Murder in the Dog Days (Maggie Ryan)

BOOK: Murder in the Dog Days (Maggie Ryan)
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Murder in the Dog Days

Maggie Ryan, 197


by P.M. Carlson



& history



Murder in the Dog Days

About the author




The Mystery Company

Mount Vernon, Ohio



Copyright © 1990 by Patricia Carlson.


This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictious, and any resemblances to real people or events is purely coincidental.


Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to use the following excerpts: “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1962 Warner Bros Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag.”Copyright © 1965 Alkatraz Corner Music Co. Words and music by Joe McDonald. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “The Scout Toward Aldie” by Herman Melville is available i
The Poems of Herman Melvill
, Douglas Robillard, editor, New College and University Press, Schenectady, 1989. “Mental Cases” by Wilfred Owen is available i
The Poems of Wilfred Owe
, Chatto & Windus, London, 1963.


PRINT ISBN-13: 978-1-932325-37-9


Cover design by Pat Prather

Cover art by Robin Agnew

Author photo copyright © by Kathy Morris



Bantam Books first edition: January 1991

The Mystery Company edition: May 2014


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.


The Mystery Company, an imprint of Crum Creek Press

1558 Coshocton Ave #126

Mount Vernon, OH 43050

To all the heroes

wasted in an unheroic cause

and to all the survivors

who courageously bear witness

to a truth the rest of us don’t want to believe

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,

Nor the furious winter’s rages;

Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:

Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.


—CYMBELINE, act IV, scene ii




Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;

Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.


—WILFRED OWEN, “Mental Cases”




Author’s Note

For sharing their wisdom, my warmest thanks go to Robert Knightly, Patricia King, Kay Williams, Joanna Wolper, Bill and Elizabeth McElroy, Carolyn Wheat, Malvin Vitriol of the Milton Helpern Library and healer and truth-teller Elizabeth Ann Scarborough; but most of all to the extraordinary Kate Miciak, whose vote of confidence rescued this book from formless limbo.



Mosby, Virginia


AUGUST 4, 1975


The big graying air conditioner in the window of the so-called city room of The Mosby Sun-Dispatch groaned piteously. Olivia Kerr scribbled a last correction into a pre-release story about the filming o
All the President’s Me
, leaned back in her chair, and stared at the machine suspiciously. For ten days it had been laboring, with only partial success, to convert the polluted ninety-eight degree Virginia haze outdoors into livable air. “When that thing goes on strike,” Olivia declared, pointing at it accusingly with a freckled finger, “I do too.”

Rumpled Nate Rosen switched off his tape recorder, peered around the edge of his cubicle and nodded. His thin, mournful face looked longer every day as his hair receded a bit further. “I’ll be right on your heels,” he agreed, with a worried glance at the suffering air conditioner.

“This heat wave is a killer.”

“Not a metaphor,” he informed her, tapping the page he was working on. “Guy up in New York got shot in a fight over a fire hydrant. And he’s the third this weekend. Dog days.”

“Yeah. I wish I could say I can’t understand people fighting over trivial stuff like that. But right now I can,” said Olivia. “I’m glad I’m off to the beach.”

Nate raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get freckled?”

“Hey, one more crack like that and I’ll ask you if you aren’t worried about getting bald.”

“Don’t rub it in, O cruel maid,” grumbled Nate, turning back to his keyboard.

Olivia pulled the barrette from her humidity-frizzed hair. In romantic moods Jerry called it chestnut-colored. Of course he’d also been known to point out that it matched the stain in the sink. The lout. The only possible response had been to whack him with a pillow. Olivia grinned to herself. The resulting pillow fight had quickly turned bawdy. Very bawdy. With Jerry, romantic moods came in a lot of different flavors.

She twisted her hair up away from the nape of her neck and clipped the barrette across it. Then she stood, tossed the strap of her bag over her shoulder, and went to look out the window. Jerry wasn’t down there yet. Today only a few people had ventured out, shuffling sweaty and exhausted along the sidewalk through the unmoving pool of sultry, half-toxic air.

The door of the managing editor’s office opened and a round woman arrayed in black came out, smiling and nodding behind her. She hadn’t been smiling when she went in. Edgerton had smoothed some more feathers. Well, that’s one of the things editors did. Olivia looked out the window for Jerry again.

“Hey, Liv!”

Damn. “Yeah?” she answered, turning reluctantly from the window.

Edgerton was pudgy, moist-lipped, imperious. “Wire service just sent in some more on the Joanne Little trial. Work it into the story.” A yellow page from a legal pad dangled from his plump outstretched hand.

Olivia’s conscience told her she’d better not bolt for the door. Damn conscience. Doing the rewrites on the Little story and writing the associated features was her chance to break out of the women’s pages. True, Edgerton had given her the assignment with the assumption that it was a feminist issue. But it had already grown beyond that. She crossed the room to take the paper. “What is this?” she asked, trying to decipher Edgerton's uninhibited scrawl.

