Contains explicit language
For the first time since taking up residence at that apartment several years before, Savannah Hunt had difficulties sleeping. Oh, there had been times when sleep had eventually come after a long evening of working on one of her ad campaigns, but normally, she went to bed with the proverbial clear conscious and all, managing to put things aside and realizing that the next morning, she could take it all up again. Monday night, however, had been an exception.
Upon her return after the meeting with Kim, she had changed into a negligee, poured herself some brandy, and sat for some time in the very chair in which she had discovered Wendell White. Eventually, when she finally went to bed, the thoughts remained the same, refusing to leave her alone, refusing her sleep as everything since Thursday afternoon played in her imagination, each scene as vivid as when they occurred. And it always ended with White’s handsome features….
He was handsome, wasn’t he? I hadn’t thought about that much. I was so angry with him when I saw he was reading my things, but…he was sorry. He really did feel sorry, didn’t he? Of course Sid and Kim would say he was deceiving me, but…no…no…I don’t think so. She turned onto her side, staring at the wall. When I told him I’d decided not to marry Kim…Why did he look….I swear he looked relieved. I mean…why would he care? I can understand him being glad I was alive…but why would he give a hoot that I wasn’t going to marry Kim? She also wondered why the name of Wendell White seemed so familiar.
They had never met before Monday night, and yet, there was something…and then it suddenly hit her.
Sid had written a column on the policeman! Those shootings on Long Island: the cop that – despite being injured – walked in and singlehandedly captured the criminal. Sid waxed typically poetic about the entire event as though conjuring the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, praising the hero as being the reincarnation of chivalry itself, then compared the exploits of knights of old to this extraordinary young officer: unselfish, dashing, noble, the kind of man the twentieth century regrettably only found in the movies or books. She recalled Sid saying that he would love to meet this modern day knight, but as with many things when it came to Lydecker, another matter caught his attention and he had moved on to a new subject and a new interest.
And so it had gone all night, until around three she was finally asleep, images of Kim and Sid and Wendell White circling her mind, their voices intermingling until at last, the lieutenant’s was foremost.
Savannah was up at eight, had bathed and dressed and was glad she had not decided to simply relax in bed or sleep a little longer. A few minutes after the clock in the drawing room chimed ten, she heard the doorbell.
Just like Friday night.
But on opening the door, she saw Wendell White standing there, his face somewhat indecipherable.
“Good morning,” he greeted, stepping inside. Savannah saw his blue eyes give her a quick (and admiring) once over, taking in her light colored slacks and the asymmetrically striped kimono top. Then easing around her, he used one hand to remove his hat, placing it on a nearby cabinet.
“Good morning,” she answered, glad – and relieved – it was him, although surprised to see him arriving this early…and bearing gifts on top of it. “What’s that?” and she pointed at the brown bag he held in his arms.
A slight smile pulled at his lips. “Breakfast. You didn’t buy any food when you went out last night.”
So he knows. Of course he does – he’s a cop. He probably had one of those ‘tails’ on me the second I left to meet Kim and she followed as he used the little side door to enter the kitchen.
White was busy removing the items in the bag so as to put them on the counter beside the sink, and Savannah realized she could not stop smiling at how domestic he was being. She doubted he was this way at home – he hardly seemed the type. Despite his near teasing tone about her not purchasing anything, the idea that he had even taken the time to stop by the grocer’s was touching somehow.
“I’ll fix some bacon and eggs. How do you like yours?”
Savannah blinked, snapping out of her stare. “I’m sorry – what was that?”
“Your bacon and eggs. How do you like yours?”
“Oh…um…” She shrugged. “Not too crispy on the bacon and scrambled with the eggs, I guess. Nothing too complicated….You’re…You’re going to make us breakfast?”
“Uh Huh,” he told her, opening a cabinet door so as to find a bowl. “I’m going to make us breakfast. Nothing fancy – just something to fill your stomach. Can you make coffee?”
Savannah almost laughed. “Suppose you set the table while I get breakfast, Lieutenant White.” She slid around him, unintentionally taking a whiff of his after shave (Lime, spices…nice)as she did, once again allowing her vision to admire the muscular build under that basic, department store suit. And yet, although it was not tailored such as the ones worn by Sidney or Kim, he carried himself with as much pride and gentlemanliness as either of them. “And do you always sound like this in the morning?” she inquired as she stood to his left.
“I do when I haven’t had my coffee,” he joked, and then, looking quite surprised, he added, “Wait a minute. You’re going to get breakfast?” Skeptical, he watched as she reached for a rounded glass coffeepot and after turning on the faucet, filled it with water. “Don’t tell me you can cook?!”
