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When Katherine V. Forrest’s Amateur City was published in 1984, introducing LAPD detective Kate Delafield, it not only marked the beginning of one of mystery fiction’s most successful series, it also created one of the most lucrative genres in gay publishing: the lesbian mystery. With her next six Kate Delafield novels, Forrest’s complex and determined lesbian detective became the most celebrated figure in lesbian fiction. Alyson is proud to present the first and second Kate Delafield mysteries, back in print and...
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When Katherine V. Forrest’s Amateur City was published in 1984, introducing LAPD detective Kate Delafield, it not only marked the beginning of one of mystery fiction’s most successful series, it also created one of the most lucrative genres in gay publishing: the lesbian mystery. With her next six Kate Delafield novels, Forrest’s complex and determined lesbian detective became the most celebrated figure in lesbian fiction. Alyson is proud to present the first and second Kate Delafield mysteries, back in print and ready to captivate a new generation of fans!
In Amateur City, Kate and her partner, Ed Taylor, investigate the murder of a highly placed executive, whose body was found by a coworker, a woman who begins to break down Kate’s defenses.
In addition to penning the legendary Kate Delafield mystery series, -Katherine V. Forrest has written the lesbian romantic classic Curious Wine and the science fiction novels Daughters of a Coral Dawn and Daughters of an Amber Noon. She lives in San Francisco.
Stephie would like this, Ellen thought, gazing at vast paintings of green-toned geometric shapes, several dramatic plants with huge serrated leaves, ice-blue carpeting with wide cutouts displaying flooring of used brick. Even Stephie would think this was lovely.
As she passed Judy Markham's reception desk, huge and black and modular and raised on a platform to majestically oversee this domain, Ellen groped in her purse for her key. She unlocked one of the double doors, went on to her office, deposited her purse and two small etchings of fishing boats she had hung in her office on her last job. Stephanie had refused to allow them on the walls of their apartment.
Ellen paused. The silence was almost palpable. There was a discernible whirr, a vibration under her feet-she supposed from whatever building functions were required to maintain a livable environment on this sixteenth floor. The filing could wait a little longer; she would use this quiet time to explore her new surroundings.
The office of her neighbor-an engineer, she remembered-contained dozens of scale model rooms enclosed in partitioned glass display cases. She crept in like a burglar and succumbed to childish pleasure in the doll's house furnishings: miniscule sofas and chairs and desks and tables, each room complete with carpeting, light fixtures, exquisitely tiny bookcases and plants.
Smiling, she walked on to the next room. Cavernous and silent, it seemed frozen in a pause between frantic bouts of activity. Desk was jammed against desk, all of them strewn and stacked with paper. In- and out-boxes spilled over their contents, the tops of filing cabinets were piled high with folders and grey metal trays heaped with paper for filing. Computer screens gaped with pale empty faces. Two microfilm units were hunched together on a drab green table pushed against a bookcase which was stuffed to untidy capacity with fat catalogues. A tiny philodendron on the perilous edge of a filing cabinet dribbled its sparse leaves not quite to the floor, the only personal touch she could find in this jumbled room with its ungenerous thin gray carpeting.
She could imagine Stephanie's opinion, hear Stepahnie's voice, low and contemptuous: "A consummate example, Ellen dear, of the business world's spiritual barrenness."
She peered across the room at several shadowy cubicles flimsily partitioned off from each other, and made out faded stenciled information on a glass door: CREDIT DEPARTMENT. Luther Garrett's office. His was one of the few names she remembered from yesterday. "Luther," she had repeated after Gail Freeman. "People name their children anything." She had instantly regretted these words to her new boss whose own feminine name seemed an unfair burden for a black man to carry. But he had acknowledged her remark with a smiling nod.
She allowed the door to swing closed, and continued down the hallway, high heels sinking soundlessly into thick rust-colored carpeting. Pausing at the next door, which bore the name FRED GRAYSON on a white-lettered sign hanging from two hooks, she reflected that this was the one corner office she hadn't yet seen; Gail Freeman and Fergus Parker occupied the others-and of course Guy Adams, with his spectacular office.... She smiled, remembering him.
She walked on, past other signs bearing the names HARLEY BURTON and DUANE FLETCHER, and paused before GRETCHEN PHILLIPS. She had not met these sales managers and she was curious only about Gretchen Phillips. What had it been like, her ascent to sales manager? More to the point, what kind of woman would work for a man like Fergus Parker?
