Read 3 Malled to Death Online

Authors: Laura Disilverio

Tags: #mystery

3 Malled to Death

Praise for
All Sales Fatal

“Readers will love the main character’s charm and wit and the many twists and turns of the plot.”


Debbie’s Book Bag

“An entertaining read, and I look forward to the next installment in the series.”


Cozy Crimes

“Well plotted with interesting, likable characters,
All Sales Fatal
is a nice balance between cozy amateur sleuth and police procedural.”


The Mystery Reader

“Fun, well-paced mystery that keeps readers guessing.”


Fresh Fiction

“An enjoyable investigative tale starring a dedicated heroine. In some ways Grandpa Atherton steals the show of this fast-paced whodunit as he and his granddaughter team up as mall sleuths.”


Genre Go Round Reviews

Praise for
Die Buying

“[A] wonderful start to a new series with likable characters, lots of humor, and a swift-moving story that will grab anyone who has ever stepped foot in a mall . . . I’m adding
Die Buying
to my cozy favorites for the year—even though I hate to shop.”

—AnnArbor.com

“One hell of a great novel! This novel will crack you up with DiSilverio’s humor and razor’s-edge wit. A great book to curl up with over the weekend. You won’t be able to put it down.”


Suspense Magazine

“DiSilverio has a hit on her hands with this debut series . . . Charming, fun, and refreshing.”


Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Laura DiSilverio has come up with a unique hook whereby she reels in her readers . . . I’m eager to read the next installment in this offbeat series.”


Mystery Scene

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Laura DiSilverio

DIE BUYING

ALL SALES FATAL

MALLED TO DEATH

Malled to Death

Laura DiSilverio

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

USA / Canada / UK / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand / India / South Africa / China

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.

MALLED TO DEATH

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by Laura DiSilverio.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-62151-6

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / April 2013

 

Cover illustration by Ben Perini.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

For Amy Sagendorf—
new friend, true friend.

Contents

Praise

Also by Laura DiSilverio

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

 

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Thirty-one

Thirty-two

Thirty-three

Thirty-four

One

• • • 

Anya Vale clutched
the world’s ugliest dog to her chest and let loose with the scream that paid her bills.

I winced. Normally, a scream like that would have me Segwaying at top speed toward its source, riding to the rescue, as it were. However, I knew Ms. Vale wasn’t being raped or mugged, that she hadn’t had her purse stolen, or tripped over a python near the food court fountain. Agatha, the fifteen-foot python, was safely ensconced in her enclosure at the Herpetology Hut, as far as I knew. No, Ms. Vale wasn’t upset about reptiles, or a bad haircut from the mall’s salon, or even the total on her black American Express card. She—

Anya Vale screamed again, this time ending with a sob.

“That’s impressive,” Joel whispered, his South Carolina accent tickling my ear. “Do you think it hurts her throat?”

It certainly hurt my ears, but I didn’t tell Joel Rooney that. At twenty-three, he was the youngest of Fernglen Galleria’s security force members, and probably the nicest. Before I could answer, another voice broke in.

“Cut!” the director yelled. “Not so shrill next time, hm?” he said to Anya.

She whirled on him, inky hair flying, all pouty lips, uptilted nose, enhanced boobs, and “I’m an A-list star” attitude. “It’s the dry air in this mall, Van. It’s killing my allergies. You’ve got to do something about it.” She flounced off the set, the Chinese crested dog tucked under her arm looking back at me and Joel. The wispy hair atop its pointy head flopped with every step Anya Vale took.

“C’mon,” I urged Joel as the movie people started milling about, doing whatever it is they do. Cameras and cables and huge lights cluttered the corridor, and people scurried here and there, adjusting boom mikes, checking the lighting, and touching up makeup. Enough uniformed police officers mingled with the grips and gaffers that the uninitiated might think the mall had better security than Fort Knox. I knew better: the “cops” were extras in
Mafia Mistress
. We left the theater wing and headed toward the elevator that would take us upstairs to the security office. A long table laden with pastries, water, and fruit partially blocked access to the main hall and Joel filched a cream cheese Danish as we passed.

“What does she think that Van guy can do about the air?” Joel asked around a mouthful of flaky pastry. He kept pace with me on the Segway, the two-wheeled electric vehicle I usually rode when patrolling the mall. The leg injuries inflicted on me by an IED when I was a military cop in Afghanistan kept me from walking the miles of mall corridors and parking lot on foot.

“She probably expects him to get a humidifier installed,” I said.

My tone must have been snarkier than I intended because Joel gave me an uncertain look. “Don’t you think it’s fun that they’re filming the movie here, EJ?”

