Brotherly love of money. Writer's Cramp entry for 1/28/2022.
“I was a huge fan of your father’s,” the estate attorney said, in an awkward attempt to ease the uncomfortable silence. Caden and Cory, the adult sons of industrialist Ronan Graves, were reading their respective letters, in accordance with Ronan’s last wishes.
“Thanks,” Caden muttered, not looking up.
“That’s probably because you didn’t know him very well,” Cory replied, his eyes leaving the page just long enough to give the estate attorney a scornful glare.
“He was always manipulating us, trying to play us against one another. Trying to convince us that only one of us ... the better one ... was worthy of his love and respect. Case in point,” Caden said as he held up the letter.
When the estate attorney noticed that Cory had finished reading as well, he reached behind his desk and produced two wrapped, shoebox-sized packages. He set one down in front of each son.
“It’s not unusual for benefactors to put conditions upon their heirs,” he said as Caden and Cory looked first at one another, then at the packages that sat in front of them. “I’ve seen some pretty wild demands over the years. Reading a farewell letter and receiving a memento isn’t the craziest.”
The boys pulled the packages onto their laps and started unwrapping them. Getting them open at the same time, Caden and Cory both peered inside and then exchanged nervous glances.
“Same old dad,” Caden said, reaching into his box and delicately lifting out an antique but well cared-for revolver: nickel-plated, ivory-handled.
“Dad’s most prized possessions,” Cory said almost reverently as he ran his fingers along the engraving on the backstrap. “Wild Bill Hickok’s pair of Colt Model 1851’s.”
“I remember when we were little, after one of his little games, he’d take the winner out shooting,” Caden recalled. “We’d take turns trying to knock old soup cans off the fence posts at the edge of the property.”
“It was almost always you and him,” Cory said, a hint of rueful annoyance in his voice. “You were always better than me when it came to his little loyalty tests.”
“I wasn’t any smarter or stronger than you, little brother. I just knew how to play the game better. It was about strategy.”
“That’s quite an inheritance,” the estate attorney murmured after the room fell into an uncomfortable silence. “In addition to the rest of the assets of course. Which I actually had a question about because it seems he only contemplated transferring the assets to one of you and told me that I would need to--”
“You didn’t read the letters, did you?” Caden asked.
“No, I was instructed not to, that one of you would fill me in,” the attorney replied, shifting uncomfortably in his padded leather desk chair.
“Well, it seems that dear old Dad wants us to test us for our inheritance. One last fight for dominance.”
“You mean like MMA?”
“I mean like twenty paces, turn and fire,” Caden said, handing the attorney his letter. “Go ahead and read it.”
The attorney quickly scanned the page, his face going ashen as he reached the end.
“Oh my God. Is he serious?”
“Never knew him not to be, when it came to stuff like this,” Cory offered with a shrug of his shoulders. “Like we said, Dad was real into making us compete for his affections. Looks like he’s still doing it from beyond the grave.”
“I totally forgot all about these stupid guns,” Caden said, turning the revolver over in his hands.
He checked the chamber and found it loaded.
“Remember how much he used to obsess over these, Cor? He’d spend hours in his study, cleaning them, polishing them ...”
“You’re not actually going to do this,” the attorney mumbled.
“It’s right there in the letter, in black and white,” Cory said, checking his own weapon. “If there’s only one of us left standing, we get the inheritance. But we get nothing as long as Cade and I are both alive.”
Another awkward moment between the three of them, before Cory cracked a wide smile and laughed. “Can you believe he’s still pulling this shit? Even from the Great Beyond.”
Caden mulled it over, then stood up and set the revolver on the attorney’s desk.
“To answer your question,” Caden said, buttoning his jacket. “I’m not going to kill my brother for money, no matter how much of it there is. My dad loved these games, but I stopped playing them years ago. If there’s nothing else?”
He stepped around his chair and headed for the door.
“Cor, you wanna grab some lunch before you head back to--”
He turned around to find Cory also standing, still holding his revolver.
“It must be nice,” Cory said. “To have everything in your life turn out so good that you can walk away from all that money without a second thought. I wish I had that luxury.”
“You’re not serious,” Caden said, incredulous.
“The thing is, Cade, you may have stopped playing Dad’s games a long time ago, but he never did.”
Cory cocked the hammer on the revolver. “And neither did I, not really. I just got better at the strategy.”