“Good morning. Mosby Auctioneers and Art Sellers. How may I direct your call?”
“May I speak to someone in your art department?” Mary tapped her fingers on the kitchen counter as she waited to be connected. She brushed hair out of her eyes, wishing she had taken the time to pull it back before making this call. In her excitement about her plan to raise money for David, she had simply whipped a brush through her hair before bounding downstairs at the unheard of hour of eleven. She hardly ever woke before one in the afternoon on days she worked.
“This is Danielle. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Danielle. I have a painting I want to sell, and I saw from your website that your firm handles such sales.”
“Yes, we do sell paintings. However, to place a painting with us, you must be referred by a recognized expert and have the painting authenticated. We also only offer paintings expected to fetch at least a six-figure price.”
Mary gripped the cordless phone tighter. “How long does it usually take to sell such a painting?”
“Generally, we offer paintings for sale at a semi-annual art auction. But that is contingent on our own appraiser recommending the painting to us. Our website has the requisite forms required to place a painting with us. If you’ll make an appointment with our receptionist, someone would be able to speak to you further.” The voice sounded more apologetic. “We’re right in the midst of getting our August auction list together, so our appraisers are busy at the moment.”
“I see.” Mary wasn’t about to let the woman go before she had the information she needed. “When is the next auction?”
“August 14. But the books will be closed July 6 on that auction.”
“Oh, that soon.” Mary knitted her brow. “Where would I find an expert on nineteenth-century portrait paintings?”
“Give me your fax number and I’ll send over our approved list.”
Mary rattled off the number.
“I’m faxing it over right now. Good luck with your painting.”
“Thanks so very much. You’ve been a huge help.”
Mary clicked off the receiver and rushed upstairs to her office. Her fax machine whirred to life, spitting out a single sheet with a dozen names. Her heart sank as she ran her finger down the list. Most of them were in Washington, D.C., probably too far away to come over and see her painting on short notice. She needed the painting in the August auction in order to have the funds for David in time.
Then a name and address jumped out at her. Stanley Sullivan, Sullivan Appraisers, Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg was only an hour away. She dialed the number.
“May I please speak to Stanley Sullivan?”
“Speaking,” a somewhat raspy voice replied.
“Hi, Mr. Sullivan. I have a painting that I want to sell at auction with Mosby Auctioneers, but was told I need it appraised first. Would you be able to do that for me?”
“It depends on what you have. At this stage of my life, I only go look at paintings that interest me. You do realize, I hope, that Mosby’s only accepts paintings that will fetch upwards of six figures.”
Mary blinked and realized she was going about this the wrong way. “Mr. Sullivan, I’m sorry, I should have told you upfront I know exactly what I have. What I need from you is an appraisal for the auction house.”
“Well? Are you going to keep me in suspense or let me in on what’s hanging on your wall?”
“It’s a Thomas Eakins original that’s been in my family since the day it was painted. Any interest now?”
A slight pause. “An Eakins portrait, you say?”
Mary walked into the living room with the cordless phone and gazed up at the painting. “Yes, it depicts a father, mother holding a baby and a little boy. A dog plays on the rug.”
“What year was it painted?”
“1893 in Philadelphia.”
“I must say you’ve caught my attention.” Mr. Sullivan’s tone sounded positively giddy, an about-face from his earlier words.
“Then you’ll come out to see the painting?”
“Perhaps. Where are you located?”
“Not to far from Middleburg. Culpeper.”
“Why, you’re practically a neighbor.”
Mary bit her lip. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I need to sell the painting in a great hurry. Could you come out today, this afternoon?”
She heard a chuckle. “My, you are in a rush, but it just so happens that I will make the time to see an Eakins original.”
Mary blew out her breath. “Thank you. Here’s my address.” She gave him the information. “Shall we say two o’clock?”
“Indeed we shall. Please have whatever papers about its provenance ready for inspection along with the painting.”
“Yes, I will. And thank you ever so much.”
“Don’t thank me yet, young lady. This might turn out to be much ado about nothing, as Shakespeare wrote.”
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.