The Caravan

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    Hi All.

    For those of you who have read/are reading as much as I’ve written so far of The Landscape Gardener:

    This piece – The Caravan – is a small part of my first story, (most of which was lost due to a computer glitch and I am working hard to rewrite), that I managed to recover from a memory stick that I had forgotten about. It describes how Dave and Bron Morgan obtained the caravan in which Matt, Dianne and their children stayed when their car broke down on the first day of a two week holiday. Although only part of “the big picture”, as it were, it is also written as a stand-alone short story.

    The Caravan

    Leaving the young farmhand Robbie in charge of the animals and gardens of the farm, Dai and Bron took their two boys and drove down to the city to visit Alan and Lynne, the married couple who had sold Dave his camping gear some years before. Dai drove the truck, which was going to a Custom Shop to have some work done on it, and Bron drove the Crown so that they would have transport while the truck was off the road.

    Lynne’s father, Barry, had died of a sudden heart attack about a month before, and Lynne was still very upset about it. Adding to her distress at the time was the fact that Miriam, the woman that Barry had married only six years before, had tried desperately to contest Barry’s will, although the family solicitor had been confident all along that she didn’t have much chance of changing anything in it.

    Miriam was actually fairly well off in her own right, and owned a house that she and her previous husband had purchased and paid off shortly before he had died of cancer. Unfortunately, what Barry had initially taken for sharp business acumen turned out to be simply a greedy and miserly attitude. Following the advice of her movie-star-mentality friends, who said it was the best way to protect her assets, Miriam had insisted on a pre-nuptial agreement before their marriage, and Barry, who had slowly woken up to the fact that his new wife was not exactly the loving and caring person that she had appeared to be when they first met, had been very careful in rewriting the terms of his last will.

    Basically, all that he owned before his marriage to Miriam had been left to his only daughter and her husband, and all that had been obtained jointly since the marriage was left to his new wife. Miriam did benefit from a one third share of a life insurance policy that Barry had taken out, and although it was hardly what could be called a substantial amount, it would help eke out her pension when she became entitled to one.

    Alan and Lynne each also received a one third share of the policy. After probate had been granted, and in accordance with the terms of the will, Alan was able to take possession of Barry’s SUV. This was something of a godsend, as the car that they owned before would not have passed its next rego inspection without a substantial amount of money being spent on repairs. Not that they couldn’t have afforded a brand new car, as they were reasonably well off, and both of them were, without being tight fisted, very careful of their savings and investments.

    Lynne was very happy that she got all her mother’s possessions and family heirlooms, however there had been one particularly contentious point: A large caravan that Barry had bought after his marriage to Miriam had been claimed by her, despite the fact that she had actually disapproved of the purchase at the time, and had contributed nothing towards its acquisition. Lynne thus felt that it was solely her father’s property, and as a matter of principle she should be entitled to it. Miriam’s guiding principle of greed was very simple: “The caravan was purchased after Barry and I were married so it’s mine, and you’re not getting it.”

    “So, what’s Miriam going to do with the van?” asked Dave when they were all sat around the coffee table that evening, after all the kids had been put to bed.

    “She’s selling it. She put a “For Sale” sign on it last week,” replied Alan.

    “Any idea what she’s asking for it? Might go and have a look at it tomorrow if she’s not asking too much.”

    “Well, she said dad paid $5,000 for it, and as it hasn’t been used much and is in good condition, she’s hoping to get at least $4,500,” put in Lynne. “You know, dad told her it was second hand and that he paid $5,000 for it, but to me it looks to be worth a quite bit more than that.”

    Dave looked thoughtful for a moment before saying “Your dad was no fool Lynne, and if he’d become a bit wary of Miriam, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d claimed to have spent less than he actually had.”

    Watching Dave’s face, Bron knew that some sort of plan was already forming in his mind, so wasn’t surprised when he went on to say “Bron, I think that after we’ve dropped the truck off at the workshop tomorrow morning, we’ll drive over to Miriam’s and offer our condolences. We’re not going there to have a look at the caravan, of course, because we know nothing about that now, do we?” he added with a wink and a mischievous grin.

