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First pages

[one]

There was going to be no more poverty,

no more ignorance, no more disease.

Art Deco reflected that confidence, vigor and optimism by using symbols of progress, speed, and power.

~ Robert McGregor

 

Eduard gaped at the bloody pictures of the 1920s crime scene. Anesthetized in black and white, the horror flashed across the wall in sterile vignettes of the Waverly Mansion.

Now a museum, the mansion’s juxtaposition of curved lines and sharp angles in clean, simple silhouettes was touted as an early example of art deco style—though not called art deco by its designer. Successful businessman A. D. Waverly had been impressed with the new architectural movement in Europe and brought French architect Auguste Perret to America to design his estate. But what really put the mansion on the map were the unsolved murders of the entire Waverly family.

Eduard couldn’t resist a good mystery and had been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe since the sixth grade. While his friends read about warrior cats, dragons, wizards, or the latest young adult dystopian, he read The Murder in Rue Morgue. He didn’t quite relate to the staunch Victorian fashions and uptight values in the Sherlock Holmes stories, but somehow Doyle had captured in Holmes a figure who was out of his time, too advanced, too outsider for the era he inhabited.

Eduard felt the same way. Out of sync with the modern era he was born into. Not that he was too advanced, but that the twenty-first century didn’t have any humility or mystery left. In addition to cell phones, email, and online everything, the world had become cynical, sardonic, and smugly self-conscious. People lacked any real sincerity or awe of their own existence. Eduard felt isolated and apart.

This feeling was brought into sharp relief as he straggled along at the back of the tour group. The witless haha girls swung their hair and hips, chirping like mindless baby chicks, cookie-cutter girls too afraid to be different, too afraid to like anything outside the accepted high school box. Eduard had successfully ditched every other field trip this year, but he had actually wanted to go on this one, the last one of the year. He tried to appreciate the curving architectural lines against sharp corners and listen to the hot jazz playing in the background, but the haha girls wouldn’t stop talking.

“Oh my God, this music sounds like crap. Doesn’t it sound like something my grandmother would listen to?” The blonde girl’s ponytail bounced high on her head like the tail of an Arabian show horse.

“I know, and look at the furniture. Hellloo, Abe Lincoln called and he wants his couch back. Hey, are you going to Ryan’s party Saturday? His parents are supposed to be out of town and they have a Jacuzzi,” replied the muffin-faced girl, her cleavage on a platter. Her curvy body was already beginning to round into the middle-aged tub she would eventually become.

The jazz music and design details were the only refuge from the girls’ insipid conversations.

This year, his senior year, he’d taken to wearing black every day. He was in mourning for his disillusioned soul. Disillusioned with the modern world he lived in. The mind-numbing drivel the teachers wanted him to learn. And the girls who either tried too hard to be the same, or tried too hard to be different—anti-establishment copies of each other with nose rings, colorful hair dye, and punky fashions—though by default, slightly more interesting.

Eduard couldn’t remember the first time he’d found an affinity for the vintage era. It might’ve been a documentary on bootleggers or one of the old movies his parents watched—before their divorce. But he remembered being fascinated by men in crisp suits, big guns, and witty mouths. Capable and smart. The women with sassy short hair, dresses that danced on their own when the women sashayed across the room, smiles walking the line of innocence and knowledge.

The music alone expressed a sincere wild abandon, a raw energy lost in later times. It wasn’t just the rawness—every era’s youthful music claimed its own edge—but the 1920s seemed to Eduard to be the last decade to infuse mystery, hope, and burgeoning sensuality into every strata of society. The whole world caught the Roaring 20s fever—like everyone coming of age at the same time. Why can’t these moronic girls get that? He lagged farther behind the group.

“Are you lost?”

He jumped and turned in the direction of a girl’s voice.

“Hello, you.” The pretty docent smiled. It was not the guide from their field trip. This girl—woman—was different.

Where’d she come from?

Eduard caught his breath. She was exactly the kind of girl he dreamed about, one who embodied the style and character of the era. Her bobbed hair fell in loose, dark curls around her pale apple face. The afternoon sun shone through her beaded peach dress, illuminating the outline of her slender figure in willowy shadows. She faded into the background décor in soft muted tones like an old master’s painting.

