It is my sad duty to inform you...

Started by Abiezer H. Coppe at May 31, 2020 5:16 PM
March 14, 1924
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11 Posts

Abiezer H. Coppe

Lawyer
240
?Years Young
6 Posts

... and so I put it to the court that by the Code of Procedure of the State of Florida Approved February 19, 1870, and Taking Effect July 1, 1870, section 13 subsection 2, that my learned friend the council for the prosecution is entirely mistaken in..


The objections of Miss Harris had been quite understandable, and the counter objections of Mr Coppe as forensically precise and logical as always, and, most importantly, enshrined in the laws, statutes and precedents of the State of Florida and the wider United States of America and its Dependencies. He would see the heiress of the deceased alone. If Miss Harris had proved obstinate, that meeting needs must have taken place in the back of his black, hearse-like motor vehicle, parked outside the white classical porticoes of Miss. Harris' School for Girls, themselves, coincidentally, somewhat tomb-like in their appearance. Fortunately, the woman had seen the cold logic of using her office for the breaking of the tragic news.

Coppe arranged the papers on the Headmistress’s borrowed desk in the exact order in which they would need to be signed and counter signed in the somber meeting which was to come. He reflected for a second upon Miss Harris. His expectations and his subsequent observations of the woman critically compared, and any discrepancies noted and filed away in his brain. Then he sat still, like a grey cold marble gravestone. Perhaps he would have waited there for centuries, like the real gravestones of the nearby churchyard, had not the inevitable knock sounded upon the coffin-like wood of the thick oaken door.

“Please enter” he chanted, like a priest reciting a part of the litany.

Where others might see a pretty young girl, about whom, perhaps, the dark shadows of melancholy already seemed to play, Coppe acknowledged only the daughter and legal heiress of his late client.

“Please be seated.” He intoned, indicating the seat before the desk which most girls visiting the office would never get to use, having more usually to stand, as they had their trespasses pointed out to them and, if forgiveness was not forthcoming, punishments summarily doled out.

Coppe studied his papers for a second before assaying Alice over the top of his austere wire-rimmed spectacles.

“You are Miss Mary-Alice Whaley, daughter of Mr. Carl Whaley and Mrs Evelyn Whaley, née Evelyn Grant, and you are Thirteen Years of age?” It was hard to tell if this dour looking stranger was asking her or telling her.


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Mary-Alice Whaley

84
?Years Young
50 Posts

"Tell me everything that happened, tell me everything you saw."


Alice had been staring out a classroom window looking forlorn and very much like a caged bird when the teacher's chatter suddenly ceased. All eyes zipped to the entrance, which revealed a formidable Miss. Harris standing within the doorway. There was an apologetic statement from the headmistress to the teacher, followed by the girl's name being called.

A moment later, Alice had been whisked out of the room, and as if an inmate vaguely told that she had a visitor. Her eyes lit up, assuming it to at long last be her father. Miss. Harris frowned and went on to explain that a gentleman had insisted on speaking with her in private. Disappointed, she knew then that the caller was not her father, and by the overtly grim look on the woman's face understood something to be gravely wrong.

Without another word Miss. Harris ushered her down the long hall. Shortly, they stopped outside the office door, which the woman proceeded to rap upon... breaking the silence.

"Please enter," chanted the person inside.

The girl turned the knob, and with a sharp intake of breath, pushed the large door open. Alice stepped into the room and observed a man she didn't know sitting behind the headmistress' desk. This was a strange sight indeed!

The door closed with a thud, and now there was no turning back.

Apprehensively she came forward and stood before the desk as she had done on numerous prior occasions. Her thoughts briefly trailed to Tommy, the time they spent together, and the retribution she received for being disobedient.

Oddly, the man directed her to sit then, and she meekly complied.

There was silence again as the bespectacled man perused the papers arranged atop the desk. She didn't know what this was about, but she felt considerable unease.

Their eyes met as he looked up to speak.

"You are Miss Mary-Alice Whaley, daughter of Mr. Carl Whaley and Mrs. Evelyn Whaley, née Evelyn Grant, and you are Thirteen Years of age?"

