Four hours earlier she starred in her first live radio show.

Now, she was a frightened, confused murder suspect,

and it was only Monday.

 
 

 

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Introducing the first

Nic & Nora Mystery

 

She

Overheard

Murder

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finalist 2014
Lambda Literary Award

 

She Overheard Murder

Introducing the Nic & Nora Mystery series

On October 29, 1945, Nic Owen made her debut appearance as a radio detective on the new show, Inez Ingalls, Private Eye. Her career began only weeks earlier when Studio Manager, Frank Myers, hired her to read ad copy and work as an understudy. The murder of Carolyn Park propelled Nic to the starring role and a top spot on the list of suspects. Cecil Park, husband of the murdered woman, wants answers. As does Nora Hahn, Carolyn's 'special friend' for fourteen years.

The war is over, and people from countries around the world are proud to have fought and defended the basic rights of their citizens. Those who survived want life to return to normal. For homosexuals, the struggle for basic rights did not end, and normal means more of the same, hiding who they are and enduring the insults and sometimes-fatal reactions when others discover their secret.

She Overheard Murder introduces characters from the new Nic and Nora Mystery series—mysteries solved by lesbian amateur detectives in post-World War II Chicago.

 

Kindle US $4.99

Kindle UK £3.01

 

Print from Amazon.com $14.95

 

Order from Wellworth Publishing $14.95

 

 

Reviews for She Overheard Murder

Chapter 1

"Boy, that was sure close, Inez. If you didn't break that window before we went in, we never would have made it out of the warehouse alive. How did you know?"

"Woman's intuition is highly underrated, Jeff. Let's call it a day. I'm ready to soak in a tub of Modern Woman Bath Oil."

 

CUE ANNOUNCER

"And so, Inez and Jeff thwart the thieves and keep Chicago safe. Join us next time for another thrill-packed adventure featuring Inez Ingalls, Private Eye. Until then, don't forget. If you're a modern woman, Modern Woman Soaps and Oils are made with you in mind."

 

CUE BAND

On October 29, 1945, fading notes from WBAC's studio orchestra signaled an end to the premier episode of radio detective Inez Ingalls, Private Eye. The "on the air" sign flickered and went dark, sending Nic Owen to a nearby chair to relax her tense muscles and take a few deep breaths. The relief left her only faintly aware of a compliment from studio manager Frank Myers as he hurried by. "You were great, Nic. Really great."

When the praise had a chance to sink in, Nic reflected on her new career as Inez Ingalls, star of a radio detective show. Only eight months earlier, the twenty-seven-year-old was working at an airplane factory west of the city. For most of her two years at the plant, she had popped rivets into fuselages of Douglas C-54 transport planes. When an agent from the War Department discovered she had a voice well-suited for broadcasting, she took on an added duty—reading war bond commercials. The Allied victory brought not only an end to her riveting and recording careers, but a great deal of uncertainty about what to do with her life.

Nic's aunt had spotted the newspaper advertisement for a female to read ads and suggested she audition for the job. While standing in line with hundreds of other women, Nic doubted that she had the voice or the talent, but like the War Department, Frank Myers found her a perfect fit for radio. He hired her on the spot to read commercials and work as understudy to other female cast members, including the star, Carolyn Park. Frank told her she was learning the part 'just in case.' He had not suggested it was just in case someone shot Mrs. Park two days before the first episode aired. Nic's new career began, quite literally, with a bang.

Ten minutes after the closing notes faded, Nic remained unable to stand, or pry her fingers from the script. She felt exhausted and guessed it was her body's response to suddenly relaxed muscles. Instead of trying to stand, she slumped further into her chair and used the script as a fan, waving it slowly so as not to deplete precious remaining energy.

"Carolyn never used a script."

"I know. She was amazing." Nic turned to a dark-haired woman that she remembered seeing at the back of the studio during the show. Her expression suggested she was not there to strike up a friendship.

"I hope you don't consider yourself the next Carolyn Park. On your best day, it would take more of a woman than you to fill her shoes."

The offensive words dissolved any ailments, real or imagined. Nic shot to her feet and directly into the path of two piercing dark eyes. "I barely knew Carolyn Park, and I'm not trying to fill anyone's shoes. Who are you?"

Her critic looked about to respond, but instead, a blank gaze replaced her defiant stare, and in keeping with her abrupt arrival, her high heels clattered on the floorboards as she hurried off the stage.

The encounter gave Nic another opportunity to examine her list of pros and cons for working in radio. As she returned to the chair, she found it more relaxing to examine the surrounding architecture than her unsteady thoughts.

