Killer Heels

Molly Forrester Novels (Volume 1)

Sheryl J. Anderson

Minotaur Books

Killer Heels
1
I always knew I'd make my mark on the world. I just didn't expect it to be one of those chalk outlines they draw around dead bodies. Of course, the chalk came later. It started with the blood. But that's the price you pay for wearing open-toed shoes in Manhattan. You never know what you're going to step in.
It's actually Cassady's fault that we went by my office when we did, and I'm not above using that to guilt her into buying me a new pair to replace the ones that soaked up all the blood. But then, Cassady Lynch is a lawyer and she's got a much stricter view of liability than I do. So I suppose the shoes will just turn into another one of those debit/credit things you pile up with girlfriends over the years--sweaters that got stretched out, cars that got dented, boyfriends that got stolen. But shoes that got trashed at a murder scene--brand-new Jimmy Choos, mind you, the Cat 85mm's with that gorgeous blue striped fabric and fabulous heel that cost me more than I can bear to think--probably demand a whole budget line item all their own.
I suppose I could have told Cassady no. But that's pretty much a superhuman feat and it's not successful very often, for me or anyone else, so it's not surprising that I caved.What started the whole deal was I was trying to describe this hideous piece of art The Publisher had just installed in our offices and Cassady said it couldn't possibly be as awful as I was making it out to be. Granted, there were several mojitos fueling the fires of art criticism, but I stood my ground. It was one of the uglier pieces I had ever seen. Cassady insisted that I take her to see it right away. She said she wasn't going to be able to concentrate on dinner with the images of this abomination dancing in her head.
Cassady took some art classes when we were in college, but then she tried to submit her boyfriend for a midterm exam. She'd stripped him--remember, it's very hard to say no to her--and painted this Guernica-like mural all over his body, leaving only his genitals unpainted because, as we all remember from Goldfinger, he would have suffocated otherwise. Cassady said it was a political statement. I contend that she was bored and looking to get kicked out of the class. They were going to give her an incomplete, but she threatened to launch a whole freedom-of-expression brouhaha and walked away from it all with a B. She's amazing that way.
Small wonder she persuaded me to leave Django and walk over to the office. I work for Zeitgeist magazine, which is right down Lexington Avenue. You can find us wedged between Marie Claire and Cosmo at your finer newsstands and markets. We do the whole lifestyle thing, but we like to think we have more of a sense of humor than the competition. God knows it takes a sense of humor to survive in our business, and I mean both the magazine business and the business of being a single woman in New York City. And those are both big businesses. In fact, they may support every other one. Single women drive the economy of this city and the magazines report on it.Everything else is just an offshoot, a subcontractor. The restaurants, the bars, the shops, the shrinks, the florists, the designers, the garment and jewelry districts, the theaters, the gyms, the hotels ... Detect a pattern? If they don't exist because of the needs and wants of single women, they exist to employ the men that single women need and want, which accounts for the lawyers, doctors, and stockbrokers. And the whole subset of baby stuff and nannies and houses in Connecticut is there to inspire the single women to put up with the single men. It's a delicate economic model, but it seems to be working.
I have to admit, it was my idea not to turn on the light right away. I wanted to go for a sort of "tah-dah" moment and snap the light on to reveal the grotesquery in all its glory in a blaze of track lighting. There was a fair amount of outside light bouncing in through the windows and off all the chrome and acrylic in the bullpen, that vast middle ground where those not deemed office-worthy sit at desks with nothing to protect them from learning way too much about their colleagues. There aren't even glorified bulletin boards masquerading as cubicle walls to give people the illusion of their own space. Everything's out in the open--desks, filing cabinets, sexual preferences, dating disasters. The overheard phone conversations are the most colorful things in the bullpen.
So while we favor a lush, vibrant palette in print, we're just this side of institutional in our office design. The Publisher believes comfortable people don't work fast enough. He must believe the same thing about rich people, because he's not turning any of us into them. The press calls him a business genius. I guess "miser" is too old-fashioned.
