It was not New York City's worst neighborhood, but it certainly was not the best, either. Narrow alleys cut off the street lights, making dark caverns between the squat apartment buildings. Forgotten laundry drifted in the sullen night breeze. Shouting voices barked from behind open but barred windows. The boy was only eleven years old, but he made his way alone up the street with a fearless swagger that belied his surrounding. Tommy didn't mind the night. This was his neighborhood.
On the next block, he saw a bunch of boys gathered around a stoop. Most of them were bigger than Tommy, but he could make out a bright blond head in the group: his best friend, Sean. Grinning, he trotted down to join them. "Hey, Sean."
Sean practically snarled at him. "Get away from me."
Tommy took a step back, bewildered, trying to think what he'd done to make his friend so angry. He couldn't remember anything. They'd been laughing like crazy yesterday. "What'd I do?"
The older boys chuckled nastily. "It's not what you did," Patrick said. He was Sean's older brother, and usually he was nice to Tommy. "It's what you are."
"But . . . I thought we were friends."
"That was before we knew about you," Sean growled.
"Knew what? I haven't done anything!"
Patrick stood up. "Let's go, guys."
As a group, the teens shuffled away. Tommy followed his friend. "Sean, come on. What're you mad at me for? Ever since you been going to that camp . . . "
"Get it through your head, stupid, I don't want to be around your kind."
"Huh? What kind?"
"Your kind. Dirty Protestant." Sean spun away and trotted after the older boys.
"Sean, wait!" Tommy grabbed the other boy's arm. Sean whirled, his face wrinkled with rage, his fists catching the side of Tommy's head and then his mouth and then his stomach. Tommy tried to cover up, but he had no chance to fight back. "Sean, stop it! Stop it!"
Sean stepped back. Tommy felt blood trickling down from his split lip. When he looked at Sean he saw embarrassment and sorrow on his face, but it was rapidly replaced by a frightening look of fury. "See the little baby cry," Sean taunted. His voice cracked and he shouted, "You just stay away from me, Prot!"
Sean turned and ran after his brother. Tommy got up slowly, wiping his eyes angrily on his shirt tails. The blood startled him and he touched his mouth carefully. Looking at his fingers in amazement, he swallowed hard, new tears welling up in spite of himself. He watched the boys fade into the distant dark. Then he turned and ran the other way.
Dennis Daly stood on the sidelines of the soccer field, watching the boys run up and down. He glanced up at the bright blue sky, the green grass, mothers in lawn chair watching and chatting together, and the city skyline soaring in the background. The boys were relaxed, having fun. It was so very peaceful here. So unnervingly peaceful.
He heard movement behind him and turned. Nick Kostmayer was approaching. Daly shook his head. The young priest wore a clerical collar, all right, and a black shirt - but it was short sleeved. Not like the priests back home. Proper priests, they were. Of course, they were all old and dying off, too. "Morning, Father Nick." The words rolled out in a proper Irish brogue that was deliberately deeper than it was naturally. "I see the lads are at it already."
Nick smiled. "They do love the game, don't they?"
"That they do."
"Something I can do for you?" Kostmayer asked in a friendly way. "Or are you just visiting?"
"Actually . . . ah, well, I should have talked with you about this before, but I wasn't sure it wouldn't fall through. I have a photographer friend who's just back in the city, and I asked her to come take some shots for us, of the Peace Camp. You don't mind, do you?"
"Of course not. As long as the boys don't object."
"Oh, I don't see why they would. She's really quite talented. She has a book coming out, on the Troubles. So I wasn't sure if she'd be too busy, but she said she'd come." He gestured to the parking lot, where a red sports car was pulling in. "That'll be her now."
A young woman got out of the car and went around to open the trunk as the men approached. "Good morning, darlin'," Daly called.
"Hey, Denny," she answered. "Come help me haul this stuff, will you?"
"Certainly, but here, come meet our priest. Annie Keller, I'd like you to meet Father Kostmayer."
His introduction died there, because the young woman had turned around and was staring at the priest with a look of complete amazement. And worse, the priest was staring back in a way that should have gotten him defrocked.
"Oh, my God."
" ... who I take it you already know," Daly finished lamely as the two came together in a deep, friendly embrace.
The couple stepped apart, a little embarrassed. "I don't believe it," Anne said, grinning. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, fine, " Nick answered. "And you? How long have you been in New York?"
