Where There’s a Will…

13Jan13

Jason never understood why his grandmother didn’t like him that much. He was successful, easily the most successful in his family, and much more than his younger brother Tim. What had Tim ever done besides have a constant need for money? Yet their grandmother was always complaining about how Jason could do things differently or better, he could have married a prettier girl, gotten a higher paying job or a promotion. Heck she even complained about the kind of car that he drove. It always amazed him that anyone would even give her the time of day with the way she was so rude to people. That’s what happens when you have a lot of money though, and Jason’s grandmother sure had a lot of it. Florence Huffman and inherited all that money from her father and his success first as a well-known lawyer and later on as a federal judge.

She never had a problem flaunting it either. No matter how much Jason made in his own right as stock analyst, it would never live up to the old Huffman money. Florence let him know that all too often. it was one of the things that drove Jason the hardest, and he became someone who would be willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wanted or where he needed to be. And now that Florence was gone, he had one last hurdle to climb.

Florence had lived to the ripe old age of 108. Some people figured she was just too bitter to die and would live forever. She outlived all of her own children, including Jason’s mother, by almost 25 years. And now here he sat at the old girl’s will reading, crammed into the smallest room in the mansion for some reason, waiting for the lawyer to emerge before the funeral began. You would think for all the money she had she would have sprung for a better funeral in an actual funeral home instead of her own house. Jason figured why would she bother  no one wanted to say goodbye to her anyway. He, on the other hand, wanted to be sure he was here to see her off for a variety of reasons.

The only other person to show up for the will reading was his brother Tim. Like Jason, Tim was in his forties now and still was what his Dad would have always said was “a free spirit.” Jason took that as code for unemployed freeloader, which was very much like his father. The reality was Tim wasn’t unemployed, but nowhere near as successful as his brother. He worked as a bartender at a local bar and did some writing on the side, having an article or story appear here and there for some extra cash. He wasn’t rich, but he was happy and never asked anyone, especially not Jason, for a dime. ‘At least he is wearing a suit,” Jason thought to himself as he saw Time walk in. Tim walked over, greeting Jason, extending his hand, almost as if they were business partners and not brothers. The two had never seen eye-to-eye on anything at all, and this was likely to be the same way. The were the only two heirs left to the Huffman fortune with Florence having outlived everyone else.

The lawyer finally creaked into the small office. Edgar Winthrop, who had been Florence’s lawyer for an unheard of 55 years now and was ninety himself, slowly crept into the room and sat behind the desk, carrying a small battered satchel that held Florence’s will.He sat behind the desk and smiled, peering out over his trifocals to see Jason and Tim.

“Thank you boys for seeing me before the final viewing,” Edgar croaked, clearing his throat three times in one sentence. “I can’t believe this day has finally come,” he bemoaned, looking down at the satchel sadly. Jason couldn’t believe the day had finally come either. He knew through investor friends and other attorneys that Florence still had considerable wealth in cash, stocks, bonds, real estate holdings and more. She never spent a dime on anything since their grandfather passed almost forty years ago. The inheritance stood to be in the millions even if he had to split some with Tim.

“Well your grandmother’s will was quite explicit. She never really changed anything on it after your mother passed. All of her personal belongings, the house, cars, any investments she had all goes into a trust until the contest is over.” Jason just looked at Edgar, trying to process what he had just said. “What contest?” Jason asked, starting to wonder just what was going on.

“Oh yes, I haven’t told you about that yet. Sorry boys, my mind is not as sharp as it used to be you know,” he said with a chuckle. “Florence figured the best way to settle everything was through a bit of a scavenger hunt. Whoever finds the object she has hidden in the house, gets everything.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jason said indignantly. “There’s no way any of this is legal.” Tim could be heard laughing in the back of the room. “I’m glad you think this is all so funny Tim,” Jason said as he shot a glare at his brother. “Stop being so uptight about it Jason,” Tim said as he approached the front of the room where Jason and Edgar were. “Everything was always a contest with Grandma, like you had to prove something so she could see who loved her the best. She was a little demented that way.” “More than a little,” Jason grumbled. “She was a mean-spirited old bitch is what she was.” Jason slumped back into his seat. ‘So what do we need to look for Edgar,” Jason asked the lawyer.

“What’s that?” Edgar asked. He had nodded off in the chair while the two men spoke.

‘What do we have to look for? The contest, the will? Remember?” Jason was getting more than a little testy and upset now as his face started to burn red.

“Oh yes, the contest.” Edgar shuffled some papers back and forth. “Here, you need to look for this.” Edgar handed each man an 8×10 photo. The picture was of a gold necklace with an emerald hear pendant dangling from the center. “Mom’s necklace,” Tim whispered. Jason knew exactly what it was too. it wasn’t really their mother’s necklace, though she always thought it would be. Florence had the necklace from her own grandmother, dating back into the 1800’s. Florence had always told their mother as a little girl that someday it would be hers, and the mother always imagined wearing it someday. Florence dangled it like a carrot for many, many years in front of their mother, and finally she just ended up outliving their mother, never giving up the necklace to her, not even when she knew she was dying or had passed away. The necklace itself might be worth something, but not nearly as much as Florence’s entire estate.

“We have to find this somewhere in the house?” Jason asked incredulously. ‘Edgar this place is huge, with all kinds of closets, dressers and what not. We could look for days and still not find it.” It seemed like a ridiculous venture. Leave it to Florence to come up with this nonsense as a final jab, Jason thought. “True,” Edgar said. “There is a bit of a stipulation though. If you both agree to split everything, than there doesn’t have to be a contest.” Jason looked over at Tim. “How about it Jason?” Tim asked him. “Why put ourselves through all this?” Jason thought back to all the hard times Florence had given him, all that he put up with while Tim seemed to have it all so easy. She never rode him the same way she rode Jason and he deeply resented both of them for it. No, he had put up with everything long enough. It was time it was all his.

