An Offer

By Mary Heider

"I'm really glad you could come, Karen," Linda said, taking her eyes off the traffic to glance at her sister. "It's been—" her voice trailed off.

"I know. I'm sorry I couldn't have come sooner. You know, I would never have guessed we'd be doing this. I thought Dad, of all people, would have had everything in place, by the book."

"Yeah. I'm sure he thought he did, or he trusted his wife. Will you look in my planner for the directions?" Linda asked, stopping at a red light. "When I dropped off the copies yesterday, I was still upset and I can't remember where to go from here."

Karen responded as she picked up the planner and opened it. "Where do I look?"

"Look under Michaels."

Thumbing through she finally said, "Here it is, 7345 Cornwall Road. Get on 27 and turn left on Langtree, then right on Cornwall. You couldn't remember that?"

Linda just nodded in response. They drove in silence.

At last Linda said, "This guy seems to know what he's doing. When I called, he said there are a lot of things that are red flags. We have every one he mentioned."

"Do you ever think Deity has a sense of humor and somehow you're the joke?"

Linda broke into a throaty laugh. "Yeah, pretty funny, huh?"

"Tell me what he said," Karen said.

"He can explain. Here we are."

"He works out of his house?"

"Mmm. When you go in, look into the room on the left. It's full of equipment. He testifies all over the east coast as a forgery expert. Wait until you see his place. Contemporary. Expensive contemporary."

Linda locked the car as they both got out. She was taller and darker of the two, but the filial resemblance was striking. Putting the keys in her coat pocket, she headed for the stairs.

"I thought it was cold back home, but this is worse," Karen commented, pulling her coat closer and following Linda up the walk.

"I haven't really been warm since I arrived." Linda responded, knocking firmly on the door.
A tall man opened the door. He was strikingly handsome with a boyish grin. The deep brown shirt he was wearing matched his dark eyes.

"Come in, Linda" he said, then, turning to Karen, he beckoned her in.

"This is my sister, Karen, Mr. Michaels."

He extended his hand. "John, call me John. Sounds a bit like a Disney character, doesn't it?" There was warmth in his voice as he led them down a hall that emptied into the living room.

"Go ahead and sit down, I'll get the papers," he said turning back down the hall.

He returned and placed some papers on the coffee table. Linda shifted in her chair to see the papers more clearly. There were words highlighted in orange; odd markings surrounded the signatures.

"With only one notarized signature, I didn't have much for comparison. The will and codicil appear to have been written by the same individual." He knelt down in front of the table.

"You can see by the words highlighted in both, there is an exactness in the way they were formed, but there are some discrepancies in the signatures." He sat back on his heels and looked at Linda.

"I need more samples, I'm afraid, to be conclusive."

Karen leaned back into the sofa. "Linda said there were other things that would make the will suspect."

"Yes." John shifted so he could look directly at Karen. "I understand your father died six months ago and his wife just filed the will."

Karen nodded affirmation.

"And," he continued, "If what used to go to several people now only goes to one—"

Linda began to chuckle. "And if the dying is isolated. Sound familiar?"

Karen shook her head in disbelief. "Did Linda tell you we'd just been out a few weeks before to surprise Dad for his birthday? It was obvious he was terribly ill and we wanted take him to the emergency room, but he didn't want to offend his wife. They day we left for home, his wife and her daughter took him to the hospital. She didn't let us know; even had his phone disconnected. A friend called us."

"Was his wife pissed when we showed up. You don't need all our history, John. You just need more samples of his writing."

"You know, even if this proves to be your father's writing, you don't know what pressure was exerted. Forgery is on the rise and people do really nasty things when money is involved," John said. "Even," he added, standing up, "torture. You don't know what she was doing. She may have been drugging him. Think of the worse thing you have ever seen in a movie and I can top it."

Linda stood up, pulling her keys from her pocket. "How do you keep any faith in humanity in this line of work?"

"Why do you think I live alone? I have no friends," he said smiling at her. "That's not quite true. I have a very small circle of friends and we take care of each other."

Karen stood up, moving closer to Linda. "What do you mean, 'take care of each other?" she asked.

"I don't have much confidence in the justice system. When anyone crosses one of us, we find out about them. We find out what is important to them and take it away." He finished looking straight at Linda. Then he bent over the coffee table, shuffling the papers. "I hope no one is hiding a tape recorder here," he chuckled.

Linda hoped her laugh in response sounded genuine.

After he showed them out, Karen took the lead, walking quickly. Approaching the car she said, "He's scary, Linda. That was some warning not to question his conclusions."

"Oh, I didn't take it that way at all," Linda said, unlocking the car and opening the door.

"How else can you take it?"

"I thought it was an offer," she said, sliding into the car.

~ * ~

Native Shore Fiction

Word Smitten's
TenTen Award
for Fiction
Title: An Offer - 2003 Special Mention - For Wry Humor
Short Story


I hope no one is hiding a tape recorder here. Fiction by  Mary Heider :: Title - An Offer ::


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