Excerpt from Alice in Jeopardy by Ed McBain, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Alice in Jeopardy

by Ed McBain

Alice in Jeopardy
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 384 pages

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"A certificate of death, they say. Which is absurd in this case. The man drowned at sea, his remains were never...forgive me, Alice," he says.

"That's all right."

"But the facts..."

She knows the facts. Eddie took the sloop out for a moonlight sail. It was a small boat, the waters on the Gulf were very high that night. There was no one aboard when the tanker came across her the next morning, still under sail. Eddie had either fallen overboard or been washed overboard. Those were the facts.

"Garland has no right to withhold payment," Andy says.

"But they are."

"Yes, because there's a lot of money involved here. And because they're in trouble financially, this goddamn administration. With the double indemnity clause, the death benefit comes to two...by the way, no one at Garland is claiming that drowning at sea doesn't qualify as an accident."

"Well, they'd be foolish to do that."

"They're foolish to try wriggling out of this in the first place. Other insurance companies are paying the same sorts of claims, you know. It's not as if nothing like this has ever happened before, Alice..."

"I know."

"Some are taking more time than others, but they are honoring their obligations. Quite frankly, Garland's position is contemptible."

"So what do we do, Andy?"

"I'd like to give them till the end of the month. If they don't settle by then, we'll have to bring suit."

"The end of the month," Alice says.

"Yes. I'll call them again on June first. Does that sound okay to you?"

"I suppose."

"Alice?"

"Yes?"

"We'll get the money, I promise you."

"I hope so."

"I promise."

"Okay, Andy, thank you. We'll talk soon."

"I'll let you know the moment I hear anything."

"Thanks, Andy."

"Talk to you later," he says, and hangs up.

She holds the receiver in her hand for a moment, and then puts it back on the cradle, and suddenly she is weeping. She yanks a tissue from the box on her desk, blows her nose, and dries her eyes.

Well, she thinks, the first day of June is less than three weeks away, and I've certainly got enough in the bank to last me till then. But I don't know what to do after June first, because by my calculation the account will be getting very low by that time. I suppose I can always get a job waitressing, she thinks, but that would mean having to pay Rosie even more than I'm paying her now. But at least I'll have a steady salary and tips, and I wouldn't have to count on commissions. So far, there has been what one might call a dearth of commissions. So far, the commissions have totaled zero, nada, zilch.

She picks up the phone again, dials her home number, and waits. Rosie Garrity picks up on the third ring.

"Glendenning residence," she says.

"Rosie, hi, it's me."

"Hello, Mrs. Glendenning, how are you?"

"Fine, thanks. Everything okay there?"

"Yes, fine. What time is it, anyway?"

"A quarter to one."

"Good. I want to bake a pie before the kids get home."

Rosie comes in at noon every weekday, in time to clean the house and put it in order before the children get home at two-thirty, three o'clock, depending on traffic. By the time Alice gets home at five, Rosie has everything ready to put up for dinner. Rosie works full-time on Saturdays and Sundays, a broker's busiest days.

"Did you see the chicken I left in the fridge?" Alice asks.

"Yes. Will you be wanting the spinach, too?"

"Please. And if you could get some potatoes ready for browning."

"Sounds good. Can you stop for some ice cream on the way home? Go good with the pie."

"What kind of pie?"

"Blueberry."

From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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