Windfall

An Alternate Ending to "Inheritance Tax"

by Lizabeth S. Tucker

Begins where the lawyer, Mr. Marshall, gets to the bottom line in the amount inherited.

"After expenses and outstanding debts, I would say that you have inherited $100,000," Mr. Marshall pronounced solemnly.

Johnny and Roy's jaws dropped. They looked at each other, then at the lawyer.

"T-t-total?" Johnny asked.

"Each." He smiled, handing both men a paper. "You'll need to sign this as a receipt. Once you do that, I can hand you a check for the full amount."

Both men swallowed deeply, signed the required legal documents and clutched the checks handed to both of them in sweaty palms. They sat unmoving as Mr. Marshall excused himself. They continued sitting there, staring at the check that contained so many zeroes and trying to remember to breathe.

When the tones went off, they never hesitated, training winning out. They jumped to their feet, stopping where Cap was scribbling down the response address. Johnny handed his check to his partner with a nod and went around the other side of the squad.

"Cap, can you hang onto these for us?" Roy asked, shoving both checks into his captain's hands.

"And keep Chet's big nose away from them!" Johnny called out.

Captain Stanley watched his men head out into the night, and then looked at the checks in his hand. His eyes widened in shock. "I'll be damned."

"What is it, Cap?" Chet tried to move closer, peering down at the paper.

Stanley quickly folded the checks and held them closed. "None of your business, Kelly."

"It's the money, isn't it? What happened? They get stiffed?" Chet chortled at the thought. "There is no way Gage got rich!"

"I'm going into my office. Why don't you guys get ready for bed?"

"Cap, it's still early," Mike Stoker commented.

"Oh, yeah, right. Well, find something to do. And, Kelly," Captain Stanley said, stopping to stare at his feisty firefighter. "Stay out of my office until Roy and John return. Understand?"

"Sure, Cap." Chet watched his superior disappear into his office before turning to his friend. "Marco, how much do you think they got? Cap's acting pretty strange."

"They'll tell us when they want us to know, Chet. Stay out of it," Marco advised, returning to the kitchen to put on some fresh coffee. He had a feeling that it would be a long night.

"Yeah, but I wanna know now. I mean, if they got shafted, the Phantom might need to let Johnny know nothing's changed."

"And if they did inherit a fortune?"

Marco and Chet turned to where Stoker sat on the couch, reading a book.

Neither man responded.

"It could've happened. I looked through the newspapers and found her obituary. The woman was fairly well off. She might have left John and Roy a small fortune. If that's true, neither man might need to work again." Having said his piece, Stoker buried his nose in his book, hiding a pleased smile at dumfounding a certain practical joker who lived to harass Johnny.

"Damn, I never thought of that." Chet dropped into a chair, leaning his elbows on the table. "Marco, do you think they might do that? Quit?"

Marco didn't speak. In truth, he wasn't certain of the answer.

It was late by the time the squad returned, having been called out twice more before getting back to the station. Everyone else was in bed, but the two paramedics were too keyed up to go to sleep. Johnny headed to the refrigerator and poured himself a glass of milk. He lifted the carton up to show Roy, receiving a nod in response. He poured another glass for his partner. Stowing the milk, Johnny took both glasses to the table and sat next to Roy.

"A hundred thou...after taxes. Man, I can't believe it."

"Neither can I. I'd call Jo, but as late as it is, she'd panic, think something was wrong." They sipped their milk, letting the thought of so much money sink into their minds.

After a while, Johnny spoke. "Have you thought of what you'll do with yours?"

"I'm putting some away for the kids, for college. Maybe $25,000, in case they want to go to a really good college."

"Yeah, that's good. What else?"

"I...I don't know. I guess Joanne and I'll have to talk about it."

Johnny laughed. "You'll be lucky if Jo lets you spend any of it."

Roy smiled. His wife was a penny pincher of renown. "What about you? Gonna get that sailboat?"

Johnny shrugged, "I don't know. I mean, I love the water, but..."

"But what?"

"Well," he muttered. "I get...seasick, ya know."

"Yeah," Roy said, "I know."

"I could still get a car."

"True."

"But, I kinda like the Rover. It goes where I like to go, camping and fishing and the like."

"Very true. You could have two cars."

"Yeah, but why? And my apartment only assigns you one parking space, so I'd have to find somewhere else to park. It could get stolen."

"So what will you do with it?" Roy asked, amazed that his partner had abandoned his earlier ideas.

"You'll laugh."

"Nah, I won't. I promise."

"Well, I'd like to give some to charity, ones that help kids."

"That's a great idea, Johnny. I think I would, too."

"And maybe I could buy some land."

"A ranch?" Roy asked his friend.

Johnny shrugged again, smiling boyishly. "I think I'd like that someday, but not now. I've been thinking about it, Roy. There's nothing I really want or need, but in our line of work, things can change so fast. This money could mean the difference between getting by and being comfortable. If I put the money away in the bank, some investments, I'll be able to do what I want, when I want or need to."

"You really have been thinking about this, haven't you?"

Johnny looked indignant. "I'm not an idiot, Roy."

"I've never thought that, Johnny. A dreamer, yeah, an optimist, always, but never an idiot. You're a good man, John Gage; don't let anyone make you think differently. Not even me."

"Thanks, Roy," he said shyly. "It's getting really late. Let's go to bed."

Roy fluttered his lashes. "Why, John Gage, I'm not that type of man."

At first flustered, then breaking out in laughter, Johnny took the empty milk glasses and put them in the sink, filling them with water to be cleaned in the morning. He flung an arm around his friend's shoulder as they headed to the dorm. "Man, I can't wait to see how long it takes Chet to start pumping us for how much we got."

"It'll be interesting, especially since we're off for three days. You'll have to take your phone off the hook or he'll be calling you every minute of the day."

"Heck, I'm heading out of town. I've already got plans to go camping. I don't see that this windfall needs to change that. In fact, I'm going to keep doing just what I was doing before this happened."

Stripped down for the night, Johnny and Roy climbed into their respective cots.

"Nite, Junior."

"Nite, Pally."

The End

July 2004