The kids were playing football when my Mom called me inside to answer the phone. Not everyone who would normally be there, was, in fact aside from Barry, everyone there was a direct descendant of Robert Richard and Myrtle Hansen.
"Hello, Robby." Edward said.
"What can I do to you, Edward." I had tried that once on Alexie Yachenco, who speaks almost perfect English, but sometimes if you screwed up a greeting it gave him fits. It hadn't worked that time. Now obviously Edward didn't have any trouble with the language, but he tended to be a precise man, much like my father had been, and gleefully I could tell I had caught him, as he hesitated, going back over what I had said.
"Oh, by now, a great many. I gather I just added you to the list?" I said, humor in my voice.
"No, I was already on the list, you just added about the twentieth check mark after your name, that's all." he said, and now I could hear humor in his voice. "Now aside from the fact that you could use a few good spankings, I called because the people who put in the computers in Len and Jeannie's house, found a bible behind one of the walls. The boss mailed it to me. They thought that when the basement was being renovated at some point, that someone, probably a child pushed the bible in back of the wall. There's an inscription on the flyleaf, 'To Rebecca 1876'."
I said immediately, "I don't know who gave it to them but the Rebecca would be Rebecca Hansen who married Lemeul Peters, in 1876. My assumption would probably be Rebecca's mother Myrtle. Ironically they could have left it in the house, because Rebecca is Len's Great-great grandmother and her husband Lemeul built the house Sam and I gave to them."
"Well they're going to be gone another week or two so I thought I'd send it to you. Arthur Masters is going to be out your way and I'm having him drop it off. While he's not of Elder caliber he's more sensitive than an ordinary werewolf. When I gave it to him he said there's something strange about it, a feeling of power." Edward said.
I thought about that, excitement rising. "Some Elders can invest a little magic in things, which say, 'Hey you, look at me.' It's usually books, and it generally means that there is a message of some kind."
Arthur was driving someone and he only had time to drop off the bible and get back on his way again. He was right about the bible, I could feel something odd. I had examined books in which Elder's had invested a little magic, and this, though similar, wasn't the same. I thought about it, and then I realized what it had to be. It was a message from a Healer.
I sat on the porch steps and opened the book. I found the message Edward had mentioned on the flyleaf, but other than that the beginning of the book was like almost every other werewolf bible I had ever seen. Blank, in other words. Many families recorded births and deaths in bibles, werewolves didn't. Occasionally names would be mentioned but even that was rare. If you wrote the names and the date of births and deaths of the people from my family in a bible it wouldn't look particularly odd, we didn't seem to live as long as other werewolves. Other werewolf families however would look extremely odd, with birth dates like born in sixteen hundred and died in seventeen forty-five, and similar entries. We were very careful not to write information of that type down. An Elder Historian would memorize that information.
When I got to the back cover, I knew I had found what I was looking for. The feeling was much more intense. It was no thicker than the front cover, so there wasn't a secret compartment as there had been in the back of Benson Hansen's diary. I took my penknife and carefully lifted a corner of the back cover. I nodded in satisfaction. There was a second sheet under the end cover. I moved my knife carefully around the edge and the old glue gave way easily and I was able to raise the end paper without damaging it. I read the letter
I still miss Robert, though it has been just over four years since he died. I shall not maintain the fiction in this letter of him being Benson Hansen Jr. He is Robert Richard Hansen and Benson Hansen is absolutely no relation to him, or to my children. I have told them this and they are delighted with that fact.
If you have read the diary of Benson Hansen, and the note that Robert put in it at the end, then you are aware that my husband considered me a good woman, but somewhat grasping. While that is true to some extent, it is more of a perception in Robert's mind, than a reality. I have always been responsible for collecting the fees that people owed for Robert's services, and he thought I treated some patients more harshly than I should. But I was more aware of what they could afford than Robert was, he would have treated all of them for free if he could. It is because of the training that I received from my father that we were so well off when Robert died. This is as far as I shall go into that matter.
To other things, if you have read the diary however, you know how badly Robert was treated, and few children can have stories to compare to the cruelty and heartbreak he suffered at the hands of Benson.
I have known about the secret room for several years, since shortly after he found it, and both Aaron and Jarod the twins who occupy the room in which the entrance is hidden also know about it. We know about Jacob and his gold, but I have spared them the knowledge of what Benson did to Robert. I contacted lawyers in New York and the surrounding area, where Robert said he had sent them after the war ended, but Jacob's family have seemingly disappeared into thin air.
If you have not read the diary, then the knowledge of the secret room may still be a secret, and I ask you to find it. It is in the house that Benson Hansen originally built and that Robert inherited from him. It is the largest of the bedrooms except for the master bedroom which is in fact a double bedroom, converted by Robert to be used as a nursery, since we always had young children.
I am a young woman as our people go, born in 1817 I am only fifty-one, so unless an illness takes me, I could very well see the beginning of the new century. Every few years we shall attempt to find Jacob's family, at least while I am alive. If we don't find them by then, it is unlikely that we shall ever find them. If we do, we shall unseal the secret room where Jacob's gold is located and give it to them.
If not, then if you are a descendant, the three of us who sealed the room myself Jarod and Aaron, ask you to try to find the family again. If enough time has gone by, you may have methods which we do not have that will allow you to find them, and we ask you to give them Jacob's gold.
I will seal this into a bible and give it to Rebecca. She is in the main good-hearted but she is stubborn and contrary, and already at twelve I am sure that she will marry Lemeul Peters, who is the same age. How do I know this, I can already see in her eyes whenever she looks at Lem, some of the same look that I always saw in Robert's eyes when he looked at me and I had a good talk with Lem, and he is a very intelligent boy, and while he doesn't particularly care for girls at this point, he does like Rebecca more than any other girl, and he feels that if he ever wanted to marry it will have to be Rebecca.
All I have to do is contrary her into it. By pretending dislike for Lem, she will come to his defense time after time and eventually when she is old enough her contrariness will force her into the marriage. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of forcing her. If it doesn't appear that they get closer to each other as they get older I will abandon the plan.
There is but one thing left, I don't know if it will ever happen because Healers seem to be dying out, but if you are a Healer summon me by name.
I looked at the signature casually for a moment, thinking about the letter, and then I realized what I had seen and looked at it again, with a great deal of excitement.
I heard Robby give one of his whistles and then I heard the stampeding herd come in through the back door and then I could see them heading up the stairs. Robby was last and he stopped at the foot of the stairs. "You and Tal are invited to a summoning, Mom. It should be very interesting. If I'm right we're about to find out a great deal about our family history."
Amused I looked at Tal, and he stared at me not sure what to make of it. "He's serious, Tal, as a Healer he can reach into the Spirit Realms and summon a ghost, and from the look on his face he's excited about something, so let's join him." I picked up Grace and we followed the rest up the stairs.
Most of the kids were sitting crosslegged on the floor, but Cindy was sitting on Robby's bed and we joined her there. Robby looked at Blue and he moved over and laid down beside him, Robby putting his hand on Blue's back and then closed his eyes. "You have asked to be summoned for a reason, my several times great-grandmother, so as a Healer, I summon you by the name you provided. Lucy Myrtle White Hansen, come to us, your descendants."
I took notice of that, all we had ever known of Robert Richard Hansen's wife was her name Myrtle, and everything indicated she had been an orphan. Robby was holding a faded letter in his hand. Obviously that had told him that what we knew was false.
I heard my name being used at long last, and as I was pulled into the Outer Realms my knowledge of the Inner Realms disappeared. I looked around me and despite how different it looked, I knew this had been Aaron and Jarod's bedroom. I could see the wall of the secret room was gone, and I hoped they had been able to find Jacob's family.
