Case of the Wrongful Heir

Please note: this fiction is non-chess related! If you’re not interested in fictions, you can give it up here.

Case of the Wrongful Heir
Written by Qiyu Zhou in Grade 8 in 2013

Prologue

It was the day of the funeral of Sir Edward McDonald. The sixty-year-old man had died the week before, on a Wednesday. McDonald was being buried the following Friday. He came from a rich family, and owned large enterprises and stocks in several of the leading companies around the world. He was indeed wealthy.

Sir McDonald had a young wife in her thirties named Helen McDonald. They had two sons, the elder one being Simon, and the younger one Benjamin. Simon was fourteen years old, and Benjamin was two years younger. The immediate relatives of the family were McDonald senior’s younger brother Kevin, a rather calculating politician, and his wife, Jane.

December 13th, Friday, 2013

The downcast, grayscale weather was just right for the occasion, with gloomy clouds, strong cold winds, and the threat of snow. Crows flew in circles overhead and perched on the nearby branches. People were arriving in black sedans or chauffeur-driven cars. Most of the women wore black dresses with veils, while the men wore black suits. It was a field of black. McDonald’s funeral was well attended, with over a hundred people, including relatives, business partners, and friends.

The attendees lingered in the majestic great hall of the mansion, wondering who, or if, they would receive any inheritance. Close relatives were especially alert, as they knew the wealth of the McDonald family. Simon and Benjamin, the sons of the late McDonald, were both talking and lingering among their aunts and uncles, looking extremely sorrowful, as was fitting considering that their father had died. People were talking in hushed voices, and one could hear Kevin saying to Helen; “My deepest condolences, Helen. I know what he meant to you,” or Jane assuring Helen that everything would be alright. But of course, as with any family reunion, there would be arguments.

“I do believe that Helen will inherit most of Edward’s will,” said one relative of McDonald. “Oh no, did you not hear? They had a falling out a few months ago, and never quite had the same feelings for each other after that,” retorted another. “What about Kevin?” another would say. “Everyone knew that Edward was the harder worker, and Kevin was jealous,” or “Didn’t you hear that Edward and Kevin had a squabble over the family business?” At the moment of realizing that their conversation had been overheard, the relatives all promptly changed the subject. This type of family gossip was absolutely not meant for others’ ears! And so it continued for the next half an hour, until finally, it was time for the reading of the will.

“Please, follow me into the ballroom, and seat yourselves,” said the executor, Nicholas Furmont, with a reedy voice into a microphone. “I convey my deepest sympathies for all those who are affected by the death of McDonald. He was a kind, hard-working, and accomplished man. Sadly, like all great men, he passed away last Wednesday, to a stroke. Autopsy was unnecessary, as his death had simply been assumed to have been resulted from a stroke. Let us all reflect on the passing of a wonderful husband and father with a moment of silence.” Nicholas then continued, “As the late McDonald will decrees, the entire McDonald estate and ninety percent of McDonald’s assets, go to …” One could literally feel the tension and apprehension mounting inside the room, as everyone drew in their breath, waiting … “Kevin McDonald!”

Everyone was glancing around, making sure they had heard right. More than a few whispers of “Are you sure that is right?” could be heard ringing through the room. With everyone glancing towards the brother of McDonald, one could see that he himself had a look of shock and disbelief on his face.

“The remaining five percent of the financial assets is to be split evenly between Helen McDonald and her two sons, Simon and Benjamin.” By this time, no one could believe their ears. Most of the money was going to Kevin? How could that be? But of course, no one questioned the will too much, as Edward must have had his reasons.

The body was placed in a simple black wooden coffin with red velvet lining. The body seemed like a wax model, with the face deathly pale, but with a tinge of redness on the cheeks. The mouth was slightly open, where one could see something that was dark and black. No one paid much attention to this, as they were all much too grief-stricken to look, or were simply pretending to show sympathy. Simon started out to hold his uncle’s hand, but Kevin noticeably flinched at the touch, which went unnoticed.

The family of Edward McDonald got one last view, and then the gleaming lid was put on the coffin and it was lowered deep into the ground. A quick glance around the small group of relatives who were viewing the burial, and one could see there were quite a few fake tears.

10 Years Later
January 13th, Friday, 2023

The trees rustled, and the cold January winds blew steadily across the grounds of the school that Simon went to. However, he barely noticed any of that today. Heparin. That word just suddenly sprang out at the now twenty-four-year-old Simon. Simon was about to take a test in medical school, and was pondering the different types of medicine and their uses, when suddenly one drug jumped out at him. His father’s death ten years ago had recently came back to him. He was getting to bed late every night, worrying about test scores and everything else in life. On this particular cold, dark and stormy night, however, he suddenly had an idea. He quickly hurried into his apartment after night class, and opened his laptop. Upon typing in the words “heparin medication,” he received the following:

