Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd
The paunchy lawyer heaved his bulk from the dust-caked luxury sedan. He lurched over to the hog-wire fence, sagging between tilted posts, to confront the old man dressed in work-soiled black denims. The old man sat hunched in a lawn chair. Stringy black hair hung down over his jacket collar. His eyes, gleaming black under heavy brows, peered suspiciously from under a grimy, sweat-stained felt hat.
“Purdy Kendricks?” the sweating red-faced stranger asked. Purdy’s eyes moved from the fat man to the car and its driver, and back.
“I am,” Purdy answered. “Who are you? What’s your business?”
The lawyer hesitated. “My name is Bertrand Adams. I represent a principal who wishes to make a very generous offer for properties you hold, Mr. Kendricks.” He reached for the latch on the rusty iron gate to enter the yard. “I have papers with me. May I show them to you?”
“That’s a problem, Mr. Adams,” Purdy snapped. The lawyer froze in his tracks, the gate half-opened.
“It is. You’d best turn around and climb back in that car. You’ve got no business pryin’ into what I own or don’t own, and I’ll tell you now that whatever I might own is not for sale. Even if it was, I don’t know you or whoever you work for so I’ve got no interest in talkin’ about it. You’d best leave.”
“Mr. Kendricks, I assure you that...”
“That’s another thing, Mr. Adams. My name is Purdy. Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Kendricks’ except strangers who don’t know me. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, so we’ve got nothin’ to discuss. So, git back where you come from.”
Purdy popped up from his faded chair. Adams was astonished at the old man’s short, hunched size. Standing maybe five feet tall, he was thin, wizened, and ancient. Purdy scowled at Adams and scurried up the porch steps. He pushed open the screen door and disappeared into the cabin, letting the door slam behind him.
Adams stood with his hand on the gate, aghast at the unexpected rebuff. Crazy, crazy as hell, Adams mumbled to himself. The investigator told me the local people believed the old man to be half Indian. Siwash, they said. And that’s not a compliment. A crazy old Siwash, they said.
Adams closed the gate, pulled a folded cloth from his lapel pocket and wiped his sweating forehead. His driver scrambled to open the rear door of the Lincoln town car. Adams settled himself and ordered the driver to return to Winthrop and his motel room.
“Parker,” he barked into the telephone, when the private investigator came on the line after several minutes delay. “Parker, don’t you ever keep me holding this damned phone again! For what we’re paying you, I don’t get put on hold! Do you hear me?”
“Yes, I hear you, Mr. Adams. My secretary didn’t understand. I was on another call. I’ll tell her to cut in next time. So, what do you want?”
“I want something done about that crazy old Indian, that shriveled-up runt, that Siwash, you called him, that old man, Purdy Kendricks. I tried to talk to him and he wouldn’t let me in his yard! The rude little bastard!”
“Yes, that sounds like Purdy Kendricks, alright,” Bruce Parker answered. “He has few friends and no associates. He’s never been married. He’s always lived alone and he hasn’t been known to socialize at all. He’s a loner. He trusts very few people...”
“Yes, yes, you wrote all that in your briefing report. But you didn’t say anything about him being crazy, rude and insulting!”
“Which part of ‘trusts very few people’ didn’t you understand, Adams?”
“There’s a big difference between ‘not trusting’ and ‘not willing to listen,’” Adams retorted.
“Well, you don’t understand these valley people, and I think you’ve probably worn out your welcome with him before you even got started. It won’t be easy getting Purdy to look at anything now.”
“Damn it, Parker! This is important. I’ve got to get him to sell!
“Look, I don’t know anything about your client or what you all want with Purdy’s properties, but I can tell you this: there’s not a damned thing that you or your people have that he wants!”
“Bullshit! I saw that shack he lives in. I was there! It’s nothing but old boards, cracked and unpainted. It’s tiny. There can’t be but two rooms in it! It doesn’t even have a bathroom! I saw an outhouse in the back yard. How can a man worth millions live that way?”
“He’s lived there all his life! It’s his way, his lifestyle. Too bad for you people, he doesn’t need or want your money. Seriously! There’s nothing you have that he wants. Nothing! You pushed into his life and he slammed the door in your face, Adams! You shot your wad. You won’t get another chance.”
“Everybody has their price! Everybody wants something they don’t have!” Adams stormed back. “He can’t just shut us out. He’s got to hear me! He’s got to be reasonable, damn it! He can’t just sit on all that real estate. What the hell does he intend to do? He sure as hell can’t take it with him!”
“Maybe not, Adams, but he can sure as hell do whatever he wants with it while he’s alive.”
While he’s alive, Adams snorted, the sudden thought burning into his brain.