FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch
It was a little after 5:30 when I finally turned off my computer and pushed all the papers on my desk into a big pile. I would have to sort through all of them tomorrow. I was done in for today.
I grabbed my jacket out of the closet as it was rather cold tonight for being late March, but weather in Chicago is nothing if not unpredictable. I got into my car, which I was proud I had paid off last month, though to be honest it was a very cheap car to start with. Not exactly a rust bucket, but nothing fancy either. It got me back and forth to work though, and it wasn't the bus.
There were snow flurries hitting the windshield as I made my way in the light traffic to the hotel where I was to meet Barry, the mystery lawyer. Now that I was not working, my mind was free to think about possible scenarios involving an unknown dead person leaving me something in a will which required more than one lawyer to figure out. By the time I pulled into the parking lot of the Marriott, I had myself more confused and anxious than ever.
I steeled myself against the blowing wind and trekked into the lobby of the hotel, on the lookout for the Starlight lounge. It wasn't hard to find. Twenty feet to the right of the entrance, with dark wood everything for decoration, it was basically a bar with four tables haphazardly scattered around the small alcove of a room off the main lobby. There was only one patron in there, sitting at the bar, and he sort of matched the description Barry had given me earlier. He had left out the facts he was well past middle age, growing a serious paunch, and had the thickest five o'clock shadow I had ever seen on a guy. He looked more street thug than lawyer, but the crumpled suit he was wearing was obviously not off the rack at Sears. So I guessed he was a real lawyer. He must have had a hard day, by the look of him now.
The only other person in sight was the bartender and he was very gentle on the eyes. Looked about 30 or so, dark short hair, and a sexy smile, even from far away. He was put together very tightly, and his clothes (jeans, black t-shirt) fit him like a second skin. Skin I wished I was up against right about now. I suddenly wished I was meeting him and not a strange lawyer. My crotch felt a little tighter as I started moving toward the lounge.
It was two minutes after 6 o'clock, so Barry was looking for me, and as I got closer I think it finally registered I was the person he was waiting for. He got up from his bar stool holding his drink in his left hand while reaching with his right to shake mine. He smiled, showing a lot of slightly stained teeth against his red, bulbous nose and somewhat bloodshot eyes.
"I'm assuming you are Jack?"
"Yes. And you must be Barry."
"Yeah, have a seat here next to me," he said, indicating to join him at the bar.
"Uh...Barry, if you wouldn't mind...can we sit at one of the tables? I prefer to not sit at a bar, if that's okay." I didn't want to explain my aversion to bars, so I hoped he would just go along with my request.
"Sure. Sure. No problem."
I noticed the bartender look up and smile at me while he was washing a glass. For him I might be willing to lay on top of the bar and do unspeakable things. He was so incredibly hot. I smiled back in a way I hoped was not suggestive, since I wouldn't know how to follow through anyway, and waited for Barry.
Never letting go of the drink in his left hand, he grabbed his brief case and some money laying on the bar and transferred himself to the table the farthest into the interior of the lounge from the entrance. We were alone, it was quiet, and other than being a bar, I guess it was an okay place for meeting a client.
I sat down opposite him, my back to the lobby, and waited, hoping he would guide the conversation, as I still had no idea what any of this was about. Thankfully, he needed no prompting.
"Okay. So to explain my call earlier today. As I told you, we have an attorney in our Denver office who represented a client who he says has named you in her estate as a beneficiary. I have no idea as to what that means or all that that entails, just that there is some level of urgency at contacting you this week and getting more information to you. Apparently Clyde, he's this other lawyer, can't get here to Chicago this week, or he would have come directly to you himself. Anyway, my job in all this was to set up this meeting, confirm your identity, and then give you his telephone number and he would take it from there. So, would you mind showing me your driver's license so I can make sure you are you?"
Clearly Barry was all business. No chit chat with him. My initial wariness returned. "Well, Barry, that's interesting, to say the least. But I don't feel real good about all this. Why do you need my driver's license?" I was totally fearing identity theft, or worse, at this point.
