“This is the island resort?”
Michael leaned back in the driver’s seat and took off his sunglasses before replying. “Correction, this is our island resort.”
“But it looks like a crack house!” The stunned expression on Sam’s face seemed to be etched in.
Michael reached up to the visor, retrieved a cigarette and lit it. He tucked his Zippo safely back in the lining of his windbreaker. “If I understand correctly, it is a crack house from time to time.”
“Mike! Are you friggin’ kidding me? This is the great prize Uncle Jack has been dangling in front of us like a goddamn candy bar our entire lives? This is our gold mine by the sea? This is our inheritance?!”
Michael took another long drag on his cigarette, surveying the delapidated building. Six of the nine windows he could see had cracked or busted window panes. He could say the exterior needed to be pressure washed and painted, but he was pretty sure a pressure wash would remove what little unrotten material remained. Old wire and cut cabling hung down the side of the building, dancing in the wind. There was a second floor balcony off one of the rooms, which would have been a nice touch, except Michael could not see what, if anything, was holding it up. “Uncle Jack was a freakin’ nut job, huh?”
“Did Mom and Dad know about this? Wait a sec, Michael, how long have you known about this?” Sam turned to Michael with an accusing stare.
“Sam, relax… Just relax… I’ve known for about a year.” Michael raised his arms in a placating gesture as Sam started up. “Let me explain. It was when we realized Uncle Jack would need live-in care. Dad had just asked me to be Uncle Jack’s power of attorney, and I figured I would check out his assets — see if anything could be easily liquidated to make things easier.
“Honestly, dude, I had completely forgotten about this place.” Michael let out a small laugh. “I came across this deed for a hotel on McCullen Island and it took me a few minutes to realize what it was.”
“How the hell could you forget?” Sam asked in disbelief. “Every freaking birthday, he’d come in late, drop some crappy dollar store toy wrapped in a paper bag in our lap, and bellow about how when he’s gone, he’ll leave us the greatest gift of all.” Sam raised his hands in a giant quoting gesture and intoned, “Today a trinket, to hold and keep, It’s inner meaning, hidden down deep, for years to come, the truth shall sleep, until at last, the rewards will reap! How the hell did you forget that?”
Michael smiled and took another long drag of his cigarette. “Cuz I thought it was a bunch of bullshit.”
“Michael. It is bullshit! Look at this! We probably need to bulldoze it to the ground before some squatter falls through the floor and sues us!”
“Sam, you never have enough patience. Let me tell the story, will you? Once I realized what I thought this place was, I came down to check it out. The police chief directed me to a guy named Harry, who tries to keep an eye on the place. Apparently back in the day, Uncle Jack and Harry’s Mom had something pretty hot and heavy going on. Even after they ended it, Harry’s Mom watched the place until Harry got worried about some lowlife messing with her and insisted on doing it himself.”
Michael took a breath to see if Sam was still paying attention, and for once, his little brother was all ears. Satisfied, Michael forged ahead. “Harry’s Mom passed away a few years ago, but the day before she died, she told Harry that if you or I ever came around here, he was to tell us that the fortune was here, but we would have to work for it.”
Sam nearly exploded in exasperation. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It took me a while, but I think I’ve figured it out.” Michael indicated Sam’s outfit. “I hope you don’t mind ruining those clothes, little brother, cuz we are spending the day rooting around a crack house.”
“This is the island resort?”