deep, velvety voice. Even behind the static of the old radio, it had been a sexy voice. Seductive somehow. As weirded out as Ashlyn had been when the shattered radio resumed playing, that voice had still got to her. She’d really wanted to listen.
But Prescott Junction didn’t have a radio station, for God’s sake! Hell, there wasn’t enough ‘news’ for a … well, a newscast from this armpit of a place. Was there?
Even as Ashlyn questioned these things, she was crossing the floor. Slowly and quietly, she opened her bedroom door. She had to see for herself. The radio. The basement. All of it.
She knew which of the thirteen stair treads (fifth from the bottom) creaked. She counted the steps as she descended them in the dark, and made a wide step down over the squeaky one. Maudette’s bedroom door was shut now, and Ashlyn glided right on by it.
She hesitated a moment when she reached the kitchen. The curtains were drawn on the one window over the sink, blocking out the pre-dawn glow. She wished she could turn on the light, but didn’t want to take even the smallest chance of alerting Maudette.
No problem, she told herself. She knew the kitchen well enough to move through it in darkness. She resumed tiptoeing and promptly bumped her left hip against the small table, which made a scraping sound on the cushion floor. Crap! She froze, listening. When her grandmother failed to stir after a moment, she released the breath she’d been holding and crept on.
When she made it to the basement door, she reached up high on the wood, searching for the bolt. Her fingers found it, but it wasn’t slid closed as she expected. Huh. Maudette must have forgotten to lock it last night. Not that that would be enough to block her from entering this time, physically or psychologically.
What if she’s still down there? Still with the shotgun in hand?
Ashlyn paused to consider the possibility, then dismissed it. Her grandmother was in bed. No way would she still be down there. Not five hours later. Still, she’d be extra careful just in case.
With one hand flat on the wood, Ashlyn pushed the door tight to the frame as she turned the handle. She didn’t want even the softest click as she opened the door. She stepped through onto the top step, and her heart pounded as she closed the door behind her, shutting herself in darkness.
The gloom in the basement was even more impenetrable than in the kitchen, and unfortunately there was no light switch at the top of the stairs. As she’d seen last night, the basement’s only light was at the bottom of the stairs, a bare bulb suspended at the end of a wire with a pull chain for a switch. At least she thought it was right there at the foot of the stairs.
Damn. She wished she had a flashlight.
Ashlyn took a deep breath and started carefully down the stairs, laying each heel flat on the solid boards and holding on to the railing for dear life as she moved through the black. Her heart beat a little harder with every step she took. Thirteen steps. As she got closer to the bottom, she could smell it, the vaguely sulfur-like odor of gunpowder. Much fainter now, of course, but still there.
Ashlyn swung her arm out high and wide and — thank you, God! — caught the light’s cord on the first grasp. She snapped the light on quickly. So quickly, in fact, that when she released the cord, the bulb swung to and fro, making the shadows sway crazily for a moment.
Phew! No dozing Maudette. No big-assed shotgun pointed in her direction. Relief made Ashlyn’s knees weak. Then she looked to view the wreckage of the radio. And her knees grew even weaker.
The hoarse exclamation was out before she could stop it. In front of her stood the antique radio, looking just as it must have the day it rolled off the assembly line. The wood shone and the glass gleamed, not so much as a fingerprint sullying either surface.
“This … this is impossible!” She’d seen it herself! Just hours ago,