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Authors: Ellen Byerrum

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths

Killer Hair

BOOK: Killer Hair
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Table of Contents
Lacey Smithsonian’s School for Scandal
Right now, somewhere in Washington, D.C., a scandal is brewing. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. Tomorrow or the next day or the next. Somewhere a hapless victim is on the precipice of a fashion disaster. An unsuspecting woman will have her unsavory secrets exposed to the harsh light of day, the hot lights of television news, and the wisecracks of stand-up comedians everywhere.
When the scandal comes—and it will—this woman will be targeted for a full-scale assault on the way she acts, dresses, and looks, in addition to the salient details of her particular mess. Remember Linda, Paula, Monica, and now you.
Take it from a reporter. Whoever you are, we, the media, will excoriate you. Your old friends will rat on you. And it will be worse if your face isn’t ready to face the music.
SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand,
London WC2R, 0RL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road,
Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads,
Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand
 
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R, 0RL, England
 
First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
First Printing, August 2003
 
Copyright © Ellen Byerrum, 2003
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT QUANTITY DISCOUNTS WHEN USED TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. FOR INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE TO PREMIUM MARKETING DIVISION, PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC., 375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014.
 
 
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
eISBN : 978-1-101-08652-0

http://us.penguingroup.com

This book is dedicated to
my husband, Bob Williams,
first, last, and always.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In the seemingly endless journey to publication, the following friends offered me their support, encouragement, and advice, and for that I will always be grateful: Guy Burdick Jennifer Combs, Joanne C. Duangmanee, Jay Farrell, Shantelle Fowler, Elaine and Ernie Joselovitz, Barbara McConagha, Mona Miller, Bernie Mower, Bob Swierczek, and Bob Williams.
 
For their specialized information and patience in answering my questions, I am indebted to Ann Geracimos, Robin Givhan, and especially Howard Miller.
 
