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Lucas' hangover had been beaten down to a dull roar thanks to Joe's sarcasm and Jane's snark, a fact that he welcomed as he made his way through his store (carefully not looking at the still visible bullet holes) and back into his office.

Joe followed idly behind.

"I'm not sure I understand what happened, yet," the older man said.

"I don't, either," said Lucas. "And I'm kind of hoping I never do." He settled into his desk chair and peered blearily at the papers strewn across it. "You don't understand, Joe, this town is like nothing else you've ever seen."

"I managed a record store for more than a decade."

"Still." Lucas shuffled through some of the papers, looking for the records of Sunday's sales.

Instead, he stumbled across Nadia's letter. "Crap," he said, rather succinctly. Then he said it several more times and ran over to the safe.

Joe looked at the note with his eyebrows raised. "You usually let your employees just take their paychecks out of the safe?"

"No." Lucas spun the dial, pulled out the money, and counted it. Twice. "It's all here, well, except what she was owed."

"Good kid, I guess." Joe perched on the edge of Lucas' desk. "Some employees would have, I don't know, gambled away the whole stash."

Lucas glanced back over his shoulder. "You are never going to let me forget that, are you."

"Nope."

"I'm kind of surprised, actually," Lucas said, getting back on track. "She really did take only what she was owed."

"She's not a good kid?"

"She was shoplifting when I hired her,"

"You're in the habit of hiring shoplifters, now."

Lucas shrugged. "Well, yeah. I figured it's like, tradition."

Joe crossed his arms and shook his head. "You learned NOTHING at the old Empire, did you."

Lucas just sighed, picked up the phone, and called Nadia. That done, he leaned back in the chair and rubbed at his hair. "Seriously, Joe, how did you put up with all of us?"

Joe smiled. "I have no idea."

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August 2006

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