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Authors: Mary Moody

A Killing in Antiques

BOOK: A Killing in Antiques
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Table of Contents
 
 
MURDER BY LACE
An animated crowd had gathered at the nearby coffee truck, and there was no mistaking its excited chatter for the usual buzz. Something big was happening. Since I suffer from a terminal case of nosiness, I moved toward a fellow whose histrionics had attracted a crowd of listeners.
“The guy was murdered,” he said. “At the back of that field.”
Several others had joined the crowd, and he turned to face us. His gestures became even more exaggerated as he attempted to dramatize a struggle that included strangling himself until his eyes bulged. Then, in a hoarse whisper, he delivered his trump line. “He was strangled with a piece of lace.”
“Lace?”
I was dumbfounded. Few places felt safer than Brimfield. There have been a variety of flare-ups through the years, but no real violence.
“He was found at daybreak,” someone put in.
And then I heard who it was. My God, Monty Rondo. I felt the breath get knocked right out of me.
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
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First Printing, July 2011
Copyright © Mary Moody, 2011
All rights reserved
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PUBLISHER’S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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ISBN : 978-1-101-53995-8

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For Terry
Acknowledgments
My gratitude to Rod Kessler, Michelle Gillette, and the workshop folks, for the early encouragement to keep on writing while I was still trying to figure out how to tell this story.
Many thanks are due to my agent, Nina Ryan, for her insight and guidance whenever I painted myself into a corner. Sincere thanks to Kathy and Tom Tetro for their help in navigating Brimfield’s rules, and for patiently answering my many questions about both Brimfield and antiques; any errors that remain on that score are mine. To Joan Haynes, thanks for the cell phone. Special thanks to my husband, Terry, who read this book in every incarnation and was supportive and understanding nevertheless.
My mother, Babs Kittredge, instilled the thrill of the hunt in all four of her daughters and was the inspiration for the story—she would have changed everything.
1
M
ost treasure hunts are fantasies. Not mine. I hunt treasure for a living, leaving me plenty of time to fantasize about other things. Like the fantasy that someday all my kids will have jobs.
That Tuesday in early May, the alarm clock woke me at two o’clock in the morning, exactly when it was supposed to. The alarm clock has become an artifact in my life. I rarely need it because I awaken earlier with each passing year, but I’m grateful that I still need it to wake me for two a.m. treasure hunts.
This was the big one. I pulled on my hunting ensemble and ran my eye over my gear, streamlined for greater efficiency. I want to drag the least amount of paraphernalia around with me while still being able to carry the big prize, should I find it. I also need the means to haul my booty carefully because most of my treasure is fragile. Supercart, stashed in the van, was ready and up to the task.
For this trip I had pulled out all the stops. It’s my most important hunt of the season. I had emptied the van of extraneous items, something I rarely do, since I consider my van an extension of my purse. I felt good. Successful.
My garb, too, was the product of much forethought. I’d put it together to make me look invisible, and it did. Well, not exactly invisible, but like the kind of woman you look right through when you meet her. When I first realized that I came by this look naturally, it was a painful insight. It had, unlike lightning, struck me at the same time as the realization that I was middle-aged. I haven’t learned to enjoy being invisible, but I have come to find it useful.
Two items keep me from total invisibility. First, I wear skirts rather than the compulsory sweats necessary to complete an invisible uniform. Skirts allow me simple encounters with the only negative element in this treasure hunt, the Porta-Potty. I hate Porta-Potties. My other exemption from invisibility was the sudden turning of my faded straw hair to a rich shade of #35s Sunlit Blonde.
My recently overhauled purse completed the ensemble. Crammed with paper products cozied up to a hundred dollars’ worth of ones and fives, the purse contained no real money, just the hundred. I keep the real money elsewhere. I belted the purse around me and waited for the coffee to gurgle through the machine before I could head for the granddaddy of all treasure hunts. Brimfield.
 
