Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4) (10 page)

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

O
kay, I didn’t actually die, but I thought I had. If I’d really died and gone to heaven then Dee Dee went with me, because when I came to, her face was the first thing I saw. I pushed myself up to a sitting position. “What? What happened?” Full of cotton, my brain couldn’t grasp the situation.

“Uh, Nana decided to get the spirit and take up a snake.” Dee Dee warily eyed me and put her arm around my shoulder for support.

Memories flooded my mind. “Nana?” I looked around in hopes of seeing her alive.

She appeared beside me, and grabbed my hand in hers. “Here I am sweetie. You just passed out. Maybe the stress of being a murder suspect finally took its toll.” There was a gasp from the crowd. They backed away as a unit.
Thanks Nana.

I sat there a few minutes to get my bearings. I was thankful Nana was all right, but the feelings I harbored toward her didn’t belong in church. As soon as I was able to stand I grabbed Dee Dee for support, and made my way out the door. Nana was still waving to her new friends as we walked to the parking lot. I couldn’t get to the car fast enough. I slammed the door and engaged the lock. Nana hopped in the seat, apparently unaware of my anger at her.

“Can you believe that, Trixie? Did you see me hold that rattler? I knew the spirit picked me to tame one of those snakes – I felt it in the pit of my stomach.”

“Probably gas,” I mumbled. I’d wanted to experience a peaceful time of worship, but instead I’d been thrust into one of the most uncomfortable situations I could have imagined.

“Did you say something Trix?”

“Uh, I said we are going to be late for our appointment if we don’t hurry.”

Dee Dee glanced over at me. “You okay?”

“I’m just glad we got out of there with our lives.”

“Now there you go again,” Nana fussed from the back seat. “Maybe snake handling isn’t how you want to spend your Sunday morning, but I see it as a sign from God that we can do all things.”

“Maybe you’re right, Nana,” I said, “but I would have preferred a couple of traditional hymns and a relaxing sermon.” I was beginning to see that perhaps Nana had a point.

“You sure looked confident up there,” Dee Dee said to Nana. “If I didn’t know better I would have thought you had experience with those things.”

“I’m used to tossing aside garden snakes all the time, they’re not so bad,” Nana said. “Beau says they’re good for the circle of life, dontcha know.”

At the mention of his name, I felt a genuine peace, and thought of how God had answered my prayers for a godly man who loved me. Even if Nana’s ways of worship didn’t match with my own, her faith had reminded me I could look to Him in times of need, and I took in a couple of lungs of air, and decided to focus on finding the last bits of evidence that would clear my name.

But it was going to be a game of hide and seek, because all afternoon, the GPS took us in circles and no matter what route we took we came to a dirt road with crevices large enough for my car to disappear into. “Oh-my-goodness, what are we going to do?” I looked at the perilous road that stretched before us and cringed.

“Aw, come on, Trixie. Don’t be a wimp. You can do it. Just go around the holes.” Easy for Nana to say; it wasn’t her car and she wasn’t driving. But if I wanted to get there I didn’t have a choice. Not according to the GPS anyway.

I inched forward precariously. At this rate it would take us an hour to reach our destination. I sped up a little and dodged to the right and then to the left. My stomach churned like a washing machine off balance. My nerves were stretched like rubber bands, and by the time we arrived at the end of the road Dee Dee had to pry my hands from the steering wheel.

We turned to pass between old tires, painted white. Half buried, they lined the driveway on either side. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Reminding me of a showy bridesmaids dress, there stood a two-story, colonial, brick home boasting large columns across the front, and huge turrets at either end. I glanced over to see Dee Dee’s mouth hanging wide open.

Nana sat on the edge of her seat literally bouncing with excitement. “Oh, look at those beautiful statues.”

In the center of the front yard, sculptures of David and Venus, painted skin-toned and topped off with yellow hair, screamed tacky. A gazebo stood between them, decked out with hanging baskets filled with colorful plastic flowers.

Dee Dee leaned forward. “Geeze, what happened here?”

“It looks like someone had more money than they knew what to do with.” Surely this wasn’t the work of a professional landscape artist.

Dee Dee voiced my thoughts. “They should have used some of it to hire a landscape company.”

“Come on, y’all. I think it’s great.”

Nana would. “Okay, here’s the plan. I’m going to interview Bubba and then I’ll make a smooth transition to Bodene. That is, I hope it’s smooth.” After driving all this way I hoped Bodene would be home. I wondered how he’d react to my questioning him about Annie’s murder. I had my doubts when he’d declared, “I didn’t kill nobody.”

