On their way out of the library, James’ cell phone rang. James answered it.
“Hello, this is David at the auction house.”
“Yes, David. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I have some good news for you,” David replied. “I’ve found a buyer for your Van Gogh copy.”
“Really?” Surprised, James switched the phone to the opposite ear. “Without an auction?” James inquired.
“Well,” David responded, “it wasn’t likely to make very much during an auction, so I called a few contacts and found someone who collects this sort of thing. And, he pays well. So, I suggest you take it.”
“How much are we talking about?” James asked.
“He told me personally that if everything checks out, he’d pay 50,000 dollars for it.”
James’ mouth nearly hit the concrete. “And, he realizes it is a copy, I assume.”
“Oh, yes. This is his thing – copies of famous paintings by experienced amateurs.”
“But,” James cut in, “who would pay 50,000 dollars even for a good copy?” Brad raised his eyebrows, surprised.
“He would,” continued David. “He’s got money out the wazoo, and he spends it where he pleases.”
“I’ll take his money any day,” James said, laughing the entire time. He thanked the antique appraiser and closed his phone. On their way to Brad’s car, James told Brad the details of the conversation.
“Makes me want to learn how to paint,” Brad remarked, opening the car door. After touching his thumb to a sensor, starting the car, Brad asked, “So, if we’re done here, do you want to go visit Mr. Arnold?”
James adjusted his seatbelt before answering. “No, it’s kind of late. Maybe we should wait until tomorrow.”
James and Brad pulled up to a large three story Victorian house the next morning. There was a single car in the driveway, a model from the current year. “Of course,” Brad commented, “no one in this family drives old cars.”
“Of course, not!” James agreed, adding, “They have a public image to keep up.”
Brad parked the car on the street right about where a city curb would have been. In the country, however, curbs weren’t too plentiful. In fact, Banner boasted a population of only 500 people.
After James knocked on the front screen door, a woman in her mid thirties answered the door. Her eyes were swollen. It was obvious she had been crying recently. “Hello. What can I do for you?”
James introduced Brad and himself and then explained the reason for their visit. He finished by saying, “I was hoping I could talk to Mr. Arnold.”
Fresh tears rolled down the lady’s cheeks. She tried to dry her face by rubbing the tears away, only succeeding in smearing them. “I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Miller.”
James and Brad glanced at each other, each of them unsure of how to proceed. The lady continued, “Ben Arnold, my grandfather, passed away just a few hours ago.”
Oh, if only we had come last night like Brad suggested, James thought. Out loud, though, he simply said, “My condolences.” James cast his head down in a moment of silence. What are we going to do now? James thought as he brought his head back up.
As if reading his mind, the lady said, “What were you wanting to talk to him about?”
“Well,” James replied, “as I explained before about the old family journal mentioning Thomas Arnold, your second great grandfather – I wanted to know if any information had been passed down.”
“I do remember hearing about Thomas helping out a family,” the lady said, “but I never knew the name of the family. My grandfather never mentioned anything in great detail about that time in his life.”
It was evident to James from their conversation that any information Ben Arnold knew died with him, so James excused himself, saying, “I’m sorry to have bothered you. We won’t waste anymore of your time.” He turned to walk off the porch and looking back, added, “Once again, my condolences.”
As Brad and James were walking back toward the car, the lady called out, “Mr. Miller, what was your first name again?” After James told her, she said in a cheerful tone, “It was nice to have met you.”
James nodded in reply as he got into the front passenger seat. “She was awfully nice,” he said after Brad shut his door.
“Yeah, she was,” Brad replied as he touched his thumb to the ignition sensor, starting the car. “Too bad that was a dead end. What are you going to do now?”
“Well, giving up is not an option,” James stated in a matter-of-fact way. “For all we know, Mr. Arnold wouldn’t have known anything. It was probably going to be a dead end, anyway.”
“Look on the bright side.” Brad smiled. “We still might make a killing at the auction.”
The auction was, indeed, a success for James and Brad. The Nolan Ryan rookie card brought a lot of interested buyers out to Oxford, Mississippi. At one point, David, the auction house employee, commented after noticing the response to the baseball card, “I’ve never seen so many people come to one of our auctions.”
“Didn’t you say that a lot of the other pieces besides the rookie card were of top quality as well?” Brad asked.
“Well, yes,” David replied. “Because of all the extra people, you should do better than my original estimates.”
“That is if these extra people are interested in more than just baseball cards,” James stated with a hint of pessimism in his voice.
The Nolan Ryan rookie card was bought for over $300,000. With all of the other items, their total came up to almost a million dollars. As they were finishing up some final details of their arrangement, David said, “If there is anything else we can do for you, just let us know.”
“We appreciate this more than you can imagine.” James laughed. He hadn’t imagined for himself walking away with $900,000. He hadn’t ever said so out loud, but he contemplated a garage sale at one point. He was sure glad he didn’t go that route.
“Oh, I can imagine a great deal, Mr. Miller,” David said with a laugh of his own.