Authors: Reba White Williams
Praise for Reba White Williams's first Coleman and Dinah Greene mystery,
“There's a major new presence on the crime sceneâ¦Reba White Williams. Restrike will strike a big hit with sophisticated readers who love culture, uncommon criminals and terrific writing. You won't be able to put this book down!”
â Alexandra Penney,
New York Times
“Savvy, saucy, and scary â a worthy debut from a writer who bears watching.”
â Jacquelyn Mitchard,
New York Times
“A tight, tricky plot that takes you on a breathless romp through the world of fine art prints. Captivating characters and a highly energetic plot â art smart and highly literate â I loved it!”
â Laura Childs,
New York Times
“A fast-paced tale of nefarious dealings in New York's art world.”
â Thomas H. Cook, Edgar Award-winning author
“A captivating debut, Restrike puts on display the international world of fine art. Reba White Williams has crafted an ambitious, fascinating and textured puzzler, rife with suspects and red herrings. A polished gem of a read. Bring on the next Coleman and Dinah Greene mystery!”
â Julia Spencer-Fleming,
New York Times
“Starts out with a bang and keeps you riveted! A first rate debut!”
â Steve Berry,
New York Times
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
The Story Plant
Studio Digital CT, LLC
PO Box 4331
Stamford, CT 06907
Copyright © 2013 by Reba White Williams
Jacket design by Barbara Aronica-Buck
Print ISBN-13: 978-1-61188-131-8
E-book ISBN-13: 978-1-61188-132-5
All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by US Copyright Law. For information, address The Story Plant.
First Story Plant printing: April 2014
Printed in the United States of America
0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
, an idea, feeling, or opinion about someone or something
, an effect produced on someone
, a reprint from a book or other publication
, the application of pressure or force
his Monday in March, an ordinary day for most people, was the happiest day of Coleman Greene’s life.
Everyone she liked best had gathered to celebrate with her. Long before she bought
, her first magazine, she’d dreamed of owning a family of publications—perhaps ten, or even more. Today, with the acquisition of
, she—Coleman Greene, thirty-three years old, with financial help from her brother—was a step closer to making that dream come true. In the five years she’d owned
, she’d changed it from a dowdy flop into the most successful art magazine in New York. She’d do even better with
. And then onto the next one.
Coleman looked around at the glittering crowd. So New York: artists, actors, antique dealers, landscape gardeners, architects. People Coleman had written about in
. People she hoped to persuade to write for
. Her cousin, Dinah, ravishing in a lavender-blue silk suit Coleman had designed and made, with her husband, Jonathan Hathaway. Debbi Diamondstein, not only a friend but Coleman’s publicist, who had arranged the lunch at the hot new restaurant on Central Park South. The immense windows allowed guests to see almost to the north end of the park—a spectacular view. A pianist played music from
, and other Broadway hits in a corner of the room. A buffet enticed the guests with delicious odors: smoked salmon, miniature crab cakes, tiny toasted cheese sandwiches, garlicky lamb on skewers. Huge vases of forsythia and pussy willow and smaller bowls of yellow tulips and daffodils decorated every surface, their delicate scent heralding the approach of spring. The perfect party.
Uh, oh. Not quite perfect: a man she knew and detested, greasy black hair hanging to his shoulders and in his face, black T-shirt and torn jeans, was mingling in the crowd. Trying to act invited. As if.
Debbi appeared at her side. “What’s the matter, Sunshine? You were glowing, and now you look like a thundercloud. Cheer up, Madame Media Mogul, this is your big day! And you look great. That satin suit is exactly the shade of the daffodils, and your hair—clever choice.”
“Two magazines don’t a mogul make, but just wait, someday I will be one. Meanwhile, I just spotted that no-talent photorealist who calls himself Crawdaddy. He never stops badgering me to write an article about him. He calls me all the time and turns up in places where he knows he’ll see me. He’s close to being a stalker. How in heaven’s name did
Debbi shrugged. “A few crashers always make it through the cracks no matter how tight the security. I can have him thrown out, but he’ll make a scene.”
“No, I’ll ignore him. I won’t let him get anywhere near me.”
But a few minutes later, when she and Dinah were standing by the piano listening to “Some Enchanted Evening,” Crawdaddy shoved his way between them, threw his long simian arms over their shoulders, and shouted, “Photo op!” A flashbulb went off in their faces.
Within seconds, Jonathan had appeared, froze Crawdaddy with what Debbi called the Hathaway Sneer—developed during several centuries of being rich and in the top tier of Boston’s social elite—and rescued Dinah. Coleman, holding her breath against the stench of Crawdaddy’s body odor, struggled to remove the heavy arm wrapped around her. She was thinking of kicking the creep when Rob Mondelli appeared. Rob had been a New York City policeman, played college football, and looked it, though many years had passed since he’d scored a touchdown, or arrested a mugger. His business today, specializing in art-related crime, rarely brought him into contact with violence, but lots of gym time kept him trim and fit.
“Come have some lunch,” he said. He removed Crawdaddy’s arm as if it were weightless and whisked her away from the interloper.
