The phone on Edward’s desk has one line which is private to only his very special friends and his Manhattan offices. The ring was unexpected but not that unusual.
Is this Edward?
This is Penny Banks, the assistant to Sissy Smith Attorney at Law down in the village.
Sissy is dealing with the last few issues in the Last will and testament of your friend Charlie Brown. You are mentioned a few times in the will and we need to schedule a time when you could come in for say half an hour.
Yes, I can do that. Did you have a time in mind?
Well, if you could make it happen, we could meet with you at eleven this morning. It shouldn’t take long.
Sure, I’m open at eleven.
Perfect. We are in the white colonial building at the north end of Main street in the village.
I know that building. How did you get this number?
Well we have a good group of investigators who could find a mouse on the moon, and I happen to be a close friend of Penelope but really your friend Charlie gave us the number to reach you.
You know Penelope?
We were roommates at State University. We were cheerleaders together. You are a lucky man. She is the smartest member of our class and probably the prettiest woman in the whole university.
She says that working up at the lodge is like going to Shangri la for three days a week.
Its warm comfortable scenic and mostly quiet. I’m mostly introverted so quiet is especially grand for me. Our family home in the village was like living in the middle of a stadium full of rowdy fans.
Penelope adds a lot to the place. She is a charmer.
Okay then…. I’ll be there at eleven.
See you then.
Edward changed to some fresh khakis and a white polo shirt. After a few minutes of ball toss with Dutch the German Shepherd guardian of the lodge he fired up the van and began the journey down the switchbacks to the village below.
At the door of the law office Penny opened and welcomed Edward to the reception, which had several alcoves for clients to await their business.
Penny moved to her desk and announced to a hidden mic that Edward had arrived.
Come this way.
The door at the back of her reception led to a hall past a room that was obviously the firm’s law library. She opened the way to Sissy’s office and made the polite introductions and disappeared.
Sissy was a beautiful tall athletic woman with a bright yellow pony tail. Edward knew that she had been a star basketball player on a championship team and looked the part.
Have a seat.
Edward took a position at a large mahogany conference table.
I was the Attorney for Charlie Brown during his last year of life. I helped him unwind a life’s accumulation of wealth and possessions and intellectual properties. He was wealthy and generous but without any family to take control of his estate. He systematically divested himself of all material wealth and by the time of his death he had only a single piece of luggage which he carried to the hospice. He wanted it that way. You were a special friend of his.
Yes. we were acquaintances at our club and when he got his final diagnosis, we began getting closer. We met weekly for drinks at first. Then we learned that we were both birders. After that we used birding as an excuse to meet and talk. My van is outfitted for camping and birding. We drove many miles in search of new birds to list. Charlie was lucky to have a very exact diagnosis and to know almost exactly when he would pass.
Charlie thought of you not only as a financial adviser, but also as a guru, a priest, a profit, a medium, and finally as a death whisperer…. his words. He said that you taught him to think in abstract frames.
Charlie was an engineer by training. He could tell you about tensile strengths of base fibers, or surfactant qualities of olive oil or west Texas crude or the specific density of German beers. Like most technical folks he didn’t have time for abstractions or spiritual matters.
You moved him to a good spot. Made him ready for hospice. He said that you encouraged him to talk with the Charlie in Phase Next.
Well, you know guy talk…. a few beers and anything can come up.
Some day you will need to tell me more. Why did you get so involved? Where did you think this would lead?
I believe that no man should die alone. I wanted to be a friend…a true real friend. It takes time and attention and focus. When a man is dying then it’s all about him. A dying person wants his head on straight before he closes his eyes for the last time and takes that long last deep breath.
Charlie’s will has three issues which involve you.
She went over to her disk and picked up a box about the size of a square shoebox. It was made of polished rose wood in the shape of a hexagon. The Corners were trimmed with shiny polished brass trim. On top was a ball of rosewood about the size of a golf ball.
Charlie designed this and had it built to his specifications.
She examined the corners and found one that was a secret handle for the box. She lifted the corner brass and the ball on the top rose as a handle to open the box. She did not open the box.
Charlie had this built for his ashes. I was there for the cremation. Unconsumed bones are discarded. The ashes are filtered through a screen and then a powerful magnet is stirred through the ashes. Charlie had three metal screws in his knee as a result of some action in Afghanistan. The resulting ashes are in this box.
In his will Charlie asks that you take these ashes and dispose of them in any way you like. He said you would know what to do. So; by the will I have to ask you if you will agree to take these ashes and place them somewhere of your choosing?
Yes. Of course.
Secondly there is this. She shoved an envelope across the conference table.
This is a check from Charlie for $20,000. It is money that you may use as you like. Charlie said that you have a charitable trust fund that is used to do good works. While he did not say that the money was to be for that fund, but to explain that you would do something useful with some found money.
Do you agree to accept this money?