I know my way around the office well enough that Iwasn't concerned about tripping over anything. The assistants' desks are laid out in diagonals--on the bias, as Caitlin, the fashion editor, likes to point out--to keep the floor plan from looking too much like an insurance company, but it's still simple to navigate. I just didn't expect Teddy to be lying on the floor with a knife in his throat. One moment, I was leading Cassady through the darkened bullpen and the next, I was aware of my foot squooshing. I knew immediately that I had stepped in something that was not going to be good for my shoes, but I was thinking more along the lines of yogurt someone had somehow spilled and neglected to clean up. I stopped suddenly, my toes curling up like cocktail shrimp.
"What?" Cassady said impatiently.
"I stepped in something."
"If it's on the floor at this hour of the night, it's disgusting. Don't touch it. Where's the light switch?" Cassady started to feel her way toward the wall.
"I'll get it."
"No, stay put. You don't want to track it around or grind it into your new shoes, whatever it is."
As Cassady groped for the switch, I bent over to see what I could see in the dark. All I could tell was that there was a large pool of something dark on the carpet and a big pile of something against one of the desks. Then Cassady found the light switch and I realized that the darkness on the carpet was blood and the big pile was Teddy Reynolds, advertising director for Zeitgeist. I think I already mentioned the knife.
Now, I believe I deserve points for not fainting, puking, or even screaming. I only made a delicate sound of concern. Of course, Cassady later described it to Tricia as "the sound a Yorkshire terrier would make if you threw itagainst the wall. Hard." Cassady came running back over, took a look, and said, "Holy shit." But then, it was a different experience for her. She didn't know Teddy.
"You know him?" For some reason, she was whispering. I nodded as she helped me up, noting my right foot planted firmly in the pool of blood. The red was already soaking in and discoloring the blues in the fabric. "That's never going to come out."
"Isn't it shallow to be thinking that way at a moment like this?"
Cassady shrugged. "People handle grief in different ways." She grabbed the phone on the nearest desk.
"Call Tricia on her cell. She has an event tonight." Good times, bad times, you call your girlfriends first.
Cassady squinted. "You're kidding, right?"
Actually, I wasn't. "Who else?"
"I thought I'd start with the police." Cassady dialed 911. You can always count on her to have the logical reaction, even in times of extreme stress. Granted, she doesn't always follow through with the logical reaction, especially when a man is involved, but at least it occurs to her. Not all of us have that particular gift.
So the police came and the building security guys had a fit because Cassady hadn't bothered to clue them in and they looked pretty bad when the cops came stomping into the lobby. The cops didn't let them hang around too long before banishing them back down to the lobby to get security tapes and all that sort of stuff. They also got to place the call to Yvonne Hamilton, our editor, informing her that there was a "problem" at the office and asking her to come in. Poor guys. But at least they could feel useful. I felt like a complete and utter idiot. As a journalist, I pride myself on being observant and insightful. But in the clutch,I found myself transforming into a total bobblehead. I couldn't remember Teddy's wife's name right away or how long he'd worked at the magazine or if he'd been in his office when I left that night. Cassady said it was probably a form of shock. I guess I'll take that over useless.
It was also really hard to concentrate with poor Teddy lying there on the floor. Especially with the knife in his throat. Teddy was a big man who, until now, had always been in motion. It fascinated me that a guy who could not sit still could not burn calories more efficiently. He'd actually been trying to diet lately, a compulsion that's hard to duck when you work at a women's magazine, but I think his idea of dieting was to add some fresh fruit to his expansive caloric intake. He was always pacing and chewing on something while chewing out someone. Not that he was a bad guy, he was just very difficult to please. He went through assistants like J.Lo goes through men and I'm sure at least half the desks in the office contained voodoo dolls in his likeness. But he was great at his job and he could be very sweet when it suited him, so I realized the staff was actually going to miss him. At least the rest of the staff was going to get to remember him rumbling around the office with a sheen of sweat on his face and a bagel in his hand. From now on, I was always going to see him in a crumpled mass on the floor with a knife in his throat.
The first thing I wanted to do when the police arrived was get away from the body. Cassady had insisted that I not move until they came, to minimize the damage to the crime scene. So when the uniformed officers showed, I asked if I could sit down before we started answering questions. They were really impressed that Cassady had tried to preserve the scene. They were also really impressed withCassady period, but they were young male officers, so that was no surprise. Cassady's incredibly smart, but she's also all legs and has this incredible head of auburn curls that a lesser woman would envy. I just admire them. And then there are the green eyes and the bonded teeth and her fondness for push-up bras. So they were leaning in pretty closely as she filled them in on how we happened to find Teddy, and I had to interrupt.
