Chapter Eleven: Each Man's Prison

The itinerary for Tori was simple; to travel, every and anywhere for as long as she could tolerate it. To rove about the planet without any specific purpose a person can feel a strangling sense of loss. What am I doing here? Does this matter? Why can't I be happy? Within four years nearly every continent was represented by a stamp in Tori's passport book.

Of it, there was only knowledge of the world but no emotional resonance for Tori. She knew what she enjoyed; the food, the art, the history of the world, and what she despised; the loneliness, the false pretenses, and the inability to experience anything like a true native. Tori found that she is either too prim to enjoy the ruggedness of a place or that it is not rustic enough to her liking. It all had the same conclusion for her no matter the experience, and that was that she had no ability to take pleasure in what she had because it meant nothing to her. Her heart once aching, now felt withered away. It even occurred to her that she hadn't laughed sincerely in years, as if all interactions were void of personal interest. Her depression was suffocating with the realization of it.

Tori decided after her obvious burnout for the nomadic life she had been living to return to the states. She rented a suitable residence in Los Angles for a time, although it did not soothe her. She wished she had had a family, or that she had kept up with her friends. This inspired her to look up all of the people she once smiled at the thought of and those who at least held her interest, like Kal. The first report Tori received was on Molly. She was in prison for child neglect. According to the case file, Molly's addiction got the better of her resulting in her neither feeding nor taking her children to school for an extended period of time. When the child welfare services came to investigate after a concerned citizen made note of the situation, they found her children squalor, one of which needed immediate medical care for a cut to their hand from attempting to make dinner for their siblings, that child was only four years old. Their wound was festering by the time help intervened. Tori was appalled, she was torn between feeling like she could have used her wealth to prevent this and also of being infuriated that a once functional person had stooped so low. Molly's mug shot was of anything a person could have expected. A woman with open sores on her face from her drug of choice, dirty and damaged in expression. The findings on Jesse were no better. He was incarnated on a domestic assault charge, one of many in his history. Kal the most tumultuous of Tori's relationship's had committed suicide after a filed attempt at blackmail of a midranking military official involving prostitutes. Tori wondered if it was well-plotted murder, as she assumed that Kal was too self-assured to consider consequences for something so dangerous.

Tori was so put off by what she could not undo among her former associates that she decided that the United States was too painful of a place for her to remain. There was one thing that she did do that had some amount of solace for her. She visited her mother's grave. Her mind never stopped turning over how much she wished that her mother could have been spared from her untimely death. The one person she needed the most throughout her life was the person taken so soon. Standing there at the site was horrific, her mind, her body, her soul could not take another moment of her pain, she had to leave this place that was nothing but the deepest of heartache for her. She turned away and signaled to her security guard to get her out of there. He ran to pull the car around without a word. It was too much, everything had been too much for too long. They went straight to the airport. Tori had to go where her memories could not harm her, a place where she had no emotional attachment. She fled to her father's estate in Sweden to settle in until she found something that brought her happiness elsewhere. As for her past, she had everything from her old trailer shipped to her new residence but left her mother where she was. Tori could not bring herself to disturb the woman's bones. The woman had endured enough while she was alive. Tori could not betray her by bringing her back to the place where her father had tormented them both.

The estate was not so lonely of a place as New York had been for Tori. She had the company of a trusted associate, Mr. Peeters who was a cold yet, helpful presence in her life. Mr. Peeters in no time at all became the only person Tori bothered to have a sincere conversation with if a person could consider regular business meetings and passing pleasantries sincere. This was why it was so dreaded for Tori knowing his ill health was looming upon them both. Mr. Peeters had a stroke just after the anniversary of her father's death. While in a convalescent hospital he confided in Tori that he knew that she and her father's blood types were incompatible for the blood draw all those years ago because he had tampered with the paperwork himself. Tori confused asked him why and how. He explained that when he put in for the original search of any of Tori's father's children, he made the search particularly broad to include any blood relation. Tori's father had never had any biological children that lived past infancy, due to the genetic disorder, maple syrup urine disease. Tori was in fact a distant cousin to the man. Again perplexed Tori pushed the dying Mr. Peeters for an answer. He in turn continued by telling her that he was afraid that the money from the estate would be used for ill will by someone who understood all that it was truly worth. When he saw the naive Tori as a match for a relative he paid unknowing people to adjust the findings to suit his purpose. Tori did have other relatives on her father's side, many actually, but Mr. Peeters had shielded them from Tori because they were manipulative, malicious individuals. This revelation was very taxing on Mr. Peeters to explain and he requested that Tori take her leave of him for the day when he had finished.

In her now estate, Tori mulled the newly acquired information that Mr. Peeters had imparted to her. Tori was both relieved and appalled by it all. Mr. Peeters had correctly pegged her as a useful idiot. Yet, there she was middle-aged and so very alone. She couldn't tell if she had her life taken from her or given to her by what Mr. Peeters had done. Would she have become just like Molly if she had stayed in the trailer park? Did she now have to worry that her father's side of the family would find out her secret? What would become of her when Mr. Peeters inevitably died? The man was already into his mid-nineties. Tori took Mr. Peeters's revelation to form a plan of action with him during his final days alive. There at the estate, they decide that Tori is to stay on as her father had, hidden and alone. Few knew who she truly was and fewer so who was meant to be in her shoes. Not that it mattered, for the most part, all of the other candidates for her father's wealth were people who would have used the money for nefarious purposes before dying of drug overdoses within a few years, as had already happened numerous times before Tori arrived. Tori felt uncomfortable with the idea of taking another person's birthright but as Mr. Peeters explained the people he had wronged would go after her for his misdirection, with a vengeance. Tori now had lost her loneliness and replaced it with terror each night she laid in her bed not sure of what was to come of her. She was in a worse place for her being used as a pawn, and she now envied Molly's station over her own.

On the day that Mr. Peeters died, the morning cool even for the fall. He passed in his sleep, the best that Tori could have hoped for. He had taught her so much during each moment with her and given her so much to fear. His law firm in the city was already informed of his passing before Tori had to concern herself with any follow up her part. In his discreetly purposeful fashion, Mr. Peeters organized his own last will and testament perfectly. Not an item of his was left undecided of where it was to go. Boxes of office files were delivered to Tori's estate the day of his passing. Nothing personal to remember the man by only business, because that was who Mr. Peeters was at the core of his being, a man who lived and died by his work. As much as it pained Tori to have to do it, she had Mr. Kenton take over Mr. Peeter's duties as her personal attorney, although he would remain in New York, unlike Mr. Peeters who preferred Sweden as his primary residence.

It was then that Tori lived the rest of her life being the lead manager of her own estate. In those file boxes, she found Mr. Peeters to have left detailed notes going back years on how to handle her living situation, as well as a list of his trusted connections. Forever alone, forever fighting to keep her estate out of the hands of the corrupt, depraved, or malicious. Her isolation consumed her totally, but exactly to her liking. Tori became always unresting. She finally understood her mother's choice; to give it all up for the person she cared about the most or to stay and become a shadow to serve the highest bidder. Tori knew she had been loved, she also understood she could never love anyone either. The cost would be too great. She must and would serve her purpose, to protect, to preserve, to carry on until she found another soul to take her place when she was too old and grey, as Mr. Peeters had, may he rest in peace.