Murder Most Frothy - By Cleo Coyle


AMID the scrub grass of the high beach dune, gloved hands gripped seven pounds of bolt-action. Through the Remington’s scope, the shooter scanned the faces on the mansion’s expansive cedar deck.

The typical Hamptons crowd was here: Ivy League wives turned interior decorators, captains of industry turned serial cheaters, vapid heiresses turned wannabe celebrities. There were cold-blooded lawyers, eager-to-please newcomers, megalomaniacal executives, and tone-deaf pop singers—all sipping frothy drinks and wearing designer casual with diamonds as big as planets, wristwatches as pricey as middle-class cars.

Women bared too much or too little, their laughter forced or nonexistent, their attention on each other’s clothing, on the faces in attendance, on the host’s choice of artifacts. Men acted too bored or too eager, their focus on networking, for business or pleasure, the mantra always the same: “Close the deal, close the deal.”

And, oh, the celebrities. They were here too, looking far less air-brushed than their cover shots on TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. But those observations would only be whispered after the party or behind their backs during it.

At last, the shooter located the target—his short, stocky build was unmistakable, his untucked short-sleeved shirt an enormous pink flag. The trigger could have been pulled at that moment. Three rounds were loaded into the Remington’s magazine, three seven-millimeter bullets primed for their trip through twenty-four inches of steel and forty odd yards of night air. But the result would have been obvious.

The timing had to be right.

Guests came and went, clustering and dissipating like the tides. Music rolled over the mansion’s grounds, across the pool and manicured lawn, down the beach and onto the shoreline. Inside latex gloves, the shooter’s hands grew clammy. Behind the shooter’s feet, the foamy surf sounded restless, as if the ocean were lapping nearer with every passing minute, closing in with each incoming wave.

Finally, the target stepped away from the crowded deck and into the great room. The place was lit up like a whorehouse. With every shade up and shutter open, every bulb and chandelier blazing, guests could readily see the mansion’s splendor—and the shooter could easily track the target’s movements down the hallway and into the south wing, up the stairs and toward the master bedroom suite.

Rogue firecrackers had been exploding for some time, a bright bang here, a sharp crack there, just like any other Fourth of July evening, little detonations from god-knew-where. But those stray explosions were nothing. The night’s most memorable fireworks were about to start.

Farther down the beach, the patriotic spectacle was finally launched. A succession of roman candles went up amid booms, blasts, and a pumped-up soundtrack. Rockets raced high over the water, bursting with an array of bright red light, trickling down like blood trails against the death-black sky.

Most guests were staring upward now, their blank faces dazzled by the show. The shooter’s focus remained far lower. For a few minutes, the target disappeared from view, then reappeared on the mansion’s second floor. He had moved to the bathroom window.

A shot rang out and then another. Both missed their target. A third round was fired. It traveled down the Remington’s barrel, through the thick window, and into the man’s skull.

At the party below, guests were still gawking skyward. They had failed to notice the rifle’s discharge. Amid the fireworks, it was just another big bang.




Chapter ONE

Chapter TWO

Chapter THREE

Chapter FOUR

Chapter FIVE

Chapter SIX

Chapter SEVEN

Chapter EIGHT

Chapter NINE

Chapter TEN

Chapter ELEVEN

Chapter TWELVE








Chapter TWENTY





HOURS before I found the body, one of Detective Mike Quinn’s pithy comments came back to haunt me: “You know, Clare, it’s a little-known principle of physics, a great deal of money can create a completely separate universe.”

“You were right, Mike,” I whispered, taking in my surroundings.

I was standing on the bi-level oceanfront deck of Otium cum Dignitate, “Leisure with Dignity,” David Mintzer’s ten-million-dollar East Hampton mansion, where his annual July Fourth party was in full swing.

Floating candles bobbed in the Jacuzzi like dancing water fairies. Antique porcelain planters sweetened the sea air with rare orchids and night-blooming jasmine. Speakers, hidden in the topiary, accompanied the music of the nearby rolling surf with the majestic compositions of Gershwin and Copeland. And sterling-sliver serving trays overflowed with flutes of obscenely expensive champagne and freshly picked strawberries the size of lemons, dipped in the finest Belgian chocolate.

“East” Hampton, of course, was one of the most exclusive hamlets in the United States. It sat beside Amagansett, Wainscott, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Southampton, and a few other quaintly named seaside townships known collectively