Read A Motive For Murder Online

Authors: Katy Munger

Tags: #new york city, #humorous, #cozy, #murder she wrote, #funny mystery, #traditional mystery, #katy munger, #gallagher gray, #charlotte mcleod, #auntie lil, #ts hubbert, #hubbert and lil, #katy munger pen name, #ballet mysteries

A Motive For Murder

BOOK: A Motive For Murder
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A Motive
f
or Murder

 

By Katy Munger

(writing as Gallagher Gray)

A Hubbert & Lil
Mystery
 

 

Copyright © 2011 by Katy Munger

 

Smashwords Edition Published by Thalia
Press

This novel is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead,
is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author
or publisher.

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

CHAPTER ONE

The phone rang just as the New York Giants neared the
end of a hard-won ninety-two-yard march. It was third down and goal
to go at the Redskins’ three-yard line. The crowd was roaring with
enthusiasm. T.S. wasn’t quite sure what all the excitement was
about because this was the first football game he had ever watched.
But the announcer sounded like he was being strangled, so T.S. was
pretty sure that the Giants were doing well. He leaned closer to
the television, hoping to decipher why the quarterback kept
shouting numbers at his teammates and what that information might
mean. Perhaps he was identifying the jersey numbers of opposing
players that should be hit on the next play. In the background,
T.S. noted the mechanical click of his answering machine as it
picked up the call.

“Theodore! Are you rotting your brain again?” Auntie
Lil’s voice cut through his apartment, rising easily above the
televised noise. In fact, it nearly shook the answering machine off
the desk. Brenda and Eddie shifted in their feline sleep, no doubt
dreaming of the booming loudspeakers at the ASPCA, where T.S. had
brought them for neutering.

T.S. ignored Auntie Lil with a vengeance. She was the
reason why he was sitting in front of the idiot box in the first
place, desperately clutching a can of beer in one hand and the
remote control in the other. He had never in his life watched a
football game or swigged beer straight from the can. But he had,
that very morning, felt an overwhelming desire to touch base with
the untapped resources of his middle-class, middle-aged soul by
joining America in watching football. And it was all Auntie Lil’s
fault.

Any man would have crumbled. For the past few weeks,
without respite, she had dragged him to one avant-garde dance
performance after another. Last night had been the proverbial last
straw. He had given up his favorite true-crime television show to
accompany her to a premiere at the Joyce Dance Theater. There,
surrounded by women who looked like men and men who dressed like
women, T.S. had endured two hours of thumping atonal music and the
unappetizing sight of twelve dancers—clad only in boxer shorts and
black combat boots—stomping about a set that resembled a mental
asylum for dangerous prisoners. Muscular men and women shrieked at
each other, threw themselves against the fake brick walls that
lined the stage, rattled plastic bars like actors in a bad B movie,
and did no dancing at all that T.S. could discern. By the end of
this night, his head was pounding and he never wanted to see
another energetic movement in his life. He’d rather move into a
retirement community for overweight couch potatoes first.

The worst was yet to come. Last night, he dreamed he
was incarcerated on Riker’s Island with a pink-tutued Hell’s Angel
devotee for a cellmate. This hulking vision kept demonstrating a
series of intricate ballet steps over and over while threatening to
beat T.S. if he did not memorize the sequence perfectly. T.S. woke
in a sweat and declared a moratorium on dance. He then dashed out
to the corner deli and surprised the clerk by requesting a
six-pack of Rolling Rock beer instead of his usual roll of chewable
antacids. Surely a few sessions watching sports and swigging beer
would restore him to normalcy.

Unfortunately, the choreography on the field made no
more sense to him than what he’d seen the night before. A player
had broken through the human wall before him on the last play and
was now prancing around the end of the field, wiggling his butt at
his opponents while waving the ball at a riotous crowd. If you put
him center stage at the Joyce Dance Theater, he’d get a standing
ovation.

 “Theodore, I know you hated last night’s
performance,” Auntie Lil announced over his phone machine. And I
also know you hold me personally responsible. But you simply must
pick up. This is a matter of life and death.” She paused
dramatically.
“I am talking about
the ballet!”

The field was in turmoil. The players were piled in a
jumbled heap on top of a Giant who had tried to kick the ball. The
two men in striped shirts were blowing their whistles wildly.
Reluctantly, T.S. took his eyes from the screen and stared at the
telephone. The ballet? Then he remembered: Auntie Lil had mentioned
a board meeting for the Metropolitan Ballet today.

The Metro Ballet was a fixture of life in New York
City and one of the few charitable projects undertaken by Auntie
Lil that T.S. endorsed. Ever since she had inherited a great deal
of money, his obstinate but beloved aunt had suffered from an acute
case of dance fever. She had endowed scholarships to budding
Isadora Duncan reincarnations all over the United States. But she
had also rescued the ailing Metro Ballet, effusing it with enough
money to finish last year’s season and, quite literally, saving a
dozen or more careers. She had been rewarded with a coveted seat on
the board of directors, thanks, in part, to the influence of their
mutual friend, the wealthy and well-bred Lilah Cheswick.

The thought of Lilah made T.S. forget about football.
His heart skipped a beat as he pictured the silver-haired object of
his self-conscious attention. She would be at the Metro’s board
meeting. His hand inched toward the phone.

“If you don’t pick up, I will inform Lilah that you
are deliberately ignoring me,” Auntie Lil announced with uncanny
accuracy. “Despite the fact that I am your closest living
relative.”

She was merciless.

She was also capable of carrying out her threat.

“What is it?” T.S. demanded, trying to sound busy.
“You’ve called at a bad time. The Giants are only minutes away from
scoring the winning basket.”

