A Worthy Heir by Pat BallardA Worthy Heir
Pat Ballard

Chapter 1

Pam Spencer’s eyes flew quickly back to the message in the Public Notice section of the morning paper.

Local business tycoon Fiona Bainbridge has disowned her only heir, and seeks a worthy heir to inherit her millions. If you think you might qualify, call Bainbridge Corporation for details.

Without taking time to think about it, for fear she’d change her mind, Pam picked up the phone and dialed the number she hastily looked up in the Yellow Pages of the phone book.

The next morning found Pam sitting in a huge conference room at an oversized oval table, staring at an application that resembled a combination of a job application and a health insurance application.

Glancing around the room at several other people filling out the same kind of forms, Pam felt the old bitterness rising up inside her again. Nobody here deserves this more than Tom and me, she thought.

At the end of the application was a request for a brief essay on why the applicant felt they were worthy to become the Bainbridge heir. Pamela had no problem writing an impressive essay to answer that question.


She felt the beginning of a tension headache as she turned the key in the door of the small two-bedroom apartment she and Tom shared.

She felt it quickly magnify as she became aware of Tom, sitting in his wheelchair at their small dinette table, holding the newspaper. Drat! She’d meant to throw the Public Notice section away before she left this morning.

“Pamela Spencer, what is this?”

“What’s what?” she innocently asked, as she tossed her purse onto the table and headed for the medicine cabinet to get something for her headache.

“Don’t even for one minute try to act like you don’t know why this notice about Bainbridge Corporation is circled in red, with the telephone number written beside it. I might be crippled, but I’m not crazy. Not yet.”

Pamela ran water into a glass and swallowed the pills, stalling for a little time before answering him.

“Pam?”

“I’m coming, Tom,” she reluctantly responded, pulling out a chair and sitting down at the table across from him.

“Now, what do you want to know?”

“I want to know what crazy stunt you’ve pulled,” he answered through clenched teeth.

Tom hadn’t been the same since his accident. His once happy-go-lucky nature had disappeared and been replaced by a sour, bitter disposition. Tom, her beloved older brother, who had always looked after and taken care of her, had become dependent on her instead, and it was slowly destroying him.

“Tom, please listen to me before you jump to conclusions,” she pleaded. “Don’t you understand what this could do for us? It could give us back all we’ve lost. It could give you that back surgery you so desperately need.”

“Do you honestly believe a company that I filed a lawsuit against would consider making you an heir to the owner’s millions of dollars? Pam, get real. They’ll laugh in your face.”

“Maybe they won’t find out that you tried to sue them and lost.” Pam was an incurable optimist, even in the face of the most desperate times. She always felt there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Pam, you’re dreaming again. Give it up. Accept the fact that I’m stuck in this chair for life. Stop trying to fix my life and get on with yours. You’re too young to be burdened down with trying to take care of me. Trust me, I can exist without you.”

Pam met Tom’s stubborn stare eye to eye. He might have lost his happy-go-lucky nature, but he still had the Spencer stubbornness. Well, she had a good case of the same stubbornness, and she wasn’t about to give up on him.

“We’ve had this discussion enough in the past that you should know by now I’m not listening. You can’t give up, Tom. We’ve got to find a way to win this battle. The doctors say you can walk again if you could only get the surgery.”

“Yeah, that’s what they say. But not a one of them has offered to pay for it out of their own pocket, have they? They won’t touch me without insurance, and how many insurance companies have we called? A hundred? More? None of them will touch me because Bainbridge Corporation insurance dropped me, and I have a pre-existing condition. And yet, you preach to me about not giving up. Pam, you live in a world of denial, but I live in the real world of facts. The fact of this damn chair I’ve been sentenced to for life.”

“But, Tom—”

“No! I’m weary of this discussion. Now, once again, what did you do this morning?”

“I went down to Bainbridge Corporation and put in an application to become heir to the inheritance.” Pam’s chin went up in defiance as she glared at Tom.

“Well, you can call them and tell them that you withdraw your application.” Tom glared back at her.

It had been a long time since they’d argued about anything. They’d never argued much, since Tom was seven years older than Pam and had always been her “protector,” especially after losing both their parents within a year of each other from terminal illnesses. But occasionally they did disagree, and when they did, it was usually a strong confrontation.

Pam’s headache was getting worse, and she didn’t feel like arguing anymore, so she said, “Okay, Tom, I’ll call them later today and tell them to withdraw my application.” She hoped the resignation in her voice sounded sincere, so he’d believe her and drop the subject. In actuality, she had no intention of calling and withdrawing the application.

“That’s a good girl,” Tom said. He wheeled his chair to the section of the apartment that was designated as the living room and clicked on the TV.

