Home > The Testament(3)

The Testament(3)
Author: John Grisham

"Monday," I say softly. "Monday, December 9, 1996. The place is my office."

"The time?"

"About two-thirty in the afternoon," I say. I don't wear a watch.

"And where is your office?"

"McLean, Virginia."

Flowe leans into his microphone. "Can you state the names and birthdates of your children?"

"No. The names, maybe, but not the birthdates."

"Okay, give us the names."

I take my time. It's too early to be sharp. I want them to sweat. "Troy Phelan, Jr., Rex, Libbigail, Mary Ross,

Geena, and Ramble." I utter these as if they're painful to even think about.

Flowe is allowed a follow-up. "And there was a seventh child, right?"

"Right."

"Do you remember his name?"

"Rocky."

"And what happened to him?"

"He was killed in an auto accident." I sit straight in my wheelchair, head high, eyes darting from one shrink to the next, projecting pure sanity for the cameras. I'm sure my children and my ex-wives are proud of me, watching the monitors in their little groups, squeezing the hands of their current spouses, and smiling at their hungry lawyers because old Troy so far has handled the preliminaries.

My voice may be low and hollow, and I may look like a nut with my white silk robe, shriveled face, and green turban, but I've answered their questions.

Come on, old boy, they're pleading.

Theishen asks, "What is your current physical condition?"

"I've felt better."

"It's rumored you have a cancerous tumor."

Get right to the point, don't you?

"I thought this was a mental exam," I say, glancing at Stafford, who can't suppress a smile. But the rules allow any question. This is not a courtroom.

"It is," Theishen says politely. "But every question is relevant."

"I see."

"Will you answer the question?"

"About what?"

"About the tumor."

"Sure. It's in my head, the size of a golf ball, growing every day, inoperable, and my doctor says I won't last three months."

I can almost hear the champagne corks popping below me. The tumor has been confirmed!

"Are you, at this moment, under the influence of any medication, drug, or alcohol?"

"No."

"Do you have in your possession any type of medication to relieve pain?"

"Not yet."

Back to Zadel: "Mr. Phelan, three months ago Forbes magazine listed your net worth at eight billion dollars. Is that a close estimate?"

"Since when is Forbes known for its accuracy?"

"So it's not accurate?"

"It's between eleven and eleven and a half, depending on the markets." I say this very slowly, but my words are sharp, my voice carries authority. No one doubts the size of my fortune.

Flowe decides to pursue the money. "Mr. Phelan, can you describe, in general, the organization of your corporate holdings?"

"I can, yes."

"Will you?"

"I suppose." I pause and let them sweat. Stafford assured me I do not have to divulge private information here. Just give them an overall picture, he said.

"The Phelan Group is a private corporation which owns seventy different companies, a few of which are publicly traded."

"How much of The Phelan Group do you own?"

"About ninety-seven percent. The rest is held by a handful of employees."

Theishen joins in the hunt. It didn't take long to focus on the gold. "Mr. Phelan, does your company hold an interest in Spin Computer?"

"Yes," I answer slowly, trying to place Spin Computer in my corporate jungle.

"How much do you own?"

"Eighty percent."

"And Spin Computer is a public company?"

"That's right."

Theishen fiddles with a pile of official-looking documents, and I can see from here that he has the company's annual report and quarterly statements, things any semiliterate college student could obtain. "When did you purchase Spin?" he asks.

"About four years ago."

"How much did you pay?"

"Twenty bucks a share, a total of three hundred million." I want to answer these questions more slowly, but I can't help myself. I stare holes through Theishen, anxious for the next one.

"And what's it worth now?" he asks.

"Well, it closed yesterday at forty-three and a half, down a point. The stock has split twice since I bought it, so the investment is now worth around eight-fifty."

"Eight hundred and fifty million?"

"That's correct."

The examination is basically over at this point. If my mental capacity can comprehend yesterday's closing stock prices, then my adversaries are certainly satisfied. I can almost see their goofy smiles. I can almost hear their muted hoorahs. Atta boy, Troy. Give 'em hell.

Zadel wants history. It's an effort to test the bounds of my memory. "Mr. Phelan, where were you born?"

"Montclair, New Jersey."

"When?"

"May 12, 1918."

"What was your mother's maiden name?"

"Shaw."

"When did she die?"

"Two days before Pearl Harbor."

"And your father?"

"What about him?"

"When did he die?"

"I don't know. He disappeared when I was a kid."

Zadel looks at Flowe, who's got questions packed together on a notepad. Flowe asks, "Who is your youngest daughter?"

"Which family?"

"Uh, the first one."

"That would be Mary Ross."

"Right -  "

"Of course it's right."

"Where did she go to college?"

"Tulane, in New Orleans."

"What did she study?"

"Something medieval. Then she married badly, like the rest of them. I guess they inherited that talent from me." I can see them stiffen and bristle. And I can almost see the lawyers and the current live-ins and/or spouses hide little smiles because no one can argue the fact that I did indeed marry badly.

And I reproduced even more miserably.

Flowe is suddenly finished for this round. Theishen is enamored with the money. He asks, "Do you own a controlling interest in Mountain.Com?"

"Yes, I'm sure it's right there in your stack of paperwork. It's a public company."

"What was your initial investment?"

"Around eighteen a share, for ten million shares."

"And now it-"

"It closed yesterday at twenty-one a share. A swap and a split in the past six years and the holding is now worth about four hundred million. Does that answer your question?"

"Yes, I believe it does. How many public companies do you control?"

"Five."

Flowe glances at Zadel, and I'm wondering how much longer this will take. I'm suddenly tired.

"Any more questions?" Stafford asks. We are not going to press them because we want them completely satisfied.

Zadel asks, "Do you intend to sign a new will today?"

"Yes, that is my intent."

"Is that the will lying on the table there before you?"

"It is."

"Does that will give a substantial portion of your assets to your children?"

"It does."

"Are you prepared to sign the will at this time?"

"I am."

 

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