Murdoch & Ryan

By Ron Robbins,
edited by Frank Perry
2009 All rights reserved

Part 7

McDonald Hall

Murdoch and Ryan returned from their Riviera vacation tanned and rested. Ian greeted them warmly as the entered the library. "Welcome home. God, you both look well rested," Ian said.

"We had a terrific vacation and are ready for work," Murdoch said.

"Sorry we had to run off and spoil our weekend together, but we really needed a break," Ryan said. "I hope you and Chris will join us this weekend."

"As a matter of fact everything worked out splendidly, Chris came up and spent the weekend, and we had a great time exploring the treasures in this mansion. We would really like to spend this weekend with you," Ian said.

"Good, that's settled then," Ryan said. "Well, I'll leave you two for now; I have a lot of correspondence to catch up on. See you at lunch." He gave Murdoch a peck on the cheek and left.

"God, what a change from the last time I saw Ryan," Ian said. "He looks wonderful, if you don't mind me saying so, he is really a handsome man."

"No, I don't mind, I think he is, too," Murdoch said. "Well, anything new or startling happen while I was away?"

"You bet; there's been a lot of talk about that board meeting you held two weeks ago. They are all a little worried about the new five-year plan you requested from each division. They're even more nervous about the audits you ordered. I calmed them down, by telling them that this was normal procedure for any new CEO."

"You said the right thing," Murdoch said. "I want to keep them guessing until I'm ready to make the changes we discussed. I feel sure that some of them are in the process of redoing their resumes'. By the same token, I'm sure no one will make a move until they know in what direction were moving. Were you able to get copies of the financial statements and corporate projections for the last three years?"

"Yes, sir, they're on your desk." Ian briefed him on the past week's progress. "One last item on your list is an estate matter. Lloyd Rose, your overseer, approached me last week and wanted to know how you wanted him to handle the Burns family?"

"Who are the Burns' and what am I supposed to do about them?"

"I knew you were going to ask, so I delved into the matter for you. According to Lloyd, Tristan Burns and his family live in one of the staff cottages on the estate. While your Uncle was alive, Tristan and his family lived there rent free. According to Lloyd, the cottage sits on twenty five acres of choice farmland. The family farms the land and grows enough to feed themselves and their livestock as well. Tristan also worked as an accountant for the estate. I understand he also handled special projects for his Lordship. Two years ago his wife died of cancer and he was left to raise their four children. Last year, Tristan had a stroke and was paralyzed on his left side. He is able to get around alright, but, is having a hard time keeping everything together since he lost his job. From what I understand, he receives a disability check from the government, but it is not enough to keep a full time housekeeper. The estate staff has been helping out when they can, but most of them have their own families to take care of. According to Lloyd, Tristan is the illegitimate son of the Sixth Lord, and that is why his Lordship took care of the family."

"Well, that's very interesting, if it's true," Murdoch said. "How far have you gone with this?"

"I stopped when I heard about the alleged family connection."

"Good, I'll check this out myself. I'll be in the morning room if you need me."

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"Come in, Raymond," Murdoch said. "What do you know about the Burns family?"

"Your uncle told me he believed that Tristan was his brother's son, born out of wedlock. Tristan, or his Lordship had no proof, but your Uncle had a gut feeling that Tristan was in fact his nephew. Mr. Burns does bear a striking resemblance to the family and the private investigator your uncle hired concluded that the evidence they found suggested that he was your cousin."

"I see," Murdoch said. "What kind of chap is Tristan?"

"He is a good man, and a devoted father, it's a shame that his luck has been all bad."

"Would you ring him up and ask him if it would be convenient to have me visit him sometime tomorrow morning?"

"Yes sir, I'll make the arrangements."

"Thank you. Raymond, would he be offended if I brought a basket of goodies with me tomorrow?"

"I don't think so, sir, it's not out of the ordinary for the Master to give gifts to his tenants."

"Good, see that the cook prepares two good size baskets, one with fruits and sweets, and another with hams, and prepared meats and cheeses. You know what I mean?"

"Yes sir, I'm sure the cook can fix up two nice baskets."

