The Legacy - Caroline Bond

The Legacy
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Название: The Legacy
Автор: Caroline Bond
Добавлено: 23 июнь 2022
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Caroline Bond was born in Scarborough and studied English at Oxford University before working as a market researcher. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University, and lives in Leeds with her husband and three children.

Also by Caroline Bond

The Forgotten Sister

The Second Child

One Split Second

Published in hardback in Great Britain in 2021 by Corvus,

an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.

Copyright © Caroline Bond, 2021

The moral right of Caroline Bond to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Hardback ISBN: 978 1 83895 282 2

Trade paperback ISBN: 978 1 78649 928 8

E-book ISBN: 978 1 78649 927 1

Printed in Great Britain

Corvus

An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd

Ormond House

26–27 Boswell Street

London

WC1N 3JZ

www.corvus-books.co.uk

To Alex, Rachel and Geena.

We promise not to include too many surprises in the will.

Chapter 1

RACHEL HEWSON was nervous – which was unlike her. In her twenty-six years as a solicitor she’d drafted innumerable wills and overseen the distribution of hundreds of thousands of pounds of assets: property, investments, jewellery, boats, shares in race horses and, in one memorable case, three fields of rare-breed pigs. During that time she’d witnessed all manner of behaviour by the family and friends of the deceased, from the truly appalling to the impressively magnanimous. She’d seen greed and generosity, meanness and big-heartedness, connivance and cooperation. A death tended to bring out the best, and the worst, in humanity – although, in her experience, most people didn’t so much change as become more exaggerated versions of their true selves. But in all her years spent administering the last wishes of the dead, she’d never before been asked to put together a will like Jonathan Coulter’s.

He’d phoned the firm, out of the blue, one morning in early June and asked to be put through to a senior partner. Rachel – who was the only senior partner at the firm, now Charles had finally retired – had taken the call. It was a short conversation, focused mainly on her availability to oversee the drafting of a new will, as soon as practicably possible. Mr Coulter had been adamant that she must personally conduct the whole process, from beginning to end, including working with the executors after his death. Rachel had reassured him on all counts, though she’d pointed out that it was difficult to commit to being available to assist the executors in their responsibilities, given that the date of ‘implementation’ was impossible to predict. His final question had been a surprisingly practical one. ‘I presume you have a downstairs office we can meet in.’ Rachel was able to confirm that wouldn’t be a problem.

When Jonathan Coulter arrived at the offices of Greenwood Solicitors four days later, Rachel understood his ground-floor office request. Her new client was obviously seriously ill. He clattered into the reception area leaning heavily on a walking frame – the type with wheels, much favoured by old ladies who strung their shopping bags between the handles – but Jonathan Coulter was no old lady. He was a smartly dressed man in his late fifties/early sixties. He must, Rachel guessed, have been over six foot tall, though it was hard to tell, given his pronounced stoop – the result of him having to lean forward and steer the walker. It looked a very uncomfortable way of getting around. His movements as he headed towards Rachel were rapid, but unstable. The woman accompanying him, who was not introduced, stayed close behind, presumably ready to steady him, should she need to. He stuttered to an abrupt stop, raised himself nearly upright and extended his hand. As Rachel took it, she had to swiftly recalibrate, because Mr Coulter had no strength in his fingers. The resulting handshake was a light touch of palms and fingertips. It felt oddly intimate.

He grimaced. ‘Sorry. It’s the best I can do.’

‘Hello, Mr Coulter.’

‘Jonathan, please.’

Rachel smiled her acknowledgement. ‘It’s very nice to meet you. Please, come through.’ She turned and led the way. The clatter of the walking aid against the hardwood floor was loud – an erratic syncopation of frame and dragged footsteps. She slowed her pace.

Once inside the room, Jonathan collapsed into the proffered chair, with evident relief, and shoved the frame away. ‘Do me a favour, Lisa. Take this damn thing out with you, will you?’

‘Lisa’ grabbed hold of the contraption and backed out of the room, banging it against the paintwork on her way out. It was a small office, unsuited to cumbersome disability aids. As Lisa awkwardly pulled the door closed she said, ‘Of course.’ There was a beat. ‘But, please, shout me when you’re ready to leave.’

Jonathan bristled. ‘Message received and understood. No dancing out under my own steam, I promise.’

With Lisa gone, he shifted his body around awkwardly, obviously trying to get comfortable. He lifted his right hand with his left and positioned it on the arm of the chair. Rachel waited, respectfully trying to avoid watching as he reassembled himself. The end result was surprising. Once seated and settled, Jonathan Coulter seemed to lose ten years in age and gain five inches in stature. His face grew smoother, the tension dropped away and he smiled. He really was quite a good-looking man, with a

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