The Thief of Souls

After his apprenticeship ended with Tesla’s death in 1943, there was a long period of nothing regarding Rostow.   But in 1960, he re-surfaced.  Several patents for ingenious inventions, each related to the wireless transmission of electrical energy, were filed in his name, some of which gained top secret, and still unpublicized, military application.  Of course, all of this made Rostow filthy rich.

Then, in 1971, just as suddenly as he had emerged, Rostow returned to obscurity.  Quite literally, he was never heard from again in academic or scientific circles.  He became a recluse, a mad scientist cliché.   Thirty years later, what he had been working on all these years, or whether he was even working at all, was still the subject of speculation among obscure journalists and conspiracy theorists.  Between his self-exile from the world of science and the public eye in 1971, until his sudden death in 2009, at the age of 86, not one patent had been filed in his name.

All this was nice to know, and added a measure of further intrigue to the case, but after finishing my research that night and going to bed bleary-eyed for the effort, I was no closer to understanding why Rostow had left his fortune to Paul Lane, seemingly a perfect stranger.  And I was no closer to understanding what my client needed to know - why Lane had suddenly and mysteriously left her.

The next morning, I headed downtown to the record room of the county surrogate’s court, and after an intolerable wait, a grumpy clerk told me there was no file for Rostow’s Estate.  The clerk glared at me when I told her she must be mistaken and with a shrug, sent me on my way.

I walked to another old building next door, rode up an ancient, rickety elevator to the third floor, and found the musty index room listing all property transactions in the county dating back to the 1790s.  There, after a much shorter wait, and for a ten dollar fee, I obtained a copy of the deed to the Rostow mansion which indicated, to my surprise, that Rostow had signed the property over to Lane on the very day he died.

When I got back to the office, I called Tom Bridge.  After telling him that the Rostow mansion had passed to Lane directly by deed, and not, as I had expected, through Rostow’s will  – that, in fact, Rostow hadn’t even had a Will -  I asked him to explain, first of all, was that legal, and second, why it had been done that way.

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