The phone rang on Mark's desk. He frowned, not needing the interruption. For the last three days he'd been working twelve hours trying to get the recommendation done for his company to purchase EDIT, an electronic records management application and he was nearly there.

"Hello. Mark Whitney, Business Strategy Team. Can I help you?" He replied, the standard answer whenever an internal call came through to his desk.

"It's Reception. There's a Mister Yousef here to see you. Says he's a lawyer."

Mark frowned. "I don't have him in my diary."

"He says it's urgent that he speak with you," The security guy at reception stated.

"Em, okay. I'll be right down."

"Cheers." The other end of the line went dead.

Mark headed for the elevator, the frown still creasing his features, wondering why a lawyer would be coming to see him. There was nothing legal he was involved in at work, he knew he was a pretty well behaved guy, and he knew he was up to date on his loan payments and all that.

He entered the elevator and hit the button for the ground floor, leaning against the wall as he tried to think of a single reason why a lawyer would be wanting to see him, but by the time the doors opened and he reached the reception desk, he still hadn't come up with one.

"He's in there," The portly security guy grunted, poking a thumb in the direction of one of the vacant meeting rooms HR used for interviews.

Mark looked over, seeing an elderly man, around the age of retirement, but there was something very sharp about him. Maybe the slicked back white hair, or the black suit, shirt and tie, but from his initial glance, Mark wouldn't be surprised to find out that this guy was Lucifer's lawyer. He had that supremely confident look about him.

His frown still on his face, Mark opened the door. "Hi. I'm Mark Whitney. Can I help you with something?"

The lawyer immediately stood offering a surprisingly warm handshake. "I'm Mister Yousef, Mark. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me at such short notice."

"Sure," Mark said, closing the door and taking a seat opposite the old man. "Do you mind if you tell me straight away what it is you want? We've got three of the Company Directors in the building today, so it's kinda busy upstairs."

The old man nodded.

"Very well. I'm sure you're wondering why a lawyer has turned up out of the blue to see you. It involves an inheritance from a relative and you're one of the listed beneficiaries."

Mark's eyes widened at the lawyers words. "Oh."

"Not what you were expecting?" Mister Yousef asked, an eyebrow raised at the expression on Mark's face.

"I didn't know what to expect, but this wasn't even on the list," Mark admitted. "Who are we talking about here? I don't know of any relatives of mine that have died." He frowned as he thought about it. "Not in the last few years anyway. Are you sure I'm the right Mark Whitney?"

"I'm absolutely sure." The lawyers confident expression left Mark in little doubt, confusing him further.

"So.. Em... Who died?" Mark nodded.

"For that you'll have to bear with me for a few moments while I show you a few files," Mister Yousef said, flicking open his briefcase and removing several Manila files, placing them on the desk in front of him. The old mans fingers tapped for a few seconds on the files before he cleared his throat.

"Mark, you are twenty three years old, born on the 19th of March, correct?" The lawyer's tone was precise, factual, and Mark nodded.


"What I am about to tell you may come as a bit of a shock, so please bear with me." He flicked open the first file, containing several photos. The first was a black and white image of three babies, wrapped in blankets and woolen hats and they looked like they were only a day old.

"Babies," Mark said aloud, knowing he was stating the obvious, but if he had fifty guesses at what was inside the Manila folders, a baby picture wouldn't have even crossed his mind.

"Correct," Mister Yousef replied. "This is a photograph taken of a set of triplets several hours after they were born on the 19th of March, twenty three and a half years ago, Mark."

Mark's eyes shot up to the old man's, but the lawyers gaze was fixed on the photo. His finger tapped the baby on Mark's left.

"This baby was named Madeleine." His finger moved to tap on the infant on the right. "This one was named Myra, and the one in the middle was named Mark."

"Yeah, I think you've got the wrong Mark, buddy," He said immediately. "I don't have any sisters, or twins, or whatever." He kept quiet the realization that the central baby did look like him in his own baby photos, but Mark wasn't convinced. Babies all looked the same to him anyway.

