Acropolis

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Chapter 4: Missing Searchlight

Acacia went missing on a foggy night in search of more of the will. Secretly, she had been tracking the weather patterns for this purpose. When she found the passageway she further descended into earth. The fogginess of the night made it difficult to find and the stiffness of the air was unsettling, but darkness gave way and it became brighter despite going underground.

Acacia had remembered losing track of a turn in the passageway and did not recognize her destination. Daphne’s world looked different but felt the same. Acacia had entered this world if only for a few steps, but she closed her eyes and turned back toward Domain. Acacia returned but all from a dream. The tunnel deposited her in a quiet clearing. She remembered from flashes and visions a city of many stairs gleaming in white and nestled by the sea.

“This is how every citizen founded Acropolis,” Acacia repeated Daphne’s old words.

This how every elder person of Domain must have recognized Acropolis from Daphne’s bonfire tales. As a dream...a lucid dream.

She returned home and found out her parents called every parent of her friends, afraid she might wind up like Daphne, so Acacia made up a lie she was studying with her new friend, Conrad, at the library and had to shut her phone off.

Ondrea heard about a trespasser and took heavily to his property the next day, yet he could not see past the orchard or woodland. His old money gave him a 200-year-old double-barreled rifle. He ventured toward the wilderness spying on two moving invaders and raising the rifle. Ondrea almost took a shot at them until a patch of sky cleared his vision. Under the circumstances, he did not want to go noticed. On his side of the ridge, the trees grew sparser, and Ondrea made sure whether someone was trespassing before anyone showed their faces, escaped up a tree, or down a gulley. It was better to make sound and make yourself known than to give up defenses in his philosophy, but not just yet. From the hushed voices of the travelers, it became apparent the voices were Kazimir and Jason.

Ondrea shot his barrel, aiming the Remington at the head of their path, and soon dashed behind a trunk, climbing up the tree as quietly as possible, swinging on a low-lying branch, and hoisting himself up. Kazimir crouched when he heard the barrel, and so did Jason to survey the land. Their leather boots did not hint of one more intrusion.

“What must you be looking for?” Ondrea piped hoarsely.

Jason and Kazimir frantically searched for the direction of his voice. Ondrea shot his barrel once more, and this time, raised his arms to the sky as a warning.

Kazimir quaked at the eminent blast from the rifle Ondrea instead shot into the sky. “Don’t hurt us. We are searching for Acacia before a party comes.”

Ondrea dropped from the branch’s ledge. “And you too, Jason? I know where she is. I know where it is.” Ondrea darkened.

Kazimir felt included in their circle but still left in the dark. At least Jason trusts me now, but I am good bait for them both!

Acacia immediately went back to the cellar on the edge of the Fiore property which hung on a rocky cliff while Conrad sat in on Mr. Mallard’s class for her and stared out at the falling leaves back-dropping the classroom windows. It was easy to become entranced in English Mythic class, but Conrad wasn’t sure if he was zoning out because the professor went off topic about home life or because he was regaining focus. Twilight was fading with the falling leaves. Class hadn’t officially started but those who showed up fifteen minutes early were in for a supposed review session. Yet all Conrad could think about was if Acacia would show up to actual class.

She said she would meet me for review or was that about another day? I hope she at least shows up on time because two reviews are what she really needs. I also might need to review some legal jargon with her before the next hearing. It comes in handy having my dad a lawyer, but it doesn’t seem to work for this strange town. It comes more in handy having her around to show me life outside the Corn Province. Something feels drearier about this college every time she goes missing.

That’s when Conrad had a very strong vibe she was up to something. He knew he had to be excused from class, especially if the professor went off topic again.

Conrad quickly stood up and held his breath walking to Professor Mallard’s desk. “Mr...Mallard?”

“Yes, Conrad? Is this about staying enrolled in class?” He snidely suggested.

“Well...yes! Sort of. I must be excused. My...dad...is holding...an emergency school meeting and... I was wondering...could I be excused?”

“Not sure why I wasn’t invited to said meeting but if it concerns your father then I implore you to go and remember—it would be wisest to attend another makeup review session.”

“Thank you, thank you,” he breathed.

“And if you see Acacia, please try to get through to her. Send her your notes and best regards.”

“Thank you, thank you,” he bowed his head and ducked into the hall. Conrad relieved a sigh.

That was easier than expected.

