Murder in Moscow

Free Murder in Moscow by Jessica Fletcher

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Authors: Jessica Fletcher
we stood chatting and waiting for the briefing to begin, Sam Roberts, our official host, came up to where I was talking with Marge Fargo, the only female publishing executive in the group. “Good morning, Mrs. Fletcher,” he said. “Can I steal you away for a moment?”
    “Of course.”
    I followed him to a smaller room. The only other person in it was a young woman dressed stylishly in a blue suit with gold buttons, and white blouse. Roberts closed the door and said to her, “Is Karl waiting?”
    “Yes, sir, he is.”
    “Give me five minutes with Mrs. Fletcher, and then ask him to come in.”
    The moment she was gone, Roberts said, “Sorry about what you had to endure last night, Mrs. Fletcher.”
    “Just bad timing, I suppose. I hope it doesn’t interfere with our plans.”
    “No reason it should.”
    “Mr. Wenington was part of this group. I’ve seen him at just about every event.”
    “Yes. A very nice guy. Tragic to lose one’s life at such a young age.”
    “I understand the cause of death hasn’t been determined.”
    “I wouldn’t know about that,” said Roberts. “I’m told you and Ward had lunch yesterday.”
    I couldn’t help but smile. “Word certainly does get around this town, doesn’t it?”
    “Washington, D.C., has the most efficient grapevine in the world, I’m afraid. I suppose Ward mentioned to you that you’d be debriefed upon returning from Moscow.”
    “He was more subtle than that,” I said. “He asked me if I would agree to be debriefed.”
    “And what was your reaction?”
    “I don’t think I had one, although I didn’t debate it with him. I understand it’s a fairly routine thing, to talk to American citizens after they return from a place like Russia to see whether they can provide information that would be useful.”
    “Exactly. Because of your stature and fame, it’s likely you’ll be sought out by Russian officials. That’s why we think you could be an especially good source of information.”
    “I must admit I have trouble with the concept,” I said. “I thought the purpose of this trade mission was to foster better relations between the publishing industries in both countries, and to help the Russians adjust to their new form of government.”
    “Oh, but that’s exactly the purpose of the mission,” said Roberts. “It’s just that other ... how shall I say it? ... other auxiliary uses can be made of it.”
    “Like reporting on private conversations? To me, that represents a distasteful breach of confidence.”
    Roberts’s laugh was gentle, and meant to be reassuring. “You don’t have to tell us everything you discuss with the Russians while you’re in Moscow, Mrs. Fletcher. Just what you’re comfortable with.”
    The door opened, and the young woman stepped into the room, followed by a tall, slightly stooped man with heavy black eyebrows and hair that matched in color. Because of his posture, his nondescript gray suit hung awkwardly from him. He wore large, cumbersome molded black shoes that needed a shine.
    The young woman left. Sam Roberts said, “Mrs. Fletcher, this is Karl Warner.”
    The big man extended his hand; my hand was lost in his.
    “You left a message at my hotel,” I said, somewhat defensive at not having returned it. People who don’t return phone calls have always ranked high on my list of annoyances. “Yes, I did,” Warner said. His voice, low and gruff, matched his appearance.
    “Sorry I didn’t return your call. I was running late and—”
    “No need to apologize, Mrs. Fletcher. I just thought I would touch base with you before this morning’s briefing.”
    I hesitated, then asked, “Why did you call me?”
    “As I said, just to touch base, to introduce myself before we met in person.”
    I looked to Sam Roberts, whose furrowed brow and narrowed eyes said he was sizing up the exchange. Realizing I was seeking a comment from him, he said, “Karl worked closely with Ward Wenington.”
    I quickly asked, “At

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