Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(2)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(2)
Mary Kay Andrews

“I can’t believe the filthy garbage you drag back here,” she began. “It’s appalling. And it’s no wonder I have to have the house sprayed twice a month. I told Tal, ‘Weezie is infesting our house.’ ”

Behind me, in the vest-pocket living room, my telephone was starting to ring.

“Gotta go now,” I said. “Got a business to run.” I slammed the door in her face and turned the dead-bolt lock.

Jethro licked my toe in gratitude. “Ro-Ro,” I said gently, not wanting to hurt his feelings, “that was bad. No more bologna sandwiches for you, little buddy.”

I caught the phone on the fourth ring.

“Weezie, wait ’til you hear.”

It was BeBe Loudermilk, my best friend, whose mother, exhausted after having had eight previous children in ten years, had settled upon the name BeBe, and the French pronunciation of “Bay-Bay,” for her ninth and last child.

To BeBe, being last meant she was always in a hurry, always trying to catch up. She was a human hurricane who never wasted time starting a conversation with any conventional pleasantries such as “Hey” or “How’ve you been?”

“Go ahead and guess,” she urged.

“You’re getting married again?” BeBe had only ditched husband number three a few months earlier, but like I said, BeBe’s a fast worker. And she never liked being without a man.

“This is serious, Weezie,” BeBe said. “Guess who’s dead?”

“Richard?” I said hopefully. Richard was BeBe’s second husband, the one who’d had the unfortunate proclivity for phone sex. BeBe was still fighting with the phone company over all the bills Richard had run up calling 1-900-YOU-SKRU.

“Be serious now,” BeBe demanded. “Emery Cooper called me this morning. You know Emery, don’t you, darlin’? He’s a Cooper-Hale Cooper, you know, from the funeral home? He’s been pesterin’ me to go to dinner for weeks now, but I told him I never date a man until he’s been divorced for at least a year. Anyway, Emery’s cute, but he’s got children. You know how I am. And I don’t like the idea of necking with somebody who works with the dead. Is that awful of me?” She didn’t waste any time waiting for an answer.

“Anyway, Weezie, Emery let it drop that Anna Ruby Mullinax died last night. In her sleep. Ninety-seven years old, did you know that? And still living in the same house she was born in. Of course, Cooper-Hale is handling the funeral arrangements.”

Jethro was licking my toes again. He wanted out. But I hated to have him pee on any more camellias until Caroline cooled off. I cradled the phone to my ear.

“That’s nice, BeBe,” I said. “Listen, could you call back? I’ve got to take Jethro for a walk right quick.”

“Weezie,” BeBe exclaimed. “Don’t you get it?”

“What? Emery Cooper wants to get into your pants? Does he smell like formaldehyde, do you think?”

“No,” BeBe said. “He smells lovely. Like money. But child, I’m worried about you. Didn’t you hear what I said? It’s Anna Ruby Mullinax. That house she lived and died in? It’s Beaulieu, honey. Now what do you think about that?”

I felt a little tingle on my neck. Beaulieu. I looked down at my forearms. Goose bumps.

“You said she was ninety-seven,” I said, my voice shaking. “Were there any survivors?”

“Not a living soul,” BeBe said triumphantly. “And Emery says the house is jam-packed with old stuff. Now. Who’s the very best best friend in the whole wide world?”

“You are,” I assured her. “I’ll call you later.”

Chapter 2

Of course, once I’d calmed down from my encounter with Caroline, I was able to put Anna Ruby Mullinax in context with Beaulieu, the crumbling Mullinax rice plantation on the Skidaway River, seven miles outside of town.

She was the last of the Mullinaxes, one of those “fine old families” whose members claimed to have come over in 1733 with General James Oglethorpe’s first shipload of Georgia settlers, who, incidentally, were definitely not the deadbeats Yankee history books would have you believe. Don’t ever mention the words “debtors’ colony” in Savannah—not if you know what’s good for you.

At one time, according to my mother, who keeps up with this sort of thing, the Mullinaxes were the richest family on the coast, and Beaulieu was the grandest plantation house in the South, the very last working rice plantation in Georgia, up until 1970, when Hurricane Brenda rampaged south out of Charleston, and the tidal surge blew just enough salt water into the rice canals to ruin the crop and the Mullinax fortune.

Funny. The year the Mullinaxes lost their money was the same year I was born.

I’ve looked it up. Nineteen seventy was also the year the Beatles broke up, Nixon was president, US forces invaded Cambodia, and The Partridge Family was a smash hit on television. Hard to believe that was also the year Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died. And they were only twenty-seven. Not to mention it was the year of Kent State and four dead in O-hi-o.

For the rest of America, 1970 was a year of revolution. For the Foleys of Savannah, it was the year my forty-year-old mother produced a living miracle—me.

Up until my mother realized a really rotten case of heartburn was actually a pregnancy that was six months along, nobody had ever really expected any big surprises from Marian Foley. Having a baby at forty was the last thing my mother expected out of middle age. I know, because whenever I’ve crossed her over the years, she’s told me so.

“Forty,” she always says, crossing her arms over her bosom in the classic martyred-matron pose. “To think I waited all those years for you. A miracle. That’s what it was. Father Keane said you were a gift from Our Lady. Because of all the novenas I made.”

Once, at a family party, when my father got into the Jim Beam with the bad uncles, he heard my mother tell that story once too often.

“Bullshit,” he bellowed. “It wasn’t the damned novenas. It was a busted Trojan!”

Mama didn’t speak to him for six months.

And so, more than thirty years after that precipative prophylactic incident, on the hottest day of July, I set out for Beaulieu to pay my respects to the late Anna Ruby Mullinax. And, of course, to see the treasures of Beaulieu.

Ever since I can remember, the place has fascinated me. We used to pass it on our Sunday-afternoon drives, and Daddy would slow the car down so we could get a good look down that long, live-oak-lined driveway. You couldn’t see the house from the road, just the trees dripping Spanish moss and the rusted wrought-iron gateway with Beaulieu written in arching cursive letters.

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