The man stood near the front door of the old bank building. It had been a bank for as long as anyone could remember, that most of the “old money” in the town still used. Bill Baxter, the branch manager, had worked at the bank for many years.
This morning, Bill was waiting for his 10:30 appointment to show up. It was still early so He ducked out the front door to stand in the sun before his meeting began.
The man meeting Baxter drove around the corner from the bank looking for a parking spot. Mid morning downtown was hit or miss for finding a spot. As he crept along , he found one close enough to the bank, where he didn’t have to walk too far. His leg was bothering him alittle this morning, as it always did since the accident when the weather was going to change. As he got out of the truck, he could make out the face of Bill Baxter, who had contacted him to come in.
Baxter watched the man approach slowly, and as he started to climb the stairs he called out to him.
“Hey Griff..you need me to come down there and carry your ass up here?
“I’d like to see you try.. you would probably pass out before we got halfway up.” Griff replied smiling.
“Maybe so. You look like you are putting on weight anyway.” Baxter laughed.
“You came outside to wait for me? This must be serious.” Griff said.
“Just working on my tan. Don’t flatter yourself. ‘Baxter smiled.
“Cmon in and we will get started. Got someone waiting on us.”
As they entered Baxter’s office, Griff was surprised to see Tim Fargus waiting for them. He knew Tim from school, as well as Baxter.
“Hey Griff. How are you?” Tim said as he stuck out his hand for Griff.
“Hey Tim. Doing well thanks.”
Baxter interrupted. “Let’s sit down and we will explain things.”
Griff sat at a small conference table. Between them were 2 items on the table, covered by a cloth. One was long and low.The other item was smaller, but there was no telling what it was
Baxter spoke. “Well, Griff, I think we should have a quick drink before we begin.” He reached behind him and grabbed a bottle of bourbon, and 3 glasses.
Griff replied, “Dude, it’s 10:30 in the morning..”
‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and you are going to need this” Baxter grinned as he poured.
“To the past, old friends, and new beginnings.” Baxter said quietly.
The 3 men each took a sip and sat quietly as Griff pondered what he meant. He took another sip and said, “Ok Baxter, what’s this about?”
Fargus began. “Griff, in this town there is a group of people who more or less run things. As you know, Jonas Fairchild was one of this group.”
Baxter watched as anger flashed in Griff’s eyes. “Fairchild. The old man was a bastard. Son of a bitch was crazy too.”
“Well, be that as it may, Mr. Fairchild is one of the reasons we are here today.” Fargus started to go on, but Griff stopped him.
“ I dont want to hear anything about anything that bastard is involved in. He almost killed me twice!” Griff said through clenched teeth. When he saw Griff around town, the old man just stared with that look of rage. Griff knew the man hated him, so was confused as to what he was doing in a bank talking about the old man.
“Yes, well, continuing on...Mr. Fairchild, before his death last year, asked us to meet with you to clear the air, as it were. He has willed certain items to you, which we will discuss today”. Fargus explained.
“Clear the air?...”Griff asked, now clearly confused.
“Go on Tim.” Baxter said.
“As you know, Mr. Fairchild was a wealthy man. His children Our business with you today is the last part of his final wishes. There is no chance for this to be contested by anyone, and after we finish here, you are free to do as you please with the items presented..” Fargus explained.
“Given how much he hated me, this should be interesting.” Griff said flatly.
“Continuing on. Griff, it will help if you read this letter from Mr. Fairchild, addressed to you.I can vouch for its authenticity.” Fargus said.
“Probably just wants to blame me for Callie again.” Griff said. “You read it.”
“Be that as it may Griff, my job here is to deliver the letter, and have you read it. If you refuse, I have been instructed to donate these items to various places.’ Fargus replied.
Griff sighed. On one hand, he had nothing but disdain for the old man. On the other he was curious. He reached for the letter.
‘“Before you read that, I have been instructed to give you this item” Fargus said, his hand hovering over the smaller of the 2 items on the table. Fargus pulled the cover off and Griff looked not sure if what he saw was real.
“What....how did...where in the world..” Griff’s voice trailed off. It had been many years and a lifetime ago since he had last seen it. Griff figured it was lost to the sands of time or packed away in a box for eternity along with the rest of Callie’s things.
‘You recognize this Griff?” Baxter asked.
“ Yeah. I do. I gave it to Callie on her 17th birthday. A week before the old man tried to kill me.” Griff sighed heavily, rubbing his sore leg absentmindedly.