Savannah’s smile was soft and revealed that she did not take offense at a comment typical of many males and indeed, some females too. “My mother…” she explained, keeping her eyes on the water level, “always listened sympathetically to my dreams of a career…then taught me another recipe.” She laughed as she said it, placing the pot on a front burner. “You’d be surprised at what I could whip up for you, Lieutenant….So…how do you like your eggs? Fried? Scrambled? Sunny side up? Poached? I can do poached too.”
Bud raised both hands, defeated. “You got me…and uh…however you fix yours is just fine with me.”
“Gotcha….Did you get a loaf of bread too? We can make toast. If I’d known you were coming, I could have made biscuits.” She noticed his raised eyebrows. “That’s right, Lieutenant. All good girls from Kentucky should know how to make biscuits if they’re worth their salt.”
“You impress me more and more, Miss Hunt.” He only cooked meals on his days off, and most of his time was spent at the corner diner, eating whatever the short order cook prepared. Now and then, if he had a date – and those occasions were becoming more and more uncommon with his workload – he might splurge on a meal at some place he considered fancy, but having a woman cook for him….This…This was a very pleasant surprise. Even his mother would be pleased with this unique ‘career woman.’ “Eggs…bacon…biscuits.”
“I do fried chicken and peach pies too, and a bourbon pecan pie that you’d crawl over glass to get to,” she laughed, but then paused, a skillet from the storage drawer under the range now in her hands.
“No…it’s just…I…I know we still don’t know each other all that well yet, but we’re about to have breakfast with each other, and…” She now turned to face him. “I don’t know. It just seems odd to continue with these formalities of Lieutenant White and Miss Hunt…considering the circumstances, and yes, I realize that I am one of your suspects. But as it’s only the two of…”
“You want me to call you…?”
“You are perfectly free to call me Savannah. After all, I found you sleeping in my apartment…” She returned to his side, reaching for the bowl and beginning to break open some eggs, scolding herself for purposefully reaching across him in order to get the carton. My mother would wag a finger at me for doing that. Tell me I was flirtatious. Not being a proper Southern lady…but Momma…I’m just sorry you can’t see him. I think you might slip a bit yourself if you did, and don’t tell me you didn’t feel the same about Dad. “Oh and drinking from my liquor cabinet…”
“And reading your mail and diaries.” There was her smile again, the kind that could melt even the sturdiest heart.
“That too,” she chuckled.
“Okay….Savannah it is.”
“And calling you Wendell is a lot easier than Lieutenant…”
Savannah stopped beating the eggs and caught herself gazing into his features. “Excuse me?”
He smiled. “I go by Bud.”
“All right…Bud….” Bud White. That suited him. “Now…the dishes are up there, glasses too; forks, knives and spoons are in that drawer to your right.” She returned to the stove. “I’ll get these eggs started and…”
They both stopped. Someone was fumbling at the door, the back door that led to and from the main hallway and provided an additional route into the kitchen. Had it been one of Bud’s men, they would have come to the front door, and he figured that all of the keys in Kim Carpenter Barrett’s possession had been accounted for. So who…?
Moving so that he was only a few feet from the entry, White raised a hand to Savannah, indicating she should remain silent. She nodded her understanding, swallowing hard as she waited. Finally, after a moment, the door flung open…
And a woman’s scream shattered the quiet.
It was Bessie Clary!
Bud rushed forward, catching her as she nearly appeared to faint, and Savannah hurried to her housekeeper’s side, easing a hand to one shoulder as the older woman wept, her face buried in her hands. Since their initial meeting, White felt as though he and Bessie had formed a respect for each other as they both cared – in their own way – for the erstwhile dead woman. Now he held her, one arm supporting her and he softly told her, “It’s all right, Bessie. It’s all right, Bessie. You’re not seeing things. She’s alive.”
Savannah placed a cheek aside the top of Bessie’s hat. “It’s all been a mistake, Bessie.” Her voice was close to tears too. “I’m not a ghost…really.”
But Bessie still did not remove her hands from her eyes. “I…I found you…and…you were dead.”
“No…No Bessie, no. It was Miss Redfern’s body you found.”
“Miss…” Only now did she look, first at Bud’s kindly face, then at that of her mistress.
“How about taking over here – fixing Bud…fixing Lieutenant White and me some coffee and eggs. He even brought bacon, too. Fix enough for yourself, then you can join us and we can talk.”
Bessie shook her head. “But…I…I saw it…I saw it with my own eyes. You were there…in there…on the floor and I…I…I don’t understand it.”
