Kyle looked at the certificate again, seeing the surname. Tripps. He re-read the name of the person listed as the father. Danny Tripps. Kyle looked back at the lawyer. "Seriously?" Mister Crowler nodded. "Finding out that you're adopted must be a big shock, Kyle. Finding out your father was Danny Tripps must be just as big." Kyle shook his head.
It didn't make sense to him, this lawyer claiming he was adopted, let alone this absurd claim that Danny fucking Tripps, one of the wealthiest men in America, was his supposed father. A thought struck him. "Did Ed put you up to this?" Kyle had two best friends, Ed and Casey.
While Casey worked upstairs with him, their friend Ed worked as an illustrator on comic books, but was forever trying to punk them with practical jokes.
This seemed right up his street, especially four days after the world found out Danny Tripps had died of cancer. The lawyers expression turned serious. "Kyle, I assure you this is no joke. There is more information here for you, including a letter from Mister Tripps." "A letter?" Kyle smiled, convinced this was the work of his buddy. He chuckled.
"Let's see it then." The old man frowned but opened the second file and pulled out an envelope, the paper rich and luxurious. Kyle didn't recognise the handwriting on the front, but he opened it up and unfolded the letter. Kyle, I imagine you're in a bit of turmoil right now.
Try not to give Mr Crowler a hard time -- he's a good man and a good friend who's been stuck with a hard job. Anyway, you've just found out I'm your father. Danny Tripps, billionaire, celebrity, playboy, entrepreneur, business genius, etc. I'm sorry to say that it's true, Kyle. And you deserve an explanation. Twenty six years ago I met a wonderful woman named Karen, we fell in love and were soon married.
I started my own business making computers and doing some programming, and soon my wife fell pregnant. Life was bliss. Then the business boomed, some of the software I'd written made me a small fortune and within months I was employing hundreds of people. The business side of things isn't important now, but a few more months passed and it was time to go to the hospital. Karen gave birth to three infants, triplets, a month early, two girls and a boy, but immediately began to have complications.
She was rushed into surgery, but it was no good. Just like that, the love of my life died. She was twenty five years old. She would have been a great mother. I knew nothing about raising kids, and I was so overwhelmed with grief that the only thing I could think of was to throw myself into my work.
Anything to get away from the pain. A doctor suggested offering you and your sisters up for adoption. I agreed, thinking it was the best for you. It was the biggest regret of my life. At the time though, it was the best decision I could have made. You and your sisters were put with loving families, raised in nurturing and healthy environments, and despite my promise not to, I kept tabs on you all, helping out in little ways whenever I could.
Scholarships, jobs and the like. I know it's not parenting, but you and your sisters are the only family I have, even if we've never met. And that brings us round to the present. As I write this I'm dying. If you're reading this, then I'm already gone and you might have even heard about it on the news. Which brings me round to the point of all this. For twenty five years I've been building a business, an empire some would say, and along the way, tens of thousands of people have come to rely on me to keep their companies afloat, keep their jobs in place so they can raise their own families.
It's a responsibility that I take seriously, which may well sound ironic to you, given that I haven't taken responsibility for raising my own children. I'd like you to meet your sisters, Katarina and Kara. I'd like the three of you to get to know each other. All that I have now belongs to the three of you. My inheritance. I'm told it's quite a sum. Mister Crowler will give you the details on what happens next, but here's the clip notes.
Go to my Island in the Caribbean, get to know your sisters, learn a bit about what's being asked of you and decide what you want to do. Along the way you might even get to know a little more about me. In hope and love, Danny Tripps Kyle looked at the date on the letter, noting it was only two weeks old.
Gone were the doubts that this was Ed's work. This really wasn't his style at all. The knot in his stomach was twisting as he realised he'd have to make a call and speak to his parents.
He had to ask. "Would you excuse me for a couple of minutes, Mister Crowler. I need to make a call." Kyle saw the old man nod, but he was already on his way out the door.
He moved on autopilot out the front doors of the building and onto the street, crowded with the usual mixture of coffee-toting office workers, shopping housewives and tourists and stepped into a doorway. He dialled. "Hey, honey." "Hi, Mom," Kyle replied, trying to keep his voice relaxed and casual. "Listen, I need to ask you something." "Okay, honey, but you'll have to be quick. Your father and I are just about to leave," She replied.
