Read Silenced by the Yams (A Barbara Marr Murder Mystery #3) Online
Authors: Karen Cantwell
Silenced by the Yams
A Barbara Marr Murder Mystery
by Karen Cantwell
Copyright © 2012 by Karen Fraunfelder Cantwell
Soccer mom, Barbara Marr attracts trouble the way the North Pole attracts short men with odd wardrobe choices. So it’s no surprise when she finds herself in deep doo-doo while attempting to prove the innocence of friend and ex-Mafia goon, Frankie Romano, after he’s arrested for the murder of a famous action-movie director.
This third book in the popular Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series brings Barb out of the suburbs and into the slimy, urban world filled with bright lights, nightly news, and drive-by shootings. Luckily, she never loses her sense of humor or her ability to befriend some decidedly quirky characters.
Other books in this series:
Take the Monkeys and Run (2010)
This book is dedicated, in loving memory, to Linda Evans and Clarence Crews.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
I’d only known Guy Mertz for ten minutes and already I was plotting to murder him.
“So, Barb—can I call you Barb?” He didn’t bother to wait for a response. “Tell me about your website . . .” His pointy nose rose into the air as if he’d remember the title by smelling it. “FlixieChick.” He nodded, pleased that his memory had served him well.
Suppressing an eye roll, I waited a beat, then corrected him. “ChickAtTheFlix.”
A minor grimace crossed his thin face. “ChickAtTheFlix. Hmm.” He tugged at his filet mignon with a fork and knife. “FlixieChick has a lighter ring. Shorter. Easier to remember.” He popped a hunk of beef into his mouth and continued to talk around his chewing. “Ever think,” (chew, chew) “of,” (chew) “changing it?” (chew, chew, chew)
I disguised a gag by sipping on my dry Chardonnay and not-so-casually scanning the banquet room of the prestigious American Cinema League’s Tanner Building. The ACL was a national organization—their DC building featured a 200-seat theater and sweeping banquet hall which were often rented by Hollywood studios for local movie preview events. Although excited to be in attendance, I lamented being seated next to this bozo instead of Randolph Rutter. Randolph—the movie reviewer for Channel 3—appeared to be in a serious discussion with up-and-coming action movie director, Kurt Baugh. Rumor had it that Kurt’s next project would be a Steven Spielberg-collaboration. I
wanted to talk to Kurt Baugh and find out for myself, but I was stuck sitting between a no-show empty chair and Guy, the ill-mannered carnivore.
Guy Mertz was a celebrity of sorts in the Metropolitan Washington, DC viewing area. Every evening on Channel 10 News, Guy “entertained” the television audience with melodramatic reports of local true crimes. Some people found the reports deep and meaningful, most people found them humorous, but I just found them nauseating. Guy was the reason I watched Channel 6.
How he made it to television, I’m not sure. Certainly no one had surveyed his headshot before hiring him. His face was unnaturally long and his flabby lips hogged most of the square footage. His beady brown eyes were topped by eyebrows that looked like fuzzy caterpillars on steroids. Let’s put it this way—if he had been Don Knotts’ brother, Don would have been the good looking one.
Guy was babbling on about my website, but I had tuned out and instead, was transfixed on Kurt Baugh who was stealing food from Randolph Rutter’s plate. Kurt appeared to be the kind of man who had been strikingly handsome at one time, but had partied a little too hearty, and now looked more like a down-and-out country western singer recovering from a two-year bender. I found myself staring at his horribly orange skin and wondering if he really believed that ten bottles of spray-on tan could recover his youthful splendor. Unfortunately, I stared just a micro-second too long, and he caught me. It was one of those moments where you don’t realize you’re gawking at someone, but then they “feel” your gaze and turn to meet you eye to eye. Thankfully, he must have been flattered rather than irked because he shot me a wink before taking a sip from his water glass.
I, however, was mortified and jumped back into my conversation with Guy at just the wrong time. “I wanted to cover your story, you know.”
My stomach lurched.
I downed the rest of my wine and wondered if they had something stronger. Arsenic perhaps. “Pardon me?”
“Your bang ’em up, shoot ’em up, FBI’s Most Wanted story out there in Rustic Woods.”
My worst fear was being realized. I had wanted to attend this screening as a respected movie reviewer, not as the famous, flighty, gun-toting suburban mother who found herself in the middle of the yearbook fiasco from Hell.
I was about to ask politely if we could refrain from discussing my newsworthy crime tale, but Guy steamrolled on. He shouted across the table. “Hey, Rutter!” He waved his sharp, silver steak knife around in the air to catch Mr. Rutter’s attention. Unfortunately, he was successful. Randolph Rutter and Kurt Baugh stopped talking and turned their heads in our direction.
How could I silence this buffoon? I considered the possibility of quickly jamming my fork into Guy’s jugular and blaming it on an involuntary muscle spasm attributed to a rare genetic disorder, but of course, I’d have to come up with a name for the genetic disorder and I’m just not that quick on my feet these days. Instead, I sat, face flushed, wondering where that waiter was with the wine.
“This is Barbara Marr!” shouted Guy. “Remember her story?”
Randolph’s face was blanker than the checks in my wallet. He did not remember my story. Now I wasn’t sure which was more embarrassing—the fact that I wasn’t memorable, or the reality that Guy Mertz was about to make me look like a crazy lady in front of some very important people.
