Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(16)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(16)
Mary Kay Andrews

Mrs. Finley had bought him a box of CDs for his new car; the Clancy Brothers, the Irish Rovers, like that. James had been enthusiastic about the gift at first; but now he thought he’d go mad if he ever again heard a bagpipe or a Celtic harp. It was terribly clangy, Irish music. He wished he had some Trisha Yearwood or Garth Brooks. Simple stuff about pickup trucks and lying and cheating and drinking.

Instead, he had the Yancy Brothers yammering away about some dreamy-eyed girl with a ribbon in her hair.

“I hate it here,” Weezie said suddenly.

They were bumping along down the oyster-shell driveway, past some tabby ruins covered with the foamy green of resurrection ferns.

“Since when?” James said, shocked.

“I do,” Weezie insisted. “Savannah sucks. It’s always hot. The gnats drive me insane. The marsh stinks like dead fish. The people are so self-satisfied, it makes me want to puke. People in this town like to think they’re so sophisticated. That Paris of the South stuff. What a load of crap! Nobody around here knows a damn thing about anything that really matters, like art or literature or music.”

She ripped at the hem of the dress, and a strip of lace and a long patch of fabric came away in her hand. She threw the clump of fabric on the floor. “These assholes keep screwing it up. They tear down anything that’s good or beautiful.”

“They pave paradise and put in a parking lot,” James said.

“What?” Weezie looked at him oddly.

“Joni Mitchell,” James said, pleased at being able to surprise her. He’d always loved radical folksingers, especially the ones with ratty blue jeans and greasy hair who seethed with the injustice of life. Maybe it was the Jesuit in him.

He glanced over at Weezie. “Gerry Blankenship was half in the bag today. He reeked of gin. Drunk talk. Anyway, they won’t have to tear down Beaulieu, you know. It’ll fall down all by itself, any day now.”

“Maybe.” Weezie kept seeing Caroline as she stood in front of the windows in the parlor at Beaulieu, looking out to the marsh and the river beyond. Like she owned the place. One more home to wreck.

“I could make a lot of money off that estate sale,” Weezie told James. “Get the good stuff and get out while the getting’s good.”

“Get out? What’s that supposed to mean?” James asked, pulling the Mercedes alongside Weezie’s rusted turquoise truck.

“Fuck ’em all,” Weezie said. “Ticktock, James. What’s that Bible verse, about a time to every purpose? Maybe all the stuff that’s happening to me means it’s time to get out. Go to a real town. Atlanta. Maybe San Francisco. I’ve never been out west. Hell, New York. Why not? I could open my own shop. Be a real dealer. No more dabbling. I just need to make one good killing at that sale, and then it’ll be my time.”

“Ecclesiastes,” James said. “Originally, of course. Although the Byrds did a nice version too.”

Chapter 10

The day after Anna Ruby Mullinax’s memorial service, I went through all my reference books on Southern furniture, looking for a piece similar to the cupboard I’d seen at Beaulieu. But most of the pieces I found were fancier, more high-style.

I sketched the cupboard from memory, then took my drawing pad down to River Street, to the unstylish end, to the last unrestored old cotton warehouse in Savannah.

Lester Dobie fished his glasses out of the breast pocket of his grease-stained cotton sport shirt and held my drawing only inches from his nose. He squinted his eyes, moved the drawing back a little, sighed, and picked his cigar back off the counter where he’d left it burning.

“Burled elm? You’re positive?”

I wavered. Elm pieces were a rarity. The only ones I’d seen for myself were at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, and at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem. A huntboard and a blanket box.

“Pretty sure,” I said. “The color looked like elm. And the grain. The piece was coated in grime, but that’s what it looked like to me.”

“Double glass-front doors above, three shelves, fancy kind of cornice?”

“I’m not an artist,” I apologized. “But I think the sketch is close. The glass was definitely old. Bull’s-eye, probably. It had the waves.”

He rubbed the two-day growth of beard on his chin. Sighed. “And Lewis Hargreaves was looking it over pretty good?”

“There was other stuff in the room. Really nice Canton ware. But I’m betting it was the cupboard he was interested in. He had a camera with him.”

“Lewis knows his stuff. It must be the Moses Weed. Gotta be.”

I looked down at the drawing, back up at Lester, waiting for his approval. Lester Dobie taught me everything I know about antiques. His junk shop, Dobie’s—just that, not Dobie’s Antiques or Dobie’s Ye Olde Shoppe—had been in that cotton warehouse as long as I could remember. It was where I’d bought my first antique, a pink silk and Venice lace Victorian baby pillow. I’d paid two dollars for it, out of my baby-sitting money, when I was fourteen. After that, I was hooked. A week didn’t go by that I wasn’t in his shop, roaming among the old wagon wheels and local-dug bottles that were his specialty.

We’d hit it off because I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. For years, I’d made the rounds of yard sales and junk stores, picking up promising bits and pieces and then taking them to Lester, either to find out about them or to sell them to make back my investment.

“You’ve got a good eye,” Lester told me one day, after I’d tried to sell him a plastic bag full of coin-silver spoons I’d dug out of a kitchen drawer at an estate sale on Wilmington Island. “You can get better prices other places, though. Take that silver over to old lady Dreyer. She likes that snooty-hooty stuff. They’re worth fifty apiece.”

Before I knew it, my Saturday-morning hobby had grown into a business.

“You know who Moses Weed was, right?” Lester chewed his cigar out the right side of his mouth. His hands were busy polishing a small brass barometer.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“He was a slave,” Lester said. “Born at Ashton Place, right outside Charleston. Ashton Place was a huge spread. Moses Weed learned carpentry from an itinerant Philadelphia cabinetmaker named Thomas Elphas. Folks who owned Ashton hired Elphas to come down and make all the furniture for their library, dining room, and parlor. And they put little Moses to work in the shop as an assistant to Elphas. Later on, Weed was sold off the plantation. Brought a lot of money because he was so skilled at carpentry.”

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