The Turkey Wore Satin
© 2015 by J.J. Brass
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover design © 2015
First Edition 2015
Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
The Turkey Wore Satin
A Thanksgiving Tale of Murder, Mystery,
and Men in Women’s Clothing!
The first year Marty joined Kristin’s family for Thanksgiving dinner, he thought they were all a bunch of lunatics.
Not much had changed since that day four years ago, except that Marty was no longer Kristin’s puppy-love boyfriend. After a big summer wedding, he was now officially her faithful husband. And, as an official member of the Mayfair family, this year Marty would take part in one of the illustrious family’s long-standing traditions: The Amazing Annual Mayfair Family Drag Show.
Kristin’s elegantly coifed grandmother Iris, who had buried no fewer than four husbands, explained the family drag show with great fanfare the first time Marty dined at her impressive mansion. It started in the 1940s, not long before Iris’s brothers were killed storming the beaches of Normandy.
One Thanksgiving, after a lean wartime dinner, young Iris played her favourite song for the family: Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. The boys were not great fans of the Andrews Sisters—not that they would admit, at any rate—but in lieu of their normal teases, Iris’s brothers put on a show. They all got up and sang along, and Mayfair Family History was made.
The impromptu lip-synch marked the beginning of an annual tradition to honour three fallen soldiers. Iris could imagine no better way to show gratitude for their sacrifice than to insist all men in the Mayfair family get gussied up in women’s clothing every year on Thanksgiving Day. Her late brothers had a fine sense of humour, she told Marty. They’d have loved it every bit as much as she did.
From humble beginnings, the tradition grew year by year. Nowadays, every man chose a female celebrity to impersonate. It cost a pretty penny, too. In the weeks leading up to the great event, every man went out to buy flash and glam costumes, wigs, and the glitziest makeup on the shelf.
Kristin wore makeup, sure, but barely more than a touch of rosy lipstick and a subdued shade of eye shadow. No use raiding her makeup cache. Tyrone was kind enough to take Marty under his wing, since this was his first performance. They went out together, to a theatrical supplies store, to pick up golden eye shadow and fake lashes with sparkles built right in! The price of it all blew Marty away—not that anyone in the Mayfair family seemed concerned about money.
In fact, even when Grandma Iris had told him the story of the first wartime drag show, he couldn’t help wondering if the austerity measures she spoke of amounted to little more than enjoying five courses instead of seven. Maybe only three kinds of pie instead of eight.
“Are you ready for this?” Tyrone asked as he strapped Marty into a vintage Madonna cone bra. “Competition can get pretty intense. The Mayfair men are cut-throat when it comes to winning Best in Show.”
Tyrone was another Mayfair in-law, married to Grandma Iris’s son Jonnie. Every year, he performed as Tina Turner. He had the perfect complexion for it, not to mention the perfect legs. Marty didn’t usually notice other men’s legs, but by the time Tyrone suited up in a shimmering magenta dress, tossed on a wig, and perfected his make-up, you’d have thought he was Tina herself. Rumour had it he’d performed professionally in his younger days, which he absolutely denied, since it would have barred him from the family competition.
And Marty was getting a real sense of how fierce this competition could be!
As far as Marty was concerned, Tyrone could be called the best of the bunch. At first, he’d attributed the guy’s killer performance to the whole being gay thing. But if that were the case, Jonnie would have been a shoe-in for drag, too—and it turned out Jonnie was the biggest flop of them all. Anyway, according to Kristin, Tyrone had never won Best in Show. Imagine that! He was obviously cream of the crop.
Maybe the game was fixed?
Nah, couldn’t be. First off, who would go to all the trouble of rigging a family drag competition? And, secondly, it was the Mayfair women who voted on the best performance. They always picked the most bumbling, fumbling, silly performer: Uncle George, a Mayfair by marriage who always snagged the role of Bette Midler. They probably just picked him so he wouldn’t feel too humiliated.
Marty wasn’t exactly in it to win it, but surely he could count on one woman’s vote.
“My wife will definitely pick me,” Marty said as Tyrone helped him with his headpiece: a platinum blonde wig he and Kristen had braided and then wrapped around a Styrofoam cone. “That still sounds weird, to me: my wife. My wife is going to vote for me in the Amazing Annual Mayfair Family Drag Show.”
Tyrone chuckled, but he was swiftly interrupted by gravelly laughter from Marty’s father-in-law.
“Don’t count on it,” said Jack, who’d already slipped into on a slinky black dress. “Kristin always votes for her good old dad. Just because she’s got herself a first husband doesn’t mean she’s going to change her loyalties.”
“Uhhh okay,” Marty replied, trying desperately not to stare at the man’s shiny bald head, not to mention the bulge down south. “I only figured, you know, since we just got married a couple months ago, Kristin might vote for me this year.”
Jack laughed crassly. “Wait and see, buddy-boy.”
“Leave the kid alone,” said Uncle George, who looked more like a walrus than Bette Midler. “It’s Marty’s first time in drag. Don’t you think he’s nervous enough without you being a total ass?”
“It’s okay,” Marty said, because he didn’t want to instigate a battle to the death between the two brothers-in-law.
