By Havermann

The woman on the porch was in her late twenties, and held in her left hand an envelope that Jeanette feared contained the same sort of invitation she had received. The woman was turned partially away, so Jeanette couldnít see her face, but her hair was long and blonde, and she seemed well proportioned. She stood about halfway between five and six feet tall, and was wearing a full-length white dress of the sort that was rarely seen outside of formal occasions. While the notion of similar invitations and therefore shared commissions did not please her, Jeanette found herself wondering about the womanís unusual choice of clothing for what was essentially a business meeting. Perhaps she was trying to impress the client.

As Jeanette moved forward, the ornate door opened. The other woman walked inside into the mansion, disappearing from view. A few moments passed, and Jeanette saw a different woman, with more of a silvery blonde head of hair, lean out of the doorway and beckon.

"Hello!" she called. "You must be Jeanette Hereford, then. Come for the appraisal?" She opened the door further. The woman was wearing an attractively decorated corset that had been sewn onto a very pretty, if somewhat old-fashioned, dress.

Jeanette hurried forth, trying to close the distance so as to not make her hostess wait. As she moved, she thought she heard a rustling sound in the trimmed bushes to the right of the walkway, but deemed this to bee a poor time to be distracted. She kept her eyes on the pretty young woman at the door, bouncing up the three steps onto the porch and flashing a bright smile as she extended her hand. "Hello! Itís nice to meet you. Um, your name wasnít mentioned on my invitation." She wiggled the invitation, as if in gentle admonishment. "It just said that I was invited for an appraisal."

"Thatís right, you and Ms. Calloway, sheís in the bathroom at the moment." As she spoke, she gestured to a door just off to the right of the interior hall, visible at the opposite side of the expansive living room; the door was closing as she entered, some of the hem of the dress just sliding along the floor ahead of it . The hostess ushered Jeanette in, and closed the door behind her. "Youíre both experts in erotic art?"

Ms. Hereford smiled. "I canít say I know anyone named Calloway, but thatís a specialty of mine, yes. Iím an appraiser for a number of west coast museums." Her voice was calm, and after making a bit of honest eye contact with her potential employer, she looked around the room. All about was erotica; the expected statuary and miniatures, a painting, some jewelry in a display case, all the standard items were there, albeit of a much higher quality than the appraiser was used to seeing. Other items were present, however: toys, frames, even the furniture itself. She found her throat becoming dry, and swallowed. "This is quite the collection," she said as she began to comment. A womanís scream cut off the evaluation. Jeanetteís eyes widened, and she looked at her hostess. After a moment of stunned inactivity, she raced for the bathroom and flung open the door. Beyond the threshold, the only movement was water running from the faucet, and tiny drapes shivering in the draft from the small open window. Ms. Calloway wasnít moving at all, because she was no longer there.

"What happened?" asked a silken voice behind her, and a quick glance over her shoulder revealed that the hostess had followed.

"Your Ms. Calloway is gone."

"Oh, really?" The woman sounded amused. "Whatever could have happened to her?"

Jeanette turned to look at the woman more closely. About five foot eight, with silver-blonde hair and a small but ample bust, she looked as if she spent time working toward a perfect figure. Most importantly, she seemed to be deriving pleasure from Jeanetteís confusion. Her expression sparked something in Jeanetteís mind. "You staged this, didnít you?" she asked. "A little test, to see if Iím sharp enough to merit this appraisal?"

The hostess laughed. "Maybe. What do you think happened?"

Jeanette looked around the room. She had seen the woman enter this room, but she wasnít here now. The window was only about a foot square, too small to fit through. She turned to her hostess. "Any secret panels in here, trap doors?"

"No," came the reply with a small laugh. "Any other questions?" Trying to figure out what might have happened, Jeanette searched through the tiny room; the bathtub was empty, and the woman wasnít hiding behind the toilet or underneath the sink. There was no escaping the fact that she had somehow disappeared, however. And in a way the hostess was likely familiar with.

That thought sparked something else, and she slowly developed a smile to match that of the silver-blond beauty standing behind her. "I think Iíve got it," she stated as she turned to watch the other womanís reaction.

Her hostess was obviously surprised; she was undoubtedly not used to having people guess her secret. "Oh? You figured it out? Most people canít see it, canít accept the obvious. Iím going to enjoy having you around."

Jeanette laughed. "Well, let me explain my theory before you just award the job outright. I could be wrong, but I donít think so. Itís the only scenario that fits the facts."

She held up her finger. "I saw a woman on the porch, the Ms. Calloway you mentioned. A few moments after she came in, I met you. When I entered, she was supposedly coming into the bathroom, but I didnít actually see her! All I saw was the end of her dress."

"Now, I thought I heard someone outside when I was coming up the walk, but I didnít spend the time to investigate because you had already appeared, and were calling to me. What I think happened is that you had this set up as a trick ahead of time. You were the person who was on the porch, and you opened the door when you were partly turned to me, and I couldnít see your face. From behind, and yards away, I couldnít see if you were opening the door or if it was being opened for you." "You came in, and immediately took off the outer dress and the wig, leaving that pretty outfit youíd been wearing underneath and your real hair," Jeanette continued, warming to her subject. "You ran over to the bathroom, and attached the clothing to a hook which was in turn connected to a string running outside. Your friend outside waited until they heard you welcome me in, then pulled the door shut with a second string, probably using a slip knot around the handle, while drawing the dress and wig up and out of the window as well. The running water would have let them hear you speak, but would cover up any sounds of dragging fabric."

Jeanette grinned, having seen her hostessí expression go from surprised, to confused, then finally shifting to appreciative. "That is some inspired thinking," the young woman said at last. "I think you covered just about everything, except for one minor point." She looked at Jeanette, who waited for her to continue.

"That point is that youíre wrong. In reality, the illustrious Ms. Calloway is now the spigot for the faucet on my sink. Iím a sorceress, my dear; I donít waste time with trickery, no matter how inspired, when I can have such fun with magic."

Jeanette felt herself stiffening up, and her face registered stunned amazement. "I was going to use you as the spigot for the tub, but now that Iíve seen how you think, I believe youíd be more appropriate as a source of illumination. Youíll make a beautiful chandelier lamp, I believe."

The Sorceressí laugh echoed in the tiny bathroom as Jeanetteís skin became transparent, as she felt her arms and legs bending backwards to accommodate her new shape and function. Just before her transformation was complete, she heard the sorceress speak to the tiny batlike creature who had come inside from the bushes, through the open window. "Itís always enjoyable to take their measure, first."

All artwork is copyrighted by it's respective owners.

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