    Both Alan and Lynne looked at him with some surprise, and then a slow smile spread across their faces: Dave was up to something, and knowing Dave, it was probably something that would not be in Miriam’s best interests. The conversation moved to other topics and during that time they managed to do justice to a half bottle of good Port. Well, at least Dave and Alan did. The girls simply finished off the wine that had been served with dessert. It was almost midnight before they went to bed, with Dave, Bron and the kids being accommodated in the Bungalow at the rear of the house.

    “Do we have a spare basket that we can put some of our farm goodies in?” Dave asked. “I may have to soft-soap Miriam a bit when we visit.”

    “We have a couple actually. And plenty of goodies; Eggs, Cheese and veggies in the large esky, with jams and preserves in one of the totes,” Bron replied rather sleepily, and she drifted off into the Land of Nod.

    In the morning, having left their two boys in the care of Lynne and her two children, Dave dropped the truck off at the workshop and then he and Bron proceeded in the Crown to Miriam’s. Upon arriving there they saw that the caravan, a 22 foot Glendale, was parked in the driveway with a “For Sale” sign hanging on its front. A Bedford truck, with a caravan dealer’s sign on its doors, was parked directly outside her house, and as they approached the gate they were met by a man wearing overalls who was coming out.

    “If you’ve come about the caravan, it’s already sold,” he said.

    “Caravan? What caravan?” Dave asked, feigning ignorance of the sale offer. “I was a friend of Barry many years back and we just came to offer our condolences to Miriam. I didn’t even know he’d died until we came to town yesterday.”

    Dave took the basket from Bron and they proceeded to the front door where he pushed on the doorbell button, noticing at the same time the man quickly turning the “For Sale” sign on the caravan around so that it couldn’t be seen by people passing by. Miriam answered the door quickly.

    “Yes, what can I do for you?” she asked.

    “Hullo Miriam. You probably don’t remember me. David Morgan. We met briefly several years ago when you and Barry were married. I only just heard that he’d passed away and came round to offer my condolences. Sorry I didn’t ‘phone before coming, but I left the number back at the farm. This is my wife, Bronwyn. We brought you a basket of produce made in our area.”

    Not one to pass up anything for free, Miriam invited them in, saying as she did so that she was about to go shopping and didn’t want to miss the bus, so as not to appear to be impolite for not asking them if they’d like a cup of tea or coffee. Miriam took the proffered basket and was looking over its contents when Dave casually mentioned that the chap leaving as they arrived had asked if they were here to look at the caravan parked outside, and he’d told them that it was already sold.

    “Sold?” said Miriam. “No, not yet. He did make me an offer for it, but I haven’t accepted it yet.”

    “Oh”, said Dave. “We’ve been thinking of getting a caravan ourselves for a while now though I didn’t know until I saw the sign on yours that it was up for sale. I was going to ask you if we could have a look at it and was a bit disappointed when he told us it was already sold and went over and turned the For Sale sign around.”

    Miriam gave a small gasp. “He did what? The nerve of the man! I told him I would think about his offer and let him know tomorrow morning. I was hoping I might be able to get a higher bid than what he was offering.”

    “I gathered from the sign on his truck that he’s a dealer,” said Dave, “So I imagine that he would have made a pretty low offer.”

    “Yes, I felt it was a bit low. Barry paid $5,000 for it not all that long ago, and it hasn’t seen much use at all. He also did a lot of work on it, so I was expecting to get a bit more than what the dealer offered for it. He said that as it was out of registration it would need to be towed to an RTA inspection station to be re-registered, and because Barry had done some welding on it, it would also need an engineer’s report. He said that normally he would have offered $2,500 for it, but because he had originally sold the van to Barry, and knew it was in good condition, he would go to $3000, though that would cut out most of any profit, and he would be lucky to make $500 on the deal, if he could find a buyer.”

    Dave smiled at her and said “But you didn’t believe all that did you? Barry once told me that you had a good head for business, and that it would be hard for someone to put one over on you.”

    Suppressing a smile as Miriam accepted the blatant flattery at face value, Bronwyn chipped in and confided to her that Dave had an intense dislike of dealers and didn’t trust them much, if at all.

