Murder in the Gunroom HTML version

Chapter 4
Stephen Gresham was in his early sixties, but he could have still worn his World War I
uniform without anything giving at the seams, and buckled the old Sam Browne at the
same hole. As Rand entered, he rose from behind his desk and advanced, smiling
"Why, hello, Jeff!" he greeted the detective, grasping his hand heartily. "You haven't
been around for months. What have you been doing, and why don't you come out to
Rosemont to see us? Dot and Irene were wondering what had become of you."
"I'm afraid I've been neglecting too many of my old friends lately," Rand admitted, sitting
down and getting his pipe out. "Been busy as the devil. Fact is, it was business that
finally brought me around here. I understand that you and some others are forming a pool
to buy the Lane Fleming collection."
"Yes!" Gresham became enthusiastic. "Want in on it? I'm sure the others would be glad
to have you in with us. We're going to need all the money we can scrape together, with
this damned Rivers bidding against us."
"I'm afraid you will, at that, Stephen," Rand told him. "And not necessarily on account of
Rivers. You see, the Fleming estate has just employed me to expertize the collection and
handle the sale for them." Rand got his pipe lit and drawing properly. "I hate doing this to
you, but you know how it is."
"Oh, of course. I should have known they'd get somebody like you in to sell the
collection for them. Humphrey Goode isn't competent to handle that. What we were all
afraid of was a public auction at some sales-gallery."
Rand shook his head. "Worst thing they could do; a collection like that would go for
peanuts at auction. Remember the big sales in the twenties?... Why, here; I'm going to be
in Rosemont, staying at the Fleming place, working on the collection, for the next week
or so. I suppose your crowd wouldn't want to make an offer until I have everything listed,
but I'd like to talk to your associates, in a group, as soon as possible."
"Well, we all know pretty much what's in the collection," Gresham said. "We were
neighbors of his, and collectors are a gregarious lot. But we aren't anxious to make any
premature offers. We don't want to offer more than we have to, and at the same time, we
don't want to underbid and see the collection sold elsewhere."
"No, of course not." Rand thought for a moment. "Tell you what; I'll give you and your
friends the best break I can in fairness to my clients. I'm not obliged to call for sealed
bids, or anything like that, so when I've heard from everybody, I'll give you a chance to
bid against the highest offer in hand. If you want to top it, you can have the collection for
any kind of an overbid that doesn't look too suspiciously nominal."