“Heparin Sodium, USP is a heterogeneous group of straight-chain anionic mucopolysaccharides, called glycosamino-glycans having anticoagulant properties. Although others may be present, the main sugars occurring in heparin are: (1) α- L-iduronic acid 2-sulfate, (2) 2-deoxy-2-sulfamino-α-D-glucose-6-sulfate, (3) β-D-glucuronic acid, (4) 2-acetamido-2-deoxy-α-D-glucose, and (5) α-L-iduronic acid. These sugars are present in decreasing amounts, usually in the order (2) > (1) > (4) > (3) > (5), and are joined by glycosidic linkages, forming polymers of varying sizes. Heparin is strongly acidic because of its content of covalently linked sulfate and carboxylic acid groups. In heparin sodium, the acidic protons of the sulfate units are partially replaced by sodium ions. The potency is determined by a biological assay using a USP reference standard based on units of heparin activity per milligram. Heparin may result in fatal deaths, which may be mistaken for strokes. One visible sign of heparin overdose is the blackness of the gums and tongue in the deceased’s mouth.”

He sat there for a moment stunned, realizing the weight of this find. The tongue of his father was black when the coffin was lowered! Ten years ago, he assumed that the black tongue was because the body had been prepared for burial. But now he had his doubts. Simon gathered himself, and called his brother, Benjamin.

Simon rapidly fired away, “Do you know what heparin is? I don’t think dad died from a stroke ten years ago, I think he was poisoned. Do you remember if he was on medication of any sort?” “Wait, what? You think that who was murdered?” replied a sleepy Benjamin. “This is really important; I’m coming over to your apartment right now,” Simon said before quickly hanging up.

As Simon ran across the school grounds towards a large gothic building where Benjamin lived, he noticed a sleek tuxedo black car parked near his apartment building, and a man standing outside, leaning against the car, as if waiting. Simon briefly wondered why anyone would want to wait outside in this weather, when he was suddenly hit on the head, and blacked out.

Benjamin was patiently waiting in his apartment lobby, waiting for his brother to arrive so he could open the door for him. After a patient ten minutes, Benjamin dismissed the call as a prank to get him out of bed, and went back into his apartment. The next morning, he had pretty much forgotten all about what had happened the night before. The weekend went on fairly quietly, until he realized he hadn’t seen his brother since the day he called, and none of Simon’s friends had seen him either.

Benjamin walked towards Simon’s dormitory and knocked on the door. After getting no response, he tried the handle, and to his surprise the door sprung open. Upon entering the rather spacious room, it was clear that no one had been there for the last few days. The food was still sitting on the table; Simon’s beloved laptop was still sitting on the desk. Benjamin searched Simon’s bedroom, and checked everywhere for signs of what had happened. He found a few notepads and notebooks lying around, but didn’t notice anything special. When he walked into the kitchen, there was a calendar, with a big X over January. After another week of no response, Benjamin was becoming worried. He then informed the security guards of the school.

The police were contacted, and a search was conducted, both unsuccessful. The weight of the situation suddenly loomed on Benjamin. A call was made to the brothers’ mom, Helen, and she also said she hadn’t seen Simon since the winter holidays. Simon was deemed to have been abducted. “Missing” notices went up in newspapers and other publications, but no one seemed to know where Simon went. All the relatives were contacted, in case Simon was staying at one of their homes. He just couldn’t be found, and the detectives had no leads.

By now, Benjamin was desperate, and was wondering what Simon had meant that night a month ago about their father and the possibility that he was murdered. The police didn’t believe his speculations, so Benjamin started his own research. Meanwhile, he became so immersed in finding out what really happened that he didn’t notice what was going on around him. Kevin had become a prominent politician in the House of Representatives, and was in the news daily. He had used his wealth from the will of his brother’s will to gain even greater profit.

Benjamin researched heparin, and anything related to strokes. He found out that overdoses of heparin would cause black tongues and gums, and remembering that the mouth of his father’s body was as black as night, he was pretty sure that heparin was the cause of his father’s death. He also concluded that Simon had been kidnapped, probably because he had found out too much. During March, the McDonald family had a huge reunion, courtesy of Kevin McDonald’s political campaign.

Upon seeing Benjamin, Kevin said, “I am most sorry about your brother, Benjamin. I understand how hard it is to suffer the loss of family members as well. I do hope you enjoy your visit.” And Benjamin replied, “Thank you, uncle. I have not visited the mansion since ten years ago.”

The picturesque landscape around the McDonald family estate looked serene, with a glimmering river leading into a small lake. Horses grazed in the fields surround the estate, but the winds were blowing fiercely. The bare trees groaned in the wind, and it looked like they might topple over any moment.

The luxurious McDonald mansion hadn’t changed much since Benjamin was a young boy, but he could feel a tighter environment, as if the mansion held secrets he never knew about before. Large sections of the mansion, like the dark old library, were mysteriously sectioned off, and upon being asked, Kevin said they were being renovated. Seeing no signs of any type of renovation, Benjamin was instantly suspicious.

A quick stroll through the now gloomy restricted sections didn’t shine any light on the mystery of what had happened to Simon and his father, but it helped him to clear his mind. He saw old paintings that he liked when he was a child, and all the rooms where he had played in with Simon. Just as he was coming around a corner leading back into the grand hall, he saw a piece of paper fluttering on the ground. He picked it up, and it read: “CWNAF EMJVWJ.” The handwriting looked disturbingly familiar, but he couldn’t quite make a connection. He slipped the piece of paper into his wallet, unaware that Kevin McDonald was watching his every move through hidden video cameras.

