Can love and forgiveness be found amidst fraud and deceit?
Harry Jenkins, an honest lawyer, seeks truth and love in a world darkened by fraud and deceit. Years back, Elixicorp, a company developing a drug to forestall memory loss, defrauded millions from Toronto’s elite. But since then, no one has been able to find the money. This long buried treasure has poisoned the lives of all who seek it.
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Harry's elderly client, Norma Dinnick, teeters between lucidity and madness in her dark world of paradoxical claims. When she instructs Harry to sue the other claimants for the Elixicorp shares, one of the litigants is fatally shot in open court at Osgoode Hall. The murder weapon is an ornate, silver pistol, which is both a means of betrayal and a gift of love. Peter Saunderson, an old acquaintance of Harry’s from law school, surfaces to frame his own wife and lover with the courtroom murder and to implicate Harry in the scheme.
Harry and his father have been estranged for years. Stanley is found unconscious at the foot of his cellar steps, a gun in his hand. Waking from his coma, he asks Harry’s forgiveness for a long-buried wrong. This ugly .38 calibre gun becomes the means whereby love and forgiveness is found.
Beset with questions, Harry turns to the beautiful Natasha who guides him to the answers and an understanding of the final paradox.
By Mary E. Martin
On Harry’s last visit, Norma Dinnick wore a flaming red wig and served sherry in crystal glasses. Almost eighty-seven, she chatted brightly about the stock market and the roses in her garden. Hearing loss seemed to be her only trouble.
Today, arriving at her apartment house, he prepared himself for another loud, but lively hour of banter. Smiling, he rapped sharply and waited.
“Go away! My mind is filled with holes,” she cried out from behind the door.
He frowned. “It’s me, Harry, your lawyer. You asked me to come.”
Straining to listen, he heard the awkward shuffle of slippers on the bare floor. Her tiny whimpers made him think of a frightened, caged animal. The door handle rattled and metal scraped on metal until the door creaked open. Just above the knob, suspicious eyes peered out.
“Who is it?”
“For Heavens’ sake, Norma, it’s me, Harry.”
“Well, come in then.” She backed away from the door giving him just enough room to enter.
Harry stood speechless in the apartment. A naked bulb swayed gently from a broken fixture and cast shifting shadows across the once elegant living room. He saw the outlines of furniture draped with dingy bed sheets. Once seated, Norma seemed to forget him.
“Norma? What on earth’s happened?” he asked.
She occupied herself with picking fussily at the arm of the settee, as if to remove creatures visible only to her.
Sitting beside her, he asked gently, “Are you all right?”
She tilted her tiny face upward to the light and gazed out the window. “I think it’s safe to talk now,” she whispered.
“Safe? Is someone listening?”
Pointing at the ceiling, she said crossly, “You should have come in the back way. Now they’ve seen you, they’ll be quiet.”
As far as he knew, Norma only had one remaining tenant, a shy and silent man named Grieves. Last year, her investments did so well, she decided to close the other five suites, not needing the income or the worry.
“And they’ve not paid one cent of rent!”
Harry dutifully made a note. “You mean
Mr. Grieves?” he asked.
Norma shook her head. “No. The ones directly above me.”
“But that apartment is empty.”
“And furthermore, they listen on my phone.”
Sadly, Harry shook his head. Only months ago, Norma was lively and shrewd. Now, glassy-eyed, she rocked back and forth beside him.
“How do they listen in?” he asked. Although paranoid delusions of the elderly held little humor, Harry struggled to suppress a smile. He knew a lucid mind could inexplicably drift without notice into madness.
She seemed lost, focusing on the flickering shadows at the window.
“How many tenants are in the building?” he asked with little hope his client’s problem could be solved by a Landlord and Tenant court application.
She shook her head fiercely. “Just the
ones above me!”
“Have you seen them?”
“No! But I hear them every night, carousing like drunken sailors.” Again, her fingers chased the invisible creatures running amok on the arm of the settee. When she glanced up at him, he saw a glimmer of the old intelligence in her eyes.
