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Authors: Janice Kaplan

A Job to Kill For (34 page)

BOOK: A Job to Kill For
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“I’m so glad,” I whispered, clutching the phone in disbelief. “Oh my God, I’m so glad. Thank you, honey, I love you. I really do.”

“I love you, too,” Dan said. Then picking up something in my treacly tone, he asked, “Are you okay, Lacy?”

“Fine,” I said, meaning it now. “Just perfect.”

“Good. See you later. Sorry about taking the kids out to dinner so late. I got held up at the hospital.”

“Give them all a hug for me. And a big kiss. Tell them I love them more than anything in the world. I miss them terribly.”

“You haven’t been gone that long,” Dan said jovially.

I hung up. I shook my head, admiring Elsa’s carefully plotted plan. She’d brought Jimmy to campus as a decoy to get to me. Nothing would have connected her to my disappearance. Even if someone at Jimmy’s school later recognized her, she had a signed note from me. I’d be too dead to deny it.

“Can I have my phone back?” asked the student, who’d already been nicer than necessary to the crazy woman.

“One more?” I pleaded.

He nodded glumly.

I made the call.

 

 

The cab dropped me off in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel and I asked the driver to wait. I walked through the gracious lobby. Despite the warm night, the fireplace glowed, and couples sipping expensive scotch snuggled on the deep sofas while a string trio filled the high-ceilinged room with soft music. I’d rebuttoned my blouse, but the wrinkled linen couldn’t hide the small tears from the sharp screws. My legs were black and blue from my kicking, and though I’d removed the noose, a rope burn had left angry red welts on my neck. With shoes long since discarded, I limped across the floor barefoot, wiping my still-bloody fingers on my skirt.

“Good evening, ma’am.” At the entrance to the Polo Lounge, the maître d’ smiled cordially. I might have been Julia Roberts arriving in Chanel. “May I help you this evening?”

I immediately felt warmed. Easy to be a snob when you spent all day with Hollywood glitterati eating forty-dollar Kobe burgers. Much harder to be a gentleman toward someone who obviously didn’t belong.

“I’m looking for Roger Crawford.”

His face changed very subtly. Okay, I did belong. “Let me take you to the table,” he said affably.

We walked through the beautiful room, with its peachy pink walls and deep carpet, then out into the foliage-filled garden, where twinkling lights added their own luster to a star-filled sky. (Not to mention star-filled tables. Was that Scarlett Johannsson?) Walking quickly, the maître d’ led me to a table in a quiet enclave, where Molly and Roger sat, their heads close, deep in conversation, with a bottle of Dom Perignon propped in an ice bucket. The maître d’ must have nodded to a waiter, because another chair and full place setting instantly appeared.

“Are you okay?” Molly asked anxiously as soon as she saw me. “You said on the phone it was urgent. I’m glad you came. Sit down. You look…”

“I look awful and I don’t care,” I said, ending that conversation. I sat down on the edge of the chair and leaned across to Roger. “You can call off your thugs. It’s over. Elsa Franklin killed Cassie. Detective Wilson and McSweeney are on their way.”

“What?”
asked Molly. “Who’s that?”

Instead of answering, I stayed focused on Roger. “You wouldn’t have figured it out, I don’t think. Elsa’s sister died in the fire you read about. The son changed his name to Hal Bohr. He killed a student Cassie knew….”

“Named Derek Howe,” Roger interrupted, obviously following along. He’d studied the articles from Cassie’s cache, too.

“Elsa has been protecting him. Once Cassie uncovered the truth, Elsa killed her. I have a lot more details, but that’s enough for now.”

A waiter discreetly came by and slipped me a menu, and my stomach immediately growled. How long since I’d eaten?

“The McCarthy salad,” I said without even glancing down. The signature dish came laden with bacon, eggs, and cheese, but I felt bulletproof tonight. The cholesterol wouldn’t kill me. As for calories, having spent hours facing death in a casket, I refused to fret about the size of my thighs.

“I’ll bring it right away,” the waiter said, disappearing.

Molly took a sip of champagne, then strummed her fingers on the table. “Could we back up? I have no idea what anybody’s talking about. Could one of you tell me?”

I exchanged a look with Roger.

“Tell her,” Roger said with a sigh.

I grabbed a roll from the bread basket and took a big bite.

“Remember those papers Cassie hid in the library? Roger has them now. The thief who grabbed them was one of his thugs.”

“Not ‘thug,’ bodyguard,” Roger amended.

Molly looked puzzled. “You mean the guy who tied me up and threw me in the closet?” Suddenly understanding, she opened her eyes wide and said to Roger, “
You
sent him?”

“He’d been watching the place for me,” Roger said. “When you told me Lacy was coming over, I got worried. He had a strict order that nothing was to be taken out. He didn’t know that you were”—Roger paused, then concluded mildly—“that you were you.”

