The List

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As a struggling young attorney fresh out of law school, Renny Jacobson was pining for the day he could afford the fast cars and sprawling homes of the partners in his Charlotte firm. And with news of his father's death and an ancient, secret inheritance, Renny's life was sure to change forever. But the inheritance and membership in the clandestine society which provided it soon threatens to change him in more ways than one. Renny's life&#151and the life of the woman he loves&#151depends on supernatural ...
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Overview

As a struggling young attorney fresh out of law school, Renny Jacobson was pining for the day he could afford the fast cars and sprawling homes of the partners in his Charlotte firm. And with news of his father's death and an ancient, secret inheritance, Renny's life was sure to change forever. But the inheritance and membership in the clandestine society which provided it soon threatens to change him in more ways than one. Renny's life&#151and the life of the woman he loves&#151depends on supernatural deliverance from the curse of The List.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849942211
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2000

Meet the Author

Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legalnovels set in the South and winner of the Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. Twitter: @whitlowwriter Facebook: robertwhitlowbooks

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Inherit the wind.

—Proverbs 11:29, kjv

The secretary whom Renny shared with two other associates in the banking law section of the firm buzzed the speakerphone on Renny's desk. "Attorney Jefferson McClintock from Charleston calling on line one. Says it's personal."

"I'll take it."

Renny shut the door of the windowless office he had occupied since graduating from law school three months earlier. If he continued working sixty hours a week, he had a fifty-fifty chance of a comfortable six-figure salary and an office with a view of the city in approximately twelve years. But for now he was at the bottom of the legal food chain. Of the 104 lawyers employed by Jackson, Robinson, and Temples in Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Washington, D.C., his name, Josiah Fletchall Jacobson, was next to last on the firm's letterhead.

Renny picked up the phone. "Hello, Mr. McClintock."

"How are you, Renny?"

"I'm OK. Busy learning the ins and outs of Truth in Lending and Regulation Z."

"Bank work, eh?"

"Yes sir. I have to review all the forms used by the lending institutions we represent to make sure they contain the exact wording required by the regulations and print everything in the appropriate size type."

"Sounds picky."

"It is, but if I make a mistake, the banks can get hit with class-action lawsuits involving thousands of consumers who have a cause of action, even if they didn't suffer any financial harm."

"Our government regulators at work." The Charleston lawyer coughed and cleared his throat. "Well, move the law books to the side for a minute, and let's talk about your father's estate. With the help of two associates, I've almost completed the documents needed to probate your father's will, but there are several matters that need your attention."

Two associates. Renny knew how the system worked. Multi-lawyer involvement was McClintock's way to triple his money: charge for each junior lawyer's time and throw in another fee at time and a half for the senior partner to proofread a stack of papers.

"Any problems?" Renny asked.

"We need to meet and discuss some things," McClintock answered vaguely. "When can you come to Charleston? Tomorrow is Friday. Why not leave early and see me around two?"

Renny had worked until ten o'clock two nights earlier in the week and had billed enough hours for the week to sneak away by late morning on Friday. Besides, he wasn't going to let anything delay moving forward on the estate. "Could we make it three?"

"Let me see." McClintock paused. "Yes. I can move my three o'clock appointment up an hour."

"Do I need to bring anything?"

"No," replied McClintock, "we'll have the paperwork ready. See you then."

"With your bill on top," Renny remarked as he heard the click of the other lawyer hanging up the phone.

Renny let his mind wander as he looked around his office. Even though it wasn't much larger than a walk-in closet, Renny didn't complain. Landing a job at a big law firm in a major city was the ultimate prize for the masses of eager students passing through the law school meat grinder. Each one entered the legal education process hoping they would come out with Law Review on their résumés and filet mignon status in the difficult job market. Most ended up as hamburger, relieved to find any job at all.

Renny had an advantage. Although not on Law Review or in the top 10 percent of his class, he had something even better: connections. For once, really the first time he could remember, his father had come to his aid. Dwight Temples, one of the senior partners in the firm, had attended college with Renny's father at The Citadel in Charleston. Over the years they maintained a casual friendship centered around an annual deep-sea fishing expedition off the coast of North Carolina. When Renny mentioned an interest in working for the firm's Charlotte office, H. L. Jacobson called Dwight Temples, and the interview with the hiring partner at Jackson, Robinson, and Temples became a formality. Renny was offered a position on the spot.

Today was not the first call Renny had received from Jefferson McClintock, his family's lawyer in Charleston. Six weeks before, McClintock telephoned Renny with the news of H. L.'s sudden death on a golf course in Charleston. No warning. No cholesterol problem. No hypertension. No previous chest pains. The elder Jacobson was playing a round of golf with two longtime friends, Chaz Bentley, his stockbroker, and Alex Souther, a College of Charleston alumnus and restaurant owner.