"Yes, sir," she answered politely. However, it wasn't entirely correct. Alice debated with herself on whether to contradict the solemn stranger.

"Evelyn is my step-mother," she begrudgingly clarified. Even that moniker seemed far too grand. The woman was an altogether different sort.


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Abiezer H. Coppe

Lawyer
240
?Years Young
6 Posts

... and so I put it to the court that by the Code of Procedure of the State of Florida Approved February 19, 1870, and Taking Effect July 1, 1870, section 13 subsection 2, that my learned friend the council for the prosecution is entirely mistaken in..


 

"Yes, sir," she answered politely. However, it wasn't entirely correct. Alice debated with herself on whether to contradict the solemn stranger.

“Very well.” The cold man spoke at an appropriately glacial pace, every word measured out and equal in its meter, like the creeping step of time itself, ticking away the centuries. “My name is Mr. Coppe, and I represent the firm of Miggins, Coppe and Miggins; we have handled your Father’s legal interests for a great many years.” he explained, before moving on to the business at hand.

“As you are no doubt aware, your Father and your Mother…”

"Evelyn is my step-mother," she begrudgingly clarified. Even that moniker seemed far too grand. The woman was an altogether different sort.

Coppe greeted this correction with a sad nod of his head. While it was undeniably true that some of the patriarchs of the Old Testament had remarried, in the sombre requirement of procreation and the furtherance of the Grand Plan for the Twelve Tribes of Israel, in Mr Whaley’s case the union appeared to be a base, frivolous and ultimately lethal pursuit.

“Indeed, Miss Whaley, your Father and Step-Mother, as you say, recently left the United States on a vacation holiday to the British Bahamas …” he chose not to say the unpleasantly lascivious word Honeymoon “… and I have this morning received word from the appropriate authorities in Nassau, that a doctor was called to attend upon him there at Eight Forty Five yesterday morning.”

Coppe removed his glasses and his granite grey stare penetrated the multifaceted hazel eyes of the girl.

“It is my sad duty to inform you that your Father, Mr. Carl Whaley, was pronounced dead by the physician presiding there at 10.15am. May he rest in peace.” he informed her, with all the cold numbness of the grave itself.

He replaced his spectacles. “You may now wish to take a few seconds to compose yourself, before we continue with the very necessary business before us this morning.” he said, with underwhelming compassion.


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Mary-Alice Whaley

84
?Years Young
50 Posts

"Tell me everything that happened, tell me everything you saw."


 

“Indeed, Miss. Whaley, your Father and Step-Mother, as you say, recently left the United States on a vacation holiday to the British Bahamas…”

Aha! So, that was where they had gone! Alice knew they had planned on an extended trip to celebrate their hapless marriage, but she had not been told where. Well, if this man knew her father and could divulge particulars, she welcomed him as a great ally. Maybe… just maybe he could help her by relaying a message.

She appeared in good spirits then and listened with piqued interest.

“… and I have this morning received word from the appropriate authorities in Nassau, that a doctor was called to attend upon him there at Eight Forty Five yesterday morning.”

The smile that had formed mere moments before was now gone. Doctor? Was he ill? Harrowing memories of when her mother had been ailing came flooding back. It hadn’t been so long ago, and the cut of that loss still ran deep.

Concern began to creep into her mind, but what Mr. Coppe said next was the absolute last thing she had expected to hear.

“It is my sad duty to inform you that your Father, Mr. Carl Whaley, was pronounced dead by the physician presiding there at 10.15am. May he rest in peace.”

Alice blinked her eyes and had an initial look of utter disbelief. However, by the man’s tone and serious demeanor, she knew his words to be the truth.

The girl became despondent.

Like a deflating tire, she exhaled and uncharacteristically slumped back into the chair. Inevitably she looked small and woeful.

“You may now wish to take a few seconds to compose yourself, before we continue with the very necessary business before us this morning.”

Staring at the stringent man, she tried very hard not to cry. It was futile, however, as tears sprang up in her eyes.