Kyle could hear a car door close in the background. "Oh, right. Today's the hiking trip, right?" He heard his Mom sigh down the phone. "I swear Kyle, you never pay attention." He took a deep breath. "Mom, I need you to listen to me here, okay. I just had a visit at work from a lawyer called Mister Crowler." Kyle paused as he heard his mother shout on his father.
"Ben, you need to be in on this," He heard her say. "Okay, son. What did he say?" "Mom, Dad. I've got to ask you.
Am I adopted?" Kyle had his free hand held flat over his free ear, listening more intensely than he ever had in his life. The silence that stretched into seconds on the other end of the line added to the sinking feeling in Kyle's stomach. "Son, it's me," Kyle heard as his Dad came on the phone, his tone gentle. "It's true, son. We adopted you when you were only a few days old. I'm sorry you've found out like this. Do you want to meet up and talk about it? I can come and pick you up?" Kyle pressed his face into the corner of the doorway, trying to think.
It was true, he was adopted. His mind whirled with a myriad of emotions, feeling like his world had just been turned upside down, so he took several deep breaths, and thought about what he knew. His friends were his friends. His parents had kept this whopping big secret, but they'd raised him and been there for twenty three years for him. Did it really matter that they weren't linked by DNA?
The thought helped him clear his head a little and he sighed. After a moment he replied. "No, it's okay, and don't get all worried, okay. I know you're my parents, I know you're my Mom and Dad, you raised me and nothing's going to change that, okay?" He could almost hear the relief in the tones of their replies, so he pressed ahead. "Thing is, I've found out a little about who I was before I was adopted," Kyle added, not quite sure how to proceed with this bit.
He opted for directness. "How much do you know about that?" There was a hushed, whispered conversation at the other end of the line that ended abruptly after a few more seconds.
"We know who your birth father was, honey," Kyle's Mom said a moment later. "Do you?" Kyle swallowed. "Yeah, I think so." His mouth was dry but he made himself say the words. "Danny Tripps, right?" "That's right, son," His Dad said quietly.
"We weren't supposed to know, but we did." "Has he left you something in his will?" His Mom asked. "Is that why the lawyer is there?" "Em, I think so," Kyle said, feeling more than a little nauseous now. "Listen, they're telling me I have sisters." "What?" Both his parents replied at the same time. "That I have sisters. Twins," He replied. "Well, actually triplets, but I'm one of them, apparently." "Kyle, son, we had no idea," His Dad said, and Kyle knew deep inside that he was telling the truth.
"Sisters?" "Two of them," Kyle confirmed. "They want me to go and meet them." "Then you should go," His Dad replied immediately.
"Absolutely," His Mom added. "Are you alright, honey?" "Bit shell-shocked, I guess," Kyle replied. "Listen, I've got to head back in there. Are you guys okay?" "Yeah, son, don't worry about us," His Dad answered. "We'll stick around here for a few days, I think. Why don't you come round for dinner tonight or before it you want, we'll have a chat." Kyle frowned. "No, you should go on your trip. You two have been planning it for months." Every time Kyle visited his folks they had maps up of the areas of Canada they were hiking through and he knew they had various locations booked for the occasional night in a hotel and if they set off late they'd lose their reservations.
"Honestly, I'm okay. You should go on your trip, and besides, I can call you if I need to. You guys can call me too, okay?" Kyle could almost hear them silently discussing it with looks and gestures at the other end of the phone, something they'd done for as far back as he could remember. "You sure, son?" "Yeah, Dad.
You and Mom go on your trip." "You sure you're not pissed at us for not telling you?" His Dad asked bluntly, as was his way. Kyle sighed. "Honestly, Dad. I'm not angry. I'm a bit shocked, and I can't say I won't be angry in the future, but if I get angry I know where to find you." "That you do, son," His father replied. "You just pick up that phone and we'll come right back so you can vent your fury for as long as you need." "Can I just ask, why didn't you tell me?" "There was never a good time for it, honey," His Mom replied.