She pushed open the conference room door. An imposing table, heavy, dark, glossy, was surrounded by a dozen armchairs upholstered in rich gold fabric. A painting vaguely suggestive of rolling hills and sunlight took up much of one wall. A locked glass case held an assortment of photographic equipment. She gazed for only a moment, then closed the door softly. She was near Fergus Parker's office-too near. If he by chance were in early ...
Muzak swelled and waned as she strode along the carpeted hallway under the ceiling speakers, retracing her steps past Fred Grayson's office, past her own and Gail Freeman's offices, and up the hallway to the purely functional areas: supply room, photocopying, the restrooms, the kitchen and lunchroom. The aroma of coffee reached her as she came to the open doorway of the kitchen.
Who else was in early? Fergus Parker or Guy Adams, or both. It had to be, she had seen most of the other offices, and unless someone was working behind a closed door ... Most likely it was Guy Adams, she decided with a surge of pleasure. Fergus Parker wouldn't know a coffee pot from a gumball machine.
She poured coffee into a styrofoam cup, sipped appreciatively. She could at least offer Guy Adams more coffee.... She picked up the coffee pot, crossed the hallway to his office.
It was empty. Sipping her coffee, she stood in the doorway looking with renewed pleasure at the furnishings in the room: the early-American ash desk with green leather inserts; an Elizabethan chair with a back of dark red wood worked into delicately carved scrolls, its seat of multi-hued blue satin; a Louis XVI armchair of ebony, with an oval back and silky peach and white upholstery; a sofa with claw-shaped legs, its fabric finely patterned silver-gray; a highly polished cherrywood table bearing a Chinese lamp the color of lime jade; a vivid red Persian rug under a coffee table of inlaid veneers; three paintings, small oils depicting scenes of the English countryside. Her eyes moved to the windows, to the distant mountains, folds of graying brown. A white mist clung to the ocean.
From down the hall came a thudding, a slight rhythmic vibration in the floor. She turned, but the corridor stretched out empty before her. Then a door slammed with an echoing violence so startling that she almost dropped the coffee pot. Automatically she took a step in the direction of Fergus Parker's office, but halted; whatever was going on down there was no affair of hers. Then there was loud and prolonged crashing and smashing of glass. It continued as she hurried along the corridor.
She slowed to a walk, glanced into Fergus Parker's office, and stood rooted. And this time she did drop the coffee pot. Fergus Parker's portable bar had fallen over, a mass of glass and spreading brown and red stain on the blond carpet. Fergus Parker sat in his big leather desk chair with arms extended in supplication, hands bloodied, eyes protruding, the pupils raisins on egg whites. A wide stream of bright blood cut a neat swath down his white shirt front from the ivory-handled implement lodged in his chest.
She began a scream, clapped both hands over her mouth. She was alone on this floor with a murderer.
Wanting to flee into an office to hide, she stood paralyzed, terrified of leaving this safely empty hallway. A murderer could be in any office she tan into. She looked around wildly. Where was the stairway? She could not remember. She stumbled on watery legs to the double doors leading to the lobby, to the elevators. She turned a knob on one of the doors, cringing at the clicking of the lock, and inched open the door. The murderer could come out to leave....
She dashed out into the lobby, took refuge behind Judy Markham's great black desk. She cowered on the floor.
EMERGENCY EXT 5000. The huge red letters on clear plastic pasted to the telephone drew her eyes. Staying low behind the desk, she slipped the telephone receiver from its hook, punched the console switch to ON, and with rigid fingers pressed the emergency digits.
"Can't hear you."
"Please, someone's dead-"
"Jesus! Lady, where are you?"
"Fifteen? Can't hear you."
"Sixteen." She wanted to scream, but hissed in a sibilant whisper, "Listen, there's a dead man here, I think whoever did it is still here-"
"Jesus! Lady, stay right where you are, don't move an inch."
She hung up the receiver and hugged herself; she was cold, frozen, and she began to shudder as she sat huddled on the floor; her teeth clicked uncontrollably.
He'll hear me, she thought, he'll come out and hear me. I'm going to die. With Mother disappointed in me. With Stephie mad at me for being here at all.
