The Blood of Art
The Blood of Art
The door was ajar as Tom knocked and slowly opened it, only to find in the spacious office a massive amount of blood splatter on the wall and floor-to-ceiling window behind the large Early American pine desk. He was shocked at seeing an outstretched hand lying on the floor behind the desk. A bloodied fire axe had been carelessly thrown into the corner of the room.
Having checked in at reception, Tom Adams had walked resolutely through the gallery with a large painting under his arm wrapped in butcher paper and duct tape. He was heading directly to the office of philanthropist, gallery founder and lifetime curator Robert Creighton. It was the fall of 1967 and the gallery had just reopened after undergoing some very costly and controversial renovations.
Over the past couple of years as a waiter at Hobos, Tom had come to know and admire the aging curmudgeon for his incredible knowledge of early American art, which Tom knew absolutely nothing about, his philanthropic generosity and his incredible business sense, which made his art gallery the top attended gallery in all of the U.S., with the lowest operating costs. Tom had waited on the founder many times, so many times that when he saw Mr. Creighton coming through the door he ordered the gallery owner's usual drink: a double Perfect Manhattan, well chilled, served straight up in a frosted, stemmed glass garnished with two maraschino cherries. Many times the drink would be waiting for Mr. Creighton when he arrived at his table. Tom had called the gallery owner that morning.
"Mr. Creighton?" he asked, surprised that the director answered his own phone, and his executive assistant, Janice Sweetman, had not picked up the line first. "It's Tom Adams from Hobos."
"Yes, Tom, what can I do for you?"
"I've found a painting between the walls of the old farmhouse I'm renovating, and I was wondering if you would care to look at it and see if it is worth anything."
"Is it signed?"
"Yeah, it's pretty faint, but I think that it says John Singer Sargent, whoever he is."
"Well, my son, I don't want to get your hopes up, but if you have a John Singer Sargent I'll give you a million bucks," said the gallery owner with a cynical chuckle. "But yes, I'll be happy to have a look at it. When do you want to bring it over?"
"After the lunch crowd. Maybe between three and four."
"Okay, just come directly to my office after you check in at the desk. I'll tell them, as well as Janice, to expect you. See you then." And he hung up.
The Creighton American Collection of Art had over the past two years undergone a huge thirty-two-million-dollar renovation that caused great national furor and debate because of the gigantic cost overruns and the shoddy treatment shown to the founders, Robert and Sonya Creighton. The Creightons had spent a lifetime collecting early American art, specializing in the Impressionists and their contemporaries at the turn of the twentieth century. They had given their entire collection of over 300 priceless works, as well as their sprawling estate, "Breagh" in Riverport, just outside of Cambridge, to the people of Massachusetts. Like many small American towns, Riverport had a seamy side to it with many secrets kept between its inhabitants. There were constantly changing rumors of who was sleeping with whom, and the stories included every stratum of the local society, from garage mechanics and bank tellers to Harvard professors, and both genders and their sexual preferences were not spared.
A few provisos, in return for their gift, were that the Creightons be allowed to live in Breagh until their death, and they were also to sit on the board of directors with complete veto powers over other board members, as well as act as lifelong curators of the gallery. At the early age of fifty-six, Sonya Creighton developed breast cancer, and in spite of every treatment known to