"I went to college here, and I've lived here ever since, on and off. I've been in Ireland most of these last two years."
"I wish I'd known you were in town, we could have gotten together."
Daly shook his head. No, not like the priests back home. Not at all.
The girl kept smiling, but her voice grew serious. "How's Mickey?" she asked carefully.
Nick grinned encouragingly. "He's well. He lives here now, too. I'll give you his number."
The soccer game had slowed as the boys checked out the young woman. Noticing, Daly shook his head again. "Listen, Father Nick, do you have any influence with this girl? I've been trying to get her to go to the police for weeks . . . "
"Shut up, Denny." As he'd hoped, she broke away from the priest and began hauling equipment out of her trunk.
Nick was all ears. "The police? Why?"
"She's been getting these letters, anonymous letters . . . "
"It's nothing," Anne insisted.
" . . . threatening to kill her if her book is published. The book, I told you, it's about the Troubles, it's going to be very important, very influential . . . "
"Denny, shut up," she said again.
Nick picked up the heaviest of the cases. "I'd like to hear more about these letters."
"There is no more about these letters," Anne said firmly. "It's just some stupid prank."
"Some stupid prank," Nick repeated to McCall, "but how would she know? These people aren't predictable, are they? These terrorists?"
McCall looked at Mickey, who was standing with one shoulder against the wall, his arms folded tightly over his chest. "Well, I don't know,"
Robert answered slowly. "If it's a pro-Catholic book, I don't see why the IRA would object."
"But there are other groups, aren't there?" Nick persisted. "Radical Protestant groups?"
McCall shook his head. "The Protestants already have power. It seems unlikely that they'd pursue her this far because of some pictures."
"Not just some pictures," Nick corrected. "She's redoing Jamie Sullivan's book, 'Ireland at War'. Have you ever seen it?"
"I own a copy," Robert answered slowly. "She's redoing Sullivan?" This struck him as an extremely unlikely project, and ill-advised, given what had happened to Sullivan as a result. Perhaps there was more to this than had first appeared.
From the corner of his eye, Robert saw Mickey straighten. His colleague, he knew, was picking up on the tension in his own voice.
The priest nodded. "She says they're using his old pictures, facing her new pictures. This one's 'Ireland at Peace'. Only it's not, really."
Robert frowned. "And Sullivan's agreed to this?" He stood and went to his bookshelf.
"He's the one that picked her to do it."
"Why didn't he do it himself?" Mickey asked dryly.
"Because the IRA shot his kneecaps off ten years ago," McCall answered sharply. He took a large, slender book of photographs down, and flipped through it almost reverently.
"Look," Nick explained earnestly, "I'm no expert, maybe she really isn't in any danger. Maybe it is just a stupid prank. All I'm asking is that you see her, read these letters. You'll know." When McCall didn't answer, he turned to his brother. "Don't you owe her at least that much?"
Mickey never moved. "What makes you think she'd even want my help?"
"You still don't care about anyone but yourself, do you?"
Robert glanced up from his book. Mickey was staring at the far corner of the room, very pointedly not answering his brother. And something about his posture, about the very air in the room, told McCall that there was a great deal more to this than he knew. "All right," he said said heartily. "I've nothing pressing to do this afternoon. Perhaps I will drive out and see her."
Kostmayer maintained his posture against the wall even after his brother left. "All right, Mickey," Robert said warmly. "Let's have it. What don't I know about this woman?"
"Nothing," Mickey answered. He finally stood up straight and moved away from the wall. He straightened the light jacket he wore to conceal his weapon and ran his fingers through his hair. "Let's just go."
"You're coming with me?" McCall answered in surprise. "You don't have to. I can talk to her, determine if there's any actual risk. I don't think there is, to be honest. I'd just like to see her work."
"Yeah, me too."
"Mickey . . . "
"Let's just go," Kostmayer insisted.
McCall backed down. "All right. Give me a moment, I need to get something." He went into his bedroom.
Mickey stayed where he was, alone in the middle of the living room, with his hands clasped loosely in front of him, his feet apart, his weight balanced. Like he was ready for a fight, he realized. Appropriate. He felt like he'd been sucker-punched.
Annie Keller, again, after all this time.
