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Authors: Sheryl J. Anderson

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BOOK: Killer Heels
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So, of course, Tricia announced, “Molly found a dead body.”

Now, I’m pretty certain Emily Post doesn’t have a chapter on how to deal with the whole dead-colleague-on-the-floor scenario, but I still was disappointed that Tricia was the one who blurted it out. I hadn’t finished sorting everything out for myself and I was not prepared to have Peter in the mix, either as my boyfriend of indeterminate status or as a rival journalist.

Yes, Peter’s a journalist, too, but his Pulitzer chances don’t look a whole lot better than mine. He writes for
Jazzed
, a men’s magazine that tries to hide its obsession with starlets with new boob jobs and overpriced electronic gizmos only a boy could love with the occasional article on world politics or business ethics. Tricia calls it
Jerked
, referring to both the way the cover girls are posed and the way the average male reacts when passing an issue on the newsstand. Cassady calls it something more obscene that we suspect was their publisher’s original idea for a title. I can’t say it, but I like to imagine it on their front cover when I’m feeling competitive with Peter.

Peter and I met at a birthday party for Julie McLeod, a photography editor who’d moved from my magazine to his, and bonded over our common frustration with trying to get ahead in the writing world. He had made it clear from the outset that he considered himself a few steps further down the path than I am, based on
Jazzed
’s larger circulation. I endeavored to point out that most men buy two copies of each issue, one to read on the subway and one to keep at home. And in both places, they read it with one hand. He didn’t find that nearly as funny as I thought it was. And yet, somehow, we still wound up going out. If I have instincts like that about dating, what on earth had possessed me to think I could track down a killer?

“A body?” Peter squeezed my shoulder gently, reacting to the nervous bands of steel that had formed there. “What’d you do, walk through the Park?”

“I don’t really want to—”

“In her office, on the floor. A colleague. Most godawful thing I’ve ever seen,” Cassady chimed in. I tried to give her the “shut up or change the subject” look, but she was turned to face Peter. I slid her champagne glass rather forcefully into her hand, but all she did was grab it and keep talking. “Even if I drink this stuff all night, I’m still not going to be able to sleep.” Cassady took a healthy swallow of her champagne as I watched, bewildered. She had seemed so together in the office. Was the impact of what had happened hitting her belatedly? Or was she just making it a better story, especially for the male audience?

Peter kept his reaction bland. His fingertips started kneading the back of my neck. “Jesus. You okay, Molly? You can stay with me tonight.” I might have bought that as a gesture of real concern, but I was distracted by the perfunctory quality of his neck kneading. Usually, Peter’s kneading is really firm and soothing; he played guitar growing up and has nice, long, supple fingers. But now, he was more or less drumming his fingertips on the back of my neck. I was tempted to shrug his hand away, but I didn’t want to let him know I was onto him. Not until I figured out what had him so distracted. And I was forming a pretty good guess.

I turned on my stool to face him and his hand fell from my neck. “I appreciate the invitation, but I think I’d rather be alone tonight.”

“But you must want to talk,” he started, revving up to present his case.

“That’s what we’re doing,” Tricia pointed out.

“I can only imagine what you must be feeling, what you must be going through,” Peter continued, undeterred. The girlfriends glanced at me. His method was becoming obvious, but his goal was still unclear to them. I gave a little toss of the head, meant to convey inexpressible angst, and Peter reached out to caress my cheek. Now I knew he was full of shit. He is not a cheek caresser. “Who’s the detective on your case?”

My teeth clenched, but I managed to flash him a smile. Oh, baby, you are so busted. It’s bad enough that I’m considering exploiting my friend’s death, but to have you thinking about doing it secondhand? It’s cheap, it’s underhanded, and it’s one more reason we need to have a serious discussion about the course of our relationship.

Of course, that’s what I thought. What I said was, “I don’t remember, I have it written down somewhere.” I gestured vaguely, confident that my co-conspirators would see that I was being deliberately evasive and not rush in to supply Peter with the name.

Peter tried one more time. “It must be a fascinating story.”

I shook my head. “Just a robbery gone wrong. I’m sure there are better stories in the naked city tonight.”

