“I can tell you more about it,” she said loudly. “ Perhaps you would like to hear its story one day.”
He looked back. He was curious, even though he wanted to leave. But he was also drawn to her in the way he was drawn to the painting. She was not conventionally attractive, but she had a large sensuous mouth, a square jaw and strong cheekbones. She was waiting for an answer. “Yes, perhaps, I would,” he answered. “Why are you so keen for me to learn about it?”
She raised an eyebrow, “Perhaps because I knew the artist.”
He hesitated, but the idea was becoming more fascinating by the minute. “That would be very interesting. But wouldn’t you like to tell me a little about it now?”
“I could, but then you might not show me where the painting is going to live. And I really would like to see it again once it has moved to its new home. I will have a much better idea then of how much you are able to appreciate it.”
“I’m not sure myself where it’s going to go yet. It’s not quite the sort of thing we have at home. It might end up in London. In my office. Do you get up to London?”
She smiled. “Of course. I will come and see you and inspect my painting.”
Then she too turned to leave and it was Charles’s turn to grab her by the arm. “Here. My card. I’ll hang the painting as soon as I can. Come in the next week or so.”
“Thank you. You won’t regret it, I promise you.” She shook his hand firmly, then walked out of the hall and across to a very old green Morris Minor, with the distinctive registration number of 121 EAR.
He stared after her. What an extraordinary encounter. It wasn’t a pick-up line, surely? No, it couldn’t be. Still, what had he got to lose? He’d won the painting. He might win even more if he knew something of its provenance. And if he saw her on home ground he should be safe. Could always have Nancy in the background for security. Nancy was good at tactfully popping in with urgent messages.
However, as he drove to the station he began to feel less worried about meeting Mary again. He was curious about the painting, but even more curious about her. She intrigued him with her intense look, her power and her purpose. She knew she could convince him to invite her to see the painting. He liked determined women.
to be continued May 9