"Let me know what time is convenient for him, Raymond."

Raymond was back in ten minutes. "Master Murdoch, Mr. Burns wants to know if it would be convenient for you to come by after lunch today? He has a doctor's appointment at the clinic tomorrow morning."

"That will be fine, Raymond. Why don't we make it one-thirty this afternoon? Have the car brought around at 1:15. Do you think cook will be ready with the baskets by then?"

"Oh, yes sir, everything with be ready."

Murdoch went right up to their suite. Ryan was seated on the sofa talking on his cell phone. Murdoch sat next to him and put his arm around his shoulder and kissed him in the cheek. Ten minutes later Ryan shut off the phone and set in on the coffee table in front of him. He kissed Murdoch on the lips. "What brings you up this early," Ryan said. "I told you, no noonies."

Murdoch laughed; "I guess Murdoch Junior forgot its getting around that time."

Ryan chuckled, "Junior is going to have to wait until bed time. I was on a conference call with Charles Lattimore and Gordon Miller. A lot has happened in the last few days. They feel that they have everything they need to present to the attorneys for the prosecution. The only thing they haven't got so far is the direct connection between my father and the Rollins. They have an airtight case against Vera, her brother, the Rollins family and the doctor. The good doctor has a history of forcing other gay men to take his cure. They are in the process of tracking down the former gay patients he treated. When they finish with him he will be in prison for a long, long time."

"I feel sorry for your step-brothers and sister if your father is a party to your kidnapping," Murdoch said. "Have you thought about what will happen to them if your dad goes to prison?"

"I'll try to cross that bridge when I get to it. They are good kids, I just might adopt them. Who knows? For sure Vera and family will do time in the slammer. After my lawyers get finished suing for damages, the Rollins won't have two nickels to rub together."

Murdoch told Ryan about Tristan Burns and his plan to visit him after lunch. "Well, I'll see you in the dining room in an hour, Babe," Murdoch said. He kissed Ryan tenderly and left.

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Benton drove the Roles Royce up the narrow circular drive and stopped at the front entrance. The cottage was a quaint two story house, and appeared to be well cared for. Benton opened the car door for Murdoch and opened the trunk to retrieve the two baskets of food. Murdoch walked up to the door and rang the bell. In a few minutes, he was greeted by a tall, distinguished looking man. "Hello, you must be Murdoch McDonald," Tristan said. "I'm Tristan Burns, I'd shake your hand, but I need my right hand for my cane. Please come in." Tristan opened the door wider to let Murdoch and Benton enter. Benton set the two baskets down inside the door and left, closing the door behind him. "Why don't we sit by the fireplace and talk?"

"So you are new master of the McDonald clan," Tristan said. "You are definitely a McDonald, no question about that. You look a lot like your father and just as handsome. I'm sure you've seen the portraits of your father and uncles hanging in the great hall of the mansion.

"Yes, I have, and thank you for the compliment. I hope you don't mind, but I brought along some things for the children," Murdoch said.

"Thank you, that's kind of you, I'm sure they will enjoy whatever treats you brought."

"Raymond told me that you are the illegitimate son of my uncle George, the 6th Lord?"

"Yes, that is true."

"I understand our uncle Edward knew this," Murdoch said. "What I don't understand, is if it is true, why he didn't do more to help you and your family?"

"I suppose he could have, but Uncle Edward was from the old school and didn't like to make any waves. Remember, I was a bastard and I could never be considered a McDonald."

"That's pure rubbish and we both know that. He could have at least set up a trust fund for you, even so."

"The family did pay for my education, and gave me a job on the estate. They also gave me this small farm to live in rent free. I'm sure that was a big concession for Edward."

"How generous of them," Murdoch said. "The McDonald's treated my father very badly, as far as I'm concerned. Look, Tristan, if you are family, would you object to having a DNA test to prove it?"

"No, I don't mind at all," Tristan said."

"Good," Murdoch said. "These tests should confirm that you are part of the family. Let me say, I don't doubt that you are my cousin, but, I want to make sure. I understand that you've had some bad breaks in the last several years that would have broken a lesser man. Would you like to tell me about yourself and your family?"