"Yes Grandmother, we found Jacob's family. I won't use the full relationship, since you're about my five times great-grandmother and that would be somewhat cumbersome. I am Robert Richard Hansen though most people call me Robby." My eyes jerked to the one who had spoken and his resemblance to Robert and Jarod was astonishing, and I could just feel the power radiating from him. I invoked my ability to see human auras, and I was equally surprised. My father had been a powerful Healer, fully as powerful as the strongest Elder, but this boy was not only far more powerful, but he was also a powerful Elder.
I began to look around at the others. Mostly they were children, though two were adults and one was a late adolescent. Only one of them wasn't a full werewolf, and that was the man, and he was half werewolf. There was one other Healer, and he was several years younger than the other was and I suddenly realized that the two cats I was seeing were familiars. The adolescent girl was very close to being initiated as an Elder, maybe one or two years away, and one of the smaller boys, probably about eight or so, showed signs of a potential Elder.
Looking around I could see that there were bits and pieces of all my children in these youngsters and I was including the two adults in that category. The powerful youngster who seemed to be in charge of this summoning, said in his soft voice, "Barry, come here please." and the smallest boy, came over and knelt at the other boy's side. Looking at him, I could see my son Jarvis all over him though he was much darker.
The one called Robby put his arm around the younger boy's shoulders. "This is Barry Hansen-White. He is adopted, but when we went over his ancestors, an interesting fact came up. He is descended from Jarvis White, and Jarvis White had a daughter, named Lucy M. White, who supposedly died in the late eighteen forties. Now this letter says to summon you by the name of Lucy Myrtle White Hansen. From that I assume that you are Jarvis White's daughter, and for some reason you faked your death."
"Yes, Robby, we did. Both my whole family and Robert were in on it. It was for two reasons. In eighteen thirty-eight, when Robert came though Prescott after he finished medical school he saw us, and recognized us, since we had lived in Benson's Place for some years. Robert intended to go back to Benson's Place and try to hold Benson in check, though he knew that it would be futile. An ordinary werewolf going against an Elder would have had no chance at all. My father was a powerful Healer. He initiated Robert as an Elder and made him swear not to tell anyone about it, and Robert gladly agreed."
"He returned to Benson's Place, on an equal footing with Benson, and since he was so much larger, he was able to frighten Benson into some semblance of civility, though he could not stop everything. In eighteen forty-eight Robert and I married, but we did not want to give additional targets to Benson, so we faked my death, and said I was an orphan. When Robert killed Benson in eighteen fifty-one, we were hiding an even bigger secret and this one concerned my father."
"When he was a young man in England his father was a well off man. A man named Fain Coburn, who was an Elder, swindled my grandfather and many others. My grandfather killed himself from the shame, as did several others. There was only a bit of money to come to my father, and he left England. His ability as a Healer was discovered by a Cherokee Medicine Man, who began his training, and over the years he became a very powerful Healer, as I mentioned."
"In the eighteen forties, Coburn showed up in this country, and very few knew of what he had done, and he was chosen as a Council member. My father was horrified, he was a rich man by that time, and he wasn't worried for himself, but he could see that the position that Coburn now had would allow him to swindle many more people. In eighteen forty-nine, he could stand it no longer, and using his abilities as a Healer, he killed Coburn. Suddenly it was very dangerous for my grandfather to be a Healer, since the Council knew that Coburn was killed by one."
"Only a very few people knew what my father was, since he had developed the power on his own and had never apprenticed. After Benson was gone, it was even more important for me to be an orphan. If they had found out that I was Jarvis White's daughter, and since they knew I was a Healer, that could have led them back to my father. I think he should have faced the Council but my brothers wouldn't let him, they were more worried about their position in society than about father."
I looked again at the little one called Barry. "Are there many White's left?" I asked.
Robby said, "As far as we know, Barry is the last. His mother's lawyer indicated that they were the last. When we looked into his ancestry, we couldn't find any others relatives."
I smiled, remembering the way my nephews were always at each other's throats. "Perhaps they were looking under the wrong name, Robby. During the First World War, my nephew's had a big fight. Reuben accused James of profiteering, and he changed his last name to Jarvis and did everything to wipe the name of White from his background, and he was wealthy enough to do a good job of it. If those who looked into Barry's ancestry were simply looking at records, it's doubtful that they would ever have found that out. Whether James was illegally benefiting from the war, I have no idea. They were another set of twins, but I've never seen brothers and especially twins who disliked each other more.
"You are starting to fade, grandmother." Robby said in his soft voice, "you only have a few minutes left, in our world. Getting back to Jacob for a moment, the coins that made up the two hundred dollars were very rare coins, and were worth a lot of money. The family received almost three-quarters of a million dollars."
I smiled in pleasure at that, as he continued, "I'll make sure that the Jarvis's know about you. That makes them relatives and they should know about us and especially Barry. I would think after eighty-five years we should be able to get along."
I smiled wryly at that. "You would think so wouldn't you, Robby, however our family has its share of, well I'll use a polite term, stubborn individuals." He just smiled at me, and his large green eyes sparkled with humor, and I gathered from his expression that it still did. "Goodbye to you all, it's time for me to join Robert and the rest of the family on the Other Side." and they simply faded from my vision, and the light of the Inner Realms began to shine in greeting, though this time it would only be for a brief time before I moved on.
It was surprisingly easy to explain to Barry about his new status, but he didn't care. As he said to me, "Mommy, I'm already a m'mber of this family, it don't need yur blood to do that." Robby just grinned at me, and I know it was juvenile of me but I stuck my tongue out at him and he giggled. I'd been a little worried that Barry would be upset, and Robby had told me that Barry wouldn't care.
I made a quick call to Edward to get an address and a little information, and then Tal, Barry and I went to meet new relatives. We had to park the mini-van three blocks away, but it was a nice day for a walk. We were crossing the street at the corner, which was a four way stop, when I heard the sound of a car barreling down on us, and reaching out with my mind, I could tell he was a werewolf and dead drunk and he wasn't even aware that the there was an intersection. I took over his mind and hit the brakes as hard as I could, but there was no way that he would be able to stop in time.
I swiveled around scooping up Barry and yelled, "Tal!!!" and threw Barry as hard as I could. Dismally I wondered if this was going to be the third Christmas season in a row in which I got hurt, as I pushed up and back with everything my legs had, and went into a backflip, that I'd been learning in gym just before the holidays started. I felt the wind of the passing car as part of it went under me, and then I landed on my feet, and fell backwards landing hard on my hands, as the car jolted to a stop.
I watched in horror as I saw my brother's Ferrari headed for the intersection. There were two boys and a man walking across, and the boys were right in his way, and there was no possibility of him stopping in time though I saw he was on the brakes hard. The older boy, scooped up the younger one and swiveling around he yelled, "Tal!!!" and threw him hard at the man, who caught him and moved back and away from the car. The older boy made a backflip, and I could see part of the Ferrari pass under his body. I let out a woosh of relief as by the time he came down onto his feet and fell backwards the Ferrari was fully past.
The Ferrari smoked to a stop about fifty feet from the intersection. I hadn't even realized that I had been running toward it, until the man thrust the boy into my hands and headed for the car, he jerked the door open and pulled my brother out and drew back his hand, then I heard, *Tal! No! Don't hit him!*
Again I hadn't realized I'd been running as had the boy and we were only a few feet away when the man turned our way and there was rage in his gray eyes. "Why not!" he said savagely.
The boy answered in a soft voice, but it was the coldest voice I had ever heard. "Because he's drunk and he can't feel it." the boy said. "He fancies himself as a martial artist. Once he sobers up he'll be so mad that you'll probably be able to hit him several times."
"Robby is really scary when he's like that, isn't he." I looked down at the boy in my arms and though there was a little fear in his eyes from the close call, there were no tears. I nodded in complete agreement.
