- Author: James Ziskin
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ALSO BY JAMES W. ZISKIN
Styx & Stone
No Stone Unturned
Published 2015 by Seventh Street Books®, an imprint of Prometheus Books
Stone Cold Dead. Copyright © 2015 by James W. Ziskin. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, products, locales, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover image © Can Stock Photo Inc./gsagi
Cover design by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke
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Seventh Street Books
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:
Ziskin, James W., 1960-
Stone cold dead : an Ellie Stone mystery / James W. Ziskin.
pages ; cm
ISBN 978-1-63388-048-1 (softcover) — ISBN 978-1-63388-049-8 (ebook)
1. Women journalists—Fiction. 2. Missing children—Investigation—Fiction.
3. Nineteen sixties—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
To Mom, who I wish were here to read this,
and to Dad, who—I’m happy to say—is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 1960
The room was hot to begin with. It was a huffing, pipe-knocking, radiator heat. The kind that desiccates the air and smells like blistering iron and rust. That I was wrestling with a strapping young man on the sofa didn’t help matters, serving only to fog up the nearby window. I wouldn’t have opened it, even if I’d had a free hand; it was freezing cold outside.
Mrs. Giannetti downstairs was sure to hear. Such a light sleeper. Judgmental landladies always are. She’d be thumping a broomstick on her ceiling at any minute, or worse, banging on my door for the chance to look me in the eye.
“Is everything all right, dear?” she’d ask, affecting genuine concern, all the while bobbing and weaving like Jake LaMotta to see past me into the apartment.
“Yes, Mrs. Giannetti,” I would pant. “Just beating a rug.”
“At two in the morning? Well . . . Happy New Year.”
Yes, it was New Year’s Eve, and I was ringing it in drunk, my skirt hiked halfway up my thigh, my blouse tousled, with said strapping young man pressing his lips to mine. Seaman Apprentice Eddie Robeleski was home from the navy for the holidays. I had met him earlier in the evening at a party thrown by Phyllis Cicero, one of the girls from the steno pool at the paper. Eddie and I had chatted, flirted, and enjoyed a snootful together. Then, as midnight struck, he planted a sloppy kiss on my mouth and suggested we ditch the party. What he lacked in technique, he made up for in enthusiasm. Fooling nobody, we sneaked out to my car, which barely started in the cold, and I fishtailed my way through the snowy streets as Eddie blew in my ear and endeavored to separate me from my brassiere.
When it comes to eligible bachelors in New Holland, a single girl feels as if she’s arrived an hour late for a bargain basement sale, and all that’s left to pick through are the plus sizes and factory seconds. To wit, middle-aged, never-been-married carpet weavers slash bowling heroes; embittered, ready-to-retire thirty-year-old math teachers; local farm boys with their flattops, sunburned arms, and coarse hands; and divorced philanderers, after the one thing the female of the species possesses that they do not. It’s enough to make a girl despair. Or at least concede. So when a handsome sailor appears at a New Year’s Eve party, you don’t quibble that he’s only twenty-one years old (three years younger than I.) And Eddie certainly was handsome. Tall and well built, with toned biceps and a broad chest. Sure, he was quiet, but not socially backward. He had a sweet smile, good teeth, and his zeal boded well for a winning finale to the evening’s program. Plus he’d already finished one tour of duty in the navy—had crossed the equator twice and managed to escape without a tattoo—so he was a man of the world by New Holland standards. The fact that he was shipping out in two days was a bonus; he wouldn’t be around long enough to become cloying.
I shook Mrs. Giannetti out of my mind and—anchors aweigh—abandoned myself to the sailor. I wrapped my arms around his neck and drew him to me. But just then, there really was a pounding at the door.
We froze. Entangled in each other’s limbs on the sofa, we wheezed quietly so as not to be heard, and we listened. My heart was thumping in my chest, and Eddie’s arms—sturdy though they were—wobbled slightly in consequence of his exertions as he held himself aloft over me.
The radiator hissed in the dark, and the knocking at the door resumed.
“Who’s that at this hour?” whispered Eddie.
“The landlady,” I said, disengaging myself from our enterprise and wriggling out from under him.
“Don’t answer it,” he said, but I knew better. Mrs. Giannetti would use her own key if I didn’t open up, no matter the hour or the likelihood of an embarrassing discovery.
I tucked in my blouse, straightened my skirt, and tried to smooth my unruly curls. I glanced in the mirror at my flush complexion. My red face and the smell of alcohol were a dead giveaway of what was going on. I told