No, I most certainly didn’t think it was “fun” that my father, one of the top two or three action stars in Hollywood, had insisted on his newest cop thriller being filmed at Fernglen Galleria. He’d done it thinking that exposure to the glamour of the moviemaking world would convince me to hang up my mall cop uniform and join him at his production company, doing whatever producers did. I’m not sure anyone in Hollywood could supply a job description for a producer, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t want to be one even if it involved eating chocolate truffles for breakfast and lunching with Daniel Craig every day. My heart was in policing, and even though I’d been having trouble getting hired by a police department because of my partial disability, I wasn’t going to sell out and return to L.A. where I’d grown up, and where the first prerequisite for being successful was having your brains sucked out. Or maybe that was second, after you got your boobs augmented. I never could remember.

“It makes it harder for us to do our job,” I finally told Joel.

“Yeah, but look how many customers it’s brought in,” he said, gesturing to the unusually large crowd of shoppers present before noon on a Monday.

“Quigley’s probably happier than a teenager with a cure for zits,” I agreed. Nothing made the mall’s operations manager, Curtis Quigley, happier than a mall full of shoppers. I’d once seen him outside on Black Friday, reveling in the full-to-capacity parking lot with cars circling, looking for a slot. He’d agreed to the film company using Fernglen because he hoped their presence would bring in crowds of people eager to gawk at Anya Vale or Ethan Jarrett. Once in the mall, he was convinced, they’d succumb to the lure of a new phone from RadioShack, or a cute terrier from the pet shop, or a mist-producing table fountain from Merlin’s Cave.

“Speak of the devil,” Joel muttered as we rounded the corner into the side hall where the mall’s offices were safely hidden from public view. Curtis Quigley came toward us with that “I’m holding a quarter between my cheeks” walk that Joel could imitate to hilarious effect. Curtis had light brown hair swept off his high forehead and pomaded in place, a narrow face, and a nervous manner. He affected a faint British accent and suits—frequently referring to his tailor on Savile Row—and had a different set of cuff links for every day of the week.

“EJ,” Curtis said. “I’ve been looking for you. Do you think Ethan”—he preened slightly, clearly flattered that my dad had asked him to call him by his first name—“would be willing to pose for a photo with some of the Figley and Boon higher-ups? And me,” he added.

Figley and Boon, Incorporated, otherwise known as FBI, owned Fernglen Galleria and other malls around the country. “No clue,” I said between gritted teeth. “You’ll have to ask his publicist.” This was the movie company’s first day at Fernglen and my dad was already driving me crazy, even though he wasn’t even here yet, as far as I knew. I pushed through the glass doors fronting the security office before Quigley could say anything more about Ethan.

A small, windowless room, the security office is dominated by the banks of monitors that display data from the security cameras, only about one-third of which actually work. Quigley and the former director of security, Captain Woskowicz, thought the cameras themselves were enough of a deterrent to shoplifters and vandals and didn’t see the need to pay for more connectivity. The monitor screens were divided into quarters and someone got the job of watching the screens and serving as dispatcher each day. A couple of battered metal desks and filing cabinets made up the rest of the front office’s decor. It smelled of coffee with an underlying hint of mildew from last week’s plumbing leak (from a sink, thank heaven) in the bathroom next door. The boss’s office was down a short hall, across from a storage room, and it wasn’t mine, despite the fact that I’d interviewed for the job when Captain Woskowicz got murdered.

The new director of security emerged from the office as I settled into my chair. If the FBI hiring board had set out to find the anti-Woskowicz, they couldn’t have done a better job. Dennis Woskowicz had been well over six feet tall, bald, and steroid-bulky with years of security experience of one kind or another. He’d also been surly, sexist, and a crook. Coco MacMillan was a twenty-something wannabe fashion designer who’d lucked into this job because her uncle chaired FBI’s board of directors. A bubbly redhead, she’d undoubtedly been a high school cheerleader before getting her degree at some fashion institute and promptly joining the ranks of the degreed but unemployed. What she knew about security work would fit on one of Quigley’s cuff links with room left over. She’d been on board a week and had spent most of that time designing new uniforms for the security staff.

If I come across as slightly bitter, it’s because I am. With my time as an air force cop and the year-plus I’d spent at Fernglen, not to mention the leadership training and security seminars the military had sent me to, I had more knowledge about running a security force in my left pinkie than Coco MacMillan had in her entire designer-suited body. I tapped harder than necessary on the keyboard, trying to avoid interacting with my new boss. It didn’t work.

“EJ and Joel,” she greeted us with a wide smile that showed her dimples. “Come see what I’ve come up with.”

Careful not to glance at Joel, who I knew would be rolling his eyes at having to admire yet another potential uniform design, I rose and followed her into her office. She’d shoved Woskowicz’s heavy desk to one side and set a drafting table in its place. Vintage fashion posters covered the walls and a mannequin stood front and center, decked in dark red slacks and a ruffled white shirt—one of Coco’s prototype uniforms. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you had wandered into the headquarters of Diane von Fürstenberg or Gucci. Coco rushed to the high table and flung aside the top sheet. “Ta-da!”

I looked at the design and bit the inside of my cheek.