Tristan began his story. "My mother did her part for the war effort and volunteered her services to the Red Cross during the War. She met my father at one of the RAF sponsored dances at the Country Club. Like so many couples during the war, they began dating and fell in love. Six months later, my father's plane was shot down over France and he was killed. Mother realized she was pregnant with me. After I was born, we moved to London where she took a position as a teacher in a private school. It worked out well for us, because we were able to live on campus and received a free tuition. My mother was concerned about my future and knew she could not afford to put me through college, on her income. That is when she contacted Uncle Edward. He had us both investigated and felt that indeed, I was the bastard son of his brother, George. He set up a small trust fund that took care of my education and expenses during college. After graduation, your uncle offered me a position and gave me this house to live in. I married Lara, a year after moving into this cottage. Lara, and I had four children, Sean, our 12 year old, the twins, Charles, and James, age five, and Bridget my three year old. Two years after Bridget was born, Lara developed cancer and died three months later. Last year, I had a cerebral stroke, which left me partially paralyzed. At present, I have limited use of left side."

"How are you able to manage?" Murdoch asked.

"Just barely, Social Welfare takes care of the bare essentials, but we really do rely on our small farm to get by. I'm not physically able to do too much, other than to supervise Sean. He is a fine lad and I would be lost without him. I've been sitting on pins and needles awaiting the arrival of the new owner of this estate. My family and I live here at your discretion. Lloyd Rose told me that everything would remain in effect until the new owner changes the arrangements."

"You can put your mind at rest on that score, Tristan, you can stay here as long as you like. How do you manage to get up and down the stairs?"

"Sean helps me when I need to get up stairs to take a bath. We have a small lavatory with a wash basin off the great room. After my stroke, we turned the den into a bedroom for me. So I really don't need to use the stairs that much."

"How do you manage to get around without a car?"

"Lloyd or one of my neighbors runs me into town for shopping, or to see my doctors."

"Well from now on, you call Benton, if you need to go anywhere. In fact you can let him know before we leave what time he should be around to pick you up for the doctor's tomorrow."

"Thank you, that is very good of you. Ah, I hear the patter of little feet; the children are home from school."

The front door opened and four children filed into the living room. "Children, settle down, I would like you to meet Mister McDonald. Mister McDonald is the owner of this estate." Tristan introduced each child.

"Good afternoon children, it's a pleasure to meet you. I suppose you are all curious about me. So, I'll give you a brief rundown, I'm an American from Atlanta, Georgia. Last month I learned that I had inherited this estate along with a few other things. My father would have been the 8th Earl if he were alive today. Since, he passed away several years ago, his estate went to me. I understand that I could become the Eighth Lord if I renounced my American Citizenship. I chose not to do that. So I remain just an ordinary citizen like you. The four of you are my cousins and I intend to get to know all of you as time will permit. I think for the sake of propriety, you should address me as Uncle Murdoch. If it's okay with your father, I would like you all to spend this Saturday with me at the Hall. Is that okay, Tristan?"

"That's fine with me," Tristan said. "Are you sure we won't be in the way?"

"No, not at all, I'm expecting some weekend house guests, but I don't see that will be a problem."

"Good, that's settled. It's getting late and I don't want to overstay my welcome. One request, if Sean is free, I would like to take him up to the Hall for a couple of hours, would that be alright?"

"Sean, would you like to take a ride with your Uncle Murdoch?" Tristan asked.

Sean eyes tinkled and with a big smile on his lips he said, "You bet."

"Well, good day all, I'll see you Saturday," Murdoch said. "Tristan, please call me after you've seen your doctor tomorrow."

"I sure will, again, thank you for everything."

"Come on, Sean," Murdoch said. "I'll send Benton in so you two can work out your schedule."

Once they were comfortable seated in the limo, Murdoch asked. "Am I taking you away from your chores, or anything?"

"Not really, this is my free time. After dinner I have to feed the livestock and things. But, that only takes an hour. I did all my homework in school today."

"I want you to level with me about how things are around the house. How is your dad?"