At the funeral home, Bentley, a jovial fellow and everyday golfer who probably received more stock market advice from Renny's father than he gave to him, had pumped Renny's hand and shook his head in disbelief. "I don't understand it. He was fine. No complaints of pain or dizziness. We were having a great round at the old Isle of Palms course. You should have seen the shot he hit from the championship tee on the seventh hole. You remember, it's the hole with the double water hazards. His tee shot must have gone 225 yards, straight down the fairway. He birdied the hole. Can you believe it? Birdied the last hole he ever played!" The stockbroker made it sound like nirvana to make a birdie then die on the golf course. "We were teeing off on number eight. Alex had taken a mulligan on his first shot and hooked his second try into a fairway bunker. I hit a solid drive just a little left of center." Renny could tell Bentley was enjoying Souther's duff and his own good shot all over again. "Then your father leaned over to tee up his ball and, he, uh…never got his ball on the tee," he finished lamely.

Because of the circumstances of his death, the coroner had required an autopsy. The pathologist's report concluded death by coronary failure. H. L.'s family doctor, James Watson, had explained to Renny, "Your father's heart exploded. He never knew what happened. Death was instantaneous. The pathologist called me from the hospital after he examined the body and reviewed his findings with me. Given your father's good health, we were both puzzled at the severe damage to the heart muscle. We know how he died, but not why it happened as it did."

Renny grieved, but he and his father had not had a close relationship. H. L. was a harsh, critical parent whose favor eluded his son like the proverbial carrot on a stick. Renny tried to please, but the elder Jacobson often changed the rules, and Renny discovered a new way to fail instead. After his mother's death, Renny only visited his father a couple of times a year.

Since there was no one else with whom to share the considerable assets his father had inherited and then increased through savvy investments, Renny looked forward to the trip to Charleston. Once the estate was settled, he would become what some people called "independently wealthy." It had a nice ring to it, and Renny indulged in fantasies of future expenditures.