Pam watched sadly as he found one of the programs he watched each day, just trying to keep his mind off the constant pain he was in, both mentally and physically. She knew the pain he suffered from his back injury must be horrible, because she saw him grimace sometimes when he didn’t think she was watching. And the frown lines between his eyes were deepening each day.

Since the insurance company had dropped him they couldn’t afford the proper prescription drugs that would help alleviate the pain, so all he took for his constant hurting was over-the-counter medicine, which barely helped at all.

Damn the insurance companies! And damn the money-hungry doctors who wouldn’t help him because he didn’t have insurance!

And since all their problems had started the day Tom got hurt on the job at Bainbridge Corporation, justice would surely be done if the Bainbridge money helped him get well.
Feeling justified in her decision to pursue the Bainbridge money, and to even deceive Tom into believing she would withdraw the application, she proceeded to get ready to go to one of the two jobs she worked at just to keep their heads above the financial waters that kept threatening to drown them.

A few days later, as Pam worked busily at her main job as office manager of a small law firm, the phone rang.

“Winger & Thomas,” she answered, “this is Pam.”

“Pamela Spencer, please.”

“This is she.”

“Miss Spencer, this is Sharon Anderson, Fiona Bainbridge’s executive assistant. Ms. Bainbridge wants to meet with you at ten o’clock tomorrow morning. Can you be here?” The voice sounded cold and disapproving.

“Yes, I can be there.” Pam’s pounding heart almost drowned out her voice. “Where do I go for the meeting?”

“Just come to the main office of Bainbridge Corporation, and we’ll direct you from there.”

Before Pam could agree, the phone went dead. What’s stuck in her craw? she wondered, staring briefly at the receiver in her hand.
 


Sharon Anderson was as cold and disapproving in person as she’d seemed on the phone, Pam decided as she sat in the plush office of Bainbridge Corporation and waited to be called in for her interview with Fiona Bainbridge.

Sharon’s platinum blonde hair seemed totally out of place against her dark complexion and almost black eyes. Eyes that held contempt when they rested briefly on Pam.

“This way,” Sharon directed, leading led Pam down a long hallway.

Even with her pounding heart and sweaty palms Pam couldn’t help but be amused at the tight-fitting dress that clung to and tried to ride up Sharon’s slim hips as she led the way. Why do women wear clothes they have to fight with all day? she mused.

Sharon knocked briefly on the door before she opened it to expose a large, luxurious office, with a desk in front of windows that looked out over the Dallas skyline.

“Miss Spencer is here, Ms Bainbridge,” Sharon announced to the back of a tall leather chair that was facing the window. Even though Pam was aware of the slight hint of disdain on her name, Sharon’s voice was noticeably softer when she spoke to the person in the chair.

“Thank you, Sharon,” a strong female voice answered. “You may go now.”

With a barely audible sound of contempt, Sharon closed the door behind her.

Slowly the tall chair turned to face Pam, who was still standing in the middle of the room.

She had wondered what the mysterious Fiona Bainbridge would look like, but she would never have expected the small, frail figure that faced her. Especially after hearing the strong voice first. The piercing blue eyes that seemed to flash little rays of light as they perused Pam looked out of place on the withered face.

After what seemed to Pam like an eternity, a wide smile broke across the thin face, reminding her of sunshine bursting out from behind a severe thundercloud.

“Perfect!” Fiona declared. “I like what I see. Now if I like what’s inside your head as much as how your outside looks, we may have something going on here. Come. Have a seat.” And she pointed to a plush, upholstered chair that was opposite her desk.

Pam sat down, mesmerized by the person in front of her. The eyes and voice seemed to belong to a different person than the tiny frame in front of her. She fought the urge to search the room for a hidden projector that was hologramming the image she was seeing.

“Relax. I just want to ask you a few questions. This shouldn’t take long. My staff has done a very good background check on you, and I have it right here in your file.”

And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Pam wondered.

“What makes you think you’re a worthy heir to inherit my money that I’ve worked so hard for?” The question was shot at Pam with no warning.

“I don’t think I’m worthy. There’s no way I could be deserving of your money, but I need it, and that’s why I answered your ad.” Pam had never been one to mince words when stating her point of view.

“Very good answer. But why do you need my money?”

“I have a brother who’s in desperate need of back surgery. He lost his job, and his insurance, and can’t get new insurance, so we can’t afford the surgery.”

“So you’re asking for the money for your brother and don’t care anything about it for yourself?”

“That’s correct.”

“So you’re trying to tell me you haven’t had any daydreams about buying fancy cars and clothes and maybe a new house with my money? My report says you live in a small two-bedroom apartment in a complex that’s not exactly in the best neighborhood.” Pam felt pierced to the soul as those blue eyes penned her to her chair.

“No. I’ve only thought about the money for my brother’s back surgery. I’ve never had those things you mentioned before, and I’m sure I can live the rest of my life without them.”