“I don’t know, sounds like a pretty compelling one to me. Not that I want to diminish your pain in any way,” he tacked on hurriedly. “A brush with mortality is something we all respond to so strongly, yet so differently. It could be an illuminating microcosm of how we relate to personal tragedy in the wake of 9/11.”

Now the girlfriends were catching on. And how could they not, when Peter was basically practicing the pitch he’d use on an editor if I were dim enough to tell him
my
story and let him turn it into
his
article. Tricia was staring at him in open amazement, but Cassady became very interested in her champagne glass, mouth pursed to hold back the laughter. When a man does something that confirms her belief in the inborn stupidity of the gender, Cassady finds it highly amusing. Peter was about to send her into gales of giggles without even trying.

“That’s very true,” I said, working to keep my voice light and sincere, “and that’s why I hope you’ll understand that I just want to have a drink with my girlfriends and then go home and put the whole thing behind me.” I pulled him in close enough to kiss him and made sure it was just moist and open enough to distract him for a moment. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

“Maybe you’ll feel like talking then,” he said, trying to sound supportive, but clearly still fishing.

“Maybe. ’Night.” I turned back to the table, trusting that his male ego would force him to leave at that point, lest he be seen as in any way more interested in me than I was in him.

“’Night, ladies,” he said, and made his exit. You take your life in your hands any time you try to predict what a man is going to do, but sometimes you have to throw the dice and, wonder of wonders, every now and then they surprise you in a positive way. Men are experts on negative surprises, of course. But in all honesty, most of the times I’ve gotten bad surprises, when I looked back later—with the benefit of time and a good, stiff drink—I’ve realized that it wasn’t so much that the man surprised me as I wasn’t paying close enough attention. The boyfriend who cheats—it’s not really a surprise that he cheats, it’s a surprise that I didn’t realize it was happening. The boyfriend who bolts—it’s not that he left, it’s that I should be able to spot intimacy issues at ten paces at this point. The boyfriend who lies—who doesn’t?

“Well, that was pleasant,” Cassady said, toasting Peter’s departing back. “How over is it?”

“If it wasn’t before, it is now,” I said. I lifted my brandy alexander to Tricia. “Thanks, Tricia, I may get hooked on these.”

“Oh, that wasn’t my intent at all.” Tricia eased my hand back down to the table. “Fat and carbs, like all else, in moderation.”

“My imagination, or was he trying to scoop your story?” Cassady asked.

“Over my and Teddy’s dead bodies,” I replied.

“So it is all about the story,” Cassady sneered.

“No.” I wished I sounded a little more convincing, so I continued, “Not completely. It’s about making sure Teddy doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s about a hunch I have that the cops are going down the wrong path.”

“And
then
it’s about the story,” Tricia finished for me.

“Plus the handsome detective,” Cassady contributed.

I turned to Cassady, surprised at her stance. “You saw him. Teddy, I mean. Don’t you get it?”

“I guess, but …” Cassady shook her head. “Hey, if you’re going to be an idiot, be an idiot for really good reasons. And a gorgeous guy and a possible strong career move qualify.”

“But I’m still an idiot.”

“Only if you wind up dead. So please, prove us wrong.”

“Yeah, well, if I do wind up dead, make sure someone other than Peter gets the story.” We clinked glasses on that one, a nice warm moment shattered by the trill of my cell phone. Mine’s the one that plays “Satin Doll.”

I reached for it and Tricia grimaced. “Who could it possibly be that’s more interesting and/or important than we are?”

Cassady grinned. “The fine young detective.”

It wasn’t. It was my editor, Yvonne. “Oh. My. God. Molly. Are you … all right?” Yvonne’s very sparing with punctuation in the magazine’s prose, but she uses it freely in her conversation.

“Yvonne, where are you?”

“Where do you think? In the office! Ankle-deep in blood! Strange people in dark uniforms—I’m beside myself. Molly. I can only imagine. How you must … feel.”

I couldn’t find a nice way to tell her that I’d been feeling better until she called. “I’ll be fine, Yvonne. I’m sorry you got dragged into this.”

“You? Sorry for me? I didn’t even see his body. Much less trip over it. In the dark! You. Poor. Dear.”

I sighed and propped my head up with my hand. Once Yvonne got rolling, it was hard to tell how long a conversation was going to last, though it would probably not be much longer than the average article in
Zeitgeist
. Cassady rolled her eyes supportively and filled the champagne glasses. “Helen’s the one we should be worried about, Yvonne,” I said. “Maybe you should talk to her in the morning.”

