Read Accessory to Murder Online

Authors: Elaine Viets

Accessory to Murder

BOOK: Accessory to Murder
Praise for the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series

High Heels Are Murder

“[A] laugh-out-loud comedic murder mystery guaranteed to keep you entertained for any number of hours—the perfect read for a rainy day…. Shopping, St. Louis culinary treats, and mayhem abound, providing for a satisfying read.”

—Front Street Reviews

High Heels Are Murder
takes Josie into the wicked world of murder, mayhem, and toe cleavage. From the sweat and toil of having to work three jobs to afford a Prada knockoff to the glamorous world of stiletto shopping, Viets spans the female psyche with panache and wit.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Dying in Style

“Finally, a protagonist we can relate to.”

Riverfront Times
(St. Louis, MO)

“Laugh-out-loud humor adds to the brisk action of
Dying in Style
…with an insightful look at the bonds between mother and daughter, the challenges of living in a multigenerational household, and the rewards of nonjudgmental friendship. Viets's fast pace is complemented by realistic dialogue and well-drawn characters in believable relationships. Viets affectionately uses her native St. Louis as the backdrop for this new series.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Praise for the Dead-End Job Mystery Series

Murder with Reservations

“[H]umorous and socially conscious…rollicking fun.”

Publishers Weekly


“Brave Viets preps by actually working the jobs she describes in loving and hilarious detail, giving her offbeat series a healthy balance between the banal and the bizarre.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Viets shows an uncanny ability to mix humor, quirky characters, and murder into an entertaining page-turner.”

Romantic Times

“This novel goes deeper than Viets's previous books, as Hawthorne must confront her complicated feelings…. Her style of justice will make this book—and its ending—one of Viets's most satisfying.”

The Miami Herald

Murder Unleashed

“Full of wry social commentary.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Elaine Viets knows how to turn minimum wage into maximum hilarity. With such a fast-paced story and nonstop wisecracks, never has a dead-end job sounded so downright funny!”

—Nancy Martin

“Wickedly funny.”

The Miami Herald

“Viets has a wry way with humor…. The snapshots of lunatic dog owners are priceless.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Dying to Call You

“Viets writes a laugh-out-loud comedy with enough twists and turns to make it to the top…. In fact, she's been nominated for a truckload of awards this year…. There is a good reason why Viets is taking the mystery genre by storm these days…. She can keep you wondering ‘Who done it?' while laughing all the way to the last page.”

Florida Today

Murder Between the Covers

“Wry sense of humor, appealing, realistic characters, and a briskly moving plot.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“A great writer…simply superb.”

Midwest Book Review

Shop Till You Drop

“I loved this book. With a stubborn…heroine, a wonderful South Florida setting, and a cast of more or less lethal bimbos,
Shop Till You Drop
provides tons of fun. Six-toed cats, expensive clothes, sexy guys on motorcycles—this book has it all.”

—Charlaine Harris

“Fresh, funny, and fiendishly constructed…a bright start to an exciting new series. This one is hard to beat.”

—Parnell Hall, author of the Puzzle Lady crossword puzzle mysteries

Also by Elaine Viets

Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series

Dying in Style

High Heels Are Murder

Dead-End Job Mystery Series

Shop Till You Drop

Murder Between the Covers

Dying to Call You

Just Murdered

Murder Unleashed

Murder with Reservations



Elaine Viets


Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
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Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

ISBN: 978-1-1012-1132-8

Copyright © Elaine Viets, 2007
All rights reserved

OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

For Christopher Jackson,
who loved St. Louis


Many people helped me with this book. I hope I didn't leave anyone out. Thanks to Christian and Jeanne Ruperto, who patiently answered my questions about scarves.

Thanks to my St. Louis experts, Jinny Gender, Karen Grace, and Janet Smith.

Librarian Anne Watts did extensive research on various subjects. Thanks also to Valerie Cannata, Colby Cox, Susan Carlson, and Kay Gordy. Kathy Sweeney helped cook up the diabolical plot at Jake's law office.

I also want to thank Emma, my expert on nine-year-olds. She used to be one last year. Emma gave me deep background on what it's like to be nine years old. I wish I could use her real name, but the world is a dangerous place these days for little girls.