The heart shaped jewelry box was a simple design, made out of silver plated metal. Griff had spent a fair amount on it, and Callie loved it when she opened the box from jewelry store. It was a modest gift for his girlfriend at the time. They had only been dating a short time, but Griff was taken with Callie. She was a tall blonde girl, and all a 17 yr old boy could wish for. She was popular at school, and had a line of guys wanting to date her. They met in town one afternoon when he was gassing up his old truck. She said hi to him and the rest, as they say, was history. Except fate had other plans. A few weeks into dating her, there were signs of trouble.
Griff shook his head and returned to the present, looking up, and reaching his hand out. “Fargus, let’s see what the old bastard has to say.”
“Yes, well, please understand, this will be somewhat of a shock for you. I am not really supposed to comment on attorney client matters, but this was, how can I put it?..Unusual, as you will see.” Fargus said.
“The old man was pretty strange, so it’s not surprising to me. He hated me, because of Callie, but who knows what was going on in his brain.” Griff said,
Griff took the letter from Fargus and unfolded it, unsure of what it might contain. It was 4 pages long, typed by Fargus, as the old man spoke. Griff’s hand shook alittle as he began to read.
As you are reading this letter, you are now aware that I have passed on from this life. I can imagine it makes you happy in some way to know this as we have had a contentious relationship over the years. There are reasons for this, which were probably never clear, although you may have assumed, somewhat correctly, that it was because of your relationship with Callie. While this is part of the reason I treated you as I did, it was not the only one.
When I was in my early 20s, and fresh out of college, I returned to our little town and set up shop to begin my journey, which would grow into what would become Fairchild Industries. I set about making a life for myself, and in the summer of one year, a few before you were born, I met a woman at a some community event I had gone to as part of my attempts to network with people. She was a black haired beauty who I knew of vaguely, as we attended the same school, but had never met. When I saw her again, I immediately fell in love with her smile, and kind eyes. We had a bit of a torrid affair for a few months, and ended up breaking up, sadly, because her father thought I wasn’t good enough for his daughter. I was devastated.”
Griff looked up and snickered, mumbling to himself.”At least you knew how it felt, you bastard.”
The two other men present just looked at him. Griff sighed, and continued reading.
“This devastation fueled my desire to be successful, and somehow prove that I was indeed ‘good enough’, and someday I would win back this woman of my dreams. But, alas, this never happened. She later began dating and married someone else, which again, devastated me. This time devastation turned to rage, and I swore to exact revenge on her father for ruining our life together. It took me years, and I was finally going to have my revenge, but the woman’s father died before I had a chance. He committed suicide when it was revealed his business was going under, thanks to my buying up his suppliers, and refusing to do business with him. I showed up at his funeral, to pay my respects, as most of the people in town did, but really it was to see the woman again. She was just as beautiful as I remembered. When I spoke to her and offered my condolences, I could see in her eyes that she somehow knew what I had done, and would never forgive me for it. All my planning, scheming, and hatred for a man who loved his daughter, was for nothing. My stupidity, and pride, and foolish thoughts of exacting revenge had doomed any chance of happiness I had with this woman. She deserved better than all my money and things could provide. Your mother was the love of my life, and I ruined that.”
Griff jumped up, knocking over his glass of whiskey.”My MOTHER??”
Fargus and Baxter moved quickly to shuffle items out of the way, while Griff stood staring in disbelief at the letter.
“Griff!, sit down!” Baxter hissed. “People are watching.” Baxter turned and smiled to the people in the lobby who had looked to see what was happening. He gave a little wave as if to say “All is fine. Nothing to see here.” . He produced some napkins and wiped up the spilled whiskey.
Griff slumped back into his chair. “My mom and Fairchild dated? I can’t believe it! She never told me that! The only time I remember her even mentioning him was when Callie and I started dating. She asked if the old man knew, and told me to watch out for him because he was not a good man. I asked her what she was saying, but she just said to be careful around him. I had no idea…”
“Well, whatever the reason, she appeared to be correct.” Fargus said. “ I guess the fact that they dated, and the things that ensued as a result, would point to this.”.
“What do you mean, ‘things that ensued’? You mean the accident? What happened to Callie? Or something else?” Griff asked, looking at Fargus.
“Yes, all of it, and more, that we will get to after you finish reading..” Fargus said pointing toward the letter.
Griff sighed and began to read again, mumbling to himself “...what now, ya crazy old bastard?....”
