It’s raining heavily. I sincerely do wish the setting wasn’t so clichéd but this is England after all and it can’t possibly be helped. I glance out the window. The manor grounds are covered in complete darkness. There’s a brief flash of lightning and the rain comes down even harder. It’s as if nature knows. Tears, one could say. A small chuckle almost escapes my lips.
I turn back to the room. It’s dark except for the light burning fireplace and a few candles. There are two uniformed maids at the door. Mrs Lyle and a younger one. They were watching the doctor leaning over an old man lying on a huge canopy bed. I turn my attention to him and watch as he takes a frail skinny hand and feels for a pulse. The doctor looks up at me and nods. I completely don’t know what he means by it. Nodding at me won’t help Sir Rodenbach.
The old man is Sir Alastair Rodenbach. The world’s richest and most recognised man. He’s been many things throughout his life, soldier, adventurer, inventor, media mogul, millionaire, politician, philanthropists but today, today Sir Rodenbach is a dying man and dying men need a good solicitor.
I pride myself on being close to being a good solicitor. Humility, I have learnt is necessary in my kind of work. That and an expressionless face.
Wagner wades into the room from somewhere. Sir Rodenbach’s favourite of the opera’s. Mrs Lyle must have put a record in the next room. How motherly of her. When my father lay dying in the hospital, mother still found the time to watch her soaps on the telly.
Sir Rodenbach lifts his finger and beckons to me. I walk to the bed and look down at the man. He didn’t speak but his eyes moved to the direction of the side drawer. I opened it and inside was an envelope. I knew my instructions. Taking the envelope, I stopped for a minute. Maybe I should say something. Condolences perhaps. How utterly inappropriate. I walk out the door without giving a look at the face of a client I’ve had for decades.
I found them waiting in the living room. An odd group they were, the three of them. Ms Annabelle Summers, reserved and beautiful, sitting on the edge of her chair. Mr Thomas Wilkinson, grey and heavy, standing by the fireplace. Then young Calvin Blanc, looking in awe at the surroundings he was in. Ms Summers saw me first and gave a nod of recognition. I ignored it. I gave a cough. I needed their attention. They all looked at me. No one said a word. It was going to be an interesting night.
‘Gentlemen. Lady. Ms Summers and Mr Wilkinson, you already know me well but for the sake of Mr Blanc, I shall make my introductions. My name is Bernard Walker. I am a solicitor from Collins, Darcy and Bennet. Sir Alastair Rodenbach has asked me and all of you here for the reading of a special will. Are you here present of your own free will?’
All three give a nod. I open the envelope and discard its contents onto a table. Three old silver coins and a piece of paper. The most prized possessions of Sir Rodenbach. I look at the others. None of them looks surprised. So they know what they’re getting themselves into. I take the piece of paper and begin to read.
The last will and testament of Sir Alastair Rodenbach.
All my money has been equally divided among my ex-wives and the children they have borne me and Mrs Lyle will receive the house so none of you are going receive any money.
I will however, give you something better. I think.
Three silver coins. Sestercii’s to be exact. One of the currency’s of the ancient Roman world. These however were made special.
The Sestercii were forged by Caesar, Crassus and Pompey when they were the most powerful men in Rome. These coins were said to have given them their power. I am the first man since Augustus to have owned them all but each of you here, will receive one.
To Annabelle Summers, I give the Sesterces Potentia. Made for Julius Caesar. It gives the owner power.
To Thomas Wilkinson, I give the Sesterces Opulentia. It gives the owner great wealth.
To Calvin Blanc, I give the Sesterces Gloria. It gives the owner fame and great renown.
The Sestercii will give these gifts to you. I owned them all so I had all the gifts but I have learnt that these gifts are never free. In order for each coin to work, the owner must actively take what the coin is supposed to give them from others.
The owner of Potentia in order to get power must make others feel powerless. The owner of Opulentia in order to get wealth must steal from others and the owner of Gloria in order to get fame or recognition must deny other’s fame and recognition.
I am not going to end this with pleadings for forgiveness. I know I do not deserve them. One thing I will leave you with is this. If I had to do to all of you what I did all over again. I would. Now think on that before you take these coins.
Sir Alastair Rodenbach. CBE
Complete nonsense. I came to do a job and I did it. Time to go home to the missus and the kids. I began to walk away but the Ms Summers spoke.
‘That’s it then? You’re not curious why I would accept anything from him? I would even be here?’ She asked as she took the coin Potentia in her hands.
‘No ma’am.’ I answered hoping she wasn’t going to make a fuss.
‘Always efficient Mr. Walker.’
‘I would like to think so, Ms Summers. I need to go.’ I said with finality. I wanted to leave. She grabbed my hand. Hard.
‘No, you don’t. You’ll wait to hear what I have to say.’
‘Ms Summers, forgive me for the bluntness but it is necessary. What would make you think I would care?’
‘Even after what he did to me?’
Mr Wilkinson looked up at this.
‘What he did to you. He not me. Ms Summers. Please let go of my arm.’
Mr Wilkinson walked over to us, straight up to me in fact. His breath heavy with gin and whisky.
‘Don’t think I haven’t remembered you. He’s little handy man. You’ll listen to her. Nice and proper, you will or else.’