H. L. was not a generous parent; he paid for Renny's education but never provided the extras he could have easily afforded. After landing the job at Jackson, Robinson, and Temples, Renny sold his old car for three thousand dollars and bought a new charcoal gray Porsche Boxster convertible. The payment and insurance on the new car devoured almost half of Renny's monthly paycheck, but the sporty vehicle was a sign to himself and, subconsciously, to his father, that he had started up the ladder of success. Now he would be able to pay off the car, buy a house, perhaps even quit work and duplicate his father's exploits in the commercial real estate market. His stay at the bottom of the law firm letterhead might be very short indeed.

~~~

At 2:55 the next afternoon Renny was standing on the hot, humid Charleston sidewalk in front of the semicircular double stairway beckoning him with open arms to the law firm of McClintock and Carney, Esquires. Some antebellum grande dame must be spinning in her grave, he thought. Her house, her home, the common thread of the domestic and social fabric of her life, taken over by legal scriveners and secretaries with word processors and fax machines. It was not an uncommon fate for a growing number of the homes and mansions lining Fourth Street. An antique dealer rented Renny's ancestral home, near the Battery.

At least Jefferson McClintock had Charleston roots. He wasn't a New York lawyer who came south for the Spoleto festival, unpacked his carpetbag, and hung out a legal shingle. In fact, few current Charlestonians went further back to the city's origins. McClintock's great-great-grandfather, a Scottish blacksmith's servant, could have been the farrier who made sure the grande dame's horses had proper footwear. Now the servant's descendant had his desk in the parlor and law books in the living room.

When McClintock and his law partner, John Carney, purchased the house, they spent the money necessary to maintain the historic and architectural integrity of the 150-year-old structure. They had cleaned the white marble double stairway leading up from the street to the main entrance and made sure the hand railings were kept in good condition by a yearly staining to erase the corrosive effect of Charleston's proximity to the ocean. The exterior stucco had been painted a fresh light peach-only in Charleston could pastel houses reflect good taste. From a low-flying plane, the old residential district looked like a summer fruit compote.

Opening the large front door, he stepped into the law firm's waiting area. As with many large nineteenth-century homes, the foyer was as wide and spacious as the dining room in a modern house plan. McClintock and Carney had turned the greeting area into a gracious reception room, furnishing it with antiques and quality reproductions.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Jacobson," a cheerful receptionist spoke before Renny could give his name. "Mr. McClintock will be with you in a minute."

Noticing a graduation photo of The Citadel's class of 1958 on the opposite wall, Renny walked over for a better look at the black-and-white picture.

"That's our class, a good one," McClintock remarked as he walked out of his office and shook Renny's hand. "There's your father, third from the left in the back, and me, second from the right in the first row."

It was easy to see why McClintock was in the first row. At five feet six, he was barely tall enough to gain admittance to a military academy. But to his credit, McClintock didn't weigh ten pounds more now than he had almost fifty years before. He still sported a Citadel haircut and held himself erect, ready to snap to full attention. Renny knew his father's classmate ran five miles every morning and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean every New Year's Day in a Southern version of the famous Polar Bear Club's annual dip in Lake Michigan.

Renny leaned closer to see his father. Henry Lawrence Jacobson, H. L. to everyone who knew him, was tall and slim. The influence of early military discipline kept his back straight and shoulders square to the end of his days. Even in the grainy picture, H. L. exuded a sense of confidence and control. Not particularly handsome, but without any distracting negative features, it was not his physical appearance but an intangible presence that set him apart from his peers. Whether on the schoolyard or in the boardroom, it did not take long for the elder Jacobson's internally generated power to pervade the atmosphere around him. If austere Southern aristocracy existed in the twentieth century, H. L. Jacobson qualified as Exhibit A. From the graduation photo, H. L.'s dark eyes seemed to probe the depths of Renny's soul just as they did when he interrogated Renny after he was caught wandering away from school during recess in the second grade.

Renny, with his dark hair, brown eyes, and wry, almost shy, smile, looked more like his soft-spoken mother than his father. Short and solid, Renny had played outside linebacker for three years at Hammond Academy, a private high school in Charleston. In his senior season, he received the Best Hit of the Year award for a play in which he tackled the opposing team's punter. It was fourth down late in a game and the other team was behind ten points. Renny suspected a fake punt was in the works and ran as hard as he could toward the punter. Slipping between two players who were supposed to block him, he hit the punter so hard the punter was knocked several feet through the air. It looked great on the highlight film of the game, and Renny won the award. Neither of his parents attended the game. His mother was in the early stages of the Lou Gehrig's disease that killed her three years later, and his father was out of town at a business meeting.

McClintock ushered Renny into his office. "Come into the parlor. Some of the antiques here, including my desk, were purchased from the Stillwell Gallery," he said, referring to the antique dealer located in the former Jacobson family home.

McClintock sat down behind an eighteenth-century partners desk, a beautiful mahogany piece designed for two clerks to work opposite each other. Of course, McClintock had the desk to himself.

The older lawyer picked up a heavy folder, set it down, and tapped a fountain pen against his desk blotter. "Well, let's get down to business." He hesitated, opening the folder on his desk then closing it again without taking anything out. "I'm not sure where to begin."

"I've reviewed my copy of the will," Renny said. "Everything appears straightforward. Could we look over the documents you intend to file with the probate court?"

"The documents I've prepared for the court?" McClintock said.

"Sure, you said they would be ready."

"Oh, they are. I have them in here." The lawyer patted the still-closed folder.