“Is that a hat?” Joel asked incredulously, stabbing at the pillbox-type hat secured under the chin with an elastic band. Wearing it would make us look like bellhops or an organ grinder’s monkey.

“Absolutely!” Coco beamed. “Isn’t it the cutest?”

I was partial to our black Smokey Bear hats and said so. They went nicely with our simple black uniform slacks and white shirts.

“But they’re so yesterday,” Coco said, “and they look too military. We want our security officers to look approachable and fashionable.”

“How about competent and professional?” I suggested.

She wrinkled her little nose and giggled. “Oh, EJ, you are
too
funny.”

Who was being funny? “You should show it to Mr. Quigley and get his opinion,” I suggested. I hoped that if she bothered Quigley with a fashion drawing, he’d toss her out of his office and maybe fire her for wasting her time on sketches when she should be doing security work. Coco shooed us out so she could get on with her designing, and Joel and I straggled back to the front office.

“I’ll quit if she tries to make me wear a hat like that,” Joel muttered. “I’ve picked up lots of new clients. It might be time to see if I can make a go of my business.”

Joel was a dog lover who had recently launched a dog training business, patronized mostly by his parents’ friends.

“You can’t quit over a hat,” I said. “Not in this economy.”

“I wouldn’t quit over just any hat,” he said, “but I would over that one.”

I had to admit that the tiny pillbox hat perched on Joel’s head of brown curls would look pretty awful, especially since he was a big guy, still twenty-five pounds overweight despite his recent attempts at diet and exercise.

“Who’s quitting?” The jovial voice came from just inside the glass doors, and I looked over to see Ethan Jarrett standing there oozing charisma. I’d probably need to spot clean the carpet when he left. He looked no more than forty, despite being fifteen years older, and had good genes, a discreet plastic surgeon, and a great spray tan to thank. I had to admit he looked fit and handsome in the dark blue police uniform that was his costume for the movie.

“No one, Ethan,” I told my dad.

He’d long ago insisted that Clint and I call him Ethan; “Dad” was too aging if your kids were over twelve, he maintained. I was grateful for that now, since it made it easier to hide the fact that he was my father. Only a handful of my co-workers knew we were related, as my name was Emma-Joy Ferris and he went by his first and middle names: Ethan Jarrett. When he’d first brought up the idea of filming his new movie at Fernglen, I’d insisted—okay, pleaded—that he not let on to any of the movie crew that I was his daughter. He’d been happy to comply, mostly because I looked my age—thirty-one—and even the most math-challenged fan could figure out that Ethan must be more than forty if he had a daughter as old as I was.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Now, EJ, is that any way to welcome your fa—”

I shot him a look.

He waved it away. “Joel knows. I don’t know why
you
want to hide our relationship, anyway.”

Joel grinned. “How are you, Mr. Jarrett? I think it’s way cool that you’re filming
Mafia Mistress
here.”

“How many times do I have to tell you it’s ‘Ethan’?” my dad asked, striding forward to shake hands with Joel. “I’m glad someone”—he gave me a look—“is pleased to have the movie company here.”

“Lots of people are pleased,” I said, unperturbed. “Curtis Quigley is probably your biggest fan.” Before he could say more, I added, “But you can’t pop into the security office on a daily basis, Ethan. People will suspect something.” I had to admit it had amused me the time a reporter for a tabloid spotted us lunching and published the “news” of our affair, complete with grainy photo, but I didn’t need that kind of gossip floating around my workplace. My father hadn’t sued the paper, knowing that most fans were happier thinking their idol was cheating on his wife than knowing he had adult children. “Stars of your caliber don’t trot around to the security office to ask questions, they send a minion.”

“I’m fresh out of minions,” Ethan said, flashing the smile that had landed him the title of World’s Sexiest Man more often than Brad Pitt or George Clooney. “Delia quit to get married.”

“I heard. I sent her and Rocco a present. Mom will find you a new assistant soon.” Mom was in charge of hiring most of Ethan’s staff because he was apt to overlook checking references and credentials if he liked someone. Mom had started doing the interviewing and hiring after an assistant some twenty years back stole over a hundred thousand dollars from them. “In the meantime, I’m sure—”

High heels click-clacked behind me and the sound of something dropping preceded, “Ethan Jarrett! Ohmigod, ohmigod.”

We turned to see Coco standing at the threshold where the main office meets the hall, surrounded by a litter of art pencils and pads, hands clapped to her cheeks. Her eyes opened wide. “Oh! I grew up watching you in
Roll Call
. I can’t believe—”

Ethan stooped to pick up one of the pencils that had rolled to a stop against his shoe. I was too used to this sort of reaction to let it faze me, so I said, “Mr. Jarrett, this is Coco MacMillan, our director of security. Ms. MacMillan, Mr. Jarrett stopped by because . . .” I trailed off on purpose. He was the actor—let him come up with a plausible reason for his presence.

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