Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(9)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(9)
Mary Kay Andrews

“We’re all adults,” I said, shrugging. Of course I wouldn’t attack Caroline in public. Private revenge is so much sweeter.

Chapter 5

James Foley held his breath as he watched the two women sizing each other up like a pair of alley cats circling the same scrap of mullet.

James had met Caroline months ago, long before Tal’s announced shift of affections, at a dinner party Weezie had hosted at the townhouse. He gathered then that Tal and Caroline were inseparable. Weezie had fluttered about from guest to guest that night, offering drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and of course, a running commentary on the house, which was her pride and joy. She’d been totally blind to Tal’s attentions to Caroline DeSantos.

Weezie was a born hostess. Where she got her talents from, James would never know. Certainly the Foleys were not party givers. Not even very good cooks. Take Bernadette Foley, his own mother. Her idea of dinner was a pot roast cooked to cinderlike dryness, a nice plate of boiled turnips, and carrots on the side.

His sister-in-law, Marian, Weezie’s mother, wasn’t much more comfortable in the kitchen. And for the last ten years or so, Marian had been too tipsy most of the time to pull off much more than a grilled cheese sandwich or maybe one of those jars of marinara sauce dumped on top of a plate of overcooked spaghetti.

It had been a mistake, James now realized, to help Weezie win ownership of the carriage house in the divorce settlement with Tal. But she’d been absolutely adamant on the issue. Tal, the lanky, thin-lipped WASP, had also dug in on the issue of the house, refusing to give up his half.

He’d even brazenly moved Caroline into the big house, betting it was the one thing that would force Weezie out. He underestimated the Foley stubborn streak.

Right now, with the two women glaring at each other, James felt as though he should be wearing a black-and-white striped referee’s shirt instead of his good suit jacket and the tie Janet kept in his office for important clients.

He grabbled two thimbles full of sherry, handed one each to Weezie and Caroline, and then took one for himself. Gerry Blankenship declined with a shake of his head. From the red glow of his nose and the tang of his breath, he’d already had a taste of something this day, and it wouldn’t be anything so mild as ten-dollar-a-gallon sweet sherry.

“You mentioned plans for Beaulieu,” James said to Blankenship, hoping to distract the women. “I understood Miss Mullinax didn’t have any surviving relatives. What happens to the property now?”

“Nothing’s been announced yet,” Gerry demurred, suddenly finding something interesting to stare at on the floor. “The will has to go to probate, plans have to be approved. It’s all quite tentative.”

Caroline smiled broadly. She had beautiful, even, white teeth and the biggest, darkest eyes James Foley had ever seen. A stunner, even though she was a home wrecker, he thought guiltily.

“Gerry loves secrets,” Caroline confided. “But the cat will be out of the bag tomorrow, anyway. Go ahead and tell, Gerry. Or let me, please?”

Gerry Blankenship grabbed a glass of sherry that someone had left sitting on the edge of a sideboard. He downed it in one gulp, then looked around for another. “This might not be the time or place,” he said.

“Pooh,” Caroline said, waving her hand dismissively. “This will be a godsend for this town. Three hundred, four hundred jobs? A capital investment of over three hundred million dollars? Who could argue with that?”

She favored James with a dazzling smile. “You used to be a priest, Mr. Foley. So you know all about confidentiality, right?”

“I’m a lawyer,” James said. “My clients trust me to be discreet.”

“Now, Caroline,” Blankenship started.

“What are you talking about?” Weezie demanded. She’d stopped casting longing glances toward the east parlor and was trying not to stare too hard at the large threadbare oriental rug rolled up against the wall opposite her. James could see her toting up its worth in that adding-machine brain of hers.

Now Weezie was glaring right at Caroline, eyes narrowed, ready to pounce. “What are you talking about?” she demanded, leaning in closer. “What is going to happen to Beaulieu?”

“Gerry?”

Blankenship rocked back and forth on his heels. “Go ahead,” he said finally. “It’s what Anna Ruby wanted. And that’s what this is all about. What she wanted,” he said, his voice taking on a belligerent tone. “Not what the hysterical society people want.” He lowered his voice. “Anna Ruby was concerned about people. Not some moldering old pile of bricks and boards. Our local economy. Jobs. We talked about it often. How we could keep Savannah so that young people could stay here, make a decent living, become part of the community.”

“It’s going to be tremendous,” Caroline bubbled. “All state-of-the-art technology. Coastal Paper Products wants to make this the finest facility of its kind in the world. And the environmental controls…” She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “We’re designing it to meet standards the EPA hasn’t even set yet. Nobody will even know it’s here. Back off the road, no smokestacks, no emissions, nothing.”

James swallowed his sherry, wincing at the sweetness. “Are you talking about a paper plant? Here? At Beaulieu?”

Weezie’s jaw dropped. “You can’t…Beaulieu?”

Blankenship harumphed. He squared his shoulders. “As I say, it was Miss Mullinax’s wish. She was a practical woman. And Beaulieu had outlived its usefulness long ago. Have you any idea of what the upkeep on this place would be? And there was no money to do any of it, you know. Miss Mullinax was quite proud of her family’s heritage. Coastal Paper Products wants to call it the Beaulieu-Mullinax Plant. A living memorial.”

“Beaulieu. The house?” Weezie squeaked. “What happens to the house?”

Caroline cut her eyes over at Blankenship. He shrugged.

“Nothing has been decided,” she said. “Coastal would love to restore the house. They’re very preservation-minded. Do you know Phipps and Diane Mayhew?” she asked James.

“Uh, no,” James said.

“Phipps is the president of Coastal Paper Products,” Caroline went on. “Tal just finished designing a guest pavilion for their house out on Turner’s Rock. And I’m designing the new plant. You remember the Mayhews, don’t you, Weezie? Diane came out here with us today, to pay her respects to Miss Anna Ruby. Phipps had to be in a meeting in New York.”

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