    “I know that you’re about to go shopping,” she added, “but would it be possible for us to have a quick look at the van? I have to do some shopping too, so we could drive you to the shopping centre in the Crown Saloon, and back again when you’ve finished. Be quicker and much more comfortable than taking the bus.”

    Miriam was delighted by the offer and readily agreed to let them inspect the caravan while she got ready to go shopping. Dave took his time checking the van out, going underneath to look at the chassis, wheels, brakes and cables, and opening up all the cabinets and lockers inside. In one of the overhead lockers he found a couple of caravanning magazines, plus an envelope containing a number of receipts and a current registration label that had been paid for but had not yet been affixed, and he quickly put them back without saying anything.

    Under the double bed at the rear he found a large folded up green canvas annex, the poles and guy ropes for which were in a large diameter PVC pipe with screw-on caps secured to the A frame at the front of the van. Barry had welded on a holder for a second 20lb. propane cylinder, and had replaced the four original light stabilizing stands with solid swing down and fully adjustable supports.

    “Is it anything like what you were looking for?” asked Miriam when Dave had finished his inspection.

    “Very much so, Miriam,” replied Dave. “In fact, I’d like to make you an offer for it right now. I don’t think that it will require an engineers report for the welding done on it, though I will need to get a registration sticker on it quickly so we can tow it back to the farm. I’m prepared to pay you $4500 for it, as is. If you can accept that, I’ll get the cash out of the bank when we drive you to the shops, and you can deposit it straight into your own bank. We’ll need to get any receipts that you have for it, plus you’ll have to sign the transfer of ownership form on the back of the old registration paper of course.”

    “That won’t be a problem, David,” said a now suddenly very friendly Miriam. “I have all those papers inside somewhere, so I’ll go in and find them now,” she added as she went into the house. While she was gone Dave slipped into the van and retrieved the envelope that he had found in the overhead locker.

    Bron, because she trusted Dave’s judgment in these matters, refrained from asking him any questions at this point, though she was bursting with curiosity as to why he had made such a high offer. Miriam reappeared about fifteen minutes later clutching her purse, a large shopping bag, and the papers for the van. She was also wearing an expensive outfit with a hat of a style that she thought would be fitting for someone being driven places in a Crown Saloon.

    By two o’clock in the afternoon Miriam and Bronwyn had finished their shopping, Dave had withdrawn the cash and paid Miriam for the van, obtained the receipts and had the transfer paper signed, and was driving a very happy Miriam home.

    “Would it be alright if I come by tomorrow morning to pick up the van, Miriam?” he asked. “I’d rather not use the Crown, and I can get a truck to tow it with. It would probably be sometime around 9am.”

    “That would be fine by me, David. Hmm. I think that that dealer said he would be coming around that time too. I hope he doesn’t kick up a big stink about the van.”

    “Don’t worry about him, Miriam. If he gets his nose out of joint it serves him right for being such a cheapskate,” said Bron, and they all laughed.

    “Don’t ask”, said Dave as he and Bron drove to the Motor Registry Office to have the registration changed over to his name. “I’ll explain everything tonight, when we’ll have the van securely in our possession.”

    She grinned, knowing that later on Dave would undoubtedly take great delight in revealing just how smart he had been in doing the deal.

    That evening, sitting around the dinner table with Lynne and Allan, Dave pulled out the receipt that Miriam had given him for payment of the van, the receipts she had for the van’s original purchase from the dealer, plus the envelope that he had retrieved from the locker in the van itself.

    “Let’s see now,” he said. “We’ve got here receipts from Miriam that show Barry had made payments to the caravan sales yard for a total of…. hmm…. $995 deposit and one, two, three, four progressive payments of $1000 each. O.K., so that’s near enough to $5000, as she said.”

    “Now,” he said, opening the envelope that he’d taken from the van. “Here we have several extra receipts, which I suspect Barry never intended Miriam to see. There are five extra receipts of $1,000 each for further payments on the van itself, plus there’s an extra receipt for $1,995, for the purchase of a new annex. There’s another for $140 for the four heavy duty stands he had welded on, plus another $45 for the extra 20lb. propane cylinder and fittings.

