Read Half-Price Homicide Online

Authors: Elaine Viets

Tags: #Fort Lauderdale, #Women detectives, #Saint Louis (Mo.), #Mystery & Detective, #Consignment Sale Shops, #Florida, #Fiction, #Women Sleuths, #General, #Hawthorne; Helen (Fictitious Character), #Fugitives from justice

Half-Price Homicide

BOOK: Half-Price Homicide


Also by Elaine Viets


The Dead-End Job Series

Shop Till You Drop

Murder Between the Covers

Dying to Call You

Just Murdered

Murder Unleashed

Murder with Reservations

Clubbed to Death

Killer Cuts


Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper Series

Dying in Style

High Heels Are Murder

Accessory to Murder

Murder with All the Trimmings

The Fashion Hound Murders




Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Copyright © Elaine Viets, 2010 All rights reserved

OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Viets, Elaine, 1950-

Half-price homicide: a dead-end job mystery/Elaine Viets.

p.   cm. “An Obsidian mystery.”

ISBN: 1-101-18255-5

1. Hawthorne, Helen (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Fugitives from justice—Fiction. 3. Women detectives—Florida—Fort Lauderdale—Fiction. 4. Consignment sale shops—Missouri—Saint Louis— Fiction. 5. Saint Louis (Mo.)—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3572.I325H35 2010

813’.6—dc22 2009053835

Set in Bembo

Designed by Ginger Legato

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.


For Sherry Schreiber, who said I would be amazed by what happens at designer consignment shops. You were right.


There is no Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts. It doesn’t exist, nor does its clientele. Fort Lauderdale has lots of designer consignment shops. My personal favorite is Hibiscus Place Emporium, 1406 East Las Olas Boulevard. Special thanks to former owner Manny Lopez, Laurie Hooper, Chris Lopez and Josefina Rivas, who does the finest alterations in Fort Lauderdale. I did button shirts at Hibiscus Place, and dusted the stock, including those pineapples. Why those pineapples are so popular is a mystery I will never solve.

Special thanks to D. P. Lyle, MD, for helping me determine signs of death. His Writer’s Forensics Blog (writersforensicsblog.wordpress. com) is recommended for all your forensic needs. Fred Powers of Powers Bowersox Associates, Inc., told me how to bury a body in a basement.

If you follow my account of body disposal and get caught, those mistakes are mine, not theirs.

Librarian Doris Ann Norris helped me plan a traditional Catholic funeral.

Steven Toth, of Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers, answered my questions about punk/indie bands, even after I admitted to liking the Dandy Warhols.

Thanks to the tax experts and lawyers who advised me on Helen’s tangled financial and legal affairs, including M. Susan Carlson of Chackes, Carlson & Spritzer.

A special thank-you to editor Sandra Harding at NAL, her assistant Elizabeth Bistrow, Kara Cesare and Lindsay Nouis, and the NAL production staff. Thanks also to my long-suffering husband, Don Crinklaw, who eats the orange chips and butter-and-onion sandwiches like Phil does, and to my agent, David Hendin, who is always there when I need him.

Many other people helped me with this book, including Detective R. C. White, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (retired), Synae White and Rick McMahan, ATF special agent.

Special thanks to Valerie Cannata, Colby Cox, Jinny Gender, Karen Grace, Kay Gordy, Jack Klobnak, Kevin Lane, Robert Levine, Janet Smith and Carole Wantz, who could sell fur coats at a PETA convention.

Les Steinberg of Steinberg & Steinberg, LLC, is my expert on boys’ toys, not to be confused with boy toys. Tom Barclay and Mary Lynn Reed told me how to get fired from radio.

Librarian Anne Watts lent me her cat, Thumbs, for the Dead-End Job series. Thanks again to the librarians at the St. Louis Public Library and Broward County Library. Yes, I could get information from the Internet, but I’m not smart enough to know what’s solid and what’s misleading. I need librarians for that.

Thanks also to my sister bloggers on The Lipstick Chronicles, for their advice and encouragement—Nancy Martin, Harley Jane Kozak, Sarah Strohmeyer, Lisa Daily and Kathy Sweeney. Read us at

I’m also grateful to the many booksellers who hand-sell my work and encourage me.

Finally, any errors are my own. If you want to complain or, better yet, tell me what you like about the novel, please e-mail me at
[email protected]



“I need to see Vera right away,” the pocket-sized blonde said. Her voice was a sweet whisper.

Helen Hawthorne could barely see the woman’s curly head over the counter. She reminded Helen of a cream pie with her high-piled sugar white hair and lush curves. A size two, Helen estimated, based on her years in retail.

Cutie-pie was no tourist vacationing in Fort Lauderdale. She belonged on fashionable Las Olas Boulevard. But Helen figured Cutie-pie would pay full price for her skimpy white dress, not hunt used bargains at Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts, the high-end clothing consignment store where Helen worked.

Cutie-pie dropped a stack of soiled men’s shirts on the counter. They landed with a thud that told Helen extra starch wasn’t what weighed them down. She hoped the dark red stain on the white shirt was ketchup.

“Do you have any dry cleaning for pickup?” Helen asked.

Cutie-pie looked around as though checking for spies, then said, “Tell Vera it’s Angelina Jolie. It’s urgent.”

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