Nicaragua, South West of Managua
The Village had settled for the night, the quiet was broken only by the cry of a hungry infant. The boats were in, and the fishing nets hung to dry down by the beach. William Walsh had arrived yesterday from Managua on the rumor that there was construction work here. He had spent the day looking for work. He had the skills - he had once owned a construction business, but those days were gone. There was work alright but not for Anglos no matter how skilled.
The place had a smell about it. In fact, the whole country had the same smell. He had tried to identify it, and finally decided it was the smell of poverty. This place was Poor, and the capital p was no mistake. The beaten-up little fishing village was down a steep hill from a sizable ancient hacienda. Between the great house and the village, two and three bedroom cement and steel retirement homes were sprouting like weeds. The new dwellings were for the not so rich North Americans who sought to extend their retirement savings in the low cost south.
There would eventual be work for an experienced builder when the fools, buying those cement boxes, sought to fix the poor construction. But for now Bill Walsh had to find a way to live. He was down to his last few dollars as he entered the town's cantina. The place was just four bare walls and a smattering of tables and chairs. The bar was at the room's far end. To reach it, he had to pass two members of the town's constabulary, seated drinking Tequila. He tried to remain relaxed as he passed them. He didn't think anyone was still looking for him, but you never know.
As Bill approached the bar, he noticed a man quietly drinking at one end. As the man looked up, he observed that he was another Angelo. Taking a stool at the bar, Bill ordered a Dos XX and before he could draw his meager cash the other man called out: "On me Jose."
Moving over to where Bill had taken his seat the other man offered his hand.
"Always happy to meet another Northerner, "the fellow said.
Bill looked him up and down. The word for this guy was average. He was average height, average weight, average age maybe fifty, and the average amount of thinning hair--the average American guy. But he was not dressed like an average guy, from his expensive silk jacket to his Italian leather shoes this guy flashed money. The two were very different. Bill was younger, early forties, tall at six-foot-three—had a better build at two hundred and thirty pounds of hard-muscled flesh. He had worked at his father's construction business since his fifteenth birthday, at least part time and full time after his associate's degree from the local community college.
The other man could have been anything, but he was no physical laborer. He caught Bill sizing him up and smiled.
"My new friend, you and me aren't so dissimilar," the man in the silk jacket said. "For example Jose here can't tell us apart." Turning to the bartender, he said: "Jose can you remember my name?"
"Si, of course, senor," the barman replied but ventured no name.
"You see to them we Anglos all look alike. It's very hard to get remembered," silk jacket said.
Bill gave a nervous glance toward the policia before saying, "Maybe that is not a bad thing."
The other man laughed, "Oh my new friend you've nothing to fear, the Treaty of Extradition between the United States and Nicaragua was signed in 1901. Back then this was a prosperous piece of the world. I think that's why the US sent the marines to occupy it. The crimes you're guilty of did not even exist at that time. People would have laughed at the idea of arresting a man for such offenses."
Bill felt a little resentment towards the other man's smug attitude. "How would you know what I might have done?"
The other man just shook his head. "My friend you think your story is unique, but it's an all too common tale that the white men around here can tell," he said. Then raising an eyebrow he continued,
"She was a cheerleader, a beauty queen, or just the prettiest girl in town. When you met her, she was younger than you but not all that much. She was not so young anymore, late twenties or early thirties; she had as the New Yorker's say been around the block and more than once. You were flattered when she came on to you. You're a big good looking guy, but kind of shy and not good with the opposite sex. So here's this beauty coming on to you and the next thing you're married and happy as shit."
"Well time goes by, and there are a couple of kids and then you discover she's messing around. You see she got the home and the family she wanted so why does she need you. That's when the pain starts, and you find that the women have got themselves a nice system. They get child support, spousal support, the mortgage and their car paid, and you get nothing. So she gets to fuck her boyfriend while you pay for it. Visitation with the kids-- well that's a joke."