"He's okay if he doesn't try to overdo it. He has lost some ground in the last few months. He tires much more than he used to. I try to keep the kids in line, but children are children and they don't understand how thing really are with Dad. I know that Dad has really been worried about our future. It would kill him if he couldn't keep us all together as a family. The doctor told him that he may have more strokes. Dad's told me that they would confine him to a nursing home if that happened, unless he could hire a full time housekeeper to take care of us."

"Don't you have a part time housekeeper that comes in everyday?" Murdoch asked.

"Yes, and no, we never know how long we can keep a housekeeper. Some of them are lousy cooks and others are just lazy. They are supposed to work five hours every day from two to seven. If the twins and I didn't keep the place clean the rest of the time, it would be a mess. Dad is able to do the laundry every day, so that's not a problem. But, we really need a reliable woman."

"Do you think a full time housekeeper and a handyman could do the job?" Murdoch asked.

"I sure do, but forget that. We don't have the money to pay for that."

"Here we are, Sean," Murdoch said. "Have you visited the Hall before?"

"A few times," Sean said. "I've only been inside the main entrance and the sitting room once, the day of the Earl's funeral. The place was packed, so I didn't really have the chance to examine the place. Most of the times I've visited the Hall is when I'm here on an errand for my Dad, I never got past the servants entrance."

Benton pulled up the main entrance and opened the door. Murdoch put his arm around Sean's shoulder and led him up the stairs. Raymond opened the door, "Good afternoon, Master Murdoch."

"Good afternoon, Raymond. I would like to introduce Sean Burns; he will be visiting us from now on. Be sure to let the staff know that he is my guest and will use the main entrance, when he comes to call."

Raymond nodded, "Welcome, to McDonald Hall, Sean."

"Do you know where Ryan is hiding?" Murdoch asked.

"He is in the den on the second floor, Sir."

"Thank you, Raymond, come on Sean I want you to meet my partner Ryan Templeton." They walked up the grand staircase to the second floor. They followed the hall to the right to the third door on the right.

Ryan was seated at his desk typing on his laptop computer. He looked up as they approached the desk. He smiled, "And who is this handsome young lad? Wait, let me guess, he's one of the McDonald clan, right?"

Murdoch and Sean both smiled. "You got that right," Murdoch said. "Ryan I like you to meet my cousin, Sean Burns, and yes, he is part of the clan McDonald."

"Hi, Sean, it's nice to meet any relation of Murdoch's. So to what do I owe this honor, Murdoch."

"Nothing special, Sean and I were out for a drive and thought we'd pop in to see what you were up to?"

"That's very thoughtful of you, but I'm up to my ass in alligators and I don't have time to play with you guys this afternoon. Sorry, Sean, why don't you drop in on Saturday and we can do something?"

"You're on," Sean said with a smile."

Ryan laughed, "I like you, Sean. See you on Saturday."

"Come on, Sean, I know when we're not wanted. Catch you later luv. How about some milk and cookies?"

Sean smiled, "That would hit the spot." Murdoch and Sean took the elevator to the basement. They walked into the large modern kitchen. Kitty, the housekeeper and the cook were sitting in the small dining area off to the side of the kitchen. "Good afternoon, Master Murdoch. I see you've met Sean. How are you, my boy? I haven't seen you for a couple of weeks."

"I'm fine, Miss Kelley," Sean said.

"What would you be fancying, Master Murdoch?'

"We though we'd like some milk and cookies, unless you have some of that delicious pie we had for lunch?" Murdoch said.

"Pie and ice cream it is, then," Kitty said. Sit yourself down and Cook will dish it out for you."

"I'm glad I caught you, Kitty. Tristan and the children will be visiting us for the day this Saturday. I'm sure the boys can amuse themselves in the game room. But, we had better think of something to amuse Bridget. Maybe you and Sean can put your heads together and solve that problem. After lunch, I plan to take them all to town to do a little shopping. Perhaps you can send one of your sharp young ladies along to help with Bridget."

"It will be my pleasure, Sir."