    I suspect that the van wasn’t second hand Barry as had made it out to be. And look here: There’s also a current inspection certificate and registration label, both already paid for. It all adds up to a grand total of…. Just a tad over $12,300. Lynne, your dad certainly was a crafty old man. I think that Miriam still got more than she deserved, but I don’t want to be unfair about this: Do you want to buy the van from me, for the same price I paid for it?”

    “No, Dai. I’d already written it off in my mind, and the swifty that you pulled on Miriam makes me feel a lot better. Besides, if the van was ours we probably would have sold it anyway because it’d be unlikely we’d use it much, and we really don’t have room to keep it here permanently. What do you think, Allan?”

    “I agree, love. Dai, I think you made a very good deal, though Miriam would be spitting chips if she found out what the van was really worth. So will you tow it back home with the Crown?”

    “I’d rather not. I have to collect the van tomorrow morning, but if we can leave it here until Sunday, when the work on it is finished I’ll use my truck for the long haul home.”

    “No problem with that,” said Alan. “Do I take it that you need to use our SUV to bring it here?”

    Lynne laughed. “Oh Alan, that’s evil: You know that Miriam will probably recognise the car.”

    “She will for sure, if I’m driving it,” Alan deadpanned.

    “Dammit, Alan! You almost made me lose my coffee!” snorted Bronwyn as they all erupted in laughter.

    “Where are you thinking of putting it when we get home?” asked Bron.

    “Precisely where you’d expect to find a caravan of course: Down at The Oasis,” replied Dave.

    “Oh yes, Dai, that’s a brilliant idea!”

    “The Oasis?” queried Lynne.

    Bron explained: “Dai put in a swimming pool and built a large cabana beside it. It’s reasonably close to the house but it’s screened by palms and tropical type plants like palms, hibiscus, frangipani and bougainvillea. He and some friends built the cabana using heavy bamboo poles, and roofed it with what looks like real palm thatching. It has a toilet, shower and change room, a covered cooking area with an earth oven and barbeque, and a complete bar with a decent sized drinks fridge. It’s even got a small dance floor. Dai bought a flashing neon sign from The Oasis wine bar in town after it had closed down and it now hangs over the bar. Actually it all looks very tropical, and it’s a perfect place to unwind and relax.”

    “If I put the van down there, under a cover constructed in the same way as the cabana, we could go on holidays without leaving home,” Dave quipped. “And you’d both be welcome to stay there whenever you liked,” he added. “Provided we’re not holidaying there at the time, of course,” he laughed.

    “Or the kids aren’t using it as a cubby house,” added Bron, leading the two women to a side discussion about the joys, trials and tribulations of raising children.

    “Seriously though, Al, you know you’d both always be welcome any at time,” said Dave.

    “I think we may take you up on that fairly soon, Dai. The way things are going at the office, I could use a break from the pressure that’s beginning to build up.”

    Dave looked a little surprised. “Oh? I thought that things in the financial world were running pretty smoothly. At least, according to media and government reports they are.”

    Alan snorted. “The MSM reports what the government wants it to report, and the public isn’t exactly well informed about what’s going on, politically or financially, behind the scenes. Too many people think that only national issues are important, and just don’t seem to understand that what is happening in other countries can also affect us here.”

    “So, should I be worried about anything in particular?” Dave asked.

    “Well, I don’t think we need to hit the panic button just yet; however I am going to put you on my list of people that need to be informed quickly if there are any financial crises appearing on the horizon.”

    “Thanks mate, I really appreciate that,” Dave said. Thinking about the MAG he was associated with back home, he added “In fact, I think it might be a good idea for the two of us to have an in-depth chat about such things later on.”

    Alan looked at him and, noting the serious look on his face, nodded his head briefly in agreement.

    * * * * *


    I would love to see more of your story!