"Could I sit down or at least move over there?" I asked as non-shrilly as possible. I could feel shrill trying to work itself into my voice and I was determined to get through this with some grace. "Grace under pressure" has always struck me as a very admirable trait and I'd always imagined that I possessed it to some degree, but this was a new level of pressure and I wasn't coming up with sufficient amounts of grace in a timely fashion.
The officers looked down at my feet, still planted in Teddy's blood. "We're going to need you to leave the shoes there," the blond one, Officer Jankowski, said. The uniforms and all the stuff these guys wear on their belts tend to make NYPD officers look chunky, but not this one. He was tall, with broad shoulders and slim hips--a swimmer's build. He held his hand out like he was helping me out of a cab and I slipped out of my shoes, stepped over the blood, and grabbed a chair two desks away with as much grace as I could muster. Officer Jankowski followed me and pulled up another chair. I guess he was going for the whole eye-to-eye thing. They must teach them that at the academy. His partner, Officer Hendryx, stayed with Cassady. Hendryx was a ruddy brunette. He wasn't quite as tall as Jankowski and had a thicker build, but I could tell it was all muscle. I could see his biceps working under his sleeves. I'm sure Cassady could, too.
"I know this is very difficult, Ms. Forrester, but I need you to tell me everything you can about what happened here tonight." He flipped open his notebook with a flick of his wrist. I think he learned that from Law and Order, not the academy. "Did you know the victim?"
That's when the bobblehead problem started. I nodded and I felt like I kept nodding for about ten minutes. Officer Jankowski watched me with a very patient smile, then gently asked, "What's his name?"
"Oh, right. Teddy Reynolds. Our advertising director. That's his office right behind him."
"Is he married?"
I bobbled again until I came up with Helen's name. The minute I pictured Helen, the reality of what had happened knocked the wind out of me. Up until then, I'd been able to look at Teddy's body like The Publisher's new sculpture--some incredibly ugly piece of art that had somehow found its way into our offices. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. But it was. And someone was going to have to tell Helen, and she was going to have to tell her parents and Teddy's parents and all their friends. I made another delicate sound of concern. Cassady and Officer Hendryx came rushing over and Officer Jankowski grabbed my hand. His hand was warmer than I'd expected and felt really good. "Are you going to be sick? It's okay, it happens all the time."
I knew I wasn't going to be sick, but I did think about fainting for a couple of seconds. Then somehow, without even deciding to, I opted for crying. Pretty gently, all things considered. Usually, I go for the heaving sobs and my face gets all blotchy and it's not a pretty sight. This time, the tears started rolling down my face and I couldn't do anythingabout it. Maybe that was shock, too. Cassady snagged the box of Kleenex off Gretchen Plotnick's desk and eased it into my lap. Well, at least my crying had grace.
There was noise behind us and Officer Hendryx excused himself to go meet the other police personnel who were arriving. They turned on every light they could find, which made it even harder to avoid looking at Teddy and all the blood. Officer Jankowski explained that the new people were going to secure the crime scene, start gathering forensic evidence, all that CSI stuff. I just wanted them to cover up Teddy. I had this wild thought that he was getting cold, even though Teddy was one of those guys who could sweat in a snowstorm.
The new arrivals, all in NYPD windbreakers, started setting up equipment. It seemed very routine to them and I found that incredibly sad. There was a woman with a camera and a couple of guys with what looked like great big toolboxes. They unloaded evidence bags and tweezers and brushes and I started to be fascinated; then they pulled on rubber gloves. There was something about the sound of the gloves snapping closed against their wrists that made me consider fainting again. I wasn't fascinated anymore. I did my best to focus on Officer Jankowski's questions and keep the bobblehead at bay. But then he asked me, "Can you think of anyone who would want to hurt Mr. Reynolds?"
I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but Teddy had plenty of enemies. Not murder-level enemies, but it did give me pause to think of the number of people I knew he'd pissed off. There were bound to be more. I work at home a lot, so I don't see all the drama that goes down in a day at Zeitgeist. But these were all business enemies, unhappy advertisers or agencies or layout people.
