Authors: Catherine Lanigan
After opening the car and taking out her water bottle, she turned and shielded her eyes and looked toward Jack's condo.
But you run before six. Is that so you'll be undisturbed? Because you can't sleep? Because you like to be alone?
Sophie tipped her bottle to her mouth and drank deeply.
Did you really just not recognize me today, Jack? Or are you still angry?
She tossed the bottle onto the floor of the passenger's side of the car.
“Well, join the club because I'm mad, too,” she muttered, slamming the door and going around to the driver's side. “The difference between you and me, Jack, is that I intend to do something about it.”
black Chrysler Sebring near the carriage house at the back of Mrs. Beabots's drive and turned off the engine. Gathering up her purse, water bottle and tote bag, she double-checked the interior. Satisfied that it was, as always, immaculately clean, she got out and locked the car.
At the back of the house were two doors. One led into Mrs. Beabots's kitchen, and the other opened onto a staircase that soared to her upstairs apartment.
Sophie had just unlocked her door when she heard a massive crash from Mrs. Beabots's kitchen. Fearing that the octogenarian had fallen, or worse, Sophie pounded her fist on her landlady's door.
“Mrs. Beabots! Are you okay? What's going on?”
In seconds, the door flew open and Mrs. Beabots stood on the threshold, her makeup in place, her silver hair precision-cut and styled in a bob. She wore a summer print dress, a crisp white apron and gold Chanel earrings. She gestured with both arms as if she was swimming. “Come in, Sophie! Heavens. I was afraid I'd wake the dead, but I see you've already been out.” Mrs. Beabots cast a critical eye to the ring of sweat around Sophie's forehead and face. “I see you could use some cold lemonade. Or iced tea, perhaps?”
“Thanks. That sounds great.”
Mrs. Beabots stepped aside for Sophie to enter.
This was the first time Sophie had seen Mrs. Beabots's kitchen. In fact, all she'd ever seen of the house, besides her apartment, was the front parlor, when she'd given Mrs. Beabots the deposit for the apartment the week before Katia moved out.
The ceilings were twelve, if not fourteen feet high and lining the expansive room were the original white cabinets with glass doors. The countertops were white marble, and in the center of the kitchen was an island that at the moment was covered with dozens of pie pans, tart pans, muffin tins and sugar, huge sacks of flour, dozens of eggs and several boxes of butter.
“Are you getting ready for a party?” Sophie asked. “I haven't seen this much baking since my grandmother's ninetieth birthday.” She inhaled the alluring scent of baking sugar and butter and her mouth watered. It was all she could do to repeat her mantras, reminding her to stay on her diet.
Mrs. Beabots circled around the island to the refrigerator and pulled out an antique, etched-glass pitcher filled with lemonade, complete with slices of fresh lemon.
“That's too pretty to disrupt,” Sophie said. “I can just get some water from the tap.”
“Nonsense. I make lemonade every day for the kids.”
“Annie and Timmy next door. They like to come over and sit with me while I work in the kitchen. I'm teaching Annie how to make my sugar pie.”
“So, that's what this is? A culinary lesson?”
Mrs. Beabots laughed. “Not today. This is for a friend, dear. I'm making sugar pie tarts. You're welcome to stay and learn or helpâ” Mrs. Beabots stopped midsentence. “Oh, how silly of me. You're probably on your way to the hospital, aren't you?”
“Actually, not today. I have the day off since I worked all weekend in the ER. We had a light surgery day, so I'm taking it easy.”
Mrs. Beabots's blue eyes traveled up and down Sophie's length. “It doesn't look like that to me. I'd say you've been working yourself pretty hard.”
Sophie couldn't hold back her grin. “Sorry. I can't help but laugh. This is the new me. I run to de-stress and knock off a few more pounds.”
“Hmm. There's nothing wrong with your figure, dear. If you ask me, I've always thought people run to outrun their demons.”
Reflexively, Sophie shook her head. “I don't have any demons.”
“Really? Then that would make you an anomaly. I have dozens of them myself. Now,” she said with a smile as she wiped her hands on her apron and picked up a green milk glass mixing bowl and a French whisk, “how would you like to learn the secret to my sugar pie?”
“I would be honored, especially since Katia told me you don't share recipes.”