Savannah smiled. “Have you ever heard a ghost ask for eggs?”
The maid thought for a moment. Nearly laughing she sniffed. “No miss, no.”
“It’ll be all right, Bessie, I promise. The lieutenant and I will explain, okay?”
With that, Savannah kissed her forehead and rushed from the kitchen. Only now did Bud remove his arm from about the housekeeper’s waist, and clearing his throat, nodded and left too.
Removing her hat, then one hand clasping the tiny crucifix she always wore, Bessie glanced around – at the coffee pot on the burner, the skillet, the bowl of eggs, the groceries, then took a sniff of the air. Ghosts didn’t ask for eggs. She doubted they wore Chanel No. 5 either!
“Somebody should have warned her,” Savannah softly said, shaking her head as she walked in front of Bud and they reentered the living room. “Poor Bessie.”
White felt badly too, but after all, this was a murder investigation. He could not go around announcing to the world – yet – that the original victim was still alive. It was bad enough that Miss Hunt had disobeyed his request to not call anyone…which made him think, he still needed to reproach her about that! “By the way…” he started, “I’ve asked Sidney Lydecker to come here this morning.”
“Did you tell him?”
Bud was blunt. “No.”
Savannah’s eyes grew sympathetic. “But why not? It’s brutal.”
“Look…it’s not like I’m doing it for fun,” he explained as Savannah sat on the sofa. “I don’t do any of this for fun….And I guess I should ask you this now…before he arrives….Why did you break your promise and go out and see Kim last night?”
“You forced me to give you my word.” She looked directly at him, her features defiant. “I never have been and I never will be bound by anything I don’t do of my own free will….I know you think because I’m a Southern lady I ought to be all demure and Gone with the Wind like…but remember…this is 1941, the Civil War was a while back, and some of us may not be what you think….My family fought for the Union. So I’m not as typically ‘Southern’ as you are a…Yankee, Lieutenant.”
Bud tried not to wince at her use of his rank – being called a Yankee did not bother him at all – but they had returned to being all business, not a couple about to share breakfast and possibly learn more about one another. Funny…he had liked the way she said ‘Bud,’ although more and more he found himself admiring the real Savannah Hunt as opposed to the one of his dreams. “Point taken,” he confessed, then poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the coffee table. “Redfern was in love with Barrett. You admitted that last night.”
“May I have a glass, please?”
That had been rude of him, not to offer her first, but then, how many times in his life did he need to recall his manners. “Oh I’m sorry,” he apologized, and then he poured her one, not at all feeling that he was being less manly. Why would he? Any red blooded American man…Hell, any red blooded man – period – would give their left arm to be polite to her, and now…now he fully understood what Lydecker had meant when he told his version of Savannah’s story.
“Thank you….You’ll also remember that I told you that he wasn’t in love with her.”
The doorbell rang.
Instinctively Savannah began to stand, but Bud threw out a hand. “Just sit still,” he said, hoping it did not sound like an order. “It’s probably Lydecker.”
But when White opened the front door, he found instead a completely beaming Kim Carpenter Barrett, dressed to the nines and looking positively triumphant. “Hello Lieutenant,” Kim grinned, barely giving him notice, and even stuffing his hat into Bud’s grasp as if the cop was little more than a footman. “Morning, my darling,” he greeted Savannah before arriving at her side.
Dear? What the fuck…? Bud threw the hat aside – he didn’t care where it landed.
“And I’ve come bearing you a gift.” Kim’s voice was noxiously sweet as he kissed her cheek. “But this is one Greek you should not mistrust, eh?” Only now did he produce the white blossoms he carried, presenting them with the greatest flourish as she took them.
“Magnolias!” She gave them a sniff. “Kim…where did you find…?”
“Well, I went straight to your usual florist and the second I saw them I thought…Savannah would love those.”
You probably had them put on her tab too. Savannah…I hope you’re not falling for his shit.
“Well, they’re beautiful, dear. Thank you.”
Just like a woman! “Oh…it’s on again.”
Kim’s nose went into the air, as if he was only now noticing the odor of something he had accidentally stepped into. “Do I have to get a permit from the police department to kiss my fiancée good morning?”
Bud now stood behind the sofa, but managed to situate his body so that it was between Kim and Savannah, as if hoping to prevent them from actually being a real couple. “So he made you change your mind, huh?”
Savannah glanced at White, and momentarily, he was certain she wanted to tell him something, but instead, he could only read the hurt in her eyes.
“Oh…speaking of changing one’s mind, White…” Kim began quite cockily, “I have just come from my lawyer.”
