While working alone one night in the basement of the auction house, Gable & Co., my protagonist discovers the presence of a very unusual individual . . .
The wailing ceased for the briefest moment, the duration of a heartbeat or two, and then erupted at a much greater volume. I sighed. There was no escaping it—I would actually have to do something now. With my mug in hand, I inhaled and closed my eyes, steeling myself for travelling further into the black depths, for the sound seemed to be coming from the furniture storage area, which was way at the back of the basement next to the elevators. I found myself trembling. Little twitches—leaks of excessive nervous energy—danced through my muscles. Blood pumped through my temples alarmingly; the throbbing was much more painful than any migraine I’d ever suffered. Was I about to have an aneurysm? The terror of the thought numbed me, and I stood rooted to the concrete floor.
Finally, I managed to have a practical thought. The first thing to do was find a light switch. But even after working for Gable & Co. for seven years, I still didn’t know where most of the switches were. The only light sources in the basement were a few bare bulbs in the staircase, the kitchen, and the storage area. As the wailing continued, I tripped over the slender cabriole leg of a chair and stumbled into an upright piano. I made a discordant crash, slamming down one hand on the keyboard as I struggled to steady myself. I cursed and shuddered as I slopped lukewarm coffee down my dress. The wailer became frantic at the sound of the mishap; the wailing rose to a hysterical pitch.
“Sorry!” I called out. I managed to disengage myself from the troublesome piano, and the wailing subsided gradually. I could hardly see a thing as I picked my way through the confusing labyrinth of dusty, rolled-up carpets and rickety furniture. I found a light switch on a pillar and flicked it on. The bare bulb overhead seemed to twitch to life. In the dim light, I could make out a teetering tower of stacked dining chairs just ahead of me, and I was sure that I would find the wailer right behind it. When I leaned forward and peered behind the tower, I saw her.
She sat alone in the shadows on a midnight blue velvet-upholstered art deco settee. She couldn’t have been more than about twenty. Although her delicate pixie face was arresting in its beauty, it wasn’t her face that made me gasp. She had raven-black straight hair cut to a chin-length bob, and she was wearing a sleeveless purple velvet drop-waist gown that shimmered with black beading. Her high-heeled shoes were black satin with a bow and a T-strap. Her slender white neck was graced by an elegant diamond and amethyst lavaliere set in platinum, which gleamed ever so subtly with each little movement she made.
I must have been hallucinating, just like my ex-assistant Alexis Harrow had when she’d put in too much overtime. Apparently, there was a refugee from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel hiding out in the basement of Gable & Co.