Renny reached out his hand. "Yes. I'm sure everything is fine. I'd just like to skim through them."

The older lawyer didn't budge. "Renny, did you study holographic wills in law school?" he asked, staring past Renny at a spot on the wall behind him.

Renny stopped. "Of course. It's a will in the testator's own handwriting, usually without all the legal boilerplate language and the formality of witnesses."

"That's correct." McClintock paused. "I don't know how to say this except to ask you point-blank. Did your father ever tell you he had prepared a holographic will?"

A cold chill ran down Renny's spine. "No. He gave me a copy of the will you prepared for him a few months after my mother died."

"I see," McClintock said. "He never gave you an updated will prepared by another lawyer?"

"No. You were the only lawyer he used. Tell me, Mr. McClintock, what's going on."

McClintock sighed. "After your father's death I had my secretary pull his file to prepare the documents for the probate court." He opened the folder on his desk. "Inside was this." He held up a plain white envelope. "As you know, in the will I prepared you were the residual beneficiary of almost all your father's estate. Apparently, a month later he brought this envelope by the office and asked my secretary to put it in his file. I don't know what he told her-she doesn't remember and probably thought it was a list of assets or the location of important records." He handed the envelope to Renny. "Read it."

Renny took out three sheets of paper. No question, it was his father's handwriting, a familiar pattern of printing and cursive. It was dated one month after the lengthy will prepared by McClintock. There were only four paragraphs:

I, Henry Lawrence Jacobson, being of sound and disposing mind, do hereby revoke all prior Wills made by me and make this my Last Will and Testament.

Item One

I hereby will, devise and bequeath to my son, Josiah Fletchall Jacobson, all my personal belongings and the gold coin collection contained in my safe deposit box at Planters & Merchants Bank. I further will, give and devise to my son all my right, title and interest to any and all assets, tangible and intangible, in the Covenant List of South Carolina, Ltd. This bequest is subject to the usual and customary conditions precedent.

Item Two

I hereby, will, devise and bequeath all the rest, remainder, and residue of my estate, including all real estate, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, cash, or other property of any type, tangible and intangible, in equal shares to the Medical College of South Carolina, The Citadel, the Charleston Historical Society, and the Episcopal Parish of St. Alban's.

Item Three

I hereby appoint Jefferson McClintock as executor of my estate.

Henry Lawrence Jacobson

The other sheet was a report from a local psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Abbott, dated the same day as the will.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have this day examined Henry Lawrence Jacobson and can state that he is mentally competent to handle his legal affairs. He understands the natural objects of his affection and has informed me of his intention to prepare a Last Will and Testament in which the majority of his assets are bequeathed to charitable institutions. He has indicated that he will make a bequest to his son, Josiah Fletchall Jacobson, consistent with his desire and intentions for him.

Lewis Abbott, M.D.

Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry

Renny let the papers fall into his lap and stared for several seconds at the floor in front of McClintock's desk. Every ounce of hope for the future drained out of him in the two minutes it took to read the papers. In shock, he didn't even have the strength to ask why.

The lawyer cleared his throat and broke the awkward silence. "We know the law doesn't favor a holographic will or one that disinherits family members. There was little doubt that your father wrote the will, but to be sure, I obtained a handwriting analysis. The results came back just before I called you yesterday."

"And?" Renny managed weakly.

"It's as close to a 100 percent match as possible. I also had an extensive interview with Dr. Abbott. Do you know him?"

"No."

"He is a former president of the South Carolina Psychiatric Association with impeccable credentials. He had detailed records of an interview with your father and stands completely by the report issued at the time of the will."

"Does he have connections with the Medical College?" Renny ventured.

"I thought of that, too. No, he doesn't, and there is no way to claim any self-interest on his part that would raise a question about his medical opinion of your father's capacity."

"I don't care what the psychiatrist says. This is crazy. Why would my father do this to me?" Renny asked, desperation and hurt creeping into his voice.

"I don't know. I'm a father, Renny, and I don't understand."

"But item one is nonsense. I didn't know he had a gold coin collection, and I've never heard of the Covenant List of South Carolina, Limited. What is it? What are the conditions precedent?"

"I was hoping you might shed some light on it. We've gone over every inventory of assets three times and found no record of this company. Since your father was involved in so much commercial development, it could be a real estate limited partnership."

"But you don't know."

"That's right. I'm guessing."

Renny put the papers on the edge of McClintock's desk. "We can't tear this up and probate the other will can we?"

"I'm sorry, but you know the answer to that. Since I'm the executor, I can exercise as much leeway as possible in interpreting 'personal belongings.' There are several valuable antiques at the Isle of Palms house. I'm going to consider those items personal belongings so that you can have them. Also, I would advise you to consider getting another legal opinion about the legitimacy of the will."

"I understand, but the handwriting is on the wall, or actually on these sheets of paper," Renny said bitterly. "Being on the receiving end of a lawyer telling his client what the client doesn't want to hear is painful."

"I can't blame you for anything you feel," McClintock responded. "I didn't want to have to give you this news." He handed Renny a key. "This is the key to safe deposit box 413 at the Planters and Merchants Bank downtown. You are a signatory, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"There's one other puzzling thing."

"What else?" Renny asked, bracing for more bad news.

"Nothing substantive. Included with some routine postmortem instructions was a letter." McClintock read aloud:

Dear Jeff,

The enclosed information will assist you in probating my estate. As soon as possible, please send a copy of my obituary notice to the people on the attached list.