Yes, of course.
The last issue in the will is a little different.
She walked around to the back of her desk and opened a small cabinet. The cabinet was a miniature bar with everything it might take to have a drink with a successful client.
She retrieved a rustic leather pouch and opened it. The bottle inside the pouch was placed on the conference table. This is a bottle of Aged historic Monkey 47 Gin. It is a gin that is ranked 98 on a scale of 100 for excellence. Charlie had a friend in Germany who brought this bottle from the black forest and he wanted you to have it. Monkey 47 is known for its 47 botanicals used in its distilling. 47 also refers to the exact per cent of alcohol in the gin. While Monkey 47 might sell for $100 in the US, this bottle has been aged at the distillery for some time and cost around $500….so taste carefully.
She arranged two cocktail glasses on the table and then put two ice chunks in each glass. She then brought out two toothpicks and threaded olives on each one. With a small silver ladle, she placed about a teaspoon of olive brine in each glass. Next, she brought out two double shot glasses and poured each on about half full of the Monkey 47.
With the shot classes we can taste the Gin without any dilution in its purest form. If you like your gin dirty, then you can pour it into the cocktail glass. It is Charlies final wish that we toast him in this fashion.
She pushed the shot glass to Edward. She raised her glass in a toast to Charlie which Edward met. Then she poured her Gin into the Cocktail glass and swirled it in little circles. To Charlie in Phase Next, a very special client. Edward replied. To Charlie a very special friend.
Sissy recorked the bottle and put it back in its leather pouch.
If you need any help with the rest of that bottle, let me know. I understand that the Gin is always special up in Shangra la.
The speaker on her desk came to life.
It was Penny.
Dr Bransen has arrived.
Can you come in and help Edward carry some things to his car?
Penny took a very firm grip on the box of ashes and they moved back down the hall to the reception
A well-dressed gentleman sat in the corner. It must have been Dr. Bransen. Edward and Bransen nodded to each other and he led the way for Penny out to his van. She placed the box of ashes in the floor of the passenger seat and they said their goodbyes.
Edward turned the van into Main street and slowly moved North watching the shops and businesses pass his window. The village was small but always seem to have a busy look and people seemed happy and purposeful.
At the north end of town was a road leading up the mountains to Mt. Eebow municipal park. The Eebow family came to the area many years ago and bought ten thousand acres of forest lands. They harvested Chestnut lumber from the land for decades. Their small home at the top of the mountain saw Johnnie Eebow marry, raise some children and he was generally seen as a citizen father for the village. Eventually his family dispersed across the state in several good vocations. His wife of many years died, and Johnnie passed away soon after that. Johnnie had arranged for his lands to be given to the village as a municipal park. He had also funded the park with a generous endowment for the maintenance of the road and the park area. The old homestead eventually crumbled and was replaced with a small parking area and a few picnic tables. On the edge of the clearing was a nice arrangement of big boulders where one could have a grand view of the valley all the way down to the river below and the club where golfers banged away at their little white toy ball.. The city had installed some handrails so that one could easily reach the top of the boulders and hold steady while gazing at the wonderous valley. Next to the boulder field was a rustic park bench handmade by one of Johnnies sons. where Edward and Charlie had had many rich spiritual conversations while keeping their binoculars at the ready to count raptors in the skies and smaller brown feathers flitting in and out of the bushes. When the full worm moon arrived here in March, they came at midnight to hear and sight an assortment of owls.
Edward retrieved the ashes from the van and took the box to the highest point of view on the boulders. Using the secret handle He opened the box and poured the ashes in a mound at the top of the escarpment where the thermals wafting up from the valley would scatter the ashes to the sky and the valley. It seemed to Edward that this was a perfect send off for Charlie.
Back at the van Edward secured the mahogany box and took out a sketch pad, a bag of pencils, and a bottle of cold Tuborg. He sat at one of the picnic tables and began to sketch the scene with a large round piece of charcoal. The boulders were easy, the little mound of ashes, then the park bench. Drawing wind or breezes was an artistic puzzle he had never encountered. On a separate sheet he tried several views but could not find a best solution. He decided to save that part of his sketch until he had discussed the puzzle with some artists back in the village. To finish his effort, he drew into the lower left corner the front of his van with a man figure leaning against the van with his left hand and a right hand raised in a goodbye gesture toward the remains of Charlie. In the end he concluded that the piece was not a masterwork but rather a souvenir memento of his months of friendship with a dying friend.
Back at the lodge he found Penelope on her way out to her car for the return to the village.
Hey Edward. Everything Okay?
Yes. I just had to do some things with Charlie Brown’s will. Its over now.
Okay then. I’m out of here. See you next Thursday. There are some things to see on your desk.
I’m feeling the strong need for a good road trip. I may not be here. You can carry on without me.
Will do. Have fun.
I always do.