Authors: Mary Kay Andrews
MARY KAY ANDREWS
Dorothy K. Trocheck
and Julia Hogan Tobin
ne of my clients, who has superb taste in these things (he’s gay), gives me a bottle of Bushmills for Christmas every year, and every year I hoard it until the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day.
At six o’clock on the afternoon of the appointed day, I took the bottle down from its hiding place in the cupboard over the refrigerator. I set two Waterford tumblers square in the middle of the scarred oak kitchen table. I poured a fingerful of whiskey for Edna, my mother, who drinks hers neat, and one for myself, on the rocks with a little water. Solemnly, we clinked glasses.
“Selah!” said Edna.
“Back at ya,” I said.
She dealt herself a hand of solitaire. I went to the kitchen counter and fiddled with the radio until I found WABE, the local National Public Radio affiliate. Usually, we listen to the news this time of day, but today I was hunting for the station’s annual all-Irish program.
As soon as I sat down I had to jump back up and turn off the radio. They were playing “Danny Boy.”
Edna gave me a quizzical look.
“Not that one,” I said. “It’s too early in the day. It always makes you cry.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “You could be right. It’s better to work up to all these things.” She slapped a row of cards facedown on the table. “Although,” she added, “all those lousy songs get to me.”
“They remind you of Daddy?”
She sighed. “He sure loved St. Patrick’s Day. Remember?”
“How could I forget? He used to make us dress all in green, head to toe. Then drag us over to Christ the King for Mass with the archbishop.”
“You kids marched in that parade every year from the time you were babies,” Edna said. “One year one of the Meehans brought a goat cart into town. You remember that? We piled all you kids in a damn goat cart and your daddy walked on one side of you and Billy Meehan walked on the other side, both of them grinning like idiots, and that goat prancing down Pharr Road like some kind of fine Arabian stallion.”
“I remember being in a cart,” I said. “The goat had a little straw hat with an Irish flag sticking out of the top. And Daddy bought us hot chocolate because it was so cold that day. And Maureen threw up all over my green plaid skirt, the little snot.”
“She always did have a weak stomach,” Edna said, smiling. “Go ahead and turn the radio back on. Maybe they’ll play ‘McNamara’s Band.’”
But they were playing “Rose of Tralee,” and Edna’s eyes got suspiciously moist, so that she had to duck into the bathroom because, she claimed, she’d dribbled something down the front of her blouse. But she didn’t come back for another five minutes, and when she did, she hadn’t bothered to change her blouse, so I knew it was a ruse.
It started raining around six-thirty, softly at first. But soon rain started coming down in slashing gusts. I was standing at the back door, looking out at the lightning flashing and dancing on the horizon, when somebody banged at the front door.
Edna looked up from her cards. “Get that, would you?”
I almost didn’t recognize our visitor, he was so changed from the last time I’d seen him.
Six-four, with dark hair slicked back from his forehead and a pair of stylish horned-rim glasses, he looked like a mutualfund banker, not the slapdash cop I’d known for fifteen years or more.
Bucky Deavers pushed past me into the hallway. “Christ! It’s coming down in buckets out there.”
He stood there, dripping rain onto the floor, until I came to my senses and took his coat. Under the raincoat he wore a forest green blazer, pleated khaki slacks, a crisp white shirt, and a shamrock-print necktie. He had a sprig of heather pinned to his jacket lapel.
“Very nice,” I said, motioning for him to turn around, which he did, ending with a little mock curtsy. “Is this another of your phases?”
“We’re going to a party,” he said, grinning.
“We? Who we?”
“We, as in you and me,” he said.
The last party we’d been to together was a Halloween frolic at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, where he’d gone as Jackie Kennedy in drag.
“Where’s your pink pillbox hat?” I asked.
“At the dry cleaner’s,” he said. “Blood spatters are hell to get out of pink. Come on, Garrity. Get going. We’re late already.”
“What kind of party?” I wanted to know.
“Whaddya mean, what kind of party? Did you just resign from the Irish race, Garrity? It’s St. Patrick’s Day.”
“I know what day it is,” I said. “And that’s why I’m staying home, where it’s safe. You know my policy about this, Bucky.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “St. Patrick’s Day is amateur night. You wouldn’t be caught dead in Buckhead, yada, yada, yada. But that’s okay. We’re not going anywhere near Buckhead. So get dressed, would you?”
I looked down at my blue jeans and my blue work shirt.
“Supposing I were to go to this party with you. What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?”
He shook his head sadly. “It’s a party, for Christ’s sake. You look like a refugee from a hippie commune. Come on, Garrity. You’ve got a pair of world-class gams under those jeans. Throw on a dress or skirt or something, would you? Something green, preferably.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What’s the deal here, Bucky? Since when do you care how I dress?”
