From a quiet country road in upstate New York a black SUV pulled onto an unmarked driveway of crumbling asphalt. Dodging potholes and collapsing shoulders, the lone vehicle followed the pavement beneath a canopy of high-arching trees that cut through a dense forest.The tall woods opened into untended pastures that rose and fell in the graceful slopes of a grand estate. Towering above the overgrown grass, an imposing mansion of gray brick and quarry stone sat languishing in disrepair.
The SUV pulled alongside the pedestal water fountain that was once the centerpiece of the circular cobblestone driveway. The white stains that scarred the work of art were the only evidence that water once flowed over its basins. A middle-aged woman approached the car door and pulled it open. Out stepped Evan Grant.
“Where is she?” he asked.
“The drawing room,” the caretaker answered.
As they approached the thick double doors of pitch-painted wood, Evan paused to take in the stained-glass window that overlooked the entryway to his childhood home. He admired the image: a distinguished-looking man holding a globe of the world in his outstretched hand.
Entering the two-story foyer, they hurried across the floor to where a broad beam spanned the wood-framed entrance of the drawing room. They passed beneath the beam where a cloister monogram of the letter G was carved into its face. On one side of the rectangular room an oversized fireplace sat empty, its ornate mantle of Italian marble as cold as the day it was sculpted. The room’s paneled walls hosted a master’s gallery of paintings with , , and all hanging side by side. Like ghosts from a better time, white sheets floated throughout the shadowy room suspended by the silhouettes of chairs, couches, tables, and lamps.
Evan took a sheet in his hand and gave it a jerk. The fabric slid off the mahogany card table.
“Why is everything covered up?”
“To keep off the dust,” an old voice croaked.
A black wide-brim hat rose from between hunched shoulders. Flinty gray eyes slowly surfaced, their faint light the only evidence of life among the painted cheeks and eyebrows of a sagging face. Boney hands gripped the handrim of a wheelchair. With a quick pull Mrs. Grant spun around to face her son.
“You have staff to do the cleaning.” Evan retorted.
“No matter . . . there’s no life left in this house.”
“There would be if you’d just keep up the place!”
She looked past Evan to where her caretaker stood—always close at hand. She pounded the wheelchair’s armrest with her right hand. “I can’t afford to pay all these hangers-on!”
“Alright, Mom, calm down.”
Evan grabbed her hand and tenderly set it on the wheelchair’s armrest.
“Dad left more than enough money. Remember? The IMF currency was Dad’s brainchild . . . he set it in motion decades ago. He knew what was happening and when . . . that’s why he put all our money in the new currency before the dollar collapsed.”
“Money can’t save this dying world,” she mumbled. “Couldn’t even stop your father from taking his own life.”
“I told you . . . it wasn’t a suicide.”
Evan kneeled in front of his mother. He took her knotted hands into his. “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll get it back . . . all of it . . . our family name, our seat at the Master’s Table and the ring with the golden seal. The plans Dad put into place, I am going to set into motion.”
Her empty face twisted into an angry grimace.
“You couldn’t possibly pull off your father’s plans,” she said, throwing off his hands. “You’re not half the man he was.”
Evan stood to his feet his eyes brimming with contempt.
“I’ll show you, Mother!”
She waved him off, turning her head in disgust.
“You wouldn’t know where to start . . . you don’t even know the players.” she growled.
“Oh, I know the players,” Evan said with quiet intensity. “Remember the spy camera Dad gave me for my fourteenth birthday? I used it to make a record of everyone that appeared after Dad’s death; the men who showed up at the funeral and Dad’s old friends who came to “check on” the family,” he said, making air quotes with his hands.
Evan began to pace back and forth.
“I know the son-of-a-bitch who leaned into the casket and pulled off my father’s ring; I tracked down the gopher that came to retrieve the art with the secret symbolism. I know the name of the hypocrite who withdrew our membership from the Founder’s Club. I know who banned us from the condo in Belize and the villa in France and every board member of the Cathedral of Saint Stephen’s that shunned us.”
Evan came to a stop in front of his mother, thrusting his finger in the air.
“I know where they live, the make and model of all their cars and where they keep their money. I have made it my business to know where their kids go to school and which government officials they have in their pockets. “
His mother’s eyes blazed with anger.
“Then why don’t you kill them . . . kill all of them!” she raged.
“If I wanted them dead, they would be,” Evan said, catching his breath. “What I want . . . is to hear them beg me to take my father’s place at the “Masters Table” . . . and I have just the plan to do it.”