Previous Next

Bitter Pills (Part 6)

Posted on Wed Jul 20th, 2022 @ 11:40pm by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Weysmith Farm, Sweethome
Timeline: Mission Day 35 at 0000

"I need the key to the lock box."

The words were Addy's as she reached the bottom of the stairs, dropping her bags by the door and making her way into the kitchen looking for Quinn and her parents. Peter was fast on her heels, pulling up short behind her shoulder.

"Over my dead body," Hank Weysmith spat. He was still on the floor, but propped up now against a wall. Someone, Addy imagined it was her Mama, had gotten him something cold to press to his jaw where Quinn had hit him. His eyes flashed, but they were a touch bleary as well as if he hadn't come back round to consciousness too long ago.

"Now," Addy said, stepping closer and holding out her hand. She glanced over at Quinn, hoping to get a feel for how things had gone while she was upstairs. "Or we can take 'em off you."

You'd think a body would get the picture quick-like. He'd been disarmed. His two eldest children had made plans to leave him behind. And in his last ditch effort to assert himself he'd been knocked unconscious. He wasn't winning. A smarter man might have handed over the keys. Clearly her daddy wasn't a smarter man.

"You can try and take 'em," he said with a sneer.

She sighed and then turned to look between Peter and Quinn. "You can take 'em or we can take the whole damned box and break into it later."

The idea that she might make off with something that wasn't rightly hers hadn't occurred to the elder Weysmith. Or if it had he did a mighty fine job of appearing surprised. With a growl he fished the key from his pocket and held it out to her, just out of reach so she had to come closer to take it. When she did he yanked it back and she stumbled slightly toward him, catching her feet quickly, glaring at him.

"Ain't nothing in that box you need girl," he growled. "You've already taken my dignity, leave going through my private things."

She didn't even bother to reply, hand darting out and snatching the key, ripping the ring from his fingers and making him growl with the small pain of it.

"Anything that you might want to protect from me is worth looking at," she shot back and then, with a quick turn and a nod toward Peter she made her way back upstairs.

Poe remained where he was, watchful and alert, and when Addy was back upstairs again, he shook his head. "Cheap shot, old man, but then, I never expected better of you."

Upstairs, Peter went right for the lockbox, pulling it out of the closet and holding out his hand for the key so he could open it. Once open, he laid it out on the floor and both siblings sat on either side.

"We need to look at all of it," Addy said, trepidation in her tone as she glanced over at Peter. The lockbox had been one of those things that her father had always guarded jealously, as if it held the world. And yet he spoke of it so informally as if nothing of import could possibly be stored inside. As kids they’d often come up with fanciful stories about what was contained within. The stack of papers and envelopes was almost a let down after years of speculation.

Peter nodded his agreement to her assertion. "I've only been in it the one time," he said quietly, "when I found your letters. I didn't get a chance to look at too much else."

With a deep breath Addy gave him a short nod then turned back to the box, lifting the first item out.

“That’s his money stash,” Peter informed, taking the envelope when Addy offered it. A thought rang through her head at the heft and thickness of the thing. “Count it for me?” she asked softly. “Just… I want to know.” Peter’s returning look was curious, but he didn’t disagree and she gave him a weak smile as he pulled the money free, beginning to count.

While Peter worked, she turned her attention back to the papers. At first it was fairly standard stuff. The deed to their land, a folder that held everyone’s birth certificates and her parents' marriage certificate. She shuffled both her own and Peter’s birth certificates free of the folder and set them aside. Beneath the folder was a large envelope, the sort that papers got mailed in when you didn’t want to fold them. Deft fingers opened the flap and she drew forth a small stack of paper.

“Peter,” she said, voice holding a sort of uncertain tension. “Do you know who Frederick Weysmith is?”

Her brother looked up from his counting, pausing and shaking his head. “No. Why?”

With a frown she pulled free the first page on the stack, offering it to him. The paper was heavy, the sort that comes with official documents–in this case a death certificate complete with Alliance stamp dated nearly 20 years ago.

“I’m old enough to remember Gran and Pap,” she said. “And Pap’s name wasn’t Frederick.”

Peter, for his part, had separated the money into two piles on the floor, setting aside what had already been counted so he wouldn’t lose his place. He read the death certificate solemnly and shook his head again. “I… I really don’t know.”

Addy’s eyes had already turned back to the other pages, a shot of surprise running through her. “Peter…” she whispered. “It’s a will. It’s a will and the beneficiaries are us.”

Sure as sunrise, the document did cite she and Peter as beneficiaries to the mysterious Frederick Weysmith, not only to funds, but to land. Land that was on another planet. Land… that was theirs free and clear and just waiting for them to claim it once they came of age. She blew out a breath, hand shaking as she offered the document to Peter to read.

When he had finished he looked up at her, eyes shining with an almost painful amount of hope. “Addy,” he whispered. “We own land.”

She nodded, a smile finally breaking out on her features. “Yeah,” she said, “we do.”

As quickly as the smile was there, though, it died. There had been funds and she wondered if they could still be accessed or if her father had found a way to bleed them dry already. He held the papers here, so perhaps he hadn’t been able to, but she couldn’t be sure. Anger surged back through her. They had a whole inheritance that he hadn’t told them about. She’d been past the age of majority 8 years already. Wordlessly she placed the papers and death certificate back in the large envelope and then, for good measure, tucked their birth certificates inside as well.