The Merchandise Mart, a massive twenty-five-story, four-million-square-foot, Art Deco-style building, spanned two full city blocks overlooking the Chicago River. Although no stranger to the building, Nic's visits never took her to the two floors that housed WBAC radio station. She recalled her astonished first look at Studio A, one of the three largest spaces. Designers had removed the ceilings from studios A, E, and D, allowing them to span the nineteenth and twentieth floors. Their towering twenty-six-foot high walls gave them the look and feel of a cathedral rather than a sound stage.

While marveling at her surroundings that first morning, Nic unintentionally blocked the doorway that Greg Devens was attempting to enter with his acoustic bass. Greg, a member of the studio orchestra, had been her first friend at the station. The memory of that meeting sent her in search of the tall blonde musician for information, and perhaps a little sympathy.

"Hey, great show, Nic. Very cool." Greg spoke the often-cryptic language shared by jazz musicians and their supporters. He spent every free minute away from the studio practicing with the Torrance Trio, a local jazz band of which he was one-third.

"Thanks, Greg. It was a little scary, but I had fun. I have a question. Do you have a minute?"

"I do."

"Who is that thin woman in the black trousers? The one smoking a cigarette by the back wall." Nic gazed in her direction, but rather than point, used the rising finger to wrap a strand of shoulder-length brown hair behind her ear.

"That's Nora Hahn. She and Carolyn Park were close friends. I think they started at the station around the same time. Carolyn worked here in the studio and Nora is one of the writers. Their offices are up on twenty."

"Why do you suppose she was hanging around during the show?"

Greg shrugged as he moved the bass from the stand to its case. Even with his ample height, maneuvering the instrument was a challenge. Once it was safely tucked away, he put his hands on his lower back and bent backward until something cracked. Nic guessed by his satisfied grin that he had achieved the desired result. "Ah. Much better. I should learn to grind a smaller axe." The blank look on Nic's non-jazz-speaking face said she needed a translation, which he supplied. "Play a smaller instrument. Maybe Nora wanted to see how you did playing Inez. Why are you interested in her?"

"She came on stage after the show and told me that I wasn't Carolyn Park, and shouldn't think I could fill her shoes."

He studied the lone figure. "Maybe for her, you can't."

Nic sensed an invisible wall around Nora, but decided that rather than allow the harsh words to scare her away, she would engage the woman in a conversation. Unfortunately, Frank chose that moment to call her to the stage. "Miss Owen, you were great." His enthusiastic hug increased her embarrassment. "You were. In spite of finding yourself center stage on such short notice."

People nearby clapped and Nic blushed. The rose in her cheeks was a mix of embarrassment and pleasure, but the warm fuzzy feeling dissolved when she saw Nora's dark eyes staring, and two now-familiar Chicago Police Detectives glowering from the engineer's booth.

The cleaning crew discovered Mrs. Park on the Studio A stage the previous Saturday morning. In O'Brian's mind, the fastest way to find a killer was to harass everyone remotely involved. He and Jones spent the weekend interviewing members of the cast and crew at their homes. Nic, to her chagrin, had earned a top spot on the suspect list.

It was not necessary for O'Brian to slam the booth door to announce his entrance into Studio E. Nor was a microphone required for amplification. When his grating voice boomed through the acoustically superb room, conversations stopped mid-sentence. "Nobody leaves until we finish our interviews." Had the staff expected their collective groans and boos to influence the detective's plans, they were disappointed. "I hope none of yous mistook that for a request. Keep your noises to yourself and let's get started."

Before joining the force, O'Brian spent a few years as a heavyweight boxer. Twenty years at a desk instead of a gym had taken its toll. When he wrapped his arms over his chest and smirked at the irritated group, it was not muscle stretching the seams of his jacket.

"You've already interviewed everyone," Frank yelled. "These people have put in a long and difficult day and should be allowed to go home."

"They go home when we say they go home. Why don't we start with you?" The person close enough to receive a poke from O'Brian's stubby finger was Barney Mills, one of the sound effects men. Barney gulped. "You and me are gonna have a nice chat in here." O'Brian waved the engineers, Harold and Stanley, from the booth and escorted Barney inside.

While their discussion took place, Detective Jones left to gather employees from the offices and other parts of the station. Jones did not have O'Brian's excess weight, but when he returned and leaned against the wall next to the studio door, no one tried to leave. His broad frame deterred some, but the exposed firearm beneath his partially open jacket held the rest in check.

