The body of Jessica McCartney, the famous novelist, lay on the Persian rug in the room next door. One of the caterers had tripped over an arm sticking out from under the coffee table. That's how they found her.
The police hadn't arrived yet, but I already knew what they'd say. It had to be one of us. None of us had a sturdy alibi, and we all had a motive.
Jerome Lattimer leaned against the wooden paneling, smoking his cigarette, a fedora pulled low over his eyes. He pretends to be a "man of mystery" but it was all a show. He's just a hack writer from Buffalo who got to this party by sheer luck and a shady connection with Jessica. When she'd introduced him to all of us earlier in the evening she'd described him as a "business partner." I was looking right at him when we heard about the body, and his reaction was perfectly natural--a spasm of shock and then a somber tug on the cigarette. Not devastated, of course, but not callous. Perhaps he was a secret lover? A blackmailer? I'd believe anything of a guy that hard-up in the company of a lovely and extremely wealthy novelist like Jessica.
Lauretta Shizern had been tapping the tips of her fingernails against her champagne flute for a quarter of an hour before I quietly asked her to cease and desist. I've never felt so sorry for a woman in spangled silver evening wear and $1,000 makeup. She looked about ready to break down in tears and I patted her back, trying to console her--for what? She hadn't really known Jessica that well, and from what I'd heard she had loved her even less. In fact, Lauretta is married to Jessica's brother, and that family has been estranged for decades. I once came across an article about the falling out between Jessica and her sibling, but it was so long ago I don't remember any particulars. There were harsh words, and no doubt a grudge, and I was surprised to see them both at the same party that night. They hadn't spoken much, opting to ignore each other. Could Lauretta have finagled an invitation just for an opportunity to stab Jessica in the back?
Are you feeling lucky, punk?, a photo by Daran Kandasamy on Flickr.