After parking the borrowed Buick, I pulled down the visor mirror and smoothed a couple of strands of red hair into place. I stepped out beside a granite seawall onto a sparse, brittle strip of grass, already winter-killed although it was only October. A dingy, mouse-colored sky hung over Salem Harbor, threatening but not yet raining on the sprawling New England city I used to call home.
Ducking the chill wind, I rounded the corner of the weathered brick building housing WICH-TV. The Salem cable channel’s ad for a field reporter had come along at just the right time for me. Dodging a page of soggy newspaper cartwheeling across the parking lot like so much urban tumbleweed, I dashed up the marble steps to the arched doorway.
Half a lifetime ago I’d walked along this same street on my way to school—teenaged Maralee Kowolsky with big dreams of becoming an actress. A star. Now I was back. Thirty-year-old Lee Barrett, unemployed, with hardly any dreams left. Salem born, orphaned early, married once, widowed young. Just yesterday I’d flown here from Florida. I’d come home to the place where I’d been raised, my aunt Ibby’s big old house on Winter Street.
The vintage elevator growled its way slowly upward and at the end of the second floor corridor I found the office I was looking for. My watch showed a couple of minutes before nine. I was right on time for my interview. A brunette receptionist looked in my direction. Her name tag read Rhonda, with the “o” in the shape of a heart.
“Good morning,” I said, trying to modulate my normally throaty voice. “I’m Lee Barrett. I have a nine o’clock appointment with Mr. Doan.”
That voice had become sort of a trademark for me, first as a weather girl on a Miami cable station and more recently as a show host on a Central Florida TV home shopping program. I mentally crossed my fingers. If this interview went well, there’d be no more cumulus clouds or cubic zirconia in my future. I’d have a real TV job.
Rhonda consulted a notebook. “Mr. Doan said that if you showed up, I should tell you that he’s very sorry. The job you applied for has already been filled.”
“What do you mean, if I showed up.” My redhead’s temper began to flare. I reached into my handbag and pulled out a letter. “Here!” I waved the paper, signed with the station manager’s name. “Mr. Doan specifically said I was under serious consideration for the field reporter’s job. I flew here from Florida for this interview!”
She arched black-penciled eyebrows and shrugged. “Sorry. He hired somebody else. Some guy.”
“Some guy,” I repeated. “Well, that’s just great. Please tell Mr. Doan thanks a lot for his consideration.”
“Sure.” If she caught my sarcasm, she didn’t show it.
Too angry to say anything else, I headed for the elevator. “Damn,” I whispered. “Damn. Damn. Damn,”
“Bad day?” The male voice came from just over my shoulder. I turned and looked into brown eyes just about level with my own green ones.
“A really bad day,” I agreed. “One of the worst.” I punched the “down” button.
“I hope your day gets better,” said Brown Eyes.
You can read more about Lee in Caught Dead Handed, the first book in the new “Witch City” mystery series, published by Kensington.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 9 for the chance to win a copy of CAUGHT DEAD HANDED. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
About the author
Carol J. Perry’s debut mystery. Caught Dead Handed is the first in a series of “Witch City Mysteries.” It’s a Halloween brew of murder, masks and magic. Appropriately enough, this Salem-born author celebrates her birthday on Halloween eve. Carol is also the author of several young adult novels, but before she began to write fiction, she worked as an advertising copy writer for a large Massachusetts department store. The second book in the Witch City series is Tails, You Lose” which will be available in April, 2015, and involves a seriously haunted—you guessed it– department store.
Carol’s non-fiction articles on antiques and collectibles appear in newspapers and magazines around the country and her third mystery will feature some strange happenings in an antique shop. (She’s also written about endangered turtles and manatees and whales so don’t be surprised if something fishy turns up in subsequent books!) Carol and her husband Dan live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida with two cats and a Black Lab.
For more information, visit Carol’s website