As always, thanks and love to my husband, Don Crinklaw, for his extraordinary help and patience. It's not easy to live with a writer, but he manages.

My agent, David Hendin, is still the best.

Special thanks to my editor, Kara Cesare, who devoted long hours to editing and guiding this project, to the Obsidian copy editor and production staff, and to publicist Catherine Milne.

Many booksellers help keep this series alive. I wish I had room to thank them all. Thanks to Joanne Sinchuk and John Spera at South Florida's largest mystery bookstore, Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, Florida. Thanks to Pam Marshall at the Hollywood Barnes & Noble and to Susan Boyd in Plantation. Thanks also to Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, to Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen, to Bonnie and Joe at Black Orchid in New York, and David and McKenna at Murder by the Book in Houston. Kim, Jamey, Jim and the gang do a terrific job at the Waldenbooks in Pompano Beach.

Special thanks to the law enforcement men and women who answered countless questions on police procedure. Some of my police and medical sources have to remain nameless, but I want to thank them all the same. Particular thanks to Detective R.C. White, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (retired). Any mistakes are mine, not theirs.

Thanks to the librarians at the Broward County Library and the St. Louis Public Library who researched my questions, no matter how strange, and always answered with a straight face.

Thanks to public relations expert Jack Klobnak, to Patti Nunn, and to my bookseller friend, Carole Wantz.

Chapter 1

“I can't believe anyone would pay a thousand dollars for a scarf,” Alyce Bohannon said.

“Excuse me,” Josie Marcus said, “but aren't you the woman who spent a thousand bucks for kitchen knives?”

“Those weren't kitchen knives,” Alyce said. “Those were carbon-steel blades from Williams-Sonoma. They were works of art.”

“And this scarf isn't?” Josie said. “Look at that color: Halley blue. It's three-dimensional. Feel it. It's Italian silk. The weight is perfect. It drapes beautifully.”

Josie loved Halley blue. It was deeper than sky blue and richer than the color made famous by Maxfield Parrish. It was the blue of a bottomless lake. The color was magical with any skin tone from vanilla white to dark chocolate.

Josie held the scarf up to her face, reveling in its luxurious feel. Next to a Halley-blue scarf, her plain brown hair had glamorous red highlights and her brown eyes were deep and exotic. Her ordinary looks were her fortune, or at least her living. Josie was the ideal mystery shopper, able to melt into any mall. She couldn't wear a scarf that made her stand out.

She traced the swirling bird-and-bluebell design with a manicured finger. Like all good designs, it was simple yet sophisticated.

“Josie, quit fondling that scarf before security picks us up,” Alyce said. “It's pretty. But I could buy one almost as good at Target for thirty bucks.”

“I could buy a whole drawerful of knives there for the same price,” Josie said.

Alyce winced. “OK, so I'm conventional. I like my art in a frame.”

Josie held the blue and white scarf against Alyce's milk white skin. The fabulous scarf turned her eyes into sapphire smoke and her pale hair into platinum silk.

“When you wear something this beautiful,” Josie said, “you are the frame for the art.”

“Honey, I'm the whole exhibition.” Alyce looked down at her generous curves. “I'm not built to be a clotheshorse, Josie. I'm too practical to spend money on something that isn't useful.”

“Nothing in Pretty Things is useful,” Josie said. “That's the whole point of this boutique. I wish I could afford this.”

“You mean they don't give you a thousand bucks to spend here as a mystery shopper?”

“Not so loud,” Josie said. “I'm supposed to be a

“We're housewives,” Alyce said. “We're invisible. Those skinny sales associates are too busy being hip to notice us.”

“Don't worry. I'll get them,” Josie said. “I have thirty dollars to spend here, and it's not going to be easy to find something.”

“How about those gold earrings?” Alyce said.

“You have excellent taste. They're two hundred dollars,” Josie said. “I may be able to buy a scarf ring for the scarf I can't afford. That's twenty-eight dollars.”

“You know, she lives on our street,” Alyce said.

“Who?” Josie said.

“Halley. Her house is trimmed in Halley blue. That color is a little loud for shutters.”

“Let me buy that scarf ring, and we can get out of here and talk,” Josie said.

Only one sales associate was free. S
her name tag said. She had dark red hair and an air of chic exhaustion. Saber ignored Josie and stared straight ahead.

