Authors: Deborah Malone
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26 (NIV)
Thank you to all of the readers of the Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery series who continue to encourage me to keep writing about Trixie, Dee Dee and Nana. To all the book clubs who have had me as a guest, especially Moulton, Alabama.
A special thank you to Beverly Nault, editor extraordinaire, who keeps the girls out of too much trouble.
Terror on Tybee Island
is dedicated to my family and friends who continue to encourage me.
A special dedication to Travis Williams – your encouragement and
support are the wind beneath my wings.
h – My – Goodness! There she is!” Dee Dee tugged on my arm.
Dee Dee, who some considered Rubenesque, did not tug gently. I sent up a silent prayer the affronted limb would stay attached. “Who? Where?”
“It’s her. Paula Deen.” Dee Dee stopped in her tracks and pointed to a stylish woman exiting a limo. “Paula. Yoo Hoo. Over here, Paula.” Dee Dee’s arm gyrated like a helicopter blade.
Nana hopped up and down. “Paula. I’m your biggest fan!”
Sure, I liked Paula, too. But I didn’t plan on making a fool of myself. Okay, I admit I’ve made a fool of myself several times without planning, but this wouldn’t be one of them. Mama must have noticed the panicked look on my face.
“Don’t worry sweetie. I’m sure she’s used to fans vying for her attention.” Mama, the quietest of the bunch, threw up her arm and waved wildly to Paula.
I couldn’t believe my eyes – Paula waved back. Then she walked toward us. As she approached, I labored to breathe.
“Hey, y’all,” Paula said. “How ya’ doin’ today? I just love and appreciate all my fans.” Dressed in a matching watermelon-colored ensemble, and not one of her stunning white hairs out of place, she was beautiful. “Why don’t y’all come and eat with me? I’m having a special taping tomorrow and would love for you to be in the audience. ‘Bye now.” She wiggled her fingers in a princess wave as she maneuvered through the throng of fans and into her famous restaurant, The Lady and Sons, located in downtown Savannah. A young lady accompanying Paula handed us tickets while instructing us to arrive by two the next afternoon.
“Did you see that, Missy?” Nana’s pet name for me, reserved for occasions when she wants to make a point.
“Yes I did, Nana. I’m impressed.” I gave her a little squeeze.
“What do you think, Trix?” Dee Dee laid her hand on my shoulder. “How about we come back tomorrow for the taping? This would be great research for your article.” Dee Dee was right. Harv, my editor and mentor at
Georgia by the Way,
wanted me to write about Savannah’s landmarks as well as her rich history. I made a mental note to research the building that housed Paula’s restaurant. Attending a live show could give my story a unique slant.
“Sure. I say let’s go for it. Mama, are you in?”
Mama’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’d love to attend a live show.”
Nana squealed. “I’m going to see Paula. I’m going to see Paula,” she trilled.
I went inside and made reservations while the girls window shopped. They hadn’t gone far when I returned. We walked up and down the busy sidewalks keeping pace with the other tourists. A bus, the color of a bluebird, with advertisements of tours brightly painted on the sides, drove past. I jotted down the name splashed across the back. We were still oohing and aahing at the sights when Mama noted the time. Reservations awaited us at Seaside Cottage, a bed and breakfast located on the beach.
A wood-carved sign hung by the doorway inviting guests to “Come On In.” I stepped into an open, airy room furnished with bright, colorful pieces. I especially admired the hand-tatted doilies and antique seabird collection.
“Hello! Anybody home?”
Red wing-backed chairs scattered around gave the large area a homey feel. An off-white couch faced a huge rock fireplace with a hand-hewn wooden mantel. Built-in bookshelves filled with sailor pipes flanked each side.
A Tiffany lamp provided light for an antique roll-top desk placed in the corner. It was a cozy little area. Pictures of seascapes and other nature themed paintings adorned the walls. Colorful throw rugs covered the shiny hardwood floors.
Dee Dee, Mama, and Nana were gushing over the motif, when a lady Mama’s age decked out in white capris, a bright orange shirt, and the cutest matching flip-flops entered the room. “Hi. Sorry I wasn’t here to meet you. I was out back talking to my neighbor.”
Mama hesitantly approached her. “Laura?”
“Betty Jo?” They giggled like schoolgirls and ran toward each other with open arms.
“Oh, I’m so excited to see you.” After a prolonged hug, Laura stepped back and gave Mama a long look. “You haven’t changed a bit since high school.”
“Your nose is growing, Laura.” They hugged again. “Please let me introduce my sidekicks.” Mama turned toward us.
She pulled me close. “This is my daughter, Trixie, and this is her friend, Dee Dee.”
While I offered a hand to shake, Dee Dee stepped up and gave Laura a hug like she was her long lost cousin. Bless her heart, that’s the kind of person she is. Without a doubt, I’m blessed to have her in my life.
