How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin

“It’s the grand opening, right? It’s a free country.”

Behind her, the doors of the minivan burst open, and her four children began to spill out of the vehicle like clowns from a polka-dotted Volkswagen. In their wake came an avalanche of fast-food wrappers and family flotsam, including a large, drooling Labrador named Arlo. The children had been outfitted in tie-dyed T-shirts. Libby put her artist’s eye for visual details to good use.

“Libby, what are you doing?”

“We’re protesting the desecration of open farmland for suburban sprawl. Go ahead, kids.” She pointed. “Set up your picket line over by that hideous yellow car.”

Libby’s four children eddied around her in confusion. Her nose-ringed son, Rawlins, and the Ritalinneedy twelve-year-old twins, Harcourt and Hilton, were the pictures of their father, who’d been a skinny, longhaired vegetarian long before most everyone else. He’d drowned in the Pacific five years ago after falling out of a Zodiac boat in pursuit of whale hunters.

Five-year-old Lucy, blond and blue-eyed, didn’t look anything like Libby’s first husband but instead suspiciously akin to a popular young foot reflexologist who’d lived briefly in New Hope.

Little Lucy clutched her placard in one hand and a naked Barbie doll in the other. She looked up at me with the gap-toothed smile of a kindergartner. “You look pretty, Aunt Nora. Are you going to a party?”

“Thank you, honey. Yes, I am.”

“Anyone we know?” Libby asked tartly.

“It’s not a date. It’s an assignment.”

“Run along, kids,” Libby said. “Just go over by that car and wave your signs while I ask your aunt Nora where this dress came from.”

“The attic,” I told her as the kids scuffled off in a rainbow of tie-dye. “I can’t afford anything new.”

“That’s one of Grandmama Blackbird’s Givenchys.”

“You want to protest my wearing it?”

“No,” she said grudgingly. “It looks good on you. What about the shoes?”

“They’re mine. Last season. I’d have worn my Grateful Dead T-shirt if I’d known you were conducting your campus protest.”

Libby whipped her sign around so I could read it: BAN SUBURBAN BLIGHT!

“Oh, Lib.”

Her posters were beautifully lettered. A painter by training, Libby had taken the time to make each sign lovely with frolicking cows and smiling ducks.

“Embarrassed?” she asked.

“I could use a little sisterly support, please.”

“You’ve traded away our mutual proud heritage for financial reward. On top of that, I morally object to ruining open land for the purpose of commercial development. And today I’m doing something about it.”

“Your first act of protest has to be against me?”

“We could have come up with a creative solution to your tax problem together.”

“Like what, a bake sale? Libby, it’s a two-million-dollar debt!”

She looked huffy. “You know, it wouldn’t be so bad if you hadn’t sold to that—that person! Nora, he’s the ultimate insult.”

“So now we’re getting to the truth.”

“He’s so awful!”

“He paid my price, Libby.”

Libby’s face flushed. “Wake up and smell the marinara, Nora. He’s an Abruzzo with connections all over Jersey and South Philly. He paid your price with dirty money!”

“That is so offensive,” I snapped, finding myself in the awkward position of defending the man. “Do you know how offensive that is? He’s a businessman.”

She waved her sign at the neon lights. “What he’s done to this farm is a crime in itself. Look at this place! Bring in an elephant, and you’d have a circus!”

“He has a perfectly clean record with the Better Business Bureau.”

“He probably bribed them. It’s a shame you didn’t ask a few questions before you got to be his partner.”

“He’s not my partner. I have nothing to do with him.”

“Oh, really?” Libby asked archly. “That’s not what I hear.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Why don’t we ask him ourselves?” she said. “Here he comes.”

I had hoped things couldn’t get any worse. But I followed the direction of Libby’s glare and saw a large male figure ambling towards us from the direction of the river. The setting sun cast a glint on his fishing rod. It could have been a grown-up Huck Finn coming home from his favorite fishing hole, but only if Huck had turned into an ominous, hulking bruiser with a face that originated in the Brando gene pool and the kind of dark curly hair that is only kept under control by a pair of sturdy scissors or the fingers of an attentive woman.

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