She missed her father now more than ever. It was unfathomable to think he wouldn’t ever be coming back.

Alice had questions, but her thinking was clouded by grief. Through her choked back tears, all she could muster to say was, “What happens now, Mr. Coppe?”

 


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Abiezer H. Coppe

Lawyer
240
?Years Young
6 Posts

... and so I put it to the court that by the Code of Procedure of the State of Florida Approved February 19, 1870, and Taking Effect July 1, 1870, section 13 subsection 2, that my learned friend the council for the prosecution is entirely mistaken in..


Alice had questions, but her thinking was clouded by grief. Through her choked back tears, all she could muster to say was, “What happens now, Mr. Coppe?”

Although he looked as stern and serious as ever, Coppe was apparently pleased with the way Alice was handling this. Had the girl given in to hysterics, it would have wasted valuable time. Time they could ill afford to squander.

“May I say that I admire your fortitude, Miss Whaley, at this very trying time. We must now talk about your father’s will.” He brought a few papers to the front of his little pile. “In the usual course of events, I would defer discussion of this matter for a considerable period of time. However, events of a most worrying nature have caused me to expedite this process.” he explained, trying to simplify his language, so that it could be clearly and easily understood, even for a client who was not only a child, but a female.

“In the course of his lifetime” he went on “Your father made a number of wills through the agency of myself or Mr Miggins, Senior, in our New York Office. Unfortunately, shortly after the time of his remarriage to your Step-Mother, he made a new will, through the agency of a Mr. Charles Drake.”

There was something in his voice that belied a hint of suspicion about this Charles Drake character, almost as if the stoic lawyer doubted the very existence of the fellow.

“This will hands over the whole of his estate in its entirety to Evelyn Grant, including all associated holdings, bonds and chattels, intra and extramural. This penultimate will, in effect, leaves you yourself totally under the control of your step mother until you come of age, and after that time, you will be completely at her whim and mercy, unless you are able to make your own way in the world.”

In other words, if she wanted, Evelyn would be able to cast her off and leave her destitute after she reached the age of consent.

“I have photostatic copies of this will, if you wish to peruse it at this time.” He added, offering a wad of documents.


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Mary-Alice Whaley

84
?Years Young
50 Posts

"Tell me everything that happened, tell me everything you saw."


“May I say that I admire your fortitude, Miss Whaley, at this very trying time. We must now talk about your father’s will.”

At that, Alice seemed to sink even deeper into the cushioned chair. If it were possible, she would have disappeared right then. Her teary gaze, however, remained fixed on the bearer of the devastatingly bad news.

Will… the girl knew the meaning of the word. It was an official paper that told the last wishes of a person. A vague memory began to surface.

Mr. Coppe proceeded to explain the urgent need for their discussion, but through her tears, she merely eyed the man who spoke so calmly.

“In the course of his lifetime” he went on “Your father made a number of wills through the agency of myself or Mr. Miggins, Senior, in our New York Office. Unfortunately, shortly after the time of his remarriage to your Step-Mother, he made a new will, through the agency of a Mr. Charles Drake.”

Charles Drake? Alice had never heard the name before, but that wasn’t surprising as she hadn’t heard of Mr. Coppe either until a few minutes ago. There was a hint of incredulousness in the man’s voice about this person, and she briefly wondered why.

His detail of events assisted her recall of a particular day back in New York. Inadvertently she had heard a heated financial discussion between her father and Evelyn. Could her story and this lawyer’s story be one in the same?

Alice had been playing with Lavender when she heard the mismatched pair in the study. She had crept up to the half-open door, trying to discern exactly what they were talking about. Words like bequeath, death, and hell had all been disconcerting.

Lavender enthusiastically returned to her side, dropping the ball she had previously thrown at her feet. The fluffy dog loudly whined when she hadn’t immediately reciprocated with another toss of the blue ball.

Her father came to the door then a serious look on his face. Sighting her, his expression softened, but still, he motioned for her to run along. He shut the door tight.