When Annie was eight years old, she caught one of her older brothers making out with his girlfriend. Always a curious child, she found Mickey, who was ten, the most approachable older man she knew, and told him what she'd seen. They slipped off together behind Mr. Cotton's garage and tried it, this kissing with tongues. The first time was weird. The second time didn't get any better. They wiped their mouths on the back of their hands and went back to riding their bikes.
When Annie turned sixteen, she suddenly blossomed like a tiger lily in a field of clover. Boys came from ten miles in every direction to sit on her porch and chat her up that summer. But she stayed safely on the porch - until the fall, when Mickey punched a guy twice his size in her defense and became the first to lure her off the porch and down to the river. By then he was a little better at the kissing thing.
Mickey closed his eyes. Because what had followed . . .
They were apart, afterward, completely separate for nearly eight years. And then in Leavenworth he got her letter; her youngest sister had been killed in a car crash, and while she was home for the funeral she heard about Mickey. She had a good job, a little savings and she wanted to know what she could do to help. Mickey had torn the letter into tiny shreds, furious and deeply embarrassed that she knew he was in prison, that she would still try to help him after all he'd put her through. He finally wrote back, very briefly, as kind as he could manage to be, telling her not to write to him any more. She hadn't.
And now this. Another eight years had passed, and here she was. Possibly in mortal danger, possibly needing his help, his protection. He'd known she was in the city. Known for years that he could drive half an hour and see her. But what the hell was he going to say to her, after all this time? Sorry I almost ruined your life, want to get some dinner? Would she have anything at all to say to him?
This whole situation had huge potential to turn ugly. If he had any sense, he'd take McCall up on his offer and wait somewhere else.
All his memories of Annie Keller lived in a safe, dark corner of his mind, where he ignored them as much as he possibly could. It was too hard to think about Annie Keller, so he didn't. And that had been just fine, until now.
She might need him. And Nick was right, he owed her that much. Besides, Mickey knew his brother would never get off his back until he'd seen her. At least this way he had an excuse to take McCall along for back-up.
Robert came back, tucking an envelope unto his breast pocket. "Shall we?"
Mickey gestured to the door with one hand. "Into the fire, McCall."
Robert tried valiantly to keep his questions to himself on the drive. Mickey had been unusually quiet, even for Mickey, and from his brief comments, Robert knew he didn't want to talk. Obviously it was something about the woman. Robert guessed that Anne Keller was an old lover of one of them, probably Mickey, but what else? Something had happened involving this woman - and both brothers. Something bloody awful, by the look of it. Because even now, years later, Mickey still seemed ashamed.
Ah, that was it, Robert realized. He had seen a lot of emotions in Kostmayer, many of them unpleasant, but he'd never seen this one; he'd never seen shame before. It made Robert ache to say something to take it away. And maybe he had that something, right in his breast pocket. But Mickey didn't want to talk, and in any case Robert had sworn to keep a secret years ago. He kept his peace. In due time, he knew, in Mickey's time, he would find out all about it.
Finally, he ventured, "Are you all right, Kostmayer?" This got no answer, not even a glance. "You haven't said a word since we got in the car."
"Turn left at the light," Mickey answered laconically.
"Well, that's something, I suppose." Robert turned the corner. "Are you sure you don't want me to drop you somewhere and pick you up after I've seen her?"
"No. Whatever the lady wants to throw at me, I got it coming."
"How long has it been since you last saw her?"
"Sixteen years," Mickey answered without hesitation.
Robert did some quick math. "You must have been very young."
"Too young. Park there."
McCall did. "And Miss Keller was a girlfriend?"
"She was my wife," Kostmayer answered flatly.
A whole lyric of startled questions rose in McCall's mind. It started with, Mickey had a wife? And ended, all unasked, when Kostmayer climbed out of the car. His whole posture insisted that he didn't want any further discussion. Robert longed to take his young friend by the collar and shake the story out of him. But that never worked with Mickey, did it? For the moment, at least, Robert waited.
The neighborhood was lived-in and fairly poor. Laundry hung on haphazard lines, tricycles and children's toys cluttered the stoops, windows had bars and doors were made of steel. And yet it had the feel of a neighborhood about it. Two women chatted while walking their shopping trolleys up the block. A pack of toddlers giggled and ran in a tiny yard while a yougn woman read her schoolbook on the steps nearby. Further up, a group of teenage boys lounged about in a bored way. The driver of a passing truck honked his horn and waved, and they all waved back.
