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Authors: Leslie Meier

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BOOK: Wedding Day Murder
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“He's so modest,” said Thelma, somehow managing to include a note of criticism in her compliment. “You'd never know to look at him that he's well on his way to becoming the next Bill Gates.”
“Aw, Mom,” said Ron, looking down at his feet.
“It's true.” Thelma patted her bosom, a gesture that served to emphasize both her jewelry and her ample endowment. “Sidra is one little miss who's doing very well for herself.”
Lucy saw Sid's face redden, but he didn't say anything.
Just then Sue returned with a tray of drinks. Her eyes widened in reaction, but she graciously recovered.
“I think they're
both
very lucky. Here's a toast to our wonderful children.”
“Here, here,” said Lucy, raising her glass.
Thelma also raised her glass and clinked it against Sue's, but Ron didn't seem to notice. He downed his tea in a gulp and sat holding the empty glass.
“Can I get you another?” asked Sue, determined to be the gracious hostess.
“Nah,” said Ron, tapping his foot impatiently.
“I think having the wedding up here in Maine is a wonderful idea,” said Thelma, taking a ladylike sip of tea. “It's lovely here and so much more private for Ron. Ever since his company began to be so successful he's been a bit of a celebrity, you know.”
Lucy glanced at Ron, but he seemed abstracted and lost in thought. Probably advanced computer stuff, she guessed. HTML or HTTP or ISPs and DSNs, whatever those were.
“It's true, you know,” continued Thelma. “He gets requests for interviews all the time, but he always turns them down. I don't know why. People want to know about him.”
“Gee, Mom,” groaned Ron, rolling his eyes.
“That fellow from
CyberWorld
magazine called again. I really think you should talk to him. He's not like the rest, you know. He'll understand all about what the company is doing.” She turned to face Lucy and Sue. “Ron says it's just so difficult talking to most interviewers because they don't have the faintest idea what he's talking about. They're not computer savvy, you see, and he has to explain everything.” She turned back to Ron. “But you see, you wouldn't have to explain to him. If he works for
CyberWorld
magazine he must know all about computers.”
“I'll think about it,” said Ron in a firm voice, for the first time giving a hint of the qualities that had made him so successful. “I thought you wanted to talk about the wedding.”
“Oh, the wedding,” chortled Thelma. “So exciting, isn't it? And using a gazebo—what a lovely idea. Sue told me all about it. I can't wait to see it. And you know, Sue,” she said, resting a bejeweled and manicured claw on Sue's arm, “I'll be happy to help with the wedding any way I can.”
“Thank you,” said Sue, placing her hand on top of Thelma's. “That's so kind of you. I don't know how to thank you.”
“You don't have to thank me. It's my pleasure.” Thelma beamed at her. “Now, tell me all about your plans so far. But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. What about a shower? When is that going to be?”
“A shower?” Sue repeated the word, unsure she had heard correctly.
“Of course! Aren't you giving one? For Sidra's friends. So they can give her gifts.”
“I can't give a shower.”
“Why not?”
“I'm her mother. Relatives don't give showers. Only friends.”
“I never heard of such a silly rule,” said Thelma. “But if you insist it's so, just ask one of her friends. How about Lucy here?”
On the hot seat, Lucy squirmed. Sue came to her defense.
“I can't do that, either,” she said, firmly.
“Why not? Showers are fun, and her friends will want to give gifts. That's why they call it a shower, you know. You can even put little cards from the stores she's registered with in the invitations, so people will know what she wants. She'll be showered with gifts.”
“Maybe her friends in New York will give her a shower,” said Lucy.
“I'm sure they will,” said Thelma. “But what about her Maine friends?”
Sue shook her head and attempted a bright little laugh. “Most of her Maine friends are probably in New York. Believe me, bright kids don't stick around here. They go to college and move on. They don't come back.”
“She must have
some
friends here,” insisted Thelma.
“There's Molly Thacher,” said Lucy, grinning mischievously. “She already has three kids, and I noticed they've added a carport to the trailer.”