"What? Oh...I get it. Hey...no worries, it's simple really. I was given some particulars of your identity from Clyde and he asked if I would verify them against your driver's license before giving you his phone number. If the info matches, he will tell you more over the phone about all this. He said that finding someone as a beneficiary who you have never met can be challenging, especially if you incorrectly identify the person. He said something about avoiding false hopes, or something like that." He said the last part as if he knew what false hopes felt like. I suddenly felt sorry for Barry, but had no idea why.
His explanation made sense I guess, so I pulled out my license from my wallet as he retrieved a letter from his briefcase. I could see from looking at it upside down it was a letter written on company letterhead with the name of the law firm on it. It certainly looked legit. Barry compared the data on my license to the contents in the letter, and quickly concluded it all matched, including birthdate and address.
"Looks good to me. Everything matches. Okay, I'm now going to call Clyde and let him know that we have met and I have positively identified you." He started punching numbers into his cell phone. I sat there feeling like a pawn in a much bigger game which I did not understand.
Someone apparently answered on the other end, as Barry said, "This is Barry Wilson from the Chicago office for Clyde Watson. Sure, I'll hold." He motioned to the bartender with his nearly empty glass for a refill. He sure seemed hell bent on satisfying an unquenchable thirst.
"Clyde, this is Barry. I'm sitting here with that kid you wanted me to meet – Jack Schaeffer." Barry paused and listened for a minute. "Yep, everything matched to a ‘T'. What's the next step here?" I was starting to feel like Barry was trying to get rid of his problem – namely me – in a big hurry, probably so he could get back to his drink. And the ones after that.
After listening a few seconds more, Barry suddenly handed me his phone and said, "Here, he wants to talk to you." I took the phone from him and he immediately got up to see the bartender.
"Hey, Joe, what's taking so long with my drink?" So the bartender's name was Joe. I like the name Joe. I would probably like any guy named Joe who looked like the bartender.
I refocused and put the phone to my ear. "Hello?" I said, not knowing what to expect.
"Is that you, Jack?" The voice on the other end sounded older, and a little like maybe he had a head cold.
"Yes, this is Jack. Hello, Mr. Watson," I replied.
"It's Clyde, Jack, and thank you for agreeing to meet with Barry on such short notice. I apologize for the last minute hoopla, but it couldn't be helped, which I can explain. But first, let me also apologize for not being able to meet you in person there in Chicago. I unfortunately have been having a bout with the flu, which thankfully I am finally turning the corner on. But my doctor did not think it was advisable to fly as sick as I was. So I called our office out there to see if they could help out."
"No problem for me, Clyde."
"Good. Now let me tell you a little more of what is going on, and then what the next steps need to be. Do you have a few minutes?"
I looked over to Barry, who was back sitting at the bar, nursing his drink and eating free nuts by the handful, staring at a basketball game on a television over the bar mirror. He was oblivious to us at this point.
"Sure, Clyde. I'm good," I said.
"Okay. Well, I have represented a family out here in the Denver area for many years. They are really family friends at this point. Anyway, the last member of the family passed away nearly six months ago, and it is my job to fully execute her will and act as the managing trustee of the family trust. Shortly before her death, which was from an extended illness, she changed some of the particulars in her affairs, which included adding you as a beneficiary to the estate."
"Who was this person, if you don't mind my asking?" I was trying to be as polite as I could. "I really don't know anyone in Denver, or have any family there that I know of."
"No, I don't think you knew her, so you might be a bit confused by this. I know I was. I don't want to say too much over the phone as there are some legal matters to be finalized first, but I can tell you her name was Amanda Franklin, and she was the widow of Phillip Franklin, who passed away three years ago or so."
"The names certainly don't ring any bells for me."
"I thought not. So Jack, here's what I would like to ask you to do. I need you to come here to Denver this week, so I can complete all the transfers of assets of the estate. I can't do it without your signatures on several forms and some other things. Could you do that, do you think?"
