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Personal Representative
Ray McGinley, author
November, 2011. A knock on the door and a Seattle police officer informs CHRIS BRENNAN of the death of his sister, THERESA BRENNAN, a court reporter working on a high profile federal case. Evidence suggests an overdose, and the police suspect suicide. But this is out of character with Theresa, a Catholic woman known for her charitable works. Chris travels to Phoenix to learn what he can, and on the way reflects on her life.\t \tTen years earlier DANIEL TWOFEATHERS, a Tohono O’odham tribal member, proposes to the tribal council that they acquire land west of Phoenix for a future casino site. The council approves, land is purchased, and token residency at the site is implemented. Daniel is appointed leader over a small group of tradesmen who reside on this remote reservation district. \t Local and state politicians are furious about the casino plan, believing it violates the terms of a voter passed proposition limiting the number of casinos. Glendale attempts to annex the site, backed by the governor. Senator John McCain introduces federal legislation to block it. The case is assigned to federal Judge Eduardo Dominguez, Theresa's boss. \t Daniel befriends the daughter (TIPONI BEGAY) of one of the tradesmen. Although Daniel is twice her age, they become involved and Tiponi gets pregnant. Daniel wants an abortion, but Tiponi’s Big Sister of America, Theresa Brennan, recommends against it. Tiponi visits Theresa’s townhouse when an acquaintance (MATTHEW MELLON, the judge’s senior law clerk) leaves a package for safeguarding. Theresa opens it and finds a Native American treasure box filled with stacks of hundred dollar bills, topped with two casino chips. Days later Theresa is found dead. \tPhoenix PD informs Chris he is the Personal Representative for her estate. Due to Theresa’s history of depression, the police suspect suicide but need an autopsy and toxicology test to confirm. \tChris finds a birth certificate and a key to a safe deposit box. Chris uncovers that Theresa had a child years ago and placed him in adoption. Since Theresa worked for the judge deciding the legality of the new casino, Chris suspects the money could be a bribe. Chris uncovers the identity of Theresa’s son and meets his adoptive parents, whom he judges to be honest, hard working people of good character. Chris gets a chance to actually see Theresa’s son and is shocked to see his resemblance to Matthew. \tChris decides to keep most of the money and presents the treasure box with the remaining money to the FBI. The FBI learns Matthew is running for Congress and directs Chris to give the treasure box to Matthew. After tracking the money the FBI drops the case. \tAt the funeral vigil ceremony Theresa’s charitable work is lauded. Although conflicted by his deed, Chris convinces his brother George to use their business to launder the diverted money. The money becomes a wedge between Chris and his wife. \tDaniel promises to marry Tiponi in the future, but soon realizes that Tiponi is too young for him, and he decides to initiate a relationship with a woman closer to his age. Tiponi learns of this and subsequently decides to have her baby.\t \tThe autopsy report concludes homicide as the manner of death. Tiponi was the last person to speak to Theresa. In a police interview Tiponi states she told Daniel about the treasure box of money and he immediately suspected a bribe. Daniel told Tiponi to wait in the car so he could talk to Theresa alone. Tiponi states Daniel told her not to tell anyone they had been there since it wouldn’t look right, due to his position. An arrest warrant for Daniel is filed. \tChris learns from Matthew he and Theresa were lovers years ago, Matthew learns from Chris that Theresa had his child. Matthew then realizes Theresa never told him so that Matthew could marry his old girlfriend. They both come face to face with the enormity of Theresa’s sacrifice. \tMatthew learns that Chris pocketed most of the money and Chris is threatened by a menacing stranger who demands the money be returned. Chris threatens to expose Matthew, who tells the donors the money was returned in order to avoid jeopardizing his campaign. \tThe tribe acts quickly and arrests Daniel for statutory rape in order to avoid media exposure surrounding the murder charge. Eventually the tribe secures a gag order and Daniel is released to face the murder charge. Daniel claims innocence but, based on overwhelming evidence his lawyer convinces him to take a plea and, with a request for leniency from the Brennan family, he is sentenced to fifteen years with the possibility of parole. \tChris channels the laundered money to a trust for Theresa’s son and pays off the mortgage of the adoptive parents. He also provides for Tiponi and her baby. He justifies diverting most of the treasure box money as his fiduciary duty as Theresa’s Personal Representative. \tDue to Theresa’s previous influence and the charity of the Brennan family, Tiponi and her father decide to become Catholics. \tThe surprise of how Theresa actually died, indirectly at the hands of Matthew, is finally revealed. Afterword: \tIn December, 2015, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino opened its doors, operating as a Class 2 casino (no poker or blackjack tables). The tribe seeks approval to operate as a Class 3 (Vegas style) casino. \t Note: \tHistorical accounts of Arizona, the Tohono O’odham Nation, legislation regarding tribal gambling, and the political turmoil surrounding the new casino are interjected at various times.