"Nothing worth killing over," I told him.
"You'd be surprised," Officer Jankowski replied. "Murder's rarely a rational act."
I bobbled again, considering that, and Officer Hendryx came back to tap Officer Jankowski on the shoulder. "They're here."
"Excuse me, ma'am." Officer Jankowski gave me a polite smile and stood up to follow Officer Hendryx. Cassady, leaning against the desk behind me, moaned.
"What?" I asked her, trying not to watch the technicians examining Teddy.
"Definitely not your night. You just got ma'am-ed."
"I'm sure he learned it at the academy. Or on TV."
"He learned it from his mother. He's a baby, Molly, showing respect to his elders."
"Don't start trying to make me feel old because your little boy in blue wasn't handing over his phone number."
Cassady waggled a business card in front of me. I caught a glimpse of the NYPD seal. "Would that be his office phone or his cell phone that he wasn't handing over?"
"But did you get a home phone?"
"I appreciate a man who likes to go slow."
"Only once you get him home."
Cassady was about to say something devastating in return, but something across the room caught her eye. I turned to look, too. The man who had just entered was middle-aged, tall and powerful, African-American, somewhere between imposing and intimidating. I glanced over at Cassady in surprise. He wasn't really her type: She's currently in a young-and-malleable phase.
But then I looked back at the policemen again and saw the second guy and realized why Cassady's antennae were up. He couldn't have looked better if he were backlit andwalking in slow motion. It was a chain-store suit and his shoes were a couple of years old, but he was breathtaking. Square jaw, tousled hair that got that way honestly and not because of seventy-five bucks worth of product, and amazing blue eyes. The little clarity I'd been able to summon threatened to evaporate, but I took a deep breath. Cassady also gave me a firm jab in the ribs, which is always good for focus. "Dibs."
"This is a murder scene, not a nightclub."
"The story will delight my grandchildren." Cassady flashed me a quick smile, then quickly turned back to watch the two new arrivals come across the room to us. Officers Jankowski and Hendryx were obviously filling them in on the situation and their attention was focused on poor Teddy. In fact, the older man peeled off to go look at Teddy and the young hunk came straight to us. How nice.
"Ms. Forrester, Ms. Lynch, I'm Detective Edwards, Homicide." Cassady and I stuck our hands out like two debutantes in a receiving line. Detective Edwards missed half a beat, which increased his desirability quotient considerably. He then shook my hand first, which got him even more points. Cassady sniffed loud enough for me to hear.
"My partner, Detective Lipscomb, and I will be handling this case. The officers tell us you two found the body." He looked us both over carefully, but in a forensic, not a foreplay, sense. He stopped when he got to our feet. More precisely, to my feet. "You came into the office barefoot?"
"No, but I stepped in the blood and they asked me to leave my shoes there." I tried to sound businesslike, but the almost-shrill thing was happening again. I could've sworn I'd be better than this in a traumatic situation.
Detective Edwards glanced at the officers for affirmation,then over at Teddy. "I know you've already been interviewed, but we'd like to talk to you after we look around. You don't mind waiting, do you?"
Cassady sat, pulling me back down into my chair while she was at it. "Not at all, Detective. Anything we can do to help."
Detective Edwards looked us over again, a little less forensically this time, and went over to his partner and Teddy. Officers Jankowski and Hendryx trailed along behind.
"Have you ever been at a murder scene before?" I asked Cassady. We've known each other since freshman year of college, but we didn't get to be best friends until we both came to the city after graduation, so I don't know everything about her. Besides, she's a girl who knows how to keep her secrets.
"No. They don't come up very often in my kind of law." Cassady isn't a criminal lawyer, though I've always thought she'd be great at it. Besides the fact that she looks awesome in those Ally McBeal suits. Instead, she's counsel for the Coalition for Creative Expression and Enterprise, also known as C2E 2. They're this wonderful, funky public-interest group that's into all sorts of issues where creative expression and business crash into each other--stuff like Internet privacy and intellectual copyrights. They try to get the two sides to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions, but sometimes Cassady has to take people to court to get their attention. "Why?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because I would think you'd find it fascinating."
"I do."