Was he serious? Drop everything and go to Denver? This week?
"I don't know, Clyde. That would be tough for me. I have my job to do plus I don't have money or a way to get to Denver, especially on such short notice. Can't we do the paperwork through the mail or something, overnight letters or something like that?"
"Unfortunately, no, Jack, that won't work in this case. The judge who is reviewing the estate and the probate of the will has requested you appear in person before him to satisfy the legal requirement of positive identification, as you are a beneficiary of an estate for which you are not family or a known acquaintance of the deceased. This is a rare request, but I think he is wanting to avoid any possibility of an issue with the estate later on down the road."
Odd, but not unreasonable, I guess.
"Well, can we do it later then, just not this week?" I was confused as to the urgency of it all.
"Ordinarily that would be fine, Jack, and I do apologize again for the suddenness of all of this. It took quite a while for my office to locate you – Amanda didn't provide us any way to contact you or any direct information to locate you. Once we found you, then I had the delay of my illness to contend with. Unfortunately, there is a deadline within the terms of the trust which states all matters must be resolved within six months of the death of the last owner of the trust. The cutoff date is this Saturday, so if I am going to be able to get you the assets she wanted you to have, I have to do it this week. My hands are tied on that score."
"And you're positive you have the right guy?"
"Yes, Jack, I am pretty positive you are the guy she named. I can explain why when you get here."
"Well, Clyde, even if I could get away this week from work, I really have no way to get there. I have no money to buy a plane ticket, and I certainly can't drive that far. Is this really going to be worth all this trouble? I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I didn't even know the woman, and if we are doing all this for a small amount of money or some family trinkets or pictures or something, wouldn't it be best if we just let it all go? I can't afford to be out of pocket at this time to make the trip, really."
My frustration was mounting, both with the time pressure and my never-ending lack of funds to deal with things like this. Though a quick trip to Denver was not something I would have budgeted for, even if I had the extra cash.
"I completely understand, Jack. If you can get the time off work, I can easily take care of everything else. I promise it will not cost you a single penny to come out here and do this. And while I can't discuss any more details over the phone as to your bequest, I can tell you it's more than pictures or trinkets." He said it with a smile in his voice, so I don't think he was mad at me for my comment. He seemed amused almost. I felt bad for being so self-centered.
"I'm sorry, Clyde, if I seemed flippant or selfish about it. I know this woman...Amanda...was your friend. Please forgive me. If you can take care of the expenses somehow, I'll see if I can get the time off. When would you want me there?"
"I appreciate it, Jack, more than you know. If you can swing it, I'd like to get you on a flight tomorrow evening. We could meet Thursday and get everything taken care by the end of the day Friday, I think. Would that work for you?"
"I can try. It's short notice though. I have the time off stored up, I never go anywhere. But I have to see if my boss will let me go so quickly. Can I call you tomorrow sometime to confirm?"
"Sure, my boy. Call this same number. My secretary will find me or, more than likely, she will have already made all the arrangements for you. You can trust her, her name is Sharon, and she is my right arm. If she can't get it done, it can't be done."
"Got it. Call and ask for Sharon. Okay, well then, I guess I will be talking to you again soon, Clyde."
"Thanks, Jack. I hope to see you in a couple of days. Goodbye for now." The call ended and I was sitting there staring at another man's phone, wondering what in the world just happened to me. Barry was into maybe his fifth drink by now, and the lounge was filling up with game watchers. Apparently this basketball game was something important, but I didn't know why.
I suddenly remembered I needed the phone number for Clyde, so I grabbed my cell phone from my pocket and put the last number called from the Barry's phone into my contact list. It wasn't a Chicago area code, so I assumed it was the Denver office number. Having nothing else to do, I stood up and walked the few steps to the bar and gently touched Barry on the shoulder. He turned and struggled to focus on my face a bit, then smiled when he realized he knew me.
"Hey, kid. Get everything worked out alright?"
"Yeah. All set. Thanks for the help. Here's your phone," I said, handing it over. He took it and looked at it like he couldn't remember he had given it to me in the first place.
