"The Lady in Yellow" - an excerpt
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
As promised, here is an excerpt from the upcoming book due out August 15th! This is a chapter from one of the two novellas in the book, The Lady In Yellow. I genuinely hope it intrigues you! And I'm going to ask - please share this with your friends and family on social media
Edgemont Place – Thursday, December 15th
I generally find the cheap, but serviceable, couch that rests against the left wall of my office to be far more comfortable than sleeping hunched over my desk, but I don’t always make it that far. It’s not uncommon for me to simply pass out from exhaustion – and maybe scotch – sitting in my chair, but it looks like I managed to stumble over to my preferred sleeping area last night. I wake up from just a slow, general increase in the room’s ambient light from the orange sun shining through my window, the empty glass from my last drink still in my hands, clasped across my chest.
Through sheer force of will, I manage to push myself up to a sitting position, almost losing the heavy glass to the floor in the process. I stand and stumble my way to my desk and slam the glass down with far more force than I intended, right next to the empty half pint bottle of Dewar’s. Maybe I need to quit drinking. Maybe I’m not drinking enough.
The street down below my window bustles with activity – men in suits walking, a group of dressed up women on their way to brunch, people Christmas shopping, cars driving and honking. Looking over this panorama of American life, it’s hard to believe that somewhere around the corner there’s a breadline a mile long. Detroit had been making half the world’s cars while I was a cop here, and when a quarter of the country had gone out of work, no one was buying cars. It has been easy for me. I’ve got no one counting on me but myself, and I don’t need much.
My door is still locked, so I go into the adjoining room, strip down and wash myself in the sink like a common prostitute. Standards are for people who need to impress other people, and I’m not one of them. Certain most of the stench is gone, I take a hard look in the mirror and decide four days without shaving isn’t bad. I can go at least six. At least sometime in the last few days I had enough foresight to wash some clothes out and hang them to dry.
Dressed, though not exactly presentable for Mass, I find the notes I made when the mysterious Helen visited me the other night. It’s shocking if one considers how drunk I was at the time, but I remember the entire affair clearly. I’m not missing anything, but the fact is, I have absolutely no leads at this point, nothing to follow up on. She gave me her address, and something about it is vaguely familiar. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the street before, but I swear I’ve read something in the papers.
It’s time to pay Helen a visit. I lock my door behind me, head down to the street and hail a taxi. It looks like an older model, a barely running heap from maybe ’29, a sharp contrast to the clean cut and very young man behind the wheel. Through the window, I see his khaki army uniform, complete with a black tie tucked into his shirt and the single echelon on his arm denoting him as a private. Perplexed, I open the rear door and sit inside. The uniform has disappeared, replaced with a fairly common jacket, shirt and tie.
“Where can I take you, mister?” he asks with a deep baritone, almost bass voice.
I pause, blinking to make sure his clothes don’t change back. I hand him the address and ask, “Do you know where this is?”
“Thirteen hundred Edgemont Place? Yeah, I do,” he replies and runs an appraising eye over me. “It’s a little out there. I’m sorry to ask this, sir, but do you have money?”
I reach into my pocket and just flash him my wad before shoving it back down.
The kid wasn’t exaggerating. It took us about twenty minutes to get off the city streets, and we drove another twenty minutes or so toward the edge of Wayne County. We’re heading into the rich section of the county, marked by huge Victorian homes, acres of lawns so perfect they could be golf courses and expensive new cars. The driver doesn’t attempt to engage me in any conversation, and that’s absolutely fine by me. I’m avoiding even looking at him.
He finds the place we’re looking for, a mansion by any standards I have, and he turns into a gravel driveway. An eight foot, black iron fence surrounds the entire property, and the gate across the driveway stands wide open. He carefully rolls the car up several hundred yards before stopping a stone’s throw away from the house, a giant Victorian complete with huge windows, columns and a spire.
He takes the car out of gear, turns and says, “That’ll be two sixty five, mister.”
“Here’s two bucks,” I say, handing him the money as he stares back at me with a glare that says he thinks he’s about to get cheated out of his fare. I pull out a five dollar bill and hold each end of it tautly. “Wait for me, because I got a feeling this won’t take long, and this will buy my trip back with a little extra for you.”
His eyes follow the bill as I jam it back into my pocket and get out of the car. As my feet hit the ground I realize the driveway isn’t gravel as much as tiny white and semi-clear river stones. I close the door and survey the amount of ground covered by the rock, and whistle slightly at what the cost must have been. I head up toward the house, and my estimation of the cash investment in the property continues to increase. I don’t see any cars, but they could be hidden in what I think is a huge garage just off the house.
A stone walkway – made of something like marble but more opaque, less polished – curves away from the driveway up to the wide and rounded brick steps leading to grand front door of polished cherry. Standing in front of it, the thing absolutely dwarfs me, and the doorjambs are wrapped in mahogany, hand carved with a rope design.
I press the small button offset to the left, and less than a half second later, the clanging of a bell sounds several times just inside. While I wait, I turn to look across the enormous lawn, at least three times the size of Briggs Stadium. I notice my taxi driver staring at me, so I turn to ring the doorbell one more time. After what felt like maybe ten minutes and was more like thirty seconds, I try the door to find it locked up tight.
I come back down the walkway and hold a finger in the air, asking the driver for a minute, and I make my way across the front of the house to the garage. It has a side door, which is far from impressive or ornate, but is also locked. Getting around the side and back of the house seems to take forever, since it just seems to keep going and going, but I finally find a raised back porch with a set of glass double doors. These two are locked, brass doorknobs not moving the slightest bit. I hold my hands across my forehead to shield my eyes from the bright sunlight and peer into the house. All is still and dark, no sign of anyone at all inside, and I’m not about to break into this place to snoop around.
I settle back into the car, and the driver asks, “I guess no one's home, huh?”
“Guess not,” I reply absently, staring out the window at nothing. I reach forward, toss him the five, and we head home.