A tremor ran through his limbs. He became aware of every inch of his body. His clothing rubbed and irritated against his flushed skin. He resisted an overwhelming desire to kiss the girl and lean his body into hers. Smiling instead, his heart raced, and he scrambled for words.

“I, uh. No. I’m with the group. The school. The school group. Field trip.” Words stumbled out of his mouth, resounding idiotic and childish in his own ears. Sweat broke out across his back, the air-conditioning suddenly chilling him to the bone. He shivered, oddly hot and cold at the same time.

“Which group would that be?” She cocked her head to one side. Her auburn curls fell teasingly across her cheek.

He looked around and realized his class had moved on without him, no one noticing they’d left him behind. He was used to it. He’d made an art of blending in, being unseen, being forgotten. Making sure not to impress the teachers too much, he purposely misspelled a few words on exams, but always kept his grades in the top ten percent. He couldn’t wait to be out of school and away from all the conformist nonsense.

“Which group?” he repeated and adjusted the strap on his satchel. “The Chaparral High School group. Do you have another field trip here?”

Did that sound sarcastic or rude? He didn’t mean it to sound like that or imply she was unintelligent. Why wasn’t his brain connecting with his mouth?

“No, I suppose there’s no other tour here right now.” She smiled. “I really do not pay copious attention to high school tour groups.”

“Yeah, I guess high school field trips are pretty lame, huh?” An awkward tremulous smile stretched across his mouth. Heat rushed to his face.

He couldn’t tell her age in the old-fashioned garb. Her gown was more flattering and vintage than the one his tour guide wore. The field trip tour guide was older too, certainly not as dazzling as the woman in front of him. The gauzy sequin dress draped the young woman’s curvy frame, shimmering like leaves in a breeze. He warmed another degree. She must be a college to have a docent job on a weekday.

“I think field trips are darb. Although I much prefer the younger groups.” She pushed a lock of hair behind her dainty ear. “They’re much more…intuitive. I actually get to talk to some of them. You’re the first high school boy who’s talked to me.”

He hated that she thought of him as a boy, but the way she said boy wasn’t insulting like some of the mindless haha girls from school. And what did darb mean? He didn’t want to ask, but thought it sounded positive. A cloud passed over and darkened the room. The sunlight slid from the gable window.

“Well, you could show me around, since I’ve lost my group,” he said in a rush, speaking more to this strange girl than he had to most girls his entire high school career.

“It would be an honor.” She turned toward the door. Eduard followed. He didn’t want to get too hopeful. After all, she was probably too old for him, but he decided right then and there, what he needed was a college girl. And she must like history and the 1920s. Why else would she want to work in the museum and wear a flapper costume?

“So, can I ask you a question?” He stuck his cold hands in his pockets.

“Sure, shoot it to me.”

“How’d you get a job here? Graduation is right around the corner and this would be a cool summer job and a neat place to work.”

Neat? Did I just say neat?

He couldn’t believe how stupid he sounded, again. Why am I talking like a moron? No, why am I talking like a haha girl? Graduation couldn’t come soon enough. He was pretty sure his peers were making him dumber.

“Well, I suppose there is an application process. I’ve observed job applications under the front desk. Where the gift shop is now located.” She glided out the door past him and into the hallway.

An involuntary shiver crawled up Eduard’s spine. He followed a few paces behind.

“The gift shop used to be a music parlor with a piano in the far corner. When you enter, see if you can imagine someone sitting down at an ornate upright and playing a ragtime tune. Though, I prefer hot jazz. Don’t you?” Her face softened, eyes glistening with a faraway look.

He couldn’t believe he was having a conversation with a girl who even knew what hot jazz and ragtime were. I bet she knows hot jazz earned its name from the blazing tempos and fiery improvisations. A thrill ran through him.

Eduard thought back to the research he’d done on 1920s jazz. “Um, did you know the style originated in New Orleans in the early 1900s with basic instrumentation for trombone—which originally carried the lead melodic line—trumpet, clarinet, string bass, drums and banjo or guitar. A rugged polyphonic sound created an overall, brassy, rugged texture, but the improvisation and emotional infusion gave the music a distinct sound.”

