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If the Slipper Fits
Candlewick Island, Maine
Six months later
The staff had been gossiping behind her back all week. And the worst thing was, they didn't think she'd noticed.
"Mr. Franklin, be careful!" Anne said to the gardener more sharply than she'd intended as she rushed to grab the plant he'd nearly knocked off the pedestal in the front hall.
She was annoyed with all of them, she thought, glancing up at the bird circling the foyer's ceiling over the heads of the rest of Sea Bluff's core staff. The very staff she'd found whispering in empty rooms and darkened corners nearly every day since last Thursday. Whispering, that is, until she entered the room.
"I'm going to call Animal Control," she said, striding toward the hall phone. "The new tenants are going to be here within the hour and I don't want the entire staff in the front hall chasing after some crazed bird."
"No authorities!" the gardener cried, his flinty eyes following the bird's flight. "I got it. Look out!" he roared, heading toward Anne, his craggy face intent. A butterfly net -- old, bent, and patched with panty hose -- flew over his head like a battle flag.
Her pale blonde hair swinging into her face as she spun to follow the gardener's path, Anne jumped aside and ducked as the bird careened around the front hall of the historic mansion.
The gardener stopped abruptly in the center of the hall, his eyes alert. The net drooped above him.
Everyone stood stock-still. Anne pushed her hair out of her face and looked at the five people drawn from their jobs to the bird "crisis": the gardener, thehandyman, the housekeeper-in-training, the cook, and the business manager.
Lois Marshall, who was accountant as well as business manager for Sea Bluff, had just displeased everyone by telling them to get back to work. "Work" being preparing the island's largest, most famous summer "cottage" for the arrival of this season's tenants.
Though best known for its stunning beauty -- it was situated on four hundred sea-kissed acres at the northernmost point of the island -- and the host of celebrities who had stayed there, Sea Bluff also had an impressive history. It had been built in the 1800s by a notorious sea captain renowned for his mercenary exploits, for a bride who would never see it. She was killed en route to the island by a roving band of pirates.
Of course, some said she was killed by her own mother, who was also in love with the sea captain, but nobody really believed that story.
In any case, the captain died alone, having never married, and he willed the estate to his nephew, Cornelius Edison Emory, whose descendents had owned it ever since.
"Back to work, she says," Prin Walter, the cook, protested. "Seems to me makin' sure the house ain't infested with wildlife is work."
"Yes, but it's work for only one," Anne said firmly. "And Mr. Franklin is capable."
A fluttering sounded to Anne's right. She whirled and pointed past the Frederic Church landscape on the wall to the Florentine marble bust of Socrates near the curve in the massive Italian walnut staircase. "It's over there."
"Lord preserve us!" the cook said, her voice issuing the statement like a command to the Almighty. One side of her gray hairdo was ruffled where the bird had glanced off her head, and flour smeared her forearms. She must have been baking bread when the commotion had ensued. "You all know what a bird in the house means, don't you?" she warned.
"Oh, I had a bad feeling this morning." Hiding behind a robust Boston fern, the young housekeeper-in-training wrung her hands in her apron. As if greenery were not the very thing a panicked bird might look for, Anne thought. Adried leaf had dropped into her baby-fine red hair. "I'm a little bit psychic, you know," the housekeeper added.
"Yes, Trudy, we know." Anne sighed.
Trudy was one of the many young people who came to the island off the coast of Maine to work summers in the mistaken belief that Candlewick Island had something to do with witchcraft. "Wick comes from the word wicken," Trudy had informed her during her interview several weeks before, "which means to bewitch."
"A bird in the house means poop on the floor," Lois Marshall told the cook. "Unless we do something quickly." Her short, spiky hair and big, handmade silver earrings gave her a look in direct contrast to the old cook's gray bun and flower-print housedress.
Completely practical, Lois was frequently exasperated working in the 1800s mansion on the cliffs with its colorful crew.
"It doesn't mean anything bad, Trudy. It just means company's coming," the brash young handyman said, winking in the direction of the nervous housekeeper. "Better get your fancy dress apron on."
"If Trudy is concerned, she can just go back upstairs and finish vacuuming those drapes." Anne sent a stern glance to her young trainee.
The gardener, who'd been creeping across the ornate foyer with the skill of a man who'd stalked many a groundhog, made a lunge for the bird with the net. He missed. The chrome handle glanced off the marble bust and Socrates teetered, then toppled to the floor as the bird took off with renewed frenzy. Anne watched in horror as parts of Socrates's face skipped across the floor to hit Prin's white Reebok sneaker and Lois's thick-soled oxford.
"Mr. Franklin, stop right now. This is not working." Anne took several steps toward him, keeping one eye on the bird's erratic flight. God only knew how valuable that bust was ...If the Slipper Fits. Copyright � by Elaine Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.