The Red Scarf by Babette Hughes
We are delighted to welcome novelist Babette Hughes to Omnimystery News today.
Babette's second suspense novel to feature Kate Brady is The Red Scarf (Lamplight Press; August 2013 hardcover, trade paperback and ebook formats), and we are pleased to introduce the book to you with an excerpt.
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September 6, 1933
IT IS THE FIRST DAY OF MY CRIMINAL justice class at Cleveland College. Waiting with the other students for the professor to arrive, I try to look innocent. I have taken the precaution of sitting in the back row between a boy with acne and a chubby girl with a pretty face and too much makeup. I wish I were like them. I wish acne and weight were all I have to worry about. I wish I could shake the plump girl until her teeth rattle. I want her green life.
The room smells of paper and the cologne on the girl sitting next to me. Someone has carved initials in the wood of my desk. Does "H. R." belong to the wood carver? Or to the wood-carver's spouse? But that's silly — most eighteen-year-olds aren't married. As I was. To my regret. And surely to my former husband's, who is now safely buried with the other dead Jews in Mayfield Cemetery.
The door opens and the dean arrives with a man so handsome there is a collective intake of breath from the girls in the room. Who is he? I knew Dean Conway from his boring speech to the freshman assembled last week in the auditorium. But the other? I would have remembered if I had seen him before. You don't forget a face like that.
"Good morning, students," Dean Conway says, with a pasted-on smile. "I have a swell surprise for you. The instructor for this class will be a real-life F.B.I. agent. This," he says, gesturing to him grandly, "is Adam Fairchild. "Before joining the Bureau, he taught law and criminal justice at Ohio State University. How about those credentials? How lucky can you get?" Someone starts to clap, the dean joins in and then the rest of the class.
Fairfield is standing a bit to the side, his hands in his pockets, looking like Tyrone Power or maybe Douglas Fairbanks without the mustache.
I slide my eyes over to the door. Too far away.
"I leave you now in the capable hands of Special Agent Fairfield," Dean Conway says, pausing and lifting his chin as if posing for a photograph.
"Thank you, Dean. I only hope I don't disappoint after that introduction," he says, grinning as if he knows better.
He takes a sheet of paper from the desk. "Please stand as I read your name so I can get a look at you." As he reads the names, each student stands, saying, "Here." As I wait for him to call my name, I start to sweat. When he does, I rise, manage a mumbled "Here," and slide back down into my chair. His eyes linger on me. Or am I imagining it? No. I am not imagining it. He knows who I am. I thought I could disappear among hundreds of college students. I thought by using my maiden name I could erase the time when I was Mrs. Ben Gold. I was wrong. I should have packed up and gone as far from Cleveland as I could get — California. Oregon. Anywhere but here. Well, it isn't too late — this is my first day in Mr. F.B.I's class. It's a big country.
I see that he's dressed for the part of charming professor in one of those tweed jackets with leather on the elbows, a blue shirt and neatly knotted brown tie. Even though his hair is cropped short, I can see the grey starting. Still, it's hard to tell his age — 30's? 40's?
After the roll call, he looks at me again. I make myself return his stare as if that will make him drop his. It does not. I drop mine.
He looks at his watch. "There's still time for me to tell you a bit about the F.B.I," he says, sitting down on the edge of the desk. "Before J. Edgar Hoover became Director it was just the Bureau of Investigation. But Hoover got it federalized so we could cross state lines to chase the bad guys. How many of you have heard of Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde and Machine Gun Kelly?"
A bunch of hands shoot up.
"Okay, I can tell you that we know Nelson's in San Francisco, a source has Machine Gun Kelly in Chicago, and we've spotted Bonnie and Clyde in Des Moines. Believe me, their days of robbing banks and killing people are numbered." There is a sudden gravity about him with that grim look you see on the faces of F.B.I. agents in the newsreels.
The boy with acne raises his hand.
"Mr. Arlington," Fairfield says, nodding.
"So how does a person get in?" the boy asks.
"You want to be an F.B.I. agent?"
"Well, son, you've got some years to go — you have to be twenty-five. And before that, you have to have gone to law school. You have to be a lawyer. And come from a good family."
Good family. That lets me out.
The boy sits down.
A skinny girl in a navy blue dress raises her hand.
"Miss Sawyer," Fairfield says. But he is looking at me again.
I feel my face heat up and look down at my white schoolgirls' blouse to check on buttons.
"Does the F.B.I. take women?" she asks.
"Not any I know of," he says. "Although there were a few. Emma Jentzer back some twenty years or so. Also, Alaska Davidson and Lenore Houston in the old bureau." He stops, as if searching his memory. "And oh, yes, Jessie Duckson." He lets go of his charming smile. "Maybe by the time you're twenty-five Hoover will let women in. So go to law school, just in case. That way, if you can't be an agent, you'll have a back up. You can be a lawyer."
"I don't know any women lawyers, do you?" There was a nice edge to her voice. I liked her.
"Well, no. A great injustice. But perhaps you'll change that and be the first woman agent in modern times."
The girl looks doubtful.
Another hand is raised.
"Mr. Linsky," Fairfield says.
I am impressed with his memory of names after only one hearing. More to worry about.
"So how come Mr. Hoover can't catch Dillinger?"
"Well, Mr. Linsky, we have it on good authority he's in Dayton, Ohio. As we speak. He moves around a lot but we'll get him. Sooner or later we'll get him." He narrows his eyes. You can imagine him wearing sun glasses, a fedora, and that serious expression, moving silent as a cat, stalking Dillinger, ready; you can imagine him shooting. No questions asked. Just the Springfield Armory Model M 14 machine gun with 20 round USGI — like the gun that laid under my husband's side of the bed. Or the Smith & Wesson 22, with a clip that holds 12 rounds. Small enough to fit in a pocket or hide in a hat. Small enough to fit in a woman's hand. I feel a small thrill.
The boy sits down.
Fairfield looks at his watch again, opens a notebook, and recites the course agenda: Intro to Criminal Justice; Criminal Law; Criminal Investigation; Intro to Forensic Chemistry; Human Relations. I dutifully write the list in my notebook with a shaking hand, now convinced that he knows who I am.
"Class, please read chapters one through four in your textbook, ‘Intro to Forensic Chemistry' by the next class," he's saying. My classmates begin noisily scraping chairs, murmuring, moving toward the door. A couple of girls almost trip as they turn for one more look at Fairfield.
I close my notebook and gather up my books.
I am almost at the door when he calls from the front of the room, "Miss Brady."
Pretending not to hear him, I put my head down and keep on walking.
"Miss Brady!" he calls. "My office, please! Room 321."
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Photo provided courtesy of
In addition to her novels, Babette Hughes is a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. She has also been published in the Saturday Review; been contributing editor of Cleveland Magazine; a twice-weekly columnist for the Cleveland Press; and has published articles and book reviews in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Sunday Magazine. She has also written, produced and appeared in television documentaries and news and feature stories for Cleveland television stations WKYC-NBC and WNBK-UHF.
In addition to her writing career she has been been National Director of Women's Political Action for Hubert Humphrey in his 1972 Presidential campaign, as well as founder and President of Discover Yourself, Inc., a motivation and self realization program for women. She has also been Director of Public Relations for Revco D.S., Inc. in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Account Executive with Frazier Associates, in Washington, DC. She and her husband live in Austin, Texas, and are the parents and step-parents of eight children.
Learn more about the author and her work on her website BabetteHughes.com.
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The Red Scarf
A Kate Brady Novel