All the information he knew came out in a rush. He clamped his mouth shut to keep from spewing more jazz history she probably wasn’t interested in.

 “I studied a little about that. Tell me more.”

“Really? Yeah, sure.” Everything inside him lit up. He felt alive. Important. Interesting. “Well, the early bands helped expand the hot jazz sound into Chicago and New York, taking over the clubs and popular music. Ragtime, which predated hot jazz, contributed to the sound with its syncopated melody, but it was written for piano. Hot Jazz gave way to the surge of swing bands in the 1930s, though you can still hear its influence in that music.”

Maybe he should bring her a copy of Joseph Moncure March’s The Wild Party, the lost classic written in jazz rhythm, published in 1928. That might make me look sophisticated and experienced. She does seem interested in jazz.

“I love piano, though. Sometimes…” She smiled and looked through him. “People would sing and dance and…”

“Eddie, there you are. Mr. Sanchez is looking for you.” One of the haha girls came up behind him, ponytail swinging rhythmically like a windshield wiper. “The bus is leaving.”

His face flushed red, heat rushed to the tips of his toes. He didn’t want the beautiful docent reminded he was just a high school boy. He turned to the docent and began to say, thank you, but she’d slipped away. His insides crunched up, and he clenched his jaw, embarrassed, mad, and some other emotion he couldn’t identify.

He followed Ponytail-girl toward the exit.

“Was that the lamest field trip ever or what?” she asked.

“Huh?”

“Lame. Field. Trip. Yoo hoo. Keep up Eddie.”

“Please don’t call me Eddie.”

“Whatever. Ed-uard. I was just trying to be nice. I don’t have to, you know.”

“I know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She whipped around and stopped walking.

“It doesn’t mean anything.” That was why he didn’t bother with high school girls. College would be better. It had to be better. If there were girls like the docent. He wished he’d asked the docent her name. He should’ve asked her name.

“You’re so weird, you know,” Ponytail-girl said.

“I know.” He chuckled to himself.

“But you are kinda cute. In a brooding, loner kinda way. Why do you dress in black all the time? You look like you could be in an indie rock band.” Her painted lips curled at the corner, and he couldn’t tell if she was making fun of him.

“Uh, thanks?” He shrugged, although being in a rock band was the furthest thing from anything he’d ever want to do. He did play an instrument, a clarinet, not that a rock band needed a clarinetist. He’d quit the marching band after a fight with the director. The narrow-minded, tubby mushroom of a man wouldn’t even consider any songs from the 1920s or 1930s.

Eduard hated all the meaningless band songs. Sousa marches for the lame football team or orchestral versions of pop songs in a pathetic attempt to make the band geeks cool, which they never would be. Not that he had any desire to be cool or to be anything but left alone.

“Don’t mention it.” Ponytail-girl smiled and touched his arm.

Maybe she hadn’t been making fun of him. He shook his head. She made no sense. And why was she talking to him? They were almost to the front door. He looked around one last time for the pretty docent.

“Who you looking for?”

“Um, I need to run by the gift shop. Tell Mr. Sanchez I’ll be right out.” He shifted his satchel to the front. He’d refused to carry a backpack and insisted on a black canvas, flap-front bag.

“I’ll go with you.”

“What? You don’t need to do that.” Why wouldn’t this girl leave him alone? He grimaced with a fake smile and dashed into the gift shop. He was both relieved and disappointed not to see the pretty guide. Instead, an older lady dressed in a tacky, costume flapper dress stood behind the counter.

“Hi, uh, I was wondering if I could have an application.” He fiddled with the straps on his satchel.

The middle-aged lady bobbed her head like a peacock, an effect made that much more convincing with the feather protruding from the top of her headband. She smiled a doughy smile, lipstick creasing in the corners of her mouth.

“For a job. A docent job,” he mumbled.

The peacock lady quit wiggling her head and opened a drawer—moving like she was under water—the very act of doing anything more than wobbling her head an incredible effort. Eduard felt his anger and impatience rise. He just wanted to get away from the bird-woman and the Ponytail-girl.

