“What was that?” The young man turned his head to the doors behind him, unsure of where the noise had come from. On receiving no reply he fastened sharp blue eyes on the face of the hostess.

She was a once-beautiful woman of perhaps about sixty, with dark grey hair pulled back in a loose bun. Regally seated in the corner of the room she resembled an old-fashioned queen in her full, long skirts and white gloves.

There was another crash, along with a muffled, unnerving scream. Rising slightly from his chair, the youth repeated his question. The smile of the hostess was making him edgy. He was called here to discuss business, as he was a composer looking for work and apparently, this lady could offer him some.

“Do not mind the disturbances,” she said. “It is only Amalita.”

“Who is she?” he ventured, thinking perhaps she was a rebellious daughter, throwing a tantrum, or perhaps another hot-tempered relation having a fight with a lover. The house from the outside had appeared quite large, so he felt it safe to guess there were others who resided here.

“Oh, she is our last composer.” Bony hands adjusted spectacles.

There were several more jarring noises in succession, and then the sound of someone sobbing quietly. The Victorian widow turned her face, a little ruffled. “My apologies, she does seem… lively today.”

“Why is she screaming?” the young man asked, now glancing up at the woman suspiciously through tufts of unruly blond hair.

“Because she is insane…”

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