"How do you bring something like that up in conversation?" "Besides, you would have asked who your parents were, and we would have had to lie directly to your face, son," His Dad added. "We just couldn't figure out how to tell you." "Fair enough," Kyle said, managing to sound calm while inside he just wanted to vanish somewhere quiet so he could process it all.
"Have a good trip." "Love you, honey." "Love you too," Kyle finished and ended the call. He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and walked back in to see what else the lawyer had to say.
"Everything okay, Mister Watson?" Mister Crowler asked as Kyle sat back down. "I don't know if I'd describe it as okay," Kyle said a moment later. "Right, I've spoken to my parents." "So you know I'm telling the truth then?" Kyle swallowed and nodded. "Bit of a shock." "I believe you.
Shall I continue?" "Might as well," Kyle replied. "As he mentioned in the letter, Mister Tripps did his best to keep a discrete eye on you and your sisters while you were growing up, and he kept private files with the information for an occasion such as this. As he also said, we'd like you to come to Mister Tripps private Island, where you can meet your sisters and get to know each other without any of the constraints and pressures of the outside world." "What does that mean?" Kyle asked.
"Pressures and so forth?" The old man asked. Kyle nodded, so he continued. "To give you one example, Mister Tripps was a very recognisable public figure with a long ongoing relationship with the press." Kyle nodded, having seen him at movie premieres, award shows, chat shows and in the papers too. "The press are already making enquiries about who will inherit the vast fortune of the Tripps Empire, and sooner or later someone will remember him in a hospital twenty three years ago and either do some digging, or simply open their mouth on their favourite social networking site.
In todays instant-media world, it's only a matter of hours or days before you and your sisters get tracked down and beseiged by the media." "You're shitting me," Kyle blurted. "Seriously? That's what you think is going to happen?" Mister Crowler blinked. "That is what will happen, Kyle. We have experience with this." "I would have thought they'd." Kyle trailed off, thinking about it, and he knew that the old man was right in what he was saying. There would be a media frenzy, and he'd be right in the middle of it.
"Fuck me sideways." "I see we're on the same page, Kyle." "I guess so," he replied unhappily. "So what happens now?" "There should be a car outside for you. There's a private jet due to arrive in," He glanced at his watch, a polished silver pocket watch, then dropped it back in his pocket.
"Nine hours time, that's half past eight tonight. Take-off will be around nine o'clock and the flight from San Antonio to Guadeloupe Island, the nearest airport to the Island, is around seven hours. From there you'll take a boat for an hour to the Island itself, so you should be there at around sunrise." "Overnight journey?" Kyle asked, frowning. "It sounds exhausting." "Unfortunately we have to get all three of you to the Island as soon as possible, so it's unavoidable on this occasion.
However." The old man paused. "At the airport will be a woman named Patricia, an Executive Assistant to Mister Tripps with many years experience. She'll be your liaison, your point of contact and your assistant for the duration of your trip." "Why do I need an assistant?" Kyle asked.
"Because you'll have a lot of questions," The old man said simply. "Now, Patricia is very good at her job and she'll be a real asset to you, so make sure you rely upon her." "We'll see," Kyle replied, knowing he still wasn't sure if he was going to go to this Island at all.
The idea of buggering off with his folks seemed appealing, despite his well-known aversion to hiking. "In between now and tonight you'll have a driver to look after you. Her name is Caroline, I'm assured she's very good, and she'll have a few forms for you to complete.
I also have this for you." The old man slid an envelope over the table. Kyle opened it and emptied the contents. A Visa card, a Mastercard, a clear envelope with cash in it and a small keyfob.
"What's all this?" "The credit cards are for you to purchase some suitable clothing for your trip, the cash for if you don't want to use your credit cards or if you need to tip, and the keyfob is a personal alarm," The old man explained.
"If you push the red button, a security team will converge on your location and extract you from any situation or threat in the vicinity." "Like bodyguards?" Kyle asked, shaking his head. "This is too surreal." "I'd imagine there will be many surreal moments in the days to come," The old man replied. "Pin numbers for the cards?" Kyle asked, picking them up and looking at them. They seemed almost holographic. "The year of your birth. We can change that tomorrow for you." "I suppose they've got like a twenty grand limit or something extravagant like that?" Kyle laughed.
