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Authors: Kelly Lange

Tags: #Suspense

Dead File

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Copyright © 2003 by Kelly Lange

All rights reserved.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

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The Mysterious Press name and logo are registered trademarks of Hachette Book Group.

First eBook Edition: July 2003

ISBN: 978-0-446-55685-9



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71


Other Books by Kelly Lange





my fictional Maxi Poole’s real spiritual brothers
. . .
with love!


ax, I found a new ‘miracle pill,’” Wendy Harris said to Maxi Poole, holding up a white plastic container of dietary supplements. “Check this out—Zenatrex.”

“What does it do?” Maxi asked her.

“Cuts your appetite.” Wendy was a believer.

Wendy tossed the bottle of tablets over to Maxi. The two journalists were sitting across from each other in the newsroom at L.A.’s Channel Six in Burbank, during a rare lull in the usual bedlam that passed for business as usual. Maxi Poole—thirty-two years old, tall, angular, outdoor-girl fresh with short-cropped blond hair—was the station’s highly rated anchor-reporter. Wendy Harris—thirty, pert, diminutive, with a mane of willful red hair and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose—was Maxi’s longtime producer and close friend.

“Just what you need, Wen, an appetite suppressant,” Maxi commented dryly, examining the container in her hand. Usually without bothering to leave her desk, Wendy might consume two shrimp with a wedge of lemon and call it lunch, or a cup of steamed rice with soy sauce and call it dinner.

Maxi unscrewed the cap and peered inside at the large brown tablets. “Whew!” she breathed, wrinkling up her nose. “This stuff stinks.”

Wendy laughed. “Yah, the smell alone’s enough to kill your appetite—you don’t have to bother taking the pills.”

Maxi read from the label. “Guarana extract, white willow bark, citrus aurantium, magnesium phosphate, ginger powder—”

“No ephedrine. That’s the killer. Nothing terrible in it,” Wendy interrupted. “And it works.”

“How do you know it works?”

“I took one this morning with a cup of tea, and now I’m full.”

“Placebo effect,” Maxi pronounced.

“See, that’s fine with me,” Wendy countered, flashing the signature grin that reflected mischief in her eyes. “If it fools me into thinking I’m not hungry, then it works for me.”

“Wendy, you eat zip as it is,” Maxi said, glancing at her friend’s petite frame.

“Yeah, but I
to eat the
This stuff makes me not crave three jelly doughnuts on a coffee break. Especially this time of year, when everybody’s bringing in cholesterol-packed Christmas goodies.”

It was mid-December. Christmas in Southern California meant no ice, no snow, no freezing cold, but Yuletide music, gaudy decorations, and loads of food.

Wendy came from a family that made food an art form. Her dad was Tommy Harris, owner of Tommy’s Joynt, the world-famous San Francisco rathskeller on the corner of Geary and Van Ness Avenue in the city by the bay. All through her growing-up years, Wendy endured her ebullient Jewish mom and dad urging, “Eat, Wendy, eat.” Until she ended up with—her term—a “humongous fear of food.”

For Maxi’s part, her father was a pharmacist who put in long hours navigating the small East Coast chain of drugstores he owned and had never been concerned with dinner being on the table at any special time, and her mother was a dance instructor who still maintained her dancer’s lean body. Except on holidays, food was never much of an issue with the Pooles, and in fact nobody in the family was a particularly good cook, Maxi included. They joked about that. Takeout, both plain and fancy, had always been king at their New York brownstone.

Maxi twisted the cap back on the container of Zenatrex and handed it back to Wendy, who set it on her desk in line with an army of other bottles and jars labeled
, and a dozen or so other purported health monikers.

Rob Reordan, L.A.’s longtime anchor patriarch who co-anchored the Six and the Eleven O’clock News at Channel Six, ambled down the aisle toward them. Peering down his nose with a look of disapproval at the vitamins and supplements Wendy was now doling out into her palm, he intoned in his resonant anchor voice that was familiar to all of Southern California, “Is there anything you
take, Wendy?”

“Yah, Rob,” Wendy flipped back. “Viagra.”

Rob sniffed, tossing his generous head of white hair, and kept walking.

“Not nice,” Maxi scolded, stifling a giggle.

” Wendy blurted, rolling her eyes. “Eighty-something, and he’s even
of a horn-dog since Pfizer foisted Viagra on the world.”

“You don’t know that he takes Viagra—”

“The whole newsroom knows he takes Viagra.”

“That’s gossip.”

“Nope, that’s Rob bragging to Laurel.” Laurel Baker was a handsome, savvy, cynical, fortyish reporter who had become the object of Rob Reordan’s romantic quest since he’d recently divorced his fourth wife. Laurel’s response fell somewhere between disgust and disdain.

“Laurel told you that?” Maxi asked.

“Laurel told
that. She might as well have posted it on the computer bulletin board.”

