Friday, April 15, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Fourteen}

After a short delay, Annabelle and crew are back. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter Fourteen

            “Well, I’d say that went really well,” Kate said as I maneuvered my car through Georgetown. “We’re less than a week away from the wedding on the yacht and we now have one dead body and a security crew camped out on board?”
            “It’s not our smoothest wedding so far, I’ll give you that,” I said. “But at least we have a security crew to make sure nothing else goes wrong.”
             “When were they getting to the boat?”
            I looked at my watch. “Probably around now. Reese said it wouldn’t be more than an hour.”
            “Speaking of Detective Reese . . .” Kate let her voice trail off.
            “What?” I tried to sound normal but my voice came out high and nervous.
            “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you two picked up right where you left off,” Kate said. “You looked pretty cozy to me.”
            “Where we left off was Reese walking away a few months ago,” I said. “And how did you notice anything surrounded by all those attentive cops?”
            Kate shrugged. “I have special radar for people being hit on.”
            “Reese was not hitting on me. He was doing his job and investigating my connection to the murder scene.”
            “Um hmm.” Kate didn’t sound convinced. “Are you going to tell Ian you ran into your old flame?”
            I opened my mouth to protest that Reese was hardly a flame when I realized that I hadn’t thought about Ian all morning. “I don’t know.” A wave of guilt swept over me and I gnawed at the corner of my lip. Should I mention running into Reese? Was it sneaky not to mention it or was it even worth mentioning?
            Kate glanced at me then changed the subject. “Well, at least we’re going to make it to our appointment on time. If we’d stayed much longer we’d never be able to get the fish market smell off us.”
            “And we got rid of Leatrice,” I said. We’d just dropped her off at my apartment building after practically dragging her away from the crime scene at the docks and convincing her that there was nothing more she could do to help console Brody, the bride’s brother, or help Detective Reese.
            Kate sighed. “We got rid of one crazy and now we’re going to meet two more.”
            “Debbie and Darla aren’t crazy,” I said.
            Kate gave me a look that said she disagreed.
            “You have to admit that they’re our most fun clients.” Debbie and Darla Douglas, the mother-daughter duo from the Deep South, had been planning Debbie’s wedding to Turner Grant the Third with us for what seemed like years but it was finally just a few weeks away.  Debbie and Darla loved anything pink, anything preppy and anything that came out of a cocktail shaker (and had been known to carry full cocktail shakers around in their preppy pink purses).
            “Of course they’re fun,” Kate said. “They’re always three sheets in the wind.”
            “Three sheets to the wind,” I muttered. “And they’re not always drunk. We just see them when it’s almost happy hour.”
            “The breakfast meeting we had at their house?”
            I cringed. It was hard to explain away Bloody Marys at nine in the morning on a weekday. “But they’re so much fun and they always send in their payments on time.”
            Kate shook her head. “You’re a cheap date, Annabelle.”
            I couldn’t help but to laugh. “Look who’s talking!”
            Kate ignored my comment and motioned to a street parking space on 31st Street right across from glass-fronted flower shop, Lush. We were meeting Debbie and Darla for the final floral meeting before the wedding day. Usually we did the final floral run-down over the phone but they’d changed the look so many times that we thought an in-person meeting would be a good idea.
            The shop was called Lush but the shop’s floral designers, Buster and Mack, went by the title Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers in the Christian biker world, and I’d never been able to think of them as anything else.
            As Kate and I stepped out of my car and started across the street, Mack stepped out the glass door of Lush and waved from under the pale green awning. To say that Mack didn’t look like how people imagined florists to look would be an understatement. Although he didn’t have any hair on top of his head, he sported a red goatee, a pierced eyebrow and wore enough black leather to make a vegan weep.  At slightly under six feet and three hundred pounds, he was the smaller of the two men.
            “Come on in, sweeties,” he said, hurrying us over. “We just got an espresso machine for the shop, and I’m playing barista. Can I make you a cappuccino?”
            “That would be perfect.” I followed Mack into the shop and hopped up onto a metal stool. I normally only drank coffee that came Frappucinoed but after the morning at the docks, I needed something to get me back on track.
            “Do you have skim milk?” Kate asked.
            While Mack fiddled with the elaborate espresso machine in the back, I looked around the uber-stylish floral studio. There was nothing frilly about Lush, just concrete floors and galvanized metal buckets of flowers on chrome racks lining the walls. I sat at the long, high metal table that ran the center of the room and took in the vivid hues of blooms lined up in square glass vases in front of me. Pale blue hydrangea, fluttery pink roses with orange edges, crisp green orchids, buttery yellow ranunculus, peach stock. I took a deep breath and inhaled the mix of sweet and crisp.
            “Two skinny caps with just a touch of chocolate shavings,” Mack said, balancing two bulbous white cups on their saucers as he walked toward us. He set them down on the table. “Do I sound like a barista?”
            “Mmmm.” Kate made an appreciative noise as she took a sip from her cup.
            “Can you make me one?” Buster appeared from the back of the shop where there was an entrance to their workroom. “I need some energy before this bride and MOB get here.”
            He came over and pecked me and Kate on the cheeks.  Buster was the more imposing of the two men with an extra few inches and quite a few more pounds. His goatee was dark brown, he didn’t have any piercings and he kept his motorcycle goggles perched on the top of his head but he shared Mack’s penchant for black leather.
            “Remind me why we’re meeting again.” Buster sank onto a metal stool next to me and it groaned from the impact.
            “Because they were too tipsy at the last meeting to remember what we discussed,” I said, sipping at my frothy cappuccino.
            “Well, this time we can dry them out with coffee,” Mack called from his post at the espresso machine.
            “Unless you plan to make it Irish coffee, good luck getting them to drink it,” Kate mumbled.
            I suspected that Kate was right. Debbie and Darla had been on a “liquid” diet for the wedding since we’d started the planning. They avoided anything that wasn’t clear and served straight up. I think their only exception was for olives.
            Buster sniffed the air. “Do I smell fish?”
            Kate slapped me on the arm. “I told you we stayed at the docks too long. I’m going to have to rewash my hair for my date tonight.”
            Buster cocked an eyebrow. “What were you two doing on the docks?”
            “We have a wedding on a yacht there this weekend,” I said.
            Mack brought Buster his coffee and then folded his arms over his chest, causing several of the metal chains to jingle together. “Who’s doing the flowers?”
            “The bride’s stepmother brought in a designer from New York,” I said, hoping to mollify Mack. “It was out of our hands.”
            “He’s a nightmare,” Kate said.  “Can you please come push him overboard and take over?”
            Mack uncrossed his arms and gave Kate a playful push. “Aren’t you the sweetest thing?”
            “He’s dreadful,” I agreed. “He’s trying to do a South Beach meets South of France theme.”
            Mack wrinkled his nose like he’d gotten a whiff of fish, too. “How perfectly awful.”
            “What’s his name?” Buster asked. “We know some designers from New York.”
            I took a sip of my cappuccino and wiped the foam off my top lip. “Jeremy Johns.”
            Mack sucked in air and staggered back a few steps. Buster’s face darkened and he muttered a few words I’d never heard escape the Christian biker’s lips.
            “They do know him,” Kate said to me.
            “Consider yourself warned, girls,” Buster said while Mack fanned himself with a smilax leaf he pulled from a nearby bucket. “Jeremy Johns is not to be trusted.”
            I was beginning to think that about almost everyone involved in this wedding.