Snap-the-Whip, wood engraving by noted American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910). The most famous of Homer's wood engravings, published by Harper's Weekly, September 20, 1873. Double page. Country boys playing a game outside their schoolhouse, with mountains beyond. Notable because it was the basis for two later Homer oil paintings also called Snap-the-Whip, often pointed to as most representative of Homer's accurate depiction of nineteenth-century American life. Price: $1,700.
"Booth number and admittance card?"
The man looking through Maggie's van window was a far cry from the student in faded jeans and Grateful Dead T-shirt whom Vince usually hired to check in vans at the dealer entrance to the Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. This man was a cop.
"Booth two twenty-three."
He looked down at his clipboard. "Name?"
"Maggie Summer. Security seems a bit heavy this year." A brass nameplate was pinned on his chest. The chest's name was Taggart.
"Yes, ma'am. After that incident at the antiques show in Westchester last week, we wanted to make sure there were no problems here. Admittance card?"
Maggie reached into her worn red Metropolitan Museum canvas bag and pulled out a gray card tucked among rolls of masking tape, business cards, two small hammers, a portable telephone, and the latest Toni Morrison book. "What incident?"
"Dealer murdered. Poisoned. It was in all the local papers."
"I'm from New Jersey. I hadn't heard." Maggie swallowed hard. Was it someone she knew? A poisoning at an antiques show? Bizarre. "Has anyone been arrested?"
"Not that I know of. Westchester police are investigating."
"Why the concern here?"
"Just insurance. A lot of the same dealers who were in Westchester last week are here today. Don't want the public to be worried." He looked at her. "Or the dealers. Nothing for you to be nervous about. We've doubled security. Only authorized people are allowed in." He looked down at the paper she'd handed him. "Maggie Summer...Shadows Antiques. Do you have a picture ID?"
"They don't require photo licenses in New Jersey."
"If I'd been heading for an airport, I'd have brought my passport. What about an employer ID with a picture?" She searched through her bag again. The ID was at the bottom. As she pulled it out, coins, tissues, and pencils fell onto the floor. A truck behind her beeped. "Just a minute!"
He looked at the photo, then at her, and grinned. "You've colored your hair. Looks good."
She smiled and reached for the card. Maggie's long, dark brown hair was her one vanity. She tucked back a strand that had escaped her braid.
"Decided to go back to school when your kids left home, Ms. Summer?"
"No kids. I teach at Somerset County College."
"That must be why it says 'faculty' on the card."
A droll fellow, Officer Taggart. The truck in back of her was beeping steadily now.
"Here's your entrance permit." He taped a green label printed SPRING SHOW -- DEALER just above the inspection sticker on the inside of her windshield. "Park over in the south field. As soon as you've finished unpacking, move your van to the back of the lot so other dealers can unload. You staying on the grounds tonight?"
"No. Living it up at Kosy Kabins." They weren't so cozy and they weren't exactly cabins, but the motel was just across the street and had indoor plumbing.
"Okay, then. Your vehicle must be off-premises by ten tonight, after the preview, and you may not reenter the fairgrounds until eight A.M."
Maggie nodded. Same routine as always. With one difference this spring -- a dealer had been murdered at a show ninety miles down the road in Westchester last week. She put her faded blue van in gear and felt a surge of anticipation as she passed the brilliant pink and red azaleas separating the driveway from the exhibit buildings on her left and the fairground track on her right. It was spring, she loved this show, she was about to see some of her favorite people, and she might even make some money. Many people who lived in New York City, two and a half hours south, had second homes in this area or made it their weekend getaway spot. Their purchases alone made the show worthwhile.
She'd done it for eleven years; so far the worst thing that had happened had been putting the wrong price tag on a wood engraving of Winslow Homer's Snap-the-Whip, the most famous of his wood engravings, and having to sell it for $170 instead of $1,700. She still winced at the memory. It was good to be back. And if strengthening security meant more Officer Taggarts, then she had no complaints. This was her time for some spring sunshine and fun. She didn't intend to worry about anything.
Not even murder.
Copyright © 2002 by Eleanor S. Wait