"Mr. Koubek?" a voice on the phone asked. "Ivo Koubek?"
Ivo blinked at the full use of his name. What was the last time he had heard it phrased in such a manner? "Yes?"
"His name is Douglas Berkshire of Berkshire, Hammond, and Dwight. We're a law firm in Man—"
"I know who you are," he said. He couldn't think of anyone on the island of Manhattan who hadn't heard of the prestigious law firm. They represented some of the biggest clients in the country. He just didn't understand why they would be calling him. "How can I help you, Mr. Berkshire?"
"I have something I need to discuss with you, something of a delicate nature. Would it be possible for us to meet?"
"Excellent," the man replied in a sickeningly sweet voice. "Is two o'clock this afternoon agreeable?"
Ivo glanced at the clock on the wall. It was only eleven in the morning. He didn't have to be at his shift at work until nine at night. Where the man wanted to meet depended on when they met. "Where?"
"I would be more than happy to meet you anywhere you wish."
Ivo winced as he looked at the disordered state of his apartment. Not only was the place the size of a shoebox, it wasn't in the best of neighborhoods. It would not be his first choice of places to meet a complete stranger.
"We can meet at my office in Manhattan if that would be more convenient for you," Mr. Berkshire said. "I can send a car for you."
"Really?" Ivo was astonished. Car service in the city was not cheap. One from his apartment in Brooklyn to Manhattan would cost more than Ivo's monthly rent, but it sure beat riding the bus. "I mean, yes, I suppose that would be okay."
"Thank you, Mr. Koubek. I will see you at two o'clock."
"Okay." Ivo hung up the phone and then just sat there and stared at it. He couldn't figure out a single reason a fancy law firm would be contacting him. He hadn't broken any laws that he knew of. He didn't drive so it wasn't a traffic ticket issue. He didn't own crap so if someone was trying to sue him, they were out of luck.
Ivo sighed as he got up to go look for his only suit. If he was going to be meeting with one of the top lawyers in the city, he refused to do it dressed in a T-shirt and ripped jeans. His mother had taught him better than that.
By the time the car arrived to take him to his meeting in Manhattan, Ivo was a bundle of nerves. For the life of him, he could not figure out why a fancy law firm would need to speak to him.
It wasn't like he had any long lost relatives that were suddenly going to leave him a crap load of cash. He was an only child and both of his parents had been only children. Ivo had no idea about the rest of his family. His parents never talked about them.
They had come from the old country when he was just a baby. He didn't even remember it. Everything he knew had happened in New York. Ivo still lived the same apartment his parents moved into when they arrived in America. His entire life had revolved around the same six city blocks.
His parents had both passed away within moments of each other five years ago, leaving him alone in the world. Which made him go back to thinking someone wanted to sue him. Or maybe this had something to do with his parents. They weren't known for having debt, which had been the one good thing to come out of their deaths. Ivo hadn't been left owing a bunch of money after they died.
The driver was waiting for Ivo by the car when he came out of the apartment. The stiff-looking, muscled guy gave him a curt nod before opening the backdoor to a black Lincoln town car. Ivo kept his whistle low as he climbed into the back of the fancy vehicle. He had never been in something so swanky. He doubted he ever would again.
Ivo had to admit he enjoyed the ride to Manhattan. It wasn't often he was allowed such luxury. The black leather seats were buttery soft, and there was enough room in the back for him to stretch his legs out.
Ivo considered going for the liquor cabinet built into the partition separating him from the driver, but he figured attending the meeting half sloshed wasn't a good choice. He needed his wits about him. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach, which was in one big knot.
By the time we pulled up in front of a very tall glass and concrete office building, that knot had grown tighter. Ivo was actually starting to feel kind of nauseous. The driver came around to the back of the car and opened his door.
Which was weird.
Ivo nodded to him as he climbed out.
"Have a good day, Mr. Koubek," the man said as he touched the brim of his hat.
A little stunned that the guy knew who he was, Ivo nodded back. "Thank you. You too." He frowned as he looked toward the tall building. "Do you know where I'm going?"
Ivo didn't have a clue.
"Mr. Berkshire is expecting you. His office is on the tenth floor. Just check in with the receptionist in the lobby and she can give you directions to his office."
"Thank you." Drawing in a deep breath, Ivo started toward the building. Once he stepped inside, he realized that he was a bit more intimidated by the place than he originally thought. There were security guards and everything.
Ivo walked toward the elevators, trying to look as if he knew where he was going and what he was doing. He didn't have a clue. Ivo hit the button to take him to the tenth floor, stepping to the back of the elevator when more people climbed on.
The heat of so many bodies pressed together had him sweating by the time they reached the tenth floor—stopping several times along the way. It took a large majority of Ivo's courage to step past the last man in the elevator onto the tenth floor.
He was anxious, worried that this meeting was going to change the whole coarse of his life. Logically, he knew he was being ridiculous, but he couldn't make the feeling go away.
