An Uplifting Murder by Elaine Viets

ISBN: 978-0-451-23170-3
Paperback Original $7.99

Copyright © 2010 by Elaine Viets

Chapter 1

“You want me to take off what for this assignment?” Josie Marcus asked. She stared right in the red, ratlike eyes of her boss, Harry the Horrible. They jumped like gigged frogs.
“Uh, your top,” Harry said. The manager of Suttin Services was completely clothed, except for the little bulges of hairy fat that escaped through his gaping shirt.
“Is that all?” Josie knew Harry wasn’t telling her everything. She had a ten-year-old daughter. Josie was an expert at ferreting out half-truths.
Harry flinched. “And your bosom thingie,” he said. “Your bra.”
“I’m supposed to strip naked for a mystery shopping job?” Josie clenched her hands to keep from punching her flabby boss.
Harry took one look at her eyes and grabbed the St. Louis phone book. He held it in front of him like a shield. Josie was only five foot six, but she was mad enough to deck the guy.
“Just your top half,” he said. “And there are no men around. It’s all girls.”
“Women,” Josie said. “Grown women are not girls. Unless you want me to strip at a grade school.”
“Okay, women,” he said, quickly. “I need you for this job. All women wear bras. It’s no big deal. Especially for you.”
Josie’s glare should have lasered every hair off his hide.
“I wasn’t getting personal,” Harry said. “I meant that you – as a female person – are used to taking off your clothes in doctors’ offices and when you get your annual chest squashing.”
“What’s that?” Josie asked.
“My mom gets them to make sure she doesn’t have cancer,” Harry said.
“Those are called mammograms,” Josie said. “My mother gets them, too.” She tried to hide a smile. From what her mom said, Harry had given an accurate description of the procedure.
“Please, Josie. I’m not talking dirty. I just don’t know how to say it right.” The big oaf was pleading now. He had the charm of an unkissed toad.
“You sure don’t,” Josie said. She looked through his office door into the main room of Suttin Services. Dust motes danced in the early morning light, haloing the IT guy working on a computer. The sun gilded a muscular telephone repairman installing another inside line. None of the staff or other mystery shoppers had arrived yet.
“There are two men in the office now,” Josie said. “Take off your shirt and show them your chest.” Josie would bet her next paycheck that his breasts were bigger than hers.
Harry clutched the phone book to his chest, horrified as a maiden aunt propositioned by a randy priest.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “That’s different.”
“Why?” Josie said. “They’re strangers. And guys. You’ll never see them again. You’re a man. You can walk around on the beach without a shirt. I can’t.”
“I’m the boss,” Harry said, trying to cover himself with a shred of dignity.
“And I’m a peon. So I should go naked,” Josie said.
“No,” Harry said. “Can I back up and start again? I didn’t get off on the right foot. Desiree Lingerie, the fancy ladies’ underwear chain, want you to mystery-shop their store at Plaza Venetia. They’ve had a complaint about one of their saleswomen. I mean persons. Did I say it right?”
“Saleswoman is correct,” Josie said.
“What I was trying to say is that every woman gets measured for a bra, so you’d be used to the process of undressing like that.”
“Every woman with some bucks gets measured,” Josie said. “The rest of us buy our bras off the rack at stores. Target doesn’t have bra fitters.”
“Desiree Lingerie is more upscale than that,” Harry said. “But it’s for women only. It’s supposed to be a place where women feel comfortable with their bodies. They got a complaint that one of their saleswomen is making rude remarks about the size of the customers’ — ”
Harry stopped while he mentally searched for the proper word. “Chests!” he finally said.
“What do I get paid for these insults?” Josie asked.
“You’ll make your usual fee,” Harry said, “but there’s an extra benefit. Desiree Lingerie is not returnable. You’d get to keep the bras and panties, up to two hundred dollars’ worth.”
Now that was a bonus, Josie thought. She had a new boyfriend and lacy underwear was a frivolity she couldn’t afford.
“Where’s the store?” Josie asked.
“Plaza Venetia in West County. Where the super-rich shop. Nice atmosphere. Pleasant people. Good working conditions.”
“That’s the most expensive mall in the area,” Josie said. “For two hundred bucks, I’ll be lucky to get one bra.”
“But it will be a great bra,” Harry said. He knew he’d almost sold her on the job. He reached into his desk and pulled out a sheet of paper.
“Here’s the list of questions. You have to ask for Rosa. She’s the saleswoman the company wants checked out. They have two complaints that she made rude comments about women’s chests. She’s a Latina, so they can’t fire her. Political correctness, EEOC and all that.”
“Plus she could be innocent,” Josie said.
“Well, there’s that,” Harry said. “But Desiree is taking the complaints seriously enough to investigate. The company wants some ammunition and they want it documented in writing. Maybe you’d like to take that friend of yours, what’s her name?”
“Alyce,” Josie said. “Does she get paid?”
“No, but she can keep her bra, too. She’s a big lady.” He pantomimed large rounds in the air.  “And you’re . . .” He stopped, catching himself like a runner about to go over a cliff.  “And you’re not.” He made a small cup with his hands. Very small.
“So between the two of you, you’d would cover . . .”
Harry stopped and looked frightened.
Josie decided she’d take pity on the miserable worm. “We’d cover two different body types,” she said. “I’ll ask Alyce if she wants to go.”
“Good.” Harry looked relieved.
“But if you’re not going to pay her, I want two bras with matching panties for both of us.”
“You got it,” Harry said.  “There’s just one hook.”
“There always is,” Josie said.
“You’ll have to go this morning.”
“That will depend on Alyce’s babysitter,” Josie said.
“Do I have to get her a bra, too?” Harry asked.  ❖



Elaine Viets is the author of the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series and the Dead-End Job mysteries. She has won the Anthony and Agatha Awards.




About Vicki Hinze
USA Today Bestselling and Award-Winning Author of 40+ books, short stories/novellas and hundreds of articles. Published in as many as 63 countries and recognized by Who's Who in the World as an author and an educator. Featured Columnist for Social-IN Worldwide Network and Book Fun Magazine. Sponsor/Founder of FMI visit

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