Chapter Ten: Last Will and Testament
Guideline Number Ten: It's hard to not expect an inheritance of some kind, be it monetary or sentimental, from your loved ones. Still, it can come as a surprise when it actually happens. A massive surprise actually, so big that you are somewhat bitter about it. Just try to smile and be gracious about it, there's nothing else that can be done really.
Savannah, Parker and Greg did their best to keep the sisters and Cadence distracted. Savannah took it upon herself to help with general chores around the house. Madeline couldn't really remember the last time the other woman was this selfless but she didn't really question it. Greg and Parker spent most of their time playing with Cadence on her Wii. For a time, Maggie's house was filled with laughter and it did all of them wonders. Shortly after lunch (and more coffee) their father's lawyer called. He was a stodgy old man of indiscriminate age that the sisters had met on several occasions throughout their life. Madeline remembered meeting him when she was still a child at a dinner their parents held, even then he seemed positively ancient to her.
"What did he want"? Madeline asked Maggie as she hung up the phone.
She cleared her throat, "He wanted to set up a will reading for next week sometime after the funeral, but I told him that we're free now if he wants to come over". She shrugged, "I don't really want to drag this out any longer than I have to. I'd rather see what he has to say, bury him and then move on".
Madeline nodded in agreement, "What time is he coming over then"?
"Not until four, he said he has to gather everything. It's one now, I think maybe you should call Collin and see if he can come over".
Madeline nodded again but inwardly winced. She felt bad asking Collin to do so much, technically he only agreed to advocate for custody, but then again he certainly didn't hesitate to show up at the station. Also, she really wasn't sure how he and Parker would react toward one another. She really didn't want to analyze why that even mattered. Still, Maggie was right, it would be better for all of them if they had another lawyer present plus, he was a comfort to her. So, Madeline called Collin who readily agreed to come over around three thirty.
They explained to the rest of the group what was going on. The next two hours passed rather slowly for Madeline. She kept glancing at her watch only to see barely five minutes (or less) had passed. When the doorbell rang, she felt both relief and apprehension. Collin was dressed casually in a pair of dark wash jeans and a red polo. He, once again, carried with him his laptop and the file he had for their family. Seeing him made her mouth go just a bit dry and she couldn't help her instinct to look him over. He hugged her briefly and walked into the house confidently, as if he had been there many times before.
Everyone was gathered in the living room except for Cadence who banished herself to her room. Savannah's eyebrows climbed into her hairline at the sight of Collin. She glanced at Parker worriedly; he had his arms crossed and a small frown on his face. Greg smiled brightly and walked up to Collin to shake his hand.
"Collin! I haven't seen you since Madeline's graduation party! How's it goin' man"?
Collin's grave expression melted away and turned into a bright grin. "It's going really well. You know I stole her job right? They love me there".
"Ha, yeah she told me about that". He blinked as if he suddenly remembered that Collin wasn't there to just hang out Greg shuffled his feet and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Have you, uh, heard anything about um anything"?
Collin sighed, "Not really. Mr. Haggard's lawyer contacted me yesterday afternoon about the custody case but other than that, nothing".
"Collin," Madeline interrupted, "Let me introduce you to Savannah and Parker Nelson". She gestured to the twins, "They are old family friends of ours, I know it isn't exactly protocol for them to be here but…" she shrugged, "We want them here. You've met Maggie and Greg but Cadence is in her room, you can meet her later".
Collin nodded to Savannah and Parker, "Nice to meet you, it's unfortunate that we're meeting under these circumstances but I've heard all about you. Madeline used to talk about the two of you all the time at UCLA".
"Really"? Savannah and Parker said at the same time. They looked at each other and grinned, used to this phenomenon and having missed it while apart.
"All good, I assure you". He turned to Maggie, "Do you have any idea what your father's Will says"?
"No, not really. In fact I'm surprised he is leaving us anything at all. He hasn't had much to do with us since Mom died".
Collin nodded thoughtfully and sat down on the love seat. Madeline immediately sat next to him, not noticing the deepening frown on Parker's face. Maggie put on another pot of coffee and the group waited in near silence for the next twenty minutes or so until her father's lawyer showed up. He was exactly on time, a briefcase held in front of him with both hands. He stood slightly stooped; a grave face that was weathered and permanently etched with a frown greeted them. He looked exactly like she remembered.
"Welcome Mr. Brown, I appreciate you coming all the way out here". Maggie said in her soft way. "Would you like something to drink"?
"No, thank you Margaret". He shuffled into the living room and took a seat in the armchair.
Maggie's mouth tightened but she pulled a chair in from the living room for herself as the rest of the seating was all occupied. A steaming mug was clutched tightly between her hands. Madeline bit her lower lip and rubbed her palms on the top of her pants worriedly. Collin absently put his hand on top of hers and she stilled.
"Well, you all know why I'm here. I won't bother with the legal mumbo jumbo that none of you will understand anyway but you should know that your father named me the executor of his estate. I don't think he wanted to bother you girls with it. He had no debt, so you don't to worry about that and his estate was placed in a trust so no probate court".
Madeline and Collin exchanged an annoyed glance, but everyone else looked a little glassy eyed. Mr. Brown looked around and then pulled his briefcase onto his lap and opened it with his bony fingers. He pulled out a thick sheaf of paper and rifled through it for a few moments before making an ah-ha sound and separating the few sheets he needed out of the bunch.
"I'll have a copy sent to you of course, but the gist of it is this. Your father made quite a few wise investments over the years and that coupled with his generous salary made him quite the man of wealth. He has given ten percent of his net worth to his church, another fifteen percent to the Susan G Komen fund, in honor of your mother. Lovely woman". He murmured. "Ah, this is where it gets a little tricky.
