Oyster Creek Ch. 08bySoebek110©
The rest of the day passed smoothly for Daniel and the other staff at the Oyster Creek General Store. The disposal truck had taken away most of the junk that filled the store, but the display cases and remaining stock still needed to be dealt with. He had helped dismantle some of what was left before the truck returned for its second visit later in the day, then made his excuses to leave.
He had an appointment he could not miss. Earlier that day he had contacted a local law firm about the situation with the store and had arranged to meet a Ms Rosemary Bernholdt for the afternoon.
Wiping his hands down the front of his jeans, he called Jenny over. She smiled as she approached.
"I have to head out for a bit," he said quietly. "Can you look after things here?"
She grinned. "Well, given that's what I was doing before you arrived in America, I think I can handle it."
She looked at him a moment, and cocked her head. "Where are you going, if you don't mind me asking?"
Shit! He could hardly tell her what he was doing, not until he found out for sure. This revelation about the store could cause such a shitstorm he needed to guarantee it was true before he allowed that to happen.
He desperately wracked his mind for an excuse. "I'm going to... er... have a massage."
What the fuck, Dan. That's literally the worst excuse you've ever come up with.
"A massage?" she said, her eyebrow rising. "During work hours?"
"Um, yeh. It was the only slot they had."
She put on a bemused expression. "Well, enjoy yourself. Will you be back later today?"
"I don't know. Maybe. It depends how long it takes." He shrugged.
"How long your massage takes?"
"Alright. Well, Claire and I are going to go and shop for new furniture for the store after this. I was going to ask you to come with us but I guess now you're... busy?"
Daniel grimaced. "Sorry, Jenny. I just really need this... massage."
"Have fun then, I guess."
With a puzzled shake of her head Jenny turned away, returning to continue clearing the store. Dan cursed his stupidity under his breath then left the store, waving down a cab as he did so. One of the benefits of the store being on the main street was there was always a taxi about when needed.
Still annoyed at his pathetic attempt for an excuse, he told the driver the name of the law firm and sat sourly in the back of the cab as the car moved off.
Daniel pushed open the heavy door to 'Wills & Bernholdt Attorneys' and stepped into the lobby. The warmth was the first thing he noticed; despite the brightness of the morning sun outside it was colder than it looked. Almost immediately his nose threatened to start running with the transition, and he hurriedly sniffed in a lungful of air before approaching reception.
"Can I help you?" said the young man behind the desk, his suit pristine. His neatly-parted brown hair made Daniel feel scruffy all of a sudden, but he pushed the thought from his mind with a small smile.
"I'm here to see Rosemary Bernholdt," Daniel replied.
"Is she expecting you, sir?"
"Then take a seat, please."
Daniel did as he was asked, fingering the brown folder - which contained copies of the Birch family tree and his great-grandfather's will - as he glanced around the pleasant reception. Pale red carpet complimented the peach-coloured walls, and certificates and diplomas hung all around like an academically impressive gallery. He heard the faint buzz of an intercom and a gentle murmur as the receptionist talked with a woman who Daniel presumed was Ms Bernholdt.
After a few minutes of silence, the buzz sounded again, and the receptionist looked over to Daniel. "You may go in," he said with a pleasant smile.
Daniel stood, thanking the man as he stepped through into the hallway beyond the lobby, immediately seeing the door labelled 'R. Bernholdt' and knocking.
"Come in!" said a friendly voice from the other side of the door.
He pushed it open, shutting it behind him as he strode into the expansive office. Light streamed in through the large windows, and wooden bookshelves and chairs almost managed to make such a generous space seem cluttered. The ornate wooden desk behind which Ms Bernholdt worked did not help matters.
She was a pretty woman, Daniel thought. Likely in her early-forties, with a kindly demeanour which belied her obviously-impressive intelligence. No one gets their own law practice without being fucking clever, he thought to himself as he took a seat at her suggestion. Black hair was curled stylishly about her face, and her brown eyes regarded him with friendliness.
He had to suppress a grin as she ran the fingers of her left hand through her hair and the large gold band that sat in her ring finger glinted in the sunlight. Well I suppose that's that then!