Kristin’s father and uncle were already at each other’s throats about some business deal gone bad. Jack was some kind of corporate big-wig. Marty never had been exactly clear on what the people in this family did for a living. Even Kristin’s job mystified him. They all had corner offices and more vacation time than workdays. That’s all Marty knew.
Tension weighed nearly as heavily on the air as the eyeliner Tyrone meticulously painted on his husband. Jonnie hadn’t found his niche yet. He was trying out Liza this year. Some guys, like Tyrone and Jack, were showmen—dressed as women, dressed as men, didn’t matter. Other guys were quiet, observant. That was Marty. He listened, he looked, and he could usually pull out the undercurrent of any situation. He and Jonnie had that much in common.
“Can I borrow your blusher?” George asked Jack.
Jack snapped, “No way. Get your own.”
All at once, the tension burst and George hollered, “You think you know it all? Well, you don’t know squat. You lost half a million in that—”
“It wasn’t half a million,” Jack cut in. “Nowhere near! And, hey, if you were a true drag queen instead of just a drama queen, maybe Tyrone wouldn’t be so jealous every time you win this goddamn thing.”
Jonnie stepped up and said, “My husband has every right to be jealous. He’s got the looks, he’s got the moves, and he’s got legs. Why he hasn’t won yet, I’ll never understand.”
George totally ignored Jonnie’s plea, and turned back to Jack. “I’m taking you to court over that deal. It wasn’t legit and you know it. You’ve pissed off a lot of investors, you self-righteous son of a bitch. First thing after the holiday, I’m getting the ball rolling on a class action.”
Jack flipped on his long black Cher wig, then tossed his hair over both shoulders. Sucking in his cheeks, he said, “Go on and try, Georgie-Boy. You got nothing on me.”
Marty couldn’t stand the aggression. In his full-on Vogue outfit, he snuck away from the guest suite they were using as a dressing room. He couldn’t see anyone in the hallway, thank goodness. All the women—Grandma Iris, Kristin and her mother Angela, George’s wife Cynthia, plus Kristin’s cousins Beth and Georgette—were downstairs munching on appetizers, waiting for the big show to begin.
A streak of nerves shot through Marty’s belly, making his legs quiver. He thought about performing for Kristin’s family. Oh God! Performing was not his thing. He was the kind of guy who felt nervous just placing an order at a restaurant. All eyes on him? It was too much pressure!
And dressed like this? Cone bra, cone hair, even a little cone codpiece to put over his white sequined bathing suit The cross-dressing didn’t bother him, not with every Mayfair man taking part, but he didn’t want Kristin’s entire family staring at his winky-dink.
As Marty wandered down the hallowed halls of Mayfair Manor, he caught a whiff of something delicious. Turkey dinner was in the works, and Marty salivated as he imagined the delicious pies that would follow. Maybe they could skip the drag show and go straight to dessert?
Mmm… he could smell apples and cranberries among the hearty aromas of potatoes and stuffing, and he followed his nose toward the epicentre of aroma: the kitchen. Grandma Iris’s cook, Brykia, went all out for the holidays. Marty couldn’t resist grabbing a bite.
As he made his way toward the kitchen, Marty’s thick nylons rubbed together. The soft shushing made him self-conscious, not just because of the sound but because that sheer fabric felt surprisingly good against his thighs. Sure he’d thought this family was kind of nutty when he’d first met them, but maybe the men were on to something. The drag show was truly carnivalesque, especially for an upper class bunch like the Mayfairs.
Marty slowed as he approached the kitchen. He felt a little weirded out by the prospect of Brykia seeing him dressed like Madonna, circa 1989.
He listened at the swinging saloon doors, too nervous to step inside.
He expected to hear pots clanging, but instead he heard the tippity-tap of high-heeled shoes. That was strange. Brykia always wore canvas runners. Must be someone else in the kitchen.
Suddenly Marty’s fear of being seen and judged outweighed his hunger, and he rushed down the hall—well, as much as he could in heels. The guys had all put on pumps first thing, to get a feel for walking in them.
Some of the men were old hands with heels. Marty, not so much.
By the time Marty returned the dressing room, the argument between Jack and George had died down. The atmosphere was still seething, though. The clouds of tension didn’t break until Brykia knocked on the door a few minutes later.
“Madame Iris says the men must be fed,” Brykia said as she wheeled a serving cart into the room. She laid out a cheese and fruit tray—standard fare at Mayfair family gatherings—and then handed George his own bowl of fruit, primarily red grapes. “Because of your lactose intolerance,” she explained. “These ones never touched any cheese.”
George grunted something that might have been a thank you, then tore the plastic wrap from his dish. Marty couldn’t resist the brie with fig paste, and scarfed it down with enough bread to absorb the nerves boiling like acid in his belly.
For a while, everyone ate quietly. It made for a nice change. The room stayed pretty much silent until George let out a loud hissing noise. Marty turned just in time to see him brushing his arm against his flowing satin dress.
“You okay, Uncle George?”
George stared at his wrist, saying nothing. Whatever happened, he’d reacted with enough vigour to attract everyone’s attention.
“What’s wrong?” Jonnie asked.
“Nothing,” George snapped, still staring at his arm. “Bug bite, maybe.”
“I didn’t think the great Mayfairs attracted pests,” Tyrone teased.
“Jonnie attracted you, didn’t he?” George shot back.