Finally, I would like to thank my agent, Don Maass, and my editor, Genny Ostertag, for their part in guiding this book into print.
Chapter 1
Lacey Smithsonian looked down at the unfortunate woman in the coffin and thought,
Oh my God, that is the worst haircut I’ve ever seen.
And they say you can’t die from a bad haircut.
Even as that sentiment percolated through her brain, she added,
You are such a bitch, Lacey.
But she couldn’t help it. It really was a bad haircut.
The haircut belonged to Angela Woods, “Angie” to her friends at Stylettos, the trendy Dupont Circle salon where she had worked until just a few days ago. Now Angie was the guest of honor in the polished maple casket at Evergreens Mortuary in the Nation’s Capital.
At only twenty-five, Angie’s sweet round face wasn’t going to get any older. And that hairdo wasn’t going to get any better. The deceased looked peaceful, if a little sad, laid to rest in the satin-lined box. She wore a dark rose silk jacquard dress with a lace collar that conflicted wildly with those strange short rainbow-colored clumps of hair sticking up in between patches of bruised bald scalp.
What on earth was she thinking?
Although Lacey had only known Angie casually, she remembered her as polite and demure. Her friends said Angie was committed to the proposition that every life could be improved with the help of a professional stylist. But there would be no more perms, colors, or highlights in Angie’s attempt to make the world a prettier place.
At least the city didn’t need any help that day. It was a beautiful Wednesday in April and there was a respite from the rain that had pounded the city into submission for the last two weeks. Cherry trees were exploding with blossoms, a pink snowstorm against a turquoise sky. On days like this, springtime in the Capital City is a wanton green feast that wraps itself around the heart. Days like this make Washingtonians forget that spring is usually a dreary, soggy endurance test that begins with endless drizzly fifty-degree days, then slams headlong into summer, drenching humidity, and ninety-degree heat, leaving psychic whiplash and a dull sinus headache.
Nevertheless, every spring D.C. is the scene of an invasion of curiously dressed tourists, Day-Glo families, busloads of polyester grandparents, and entire high-school classes wearing matching blue and orange neon T-shirts and baseball caps. They are nice, enthusiastic, and irritating as hell. The tourists hear the pumping heartbeat of spring. They answer unseen drums commanding them to swarm around the Tidal Basin in a yearly ritual as predictable as the swallows that return to Capistrano.
At least the tourist hordes Lacey had fought through to reach the mortuary, with their plastic cameras and camcorders, knew how to appreciate spring in Washington. A hundred thousand weak-eyed wonks would never see it, toiling in their anonymous beige and gray offices. The woman in the coffin would never again enjoy it.
Lacey wondered exactly what she was doing in a mortuary. But she’d rather be anywhere on a glorious spring day than back at her desk at the newspaper, opening stacks of press releases in search of something, anything, to write about.
“What did I tell you, Lacey? Is that not the worst razor job you ever saw?”
Lacey turned to see her own hairstylist, Stella Lake, standing behind her in the small viewing room.
Stella was the manager of Stylettos. She had an image to uphold, so she had dressed carefully for the occasion: her best black Lycra leggings, red leather bustier, and black leather bomber jacket. For Stella, this was uncharacteristically subdued, even with the fresh manicure—bold red nails inset with tiny lightning bolts. The leather dog collar set off an asymmetrical crew cut—burgundy this week—that spiked defiantly from Stella’s perfectly round noggin. It was a disconcerting look for a petite thirty-five-year-old woman with the beginnings of crow’s-feet and a whiskey voice, but attention getting nevertheless. Stella was small but managed to seem much larger.
The woman was a genius with a pair of scissors—on other people’s heads. Yet Stella considered herself her own best work of art, one that changed with the moon or the tides or simply bad hair days that cried out to try something new.
“To be honest, Stella, now she looks like most of your stylists. Except for the bald spots. And the bruises.”
“No way! The hand that did that was not professional. Besides, what I’m saying is, punk dominatrix isn’t her style. Angie was more of a Guinevere type, you know?”
“Guinevere?” Lacey asked. Stella was the queen of stylistic shorthand.
“You know, romantic. Long hair, long dresses. Pink. Angie liked pink.”
“Pink?” Lacey had complicated feelings about pink. She actually liked it, but it seemed out of place in this town. Washington, D.C., was the epitome of a taupe, bland, beige, oatmeal kind of town, and heavy on black and gray. Hairstylists and other artistic types preferred a wardrobe of stark black and white. Pink was considered far too perky, except among the preppier Republicans.
Stella shrugged and lifted her eyebrows. They both took another look at Angie.
An eight-by-ten photo of Angie was set up on a table near the casket. The Angie in the picture had long golden-blond hair that cascaded in soft waves to her waist. It was glorious hair, the kind of hair that poets write about, the kind that comes to mind when little girls read about Rapunzel.
Just a few days before, Lacey had nervously surrendered her own locks to Stella, who installed dazzling blond highlights in her honey-brown hair. Stella had dared her. “What? It’s going to kill you to try something new? Trust me, Lacey, it’ll work. Besides, you were probably blond as a kid. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Angie had floated through the salon, a serene long-haired Madonna wearing a pink Stylettos smock in a sea of buzz-cut punkettes wearing black on black and enough eyeliner for a tree full of raccoons. She stopped to assure Lacey in her soft Southern drawl that the highlights would be beautiful. Angie’s chair-side manner was a good deal more soothing than Stella’s.
Lacey looked back at Stella. “What happened to her?”
“What does it look like?”
“The paper’s police log said suicide. But it didn’t mention this monstrosity. Damn, Stella, it looks like she scalped herself in a fit of madness or was stone drunk or drugged out, came to her senses, took one look in the mirror, and killed herself. Is that
possible?

“That’s what the police think.” Stella pulled Lacey away from the casket as if the dead woman could hear them. The D.C. police had written off Angela Woods as a suicide, a “suicide blonde” as it were, and that was that.
Lacey knew the murder rate in the District of Columbia was astronomical, the rate of solved murders half the national average, the state of the morgue chaotic, and autopsy results as changeable as the weather. For years, the D.C. homicide squad had been a joke, and not even the funniest one in this town.
The cops thought they had it all wrapped up, Stella told her. The detectives concluded that hairstylist Angela Woods slit her wrists at Stylettos Salon in Dupont Circle, using a Colonel Conk straight razor, a common salon tool, then wrote
So Long
with her blood on the mirror—which they termed the “suicide note.” She bled to death in the chair at her station sometime late Saturday night.
BOOK: Killer Hair
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