WHILE MY GRANDFATHER POPO WAS ALIVE, he worked as a doorman at the Hotel Galvez on
the seawall in Galveston. He wore a dark maroon coat trimmed in black cording, which
hung down past his knees, and he proudly donned a cap with “HG” stitched on the brim
with golden thread. Whenever my family came to the island for a visit, I’d make a
beeline to the hotel and stand with him while he greeted guests. People who saw us
together knew in an instant that I was his grand-daughter. We were cut from the same
mold: tall, thin, and redheaded. I was proud of that fact, for James Robert Lockhart
was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. When I found him crumpled on the floor in
the hotel foyer, his body riddled with bullet holes, I knew my life would never be
the same. Now, as I stepped into the lobby eighteen years later, the memory of that
day hit me square in the gut.
My name is Sydney Jean Lockhart. I’m thirty, single, and I recently tossed aside
a perfectly fine, secure career as a science teacher to try to make a go of it in
a man’s world. The year is 1953, and I’m the first female reporter hired by The Austin
American Statesman. After my last assignment—covering a political powwow in Palacios,
Texas—turned into an exposé on murder, scandal, and deception of which I was a surviving
victim, my opportunities as a journalist have escalated. My editor, Ernest Turney,
learned of my connections with the island and asked me to write a piece on another
political situation, this one brewing in Galveston. At first, I hesitated: the event
was to be held at the Hotel Galvez. My reluctance was not only because my grandfather
had been murdered at the hotel, but also because Galveston was where my parents had
chosen to live after my father retired.
Returning to the scene of my grandfather’s murder was going to be difficult. Figuring
out how to avoid my parents while in town was the real challenge. But this assignment
was too hot to pass up; it would add another feather to my fedora, which I often
wore to hide my gender while on assignment. By the time I’d finished packing, several
lies to keep my mother, Mary Lou Lockhart, at bay had formed in my devious brain.
I’d just finished cleaning my Smith Corona and replacing the ribbon when the doorbell
rang and Jeremiah waltzed in, wearing white linen slacks and a lavender sweater.
“You need to lock your doors, dear. You never know who might walk in.”
Monroe jumped from the sofa, slid across my hardwood floor, regained traction, and
hopped up to plant her front paws on her uncle-in-law’s shoulders.
“This dog’s gotten fat.” Jeremiah hugged my seventy-pound poodle.
“What do you expect after a ten-day stay with my father?” I walked over and gave
my brother’s roommate a well-deserved hug. “Scott won’t mind being away from you
for a few days?”
“Are you kidding? Do you think he’d notice? Do you think he appreciates the nice
things I do for him? Do you think he ever says thank you for making sure the house
is clean and comfy? Leaving him on his own for a few days will be good for the boy.”
He headed down the hall, running his finger along my bookcase to check for dust.
Jeremiah lives with my brother, Scott, in a stylish neighborhood in his too-expensive
home overlooking Barton Springs. Except for taking care of Scott, Jeremiah doesn’t
work for a living. He doesn’t have to. We don’t know where he gets his money. He
just has it, a lot of it.
“How’s my brother doing anyway? He never calls.”
“Working two jobs keeps him busy, and having to take off a few days to help sort
through your family’s latest crisis has put him in the hole.” Jeremiah called from
the kitchen. “I offered to cover this month’s mortgage, but he, being a proud, stubborn
Lockhart, wouldn’t hear of it. So, I keep my nose out of his business. I cook, clean,
and do whatever. How old is this chicken?” he said, pulling his head out of my icebox.
“I baked it last night. The pantry is full and the icebox is stocked. You should
be set for a few days. Scott didn’t have to take off work.” I stood in the kitchen
doorway and watched Jeremiah make himself at home in my tiny kitchen.
“You’re looking at the top student in home-ec class—four years in a row.” He shook
the crumbs from my toaster, squeezed the bread, and sniffed the potato salad. “Besides,
when does Scott not jump when your mother calls? By the way, how’s the new cousin?
When do I get to meet her?”
A couple of weeks ago, we found out that my mother’s deceased brother had fathered
a child with his mistress. Not only did Uncle Martin support the woman, but he also
put their daughter through law school. Marcella Wheatly showed up in my life during
my last assignment to help defend me against a murder charge. Her half-sister, my
dear cousin Ruth, has not quite warmed up to Marcella, although Ruth donated blood
when Marcella needed it.
“She’s out of the hospital. But don’t expect to see her at the next family reunion.
Do me a favor—run interference for me if my parents call.”
“This potato salad needs more mayo and...something else.” He picked up the pepper
shaker. “You’re going to have to use your male disguise if you plan to gallivant
around Galveston right under their noses. I could lend you some of my clothes. We’re
about the same size.”
“Your clothes are too flashy for me, and a bit too feminine, if you don’t mind me
“Which should tell you something about your wardrobe.”
“How about this?” I said. “I could tell my parents that I got the assignment at the
last minute and was about to pick up the phone and call.”
“Okay. This one’s better. Since you two just reconciled, I wanted to give you some
time to yourselves.”
“Better.” He was now dicing the chicken into tiny bits. “Let’s hear another.”
“I’m a grown woman, and I don’t have to tell you a damn thing about my plans.”
“Too honest. Your mother will have a hissy, and she’ll know you’re up to something.
Go with the reconciliation story.” He placed the chicken on a saucer. “Where’s the
“Hiding under the bed. You know how she gets when someone comes over.”
“Yes, but I’m her favorite person. This should lure her out.”
A split second after the sound of the dish clinked on my tile floor, an orange, football-sized
mass of fur dashed into the kitchen. “Don’t worry about a thing. Go do your job.
The girls and I will have a fine old time.” He cradled Mealworm in his arms and showered
her with kisses, causing a purr to reverberate through the room—not an easy task
for a cat with a mouth full of baked chicken.
“I should have this assignment wrapped up in a few days.” I sat my luggage by the
Monroe began whimpering. I reached down, nuzzled her soft ears, and began whimpering
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be here. Quick, before you leave, tell me about the new
boyfriend. Ruth said—”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“—that you two were hitting it off pretty well and that he was ready to prop—”
“Since when do you listen to what Ruth says?” I gave Monroe a reassuring kiss on
her curly head, looked around for the cat, who’d disappeared, picked up my luggage,
and left before Jeremiah could ask any more questions