“And I’m Belle, Betty Jo’s aunt.” Nana didn’t wait for introductions. “Please call me Nana, everyone does.”
“I’m so pleased all of you could spend your vacation with me.” Three Heinz 57 dogs entered the room. Their barking drowned out any further conversation.
“Hush, boys,” Laura scolded, but they only barked louder. She raised her voice. “Please excuse me for a minute. I have a friend involved in dog rescue and I volunteered to help while she’s sick. Let me put ‘em in the outside pen.” Laura held out a treat and the dogs tagged along like she was their mama.
The dogs’ barking subsided, replaced by angry voices. Several minutes passed and we were beginning to worry when Laura stomped back in, red-faced, nostrils flaring.
“I could just strangle her.” She shook her head.
Eyes wide, Mama asked, “Who?”
“That woman next door, Grace Watkins. I could just strangle her. I’m sorry. Since I took in the dogs the old snoot has complained to anybody who’d listen. She’s so afraid they’re going to dig up her precious turtle eggs.” She stopped her tirade. “Oh my goodness, y’all don’t want to hear all this. Let me get you settled, then come on down for some refreshments.”
As Laura led the way upstairs to our bedrooms, we regarded each other with a deer in the head-light look, wondering what had just happened. My leg was still a little sore from recent knee replacement surgery, so I brought up the rear. Laura showed Mama and Nana their room first. I stuck my head in and eyed a comfy room painted deep coral, accented with a seashell border, and two antique iron sleigh beds. I knew they’d love staying in this gorgeous room.
While they unpacked, Laura showed me and Dee Dee where we’d sleep. Walls the color of the sea greeted us. Dropped shelves around the top of the walls displayed every size and shape of shell imaginable.
The double canopies reminded me of my childhood home. White beds accented with white spreads made the room a little girl’s dream come true.
“Oh, Laura, how beautiful!” I turned around to take in the whole room. “Thank you for opening your home to us. Mama’s been ecstatic since you invited us to stay.”
“I second everything she said.” Dee Dee claimed the bed nearest the bathroom. In the past she’d been plagued with frequent nature calls, but when she began to wear one of those new patches, she was able to go a few hours without making a potty stop. But she still automatically parked herself nearest the facilities.
“Okay, ladies. When you get through, come down and help yourselves to the snacks in the dining area.” She left us to unpack.
I couldn’t wait to freshen up, I felt like a wilted sunflower.
Dee Dee looked out the window. “Wow. What a view, Trix.” She held the curtain open and pointed. I could only glimpse a bit of the beach from where I stood across the room. She swiveled back around to soak in more of the panorama. “Oh no!”
“Oh no, what?” I stuck my head next to Dee Dee’s, wondering what she’d seen. Down below, Laura, feet apart and hands on hips, was arguing with someone.
ould you look at that?” Dee Dee motioned toward the women.
“Laura looks like she’s about to blow a gasket.”
“Yeah, she does. But look at the other woman. I’ve never seen arms move so fast. She’s going to levitate if she doesn’t slow those limbs down.” Dee Dee imitated the woman’s gesturing and bonked me in the arm.
“Ow!” I rubbed the bruised limb. “What do you think they’re arguing about?”
“It’s a mystery. Remember, she mentioned her neighbor earlier. And not so complimentary.
“I spotted another bed and breakfast, Ocean View Inn, right next door. I imagine the competition promotes some hard feelings.”
Dee Dee shoved me over for a better glance. The neighbor lady gazed at our window. Then Laura looked, too. “Quick, duck. They’re looking this way.” We stumbled more than ducked.
“Maybe Laura will tell us about it later,” Dee Dee said. She took an armload of clothes from her suitcase and neatly arranged them in the dresser drawer.
“You’re right. There’s a chance she’ll confide in Mama since they’re friends.” I claimed a drawer of my own.
“Yoo Hoo. What ya’ thinking about, Trixie?” Dee Dee plopped her suitcase on the floor startling me.
“So glad we’re friends and you could come with me.”
“Well, I feel the same way.” Dee Dee walked over and gave me a quick hug. “Isn’t this room just the cat’s meow?”
Laughter bubbled up my throat and flowed over. I wasn’t surprised at Dee Dee’s description of our room. Her five cats have the privilege of being treated like her offspring. Since her children, Stephanie and Trey, had moved out of the house she’d projected her motherly love on her fur babies.
“The room is lovely. A great place to rest and rejuvenate. I wish I didn’t have to work, but Harv wants me to write on Savannah and Tybee Island while we’re here. He promised not to call since I’m on a working vacation.” Harv harbored a soft spot in that heart of his, but when it came to his magazine he was serious as a rookie breaking his first big story.