"Please, bear with me," The lawyer said firmly, moving the photograph to one side. Underneath the photo was a stack of papers, and Mark could see Adoption Certificate written on the top one. His fingers deftly rotated the document so Mark could read it.

His eyes met the lawyers a few seconds later. "I don't know anything about this documentation. I couldn't tell you if it's real or false. I know I'm not adopted though."

"Is this your birth certificate, Mark?" Mister Yousef said, sliding another document in front of Mark.

He checked and nodded, frowning as he wondered why the hell this lawyer could have a copy of what looked like his own birth certificate. "Could be, but I don't know how you have it."

The lawyer flicked another document next to the birth certificate. "This is a name change by deed poll that accompanies the adoption certificate," He continued in the factual, clinical and emotionless tone, flicking another two documents in front of Mark. "And this is your original birth certificate."

Mark forced himself to look carefully at what was in front of him. He knew that his own birth certificate was correct and couldn't see anything on it that was strange or unusual, so he began to read the name change document, and compared it with the adoption certificate. He could feel a knot in his stomach as he failed to find any inconsistencies, and with reluctance, he looked at the original birth certificate.

He read the name of the baby on the certificate and his eyes immediately shot up to the lawyers face, seeing an expression of sadness there, perhaps even a hint of empathy at the young man sitting opposite him whose very foundation was being pulled out from under him.

"The... The surname?" Mark stammered.

Mister Yousef didn't say anything. He simply slid another photograph across the table, this time of the three infants, cradled in their fathers arms. It was a younger version of a familiar face, known the world over. For the past few days it had never been off the news.

Mark looked at the certificate again, seeing the surname. Moore.

He re-read the name of the person listed as the father. Benjamin Moore.

Mark looked back at the lawyer. "Seriously?"

Mister Yousef nodded. "Finding out that you're adopted must be a big shock, Mark. Finding out your father was Benjamin Moore must be just as big."

Mark shook his head. It didn't make sense to him, this lawyer claiming he was adopted, let alone this absurd claim that Benjamin fucking Moore, one of the wealthiest men in America, was his supposed father. A thought struck him.

"Did Ant put you up to this?" Mark had two best friends, Ant and Sam. While Sam worked upstairs with him, their friend Ant worked as an illustrator on comic books, but was forever trying to punk them with practical jokes. This seemed right up his street, especially four days after the world found out Benjamin Moore had died of cancer.

The lawyers expression turned serious. "Mark, I assure you this is no joke. There is more information here for you, including a letter from Mister Moore."

"A letter?" Mark smiled, convinced this was the work of his buddy. He chuckled. "Let's see it then."

The old man frowned but opened the second file and pulled out an envelope, the paper rich and luxurious. Mark didn't recognize the handwriting on the front, but he opened it up and unfolded the letter.


I imagine you're in a bit of turmoil right now. Try not to give Mr Yousef a hard time -- he's a good man and a good friend who's been stuck with a hard job.

Anyway, you've just found out I'm your father. Benjamin

Moore, billionaire, celebrity, playboy, entrepreneur, business genius, etc. I'm sorry to say that it's true, Mark. And you deserve an explanation.

Twenty six years ago I met a wonderful woman named Louren, we fell in love and were soon married. I started my own business making computers and doing some programming, and soon my wife fell pregnant. Life was bliss. Then the business boomed, some of the software I'd written made me a small fortune and within months I was employing hundreds of people. The business side of things isn't important now, but a few more months passed and it was time to go to the hospital.

Louren gave birth to three infants, triplets, a month early, two girls and a boy, but immediately began to have complications. She was rushed into surgery, but it was no good. Just like that, the love of my life died. She was twenty five years old. She would have been a great mother.

I knew nothing about raising kids, and I was so overwhelmed with grief that the only thing I could think of was to throw myself into my work. Anything to get away from the pain. A doctor suggested offering you and your sisters up for adoption. I agreed, thinking it was the best for you. It was the biggest regret of my life. At the time though, it was the best decision I could have made.

