Two evenings later, Brad went over to James’ house for dinner and to watch a basketball game. As he walked passed the kitchen, heading toward the living room, he asked James what was for dinner.
“I ordered pizza,” James said as he sat down on the couch in the living room. He grabbed a slice of pepperoni from the box that he placed on the coffee table. “Oh, Brad, before you sit down, could you get the mail? I heard the mailman come by right after the pizza man left.”
“Sure,” Brad said as he turned to go back passed the kitchen and then to the front porch. He retrieved the mail. “Your mailman sure comes late,” he said once he was back in earshot of James.
“I think my street is the last one on his route,” James said, raising his voice over the sound of the TV, which he had just turned on. He promptly lowered the volume a few notches.
Brad threw the mail onto the coffee table and sat down. He grabbed a slice, took a huge bite and asked, “Have you learned anything from the book you got at the library?”
James finished chewing the bite of pizza he had been working on before answering. “A lot, actually. Several things have been cleared up.”
He took another bite, finished chewing again and then continued, “Thomas Arnold was interviewed when he stepped down as CEO of Arnold Communications in the early 1950s. In the interview he describes his relationship with the Miller family, how he grew up in the same small town, how he worked on their farm when he was a young man.
"When asked how he was able to finance the startup for his business, Thomas noticeably hesitated according to the author but finally says, and I quote, ‘I received some help from the Miller family, and I owe them a great deal.’"
With a mouth full of pizza, Brad exclaimed, “I hate your near perfect memory.”
James quickly swallowed his bite of pizza. He had to take a second to gather his breath, for he hadn’t expected Brad to throw a jab like he did. “I’ll let you know that sentence was one of the easier things I’m able to remember.”
“Of course!” Brad rolled his eyes. “So what else? That can’t be all that you remember from the book.”
“Of course, not!” James rolled his eyes in imitation. “His son took over as CEO. The company didn't do much for the next ten years. The son wasn't very imaginative, but despite that, the company did well, making enough money to survive.
"Tragically, the son died in a car crash in the mid 1960s. His son, Ben Arnold, took over as CEO, making many changes. The company changed its name, merged with another company and started dealing in mainframes.”
James paused to take a couple of bites out of his pizza – his first slice. Brad, who had just finished his second slice, said, “Shoot, old man Arnold was head of that company for a long time.” James nodded, agreeing with him and Brad asked, “What else?”
“With the merger and the new CEO, many employees were laid off, including the last of the Miller clan still working for the company. They were given a decent severance package, allowing the great-grandfather and grandfather of yours truly to do a little more than survive.”
Brad sighed. “Great stuff, but it doesn’t help us identify J.D.”
“And,” James said, “nothing was mentioned about how the Miller family came up with the money to help fund Arnold’s business.”
Brad got up and headed toward the kitchen to grab a drink. James followed him, saying, “I don’t know if I am reading too much into this or not, but I think Thomas was hiding something.”
“Why?” Brad asked, bent over with his head in the fridge.
“Because during his interview … when he hesitated answering that question.”
Brad nodded in acknowledgment, heading back toward the living room.
When James returned, he picked up the mail before sitting down. He flipped through the letters, identifying each of them, “Junk. Bill. Junk.”
When he got to the fourth one, he didn’t say anything. Brad caught this, asking, “What is it?”
“You won’t believe who sent me a letter,” James said with wide eyes.