The town of Oxford, Mississippi was small with a population of only 20,000 or so. James and Brad arrived in the town about nine o’clock the next morning with a fully loaded truck.
After fussing with the clerk at the truck rental place, James was able to rent the truck for only 75 dollars a day. It wasn’t 20 dollars, but his dad’s memory was 30 years old. James realized that, so he was happy about the new price. Except the truck had to be back before closing; otherwise, there would be another day’s charge. That gave him a sense of urgency.
The first stop was the auction house. When the attendant came out to help them unload, he exclaimed, “Looks like you are getting rid of a lot of stuff.”
James agreed and then added, “We’re cleaning out an old family house. Hope there’s some good stuff here, too.”
The materials were checked and logged in one by one. A picture was taken of each object from several different angles. When Brad asked why, the reply from the attendant was, “Because sometimes we hold a Web auction as well as a live auction, so our policy is to take pictures of everything.”
Certain objects produced a reaction in the attendant: a smile, a frown, even a comment. Most of the comments were “This one ought to do real good” although the comment for the Van Gogh copy was “I’m not so sure about this one.” Overall, though, James and Brad were pleased with his reactions.
The next stop was the library to do some research on the mystery they had come across. Being a small town, they could walk to the library, for it was in the same block as the auction house. They entered and took a look around before settling in front of two computers.
James pressed his thumb against the fingerprint scanner, which logged him into the National Library System. The computer showed the message Welcome James Miller for a few seconds before switching to the Oxford City homepage.
“I’m going to look up Thomas Arnold,” James said. “What are you going to do?”
Brad was logging into his station. “I figured you could handle Mr. Arnold. I wanted to take a look at my cousin’s family history page. She called me last week to tell me she had it up and running. I haven’t had a chance to go see myself.”
James nodded and in a voice slightly above a whisper said, “Let’s see what we can find.”
After a couple of minutes of browsing, James said, “Arnold Communications.”
Brad looked up from reading his family history page, and James continued, “That was the name of Thomas Arnold’s business. In the early years telephones were their main venture although they did several things. When computers came around, they got into mainframes and shortened their name to ArCom – a name I think most of us know today.”
“Yeah,” Brad agreed, “both of us use ArCom’s NexGen.”
“When the Internet boomed,” James continued, “they did several more things including being a dial-up Internet provider for certain parts of northern Mississippi. Today, they lead the pack in, as you mentioned, NexGen Broadband.”
“Fastest thing on the planet,” Brad added.
James focused once again on the computer screen. But, no sooner had he read a sentence or two, Brad said, “Well, this is just pathetic. The Bossway family descends from the Boosways of central Louisiana. My cousin – not a Bossway herself, mind you – thinks there was some typo a hundred years ago or so.”
“That typo might have been on purpose,” James said with a straight face. Brad laughed, shaking his head.
James continued to search ArCom’s website, finding some interesting tidbits but nothing that seemed to answer his questions. The page that chronicled the company’s history mentioned nothing of a J.D. or of a Miller family whatsoever.
James was about ready to give up and search elsewhere when he found some news links related to ArCom. One link was to a story about an ArCom merger around the turn of the century. The CEO, Ben Arnold, was quoted in the article. Probably a descendant, James thought.
He browsed through some of the other news links, looking for the same name. One story was entitled “Long Time CEO Ben Arnold Retires.” After reading some of the seventeen-year-old article, James wondered if this Mr. Arnold could still be alive.
Consulting an online telephone directory, James found a B. Arnold living in Banner, Mississippi. Cross-referencing the physical address with county records, he was able to see the full name of the owner: Benjamin Fredrick Arnold.
James flipped back to the ArCom website to check the name, and sure enough, he found a reference to the former CEO’s middle name: Fredrick. Looking again at the county’s website, James noticed that the house had been owned by Benjamin Arnold for nearly sixty years.
“This has got to be him,” James said out loud.
Brad looked up from his computer screen. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Oh,” James said, not realizing he had spoken loud enough for Brad to hear him. “I think I have found a living relative of Thomas Arnold.” James stared at the screen for a moment.
“He lives in Banner. We’ll have to stop in and see him.”