    At nine a.m. the following morning Dave knocked on the door of Miriam’s house and asked if it was O.K. to hook up the van.
    “Certainly, David. You go ahead, and I’ll be out after I’ve finished breakfast. Would you like a cup of tea first?”
    “No thanks, Miriam. I’ve just had a big breakfast. I have a busy day ahead, so I’ll get moving and call you when I’ve hooked up.”
    He walked down the driveway and swung open the double gates, allowing Alan to reverse the SUV up to the van’s towing hitch. With the tow-ball positioned correctly Dave wound down on the jockey wheel’s handle until the hitch was engaged on the tow-ball, and then swung the jockey wheel up where it locked in the transit position. Together he and Alan attached the safety chain and connected the electrical wiring harness, then tested the brake lights and turn indicators. When all was ready to move, he called Miriam, and when she came to the door suggested that she stand well to the rear of the van so that she could see that it wouldn’t strike either of the gate posts as he was pulling it out of the driveway. With the van pulled out onto the street and parked alongside the kerb, and the driveway gates closed, Miriam approached the car.
    “This looks exactly like the car that Barry had,” she said after Dave had thanked her.
    “Yes, it’s one and the same,” said Dave, sitting well back in the seat, enabling her to see into the cab.
    From the driver’s side, Alan leaned forward and looked back out at her with a grin.
    “Hullo Miriam,” he said politely, then “Bye Miriam”, as he put the car in gear and eased the SUV forward.
    As they pulled out of sight around the first corner she was still standing in virtual shock when the caravan dealer pulled up in front of her.
    “What happened to the caravan?” the dealer shouted, seeing the vacant space.
    “I sold it,” snapped Miriam.
    “But I thought we had a deal!” he howled.
    “You only made an offer, and a pretty low one at that. I got a better offer and accepted it.”
    “I would’ve offered more if I’d known.” he cried. “How much did you get for it?”
    “$4,500. Almost what Barry paid for it,” she replied smugly.
    “You wish,” he responded loudly. “I sold that van to him. Almost brand new it was, and he paid nearly twelve thousand for it. I’m not surprised he didn’t want you to know how much he was paying for it though. You lost, lady, big time. So you can wipe that smug look off your face” he shouted as he jumped back into his truck and drove away.
    Miriam stormed back into the house, slamming the front door forcefully, and went into the kitchen where in a fit of rage she swept the breakfast dishes from the countertop to shatter on the floor. She suddenly felt sure that that bitch Lynne had probably known the true value of the caravan and organised a straw purchase, using David as the straw-man. She decided to call her solicitor for advice, and see if there was some way to get the sale reversed.

    * * *
    On Wednesday morning the workshop rang to say that the work on Dave’s truck would be completed more quickly than had been estimated, and he would be able to pick it up around lunch time next day. Dave had no problem with that, so Thursday afternoon found the truck parked in Alan and Lynne’s driveway with the caravan hooked up to it. There was no question of Dave and the family returning home earlier than planned as Bron and Lynne had already organised to take the kids to the zoo by ferry on the Saturday. The two men would be thus be free to go to the footy, play golf, go sailing, or do whatever happily married men do when they are left to their own devices. After a little discussion between themselves deciding what to do they took it in turns to announce:
    “We’re going fishing.”
    “At Jervis Bay.”
    “For a couple of days.”
    “Leaving early tomorrow morning.”
    “And we’re taking the van.”
    “For a test run,” finished Alan.
    It was unrehearsed, but came out well.
    “What did I tell you Lynne?” Bron laughed. “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
    With the truck fuelled and the caravan fitted out with fresh bed linen, its water tank and two gas cylinders full, and loaded with food and drinks for the trip, the two men headed south.
    “I noticed that it didn’t take you long to get your stuff together for the trip,” Dave commented.
    Alan grinned. “You’re not the only one who has a bug-out bag, you know.”
    “Gosh,” laughed Dave. “The economic situation must be in worse shape than I realized.”
    “Unfortunately it’s in worse condition than most people realise. In fact, the economy has tanked and over the next year we’re going to find ourselves in a very deep recession, and a lot of people are going to be in a world of hurt. Financially, that is. Of course everyone will blame the government, treasury, the RBA and the banks, and deny that the root cause has anything to do with their own free spending, borrowing or personal lack of financial acumen. Not saying that Mr and Mrs Average are directly responsible for the mess we’re all in but by and large too many people are living well beyond their means. The country will recover eventually but when the dust has settled I don’t think it’d be too long before we find ourselves in the same situation. One thing’s for sure though: You’re going to see your hard earned dollars buying less and less each year.”
    From there on they took the time to have the in-depth conversation that Dave had previously suggested, and found that they were more in tune with each other than they had realized.
    “It appears that we’ve both been on the same page for quite some time now,” said Alan, after they had been talking for nearly two hours. “And to my mind that’s a good thing.”
    “Feel like you may be preaching to the choir, mate? By the way, can I assume that Lynne also has a BOB?”
    “She certainly does, and so do both the kids. We also have a very well stocked pantry, plus enough emergency supplies to enable us to hunker down for a couple of months if necessary.”
    “What? Oh no!! You’re a closet prepper!” cried Dave in mock horror.
    “With a capital P”, laughed Alan.
    Their two days down south didn’t result in them catching a great many fish – though enough for a good meal for themselves on the night they were away, and for the two families when they returned – but it did result in them forming a strong strategic alliance, plus a plan that would enable Alan and his family to bug out to Dave’s farm if it ever proved necessary.
    “Well, I’ve got me a BOB, a BOV and now a BOL,” laughed Alan.