The man started to let go of Jimmy and the boy said reprovingly, "Don't litter. He's James Jarvis and we're going to his house anyway so we'll take him home." He looked at me and his large green eyes matched his voice, they were downright chilly, and though I knew it wasn't directed at me I still shivered. Then something happened that astonished me. It was something that I had never seen anyone able to do before. Suddenly there was warmth in those green eyes directed at the boy in my arms, and yet at the same time they were still as cold as ice.
"I'll take Barry thank you." and he took the boy from me, and looking at him, he asked, "Are you all right, Barry."
"Yeah, Robby, I was a little scared that's all. What are you going to do to punish him." and he looked at my brother, and I remembered the mind-voice I had heard. This boy was an Elder, and from Sam Reynolds I knew it had to be Robby Hansen. I started to feel deep satisfaction. Jimmy was in a lot of trouble, though he didn't know it yet.
"Well, remember last night when I was babysitting, you were bad? What did I do?" asked the boy.
"You took away my toys for an hour and made me sit in a corner." said the boy.
"Well, I'm going to take away his little toy." He looked at me, "Can you drive your brother's Ferrari?"
I nodded, "I was young once myself but I was never as irresponsible as Jimmy. The lawyers who manage his trust fund have done this to him. He was one of the nicest kids before they started indulging his whims."
He told me what he wanted me to do, and as I got behind the wheel of the Ferrari, I couldn't help giggling every once in a while, like a little kid, while I headed for my destination.
I answered the doorbell, and there were four people there, one a man, had Jimmy over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. I grimaced at that, then looked down at the other two, two young boys but there was the light of recognition in the older ones eyes but as far as I knew I had never seen him before.
He grinned, "I recognize you from Arthur's description, plus the fact that aside from four inches in height you look almost identical. I'm Robby Hansen." I smiled with warmth. Arthur didn't respect a lot of people but he respected this boy, and I regarded my son's opinion highly.
He held up his hands and I could see they were dirty and scraped. "I'd offer you my hand but they're a mess right now." I ignored the state of his hands, and offered mine, and he took it a little gingerly. Then he put his hand on the smaller boy's head, "This is Barry, my little brother, and the one holding the Jarvis problem child is Tal Peters. Drugs and alcohol hit werewolves harder but we sober up faster. How soon can you sober him up?"
I asked sourly, "Why not just let him sleep it off, as usual?"
"Oh we can't do that." said Robby and his voice was very soft and cold. "He almost killed Barry and I and Tal wants to hit him once or twice, and if he's drunk he can't feel it. He's got a black belt in karate and he fancies himself as a martial artist. We'll see how he likes getting some punishment from someone who's been studying martial arts for the last thirty-five years."
I took Jimmy from Peters, almost anxious to get him sober now, I wanted to see that. "Just go into the living room. Paul's wife Winnette and his grandmother are in there. The children are upstairs."
For a minute when he walked into the room, I thought it was one of the twins, but I dismissed that notion even before I took a closer look. They did look much alike, but none of my four children had the assured self-confidence of this boy. In fact, I had never seen a child and very few adults with the type of self-confidence he had. He would be at home wherever he was. He bowed an elegant little formal werewolf bow. I wondered where Jonathan was, he wasn't a butler in the classic sense of the term, but normally he would have shown the two boys and the man in and introduced them.
It seemed like he read my mind. He didn't but as I found out later, he could have done so. He said in a soft voice that I would soon learn was his normal way of speaking. "Jonathan is in the process of sobering up Jimmy."
I shook my head with disgust and I could see Paul's grandmother, Gerry do the same. She's ninety-five but nobody has the nerve to call her Geraldine. "I'm Robby Hansen." and I could have kicked myself, Sam had even said that he looked like the twins. He looked at his hands and said sourly, "I'd offer you my hand but Jimmy almost ran us down, and I tried something I was learning in gym and did a backflip, and I went too far and fell and landed on my hands, so I'm afraid my hands are somewhat dirty. Barry and Tal will have to make up for it." He introduced the younger boy, "This is Barry Hansen-White, he's my little brother," and the boy offered his small hand with no apparent shyness at all, and both Gerry and I shook it firmly.
"This is Tal Peters. I should have introduced him first, but he's not very important in the scheme of things." That little speech got him a couple of swats on the backside, and he giggled, reminding me even more of the twins, as Tal offered his hand. He reminded me of someone and it took me a few minutes before I realized who it was. My grandfather, who had been a Ranger in World War II, had the same air of deadliness.
"I would like to wash my hands if you don't mind. I wasn't kidding about Jimmy almost hitting us." and he held up his hands and I could see they were dirty and scraped. I was shocked and I could see Gerry was as well, but then suddenly a glint of humor came into her eyes, and I realized what it was. Robby was an Elder and Jimmy had almost hit him and his little brother. Jimmy was in a lot of trouble.
Tal said, "I know why you threw Barry to me, but why did you go backwards, when your momentum was carrying you forward?"
Robby said, "At the start the car was coming right for me, but after I threw Barry to you, the car straightened out, and I'm lousy at front flips for some reason, you would think backflips would be harder, but more important, there was more of the car to hit me by then if I had gone forwards rather than backwards."
Tal nodded, "Good thinking and good reactions."
I took Robby in to wash his hands, and when they were clean, I could see the scrapes more clearly. "Do you want me to put anything on those?"
"No, it'll be good practice." He clasped his hands together and closed his eyes, he opened one of them briefly, and said, humor in his voice, "And no, I'm not praying."
He closed his eyes and I could the strain on his face, but after a couple of minutes he opened his eyes and held his hands up, and the scrapes were gone. "I'm a Healer, but up until early last month I wasn't a physical Healer, but I came across a young relative of mine who is, and we're learning each other's way of Healing."
I led the way back to the living room, and in the few minutes we had been gone Gerry somehow had gotten Barry to the chessboard, and obviously he knew a little about chess, since the moves I saw him make in the next few minutes were correct. He wasn't very good yet, but for a six-year old, he wasn't bad. Robby said to me, "He's a good sport and he doesn't mind losing. My friends Wil and Cary are teaching him, and he's the only one in our group who seems to have any interest in chess. They say in a couple of years he could be very good for an under ten."
He put his head on Barry's head and the boy looked up and said, "Yes, Robby?"
"I want to talk a little Elder talk, do you mind?" Barry looked down at the board then looked up again and shook his head, "No I was going to lose in a minute anyway."
He picked up the boy and carried him over to an armchair and sat in it and set the boy on his lap and Barry leaned back against him. Robby said, "Jimmy's in a great deal of trouble, and the beginning of his punishment is being carried out right now. But I want to know the cause of Jimmy's problem. Paul indicated that the lawyers have been indulging his every whim for the last eight years. Why? Do you know?"
Both Gerry and I shook our heads. I said, "Gerry was the original executor, and Tolliver, Hunt, and Massey of the law firm by the same name, were co-executors. Well that was fine, but those three retired and their sons became co-executor's instead as was arranged in advance, and they've been letting him have anything he wants despite Gerry and Paul's objections. He was a nice kid before that."
"Well if that's the case we see if we can find out why Jimmy's getting whatever he wants and we see if we can change the executor's." He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, he flipped it open and dialed a number.
My phone rang. Only family members and a few trusted friends had that number. I picked it up, "Eagle."
"Oh, I just thought you were up to par, Unc." I winced.
"That was truly awful, Robby." I told him, trying not to laugh.
"Well I can't come up with a gem every time." he told me.
"Once in a while would be nice." I said.
"That hurts, Uncle Eagle that really hurts." and then he giggled, "Seriously what do you know of a law firm by the name of Tolliver, Hunt and Massey, out of Prescott?" he asked.
"Their fathers were fine, decent men. Their sons. Well if it was still an era in which people had gold fillings in their teeth, they'd have to check them after they left the office to make sure that they still had them." I said scathingly.