He wanted to get through to Acacia too and was relieved to hear Mr. Mallard’s indirect worry but was unsettled about getting through to Acacia by Mr. Mallard’s handling. Conrad rushed through the halls and into the night, not wary of where his footsteps sounded. He knew exactly where to find Acacia. She had gone missing before—from class or from home—but Acacia let him in on secrets, meeting the same time many nights in Ondrea’s orchards.

I remember she told me there is a connection between Daphne and what Ondrea was keeping...perhaps Ondrea had his own trove set aside. I suspect he’s hiding Daphne out down there! Oh, but it’s best not to get ahead until Acacia does so first.

Conrad kept best away from the light of the Fiore’s stately cottage. After the stop at Moonlit Court he ducked into some bosks, careful not to contract poison ivy. There Acacia stood, crouching by the cellar door.

She ran up to him in a hug, “I knew where to find you!”

He laughed, “Now it’s time to make sure your cousin doesn’t know where to find us. Any new findings?”

Acacia still wasn’t sure whether to let him in on the supposed wealth. “I haven’t finished inventory, but you would be interested in some antique maps. You’ve seen farther places than I, living in the Corn Province and all.”

“Me?” He scoffed. “Do you see this?” Acacia noticed a black, chunky, phone-like device in his palm. “It’s called a pager. I wasn’t rich either. My dad came here to make something of our lives, getting a law degree, selling the rainbow corn farm to some Halloween-obsessed monsters, and moving here only to have his dreams crushed by his new alma mater.”

Acacia cracked open the cellar door and led him inside only to have him stop in his tracks and leave his troubles behind.

“No way!” He gasped.

Acacia had decked out the cellar parlor in found objects—Greek statuettes, rich tapestries, and dozens of candles. In the middle of the floor was even a picnic dinner. The meal consisted of seven-year plum brandy, rotisserie, and sorrel salad. The wagon Acacia used to haul the dinner was hiding modestly in the corner.

“You did all this?”

“My parents thought I was going to a potluck. It’s about time I moved out anyway.” She winked and poured him a glass to relieve his shock. “So, anything you would like to report to me?”

“More I’d like to go over. Try to steer the jury away from the inheritance issue. Be clear about wanting to write up your own will.” His voice trailed off with the brandy, the twinkle of the lights, and the mystery of the cavern cellar.

The meetings became more frequent. Conrad again knew where to find her, but she advised him to lay low. Acacia started taking the back road opposite the end of Moonlit Court, which was rarely only used for ATVs, to meet Conrad at the same cellar entrance. Soon, however, it became too dangerous to meet at the front entrance coming from even the back road.

Word came from the Alexanders Acacia snuck out and when Ondrea decided to show concern for his cousin, Ondrea began looking for Acacia.

Ondrea approached Conrad on the campus lawn demanding, “Please tell me where Acacia goes when she’s not home!”

Conrad laughed. “You really think you can keep tabs on her? That never helped. She’s probably out at a campus function.”

“Well, perhaps your right...but she hasn’t joined any clubs yet. Besides, it’s the beginning of the year, close to midterm and she runs off without saying anything!”

“It’s never too early to join a club,” he said with some mystery. “Besides,” he shrugged. “Maybe someone persuaded her to get cramming.”

“I looked at the library. I even skipped one class to find her! Please, do you know anything?”

“Why do you want to know? Why do you think I know?”

“Please! Could you be any more irritating right now? I’m her cousin but you are the only one she trusts.”

He collected a sigh which relieved them both. “Okay, okay, okay! It’s not like anyone trusts me anyway. If you want to know I will tell you or show you this evening, seven o’clock, on the dot, at Moonlit Court.”

Ondrea regained his diplomatic poise and patted thanks on Conrad’s back.

The next time Acacia went missing Acacia did not show up to night class. Conrad did anything in his power not to involve the law but with much negotiation and worry from Acacia’s parents after afternoon classes, Conrad revealed the spot under the cliff to Ondrea, much to Conrad’s own remorse.

The law was after Acacia and her assets and Conrad didn’t want her to think he was in for it too. He also made sure no one saw him enter or leave and told no other soul of Acacia’s intrusions.

Am I in on it? Ondrea doesn’t seem as annoying as she makes him out.

Another day and another meeting, Conrad approached the Fiore property line crawling up a cliff toward a secret entrance.

I wonder why your parents never wanted to get involved with the search, Acacia. They have the search warrant, too, do they not?