"No, you're bored."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because you have one cop's phone number in your pocket and you're already salivating on another one."
"You're projecting. You're a little more emotionally involved here than I am, but that's a function of circumstance and nothing I need to be punished for." All of which I would have taken more to heart if she'd said any of it looking at me, instead of staring at Detective Edwards the whole time.
But I had to admit--to myself, not to her--that I was having a harder time with this than she was. I realized that it was mainly because I knew Teddy and she didn't, but there was a little professional angst going on, too. As wholly inappropriate as it might have been, part of my brain was whining because I was in the middle of what could have been a great story if I were working for the New York Times and not Zeitgeist. Not that I don't love my job at the magazine, but it's not exactly where I intended to wind up.
See, I'm a news junkie. Blame my parents. My father couldn't eat dinner without Walter Cronkite intoning in the background because it was every American's responsibility to stay informed. My mother put my playpen in front of the Watergate hearings because she thought it would be stimulating for me. I guess it was, but I also get this really weird, tingly feeling whenever I see a man with big, bushy eyebrows. I haven't brought that up in therapy. Yet.
Anyway, you can see why I thought the whole news gig would be pretty cool. But I realized it wasn't all style, it was substance, too. So I did the well-rounded liberal arts deal, then marched out into the world of journalism to seek my slot. I was going to offer insightful commentary on the events that shape our world, enlighten the populace, and make the world a better place. And I sort of do. But not as much as I'd like to.
"You're the advice columnist?" The detectives had returned from their inspection of Teddy and were questioningCassady and me. Detective Lipscomb said it in a completely non-judgmental way, but it still stung a little. Especially since I was sitting next to my drop-dead gorgeous public-interest lawyer best friend. Put me in bunny slippers and a quilted bathrobe: I'm the advice columnist. It's not a field that the Pulitzer Committee is paying a whole lot of attention to. This year. But I don't plan to be doing this until I drop in my tracks, God bless the dear departed Ann Landers. I'm barely over thirty (no need for specific numbers) and I'm always looking for the opportunity that's going to take me closer to real news.
And this is actually a sweet setup: I do a lot of my work at home, so I get paid to sit in my pajamas and tell people how they're screwing up their lives and what I would do were I in their situation, which I am so eternally glad I am not. I enjoy it most of the time, though some of the letters make me fear for the future of the human race. I mean, my God. Write to me about delicate shadings of ethics and etiquette, but think for yourself occasionally! How can you focus long enough to type Dear Molly, I've been sleeping with my brother-in-law for the last six months and the sex is great, but I'm starting to feel guilty and still feel the need to ask, Should I come clean with my sister? Like any reasonably intelligent, self-respecting woman who survived high school doesn't know that given a choice between keeping a secret and sharing the truth, you lock up that diary and throw away the key.
"Oh, man," Officer Hendryx blurted. "I shoulda known. Molly Forrester. 'You Can Tell Me.'" He grinned at me the way I thought guys only grinned at professional athletes.
Cassady arched an eyebrow at him. "You read Molly's column?"
"Not really," Officer Hendryx confessed. "My girlfriend basically reads it to me. It's her favorite part of the magazine, and she's always saying, 'Ohmigod, Davey, you gotta listen to this!' She's gonna be so amazed I met you."
"We're all very happy for you, Officer," Detective Edwards said, just firmly enough for Officer Hendryx to straighten up and shut up. Detective Edwards swung those very impressive blue eyes back over to me. "And why are you and your lawyer here after hours, Ms. Forrester?"
"She's not my lawyer. She's a lawyer, but not my lawyer."
"She's also in the room," Cassady pointed out. "We're friends. We were having drinks and Molly said there was a hideous piece of art here in the office that I had to see."
"Is it still here?" Detective Edwards looked around.
"Ohmigod, you don't think Teddy interrupted some sort of art theft?" It came out before I'd really thought it through and they all looked at me in varying degrees of surprise.
Detective Lipscomb tried to sound patient, but he made sure the effort showed. "We have to consider all the possibilities at this stage."
"Not that one. Teddy wasn't exactly the heroic type. If someone came in to steal the monstrosity, I bet Teddy would've held the door open for them. Not that Teddy would have been in on it or anything ..." Maybe if I kept talking long enough, my brain would catch up with my mouth. But right now, my mouth had quite a good lead. Maybe it was time to go back to bobbling.
