I had managed to make it to the ripe old age of never-mind without knowing the Tuxedo Inn existed.
I drove by it nearly every day, but I didn’t see it. Owing to the ten foot tall brick wall, wrought iron gates, tall trees, and general camoflague.
It’s on a road that runs down by the river. A woody, hilly two lane road back to what used to be summer cottages and small waterside hotels.
At one time I’d lived a mile up the road in a shingle style house from 1910. It used to belong to the McCormick spice company and big wigs used it as a getaway from the heat of downtown Baltimore. They road a small local railway to a station a quarter of a mile awy. The railroad access has since been turned into a bicycle path. That behemoth of a house was later split into 3 apartments on three floors. I’d had the top floor, where I can only assumer the servants stayed. It had no view of the river and not much in the way of amenities, so it was never where the hoy paloy would have bunked.
I lived there for seven years and wondered, on occassion, who lived behind the gate up the road. Mostly I figured it was one of the newer residents who’d bought up several lots and put an oversized house with tiny rooms in it on the property.
Since I don’t have a boat, I never sailed by my neighbor so I never saw the art deco facade up on the hill. Nor did I see the glints of sunlight or party light from the “ballroom” built on the edge of the property and hanging seventy five feet up a hillside from a floating dock.
Nope, I didn’t know anything about any of it until one November afternoon when my aunt Lilibet took me out to lunch. She didn’t take me to lunch at the Tuxedo Inn, she took me to lunch at the Double T Diner. We were eyeing the dessert case with malintent when she made her play.
“You know you are my only heir.” She mentioned a little too merrily. “And, there is a family legacy that I need to pass along to you.” She pointed to the “sucicide by chocolate” cake in the case. The waitress carved her off a healthy slab and plunked a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it.
I had visions of a family tiara or great uncle John’s racoon coat or some such. With Mom in assisted living, I had rifled through everything in her house looking for things I could sell when the insurance ended and the money dwindled. There was nothing except grandmother’s modest wedding ring and an antique marble topped table. I picked out a slice of walnut pie.
My mouth was full of pie when Lilibet jumped in again.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Her eyes were alight with mischief and her face was deep pink. I hadn’t seen her that full of mirth since we’d gotten snockered on the last of Uncle Howards XO cognac and watched Pirates of the Carribean on DVD.
“It would be really nice if you told me mom’s house had a metric ton of gold bullion buried in the basement.” I sent her a sly smile. She was showing all the signs of bringing up some long lost relative or dumping me with some odd chore I wouldn’t find amusing at all.
She reached out and put her hand on my arm.
“Oh Dear, don’t worry. I will help you with Frances. She will never want for anything.” She gave an extra pat and then grabbed her spoon up again.
Lilibet was doing well with her investments, but I didn’t envision she had 45,000 dollars a year it took to keep mom well cared for.
“No dear, this is something your mother knows nothing about. With only the three of us left, it’s going to be your problem who has it after you.” She looked wistful then she winked. “No dear, this is my your grandfather’s, well for want of a better word. It’s his speak easy hideout!”
“What?” I squealed in spite of a mouth full of pie. “What the hell are you talking about? Prohibition when out in 1933. What is this, a hole in a hollow tree where we hide the family hooch?”
“You just wait and see! Now finish your pie, I’m not letting this ice cream go to waste.”