“Look at that.” Two giant Rottweilers dashed around the front of the house in full bark. Nana locked her door. “Who’s getting out first?”

Dee Dee nudged me. “You’re the one asking the questions, don’t you think you should go to the door?”

“No, I don’t.” About the time I was ready to back up and get out of there, out stepped Bodene’s twin, big, burly, and tattooed. I didn’t know who was scarier, Bubba or the dogs.

The closer Bubba got to the car, the more I contemplated slamming the gear in reverse. But then he flashed a big smile, showing off bright white teeth, putting me a little at ease. He knocked on the window and I rolled it down a smidgeon. I wasn’t ready to get out just yet.

“Hey, y’all. I’m Bubba Tate,” he turned to the dogs. “Shut up!” and back to us, a raggedy toothed smile back on his face. “You must be Trixie Beaumont?”

I nodded. The dogs circled, one lifted its hind leg on a wheel.

“Well, get out and come on in.” He tried to open the door but I held it closed.

“Uh, could you put your dogs up first?”

“Ah, don’t worry about Sugar and Cinnamon. They wouldn’t hurt a kitten.” He yelled again, and they retreated to the back yard. Sugar and Cinnamon, talk about an oxymoron.

He opened the car door for me, and then jogged around to do the same for Nana and Dee Dee. I’d never have guessed this bear of a man would possess such manners.

“Why, thank you sir.” Nana’s twang made her sound like she’d just stepped out of the old South. “You are such a gentleman.”

“I try to be. Y’all come on in and set a spell. My wife Elvira made some lemonade and cookies.” Thankfully Sugar and Cinnamon stayed in the back yard as we climbed the steps.

Bubba’s mansion was filled with furniture right out of the seventies; wall-to wall green shag carpet covered the living and dining room. With the bright orange leather couch next to a grass green recliner, flowered wallpaper copied off some hippie’s alternative lifestyle poster, and I knew if you looked up “early redneck” in the decorator’s dictionary, this is what you’d find.

Contrasted with the explosion of poor taste, Bubba’s wife Elvira was pretty, petite and welcoming. I couldn’t have been more surprised when she opened her mouth and spoke. “Hi, welcome to our home. We’re glad to have you visit.” Her accent reminded me of my Ohio cousins.

She laughed with abandon, tossing back lovely, shoulder-length blonde hair. Her green eyes sparkled with merriment. “You’re wondering where I got my accent. Especially with a name like Elvira.”

Nana spoke her mind. “Well, dear, you have to admit you don’t sound like you’re from the south. Where are your roots?”

“My roots are right here, I was born in Macon. My dad’s job moved us north when I was little, but I moved back to attend the University of Georgia. I always missed the south and couldn’t wait to get home. I’m so glad I did or I wouldn’t have met Bubba.” She looked toward Bubba and gave him a sweet smile. I thought for a minute they were going to run slow-motion into each other’s arms.

“That’s right. I’m thankful to God my little Elvira came home where she belongs. Now, Trixie, what would you like to know about me?”

“I’m dying to know more about your invention.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

A
few minutes later, we sat around a coffee table laden with lemonade and cookies. I took a swig of the sweet concoction and savored the cool liquid running down my throat, anxious to get on with the questioning, but knew as the guest certain rules applied. “This is delicious Elvira.”

“Thank you; it’s my grandmother’s recipe.”

“If you don’t mind, Nana needs her rest, and we don’t want to take up your entire Sunday.” I indicated the recorder, and Bubba nodded, so I turned it on. Dee Dee prepared to take notes. “Whenever you’re ready.”

He clutched the recorder and held it close to his mouth. “Well, let me tell you how I made my first millions. I always dreamed of inventin’ something. I tried my hand at several different things, but I just couldn’t sell them. Then one day I approached the Home Shopping Network with my newest idea and they ran with it. You’d be amazed how many orders we got for my solar powered headlight wipers.

“We had a real rainy spring, and my sales went through the roof. Next thing I knew I had a best-selling book, Elvira helped me with it—and I became a regular host on the show. We’re so blessed to have all these wonderful things.” Bubba swept his arm wide. “Yes sireee, we are surely blessed. Ain’t we Elvira?”

“We sure are, Bubba.”

