A BIG FAT GREEK MURDER
It’s All Greek To Me
by Goddess Anon
This has to be a fast post because I’m due at a rehearsal dinner in an hour, and I have yet to change. Lucky me, you say? Sounds like a good time? “Humbug” is my reply. Getting all dolled up after a day of work so I can spend my evening pretending to be overjoyed for a happy couple is not my idea of a good time. Lest ye forget, I was once one-half of a so-called “happy couple.”
It won’t be easy for me to watch the soon-to-be-wed duo entwine arms, sip champagne, and promise to be loyal to each other forever because I know that forever is a long, long time.
I realize it seems I’ve soured on marriage, but I haven’t completely given up. I keep hoping to find my Prince Charming out there somewhere. But who knows where that will be? Surely not here in my small Michigan hometown. I can’t even find a decent white wine, let alone a white knight—unless my luck is changing. I don’t believe in miracles, but there does seem to be a certain magic in the air lately. Who knows? Maybe it could happen tonight.
Look at the time, and I still don’t have a clue as to what I should wear. How does one attract a white knight? Black, perhaps?
Till tomorrow, this is Goddess Anon bidding you adíο.
P.S. That’s Greek for good-bye. Wish me luck!
I posted the blog, closed my laptop, and turned in my chair to look at the small bedroom closet overflowing with clothes from my former life. Somewhere in that mess was the dress I’d be wearing to the rehearsal dinner. A white knight. Hmm. Dark wavy hair, strong jaw, soulful eyes that seem to look through me, melt me like butter . . . and there was Case Donnelly once again creeping into my thoughts. After inviting him to meet me for a drink after the rehearsal dinner, and his nonchalant excuse, I cursed myself for taking the chance. A white knight was out there somewhere for me, but clearly it wasn’t Case Donnelly.
I took a deep breath and began the hunt for my black dress.
Fifteen minutes later, after one last look in the bath-room mirror, I kissed my ten-year-old son, Nicholas, good-bye, blew a kiss at my youngest sister, Delphi, who’d stayed home to babysit, grabbed my purse and a lightweight coat, and hurried out to my white SUV for the ten-minute ride to the Parthenon, my grandparents’ diner.
My phone rang through the car’s speakers, and I tapped a button to answer, “Hello.”
“Thenie, it’s Dad. I need your help.”
“I’m almost at the Parthenon, Pops. What’s up?”
“Mrs. Bird is out back pecking at the new rose bushes and demanding to see you, Delphi is babysitting your son, and I’ve got a line of customers out the door. I know you promised your mother that you’d help out at the diner, but I could really use your help.”
“Might I mention again that we need seasonal employees?”
“You can lecture me when you get here.”
“I can’t make it right now, Pops. I’ll call Delphi. She can bring Nicholas with her.”
“Thanks, but we need a landscape consultant or we’re going to lose Mrs. Bird’s business.”
“Let Delphi ring up the customers. You can handle Mrs. Bird.”
“That’s not the answer I was looking for.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, Pops.”
Landscape consultant was on the opposite end of the spectrum from my former job as a newspaper reporter in Chicago. The vibrant tourist town of Sequoia was equally distant on the spectrum from the bustling Windy City that my son and I used to call home. The two cities shared the same water, but the breeze blowing east from Lake Michigan felt different. It smelled different, fresher perhaps.
If circumstances hadn’t forced me to move back into the big family home, I’d still be running around the city, interviewing people and sitting at a computer until late at night to turn in my “noteworthy” articles. Instead, I was able to be outdoors working with plants and flowers and the cheerful people who came to our garden center to buy them. And at last, after one month of working in the office, learning the ins and outs of the business end of the operation, my dad felt I was ready to try my hand at landscape design. Turned out, I loved it.
I parked my car in the public lot on the block behind Greene Street and scurried up the alley. I entered through a back gate in the high fence and made my way to the outdoor eating area. With white wrought-iron tables and chairs, a concrete patio floor painted Grecian blue, white Greek-style columns on each corner, and blue-and-white lights strung around the entire perimeter, Yiayiá and Pappoús could not have made it look cozier or more inviting.
At least I thought so. But the guests didn’t seem to be enjoying it. In fact, there was a distinctly unhappy vibe in the air, as Delphi would say. My mother was standing in front of the kitchen door, worrying the thick gold Greek bracelet she was never without.
