|Lady Justice Down on the Farm
Lady Justice Down on the Farm
Ox inherits a farm in the Ozark Hills from his great-uncle. Ox and his wife, Judy, invite Walt and Maggie to go with them to check it out.
Little did they know that they would encounter drug dealers, wildlife poachers, and a religious fanatic that would threaten to spoil their trip.
Also adding to the intrigue, the neighbor who owns the farm next door is insistent on buying Ox’s farm, but why?
When Ox refuses to sell, his insistent buyer devises a plan that ultimately places the lives of our heroes in peril.
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I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang.
It was Ox, my partner during my five years with the Kansas City Police department.
“Hey Walt, if you’re not too busy I could use your help.”
“Sure, Buddy. What’s up?”
“I received a letter from a law firm, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe. They want me to stop by their office at two o’clock this afternoon. The letter said the meeting was about settling the estate of my great uncle, Jeramiah Wilson. Judy can’t get off patrol, so I was hoping you could go with me. You know a lot more about that stuff than I do.”
“Not a problem. I’ve got nothing doing today.”
“Great! I’ll pick you up at one-thirty.”
Actually, today wasn’t a lot different than most other days. After retiring from the police department, my brother-in-law, Kevin McBride, and I opened Walt Williams Investigations. It was no surprise that two septuagenarian private investigators didn’t have people standing in line for their services.
We manage to stay busy, but there are definitely lulls between cases. We were currently in such a lull.
At precisely one-thirty, I heard Ox toot out front.
“I really appreciate you coming with me,” he said, pulling into traffic.
“Glad to have something to do,” I replied. “Tell me about Jeramiah Wilson. In all our years together, I don’t remember you mentioning him.”
“That’s because I don’t know much about him. He was my grandfather’s brother, and from what I heard as a kid, he was quite a recluse. He never came to any family gatherings, and come to think of it, I don’t think I ever met the guy.”
“What about family? Was he married? Did he have children?”
“If I remember correctly, he had one son who was killed in Vietnam. I think his wife passed not long after that.”
We pulled into the parking structure of the downtown high-rise and took the elevator to the law offices of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.
Ox handed his letter to the receptionist. “My name is George Wilson. I’m supposed to see someone at two o’clock.”
The receptionist looked at the letter, then at her appointment schedule. “Please have a seat. I’ll let Mr. Cheatem know you’re here.”
We sat, and ten minutes later, a very lawyerly looking guy approached. “Good afternoon. I’m Martin Cheatem. Please come to my office.”
Cheatem stood behind a huge walnut desk that was almost as big as my home office. “Please have a seat.”
He took a document from a stack on the side of his desk, studied it for a moment, then looked at each of us.
“Which one of you is George Wilson?”
Ox raised his hand. “That would be me.”
“Mr. Wilson, your great uncle, Jeramiah Wilson, passed away. My condolences for your loss.”
Ox nodded. “Uhhh, thanks.”
“I’ve asked you here today,” Cheatem continued, “to settle Jeramiah’s estate. Based on our investigation, you are his only living relative, so the remainder of his estate now belongs to you.”
Cheatem looked at the ledger again. “Unfortunately, you uncle died intestate, so ---.”
“Uhh, sorry,” Ox interrupted, “intestate? What does that mean?”
“It means he died without a will or a trust. That being the case, his estate had to be settled by going through probate court, and that can be very costly. Unfortunately, the liquid assets that were available were consumed by the probate process.”
Ox shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s pretty simple,” I said. “What he’s saying is that he made sure his firm took every penny of your uncle’s estate going through probate.”
Cheatem gave me a withering look. “As I stated, probate can be very expensive. Now, if I may continue. The remainder of your uncle’s estate consists of a farm on 160 acres of land located in St. Clair County.”
He handed Ox a document. “This is the deed to the farm, transferred to your name. All the pertinent information is there.”
Ox took the document. “But ---?”
Cheatem stood up and gestured to the door. “That’s all, gentlemen. Thank you for coming in. My secretary will show you out.”
It was obvious that Ox wasn’t going to get anything more from Mr. Cheatem.
Back in the car, Ox just sat there, dumbstruck. “What --- what just happened?”
“You just inherited a farm, you lucky duck.”
Then, he got a strange look on his face. “Cheatem said I was the only living relative. What about Lenny?”
Lenny was Ox’s brother who showed up several months back after spending fifteen years in prison.
“They obviously didn’t look too hard. Maybe Lenny being behind bars had something to do with it. Cheatem said there wasn’t much money in the estate, so I doubt they went the extra mile.”
“It probably doesn’t matter anyway. It didn’t sound like the place was that valuable. Cheatem said it was in St. Clair County. Do you have any idea where that is?”
As a matter of fact, I did. Interestingly enough, three of my past cases had led me to St. Clair County, about two hours south of Kansas City.
“Sure I do, and so will you if you think about it. Remember the Avenging Angels who tried to blow up Kansas City?”
“And the sting we set up at Gordon’s Orchard to smoke out the dirty pharmaceutical company?”
He nodded again.
“Then there was the guy who kidnapped the fellow that had been killing patients at St. Luke’s hospital? We captured him at Red Rock Bluff. All of those were in St. Clair County.”
“Okay,” he said. “I remember now. The county seat is Osceola. I wonder where the farm is from there.”
I pointed to the paperwork Cheatem had given him. “Maybe there’s a map in there.”
We looked through the packet of papers, and sure enough, there was a map.
“There’s Osceola,” I said. “Looks like you take Highway B west to county road YY, then south toward Monegaw Springs. Your place is about halfway between.”
He just sat there in a daze. “My place! What in heaven’s name am I going to do with a farm?”
“Well, I’d say the first thing to do, is to look at it, then go from there.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Judy and I have some vacation time coming. We should go look.”
Then he turned to me. “Will you and Maggie go with us? Please!”
That took me by surprise. “Uhh, well, I’ll have to check with Maggie. I’ll let you know.”
At seventy-five, my wife, Maggie, is still an active real estate agent with City Wide Realty.
When we pulled up in front of our apartment building, I was surprised to see Maggie’s car.
“Looks like she’s home. We’ll talk and I’ll give you a call.”
“You’re home early,” I said, giving Maggie a smooch.
“The Simpson’s closed on their house at two o’clock. I had already taken care of everything at the office, so I came on home. Where have you been?”
In the next half-hour, I told Maggie about my afternoon with Ox.
When I finished, her face broke into a smile. “So your old partner is now a gentleman farmer.”
“Looks that way. He and Judy are going to take some vacation time to go look at the place. They’d like us to go with them.”
“Really? Sounds like fun.”
“Can you get away?”
“Absolutely! I’ve got nothing going. How about you and Kevin?”
“Then let’s do it!”
I gave Ox a call.
We were all going to see his new farm.