"He left fifteen percent to Madeline, ten to Margaret and fifty to Cadence. Of course, the money left to Cadence is to be placed in a trust until she is twenty-one. It can be accessed at any time by her guardian, which is you Margaret.
"Once all his assets are liquidated, your father's net worth is just over twenty million, which of course means that you, Madeline will receive about three million, Madeline two and the trust for Cadence ten. Before taxes obviously".
Silence. Madeline's mouth went dry. She knew she was clutching at Collin's hand, probably painfully but he didn't seem to mind. She met Maggie's incredulous gaze. Never mind that their father left her more than her sister, and never mind that he donated just as much to charity. It was a crazy amount of money to her; she had no idea that her father had even a fraction of that, and half of it to Cadence. It was, frankly, mind boggling.
"Well" Mr. Brown clicked open his briefcase again and replaced the papers. "If that will be all"?
Nobody made a move to get up; they were all in too much shock. After Mr. Brown cleared his throat again, Collin gently pulled his hand from hers and stood up. He saw the older man out and spoke with him in hushed tones at the door. Madeline had no doubt that whatever paperwork needed to be taken care of, Collin would handle it. After a few minutes he returned to the living room but did not sit down again.
"Look", he addressed the room as a whole, "I know this is shocking to all of you and there are things that will need to be discussed regarding the trust for Cadence but I think that everyone should go home and try to resume normal activities. It will be some time before any money is released, especially since this is an ongoing investigation. I'll be sure to keep in contact with Mr. Brown and Detective Ryan. Don't worry, it will all be okay".
His words seemed to reassure everyone; at least it broke the silence. Immediately after, the room irrupted in sound. All of them were talking over each other, incredulous at what had just happened. Madeline stood up and walked over to Maggie.
"I can't believe it". Maggie whispered.
"Me either, it's astonishing actually".
"I don't even know what to say. Cadence and I have struggled for so long to just make ends meet and now this. I can't even fathom how this will change our lives. She'll be able to go to whatever college she wants, anywhere in the world even". A breath of air escaped her lungs in a whoosh and she shook her head disbelievingly.
Madeline had no idea how to feel. She'd always held to the belief that her father loved her but he'd never shown it in any way except for something materialistic. This was certainly not a departure from that. She unexpectedly felt a surge of anger. How dare he try to buy their love, their appreciation. She almost wished that he'd kept his money or given it all away to charity. It felt false.
She shivered and felt a hand on her shoulder. Expecting it to be Collin, she was surprised when she turned around and saw Parker. He looked conflicted. Concern was all over his face, but something else that Madeline couldn't quite name.
"I don't really know what to say M.J. Is there anything you want me to do"?
Madeline softened and felt a lurch somewhere in her chest, "I'm so sorry Parker, I'm sure you didn't expect to come home to all this".
He smiled at her, "Hey, what's the point of life if it turns out like you expect".
She laughed, and it felt like the first time in years. "That's very wise of you".
His eyes twinkled, "What can I say? I grew up, we both have".
A blush came unbidden, "Yes, we have". She said softly and suddenly realized they were talking about something vastly different.
"Hi" a strong, male voice interjected, "I'm Collin, I know we were introduced earlier but I thought I'd introduce myself again". There was an edge to Collin's voice that surprised her, it was almost hostile.
"Parker Nelson". He held his hand out to shake Collin's, "I've known M.J. since I was four".
"Really? She must have been adorable as a child. Of course, I really got to know Madeline well when we were in law school together. She was my biggest challenge and I have to say that I've never respected a woman more".
Madeline blinked. She looked between the two as they chatted. What. The. Hell. She knew both of them well enough to realize what was going on. Hell, she knew men in general well enough. This was a bona-fide pissing contest. At first she felt flattered but then something akin to rage flowed through her. They were both smiling at each other so disingenuously that Madeline just wanted to punch them. This was so not the time.
She left them standing there trying to one up the other in conversation. She wasn't even sure they noticed that she left but she was too annoyed to care. She sought out Savannah as Maggie had disappeared into Cadence's room. Savannah was still sitting on the couch staring at Collin shrewdly. Madeline felt a bit wary; knowing how the other woman got when she felt her brother was being threatened but the other woman smiled at her in such a way that she knew Savannah wasn't going to revert into hellcat mode, at least, not right now. Greg was sitting next to her staring into his coffee mug silently.
"Madeline" she said quietly, "I was thinking about the inheritance". Madeline gestured for her to go on. "That lawyer said that Cadence's guardian will have full access to the trust. That's a huge amount of money". She licked her lips nervously, "is there any way that James could have known that"? She shook her head, "no, of course not. I think I watch too much crime tv".
Savannah fell silent again obviously feeling bad about her speculation but dread filled Madeline. It couldn't be, James was a low life but the implications of what Savannah said were pretty far out there. No, Madeline quickly dismissed the idea. When Maggie and James were married, their father became something of a mentor to James. Despite his many flaws, Madeline was pretty sure that James would never have done anything to physically hurt Frank Price. She swallowed thickly and met Greg's worried gaze. Still, it was an awful coincidence. She leaned her head onto the back of the couch and closed her eyes. Her head was swimming and all she wanted, right in that moment, was to be alone.
A/N: Hi everyone! So sorry about the delay. I was out of town over Thanksgiving week and then I was so swamped with work that I didn't have time to do any writing. Anyway, I didn't make 50k during nano but that wasn't surprising all things considered (50 hour work weeks and a 6 month old).
Keira-Thanks! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well! You're awesome! :D
Hope you all enjoy!