Seventeen year old Danny Fenton shifted in his seat uncomfortably. It wasn't that the chair was uncomfortable, far from it. Rather he felt uncomfortable with his surroundings and what they meant.
Over a year after the disasteroid incident and only recently had a will come to light concerning the estate of Vlad Masters. Now here he was with his parents and a couple of guys in suits in this swank office with plush comfy chairs and a huge desk and the room just seemed so empty. Surely Vlad knew more people than this.
After an eternity another guy in a suit walked in with a leather briefcase. He sat behind the desk and took a deep breath. He opened the briefcase and pulled out a laptop, a disk, and a leather document sheaf. "Sit down, everyone," he said.
The two guys in suits took seats to the right and left of the Fentons. The executor cleared his throat and began. "As you know, you have all been summoned to hear the last will and testament of Vladimir Masters. Before we begin I am instructed to play this video for the benefit of Daniel Fenton." He opened the laptop, inserted the disk, and turned it toward those assembled. The Fentons gasped. Jack bristled, still stinging from the betrayal. Maddie's heart turned cold, no warmth left for the likes of him. Danny felt like he'd just been punched in the chest.
Straight from the past a tired, regal face regarded them with mild disdain. On the screen Vlad Masters looked out at the assembled before seeming to stare directly into Danny's eyes. As he looked at Danny a small smile graced his features. Not a smirk, not a sneer, a real smile. The sight sent shivers down Danny's spine.
"My little badger," Vlad said. "If you're watching this then someone you know is dead. As much as I would hope I have to admit that it's likely my funeral you're attending. You may very well be the reason for my demise. Regardless I feel I owe you more than shouted taunts over the field of battle. All I can do is hope that you listen to me for once, that once I've said my piece you can bring yourself to understand in some small way.
"If there's one thing your parents are unwilling to understand it's ghosts. Who and what they are. Their motivations, their drives, their raison d'être. It's something that you have been blind to as well. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your ignorance is not a conscious decision.
"Take, for example, your little dog friend Cujo. He destroyed the career, livelihood, and future of Damon Gray with your little friend Valerie caught in the middle. All over a lost squeaky toy, or so your files said. I'd like to amend that assumption.
"Daniel, ghosts occur when death is sudden, is not understood by the victim, or if it is caused by the willing willful actions of another. Now, these actions need not be direct. If a woman hires a hitman to kill her husband then she'll be the one haunted. The hitman was just a tool even though he was the one to pull the trigger. Murder to a ghost does not require legal responsibility. Yes, Daniel, Cujo was murdered. He haunted Damon Gray until that man paid for his actions in a material sense. Then he hunted Valerie to make Damon pay in an emotional capacity. Had you not distracted Cujo with the cunning use of squeaky toys he would have killed your friend in a bid to take his vengeance against his murderer."
Vlad smiled on the screen, his eyes taking on a red faraway glow. He sighed wistfully. "It's a physical pain, Daniel," he said. "Each moment that a ghost's murderer wanders free and unmolested is agony.
"You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this. You probably doubt it, too. After all, you don't feel this pain. And you shouldn't. Your, ah, 'exposure' was sudden, unexpected, and to be quite honest you probably had no comprehension what was happening. You don't feel pain because you weren't murdered."
Vlad looked down at his hands and how they were clenched together. He took a deep breath before looking up with a fire in his eyes akin to hatred. "Your father's involvement in my disfigurement was declared accidental," he said, spitting the word as though it were a vile curse. "He pushed the button. He stared right at me with my head halfway in the protoportal as he pushed that button. He was required by every rule on lab safety in the book to warn me he was turning the machine on! He was ethically and morally responsible for ripping my very soul in half. Daniel, I'm half ghost because he willingly willfully caused my death. I was murdered.
"For the past twenty-two years I have lived with the constant agony of knowing my murderer walks free. It's... It's enough to drive a lesser being mad. Maybe it's driven me mad, at least by human standards. I don't know anymore. I don't think I even want to know.