"Interesting neighborhood," McCall observed. "Will you know her if you see her?"
Mickey simply pointed.
The fire hydrant at the middle of the block leaked continuously, leaving a small puddle in the gutter between it and the storm sewer. A small girl, maybe four, was splashing joyously in the puddle and a woman knelt before her with a camera, alternately shooting pictures and playing with the child. Both of them were laughing.
The child's mother, who had been plucking weeds from her handkerchief-sized lawn, realized what they were doing. She snatched up the child, scolding her and the photographer too, and swept the girl away. The remaining woman stood, covered her lens, and started across the street, walking right toward them.
McCall felt his mouth come open. Anne Keller was the very picture of the perfect Irish-American girl: warm red-brown hair, creamy skin, eyes that he suspected even at a distance were green. Her tiny little waist flared into full hips and breasts, her whole body promising a dozen happy Irish babies. She was the quintessential stereotype, the most Irish-looking girl McCall had ever met.
Most Irish people, in his experience, did not look like that.
Kostmayer wasn't even breathing.
She saw Robert and smiled politely, in a most un-New York manner. Then she saw Mickey and simply stopped.
McCall prepared to duck.
Ten heartbeats. She moved again, came to a stop two paces in front of Kostmayer. He still hadn't moved, and Robert had not heard him breathe.
"Hello, Anne," Mickey said, very quietly.
Ten heartbeats. She reached out, took another step, wrapped her arms around him slowly, carefully, so as not to startle him. Mickey seemed to melt, hugging her back slowly, then more tightly, then tighter still. Ten more heartbeats, and she began to laugh again, and Mickey with her this time. When they broke, her eyes - which were indeed green - were damp; Kostmayer wouldn't look at McCall for a moment.
And then they just stood there, uncertain.
"Hello, I'm Robert McCall," McCall offered as a distraction. "I'm a friend of Mickey's."
The woman came back to herself. "Nice to meet you," she said, shaking his hand. A little start of recognition came to her eyes; they'd never met, but she knew his name. Her smile grew warmer, grateful. She turned back to Mickey, "I am so glad to see you, I am, but what are you doing here?"
"The letters," Mickey answered. "Nick."
"The . . . oh, my God. He's still a nag."
"Yeah. Only now he's got a license for it."
She laughed, shaking her head. "I'm sorry. There's nothing to these letters. It's just some crank."
"Perhaps," Robert answered. She had the most intriguing accent he'd heard for some time. Irish influences, but softer, drawling. He couldn't place it. "But threatening letters from the IRA do bear some looking in to."
"They're not from the IRA."
"And you know that because . . . ?"
"I called them up and asked."
"You . . . " McCall glanced at Kostmayer. Mickey glanced back, one eyebrow raised. "I see."
"I'm sorry to waste your time, but you made the drive, come on up and have some coffee." She headed for a short, funny-looking old building, with three apartments on the ground floor and exterior stairs to the single door on the second floor. She started up the steps, then paused and yelled to the boys on the next stoop. "Frankie, watch the car, huh?"
The boy smirked. "What'll you give me?"
"I won't tell your mother where you were last night."
The whole gang cracked up. "Annie! How do you always know?"
The woman grinned and continued up the steps.
"That sounds familiar, somehow," Mickey mused.
"Uh-huh. Only it used to be the grownups blackmailing us."
Texas, Robert realized as they went inside. Her accent was from Texas, heavily diluted with New York, and now sparkling with Ireland.
The apartment was huge. It was surprisingly well-furnished, given the neighborhood, with an emphasis on comfort rather than any particular style. One whole wall of the main room was covered with photographs. Dead center was a three foot square photo of a young boy's face. He was seven or eight, looking somberly at the camera with eyes a thousand years old.
"Have a seat," Anne called over her shoulder as she went to the kitchen. The men ignored her; they both went to the photo wall. McCall looked at each of the prints. Mickey never took his eyes off the boy.
"Did you take this?" he called after her.
"If it's on the wall, I took it," she called back. She rattled around the kitchen, then came back carrying the letters. "You like?"
"They're amazing," Robert answered. "You have a gift for faces, don't you?"
"I love faces."
"This kid," Mickey said slowly. "He's dead, isn't he?"
Anne stared at him. "He was shot by a sniper five minutes after I took that. How'd you know?"
