inspect certain discrepancies within their records.

Of course, they were markedly more willing to cooperate after Amoroth hinted at a potentially sizable donation of an undetermined amount in recompense for the assessor's assistance.

The office of the county's tax assessor was exactly what I expected of a federally funded government facility: drab, square, with far too little parking and far too many lines. The building's name was neatly stenciled above the double doors, and tin signs lined the walls with instructions listed in various languages. The lines would have been bothersome—if we had been forced to deal with them. Amoroth shoved her way to the front desk and proceeded to make a spectacle of herself until a harangued manager came forth from the bowels of bureaucracy to assist her.

I sighed as I followed the Sin of Lust and the supervisor along a dimly lit, carpeted hallway. The lack of windows aggravated my claustrophobia, ratcheting my shoulders up to my ears. Darius walked behind me, amused by Amoroth's charade, my discomfort, and the undisclosed torture dragging upon the frames of the workers we passed. The elder Sin and I were posing as Amoroth's assistants—not that anyone believed Darius, in his leather jacket and sneakers, was an assistant to a multi-billion-dollar corporation CEO. No one questioned his presence, however. Money spoke a persuasive language I would never understand.

I was more presentable in my Klau uniform and brushed hair, but my twitchy, self-conscious movements drew curious gazes.

To my dismay, the records we wished to search through were physical records kept in a large, poorly air-conditioned facility adjoining the revenue office. I had hoped to find the contract in a computer somewhere, stored digitally on a hard drive, but I didn't complain as the flustered manager showed us into the bursting warehouse.

"Dear God," I muttered as Darius and I paced several feet into the expanse, leaving Amoroth to handle our guide. Metal racks stretched to the exposed rafters, each holding line upon line of boxes taped and labeled with letters or years. There were ladders interspersed throughout the soaring rows, ready to be climbed to reach the heights up above. "We're in someone's version of Hell."

"The Malebolge," Darius yawned. I glanced at the Sin, surprised by his joke. "It's Dante's eighth circle."

"I know, I've read it," I replied. I hadn't known that Darius had read it as well, though. As horrid as our situation was becoming, I still stumbled when a wayward thought occurred to me. Did Darius like to read? Did he like Dante? What else did he like to do? "It's the circle for fraudulent sinners."

Darius continued to walk into one of the aisles, his hand rotating in a silent, lazy circle as he went. That's my point.

Amoroth was quickly coercing the manager to go about his way and to allow us unfettered access to the records. From what I could surmise, he was proving to be difficult to manipulate—but Amoroth was using her feminine wiles in conjunction with her mastery of the Tongue of the Realm, and soon the man was tottering from the warehouse with a blank expression on his face.

"Damn civil servants," Amoroth growled as she adjusted the collar of her silk blouse to conceal her cleavage. "It would cost me less effort and money to convince a King to part with his soul."

I didn't understand the reference—but, judging by the acrid glare Amoroth directed at me, the words hadn't been meant for my ears anyway. "You owe me two favors," the Sin growled as she crossed her thin arms. The ring upon her bandaged hand caught the light and shone in my eyes. "If you kick the bucket before I get my due, your debt transfers to Pride. Are we in agreement?"

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