Conrad’s house lay some distance from the Fiore’s, but it led a straight path to the edge of their property. He went through the clearing and saw a figure standing at the entrance he recognized all too well. She looked more bewildered than on her first day of college in Professor Mallard’s room. He didn’t tell her he had laughed that first day.

When Conrad finally climbed to the lip of the cavern with Acacia’s help, Acacia reasoned she couldn’t keep silent any longer.

If Conrad is to be silent, I must return his favor with brute honesty. Her thoughts seemed to echo through the damp corridor.

“Conrad, we need to claim our rights and hurry. You’re the only one I trust in town.”

The words seemed foreign to Conrad coming from Acacia, so willful and on target.

Maybe he was distant in thought, or perhaps he didn’t hear me. Acacia felt like repeating once more.

Barely recognizing Acacia in those words, he replied hurriedly, “Don’t worry; our rights lie in Daphne’s hands—and our rights aren’t ours to claim, yet. Kazimir can’t take our rights away but he can keep us safe. No need to worry about him. The only thing this case caused was legalities far beyond our control. I’m here to find you. Your parents and friends are worried, so we can talk about this later.” He blushed at the failed mention of his worry.

They continued down the tunnels, their words echoing, the dampen caverns rebounding and elongating their bluntness.

“I can turn myself in, but we can’t go back yet, surely? There is more to this place than money, you know, sometimes I feel as if it is the only thing keeping my friends together. Once tragedy strikes, people get clingier and come together under shadowed reasons. Besides, I’ve found my inheritance in-between these tunnels. It’s about time I see it.” She wasn’t referring to the deed, maybe laid away in the passageway, but something much larger and more important—the passageway in and of itself.

Conrad gawked in disbelief. She tried to explain more just to get clear up his look of confusion though Conrad already trusted her. “I’m sure Ondrea must have known about these tunnels but wanted to keep the cellar a secret for good reason. In here, we can find my will.” Acacia didn’t know if she was at home, in the Old World of Daphne, or even in her right mind. Conrad always seemed avoidant but the closeness of his words, the closeness of his foggy breath, was reassuring.

Conrad hummed, his words fading into a blustery whistle. “You’re creeping me out with this place.” He chuckled. He sifted his fingers across the dusty corridor. Acacia chuckled back; it helped her stay calm.

After their shared conversation, Conrad and Acacia decided to meet a second time in the vast, not entirely empty, tunnels.

The braziers extinguished leaving Acacia feeling alone in the dark. She heard voices—perhaps wind- spirits or murmurings of the forest. The voices came from one direction, like the murmurings in her visions, like the murmurings of a brook down the tunnel. This time, the gentle hums, the calliope of whispers, sent a chill up her spine. What brought such clairaudience?

Maybe it’s just drafty. But a breeze? Underground? Has my medicine put me up to whispers? Not just throughout town but inside my head? She wished there were scholarships for her condition, whether her condition was made-up or otherwise, for she wouldn’t need a will as badly, but the world had no pity for complications not easy to label and put on a box.

She didn’t like where she was in life nor where she was going but she remembered Daphne echoing from the past, standing out against the ghostly whispers.

“Wherever we may be, we are alive in us,” she remembered her grandmother expressing. Whenever she was worried or had questions about death, this was the answer Daphne gave to her. What mattered most was the state of being, the root of everyone’s prison and paradise.

The indistinct voices became louder and a crack of light scorched the pitch black of her scenery reminding her to turn back toward the entrance. She thought about hiding but did not want to appear guilty again. She had no interest in the fortune around her; it already belonged to her. No matter what happened in court, she figured Jason or Ondrea would be able to explain her disappearance. She wanted out.

Should I listen to Conrad and turn back? Acacia felt he was the only one worth listening to.

Other disembodied murmurings pierced the damp enclosure. Carefully, she listened and hid behind a pile of pottery too old to be considered ancient. She knew she arrived at the opposite entrance closer to Ondrea’s house because her inheritance was lying in front of her. The treasure was also Ondrea’s and it smelled of waterlogging, copper, and betrayal.

The treasure might be lost but this time, I’m not.

The murmurings became more distinct and approached closer.

“Acacia,” she immediately recognized the voice as Kazimir. “Jason and I were so worried.”

Uh-huh, sure. You were told to say that.

Her sights became normal and full lightness grew in her eyes. She could fully distinguish the shapes of Ondrea from Kazimir and Jason.

