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Tuesday, April 7, 11:30 a.m.

From Blood and Groom: A Sasha Jackson Mystery by Jill Edmondson
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Blood and Groom by Jill Edmondson introduces readers to Sasha Jackson, a Toronto-based private investigator. Sasha is hired by "high society gal" Christine Arvisais to solve the murder of her fiancé, Gordon Hanes, a nearly bankrupt art dealer. Blood and Groom in published by Dundurn Press.

Some women seemed naked without makeup. Other women seemed naked without jewellery. The uptight Manolo-shod Chihuahua who had barged into my office without an appointment seemed naked without an entourage. I put down the current issue of Billboard and listened.

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Blood And Groom

“I thought that bullshit about till death do you part only applied to couples who actually got married. That bastard Gordon dumped me and got himself killed four months later. I didn’t do it, but I’d like to thank whoever did.”

Listening to the little bottle-blond bitch barking at me, I automatically figured the guy who had dumped her must have had a good reason. “So, Christine, what would you like me to do for you?”

She looked down her nose at me. “Isn’t it obvious, Sasha?”

Hmm... isn’t it obvious you’re a shrew in Chanel?

She got up from the faux leather chair opposite my desk and brushed the back of her skirt as if the imitation rawhide had left authentic cowpies on her designer suit. “Everyone thinks I killed Gordon, and believe me, I wanted to. Everyone except the police, that is. They questioned me. They interviewed my family and my friends. They checked my alibi and went to all the places I said I’d been. They found nothing because there was nothing to find, so I was never charged.”

She continued to pace around my minimalist-by-accident, barren-by-bank-account office, her ring-less left hand anxiously twirling her hair. I silently smirked that my own blond hair would never have the mousy brown roots hers did.

“So why bother?” I asked. “You should just move on and forget about him.”

“Well, Sasha …” She drew out my name in the same tone people used on a two-year-old who had just discovered the treasures hidden deep inside his nostrils.

“I bother because people still talk, they point and whisper, I know they think I did it, and they think I got away with it. When I go to fundraisers or events, they treat me differently. When I’m at the club, they make me feel funny. Trust me, if I’d killed the bastard, I’d be bragging about it.”

“So being accused of murder is shameful, but actually doing it is fine?”

“Exactly. If I’m going to get credit for something, I’d prefer it be for something I really did do.”

“Of course. But why now? He was killed eight months ago.”

“Nine months.”

“Whatever. A while ago.”

“I was at Monsoon for a dinner date last night. Gordon’s cousin Rebecca saw me there. She never liked me, and my date and I happened to be seated at a table right across from Rebecca and her friends. When she saw me, she walked over to my table, called me a bunch of names, said I got away with murder, and then she threw her drink in my face.”

“Ouch.”

“On top of that, my date, a really hot proctologist named Randall, made up some bullshit about a reminder on his BlackBerry and bailed on our night out.”

“That sucks. So... why me then? I don’t really do this kind of work. I mostly do background checks for corporate hires and the occasional cheating partner. I’ve never investigated a murder.”

“Because you’re all I can afford.”

“Gee, you know someone with an ounce of graciousness would have answered that differently.”

“Don’t be so touchy. I didn’t mean it that way.”

I stared at her silently.

“Okay. Sorry.”

It was true my rates were low, at least for now. I’d graduated from Sheridan College’s Security and Investigator Diploma Program a few months ago and was still trying to build my reputation and my client base.

“I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t make any promises, and I won’t commit beyond one week. I don’t see the point of wasting my time or your money.”

“I’ll be expecting results much sooner than that,” Christine said. “And daily reports.”

I pointed out to the sabre-toothed socialite that expenses weren’t included in the bargain prices of my stellar but novice services. She took a chequebook out of her Ferragamo purse and filled in the details using a ninety-nine-cent disposable pen with blotchy ink. Her signature, Christine Arvisais, was loopy and flowing, and she topped all the i’s with little circles. That seemed so very cutesy and incongruous with what I’d seen of her personality.

