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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

The Evening Edition

"Have you ever thought about coming back to the paper?" Vita Neville-Scott said, swizzling her vodka Collins with the stick provided. Her neat 60s-style dark blue suit made her quite an elegant figure. She just needed the Jackie O pillbox hat to top it all off.

Suzanne shook her head, feeling particularly frumpy today in her black slacks and faux-tweed blazer. "All my edge has rusted off."

"Oh, I doubt it," Vita said. "Why not start with a blog or something? Independent journalism's all the rage now. It might get you a regular column."

"What would I write about?" Suzanne said. She framed an imaginary banner with her fingers. "'She's a spandex widow! Except, not really!' All my contacts dried up when Josh did. You know that."

Vita made a dismissive noise. "What you need is another drink." She signaled the waiter and told him, "Bring her a Singapore Sling."

Suzanne made a face and fiddled with the base of her empty wine glass. "I haven't had a mixed drink in forever."

"You haven't done much of anything in forever," Vita said.

"Ain't that the truth?" Suzanne said. She accepted the drink with a smile and a thank-you to the waiter, then sipped it. She blinked slowly down into the glass. "Huh," she said.

"Look, Suzy Q," Vita said, leaning closer, "you need to do something other than that soulcrushing job herding cats -- oh, sorry, I mean programmers -- over at Uncle Speedy's Bad Vaporware For Hire. Come back to the less-dark side, sweetie."

Suzanne leaned her head on her hand. "Vita, I'm at least 10 years out of date. I don't read blogs or forums or watch videos online. I don't have a cell phone with a camera in it. I'm so goddamned old."

"Then come back to life, sweetie," Vita said, taking Suzanne's hand. "Now that your MIL has gotten the Gold Stars to cough up for someone to watch your deadwood..."

"... and his father," Suzanne added.

"And his father, sweet Jesus Buddha in an oxcart, Suzy, get out of there." Vita squeezed her hand until Suzanne looked up. "You were going to leave once."

Suzanne blushed and freed her hand. "Once," she said. She cast around desperately for something for her hands to do, wishing she still smoked, and had to settle for her glass. She took a swig. "But he's gone too, Vita."

"Don't I know it, hon." Vita took her own swig of her drink and grimaced. "Have you noticed that your ferrous friend is no longer on the Guardians' roster?"

Suzanne looked up sharply from her miserable contemplation of the spotless tablecloth. "What?" she said in a low voice.

"Gone. Erased. Deleted." Vita leaned back to consider the emotions flying over Suzanne's face. "You really have to dig to find out that he existed at all. According to anything published in at least the last five years, only one man with a name died that day, not two. Josh remains the big hero, of course."

Suzanne stared at her oldest friend and felt... a vast howling wilderness somewhere inside. Her own personal hell had long since frozen over, and there wasn't anything left. Not for Mitch, and certainly not for Josh.

"Sorry," Vita said after studying her for a moment. "I suppose I could've put that more... delicately."

Suzanne smiled briefly and tossed back the rest of the Sling. She said, "Mitch is an old story."

"I suppose," Vita said. "Are you ready to make a new one yet?"

Suzanne said, almost mechanically, "I'm still married, Vita."

"To a stiff that won't stop breathing!" Vita said, a little too loudly. Suzanne frowned at her and Vita gave an apologetic shrug. "Look, you were about to file the d-word before he became... like he is. Why have you stayed? Guilt? God knows, he must be easier to live with like this..."

"You know what they're like," Suzanne said. Her voice flattened into a listless hum. "I wouldn't be able to stay in this town. Andrea's a lovely woman as long as she's mother-in-law to a faithful and long-suffering woman, but as soon as I filed for divorce? Bitch would be the nicest thing anyone would call me."

"Then leave town," Vita said. "There's a whole big country out there. A whole world. Go. Scram. I've got your back. Just like the old days."

"Why bother?" Suzanne said, gesturing broadly enough that she almost backhanded a waiter. She pulled her hands back in front of her. "What would I do? Where would I go?"

"Do whatever you want. Go wherever you want." Vita seized her hand again. "You're trapped and it's killing you. It's been killing you slowly for ten goddamn years, and I'm tired of seeing it."

Suzanne felt exhausted suddenly, and she remembered why she didn't go out with Vita very often. "I can't do anything about it, Vita. Can we drop it?"

Vita sighed and signaled for another vodka Collins and, incidentally, another drink for Suzanne.

They were silent for a little while. Suzanne was absorbed in the red-orange depths of her Singapore Sling. The first one had been mixed a little strong, and she was feeling a little swimmy. This one was mixed strong enough to make her gums numb. She drank it anyway.

She finally said, "Vita?"

Vita leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. "What?" she said tonelessly.

Suzanne finished her drink. "I am trying to make a little change."

Vita's penciled eyebrows raised centrally in vague disbelief.

"I..." Suzanne signaled the waiter for another Sling. "I've met someone, Vita."

The eyebrows quirked at the outside edges. "Do tell."

"He... oh, god, you have to keep this under wraps."

"Did anyone ever hear about Mitch from me? Suzy, I know when to keep my mouth shut."

"He's twenty-two, Vita."

Vita's eyes opened wider, and her dour expression vanished. She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward again. "Do tell, you chickenhawk you."

Suzanne rolled her eyes. "Men are chickenhawks, Vita. Women are cougars." She giggled through her nose. "Or so he tells me."

"What's his name?"

"Simon."

"That's it? Simon?"

"I don't know what his last name is." Suzanne laughed. "I never asked."

"In this town, don't you think you ought to?" Vita said dubiously. "He might be a supervillain's kid. Hell, he might be a supervillain."

"Who cares?" Suzanne said, tossing her head ostentatiously. "He's cute as a button, has great shoulders, and can make good conversation. What a combination!"

"Does he know about you?" Vita said.

"He's never asked my last name either," Suzanne said. "I think he's enjoying the mystery."

"I think you're enjoying the mystery," Vita said. "Don't you think you ought to tell him? I mean, sleeping with someone when he doesn't know about..."

"I haven't slept with him," Suzanne said. "Yet."

"Yet?" Vita pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Do you even remember how?"

Suzanne made a playful and, she realized, quite drunken swipe across the table at her friend. "It's like riding a bicycle. It'll come back to me."

"Or you'll fall off," Vita said, smirking.

"Well, I'm not sure that'll be a problem," Suzanne said, lowering her voice confidentially. "He is black, after all." She couldn't restrain a schoolgirl giggle.

Vita peered at her, then finished off her drink. "Oh, sweetie," she said with oceans of pity in her voice, "you have been out of circulation for a while, haven't you?"

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