“Ordinarily, I don't. But I've been coming to some realizations of my own lately,” she explained as she opened a carton of eggs and began cracking them into the bowl.
“And that would be?” Sophie set her purse and tote down on a chair and went to the sink to wash her hands.
“That I'm not going to live forever.”
Sophie chuckled under her breath. “None of us do.”
“I know what you're thinkingâthat I'm in my eighties and this should have been a consideration before now.”
Sophie dried her hands and turned around. “I confess, I was. Sorry.”
“No need.” Mrs. Beabots lifted a linen cloth from some pie dough she'd made earlier and began rolling it out. She fluttered a hand in the air, waving off Sophie's thoughts as if they were distracting moths. “Quite honestly, this isn't the first time these thoughts have crossed my mind. And I'm not dwelling on it now. It's just that while I still have the energy and my wits about me, I thought I should be doing more. You know what I mean?”
“Like what?” Sophie asked. “Do you want to travel? See the world? Or a bucket list kind of thing?”
“Heavens, I've seen the world. Or most of it,” Mrs. Beabots replied, cutting small circles out of the dough and placing them in the tartlet pans. “Measure out three separate cups of sugar for me in those metal cups, would you, dear?”
“Sure. So, when was this that you traveled and where did you go?” Sophie asked with genuine curiosity. She didn't know much about Mrs. Beabots and her background. In fact, nobody did. The woman was the essence of secrecy. Even Sophie's mother and grandmother had heard little about Raymond Beabots or Emma before they move to Indian Lake in the midsixties, opened the Rose Street Grocery and bought this old Victorian home.
Sophie's curious nature had often gotten her into trouble when she was young. Her mother told her it was the root of her flirtatiousness. She was always curious about the next guy around the next corner. That same investigative bent had served her well in her medical career, and if she hadn't settled on heart ablations, she might have gone into diagnostic medicine. Tracking down clues and symptoms to pinpoint disease.
Mrs. Beabots still hadn't answered, and Sophie realized her curiosity might be getting her into hot water yet again. She stopped measuring. “It's okay. You don't have to tell me.”
Mrs. Beabots met Sophie's gaze. “It's just that no one has asked me that in a very long time. Not even one of my girls.”
“Sarah and her crowd. Oh, they're all grown up now, but since I had no children of my own, I've always been quite close to Sarah. Maddie, too. And Liz.”
“And Olivia. Katia, too,” Sophie added.
“That's right. My circle is growing. Now I include you.” Mrs. Beabots smiled widely.
Sophie blushed. She couldn't remember the last time she'd blushed. Grade school? Possibly. She wasn't the blushing typeânever had been. But Mrs. Beabots was an icon, and to be a part of her private world was intriguing and flattering. “I'm honored.”
“You're the only one of my girls who has both parents alive. We support each other the way families should. They help me with little things that have become a major consideration for me now that I don't drive anymore.” She frowned. “Getting to the grocery in a rainstorm is a real chore if you don't have a car.”
“The winters alone must slow you down.”
“Believe me, they do. But I manage. I hope you won't mind if I need to ask for a ride now and then. When you're available, of course.”
“I don't mind at all,” Sophie said. “I'll check with you whenever I go out. I do that with my mom as it is. She can't always get away from the farm and since I'm in town, I pick things up for her all the time.”
“Isn't that wonderful?” Mrs. Beabots sighed. “Such a lovely thing to have family. Frankly, that being the case, you may not have as much time for us and our get-togethers over the holidays and such. But you're always welcome.”
“Thank you.” Sophie smiled.
“Now, hand me that bowl there.”
Sophie did as she was asked. “This looks like you're baking for an army. Is it someone's birthday?”
“Birthday? Oh, no.” She smiled. “This is for Eleanor Fieldstone's new project. She's having an open house the day after tomorrow and she prevailed upon me to make something special for her fund-raiser.”
“Fieldstone?” Sophie knew she'd heard Eleanor's name lately, but couldn't place it. Had she been a patient? That happened to her a lot. Then it clicked. “Is she the woman who started Recovery Alliance last year?”
“She is. Do you know her?” Mrs. Beabots filled the last of the trays with pie crust.
“I've never met her, but I've heard about her work with drug addicts.”
Mrs. Beabots shook her head. “It's a terrible plague in this town, drugs. I was over at the police station the other dayâ”
“The police station? Why?”
