Considering the kind of disasters that usually befall the half-black, half-Jewish mystery writer, probably both. Because the last time Sophie saw sexy P.I. Anatoly Darinsky, he practically danced a jig when she waved goodbye &151; a normal reaction for a man who'd nearly bought the farm trying to protect her from her own foolishness. What are the chances he'd agree to take incriminating pictures of her sister's philandering husband? Or that he'd let her tag along &151; you know for research?
But when her brother-in-law turns up dead and her sister becomes the prime suspect, Sophie's priority is finding the real killer. With or without Anatoly's help. Her brother-in-law's secret life yields plenty of suspects, but the San Francisco police aren't taking any of them seriously. So Sophie does what comes naturally to her: she stirs up trouble (to lure the killer out, of course).
But if her crazy plan works, will Anatoly be there to protect her this time?
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"My divorce attorney gave me a list of everything we can take from Dan," she said mildly. "I'm beginning to think it would be more humane to just kill him."
Words To Die By
Anatoly pushed past me into my apartment without bothering to so much as grunt in greeting. "Where's your sister?"
"Hello to you, too. Want a beer?, I popped the lid off one of the Pacificos.
He stuck his thumbs through his belt loops. "Where's your sister?"
"You see, it's like thisnobody ever told Leah about setting the clocks forward during daylight savings time, so she spends half the year running an hour behind."
He took the beer and threw his jacket over the armrest of the love seat before lowering himself onto the leather cushions. "I'm not waiting an hour."
"Oh, please, I was kidding." I took a beer for myself and leaned against the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen. "I'm sure she'll be here in forty-five minutes, max."
"She has twenty."
"Okay, I know you're pissed at me, Anatoly, but I'm paying you a lot of money to sit on your tuchas and drink my beer, so the least you can do is give her thirty."
"Twenty-five. Why don't you give me the details of the case while we wait? Why does Leah suspect her husband of sleeping around?"
"You know, the usual. After years of inattention he suddenly began to shower her with gifts while at the same time scheduling a lot of late-night meetings, and if that isn't code for "I'm screwing my secretary" I don't know what is."
Anatoly waited for me to continue and when I didn't do so immediately his countenance assumed a more pleading expression. "there's more than that, right? Tell me your sister isn't as paranoid and insane as you are."
"Oh, excuse me!" I slammed my beer on the counter. "I am nowhere near as crazy or paranoid as my sister!" Anatoly took a long swig of his beer in lieu of responding. I sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "A couple of weeks ago, the night before I accidentally got you shot."
"We're not getting into that now. Anyway, Bob told her he had a dinner meeting with his employer so he wouldn't be at Chalet."
"His place of work, Chalet.com. they sell home furnishings via catalogs and the Internet. Think Pottery Barn but twice as expensive. Bob's the comptroller. Anyhoo, that night James Sawyer, Bob's employer, called looking for him. When Leah told him she thought Bob was with him, this Sawyer guy claimed that they had no plans to meet. When Bob came home, she asked him how the meeting went and he said it was great. Gave her all these details that she didn't even ask for. Just totally lying. the next day he got her a pair of 1.5-carat studs. God, he's such a pig."
Anatoly jotted something down in a pocket notebook. "She have any idea who he's cheating on her with?"
The buzzer went off before I had a chance to respond. "Well I guess you'll just have to ask her yourself." I pressed the intercom button. "Leah, is that you?"
I hesitated. Leah is one of those people who uses five words in place of the one that was necessary. When she did opt for brevity it was never a good sign. I buzzed her in and stood by the door in wait.
When she reached the top of the stairs my level of alarm rose a notch. Her perpetually saturated hair seemed unusually devoid of products. As she moved closer I could see that the tip of her nose was a little too rosy and her waterproof mascara was barely hanging on. She nodded at me in acknowledgement before wordlessly passing into the apartment. She dropped her Louis Vuitton on the f loor and paused while she impassively studied Anatoly.
He rose and offered his hand. "Hi, I'm."
Leah walked past him to the window and stared blankly out at the street.
"Great. Just what I need, one more mentally imbalanced client."
I gave Anatoly a warning look before crossing to my sister. "Leah?, I put a cautious hand on her shoulder. "Leah, Anatoly's the PI I've told you about. He's going to."
"I don't need him."
I glanced at Anatoly, who looked incredibly relieved. I held my hand up to indicate that he was not yet free to bolt for the door. "Leah, I know you think that Bob's cheating, but it probably wouldn't hurt to get some proof before you"
"He already confessedthis morning before he went to work. I was standing there holding my son, our son, and he confessed to screwing some pathetic little home-wrecker. He says he's leaving me for her. Just throwing it all away for some twenty-one-year-old whore."
I removed my hand from her shoulder and clenched it into a fist. I was going to kill the SOB. I was going to reach down his throat, grab his tonsils and
"All right, then"
I started at Anatoly's chipper tone.
"Sophie, thanks for the beer. Leah, it was nice meeting you. All the luck with the divorce."
"there's not going to be a divorce."
My head snapped from Anatoly back to Leah. Either I had just misheard her or she had lost her mind. "What do you mean there won't be a divorce? You just said."
"I'm going to fightfor him and for my family. I can win him back, Sophie. I know I can."
She made eye contact with me for the first time, and I saw the desperation tempered with what I assumed was some kind of psychotic determination. I opened my mouth to speak before I had formulated what the next words should be.
"Even better, then," Anatoly boomed. "I hope you two have a wonderful life together. See you around."
"Anatoly!" But he was already out the door.
Pig. Men were all pigs. I turned back to Leah. "Honey, you know you can't win this one. Even if he did come back to you, why would you want him?, "I knew you'd say something like that. I'm sorry if I actually take my vows seriouslyunlike some people around here. I took a vow"
"Yeah, you did. So did Bob. But he broke the deal, Leah. You can't honestly think of being loyal to someone who has no interest in being loyal to you."
