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The Attic on Queen Street (Tradd Street #7)
Author:Karen White

The Attic on Queen Street (Tradd Street #7)

Karen White



CHAPTER 1



Snow in Charleston is as magical as it is rare, the icy white dusting on palm trees and church steeples, ancient statues and wrought iron fences transforming the Holy City into an enchanting snow globe. Snowmen sprouted like weeds in lawns and parks, and snow angels spread their wings on every flat spot of ground as children and adults alike ran outside to play in an exotic frosty playground.

For nearly three days after the record-breaking snowstorm as the temperature began to rise, patches of white clung desperately to every surface, gradually shrinking as the world thawed, leaving only trickling eaves and slushy puddles as a reminder that they had ever been there at all.

I watched it all from inside my house on Tradd Street, my heart seemingly as frozen as the icy stalactites dripping from the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park. In less than a week’s time, my life had flipped itself upside down as if it had decided to accept the wintry invitation to glide on the ice without benefit of skates. Or any kind of padding that might soften the inevitable fall.

I had somehow managed to go from being a very happily married mother of three to being a seemingly single mother with an estranged husband and a marriage as precarious as the melting ice. And all because I had made the simple mistake of breaking my promise to trust Jack enough to share everything with him. To be a team in all things.

Despite what everyone seemed to think, it wasn’t entirely my fault. Jack—a bestselling author of true-crime mysteries—and I had been working to solve the mystery of where a Revolutionary War treasure was hidden, before Jack’s nemesis, self-proclaimed author and all-around jerk Marc Longo, discovered it first. Marc had managed to steal Jack’s book idea about the disappearance of Louisa Gibbes, who’d once lived in our house on Tradd Street and been murdered by Marc’s ancestor Joseph Longo. Marc not only made the book an international bestseller but also scored a major movie deal. And then he somehow managed to manipulate us into allowing the movie to be filmed in our house. For Jack’s sake, I couldn’t let Marc win again.

It wasn’t my fault that Jack had had a bad case of the flu at the same time I’d figured out that the treasure was buried in the cemetery at Gallen Hall Plantation—owned by Marc Longo’s brother, Anthony—and that I hadn’t had time for Jack to get better. It wasn’t my fault that Marc and Anthony had anticipated my solving the mystery and were waiting for me to point the way to the hidden treasure. Nor was it my fault that my half sister, Jayne, had told Jack what I was up to and that he had then insisted on going to the cemetery. And it was definitely not my fault that he had happened to step on an old grave full of crumbling coffins that collapsed under him, nearly burying him alive.

As far as I could tell, my only mistake was believing that Jack would be so happy that I’d found the treasure that he’d forgive me for everything else. But, as I’d discovered, hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and it turns out that asking for forgiveness is not necessarily easier than asking for permission.

I’d rushed through the snow-covered landscape of my Charleston neighborhood to tell Jack that I was sorry, that I’d made a mistake and wouldn’t let it happen again, and found him packing his bags. His response had been telling me good-bye, followed by a decisive snap of the front door as it closed in my face.

For three weeks I didn’t leave the house, not wanting to be absent when Jack decided to return. Friends and family came and went in various attempts to rouse me, to try to coax me outside with promises of doughnuts and coffee—neither of which seemed appealing to me anymore.

Christmas passed almost as a nonevent. My stepdaughter, Nola, had outdone herself by going against her own dietary preferences and making my favorite gluten-and carb-filled desserts and other dishes that I’d done my best to pretend to eat. She and my twenty-one-month-old twins, JJ—for Jack Junior—and Sarah, saved the entire holiday by being the only bright spots of joy.

Their nanny, Jayne, had bundled them up to take them to Jack’s parents’ house, where they would celebrate Christmas for the second time on the same day. Nola and the twins hadn’t seemed to be nearly as upset as I had been at the prospect of their opening more gifts without me there. Gifts that no doubt had been wrapped haphazardly instead of their every corner being measured for preciseness and each dab of tape being exactly the same size since apparently only their mother knew how important those kinds of things were.

I’d even showered and washed my hair, with the dim hope that Jack would come himself to collect them, but then had had to bravely kiss the children good-bye. My three dogs—General Lee, Porgy, and Bess—had whined and snuffled, brightening my mood until I realized that they were upset not on my behalf but because they’d wanted to go, too.