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Most Valuable Victim
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-779-X
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 277 Pages
Published: September 2010
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

What a way to end the winter…

An early spring Peewee Hockey Tournament grinds to a halt as a critical snow load collapses the arena roof. A body is discovered in the Ladies’ Room and a snowmobile enthusiast is missing on the trails. Someone is making a killing in poached venison, and a neatly butchered deer carcass has just shown up in the middle of the highway.

Amidst all these sensational headlines, newspaper editor Gloria Trevisi is trying to go on maternity leave before she becomes a desperate killer’s next victim… or two. With the buzzing of snowmobiles and bubbling of fresh maple sap, illegal hunting and a baby expected any minute, the last place she wants to be is in the woods.

But that’s exactly where she’s headed…

Reviews and Awards

Gloria Trevisi is nearing the end of her pregnancy and plans on temporarily retiring from her reporter job. Stuck in the ladies' room at the Peewee Hockey Tournament, Gloria realizes chaos is breaking out as the arena's ceiling begins to collapse. Thinking the lady in the next booth can help her, Gloria calls out but gets no response. After working her own way out, she tentatively opens the next door and finds a female dead body and barely makes it out of the arena herself.

Work is difficult, to say the least, with a domineering editor and some unwilling criminal investigators who constantly veer between wanting Gloria's advice and reluctance to tell her what they know. Her home life is no better, with her mother-in-law in residence because of financial problems and Gloria's husband seems more interested in going away for his musical career than being present at the birth of his child.

A missing body on the trails, some very questionable behavior at another place where a fire occurs and a roof collapses, and other mysterious clues these begin to show definite connection.

Gloria as always will figure it out but takes the reader on some outrageous, dangerous, and intrigue-filled pages before all the major and minor conflicts are sorted out.

A. R. Grobbo's latest novel is a tautly plotted story that never loses the reader's fascination. She is expert at eliciting relevant facts in the most subtle manner and her easygoing, professional, and caring style make her the very skilled writer and investigator readers love.

Great story, A. R. G


"Anne Grobbo has done it again. Most Valuable Victim is the fifth in her Gloria Trevisi series of mystery novels and could actually be the best of a terrific lineup.
"Gloria is a heroine to believe in. She's real...fiercely independent, stubborn, tough and annoying, yet loving and loyal. Her handsome, talented musician husband Tony is appealing in his own way. His career is vital to him and often causes him to push Gloria's needs to the background. However, given his charm and real affection for her (in the rare occasions when he is there), one can understand why Gloria loves him.
"The plot of MVV is complex, the pace is taut, and the characters believable. It's a great, page-turning read."
 
Dee Lloyd
 


Most Valuable Victim (Excerpt)


Chapter One

"Bloody hell. Now what's happening?"

Gloria Trevisi listened to the sound of a loud, clanging bell from her cubicle in the women's washroom of the new Plattsford Arena. It was definitely not the usual bell that signaled the end of a hockey game, or even the finish of a period of play; that bell usually stopped after a few seconds. And certainly, it was not signaling the conclusion of the annual March Winds Silver Blade Peewee Hockey Tournament; that was hours away. Or was it? Judging by the sounds in the hallway, a crowd of fans, friends and hockey moms and dads were exiting en mass, and in a hurry. A fire?

She maneuvered awkwardly to open the door of the cubicle, and found to her dismay that it was jammed... against eight and a half months of pregnant belly. "Bloody hell! I'm stuck. Can you believe this?" she wailed to the occupant of the next stall.

The spacious wheelchair cubicle next to her narrow one afforded plenty of room for a soon-to-be mother to ease comfortably through the door and turn around; but she'd noted when she hurried in that, unfortunately, it was occupied. Hardly surprising, considering the small size of these stalls. Like a large, round peg forcing itself into a square hole, anyone with some bulk could get herself wedged... between... "Oh, shit!" She grunted loudly as she strained to dislodge the door. "Excuse me," she gasped, "do you think you could help me? I'm not kidding. I'm really stuck!"

No answer. Unwilling to place a call for help on her cell phone to the manager's office upstairs, she tapped against the cool metal partition. "Hello? Are you still there?"

Empty, after all? She could have sworn she had seen the toe of a boot under the door as she came in. In her condition, she couldn't even bend over and peak under the wall to check. And the bell was still ringing. She squirmed sideways, her tummy nearly squashing the large tissue dispenser that was taking up more than its share of space, until she was facing the toilet. Then she reached behind her and wrenched the door past the hem of her cape, and shuffled backward through the narrow opening... like the stuffing popping out of an olive, she thought in exasperation.

Once free, she checked to make certain her clothing was intact, then turned to the adjacent stall. "We'd better get out of here," she said loudly, hoping to be heard above the cacophony outside. "I think they're evacuating the building."

The only reply, besides the loud, persistent ringing of the alarm, was the clacking sound of skate-clad youngsters heading quickly past the washroom door, and shouts in the hallway as parents, coaches, managers and children hurried toward the exits.

Is this person sick? she wondered. Injured? Faint?

