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19

Fleeced

Over at the crime convention, Nora Regan Reilly was very pleased with the way things were going. The only disappointment was that Regan couldnt be there. So many people were asking for her.

She was called on to a case, Nora kept saying.

Since last night?

Yes, but shes still in town. Shes going to try to drop by for one of the seminars. Or maybe even the cocktail party later this afternoon.

Nora made a quick inspection of the buffet the hotel had put out for lunch. It looked good. Steaming trays of pasta, chicken, and vegetables were ready for consumption. Nora had slipped out of the last seminar just before it ended to make sure everything was set.

It had been a most interesting seminar. An FBI agent had given a lecture and a slide show on con artists. How they manage to infiltrate peoples lives, gain their confidence, and rip them off. Some of them were small-time crooks, whereas others could remove millions from their rightful owners.

Youll find them everywhere, he had said. Theyre like vultures that prey on everyone from lottery winners, to the elderly, to the lonely, to the ambitious, and to the vulnerable. Many people who get ripped off are then too embarrassed to report it. They think they should have been smarter. Big Hollywood celebrities get duped by investment advisers. People with less money get involved in pyramid schemes that collapse around them. Its bad out there, and these scam artists, when cornered, can be very dangerous. They lash out

The slide show displayed grainy photos of just a few of these people in action.

Yes, Regan would have loved this, Nora thought. What a shame.

Mrs. Reilly?

Nora turned away from the food table and smiled. Yes?

A rather imposing, breathless woman, with her hair swept up in a bun and a notebook in her hand, dropped her purse on the floor. Im Mary Ruffner, a reporter with the New York World. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about the conference.

Of course. Nora led her to a table.

Everything happens at once. My editor wants me to run over to Gramercy Park to the Settlers Club. Some guy who just got sprung from jail is filming a movie there, and the rumor is that someone was murdered in the club last night. Mary laughed mirthlessly. As long as he doesnt expect me to spend the night there. I write about arts and entertainment.

Noras stomach took a dive as her smile faded.

Anything wrong, Mrs. Reilly?

No, Nora said.

Your daughters here too, isnt she?

Shes in town.

I know that. Her picture was in our paper this morning.

Now it was Noras turn to laugh mirthlessly.

Is she at the convention? Mary Ruffner continued.

Actually, shes working, Nora said.

On a case?

Well, yes, shes working in New York, but Im not at liberty to say on what.

I hope I get to interview her before the weekends over, Mary said as she pulled the cap off her pen with her teeth.

Something tells me you will, Nora thought. For better or worse, something tells me you will.


| Fleeced | c