    * * *


    “So, how was the trip?” asked Bron, after the guys had parked and unloaded the van when they returned.
    “Went really well, Hon. Had no problems with the van, caught a few fish, and only had a couple of beers…. ‘Though we did manage to polish off a large bottle of Bundy.”
    “Really? I thought you weren’t particularly keen on rum,” said Lynne.
    “I’m not. Terrible stuff. I was glad when I’d had enough.”
    Lynne laughed, but Bron rolled her eyes and said “I also thought that was funny the first time I heard it… about twenty times ago.”
    Dave just grinned and walked out to the back patio where Alan was setting up the barbeque.
    “I thought it’d be nice to eat out here. Do you want to cook the fish, or make the salad?”
    “I’m already world famous for my grilled fish, so I’ll make the salad. Do you think a glass or two of wine would go down well?”
    “Yeah, that sounds good, Dai. There’s a selection of whites in the fridge in the garage, so pick what you like.”
    Dave first got the wine, a nice Traminer Riesling, poured each of them a glass, and then set about making a couple of his – according to him – legendary salads. It was a very relaxed meal and the ladies were suitably impressed, though probably not so much with the men’s culinary efforts as the fact that they’d then cleaned up everything afterwards. It was probably also more relaxed due to Dave’s last foray to the fridge in the garage, when he’d returned with two bottles of Yellowglen Brut de Brut, which was enough to see the evening out. Because the van was being towed back to the farm next day, and also because Dave and Alan were quite tired after their trip, all were in bed around ten p.m. for a good night’s sleep.
    Not leaving the city until mid morning, and taking the journey back at an easy pace, they arrived at the farm a little after two in the afternoon, and then unpacked both the truck. After quickly checking on the farm animals and vegetable garden, which Dave knew wasn’t really necessary as he had complete faith that Ronnie had taken care of both, he wandered down to “The Oasis” to check out the best position to site the caravan. Having decided the precise spot he marked it out with string lines then returned to the house where Bron had prepared a quick meal of Fettuccine Marinara with a side salad and a large stick of garlic bread. Later, he and Bron sat on the back veranda finishing off the bottle of Chianti he had opened, and looked out over the farm as the sun sank slowly behind the hills to the west.
    “Lovely, isn’t it?” said Bron.
    “Yeah,” Dave replied. “It makes me think of “The Darling Buds of May”. As Pop Larkin would say, it’s “Perfik”.”
    It was nearly two weeks later that Dave received a mid morning ‘phone call from Lynne.
    “Hullo Lynne. Calling to book a holiday at “The Oasis” already?”
    “No, not a holiday, Dai, but I am calling about the van: Just wanted to warn you that Miriam has her knickers in a twist and has contacted her solicitor to try and get the sale reversed. The caravan dealer told her how much Barry had paid for the van and she now claims that we knew what it was really worth, and had swindled her. Our solicitor said that if she takes it to court you would probably be called to give evidence.”
    “Let her bring it on, Lynne. I think she’s got Buckley’s of proving that we did anything illegal, but just to be on the safe side I’ll have a talk with my own legal eagles. Just make sure that you don’t let on that you and Allan saw those extra receipts though.”
    “What extra receipts, Dai?”
    “Exactly,” he laughed. After asking her to give his regards to Alan he passed the ‘phone over to Bron, telling her that he was going to the village to talk to Tony and Trev.
    Tony and Trevor were pleased to see him when he arrived, and were highly amused by the story that he spun about the purchase of the van. After listening to all that Dave had to say they first advised him not to mention to anybody that he had found the extra receipts before he had made any offer on the van: As far as anybody was concerned he either never found them, or had done so long after he’d taken possession of it.
    Next, they asked him if he could contact Lynne and ask if would be possible for her to obtain a copy of Miriam and Barry’s pre-nuptial agreement, and a copy of Barry’s bank statements that covered the period during which he had made the progressive payments on the van, and forward them to him. They could then have a look at the papers and see if there was any merit in Miriam’s claims, and what could be done to refute them if necessary. Dave called an angry sounding Lynne as soon as he got home and she said she would get her solicitor to get the papers, though as likely as not he would already have copies of them.
