The Price Of Lust: Book One Of Faces In The Crowd, Chapters 7.1-7.4

CHAPTER SEVEN: GRADUATION DAYS

I. PHILLIP GOES TO COLLEGE

A year after the wedding, Maggie’s son Phillip graduated from high school. In his graduation speech, he paid homage to his beloved mother…sighting her perseverance and will to see him go on to do great things in his life as his main inspiration for remaining in school and graduating. He also praised her uncanny ability to succeed in business as a reason he had done well in school. Not once did he ever speak of her earlier abandonment of him and his siblings. It was as if it had never happened.

His 4.0 grade point average had been hard won, he admitted, but it had never been an impossible dream. Without his mother to encourage him, he demurred, he would’ve surely flunked unceremoniously. He also thanked Conrad for his imbuing him with a desire to write and study. And Lazarus for his great wisdom.

All who had come to witness this, his greatest day, was in his list of those to thank for pushing him ever onward. His brother, the priest. His sisters. His cousin. The ladies from his mother’s company. His teachers. All, he claimed, had contributed to his success.

That May, he went off to college. He’d had his pick of the best-Cambridge, Yale, Harvard—and had settled on the one he felt was right for him. So, off to Harvard it was. He packed up his belongings and hugged his mother.

“I never blamed you for anything,” he whispered in her ear, “I knew that you only did what you thought was best. You would call us back to you when it was time to be together again, mama.”

Maggie buried her face in her son’s shoulder and wept. He had lifted a great weight from her shoulders. He just didn’t realize it.

“Mama,” he continued, sincerely, “none of us ever blamed you. We always loved you. We only wanted what was best. Con always let us know how much you really cared, even when you were too ashamed to show your face to us. We merely waited until you felt it was time. Besides, Todd always let us know how you were doing. We never had need to forgive you. You never did anything to hurt us.”

Maggie could only sob louder and more uncontrollably. He had spoken for the whole group, not just himself. Had they asked him to be their spokesman? Or were they waiting to speak to her on their own later?

II. SANDRA DIVINE FOLLOWS HER HEART

Shortly after Phillip’s graduation, Maggie learned that she was pregnant. She was ecstatic, but Con-though overjoyed-was worried. How would this affect her health? It had been fairly stable for some time, but would this throw it into total chaos? What if this was what would cause her death? How would he be able to cope with her loss? How would he raise their child alone?

She told him not to worry. Yes, that could happen, but the doctor had said that there should be no really dangerous complications. Only time would tell if this was the end. Until nine months was up, she whispered, her dear Connie needn’t worry. Just be happy.

Nine months later, she gave birth to Magdalena Divine Seville…and her twin, Sonny Conrad Seville. The delivery had gone without a hitch and all three recuperated quickly. With the illness in remission, she seemed to be stronger than ever. She only hoped that she could continue to be strong until all her children were grown. She had found a new lease on life and was loving every minute of it.

A few months later, she sat in the school auditorium once more as her eldest daughter-Sandra Divine-took to the podium. She’d given birth, and raised, to some of the smartest children in the school. She couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

Afterward, at her graduation party, Sandra approached her mother and took her to one side.

“Mama,” she began, “remember what Phillip said to you?” “Yes,” Maggie replied.

“We all feel that it is true,” Sandra continued, “I just want you to know that. Even if there had been something to forgive, mama, we have long since forgiven it and forgotten it. Our love for you is greater than you could ever imagine. You guided us through Con. Even when you could not be there, you were still there in him. He has been a father to us even when we had none. We love both of you. You are the only family we have ever known.”

Maggie buried her head into Sandra’s shoulder. “Thank you.” “Mama,” Sandra replied, “you’re welcome.

That summer, Sandra left home and headed for Nashville. Her heart was in music and she had never kept her love a secret. Now, she felt it was time to follow her dreams and Maggie knew that she would succeed. It was in her blood.

III. NEWS OF THE END OF USHER, INC. REACHES MAGGIE

Two months after Sandra left for Nashville, Maggie picked up the newspaper for the first time. She had worried that she would find bad news concerning her little girl, but instead, found the news much more to her liking. At the first sight of it, she began to chortle. At the sound of her, Conrad rushed over to see what was so funny.

