“Should I leave the top down or put it up?”
It was Saturday morning and Greg and Cynthia were getting into his red 1965 Pontiac Bonneville convertible.
“Leave it down. I want to show it off to Mom. I told her about it and she thought it sounded cool.”
“Really? She used the word cool?”
“Hey, she’s 67—not 97.”
“She was born in 1939. People said cool back then.”
“Yeah, meaning not warm.”
“No, really, they did.”
“Well, I know jazz musicians used it that way in the 40s. Not sure about nine year olds.”
Cynthia slapped Greg lightly on the shoulder. “Shut up and drive.”
It would take less than twenty minutes to drive to Beverly Sonora’s house in Marshall.
“Do you really think your Mom will want to sell her house and move in with you?”
“I hope so. She’s still pretty shaken up by the murders.”
“How long has she lived there?”
“I grew up in that house. She’s been there since the early 70s. But she doesn’t need a big house anymore.”
“So, you want her to move in with you permanently?”
“Actually, I hope she’ll consider Coreyville Community House at some point. That would be great, I think. They have plenty of fun activities for the residents. And she could make new friends. But I don’t want to mention it right now. She’s definitely not ready for that. Maybe in a year or two.”
Marshall is one of those towns that reminds you of its history everywhere you look. It was founded in 1841—four years before Texas became a state. By 1860, it had become the fourth largest city in Texas. That was in the day when the riverboat was the king of transportation. Before the U.S. Corps of Engineers dropped the water level in Big Cypress Bayou. Before the railroad came.
The current population of Marshall is about 25,000. The city has two outstanding small colleges: Wiley College, primarily a black school, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and East Texas Baptist University. One of Greg’s church choir members had attended ETBU.
“You think your mom will like me?”
“Sure. I’ve told her so many good things about you, she already does.”
“Sorry. Mom-daughter confidentiality.”
“Well, I just hope she’s not disappointed.”
“Quit worrying. Believe me—she’ll fall in love with you.”
Just like you did? Greg wondered.
Before they even stepped onto the front porch, Beverly Sonora had walked out the door to greet them.
Greg could see where Cynthia got her red hair and her good looks.
“So, you must be Greg. I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about you.”
Greg offered to shake her hand, but she hugged him instead.
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Mrs. Sonora.”
“Oh, please—call me Beverly. That way I don’t feel quite so old.”
Cynthia hugged and kissed her mother.
“Hey, I love your car, Greg.”
“Thanks. So do I.”
“You want to go for a ride in it, Mom? Are you getting hungry? We thought we’d take you out for lunch.”
“No need. I’ve already cooked us some lunch. Come on in.”
“Oh, Mom, you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.”
“No trouble at all, Dear.”
As they entered the house, Greg was overwhelmed by the aroma of roast beef with carrots and potatoes, green-bean casserole and apple cobbler.
Greg turned to Cynthia. “Wow. Suddenly I’m starving.”
“Yeah. I forgot to tell you Mom’s a great cook.”
Beverly had set a beautiful table for the three of them. And Greg wanted to display his best manners. But everything was so delicious he could have easily pigged-out. The conversation saved him from embarrassing himself. Every other bite had to be postponed briefly to answer a question.
“So, I understand you teach music lessons?”
“Yes, Ma’am. Piano, voice, guitar, and music theory. And I also direct the music at First Baptist Church on a part-time basis.”
“Sounds like you stay pretty busy.”
“Sometimes not busy enough. I could use a few more students.”
“Mom, we’ll have to get Greg to bring his guitar sometime so he can play and sing for us.”
“That would be nice. I love music.”
“I’m not sure you would enjoy my music. Most of the songs I play on guitar are from when I was a teenager. Hits of the 80s.”
“That’s okay. I like some of those too,” said Beverly. “Are y’all ready for some apple cobbler?”
“I’m ready,” said Greg.
“I’ll get the ice cream,” said Cynthia.
Greg wondered how he would ever lose weight now. If he ate this way every day for a year he would double in size.
“Mom, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Sounds serious,” said Beverly.
“I think you should move in with me.”
Greg was surprised at how Cynthia got right to the point.
“Honey, I’m fine right here.”
“No, you’re not. There’s a killer on the loose.”
“He won’t come back to our neighborhood. I’m not worried about it.”
“Well, I am, Mom. Besides—you could keep me company.”
“Looks like you have some very good company right here.” Beverly smiled and winked at Greg.
“Come on, Mom, really. You don’t need this big house. And it would be fun seeing you every day. We could have coffee together every morning. Watch some TV at night. We like a lot of the same shows.”
“That might get old for you. And then what if you wanted to get married again?” She glanced at Greg.
“I don’t know, Cynthia.”
“Just think about it.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Mrs. Sonora—I mean, Beverly, this is fantastic. Everything was delicious. Thank you so much.”
“You’re quite welcome.”
“See, Mom—you could cook for me. That would be great. I know you love to cook. And you know I love to eat.”
“I said I’ll think about it.”
The Marshall police were looking for the killer, but they had no evidence or witnesses. The case would go cold in a hurry.
Carnie was ready to check out of her room—not because of any fear of getting caught—just from boredom. She hadn’t sold the old lady’s jewelry, but had plenty of cash anyway.
Carnie flipped open her cell phone and dialed.
“Hey, Sis, how are you doing?”
“Fine. What’s going on?”
“How about if I come stay with you guys for a few days before the wedding?”
“You mean now?”
“Yeah. If you don’t mind.”
“Uh…sure, that’ll be fine.”
“Great. It’ll be like old times.”
“No, no. I can’t party all night and get drunk.” Carsie laughed.
“Okay. Maybe not exactly like old times. But we’ll have fun. See you in thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes? Where are you?”
But Carnie had already hung up.
It was hard to believe that her sister, Carsie, had wormed her way into the heart of the wealthy doctor. Sis had a lot more patience than she did. She would have just slit his throat and skipped town with his fortune. Surely Carsie hadn’t actually fallen in love with the nerd. Maybe her biological clock had started ticking too loud to ignore.
Carsie was about to turn 31, and Carnie was only a year behind her. But unlike her sister, Carnie didn’t need a man to support her and give her babies. Anything she needed she would get for herself, thank you very much.
But it would be hysterical to watch Carsie go through the whole ‘until death do we part’ shtick. Would she actually have the balls to wear a white dress? If the color of the dress indicates the purity of the bride, maybe she should go with midnight black.
The two sisters had been quite a handful for their grandmother. She had taken them in after their parents died. Grandma felt so sorry about the girls losing their parents that she let them get away with murder—literally.
Carsie had cried herself to sleep one night after discovering that her boyfriend was cheating on her. The next morning the boy’s father found him dead on the sidewalk in front of his house. He had been stabbed in the chest and his genitals had been amputated.
The doctor would treat Carsie right, or little sis would make him sorry. She wouldn’t necessarily have to kill him. She could just cut something off. Something not vital. Maybe an ear or two. She knew she shouldn’t think about it doing those kinds of things though. The more she thought about it, the more she’d want to do it. And eventually she would not be able to restrain herself.
But Carsie shouldn’t even marry the guy if he’s unworthy, she thought. Would be a bachelor party for the fine doctor? If so, she should be there to observe his behavior. Maybe she could pay off the jump-out-of-the-cake girl, and do it herself. She could pull it off with a good disguise. If the Doc got fresh with her she could just take care of him right there. One quick twist of the head, lay him down like he’s passed out from the booze, and walk away.
Yes, she would protect her sister. And have fun doing it.