"How busy is Daniel?" he asked.
"He just wrapped up a case before Christmas and he hasn't got anything important on his plate right now. I gather you want a corporate attorney?" I asked him.
"I'm almost tempted to say, I just want the best lawyer in your firm, but I won't do that Uncle. They are the primary executor's of a Jimmy Jarvis's trust fund. Since he was fifteen, they've been letting him get away with murder. I want to find out why, and if I can't do that, I want the estate out of their hands." he told me, and he was talking very softly.
I could tell by how soft he was talking that he was really angry. I stopped rocking in my chair, "Why are you so hot about this, Robby?"
"A few inches the other way and you'd be attending my funeral and possibly Barry's. Tolliver, Hunt and Massey have created a monster and I want to know why." Robby didn't exaggerate, if he said he'd been that close to death he had.
"I'll call Daniel and get him on the first available plane." I told him.
"Bye, Unc." he said to me.
"Goodbye, Robby." and I hung up the phone.
The two women were looking somewhat surprised. Eagle Hansen's firm was one of the best law firms in the country. I knew Eagle, whose real name was Jeffrey, he was only a month older than I was and we had gone to school together. Robby said, "As you could tell from that conversation, Eagle Hansen is my uncle, well great-uncle actually, and he's sending his son Daniel here at my request to look into the handling of your brother's estate by his executor's. Daniel doesn't get the press that my uncle gets, but he's as good or better at corporate law, which is his field."
Paul Jarvis came in then and handed Robby the keys to the Ferrari. "Done, honored Elder. Now my kids have to see this." he went to the living room door and putting two fingers in his mouth he gave a shrill whistle."
I was growing accustomed to that in the Hansen-Wilson household and the reaction was the same, children's feet thundering down the stairs. How such small bodies could make so much noise I don't know, I think it must defy all the laws of physics.
"Eric and I are identical twins and we're almost eleven."
"You shouldn't lie, Devon." Eric said.
"Okay, we're ten and a half." I scowled at him.
Eric shook his head, "Not close enough."
I threw up my hands. Jeepers, you can't get away with anything around Eric. "Okay, we were ten at the end of November. Eric's ten minutes older than I am. Jamie was nine at the beginning of August and Laura Lynn was eight at the end of August."
We were all in mine and Eric's room playing Monopoly, which was very unusual, but for some reason, this seemed to be a day to spend quietly. Eric and I didn't have our watches on, though both Jamie and Laura Lynn did. They were more concerned with time than we were, and we just kept forgetting to put ours on in the morning. We just looked at clocks when we needed to tell the time.
Eric and I have an old Coca Cola clock, that we both think is neat. Dad and Mom got it for us for our birthday. When we heard Dad whistle we looked up at the clock, and it was just after two o'clock. That was an unusual time for him to call, but we headed for the stairs and pounded down them.
Dad was standing in the living room door, and he said, "I want you to have a look at your uncle's Ferrari. It's in its usual parking spot in the driveway."
I saw Eric scowl, and I imagine my face was dark as well. We were tired of that darned Ferrari, we hadn't heard anything else from Uncle Jimmy since he got it just before Christmas. Jamie and Laura Lynn didn't care one way or the other. Dad said, "I promise it'll be a nice surprise, cross my heart."
I saw Eric's face clear and mine did as well, a cross my heart promise from our parents was special, it was always truthful. I grabbed the doorknob and pulled the door open, and then we all got in the doorway and looked out. There was a pick-up truck in Uncle Jimmy's parking spot, and it had a cube of metal and fiber glass on the back. Eric choked out, "James Bond." and I realized what it was and we looked at it with awe before we began laughing silently. It was what was left of his Ferrari after it had gone through a crusher in a junkyard.
Our younger brother and sister were baffled, and it wasn't until Dad leaned down and explained it to them that they began laughing as well. Once Eric and I could stop laughing we looked up at Dad, "Have you told Mom and Gerry yet?" I asked and he shook his head.
Eric grabbed my hand and we headed for the living room. We skidded to a halt when we realized that there were guests. That surprised us, Dad didn't usually whistle for us when there were others in the house. There was a man and a small dark haired boy but the other one fascinated us instantly and we forgot what we had come in for. It's not very often that you can look at a boy a few years older than you are and know that when you reach his age very probably that's how you will look. We walked over to him.
He examined us with large green eyes, that were so much like Eric and mine. I don't know why I became annoyed at that but I did. He smiled and said in a soft voice. "In order to know you in the future, I have to look at you closely."
I said crossly, "I'm Devon. You think you can tell us apart. Only, Mum, Dad, Gerry and Jonathan and our brother and sister can do that."
"You each have a new five dollar bill in the pocket of your shorts. Are you willing to bet that." he asked, and his eyes were glinting with humor.
Eric tossed his head, and said, "I'm Eric. Sure. Close your eyes and we'll go out and then come back in. We'll take our shorts off because they're different but we opened a brand new package of underpants this morning that we got for Christmas, and they look exactly the same."
"All right. Agreed. If you win, I have twenty dollars in my wallet that you can share between you." he told us. He closed his eyes, and somehow we knew that he wouldn't cheat.
We went outside of the room, ducking under Dad's arm where he was leaning against the wall. We slipped off our shorts and put them on a chair. Dad had turned and looked at us with humor. "I hate to tell you this guys, but you're going to lose."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Robby will explain it to you. It'll hurt your pocket book, but it'll be a useful lesson." he told us, however still confident we went back into the living room.
"You can open your eyes." We hadn't done anything as dumb as change places, but he pointed at me and said, "Devon," and then at my brother, "Eric. Now go get my money and I'll tell you how I did it."
We went back out and got our shorts and not bothering to put them back on we went back into the living room. We pulled out the five dollar bills and handed it to him and forlornly watched him put them in his wallet. Our family was rich, but our parents only gave us five dollars a week in allowance, though we could earn more by doing chores around the house, helping Jonathan or assigned by him, but it didn't amount to a lot more.
He said, "Guys, you're identical twins, right."
Eric and I both answered at once. "Yes!"
"Wrong. The name is simply a description and superficially you look a lot alike but anyone trained to observe would be able to tell you apart in the first ten minutes. I used several ways, but there are others. First Eric has a tiny scar on his nose, it's only about an eighth of an inch long, but from the distance I was observing that was close enough. Neither of you has many freckles, but Devon you have one just here," and he touched my face gently, "and Eric doesn't. When you are standing up like you are now, Eric's left knee is slightly bent, and Devon your right elbow is bent a bit as well. Your ears are mostly covered with your hair, just the ear lobe showing, but the shape of Eric's are just a touch rounder than yours Devon." He paused then for a moment and then continued, "Your eyes look alike, but Devon, yours slant just a touch more than Eric's, and your hands are really telling. Eric the middle finger of your right hand is a touch longer than the same finger on Devon's hand. Devon you have a slight scar on the knuckle of your left hand and Eric doesn't."
Everybody was chuckling now and Eric and I, in spite of our sudden poor status couldn't help grinning. Obviously, we weren't as identical as we had thought. They were minor differences, but still they were differences. Robby continued, "I didn't use it to identify you, but after you first came in and came over to me, Devon your stride is a bit shorter than Eric's, and Eric you move just a touch more smoothly than Devon." Looking at Robby, I could see he was about to continue, and I giggled and Eric joined me.
We threw up our hands, "Enough. We give up." He grinned at us and took out his wallet and took out a couple of bills and handed them to us. Ours had been crumpled in the pocket of our shorts and the one I was holding was crisp and uncreased. I looked down at it and realized that it was a fifty and not a five. I nudged Eric and held up the bill and he looked down at his and it was a fifty as well.
