A Killer Collection
visit?
    "Was it Bunny Staunton?"
    "You got it, Madam!" Her
mother was bursting at the seams with anticipation. "The funeral is
scheduled for Monday, and she already left a message on the auction gallery's
answering machine early this morning asking Lex to drive right out to Asheboro
and look at the collection."
    "The funeral is scheduled for
Monday? As in the day after tomorrow?
    "Yes."
    "And she wants you guys over
there today? Isn't this all a bit sudden?" Molly asked incredulously.
Funerals were a big thing in the South. And if George-Bradley’s body was being
released, the the police must not consider his death suspicious.
    Molly could sense her mother
shrugging over the phone. Clara was too busy fantasizing about pottery to worry
about Bunny's motives. Impatiently she replied, "Oh, Bunny must be dying
to get rid of that pottery. She's always hated the stuff. Get over here this
minute! We're leaving at eleven and you don't want to miss it."
    Her mother's excitement was
contagious. Molly was going to have the chance to see one of the finest
collections in the region, intact, before it was sent to auction and the
feeding frenzy began.
    "No, I don't want to miss
it," she assured her mother. "Be right over."
     
    ~~~~~
     
    Kitty waited out in the driveway of Clara’s house. A
traditional North Carolina "shotgun" home, the decrepit structure was
on the list of endangered houses when Clara spotted it in her Preservation
Society magazine. At the time, she was living in a cookie cutter neighborhood,
where every third house was exactly the same except for the hue of the vinyl
siding. The builder had cut corners wherever possible. The house had looked
fine from the outside, but little details like cheap light fixtures, sparse
landscaping, and the lack of wainscotings made Clara long for a residence with
more character.
    When she read that an 1830s
farmhouse was soon to be torched as practice for the local fire department, she
hopped in the car and drove out to the site. With her ability to envision the
potential in things, Clara knew that her desire for a house with personality
was about to be fulfilled. She bought the house and its three outbuildings for
a total of $1,500.
    Of course, it cost many times that
amount to move it to its new lot. Builders had to load the structure in two
halves on the beds of two tractor trailers in order to deliver it to
Hillsborough.
    Then chimney was also dissembled
and reassembled brick by brick, and the log cabin outbuilding rebuilt by a
pricey expert.
    Surrounded by perennial gardens,
tulip poplars, and crepe myrtles, the house looked like it had always belonged
on the gentle rise where it peered down upon the a quiet street. At the time,
Molly thought her mother had gone completely mad. Who would deliberately embark
on such a complicated and risky project? But once the house was rebuilt, Molly
was proud that Clara had saved a piece of history and had restored the farmer's
home to its simple beauty. It was doubtful, however, that the original owners
had as many cats as Clara.
    Kitty was stroking the fur of one
of them. The happy creature was named Arthur Ray Cole after one of the area
potters. He was a lean, glossy, black cat who rolled on his back with pleasure
as Kitty scratched under his chin. Tall and stick thin, Kitty had a cloud of
dark, curly brown hair and wide blue as pale as the moonlit snow. When she
heard Molly's car, she stood up and waved.
    "Hey, Chicken!" she
greeted her friend in her high, light voice. "Ready to see some
stuff?"
    "Absolutely. I have my camera
too, in case Bunny lets me take some pictures for a future article."
    "Lex and your mom are beside
themselves. I think we need two bibs for the drooling."
    Molly laughed. 'Tell me about the
message Bunny left."
    "It was pretty short and to
the point. She said that she heard that Lex had handled the deaccession sale
for the Mint Museum"—and here Kitty broke out into a very exaggerated
drawl and mimicked Bunny's

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