“Judge Buchanan isn’t cranky. He’s a dear man. He’s always so kind to me.”
“He likes you,” he said.
“Jordan and Sydney still call him Daddy.”
“His sons don’t. We call him ‘sir.’ He was tough with us when we were growing up, but I guess he had to be. Keeping six boys out of trouble couldn’t have been easy.”
Kate was remembering what Judge Buchanan was like in the hospital when he was waiting with his family for Dylan to come out of surgery. The time had dragged on and on, and the anguish in his eyes was heartbreaking to see. He might have been hard-nosed with his sons, but he also loved them fiercely.
“I hate hospitals.”
She hadn’t realized she’d whispered the thought out loud until Dylan said, “I imagine you do.” Responding to the sadness he heard in her voice, he put his hand on top of hers and said, “What made you think about hospitals?”
She didn’t want to talk about it. “I just did,” she said without an explanation.
The highway traffic was light. Dylan set the cruise control and sat back.
“I talked to Nate early this morning,” he said.
“I let him know last night that you were going to Savannah,” he explained, “and I asked him to check out a couple of things.”
She turned toward him. “Yes?”
“Remember, he had already told us that a corporation owns the warehouse that blew, but he was having trouble finding out who the shareholders were. He finally was able to dig through the layers, and guess who has controlling interest.”
She certainly hadn’t expected to hear his name and immediately thought there had to be a mistake. “Carl? Are you sure? He said Carl? That can’t be right.”
“You think Nate made it up?” he asked, smiling.
“No, of course not, but . . . Carl? He never said anything to me . . . why wouldn’t he tell me he owned the warehouse?”
“Obviously because he didn’t want you to know.”
“Did Jennifer know?” she asked. “Surely she did. She’s a Realtor, for heaven’s sake. She’d have to know who the owners were. Did anyone talk to her yet?”
“She and her family are camping, but she’s scheduled to be back at work tomorrow morning. Nate could have tracked her down, but he’d already gotten the names of the shareholders, so he’s waiting until tomorrow to question her. Nate’s guessing Carl instructed her not to tell you.”
Kate couldn’t wrap her mind around any of it. It just didn’t make any sense.
“What would Carl have to gain by blowing up his property? Even if he had the place heavily insured.” Her mind was racing. “He doesn’t need the money. And tell me, please, what would he gain by killing me? No, it doesn’t make any sense.”
“You can bet the FBI is digging into Carl’s financials right now. If there’s a motive, they’ll find it.”
“The FBI won’t find anything.”
“You might be surprised. Everyone has secrets, and Carl could have a couple of big ones.”
She couldn’t accept it. “I’ve got to think about this.”
“I’ll give you something else to think about. Compton Thomas MacKenna was, in fact, your great uncle.”
“That’s right. He died last night, exactly two hours before the letter went out. According to his attorney, Anderson Smith, Compton left specific instructions about the notification of his relatives.”
“You’re not going to the attorney’s office to meet Compton as the letter implied. You and your sisters have been summoned for the reading of his last will and testament.”
She was shocked by the disappointment she felt. “Then I guess I can’t ask him any questions, can I? You might as well turn around. I’m not interested in anything the man left.”
“Your sisters might be interested.”
“I’ll be happy to give them the attorney’s phone number, and they can talk to him. The next exit is coming up. We can turn around there.”
“Kate, you and your sisters weren’t the only ones to receive letters. Your cousins will also be there. Now are you interested?”
“I can’t answer that. The attorney only mentioned cousins to Nate. Smith also told him that the cousins don’t know you’re coming. Fact is, he was certain they don’t even know you and your sisters exist.”
She was even more disheartened. “I’m definitely not interested, then. Slow down. You’ll miss the exit.”
The exit ramp was a blur as they sped by.
“Dylan, I told you I’m not interested. There isn’t any reason for me to go to the reading now. If these cousins haven’t been told anything about Kiera and Isabel and me, they certainly won’t be able to answer any of my questions, now will they? They were obviously kept in the dark by their parents.”