“Oh, Trent Davis is a favorite of mine. Actually, it was his birthday and I baked him a cake. All those boys over there at the station love my cakes.”
“Funny, but his name sounds familiar, too.”
“I know his mother very well. Trent just made detective. I think it's because of the gangs around here. His mother told me he's helped spearhead two large stings and the police have rounded up over twenty drug dealers.”
“I had no idea it was that bad.”
“Tip of the iceberg, Trent says.” As Mrs. Beabots rattled on, Sophie remembered that Trent was one of the investigating policemen after Jack's accident. He had asked Sophie for a copy of Greg Fulton's medical records, and he'd questioned Jack about the incident, though Sophie hadn't been present for that. Still, she'd gotten the impression that Trent was courteous, professional and thorough.
“Trent will be at the open house. I'll introduce you. He's very handsome.” Mrs. Beabots winked.
Sophie shook her head. “That's okay,” she said, fending off the obvious attempt at matchmaking. “I believe I've already met him. Besides, I don't have time for romance right now. But I would like to meet Eleanor. I'd like to find out more about her work.”
“That would be perfect,” Mrs. Beabots said, filling the tartlets with cream and sugar. “I needed someone to drive me there and help with my desserts.”
Sophie couldn't help smiling to herself. Mrs. Beabots was as crafty as she was charming.
* * *
was located across from the county courthouse in one of the original Main Street buildings from the 1870s. It had been refurbished extensively in the late 1970s, becoming a dress shop, and still had maroon awnings out front with gold key scallop edging. The front door, made of brass and etched glass, was so heavy Sophie had a difficult time juggling the two pans of sugar tarts and her purse as she pulled it open.
The main area, formerly used as the showroom, still had the original warped floorboards, which had been recently sanded, stained and coated. There were no rugs, drapes or decorations, except the crystal chandelier that had once hung in the dress shop.
Along the walls were several old bookshelves, which looked like they'd come from a garage sale or a schoolhouse auction. They were filled with brochures, some tattered paperbacks and stacks of colorful folders. Three round folding tables covered in homemade cloths sat in the middle of the room, while at the far end a long table held a coffee urn, teapot, pitcher of lemonade and trays of sandwiches, fruits and vegetables. Sophie added Mrs. Beabots's tarts to the array.
Half a dozen people were putting out little bouquets of garden flowers, brochures, survey sheets, pens and name tags on the tables.
Just as they finished putting out the desserts, a tall blonde woman in her late fifties wearing a brown summer linen suit walked over to them. She gave Mrs. Beabots a hug.
“The tarts are just beautiful. Thank you so much for this, Mrs. Beabots,” she said with a smile. “Frankly, I'm hoping your famous pie will be a draw for people.”
“My goodness, Eleanor, your work is getting quite the buzz around town. I don't think you need me or my pie in the least.”
“I wish that were the case,” Eleanor replied glumly. “I was hoping for two dozen volunteers and these poor five folks have shouldered the entire burden. Courtney, over there, missed a day and a half of work just to get our brochure out on time. She only walked in from the printer's ten minutes ago. That was close.”
While Eleanor spoke, Sophie noted that the offices and private rooms in back still seemed to be in makeshift condition. Though the partition walls were up, there were no doors. If they needed privacy, they didn't have it yet.
“Let me introduce my friend, Sophie Mattuchi. This is Eleanor Fieldstone,” Mrs. Beabots said. “Sophie lives upstairs in my house now that Katia is getting married. She's a cardiac surgeon's nurse at the hospital.”
Sophie held out her hand. “I'm very interested in the work you're doing. From what little I've researched, I believe you're an addictions specialist.”
“What is that?” Mrs. Beabots's blue eyes were filled with curiosity.
“I'm board certified in addiction medicine. I worked for years in Chicago, but when my husband became ill, we sold our house and moved here to Indian Lake to slow down a bit. Once he died, I needed a challenge.”
“I absolutely agree with that,” Mrs. Beabots said firmly. “We all have to have passion. Without it, life isn't worth living.”
Sophie cocked her head. “Really? I thought it was love we all needed.”
Mrs. Beabots waved her hand as if shooing a fly. “You can love all kinds of people, and be loved, but passion for a cause fills those holes inside you when you realize you want your life to count for something.”