Authors: Kate White
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #FIC022000
If Looks Could Kill
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2003 by Kate White
All rights reserved.
Warner Books, Inc.,
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: June 2003
To my fabulous brothers whom I adore:
Mike, Jim, Rick, Chuck, and Steve
Thank you to those who so generously helped me with my research for the book: Paul Pagenelli, M.D., Chief of Emergency Medicine,
Milton Hospital, Milton, MA; Barbara Butcher, director of investigations for the office of the chief medical examiner, New
York City; Roger Rokicki, Chief Inspector, Westchester County Police; Sanjay Singh, New York City Police (Vice); psychotherapist
Mark Howell; former FBI profiler Candace deLong; Erin Scanlon, partner, Deloitte & Touche; Kathy Beckett; and Mary Ewart.
I also want to say a special thank you to my fearless agent, Sandra Dijkstra, and to my awesome editor, Sara Ann Freed, who
provided me with such wonderful guidance.
HEN I THINK
back on everything terrible that happened that autumn—the murders, the grim discovery I made, the danger I found myself in—I
realize I probably could have avoided all of it if my love life hadn’t been so sucky. Or let me rephrase that. Nonexistent.
Late in the summer, I’d been kicked to the curb by a guy I was fairly gaga over, and though my heart no longer felt as raw
as a rug burn, my misery had morphed into a sour, man-repellent mood. It was as if I had a sign over my head that said, “Step
any closer and I’m gonna bitch-slap you.”
So when I was invited to spend an early fall weekend free of charge at the Cedar Inn and Spa in Warren, Massachusetts, I grabbed
the chance. Trust me, I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone there—except maybe a few rich women in pastel sweat suits and fanny
packs who thought having their bodies slathered in shea butter would miraculously vaporize their cellulite. I should also
admit that I’ve generally found spa stuff pretty goofy. I once had a complimentary prune-and-pumpkin facial, and when it was
over I kept thinking that I should be stationed on a sideboard between a roast turkey and cornbread stuffing.
But I do go nuts for a good massage, and I was hoping that a few of those and a change of scenery would improve my mood as
well as jump-start my heart.
Unfortunately, soon after I arrived at the inn, all hell broke loose.
I pulled into Warren just before seven on Friday night. A reasonable arrival time, but three damn hours later than I’d originally
planned. A combination of things had thrown my schedule into a tizzy. I’m a freelance journalist, specializing in human-interest
and crime stories, and an interview that I was scheduled to do with a psychologist for an article on mass hysteria got pushed
from morning to midafternoon. I would have liked to just blow it off entirely. But the piece was due at the end of the following
week, and I was feeling under the gun. I didn’t hit the road until three-thirty, guaranteeing that I’d have a good chance
of getting caught in a rush-hour mess somewhere between Manhattan and Massachusetts—and I did. In addition, I was undone by
a smoldering car fire on the southbound side of the New York State Thruway, which caused people on my side to practically
crawl by on their haunches so they could get a better look. You would have thought the front half of the
had been dredged and deposited along the side of the road.
If I’d arrived on schedule, I would have been welcomed by the owner of the inn, Danielle (aka Danny) Hubner. She was the one
treating me to an all-expenses-paid weekend. An old college friend of my mother’s, Danny had been pleading for me to visit
the inn since she’d opened it three or four years ago. But I’d always been too crazed with work—or too caught up in the stages
of grief that followed the demise two years ago of my flash fire of a marriage: heartache, healing, and manic horniness. This
fall, because of my snarky mood, I’d finally said yes.
It would be great, I figured, to not only be pampered 24/7, but also to spend a nice chunk of time with Danny. She was really
my friend, too, and she had a slightly offbeat personality that I found absolutely refreshing. I got the sense my visit would
also prove beneficial to
My mother had called right before she flew to Athens for a Mediterranean cruise to say that Danny had seemed in a bit of
a slump lately, but she didn’t know why. My mother was worried she might be having troubles with her second husband, George,
whom I’d yet to meet—and whom my mother didn’t seem wild about.
Since I arrived so late, I’d missed Danny. According to the desk clerk, she’d driven into town on business she could no longer
put off, but she’d left word that she would check in with me later. I was given a brief tour before being shown to my room.
The inn, a rambling, clapboard building probably erected in the mid-1800s, was really quite smashing, even more so than in
the pictures I’d seen. Instead of dripping with the cutesy country charm that you so often find at a restored inn, the decor
was elegant, pared down—lots of beige and cream tones and brown-and-white-check fabric. And there wasn’t a whirligig, weather
vane, or wooden swan in sight.
Since I was late, I figured I’d blown any chance of getting a treatment that night, but my guide explained that Danny had
arranged for me to be squeezed in for a massage at eight—before a late dinner. The inn’s spa, which also operated as a day
spa for the area, stayed open until ten.
