Copyright© 2015 by Old Man with a Pen
The odds of finding a single instance of scientific magic may be settled by the number of occurrences divided by the population of the earth at the time of the occurrences. Naturally, it is necessary for said occurrences to be revealed ... If it's not written down, it never happened.
Since we only know of one occurrence and the population at the time was seven billion the odds are 1:7,000,000,000. Since, on this particular occasion, the first instance was accompanied by a second bit of scientific magic, are the odds reduced to 1:3,500,000,000 or they magnified to 1:14,000,000,000?
What are these instances? A sapphire ring and a time travel watch.
Neither of said occurrences were predictable. Both were accidental, impossible, improbable but coincidental and completely uncalled for.
The house had been unoccupied for one hundred and seventy three years and, as such, the abode of many indigent ... and not so indigent ... who lived, roosted, hid or played in the house. The house was unoccupied because the heir had to survive until his ... or her... 25th birthday. None had.
The family was singularly unlucky in survivorship. Fortunately, there was a little hanky-panky that resulted in formal shotguns ... white with chrome ... and unfriendly judges. The first wedding was recorded ... the others were the stuff of legend.
"Say I do, boy."
"All ye here, being of sound mind, stand witness that the young feller on the floor said I do before the unfortunate accident." The glare from the judge, best man, maid of honor and father of the crying bride convinced the assembled throng of Frogmorton, Virginia ... if the entire population of seventeen and a half people can be called a thong ... er ... throng ... that they did, indeed, hear young Jordan Flintkote utter the magic words that bound said Flintkote to Iris Shingle in Holy Matrimony.
Mrs. Flintkote, having yet to reach the thirteen years old age of consent, went home with her daddy Shingle and popped out... 7 months later ... a bouncing baby boy. Iris, was ... statuesque ... if five feet tall can be considered statuesque ... compared to her four and half foot tall elder sister, she was. She was also bounteous, mule ugly, and ... well ... you get the idea. Clocks had been known to stop when she requested the time.
Over the years, the Flintkote family name was continued by a series of unfortunate demises. Be it by fire, feast, famine, wars or pestilences the primogenitor of the sole male child was almost certain to meet with an unfortunate end before he turned 25. Nine generations were born, lived and died in that Virginia valley town. The tenth generation was born in 1943 and survived til 1968 when he was wounded in a small engagement east of Kontum and north of An Khe during the Tet offensive. It was the wound of the million dollar kind. He was sent to Saigon flown out of Tan Son Nhut, Saigon and then to Clark Airbase, Luzon, PI to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to Wake Island Airfield, to Hickam AFB, Hawai'i, to Travis AFB California to Virginia and Walter Reed Medical. After extensive surgery and physical therapy he was discharged, with 100% disability ... never to be a father.
The town being what it was ... very small ... where it was ... a small uninteresting valley in western Virginia ... with very little to choose from as far as prospective brides ... there being the aforesaid seven ... and a half families and not yet mentioned ... two last names ... Flintkote and Shingle. Sergeant John Flintkote was home. On his arrival, the Sheriff met him at the gas station and escorted him to the only lawyer, a Mr. Shingle.
"What we have here, John ... I may call you John? Thank you, you are very good. John, we have the last will and testament of one Jakob Flintkote, who died in 1779."
He broke the wax seal of the yellowed envelope and, affixing a pair of glasses to his nose, read ... with many a halt and stop, groan and what the hell is that ... the following.
I leave to my heir or the heir of his body, the house on Masters hill and its appurtenances, including the amount, plus interest, deposited in the Frogmorton Bank, to be distributed on his 25th birthday.
Being of sound mind and body this date 1779
Signed X (Jakob Flintkote. His Mark.)
Lawyer Shingle removed his glasses, fished in his coat pocket, retrieved a sodden florid paisley handkerchief and wiped his freely perspiring brow. The bright red kerchief was the only spot of color in an otherwise drab room.
"The bank is still in existence ... odd to have a flourishing bank in a town with a saloon, a gas station, and seven and a half families ... Do you have your paperwork?"
John produced his DD214, military ID, military drivers license, expired Virginia Drivers License and FAA pilots license. He had yet to speak a word.
