Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(11)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(11)
Mary Kay Andrews

“Blankenship never said anything about tearing down Beaulieu,” James said. “Caroline said the company hoped they could save it.”

“That’s just a lot of public-relations baloney,” Weezie said. “You heard what Diane Mayhew said. This house is toast. Most architects want to create their own structures, not glue together somebody else’s. If Tal’s firm is involved, they’ve probably already got some big grandiose scheme drawn up. And a tacky old plantation house with aluminum screened doors and plaster that crumbles when you so much as look at it are not a part of their plan. You can bet on that.”

James was dubious. He’d seen this kind of thing before. “If Miss Mullinax left provisions in her will, the SPL can’t stop the paper company from using the property as they see fit. Can they?”

“Merijoy Rucker could stop a herd of charging bull elephants,” Weezie said. “And she wouldn’t even chip a fingernail doing it. Remember that wrought-iron balcony that was on the front of the townhouse when we bought it? I wanted to tear it off, because it wasn’t even very pretty. And it was a safety hazard. If it had fallen, it would have killed somebody. But Merijoy got wind of it and came over and made me apply for a permit just to take it down. From my own house.”

“Good Christ,” James said. He took a second look at Mrs. Rucker. She was so lovely, so harmless-looking.

“You had to get permission to do work on your own house?” James still could not believe it. He’d been a part of the most hidebound, tradition-worshipping bureaucracy in the history of the world, the Catholic Church, and still he had never heard of such a thing.

“The house is in the historic district. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We got a tax break on the renovation work for restoring it to their specifications,” Weezie explained. “So now the SPL is running the show. And Merijoy Rucker personally runs the SPL. She’s a Nazi in Ferragamo pumps.”

Weezie took a delicate sip of her sherry. “You know, I haven’t talked to Merijoy in months. I’ll bet she doesn’t know Tal and I are divorced.”

James laughed. “In this town? Everybody knows you’re divorced. I had Denise Cahoon in my office today, crying and carrying on about how Inky won’t come back to her. Denise Cahoon barely knows what day it is, but even she asked me how my niece was doing after the big split-up.”

“Denise Cahoon,” Weezie said. “Now there’s a pathetic story. Is she finally gonna make an honest man out of Inky and let him marry the mother of his children before they go off to college?”

James sighed. “She just wants Inky back. Well, Inky and his paycheck and retirement benefits.”

Weezie set her empty sherry glass on the sideboard and brushed her fingers through her hair.

“I’ll be back in a little bit, Uncle James. I think I’ll just go over there and have a word with my old classmate Merijoy. See what she knows about this business of tearing down Beaulieu.”

James nodded. “Janet says I’m to walk around and give out business cards for my law practice. Don’t you think that’s crass at a memorial service?”

“Be discreet,” Weezie said. “Look at that couple over there.” James looked where she was pointing, at a couple, both in their nineties, so frail they looked as though a good gust might blow them away. One of the waiters had made the mistake of leaving a silver tray of appetizers untended on the sideboard. The woman was scooping up cheese straws and stashing them in a cracked black leather pocketbook.

“That’s Spencer and Lorena Loudermilk. I heard Spencer had gall bladder surgery over at Candler Hospital six weeks ago, and he’s had a fever and a bellyache ever since. He went to a doctor up in Atlanta who says the surgeon must have left a clamp inside Spencer. All their grandchildren have been after Spencer to sue Candler, but Spencer says he doesn’t trust lawyers any more than he trusts doctors.”

She nudged James. “Why don’t you go over there and chat?”

“Ambulance chasing!” James said quickly. “It would be totally unethical.”

“Tell Mr. Loudermilk your niece is best friends with their granddaughter, BeBe,” Weezie suggested. “Just inquire about his health. And don’t forget to let him know you’re an attorney.”

James fingered the stack of business cards Janet had tucked in his pocket. He hated this part of his new life. He just wanted to help people. But, as Janet liked to remind him, his landlord couldn’t cash a check for good intentions, and that gleaming white Mercedes parked out in the yard wouldn’t run on noble deeds.

The office on Factors Walk was his biggest expense, a luxury, really, to have the river to watch whenever he liked. He lived simply, in the two-bedroom wood-frame cottage on Washington Avenue Bernadette had left him in her will.

James straightened the knot on his tie. It wouldn’t hurt just to introduce himself to the Loudermilks. They seemed like a lovely couple. He only hoped Weezie wouldn’t get into a brawl while he was rustling up some new billings.

Chapter 6

“Eloise Foley!” Merijoy Rucker’s eyes went all crinkly with delight at the sight of me. I guess she’d forgotten the incident with the balcony. “How in the world are you?” she asked, giving me a big hug. She stepped back and looked me over. “And where on earth did you get this darling dress?”

Merijoy Rucker liked my Zelda dress. I was a success. “You really like the dress?” I said shyly. “It’s Hattie Carnegie. From the late twenties, I think.”

“It’s adorable,” Merijoy assured me. “Vintage clothing is one of my favorite things. Nobody but you could pull off a look like that, Eloise. After all the weight I’ve put on having babies, if I put on something like that, I’d look like Omar the Tentmaker.”

“Oh no,” I protested. “You’re so thin, Merijoy. Thinner than high school, even.”

Merijoy glanced around the room. People were saying their good-byes, moving toward the door. She was watching Caroline and Gerry Blankenship, who were across the room, their heads bent in earnest discussion, with particular interest.

“So sad about Miss Mullinax, isn’t it? Did you know her well?”

It was the question I’d been dreading. I looked around for Uncle James, hoping he’d come over, strike up a conversation, and save the day. No good. James was schmoozing BeBe’s grandparents.

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