In the front parlor on the opposite side of the living room, Jared held his breath. His conscience pricked over eavesdropping on Mary and the Mr. Sullivan’s conversation, but he told himself he needed to know what Mary was up to because of the possible connection to Wildcat and the fraud case. He had thought perhaps this Mr. Sullivan was somehow connected, but he soon realized the man was an art expert here to assess the Eakins painting.
While Sullivan had examined the painting, Jared wondered if Mary was getting it appraised for insurance purposes, but as the man asked her questions about the picture, his unease grew. The last question confirmed his suspicions that Mary was up to something. Selling her painting was not what he had expected, but it explained her evasiveness during their earlier conversation.
He shifted closer to the open doorway to catch Mary’s answer.
“Yes, I do want to sell it.”
“Please don’t think me rude, Miss Divers, but before I consent to an appraisal for auction, I’d like to know why you’re selling this painting now. I gather from your conversation that your aunt has been deceased for several years. Why didn’t you sell the painting when you were settling her estate?”
Jared leaned against the doorjamb still out of sight.
“I didn’t think about its monetary value then.”
“And you are now?”
“That’s right. Now I want to sell it.” Her voice wavered slightly before firming up on the last words. “Would you give me your preliminary estimate as to its worth?”
“That would be hard to say without a more in-depth analysis. However, I will say that a recent Eakins portrait of a single subject sold at auction two years ago for just under a million dollars. His pictures don’t come on the market very often.”
A clink of china and muted footsteps, prompted Jared to flatten back against the wall in hopes of avoiding detection.
“I’d like your permission to take the painting back to my studio for a full examination. At that time, I’ll need the papers to prove ownership and province.”
“Certainly. When would you like to take the painting?”
The faint sound of clicking and then Sullivan spoke again. “My van could pick it up Thursday morning. My driver will have the insurance information for taking the painting. Would that give you enough time to sort out the provenance?”
“Two days should be plenty of time.”
Jared held his breath as footsteps sounded in the hallway near the doorjamb.
“How long will a full appraisal take?”
“A week at most.”
Jared heard the front door open and the distant sound of car horn.
“Based on my preliminarily look, I can ask the auction house to hold a space for your painting for the August auction. They won’t finalize the auction for another two weeks, which will give me enough time to authenticate the painting.”
“Thank you, very much, Mr. Sullivan. Good-bye.”
Jared detected relief in Mary’s voice. He’d have to figure out a way to broach this subject with her without letting on he had overheard her conversation. There was no way he was letting her part with such a valuable family heirloom.
A click signaled she’d closed the front door, Jared kept his body frozen against the wall. It wouldn’t do for Mary to discover his presence now. A tinkle of china from the living room indicated she was gathering the tea tray.
He waited until it was quiet and peeked around the corner. The living room was empty. With a quick glance at the family in the picture, he slipped quietly out the front door and around the house to his apartment. He needed to talk to Will and he needed to figure out a way to delay the proceedings enough for Mary to miss the auction deadline. He had a sick feeling that if Mary sold that painting, the money would somehow end up in Wildcat’s clutches.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.