Then the thought struck him. He’d have to work with this peacock woman. He hadn’t given much thought to having to work with other people. He had this idyllic picture of himself and the pretty docent spending hours in one of the sitting rooms, pretending they lived in the house and the year was 1925. He’d be lying if his thoughts hadn’t flashed to kissing her as they lay on a bed in one of the many bedrooms, too. He shook his head to clear the thoughts before his body embarrassed him.

“What? You don’t want it now?” Peacock lady asked.

“No, sorry. Yes, I mean. Yes, I do want the application.”

“How ‘bout you sweetheart? You need one, too?” Peacock lady thrust one toward Ponytail-girl.”

Please don’t take one. To his relief Ponytail-girl sneered and rolled her eyes. Eduard gently grabbed the paper. “Thank you.” He took the application, folded it once, tucked it into his anthology of Poe—grabbed from his satchel—and walked out the door.

“So, you’d really want to work here?” Ponytail-girl trailed behind him. “You know, you missed a lot of the tour. Like, did you know the museum’s supposed to be haunted? That’s what the tour guide said.”

He made a doubting face and rolled his eyes. He didn’t believe in ghosts, but he did believe in pretty girls who looked awesome in flapper dresses and shared his love of hot jazz. It would be the perfect summer job.

[two]

Regardless of what cases the national or local

media choose to highlight and showcase, we believe

all unsolved murders to be important and worthy

of the public's attention. ~ Rick Graham

 

The bus smelled like a locker room, aged cheese and wet dog. Old tires and crusty machinery rumbled beneath Eduard’s legs, bouncing him up off the seat several times. For some reason, he always ended up sitting over a wheel well.

“What was that?” Eduard put down his book of Poe and turned around to listen to the two girls’ conversation.

“I said, the coolest thing about that lame museum was the murders. Don’t you think it’s weird they never found the oldest daughter or her body? Do you think she did it? Like a Lizzie Borden thing and then disappeared?” Ponytail-girl asked.

“Ooo, yeah, like she went all postal and hacked them up. You know, she could still be alive.” The girl with the angular face and amber eyes glanced at Eduard and smiled.

“How do you know they were hacked up?” Eduard closed his book, shifted over, and leaned into the aisle.

“Our guide told us. You missed it, Ed.” Amber Eyes flipped her long, dark hair.

“Eduard.” He hated it when people called him Ed or Eddie.

“Yeah, okay. Ed-word.” She flipped her hair again and pushed the tabs on the window, opening it as far as it would go. A hint of perfume wafted toward Eduard on the breeze. Her hair swirled around her face prettily. “Well, I was totally bored until we got to that part.”

“What part? What are you talking about?” Eduard ran his fingernail along a tear in the vinyl seat, pretending he wasn’t that interested.

“You missed it. Way more interesting than the old photos. They had one of the rooms set up like a murder scene. Fake blood and all. Had a male mannequin on the bed splattered in red. His neck cut. It wasn’t very convincing, but you know, at least it was more interesting than the architecture shit. I mean, who cares about molding and types of wood and tiles.” Ponytail-girl bobbed her head. He could almost hear her whinny and was offended by the architecture comment. He chose to ignore it.

“Wait, why would the daughter slit her father’s throat? What would be the motive?” He gave up pretending not to be interested and tucked his book behind him. “And for your information Art Deco not only influenced the architecture of most American cities but influenced fashion, art, and furniture.”

“Blah, blah, blah. What do I care if the Art Deco thing came from that Paris Expo?” Amber Eyes looked up at the ceiling and back at Eduard.

“Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925,” Eduard mumbled.

“What?” she asked.

“Never mind.” He shook his head. Why weren’t more people fascinated with how history, art, and architecture influence our modern life? At least she knew it came from Paris. “Back to the murder, I still don’t get the motive.”

“Maybe she was crazy?” Amber Eyes shrugged her shoulders and popped a piece of gum in her mouth.

“Well, that’s one theory, Olivia. Or, maybe it was something more sinister.”

“Sorry, I don’t follow.” Eduard noted the dark-haired girl’s name was Olivia.

Ponytail-girl—whose name he still didn’t know—raised her eyebrows. “Come on Eduard. Don’t be dense. You know.”

