Drawing Down the Shades
Juli D. Revezzo
Antique Magic, book 3
Raven Queen Publications
Antique Magic, book 3
Copyright ©2013 by Juli D. Revezzo
The man browsed through Starfort Collectibles’ main showrooms silently for several moments, and Caitlin watched him, wondering. The box under his arm gave her pause. What was he doing here? Was he about to steal something? Or did he want to sell something? If so, why wasn’t he already talking to Trevor?
He seemed somewhere in his late sixties if she guessed correctly. The thought struck her that he might simply be passing time. She turned her attention back to her laptop and her latest blog entry but watched him out of the corner of her eye.
He turned a doll idly, set it back, and crossed the aisle to an old train set. Then he turned a corner into the far southern end of the shop. Caitlin strained over the counter to watch. What’s he doing?
He didn’t seem the type to shoplift and the Christmas holiday was long gone.
She pushed her hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “Can I help you with something?”
The man turned, nonchalant as could be and smiled at her, shifting the box in his arms. “Actually, yes. I wondered who I might speak to about selling an item.”
“My husband can help you,” she said and shouted over her shoulder, “Trevor!”
“What?” Trevor’s deep voice wafted down from the stairs.
“You can’t take care of it?” the customer asked.
“No.” She sighed and smiled. “My husband is the expert. Well, I can take a look and tell you what I think but you’ll want to speak with him before you make a decision to let this go.” She pushed her laptop aside and wiggled her fingers at him. “He’ll be right down.”
The man set the box on the desk before her and pulled at the tape holding the cardboard flaps together. Packing material rustled as he reached inside.
Trevor’s footsteps scuffed across the floor and he greeted the man. The old gentleman turned his attention back to the box, carefully removing the item inside. Caitlin peered over the top of the box curiously.
The man set down a small statuette of a woman, pouring something from a pitcher. Caitlin tipped her head. “That’s lovely, I must say.”
Trevor grunted and leaned forward. “Looks Greek.”
“German actually,” the man said.
“1960 give or take.”
Trevor pursed his lips and stepped back from the statuette, eyeing it thoughtfully. “That’s a little outside my range.”
The man pressed, “It’s a find, I can tell you that.”
“Rare?” Trevor asked.
“Oh, yes. One of a kind.”
Trevor glanced at her and back to the customer, holding out a hand. “May I?”
“Go right ahead.” He set the statuette gently—almost lovingly—into Trevor’s hands. “I think you’ll find there’s not a scratch on it. My children are tired of looking at it, you see. They say it gives them the creeps.”
Caitlin raised a brow. “How odd.” The little statuette looked lovely to her.
“Well, they have active imaginations. So here I saw your shop and thought you might have a solution for me.” He touched the statuette as if he didn’t want to part with it. “After I’m gone, I’d like someone to have it who’ll appreciate it.”
Trevor grunted again as he turned the little figure. Caitlin smiled at the man. “I told you, it’s his shop, his expertise.” She winked at Trevor. “I just keep the books.”
Trevor laughed under his breath, studied the item for another moment, and set it down. “It does look in mint condition. Do you have any documentation?”
The man sucked in a quick breath and reached into his coat pocket. A packet slid forth through his old fingers.
Trevor opened the packet, scanned it. He met the man’s gaze, startled, Caitlin thought. “Are you kidding me?”
“What’s the matter, honey?” Caitlin looked from her husband to the customer. When they said nothing more, she glanced over Trevor’s shoulder at the document in his hands. She caught the name Donavon before Trevor’s grip tightened on the form, crumpling the text out of view.
“Not in the slightest,” the man said as if she hadn’t spoken.
“You can’t be him,” Trevor said.
“I assure you, I am.” The man reached a hand into his coat. “Do you need to see my ID?”
Trevor narrowed his eyes. “I thought he’d died. I mean, you. I thought you’d died.”
The man pursed his lips and shook his head. “Not yet.”
“Who did?” Caitlin asked completely confused by this conversation.
“I thought everything she had,” Trevor barreled on, “was in the Museum of Fine Arts.”
The man chuckled to himself. “Not all of it.”
“Are you saying she gave some of the collection to you and you want me to have one?”
“Yes.” The man smiled sadly meeting Caitlin’s gaze directly. “Because I think you and she have more in common than you’d believe.”
Caitlin frowned. What did they have in common with whom? Who was this Donavon person? “Excuse me. What are you talking about?”
Trevor waved a hand. “Forget it, Cait.” He pointed to his office. “Of course we’ll take it. Let me just get some information from you.”
