Grand Passion

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    M ax Fortune sat alone in the hidden chamber of the old brick mansion and contemplated his collection. It was something he did frequently. He had learned long ago that his paintings and books were the only things that truly belonged to him, the only things that no one could take away from him.
    Most of the masterpieces that hung on the walls of the secured, climate-controlled vault had been created by modern artists who were only just beginning to achieve the recognition they deserved. A few paintings were already acknowledged as works of genius. Some of the artists were still undiscovered, except by Max.
    Although he knew their present and future value, Max had not collected the paintings as an investment. Savage, bleak, and technically brilliant, the canvases reflected something inside himself that he could not put into words. Many were the stuff of the old nightmares that he had had as a child.
    He had no doubt that one day every painting in his possession would be acclaimed as the unique creation it was. His instincts were unerring when it came to art. He had the inner eye.
    With the exception of the complete works of Dr. Seuss and several tattered volumes of The Hardy Boys series, the rare books in the glass cases would have fetched enormous sums at any auction. Max coveted books almost as much as he coveted paintings.
    He especially valued old and rare books, books that had a history, books that had meant something to someone. When he held an old book in his hands, Max knew a fleeting sense of connection with people who had lived before him. He felt as though he shared a small part of someone else's past. It was as close as he got to feeling like a member of a family.
    The elegant old house, which Max occupied alone, sat on Seattle's Queen Anne Hill. It commanded a sweeping view of the city and Elliott Bay and was considered a prime piece of real estate. Everything in the mansion, from the 1978 California Cabernet Sauvignon that Max was drinking to the exquisite Oriental rugs on the polished hardwood floors, had been chosen with great care.
    But Max knew better than anyone that all the money he had lavished on the great brick structure had not accomplished the impossible. It had not turned his house into a home.
    Max had not had a home since the age of six. He was fairly certain now that he would never have one. He accepted that stark fact. He had long ago learned that the secret of surviving was not to want the things he could not have.
    Max's philosophy of life worked quite well for the most part because there were very few things he wanted that he could not have.
    Among the many things that Max had acquired for himself was a formidable reputation.
    People described his reputation in different ways. Some said he was dangerous. Others said he was brilliant and ruthless, utterly unrelenting in his pursuit of a goal. Everyone agreed on one thing, which was that when Max Fortune set out to do a job, the job got done.
    Max knew

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