They finished up the snack and headed up to the main floor again. "I want to show you the paintings of our relatives," Murdoch said. Murdoch pointed out the portraits of his father and his grandfather, George, the 6th Earl. After that he took Sean on a short tour of the grand rooms on the first floor and introduced him to Ian.

"Well, I promised your father I'd only keep you a few hours and it's time you were getting back. I enjoyed your company and I thank you for spending the time with me. It's been fun. Here is my card with my cell phone number. If you ever need me for anything, please call."

Thanks, Uncle Murdoch, this has been a very exciting afternoon for me; I'm looking forward to Saturday."

"I'll walk you to the car," Murdoch said.

When Murdoch walked into the den, Ryan was still busily typing away on his computer. Murdoch walked behind him and kissed him on the neck and licked his ear.

"Oh, Babe, do that and I'll follow you anywhere," Ryan said.

"That's the whole idea," Murdoch said. He leaned down and kissed him on the lips. "Can you take a short break?"

"Sure."

"What did you think of Sean?"

"If I didn't know better, I swear he was your younger brother," Ryan said. "He's a handsome young lad, that's for sure. How old is he?"

"Twelve," Murdoch said. "If you think he's attractive, wait until you see his twin brothers, they are adorable, and so is Bridget. They are all polite and well mannered."

"What is Tristan like?" Ryan asked.

"He is still an attractive man. He had a stroke a year ago that affected his left side. He walks with a cane. I've invited them all over for a visit Saturday. You'll have a chance to meet them all then. I have no doubt that they are part of the McDonald clan. As I told Tristan, I want to have his DNA analyzed, to confirm that he is a McDonald. I'm personally satisfied that he is my cousin."

"What are your plans if the DNA data confirms that he is indeed your cousin?"

"First thing I'm going to do, today, is to hire a full time housekeeper and a handyman/gardener to help them out. I'm sure Kitty knows of someone that can do the job. I'll let Mr. Rose find someone that can handle the farm."

"I think that you're doing the right thing helping them out like that," Ryan said. "But, promise me that we'll discuss any large settlement of money, before you go overboard. I know what a generous and kind hearted person you are, and might feel compelled to hand over half of your estate to Tristan. Mind you, it's yours to do with as you see fit, but I wonder if they are prepared to have a fortune dropped in their laps."

"Just because my uncle never married Tristan's mother, that doesn't make him any less a McDonald than me, does it?"

"In the eyes of the law and your own predecessors, it does," Ryan said. "I know your uncle died, before Tristan was born, but do we know what was in his mind at the time. For all we know, Tristan's mother may have been a fling and nothing more. It's quite possible, considering your family's position, he may have never married her. I'm sure being the gentleman, he would have provided for Tristan. Which of course, from what you have told me, they did. If you're serious about helping them you should go slowly with your generosity. Certainly, provide for him and the children. You may want to give Tristan a generous yearly allotment. And see that the children have a good education. Even buy them an automobile and stock the farm, but be careful you don't overwhelm them. I'm sure they don't expect that. They have no claim to the McDonald estate and I'm sure Tristan knows that."

"All things being equal, my father could say that his children were entitled to half my inheritance, because they are my half brothers and sisters."

"I see," Murdoch said. "I've never thought of it that way. You may be right. I do think Tristan would be overwhelmed."

"I certainly was when I realized the enormous size of my mother's estate. Even though I knew my family was wealthy, I was still not prepared," Ryan said.

"How do you think I should handle this?" Murdoch asked.

"Continue as you have, so far. Go ahead with your plans to get to know them better. Have their little farm put right and hire the staff they need to take care of the house and farm. If the DNA test is positive, then go ahead and set up a trust fund for the children and settle a yearly income for Tristan. This will make him independent and allow him to take care of his own expenses. Later, if you wish, you can remodel the house for Tristan, or build them a new house. I think down the road, you may want to settle a million pounds on each child when they reach twenty one. I'm only asking you to take your time to give this some thought, and then talk it over with your lawyers."

Murdoch smiled, "Now I know why I married you, Sweetheart," Murdoch said. "You're pretty smart for a football jock."

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To be continued
Ron.Robbins70@gmail.com
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