Is it still murder even if she was a bitch?

A Donna Leigh Mystery by Robin Leemann Donovan www.rldonovan.com Claire Dockens was dead. Wow, that was a shock. When Kyle told me I almost dropped right on the spot. How often is it that someone you’ve known for years, worked with in the trenches, whose house you’ve been to several times, drops dead? She wasn’t even that old – like early fifties. If that weren’t enough of a bombshell, Kyle’s next revelation definitely put me over the edge – “And they say she was murdered.” At that point I think I did lose consciousness for a second or two – not enough to make me actually hit the floor – but I’m sure, moments later, I wasn’t facing in exactly the same direction as I had been before my momentary lapse. The next thought that entered my shock-addled head was, “I wonder if they’ll suspect me? I mean, it’s not like I could stand her.” Then, Kyle said, “Gosh, I hope they won’t think I did it.” Kyle Thoroughgood was my colleague and friend at Marcel, the oldest and most revered advertising and marketing consulting firm in Omaha, Nebraska. We’d both been colleagues of the victim a few years prior, and the day that Claire tendered her resignation had been an occasion of mutual celebration. Her mere existence had elicited an intense aggravation in both Kyle and me. She’d openly sought to condemn and abuse us for her own personal sport. With Claire as a colleague, we definitely hadn’t needed any enemies. Truthfully, Kyle and I were but two of her multitude of victims since verbally abusive banter was her preferred pastime, but with the two of us she’d taken it to a level beyond. She had elevated her abuse to an art form. That’s when we both heaved a sigh of relief. Hell, the list of suspects would be monumentally huge! Sure we’d be on it – but undoubtedly we’d get lost in the shuffle of characters with sufficient motive. “So how’d they do it?” I tentatively pressed. “Bludgeoned as she was leaving a charity dinner,” Kyle offered. “Oh god, that really could have been any of us,” I shuddered. “With what?” Still nodding Kyle responded, “Hasn’t been released yet. I don’t think they’re sure. From what I know they haven’t found the weapon and the autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow morning.” “Oh yeah, how’d you find out?” “Facebook.” That’s when my partner Liv walked by with her third coffee of the morning. “Gotta run – late for a meeting,” she tossed out, and then, “Shit, does coffee come out of silk?” As she frantically swiped at the growing brown stain on her new couture blouse.

“Hey,” Kyle pursued “hear about Claire?” “I read it on Facebook at 2 a.m. last night when I was finishing the proposal for this meeting. Her poor family!” Leave it to Liv to give the kind, humanitarian response. Liv Danielsen was my partner and fellow owner of Marcel. I’m Donna Leigh. Ten years prior Liv and I had the amazing opportunity to purchase Marcel, the legendary ad agency that had once grown to global status and revenue before being purchased by a somewhat short-sighted holding company and allowed to idle long enough for Liv, two other partners and myself to buy the company. Over the years, our other two partners had eased out and/or retired. Liv and I hand-picked a third partner who had worked with us to reposition the business and shed the “ad agency” persona that was killing every agency unable to make the jump into the future and the world of social media and one-on-one dialogs with customers: Donny Miller. “Kyle and I are on a mission to identify the murder weapon.” Liv just rolled her eyes and grabbed a damp cloth. She dabbed at her spreading stain while running toward the already packed conference room. I turned back to Kyle in time to see Donny motoring up the hallway. “I suppose you know about Claire too?” One thing about Donny; he was connected. If you needed anything you could count on him to hook you up with the best in the city. With his pervasive human network in place it was virtually impossible to be the bearer of any kind of news to Donny, because there was nothing he hadn’t already heard. “Hell yes, two of my high school buddies were cops on the scene. One of them texted me even before the coroner pronounced her dead. I would have run down to check it out – but he didn’t think his CO would be too thrilled. I tried you on your cell. Man, this will really be a blow to the Omaha business community. She was unquestionably one of the smart ones, one of the few I could really respect.” “You’re kidding.” “Yeah, she didn’t know anything.” He smiled impishly. “She sure thought she did though. One thing’s for sure – they won’t have a shortage of suspects. Hey Donna, now that I think of it, you’re probably on the list – you too, Kyle.” Now Kyle and I did the eye roll. Typical Donny. But this time he’d kind of struck a nerve. I could tell by the look on Kyle’s face that we were thinking the same thing – would we be getting a visit from a detective anytime soon? Exciting as that may have sounded, we didn’t want any public notoriety that would give our clients reason to believe that we could not give them our full focus.

That was when it struck Kyle. He excused himself to call the clients and give them a heads up that the murder victim was one of our former employees. Poor guy, he’d be stuck ducking tough questions while short on information, and forced to appear respectfully sad and inordinately complimentary to a person who made his life hell every chance she got. But that’s the way it goes – once a team member always a team member, and even though Claire hadn’t been a member of the Marcel team at the time of her death – he wasn’t about to speak ill of the dead. Actually, Kyle never speaks ill of anyone. Fortunately for me I can sometimes make him laugh with my blunt and irreverent characterizations of some of our well-deserving colleagues and associates. I’m not as nice as Kyle. I rolled my eyes at Donny and headed back toward my office passing two puzzled-looking copywriters. One thing was for certain, it would be a while before we lacked a topic of conversation.

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