Josie recognized her type. Saber was a Captive Princess. The Captive Princess knew the universe had made a terrible mistake. She wasn't a salesclerk. She was royalty, brought low. She did customers a favor by deigning to wait on them. They should be serving her. The Captive Princess took every opportunity to let the customers know they were inferior.

A lesser shopper would have begged, “Can anyone help me?”

Josie kept silent. She counted the minutes ticking off on her watch. One. Two. Three. At three minutes and fifty-two seconds, Saber finally said, “May I help you?”

“I'll take this,” Josie said.

Saber picked up the inexpensive scarf ring with two fingers, as if it were a cockroach. “Anything else?” Saber was nearly paralyzed with ennui.

“This is enough.” Josie smiled sweetly. She couldn't wait to write her report.

“You from New York?” Saber said.

“No,” Josie said.

“I figured you didn't buy that here,” she said with a nod toward Josie's garage-sale Escada. “St. Louis is too Dutch and dumb.”

“That's not fair,” Alyce burst out.

Josie was surprised. Alyce rarely spoke when she was mystery-shopping with Josie. But she was a fierce defender of St. Louis. She hated to admit her city had any flaws.

Saber stared at Alyce's blue silk pantsuit. “How old is that?” She didn't bother to hide her contempt.

“I buy classic styles,” Alyce said. “It's five years old. OK, six.”

“Old enough to start school,” Saber said. “Too old to wear. That's why Halley is moving her business to New York. St. Louisans have no style. New Yorkers understand fashion. This cow town doesn't.”

Saber slouched into the back room and slammed the door.

“Thank you for shopping at Pretty Things,” Josie said to the air.

Alyce stood there, openmouthed. “Did you hear what that little snip said?”

“There goes her score for personal service,” Josie said.

“How can she say that about St. Louis?” Alyce said.

“Uh, I hate to agree with Saber, but nobody would call us a fashion capital.”

“Some of the richest women in the world live here,” Alyce said.

“And buy their clothes in New York and Paris,” Josie said. “Where do your rich friends get their clothes? Chico's, Ann Taylor, and Talbots?”

“There's nothing wrong with those stores,” Alyce said. “They give good value.”

“Absolutely,” Josie said. “But they aren't cutting-edge. Find one high-style woman in this mall.”

“Right at the end of that counter.” Alyce was too polite to point, but she radiated well-bred triumph. Josie followed her gaze to a classic type, the lady who lunched. The woman's ash-blond hair was lacquered into impossible swirls. Her patrician nose was so heavily powdered, Josie wondered if she was hiding the telltale veins of a tippler. Some of those lunches were very wet.

“That's a designer suit, isn't it?” Alyce said. “That lumpy pink, green, and yellow weave looks like oatmeal with sprinkles. She's wearing it with a mustard blouse. Those colors are so bizarre, she has to be rich.”

“Her suit is Chanel,” Josie said. “The bag is Kate Spade.”

“What about the scarf?” Alyce said.

“What scarf?” Josie said.

“She had a Halley-blue scarf in her hand a minute ago. She took it off the counter.”

“Alyce, there were three scarves on that counter,” Josie said. “I looked at one and put it back. You say she had the other. Now there are two. I bet she took it.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think she stuffed it in her purse,” Josie said.

“Tell someone. You're mystery-shopping this store.”

“Don't have to. Security is already on the alert.”

“Where?” Alyce said.

“See that woman pawing the evening shawls by the door? Her hair is too black to be a customer here. She does her own color. No high-style salon would let a woman over forty walk out with coal-black hair. It drains the color from her skin and makes it look yellow. Also, it's too short to be flattering for her face.”

“Why not grow it longer?” Alyce asked.

“If it's short, suspects can't grab it. Besides, her shoes are lace-ups.”

“So she likes comfortable shoes,” Alyce said. “She's wearing a nice suit.”

“It's secondhand, like mine. The hem's been let down. She's probably an ex-cop. Her shoes tie so she can chase suspects. Slip-ons would slip off when she ran.”

“She's letting Ms. Chanel get away,” Alyce said. “The shoplifter is heading for the exit.”

“Security is playing it smart to avoid a false arrest,” Josie said. “The suspect has to be out of the store or she can say she meant to pay for the scarf. See the hard-faced blonde near the cash register? She's the other security person.”

