“It’s blasting from the quarry.” The lawyer was saying as he handed Franklin a towel. Franklin had driven straight into town stopping first at the workplace of the man who’d sent him the letter. Now he was cleaning up in the private bathroom of his office preparing to change into a loaned suit given to him from the lawyer who was luckily his same height and weight.
“The blasting makes them deaf and then they wander out onto the railroad tracks or the highway and get hit.” The man continued. “You’re fortunate you that didn’t run into that sucker!” He said peeking out of the blinds of his office to admire the beast affixed to Franklins car. “As big as he was, he’d of killed you straight out if you’d hit him.”
Franklin wiped his face handing back the bloodstained towel. “I think I many have ruined it.” He mumbled.
The lawyer simply shrugged giving the rag an unconcerned glance before throwing it into the wastebasket next to his desk. His name was Hogarth O’Reilly and if you took away the receding hairline, goatee and thick horn-rimmed glasses that he wore he could have passed for Franklin’s older brother. Both men were around six-foot-two both skinny for their age and both olive skinned, brown eyed and dark haired.
Franklin closed the door and changed into the suit. When he emerged, he stood in the doorway admiring the furnishings of the room.
The office of Hogarth O’Reilly was an austere arrangement especially for being located in a tiny little strip mall. It was nicer than the garage where Franklin worked and out of place in what appeared to be just a dirty little factory town with bad roads and dilapidated houses. Dark wood paneling lined the walls, decorated with hunting trophies and pictures of ducks in flight. Even the blinds that hung over the floor to ceiling windows were dark wood. Those windows may have been better suited for a convenience store or a laundromat but here, inside amongst the leather furniture and smell of stale tobacco smoke Franklin couldn’t tell it.
“I don’t know if you know it yet or not,” Hogarth said sitting at his desk, pulling a file from a drawer. “but you own the quarry. You own pretty much the whole town now really.” He added.
Franklin had in fact deduced that his real father had been a man of great wealth and power from reading the letter that O’Reilly’s office had sent him just four days ago. In a confusing arrangement of dry legalese and vague property descriptions it had alluded to assets that were to be left to Franklin upon the man’s death. Ultimately the letter gave no real details but it hinted that there was a considerable amount of possessions to be had; all from a father that he’d never known existed.
“Where’s the funeral?” Franklin asked stepping from the bathroom and ducking around a pair of elk antlers which hung dangerously close to the doorway. They were smaller than the antlers that were now embedded in the roof of his car but still impressive none the less.
“Just down the road at the First Baptist Church.” Hogarth replied as he drew a finger down a list on one of the pages in his file. “We don’t really have time to go over the will beforehand but I thought I’d get it ready just in case you wanted to skip the service.”
“No.” Franklin replied. “I’d like to attend. I never really knew him.”
“Of course.” The lawyer answered closing his binder and standing with a smile. “Your dad was a big figure in this town. Pretty much ran the whole place.”
“Did you know him?” Asked Franklin.
“I had dealings with him as his lawyer.” Hogarth answered matter of factly before calling to his secretary. “We’re going out Danny!”
The secretary, an older lady who appeared molded to her chair by her girth simply waved a dismissive arm from a small room in the back.
Walking over to a coat rack near the door, O’Reilly grabbed a wool jacket and handed it to Franklin. “We’ll walk to the chapel. You’d better take this. It’s a pretty warm morning for this time a year but I’m betting that coming from Las Vegas, 55 degrees still feels pretty cold to you.”
In truth, Franklin’s blood was still pumping heavily from the episode with the elk. What adrenalin hadn’t been able to offset with regards to the temperature he’d already been acclimatized to by driving the 12 miles it took to get to town with busted out windows. Still, he took the coat and followed the man out into the bright sunlit morning.
“Is that your car?” Franklin asked putting on the coat and motioning towards a gleaming new Cadillac parked near his own destroyed, elk covered cover Civic. Years of being in the car repair business had afforded him an appreciation of fine automobiles. He’d noticed the silver lines of it almost immediately upon finding the office. It was the same year, color and make as the one his father, Jose had just purchased after trading in an older classic Corvette convertible.
“Yep.” The lawyer answered simply. “Your father’s patronage mostly helped buy that for me. Between the layoffs at the plant and the failed reclamation of the quarry he’s kept me pretty busy for a couple of years now.”
“My dad owns a car like that.” Franklin allowed, awkwardly trying to make small talk and not seem too eager to get to the funeral and see the body of his dead father.
The lawyer nodded.
