Authors: Anne R. Allen
Tags: #humerous mystery
The Best Revenge
A Camilla Randall Mystery
Anne R. Allen
This edition © Anne R. Allen 2011
First published in Great Britain in 2005 by Babash-Ryan
2005 Anne R. Allen
All rights reserved.
ISBN Number: 978-1-908961-04-4
Published by Mark Williams international Digital Publishing.
Cover design by Kate Smith.
Introduction by Saffina Desforges.
This prequel to the
Camilla Randall Mysteries
takes us back to the time when the teenaged Camilla first met her lifelong best friend, Plantagenet Smith.
Long before the events of
Ghostwriters in the Sky
, in 1980s New York, a time of big hair, coke-fueled society parties, and the rise of the greed-is-good One-Percenters, teen heiress Camilla Randall befriends Plantagenet Smith, a penniless young gay playwright. But they quarrel and he disappears in the direction of California.
Soon after, Camilla is assaulted by her mother’s fiancé, smeared in the newspapers by a sexy muckraking journalist, and her family loses all their money in the Savings and Loan banking scandal. She hops into her DeLorean and sets off in search of Plantagenet, whom she realizes is her only real friend.
But when she arrives in the Golden State, she discovers Plant has developed strange heterosexual tendencies and an inconvenient girlfriend. Camilla moves in with some wild-partying college friends, and when a famously debauched TV star tries to seduce her and then ends up dead, Camilla is arrested for his murder.
In order to clear her name and find the real killer, she turns to a friendly sanitation worker, a dotty octogenarian neighbor and the hot muckraking newspaperman who ridiculed her—who also happens to be her boss.
This “screwball” romantic comedy/mystery is reminiscent of the popular film comedies of the 1930s and 40s, the kind that starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, or Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It’s a romp of a read that you’ll find hard to put down.
Sample chapters from Anne’s other works, including the other two books in the acclaimed
Camilla Randall Mysteries
series and Anne’s stand-alone novels
Food of Love
The Gatsby Game
, can be found at the end of this book.
UK best-selling author of
Sugar & Spice
crime thriller series and the YA Holocaust novel
Chapter 1—1982: Morning in America
Camilla fought her rising panic by clutching Plantagenet’s strong, Armani-clad arm as the
led them to their usual table at
She had no idea how any debutante survived without a gay best friend.
Plant seemed to read her mind, as always.
“Stop worrying, darling. You look beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Any lurking Italian princes will be consumed with remorse for letting you slip through their cold, Eurotrash fingers.”
Camilla kissed him on the cheek. Dear, dear Plantagenet. He was her fashion consultant, crying shoulder, and all around Gibraltar. She couldn’t have made it through the horrors of the past month without him.
Plus he was the handsomest man in the room, which made it so much easier to face the possibility of running into her maybe-former boyfriend, Prince Aldo de Saxi-Cadenti. Aldo hadn’t called since her father’s funeral—with the same inexplicable cruelty as every other A-list friend she used to have.
As they were seated at their lovely, well-lit table, Camilla envied the underdressed nobodies seated in the dark corner near the kitchen. Nobodies were allowed to hide in shadows—and even appear in public with puffy faces and red eyes—without anybody from the society pages commenting on how they were wallowing in grief.
Camilla was a Randall. Randalls did not wallow.
She squeezed Plant’s hand. “Is the make-up still covering the red around my eyes? I can’t let Sybil D-D know I’ve been crying. I don’t want to have to talk about Aldo.”
Plantagenet gave her another look of reassurance as he ordered champagne. He was letting her blame the weepiness on her disappointment about Prince Aldo—although they both knew she’d been planning to dump him anyway.
Plant was the perfect friend. He always knew when not to pry.
“You look serene and happy, Camel darling. The prettiest girl in the room. Sybil D-D will turn positively chartreuse with envy.” He gave a stagy look at his watch. “How can that scrawny old cat keep the Debutante of the Year waiting?”
Camilla prayed Sybil Diaz-Dreyfuss, the columnist from the New York
, wouldn’t show up at all. The whole celebutante thing was getting old—and Plantagenet was right about Sybil being a cat. After all the strange coldness from her so-called friends, Camilla feared Sybil might have something even worse in store.
Plantagenet had dressed Camilla in Porfirio couture—a silk suit in what he called “the color of fresh money” and done deft things with green eye shadow and bronzer, but she knew she didn’t look her best.
