Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4) (6 page)

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
6.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


e scoped out a corner in the expansive lobby where we’d be out of the way and out of earshot. Off-white wingback chairs stitched with delicate red flowers sat on a red and beige area rug. The sun shone through an abundance of windows, filling the atrium with shards of sunlight. A couple holding hands were at the counter, making goo-goo eyes at each other. I assumed they had reservations for the honeymoon suite. My cheeks heated at the memory of mine and Beau’s honeymoon.

I waited for Dee Dee to visit the ladies room. I picked up a brochure boasting the history of the hotel.

The Terminal Station was erected in 1908, with its centerpiece – a magnificent dome – that rose majestically over the concourse. Built of steel and concrete and buttressed by huge brick arches, the dome rested on four steel supports 75 feet apart. Suspended from the ceiling were four brass chandeliers, each with 40 lights circling an 18-inch opal globe. From an architectural standpoint, this dome over the entire 68 × 82 foot general waiting rooms was the most attractive design feature of its time.

It was on the underside of this dome, the part in view above the waiting room, that the only attempt to decorate in colors was made – artistic plaster embellishments of heraldic emblems, which are now fully restored. The dome was truly lavish and beautiful in its different prismatic colors, especially when lighted at night.

I looked up and studied the splendor of the paintings.

“What ‘cha doing?” Dee Dee came back and followed my gaze.

“I’ve been reading about the history of the hotel. Isn’t the dome beautiful? I read where John Staten of Boston opened Stanton House in 1870. It was ahead of its time with the placement of a recently invented telephone in the lobby. And it had electric lights.”

Dee Dee laughed and sat down in a chair next to mine. “You sound like a history lesson.”

“Since I’ve been working for the magazine it’s in my blood. Anyway, let me finish. By the end of the century it wasn’t doing so well, so Stanton sold it to the Southern Railroad in 1905 and they leveled the old hotel in 1906 to make way for the railroad station.”

She craned her neck to take in the entire ceiling. “It really is beautiful. Now,” Dee Dee pulled out a tablet from her gigantean bag, “let’s get down to working on this list. We don’t have a minute to waste.”

“You’ve got that right. And I’m supposed to be working on the Ghoston murder for Harv. I don’t know how I’m going to finish it before the deadline he gave me.” I separated the branches of the fern and looked out into the lobby. I had a great view. “I feel sorry for Tilly. She was beside herself over Nana’s fall.”

Dee Dee guffawed.

“What’s so funny?”

“I’m sorry Trixie,” Dee Dee snorted. “I had this picture in my mind of Tilly standing beside herself.”

I smiled. “Well, put that way I could see how you’d think it was funny. Unfortunately, I’m not in a funny mood right now.”

“I understand. I was just trying to lighten the mood. We have to laugh some, Trix, or we’ll end up crying and that won’t do anybody good.” She reached in her bag and quickly retrieved a pen. I was in awe. “Tell me who all the other participants in the workshop were and a little bit about them. We’ll have to find out where they’re staying. Got any ideas how to get that information?”

“Detective Sams?”

“See, you made a funny. Good for you.” She wrote something on the paper and underlined it with a flourish. “Now, tell me a name.”

I lifted my head and stared into space trying to remember my classmates. Bodene’s name popped in my head first. “Okay, Bodene Tate.”

Dee Dee looked at me with raised eyebrows. “Sounds like a good Southern name.”

“Yeah, I hope he doesn’t represent all Southerners because he’d give us a bad name. He’s this big, burly guy and he’s all tatted up.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Dee Dee said.

“No, but it’s what he said that got everyone’s attention. He told the class that he’d been in prison and he wanted to write his memoir of prison life. According to him, “he didn’t kill nobody,” and he wants to write a book to clear his name. He said he didn’t have any writing experience, but he thought it would be pretty easy.”

“Wow, he sounds like a character. Were all your classmates of this caliber?” A giggle escaped Dee Dee’s lips.

“No, it was a very eclectic group. There was Lori Wilson, not only is she cover-model beautiful, she’s smart, too. She’s the editor of an ad driven magazine,
The Tennessean
. She has aspirations of being an editor for a women’s magazine, and with her ambition and gorgeous presence, I believe she just might.”