“Forget it,” Jason spat out. ‘Let’s start the contest so we can get the funeral over with too and everyone can get out of here.” Tim sighed and sank in the chair.

‘Fine then,” Edgar said as he stood, straightening his tie and vest. “The contest starts now and ends when someone has found the necklace. Bring the necklace to me when you are done and we can finalize everything. I’ll be waiting in the foyer where the casket is.” With that, Edgar gathered his things and tottered out of the room. Jason narrowed his eyes and glared at Tim and then took off towards the stairs to head up to Florence’s bedroom, leaving Tim standing in the room.

Tim followed Jason out, but Jason was already tearing up the spiral staircase. “We don’t have to do this Jason,” Tim yelled, trying to deal with his brother rationally. Jason was beyond rationalization at this point. He saw only one goal – find the necklace and prove to his grandmother and his brother that he was the better man and had been all along. He plowed through Florence’s bedroom door and began rifling through everything. Every drawer in the dresser, every pocket of every coat, dress, sweater or anything else. Florence had accumulated quite a bit over the years and it could take hours just going through this one room. Jason was working up quite a sweat in just the first fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, Tim had wandered out to the foyer where Edgar sat. He looked up and glanced around at the old house, one he had not really been in for many years. He remembered racing around here with Jason as a boy, running up and down the halls and stairs, even finding secret passageways upstairs that Florence’s father had built into the house during Prohibition. He shook his head, thinking Jason could spend weeks looking for that necklace, just to prove a point. Tim didn’t really care about all the money. He had always hoped at some point his brother would accept his chosen path and just deal with it, but Jason always thought Tim was just wasting his life and bringing down his good family name. The family name, Tim thought. Did the name itself even mean anything anymore? Jason and Tim were the only two left. Neither had any children. Heck Tim didn’t even have a steady girlfriend at this point in his life. The family name was likely to end in this room anyway.

Tim could hear Jason tossing things in one of the closets upstairs, yelling obscenities as he went along. Edgar sat snoring in a big velvet chair near where the casket was. In all the nonsense, Tim had not even bothered to go and see his grandmother. He walked over to look at her in the casket. Tim hadn’t seen her in a few weeks and the first thing he noticed about her in the casket is how frail she looked. Granted, she was 108, but she always was vibrant. She was not a big woman but her feistiness, or as Florence put it her “piss and vinegar attitude,” made her seem much bigger and more intimidating. Looking at her now, she just seemed like a peaceful, petite elderly woman. Truth be told, Florence and Tim didn’t have the best relationship, but Tim took it much more in stride than Jason did. He chalked up her harsh exterior to the rough childhood she always had, where she had to prove herself at every turn. Tim always said he wasn’t going to be like that. Neither of his parents were, and Florence resented both for that, making things even harder on Jason and Tim whenever they would visit. Tim had accepted it; Jason never got passed it. Tim tried to be nice to Florence – he came around, had lunch with her, brought her flowers on occasion, and tried to be friendly. he had always hoped to get through to her somehow, but was never very optimistic that it was going to happen.

Now there she lay, in her favorite paisley dress and she even seemed to have something of a smile on her face. Tim gave her body a brief scan and whispered, “Goodbye Grandma.” As he went to turn away from the coffin, he saw it. There it was, resting between her two folded hands, plain as day – the emerald necklace. Tim shook his head and blinked, not really believing it was there. He gingerly reached in to take it out of her hands, half expecting her to grab hold of him as he did so he could faint dead away. He took it from her fingers and placed her hand back down, holding the necklace up to the light to look at it. “She knew you would find it,” Edgar said to him, now standing right behind him and startling Tim. ‘She knew all along that you would be the one to look in at her first, that you would find it.” Edgar was beaming, seeming to have more life and coherence to himself all of a sudden.

‘What if I had just left and walked away?” Tim asked him. “I thought about doing that, you know.”

“Then she would have been buried with it and Jason would still be looking for it,’ Edgar said with a smile. “Shall I call him down now?”

Edgar walked towards the intercom that would echo to every room to alert Jason. “Wait,” Tim said, placing his hand on Edgar’s shoulder. “Don’t Edgar. He can have the inheritance. I just want the necklace.” Edgar looked over at him and smiled more. “Are you sure?” Edgar said to him. Tim rolled the emerald pendant between his thumb and forefinger. “All Mom talked about for years is how much she loved this necklace. She was heartbroken she never got it. It means more to me to have it then all the other stuff. I’ll be fine. Let him have it.”

‘If that is your wish,” Edgar said solemnly. ‘I’ll have the papers sent over to your home. Let me call Jason now.” Edgar moved to the intercom again.

‘Wait Edgar,” Tim beckoned, thinking again. Edgar turned and looked at Tim.

“Let him keep looking for a while, then let him know,” Tim said with a smile.

“How long should I let him keep looking?” Edgar asked.

They heard Jason knocking over something glass and cursing loudly. “Another hour or two should do it,’ Tim said with a smile. He shook Edgar’s hand, slid the necklace into his inside coat pocket and headed out the door. He hoped Jason would call him at some point after this. Maybe this would finally be enough to prove to Jason that Tim really was the person who would do whatever it takes.

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3 Responses to “Where There’s a Will…”

  1. Hello colleagues, nice post and fastidious arguments commented
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