I reached for the butter and slathered a knifeful on the bread. “Now my turn for a question,” I said. “To be blunt—what’s up with you two?”

Roger smiled and touched Molly’s arm lightly. “Now that we have an answer on Cassie’s killer, it’s clear we’ve picked the right moment. Molly and I will be partners. If not for life, for a very long time.” He looked at her. “Yes?”

“Yes,” she said happily.

I felt my heart sink. Could my best friend be so stupid? Marry a guy who didn’t expect it to last for life?

Molly must have caught my pained expression, because she giggled. “
Business
partners,” she said.

Oh. Well, that was better.

“Molly knows this business better than anyone,” Roger said. “I’d been wanting her with me for a long time, but Cassie’s death made the whole thing—confusing.”

“Hard to work with someone you think might be a killer,” I said.

“I never doubted Roger,” Molly said loyally.

“And I didn’t suspect Molly,” Roger added quickly.

Not quite true on either side, but I’d let them get away with it. This was Hollywood, after all.

“We’d talked about a deal, but I insisted Molly keep it quiet,” Roger said. “You know what this business is like. A rumor starts and everything changes.”

“But now we’re officially launching Archer-Crawford Productions,” Molly said delightedly. “You can read all about it in
Variety
tomorrow.”

“If Molly hadn’t insisted on having her name first, we could have announced it last week,” Roger said, laughing.

“Just so you know, Lacy,” Molly said, looking at me with a smile, “it’s always been business, not romance.”

“Molly made that clear early,” Roger said. “She’s right. I’m not the best person to be married to. Looking back, I wish I’d made Cassie happier.”

The waiter brought my heaping salad, and I immediately dug in. “Well, congratulations on the new business,” I said, swallowing the first delicious bite. “And Roger, I even understand what happened after Cassie died. You tried to scare me away because you like to stay in control. You didn’t know what I’d find.” I took another bite. “I get it. I do. But one thing I haven’t figured out. Why were you two at the penthouse together the night before Cassie died?”

Their eyes locked for a moment.

“Honestly?” Molly asked.

“Honestly,” I insisted.

“Molly wanted to see how the decorating had come out,” Roger said. “Make sure I’d be happy with it.”

I looked at my best friend. “But
I’d
decorated. You were checking up on me?”

“I felt responsible,” Molly said. “The next day, I begged Roger not to let on that we’d been there. I didn’t want you to be insulted.”

“I
am
insulted,” I admitted.

“Don’t be.” Roger poured some champagne into my glass. “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done, Lacy. You’re a good person. You helped Cassie when she needed it. Now you’ve helped me. You’ve solved a murder. I’m glad I couldn’t scare you away.” He lifted his glass. “To you.”

I took a sip of the champagne—very tasty—and stood up. “Thank you,” I said.

“Is there anything at all I can do for you?” Roger asked. “Make it clear how indebted I am?”

“Yup,” I said. I put out my hand. “Do you have a hundred bucks I could borrow? I have a cab waiting outside to take me home and I don’t have a dime.”

Roger laughed and took out his wallet. “I could do even better than a hundred, if you’d like.”

“Nope, I think that’s plenty.” I grinned. “As long as I can kiss my husband and kids good night, I’m rich enough.”

Acknowledgments

 

I’m very grateful to have Jane Gelfman and Trish Lande Grader at my side and on my side. Jane is an intrepid agent, and Trish a terrific editor who always makes my books better. I appreciate their insights and warm encouragement. My thanks to the whole team at Touchstone including Trish Todd, Mark Gompertz, Marcia Burch, and Ellen Silberman. In writing this book, I’ve turned for advice to many people, including Hollywood reporter Jeanne Wolf, art dealer Margot Stein, and jewelry designer Leslie Berman. They are the best in their fields—and a lot of fun, too. Thanks also to Susan Fine for friendship worth writing about; to my partner on other books, Lynn Schnurnberger; and to my mom, Libby Kaplan.

At
Parade,
I really do have a job to kill for, with great colleagues and the best bosses in America. I’m enormously thankful to the indomitable Walter Anderson for being my adviser, hero, and endless source of inspiration; and to Randy Siegel for his smarts, good humor, and warm spirit. Both of them combine business savvy and huge creative talent, and their support and friendship make me happy every day.

My amazing sons, Zachary and Matthew, are funny, clever, and quick. I admire their sharp minds and generous souls. They’re as good as it gets and I couldn’t be prouder. Many of their bright comments and good ideas found a way into this book, and they even managed to teach me the basics of physics. Finally, my husband, Ron: He is my great supporter and love, and after all these years, he can still make me laugh. How lucky am I.

About the Author

 

J
ANICE
K
APLAN
is Editor of
Parade
magazine. She has been an executive producer of prime-time specials for Fox, ABC, and VH1. The author of
Looks to Die For,
Kaplan has coauthored three previous novels, including the national bestseller
Mine Are Spectacular!
A Yale graduate, she lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Acknowledgments

About the Author

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