Sunday, 18 January 2009

Splitting Heirs by Vallon Jackson AKA Matt Hilton

Here's a short crime story...


Three million pounds plus. That was what James Caruthers left behind when he died. James wasn’t known to have that kind of money behind him. He lived in a council bungalow with three cats and his neighbours barely knew him. In fact, most of them steered clear of the old man who spent most days in a great coat and wool cap, whatever the weather. No one knew what he got up to inside his decrepit home because of the newspaper taped over the windows. Daily a care assistant would turn up, make sure that he was still breathing and shove a ready meal in the microwave oven, then they’d be out of there wrinkling their noses at the stench clinging to their clothing. Other than that, James’s only other contact with humanity was when the milkman delivered his single pint of gold top. James would peer out over the chain on his door and give a gruff thank you, before slamming and locking the door again.
One morning the milkman raised his concern to the police when the old man didn’t come to the door. The cops turned up, broke in, and found James lying in the corner of his kitchen. There was half a sandwich on a saucer next to the blazing gas fire in the living room. The other half – missing a single bite - was in the kitchen sink, as well as a wad of masticated bread and corned beef. It was concluded that the old man had choked on the sandwich, made it to the sink where he’d hacked it up, but his overtaxed heart had then given out. No suspicious circumstances. Case closed. No investigation.
When James was buried, no one turned out for his service.
When someone dies without leaving a will, and no one turns up to claim their inheritance, the government can claim the money. Still, they have an obligation to publish the fact that money has been left, to give an heir the opportunity to come forward. When big money is at stake – three million two hundred thousand and thirty three pounds in this case – there are specialist firms out there willing to jump at the chance to find the rightful heir. For a hefty commission, of course.
That’s where I come in.
It’s a race. Other firms will have their best investigators on the case. Public records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, all will be checked to discern the rightful heir, then these companies will fight tooth and nail to get to the lucky recipient first – bearing the good news and the offer to represent their new client.
I was the first to make it to Robert Wilson’s front door, but I knew the others wouldn’t be far behind me. If I wanted my pay day, I had to make sure that Robert Wilson did not deal with anyone from the other firms.
Wilson was a man in his late fifties. He didn’t even know he was the first child born of a union between James Caruthers and his now deceased mother, Ingrid. He looked at me suspiciously as I handed him my card and explained why I had turned up at his door on a cold, winter’s evening. As soon as I mentioned the money though, he invited me in to his living room. It looked like he’d inherited more than money from his late father: his house was a stinking hole that he shared only with cats.
That was good, really. No wife, no kids, no extended family to contest this turn of events.
I accepted the offer of tea – even though I’d never touch his filthy cup to my lips – and followed him into his kitchen. As he’d turned to fill the kettle, I took his head in both my hands and slammed it down on the corner of the work top. I aimed so that his temple struck the pointed corner and was gratified to see the deep indentation in his skull as he collapsed dead at my feet. Careful to remove my card from his pocket, I put it back into my wallet. Then I spilled some of the water from the kettle onto the floor, then manipulated Wilson’s foot so that it made a dirty skid mark in the spillage.
Wilson wouldn’t be inheriting anything any longer.
The entire estate belonging James Caruthers, plus anything that Robert Wilson had tucked away, would now be going to James’ second born son.
Of course, I’d have to pay out a little of my good luck in commission to the investigator who found out who I was.

To read more of Matt Hilton's short fiction go to the Free Stuff page at

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