Home > Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(3)

Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(3)
Mary Kay Andrews

The audience groaned, but they got it, all right.

With no time to stroll the merchandise, I picked a folding metal chair down close to the front and did my best to eyeball the offerings from there. Some auctioneers don’t mind if you shop while they talk, but Bob Gross runs a tight ship, and he doesn’t like any distractions once he starts working.

As Leuveda had promised, there was an entire small grocery store’s worth of fixtures and display racks lined up on both sides of the chicken house walls. My eyes locked tight on a battered red-wire three-shelf bread display rack with a tin Sunbeam bread sign affixed to the top. The Sunbeam girl’s topknot of golden curls still shone bright as she bit into a slice of white bread. It would be just the thing for a display fixture at Maisie’s Daisy. I could already envision it piled with stacks of old quilts, tablecloths, and bed linens.

Right beside the Sunbeam girl leaned an old turquoise painted wooden screen door, with a bright yellow Nehi orange soft-drink metal-door-push advertisement.

“Mine,” I whispered to myself. Again I lusted after the screen door for myself. I could already see it as a kitchen door for my own town house on Charlton Street.

I looked nervously around at the other auction-goers to size up the competition, and was elated to see that most of them seemed genuinely interested only in the more modern fixtures Bob was rapidly auctioning off.

When the Sunbeam bread rack came up half an hour later, Bob started the bidding at two hundred dollars. I kept my paddle down. Way too high, I thought. Today, with this thinned-out crowd, he’d be lucky to get fifty bucks, the price I had already budgeted spending on it.

“Two hundred?” Bob implored, searching the room for a bidder. “How ‘bout one seventy-five?” He held his arms wide in disbelief. “Folks, this is Americana. You can’t put a price on Americana.”

“One hundred eighty.” The voice came from the back of the room, and I’d heard it recently. Only this morning, to be exact. I whirled around in my chair to see Manny Alvarez, frantically waving his bid paddle.

“That’s more like it,” Bob said approvingly. “A man who knows values.”

Manny Alvarez! What was he doing slumming over here in Hardeeville? I’d been buying from Trader Bob’s for years and I’d never seen any other Savannah antiques dealers make the trek over to my secret source before. Had Manny followed my truck over the bridge?

“We’ve got one eighty,” Bob said jovially, looking around the room. “Anybody else?”

My fingers turned white as I gripped the paddle. A hundred and eighty was actually a fair price for the bread rack, cheap even. But I hadn’t budgeted spending that kind of money for something I had no intention of selling.

“One eighty going once,” Bob droned, staring directly at me. “Weezie Foley, I can’t believe you’re not bidding on this thing. I thought of you as soon as I saw that little Sunbeam gal.”

“One eighty-five,” I said through gritted teeth.

“One ninety,” Manny fired back.

My heart sped up. “One ninety-two?”

Bob rolled his eyes but nodded, accepting my chintzy raised bid.

“Oh for God’s sake,” Manny said. “Two hundred.”

Bob cut his eyes in my direction. My paddle stayed where it was. Christmas was coming. I had gifts to buy. Bills to pay. The commode in the shop was making weird gurgling noises that foretold a high-priced plumbing problem.

Bob looked at Manny. I looked at Manny. He had his checkbook out, and a smug nonny-nonny-boo-boo expression on his face. I hate smug. But I hate broke worse.

“I’m out,” I said, shaking my head.

“You sure?” Bob asked, his gavel poised midair.

I nodded.

“Sold for two hundred dollars,” Bob said. “You got yourself a great buy, mister.”

“I know,” Manny said. He gave me a broad wink and went over to Leuveda to cash out.

I turned around and tried to concentrate on the rest of the auction, consoling myself that I would probably have no competition for the screen door with the Nehi advertisement.

The screen door was a twelve-dollar steal, for which I gave myself a pat on the back, but my paddle stayed in my lap after that, as Bob auctioned off the rest of the Piggly Wiggly people’s earthly belongings, which included an astonishing amount of Tupperware containers, Beta format videotapes, and case after case of empty canning jars.

Finally Bob paused to take a swig of coffee from his Styrofoam cup. He glanced down at his watch, and at the greatly diminished crowd of bidders.

“Folks, it’s getting late, and I gotta head for the hills. Tell you what. I got three mixed box lots here. We don’t have time to drag the stuff out of ‘em. Leuveda,” he called toward the back of the room. “Hon, tell ‘em what all’s in these boxes.”

Leuveda stood up and ran her hand through her sandy blond curls. “Bob, there’s good stuff in there. Some nice old glass Christmas ornaments, some vintage linens. I think there was at least one Christmas tablecloth, and some old aprons and things. Miscellaneous pieces of china, and a jewelry box full of odds and ends. The family took all the really good stuff. But there’s probably some good old costume jewelry left.”

Bob nodded approvingly and Leuveda took her seat again and resumed cashing out the dealers who were preparing to leave.

“Gimme twenty—one money for all three boxes,” Bob urged.

Two men in the front row got up, stretched, and started toward the door.

“Twenty,” Bob repeated. “Leuveda, didn’t you say those ornaments were Shiny-Brites? Still in the original boxes?”

“Four, maybe five Shiny-Brite boxes,” Leuveda agreed, not looking up from her adding machine. “There’s a strand of bubble lights too.”

My pulse blipped upward. I’ve collected old glass ornaments for years, and Shiny-Brites—especially in their original boxes—were at the head of my want list.

But before I could say anything, a skinny redheaded woman in front of me cocked her head to one side. “Give you five bucks, Bob.”

“Five,” he howled. “You can’t buy a single Shiny-Brite for that.”

“Five,” she repeated, standing up.

“Weezie?” he said, noticing my fidgeting.

He had me and he knew it. “Seven,” I said, mentally crossing my fingers while trying to keep a poker face.

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