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35 - Talley Isham

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“SHE’S GOOD,” THE unit director said, two years later, dabbing a crust of brown village bread into the pool of oil at the bottom of his salad bowl. “Really, she’s very good. A quick study. You have to give her that, don’t you?”

The star laughed and picked up her glass of chilled retsina. “You hate her, don’t you, Roberts? She’s too lucky for you, isn’t she? Hasn’t made a wrong move yet… They were leaning on the rough stone balcony, watching the evening boat set out for Athens. Two rooftops below, toward the harbor, the girl lay sprawled on a sun-warmed waterbed, naked, her arms spread out, as though she were embracing whatever was left of the sun.

He popped the oil-soaked crust into his mouth and licked his thin lips. “Not at all,” he said “I don’t hate her. Don’t think it for a minute.”

“Her boyfriend,” Tally said, as a second figure, male, appeared on the rooftop below. The boy had dark hair and wore loose, casually expensive French sports clothes. As they watched, he crossed to the waterbed and crouched beside the girl, reaching out to touch her. “She’s beautiful, Roberts, isn’t she?”

“Well,” the unit director said, “I’ve seen her ‘befores’.” It’s surgery.” He shrugged, his eyes still on the boy.

“If you’ve seen my ‘befores,”‘ she said, “someone will hang for it. But she does have something. Good bones… She sipped her wine. “Is she the one? ‘The new Tally Isham?’”

He shrugged again. “Look at that little prick,” he said. “Do you know he’s drawing a salary nearly the size of mine, now? And what exactly does he do to earn it? A bodyguard His mouth set, thin and sour.

“He keeps her happy.” Tally smiled. “We got them as a package. It’s a rider in her contract. You know that.”

“I loathe that little bastard. He’s right off the street and he knows it and he doesn’t care. He’s trash Do you know what he carries around in his luggage? A cyberspace deck! We were held up for three hours yesterday, Turkish customs, when they found the damned thing…” He shook his head.

The boy stood now, turned, and walked to the edge of the roof. The girl sat up, watching him, brushing her hair back from her eyes. He stood there a long time, staring after the wake of the Athens boats, neither Tally Isham nor the unit director nor Angie knowing that he was seeing a gray sweep of Barrytown condos cresting up into the dark towers of the Projects.

The girl stood, crossed the roof to join him, taking his hand.

“What do we have tomorrow?” Tally asked finally.

“Paris.” he said, taking up his Hermes clipboard from the stone balustrade and flipping automatically through a thin sheaf of yellow printouts. “The Krushkhova woman.”

“Do I know her?”

“No,” he said. “It’s an art spot. She runs one of their two most fashionable galleries. Not much of a backgrounder, though we do have an interesting hint of scandal, earlier in her career.”

Tally Isham nodded, ignoring him, and watched her under-study put her arm around the boy with the dark hair.


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