THE MEDIA WERE IN A frenzy. A beautiful blond sex symbol, Salli T. Turner, star of TV’s Teach!, had been murdered, and the circus was in full swing. Her luxurious mansion in Pacific Palisades was surrounded on all sides by TV trucks, their crews, reporters, and the general populace held back behind police lines.
The slaying of Salli and her houseman, Froo, was already as high profile as the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman killings. The media liked nothing better than a good, juicy, violent murder to hang onto, and Salli T. Turner was the perfect victim. A blond goddess, she was known on every continent as the girl in the black rubber swimsuit, thanks to the worldwide success of her TV show and her many photo spreads in numerous popular magazines—including three Playboy covers.
Salli had been married twice. Her current husband was Bobby Skorch, a man whose profession was performing dangerous stunts. When Bobby had
returned home from Vegas at three A.M., Tucci had confronted him with the shocking news. Bobby had appeared to be so distraught that he’d locked himself in the master bedroom and refused to come out.
Salli’s former husband, Eddie Stoner, a smalltime actor, was currently under arrest for parking violations. The arrest, however, was a scam—the police had wanted to get him into custody so they could question him, and thirty-four unpaid tickets had seemed a good way to accomplish it.
Detective Chuck Tucci had only managed two hours of sleep the previous night and was now feeling the effects. He was also aware that very shortly he’d have to give some kind of press conference to satisfy the hordes of media who hovered outside the murdered star’s home like hungry vultures waiting for something to be thrown into their gaping mouths. Detective Tucci knew exactly what he’d like to throw—several hand grenades.
Early in the morning his understanding wife, Faye, had packed him a care package—one corned beef, lettuce and tomato sandwich, his favorite, and a carton of her homemade coleslaw, which she knew he loved. He’d missed dinner the night before, and when he’d finally arrived home at some ungodly hour, Faye had been asleep. As soon as he’d made enough noise to wake her, though, she got up, and in spite of the fact that he was supposed to be on a diet, she’d hurried down to the kitchen and fixed him a delicious plate of scrambled eggs. Faye was a good woman, also a most attractive one; feisty, with hispanic blood, she was a pocket-sized Venus, with a mass of black hair and kind brown eyes. Detective
Tucci often gave thanks for the day he met her: he’d been investigating a murder in Malibu, and she had been the social worker sent to collect the two children in the house. Three months later they were married.
Last night he’d wolfed down the plate of eggs she’d fixed him and begged for more. “You can’t eat anything else this late,” Faye had scolded, wagging a disapproving finger at him. “It’s bad for your stomach.”
Bad for his stomach? Given half the chance, he would’ve devoured everything in sight, in spite of the fact that he’d spent the evening in the company of two dead bodies—Salli T. Turner, hacked to death by her frenzied killer, and Froo, her houseman, shot in the face—two bloodied bodies he’d had to inspect and watch being photographed. Finally, when forensics were finished, he’d observed as the bodies were hauled off to be autopsied, and then he prowled around the house, making copious notes in his worn blue leather notebook. After that he interviewed the neighbors, and now, in the morning sunshine, all that was left were the chalk marks to show exactly where the unfortunate victims had fallen.
Detective Tucci shook his head and tried not to think about food. His care package was sitting in the kitchen where he had left it, and there it would stay until he got desperate. He was now waiting to interview the infamous Bobby Skorch. A few hours ago, Bobby’s lawyer, Marty Steiner, arrived at the house and rushed straight to the bedroom, where he’d been huddled with his client for the last two hours. Marty was smoothness personified, with his
slicked-back silver hair, smug face and expensive jogging suit. A “dream team” reject, he was a man obviously determined to hit the headlines. One look and Tucci had immediately tagged him “Hollywood lawyer,” although he’d promised himself not to make such quick judgments. Faced with Marty Steiner, the temptation proved irresistible.
He glanced at his watch, noting that the brown leather strap was worn and that he needed to buy a new one. Maybe next weekend he and Faye would go shopping. Faye loved wandering along the Third Street promenade, checking out the stores, and as long as they got to stop for a hamburger or a hot dog, he didn’t object.
Now that his mind was back on food, his sandwich, tightly packaged in Saran Wrap, sitting quietly in the kitchen, was beckoning him. Finally he gave up and hurried into the kitchen.
Salli T. Turner’s plump, middle-aged Filipino maid, Eppie, sat at the end of a long marble counter, crying into a glass of milk and a plate full of cookies. Earlier he had questioned her; between sobs she told him she didn’t know anything. According to Eppie, she arrived at the house every morning at eight A.M. and departed at three P.M. When she left yesterday, Missy Salli—as she called her employer—had been happily having lunch out by the pool. He’d asked her about Bobby Skorch. “They very much in love,” Eppie had answered tearily. “Always laughing.”
Well Bobby Skorch wasn’t laughing now, Tucci thought grimly. And he wasn’t talking either. Not that he had any obligation to do so—but if he didn’t, it would cast a deep pall of suspicion over him.
Tucci’s eyes swiveled to the end of the marble
counter where he’d left his sandwich. It was gone. So was his carton of homemade coleslaw. “I… uh … had some food I left here,” he said, trying to ignore his rumbling stomach.
“What?” Eppie said rudely, like she couldn’t believe he was thinking of food at a time like this.
“A sandwich,” he said, clearing his throat. “And a carton of coleslaw.”
“Oh,” Eppie answered vaguely, lowering her swollen and red-rimmed eyes. “I didn’t know it was yours. I ate it.”
“You ate it?” Tucci said incredulously.
“Sorry,” Eppie said, stuffing another cookie into her mouth. “It was only an itty bitty snack.” And then, noticing that the detective was not pleased, she burst into sobs again, almost choking on her cookie.
“Goddamn it!” Tucci mumbled under his breath, just as his partner, Lee Eccles—summoned back from a fishing trip—arrived.
“Jeez!” Lee exclaimed. “There’s a friggin’ circus goin’ on outside. What in hell happened here?”