They disappeared into Trevor’s office and Caitlin stared after them, wondering. What in the world was that about?
A week later.
“‘Caitlin, if you skip one more day,’ Calvin said. ‘I’ve had it, I’m writing you up.’ But what am I supposed to do? I can barely stand up now as it is, let alone think of making endless copies.”
Trevor tapped the sales receipts down and stuffed them into the register drawer, one eye on his wife. “You need to quit. Kameko’s Print Shop can survive without you. You told him you’re sick?”
“I did, but—” She sighed. “You know what? I don’t give a crap what Calvin thinks.” She picked up a small letter opener. “He can run that damned shop into the ground.”
“Come on honey, it’s not that bad. Go back tomorrow and you’ll see, he’ll not say a word.”
“Oh, he’ll say something all right.”
“Not if he knows what’s good for him.” Trevor chuckled. “You can turn him into a toad, after all.”
She made a face at her husband.
“What? You haven’t found that spell yet?”
“Don’t make me hurt you.”
He kissed her cheek as he went by.
Caitlin gently poked him with the letter opener. “There. Ingredient one.”
“Oh, wait.” She put the makeshift weapon down and tilted an old apothecary bottle. “Maybe that’s for a love spell.”
Trevor came back and slid his arms around her. “I think it works. I also think I’m calling Calvin and telling him you quit. I don’t want that spell affecting anyone but me.”
“Agreed. I’m too tired to entertain anyone else right now.” Besides, there were a few things she wanted to accomplish before this year got too far ahead of her. She had to get a handle on this assignment the goddess Arianrhod had laid before her and she wanted to learn more—more about the imps she was to vanquish, more about the supernatural, and if necessary, some form of self-defense. Physical or otherwise.
“Good to hear,” Trevor said. “It’ll give you something else to focus on other than that blog of yours.”
Heather had given her a few phone numbers of different martial arts instructors. She just hadn’t chosen which was right for her yet. Beryl, meanwhile, had her studying up on the less physical forms of self-defense. When or if it would come in handy was up for debate. She hadn’t spotted any imps around town yet. Thank the gods.
She scoffed and leaned against him. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“To quit working at the print shop. I can’t stand Calvin anymore.”
“I know, honey. Besides, maybe it’ll help to sleep in a little more. Without him to yell at you—”
“I can sleep with the boss all I want.”
“I hope you mean me,” Trevor said.
A smile played around the corners of her lips. “Let me see who’s got a job opening.”
“You’re wicked.” He tugged a lock of her hair and she lifted her face for a kiss.
In the silence, Caitlin heard a faint rattle.
Trevor’s gaze slid to the air conditioning vent. “God damn it!”
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“That stupid vent’s rattling again.”
She narrowed her eyes at it. “Is that something to worry about?”
“I guess. It’s the fourth time it’s done that in the last two days. Damned if I can see anything to explain it.”
Caitlin made several suggestions to pinpoint the problem but Trevor insisted he’d tried them all. “I’m afraid there’s something stuck in the ducts.” He opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. “If that’s the case, it’ll die soon, and stink up the place.”
Caitlin wrinkled her nose. “The smell will permeate everything. Did you call anyone?”
“They can’t get out until tomorrow.”
She watched the morning traffic slide by. “Heather might know someone.”
Trevor’s jaw clenched for a moment. “I’d be willing to bet Toadstools and Eyes of Newt won’t fix this.”
“I’ll make sure she tells them to leave the items at home. Unless—”
“No,” her husband said pointedly, slipping his arms around her.
She smiled, welcoming his warmth. “I was going to say you might be able to sell them to one of your collectors; bottles of eyes of newt must fetch a hefty price.”
“It’s not Halloween.”
“Samhain,” she corrected. “Seriously though, you know Heather knows all the best businesses around here.” And the police, and several local government figures. “She’ll know someone who won’t charge us an arm and a leg.”
Trevor frowned. “I can call just as easily.”
Something crashed inside the store and Caitlin yelped in surprise. Trevor spun toward the door, yanked it open and cursed.
All the items that had once covered a small, scarf draped maple table—a framed ivory cameo of a three dancing maenads, a metallic-painted figurine of a woman pouring wine from a jug, and shards of antique glass—littered the floor, the glass shattered, the frames cracked. Above, the vent spewed a dust plume into the air, and from her vantage point, Caitlin thought the cover’s screws seemed loose.
Trevor cursed and knelt to pluck up the brass statuette.
Caitlin set a hand on his shoulder. “At least that survived.”
Trevor whispered something under his breath and standing, set the statuette back on the table. “All right,” he said. “It can’t hurt. Call Heather.”
