March 7, 2017
Cover art: Reese Dante
Genre: Mystery, contemporary romance
The Mystery of the Curiosities
Snow & Winter: Book #2
Tuesday morning began with a brick through the Emporium window.
The seconds that followed were strangely silent. Nothing but the gentle patter of frozen February rain. Then my heart remembered to keep beating, and I could hear its thud, thud, thud in my ears. A few pieces of glass cracked from the top of the large bay window frame and fell to the wooden floor. The sound of New York City traffic invaded my quiet, cozy cave of a shop.
“What the fuck!” Max shouted. He moved to run by me at the counter, but I grabbed his shoulders.
“Be careful,” I said, pointing at the ceramic coffee mug I’d dropped when the shattered glass scared the ever-loving hell out of me.
Max jumped over the mess and down the steps from the register. He motioned wildly at the window. “What the fuck?” he declared again.
I walked down the stairs and studied the scene. Glass was everywhere and rain was coming in. “Grab a trash bag from the office.”
“The glass will just slice—”
“To put over the displays before they get soaked. Go.”
Max ran to get the bags.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and took a deep breath. What a way to start the week.
Pushing my glasses up, I went to the door, threw it open, and stepped out into the miserable morning. Rain splattered my lenses and dampened my sweater. My breath puffed around me while I looked up and down the sidewalk, as if I’d find the vandal hanging out and waiting to be caught. A couple paying the meter nearby were looking at the window in horror, and a man walking his tiny dog had to pick the animal up to avoid glass on the sidewalk.
Max was spreading out trash bags on nearby displays. “Did someone spray-paint a dick on the door too?” he called.
“No,” I answered before going back inside. “Why?”
“Add insult to injury. Should I move this stuff away from the window?”
I tugged my phone from my back pocket. “Hold on. Let me get some pictures before we move anything.” I snapped photos of the window and floor before motioning him to continue.
When I stepped away from the immediate area, I noticed the brick across the room. I went over, crouched down, and picked it up. It was just an ordinary brick. With a rubber band wrapped around it. I set my phone on the floor beside me and turned it around to see a folded piece of wet paper on the other side.
Hell. There were easier ways to get in touch with me. There was this great invention called the telephone.
Even a carrier pigeon would have been better. Because a pigeon would just crap on my inventory and be gone. A pigeon didn’t require a police report, insurance paperwork, and my jerk of a landlord coming down to inspect this mess.
I yanked the rubber band free and unfolded the paper. I don’t know what I had been expecting as I held it close to read, but it wasn’t I know you like mysteries.
“What’re you doing?” Max asked.
I glanced over my shoulder. “Someone attached a note to the brick.”
“What does it say?”
“‘I know you like mysteries.’”
“No, that’s what the note says,” I replied while waving the paper over my shoulder. I picked up my phone again and stood, knees cracking like I was an old man and not just a crabby thirty-three-year-old. I turned around and saw Max had gone very still. “Are you okay?”
“This isn’t going to be like Christmas, is it?”
Duncan Andrews had thoroughly fucked up my holidays. He’d been responsible for the death of my former boss, had harassed and stalked me, and had shot Detective Calvin Winter.
“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head. “Duncan is rocking an orange jumpsuit now.”
“What about a copycat?”
“Poe never hurled bricks into antique shops. It’s okay, really.”
I told Max to finish with the displays and gave the police a ring to report the vandalism. Two officers arrived after I had gotten off the phone with Luther North, my landlord, who gave me more than an earful about the window, as if I had been asking for punks to hurl bricks at it.
“Do you have insurance, Mr. Snow?” the male officer asked. He’d introduced himself as Officer Lowry and had uncomfortably reminded me of Neil: same build and hair, same strong face and handsome features. But thankfully, there was no relation.
“Yeah. And the landlord is on his way now,” I answered. A cold breeze blew in through the gaping window, and I shivered while crossing my arms over my chest.
The woman officer smiled and pointed at me. “I was here two months ago.”
“When there was a pig’s heart in your floor.”
“Oh.” I nodded and had to resist the urge to look over my shoulder at the spot in question. “No dismembered body parts this time.”
She laughed quietly. “That’s good.”
Lowry, who had been writing notes, asked me a few more questions. Did I have any disgruntled customers lately? Had I received threats prior? But no. The entire event seemed completely unprovoked. To the point that I had considered someone threw the brick through the wrong window.
I know you like mysteries.
“Wait, before I forget,” I said suddenly. “There was a note wrapped around the brick.” I pulled the folded paper from the pocket of my sweater. “Here.”
The female officer accepted the note. “Does this mean anything to you?”
I shrugged. “Not really. Unless the person who broke my window is judging me for my reading habits.”
Among other things.
She handed it back. “We’ll see if any businesses across the street have surveillance videos we can look over, but you should know that the chances of catching who did this are very slim.”
“I figured,” I replied. “Worth a shot, though.”
Luther walked into the shop as the officers left. He spoke with them briefly at the door before working his way through the cramped aisles toward me. His big belly pushed objects around on their displays as he moved through, and Max came up behind him to fix everything.
“Sebastian,” Luther said with a bit of a wheeze. “What happened?”
“Exactly as I said on the phone, Mr. North. Someone threw a brick through the window.”
“Why?” he asked, yanking a wadded pile of tissues from his coat pocket to dab his face.
“I didn’t think to ask them,” I answered.
“There you go with those smart-aleck responses. And before this, it was that creepy queer kid! He’s in jail now, right?”
Luther paused from wiping his face. “Er—no offense with the queer thing.”
“My fragile ego is still intact. Mr. North, it’s currently raining in my store. How soon can this window be fixed?”
“Oh, well! It’s simply not that easy, Sebastian! I have to file a claim with the property insurance.”
“Which they’ll pay. Vandalism by an unknown assailant isn’t worth their time to investigate.”
“Yes, but it still takes a few days.”
“It’s raining in here,” I stated again, in case he hadn’t noticed.
“I can get a tarp.”
“Not exactly going to keep the riffraff out.”
“That’s why stores have metal gates,” Luther pointed out, as if I were dense.
“That’s fine. But I have books in here that are worth up to five grand. If they get warped or damaged—”
“I’ll have my boys come down and put up some sheets of plywood!” Luther growled. “Happy?”
“I’ll be happy when I have a new window.”