I can get by on the insurance money,” Paul said as they drove toward his former home. “I just hate to see my so called grandma get anything.”
“We don’t know that she has a legitimate will,” Monty said. “It may not hold up in court anyway since your dad had no legal right to will your mom’s portion of the assets. Nonetheless, your dad would have had a responsibility for you until you’re eighteen.”
There was a police car and a BMW with an Alabama license plate in the driveway when they arrived. A woman who appeared to be in her late sixties was in the driveway, and she appeared to be arguing with the police officer. “I said give me the key to the house,” she was screeching.
“Here is my supervisor now,” Officer Lehman said. “Matt, this is Mrs. Wheat, Doctor Wheat’s mother. She called the department and said that we were to bring her a key or she was calling a locksmith to let her in the house.”
“Mrs. Wheat, we can’t let you in the house,” Matt said.
“It’s my house and I have my son’s will to prove it,” Virginia Wheat said.
“This house is still considered a crime scene,” Matt said. “If you go inside I’ll arrest you for interference with the investigation of a crime.”
“Mrs. Wheat, if you have a will you need to file it with the county probate court,” Monty said. “There is already a will on file naming Paul the benefactor.”
“Who are you?” Virginia asked.
“I’m Monty Ayers, Paul’s attorney,” Monty said.
“Who is Paul?” Virginia asked.
“Paul, your grandson,” Monty said.
“That gook isn’t my grandson,” Virginia spat out.
“If you weren’t a woman I’d knock you on your ass,” Monty said in anger. “I will be filing for a court ordered no trespassing against you.”
“This is my property now and you cannot keep me off of my property,” Virginia argued.
“This isn’t your property until the court says it is your property,” Monty said. “Even if you do have a will, it will be contested since Doctor Wheat was not divorced from his wife. She was co owner of the property and he could not will her property to you. There are several other legal considerations that I do not care to discuss with you. I suggest that you hire a lawyer and get your checkbook out. This will be a long and expensive legal battle that you have little chances of winning.”
“Well I at least want my son’s personal things out of the house,” Virginia said.
“File with the probation court,” Monty said. “I doubt the judge will allow it and if your will is deemed invalid Paul will make that decision.”
“I’ll burn them or donate them to charity before this old bitch gets anything,” Paul said while not hiding his anger.
“You can’t talk to me like that,” Virginia said. “Besides you’re still a minor and can’t make that decision.”
“I have been emancipated and I can and will make that decision,” Paul said.
“I don’t know why you would expect him to show you respect after the way you’ve treated him,” Monty said.
Virginia left in a huff and sped away in her BMW. “Do you think she really does have a will?” Matt asked as she drove away.
“If she does, I believe that the judge will rule it invalid,” Monty said. “I have former classmate that specializes in contested wills. I’ll give him a call tomorrow and get his opinion. Paul, let’s get to the court house and file a petition for you to get the KIA now. If that bitch does have any type of will it may prohibit your getting the car before probation. If the judge allows you to possess it now, it is unlikely the decision will be reversed.”
“Do you need to see Judge Jang about this today?” The court clerk asked when Monty gave her the petition.
“That would be great if he could see us,” Monty said.
“Have a seat and I’ll see if he can see you,” she said.
“Thank you, Beverly,” Monty said.
“Jang is a Korean name,” Paul said when Beverly left the room.
“Cool,” Aaron said.
“Judge Jang can see you now,” Beverly said when she returned. “He will see you in his chambers.”
“I understand you need my signature on this, Monty,” Judge Jang said as he began signing the document. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“I think you need to know that Doctor Wheat’s mother was at the house trying to get inside,” Monty said. “She claims to have a new will, but didn’t produce one. I doubt it would be valid since the Wheats were not divorced and Mrs. Wheat was co owner.”
“I can’t rule on that here,” Judge Jang said. “But, I can say that you’re a smart attorney, if you get my drift. But, why would she not want her grandson to inherit the property?”
