SHORTS FROM THE SHELF features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, administrator of SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. The story line featured over the next  three Saturdays is “The Price of Love”. This is Part 1 of 3.

 

The creaking of the banister startled Emma awake. Her grandmother shouldn’t be home for another week, and definitely would have sense enough not to come home in the dead of night – even if she couldn’t resist the impulse to travel the world to far off places in a heartbeat. She’d always been like that since Emma could remember, a free-spirited woman who went where she wanted and did what she wanted after being widowed at a young age. Living off her deceased husband’s wealth, she left her children with nannies and tutors as she saw the world, occasionally coming back with one of them in tow and a lover and sometimes a father to another child. Yet, she would never remarry. Emma’s mother, as the oldest child, took after her mother’s free spirited-ness from an early age, as well as her casual manner toward relationships. Emma had been born when her own mother just barely turned eighteen, and then left Emma to be raised alongside her mother’s younger half-siblings as she went off to see the world. Emma’s mother hadn’t seen her since, and all her mother’s siblings since made their lives elsewhere.

No one else knew Emma still lived there right now, besides the servants that worked at the home, who also would have normally had no cause to come to this top level of the old house at this time of night. Even if it was one of the servants, the news likely would be far from good. As far as Emma’s whereabouts, the servants had clear instructions to say Emma went abroad to study. Emma suspected few people even asked about her. She’d never really had any friends. While Emma had been fortunate not to follow her own mother’s footsteps of having children young, she’d also decided she didn’t want to go out and see the world. Not that her grandmother hadn’t tempted and encouraged her, but she’d grown up being told so much about the world outside by her grandmother that she didn’t really have any desire to see it for herself.

Someone knocked at the front door.

That didn’t seem like something a burglar would do.

The knocking continued, more insistent.

Slowly, carefully, Emma put down the crime novel she let herself get lost in. Living locked away from the world intentionally did not lessen Emma’s curiosity about other people suffering in life. It reminder her all the more why she should stay safe, so reading mystery and crime novels proved a series of cautionary tales and sober reminders.

Then, she could start to hear voices drift up the staircase. One of the servants must have answered the door. The conversation continued, until loud wails drifted up the staircase.

Emma looked out the window. A police car, headlights breaking through the darkness surrounding the darkness of the remote older home, could be seen out front. She could feel her heart pound in her chest. She’d done all she could to stay safe, so it didn’t make sense why the police would be here.

Emma quickly came downstairs to find a young female police officer with old Ms. Flannery, the maid who served her grandmother ever since her husband died and practically raised Emma and her mother’s younger siblings. For all intents and purposes, she’d been the mother Emma never knew. Rivers of tears flowed from Ms. Flannery’s eyes.

“What’s going on here?” Emma asked.

The young officer turned her attention to Emma on the stairs, and eyed her suspiciously.

“Are you Emma MacParsons, or the mother of Emma MacParsons?”

Emma knew better than to be flippant with a police officer, from the books she’d read.

“I am Emma MacParsons,” she responded matter-of-factly, adding, “I didn’t do anything. But what did you do to make our trusted family maid cry like that?”

“They’ve come for you,” Ms. Flannery wept, a sensitive young woman not quite yet age forty. “They’ve come for you.”

“But I haven’t done anything wrong!” Emma continued to insist, quite puzzled at the whole situation and in particular Ms. Flannery’s emotional outburst. “Why would they come for me?”

“We need to speak to you at the station,” the police officer told her. “Your former pediatrician has been arrested in a black-market baby ring scandal. Some of the records trace to you and your mother. We need to find out what you know, and what she might know as well. Do you know where we can find her?”Cc

COME BACK NEXT SATURDAY FOR PART 2 OF 3!