Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(17)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(17)
Mary Kay Andrews

“Sold to the Mullinaxes?” I asked. “Beaulieu?”

“He would have been in his early twenties in 1860,” Lester said. “He only made a few pieces at Beaulieu before the war started. Nobody really knows exactly when he left there, or where he went. Maybe a dozen pieces are attributed to him. Utilitarian stuff, mostly—some benches, kitchen tables, a huntboard, a pair of armchairs. There’s a cradle, carved cherry, attributed to Moses Weed. I’ve seen pictures of it. It’s in a museum in Philadelphia where they have a small collection of Elphas’s stuff.”

“And a cupboard? Like the one I saw at Beaulieu?”

Lester nodded and jabbed my drawing with his stubby forefinger. “Miss Anna Ruby loaned it out to the High Museum in Atlanta for their ‘Neat Pieces’ exhibit of Southern-made nineteenth-century furniture back in the 1970s. Me and Ginger went up and saw it. Beautiful thing. That wood fairly glowed. They called it the Moses Weed cupboard.”

“It’s gotta be the same one,” I told him. “How much? How much is a piece like that worth today?”

He sucked on his cigar and thought about it. “You’d have to have the provenance to sell it to a serious collector. According to Miss Anna Ruby, it was made from elm trees off the property out at Beaulieu. Ain’t no elm trees anywhere around here anymore. That piece was made right there in the plantation carpentry shop. Hand-forged hinges. Moses Weed couldn’t read or write, but they did teach him how to make his mark. Should be on the piece somewhere. But now, if you can’t prove it came directly out of Beaulieu, you can’t prove it’s the Moses Weed.”

“How much?” I repeated.

“Ballpark? Maybe two hundred thousand dollars. More if you sold to one of them museums rolling in dough. But remember—that’s only if you can prove it’s a Moses Weed.”

I closed the sketchbook and put it back in my purse. “It’s a long shot. Maybe there won’t be a sale. Maybe they’ll sell it off before the sale. To Hargreaves maybe. I probably couldn’t afford it anyway.”

Lester looked down at the barometer. The tarnish was gone and it shone with a soft gold luster. “That’s a lot of maybes.”

Chapter 11

Within a month it was in all the papers, the Atlanta ones too, about how Coastal Paper Products had announced plans to build this truly humongous paper mill in Savannah. But by the time the press got hold of the story, the plant’s estimated cost had ballooned to $750 million.

“Nine Hundred New Jobs!” the Morning News trumpeted.

“State-of-the-Art Environmental Controls!” the local chamber of commerce bragged.

They were showing the ground-breaking ceremony on WSAV-TV news on Friday morning. I caught it out of the corner of my eye, waiting for the weather report. Tomorrow was the sale. Let it rain, I prayed. Keep away the tire kickers.

When the camera showed Caroline helping Phipps Mayhew lift the first shovel of dirt, I flipped quickly to the next channel.

“I saw that,” BeBe said. She was sitting on a bar stool at my kitchen counter, separating eggs for the pound cake I was making.

“Saw what?” But it was no good. BeBe never misses a trick. That’s why she owns half a dozen successful businesses, drives a Jaguar convertible, and has a full-time live-in maid.

BeBe cracked the last of the ten eggs, plopping them into the big stainless-steel mixing bowl on my KitchenAid mixer.

She picked up the remote control and turned it back to WSAV. It was a slow news day. They were still going on and on about what a good thing it was—to tear down a historic landmark and put up yet another stench-spewing wart on Savannah’s landscape.

“Lookie, lookie,” she said. “It’s Miss Wonderful.” BeBe studied the television screen critically. “You see that dress Caroline is wearing? That’s a Briaggi.”

“So?” I was watching the beaters whirl through the cake batter, keeping my eyes off the television and Caroline. After our last run-in, when she called the dogcatcher and reported Jethro for being outside without a leash, I’d backed off our mutual war.

“That dress cost three thousand dollars,” BeBe said authoritatively. “They don’t even sell it in Georgia. I saw it in the new issue of Vogue. There’s a boutique in Palm Beach. Martha’s. Only place you can buy it besides New York.”

I added a teaspoon each of vanilla and lemon extract to the cake batter.

“You know what I could do with three thousand dollars?” I didn’t bother to keep the bitterness out of my voice, since it was just BeBe.

“I could open my own shop. I mean it, BeBe. All the stuff I’ve got stored in my parents’ garage? And at Uncle James’s? Three thousand dollars. Rent a little place, fix it up…. Maybe live above the store. Have you ever been to Baltimore?”

My voice trailed off. It was not the first time we’d had this discussion lately. BeBe thought I was nuts to want to leave Savannah.

She frowned. “Listen, sweetie, you know I don’t like to ask personal questions, but I can’t understand why you’re so broke. I mean, you did get some money in the divorce settlement—right?”

“Some,” I admitted. “But James made me use a lot of the cash for an annuity—for my retirement, since I didn’t get any of Tal’s pension benefits. And the rest of the money’s tied up in inventory. It’s worth a good bit—but I have to sell the stuff before I can make the money. And without a shop, I’m still selling at wholesale prices.”

“Open a shop right here,” BeBe said. “There’s a darling little place over on East Congress. That old lounge—remember? By the Lucas Theater?”

I wrinkled my nose. “The Lamplighter? The place that smelled like a toilet? Where every wino in town used to pass out right there on the sidewalk? No thank you very much.”

“The old City Market is hot, hot, hot,” BeBe singsonged. She stuck a finger in the batter, smacked her lips appreciatively. “Yummy. Speaking of…they came in the restaurant together last night, you know.”

“Who?” I was fiddling with the oven thermostat.

“Give me a break. You know damn well who I mean. Tal and Caroline. You should see the ring she’s wearing. Five carats, minimum.”

I looked down at my own engagement ring. When I was nineteen, it had looked like the Hope diamond. Now it looked like the half carat Tal’s mother had given him to give me.

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