“Because she is a bigot and hates us Koreans,” Paul answered before Monty could answer.
“I’d say that wasn’t very smart on her part, wouldn’t you son?” Judge Jang laughed. “Give this to Beverly and you can go pick up your car. Do you have a key to the house?”
“There is one in the vault at the police department,” Matt said.
“This is a nice car,” Monty said when he started the KIA Optima to drive it home for Paul.
“Mom loved this car,” Paul said. “I think part of it was because it is Korean made. I’m surprised that Dad didn’t sell it.”
“He couldn’t because it is in your mom’s name,” Monty said. “Don’t forget that Monday you guys start your driver’s education course.”
“How could we forget?” Aaron asked. “I’m excited about it. Monty, I have a question about something else.”
“What might that be?” Monty asked.
“Is Matt married?” Aaron asked.
“I wondered that too,” Paul said.
“He’s divorced,” Monty said.
“Cool, and so is Tina,” Aaron said.
“Oh, are you playing the matchmaker?” Monty laughed.
“They are both too nice to be alone,” Paul said.
“I’m staying out of the matchmaking business after what Brad did to Eric,” Monty said.
“The same thing could have happened if they had met at a social event, right?” Aaron asked.
“You sure have gotten wise since you’re an adult,” Monty teased.
After parking the KIA in the garage Monty said, “Men, I need to go over a few things with you. And, yes you guys have proved to me that you are men.”
Before they could begin their discussion Tina arrived and began unloading bags of groceries. “I thought I would cook you guys a good dinner,” She said. “How does chicken piccata sound to you?”
“It doesn’t sound Korean to me,” Paul joked as he and Aaron each grabbed bags of groceries.
“Nor, does it sound white trash to me,” Aaron added.
“It sounds good to me,” Matt, who had just arrived, said.
“Then you can help Tina in the kitchen while Perry Mason here lays down the law to us,” Aaron said.
“Quick thinking,” Paul said as they joined Monty in the den. “That’s one way to get those two together.”
“You guys are bad,” Monty said. “I love it. Now, what I wanted to talk to you two about is adult responsibilities. I know you guys aren’t going to intentionally get into trouble. However, there are life experiences that you haven’t had the opportunity to learn from. I want you to promise that you’ll not hesitate to call Tina, Matt, or me if you ever need us.”
“We’ll be fine,” Paul said.
“I know you will,” Monty said. “I still want you to promise me anyway.”
“We promise, right Paul?” Aaron said.
“Right,” Paul agreed.
“Is that it?” Aaron asked.
“No, there are a few other things we need to talk about,” Monty said.
Aaron rolled his eyes and faked a yawn. This caused Monty to laugh and say, “I take that back about you being an adult. Paul, I know you were upset about Mrs. Wheat’s actions today. But, I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. If you noticed, Judge Jang was saying in a roundabout way that if there is a new wills he would invalidate it.”
“That’s what I thought,” Aaron said.
“If her attorney has a brain at all he will advise her to not contest the will on file with the probate court,” Monty said. “Aaron, what do you want to do with your grandmother’s house?”
“I plan on living here,” Aaron said. “So I think I’ll sell it.”
“It is rented on a month to month basis,” Monty said. “When I notify the renters that the payments are to go to you, I’ll notify them that you plan to sell it.”
“Have them send the payments to the post office box or to you,” Aaron said. “I don’t want them telling Mom where I live.”
“I’ll do that, and that’s smart thinking,” Monty said.
“Adult,” Aaron and Paul both giggled.
“Have you two decided what high school you want to attend?” Monty asked.
“I went to East and Aaron went to West,” Paul said. “I really don’t want to go back to East. I don’t care to explain to everybody there what happened to my parents.”
“We’ll go to West then,” Aaron said. “It’s about the same distance either way.”
“Dinner is ready,” Matt announced.
“This looks good,” Aaron said as they sat down to eat.