The room fell again into silence, but Marty felt that barb just as sharply as Tyrone must have. Even in marriage, guys like Tyrone and Marty would never be on equal footing with the Mayfair bloodline.
Jack and George fit in okay. They had that upper-class edge Marty would never understand, or even be able to copy. Kristin never made him feel like he was less worthy than the rich guys she’d dated before him, but her mother certainly did. So did Kristin’s Aunt Cynthia, although Grandma Iris was the absolute worst. All she had to do was look at Marty to make him feel inferior.
It was a talent he hoped his wife would never develop.
All the men were sweating as show time approached, but none more profusely than George. Even through cake makeup, his face glowed red. Holy Moly, the guy was dripping like a faucet! Marty had no idea whether this was business as usual, since he’d never been backstage before. None of the other men seemed quite as nervous.
Downstairs, the women chanted: “On with the show! On with the show!”
God, was it really that time? Marty’s stomach rumbled. Could he seriously lip-synch and strike a pose in front of his wife’s family?
Ah, but he had to. No choice in the matter. It was a Mayfair family tradition.
Like ducks in a row, the men walked that green mile toward the front staircase, which was as grand as the Mayfair matriarch herself.
With the exceptions of George and Jonnie, the men seemed much more self-assured than Marty. Tyrone and Jack could walk in heels without stumbling, even when they started down the stairs.
Tyrone, as acting MC, led the line down to the luxurious marble foyer. The Mayfair women all wore their holiday best, which meant the best of the best: fine fabrics stitched with glass beads and crystals. From the Great Room, they cheered and hollered and snapped photographs of the men in drag.
The men’s dresses were by far more showy and flamboyant than the women’s, but they weren’t quality pieces. Marty would hate to be sweating all over a three-thousand dollar Donna Karan. Not that Marty’s perspiration held a candle to George’s. The poor guy looked like a pig in a satin blanket.
“How you holding up?” Marty whispered as the other men paraded before their wives and family members.
The women cheered and applauded so loudly it was a challenge to catch George’s answer. It sounded like, “A bit,” but he was struggling for breath, like every inhale was a painful chore.
“Come on!” Tyrone hollered from the Great Room. “Hurry your sweet asses up!”
In that outfit, Tyrone didn’t just look like Tina Turner, he sounded like Tina Turner, too! Ah, the power of suggestion!
The other men were way up ahead, strutting their stuff while Marty hung back in the marble foyer with George. George’s illness was a happy excuse to delay entry into the Great Room, Marty had to admit. He hadn’t even stepped off the stairs yet and, in truth, he felt too nervous to let go of the stair rail. The second he stepped onto that marble floor, he’d surely collapse. He’d put on the Spanx Tyrone had given him, but he felt bloated with bread and brie.
Why oh why had he eaten so much cheese?
He should have followed George’s example and stuck to grapes!
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mayfair Ladies!”
Oh no, Tyrone was starting the show! Marty pressed his fake nails into the wooden railing so hard one of them flew right off, flipping in the air before click-clacking down on the marble.
Tyrone asked, “Are you ready for your men to put on a show?”
Hoots, hollers, applause!
Everyone but Marty had made it to the Great Room by now. Oh, except George. The poor old guy faced that direction, but wavered side to side like a buoy rocking on ocean waves.
“Your boys are dressed to impress,” Tyrone went on. “Now, who’s ready to rock?”
Laughter, wolf-whistles, cheers!
The longer Marty stared at the back of George’s gleaming blonde wig, the more adamantly he felt that something must be wrong. That’s when George started shaking, like he was having a seizure or something. Yeah, this was more than just stage fright or shoe troubles. His satin skirt quivered and quaked. His feather boa trembled like a squatting dog.
Tyrone clearly had no clue what was happening out in the hall. He announced, “Let me introduce them to you…”
George slid one foot forward on the marble, and it just kept going.
Marty had never seen such a large man do the splits. He belted with laughter, and clapped his hands to acknowledge the effort. “Way to go, man! That’s quite a feat!”
When George made no response, Marty asked, “Hey, you okay, Uncle George? Need a hand?”
George fell to one side
In the next room, the Mayfair women cheered like crazy while Tyrone brought out the men in tights.
Marty tuned out the frenzy. Kicking off his heels, he raced across the foyer, falling so hard at George’s side that he worried he’d put a hole in his nylons.
“George?” Marty smacked the guy’s bloated face, but got no reaction. He shook George’s shoulders hard enough that one fake boob rolled out the top of the big man’s dress. “Quit fooling around, George!”
This fallen-over-splits position would be impossible for any out-of-shape man to hold for so long, unless he’d been training in the off-season. And training to hold his breath indefinitely, too.
“Guys!” Marty shouted. “Guys! I think you’d better come out here!”
“Guys?” Marty cried. “Help!”
It grew apparent that nobody could hear him over Tyrone’s introduction and the Mayfair women’s frenzied cheers.
Marty tried slapping George in the face to revive him, but that didn’t work. He tried shaking the guy, but George’s head snapped back and forth in a way that did not look natural.
“Help!” Marty called out. “Kristin? Call an ambulance!”
