“I think I can guess. You don’t want to be recognized,” Harry said. “Right?”
“I never wanted to be rich, never even bought lottery tickets. My wife died several years ago, my son and daughter are both in university and this seemed like a good way to escape all the notoriety so I pulled up stakes and hit the road.”
“So you took a leave of absence or quit your job, probably bought this truck, and just took off.” Bruce shook his head.
“Pretty much,” Branson said. “Uncle John was my father’s younger brother and I was called after him, Jonathan Bertram. He played the stock market, and was brilliant at it. He was very wealthy but he never married and had no children so apart from a number of bequests to charity; he left his entire estate to the one person who never expected it. Don’t get me wrong, I was fond of him but never expected this. When the papers got hold of it, it wasn’t long before the phone calls, letters and knocks on the door began, all looking for donations to one cause or another. They all needed money to keep their organizations afloat. Most of them were bogus. Then there were calls to appear on talk shows or those who wanted to write my ‘rags-to-riches’ story. It was a nightmare.”
“I can see how it would be,” Harry said. “It must be a big adjustment, kind of like your life is turned upside down overnight.”
“But... all that money, and never having to work again... must be nice not to have to worry about keeping the bills paid.” Bruce was a little astonished.
A hint of a smile touched Branson’s lips. “I admit it can make life easier in some ways but there are plenty of drawbacks too. I gave up my apartment in the city, bought a new cell phone to which only the kids and my lawyer have the number, traded my sedan for this truck and left. I avoided contact with others as much as possible to avoid being recognized...” he stroked his beard “...but there’s probably less chance of that now.”
Harry laughed. “I think you’re pretty safe on that score. How long have you been here?”
“Since the night before last. The storm was getting pretty bad when I spotted this old road. I turned off hoping I might find a place to park the truck for the night. That old shed was an unexpected bonus. I don’t particularly like sleeping in the truck.”
“How long do you plan to continue doing this?” Harry asked. “It must get tiresome.”
“It does and that’s one of the reasons I decided to spend a few days here,” Branson said. “I’ve been on the road for just over six months now and I’ve seen some beautiful places, but lately I’ve had a longing to return to a more structured life.”
“Would you go back to being an accountant?” Bruce asked.