Who Killed Tiffany Jones?: A Novel

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  • Copyright: 2002-08-20
  • Publisher: Harpercollins

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When celebrated chanteuse Tiffany Jones is slain backstage during a performance at the Apollo Theater, savvy and beautiful former police detective Kim Carlyle is hot on the case to hunt down the murderers. Interactive reading at its most exciting, this page-turning thriller offers a chance for a clever reader to cash in on the mystery.


Who Killed Tiffany Jones?
A Novel

Chapter One

Harlem - Friday, July 13, 2001

Tiffany Jones was the headliner. Her name dwarfed those of the other performers on the Apollo Theater marquee -- a lineup that included Boyz II Men, Juvenile, the British band Soul II Soul, and the up-and-coming young comedian Reggie Stone.

And when Kim Carlyle slithered out of her limo in a skin-tight Donna Karan black sheath, she couldn't help feeling a surge of pride as she glanced at the marquee. Tiffany hadn't appeared as the headline act at the Apollo since the early eighties, when she was the reigning queen of disco and Kim was barely a teenager. But in less than a year, Kim had engineered one of the greatest comebacks in recent show-biz history. As her manager and agent, Kim had guided Tiffany back to the top as pop music's hottest star and one of its most glamorous divas.

On this night, Kim didn't concede much in the glamour department. The form-fitting dress accentuated her athletic, perfectly toned body, and a single strand of pearls set off her smooth caramel skin. Taking the arm of her escort and on-again-off-again lover Rick Dupre, a model and well-known soap actor, she glided toward the lobby through a sea of popping flashbulbs. Rick's molded mannequin smile flashed confidently beneath a glistening, chocolate bald pate, and Kim stalked into the theater with the haughty assurance of Naomi Campbell on a fashion catwalk. She seemed more at ease with the attention than her narcissistic escort.

In a sense, she had been thrust into the limelight. A high-school friend had enticed her to take time from her hard-earned position as a twice-decorated New York City detective to check out a Playboy magazine shoot on women in law enforcement. She was intrigued but immediately insisted that nudity was not an option. Still, a persuasive photographer had convinced her that there would be no repercussions if she posed in a tight skirt and a loose-fitting patrolman's jersey. The final photo was, by any standard, modest. But Kim's statuesque physique and the oversize uniform top with three buttons opened to reveal just a hint of cleavage was apparently too much for the NYPD brass. She was suspended the day after the magazine hit the stands.

The media hopped on the story and, of course, the magazine fueled the fire, publicizing the furor and inviting Kim to the LA mansion where she hobnobbed with celebs from LA and New York. It also provided legal council, and during the two years of litigation that followed she became the darling of the entertainment jet set. After being reinstated and receiving a settlement worth more than a million dollars, she quit the force. She was ambitious and wanted to move on. The contacts she had made during that time and her earlier two-year flirtation with pre-law NYU made entertainment management a perfect career choice. She had quickly picked up a few promising young clients as well as some seasoned performers, like Tiffany, whose careers were in desperate need of rejuvenation. And, as Tiffany's resurgence demonstrated, Kim was very good at what she did.

She had hosted a small, catered party for Tiffany at her Upper West Side apartment earlier in the evening for about twenty guests and well-wishers. Most were friends, but a few reporters and two or three people Kim had never seen before had showed up. When Tiffany and the other guests left for the theater, Kim stayed behind to deal with the caterers and servers. She and Rick arrived late for the show, and by the time they moved past the lobby's huge mural with its galaxy of black entertainment legends, slipped up the stairs, and found their reserved seats in a box overlooking the stage, Reggie Stone, the MC and comic, was finishing his act and preparing to introduce the headliner.

"...Yeah, somethin's definitely wrong. Why is it that a dog is a man's best friend -- by the way, I see that a few of you fellows brought your best buddies to the show tonight -- and diamonds are a girl's best friend! Shit! Women got it goin' on, they always out-thinkin' us. If you don't believe me, go down to the pawn shop and see how much they give you for that raggedy-ass mutt when he gets tired and old."

