Those Golden Eyes
A day of keys and a ghost
Dave kind of felt like a fifth wheel when he went into the bookstore these days. Sue had taken over and made changes he'd never thought of. She had consolidated sections that only got seasonal attention and opened up an area with several lounge chairs and space for children to sit on big comfy cushions to listen to a story teller read to them. She had taken out advertising in the women's section of the local paper announcing that the story teller would be reading on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
A twenty foot section of the wall bordering the coffee shop, she set up a magazine rack with its own cash register. To stop pilfering, which was a big problem, every book now had a little magnetic stick inside the back cover that set off an alarm if not deactivated when purchased. She hired more employees to wander through the store not only to help where needed, but to patrol.
She rearranged the office and added another desk for herself. She left Dave's as it was. They both knew he didn't need to be there any more, and Sue did her best to make Dave feel comfortable, but she could tell he felt left out now. This morning he was sitting at his desk shuffling papers attempting to feel useful. Sue was out in the store. There was a light knock on the opened door. Dave looked up to see Joan smiling at him.
"Joan." He said rising and walking around the desk to her.
"Dave, how are you. I haven't seen you since Bill's funeral."
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"I just got back from Europe. Yesterday. I took my sister on a tour. So other than being exhausted I am doing very well."
"Come, sit down." Dave pulled the big winged back chair around so that they could sit facing each other.
"William always talked about how he'd have liked to take me on a tour, so I just decided that I would take that tour just to see all of the places he told me about."
Dave smiled and nodded. Joan opened her huge purse and started digging in it.
"William gave me an envelope with a key. He told me to hold on to it until Edith passed on, and then give it to his son. Now she's dead and Bill is gone."
She held up the key and envelope and smiled at Dave.
"So now I guess you are the master of Way Mansion and I should give these to you."
"Master of Way Mansion?" Dave paled.
"Why yes. You did inherit his fortune did you not?"
"Then you are now the master and these two items are for you." She said, handing it to him.
"What is this key to?" Dave asked, holding it as though it might explode in his hand.
"I don't know."Joan exclaimed with surprise in her voice at being asked
Dave raised his eyebrows in query.
"William never told me and I never thought to ask. I just put them into my jewelry box and forgot about them until this morning. I thought I should bring them over to you before I forget them again."
"Well, thank you, Joan, I'm sure that sooner or later it will become apparent what it will unlock. I really must have you up to dinner soon. I would like for you to meet Joe."
"I would love to meet him. You know modern architecture is a subject close to my heart."
"I would never have dreamed."
"Yes. And the Paolini Tower is my all time favorite building."
"Well, in that case you have to join us Friday evening. We are having a little casual get together. Sue whom you've met will be there. And bring your sister Elisa with you."
"Oh, that sound wonderful Dave. I'm sure I can answer for Elisa. We would love to come."
"Fine. Just tell the doorman at the Tower that you are guests of Dave and Joe. He'll whisk you up to our domicile."
Dave sat there in a daze after Joan had left. He couldn't believe the conversation he'd just carried off with the elderly little old lady. Bill had always called it shmoozing, and Dave had always insisted that it was something he could never do. How had Bill put it? Oh yeah, being insincerely sincere or was it sincerely insincere? Well, he'd just done it, although he didn't really think that he had been insincere with the invitation.
He was still arguing with himself when the phone rang. Someone answered it before he could pick it up. He sighed. A young man stuck his head through the opened door and smiled at him.
"Phone call for you, Sir."
Dave lit up.
"Oh, thank you."
He picked up the phone.
"Dave Gates. May I help you?"
"Good morning, Dave. Clyde here. I need to make an appointment with you to go over all of the holdings you now own. I just received the keys to the Way Mansion. I thought you would like to go through it, being as how you are now the owner of it."
"Oh, my God............... I never even thought about that being part of the package."
"Well, there is a lot more that just the mansion, Dave. If you can make the time for me, I'd like to go over the list of just what you do own now."
"What time would you like to meet, Clyde? I have nothing but time now that I'm not running the bookstore anymore."
"Well, what would you say to lunch and then I can turn over the keys to you and go through the list."
"I think that would be great. Let me call Joe and have him meet us. Say twelve- thirty at the Cock and Bull. That's downtown near Joe's work site and your office. And then we can just stroll up to your office and go through it all."
"Sounds like a plan, Dave. See you then."
