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«Dial Me for Murder», Amanda Matetsky

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A Paige Turner Mystery #5, 2008

For the readers who’ve stuck with me from the first Paige to the last

 

Acknowledgments

I am infinitely grateful for the support (and tolerance) of my family and friends-especially Harry Matetsky [?], Molly Murrah, Liza, Tim, Tara, and Kate Clancy, Ira Matetsky, Matthew Greitzer, Rae and Joel Frank, Sylvia Cohen, Mary Lou and Dick Clancy, Susan Frank, Ann Waldron, Nelson DeMille, Dianne Francis, Art Scott, Betsy Thornton, Santa and Tom De Haven, Nikki and Bert Miller, Herta Puleo, Esther and Harold Schoenhorn, Marte Cameron, Sandra Thompson and Chris Sherman, Cameron Joy, Donna and Michael Steinhorn, Stephanie and Burt Klein, Lois and Eric Rosenthal, Mark Voger, Gayle Rawlings and Debbie Marshall, Judy Capriglione, Martha Cevasco, Judy Dini, Betty Fitzsimmons, Nancy Francese, Jane Gudapati, Carleen Kierce, April Margolin, Doris Schweitzer, Carol Smith, Roberta Waugh, and her right-hand man, St. Joe.

The Lovely/Lively Literacy Ladies-Julia Berkowitz, Anne DuPrey, Carole Edwards, Demetria Muldaur, and Marilyn Tinter-are the most literate (and amusing) friends a writer could ask for. And my co-agents, Annelise Robey and Meg Ruley of the Jane Rotrosen Agency, and my new editor at Berkley, Kate Seaver, are the skillful, cheerful (and patient!) ones who make it all happen. Many thanks to one and all.

Prologue

LIFE IS JUST A DREAM, THEY SAY, BUT LATELY mine has been more like a nightmare. Shocking, sweaty, and horrifying-filled with visions and demons so ugly and evil they’d cause even the bravest soul to wake up screaming. You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me assure you I’m not. I’ve experienced things in the past few days no woman should ever have to endure… or even know about.

But don’t worry-I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

That is, after all, what I do. For a living, I mean. I tell stories. True stories. And unfortunately for me (and most of the other pitiful, or in some cases abominable, characters you’ll soon meet if you keep on reading), the tale I’m about to tell is as factual as it is frightful.

But first, a few facts about me…

(Sorry, but I have to give you some background information, you know! I need to explain a few things about my peculiar life-and some of the peculiar people who populate my peculiar life-so that you can understand how I got caught up in the aforementioned nightmare, and why I’m compelled to tell you all about it now. Please bear with me. The following introductory details will lay the groundwork for the disturbing story to come, and help you separate the good guys from the bad guys… well, sort of, anyway.)

My name is Paige Turner (no laughing or groaning or rolling eyes, please!), and I’m an investigative reporter for a popular true crime magazine, Daring Detective. At this particular point in time-Wednesday, October 19, 1955-I’m the only female crime reporter in all of Manhattan… probably even the whole country. And you can take it from me, that’s a darn scary place for a woman to be (even when she’s not in the process of probing into and writing about the most abhorrent murder scandal she’s ever encountered in her short but stressful career).

I’m not complaining, mind you. I really love my job. I’ve wanted to be a crime and mystery writer since the age of fourteen, when I discovered that reading Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout was a lot more fun than studying Shakespeare. And now, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, I’m really proud that I’ve finally broken through the gender barrier to become a Daring Detective staff writer, and that I’ve managed to develop and expand a couple of my true DD stories into twenty-five-cent paperback novels (like the one you’re reading now).

It hasn’t been easy, though. And as hard as it was for me to break into the “manly” world of crime periodicals and paper-backs, that’s how tough it’s been to maintain my position.

Did I say tough? Ha! That’s an understatement if ever I wrote one. Being the only woman on the six-member staff of a testosterone-driven magazine like Daring Detective is downright treacherous. Except for Lenny Zimmerman-the skinny, smart, bespectacled art assistant who’s my only friend in the office-all of my male coworkers would like nothing better than to see me stripped naked, tarred and feathered, and run out of the publishing business on a rail. They simply can’t handle having a determined, ambitious, and reasonably attractive young woman running alongside (and in some cases ahead) of them in the nine-to-five rat race. It threatens their supremacy and makes them turn beastly.

Brandon Pomeroy-the tall, dark, and somewhat handsome editorial director of the magazine-is the most beastly one of all. Not in a brash, masculine, animalistic kind of way (I could deal with that), but in a cold, slithery, reptilian way that makes your skin crawl. If Brandon Pomeroy-or Mister Pomeroy, as he insists on being called, even though he’s only six years older than me-ever had a soft, warm, friendly feeling for any female in his life, I’d eat my favorite hat (and those of you who know me know I wouldn’t part with my beloved red beret without a fight).

Pomeroy comes from a very rich and powerful family. In fact, his older second cousin is none other than Oliver Rice Harrington-the superwealthy publishing mogul who owns half the country’s newspapers and magazines, Daring Detective included. That’s the only way Pomeroy ever landed his job at DD, you should know-by being born into the right family. He certainly isn’t qualified to be an editorial director! Not unless acting like an effete snob, drinking gin for breakfast, and snoozing at one’s desk are the main requirements for that lofty position.

Fortunately for the lowlier members of the staff (of which, by virtue of being female, I am the lowliest), Pomeroy isn’t DD’s first in command. That distinction belongs to Harvey Crockett, the big-bellied, white-haired, cigar-chewing ex-newspaperman who’s been editor in chief since the magazine’s inception. Crockett is gruff, grouchy, and impatient-a lifelong bachelor and proud of it. The only reason he ever brought a woman (i.e., me) onto the staff was to make and serve the coffee. (All the typing, filing, phone-answering, letter-taking, news-clipping, invoicing, and proofreading chores were, I’m convinced, an afterthought.) And the only reason I was ever assigned to write any stories for the magazine was because the exclusive, in-depth, first-person reports I investigated in secret and wrote on my own time-and finally prevailed upon Crockett to publish- increased DD sales by more than 30 percent.

So, guess what. I’m being “allowed” to write lots of DD stories now.

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