She started to turn back to the box when Peter’s hand settled on her arm, stopping her. “How much did Daddy take from Poe’s letter?” He asked.

She repeated the sum back to him, turning to look at him with confusion, but it was quickly replaced as he beamed, holding out a stack of notes to her. “Rainy day fund,” he said with a shrug. “Apparently he does have it lying around…”

Grateful, she accepted the money and tucked it into the envelope as well before leaning over to bump Peter with her shoulder. “Thank you,” she said. “It’s much easier doing it this way than trying to sell a couple yearlings.”

Two stacks of paper remained and Addy was quick to move to the next, ready to return to Quinn and get on to leaving this business behind. The top pile was clipped together with a binder, Lori Jo’s name written across the top–clearly a life insurance policy. She flipped through, seeing the list go on in ascending order. There were too many pages though and, as she flipped Juliet’s on to look at the one underneath she stilled, taking it in before flipping that page over as well.

“What is it?” Peter asked, craning his neck to see. “By the look on your face it ain’t good.”

She sighed, handing over the stack so he could see the two insurance policies that bore their names. Both were too old for a valid policy to be taken out on them, but at the bottom of each, in alarmingly similar handwriting, were their signatures. Signing to confirm their extension. “I didn’t sign this,” she said as he read.

“Me neither,” he replied, expression turning stormy. “What are we? Some kind of livestock to him? Best get insurance and make sure we get our money’s worth even if… if…” He clamped his mouth shut, refusing to say it.

“Even if something were to happen to us,” she said. “Yeah.” Like the others, she pulled their pages free, placing them in the envelope, and then squeezing Peter’s knee. “We’ll take them with us. And we’ll figure it out.”

He nodded, but his eyes flashed still and she knew he wasn’t ready to agree that any good could come of it.

The last pages were nestled right in the bottom. She could tell just at a glance that it was a contract of some sort. But to her knowledge all of the farm’s contracts were kept in the office. This one must have been for something particularly important. Taking a deep breath she lifted it from the box and began to read before, with a whirl, she flew to her feet, snagging the envelope and rushing down the stairs with the papers clutched in her hand.

Wooden stairs in an old farmhouse can make a thunderous sound when someone is rushing down them. Not a soul would miss Addy's descent from the bedroom and true to the sound she entered the kitchen like a storm.

Stalking toward Hank Weysmith where he had returned to his seat at the table she glared. "What... in all the 'verse... is this?" she practically spat, throwing the contract down on the table where he could see it.

A smug sort of ugly smirk settled on Hank's features. "A contract," he said simply, though the corners of his mouth twitched like he thought something was funny.

"Is something amusing to you?" she asked, seething anger beneath the sharpness of her tone. "This ain't no simple contract. This is selling your daughter like a brood mare. This is... is..."

She reached across, snatching the document back and straightening, her face going cold. Her bags were by the door and she moved to pick them up before putting her hand on the doorknob, stopping only long enough to glance at Quinn. Her look was pleading and she opened her mouth to say something, but in the end, no words came so instead she opened the door and stepped outside, moving to sit on the porch swing with her bags at her feet.

"Peter," Poe said, "why don't you join your sister. I'll be along directly."

The younger Weysmith sibling had followed a moment behind his sister, grabbing the envelope of things they had collected and leaving the lock box and its key sitting open on the floor of his parents' bedroom. He'd only caught the tail end of Addy's comments, but put aside any curiosity to nod at Poe. With a single, angry, glance back at his parents he, too, turned and left the house.

Poe watched him go and then, satisfied that they were out, he moved toward the door. "Best," he said as he looked at her parents, "that you both stay inside till we're gone." He didn't wait for an answer, just walked out the door and moved over to where Addy stood. He picked up her bags and said softly, "Come on, Bao Bei, time to leave them behind, eh?"

In the few moments since she'd left the house before Quinn, Addy had sat perfectly still, perched on the end of the swing. She barely registered Peter's arrival on the porch and it wasn't until Poe stood before her, bags in hand, that she looked up, a shattered haunted sort of look in her gaze. She didn't speak, but she did stand, leaning her head into his shoulder for just the briefest of moments before she turned and led the way off the porch and out the long trek to the shuttle.

She didn't look back.

Hank gave them thirty minutes. Figured that was enough time to pass the distance to where they'd set down. Weren't words to say so the two times Eleanora tried to speak he'd shushed her, shaking his head. After twenty five or so minutes he stood and went to the fridge, pulling out a cold pitcher of tea and pouring them both a glass.

"I'm going outside," he said gruffly once he'd handed over the tea, not bothering to see if she'd follow.

Didn't have to step far out into the yard to see the shuttle. Weren't no sign of the kids, but then he hadn't expected there to be. They'd made their choices and he'd let them go. For now.

The cold glass met his lips and he sipped slow, letting the tea slide down his throat like he was watching holiday fireworks and not his two eldest children leaving. Somewhere along the way Eleanora had come out and settled on the porch swing, but he didn't pay her any mind. She'd her own thoughts to contend with and he'd his.

And his were thoughts of planning. He never had been one to stay down in a fight for long. Maybe long enough for his opponent to think they'd got the upper hand, but then that was a strategy itself weren't it?

The doppler whine of the shuttle passing overhead shook him out of his thoughts for only a moment. He turned and watched it go before a grim look of determination settled on his features.

Back inside he settled at the desk in his office and put together the wave he needed to send to set things in motion.

It read simply, Matthias, we need to talk.


Previous Next