Hello, Miss Julia?”
“Yes, Attorney Sanchez. I recognize your voice. How may I help you? Are you calling to remind me that I should have you draw up my will? I’ve told you: I’m not passing away anytime soon. ... I’m only forty-eight years old.”
Julia Landergin looked five years younger. It was obvious that when Miss Julia was young, she was strikingly beautiful. Even now, her round, alabaster-toned face showed no wrinkles, and there was a coquette’s twinkle in her soft brown eyes. The Landergins were Irish, but her branch of the family included German blood, which showed itself in her height, aristocratic bearing, long regal neck, and the measured smile that revealed only her perfectly white lower teeth. She wore her hair in the Hollywood style of the mid- thirties: short and partially showing her ears, rows of large vertical curls, and with a part that was slightly off-center. Her portrait would not have looked out of place on a castle wall in Prussia.
“No, Miss Julia, it’s not about your will. I’ve given up trying to get you to let my law firm file a will and testament for your estate before you die. ... Miss Julia, in all the years I’ve been your attorney, you never mentioned you had a brother. This call is about him.”
There was a pause. Nobody had ever asked Miss Julia about her brother before. Miss Julia took a deep breath and started to explain:
“Mr. Sanchez, in the Great War, my brother Billy joined the American Expeditionary Forces along with my fiancé Joe, and they went over there to France together with the 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division. That was in November of 1917. Then I received word that Joe had gone missing on September 12, 1918, in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and was presumed dead. There’s an American Cemetery there, but they don’t know which grave—if any—is his. They said in the letter that Joe’s body is probably one of the unidentified soldiers who is buried there, but there’s no way to know. I was given the same news about my brother Billy. In the same battle on the same day, Billy was likewise reported missing in action and presumed dead. They never found his body, either.”
“Well, Miss Julia, Billy didn’t die over there. A month ago, he died in a car wreck in New Mexico. You’re in a will. His son’s will to be exact. That’s why I’m calling you. You need to come to my office here in Mackenzie as soon as you can. There’s an urgent matter in the will that needs to be taken care of right away. I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. You need to read it for yourself. And it has nothing to do with money or property. That all went to the Navajo Tribe. Your brother was married to a Navajo Indian and they lived on the Navajo Reservation. Tragically, his wife was killed with him in the car wreck near Gallup on the Reservation, along with his son and his son’s wife. ... Hello, Miss Julia. Still there?”
“Yes, Mr. Sanchez. I’m still here ... in a state of shock. ... The last time I saw Billy was thirty years ago when he and Joe were getting onto the train together in Amarillo in their brand-new U.S. Army uniforms and on their way to France. They were with a contingent of volunteers from the Texas Panhandle that was being sent off by a military band playing ‘Over There’ and everybody at the station wildly singing along. ... I hate that song now, especially the stanza where they sing:
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy’s in line.
“Mr. Sanchez, in less than an hour, I’ll be at your office across from the Goodnight County Courthouse there in downtown Mackenzie.”
“Okay. See you soon, Miss Julia. And you’re in for a big surprise ... in fact, two big surprises—even if they’re small at the same time.”