THE MIRROR stood seven foot tall, four foot wide, the glass dirty and speckled, warped so that the images it showed were slightly distorted and blurred. It was quite grotesque.
And Jonathan Frazer knew he had to have it.
He stood at the back of the small crowd in the foul-smelling auction room and waited impatiently while the bored auctioneer made his way through the catalogue of the Property of a Gentleman.
“Lot 66, a French Gendarme’s Side Arm Saw Sword, with a double edged steel blade, bronze handle and cross guards, complete with leather scabbard. The blade shows some wear…”
Although it was only just after one in the afternoon, Jonathan Frazer was tired. He’d been in England a week, but was still jet-lagged, a feeling not helped by London’s miserable November weather which sapped his energy and left him achy and vaguely fluey. He had spent the last few days doing the rounds of the auction houses in London but had come away empty-handed. He’d been tempted to skip the quirky auction house on Lots Road in Chelsea but, like every dealer he knew, there was always the fear that the find of a lifetime was waiting in the auction you never attended. Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, were just round the corner and he needed to find some unique items. In the next few weeks Hollywood’s A-listers or, more likely, their personal assistants would go looking for expensive presents for the friends they never saw.
The auction had already started when Jonathan stepped into the shadowy interior of the auction room and began to wander around amongst the larger objects piled up at the back of the room. Furniture, none of it interesting, was strewn about the premises and, at the other end of the room, a motley assortment of people faced an elderly man. The auctioneer’s singsong chant drifted through the room. Frazer shook his head slightly. He hadn’t been expecting to find anything: the really good stuff was usually traded amongst the dealers and collectors and rarely reached the general public. Much of what was here was trash, or the condition was so poor as to render them worthless. But one man’s trash was another’s treasure.
“Lot 68, a gentleman’s half-hunter pocket watch … in need of repair…”
A sliver of silver light at the very back of the room caught his attention and he turned, squinting into the gloom. It took him a moment to make out the shape: there was a mirror behind a wood-wormed wardrobe and an early Edwardian dresser.
He squeezed between the wardrobe and the dresser, initially attracted to the sheer size of the glass. He was six foot tall and it was at least a foot taller than he was. He spread his arms, judging the width from experience: it was at least four foot wide. There was a surprisingly plain wooden frame surrounding it, complete with brass clips for securing it to a wall, although it was now mounted on an ornate stand. The stand was a later addition, he decided.
Jonathan Frazer ran his hand down the mirror, drawing long streaks on the glass; it was filthy, covered with a greasy layer of grime. He rubbed a tissue around in a circle at about head height and peered into it, but, with the dimness of the auction room and the dirt encrusted onto the glass, he could barely make out his own reflection. He licked his finger and rubbed it against the mirror, his breath catching when he felt its chill against his flesh, but even that made no impression on the grime.
Without examining the back of the mirror he had no way of accurately dating it, but, considering the slightly bluish tinge to the glass, the perceptible distortion around the perimeter and the curious beveling in towards the center, it was certainly old, seventeenth century, possibly earlier.
"Lot 69, a large antique wooden-framed mirror, approximately seven feet tall by four feet wide. An imposing piece.”
Jonathan Frazer took a deep breath, suddenly glad he was wearing jeans and a long sleeved sweatshirt and not his regular suit. He cast an experienced eye over the small crowd: he couldn’t spot any obvious dealer-types. He hoped anyone looking at him would assume he was just another guy in off the street looking for a bargain.
“Now who will open the bidding at eight hundred pounds?”
Frazer could hardly believe his ears. The mirror was worth at least ten times that. But he kept his head down, not looking at the auctioneer, showing no interest.
“Seven hundred and fifty then. Come along ladies and gentlemen; it’s here to be cleared. Seven hundred and fifty for a fine piece of glass like that. A handsome piece in any house.”
“You’d need a bloody big house for that, mate,” someone quipped in a cockney accent.
The auctioneer smiled. “Five hundred pounds, ladies and gentlemen. Five hundred pounds, or I’ll have to pass.”
Frazer looked up and caught the auctioneer’s eye. He raised his left hand and spread his fingers wide.
The auctioneer frowned, then nodded slightly. “Five hundred pounds is bid. Any advance on five hundred pounds? Come along ladies and gentlemen, this is a real bargain. Any advance on five hundred pounds?”
No one moved.
“Fair warning at five hundred pounds. Five hundred. Going once, going twice…” The auctioneer slammed his gavel on the lectern. “Sold!” He looked in Frazer’s direction and nodded. “Now moving on to Lot 70…”
A young man wearing blue overalls made his way through the crowd and handed Frazer a slip to fill in.
“Can you ship it?”
“We can, of course, sir, shipping is extra.”
“Of course.” Frazer handed across his business card. “To this address.”
The young man turned it over. “Frazer Interiors. In Los Angeles. I remember you, sir. We shipped you those carved Chinese lion heads.”
“You’ve a good memory.”
“I had to wrap them and ship them. I’ve never forgotten them. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you.”
“I know. And you’re my last call of the day.” Frazer glanced back at the mirror. “My lucky day.”
The young man smiled. “You got a real bargain, Mr. Frazer. You’re obviously the right man in the right place at the right time.”
Copyright © 2016 by Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose