Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 5

(If you'd like to read from the beginning you can go Here.)

Brow furrowed, Anne picked up the papers. She rubbed them between her fingers, they were oddly textured; thin, but nothing like regular typing paper. Must be some type of stationery.

She unfolded the pages. Tears stung her eyes and she felt behind her for a seat. Lowering herself onto the couch with a thump, she blinked rapidly.

She would know Carol’s handwriting anywhere and the quote was one they had shared often.

“Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable.”

As girls they had used the sage advice of the Wizard of Oz to comfort one another whenever they had boy trouble. The quote was the only thing on the page.

She turned it over but there was nothing on the back at all.

Frowning she flipped to the next page.

“The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.”

Obviously from the Old Testament, but why would Carol have been carrying such a quote around? Once again it was the only thing on the page. What had Carol been up to? Intrigued, Anne turned to the last page.

It contained a list.

The Thin Man




She stared at the words for a long while but could make no sense of the words. It sounded more like a grocery list than anything else. She pushed her lips out as she thought. Why would she write the title of an old movie? The last three words were the only ones not in Carol’s handwriting. Maybe it had to do with some errand she was supposed to do for one of her bosses.

Anne shook her head. She was too muddled to think of much of anything. Leaving the papers on the table, she retrieved her coffee mug and took a swig. Ugh, was anything worse than lukewarm coffee?

She fetched a fresh mug from the kitchen and carried the outline for the Lacey Carew back into the living room. Her typewriter waited for her on the small side table looking, perky and ready to go to work. She ran gentle fingers over the dark green keys. It was still hard to believe that her parents had bought her such an expensive Christmas gift. The Smith Corona Silent was the best available, and it was all hers.

She settled before the typewriter and pulled out a stack of fresh clean paper. She needed a zippy first line, something that would draw the reader into the story. Drumming her fingers lightly on the keys, in an imitation of work, she stared at the blank page.

A groan and a thump from the next room told her that Jillian was awake. Anne looked at the clock on the mantle. Nearly eight thirty. Jillian was up early. A door creaked and the sound of running water washed into the living room.

Anne turned her attention back to the sheet of paper before her. The minutes ticked by. She picked up a pencil and then put it down again. Rearranged the papers before her and reread the outline. Again she stared at the stark whiteness of the page and listened to the clock churn out the minutes.

It was no use.

She went back in the kitchen and picked up the pages with the cryptic notes. Jillian walked in toweling her hair dry.

“You were out late.”

Anne glanced up. “Oh Jilly.” Tears seemed to be hiding just under the surface of composure, ready to pounce at any moment.

“Oh no, you didn’t get the gig. Honey don’t worry, other jobs will come along.” Jillian engulfed her in a hug.

“It’s not that. My friend, Carol, was hit and killed in an accident.”

Jilly took a step back and then pulled her close again. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry.”

“No, no.” Anne sniffed. She had to get herself together. “It was terrible, a hit-and-run according to the cops.”

She sat down at the table still holding the strange papers in her hands. Jilly opened the refrigerator.

“Let me make you something to eat.”

“No thanks, I’m not hungry.” She put the papers down again. How had Carol managed to get them in her bag without her noticing? And why had she thought it necessary?

Jillian cracked a couple of eggs into a skillet and slid two slices of bread into the toaster. The warm scents of breakfast curled through the kitchen.

Anne made an effort to be social. “You are up early this morning.”

“Yeah I have to be at the early showing.”


“I made a deal with Ms. Marguerite to come in early today and do a double shift so that I can go to an audition tomorrow.”

Anne tore her gaze from the documents. “You’ve got an audition?”

Jilly smiled triumphantly and nodded. “Yep. I think this show could be a real hit too. I’ve read the script and it is good.”

“That’s great! Don’t forget me when you’re famous.”

Jilly settled into the chair across from her and flashed a smile so brilliant that Anne was nearly blinded. It struck her again how stunningly gorgeous her friend was. She could have her pick of roles if she resorted to the casting couch, but Jilly was determined to make it on Broadway by her talent.

She would do it someday too.

Anne stroked the pages on the table and then stood abruptly. “I’ll see you at work this afternoon, Jilly. I have to do something this morning.”

* * *

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 4

(If you'd like to read from the beginning you can go Here.)

Clutching her robe to her throat, Anne opened the door a crack. “Yes?”

She had to raise her gaze a good six inches before she found the face of the man leaning against the doorframe. Despite his height, he had a boyish quality that kept his darkly handsome good looks from being intimidating in their Hollywood perfection.

He straightened and a smile lit up his face like a beacon.

A bit weak in the knees, Anne put a hand to her hair. Why, oh why did she insist on looking like a slob for as long as possible before she got ready in the morning?

“Hi. I’m moving in downstairs and I was wondering if you might have a broom and a hammer I could borrow. I can’t seem to find mine yet.”

“Sure.” Anne debated and finally slid the door open a bit further. “You want to come in? I’ll be just a minute.” Maybe it would be a good test for a fellow. He would see her looking her worst, if he still showed any spark of interest, it could bode well.

