Frank and Rich did not, do not, get along.
Some would say this is because brothers have their differences, their squabbles, and if left unchecked, these little cracks can turn into chasms.
Others–perhaps others like Rich–would blame the year spent in a mental hospital when they were 17.
Who’s to say?
Born mere seconds apart, the result of a C-section, Francis and Richard Vines entered the world in unison and had been swiftly moving apart ever since. Now, they’d just woken up in the town of their birth, but further apart than should have been possible.
Rich, still in his work suit and wrist cast, woke up seated in a cold metal folding chair. This, he had to admit, was a first. He was struck first not by his surroundings, his company, or even the way the two lawyers opposite him seemed either unwilling or unable to blink, but rather by how he woke up.
Normally a groggy, slow churn out of bed kinda guy, Rich woke up not with a start, but with the flick of a switch. It wasn’t a cannonball into a freezing pool, complete with cold sweat and jolt; he simply seemed to turn on, like coming out of an uninvited hypnosis.
The men sitting opposite him didn’t seem to notice. Play it normal. This isn’t like it used to be. That was a long time ago, he thought.
“Good morning,” said one the lawyers. “I’m Mr. McVaughn.”
He was bald and rotund, with the faintest sheen and stench of ham. Nothing rotten or otherworldy, just unpleasant in a public school cafeteria sort of way. Rich said nothing, grinding his large, straight teeth together.
Since the accident at work–the accident that had landed him a required three-week paid vacation “Just until things blow over”–Rich had let his stubble grow out. Justine seemed to like it, if only to distinguish him from Frank.
“Now I can be really sure it’s you I’m sleeping with,” she said when the hair was first coming in.
“This it what makes you sure?” he said, scratching at the growth. “Frank is gay.”
“And determined,” said Justine. “Dangerous combo.”
“The only thing dangerous about Frank Vines is that he refuses to grow up.”
“He’s working through it.”
“He’s an immature sociopath.”
They’d left it at that. Frank had walked in, which for years now meant that Rich walked out.
“My brother got your letter,” said Rich. “I think you need to check in with your paralegals. Their proofreading could use a little work.”
McVaughn nodded, his mouth tightening a bit before his lips pulled back as he spoke. His teeth were small, almost cramped in his mouth. Rich didn’t have time to count but…
“We were told you were quite forward,” said McVaughn. “To the point of a vulgar arrogance.”
“I’m a lawyer.”
“And a succinct one at that.”
“Unless you’ve got something for me, I’ll just sign the papers and be on my way.”
Again, McVaugh nodded but did not move from his chair. He looked at his associate and back at Rich, folding his hands over an expansive belly.
“You’ll have to review the properties first. The house, the boathouse, several town properties. We’ll need you to inspect all of it before signing anything.”
“That will take at least a week,” said Rich.
At this, the aforementioned associate, piped up. As thin as the other fat, his tie was pulled so tight it looked to be near-choking him.
“Not like you’re going anywhere,” he said, chuckling. He covered his mouth as he laughed, the inside of his mouth a bright scarlet smear compared with washed-out lips.