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Authors: J. D. Horn

The Line

BOOK: The Line
3.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2014 by J.D. Horn

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by 47North, Seattle

Cover illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith

ISBN-13: 9781477809730

ISBN-10: 1477809732

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013939891

For Rich, who brings magic into every life he touches







































“All right, you handsome devils, if y’all are here for this evening’s Liar’s Tour of Savannah, then you are at the right place,” I said, surveying the group of men who had found their way to the Waving Girl statue. Four middle-aged corporate types, young enough not to have gone completely soft from life behind a desk, old enough that moving them around too quickly in the Savannah heat would be a little risky.

“Now the bad news is that it is hot,” I said while slipping off my backpack and fishing out four Liar’s Tour souvenir plastic cups. A trickle of sweat rolled down my back as I handed them out. Anyone who truly thought ladies didn’t sweat never spent the summer in Georgia. “The good news is that it is legal in Savannah’s historic district to imbibe on the streets as long as you are over twenty-one.” I hesitated before the last member of my pack, who had a full head of silver hair. “You are twenty-one, aren’t you?” I smiled and winked at him.

“At least twice over,” his buddy said and laughed. I handed the cup over.

I pulled a large thermos of gin and tonic from my backpack. “Sorry, the ice cubes may have watered this down a bit, but we’ll hit River Street next and you can pick your own poison.” I looked around to make sure the coast was clear before filling their cups. My twenty-first birthday was still a couple of weeks away, and I didn’t have a license to serve liquor. I’d never had any problems before, but I didn’t want to press my luck by snubbing the law right under an officer’s nose. I dropped the empty thermos back into my bag and swung it over my shoulder. Its weight pulled the front of my shirt tighter, and I noticed that the men were appreciating the view. As long as they didn’t touch, they could look for a bit. I counted down to myself: Five-four-three-two-one. Enough. I waved a finger in front of my face to direct their gaze upward.

“I am very pleased to meet you all. My name is Mercy Taylor, and I am a native Savannahian. I’m going to take you fine upstanding gentlemen around town, get you a little buzzed, and tell you some black and wicked lies about the people of my dear home. Now you might ask why I would make up lies about a city with so many interesting true stories to tell.” I looked directly at the roundest one and paused. “Go on, ask…”

He smiled. “Well, why would you?”

“Let me tell you why. First of all, most of the ‘truths’ ”—I stretched out the word to the point of irony—“you are going to hear about Savannah have been so embellished as to be unrecognizable to those who lived through the circumstances. And frankly, by the time I turned twelve, I was already sick to death of hearing the same old stories over and over again. One fine summer day I was complaining to my dear Uncle Oliver about this fact, so he filled up a traveler cup very much like the ones you hold in your hands and let me lead him around, paying me a dollar for every colorful lie I could come up with on the spot.” I paused again and gave them a very serious look. “Now, when it comes time to tip your guide, please do remember that Oliver is family, and that my cost of living has greatly increased since I was twelve.”

The guys laughed, and I smiled. “But honestly, I think the real reason I do it is ’cause my Aunt Iris volunteers for the historical society, and it pisses her off to no end when she hears one of my tales being repeated as gospel. Take, for example, my story about this fine lady here.” I motioned to the statue of Florence Martus. “Florence here was known as Savannah’s Waving Girl. What everyone else in town is going to tell you is that young Florence got her heart broken by some sailor, who left promising to return and marry her. Between 1887 and 1931, she came out to meet every single ship pulling into Savannah, hoping that her man might be on board. Tragic story of an innocent girl done wrong, right?”

“Sounds like it,” one of my group chimed in. He was a pleasant looking guy with glasses and thinning hair.

“Okay,” I snorted, “you expect me to believe that any woman is going to come out and wave at ships for forty-four years just because she was waiting on some man? You boys sure know how to flatter yourselves.” I rolled my eyes, and my fellows all laughed on cue.

