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"Thank you," said Amber, just as Rachael finished locking her front door, a chocolate brioche bun in her mouth today. "For last night."

Rachael smiled and shrugged, before really looking at her, smile slipping into a frown. "You alright?" It didn't help that the hallway saw no direct sunlight in the mornings, but Amber's usual glow seemed tarnished. Dark rings framed her eyes while the rest of her looked pale. Even her ashy brown hair hung dead and tired in a ponytail. 

"Yeah," Amber whispered. 

For the first time, it struck her as curious that Amber never poked her head out of her front door to have these conversations. The woman fully left her apartment, shut her door, and stood in the hall to say good morning.

Amber folded her arms. "It's funny, I heard someone play the cello again last night. When I did, the kids stopped screaming. It felt like magic. Maybe someone in the flat above me plays."

"I think you're right," agreed Rachael, checking her watch and pocketing her keys. "I heard it too."

"You did?" Her face brightened, it shone with a warmth that was the very reason Rachael had time for her in the mornings. "I half wondered if I'd gone crazy."

Rachael scoffed. "I think everyone goes crazy at one AM." The spark in Amber died, and Rachael blushed with dismay. "I didn't mean—I'm sorry. I'm not upset about last night or anything."

"No, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry we keep everyone awake. It's just..."

"Say no more." Rachael double checked her watch and started moving for the elevator. "Kids are tough. Don't worry about it, okay? I understand. At least you three have got each other." She hit the elevator's summon button. "You're lucky, screaming and all."

Instead of laughing, Amber forced a polite 'ha,' and squinted at her. Inquisitive, like Rachael had said something bizarre. Maybe she had. Luckily, the elevator tended to arrive fast in their complex. Flashing a smile, Rachael offered a quick wave. 

"See ya later. Keep an ear out for our mysterious cellist."


When Rachael wasn't evaluating and researching potential goods, she was an auctioneer. Neil's Odditorium had been her home since sweet sixteen, the place that rekindled what she loved with what she'd lost. After her mother's murder, she'd struggled amidst the glorious treasures left behind, and struggled even deeper with wanting to find more. What was the point if she had no one to share them with? Her father didn't love history as they did. He had no sense of mystery. It was a wonder Mum had married such a dry cardboard fish at all.

But Neil's Odditorium... The best thing Rachael's father had ever done for her was smooth-talk Neil into letting Rachael have a look around his warehouse. To her, it had been a palace. Every step deeper between the shelves brought feeling back to the hollowness lodged in her chest.
She couldn't help believing that the fake pearl necklace she'd given her mother was cursed. It made her want to find others. No matter what curses or stories were hidden away in that warehouse, she could find them and keep them away from others. They were locked away. Dusty and waiting for attention. And Neil did have magnificent things. A wartime gramophone, 19th Century winged armchairs, Edwardian vanity stands, Japanese bronze and metal vases. And the trinkets! A silver dressing-table jar pierced with flowers and lined with cranberry glass, Turner and Simpson spoons gilt in turquoise and azure enamel with raised gilding work over the surface, hand engraved Victorian Christening mugs...

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