MYSTERY NOVELIST JENNIFER MARSH IS BACK CAUGHT IN A MURDER PLOT SHE DIDN'T CREATE!
Jennifer Marsh thinks getting some real investigative experience will be good for her writingand helping private eye Johnny Zeeman track down the birth parents of adopted teenager Diane Robbins seems like a safe place to start.
But when a late-night rendezvous explodes into murder, Jennifer has second thoughts . . . too late. For her presence at the crime scene makes the newsand puts her high on a killer's hit list. Her only escape is to plow headfirst into the deadly mystery of Diane Robbins' true identity . . . and to determine why someone will kill to keep it buried.
About the Author
Judy Fitzwater grew up an Air Force brat and has lived in New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Maine, Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina. She began her writing career freelancing as a columnist, feature writer, and reporter of Superior Court proceedings for a newspaper in rural North Carolina. She made her debut as a novelist with Dying to Get Published, followed by Dying to Get Even. Ms. Fitzwater lives in the Washington, D.C., suburbs with her husband, two daughters, and their Norwich terrier.
Read an Excerpt
Lazy jazz swelled in the background as Jennifer Marsh looped the belt of her tan trench coat and cinched it tightly against her thin waist. She opened a tube of lipstick and rouged her lips. Then she tucked her long, taffy brown hair behind her ears, ran her hand over the crease of the brown fedora, and placed it on her head, tugging it snugly over one arched eyebrow. She raised the collar of her coat, drew on a pair of thin, synthetic calfskin gloves, and winked at her reflection in the dresser mirror.
Murder was about to become her business.
The alley behind the short side of the L-shaped strip of shops and offices on Macon's southern side was dark, dirty, and rank, and Jennifer had just about had it with playing detective. The last ten minutes had held none of the dark, brooding atmosphere of a Philip Marlowe novel nor the cool sophistication of Lawrence Sanders' Archy McNally. She was hot and muggy, she was bored, and she felt gypped.
Crouching behind a stack of cardboard boxes, staring at two delivery men whispering to someone at the back entrance to the East Lake Fertility Clinic was hardly what she'd had in mind when she signed on as Johnny Z's assistant. She didn't even know who the men were or why they would be making deliveries on a Sunday night, and every time she tried to ask Johnny, he'd shushed her. All he told her was they were to pick up some material for a client.
She glanced over at the lean, wiry form hunched behind one of the larger boxes. She'd had great hopes for him. If she squinted just right and looked at him out of the corner of one eye, he bore a remarkable resemblance toHumphrey Bogart. But right now he seemed as bored as she was, cleaning his nails with a large pocketknife.
Then one of the delivery men shouted something and dropped down. His hand went to his back pocket, and a woman screamed. A loud pop echoed down the alley.
Jennifer jerked back. The box she was hiding behind shifted, and Johnny's knife clattered to the pavement. The man turned in their direction.
The next bullet clipped past Jennifer's ear, leaving her temporarily deaf on her right side. Instinctively, she rolled, tumbling painfully into the brick wall of the alley and into shelter behind a Dumpster. She felt the sleeve of her trench coat tear across her aching shoulder.
"Oh my God," she wailed, more a prayer than a curse. "They're shooting at us." She was shaking so badly she could barely pull herself up.
Johnny Z was still hunched behind the boxes, but cardboard offered only psychological protection against bullets, and if he didn't bail quickly . . .
Another bullet tore past, and this one left a dark trail as it skidded across the asphalt. Johnny Z crumpled backward, and Jennifer watched in horror as a dark pool seeped beneath him. He'd better not die on her. She had a few choice words she wanted to say to him first.
She was desperate to escape but knew she couldn't outrun anyone, especially not in her current jellylike state.
She dragged herself up against the Dumpster, found a foothold on the side of the bin and dove, headfirst, into something squishy, and worse, smelly. She'd worry about what disease she'd catch laterif there was a later. She sucked in one great nauseating gulp of air, her heart straining against her rib cage. It would be nice to stop breathing altogether, but last time she checked, it was a requirement for living.
She waded back under the cover, closed her eyes, and prayedprayed for Johnny Z, the third-rate private detective whose lifeblood was staining some grimy alley in Macon, Georgia, and prayed for her overly ambitious and overly stupid self.
What a revolting situation for an unpublished crime writerfictional crime, Jennifer reminded herself. Doing some practical research for her novels had seemed like such a good idea. But did that mean she had to hook up with some guy she found in the phone bookthe last name listed under INVESTIGATORSand the only one willing to let her tag along after him?
They'd find her body in the morning. Riddled with bullets, alongside Johnny Zeeman's. Or suffocated amid a Chinese restaurant's garbage, the victim of noxious fumes. Dead. And she wouldn't even know why.