“You have done wonders with this place.”

Anne looked around the living room, seeing it with fresh eyes. It really was pretty spiffy. A cluster of brilliant Chinese lanterns hung in the corner. Bookshelves lined one wall, holding Anne’s books and a collection of Jillian’s creations from when her roommate was going through her pottery phase. Colorful curtains, a few scattered rugs, and some bright pillows on the old art deco furniture did make it feel cozy and artistic all at once.

“Thanks. My roommate is an actress. I think she has the idea that everywhere she goes is some sort of set. She certainly had ideas on what an apartment in Greenwich ought to look like.” Oh great. Not only did she look ridiculous but she had also mentioned her gorgeous, actress roommate.

Still looking about himself in apparent appreciation her guest took a seat on the couch.

“Wait here and I’ll rustle up a broom and hammer.” Had she really said rustle up. Arggh. “Would you care for some coffee?”

“I would love some. Thanks.” He stood again and extended his hand. “I’m Erik Carter by the way.” His handshake was firm and dry with just a hint of callous.

“Anne Leighton.”

She was grinning like a drip. Shaking herself she dropped the papers she had been holding onto the table, and fled for the kitchen.

She scrounged up their broom and found a hammer in the junk drawer, then took out a tray to lay with her coffee service. She might be a sap, but she could at least be a good hostess. Her mom had drilled her in that fine art, honing her skills until they were razor sharp.

With her offerings in place she finger combed her hair and fluffed it a little. This time she would not be such an inane, nattering, dunce.

Erik seemed consumed with intense perusal of his hands as she entered. But he jumped up and took the coffee tray she was balancing on one hand.

“Cream or sugar?”

“Black, please.”

He gulped the coffee in two long swigs and reached for the broom and hammer. “Thanks, I better get back to work.”

Anne opened the door for him and he was gone in a flash. Sighing she returned to the couch and plopped down. It was obvious that her charms had been insufficient to capture his attention even for the length of time it would take to decently drink a cup of coffee.

Oh well. She probably needed to get to work anyway. Her glance slid over the coffee table. Where were those papers? She’d left them right there. Hadn’t she?

Bending low she looked underneath in case they had fallen to the floor. Nope. She stood and turned around. They were lying on the side table. Surely she hadn’t left them there? Had her handsome new neighbor been nosing through her things? Maybe he had just moved them to make room for the coffee service.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 3

(If you'd like to read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne crossed her ankles demurely, and removed her stained white gloves. If it weren’t for the unyielding, uncomfortable, unbearable chair in which she sat, she would have fallen asleep. Detective Morris returned to his desk and handed her a steaming mug. The bitter scent of burnt java singed her nose, warned her against drinking the brew so she simply held it in frigid hands.

Still she shivered as if the death’s cold finger had come too close and chilled her from the soul outward. Maybe she was next. A morbid thought. Anne shook herself. This was no time for melodrama; it was time to be practical and businesslike. It was the last thing she could ever do for Carol.

Detective Morris perched on the edge of his chair with his feet spread wide and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He clasped his hands together in front almost as if in prayer.

“What can you tell me about all this?”

“Carol and I had dinner together. She went with me to the train station to see me off. We were talking and waiting, when she remembered an appointment and had to hurry away.”

“Did she say where she was going, or with whom?”

“She didn’t give me any details. For some reason I assumed it had to do with her work, rather than her personal life. We said good-bye and then a couple minutes later I heard a woman scream.”

“So you were on the platform, you didn’t see it happen.”

Anne shook her head. She breathed through her nose, willing herself to stay in control.

“What happened next?”

“I went to see what had happened and I… I saw Carol on the ground.” An image of her friend’s broken body flashed against the movie screen of her mind and made her want to retch.

“Did she say anything to you?” Morris waved a hand, like a director wanting more.

“She was already gone.”

“I see.” He sat back in his seat and picked up a pen, in what must have been a habitual gesture he flicked it back and forth through the fingers of his right hand.

Anne watched the play of the pen as if mesmerized. She was so tired. She breathed a prayer for strength.

The detective asked some questions about Carol’s background, character and lifestyle, which Anne answered to the best of her ability.

Detective Morris set down the pencil with which he had been jotting a few notes and clasped his hands together. “Okay, it seems your friend was fairly inoffensive. Didn’t cause anybody any trouble and didn’t run with a bad crowd.”

“Of course she didn’t”

“So my gut is telling me this was an accident.” He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “It’s still a crime—a hit and run. We’ll canvas all the repair shops around and see if anyone brings in a car with the right kind of damage. Frankly, this is a hard kind of case to crack.”

“Are you saying that no one saw anything?”

It was his turn to shake his head.

Something was wrong with all this. Anne shut her eyes. Deliberately she reconstructed the scene she had been trying to avoid remembering all evening. Her eyes popped open.

“She was on her back when we found her.”

The Detective’s brow furrowed but he nodded.

“She had a gash across her forehead.”

Again he nodded.

