Read George, Anne Online

Authors: Murder Runs in the Family: A Southern Sisters Mystery

Tags: #Crime & mystery, #Genealogists, #Mary Alice (Fictitious character), #Fiction, #Women Sleuths, #Crime & Thriller, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Contemporary Women, #Women detectives - Alabama, #Mystery fiction, #Sisters, #Large type books, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Women detectives, #Patricia Anne (Fictitious character), #Mystery & Detective - Series, #Alabama, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #General, #Suspense

George, Anne (20 page)

BOOK: George, Anne
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"Homicide or vice."


Something to sink my teeth into."

I wasn't going to touch that one with a ten-foot pole.

Bo got out her notebook and pen. "The Family Tree?"

I nodded. "It's Georgiana Peach's company, but Cassie Murphy is her assistant. They do genealogical research."

"They make a living doing that?"

"A good one, apparently."

"Cassie Murphy?"

"Castine, really. I taught her in high school. She's listed in the phone book, but she's asleep right now. She was up all night with Georgiana." I watched Bo jotting this down. "You think there might be something to the message?"

"I don't see how, since Meg's dead as a doornail. Deader." Bo stuck her pen back in her pocket.

"Well, do you think there's any connection between Meg's death and the judge's?"

"I doubt that, too. A judge gets shot, you got suspects coming out of the wall. Some of them switching their tails."

"But he was a bankruptcy judge!"

"Same difference. Somebody always gets mad when a case goes to court, regardless of what it is." The pager hanging on her belt beeped. Bo turned it off. "Okay if I use your phone?"

"Sure." I watched her as she went to the kitchen counter. She looked fit and attractive in spite of the extra ten pounds. And God knows, she was smart and a hard worker.

"Is it the glass ceiling?" I asked her when she finished talking.

"Nope. It's a hit-and-run on Vulcan Parkway."

Then she realized what I was talking about and laughed. "Glass ceiling? More like a ton of bricks. But we gals can get there. We just have to bust our butts to do it. Don't worry about me, Patricia Anne. I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself today." She took the last sip of her coffee and started out the door. "Thanks for the pick-me-up."

"Any time." I watched her striding toward her car heading for a hit-and-run. And she wanted homicide and vice. Lord!

I straightened up the house and got out the letters that Haley had printed from Meg's disk. I realized as I started reading them that I hadn't mentioned the disks to Bo. She probably would have been interested to learn they had been stashed in Mary Alice's glove compartment. She might even have been able to read them without going to sleep, which was more than I could do.

I took the letters to the kitchen table and decided I would organize them. Letters to companies went in one stack, to individuals in another, and in a third, stack I placed what seemed to be memos that Meg had written to herself. The first stack was the largest and the least interesting. A glance showed it to be principally requests for newsletters, catalogs, out-of-print books. The second stack was more interesting, but it would take more careful reading. It consisted of recommendations for membership in such organizations as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the DAR, as well as Sons of the American Revolution. There were also letters that must have surprised the recipients, and Meg pulled no punches. Your grandmother, she wrote one woman, was brought up before the church for adultery and found guilty. Another woman seeking admission to the DAR was informed that records showed that her great grandmother was a mulatto. I grinned, but then I sobered. There are still
Southerners who believe their family trees are strictly Caucasian and to say otherwise might be asking for trouble. Would they kill the person who said that a drop of blood, God forbid, from another race had entered the pure Caucasian stream? Crazier things had happened. I put the letter to the side to check on later.

There were many more of the personal letters, but I put them off until later and glanced at the memos. Many of them were dated, but they were in a code that only Meg would understand. For instance, under September 10, she had entered, "Bride, no. Cromwell, Cropwell. Jenkins says yes. Check." Nothing here, I thought. I glanced at the ones with the latest dates. On March 10, Meg had written, "Williams, Murphy, Bobby. Williams, Murphy, Bobby. Bobby, Murphy. Georgiana? Trinity?"

It made no sense, but something told me it was important. I knew all the names but Williams. Who was Williams? I stared at the memo, Williams, Murphy, Bobby. And then I remembered. Heidi Williams was the other woman who worked with Cassie and Georgiana. So this was a memo about The Family Tree staff, plus Judge Haskins and Trinity with a question mark.

Meg had done some work for The Family Tree, Georgiana had said. So this could well be something they were all working on. But why Bobby? Williams, Murphy, Bobby. I put this memo to the side with the questionable letters, including the one to Camille At-chison informing her of her descent from General Sherman. The rest of the letters I put back in the en-

velope. I would read them all later. Or make Sister help me.

The phone was ringing as I got out of the shower. It was Frances Zata, my oldest friend, who is still counselor at Robert Alexander High, where I taught for most of my career and which I still miss.

"Tell me about the wedding," she said. "I hated like everything to miss it, but we'd had this cruise planned since last September. You should have been with us, Patricia Anne. We had a ball. Tell me everything, now. What about Debbie's dress?"

"It looked like Princess Di's. Fred said that much virginal white was damaging to the retina."

"What about the bridesmaids?"

I settled down on the bed for a long chat. Finally, just before I hung up, I thought to ask Frances if she remembered Castine Murphy.

"Sure I remember her. Bless her heart."

"Well, I ran into her a couple of days ago. She's a professional genealogist, works with a lady named Georgiana Peach who has a company called The Family Tree. She must be quite a good researcher, too."

"Castine Murphy's a genealogist?"

"She's Cassie now."

"I wondered what happened to her after her parents died."

"They're both dead?"

"When she was in college. Hit by lightning on the beach at Destin."

"How tragic! I don't remember hearing about it."

"It may have been the summer you and Mary Alice went to Europe."

"Could have been. I've blocked that summer from my memory."

Anyway, if I remember correctly, they had just declared bankruptcy."

