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Rochelle Krich's
Dead Air
A Jessie Drake Mystery
 
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First Chapter


Someone was watching her again.
Renee Altman was in a Century City mall store, fingering the rim of a champagne goblet, when she had the familiar prickly sensation. Lifting the goblet, she turned and pretended to examine the facets so that she could see who was staring at her.
No one. Just nerves.
At the register she waited while the clerk who seemed to take forever, rang up her purchase. Then she made her way out of the store and strode in the crisp, late morning air toward the escalator. The salty smell of freshly popped corn wafted toward her from a snack cart up ahead. She was tempted to stop for a bag when she felt eyes on her again.
Fear fluttered in her stomach, and now she was angry. She whirled around--what the hell did he ... ?--and almost stepped on a small leashed dog leading a heavyset, middle-aged couple whose eyes widened with alarm.
The dog yelped. The man and woman scowled at Renee.
Her face was hot with embarrassment. "I'm so sorry." Forcing herself to smile, she searched out of the corners of her eyes but saw no one looking at her. Either she'd imagined the whole thing, or whoever was following her had ducked into a shop or been swa llowed by the throng of mall visitors strolling past her, mostly in pairs; talking, laughing, swinging their shopping bags with a carefree motion that filled her with envy.
The woman had stopped scowling. She cocked her head and was squinting at Renee.
"You ought to be more careful," the man grumbled. "You could have--"
"You're Dr. Renee!" the woman squealed. Beaming, she poked her companion's arm with a long, sculpted red fingernail that could have drawn blood. "George, this is Dr. Renee Altman Back to Renee: "I almost didn't recognize you--your hair is blonder than it looks in pictures. You're prettier, too, and younger," she continued without taking a breath. "I listen to your show every day. It's just wonderful. I can't believe..."
On and on and on until Renee thought she would scream. Still scanning the crowd, she only half listened as the woman piled compliment upon compliment--"...so insightful . . . really change a person's whole life...moral courage so lacking these days."
She noticed that the woman had stopped talking and was waiting for a response. "That's very nice of you to say," Renee murmured, hoping her comment would satisfy, and saw the woman's full face dimple with pleasure.
"Well, it's all true! I talk about you all the time. Don't I, George?"
"Uh-huh," from George, who seemed unimpressed with Renee's celebrity. So did the dog. He was tugging on his beaded leash and yipping, his tail furiously fanning the air.
"My friends are going to die when I tell them I met you!" The woman dug into a large, ugly, black-and-orange patent tote and fished out a notepad and squiggly shaped pen. "Would it be a terrible imposition ... ?" She smiled shyly.
"I'd be happy to," Renee said, relieved that the woman hadn't asked for advice. I have a problem, Dr. Renee ...
"Make it 'To Irma,'" the woman instructed, shy no more. She thrust pen and pad at Renee. "That's with an i, not like Bombeck. It's so sad she died. Now, she was bright, and funny. . ."



Dead Air
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Twilight Lane, from Avon Books, at MysteryNet.com: The Online Mystery Network,
is produced and published by Newfront Productions, Inc.

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