Continued from last week...
A woman ushered Martha into the lawyer’s office and asked her to sit down. Oak paneling framed the room with wall-to-wall bookshelves on one side. The only furniture was a mammoth desk in the centre of the room with two large leather wing chairs on either side. A heavy-set man in his fifties sat behind the desk, immersed in a cell phone conversation. There was a computer on the desk, a file, a pen, a glass of water, and nothing else. Martha had put on make-up and she wore her black “interview suit,” but she still felt underdressed in the formal office environment. The man smiled at her reassuringly, but scrutinized her in a way that made her uneasy.
Everyone seemed pleased to see her—the receptionist, the assistant, and the lawyer. Surely, there’d been a mistake. She put her hand to her chest, trying to calm her racing heart. Her mouth was parched and she craved the glass of water sitting on the desk.
The lawyer set his phone down. “Well,” he said, smiling at Martha as if delighted in his superiority. “Do you know why you’re here, Ms. Grange?”
“No, sir,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.
His executive assistant entered the room carrying a silver tray with a pitcher of ice water and a pot of coffee. “Can I offer you something to drink?” she asked.
“Thank you, yes, some water would be fine,” Martha said. She gripped the glass with both hands.
The lawyer cleared his throat. “I will get right to the point.” He leaned back on his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “You have inherited some money.”
“It must be a mistake.” she said. “I don’t know anyone with much money.”
“No, Miss Grange, there is no mistake. You are definitely the beneficiary of a large sum indeed.”
Martha shook her head.
“We apparently had a mutual friend.”
She stared at the lawyer blankly.
“John told me you wouldn’t know his name. But he was sure you’d remember him. You met him a few months ago…found him in the gutter, he said.”
Martha gasped. “The old man.”
“A very rich old man.” The lawyer took a swig of coffee and leaned forward as if to share a confidence. “Your life will never be the same after today.”He pulled a paper from the file on his desk and held it between two fingers. “This is your ticket.”
Martha half expected someone to jump out from under the desk screaming, “Ha ha, jokes on you!”
“This is exciting for me,” the lawyer continued. “I have never had the pleasure of dispensing this kind of inheritance before.” Then, like a game show host, he pointed at her and said, “You, Martha Grange, are a multi-millionaire!”
“Apparently you made quite an impression on our friend, my dear. A big enough impression to leave you ten million dollars.”
Martha dropped her glass of water, spilling it on her skirt and on the carpet. She jumped up from the chair, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!”
“Never mind about the water. I know this is a shock. “No less of a shock for his family,” he said. “Sit down. I’ll read you John’s letter.”
The intent of this letter is to explain in writing why I have modified my will. As discussed, I am bequeathing ten million dollars of my estate to Martha Grange, the young woman whom I met on the street last November. This woman is not related to me nor does she know me beyond a chance encounter on that miserable fall day.
Having slipped on the frozen sidewalk, I lay immobile with a cracked rib, multiple bruises and scrapes, and a sudden awareness of my mortality. People passed me, staring down as if I was a drunken, unworthy sod. But then an angel came along, speaking tenderly and reaching out to me with her warm hands and kind heart. She led me, a frightful curmudgeon that day, to a coffee shop and tended to my wounds. She provided nourishment and cared for me with compassion.
I’ve experienced a great deal in my life, while building my company from scratch, dabbling in politics, and raising a family, but nothing like this. This girl taught me something new, the meaning of the word “grace.” And for that, I am indebted to her. Even a stubborn old geezer like me can still learn a few things.
No doubt, my family will contest my decision. However, they are all well provided for and are not entitled to a penny more. Read them this letter and make sure George, particularly, hears you loud and clear. Martha Grange is more worthy than the lot of them. She is to use the money to take good care of herself and to fulfill her dream of helping the less fortunate children in our world. I know she will cultivate more angels like herself.
And when George makes a fuss, tell him to stuff it.
“So,” the lawyer said, putting the letter back in his file. “What do you think of that? I've already spoken to George, by the way, and his father was right. He's not happy. Looks like we'll have a battle on our hands.” He hesitated, and said, almost gleefully, “The angel versus the devil.”
John Kirby’s son may be a threat, but Martha was not afraid. For the first time in her life, she felt her calling. She’d do her best to serve the old man. If grace had brought her here, then she had to believe that grace would protect her from the Georges of the world. She’d devote the money to the purpose for which it was intended. Helping underprivileged children was a good place to start.
Martha left the lawyer’s office with a clear mission and a determined mind. Passing through the reception area, she felt eyes following her. She turned to see a sharply dressed dark-haired man looking right at her. Fury spewed from his pupils.
“Are you Martha?” he asked, in a polite yet hostile tone.
For a second her heart stopped. John Kirby’s voice resonated in her mind: “Never trust a man with a sword in his gaze.”
“Are you George?”
He smirked. “How nice to meet you.”
The lawyer knew what he was talking about. Her life would never be the same again. Thanks to John Kirby, she could truly make a difference in the world. George would likely come after her with swords and invectives, but grace was surely on her side.