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“Have the copy on my desk in an hour.” He eyed my grime-laden clothes. “Make that two. Get a shower first.”

I hesitated a moment.

Ralph guessed at my question. He shook his head and said, “When I told you and Bill I’d have my decision on the assistant editor position on Friday, I meant on Friday.” He snatched up the cigarette smoldering in the overflowing ashtray and took a puff before he added, “You’ve got one hour and fifty-nine minutes.”

That wasn’t the question I was going to ask, but a cheap thrill filtered through my aching muscles. Bill hadn’t bested me out of the job.

Yet.

I focused on my pitch. “I want to do a follow up story on the private investigator—” With the baggie still in one hand, my fingers made awkward bunny ears. I suspected the man was a mercenary, not a PI “—Brent Poole hired to rescue his girlfriend—”

“No.”

My watering eyes blinked under the double assault of his smoke and my clothes. “What?”

“I said no.” Ralph’s bulging orbs and quivering jowls resembled his bulldog, Emerson. At least, Ralph didn’t drool all over my leg when he visited my desk.

My boss could have knocked me over with the test stick. Alton and Poole sold more issues in an hour than any other celebrity could in a week. I glared back. “This guy rescues the highest paid, most popular actress in television history who’s knocked up by the highest paid, most popular movie actor—”

“You got garbage in your ears, Ridgeway? I said no.” Pink crawled up Ralph’s neck and invaded his cheeks. “Now, have you and Agnes discovered what rehab center Sierra Mallory’s holed up—”

I ignored his blatant change of topic. “She’s kidnapped by some doomsday cult and saved—”

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