H. L.

Handing the second sheet to Renny, McClintock asked, "Do you know any of these individuals?"

Renny quickly scanned the names. No one was immediately familiar. As he read over it more slowly, he counted nine names with post office box addresses-no street names, no phone numbers. All men, no women.

"I don't know any of these men," Renny responded slowly. "I recognize several family names, families with a long history in the Low Country."

"It was the same with me."

"As far as I know, none of them are relatives. I don't see the names of any of my father's business associates either."

"Exactly my conclusion as well," the lawyer responded.

"But, this is just like the unknown company mentioned in the will. All we know is that we don't know anything."

Renny and McClintock stared at each other across the desk, each letting his mental wheels grind, both coming up empty.

McClintock spoke first. "Pursuant to your father's instructions, I sent a copy of his obituary to each person. I enclosed a short cover letter notifying them that I was following your father's last wishes."

"Did anybody respond?" Renny asked.

"Not yet," said McClintock, shaking his head. "I'll let you know if they do."

"Should I ask if there's anything else?"

"Fortunately not, I guess. My secretary has duplicates of everything for you."

Still numb, Renny nodded.

"Of course, I will delay sale of your parents' house as long as you need me to."

"It's hard to believe the house will be sold. That everything will be sold and given away," Renny said dully.

McClintock came around the desk and put his hand on Renny's shoulder. "Call me if you need me. I'll contact you as soon as I know anything else."

"Thanks." Renny got up to leave. When he reached the door, he stopped. "I forgot to ask. What is the value of the estate?"

McClintock paused. "Depending on the value of securities at time of probate, approximately $8 million."

Chapter Two

He being dead yet speaketh.

—Hebrews 11:4, kjv

Going down the steps in front of McClintock and Carney, Renny walked a block to his car, which was parked next to a palmetto tree. His shirt was damp by the time he opened the door. Throwing the folder of information about the estate on the passenger seat, he turned the air conditioner on full blast and drove toward the Battery. Turning down King Street, he slowed in front of St. Alban's Episcopal Church and found a shady parking space under an oak tree beside the entrance to the church cemetery.

The church was one of the oldest in Charleston, and its mottled gray stone walls and muted stained-glass windows often graced the pages of guidebooks and pictorial tours of the city. For families like the Jacobsons, who had lived in Charleston for over two hundred years, St. Alban's was a family gathering place on Christmas Eve, Easter morning, and the site for marrying and burying. The rest of the time it was primarily a brief stop for busloads of hot tourists seeking a cool place on a steamy summer day.

There had not been any new plots available in the original cemetery since World War I. To handle the ongoing tide of death, the church purchased land outside the downtown Charleston area and sold burial plots in what Renny called the "cemetery annex." With the burial of Renny's father, the Jacobson plot at the main cemetery was at maximum occupancy, and Renny guessed he would have to reserve a space for himself at the annex.

The parish had no debt or financial needs-what the vestry would do with a $2 million gift from his father's estate was beyond Renny's comprehension. Buy more cemetery space? Hire an additional worker to keep the hedges trimmed and the few tufts of grass cut? Renny shook his head in shock and disbelief as he gingerly made his way around the ancient markers and tombstones, some so faded it was hard to decipher the names and ages of those who rested under the sandy soil. Maybe he could get a free burial plot. It would be the least the parish could do.

Surrounded by an ornate wrought-iron railing, the Jacobson plot was easily identified by a ten-foot-tall monument with the family name chiseled into all four sides at its base. His father and mother were side by side, his father's grave still a mound of light brown dirt. A few dead flowers from the funeral were strewn on the ground.

Renny stared at his father's name on the headstone and asked the question that had reverberated in his mind since he read the handwritten will at McClintock's office. "Why?" he whispered. "Why?" he said a little louder. "Why?" He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs.

Nothing. A breeze stirred the leaves in the old trees, but it didn't cool Renny's rising anger or assuage his inner pain. Eight million dollars. He had known it would be a lot of money, but the actual amount surprised him. His father had done better financially than he had realized. But for his only child-nothing. It was one thing for H. L. to deny Renny the things he needed while alive; it was almost more painful to experience rejection from beyond the grave. Rage and resentment boiled inside his soul. "Why?" he cried. "Why did you do this to me?" Nothing. Picking up a dead flower stem, he threw it at the headstone. There were no answers here.

Next to his father's fresh mound of dirt, the level grave of Katharine Candler Jacobson was covered with green grass. Turning toward her gravestone, Renny continued his questioning. Wherever she was, did she know what her husband had done to their only child? "Why?" he asked her resting place. Nothing. Shouldn't she share some of the blame? "Why didn't you outlive him?" Nothing. She died first, and the scant protection she offered Renny died with her. She would have done differently, or at least tried to, but she was gone.

He resented her abandonment. But his mother couldn't answer his questions and didn't deserve his blame. She had endured much herself. Although skewed by a child's naturally positive perceptions of his parents and their flaws, Renny knew his mother's relationship with his father was trying. But in the midst of a difficult marriage, Katharine gave her only surviving child memories worth preserving. She sat with him and listened when he told her about his day at school. She was there when he needed wise counsel as a teenager. She kept the lines of communication open until the ravages of disease robbed her of her voice. Even then her eyes had continued to speak of a mother's love . . . until their light went out, too. Now nothing responded to Renny's gaze but marble and memories.

Because of her and her alone he would come back to this place. Retracing his steps to the car, Renny's anger gave way to dejection. How many steps were there down to the depths of hell in Dante's Inferno? How much more would he have to endure?

