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I woke when Billy opened my door. We were back in the parking garage at the law firm. I climbed out and followed Clyde and Billy to the elevators and up to the office. I stepped into the bathroom, used the facilities and splashed some more cold water on my face. I felt drained, and a little queasy. Too much fancy Ritz ketchup on my fries?
Sharon was at her desk when I returned and she gave me a quick smile as she typed on her computer. Clyde’s door was open and I could hear him on the phone. I sat down in a leather chair within a small seating area in front of Sharon’s work space and waited with my thoughts.
The day had been a rollercoaster of emotions. Some good, most of them pretty rough. A lot of unexpected revelations. I suspected there were more coming but I didn’t know about what or why. Just that we were not finished. Clyde and Sharon were obviously working on something with focused intensity, and I was pretty sure it concerned me. I hoped I would be strong enough to handle whatever it was. I tried to relax and remain calm. My stomach was not feeling too good.
I had almost fallen asleep again when I heard someone walk up to Sharon’s desk a short time later.
“Afternoon, Sharon. Is the man in?” Sharon looked up from her desk, gave him a smile and pointed to Clyde’s open door behind her.
“He’s waiting for you, Larry. Here, give him this. Tell him that’s the last of it.” Larry took the folder from her then scooted around the desk and walked right into Clyde’s office. I heard Clyde greet him as Larry turned and closed the door behind him.
Sharon saw me watching the proceedings carefully, smiled at me and said, “That’s Larry Weiss. Financial Wizard with First Colorado Bank. He’s here about the Franklin Trust. He and Clyde are finishing up the final details. It shouldn’t be too much longer. Can I get you something to drink, Jack? You’re looking a little green around the gills there.” Her concerned mother face was back.
“Yeah, my stomach is not doing so hot. Would you have a Coke or something? It might help settle things.”
“Sure do. Wait right there, baby. I’ll get it.” She went into the conference room, opened a hidden refrigerator compartment in the credenza, and returned with a can of Coke. I popped it open and took a long drink. It felt wonderful going down.
“Mmmm. Thank you. That helps.”
“You’re welcome, baby. Now take it easy, everything’s gonna be okay. I promise.” She smiled her big smile of reassurance and returned to her work. I sipped on my soda and willed my stomach to stop rolling.
Clyde and Larry came out of his office about twenty minutes later and headed towards the conference room. “Jack, would you please join us in here?” asked Clyde. I got up and followed them in, taking my same seat from the morning. I was still holding my can of Coke, but it was almost empty. I eyed the credenza, trying to see the hidden refrigerator compartment, in case I needed another one.
“Jack, this gentleman is Larry Weiss. Larry, this is Jack Schaeffer.”
“Nice to meet you, Jack,” Larry said, as we shook hands. He did a similar double-take I had seen others do when meeting me for the first time today. He must have known Amanda too. He took his seat across from me. Clyde was two seats to his right. Larry had a very large, three-ring binder on the table in front of him.
Clyde looked to Larry and silently gave him the floor. Larry opened up his binder and was looking at the first page. I could not read it upside down from where I was sitting.
Larry began. “Jack, I am the Vice-President of the Private Trust division of First Colorado Banc Corp. My job is to oversee all private trust accounts and ensure that they are managed properly for risk and profitability. I have known Clyde for over twenty years. He and Phillip Franklin and I have played more golf together than I care to remember.”
“Yeah, that’s because you usually lose and have to buy the first round at the 19th hole,” said Clyde, laughing.
“Yeah, yeah. Pipe down, old man. One of these days, you’ll be too old to swing straight, and I’ll be the one gloating over drinks at the bar.” He was laughing too. He was probably a little older than Clyde, which made his comments all the more absurd.
“Okay, back to business.” Larry focused and continued. “When Phillip Franklin sold his pharmaceutical company to Merck several years ago, he and Amanda found themselves with a pile of money and no knowledge of what to do with it. So Clyde sent them to me. Phillip and I were already friends, so it made sense. Clyde and I set up the Franklin Family Trust, a living trust for Phillip and Amanda until their deaths. Sadly, those deaths happened much earlier than any of us expected.” He looked a little downcast at the memory of his lost friends.
“My team has managed the assets of the trust since its inception, with pretty good results, if I do say so myself. We diversified the portfolio according to how risk averse Phillip and Amanda were, which was very averse by the way, and we built things from there.”
“Clyde took over from Larry at this point. “Jack, if you’ll remember, I told you that Amanda had asked me to change some of the gifts to a couple of charities that she had worked with the most during the last years of her life. When we set up the trust, all of the assets were to go to a collection of charities hand-picked by Phillip and Amanda. They had no surviving relatives of any kind. Both were only-children, and they had no children of their own. Their parents had passed by this time. So when Amanda made this one change, it was no big deal to re-prioritize the charities’ benefits from the trust.