The detectives exchanged a look, then Detective Edwards put his hand on my arm. I'm sure it was meant to calm me, but it didn't. "Can you show me this piece of art?" I nodded and started to walk past Teddy and all hisnew companions, then stopped, very conscious of my bare feet. I looked down and so did Detective Edwards. He nodded sympathetically. "I'm sorry about the shoes, but we're going to have to keep them for a while."
"Not like the blood's going to come out of them," Cassady muttered behind us. I looked around, surprised that she was following us. "The statue's the whole reason I'm here," she explained. "I'm damn well gonna see it, if it's not gone."
It wasn't. It was still squatting on its pedestal outside The Publisher's office. It was called Muse 47. According to The Publisher, the artist said it was the embodiment of the urge to create. To me, it looked like a disfigured gnome straining to pass a kidney stone. Detective Edwards looked at it for a few minutes, taking in the statue itself, then examined The Publisher's reception area, even checking the carpet for footprints and other trace evidence. The carpet and furnishings in this part of the office are just as bland as the ones in our part of the office, but you can tell they cost more. The chrome shines more brightly or something. Detective Edwards didn't seem particularly impressed by any of it. I stood as quietly as possible, watching his every move. Cassady frowned at the sculpture. "Modern art's such a joke."
"Pretty sweeping statement," Detective Edwards countered, continuing his inspection.
"Unless the law has changed since I left my office, I'm entitled to my opinion." It's always an education to watch Cassady sizing up an opponent, deciding whether he can be consumed in one bite or two.
"Y'know, we tried really hard to take away everybody's civil liberties today, but we couldn't work it in, what with the murder rate climbing and all. So yes, you can have anopinion for another day or two." He stopped inspecting and looked at us, waiting for a reaction.
Cassady was expressionless, hanging tough, so I seized the moment. "I happen to love Jasper Johns."
Cassady rolled her eyes. Detective Edwards grimaced a little, so I could tell we weren't going to bond on this one. But I could also tell he knew I was trying to help and that he appreciated it. Lord knows, I get tired of all the whining and shrieking that I have to listen to in the course of my job, and it's all on paper or a computer screen. Imagine the stuff a homicide detective in New York City has to put up with in the course of a day, and I'm not counting having to actually solve the crimes. The least I could do was deflect a little of Cassady's scorn. And I do like Jasper Johns.
"This area seems untouched, but I'll have the forensic guys check it out. Thank you," Detective Edwards said, gesturing us back to the bullpen. Cassady led the way and I hung back a little, not anxious to see Teddy again. Detective Edwards walked beside me, but he looked like he was concentrating, so I figured I should stay quiet. Especially since I couldn't think of anything helpful to say. You gotta figure "How could this happen?" is something a homicide cop gets sick of hearing pretty early in the work week and I couldn't push my bobblehead much past that.
Detective Lipscomb was waiting for us. Detective Edwards shook his head. Detective Lipscomb nodded. "No sign of struggle in the office. Blood spatter looks like it all happened out here. Wallet and watch are gone."
Detective Edwards' frown deepened. "Odd place for a robbery. Lots of locked doors between here and the street."
"Security guys are pulling the records. We'll see what that points to. Not much here otherwise." Detective Lipscomb held up an evidence bag with the knife from Teddy'sthroat in it. The inside of the bag was streaked with blood and did this weird stained-glass-window thing when Detective Lipscomb held it up to the light. "Kitchen knife."
"It's Teddy's. He was trying to lose weight and ate a lot of fruit in the afternoon. Liked to slice the apples and said the knives in the kitchen weren't sharp enough, so he kept that one in his desk."
Detective Lipscomb glanced over to Teddy, who was being placed in a body bag. "Guess this one was sharp enough."
Detective Edwards winced. "You're buying breakfast."
Detective Lipscomb was highly offended for some reason. "I am not."
Detective Edwards shook his head at his partner and turned to us to explain. "If somebody starts to sound like a wisecracking TV cop, he has to buy breakfast."
"You punish him?" I asked, not sure I saw the logic.
"Best way to break a bad habit," Detective Edwards explained.
