Pretty Good Protection
I’d been on the outs with the family for over five years. They went their way. I went mine. You know the story, right? Prodigal son who gets wrapped up in the wrong stuff, and only comes trudging back to the family estate when there’s money to be had. It’s trite. It’s cliché. And they didn’t even let me know. Let me back up. Contextualize it a bit. Here’s what went down.
I caught the notice in an old email account of mine. One I had set up to receive junk mail and bad jokes from friends and family. Well, I got up one morning and my main computer was acting up, so I flipped on the ancient laptop which had once been cutting edge and fixed coffee as it sputtered into life. I heard a familiar ping and found about a thousand emails offering everything from Viagra to Russian mail order brides and I had won about ten lotteries (some Irish, some British, and a few in Boca Rotan) and had a dozen or so people needing me to launder money for them. I was a virtual tycoon. I idly went through the list, deleting one by one, as I sipped my coffee, rolled my eyes, until I came to the one from Lucy. It seemed dear old dad had died and there was to be a reading of the will—oh, about a month ago. I missed my chance at wealth. In spite of –or more like because of—his dastardly ways, he had accumulated a large fortune through various interests. I flagged the email and sorted them out by name. It seemed Lucy and Winston (my only living brother), had been fighting over who got the rights to things since I was presumed dead, even though they needed to wait a couple more years. I’m not a lawyer, but I knew I wasn’t dead yet, so I was owed something for being the offspring of such a contemptible man. This hermit tucked the laptop into a bag, caught a quick shave, and the next flight out. I could already smell the money.
The stewardess prodded me on the flight. I woke woozy. Something about mixing melatonin and whiskey sounded so right before, but now seemed like a bad idea. I was helped into a taxi, told the driver my destination, and dozed back off. I woke again in the driveway of the old family manor more or less refreshed .
Lucy was yelling at the cab driver. She in her too-expensive yellow pastel dress with tiny white flowers and one of those fashionably oversized hats which only make sense on an archeological dig or in an Easter Parade. She looked fantastic in her strapless shoes with a slender silver (more likely white gold or platinum) anklet, but I checked her nails— no easy feat considering how she was waving them in the face of the cabbie who thought I was indigent or a junkie or someone sleeping off a bender. Despite the fine French manicure, they had those little fractures caused by someone naughtily nibbling. She was stressed. Dear Lucy hadn’t changed a whit.
“Hello sis!” I said gaily as I grabbed my messenger bag, got out, and threw some money at the driver. He went away. Money is a force of nature. It gets us to go or stay, simple as that.
“You picked a fine time to show up, Jake”, she whispered into my ear as I gave her a hug. It was one of those harsh whispers full of violence and bile and caged up hate that leaves one’s ear a bit wet and ringing, but couldn’t be heard two feet away. Lucy had been working on her technique. I was glad to see she had mastered it in my absence.
“So, what’d I get, Lucille?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Let’s wait for the rest to arrive.”
We went into the parlor. We had a few drinks, she and I. One ice cube each, badly abused by twenty-year old Scotch. The maid and butler steered clear. This was a family matter. We each made our own drinks. I used the plastic cup I had taken from the plane.
“You think I’d poison you? This close to the end game?”
“The thought had crossed my mind.”
We said nothing more until Malcolm arrived. He was fresh-faced and youthful as always. He kept a fake tan year round, being a big advocate of the spray. He looked doughy and friendly, but he was a bundle of muscle and rage wrapped in a duplicitous smile, a white polo, and conservative golf pants. Somewhere along the line, he had added an ascot. I don’t know if it disturbed me more to learn he could tie an ascot or that he made one look manly.
“We’ve got you, old sport,” he said, giving me a firm handshake. Who even talks like that anymore?
I sat down, pulled out the laptop, and woke it up. “This place still has Wi-Fi?” I scratched the antique finish of the table as I drug it closer to me, but, hey, it was my table, after all.
Lucy nodded, “Yes, but the password’s changed—“
“I’m in.” My fingers danced across the keyboard. “I know one of you killed the old man, maybe both of you, and you’re trying to frame me. I don’t care to even know. If I’m asked to testify, my answer is, shall we say, flexible? I’m certain you already called the police or lawyers or someone, but you should recall I studied a bit of law as well, and I know you’re not so sloppy, Lucille, as to “accidentally” send an email my way.”
I turned the laptop around. Their private email accounts, chat logs, bank accounts, web histories. Everything. Exposed.
“I trust you to drop the matter.” Dad taught us all. I happened to pay closest attention.