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Authors: Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Wardrobe (14 page)

BOOK: The Body in the Wardrobe
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Sophie closed up the box, promising herself to return with Will and ask him about the pieces. Treasures selected with care and love—she could almost feel it—for his grandmother and mother, perhaps great-grandmother. Jewelry of such value had obviously been birthday, anniversary, or other occasion gifts for these very special women.

Ruth was at the desk when Sophie walked into the office, and
she was reminded that she wanted to get together with the woman before Christmas. Randy could be right about Ruth's depression. She would most likely be alone for most of the holiday. But lunch today was out. If all went well, Sophie would be taking the new client somewhere to eat. And tomorrow could be just as busy, then it was Christmas Eve, and the practice was closing at noon.

“Do you have time for a drink after work?” she asked Ruth. “I was thinking we should go someplace traditional like the Pink House bar for our first Savannah Christmases.”

Ruth brightened. “That would be great. I'm pretty much done with my shopping. Most of it had to be mailed. There's a running club party tomorrow after work, so today is perfect.”

“Great. This gives me an incentive to clear my desk after I meet with Mr. Smith.”

“He won't find any better representation,” Ruth said loyally, and Sophie went up to her office on the second floor.

Anson and Randy both had larger offices on the ground floor of what had been a cotton factor's—cotton broker's—home, but Sophie liked her small office better with its view overlooking the square. There was an enormous magnolia growing to one side of the window that Will had told her he used to climb as a kid. He'd looked longingly at it when he told her and she'd almost expected him to dart out the window onto the nearest branch.

Before Sophie could get to work she had an important phone call to make first. Babs had had the same personal shopper at Bergdorf's for so long and relied on her so much that Pru Wolcott seemed like a relative. And Sophie needed to rely on her now.

“Sophie! How delightful to hear from you! A married woman! Where did the time go? It seems like just the other day you would sit in your little smocked dresses and Mary Janes while your mother tried things on.”

Since Pru sported the same dark brunette chin-length pageboy and bangs she'd had since Sophie's earliest memories, kept a trim figure, and didn't show even the hint of crow's-feet, time did not
seem to have gone anywhere for her. Not so for Sophie and her wardrobe call. Mary Janes, unless they were Manolos, wouldn't do.

“I need your help desperately! Could you overnight me two outfits? I didn't know I'd need a formal gown to wear Christmas Eve for the family dinner. Stupid of me. I should have asked my mother-in-law ages ago. Or tried to get an instruction booklet after I said ‘I do.' They do things differently in—”

“Savannah, the South in general—much dressier,” Pru finished for her. “We have your measurements from the wedding dress, and unless you've either lost or gained weight they'll be recent enough. Tell me what you have in mind.”

“Well, I have the shoes.” Sophie texted a photo and then spent a fun half hour viewing the possibilities Pru shot back to her before choosing two outfits. Her Christmas Eve dress was cocktail length, not long, and strapless to show off the pearls. What made it formal was the fabric—ivory satin—and the style, a fitted bodice with a wide, almost vintage Dior New Look skirt. There was a stole in the same material lined in ruby red. For the open houses Pru found a sleeveless gold silk sheath paired with a long-sleeved tunic jacket that could have come straight from a Renaissance painting—deep burgundy with black and gold embroidery.

A girl could get used to this, Sophie said to herself after thanking Pru profusely and hanging up.

“I'm thinking
Wall Street
meets
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
in a pub.”

Sophie laughed. She'd liked Patrick Smith immediately—warm handshake and smile, but not too much so, plus he'd immediately gotten to the point. A literary agent had sold his thriller for a very nice figure, but Patrick wanted someone specializing in intellectual property to represent him for the film rights, which he'd kept out. He'd already had several offers.

“It's a classic story of greed—young lad of Irish ancestry's head
is turned by the amount of money he sees dangled in front of him if he will only agree to cut a few corners and keep his mouth shut.”

“And why the Savannah locale?” Sophie asked.

