A massive portrait of Preston Glass Spencer, stentorian and patrician even in oils, regarded all comers in the P. G. Spencer Co. Ltd. executive lobby with steely eyes. The old fart had been dead ten years, and he was still giving his brother the evil eye.

Wilbur Spencer, age 70 and Preston’s younger brother by seven years, exited the elevator with a wet umbrella and thoroughly drenched clothing thanks to rain which could only be described as horizontal. He was the only person in the building–not even security guards or janitors were in on New Year’s Eve.

“What are you looking at, you old fossil?” Wilbur groused. Preston, predictably, did not respond to his brother’s grouchiness–in this manner the painting and the man were not at all different. “Yes, I’m the only one here. I take this position very seriously, thank you!”

Preston’s oily visage was unmoved. It was as if it knew, as Wilbur did, that his position existed only because of his elder–and only–sibling. He’d been hired only after miserably failing on his own, as a form of charity. He was kept on not because of any useful qualities but because the board wanted a Spencer on hand to lend their operations a sheen of legitimacy and the comforting epithet of “a family company.”

“There, what do you think of that?” Wilbur shook his umbrella, scattering droplets of melted sleet all over the painting, which–being oil–shrugged them off. “I have worked my rear end off even in this ceremonial joke of a position. I’ve done it in everything, just like you would have.” The brothers did share a bulldog persistence and stubbornness, perhaps the only common trait other than a slight family resemblance.

Perhaps that was the biggest insult of all, the fact that all his hard work had been worthless and he was riding on his dead brother’s coattails even now. The position as a Spencer family corporate waxwork would have gone to Preston’s son if he’d produced anything but two dopey disinherited daughters.

“Will you cut that out?” Wilbur continued. “I am not here because I have no New Year’s Eve plans. I just have no desire to ring in the new year with your miserable kids and their mooching muscleshirted husbands attracted to women with large trust funds. And I’d have no desire to be with Allan either, after he sided with that show-quality bitch who castrated me with divorce settlements and alimony as the clippers.”

Preston said nothing, but Wilbur noticed that the flecked water from his umbrella had fallen in such a way as to suggest tears–something he hadn’t seen on his brother’s face since he was fifteen.

“Oh, come on now, it’s not as bad as all that,” Wilbur said softly. “Look, I’m sorry I said all that. Just a stewed pot boiling over, that’s all. I know you’ve no one to spend New Year’s with either. Look, there’s a bottle of sherry in one of my desk drawers. What do you say I take off a little early tonight and we have ourself a toast as the ball drops?”

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