“Are you implying what I think you’re implying?” Eduard rubbed his temple. “That her father was…Uh! Gross! I don’t want to think about that.”

“You’re so weird, Ed,” Olivia replied. “Of course that’s what we’re implying.” The girls put their heads together and laughed.

“Eduard. My name is Eduard,” he corrected for the second time. “And I’m weird? Do you hear yourselves? I never would’ve thought of that.” The bus rolled over another bump, jostling Eduard sideways. He almost fell into the aisle, catching himself in time. Olivia reached out protectively, but quickly jerked back her hand.

“I don’t know what world you’re living in. We’re just more realistic. We don’t mind that you’re not, do we Maddie?” Olivia gave Maddie a sideways glance.

Eduard retrieved his book and stuck his nose back in it, trying to ignore them. He couldn’t concentrate. “So, no one’s been able to solve this murder for over eighty years?” He looked up from The Pit and the Pendulum.

“That’s right. Why? Do you think you can solve it, Mr. Tall, Dark, Smarty Pants?” Olivia gave him a half smile.

“Well, he did ask for an application. Didn’t you Ed…I mean Eduard.” Maddie tugged at her top and smoothed it down from where it had bunched at her waist.

“Never mind.” He’d had enough of them and really couldn’t tell if they were teasing him. Not that he cared. Although he didn’t think Oliva was making fun of him like Maddie seemed to be doing.

“Now you’ve done it. Just when we got him talking,” Olivia said with a confusing balance of sarcasm and sincerity.

He reread the page in his story twice before the words finally formed into the dingy basement and giant swinging axe, complete with gnawing rats Poe had vividly created. Although he’d successfully tuned out the girls, his literary world dissolved and transformed into an image of the girl in the flapper dress, her silhouette outlined by the sun. Who cares what Maddie or Olivia think. I’m going to go tomorrow and apply for a docent position.

***

He dressed in what he thought looked period: newsboy cap, chalk-striped navy blue jacket with notched lapels, and a plain navy vest that matched the pants. He’d yet to find an entire antique three-piece suit in a thrift store that fit him. He’d seen old magazine ads where the college men mixed and matched their wardrobe pieces, so he figured it would pass. He even sported a polka-dot vintage bow tie—eight times of tying to get it right.

When he walked in to drop off his application, the peacock lady was behind the desk again, only this time she looked more like a fringed lampshade. Teardrop jewels sparkled in her hair and danced across her forehead. Broken slants of light snuck between the slatted blinds, illuminating her eggy figure in alternating cuts. He couldn’t help think of Olivia’s description of Mr. Waverly’s sliced throat—or the mannequin that was supposed to represent Mr. Waverly.

Several people milled around the gift shop, picking up reproduction statuettes and old-timey hand fans. A few stood in line with items to buy. He was surprised at how busy the museum was on a Saturday morning.

Touristy patrons eyed him curiously on their way to join their tour group. He suddenly felt foolish in his vintage get-up. Eduard peeked around the corner to see if the next guide was his flapper docent, but it wasn’t. An attractive, confident woman in her mid-thirties, crows feet just starting to make an appearance at the corner of her intelligent eyes, stood at the head of the grouping. She paused for a moment and regarded him, squinting slightly, and then glanced over her shoulder at the peacock lampshade lady. Eduard looked back in time to see the peacock lampshade shrug her shoulders. His stomach clenched. The résumé he’d painstakingly typed, along with the application, began to curl in his sweaty grasp.

“Darla, can you come here a moment?” the thirty-something lady asked.

Darla Peacock Lampshade waddled out from behind the counter, fringe swaying, accentuating the light fixture effect. Did she get up in the morning and make a conscious decision to look like inanimate objects and decorative fowl? Filled with optimistic visions of being offered a job, he wondered what other inanimate objects she might resemble as they shared shifts at the museum and he got to know her. There was something admirable about her unembarrassed absurdity.

The two women conversed in hushed tones while the small tour group tipped their heads from ceiling to floor, taking in the grand chandelier and marble floor of the entrance hall. To Eduard’s surprise, the thirty-something strolled over to him. She was pretty in a mature, self-confident way.

