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Raina leaned in very close to Merlin and whispered "I have no idea how this stuff is making money. I mean, she's not bad, but just get an old dirty magazine, right? She's not famous, and the authentication is basically zero. Do you think this is, like, bitcoin money laundering or something?" Merlin was of the opinion that the setup was not right for money laundering, but it was kind of weird. It was possible that there were people who knew Anna personally bidding; a known hazard of spending time as a supervillain was that you got to know a lot of assholes.

 

"Point," Raina conceded, "but it's still weird. Anything that ties our guy directly to the sale yet?" Merlin shook his head. "Then I guess we're sticking with plan A for now." Straightening up, she addressed Anna again. "That's okay, comms is mostly going to be "if somebody catches us or supervillains show up, you call Talya." 

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Anna assented to the plan, though in a tone of voice that suggested she might do something very different than call in Talya for backup. But her money was certainly good, as she was happy to demonstrate on the car ride over to the suburban neighborhood where Marshall and his parents lived. The Marshall house turned out to be a substantial one, the sort of big suburban mansion that was actually rather familiar to Raina from her earlier life. Roger and Jane Marshall lived in the substantial three-story house and commuted to their legal jobs in downtown Freedom every day, while Elric lived in what was actually probably a substantial basement apartment under the main building. (Luckily Raina and Anna, two blonde white women driving a stick-shift rented sedan about as old as Raina herself, were not the sort of people who would attract attention even in a nice neighborhood like this.) 

 

"This was a little farm town when I was a girl," said Anna suddenly, looking out the window as she drove. "My old man used to come out here and trade sausage for cheese from Old Man Polanski. He...jeez, I guess you don't need to hear about that old malarkey. So where do you want me?" she asked Raina. "I can probably park this old thing anywhere." 

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"There's a park about a quarter-mile down the road," Raina told her, "go ahead and park in the lot there. Nobody street parks in a neighborhood like this at this hour." Raina spoke with the perfect confidence of someone who'd grown up in a neighborhood very much like this. "Somebody will definitely either call the cops or come out and see what you're doing.  Just pull into the parking lot and pretend to be playing with your phone or calling somebody. You're fast, right? Quarter mile is nothing, and Merlin and I will fly. We should be back in forty-five minutes or less." 

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"Ah, jeez..." Anna looked doubtful for a moment, enough that Raina almost thought the old supervillain was going to object, but then said, "neighborhood like this, they might come out to help a little old lady." The prospect made her look sicker than any talk of her stolen boudoir pictures. "Sure, I can do that. Quarter mile in three seconds still, easy." She did indeed park the car by the side of the too-manicured park grass, shooting a glance at benches that looked a bit too narrow and a bit too curved for anybody to comfortably sleep on.

 

She looked at the wheel for a moment, then turned to her passenger. "Raina, honey," she said suddenly, her old-time Jersey accent sounding especially thick. "I don't know if yer a heroic type, but if it comes down to your neck or those pictures, you let Marshall sell them to some raincoat pervert for all I care. You still get them pretty jewels either way, okay? You don't hafta get yerself hurt because of me." 

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