I’m Lucy St. Elmo, antiques dealer, and I was ready for the first Brimfield of the season. The Spring Brimfield. The
best
Brimfield. Say “Brimfield” to any antiques dealer in the country and you’ll get a reaction. Dealers love it and dealers hate it—sometimes the same dealers—but they all understand that as a treasure hunt it’s unsurpassed.
“Pandemonium,” Mr. Hogarth had muttered, shaking his head during the last antiques dealers’ meeting, “and it gets worse every year.”
Mr. Hogarth is the only person I know who has attended every single Brimfield since it began in 1959. He must have been mature even then, because he’s older now than many of the beautiful antique lamps in his shop.
“Prices soar, they want an arm and a leg, and for what?” he’d asked.
“Junk!” he had answered himself.
I, about to mention my excitement that Brimfield was almost upon us, reconsidered. Mr. Hogarth is a nice old coot, and if he felt like grumbling a little, I could listen a little. Grumbling is not his usual style. He’s usually a joy-filled pedagogue. And, though he specializes in old lamps, he’s known for his instant, fact-filled lectures on any aspect of the antiques trade.
“People throng together, clogging the pathways,” he complained. “They pay no damned attention to what’s going on around them.” His own patina seemed a bit tarnished that day, his disposition curmudgeonly.
I’ve adopted many of his techniques for plundering Brimfield, but I don’t have the nerve for his crowd-scattering technique. He lopes along, wheeling his cart ahead, looking deep in thought. In his oblivion, he’s ready to plow right through people standing in his path.
I’m not sure that he is oblivious. I have a feeling that he’s fully aware. He rolls directly toward the one causing the bottleneck. But wait. He stops, a fraction of an inch from the hindrance, now a sitting duck.
They jump out of his way, often making gestures of offense. At that point he reawakens as Mother Teresa, and with a beatific smile and bowing head, he mutters, “Sorry, sorry,” and, waving a little benediction, he continues on his way. Something about the old man’s attitude seems to soften people.
He was whiny at that meeting, though. “Half of the good stuff is gone before they open.”
That’s an oft-heard complaint, and on occasion there is more than a kernel of truth in it. He’s the one who taught me how to grab the good stuff early, particularly before the openings, and I often get the drop on other shoppers by using his methods.
I wondered if his age was catching up with him; he’s well into his eighties. He frowned and muttered something about how “It used to be good out there.” I asked if he was thinking of giving up Brimfield.
“Good gravy, Lucy, what is the matter with you? I’ll never quit Brimfield. I love Brimfield. There is no place else in this country where you can find the kind of antiques that are out there just for the taking. I’ve told you, Lucy,” he sputtered, “Brimfield makes the market.”
He looked at me, and my amazement at this response must have registered with him, because he flushed, and grinned, and said, “Lucy, sometimes it’s a strain, waking up early, walking miles through the fields, trying to mine gold from stuff that belongs in a landfill, but if you’re in the antiques business it’s easy to become an antique yourself, and Brimfield is where to have your cobwebs removed.”
That’s
my
Brimfield. Officially known as “The Brimfield Antiques and Collectible Shows,” but referred to simply as Brimfield. It’s the antiques marketplace to beat them all. And, in spite of his complaints that day last year, Mr. Hogarth would be where he belonged: absorbing yet another infusion of the vitality that overtakes him, and the rest of us, during the Spring Brimfield.
 
It’s located in a lovely old town in central Massachusetts, which, coincidentally enough, is also called Brimfield. Close to thirty-five hundred people call it home. They think of it as
their
Brimfield. I’d never dispute that; the town is theirs. It’s just that they sometimes get overly sensitive. Claims of trauma are trotted out regularly by the offended. The town gets overloaded, okay? The spectacle of forty or fifty thousand people flooding into a town of thirty-five hundred is daunting, I agree, but who brought us there?
BOOK: A Killing in Antiques
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