Detective Lipscomb wasn't enjoying this and held the knife bag up again, refocusing everyone. "You're sure this is his?"
"Yes. I borrowed it a couple of times. It really is better than anything we have in the kitchen."
Detective Lipscomb walked over to stand in Teddy's office doorway, bag still in his hand. "So he's working late, hears a strange noise, grabs the knife to arm himself, walks out and ..." We all looked down at the blood on the carpet and filled in the rest for ourselves. In my version, Teddy wrestled with a shadowy intruder twice his size, the intruder wrenched the knife away, and suddenly Teddy was on the floor, bleeding. I imagined the detectives' versionwas a little less noir than that. And probably, given Teddy, closer to the truth.
Cassady's face was expressionless. I think she'd had enough.
"Ms. Forrester, did Mr. Reynolds have enemies?" Detective Edwards asked after the silence had stretched on a little too long.
"Oh, sure."
Detective Jankowski gave me a perturbed look. "Ma'am, you told me no."
"You asked me if I knew anyone who'd want to hurt him. He asked me about enemies."
Officer Jankowski opened his mouth to protest, but Cassady was quicker. "Definitely two different lists in my life. There's a big difference between someone you'd like to see dead in the business sense and someone you're willing to hurt literally."
"Teddy could be nice, but he could also be really difficult," I admitted. "All depending on what you wanted from him. You could probably split his Rolodex in half between the people who'd vote 'sweetheart' and the ones who'd go for 'bastard.' But I can't imagine a single one of them doing this."
Detective Lipscomb rubbed his forehead. "We'll take that into account." He turned to Jankowski and Hendryx. "Go get with the security guys. Make sure you get the full rundown on cleaning crews, night messengers, standard traffic." The officers nodded to us and hurried out. Cassady waved Officer Hendryx's business card at him in farewell.
"You think it was a stranger, an intruder?" I pressed. Cassady shot me a warning look.
"We see a lot of this. Somebody comes into the buildingon so-called legitimate business, then takes advantage of a situation."
I was trying to picture the world in which killing someone was taking advantage of a situation. "So you think this was a robbery or something?"
"No, I think it was a murder," Detective Lipscomb said quietly and Detective Edwards shot him a warning look. There was no breakfast at stake here. Detective Lipscomb was getting angry.
I plunged in anyway. "It's just ... the knife is so personal. You'd have to get close to him ..." I wasn't sure where I was going with this, but I got the sense that the detectives were about to veer off in a direction that wasn't going to help Teddy much.
Detective Edwards took a step forward to distract me from his glowering partner. "We appreciate your input. I'm sure this is overwhelming for you and we don't mean to keep you any longer than absolutely necessary." He pressed his business card into my hand.
I had more to say, but Cassady grabbed my arm and almost bolted for the door. "I know an exit cue when I hear one. Thank you very much, gentlemen. You know where to reach us if you have any more questions."
I leaned back, like a toddler resisting her mother's efforts to put her to bed. "Wait."
"No, Molly," Cassady insisted, "it's time to go." She managed to walk me past where Teddy was being loaded onto a gurney for his trip to the morgue.
"But I want to help." I hated how my voice sounded, all thick and unstable, but it stopped Cassady.
She gave me a pained smile and let go of my arm. "I know you do, Moll, but we should leave it to the professionals. You've done everything you can here."
"No, I haven't. I've been emotional and vague and made a miserable impression. I always thought that if I ever found myself in this sort of situation, I'd rise to the occasion, be brilliant and insightful. Maybe even get a feature article out of it."
She dug her phone out of her purse and started dialing. "Even if you have been daydreaming about something like this, which is a whole separate problem, the reality is obviously very different. Trying to look at this as some sort of career opportunity is just your way of ignoring the pain of losing a colleague."
Since I couldn't think of a proper comeback, I asked, "Who are you calling?"
"Now I'm calling Tricia. I think we should meet her for many drinks. Don't you?"
"I'm not sure I can."
Wary that she was missing a joke, Cassady proceeded carefully. "Why? What else do you have to do tonight?"
"I need to solve this murder."
Copyright © 2004 by Sheryl J. Anderson and Mark Edward Parrott. Excerpt from Killer Cocktail © 2005 by Sheryl J. Anderson and Mark Edward Parrott.