* * * *
An hour later, Heather leaned against Trevor’s sales desk. Their friends Beryl and Sealya stood beside her. If anyone could figure this puzzle out, it was her three witch friends. She hoped.
“Are you sure it’s not a normal sound?” Beryl asked.
“It didn’t start until recently.”
“It could be mice.” Heather flipped a page in the phonebook, dark eyes narrowed on the text. “I can’t promise the exterminators won’t kick you out of here for a few days. You might just want to let it die.”
“And risk the decaying smell getting into all this?” Caitlin waved a hand around the shop. “I don’t think so.”
“Poisons will, just as well.”
“We’ll find some environmentally friendly chemical,” Heather said. “I know a few exterminators who use them.”
“Heather knows everyone,” Caitlin mouthed to her husband and he smiled.
“It could just go on its own,” Beryl said. “Squirrels do that.”
Caitlin peered up at the vent. “You think it’s a squirrel?”
“I don’t care why the vent rattles,” Trevor said, “I just want it to stop.” He pointed to the broken vase. “If I have to pay an arm and a leg to get an exterminator out, I will.”
The vent rattled again, loud, but the vases and bowls nearby remained still in their display case.
“Maybe there was an earthquake?” Heather suggested.
Caitlin and Trevor shared a glance. “I didn’t feel anything,” Caitlin said.
If there had been, the local news would’ve been all over it. Earthquakes in Florida were a rarity.
Caitlin moved a little closer to the door, reaching a hand toward the vent overhead.
A feeling of dread went through her. As if something passed through her that shouldn’t have.
“I—” She gulped. “I felt—”
Beryl frowned hard. Sealya and Heather drew up behind her. “Something what?” Sealya asked.
Beryl took a step forward. “Like what?”
A ghost. But it didn’t feel like Roland’s ghost, Trevor’s Civil War era grandfather who seemed still to love her so much. The presence felt, darker. It made Caitlin want to fall down in a heap and sob herself dry. She wanted to die and for a moment, looked down, eyeing the shards of glass on the table. She could see herself dragging one across her wrist ...
She scrambled away from the shards, seeking out Trevor’s stability.
“Hey, Caitie.” He enfolded her snugly in his arms, smoothed a hand down her back. “What’s the matter, honey?”
“Save your money for now.” She sniffled, reached up and pushed her hair out of her face.
Beryl laid a hand on his arm, fingers grazing Caitlin’s shoulder. When she turned to meet her friend’s gaze, she noticed Beryl’s full attention on Trevor. “I think it’s something we can take care of for you.”
“Oh,” Trevor pffted. “Please. Go ahead. But I hope you don’t mind if I bow out of it this time.”
As if she could leave him out of it. They’d both experienced far too much of the other side lately. For now, Caitlin laid her head against his chest, hoped she could deal with this strangeness without involving him.
Unfortunately, whatever it was had taken up residence here, not at Noah’s, not at Abby’s gallery. Here.
She stepped back. “Let me talk to them alone.” She turned to her friends and ushered them to the far side of the store. “Well?”
“What do you think?” Sealya asked.
Caitlin folded her arms over her chest, watching through the open doorway as Trevor swished the broom over the mess by the antique table. She met Sealya’s eyes. “I think it’s a ghost.”
Beryl went stiff and closed her eyes. She took several deep breaths and after a few moments, opened her eyes. “I don’t feel anything.”
Caitlin frowned. Hard. “I’m telling you, there’s a ghost in here.”
“How can you be sure?”
She nodded to the windows. “Remember my soldier?”
“Feel the same?”
“More ominous. Darker, but yeah, pretty much.”
Beryl smoothed a hand over Caitlin’s back. “Something is here, then.”
Caitlin nodded. “The question is, what? Trevor’s lost six 19th Century vases. Do you know how ticked he is?”
“Well, you can tell him the good news.”
“What good news?”
“I think you’re right; it’s not the A/C unit,” Beryl said. “My guess is it’s another—” She paused, watching Trevor in the far room. Seeing his attention on the broken vase pieces, she glanced back to Caitlin and mouthed. “—imp.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
“I could be wrong.”
She didn’t buy it.
Beryl shrugged. “Could be just a ghost.”
That wasn’t much better. Caitlin shook her head and headed for the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“I want a look at these ducts.”
Heather’s brow creased. “Looking for?”
Caitlin shrugged. “Just to be sure.”
Just to be rational, her mind said. Even though she had enough experience now not to question the paranormal, she hoped on the side of normalcy.