He hadn’t stopped shaking his new wife’s uncle, and suddenly George’s dead weight tumbled toward him. When the man’s sweaty face landed against Marty’s bare shoulder, that did it. He screamed in a way that was… let’s just say less than manly. Okay, okay: he screamed like a scared little girl. And, in truth, with a man—a definitely dead man, he now realized—collapsed on his shoulder, who could blame him?
“What is the meaning of this?” Grandma Iris asked in a huff. “Young man, you are ruining the Amazing Annual Mayfair Family Drag Show!”
“Help!” Marty shouted, since he’d finally managed to grab their attention. “Help, please! I think he’s dead!”
The magnitude of what was happening only really hit Marty when the family rushed into the marble foyer with a click-clack of heels.
Kristin pushed to the front of the crowd, and covered her mouth with both hands. “Marty, what happened?”
“I don’t know!” His Spanx gripped his waistline so tight he could barely breathe. “It must have been a heart attack or something. He just collapsed like this.”
“Doing the splits?” Kristin’s mother, Angela, asked. “How bizarre. How very truly bizarre.”
George’s daughters fell at his sides. While they attempted to revive him in a whirlwind of chest punches and face slaps, Marty managed to shuffle toward the stairs.
The truth was obvious, at least to Marty. Uncle George was dead. No bringing him back.
The paramedics were called at Brykia’s insistence. Like Marty, the sweet-faced cook couldn’t understand her employer’s desire to leave George’s body in the foyer while they proceeded with their drag show. A death in the family should to take precedence over a stage performance. It would in any other household.
The Mayfairs were very strange people.
Two paramedics in dark blue uniforms arrived on the scene at their leisure. When they entered the foyer of glitz and glam, one asked the other, “What the heck have we walked in on?”
Grandma Iris told them, “We were preparing for our annual drag show, and I dare say it would have gone off without a hitch if my wretched son-in-law didn’t have the audacity to drop dead!”
The paramedics exchanged a dubious glance before checking for a pulse. The professionals agreed good old Uncle George was damaged beyond repair.
“But you called this in as a heart attack,” said the short, shapely paramedic with the ponytail. “Doesn’t look like a heart attack to me. See this mark here?”
The whole family crept closer to investigate the red spot on George’s arm.
“Whatever is it?” Grandma Iris asked, clutching a lace hanky just beneath her lips. “Don’t tell me he was killed by a pimple!”
“Not a pimple,” said the other paramedic, who looked like a male Whoopie Goldberg. “Spider bite. Black widow, I’d say. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I did minor in entomology back in college.”
The ponytail paramedic perked up. “Hey, me too! Small world.”
“Yes, yes, you two should get married some time,” Cousin Beth snapped. “But before for you start planning the honeymoon, would you kindly explain how a black widow spider crawled all the way to our little corner of the planet and ended up on my father’s arm?”
It was Beth’s mother, Kristin’s Aunt Cynthia, who answered that question. “I’ve heard news reports about dangerous spiders travelling here in bunches of grapes. By the time they end up in somebody’s kitchen, they’re so riled up they bite the first person they see!”
“Oh, so now you’re an entomologist too?” Beth said to her mother—which, actually, struck Marty as a pretty rude way to talk to someone whose husband had just dropped dead.
Kristin’s father jumped in to say, “No, no, Cynthia’s right. We did have grapes earlier. Remember, guys? They were part of the cheese platter.”
“And George had his own dish,” Jonnie added. “Brykia wrapped it up for him—grapes that hadn’t touched cheese.”
“Because of his lactose intolerance,” Tyrone said. With his hip popped and his knee bent, he looked exactly like Tina. Marty did so many double takes he thought he’d get whiplash.
“But I washed the grapes!” Brykia cried.
Marty jumped because he hadn’t realized she was standing so close to him. In those rubber-soled shoes, the cook could sneak around like a ghost.
“I washed them, Madame Iris, I swear.” Poor Brykia probably thought her job was in danger, and she was probably right, knowing what these Mayfairs were like. Brykia pleaded, “No spiders in the grapes. Everything was clean.”
“Well, perhaps your clean and my clean are different cleans altogether,” Grandma Iris replied.
“It doesn’t matter where the spider came from,” said Cousin Georgette. “Spider bites don’t kill people. Daddy must have died of something else!”
“Oh, now you’re an entomologist too?” Cousin Beth scoffed.
Georgette looked to the paramedics for answers. “Do spiders really kill people?”
“Not usually,” both paramedics said at once. They blushed and both said, “You go,” “No, you go,” and then they laughed and blushed some more.
When her giggles died down, the ponytail paramedic said, “Death from spider bites are unusual unless the patient is quite old or quite young, or if their immune system is compromised in some way.”
“Or,” said the male Whoopie, “if the person doesn’t seek immediate medical attention. He would have felt incredibly ill before he died.”
Marty spoke up: “Yes, he was. I saw him. He was sweating like a pig!”
Male Whoopi asked, “What could have been so important that he’d risk his life by not going to the hospital?”
Tyrone looked at Jonnie, who looked at Jack, who flicked his long black hair behind his shoulders. “He’d never lost the drag competition.”
The paramedics exchanged doubtful glances.
“It’s a coveted title,” Jack told them.
“Coveted enough to die for?” the paramedics asked, both at once. They quickly turned to each other and laughed. “Jinx! Buy me a Coke.”
