By Mark W. Meier
Windowed The Soul
You and Kiel went into the track’s clubhouse. I found a lot of irony that a drag racing facility had a clubhouse serving alcohol. If the drivers would drink perhaps the sport would draw more of an audience.
The two of you selected a small table in a somewhat secluded corner. Only two other patrons were in the open area. A bartender wiped glasses like some movie caricature.
Kiel pulled a pen and yellow note pad from his briefcase. “Mr. Grambic, do you like the will I drew up?” He pointed to the will you’d perused. “It seems to me a trustworthy underling is betraying that trust.”
Perhaps you could read the lawyer’s body language, perhaps not. I certainly could. He hated your will. I loved it.
“No, Ben. It’s almost completely opposite of what I told Victor I wanted.” You pushed the will aside. “I have a cousin in Iowa who should get the bulk of the estate, with the proviso that Victor is kept on as her executive assistant for no less than five years.”
Kiel scrawled a note. Maybe he was a doctor as well as an attorney, judging from his poor handwriting. “Might I make a suggestion?”
“Go ahead.” Your racing loss and the beagle’s push to get your money didn’t put you in a good mood, but you were willing to listen.
Though I was loathe to resort to sophomoric tactics, sometimes they were called for. The pair of drinkers across the room were a perfect opportunity to divert your attention away from the will.
The bigger one shot to his feet and shouted. “What’d you do that for?”
“What?” The smaller one gave a look of total mystification. “I didn’t do anything.”
Big Man took a long swig of beer, emptying his mug. “You kicked me.” His voice, though not as loud as before, certainly carried well enough.
Your conversation with Kiel ended with the exuberant display. Well, maybe not ended, but certainly put on hold.
Small Man carefully climbed to his feet. “I didn’t.”
Big Man slammed his mug to the table and lifted his pants leg. A trickle of red traced a line down his shin. “Look! You drew blood!”
Small Man’s eyes widened. “I swear, I didn’t do that.”
“You wear steel toed shoes, don’t you?” Big Man shoved the round table out of his way, his mug shattering on the floor. He grabbed Small Man’s T-shirt. “You work at that factory, don’t you? Your job needs toe protection, right?”
The bartender shouted from behind the bar. “Hey, guys, keep it civil.”
Small Man lowered his own beer mug to a neighboring table. “Didn’t happen, I swear.”
Kiel stuffed everything into his briefcase and latched it. He nodded toward the door in a clear hint the two of you should leave.
“How’d I get that?” He still held Small Man’s shirt in his right fist, and pointed down with his left index finger.
The barkeep rounded the end of the bar as you and the lawyer stood, left a tip, and stepped outside. As soon as the door closed behind you the fight started.
“Fighting aside, Ben, what’s your suggestion?”
Kiel placed his briefcase on the wooden decking outside. “Michael, Victor Howe has been with you for a long time. Some kind of cash payout would be a good gesture, and a guaranteed annual raise from Miss . . . .” He struggled to remember your cousin’s name.
“Drabbs. Amy Drabbs.”
“Yes. Miss Drabbs will need his help, probably more than either you or Howe realize. Keeping him on the payroll would go a long way to keeping Grambic Tiles solvent.”
You paced outside the clubhouse as another car thundered down the track. You couldn’t tell if the race or the fight set the deck vibrating. The match inside seemed to wind down without my continued instigation. I couldn’t be everywhere at once, and my project was a solo affair. Pity. More bloodshed would have been pleasant.
As the track and crowd noise faded, you continued. “Ben, I told him to have you leave everything to Amy. He didn’t, and obviously told you to leave nearly everything to him. Can I even trust him now? He betrayed me!”
Kiel worried the inside of his cheek. “I could put in language to curb anything he tries if he wants to wrest the company away from Miss Drabbs.”
“Something like . . .” you paused a moment. “You have to approve any major decisions involving the company.”
“Perhaps.” Kiel thought a moment. “A trustee might be the best way to hamper bad decisions, but I’m not sure I’d be appropriate. I’ll think things over and get back to you.”
“Thanks, Ben.” You looked back toward the pit area where Mr. Grin was loading your car. “I’d better go check on things before the day winds down completely.”
Kiel shook your hand. “I’m going to get something to eat before hitting the interstate. Care to join me?”
You considered. The problem was most restaurants outside a race track would be dives or mid-range establishments – certainly nothing of high quality. “I don’t think I could handle a cheeseburger and fries, Ben. I’ll just head home.”
As Kiel headed back to his rented BMW you texted your butler, Charles, to expect the attorney to bring the will in the morning.
Back in the pits you looked around for Boynton. Nowhere to be seen. But his car was getting looked over.
“His stand-in disqualified.” Howe shoved his hands in his pockets. “He’s headed home, too.”
You nodded, still irked with the beagle. “I’m not happy, Victor. Why did you tell Ben to write that will?” You tossed the manila envelope of your rejected will at him.
“You know it’s not greed, sir.”
“You’ve been a valuable assistant for ten years.” You sniffed, still suppressing your anger. “I’m going to assume you’re only thinking of what’s best for the company if I should die.”
Mr. Grin closed up the trailer and walked your direction.
Trying to keep your voice reasonable, you said, “You could help her make good choices.”
“Then I’d be running the company. She knows nothing.” Even though the beagle looked downcast, he exuded defiance.
“She could always sell, but if she wants to keep the company, the new version of my will has you as her executive assistant if you don’t quit.” You pointed toward where Kiel’s sedan backed out of a stall in the parking lot. “He said I should give you a cash bonus, and a sizable automatic annual raise. Provided, of course, the company thrives.”
Though that was a lie, it was something you’d insist on Kiel putting into the will. That you lied was good for the Brotherhood, but it would be better if you didn’t get the chance to put changes in writing. If I had pants, there would be ants in them.
Now if only my project could be completed before the new version was presented for your signature.
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