فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

A Letter to Rachel

Mary Ross fired Grit early Monday morning. Hark Gettys now had three of the four heirs from the first family. His percentage had dropped to seventeen-five, but the sum he could earn was enormous.

He called a meeting to tell the other lawyers. The back of Wally Bright’s neck turned red with the news. He would kill Gettys if he tried to steal Libbigail.

“Stay away from my client,” he said loudly. “We know the game you’re playing. We’re not stupid.”

Snead came in and Hark introduced him to the group. “Now, the lawyers for the other side will ask you a lot of questions first. So for the next hour or so, assume that we are the enemy.”

Hark began asking questions. Snead handled them well and relaxed. Then Ms. Langhorne asked Snead about the Phelan families.

“Did you know about Rachel Lane?” she asked.

“I haven’t thought about that,” Snead said.

“What do you think?” he asked Mr. Gettys.

Hark was quick with the fiction. “I guess that you knew everything about Mr. Phelan. Rachel was ten or eleven when you went to work for Mr. Phelan. He tried to reach out to her over the years, but she would have nothing to do with him. So, if he left her everything, it shows that he was crazy.”

Snead repeated and expanded the story. When he finished, the lawyers were pleased. They all began to help Snead find answers for difficult questions. For three hours they built his story, then for two hours they tried to tear it down. At one point, he was nearly in tears. When he was exhausted, they sent him home and told him to practice his answers.

Poor Snead drove home in his new car. He was determined to give them what they wanted.

Nate planned to read and write through the morning. His plans were changed by a phone call.

“Are you busy?” Father Phil asked. “I’m at the church, working in the basement. I need some help.”

Nate thought about the soup. There was plenty of it left. “I’ll be there in ten minutes,” he said.

Phil was measuring wood in the basement. “I’m building six classrooms for Bible study,” he said.

It was a big job and Phil worked very slowly and took plenty of coffee breaks. As they worked, they talked. Nate talked about some of his troubles, including the problems with the government.

“What will you do?” Phil asked.

“I have no idea.”

“Do you trust in God?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Then relax. He’ll show you what to do.”

For the next two days, Nate continued to help Phil in the basement. They made slow progress, but they became friends.

Nate was cleaning paint from his nails on Tuesday night when Josh phoned to call him back to the real world.

“Judge Wycliff wants to see you tomorrow,” he said.

“What does he want?”

“He has some questions about your new client. I’ve told him you’re Rachel’s lawyer. You’re needed. Meet me at noon at Judge Wycliff’s office.”

Nate put a log on the fire. He could put on a suit and tie. He could look and talk the part. He could say the right words, but he no longer considered himself a lawyer. Those days were over, thank God.

He could do it once more, but only once. He told himself that it was for Rachel, but he knew she didn’t care.

Judge Wycliff entered his office at twelve-thirty.

“Josh tells me you found the richest woman in the world,” he said.

“Yes, I did. About two weeks ago.”

“And you can’t tell me where she is?”

“She begged me not to. I promised.”

“Will she appear in my court?”

“She doesn’t have to,” Josh explained. “She knows nothing about Mr. Phelan’s mental state, so she can’t be a witness. We can proceed with the lawsuit without her.”

“I need a letter from your client, saying that she’s seen the will and knows what we’re doing.”

“Yes, Judge,” Josh said.

Judge Wycliff began to ask questions about Rachel. Questions were dangerous. Wycliff mustn’t know that Rachel didn’t want the money. Josh interrupted. “You know, Judge, this is not a complicated case and everybody’s anxious. Why can’t we start the lawsuit as soon as possible? Get all the lawyers in one room now and make them produce a list of witnesses and documents. Then set a trial date for ninety days time.”

“What about you, Mr. O’Riley? Is your client anxious to get the money?”

“Wouldn’t you be anxious, Judge?” Nate asked.

And they all laughed.

That night, Nate began a letter to Rachel. He had the address of World Tribes in Houston. He would mark the letter “Private” and address it to Rachel Lane. Someone at World Tribes knew who and where she was. There must be some way to contact her.

He wrote the date, then “Dear Rachel.”

An hour passed and he tried to think of words that would sound intelligent. Finally, he started writing about the snow. Did she miss it from her childhood? There was half a meter on the ground outside his window.

