Charlie wanted that three million dollars. It was his money! But first he had to know who was looking after it.
Next morning, he went to his father’s hank and talked to a woman there. He smiled his beautiful smile and lied to her. Five minutes later he had the name and address that he needed in his pocket. Dr Walter Bruner of Wallbrook Home, Ohio.
With Susanna next to him, Charlie drove the Buick out of Cincinnati. It was a hot July day and they had the roof of the car open. On both sides of the road were the Ohio hills.
‘This is beautiful,’ Susanna said. ‘Where are we going?’
‘We’re going to see a Dr Bruner,’ Charlie answered. He did not say another word.
Twenty minutes later Charlie slowed the car down and turned to the left. The new road was very narrow. On both sides there were big trees. ‘This is the place,’ he said, ‘Wallbrook Home.’
‘But why have we come here, Charlie?’ Susanna asked.
‘It’s something about my father’s will,’ Charlie said. ‘It won’t take long.’
On the way up to the house, they saw a strange man. There was paint all over his face and he was smiling like a child. They got out of the car and walked up to the front door. A nurse came out to meet them.
‘I’d like to see Dr Bruner, please.’
The nurse took them into a comfortable waiting-room. ‘Could you wait here, please?’
The nurse left the room. Charlie jumped up and went through a door into another room.
‘Charlie,’ Susanna called. ‘Where are you going?’
She followed him into the other room where a group of people were watching television. Others sat at tables, playing with children’s games. Two nurses in white coats sat at the back of the room. Nobody spoke.
‘I don’t like being here, Charlie,’ Susanna said. ‘It isn’t right! Let’s go back to the waiting-room.’
Dr Bruner was a big man. He was about fifty-six, with grey hair and a calm face.
‘Could you please tell me the name of the person who will get my father’s money?’ Charlie asked politely.
‘I’m sorry. I cannot tell you that.’ Just like Mooney.
‘Why is it a secret?’ Charlie left his chair and went over to stand by the window. ‘Is this person… an old girlfriend of Dad’s?’
From the window, Charlie could see the old Buick. Susanna was sitting in the back, enjoying the afternoon sun. A small man, carrying a bag, moved towards the car. He walked in a strange way, moving from side to side.
‘Mr Babbitt, I knew your father from the time you were two years old,’ Dr Bruner said softly.
Charlie turned. ‘The year my mother died,’ he said quickly.
‘Yes,’ said Bruner. ‘Now, the will names me as the person to look after the money. But this hospital and I get none of that money. I am doing this for your father.’
Charlie was beginning to feel very angry. To calm himself, he turned back to the window. The man with the bag was now standing next to the Buick. ‘And you want me to just forget about the money?’
‘I think you have been upset,’ Bruner said softly, ‘by a. man who never knew how to show love.’
Charlie knew that this was true. He did not know what to say. Outside, the man was taking a small notebook out of his bag. He began writing in it.
‘I understand how you feel,’ Dr Bruner continued. ‘But there’s nothing I can do.’
‘I’ll fight for my money, Dr Bruner,’ Charlie said.
Dr Bruner got up from his chair. ‘I’m sure you are a fighter, Mr Babbitt,’ he said. ‘Your father was a fighter. But I am a fighter too.’
Dr Bruner walked with Charlie out through the front door. The day was getting hotter, but it was still beautiful weather.
The little man with the bag was still standing by the Buick. He was writing in his notebook. Again and again he looked from the car back to the notebook. He did not look at Susanna.
‘Raymond,’ said Dr Bruner, ‘go back inside.’
The man with the notebook was not listening. He continued writing in the notebook. Charlie walked past him and went to open the door.
‘Of course, this car is not white,’ Raymond said. He did not look up from his notebook. ‘This is a blue car now…’
Charlie looked at Raymond in surprise. He was a small man of about forty. He looked clean and tidy, with short hair and very ordinary clothes. What was a little strange was that there was no expression on his face. There was no light in his small black eyes, and no movement in his mouth. It was a face that was neither happy nor sad.
Smiling, Charlie turned to Susanna. ‘You know,’ he said slowly, ‘this car was white. My dad painted it blue when I was very little.’
‘And, and,’ Raymond continued quickly to himself, ‘… it cost an arm and a leg.’
The smile left Charlie’s face. ‘That’s what my father often said — «an arm and a leg». How does this man know that?’ he asked.
Charlie looked at the man called Raymond. Raymond looked up for a second. Then he looked at his notebook again,
‘You come with me, Raymond,’ Dr Bruner said. ‘These people have to go.’
But Charlie was moving closer to Raymond. ‘Do you know this car?’ he asked.
A frightened expression came across Raymond’s face. He looked at Dr Bruner for help. ‘I… don’t… know,’ he muttered.
‘Yes, you do know this car!’ Charlie said angrily. ‘Why do you know?’
‘That’s enough, Mr Babbitt,’ Dr Bruner said. ‘You’re upsetting him. You’re -‘
‘Charlie, please,’ Susanna said.
Now Raymond looked from Susanna to Dr Bruner. He began writing in his notebook and muttering to himself.
‘Babbitt Charlie. Charlie… Babbitt. Charlie Babbitt. 1961 Beechcrest Avenue.’
Charlie was astonished. ‘How do you know that address?’ he asked.
Dr Bruner spoke quietly. ‘Because he’s your brother,’ he said.
‘But I don’t have a brother,’ the astonished Charlie said. ‘I never had a brother.’