Stone paused, as the crowd chuckled politely.

"Anyway, it's that time -- Apollo show time! Are you ready?"

After the audience roared its approval, he continued.

"Straight from a record-setting European tour and block-buster appearance on the Oprah show, here she is -- the delightful, divine, delicious, and most incomparable, Miss Tiffany Jones. Apollo, can I get a witness! Everybody! Stand up.... Say, 'Yeah!'"

As the audience stood and the velvet curtains parted to reveal a tuxedo-clad, sixteen-piece orchestra, the hoots and thunderous applause nearly drowned out the raucous, upbeat version of "Satin Doll," Tiffany's theme song. Stone turned toward the stage entrance in anticipation but, after a thirty-second pause, turned back to the audience.

"Y'all better give it up," he laughed, "you know how sensitive these superstars are. Lemme hear it one more time!"

The crowd roared and the applause escalated. Stone stared at the stage entrance with mock indignation for a minute or so before a stagehand rushed out and whispered to him. Obviously upset, they both hurried offstage, The band continued playing for a few more minutes before they suddenly stopped; as the curtains closed, the leader and a few others could be seen rushing backstage. Perplexed, the audience quieted momentarily, then began chanting, "TIFFANY, TIFFANY, TIFFANY..."

Kim knew immediately that something was seriously wrong, and, as the restless crowd continued chanting, she pushed her way out of the box and headed toward the backstage entrance. She was a familiar face among the musicians and stagehands and had no trouble getting to Tiffany's dressing room. The opened door was surrounded by onlookers, including Maria Casells, the singer's hairdresser and personal attendant. Inside, she could hear Stormy, the old gravel-voiced stage manager, a former second-tier comedian and dancer, cursing and screaming for everybody to get out. When he saw Kim, however, he motioned for her to enter.

Tiffany was sprawled on the floor near the vanity, wearing an elegant, sequined stage gown. Her eyes were wide open, and with her mouth agape and heavy beige makeup already caking, her face had taken on the appearance of a grotesque, stony mask. Kim turned away, then out of pure instinct, a throwback to her days on the force, she quickly scrutinized the dressing room.

An overturned chair lay beside Tiffany and a cigarette, which she had apparently been smoking when she fell, lay near her hand. On the floor, a small burn mark on the floor could be seen under the ashes. Everything else seemed in order. Nothing on the vanity table appeared to have been disturbed, and the diva's satin Gucci bag and silk scarf hung on a hook next to the table.

"Did anyone touch anything?" she asked Stormy.

"No, I was the first one in here," he said. "Fact, I had to bust down the door. It was locked from the inside. She ain't moved a muscle and ain't nobody touched a thing. I already called the ambulance and the police."

Kim bent over Tiffany, and carefully checked her pulse. A tremor went through her body as she gently closed the diva's eyes and, holding back tears, silently stared at her. Before rising, she checked for any marks or abrasions on Tiffany's wrists and neck. There were none. She also noted that Tiffany's jewelry was intact. The gold chain and huge diamond pendant that Tiffany had worn to the party still lay perfectly placed around her neck. The sparkling gems rested on her bosom just above the top of her low-cut gown. Her husband had given it to her before she left on the European tour and its six-figure price tag had been well-publicized in the press. Flashing back to her old sleuth ways, Kim drew the obvious conclusion -- robbery was not a factor. Moreover, there were no signs of a struggle, no apparent wounds. Nothing appeared suspicious. The diva was simply dead.

The police and medics arrived within fifteen minutes. As a precaution, Kim had convinced the theater manager to try and make sure that no one left the theater before the authorities arrived. As far as Kim knew, nobody had. Once Tiffany was officially pronounced dead, homicide detectives were called. They question Stormy, Maria, and everyone else who had access to the led backstage area. When convinced that Tiffany's dressing room door had been locked from the inside, the detectives finally allowed members of the audience to leave. The stagehands and performers were detained for further questioning even though the doctor's initial finding was that Tiffany had died of cardiac arrest.