“Doesn’t sound like much of a killer.” Dee Dee shook a cramp from her hand.

“You and I’ve both learned you can’t go by what someone looks like to finger them as a killer.”

“Yeah, we learned the hard way didn’t we?”

“There’s something about her though that raised my hackles. Annie asked if they had ever met and Lori told her “no.” But the look Lori gave Annie could have melted butter. I think there must be some bad blood between them. Why else would she look at her like that?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going to put a star by her name.”

“I think she mentioned living in Chattanooga. She might be a good suspect to start with.” I separated the leaves of the fern for another check and staring back at me was a pair of dark, beady eyes. I yelped, jumping from my chair.


ee Dee followed suit, and sent pad and pen flying. “What in the tarnation’s going on, Trix. Why’d you do that?”

“Somebody was spying on us.” I grabbed the arm of a uniformed staff member for an explanation. The older woman’s head seemed crooked, and then I realized it was because her hair was leaning sideways. I hoped it was a wig. She reached up to straighten it, now it leaned the other way. “Why were you watching us? You could get in trouble for that.”

A Cheshire Cat grin spread across her face. “Yeah, well everyone around here is a little jumpy and I heard you mention poisoning someone.” She tugged at my hand. “Let me go. I should tell my supervisor about this. Come to think of it, I might just bypass my supervisor and go straight to the police.”

“Go ahead, we don’t have anything to hide.” I let go of her sleeve and gulped, that wasn’t exactly true. I suspected it wouldn’t bode well for me with Detective Sams if she discovered what we’d been discussing. Too late to worry about that now. “Wait!”

She scurried off like a squirrel chased by a dog. Dee Dee stood totem pole still with her mouth agape.

“My goodness,” I turned toward Dee Dee, “what do you think she really heard?” I sat back down before my legs gave out.

Dee Dee found her voice. “I don’t know, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Let’s get back to our list.” With her bottom turned heavenward she retrieved her pen and tablet. She sat, scooted around for comfort, and placed the tablet on her lap with aplomb. “Shoot.”

I stuck my finger and thumb out and pulled an imaginary trigger. “Bang.”

“Funny, Trix. Very funny.” She tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably. Her laughter echoed in the large, open lobby. “Thanks for the comic relief. We needed that. Just hope nobody was spying on us.”

“That’s for sure. All right, who do we have on the list so far?” My shoulders relaxed a bit and my breathing settled to almost normal. I had a feeling it would be short-lived.

“We have Bodene Tate and Lori Wilson,” Dee Dee said.

“There’s Tippi ‘with-an-i’ Colston.” I gave Dee Dee the queen’s wave. Tippi’s a gorgeous redhead. The problem is she knows it and she holds her nose just a little higher than most. I tried being friendly with her, but she didn’t warm up any.” I recalled something about her I’d forgotten until now. “Hey, I just remembered she was outside Annie’s door when I was in the hallway. I need to tell Detective Sams about this.”

“Yeah, that might take the investigation in another direction – away from you. Why don’t you call her now?” Dee Dee reached in her bag and pulled out her phone. It always amazed me how fast she could find something in her mammoth bags. “Here, you can use mine.”

I rummaged around in my purse for the detective’s business card. I finally located it on the bottom. I handed it to Dee Dee. “Can you read the number; I don’t have my reading glasses on?”

Dee Dee reached for the glasses she’d pushed up on her head and pulled them down into place. “Here ya go – 555-4582.”

I punched in the numbers and put it on speaker phone so Dee Dee could hear. After two rings a woman answered. After I asked for Detective Sams, she informed me that the detective was away on business and asked if I wanted to leave a message. I’d be sitting on pins and needles until she called back.

I handed Dee Dee her phone. “Write down George Buchanan as well.” It was painful to remember the scene where Annie berated him. “I believe if I was George I’d want to kill her.”

“Why?” Dee Dee asked with raised eyebrows.

“It was terrible Dee. Annie had asked each of us to write a paper. She read them out loud and then critiqued them. After she read George’s paper she said “this is an example of how not to write” and then shredded it. Everyone just sat there in shock. Poor ole’ George didn’t take it so well. He threw back his chair, threatened Annie, then fled the room.”

“Sounds like another candidate for a person of interest. I swanny, I don’t know why the detective focused on you. I’m putting a star by his name, too.”