I could hardly remember the questions I intended to ask Bubba I was so surprised. It goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover. For the next half hour, Bubba expounded on his fame, and even offered to send me and Beau prototype samples of his newest invention, a solar powered barbecue rotisserie.

Nana had sat quietly but finally piped up. “Trixie, isn’t it about time we told them the real reason we’re here?”

What! Oh, Lord, please put a filter on Nana’s mouth.
She was going to get us killed. We knew nothing about this family. Their friendliness could be a ruse and Bodene could really be a killer.

Bubba’s smile faltered. “Well, pretty lady what
is
the real reason you’re here?”

“Trixie wants to question Bodene about that murder,” Nana blurted.

Bubba turned to me. “Is that true, Trixie?”

“Uh, yes, I would like to talk with him, but I wanted to interview you for
Georgia by the Way
first. I promise I’ll notify you as soon as the article’s published.”

“Did I hear someone talkin’ bout me?”

I turned to see Bodene filling the doorway. I attempted to swallow the cantaloupe stuck in my throat.

“Hey, I know you. You’re that lady from the writin’ class. What do ya’ want with me?”

“Uh, I just wanted to ask you a few questions Bodene. As you know, our teacher, Annie, was murdered…”

“Yeah, I know that. So what? You sayin’ I killed her?” His stare bore into my soul.

I averted my eyes. Avoid confronting a bear in the woods…or a killer in the sunroom? “No, of course not. It’s just that I’m a person of interest because I was the last one to be alone with her.” I didn’t want to disclose too much information in case he
was
involved.

I was grateful when Dee Dee decided to jump in and help, because I felt like I’d just taken off on the Dahlonega Mine Train at Six Flags Over Georgia without a seatbelt.

“We thought you might have some information that could help Trixie,” Dee Dee said.

Bodene sat his huge frame in a straight backed chair directly across from me. “Are you askin’ me just because I was accused of killin’ my ex?” He leaned forward, hands on knees, daring me to accuse him of killing someone.

“Uh, no. I don’t know anything about your ex-wife.” Surely the detective knew about this, but if not I couldn’t wait to share my information with her. I knew she’d be upset I’d been to see Bodene, but what was this he was doing? Confessing or threatening? Or both?

Bubba jumped in, defending his cousin. “That’s right Trixie, Bodene wouldn’t hurt a fly. When Bodene’s ex-wife was killed, the police arrested him. He waited in the slammer for a year before his case came to trial. He was found not guilty.”

“Because he didn’t do it, or because there wasn’t enough evidence against him?” Nana gestured with a half eaten lemon cookie. They stared at her. “What?”

“I didn’t kill nobody. They arrested me because I was handy. They didn’t even try to find the real killer. Whoever kilt my sweet Lydia is still out there!”

Elvira poured him a glass of lemonade and patted his broad back. “I’ve encouraged him to write his jailhouse story, poor man. It might help clear his name with the people who still believe he’s guilty.”

Dee Dee furiously scribbled, and Nana jumped up, holding her cast aloft. “That sounds just like Trixie’s story. She didn’t kill Annie but she’s being framed for her murder. Y’all have a lot in common. Maybe you could help her Bodene.”

Bodene didn’t seem convinced. “I wish I could help, but I don’t think I recall anything from that night that’ll help ya’. I went up to my room and worked on my writin’ until I fell asleep.” He ran sausage fingers through his wooly hair. “I’m sorry.”

We were being dismissed, so I turned off the recorder, and thanked Bubba and Elvira for their hospitality. “If you recall anything at all, I’d appreciate hearing from you.” We said our goodbyes and headed back to town. The spitting cherubs of Italian marble in my rearview mirror were a welcome sight, I’d had enough of backwoods Bubba and Bodene for a while. I was never so glad to be on Highway 27 heading back to Chattanooga.

“What do you think, Trixie?” Dee Dee worked in her tablet. “Looks to me like he’s as good a suspect as anyone. How do we know he didn’t kill his ex-wife? And that Elvira seems to be an odd one to be involved. What’s she doing mixed up in all this?”

“I’m more confused than ever. I think I need to check in with Detective Sams. I know she’s going to be upset, but I want to tell her I have a bad feeling about all this.”

“If anyone wants my opinion I think they’re a nice bunch of folk. I love their house and yard. I’ll have to tell Betty Jo so she can decorate her flower garden with statues.” Why wasn’t I surprised Nana was infatuated with the Tate’s?

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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