Shock and disbelief chased each other through her brain. Forty-three…what? Katrina opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t think of a thing to say; no sound came out.
"Come off it, Katrina! Don't act the innocent with me. Your lawyer here has had plenty of time to sign the money over to you." Charleston gestured toward Gavin with the gun.
Katrina looked over at Gavin. He was sitting on the couch, his eyes on Charleston. No emotion showed on his face, and she couldn’t judge if Charleston was lying or not.
“Gavin hasn’t said anything to me about any money; certainly not millions of dollars. Why on earth would Uncle Andrew leave it to me? I’m not even related to him.” She was confused.
Charleston made a guttural sound, as though he were choking. He gulped in some air. When he spoke, his voice had not only risen in volume, but the tone was higher and a bit breathless. It sounded as though he had just run hard…as though he were losing control of himself, becoming nearly hysterical.
"I don't know! He shouldn't have! We'd checked with your fancy-pants lawyer there,” again he gestured toward Gavin with the barrel of the gun, “just weeks before the penny-pinching miser died, and we were in his will. All that money is supposed to be ours!"
Charleston's rage was a palpable thing; Katrina could feel it emanating across the small space separating them. She clamped her teeth together to keep from physically shuddering.
“Hey, Lawyer,” he said, stepping close to Gavin and shoving his gun in his face, “why did you give my money to this whore? She’s not good enough in bed to earn a five-dollar bill, but you slept with my wife and then gave her my money to pay her for it!”
Gavin’s cheeks colored slightly. Katrina wondered if it was from anger or embarrassment.
“In point of fact,” Gavin replied evenly, “I haven’t given Katrina any money, Charleston. Neither have I slept with her. I don’t make a practice of sleeping with other men’s wives.” His voice was dry and even, spoken as though he were testifying in court…as if he hadn’t even noticed the gun being waved an inch below his nose.
“Where’s the money then?” Charleston demanded. He seemed to be more back in control of himself. If that was because Gavin had stayed so calm, Katrina was thankful he appeared to be a spineless lump at the moment.
“Some is still in the bank, and the rest is tied up in Andrew’s other investments, where he left it.” Gavin replied.
Katrina could not believe what was going on around her. Forty-three million dollars; Charleston saying it was hers; and she didn't even own a suitcase! She wondered about Uncle Andrew.
"When did he die, Charleston?"
"About six weeks ago. It took Mr. Fancy-britches Browning, here, a while to find you," he snickered.
”And you followed him here?”
"Of course! He wants the money, too. Why else would he pay attention to an ugly slut like you?" Charleston sneered. He turned to Gavin again. “So how come you didn’t give it to her? Isn’t that your job, to hand over the money to the new owner and try to get them to hire you as their lawyer?”
“It is my job, as executor, to hand over the money according to the instructions in Andrew’s will,” Gavin agreed, still in a pleasant tone of voice.
“So why didn’t you give it to us? You told us we were in the will. Then, when we came to collect, you said Katrina got it all, and you haven’t given it to her, either.” A crafty look came into his eyes. “I know; you’re planning on keeping it all for yourself. Your own personal retirement plan.”
“Actually, I was investigating Katrina.” Gavin said calmly.
Icy fingers clutched at Katrina’s heart. Investigating her? For what? She hadn’t done anything, unless you counted running away from Charleston.
Charleston sneered. “What did she do that you’d be interested in? Is it something I should know about, as her husband? What, has she been sleeping with somebody else?” He laughed. “If she can find anybody who wants her, he can have her. She’s a useless bit of trash, no good in bed, no good at cooking, no good for anything; so what’s to investigate?”
Gavin smiled as if in agreement. “I was investigating her, because Andrew wanted to know if she’d had anything to do with his death. He wanted to know if she’d helped in the planning stages.”
Charleston laughed. “Katrina? Help plan the old coot’s death? Little goody-two-shoes-go-to-church-on-Sunday Katrina? You must be joking. She’d never even think of doing such a thing.” He was laughing so hard that he had to wipe the tears from his eyes. “She’s not smart enough to pull it off, either, even if we’d told her what to do.” His barking, cruel laughter echoed around the room, raising shivers in Katrina’s spine.
“You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna tell you how smart we were, and how we did it all, because I know there’s nothin’ you can do about it. You can’t go to the cops, because you didn’t see us do nothin’. You can’t go to the judge and whine, because it’s all hearsay if you tell him. And I ain’t never gonna tell anybody else, and Jason’s not, neither, and you’ll have to live out the rest of your life knowing we done it, and not being able t’ do nothing about it. Because there’s no evidence; not a single drop that’ll prove he didn’t die of natural causes.”
