Theodore sulked on a park bench, stewing on the words Oboe had left him with. She was right. He didn’t know what was going through his father’s mind, but what possible justification could there be?
He leered up at the fountain, at that gilded lie of a statue. His father always talked about duty, about how serving the greater good was in their blood. Theodore squirmed in his seat. What was the truth? It was too late to ask Lance himself, but perhaps it was not too late to find out.
When Lance died, he left behind a will dictating one last ultimatum. If Theodore failed to join a knight order by the age of eighteen then the whole of his inheritance would be sold off and donated to charity. Theodore saw no reason to deny orphanages and poorhouses much needed funding. He walked out the door and never looked back. Until now.
A trolley ride and a long walk led him to the doorstep of the Grayweather family estate. It was still standing right where he left it. He knocked. The butler was so befuddled to see a man in uniform that he agreed to fetch the new owner at once.
“Mother’s tits! Who the devil are you?” He was a pudgy, unkempt man, who talked with a cigar clenched in his teeth. It was midday, but he was still in his bed clothes. “This had better be important. I was in the middle of some important business.”
Theodore forced a polite smile. “I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Theodore Grayweather. I lived here a long time ago, and I was hoping you could help me?”
The owner scowled. “I don’t care! I ain’t interested in selling!” He went to slam the door, and Theodore braced it open with his shoulder.
“Wait. I’m not trying to take your home from you!” He said. “I was looking for some things of my father’s. I was hoping they might still be here!”
The owner slacked his pushing. “Oh yeah? I still got some things lying around. What’s it worth to you?”
It took Theodore emptying his wallet for the door to swing open. Theodore would have to walk home, without anything left to pay for a trolley. The scruffy man introduced himself as Bertrand Blackwood.
“Best investment I ever made, this place.” He counted the coins and bills off, chuckling to himself. “Bank sold it for a song, you know. I have an eye for deals. Come along, but let’s make this quick.”
It was surreal for Theodore, walking through his childhood home again after so long. Walls had been knocked down and rebuilt. Familiar furniture was rearranged or replaced. The new wallpaper was eye searing. Tasteless statues and paintings of nude women replaced the family heirlooms. It was his home, but not his home anymore. The feeling bothered him more than he thought it would.
Bertrand lit a lantern, and a fresh cigar while he was at it, and led Theodore down into the cellar.
“Sold most of the good stuff after I bought the place. Made a mint on all the swords and armor. Crammed the junk down here. You’re free to take whatever is left, besides the antiques! I’m keeping the furniture! No refunds!”
The light pooled at the basement floor. Lines of old portraits were stacked against the walls. Theodore stood, surrounded by the painted gaze of his ancestors. Uncle Dirk, great aunt Gwendolyn, great grandfather Gallant, uncle Claymore, Grandmother Marsha: All of them stared at him on the edge of flickering lamplight. A shiver ran down Theodore’s spine.
Bertrand forced the lantern into Theodore’s hands.
“My butler will see you out when you’re done.” He yawned. “I need to back to more important matters.”
“Thank you,” Theodore said. The new owner climbed the creaking stares and left Theodore among the dregs of his heritage.