The Deed

Free The Deed by Keith Blanchard

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Authors: Keith Blanchard
    “I’m guessing we’re deep in conjectureland now, right?” said Jason.
    But Amanda was shaking her head slowly. “No. Jason, the document exists. Now. Today.”
    This genuinely surprised him. “You’ve seen it?”
    “Well, no,” she conceded. “Not yet.”
    “Well, if you’re right, that’s amazing,” he acknowledged, taking a slug of beer. “That’s got Discovery Channel written all over it.”
    “No, no; you’re missing the point,” she complained, putting her hands to both temples as if preparing to communicate the point telepathically. “I’m not talking about a historical curiosity; I’m talking about a valid deed to property.”
    “What, to Manhattan?” he said incredulously. “This guy’s been dead for how long?”
    “I told you, the deed confers the land on all his heirs, in perpetuity.”
    A perceptible shift in Amanda’s tone brought his attention into sudden sharp focus: She was quietly assertive now, her eyes ablaze with passion, and suddenly he had it.
    “And I’m the heir,” he said. “The great-great-great et cetera grandkid.”
    Amanda smiled and sat back in a sort of ecstasy of relief. “Bingo,” she confirmed.
    “You seem awfully sure,” he said suspiciously, eyes narrowing.
    “Yes,” she replied, nodding soberly. “I am. I can’t prove it yet, but yes, I’m quite sure.”
    “But come on, Amanda,” he said. “You’re a law student. You have to know a document like that would never be enforceable. Not after four hundred years, or whatever. There must be half a million landowners in this city.”
    “You’re wrong, you’re wrong,” she insisted, shaking her head violently. “Why do you think they run title searches every time anyone transacts property anywhere? Why do you think they have title insurance in the first place? The courts at every level, including the Supreme Court, have always upheld prior titled ownership. Always. And there’s no statute of limitation, either. Old wills, old deeds, et cetera are sufficient evidence to oust long-established residents. If someone can firmly establish prior title, they own the land, free and clear. It really is just that simple.”
    Jason suddenly remembered his beer and took a long, hard swallow. He needed time, needed to drag himself out of the conversation and steady his whirling thoughts. But Amanda had no patience for him.
    “In 1972,” she continued breathlessly, “the Supreme Court overturned an 1892 act that had opened up the Klamath River reservation to white settlement, and restored it to the aboriginal Indians. In 1991, in Connecticut, local tribes successfully sued the state and won a significant plot of land, including part of downtown freaking Hartford, that had been unlawfully settled.” She paused, waiting for input that wasn’t coming. “I go on like this for days when nobody stops me.”
    They stared at each other across the table for what seemed like minutes, not speaking. Her dark eyes kept him riveted; the rest of the bar had long ago faded into peripheral darkness. Apparently, fate had fiendishly decided to present Amanda to him as some vague agent of mystery: not the Lady, but the tiger. He clasped his hands together as part of a monumental effort to focus, but Amanda grabbed his hands between hers and pulled him forward, into the table. Their faces were now inches apart, and Jason felt a physical rush. The din of the crowd swelled hotly around his ears, closed his throat.
    “This is real, Jason,” she said quietly, without blinking. “ You’re the descendant…it’s your deed.”
    She released his hands and clasped her own together as she sat back in the seat, touching her forefingers to her lips as if in prayer.
    “Your island.”

Chapter Two
    FRIDAY , 9:00 A.M.
    Casually spreading the blinds with two fingers, Ronnie Dovatelli peered out his conference-room window and watched a golden retriever relieve itself on a fire hydrant across the street, two stories

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