~~~

Shortly after Renny drove away, another car parked in the space Renny vacated. An older man with a younger man's vigor and energy opened the door and walked briskly to the spot where Renny had stood beside his father's grave. Looking at the tombstone, he smiled. To him, H. L. Jacobson's grave was not a place of rejection, anger, and frustration; it was a place of triumph. Sure of the irrefutable evidence of his victory, he lingered for a moment, savoring his conquest, then left.

It was not yet five o'clock, so Renny decided he might as well stop at the bank and examine the gold coin collection before driving out to the Isle of Palms. In earlier times, Planters and Merchants Bank, an ancient, square, dark stone, three-story building, contained a waterfront counting house. It was the financial center where traders, planters, and factors-the men who lent money secured by future rice, indigo, and cotton harvests-transacted their business affairs and "counted" their money. Most people viewed banks with a mixture of fear, awe, and distrust, but to Renny, the old bank was familiar territory, and Planters and Merchants Bank, locally known as P&M, was like an honored old grandfather, black and hoary on the outside, but noble and sedate on the inside.

Slipping the safe deposit box key into his pocket, Renny entered P&M through the solid wooden front doors and passed through the marble-floored lobby to the desk of the custodian of the vault, a stoop-shouldered old gentleman resting with his head in his hands.

"I'm J. F. Jacobson. I need access to my box, please, number 413."

Looking up sleepily, the clerk opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a signature comparison card and a record of access card. "May I see some picture identification? And please sign here, sir."

Renny handed him his driver's license. The clerk pushed the record of access card across the desk, grunting. "Just got back from there."

Renny picked up the card. "Who is this?" Renny asked, trying to decipher the signature. "It looks like Gusto something."

Returning to his drawer, the clerk pulled out three signature cards and put on his reading glasses. "There are two persons besides yourself with access to this box," he replied, somewhat more awake. "Henry Lawrence Jacobson and Augustus Eicholtz."

"Henry Lawrence Jacobson was my father. Who is Augustus Eicholtz?" Renny asked sharply.

"Sir, how should I know? It's your box."

"How long has this Augustus Eicholtz had access to the box?"

"Since June 4, 1981," the clerk replied. Handing Renny the original signature card for Mr. Eicholtz, he added, "See, the signatures match exactly."

Renny examined the signature card. This was déjà vu from McClintock's office-more questions without answers.

"Do you still want to open the box?" the clerk asked as he compared Renny's signature to the signature card in his file.

"I guess," Renny replied. As the clerk led him through the twisting labyrinth of the security area, Renny asked, "Did Mr. Einstein take something from the box?"

"Mr. Eicholtz, sir. I'm sorry, I didn't notice."

Renny had little doubt there was nothing in the box. Mr. Eicholtz or whatever his name was would have taken care of that.

Safe deposit box 413 was a large drawer inset into the metal casing of the vault. The clerk pulled out a master key, turned his side of the lock, and waited as Renny inserted the key's mate next to it. With a click, the lock released, and the clerk pulled the drawer open an inch.

"Let me know when you're finished," he mumbled as he shuffled out of the vault.

Renny slid the drawer out all the way. It was empty except for two white envelopes lying faceup in the bottom. Handwritten on the front of both envelopes was his full name, Josiah Fletchall Jacobson, one in his father's handwriting, the other in an unfamiliar scrawl. No return address.

The envelope from his father contained a heavy coin. Glancing over his shoulder, Renny gently pried open the seal. Inside was an 1864 half eagle five-dollar gold coin in excellent condition. Although possibly worth several thousand dollars, one coin hardly qualified as a collection. Renny let the heavy coin rest in his hand for a moment before slipping it into his pocket and opening the other envelope. Inside he found a plain white cassette tape labeled "Covenant List." The mystery company. Nothing else was in the envelope. No letter, no note.

Renny closed the safe deposit box and navigated out of the vault past the custodian's desk. "Thanks for your help," he said as he passed the sleepy-eyed clerk.

Seated in his car, Renny took a deep breath. Glancing in the rearview mirror, he wondered if he was being followed. He didn't know Augustus Eicholtz, but this man probably knew him. Was he watching him now, planning to attack at a vulnerable, unsuspecting moment?

Picking up the car phone, he called McClintock's office.

"Mr. McClintock, please."

"I'm sorry, Mr. McClintock has left for the day," the receptionist chirped.

"This is Renny Jacobson. I was just in to see him. Do you know if he went home?"

"I'm sorry Mr. Jacobson, he was leaving to pick up his wife and fly to Key Biscayne. He will not be back in the office until Wednesday. Should I leave him a message?"

"No. That's OK. I'll call back another time."