“To start with, I'm Savannah Irish myself. You do know that our St. Patrick's Day parade is second only to New York's—three hours long last year? The fountain in Forsyth Park flows green. Hard workers that we be, we built much of Georgia back in the day, especially the railroads. There's even a Dublin, Georgia. And as for politics, well we're a part of the city's history there, too. Have you not noticed all the Irish pubs?”

She laughed again and not just because of the accent he'd suddenly adopted. “There are so many places to imbibe that I'm afraid the names haven't jumped out at me, only that there is no shortage of them.”

Patrick was a young lad himself, late twenties, and an investigative reporter for the NBC Atlanta affiliate, as well as a contributor to several print outlets. He'd brought an advanced reader's copy of the book for her, and as he talked, listing his plot elements—everything from money laundering to smuggling—Sophie heard echoes of what Randy had mentioned. How the port of Savannah was becoming an ever-increasing major hub. If Patrick wrote as well as he spoke, the book would be a page-turner. She definitely wanted to represent him and only hoped he wanted Maxwell & Maxwell in turn.

“May I take you to lunch and we can continue the conversation? Clary's? Or anywhere you like,” Sophie said.

“Have you been to Kevin Barry's? The pub on River Street?”

“No, but it sounds as if I should have.”

Patrick nodded. “You've obviously been to Clary's, since you suggested it, and I do love their grilled pimento cheese, but we need some Guinness and the banana bread pudding with Jameson whipped cream for dessert to celebrate.”

“So this means . . .”

“Yes, Sophie. I'm assuming I may call you that, since you're going to be representing me and making bushels of money for us both.”

Lunch was delightful—and long, as they considered places in Savannah as possible locations for the film. “Pretty much anywhere,” Patrick said at one point. “And easy to find extras on every corner. We love it when Hollywood comes to town.”

Leaving the restaurant Patrick said, “Maxwell is a pretty common name, but I've been running into a nice guy from Savannah named Will Maxwell, a PI, in Atlanta this fall. He read a story I'd written on illegal arms trading and called to ask me some questions, which led to a drink. He's a local boy, too. Any relation?”

Sophie stopped short. Illegal arms? That didn't sound very white collar!

“Will's my husband. We got married in November.”

“Congratulations. And this explains the lack of an accent.” He grinned. “I kinda like the idea of a Yankee lady lawyer.”

“So do we Yankee lady lawyers,” she shot back.

They returned to the office to finalize the details and Sophie promised to have everything ready for him to sign before he left for Atlanta the following day. Randy and Anson would be pleased by the deal, and who knew? Hard to imagine another book and film putting the city on the map the way
Midnight
had, but fiction
could
sometimes be stranger than fact.

She sent all the information to Ruth and settled in to clear her desk of other work so she could relax over the holiday. Relax with Will. Had they just been together that morning? It seemed a week ago.

Early in November she had looked for a piece of artwork for his Christmas gift at the Savannah College of Art and Design store, one of the best gift shops she'd ever visited. She'd liked the notion of giving Will something for the home they would be sharing together, something new that neither of them had ever had on their walls. There were several possibilities, but she'd decided not to decide in a hurry, although she found great earrings for Faith, and gifts for others on her list. And then she'd walked past a large pine
on her way back to the office that instantly reminded her of some prints, mezzotints, they'd seen in a gallery on Sanpere last summer by an artist named James Groleau. She quickly found him through the magic of Google and ordered
Fog over Eggemoggin
and
Morning at Water
's Edge,
both evoking the time and place where they'd met. She was sure Will would love them—a suggestion of the Arts and Crafts movement, but the colors and technique very much today's.

At last she decided she'd done enough catching up—and she was coming into the office tomorrow, she reminded herself—so she logged out, setting her protective password. The time at the top of her screen jumped out. Ruth! It was almost five thirty. She grabbed her things and rushed downstairs into the reception area. “I'm so sorry! I didn't realize it was getting so late! You should have let me know.”

“No worries. I wanted to finish these, and some other things,” Ruth said. “I'm not in a hurry. Do you have to be someplace? We could postpone until after the holidays.”

