Read Lullaby of Murder Online

Authors: Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Lullaby of Murder

PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF DOROTHY SALISBURY DAVIS

“Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Josephine Tey … Dorothy Salisbury Davis belongs in the same company. She writes with great insight into the psychological motivations of all her characters.” —
The Denver Post

“Dorothy Salisbury Davis may very well be the best mystery novelist around.” —
The Miami Herald

“Davis has few equals in setting up a puzzle, complete with misdirection and surprises.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“Davis is one of the truly distinguished writers in the medium; what may be more important, she is one of the few who can build suspense to a sonic peak.” —Dorothy B. Hughes,
Los Angeles Times

“A joyous and unqualified success.” —
The New York Times
on
Death of an Old Sinner

“An intelligent, well-written thriller.” —
Daily Mirror
(London) on
Death of an Old Sinner

“At once gentle and suspenseful, warmly humorous and tensely perplexing.” —
The New York Times
on
A Gentleman Called

“Superbly developed, gruesomely upsetting.” —
Chicago Tribune
on
A Gentleman Called

“An excellent, well-controlled piece of work.” —
The New Yorker
on
The Judas Cat

“A book to be long remembered.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
on
A Town of Masks

“Mrs. Davis has belied the old publishing saying that an author’s second novel is usually less good than the first. Since her first ranked among last year’s best, what more need be said?” —
The New York Times
on
The Clay Hand

“Ingeniously plotted … A story of a young woman discovering what is real in life and in herself.” —
The New York Times
on
A Death in the Life

“Davis brings together all the elements needed for a good suspense story to make this, her fourth Julie Hayes, her best.” —
Library Journal
on
The Habit of Fear

“Mrs. Davis is one of the admired writers of American mystery fiction, and
Shock Wave
is up to her best. She has a cultured style, handles dialogue with a sure ear, and understands people better than most of her colleagues.” —
The New York Times Book Review
on
Shock Wave

Lullaby of Murder
A Julie Hayes Mystery
Dorothy Salisbury Davis

For

David Lieberman

Contents

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

FORTY

FORTY-ONE

FORTY-TWO

FORTY-THREE

FORTY-FOUR

Preview:
The Habit of Fear

About the Author

ONE

J
EFF SAMPLED HIS MARTINI
—straight up, no rocks—and approved, which seemed to surprise him. He was even more meticulous about martinis than about most things. Outside the states he travelled with a little vial of vermouth in his inside pocket and always ordered straight gin. The drink judged worthy of the toast, he met Julie’s eyes and proposed: “To your own by-line by this time next year.”

Julie wrinkled her nose and murmured thanks. She turned her glass round and round, an orange blossom that, sooner or later, she would be expected to drink. Finally she lifted it: “To Paris and to you.”

“In that order?”

She grinned. “I’m very fond of both of you.”

The restaurant noises picked up as a party shuffled its seating arrangement. Someone was explaining that the guest of honor must face the door through which, at Sardi’s, the rich and famous were presumably in constant transit.

Jeff scowled and sipped his drink. Sardi’s was not his favorite restaurant, but it was Julie’s the last time he’d asked and he insisted on it. The occasion was more noteworthy for her solid year of employment on the gossip column,
Tony Alexander Says
…, than for Jeff’s departure later that night for Paris. Geoffrey Hayes’
Times
assignments took him to distant and troubled places, Julie’s to where her legs could carry her, so to speak. She suspected he was already half way to Paris and envied him the depth of his work, its significance. “Where do you start when you get there?” she asked.

“I’ll skirmish around a bit and try to improve my contacts. France is a conspirators’ marketplace. I’ll be shopping for discarded loyalties. How’s that?”

“Very fancy,” Julie said.

Jeff laughed aloud.

She conjured a picture of him sitting in a smoky bistro, drinking beer and waiting for someone who would walk past the place twice to get a look at him before going in. She had not questioned whether he would be in danger. Risk was to be taken for granted. So was caution. He was going to do a series on the neo-Fascist movement. “I’d like to be going with you,” she said. “I’d like to work on something that important.”

Jeff made a sound in his throat that suggested satisfaction with things as they were. He neither under- nor over-valued the job of legman for Tony Alexander. It was where he too had started his newspaper career.

She laid her hand on his across the table. The grey in his hair was becoming dominant and made him even more distinguished-looking. The probing dark eyes suggested a worldly wisdom, the firm mouth, self-assurance almost to a degree of self-satisfaction.

“You should work on your French,” Jeff said. “We could speak it at home, couldn’t we? Good for both of us.”

She felt slightly irritated, no doubt because she was self-conscious about her French. His was always going to be so much better. She was on the point of suggesting that it might improve their communication and then held back. They did not communicate well when they were together too much. Their marriage thrived on honeymoons and separations.

He squeezed her hand and released it. “Why do you always look your most enchanting when I’m on my way to the airport?”