At the top of the stairs, she pushed the store’s attic door open. Boxes, packing crates, old furniture Trevor couldn’t fit in the shop downstairs littered the small space. Caitlin shuddered when she beheld a few of the Art Deco chairs he’d stored here. Would she never get over the scar his chair-like creation of last summer had left on her psyche?
A hand landed on her back, and she jerked. Wondered that she didn’t jump right out of her skin.
“We’re right here, sweetie,” Sealya said. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t.” Much.
Caitlin gulped and crossed to the air conditioning unit. The old monster rumbled and hummed, keeping the winter’s humidity away from the antique treasures Trevor stored here. She knelt down beside the machine, and tapped its metal casing. She duck-walked to its far side. A sticker adorned the surface, McTainst’s Air Conditioning, 2009, scribbled across its surface in bold blue lettering.
She sighed in disappointment. “Good news is the darned thing might still be under warranty.”
“What’s the bad news?” Heather asked, hooking her thumbs into the belt loops of her jeans.
A dark feeling, like a dull ache spread through her fingers, intensifying as it moved up her arm. She snatched her hand back, cradling it for a moment, kneading her fingers into her skin. Where was the aspirin when she needed it? “Something’s wrong here.”
“What kind of wrong?” Beryl took a step forward.
“The same kind as—”
A loud, feminine shriek pierced the quiet.
Caitlin screamed and jumped up, a hand going to the peridot and gold pendant around her neck.
“I don’t think the A/C’s responsible for the broken vases,” Beryl said, her voice shaky as she scrambled to the far side of the attic.
Caitlin skidded to a halt next to her, her heart thudding like a jackhammer. “No. Seems to me, we’re haunted.”
The scream died away. Caitlin took a hesitant step forward. A cold breeze whooshed through her. She went rigid. “Oh, damn.”
“What’s the matter?” Heather asked.
The breeze blasted through the room, kicking dust along in its wake. It circled back to the air conditioning unit. Something inside the unit burst into flames.
Caitlin screamed and fell back into the wall of her friends’ bodies, their panicky breath filling her ears alongside the crackling, cackling flame.
The flame whooshed out leaving a light glow at the air conditioner’s grill, smoke twisting above it. Caitlin flexed her hand, once, twice. The pain seemed to be subsiding. Nothing to be afraid of.
She took a deep breath as she stepped forward. Complete and utter misery tightened her chest.
Caitlin’s heart caught, then rampaged. She turned toward the door. “Out, out, out!”
Beryl or someone pushed the door open. Heather went first, then Sealya followed. Beryl and Caitlin ran down the steps after them. She followed the women into the store, past Trevor where he conversed with a customer.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “Did you find something?”
“We’ll be back.”
“Excuse me.” Caitlin heard Trevor’s words and his footsteps behind her. Felt the air of his hand as he reached out for her. She didn’t stop. “Where are you going?”
“The coffee shop!” she shouted, reaching the porch’s top step. “We’ll be back soon.”
“I have coffee in the—”
She paused, turned. “Go home, honey.”
He pulled her coat from the coat rack and handed it to her, shutting the door behind him. “What do you mean, go home? Here. Wait.” He helped her into her coat. “Cait, what’s wrong?”
She slipped her arm into her sleeve, and hugged him. Warm, solid. “Trust me. Close up; take the day off. Stay away from that attic. Come home.”
She ran down the steps. “Ari would say so too, if she were here.”
Her friends’ excited exclamations blasted from her car but she ignored them. Trevor’s wide eyes said all she wanted to hear. He’d listen to her. He’d be safe.
Caitlin flopped into the driver’s seat, jammed her keys in the ignition, and skidded out of her parking place. Her heart didn’t stop pounding until she’d pulled onto Fort Pickens Boulevard.
She pulled off to the side of the road and laid her head to the steering wheel. The horn beeped. She laughed and turned her head, looking at Heather in the passenger seat. Her friend’s brunette ponytail was a mess, the beaded hair clip hanging halfway down it.
“Oh, damn. Oh, damn! What was that?”
“I think,” Beryl said from the back seat, “your husband’s in trouble again. Or will be soon, if we’re not careful.”
Caitlin gripped the steering wheel, pumping at it, like doing vertical push-ups. Or slamming herself against it. “Why the hell can’t these things leave us alone?”
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Juli D. Revezzo is the author of the Victorian Romance Courting the Stationmaster's Daughter; the Steampunk/Victorian Romance Vesta's Clockwork Companions, the Gothic romance Lady of the Tarot, the Antique Magic and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series and more. All books available at Amazon. Also Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Some are also available as audiobooks via Audible and Itunes.