Innocence Game by Michael Harvey
I sat in the lawyerâ€™s office and stared at a row of diplomas on the wall. The writing was impossible to readâ€”a fitting introduction, I figured, to the practice of law. I was about to get up for a closer look at the goods when the man himself came in, small and dark, with soft whispers and greasy handshakes. He sat behind his desk and gestured for me to make myself comfortable. Not likely. He took out a thin blue file, placed it on his desk, and folded his hands over it.
â€œAs you know, Ian, Iâ€™m handling your motherâ€™s estate.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t know she had an estate.â€
â€œNearly everyone has an estate, Ian.â€
He gave me a nod, like this lesson in and of itself was worth the L ride downtown. â€œShe didnâ€™t have a lot, your mother. The house, of course, a little less than five thousand dollars in a savings account, and a small insurance policy to cover her final expenses.â€
I hadnâ€™t thought about final expenses. I was surprised my mom had. As I was about to find out, my mom was full of surprises.
â€œShe left you something else,â€ the lawyer said. â€œItâ€™s the reason Iâ€™ve asked you down here.â€ He took an envelope out of the blue file and turned it over in his hands. â€œShe insisted you read it alone. In this office. Once youâ€™ve done that, I have an affidavit for you to sign. Then I can release the money.â€
The lawyer looked at me like Iâ€™d just punched the pope in the stomach. Or some such infallible being. â€œI canâ€™t do that, Ian.â€
â€œHave you read it?â€ I said, nodding at the letter.
â€œItâ€™s sealed. No oneâ€™s read it but your mom. And now you.â€ He placed the envelope flat on the desk and lifted himself from his chair. â€œTake your time. When youâ€™re done, weâ€™ll fill out the paperwork and talk about funeral arrangements.â€
The lawyer left. I stared at the envelope. I could see my name, hidden in the folds of my momâ€™s cursive, and crumbled a little inside. I pulled the envelope toward me. The paper was thick. Expensive. It felt like a single sheet. Maybe two. I slipped my finger under the edge of the flap and broke the seal. Then I took out the letter and began to read.
|May 30, 2020
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