It all started with an ad. An oversized, glossy come-all-who-may in the back of Philadelphia magazine, wedged between Lena’s Bridal Salon on Thirteenth and Spruce and a photograph of a happy couple toasting marital bliss in the understated elegance of the Michener Mansion. How my business, First Impressions, a mecca for the wizened and wounded, ended up in the bridal section, I have no idea. I paid for visual effect, for center stage. I didn’t want to compete with women in cream toile, twenty-somethings with perky breasts and Barbie-sized waists. I wanted to be next to photos of period antiques and gourmet caterers. I wanted my ad to be the freshest on the page.
But sometimes what we want and what we get are on opposite ends of the ballroom. So I got a 4×6 glossy next to Lena’s and Hank McBride got an image consultant. I think someone up there has a sense of humor. If it weren’t for my misplaced ad, I’d probably be sipping Cosmopolitans on the deck of the Seabourn Legend instead of nursing my injured back and mourning my once-simple life. But here we are. So I’ll share my story, and maybe we’ll both learn to be more careful the next time we place our image on a page.
But first you should understand how simple my life really was before Maggie McBride and her congressman father stormed in, dredging up secrets that had been carefully buried so many years ago. Before the McBrides, before my memories of Violet Swann resurfaced, before I was nearly killed, I enjoyed carefully constructed days and blissful predictability. In fact, on the day it all began, everything seemed so very normal.
It was a cold, rainy March morning on the Philadelphia Main Line. My alarm went off at 5:45, but before the buzz, buzz shattered the peace, I heard fat drops hitting my window and lay there, my mind already reviewing the day’s to-do list. I climbed out of bed, had my usual coffee and a bowl of fruit with a third cup of cottage cheese, and then forced myself to suffer for an hour on the treadmill. I showered and put on the clothes I had chosen the night before: charcoal gray pencil skirt, white Donna Karan blouse, blue beaded multi-strand necklace, coordinating blue-framed eye glasses, black platform pumps. Then I was out the door.
My office manager, Christopher Vaughn (he goes by Vaughn), was already at First Impressions when I arrived. As always, he was impeccably dressed. He smiled as I entered his office, a smile as warm and broad and welcoming as Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house, and I was happy for mornings, when it was just the two of us, before the busy-ness of the day took over. I watched Vaughn as he printed off the day’s appointments, with snippets he’d put together about any new clients, in awe of the way he kept First Impressions–and me–organized. Looking back, that was the last morning of its kind. Neither of us knew what Hank McBride would bring later that day, that a horrid murder would be thrust our way, and that in just a few weeks we’d learn things about each other that would cause temporary awkwardness and resentment. But on that rainy March morning, comfortable silence prevailed.
Until the appointments started: three executive coaching sessions back-to-back before noon, a guest appearance at a local ladies auxiliary at lunchtime (promoting my book, From the Outside In), a group on re-entering the workforce at two o’clock and then a session with Midge Majors, one of my favorite clients.
The day’s appointments continued on paper, but after Midge left, Hank McBride and his wife Sunny showed up unexpectedly. They’d seen our ad in Philadelphia magazine while planning their elder daughter’s wedding and wanted to know would I please, please work with Maggie, their recalcitrant daughter. I said no, I don’t work with kids. But, feeling sorry for the teen after meeting the parents, I eventually caved. I guess I should have checked my emotions at the door when I’d come in that morning.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You can read more about Allison in Killer Image, the first book in the new “Allison Campbell” mystery series, published by Henery Press.
Wendy is giving away one (1) copy of KILLER IMAGE. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends October 8; US entries only.
Meet the author
Wendy Tyson wrote her first story at age eight and it’s been love ever since. When not writing, Wendy enjoys reading other people’s novels, traveling, hiking, and playing hooky at the beach–and if she can combine all four, even better. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again with her husband, three kids and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. She and her husband are passionate organic gardeners and have turned their small urban lot into a micro farm.
Besides Killer Image, Wendy has also authored The Seduction of Miriam Cross, a mystery that will be released by E-Lit Books on November 1, 2013. Find Wendy at www.WATyson.com and on twitter (www.twitter.com/wendytyson) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/wendytysonauthor).
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.