August Singer spent ninety-nine years in robust health, fading only after a stroke confined him to bed. His peevish grandchildren had wearied of looking after him, so a nursing home was found, and it was there they assembled now.
“He won’t last much longer,” the doctor had said. So they waited; Ally glared at her sleeping grandfather, Viola stood near the door, her arms crossed, and Herb rifled through drawers, glancing often at August, who stubbornly continued to breathe.
“Herb, the will isn’t under his socks.” Ally grabbed his arm. “Why don’t you just ask him where it is?”
“Well, he’s not talking right now.” Herb bent over August. “You still alive, gramps?”
Viola tapped her foot. Herb returned to the drawers, and Ally poked her grandfather’s shoulder.
August opened one eye.
Ally yelped. “Herb, he’s awake! Talk to him!”
“He likes you better.”
Viola dripped with sarcasm. “Oh yes, he’s just dying to tell Ally where he’s hidden the will. Crazy coot, why’d he have to make a puzzle out of everything? To think of all the thousands I’ve wasted on this geriatric resort...”
“Stuff it, Viola. He’ll be dead soon, and you can spend your inheritance on more plastic surgery.”
A cough from the bed ended the argument. Ally cleared her throat. “Can you hear me, grandfather? WE HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU!”
August sighed and closed his eyes.
“Wonderful, you’ve killed him.” Herb bent close again. “Nope, still breathing. Gramps! Where’s the will?”
August opened his eyes again. After a few seconds, he struggled to sit up.
Ally sprang into action. “Help us raise the bed, Viola.”
Viola sniffed. “How hard can it be? He weighs less than I do.”
Grumbling, Ally and Herb elevated August’s head and Herb spoke into his ear. “WHERE’S THE WILL?” August gestured feebly toward the nightstand.
“Give him that pen and paper, Ally.”
Ally placed a tablet in August’s hand and folded his fingers around the pen. “Grandfather,” she asked, “who knows where you put the will?”
August wrote in shaky letters, then closed his eyes for the last time. Herb snatched the paper and read it: ROSE DOES.
“Rose! Who’s Rose?” The trio rushed to the nurse’s station. A pretty nurse with Tori on her nametag smiled at them. Herb shoved the tablet at her. “Who’s Rose? Some old lady after my grandfather’s money? Where is she?”
Startled, Tori examined the paper. “I’m sorry, but we have no residents named Rose. Is Mr. Singer…”
“He’s dead. Do whatever you have to do. Call me if you find any legal papers.” Herb slapped a business card on the counter and they left, flipping open their cell phones.
Tori fingered the note and thought of August. Loneliness had drawn them together, and she had spent many hours delighting him with word puzzles and reading his Bible. I’ll miss you…She made the necessary calls, pocketed the note, then went to box up his belongings.
The head nurse greeted Tori when her shift began. “Mr. Singer’s grandson has called every day this week, checking if we found any papers. What a grouch!”
“Not a bit like his grandfather, huh? I have Mr. Singer’s things in storage—does he want them?”
“He says to throw them out. Poor old guy—they didn’t think much of him, did they?”
“Nope, just his money. I wonder where he hid the will…” Tori put her hands in her pockets, pulling out August’s note. ROSE DOES…I wonder…With a quickening heartbeat, Tori spent a few minutes at the computer, then rushed to the storage room.
Sol Buffet, probate attorney, squinted at Tori. “How did you find this document, Miss Forte?”
“Well,” Tori said, “Mr. Singer wrote it down, right before he died.”
Across the room, Viola sputtered. “You told us there was no resident named Rose!”
“There isn’t. Mr. Singer loved wordplay, so when you asked about the will, he made up a puzzle.”
“’Rose does?’ That’s not a puzzle!”
“But it is—and it’s not ‘does’, but the plural of ‘doe’—you know, the deer? Once I figured that out, I knew where to look. There’s only one chapter in the Bible—his favorite book—that mentions ‘rose’, the flower, and ‘does’, the animals. Song of Solomon, chapter two. And there it was!”
“Well, I’ve never handled such a short will. But it all seems to be in order: ‘If you’ve found this, the money’s yours.’ Congratulations, Miss Forte…”
All heads turned as Viola hit the floor.
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