Savannah now turned to glare at him, seemingly surprised.
Bud snorted. Quite a difference from the sniveling little bastard he had cowed down the night before! At the time, Barrett was about ready to wet himself he was so nervous. “Yeah? Did he tell you how much you’ll get off for good behavior?”
“No…” Barrett almost seemed ready to laugh. “…but he told me that anything I may have said last night…was said under duress and can’t be used against me. You did nearly beat it out of me, didn’t you, White?” He looked down at Savannah. “He did. I was almost afraid for my life…figured he’d put his revolver in my mouth and start pulling the trigger to get me to talk….. You know how these cops can be, darling….Besides…whatever I told you…” Now he did chuckle as he smiled smugly at the detective. “None of it was true.”
But now it was Bud’s turn to smile. “Smart lawyer you’ve got. Maybe he told you how that scotch got up here Friday night…after you’d bought it at Mosconi’s. Maybe it was the lawyer who brought Diane Redfern up here.” He again noticed Savannah’s expression, concentrating on her and not hearing Kim’s giggle. If you’re going to tell me something honey, tell me now ‘cause I’m starting to think you two are in cahoots together, and I don’t like that. Not with Diane Redfern laying up in the morgue and this bastard acting like he doesn’t give a damn. Not when he obviously brought that girl up here to fuck her, and in your bed at that! He doesn’t even respect you enough….“Maybe…”
“Lieutenant…” Savannah started to say…
And there was that damn doorbell again, causing all conversation to cease as the three looked at the front entrance. Once more, Bud held up a hand to indicate they should remain where they were. Once more he went to answer the door, and on opening it, he moved so as to slightly block the living room from Sidney Lydecker’s view.
As always, Sid was immaculate and handsome – more than any human male should be that time of the day – and twirling his walking stick, he stepped across the threshold, looking at the clock he had given Savannah and then back to Bud. “Well White…have you thought over the deal I suggested?” But now he was a little past the cop, about to say something more, when he glimpsed the sofa…and stopped where he stood. The portrait….No…this was not the portrait. The portrait was not upon the sofa or beside the sofa and this….She was smiling at him, lovingly smiling at him, obviously happy to hear his voice….
“Sidney,” Savannah softly said, but the next “Sidney!” was screamed as she rushed to Lydecker’s right side. The famous man was on his knees, his eyes shut, his chest rising and falling so rapidly she was certain he was having a heart attack! She eased her arm within his right one, happy – and not too surprised to see Bud already holding up the columnist’s left arm, trying to prevent him collapsing completely to the floor. Even with her concern for her mentor, she could not help noticing that Kim had not once moved from his spot at the sofa.
“Right…hand…pocket,” Sid breathlessly managed. His entire body was trembling.
“You want a doctor?” Bud asked.
“Right hand…pocket,” the shaky voice repeated.
“We’d better take him into the bedroom. He’ll be more comfortable there,” and although most of Sid’s weight was on White, Savannah tried to help as best she could in guiding them towards the guest bedroom. “It’s all right, Sid. It’s all right…” she kept whispering.
Minutes later, Sidney Lydecker’s tall form was stretched out on top of the copper colored duvet, his breathing appearing to have normalized. His eyes opened, and after noticing Bud White standing over him, he suddenly felt a woman’s softness sitting beside him, felt the tender caress as the manicured fingers smoothed back his hair. He moved his head slightly, enough that he could see the familiar image….Savannah….Beautiful and very much alive Savannah!
“What…?” he tried to ask, attempting to sit up, but he was immediately eased back down to the pillows.
“Don’t try and say anything, dear. Just…Just be quiet. Everything’s all right.”
“You sure you don’t want us to call you a doctor, Lydecker?” White asked. As much as he disliked the man, the last thing he wanted was to see him crumple over and die on what should be one of the happiest days of his life. After all, his protégé was not dead!
Sid shook his head. “No…No…Pills…Pills helped….No doctor….Rest…”
“That’s right, Sid. Please rest,” and she gently kissed his forehead. “It’s all right. I’m fine.”
“You’re…fine.” It was not a question but a comment.
“I’m fine. We’ll explain in a bit, okay? You just rest.”
Savannah would have liked nothing better than to return to the living room and have a drink of brandy or sherry, and then offer one to Bud White so that they might talk more. She had honestly forgotten her fiancé was waiting for them. From the expression on his face, he was livid.
Livid…but he wasn’t the one who came to Sid’s aide….He acted as though he was afraid of getting his suit mussed….
“I think that this is carrying things too far!” Kim fumed, attempting to block Bud from following the obviously distraught Savannah. “Your methods are vicious, White! There ought to be a law against it.”
