Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(14)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(14)
Mary Kay Andrews

Tal, of course, had been horrified to see his wife with two sets of earrings. “You look like a Ubangi tribesman!” he’d said.

Tal had never seen me the way I really was. Maybe now I could see myself. I took the box of lingerie into the bathroom, set it down on the floor. One by one, I removed the panties; zebra-striped, red nylon, peach fishnet. I dropped a pair in the commode. It felt good. I dropped in five pairs in all, flushed once, and then again. The pipes made a gurgling sound, and water started to rise in the bowl.

Back in my new house, I fixed myself a vodka and tonic and gave Jethro a big raw steak. Then I pulled a chair up to the window and watched while Tal and Caroline pulled up and parked her Triumph in my old parking space. When the phone started ringing and wouldn’t stop, I took it off the hook and fixed myself another drink.

Chapter 8

Merijoy Rucker knew something was up. Not for nothing was she the biggest snoop in Savannah. “A paper plant? And I bet I know who’s behind it. It’s that Mayhew person, isn’t it?” she said. “Coastal Paper Products? Diane Mayhew was at the Symphony Ball planning coffee this week, and she wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I knew right away something was wrong. She’s been toadying up to me for months.”

I looked around helplessly. The minister was shaking hands with people and making her way toward the door. Others were drifting that way too. If Merijoy Rucker kept me trapped here, giving me the third degree about Beaulieu, I’d never get back to the other parlor to check out the merchandise. Uncle James was no help. He was still deep in conversation with the Loudermilks.

“Do you think anyone would mind if we looked around the house a little?” I asked Merijoy. “I’ve never been inside Beaulieu before. I’d like to get a last look, especially if they’re going to tear it down.”

It was as if I’d issued a battle cry. Her nostrils quivered in indignation. “Nobody’s tearing anything down,” she assured me. “Let’s go peek in that other parlor. I think that wallpaper in there may be an old Scalamandré pattern. Prewar.”

We both knew she was talking about the only war that counted in Savannah. The War of Northern Aggression. The Late Unpleasantness.

As we turned right off the hallway, Merijoy stopped short—so short, I plowed right into the back of her.

“Lewis!” she exclaimed, backing up quickly.

The man she’d collided with seemed surprised to be recognized. He scowled in annoyance. His right hand moved quickly to the pocket of his blue blazer. But not so quickly I didn’t see him slip a small black camera into the pocket.

“Well, hello, Merijoy,” he said, his frown dissolving. He nodded curtly in my direction. “Hello.”

Lewis Hargreaves knows my name. All the antique dealers in Savannah know me, even the ones who pretend they don’t buy from pickers like me. Not that I’d ever sold much to Hargreaves.

Hargreaves owns L. Hargreaves. It’s an “antique gallery”—nothing so plebeian as a shop. His specialty is big-ticket, one-of-a-kind early Southern antiques. Hargreaves himself is regarded as something of a boy wonder. We went to parochial school together, but whereas I was still a measly picker, Lewis had opened his own “gallery” his first year out of Georgetown University. It wasn’t long before his shop was being written up in all the big shelter magazines like HG and Architectural Digest.

Merijoy Rucker leaned forward and gave Lewis a light kiss on the cheek. A soft pink suffused his pale face, and he blushed to the roots of his white-blond hair.

“Lewis, you naughty thing,” she said teasingly. “What are you doing skulking around all by yourself in here?”

Hargreaves blinked rapidly. “Just paying my respects to Miss Mullinax.”

“Bull hockey, Lewis,” Merijoy said. It was the strongest language I’d ever heard her use. “You weren’t in the room during the memorial service.”

“I was invited by Gerry Blankenship,” Hargreaves said. “It’s confidential, that’s all I can say right now.”

Hargreaves walked rapidly down the hallway, toward the staircase.

“He’s casing the place,” I said, watching his immaculately tailored back disappear. “There’s sure to be an estate sale, you know. I’ll bet he’s already putting in a bid for the good stuff.”

Merijoy sighed. “I was hoping the furnishings would be left intact. It’s really vital to retain the original pieces for an important house museum like this.”

“Sure,” I agreed. We turned in to the parlor. It was stuffed with piles of furniture, rugs, boxes, and crates.

“Oh!” Merijoy cried, running the palm of her hand against the wall. The paper was a robin’s-egg blue, with murals of coastal birds: wild herons, marsh hens, egrets, and kingfishers. The paper hung from the wall in ribbons; large parts of it were obscured by spreading brown water stains.

“My God,” Merijoy moaned. “This is a Menaboni mural. Hand-painted. And it’s ruined.” She pulled out her own pocket camera and snapped it.

“Maybe there’s a way to mend it,” I offered.

Over in the corner of the room, a stack of boxes obscured a large piece of furniture. It was a cabinet of some kind, loaded with bits and pieces of old blue-and-white china.

I pulled the boxes away from the cabinet, sliding them against a moth-eaten braided rug on the floor. My hands were filthy from the dust and mildew on the boxes. Nothing in this room had been used in a very long time.

Even in the dim light of the parlor, the corner cupboard stood out like a diamond in a handful of pebbles. I held my breath while I ran my palm over the satiny wood. It was burled elm, eight feet tall at least, with three scalloped shelves behind a pair of wavy glass doors. Below were carefully wrought doors and a scalloped apron. Bells went off in my head. This cupboard was the work of a master cabinetmaker, early nineteenth century. The craftsmanship would hold up to that of any of the famous Philadelphia or Boston artisans of the time, but the design looked Southern vernacular.

“That’s nice,” Merijoy said, flicking at the cabinet door. “I’ll bet it’s original to the house. Look at the way it fits in that corner. You’re into antiques, Weezie. What kind of china is that?”

“Canton ware,” I said, my eyes still on the cupboard. “From the 1700s. Very valuable.”

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