As I approached, my feet already hurting, Mama said, “It’s not good, Athena. The groom-to-be hasn’t shown up, and no one can reach him. What are you wearing?”
My mother had on black slacks with a Grecian blue blouse, or, as Mama referred to blue, “the color of the Ionian Sea.” Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten the memo, so I was the oddball in my short black dress and strappy black heels. And no prince in sight.
“I didn’t know there was a dress code.” I glanced around at the tables, full of worried, whispering guests. “Maybe he got cold feet. Did he show up for the rehearsal?”
“They’re having the wedding rehearsal after the dinner because some of the family members had to work.”
“Why such a big crowd for a rehearsal dinner?” I asked. “Usually it’s just for the wedding party.”
“The Blacks decided to include the families of the wedding party,” Mama said. “They’re wealthy, and they pay very well. I wasn’t about to question them on their decision.”
I scanned the area, making mental notes. The wedding party was gathered at the head table, where Mandy, the bride-to-be, in a yellow silk dress, was being consoled not only by her bridesmaids, but also her parents and my oldest sister, Selene. Mitchell, the bride’s twin brother and best man, stood directly behind them, checking his watch and looking perturbed, while maid of honor Tonya stood off to the side, talking quietly on her phone.
“What about the groom’s parents?” I asked. “Have they heard from him?”
“His parents aren’t here,” Mama said. “Apparently, they declined the invitation.”
My sister Maia joined us, breathless with news. “I just heard that two of Brady’s groomsmen have gone to his apartment to see what the holdup is. He lives down the road, so it shouldn’t take long—and aren’t those my heels, Athena? And why are you so dressed up?”
Mama licked her thumb to wipe away a smudge from under Maia’s eye, causing my sister to roll her head to the side.
“Never mind about her outfit,” Mama said, “and good for those brave boys. Yiayiá and Pappoús will be pleased. You know how upset they get if their food gets cold. Hold still, Maia.”
That was so typical of our Greek family—more concerned about the guests missing a meal than the bride-to-be missing her groom.
Submitting to my mother’s ministrations, Maia rolled her eyes, while I tried to hide my smile with a cough.
Maia was born after me; we were the two middle sisters of four, all named after Greek goddesses—Selene after the moon goddess, me after Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, and Maia after goddess of the fields. The exception was our youngest sister, Delphi, who was named in honor of the Oracle of Delphi. Stymied that she wasn’t a “goddess,” Delphi had long ago decided that she had the gift of foresight and was a true modern-day oracle. The remarkable thing was that sometimes she got her predictions right.
Also remarkable was how much Maia, Selene, and Delphi looked like our mother, shortish in stature, with fuller curves, lots of curly black hair, and typical Greek features. I, on the other hand, took after my father’s English side of the family, inheriting his light brown hair, slender body, oval face, and softer features. In family photos, I was the gawky, pale-skinned girl in the back row standing beside the tall, pale-skinned man.
Selene broke away from the inconsolable bride and headed in our direction, an exasperated look on her face— coincidentally, the same expression Mama was wearing. Because she was also part of the wedding party, Selene wore a black-and-white sheath dress and heels instead of the waitress outfit.
“Selene,” Mama said, “go back and ask the bride’s mother whether we should serve the appetizers now. These poor people have to eat something.”
“I just came from there,” Selene replied, looking even more exasperated than before. “I don’t think they’re in any mood to—”
Mama gave her “the look,” and Selene did an about- face, slipping away obediently.
My grandmother joined our little group then, asking if she and Pappoús should start serving the lemon rice soup known as avgolemono (pronounced “ahv-lemono”).
“No, Yiayiá,” I said. “We’re waiting for the groom to arrive.”
“Still?” she asked in her high, raspy voice. “But the people need food.”
Maia looked at me, trying to suppress another eye roll. I couldn’t help but laugh, rubbing my grandmother’s back to calm her down.
“Why you laugh?” Yiayiá asked with a scowl. Standing at a mere five feet high, she wore a black blouse, a long, full, black-print cotton skirt, and thick-soled black shoes. The only brightness in her outfit was a blue— excuse me—Ionian Sea–colored scarf that wrapped around her white hair, wound into its usual tight knot at the back of her head.
“It shouldn’t be long, Mama,” my mother said to her, shooting us a glare. “We expect them at any moment.”