“You know,” Guy torpedoed on, the entire table paying attention now. “The soccer mom in Rustic Woods who took down three of the FBI’s most-wanted with a hand grenade.”
A smile tugged at the corners of Randolph Rutter’s mouth and he nodded.
“Actually,” I said, feeling the need to set the record straight, “the hand grenade wasn’t my idea.”
I coughed while everyone stared. A moment later the table broke into laughter. The problem was, I didn’t know if they were laughing
me. I held my wine glass high in the air. “Waiter?”
“If I remember right,” Randolph added, “you also have a movie ‘review’ website and that little incident gave you quite a bit of free publicity.” He finger-quoted the word “review” and his sarcasm wasn’t lost on anyone. He didn’t stop there. “Your husband is an FBI agent, am I right?” He had the table’s attention now. “Isn’t that . . . convenient?”
Smiles faded on the faces around me and people went back to their food while Randolph Rutter held my gaze for a few miserable moments longer. Finally, after what seemed like decades, he turned back to Kurt Baugh, continuing their conversation.
The way I figured it, I had a couple of choices. I could dive under the table and hide until the guests were ushered into the screening room, or I could pretend like I hadn’t just been covertly insulted by Washington, DC’s most popular movie reviewer. I peeked under the table. It didn’t look so bad under there.
, I said to myself.
Be strong. He’s not better than you. Look at those hair plugs for crying out loud. Who’s he to talk?
Guy leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Don’t let that idiot get to you. He knew who you were the minute he saw your nameplate on the table. His job teetered on the edge of oblivion when you hit the news. I heard from more than one reliable source that Channel 3 came this close,” he held up two nearly-touching fingers for illustration, “to offering you his reviewing spot. They needed the ratings.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
Mertz nodded and popped the last of his steak into his mouth. After a couple of chews he said, “Wish they had. Can’t stand the prick.”
Okay, so Guy Mertz was my new best friend. If only he chewed with less enthusiasm.
When a waiter didn’t show up with more Chardonnay, I went searching for some myself. I was also looking for a friend: ex-mobster-turned-chef and caterer, Frankie Romano, who was supplying the delectable eats at this shindig.
Guy Mertz was right about my “fame”—I’d been the news story of the day after being held hostage by three female bank robbers, aka the Dynasty Dames. Frankie had supplied the hand grenade and the 9mm Beretta that helped me escape. The whole debacle occurred in my suburban town of Rustic Woods, which made it pretty much impossible for the FBI to keep the story under wraps.
Within days, my face was plastered across newscasts in the greater Washington, DC Metropolitan area. The publicity landed my husband, Howard Marr, a desk job pushing paper, and found my movie review website a huge following. Howard wasn’t happy about the desk job, but now, three months later, I was ecstatic that my website’s popularity had gained me an invitation to the private screening of the new summer blockbuster,
Hell Hath No Fury
. I was even happier when I was able to recommend Frankie Romano as the event’s caterer. Frankie was pleased as punch, too. A job like this could open up a whole new world for him.
I located Frankie standing proudly next to a buffet table against the far wall of the banquet room. “Who’s in charge of these servers?” I asked him.
A smile lit up the face of my Italian-American friend. “Yo, Barb!” He gave me a tight bear hug. “How you doin’?”
“I’d be better if I could get a refill on this Chardonnay,” I said, holding up my empty wine glass.
“Sorry,” he said, and immediately flagged a passing young man in a black uniform. “Find another bottle of Chardonnay and fill up this beautiful lady’s glass. Pronto!”
The man dashed off.
“I’m impressed.” I smiled, watching Frankie in action. He was a good guy, despite his questionable past with the Mafia. “Did you have to bring your own staff?”
He nodded. “I put on da whole show, but they paid my asking price witout blinkin’, so the profit’ll be nice. Can’t thank you enough for tellin’ Jorge about me. He said he’ll have more work for me if the studio likes what I did tonight.”
Jorge Borrego was the director of ACL’s DC office. After I received the invitation to the preview, I’d contacted Jorge and requested a tour so I could write about the ACL on my website. He’d only mentioned his troubles with his current event caterer in passing, but I jumped on it like Charlie Sheen to a Hollywood hooker.
“I’m glad I could help,” I said. “Where is Jorge by the way? I haven’t seen him all night.”
“Last I saw, he was giving someone a tour of the building.” He flashed another wide grin. “Hey, didya like the candied yams? That was a new recipe for me.”
“Like them?” I rubbed my belly. “I inhaled them. The whole meal was delicioso.”
He scanned the room, which was populated primarily by local TV and print media folk along with a few studio execs. Hollywood celebs were virtually non-existent except for an actor who played a bit role in the movie we were about to see. “Anyone famous here I should know about?”
I shook my head. “Mostly no. That’s the director over there.” I pointed to a ruggedly handsome, sandy-haired, late thirty-something man in jeans and a black t-shirt. “Andy Baugh. His brother, Kurt, is also a director. He’s sitting at my table.” I pointed. “He’s the one with the bad tan job sitting next to the scumbag with the black hair plugs.”
“Whoa, that is a bad tan. He looks orange. Both brothers are famous?”
“They’re more famous for their sibling rivalry than for their films. They’re trying to out-do each other—at least that’s how
“So they don’t get along like dose
“The Coen Brothers?” I shook my head. “No. More like the Corleone Brothers—Michael and Fredo.”