Poor Sam. He might even be the one to identify her corpse, sent to the scene to cover the story for The Macon Telegraph. He'd take it hard. They were close even if they did share a kind of limbo relationship because of her obsession with becoming a published novelist.
Ever since he'd helped her clear her name in the Penney Richmond murder, they'd been more or less a couple: him being the more, her the less. She had real feelings for him, but she needed time to sort them out. Unfortunately, time was something she might well be fresh out of.
She heard two sets of footsteps running toward her.
"Where'd the other one go?" a man asked.
"Must have run off," a second voice suggested.
"Check the Dumpster."
Jennifer froze. If God was with her, they wouldn't have a flashlight. She heard a foot hit the metal support she'd used to push herself high enough to climb in.
A nearby voice said, "Man, you've got to be kidding. No one would hide in that stinking mess."
Jennifer heard him push off, his shoes hitting the pavement, and she allowed herself to breathe again. Bad idea.
"Come on," the other man called. She listened as the two sets of footsteps hurried back up the alley. An engine started, followed by what sounded like a truck pulling away.
What seemed like an eternity passed. Jennifer opened one eye and then the other. The ringing in her ear had now softened to a dull throb.
They were gone. Maybe they wouldn't come back.
She raised her head and strained to hear. She needed to check on Johnny Z. Her muscles twitching wildly, Jennifer popped her head out of the bin. Ah! Fresh airat least relatively speaking.
The alley was silent. She heard nothing and saw nothing, except for Johnny's body lying a few yards away.
She'd have to chance it. She hoisted herself up onto the lip of the bin, threw one leg over the side, and lowered herself to the ground. She was covered, head to toe, in yuck, her precious brown fedora forever lost. Ducking down, she scurried to Johnny's side.
His eyes were closed, and a small patch of blood discolored the shoulder of his shirt. She bent over him and lightly touched his craggy cheek, a great sob welling in her throat. "Oh, Johnny," she whispered, as though she'd known him much longer than two days. Her tears splashed onto his nose. "I'm so very"
Suddenly, Johnny's eyes popped open. "What the hell is that godawful smell?"
"You're alive!" Jennifer shrieked in good Frankenstein fashion, jerking backward.
"I am now. Whatever you're wearing is a lot more powerful than smelling salts. Are they gone?"
She nodded frantically, as much to reassure herself as him.
Johnny tried to move his arm but stopped, gasping. "There's a cell phone in my inside jacket pocket. Call 911 before I bleed to death."
She groped for the phone, found it, and dropped it.
"Don't break the blasted thing," Johnny chastised.
She peeled off her gloves, which were covered in something resembling duck sauce, scooped up the phone, and made the call with fingers that felt like concrete.
"They'll be here in about five minutes," she assured Johnny.
"Good. How many shots did you count?" he asked.
"That's what I thought. Check it out. See where the first one went."
"Me?" she asked incredulously.
"What? You expect me to get up and leak blood halfway up the alley to see who else went down?"
"I don't know. How bad are you hurt?"
"Do it, Marsh," Johnny ordered.
Well, this was what she'd come for, wasn't it? To find out what it was like to be a real detective.
She shed the coat, folding it neatly inside out, and laid it on the pavement. September in Georgia, even on a cool night, was too hot for it anyway.
Johnny made an impatient motion, and she stood up. "All right, already. I'm going."
Quietly she covered the fifty feet to the back entrance of the clinic, fully aware that she was in the open and there were no handy Dumpsters to provide shelter should the gunmen return.
The door was standing open, light illuminating the narrow, brightly white hallway. She inched forward. Did she really have to do this? She should be home writing, not running around in some dingy alley looking for who knew what. But she couldn't just leave. Someone inside might need help, and, unfortunately, she was the only able-bodied person on the scene. Even if she did get sick at the sight of blood.
She cursed her own cowardice, threw back her shoulders, and plunged forward.
Just inside, she found a woman, sitting in a pool of blood, slumped awkwardly against the wall. Jennifer bent down next to her and gently lifted her chin. Two round eyes stared up at her, wide open. There was a small hole in the woman's neck.
The eyes. Large, beautifully shaped, tilted like almonds and fringed with long lashes. Startling. Arresting. Unnatural. One blue, one brown. Jennifer felt somehow confused. As if she couldn't quite make sense of what she was seeing. As if her own eyes were betraying her.
For a moment she swayed back on her feet. The light in the hallway seemed to grow bright and then to dim. Blue mixed with brown, brown with blue, until she wasn't sure what she saw. Her head became light, and she lost her sense of up and down. She felt like she was falling, then tumbling into the whirlpool of those stone-cold, dead eyes.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dying for the relationship with Sam to go farther!
This book was extremely well done. The characters are diverse and real. The story line a bit too realistic but definitely needs to be told. This would make a terrific tv movie.
Really like this writer and this series. Ms. Fitzwater, please write more! Camille