Unforgiven Part 1

Chapter 1

Fear

 

This is my journey into a life I never thought I’d have or want. Let’s start on a day that is dreary with an overcast sky. It is November, a time of rain and no sunshine, a time so quiet and lonely that you can hear every sound from outside to the thoughts in your head. The sounds of rain, cars, and trucks flying by, birds chirping and hiding in trees from the cold and the rain.

Opposite of all these sounds is an apartment building that is as anonymous as I’ve always felt. I had lost everything I ever dreamed of having. A life full of love, happiness, a career, loved ones, friends—nevertheless, I still had my conscience and my dog Rosy. In the past, I was a well-known writer. Eventually, I was soon forgotten because of tabloids and paparazzi, but that is a long story to be told later. People have called me a liar, a cheater, a lover, and a mess, but today, it’s just Henry. A man who feels he has no meaning behind his name and has no face.

Today could be seen as my worst day, but maybe it was just a routinely bland day. Like any other day, it starts with me waking up early so I can pretend for a couple hours that I don’t have a job that makes me miserable and completely toxified by misery and discontent by what this life of mine has come to. I’m a book editor for a company that doesn’t really get recognized. My boss hates me for little to no reason other than being late half the time.

I stand in the kitchen that is quite small, which doesn’t matter because I’ve never really liked to cook. I stand still, staring out the window with my bitter black coffee that I drink like it’s water. It may have been just another day to me, but it’s my 40th birthday; although, people might think I look sixty.

Whenever I walk in to my dreary living room, I always gravitate toward a bottle of Jack Daniels. It tastes so good in coffee. A lot of people have told me that I should’ve gone to those AA meetings because they thought I had a problem. Eventually, I got rid of my drinking problem, but let us focus on the time I was a mess. I’m pretty numbed by my alcoholism, but I’m conscious enough to know that I miss my ex-wife. I miss her every day … I should’ve been a better husband to her. I swear sometimes I can still smell her intoxicating cooking.

The little things is what made her incredible. Anything from how she stirred the pot bringing up steam and incredible aromas to how she laughed when I’d tickle her. I guess I was a bit in the clouds too much and didn’t really connect with her. It was all a blur to me—I didn’t even know how we drifted apart or even the reason she left me. Her name still echoes in my head … Cheryl.

Later on I caught on to what the issue was,2 but that will soon be revealed.

Cheryl, such a beautiful name.

“Happy birthday to me,” I say dreading work just like yesterday and every day of my life. Well, my old life.

I can’t believe what my life has become. It’s as if God decided my life will revolve around five things: Misery, my dog, coffee, alcohol, and a job so crumby it takes every ounce of me to get out of the house. Sitting on the sofa that day made me wonder how many minutes, hours and days have gone without me remembering the last time I was happy. Luckily, there was something that distracted me from my loser like mentality. On the surface, it is obscure, but trust me, it certainly caught my intrigue and attention for a moment.

The sound of a squirrel squeaking and a crow cawing in a tree gives me a slight startle. I walk over to the patio glass doors and see the squirrel running down a tree with a small nut in his mouth and the crow hovering over him.  The squirrel stops at one side of the street with a big semi-truck coming at top speed just a few meters away. He takes a chance and runs across with the crow right behind him. The crow is so close behind him that by the time the squirrel makes it to the other side, the crow gets hit by the semi-truck. I smile happily, relieved that the squirrel made it. Yes, I was a twisted man.

My attention turns to a wooden clock with my father’s initials—CF (Charles Fields)—that rests above the fireplace.  I could never decide how I felt about him. On the one hand, he always showed care and love for my family and me, but his tone and attitude always scared me. Every conversation with him was like being told I was a loser and needed to stop being one in order to succeed. I never argued with him because every time I’d try he’d always get amped up to win the argument. It was as if being wrong or someone disagreeing with his point scared or pissed him off so much that he wouldn’t stop until you nodded your head and agreed with him. I was both terrified and respectful of him. I guess that’s what being a father is, right?

Anyway, back to the story.

Rosy barks at me, and I turn around, staring at her.

She barks again, this time a little more excited.

