Chapter 1
Drop Dead Delicious

I was in Jersey. Worse than that, I was in Newark. I sat in my best friend Maggie’s minivan waiting
for Benny Portman to come out of the Holiday Inn. I didn’t personally know Benny, nor did I care
that he was spending an afternoon at a hotel near Newark Airport. What I cared about was
keeping a promise. Unfortunately, the only way I could do this was to follow Maggie. She was an
aspiring private investigator.

Maggie wasn’t your typical P.I. Forget the images you saw in the movies or television. She was
far from that hard-nosed action Mag­num P.I. type. The ink on her certificate from the community
college adult education class on how to be a private investigator was barely dry. She was only
doing it part-time anyway.

Most of her time was spent on taking care of her insurance-sales­man husband Roger, a
hyperactive eight-year-old son named Rocket, and the family dog—a four year old dachshund
named Mr. Mc­Gregor. She lives in Hicksville, Long Island, in a neighborhood where all the
houses looked alike and everyone belonged to the PTA and a bowling league. She didn’t look
like anyone who might go snooping around in other people’s business. At five feet two inches tall
and topped with cascading red hair, alabaster skin, and azure colored eyes, she looked more
like a pixie than Sam Spade.

“Call him,” I demanded. I was tired of sitting in her car and waiting for her mentor, Frank MacAvoy
to make a move. Frank was a retired New York City police detective who supplemented his
meager income with a shaky P.I. business. The fact that he hired Maggie said a lot. This was not
to say she wasn’t competent. She was very compe­tent. I’ve seen Maggie organize a birthday
party for twenty children under the age of ten as if it was the landing at Normandy. Inside of a
week at Frank’s office, she had the files color-coded, a cleaning service, thank you cards to
former clients, and me promising her to use my connections to generate new cases for Frank’s
beleaguered business.

This of course brings me back to my promise. I promised my boyfriend Lee, a lawyer, that Frank
was more than capable of han­dling Benny Portman. Lee promised his boss, Aaron Boyer, a
divorce attorney, that Frank was capable of handling Benny Portman. This began because
Maggie promised me that Frank was capable of han­dling Benny Portman. There were promises
going around, and I was in Newark ensuring everyone kept their promise.

“Call him again,” I said.

Maggie sat in the driver’s seat staring straight ahead ignoring me. In her hands was one of the
largest pairs of stadium binoculars known to man. She stared up at one of the hotel’s windows.
The glasses were so powerful that she could probably read the name tags of the pilots taking off
at nearby Newark Airport. I reached over and snatched the glasses.

“Odessa,” she complained. She tried to give me her best steely eyed look, and it wasn’t very
good. It made her look deranged. I cocked my head, raised an eyebrow, and tightened the smirk I
was wearing. I did indignant better than anyone.

“Give him five minutes,” she pleaded, taking the binoculars back and returning to her vigil on the
hotel. My only recourse was to shake my head and reapply my lipstick. Since I was stuck in a
Newark, there was no reason not to look good. I flipped down the visor and pulled out my brand
new lipstick. The mirror revealed what I’d suspected about a half hour ago; that stakeouts were
not conducive to looking good.

I am a cocoa-colored African American woman who looked like she could use a month in the sun.
There were dark circles beneath my eyes that I knew weren’t there when I woke up. I closed the
lipstick without putting it on. What was the point? I flipped up the visor and moaned. I mentally
kicked myself for believing Maggie’s promise and giving Lee mine.

My former therapist, Dr. Debbie Nussbaum, said that I should always make a list when I find
myself in a situation not of my own choosing or control. It was a helpful exercise I used when I
needed to get over an anxiety disorder that often left me in a puddle on the floor when things got a
little crazy. I made the list in my head on how things could be worse.
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