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The Wills and Ways of Willowshire Lane

by KH Obergfoll 10 months ago in Short Story
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An age old tale of deceptive bonds that last til’ death

The farm house on Willowshire Lane had been in the Hollowell family for years. Some might say it sank its clutches into poor Buddy Hollowell but to those who knew him, it was the other way around—well, that is, until she came along. It was the prior winter when he met Meredith Lawson, a young twenty-two year old fresh out of college who had applied at the firm of Hollowell and Sykes. It wasn’t long before the now aging Buddy Hollowell had taken her under his wing. He was well on his way to a third “retirement” in the legal field and was looking forward to it—which was his mindset until Ms. Lawson came to the firm. Meredith Lawson was an eager woman—spritely, precocious and full of questions and Buddy soon realized she was overqualified for her job as his personal assistant and decided to allow her to take part in his investigations.

It was a move that no one else would have been able to pull off. Buddy Hollowell was known throughout town for working by himself. It had come as a surprise to everyone when he had decided to partner with longtime friend Bill Sykes about a decade before, especially when he was so close to retiring again but many around town knew this was a smart move on his part. Buddy Hollowell was a planner, a thinker, a mover and a creator—Sykes was just a place holder for him to continue operating as he pleased. The business was practically his and he knew it was a matter of time before he would need to foster his replacement so he set out to teach Meredith Lawson the unteachable.

Instead of making his retirement an easy transition, the pair took on more work—investigating property claims for local estates which led Buddy Hollowell to see Meredith Lawson’s keen eye for detail and penchant to investigate, all traits that came natural for her. He knew he had to act fast and they became an unlikely pair—affectionately known as Hollowell and Lawson when they were on a case and it was strange for a man like Buddy nearing his mid-to-late seventies to have such a newfound zest and vigor for life. Meredith kept him young and active, driving him around town and vice-versa—picking up clues and cases no one would have investigated otherwise and this soon started drawing unwanted attention, not to mention, their work made them as much money as it did enemies—if not more.

Hollowell and Lawson were well known in the area, it was something Buddy needed in order to show that Meredith Lawson wasn’t just some young woman to be played with. She could hold her own and being one of the crew she had acquired her own asset and protection team. Buddy had made sure to keep a good lawyer on retainer and in-house security at all times. They were the best money could buy and Hollowell’ s brick-and-mortar firm that ran out of his main city home had protocols in place for this sort of thing and Meredith fell right in, eating it up. She was by no means naïve when it came to threats, she knew the possibilities for danger were real and for Buddy she was like the daughter he never had. So it didn’t surprise her when she began to notice the car following her around from location to location around town and beyond, they were Buddy’s guys, meant to keep her safe. It was true, Buddy Hollowell had never married and had no kids, he had chosen to put his career over having a family and it suited him well, he was content with how his life had gone and lived for his clients and his work, regretting nothing but now he had something else in mind. He wanted to make sure Meredith Lawson became his replacement; with her, he knew the sky was the limit.

Meredith had saved him from a boring end and a slow-fade. With her, he regained a purpose. Wherever one was the other was sure to follow so it was strange when one day Buddy didn’t show up to his usual weekly lunch date with Meredith. He was always early and always sat with his back to her at the corner table with a sly yet smug smile ready to give her details on their latest case.

Instead, in his place was a much younger man with a cream colored tweed hat lined with blue silk patiently waiting for her arrival, thumbing cautiously at a thick manila folder clutched tightly under his flattened palm. Meredith approached the table hoping she had made a mistake but just as she was about to turn around the man stopped her—“Ah Ms. Lawson, pleasure to finally meet you, though I wish it were under better circumstances…” he began before quickly trailing off. Taken aback, Meredith paused furrowing her beautifully sculpted eyebrows as she pensively looked back at him unsure of what to do next.

“Take a seat my dear”, he motioned. Meredith hesitantly obliged as she sat in her usual seat. Her company today was much less friendly as she sat wondering what he was there for—before she could start her questioning the man interrupted her thoughts—“My name is Gregory Davenport, I’m Mr. Hollowell’s advisor if you will”, Meredith stared at the man for a few more seconds as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her gaze falling on the thick packet in front of Gregory Davenport. She had yet to utter a word so Mr. Davenport broke the awkward silence for her by sliding the envelope across the table—“Ms. Lawson I hate that things have to be this way but you should know…Buddy had cancer and unfortunately the doctors were right, he had but months to live, it was something no one but myself and his doctors knew, so don’t be upset he didn’t tell you. Be comforted with the fact that he died peacefully in his sleep last night all on his own terms, but he wanted to make sure you were properly taken care of…and he instructed that you open this package in my presence”.