Lieutenant Maurice Jackson, a detective who had worked with Kim when she was on the force and they both worked out of the sixth precinct in lower Manhattan, was in charge of the investigation. A gruff, paunchy, and somewhat comical looking dark-skinned man in his midforties, Lt. Jackson was known for his no-nonsense approach and meticulous observance of police procedures -- traits which had earned him a promotion and his present position at the twenty-eighth precinct. And though their relationship had been, at best, strained during her tenure, he seemed genuinely moved by Kim's grief. Lt. Jackson saw no indication of foul play; nevertheless he promised to go over the scene with a fine-tooth comb. He also told her that, if she wished, she could hang around and observe. Kim took him up on the offer.

Klaus Svrenson arrived at the theater a little before 1 A.M. The flamboyant international financier and businessman had interests in everything from topless bars and collection agencies to Atlantic City casinos and brokerage houses. He had married Tiffany two years ago. After he was contacted at their Easthampton estate, it had taken him two hours by helicopter and limo to get to Manhattan.

When he spoke to Lt. Jackson, Klaus was shaken and ashen. Kim stood nearby listening. No, Tiffany didn't have a drug problem or a history of heart trouble. There were no recent discoveries of serious illness. Tiffany, however, had been a diabetic for years, something she concealed from many of her closest friends. And during their two-year marriage she had gone into shock on at least one occasion.

After Klaus pointed out that Tiffany always carried insulin and a hypodermic needle in her handbag, the detective carefully unzipped the satin purse and looked inside. He then slipped the purse with its contents into a plastic evidence bag and handed it to an assistant. That discovery seemed to clarify the situation for Lt. Jackson. He consoled Klaus and told him that he had no further questions. If something else arose, he would contact him the next day.

It was Kim who asked if there was anyone who might have reason to harm Tiffany. Klaus bristled at the question and, despite having known Kim for more than a year, reacted with surprising anger. No one would harm his wife, he insisted, before standing and storming from the room. Although his response puzzled Kim, she attributed it to Klaus's shock and stress. Kim also pulled Maria aside and asked about Tiffany's behavior when they arrived at the theater. The shaken attendant said that Tiffany had been sweaty and irritable, although she had taken her insulin in the bathroom at Kim's apartment. It was the first time, she said, that Tiffany had ever asked to be left alone in her dressing room before a performance.

After speaking briefly with Lt. Jackson, Kim met Rick in the lobby and returned to the limo.

When the car arrived at West 99th Street and Riverside Drive, they remained inside for a few minutes, engaged in a heated discussion. Finally, Kim stepped outside and leaned in to speak to Rick.

"Have you lost your mind? I can't believe you'd even think about hooking up after what just happened," she snapped.

"I'm sorry, baby--"

"Look, you can come up if you want, but I'm sleeping alone. Nothing's happening. You understand?"

"Hey, no problem," Rick said, climbing out of the car. "I didn't mean to upset you any more than you already are."

"You got that right," she snapped.

"I just thought you might want to have some company, that's all," he mumbled, as he followed her into the brownstone, which was tucked between two high-rise apartment buildings, and up the stairs to her duplex condo.

At 2:45 A.M. Klaus Svrenson checked into the Plaza Hotel. After leaving the theater, he had walked around the block then returned to talk to the police and attempt retrieving some of his wife's belongings. He was even more upset when he left empty handed the second time. In his room, he immediately ordered a quart of Glenlivet from room service. After pouring himself a tumbler of the Scotch, he sat down at the desk and began scribbling a list of names on the hotel stationery. He paused once or twice, lost in thought, and nervously paced the floor before returning to his task. A half hour later, he completed the list of twelve names.