"Merry Christmas, guys. The type of people who would be that observant varies. Police officers, intelligence agents, a well-trained security guard, artists and teachers, and there are those who are just naturally observant. I bet neither of you have ever been in the same class together." and we shook our heads. "If you ever had been and if your teacher was a good one he or she would have been able to tell you apart within a week."
"Now put your shorts on and introduce me to your brother and sister." We did as we were told and both Jamie and Laura Lynn ended up with fifty dollars as well. Of course, me and Eric ended up getting five dollars less than them, since Robby kept the five dollars that we had given him. When I mentioned it to Dad, not complaining, but just curious, he said a lesson sometimes sticks with you better if you lose something in the process.
I knew from Sam Reynolds that Robby never promised something he couldn't deliver, but I was astonished when he began enumerating the differences between my two supposedly identical twin sons. I realized that those who knew the boys well must have subconsciously picked up on those differences, and that was the reason we could tell them apart. Plus the other differences that the twins hadn't allowed him to get to.
Robby said, "The reason I was coming here originally is because of a letter I found sealed in a family bible." and he recited it. "The summoning session that we had this morning might be hard to explain so I'll show it to you."
I was sitting in my living room and then suddenly I was in a bedroom, it had a double bed on one side and a L shaped triple bunk on the other, and there were nine children, including Robby and Barry, two adults, one of who was Tal the other was a woman holding a baby, a late teenaged girl and two cats. Robby began the summoning and for the next fifteen or twenty minutes I was transfixed by the event that had taken place only this morning. Suddenly instead of having a family of only a few, we had a family of many, as I was to learn later, in Benson and spread across the country.
As my living room came back into sight, as my whole family began to come back to life, only the three who had also been there this morning weren't affected, or at least not severely. I closed my eyes to recover and then I began to hear the music. At first I thought it was a flute, but then I realized that it was a whistle, and opening my eyes I saw that Robby had his fingers in his mouth, and was whistling Amazing Grace, and with subtle movements of his fingers he gave a virtuoso performance. When he was finished, Robby grinned at me, "That's my set piece, the only one that I can do perfectly at the moment. Barry's very proud of it and he wanted me to do it."
I cleared my throat, "No wonder. It was beautiful." I began to realize for some reason that it sounded familiar. It was Laura Lynn who realized where we had heard it, she was the music lover in the family. She jumped to her feet and darting to the entertainment center, got out a CD and put it in the player. It began to play and I heard the voice of Diane Whitworth say, 'This is a very special rendition of Amazing Grace, and the only accompaniment is a whistler, he's somewhat shy, so I'll just call him R.' I heard the whistle again, he whistled half a dozen bars and then Diane joined in to compliment the whistle, never overpowering it, always subtlety joining with it so voice and whistle enhanced each other.
"You?" I asked Robby and he nodded.
"I told Diane one time that I wished I had the time to learn an instrument, and she said I already had one and I already knew how to use it. I saw her in June and I whistled it for her. She immediately said she wanted that on her new Gospel album, she still had one track to lay down and it was going to be Amazing Grace, but she wasn't satisfied with the arrangement. I had to simplify things because as it was it was too complex. She liked the simplicity, and said my arrangement would be perfect, and she brought in a mobile studio and we spent two weeks in July recording my portion, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I don't have perfect pitch like Diane and my friend Cary have, and Diane would tell me when it was right and I had to memorize my finger positions so that I could reproduce exactly the same sound each time. That took most of the time, to actually lay down my part of the track only took a couple of days, and then she finished it up in the studio and it was released in November. It was strange and very satisfying when I first heard it. The way the whistle and her voice twist around each other is astonishing. Of course she did most of the work since she had to adjust to me, even if I'd had the time, I couldn't have adjusted to her."
Winnette said, "We went to her concert in early May, and we heard the debut of Changes. It captured the feeling of a werewolf change perfectly, she had to have experienced it. How, is she a werewolf?"
"No," Robby said, "As I mentioned at the beginning of the summoning, I'm a Healer, and I Healed her manager who was a werewolf who had never been able to change. She felt his change with him as did the rest of us, and she was the perfect one to write it down, in a song that while not specific reminded every werewolf of exactly what it's like to change."
Winnette nodded, "You're also the absent friend who couldn't be there that night, aren't you."
"Yes, you've probably gathered from my comments that I can also read human minds as well as were minds. I have blocks which protect my mind but they don't operate very well in a crowd that large, so I simply couldn't be there." Robby said.
Jonathan showed up in the doorway then. For such a large man he can move very quietly. "Jimmy is sober though he still has a headache. He's changing his clothes right now. You said he would mad about something Robby, but you weren't specific."
"Go to the door and have a look in his parking spot, Jon. You'll know why he'll be mad then." I told him.
Jon nodded and went to the door and when he came back about a minute later, his lips were quivering with restrained laughter. In a somewhat choked voice, he asked, "That isn't...?" and he stopped at that point, unable to get any other words out.
Robby said softly, "Oh yes it is. You really should see if you can find somewhere to put it. It'll be a real conversation starter. After all it's not everybody has a cube that cost half a million dollars." and for the second time within the last hour we were suddenly somewhere else. This time the junkyard and I realized that Robby was taking it from my mind. I got out of the car and talked to Guthrie and he grinned and whistled at the man driving the fork lift truck. He pointed at the Ferrari, and I could see the look of astonishment on the driver's face before he shrugged, and lowered the forks and drove the fork lift truck forward until they were under the Ferrari, and then lifted it and turning he dropped it into the crusher, and we saw the very expensive red Ferrari become a very expensive cube. Then we jumped ahead and I was admiring the cube sitting on the pick-up truck. Guthrie said we could keep it until we decided what to do with the cube.
The living room came back into sight, and everybody was hysterical with laughter except Robby and me, and from the gleam of humor in his eyes I knew it wouldn't take much to set us both off.
I was laughing though a little sad that such a fine piece of machinery had gone that way, but it was such an appropriate punishment and after all it wasn't mine. Suddenly an enraged Jimmy showed up in the doorway. Obviously, Robby had broadcast it all over the house, and he hadn't tried to hide his identity. Jimmy looked around and seeing the boy, charged at Robby and suddenly he was flying backwards and he hit the floor on his back, limp and unconscious. Robby was standing, rubbing the back of his head and he looked at me, and said, "Sorry about that Tal, I know how much you wanted a piece of him. I should have let him find out about his car by seeing it in the driveway."
I had wanted to hit him a little, but still I marveled. Robby had adapted something that had happened accidentally and turned it into a combat move. A couple of days before he'd been intent on tackling Randall and he was going to grab hold of him but Randall had swerved at the last moment. Instead of his arm he caught the bigger boy in the stomach with his head and as he began to fold over in pain, Robby had straightened and inadvertently caught Randall under the chin with the back of his head. It was a minor incident in a werewolf football game, and neither of them were hurt. But this time, Robby had done it intentionally and he had knocked Jimmy unconscious.
You might think I was a little careless, and should have intercepted Jimmy. I could have, but that wasn't what would worry me, Robby could have stopped him cold if he had wanted to, locking his muscles, the way he had taken over his mind and made him stamp on the brakes. We were more worried about long distance attempts, and my job when I was with him was to try and keep him out of situations where a sniper could take him out. We both knew that if someone was determined enough it would be impossible to stop him, all we could do was limit a shooter's options.
The appearance of Jimmy had sobered everybody up, and now they were looking at him and then at Robby with amazement. He leaned down and felt Jimmy's jaw, then straightening up, "The jaws not broken, but he's going to have trouble chewing for a few days." Robby said calmly, "Sorry about that, Jonathan, all that trouble to sober him up and all he gets is a sore chin."
Jonathan was grinning, "Don't be, while it would have been nice to see him get a little of what he deserves, he'll never be able to live this down. Knocked out by a..." He looked at Robby who supplied his age, "a thirteen year old."
