It’s a funny thing about dishonest people. They’re not real smart either. Blood Land.
May 9, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
THE RECORDS WERE not that hard to find; a person only had to be looking. And it didn’t hurt to know who to ask. Ty McIntyre would never have looked. Rory counted on that fact. A fortune split three ways was not only more lucrative but a hell of a way to stick it to the man in the world most like him.
The idea came to Pruett when Ty said something about blood being more important than money.
Why would Ty’s grandfather, Willy McIntyre, take any chances with the inheritance?
Normally, not a big stretch. But Pruett happened to know the deceased McIntyre employed a damn fine lawyer; he knew it because Willy used her several times in land disputes with the county.
It occurred to Pruett there was little chance that Beulah Jorgensen—who in addition to being Town Attorney did plenty of private work on the side—ignored the significance of surface versus mineral rights.
This meant that either Willy or Rory McIntyre intentionally cheated Ty out of his birthright. Pruett knew two things for certain:
Willy McIntyre loved Ty fiercely.
And Beulah Jorgensen, cantankerous as she was, would not be party to something so deliberately heinous.
That left Rory.
Rory and Ty never saw eye-to-eye. Ty was too strong-willed, too much like his old man. They’d fought openly. Physically. It just never occurred to Pruett that the old man would take it that far. And if Ty had found out…
* * *
Pruett brought a pair of old-fashioned donuts and a steaming coffee from the local bakery to Gert Lundergaard, County Clerk. He didn’t need bribery to get anything from Gert, he simply knew what she loved, and he liked to indulge her. Gert had been there for him during the long haul months after Bethy’s death, the one person in town with whom he could share the terrible fear he felt climbing into an empty bed each night. Gert lost her husband of fifty-two years the winter before, to cancer.
“Morning, sweetie,” Pruett said, handing the bounty to Gert.
“You are a fine man, Sheriff James,” Gert said. “You know my sweet spot.”
“I need a favor,” Pruett said.
“No need to say so,” Gert said, pulling out a fresh donut. “Just tell me.”
“Need all the land records and the will from the McIntyre estate.”
“Popular files,” Gert said.
“Beulah Jorgensen. She was in here last week, reviewing the same. This have to do with the trial?”
“Maybe,” Pruett said.
“Give me a few minutes,” Gert said, and disappeared into the file room behind her station.
* * *
Funny thing about dishonest people, Pruett thought as he read through the official documents—one being the Last Will and Testament of William Joshua McIntyre: Very few are as swift as you see ‘em in the movies.
But there was no horseplay Pruett could see in the original disposition of the estate. It was clear how the property was to be divided and nothing was said about mineral rights separately.
The document also named Rory the executor of the estate. As such, all future proceeds would funnel through the father and down to the grandsons. It was unlikely Ty even attended the reading of the will, much less would have understood any of the legalese. Rory would easily have been able to satisfy Ty with a chunk of property, divided just as the will demanded.
The mineral rights issue was happening all over the state; perhaps rather than malfeasance the McIntyres really had been caught in the unintended inequity all over the state of Wyoming in the gas boom.
Pruett frowned. Something was wrong. Beulah would have known about the mineral rights—she was too bright to miss something like that—and Will McIntyre would never have settled for his favorite grandson being left empty handed.
The land dispute of the McIntyre’s was gossip around town, but Beulah Jorgensen would have had to know that the gossip was more or less true. She would have known that Ty’s own ignorance was being used against him. Or something worse…
The sheriff’s next stop was to the Town Attorney’s office. Beulah was in, preparing for opening arguments. Pruett sat down hard in the chair facing her across the lacquered desk.
“Help you, Sheriff?” Jorgensen said without looking up.
“Sure can. You can tell me how it is that the City Attorney came to defraud one of her own constituency.”
Jorgensen set her pen down and looked up at Pruett, her eyes dark and unaffected. “Slander is a serious offense, particularly for an officer of the law,” she said. A crack in her voice betrayed what Pruett had suspected. She was hiding something.
“You had to know what was going on. You would have advised Will about the potential for income from mineral rights on certain parcels, yet the will itself says nothing. It doesn’t address a thing. You expect me to believe Will McIntyre wouldn’t have made provisions for Ty? You also had to know it was only a matter of time before Ty found out. You might as well have loaded the goddamn gun yourself, Beulah.”
There was a silence. Jorgensen was obviously choosing her response, going over in her mind what the sheriff knew and how much was just fishing. In the end, she must have decided Pruett had dug up the documents.
“After the will was read, Rory met with me in private. Not unusual, since I represented his father. He retained my services, that’s all. Totally legal.”
“And because you were his attorney, unless you had direct knowledge…”
“Unless I had direct knowledge of any legal malfeasance, not only was I under no obligation to report my client, I was under a code of ethics not to.”
“So you’re saying what? That you screwed up and never told Ty’s grandfather about the rights underground?”
“You know I can’t discuss any more of this with you,” she said. “I am a lawyer and my clients have a lawful expectation of my silence.”
“At the very least, this is a goddamn conflict of interest,” Pruett said. “You are the prosecutor. And you represent the father of the accused—a potentially intended victim.”
“This is none of your concern, Sheriff.”
“My wife died because of all this, you fucking bitch.”
Jorgensen looked up, pointing the pen at him. “You watch yourself, Sheriff. You fucking watch what you say to me. And get the hell out of my office.”
Pruett stood and stared at her. He’d never considered Jorgensen anything other than a stalwart when it came to her profession. He had respected her. Now he felt as if he were tugging at the fray on a ball of twine. There was more here. A lot more. That much he’d swear to.
He turned and left, returned to the County Clerk.
“Gerty,” Pruett said.
“A man wanted to dig up some dirt on a person, this day and age. Where would he start?”
To Pruett the computer on his desk was useful only in blocking him from view. A privacy shield, little more. He barely emailed.
“Honey, you have come to the right place.”
* * *
Gerty Lundergaard knew the Internet. She showed Pruett where, for less than fifty bucks, he could more or less put together a timeline of a person’s life. For a few hundred, he could pull Beulah Jorgensen’s bank records.
What he found was not so much shocking as it was depressing. Pruett loved Wind River and his hold on the belief that his town was immune to the debasement, greed, and outright cheating that had captured much of the country had once been strong. The discovery that Beulah Jorgensen had made several substantially-sized deposits since the time that Will McIntyre died was just too damned coincidental, and it severed his belief in that small town immunity forever.
Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.
You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.