After a moment Franklin decided that his statement needed clarification. “I mean, the father that raised me in Las Vegas. Not the one you knew.”
If his father in Las Vegas had one weakness it was flashiness. Nowhere was this flashiness more evident than in his love for cars. True, Jose had always spent more than he’d been able to make running the garage but somehow he’d managed to make things work. He’d bought a house which was too big for their needs along with jewelry for his mom and the best toys for Franklin when he was growing up.
The Cadillac had been only one in a series of luxury cars that his father had owned over the years. Mostly their purchases were based on the whim of whatever predilection he came to the dealer’s lot with but sometimes he had an idea of what he wanted. The Corvette that he’d owned directly before the Cadillac had been a passing fancy based on a commercial in which he’d seen with a bunch of old men riding in the back of one talking about their prostrate problems. He’d purchased it the year before but found the desert sun too harsh to get much use out of. Jose didn’t have prostrate problems.
The man whose funeral he was about to attend had died of prostrate cancer and didn’t seem to share Jose’s weakness for flashiness. If it was true that he was a big figure in the town and had owned most of the property around here then there wasn’t much to show for ostentation. The street where they walked seemed devoid of color. Bleached, cracked pavement butted up to grey cyclone fencing which lined front lawns brown and unkempt. Occasionally a dog would run up to the edges of a gate barking at the two of them as they passed but mostly it seemed as if they were strolling through a ghost town.
After a moment Franklin began to wonder. “Is everybody already at the funeral?” He asked motioning with his hand to the deserted street before them.
“Some, maybe…” Hogarth replied absently. “This area of town’s been mostly vacant since the layoffs. Whoever’s left is probably either still working or hunting; lots of sportsman around here.”
“You own the factory now by the way.” The lawyer added after a moment. “They make these little angel plates pressed in copper; pretty cute I suppose but not much of a market for them. I helped your father copywrite a few designs he’d drawn up and wanted to use on some of them.”
“Was he an artist?” Franklin asked trying to set upon anything that would give him a better picture of the man.
“Not really.” Hogarth chuckled. “Most of his art was kid’s stuff. I got the impression he just scribbled them down and sent them to me to keep people at the factory busy.”
“So he cared?” Franklin asked. Coming up the steps of the church he turned at the door and looked down at the weathered town below. It was hard to imagine anyone caring about this place enough to want to keep it afloat with a failing factory bad angel art. The hills around it were rolling and beautiful but the city itself was a dump.
“Look.” The lawyer said stopping momentarily, his hand on the handle. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression here. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure if anyone around these parts knew if your dad cared or not. He kept mostly to himself.”
“Mostly to himself?” Franklin quipped. “But I thought you said that he was a powerful man?”
The lawyer sighed. “He pulled the strings that made things work. He threw money at the angel factory but you would hardly ever see him around town and he wasn’t known for paying his workers that well or doing much to keep the city up. He mainly just lived out there in the woods doing whatever he did in his mansion with that huge fish tank everyone use to talk about.”
Franklin’s eye’s shifted, locking with the lawyers. “I’m sorry.” He said trying to figure out where this conversation was going. “Did you just say that he lived with a huge fish tank?”
“Yes.” The lawyer smiled. “I’ve never seen it but from what I’ve heard it’s about the size of a two story house.”
“What?” Franklin asked.
He had been striving to get a picture of the man who had fathered him for four days now. He’d tried pretending that he wasn’t curious and that he had only driven all this way for the money but still, he found himself constantly fishing for the answers that his mother had refused to give him. What sort of life had she lived before moving out to Las Vegas. Had she been in love before meeting the man that he’d always known as his father? How had her and his real dad met?
So far on this trip he had learned that his father was a recluse who painted angel pictures and kept an enormous fish tank. To say that it was disappointing to find out he was apparently related to an eccentric after driving over a thousand miles and having his car totaled by an elk was somewhat of an understatement. In truth he hadn’t come for the money, he’d come to get a better idea of who he was as a person. At this point every question he’d asked had led to more confusion.
“The taxidermist would be the best person to talk to if you want to get answers about your dad.” O’Reilly said interrupting Franklin’s thoughts and pointing down the street to a weathered old cinderblock building. The word ‘Taxidermy’ was written in huge letters on a piece of wood above its windowless frame. “If there was one person who had regular contact with your dad it was the owner; his names Joe. He was the one who mounted all of the wings and fishtails that your father always brought in.” At that, the lawyer swung open the door to the church revealing a Mermaid shaped cremation urn sitting on an alter before a completely vacant room.