|"Listen Son, I love you dearly but I'm not going to finance any more of your endeavors. At your age you should be financially settled by now, it appears you don't have good money management, no, not at all!"|
Further, it's only right that your step-sisters should inherit an equal amount and I've intentions to change my Will to reflect just that."
"You what? How could you Father? It's that conniving second wife of yours who put you up to it."
"Don't you dare speak that way about the dead. Her gone less than two months. I won't have it! I'll be seeing my lawyer next week. You are ungrateful son, ungrateful!"
"I see you have been brainwashed, Father, I wonder what Mother would think about how you are treating me; giving preference to your second wife's children. Those lazy women have never done a days work. I should have you committed; you have lost your mind!"
"Now see here young man," Joseph said, rising from his chair with the help of his cane. You will do no such thing. I just might call my lawyer today and take you out of the Will completely. Yes, that's what I will do."
Joseph took a step forward and lifted his cane in the air, ready to strike his son. Michael ducked out of the way and grabbed the rail of the banister on the second-floor staircase.
"Go sit down Father, for heaven's sake, you'll have a heart attack."
Taking one more step, Joseph lashed out with the cane again, but lost his footing and tumbled down the long staircase. Michael heard the crack of his neck as he landed. He stood there in shock at what had just happened. The old man lay at the foot of the stairs, eyes wide open, a stream of blood running from the side of his mouth.
Oh my God, oh my God, thought Michael. This isn't my fault; the crazy old fool went mad. What to do! What to do! He tried to still his pounding heart and think. The caretaker would be here soon.
He ran to Joseph's desk. Yes, there it was, right in front of him. The old man had been looking at the Will and he saw writing on the document. What luck to have found it so quickly. He folded it, put in his pocket, and picked up the desk phone to dial 911.
"911, may I help you?"
"Yes, hurry, please, my elderly Father has fallen down the staircase."
"Is he breathing?"
"I don't know for sure; it doesn't seem like it. I think he broke his neck."
"Someone is on the way."
Michael hurried down the stairs and opened the front door, then sat on the steps waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Joseph was dead.
A detective knocked on Michael's door, later that evening.
"May I help you?" Michael asked.
"Yes, are you Michael Hopkins?"
"I'm detective Harold Ragan. I'm following up with details on your father's accident. May I speak with you?"
"Of course, come in."
"I understand you were in the home when this happened?"
"I was, it was horrible."
"Yes, I'm sure, I'm sure. Can you tell me what occurred?"
"I stopped over in the morning to make sure he is OK. He was sitting in his chair, we talked for a few minutes, and I left. When I got downstairs, he called my name. I looked up and he was at the top of the stairs. He yelled, 'I forgot to tell you something'. I told him to go sit down, that I would come up. Just then, he appeared to have lost his balance and toppled down the stairs."
"All right, thank you Michael. I think we have all we need right now. Have a good day. I'm so sorry for your loss."
The detective left and Michael stared out the window after him wondering if there was doubt as to what happened that day. Remembering the Will, he went to his jacket and took it out. Just as he suspected, Joseph had penned in both half-sister's names as beneficiaries. That wouldn't do, it wouldn't do at all. Holding it over a cast iron pan on the stove, he took a lighter and set it on fire, assured that the original would be intact at the lawyer's office.
The doorbell rang.
He peeked out the curtain. Oh drat, it was those pesky sisters, what did they want? He opened the door.
"Good morning to you too, Michael. Can we come in?"
Mute, he opened the door further and stood there.
"We came to see about the plans."
"For the funeral, Michael, the plans for the funeral. What is that smell? Is something burning?"
"Nothing, I burned some toast is all," Michael replied.
The sisters rushed to the kitchen before he could stop them. "You didn't burn toast, you're burning something in this pan, Michael? What is it? Look, a piece has fallen to the floor, you'll set your house on fire. Michael, this says Will on it. Are you burning a Will? Michael, what have you done?
Michael lost it. "Get out," he yelled. "Don't come barging in here accusing me of something, you have no right."
Margaret grabbed the slip of paper. "We'll see about that Michael, just you wait and see." The sisters slammed out of the door.
Next evening, once more, Michael heard the doorbell. Hope it's not them again, he thought.
He peeked out the curtain and saw the detective standing there.
He opened the door, "Hello, Officer."
"Michael, could I have a moment of your time?"
"Yes, sure, what's up?"
"I've had a little chat with your sisters. They came down to the station last night."
"You mean my half-sisters, Officer. What are they up to now?"
