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Andra's Legacyby Sally Neary
PART 3: The Auction – June 1985, New York and Newfoundland
The traffic in Manhatten on this fine June afternoon was heaving, and Dinah sat impatiently in a taxi as she waited for it to move forward. She looked at her watch. The preview was due to commence at two o'clock, and she was keen to be there on time, as she knew Denham's would be crowded.
The European Works of Art auction was due to take place the following morning, and she wanted to spend as much time as possible at the preview that afternoon. As an art dealer, previews were always of paramount importance to her, as they provided the necessary time to look at the items coming up for auction and also check any late additions or even withdrawals. On this particular day, she wanted to look at a number of items for potential clients, but most importantly, to see if the so-called Andra treasure items were still available, and to see them at last.
On return from Cornwall, she had written in her professional capacity to the Senior Vice-President of European Works of Art at Denham's to question the authenticity of the Andra treasure items to be offered in the forthcoming auction on the fourteenth of June. She had decided to be discreet about her own involvement in the finding of the Andra treasure in her childhood, but had based her query on the fact that the entire Andra collection found over thirty years ago in Thamis was still in tact and on display at the National Gallery in Athens, no part of the collection ever having been sold.
Two weeks later, she had received a reply to thank her for her enquiry and to assure her that it was being followed up and checked. She had let Bill, Philip, Jack and Lucy-Ann know and they had waited for more news, but none had yet come.
The taxi finally arrived at Denham's, and she got out, paid the driver, and hurried up the steps of the entrance which she knew so well. Inside, it was already busy, and she made her way through to the auction rooms where the collection was on display.
The European Works of Art division of Denham's was one of the most diverse collecting fields of their portfolio, and it encompassed three dimensional works of art, including early enamels, Renaissance jewellery and also Italian Renaissance ceramics and European tapestries. Dinah felt the usual surge of excitement which she still felt when entering an auction, and she immediately made her way towards lot 75.
Her heart was beating fast as she approached the area where the treasure items would be displayed, if they were still on offer, and she at last reached the spot. Lot 75 was there – items from the Andra treasure ships of Greece – 18th century drinking cup, bowl and vase – located in Thamis, Greece – Private Collection.
The items were unmistakeable – a beautiful cup and bowl in gold, studied with precious stones and the porcelain vase, still in excellent condition. As Dinah looked at them, she could see that they were very similar to the items which they had found all those years ago. She and the others had spent some time looking at the treasure, knowing they were unlikely to ever experience such a find again – ironically this had not proved to be true, as they had been involved in another find in Jordan the following year when they had accompanied Bill and her mother on one of Bill's work assignments. She stared at the exquisite pieces – nothing about them appeared to be fake; her experienced eye told her that these were genuine 18th century items. She read the detailed description in the catalogue which described the background to the Andra treasure story, which she and the others knew so well. The estimated value of the three items together was $15-20,000 – it was staggering.
It was also unlikely, she thought, if the items were not from the Andra collection. Having spent some time looking at them, she made her way back to the main reception area, and asked if she could meet with the Senior Vice-President of the European Works of Art Division. Mr Michael Anslow was unavailable, she was advised, but would be there the next day at the auction. She left her name, and a specific message that she wished to speak to him directly about lot 75 which she had questioned in her letter in May. She confirmed once again that she believed the items not to be from the Andra collection and left her New York office telephone number for him to call her. The receptionist promised to convey the message, and Dinah returned to the auction rooms to continue perusing the other items on display. This was very unsatisfactory, Dinah thought, as she entered the lift to the fourth floor. It is almost as if my enquiry is not being taken seriously. Well, if it isn't, Mr Michael Anslow is going to get an almighty shock tomorrow morning.
* * *
A tall, dark-haired man in his early to mid forties watched the lift close and begin its ascent to the higher floors. He walked out of reception, down the steps to the street below and hailed a taxi. The taxi took him four blocks along, where he alighted, paid the driver, and then entered a building and climbed the two flights of stairs to the second floor. He entered an office, and closed the door. He sat down and dialled a number. A voice answered shortly.
