How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin



“Whaddaya want me to shoot?” he asked.

“I don’t want you to shoot anything,” I replied. “I didn’t request a photographer.”

“Kitty did. Any way you can speed things up? I gotta be at the Flyers face-off next.”

I looked over at my sister’s merry band. “Do I get input on this?”

He shrugged. “You’re the reporter on the scene.”

“Did you take pictures of the cars?”

“Sure. But what about the protesters?”

I considered my predicament. I could ask him not to make fools of my family and myself. Instead, he could take colorful shots of the cars and be on his way to the hockey game. But at last I said, “I’m new at this. Use your best judgment.”

I’d surprised him. The kid grinned, apparently more accustomed to receiving orders than having his judgment trusted. “Yeah, okay.”

He snapped a few more pictures of the cars and worked his way back over to Libby and company. With luck, the car photos would have more appeal than the protesters.

Still beside me, Abruzzo said, “You could have saved yourself some grief just now.”

I shook my head, summoning up what few journalistic ethics I had learned in just two weeks on the job. “It doesn’t matter.”

“And who’s Kitty?”

“Well, she’s not Glenda the Good Witch—let’s put it that way.”

Pictures over, Ralph and Libby headed for the BMW. As I guessed she might, she began to pull the bandanna out of her hair. They obviously had a social engagement this evening. Their oldest son, Rawlins, newly licensed to drive, herded his siblings and the dog into the minivan.

I was saved from further conversation with Abruzzo by the arrival of a sleek black town car that whispered up behind me as Libby’s family departed.

“Here’s your ride,” said Abruzzo. “Where are you headed?”

“Main Line,” I said.

The driver of the car got out and proceeded directly to the right rear passenger door, which he opened for me. He waited, unsmiling.

Reed Shakespeare was twenty-two years old, black, studious and with posture as perfect as a Marine drill sergeant’s. He was working his way through school by driving cars for Abruzzo, but heaven forbid he tell anyone exactly what he was studying. The first day we’d met, he told me he would not wear a chauffeur’s cap.

“I’m not driving no Miss Daisy around in a stupid hat,” he’d burst out.

“Nobody’s asking you to, Reed,” I’d replied.

“Just so you know,” he’d said stubbornly.

I wanted to tell him he’d seen too many movies, but Reed was touchy. I was still working on a way to make him smile.

“Hey, Reed,” Abruzzo said, “car running okay?”

“Yes.”

“You know where you’re taking Miss Blackbird now?”

“Yes.”

“Looked at a map just to be sure?”

With an edge of testiness this time, Reed said, “Yes.”

I noted Abruzzo hadn’t had any luck getting the young man to loosen up either.

“Okay, then,” Abruzzo said. He turned to me with a sudden and unabashed wistfulness. “You’ll call if you change your mind about The Lion King, right?”

“Don’t wait by the phone,” I said.

I got into the car and Reed closed the door. Through the window, I saw Reed look at his boss with something akin to pity.

As the evening cooled, Reed drove me to the Main Line. He did not initiate conversation, drive over the speed limit or flip any rude gestures at aggressive drivers. He did make clear that he wasn’t my friend.

In the silence, I took out my pad and pen and wrote up the story about the grand opening of Mick’s Muscle Cars. Usually I worked on a laptop, but in the car I found it was easier to write on paper. Later, I’d type my stories into a computer file and e-mail them to my editor.

When the paragraph was finished, I looked out the window.

Philadelphia’s Main Line has long been the address of many old American families. One magnificent mansion after another housed people I’d known all my life. Families of bankers, corporate leaders, a few play-boys and a lot of inherited fortunes. As the car eased along, I saw that some of the estates showed their age while others had clearly benefited by the surge in the stock market in the late nineties. Those houses had new gutters or sandblasted facades just as their owners sported tummy tucks and dermabrasion.

Rory Pendergast’s home stood on a slight rise, forming the crown of the neighborhood. Pennsylvania fieldstone walls and grounds landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted surrounded a gracious Georgian home that looked like the set for a Katherine Hepburn movie. The intricate wrought iron gates, originally erected to keep out the riffraff, stood open tonight in welcome.

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