How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin

“Classy lady like you doesn’t like theater?”

“There’s theater and there’s theater.” And going to New York for a weekend with Abruzzo was definitely theater of the absurd.

“I hear the show’s really good. My nieces thought it was great.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “There’s no way I would spend a weekend with you, Mr. Abruzzo. Any weekend.”

He didn’t seem surprised. But he didn’t threaten to whack my kneecaps either. “Well, if you change your mind, let me know. Did I give you one of my cards?”

I had thrown it away soon after he’d purchased his five acres, which must have been obvious from my expression.

He laughed again and slid a pack of business cards out of his wallet. They were bound together with a rubber band. He removed one card, and I took it without speaking. MICHAEL ABRUZZO. MUSCLE CARS, MOTORCYCLES, LIMOUSINE SERVICE. And in bigger letters, THE DELAWARE FLY-FISHING COMPANY.

I put the card into my bag without taking note of the various phone numbers. A sick and twisted part of my personality wished he could have acted a teensy bit disappointed.

But he was looking across the used car lot. “Who’s the nutcase?”

I looked, too. Libby was arranging people for a photograph.

“That’s my sister Libby,” I said. “She’s protesting your blight on the landscape.”

“My what?”

“She objects to suburban sprawl,” I explained. “She believes you have defaced open land by paving green space when you promised to put the ground to good use.”

“I thought I was giving people jobs, creating economic growth—all that Chamber of Commerce bullshit.”

“That’s one opinion.”

“You agree with her?”

“I’m a journalist now. I’m learning to be objective.” Trying not to sound too hopeful, I said, “You can have protesters arrested for trespassing, I think.”

He didn’t have much enthusiasm for that suggestion. “And who the hell is that?”

The protest grew by one more person when a silver BMW pulled in behind Libby’s minivan, parked, and Ralph Kintswell heaved his bulk from behind the wheel. He left the engine running.

“That’s my brother-in-law, Libby’s husband, Ralph.”

“What, is he going to a costume party?”

“No,” I said. “He’s a Civil War buff.”

Abruzzo laughed again. “The war’s over, buddy.”

Ralph Kintswell, Libby’s second husband, was decked out in his usual formal wear—the dress blue uniform of the Army of the Potomac, complete with white gloves tucked into his sash and a sword slapping his thigh. Except the sash had slipped low on his General Grant-style potbelly. Ralph hitched up the sash and launched himself across the used car lot in Libby’s direction, his hob-nailed boots smartly striking the pavement. The expression on his usually cherubic face was pained.

“He’s a very nice guy,” I said. “He protects Civil War battlefields.”

“With the sword?”

“No,” I snapped. “He’s a banker. He raises money and helps buy battlegrounds before they are developed into—well, into some kind of atrocity.”

“Looks like he’s losing the battle with his cholesterol, though,” Abruzzo observed.

“It’s the wool uniform. It gets very bulky.”

“So what is he doing? Heading for Gettysburg later?”

“He wears the uniform to formal occasions. Instead of a dinner jacket. Like some men wear kilts.”

Abruzzo looked as entertained as a kid standing along a parade route as the bagpipers marched by. “This is a formal occasion?”

“No, no, there’s a party later tonight. He’s probably on his way there.”

“And people say I have an interesting family. You Blackbirds have us beat in spades.”

Usually Libby had my brother-in-law jumping through hoops like a well-trained poodle. He was an amiable, steady guy who obviously loved my sister despite her frivolous temperament and formidable sex drive. But Ralph was the seventh circle of hell at family gatherings. How many times had I endured his incredibly dull retellings of battles fought long ago?

“Hello, Ralph,” I called.

He faltered in his march to Libby and waved meekly. “Hi, Nora. Sorry about this.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I called. “Everybody’s entitled to an opinion.”

He sent me an apologetic smile and continued across the asphalt to his wife.

The Intelligencer photographer had been waiting while Libby carefully posed everyone for the picture, but he started to get cranky when Ralph had to be fitted into the tableau and walked over to me. He looked about thirteen years old, wearing a too-large thrift store sport coat over jeans and a Metallica T-shirt.

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