He bent down and lifting up one of Jimmy's eyelids he said, "I think he's going to out for an hour or two, so I'll bring him up to his bedroom. I'd leave him where he is but he's blocking the entranceway." Easily he scooped up Jimmy and threw him over his shoulder, and headed up the stairs.
Robby turned around, and he looked at the family speculatively for a minute. "I know that Jamie and Laura Lynn have already been invited for sleepovers, and the twins are a little envious. How about if I invite them over for tonight, and you can come in the morning and spend the day getting to know a few of your new family."
The twins turned to their parents immediately, and though they didn't beg, at least not out loud, their eyes were wide with excitement. Their mother and father looked at each other with mock soberness, and they were good enough to fool the boys, because their faces began to go glum. When Winnette, said, "Why not?" their small faces lit up.
Robby warned them, "Both Aaron and Barry sleep naked."
They looked at each other and grinned, and said at the same time, "So do we." As Robby had demonstrated identical twins weren't as identical as a lot of people thought, but they had that ability that most twins seemed to have of saying the same thing at the same time.
"And we take baths or showers before bed." Robby continued, Devon was about to argue, then he looked back at his parents, and admitted, "So do we."
"Okay I imagine you've been on sleepovers before, so go grab what you need." and they headed for the stairs and from the sounds of it they took them two at a time.
Robby turned to their parents and grinned, "Don't worry. I didn't invite them on my own. I knew how many kids you had and how old they were. I told Mom that I'd be inviting them, I'll give her a call on the way home to tell her that there will only be two not four."
Paul asked with curiosity, "What if Laura Lynn hadn't already been invited out."
"I figured that she probably has the same type of modesty as the three boys." he said.
"Hah," said Gerry, "they don't have any. Nor does she."
Robby grinned, "Neither do we. If she didn't care, we certainly wouldn't. Barry and Aaron have agreed that it's not polite to go downstairs naked, but upstairs you enter at your own risk, it's become clothing optional for the kids. She would have been in the same bedroom, probably in Barry's bunk. We have a triple bunk bed, but Barry's is double wide and can sleep two. We keep a cot under Aaron's bunk, and that can sleep one, I have a double bed, and I know it can sleep four, because we had a thunderstorm Christmas night, and I suddenly had three bedmates plus two cats, and there was plenty of room. However we keep a couple more cots in a closet, and an air bed mattress under my bed. We've slept ten at least twenty times since last June. All potential sleepover guests have been informed of the new sleeping arrangement and none have indicated that they intend to turn down the next invitation."
"I'll send out the fact that you're coming tomorrow by the Rose vine, and everybody should know by then. We'll hold a barbecue, so I hope you like hamburgers and hot dogs." he finished.
Gerry said delicately, "Shouldn't that be grapevine?"
I choked and coughed, and Robby looked at me and grinned, "Rose Peters is Tal's sister-in-law, and she's a distant cousin, and she baby sits the younger kids after school and I assure you the Rose vine is much faster than the grapevine."
I was quivering with excitement, and I could see Devon was too. We'd been on many sleepovers since we could change, and I'd never looked forward to one so much before, not even the first time. This time it would be with family, something we'd never figured would happen. Even if Jimmy wasn't a spoiled brat, if he got married, by the time he had kids we'd be too old for sleepovers. Family is important to werewolves, and aside for our parents we'd always thought our only relatives were Jimmy and Gerry and our Mum and Dad and Mum's sister, Grace Harris. She's younger than Mum but she's not married. Degree of separation doesn't matter, as long as you are descendants of a particular person, in this case Jarvis White, whether you're first cousins or tenth cousins.
Robby leaned forward and putting his hand on my bare thigh, he squeezed gently and his big green eyes were incredibly warm and soothing. He did the same to Devon, and we relaxed a little bit.
He said, "People you might be able to fool with your twinness," and he looked at what we were wearing grinning, because for some reason we had dressed in identical clothes, which we seldom did. But we had on light blue shorts and socks and blue tennis shoes, and orange tank tops with blue trim. "Not Mom, she's a cop, and not Paul, he's my Father and he's an ex-Navy Seal, and they're taught to be observant, not Tal or me, and not Aaron, he was mute up till last month, and his father hated it when he used sign language, so to help satisfy his curiosity he became very observant. That leaves Teddy and," he nodded at the little boy who was lying in the seat beside him fast asleep. "Barry. They're both used to twins because four of the kids they play with most often are twins. They're fraternal twins, but they do at times do things the same way, and their voices are very similar. Whether they'll be able to tell you apart I don't know, we'll have to see."
It didn't take long, by the time we went to bed at nine-thirty, they could both tell us apart, and he was right about everybody else. It was very unusual and satisfying at the same time. Most of our school mates never bothered to take the time to tell us apart, just calling us Jarvis, only our close friends could do it. Devon told a little lie when he said that only Mom, Dad, Gerry and Jonathan and our brother and sister could tell us apart. Five of our closest friends could as well. But this was different. Our friends had known us for a long time, but we were in the Hansen-Wilson house for a few hours and they all knew which was which.
After the way Robby had shown we weren't as identical as we had thought and that night proved it, we felt more like two individuals than we had ever felt before. We would never be quite as upset to be regarded as one set of twins, interchangeable, and it didn't matter which one you got, because we knew now that they simply weren't being very observant.
Us five younger boys must have spent an hour and a half in the bathroom that night, having baths and just fooling around, and aside from the occasional visit by Mrs. Hansen or Mr. Wilson, to make sure we were still alive, we weren't told to hurry up or anything like that, and Devon and I felt even more at home because that was the way things happened at home.
Barry moved to Robby's double bed and we got his double bunk. They said that Robby only slept for three or four hours a night and wouldn't be coming to bed until two or three o'clock, and we never woke up when he and Blue came to bed.
Dad and I usually stayed at the Heritage Motel when we came to Benson, and after I was checked in by Lon Swanson, Lily's husband, I called Robby. "Hello, Robby. I called Edward to tell him that I was in Prescott and he said I should come to Benson."
"Well there are two things. First, the reason I went to see the Jarvis's in the first place was because I found out they were relatives. Two of their kids came here for a sleepover and they're coming tomorrow for a barbecue and to pick up their kids. So, I want you to attend the barbecue. Also, do you have Tolliver's private number?"
"No, we've never dealt with them, neither as friends nor opponents." I said.
"All right, here's the number." and I wrote it in my notebook as he gave it to me. "I want you to call him tonight to tell him, that Gerry Jarvis, she's the grandmother of Jimmy, and she's co-executor of the trust fund. Tell them that she's asked you to do an audit of the trust fund, and you'll be in Monday."
I protested, "We never tell a firm when we're going to do an audit, that gives them time to do something if there's any problem with the fund."
"Come over about nine tomorrow, and I'll show you why." Robby said "and put your observer's spectacles on. See you in the morning, Daniel." he said sweetly before hanging up.
I looked at the telephone cord and wondered if I brought it along I might be able to strangle Robby with it, he was getting as bad as my father. Then I remembered that Dad had said that Tal Peters was now Robby's bodyguard. I'd seen Tal and Dad spar one time at my father's club, and he'd wiped the floor with Dad. It hadn't seem to upset my father, but since Dad could do the same to me, I didn't think I'd have a chance against Tal, so I just sighed and hung up the phone carefully.
I opened the front door just as Teddy was running by being chased by two boys' with an incredible likeness to Robby, especially when he was their age. Teddy skidded to a halt, and introduced the two boys. They were identical twins, and they were dressed the same, but obviously Teddy could tell them apart, and since they were named Jarvis and Teddy could only have met them yesterday, these boys were the reason Robby had told me to put my observer's spectacles on. I looked at them very closely, knowing somehow, that if I couldn't tell them apart the next time I saw them they would be very disappointed.