My mother must’ve looked like this when she was younger. He felt a pang of sadness that his mother had to struggle alone raising him, though now that he was graduating his mother must feel like her job was done. She’d found herself a new man and wasn’t around much.

Eduard was almost attracted to the woman in front of him, but the fact that he’d thought of his mother killed it. Still he couldn’t deny the woman was attractive in her vintage outfit.

Her dress draped her small frame in sapphire blue sheer fabric that matched her eyes. Her dark hair was finger-waved and curled under toward the nape of her neck into a tight, flat bun. A beaded and pearled hair ornament rested on her head. A thin row of pearls dipped across her temples and forehead like opaque tears.

“Hello. My name is Vera Charles. Did I forget something? A photo shoot? Or please don’t say I’ve forgotten a wedding?”

“Uh no,” Eduard replied in the lowest register he could find with his neck muscles taut and nervous. His voice came out sounding like a thirteen-year-old boy. He cleared his throat and tried again.

“No Ma’am. I’m here for a job. I’m eighteen years-old and will be graduating in less than a month. I can work weekends until then, and I have a love for this era, and as you can see I have the clothes, and I’m very responsible, and hard-working, and I’m an A student, actually graduating in the top ten percent.” He took a breath and continued. “And I…”

She held up her hand. “Why don’t you follow me to my office?”

She turned. Her dress swished across the back of her pretty legs. He kept his eyes focused on her shoulder where her sleeve flipped up like a leaf blown against a window. He smiled, confident she would offer him a job.

To his shock, dismay, and utter depression, he did not get the job. There was no job to get.

“I’m sorry,” she glanced down at his application, “Eduard, is it?”

He nodded, sinking deeper into the plush chair.

“We’ve got a full staff right now, and although I usually take on a few part-timers for the summer, I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year. We’ve got a bit of a hiring freeze.”

She jutted her chin with a stiff smile, her sapphire eyes tinged with pain. At least she looked sincerely sorry as she rejected him. She gently set his application and résumé on her antique desk.

“Do you mind if I keep this on file? I’m sorry. I wish…there’s been rumors…the city planners have been talking about this area.” She mashed her lips together, the garnet lipstick smearing at the bow. “I’m just the manager. The museum’s owned by the city.”

He couldn’t move. He hadn’t wanted something so badly since he’d wanted the 1960s Schwinn bike with a banana seat when he was ten. Thinking about it now, he realized he’d always been a bit strange, caught in the wrong era. He knew with all his heart he was supposed to work there, but was at a loss of how to convince the nice Ms. Vera Charles.

“What if I work for free? You know just volunteer?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that. The city just passed an ordinance with strict rules about volunteering, and there’s an activist group making a ruckus about unpaid interns. As well as the insurance issues. And it’s an election year…”

He shook his head in disbelief. Damn bureaucratic red tape.

She rubbed her forehead, jostling her headpiece. “It’s obvious this is something you’re very interested in, and you look fabulous. I’m sorry. I wish there was more I could do. Thank you so much for coming in.” She reached her hand across the desk, clearly dismissing him.

He stared at it. His interview couldn’t be over. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to offer him a job.

“Thank you, Eduard,” she said again.

This time he stood and shook her hand. Her skin was soft, her grip firm. When she released his hand, he sank down into the chair again. He couldn’t get his body to move out of the office. He sat frozen. Silent, awkward moments ticked by.

“Well, Eduard, if you’ll excuse me.” She pushed her antique armchair back and stood. “Um, why don’t you take a minute? Please show yourself out when you’ve…when you’re ready.” She smiled kindly and left. Her heels clicked with finality as she walked down the hall.

He wanted to throw himself at her feet and beg for a job. He wanted to jump up and hurl the deco chair across the room into the Erte print and watch the glass shatter to the marble floor, shards landing in the rug, daring him to do something more drastic.

He didn’t. He sunk further into the chair, feeling like he was drowning. Like…

“Oh, it is you. Hello, again.”

He turned to see the young flapper docent standing in the doorway, backlit again, this time like effervescent champagne. He didn’t think he believed in love at first sight, but this was something close and definitively more than lust. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and focus on the proper response.