The man was a brute. It’s time like these that I regret having worked for Sir Rodenbach. The people who thought that piling their hatred for the man on his solicitor made them feel better. It couldn’t be helped. I stayed markedly in one place. Young Calvin Blanc ignored us. He was busy looking at old photographs of Sir Rodenbach. Mr Wilkinson sat on a chair, leaving the diva of the moment standing in the centre of the room holding her coin.
‘He never had sex with me you know. He just liked to strip me naked and then watch me…I was little then. I think five or six. My mother worked under Ms Lyle as a cleaner in this house. I remember running through this house, my mother’s voice chiding me for the chaos I was causing. I remember how I loved exploring the manor grounds. Every crook and corner, a new magical world that belonged to me…I also remember him always watching me. He was younger then. I knew my mother worked for him. I remember how I fervently hoped he could be my daddy.’
Why was she bringing up this mess again. She was a grown woman, surely she was gone and beyond such. Mr Blanc stopped looking at pictures and was now paying attention.
‘He called me to his office once. I went running. I was always running. He closed the door and told me to remove my clothes…I was little then…I didn’t understand so I just did. Then he would sit back and just watch me. He did this to me for five years. I never told my mother, he gave her a raise and a new job. He even paid for my law school. Mother insists that I owe everything to him…I felt so powerless then when he would strip me and even when he stopped. Do you know what that feels like? It felt…It feels like your nothing. I never want to fell like that again. Power. That’s what I want and if I have to take from others, then I will as long as this coin prevents me from ever being so powerless.’
She ended with a shake then she gripped the coin tightly in her hands. Sir Rodenbach had his deviant tastes but at least he didn’t touch her. There was nothing dramatic about it. Mr Wilkinson was shaking his head. Ms Summers sat back down. Mr Wilkinson began to speak.
‘How could you work for that man?’
I gave a shrug.
Mr Wilkinson looked around the living room.
‘I wonder how much of all these stuff was paid for by my invention. Little known fact, I came up with the idea for the new technological upgrades for the camera’s that are the basis of Rodenbach Technologies. That’s right me.’
He thumped his chest like a gorilla. It still surprised me that he had come up with the upgrades.
‘I remember walking into the bastards office with my ideas. I remember how he said that he liked them and how we would work together and make millions. I was young then. Married with a baby on the way. I was so happy. I waited and I waited and then the next thing I knew, Sir fucking Rodenbach was announcing to the world how his upgrade, his fucking upgrade would revolutionize the camera industry. He stole my idea and made millions from it. I could do nothing. I couldn’t even hire a fancy solicitor like yourself to fight my battles for me. The worst part is that I’ve worked hard all my life, barely spent time with my family and I have nothing while his royal arseness just sat back, did nothing and made millions. I’m old. My children don’t know me nor I them. The least I could give them is money and if this thing gave it to that bastard, it will give it to me. Who do I bloody have to steal from?’
Mr Wilkinson lifted the coin in his hands and gazed up at it. There was a manic look on his face. Suddenly Mr Blanc began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and laughed. He tossed the coin in the air and caught it.
‘My father was a right old asshole.’
This caught my attention. So Sir Rodenbach kept secrets even from me. A bastard son. How inappropriate. How clichéd.
‘My father never recognized me as his son. He met my mother when she was young. He slept with her and I came along. She was so in love with him. She actually thought that giving birth to me, would make him marry her. She was wrong. He denied paternity and warned her that if she spoke to anyone, he would ruin her life. She didn’t. He did however give me my name. Blanc. Nothing. Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? Imagine what it must be like to a little boy, You’re mother tells you that your father is one of the greatest men on the planet but when you tell you’re friends, they laugh at you. A tabloid got wind of it and published it. It was huge. He came to my mother’s house and commanded her to give a press conference stating that I was not his son. He didn’t even bother with me. My mother went on live television and basically told the world that she was a whore…I could continue with this sad tale but it’s been heard before. It tends to get boring, I know, I have my share of unrecognised bastards. This coin gives you fame by not recognizing others. by being selfish right? Well that will be easy. I’m an artist.’
He ended with a chuckle and simple walked out the room as he whistled a an up beat tune. The others began to follow.
‘I believe none of you will be attending the funeral tomorrow?’
Ms Summers gave a laugh and stepped out with Mr Wilkinson. Well it seems only Mrs Lyle would be attending the funeral.
I walked back to Sir Rodenbach’s bedroom to leave Mrs Lyle some final instructions. I walked in to find Mrs Lyle Kolding a piece of paper which she promptly gave to me.
‘Gave me the house. Bless that man’s soul. People will say what they will say but he was the nicest man I ever did meet.’
‘What’s this?’ I asked her.
‘Sir Rodenbach left you that. I got to go and have a good cry.’
Mrs Lyle walked out. I opened the envelope to find another silver coin with a paper.
Good old Bernie.
You’ve worked for me for ages.
I haven’t forgotten that.
There aren’t just three coins but actually four. Caesar had one more made in secret. Fortuna. Luck.
I give it to you. The rules that apply to the other three do not apply to this one. It is my greatest possession and now it is yours.
I looked at the coin. Wonderful workmanship. I walked to the bed and removed the sheets. Sir Rodenbach’s serene dead face looked back at me. Taking the coin, I put it inside his mouth. I covered him again and stepped back.
‘You have it sir. You’ll probably need it more than I will where you’re going.’