"Ah, yes. These will do fine," said Shingle.
The Sheriff nodded.
Mr. Shingle returned the papers to John and stood, "Let's go to the bank," he said. He hoisted his large brown leather briefcase from beside the desk and slung it over his shoulder by its heavy and wide leather strap.
The Frogmorton Bank was approached easily ... next door ... a single teller graced the barred station. She pressed a button and the bank president entered from a room in the back.
"Counselor Shingle, Sheriff, and who is this fine looking young man?" He turned to the young woman in the tellers cage, "Miss Shingle, is this not a fine young man?"
"Daddy," she blushed.
He laughed at her discomfort. She blushed a deeper shade of red.
"This is Mr. John Flintkote, Banker Shingle, here to see about his inheritance."
"Oh my, I'll need to see identification and proof of antecedence."
Lawyer Shingle set the briefcase on the desk and produced copies of assorted papers from the clerk of the court.
"Do you wish to start from the front of the documents or from the back?"
Shingle presented a registered photocopy of the original note of deposit and the interest rate guaranteed from date.
"Where is the original?"
"State Capitol Historical Society, as you well know ... you vouched for it's authenticity."
The note was one of the few records preserved from that period after the war.
Certificate of Live Birth, Marriage License, Death Certificate followed after Certificate of Live Birth, Marriage License, Death Certificate, ten times. The last set was missing a marriage and death.
The photocopies attested to the passage of time by the ratty and folded condition of the originals.
"I had no idea those documents existed," said Banker Shingle. He was sweating now.
Certain irregularities in bookkeeping were about to be exposed.
Over the century and a half, Ducks and Drakes had been played with the interest from the Flintkote account. Banker Shingle himself drove a nice car bought with monies illegally withdrawn from the Flintkote interest.
Lawyer Shingle knew, of course he did; Banker Shingle was his younger brother. Lawyer Shingle had known of the encroachments of his younger sibling and highly disapproved. Counselor Shingle was an oddity ... an honest lawyer ... with old school ethics.
The Shingle Family had always owned the bank ... had swindled untold thousands without a care. There would never be a Flintkote heir ... they had always died before age 25 ... it was a Flintkote family tradition.
But, here he was, the Heir that never happened ... and a decorated combat veteran of that conflict that had caused the Flintkote fortune, so wisely invested in the blood of the sons of victory, to proliferate and flourish. Every Military Contractor had Flintkote money invested in the war ... wars ... since 1812.
Sure, there was plenty of money ... it was just ... that... 3% of the increase, a lousy 3% ... wasn't enough. Not when the original £2200 in good English gold of the realm had prospered so. It had been in the family, so to speak, so long that they considered it their own.
Who did this upstart think he was?
Flintkote ... that's who.
All good things must come to an end. The banker begrudged every penny in taxes and upkeep of the grounds of that fucking monstrosity on Master's Hill ... never mind that the banking side of the Shingle Family had tried to buy the place after every new election.
Lawyer Shingle said, "We need to see the accounts." He opened the briefcase again.
In later years, John admitted that he felt sorry for Banker Shingle every time Lawyer Shingle opened that damn briefcase. This time the paperwork was a court order demanding access upon presentation.
One hundred and fifty years of accounting makes for a lengthy day, John had learned to walk again just a month or so ago and standing or sitting HURT!
"Counselor Shingle, Sheriff," he said. "I am weary and wounded. Represent me in this please. I need a nap."
Regardless of social mores, he left. Walking next door to pick up his car was almost more than his legs could take.
"No pain, no gain," his therapist had said.
I hope the fuck I gain a lot from this, he thought. I hurt like a muthafucka.
Frogmorton, Virginia had not been noticed or noted on any map until the Appalachian Trail was envisioned by Benton MacKaye and, by fits and starts, the rest of the trail was championed by and added to by many others.
Frogmorton was not only on the Trail, but the main hiking trail went right through town ... generally, without notice by the hikers. The town was that small.
So, I own the house on Master's Hill, John thought, How about that. Not a question ... but it did draw a chuckle.
