Back Cover: Trixie Montgomery, her best friend Dee Dee, and her beloved Nana are out to experience the city of Chattanooga, while Trixie attends a writer’s conference and works on a murder mystery for Georgia By the Way. But who would have guessed that Trixie would not only uncover a body in the deep freeze, but also end up a prime suspect in the murder case? With a killer on the loose, Trixie and Dee Dee have to work fast to find out who is responsible for the crime before Trixie ends up getting locked up for a murder she clearly didn’t commit, but is surely being framed for! Join Trixie and Dee Dee as they, along with Trixie’s Nana, sort through suspects and get to the bottom of yet another murder mystery, while still finding time to enjoy the sights in Chattanooga.
“You’re not serious? We were at her house just last night.” I pushed my glasses a little higher. Having just turned fifty I’d decided wearing glasses wasn’t so bad after all. I looked at it as making a fashion statement. I couldn’t believe Sylvia was gone. “I’m serious as a dog after a bone, Skye. Stabbed right through the heart,” Honey said.
Honey’s high-pitched voice shot though the phone and pulled me back to earth. “Skye! I said I thought the Buckhead Diva would live forever. I don’t even think anybody really knew how old she was. She sure wouldn’t tell.” Honey should know because I’d heard her ask Sylvia Landmark her age on more than one occasion – with no success. I guessed she was about twenty years older than me, but seventy-five was still too young to die in my book.
My mind conjured images of the decorating job we’d just finished for Sylvia. I do believe it was one of my best. I’ve been the owner of Stylish Décor for over ten years now and Honey Truelove, my best friend and assistant, has been with me nine of those years.
I wondered what my husband Mitch would have to say about the turn of events. He spends a great deal of time traveling the world to find unique and distinctive pieces for his antique shop. He was due to arrive today from a trip to Europe.
“Skye! Did you hear me?”
“Uh, yeah, I did Honey. I was just thinking about the work we did for Sylvia. She was quite alive last night at the party. Who would have thought she’d be dead this morning? Well, she had to be close to eighty; one can’t be expected to live forever. Did you say she had a heart attack?”
“Good grief, sometimes I wonder if you don’t tune me out. I said she was murdered.” I pictured Honey with her customary hand on her hip and signature Cherry Red lipstick pout.
I supposed she was right. I did tune her out at times, in my defense that was for my own sanity. Did she ever love to talk. But this is one time I was glad she had the scoop on Sylvia. “Murdered? Who in the world would want to murder an old woman? I admit she could be snooty and condescending at times, but I wouldn’t think that’d be enough reason for someone to kill you.” My glasses slid down again. I need to get these things adjusted.
“Hold on just a minute, Skye, I need to feed Sam.” I heard her rummaging around in the kitchen. Sam is short for Samantha. With Honey’s grown children now on their own, she treated her like a child. I could make out her words over the sound of kibble filling the Yorkie’s bowl. “You have to admit she was on a roll last night at the party. I don’t think there was anyone there she didn’t offend. Except us of course.”
I agreed she took jabs at more than one person. “That’s because we were on her good side since we’ve just finished redecorating her house. She especially loved the Elizabethan sleigh bed.” She raved on and on about our artistic skills and how pleased she was with our work. The party was to show off her newly acquired antiques. She didn’t mind rubbing a few people the wrong way. I imagined by the end of the night they’d wished they hadn’t come.
“Speaking of the job, do you think we’ll still get paid?”
“Honey, how tacky!” I didn’t admit I was wondering the same thing. We’d been paid an advance, but she still owed several thousand dollars. That wouldn’t be the first or the last time I’d associated “tacky” with Honey. She grew up in the mountains of North Georgia where country was cool. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. She lived in Vinings, not far from Mitch and me and had been my right hand girl for years.
“Hey, I’ve never said I’m not tacky. Go on, tell the truth, aren’t you worried?”
Honey married into money, but her social skills had never caught up. When I started my business wanting to make a go of it on my own, I could only pay minimum wage. Honey volunteered to help. She didn’t need the money, but her second husband had just died and she was looking for something to keep her busy. She turned out to be a little spitfire and a big asset to me, even if she was a little rough around the edges. With Honey at my side, my business took off and not only prospered, but I was now able to pay her a decent wage.
“I am concerned, but it’s still not appropriate for us to worry about ourselves considering the circumstances. Hey, I need to finish getting ready, how about meeting for lunch at the OK Café.” This well-known eatery was located at the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Parkway. If traffic wasn’t bad it’d take us less than twenty minutes to get there.
The parking lot packed, I fought for a space, barely beating a little Mini Cooper. I guess I should’ve felt bad, but they say all’s fair in love and parking lots.
I spotted Honey right away. It was obvious she’d been shopping in the junior department again. She’d donned a sky blue dress that barely reached her knees. She paired the outfit with chocolate high-heeled boots. Being petite, she half-way pulled it off. Was I jealous? Just a little, but then I remembered I wasn’t a teenager anymore and didn’t need to dress like one. My own outfit of brown pants and beige blouse worn with ankle boots were more my style.
“Honey!” Headed in the same direction, I raised my hand and vigorously waved. She did the same and we arrived at the entrance simultaneously.
A myriad of delectable aromas greeted me as I entered. The OK Café was the place to go if you wanted down home, slap-yo-mama cooking, as Honey would say. Black and white fifties décor took me back to my childhood. The walls were covered in old 45 records and posters of singers from a time when a simple way of living still existed.
After a short time, a waitress wearing a white dress and a black and white checkered hat seated us in a booth with enough room to accommodate a family. We’d have plenty of elbow space. “May I help you ladies?”
“Skye, you order first, I want to study the menu.” She put on her reading glasses and raised the menu.