Level with her eyes was a dial in the wall labeled MUZAK, set at four on a scale of ten. She turned it up to ten, and sat convulsed with violent shudders, the lobby reverberating to Red Sails in the Sunset. An elevator light blinked on, the door opened, and two blue-clad men eased out, guns drawn.
She leaped to her feet. The guns jerked to her. "I called you! It's me!"
"Jesus, lady!" yelled a blond beefy guard, lowering the gun he held in two shaking hands. "You almost got yourself shot!"
"Get the lady, Rick," ordered the dark-haired guard. "I'll cover this door, you watch the door behind her."
She turned the Muzak down as the guard named Rick gingerly approached her, wide staring blue eyes fixed on the double doors behind her, his gun again raised and shaking. "You sure he's still in there?" he whispered hoarsely.
The sight of official blue uniforms and black weapons had calmed her. "I'm not sure. He might be."
"Get in the elevator, lady," the dark-haired guard called. "Now! Be quick!"
She fled across the lobby, snapping off leaves of an intervening plant in her haste. She punched LOBBY again and again. Nothing happened. She peered out to see the two guards backing toward the elevator, each with a gun trained on a set of double doors.
The dark-haired guard slid a key into a slot; the doors closed; the elevator descended. She gasped with relief and asked, "Shouldn't one of you be staying up there?"
"Not on your life," Rick said, shoving his gun deep into its holster and snapping the fastener. "Not for five-fifty an hour. Cops're on the way. What happened? What'd you see?"
"A man ... stabbed ..." She faltered into silence, fighting off the image.
The dark-haired guard said, "My name's Mike. That's Rick."
"Ellen," she whispered.
"Can you describe-"
"I never saw the ... the killer." She closed her eyes. "I heard-"
Rick said, "You sure the guy's dead?"
"Yes," Ellen said, and burst into tears.
"Rick, lay off her. She'll have enough questions to answer."
The elevator doors opened to dozens of people milling the lobby, unable to get on an elevator. A group surged toward them. "Out of service!" Mike shouted, inserting his key. "Elevators are out of service!"
"What the hell's going on?" demanded a portly man in a gray suit and carrying a briefcase.
"Police business. Everybody move back, please." Taking Ellen's arm, Mike led her from the elevator.
In a shrieking of sirens police cars pulled up in front, one after another, four in all, and spilled cops who ran into the building, several cradling shotguns.
"Sixteen," Mike said as five cops pushed their way through the crowd to the elevator. "Can't tell you who to look for, no description-"
"You." A mustachioed cop gestured with a shotgun at Rick. "Take us up."
"If you insist," Rick said unhappily, and inserted his key. The doors closed.
"Clear the lobby!" shouted one of the two remaining cops. They advanced on the crowd, arms extended in a shepherding motion. "Everybody back! For your own protection! Back!" In a cacaphony of sirens and thunder, another squad car and two motorcycles pulled up in front.
"Come back to the guard station with me," Mike said to Ellen. "Get you some coffee."
Stephie ... I'll call Stephie ... Everything will be all right ...
"Please," Ellen whispered, "thanks."
She walked around the Becker Building. Ed Taylor had preceded her by more than two hours, and an investigation team worked on the sixteenth floor; but they could all work a little longer without her. It was a savings to the taxpayers of Los Angeles if she understood the terrain; it eliminated unnecessary questions and false assumptions. Her thoroughness might arouse impatience and grumbling among the people she worked with, but the important people appreciated it. A Kate Delafield investigation was solid, meticulous, documented, a logical tapestry of fact-no sloppiness, no loose ends, no nasty surprises to ambush a district attorney, none of those holes you could drive a truck through so that a contemptuous judge would throw the case out before a jury had warmed its chairs.
The Becker Building took up half a short block, eighteen stories of small windows inset in white and gray masonry; from certain angles the structure looked pockmarked. Next door was a squat medical building, navy blue and white stucco and frame; on the other side, across Merlin Street, a sand colored building with a peeling front proclaimed from a faded sign that it was a school for computer programming.
She walked down the driveway under the Becker Building, pasta banner that read MONTHLY PARKING NOW DUE. An attendant in a blue uniform shirt with stripes on the sleeves, mismatched with tan pants, ignored her. Kate walked over to a staircase, looked down and counted three levels. The staircase and the door to the lobby were the only entryways into the building from the garage.
Excerpted from Amateur City by Katherine V. Forrest Copyright © 1984 by Katherine V. Forrest
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.