"I need to hire you to work for me." Laura turned from the leather antique luggage set to see Stanley Tate, the lanky shop owner walking down the aisle toward her.
"You know I can't resist seeing the merchandise before anyone else," Laura smiled. "I need another project; anything new come in?"
"Didn't you say you were looking for a traveler's trunk?" He stood there a moment before wagging his finger above his balding head, "I know just the thing!" He turned quickly for a man his age and headed back the way he'd come.
Laura eagerly followed, dodging items in her path, before eventually making it to the back of the store. Stanley was far from organized, but he did have the best things in town. Squeezing through narrow passages and being tripped up by light fixtures was a small price to pay.
"I've always wanted a steamer trunk," she said continuing to maneuver through a maze of objects along the way. Stanley pushed against the back door revealing what seemed to be a potential hoarding situation. She paused in the doorway.
"What kind of condition are we talking here?" Laura lifted a brow in concern.
"Take a look for yourself." Stanley put his hands out like a game-show host presenting a prize. He was clearly unfazed by the clutter closing in on them.
Laura walked over to the flat top trunk with a large bronze lock anchored to the front. The metal had lost the original shine and the fabric would need to be replaced. She knew immediately, she'd be taking it home and wondered what stories it had to tell as she reverently touched the metallic corners. It would take some work, but with a little elbow grease she could bring it close to original condition again.
"Have you checked inside?" She looked up curious.
"Not yet." Stanley tried to lift the lid and frowned when it didn't budge. Laura covered a smile as she watched the small framed man continue to wrestle against the heavy chest. Not able to watch any longer, she came to his rescue.
"The hinges are broken, but I can use the keyhole as leverage." Laura slid her finger into the opening and lifted upward. The lid creaked loudly in resistance. She propped the bulky top gently against the back wall. The smell of aged wood and metals assailed her senses. Unsure what she would find, her shoulder-length chestnut locks fell forward as she peered inside. Brushing a strand behind her ear, she discovered one of the hinges was missing and the other damaged. She gazed upon the brittle fabric hesitating to touch it, fearing it would crumple under the pressure.
"How much do you want for it?" Laura stood, masking her excitement.
"Seeing as you're one of my best customers, I'll let it go for $200."
"I'll take it!" Laura looked back down at the traveler's trunk wiping her hands against her jeans. "This is going to keep me busy for a while."
"You say that now, but I'll believe it when I see it." Laura narrowed a playful gaze in his direction. "I'm not complaining," he teased. "You're keeping me in business."
Laura pushed the trunk a little farther into her SUV and closed the hatchback door. Just as she was walking around to the driver's side, her phone rang. The name flashing across the screen made her hesitate. She tossed her purse into the passenger's side and reluctantly answered.
"What is it this time?" she said playfully.
"Why do you think every time I call, it's because I have a problem?"
"Because every time you call, you have a problem." Laura laughed sitting down in the driver's seat.
"That's beside the point."
YOU ARE READING
Hearts Under FireHistorical Fiction
When Laura, a heartbroken antique expert, stumbles across an old steamer trunk, she decides it's the perfect restoration project to distract her from her recent loss. She quickly discovers the trunk has a few mysteries of its own, including a journa...