Home > Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(7)

Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(7)
Mary Kay Andrews

He frowned. “Is that good?”

“Very good,” I said with a laugh. “And you didn’t even have to put on a tie.”

“Not even for Jonathan,” James said. “Not even for Christmas.”

Jonathan walked up and slung an arm around my shoulder and Daniel’s. “Is he complaining about the damned brown paint again?”

“No,” I said. “He’s congratulating himself on not having to wear a necktie.”

“Well, come on in and get something to eat and drink,” Jonathan said. “Daniel did an amazing job with the food. Those baby lamb chops are to die for.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said.

“Just don’t mention the cost to James,” Jonathan said. “He still thinks cocktail wienies and Cheez Whiz are perfectly acceptable party food.”

“It’s the Foley family curse,” I told Jonathan. “We’re all so tight we squeak when we walk.”

While Daniel went into the kitchen to check on the food, I circulated around, chatting with friends and family.

I found Mama and Daddy seated in the living room, Daddy, looking uncomfortable in his good suit, and Mama wearing her traditional Christmas party outfit, which consisted of a green wool skirt and one of those awful seasonal sweaters she adores—this one featured giant knitted Christmas trees adorned with tiny ornaments that actually lit up and blinked. Unfortunately, two of the blinking red lights were located directly in the middle of her chest, so that from across the room it appeared that her nipples were winking.

“Weezie,” Mama said, reaching out to pull me down beside her on the sofa. “Don’t you look nice tonight!”

I glanced down at my dress and tugged at the neckline. Old habits die hard. “Really? You like this dress?” Mama usually hates my vintage clothes. She can’t understand how I could stand to wear what she calls “dead people’s castoffs.”

“The pin,” Mama said, reaching out and touching the Christmas tree fastened to my stole. “I had a pin like this when you were little. Do you remember?”

I looked down at the pin. “Just like this one?”

She frowned. “Well, no. Mine was sort of gold, with branches, and there were all different colors of pearls on it.”

“Pins like this were really popular years ago,” I told her. “Daniel says his mother had a pin exactly like this one. It was blue and everything.”

“Ohhh,” Mama said. She had a long memory for scandal and remembered everything about the Hoyt Gambrell trial. “Does he ever hear from his mother?”

“No,” I said briefly, already regretting I’d brought up the subject.

“Where is Daniel?” Daddy asked. “Working at the restaurant, is he?”

“He’s here,” I said. “Guale’s catering the food tonight, you know.”

“Nice,” Mama said vaguely. “What do you call that mushy rice stuff they’re serving with the lamb chops?”

“Risotto?”

“Interesting,” Mama said, and then brightening, added, “I brought James one of my famous fruitcakes to serve for dessert. Don’t forget to try a slice.”

“I won’t,” I said, secretly vowing to avoid the cake like the plague. My mother had been a closet alcoholic for most of my life, but after she’d gone through rehab, she’d turned her newfound energy to cooking. Unfortunately, sobriety did nothing to improve her culinary skills.

“I’ve added something new to my fruitcake this year,” Mama confided. Lowering her voice and covering her mouth with her hand, lest someone try to steal her secret ingredient, she whispered it.

“Maple syrup!”

“Really?”

Daddy nodded sadly. “She like to run the IGA out of Aunt Jemima’s.”

“Two dozen cakes,” Mama reported. “It’s a new record. I’ve got yours out in the car, if you want to follow us out when we get ready to leave.”

“I’ll do that,” I promised, getting up. “Well, I better check in with Daniel. He’s got to leave early and get back to the restaurant. They’ve got a couple of big private parties tonight, and he has to put in an appearance.”

“Don’t forget about the cake, now,” Mama chirped. “I’ve only got a dozen left. They’re a big hit this year.”

What, I wondered as I drifted through the rooms, alive with light and laughter, could people be doing with maple-syrup-flavored fruitcakes?

Doorstops. Boat anchors. Bookends.

I found Daniel in the dining room, sprinkling chopped parsley on a chafing dish full of shrimp gumbo.

“Looking good,” I said, giving him a quick kiss.

“You too,” he said absentmindedly.

“Something wrong?” I asked, knowing already that something was.

“There should be a bowl of trifle on the sideboard over there,” he said, pointing at my grandmother’s massive mahogany server. “It was in the kitchen when I first got here, but it’s gone now.”

“Everybody loves your trifle,” I said. “Maybe people just scarfed it all up.”

He shook his head. “No. There were two whole bowls of it in the kitchen. We made enough to serve a hundred. Should have been plenty. And the bowls are gone too.”

“Really?” I went over to the sideboard to investigate. Beside a cut crystal bowl of punch I spotted a silver tray layered with slice after slice of fruitcake. Maple scented.

“Case closed,” I said, reporting back to Daniel. “Marian Foley strikes again.”

“Your mother ate a whole bowl of trifle?”

“I doubt it,” I said. “Yours is afloat in sherry. Mama’s terrified of falling off the wagon. She won’t even take cough syrup anymore. No, I suspect Mama did away with your trifle because it was competing with her fruitcake.”

“No!” Daniel said. “So that’s where that cake came from? I thought it was a gift from one of James’s clients.”

“Afraid not. She told me herself that she’d brought one for the party. That fruitcake is her pride and joy.”

Daniel went over to the aforementioned tray, bent down and sniffed, and grimaced.

“What the hell?”

“Family secret,” I said, crossing my heart. “I’ve been sworn to silence.”

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