The jeep trail into and out of the valley was going to beat his Chevrolet to death. One thing led to another as that is the way of human life and he decided to see if the place had a porch he could sleep on.
Over the last 173 years, few Flintkotes had survived long enough to rent a house ... let alone pay for one. The newest Mrs. Flintkote moved back to her father's Shingle residence where the child was raised.
Flintkote in name but Shingle in raising.
The porch was sound, John's sleep was not. He was disturbed by sounds during the night, odd squeakings and dire moans ... more than once. The last straw was when a Shingle teen stumbled over his sleeping bag and landed face to face with a bearded stranger in the bag. John thought 'Cong' and started to react when the youth screamed Bear! and took off like a rocket.
Bear! was similar to shaking a bee hive. Kids evacuated the house ... except for the halfwit ... he evacuated and then evacuated.
I'll bet the door is unlocked thought John, and tried the door. It opened.
Smells like shit in here.
There was a bed and, mostly fresh from the wars, John wasn't fussy. He'd slept in worse.
Two times in the night, girls voices woke him.
"Billy?" That was a sultry alto and the name throbbed with unrequited lust and longing.
"Damn, I don't suppose? ... No."
Probably, just about pre dawn, a second voice spoke.
"If that slut in in that bag with you, Bill, I'm going to cut off your tallywhacker."
"Bill left ... she did too," That'll teach 'em for using my house.
"You smell it too?"
The door slammed with such force that it jarred him awake.
"I'm up," John said to no one.
And he was.
Although he'd been in the house at least a hundred times as a teenager, he thought it might behoove him to have a closer look. It was his now, the attorney said so. He pulled his issue MX-991/U, angle head, flashlight out of his coat pocket and shined it at the so recently abused front door. The circle of light revealed two things: The door was still attached; the house had electricity. There was a block of two button light switches.
He swept the circle of light over the floor. It was remarkably clean. Scuffed and a little dusty but not trashed, like one would expect of a house older than the Revolutionary War.
A testament to the remoteness of the valley; the place had lived through the War of 1812 and the Civil War. In Virginia, no less.
A simple push of a button revealed that the power was on ... that allowed his combat trained hearing to hear the hum of a refrigerator somewhere at the back of the old building.
Opening the fridge door did not expose any lab experiments. It was clean. However the kitchen counter was a hodgepodge of various and sundry empty, mostly empty, partly empty and a few sipped out of beer bottles. A search revealed an empty thirty two gallon galvanized Regal two handed trash can with lid by the backdoor. It was soon filled with empties. Hey! Nickel deposit ... worth picking up. There was also a light weight Regal 12. That he used to search out the empties scattered through the two upper stories. The stairway to the attic summoned but he ignored it.
The last bedroom ... er ... closet ... had a door on both ends. The far door opened on nothing. A blank wall.
A quick tour of the third floor showed him that there was nothing on that floor that connected with the fake door.
Interesting-er. More interesting?
Talking to himself he said, by way of a reminder, "Meet with my lawyer at noon."
He loaded the brimming trashcan in the trunk, tying it down with the ever present parachute cord that every soldier found so very useful in camp and on patrol.
"I gotta get a jeep," he said as he bounced down the road ... trail ... two-track to the meeting.
The saloon received the bottles with joy; the count stood at 250 bottles.
"Damn kids never bring 'em back. Shells are fifty cents each, if you find any," said the proprietor, one Sammy Shingle. He counted out twelve dollars and fifty cents slapped it in John's hand and set a fresh drawn glass of beer on the bar. He took back twenty-five cents.
"We get a lot of hikers since the trail ... you don't look like a hiker." It was a query.
"John Flintkote. I was born here," John was surprised when Sammy gave back a dime.
"Draught is fifteen cents to locals." Sammy then said, "Doin?"
"Inheritance," said John. "You might pass it around that I'm living in the house on Master's Hill. I'm a vet and I get uncomfortable with people sneaking around."
"I'll tell my boy." He turned to the back room door and hollered, "Billy!"
Sure enough, Billy TwoGirls.
"Billy. This here is John Flintkote," he said.
John said, "We've met."
"Last night ... on the porch."
"Your girlfriends ... as in two of them ... showed up after you left."