Okay I know that I have already started to re-write this story and I am re posting this chapter for the third time, but I don't write my chapters sequentially, in fact I wrote the middle of this fiction first. Star Wars Forever!
In May of 2002 Edmund Bertram graduated from Stanford earning his Bachelors degree in business, as a reward for his hard work his parents treated him to a summer in Europe. On May 12, Julia Bertram reached the age of sixteen, making her eligible to compete in the Olympics. She had a professional coach helping her and now was the time to start training for team USA. Maria was not doing well at Stanford, she had not flunked any classes, but she was barely more than passing. Instead of coming home for the summer she chose to take a few courses to give the appearance of scholarliness. Tom Bertram was a second year law student at Georgetown University and was spending the summer at the London International Law Institute. Later that same month John and Richard Price graduated from military school. Richard joined William in the Navy and John went to New Orleans. Aurora spent her summer as a teen counselor at a camp for the children of murdered parents. Two weeks before school re-opened for the year Mrs. Ward demanded that her eldest granddaughter be sent to her.
Nobody liked the idea of me traveling alone, the words unaccompanied minor sounded irresponsible to my grandparents and the Bertram reputation had to be protected at all cost. To that end John was tasked to escort me back to Mansfield Ranch. I knew that he did not mind the job because he did not have to pay his travel expenses and we enjoyed each others company. John had never liked military school because he was not athletic enough for all of the activities. I knew that he was planning to become a cop just like our Dad and that was why he spent the summer in New Orleans.
When John arrived to take me back he was strangely quiet, I had expected him to be more talkative but he said little and nothing at all to our grandpa. He came in went to his room, asked his dinner to be brought up and remained there until the morning. Also, I knew that John was a light traveler as the military school had only allowed one bag. He arrived with the same bag he had always used, but this time he had a new backpack that he clearly did not want any one to touch or let out of his sight. I asked him about it in the car to the airport and he only replied that "we would talk about it later", this truly made no since because he could have told me in Creel. At the airport as a result of new security protocols the next three hours was a blur of busy nothings and suddenly we were on the airplane. Aunt Elizabeth must have booked our tickets, because we were seated in coach instead of first class. John took the aisle seat and I sat in the middle and a thin woman took the window seat. I waited for John to tell me what was on his mind, but he did not start until after breakfast was served.
"You remember that the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, mamma was killed by that drunk driver," John said without preamble.
"Yes, of course I remember," I replied. "Who could forget."
"Sometimes I wonder," he muttered. "Were you ever told who the drunk driver was?"
"No, I can't say that I ever was told. You know how Aunty likes to protect me from unhappy things."
"Do you want to know?"
I hesitated before answering. "Does it have something to do with why you went down to New Orleans?"
"Partly, my real reason was about Dad's case. I wanted to know if the police or FBI had any new leads in finding O'Brien."
"Have they," I wanted to know.
"No, or at least nothing they're willing to tell me."
"Are you still determined to become a cop?"
"Yes, and I don't care how much grandpa don't like it." It was said with such anger I changed the subject back to mamma. "He was Henry Crawford President and CEO of Everingham Agricultural, the fool killed himself and his wife." John face was sad and I knew that he was remembering that mamma was not killed immediately, instead she lived long enough for Ariel to be delivered and died five hours later. "In the Wrongful Death suit of Crawford's estate the jury awarded two settlements; the first amount was enough to pay our parents outstanding debts, the second sum was ten million for us."
I gasped, "Ten million dollars, but wait why have I never heard about this money. And how did you find out about the settlement."
"You would be surprised by what is a matter of public record. I guess that explains how reporters find out all people's business."
"Does this mean that money is no longer a problem," I asked excitedly.
"I don't know, the problem is that I can't find the money."
"What, what do you mean you can't find the money!"
"The money was placed into Trust Funds with our grandparents named Co-Trustees. When each of us reached the age of eighteen, we had to be told about the Trusts and it's provisions."
"You turned eighteen in June, William over two years ago; were you told about the Trust?"
"No, and I don't understand why."
"Wait you said 'provisions' what does that mean?"
"Provisions are the terms under which you can gain control of the account. You must earn a Bachelors degree in the subject of your choice by the age of 21; that is the only way you will gain control of the Trust account."
"If I don't earn my degree by 21 does that mean I can never gain control of the account?"