“Um, brflppb.” Nonsense tumbled out of his mouth. “I mean, hello. I didn’t get to, I didn’t ask, I mean…let me start over. My name is Eduard, what’s yours?”

He stood, smoothed his jacket, straightened his bow tie, and held out his hand. She didn’t make a move to leave the doorframe. He awkwardly put down his hand and picked a non-existent piece of lint off his sleeve.

She gave a little curtsy. “You may call me, Mia.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Mia.”

She giggled. Her laughter sounded like raindrops on a bell.

“What are you doing? Revisiting the museum? Another field trip?”

“I came to get a job. I put in an application.” Heat rushed to his face, admitting his fresh failure.

“Well, you certainly look the part. I am quite sure they loved you.”

“They, was Ms. Charles, and she doesn’t have any openings.”

“Oh.” Mia’s eyes got a mischievous look for a minute. “We’ll have to see about that. Won’t we?”

Just then, a group of tourists clambered toward them.

“Oops, I better go. I hope I see you again, Eduard. It was very nice to meet you.” She winked quickly out of sight before he could ask her anything else.

He would get this job if it was the last thing he did. He’d keep trying until they realized he was the right man for the job. A plan began to form in his mind.

[three]

You hear about the Duke Ellingtons, the Jimmie Luncefords, and the Fletcher Hendersons, but people sometimes forget that jazz was not only built in the minds of the great ones, but on the backs of the ordinary ones. ~ Cab Calloway

 

Eduard arrived at the Waverly House Museum promptly at ten only to find the museum didn’t open until noon on Sunday. He peeked in the window but didn’t see anyone inside. The massive house stood quietly mocking him. Instead of waiting for someone to show up, he rounded the house to the garden wall, looking for an opening. He’d explore the grounds while he waited and maybe Mia would be there early to open up.

An emerald, ivy pelt covered an eight-foot limestone wall that jutted from both sides of the mansion. He hadn’t noticed before, but when he stepped back, the old house looked strangely like a giant tombstone.

He followed the greenery until he came to an ornate wrought iron gate. The gate’s intricate sunbeam pattern offset amorphous spheres in classic deco style. He loved the geometric shapes, chevrons, and ziggurats that epitomized the period elegance. Nevertheless, the designs made him think of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories of creepy alien human hybrids—bulbous, unbalanced, and off-kilter. It gave him the chills thinking about it.

He didn’t know why he’d thought he could waltz right into the garden. Of course, there was a gate. And of course, it was locked. The asymmetric shapes of the iron entrance towered over his five foot, ten inch frame. Sharp metal spikes arched across the top. It was clear there was no way he could hop the fence or the gate. He tugged at the vines, envisioning himself a climbing pirate or a wild, Tarzanian ape-man, but the vines easily ripped away from the polished stone, killing his covert plan.

He eyed the manicured lawn through the threshold. How can I get in here? Then he pictured it. The gate could serve as a ladder if he could balance long enough and stretch far enough to gain the top of the flat wall. He looked down at today’s getup: a pair of light worsted wool pants with a faint tan windowpane pattern, a button down shirt and cotton sweater vest, boater hat, and his treasured cap-toe, Allen Edmond Spectators. He’d saved all his birthday money and yardwork earnings to buy the two-hundred dollar pair of two-tone shoes.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Tam Francis writes vintage romantic fiction with a pen in one hand and a vintage cocktail in the other. She has taught swing dancing with her husband for fifteen years and is an avid collector of vintage patterns, vintage clothing, and antiques. She was Editor-in-chief for two indie magazines and is published in various small press magazines. She has two novels and one short story collection now available. She now live in a 1920s home in small town Texas, which may or may not be haunted.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I've been blogging for several years and have lots of freebies, games, and fun articles at: http://www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com Stop by and try your hand at the vintage fashion crossword, or download a free sewing pattern!
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I started writing novels when my husband was at sea (a sailor), and I was home with two babies, no money, and no cable TV. I had been blogging my dance adventures and had early success with my poetry. A friend suggested I try novel writing and I wrote The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Tracey Chevalier, Jane Austen, Diana Gabaldon, Ray Bradbury, Milan Kundera, Dorothy Parker, Sara Gruen, Sue Monk Kidd, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Anne Rice, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald

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