Storytime with Erika
Cozy small-town mystery
When Danielle finally quits her boring accountant job and opens an Antiques & Stuff store, her life changes for the better. But soon, her happy life starts to spin out of control when the snobbish new owner of the Couture mansion brings a seemingly worthless painting into her shop. The ownership of the painting is questionable, and the town’s future is threatened by the plans of the ruthless, rich owner who wants to build a leather factory on the estate, too close to town.
An unexpected visitor arrives, and he may possess the much-needed solution to everyone’s problems in this quaint little town.
Danielle didn’t have any customers all morning and the locksmith finished changing the lock within a few minutes, giving her plenty of time to work. She finished cleaning the signature part and the full name was visible and matched the signature she found on numerous paintings from the artist on the auctioneers’ websites. This confirmed that the artist was indeed who she thought he was. She covered the painting on the easel and was ready to turn the “out to lunch” sign on the door when Mr. Jones rushed in exasperated.
“I came as fast as I could. Did Mrs. Van Bramer get here yet?” he asked out of breath.
“Because… because I kinda told her about the silver-haired man and she was convinced that he was going to steal her painting from your store because he lied…” The mailman blurted out trying to catch his breath and continued. “And she’s convinced that the portrait is worth a lot of money, and she said she wouldn’t let him, or you, steal it from her.”
“Me? Stealing? How could she say that?”
“Oh, you should’ve seen her! Under that fancy looking exterior hides a very mean woman.” He turned toward the door as they heard a car stopping in front of the store. “Here she comes,” warned the mailman as Mrs. Van Bramer stormed through the door.
“I want my painting back!” the elegantly dressed woman shouted, her face distorted with anger. “I knew it! That scoundrel was lying to me. He called me yesterday and said he might be able to sell the painting for a few hundred, but I told him that I gave it to you. But now that he tried to steal it, I’m sure it’s worth a lot more and he knew it. I want it back, right now!”
“Uhm…” Danielle took a small step back. “I do think it’s worth a lot of money, too.”
“I knew it! Give it to me. I’ll have it authenticated and sell it.” The blonde woman pushing Danielle aside scanning the walls. “Where is it?”
“It belongs to the Couture family, you should give it back to them,” Danielle protested.
“What do you mean?” the woman snapped. “They left it in the house and the house is now mine with everything in it.”
Mr. Jones cleared his throat and said in a shaky voice, “By the law, it might be so, but you gave it to Danielle yesterday when you brought it to the store, remember? You told her to sell it or keep it— it’s hers.”
“What?” the angry woman shrieked. “Because I thought it was a piece of junk. Had I known it’s worth something…”
Mr. Jones raised his voice. “Your word is your word, and I’m a witness to it. You gave it to Danielle, and you said so. Not once but at least three times.”
Danielle tried to ease the tension. “You gave it to me, so I’m going to keep the painting until I can talk to the Couture family.”
“So that’s where we stand, young lady! You’re a thief just like that weasel expert. You’ll hear from my lawyer, today!” Mrs. Van Bramer shouted and hurried out the store pushing Sarah aside who was about to enter with takeout bags in her hands.
“Who is that? What’s going on?” Sarah turned her head looking after the seething woman who yanked the door of her Bentley open and barked at the driver to take her back to Manhattan as fast as he could.
Danielle explained everything as Sarah stared at her astounded. “What are you going to do?”
“First, let’s eat, I’m starving. I’ll call the real estate office later; they might have the phone number or at least the address of Mrs. Couture’s son in France. I’ll contact him and tell him about the painting.”
“Sounds like a good plan.” Sarah nodded and looked at the old mailman. “Would you like to join us for lunch? I brought plenty.”
“I would love to!” Mr. Jones smiled. “Thank you very much.”
After lunch, Danielle took the portrait to her bank with Sarah and rented a vault. She knew Mrs. Van Bramer would file a lawsuit claiming rightful ownership and she wanted to keep the painting safe until the court made the decision.
When she got back to the store, she felt like her unfinished painting was calling her. She worked on in until late that night. “You’re done. Now I’m satisfied. All you needed was a friend to hold hands with,” she told the oak tree in the painting.
Storytime with Erika. Enjoy!
Erika M Szabo
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