“Doesn’t Rob know that if he actually did get involved with Laurel, she’d chew him up and spit him out to the coyotes in her canyon?”

“Doesn’t stop him.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s his nature.”

“Which reminds me, did you hear the one about the black widow spider?” Wendy asked, the impetuous grin lighting up her face again.

“No, but I’m about to, right?”

“Well, you know the black widow spider has sex with her mate, then she kills him.…”

“Yup—that’s why she’s called the black widow.”

“Right. So imagine this conversation. The male spider says, ‘Uhh … let me get this straight. We’re gonna have sex, then you’re gonna
me?’ And the female flutters her spidery eyelashes and purrs, ‘That’s right. It’s my nature.’ So the male spider thinks about it for a beat, then turns to her and says, ‘But we
gonna have sex, right?’ Well, that’s Rob.”

Maxi laughed. “It’s his nature,” she reiterated.

“The man can’t help it. Meantime, each of his wives made a baby or two, then split and took half his money. Which leaves Rob with seven kids, more than a dozen grandchildren, and about eight dollars a month left over after living expenses, taxes, agents’ fees, alimony, child support, college payments, new cars for the kids’ graduations, et cetera, et cetera. Rob’s gonna have to work till he’s dead just to make his personal nut.”

“And now he wants Laurel, the original black widow spider,” Maxi said thoughtfully. “Men like Rob never learn. It’s about their egos.”

“It’s about their dicks,” Wendy shot back.

Maxi laughed. Wendy Harris was one of the few women Maxi knew who professed to actually understand men, and for Wendy, the explanation of all things male was simple. Not so for

Maxi, who made no claims to fathoming the complexities of the male gender. Maybe someday, she thought, idly rubbing both her shoulders with opposite hands.

“Oh-oh, you’ve been lifting again,” Wendy accused solicitously, watching Maxi knead her upper arms. “Are you supposed to be lifting weights this soon after surgery?”

Maxi had been badly injured not long before on a story that had turned deadly, and she was only a few weeks out of the hospital; she probably
supposed to be lifting weights so soon, she knew. “I’m not supposed to be doing a
of things,” she said. “Neither are you, Wendy, now that you bring up the subject.”

“What did
do?” Wendy protested.

“How about beating up on poor Riley just because he didn’t get a crew to that second-rate garage fire in Pasadena before Channel Seven got there?”

“Really. Tell me, how am
supposed to beat up an assignment editor who’s six-foot-four and weighs two hundred and forty pounds?” Wendy was four-foot-eleven and weighed ninety pounds.

“Oh, you beat him up, all right,” Maxi reprimanded, smiling. “You beat him up verbally, mentally, emotionally, and bad. Now, unlike Rob Reordan, whom you’ve just informed me is our Channel Six Viagra poster boy, Riley will probably never be able to get it up again in this lifetime.”

“If he ever did,” Wendy tossed out of the side of her mouth.

Wendy didn’t hate men, she just loved news, and she had a passion for getting it right. She
got it right, and she had a very low level of tolerance, or even understanding, for anyone in the news business who
always get it right. Which, of course, applied to every other mortal in the business at some time or other. Her ire was usually explosive, but fortunately it was never lasting. Still, it could have a lasting effect on the meek. But then, the television news business was not for the meek—only the tough survived for the duration.

A tinny
sounded through the newsroom, and both women’s eyes immediately dropped to their computer terminals as, simultaneously, their fingers clicked on the wires. An
banner scrolled across the top of the Associated Press file, followed by a story that was in the process of painting itself in print across their screens.

“Jeez,” Wendy exhaled. “Gillian Rose—
” Gillian Rose of Rose International, the country’s largest manufacturer of vitamins, supplements, and health foods, headquartered in Los Angeles.

Both women cast an inadvertent glance at the lineup of vitamins and supplements on Wendy’s desk, most of which bore the familiar red-rose logo of Rose International on their labels.

Within seconds, a walla-walla of excited talk erupted in the newsroom, and managing editor Pete Capra came bounding out of his glass-enclosed office and leaped up on top of the desk nearest his door, scattering files and papers and startling the reporter who happened to be sitting there—no mean feat for a burly Sicilian who was fifty-something, who’d never grasped the concept of regular exercise, who cooked gourmet Italian for his family and ate most of it himself, washed it down with cases of Chianti, and chain-smoked Marlboros when he wasn’t in one of his “I quit” phases, during which he was unfailingly, insufferably, cranky. Nonetheless, leaping up on a desk and barking orders was Capra’s MO whenever a huge breaker hit the wires.

“Riley, get a crew down to Rose International,” he roared, pointing at the assignment desk. “Maxi, you roll with the crew. Simms, Hinkle, hand off whatever you’re working on and get on the horn—I want us all over this,

Maxi waited a few seconds until the story finished scrolling, clicked on the PRINT button, grabbed her purse, and headed for the elevators, stopping only to snatch the story off the nearby printer she’d directed it to as she scooted by.

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