I smiled at the waitress, Dorothy, according to her nametag. She returned my smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. I could only imagine how tired she must be from standing on her feet all day. “I’ll take a vegetable plate with black-eyed peas, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, and squash casserole,” I watched her scribble on her notepad, “oh, and don’t forget a piece of your cornbread.” The cornbread at the café was to die for. She took Honey’s order as well, stuck the pencil behind her ear and retreated to place our order.
“What else did you hear about Sylvia?” I leaned in so others nearby wouldn’t hear our conversation. The gesture was lost on Honey. When she spoke in her usual voice a gym teacher would covet, all eyes turned in our direction.
“Well, I heard that her house was broken into. The side door was busted open. You know, John Abbot, the city councilman who lives next door to Sylvia?” I nodded and she continued, “He was the one who found her.”
I sat back and shook my head. “How in the world did you find that out?”
I’ve got my ways.” She grinned like a Cheshire cat.
The waitress brought out food and the conversation abated while we sated our appetite. Half-way through our meal Honey saw someone over my shoulder and waved. “Over here, Amber.” I turned around and saw Amber Styles, competitor and rival in the decorating business. She’d decorated Sylvia’s house several years ago and let it be known she wasn’t happy we redid her work.
“Honey! Don’t ask her…”
It was too late. Amber marched toward us like a scorned woman on a mission.
“Hi Amber.” Honey seemed unaffected by Amber’s stone-cold stare.
“Fancy meeting you here,” she directed her comment to me. I wasn’t interested in a confrontation, but I’d determined she wasn’t going to get my goat.
“Uh, hi Amber.”
Before she had a chance to answer, Honey blurted out, “Hey, did you hear about Sylvia?”
“Yes, I did. And after the way she acted last night I wouldn’t be surprised if someone clocked the old biddy. Thought she had to cut everyone down to make herself look bigger. Except for y’all. Makes me wonder what you did to wrap her around your finger.”
She looked me up and down. “Love your outfit. You’ll have to let me know where you bought it.” I didn’t think she wanted to know so she could run out and buy one just like it. She turned from me to Honey. “And Honey that was some story you spun about Blackbeard’s writing table.”
A most handsome specimen of the human race came up and stood beside Amber. Her demeanor instantly changed and she shot him a hundred watt smile, “Well, I’ve got to go.” She gave a princess wave as she walked off with his arm around her waist.
“Wow, how did she snag him?” Honey shook her head. “I heard she’s been going to AA meetings. Maybe she met him there.”
I leaned forward again, “AA to meet men?” I mentally slapped myself on the wrist. I’d be the first to admit I’m no goodie-two-shoes, but I tried to do what’s right.
“That’s not what I meant, but I wouldn’t put it past her!”
Being around Honey made it hard at times. She was a walking gossip mill. It would be easy to blame her for being a bad influence, but I knew better. But knowing better didn’t keep me from struggling every day to keep on the straight and narrow.
“Never mind. Speaking of Blackbeard’s desk, why did you spin that tale last night?” It had been so late when we left for home last night, we hadn’t had a chance to unpack everything that had happened at the party.
“Well, you said it was rumored Blackbeard owned it at one time. I just wanted to liven up the intrigue a little and the distraction was well-timed. Sylvia was getting way out of hand dissing everyone.” Honey looked in her hand-held mirror and applied the Cherry Red shade she wore year round. She smacked her lips together and blotted them on a Kleenex. I think Honey must be the only person left on the planet that still does that.
“Listen, I’ve got to get that desk back to Mitch’s warehouse.” I changed the subject back to our business at hand, more worried than I wanted to admit.
“Why?” Honey asked. “He’s got plenty of other pieces he can sell.”
“I kind of borrowed it from the shop before asking his permission and now he has a buyer for it. I didn’t think he’d miss it. I use artifacts from there all the time and tell him later, but he said somebody called about that particular piece and he couldn’t find it. He finally thought it might be in the warehouse and he was going to look when he got back from his trip. I’m afraid if I don’t get it back Mitch isn’t going to let me use anymore of his pieces. And I rely on his expertise. Sylvia said she didn’t like it anyway and wanted me to take it back.”
“How are we going to do that? The police probably won’t let us in.” She nodded to the waitress acknowledging we were ready for our checks.
“Probably not, but I still have the key.” I held it up for Honey to see.
She shot me a grin. “I’ve got an idea.”
“Oh, no.” Honey with an idea was as dangerous as a hive of angry bees.
“What do you have in mind?” I waggled a brow, signaling for Honey to wait until the waitress refilled our tea glasses. I didn’t know what she was going to say, but was sure the waitress didn’t need to hear. We were already planning to break and enter a crime scene.
Before Honey could continue, my phone played the song “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. I rummaged around in my pocketbook and looked at the name of the caller. It was Mitch. “Hello, Sweetheart. How are you?”
“I’m doing fine, but I’ve got some bad news. I won’t be able to come home tonight; it’s going to be tomorrow before I’ll make it.” I knew he was sorry he couldn’t come home. My husband loved to travel, but when his business was over he was ready to come back home to our condo on Peachtree Street.
“I’m sorry hon.” And I was sorry, but my mind was whirling like a hamster on a spinning wheel. This would be a great time to get the culprit desk back to the shop. I cut it short so I could tell Honey the news.
“Mitch has to stay another night and won’t be home until tomorrow,” I said.
“Stuck in airline traveler’s vortex?” Honey shook her head.
“His misfortune is our opportunity. It gives us time to get that piece back and return it to the warehouse.”
Honey’s face lit up and I could almost see the light bulb over her head. “Let me tell you about my idea.” She looked around. “Okay it doesn’t look like anybody’s paying attention to us.” She leaned in. “You know those black tights we bought when we signed up for the gym?”