“No. I’m going. Out there now.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” My heart, already broken for Helen, shattered further at the thought of Helen having to deal with Yvonne and her big mouth and cotton candy hair in the middle of the night.

“What? Molly? You think she should get the news—the worst news she’s ever going to get—from these cold strangers ?” I could only assume that she was talking about Detectives Edwards and Lipscomb and could only pray that they were out of earshot. “She’ll need. A friend! Someone to comfort her.”

“I’ll go with you.” It was out of my mouth before I’d really thought it through. Something I’m getting a little too prone to do. But I’d been able to contain my own grief by not considering Helen’s at all. Now that Yvonne had pried the lid off that well, I could not stomach the thought of Yvonne unleashed on Helen in her darkest hour. The others looked at me curiously, wondering no doubt what could be luring me from their company in my hour of semi-darkness.

“Well. I hadn’t … Let me ask the detectives.”

I waited as Yvonne put her hand over her phone and went in search of the detectives. I thought she’d called with the intent of inviting me, but now she sounded like I was raining on her parade. I put my hand over my phone to explain. “Yvonne’s going with the detectives to tell Helen.”

“Molly, you have to go. And if you can possibly gag that fiend and put her in the trunk before you arrive, even better,” Cassady urged.

Tricia nodded in agreement as a voice issued from my phone. “Ms. Forrester?”

I nearly swallowed my phone in my eagerness to answer. “Detective Edwards?”

Cassady raised her glass. “Detective Edwards,” she whispered to Tricia and they clinked glasses, laughing.

“Ms. Hamilton says you’d like to come with us to notify Mrs. Reynolds,” Detective Edwards said, with no hint in his voice as to whether he thought it was a good idea.

“It seemed the right thing to do.”

“It would definitely be a help,” he answered and I knew that was more of a slam on Yvonne than it was a compliment to me. “Where are you? We’ll pick you up.”

“I’m at Django. I thought a drink with friends might help me sleep,” I added, feeling a sudden need to justify my location and activity.

“I understand. We’ll be outside in ten minutes.”

“It’s a date,” I blurted, then wished I really could swallow my phone. “Sorry, I mean—I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Too bad,” he said, and the quality of his voice warmed just a little. “Thought it might be a Freudian slip.”

“Wow,” I breathed. “Detectives don’t miss much, do they?”

There was a long enough pause that I could feel him debating with himself. “Ten minutes,” was the reply that won.

“Ten minutes,” I echoed and hung up. I dropped my phone back in my bag and stood up. “Ladies …”

“She’s ditching us.” Tricia cut to the chase.

“It’s the right thing to do,” I defended.

“I’ve seen him. It’s the right thing to do,” Cassady assured Tricia. She turned back to me for a hug and a kiss. “Call us in the morning. Me first or I’ll be hurt.”

“Don’t wreck my shoes,” Tricia warned. “And stay out of trouble.”

I should have listened to Tricia, parked my butt back down, and finished my brandy alexander. But no, I had to do the right thing. That’ll teach me.

3

Dear Molly, I recently
had to break some really bad news to a friend and another friend insisted on coming along with me. Okay, I’m a wimp—I should have told her to stay home. But still, was it wrong for me to imagine throwing my friend from the moving police car because she wouldn’t shut up about how horrible this was for her when it wasn’t her tragedy in any way, shape, or form? Signed, Vivid Imagination

It’s a habit I’ve developed in the two years I’ve been writing the column. When I’m in a stressful situation, it helps me to imagine a reader sending in a letter about said stress and asking my advice. I like to think of it as a creative way of gaining perspective on a problem. I’m sure my therapist would say that I’m emotionally distancing myself from the issue at hand, but I haven’t discussed it with her yet. There are bigger fish to fry.

So that’s why I was sitting in the back seat of the police car, trying not to watch Yvonne wail for the benefit of the detectives in the front seat, writing letters in my head. I was torn between the aforementioned desire to chuck her out the window and to tell Detective Lipscomb to stop at the first available corner so we could drop her off without actually injuring her. That was the more polite option, but it lacked the necessary emotional satisfaction element.

BOOK: Killer Heels
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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