“Come on, let’s go see what Mama and Nana are up to.” I switched off the lamp and noted the clear base filled with seashells. What a unique idea! Observing the display of shells dispersed around the room, I mentally named this the “seashell room.” I couldn’t wait to get my feet in the sand and water and hunt for my own shells.
We exited our room the same time as Mama and Nana. Dee Dee grabbed Nana’s arm. “Come on, ladies. Let’s see what kind of trouble we can get into.”
“Bite your tongue, girl.” Dee Dee and I’d had our fill of adventures. I didn’t want any more for a while.
“Mama, how’s your room?”
“Oh, Trixie. I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you again for letting us tag along. I’m so grateful Laura offered us her home.”
“Yeah. Did you see the view out your window? The ocean’s beautiful. It reminds me of a sparkling jewel.”
Dee Dee glanced my way with raised eyebrows. I knew she was remembering the argument between Laura and the unidentified woman.
“Hey there. I see y’all made it back down,” our hostess greeted. “How about some crackers and cheese? I try to have snacks in the afternoon and evening. The sea air can sure make a body hungry, and I want my guests to be able to eat whenever they feel the need.” Laura had laid out a large spread of snacks. Crackers, cheese, olives, chips, tiny sandwiches, and desserts covered the table.
We grabbed plates and filled them with goodies. I could see it wasn’t going to be easy to avoid gaining weight on this vacation. Looking around, I suspected I wouldn’t be alone.
I glanced around for other guests. A beautiful, red-headed woman walked in the dining area. A creamy, smooth porcelain complexion and a figure to kill for completed the package.
She sauntered over and extended her hand. “Hi y’all. I’m Ellie Sloan.” We shook hands and introduced ourselves. “My, look at this feast. Laura really knows how to take care of her guests.”
“Ellie, it’s nice to meet you.” I was dying to find out what she did for a living. “I write for
Georgia by the Way,
a historic magazine. We’re here on vacation, and a little work.”
“I’m here for the Save the Turtles Convention. We meet once a year on different coasts to promote protection for the sea turtles’ nesting. Did you know that Tybee Island is home to the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles, as well as the rare Diamondback terrapin? This makes it a great place to have the convention.” She flipped back her long red hair.
“Save the turtles? My land, who ever heard of anybody meeting to save turtles? I didn’t know they needed any help from people.” Nana shook her head.
“Nana. Is it all right to call you that?” She nodded and Ellie continued. “The sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and then abandon the nest. It takes months for the eggs to hatch and there are so many hazards and predators, including the human kind, that can damage or destroy the eggs.”
I’d heard about the sea turtles and their plight, but knew little about the movement to save them.
“Think this would be a good subject for your story, Trixie?” Dee Dee filled her plate with seconds. As Dee Dee loved to eat, I didn’t believe it’d be her last.
“Sure. I want to write on a variety of topics.”
“I’ve gathered a lot of material on the sea turtles. You’re welcome to read it,” Ellie offered.
Laura replenished the table with little pimento cheese and cucumber cream cheese sandwiches. “There’s a big initiative on Tybee to protect the turtles. Between May and October, the nesting season, outside lights directed toward the beach must be turned off. The hatchlings will go toward the lights instead of the ocean, and be stranded inland, or worse, run over by cars as they are attracted to the headlights. There’s a hefty fine for people who don’t adhere to the lighting restrictions.”
“Who would have thought?” Mama refilled her plate with sandwiches and chips then settled on an overstuffed loveseat. “Back home we let our turtles fend for themselves.”
“Well, you better not say that around here. I’m sure the sea turtles are a worthy cause, but we have some fanatics like my next door neighbor.” Laura filled a plate and sat next to Mama. It was good to see Mama’s face bright with excitement. She was thrilled when she found out about the trip and getting reacquainted with her friend.
“I for one think it’s a great cause.” Ellie shook a chip toward Laura making her point. “And I know for a fact that other guests attending the convention will be staying on the island. You have to admit it’s good for business.”
“I’m sorry, Ellie.” Laura looked sheepish as she apologized. “Grace Watkins is about to drive me crazy.”
“Why?” Dee Dee was never one to worry about subtlety.
“The dogs. I can’t help they got out and started digging up one of the nests. Grace didn’t hesitate to report me, and believe me I paid for their little escapade.”
“Is that who you were arguing with outside a while ago?” I nudged Dee Dee, but it didn’t faze her. She plowed right on. “We looked out the window to admire the ocean view and saw y’all on the beach. You certainly didn’t look like you were best friends.”
“Yeah, that’s her. Grace threatened to report me if the dogs got out again. They told me if I had another citation I’d have to go to court. I’m sure they’d make me give up the dogs. She’s an old busy body. There’s not a person on this island she hasn’t angered at one time or another.”