I had about fifteen minutes to catch my breath before the massage. My room was maximum charming, a suite, actually, with a
small living area. It also sported checks, but in red and white and paired with several quirky print fabrics. I unpacked the
clothes most likely to wrinkle and hung them in the closet. (I’m a contributing writer for
magazine, and I read in a recent issue that you should roll your clothes in tissue paper before packing them in order to
prevent wrinkles, but I’d no sooner take the time to do that than I would to iron my underpants.) Next I took a very quick
shower, letting the spray of hot water do a number on muscles achy from a long car ride.
I dried myself off with a thick Egyptian-cotton towel. Thanks to a towel warmer, it was as toasty as a baked potato. As I
buffed my body with it, I noticed a small earthenware jar on the bathroom countertop. It was filled to the brim with amber-colored
bath salts, and a little tag announced their availability for sale in the spa. They were a blend of sandalwood and sweet orange
aromatics with a hint of frankincense, prepared, the tag said, so I could “surrender to a state of total enchantment and emerge
with a primitive power.” God, just what I needed. Was it actually suggesting I could get
in the same weekend? I glanced up, into the mirror above the sink. I’m five six, with short, brownish blond hair, and blue
eyes, and I’m considered pretty in a slightly sporty way, but there was no denying that at this moment in time, I looked weary,
even burned-out. It was going to take a helluva lot of bath salts to leave me feeling enchanted and empowered.
I arrived downstairs at the spa with just a few minutes to spare. It was actually a large addition to the inn, abutting the
eastern edge of the building. The decor was Asian inspired: beige walls, cracked stone floors, bamboo plants in large putty-colored
pots, and hallways lined with sheer beige curtains that poofed outward from the breeze that you created walking by them. It
was very different from the decor of the inn, but because they both featured such muted tones, it all seemed to work together.
I undressed in a spacious dressing area and then waited for ten minutes in the so-called relaxation room. Haunting Asian music
played in the background, water gurgled over stones in a small fountain, and the scent of green tea wafted from two flickering
candles. I tried to let go and relish it, but I felt a little silly. It was as if I’d somehow stumbled into a scene from
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Fortunately, it was only a few minutes before I was led to a treatment room. I could barely wait for my massage to start,
for the chance to have those sore muscles unknotted. My only concern was that it had been so long since I’d had any physical
contact with another member of my species that I might begin to whimper at the first touch—like a poor little pound puppy.
Unfortunately, on a scale of one to ten, the massage was no more than a seven. My “therapist,” a red-haired woman in her thirties,
was skilled enough and had plenty of strength in her hands, but she seemed distracted, pausing at odd moments as she worked.
It was enough to make me wonder if I had something weird happening on my butt—like a humongous boil—that was forcing her to
stop and gape in horror. I was almost relieved when I was finally back in my suite and could totally veg.
After ordering a club sandwich and a glass of Merlot from room service, I unpacked most of the rest of the stuff from my bag,
sticking my underwear and shirts in a dresser. In the early days that I’d traveled, I used to wonder who actually
hotel dressers, but lately, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, I’d come to discover that I prefer not having to forage
through my suitcase each time I get dressed.
My food arrived within twenty minutes and, ravenous, I devoured it. Then, after opening the window a crack, I undressed and
turned back the thick white duvet on the bed. I was looking forward to reading between sheets that felt as if they exceeded
a three-hundred-thread count.
As I lay between said silky sheets, though, I could feel my mind itching to go places it shouldn’t. In other words, it was
dying to ruminate about my most recent love trouble. His name was Jack Herlihy, and he was a thirty-five-year-old professor
of psychology from Washington, D.C., whom I’d met in May after he’d come up to teach a summer course in New York. At the time,
Jack had come across like a breath of fresh air compared to most of the guys I’d been meeting. He was great looking, nice
without being a wuss, and an amazing listener (well, he
a shrink), and he managed to be all of these things without ever showing up, like some New York men, with too much product
in his hair. He seemed like a straight shooter, not the kind of guy who promises to call the next day but doesn’t for weeks,
giving you reason to believe that he calculates his time in dog years. Jack didn’t like games—or at least that’s what I assumed
before he started playing them.
Most of my Jack ruminations generally involved trying to figure out how I’d blown things. Admittedly, our romance had gotten
off to a slow start, but he’d seemed okay with the pace, and it was certainly fine with me. I’d been fairly skittish since
my ex-husband—the attorney-at-law and gambler-at-large—had fled the scene. Jack and I had some fun nights in the Village (he
was hoping to eventually relocate to New York), one glorious day on the beach on Fire Island, and a night of half-naked groping
in his apartment, during which I explained I wanted to wait a little longer for the full-frontal variety.
Then, in the beginning of July, Jack announced that his younger sister had meningitis and he was going to be going home to
Pittsburgh each weekend to help his family. Since his life was about to become insane, he wanted to put our relationship on
hold for the next few weeks—until he and his family were through the worst. I promised to be there when his life returned
We’d stayed in phone contact through July and the first week of August, and then suddenly I stopped hearing from him. I told
myself to be patient, that he was caught up in the crisis. But after several weeks had gone by and he was still incommunicado,
I started to panic. Since I didn’t have any reason to believe he’d entered the Federal Witness Protection Program, I suspected
that I’d been given the boot.