At first they thought they had accidentally hit a pioneer’s grave. They were extending the garbage dump — sorry, waste station — near the little cemetery at what had once been known as Mizpah, a community long since abandoned and largely forgotten, when the bulldozer operator saw what appeared to be roots rising up out of the soft sand of the hill high over Rebecca Lake. It was only when he jumped down to toss them away that he realized he had just grabbed someone’s fibula.
The local newspaper made much of the find, even researching the background to long-lost Mizpah, a short-lived but deeply religious community that took its name from the Old Testament. The original Mizpah had been a town in Gilead, the Book of Judges saying it was the home of the powerful Israelite commander Jephthah, who once sentenced his daughter to spend two months in the wilderness to atone from some secret sin. The Bible does not say if the months were July and August.
But imagine my surprise when, a week later, the forensic report from Toronto said the bones were probably 30 years old and belonged to a Caucasian man who stood more than six feet tall. No one, however, can imagine what it felt like three weeks after that when a search of incomplete dental records suggested the bones might well be from a man who had not been seen since July 21, 1977.
The day my father set out for town and never returned.
We always believed he had walked out on us to begin another life…
This was nowhere near the route he would have taken that night so long ago. I wondered what would have caused him to stray so far from his usual path.
Could he have been abducted and carried off to this site. If so, for what reason? He never had any enemies and if he was kidnapped no one was ever contacted with a ransom request. The forensic report had no cause of death listed but because they did have some form of dental remains to match to dental records I wonder if DNA testing could confirm that it was indeed my father.
The year that my dad disappeared our lives changed forever. I was only seven and he had left an indelible mark on my character. Dad was not a man of many words. He was earnest, steadfast and reliable. Dad was known as a hard worker and an honest man. His sudden disappearance changed our family. My mother had to work in the laundry of a resort and my three brothers and I had to care for ourselves. I spent the next thirty years resenting my father for leaving us when in fact he may not have left us at all.
However we were so poor that the trips to the dentist were sporadic at best. Also the family dentist had retired to Florida and was not known as a very good record keeper. Hopefully there would be dental records to prove or disprove it was the remains of my dad, if there were any dental records.
I remember waiting for my daddy every night so he could lift me up to his chest and give me a big sloppy kiss on both my cheeks as he came through the door. Then he would allow my body to swoop down like a bird in a scary dive and then back up again so I hovered right in front of his smiling face. I loved it and loved him so much.
I still lay awake at night remembering his kind eyes and gentle disposition. He was so much fun. Even though I was little I still remember how he loved my mom and how happy they were together.
My older brother seemed to just about disappear right before my eyes. He became not much more than a ghost in our house, refusing to even talk about dad and kept to himself most of the time.
It took a long time for us to recover from our Dad’s leaving but, we did. I went on to become a psychologist and my brother a detective.
I thought long and hard about telling my mother about the find, and decided to wait until testing identified the remains, one way or the other. It was too bad my sister read about the bones in the paper. She could be a real pain in the ass, always wanting to be the bearer of tidings, good or bad, never thinking about how the news would affect the tellee, just that her being the teller gave her some sense of importance. She and I were the only Lewis’ left living locally, besides mother; the boys had long since moved on and little was heard from either of them.
Well, I wasn’t going to let Jacqui open the lid off this can of worms if I could help it. Mum’s 65th birthday was just around the corner and the resort was planning a surprise retirement party. There was no way I was going to let Jacqui spoil any of it.
I filled my travel mug with coffee. My mind was set. I knew what I had to do. The stale aroma of popcorn wafted from my jacket as I grabbed my keys. Remembering the previous evening made my smile, but I couldn’t afford distractions. Timing was everything. I tossed the jacket back into the closet, locked my door and headed for the elevator.
The parking garage was always so damp and dingy. The super rarely came down to replace the burned out bulbs. To make matters worse, I had been reassigned a parking spot at the furthest, dankest corner of the entire garage. I paused before I opened the door, took a deep breath and then leaned into it.
