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 (8 page)

BOOK: George, Anne
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Her cape and hat were gone from the hall tree; her car was gone from the driveway.

"Trinity?" I opened the door and called. Dumb. I went back to the kitchen. "She's gone."

"Gone? Where?" Sister had a mouthful of chicken salad.

"How should I know? To swear out a warrant for Judge Haskins?"

Sister chewed thoughtfully. "Maybe." She pushed the plate of sandwiches toward me. "Here."

"It's really none of our business, you know." I reached over Bubba Cat and got a sandwich half.

"But I can't believe she was that impolite. She could at least have said good-bye. Here I am fixing her a perfectly good peanut butter and banana sandwich and she's taking off." Sister picked up the plate of sandwiches. "Come on. Let's go watch
One Life To Live. I
swear, I can't believe Nicki has come back after all these years, can you? Vicki was doing so good for so long. Sane as you or me. Never should have left Clint, if you ask me."

"She's probably not thinking right because of her grief."

"No. It's Vicki all right. The whole other evil personality."

"I meant Trinity. Trinity's not thinking right."

"True. I'd hate to be in Judge Haskins's shoes."

I thought about the little man pushing his glasses up his thin nose, the little man who looked like a weasel. And I thought of the large woman sweeping the blue cape off like a giant exotic bird. Molting, but still formidable.

"Me too," I agreed. "Let's stay out of it."

Famous last words.

Other famous last words: "I've got a date tonight with Buddy Johnson, that nice older man I was dancing with at the wedding."

"Father Time? Can he see to drive at night?"

"Don't be tacky, Patricia Anne. As a matter of fact, his chauffeur is taking us to the airport. We're flying on Buddy's jet to Atlanta to the opera." Mary Alice giggled. "Sounds like
Pretty Woman,
doesn't it?" "Minus a couple of vital elements. Richard Gere, for one." Mary Alice giggled again. "I think Buddy looks a lot like Richard Gere."

Maybe he had fifty years ago. "Be sure to practice safe sex." I expected Sister to throw a sandwich at me. But I'll be damned if she didn't smile. I could hear the glub glub all the way from St. Petersburg of Bill Adams going down the toilet.

When I left Sister's house, I stopped by the Winn-Dixie for some shrimp. Fred loves shrimp Creole, and I thought it might cheer him up. On the sidewalk in front of the store were hundreds of flats of blooming annuals, marigolds, petunias, impatiens. And I couldn't resist. I did what I do every year, assumed the beautiful spring weather would hold, that there would be no more frost, and left the store with shrimp and a flat of impatiens.

Trinity Buckalew had not called or shown up back at Sister's by the time I left there to go home. "I just hope we don't hear about her on the six o'clock news," I said, getting into my car.

"I won't. I'll be on my way to Atlanta." Sister pointed in a vague easterly direction.

"What opera are you seeing?" I had made the mistake of asking.

"Lord, Mouse. Opera's opera."

I was worried about Trinity, though. It had occurred to me that she could have overheard us talking in the kitchen about Judge Haskins claiming Meg's body. We had kept our voices down, but she could have been coming to get some more Coke or something and heard us.

I called Mary Alice as soon as I got home.

"No," she said, "haven't heard a word."

"Well, if you do, call me. I'm fixing to plant some impatiens, but I'll take the phone out with me."

"Okay. I guess we could call Roebuck Chapel and see if she's shown up out there."

"Good idea," I said. "Let me know."

I was hanging up the phone when I heard Sister screeching, "Mouse!"

"What?"

"Do you think I should wear a long dress tonight? Atlanta's so much more cosmopolitan than Birmingham. Maybe I should wear long."

I thought about Sister's question for a moment. Considered how cosmopolitan Atlanta is. "Short," I decreed.

The flat of impatiens was beautiful, a mixture of red, pink, and salmon colors. I put on my jeans, got a piece of cardboard to kneel on, and sallied forth to celebrate the annual planting of the flowers. So it would be repeated again two weeks later after a freeze, and maybe two weeks after that. So what? Today the sun was warm and tomorrow was the first official day of spring.

Everybody in our neighborhood has chain-link fences. We put them in forty years ago to keep our baby boomers from toddling into the streets. Paid a lot for them. A chain-link fence was as much a status symbol as a carport. And as lasting. Now word has drifted down from those same baby boomers who were kept safe by those same fences that chain-link is tacky. We should worry. The things have been there so long you can hardly see them. They support healthy crops of honeysuckle and wisteria. They are the background for flowering shrubs such as camellias and spirea. And they still keep toddlers and animals in. Tacky? In this neighborhood, we believe good chain-links make good neighbors. Besides, in a few years, they'll be antiques. Worth a fortune.

Our particular fence is bordered by legustrum and holly. A little pruning on Washington's birthday and that's it. Every year the same daffodils, narcissus, and tulips come up. Every year the magnolia and pear tree bloom. And every year I put out a few annuals.

Woofer came and sat beside me.

"These are pretty, aren't they?" I pointed to the impatiens.

Woofer agreed that they were.

"And we're not going to have another frost, are we?"

Of course not. Woofer stretched out, his head between his paws, and watched me dig a hole with my trowel. When we adopted him from the Humane Society, the card on his cage read "Mixed." Usually they'll say "Mixed German Shepherd and Lab," or "poodle and dachshund," trying to be a little specific so you'll know what to expect. With Woofer, they hadn't even hazarded a guess, but he is a beautiful dog. Turning gray, I noticed, across his head. Old Woofer.

I needed the peaceful work. The last few days had been traumatic. The wedding, Meg's death, Fred's business problems, Trinity Buckalew, and Judge Has-kins. I took a red impatien, tapped the plastic container, and turned it upside down to slide the flower out.