“It is good,” Matt said. “I sampled it already.”
“I forgot to mention that Penny won’t be back in town until Tuesday,” Monty said. “She can drive you guys to the school to get enrolled then.”
“We start our driver’s education Monday,” Paul reminded him.
“I forgot about that,” Monty said. “I guess she can drive you there the next Monday.”
“I can drive them there tomorrow,” Tina said. “Laura can manage the office while I’m gone.”
“Tina I have a question about insurance,” Aaron said. “Can Paul and I buy insurance on our vehicles before we get our license?”
“Sure you can,” Tina said. “You can’t drive them though. I’ll write you a policy tomorrow, and when you get your license we’ll list you as drivers.”
“This is about the best chicken I’ve ever had,” Aaron said. “I’ll have to learn how to make it.”
“I’d be happy to teach you,” Tina said. “I hope you saved room for dessert. It’s strawberry tiramisu.”
“That was a delicious meal,” Paul said. He then added for Matt’s benefit, “You’re ex-husband was crazy for letting you get away.”
Tina arrived the next morning at the agreed time of 10:00 to drive Aaron and Paul to West High to enroll. “After next week you guys will be driving yourselves around town,” Tina said.
“I can hardly wait,” Paul said.
“Did you guys remember to bring your documentation of emancipation?” Tina asked.
“We have them,” Aaron said.
“We need to enroll for this fall,” Paul said to the receptionist when they arrived at the high school.
“You’ll need to see Mr. Griffin,” the receptionist said. “Let me see if he is in.”
“Mr. Griffin is nice,” Aaron said to Paul. “You’ll like him.”
“Mr. Griffin can see you,” the receptionist said when she hung up the phone. “I’ll show you where his office is.”
“I know where it is,” Aaron said.
“Aaron, I wondered what happened to you last year when your name was on the no show list,” Roger Griffin said.
“Paul and I were homeless last year,” Aaron said without further explanation. “We missed the entire school year and would like to get back in school.”
“Are you a parent or guardian?” Roger asked Tina.
“No, their driver and friend,” Tina said.
“I’m afraid you’ll need a parent or guardian to enroll you then,” Mr. Griffin said.
“We’ve been emancipated,” Aaron said as he and Paul handed Mr. Griffin their documents.
“Let me have Ms. Rosas pull your transcript,” Mr. Griffin said.
“I attended East High,” Paul said. “I called and asked them to fax it over to you.”
“Oh yes, I recall receiving that,” Mr. Griffin said. “As I recall you’re an honor student.”
“They’re both very intelligent,” Tina said with pride.
“Are there any classes we can test out of so that we can graduate on schedule?” Aaron asked. “We both plan to go to college.”
“I just thought of something,” Mr. Griffin said. “Since you’ve both been emancipated you qualify to take the GED. If you pass the GED you could actually start college this fall.”
“Yeah, let’s do it,” Aaron said. “When can we take the test?”
“We’re giving one in two weeks from tomorrow,” Mr. Griffin said. “It isn’t easy but, you should go for it if you think you can pass.”
“We got a lot of books from yard sales and read a lot over the winter,” Paul said. “I believe we can pass.”
“If you don’t pass we can always enroll you in classes here later,” Mr. Griffin said. “They will tell you to allow six weeks to get the results back, but most receive them in two weeks or so. Once you get your results you can come back here to enroll or go to the university and enroll there.”
Paul and Aaron easily passed their driver’s test after completing the driver’s education course. They felt a new sense of freedom. They spend most of their free time studying for the upcoming GED test. One afternoon Paul got a call from Matt telling him that the medical examiner had released his parent’s bodies for burial. “What would you like to do?” Matt asked.
“I want to give Mom a decent burial,” Paul said. “You can call that bitch in Alabama and let her have Dad’s body for burial. If she doesn’t want it I’ll donate it to science.”
“What funeral home do you want to use?” Matt asked.