“How do you know this?” Alyce asked.

“Malls are my life,” Josie said. “I can't tell you how many takedowns I've seen. Watch this one.”

The two security women tailed Ms. Chanel out the door. Josie followed the trio into the mall and took a seat on a marble bench near a planter. Between the leaves, she had a prime view of Ms. Chanel. Alyce sat beside her. “What—”

“Shhh,” Josie said. “The show's started.”

The black-haired security woman flashed her ID at Ms. Chanel. “I'm with Pretty Things Enterprises, ma'am,” she said. “I'd like to ask you about the Halley scarf you have in your bag.”

“I am sure you are mistaken.” Ice encrusted each perfectly enunciated word.

“Please return to the store, ma'am, so we can clear this matter up.”

“I do not wish to return,” Ms. Chanel said. “You are forcibly detaining me. I shall call my attorney. I have the receipt here.”

She pulled a receipt from her purse. Josie thought the blond security woman turned a shade paler. But the black-haired one studied the receipt, then gave a small smile. “Your receipt was issued at nine ten today at our Clayton location, ma'am. It's eleven fifteen at the Dorchester Mall. You're using an old receipt with a new scarf. Step inside, please, so we can discuss it.”

“I'm sure it's a problem with your cash register,” Ms. Chanel said, but she didn't resist when security steered her inside the store and escorted her to a door behind a Japanese screen. The scene was conducted so quietly, the customers didn't notice.

“An old scam,” Josie said. “Ms. Chanel buys an expensive item at one store in the chain, and keeps the receipt in her purse. Then she goes to another store and shoplifts the same item. If she's caught, she tries to convince security it's a mistake. If she gets away with it, she'll return it for cash at a third store in the chain, or sell it on eBay.”

“Do you think she's a pro?” Alyce asked.

“No, a professional would have spotted security closing in and dumped the scarf or paid for it. She's an amateur trying to get a thrill and a five-finger discount. I'll bet her mortified family will bail her out, and it won't be the first time they've had to deal with Mummy's hobby. She's pretty good, but security was alert.”

Bass thumps from loud hip-hop vibrated down the corridor, drowning out the soft classical music on the mall's speakers.

Josie sighed. “I try to appreciate that music,” she said. “It's supposed to be modern poetry.”

“Yeah, a lot of words rhyme with ‘bitch,'” Alyce said. “A store like the Gangsta Boyz Home is out of place at the Dorchester. Josie, you have to agree with that.”

Three baggy-pantsed teens came out of the Gangsta Boyz Home and shoved their way through the mall crowd, leaving behind a trail of outraged glares.

“I'm sorry, but I don't want to shop with gangstas,” Alyce said. “I don't feel safe. Jake would be furious if he knew I was at the Dorchester Mall. He made me promise I wouldn't go here anymore.”

Statements like that made Josie glad she wasn't married. She didn't like making promises to a man—or sneaking around when she broke them.

“Jake's afraid you'll be attacked by the cane-and-walker crowd in Cissy's Tea Shoppe?”

“Don't be silly. Everyone knows crime is out of control at the Dorchester Mall, and it's the fault of the Gangsta Boyz Home. All the good stores are moving out. I don't know why it's here.”

“Because the Dorchester invited them. The mall put in a gangsta clothes store and a video arcade. Those businesses aren't for the tea shop crowd.”

“But why?” Alyce said. “Our crowd is so well behaved.”

“And so tightfisted,” Josie said. “The women who shop here buy one cashmere sweater at Lord and Taylor and wear it twenty years. You can't keep a mall open with that kind of spending. The mall wanted a younger crowd who spend money on clothes, sneakers, and CDs.”

“Instead, they brought in the people who shoplift them.”

“Alyce!” Josie said.

“Well, it's true. Lucy Anne Hardesty's mother had her purse stolen when she left the tearoom. The young thug broke her elbow. Ruined her golf game. Another friend was held up in the Dorchester parking lot.”

“I haven't seen anything about a crime wave in the papers,” Josie said.

“Jake says that's because the Dorchester is a major advertiser in the
St. Louis City Gazette
. Jake says they're not going to report a rise in crime and risk the mall pulling its ads.”

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