“Do you think Archie’s causing all the trouble?” she asked. “I think he’s trying to drive me mad, so I can’t change my will.”
Harry did not want to worry her, but he said, “Actually, Archie called to tell me not to come today. He claimed you didn’t want a new will and you didn’t have the capacity to make one.”
Her eyes flashed in anger. “Of course! That greedy lout will suck me dry. He even wants the shares my Arthur left me.”
“What shares, Norma?” He couldn’t recall any shares in Arthur’s estate.
“George Pappas-that dangerous animal-is after them too!”
“Who is he?” Although the name was unfamiliar, he dutifully jotted it down.
“Vicious,” she shivered, drawing inward.
Harry took her hand. When she resurfaced, she asked, “Will you come upstairs to see where the trouble is, Harry?”
“Are the tenants in?”
“I don’t think so.”
Fussing with a jumble of keys, Norma teetered to the top of the narrow stairs. At the door, Harry knocked sharply. He could hear the accusations in court. Unauthorized entry by landlord, with her solicitor in tow. With exasperated sighs, Norma worked one key after another until the door swung open into the silent room.
Light flooded in the extraordinarily large bay window. Harry set his briefcase down and drew in the cool, musty air. He saw the living room, dining room and on into the kitchen. His view was entirely unobstructed by rugs, drapes or furniture. Norma stood to one side, dwarfed by the empty fireplace.
“Please, Harry, you must get them out. They’re driving me mad.”
“But Norma,” he said quietly, “I don’t see anyone.” He edged closer to her.
Her face puckered with annoyance. He thought she might stamp her foot. “Of course not! They’re only here at night.”
“But I don’t see any furniture, either.” Harry relaxed in the certainty that his client was at least partially delusional. Fortunately, the law recognized you could still make a will even if you saw the occasional apparition.
Norma’s lower lip trembled as she muttered “Those cursed shares! Must I pay for them forever?”
Gently, he touched her shoulder and felt her whole body shaking. “What shares do you mean, Norma?”
“Please. You must get the tenants out. I can’t stand it any longer.”
“All right, Norma.” He put his arm around her. “I’ll try my best,” he concluded doubtfully, wondering how to give legal notice to a phantom.
“Thank you, Harry.”
Downstairs, over tea, she seemed more her old self. He probed gently, asking “Do you want to discuss your will today?”
She nodded vigorously. “Archie’s to get only a quarter, not half, of the estate and Bronwyn Saunderson the rest.”
Clear enough in regard to beneficiaries, he thought. “Is Bronwyn related to you?”
“She’s my goddaughter.”
Harry made a note. Desire to benefit a goddaughter was sufficient reason to cut down Archie’s share. After all, he was only Arthur’s business associate and her executor. Although she was clearly delusional about her tenants, when it came to will making the law only required she be aware of the approximate size of her estate and the natural objects of her bounty, that is, her next of kin.
“If you’re concerned about Archie, do you still want him as your executor?”
Norma reached for his hand. “No I want you, Harry. I know you’ll look after me.”
“About these shares…”
Confusion spread across her face. “Goodness! Sometimes I get muddled up. I must have been thinking of something else.”
“Who’s this George Pappas?”
“That dangerous man!” she declared. “Arthur had such strange business associates.”
Harry stared at his client, then closed up his case. She was perfectly clear in her intent to benefit her goddaughter and Brinks had no moral or legal claim to anything at all. “I’ll be back in a few days with the new will. I’ll bring my secretary, Miss Giveny, as a witness.”
She clasped his hands. “Good. But you will do something about the tenants?”
Harry frowned. “First, I’ll have to find them, Norma.”
From the foyer, he heard the scrape and screech of wires being wound around latches. A deadly security precaution, he thought.
He stopped on the front steps. Coming in, he had not noticed the vines and bushes choking off the light from the apartments and the wild grasses growing through the cracks in the steps. Arthur would be dismayed at such dilapidation of his once impressive apartment building. As he drove off, he wondered what to do about the non-existent tenants.