“You don’t seem to be taking my uncle’s death very seriously,” Kristin said as she crossed the foyer to hold hands with her bereaved cousins.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do to bring him back,” said Ponytail Paramedic. “But, hey, I just got an idea!”
“I bet I know what it is,” Male Whoopie replied.
They gazed deeply into each other’s eyes like a couple of lovebirds.
Ponytail Paramedic said, “Guess. I bet you’ll get it.”
“I know I will. I can read your mind.”
“Oh really?” Ponytail Paramedic’s voice turned sultry and seductive when she said, “Well, then, tell me what I’m thinking right now.”
Cousin Georgette rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh, get a room!”
Cousin Beth said, “No, first tell us what you were thinking.”
“Oh.” Male Whoopie turned away from Ponytail Paramedic just long enough to say, “We should call Professor Turquay to see if he can identify that bite. He knows everything there is to know about spiders
“Especially poisonous ones,” Ponytail added.
“No,” Aunt Cynthia cut in. Her voice sounded strangely hard and unemotional, considering her husband had just died. “No, that won’t be necessary, thank you. Just take George away, to the morgue or wherever it is dead bodies go. Please.”
The ponytailed paramedic took one step closer to the body, and cocked her head at Cynthia. “But Professor Turquay is a leading expert in sexual cannibalism.”
“In what?” Kristin’s mother cried.
“I should ask you to watch your language!” Grandma Iris added. “This is a respectable house.”
“Black Widows are renowned for killing their mates,” Whoopie explained. “The professor will be able to tell us if we’re right about that bite, if it really was a Black Widow.”
“No,” Cynthia said sternly. Her hands formed fists at her sides. “This is all getting quite out of hand. Now take him away. Go!”
“It really is rather morbid,” her daughter Georgette agreed. “Strange, though—Turquay. That name rings a bell.”
“You’re just hungry, dear,” Grandma Iris consoled her granddaughter. “Come, let’s return to the Great Room while these public servants clear the foyer of corpses.”
Beth and Georgette threw back their heads and wailed while Kristin escorted them from their father’s bloated body. Everyone shadowed the young women, with Marty bringing up the rear. He followed the click-clack of high heels while Brykia trailed softly behind him.
“How are you holding up?” he asked her, since the Mayfairs’ staff were usually easier to relate to than the Mayfairs themselves.
Brykia pouted, “My turkey will be black by the time this is over!”
While the paramedics clumsily attempted to un-split George’s legs, Marty stared down at the man’s sequined heels. That’s when he remembered the noise he’d heard from the kitchen earlier on, when he’d swiftly escaped the dressing room.
Heels! He’d heard heels in the kitchen!
And that was just before Brykia brought up the cheese platter and George’s guilty grapes. It hadn’t been Brykia—she wore soft soles. So who was it?
Marty was getting a weird feeling about all this.
When he’d reached the Great Room, something came over him. He ran to the stage, grabbed Tyrone’s microphone from its holder, and said, “I don’t want to ruin Thanksgiving, but I think George was murdered!”
The family gasped. “Murdered? No! Never!”
Well, to be accurate, everyone but the Mayfair Matriarch gasped. Grandma Iris just sat there like a queen, looking all around with a quaint smile on her face.
From what Marty had heard on the family grapevine, Grandma Iris stood accused of slaughtering her share of husbands. But money erases all sins in these parts, and if there was one thing the Mayfairs had it was money.
“Marty, sit down!” Kristin shouted. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
“No I’m not,” Marty said as he tugged his vintage Madonna wedgie out of his butt crack. “There’s something fishy going on here, and I don’t want it swept under the rug.”
“Hey, you weren’t so keen to hit the stage,” Jack piped up. With a cantankerous chuckle, Marty’s father-in-law said, “Maybe you killed George so you wouldn’t have to perform in the drag show. What’s your alibi, kid?”
“Alibi for what?” Kristin’s mother asked. “You heard the Ambulanciers. It was a spider bite, not a shot through the heart.”
“Maybe it was a spider bite,” Marty agreed, “but how, exactly, did a deadly spider get into George’s grapes?”
Aunt Cynthia shook her head. “Weren’t you listening? It’s been all over the news: Black Widows get shipped north in bundles of grapes.”
“But Brykia washed the grapes.”
“And she did a bang-up job of it,” Grandma Iris said, before issuing a dry Katherine Hepburn cackle.
Brykia brought out her rosary, pleading in silence as she joined Marty on the makeshift stage. He needed to convince the family she wasn’t guilty, not even of being a bad grape-washer. The last thing he wanted was for Brykia to land the blame of Uncle George’s death.
“Look,” Marty said. “I saw George brush something off his arm when he was eating those grapes. I’m sure a spider did bite him, but I also suspect that spider was planted there… to kill him!”
The family gasped, and the grieving daughters sobbed on Kristin’s shoulders.
“Brykia,” Marty asked, “George’s dish was covered in plastic wrap when you gave it to him. Why?”
The poor woman looked up from her beads, her eyes wide with alarm. She shook her head. “I don’t know. I did not cover it. I…I…” Brykia burst into tears, hollering, “I did not kill him! I swear!”
“I know you didn’t,” Marty said, wrapping one arm around her.