Which was not a bad thing, Daniel knew. There was a time and a place for two people to try and work out whether the other wanted to get into their pants and, if both did, getting down to it. This was not that time nor that place.
"Now that we're comfortable, how can I help you Mr Porter-Michaels?"
Daniel leaned forwards, handing her the small brown folder. She opened it, leafing through the documents, then looked up at him.
"A property or inheritance debate, I presume?" she said in her softly soothing American accent.
Daniel chuckled. "In a manner of speaking. My family's company owns that store, or at least they think they do. They sent me over here to run it for them, and then I found those documents."
"Where did you find them?"
"I found the will in an old office. The family tree I found in the local archives."
Rosemary Bernholdt raised an eyebrow. "Well, according to these it does look like store is actually owned by the Birch family. Does your family's company know?"
"They do not. But when I tell them, they're going to be annoyed."
"I would imagine so."
She leaned forwards then. "So, I presume your presence here is to fight this Birch family and maintain your family's ownership of the store? I do not like to make predictions when I have so little to work with, but I have to admit Mr Porter-Michaels that your chances are slim. These documents are pretty water-tight."
"You misunderstand me," Daniel smiled. "I want to know if those documents do give ownership to the Birch family. If they do, I want to enforce them."
Rosemary Bernholdt sat back then, a puzzled look on her face. "So, let me get this straight, you were sent here by your company - who think they own the store - to look after it. Having done so, you have found evidence that in fact they do not own it, and you want to bring that evidence to light, knowing it will hurt your company?"
Daniel nodded. "Roughly speaking, yes."
"Then please, you must give me the background to all this. It all sounds very confusing."
Daniel spent the next few minutes explaining things in as much detail as he could, from being sent out to Oregon to his latter discoveries in the archiving office. She listened intently, occasionally scribbling something down on the pad of paper in front of her, and nodded at infrequent intervals.
Eventually he had recounted the whole sorry tale, and Ms Bernholdt looked at him, lost in thought. After a moment, she spoke.
"Well, it seems to me to be a fairly simple case on the face of it, although these things never are. What I can do is tell you that it's certainly a case I'd like to take on for you, but I will need to research it a little more before I can make any statements as to your chances."
"That sounds fine, Ms Bernholdt," Daniel said with a smile.
"Well then, Mr Porter-Michaels, shall I call you when I find something out?"
"If you could."
She stood, proffering her hand, and Daniel shook it briskly. "Thank you for your time."
"Not at all," she smiled back. "This case has piqued my interest. I'll endeavour to get back to you by the end of the day."
Daniel thanked her again as he made his way from her office, and soon he found himself back out on the street. Digging his phone out of his pocket, he called up Jenny's number and dialled. After a few rings, she answered.
"Heya Dan," she said sweetly at the other end. "How did your massage go?"
He'd forgotten he'd spun that little lie. What was he thinking? Oh well, nothing to do about it now.
He swallowed. "It was fine. Lovely. Um, how's the store?"
"It's great. The garbage truck came back and took away the rest of the crap. Place looks so bare but Claire and I chose the perfect furniture from the outlet earlier. It's being delivered tomorrow so we'll be back up and running before you know it."
"Excellent, excellent." He paused a moment, before continuing. "Listen, Jenny, there's something quite important I need to discuss with you. Would you mind if I came round a little later?"
Sudden concern entered Jenny's voice. "Are you alright, Dan? Of course you can come round. But, I'll tell you what, I'm going to send the staff home now because there's nothing else to do. How about I come round to your hotel? I've got the car, after all."
"That sounds fine, Jenny. And don't worry, there's nothing wrong. Just something... important."
"You've got me intrigued now," she laughed down the line. "I'll see you in about an hour?"
They said their goodbyes and hung up, and Daniel surveyed the street in silence letting his thoughts coalesce. As they did so, the sheer enormity of the lawyer's news finally began to sink in. The store was not his family's. It was Jenny's and Lucy's.
It was not his family's.
He did not even try to suppress the grin that spread slowly but surely across his face. His family were going to get the shock of their lives.