Dave set the phone back into it's cradle and picked up the envelope that Joan had given him and read the inscription in the front. It said: " Bill, my son, do not open this envelope until you have used the key. WRW"
That made Dave even more curious and eager to get into the mansion. He stuck the envelope into his desk drawer
and locked it. The key he shoved into his pocket with the intent of putting it on his key ring later, and forgot about
Dave's mind was still reeling when they got to the mansion. He had never really thought about all of the holdings that the fortune consisted of. Just the amount of the wealth was mind boggling, but to see it all itemized simply blew him away. He sat in the back seat of Clyde's limo clasping Joe's hand. Clyde and Joe were talking, but Dave wasn't hearing what they was saying.
The limousine pulled up to the heavy wrought iron gates and stopped. The window descended behind the driver.
"We have arrived, sir."
Clyde took a remote control from his jacket pocket leaned forward and handed it to the driver and then touched some controls in a panel above the built in bar. All of the windows in the limo opened so they could see the grounds as the car wound its way up the curved drive. Manicured lawns bordered with bright seasonal flowers flowed by.
Dave stared at the three story, turn of the century, red brick mansion as they approached it. It looked neither friendly nor warm to him. To think that Edith Way had spent most of her adult life in this building made him shudder.
As they climbed the wide curved steps to the large oaken door Clyde produced a ring with a number of keys on it. He handed it to Dave who in turn studied the keys as he stepped up to the door. He looked at the large key hole and pick the largest and oldest looking key in the bunch. Sticking it in the hole he twisted it. The key turned easily in the lock. He pushed the huge door and it swung silently open. Leaning forward without stepping into the foyer both Joe and Dave peeked inside.
"Go on in and look around. Make yourself at home." Clyde said.
"Are you sure Edith's ghost isn't going to jump out and grab me?" Dave asked.
"I would never have taken you for a man who believes in ghosts, Dave."
"I'm not, but Edith Way scared the crap out of me. I don't know how you managed to be her lawyer."
"Edith was never friendly, but my dealings with her were always strictly business. She had quite a good head for managing her money and making good investments. I learned a lot from her."
"I only met her three times and each time she was screeching nasty names at me like a banshee."
"Well she'll screech no more. The house has not been entered since her death. So things may be a little dusty. Go ahead and explore."
The size of the room was immense. It was at least twenty feet wide and ran the length of the building. The floors were highly polished marble parquetry. The walls were smooth golden travertine with many large exquisite paintings in gold frames. They simultaneously looked up at the vaulted ceiling with its hand carved beams it was painted to appear as though one were looking at white puffy clouds in a blue sky. Joe chuckled as he pointed out a solitary little angel looking down at them with his elbows on the top of the wall, his hands supporting his chin. The far end wall was all stained glass. As Dave gawked at it he was certain that it had to have been done by Louis C. Tiffany. It depicted the scene of King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone while Merlin observed.
The were several hand carved ,high backed, oversized chairs in two semi circles facing each other on each side of a large round table, in the center of which was a large exquisite vase filled with dead flowers. On the right side of the room were four large double doors. The three large demi-lune tables between the doors each held a vase containing dead bouquets.
"Mrs. Way refused to have live in servants. That was why she was dead for three days before the maids found her. The house was locked up when the coroner took her away. We are the first to enter since." Clyde explained.
Dave stepped up to the first set of double doors and opened them with a flourish. Joe heard his sharp intake of breath and turned to see what had caused it. Neither man had ever seen so much gilt furniture in their lives. The center of the room was a highly polished ballroom dance floor that could easily hold two hundred people. Around the floor were at least that many delicate French Renaissance gilded chairs with occasional small tables dispersed amongst them. Each wall had a large fireplace of white marble. Tall gilt framed mirrors hung between floor to ceiling French windows which opened onto a terrace that surrounded the room. A marble balustrade enclosed it.
Again the ceiling was painted to look like the sky. The cerulean blue was picked up in darker shades on the walls and in the large heavy rugs around the room.
"The windows have shutters to keep the sun out. I had them opened this morning so you could see the magnificence of this room. Come look at the dining room."
Clyde led them back across the Hall and opened another set of double doors. The first thing they saw was the long dining table. Dave counted the chairs. Twenty.
"The table can be extended to accommodate seventy guests. That door is to a storage room for the rest of the table and the chairs. The door in the middle of the wall is to the kitchen. This door is to the men's smoking room. And the one across from it is the ladies sitting room. Both rooms open onto the Hall and at the back of each is an office. Mrs. Way spent many hours of her life in hers. That is where I met with her to take care of her business dealings. Mr. Way had his own lawyers. I had no contact with him. I've never seen his office."
"Lets take a look at it." Joe suggested, heading into the smoking room.
Dave and Clyde followed him. Joe found that the door was locked and turned looking at Dave expectantly. Dave held out the ring of keys to him. Several keys were tried before Joe found one that worked.
