“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the usually dapper Lionel Kingston pulled at his collar and necktie while standing in the hot, mid-morning California sun. “First of all, I want to express my sincerest condolences. I was shocked when I heard about the horrific car/train accident which took the life of your loved one and my long-time friend, Humphries.” He fumbled with some papers. “He had left an envelope with me. It was marked, ‘To be opened in the event of my death.’ Humphries had signed it. Inside were his burial instructions.”
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Kingston continued. “He stated he only wanted this private memorial service to be held here in patio of his estate. This will be followed by the reading of the will in the library. Immediately afterwards, Humphries asked that I…” He choked up, “Take him for one last flight in my vintage Stearman and spread his ashes over the Pacific.” Reminiscing, “We had some wonderful times in that little, open-air, two-seater. Sorry, I’m getting carried away.”
The deceased’s thirty-something children stoically looked straight ahead. Humphries Jr. (Skippy) was dressed in a black Armani suit. Jason, wore a Calvin Klein creation and Jennifer, a Donna Karan original. Their mother, Marie, fingered a striking diamond and gold pendant made from her original wedding band. She glanced over at Kimber, the deceased’s latest wife. She couldn’t remember if the girl was wife five or six.
“As per Humphries last wishes,” Kingston continued, “The Reverend Donald Lear has been asked to give the eulogy.”
A short, obese man with a ridiculous hairpiece brought a small footstool and placed it behind the podium. “My brothers and sisters in the Lord …”
For Christ’s sake, Skippy mulled to himself. As soon as the old man found out about his cancer he tried to buy his way into heaven through this con artist. I wonder how much it cost him to be assured of his “saving place,” in the big country club in the sky.
Jason’s eye caught an eagle flying high over her nest, located near the stables. Pop recognized my talent with animals. After all, I did give pre-veterinarian studies a try. I bet he left me the horses, stables, track. I could make this into a world class breeding facility. Pop’s scope was limited. He never could see the big picture.
Jennifer glared at her new, twenty-three-year-old step-mother. No wonder his nickname was “Humpher.” Did he know how much I love the art collection or how valuable the pieces were that I had chosen?
As Kimber cracked her gum, everyone turned to stare. That damn S.O.B. Skippy, she thought. He’s already demanded the keys to the Mercedes and told me to be out of the mansion by the end of the week. He doesn’t know that his father taught me to play hardball. If I need to, I’ll have the best will-busting attorneys money can buy on this by tomorrow. The old coot should have left me his entire fortune. It’s not like I didn’t earn it. Him and his blasted Viagra. Regardless, I shouldn’t have to work the rest of my life.”
Mopping his brow, the reverend droned on, “…and Humphries generosity knew no bounds. The Humphries Parker College Foundation, The Humphries Parker Art Gallery and The Humphries Parker Domestic Violence Shelter. And after his miraculous cure from prostrate cancer, the Humphries Parker Church Hall and the Humphries Parker Cancer Treatment Center. Of course, we all know that these endeavors are funded through the Humphries Parker Corporation . . .
Skippy smiled slightly. Yes, the corporation. When I assume Dad’s position, heads are going to roll. He’s been carrying dead weight like Kingston here, for years. First, I’m going to streamline operations . . .
Thinking of the fleet of exotic vehicles, Jason’s heart swelled. That collection should be mine too. E-bay, here I come. Damn, I wish Pop hadn’t been driving the ’52 Bentley when he bite the dust. That thing was worth millions.
Jennifer dabbed a few tears from her eyes. Daddy, you always liked the boys best. Why didn’t you care for me?
Marie sobbed. Looking at the urn, she contemplated, Darling, why couldn’t you have given those kids more of your time when they were growing up? Now, Skippy is just as greedy as Jason is a lazy dreamer. And Jennifer masks her total lack of self-esteem with her self-centeredness. If you had only given them your time.
“Thank you, Reverend, for that heartfelt sermon.” Sweat was dripping off Kingston’s face. “Let’s adjourn into the library for the reading of the will.”
The kitchen staff had brunch and a fully stocked bar prepared. As the family downed their drinks and filled their plates, Kingston readied the video.
A dignified man with a massive mane of white hair appeared. Even on a 24” screen he looked larger than life.
“Well, everyone,” he started, “I guess I went to meet my Maker.” He gave an easy smile. “Thank you Reverend Lear for the kind words, however long-winded.” This produced a gentle ripple of knowing laughter. The minister blushed.
“I’ve thought long and hard,” the deceased continued, “about how I want to divide up my assets and what is really the most important to me.” He paused dramatically. “To my lovely wife, Kimber. Thank you for making an old man happy…very happy,” he said salaciously. “You’ve mentioned you had wanted to be a health care professional. I’m leaving you a trust fund. There are enough monies for a modest monthly allowance to provide: food, lodging, utilities, transportation, miscellaneous expenses and four years tuition for nursing school or other school or your choice. I’m also leaving you the contents and furnishings of the cottage, our little love nest.” Kimber’s mouth dropped.