Dee Dee tapped her pencil on her tablet. “Getting back to George. When you tell Detective Sams about Tippi, you need to tell her about George, too. Who else do we need to write down?”

“Amanda Holbrook. She reminds me of myself when Wade divorced me. Instead of a chip, she has a boulder on her shoulder.” Dee Dee grinned at my rhyme. “She’s been put in a position where she has to find a job to support herself and her children. She wrote for pleasure, now she wants to write professionally. Sounds a lot like me, doesn’t it.”

“That may have been you when you first moved back to Vans Valley, but it isn’t you now. You’ve grown so much Trixie. I’m real proud of you.” She rewarded me with a wide smile.

“Thanks Dee. I couldn’t have done it without your help and support.” I reached over and squeezed her hand. I had no doubt Dee Dee would be there for the long haul.

“Anyway, Amanda definitely harbors a lot of anger, but it seems to be directed at her ex-husband. I don’t see any reason she’d take it out on Annie.”

“Yeah, but she was in the bed and breakfast so we need to write her down.” Dee Dee wrote her name with a flourish.

“The only other person I can think of is Ladonna, the housekeeper. She was in the room when Annie told us she was feeling sick. I wonder if she’s staying at the bed and breakfast? If so, it’d be easy to find her.”

“Looks like we have us a bonafide suspect list. So far we have Bodene, Lori, Tippi, George, Amanda and Ladonna. Wow, that’s six people.”

I looked over Dee Dee’s shoulder to see none other than Detective Sams and Sergeant Gary Sargent heading our way. “Quick, hide the list. Here comes the detective.”


uick thinking Dee Dee opted for a foolproof method of hiding the names. She shoved the tablet under her ample bottom, and donned a smile, as innocent as a baby.

“Trixie.” Detective Sams greeted me then she shot a questioning look toward Dee Dee.

“Hello, Detective. This is my good friend, Dee Dee Lamont.”

Dee Dee stared at her mirror image. “Hi.”

Detective Sams gave an approving look at Dee’s outfit. Today she wore red slacks, a white top with a red and green sweater, in keeping with the holiday season. “Nice ensemble, Dee Dee.”

“Why thank you,” Dee Dee said, grinning ear to ear.

“Unfortunately, I’m not here to talk about clothes. I hear you ladies were making a hit list?”

What in the world? I guess that busybody reported us. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse – they did. I looked up to see Nana staggering toward us. I reached over and nudged Dee Dee and pointed toward Nana. We jumped up at the same time knocking into each other. Dee Dee, being a patron of the Woman’s Department, won the round and I ended up back in my chair. She moved faster than I ever imagined she could. I hurried to catch up. With Dee Dee on one side and me on the other we guided Nana over to the chairs and sat her down. All the while Detective Sams and Sergeant Gary Sargent took in the scene wide-eyed.

Everybody gathered around and I sat in the chair opposite Nana. “What’s the matter? Don’t you feel good, Nana?”

She looked up and smiled. “Actually, I feel pretty good.” She held up her hot pink cast. “See, no pain.”

Dee Dee gasped. “Nana, did you take more of your pain medicine?”

“I just took two more,” she shook her head, “I think it was just two.” I wasn’t feeling any better, so I thought I’d take a couple more. Now I don’t feel a bit of pain. A little woozy though.”

I lifted my head toward heaven
. Lord, give me strength and patience. Hurry please.
“Sorry about that, Detective. This is my great-aunt, Nana. As you can see she fell last night and broke her arm.”

“I’m sorry to hear about that, ma’am. Now back to that list.”

Nana piped up. “Are you here to question Trixie?” She slurred her words making it sound more like “Are you here to quesion Trixie?”

“Ma’am this is police business,” Detective Sams said. “Someone needs to get this woman coffee. Or escort her back to bed.”

“I’ll be quiet.” Nana dropped back against the cushion, cradling her cast in her good hand, her head swaying a bit from side to side.

The sergeant had his notepad out, ready to take down whatever I said.

“What list are you talking about?” I saw the tablet sticking out from under Nana. I held my breath hoping she wouldn’t notice. No such luck.

Nana pulled it out and raised it high in the air. “What’s this?”

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
6.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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