Thinking on it now, doors always seemed to be closing in her face.

“This will hands over the whole of his estate in its entirety to Evelyn Grant, including all associated holdings, bonds and chattels, intra and extramural. This penultimate will, in effect, leaves you yourself totally under the control of your step mother until you come of age, and after that time, you will be completely at her whim and mercy, unless you are able to make your own way in the world.”

“I have photostatic copies of this will, if you wish to peruse it at this time.”

Alice vehemently shook her head. Distraught not for the estate but the simple fact that she should, in a sense, belong to Evelyn. Based on their past interactions, the girl strongly believed that the woman didn’t like her.

She wiped at her eyes, but that didn’t do a thing to stop the tears. “Penultimate?” she asked, catching on to his wording but unsure of the meaning.

“Sir, this sounds like a bad dream.”


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Abiezer H. Coppe

Lawyer
240
?Years Young
6 Posts

... and so I put it to the court that by the Code of Procedure of the State of Florida Approved February 19, 1870, and Taking Effect July 1, 1870, section 13 subsection 2, that my learned friend the council for the prosecution is entirely mistaken in..


She wiped at her eyes, but that didn’t do a thing to stop the tears. “Penultimate?” she asked, catching on to his wording but unsure of the meaning.

“There is another Will, made by your father in the last few days of his life, and without, I believe, the knowledge of your Step-Mother.” explained Coppe, dryly. “This final Will and Testament leaves the whole of his estate entirely to you, Miss Whaley. And although there are many, many problems attendant upon this will, I believe that it represents the true wishes of your father and it is my intention to ensure that its clauses will be fulfilled as far as possible.”

He didn’t bother to offer this document to the upset girl, as she had not seemed interested in perusing the former one, and he doubted that a female of her age and mental development would appreciate his very real concerns about the flaws in both the wording, drafting and content of the document.

“Sir, this sounds like a bad dream.”

“Indeed, Miss Whaley, life is full of such vicissitudes. You may only be assured that after the sad death of both your Mother and now your Father…” perhaps he was going to give her some positive thought to hang on to “… you will have to face many more such trying moments as your life progresses. Better now to steel yourself against them.”

Having, to his mind, given her some advice to cheer her up, he looked down at the will, proceeding with business.

“One of the major weaknesses of this will, which henceforth I shall refer to as 'our will', is the naming of a party other than your Step-Mother in the office of legal Guardian.This is a most serious factor, Miss Whaley. And I must ask you now: what is your knowledge of a gentleman by the name of Mr. Lucian MacLeod? For it is he that your father has so named.” he asked ponderously.


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Mary-Alice Whaley

84
?Years Young
50 Posts

"Tell me everything that happened, tell me everything you saw."


"Indeed, Miss Whaley, life is full of such vicissitudes. You may only be assured that after the sad death of both your Mother and now your Father…"

The realization that both of her parents were now gone hit hard. Though she had essentially been parentless since coming to Miami, it was at least something to know her father was out there. The hope she held onto for his return crumbled, and in its place, a void was left.

Her hands gripped the chair's armrests. It looked as if she were cast adrift in a tiny boat wishing for an anchor.

"… you will have to face many more such trying moments as your life progresses. Better now to steel yourself against them."

Her color was pallid, and his advice, though possibly well-intentioned, only served to create a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Things would be challenging… that much she understood.

Her thoughts shifted then to Evelyn; assuredly, she would be upset by the circumstances. To what degree the girl hadn't a clue.

"One of the major weaknesses of this will, which henceforth I shall refer to as 'our will', is the naming of a party other than your Step-Mother in the office of legal Guardian."

This revelation came as another surprise to Alice. Her father hadn't left her in Evelyn's questionable hands. It was certainly unexpected given their marriage but a welcome relief.

Uncertainty, however, began to creep into her mind. If the haughty woman wasn't her guardian, then who was?

It was as if Mr. Coppe knew her question because he readily continued and provided the answer.

"This is a most serious factor, Miss Whaley. And I must ask you now: what is your knowledge of a gentleman by the name of Mr. Lucian MacLeod? For it is he that your father has so named."