Gloria wasted no more time. She tried the stall door; locked from the inside. Planting her feet solidly on the floor to avoid overbalancing, she turned sideways and bumped it hard with her hip. The door burst open, banging against the metal sidewall, to reveal its occupant, in a bright blue jacket and brown slacks, slumped on the toilet.

"I'm so sorry. Can I..." she stepped through the opening, kicking aside the flimsy lock, and stopped in her tracks. This was not a hockey fan taken ill from overexertion; the woman was propped against the back of the toilet, head with short, brown curly hair, hanging back at a very awkward angle. A fall? A heart attack? Gloria entered the stall, avoiding the leg that stuck out stiffly in front, reached for a hand and felt the wrist. Not quite believing, she leaned over as far as her maxxed out middle would allow, and searched for some sign of breathing. Then she placed her fingers carefully on the side of the pale throat and felt for a carotid pulse; nothing. The eyes, half open, were completely glazed over. The woman was dead, and had been dead for some time.

A wave of stifling warmth from the baseboard radiator caught in Gloria's throat. "Oh, God!" she muttered. Fighting the creeping dizziness that comes after holding her breath for a few seconds too long, she backed out quickly, grabbed her handbag and camera, and flung open the washroom door. In the hallway, she leaned against the solid concrete wall and drew in a lungful of stuffy air as she gazed at the parade of excited children, wild-eyed parents and coaches vaulting for the main doors. No smoke, but... Behind them, a noise like a pistol-shot followed by a faint rumble spurred the crowd to shuffle faster. Near the main door, someone screamed. The bell continued, much louder in the open hallway. Feeling a strong wave of nausea, she turned her head and pressed her cheek to the cool block wall. After a few deep breaths, her heart began pumping once again.

"Emergency!" an authoritative female voice called above the noise. "Everybody out of the building! Walk quickly! Don't run!" Gloria looked up to see Doris Mackie, arena assistant manager, striding up the hall, riding herd on stragglers and checking snack bar, kitchen and washrooms for strays. "Gloria, do you need help?"

"There's a woman in there--"

"Well, tell her to hustle! We're clearing the building. Keep walking, people!" she bellowed down the hallway as part of the group stopped just outside the door to look back.

"She can't hustle... she's dead."

"What?" Doris stared at her. "Gloria, get out of here, please? Outside, and away from the building. I'll check on your friend." She pushed past Gloria and flung open the door.

Gloria was about to follow. "Doris, what's happening?"

"Out!" Doris repeated. The door swung shut.

As Gloria turned away and began walking heavily toward the main door, a huge rumble erupted behind her. Startled, she nearly overbalanced as she dodged a piece of plaster that landed at her feet. "Oh my God, what on earth..." The people standing outside the large glass doors gazed upward and stumbled backward. She stopped and turned as the fluorescent lights blinked out. "Doris, hurry!" she shouted over the noise. "The ceiling is collapsing!" At the far end of the hall, a large mural of a smiling figure skater suddenly disappeared in a dark cloud of dust. "Doris!"

Through the murk, she saw the washroom door flung open, and Doris bounded toward her. Gloria turned and scrambled through the main exit as fast as her awkward, oversized body could move. The eyes of the crowd outside were riveted behind her. She looked back to see Doris dodge a dangling light fixture as she dived toward the double door. Several people cried out as the ceiling behind went to pieces and a large joist sagged, then snapped. The beam was still holding as Doris sprinted, and she would have made it easily, with seconds to spare, if she hadn't stumbled over a broken ceiling tile. "Oh, no!" Gloria was well beyond the door by then, but as she heard Doris' yell she started back toward the entrance.

"Everybody, get back!" a familiar male voice roared. Police Sergeant Dave O'Toole pushed her firmly aside. "Stay!" he growled. As Doris struggled off the floor, the off-duty officer and one of the team coaches plunged into the billowing dust. Gloria stumbled against the curb, arms waving for balance.

"I've got you, Gloria; easy," a voice murmured from behind as she felt the pressure of a hand under her elbow. "Jeez, I didn't know you were still here."

She turned and looked into the scared, anxious face of Rob Dixon, reporter and sportswriter for the Plattsford Sun, still clutching her arm. "Thanks, Rob; I'm okay. Go and get us some photos... Hurry!" Thirty-three and very pregnant, Gloria Trevisi was still the newspaper's editor and still, for the moment, Rob's boss. She watched as he turned and ran across the parking lot, then hoisted her own camera and focused on the door.


***

"I wish I had boots like those," Gloria commented, gazing enviously at Sergeant O'Toole's large, loose galoshes. She felt her puffy ankles pressing painfully against the sides of her calf-high, laced boots as she lounged half-seated in the front of a police cruiser, her legs dangling outside.

"I'll gladly trade them for that photo you just snapped," O'Toole murmured, leaning heavily against the rear door of the cruiser, his windbreaker covered in dust. "You have a habit of pointing that camera where no one wants it."