    That turned out to be the case: Miriam had been only too happy to give Lynne’s solicitor a copy of the pre-nuptial agreement as it showed that property purchased after the marriage became hers, and copies of the bank statements that proved Barry had indeed paid much more than $5000 for the van. Copies of these were duly forwarded to Dave under the solicitor’s letterhead.
    “Can you see the loophole, Tony?” Trevor asked his brother with a smile after carefully reading through the agreement. Tony took the proffered document and also read it carefully.
    “Hmm…Yes, though I wouldn’t call it a loophole. It’s pretty plain to see, and I think her solicitor should have spotted it straight away too. Excuse me a moment; just going to make a ‘phone call.”
    Trevor placed a call to Lynne’s solicitor in the city, obtaining his number from the letterhead, and gave him a heads-up on what they had found. During the course of their conversation Trev learned that the solicitor was comparatively new to the game, having only recently graduated from law school before joining the firm. He had been handed the job as the senior partner who would normally handle Lynne’s affairs had been overseas for almost two months, and was expected to be gone another two. Thanking him for his time, Trev told him that he hoped that in light of the information he now had, he could get a speedy resolution to Miriam’s claim.
    Lynne had her solicitor reject Miriam’s claim along with a warning that it would fail if she decided to proceed. Despite her own solicitor warning her that she would be skating on very thin ice, Miriam was convinced that she had a valid claim, with sufficient evidence to back it, and decided to take the matter to court. When the matter was finally heard, Dave had been called to attend and give evidence, however it turned out not to be necessary as Miriam’s case collapsed almost as soon as it began.
    After Miriam’s solicitor had presented her case and supplied documents to the court, Lynne’s solicitor pointed out to the court that the pre-nuptial agreement between Barry and Miriam stated that all of the possessions that were obtained jointly after the marriage would become the property of the other if one partner should die. However Barry’s bank statements, reinforced by the testament given by the caravan salesman, showed that he and he alone had made the payments for the van from his own personal account, thus it was not in any way a joint purchase.
    The bank statements also showed that Barry had also made all the payments for household rates, electricity, gas and telephone charges, etc., whilst his credit card statement showed that he’d also paid for most of the groceries and the running costs of both their cars. Miriam’s own bank statements, subpoenaed by Lynne’s solicitor, showed no payments at all towards the van, although they did show many payments for shoes, clothing, hair dressers, beauticians, cosmetics and items of a personal nature, plus gym classes and tennis lessons.
    After several long minutes of deliberation during which his honour carefully examined all of the documents, he surprisingly ordered that the sale be reversed, with the money being refunded to Dave. However Miriam’s delight upon hearing this was short lived as the judge continued, telling her that the reason the sale was to be reversed was not because the van was indeed worth more than what Dave had paid for it, but because having been purchased solely by Barry it was not subject to the pre-nuptial agreement.
    That being the case, the van was not hers to sell, thus it was to be surrendered to Lynne as its rightful owner. To her shock and dismay the judge, having taken into account that the healthy balance of Miriam’s bank balance was due mostly to the fact that Barry appeared to have been the one who had paid for all of the household and vehicle running expenses, also awarded court costs against her.
    “So you now own a caravan,” Dave laughed. “When do you want it towed back here?”
    Both Lynne and Allan wouldn’t have a bar of that and simply told Dave to just give them the money that Miriam had to repay him, and the van would stay on the farm, positioned among the palms and plants of “The Oasis”.
    “After all,” Alan said to Lynne, “When Dave and I did that trip down to Jervis Bay we planned for the van to be our family’s bug-out location if we have to get out of Dodge.”