Good old Rob—protective, warm, kind. Always there when she needed him and a lot of the time when she didn’t. He was nagging her to marry him, and she couldn’t convince him that would never happen. She sighed. She must do something about Rob. But not today. She wanted today to be perfect, unmarred by an unpleasant conversation.
Rob remained at her side until the last guest left and walked her and Dolly, the tiny Maltese who accompanied Coleman everywhere, to her office. In the building lobby, he kissed her lightly and said, “I wish you’d come with me to Europe. I’m seeing a number of clients about security issues, but I won’t be working all the time—and wouldn’t you like to meet some of the museum people? Collectors? We could have a lot of fun.”
“Goodness, Rob, I couldn’t go anywhere now even if I wanted to. And I can’t think of anything more fun than my new magazine. But you
have a good time.” She looked at her watch. “You better go, or you’ll miss your plane.” She tried to hide her impatience, but he looked like a spanked puppy, and she knew she’d failed. Well, too bad. She was glad he was leaving town. She didn’t have time for him right now, and the fact that he didn’t understand the importance of
and her joy in it showed how little he understood her.
It was after four when she arrived at her
office. She groaned when she saw the stack of messages. She flipped through them. Mostly congratulations and calls from reporters responding to the morning press release announcing the acquisition. Hmm, here was something different: a hand-delivered letter from Oliver & Kaufman, investment bankers. She ripped it open.
Dear Ms. Greene:
On behalf of my client, a major publicly held media company, I am pleased to present this offer to acquire CG Holdings, LLC.
My client, who prefers to remain anonymous at this time, is prepared to pay twice your current rate of annual revenues, subject, of course, to normal due diligence procedures. Furthermore, my client wishes you to remain as chief executive officer of CG Holdings, LLC, and editor in chief of
for a period of no less than two years, during which time your annual compensation will be $250,000 per year, or 25 percent of the annual pretax, preincentive compensation income of CG Holdings, LLC, whichever is greater.
Very truly yours,
Richard C. Oliver
She frowned. News of
the acquisition of
couldn’t have reached the writer much before noon. The letter had arrived less than six hours later. Fast work, and presumptuous. Why did these people think she’d want to sell?
was her beloved creation.
was her exciting new baby. Not a very attractive
at the moment, but with potential. What was going on?
When she called Jonathan, who was her business manager as well as Dinah’s husband, he explained that maybe they didn’t necessarily think she wanted to sell. “Could be their client hoped to buy
, and you got there first. Or maybe they wanted
and you, even before you acquired
. I know Rick Oliver. Do you want me to talk to him?”
“Would you? Tell him I won’t sell at any price.”
Jonathan laughed. “I can tell him, but he won’t believe it. He’ll say everything is available at a price.”
She twisted a curl around her forefinger. “Well, can you tell him I don’t need money?”
“No, I’ll tell him you appreciate his offer but aren’t interested—that the magazines are your true love as well as your livelihood. But the buyer might keep trying.”
Coleman swallowed, trying to make the dryness in her mouth go away. “They can’t make me sell, can they?” she asked.
“They won’t want to. I’m sure they want
. A forced sale wouldn’t make you a happy employee.”
When she’d thanked him and hung up, she selected a message slip and punched in the number of
She tried to forget about the letter, but the thought of it prickled like a tiny splinter, invisible, but a constant source of discomfort. She wished the letter hadn’t come today of all days. The golden glow of the happiest day of her life hadn’t vanished, but it had dimmed.
She’d return calls until six, when nearly everyone would have left for the day. Then she and Dolly would go home and enjoy a quiet evening. She’d soak in a hot tub to relax the muscles that had tensed when she read the letter and showed no sign of getting better. After her bath, she’d go in her sewing room and stay there until she finished her latest creation, a black silk cocktail dress. Designing and making clothes was her favorite form of relaxation and almost always distracted her. By bedtime, maybe the letter and her problems with Rob wouldn’t loom so big.
Coleman didn’t drink alcohol and never had, but on Tuesday morning, she awoke an hour earlier than usual with what she imagined a hangover felt like—headache, dry mouth, sticky eyes. She’d slept fitfully, menaced in her nightmares by faceless monsters.
A hot shower and a lavish slather of her favorite almond-scented body lotion helped. After she’d fed Dolly and walked the little dog in the cool damp air, she felt even better.
She settled down on the sitting room sofa with coffee and the papers to see what kind of coverage her acquisition and lunch had received. Oh, rats, the
featured a huge picture of Crawdaddy standing between her and Dinah, his arms over their shoulders as if they were best friends. Dinah looked beautiful, if startled, but Coleman’s grin looked forced, and he’d rumpled her hair. Damn it. The phone rang.
“Yes, Debbi?” she said.
“How’d you know it was me?” Debbi said.
“I knew you’d call to apologize because that slug crashed my party,” Coleman said.
“Oh, Crawdaddy. Yeah, he is repellent. But the other articles are good, and everyone spelled your name and the names of the magazines right. People will forget that stupid picture.”
“I hope you’re right. I’d be mortified to have anyone think he’s a friend of mine or Dinah’s—or even worse, that I like his art. I wish he’d find someone else to hound.”