“But Amanda wanted another, more significant change. She told me about you, her baby from long ago, and she wanted to do something for you that she regretted having never done before. So she told me her new plan. If I were able to locate you within six months of her passing, and if I were able to determine that you were an upstanding citizen with a decent character, she wanted control of the entire estate to transfer to you. If I could not locate you, or you were in, I think she called it an ‘untenable personal condition’, then the original provisions of the trust would prevail.”
I sat there and took it all in, listening to them discuss this situation like it was just more boilerplate, same-old, same-old stuff. If understood correctly, Clyde was saying not only did he have to find me, but he was to pass judgment on my character as well. That rankled a bit, though I didn’t think I had any “untenable” issues to speak of.
“So Clyde, did I pass inspection?” I tried to sound funny, but it came off irritated and flippant. I regretted saying it.
“Yes, Jack, of course,” said Clyde, leaning forward toward me. He was clearly upset at the remark. “There was nothing in your background of concern, and having met you and spent the day with you, I am confident that you have a very sound character. I believe Amanda would have been proud of the young man you have become.”
I was overwhelmed by his heart-felt sentiments. I suddenly wanted Amanda to be there with me so she could see for herself that I had turned out alright. That my life had not been horrible and I wasn’t a screwed-up drug addict or alcoholic or criminal. I was a nice, normal guy, doing the best I could. I was gay but maybe she would have been okay with that. Now there was a thought.
“Thank you, Clyde,” I said, as I once again fought to keep my tears from overflowing. The emotional rollercoaster was running at high speed now and threatening to derail any minute.
Taking a deep breath, Clyde continued. “So, Jack, we found you. And yes, you are of sound character. The provisions of the trust have been met per Amanda’s last wishes. Judge Bartells signed the official order this afternoon ending probate of the estate, establishing you as the sole heir to the trust, and I have given Larry all the necessary legal paperwork to transfer the bulk of the Franklin Family Trust to you. Congratulations, Jack.” Both men smiled at me, like I had done something important.
I heard the words, but they were not penetrating my brain at that moment. I couldn’t make true sense of what he was saying. It sounded like Amanda had given me everything she had, but what that was, I had no idea. Or why. More confusion. More questions. Would they never end?
I think Larry could tell I was struggling to take it all in. If I hadn’t been earlier in the day, I was definitely in a state of emotional shock now.
“Perhaps this will make things a little clearer, Jack,” said Larry.
He turned his big binder around so I could read the top page right side up. Across the heading, in bold letters, was the banner “Jack Schaeffer Living Trust” and under that was “formerly the Phillip and Amanda Franklin Family Trust”.
There were two columns on the page, one labelled “Asset Category” on the left, the other labelled “Accumulated Balances” on the right.
Under the assets column was a list of entries for stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, personal property and transportation, among others. The balances next to these entries were confusing. I couldn’t tell if they were account numbers or something else. The total number at the bottom of the right hand column made no sense at all.
“What does all this mean, Larry? What am I looking at?” The frustration and emotion was mounting rapidly again. I didn’t get it. Why didn’t they understand that I just didn’t get it?
“Jack, as of this morning, when totaled all together, you now control an estate of approximately 580 million dollars.”
I stood up, hands shaking in fury. “Are you crazy? Have you both lost your minds? I can’t...there’s no way. No way! I can’t...I don’t know how...what was she thinking?” A fresh wave of emotions and a nervous energy started in my shaking legs and moved upwards rapidly. I could feel my stomach coming up with it.
I lurched to my right and promptly surrendered my very expensive hamburger lunch right into the very expensive trash can next to the very expensive credenza. I retched a few more times, then sat back. I was on my knees now, my whole body shaking like I had chills from a fever. Clyde and Larry had jumped up when I started to get sick, but remained rooted where they stood, probably each hoping the other guy knew what to do when a client totally lost it.
I was humiliated and embarrassed beyond words. And deeply ashamed. Ashamed I behaved so abominably. Ashamed I ruined a very nice trash can. Ashamed I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t control anything, really. In fact, everything was out of control in my life now. Nothing made sense and I couldn’t find a mental anchor to save my fragile hold on reality.
I watched Sharon’s feet through the glass wall from under the table. She was up from her desk and moving rapidly for the conference room. She must have seen everyone jump up and was now coming to see what the fuss was. I suddenly wanted desperately for her to not see me like this, laid out on the floor with vomit on my face. So I exercised every ounce of remaining strength I had, wiped my face on my shirt sleeve, pulled myself up by a chair and got to my feet as she entered the doorway. The room was spinning and I was having trouble focusing. The blood in my head swooshed from one side to the other.