"I'm leaving now, Barry. Have a good evening."
"You too, kid. See ya." He turned back to his game and swallowed the rest of his drink. I'm pretty sure he didn't remember my name anymore.
The drive home was slow, as it was still snowing, but not enough to make the roads dangerous. Just slow. Which was fine, as I had no agenda for the evening. I never did.
I was getting hungry, so I pulled into a Wendy's and got a chicken sandwich, fries, and a Diet Coke. This was my usual, steady diet. Thankfully, even though I ate a lot of fast food, I was still in okay shape. At least I thought 6 feet tall and 170 was okay shape. But how would I really know? It's not like I had anybody in my life who would care.
I got to my apartment, which I still love, and hung up my jacket in the closet and grabbed the mail. The usual bills – my student loan payment was due this week. Needed my check on Friday to cover it. The rest were junk, and I put them where junk is supposed to go. I grabbed a glass of water from the sink – I can't afford bottled water generally – and turned on the TV. The basketball game Barry had been watching was on, and I left it there with the volume turned down, and thought about my conversation with Clyde.
Was all this really happening? Was I really going to drop everything at a moment's notice and head to Denver to get who knows what kind of inheritance from a woman I didn't know? So surreal. Of course, what if it was real, and she left me some serious coin? It would certainly change things up a bit for me. Take some pressure off.
Not that I really had too much to complain about. Sure, I had the usual money shortages most everyone not living off a trust fund has. But my bills got paid, and I had the basics. I had a job I liked, an apartment I liked, a car that got me where I needed to go, and I was healthy. I was free of my dysfunctional family and I had a few friends to hang out with on occasion.
Fred and I still got together every once in a while, usually to hang out with some of his friends from his job. There was nobody else my age at my job – it was too small of a place. Usually we would just go to Fred's house and chill in his basement – they had a pool table, ping pong table, and some video game machines. I was still very much in the closet, so I was careful not to lust openly after any of the guys, which wasn't hard as none of them really turned me on. They were nice to me though, and included me, even though I am terrible at video games and pool. And ping pong. Sigh.
The only time it was tough for me was when they wanted to go out drinking. I was okay for a little while if we went to a club where there were tables away from the bar, and maybe some nice music to listen to. I would people watch, drink my diet soda, and try to not be too obvious in my leering at the sexy guys walking by. These nights were filled with anxiety and sexual excitement, which made for an interesting mix of chemical hormones raging through my system.
If they wanted to hang out a bar, I usually had one Diet Coke and called it a night. I can't handle sitting at a bar. My father dragged me to one bar after another when I was a kid. He would have us, my brother Terry and me, for weekend visitation, after he dumped my mom and us to shack up with his secretary from work. He was an alcoholic, just like my brother (probably where he learned the skills), and he liked to spend a full Saturday parked at the bar in a country tavern, chatting up the bar keep and talking big about his plans for the future.
I spent those days begging for quarters for the jukebox, playing one sad song after another to match my emotions. What a pitiful way to spend a weekend, especially for a 10 year old boy. I should have been outside playing baseball with my friends, or digging in dirt, or swimming, or riding a bike. I was never so relieved when he announced near my 12th birthday he was relocating to Montana for a job. My time in taverns and bars ended with his departure from my life.
I managed to survive my childhood with my sanity and sobriety in check, unlike my brother Terry. For which I was grateful. And I really did not dislike my life, overall. Sure, I was lonely. But that was my normal. So it didn't interfere with my day to day stuff. I'm sure I was less than I could be in some ways, but what those ways were, I didn't know, and therefore didn't miss them.
It was getting late and I was tired, feeling pretty mentally and emotionally drained. I turned off the TV and the lights, did my thing in the bathroom, stripped off my clothes, and jumped in bed.
As was my custom, I grabbed some lube from my bedside table, closed my eyes, and started thinking about the bartender Joe and what we could be doing to each other on his bar after the lounge closed.
Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.