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Gemma Halliday

Killer in High Heels

The second book in the Maddie Springer series, 2007

For my mom,

who taught me everything I know about fashion.

And my dad, who didn’t mind me naming

a drag queen after him.

Chapter One

There are two things in life I hate more than getting shot at. Number one: Birkenstocks, one shoe I am proud to say I did not design. And number two: sit-ups, the torture routine my best friend, Dana, was currently making me perform on the floor of the Sunset Gym.

“Come on, two more, you can do it!”

I grunted, giving my personal cheerleader the evil eye as I struggled to a sitting position.

“I”-pant-“can’t”-pant-“do it.” My stomach muscles started to shake, and I could feel an unattractive bead of sweat trailing from my blond roots down to the tip of my chin.

“Come on, Maddie. I know you’ve got two more in you. Think of how good you’ll look in a bikini this summer.”

“I’ll buy a one-piece,” I grunted.

“Think of how great you’ll feel knowing you did something good for your body.”

I raised one eyebrow, giving her my best “get real” look.

“Okay, think of this,” Dana said, a lightbulb moment flashing in her blue eyes. “Think of how bad Ramirez will want you when he sees your ripped abs.”

That did it. With one really unladylike grunt I clenched my teeth together and hauled myself into a sitting position.

“Woohoo! I knew you could do it!” Dana stood up and did an end-zone-worthy victory dance on my behalf. Dana was a 5′7″, 36 double D, strawberry blond aerobics instructor slash wanna-be actress with the kind of body that inspired rock songs. I don’t need to add that every male head in the gym suddenly turned our way.

“Thanks,” I said. “I needed that.”

“No prob. What are friends for?”

“But you do realize you violated The Oath.”

Dana bit her lip, getting a guilty look on her face. “Oops.”

The Oath was the vow I had made all of my friends and family take to never mention the name “Ramirez” to me again. Last summer Detective Jack Ramirez, or as Dana had dubbed him, the Panty Melter, showed up at my apartment with a pocket full of condoms. He kissed me. I kissed him. A mad frenzy of clothing fell to the floor. We were one Vicky’s push-up bra and a pair of Hanes Her Way from the bedroom…when his pager went off.

He left me with a platonic kiss on the forehead and a promise to call me the next day. Yeah right. Two weeks later I got a message on my machine. “Sorry, been busy. Work. Gotta go. Call you later.” And not a peep since.


Then again, what did I really expect? Jack Ramirez was a cop with a big gun, a big tattoo, and a big…well let’s just say his BVDs didn’t hide much that night. So, I shouldn’t really be surprised he wasn’t turning out to be Mr. Cleaver material. I had to admit, though, Ramirez was still an improvement over my last boyfriend, Richard, who ended up getting arrested for conspiracy and embezzlement.

Do I know how to pick ’em or what?

“Sorry,” Dana said, “but you had to finish the set. Honey, you’re doing so good.”

Actually, I kind of was. When the Name that Shall Not Be Spoken did his disappearing act last July, I did what any other normal, rational, single woman would do when being completely ignored by the object of her affection. I junk food binged. Oh, mama, did I binge. Cheetos, pizza, Oreos, Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey by the bucketful and Keebler fudge cookies in every size, shape and variety. Dana finally did a chocolate chip intervention, pointing out that if I didn’t cut it out soon, I would a) have permanent cheese doodle stains on my fingers, b) not be able to fit into my favorite black Nicole Miller dress, and c) qualify as an official member of the Pathetic Losers of America club. She was right. My Miller was a little snug. Which is why I didn’t even protest (much) when she dragged me to the gym and forced me to perform the modern equivalent of medieval torture. Sit-ups.

I flopped back onto the blue gym mat, breathing heavily. “Please tell me we’re done?”

Dana (who, by the way, hadn’t even broken a sweat yet despite the fact that we’d been here nearly an hour) put her hands on her hips. “But we haven’t even worked your glutes yet.”

“If I promise to have lettuce for dinner, can I skip the glutes?” I pleaded. Even though I was actually dreaming of lettuce sandwiched between a sesame seed bun and a quarter pound beef patty.

Dana let a little frown settle between her strawberry blond brows. But, since she was such a good friend (and I was still panting like a Doberman), she let me off the hook. “Fine. But I expect to see you back here on Saturday ready to do some lunges and squats.”

“Aye, aye, captain.”

Taking pity on me, Dana helped me up and I dragged my sweaty behind to the locker room.

“So,” she asked, “any big plans tonight?”

Considering it was Friday night and the only action I’d gotten in months was from a battery-powered rabbit, the answer to that one was a no-brainer. “Nope. Why?”

“I’ve got a Pilates class at five, but I was going to go shopping after that. Wanna come?”

Does a bear go poo poo in the woods? “I’m there.”

Twenty minutes later I pulled my little red Jeep up to my second-story studio in Santa Monica. Two blocks away from the beach, my apartment was my little piece of heaven. And I do mean little. A fold-out futon, a drawing table, and three dozen pairs of shoes had the place at max capacity. I let myself in and even though the half-eaten bag of Chips Ahoy was calling to me from the back of my cupboard, I resisted, popping the top on a can of Diet Coke instead while I played my messages.

The first one was from Blockbuster. “The Sex and the City second season DVD you ordered came in,” a bored-sounding teenager informed me. “The computer also shows that you have out Pretty Woman, When Harry met Sally, and…” She paused. And she might have even done a little laugh slash cough thing. “…Joanie Loves Chachi, the complete set.”

Yes, this is what life without a man has driven me to.

I hit the delete button.

The next message clicked on.

“Hi, this is Felix Dunn with the L.A. Informer. We’re doing a follow-up story to your ordeal last summer. I’d like to schedule a time to interview you about-”

Beep. Delete.

Ever since my ex-boyfriend, Richard’s, very public arrest, which at one time had included a charge of murder, the press had hijacked my phone number. Okay, I’ll admit there had been a little stabbing incident involving me, a homicidal ex-mistress, her popped breast implant, and a stiletto heel in the jugular, which had somehow captured the imagination of the media. I’d been featured no fewer than three times on the cover of the Informer since then. Twice with my head superimposed over the body of a slasher movie heroine and once as the bride of Bigfoot. Hmmm…maybe that’s why Ramirez hadn’t called.

The machine clicked over to the next message.

“Hi honey, it’s Mom. Guess what? Ralph finally got our Hawaii pictures printed! You must come see them. They are fabu! Call me!”

Mom had recently come back from an extended Hawaiian honeymoon with husband number two, Ralph. Or, as I liked to call him, Faux Dad. My real dad had run off to Las Vegas with a showgirl named Lola when I was only three. All I remember of Real Dad is a hand, connected to a slightly more hairy than normal arm, waving goodbye out the driver’s side window of his ’74 El Camino. Needless to say, Faux Dad and I had bonded right away. (And it didn’t hurt that he ran one of Beverly Hills’ most exclusive salons and offered me all the free manicures I wanted, either.)