The ‘clink-thud!’ of the handle startled me for some reason that morning. I waited and surveyed the parked vehicles. Nothing – not a sound or movement of any kind except the usual groaning hum coming from the electrical room.
I jogged to my vehicle without incident and reached for my car keys. They weren’t in my bag. Crap, I thought. They must be in the jacket pocket. It ticked me off that I had to go all the way back to the apartment.
I got back to the apartment and heard the phone ringing in the kitchen. I thought about ignoring it altogether, but changed my mind as I spotted my car keys sitting on the kitchen counter. It was Jacqui. She was at the hospital with Mum. She was too upset to go into all the details, but I was able to piece together that Jacqui had told Mum the news and now they were in the hospital. Was it Mum’s fragile heart? I hung up and headed straight to the hospital. Along the way, I decided to call our brother Boris to tell him the news. Surely this would be enough for him to come around and acknowledge his family after such a long time. Being a detective, perhaps Boris knew more about the man they found at the waste station. He answered after the first ring. There was a long silence on the other end when he heard my voice. “I was wondering when I’d finally hear from you”, was all he said. I broke down. I was able to choke out that Mum was in the hospital and did he know anything about the man found at the old dump? “I’ll be on the next plane home”, he said quietly before he hung up. It had been 17 years since we had last spoken.
Boris had always favoured Jacqui over all the kids and would do anything for mum. I hoped that with his knowledge of the legal system and his vast network of contacts and the inevitable urging from Jacqui, he would be able to get to the bottom of dad’s disappearance. At least now he had a place to start.
By the next afternoon, Boris and I were sitting at a barroom table discussing the day before and the last 17 years. I’d picked him up at the airport and after some negotiating; he agreed to stay with me instead of booking into a hotel. I looked at my brother across the table and marvelled at how little he’d changed.
He swirled the ice in his Manhattan and smiled.
“Jacqui is a real piece of work, isn’t she?” he said.
You’re one to talk, I thought to myself. After 17 years it took something like this to finally bring you home. I couldn’t help but feel a little angry at Boris for being so distant for so long. Would it have killed him to keep in touch?
I gave myself a mental shake to bring myself back to the reason we were here.
“So, do you think you’ll be able to shed any light on this?, I asked as I signalled the waitress for another glass of red wine. Why do I drink red wine? It usually gives me a headache.
“Sis, I don’t have any connections with the police here and they may resent a big city detective snooping around in their territory.”
I was furious, if he wouldn’t help why was he here?
He gulped his Manhattan and said, “I will try though. Even if the dental records are inconclusive there may be ways to get DNA off the remains to identify it as dad.”
“Or prove it’s not him.”
Boris and I walked hesitantly into the hospital room. Jacqui sat beside her bed. Mom looked so small and vulnerable almost buried under a myriad of beeping and flickering monitors and machines.
Mum must have sensed that we were there. Her eyes opened and for a split second looked shocked to see Boris standing beside me. Then she smiled, relaxed back in the bed and said “Welcome home, B, we’ve missed you”. She’d called Boris “B” for as long as I could remember.
Jacqui jumped up and into Boris’ arms. “It’s a relief that Mum’s okay – it was just her angina acting up again”.
“You’re not going to get rid of me that easily”, Mum laughed. “But now that we’re all together again, and with all that’s going on with the find up at the dump, there’s something I need to share with the three of you. I need you three to get it out of your head that those remains are your father’s. The night he left us, we were fighting. Fighting about something I don’t want to share with you now. He stormed out of the house and I followed him. He wasn’t aware of it, but I followed him all the way out to the highway where he thumbed a ride with some guy in a red pick-up truck. It was a Ford, I remember. I watched them as they headed south toward the city. He was definitely not going anywhere near Rebecca Lake. That was the last time I saw him. Uncle Francis thought he saw your dad at church with a new woman and young kids years later down in the city. As I’ve told you all along, he left us to start a new life. So put this idea that he’s now buried at Rebecca Lake to rest.”
I glanced at Boris. “Well, Mum, just to be sure, we want to be sure that they confirm whether or not it is dad through DNA results.” Jacqui nodded vehemently. “It would be good to know for sure, Mum”, she added.