“So what was really going on here, I found myself asking, and I came to the following conclusion: Florence Martus, Savannah’s own Waving Girl, was involved in the transport of contraband goods, and all this waving she was doing was actually her way of signaling information to the smugglers. Think about it. A code based upon what color apron she was waving and different signaling patterns would be complex enough to tell them everything they needed to know about where, when, and with whom they should be transacting their business. This woman was the center of one of the world’s greatest and longest-lasting black market rings, importing everything from slaves to opium, you name it. Heck, during Prohibition half the rum in this country was welcomed into port by our Florence. Broken heart? Maybe. Fat bank account, for sure.” I pointed at the dog by her side. “I bet even her collie there wore diamonds at home.

“Now if you will all bid adieu to Miss Florence and follow me, we will head up River Street, where I am going to introduce you to some of the deadliest frozen concoctions you will ever taste.” I turned and began to lead the way to where King Cotton had abdicated in favor of the tourist bars and restaurants that now fueled the city’s economy.

“Mind the cobblestones,” I warned as we approached the old ballast-lined roadway. “They’ve been the death of more than a few people, and not just from tripping over them. Back in Savannah’s dueling days the men who were too poor for pistols used these stones as weapons. Many an argument were ended by a well-aimed shot-put or slingshot.”

The River Street regulars—the shopkeepers, the homeless, and the waiters—waved when they saw me and called out my name as we passed. I hadn’t been lying to the guys when I’d told them I was a native. My family had been in Savannah since shortly after the Civil War. We were a part of its weft and weave, even if we weren’t to be counted among its founding families.

I led the group to the frozen drink bar and waited outside, mentally plotting out our route and spinning through my standard list of lies. I would lead the guys counterclockwise through the city, stopping upstairs at Factors Walk where I’d point out the ironwork from the old Wetter mansion. Then I’d share my malicious theory that the missing body of Alberta Wetter’s relative, Mrs. Haig, had been served to the family as their Christmas Eve dinner by a kitchen slave whom Mrs. Haig had mistreated. Next, I’d take them down Bull Street, not only because it was the oldest street in Georgia, but also because it was a fittingly named path for the Liar’s Tour. We’d work our way over and stop at the Juliette Gordon Low house, where I’d talk about how the CIA once used Girl Scout cookies to test the effects of LSD on a wide population. Outbreak of UFO sightings, anybody?

I’d spin a few tall tales along the way about anything that caught the guys’ attention, until we had made our way over to Colonial Park Cemetery. There, I would relate how the Nobel Jones family came to change their name to De Renne. Of course my story didn’t play out well on any conventional timeline, but making the apocryphal Rene Rondolier, historic Savannah’s answer to Boo Radley, the progenitor of the surviving branch of the Jones line made for great storytelling. Forbidden love, two murdered children, trumped up charges. It was the kind of tall tale people wanted to believe, even when I kept repeating with every other breath that I was lying through my teeth. It had also very nearly sent Aunt Iris into a fit of apoplexy, so I tried to use it only a few times a year. I’d pick out a few stones on Colonial’s back wall to talk about and then I’d drop the group off at the Pirate’s House, where they could have dinner or carry on with their drinking, whichever they chose.

I put on my best smile to welcome the guys as they spilled out of the bar and back onto the street. “Room for one more?” a newcomer asked. It was Tucker Perry, a middle-aged lawyer and real-estate developer. His blond curls were carefully coiffed to appear carelessly tousled, and they framed soulless pale blue eyes. He glowed with a golfer’s tan and the easy insincerity of a man who has always believed he’s at the top of the food chain. “I’ve been wanting to come with you for quite a while, and there’s no time like the present.”

“We’re already under way, maybe some other time,” I said, using my best poker face to hide my distaste for the man.

“Oh come on now, Mercy.” He smiled, narrowing his eyes in a way I am sure he thought was seductive. “Let me tag along, I promise I won’t be any trouble.” The guys shifted a little, waiting for a cue from me. I held my ground, and Tucker took it as a challenge. “Has she told you any of the spooky stuff yet?” he questioned the others. “I’m not talking the ghost stuff. You know our girl Mercy here is a witch, right? She and her whole family.”

BOOK: The Line
3.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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