"I thought you should know that Dinah Mannering of Mannering Art has just asked to see Michael Anslow to follow up the enquiry she made some weeks ago about the Andra treasure. She is questioning its authenticity and has left a message for him to call her at her New York office. She is still there now, looking at the remainder of the auction."
There was a pause as the other person at the other end of the line absorbed the information. "Did you say Dinah Mannering?"
"Yes, – Mannering Art is an international art agency, headquartered in London, but has offices in Paris and New York. The New York office opened about eighteen months ago. She is quite well known in the profession."
"This is bad news," said the voice at the other end of the telephone. "If she is persistent in this, it could jeopardise the whole operation."
"I agree. She must be particularly knowledgeable if she is questioning the possibility that the Andra items are not genuine. And the most knowledgeable art dealers are always the most persistent."
"Well, something has to be done, and done quickly. We can't allow this to wreck everything. Deal with it." The line clicked and went dead.
The dark-haired man replaced the receiver and pursed his lips. There was only one immediate option. He dialled another number, and waited for the telephone to be answered.
* * *
The auction was due to begin at ten o'clock, and Dinah set out from The Marriott hotel at eight fifteen to ensure she had plenty of time in the rush-hour traffic. Her taxi arrived in York Avenue just after nine o'clock, and she once again entered Denham's.
She had checked several times with her office the previous afternoon, and no message had been received from Michael Anslow, or any of his staff. On arrival in reception, she asked for him again by name, this time, barely concealing her impatience. The receptionist called a number, spoke briefly and then looked up at her and said, "Mr Anslow is now available and would be delighted to see you in his office. Would you please take the lift to the first floor and turn right out of the lift. His office is the third along on the right."
Dinah thanked her, and entered the lift to the first floor. She arrived at the office and knocked softly on the door. A voice called, "please come in," and she entered. Michael Anslow rose from his chair and held out his hand, smiling in greeting.
"Ms Mannering – how good to see you. I do apologise for not having been here yesterday afternoon. I didn't return until about six thirty, and was unable to reach your office. Please take a seat."
Dinah sat down, looking directly at the man before her. She had not met the new Senior Vice-President before, as he had only been in place for approximately three months. He was of medium height, slightly balding and somewhat corpulent, his accent revealing him to be from west coast America. His smile was wide, and his eyes looked honest, she thought. In fact, she quite liked him, although her instinctive eye discerned a streak of weakness in his character.
"Following my letter to you in May about the Andra treasure items, and your response, I was surprised to see the items still on display in the preview yesterday and available for sale," she began politely. "Presumably, you have had the opportunity to make enquiries about the Andra treasure in Athens and establish that no part of the collection found in Thamis has ever been sold, or even stolen."
"We have certainly followed up your enquiry, and indeed the items on display in Athens are still in tact, as you rightly say. The items provided for the auction today, however, have come from a private collection of treasure located in Thamis, and we have no reason to believe that the items are not genuine. They have in fact been examined by our experts."
"But that cannot be," persisted Dinah. "The items may genuinely be 18th century gold and porcelain, but they cannot be from the Andra collection, as the whole collection was found together in August, over thirty years ago in Thamis. They are therefore being wrongly described and valued."
"I understand that the items were found in Thamis on a number of sites over a period of time, and these items were found quite separately from the main collection on display in the National Gallery in Athens, " replied Michael Anslow, smiling, somewhat patronisingly, thought Dinah, trying to keep her growing anger at bay.
"I can assure you that they were not," replied Dinah. "I am going to play my ace card in a moment, and I can't wait to see his reaction," she thought.
"May I ask exactly how you can be so certain?"