You and your sisters were put with loving families, raised in nurturing and healthy environments, and despite my promise not to, I kept tabs on you all, helping out in little ways whenever I could. Scholarships, jobs and the like. I know it's not parenting, but you and your sisters are the only family I have, even if we've never met.

And that brings us round to the present. As I write this I'm dying. If you're reading this, then I'm already gone and you might have even heard about it on the news. Which brings me round to the point of all this. For twenty five years I've been building a business, an empire some would say, and along the way, tens of thousands of people have come to rely on me to keep their companies afloat, keep their jobs in place so they can raise their own families. It's a responsibility that I take seriously, which may well sound ironic to you, given that I haven't taken responsibility for raising my own children.

I'd like you to meet your sisters, Madeleine and Myra. I'd like the three of you to get to know each other. All that I have now belongs to the three of you. My inheritance. I'm told it's quite a sum.

Mister Yousef will give you the details on what happens next, but here's the clip notes. Go to my Island in the Caribbean, get to know your sisters, learn a bit about what's being asked of you and decide what you want to do.

Along the way you might even get to know a little more about me.

In hope and love,



Mark looked at the date on the letter, noting it was only two weeks old.

Gone were the doubts that this was Ant's work. This really wasn't his style at all. The knot in his stomach was twisting as he realized he'd have to make a call and speak to his parents. He had to ask.

"Would you excuse me for a couple of minutes, Mister Yousef. I need to make a call." Mark saw the old man nod, but he was already on his way out the door. He moved on autopilot out the front doors of the building and onto the street, crowded with the usual mixture of coffee-toting office workers, shopping housewives and tourists and stepped into a doorway. He dialed.

"Hey, honey."

"Hi, Mom," Mark replied, trying to keep his voice relaxed and casual. "Listen, I need to ask you something."

"Okay, honey, but you'll have to be quick. Your father and I are just about to leave," She replied. Mark could hear a car door close in the background.

"Oh, right. Today's the hiking trip, right?"

He heard his Mom sigh down the phone. "I swear Mark, you never pay attention."

He took a deep breath. "Mom, I need you to listen to me here, okay. I just had a visit at work from a lawyer called Mister Yousef."

Mark paused as he heard his mother shout on his father. "Ben, you need to be in on this," He heard her say. "Okay, son. What did he say?"

"Mom, Dad. I've got to ask you. Am I adopted?" Mark had his free hand held flat over his free ear, listening more intensely than he ever had in his life.

The silence that stretched into seconds on the other end of the line added to the sinking feeling in Mark's stomach.

"Son, it's me," Mark heard as his Dad came on the phone, his tone gentle. "It's true, son. We adopted you when you were only a few days old. I'm sorry you've found out like this. Do you want to meet up and talk about it? I can come and pick you up?"

Mark pressed his face into the corner of the doorway, trying to think. It was true, he was adopted. His mind whirled with a myriad of emotions, feeling like his world had just been turned upside down, so he took several deep breaths, and thought about what he knew. His friends were his friends. His parents had kept this whopping big secret, but they'd raised him and been there for twenty three years for him. Did it really matter that they weren't linked by DNA? The thought helped him clear his head a little and he sighed.

After a moment he replied. "No, it's okay, and don't get all worried, okay. I know you're my parents, I know you're my Mom and Dad, you raised me and nothing's going to change that, okay?"

He could almost hear the relief in the tones of their replies, so he pressed ahead.

"Thing is, I've found out a little about who I was before I was adopted," Mark added, not quite sure how to proceed with this bit. He opted for directness. "How much do you know about that?"

There was a hushed, whispered conversation at the other end of the line that ended abruptly after a few more seconds.

"We know who your birth father was, honey," Mark's Mom said a moment later. "Do you?"

Mark swallowed. "Yeah, I think so." His mouth was dry but he made himself say the words. "Benjamin Moore, right?"

"That's right, son," His Dad said quietly. "We weren't supposed to know, but we did."

"Has he left you something in his will?" His Mom asked. "Is that why the lawyer is there?"