Alice mulled over the name. It wasn't at all familiar, and she wondered just who this gentleman could be.

"I don't have any knowledge… do you, Mr. Coppe?" she inquired, giving the stony-faced man a quizzical yet apprehensive look.

The girl imagined that perhaps he was some sort of distant relative. Maybe he lived far away, and she would have to move again, leaving her friends behind.


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Abiezer H. Coppe

Lawyer
240
?Years Young
6 Posts

... and so I put it to the court that by the Code of Procedure of the State of Florida Approved February 19, 1870, and Taking Effect July 1, 1870, section 13 subsection 2, that my learned friend the council for the prosecution is entirely mistaken in..


"I don't have any knowledge… do you, Mr. Coppe?" she inquired, giving the stony-faced man a quizzical yet apprehensive look.

“Not as much as we would wish, I am afraid.” He replied, shaking his head slightly. “However, one of the partners in our firm, Mr. Miggins Junior, a very brilliant young man…” he seemed keen to add this extra detail “… has been researching the matter most assiduously.”

He leafed through his papers in silence for a second until he found the appropriate sheaf. Mr. Coppe was in no way allergic to silent pauses in a conversation, in stark contrast to the vast bulk of chattering society, who would talk any old nonsense to fill a void. He looked the typewritten report up and down slowly.

“Mr. Lucian Xavier MacLeod, 38 years of age, native of the Philippine Islands. A successful businessman, owner of a coffee plantation in his native land, and various interests in the Miami area of Florida. Like your Father, he served in the United States Navy, which would appear to be where their connection was first formed.”

He put the paper back into the folder with care, and then removed his spectacles to look Alice straight in the eye.

“We are in contact with Mr. MacLeod's lawyers, but it is my considered opinion, Miss Whaley, that before any further legal steps are taken, you yourself should meet with Mr. MacLeod, and decide for yourself whether he is, in your own mind, the correct person to represent your interests until you come of age.”

He examined her with all the stern and stony aspect of an old testament prophet, but the actual words he spoke belied a strong, and perhaps unusual, interest in garnering her own thoughts on the matter.

“How would you yourself feel about such a course of action?”


Mary-Alice Whaley

84
?Years Young
50 Posts

"Tell me everything that happened, tell me everything you saw."


"Mr. Lucian Xavier MacLeod, 38 years of age, native of the Philippine Islands. A successful businessman, owner of a coffee plantation in his native land, and various interests in the Miami area of Florida. Like your Father, he served in the United States Navy, which would appear to be where their connection was first formed."

Listening intently, an image of Mr. MacLeod began to form itself in her mind. So, he wasn't a relative but a friend? It seemed strange then that her father should overlook Evelyn, but it must have been for a good reason.

Alice watched as Mr. Coppe removed his eyeglasses. Her eyes focused on his grey-blue ones, their color reminiscent of a brewing storm, which seemed inauspicious given his earlier spiel about her having a difficult future.

The lawyer seemed every bit as stern as Miss. Harris, but there was something about the man that set him apart.

"We are in contact with Mr. MacLeod's lawyers, but it is my considered opinion, Miss Whaley, that before any further legal steps are taken, you yourself should meet with Mr. MacLeod, and decide for yourself whether he is, in your own mind, the correct person to represent your interests until you come of age."

Had she heard him correctly? He wanted her to decide? Alice dubiously looked on, for she was unaccustomed to being asked her opinion.

"How would you yourself feel about such a course of action?"

"Yes… I would like to meet Mr. MacLeod, but would he want to meet me? Maybe he doesn't want to be involved, and my father was mistaken," she replied, slowly sitting up in the chair as if her breath had been restored.

It wouldn't be the first time her father had made an erroneous decision. Alice couldn't fault him, however, because she knew he had always tried his best. Things just hadn't been right since her mother's passing, and with this new loss, she was unsure it ever could be again.

“Does my opinion really matter?” she asked, understandably trepidatious about what lay ahead.


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