“Shhh!” Batya hushed everyone as they gathered around the desk and looked at the laptop. “Don’t wake her up.” The desk itself was cluttered with numerous uneven stacks of paper, a dizzying array of office supplies, and a plaster crab figurine. Clearly not kosher.
“Who’s going to type?” Sara asked, looking at each of them. She stopped at her husband. “David, maybe you should. You are the protagonist, after all.”
David raised his eyebrows in surprise and held up his hands. “Have you seen me type?”
Frowning, Sara nodded. “True. Who can type fast?”
“I can,” came a confident voice.
Everyone turned to see who had entered the office. “Who are you?” Arik asked, appraising the petite, athletic woman. She was barely five feet tall and looked to be in her early twenties.
“Sevin,” replied the woman, digging an elastic band out of her jeans and pulling her red hair back into a ponytail.
“Like the number?” Eli asked.
“Like my name,” Sevin said, sitting down in front of the laptop and turning it on. “Great. Password protected. Anyone know her password?” she asked to head shakes and shoulder shrugs. “Okay. This will take a moment.”
“Where did you come from?” David asked cautiously. “I don’t recognize you.”
Sevin shrugged, unconcerned as her fingers flew over the keyboard. “I have my own story. Predating yours by a lot of years, by the way. One that Sheyna never finished.” Sevin shook her head and muttered, “Bitch,” under her breath as she hit enter and the desktop came to life. She accessed the internet and logged into the newsletter software. “I’m in.”
“So you’re . . .” David started.
Sevin leveled a hard stare at him. “Not in your world. You want me to type or don’t you?”
“Uh, yes. Please.” David turned as another newcomer entered the small office and Arik broke off to shake hands with him.
“Everyone, this is Coby,” Arik said. “Coby, everyone. Coby’s in the Saint Paul PD academy.”
“Hi,” Coby said, raising a hand. He stood half a head shorter than Arik, hint of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth and mischief in his eyes.
“My apologies. I don’t recognize you either,” David said.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m in a couple of short stories. One published, one pending. There’s talk of a book. Maybe a new series. I don’t know.”
“And you’re Jewish?” David asked.
“David!” Sara said, punching him in the arm. “Don’t be rude.”
David started to object and Coby broke in. “Yeah, but not religiously. If I’m gonna follow rules, they have to make sense to me.”
“We could talk sometime,” David offered. “Most of the rules make a lot of sense in context.”
Sara hit him in the arm again. Hard.
“What?” he protested to her.
“I thought MPD and SPPD didn’t get along,” Batya said, addressing her husband.
“Sure we do. As long as Saint Paul understands their place. At the bottom of the pecking order.”
Coby grinned at Arik. “Oh, you are so going down.”
Arik gave him a cocky half-smile. “Welcome to try. Make sure your medical insurance is up to date.”
“Okay,” Eli broke in. “You two can have your pissing contest later. Let’s remember why we’re here.”
“Yes,” Sara said. “I can’t believe Strength to Stand went on sale today!” She waved her hands excitedly in front of her. “Sheyna will be selling books at the State Fair on Wednesday. And the launch party is in just over a week! And the speaking and reading and signing opportunities . . . this is so awesome!”
“I can’t keep them all straight, especially with the Days of Awe coming up,” David admitted. “Are they in my calendar?”
“I think Kristen put them all in there,” Sara said, “but maybe you should go to sheynagalyan.com/events to see them all and make sure.”
“I’ll do that. I’m not sure what would happen if I didn’t show up.”
Batya shrugged. “Sheyna would probably just kill you off and make Arik the star.”
“I could live with that,” Arik said.
“Very funny,” David said. “You already get a good portion of the spotlight—and your own narrative—in the next book, No One to Fear.
“Hmm.” Arik considered that. “Not the same though.”
“I want to go back to why we’re here.” Eli narrowed his eyes at both David and Arik. “Again. How can we help Sheyna?”
“Hello-o?” Sevin said sarcastically as she typed. “Writing the newsletter for her.”
“Sheyna was pretty stressed about that,” David said. “She didn’t like the earlier newsletter format but wasn’t sure how to change it so it was more interesting. I wrote an article for it, but on reflection, I’m not sure how interesting that was either.”
Sara patted David on the arm instead of hitting him again. “So now she can wake up and find that it’s already done and sent!”
“Which will either relieve her or piss her off,” Arik said.
“We could name it,” Coby suggested. “I know she’s been looking for a name.”
“Great idea!” Sara said. “What should we call it?”
The room was silent.
“Really?” Eli asked. “No one has a clue?”
“You don’t really follow clues to a newsletter name,” Coby said. “Clues are more for like crimes and stuff.”
Arik offered Coby a low-five. Eli saw it and rolled his eyes.
“What if we just called it The Clue?” Sara asked.
No one spoke for a moment, then Arik said, “I could be Rebel With a Clue.” He smirked at David. “You can be Rabbi Without a Clue.”
“Hey,” David protested.
“You know,” Coby said thoughtfully, “interested readers could follow multiple editions of The Clue—aka the Clues—to find out what’s going on with Sheyna’s books and events.
Arik appraised him. “You might just be smarter than you look.”
“I like it,” Eli said. “It has promise.”
“Days before each newsletter comes out,” Batya said with a grin, “we can say, ‘I don’t have a Clue yet.'”
“Don’t have a Clue? Sign up now!” Sara added.
“As long as I have a newsletter,” David mused, “I’ll never be Clue-less.”
“I’ll be Clued to a screen, reading it,” Eli said.
“You guys are going to make me hurl,” Sevin muttered.
“Sorry, Sevin,” Sara said, oblivious to alliterations. “So it’s settled, then. Is there anything else we need to talk about?”
“Yeah, are we gonna do this again next month?” Sevin asked.
“Why?” asked Batya.
“I might have to schedule a Brazilian wax. Or arrange to have my fingernails pulled out one by one.”
“If you really don’t like it, you don’t have to be here,” David said, trying to be helpful, but failing miserably. “Um . . .” he continued, obnoxiously reading over Sevin’s shoulder. “You really hate me that much?”
“Nah.” Sevin elbowed him away from her. “You’re kind of growing on me. Like leg hair.”
“Seriously?” David said.
“Seriously,” Sevin said, contemplating him, “I’m not sure what I think about you yet. Maybe I’ll read your new book. You’re gonna have to prove yourself to me.”
“Then I’ll let my work stand on its own,” David said. “The book will speak for itself.”
“But is it strong enough?” Sevin asked.
“What do you mean?”
Sevin gave him a sly smile. “Does it have . . . Strength to Stand?”
With groans, everyone filed out of the office without doing any actual filing. Sevin scheduled the newsletter, shut down the laptop, and smiled. This could work.