Renny couldn't listen to the tape in the car; he only had a CD player. But his father had a stereo system at the Isle of Palms house. So Renny pulled into the afternoon traffic, heading across the city.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2008

    Absolutely the BEST

    This is the best book I have ever read. A must for those interested in southern background with tons of mystery. It will hold your interest to the very last page. Go buy it!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2005

    Many spiritual themes underlying brilliant ,enriching novel

    Like another reviever, I also read this book after having read Whitlow's The Sacrifice. I finished this 400 page plus book in less than five sittings. After the sudden passing of his wealthy --though emotionally distant and controlling-- father, Renny Jacobson, a young attorney in his mid twenties, is disappointed to learn the conditions of the will. No estate left to Renny. No millions of dollars, only great disappointment. Jacobson Sr., however, does leave Renny personal belongings and information regarding an inherited share in 'the Covenant List of South Carolina, Ltd.', something Renny is entirely unfamiliar with, having never heard his father mention this. After securing a cassette left from his father and the contents of a safety deposit box, Renny discovers the List involves a secret society formed during the Civil War by a group of men uniting, in a pact, for the seemingly noble, altruistic purpose of ensuring financial stability for themselves, their families and their descendants. (The book's prologue, actually, describes this intense scene from 1863, one that gives much foreshadowing, with its vivid imagery, conflict, and Scriptural citations, of what is to later come.) The rights to the List --an organization operating in the utmost secrecy, even with the families themselves-- have been passed from generation to generation to the eldest (or only) son. By joining the List and taking his rightful place and share, all appears that Renny will be guaranteed financial security and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. Yet the devout Christian woman, Jo Johnston, whom Renny is becoming increasingly attracted to, is firmly opposed to Renny joining and becoming an heir to his father in the List, earning what should be rightfully his. As Renny explores his own roots, the legacy of his devout late Christian maternal grandmother and mother, and is influenced by three remarkable woman, Jo, Mama A (a black woman who helped raise Renny in his youth), and his landlord Mrs. Stokes, to explore his own dormant Christian faith and be 'born again', Renny is now internally torn with his own reservations (or really Jo's, rather) about the List versus its enticing allure and endless materialistic promises. What unfolds is an intense spiritual battle of good versus evil, blessings versus curses, of greed versus selflessness. (Another key theme is the influence of one's ancestors from generations past in shaping one's character and destiny, something that really hit home personally as I attribute a great deal of my own Jewish religiosity to my ancestors' influence and intercession on my behalf, including two great-great-grandfathers, one a Chassidic rabbi in early 20th century Poland, the other, a cantor in early 20th century Denver. The influence of my beloved deceased maternal grandparents, Holocaust survivors, also carries me deeply.) Renny's real name is Josiah (Renny is only a nickname), after one of the great Jewish kings in the Bible, a name that also speaks a great deal about Renny's purpose and destiny. (Though a Christian novel, I found this, interestingly, consistent with mystical Jewish teachings that one's Hebrew name reflects the essence and purpose of a person's soul. Additionally, I appreciated other Jewish references, including the Star of David, Shabbat [the Jewish Sabbath], and facing Jerusalem in prayer.) This book affected me a great deal, with its entertainment and many twists and turns, a touch of humor, underlying, most importantly, the many spiritual themes comprising this brilliant and enriching novel.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2002

    Sleepy in Idaho

    What a page turner! I read this book in 3 nights. It was reminiscent of Frank Peretti's early novels, and was as hard to put down. The story's spiritual insights are very deep indeed. I cannot imagine anyone coming away from this reading experience not knowing Jesus more intimately, or being more sensitive to the spiritual things around them.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    Loved it, Loved it, Loved it

    I happened on this book by accident. It was offered at our local Christian bookstore as a special and I had them add it on a whim at checkout. I definitely was not sorry. The book was impossible to put down and truly relevant in portraying evil forces at work on Christians today. A compelling story of spiritual warfare. I look forward to buying and reading other titles by Whitlow.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2000

    AMAZING STORY BY A GIFTED AUTHOR

    A truly AWESOME book that will keep you captivated every minute. The only down side to the book is you will not want to put it down once you start. You will feel the mighty presence of God and His ministering angels as you read this book. This book is too good away. Buy copies for your friends as gifts.....there are many spiritual benefits with this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2000

    Anointed!

    Something flows through this story that is captivating - intriguing - even mesmerizing! 'Couldn't put it down' is an understatement. Character development is timely and keeps your attention; the story line moves nicely too! and the message this book delivers...well, read it! You won't regret it. Life changing I would say.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2000

    'The List' is an inspiring must read! What an eye opener!

    Once you begin to read this book you can hardly put it down. Even though this book is fiction there are many biblical facts concerning the spiritual realm and our everyday lives. This book can and will open your eyes to spiritual issues that affect each and every one of us. This is a great book for the believer as well as the unbeliever. It is my personal opinion that this book holds a blessing from God for everyone who reads it. It is one of those books that once you have read it you want every one you know to read it. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Whitlow wrote this book under the divine guidance of the Lord. This book has something for everyone who reads it. 'The List' will keep you on the egde of your seat. Do not be surprised by the presence of the Lord as you read this book. You will be drawn into the lives of the characters. They are easy to identify with and I am sure when you finish this book you will want to know more about their lives. I am eager to read more about Whitlow's Characters and their spiritual journey through life. It is sure to be one that we can all identify with no matter where we are at spiritually. Do not buy just one copy, you will want to keep one and have one to give to a friend. Thank you very much Mr. Whitlow for giving 'The List' to the world. Do not miss reading this wonderful book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2000