I was surprised to see a strong emotion flicker quickly over Mum’s face before she got it under control. Was it fear? The heart monitor started beeping more quickly. “Why bring up the past?” She asked, her voice surprisingly strong. “He has been out of our lives for 30 years – I don’t want him to be stirring up our lives again after all these years. Now I am tired – please let me sleep.” With that she closed her eyes – conversation finished.
We three siblings looked at each other silently and nodded, with one accord. This wasn’t over. There was something Mum wasn’t telling us. And we were going to get to the bottom of it.
“I don’t think we should share whatever you find Boris, with Mum” Jacqui said. I agreed with her as did Boris. Mum has already relegated him to a closed compartment in her memory and does not want to open it up ever again. She is in her twilight years now and did everything a single mother could possibly do to help and support us. She never wavered from her responsibilities so let’ respect her wishes and keep our findings between us.
With that, we all agreed to meet the next day down town at my favourite bistro.
The stress intensified and no one could sleep …
By 5 a.m., Boris was hunched over his computer.
I handed him a steaming cup of coffee and hunkered down beside him trying to clear my head. “What are you looking for?” I asked, taking a long, satisfying sip of the comforting brew.
Boris grinned. “I just got an email back from a buddy of mine. Jack retired from the police force a few years back. He handled the case when dad went missing. There was an investigation, you know, even though Mom was convinced he left us for another woman. They needed to rule out foul play. There was never anything conclusive found. I’ve asked Jack if I could come by and chat with him about details of the case. He’s already up – always was an early riser. Want to tag along?”
My stomach fluttered, “I do but I’m kind of scared.”
“I’m not sure,” I said looking for validation. “If Dad really just left us for another woman than my whole perception of him has been wrong for all these years.”
Boris looked at me with his big brown eyes and brotherly admiration, “And if he met with foul play then we need to know. Even if he left us we may have step-brothers and sisters out there. Imagine.”
“Boris, I don’t want to imagine. Let’s get in the car before I lose my nerve.”
Jack greeted us at the door of his house trailer. He was an even more rumpled version of Columbo and looked about 100 years older. Hard for me to believe he was Boris’s buddy. But then, I was just getting to know my brother all over again, so what did I know? They appeared pleased to see each other, but Jack didn’t invite us in. He gestured to a picnic table littered with cigarette butts and where dead flies clung to an array of half-empty beer cans.
Once we had settled down at the picnic table, Jack began to talk.
“I always felt we were missing something during that investigation”, he growled. “We followed up the lead of the red Ford truck your mother saw, but we never did find it. And the sighting of your father by your uncle in the city? That never panned out either – the Church had no record of your father ever attending there”.
I couldn’t contain myself any longer, as questions swirled in my head. “Is there anything else you can remember that made you feel like there was more to the story”, I asked hopefully?
Jack’s gaze was fixed on the flies exploring the beer cans. He flicked his hand over them to chase them away. They buzzed around for a minute, and settled back down to where they were before. Jack gave up, and raised his eyes to meet mine. “It was your mother”, he stated. “I always felt like she was hiding something. She wasn’t un-cooperative, but was still evasive. It was almost like … she was afraid of something. Or someone.” He shrugged. “But there was no evidence one way or another. Just a gut feeling. But my gut has saved me plenty of times so I tend to listen to it”.
Boris interrupted. “What about the key?” he asked. “You haven’t mentioned that”. I glanced sharply at Boris. I didn’t know anything about a key.
“What key” I exclaimed “What do you know Boris, that you’ve kept from us all this time”?
Boris and I looked at Jack and waited for an answer. My head was spinning. This was becoming all too much to digest. What key? What the heck were they talking about?
Jack sighed and looked at Boris. “We really don’t know where the key came from but it looks to belong to an old trunk, maybe something from the 1930s or so. We’ve never found anything since the investigation was closed.”
My mind flashed back to those boring old rainy days we used to spend in the attic growing up, trying to pass the time and playing dress-up in Grammy’s old clothes. Those clothes were kept in her old trunk, one I hadn’t seen since Dad disappeared….