"It appears you have a strained relationshiip with them, is that right?"
"You could say that."
"This is the thing Michael, they state you were burning a Will when they came over yesterday. You lied about it, saying you had burned toast."
Inside Michael was seething, outwardly he tried to maintain control. "I was burning some old papers of mine, they jumped to the conclusion it was a Will. Initially, I told them it was toast so they would mind their own business."
"I've had a little chat with your father's lawyer this morning. He indicated to me that your father was considering putting the sisters on his Will; they were going to set up an appointment soon. Did you know about that."
'No, he never mentioned it to me. That makes sense, he raised them since they were teens."
"So you would have been OK with that? You wouldn't have a problem sharing the inheritance?"
"Not at all, Officer, not at all."
"Alright then, we'll be in touch." The Officer went to the door, then turned. "You wouldn't mind taking a lie detector test would you?"
Startled, Michael lost his cool. "Listen, if they want to make me out a criminal, I can't stop them, but I didn't have anything to do with my father tumbling down the stairs. I told the caretaker many times it was foolish to let him stay up there; they should have brought his furnishings downstairs."
"Hummm, I don't think I said they were accusing you of anything, did I?" the Officer responded. "Later," he smiled, and out the door he went.
Shaken, Michael spent the next few days planning the funeral; even working with the sisters on the arrangement. The day after the funeral he got a call from the police station asking him to come down for a talk.
"What's this about," he asked.
"We are finalizing our paperwork and want to clarify a few details is all."
"Fine, I'll come down." On the drive there he wondered what they possibly had to clarify now.
He was taken to a small room. A tape recorder was on the table and two officers were present.
"Michael, you said you would take a lie detector test, are you ready to do that?"
"Yes, I'll take the test," he replied.
He was taken to another room, the test was given, and then he was brought back to the room.
"Michael, you said that you were downstairs, your father called to you from upstairs, that is when he fell, is that correct?"
"Yes, Officer, that is what I said.
"Then you called the 911 number from downstairs, correct?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"Michael, the call wasn't made from downstairs, the call was made from upstairs in your father's office."
"I must have rushed up the stairs then. Honestly I don't remember.
"In your father's office, on the desk, was an envelope. Do you know what was on the envelope?"
"No, sorry I don't, I wasn't paying attention to what was on the desk."
"I'll refresh your memory. It was labeled 'Last Will and Testament of Joseph Hopkins'. What's strange about that is, no Will could be found."
"I don't know, Officer. Like I said, I wasn't paying attention to what was on the desk."
"Your sister had picked up a piece of paper on your floor that she said was from a Willl you were burning. Do you remember that?"
"I remember she said that's what it was. That was a lie, I was burning some papers of my own."
"Why did you tell her you had burned toast."
"I don't know. I just wanted them to leave."
"We took that piece of paper down to your father's lawyer. Do you know that it matched the paper and writing on the document copy that he has?"
"Is that so? Maybe my sister didn't find it on my floor. Maybe she had it in her pocket. Did you ever think of that, Officer."
"Isn't it also true, Michael, that you have a gambling habit and have been hounding your father for money. Your sister said that Joseph had mentioned to her that next time you ask for money he was not going to give it to you. I bet that made you very angry, didn't it Michael."
"That's baloney. My father has given me money in the past, but I have not asked him for more recently."
"Come on, Michael, the gig is up. Admit you killed your father and burned the Will so the sisters wouldn't inherit anything."
"I'm done talking to you. I want a lawyer. I did not kill my father. He accidentally fell down the steps like I said."
There was nothing more the Officers could do. Michael had 'lawyered up' and they would have to work this out in a trial.
In preparation for the trial, it was determined that Michael was in deep financial trouble. The fact that a piece of the burned Will had been found could not be disputed, along with the other burned pieces that detectives had seized from Michael's garbage. They had proof that Michael had made the 911 call from the upstairs phone as taken from the phone's call detail. They could not prove that he had killed his father but he was upstairs and not downstairs as he had said.
The verdict came down like this: Michael received a one-year misdemeanor for burning the Will and escaped jail by wearing an ankle monitor during which time he was not allowed in a casino. He did not break and enter the home. Paper left on Joseph's desk had the dates and names of the sisters, coupled with the fact that his lawyer had testified he was going to add them to the Will. Therefore, the Judge deemed the inheritance would be split three ways between all the children. The lie detector showed Michael was telling the truth about not killing his father. He was lying about burning the Will.
Michael never revealed to anyone the argument that had ensued between he and his father. He was not found guilty of his death.
Author's Note ▼