She thought about it another moment and said, “I know Kiera would like medical history, but—”
“There’s more,” he interrupted.
“The attorney has photos of your father and other mementos that belonged to him.”
She nodded. “Okay, now I’m interested.”
Roger Mackenna came armed with a .45 to the reading of the will.
He arrived at the prestigious law firm of Smith and Wesson twenty minutes before the scheduled appointment, but because it was the lunch hour and the area was filled with trendy, upscale bistros, he had to park three blocks from the square. He got out of the car, leaned against the door, and took one last drag of his cigarette. He’d smoked it down to the filter and could feel it burning his lips as he sucked the nicotine in. He tossed it away and immediately reached for another.
His head felt as though it were going to explode. He was in no condition to walk anywhere today, but he wasn’t about to miss this appointment even if he had to crawl to get there.
He had no one but himself to blame for his misery. Upon hearing the glorious news that his uncle had finally died, he’d cried out with joy and then proceeded to get roaring drunk. His private celebration lasted well into the middle of the night.
Walking in the heat and humidity was making him nauseated. He finally reached the square and would have cut across the park, but it was crowded with office workers taking in the sun while they ate their packed lunches.
By the time he stopped in front of the attorney’s office building he was exhausted, out of breath, and coated with a clammy sweat. He was anxious to get inside. Pulling the door open, he rushed in. He felt a blast of cold air brush his face a scant second before the alarm sounded. The noise was surprisingly dignified. It wasn’t a loud, piercing siren, but a quiet and steady pulsating beep like a heart monitor.
Two armed guards rushed toward him from opposite corridors. Like a jackal, he snarled at them and tried to bluff his way past. The ploy didn’t work, and he was given the choice of either leaving the premises or handing over his weapon.
He pulled the gun out of his vest pocket and gave it to the guard standing directly in front of him.
The man glanced down at the weapon, and said, “Is this loaded?”
“Of course it’s loaded,” Roger snapped. “Why would I carry an empty gun?”
“Did you realize you failed to put the safety on?” he asked as he lifted the gun to show Roger and then flipped the lever. “You wouldn’t want this to go off accidentally, now would you?”
Roger didn’t answer. The guard on his left drew his attention when he said, “Sir, do you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon?”
“I most certainly do,” he answered indignantly. It was a lie. He’d gotten the gun from his brother Ewan for protection. Ewan kept an arsenal of weapons and didn’t mind making a temporary loan. “I’ll want that gun back when I leave.”
They didn’t ask his permission when they patted him down to make sure the gun was the only weapon he was carrying. Roger was outraged. He was a multimillionaire now and should not be treated this way.
“Do you know who I am?”
He assumed they didn’t when neither one of them answered. They stepped out of the way and let him go forward.
He was fuming as he stormed across the tile floor toward the receptionist. He practically shouted his full name so the guards would be sure to hear.
The receptionist asked him to wait while she called upstairs to announce him.
“Mr. Smith’s assistant, Terrance, will be right down to escort you to his offices,” she said.
Roger didn’t have to wait long. He looked up to the top of the winding staircase just as a young man appeared on the landing. He was elegantly dressed in a spotless dark suit, crisp white shirt, and tie. He neither introduced himself nor shook Roger’s hand. He simply said, “Mr. MacKenna, if you’ll follow me please.”
He followed the assistant up the stairs and down a corridor and was shown into the attorney’s spacious outer office. The carpet was thick, the furniture was plush, and the paintings on the walls appeared to be originals.
The place reeked of money, and Roger was impressed. Though he’d never met his uncle’s attorney, he used his first name when he asked, “Where’s Anderson?”
“Mr. Smith will be here momentarily. May I offer you something to drink while you wait?”
Roger ordered bourbon straight up, and as the assistant was leaving to fetch it, he called out, “And bring the bottle. My brothers and I will want to . . .” He caught himself before he said “celebrate” and substituted “toast our uncle.”