Ivo smiled at the pretty brunette behind the receptionist's desk. "Hello. My name is Ivo Koubek. I have a two o'clock appointment with Mr. Berkshire."
"Yes, of course, Mr. Koubek, Mr. Berkshire is expecting you." She smiled widely as she waved her hand toward the seats by the door. "Please have a seat and I will inform him that you have arrived."
Wow, she was perky.
"Thank you." Ivo sent her a friendly smile before turning and going to sit down. He tried not to let his nervousness show as he sat there and waited. He didn't have long to wait. He barely got comfortable before he heard his name being called out.
"Mr. Koubek?" an older man dressed in a dark Armani suit asked as he walked out of the corridor to the left of the receptionist's desk.
"Yes." Ivo stood, casually wiping his hand on his pants before shaking the hand the man held out to him. "Can you tell me why you wanted to meet with me?"
"Why don't we go talk in his office?"
The guy seemed friendly enough, but Ivo was still worried.
Once they reached the man's very posh corner office, Mr. Berkshire waved to one of the leather chairs in front of his desk. "Can I offer you something to drink?"
"Do you have any water?" Ivo's nervousness had dried out his throat.
"Yes, of course." The man hit a button on his phone. "Darcy, please bring Mr. Koubek a bottle of water."
"Right away, sir."
"Now." The man seemed even more imposing when he sat behind his large desk than he did when Ivo shook his hand. "Thank you for meeting with me so quickly. The matter I need to discuss with you is time sensitive."
Ivo gulped. "Is someone suing me? Because I don't have a lot of money, and—"
"No, no, not at all. I'm apologize if I gave that impression."
Ivo frowned, growing even more confused. "Then why am I here?"
"Do you know a Mr. Maxmilián Vítkovský?"
"Max? Yeah. He's my next door neighbor."
Mr. Berkshire clasped his hands together and let them rest on the desk in front of him. "I'm sorry to say that Mr. Vítkovský passed away two days ago."
"Mr. Vítkovský passed away?" Ivo didn't know what to say. He played chess with Max almost every Sunday and had helped him with getting groceries and stuff. He was a nice old man. "How did he die?"
Made sense. The man was older than dirt. He had moved into the apartment down the hall from Ivo right after his parents died. He was a nice old man.
"The reason I asked you here is that Mr. Vítkovský has left the bulk of his estate to you, with one provision. He asks that you return him to his place of birth."
"Prague?" Ivo was pretty sure that was where Max said he was from.
Ivo had to think about that for a minute. Prague. That was half way across the world. He didn't even have a passport or a visa or even a suitcase.
Mr. Berkshire pulled a manila envelope out of a file on his desk and handed it over. "If you choose to go, I've been instructed to give you this. It contains directions to Mr. Vítkovský's estate in Prague as well as a letter that he wishes to be buried with him."
His eyebrows rose. "A letter?"
"Yes, I have not personally read the letter, but I believe it came from someone Mr. Vítkovský cared about many years ago, someone who passed away before Mr. Vítkovský arrived in the United States."
A love letter from a lost love? That was both sad and sweet.
"Mr. Vítkovský's will specifically states that you are not required to go to Prague in order to receive your inheritance. That was a personal request by Mr. Vítkovský."
Ivo shook his head. "This isn't about that. I don't have a passport or anything, and I would have to take time off from work and everything. I'm just not sure I can do it."
"That is your choice of course," Mr. Berkshire said, but Ivo could hear the censure in his voice.
"How long do you think a trip like that would take?" Ivo asked.
"No more than a few days, I should think, Mr. Koubek."
"I could ask my boss for the time off, but—"
"Mr. Koubek, I'm not sure you understand. Mr. Vítkovský left you his entire estate. You could take all the time off you needed."
"No, I got it, but what are we talking here? A couple of hundred dollars and some antique furniture?" Mr. Vítkovský had lived what seemed like a simple life. While his apartment was always well kept, there was nothing in it that would draw the interest of burglars.
"No, Mr. Koubek, we're talking several hundred million dollars."
Ivo stared, unblinking. He knew he had to have heard that wrong. "Could you repeat that?"
"Mr. Vítkovský was quite well off, Mr. Koubek. Between his investments and his holdings both here and abroad, he was worth several hundred million dollars. He left all of that to you, Mr. Koubek. You are his sole beneficiary."
Ivo swallowed tightly. "So, Prague then?"
To be continued...
Cade Creek 14
coming April 20th
Robby Fletcher had a lot of things to be ashamed of, but being assaulted by his oldest brother and his pals, wasn't one of them. It's been going on for years, but with one beating too many, Robby has finally had enough.
When he learns that Moose is in danger, Robby wants to protect his brother for once, and that means going to Cade Creek to warn him that Billy is out for revenge. But nothing ever comes easy for Robby. He barely has time to step foot in Cade Creek before he's running for his life.