“Let me ask Aaron what funeral home they used for his dad,” Paul said. “They used Kirkland Funeral Home,” he said when he returned to the phone.
“I’ll let the ME know,” Matt said. “You’ll need to go by and make arrangements. I also suggest that you call Monty to make sure you’re not responsible for your dad’s funeral in case your grandmother wants to bury him in Alabama.”
“I’ll call him,” Paul said.
“Matt is right in suggesting that you contact me,” Monty said when Paul called. “I’ll send grandmother dearest a letter by express mail stating that you plan to donate your dad’s body to science. If she wishes to assume financial responsibilities for burial she can claim the body.”
“What type of services would you like?” Ken Kirkland asked when Paul and Aaron went to make funeral arrangements.
“I think graveside services would be best,” Paul said.
“Did she have a religious affiliation?” Ken asked.
“She told me that her family in Korea was Presbyterian,” Paul said. “Dad wouldn’t let her attend the Presbyterian Church here though.”
“Would you like for me to contact a Pastor for you?” Ken asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Paul said. “Monty said I won’t receive my insurance money for at least a couple of weeks. Could you wait until then for payment of the funeral? ”
“I’ll pay it,” Aaron offered.
“Monty called me already and said that you would eventually have your money,” Ken said. “I can wait.”
The funeral was attended by Paul, Aaron, Matt, Tina, and Monty. Reverend Donnelly chose the right words for the service. After the services Paul said, “I wish I knew how to contact my relatives in Korea and let them know about mom.”
“Let me see what I can find out for you,” Monty said. “Judge Jang may have an idea of how we might accomplish that. Everyone is invited to my house for dinner.”
Monty’s house was in an older part of town with large homes on well landscaped lots. The inside was well decorated, yet it said ‘welcome and make yourself comfortable’. Penny was gorgeous, and gracious. The two boys were young blond versions of their father. Tim, the oldest, was ten and Peter was seven.
“Guys let me update you on some things while we’re waiting for dinner,” Monty said. “Paul, your grandmother had your dad’s body sent to Alabama. She’s responsible for his funeral expenses. She has filed a new will with the probate court, but I doubt it will fly. I looked it over and it was only signed by your dad and that was after your mom disappeared. There was no provision for revoking the previous will. I’m sure the judge will invalidate the new will. It appears that your grandmother may have known about your mother’s murder. I think it is strange that she showed up soon after your mother disappeared.”
“Will the new will delay probation?” Paul asked.
“I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it,” Monty said. “Aaron, arrest warrants have been issued for Gavin, Kathy, and Coy. Gavin was already arrested and bonded out.”
“Gavin already got part of his punishment by being paralyzed,” Aaron said.
“If you men will excuse me, I’ll go see if I can help Penny in the kitchen,” Tina said.
“The big news is that your renters are interested in buying your grandmother’s house, Aaron,” Monty continued. “They’re offering you $110,000. That seems like a good offer for that house in that neighborhood.”
“I went online and looked at houses around there and I thought I would be lucky to get $90,000,” Aaron said. “I think it’s a reasonable offer.”
“I’ll draw up a contract tomorrow,” Monty said. “Paul, I mentioned to Judge Jang that you would like to locate your family in Korea. He said that he will have one of his relatives in Korea look into it. He said it may take a while since Kim is a very common family name."
“Matt, you’re really quiet,” Aaron said. “Are you trying to figure out how to ask Tina out on a date?”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “What? No, I was just thinking.”
“He got you, didn’t he?” Monty teased. “You should ask her out. She’s great looking, a good cook, but most of all a great lady.”
“She wouldn’t want to go out with an old cop like me,” Matt said while blushing.
“You won’t know until you ask her,” Paul added.
“Alright, alright I’ll ask her,” Matt said.
Aaron’s grandma’s house was sold and on the day closing was schedule Monty called and said to Aaron, “Bring Paul with you too. I need to talk to him.”
