Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(10)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(10)
Mary Kay Andrews

James knew Weezie knew the Mayhews. She’d complained bitterly about the efforts she’d taken to impress the couple back when they’d first moved to Savannah and Tal had gotten wind of all that Yankee money they intended to spend on their “country estate.”

Weezie had told of peeling and deveining ten pounds of shrimp, sorting and picking over five pounds of back-fin crabmeat, even painting the downstairs powder room, all to impress the Mayhews during the “intimate little dinner party” she’d thrown for them.

“Phipps Mayhew gobbled everything I set in front of him. It could have been a bowl of soggy Rice Krispies and he wouldn’t have cared,” Weezie had reported. “And that wife! Diane Mayhew claimed to have a seafood allergy. She nibbled at a lettuce leaf and asked for some kind of imported mineral water I never heard of.”

“Oh,” Caroline said, smiling and waving at someone across the room. “Here’s Diane now.”

A short dumpy woman in an expensive black knit suit tottered over toward them and gave Weezie a tentative sort of smile.

“Well, hello, Mrs. Evans,” the woman said. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Diane Mayhew. My husband, Phipps, and I had a lovely dinner at your home when we first moved to town.”

“Hello, Diane,” Weezie said. “Of course I remember you. But my name isn’t Evans. It’s Weezie Foley. Tal and I are divorced, you know.”

Diane Mayhew blinked. “I’m so sorry,” she stammered. “I had no idea. Phipps never mentioned…”

“Actually,” Caroline meowed, “Tal and I are engaged. I’m surprised Phipps didn’t say something.”

“Oh,” Diane Mayhew said, laughing nervously. “You know men. If it isn’t about business, they don’t concern themselves with the petty details of other people’s lives.”

Diane Mayhew had mouse-colored hair, thin eyebrows, and watery blue eyes. Her hands clanked with thick gold chains and bangle bracelets. To James, she looked the essence of out-of-place chic in the heavy black suit. Her face shone with perspiration, and her hairstyle had fallen like a flat soufflé.

Now James saw Weezie’s eyes narrow.

“Caroline has just been telling us that your husband’s company has bought Beaulieu,” Weezie said. “But surely it isn’t possible you plan to tear down this wonderful old house.”

Diane Mayhew gazed around and actually shuddered.

“Wonderful? I don’t think I’ll ever understand you people down here. Why, up home, this place wouldn’t even merit a second look. My goodness, when you consider the history of places like Westchester County in New York, or Bucks County, Pennsylvania, this place is totally unimpressive. And the lack of maintenance, in my opinion, is shocking. Phipps tells me Caroline and her firm have designed a breathtaking new building that will be a real showplace for you people.”

Weezie actually gnashed her teeth. “Diane,” she said in a slow, deliberate drawl, “it may interest you people to know that Beaulieu is the oldest house of its kind on the Georgia coast.” She turned to Blankenship. “Isn’t Beaulieu some kind of historic landmark or something?”

Gerry Blankenship shuddered when she said “landmark.”

“Not at all,” he said quickly. “The architecture is totally unremarkable, and of course, the place is falling apart. But Caroline here is the architect; she can tell you much more about it than I. Those people from the hysteric society have been out here, snooping around, asking a lot of questions, but while she was alive Miss Mullinax would never allow them on the property. She was a free spirit, didn’t believe in letting somebody else tell her what to do with her own property.”

Caroline started to say something but stopped abruptly, giving a side-long glance at a striking-looking woman who was standing in the hallway, staring raptly up at one of the crumbling plaster ceiling medallions. She nudged Blankenship. “Do you see who I see?”

They all turned to find out whom Caroline was looking at.

“Excuse us,” Caroline murmured. She took Blankenship’s hand, and the two of them glided away toward the far corner of the room. Diane Mayhew followed in their wake.

“What was that all about?” James asked.

“Merijoy Rucker,” Weezie said, smiling like the cat that’d found the cream. “No wonder those three shut up so fast.”

“Who is she?” James asked, staring at the brunette who’d spooked Caroline and Blankenship. Something about the girl’s face, the pert upturned nose, the short, sleek dark hair, seemed familiar. She looked about Weezie’s age, but dressed more conservatively, in a sleeveless black silk shift with pearls around her neck and at her ears. Very slender, with endless long legs encased in sheer dark hose. She looked like money.

“I’ve seen her before,” James said.

“Well, she’s Catholic, so I wouldn’t be surprised,” Weezie said. “Plus, she’s the head of the Savannah Preservation League. She was a couple years ahead of me at St. Vincent’s. She married the youngest Rucker; Randy, I think his name is.”

“Rucker Freight,” James said, remembering. “Mrs. Rucker was Catholic, but Mr. Rucker was just rich.”

“Very good, James.” Weezie patted his shoulder approvingly. Because he’d been a priest, James had been excused from playing the “who do you know” game. Now, though, he was a lawyer, and lawyers needed to know all the players. He’d come to depend on Janet and Weezie to help sort it all out.

“Why should Merijoy Rucker make Gerry Blankenship tuck tail and run for cover?” James wondered.

“The SPL is the group that makes sure nobody in the historic district plants so much as a petunia without checking its historical context. If they find out Beaulieu’s to be sold and torn down to build a paper plant, they’ll raise holy hell. Especially Merijoy. She’s got all that Rucker money, and nothing else to do with her time and energy. The woman is a holy terror.”

“You exaggerate,” James said, watching Merijoy Rucker extract a penknife from her pocketbook and start scraping gently at the paint on the windowsill she was standing in front of. Acting casual, she slipped a small plastic bag out of her handbag and scraped the paint chips into it, zipped it shut, then tucked it back in her pocketbook.

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