Gavin smiled and settled more comfortably back against the couch. “You’re absolutely right, I can’t testify to anything you tell me, under the hearsay laws. So while you wait for Jason to get back to whatever motel room you two are living in, tell me what geniuses you are, the pair of you. I can’t believe you pulled it off with no one the wiser.”
Katrina looked at him in amazement. He didn’t look at her; didn’t acknowledge her at all.
“Please, Charleston.” His hand made a small motion as though turning over a meeting to him, then rested both hands casually on his thighs. He was giving Charleston his utmost attention.
Gavin’s voice had sounded almost admiring of their murdering the old man. Katrina wondered if he had a tape player running, because a recording made in Charleston’s own voice should work against him, shouldn’t it? But when would he have had a chance to set it up, or start it recording? She frowned. It wasn’t like Gavin to not have a plan; she would just have to bide her time and find out what it was.
Charleston threw himself into one of the chairs across from them and laid the gun on his knee, though he kept it in his hand, and kept it pointing in their direction.
“He should've left the money to me and Jason. We were the ones with him, taking care of him at the last when he kicked over! About five years after Katrina left, we got down on our luck, and had to go live with him. He treated us like servants; made us fix his food, and we had to make sure his blankets were 'just right'. I spent hours listening to him ramblin' on about the his early years and how hard he had to work for his money and all of that crap!"
Charleston began imitating the voice of an old person.
'This soup's too cold…the coffee needs more cream…I need another blanket…where's my newspaper…the juice is too warm; I like it chilled, Charleston! Can't you remember anything? You always were a slowtop! Now, where's my bifocals?" Charleston made gestures with his hands as he continued his mimicry.
His eyes, open wide, were almost glassy as he continued to talk. The look on his face was so eerie, Katrina shivered just looking at him. Pain from the sudden movement of her arm made her wince, but she daren't make a sound. She got the feeling Charleston was back with Uncle Andrew, and if she made him aware of her presence, he'd lash out at her, and she'd be dead before he even realized who she was.
Charleston heaved himself from the chair and began to pace as he continued. "Read me the Bible, Charleston, maybe something will sink into your feeble brain besides your greed!"
Katrina watched and listened in fascinated horror to Charleston. She could almost see Uncle Andrew, and hear his pain and suffering as Charleston revealed how he and Jason manipulated his regular medications for his heart trouble, sometimes skipping a dose, sometimes giving extra doses too close together. Compassion filled her heart for Uncle Andrew and what he had put up with before he died. Charleston droned on, not really himself any longer. It was as if he had become his uncle.
"Gads, will it never end? Don't drag it out so, boys; it's too painful. Just give me the final dosage and be done with it. Just remember, things aren't always as you plan 'em, boys. I'll give you both a little surprise, even if I have to come back from the grave to make sure you get my full bombshell! You’ve checked with Gavin…he's told you I've left the bundle for you. What more do you want? Bat's teeth! Put a period to it or leave me be! Just get it done! I'm old, and I'm tired, but I can still laugh. Yessiree Bob, I can still laugh!"
The sound of Charleston's voice made goose bumps on her arms and once more Katrina shivered, catching her bottom lip between her teeth to keep herself from making a sound.
Once more Charleston's breath was coming in gulps, his chest heaving in the anger which consumed him. Katrina's couldn’t take her eyes from her husband…stared at him with the shock of what he’d just confessed to doing. She tried to swallow, but couldn’t, her throat too dry.
A small sound must have escaped her throat, however, because Charleston whirled to face her, pure rage distorting his features.
"You stupid, whoring SLUT!" he screamed at her. "You and that lying son of a lawyer-man! You KNEW he left my money to you! Give it to me! It's mine! He can't laugh at me if I've got the money! Give it to me!" He stomped over to the couch and raised his empty fist to slug her. Katrina cringed, knowing he had finally lost control, and wondering how quickly it would be over for her. She hoped it could be soon. She was already in so much pain….
The front door slammed open, and Charleston whirled, pointing his gun at the body that had entered. He squeezed off a shot, and the sound from the gun echoed horribly through the living room. Katrina’s ears rang; the gun had been so close to her face when it had gone off that she could smell the burned powder.
The door slammed shut as Jason loomed in the living room doorway. “Sorry, Bro, you missed me. You’ll have to try again another time.”
His eyes flitted around, taking in the situation. He strode across the room and took the gun from Charleston’s hand, then shoved his brother toward one of the chairs, telling him to sit. He then settled himself into the other chair, holding the gun rather negligently in his lap, a malicious smile distorting his hostile face.