As Aaron was backing out of the garage Paul yelled, “Stop, the mailman is here.”
“I think the mail will be safe until we get home,” Aaron said.
“But, it could be our GED results,” Paul argued.
“It would be too soon.”
“We have plenty of time to get to Monty’s office. It won’t take but a few seconds to check.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“It’s our results,” Paul excitedly said when he hopped back into the truck. “Open yours first.”
“No you go first.”
“Let’s open them at the same time.”
“Alright, open on three. One, two, three, open. Oh shit!” Aaron appeared as if he were going to cry.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t pass. You’re as smart or smarter than I am and I passed.”
“I passed, I passed!”
“I should kick your ass.”
“What are you two so giddy about?” Monty asked when Paul and Aaron arrived at his office.
“We both passed our GED,” Paul said.
“Well congratulations, what is next?” Monty asked.
“We’re taking our GED results to the university and get enrolled there,” Aaron said.
“I need to arrange for funds from your college funds then,” Monty said. “Eric had a college fund for you, Aaron. Paul, I was surprised to learn that your parents had one for you too. The Hendersons are already at the closing office across the street. We’ll go over there now and you’ll be a little richer. ”
“I can’t believe Dad didn’t take the money out of my college fund,” Paul said as they walked across the street.
“He couldn’t without your mom’s signature and you would have to be eighteen, Monty said. “You can legally use it since you’re emancipated and will be in college.”
“I can’t believe we have all of this money,” Aaron said as he looked over the check to make sure it was real.
“Paul, what I wanted to talk to you about is that Judge Jang has scheduled a hearing on the second will for Tuesday at 10:00,” Monty said. I didn’t expect anything this soon, so this is good news.”
The day arrived for the hearing before Judge Jang and Paul was obviously nervous. “Don’t be nervous about this,” Monty said. “I’m sure this will work out. Just don’t let that old bitch know that you’re nervous. Go in there with a smile.”
After the bailiff called the court to order, Judge Jang said, “In the matter of two wills regarding the estate of Susan and Charles Wheat…”
“Your honor,” Virginia Wheat’s attorney interrupted. “I’d like to point out that during the second will Mrs. Wheat wasn’t alive.”
“Mr. Butler, I’m not ready for your input yet,” Judge Jang reprimanded. “When I’m ready I’ll let you know. Now back to what I was saying before I was interrupted, In the matter of the estate of Susan and Charles Wheat. There appears to be two wills. The first will was properly witnessed and signed by both Mr. and Mrs. Wheat. The second will in question was signed only by Mr. Wheat. The first will named the couple’s son Paul Wheat as the benefactor and the second will names Charles Wheat’s mother Virginia Wheat as benefactor. Now Mr. Butler, I will hear you.”
“Your honor, as I was saying,” Mr. Butler began. “Susan Wheat was not alive when the second will was signed. Mr. Wheat had every right to will his estate to whomever he chose.”
“How do you know that Mrs. Wheat was deceased at the time of the signing?” Judge Jang asked.
“He called his mother and told her,” Mr. Butler said.
“Mrs. Wheat is it true that your son told you that Susan Wheat was dead?” Judge Jang asked.
“He did,” Virginia said.
Mr. Wheat never reported Mrs. Wheat’s death,” Judge Jang said. “Mrs. Wheat’s interest in the estate never went through probate.”
Virginia Wheat was obviously becoming very upset with the way the hearing was going. She said something to Mr. Butler and he said, “Your honor my client is requesting that you recluse yourself from this case.”
“And what is the reason for this request?” Judge Jang asked.
“She believes that you may not be impartial since you are Korean and Paul Wheat is also Korean,” Mr. Butler said.
“Mr. Wheat would you also request that I recluse myself?” Judge Jang answered.
“No your honor,” Paul said. “If we had a Caucasian judge would he be impartial since I’m Korean?”