 “Impossible,” she retorted. “Giants are
football. Football players make touchdowns. This is more
important.”

“What is it?” he asked warily.

“You must call Margo McGregor immediately and get her
down to Lincoln Center. There is a disaster in the making,
Theodore.”

“What kind of disaster?” he asked faintly, knowing
that, somehow, Auntie Lil was involved. Disaster was her maiden
name and Chaos was her middle.

“That pompous Lane Rogers and her weaselly cohorts
are trying to vote Fatima Jones out of
The Nutcracker,”
Auntie Lil said, enraged. “Theodore, that Rogers woman is wearing a
Chanel suit two sizes too small. It’s a travesty.”

T.S. was not interested in this fashion faux pas.
“What?” he asked. “Get rid of Fatima? They can’t do that.” Fatima
Jones was a young ballerina who had emerged from the hopeful ranks
of Auntie Lil’s inner-city scholarship program as a potential
star.

“They can and they
will
if we don’t stop them.
Hurry.” Auntie Lil hung up without saying good-bye, a move T.S.
anticipated. With satisfaction, he beat her to the punch.

Football game forgotten, T.S. set to work dialing the
offices of
New York Newsday,
beginning a long search for the
whereabouts of their columnist Margo McGregor. Auntie Lil was
right. It was a disaster. Maybe Margo could help.

 

 

 “We have no business interfering in artistic
decisions,” Auntie Lil said crisply. “That should be left to the
artistic director.” She folded her hands in front of her, a
difficult move to pull off since they clenched into fists every
time she looked at board chairman Lane Rogers. Lane was an
unpleasant, hulking woman who invariably dressed in shades of plum
and brown.

“It is our responsibility to protect the ballet,”
Lane countered piously. “We have a fiscal duty to make difficult
decisions such as this.” Her voice was peppered with dropped r’s to
emulate a New England accent, one of her many affectations. The
truth of the matter was that Lane Rogers was really Lani Kaufman
from Yonkers—and Auntie Lil knew it because she had worked with
four of Lane’s uncles years ago in the garment industry.

The Kaufman brothers had been the finest cutting team
on Seventh Avenue. All four had followed their niece’s social
journey to Manhattan’s Upper East Side—via a name change and Seven
Sisters school—with merciless and scornful enthusiasm. “Sol’s
shiksa-in-training,” they called her, referring to their deceased
brother Solomon, who had worked himself to death selling
pocketbooks to put his beloved daughter through the college of her
choice. Hiram Kaufman, the only brother left alive, still called
Auntie Lil every year on the first day of the spring season to
cluck over the year’s collections and to catch up on family gossip.
Not only did Auntie Lil know that Lane Rogers had spent two weeks
every summer for the last twenty years at a fat farm desperately
sweating off excess poundage, she also knew Lane had been one of
the first women in New York City to sign up for liposuction and
that the entry sutures had gotten hideously infected. It gave
Auntie Lil satisfaction to hoard these details and never repeat
them. But Lane still sensed that Auntie Lil knew she was a
phony—and she hated Auntie Lil for it

“It’s our duty,” echoed Ruth Beretsky when Lane
concluded her fiscal responsibility spiel. Ruth was a mousy board
member who quivered fearfully whenever she spoke, as if an
invisible stun gun were hovering about her body at all times. Or
perhaps she lived in fear that Lane Rogers would start beating her
about the arms and legs without warning. Auntie Lil would not have
been surprised to see this occur. Scrawny Ruth was the perfect
sidekick to Lane’s hulking presence. The omnipresent cloth bow that
bloomed at the base of her turkeylike neck made her an even more
obsequious target for Lane’s constant bullying authority. Why they
were friends, Auntie Lil could not fathom, but she didn’t
understand a lot of other things either, particularly the current
fad for body piercing. Surely all those rings became snagged on
one’s clothing and jewelry? She’d tried to ask a young man about it
down on St. Mark’s Place just the week before, but he had walked
right past as if he didn’t hear her. When you were eighty-four
years old, this happened a lot. But not usually to Auntie Lil.

“I fail to see how removing the most talented
ballerina to come along in two decades will help our box-office
receipts,” Lilah Cheswick pointed out. “Fatima Jones has natural
talent, flawless timing, and a classic frame.” Lilah was the
wealthy widow of a former Wall Street wizard and no slouch herself
when it came to business matters. She had informally inherited a
dozen seats on corporate and charitable boards when her husband
died unexpectedly—and proved to be a far more capable and creative
director than he had ever been.

“She is certainly talented,” Artistic Director Raoul
Martinez agreed in his dramatic basso. “And I must concur that it
is inappropriate for the board to interfere with my artistic
vision. After all, auditions have been held, the students expect
the results to be released tomorrow, and we are competing with two
other versions of
The Nutcracker
for the holiday crowds. I
must be allowed to take chances, to paint new vistas—”

“There he goes again,” Lane Rogers interrupted,
rolling her protuberant eyes. “Mr. Artistic Vision himself.”

The coterie of prominent wives who rounded out the
board twittered dutifully at this witticism. They were so uniformly
small and delicate that they reminded Auntie Lil of a flock of
terns whenever they made noise.

“Let me tell you what we should do,” board member
Hans Glick interrupted in his clipped Swiss accent. A collective
groan rose as the assembled group hunkered down for another lecture
by Glick. Not a proposal was set forth, not a document typed, not a
luncheon served, and not a ballet presented that Hans Glick could
not improve on with his wisdom. He was pigheaded, long-winded,
indecisive, occasionally right, and—most important of all—president
of the Metro Ballet’s largest corporate sponsor, Swiss
International United. “We should lay out the pros and cons of what
we are facing and then our decision will be easy. I will show
you.”

BOOK: A Motive For Murder
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