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ARIES (March 21-April 19): Reacting too fast will leave you little wiggle room as the facts unfold. A careful and thoughtful assessment will enable you to call in the appropriate help to manage the damage. Protect your heart and your health.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Keep a steady pace, and you'll reach your destination. Emotions will be difficult to control. Let your feelings be known, and you will know where you stand and what your options are. Clear the air, and prepare to make changes.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Express your thoughts and ideas, and you will get the support required to make changes to your life and your future. Refuse to overspend on items, products, or a sales pitch promising the impossible. Choose reason over false hope.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Make a change that will alter your income or help you come to an agreement that gives you greater financial freedom. Contracts, settlements, and investments are favored if you stick to a formula that is safe and offers a steady profit.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Talk matters over if you have doubts regarding your relationship with someone. Whether it is a personal, financial, or professional connection, honesty will make it much easier to choose your next move. Take responsibility for your actions.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Take time out, and focus on your looks, appeal, and what you can offer someone who interests you. Get back to basics, and start a healthy regimen that includes proper eating habits and exercise. Ask — you will receive help reaching your goals.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): The more you interact with others, the greater your chance will become to explore new concepts, possibilities, and partnerships with people who share your interests. A change may not be welcome, but it will end up being beneficial.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Keep your emotions in check, and follow through with your plans. Let your intuition guide you regarding matters of the heart and home. A move or change to the way you live will give you greater perspective regarding future possibilities.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Take care of business matters personally. Don't leave anything to chance, and be prepared to make a quick decision in regards to a new contract or settlement. A change at home may upset a relationship, but it will benefit you emotionally.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Put in the effort, and don't stop until you reach your deadline. Live up to your promises, and stand behind whatever it is you do. Expect opposition, and be ready for whatever challenge comes your way. Strive for equality in personal relationships.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Keep close tabs on what everyone is doing. Offer suggestions, but don't take on responsibilities that don't belong to you. A good idea will pay off if you follow through. A change in the way you approach work will bring positive results.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Don't share your secrets. A financial offer may end up costing you instead of bringing you profits. Socializing or greater involvement in a cause or volunteer group that interests you will boost your popularity and promote new friendships.

Rejected Sam Spade:

• She strode into my office carrying a stack of New York Posts. I should've known then that she was nothing but bad news.

• He took a belt from his flask, lit up a cigarette, and began weeping — big, bitter, manly tears. He had done all he could, but he was no closer to finding Stella's groove than he had been when she first barged into his office on that fateful Thursday morning.

• "Bet you're not so tough without that gun," I told the bruiser. He holstered it, then gave me a punch to the gut like a volley from a cannon. If anything, he was tougher without that gun, and now both his hands were free.

• He was, as they say, tall, dark, and handsome, if by tall you mean average, and by dark you mean hung-over, and by handsome you mean will-do-if-it's-late-enough-and-there-are-no-other-options.

• He was, in short, short.

• He exuded that continental charm — from his Aryan white collar to his perfectly starched socks — sophistication and elegance dripping from his mouth like a leaky pipe under your sink that you don't notice until it's far too late.

• He just stood there, looking like a mix between a raptor and peacock, moon-faced with a serpentine st — you know what? Let me just draw this one.

Andrew R. Juhl thanks Matt Larson and Chris Okiishi for contributing to today's Ledge.

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