"Em, I think so," Mark said, feeling more than a little nauseous now. "Listen, they're telling me I have sisters."

"What?" Both his parents replied at the same time.

"That I have sisters. Twins," He replied. "Well, actually triplets, but I'm one of them, apparently."

"Mark, son, we had no idea," His Dad said, and Mark knew deep inside that he was telling the truth. "Sisters?"

"Two of them," Mark confirmed. "They want me to go and meet them."

"Then you should go," His Dad replied immediately.

"Absolutely," His Mom added. "Are you alright, honey?"

"Bit shell-shocked, I guess," Mark replied. "Listen, I've got to head back in there. Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, son, don't worry about us," His Dad answered. "We'll stick around here for a few days, I think. Why don't you come round for dinner tonight or before it you want, we'll have a chat."

Mark frowned. "No, you should go on your trip. You two have been planning it for months." Every time Mark visited his folks they had maps up of the areas of Canada they were hiking through and he knew they had various locations booked for the occasional night in a hotel and if they set off late they'd lose their reservations. "Honestly, I'm okay. You should go on your trip, and besides, I can call you if I need to. You guys can call me too, okay?"

Mark could almost hear them silently discussing it with looks and gestures at the other end of the phone, something they'd done for as far back as he could remember.

"You sure, son?"

"Yeah, Dad. You and Mom go on your trip."

"You sure you're not pissed at us for not telling you?" His Dad asked bluntly, as was his way.

Mark sighed. "Honestly, Dad. I'm not angry. I'm a bit shocked, and I can't say I won't be angry in the future, but if I get angry I know where to find you."

"That you do, son," His father replied. "You just pick up that phone and we'll come right back so you can vent your fury for as long as you need."

"Can I just ask, why didn't you tell me?"

"There was never a good time for it, honey," His Mom replied. "How do you bring something like that up in conversation?"

"Besides, you would have asked who your parents were, and we would have had to lie directly to your face, son," His Dad added. "We just couldn't figure out how to tell you."

"Fair enough," Mark said, managing to sound calm while inside he just wanted to vanish somewhere quiet so he could process it all. "Have a good trip."

"Love you, honey."

"Love you too," Mark finished and ended the call. He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and walked back in to see what else the lawyer had to say.

"Everything okay, Mister Whitney?" Mister Yousef asked as Mark sat back down.

"I don't know if I'd describe it as okay," Mark said a moment later. "Right, I've spoken to my parents."

"So you know I'm telling the truth then?"

Mark swallowed and nodded. "Bit of a shock."

"I believe you. Shall I continue?"

"Might as well," Mark replied.

"As he mentioned in the letter, Mister Moore did his best to keep a discrete eye on you and your sisters while you were growing up, and he kept private files with the information for an occasion such as this. As he also said, we'd like you to come to Mister Moore private Island, where you can meet your sisters and get to know each other without any of the constraints and pressures of the outside world."

"What does that mean?" Mark asked.

"Pressures and so forth?" The old man asked. Mark nodded, so he continued. "To give you one example, Mister Moore was a very recognizable public figure with a long ongoing relationship with the press."

Mark nodded, having seen him at movie premieres, award shows, chat shows and in the papers too.

"The press are already making inquiries about who will inherit the vast fortune of the Moore Empire, and sooner or later someone will remember him in a hospital twenty three years ago and either do some digging, or simply open their mouth on their favourite social networking site. In today's instant-media world, it's only a matter of hours or days before you and your sisters get tracked down and besieged by the media."

"You're shitting me," Mark blurted. "Seriously? That's what you think is going to happen?"

Mister Yousef blinked. "That is what will happen, Mark. We have experience with this."

"I would have thought they'd....." Mark trailed off, thinking about it, and he knew that the old man was right in what he was saying. There would be a media frenzy, and he'd be right in the middle of it. "Fuck me sideways."

"I see we're on the same page, Mark."

"I guess so," he replied unhappily. "So what happens now?"