Bryce was shown into the office a few minutes later. He spotted the tray on the coffee table and immediately helped himself to a drink. There was an ice bucket, but he didn’t bother. He took a long gulp, expelled a sigh, and finally acknowledged his brother’s presence.
They had not seen each other in over six months, and Roger was shocked at the change. The flesh seemed to hang from Bryce’s body. A mannequin had more fat than his brother. His eyes had a yellow tinge to them, and his skin was pasty. Cirrhosis, Roger thought. Up close and personal.
“It’s been a long time,” Roger said.
“Yes,” Bryce agreed. “When was that?”
“Uncle MacKenna’s birthday bash.”
“Ah, that’s right.”
“How are you feeling, Bryce?”
His brother immediately went on the defensive. “I’m feeling fine. Why would you ask me that? Don’t I look fine?”
Was he daring him to tell the truth? “I heard . . .”
“What? What did you hear?”
“Vanessa mentioned you weren’t feeling up to par.”
“My wife doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.”
Roger shrugged. If Bryce didn’t want to admit his liver was going south, he wouldn’t argue with him. “Has she moved out yet? Last time we talked you told me she was threatening to leave you.”
Bryce poured another drink before answering. “Separate bedrooms, separate lives,” he said. “But don’t you worry about Vanessa. She hasn’t been deprived. Somebody’s been seeing to her needs for several months now. Oh, she doesn’t think I know about him, but I can hear her on the phone late at night planning where they’ll meet next. Can’t say I blame her.” He added, “It seems to work for us. The fact is, we’re both too lazy to change anything, and if she left, she couldn’t nag me to stop drinking, could she?”
“If she’s still trying to get you to stop, she must still care about you.”
“She loves me in her own sick, twisted way,” he said. “What about you, Roger? How are you doing?”
“I’ve got big plans,” he said. “Investments,” he added with a nod and hoped that Bryce wouldn’t want to know the details. He was making it up as he went along. “I’m going to make some changes in my life.”
His brother didn’t seem interested in hearing about his future. “Have you talked to Ewan lately?”
“I spoke to him briefly a while back,” he said. He didn’t mention that he’d met him in a bar to get a gun from him. Bryce was always so superior, and Roger knew his older brother would look down his nose at him if he heard about the gun, and an argument would be inevitable. Bryce was a drunk, but he was still snooty.
“What’s he been up to?” he asked. He didn’t really care. He was simply filling time until the attorney got the show on the road.
“He didn’t volunteer any personal news.”
“Is he still body building?”
“I didn’t ask. I would assume so.”
“Speak of the devil.”
The brothers turned in unison as Ewan walked in. Bryce greeted him by raising his glass.
Roger thought Ewan looked more fit than ever. He sported a deep tan that came from his sun worshipping hours at the club. From the waist down, he was trim, but his chest and upper arms were huge. He was still lifting weights all right.
The youngest wasn’t dressed appropriately, though. He wore khaki pants that appeared to have been purchased at one of those mall chains and a short-sleeve knit shirt that looked like it had been glued to his chest. Ewan had never wanted to grow up. He obviously had loved his college days so much, he continued to dress like a frat boy.
Roger wondered if he still played Jell-O shot games with his juvenile buddies but didn’t ask. The least little thing set Ewan off, and Roger wasn’t in the mood to put up with his temper today.
Ewan managed to be civil for about thirty seconds. “Nice to see both of you again.” And before Bryce or Roger had a chance to respond, Ewan wrinkled his nose and said, “Which one of you stinks?”
“That would be Roger,” Bryce said.
Before Roger could protest, Bryce continued, “It’s the nicotine oozing through your pores and the smoke all over your clothes. You really ought to give up that filthy habit.”
And the gloves came off.
Vanessa walked into the middle of the fray. Dressed in a pale gray silk pantsuit, she was a statuesque woman who was accustomed to turning heads when she entered a room. She wore her raven black hair swept back into a chignon, as only a woman confident in her beauty could. “Isn’t this a lovely family reunion,” she said sarcastically. She quickly separated herself from the brothers, looked at her watch, and said, “We’re all here. Where’s the attorney?”