The room was just as Joe had imagined it. Dark rich woods, green leather upholstery on comfortable looking high back arm chairs. One wall was books. A small fireplace on the back wall was framed with more shelves. But these held mementoes of the man's life and as Dave looked more closely; much of it was things from Bill's early life. A lump from in Dave's throat as he studied them. Here was a small bit of the man's childhood that Dave never knew about. His attention was suddenly diverted with an exclamation from Joe.
"I knew it! I just knew there had to be a safe behind a portrait just like in the movies."
Dave looked at the portrait; it was of Bill around the age of sixteen. He was a handsome teenager. The lump in Dave's throat got just a bit bigger. He lost himself in memories of his college days with Bill.
Joe pulled on the right edge of the painting and it swung out from the wall behind it was a small door with a keyhole. He checked through all the keys on the ring. Nothing fit.
"Damn. Foiled by the lack of one key." Joe looked at Clyde who in turn shrugged. Joe moved the painting back into place. The movement brought Dave out of his thrall.
"Just a minute," He said fishing in his pocket. He pulled out the key that Joan had given him earlier in the day and handed it to Joe.
"Try this one."
Joe's eyebrows went up in surprise as he took it.
"Bill's dad's mistress gave it to me just this morning. Mr. Way had given to her to give to Bill after his mother's death. But he died before her. She had forgotten about it until she found it this morning and brought it to me."
Joe slid the key into the hole and turned it. The metal door swung open. The three men all craned their necks to see what the vault held. Joe reach in and lifted out a bundle of documents and a stack of six journals. They all looked a little disappointed as though they were expecting a treasure of gold and jewels. Joe handed the stack to Dave who sat down in the comfortable high backed desk chair and set it before him on the desk. Clyde had gone back to perusing the books and Joe stood next to the chair looking at the bundle of documents.
Dave untied the bow in the string that held them rolled and flattened them out. There was a letter on top
addressed to Bill. Joe leaned forward to read it with Dave.
My dear Son,
Since you are reading this, both I and Edith are dead.
I hope that she didn't give you too difficult a time after my death. God help the poor creature. I truly hope her life in the hereafter is better than it was here. I am certain that our parents are paying for their transgression against us.
Contained in this bundle are deeds to several properties that Edith never knew about. I can't be certain that she
will do right by you when she dies. Therefore, I held these in trust for you. She cannot dispose of this house. It
has to go to you, therefore, rather than hiding these in a safe deposit box I have locked them in here. There are
only two keys and I shall destroy mine soon. The other one Joan will give to you at the time of Edith's death.
"Damn, he makes it sound like Bill would have been a pauper if Edith hadn't willed her fortune to him." Joe commented.
"Yeah, I think most people born into wealth think differently than the rest of us. That was where Bill was so different. Although, he was born into it, he wasn't raised like a rich kid, so he never thought like one and certainly didn't spend money like one."
"I wonder what he would have been like if his mother had raised him."
He'd have probably have been an alcoholic or a drug addict."
They started reading again.
"We have never really been close, Son, but I have always kept an eye on your progress through life. I believe that I did the right thing in taking you from your uncaring mother's arms and putting you in the care of one of the most loving generous women I have ever met. I watched you become the man I wanted you to be.
Although it may not mean much to you at this point, Son, I apologize for the reaction I gave when you informed Edith and I that you are gay. Again I did what I thought best for you, and selfishly for me. If I had right out accepted it in front of Edith, she would have scathed you like she has always done me.
I want you to know that I accept you and love you as you are. I only wish I could show it, but if I were to, your life would be the hell mine has been since the day after I was wedded.
When the time comes, and it is nearing; my health is failing fast, I will die in the arms of the woman I have loved my whole life and who has loved me the same. It might cause a scandal, but if it does I'm sure your life won't be affected by it. It will be my little revenge on Edith.
I have kept a journal since my college days. I have made the last entry, and have tied them in a bundle. This is my life. And I ask that you read it so you will know that I have always loved you, Son, and have always had your best interests in mind.
I think these journals will explain many of the questions I am sure you have wondered about. After you have read them You may do with them as you please. I have often thought they would make a good reading if publicly printed. Being that you are the end of the line for the Way Family it is your choice.
I know you have had a happy life. I have done everything in my power to make it so. I am happy that you found a life mate that loves you as you love him. Tell him I do appreciate what he has done for you.
I don't know how to end this so I'll just say: I love you, Son.
William Randle Way
"Wow." Dave exclaimed as he sat back with tears in his eyes. "I wish Bill could have read this. It would have made a big difference for him."
"Well, I'm sure that if there really is a here after, he and his dad are together where they can express the love should have been able to show in life." Joe said, massaging Dave's shoulders.
"Yeah, I have the image in my head of Mr. Way waiting at the Gates for his son to step into his waiting arms."