Boris couldn’t meet my eye as I watched him, waiting for an explanation. “There was no point in getting everyone worked up before we knew anything.” he said, half apologetically and half defensively. “The day after Dad disappeared I began looking through his things. I thought surely I would find something that would tell us where he’d gone, or why. Some explanation I could give Mum to ease her pain. But nothing was out of the ordinary- no mysterious notes, no phone numbers scribbled on napkins, nothing to raise any red flags…except a key in the pocket of his coat.
This was almost too much for me to process. I swallowed hard and clenched my teeth to fight the mounting nausea in my stomach. Perhaps it really was as insignificant as Boris had inferred… a key in Dad’s pocket. Huh. Perhaps it was nothing at all to be concerned with. But in that moment it seemed huge, and Boris’ failure to even mention it all these years seemed beyond huge. It seemed deliberate, and loathsome…. and guilty.
My mind was reeling now. Was I over-reacting? I mean, this was my brother. And was this really such a big betrayal? He was my brother… Who I barely knew anymore… Who had all but vanished so many years ago…
As though perhaps he had something to run from. A conscience maybe?
I had to get a grip. This was ridiculous. How could someone, trained as a psychologist, be thinking these paranoid, irrational thoughts?
Suddenly I became painfully aware of the space around me. I had been quiet for too long now, and Boris’ eyes were fixed soundly on me. Whatever the truth was – whatever it would turn out to be – I knew I needed to compose myself and not let my affect betray what I felt inside.
I summoned all the strength I could muster and levelled my gaze on Boris. I took a deep breath and began to speak….
“O.K. The only way we are going to work our way through this is to come clean. You, I and Jacqui need to sit down and sift through all our memories around Dad’s disappearance.” I watched Boris carefully as I spoke. “We may all remember bits and pieces that seem insignificant, but may have great meaning when we put it all together.” I was thoughtful now, getting caught up in the mystery of it all. “For example, Jack, you mentioned that the key looked like it belonged to an old trunk. Boris, do you remember Grammy’s trunk in the attic? We played dress-up for hours. I recall I looked better in her clothes than you did.” Boris grinned sheepishly.
I continued, “That trunk disappeared when Dad did – don’t you remember? I always thought Dad took it. But if he did, why would he leave the key behind? It doesn’t make sense!”
Jack was also thoughtful. “This is another example of your mother being evasive. She never mentioned that there was a trunk that went missing. She said she never saw that key before.”
I glanced at my watch. “We’re supposed to meet Jacqui in about an hour at the Bistro. We should get going. We can ask her what she remembers about the trunk.”
Boris was quiet. With all my psychological training, I still couldn’t read his face. Suddenly he looked up. “I need to tell you something,” he said. “It’s about Jacqui. I’ll tell you about it on the way”.
We thanked Jack for the information, and promised to keep in touch. I glanced once more at the flies on the beer cans, wishing I was a “fly on the wall” those many years ago. I turned toward the car, bracing myself for whatever Boris was going to tell me.
We drove along silently, neither wanting to be the first to speak. As we slowed for a red light, Boris suddenly lurched forward in his seat and vomited all over the dashboard. He struggled to breathe and as I sat there, horrified by what was happening right in front of me, his foot slipped off the brake pedal and we rolled into oncoming traffic.
I had two choices, I could panic or I could grab the steering wheel and pull it sharply to the right. I had no time to think or to make any decisions, I just had to react. My hands grabbed the steering wheel and pulled it quickly. There was the flash of lights, the honking of horns and the sound of metal crunching metal. I smelt a horrible smell and I heard someone say, “Call 911, they’re both alive.”
The next agonizing hours were a blur. Flashes of red & blue lights, police running around, people shouting to each other and to me to ask “Was I ok? Does anything hurt? Can I move my extremities?”
I remembered that Boris had lost consciousness. I could hardly move as partially inflated air bags, my seatbelt, and a lot of junk from the back seat hampered my movements. The smell was getting stronger. I saw dark grey smoke drifting through every crack and cavity of the distorted dashboard. It was burning rubber for sure. I screamed Boris’s name as my eyes streamed with uncontrollable tears. I struggled to free myself from the car so I could get to Boris. Then nothing.
