Chapter 21: Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

The next day was Saturday. After waking up, I headed over to Mr. White’s house, informing Greta by phone that I was on my way. He met with me in his study, as usual.

“Good morning, Diggory. I’m so sorry about your mother,” White said from behind his desk.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

“I assume you’re here about the will?”

“Yes, sir. I might as well get this over with.”

“It’s a fairly simple situation. Your mother left everything to you, in the event that both she and your father were dead. Therefore, given your father’s instructions, you are now the sole owner of all their property and stock.”

I blinked. “I kind of expected she would leave some endowments for charities.”

“I was surprised about that too, when she wrote it. But she was quite insistent that she trusted you to use the money wisely. So, take that as you like.”

I nodded, thinking about it. I could indeed use the family wealth for a number of good causes. I’d already started in the past week, after all.

“So, here’s a list of your inheritance. It’s quite extensive; your mother had her family’s money. They were millionaires, you know, back in the day. Not much in comparison to your father, now, but back then quite impressive. Here you go.”

White handed over a small stack of paper. I started flipping through it. I hadn’t thought about it much when my father went missing, because I was only in charge of the property and not really the owner. But the Franklin family owned a lot.

The country house. The city penthouse. A villa in Italy, and a few beach houses in California, Florida and Costa Rica. The Franklin Building. Hotels. A pharmaceutical company. Farms. Office buildings in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Memphis, Boston… An insurance company, the investment brokerage, and stock in any number of other businesses. Exxon, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, IBM, Microsoft, and any number of commodities like gold, copper… The list seemed almost endless. My father had his fingers in a lot of pies. He even had stock in Apple to balance with Microsoft, Pepsi against Coke. He played all the angles.

“How did he do this?” I asked, glancing over my father’s properties.

“Quite often through using your mother’s name, or lawyers and proxies. He was very thorough, and very careful. Your father was a financial genius.” Old Man White smiled.

I shrugged and put the papers back on the table.

“Is there anything else?” I asked.

“Yes, this letter.” Mr. White handed over an envelope. I took it wordlessly and thanked him. We talked a short while longer, and I took my leave so I could make funeral arrangements.

I stopped at the funeral home and discussed the service details, all the time finding the conversation politely morbid. I blanked it from my thoughts and took a cab back to my apartment. About a block away I noticed a large crowd had formed outside my building. Just before we reached it, I recognized some news vans. It was the media.

“Keep driving,” I said to the cabbie, not wanting to speak to reporters just yet. I had him take me to the warehouse, where I hid in my office while I called a car service and a high profile security company. If I was going to be America’s Richest Heir on the news, I was going to have to act like it. Having bodyguards might not be much fun, but it was the best defence against media scrums, stalkers, and maybe (just maybe) terrorists.

I wondered if I could arrange a security detail for Calla? Would she consider that intrusive? I didn’t know how else to keep her safe and still see her. A detail for later, perhaps.

I pulled out my mother’s letter while I waited for the car service to arrive. I wondered what was inside. It was just a plain white envelope with my name on it, there was no outward indication of its contents. A letter about how she loved me and hoped I’d be okay? Maybe an apology for being an absent parent? Heck, it could have been a treasure map, for all the good speculation was doing me.

I grabbed a pen and carefully slit the envelope open with the tip. I pulled out the paper and started reading. I could literally feel my eyes bulge as my mind processed the words on the page, the contents completely shocking.

I had possessed no idea, no clue.

I didn’t know what to do with this information.

I didn’t know my parents at all.

And now I was alone.