"There." I eased the root system into the hole and then covered it. "How about that, Woofer? Instant garden." He agreed that it looked nice.

The phone's ringing startled both of us. I pulled off my glove and answered.

"They haven't seen Trinity at Roebuck Chapel," Sister said. "And I've decided to wear long."

"Okay." I waved to Haley, who had come out of the back door. She looked bright and cheerful in jeans and a pink shirt, not tired like she does sometimes after a day in the operating room.

"Maybe she decided to go home. She might have, you know." Mary Alice's voice sounded hopeful.

"Maybe," I agreed. But I knew better. We'd be hearing from Trinity Buckalew again. "Which dress did you decide on?"

"The black velvet. It won't be spring until tomorrow and I think I can get away with it, don't you? It's the one split way up the leg."

"For heaven's sake, Mary Alice. You know you're not supposed to wear velvet after Mardi Gras. Mama and Grandmama would turn over in their graves."

"I guess you're right."

"I know I am." I thought for a moment. "How about the red crepe?"

"It makes me look fat."

I wasn't about to jump into that.

"I could wear that flowery jacket with it, though. You know the one I mean? The one with the Japanese flowers?"

"Sure. That would look great."

Haley had knelt down and was scratching Woofer behind his ears. "Where's Aunt Sister going?" she asked when I turned off the phone.

I explained about Buddy Johnson's jet and the trip to Atlanta to the opera.

"He's not that ancient guy she was moving around the dance floor with at the reception?"-

"The same. Aunt Sister says he looks like Richard Gere, though, and this is just like
Pretty Woman."

Haley laughed. "Good for Aunt Sister."

"I told her to practice safe sex."

I expected Haley to laugh again. Instead, she said, "Good idea." I looked over at her. Her cheeks were turning pink.

"Are you blushing?"

Haley pressed the backs of her hands against her cheeks and grinned. "Woofer needs a bath," she said.

"You
are
blushing! Good Lord!"

"Philip's a nice man, Mama."

"I'm glad to hear he's a nice man."

"I mean a
very
nice man."

"I know what you mean."

Mother and daughter, we looked at each other over the tray of flowers. So much unsaid. So much that would never be said. Be happy. I am. Be careful. I will. I don't want you hurt. I know. Be happy. I love you. Words standing in the air between us.

"I'll go get another trowel and help you," Haley said.

"Well, Woofer," I said, watching her cross the yard. "What do you think about that?"

Woofer said it was about time.

Haley came back with a trowel, a beer, and a sheepish look on her face.

"Here," I said, handing her some flowers. "Have you heard Meg Bryan died?"

She looked shocked. "Henry's cousin who was at the wedding?"

I nodded. "Your Aunt Sister and I took her to lunch at the Tutwiler yesterday and she went over to the courthouse and either jumped or was pushed out of the ninth floor window. Maybe the tenth."

"What? She did what? That nice little lady's dead? How terrible!"

"There's more." I told Haley everything I knew from the veal medallions with orange sauce and the meeting with Judge Haskins to the peanut butter and banana sandwich and Trinity Buckalew's disappearance.

"Wait a minute," Haley said several times, making me repeat some details. Finally, "That's incredible. Where is she now?"

"Meg or Trinity?"

"Both, I guess."

"Meg is at Roebuck Chapel. Trinity is God knows where. Out after Judge Haskins, I assume, since she says he's Meg's murderer."

"Because Meg had the papers saying the judge's great great grandfather was a bastard." Haley shook her head in disbelief.

I took another flower from the tray and tapped it. "Meg told me that professional genealogy is a dog-eat-dog world, but she was a big dog. And Trinity said Meg's death didn't surprise her, that genealogy is a hazardous business. And at the wedding, there was a woman who jumped all over Meg for something she had found in her family tree. Called her a bitch."

"That's wild." Haley reached for another impatien. We were both quiet for several minutes. Then, "Where's Meg's computer?" she asked.

"At Sister's. So is the other briefcase. Why?"

Haley brushed her hands off and took a swallow of beer. "Well, you said Judge Haskins was working on some genealogy, too. Seems to me the first family you would look up would be your own. So I can't think this great great grandfather could have been much of a surprise."

"But he had kept it a secret. Apparently, Meg had threatened to expose it."

"Did he seem angry in the restaurant?"

I tried to remember. "No. Surprised she was there. Pleased he'd found something she'd missed. Said he would show her if she'd let him see one of her files."

"What was it he'd found? Do you remember?"

"Something about a Mobile family that Meg was researching. I can't remember their name."

"Hmmm." Haley reached for the last of the flowers. "You really don't think she committed suicide, do you, Mama?"

"My first thought was that, yes, she had. But her sister says absolutely not. And Meg certainly didn't act at lunch like she was at all depressed."

"But it's still a possibility."

I stood up and rubbed my knees. "She was so afraid of heights, she wouldn't get close to the wall up at The Club. I think someone pushed her out of the window."

Haley handed me the empty tray and trowels. "If someone did, I'll bet the reason is in that computer."

"Could be."

"Let's go get it."

"Haley!"

"Well, Mama, this is intriguing."

"What's in that computer is none of our business. Besides, neither of us knows a thing about genealogy."

"Philip does. He's done some research on his family. He knows computers, too."

I walked to the garbage can and threw the plastic trays m. Even busy doctors were finding time to look up their family histories? Was there a whole ground-swell here I had missed out on?

Haley followed me. "He showed me the Nachman pedigree chart. It's interesting."

I put the lid back on the garbage. "Pedigree chart, huh?"

"That's what it's called."

"Any horse thieves or bastards?"

BOOK: George, Anne
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