I ended up sitting in the open back door of an ambulance, with a lukewarm cup of really weak tea in my hands, my eyes periodically blinded by the paramedic’s pen flashlight. “Well, it doesn’t look as though you have a concussion,” he put his flashlight away, “but we are going to take you to the hospital to check you out, just in case.” He got up and walked away to assist his colleague in treating the others. I sat there staring at the full cup of tea, and then at the large bruise on my left shin that was flushing an angry purple. “Great, now I won’t be able to wear skirts for months.” Boris came around to the back of the ambulance, still holding the ice to his forehead. The gash across his now broken nose finally stopped bleeding. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t have eaten that warm shrimp cocktail.” A sly smile slowly appeared on his face. I could feel the anger rise, and the blood suddenly pulse below my ears. Throwing the tea on the ground, I quickly stood up. And then, just as quickly sat back down, my leg just as angrily voicing its displeasure in being forced to be active.
“Boris, you have to tell me about Jacqui”, as I tenderly stretched out my battered leg. Boris sighed. “Alright Myrtle…I’ll tell you”. He paused to collect himself and dab at his forehead. “Jacqui’s only our half-sister.”
I reeled. “What? What are you talking about, Boris?” I was starting to question why I had even called my brother back home. “It’s true”, Boris said gently. “Her father is Jim Duncan, the mayor who was ousted out of office for embezzling funds. Remember that scandal that went down around the time that Dad left? Turns out Mum was pregnant with Jacqui when all that went down. The kicker is Jacqui doesn’t know this. Did you ever wonder why we were tall, blonde and fair and she’s short with that red hair of hers? Remember Jim Duncan?”
“He had that same red hair”, I choked.
I should have been dumbfounded but surprisingly I found myself with no reaction. Had the accident done some damage to my senses? Had the burning rubber affected my cognitive sense?. Or was it something I had sensed years ago one evening when the family, in one of the happier moments, was sitting around the kitchen table after an early dinner. It was more of a feeling and not something that was expressed out-loud. There was a look in Mum and Dad’s eyes as they were discussing relationships and past experiences with their teenage courting years. Something feeling very much like anger passed between them. A real tension in the air you could cut with a knife. Mum’s eyes went very distant and gazed lovingly at Jacqui while Dad looked very tense and distracted. Suddenly, Dad jumped up from the table……..
…and stormed out of the house, the slamming door rattling the dishes in the cupboard. It was the first time I remember Mum and Dad fighting. I didn’t understand it then, but now that scene made sense. My brow furrowed. “Boris – how did you figure it out? I didn’t have a clue”. I was beginning to feel like there were a lot of things about my own family that I didn’t know.
Then suddenly, a bigger realization dawned on me. “Boris, do you think Jim Duncan may have had something to do with Dad’s disappearance?”
Boris dropped the ice pack and stared at my leg for what seemed like hours. “Myrtle, do you know why I became a detective?” I shook my head mutely. I had always suspected that he took up his profession due to not being able to get into the police force. But all the events of the past few days started to make me question everything I knew about my family.
“I became a detective, a PRIVATE detective, because I wanted to find out what happened to our father…and get the bastard that made him disappear.” Boris became very solemn and quiet. He quickly looked around the accident scene to make sure no one was within earshot. “I always suspected Jim Duncan as the cause of pop’s disappearance. When pop went missing, there wasn’t much to go on at the time. But when Jim Duncan left, he left a trail 3 miles wide, he was easy to track down.” Boris paused to swallow. I saw he was starting to become more tense. The cut on his nose, started to run afresh. A thin trickle of scarlet started down his face, but he seemed not to notice, intent on what he was talking about. “About a year and a half after I was able to get my detective practice going, I was able to track down Jim in Winnipeg. He graduated from embezzling funds, to running a stolen car operation and trafficking heroin on the side. I couldn’t find out exactly what happened to him those years after he left town, but what I did find out was nothing good.” Boris swallowed again, I stared at him transfixed. I was beginning to realize that I really didn’t know anything about my brother anymore. The person I grew up with and shared fond memories with as a kid was gone, gone years ago. This person’s name was Boris, we shared a blood bond, but outside of that this person was a complete stranger.
