He was just beginning to relax when a loud, slightly nasal voice stated loudly, "Mr. Malcolm, there's a gentleman out here wishing to speak with you: a Mr. Van Greeves."
Roland Malcolm moved his feet off the desk and sat up straight in the chair, pressing the intercom button. "Does he have an appointment, Margaret?"
"No sir," his secretary answered testily, "but he insists on seeing you as soon as possible." Papers could be heard rustling, then Margaret added, "And you don't have any appointments until lunch."
Roland paused for a moment, then nodded to himself. "Send him in Margaret."
"Yes sir," she replied and the intercom clicked off. A moment later the large doors across the room opened, admitting Margaret and an older gentleman. Roland stood up as Margaret left, closing the door, and gave a winning smile. "Good morning Mr. Van Greeves."
The older man nodded his welcome as he approached the desk and reached out for a handshake. Taking the man's hand, the younger Roland was surprised at the firm grip his guest gave. "Please be seated," he stated, motioning to an oak chair to the side of Roland's desk front.
"Thank you very much," Van Greeves replied, taking the proffered seat and bringing his briefcase up onto his lap. "I promise I won't take much time, Mr. Malcolm, and please do forgive me for not making an appointment earlier," he said, opening the briefcase and shuffling around a couple papers. "I'm usually not this unorganized."
"It's all right, Mr. Van Greeves," Roland replied, "you seemed to come at a good time in my schedule." He leaned back in his chair and asked, "So, what can we do for you?"
"Well," Van Greeves drawled, still shuffling around some papers inside his briefcase, "I represent a Mr. Edward St. James, a former long-time member of your Sacramento based charity on 13th and J streets."
"You're a lawyer?" Malcolm interrupted, groaning inwardly. It couldn't be another lawsuit, could it? They'd had twenty-two in the past two years alone, all of which had been settled out of court, and had ranged from alleged sexual harrassment to compensation for a former worker who had fallen off a six foot ladder and complained of back and neck pain.
Van Greeves looked up at the interruption, a perplexed look on his face, then he understood. "Yes, I am a lawyer," he replied, "but I'm not here to serve summons or any subpoenas." He took a paper out of the briefcase, set it aside and closed the bag, setting it on the floor before him. "It is my duty to inform you that my client, the deceased Edward St. James, has left you in his Last Will and Testament. Or, more precisely, your company."
Malcolm's eyebrows drew together in a puzzled frown. "I can't place the name," he stated uncertainly, "but I'm not involved in certain aspects of the business such as the fundraising and money departments."
Van Greeves nodded. "Mr. St. James was one of your charity's longest running donaters. Records of his donations go back to..." He scanned the paper in front of him, then continued, "Go back to 1957, which I believe was the year after the charity was founded."
Malcolm whistled appreciatively; whoever this man was, he'd certainly been around a long time. "He's probably in the records then," Malcolm mused but Van Greeves shook his head. "He's not in the records?" Malcolm ammended/asked.
"No, my client had been an anonymous donator, sending his checks monthly to the Sacramento branch."
Malcolm's lips tipped up on one side. "Checks? As in personal checks? If so, he wasn't as anonymous as he might have thought."
"No, he requested that his donations not be recorded in your company's records except under 'Anonymous'. However, he kept explicit records himself, most likely for tax reasons."
"What did the man do for a living?" Malcolm asked, genuinely curious. "Was he an upper class citizen or well off?"
"Hardly," Van Greeves replied, chuckling. "He worked in construction mainly, although he didn't always stick to that field. I believe he told me that he was also a dock worker, a busboy, a cab driver, and a horse trainer among other things."
"And he still managed to give us regular donations," Malcolm mused aloud.
Van Greeves nodded. "He was a very smart man," the lawyer added determinedly. "He didn't move around from job to job because he couldn't stay there, he moved because he simply wanted to experience it all. He did finally settle into being a Sacramento bookstore owner in '74 with his wife and three children, where he stayed until two weeks ago."
"How did he die?" Malcolm asked curiously, then hastily added, "If it's all right to ask?"
Van Greeves nodded, a weary look in his eye. "He'd been having heart problems for about four years, and it finally took him in his sleep. It was like he was perfectly healthy one day and...gone the next."
Malcolm gazed at the old lawyer before him. "Were you and him close?" he asked gently.
"I was a friend of the family, really," Van Greeves replied, pulling himself back together. "I just sometimes wish that...well, that life could have been a little kinder to him later in life."
"What, did he start to grow a hunchback or something?" Malcolm joked, but his grin was erased when he saw the deep sadness in Van Greeves' eyes. "What happened?" he asked, all humor now erased.
"It wasn't anything that happened to him specifically," Van Greeves stated tiredly, "it's what happened to his family." He sighed as he continued. "A little over a year ago, both his sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grand children were killed in a drunk driving accident on highway 80. The resulting trial of the drunk driver was thrown out of court after three months because police at the scene had been heard making racial comments towards the black driver and someone had mishandled evidence. Two months after the trial, his wife had a stroke; she too died about a week later."
"Jesus," Malcolm breathed, unable to believe anyone could take all that in so short a time. Most people wouldn't have been able to handle the compounded tragedies.
"It gets worse. About seven months after that, his daughter was raped and killed somewhere outside New York, and they never found who did it. His son-in-law committed suicide a month later, saying he couldn't take it all anymore and leaving behind a child with leukemia. The boy was only 7; he died less than a week after his father, never knowing why his dad stopped coming to the hospital." Van Greeves reached up under his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose, obviously distraught.
"My God," Malcolm managed after a moment, "his whole family completely wiped out in less than a year?!"
"No," Van Greeves stated, sitting up but not losing his sad expression, "he has one granddaughter left: Sierra Matthews, the daughter of his oldest son. She is his only living relative."
"My God," Malcolm repeated, stunned by the story. "She's the only living relative from the whole family?"
Van Greeves nodded sadly. "The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow and the reading of the will is the day after. Only she, I, and your company will be attending." He shifted in his chair, attempting to get back to business. "I had been hoping to speak with Mr. Blaire himself today."
Malcolm got a hold on himself after a moment as well. "Michael Blaire is out of town today on a business trip." With his mistress, he thought privately but figured it wouldn't be a good thing to disclose.