Teddy told me before they took off again, "Robby and Tal are in the computer room. Robby told everybody to tell you to join them when you arrived."
I took the stairs two at a time, and went back to the computer room. Robby and Tal looked up at me and nodded and smiled. "Pull up a chair, Cuz." Robby said. Both of his computer's were on, one had a blank screen but the other had what looked like a kids game on it. Up in the corner it said Digger, and what looked like a gopher was sniffing around. Tal looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, obviously he was as unsure about what was going on as I was.
Suddenly the gopher stood up on his hind legs and a cartoon bubble appeared above his head. It said, 'Someone go online, boss.'
Robby said, "Digger, follow." and the gopher jumped into the air and dove head first at the ground and began digging away furiously. Robby nodded at the other computer and I saw that it was no longer blank, a name had appeared. It just said, Tolliver at first, but then names and dollar amounts began to appear. Tal and I looked at each other and grinned, obviously Digger wasn't a kids game, it was a program used to track someone who was online on the Internet. Then additional things began to appear, and it became apparent what Tolliver was doing because what now appeared on the screen was Transferred from and followed by a dollar amount, and then Transferred to. I didn't recognize the names of the people on the Transferred from list but the majority was being Transferred to the Jarvis trust fund.
But not all of it, some was going somewhere else and there was simply a question mark in place of a name. The gopher popped to the surface and like before stood on his hind legs, the balloon saying, 'Offline Boss.'
"Integrate all information Digger." The other screen went blank for about thirty seconds and then reappeared, only this time it looked like a bank statement and the numbers were added up. Almost five million dollars had gone into the Jarvis Trust fund but five hundred thousand had gone to the question marks. Robby pointed at the question marks. "These are Swiss banks. Digger will follow them that far but without specific instructions no further. However, this indicates that three different banks are being used, because the color differs for each bank. There's no way of telling if they subdivide once they're in the bank. There are other banks that do the same as Swiss banks, but we have separate symbols for each one and this is Swiss."
I said, "They're playing musical trust funds. Taking money from some to make one appear as if nothing has happened to it. That's why you had me call Tolliver last night, so he'd do exactly this."
"Yes, your name frightened him. I imagine that if you had carried out an audit on Monday you would have had a hard time finding anything even without him doing this rearranging today. He just wanted to make sure his ass was covered. Edward was able to find out through sources that they manage trust funds to the tune of a billion and a half dollars, so they've been audited many times and never been found out." Robby said.
"Why don't you follow them into the bank itself? Dad said you can get in almost anywhere." I twitted him.
He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "Believe it or not, Swiss banks are harder to get into than intelligence agencies. They're set up for security. That is a secondary concern for intelligence agencies. They gather information but in essence, they are a clearing house for information. Every day thousands of messages go out to people who need the information they gather. That makes them vulnerable. To eliminate their vulnerabilities would mean that half the people or more who need the information wouldn't get it, so they have to live with the knowledge that they will always be vulnerable."
I looked at Tal and he was looking thoughtful, "I never thought of it that way, but Robby's right. Our information would be useless if we didn't get it to the people who need it."
Robby said, "If necessary we can get into Swiss banks, but we only do so if there is no other method of getting the information, and I have another method. When you go in for the audit on Monday, Tal and I will be outside and we'll stay close. It's sometimes a little hard to locate certain human minds in a building which only has human minds, however I'll be able to locate you and they won't be far from you, so you're the beacon and the fire that will destroy them. Comp Two shutdown, Comp One shutdown." and the computer screens went blank."
He looked at me his large green eyes twinkling at me. "I hope you had your observing spectacles on. I know you saw the twins."
"Why exactly does it matter?" I asked, curious.
Tal answered, "Robby proved to them yesterday that they weren't as identical as they thought they were. They challenged him and he won five dollars from them and then began telling them how different they really were. He gave each of the four children a fifty dollar bill but the twins ended up losing five dollars on the deal, but they gained far more than they lost. A self image that tells them that while they are twins they are individuals at the same time. By the time they went to bed last night, everyone in the house could tell them apart, and I could see how much greater their self-confidence was this morning. If you can't tell them apart it will disappoint them but I don't think it will hurt them either, they'll just attribute it to the fact that you aren't observant enough."
"So in a sense, if I can't tell them apart they'll regard me as not quite as important as the rest of you?" I said.
"I'm afraid so, Cuz." Robby said, "That's why I gave you a little warning."
As we left the computer room the bathroom door opened and one of the twins came out. I was pretty sure I knew which one it was, but I mentally crossed my fingers, "Hi, Devon."
He said, "Hi!" and I saw his eyes light up and his smile was a mile wide so obviously I had got it right, and from the pleasure on his face I was glad.
I was just coming out of the washroom when Tal Peters and Daniel Hansen and Robby came out of the computer room. Daniel said, "Hi, Devon."
I said "Hi!" back and I know my face lit up with pleasure and my smile was really wide. I know it might have been a guess, and a little of it was maybe, but I could tell he was pretty sure he was right.
We spent the rest of the morning at the Ross's pool. They were friends of the Hansens and were in Colorado with relatives and to do some skiing. There was only one adult, Tal Peters, so all of us skinny dipped, including Robby. It was almost one before Robby called for everybody to get out and get dressed, and we headed back to the Hansen-Wilson house. Me and Eric stopped with astonishment and so did Aaron when we saw the crowd for the barbecue.
Robby said in our ear, "Many of them will be your relatives, but there's a lot of townsfolk too. A barbecue like this is a come one, come all, and it'll be spread out over at least four front and backyards, and there'll be a couple dozen portable barbecues set up as well as the four larger permanent ones. I said to your parents that I hoped they liked hamburgers and hot dogs, but I was fibbing a bit. There'll be steak sandwiches or steak with baked potatoes, chicken, sausages, fish, chili, and even some shrimp and lobsters as well as hamburgers and hot dogs. I kept you in the pool until you'd be really hungry so go circulate, and find something that you want to eat and drink. There'll be all types of pop, milk, milkshakes, and juices."
Teddy grabbed Aaron and Eric's hand and Barry grabbed mine and we were dragged into the crowd. Barry knew where the best stuff was. He said people all set up at the same places wherever a barbecue was held, here or on the other side of town. I got called Robby half a dozen times but it didn't bother me. I stayed with Barry as the lunch ended and people began playing games and he and I ended up playing a few, and I never did see Eric for the rest of the afternoon. Jamie was there suddenly with Laura Lynn and a couple of boys I just knew were twins, and they were with an older teenage girl, I recognized them from the vision Robby had shown us, and then they were gone again. It wasn't until after supper when the barbecue started winding down that I found my twin, and Jamie and Laura Lynn, and my parents and Gerry and the Hansens on the Hansen-Wilson back porch.
I was astonished when I even saw Uncle Jimmy there and though he was trying his hardest to look mean, I could tell he had enjoyed himself. I sat on the bottom step beside Eric and Jamie. We all looked when we heard a car, beep beeping, and it drove into the backyard and up to the porch stopping a couple of yards away. It was a red Volkswagen Beetle. I knew the driver very well. It was Arthur Masters and he was Jonathan's son, but I didn't know the other one, but when he got out of the car he was almost as big as Arthur, who is seven feet tall and weighed a little over three hundred pounds. The second man wasn't nearly as tall but he was a lot bulkier and he might have weighed more than Arthur.
Robby said more softly than I had heard it before, and Teddy had told me the softer Robby talked the angrier or more serious he was. "This is your new car, Jimmy."