"No, 21 is the youngest you can gain control. If you earn your degree at the age of 23 then you are still able to be given control. The only way you could never gain the account is to have a child without earning your college education."
"And these terms apply equally to all of us, not just me," I wanted to know.
"Yes," John said laughing. "All of us from William to Ariel. But the problem is that Grandpa did not tell us when we turned eighteen."
"That is breach of trust by a Trustee," a man sitting in the row behind us said.
John and I looked at each other, we hadn't realized that our voices were that loud.
"Your Grandpa had a legal obligation to informed you of the Trust and it's provisions at the age of eighteen." The man spoke with a Texas accent. That made since given that we were headed for Houston before changing planes to go on to Denver. "You should sue!"
"We can't, he's our Grandpa," I replied.
"And anyway I want to know where the money is before getting a lawyer," John added.
I looked at him, remembering that he did not talk to Grandpa while he was at the house.
"The only reason why your Grandpa would not tell you about the Trust account is because he has been skimming," said a woman in the row in front of us. "Maybe the Trust is gone all together."
"All the more reason to take him to court," The Texas man retorted.
"When a grandfather steels from his own grandchildren then he must be desperate and does not have the money to put back into the account," the woman argued. There was something of Boston in her voice.
"Well, how many children are we talking about," a older black woman asked in the row across the aisle from us.
"Ten all together," Jon answered.
All the people around us let out a cry of surprise; and things like "your poor mother" and "No wonder the court awarded ten mill" fallowed.
"Any suggestions as to what we should do next," I asked seriously.
"How are you paying for college," the thin woman sitting next to me asked. It was the first thing she had to say during this public conversation.
"My older brothers have joined the Navy to pay for college and my grades are good enough for a scholarship," I replied then looked at John.
"I'm trying to avoid student loans," John muttered.
"Most people can't avoid student debt," This was a new person, but I couldn't tell if the voice was male or female. "And like my Grandpa always said' Money hates those who love it the most' let the Trust go, your Grandpa will create his own punishment." There was no more conversation as I had the feeling that the other passengers were becoming annoyed with our loud talking.
When we were alone at the house John showed me what was inside his book bag. First he took out a bundle of passports, I found my and one for each of my siblings accept the three youngest. At first I wondered why, but then I remembered that we had stop moving around after Dad left the Marines and Tommy and Charley were not even two years old when mamma died. All the passports had expired, but they were worth keeping in the records. I found my birth certificate and eight more I guessed that these must be the originals. William Alexander Price Junior born April 5, 1982; Jonathan Smith Price born June 2, 1984; Richard Walker Price born June 3, 1984; Aurora Dawn Price born July 15, 1986; Athena Moon Price born May 11, 1988; Artemis Huntress Price born March 21, 1990; Samuel Maxwell Price born February 28, 1992; Thomas Victor Price born August 10, 1994; Charles George Price born August 10, 1994.
"Where did you find all of this," I asked John.
"In a safety deposit box under our Mamma's name," he said. "and that's not all." He placed a Bible and a notebook before me. "This is an old King James Bible and I have no idea what this notebook is. It's encoded and I don't have the key."
"Why would these be in a safety deposit box," I wanted to know. "I thought that people put valuable things in those boxes. Gold bars, stuff like that."
"Speaking of gold bars I also found this!" And he held up Mamma's jewelry box!
Every item in the box brought back a memory. Me and my sister playing dress up and Mamma telling us stories related to each piece. I took in the pearls that were traditional for any southern belle; Mamma was a May baby so there were a number of emeralds, and there was expensive Chanel fashion jewelry the family could not afford. I remembered Daddy's anger when the bills came. I knew that my Mamma had brought seven million to her marriage and lost no time in spending it. The money lasted for the first ten years of their marriage and the last six and a half was spent in deep debt. I veered away from those unhappy memories and focused on Mamma's wedding ring.
When Mamma and Daddy married Daddy couldn't afford to buy Mamma an engagement ring or wedding band, never mine one for himself. After ten years of marriage and five children Daddy purchased a beautiful ring that he could not afford. It was a gold double ring, on the first band was a 2.5 carrot diamond flanked by 1 carrot pink sapphires, representing me and Athena; the second band had three 1 carrot sapphires, representing William, John and Richard. A year later Mamma had Artemis soon to be fallowed by Sam, Tommy and Charley. I knew that I would share the ornaments with my sisters at the first opportunity, but for now they would stay with me.