Ondrea loomed behind his partners and looked relieved, but unhappy. “Yes, we were so worried.” His words tore at her heart, but she was no longer a minor and figured she could gather enough alone time without the whole town searching for her. “I found them breaching our property,” Ondrea’s concern changed, “Our property, Acacia.” She couldn’t tell if he was joking, but then he grabbed Kazimir and Jason by the neck.

“Let them go,” Acacia said, emerging from the pile of broken shards. Conrad still hid. She was concerned about Jason breaching through Ondrea’s trust but Ondrea started to frighten her more.

Acacia snapped out of her reverie, but not out of her anger. “Yes, Ondrea, I was worried too—too worried I’d be found. What are you doing in this forgotten land? And Ondrea, we can choose to share our title, you can be on the will too, but I don’t wanna talk about that now. I need somewhere to think. Out hunting again, I presume?” She talked faster when she was nervous, but her mood and allegiances changed with her scrutiny.

“We need to stick together in this suspicious town.” Ondrea creaked open the planked doorway to gather more light. “You haven’t happened to have seen another boy, have you? Oh, I guess it was only you. I haven’t been here in ages. I thought it was a dream. Only had I not lost it. I seemed to lose sight of my map.” The fellow Alexander was well aware he had lost sight of many things and Acacia suddenly discerned what everyone else did but failed to acknowledge.

There was an edge to Ondrea’s words and Acacia quickly caught on to her previous visions. No dream it was. This cellar leads to somewhere greater—perhaps another fishing town, but it seemed quite larger and quite brighter, this town. It seemed deep beneath the earth yet high above it. Bright but hidden underneath so much darkness. Blurry, shapes, colors, murmurings, sprites and nymphs, all dancing in my head.

The change of light gave her a headache. The time of day jumped to 5 o’clock.

How long have I been down here? Where is Conrad?

Ondrea, Conrad, and Jason were still with her last, but it seemed time had shifted with her mind after her blanking out. Conrad probably went home unnoticed and found another way out, but the trio still stared at her blankly.

Ondrea made sure Kazimir and Jason did not go any further down the tunnels than instructed by tightening again, their necks. However, Ondrea ignored the fortune around him, seeing only a pile of foreign currency which on top lay a photo album reminding him what he had lost.

“This album, Acacia, was given to us by your grandmother.” Acacia tried flipping through the yellowed parchment but Ondrea added gruffly, “It is best we leave. This place crawls up my spine, my legs, everything!” Ondrea tried to lighten the mood to no avail.

When everyone exited the passageway, each knew they had been somewhere telepathically, but each failed to explain the feeling. No visions passed between them. They shared less as they became older, or so it was thought. Acacia noticed that Conrad disappeared shortly after Ondrea found her, but she figured Conrad fled out another side entrance to avoid prosecution, perhaps persecution, though no one could see anything in the darkness even if he fled in calamity.

After twilight, after Kazimir, Jason, and Acacia returned to dinner and Conrad fled, Ondrea rejoined the group and led everyone further down the hollow cellar. They did not know which direction they took after countless hours exploring the riches in the cellar and countless hours traversing the tunnels, but they found themselves by a pond. Ondrea clutched Daphne’s picture album as if the pages knew better than the passage on how to lead the family. They did not touch the treasure nor search for the deed, but explored the tunnels, for one trinket out of place could lead to a quarrel or unravel the case.

At least Ondrea salvaged the album, Acacia thought.

The tunnels spit them out, but no one remembered anything between Ondrea’s orders and leaving the passage except for the ever-increasing burning and bright light at the end. No sight came of Conrad, but they found more than Acacia or an album and reemerged out of the entrance with shared calm and confusion. They escaped from another hidden entrance neither Acacia nor Conrad have seen and found a clearing even quieter than where Conrad and Acacia used to meet.

The party decided to follow the direction of emerging stars, and moss if it could still be seen, after further examining the album under Kazimir’s cigarette lighter.

A section of the album was set aside for the Droughts and Jason, the Fiore’s, and the even the Malevich’s, Ondrea realized upon opening it. Acacia wished one more family member had been present in that clearing except for Daphne. Conrad seemed ever more like family. Everyone stood awkwardly, others appearing to surpass their recent adventure in their thoughts; others eyeing closed suspicions and others hurling them.

