As we walked through the front door, the clip-clop of a horse-drawn carriage drew near. We stepped down to the brick sidewalk and turned left. In the middle of the sidewalk, just outside the entrance to the hotel, was an azure pump with a three-inch heel lying on its side. “Look at that,” Rose said. “Someone’s lost her shoe. It’s like Cinderella.” She turned to look at the carriage. “Where is she?”
Just then the shoe’s twin dropped on the sidewalk, almost hitting Rose. At first I thought someone on the balcony above us was throwing their clothes over the side, but when Rose turned to look, she drew a quick breath. The smile on her face disappeared, instantly replaced by fear.
I hurried to look, my pulse quickening.
Above the sidewalk in front of the Driskill was the large balcony that extended out from the ballroom-level floor. Above that, a second balcony extended from a master suite on the fourth floor. Standing on the concrete rail of that higher balcony, in her azure dress and bare feet, was Amanda Sorenson.
I stared at her without blinking. I raised my hands, palms open, every muscle in my body tense.
She stared straight ahead and took the ballerina’s first position, her arms circled in front. She did a plié and then lifted her right leg straight up in a stretch; her raised hand touched the heel of her foot. She had replaced the strand of pearls around her neck with a thick, dark choker.
My heart pounded at my ears.
“Amanda!” I shouted, stepping closer. “Get back from there. It’s dangerous.”
She must be drunk, but no . . . she didn’t appear drunk; her movements were sure, but at the same time dreamlike.
The carriage behind us stopped, and concerned voices talked in whispers. Passersby pointed. For the first time Amanda noticed that others were nearby. She looked down at Rose and me and smiled.
“Step back!” I shouted again. My throat was dry, my voice hoarse. “Amanda! Step back.”
But she didn’t. She smiled at me again, gave the slightest wave, and jumped. As she began to fall her dress floated around her thighs.
I lunged forward with arms outstretched, as if to catch a child.
A sickening snap sounded, like a flag blowing in a stiff breeze, only lower and dull. The woman in the carriage screamed. Amanda Sorenson hung between the two balconies; what I thought was a choker around her neck was actually a rope. An acid feeling rushed through me. The pounding in my ears moved to my brain and pressed against my skull. The sound I had heard was the rope snapping taut.
She made a grim spectacle in the light from a nearby lamp. Her feet quivered a few seconds and were still. Those pretty white arms hung to the side. Her blond hair covered her face. Inanely, I wondered if her toenails were painted the same azure color as her dress and shoes and fingernails.
This excerpt is from Chapter Two of A Fateful Greed.