"You're kidding! Two doctors?"

"Hard to believe, isn't it? Some kind of land deal in Florida that went under."

"So the poor child was left without anything?" I asked.

"Maybe some insurance. I don't know whether that would have been included in the estate or not."

"Well, she seems to be doing okay. You ought to see her, Frances. Very much a lady. Thoughtful. She spent last night at University Hospital with Georgiana Peach, the lady she works for who's critically ill."

"Are you sure we're talking about the same Castine Murphy? The one who never took her nose out of a book long enough to see what was going on around her?"

"They surprise us sometimes, don't they?"

"A lot of the time. Thank God."

We said good-bye with plans to meet for lunch soon. I fixed a peanut butter and banana sandwich and sat down to watch
When it was over, I decided to go work in the library some more. Before I left, J called the hospital. Georgiana's condition had not changed.

Cheerleader Emily was actually working on what looked like a research paper. Several books were open around her, and she was jotting notes onto a yellow legal pad. "Hi, Mrs. Hollowell," she said, looking up and smiling.

"You look busy."

"It's a paper for my Twentieth-Century Writers class. You ever heard of anybody named Adrienne Rich?"

"Sure. She's wonderful."

Emily gestured toward the books. "That's what everybody says. Actually, my boyfriend and I are into diving. He's dived the Great Barrier Reef, but so far I've just been to Panama City. Anyway, when I saw this woman had written a book called
Diving into the Wreck,
I thought, well heck, that's the writer I want to do my paper on. Figured I'd learn something. You know?"

"You haven't learned anything?"

"It's all poetry!"

"See, you did learn something."

A wide smile. "I guess so."

"Hang in there." I left her to her notes, and went to the Montgomery section. On the way, I passed several people who nodded a greeting. Three days and I was becoming a fellow genealogist, one of the gang. When, I wondered, did the "dog-eat-dog" part begin? When you shook the branch of someone else's family tree?

One of Fred's great great great uncles, I discovered in West's
Montgomery County and the War Between the States,
had refused to serve in the Civil War. Pursued by his own brothers who were, I suppose, going to persuade him by threats of bodily harm to support the Confederacy, he jumped into the Alabama River from a cliff. His long hair became snagged in the branches of a tree and his neck was broken. That bend in the river where he died is still called Daniel's Bend for the young man with the unfortunately strong head of hair.

The story reminded me of Absalom in the Bible. I got a Kleenex out and was sniffling a little thinking about the mother who had had to hear what had happened from her other sons, and probably a good story they made up, too, not taking any blame at all on themselves. Emily tapped me on the shoulder.

"Mrs. Hollo well, Cassie Murphy wants you on the phone."

"Thanks." I got up, still immersed in the Daniel story. He had the right, didn't he, to his own political views? But I knew the answer to that. He had siblings. Mary Alice would have chased me to the river in a minute. Dangle, baby, dangle.

"You can take it here." Emily handed me the phone across her still-open books. I answered hesitantly, afraid that Cassie was calling to tell me Geor-giana had taken a turn for the worse.

"She's stable," Cassie said immediately, knowing what I must be thinking. "She keeps asking for you."

"For me? Why?"

"I have no idea. I called to see about her, and the nurse said she keeps asking for Patricia Anne. I don't know of any other Patricia Anne she knows, so it has to be you. I told the woman I would round you up."

"You mean they want me to come over there?"

"If you can. Apparently, Georgiana's pretty agitated and they think seeing you might help."

"I can't imagine what I can do, but I'll be glad to go see her. It's five minutes every hour, isn't it?"

"Just tell them who you are. I'm sure they'll let you in."

"Okay. I'll call you when I get home. Wait a minute, how did you know I was here?"

Cassie laughed. "You're getting hooked. Bye."

I handed Emily the phone. "Thanks. Georgiana Peach is asking for me for some reason."

"I heard she was real sick. Tell her I said I hope she's better soon."

I collected my notebook and purse. The only in-

formation I had gleaned today was the story about the uncle. But that had seemed more important than all the marriage, birth, and death records I had found. Daniel's Bend. I loved it.

Coming from the bright spring sunshine into the parking deck at University Hospital is like diving into a dark cave. I turned on my headlights and crept along until my eyes became adjusted. Finally, on Level 4,1 found a parking spot a block or so away from the elevator. I got out, locked the car, and very carefully made a mental note of where the car was. The trouble with my car is that it's so generic. Middle-aged, middle-sized, in a color between a gray and blue, it tends to disappear among other cars.

I hiked to the elevator, rode down to Level C, which was identified as the crosswalk to the hospital, hiked across that, and finally found Surgical Intensive Care on the seventh floor. A long hike down a long corridor led me to the nurse's station.

"My name," I said breathlessly to a pretty brunette nurse standing there, "is Patricia Anne Hollowell. I understand that you have a patient, Georgiana Peach, who wants to see me."

"Don't you just love that name?" she smiled. "Georgiana Peach." She said it again, as if she were savoring it, "Georgiana Peach."

I glanced at her name tag. Delia Delong.

"You have a nice name, too," I said. "Alliterative."

"It used to be Delia Jones."

"That's a fine name, too."

"Not as nice as Delia Delong."

I couldn't figure anywhere else to take this conversation. "Ms. Peach? May I see her?"

"Let me check. It depends."

She didn't elaborate, and I was grateful. I sat down in a mustard-colored vinyl chair against the wall and caught my breath while she disappeared through double doors that said "No Visitors." She was back in a minute. "They say come on in."

I entered the intensive care room with trepidation. Try as I might, and in spite of Haley laughing at me, I've never been able to convince myself that hospitals are where you go to get well. For one thing, all those fluorescent lights make everyone look like they're dying. And God knows what the antiseptic smells are covering up.

BOOK: George, Anne
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