Florian's Gate

Florian's Gate by T. Davis Bunn Page B

Book: Florian's Gate by T. Davis Bunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: T. Davis Bunn
“We’ve been broaching the subject with Her Royal Highness the Princess Walrus. How long has it been now, Ty.”
    â€œNigh on seven weeks, it is.”
    â€œYes. Long time to be weathering Her Royal Highness’ storm, seven weeks is. And I must tell you, your asking price for that cabinet has created quite a storm, hasn’t it, Ty.”
    â€œRight stood my hair on end, she did.”
    Jeffrey fished out the key ring for the glass display case. “I think you’d better sit down,” he said.
    Sydney Greenfield clutched at his heart. “You’re not meaning it.”
    Jeffrey raised up a crystal decanter, asked, “Perhaps a little brandy?”
    Greenfield sat with a low moan. “You promised me first call. Didn’t he, Ty.”
    â€œStood right there and gave his solemn word, he did.”
    Jeffrey handed over a crystal snifter holding an ample portion, replied, “I told you I’d hold it for seven days. Which I did. And that was almost two months ago.”
    Greenfield downed the snifter with one gulp, breathed, “Details, lad. Mere details.”
    â€œI had a buyer who waited through that seven-day period, then paid the price I asked.”
    â€œSeventeen thousand quid?” Greenfield waved the goblet for a refill. “Paid up without a quibble?”
    â€œDidn’t even blink an eye.”
    â€œTell me who it is, lad. There’s a couple of little items I’d like to show a gentleman of means.”
    Jeffrey shook his head. “Seventeen thousand pounds buys a lot of confidentiality in this shop.”
    Greenfield drained the second glass, smacked his lips. “Well, it’s water under the bridge then, right, Ty.”
    â€œNo use crying over milk the cat’s already drunk.”
    â€œDid I ever tell you why I call him Ty, lad?”
    â€œOnly every time you come in.”
    Greenfield ignored him. “It’s after the Titanic , because the fellow goes down like a bolt at the first sniff of the stuff. Never seen the like, not in this trade.”
    Sydney Greenfield recovered with the speed of one accustomed to such disappointments. He pointed an overly casual hand toward one of the few English pieces that Jeffrey had kept for their own shop, said, “We’ve done quite a bit of analyzing the market for that other little item.”
    It was a chest of drawers made in the William and Mary period, and was constructed in laburnum wood, a tree whose seeds were deadly poisonous. The wood had been cut transversely across the branch, creating a swirl effect in the grain which reminded Jeffrey of the inside of oyster shells. The inlay was of darker holly, which traced its way around theouter edges of each drawer; the carpenter had used the inlay to frame the wood’s pattern, rather than smother it. The piece was probably constructed somewhere around 1685, given its similarities to other antiques that Jeffrey had been able to identify and which had more established provenances.
    Establishing an antique’s provenance—its previous record of ownership—added significantly to an article’s price, especially if there were either royalty or unique stories attached. One part of the mysteries attached to Alexander’s antiques was that they almost never had any provenance whatsoever. They were therefore sold on the basis of their beauty, condition, and evident age. Jeffrey’s own education had shown that the more valuable the antique, the more often there was a fairly clear indication of lineage. To have no provenance whatsoever with antiques of this quality suggested that Alexander was intentionally hiding the records in order to protect his sources.
    The cost of the chest of drawers was twenty-six thousand pounds, or about forty-five thousand dollars.
    â€œWe are on the verge,” Sydney Greenfield announced. “Yes, lad, we might actually be pouncing on that one tomorrow. We don’t have her

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