How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin

“And Kitty?” Emma propped her elbows on the table, ready to dish. “I bet she was delighted to see you sashay into her territory.”

“She hasn’t exactly rolled out the red carpet,” I admitted.

“It’s your name,” Libby declared. “The Blackbirds are everything Kitty Keough is not. She’s going to make your life miserable.”

“And the fact that Rory hired you himself,” Emma added with a grin. “That ticked her off big time, didn’t it? She hates anybody being more connected than she is.”

To be accepted in New York, goes the saying, all you need is money. Lots of money. But here in Philadelphia, it’s who you are that counts.

The Blackbirds, a family as old as the city itself, counted.

Kitty Keough did not.

“She seems a little upset about our relationship with Rory,” I agreed. “She’s sending me to some ... unusual places. Just to teach me the ropes, I’m sure.”

“To teach you a lesson,” Emma said. “She wants you under her thumb from the get-go.”

“Maybe Rory is easing Kitty out.” Libby dropped her voice to keep such speculation a secret from the women at the next table. “Maybe they’re grooming you to take over. She’s been writing the society column for a hundred years.”

Emma nodded. “Rory’s got you in the bull pen.”

“She has no intention of leaving,” I said quickly. “If she thought I was trying to replace her—”

“You’d be dead meat,” Emma finished for me.

Kitty Keough’s work seemed silly to people outside our world, yes, but if you wanted to raise a million dollars for cancer research by holding a black-tie ball, you needed Kitty to sell tickets beforehand and pat the big donors on the back afterwards. If you wanted to heighten the public profile of your company, you sent Kitty an invitation to a party where you gave a dozen computers to an underprivileged youth club. You let her photograph your wife in a ball gown to get a mention for your law firm, investment bank or plastic surgery practice. You needed Kitty’s help to build a hospital, save an old theater or feed the homeless.

But for a woman who pretended her father never worked in a steel mill, the climb onto the dais at the mayor’s inaugural ball had been a long one. So Kitty relished every minute of fawning, every box of chocolates sent by handsome CEOs, every engraved invitation hand delivered by a personal assistant of society leaders. She dressed like a movie star and splashed her weekly page of newsprint with wit and venom as well as niceties. And readers ate it up. She used her column to slap down social climbers who didn’t pay her proper deference. She complained when seated at a bad table or if paired with a dull dinner companion. Her paragraphs gushed with favorite names and high praise for anyone who played the game her way, but sharp put-downs became her best-known comments.

“Lacey Chenoweth’s garden looks a little less posh this year,” Kitty wrote after one hostess failed to pay her respect. “Maybe the lovely Mrs. C. is letting her lace slip elsewhere this spring.”

My sisters absorbed the fact that I now worked for the most feared woman in our social circle.

Emma said, “Well, don’t drink from the office watercooler.”

“And,” added Libby, “don’t get pushed down any elevator shafts.”

“You’re way off base,” I said. “It’s going to work out fine. My more pressing problem is the tax bill.”

I sipped my wine and braced myself to deliver the news I’d really come to tell them. Admitting I’d taken a job as a society columnist had been my smoke screen. My sisters weren’t going to take the other news so quietly.

“I’m not going to jail,” I said succinctly. “Not because Mama and Daddy didn’t pay their taxes.”

Both Libby and Emma looked at me with their full attention.

I gathered my courage and said, “This job will help me make payments on the tax bill, but first I have to reduce the debt. So I’ve sold a few ancestral acres.”

I had assumed the Rusty Sabre restaurant was civilized enough that my sisters wouldn’t scream bloody murder when I broke the bad tidings. At least I’d hoped they wouldn’t.

“You’re selling the farm,” Emma repeated, as if she couldn’t believe her ears.

“No. Just five acres.”

“You’re selling five acres without discussing it with us.”

“It’s already sold.”

Libby dropped her fork, splashing raspberry vinaigrette. “You can’t do that. It’s been Blackbird land for two hundred years.” She put her face in her hands. “Oh, my God.”

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