He stopped and waited. I reached for my drink and knocked over the glass, spilling bourbon across the table. I went and got the crumpled towel from the sink area and sat back down and began slowly mopping up the liquid before I spoke.
“An interesting story. Not entirely believable, but interesting nonetheless.”
Emory thrust out a long finger toward my face. “Marlowe gave me papers that show…”
I laughed and poured myself a fresh drink, enjoying his befuddlement at my lack of concern. When he stopped sputtering, I proceeded to rattle off names which appeared on several documents pertaining to certain trusts, wills and similar legal contracts which Billy had undoubtedly surrendered to my visitor with a pistol pointed at his heart. Emory’s eyes widened in recognition.
“Let me tell you a story in turn,” I suggested, “also about an attorney such as the man you described. A man who lost his wife after many happy years of marriage in a terrible automobile accident. Childless, he eventually began doting on the only relative he had left, the orphaned daughter of his deceased brother. He did everything he possibly could for her, seeing to it that she never wanted for anything. And how did she repay him? By taking up with and eventually marrying perhaps the least desirable young man she could find.”
Emory was staring at me, trying to figure where my story was going.
“She eventually realized her mistake, but was foolishly determined to make the marriage work. And her husband knew that she was his meal ticket to a standard of living he could never attain on his own. He thus made it clear to the uncle that, should she ever change her mind, he would make any attempt to obtain a divorce so unpleasant and public that the poor woman would regret it all the days of her life.
“As you can imagine, this was a painful situation. When the uncle finally could bear it no longer, he went to his niece with a suggestion. ‘All he wants is money,’ he argued. ‘I will gladly pay him to set you free.’ She would have none of it. Indeed, she made her uncle promise that he would never even approach her husband with the proposition.
“He felt bound to keep his word, unhappy though that made him. Then one night, while sipping a brandy at a table very much like this one, the uncle had an idea. Suppose there were some other way for this unpleasant young man to get the money he wanted? Suppose he no longer required the marriage to live in the style he desired?
“He knew well what kind of man he was dealing with, a man who would never take a straight path if a crooked one were available, a man who would delight in making a profit through the humiliation of another, especially someone—such as the uncle himself–whom he despised.
“It wouldn’t be all that difficult, he realized, to set up the young man so that he would believe he could take advantage of certain possibilities. False documents might be created and allowed to fall into his hands. He might even be tricked into trying his hand at blackmail….”
What!” Emory’s bellow literally rattled the glass panes in the kitchen cabinets. “You’re telling me….”
“I’m telling you that Bobby Marlowe walked out on my niece just over two years ago, coincidentally only one month after he and I made our ‘arrangement’ based upon certain documents which had come into his possession.”
“…are totally and completely fraudulent. Created by me and passed on to Bobby through a convoluted series of maneuvers so that he never suspected the truth. For two years, he was convinced he was being paid for his silence. In fact, I was very happily paying him to stay away from my niece.
“So you see, Mr. Emory, you have absolutely nothing with which to threaten me. I, on the other hand, have this.” I pulled my pistol out from where I had hidden it in the crumpled towel earlier in the day and pointed it at my stunned visitor.
“Now I think we need to call the police,” I said. “After all, I know that you are a blackmailer and I suspect that you are a murderer as well.”