Plaza Hotel

Renee Rothchild - Paris
Cheeno (Shaywan Anderson) - Los Angeles
Brian Woods - Las Vegas
Kees Vandervall - Amsterdam
K.J. Hunter - Dallas
Ezekiel Kwabena - Freetown, Sierra Leone
Dave 'Tater' Hamlin - Washington
Josephine St. Claire - New Orleans
'Ruff Daddy' (Edward Shelton) - Atlanta
Frank Napolini - Warren, Ohio
Clarence Johnson ('Mojo') - New York
'Sally' - cell phone

After another tumbler of Scotch and fifteen more minutes of pacing, Klaus began the more tedious task of calling each of the individuals on the list. It took more time and effort than he had anticipated since the time zones varied radically. Each conversation took less than ten minutes and, though intense, seemed to go smoothly. When he had finished, however, Klaus appeared more shaken than he was when identifying his wife's body. He carefully folded the list and placed it in a rear pocket of his pants, then sprawled on the bed hoping to get a few hours sleep before sunrise. Beside funeral preparations and the inevitable meetings with the press, there were more calls and even more important arrangements that had to be made as quickly as possible.

When Kim awoke the next morning, she slipped into a silk nightgown and went to the balcony overlooking the apartment's first-floor, living room area. Rick was no longer on the couch where she had insisted he stay when she went to bed. Apparently he had decided that if they weren't sleeping together there was no reason to stick around and let himself out during the night. Relieved, she showered, went downstairs, and, after starting a pot of coffee, retrieved the morning newspapers that had been shoved through the slot in the outside door of the brownstone.

The New York Times had a brief obituary that chronicled Tiffany's sudden rise to fame as the queen of disco, her fall from grace in the late '80s, her divorce from Thomas Brenner, the volatile music mogul to whom she had been married for ten years, her unexpected marriage to financier and import/export tycoon Klaus Svrenson, and her meteoric resurgence as a chanteuse in 1999. The story did not give a cause of death but, along with Klaus, cited Faith and Emerald, Tiffany's two young children from her first marriage, as survivors.

The Daily News hadn't covered the story but the Post, under a typically dramatic headline, DEATH AT THE APOLLO, ran both a photo of Tiffany and a story suggesting that the circumstances of her death were "unusual." Kim read the report carefully noting that the Post emphasized how Tiffany's dressing room door had been locked from the inside, and also how it made much of the unavailability of the star's personal attendant Maria Casells, presumably the last person to see her alive. Apparently, after being questioned by the police, Maria had either refused to talk to reporters or, as the story hinted, "disappeared."

Kim had never been one to put much faith in the tabloid's often lurid insinuations, but the story did get her attention. Reclining on the sofa with coffee and toast as she gazed out of her huge picture window at the Hudson River and New Jersey skyline, Kim decided that if only out of curiosity she would call Maria and talk with her again within the next few days. As she relaxed and riffled through the rest of the paper, another photo and headline caught her attention: SOAP STAR NABBED AT MELEE, the headline read, and underneath it was a photo of Rick in handcuffs, head bent in an attempt to conceal his identity, being hustled out of the Paradox, a well-known gay after-hours club. Kim nearly gagged on her coffee before getting over the initial shock and composing herself. A few moments later, she laughed aloud as she reared back onto the embroidered African-print fabric that covered her Maurice Villency sectional.

"Damn," she muttered, staring at the picture. Shaking her head, she rose and started up the stairs. She wasn't sure why Rick had been at the Paradox, but the thought that he might be hitting from both sides of the plate wasn't a complete shock. Still, the possibility that she had been deceived angered her. "That's it for his sorry, lying ass," she thought, as she stepped into the shower. Her next thought was, "Thank God for condoms."

Who Killed Tiffany Jones?
A Novel
. Copyright © by Mavis Kaye. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Who Killed Tiffany Jones? by Mavis Kaye Staff
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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