He grabbed her hand with sudden urgency.
“Good God. Look who’s here.” He gestured at a khaki-clad man now making something of a stir as he entered the glittering dining room. “Park Avenue isn’t exactly his stomping ground.”
Camilla didn’t have to be told to look. Although the khaki man wasn’t quite as beautiful as Plantagenet, and wore clothes that would have sent Prince Aldo jumping off the Castel Sant’Angelo, he had a profile special-ordered from Mount Olympus, a tanned, muscular body, and quantities of unruly black hair that a stylist would die to tame.
“That’s Jonathan Kahn,” Plantagenet said. “He’s the reporter who leaked the classified papers on nuclear dumping. It’s because of him the President says the
should either shut down or register as an agency of a foreign power.”
Camilla laughed. She hated politics, but she did enjoy President Reagan’s jokes.
Plant leaned in to whisper. “Last year he went to Nicaragua with that pro-Sandinista group of Angela Harper’s. Got himself shot by the Contras.”
“He seems to have recovered,” Camilla couldn’t help saying. “Very nicely.”
“Look, but don’t touch, Camel darling. He broke Angela’s heart.”
Camilla couldn’t picture that gorgeous man with some ancient ’60s folk singer. She was about to ask for the dish when she felt one of Plant’s Guccis jab her shin.
She looked up into the steely blue eyes of Mr. Jonathan Kahn himself.
“Camilla Randall?” He offered his hand. “Jonathan Kahn. New York
She squeaked, feeling like some idiot sub-deb.
“But I thought Sybil D-D…”
“Ms. Diaz-Dreyfuss is on her way to London. An emergency with Lady Di’s wardrobe, I understand. I’m her replacement. Editors do like to have their fun.”
Camilla giggled. But Mr. Kahn didn’t even smile. In fact, he studied her with such concentration she had to touch her shoulder to check if her bra strap was showing.
Plantagenet cleared his throat.
“Please sit down, Mr. Kahn,” Camilla said, finally remembering her manners. “This is my friend Plantagenet Smith.”
“The playwright?” Mr. Kahn shook Plant’s hand. “I’ve still got the cast album from
knocking around my apartment somewhere. You wrote that, didn’t you?”
“The book and lyrics are mine.” Plantagenet gave his most charming grin. “But don’t hold it against me. I’ve outgrown rock music and naked dancers in blue body paint. I’m working with Edmund Quail now—on a musical about Alexander the Great.”
Camilla always cringed for Plantagenet when he talked about
She knew he hadn’t written a word since he moved in with Edmund over a year ago. He wasn’t much more than Edmund’s houseboy.
“So, Ms. Randall.” Mr. Kahn took a notebook from his pocket. “Last February you were named ‘Debutante of the Year.’ How has the year been for you?”
“Nice. A lovely year.” Camilla accepted another glass of champagne as Plantagenet and Mr. Kahn reached an agreement with the waiter about the entrées. She hoped Mr. Kahn wouldn’t comment on the fact she was only nineteen. It was so unfair they’d raised the New York drinking age to twenty-one last year.
“What’s been lovely?” Mr. Kahn turned back to Camilla. “The press coverage? Parties? Clubbing?”
“I adore parties and clubs.” She relaxed a bit. Talk of night life was pretty safe territory. “They get tiring sometimes, but mostly it’s all fun. The press, well…” She searched for something tactful to say.
“Camilla wasn’t happy about that photo in
,” Plantagenet offered.
“The one with Mick Jagger?”
As if there had been more than one photograph of Camilla’s derrière published in a national magazine. Her neck muscles tensed. She couldn’t bear any more humiliation for that one moment when, nervous at meeting an actual Rolling Stone, she’d dropped her purse and bent to pick it up—right at the entrance to Studio 54.
“Anything to the rumors about you two?” Mr. Kahn actually looked serious.
“Rumors about me and Mick?” She giggled again. “Oh, I certainly hope so.”
“But all in all, you’ve had a lovely year, Ms. Randall? Your father’s death hasn’t affected your lovely time?”
Camilla’s eyes stung. She still couldn’t believe her father was gone. It made no sense that such a safety-conscious man had died in something as stupid as a gun-cleaning accident. And her mother was no help. She refused to talk about it—as if sudden death were somehow an affront to good manners.
Plantagenet put a protective hand on Camilla’s shoulder.