"There should be a car outside for you. There's a private jet due to arrive in," He glanced at his watch, a polished silver pocket watch, then dropped it back in his pocket. "Nine hours time, that's half past eight tonight. Take-off will be around nine o'clock and the flight from San Antonio to Guadeloupe Island, the nearest airport to the Island, is around seven hours. From there you'll take a boat for an hour to the Island itself, so you should be there at around sunrise."

"Overnight journey?" Mark asked, frowning. "It sounds exhausting."

"Unfortunately we have to get all three of you to the Island as soon as possible, so it's unavoidable on this occasion. However." The old man paused. "At the airport will be a woman named Jasmine, an Executive Assistant to Mister Moore with many years experience. She'll be your liaison, your point of contact and your assistant for the duration of your trip."

"Why do I need an assistant?" Mark asked.

"Because you'll have a lot of questions," The old man said simply. "Now, Jasmine is very good at her job and she'll be a real asset to you, so make sure you rely upon her."

"We'll see," Mark replied, knowing he still wasn't sure if he was going to go to this Island at all. The idea of buggering off with his folks seemed appealing, despite his well-known aversion to hiking.

"In between now and tonight you'll have a driver to look after you. Her name is Raven, I'm assured she's very good, and she'll have a few forms for you to complete. I also have this for you."

The old man slid an envelope over the table. Mark opened it and emptied the contents. A Visa card, a Mastercard, a clear envelope with cash in it and a small key-fob.

"What's all this?"

"The credit cards are for you to purchase some suitable clothing for your trip, the cash for if you don't want to use your credit cards or if you need to tip, and the key-fob is a personal alarm," The old man explained. "If you push the red button, a security team will converge on your location and extract you from any situation or threat in the vicinity."

"Like bodyguards?" Mark asked, shaking his head. "This is too surreal."

"I'd imagine there will be many surreal moments in the days to come," The old man replied.

"Pin numbers for the cards?" Mark asked, picking them up and looking at them. They seemed almost holographic.

"The year of your birth. We can change that tomorrow for you."

"I suppose they've got like a twenty grand limit or something extravagant like that?" Mark laughed.

"Not quite, no." Mister Yousef smiled. "I believe they're somewhere in excess of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but they were set up in a hurry, so we'll get that straightened out too in the next few days."

Mark snorted with laughter.

"Another surreal moment?" The lawyer asked, his expression blank.

"Something like that."

"So I've got a driver, a load of credit and cash and a goon-squad on standby, just to cover me for nine hours until I catch a plane to an Island paradise?"

"Not a plane, a private jet, but yes, close enough," he nodded.

"Fucking hellfire," Mark said quietly, the laughter and incredulity of the moment stopped. "So do I just go back to my desk until I finish work now? What happens?"

"Oh, good lord, no," Mister Yousef replied, looking taken aback for the first time. "Mister Moore actually owns this company, although it's not widely known. However, no, you don't need to return to your desk. In fact you don't need to return to it ever again if you so choose."

"What about my boss?" Mark asked. "Sometimes he's a real dick, and I don't want him to throw a bitch fit."

"Mark," The old lawyer said, leaning forward across the table. "It'll take a while to get your head round some of the changes that are going to happen to your life in the next few days, weeks and months. However, if your boss is, as you put it, a real dick, then you can always deal with it by coming back here in a few weeks and firing him."

"Good point actually."

"Now then, onto the last file," The old man said, gathering the other documentation away.

"What's in this one?"

"Your sisters."

Mark felt that cold sinking feeling in his stomach again and suddenly his mouth was dry. He realized he was craving a cigarette again, and had been for some time, which was unusual as he'd quit nearly a year ago and hadn't had a craving in seven or eight months.

"Okay, let's see them," Mark said, feeling a hint of excitement and fear at the thought of having sisters and wanting to find out who they were.

The lawyer opened the folder and slid two photographs across the table and Mark's breathing almost stopped. His face turned white.

"Is everything okay, Mark?" The old lawyer asked as Mark stared at the photographs on the table. "You've gone a little pale."

In a voice barely above a whisper, Mark said, "Oh, fuck, please let this be a joke."

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status