Homemade Sin (Callahan Garrity Series #3)by Kathy Hogan Trocheck
In her third outing, Callahan Garrity, Atlanta's wry, earthy cleaning lady cum sleuth, turns her own family - and a ruthless murderer - against her when she insists on investigating the carjacking death of her favorite cousin. Usually Callahan's nosy mother, Edna, who helps her run the House Mouse cleaning service, loves nothing better than kibbitzing her cases. But… See more details below
In her third outing, Callahan Garrity, Atlanta's wry, earthy cleaning lady cum sleuth, turns her own family - and a ruthless murderer - against her when she insists on investigating the carjacking death of her favorite cousin. Usually Callahan's nosy mother, Edna, who helps her run the House Mouse cleaning service, loves nothing better than kibbitzing her cases. But when Callahan's beloved cousin, Patti McNair, the prototypical suburban homemaker, is killed during a carjacking in an Atlanta ghetto, Edna and the rest of the family are incensed that Callahan insists on keeping the wounds open by probing for explanations of a death that seems as inexlicable as it is tragic. Callahan couldn't pick a less promising case to be stubborn about, either. The only lead comes from Patti's learning-disabled son, Dylan, who vaguely remembers his mother's attacker as a black man wearing a hat. With the help of the outrageous band of "girls" in her employ, Callahan learns that Patti and her husband, Bruce, a high-living lawyer, had anything but the idyllic home life that everyone, their relatives included, thought they did. Patti may have been getting more than just priestly counsel from her confidant, the charming Father Mart. Bruce is keeping secrets, too - shady new business associates and an affair that doesn't seem to be as far in the past as he insists it is. When Callahan has a chilling encounter with a trigger-happy gang leader, she realizes not only that she can find Patti's murderer but that she'd better do it fast, before she joins Patti in the family plot. While Callahan strives to solve the case and stay alive, we're treated to a splendidly evoked backdrop of the New South, where antebellum and postmodern collide. As always, though, Callahan herself is center stage - homespun yet street-smart, equally adept among Atlanta's country club set and its stone-cold inner-city gangsters. Callahan's at her forthright, feisty best in Kathy Trocheck's most ambitious, trencha
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Nine-letter hint," I muttered, absentmindedly winding a curl around my finger. "Adumbrate," said a disembodied voice from behind the sports page.
I glared, but he didn't see me. Too busy reading about the ACC basketball tournament. Edna and I exchanged glances. My mother knows about my love/hate relationship with the Sunday crossword puzzle. I like to save them up and work them on Saturday mornings. I read the clues out loud. Helps me think. But I loathe it when someone tries to help me. And Lord help the person who tries to beat me to the puzzle. Edna knows better than to even talk to me while I'm working the crossword.
Reluctantly, I scribbled the letters in the box. Adumbrate worked, of course. Stupid word. Mac doesn't even bother with the Atlanta Constitution's crossword puzzle. He usually picks up a Sunday New York Times at Oxford Books.
"Any coffee left?" said the voice again. With a small, martyred sigh I put down the paper and got up to refill both our cups.
I caught the telephone on the first ring.
"Callahan?" The voice on the other end was low, muffled.
"Yes, I said. "Who's this?"
The response was whispered.
"Speak up," I said. "I can't hear you."
"It's me, Neva Jean," she hissed. "I can't talk any louder. I'm at a pay phone."
I rolled my eyes heavenward. Edna saw me, got up, refilled the coffee cups herself and sat back down.
"Must be Neva Jean," she told Mac. "She's got that look." Mac lowered his paper and looked for himself. "Definitely Neva Jean," he said.
"Callahan," Neva Jean said. "You gotta help me. I'm in trouble. Big trouble."
This was nothot news. Neva Jean McComb is rarely not in some sort of mess. She's a hard worker, one of my best employees, and she usually means well, but Neva Jean, is one of those souls who attract trouble like a black dress attracts lint.
"What's the deal?" I asked, leaning my back against the kitchen counter. "Where are you, anyway?"
"I'm at one of those fast-food emergency room places, over on Covington Highway," she said, raising her voice a little. "Swannelle's bad sick. Callahan, I might of sorta killed Swannelle."
"Alight have?" I repeated. "Speak up, Neva Jean. Is he dead or isn't he?"
"I don't know," she wailed, up to top volume now. "He's been back in with the doctor for over an hour now. The nurse won't tell me nothing. For all I know Swannelle's dead and they've already called the cops to come get me."
"Calm down," I ordered. "Tell me what happened."
"It was that goddamned bass boat," she said, sobbing. "It never woulda happened if it weren't for that damn boat. I didn't mean to kill him, really. I was so mad I didn't know what I was doing. Is pissed off a defense for murder, Callahan?"
"What bass boat? Did you try to drown him or what?
Quit crying and quit talking in circles, damn it. just tell me what's going on."
"Swannelle went to the boat show with Rooney. Rooney Deebs, that's his cousin. And when he came home last night he was towing a brand new candyapple-red bass boat behind his truck."
Slowly, the motive for Neva Jean's attempted murder was becoming clear.
"He bought a bass boat? Aren't they pretty expensive?"
"Twenty-eight frigging thousand dollars," she said, gasping for breath in between sobs. "Our house didn't cost but eighteen thousand. And it's got plumbing. He put eight thousand down-all the money we had saved, and signed a note for the rest. Said he was gonna sell McComb Auto Body and him and Rooney was gonna go on the professional bass fishing tour together."
"So you had a fight."
"Not this time," Neva Jean said. "I was so mad, I thought I'd bust a gusset. I slammed the bedroom door and locked it. Then I took every piece of clothes he owns, and all his bowling and softball trophies, too, and pitched them all out the window. And you know it rained last night."
"So what did Swannelle do?" I was almost aftaid to ask.
"Hollered at the locked door for a while. Stormed around, rippin' and rantin'. Then he got drunk. Kneewalking, commode-hugging drunk. Then he passed out on the living room sofa. I got up this morning. I saw the little prick, laying there, passed out on my good sofa, and when I looked out the front window and saw that twentyeight-thousand-dollar bass boat, I got mad all over again. I picked up the nearest thing to hand, a can of Raid, and I emptied it on that bad boy."
"You sprayed Swannelle with a whole can of roach spray?" Poisoning was a new frontier for Neva Jean. The last time the two of them got into it, she'd taken a steak knife and cut off his ponytail while he was sleeping. She'd grazed him once with the pickup truck in the parking lot of Mama's Country Showcase out on Covington Highway another time. And then there was the memorall time he'd abandoned her in a Waffle House parking lot in Macon.
"It was more like half a can," she said, calmer now. "We've had a bad bug problem this year."
She started sniffling again. "It was awful. He started coughing and choking. Grabbing at his neck like he couldn't breathe. Tried to sit up, but he fell back down again. His eyes were watering and his nose was running, he was drooling like a mad dog, and when I looked down I noticed he'd peed his pants, too. I never seen nothing like it in my life. He was dying, right there in front of me."
"You got him to an emergency room, right?" I said, encouragingly.
"Yeah," she said, pausing to blow her nose. "But he's been in there an awful long time. An hour at least. I just know something awful is happening. You reckon I killed him?"
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