She bit back the answer to that one too. “Rhetorical question, right?” But she knew that she took more patience with her makeup and dressed better when he was home. With the job she would keep it up to some extent, but part of her longed to revert to jeans and sneakers and something with pockets. Then almost at once she preferred her present chicness. Maybe the gamin in her was forever banished, and no one would miss it more than Jeff…his little girl, his elf. Let her go. God bless her, but let her go.

“I’m not your only admirer,” Jeff added. “There’s an old boy at a wall table who can’t take his eyes off you.”

“Always the old boys,” Julie said and shifted her position so that she could discreetly glance in the direction Jeff had indicated. “That’s Jay Phillips, the press agent. He was one of the first people Tony sent me to and he’s been great to me ever since.”

“In my day we steered clear of publicity handouts,” Jeff said and took up the wine list. “Tonight you’ll have wine.” He always said it and she always did have wine nowadays. She even enjoyed it, but Jeff had missed the transition. “A roughish Burgundy,” he mumbled to himself. He settled for a Pommard, trusting the importer, a name he knew better than he knew the cellar of Sardi’s. “Pommard is a chancy wine, but very good with duck if you get the right one.”

“And the right duck,” Julie said.

Jeff’s second martini came with their shrimp. He looked at his watch: he was not in that much of a hurry.

“Eight o’clock curtain,” Julie said in defense of the express service.

He ignored the shrimp for the time being and sipped his drink. “Do you like working for Tony, or are you proving something?”

“Both. I’m hanging in there and I like that. And I do like the job and I don’t settle for handouts.”

“Of course you don’t,” he soothed. “Don’t misunderstand. I’m very proud of you.”

“Thank you,” she said, bristling underneath at the fatherliness. There were times she resented Tony for the same reason. The person whose parent-like advice she accepted was Fran, Tony’s wife, who was about Jeff’s age and a lot younger than Tony. She had not seen her for months. “Jeff, why don’t we see the Alexanders socially anymore? Is it because I work for Tony?” She knew Jeff and Tony often met at the Press Club.

“Julie, it’s not your fault.”

“I didn’t say it was.” But she had a habit of taking blame whenever it was available. “I miss Fran. That’s all.”

“Then why don’t you stop at the shop and see her?” Fran owned a flower shop on Lexington Avenue. “Or call her up and take her to lunch. She’d like that. She’s always been very fond of you.”

“Jeff, you’re being—I don’t know what exactly…”

“Pompous?”

“Patronizing.”

“Am I?” he said distantly and pulled the shrimp to where he could spear one of them. “Your friend the press agent is headed this way. He’s sloshed if I’m not mistaken.”

“You’re not,” Julie said, not having to look and not unhappy at the diversion. She wondered if what she and Jeff were doing was not a kind of ritual that prepared them for separation. She’d been through it before:
distancing
was the word that came to mind.

Phillips came up to the table, a big man, his face chunky and flushed. He was well known as a Broadway publicist and as a heavy drinker. He stood a moment, almost steady, and finally arrived at what he wanted to say. “I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Hayes, how much I admire your wife.” He enunciated each word carefully. “Can’t read you, I admit, but I do admire your wife.”

“That’s good enough,” Jeff said gallantly.

Julie thought of introducing them. It seemed superfluous.

“A real lady. They don’t make many of them anymore.” He put a hand on the table as though to steady it.

Julie could feel the color rise to her face. The diners nearby were looking at them. “Could I stop around later at the theater and see you?”

“No, my dear, you could not because I won’t be there. My services to Dorfman Productions have been terminated.”

“I’m sorry.” He had lost, it would seem, three of the biggest shows in town.

The man looked blubbery as he stared down at her. He lifted heavy eyes and settled them on Jeff. “How does someone as nice as her work for an s.o.b. like Alexander? Do you understand it?”

Jeff touched his napkin to his lips. “I try.”

Phillips shook hands with each of them and drew himself up very straight. He walked from the restaurant like a man on a tightrope.

“As I was going to tell you in any case,” Jeff said, “Tony and I exchanged compliments today. I’m an elitist snob and I called him an illiterate parasite.”

“I thought Tony was your best friend. I thought that’s why I got a job with him.”

“You got a job with him because you could do the work.”

“Okay, but I don’t think he knew that when he hired me. I didn’t know it myself.”

“I did,” Jeff said.

Which brought them back to square one. Julie was on the edge of becoming irritable again and there wasn’t time to work it out. “Jeff, is Tony really an s.o.b.?”

“It’s you that’s worked for him this past year,” Jeff said, a little mockingly.

“But he’s your friend, damn it. And you worked for him once yourself.”

“I don’t test my friends by their virtue. No more do you. Stop and think: Sweets Romano?” He referred to the gentlemanly, art-collecting gangster with whom Julie had twice shared a most unlikely partnership in ferreting out criminal mischief. Her acquaintanceship with Romano had gone a long way toward recommending her for
Tony Alexander Says
…. Tony had expected a direct line to the underworld.

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