There, on the front page was the picture of the raging inferno that had once been called Usher Enterprises, Incorporated. Below were several photos of Cain, Lucifer, and their concubines. The article stated that the corporate head quarters had suddenly went up in flames after calls to 911 had been made about the girls having guns and holding the elderly CEOs hostage. There had been something mentioned about a disagreement about money and the actual hierarchy of leadership. As the police arrived, and before they could get close enough to enter the building, there was an explosion and the place went up in flames like a pile of kindling.

Firefighters were too late to save anyone inside, but they had been able to salvage the remains of the building. And, although they’d been burnt beyond recognition, the bodies found had been identified as the elderly Usher brothers and their daughter…all of the daughters. Their greed had finally brought their destruction. Their evil had finally been repaid upon them.

The attorney over their estate, the article stated, was looking for a woman named Magdalena Usher. She was their last surviving niece and their wills stated that she was, as the last of the Ushers, to receive all of their material wealth and property. That included their manse and all corporate holdings. She was to continue their legacy as she saw fit, he was quoted as saying.

Maggie smiled. It was ironic. They’d spent all that time trying to coerce money out of her that they did not work for…only to end up leaving their entire fortune to her in their deaths. She called the attorney’s number.

“This is Magdalena Usher-Seville,” she stated, matter-offactly as the attorney answered his phone, “when can I inspect the wills of Lucifer and Cain Usher?”

“I can fly to a location that you specify as soon as we get off the phone,” came the reply.

“Good,” she stated, “I cannot leave Chicago due to my own business and family responsibilities, but I would be gracious if you could come to me.”

“Then,” the attorney replied, “consider it done. Where shall I be able to find you?”

The next few minutes were spent giving addresses and directions to the man on the other end. When she hung up, Conrad looked at her. He raised his eyebrows at what he’d heard.

“What are you going to do with all that money?” he asked, somewhat curious.

“I know,” Maggie replied, “I don’t really need it. I have enough of my own. I have an idea, though, what to do with it.” “Well?”

“I am going to take a trip south,” she continued, “with Cat and the girls. We’re going to go to where things went wrong and place a monument where the town once stood. It is only right. Afterward, we will figure out the best way to disburse the rest to any other victim those monsters may have left. If there is

anything left, we will set up a scholarship fund.”

“Sounds like you are going to rid yourself of any and all that was owned by your uncles,” Conrad commented.

“It is only right, Connie,” she replied, “their wealth and all their holdings were gained by murder and mayhem. I don’t need to have anything to do with that. If there are any left of the families whose companies they took over, those companies will go back to those survivors. The money should be disbursed as I have said.”

Conrad smiled. He knew that she was only doing what she knew was right. He loved her for that…and more. She was exactly the opposite of her late uncles. She was all that was good in life, they had been all that was evil.

IV. THE LEGACY

“You look like your mother,” the elderly man at the door started, surprised, “but you’re much…taller.”

“I’m surprised,” Maggie responded, deflecting the old man’s comments, “that my uncles would leave me anything. I mean, they spent an awful lot of time these past years trying to acquire my own wealth, too.”

“Ah, yes, well,” the old man replied, “they weren’t the ones who included the amendment in their initial wills. I snuck it in while finalizing the paperwork. The bastards never really paid much attention to any of the changes. Hell. I never had to show them the finished wills. They merely thought that I would be faithful in my final drafts. It was their oversight and my greatest decision. And it is your boon.

“Now, I know that you don’t really need it but I know that you’ll use it wisely. Oh, yes. I know all about you. I have kept my eyes on you all this time. I know about what my clients have done in their wasted lives and realize that the life they destroyed more than any other was yours. I know that this cannot bring your father back, nor make enough of a restitution for any crime my late clients committed, but it will have to do.”

“Can you do me a favor?” Maggie inquired.

“Sure,” he replied, “anything to help.”

“Seek out the heirs of those whose companies my uncles unlawfully seized control of,” she continued, “and return to them their families’ companies.”

“Of course,” the old man smiled, “I realize that it’s the right thing to do. But whom may I say is to be thanked for this good deed?”

“Just tell them that it is a gift from one survivor to another,” she stated, “and that I understand their pain.”

“Will do,” the old man replied, bowing. He turned and left. Once he had gone, Maggie shut the door. The deed was now done. All she could do now was wait for the money to be deposited to her account. Once that was done, she would set about doing what she had planned…

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