Daniel approached his hotel room door with trepidation after a loud knock had signified Jenny's arrival. Reaching out to open it, his hand hovered briefly over the doorhandle, and he realised he was nervous. This surprised him slightly, but before he could psychoanalyse himself any further he had pulled the door open and found Jenny regarding him with a broad smile.
She was wearing a pale blue t-shirt - which Daniel couldn't help but notice stretched wonderfully over her large breasts - and black jeans. Her hair, as always, was immaculately styled. He wondered how long she had to spend on it each morning; for him, preparing his hair took a handful of styling putty and maximum of thirty seconds.
Either way, he could not leave her standing there, and he invited her in quickly. She stepped inside and he shut the door behind her before waving her over to the chairs by the window.
"Ah yes, I suppose I didn't really think that my home might be more comfortable than this," she laughed as she took her seat. "Still, what was it you wanted to tell me about?"
Dan smiled at her, moving over to the minibar. "Well, first let me get you a drink. I don't have a lot in here, but we've got coke and soda water amongst some other crap."
"A coke will be fine," she smiled, taking the small can and the glass that Daniel offered her.
He took a seat opposite her and waited for the beautiful brunette to fill the glass and take a sip before he spoke.
"I told you earlier I had some news," he said at last, and Jenny nodded at him.
"Well, perhaps I should first say that I was not having a massage earlier. I said that because I didn't want you to know where I was. I was at a law firm."
Jenny set down the glass. "You were seeing a lawyer? What the hell for, Dan? You've been here four days, please don't tell me someone is suing you already."
Daniel laughed. "No, no. Nothing like that. I've not managed to annoy anyone that much. Not yet, anyway."
He took a deep breath. "Hear me out, ok? When I was going through my grandfather's old desk the other day I found something in a locked drawer. It was his will."
Daniel reached over behind him, picking up the brown folder from the counter and placing it in front of Jenny on the small wooden hotel table. He flipped it open, running his finger down the page until he drew attention to the appropriate section.
As Jenny opened it her eyes widened. Then she looked up at him, stunned.
"Does this... say what I think it says?"
He nodded. "It does. I looked you up, Jenny. Your parents own that store. Mark and Lucy Birch were your grandparents."
"They were," she said softly. "Dan, I have something I should tell you, too."
"My parents left everything to me and Lucy. They arranged it with lawyers before they went. They took the money mom earned from selling her shares and they started a new life. If this store belongs to them then..." she swallowed, looking at him earnestly before continuing, "then it belongs to Lucy and me."
Now it was his turn to be stunned. "It belongs to you?"
"Apparently," she said quietly, looking down at the document again.
"Which lawyers dealt with your parent's wishes?"
She looked up at him and shrugged. "I think it was something like 'Wills & Bernholdt'? I don't remember. It was years ago."
That's the same lawyer...
Jenny obviously did not see the look that swept across his face at that realisation, and she continued. "I can't believe this. How sure is the lawyer?"
"She seemed pretty damn sure. She said she'd call me later today, but she hasn't yet. Do you want me to call her?"
Jenny nodded, still taking it all in.
"Alright. Hold on a sec, Jenny."
Daniel pulled out his phone and dialled the lawyer's office. A few minutes later he was talking to her directly and she confirmed that, yes, it belonged to Jenny's parents, and yes, she would represent them if required. When she was told about the arrangement Jenny's parents had she asked him to wait whilst her secretary fetched the appropriate documentation.
A minute or so later she was back on the line and telling Daniel that it had indeed been her partner in the firm that dealt with that case. Everything in Oregon that had been Jenny's parents' now belonged to her and her sister. That included the store.
He thanked her before ringing off and turning back to Jenny. The beautiful woman sat there blank-faced, still in a state of shock at the news.
"It's yours, Jenny. You own that store."
A smile curled the corners of her lips, then it grew wider. And wider. Colour flooded back into her face.
Seconds later, she had flung her arms round Daniel's neck and was kissing him.
"Dan, that's the most amazing news I've ever received. And the most unexpected."
She laughed, then whirled away, back to her chair. "I have to tell Lucy. I have to tell everyone!"
"Woah, calm down, woman," Daniel said, stepping closer. "Let it sink in first. The lawyer says it's a pretty open-and-shut case but that doesn't mean you should tell everyone right away. By all means tell Lucy, but let's allow things to settle before you make it public knowledge."