“Ouch!” Brykia cried, pulling away from Marty’s cone-bra. “Your bosoms are sharp enough to kill a man.”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “You were with George when he died, Marty. I’m still not convinced it wasn’t you who did the dirty deed.”
Marty was getting antsy in a He-Who-Smelt-It-Dealt-It sort of way. “I’m not the killer.”
“Baby, we know. You wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Tyrone stood dramatically. In a classic j’accuse pose, he pointed at the man dressed as Cher. “You killed George, didn’t you Jack?”
“I hardly think so,” Jack said, brushing his long dark wig over both shoulders.
Jonnie picked that one up and ran with it. “Jack, you’re the only one here with a motive. George was all twisted up about that business deal gone bad. He threatened to launch a class action suit after Thanksgiving.”
“What happened?” Georgette asked Beth.
“Daddy lost money?” Beth asked Georgette.
“Girl, your daddy lost a buttload of cash,” Tyrone answered. “And it was all Jack’s fault. Jack has got to be the killer.”
“I didn’t kill anyone, you little puke! Jonnie, rein in your husband.”
Jonnie waved a hand in the air. “Honey, I have triiied…”
“Marty, you were there when George threatened me,” Jack called across the room. “Where would I have gotten a poisonous spider between then and the time Brykia handed him those grapes? I never even left the room!”
“That’s right,” Kristin’s mom said, holding hands with her Cher-look-alike husband. “If anyone killed George, it was probably Tyrone.”
“Oh, sure! Blame the black man! Real original, Angela.”
Kristin’s mother rolled her eyes dismissively, which pretty much said it all.
“I think what my wife is trying to say,” Jack picked up, “is that George always took home your coveted Best in Show title.”
Angela nodded decisively. “You’d have run over your own mother with a dump truck to get your hands on that prize.”
Tyrone stamped his heel on the ground. “What’d you say about my mama?”
“My floors!” Grandma Iris cried. “How dare you!”
“I’m sorry, Granny, but you heard your daughter disrespecting my mama.”
Iris turned decisively and said, “Angela, apologize to Tyrone.”
“Mother, we’re not children!”
“Angela!” she growled.
Lowering her gaze, Kristin’s mother grunted, “I’m sorry, Tyrone.”
He flicked his wig and shrugged. “Yeah, well, you really think I’m gonna kill my brother-in-law over some stupid drag contest?”
Grandma Iris’s eyes flashed. She pounded her cane on her precious hardwood floor, then hoisted herself up. “The drag show is not stupid, Tyrone! It is a Mayfair family tradition! Now if you young people are quite done yammering, on with it! On with the show!”
“Grandma!” Georgette cried. “Daddy just died! They’re not going to prance around the stage like a bunch of goofs.”
“A bunch of goofs?” Iris replied. “No granddaughter of mine will refer to our men in skirts as a bunch of goofs!”
“Daddy died,” Beth cut in. “The paramedics say a spider bite, Marty thinks it’s murder. A stupid drag show should not be your top priority, Grandma, and I don’t care if you cut me out of the will for saying so!”
“Insolent child,” Iris grumbled.
“Crazy old lady,” Beth shot back. “Somebody in this room probably killed my dad and you’re hiding your head in the sand!”
Grandma Iris scoffed, “Nobody killed anybody, silly girl!”
With the tension coming to a head between grandmother and granddaughter, Marty lifted the microphone to his lips and said, “I witnessed it! I’m a witness!”
The Mayfair family fell silent as Marty’s voice echoed through the speakers.
“A witness?” Kristin asked. “A witness of what? What did you see, Marty?”
“Well, it’s not so much what I saw,” Marty replied, feeling less sure of himself now that all eyes were on him. “It’s more like what I heard. I left the dressing room just before Brykia brought the grapes upstairs.”
“Yeah, why did you leave?” Jack asked.
“To get away from you!” Marty wanted to say, but he was on thin ice already. What he actually said was, “I got nervous. Nervous-hungry, like when your stomach fills with acid and you need to eat some bread. So I went to grab something to eat, except I heard a noise in the kitchen: high heels.”
“High heels?” Cynthia asked. “Well, so what? If you didn’t actually see anything, you’re not much of a witness.”
Marty explained to the family, “I think whoever was clacking around the kitchen planted that spider in Uncle George’s grapes. We’re all wearing high heels—well, everyone except Brykia—so it could have been any one of us!”
“Could have been you,” Jack shot back.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying,” Marty agreed. “I mean, it wasn’t me, but it could have been.”
“Well, it wasn’t any of us men,” Tyrone said, in a resonantly low tone of voice. “None of us left the holding room. We can all vouch for each other.”
“Everyone but you,” Jack heckled. “You’re the only one who left the dressing room, Marty-Boy.”
Marty swallowed hard. His heart thundered in his ears and his cone bra dug into his chest. He had no way of defending himself, except to say that he didn’t do it and ask, “What about the women? You were all together down here, waiting for the show to start. Someone must have left the room at some point.”
“We were all in and out,” Grandma Iris said. “Powdering noses and such.”
Scratching his head, Marty said, “There must be some way to figure this out. It couldn’t have been an accident. I know in my gut Uncle George has been murdered. But whodunit?”