    “Don’t you dare wait ‘til then before visiting us!” said Bron, adding “You know, I can’t believe that Miriam’s lawyer didn’t point out that wording in the pre-nup agreement.”
    “Maybe he did,” said Alan. “But she’s so pig headed that it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. And now she’s going to be stuck with his fee too. She should have kept her mouth shut.”
    “Well, I hope that’s the last we’ll see of her, said Lynne.
    But they did see her again, and it wasn’t a pleasant meeting. At least from Miriam’s point of view. What nobody was aware of at that time, apart from the solicitor who had done the paperwork, was that shortly after his first wife died, and well before he had met Miriam, Barry had transferred full title of his house to his daughter Lynne. He had done this to ensure that when he died Lynne would have the security of owning property without having to pay death duties. Later, when he learned by chance that Miriam’s will would leave everything to her own daughter from her previous marriage, and exclude Lynne completely, he was very glad that he had done so.
    Barry had said nothing about it to either of them however, and both Lynne and Miriam only learned of this from the senior partner of the law firm when he returned from overseas one week later. A totally stunned Miriam was given the choice of purchasing, renting or vacating the house. As she could not afford to purchase it, and “wouldn’t rent it from that bitch in a pink fit,” she opted to vacate and move back into her own old house, much to the chagrin of her daughter who was living there with her husband and two children.
    As Alan and Lynne now had two properties that would help them secure the future of their children, the couple decided to celebrate, firstly by having a family dinner at one of the city’s top restaurants, and secondly by arranging a trip to the farm where they would stay in the caravan at “The Oasis”. At Dave’s suggestion Alan organized the trip as a Bug-Out Exercise, and Lynne was not only quite happy to go along with the idea, but also went so far as to involve their two children by treating it as a fun event, but with a serious side.
    To this end Alan had outlined a realistic scenario that would require them to quickly evacuate from their home in the city after a world-wide financial collapse caused a subsequent total collapse of the society of which they were part. Being both a stock broker and a financial advisor with his finger on the pulse of the financial world he was able to give Lynne some very convincing reasons as to why this was not only feasible, but actually a real possibility in the not too distant future.
    However, work being what it was, and Alan being the conscientious person that he was, it wasn’t until early October that the family could make their planned trip. In the intervening time various routes to the farm were mapped out in anticipation of there being possible accidents or incidents that might prevent a clear run. He had also taken the time some six weeks beforehand to establish an emergency cache of fuel, food and water at a point about halfway but much further inland than they would normally have travelled. The cache was currently located in a secure shed on the property of a trusted friend who also happened to be one of his best clients, and it included a number of items that would enable them to make a reasonable go of survival if they were unable to reach the farm.
    After some discussion it was decided that at some point they should actually divert to the cache anyway and, even though it had been treated with Stabil and would be good for quite some time yet, swap out the fuel that was stored there. They also felt that it would probably be a good idea to add a few more items to the cache and to that end their large streamlined cargo pod would be carried on the SUV’s roof racks. Alan had purchased the pod because he felt that a trailer, even if it was a small one, might be very difficult to manouvre if they had to negotiate their way out of a city in chaos.
    The day that they chose to leave was the Friday of the Labour Day long weekend, when most of the roads out of the city would be heavily packed with holiday traffic, and this might give them some idea of what could be expected in the initial phase of a mass exodus. Not that Alan would have waited that long to bug out if he believed the situation warranted it, but heavy traffic might add a little realism to the adventure, and possibly reveal any shortcomings in their planning.

    * * *
    To be continued….


    Thanks for the addition to the story, Shin. Can’t wait to read more!

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