He pushed me down the hall toward the kitchen, where he couldn’t miss the aroma of the lamb stew that had been simmering on the back burner all day.
“Edna,” he called. “You here? Talk some sense into this pigheaded daughter of yours, would you?”
Edna broke into an ear-to-ear smile when she saw Deavers. She’d always had a soft spot for the big goofy lug. “Sense?” she said, getting up and giving him a hug. “I gave up on that long ago.”
“Tell her she needs to get gussied up for this party we’re going to,” he said, slipping an arm around her waist. “Hey. You come, too. It’ll be fun.”
“Not for me,” Edna said. “You couldn’t get me out on a night like this for love or money. But you go, Jules,” she said. “You could wear that green dress. The one I got you last Christmas.”
“You mean the sister dress? The same one you bought Maureen? No thanks,” I said, making a face.
“Well, anything then,” Bucky said. “Come on, would you?”
“Something’s up with him,” I told my mother.
Bucky propped a foot on one of the kitchen chairs, took a handkerchief out of his pocket, and dusted off an already spotless oxblood loafer.
“There’s somebody I want you to meet, that’s all.”
“What kind of somebody? Not one of your little Pop-Tart girlfriends, I hope. Jeez, Bucky. That last one—what was her name? Muffy? Fluffy?”
“Buffy,” he said. “Her name happened to be Buffy. Short for Elizabeth.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Her. You should have seen this poor girl, Ma. She was so young he had to order her a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. She was so young she couldn’t remember the first season of
“She was twenty,” Bucky said. “And Buffy happened to be very smart. A straight-A student.”
He looked at his watch. “All right. You can cut the comedy now. You’ve made your point. The person I want you to meet is somebody very different. She reminds me of you, a little bit, God help me. Now, could we get the lead out and get going?”
“Okay,” I relented. “But I’m not cutting her meat for her.”
ll things considered, we’d had the usual lousy winter in Atlanta. Of course, February is my least favorite month of all. In a good year it’s twenty-eight or twenty-nine days of damp and cold, punctuated by brief late-winter snowstorms that always manage to foul up traffic and life in general. This year was no exception to the rule. We’d had snow the last week in February, a tornado the first week in March, and yet another snowstorm the second week of March.
Edna and I live in a wood-frame Craftsman bungalow in an eccentric in-town Atlanta neighborhood named Candler Park. The house is as old as my mother, meaning it’s seventy-six, and it’s just as cranky and creaky as Edna. The basement had been flooded three times already in March, and every time I had to wade through knee-high water to pump the water out and relight the furnace pilot light, I cursed the day I’d bought the old house.
Bucky pointed at our roof, which sported a neon blue vinyl tarp tacked down over the front porch.
“You bought your house a shower cap?”
“Essentially,” I said. “We’re gonna have to get the porch
roof patched. It’s leaking like a sieve, but I can’t afford to fix it right now. Not with tax time right around the corner.”
Bucky nodded sagely. He’s heard all my rants about the evils of self-employment, especially in March. Edna and I run a house-cleaning service named the House Mouse. It’s a nice little business and a nice change from my previous career, which was as a detective in the Atlanta Police Department. I’d quit the force and bought the business in a snit ten years ago, after the bosses had refused to transfer me to the all-male homicide squad.
Still, police work, like venereal disease, gets in your system and is hard to shake. I’d gotten a private investigator’s license right after quitting the force, and while I don’t take cases very often, I’d made up my mind the previous year to keep the license renewed just in case.
Bucky opened the passenger-side door of his little red Miata with a flourish. Was this the same guy who’d spent years inventing new and various ways to gross me out?
He started the car and zipped out of my driveway, heading north toward Ponce de Leon Avenue.
“Looking good, Callahan,” he said, glancing over at me. “Really. I mean it.”
“Thanks,” I said, tugging at the hem of the loden green skirt. I’d put a black turtleneck sweater over the short green skirt and under it I wore black ribbed tights and black leather boots.
“I don’t look too dominatrix?”
“Not for me,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.
So it was the same old Bucky. Bucky Deavers had been my partner on the robbery squad, and we’d stayed best friends ever since, although, given our often hectic lives, we sometimes go for months without seeing each other. My girlfriends don’t understand our relationship. I tell them Bucky’s the brother I never had—and I have two. It was just like Bucky to drop back into my life on a night like this, expecting me to pick up and follow along after him. And it was just like me to agree to do so.
“Where’s the party?” I wanted to know.
“I’ll only tell you if you promise not to back out.”
“I’m already dressed up now,” I said. “You know I don’t waste makeup and pantyhose on just anybody.”
“It’s at the K of C,” he said.