It turned out the five thousand dollars in the mail was only the start of it.
Not only were Cary’s medical bills paid in full, but a week after the money, she received three letters. One was to inform her of a trust set up in Cary’s name, with Vicky as the trustee. The other was an account in Vicky’s name to which she had full access. The third was from a lawyer who was only a phone call away with services already paid for for the next five years.
Even with half a dozen people’s assurances from the firm that this was in fact real, Vicky couldn’t believe it. The bills, accounts, and what was comparatively petty cash numbered almost a million dollars.
“It would be exactly a million,” Mr. Jamison, her lawyer, explained, “except for taxes of course.”
“Of course,” Vicky echoed faintly.
Three months later, no one had yet come arrest her for fraud. She hadn’t touched a cent, to ensure that she was innocent in all of this. Well, she had used the cash for Cary’s medical expenses and a few day to day items. Vicky had no income of her own at the moment, thanks to one hell of a concussion.
But it was a million dollars.
Vicky had no concept of how much that was, really. Yet, everything was set up so interest would cover all taxes in perpetuity, so long as she didn’t overspend.
How much was overspending? Oh, six hundred thousand or so all in one go.
A year passed. She’d started withdrawing money from her own account. She covered the bills, she bought some nice things for Cary, her mother, and herself. Nothing too flashy, but there were new toys and some new dresses. They also replaced the oven when it broke with one a little higher quality.
They took a trip to San Francisco in year two.
In year three, they moved into a larger house, in a better neighborhood. This was also the year she and Mr. Jamison discussed investments. Vicky looked into private schools for Cary.
In year four, she hired a private investigator to find where the money had come from. Mr. Jamison refused to say himself. Attorney-client privilege, he said.
In year five, she extended Mr. Jamison’s contract and flew out to LA with Cary and her mother. Cary was almost 12 now. Her leg brace hadn’t chaffed her for years, and the few hospital stays for respiratory issues were never a financial concern.
They visited movie sets. They walked along the beaches. They ate in upscale restaurants. They spotted tv and movie stars, and Vicky tried not to feel like a country bumpkin as she pretended not to stare.
One afternoon, however, she left her mother and her daughter to their own devices. She had an old friend to see.
As she waited at the front door, hoping the address was correct, she heard a car pull up. She turned, and there was a bright red Gran Torino, looking a little worn but well cared for parking in the driveway.
Dave stepped out. He looked a little older, but then so did she. From the passenger door, another man stepped out. Dave’s friend, she recalled. Ken Hutchinson. She only remembered his name because he had been in the file.
She had suspected the petty cash had been from them once upon a time. The accounts were too large a sum to possibly have been.
Yet here she was.
The two were arguing about something. Dinner, maybe, with Hutchinson pulling a bag of groceries from the trunk.
“It’s rabbit food, Hutch!” Dave said, gesturing.
“It’s our fridge,” Hutchinson said, “and I’m not going to let you stock it just with junk food.”
“I don’t know why-”
Dave stopped when he saw her. Vicky smiled and waved. “Hi,” she said.
“Hi.” Dave ran a hand across his mouth, staring at her in wonder. “Uh, hi,” he said again.
“Hi,” Vicky said.
Hutchinson approached Dave’s side slowly. “I’m sorry, who-?”
“Vicky,” Dave said. “From Vegas.” He grinned at her. She returned it.
Dave ushered them all inside. Hutchinson took the groceries into the kitchen while Vicky perched on an armchair. She took in the surroundings. It looked cosy. Plenty of plants, a wide wicker chair she was envious of with a guitar leaning against it, and a square display case filled with books, photos, and knickknacks.
It was very homey. Very modest. Not the place someone with a million to spare would live.
Dave came out with tea for her. She gestured to the guitar. “You play?”
Dave’s cheeks flushed. “Ah, only a song or two. Hutch is the musician.”
She nodded and sipped her tea.
“How’s your girl?”
“Very well.” Vicky took pride in sharing her daughter’s accomplishments, from her grades to her part in the school band on the viola to her science project that got second place.
“That’s freaking fantastic!” Dave said. He was pure enthusiasm, as if the things Cary did were the most important feats in the world. “Hey, Hutch! Vicky’s girl got second place!”
Hutch came in and settled next to Dave on the couch. “What I want to know is how much First Place clearly bribed the judges.”
“Cary and Beth are very good friends,” Vicky said. “There were only a few hurt feelings.”
“That’s just really terrific.” Dave leaned forward to squeeze Vicky’s hand. “I’m really glad to hear you guys are doing well.”
She didn’t want to let go, but his fingers slipped through hers all the same. She took another sip of tea. “You know…. I don’t know how to thank you.”
Dave and Hutch both shifted. It was the tiniest of movements, but it let them exchange glances without turning their heads.
“I don’t know what you’re thanking us for,” Dave said, “but I’m really glad things are working out for you.”
Dave shook his head. “You just hold on to that girl of yours, okay? Raise her to be as smart as you, and she’ll go far.”
Vicky’s eyes stung. She ducked her head. “Cary’s got more brains than I ever had. She’s going to be something great.”
“Hey!” Dave snapped his fingers. “Before you go, you gotta try some of Hug’s pie he left us. Hutch, where-?”
“Between the carrots and those pickled radishes of yours.”
“See, I eat vegetables,” Dave said, throwing Vicky a wink as he made his way to the kitchen.
Hutch rolled his eyes.
Vicky leaned forward. “Well, can I thank you at least?”
“For taking care of Dave.”
Hutch glanced to the kitchen. “We’re best friends. Comes with the territory.”
Vicky let out a short laugh. “Will you two let me thank you for anything?”
Dave came out with a slice of pie that looked heavenly. “For letting you eat this, yes.” He presented the plate to her with a flourish. “Pie a la Huggy Bear, a very good friend and the best baker I know.”
The pie tasted even better than it looked.
As the light began to wane, Vicky thanked them for their hospitality. She accepted Dave’s offer to call her a cab, but refused the money he offered.
“I think I’ve gotten enough from you,” she said.
Dave’s grin was infectious.
As she slid into the cab, she glanced back at the house. Dave and Hutch were still in the doorway, but they were no longer paying her any mind. They were talking with each other, and Hutch took Dave’s wrist and pulled it up to his lips.
Vicky pulled her gaze away. This intimate moment was not for her. They had already given her so much; she wouldn’t insult them by gawking.
Vicky rested her head against the cab window. She couldn’t stop smiling.
In year six, she sent them a pair of engraved watches, and for every year after, they stayed in touch.