Does being a billionaire make a person happier or more unfortunate? Is a price always necessarily the money?
In my version of Wuther Crue’s “Ordeal by Cheque”, the story starts off with the birth of young Lawrence Exeter, Jr., who was born into the family of a billionaire. The rising action takes off with the father giving his checkbook to young Lawrence, in hope to lure away his attention. The Climax is set when young Lawrence encounters his ‘Grim Reaper’, Tony Spagoni, and falls with young Lawrence’s two marriages. The story ends [SPOILER ALERT] with young Larence dead in attempt to protect his pride and destroy his nightmare.
【If Only the Price】
The rich sunshine, shone warmly to greet the birth of the child. He was born sometime in autumn, 1903, when exactly was a question — even old Lawrence Exeter was too unconscious to remember that. He was titled Lawrence Exeter, Jr, after his father, and held a key to the golden lock the very second he was born. The toys he demanded, the everything he longed, all given to him with a little point; top bikes, top cars, top educations, top everything, for heavy prices were not the matter, nor ever concerned.
It was not until the first day of June 1923, that his father, Lawrence Exeter, Sr. found himself captivated by the beauty of Miss Daisy Windsor, after and proposed to her on a French tour. The fancy trip was soon followed by another to Hawaii, but Lawrence Exeter, Sr., was afraid that his son would disapprove his choice. Gingerly, he sent his son his checkbook along with a letter, allowing him to use the checkbook however freely.
How surprised and shocked young Lawrence was when he received the checkbook. He wondered for a while of what his father was up to and carefully bought some expansive treats for his girlfriend. When the checkbook seemed not anymore suspicious, the gowns and salons followed, with countless more material goods.
Of all unfortunate, a morning sun does not last long. It was August 23rd that year when Lawrence Exeter, Jr. was confronted by Tony Spagoni on the dark outskirts of town. Crows encircled around them, and dead darkness began to fall as Spagoni drew a butcher knife from his pocket.
“No! Good sir, you mustn’t mean to kill me,” young Lawrence begged, “please! My family is rich, let me go, and I promise you a hundred-twenty dollar check if only you’d spare me!”
Spagoni was sinking the blade into the young man’s throat when he heard the bargain. The stinky odor and dust on Spagoni’s clothes had indeed suggested something, and he cursed himself for not hiding it well. But if truth be told, he is short on money, and had barely eaten anything good for the past several weeks.
Studying over the young man carefully, Spagoni lowered his knife, only to bring it back up again to young man’s relieved gasp.
“Please, good sir! My family always pays its debt, and —”
“A hundo ‘n twenty-six,” Spagoni cut him off briskly.
“As you say, good sir!”
Lawrence Exeter, Jr. did not question as to why the extra six, and nods without any protest. He was more than grateful to be allowed to live.
Checks, he decided, was no more than signing a tiny card.
The Grim Reaper dropped his knife and hid it back into his pocket before walking away. The cold wind scuffed young Lawrence’s cheeks as it carried Spagoni’s voice, “don’tcha think to cheat on me, son, I’ll know if ya do, ‘n ya’ll be stone dead before ya even try.”
A week later, while driving down the same road when the sky was black, young Lawrence found the Grim Reaper waiting again. Young Lawrence was threatened to write a second check, and when he found his nerves to look up, he noticed Spagoni’s face painted in ruthless. Striped by the night’s shadows, Spagoni held a new weapon, a revolver, which was surprisingly colder than the knife.
Never did young Lawrence go near the road again, and soon the shadows faded from his world of golden suns. He married a fair woman a year later, but soon after decided that he was happier off having Marie Wharton as his wife, and once more regretted the choice of marriage. He was to pay a lot more for the second divorce, but, alas! Heavy prices were not the matter, nor ever concerned, by the holder of a golden key.
However, walking out from Court young Lawrence sensed something atypical, something mystifying, almost like… Yes! The sensation he had when the Grim Reaper was near! Lawrence Exeter, Jr. fell back almost immediately, eyes wide in fear. He rushed home in a haste to contact the Walker brothers, who were the top students back in his military school. He offered an irresistible amount of money to hire them, wishing for them to seek out and destroy the Grim Reaper. However, still feeling that there wasn’t enough agency, young Lawrence spent a huge sum of money to pay for the top-level security cameras to scan the area around his home.
But money failed to buy him what he desired for this time, and the Grim Reaper showed up his front door not long after, in the dark shadowy night.
“Think’n to cheat on me huh?” Tony Spagoni demanded, eyes red like flames, but this time young Lawrence was more surprised than petrified. This Tony Spagoni was not the Tony Spagoni he had seen two years ago— this Tony Spagoni was not in a mess, but in fine leather coat and in fine leather boots; this Tony Spagoni was not alone, but accompanied by accomplices. This Tony Spagoni… didn’t even need to point at him with a knife or a gun. Shivering, young Lawrence wrote a hundred-bill check and heard the doors and windows slam shut. He flinched, the windows were locked from the outside.
When young Lawrence opened his eyes the next morning, Tony Spagoni was standing over him, demanding another check. Young Lawrence refused at first, trying to make a run for the door, only to end up with a wounded leg.
Spagoni unlocked the door of the villa again the third morning, humming to himself a cheerful song rhythm. He steps into the villa rubbing his fists when suddenly a shadow started enlarged around him. Just then hysterical laughter boomed from the floor above him, and before he even knew it or had the chance to look up or run, a thousand-pound grand piano, falling from nowhere, slammed the consciences right out of him!
Young Lawrence was in hysterics on the second floor, tears of relief welling in his manic eyes. He does not know, and does not care about the outcomes— all he knew or cared was that he had killed the Grim Reaper, the nightmare, who haunted him for two long years. Young Lawrence does not cry of agony when the accomplices beat him bloody; does not make a sound when the accomplices escaped the villa when the newspaper boy came by. He laughed as he signed another check, with all the strength left in him, for the boy to deliver a ready-wrote letter to his loving father, Lawrence Exeter, Sr..
When the father rushed back, petrified and shocked by the news, young Lawrence Exeter had been half-dead for two days. He immediately brought him to the Hollywood Hospital, but after ten days of rescuing, even the most skillful doctors couldn’t help but shake their heads. Lawrence Exeter, Sr. cursed himself for spoiling his young son so much since the day he was born, tears of regret pouring like rain. But dead is dead, and even being a billionaire could not change this fact.
Upon young Lawrence’s grave in the Hollywood Mortuary, engraved the words broken but clear: IF ONLY HEAVY PRICES WERE CONSIDERED.
From that day on, once again, there lived one, and only one Lawrence Exeter.