From his post at the corner of the deck, Sid broke his silence and laughed.
Sue shot him a warning glance and turned to smile at Thelma. “We'll just have to let you handle the shower when you go back to New York,” she said.
“Oh, didn't I tell you?” Thelma clapped her hands together. “We're not going back to the city. We're staying right here until the wedding. Isn't that fabulous?”
“Absolutely fabulous,” said Sue, tipping up her glass to get the last of the wine. “Seconds, anyone?”
Chapter Six
E
arly morning was Lucy's favorite time of day. Then, before Bill and the kids were up, she could enjoy a few moments to herself. Sometimes she'd read the paper with her coffee, other days she was content to sit at the kitchen table watching the birds at the feeder hung from the old apple tree. This morning, goldfinches were breakfasting on the tiny seeds she had put out for them, perching momentarily on the feeder to extract a seed and then flying off in that bobbing way they had. With the bright yellow feathers and black wings they looked quite exotic, as if they'd be more at home in a rain forest than in her Maine backyard.
Lucy was watching, amused, as two males vied for the same perch, when there was a knock at the door. Who could it be this early, she wondered, pulling her robe together over her nightgown and shuffling across the kitchen floor to the door. Pushing the red-checked curtain aside, she was surprised to see Thelma Davitz.
“I know it's a little early,” said Thelma when she opened the door, “but I just wanted to get a tiny peek at your gazebo. I hope you don't mind.”
Thelma, Lucy saw, was perfectly coiffed, abundantly bejeweled, and dressed in a beige suit at half past six in the morning.
Seeing her check the clock, Thelma simpered and fluttered her hands. “It is a trifle early, I know, but there's so much to do to plan the wedding. We don't have a moment to waste, do we?”
“I guess not,” said Lucy, clutching her bathrobe and wishing she'd bothered to look for the sash when she got up this morning. She heard the hiss and bubble of the coffeepot and asked Thelma if she'd like a cup.
“Oh, no,” said Thelma. “I can't touch it. If I did, I'd never sleep. Besides, I have plenty of energy without it.”
Lucy didn't have that problem. “If you don't mind, I'll just grab a cup.”
“Just bring it along,” said Thelma. “Or point me in the right direction. I don't have time to spare this morning.”
“Point you where?” Lucy was having trouble concentrating.
“To the gazebo, of course.” Thelma was impatiently tapping her foot, shod in a pair of beige stilettos.
“I'd better go with you,” said Lucy, giving up the idea of coffee. She had to figure out where Kudo had gotten to. She didn't like to think what might happen if he encountered Thelma alone in the backyard.
Lucy reached for Bill's jacket, which hung on a hook next to the door, and jammed her feet, slippers and all, into a pair of men's sneakers. They were size twelves and could belong to either Bill or Toby. Then, feeling like Ma Clampett, she pushed the screen door open and clomped out onto the porch.
The squeak of the screen door summoned Kudo, who took it to mean that breakfast was being served. He bounded up the porch steps and greeted Thelma by sticking his nose in her crotch. When she squealed in protest, he reared up on his hind legs and placed his forepaws on her chest, greeting her with a dripping tongue and a big, doggy smile.
“Down, Kudo!” yelled Lucy, dragging him off Thelma and shoving him toward the door. She wanted to lock him inside, but he was having none of it. He wasn't interested in going inside if his food bowl wasn't full, so he circled around her and jumped off the porch to the path, where he stationed himself, ready to go where the action was.
“Are you all right?” Lucy asked Thelma.
“Oh, yes,” replied Thelma, smoothing her expensive knit jacket. “I just love dogs.”
Lucy didn't quite believe her, and she didn't trust Kudo to behave himself, so she took Thelma's elbow as they went down the steps. Keeping a wary eye on the dog, who was loping along beside them, excited to have company for his early morning rambles, Lucy led the way around the house to the gazebo.
