Decamot of the month

29 Apr 2018-Distant Relatives Part 1

Inspired by the following Decamot items: diva, island, chandelier, egg, sports car, executor, digger, brain, canyon, needle

Gold Diggers

Lord "Digger" MacDouglas had left his island home only once during his lifetime.

Digger's nickname came from his family's primary occupation: mining. His great grandfather, grandfather, and father before him had prospered first in gold, then coal, and now in diamonds. The first "Digger" MacDouglas, the younger of two sons of Lord MacDouglas, had set out for Australia with his young wife to seek his fortune in 1840. When his elder brother died without male issue 20 years later, he became the first Lord "Digger" MacDouglas, but he could see no reason to return to the ancestral home. And neither could the next three generations of Lord "Digger" MacDouglases.

"Why would I wanna go anywhere when I've got everything I could ever want roit here in Oz, the world's biggest island?" the latest Lord "Digger" MacDouglas asked in his nasal Queensland accent when questioned.

And it was certainly true that Australia had provided him with business opportunities, great wealth, sports cars, and plenty of leisure pursuits. He'd made money (stacks of it), got in plenty of surfing on the Sunshine Coast, ate great barbecues (on the beach, naturally), and could drink as heavily as any red-bloodied bloke.

The single time that Digger had left Australia was in October, 1999, when he'd journeyed to London to make his maiden speech in the House of Lords and to participate in the vote on whether to abolish hereditary peerages. He'd voted in favour of abolition.

"What a bloody waste of time you load of drongos are," he memorably stated in the Upper Chamber much to the amusement of the Guardian reporter in the Press Gallery when he reviewed Hansard later that day.

The one thing that Australia had not given Lord "Digger" MacDouglas was a family.

"Why tie yourself down to just one Sheila, eh?" he'd quipped on more than one occasion.

When he died in 2017 at the age of 60, he became the last Lord MacDouglas. Before his death, Digger had hired a genealogist to see if he had any surviving relatives in the Northern Hemisphere (because he was buggered if he was going to let the State get their hands on his assets). The genealogist found one relative: a Miss Elizabeth Fanshaw of Bayswater, and so it was to her that Digger left everything in his will.

Inheritance

The first Elizabeth Fanshaw heard about her Australian inheritance was when she was tracked down by the executor of Digger's will to a night club in Ibiza where she had a reputation as a karaoke diva. Elizabeth was the great-great-granddaughter of the first Lord MacDouglas, her great-grandmother being the elder sister of the first Lord "Digger" MacDouglas. Although the title had moved to Australia, the wealth had not. She'd married late in life, had a single daughter, and lived a life of luxury in the family pile in the Highlands. This was a pattern that continued through next three generations. Elizabeth Fanshaw broke that mould.

In the five years since receiving her English inheritance, Elizabeth had sold the ancestral home, moved to London, and holidayed, partied, drank, and snorted her way through the vast majority of her inherited wealth; the rest she'd merely wasted. When a letter arrived from the offices of an Australian solicitor, she was both surprised (she'd not realised how well the Digger MacDouglases had done Down Under) and relieved (she had been getting deeply concerned that she might soon have to start thinking about getting a job). The letter suggested that she seek legal representation and then the matter could be resolved quickly and quite painlessly.

Sadly for her, she chose Sebastien and Carol White Associates. To be fair to Elizabeth, the choice had actually been less freely made than she realised. Carol's ability to engineer a forced choice would impress even the best illusionists. It had been no accident that she bumped into that nice couple having a break on a Mediterranean island; a couple who just happened to own their own law firm.

"We can help you out in the short term if you like," offered the woman. "Until you find an alternative solicitor back home in London."

"I wouldn't want to put you out."

"Nonsense," said the attractive young man with tanned skin and expensive linen jacket. "Happy to help a fellow Brit."

Elizabeth was glad to accept the offer. Where else was she going to find an English speaking solicitor in Ibiza at such short notice?

On the trail of the Pink Possum

Digger's will was a very short document. No special codicils, no complicated clauses, nothing itemised; just a single, terse statement: "I leave all my worldly goods to Elizabeth Fanshaw." Carol knew that, she'd had done her due diligence! In fact, she'd seen the will. The total value of the estate was about three million Australian dollars, if you discounted one particular item: the Pink Possum, a diamond the size of a large goose egg.

Digger had found it in the Argyle Canyon diamond mine several months after it opened. He, and several other prospectors had had great expectations for the mine, but it had two main problems: Firstly, the depth of the seam was so great that a sustained operation would not prove viable and secondly, colour: the Argyle mine yielded only rose coloured diamonds. He'd derisively referred to his finding as the Pink Possum, and soon thereafter sold his share in the Argyle mine. "What wuss is going to want pink diamonds, eh mate?"

He had, however, taken the Pink Possum with him, a fact he'd kept from his drinking buddies. And it came in useful when seeking a temporary business loan. The bank were quite happy to accept it as collateral. This was something else that Carol knew. In fact, she'd seen the bank's paperwork. The diamond was described, the size, weight, and colour of the diamond was noted and a comment to the fact that the manager was more than satisfied that it's worth comfortably exceeded that of the loan.

Carol had stumbled upon the story of Digger several years before. She was always on the look out for potential future targets, and was idly flicking through the paper when she spotted a story about absent Lords making their fortunes overseas. Digger turned out to have more character than most. When she researched him, she found out about his wealth, wild lifestyle, the Pink Possum, and lack of heirs in Australia; and she also found about the shadow on his brain that threatened to bring his life to an end prematurely: she'd even seen the x-rays.

The job was quite straight forward: track down Digger's sole heir; make sure she engage them as her legal representatives; travel to Australia to settle Digger's affairs; locate the Pink Possum, arrange the sale of Digger's property; send the money back to Elizabeth; and find a buyer for the Pink Possum. Elizabeth would be about a million pounds better off and the White family would benefit by considerably more from the discrete diamond sale. All they had to do was to find the Pink Possum. Simple.

But now, standing in Digger's vast mansion, with its elaborately large dining room complete with naff chandelier hanging above them, the task seemed a lot trickier. Sebastien and Carol had assumed that finding the Pink Possum would be a relatively easy part of the operation, after all, how many places could there be for someone to hide a large diamond? As it turned out, in Digger's abode there were many.

The property was vast. A sprawling one storey affair with multiple rooms arranged around a courtyard. In each room there were shelves and cupboards galore all stuffed with the spoils of decades of bachelorhood. If that was not bad enough, Digger had several outhouses too and was clearly a hoarder. They had arranged for a firm of professional house clearers to dispose of Digger's possessions - they were due to start on Monday. So they just had the weekend to find the Pink Possum. This was going to prove to be like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack.