John stood in a dark room. It felt familiar but he could not place it. He moved toward the door. He couldn’t see it but seemed to know exactly where it was. Grasping the door handle, he pulled. The door moved and it felt heavy as it slowly opened. Low light flowed through the gradually widening gap and the smell of rotting flesh hit him assaulting his nose like a chemical bomb. He started choking, coughing, and gagging.
He woke and sat up coughing. The stench lingered in his nose and burned his eyes. It was a dream, John thought; sitting in his bed sweat streamed down his chest. Dawn was just breaking so he pulled himself from the strangled sweat soaked sheets and headed to get a shower.
The crowd was light, as he exited the train, not surprising it being mid-week. The town was quaint albeit thriving. As industry goes, logging was one that has always been in demand. This town was well suited being located at the base of the mountains. That was one of the many reasons his ancestors had founded it, he was certain.
John had changed his name legally years ago and had the records sealed but the family lawyers found him anyway. When the letter arrived in his daily mail, it was both a surprise and a relief. It was only a matter of time before his uncle died and they would come looking for him but he had hoped they would leave him alone.
Instead of running from what he knew was inevitable, he booked passage on the train back home, called the lawyers to inform them he was returning to settle the estate, and reserved a room at the downtown hotel. The trip was short but his mind was heavy with memories he thought were lost. No one knew what had happened after his parents died or why he stopped coming home; he knew that his uncle would never speak of it.
“Mr. Warren…I’m sorry, I mean Mr. Lavery?” A slight built man wearing a very expensive tailored suit and who was about John’s age broke him out of his memories.
“Yes, I’m Mr. Lavery. Are you from Jenson, Westel, and Briggs?”
“Yes, I am Martin Briggs, but you can call me Marty.”
“Hello Marty,” John replied stretching forth his hand. “You can call me John.”
Marty gave John’s hand a good shake then motioned to a waiting car. “Shall we head to your estate or is there somewhere else you need to go first?”
“Please take me to the Bellmington so I can check-in. Then we can head to my uncle’s estate.”
Marty gave him a quizzical look, then nodded and motioned for him to get in the car. He took John’s bags and put them in the trunk before getting in beside him.
“To the Bellmington, Johnson,” he told the driver.
After checking into the grand hotel and dropping his bags off, John and Marty were chauffeured to his uncle’s estate that sat on the tallest hill in town. It was not as large as other’s of its era was but for the area was impressive to all who saw it. The gates opened as they approached and the gardens were as well tended as ever.
John spent only the first eight years of his life in this house plus a few holidays and summers before it no longer seemed important. Twenty-two years, he thought. That was the last time I set foot on this property or saw my uncle, when I was a mere child of thirteen.
The car door opened and Marty said, “This way John.” He giggled a bit adding, “as if I have to show you around your own house.”
John followed silently through the foyer and front drawing room to the library where they found a statelier gentleman sitting at his uncle’s desk.
“John, let me introduce you to our senior partner and good friend of your uncle’s, Mr. Robert Jenson.”
Jenson rose and shook John’s hand with both of his speaking softly, “My condolences son.”
“Thank you,” John replied extracting his hand.
“John you can call me Robert. Please take a seat and we’ll get down to business.”
John sat in the over stuffed leather chair that had the hint of oak most likely from the fireplace across the room that his uncle always like to have lit during colder weather.
“John, as you are aware, you are now the only living heir to the Warren family fortune. In all honesty, son, you should have taken over ten years ago, as your uncle was never an heir, only a custodian of the trust until your twenty-fifth birthday. However, your uncle told us you hated him and probably would never return and then when we could find no records of you we dropped the subject. That is until last year when Richard received his diagnosis of cancer. He immediately asked up to hire investigators and search for you, no matter the cost. I’m sorry we didn’t find you before he passed but I’m certain he would be glad to know you are here.”
“I’m sure he would be,” John muttered.
Robert either didn’t hear him or kindly ignored the remark and continued. “So, I figure you have a well established life but it was both your parents and uncle’s wish for you to take over the family business. What are your thoughts on this?”
John stared at him. Stiff and silent.
“Perhaps,” Robert said, “you should read this letter your uncle left you before you make up your mind. I personally watched him write it and seal it a month ago when he knew the end was at hand.”
Robert handed a thick envelope across the desk. John took it reluctantly and opened it.
“We’ll just step outside for a few minutes,” Robert said as he began to read.
My dearest J,
I know that you hate me for what you must feel was abuse but I want you to know that what I did, I did out of love. There has never been any doubt to me that I was a sick man and if your parents had known they would have never left you in my care. My brother loved me. He knew some of my proclivities but certainly not my deepest or darkest demon. I have spent years in lonely despair because of what I did to you. Part of me thought it was ok at the time while another part screamed to stop. I never meant to abuse you, only to love you.
I have no idea how much damage I have done to your life; I only know what I did to your trust in me as well as our relationship. I hope that you have been able to rise above any scars I left you to be the man I know you can be, a man like your father.
Most likely if you are found, you will want to burn this house to the ground and destroy all that I have touched. I hope you have more compassion for the good people that have worked for us over the years and this town than to take your hatred of me out on them.
I’m dying J and may even be dead before you read this. I loved you. I know that love was like a poison to a child as young and innocent as you but it was true love nonetheless.
John folded the letter slowly. “How could he say he loved me?” John muttered. He knew that his sexuality had nothing to do with what his uncle had done but the emotional scars still wreaked havoc on his relationships. At the preadolescent ages when these events happened, John loved his uncle like a father. Like the father, he lost. Not like the whoring boy slut, his uncle made him.