"Lots of marriages survive adulterous affairs. Just because yours didn't."
"And thank God it didn't! Don't you get it? Finding Scott with that Vegas showgirl was the best thing that's ever happened to me. Otherwise, I might have actually done something stupid like try to stick it out in a doomed relationship. Hell, I still send that woman holiday cards."
"Sophie, I'm not you and I don't want to be you. I want to be Mrs. Bob Miller. That's my life. Everything I have, everything I doit's all about being Mrs. Bob Miller. I'm good at it. My life with Bobwell, it's what it's supposed to be. He's just forgotten that. He's confused. But I'm going to make him see."
"Leah, you can't"
"the hell I can't!" I involuntarily stepped back. I had never seen her like this. She swallowed and looked away. "I found a receipt from Tiffany's. He bought her a six thousand dollar bracelet. He bought it on the same day he bought me the diamond studs."
"And what does that tell you, Leah?"
"it tells me that she's using him. He bought the earrings for me because deep down he loves me, and he bought her a bracelet because he thought he had to in order to hold on to her."
"Well that's an interesting spin, if lacking in the logic department."
But Leah wasn't listening to me anymore. She brushed past me and stared at the chilled beers without reaching for one. "I am not going to take romantic advice from a divorced woman who talks to her cat." I peeked guiltily at Mr. Katz, who was sleeping through the current fireworks. Leah snatched up the phone from the end table and started jabbing her fingers against the numbers.
"Leah, who are you calling?"
"Bob's secretary, Erika?"
"I spoke with her earlier. She's as outraged as I am and offered to help me win him back."
"I really don't think that's a good idea."
"Erika? Erika, are you there? it's Leah. I'm coming over so if you get this message justjust wait for me. I need to come up with a plan before this goes too far." Leah slammed the receiver onto the cradle.
"Leah this is crazy. You can't put yourself through this. Plus you have Jack to considerwaitwhere's Jack?"
"He's with my friend Miranda, and for your information I'm doing this for Jack." She bent over to pick up her purse and made a beeline for the door.
"Oh come on, Leah, stay and talk to me about this. Erika's not even home."
"She will be soon and if not I'llI'll just go home and do the laundry. Bob will need his golf clothes ready for the weekend."
"Goodbye, Sophie." In an instant she was gone.
Well, that had been disorienting. it had looked like Leah, but I swear to God if I had closed my eyes I would have mistaken her for someone else. it wasn't her words so much although she had used more profanity than I was used to hearing from herbut her tone that had really thrown me.
It had f luctuated from hollow to restless then back again. She seemed on the brink of losing her mind.
My eyes wandered to my unfinished beer on the counter. I picked up the bottle, then thought better of it and went to get the vodka from the kitchen. Leah would snap out of it. She just needed time. I poured the clear f luid over some ice cubes, then added a little cranberry juice for color. I should write somethinglike a book, or more specifically, the book my editor thought I had already started working on. In four months I would be touring to promote my latest finished Alicia Bright mystery, Words To Die By, and it would be helpful if I could complete the first draft of the next book in the series before hitting the road.
I silently welcomed the burning sensation the liquor provided as it worked its way down to my liver. the problem was I wasn't quite ready to write another murder mystery yet. it had only been a few weeks ago that some lunatic had tried to break my head open with a golf club. Funny how being stalked by a homicidal maniac can knock the blood lust right out of you. Although I did want to kill my brother-in-law, Bob. That was promising progress.
I eyed my drink. it looked a little too red so I diluted it with more alcohol. If only Leah had gone running off to her friend Becca. Becca would have told her to kick Bob to the curb. But Becca was currently touring Europe with her boyfriend and it was doubtful Leah knew what country they were in, let alone what hotel.
I took another sip. I needed to relax. Erika may not give the best advice in the world, but evidently she and Leah had become close. She would undoubtedly offer Leah the emotional support she needed. This was good. Leah had Erika, and I had Absolut.
My pet strolled into the kitchen and blinked at me. "That's what I like about you, Mr. Katz. you're quiet, nonconfrontational, and it was legal for me to cut off your balls."
It must have been a little after 10:00 p.m., because a Friends rerun was on. That meant I'd been unconscious for oneno, two and a half hours. the last thing I remember was watching a Will and Grace rerun. I had only consumed two cocktails (albeit, two very strong cocktails), but the combination of the alcohol and a good dose of emotional exhaustion had pretty much done me in for the evening.
It took a little effort but I managed to get off the couch. Unfortunately, the ringing of the phone interrupted my journey to the bedroom. I tapped the receiver with my index finger and considered my options. it rang again. Hell, it was worth picking it up just to keep it from making that shrill sound two more times. "Hello?"
I rolled my eyes skyward. "Leah, I'm tired, I'm grouchy, I'm intoxicated and I'm going to bed."
there was something in Leah's voice that stopped me. it wasn't the desperation that had colored her tone earlier, but it was unnerving nonetheless. I sighed and leaned against the dining table. "Okay, what is it this time?"
"it's BobI'm homeI'm here with Bob. Oh God, Sophie!"
I stood up a little straighter. "What? Did he hurt you?, My bloodlust was definitely back. I was going to kill him. Actually, I'd do better than that. In my next book I'd castrate a philandering husband named Bobby by rigging his inf latable sex doll with explosives.
"No, no, he didn't hurt me. He can't. Oh God, Sophie Oh God, he's dead! Bob is dead!"
My eyes traveled to the depleted bottle of vodka on the counter. "I'm sorry, Leah, but I think I must have misunderstood you"
"He's dead! D-E-A-D. BOB IS DEAD!"