"His eyes," Mickey answered briefly. He stared at the photo a moment more, then turned. "Those the letters?"
They sat down, Robert on the couch, Mickey next to him, reading the three letters over his shoulder. Anne sat across a coffee table from them. On the table, Robert noticed, was a well-thumbed copy of Sullivan's book. After a moment she went and got the coffee. When she was settled again, Robert was tucking the letters back into their envelopes. Frowning.
"There's nothing there," Anne said quietly.
"No. I don't think so." Robert hesitated, then put down the letters and picked up the book. "You spent a good deal of time in Ireland, I take it."
"Most of the last two years. I've been back here since spring."
"And how was Sullivan involved?" He flipped through the book absently, trying not to notice that his companions were playing eye tag: she'd look at Mickey intently, until Mickey looked up, then she'd look away and Mickey would stare at her. Then she'd look up . . . Mickey's wife?
"He's on the City Arts Council. A couple years back they had this photography competition, and he was one of the judges."
"And you won."
"No. But a couple days later he called me. He wanted to do an update of his book, he wanted me to do the new photos."
McCall nodded slowly. "He is a great lover of faces, also."
"Maybe," Anne conceded, "and maybe it's just that I look like a nice Irish girl."
Mickey smiled. "If he only knew," he muttered.
"What makes you think he doesn't?" she shot back. "So, he got me a big cash advance from the publisher and shipped me off to Ireland with all these copies of his pictures and maps and notes and letters of introduction to everybody. Everywhere I go, they're expecting me, they're glad to see me, they fall all over themselves helping me. It was great. Even the Provos let me shoot anything I wanted . . . well, mostly."
"Aren't they the ones that took his kneecaps off?" Kostmayer asked.
"Well, yes, but that was a splinter group, reactionaries, and the rest of them feel really bad about it."
"Bloody lot of good that does Sullivan," McCall muttered.
"Agreed," the woman answered quickly. "Anyhow, I called Jamie every two or three days and he told me where to go and who to see. I sent all my film back, he processed it and told me what I had to re-shoot. By the time I got back here, he had the book nearly together. The publisher loves it, and it comes out next week."
"And these letters began, what, six weeks ago?"
She nodded. "For what it's worth, right after the review copies went out."
Robert frowned deeply. This didn't make sense, any of it. "Is the book in any way inflammatory?"
"Of course it is. But not any more so than the original. I've got a copy of the galleys, if you want to see them." Robert nodded, and she went to a drawer and brought back an unwieldy stack of papers. "My advance copies are supposed to be here, but they haven't come yet."
Almost reverently, Robert began to turn the pages. It was as Nick had described it, with Sullivan's original photo on the left, Keller's new photo on the right. In many cases, they were of exactly the same site. Sullivan's were photographs of destruction, despair, bloodshed. Keller's were peaceful, reconstructed scenes, smiling faces, uninjured children. In some of them, what had been destroyed remained ruins, but even these had life teeming around them. The contrast was breathtaking, powerful.
"You haven't contacted the police," Robert observed, "about the letters."
"I'd only be wasting their time. If it really was the IRA, they wouldn't bother with the letters, they'd just kill me. And if it's not, there's no
way to trace them." She caught Mickey's look. "And if there had been anything else, anything out of the ordinary . . . " she explained further.
"No strangers about? No hang-up phone calls? Nothing like that?"
"Nothing. And this neighborhood is like a fish bowl. Everything sees everything. There's been nothing to see. I mean, the only thing is . . ." She stopped in mid-word. "Never mind."
Robert glanced up sharply. "You're not worried about these letters because you know who they're from."
"I don't know," she said firmly.
"You have a guess," Mickey countered.
Annie looked back and forth between them. "I'm kind of thinking it might be Dennis Daly."
"And he is?"
"He's this . . . peace activist, I guess you'd call him. Irish. He sets up these peace camps all over the place. Brings kids out of the Nine Counties, lets them live in nice neighborhoods for a couple weeks, so they can be kids. Gets them out of the war zone. He seems very dedicated, he
works hard, raises money, the kids love him."
"But," Mickey predicted.
"I don't know. There's just something about him. Something not right." Both McCall and Kostmayer were nodding. "But he's never done anything," Anne continued quickly. "Not a word, not a single thing that I could point to and say, see, there, that's what I mean. You know?"
