Stilettos and Scoundrels – a Presley Thurman cozy mystery FREE Chapter
Stilettos & Scoundrels
Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator is found dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex–boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senator’s security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?
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What was I thinking? Did I just tell my boss off and get myself fired? I smiled, thinking back to the moment I told David Ritter that I wouldn’t sleep with him if he were the last man on earth. I wouldn’t sleep with him, even if he promised me the new Louis Vuitton satchel I had been eyeing up, and I’ve always said I would do anything for that Louis satchel. By the look on his face, no wasn’t something he was accustomed to hearing. Though now unemployed, it was a small price to pay to tell him off.
I made my way back to my condo, forgoing the bus in lieu of a brisk walk the few blocks from my office—well, my former office. It was a nice day out, and frankly I hated public transportation. The bus was just a necessary evil on rainy or cold days. Besides, walking those few blocks would take me past one of my favorite boutiques, Element. I could hardly afford to shop there, but I loved to look. They always had the most fabulous window displays, and I knew that it would brighten my outlook on life.
I thought back to what happened a few hours earlier. It had started out as a good day. My hair turned out well because the low humidity helped keep it frizz proof. I was wearing one of my favorite skirts, a chocolate–colored pencil skirt, and paired it with a cream–colored cowl neck sweater. It was April, but the wind in Chicago meant that it was still chilly, and a sweater seemed just the thing on a crisp spring day. I’d slipped on my brown Jimmy Choos and my favorite silver earrings from Silvapada with matching bangle bracelet, and headed out the door. I stopped at Starbucks on the way to work, ordered a venti chai skinny with one Splenda, and walked in the door to the office with a few minutes to spare. Enough time to chat with my best work friend, Tonya, who was smoking surreptitiously outside the employee entrance just underneath the no–smoking sign.
“Tonya, one of these days you are going to get caught and get in big trouble,” I said to my friend.
“Whatever,” said Tonya, waving her hands absently. “They can’t afford to get rid of me. I know where all of their skeletons are buried.” She laughed.
Tonya was joking, but she also wasn’t far off. Working at McLaughlin Industries for the last fifteen years, Tonya was the only one on our floor who had been there the entire time our boss, David Ritter, had. Though he hadn’t always been the boss. David Ritter was a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen, and Tonya knew about everything he had done that the company had tried to sweep under the rug. She also had no problem telling him she knew what a despicable ass he was. She intimidated David, so he just ignored her whenever possible. Lucky her.
“You want to check out the spring sale at Macy’s on our lunch break?” Tonya asked.
“You don’t have to ask me twice.”
“Good.” Tonya twisted her cigarette against the brick wall to put it out and flicked the butt in the trash can. “We might as well get this day started.”
About an hour after we got back from lunch, where I had the good fortune to pick up two pairs of Diesel jeans and a cute red DKNY stretchy t–shirt, David called me into his office. Not an unusual occurrence in itself. As a Senior Stilettos and Scoundrels Human Resource manager, I had many meetings with David in his capacity as Vice President of Sales, where he was always coming on to me, and it had grown tiresome. A couple of times I had complained to David’s boss, Gary, after David wouldn’t stop texting me about taking me out or about how I looked that day. I wasn’t sure what Gary had said when he talked to David, but David had mostly behaved since then. When forced to speak to me, he was curt and tense, but I didn’t care because it was better than the alternative. Although lately I wondered more and more why I still worked there under those conditions. I didn’t trust him, and I was just waiting for his old antics to flare up again. Today I wasn’t disappointed.
“You wanted to see me, David?” I walked into his office and stood in front of his over-sized mahogany desk.
“Yes. Have a seat.” David gestured to one of the chairs beside his desk, next to a small coffee table. His office wasn’t luxurious, but it was a step up from my tiny cubicle.
I sat down as David leaned against his desk, and I could barely stand the overpowering stench of his cologne. I wanted to gag, and hoped whatever he had to say was quick.
“I wanted to talk to you about the workforce reduction reports, Presley. They’re still four percent higher than where I asked you to come in the last time.” His topic wasn’t surprising. I knew this was coming eventually. One of the aspects of my position that I hated most was that I was responsible for cutting jobs. I knew it was unavoidable if the company was to remain profitable, but it was a distasteful duty nonetheless.
“David, I realize the numbers were above expectations, but the higher average salary of some of the more tenured employees wasn’t figured into the original numbers. Head count came in on target. One person less even, but the salary piece was higher.”
“Not good enough. You needed to hit those numbers, or it throws off the rest of my projections. I’m accountable for those. You need to fix it. Get rid of Evans and Thompson. You can hire four college grads for that amount of money and still have cash left over.”
“How do you expect me to do that?” I glared at him, incredulous. “I can’t just get rid of people because they make too much money and don’t fit in your spreadsheet calculations, when they are the best person for the job. That’s how lawsuits happen.”
“Hey, I’m the sales guy, you’re HR. It’s your job to figure it out.” I seethed, my hands clenching. I wanted to punch him. There was only so much I could do from a legal and ethical standpoint. He just wanted to make my life difficult, and he was doing a damned fine job at it.
“Maybe we could work something out,” David said, putting a lecherous hand on my knee.
I deliberately took his hand, removed it from my knee, and looked him straight in the eye. “And what exactly would that be?”
“Let’s just say if you are nice to me, I could be persuaded to overlook the discrepancy. Then you wouldn’t have to lay off any more people,” David said with his version of a charming smile, returning his hand to my knee. Furious, I jumped up and faced him, putting my hands on my hips.
“If you think I would do anything outside my professional capacity for you, you are sadly mistaken. Your behavior is despicable, and I’m not going to tolerate it.”
David flushed a deep red. “Are you sure about that, Presley?” He sneered. “We’re making cuts all across the company, and if you aren’t doing your job, which you clearly aren’t by being over budget, well…”
“Are you trying to tell me that if I am not nice to you, you’re going to fire me?” I said, using finger quotes on the nice.
“I’m not doing anything. It’s your choice.” David sat back in his chair looking smug, as if he thought I was going to change my mind if he threatened me about my job. “Well?”
“Well, nothing. I won’t do it.”
“Then I guess you have left me no choice. You’re fired.”
“What? You can’t do that.”
“Yes I can. Like I said, we need to make more cuts.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was no way Gary knew about this. I had worked with him for years before David had become my direct boss. David got up and went behind his desk.
“That’s all,” he said, dismissing me. “Please clear out your desk and leave. I assume you won’t cause any trouble on your way out. I would hate to call security.”
I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I walked over to his desk. “Is there something else, Presley?”
“Just one more thing.” David looked up expectantly. I picked up his coffee cup and threw the contents at him. His jaw dropped. He stood there dripping coffee off what was probably a five– hundred–dollar suit.
I started laughing. “That’s all I have to say.” I turned around and walked out of his office.
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