“Sit down, Marty,” Kristin shouted across the room. She sounded exasperated. “Nobody dunit. Can’t you see you’re embarrassing yourself?”
“A true Mayfair would never accuse his fellow family members of murder,” Grandma Iris clucked. “Not even if they were guilty!”
If Iris was trying to cast suspicion on herself, it was working.
“Brykia.” Marty turned to the woman in the canvas shoes. “Who asked you to bring us the cheese platter up to us?”
“The lady of the house, of course.”
“You mean Iris?”
A deep flush took over Brykia’s cheeks and she looked down at her feet. “Yes.”
Grandma Iris huffed and puffed and pounded her cane on the good hardwood floors. “You will not accuse me murder in my own home!”
Jack laughed. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Her elderly body shot arrow straight and her lips pursed, but it was Angela who defended the matriarch. “My mother is not a man-killer.”
“No, just a ball-breaker,” Tyrone chuckled.
Jonnie’s body tensed, and he took his turn. “Marty, look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, here, but my mother’s not a murderer and neither is anyone else in this family. George got bit by a spider and he didn’t call an ambulance. He died for drag. Simple as that.”
“I think I’m starting to agree with Jonnie,” Cousin Beth said, her cheeks streaked with tears. “Anyway, we’ll know more when Professor Turquay gets here. He’ll be able to tell us what kind of spider bit Daddy.”
Suddenly, Cousin Georgette shot up from the couch and shouted, “Turquay! T-U-R-Q-U-A-Y!”
Everyone turned to look at her.
“I knew I’d seen that name somewhere. It was spelled funny and it made me laugh.” Georgette turned to her mother, and her face fell with an expression of deep shock.
“What’s wrong?” Marty asked. “Where did you see the professor’s name?”
“It was on that shipping box when we got here,” Georgette murmured. “Remember, Mother? It was on that package from the university.”
Cynthia waved a dismissive hand in her daughter’s direction. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, child. What shipping box?”
“It was addressed to you,” Georgette went on. “Sent here care of Grandmama. I asked what was in it, but you didn’t answer. You just picked it up and took it away…”
“I saw that box too,” Beth said, quietly, like she was in a trance. “It had one of those ‘live animal’ stickers on it. I was about to ask what it was when Grandmother yanked me into the front room and called for tea.”
“The spider!” Tyrone gasped, covering his pink lips with bright purple fingernails.
“Where?” Jack squealed, jumping onto the nearest chair.
Tyrone tsked. “Not in here. In the box! The live animal box. Honey, keep up. We ain’t slowin’ down for y’all.”
“Mother!” Beth cried.
But Tyrone obviously craved his moment in the sun, because he stood and pointed an accusing finger at Cynthia, and said, “Honey, you killed your husband.”
Cynthia’s eyes filled with tears, but she blinked them away. “Well, that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard! Me, kill my husband? Why-ever would I do such a thing?”
“Money?” Tyrone asked. “Rich man like that’d probably leave his wife a tidy sum.”
“Maybe he was cheating on you,” Marty proposed.
“Or because he looks better in a dress than you!” Jonnie said.
“Don’t be vile,” Cynthia replied. “George always looked atrocious in women’s wear. How he managed to win the drag competition year after year, I’ll never…” Her lip began to quiver as she said, “…I’ll never know.”
Georgette stroked her mother’s back. “Daddy was funny on stage. That’s why everybody voted for him. He made us all laugh.”
“That’s right,” Kristin and her mother both said.
Jack relented. “We’ll all miss the guy’s drag performance. I can’t deny that.”
Cynthia’s stiff upper lip broke and she wailed as she said, “It wasn’t my idea!”
“What wasn’t your idea?” Marty asked into the microphone.
“It was Mother! Mother insisted! She said I had to carry on the Mayfair family tradition!”
“Hush, Cynthia,” Grandma Iris chastised.
“What Mayfair family tradition?” Marty asked. “You mean the drag show?”
“No,” Cynthia sobbed. “There’s another one, an older one… one you men don’t find out about… until it’s too late!”
“We will have no more of this nonsense,” Iris growled.
“It’s true!” Cynthia sobbed into her hanky. “Mother said it’s what all Mayfair women did, husband after husband. She did it, her mother did it, just like her mother before her. They all murdered their men.”
“What?” Jack and Tyrone shrieked.
Grandma Iris covered her face with one hand. “Oh, Cynthia, you silly, stupid girl
“This is too… weird,” Georgette said.
“Mom, you didn’t really?” Beth whispered. “You didn’t do it.”
“I did!” Cynthia wept. “Your grandmother bought a special kind of spider from the man at the university—a black widow bred to be vicious and very, very poisonous. She told me all I had to do was get Brykia out of the kitchen long enough to put it in George’s grapes, and it would be easy enough to explain away.”
Everyone turned to Brykia, who seemed confounded for a moment, and then said, “That’s right! Madame Cynthia asked me to find her a jar of beets from the cellar. I left her alone in the kitchen.”
“And that’s whose heels I heard clacking!” Marty said.
“Yes, it’s true,” Cynthia admitted. “Cart me off to prison. I deserve to be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of my day, nothing but bread and water to sustain me!”