    Totally Engrossing, Couldn't Put It Down

    It's been a long time since I have read such a captivating book. Whitlow definetly has a writing style that makes you want to turn the page. This novel can be read and enjoyed at a number of different levels. It's a combination of John Grisham and Stephen King. The spiritual dimension speaks volumes to those with 'ears to hear'. Can't wait to read something else by this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    you will be into it in just a few pages

    such a real character! I kept wanting to stop him from doing what I just knew he was gonna do, because I knew I would do it too. A lot to think about.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2000

    Go david's dad!

    I'm good friends with the whitlow family and this book kicks. it is really hard to put down. it keeps your thinking and wanting to come back for more and more. The descriptive writing really gets your imagination going.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2000

    THE BEST FICTION BOOK I'VE READ IN MANY YEARS

    The List was so thrilling and inspiring I've been buying copies for my friends, especially those who need a reminder of the Father's intense love and His response to heartfelt prayer. I highly recommend it for all lovers of mysteries.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2000

    Captivating and Mysterious~Surprise Ending

    The List is a book I would recommend to all readers. This book reaches far beyond reading for ¿Christians only¿. I found it so compelling that I not only could not put it down, but also was disappointed when it was finished. I wanted to meet and spend time with the characters, well, some of them. I have never been a reader of mysteries but this book was so intriguing that I am hooked! Thank you Robert for your obedience in writing God¿s message in such a delightful way. I look forward to reading more of your writings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2014

    I loved this book! It was a page turner!! I would highly recomme

    I loved this book! It was a page turner!! I would highly recommend this book !! This is my second Whitlow book and so far is my favorite one!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2013

    Loved it

    Great book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2012

    Awesome page turner!

    Robert Whitlow has been gifted to weave the truth of God's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit into his books and this one is no exception. The gods of mammon and the power of earthly covenants try to devour once again, but TRUTH has the victory and it is painted so beautifully through the characters and the plot twists and turns. It is a great read that keeps resonating with you long after the last page and motivates us to be the Spiritual Warriors God has called us to be.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2003

    Why all the compliments?

    I was excited to read this book based on the reviews, but what a disappointment!! When reading I couldn't help but be reminded of a story being written at middle school level. The writing seemed too elementary to me. The story did not come alive to the senses--it seemed 'told' rather than 'shown.' Whitlow lost me at the scene when Renny met Jo and instantly they were buddies. It wasn't believable to me. I believe that Robert Whitlow could have benefitted from some good editing. No doubt, the story has a Christian market, but if Whitlow is to reach out to others, he needs to improve his writing style. Fascinating idea though, and not without merit, it just needed some re-writing.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    EVEN THE ANGELS DESIRE TO LOOK ( I PETER 1:12)

    THIS BOOK WILL TAKE YOU TO SPIRITUAL PLACES YOU MAY HAVE NEVER BEEN AND BRING YOU BACK TO PONDER THE TRIP. IS IS POSSIBLE THAT THERE IS ANOTHER LIFE RUNNING PARALLEL WITH OUR WORLDLY EXISTENCE? DO PEOPLE LIVE LIVES LIKE THE CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK? READ IT, AND BUY A COPY FOR A FRIEND....IT'S NOT THE SAME TO LEND THEM 'YOUR BOOK'. THE BENEFITS ARE INDIVIDUAL TO EACH COPY. THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT EVEN THE ANGELS DESIRE TO LOOK INTO! DON'T BE SURPRISED IF ONE HAPPENS TO PEER OVER YOUR SHOULDER AS YOU READ. BLESSINGS ARE CONTAINED THEREIN.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2000

    List

    WHITLOWS BOOK 'THE LIST' IS A PATH THAT LEADS DEEP INTO THE SNARES OF WEALTH AND HOW EVEN THE BEST INTENTIONS CAN LEAVE US BLIND TO THE SNARES HELD THERE IN. WHITLOWS ABILITY TO CARVE OUT CHARACTERS SO REAL THAT YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF SWEATING AS YOU FOLLOW THE INTRIGG INVOLVED.REVEALING MANS DESPERATION AND THE LOVE OF GOD IN REDEMPTION IS ACCOMPLISHED IN FICTION THAT TRULY REVEALS LIFE.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2000

    Enthralling

    I could not put this book down. It was tremendous. I enjoyed the southern setting and the history. I love Grisham and Peretti, but I would choose Whitlow's book first. I look forward to the next book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2000

    Fantastic

    I think this book was fantastic. I could hardly put it down. The book drew me in, it was like I felt what the characters were doing. I loved this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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