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PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2021 Pearl Englander
Published by Oliver-Heber Books
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About the Author
Miss you Mom.
Thank you for the gift of words.
Ian Dewey thought longingly of the silver flask in his middle desk drawer. However, the solicitor knew full well that it would require far more than a dram or two to ease the fear churning in his belly. Making a pretense of rummaging through the documents in his hands, Dewey surreptitiously eyed the man lounging before him in the leather client’s chair. There was no need to see the name upon the papers, for they were absolutely unnecessary to confirm the stranger’s identity. Just one look at that forbidding visage was sufficient.
“You will find them all in order,” Duncan MacLean said, his voice harsh with impatience. As a former Army officer, his experience at penetrating the barriers of procrastination was vast. He had not come all the way to Edinburgh to watch a nervous solicitor twiddle his thumbs. “My mother thought that I might have need of those marriage lines someday, for she was quite sure that my father would have attempted to deny me if he could beget himself another heir. Her fears were needless it seems. Despite my father’s numerous machinations to set her aside and his proclivity for infidelities, I am Bertram MacLean’s only legitimate heir, you say?”
“Aye, that you are, milaird” Dewey said, his voice climbing to a high pitched squeak as that uncanny one-eyed gaze focused cuttingly upon him. Hard as tempered steel, that grey eye was, and cold as a sgian dubh at the throat. “His only child in fact. Ye have the look of him, sair.”
The waving hair, dark as a moonless midnight, framed a face that seemed chiseled from granite, weathered and timeless as the mountains themselves, a countenance that was handsome still, despite the patch and the scar. Aye, it could be none other than ‘Beelzebub’ MacLean’s spawn, for his son had the identical mannerisms as well as mien. Young MacLean had that self-same scowl that could turn a man to stone and if the line bred true, a come-hither way about him that turned women into flighty fools. “It gave me a start to see ye, if I might say.”
“You and many others,” Duncan said, giving a bark of humorless laughter. “Resurrections are usually reserved for the saints among us. Still, I would venture to say that two years was a sufficient sojourn in Hell, even for a MacLean. Now, what is the disposition of my property?”
“Well, milaird,” Mr. Dewey began tugging at his neck linen as if it had abruptly become too tight. MacLean’s caustic smile made the scar on his left cheek seem like a macabre extension of his mouth. Aye, Beelzebub’s get looked fit to out-devil his sire. “Ye had already been given up for daid when your father passed on. We made every effort to find an heir, but nae man came forward. My partner Mr. Cheatham even went so far as to write to your comrades in arms to see if ye had made mention of any mair distant kin, but we could find nary a one. As I stated, ye are the last living descendant of the MacLeans of Eilean Kirk.”
“Or the last willing to admit to the name,” Duncan said cynically. “I confess myself scarcely surprised, Dewey. We MacLeans have always tended to destroy ourselves when we cannot wreak havoc on others. So tell me then, if there was no claimant to the MacLean mantle what has become of my affairs?”
Dewey hesitated, clearing his throat several times. “Well, milaird,” he continued timorously, “your personal effects were distributed, just as ye had specified in that will be made-”
“The bequest consisting of my ring and the collection of Blake’s work?” Duncan asked, leaning forward, his air of detachment abruptly vanishing. “What became of that?”
“Aye, it was sent to his lordship as ye had wished,” the solicitor said, barely able to resist the instinct to scuttle his chair back against the onslaught of that piercing gaze. ”The book of poetry and the MacLean signet, although I must be saying, that it was some time before we could puzzle your will out to fulfill the terms. A hastily scrawled document it was-”
“I wrote it just prior to the battle,” Duncan explained.
Dewey nodded, although his look was disapproving. “Aye, irregularly done, but legal for all that. Witnessed right and tight.”
Had it been a premonition that had prompted him to remake his last testament on that day? Duncan wondered as the lawyer droned on. In the past, some of his people had been gifted with the Sight. His spirits lifted slightly, and then fell as he realized that Marcus would likely have acted if he had comprehended the meaning of those notes in the margins and those carefully underlined Blake passages.
His comrade, Marcus, had always been something of a pompous stiff neck, even before he had inherited his title. His integrity as an officer and a peer of the realm was absolute. He would never have countenanced the activities that had led to the deaths of so many Englishmen.