Jason forgot what he was looking for when he turned the pages. “I was a storyteller,” Jason mumbled, “in Daphne’s stories...but I thought she was the real storyteller.” It was rare to see Jason so dreamy with his usual strong gaze. He glanced at the album page showing his time spent with Daphne at the Alexander family bonfire. Bonfires were held every Sundays at the Drought Estate, sometimes in Acacia’s backyard.

Jason always drank too much vino. Acacia chuckled to herself. And Daphne thought he was such a good boy too!

“I know they were stories,” Acacia retorted. “So, who knows where this album has been?” She wondered why Daphne would leave an item so precious in the damp earth.

Most of the photos seemed quite average, though precious memories they kept—kids in the pool, a barbecue, the drive-ins. Acacia eyed Jason and he handed the album over to her. She forgot they had been searching for her earlier after the tunnels deposited them in this peaceful clearing. Being together was so much easier. The air was heavy enough for slumber, but the light was soft enough for a sliver of clarity and thinking. The pond, the meadow, the shady forest nearby, didn’t seem like a place, maybe out-of-place, but rather a higher state of being. The sense of peace was almost suffocating, and the quiet, disturbing.

“In Daphne’s story, I was High Priest.” Kazimir dreamed. “Baptized by the elders, and gypsies and merchants who also offered their blessings.” He turned to a page showing Daphne seated at the bonfire, with side scrawls foretelling Kazimir’s place in Daphne’s story, preserved through Daphne’s handwriting. Daphne had great memory, not to mention scrapbooking skills.

You will become High Priest of Dominium Church, dear Kazimir, the scrawl read next to his picture. Domain was Daphne’s playground and she never gave up her childhood. Kazimir verged close to tears. Acacia’s family once owned Dominium Church and the prospect of not being able to share it with Kazimir or anyone else she considered family pained her.

Acacia remembered that day of bonfire and vino. Every guest played a different character, each adding their own spin to Grandmother’s story. Daphne assigned Acacia to be High Warrior.

“High Warrior took more involvement with the affairs of Acropolis than did the merchants, priests, and even kings. Ready to fight always, with word, deed, or force, the High Warrior acted as intermediary between the creatures of Acropolis—horned horses, horned whales, sea goats, and talking elements of wind and fire some thought to be spirits and even intermediaries between universes.” The other fellows in the neighborhood referred to the games as nerdy, perhaps childish, but they never saw how into the games the family became since “you had to be there,” Jason would inform the haters.

“You’re the storyteller, not me.” Jason snorted at Kazimir.

“Ah, no time for this! Let’s get home.” Ondrea diverted.

Acacia admired her cousin’s strength through high and low. Always the practical one though. He clearly remembered his role, the endearing merchant, generous and ready for war—brought up by the draft.

Daphne gave Conrad his own place in her tale, recounting the sequence in her head. “Conrad became a mythical being who ruled above them all. He was unpredictable and mysterious. He was bound as a citizen, both of Capital Domain and Acropolis, but he could change into the element which Kazimir’s ancient elders thought suited him at birth; Conrad was baptized with the spirit of wind. No one knew why he could disappear but most Acropolians understood that Conrad went to the nearby village to fish or visit family. He was given the gift of switching between his human and spiritual form. No one knows where he is, but I do,” Daphne told.

Acacia slammed the album. She remembered—Conrad wasn’t known to anyone at the time of the bonfire. She slammed the album before anyone could pick up the coincidence. He popped in for a short visit because of a “business trip.”

Conrad, why have you returned?

✷✷✷

Back in the hustle of town, her journals and homework kept her out of the court case. Too much evidence she found in Daphne’s fairy tales to go back to court unprepared. Daphne often talked in code, but something resonated in Acacia’s blurred visions she received in the tunnels. Something she never once told even to Conrad. The cellar or passage complicated the deed, but no one was sure what other inheritances hid in its depths. She imagined she found her one life purpose and one was all she needed but she wasn’t sure if it was a vision or yearning. The image of lost maps was so intricate.

Acacia thought deeply. Maybe Kazimir was right...there was something Jason and Ondrea wanted that neither of them can have. Something everyone wanted to keep from me. Maybe the passageway doesn’t belong to anyone. This town is older than our ancestors. It should belong to the town. Of course! Every inch of the town belongs to the town. The passage also...or maybe Kazimir is right in the other sense...right again! Jason wants to give but he might lose everything.

