His hands were shaking so badly that he had to dial a couple of times because he kept messing up the sequence, and he was near to blacking out when he finally put the handset up to his ear.
I didn’t know where my legs were taking me. I lost myself in the maze of corridors, my awe increasing with every turn. It wasn’t a welcoming place – there were few windows and most of the light came from gas lamps fashioned to look like torches or the occasional spotlight, which would highlight an alcove containing an expensive-looking painting or vase – but it was certainly grand. There was wood panelling everywhere and the floor was so clean I could see an outline of my reflection on the polish. It was cold too and if I lingered for too long on one spot, it felt as though I was standing on a pile of snow in only my socks. The few windows I did come across I fiddled with, trying to open them, but every single one was locked or too stiff to lift; the one I did manage to open was several floors up and positioned on a completely smooth wall, high enough to rule out jumping.I found another set of stairs and climbed them. The upper floors seemed to be deserted, adding to the eeriness. I found empty room after empty room and there were only a handful of windows on the whole floor, it seemed – but from those few I could just about see over the tree-tops to the sea, a thin blue strip sandwiched between the green of the trees and the silvery lining of the sky.
Suddenly, the wood panelling ended and I found myself in a whitewashed corridor, lit with bright, artificial light – a stark contrast to the rest of the mansion.‘Excuse me, miss, but are you okay?’ I jerked my head up, startled at the new voice. ‘Sorry, miss, didn’t mean to scare you,’ the voice said, thick with a cockney accent. It came from a young girl, not much older than I was by the looks of her. She was dressed in a plain black dress and a maid’s cap. Her face was round and plump, her mousy-blonde hair framing rosy cheeks. She would be quite stunning, if it was not for the lines of hard work that adorned her face.‘Don’t worry, I’m fine,’ I replied, trying to smile and failing.
‘You must be the human the Varns took from London. Violet, isn’t it?’ I nodded. ‘I’m Annie,’ she said, smiling, revealing two small fangs.I eyed them, my eyes sliding down to her dress. ‘Do you work here?’
‘I’m one of the servants,’ she replied. ‘Are you sure you’re all right?’ she added.
I shrugged. ‘Lost, I guess.’But that had been decades ago, from another era.
Lane hit the brakes as they came up to a red light next to the gas station she’d visited that morning. Think about where she lived, he said. Her four-bedroom Colonial in Rolling Meadows is more than she could afford on a bookkeeper’s salary—who do you think paid for that?Gin squeezed her eyes shut as her brother hit the gas again. I think I’m going to be ill.
I want you to stop telling me these things.There was a long silence … and in the tense void, she kept going back to that vision of her father coming out of that office and doing up his robe.