"Because I, together with my brother, and adopted brother and sister found the entire Andra collection in Thamis thirty three years ago from an authentic treasure map hidden in a ship in a bottle purchased on a neighbouring island, and it was passed over to the Greek Government in Athens. We were also accompanied by my step-father, who before his retirement was a Commander in the British Secret Service. Although he is now retired, he is extremely interested in this development at Denham's, Mr Anslow."
Michael Anslow looked at Dinah in silence, clearly wondering if he could believe this story. Guessing his thoughts, Dinah spoke quietly and firmly, "I assure you, Mr Anslow, that what I have just told you is entirely correct. And it means of course that whoever has submitted these items for sale needs to be investigated by the FBI, and the items immediately withdrawn from sale."
"If what you say is true, then undoubtedly the FBI must be called into this immediately, but it so happens there has been a further development since your visit yesterday."
"And what is that?"
"The items from the so-called Andra treasure collection were withdrawn late yesterday afternoon. They will no longer be offered for sale in this morning's auction."
* * *
The telephone rang, and a voice answered. The caller spoke. "I thought I would just let you know that Dinah Mannering has had a private meeting this morning with Michael Anslow to request withdrawal of the Andra items."
"She is a bit late then, isn't she? You have presumably already withdrawn them?"
"Of course. But I get the feeling she is going to be like a dog with a bone with this one. She is not going to put it down."
"I am sure you're right. She needs to be watched. Is she still at the auction now?"
"She left about ten minutes ago, having asked reception to arrange for a taxi for her to JFK."
"She is presumably on her way back to London, then. Make enquiries about her business dealings in London. I want to know all about Dinah Mannering's movements in the next few weeks. This could mean trouble in a big way. We have to get her off the trail, and we may have to lie low for a while. Let me know the outcome." The line went dead.
* * *
Philip Mannering looked out to sea – although it was mid June, the air was cool, and the wind was strong, which was not unusual in this Canadian outreach in summer. He and Caro had lived in this south-eastern part of Newfoundland for three years now, running one of the major wildlife reserves of the region. The wildlife was spectacular – it was known as the seabird capital of North America, and it was home to many species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. There was also hunting, trapping, boating and fishing, as part of the natural activity of the region. And three years on, he was still overwhelmed by the breathtaking vastness of the environment – soaring mountains, hundreds of bays, coves and inlets, with a rich variety of arctic and alpine plants which grew in all parts of the country.
The decision to come here had been a good one, he reflected, and both he and Caro felt they had achieved a great deal at the reserve in the three years they had been there. Since graduating as a veterinary surgeon, he had travelled considerably, taking up assignments in Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe, before taking on this particular job in Canada. He considered his life had been one long adventure – he knew he had developed the taste in his teenage years – and his love of the animal kingdom and his considerable gift with creatures of all kinds, for which he was eternally grateful, had led him to various parts of the world where he could test his abilities and learn increasingly more.
He had met Caro in Kenya when he had been almost thirty. He had been in no hurry for marriage, and had always regarded it as something which would hopefully happen when the time was right. Caro was five years younger than he – her father had been in the armed forces, and she had spent much of her childhood growing up in India. She had been used to an international life and had also qualified as a vet before travelling out to Africa to work in a nature reserve. She was a very natural, confident girl, and had been completely fearless with animals; he had recognised a kindred spirit, and they had become close during the following twelve months as they worked together. When he left Kenya, Caro had left with him, and they had married the following year in England.
They both knew that it would be time to move on in two years at the most – Philip would be fifty the following year, and he was ready to take another five year assignment somewhere in the world which would deliver a new challenge. In the meantime, they made the most of every day, and encouraged their family and friends to visit them to share their experience. Most of the family had now visited – Jack, Sue and their boys on at least four occasions. Good old Freckles! Philip chuckled to himself – the thirty five million seabirds in Newfoundland had a lot to do with that of course! Nevertheless, wherever he or Jack were in the world, they always kept in touch. He had first met Jack and Lucy-Ann when he was thirteen, and Jack now seemed more of a brother than a friend. Their love of wildlife had always been a bond, but they had shared so much experience of life. He had always taken an interest in Jack and Lucy-Ann's children, particularly in Jack's eldest boy, Sam, and Lucy-Ann's younger son, Will, who were both his god-children, and also because he and Caro had remained childless. It had been a sadness to both of them, but it was something they had both accepted, and in some ways, it had made their nomadic life more possible in the early years.
