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 Picasso, the boat Peyton took on his fishing trip, had no comment.
“Bastard, you had to get greedy!” Shouted 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 xoc saurian that symbolized a watery underworld gaped at him with a toothy grin and the man knew 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. His hand remained poised as he debated scratching out and rewriting the last name as he peered at the next article on the screen.
MEGAMILLIONS WINNER ANNOUNCED!
In other news, a single winner came forward to claim the Megamillions jackpot of $250 million. Spencer Damon-Crowles of New York was all smiles as he appeared with his fiancé, Blair, and their two lovely children…
“Bastard!” He said again, clenching his fist until the pen snapped.
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 and scrolling to the first story.
“Try getting your hands on the key now, you son of a bitch!”
Keira laid on the couch in her darkened living room with a cool washcloth over her eyes, hoping to stave off a pounding headache while trying desperately to shut out the world. Her phone had not stopped ringing for a good hour before she finally turned the ringer off. Now, it buzzed on the coffee table like a deranged bumblebee. Gritting her teeth, she grasped the phone and flung it across the room. A knock at the door made her growl,
“For God’s sake, can everyone just leave me the Hell alone?”
At the sound of a second knock, Keira stomped over to the front door and flung it open with one hand while clutching the cloth to her forehead with the other.
“What!” She barked, then frowned as the staunch figure of Silas Threadbare darkened the doorway.
“My apologies, Mrs. Damon-Crowles, I understand you are under some strain but there’s a matter regarding your father’s will that needs your attention. It’s the reason I missed the memorial.” Her father’s elderly lawyer frowned back though his ice blue eyes seemed to hold a hint of compassion.
No, Keira decided, it had to be a trick of the light due to her headache. She nodded wearily and gestured for him to enter. He took it upon himself to turn on a few lamps around the couches, illuminating her father’s hideously tacky urn grinning at them from the mantel. Threadbare opened his briefcase on the glass table and Keira was too worn out 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. Mr. Peyton owned a hotel on the island of San Sebastian called Peyton’s Place. I’ve learned from solicitors there of a will made two days before his death that is identical to the first with the exception of ownership of the hotel. It is now split between you and your sisters.”
“Peyton’s Place, that’s what Daddy called our home when Mother was still alive, after her favorite book.” Keira smiled, fondly, then furrowed her brow as the rest of the lawyer’s words sank in. “But Mr. Threadbare, you’re mistaken, I don’t have any sisters.”
Threadbare’s expression softened again, there was no doubt about it this time. He slid the paperwork across the table so she could see the document along with three photographs clipped to it, saying. “I’m afraid you do.”
Tears sprung to her eyes as she caressed the photo of her and her father beaming on the day of her graduation from Vassar. As a large man, George Peyton hated being called jolly but he always had a smile on his lips and a sparkle in his emerald eyes. His naturally suave demeanor never hurt his business dealings either. She’d always been 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 before she looked at the other photos in the file.
The second picture featured 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 showed an olive-skinned woman with auburn curls spilling over her shoulders and hooded 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 divulged 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?”
“These records are from your father’s personal files, birth records, blood tests, and a sworn affidavit from George himself. I made triple sure before bringing this to your attention, it’s all genuine. 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 the bed like she 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 feel like 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 his death, he’s asked that you all gather together and spread his ashes by the sea.”
Gaping, Keira seethed. “So not only must I share my inheritance with two strange women but I can’t even mourn my own father in peace?”
To hell with decorum, she decided then and fled the room.