"I apologize, Sergeant. I promise I'll send you a courtesy print." With the back of her glove she brushed plaster dust off the camera in her lap. "You were marvelous, running into the building like that."

"Hmm. I might forgive you, Ms Trevisi, if you'll just forget the print." He dusted off the arms of his jacket. "Can you tell me about a dead woman in the washroom? Mrs. Mackie says you found her, just before the roof came down. What made you think she wasn't just sick, or passed out?"

"I checked," she answered. "Her eyes were glazed over. There was no breath, no pulse that I could find. And she was propped up in a strange way, not the way a person would, um, sit on a toilet, if you get my meaning."

"You mean--"

Gloria cocked her head slightly. "Her pants were up, for one thing."

O'Toole turned away and scratched the back of his neck. "Do you recognize her? Were you speaking with her while you were in there?"

"She wasn't talking, Sergeant," she replied with a trace of impatience. "I didn't recognize her, but then I don't know all the hockey moms in Plattsford, and a lot of the people here today are from out of town."

"Did you snap a photo of her, too?"

Gloria turned to deliver an angry retort, and stopped, realizing he was perfectly serious. "No, I didn't."

"All right. What was she wearing?"

"Outdoor jacket, rather bright colors but a bit muddy, slacks, winter boots. I don't recall a hat. She had gloves... one glove." She closed her eyes. "On her right hand. Perhaps the other was in her pocket."

"A glove?"

"Women generally take off both gloves to... to go to the can, Sergeant. Maybe she just got back from lunch in town, instead of eating leather hamburgers and potato chips at the arena concession," Gloria suggested helpfully. "Someone at one of the restaurants might have seen her earlier."

"A possibility." O'Toole shifted slightly, and the cruiser lunged sideways. He wasn't overweight; just tall, and somewhat massive. "That washroom will never look the same after today, so we'll have to rely on whatever observations you made. Was there anything nearby, any object lying on the floor?"

"Nothing. Not even a purse hanging on the door. I looked."

"No purse?" He frowned slightly. "She wouldn't leave her handbag in the stands, but some women nowadays don't carry a purse. They have those belt--"

"Not a woman of that generation," Gloria noted. "She was at least ten years older than I am. She'd carry a purse."

"Did you see blood?"

"No, but I didn't move her to look underneath, or behind the toilet. There was a bit of a scrape on her chin, and a smear of dirt, as if she had fallen against something."

"You noticed?"

"I was trying to figure out what was wrong with her!" Gloria snapped. "I thought she might be dazed or drunk; she didn't smell boozy, though. But she did look as though she might have fallen somewhere, slipped on some water on the floor, or something. And if that were the case, she would have been sprawled on the floor. It was a big cubicle with a high toilet, accessible to wheelchairs. Whatever she was doing... well, I'm not sure I can guess." A stroke? An assault? She stared back toward the arena. A fire truck was parked to one side, lights flashing. Police had moved the excited crowd and cordoned off the pile of cement where the outer walls of the square entranceway used to be. With the snow and ice load glazing it like a frosting, this end of the arena resembled a collapsed ice cream cake. The roof sloped awkwardly to the ground, and two town employees were unloading barriers and pylons to be placed around the perimeter of the building. She turned back to O'Toole. "Have they found her yet?"

"Not yet," O'Toole replied. "But they know where to look, and they know what they are looking for."

You're welcome, Gloria thought, scanning the crowd for any sign of Doris. "Who pulled the alarm, Sergeant?"

"Someone in the stands heard a loud noise like a whip cracking, and saw a light cable swinging. She had the presence of mind to run and find Mrs. Mackie." He stopped speaking momentarily when Gloria pulled a pen out of her pocket and quickly jotted something down in a notebook. "Ms Trevisi, I'm not an official spokesperson. I'd rather you talked to the desk sergeant--"

"Relax, sergeant. I'm trying to get an idea of the sequence of events. And might I remind you that your role in the proceedings is already on record?" She patted her camera. "What are you doing here, anyway? Is your son taking part in this tournament?"

"Too old for Peewee hockey. I'm refereeing two of the matches." He opened his jacket to reveal a striped jersey. "How about you?"

"Bringing Rob Dixon some fresh film, and a wedge of pizza. He missed lunch." Refereeing? Not surprising, she thought. No one would dare argue a call with O'Toole. In his early forties, he was big and imposing even when not in full uniform with gun and nightstick. She spotted the stretcher moving slowly toward the wrecked front of the arena, and stood up--with O'Toole's help--slinging her camera over her shoulder. The crowd had suddenly become very quiet. "I think they may have found her," she murmured.

"You're not getting a picture of that, are you?"

"What kind of ghoul do you take me for, Sergeant?" She started across the pavement.

"Don't go far," O'Toole warned. "The inspector will want to talk to you. And I suppose I'd be wasting my breath to ask you not to mention this to anyone until the inspector has a chance to take your statement and Dor... and Mrs. Mackie's."

"As long as he talks to me in the next ten minutes. After that I'll need to find another washroom." She crossed the parking lot toward the knot of emergency workers.


***