CHAPTER TWO as promised

The strengthening sunlight shining on the plate glass window lit up the three large seascapes forming the major part of the display. For a moment it struck Stevie that it resembled a stage set at a theatre, still and awaiting the arrival of the players. Drawing closer she saw the pictures were unpriced. The artist in her instantly recognised them as the work of Len Tabner, a local Staithes painter. Hundreds of pounds she guessed rather than tens.

Arranged around them several ceramic creations completed the display, except for a few items of handcrafted silver jewellery scattered on emerald velvet cushions close to the front of the window. The early morning sunlight slanting between the buildings in the square making them sparkle enticingly with rainbow colours.

Another promise. ‘If I get the job I’ll be able to treat myself to something like that necklace.’

No time to linger. Better to be early than late. She left the tempting jewellery and went to the heavy looking plate glass door. On it the gallery’s name in gold italic script. Frogmore Gallery. The words wound around a tiny sage green frog.

‘So’ Stevie murmured ‘Frogmore has a sense of humour. All to the good’

Set into the brickwork alongside the door a brass push button bell invited visitors to please ring for attention. Stevie wondered whether she might be classified as a visitor and hovered trying to decide whether she should go straight in or ring the bell.

She peered in through the glass. Two green carpeted steps, echoing the colour of the frog on the door, led up to the gallery itself which appeared to be empty.

So, she obeyed the request, pressed and waited. Time passed. Her finger lingered on the button a little longer as she pressed a second time. After a third effort and still no-one appearing she pushed on the glass door which to her surprise swung open.

Irritation mounted whilst she stood on the welcome mat at the top of the steps calling ‘Hello’ and fuming inwardly that even though she had an appointment nobody seemed to be waiting for her.

‘Hello. Anybody there. Stevie Bellingham here. I have an appointment with Tony Frogmore.’

‘Hello.’ Still no response. Weird. If I was so minded I could run off with any of the art works and nobody would know. Where’s Frogmore for goodness sake?

She wandered around the gallery eyeing up the pictures arranged on the walls so as to draw potential clients from one to another. The gallery owner who sold her pictures had told her how difficult the hanging of an exhibition was to maximise sales.

‘Maybe, if I get this job, I’ll learn how to do it’ she thought.

The whole atmosphere of the gallery tantalised her. The lingering odours of new woodwork still hung in the air from the recent renovations, but over-riding this was the all pervading smell of turpentine and paint from the new art works. Stevie was instantly transported back to her days at the London College of Art.

Unfortunately that memory included Andreas, he of the molten brown eyes; the mocking smile, the tender touch which even the memory of could set her nerves ends trembling.

Not now. Not now. Get away.

She felt at that moment in need of an exorcist who might throw enchanted water over her, cast a spell which would cleanse her of every memory of her tormentor.

Wish I knew how do I make a sign against evil. Like the folk in medieval days.

She did not know, so she put up two fingers in a more modern signal and said: ‘Up yours Andreas.’ Small relief.

Then re-focusing on her surroundings, she admired the low lighting above each picture, skilfully designed to provide shade exactly where it was required. The opulence of some of the older masterpieces left her gasping in admiration, and even though she did not particularly like them she could accept the sheer mastery of colour demonstrated on some of the abstract works.

By now she not only wanted the job here, she desired it with every fibre in her body, and it had nothing do with financial gain.

She cried out again. ‘Hello. Anybody there’. Still no response.

Her heels clattered on the parquet floor as she moved across to the back of the gallery where a half open door marked Office and Private stood open. From it a brilliant triangle of light spilled out across the floor.

She cried out again. ‘Mr Frogmore. It’s Stevie Bellingham. I’m here for the interview.’ Still no response.

Perhaps Frogmore’s deaf! Perhaps he’s an ancient crotchety man and I wouldn’t enjoy working for him. Perhaps he’s forgotten I’m coming. Perhaps he’s given the job to somebody else.

The temptation to leave almost overwhelmed her before desire for the job and the £ signs of her urgent need won out.

The echoes reverberating around the gallery when she rapped on the door were enough to wake the dead in the graveyard of St Mary’s half a mile away. Still nothing. She pushed the door open wide,yet hesitatantly, not willing to enter uninvited into what looked like an inner sanctum. A sudden shiver. The situaton was far from normal. Might be better if she left.

If he’s not here I might be charged with trespassing!

Even from the doorway she could see the room was typical of the back-room premises of many art galleries. Framed pictures stacked against walls; a desk crowded with documents, letters, sketches; a cabinet with sliding drawers in which to store art work; and a large oil painting on an easel.

Facing these on the opposite side of the room a second desk where a computer screen idled and near it a mug of coffee half drunk and alongside that an empty cardboard box labelled doughnuts.

No sign of Frogmore.

She stood, still indecisive, just inside the door. Then, before even a second had passed, she sensed rather than saw a figure emerging from behind it. With scarcely time to turn her head an incapacitating pain seared through her neck and back. Her eye sight blurred. Her knees buckled. She sank helpless to the floor. Out for a light she knew no more.

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