Home > Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(5)

Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(5)
Mary Kay Andrews

But the window was still too stiff, too formal. I’d created a living room vignette, with a pair of red tartan–slipcovered armchairs, a primitive fireplace mantel and surround with peeling green paint, and a red-and-green hand-hooked rug. A twig table held a stack of old leather-bound books, including an opened copy of Clement Clarke Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth.

I’d thought the window perfect only a few hours ago, but now it seemed way too safe and predictable.

I crossed my arms over my chest and gave it some thought. Suddenly the Ronettes swung into “Frosty the Snowman,” and I got inspired.

I moved the twig table and replaced it with a just-purchased could-be Stickley library table. An improvement, I decided. Reluctantly, I brought out my stack of dime-store Christmas gift boxes. I’d have to fight my customers to keep them to myself, but really, they were too wonderful not to put on display. I arranged them under the tree and took another critical look. It needed more. Much more.

Glancing at my watch, I realized I’d lost track of time. The party started at seven, and Daniel was supposed to pick me up in fifteen minutes!

Later, I promised myself. Genius can’t be rushed. I whistled for Jethro, picked up the box of costume jewelry from the auction, and hurried over to my house.

As always, when I stepped inside my front door, I said a silent prayer of thanks. Mine was not the grandest, oldest house in the historic district, or even on Charlton Street. It was built in 1858 and had austere lines. But it was made of coveted Savannah gray brick, had beautiful lacy wrought-iron trim, a wonderful courtyard garden, and a fantastic gourmet kitchen of my own design. And it was mine. All mine. I’d found the house when Tal and I were still newlyweds. The $200,000 price tag was more money than we could afford, but I wrote the down payment check without a second thought, and plunged into remodeling it, doing much of the work myself.

This house was my anchor. My dream. It had outlasted the marriage to Tal. He’d been awarded the town house in our divorce settlement, and I’d only gotten the carriage house. But through a strange turn of events, Tal’s fortunes had taken a dive, and he’d needed to sell the town house. I was overjoyed to buy him out. And when my antiques business started to take off, I’d been able to buy the twin to my town house next door. I moved Maisie’s Daisy out of the carriage house and into the ground floor of that house and rented out the top two floors to a young couple who both taught at the art school.

After bribing Jethro with a dog biscuit, I bolted upstairs to dress for the party. Earlier in the day I’d laid out a simple pair of black capris and a black lace top to wear. But the blue Christmas tree pin had made me rethink my outfit.

Only vintage would match my mood tonight. Once I was out of the shower, I rifled through my closet, looking for the right combination.

Aha! But could I still get in it?

The black fifties cocktail dress was one I’d found at a great vintage shop in Atlanta called Frock of Ages. It usually killed me to pay retail for old stuff, but when I’d spotted this dress in the shop window one Saturday while cruising down McLendon Avenue, I knew I had to have it. Even at forty bucks.

The bodice was beaded black brocade, with a deeply scooped neck and cap sleeves, and the full, ankle-length bouffant skirt was black chiffon over two layers of black tulle crinoline. I spritzed my neck and breasts with my favorite perfume, then struggled into a black waist-cinching Merry Widow, stepped into the dress, sucked in my breath, and struggled with the zipper. When the dress was still at half-mast, I heard the doorbell ringing downstairs and Jethro barking.

Damn. True, it was ten after seven, but Daniel was never on time these days. His restaurant, Guale, was always swamped at the holidays, and since he’d bought out BeBe’s interest in it, he seemed to work longer and longer hours. I hadn’t even put on makeup or fixed my hair properly, but it wouldn’t do to keep Daniel waiting.

Not this time of year. Christmas seemed to make him grumpy. I knew it was because he was overworked, but it still made me a little sad that he couldn’t enjoy what should have been a happy holiday.

Especially this year. My business was doing well, and after all those years of working as a chef in other people’s kitchens, Daniel had finally realized his dream of owning his own restaurant. After three years of dating, I had secretly halfway convinced myself that this Christmas could be the one….

I ran downstairs to answer the door. He stood on the doorstep, key out, with a funny look on his face.

“What’s wrong?” I gave him a quick kiss.

“Nothing,” he said, glancing around at the street behind. “I was going to let myself in, but I had the eeriest feeling just now. Like I was being watched.”

I poked my head out the door and looked up and down the street. I saw a flash of red disappearing through the square.

“Maybe you were being watched,” I said, drawing him inside. “I bet it was those creeps Manny and Cookie.”

“Who?” Daniel asked, kissing my neck. “Mmm. You smell good.” He held me at arm’s length and smiled. “Looking good too. I don’t suppose that’s a new dress?”

“New in 1958, I think,” I said, twirling so he could get the full effect.

“Could you zip me, please?” I asked, holding my hair off my neck. “Manny and Cookie own Babalu, that new shop across the square, over on Harris. They’re trying to put me out of business. I think they were probably over here spying, checking on my decorations for the business district Christmas decoration contest.”

He zipped me up without any funny business. So I knew he was distracted.

“What makes you think they’re trying to put you out of business?” he asked.

“Everything. But don’t get me started. I just have to run upstairs and slap on some makeup, and I’ll be ready to go.”

“You look fine to me,” Daniel said. “Anyway, we really need to get a move on here, Weezie. I’ve got to go back to the restaurant in a couple hours. We’ve got two law firm Christmas parties tonight, and the partners all expect the owner to put in an appearance.”

“Daniel!” I protested. “It’s James and Jonathan ‘s first party. You can’t cut out early. And I don’t want to.”

“You can stay,” he said. “But there’s no way I can. Now, can we get going?”

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