A Tale for the Modern Attention Span
The following morning the three Bolts were again gathered at the breakfast table. All wore the same expressions as the day before but said nothing, until a telephone’s ring broke the silence. Viveka and Daedalus looked toward the phone in the corner of the room, but neither made a motion to answer it. Only when the ring sounded again did they realize it wasn’t coming from that phone.
Steel Bolt abruptly folded the Business Section and reached into his breast pocket—causing his brother and sister to exchange pointed glances. That’s because the cell phone in Steel’s breast pocket is dedicated to making and taking calls from only one person: Dante Inferno. (Dante being the man who handles Steel’s needs when it comes to business of an illicit nature: corporate espionage, surveillance, graft and the like. Given the clandestine nature of his work, calls from Dante are rare—but they always have serious implications.)
“Hello Dante.... Oh, really.... Okay.... Is that right?... Hah, that’s funny.... So, your men have taken care of that already?... Good.... Yes.... Thank you, Dante. Let me know if there are any further developments.... Okay.... Goodbye.” Steel folded the phone and then announced, “Earl Vandermere is dead. Congratulations Viveka, you’re a widow.”
“That was Dante calling from Istanbul. They found Earl in a room at some kind of public bathing facility. They’re not sure what killed him, but he weighed over 400 pounds so it could have been any number of things.” Steel laughed; “The funny thing is, they didn’t want to move him until they’d talked to everyone, but they couldn’t find his valet Andreas anywhere. After searching for hours they finally went ahead and rolled Earl off the bed. Guess what? There was Andreas. He’d been underneath him the entire time! He was dead too; suffocation.” Steel either didn’t notice or he disregarded Viveka’s horrified countenance. “Earl died in a Turkish bath house with a Greek boy. I wonder if they French kissed? At 400 pounds you can bet he was hungry. Get it? Hungary,” Steel laughed. He looked at Daedalus to see if he was sharing in the joke. He wasn’t.
Slightly embarrassed by his own attempt at humour, Steel stopped talking. But the silence lasted only a second.
It was broken by a wail from Viveka; “Steel, how can you laugh about the death of my husband? The man I loved.”
That bit of hyperbole prompted disdainful looks from both brothers.
“Viveka, don’t even bother,” Steel said. “Everyone knows you couldn’t stand him. I’d be willing to bet all I have that the union was never consummated.”
“But, you don’t understand” she sniffled, “we always shared a special bond—”
“Oh Viv, stop blubbering,” said Daedalus, “You didn’t love him and you know it.”
Realizing that crying wasn’t getting her anywhere, she looked at Steel angrily: “If you knew I couldn’t stand him, why did you force me to marry him?”
“Hmm. Daedalus, I’d be interested to know if you have any theories as to why Viveka was encouraged to marry Mr. Vandermere?” After his brother’s flirtation with lucidity the previous day, Steel was eager to test Daedalus.
“Well, I never really thought about it before, but I guess it made sense for a few reasons. You hoped a marriage would bring some stability into Viveka’s life. This was back when she was gobbling handfuls of prescription drugs, Prozac, Valium, Demerol, Percocets, Vicodin, etc., like they were trail mix. And on Earl’s part, he was one of the world’s richest industrialists who hoped a marriage, even a token one, would deflect the attention of certain members of the media. I seem to recall there were rumours he was going to be ‘outed’, as they say.”
“Very good, big brother. I’m nothing but impressed.”
But Daedalus wasn’t done. “Of course to make it truly worth his while, you must have had to offer him something else. I’m sure countless women would have been happy to marry him. Why Viveka?” A contemplative look crossed his face. “Perhaps—”
“All right, that’s enough speculation,” said Steel.
“Maybe I didn’t love him,” Viveka acknowledged with sudden fire in her green eyes, “but I did marry him. Do you know what that means, Steel?”
“What, sweetheart?” Steel replied indulgently.
“It means I’m getting out of here!” she said. “With all of the late Earl’s money, I can buy a house of my own. Fuck that,” she added, flouting Steel’s rule forbidding profanity at the breakfast table, “I can buy a country of my own!”
“Oh, Viveka,” Steel responded soothingly, “I was afraid you were going to assume that.”
“Assume what?” she asked.
“That you are heir to the Vandermere fortune.”
“I didn’t say sole heir. Maybe Earl had some other people or organizations he wanted to give some money to, what do I care? As his widow I’ll certainly get the lion’s share.” She said that last part as if hoping someone would agree with her.
“I’m sorry, Viveka, but in actuality you are getting no share.”
“I am so sorry,” Steel said with such compassion you almost would have thought he was sorry, “but Earl left all his money to someone else.”
“One other person?!”
“This may be a little painful for you, Viveka. Perhaps you should sit down.”
“For fuck’s sake, who?”
Steel glanced over at Daedalus. He too was anxious to hear the answer, though he was pretty sure he knew who was getting Earl Vandermere’s money.
“You see, Earl left his money to—”
Continue reading: Episode 8: A Bad Heir Day