“I find that it is vital to have at least one handbag for each of the ten types of social occasion: Very Formal, Not So Formal, Just a Teensy Bit Formal, Informal but Not That Informal, Every Day, Every Other Day, Day Travel, Night Travel, Theater, and Fling.” —Miss Piggy
If I hadn’t asked my New York cronies to mention my grand opening in their national fashion magazines, I might be able to breathe as if I weren’t wearing Scarlett O’Hara’s corset.
Thirteen days before Halloween. Thirteen days to open Vintage Magic, my dress shop for timeless classics and designer originals.
What was I doing to make it happen? Driving home to Mystic, Connecticut, from New York after working out my contractual two weeks’ notice, rather than forfeiting the bonus I needed to turn my building into Vintage Magic.
As I drove, grinning witches and twinkling pumpkin lights mocked me. I needed a tucking miracle.
My name is Maddie Cutler, well, Madeira, a former New York fashion designer, and I can fix anything, with the possible exception of cloning myself. So you can imagine my frustration two weeks ago at having to hand my shop’s renovation reins over to my father.
Harry Cutler, staid academic, planned ahead. His oldest daughter, creative free spirit—that would be me—did not, which is how I got myself into this.
The silver lining? I passed my departing construction crew near Mystic Seaport. Finished. Finally. And only three weeks late.
The flaw in the fabric? A faxed report from the construction crew’s night watchman. A rash of bumps in the night and running feet into the early hours of the morning. Note from said watchman: The Mystick Falls police are getting ticked at being called every night “with no perp to show for it.”
I did not need anymore grief from my old nemesis, Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner, also known as “the Wiener,” thanks to a certain third-grade brat—that would also be me.
My complicated relationship with the local police aside, did the bumps in the night worry me? You bet your French knickers, they did. Why this sudden interest in a building that had been boarded up and left undisturbed for more than half a century?
I hoped never to find out.
Tomorrow I’d start moving in my stock and setting up my displays. How long could it take? I’d only been collecting vintage my whole life. Oy.
As I turned onto Bank Street, I heard raised voices in the distance, which anyone who’d passed the playhouse across from my shop heard at one time or another. Broderick Sampson, the curmudgeon of an owner argued with everyone. Just another sign I was home.
I pulled into the crowded lot behind Mystic Pizza to view my building from across the street. I had always admired the original copper weathervane, a ship in full sail time-coated a soft green, but I loved the new Victorian streetlamps brightening my parking lot, and the spotlit old-fashioned tavern sign hanging above the door: Vintage Magic in bold white on a dark eggplant-colored shield. Behind the shop name stood a pale lavender side silhouette of a woman who could be Jackie O., the sixties being such a popular vintage.
I finally uncrated my crying kitten, who would rather have been riding shotgun from the armrest, and she came to make her own assessment.
I refused to stress over the parking-lot debris marring the scene: empty wire reels and a mountain of boxes at my front door. You’d think the crew would have cleaned up.
The yellow fur ball purred and curled against my solar plexus chakra, an intuitive move on her part. She had the uncanny ability to calm me. Because of it, I’d named her appropriately. “What do you think, Chakra? Beautiful?”
She approved with a soft meow.
Genuine delight washed over me.
No more weather-ravaged, raw wood shack, though we hadn’t replaced a splinter that didn’t need it. No windows existed on the building’s main floor, but I didn’t want sunshine fading my vintage treasures, anyway.
We’d replaced the people door, but the huge, tall, front-facing double doors beside it, built for horse-drawn hearses, were now sealed . . . though the same could not be said for a similar door at the side of the building.
In front, however, their sheer size in lavender with eggplant crossbeams, made the sage building pop. Magical colors, according to Aunt Fiona, lawyer, godmother, and witch. Sage: the herb to clear negative energy and the color for prosperity; lavender for harmony; purple for wisdom.
In this incarnation, Vintage Magic oozed character and charm, leaving its days as a morgue, then a funereal carriage house, to the history books.
I moved Chakra from my lap, drove across Bank Street, and pulled straight into my smooth new tarmac parking lot.
I had yet to see the transformation inside.
Between the New York job and condo to sublet, I hadn’t been back in the last two weeks. But the minute both were done, I’d packed seven years of my life into a funky rental and beat my ETA by an hour.
As a result, Dad, Aunt Fiona, Eve, my best friend, and Nick, my hunky Italian boy toy, weren’t here, yet. They were due soon to crack open the secret room with me; secret being relative.
Dolly Sweet, friend and centenarian, who’d deeded me the place for the price of taxes, forgot to tell me about the second-floor storage room, its doors cut so seamlessly into a wall, I’d missed it on my pre-ownership tour. Like the rest of us, Dolly couldn’t wait to find out what she forgot she sold me.
Sure, reports of bumps in the night made me think twice about viewing even the bottom floor alone. But this was my building and I was the only one who hadn’t seen its transformation.
Besides, I had four things on my side. A key. A can of mace. Spiked heels. And a watch cat. Who could ask for more?
I was going in.
The key my father sent me slipped into the lock like a knife through flan, or cheesecake, or tiramisu. Hmm. I forgot to eat today. Forgot to sleep last night, too, I was so busy packing.
My stomach growled as I stepped inside, the scent of fresh paint filling me with a giddy Christmas-morning rush. Chakra jumped from my arms and hit the floor with a whomp to scope out the place.
The panel of switches and dimmers behind the enclosed stairway, near the door to my horse-stall dressing rooms, allowed me to flood the room with a soft wash of indirect pale pink light. I’d asked for a hint of art deco in the mahogany trim and it looked sensational, better than my sketches.
Crazy-quilt ideas for finishing touches, decorating, displays, and shop layout filled my mind.
I grinned as I perused my linen-paneled, three-thousand-square-foot dream-come-true. Vintage Magic.
The mahogany, waist-high hearse stalls against the back wall remained intact and set the style, while a cart of matching movable lower walls awaited placement along the front and sides. I’d be able to see my customers in whatever fashion type or designer nook they perused.
Unexpectedly, the wind grabbed the front door and slammed it.
I jumped and Chakra howled.
A metallic clank hit the floor above us.
My heart skipped a beat. Chakra flew into my arms, her fear becoming mine as I shivered in my Jimmy Choos.
Scrap! A bump in the night and no watchman in sight.