So it was a typical Saturday night in my new upstate life: me, three sheets to the wind on Kirkland Rioja from Costco, arguing politics with Sheila Weller and Ronee Blakley on Facebook. I think Ronee and I may be THROUGH. She’s SO in the tank for Bernie, who is, to my mind, unelectable. My TYPE, but unelectable.
Anyway, I got bored with our bilious Facebook back and forth and clicked on the Messages balloon thingy at the top of the page, and I noticed for the first time that there is a tab for “message requests”—communications from people you’re not “friends” with. There were two unread messages waiting there. One was from Penelope Green from the Times, asking if I am amenable to her writing a Style piece about my “re-invention.” I told her that I am, but that I’d like to wait until summer, when my skin will be less problematic and Saks will be ready with my debut capsule collection of period-friendly intimates, which I’ve decided to call Suppository.
The second message request was from a stranger, someone who called himself JayDeeDee. It read, “Your a smart lady since you got Elihu off the hook. Myabe you can put yr brains to a bigger case. If so, meat me behind the A-OK tomorrow at noon.” The A-OK is the off-brand supermarket here in my village of Slattern. I hardly ever go there—I can’t bear to even LOOK at what’s in their fish case—though I do occasionally drop by to pick up some edible tokens of my boarding-school childhood that they don’t sell at the Kingston Costco: Triscuits and little tins of Underwood Deviled Ham.
I hardly ever go there—I can’t bear to even LOOK at what’s in their fish case—though I do occasionally drop by to pick up some edible tokens of my boarding-school childhood.
Well, I think it is an utter HOOT that I have been cast in the role of Slattern’s town GUMSHOE. So I figured WHY NOT? The next day, I pulled up in my Kia Soul to the back of the A-OK, where I recognized, lolling in the loading bay, one of the Duck Dynasty boys who hang out in front of the Kwik Fill station. His name, he told me, is J. D. Dwyer, ergo JayDeeDee. He is the look-alike brother of the Kwik Fill fellow who first spoke to me, Dyer. (Yes, Dyer’s full name is Dyer Dwyer.) J.D. runs the meat department at the A-OK. (Which could explain “Meat me behind … ” in his Facebook note—subconscious or just thick?) J.D. is the eldest of five Dwyer brothers. Dyer, he told me, is the second eldest and runs the Slattern Transfer Station, which is, delightfully, what they call the town dump.
(A side note: I love the Ecclesiastes-ian implications of the term “transfer station.” To everything there is a season: a time to be a Costco rotisserie chicken, a time to be a mess of bones and uneaten wing meat; a time to be a bright-orange Hermès shoebox, a time to be flattened and mixed in among the drab Zappos boxes. Graydon, I think we should also call CEMETERIES transfer stations! I just might buy a plot in Slattern’s lovely little town graveyard, where I’ll “transfer” to compost right alongside the Dwyer brothers. Better that than next to my train wreck brother Ric, who is buried where he OD’d, at Deerfield.)
Pocketknives and Baseball Bats
O.K., it’s now the morning after I wrote the above. I was drunk. I shouldn’t EVER finish a whole bottle of Rioja in one go, nor should I write ill of the dead. Not even Ric.
Where was I? Oh yes, J. D. Dwyer. He asked me if I remembered the youngest face among the men who take their morning coffee out front of the Kwik Fill: a pale, sad-looking kid with the shortest beard of them all—really just a wispy chin strap, and no mustache above the lip, which makes him look like Paul Dano in character in a picture about Mennonites.
This boy is named Haven Deeds. Haven is a meatcutter at the A-OK. Haven is forever spooked, J.D. told me, because his parents’ deaths are unsolved. In 1994, when he was three, Haven’s parents had loud words with each other at the Slattern Ridge Tavern. Slattern Ridge is the section of Slattern that is too hillbilly even for most of the hillbillies. You always hear about Ridgers getting into it at the Tavern with pocketknives and baseball bats. I wouldn’t DARE step in there at night, though I have walked in during the day to buy salmon eggs from their bait fridge. Graydon, they’re the same damned roe for which you pay $30 per quarter-pound at Citarella, and when I’ve put them on a canapé, NONE of my beloved Andrés—Leon Talley, Bishop, or Gregory—has noticed the difference!
No one knows exactly why Haven’s parents, Walt and Louise, were screaming at each other. What they do know is that, the next morning, Walt and Louise seemed to have made up, and they took their rowboat out to go fishing on Leech Pond, leaving Haven with his cousins. But at dusk that day, the rowboat floated back to the boat launch with only one body in it: Walt’s, dead. By strangulation, the coroner said. They sent down divers and dredged the whole pond, but they never found a trace of Louise. The troopers ultimately just shrugged it off as Ridger-on-Ridger violence.
They’re the same damned roe for which you pay $30 per quarter-pound at Citarella, and NONE of my beloved Andrés—Leon Talley, Bishop, or Gregory—has noticed the difference!
The last clue they had before the trail went cold, J.D. told me, was an ATM withdrawal on Walt and Louise’s account, with $200 taken out in, of all places, Lake Worth, Florida. “You must know more about Florida than we-all do, Lansy,” J.D. said. “Hell, you probably got friends down there.” True and true. I told J.D. that I was taking the case.
But if I’m going to do this right, Graydon, I need a partner. Do you remember Patrick Lyonnais? Wavy-haired, mercurial guy, bit of a dandy, who flitted through every art department at Condé Nast, burning every bridge? Patrick and I were a TEAM, snooping out ALL the gossip before anyone else knew it. We used to sneak smokes together in the stairwell of 350 Madison. Hiding in that dingy shaft made us privy to a LOT of state secrets—like the time we found out that Leo Lerman had actually died three years earlier than they said he did, but that they needed to keep it secret for estate-planning reasons, and what his minions were actually carrying through the revolving doors every day at 350 was not old Leo himself but an elaborate Julie Taymor–type puppet.
A Vicious Fight
Patrick and I fell out long ago. He had a place in Palm Beach just down the A1A from Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler, and Simon and Patrick got in a vicious fight over who invented the phrase “fabulously feral.” I took Simon’s side and that was that.
Last I heard, Patrick was living a bitter life in Lee, Mass., doing freelance design for Barneys. (R.I.P. If I’m on Skid Row, HE must be on Shitty-Shit Lane.) But Patrick was my comrade in arms AND he knows Palm Beach, which is spitting distance from Lake Worth.
I had a hunch. Have you heard about Theory Wellness, the fancy legal pot store just over the border in Great Barrington? There’s always a line out the door for their goodies, and not a person under 55 in it. From what I gather, practically everyone in our former tribe who lives in this general vicinity goes there on Saturday mornings. Graydon, when I got out of my Kia in the Theory Wellness parking lot, I couldn’t believe my EYES! It was like Old Home Night for alumni of Worth and Manhattan Inc.—pretty much everyone but Jane Amsterdam!
And then, standing just behind John Seabrook, there he was: the hair still wavy but thinned out and grayer, and his Norma Kamali sleeping-bag coat swapped out for a regulation Patagonia fleece—and shockingly HORRID chinos. But it was him, definitely him.
“Patrick,” I said.
But before I could even deliver my I-come-in-peace spiel, he raised a finger to my lips and spoke.
“Lansy, I forgive you.”
More next time.