During the reunion party, Benjamin slipped off from conversing with his many relatives to find his mother. “Mother, may I ask you something in private?” whispered Benjamin. His mother set down her cocktail, and with an apologetic glance at her talkative friend, followed Benjamin into the garden.

The garden porch offered little comfort. “Oh my goodness, its cold outside! Why do you want to talk?” said Helen, shivering in the March winds. Benjamin said, “Was father on any sort of medication before he died?” Helen thought for a moment, before replying, “I don’t think so, but I remember he said he felt constantly ill. He didn’t want any of us to worry, so he just took some medication from Uncle Kevin. Why?” Benjamin thought for a moment, before saying carefully, “I have some evidence that father died from an overdose of medication.”

Benjamin continued, “You never hired Nicholas Furmont did you? It was all Kevin. He hired the executor, rewrote the will, and murdered father. It all makes sense now!” By now, Helen looked visibly shocked, and couldn’t seem able to comprehend. Benjamin was so excited about the new find, and said, “See this slip of paper? It says CWNAF EMJVWJ. I bet that is in Caesar cipher, and it says Kevin Murder. So Kevin was the murderer!” Helene looked weak at this, and whispered, “But Kevin would never do such a thing!”

“How can you not understand? It’s clear! Kevin gave Edward an overdose, and while Simon was investigating this, ten years later, Kevin somehow figured it out and kidnapped him!” Benjamin was practically yelling at her. As a crow shrieked in the distance, he stormed towards the doors. Helen suddenly reached and grabbed her son’s arm. “You don’t understand, you really don’t. You should forget about everything.” Benjamin gave her a look of disgust, and went back into the warmth of the glamorous hall. The rest of the reunion passed by in a whirl of political talk, and the usual family bickering.

That night, as he was going back to his apartment, Benjamin didn’t notice that his mother was whispering in hushed voices with Kevin behind a pillar, or that Kevin was giving him a serious look. He just wanted to get home from the tiring night. Upon arriving in his apartment, he found that the windows were open, and all his things were strewn on the ground. A note lay on the table, saying “You have been warned.”

A month passed after the reunion, and after no more midnight threats, Benjamin decided he was going to get to the bottom of the mystery. And so he made a plan to break into his uncle’s office. He carefully planned every detail of how he would get in, and how he would make his escape. On the night of the break-in, he thought he had everything prepared. A friend dropped him off about a block away, and he walked to the office building. Custodians were busy cleaning the lobby for the next business day, and he managed to sneak in through an open back door, which had been sloppily left open.

As he climbed the stairs to the 12th floor on which his uncle worked, he was calculating the price of this night-time adventure. Even though he wore a mask, he could still be caught or stopped by the police if they were alerted. Benjamin first made a detour to the security desk, and upon seeing the guard was awake, he slipped a few heavy-duty sleeping pills into his drink, and waited until he fell asleep. Fifteen minutes later, Benjamin was disabling the security system. He stole the security guard’s key card and quickly fled down the hall. He looked through the door glass into Kevin’s office, and opened the door. Kevin’s office was elegant, with modern furniture and neatly stacked papers on the desk. Benjamin however, only noticed the lock sitting in the corner. He sneaked across the room, and took out a lump of some yellowish substance, and spread it over the lock. A sizzling sound resulted from the lock being melted, and the door swung open.

A few documents sat inside the safe, and he quickly put them all into his bag. He then ran out of the room, took the stairs down, and ran outside. He walked a few blocks away, and then called his friend to pick him up. “Well, that was far too simple,” he thought uneasily as he walked into his apartment. After looking through a few papers, Benjamin found that Kevin indeed had plotted to inherit all the money after murdering Edward. However, although Kevin seemed to painstakingly keep track of everything that he did, he did not record anything about the disappearance of Simon.

April 16th, Sunday, 2023

During breakfast, Benjamin poured over the documents he had acquired illegally last night, and found out that an important piece was missing. If Simon was on Kevin’s trail about the murder of their father, why wouldn’t Kevin have some sort of letter or payment that stated it was kidnapping? Kevin seemed to have a record of payment of everything else he did.

A knock on the door at six in the morning startled him, and he looked through the peephole, and saw his mother standing outside. He opened the door, and warily asked her, “Good morning, what brings you here this early on a Sunday?” “Oh, I just wanted to see my son,” she said with a tight smile. “Please, I want to talk to you about something. I’ll drive you to our favourite coffee shop when you were young.” Benjamin grabbed his jacket and followed her down the stairs, into the still dark morning.

Epilogue

The air was crisp, and the weather was bright, with the dew drops shimmering in the morning sun. The lack of morning traffic gave a sombre tone to the day. An elderly woman in a fur jacket and a slightly younger elegantly dressed man were sitting in a coffee shop in the downtown. They seemed to be deep in conversation about some matter or another and the man was visibly upset about something. What he was upset about, you may never know.

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