I look at the clock and realize I am going to be late again. I dump the coffee in the sink and went up to my room to get ready.

I step out of the shower, wrapped the towel around my waist, and walk up to the mirror to wipe the steam off to look in the mirror. I touch the wrinkles around my tired, and weathered with emotion, eyes and cheeks. Too tired to shave or brush my teeth, I grab my mouthwash to rinse out my mouth.

My phone goes off as I take my towel off in front of my dresser and grab my boxers. The caller display reads James (boss).

I grunt out of annoyance then look at the clock still with nothing on holding my underwear. I am a half an hour late.

“Shit!”

“Hey, James, how’s it going?”

“How’s it going? You aren’t here is how it’s going,” James shouted angrily.

“I’m sorry, I must’ve set my clock on daylight savings or something.”

“You impress me, Henry,” he said sarcastically.

For a second, I get excited but sense my boss’s sarcastic tone so I put the phone on speaker then place it on the corner of the bed as I put my underwear on. What an idiot.

“Don’t bother coming to work,” James says in a cold and stern tone.

“Are you firing me?”

“No, I’m giving you the day off—are you kidding me? You are always late, have a useless excuse every time, and half the books you’ve edited get sent to another editor. I     can’t afford to keep you. You make the company look bad.”

“Well, can I come get my stuff?”

“That’s fine,” he says as he hangs up.

 

I sit in my car collapsed on the steering wheel. My breathing somewhat calm with waves of soft whimpering, I look at the empty box beside me in which at the bottom is a little poem.

 

 

Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
and to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
and anger at living and scorn of Fate,
to let in Life, and to let out Death.

 

  • Violet Fane

 

It was a poem I had left in a box just in case I got fired from my job; at the time, I thought poetry was a form of therapy. I’d put a poem in places where I needed them the most as a form of self-therapy. Trust me, I was not a happy camper compared to now.

***************************************

 

I get out of my car with the empty box cradled in my arms with a blank stare and a fixated frown. The frustration and fear bubbles up inside of me not knowing what this day might mean for me and what it will bring me tomorrow.

I step into the office while everyone is busy working but perk up as soon as the door closes behind me. Nervously, I walk as everyone’s glare and following eyes give an unnerving feeling of fear that they will trample me with verbal attacks destroying what is left of my psyche.

I stop at my desk and gather all my belongings as the eyes of my now former co-workers focus on me like a pack of wolves stalking their prey. My boss leans against the edge of my desk with a smile so menacing it sends a cold chill down my spine.

Without looking at anyone, I walk out of the door with a look of defeat so evident that if I were to stop or slow down the hungry pack of wolves formerly known as my co-workers would eat me alive.

I open my car door and throw my box in the passenger seat then plop down and scream out of frustration. I run my hands through my hair, gripping and tugging at it in anger and fear. My eyes become red coming close to crying with a single tear rolling down my cold and colorless cheek. Looking back on it, I’ve realized something, I had no spine or backbone. I felt like I was a broken shell of a man and there was no fixing me. Thankfully, I pulled myself out of it, a little too slow, but I still did it.

On the highway, a poem repeats in my mind that always rang in my head every time I felt scared and frustrated.

 

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun;
Nor the furious winter’s rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dread thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!

-William Shakespeare

 

 

“Hi, sis,” I say into the phone. I’ve been sitting in my garage for what feels like hours. Defeated and feeling worthless.

“Hi, Henry.”

“What’s up?”

“Well, I just got a phone call from the family doctor and …”

There is a small moment of silence.

“And what?”

“Her kidneys are failing, but she can’t find a donor. If she doesn’t find a donor soon she’ll only have a month before she …”

A few minutes go by without anyone saying anything.

“I gotta go, I’ll call you later. Goodbye, sis.”

I put my phone down, grab the box, then go inside. Soon, I’m on the sofa with a bottle of whiskey in my hand.

I begin to chug it then break down into tears and scream until my lungs give out as I throw the bottle in the fireplace.

Rosy comes in barking and licking my face as I hug her while sitting on my knees.

Rosy takes off when she gets distracted by the sound of a bird or something and runs to the second floor.

