Holly and Ivy

© Nicholas 2003

Chapter Five – Ivan Bernard Peabody

I many times thought peace had come,

When peace was far away;

As wrecked men deem they sight the land

At centre of the sea,

And struggle slacker, but to prove,

As hopelessly as I,

How many the fictitious shores

Before the harbor lie.

Emily Dickinson

The God Damned cell phone almost jumps off my belt down on my hip. Shit! I told those bastards not to call, why do I even carry this fucking thing. Oh shit, the Execution lawyer. Blah, blah, blah. Yes. No. Blah, blah. Christ I have to sign some fucking papers! Yeah right! He's going on a fucking cruise and has to have them done tonight. Shit I'd cruise his ass if I had a chance. Kick it all the fucking way to Barbados and back. Food and warmth and native boys and here I sit, albatross around my neck! Yeah, "I'll be there in half an hour. At your office. Yes and dinner too! Bye! God Damned fucking lawyers! Well Miss Emily, Aunt Nellie, the lawyers always seem to call, but God Damn it I'll be back!" Can't believe I'm talking to the broads. But shit, I can't sleep an hour when at home, even on the fucking pills. I come inside here, get near that fire and God Damn lalala dream land for me. Sure feels good here somehow.

I turn and look before I shut the door: funny fucking fancy stairs! Open railing, perfect for a grand entrance, but can't see a fucking thing less than halfway up. Old carpenters sure knew how to make things special.

Brrr, it's cold out here. Glad the God Damned sun still shines. Can't imagine this drive a hundred years ago! I ease the car around and head on toward the village.

I park at the hotel. Stop in and check the mirror. Shit, look like fucking grandpa in his eighties! Good old Albert. Brand new bottle right where it's supposed to be. I pour a shot, hell, I pour three fingers drink half, fill it back up and head into the bath. I take a quick shower, shave and finish off the brandy. New socks, new underwear, new shirt, new suit, fucking festive Christmas tie! Another shot won't hurt me! Okay Ivan Bernard Peabody, get out there and do some Executing business!

Barely a block and a half. I walk the brisk air licking at my cheeks. The Bank! Shit, I wonder. Damn, let him fucking wait, the boat don't leave until tomorrow.

I go inside and look around. Old money! Smell it, deep, deep, deep inside the walnut. Not a piece of chrome in sight. No glass except the etched glass on two office doors. "Private" they say in perfect painted on gold script. No "free checking" signs, no car loan posters on the wall, just hushed and still, the counterpoint to money.

I'll be God Damned! Real tellers cage, brass bars and everything. Bonnie and Clyde could drop in now and feel themselves right at home. Shit though, look at that. The smallest, neatest, slickest hidden camera gear I've ever seen. I bet old Bonnie would primp up if she knew about that setup.

Fuck! There it is! A painting the size of Texas! Geesh, all across the wall above the entrance. These grand old spaces must cost a fortune now to heat, but this one, that picture, makes it all feel nice and intimate. The woods, the river, the island, the Eagles Eyrie. Not the hotel, the actually nest. The mother and two chicks. Dad about a screaming dive bomber away. Nothing could get up and threaten them before he tore it screaming limb from limb and sent it to the deeps.

My God! This guy was a master. Shit, a plaque. Eagles Eyrie, no duh! Antinon Philia, a nom de guerre for sure, but perhaps one he held out to the world. Antinon; sweet Antinous, beloved of Hadrian . Philia; friendship. I was right, the guy's soul was lost when his forest elf disappeared. I hope I could someday find him.

Suck it up you nut case. Another bird brained adventure. The God Damned lawyer waits. I march on down and enter what surely must have been Bob Cratchit's office. Funny how the bank smelled money, the lawyer's office smelled of death and ancient brittle papers. Surprisingly the lawyer himself was a young and jovial guy. We'd hit it off the other day despite my gloomy outlook to the Executioner process.

Efficient! Swept into a conference room, a pile of papers stuck before my nose. A pen stuffed in my waiting hand.

"Sign here, and here and here and here. You've just authorized us to continue paying every bill and acting like we have for last, hmmm, almost two hundred years. Once a year we used to meet with Miss Nellie and she would let us know what our marching orders were. A fine dame. The very best. I used to love it when she came in, she always brought me candy. Of course I was three then! Hehe, these last few dozen years we always went up to the house. A shame she's gone. Oh, there, a list of all the properties and assets. The last financial accounting. The whole history of our client relationship is open if you want it. Of course the file is really that wall over there."

He pointed and I gasped. Top to bottom, eleven feet ceilings, 16 inch shelves. Bound volumes, leather, old, immense. I stood and looked, the volume up in the farthest left hand corner said Peabody, 1821. My God. He was a fucking house shark! One client. One job. One direction he was supposed to take. I bet he made a fortune raping the Peabody women.

