How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin

“Here we go,” said Emma.

“I didn’t have a choice,” I said. “I had to keep the wolf from the door, so I sold five measly acres.”

“Without consulting your sisters?” Libby demanded, clearly forgetting we were in a public place. “You just went ahead and threw away our family history?”

“Five acres, Libby, that’s all.”

“But once you sell land, you’ll never get it back.” Libby’s eyes had actually begun to fill with tears. Her bosom trembled. “You’ve traded the Blackbird legacy for financial security for yourself.”

“There’s no tax on your inheritance. So what do you know?”

“You can’t destroy a national treasure like Blackbird Farm.”

“National treasure? The barn is falling down, and parts of the house don’t have central heating. I’ve got weeds twelve feet tall! And neither one of you has set foot on the property since Christmas.”

Libby clutched the table to gather strength for an impassioned speech. All our dishes and glasses lurched. “Suburban blight has spread too far already. If we keep destroying open land, we won’t have any left!”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Oh, for godsake, Lib. Another of your causes.”

“It’s a valuable cause! A noble cause! We of all people should be doing something about it. Soon every farm in the nation will be paved for superstores and our children will never see a cow.”

Emma said, “You talk a good line, Libby, but you never actually do anything.”

“Take it easy,” I said to both of them. “Shouting isn’t helping.”

“I am going to do something,” Libby said, wounded but not defeated. “I’m going to stop you.”


“Let her go,” Emma said. “She’ll start a petition, and that’ll be the end of it.”

“It will not.” Libby trembled with anger. “I’m going to stop you from destroying Blackbird Farm, Nora.”

“Oh, good.” Emma stamped out her cigarette. “Someday one of our sisterly lunches will end without one of us walking out in a huff. But not today. The record stands.”

“Yes, it does,” said Libby, spinning around and stalking out of the Rusty Sabre.

“Well,” said Emma, “if you’ve sold land, you can afford to pay for lunch.”

And she left too.

My sisters stopped speaking to me, which didn’t seem so bad.

I should have known at least one of them was plotting.

It hadn’t been easy to part with the family ground. For two hundred years, Blackbird Farm had stood proudly—rich Delaware River bottomland, virgin timber, breeding ground for prizewinning Hereford cattle and some very fine foxhounds, not to mention one of the oldest families on the eastern seaboard.

But in a couple of days, it became a monument to tasteless vulgarity.

A used car lot.

In the presence of two lawyers and a pinky-ringed real estate agent, I had sold the land to Michael “The Mick” Abruzzo, who told me he would put the ground to respectable use. But the infamous despoiler of the New Hope way of life went back on his word faster than my father could spend a dollar. He immediately bulldozed the topsoil, paved it with a quarter mile of asphalt and strung a thousand plastic flags overhead. Then he brought in a dozen jalopies with tail fins, and Mick’s Muscle Cars appeared in all its neon glory.

And I had to attend the grand opening.

Kitty Keough sent me on purpose, of course, to cover the debut of Mick’s Muscle Cars for all of Philadelphia to read about. To twist the knife, she ordered a photographer along to document my humiliation. I walked over from the house, pen and pad in hand.

The first person to arrive on the scene was my sister Libby, rife with protest placards and a gaggle of her own ragamuffin children.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as Libby rounded the hood of her minivan with a hand-lettered cardboard sign over one shoulder and too much estrogen flushing her cheeks.

“What does it look like?”

“Like you’re protesting nuclear proliferation.”

“Something even worse.”

She had exchanged her hippie sexpot look for one of her suburban mom outfits—beige slacks and matching cashmere sweater set—clothes I knew she could transform from appropriate protest duds into something much more formal with a switch of accessories. She had a bandanna in her hair, a touch she had selected to give herself the look of an experienced social activist. She looked around. “Where’s the photographer?”

“Over there, taking pictures of cars. How did you know to come today?”

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