“Hey there, you two. How are you guys holding up?”
The oldest’s wine glass shook a little in his hand as he approached his two brothers. Nerves, he told himself. He willed his hand to cease, to hold still. It was a fine vintage, after all. No need to spill even a drop.
“Hey. I’m doing all right. Your flight get in all right?”
“Yeah. Little rough coming in with the storm and all, but the pilot handled it. I’m just glad I was able to book a hotel room last-minute and all.”
“Hotel? You could have stayed here with the two of us.”
The oldest cast his eye over his two brothers. The youngest looked even paler than he remembered. Was he sick, or was it just the stress of their father’s death piled on top of everything else? He’d been staying at home with Father in the final days, so maybe he was most affected by the loss. Unlike the other two, his wine glass held only water.
“Any word on the will yet?”
“Lawyer’s bringing it over tomorrow.” At least the youngest seemed to know what was going on there. No surprise – he was probably worried about losing his room, being thrown out of the manor.
The middle brother paused. “Wait – I thought it was in the safe?”
“Safe?” The oldest had been away too long. He didn’t remember a safe.
“Yeah, down in the study. Father had it put in a few months ago.” The middle paused. “But I don’t know the combination. Do you-?”
They both shook their heads. “Birthday?” suggested the oldest.
“Nah, easier way. We’ve got a sledge hammer out in the shed, back behind the manor. We could duck out now while everyone else is upstairs, go grab it, knock the thing open.”
“Now?” said the youngest in surprise. “It’s snowing out there – and it’s not like he’ll come back.”
“Might as well do it now,” the middle insisted. “Come on, you two, don’t make me do this on my own.” He tossed back the rest of his wine and set the glass over on a side table.
The oldest shrugged, lifting up his wine glass in turn and gulping down the remainder. “Damn good wine,” he said, slightly unsteadily. He glanced at the youngest. “Good find in the cellars, man.”
The three started for the back door, but the oldest paused. “Gimme a moment, I have to make a call for a moment,” he told the other two. “I’ll be right out after you, promise.”
The middle paused for a moment, looking uncertain. He had already slid his hand into his jacket pocket, and looked like he was gripping something inside. Maybe it was some lucky charm, for inner strength? But after a minute, he nodded and headed out the door after the youngest.
The oldest waited until they had both left the manor, the door closing behind them, before he dialed. “Yeah, it’s me,” he said into the receiver. “They’ll both be staying at the manor tonight. Just them, too. Should be easy to make it look like a suicide.”
After the voice on the other end of the line confirmed this, the oldest hung up. He felt a little unsteady on his feet, but put it up to the stress of the evening. More stress than his brothers felt, that was certain.
It wasn’t anything personal against them. But Father had been hoarding away his wealth for decades, money that the oldest could use to save his struggling business. But in order to do that, he had to get the entire inheritance – and that meant getting rid of the other two heirs.
Outside, as they trudged through the snow, the middle brother kept his hand in his pocket, feeling the sleek metal of the wicked little device within. He’d practiced for several hours, shooting tin cans off the fences at the edge of the manor.
Of course, he didn’t plan on shooting tin cans. But how much different could it be?
He felt a small twinge of regret, but he steeled himself, committing to this choice. He didn’t have the business of the oldest, the sympathy of the youngest. He had always been forced to fight and claw to hold his own.
Soon, he’d be done having to fight these other two any longer.
Furthest out, the youngest felt the cold stinging at his slim frame, and tried not to shiver. Just go along with them for a little while longer, he told himself. He’d watched as they had both gulped down the wine he had “found,” and now it was just a matter of waiting. He had been patient so long – it would just take a little longer, now.
He had always been last in line, trapped at home with the dying man while his brothers went out into the world, made advancements. He had been forgotten, abandoned. But he wasn’t going to lose out once more on this inheritance.
The wind howled as it blew the snow around the manor. It was a cold night, and there was no warmth, no heat to be found out in that dark land.