“I think it's such a lovely idea, a real country wedding,” trilled Thelma, moving with the speed of lightning in her high heels. How did she manage it? wondered Lucy, who was struggling along in the oversized men's shoes.
“Just look at all the grass and trees and stones and things. It's so-o-o country.”
“That it is,” agreed Lucy, getting a whiff of manure from the field down the road. Why did they have to pick yesterday of all days to spread manure? Why? Maybe Thelma wouldn't notice.
“Do you smell something?” Thelma tilted her head up and sniffed. “Very unusual. Very earthy.”
“It'll be gone by the wedding,” said Lucy, crossing her fingers. “All you'll smell is flowers.”
They rounded the corner of the house, and the gazebo was suddenly visible. Thelma clapped her hands together, setting her bracelets to jangling.
“It's adorable,” she cooed.
“I'm so glad you like it,” said Lucy, relieved. She knew how much Sue wanted to have the wedding there and had been fearful Thelma wouldn't approve.
“But so small.” She shook her head sadly. “I don't know if it will accommodate all the people we're inviting.”
“Well, I think Sue was thinking that the wedding itself would take place in the gazebo, and we'd have a canopy on the lawn for the congregation.”
“Even so . . .” began Thelma.
“How many people are you thinking of inviting?” asked Lucy. “Sue said it would be a small wedding.”
“Dear Sue.” Thelma blinked her eyes, and Lucy wondered exactly how one managed to apply eyeliner so early in the morning. “I don't think she really has any idea how
important
Ron is, or the circles he travels in. I mean, we were really quite comfortable in Englewood. Ron's father—he was a stockbroker, you know—left us very well provided for. But that was nothing to the success Ron's had. Did you see his photo in the
New York Times
last week? He was at that Computers for Kids benefit a few weeks ago at the Met. That's a museum, dear, in New York.”
Thelma had seated herself on one of the chairs and had neatly crossed her ankles.
“He was photographed with Barbara Walters, and all these Astors and Vanderbilts were there. It's funny when you think of Ron, the grandson of a pickle manufacturer, hobnobbing with all those people. And do you know what Barbara—that's
Barbara Walters;
I think I mentioned her earlier—well, do you know what she told me? She said that those old fortunes from railroads and oil are just pennies compared to the new fortunes coming from the Internet.”
Thelma nodded and paused for breath. Lucy knew she had to act fast.
“Thelma, I really have to get back in the house to wake up the kids. . . .”
“Oh, don't let little me hold you up,” said Thelma, jumping to her feet. “I'll just walk back with you, if you don't mind. Just in case the dog comes back.”
“That's probably wise,” said Lucy, wondering again where Kudo had gotten to.
“You know, dear, I don't like to raise an unpleasant subject, but I couldn't help noticing some doggy poos on the grass.”
Lucy was mortified. “Of course, all that will be cleaned up before the wedding.”
Thelma was looking around, a little furrow between her brows.
“There don't seem to be very many flowers. I was hoping for apple blossoms and lilacs, you know.”
“Well, it's a little late for apple blossoms and lilacs,” said Lucy, taking a few steps toward the house in hope that Thelma would follow. “The zinnias and marigolds will be in bloom, and the dahlias. Oh, and the rose of Sharon is beautiful then. And some early mums, of course.”
“That does sound nice,” said Thelma, who seemed to have rooted herself to the ground. “You know,” she continued, “I think it's awfully risky having an outdoor wedding.”
“Well, Sue did mention a tent.” Lucy paused. “I'm afraid it's getting awfully late. . . .”
“Oh, don't let me hold you up,” said Thelma, taking a few baby steps. “What about music? Did Sue mention music?”
“I think she's thought of everything. She even gave me a list, sort of a checklist. . . .”
“Could I see it?”
Lucy's mind was blank. She couldn't remember what she'd done with the list, and she sure didn't have time to look for it now.
“I really have to get the kids up, they're going to be late. . . .”
“I'd really like to go over that list with you.”
