Sydney Lockhart and Friends
The moment Sydney walked out of the bathroom in her room at the Arlington Hotel, complaining to me that a dead man lay sprawled in her bathtub, I knew she would not leave me alone and allow me to enjoy my vacation. My husband and I had just checked in to “our” room, the one we stay in every year. I hadn’t planned to share it with a sassy dame who stepped out of the 1950s with her own baggage, and I’m not talking about suitcases.
I gave in and helped Sydney deal with her problem, which only got worse in the process. But instead of going her own way, she has become my companion, making me laugh at the most unsuspecting times, kicking my butt when I get distracted, and never, ever letting me off the hook. Just when I think I know her better than I know myself, she does something inane, and then we’re off and running again: to another historic hotel, to another murder, to another Sydney Lockhart mystery.
You might have wondered where we’ve been lately. It’s been a while since I’ve reported Sydney’s last caper, but in her world, time works on a different plane. Recently, we sat down together and rehashed her tumultuous past and developed an explosive future. So for those of you who don’t know Sydney Lockhart and her pals, I thought I’d introduce them with a short piece of dialogue or excerpt from what was and what will be.
Ruth Echland is Sydney’s cousin, who shows up unexpectedly and berates Sydney for whatever trouble she’s gotten into. Ruth first appears in Murder at the Arlington, and no matter how much she complains of being inconvenienced by Sydney’s ventures, Ruth shows up, invited or not, to set things right. Ruth also had her own lexicon.
“What’s gotten into you [Sydney]? I came all the way to San Antonio to get you out of another bind and you avoid me. You act as if I had the bluebonnet plague. Someone is chasing you and you throw a pillow at them? How stupid is that? Wait until I tell Dixon how strange you’re acting. Your clothes are a mess again! I swear, what am I going to do with you? And where in the hell have you been?”—Murder at the Menger, due out in the Spring of 2022.
Detective Ralph Dixon: Sydney’s love interest and partner in crime, also shows up in Murder at the Arlington when he suspects Sydney of murder. She’s annoyed by his audacity and arrogance. But the chemistry between them was too strong to let murder and bad behavior stifle their attraction to one another.
Dixon walked in. “Hey, look, the thief left this.” Twirling on his finger was my green velvet cap Rita had bought me yesterday. I shot him a hateful glare. He tossed the cap on the bed and turned to leave, then paused. “Highway 27 Fish Camp—that’s near Mt. Ida, right? Near that fire that brought out fire trucks from every surrounding county. You didn’t have anything to do with that, did you?”
A flippant answer always works in place of a lie. “Like I had a map of Arkansas.”
“Right. Next time we talk, maybe you’ll tell me about those charred pajamas you left in a pile on the bathroom floor and how you singed your eyebrows.”—Murder at the Arlington
George Lockhart is Sydney’s levelheaded father who is never short on advice. He does his best to shelter Sydney from her manic mother.
I placed a collect call to Galveston. My dad accepted the charges. “As much as I love hearing from you, I’m going to have to go back to work to afford these calls.”
“I’ll make it short. Mom’s here.”
“Wonderful. Is she staying? Please tell me she is.”
“You really wouldn’t wish that on me.”
“You’re right. Maybe she’ll move in with your brother. They still like each other.”
“I’ll work on it. How did Mom know I was back in Austin? You didn’t tell her, did you?”
“Of course not. I told her you and Dixon had moved to Ecuador. I guess she didn’t buy it. So, if you’re in Austin, that means you decided to put off the honeymoon.”
“Actually, we put off the wedding.” The gasp was strong enough to suck me through the phone lines.—Murder at the Pontchartrain, due out in the fall of 2022.
Mary Lou Lockhart is Sydney’s mother, a drama queen who almost made it as a Hollywood film star. When she’s not driving her husband to drink, she trying to wrangle Sydney in to a domestic life of kids, PTA meetings, and country club luncheons.
“I don’t want your father interrupting me. He’ll be back in a second. So listen. It’s about Uncle Martin.”
“Uncle Martin’s dead.”
“It’s a good thing too, or I’d killed the bastard.”
Getting information out of my mother was like pulling a clam from its shell.
“Martin may have been my brother, but he was a no-good creep. I told Francie that before she married him. But whoever listens to Mary Lou Lockhart. Just because I married your father doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”—Murder at the Luther
Marcella Wheatly popped into our lives when I was at the Luther Hotel trying to solve a murder to keep myself from going to jail. She’s a lawyer from Houston. Later we were shocked to learn that Marcella was Ruth’s half-sister, a product of Uncle Martin’s infidelity. Upon discovering who she really was, everyone in the family welcomed her with open arms, everyone except Ruth. Marcella came to Galveston to help plan my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration. Ruth and I were at the Galvez Hotel avoiding from my mother. Marcella dropped by our room to check on us.
“By the way, where’s Ruth?”
“In the bathroom hiding.”
Marcella knocked on the bathroom door. “Ruth, can you hear me?”
“Good. I took the liberty of making reservations for dinner at eight at Gaidos tonight for the three of us. We’ve all had a busy day. Dinner is on me. What do you say?”
“Count me in,” I said. Then I raised my voice. “I’m not sure about Ruth. She might have a date with her new flame, Buddy.”
The door flung open and, the little blond fury flew out. “Not funny!”
“The Cha-cha-cha master?” Marcella asked.
“Go ahead, tease me! Gang up on poor, little Ruthie. I sacrificed myself to help Sydney, and this is the thanks I get.” She grabbed her clutch, slipped on her pumps, and stormed to the door. “I’d rather have dinner with the goat man!” Slam. She was gone.
“Uh-oh, I may have overdone it,” Marcella said. “I didn’t want to make her angry. I was hoping to make her laugh. Who’s the goat man?”
“Don’t ask.”—Murder at the Galvez now reissued by Anamcara Press
Lydia LaBeau, Sydney’s twelve-year-old, going-on-forty friend who is beyond reproach and often considers herself the smartest person in the room. Sydney met Lydia late one night in a costume room of a theatre company in Austin, Texas. It was a blue moon, and Lydia wore a white organdy and lace dress with lavender patent-leather Mary Jane shoes. She was clutching a bible.
“Sorry I bothered your fantasy world, Lydia. Do me a favor and lock up after I leave. There are some dangerous people hanging around this neighborhood at night.”
“Oh, I’m not worried. If the bums around here know you, they pretty much leave you alone.”
“Maybe you should walk me back to my office.”
“Hey, come by tomorrow, and I’ll get you a ticket to the show. It’s great entertainment. We’re staging “Sherlock Holmes at the Alamo”.”
“I’ll do that. Gotta go.”
“Unless you’re known around here like me, I’d stay out of these alleys. Life is too wondrous and beautiful to squander in the cesspools of the devil.”—Murder at the Driskill
I’m so pleased to have Sydney back in action again. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve planned some great stories, but I’ll let you in on a secret. Sydney handed me a list of ideas about what she wanted me to write. I promised I’d use every one, but as soon as she left the room, I tore up the paper. I don’t know what the future holds, and neither does she. Life’s a mystery.