For Mason, money was a tool, not a goal. And when he had to get from a remote mountain town to an international airport, he was glad he had plenty of it. Within a few hours of the aborted ash-sprinkling, the three of them were in the first-class lounge at Christchurch Airport, booked on a flight to New York. From there, they’d take a private plane up to Avalon, north toward Albany, along the Hudson. He’d instructed his assistant to find an amphibious plane so they could land on Willow Lake and tie up at the dock in front of their mother’s place.
The entire journey would take about twenty-four hours. Thanks to the time zone change, they would arrive the same day they left. The journey cost in the neighborhood of thirty grand, which he paid without batting an eye. It was only money. Mason had a knack for making money the way some guys made wooden birdhouses in their garages over the weekend.
Adam was on the phone with someone in Avalon. “We’re on our way,” he said. Then he checked the clock in the lounge. “We’ll get there when we get there. Yeah, okay, just sit tight.”
“Did you get more details out of them?” Mason asked.
“She fell down the stairs and broke her collarbone,” Adam said, and zipped the mobile phone into his pocket. “It’s a miracle she didn’t crack open her head or get crushed by her motorized chair.”
“I can’t believe she fell,” Ivy said, her voice trembling.
“And what the hell was she doing at the top of a flight of stairs?” Mason asked. “The entire downstairs of the house has been adapted for her.”
“If you bothered to go see her more than once in a blue moon, you’d know they finished installing the elevator,” Adam stated. He was in charge of her day-to-day care, living on the premises of the lakeside estate. Mason had taken the role of looking after provisions, finance and logistics for their mother, a role more suited to his comfort zone.
Mason batted aside his brother’s criticism. “Screw that. I don’t get how the hell she managed to fall down the stairs. She’s a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. She’s incapable of moving.”
“She can move her mouth and drive the chair with her breath,” Ivy pointed out. “She’s been working with her physical therapist on extending her arms at the elbow, so that can help with her mobility, too.”
“I don’t get why she was upstairs, either,” Mason said. His heart was pounding so hard that his chest hurt. He and his mother had their differences, but when it came down to moments like this, he felt nothing but love and sorrow. And now a surge of panic.
“You’re sure she’s all right?” Ivy asked, bringing a tray of cappuccinos and croissants to the seating area where they were waiting.
“Other than her usual state of rage and bitterness, yeah,” said Adam. “She’s okay.”
“Jesus.” Mason raked his splayed hand through his hair.
“No, the caregiver on duty was named José.” Adam consulted the email displayed on his phone.
“Fire the son of a bitch,” Mason ordered.
“I didn’t have to,” Adam said. “He quit. They all quit. None of her home health aides have lasted more than a few weeks.”
“He couldn’t have stopped it,” Ivy pointed out. “According to Mrs. Armentrout, Mom took the elevator upstairs without telling anyone.”
“Armentrout? The housekeeper?” asked Mason. “Then she should be fired, too.”
“You’re the one who hired her,” Adam pointed out.
“My assistant hired her. With my approval.”
“She needs assistance, not to be under surveillance,” Ivy said.
“Maybe she does, if she’s sneaking upstairs.” Mason spent more time than anyone imagined thinking about their mother. On that day a year ago, their father had suffered the ultimate tragedy. Everyone—himself included—said their mother was lucky to be alive.
She didn’t consider herself lucky, though. From the moment she had been told the spinal injury meant she would never walk again—much less ski, salsa dance, cliff dive, run a triathlon or even drive a car—she had raged against her fate. Anyone who dared to mention to her face that she was lucky to be alive risked a tongue lashing.
After multiple surgeries, drug therapies and intensive rehab, Alice had agreed to move to Avalon to settle into her new life as a widow and a quadriplegic, determined to find what independence she could. Avalon was the town where Adam lived, on the shores of the prettiest lake in Ulster County, just a couple of hours by train from New York City.
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