Minutes into Barney's interview, Nic noticed that Frank and her fellow performers had left the stage. She returned to the band area where Greg stood with another member, Belia Malecek. Belia, a gifted violinist, would soon audition for a chair with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. If she knew what a huge feather that was in her cap, it did not show.

Nic arrived to see Belia placing her violin in its case with the tenderness of a mother laying her newborn in a cradle. Belia had immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia six years earlier, but struggled with English. That effort, and a heavy accent, often discouraged her from joining conversations.

It was not her words, or the soft rolls of blue-black hair that framed her face and highlighted her rose petal skin that intrigued Nic. It was the glow in her eyes—a glow that ignited when she played her violin.

"How long do you think they'll keep us?" Nic faced the engineer's booth as she spoke, leaving Greg and Belia unsure who should reply.

Belia spoke, her tone as ghostly as the tremolo of a single note on her violin. "I do not know. They come to my apartment on Saturday and act as if I kill her." She and her father were the only family members to escape the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. The rest disappeared, and Belia lived in a perpetual state of fear. O'Brian and Jones did little to lessen her anxiety.

"Why would they think you killed her, Belia?" Nic could not imagine the tiny woman killing Carolyn Park, who had been an inch taller than her own five-foot-six inches. Of course, a gun removed any size advantage.

"I am one of the last people to go from the studio that night. It was after eight o'clock." Belia glared at the engineer's booth. "The Detective O'Brian ask me if I am in this country legally. I am," she assured Nic. "But I know this does not make a difference to police."

"I left right after you, Nic." Greg joined the conversation. "I grabbed dinner and went to the club to jam. O'Brian asked if anyone saw me, and I told him that I had my bass, and figured a number of people could vouch for me. He grunted."

One by one, members of the troupe entered the booth and returned to the studio as limp as a towel put too often through the wringer. Everyone except Nora. Nic watched her lean back in boredom while O'Brian pushed his finger in her face. If she cared what the detective said, she hid it well, and he appeared less than pleased with her attitude. When she left the booth, Nora strolled past Jones and exited the studio without looking back.

By five o'clock, Nic and Frank sat alone on the stage while his assistant, Alice Redding, had her turn in the inquisition booth. Nic did not want to talk to O'Brian, but since she had no choice, she wanted it over as quickly as possible. She held her coat in her arms and her purse in her lap, ready to leave when they finished.

Frank had clearly run out of patience with the investigation but he did not take it out on his star. "Tell me, Miss Owen, is radio everything you thought it would be?"

"And more." She was about to add a more inspired response but the door to the engineer's booth opened and Detective O'Brian waved her over. Nic wanted nothing more than to finish the interview and go home, which was why she found it extremely irritating that he stood in the doorway blocking her entrance.

"I hear your first show went real well, Miss Owen. It's a shame Mrs. Park never had a chance to do the part. Your coworkers tell me she was damn good. Put your coat on. We're going to the station."

"What do you mean we're going to the station?" Had she heard him right? "Why are you taking me to the police station?"

"If you know what's good for you, lady, you'll shut your trap."

The detective's warning did not make it past her outrage. She repeated her question. "Why are you taking me to the police station? You can ask me anything you want right here. Am I under arrest? Is that why you saved my interview until last, because you planned to arrest me?"

O'Brian pulled her coat from her arms and tossed it back. "Put that on and shut up. Didn't anyone ever tell you it ain't smart to argue with an officer of the law?" A pair of handcuffs appeared and as soon as Nic secured the last button on her coat, O'Brian turned her around, put her hands together, and snapped them on her wrists. "You can wear these until you learn to keep your mouth shut. Don't make me gag you, Miss Owen."

Nic stopped talking. She offered no resistance when O'Brian shoved her purse into the fingers of her coupled hands, or as she followed him to the elevator. She tried to smile at Sam, the operator, but as the reality of the situation sank in, various body parts failed to respond.

Shock and disbelief kept her silent in the back seat of the police car. She struggled to slow her racing thoughts. Four hours earlier, she starred in her first live radio show. Now, she was frightened, confused, and a murder suspect, and it was only Monday.

 

 

...does more than mystify!

 

 

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Sheldon really does her research.

 

*

A page-turner from one of my favorite authors

 

*

...true to historical accuracy of the era.

 

*

I loved this book from the first page to the last.

 

*

 

I couldn't put it down and recommend it to mystery lovers.

 

*

 

Fans of lesbian mysteries or historical mysteries will like this.

 

*

 

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