Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(18)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(18)
Mary Kay Andrews

“Is it a square-cut baguette? Two hunking sapphires on either side? White gold band?”

BeBe’s big blue eyes widened. She’d tied a bandana through her frosted blond curls and her only makeup was lip gloss. She looked like a grown-up Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

“Shit,” she said.

“Great-grandmother Evans’s ring,” I explained. “Tal’s mother kept it in a safe-deposit box. She always said it was too ‘showy’ for an itty-bitty thing like me.”

“It’s gaudy,” BeBe said, a little too eagerly. “Caroline doesn’t have the presence to carry it off. Everybody knows brunettes should wear yellow gold.”

“Thanks, Babe,” I said, recognizing the tactful lie for what it was.

“She hangs all over him,” BeBe said. “It’s nauseating. I wanted to ask her to leave last night because she was ruining my customers’ appetites. I swear, Weez, she had her hand down his pants at the table. Everybody saw it.”

The KitchenAid’s heavy-duty motor hummed, and BeBe was quiet.

I oiled and floured the cake pans, then opened the oven door and slid out the twelve-inch cheesecake I’d already baked. Mocha swirl.

“You don’t have to do all this, you know,” BeBe said. “Just let me give you the money. I’ll be, like, an investor. In your new shop.”

“We’ve already been through all that,” I said, setting the cheesecake on a wire cooling rack. “I’ve got no assets, other than the carriage house. Even if I move, I won’t sell it. It’s mine. And you know I’ve got no track record. I’m a horrible credit risk. I won’t take your money, BeBe.”

I put a finger to the cheesecake’s glossy top and pressed down. The cake looked perfect; not too soggy, not too dry.

“Just let me do this. Bake desserts for Guale. I’m good at it. What do you think? Twenty-five for the cheesecake, maybe thirty for the pound cake?”

Guale was BeBe’s latest business venture. A tiny bistro in what had always been a shoe-shine stand on Abercorn, at St. Julian. A year ago, drug dealers had conducted an open-air stop-and-cop in front of the stand. Now people lined up on the street, waiting to get in to try the trendy “coastal cuisine.”

It had been BeBe’s idea to have me bake desserts.

“All the eggs and cream cheese in these things? They’re so rich, we’ll have to slice them really, really thin. We can get twenty slices out of each one, charge five dollars a slice. That’s a hundred dollars per cake. Your take is fifty dollars.”

“For pound cake? How do you get away with that kind of thing? You can get a whole strawberry pie at Shoney’s for eight bucks.”

“But it’s Shoney’s,” BeBe said, wrinkling her nose in distaste. “A lot of rednecks eating cheeseburgers and fried clams. This is Guale. People want to pay through the nose. They want something they think they can’t get anyplace else.”

“You’re a criminal, BeBe Loudermilk,” I said, shaking my head.

“A capitalist,” BeBe corrected me.

“And speaking of which, wait until you set eyes on the new chef I’ve hired.” BeBe licked her lips dramatically. “Talk about yummy. Dark hair falling over one eye. Big, soulful blue eyes. He’s kind of skinny, but he’s got the cutest ass you’ve ever seen. I’m thinking of opening up the wall between the main dining room and the kitchen, just so everybody can watch him at work.”

BeBe hired and fired chefs every other week. They were always geniuses their first month. And by the second month they were deranged psychotics. The most recent one had chased BeBe down the lane with a copper saucier full of flaming bananas Foster after she’d dared to criticize the freshness of his baked sea bass.

“He’s single,” she said, taunting me. “And straight.”

“How do you know he’s straight?” I asked, eyeing the egg whites critically.

“Trust me,” she said. “I can tell.”

“How?” I said, challenging her.

“Daniel’s into bass fishing,” she said. “He’s got a Bassmaster sticker on his truck. A Dodge Ram.”

“Gay men drive trucks,” I pointed out.

“Toyotas,” she said dismissively. “Toy trucks. Besides, he was in the Marines. That’s where he learned to cook so divinely.”

I put the pan in the oven and closed the door.

“Just what I need in my life,” I said. “A redneck who can julienne green beans. Forget it, BeBe. I’m done with men.”

“Wait until you see him,” BeBe said, fanning herself with one hand. “Lawsy me, I’m getting hot and bothered just thinking about him.”

“That’s the oven, not your hormones,” I said.

“Speak for yourself,” BeBe shot back.

It was time to change the subject. “A hundred bucks for the cheesecakes,” I said, sitting down on the other stool. “And I’ve got another eight hundred bucks saved up. It’s not enough. Were you serious—before? About the money? It would just be an advance, for the desserts. I could bake a lot more if I did it in the kitchen at the restaurant with that commercial oven of yours.”

“You’ll take the money?” BeBe looked confused. “I thought it was against your principles.”

“There’s a piece,” I said slowly. “At Beaulieu. The estate sale starts Saturday morning. If I could get it at a decent price, I know I could sell it, twenty thousand dollars rock bottom.”

I’d been thinking about that burled-elm cupboard. The one Lewis Hargreaves had been salivating over. The Moses Weed cupboard.

BeBe got up and poured herself a cup of coffee. “So you’ll let me bankroll you? How much?”

I winced. Usually when I’m picking I stay away from the really fine stuff, mostly because it requires a bigger outlay of cash and thus a bigger gamble. I generally deal in what people in the business call “smalls,” things like paper ephemera, glass, china, silver, linens, paintings, and accessories. When I have picked up a big piece, like a pine armoire or a dining-room set, it’s always been because it was too good a steal to resist, and I knew I could turn it around quickly.

This time would be different. “Five thousand,” I said, the words paining me. “Cash. Sometimes you get a better deal if it’s a cash transaction. But it’s just this one time. And remember, it’s an advance. I’ll probably be baking these damn cheesecakes when I’m a hundred and two.”

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