"And you don't want to vilify him on the grounds of feminine intuition," Robert continued. His words paused as he reached the back third of the galleys. Here, there was a third picture in each set. Sullivan's destruction, Keller's peace, and then a new destruction piece. It was
shocking, and heartbreaking after the first set of photos.
After the first few pages, Mickey stood and went back to the photos on the wall. Anne sat back and watched McCall's face as he finished the book in silence.
Closing the last page carefully, Robert took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Good heavens."
"Not easy to look at, is it?" she asked sympathetically.
"Not easy to be there, was it?" Mickey countered without turning.
McCall sighed. He'd been so engrossed in the photos that he'd forgotten about these two. Hard enough to see the destruction, yes, but for Mickey, to know that this woman had been there, close enough to get the photos while the smoke still rose off the rubble . . .
The door slammed open, and a boy trundled in with a big box in his arms. "Annie! Annie, look! Look at this big box you got!"
The woman moved toward it. Mickey and Robert moved faster. Mickey grabbed the box and lowered it carefully to the floor. McCall grabbed the boy and pulled him across the room, shielding him with his body. "Anne, come here."
It actually took her a minute to catch on. "Oh, come on," she said, exasperated. "You don't really think . . . "
"Annie, go," Mickey snapped from where he crouched over the box.
She went and stood by McCall. "You don't really think it's a bomb, do you?"
"I don't know," Robert answered tersely.
Anne touched the boy's shoulder reassuringly. He looked up at her, then looked away. She took a second, hard look at him. "Damn, Tommy, who's been beating on you?"
"Tommy . . . "
Reasonably satisfied with the package, Mickey took out his pocket knife and gingerly cut the tape. "Mickey?" Robert asked quietly.
The younger man looked inside and relaxed visibly. "It's from her publisher," he announced. He drew out a brand-new copy of 'Ireland at
Robert sighed, relaxing as well. For the first time he took a good look at the boy. He did indeed have telltale bruises. "Now then, young man . . . "
"It's none of your damn business!" the boy shrieked. He broke away from McCall and ran.
Anne started after him, but Mickey stopped her. "I'll go. Looks like guy stuff."
When he was gone, Robert turned back to business. "I think you're quite right about these letters, Miss Keller. They don't seem to represent any actual threat. Perhaps Mr. Daly is trying to drum up publicity for you. Still, I want your promise you'll be careful. Be alert for anything out of the ordinary. If you feel immediately threatened, call the police. If you feel vaguely threatened, and you can't reach Mickey, call me." He drew out a business card and gave it to her. "Oh, and don't open any packages, all right?"
"All right," she agreed, though she was clearly humoring him.
McCall considered her for a long moment. "I have something of yours," he finally said.
She smiled prettily; she had remembered, after all. "Besides my undying gratitude?"
He drew the letter out of his pocket and gave it to her. It was old, a bit tattered, still in its official Leavenworth stationary envelope. Hand-addressed to her at a Houston address, in Mickey's scrawling handwriting.
She took it gingerly, like some sacred object, and held it without opening it. She already knew what it said, every word by heart, as did Robert. A terse little letter that said sorry about your sister, I didn't kill my partner, you can't get me out so don't waste your time trying, and please don't write to me any more.
And how this brief little letter had found its way from a bewildered but determined young photographer to an international espionage agent was largely a matter of sheer luck. Anne had an internship with a major news magazine in New York, and when her mother forwarded the letter to her, she marched into the national editor's office and insisted that they should do an investigative report on the Navy SEALS. He didn't agree, but he listened to her story. It made him late for his lunch appointment, which happened to be with the international editor, to whom he repeated the story. This editor also discounted the magazine article idea, but he happened to have an old school friend who worked at the Pentagon, and the friend knew someone at the Company, and that friend knew someone who might be able to help . . . and the rest was history.
The woman blinked back tears, holding her letter again. "Thank you," she said simply.
"It is I who should thank you," Robert answered. "Mickey has become an invaluable colleague to me - and a dear friend. Thank you for helping me find him."
She threw her arms around him, and Robert embraced her for a moment. "However, if you did happen to feel that some small token of appreciation was necessary," Anne dropped back, looking quizzically at him, "I should very much like to have a copy of your book."
Anne grinned. "Of course. Of course." She fetched one from the box and handed it to him.
He handed it back. "Well, I was thinking, perhaps an autographed copy."