Home > The Testament(8)

The Testament(8)
Author: John Grisham

He told them what he knew about Rachel Lane. There wasn't much. The file from Troy's desk provided little information.

"First, research World Tribes Missions. Who are they? How do they operate? How do they pick their people? Where do they send them? Everything. Second, there are some excellent private locators in D.C. They're usually ex-FBI and government types who specialize in finding missing people. Select the top two, and we'll make a decision tomorrow. Third, Rachel's mother's name was Evelyn Cunningham, now deceased. Let's put together a bio on her. We're assuming she and Mr. Phelan had a fling that produced a child."

"Assuming?" asked one of the associates.

"Yes. We take nothing for granted."

He dismissed them and walked to a room where a small press conference had been arranged by Tip Durban. No cameras, just print media. A dozen reporters sat eagerly around a table, tape recorders and microphones scattered about. They were from large newspapers and well-known financial publications.

The questions began. Yes, there was a last-minute will, but he could not reveal its contents. Yes, there'd been an autopsy, but he couldn't discuss it. The company would continue operating with no changes. He couldn't talk about who the new owners would be.

To no one's surprise, it became obvious that the families had spent the day chatting privately with reporters.

"There's a strong rumor that Mr. Phelan's last will divides his fortune among his six children. Can you confirm or deny this?"

"I cannot. It's just a rumor."

"Wasn't he dying of cancer?"

"That would go to the autopsy, and I can't comment on that."

"We've heard that a panel of psychiatrists examined him shortly before his death, and pronounced him mentally sound. Can you confirm this?"

"Yes," Stafford said, "this is true." So they spent the next twenty minutes picking and prying into the mental exam. Josh held his ground, allowing only that Mr. Phelan "appeared" to be of sound mind.

The financial reporters wanted numbers. Because The Phelan Group was a private company, very tightly held, information had always been hard to come by. This was an opportunity to crack the door, or so they thought. But Josh gave them little.

He excused himself after an hour, and returned to his office, where a secretary informed him that the crematorium had called. Mr. Phelan's remains were ready to be picked up.

Chapter Five

I NURSED his hangover until noon, then drank a beer and decided it was time to flex his muscle. He called his principal lawyer to check on the current state of things, and the lawyer cautioned him to be patient. "This will take a little time, TJ," the lawyer said.

"Maybe I'm not in the mood to wait," TJ shot back, his head splitting.

"Give it a few days."

TJ slammed the phone down and walked to the rear of his dirty condo, where, thankfully, he couldn't find his wife. They had been through three fights already, and it was barely noon. Perhaps she was out shopping, spending a fraction of his new fortune. The shopping didn't bother him now.

"The old goat's dead," he said out loud. There was no one else around.

His two children were away at college, their tuition paid for by Lillian, who still had some of the money she'd taken from Troy in the divorce decades earlier. So TJ lived alone with Biff, a thirty-year-old divorcee whose two kids lived with their father. Biff had a real estate license and sold darling little starters to newly-weds.

He opened another beer and stared at himself in a full-length mirror in the hall. "Troy Phelan, Jr.," he proclaimed. "Son of Troy Phelan, tenth richest man in America, net worth of eleven billion, now deceased, survived by his loving wives and loving children, all of whom will love him even more after probate. Yes!"

He decided right then and there that from that day forward, TJ would be ditched and he would go through life as Troy Phelan, Jr. The name was magic.

The condo had a certain smell to it because Biff refused to do housework. She was too busy with her cell phones. The floors were covered with debris but the walls were bare. The furniture was rented from a company that had hired lawyers to recover everything. He kicked a sofa, and yelled, "Come get this crap! I'll be hiring designers before long."

He could almost torch the place. Another beer or two, and he might start playing with matches.

He dressed in his best suit, a gray one he'd worn yesterday when Dear Old Dad faced the psychiatrists and performed so wonderfully. Since there would be no funeral, he wouldn't be forced to rush out and buy a new black one. "Armani, here I come," he whistled joyfully as he zipped up his pants.

At least he had a BMW. He might live in a dump, but the world would never see it. The world, however, noticed his car, and so he struggled every month to scratch together $680 for the lease. He cursed his condo as he backed away in the parking lot. It was one of eighty new ones wrapped around a shallow pool in an overflow section of Manassas.

He'd been raised better. Life had been soft and luxurious for the first twenty years, and then he received his inheritance. But his five million had disappeared before he reached thirty, and his father despised him for it.

They fought with vigor and regularity. Junior had held various jobs within The Phelan Group, and each ended in disaster. Senior fired him numerous times. Senior had an idea for a venture, and two years later the idea was worth millions. Junior's ideas ended in bankruptcy and litigation.

In recent years the fighting had almost stopped. Neither could change, so they simply ignored each other. But when the tumor appeared, TJ reached out again.

Oh, what a mansion he would build! And he knew just the architect, a Japanese woman in Manhattan he'd read about in a magazine. Within a year he'd probably move to Malibu or Aspen or Palm Beach, where he could show the money and be taken seriously.

"What does one do with half a billion dollars?" he asked himself as he sped along the interstate. "Five hundred million tax-free dollars." He began to laugh.

An acquaintance managed the BMW-Porsche dealership where he'd leased his car. Junior walked into the showroom like the king of the world, strutting and smiling smugly. He could buy the whole damned place if he wanted. On a salesman's desk he saw the morning paper; a nice bold headline about the death of his father. Not a twinge of grief.

The manager, Dickie, bounded from his office and said, "TJ, I'm very sorry."

"Thanks," Troy Junior said with a brief frown. "He's better off, you know."

"My sympathies anyway."

"Forget it." They stepped into the office and closed the door.

Dickie said, "The paper says he signed a will just before he died. Is that true?"

Troy Junior was already looking at the slick brochures for the latest models. "Yes. I was there. He divided his estate into six pieces, one for each of us." He said this without looking up, quite casually, as if the money were already in hand, and already becoming a burden.

Dickie's mouth slipped open and he lowered himself into his chair. Was he suddenly in the presence of serious wealth? This guy, the worthless TJ Phelan, now a billionaire? Like everyone else who knew TJ, Dickie assumed the old man had cut him off for good.

"Biff would like a Porsche," Troy Junior said, still studying the charts. "A red 911 Carrera Turbo, with both tops."

"When?"

Troy Junior glared at him. "Now."

"Sure, TJ. What about payment?"

"I'll pay for it the same time I pay for my black one, also a 911. How much are they?"

 

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