This is chapter 40 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK
Friday morning, September 25th, 2020
“OK everybody, we’re going to do painting this morning,” said Jo to Benny, Sara, Jack, and Mareka, the four students in her little home-school class, “We’ll be using water colors so… everybody go to the sink and put some water in their can, fill it about half-full.”
In the bathroom adjacent to the mudroom that opened into the garage there was a sink where the children lined up to get their water. Jo mused on the scene—that these 7-year-olds could peaceably engage in a cooperative action, without supervision, without a pecking order, each child from a different ethic background, without societal taboos—yet.
“But… they’re just kids,
” she thought, ”In ten years, who knows what they’ll be thinking?
“Everybody set? Good. Today you are going to paint a picture of one of your favorite things, it can be anything, just paint something that you really like.”
“I like my cat,” said Jack.
“I’m going to paint a picture of my Xbox,” said Benny.
“My Teddy,” said Sara.
“Those are all good things,” said Jo, “How about you, Mareka?”
“I'll show you when its done,” said Mareka, “You’ll know what it is.”
As the children began to paint Jo took the free time to check her phone. The most recent message was from Artie Shapiro, her late mother’s lawyer:
Re: John Stroud - CALL ME ASAP!
Jo called Mary.
“Hey, sup?” said Mary. Mary was in her office, working on some marketing details for the upcoming relaunch of Hilmar’s Spells App. Hilmar had noticed an uptick in interest as the Covid crisis wore on and he thought it would be a good idea to reconfigure the app. He also needed the money, his regular tourist guide business had collapsed after the lock-down in March.
“Sorry to bother you,” said Jo, “But could you take over the class for a bit, I’ve got an important message from my mother’s lawyer, he wouldn’t have done that unless it was really important. They are painting their ‘favorite things’, see if you can guess what they painted.”
“No prob, be right over.”
Sean was buying groceries at the neighborhood QSC. As he went through the store he thought about the perks of living in the Northgate district of Seattle. The ease of shopping for food and other necessities while still living in a quiet residential area had been an intangible asset when he and Mary were looking for a place to live, but after a few months here it it was obvious that many other people thought the same, the opening of the light rail station in Northgate next year was really driving real estate prices up. They had already received offers for well above what they had paid for it two months ago.
“How did I become such a mercenary capitalist?
” he thought, “I’m becoming a…
Sean’s train of thought was interrupted by the sound of a woman’s voice.
“Excuse me, Mr. Carroll,” said the woman, “I wonder if I could have a word with you?”
The woman’s mask didn’t hide her identity—it was Barbara Merrit.
“Six feet apart, of course,” said Barbara.
“I’m ready to check out,” said Sean, warily, “You can talk to me on the way to the car.”
Sean thought that if he was able to converse with her she might see his side of things, at least a little bit. He paid for his groceries and Barbara met him outside the store’s door.
“What can I do for you?“ asked Sean, “I’m willing to talk about anything I can say for certain. I’m not your enemy, you know.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” said Barbara, “I had a little run-in with some of the same people that you were involved with in the ‘Billygate’ affair.”
“You’ve spoken with Agent Marchal?”
“He saved my life,” said Barbara, “I would have died in the attack by the ‘foreign agent. He had an inhaler of poison gas. Agent Marchal said it was the same kind that Jo’s attacker had, and what Reverend Stevenson died from.”
“O.K. I’m convinced of your story,” said Sean, as he began to put the groceries in the car, “The existence of the inhalers has never been released to the press. You were very lucky. Sally O’Donnell wasn’t so lucky. Are you still going to write your book?”
“I-I-I don’t think so, at least not the exposé I was planning. I guess I was wrong about a lot of things.”
"We all make mistakes," said Sean, “The only reason I’m still alive to talk with you has been dumb luck.”
“What are you going to do now?” said Barbara.
“My life is pretty simple now,” said Sean, “I’m a family man, my wife and my children come first. Professionally, I’ve been promoting my grandmother’s art. My cloak and dagger days are over.”
“Can I ask you one question, for a friend?”
“You can ask.”
“What was the story with that woman that seduced Marcel DuPage?”
"You might say that it was some role-playing that got a little out of hand,” said Sean, “She was a professional… an escort, putting it politely. And, as she was
a professional, I will honor her privacy. Now, let me ask you a question. Is there anything I can do to put your mind at ease concerning the death of your brother? I assure you we had nothing to do with it. We are not involved in any conspiracy about anything.”
Barbara Merrit said nothing. After waiting a bit for an answer, Sean got into his car and drove away.
Jo was on the phone with her mother’s lawyer:
"What is it Artie?”
“Jo, I want you to know that I’ve gotten a report on John Stroud, your ex. I still get updates from the Spokane PD whenever they concern the restraining order that your mother had on him. It seems as if he’s really done it this time. A couple of his druggie pals overdosed on some supposed heroin that he furnished them. That is really not the news I’m calling about, however. It seems that Mr. Stroud is heading to Seattle, I don’t know if he knows you are there, but please be careful.”
“Thanks, Artie,” said Jo, “I’m pretty much stuck at home for the duration, I’m home-schooling some of the neighbor kids, I takes up a lot of my time.”
“Is everybody finished?” said Mareka to the school children, “Let guess what it is that you’ve painted.”
The children posed proudly next to their creations.
“So, Benny, that’s a video game console?” asked Mary.
“Yep. It’s my most favorite thing in the whole world.”
“An Sara, that’s a bear, right? A real bear or a stuffed one?”
“Its a stuffed one, but its real, too.” said the girl.
“That’s your cat, isn’t it Jack?”
“My favorite thing, and he likes me, too.”
Mary looked at Mareka’s painting for a long time. It was a field of abstract orange blobs, nicely done but still abstract enough to make it hard to figure out.
“I give up… ”
Mareka smiled and said:
Next Chapter: You Are My Sunshine