She stared at him a moment, her hazel eyes shimmering with happiness, then nodded. "You're right, of course."
Daniel sat down opposite her as she pulled out her phone and dialled Lucy. There was no answer.
"She's not answering. I guess she's busy at the moment." Jenny shrugged, putting the phone back in her pocket. Suddenly, a smile crept onto her face and she laughed. "Of course she's busy! Jared's in town this afternoon."
"An old friend of hers, and you know my sister."
Daniel chuckled. "I do indeed."
Jenny's face dropped a little then, and Daniel picked up on an undertone of sadness that had not been there moments before.
"I'll tell her later. But, Dan, it dawns on me that this is not good news for you. I've been so rude, bursting with joy at your misfortune. I'm so sorry."
He grinned and reached out, taking Jenny's hand. "Jenny, don't be sorry. Firstly, of course you're happy. You shouldn't apologise for that. Secondly, this is great news for me."
"It is?" she asked, a puzzled look on her lovely face.
"Of course. I get to stick my middle finger up at the company back in Britain. I get to say 'hey guys, you've fucked me, now I'm going to fuck you'. It will be glorious, Jenny."
She raised her eyebrows and laughed. "I'm glad you're happy too. But fuck me, Dan, remind me never to piss you off!"
He smiled, amused. "Jenny, as long as you don't send me halfway across the world, away from the life I know and love, to try and punish me severely for what you perceive as wrongdoing, I'll never be vindictive towards you."
A moment's silence passed between them. Then, Jenny stood. "You know what, Dan? This calls for a celebration."
He reclined on his chair as he watched her move over to the phone by the bedside. She dialled reception.
"Hello, could I speak to room service please? ... Oh, you do that too? Well, could I get a bottle of champagne please? ... How much is that? ... How much is the next one down? ... I'll take that one."
Giving Daniel's room number, she hung up. Then she grinned. "The champagne they suggested was $400. I'm not spending that, not even for news like this. The next one down was $40."
"Much more reasonable," he laughed.
Shortly afterwards a knock at the door meant the arrival of their bottle, and Jenny brought it in, though not before having to present her driving licence to prove she was over 21. Much to Daniel's annoyance, she insisted on paying for it ("it's my good news, Dan!") and soon they were settled at the table once more.
He opened the bottle, pouring them out a glass each of the delicious liquid, and raised his glass.
"To the general store, and it's new owners," he said, and Jenny grinned as they clinked their glasses before taking a sip.
They chatted for a while, enjoying each other's company, and Daniel was pleased to note how well Jenny was taking all this in her stride. She really was quite something. Before long, the topic of conversation had turned back to the store.
"You should probably contact your family," she said sympathetically. "I know it might not be fun, but they need to know."
"Oh, it'll be fun," he grinned in return. "I can contact them now if you like?"
She shook her head. "No, let's not ruin this evening. Email them in the morning."
A moment of silence passed before she spoke again. "Oh, Dan, I meant to say that a truck came by the store this afternoon to deliver a new sign."
"Yeh, I asked Rodrigo to design a new logo for the store this morning. He did it over lunch and took it upon himself to get it printed, too."
Daniel pursed his lips. "Is it any good?"
"It's gorgeous, Dan."
"Absolutely. Thing is, it came so quickly he must have designed it in an hour or something. He's going to scale great heights with talent like that."
Daniel raised his glass again. "To Rodrigo!"
Jenny giggled as she clinked her own against it, and they both finished off their champagne. The bottle was gone.
Daniel stood then, taking away the empty bottle and putting it by the door. He'd recycle it in the morning. Jenny had stood, too, and was putting the glasses by the sink.
He watched her a moment, enjoying the sight of her lovely figure, and realised he was getting turned on. That was not surprising, given he had just spent the best part of an hour in her lovely company, but it did mean that certain thoughts flooded into his mind.
She caught him watching her then and smiled. "You look like you've got something to say, Dan."
He closed the distance between them quickly, placing an arm around her waist.
"It's just that it dawns on me, Jenny, that you shouldn't go driving home having just had that champagne. You need to wait at least a few hours."