“But they would be nice, wouldn’t they?”

 “A gold-plated commode would be nice, but I don’t daydream about having one,” Pam answered, knowing she was being disrespectful. She’d known this wasn’t going to be easy, and that she’d have to swallow a lot of pride. Remember, you’re doing this for Tom, she chided herself. Keep your cool. She expected anything but the cackling laugh that burst from the woman.

“Spunk! That’s good. Would that brother happen to be Tom Spencer?”

Here it was. The question Pam had been dreading the most.

“Yes.”

“So, you, Pam Spencer, think you can come in here and try to get my millions for your brother, who tried to sue my company?”

“Mrs. Bainbridge, your staff seems to have done a good job in checking my background. Surely, you have the facts before you as to why Tom tried to sue Bainbridge Corporation?”

“It says here that he was careless and got hurt, and tried to blame my company.” The eyes flashed a blue streak to Pam.

“Is that all the report says?” Pam knew that if she would ever lose control, now would be the time.

“Basically. It does mention he lost the case.”

“If that’s all the report says, then your staff didn’t do a very good job at all! Does it mention that he climbed up on a ladder to try to fix a light fixture that was threatening to fall and hurt, or maybe kill, some of your employees? Does it mention that a work order had been turned in to your maintenance staff two weeks in a row, and nothing had been done about it? Does it mention that one of your maintenance staff bumped the ladder that Tom was standing on and knocked him off, causing major damage to his back? And Mrs. Bainbridge, does the report mention that Tom only sued for the exact amount that the doctors quoted him for the surgery?” Pam choked, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

“Go on,” the voice directed, a little softer now.

“Mrs. Bainbridge, I don’t give a flying flip about your money for myself. I just want my brother’s life back. I just want justice done. He’s confined to a wheelchair, in so much pain he can’t hold down a job. Your insurance company dropped him when your company fired him, and no other insurance company will touch him. We can’t find a doctor that will do the surgery, because we don’t have insurance. We can’t get prescription drugs, because we don’t have a doctor. And even if we could afford correct drugs for the pain, I don’t know if he could hold down a job.”

“It says here that you work two jobs. Tell me about them.”

“I work from eight a.m. until five p.m. as office manager at a small law firm, Winger and Thomas. Then I work from six-thirty p.m. until nine p.m. cleaning offices in the building where my office is.”

“That’s some pretty long hours. Would you quit those jobs if you were awarded my money?”

“No. I enjoy my work—although,” Pam added, as an afterthought, with a small smile playing with the corners of her mouth, “I might quit the cleaning job. That kind of hurts my own back.”

Again, the cackling laugh ripped through the room.

“Do you have documentation of Tom’s lawsuit and records of all the transactions?”

“I have records of everything that was ever said or done,” Pam answered, almost daring to hope. “I can get them to you today by courier, if you’d like to see them.”

“You really aren’t easily daunted, are you?”

“Not when I believe I’m right about something.” Pam stared directly into the blue fire across the desk from her.

Fiona Bainbridge held Pam’s direct gaze for what seemed an eternity, but Pam was determined not to let her eyes waver.

Finally the older woman smiled and broke the stare. “I’ll be in touch with you in a few days. I’ll let you know one way or the other what I decide in your case.”

Wanting to say more, but not wanting to push her luck, Pam reluctantly got up from her chair, wondering how to go about ending the interview. But the question was answered for her as Fiona Bainbridge suddenly swiveled her chair around to face the window. Once again, Pam was staring at the high back of the oversized leather chair.

Rude old bitch, Pam thought, as she turned and left the room.


It took Pam a while to fight the Dallas traffic, but finally back at the office of Winger & Thomas, she found a note on her desk that Tom had called. In fact, he had called twice.

Drat! She hadn’t wanted him to know she wasn’t at work, and she definitely didn’t want him to know where she was.

“Jan,” she called to the receptionist who sat just outside her door, “did Tom sound okay when he called?”

Immediately, Jan appeared at Pam’s door. “Yes, just a little irritated.”

“So what’s new?” Pam regretted the words as soon as they were out, but Jan knew her situation, and sympathized with her.

“I know. I remember when Tom used to call here and joke around with me, but now he acts like a different person. Even when I try to joke with him, he doesn’t respond.”

“Oh well, I guess I’d better call and see what he wants.” Resignation sounded in Pam’s voice. The morning had been draining, and she wasn’t looking forward to having to explain anything to Tom.

“Tom, it’s me, are you okay?” she asked when he picked up the phone.

“Pam, you need to come home right now!”

Panic clutched Pam. “Tom, are you okay?” she demanded into the phone.

“Just get home!” The receiver went dead.

Pam had never heard that tone in Tom’s voice. And he definitely never demanded anything of her. He didn’t sound sick. He sounded furious. Great! He must have found out where she’d been this morning.

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