Tell Me Who I Am

A Sharon McCone Short Story


By Marcia Muller

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ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD

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From New York Times bestselling author Marcia Muller, a new short story featuring her beloved private investigator, Sharon McCone.


Tell me who I am.

Those were the first words Debra Judson said to me. “Tell me who I am.”

As I motioned her toward one of the clients’ chairs, I studied her. Thin, stringy blond hair; no makeup on her round face; a trifle overweight for her five-and-a-half-foot frame, but not obese; ripped, tattered jeans and a rumpled pink blouse with two buttons missing. But that’s the style for twentysomethings here in San Francisco’s tech-savvy canyons South of Market. To the casual observer she might have seemed to be unclean and smell bad. But no, her face was recently scrubbed and a faint gardenia scent drifted around her.

“I guess I arrived at the right time, getting right in to see the boss lady,” she said without making eye contact.

She had a faint regional accent—Midwestern, maybe.

I didn’t want to tell her that she’d gotten in to see me because business was so slow that the “boss lady” was terminally bored and had been dozing on her couch. My husband and partner, Hy Ripinsky, who handles more of McCone & Ripinsky International’s far-flung cases, had been in Asia for a week, so I didn’t even have him in the office next door to divert me.

Ted Smalley, our office manager, who calls himself the Grand Poobah and shares a friendship with me that goes back to the Stone Age, had actually told me the other day that I needed to get a life. No, I’d insisted, what I needed to get was a case. Something I could really get involved with. Was that what this raggedy young woman was bringing to me?

“You identified yourself as Debra Judson,” I said to the prospective client. “Isn’t that who you are?”

“Oh, sure. I’ve had that name all my life. I’ve got a Social Security number too. High school diploma, job résumé, letters of recommendation from past employers. But something’s missing—my identity.”

“True identity?”


“Who recommended you to M&R?”

“Nobody. A couple of years ago I read a human interest feature about you—how you found out you were adopted and tracked down your real parents. I thought maybe you could help me do the same.”

I hesitated, studying her.

“Ms. McCone, if you’re not interested, I can pick another firm just as easy. I guess you think I can’t afford you. I know I don’t look too great on account of the airline losing my luggage when I flew in last night from Michigan. But I’ve got plenty of money—”

“It’s not about money, and I am interested. Tell me your story.” I motioned her to one of the chairs in the grouping by the high bay-view windows and took one opposite her.

She relaxed visibly, but still wouldn’t make eye contact. “It all started two weeks ago. In Westland, Michigan, where I was raised. My dad, Dennis Judson, died three years ago in an auto accident, but Mom—her name was Marla—and I were doing fine. She had a good job as a business analyst with Ford, and I was learning the ropes so I could get on there too. Then, one day she came home with what she called one of her sick headaches, and when I checked on her the next morning, she was gone. A stroke, the doctor said.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Now she did look me straight in the eyes; hers were gray-green, suffused with coppery flares of anger. “Sorry?” she said. “You didn’t even know her. You don’t even know me.”

“It was a conventional, reflexive comment. Go on, please.”

She wriggled uncomfortably in the chair. “Okay, the house was a rental, and the landlord wanted me out so he could charge more, and he could evict me because we’d lived there so long we’d never thought we needed to renew the lease. And he wanted me out fast. Quick evictions are happening all the time now.”

“How much time did he give you?”

“A week.”


On Sale
May 3, 2016
Page Count
40 pages

Marcia Muller

About the Author

Marcia Muller has written many novels and short stories. She has won six Anthony Awards, a Shamus Award, and is also the recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award as well as the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award (their highest accolade). She lives in northern California with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini.

Learn more about this author