He told her that he was acting as her lawyer, and explained what was happening about the will. He told her about Father Phil, and the church and the basement. He was studying the Bible and enjoying it. He was praying for her.

When he finished, the letter was three pages long. Nate read it twice and thought she’d like it. If she received it, he knew she’d read it again and again.

Nate wanted to see her again.

The story appeared in the newspapers on Friday morning. It said that Rachel Lane was acting through her lawyer, Mr. Nate O’Riley, to fight the people who were contesting her father’s will. Mr. O’Riley had tracked down Rachel Lane, shown her a copy of the will, discussed the various legal issues with her, and become her lawyer.

The Phelan lawyers were astonished by the news. They met at Ms. Langhorne’s office to discuss the case.

“We’ve seen nothing signed by this woman,” Hark said. “No one knows where she is, except for her lawyer and he’s not telling. It’s obvious to me that she doesn’t want to come forward.”

“Lots of rich people are like that,” Bright interrupted. “They want to keep quiet, otherwise everybody would be beating on the door, asking for money.”

“What if she doesn’t want the money?” Hark asked.

“That’s crazy,” Bright said as they all considered the impossible.

It’s just a thought,” Hark said. “If she doesn’t want it, her share will go to the other heirs.” The lawyers did some quick calculations. Eleven billion, less taxes, divided by six. Serious wealth was possible.

The brown envelope was sent to the desk of Neva Collier, organizer of South American Missions. It was addressed: “For Rachel Lane, Missionary in South America, Personal.” Inside was a letter, addressed: “To Whom It May Concern,” and a smaller envelope. Neva read the letter aloud.

“Enclosed is a letter to Rachel Lane, one of your missionaries in Brazil. Please send it to her. I met Rachel about two weeks ago. I found her in the Pantanal. The purpose of my visit was a legal matter. She is doing well. I promised Rachel that I would not tell anyone where she is. She does not want to be disturbed with any more legal matters, and I agreed to her request.

“She needs money for a new boat and medicines. I will gladly forward a check to you. I want to write to Rachel again. Please let me know that you sent her this letter. Thanks. Nate O’Riley.”

It wasn’t easy to reach Rachel. Twice a year on March 1 and August 1, World Tribes sent packages to the post office in Corumba. These included medical supplies, Christian literature, and anything else she needed. The post office held the packages for thirty days. If Rachel didn’t collect them, they were returned to Houston. This never happened. Every August, Rachel went to Corumba and called the World Tribes office. In March, the packages were sent up the river on a boat and left at a farm near the mouth of the Xeco River. Lako collected them.

In eleven years, Rachel had never received a personal letter. Neva copied Nate’s phone number and address, then hid the letter in a drawer. She would send it in a month, with the usual supplies for March.

Nate was in bed when the phone rang. A female voice said, “Nate O’Riley, please.”

“This is Nate O’Riley.”

“Good evening. My name is Neva Collier. I received your letter. I will send Rachel’s letter to her.”

“Thank you. I’d like to write to her again. Have you heard from her recently?”

“No.”

Rachel had been in Corumba two weeks earlier. He knew this because she’d come to the hospital. She’d spoken to him, touched him, then disappeared. But she hadn’t called the World Tribes office? How strange.

“Why did you find her?” Neva Collier asked.

“You’ve seen the newspapers? You understand what her father did? Somebody had to explain what was happening and it had to be a lawyer.”

“You mentioned some things she needs down there.”

Nate told her the story of the little girl who died because Rachel had no medicine for the snake bite. “She can’t find enough medical supplies in Corumba. I want to send her whatever she needs.”

“Thank you. Send the money to me at World Tribes. I’ll make sure she gets the supplies. We have 4,000 Rachels around the world, and we don’t have a lot of money.”

“Are the others as special as Rachel?”

“Yes. They are chosen by God.”

They agreed that Nate could send his letters to Neva and she would send them to Corumba. If either of them heard from Rachel, he or she would call the other.

Back in bed, Nate thought about the phone call. Rachel had come to Corumba because she knew from Lako that Nate was very sick. Then she’d left without calling anyone at World Tribes to discuss the money. It was very strange.

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