He looked at his watch – it was four thirty, and time to be on his way to St John's airport to pick up his sister, Dinah. He smiled to himself – he could still hardly believe the telephone call he had received from her just over a month ago, asking if she could visit him and Caro and spend a couple of weeks with them. She would be in New York for the auction in June, and it seemed a good opportunity to fly up to Newfoundland to see them, as she had some free time available.
Free time? He could barely remember Dinah admitting to having much free time at all, and certainly had difficulty in recalling when they had spent some real time together. Apart from Barney's 50th birthday party, which had ended in disaster, they had both spent Christmas at Craggy Tops with the family two years ago, but there had hardly been much time for a real chat. He was enormously proud of Dinah's achievements, but at the same time felt considerable sadness that personal happiness had seemed to have eluded her.
When she had announced her plans to marry Jim Fairleigh, he had been amazed and concerned. She had known Jim for about a year, and he was a nice guy, but no match for his sister – for her cleverness, her spirit and energy. He had tried to talk to Dinah on at least two occasions about it before the wedding, asking her to reconsider. On each occasion, she had flared up and the discussion had turned into a heated argument. He had shared his worries with Jack, who had wisely said that the more Philip or any of the family tried to persuade Dinah against the marriage, the more she would be determined to go through with it, headstrong as she was. All they could do was to be there for her if things went wrong. Nevertheless, Philip had been upset by Dinah's divorce, and had become increasingly concerned by her self-imposed punishing work schedule, which his mother talked to him about regularly.
During her two week visit, he was determined she would enjoy an experience she would not forget – it was claimed by the locals here that Newfoundland was a place to lose yourself and find yourself. He wanted her to see the life which he and Caro had built, and for him to understand what was really happening in her life. He would ensure she was protected from the wilder animals in the region, but he knew she would enjoy the seabirds – there were thousands of puffins, and they would no doubt remind her of the holiday they had all enjoyed in north west Scotland in their teens. She would also enjoy walking, boating and the botanical gardens available to visit in the area.
She would also have chance to meet many of their friends and the locals, and they would have other visitors during her stay. Tess Martin was of course working with them, and he knew she was fond of Tess, but they would also be joined by an old university friend of his, Alastair James, whom he recalled Dinah had met a couple of times many years ago. Alastair had trained as an architect and worked for an international firm in London, but was currently seconded to Washington and New York, and this was his second visit to stay in the last twelve months. Alastair had lost his wife to leukaemia three years ago – Jeannie had been only forty-two when she died, and it had been particularly hard for Alastair as he had two teenage sons, who were now both at university in England. They would be joining Alastair on this visit, and the family would be arriving in three days time. He had not mentioned their visit to Dinah, in case she changed her mind and decided to delay her own, but he hoped it would all work well. They would all be company for each other, particularly when he and Caro were working.
Philip arrived at the airport and parked, and made his way to Arrivals. St Johns was a relatively small airport, and Dinah's flight from JFK was due in about ten minutes. He was keen to know the outcome of the auction at Denham's. Like the others, he was perplexed by the prospect of any of the Andra collection coming up for sale. He had urged her to be cautious in her enquiries, although he knew she was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. His personal view was that the items were probably fake, and once reported, the FBI would be on the case quite swiftly.
And there she was – he waved as his sister walked through Arrivals. She waved back, smiling happily. She looks tired, he thought. Well, she wouldn't be two weeks from now. Philip was determined his sister would leave Newfoundland a changed woman.
To be continued...
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