The reading of Wilkinson’s will was quite the event, just as he had planned. His ex-wives, each of whom (according to him) had extracted their pound of flesh (complete with blood), were there. His relatives who, when he was alive, would actually cross the street to avoid him—unless they wanted money—all sat in anxious anticipation. In fairness, he probably (others would say definitely) deserved such treatment, but, like Don Corleone, the Godfather, to him it wasn’t personal, it was strictly business. However, it’s fair to say that his relatives’ behavior during his life contributed to his peculiar preparations.
At this point everyone was focused on the attorney he had hired for the occasion. Actually, the verb cast would be a better description than hired. The attorney-du-jour for this event had been hand-picked for his distinguished-looks and “radio voice,” with his only duty being to read Wilkinson’s will.
At the precise time, per instruction, he knocked on the conference room table to get everyone’s attention. Naturally, he was ignored, while relatives and former spouses busily engaged in overlapping shouting matches.
This lawyer, who was being paid a generous flat, rather than hourly fee, had no reason to let things drag out. Getting impatient with Wilkinson’s “friends” and relatives, he slammed the Wilkinson family’s old family Bible down on the table. Hard. This was also in accordance with his instructions.
This particular, leather-bound, sacred document had been in the Wilkinson family for at least a century and a half. It had been used to record births, deaths, and marriages for at least a century, although none of his family had ever even considered reading its contents. As far as anyone knew, the family could have been passing along an ornately bound mail order catalog or romance novel from generation to generation.
While it might have been the sound, it was more probably the cloud of dust followed by the coughing and sneezing throughout the room that finally encouraged everyone to focus on the attorney.
Several of Wilkinson’s inner circle of trusted employees brought out an ornate steel container—beautiful to the eye yet built to withstand anything short of a nuclear explosion. There was no need for these employees to do so, but they so wanted to be present and witness the events as they unfolded and it gave them the excuse to attend. They stepped back a respectful—or perhaps a safer—distance.
The lawyer-du-jour had a key in his vest pocket, which was fastened to the chain of a pocket watch. The key, chain, and watch had been retrieved from a safe deposit box that very morning. The lawyer, wearing a grey, pinstriped three-piece suit, white shirt and red tie with blue diagonal stripes—as instructed—had placed the key in one pocket and the watch, which appeared to be a fine antique watch (which was his to keep) in the other.
Now that it was silent, he dramatically checked the pocket watch.
“I believe that it is time to begin,” he announced in his beautiful baritone radio voice. He replaced the watch in right vest pocket and removed the key from the left. He went through the motions of dusting off the top of the box, even though it was already immaculate, and inserted the key. On the first try, the lock didn’t respond—but after all it had sat unused for over a quarter century. He removed the key, reinserted it and this time, with a solid turn of the key, the lock opened. The attendees began moving closer to see what the box held.
The attorney lifted the lid. The box contained but a single envelope, sealed with actual sealing wax imprinted with Wilkinson’s monogram, as was appropriate for the occasion. After all, this would be Wilkinson’s last communication with those with whom he had shared portions of his life. Would a new prince or princess be named as his heir? Would he create new fiefdoms by dividing his wealth and attaching conditions and requirements? How would his vast wealth be distributed? Who would reap without sowing? Who would gather without scattering?
The lawyer broke the wax seal, opened the envelope, and removed a sheet of finest parchment, handwritten with a proper ink pen—the kind you dip into an inkwell, not one with a cartridge, or God forbid, anything resembling a ball point.
The crowd was silently leaning forward as he began to read:
I, R. Jonathon Wilkinson, being of sound mind and body, without reservation, and of my own free will, do hereby write my last will and testament superseding and negating any previous such documents.
I have acquired great wealth and power during my life. Power I cannot bequeath.
As to my wealth, to my family, friends, business associates, charities, and others:
I leave absolutely nothing.
Instead, I have decided to take it with me.
The assembled multitude quickly turned into an angry mob, leaving the attorney looking most undistinguished with patches of hair missing, both eyes blackened, and a broken nose, which bled profusely. Naturally, an insurance policy had been purchased many years before to cover any medical bills and compensate the lawyer for any discomfort, as well as to replace all the furniture in that room, knowing it would be destroyed.
Eventually, the crowd disbursed. The lawyer, who was now sitting on the floor, stared at the smashed antique watch, which he had hoped to keep. Actually, the watch he held was a very accurate replica because, naturally, Wilkinson had anticipated the mayhem and damage. The genuine watch was delivered to the lawyer later that same day, along with a check for his services, and a personal note from Wilkinson thanking him for his time and apologizing for his family’s behavior. The note was handwritten and dated almost 25 years earlier.
Throughout it all, in the back corner of the room, an attractive woman had sat quietly. She had neither joined the others in their protest nor commented on it. Once everyone else had left, she removed a tissue from her purse, wiped her eyes, and headed out the door. She pressed the button for the elevator and waited for it to open.
(To be continued)