Gus Fletcher knew something was wrong the second three rough-looking guys stepped inside his feed and seed store. He knew they were after something and he was determined that they wouldn't get it, especially when he discovered the frightened man hiding under his desk.
Between misunderstandings, the danger from Billy and his cohorts, and trying to help Robby and Moose mend their relationship, falling in love seems easy. Finding the right time for them is almost impossible.
Robby Fletcher waited until he heard the front door slam close and then a vehicle start up and peel away before he moved. And then he didn't move far. He pulled himself over to the wall and leaned back against it.
He took a couple of minutes to just breathe before cataloging his injuries, and there seemed to be a few more of them this time around. He glanced down at his arm. It was swollen, turning purple at a rapid rate. He suspected it was broken. It wouldn't be the first bone he had broken.
The rest of his injuries were bruises and abrasion, and a few nasty cuts on his side made with a knife. Barry always did like to play with sharp blades. Robby just wished the man didn't like to play with them on him. It was as if though guy was trying to mark him or something.
Pressing his good hand against the wall, Robby slowly climbed to his feet. He grit his teeth to keep from crying out when burning hot pain ripped through him. Every movement pulled on his abused muscles. Moving was pure agony.
He stumbled to his dresser and pulled out some clean clothes. Robby had no idea how long it took him to get dressed—he had to keep stopping when the pain became too much—but it felt like forever. By the time he slipped his tennis shoes on and laced them up, he felt as if he was on the verge of collapsing.
He couldn't, and he knew he couldn't. Billy and his buddies had most likely gone off to get drunk, but they would be back. Robby couldn't be here when they returned. He'd never survive another round with Billy's buddies.
Robby needed to get his backpack out of the closet. It had everything he would need in it. A wad of cash, some protein bars, bottled water, a change of clothes, pictures of his mother, and her cookbook. There wasn't much else he had that was worth taking. Anything of value, Billy had stolen ages ago.
He'd had a bag packed and ready to go since he helped his brother Moose escape. He had known then that he would eventually have to leave. He just needed to get the courage to do it. Robby wasn't sure he had the courage now. It was more desperation that was making him run for his life.
Robby grabbed his backpack with his good hand and swung it up over his shoulder. He was too afraid to loop his other arm through the strap. He kept his arm pressed lightly against his stomach instead.
Robby cast one more look around his room, knowing he was never coming back. He had packed anything that held any importance to him, which wasn't much. Whatever he had of value, Billy had taken and sold.
Robby had suspected for quite some time that his oldest brother was doing drugs. It was nothing he could prove, but the man was just a little too psychotic, sometimes more than others. He wasn't always like that.
Robby's heart ached for the brother he used to have, the one that taught him to ride a bike and took him to the park. That had all ended when their mother died. It was almost as if a switch had been flipped in Billy's head and he went insane.
Their father wasn't much better. He just wasn't quite as psychotic as Billy was. He was still violent and a roaring drunk, but Billy took things to a whole nether level. Billy enjoyed inflicting pain. Their father did it only to get what he wanted.
Not seeing anything else that he wanted to take with him, Robby let himself out of his room, locking the door behind him. It was stupid because Billy and his buddies would just kick it in, but he always locked it so now shouldn't be any different. If they thought he was hiding out in his room when they came back, that might give him a little extra time to get away.
Robby had no idea what made him stop outside Moose's bedroom door, but something did. A strong knot in his stomach maybe? He wasn't sure if he was grateful or not when he opened the door and saw the bloody and beaten woman lying on the mattress in the corner.
Robby dropped his backpack to the floor and raced across the room, dropping down to his knees next to the battered woman. He didn't know where to touch her. Every inch seemed to be bruised or bleeding.
"Lady?" Robby swallowed tightly as he reached down and lifted the dark hair covering the woman's face. "Holy shit! Carla!"
What in the hell was she doing here? The last he heard, she was headed to a dance school back east.
"Carla, honey, can you hear me?" Robby glanced around, looking for anything to wipe the blood off her face. When he couldn't find anything, he got up and ran to the kitchen. Robby grabbed a clean, wet rag and a bottle of water before racing back to Moose's room.
After gently wiping as much of the blood off Carla's face as he could, he unscrewed the top off the water bottle and then held it up to her lips. Most of it ran down her cheeks into her hairline, but at least it seemed to rouse her. She started to groan and move.
"Carla, it's Robby. Can you hear me?"
"R-Robby?" Brown eyes blinked up at him from between swollen eyelids.
"Yeah, it's me."
"Someone beat you up, Carla." Hell, it looked as if they almost killed her. "You're at my house, in Moose's room."
"Moose!" Carla gasped as she clutched at Robby. "You have to warn Moose."
"Warn Moose?" What in the hell was she talking about? What did Moose have to do with this? "What about Moose?"
"Billy knows about the baby. He's going to try to hurt Moose by hurting our son."
"Carla, where is Moose? Do you know where he is?" Robby couldn't warn the man if he didn't know where he was.