"There were two courses of action available to me, Daniel. Only two and I knew revenge would never be satisfied with only one. I had to kill him. Simple enough. I had to take my vengeance against him physically by watching the life fade out of that fat bastard's eyes as I squeezed his neck until his windpipe crushed. But I had to do more. I had to take my vengeance against him emotionally by taking from him that which he values most."
Vlad smiled wryly as Danny's face went pale with dawning comprehension. "Yes, Little Badger," Vlad said. "I attempted to seduce your mother not because I wanted her but because I wanted my murderer to suffer. It was only after I realized you were like me that I changed my plans to include you. I offered, asked, begged you to renounce your father so when I killed him you would not suffer his loss. All this time, every offer I made you, every attempt at drawing you to my side, all I wanted was to protect you from me.
"I-I don't think I can take this pain much longer, Daniel. Soon I know I'll do something desperate. My murderer has walked free for far too long. Soon I'll snap and I will kill him or be destroyed in the attempt."
Vlad's hands were shaking at this point, shaking with unused power and the strain of preventing himself from going out and doing just what he'd spoke of. He took a few shuddering breaths as he brought himself under control. He looked back up and Danny could see just how tenuous that control really was. "No matter the outcome, no matter who's funeral you're attending, I need you to know this, Daniel. I'm so sorry you ended up caught in the middle of this. Know that your pain will fade and be glad you will never know the searing agony of injustice as I have."
Vlad gave a sad smile. "E-even if it's my body in the casket, Daniel. Please be happy for me. Be happy that the pain is gone."
The screen went dark. Only then did Danny feel the tears streaming down his face. He wiped his nose with a bare hand before the executor offered him a handkerchief. Danny wiped his eyes and blew his nose before offering the cloth back. The executor made a disgusted face and waved for Danny to keep it. Danny nodded and wiped his nose with it again before taking a glance around the room.
The men in suits had the audacity to look neutral. Danny ignored them as surely as they must have ignored the emotion in that video. Maddie's face was pale and she looked a little nauseous. But Jack...
Danny bristled as Jack looked oblivious, bored, and even a little smug. A flame of anger lit within Danny's heart as his ghost reminded him that this man was a murderer. Vlad's murderer.
"If we may continue," said the executor. "We have the rest of the will to read." He took a single sheet of paper out of the leather sheaf and began to read.
I, Vladimir Masters, being of sound mind, do hereby after mature deliberation, declare the following to be my last Will and Testament with respect to such property as may be left by me at the time of my death.
The whole of my estate I leave to Daniel James Fenton. To ensure that his parents, Jack Fenton and Madeline Walker Fenton, do not benefit my estate is to be placed in trust under the control of Jeremy Elliot and Patrick Hennessy until such time as Daniel reaches the age of 25. Any and all college expenses are to be paid for out of this trust in addition to a monthly stipend of $10,000 from the time he leaves the legal custody of his parents until the contents of the trust are turned over to his control.
To Jeremy Elliot and Patrick Hennessy I leave instructions. You have voting control over all of my shares until Daniel comes of age. He is my heir, gentlemen, and I suggest you treat him as such. He's been raised by a hypocrite and a murderer after all. He has a great deal to learn and I trust you both to make sure he learns. Do remember that he is a stubborn, self-sacrificing, overly noble half-ghost prick. I wish the both of you luck; you will need it.
This Will and Testament is the only one valid, and revokes all my previous testamentary dispositions, should any such exist after my death.
The executor placed the paper back into the sheaf and folded his hands to look over the room.
Danny sat there in shock. First Vlad's words and now this...
He barely heard the two men in suits introducing themselves as Mr. Elliot and Mr. Hennessy. Nor did he protest as they led him out of the room, handkerchief still clutched in one hand. All he felt was that angry fire in his chest as his father watched him leave with cold, calculating eyes.