How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin



She stiffened as if she knew what I’d noticed. “I know the game you’re playing, Miss Blackbird. You want my job, and you think your relationship with Rory Pendergast can get it for you. Well, I’ve got a few years left, young lady.”

Feebly, Stan said, “Kitty, don’t be an idiot. This is a team effort. We all work together. Nora’s on board to help us improve—”

She swung around on him. “And you—you think you’re going to get the managing editor job just because Sweet Knees waltzes into my department?”

“Sweet Knees?” I repeated.

“Kitty—”

She cut off Stan’s placating with a sharp gesture. “I’m out of here,” she said.

The valet arrived with her car, an aged white Mercedes with a crooked front bumper. Kitty got into the driver’s seat and revved the engine before the valet had closed the door. Then she was off, narrowly missing the corner of the portico. Her vanity plate, I saw, read MEOW.

“I’m sorry, Nora,” Stan said in the silence left behind like the cloud of her exhaust. “She’s temperamental.”

“I know, Mr. Rosenstatz. That’s what makes her great at her job.”

He looked relieved. “You’re a good kid. Call me Stan, okay?”

Stan Rosenstatz could have been anywhere from fifty to seventy, with a thin frame, nervous hands and tufts of gray hair growing out of his ears. His dinner jacket was a size too large and had been hanging on a wire hanger too long. He looked as if he didn’t have much fun.

I patted his arm. “Coming back into the party?”

Stan shook his head and used his handkerchief to mop the perspiration from his forehead. “I’ve had enough hobnobbing for one night.”

“You okay?”

“Sure. Y’know, Kitty’s just blowing off steam. And she’s had a few drinks. Don’t take it personally.”

“I’m trying not to. I can’t possibly be a threat to her.”

“Well, you are,” said Stan on a rueful sigh. “But she’ll come around. You’ll get to like her, I’m sure.”

I wasn’t the least bit sure, but I knew it would help Stan if I agreed. So I did, and added, “I’ll e-mail my story later tonight, okay?”

“Sure. Listen, I appreciate you not coming to the office much yet. It keeps the peace—you know what I mean? But don’t think you’re out of sight, out of mind. You’re doing good work, Nora.”

I thanked him. He left, and I went into the party.

A waiter from Main Events caught me just inside the doors. “Glass of wine?”

“Thank you.” I accepted a glass and tried to put Kitty out of my mind. I wanted to enjoy myself. “Am I fashionably late?”

He smiled conspiratorially. “People are just getting loose now.”

I headed down the long carpet towards the party noise. The strains of a quiet jazz quartet soothed the underlying chatter of human voices. For the first time since my parents took a powder, I plunged into a party.

The throng was a mix of newspaper people and Pendergast cronies, like old Heywood Kidd, the art collector, as well as some of the New Crowd on the Philadelphia social scene. Rory liked to have young people around, so I was well acquainted with many of the guests.

I heard the distinctive laugh of my friend Lexie Paine and turned to see her staking out a corner with several eligible bachelors, probably telling Nasdaq jokes while they breathed her perfume and fantasized about her assets. We caught each other’s raised eyebrow signal. We’d meet at the bar as soon as she could get away.

Rory’s downstairs rooms looked as if a florist’s truck had exploded there. More RickandGabe flowers competed for attention with the art collection, the furniture, the glimmer of crystal and the soft glow of leather-bound books. Someone had matted and framed a selection of newspaper relics that celebrated the long and happy Pendergast ownership of the Intelligencer. I avoided the crush in the center of the room and strolled along the display, looking at headlines from long ago when the first Pendergast got bored with selling whale oil and started up a newspaper. In a day when companies were bought and sold within weeks, a single-family ownership of a newspaper—even a slightly tacky one like the Intelligencer—for a hundred and fifty years was impressive indeed.

Halfway along the display I heard footsteps on the main staircase and turned. Peach Treese came barreling down the steps and rammed straight into me. For a woman of unspoken age, she could move like a locomotive.

“Peach! Are you okay?”

She caught herself on my outstretched arms and looked at me in shock. “Nora.” Her good manners kicked in. “Nora Blackbird, how nice to see you.”

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