Lucy was desperate to get rid of Thelma. “I'm sorry,” she began, when inspiration struck. “How about lunch?”
“Fortunately, I'm free,” said Thelma, implying that this was not usually the case.
“Great. I'll meet you at noon at . . .”
“The Greengage Inn?”
“Fine. I've got to run now,” said Lucy, backing off down the path until she reached the corner of the house and then dashing for the porch.
In the kitchen, she was relieved to see that Bill had gotten the kids up, and breakfast, if you counted bolognaon-bagel sandwiches as breakfast, was in progress.
“Who was that woman?” he asked, looking out the window at Thelma. “Is she the Avon lady or something?”
Lucy laughed. “No, no, that's Sidra's mother-in-law to be. The mother of the groom.”
“Scary,” said Elizabeth.
“Oh, yes,” said Lucy, pouring herself that longdelayed cup of coffee.
“What's she doing here?” asked Bill, a puzzled expression on his face.
Lucy didn't think this was the time to explain that the wedding was going to take place in the gazebo.
“She just wanted some information about caterers and florists,” she said.
“This early in the morning?”
“Tell me about it,” she said, carrying the coffee upstairs to drink while she got dressed. She set the cup on her dresser and opened the closet door, looking for something to wear. She had planned on jeans and a polo shirt, but that wouldn't do at the inn, so she flipped through the hangers looking for something that didn't need to be ironed. She had almost reached the end of the pole when a large box tumbled down from the top shelf.
Reflexively, Lucy put her hand up to protect her head and was soon smothered in white organza. Stepping back into the room, Lucy freed herself from her wedding dress. Holding it against herself, she turned to look in the full-length mirror. Magically, her bright pink robe and tousled hair disappeared and she was once again the bride who had walked down the aisle on her father's arm to meet Bill at the altar.
She remembered how she and her mother had searched and searched for that dress. They had trudged from one bridal shop to another for weeks before they spotted it, displayed in a second-story window on Lexington Avenue.
“It's perfect,” her mother had assured her when she emerged from the dressing room.
And she was right. The dress was just what she had been dreaming of. The bodice and short cap sleeves were made of alençon lace, and the waist was nipped in with a satin sash that topped a full, swirling organza skirt.
Lucy remembered the fittings. How embarrassed she'd felt standing in her underwear while a terrifying seamstress with a mouthful of pins took all her measurements. She'd had to go back several times while the woman clucked over her. Worst of all was standing very still for what seemed like hours as she measured and marked and pinned up the endless yards of skirt and underskirts for hemming.
And then, finally, her wedding day. Her mother and bridesmaids had fussed over her, taking forever to fasten the twenty or more buttons that went up the back. Then, sitting on a white sheet in the backseat of her uncle's Cadillac, she was driven to the church, where the long, white carpet stretched before her. Clutching her father's arm with one hand and her bouquet with the other, she had stood waiting for the organ chords that marked the beginning of Mendelssohn's wedding march.
“Mom! We're gonna be late!”
Sara's voice roused her from her reverie and she quickly replaced the dress in its box. She slid it back on the shelf and grabbed her best pair of khakis.
 
Lucy was only fifteen minutes late, having disregarded all speed limits and practically tossed the kids from the car at their various destinations, but Ted wasn't amused.
“It's deadline day, you know,” he told her.
“I know—I had car trouble,” she lied, unwilling to tell him the real reason.
Fortunately, there were no last-minute glitches and the paper was finished well before the noon deadline. To celebrate, Ted treated Lucy and Phyllis to coffee and doughnuts. They were gathered around Phyllis's desk when the bell on the door jangled and they all looked up.
The visitor was a young man in his late twenties. One glance told Lucy he wasn't from anywhere around Tinker's Cove: he had practically shaved his head and was wearing snug black pants and clunky green leather oxfords and had a messenger's bag slung over one shoulder. He advanced, smiling to reveal a row of pointed teeth and a tongue stud.
BOOK: Wedding Day Murder
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