‘ I’m sure that comes as a great shock. But, I swear it’s the truth. She was all I hoped for in life. Not to be able to be with her was one of the few regrets I ever had in this life. I married Callies mother as a matter of convenience really. She was a decent match for me, but not the one I desired. I still carried the proverbial torch for your mother, and to this day even in my old age, there is still a part of this dying heart that belongs to her.
When you and Callie began dating, it was a painful reminder of what I had done to your mother, and her family. I was at first not concerned about it, but I could see that Callie was falling for you, and I had mixed emotions, I of course wanted my little girl to be happy, but also knew having you around would be a constant and painful reminder of what might have been. My feelings of despair turned to anger, which I directed toward you. My anger grew to a fevered pitch, and culminated with the accident, which you probably know was not entirely…”
“You son of a bitch!” Griff hissed.
“Keep it down.” Baxter said.
‘ I suppose in my warped way, I just wanted to scare you off, and then get back to my normal life, but I wasn’t thinking clearly, and was driven by my anger.
The only thing I can say at this late date is that I’m sorry, which I am sure rings a bit hollow, given the circumstances. It may comfort you to know that my actions also had a profound affect not only on you, but myself as well.
The scars left on you are very much like the scars left from my sins. You mostly recovered from the accident, but Callie is gone, and that too was because of me. If it’s any solace to you, some scars never heal. I have lived all these years with the guilt, and shame, and self inflicted scars. Death seems like a good alternative to living a moment longer in torment.
I have left you the only item of Callie’s that I have left, which you gave her. The heart shaped box became my prison of sorts I guess. In it are some additional items I want to give you as an apology for all I have taken from you. You did not deserve what you got from me in life, so I hope you will accept them upon my death. I can only hope they bring you some sort of peace. We all deserve that. Sadly, I will never find mine.”
“Well….that was…interesting…” Griff said, folding the letter.
“It’s not over yet.” Fargus replied, sliding the heart shaped box across the table.
Griff looked down at the box and ran a finger over it, almost afraid to touch it. He had a momentary vision of his finger touching the box and being jolted by electricity and his mind filling with all sorts of images of Callie, but that didn't happen. He had dreamed of Callie over the years, but it seemed that with each dream her face became cloudier. He was afraid that someday he wouldn’t see it at all.
Griff picked up the box and pulled the lid off. Inside the red velvet lined box were 2 items. One item Griff recognized immediately. It was an old Polaroid picture of him with Callie. He pulled out the picture and stared at it for a long moment. Callie and he had gone to a party at a friends house, and the picture was of the 2 of them, she in front, he with his cheek pressed to hers as he stood behind her, his arms around her, Callies long blonde hair blowing partially across her face, She was smiling, and her eyes were looking at the camera. Griff was grinning, and the picture captured how they were when they were together perfectly. Always smiling, and happy.
“Callie….”Griff whispered, running his finger over the smooth surface of the picture. Griff put the picture down and pulled out the second item out of the heart shaped box. It was a key,stamped with the number 618 on it.
Fargus cleared his throat.”Um, so Griff. That key opens the box on the table here..” as he removed the cover revealing an oblong box, with the number 618 stamped on it.
“ A safe deposit box?” Griff asked.
“One of a few the old man had here at the bank. “ Baxter replied.
“If you’ll open it Griff, we can continue.” Fargus said.
Griff stood up and looked at the box, torn between his contempt for the old man, and his curiosity. After a few moments, curiosity won and he inserted the key in the lock.
At first he didn’t comprehend what he was seeing as he reached in and pulled out a stack of 100.00 bills. He looked between Baxter and Fargus with his mouth hanging open. “What the hell…”
“ We have inventoried the contents of this box and 3 others, which are also yours. The total of what is contained in these boxes amounts to roughly 5 million dollars, Griff.” Fargus said.
“ Five…what??, you’ve got to be shitting me! “ Griff said alittle too loudly.
People in the lobby turned toward Griff, and he smiled and waved to them.
Baxter laughed. “Let’s finish this up. Lunch is on you, Griff”.
Griff looked down at the box again. “ crazy old bastard….You sure he wanted me to have all this?”
“Well, there’s more as you will find out.” Fargus replied. “This is just the start.”
“ Are you sure? Am I being Punk’d?” Griff asked looking around for cameras.
“it’s all yours Griff.” Fargus laughed.
Griff looked down at the box yet again, and his eyes roamed over the contents before stopping on the key again. “618…” he said, his voice trailing off…
“ the number significant to you?” Baxter asked,
“ 618” Griff repeated. “ My mother’s birthday.”
Griff picked up the picture of Callie.. She was smiling back at him.