I must’ve left a window open or something.

I follow her to the second floor right into the hallway where she sits looking up at the entrance to the attic. I pull down the ladder from the ceiling and climb up the steps.

Rosy follows me up the steps and into the attic.

I recently made it an area of tranquility. Turning on the lights, I see the bird in the corner. I approach it calmly and pick up a piece of cardboard to shoo it toward the window from where it came in.

As I get closer, it begins to fly around in a somewhat drunken manner then stops at a corner close to the window. I grab a reflective piece of tape my mother used to put on cherry trees to scare away birds. Hoping it will just flap its little wings over to the window, I put the tape outside. I thought it was a pointless thing to do since I know nothing about birds, but I gave it a try anyway.

The bird, believe it or not, flies out the window toward the piece of paper like it wants to attack it. I immediately close the window, thankful it took the bait so easily. I sat down in a dark cherry red La-Z-Boy chair that was set beside a night table with not too much light. Probably the best impulse buy I ever made—dark cherry red was always an attractive and comforting color to me. Plus, I always thought it would be the only kind of piece of furniture in my life that I’d ever see. I was wrong in the most beautiful way.

I looked off in the distance noticing a box labeled Charles’ belongings, which, to me, sounded so formal and very Charles of my father to have it labeled that way. His wording was always so sophisticated and dry. It was as if he was once an English professor or something boring like that. Hilarious coming from a writer, huh? Anyhow …

I lazily leaned over from my chair, not wanting to be pulled out of comfort, then grabbed the box and opened it. Now, although this has been in my house for a long time, I never looked in it. I only knew my father for twenty years while he was alive; apparently, according to my mother, he died in a boating accident. The body was not found for a few days. I’ll get to the “apparently” part later, but for now, let’s stick to this part of the story.

I took out this blue leather-like photo album with no title or anything on the front. I opened it and on the first page before the pictures it was written: “Charles Fields and comrades in 1964” at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page, it said: “I hope someday when I have a son he will be a hard working successful man. I know he’ll make me proud.”

I have to pause before going on because that really hits me since I have been successful after he died—well, at least I thought he was. That sentence made it look like I backtracked so many steps. Every time I thought of my father I thought of the amount of times I failed and felt smaller and smaller.

I flipped to the first two pages of pictures that have this warmth and dryness to them. The color a reddish tone. Almost like the heat of the environment my father and his friends were in was so hot it emitted itself in the picture. Even the look on their faces show it was hot. That makes sense knowing my father lived like an hour away from the Mediterranean Sea. I’m guessing that is in Egypt, right? I didn’t really know my father for as long as I’d hope to.

Flipping through the book, I only glance at the pictures.

At about a quarter of the book, an envelope slips to the edge of the page on the right-hand side. Nothing is written on the front or back nor is it sealed. I carefully open it and take out a picture of my father and me on a boat. Nothing fancy or intriguing, just a father and son smiling like we were told to smile. Probably my mom’s idea when she took the picture. God, I miss her.

I remember that day as clear as his overly loud tone, although sometimes he’d whisper or even give a little shrug.

I remember that day …

First off, it was a little white sail boat that could fit three or four people. I never really thought it was exciting or fun, but I did enjoy the serenity of being far away from home.

I was leaning on the left rail of the boat feeling bored out of my mind.

My father was steering the boat wearing beige shorts and a sky-blue sleeveless shirt. When it came to dressing himself, he was the blandest man you have ever met. Well, except for church, he always got dressed up for church.

He pulled a lever or something to put down the anchor and came over to me leaving the steering wheel.

I was actually in a pretty calm and happy mood. I mean, yeah, I was insanely bored but happy.

He told me, “Henry, I know you are at an age where you don’t know what you are meant to do, but …”

I wasn’t looking at him, but I could tell he was trying to have a heart to heart moment; which was very rare but always comforting. I turned my head and looked at him.

“One day, something will happen in your life that will give you the courage to do something of great value.”

That was probably the last time my father had ever said anything that had warmth and emotion. I think expressing his feelings had always been hard for him. It was like he only wanted to express his frustration and love for me through an aggressive and firm tone. Maybe his father talked to him that way so he knew no other way of communicating.