"Not quite, no." Mister Crowler smiled. "I believe they're somewhere in excess of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but they were set up in a hurry, so we'll get that straightened out too in the next few days." Kyle snorted with laughter.
"Another surreal moment?" The lawyer asked, his expression blank. "Something like that." "So I've got a driver, a load of credit and cash and a goon-squad on standby, just to cover me for nine hours until I catch a plane to an Island paradise?" "Not a plane, a private jet, but yes, close enough," he nodded.
"Fucking hellfire," Kyle said quietly, the laughter and incredulity of the moment stopped.
"So do I just go back to my desk until I finish work now? What happens?" "Oh, good lord, no," Mister Crowler replied, looking taken aback for the first time. "Mister Tripps actually owns this company, although it's not widely known. However, no, you don't need to return to your desk. In fact you don't need to return to it ever again if you so choose." "What about my boss?" Kyle asked.
"Sometimes he's a real dick, and I don't want him to throw a bitch fit." "Kyle," The old lawyer said, leaning forward across the table. "It'll take a while to get your head round some of the changes that are going to happen to your life in the next few days, weeks and months. However, if your boss is, as you put it, a real dick, then you can always deal with it by coming back here in a few weeks and firing him." "Good point actually." "Now then, onto the last file," The old man said, gathering the other documentation away.
"What's in this one?" "Your sisters." Kyle felt that cold sinking feeling in his stomach again and suddenly his mouth was dry. He realised he was craving a cigarette again, and had been for some time, which was unusual as he'd quit nearly a year ago and hadn't had a craving in seven or eight months. "Okay, let's see them," Kyle said, feeling a hint of excitement and fear at the thought of having sisters and wanting to find out who they were.
The lawyer opened the folder and slid two photographs across the table and Kyle's breathing almost stopped. His face turned white.
"Is everything okay, Kyle?" The old lawyer asked as Kyle stared at the photographs on the table. "You've gone a little pale." In a voice barely above a whisper, Kyle said, "Oh, fuck, please let this be a joke." Three Years Ago Kyle Watson smiled.
It had been an epic weekend so far. Spring Break with his buddies hadn't really been something he was looking forward to, particularly as their destination was Myrtle Beach. Not exactly Cancun, Miami or Acopulco, but then, they weren't there for the sun.
They were there to party. Party they had, Kyle wearily observed.
They'd arrived on the Friday morning, got drunk and partied with some chicks from University of Phoenix all night, but Ed had been the only one to score. Or at least, he was the only one who claimed to score.
If he actually did, Kyle knew it would have required some divine intervention. Once they'd slept a few hours they hit the Myrtle Waves Water Park. Kyle had felt too tired to do much but lie around with his shades on, admiring the ladies that passed by in their swimwear, but Ed and Casey had immediately hit the slides.
It only took half an hour for Ed to return with a limp. Casey couldn't stop laughing as he told how Ed had taken off down one of the slides after a hot girl in a bikini and had been pushing himself so fast that he flipped sideways out the slide and landed on the edge of it, narrowly missing his balls but injuring his right leg in the process. Kyle sat with Ed and listened to him grumble about his injury while Casey did what Casey does and took off in pursuit of several girls heading for the lazy river.
"You should get your shades on, Ed," Kyle suggested. "Some of the women going past here are fine. You can really check them out." His buddy grunted, so Kyle shrugged and put his iPod on, listening to some tunes while he admired a particularly hot MILF in a red thong and matching top strolling past. An hour or so passed and Casey finally came back full of excitement insisting they come and meet these girls from Bekeley College, down from New York for Spring Break.
He'd met them on the lazy river and had been chatting with them for the last forty minutes and they wanted to meet Kyle and Ed too. Kyle figured it sounded like fun, so he nodded and stashed his iPod under his towel, then got up to follow Casey.
Ed grumbled but joined them anyway. It took ten minutes of paddling to catch up with the four girls on the lazy river, but Casey introduced them all as Jessica, Shanice, Julietta and Margarita. "So I take it your names are all fake then?" Kyle had laughed, getting a round of grins from the girls. "Well, if you fine-ass bitches are using fake names, it must be for one reason, and that reason is carnal sinning," Ed said, earning a scowl from Casey.
"I'm fucking right, aren't I?"