How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin



“Divvy Moncreath,” I said, “is probably the only woman in America who made a campaign contribution so her son could fold napkins.”

“He’s brilliant with place settings.”

“How do you know that?” Emma asked Libby. She was dressed in riding breeches and boots, as always, and she didn’t give a damn that the other ladies lunching nearby cast cool glances at the mud she’d tracked in.

Of the three of us, Emma was the stone fox. A chic, very short and asymmetrical haircut flattered the narrow shape of her head, her sharp-cut cheekbones and wide-set bedroom eyes. The Blackbird auburn hair and magnolia white skin that made me look like a Victorian bride with the vapors was sexy as hell on Emma. Her riding breeches fit her like a pair of gloves, and her boots gave my younger sister a piratical air that suited the look in her eye. Two inches taller than I and with ten pounds strategically rearranged, she could have gotten work as an exotic dancer anywhere.

Em always looked as if she’d just rolled out of somebody’s bed ... with a whip. Libby looked ready to slide into the next convenient four-poster. And I—well, I wasn’t going to venture under anyone’s down comforter but my own for a long time. My husband’s death had blindsided me, but it didn’t compare to the hell of our last two years together when Todd binged on cocaine, lost his medical research job and showed me what havoc one man’s weakness could inflict on the union   of two people who loved each other passionately. No, men were too much trouble.

“I already got a job,” I announced, intervening before the sisterly sniping developed into a full-blown squabble. “I started last week, so the White House will have to muddle through without me.”

“What job?” Libby brightened. “Where?”

“I went to see Rory Pendergast.” I smiled at the memory of dear old “Uncle” Rory, years ago our grandfather Blackbird’s tennis partner, coming to my rescue. “I asked him for a job and he invited me to write for his newspaper.”

“Nora, that’s fabulous!”

“He still owns that rag?” Emma blew smoke. “I guess every billionaire industrialist needs a hobby in his declining years.”

“How is sweet Rory?” Libby asked. “I haven’t seen him in weeks. I should call him, in fact. We have things to discuss.”

“This is about Nora,” Emma said. “So shut up and listen.”

“Rory looked great,” I went on steadily. “A little frail, maybe, but still naughty. He’s eighty-five if he’s a day.”

Libby lifted her wineglass in a toast. “And he recognizes talent when he sees it. Writing all those medical articles for your husband has come in handy, Nora. Kudos! Tell us what you’ll be doing for the Intelligencer. A column for the health section?”

“No—”

“Medical tips?”

“No,” I said, taking a deep breath. “I’m writing for the society page.”

A short, stunned silence. Libby put down her glass.

Then Emma laughed outright. “Good God,” she said. “You’re going to write meaningful prose about debutante balls?”

“It’s a steady job.”

But a job that came with at least one drawback, and Emma immediately hit the bull’s-eye.

She said, “Tell me you’re not working with Kitty Keough.”

I gathered my courage and admitted, “I’m her assistant.”

Libby clapped one hand to her mouth to stop a laugh. “You’re kidding!”

For thirty years, Kitty Keough had been the elephant in the middle of every table at Philadelphia parties. She reported on weddings and funerals, cocktail receptions and tea parties. She detailed what people wore, ate and said. She had printed more pictures of men in tuxedos than People magazine ever will, raised her fork at more sea bass dinners with bulimic girls than a Miss America chaperone and air kissed more wealthy women than a presidential candidate. She wrote clever columns that sent the whole city flipping to The Back Page every Sunday to read how she cut the rich and famous down to size.

But she’d also made enemies along the way.

Emma said, “Your life’s in danger the minute your name is associated with hers. People hate Kitty Keough’s guts.”

“Readers don’t.”

“But our friends do,” said Libby. “And what she said about Daddy and Mama!”

“Every word was true,” I pointed out.

“So what will you be doing exactly?” Emma asked.

“The job isn’t much different than my life used to be,” I explained. “I’m invited to the same cocktail parties, banquets and balls. Except afterwards I write up what I’ve seen and heard. I’ll attend parties for a living.”

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