“Certainly not,” Grandma Iris growled. “I should say, not until after we’ve all enjoyed Brykia’s wonderful turkey. And we won’t be starting dinner until after the Amazing Annual Mayfair Family Drag Show!”
Everybody groaned, and the grieving daughters tried their best to explain why, this year, the Mayfairs should give the drag show a miss.
Meanwhile, Brykia fled to the kitchen to tend to the bird and probably start searching for a job in a house without a longstanding tradition of murder.
Kristin joined Marty on stage, beaming proudly as she approached him. Removing the microphone from his hand, she switched it off and replaced it on the stand. Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “I’m very proud of you.”
“Proud enough to swear you won’t murder me?”
“Cross my heart.”
“Even if your mom says you have to?”
“Since when do I listen to my mother?” Kristin asked. “She told me not to marry you, and I married you anyway.”
Marty sagged. “Angela said that? I thought she liked me, at least a little bit.”
Taking his hand, Kristin said, “Maybe that’s why she didn’t want me marrying you—because one day I’d have to kill you.”
“Do you think your mom knew about this Mayfair Family Tradition?”
Kristin shivered. “I hope not. I sure didn’t.”
She helped him cross the stage in heels, and then held his hand tight as they stepped down the three stairs to the floor.
“You can take off those heels now,” Kristin said. “I really don’t think the show’s going to happen.”
Marty shrugged. “It’s okay. I need the practice for next year. With Uncle George gone, it’s anyone’s game.”
Kristin, rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Come on. Let’s tell those paramedics what happened. Maybe they know when the police will get here.”
But when they stepped into the huge marble foyer, the paramedics were nowhere to be seen.
“Maybe they went out to the ambulance,” Kristin said.
Just then, they heard a distinctly suspicious giggle from the closet.
Marty marched over to it, which was no easy feat in his high-heeled shoes, and yanked the door open.
Inside, Male Whoopie’s fingers were bunched up in his partner’s ponytail. She was tugging on his dreads while they smooched like they’d both spent the last decade on a desert island.
Marty cleared his throat, and they both jumped. Looking guilty and shocked, they stammered, “Oh, we were just… clues, looking for… clues…”
“In each other’s pants?” Kristin asked.
The paramedics blushed and apologized, but Marty actually thought it was pretty cute.
“We just wanted to tell you we know who killed George,” Marty said. “His wife is the culprit. It’s a long story.”
“Well, she can tell it to the cops,” Male Whoopi replied. “Sorry, that sounded meaner than I meant it. The police are on their way, is what I should have said, so she can give them her full confession when they arrive.”
They stood awkwardly inside the closet, until, finally, Kristin wished them a happy Thanksgiving and shut the door so they could get back to… looking for clues…
“Well, this has sure been an eventful Thanksgiving,” Marty said.
“And we haven’t even eaten yet.”
As his new wife squeezed his hand lovingly, Marty listened to the Mayfair family sobbing, screaming and arguing in the next room. Through it all, he’d nearly forgotten he was wearing his Madonna outfit. The bodysuit and stocking had become a second skin while they were busy solving George’s murder. Even the heavy blonde wig wasn’t feeling too cumbersome. The heels would still take a bit of practice, though.
“We’ve got leftovers in the fridge at home,” Kristin said. “Are you married to the idea of a big family dinner with the Mayfairs?”
“I’m only married to one Mayfair,” Marty teased. “And if she’s ready to go, so am I. Let me just change out of this Madonna get-up.”
As he kicked off his shoes, Kristin asked, “Which one of you killed the spider?”
Marty froze at the bottom of the stairs.
“The black widow,” Kristin continued. “It bit Uncle George. Did he kill it?”
Marty started to tremble. “No, I don’t think so. I saw him brush his arm against his skirt, but… Holy Moly, the spider must still be up there!”
As Marty raced out the front door, Kristin followed behind. “You’re just going to leave your clothes here?”
“Burn them!” he said.
“We’re going to drive all the way home with you dressed like Madonna?”
“Beats getting bit by a black widow,” Marty squealed. “Anyway, men dressing like women is your family’s proudest tradition!”
Getting her keys out of her purse, Kristin said, “So is murder, apparently.”
Hopefully this Thanksgiving spelled an end to that Mayfair family tradition. But as Marty took off his wig and tucked into the car, he felt kind of disappointed that he did all that rehearsing for the drag competition and now he’d never get to show off his moves. Maybe when they got home, he’d put on a private showing for Kristin. She’d like that.
Murder, he could do without. But the other Mayfair family tradition, the one that involved a lip-synch competition, back-breaking choreography, and larger-than-life glam? Well, he hoped the Mayfair men would hold on to that.
Thanks for reading The Turkey Wore Satin! If you enjoyed this humorous Thanksgiving mystery, why not leave a quick review? Reviews help other readers find the stories they’re looking for while avoiding books that may not suit their tastes.
Happy reading and have a great day!
Thanksgiving at Mayfair Manor is an elegant affair: polished silver, sparkling crystal, not to mention the Amazing Annual Mayfair Family Drag Show! But when the perennial winner drops dead before the performance, can the newest member of the Mayfair family prove it was murder… and figure out whodunit? Download your copy today and read this hilarious Thanksgiving tale of murder, mayhem, and Mayfair family traditions! A fast, fun holiday mystery.