Branscombe Hall: Part Four

This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 800 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for allowing me to use her photo.

Lady Branscombe was polite and chatty when she welcomed me to her home. Much younger than her recently-deceased husband, and not the mother of Lord Julian Branscombe who had inherited the Hall, she was happy to tell me that she wouldn’t be around for too long.

“I was left very comfortable in my husband’s will. So I am escaping the dismal weather in England and going to live in our former holiday home in the south of France. That is my home now, and will suit me nicely. You will be dealing with young Julian, and you are welcome to that. My housekeeper is called Sullivan, and she will be staying on for now. She has been given instructions to accommodate your every wish, so I hope that suits. I doubt you will see me again after today”.

With that, I considered myself dismissed.

Sullivan was waiting outside the drawing room. Shrew-faced, dressed all in black, she made no secret of the fact that she considered me to be an interruption in her day.

“You are free to come and go in daylight hours, Ma’am. The front door will be open from eight, and closed at dusk. What you do with your time is up to you. I have received orders to leave every door in the house open for you once Lady Branscombe has left later tonight”.

My heavy bag contained notebooks, reference books, and a large SLR camera plus many rolls of film. I had thought to include a sandwich wrapped in cling film, and a small bottle of orange juice, as I very much doubted that refreshments would be provided.. The huge house amazed me with its mixture of faded grandeur and modern conveniences. It had never been open to the public, as so many similar houses had. I started to wander around the seemingly endless rooms, and soon concluded that I was going to need a large step ladder to get up to look at some of the paintings. And someone to help me take them off the walls for closer inspection.

After writing notes feverishly, I decided there was little point hanging about that morning. Dad would have to be involved, providing a company van, ladders, and a pair of willing hands to help too. I was also going to have to talk to him about getting someone to cover me at the auction house. In one small room alone I had seen enough antiques and paintings to provide a full week’s work. As I drove back to work, I shook my head at the sheer amount of work that would be required to catalogue and sell off the specified items.

It could easily take a year, with me working full-time.

Dad was ahead of me. Young Caroline was only twenty, and had worked for us for two years. But she was as bright as a button and had already been approached about covering my role. That was sweetened with a twenty percent pay rise, and she had jumped at the opportunity. He had secured a detailed and up-to-date plan of the house from his contact at the agent’s, and agreed with me that we should allow a full year to approach the job properly. He had got a message to that effect back to Lord Branscombe.

There could never be just one sale. Flooding the market with desirable antiques and paintings would immediately lower the auction value of everything. Some would have to be sent to other auction houses, especially those in London that attracted fat-wallet buyers from abroad. We could do a deal on splitting the commission when the time came. Meanwhile, I could go through the miscellaneous items that would sell for well under five hundred, and prepare a general auction for those first.

This was my dream, and exactly what I had studied for. A huge project that would cause a stir in the world of auctioneers. And it was all mine.

Late that night, I was still awake making notes, when my landline rang on the bedroom extension. It was Gregg. He wanted to chat, and seemed irritated when I appeared to be distracted. I tried to explain about the Branscombe Hall job, but he talked over me.

“Yeah, yeah. That sounds good. But anyway ‘Licia, I can come down to yours at the end of the month. I’ve already booked a room in Gloucester”. I told him that was fine with me, but I would have to be back at the Hall on Monday. He sounded excited. “Look, something big is happening, and I want to talk to you, seriously like. Okay?”

Left wondering what serious talk he wanted to have, I went back to my notebook.

38 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part Four

  1. It’s a bit early for trouble and decisions in paradise-smile- young love and all that…Let’s hope Alicia has more sense now she has this big job and will be tied up for a year at least…Tweeted for you Pete x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) Did Anne Sullivan ever work with a blind, deaf, and mute girl?
    (2) Caroline was as bright as a button. That makes sense. She was the daughter of Benjamin Button. Look it up!
    (3) Bad citation: “You are free to come and go in daylight hours, Ma’am. Should you happen to stay after closing time, I suggest you press the panic button.”
    (4) Sullivan is a shrew. Does she need to be, or not to be, tamed? That is the question!
    (5) I’m not saying the manor house is haunted, but at night, the portraits on the wall are known to have shifting eyes as the steps in the old staircase creak under an invisible weight.
    (6) Gregg wanted to chat, but was he as chatty as Lady Branscombe?
    (7) Lady Branscombe had a huge collection of silver spoons from all over the globe. That was sure to cause a stir in the world of auctioneers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nigel. They live in different worlds, but he is lucky that Alicia has fallen for him. She likes his simplicity, and a life she considers to be uncomplicated. It may become complicated later.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am intrigued as to how they will manage this situation…and that’s before we know what Gregg has up his sleeve…. Once again Pete, you have me filled with anticipation……Looking forward to what comes next….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gregg got a job with MI5? But he wouldn’t be able to say, would he? He’s pushy. I don’t like pushy and I can’t see him in ‘Licia’s life, but clearly he’s going to be, for a time anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

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