"Have your people set up any kind of meeting, any kind of look see. You'll find we served Miss Nellie with all our heart. I don't know about my city brethren, but here we believe in full value for a dollar spent on service."

"Come on. I'll have those statements all sent over to the hotel. Let's go grab a steak over at the Duck's Tail Inn."

I groaned, another bird place.

The Duck's Tail was even older than the bank! Tucked near the river's edge, he told me it was the oldest Tavern in the region. First a ferry landing, cum lodging house. Soon just an ale house, then a tavern. Seemed ancient and yet modern. Real tap beer, one neon sign, tankards hanging on pegs above the bar. Geesh, I didn't know if I should expect Jacob or Bob Marley to step through the door and order up a pint.

"Brandy!" Damn, did I say that? Well shit, why not. The God Damn hotel is like a hundred yards away!

"It's funny you know?" Shit every fucking thing since I came here was fucking funny! "Miss Nellie insisted that the sprinkler's be put in here after that terrible fire in Connecticut, but she wouldn't let the workmen cut a single piece of timber! 'Bout drove them nuts figuring out how to do it!"

"Aunt Nellie?" I asked incredulously.

"Yeah! One of great grandmother's better investments, once prohibition started that is. Nothing like making something illegal to drive up demand! Betsy! Two of those big rib eyes! Medium Rare? Baked potato?" I nodded my approval. "And just bring that bottle on over here!"

The brandy was smooth, the steak was huge, the potato must have needed a whole acre out there in Idaho! I sat and listened to the lawyer tell me Aunt Nellie basically owned the whole town!

"Yeap, rents not raised since about 1929, not a business closed in the great crash! Every repair and preservation project possible done and paid for as soon as someone suggests it. All the businesses floated their entire yearly capital. Not a child left packageless at Christmas. Those gals owned the village and owned the people too, but not a soul would change a thing. Not one meddlesome question, not one imperial suggestion, just cash money down, but don't ask for help with the law. The sheriff and Judge are probably the best ones in the state and the old ladies never interfered in their business."

Suddenly a cheer went through the tavern. We both looked up and damned if Albert hadn't come in and found a stool up against the bar. He was looking round and when he saw us gave a great big thumbs up sign! Guess he fucking figured out I drank the best brandy in town!

There was some milling around at the door, people like in and out and in again. Funny though, every one was like toasting their glasses at us. Wonder what fucking rural ritual I had stumbled into now?

The lawyer toasted back, then turned to me and said, "Old gals had a savvy head for business too. Can't wait to read the will!"

"Fuck, you're kidding, right? You wrote it! Surely you know what is in it!"

"Nope! Lawyer over in Jasper took care of that and the actual foundation papers too. Everything here's now actually owned by The Holly Trust. My friend at the firm in Jasper is dying to hear it too! His Dad did the final work for Miss Nellie right before he retired. Only thing their firm has been required to do is once every quarter my friend gathers up all the clothes his boys have out grown and brings them over to Miss Nellie for the church. Nice drive in the country, nice cup of tea, nice respectful conversation, then a great steak at the Duck Tail. Been going on since his boys were just babies, probably a dozen years!" He held up his hand to stop me. "Fully paid in advance and never a bill submitted to the trust."

"Ivy Barry Peabody you've now been officially appointed sole trustee and executor at Miss Nellie's death. Congratulations Ivy, you're a brandy soaked billionaire since last week!"

God Damn! I downed another three fingers worth. Shit this was getting fucking serious! I thought I just had the albatross around my neck, not the whole fucking flock and the village too! Trust Aunt Nellie too! Not another soul had ever dared to call me Ivy. She never called me anything else!

Another three fingers followed just as smooth. No wonder everybody knew who I was. Geesh! What the fuck HAD the old girl gotten me into?

The lawyer finally begged off to take his cruise. He wouldn't feel a thing on the plane or aboard for the first few days I bet. I sure as fuck wasn't any better! Damn, couldn't walk a straight line if I was between two fences! Shit, fucking drunk for sure. I stopped and looked up the street to see how much farther on that hundred yards I had to go.

What the Fuck! Oh GOD! Oh No! Up on the hill! It looked like the God Damned star had crashed and was burning! The fucking lawyer saw it too!

"Good job!" He yelled. "Everybody was afraid the old place would be dark for Christmas!"

Good job my fucking ass! The whole thing must be burning like a matchbox! Can't he see how bright it is? God Damned, the fire must have got on to that fucking afghan! I stumbled to the car and managed to get the key in and back out and head up toward the house. I've got to be there! See if I can save it! Fucking drunken bastard! Get your ass up there and do something worthwhile once in your lousy fucking life!

There's the bridge, oh God, don't go left, don't go left! The drive's up to the right! Oh Shit! Oh Fuck! Oh God Damn!!!!!!!!!!



This story is a work of fiction, any resemblance of the characters to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidence. Emily Dickinson's poetry is real. It is in the public domain. Comments should be addressed to Nicholas6996@hotmail.com.