“Endáksi,” she said with a sigh and a shrug. Okay. Wearing her usual world-weary expression, she headed back into the kitchen to share the news with Pappoús.
Suddenly, the two absent groomsmen came jogging around the corner of the restaurant, out of breath and wild-eyed. “Brady,” one gasped, holding his side, “he’s been hurt. Badly.”
“Taken,” the second groomsmen said, bending over to gulp air, “to the hospital.”
As the guests rose to their feet in concern, the bride gathered her full skirt and ran toward the two men, grabbing onto the shirt front of one. “Trevor, is Brady dead?”
In between gulps of air, Trevor replied, “He was—unconscious—when the paramedics—took him away.”
Mandy took a step backward as though she’d been pushed. “Then he’s alive?”
“We don’t know,” Patrick, the other groomsman said, “We found him on his apartment floor with a pair of—”
“Patrick,” Trevor snapped, giving a subtle nod in Mandy’s direction.
“With a pair of what?” Mandy cried, grabbing his shirt front again. “Tell me. With what?”
Trevor’s chin began to tremble, and a tear ran down his cheek. “Scissors in his back.”
There was a collective gasp. My mother made the sign of the cross. Maia’s mouth dropped open. Selene froze in place. I spotted Tonya, the bridesmaid who’d been on the cell phone, turn to give the other bridesmaids a knowing look, and I instantly filed it away.
“The police are on their way, Mandy,” Patrick said. “They’ll be able to tell you more.”
The bride-to-be collapsed in a puddle of yellow silk, sobbing hysterically, “Brady’s dead. I know he’s dead. What will I do? Oh my God, what will I do?”
Her parents helped her to her chair and sat on either side of her, rubbing her hands, while her brother strode toward the two groomsmen to have a whispered conference. My mother hurried over to talk to the bride’s mother, who was consoling her distraught daughter. That was when I spotted Selene, her face ashen, slip around the guests and disappear into the kitchen.
Before I could follow her, Mama returned to say quietly to us, “I just spoke with Mandy and her parents. They’re going to stay here until the police arrive. Maia, go tell Yiayiá and Pappoús we’ll start serving the soup afterward.”
“Maia, wait!” I called, as she started toward the kitchen. “Mama, no one is going to stay for dinner. This is supposed to be a celebration.”
“But they must eat!” she cried. “Think of all the food waiting for them.”
“Athena is right, Mama,” Maia said. “They’ve just had horrible news. They’re not going to sit down and dine now.”
Mama put her hand over her forehead. “Then go tell your grandparents that, Maia.”
“I’ll tell them,” I said, and headed inside to deliver the message and find out why Selene had slipped away.
“Yiayiá, Pappoús, the dinner has been canceled,” I announced. “The groom was taken to the hospital with a serious injury.”
Pappoús stopped stirring the soup, and Yiayiá straightened, putting one hand on her lower back. Almost in unison they said, “But the people have to eat!”
“It’s not appropriate to serve food when there’s been a calamity,” I explained.
“Calamity is right,” Yiayiá said grumpily, eyeing all the food.
“The groom is injured, sure,” Pappoús said in his thick Greek accent, “but what about the others?”
“They’ll be going home soon.” I glanced around but didn’t see my sister. “Yiayiá, did you see Selene come through the kitchen?”
“She’s sitting out there by herself,” Yiayiá replied, nodding her head toward the swinging doors to the diner. “Maybe you can talk to her. She won’t tell me what’s wrong.”
I found my sister in a booth in the empty diner, staring blankly into space. She had scooted to the far end, with her back to the wall and her feet hanging off the edge. I slid in opposite her and reached for her hand.
“What’s wrong, Selene? You look like you just lost your best friend.”
Her gaze shifted to mine, and I saw fear in her eyes. Just as she was about to speak, my mother stepped into the room and clapped her hands. “Girls, the police are here. They want everyone outside except for Yiayiá and Pappoús. Páme!”
As soon as Mama left, Selene bent her head and sobbed. I hadn’t seen my oldest sister cry since we were children, and it startled me. Selene had always been strong and bold, the fearless firstborn, a role model for her sisters. Now she wept as though her heart was broken.
“Selene, what is it?”
“Stay with me, Athena,” she sobbed, reaching for my hand. “Don’t leave my side.”
“I won’t, but tell me why.”
“The scissors in Brady’s back? I think they’re mine.”