Ondrea knew his position with the help of Jason in guarding secrets. However, Ondrea and Jason didn’t know the depth of their own secrets. No one knew the depth of Acacia’s secrets, so Ondrea stood by Jason’s side always. The secrets and rumors became so aggravating that Acacia had to consult Cousin Ondrea. She feared Jason, and most of all, she feared his father, Anton Drought. No longer were they the family she once knew. Acacia watched everyone around her grow for the worst or for the better. The past two years, Jason became increasingly detached from the lives of her and her alliances, and increasingly detached from his real self, caring more about drinks and his image and caring more about what he wanted rather than what Domain needed.

✷✷✷

On the campus lawn, a day later, Acacia approached Ondrea. “Just so you know, Ondrea, we are family, so I sort of trust you, maybe. I once considered Jason a friend but now he wants you, me, and he wants to use us, maybe for the town’s benefit but I wouldn’t be so sure of his father. I will tell you this as it will be in court: he is not family to give back what he owed to us and don’t take more of your fair share.” She grabbed Ondrea’s forearm, ready as a viper. Acacia needed him to know she was serious for once—and determined.

“You know, unlike everyone else...” He pitied his assumption Acacia was involved in the widespread campus rumors about him. “That I’m on your side.” There was more searing behind his words.

“I don’t mean you as a thief.” Acacia gave Ondrea a forlorn look but smiled with the corners of her mouth teasing. “But please take it to heart.” She let his thoughts sink in before her own, and before she returned to the main campus center.

If that’s all I must do to ease Kazimir and everyone else and steer the case, even if that means dis-easing Ondrea, I’m set.

After Acacia left, Jason came over nervously from behind the courtyard bushes.

“Sounds a bit overbearing.” He held an interlude, perhaps backtracking in his mind. “Ondrea, I really wish Acacia and I be mended back together. My family is her family and so her family is mine. Acacia knows what she’s after as do I, but of course, to complete the deed, all families must come to an accord in court first. I’ll be the first and Kazimir will be there to seal the deed. Kazimir can be trusted.”

“Do you think she really knows what she wants and how to get it if she doesn’t know the case? What do our complicated clan relations have to do with court? I’ve studied law.”

“Oh, it’s double charity. Once someone can bring our two families together it will only take her, after the acceptance of Kazimir and the Malevich’s as her beneficiaries, since Acacia is too young for heirs, to receive our grand deed.”

“Jason, are you sure you know what the elders want?” Ondrea pressed. “You told me you wanted Kazimir out! Great Aunt Daphne’s death was sudden but I’m not so sure Acacia needs heirs yet.”

Jason depressed his words. “But Acacia needs us. And one day she will die. It may be unexpected. Ondrea, I have a feeling we have already fought this before. Do I have to send you to win her over?”

“You have changed. Not that I am happy about your family exile, but my cousin is a stubborn one and she has a right not to trust me. Ugh, I hope you feel my shame.”

Ondrea never found out where the Droughts were exiled from, not even in Daphne’s tales, but the more he hung around Jason, the more he learned.

There are places even I ought not to know, Ondrea ruminated.

Jason hesitated then revised his thoughts, “At no expense, please appease her and the elders.”

The day of the court case was filled with anticipation mixed with angst, courage, and anticipation. Acacia wished this was set to the scene of Daphne’s world. She didn’t always understand her grandmother, but her stories were strewn from the lips of hidden passages and, were very entertaining.

Kazimir and the Malevich’s were at first all in favor of handing a sum of their money over to the Alexander’s, accepting the bribe. The Malevich’s recently have distrusted the Droughts, since discovering they have unknowingly taken part in Ondrea’s hidden plan, and ever since Ondrea conversed with Kazimir’s parents in hidden recesses before and after hearings. Ondrea reassured the bribe was trustworthy under his own watchfulness. Acacia’s parents were not content and very embarrassed to take the sum although Acacia conceded it was part of the plan.

The following court session, the settlement gave an ample amount of inheritance to the Malevich’s and Droughts, so they could have equal chance of becoming executors. The trade was mutual but not part of the Drought’s original plan—it didn’t keep the Malevich’s out of the case. The accepted bribe was seen by the court as missing inheritance from the Drought coffers. Jason wasn’t allowed his bribe or soon-to-be inheritance spread out. There were too many actors at play. A much-needed mistrial was on the horizon. Kazimir would not be left out. The journey to this agreement was grueling but something was still out of Acacia’s hands.

Where is Conrad?!


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