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The Business at Hand


The door chimed as I entered the offices of McMillan and Co. The waiting room was nice enough, a few chairs and a desk with an attractive young woman sitting behind it. Presented with two choices; either sit and wait or hand the letter over to the secretary and ask to see the solicitor. I chose the second. Chance favors the bold.

I handed her the crumpled envelope. I have a thing about important documents while traveling. For some reason I always stuff them in my coat pocket, fiddling with them until they turn to mush.

“Good morning. Am here to see Mr. McMillan about a will” I said.

“Oh yes, Mr. Mendoza, the solicitor has been expecting you. He is in his office. Please follow me.”

We walked a few feet into the labyrinth that is McMillan and Co. The decor was late 70’s with shaggy brown carpets and fake wood wall panels. The solicitor’s office was all the way in the back. Mr. McMillan office shared the same theme. Stacks of papers, shelves full of reference books and the oversize metal desk and two chairs filled the tiny space to capacity. A broad shouldered red haired figure sat in one of the chairs. The mop head turned briefly in my direction, piercing green eyes sitting atop a small nose and ruddy cheeks. He looked at me with a mixture of fierce intensity and total disdain.

If people saw us together they would never figure out that we were brothers. Well make that half-brothers.

I sat on the chair beside him. He didn’t even bother to get up or acknowledge my presence. Well, I was in no mood to play games. I was here to see a man about a will and that man was sitting right in front of me, across a barely organized desk. Mr. McMillan was tall and thin. Everything seemed a size to big for him. From the tiny bifocals resting precariously on the very edge of his vulture like nose to the coat draped over his narrow shoulders.

He spoke with a well practiced professional tone.

“We are here to read the last will and testament of Mr. Antonio Miguel Mendoza Acosta….”

The first paragraphs dealt with funeral arraignments and the like. None of my concern. As far as I knew the old man was already dead and buried. Not that anybody bothered to invite me to the funeral, mind you.  Not expecting much I nearly dozed off until….

“And I leave as trustee of all my assets to Mr. Antonio Angel Mendoza Rodriguez. These assets include but are not limited to-“

“What!” I nearly leaped from my chair.

That son of a…

“Mr. Mendoza, please I must finish with the formal reading of the will before I can answer any questions.”

I shot a quick glance at  Michael. He seemed as surprised as me. Mr. McMillan started from the top and plowed through the document.

“The assets are as follow; the Quick Derby Delivery Service company including the full fleet of vehicles and the land in which it rest, a dairy plus all cattle and adjacent fields and the house at 351 Church Drive. The trustee will see to the maintenance and growth of these assets until such time at all conditions expressed in this will are fulfilled.”

“So let me get this straight, I have to baby sit my late father’s assets until” I pointed to Michael with my left thumb “my little brother graduates from where exactly?”

“Oxford” chimed Michael.

“Oh, Oxford, how nice and expensive!”

“Not really… I mean its Oxford’s Brookes University” Michael said sheepishly.

“Oh, the other Oxford University.”

Before Michael could answer Mr. McMillan interjected. “I can assure you Mr. Mendoza, that your father made ample provisions for his surviving kin.”

“How much are we talking about here?”

“The estimated value of all the assets is  £ 5.5 million.”

“Net?”

“Gross.”

So most of the money laid in the land and other corporate assets.

“And the trusts accounts are estimated a £ 120,000 each, plus they are arranged to make their management as simple as possible. That  includes Michael’s monthly stipend for the next four years. You, as the sole trustee, are free to make any necessary adjustments.”

“Within the boundaries of my fiduciary responsibilities of course.”

That took Mr. McMillan by surprise. Three years of law school taught me a thing or two. “Of course. Plus as president of your father’s company, you would be receiving a substantial salary.”

“I don’t care about the money” I said flatly.

Michael let out a snort. But I really didn’t care about the money. “Mr. McMillan, this trustee business means I would have to move here, run a business I know nothing about for the next four years or more and make sure he graduates from college. I have a job, an apartment, a life back home. A life 15 hours and a several thousand miles that way” that last punctuated with a thumb over my right shoulder.

“Mr. Mendoza you do have some legal options, but I would have to refer you to another solicitor, if you wish to explore them.”

I knew exactly what he meant. Go to court, renounce my part of the will and find somebody else to become the trustee. In other words, turn tail and run. I looked at Michael’s face for a moment. No love lost there. You can’t loose what you never had.

Damn!

“That won’t be necessary Mr. McMillan.”

“Very well. Their are other documents here that you have to verify and sign. After that I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Thank you.” As soon as I said the words Michael got up and left with nary a word. My earlier white hot anger had turned into cold empty rage.

The secretary stopped me on my way out “Mr. Mendoza, I have something for you.” She handed me a manila envelope.

“Thank you.”

The envelope contained a set of keys and a few maps. I opened the door and went back to the van. Looking at my wristwatch I just realized that my day had just begun.

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