“Kunstler just got out of jail. Had a few choice words about Judge Hobgood.” Edgerton puffed the information at her close range, blanketing her with coffee breath.

Olivia stepped back, wondering how he’d got the woman in black to look so happy. Maybe she had an olfactory problem. “I’ll bet he did.” Why couldn’t they keep Kunstler locked up until she’d left for the day? She hurried back to her cubicle and grabbed her copy of the story. What a circus this case had turned into! Joanne Little admitted stabbing her jailer with an ice pick; the trial was meant to determine whether or not she had done it in self-defense when he tried to rape her. But the spicy ingredients of race, sex and Southern justice had turned it into a national extravaganza. Joanne Little’s defense team played to the visiting reporters with relish. This morning they had attempted to add the famed New York lawyer William Kunstler to the team, but Kunstler had promptly insulted the judge and been jailed instead.

“You should have made a run for it,” said Nate when Edgerton was safely back in his office.

“Nah. This is the best story he’s ever let me handle.” She cranked paper into her typewriter. “Biggest thing he ever gave me before was Ann Landers’ divorce.”

“What about Patty Hearst?”

“Dale Colby had that while it was hot. He didn’t assign it to me until it was dead. But if they ever find her I’ll be set.”

“So what? Good stories don’t pay any better, and the hours are worse. Don’t know why you bother.”

“You want to know why?” Olivia squinted at Edgerton’s scrawled notes. “Because when they make the movie, I want Robert Redford to play me.” She ignored Nate’s snort and settled down to type.

In fact, she decided grudgingly, Edgerton was right. This new quote made the story better. Kunstler, upon being released, had said about the judge, “I think the man is determined to see this woman convicted by any means necessary, in violation of his oath as well as the Constitution, and that constitutes in my mind a criminal act.” Nice. Manipulative, of course; Kunstler knew what news hounds wanted. So all over America, people like Olivia were putting it into the papers and TV news, maybe publicizing the very real difficulties of black women in the South, maybe just publicizing Kunstler. Every now and then Olivia wondered uneasily if it was Joanne Little or North Carolina that was really on trial. But what the hell, North Carolina had never even ratified the constitutional amendment giving women the vote. Olivia typed in the quote. Take that, North Carolina.

Beyond the wheezing of the air conditioner, she became aware of music somewhere outside. Sixties music, guitar and the sweet blended harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary singing “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Then her attention was distracted by the opening door. A thickset man with a pink complexion, curly brown hair and loosened necktie shoved in. He held the limp jacket of his light summer suit tossed back over his shoulder. “Hey, Edgerton!” he yelled.

Edgerton stuck his head out of his door. “Hi, Leon. What can I do for you?”

“Get that bastard reporter off my back! That asshole Colby!” the chunky newcomer demanded.

“Colby again? Okay, okay, simmer down. Too hot today to get steamed up. Come on in and tell me the problem.” Edgerton, with a scowl at the music drifting in the window, gestured the thickset man into his office and closed the door.

Olivia picked up her revised story and tossed it onto the big central table. Nate was standing at the window now, hands in pockets, gazing out with amused eyes. “Who’s that?” Olivia whispered to him, jerking her thumb at the closed door.

“Edgy’s visitor? That’s Leon Moffatt. Colby should tread lightly. The widow Resler didn’t look too happy either.”

“The plane crash story?”

“That’s the one. Moffatt’s father went down in it.” Nate pulled his hands from his pockets, retrieved a note that fluttered to the floor, and pushed the current issue of the Sun-Dispatch toward her. Dale Colby’s report was on the bottom of the front page, reporting the latest information about a small chartered plane leased to Congressman Knox last January. Olivia skimmed it. She could see why Moffatt and Mrs. Resler were upset. Without actual libel, Dale implied that the survivors of the five victims were better off now than before the crash. Including the congressman’s office. Thin ice there, Dale. But knowing him, she was sure he had plenty to back up his statements. A very careful reporter.

Nate added, “Listen, you’re going to the beach with the Colbys today, right? You might just breathe a word in his ear.”

“Okay.” She picked up her shoulder bag.

“And tell me, Liv, isn’t that the love of your life down there now?”

Olivia joined him at the window. “Oh, Jesus Christ.”

It was Jerry Ryan all right. Even from the second floor there was no mistaking that lanky build, those black curls. He was standing between his sister Maggie, also lanky and curly-haired, and her brawny, balding husband Nick. With amazing energy for such an oppressive day they were belting out the song about the magic dragon. Olivia giggled. “God, can’t turn my back a minute!”

“Pretty good imitation,” Nate observed. It was true; Nick was accompanying them expertly with his guitar, and all three were warbling away with gusto. Before them, unaffected by the exhausting sultriness, a tiny girl not yet three was dancing. The heat-wearied passersby forgot their discomfort for a moment to smile at her and at the singers.

BOOK: Murder in the Dog Days (Maggie Ryan)
6.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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