But Bud simply stepped around him. “Yeah?” he asked, not really giving a damn what Barrett thought.
Now it was Kim’s opportunity to attempt sympathy. “How does he feel now, Savannah?”
“It was a terrible shock. Poor darling.”
White shook his head, his “Don’t tell me you’re in love with him too?” not so much a question as a comment on her being so soft with the men in her life. She, of course, had no way of knowing how her teacher was ready to start collecting items from her apartment before her ‘body’ had barely gone cold.
Kim, however, was looking aghast at the inquiry. “Look here, fella,” he boomed, “you’re not to talk that way to Miss Hunt.”
Bud barely paid him attention as he said “Shut up” so quickly to Barrett that the latter was taken aback. The cop was concentrating on Savannah, on what seemed to be confusion or her brain working quickly to sort everything out. “Why do you cover up for a guy like him?” and White used his head to indicate that he meant Kim.
“Don’t answer him, Savannah.”
“What story did he tell you last night?”
“Don’t answer him,” Kim repeated, grinning. “Let him talk to our lawyer.”
Savannah’s eyes widened as she looked over in Kim’s directions, about to speak when Bud interrupted.
“’Our ’lawyer? So now you’re covering up for each other.”
Kim laughed. “Look at him, Savannah. He’s beginning to crack up. He’d use anything to make an arrest…just so he can be a big shot in the headlines. Guess it’s been so long since the Siege of Babylon – oh yes, White, I’ve heard about that and how it made your name – that’s he’s forgotten what it’s like to be in the limelight!”
Bud moved closer to Kim, causing the Southerner to quickly move backwards, nearly falling over a small table as he did. “I’ve got enough on you to arrest you right now.”
“Quick, White, the handcuffs.”
The arguing stopped and Savannah moved forward on realizing that Sidney Lydecker had returned, his back straight, his demeanor that of a perfect – and unfazed – gentleman. Glancing at Barrett he declared, “Trundle him off to the hoosegow…or do you still call it that?”
Bud, however, was getting tired of the back and forth, but before he could speak, Kim had already said, “You keep out of this.”
“Oh but Kim…you’ll look very nice in bracelets I think.”
Barrett simply looked bored. “Oh why don’t you get down on all fours again, Sidney. It’s the only time you’ve ever kept your mouth shut.”
Savannah gave Kim her sharpest look, which quieted him, then she turned with obvious concern to Lydecker. “Sid…I…” she started, but he gently patted one of her hands before kissing the back of it.
“I hope you’ll forgive my wee touch of dizziness, my dear.” He smiled softly at her, this time placing a palm against her cheek. “It’s an old family custom.” Clearing his throat, he looked at Bud. “Well, White, what does Savannah’s resurrection do to you?”
“Too bad Diane Redfern can’t be resurrected.”
Sid looked bewildered. “I’m afraid I’ve interrupted what you call ‘a pinch.’ At any rate, you have the guilty party right…” and he nodded towards Barrett, “there. Do your duty, White. As a taxpayer, I demand it.”
Bud smiled, even as his eyes focused on Barrett…and the fact that he was looking as guilty as ever, something that Sid seemed to be eating up with the proverbial spoon. “You know, Lydecker…you’ve made me change my mind…for the moment.”
Sid raised an eyebrow. “Really? Well, they do say the wheels of justice grind slowly…or something along those lines. So…if we are simply awaiting the suspense of you arresting Kim at a more opportune time…”
“Sid…” Kim began to growl, but Lydecker paid him no mind.
“…we’ll have time for a little get together….You’d better order some liquor and some food, Savannah.”
“What…? Food? Liquor?” Savannah seemed more annoyed and puzzled than pleased. “Why…Why would I…?”
“People are coming to celebrate your return,” Sid triumphantly announced.
“Who asked them to come?”
Bud noted Miss Hunt did not exactly seem pleased with Lydecker obviously manipulating her life…yet again, especially since – in a manner of speaking – she was awakening to a brand new life, but said nothing, waiting to see what happened next.
“I phoned my man and he’s calling everyone,” Sid declared, surprised at Savannah’s reaction.
“But why would you do that, Sidney? I didn’t ask…”
“A sense of fitness of things, my dear….Perhaps our friend can weave all the loose ends into a noose. Eh, White?”
One corner of Bud’s mouth turned up into a smile as he pushed his way between Kim and Sid. “Sorry you went to all that trouble. I’ve already called them.”
And briefly, he was certain he saw Savannah give him a ladylike expression that most certainly said There! That told him! Thank you!