Humphries continued. “To Marie, the mother of my children. Sometimes a man would give everything he has to go back and correct the biggest mistake of his life.” He took at deep breath. “Mine was leaving you. My dearest, I want you to have the homes in Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, the contents and furnishings. And with one exception, all other properties plus a substantial portfolio. A fund has been set up to take care of the expenses. Also, I leave to you my personal papers and belongings.”
Marie’s mouth also dropped, realizing the depth of her ex-husband’s love for her.
“And to my offspring. I should have listened to your Mother and given you more of my time. For this, I am truly sorry. I know now that the only real thing I leave this world as a legacy is the character of my children.” He shifted on the desk top that he was sitting on.
The children squirmed uncomfortably.
“Jennifer, I know you never felt like Daddy’s little girl, and I apologize. By the way, the paintings you pestered me to invest in have increased in value by ten and twenty fold. I have instructed that you be hired by the Humphries Parker Art Gallery as the primary buyer. This comes with a considerable salary, company car and benefits like time off and tuition should you care to complete your master’s or doctorate. You may also have your choice of any five of my paintings to start your own collection.
And to my sons. For some reason, unfathomable to me,” he frowned, “neither one of you thought I knew what was doing when I built my billion-dollar consortium.
To Jason, my horse lover. Or rather, horse race lover. I have had all the transcripts of your numerous college majors reviewed. After spending six or seven years in one institution after another, I am told that you still have a couple of years left to complete a bachelor’s degree. You’re being left the same package that Kimber is, for basic living expenses and tuition assistance. I don’t care what field you go into, just pick one and stick with it.
And Skippy, my first-born. You’ve always wanted too much, too fast. I have arranged for you to be hired by The HumPark Company, one of the corporation’s subsidiaries. This position is at the bottom of the ladder. You’re going to have to work your way up and face the same obstacles everyone else does in their careers. You are also being left a lump sum of monies, approximately the same amount being left in the trusts for Kimber and Jason. If you choose not to be employed at HumPark, take your inheritance and go out and try to match what I’ve done. You’ll be starting out with a lot more than your Mother and I ever had.” Humphries let out his familiar cough.
“You see my children; I have over-indulged and spoiled you. Therefore, your inheritance is the character-building opportunity to make it on your own.
I leave the rest of my art collection, statues, coins, lithographs and paintings, to the Humphries Parker Art Gallery. I want an additional building to be constructed next to the Art Gallery to house the Humphries Parker Rare Car Collection. Except for the ’61 Corvette which I was driving the day I met Marie, all of my vehicles are to go into the display. My dearest, I leave you the corvette and hope you will always think of it as sentimentally as I have.” Again, she burst into tears.
He took a sip of his favorite whiskey. “This magnificent mansion, the grounds, the stables, the pool, etc., are to be turned into Humphries Parker Camp of Champs. This camp is to run programs for the severely disabled, mentally retarded and other special populations. I want the race horses sold at auction with the monies used to buy horses that are appropriate for equestrian therapy. All stocks and bonds, except for those that support the trust funds are to be used to support this endeavor.
Marie, you may go through the mansion first. You are free to take any items and as many items as you choose. Jennifer, since I always put you after the boys, this time you will be first. In addition to the paintings, you may choose any twenty items you want. After you have gone through, Skippy, you may pick twenty items; then Jason, you may pick out your twenty.
“I have one more thing to say to everyone. I didn’t get to be the founder of one of the world-leading conglomerates by being stupid. I assure you, this will is iron-proof. Don’t waste your monies trying to break it. Marie, I will have Lionel, my most trusted associate, help you with the estate and all the paperwork. Good bye my dear ones. I love you all and I’ll see you on the other side.” He picked his highball glass and toasted them.
The screen went snowy. The audience sat stunned. Kimber raged, “That’s it? A couple of years of modest support?”
The minister squealed, “He didn’t leave me anything! I mean the church, he didn’t leave us anything! May God have mercy on his cheap, sorry-ass soul.” He slammed the door behind him.
Lionel rose. “Marie, as per the instructions, I’ll take the urn now.”
Kingston loaded his cargo and taxied out to the runway. Safely up in the air, the leather covering over the empty seat in front of him was being unsnapped.
“How did they take my demise?” Humphries’s voice boomed, as he struggled to sit upright.
His friend laughed heartily. “The Minister was livid and Kimber was thoroughly pissed off. Skippy was bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t named President or CEO. And Jason fell to the floor sobbing, ‘My dreams, all of my dreams.’” Lionel banked the plane to the left.
“How was Marie?”
“Devastated, but deeply touched by your sentiments.”
“Brokenhearted, yet vindicated. When you acknowledged her, it meant more than all the money in the world.”
“Good! Little did I know she was the one who would turn out the most level-headed. This is going to work out for the best.” Humphries looked out over the blues of the ocean. “The kids need to stand on their own and I need to get away from the rat race.”
“Your new identity and all the papers are in the tan pouch.”
“So, where’s this private island located at again?”