Anne spread her hands. “Well there you have it. She would have had to be facing the car, and if she could see it, why wouldn’t she get out of the way?”

“She may not have had time.”

Anne crossed her arms. “But then there is the cut. It makes no sense that she would have an injury to her forehead. She ought to have been flung backwards. Any injury should have been to the back of her head when she landed.”

“So maybe she tripped or was bent over to tie her shoe. That would explain why the driver didn’t see her, and why she didn’t have time to move out of the way.”

Anne’s brow furrowed. It still didn’t seem to make sense. She started to protest.

The Detective held up a hand. “Listen, Honey, do you have any reason to believe that someone wanted your friend dead?”


“Then trust me, it was an accident. I saw the tire marks. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s as simple as that. “ He placed a hand on her arm. “I know it don’t feel great to think it could be something so senseless, but it’s the way the world works. Things aren’t always tied up in a neat package with a bow on top.”

Anne subsided into her seat, defeated, and too tired to try to think anymore.

The detective had a few more questions for her and she answered them numbly. When at last he released her she swayed a little as she stood. A wall clock declared that it was nearly midnight.

She fumbled with her purse. Morris looked up as if surprised to find her still standing there. She held out the blanket to him.

“Are there any more trains into New York tonight?” Her words felt thick on her tongue.

“Nah, I don’t think so. Wait a minute and I’ll get a patrolman to drive you home.”

“Thanks.” She could force no enthusiasm into her voice.

* * *

Anne sat on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands. It could not possibly be morning yet, but her clock declared otherwise. Declared it loudly and at length.

Sighing she reached for her robe and put it on. She padded into the kitchen and put some coffee in the percolator. Her handbag lay where she had dumped it when she had come in last night. She sat down and pulled it toward her. Might as well try to get organized while the coffee was brewing.

She pulled out the sheaf of papers Mrs. Adams had given her and perused them. Her eyebrows rose. It was titled The Mystery in the Mango Grove. This shouldn’t be too difficult. The outline was detailed enough that if it had been about flying, she could have landed a bomber on an aircraft carrier.

The warm scent of coffee curled through the room, the scent doing much to push back images of the night before. Anne poured herself a mug and picked up the papers to carry them into the living room where she could begin work.

Several folded sheets of paper fluttered to the ground. As she bent to retrieve the escapees a knock came from the front door.

Startled, Anne checked her watch. Who could it be at such an hour?

* * *

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 2

(If you'd like to read from the beginning go Here.)

Police sirens wailed their banshee cry of grief as a squad car pulled into the parking lot. Even more curiosity seekers pushed their way into the crowd to see what was going on. Anne could not convince herself to release Carol’s hand. Even though she was gone she still seemed to need a friend in the midst of the spectacle and noise.

A police officer shoved his way through the mob and began shooing the gawkers back. Anne refused to budge, but others proved more pliant and he managed to establish a ring around them of six or seven feet. More squad cars arrived and men spilled from them like clowns at the circus. They pushed the thrill seekers even further back.

From somewhere very far away Anne heard the train puff into the station and then groan in protest as it pulled away again.



A face loomed in front of her and she pulled back.

“Miss, are you okay?”

Anne blinked. Everything seemed disconnected. Jumbled and distant.

“Yes.” She uttered the words but they might have come from someone else all together.

“Can you come with me? The doctor needs to get in here and take a look at her.”


Anne swallowed and willed her fingers to release their hold on Carol. The movement hurt, as if she were giving Carol permission to be dead. She accepted the man’s hand and he assisted her to her feet.

“You’re freezing.” He waved an officer over and whispered in his ear. Then ushered her through the crowd, which parted before them as if he were Moses. The officer returned with a blanket and the man wrapped it around Anne’s shoulders.

“I’m Detective Jack Morris. What’s your name?” The intensity in his gaze pinned her in place, making it impossible to look away.

“Anne Leighton.”

“Did you know the deceased?”

The deceased. Tears started then. Unbidden they streamed down her cheeks sopping the blanket she clutched beneath her chin. She couldn’t stop shaking.

“Yes,” she finally whispered.

“Can you tell me her name?”

“Carol Hayes.”

He put a hand under her elbow. “Come on with me. I’ll take your statement down at the station. It ought to be warmer there.”

Anne allowed herself to be led away a few steps, before a thought seized her. “My bag.” She could not lose that bag and the precious outline it contained. She started back for it.

The detective’s hand on her arm restrained her and she turned to look at him. “Allow me.”

She waited woodenly as he was swallowed by the crowd. She could not halt the flow of tears. The muscles in the back of her neck tightened as if they were violin strings being tuned, tighter and tighter again until they would twang if touched.

Carol. Poor, sweet, Carol. It was all so awful. Who would notify her family back in Columbus? Would the funeral be held there or here? Questions littered her mind tumbling into memories of her friend through the years.

Detective Morris reappeared and held out her handbag. “This it?”

“Yes.” Anne sighed. It seemed a hollow victory in light of Carol’s death. “Thanks.”

“Come on, let’s get you someplace we can talk.”

* * *

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