“I'm completely free, unless
you'd
rather wait.”

“Nope. Free as a bird, too,” Ruth said. The woman didn't look depressed at all, Sophie noted. In fact she looked extremely happy. “Glowing” was the appropriate adjective.

The bar at the Olde Pink House was the perfect choice. It was decked out for the season and a pianist was playing “Greensleeves” as they walked in.

“This place is supposed to be loaded with ghosts,” Ruth said as they sat down near the fire.

“Will told me all about it,” Sophie said. “I think the one down here in the bar is the original owner, who welcomes guests on occasion!”

“I'm happy to be greeted by a friendly ghost. Like Casper. Just no pink elephants.” Ruth giggled.

Ms. Stafford, Sophie thought, was in a very cheerful mood and hadn't had the other sort of spirits yet.

“We're not driving anywhere, so how about a bottle of
champagne to mark our first Southern Christmas?” Sophie suggested. Patrick Smith had had his Guinness at lunch, but she'd stuck to iced tea—unsweetened. The whole sweet tea thing had to be genetic. Or an acquired taste she hadn't developed yet.

“Oh that sounds lovely! I haven't had champagne since last New Year's.”

“And oysters to start?” Sophie said.

Ruth sighed. “This is going to be the best Christmas ever.” And then she blushed.

By the time the champagne bottle was half empty, the pianist had moved on to a medley of more recent carols and a few people had clustered round, singing along. Sophie and Ruth had ordered another dish, Southern Sushi. As Ruth said, “How can we not? When in Rome, or I should say Tokyo.”

“I think you should say ‘Savannah,'” Sophie said. They were both getting what her mother called “tiddly,” and it felt great.

“Southern Sushi” turned out to be smoked shrimp and grits rolled in coconut-crusted nori. It was so good they ordered another portion.

The food, and drink, emboldened Sophie. “So, have you met anyone special here? I don't mean to pry. . . .”

“Yes, you do,” Ruth teased her, “and it's fine. There
is
someone special, and he makes me feel special.” She blushed again. It caused her to look even younger, even prettier. “That's all I can say for now.”

Sophie reached across the table and patted Ruth's hand. “I'm happy for you.” She almost added that she wanted Ruth to have what she had and then thought, but Will is taken
,
and thought further,
whoever invented champagne should have been given a Nobel Prize if they had them then, and wasn't it a monk? The inventor that is.
The server refilled their glasses and a few minutes later Sophie pulled Ruth over to the crowd around the piano, lustily joining the chorus of “Jingle Bells.” She tried to tell her the story of the Jingle Bell church but gave up and just sang.

“Hey, Ruth,” a woman called as she came into the bar with some others. “You didn't run this morning! Starting the holiday early?”

Ruth waved them over. “I went into work early. Come sing with us!” She turned to Sophie. “These are a few of my running buddies.” She made introductions, but the only name that Sophie knew she would remember was Esmeralda Higgins—“Someone gave Mama a copy of
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
when she was pregnant. Most people just call me Emmie.”

“Good thing you weren't a boy,” Sophie said before she could stop herself. “Quasimodo?”

“I get that a lot, too, and thank the Lord every night. I do have a little sister named Cosette. Mama's Victor Hugo was a two-volume set, and she'd kept going with
Les
Misérables
!”

Ruth's friends were breaking training for the night and proved to be great fun. The runners ordered platters of assorted appetizers and Sophie decided mac 'n' cheese poppers were possibly the best thing she'd ever eaten. They went perfectly with the next bottle of champagne she'd decided they all needed, and the next. Forget the oysters? And weren't carbs supposed to be good for marathoners?

That night she slept more soundly than any night since discovering the body in the wardrobe. There were no ghostly noises or visitations of any kind. Just sweet Christmas dreams.

Faith called their family doctor, Dr. Michael Kane, before starting the car. Amy had graduated from a pediatrician a year ago. Faith was put right through when she explained the emergency, and after Dr. Kane listened to the symptoms he told Faith to bring Amy to the hospital immediately. He was on his way there now to check on a patient.

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