“So the police must have checked out your story,” I said.

“Of course, they did, and it’s not a story. It’s the truth. My mother and I go to the Crystal Cove spa on the first weekend of every month. We go early Saturday morning, get the seaweed wrap, chemical peel, and mud bath, and then we have a facial and mani-pedicure.”

“Sounds like perfect mother-daughter bonding.”

Not something that appealed to me, since my mother had been out of my life since I was two. And not a way I’d choose to spend a weekend. Too expensive and too chi-chi for me.

“Then a Shiatsu massage and Bikram yoga in the afternoon.”

“I’m sure it’s lovely.” I could never see the point of yoga as a part of a fitness regime — too passive, and too easy to slip into a coma and call it a workout.

“The spa does a weekend cleansing and detoxification, so we get there at eight on Saturday morning and leave Sunday afternoon. We drink twelve litres of water, plus some restorative beverages and a couple of herbal teas. You should try it.”

“Only if they spike the tea with vodka.”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “We leave refreshed, and about two or three pounds lighter, though you obviously don’t need to worry about your weight. Anyhow, they know me and they’ll tell you I was there that weekend like usual.”

“Of course. Mud baths are important.”

“Exactly. So that’s my alibi.”

“Well, then if you didn’t kill him, who do you think did?”

“I have no idea, and I don’t care, except maybe to thank them, and to bitch them out for making it look like I did it. Mostly to thank them, though.”

“Like I said, if not you, then who?”

She examined her cuticles and seemed to silently condemn the manicurist who had performed her latest claw sharpening. “There were people who didn’t like him, and people who did, like with most people.”

Eloquence was clearly not her forte. “I can’t think of anyone who would’ve wanted him dead, though, except me. He dumped me, completely embarrassed me, and made a fool of me four months before our wedding. I’d already been fitted for the dress — a Vera Wang, with a sweetheart neckline, made of hand-beaded pure silk.”

“You can use it next time.” Something told me that Christine would probably have enough husbands throughout her life to start her own baseball team.

“Good God, no. It’s cursed now, so I put it in a consignment store to recover some of the cost, but it still hasn’t sold.”

“It’s just waiting for the right bride-to-be.”

“The invitations had just come from the print shop two days before Gordon lost his mind and turned into an asshole. I was about to mail them out, but still hadn’t decided whether or not to invite Mindy Melnyk, who used to be my best friend in high school, but —”

“Can you fast-forward? I don’t really care about Mindy.” Boy, did that interruption net me a dirty look.

“Anyway, Sasha, after he dumped me, I never really spoke to him again. I had nothing more to do with him or his family and I steered clear of his friends, so I don’t know what could’ve happened to him in that time to make someone want to kill him.” Christine was now briskly pacing my office as she spoke. The rhythm of her steps echoed the brusque, staccato delivery of her story.

“Do you think the reason he dumped you had anything to do with the reason he was killed?” I asked.

“I don’t know. He never gave me any real explanation, except that he wasn’t ready.”

I could think of any number of reasons why Gordon might have dumped Christine, and most of them also pointed to motives for him to have killed her, not vice versa.

“I’ll want to talk to the people who were close to him. Where does the drink thrower —”

“Rebecca.”

“Right. Where does Cousin Rebecca work?”

Anyone bearing such strong animosity toward Christine would be interesting to talk to.

“At Chadwick’s in Yorkville. She thinks she’s hot shit, but really, she’s nothing more than a sales girl.”

Excerpted from Blood and Groom: A Sasha Jackson Mystery by Jill Edmondson. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

Jill Edmondson

Jill Edmondson has worked as a bartender and a travel agent and taught English in Mexico for a number of years. Currently, she teaches communications in the Faculty of Hospitality at George Brown College. She lives in Toronto. Her website is:

www.jilledmondson.com

The views expressed in the magazine are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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