Later, at the hospital, the doctors cleared me of a concussion. The same doctor, who had admitted Mum two days ago bandaged up my leg, sewed up Boris’ nose and sent us on our way, saying “you guys should get a family discount”. We chuckled politely and hobbled out. As we were waiting for a cab to take us back to my place for some much-needed rest, my cell phone rang. It was Jacqui. She had spent the day getting Mum settled back in her little apartment on Robbie Street after her brief stay in the hospital. She wondered if we had been able to uncover anything. I told her we had, and asked if she could meet Boris and I at the library the next day to talk. Meanwhile, Boris was making a few calls of his own. He inquired at the three local antique stores to see if they had a trunk that matched the description of our Gram’s from so many years ago. We needed to find that trunk…and Jim Duncan.
Boris hung up the phone after another call and looked at me. I was lounging on the couch with my leg propped up after downing a couple more painkillers to dull the throbbing. “Brace yourself,” he said ominously. “Just got off the phone with the lab. The DNA results are conclusive – the bones they found were from Dad.”
I nodded. I had already resigned myself to the fact that they were. “You know, I am almost relieved”. Boris looked surprised. “Boris, think about it. This means Dad didn’t leave us for another life. I guess all those years I thought he didn’t love us ….” Here I choked up a bit. “Now, somehow I can think better of him”. I kept my eyes lowered, feeling a little embarrassed about my sudden gush of emotion.
Boris came over and knelt beside me. “We are going to find out what happened”, he stated gently. “I promise you that”.
I smiled, in spite of my tears. I took a deep breath. “O.K, what do we do next?”
Boris laughed. “Easy, sis. Today we rest. Tomorrow, we meet with Jacqui. You are looking pretty comfortable where you are.” He swung my legs around so that I was lying full out on the couch. He grabbed a blanket and tucked it around me. “Try to get some sleep. I’ll grab a nap on your bed.” He grinned. “That couch is too short for me anyway”. As he went to the bedroom, I couldn’t help but smi
le. I got a glimpse of the brother I used to know. I suddenly realized how much I had missed him. As I closed my eyes, I started dreaming about a time long ago … putting on gram’s clothes, and laughing at Boris strutting around in a dress and broad-brimmed hat.
Dad didn’t leave us. That’s good. He died very young. That is unforgivable if indeed the death was contrived, Boris pondered.
I drifted off to sleep with all my memories of childhood comforting me like a warm blanket. I was awakened by a loud crashing sound outside my front door. It took me a minute to realize I was actually awake and not dreaming. I got up off the couch and tiptoed to the door. I waited silently listening for any other sound but all I could hear was my heart hammering in my chest, half expecting someone to crash through the door. After several seconds of waiting I decided it was probably safe to open the door and see what had made the noise. I slowly opened it. On the step was a large rock and beside it was an envelope. I picked it up and closed the door quickly. This was really freaking me out. I ran to my room and woke Boris to tell him what had just happened. I handed him the envelope and asked him to open it.
As Boris wiped the sleep from his eyes and ripped open the envelope, I realized how stiff and sore I was. I made a mental note: more pain killers! I held my breath as he unfolded the note. He read out-loud, “Heard you were looking for Duncan. He’s in Kingston Pen. From a friend”.
We looked at each other. “You call Jacqui” Boris commanded. “We need to meet her earlier than planned. I’ll make coffee to go”.
I shot a grateful smile over my shoulder as I headed for the phone. “Then on to Kingston?” I asked. “Then on to Kingston” he agreed.
A half hour later, the three siblings sat around a small table at the back of the library. “How do you know we can trust that note?” Jackie asked, perplexed.
Boris continued to scan the microfiche of old newspaper articles without glancing up. “Jack is verifying the information as we speak”, he said. “Ah, here is what I was looking for. Listen at this.” He began to read out-loud.