“You have a good point Mr. Wheat,” Judge Jang said. “Mr. Butler your client’s request is denied.”
“I protest,” Virginia yelled. “I want a judge that will make an impartial ruling.”
“Mr. Butler control your client or I will have her removed from this courtroom,” Judge Jang said.
Mr. Butler finally got Virginia settled down. She was obviously angry, but apparently convinced that she could jeopardize her case.
“The question before me is the validity of a second will naming Virginia Wheat as the benefactor of the estate of her son Charles Wheat. The first will that was properly signed by Susan Wheat and Charles Wheat names their son Paul Wheat as the benefactor. There is no question that the first will was valid until the presentation to the court a second will. The second will may be valid had there been a division of assets by divorce. However, there was no divorce. It could also be valid with the death of Susan Wheat and the assets had been probated. Without a murder trial we can’t say for certain that Charles Wheat murdered his wife. Circumstances indicate that he was responsible for her death. He informed his mother, Virginia Wheat, that Susan Wheat was dead.”
Virginia Wheat began whispering something to Mr. Butler and was becoming even more agitated. Judge Jang continued, “Susan Wheat was reportedly seen alive a few days before the date of the will. Mr. Wheat informed his housekeeper, his son, and even the police that his wife had gone to Korea to live. The second will is hereby invalidated since the assets of Mr. and Mrs. Wheat were never legally divided. Probation of the first will is to continue.”
“You slant eyed gook,” Virginia yelled. “I knew you wouldn’t give a fair decision.”
“Bailiff, remove Mrs. Wheat from this courtroom and that will be a $1000 fine,” Judge Jang said.
“Fuck you, you chink,” Virginia yelled again.
“Further, lock her up until she is ready to apologize to this court,” Judge Jang said.
“Wow, she is a piece of work,” Monty said as they left the courthouse.
“Now I can see where Dad got his craziness,” Paul said.
“Monty, could I use your cell phone to call Tina and let her know what happened?” Aaron asked.
“Sure,” Monty said as he handed the phone to Aaron. “You guys should consider getting your own phones. If you want, I can sign for you.”
“We should get them on our own, even if they want a big deposit,” Paul said. “We need to establish our credit. We’ll go this afternoon.”
“Hey Tina,” Aaron said when Tina answered. “We’re out of court if you want to meet us for a Coke we’ll tell you about it. We’ll meet you at that little coffee shop near Crocker Park.”
“We’ll be right there,” Tina said.
“She said ‘we’ll’ be right there,” Aaron said when he handed the phone back to Monty. “Ten bucks says that the other part of ‘we’ is Matt.”
“I had planned on going back to the office,” Monty said. “However, I want to go see if you’re right about Matt.”
Paul and Aaron high fived each other when they saw Tina and Matt walk into the coffee shop together. “I knew it,” Aaron whispered.
Paul had Tina and Matt in stitches as he described the occurrences in court earlier. “What a piece of work,” Tina said after Paul finished telling about the court case.
“Aaron, I have some news for you,” Matt said. “We arrested your mom and Coy today.”
“No shit,” Aaron said.
“No shit,” Matt said. “They went to collect the rent from the people you sold the house too. When the couple that bought the house told them that they owned the house Kathy and Coy wouldn’t leave. The police were called and they were arrested. Both of them looked like shit. I’ll bet Kathy doesn’t weigh 90 pounds. Excuse me; I’d better take this call. Hello, this is Matt. What? You’ve got to be shitting me. Ok, thanks for letting me know.”
“Is something wrong?” Tina asked.
“They never got Kathy to the jail,” Matt said. “They took her to the hospital and she died soon after they got her there. I’m sorry, Aaron.”
“Don’t be,” Aaron said. “She was never a mother to me.”
Aaron decided to have Kathy’s body cremated and not have funeral services for her. “I suppose I should be sad that my only known blood relative is dead,” Aaron said. “But, I don’t feel a thing.”