"One day you have had enough of working and slaving so she can play, and you take a runner. You head south and end up here, the last stop, broke and looking for work. You'll find it eventually, but it will be a long hard struggle."
Bill would have liked to pop the guy in that smile of his, but the bastard was right. He had everything but the color of her hair and eyes.
"I didn't think it was that obvious," Bill said with sadness in his voice.
The other man leaned in put his left hand on Bill's shoulder and said:
"I have a story to tell you, but first—Jose bring us a bottle of the Patron tequila and two glasses."
My story begins with a fellow just like us. Aston Phillips was a fellow just like us. You may ask what kind of name is Aston; well it's a family name which came down from his grandfather who founded the Phillips law firm in a small town in Northern New York. It was a one-lawyer Law Firm and had been so since Aston's father had retired. "Al" as people called him made a good if modest living doing estates and corporate filings for small firms. He was a good competent lawyer. Not flashy, but well liked and a regular around the surrogate's court. His troubles began with an oil change.
"Bit late on the oil change, aren't you Mr. Phillips?" said Tom of Tom's Foreign Auto.
Aston Phillips had brought in the wife's two year old Honda Odyssey for an oil change.
"What do you mean Tommy? It's only been three months," Aston said. His father had drilled into his head that they were lawyers, and a smart man gave the other man his due. You maintain your vehicles by giving the mechanic his due, change the oil every three months and every 3000 miles.
"She's at 4,500 additional miles Al," said Tommy.
Well, wasn't that odd, where could Doris be driving to add that kind of mileage? Al had switched cars with Doris that morning to bring the Odyssey into the shop. Otherwise, he would have been driving his Accord. Al's father swore by Fords, but Al had switched to the boring if more dependable Hondas
Never mind he needed to be at Court. The case of the State of New York against the Richland estate was called at 10:17 a.m. The Phillips law firm had represented Stephen Richland, the founder and chief operating officer of Highland Oil until his retirement. He and his wife Connie were great friends of Al's father. The Richland family was wealthy but unfortunate. Their only daughter Sharon Richland had married James Allen, Mr. and Mrs. Allen were killed in an auto accident. Their son Peter Allen was eleven at the time. As he grew, he developed a drug problem and the associated run-ins with the law in a state with extremely harsh drug laws. At some point, Peter skipped for points south.
Steve Richland died first, his estate passed to his wife Sara, who in turned left everything to her grandson Peter Allen. That was five years ago and Al had searched desperately for Peter ever since Sara's death.
"Your honor this estate has been open for seven years." Margaret Sharpe began before Al jumped in to correct her.
"No! Your honor this is the estate of Sara Richland not Stephen. Sara died only five years ago."
"Your honor the state has been patient, but with no heirs here."
Judge Macklin looked down from his high bench. He was a rather short man and had raised the ancient Surrogate's bench a half foot to make it more impressive. He was not a martinet and he liked to think he had a kind soul.
"Al have there been any developments since last month on locating this heir?" the Judge asked.
Al was ready for this. "Judge as you know I traced him to Mexico City and then Guatemala. Finally, my private investigator tracked him to Nicaragua. At that point, I had to look for a new PI since the firm I was using didn't cover that country. I'm hopeful of obtaining news very soon," Al said.
"All right one more adjournment of thirty days," said Judge Macklin.
Maggie Sharpe was not happy, and she would have been incensed if she had an accurate accounting of this estate. When Steve Richland died, he left an estate of about ten million. When Sara died, it had risen to about twelve. But that was five years ago, and Al had not done what he was supposed to. Proper administration said he should liquidate the assets and reduce them to cash, but at the time interest rates were in the toilet, but Oil prices were on the rise. Highland Oil was a takeover target when that happened the estate that was principally stock in Highland Oil vastly increase and increased again when there was another takeover that was followed by another. The estate now held over one million shares of Exxon Mobile at a price of over one hundred dollars a share.
.... There is more of this story ...