Today's Reading

Inna was statuesque, with dark hair and a pouty mouth, like a Ukrainian Jane Russell, but she carried herself more like a half-asleep Marilyn Monroe. Though she was much taller than most men, including her boss, she had a tendency to make them want to take care of her. There was something a little helpless about her. At least that's what Arlo thought Inna wanted people to see. Arlo wasn't sold on Inna's presentation, though she wasn't certain why.

Inna wore her deep-plum-colored wrap dress like an Amazonian queen. She had paired it with platform stilettos that gave her another four and a half inches easy. In those shoes, she was nearly as tall as Mads. Her exotic blue eyes seemed almost impossible in her face, as if they could see straight through to a person's secrets, to their soul.

She was more than beautiful, a fact Inna already knew. And anyone who knew Wally knew Inna, the trophy assistant. Too beautiful to be much more than arm candy, Inna probably pulled in more in a week than Arlo had all last year.

The strange thing was Daisy, Wally's wife, was even more stunning than Inna, leaving the average person to wonder why Wally was fooling around. And the average person did know about his affair...or affairs, plural. He had all but admitted his dallying with Inna on Good Morning America. Everyone knew that she was nothing more than ornamentation. That much was obvious in her lack of skills, other than the savvy way she tucked her hair behind her left ear.

Wally's wife, on the other hand...

"Oh. My. Gawd." Daisy James-Harrison stood at the end of the block, fingers pressed to her mouth, but not so hard as to smudge her lipstick. Her kelly-green dress set off her blond hair and brown eyes to utter perfection.

Then Arlo remembered why the woman was there. Daisy was going to inspect the store and give Arlo the final instructions on how Wally liked his book signings set up. A job that Inna should be performing. But now...

"Mrs. James-Harrison..." Arlo breathed, completely unsure of what she was going to say. She felt like she needed to say something, but what? No one had taught her anything about this in business school.

"Is that...?" Daisy looked hard at the man lying on the ground at the officer's feet.

Arlo bit her lip and turned to Mads.

He cleared his throat. "Yes. Uh..." Mads jerked his head toward the woman, but Jason, as dense today as he ever was, didn't pick up on the gesture. Mads sighed, cast a backward glance at Daisy, then approached Inna. Arlo figured he was aware that Inna was inching closer to Wally's body. After all, there wasn't much that Mads missed.
 
"Is that my Wally?" Inna pronounced his name as if it began with a 'V' instead of a 'W', her normally thick accent even more distinct as the truth set in.

Mads clasped Inna's elbow and tried to steer her away from the crime scene. "Jason," he called over one shoulder.

This time the officer picked up on the chief's hint and moved toward Daisy. With no one standing near the body, Wally Harrison was strangely exposed. Arlo couldn't help but stare.

She had seen Wally a thousand times during school, a hundred more these last few weeks. His face was on every publication that came across her desk. But he looked different in death. And it had nothing to do with the New York Yankees cap Jason so opposed. Yet it seemed strange to her as well. Maybe because every time she had seen him over these last so-successful weeks, he had been wearing a black turtleneck sweater—very cosmopolitan and utterly un-Mississippi, for a man at least. Still, he wouldn't have been wearing a turtleneck today. It was almost May and the heat was already starting to get to some folks. Hot enough that no one was going around in a snug black turtleneck like a sixties' beatnik.

Wally was wearing jeans, an army jacket with the collar turned up, and that baseball hat. It was nothing like what she had seen him wear during their high school years, and certainly not how he dressed in his countless interviews and media photos. But she knew as well as anyone that most writers had a persona they showed to the public, an image they wanted to portray. So he wouldn't always dress that way. Case in point, today.

But it was more than his clothes. He had a bruised look as if he had landed face-first when he fell—or jumped—from the roof. Or maybe that was because he was dead. Did all dead bodies look like that? Why would he choose to throw himself off the building as his means of ending his life? Wasn't jumping a rare form of suicide? She had no idea.

She reined in her whirling thoughts and dragged her gaze from Wally.
...

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