Uncle Jimmy snarled something. Robby said, "Naughty, naughty there are children present. After I went to all that trouble of finding exactly the same shade of red that the Ferrari had, I'm devastated. Well it's this car or no car Jimmy. I can put a prohibition in your mind so that you can never get behind the wheel of a car again, if that's what you wish. Oh by the way the men come with the car. You already know Arthur I believe, the other one is Fred Dante, and they are your minders for the next three months, at which time they'll be replaced by a new pair. You have my permission to drink if you wish Jimmy, you are an adult after all, but I wouldn't get behind the wheel of a car if you do so. Arthur and Fred have my express permission to spank you if you do so." I could hear Jimmy breathing hard. I was finding it hard not to giggle.
Jimmy got up stiffly and stalked down the stairs, us kids on the stair, squeezing to the side so he could get by us. He snatched the keys out of Arthur's hand. "Oh, one last thing, Jimmy," Robby said, "the car has a governor on the engine. If you stay at seventy miles an hour or slower you'll be fine, but if you exceed that speed for more than two minutes, the car will start beeping a warning which indicates that you have twenty miles to get off the highway, before the governor shuts off the engine, and wherever it stops, there you stay for two hours before you can start the engine again.
"Why you..." and he started for the stairs and Arthur just picked him up and set him gently behind the wheel and patted him on the head. I think all of us realized what Robby was doing now, at least I did. He was treating Jimmy like a little kid, trying to see if the humiliation of it could make him grow up at last. Jimmy glared at Robby for about five minutes, and at us, since after about the first thirty seconds we were rolling about on the steps laughing at his situation.
Finally Jimmy started up the car and very careful backed up and making a turn he drove out of the driveway, and I assume headed for home, though maybe he intended to go to a bar first. I realized that the man with Arthur was gone. Robby said, "I hope you don't mind giving Arthur a ride into Prescott, Fred is busy right now."
Arthur picked me up and the other kids moved up a couple steps to give him room, and he sat down with me on his knee. Gerry asked Robby, "Do you really intend to let him drink?"
Robby said cheerfully, "Arthur, what are your instructions regarding Jimmy drinking?"
"When he goes into a bar, we follow him and stand right next to him. As long as he just has one drink, we just stand there. If he orders a second one we start glaring at him. Fred and I glare very well. I practice my glare every morning in the mirror when I'm shaving and I even intimidate myself." There was humor in his voice but he'd glared at us a couple times when he was visiting his father and we'd been misbehaving and he was downright scary. If the other guy was as scary as Arthur was Jimmy wouldn't be ordering many second drinks.
Well as Robby had told me, I spent a fruitless first day in the law offices of Tolliver, Hunt and Massey. I drove back to my hotel, Graham Manor, which was the oldest hotel in Prescott and one of the oldest in the state. For some reason, the original owners had decided to keep the registers, and they went all the way back to eighteen nineteen. They were kept in a locked bookcase in the lobby. The information in them had been transferred to computer and if you were from the area or if an ancestor had ever been in the area you could look up the name and find the date he had stayed there.
I had been curious and I had looked up the Hansen name, and there were many of them listed over the last one hundred and seventy-five years. The first was R. R. Hansen, in June of eighteen thirty-eight. It was an odd feeling to look at a name and know that your ancestor had stayed on this very spot, one hundred and sixty-seven years ago. I know the house in Benson was even older, but that was a personal home, this was a public building, and even though it had been rebuilt several times it was still on the same spot it had started out on.
When I got to my suite, I found that Robby's day had been much more fruitful. He had the Swiss bank account numbers, passwords and every bit of information that the lawyers had had in their heads that related to the trust funds. Robby said, looking at the full total in the Swiss bank accounts, "Well, it's not too bad considering the amount that they handle."
I snorted in amusement. Personally, I considered two hundred and fifty million dollars pretty bad. He smiled in amusement, "Well Daniel they haven't bankrupted anyone, and they've been careful to take no more than ten or fifteen percent from any one trust fund. They've broken their oaths, and I intend to put them out of business, but we'll do it my way. Their retirement funds indicate that they have enough to retire on. Not as much as they wanted to become accustomed to but I think quite adequate for this day and age."
I asked, "What are you going to do?"
"Well, you've got another day to go on your audit. By the time you get there in the morning, the Swiss bank accounts will be drained, all funds being transferred to new accounts. I also intend to move about ten million dollars of Jimmy's money into a Swiss bank account." He grinned, "I want you to get Eagle here for tomorrow morning. I know his specialty is criminal law, but I also know he does do some corporate law on occasion. You don't do arrogant and overbearing well enough for what you want." He explained to me what he wanted me to do and Tal and I had a tough time suppressing our laughter.
Just standing there in Tolliver's office, Eagle looked intimidating and Tolliver already looked apprehensive. Nervously he offered us a seat, and once seated I took out the two inch cube that Robby had given me, and switched it on. Tolliver looked at it with horrified fascination. When all the lights were green indicating that there were no bugs, I nodded to my father, and he began, "Your law firm is in deep trouble, Tolliver. We know about the skimming you've been doing on the trust funds you manage."
I loved to watch my father work, as Robby said he does arrogant and overbearing so well. I watched Tolliver and then Tolliver, Hunt and Massey deflate, as father gave the details that destroyed their careers. It only took a quick glance at Jimmy's trust fund to tell there was an enormous amount of money missing from it, and after Hunt went into the other room to use a computer to check on their Swiss accounts, they were completely defeated, and agreed to everything we demanded. Tolliver, Hunt and Massey would be folded into the law firm, Turner and Richardson, Prescott's best corporate attorneys. They already managed trust funds worth in excess of two billion dollars, and they were ambitious, always looking for more clients. Ambitious in a good way, they loved making money for their clients.
Tolliver, Hunt and Massey would retire, and their junior attorneys would be of course become part of Turner and Richardson. Robby had made sure that they were all honest and trustworthy, but they would be watched for a while until they proved themselves.
They would assign new executors of Jimmy Jarvis's trust fund, since that was separate from their law firm. The three new executor's were Paul Jarvis and Sam Reynolds and surprisingly enough at least in my eyes though my father didn't seem to find it odd, Robby had picked Jimmy as one of the executors of his own estate. Gerry of course was already an executor but she had never been very active, and she intended to leave it to the new executors.
So on the one hand Jimmy would be treated as the spoiled child he was. On the other hand he would be given the enormous responsibility of first helping to manage his trust fund and then after a year he would be making most of the decisions, with Paul and Sam there to give him advice, and prevent him from making disastrous mistakes.
As I found out later. Robby had three bolts in his quiver, and between them they worked. As the executors are about to hand over the estate to James Jarvis, he's a very different young man.
Robby had figured that Jimmy had bought the Ferrari either as a toy or because he was fascinated by the fine machinery, and he figured it was the latter. By putting the governor on the Volkswagen Beetle, he made Jimmy mad, and determined to remove it. Robby told him that it was so complex and expensive that it was actually worth more than the car was. He could have gone to a mechanic, though Robby said it was a prototype werewolf scientists had come up with, and it would take an automotive engineer to remove it. They wanted to have the car driven anyway and Jimmy made it convenient for them, and they got an enormous amount of telemetry data. Jimmy took that as a challenge. He began to study every system and subsystem of the Beetle, to find out how he could disconnect it. By the time he finally managed it over a year later he was so fascinated by automobiles that he had begun taking courses in automotive engineering at Prescott University.
He had finally begun to grow up, and being treated as a child had accelerated the process. He resented that, yet at the same time knew he deserved it, and he was determined to get rid of his minders. That meant he had to drink responsibly, and after six months, Robby withdrew them, handing Jimmy a bill for their services. As an executor of his own estate working with his brother Paul and Sam Reynolds he had begun to feel the responsibility that would be his permanently when the money was free and clear, and that bill hurt, it was the final straw, and as far as I know he's never had more than one drink at a time since then.
By the way he still has the Volkswagen Beetle. It has become a symbol of his maturity.