Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(8)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(8)
Mary Kay Andrews

“Oh,” I said, feeling the wind go out of my sails. I blinked. “How sad.”

“Yes,” James said quietly. “Very sad.”

Jethro pressed his nose against the window, and I gently pushed it aside.

“It wasn’t this decrepit when I came out here in the seventies,” James said.

He followed the driveway around the side of the house, to an unpaved area used as the car park. There were ten or twelve other cars parked around. One of them was a buttercup yellow Triumph Spitfire that was carefully parked in the shade of a sweet gum tree.

My stomach lurched, as it does every time I see the Spitfire.

“What’s she doing here?” I said, grabbing James’s arm. “She doesn’t even like old stuff.”

He’d left the air-conditioning on, but he was fumbling with his necktie.

“She who?”

I pointed at the Triumph. I knew the car well. After all, it was parked under the carport beside the carriage house in the space that used to be mine. James had won me the carriage house and half the walled garden behind the big house on Troup Square, but the judge, inexplicably, had given Tal my parking slot.

Every night I heard the vroom of the Triumph as it jetted up the alley and slid neatly into the slot—my slot—while I now had to take my chances parking the truck out in front on Charlton Street—if I could find a space at all.

“Caroline,” I said. “She’s here.”

James shot me a look of concern. “Do you want to leave?”

“I’ll be fine,” I assured him. “As long as she doesn’t start anything.”

James got a little pale. I patted his hand reassuringly, then turned around and scratched Jethro’s muzzle.

“Be a good boy and don’t eat Uncle James’s nice pimpmobile.” I rolled down the windows and gathered my resolve. “Let’s go,” I said.

The front door had been covered with an ugly 1950s aluminum screen door. Attached to it was a wilted wreath of ferns and daisies. Beneath it was a small handwritten card. “Please come in,” it said.

We stepped across the rotted threshold and into another era. Not the antebellum South, unfortunately. More like the late years of the Eisenhower administration.

The wide hallway was dark and cool. A fake colonial chandelier with only one lightbulb still burning hung from a dropped ceiling. The beautiful old plaster walls were painted pale pink; the elaborate egg-and-dart plaster cornice boards and moldings were a dull gray. Venetian blinds covered the tall floor-to-ceiling windows. I looked down at the floor. Thank God. They were coated with grime, but the original heart-pine floorboards had been left intact.

James took my elbow and guided me gently inside. Twin parlors opened off either side of the hallway. The room to the right was piled high with furniture, three long folding card tables were pushed together, every inch of tabletop covered with crystal, china, silver, and pieces of bric-abrac. Naturally, I started toward the room. But James pulled me back. “Other side,” he whispered.

The parlor to the left had been cleared of furniture. A cheap box fan hummed in one of the open windows, pushing more hot, damp air into the already saunalike room.

The gathering was small, no more than twenty people. Most of Anna Ruby Mullinax’s friends looked to be candidates for their own memorial service. They were white haired, stoop shouldered, frail. The men mopped at their glistening faces with handkerchiefs, the ladies fanned themselves with the memorial booklets that had been stacked on a table by the front door.

A tall, thin woman wearing white minister’s robes stood at a wooden lectern in front of the fireplace. Her shoulder-length white hair stood in a frizzy halo around her head.

But I wasn’t really looking at the minister. I was looking around for Caroline.

She saw me first and gave a little wave. I nodded politely and felt my insides curl up and my scalp start to tingle.

Caroline was dressed in a pale gray linen suit with a short, tight skirt that hit four inches above her fabulously knobby knees. As always, she radiated cool elegance while the rest of us were drowning in a puddle of our own perspiration.

An older man stood beside Caroline, his hand resting lightly on her shoulder. He had dark wavy hair styled in a bad comb-over, bushy graying eyebrows, and a tennis tan. I’d met his type at Tal’s parents’ parties. Christ Church. Oglethorpe Club. He was wearing a college class ring. Probably Duke or University of Virginia. Definitely Kappa Alpha.

“Who’s that with her?” I hissed into James’s ear.

He glanced over, nodded solemnly at Caroline’s friend, who was watching the two of us watch the two of them.

“That’s Gerry Blankenship. The Mullinax family lawyer. Shh.”

Anna Ruby Mullinax died at the age of ninety-seven, but her going-away speech took less than ten minutes. “A quickie,” my father would have called it.

Within another five minutes, a blond-headed young man gussied up in a white dress shirt, black slacks, and black bow tie was passing around a tray with thimble-sized glasses of sherry. A black teenaged boy in the same outfit offered a silver tray heaped with cheese straws, the traditional Savannah cocktail/funeral offering.

The guests stood and chatted quietly, as though they were outside a church instead of inside the last vestiges of a nearly vanished way of life.

I edged over toward the parlor doorway, heading for the room where all the goodies were stashed. James grabbed my arm just before I reached the hallway. “Eloise!” he said, a little too heartily.

Caroline DeSantos and Gerry Blankenship stood beside James. I couldn’t tell who had cornered whom.

James nodded toward the lawyer and then toward me. “Gerry Blankenship, meet my niece, Eloise Foley. Gerry is Miss Mullinax’s attorney, Weezie. He was just telling me about the plans for Beaulieu. And of course, you already know Caroline DeSantos.”

The faintest tinge of pink flushed across Caroline’s lovely olive face. She brushed a strand of glossy black hair away from her forehead.

“This is awkward, isn’t it?” she asked, looking from me to Gerry to Uncle James. “Ex-wife and wife to be. Living practically on top of each other. Did you know that, Gerry? Weezie lives in the carriage house behind our house. But that’s Savannah. We’ll just all have to be very grown-up about this kind of thing, won’t we, Weezie?”

Blankenship coughed. I heard James inhale sharply, waiting to see if I’d keep my promise about nonviolence. I felt my fists tightening. Caroline was taller, but I had at least twenty pounds to my advantage. I could beat the stuffing out of her right now, I thought. Slap her into another time zone. Pinch off her head with my bare hands.

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