“Here’s the title,” Boris said as he seemed to be in shock. “Ousted Mayor James (Jim) Duncan convicted of manslaughter.” Jacqui and I just stared at our brother. I noticed he was starting to sweat.
“Jim Duncan was convicted in a jury trial of inadvertently murdering his long-time business associate Moshe Lazarus.”
I heard myself say, “You’ve got to be kidding me. If he killed this Lazarus guy, maybe he also killed our father.”
“I never really knew our Dad,” Jacqui said. “I was just so little.”
Boris and I looked at each other …
and swallowed hard. Not because of what Jacqui had just said, but because staring back at all of us from the screen, was a face of a black man.
“That’s not the same Jim Duncan,” Boris and I chimed in unison.
“Nope, it’s not. My father was definitely not black.”
Boris and I whirled around to face Jacqui who stood smiling smugly at Boris’s elbow.
“You didn’t think I knew, did you?’ she asked, raising her eyebrows and looking at us both questioningly.
“Ummmm….no, well, we just found out ourselves…how long have you known?” I said, stumbling over my words.
Boris had wheeled his chair back a bit so he could survey his two sisters. I looked at him.
“Long enough,” replied Jacqui.
“OK, this is way too weird. Someone obviously got the picture wrong in the newspaper.”
“Kind of a big mistake, wouldn’t you think?” asked Jacqui. She didn’t seem to be too perturbed about this turn of events.
Frankly, I figured it had to be some editorial error that was never caught by a proof reader. I looked at my sibs and really didn’t want to ask if we had to go to Kingston. I didn’t want to face the real Jim Duncan, whoever he was.
How could Mum have slept with him anyway? A murderer of all things! It made me want to be sick.
“Let’s sum up what we know,” Boris managed after a few minutes of silence. “There was not a lot of evidence for the police to go by, at the time they investigated Dad’s disappearance. There was the key in his pocket. The key we suspect belonged to the trunk in the attic. The trunk went missing when Dad did, but Mom managed not to mention that to the cops. Dad had a reason to have a grudge against Jim Duncan.” He glanced at Jacqui. “Sorry, sis”. She shrugged. Boris went on. “Jim Duncan got caught embezzling funds and disappeared after Dad did, and has been living a criminal’s life since. We’ve been given a message that he is in the slammer in Kingston. Now there is another Jim Duncan – a black Jim Duncan – who is also being described as a former mayor who has murdered his partner.” He paused, touching the bandage on his nose carefully. “There are definitely pieces of the puzzle missing”. Suddenly, Boris wheeled his chair around and looked directly at Jacqui. “Why don’t you tell us what you know … starting with how you knew that Jim Duncan was your father?”
“He told me in a letter when I was away at college. I had just turned 21 and I was studying for final exams when his letter arrived.
I didn’t believe it. On my next visit home to see Mum, I showed her the letter and she came clean”, Jacqui said with a twinkle in her eye. She seemed pretty pleased with herself that she had been able to keep this a secret for so long. “Let me suggest that before we drive to Kingston, that we have another chat with Mum. She’ll be able to relay the whole story better than I.”
So Mum had been hiding something…
We called ahead and told Mum we were coming over together – the three of us – and we had something important to discuss with her.
“So do I,” she said.
When we arrived, there was tea already poured, complete with milk in Jacqui’s, milk and two sugars in Boris’s and mine straight but lightly steeped. Who knew us better than our own mother?
But did we know her?
Boris sipped his tea – his right hand shaking slightly as he raised the cup – cleared his throat and began what we had planned.
But Mum would have none of it. She raised her own hand and Boris stopped before he could sputter out the first word.
“I told you I followed him out to the highway that night,” she said.
“Yes,” I hastily added, hoping somehow to help her get wherever she was going. “And he hitched a ride in the red pick-up. A Ford, eh?”
Mum shook her head, eyes closed as if remembering.
“Not a Ford,” she said, smiling weakly.
“It wasn’t red, either,” she continued. “In fact, I have no idea what was on the highway that night. We never got that far….”
Completed July 22, 2009