Meredith’s silence was replaced with a devastating sense of shock as she emptied the contents of the envelope onto the table. Greg Davenport watched as Meredith rifled through the pages as if looking for something specific. She tore the envelope open first, recognizing Buddy’s heavy handwriting—the neat and short strokes that summarized his intentions in two sprawling pages. She skimmed over the words before turning her attention to the will. Greg Davenport sat up, this seemed to pique his interest—“Ms. Lawson, Buddy left you his most trusted possessions. He didn’t have any family left as you know and you were the closest person to him. He willed you his farmhouse on Willowshire Lane, 1823 Willowshire Lane to be exact”. Mr. Davenport stopped himself, pausing briefly to dig around in his coat pocket before pulling out a small black leather bound notebook and a ring of keys.

“I almost forgot…I know one of the keys, the bigger one is for the farmhouse but the others are a mystery that you will have to solve. I believe the notebook might be of some assistance to you”, Mr. Davenport noted before continuing—“Mr. Hollowell always said you were smarter beyond your years and if anyone could figure it out, it would be you”. Meredith pursed her lips and smiled as she gathered up the papers and tucked everything back into the envelope before thanking Mr. Davenport for his time. It was one final gift from Buddy—a final case. She left some money on the table as she got into her car to start the hours long drive to Willowshire Farm. As she looked at her reflection in the rear-view mirror, she knew it was a mystery indeed—one she was ready to get to the bottom of.

It was well known around town that Buddy Hollowell was a man who hated flashy things; he wasn’t even having a memorial service, instead he had his body donated to a local college and left his possessions to her—in true Buddy fashion. Now it was Meredith’s job to make sense of it all and she planned on starting with the ring of keys. After hours of trying every keyhole on the sprawling farm she turned her attention onto the leather bound book that Buddy was known to keep on him at all times. She flipped through until she saw something that stood out to her—the word “Megs”—it was something Buddy had started calling her in recent weeks. She went back and read the entirety of that passage—“Meg’s the richer, none the wiser, a key third from the left opens a door under the risers”.

The quote was strange. Meredith had found all the doors on the property so she knew the keys didn’t belong to any of them. She paused to take in her surroundings. So much of Buddy was in the home. It was then she started looking at the vintage hutches and cabinets, pulling drawers out and looking for key slots. It was nearly an hour or so later when she got to a hutch situated directly under the loft. The heavy ornate piece was catty corner to the foyer and sat under the main support beam that held the second floor up— it all made sense—“the risers”, a saying Buddy Hollowell often said in reference to those who were quick to rise in the morning. Meredith jumped at her new-found clue and quickly opened the cabinet above the hutch. She fumbled around moving dust-caked glass bottles and heavy books where she found a small keyhole the size of a nickel in the back, barely hidden from sight once exposed. She almost missed it thinking it was a middle hinge or something.

Once unlocked, Meredith pulled the false top of the desk out and neatly packed inside were stacks of money—tightly bound with another note tucked inside addressed to her—“To Megs, my dearest heart, this is for you. You might be wondering by now but I can’t contain my excitement, I am sure you guessed it right but the keys all open hidden locks with equal amounts of money inside. The next clue is fifth from the mission. You will find more… Keep them safe and you will be safe. Hugs and Kisses Forever, Buddy”. Meredith slammed the door shut and locked it as she slowly backed up into the large living area. There were at least twenty-thousand dollars inside this one hutch alone, her head started spinning as she looked around—vintage furniture and photos were everywhere. She estimated there had to be at least a million dollars on the first floor alone. All she had to do know was match the keys to each clue, it would be a daunting task that would take some time but that was all she had—time.

She began to count the keys wondering why he started on the third key and skipped straight to the “fifth” one but that was a mystery for another day she mused, tucking the ring of keys into her cardigan pocket and zipped it tight as she went around making sure the doors and windows were all locked.

This house and all its secrets were definitely going to be something she kept to herself she thought as she sat down smiling, sipping on her afternoon tea. Things were finally going to work out. She had a business, a home and an endless supply of cash. All she had to do was make it look like nothing had changed. After all, she didn’t know where this money had even come from. All she knew is that her plan had worked—there was just one problem. If only Mr. Sykes wasn’t in the picture, this would be much easier—she thought as she began to flip through the rest of Buddy Hollowell’ s leather-bound notebook—she was sure he had many-a-secret written inside and she intended on knowing them all.

Short Story

About the author

KH Obergfoll

Mid thirties--Writing my way through life, looking for the next great adventure!!!

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