MISSING HOTEL OWNER FOUND DEAD
At 4:23am, the body of George Peyton, owner of Peyton’s Place, washed ashore with the morning tide. Peyton disappeared three days ago while on a fishing trip off Cutlass Reef. Officials have determined Peyton suffered a heart attack and fell overboard sometime after midnight on the day of his disappearance. Rollo St. Croix, beloved entrepreneur and owner of the boat Peyton took on his fishing trip, had no comment.
“Bastard, you had to get greedy!” Said the large man who pounded a meaty fist on the top of his expansive desk as he read the words on the screen.
Ice cubes tinkled against the glass as he knocked back the rest of his whisky, the old bronze key he weighed in his other hand felt cool in his palm. He reached across the desk to gather a white cardboard box and a large, lidded clay urn depicting several Mayan gods. The maw of the shark saurian symbolizing a watery underworld gaped at him in a toothy grin and the man thought Peyton would appreciate the irony.
He removed the lid of the urn and nestled the key inside a cranny at the bottom before emptying the box’s contents into it. Once the urn was full of fine grey ash, the man secured the lid and boxed it up with a note addressed to Mrs. Keira Damon-Crowles in New York.
A soft knock on the door preceded the entry of his lovely and eager assistant who purred. “The postman has arrived, sir.”
“Perfect timing, Eva, the package is ready.”
Smiling prettily as she crossed the room, she held his gaze while bending forward to pick up the parcel in a manner that displayed her ample cleavage. “Also, your 11 o’clock just canceled.”
“Thank you, Eva. Once the postman leaves I have some letters that need dictation.”
“Very good, sir.”
He watched Eva’s shapely behind as she sauntered out of his office again before glancing back at the computer screen.
“Try getting your hands on the key now, you son of a bitch!”
“Spencer! What are you doing?” Keira gasped, dropping her glass of mineral water.
Her bronzed 6’2 golden haired husband paused in his gyrations and sat up with surprise in his crystal blue eyes. The leggy blonde beside him leaned against the headboard and folded her arms across pert breasts.
“Blair? How could you?” Keira gaped, her brain refusing to function as she looked between her husband of five years and her best friend of ten.
“Keira.. What are you- I thought you were playing tennis with Mitzy?” Spencer stammered while Blair wore the expression of a cat that swallowed the canary.
Keira wanted to grab her by her $75 highlights and throw her down the stairs but instead replied, “She broke a nail and had to cancel. How long has this been going on?”
“Since Aspen.” Blair responded, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she tapped away on her cellphone.
“Two years?” Keira leaned against the doorframe as a wave of nausea swept over her. “You said you couldn’t get out of the conference but you went with her while I was in the hospital recovering from an ectopic pregnancy!”
“Conference.” Blair snorted, getting out of bed and crossing into the bathroom.
“Was there a conference? I know you went to Aspen, at least that much is true.”
Spencer studied the bed sheets while Keira gaped at him.
“Say something, Spencer! Have I not been a good wife? I keep my figure; I dress impeccably. I have Gladys keep dinner waiting when you’re working late and the house is immaculate. Our dinner parties are a success and I’m charming to your business associates. Only last week you raved about the way I had Giles Brent eating out of my hand at his daughter’s wedding. What else can I do?”
Spencer looked up with pain and sadness in his eyes. “You don’t touch me anymore. As a hostess you’re wonderful but as a wife - as a woman, you fail.”
Keira jolted awake, receiving protests from her neck and shoulders, and regarded the smarmy caterer with bleary eyes. “I’ve already told you it’s Miss Peyton.”
“Of course, Ms. Peyton.” He sneered. “Seeing as how the guests have all left, I’ve taken the liberty of clearing up.”
Keira looked around and found the living room was indeed empty and the house quiet. She nodded and rose from the dining chair, stifling a moan as her back screamed.
“Very good, I’ll get my checkbook.”
Between the nightly reminders of her husband’s infidelity and her father’s sudden death, the last few weeks had robbed Keira of restful sleep. She was exhausted and in no mood to socialize, which is why her heart sank when she saw her father’s lawyer passing the caterers on the front walk.
“I know it’s late but there’s a matter regarding your father’s will that needs your attention. It’s the reason I missed the memorial.”
Keira wanted nothing more than to slip into a hot bath with a glass of wine to stave off a splitting headache before sinking into a Trazodone fog beneath 1000 count sheets but Silas Threadbare looked so distressed, she figured her solace could wait a few more minutes. She directed him toward the living room where her father’s hideously tacky urn grinned at them from the mantel. He opened his briefcase on the glass table but Keira was too tired to wince about potential scratches. He pulled out some paperwork and looked at her.
“Mrs. Damon-Crowles, you of course know that you are the sole beneficiary of all your father’s assets and holdings - all except one. George owned a hotel on the island of San Sebastian called Peyton’s Place. I just received word from solicitors there of a more recent will made two days before his death. The second will is identical to the first except ownership of the hotel is now split between you and your sisters.”
“Peyton’s Place.” Keira smiled, dreamily. “That’s what Daddy called our home when Mother was still alive, after her favorite book.”
As the rest of the lawyer’s words sank in, she furrowed her brow. “Mr. Threadbare, you’re mistaken I don’t have any sisters.”
“I’m afraid you do.” He said gently and slid the paperwork across the table so she could see the document along with three photographs clipped to it.
Tears sprung to her eyes as she gazed upon a shot of her and her father smiling on the day of her graduation from Vassar and she caressed the photo with perfectly manicured fingertips. Being a large man, her father hated being described as jolly but he always walked with a smile on his lips and a sparkle in his emerald eyes. He was smooth and charming, which didn’t hurt his business dealings. She was always daddy’s little girl but ever since her mother’s plane went down six years ago, Keira and her father had been tighter than ever. At least, she thought so until she looked at the other photos.
The second picture was of a slender woman her own age, dressed in a power suit in front of a blue background. Her red hair was cropped short save for bangs that fell over one of her fierce green eyes. She wore a touch of makeup and exuded power and confidence. Keira flipped the picture over and read the back: Miranda Kingsley, Esq. Boston, MA. So, she was a lawyer.
Keira felt as if she’d been punched in the stomach when she saw the third picture, which featured an olive skinned woman with auburn curls spilling over her shoulders and almond shaped green eyes that glimmered with laughter like her father’s. Her dress was light and casual and she sat barefoot on the crooked trunk of a palm tree by the beach. The writing on the back told Keira the woman’s name was Vidalia Rivera of Miami, Florida.
“I’ve never seen these women before. What makes you think they’re my sisters?”
“Their information is all here, birth records, blood tests and a sworn affidavit from George himself. I triple checked before bringing this to your attention, it’s authentic. These women are also George Peyton’s daughters and you share ownership of Peyton’s Place.”
Keira threw down the paperwork and pinched the bridge of her nose to halt the tears that stung her eyes as a cold lump formed in her stomach. Was there no man she could trust? Well, I don’t want it! Her brain screamed. She wanted to run sobbing from the room and fling herself on her bed like did when she was 10, but that wasn’t very dignified and she was no longer a child. How old do you have to be to no longer be considered an orphan when your parents die?
“I know this is a difficult time but your father made one final request.” Silas said gently before glancing at the urn. “When the sun rises on the anniversary of your father’s death, he’s asked that you all gather together and spread his ashes by the sea.”
“So not only must I share my inheritance with two strange women but I can’t even mourn my own father in peace?” Keira seethed and as the tears threatened to fall yet again she decided, to hell with decorum, and fled the room.