“Of course it’s affected her. What kind of question is that?”
“Not such a lovely year then, Ms. Randall?” Those blue eyes lasered in on her.
“Not that part. I didn’t come here to discuss my father’s death. It’s not the sort of thing one discusses with strangers.”
She would not cry. She would not ruin her make-up.
“What about the growing evidence that Howard P. Randall III killed himself?”
Camilla wrapped her fingers around the stem of her champagne glass and held on. Of course she’d heard the rumors, but her mother said they were “filth.”
Kahn was relentless.
“Can you comment on your father’s involvement with the savings and loan scandal? Or the accusations that his bank bilked investors out of millions?”
Camilla’s face burned as she watched bubbles pop on the surface of her wine. Could it be true? She knew her father had owned banks, among other things. Could some money thing have made him want to die—more than his family made him want to live?
She heard a familiar voice call her name.
“Carissima!” Porfirio, swathed in silk and smelling of sandalwood, swooped down on their table. She squeezed the designer in a hug, grateful for the diversion, forgetting she was furious with him for his recent comments about her weight. He stood back and examined her, rearranging her collar.
Mr. Kahn harrumphed.
Porfirio turned “How do you do. I…” he offered his hand with a flourish “I am Porfirio.”
“And I…am Jonathan Kahn,” said Jonathan Kahn, in a tone just short of mocking. “Do I understand that Ms. Randall is wearing one of your designs?”
Porfirio stroked Camilla’s shoulder as if she were a pet kitten.
“You understand correctly. Miss Camilla wears my designs almost exclusively. I understand her persona.”
“Sybil Diaz-Dreyfuss claims you two had a falling out,” Mr. Kahn said.
“Falling out? Sybil talks about my hair?” Porfirio touched his receding hairline.
“You were quoted in
saying that Ms. Randall was getting plump, and as I understand, Ms. Randall swore never to buy another thing from you.”
“That was all a joke,” Camilla said, giving Porfirio her sweetest smile. She knew his new cutter had made the dress too tight, but this wasn’t the time to discuss it. “Just a little private joke. I don’t buy Porfirio’s designs. He gives them to me.”
“He gives them to you? You’re rich—so you don’t have to pay for your clothes?” Mr. Kahn paused and directed his icy blue gaze at Porfirio. “It’s advertising for you?”
But Porfirio was already in retreat.
Kahn’s eyes refocused on Camilla.
“It doesn’t bother you to be given expensive clothes, when people are freezing to death right here in Manhattan because they have nothing warm to wear?”
“People freezing to death?” She must have missed something.
“On my way here, I saw the police taking a body out of the 42nd Street station. The man was wearing only a T-shirt and torn trousers. They found him under a pile of newspapers where he’d been sleeping. He’d frozen to death, Ms. Randall.”
She didn’t like Mr. Kahn’s nasty tone.
“Why? Didn’t he have enough money for a train home?” She was still shaken by what he’d said about her dad. She’d hardly known her father, really. She’d gone to boarding school since she was six, and during vacations, her dad always seemed to be off in Hong Kong or Zurich or somewhere. Now all hope of knowing him was gone. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t stop crying.
“That dead man was homeless, Ms. Randall. Do you know how many people are now homeless in this city?”
“No, I guess I don’t.” Why did he think she knew anything about tramps?
“The number grows every day. This is our real ‘Morning in America,’ Ms. Debutante of the Year. They’ve closed down the hospitals and thrown the sick and the poor out in the streets. This is Ronald Reagan’s America.”
“That sounds awful, but couldn’t we talk about something else? It would be so boring, wouldn’t it? Me talking about politics? And poor people? ” Camilla found herself longing for the dreaded Sybil D-D.
“Boring? Oh, I certainly wouldn’t want to bore you, Miss Randall. Now what is it you find interesting? I understand you and your family hunt foxes?”
“I like to ride, if that’s what you mean. And we keep horses.” She didn’t like where this was going.
“And guns?” said Mr. Kahn. “Not much of a hunt without a gun, is it?”
She gulped champagne as she watched him flip through a dog-eared notebook. Apparently he was not going to let go of the subject.
“Did you and your father go to hunts together?”
“When I was younger.” She tried to keep her face stony as she remembered the few bittersweet occasions when her dad had time for her. “He was a very busy man. And I’ve had a pretty full schedule for the last couple of years, too. I am going to college.”