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Hunting the Hudson River valley for cast-off treasures is usually low-stress for Janet Petrocelli, a former shrink who now owns a used-stuff shop. But her insatiable curiosity kicks in when she gets a call from Natasha Wolfson, a high-strung singer and songwriter. The girl is desperate to unload her funky jewelry for a little fast cash so she can move to Los Angeles—and escape some serious trouble. Hours after meeting with Janet, the tormented rising star allegedly leaps to her death. Suspecting foul play, Janet ...
Hunting the Hudson River valley for cast-off treasures is usually low-stress for Janet Petrocelli, a former shrink who now owns a used-stuff shop. But her insatiable curiosity kicks in when she gets a call from Natasha Wolfson, a high-strung singer and songwriter. The girl is desperate to unload her funky jewelry for a little fast cash so she can move to Los Angeles—and escape some serious trouble. Hours after meeting with Janet, the tormented rising star allegedly leaps to her death. Suspecting foul play, Janet noses into Natasha’s life and gets drawn into an eccentric enclave ruled by the rich and infamous. From a hotbed of corruption at the New York State capital to an exotic pleasure house hidden deep in the Catskills, Janet’s obsession with the case leads her closer to the shocking truth.
"How much do you want for this?" I asked the woman sitting in the lawn chair sucking down a cigarette and engrossed in a Sudoku booklet.
"Forty," she said without looking up. "It's a collectible."
I put down the plate—which I would have priced at $20—and moved down the wares table. I spied an orange glass bowl with a sleek oblong shape. This kind of stuff flew out of my shop, especially if I could price it low.
"How much is this bowl?"
"Thirty," Sudoku said, still not looking up, sucking away. I guess nicotine really does improve concentration. "It's a collectible."
I felt like telling her that used dental floss is a collectible to somebody. Instead I muttered "Thanks" and walked back to my car.
It was a gorgeous Saturday morning and I was out yard saleing. Yard saleing ain't what it used to be—the Internet and Antiques Roadshow killed it. Now everyone thinks Uncle Gary's "original patina custom bowling ball" is worth eighty bucks and Ashley's circa 2001 pink plastic "limited edition" My First Pony is worth twenty. Well guess what, gang, the market for dead guy's bowling balls is nil, and that "limited edition" numbered a cool million.
Still, I love barreling around to sales—every once in awhile you score a fabulous piece at an amazing price. It's also a great way to observe the flora and fauna in their native habitat. I mean, there's something poignant about seeing Ashley all grown up, dealing with her three kids under five by chugging her morning Bud Lite. And Uncle Gary's heirs unloading his stuff as fast as they can haul it out of his prefab. And then of course there's my so-called business, which needs the inventory. Oh yeah, there was one more cool thing about hitting the circuit—I got to see hidden corners of the Hudson Valley, strange little hollers, tiny riverbank settlements, awesome hilltop vistas.
The back of my van was filled with the morning's haul—a motley collection of fring-frungs and whatnots, half of which I'd probably end up donating to the animal shelter thrift shop. I was just heading over the crest of Cauterskill Road, chugging a cup of coffee, when my cell rang.
"This is Janet."
"Hi, Janet, I'm Natasha. Tosh." The voice was youngish, throaty, inviting.
"What's up, Tosh?"
"I have some jewelry I want to sell. Masses of it actually." Then she laughed, a warm laugh that made me like her.
I was getting more into jewelry, mainly because it was so damn easy to deal with—stuffing a sofa into my van was never fun—and if the baubles were at all cool, they sold steadily.
"What kind of jewelry?"
"Well, there's a lot of bakelite, some geometric pieces from my beatnik phase, and a bunch of kitschy animal stuff from when I was in that ridiculous retro phase we chicks go through in high school." The words were pouring out a little too quickly and this time the laugh had an edge of desperation to it. "What wasn't I thinking? Anyway I want to unload it pronto, Tonto!"
I immediately smelled a bargain—when people are super eager to sell they rarely want to bother with negotiations, they just want to see some green. This jewelry sounded very promising, I'd take a wad of cash with me and hope for the best.
"So where are you, and what time is convenient?"
"I'm up in Phoenicia and how about now?"
Excerpted from Dead by Any Other Name by Sebastian Stuart Copyright © 2011 by Sebastian Stuart. Excerpted by permission of Llewellyn. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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