The official Councilor Observer eyed the twins. "Which of you is the elder?"
"I am." Andre straightened.
"By twenty minutes! Under law, twin inherit equally."
"And you are both how old?"
"Forty nine. We are three months shy of our maturity." Andre was starting to look worried.
Axel stepped up. "I am their cousin, also Family Vinogradov. I have recent turned fifty and am willing to serve as executor if no other, older, close family members are available."
"You! You're a year younger than we are!"
"Three months older, actually." Axel kept his expression neutral.
The Council Observer eyed him. "When did you turn fifty?"
Axel glanced at the clock. "Fifteen minutes ago."
Nikoli hissed. "That's why you called all these Observers! You needed Father to live past midnight! You piece of . . ."
"Intelligent person, who can save you idiots the twenty percent a Council appointed Executor and Trust Manager will run you? As well as getting my own Trust out of the whole tangle this was going to be, even before you two opened your fool mouths."
They tossed a few unimaginative insults his way.
Axel sighed. "Shall I call the mortuary . . . no?"
The policeman was shaking his head. "After all the accusations flying around, the coroner will need to take a look."
The Council Observer looked up from his phone. "My staff has run a fast search and found no Family Vinogradov Mentalist or Old Mentalist's within five degrees relationship of Young Mentalist Lord Andre and Young Mentalist Lord Nikoli.
"Mentalist Lord Axel Ivan Vinogradov, you are appointed Executor of the Will and Manager of Lord Vladimir Eduard Vinogradov's Family Trust, as well as the Vinogradov Historical Trust."
Axel bowed as the older men turned to leave.
The policeman intervened. "If you can spare a moment . . . Why three observers?"
"I was on duty tonight." The Official one shrugged.
The other one grimaced. "When a Family Head Dies . . . Especially this one! The Records Office likes to put a foot in. Unfortunately, I was out to dinner with my wife, a few blocks away."
Axel's boss shrugged. "Lord Valdimir was a member of the Intelligence Committee. I'm with Imperial Intel, and we get an alert anytime anything comes up about anyone on that committee." He produced a card and handed it to the policeman. "Please call if you have any questions."
"Thank you sirs." The Senior Detective stepped out of their way, which placed him directly in Axel's way.
Axel eyed him. "So do we need to stay here, or would you like to view the scene of the possible crime?"
"Scene of the incident, please."
"Guys, why don't we all take your car?"
"Yes, it is. And in three months that will be legal. In the mean time, Sorry, Senior detective, I didn't ask if you had a car."
"I do. Forty-one will follow along."
Ah, yes. The Cyborg.
In Deep Waters
Vlad Gargarin eyed the three men carefully.
High on the Family tree, and at each other's throats. I always wondered how the other half lived . . . I guess I'm about to find out. And ten minutes in, I don't think I'm going to be pleasantly surprised.
So I've got twin heirs, acting like hot-heads and ganging up on a cousin who just pulled a fast one on them. All the while eyeing each other.
And the cousin is giving me the creeps. A cold snake who has just grabbed control of what I would guess is a multi-million ruble trust. With interesting timing.
And then there's all those high government types. Power Above, please take pity on a poor honest cop and make this just about family. No politics, no spying.
The twins, not identical, but with a close resemblance, had grabbed the forward facing seat, elbows and knees out. The cousin had given a contemptuous snort and sat facing backwards, and Vlad had sat beside him. Less beings.
"So . . . what do you gentlemen do . . . on a daily basis?"
Lord Nikoli raised his nose. "We assist Father in managing a very sizable estate."
A sneer from Andre. "The lying layabout womanizer shows up occasionally and runs a few errands."
Axel Vinogradov smiled thinly. "If I can't find any thing more amusing to do on any given day."
"And you think that's enough to earn your room and board?"
"My Father's Trust takes care of that. Over the next three months we will organize Uncle Vladimir's Trust and hopefully in three months you will both understand how I am going to split it between the two of you, and agree and we can peacefully split it on your almost mutual birthdays."
"Almost?" Vlad looked between them.
Cousin Axel answered. "Andre was born ten minutes before midnight, Nikoli ten minutes after. So, technically speaking, they were born on different days. Then Nikoli was presented and passed his challenge a week before Andre . . . which makes the legalities awkward as the law reads 'first born or first advanced' for choosing between twin heirs."
Now the brothers were glaring at each other.
"Fortunately the estate is large. Splitting it between them wouldn't be difficult, if not for the complications involving the house." Cousin Axel shrugged. "Tomorrow I'll have Mr. Solovosky digging up the contact list. Lawyers, stockbrokers, bankers and so forth. Tonight . . . I need to figure out who needs to be called, who should not learn about Lord Vladimir's death on the morning news.
The limo--the two brothers, rushing to the hospital, took a limo? With a uniformed Cyborg chauffeur?--turned onto a street of huge mansions.
I've never been in one of the homes of the truly rich, and in this case important, Old Mentalists.
A curving climb up one of the low rises on the edge of the valley floor. A drive past what looked like a park but was probably the grounds of a private . . . the limo turned, gates opened, a curving drive through trees, to a spotlit edifice . . . Instantly recognizable.
"Oh. I hadn't realized that particular house was still in private hands." He hoped he didn't sound too stunned.
Andre smirked. "We're all great grandsons of The Ivan Andre Vinogradov."
Nikloi snorted. "Not that Axel should count. His mother's an experiment."
Cousin Axel just looked amused. "Aren't families amazing?"
Not in my experience.
And the oldest Family on the World? Director of Research Doctor Lord Ivan Mikhail Vinogradov's descendants? The effing Founder. The man who saw a worthless World and said "This would be the perfect place to run experiments." And financed the . . . oh shit . . . brilliant German scientist, Axel von Richter. I wonder if he's a relative as well.
And here I am. Investigating them.