I continue to flip through the book seeing many pictures of my father and his friends being goofs, him being serious in his soldier pictures and dancing with Mom in which both looked so happy. I get to the last page and see a manila envelope that sits in a slit on the inside of the back cover. It reads: “Charles Fields’ Last Will and Testament”.

I take it gently out of its slit and lay it on the desk behind me. That desk held so many memories for me. Many years of hard work trying to maintain my status as a well-known writer.

 

 

Son, I have told you that one day you will do something of great value.

So, in the case of my death I have left you the Deed to my old cabin

that holds value, years of family history, and is enriched with art.

I plead that you take good care of it.

 

I don’t know what made me want to read that, or even know why my father would write a will. He was always keen on making his children feel like they shouldn’t depend on anyone as adults. It was if the idea of being a parent meant only being a damn drill sergeant; on top of that, there would be random spurs of words of wisdom that sounded as sharp and poisonous as a komodo dragon’s blue tongue.

Though, the cabin did sound pretty intriguing.

I look at Rosy and ask, “What do you think, Rosy? Wanna go for a ride?”

She wags her tail excitedly, looked at me with a smile and sitting politely.

I’m pretty sure she just thinks I just asked if she wanted a treat.

What a wonderful dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

New Beginning

 

For the first time in ten years, I was leaving the house for something besides work, coffee, and alcohol. The bigger picture, though, is that it was the first time I left to start a new life. I was so tired of living a routine life. Knowing exactly how my day would go and never feeling fulfilled nor excited. That was why I loved being a writer, because I could create any world I want and use that skill as a therapeutic tool for my insanity. Not that I was a joker-esque writer or Stephen King, but all creative people are kind of crazy. To be a writer, you have to be willing to delve into emotions that can be rather disturbing to some in order to create something incredible.

At the time, I thought the trip was going to be a little adventure to my father’s old cabin and maybe a little sightseeing. Boy, was I wrong, but I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s continue with me packing my bags.

It’s around five in the evening, and I have already eaten dinner; well, it wasn’t really dinner. Back then, I thought as long as it didn’t instantly kill me I’d eat it. I ate pretty much anything that came in a can. In fact, that is saying it literally—I would eat at least three or four times a week Chef Boyardee or Chunky soup. I was like a lazy teenager that didn’t know what cooking was or just didn’t care for it.

I was such a mess.

The contents of my main bag is kind of sad—clothes, a worn-out notebook, a bottle of Fireball, toiletries, a winter jacket, a bag of treats for Rosy, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a book with no name on it that I had never read before and a few candy bars.

The other bag is just a carry-on sized bag with emergency supplies: Phone charger, iPad and iPod in case I have to take a bus or hitch a ride.

I finish packing my bags and have one last pee before locking the house and leaving. After flushing, I look at myself in the mirror and utter the words, “I look horrible.”

It’s not that I’ve never looked at myself, but for some reason after having read that paragraph in my father’s will, I have some weird little epitome of who I have become. It’s as if what my father was saying about “Do[ing] something of great value” made me feel like I had done the exact opposite. I feel so many things looking in the mirror while the tap is running. Angry, frustrated, forgotten, misplaced, disoriented, tired, old, rusty, etc. Basically, I feel like I have given up. Which I had.

I snap out of it and wash my hands then turn the tap off. Now, here is something strange about me; although I may seem like I was a mess and didn’t really take care of myself, I had a habit of checking the house nervously every time I left. It started off as a routine thing to make sure I didn’t leave the oven on or water running. Then it became an obsession to triple or quadruple check the entire house even though I knew and remembered the last thing I used. I was so afraid of doing something or forgetting something that could destroy my house. I don’t know what it was, I just didn’t feel safe leaving the house without being absolutely certain I could leave feeling completely confident.

Especially now that I didn’t know when I was coming back … if ever.

So, I put all my stuff in my car including some things for Rosy—blankets, rain and winter jacket, toys, emergency kit.

I have a pretty nice jacket on too, or at least I think it’s nice. It’s actually kind of ratty and old.  Light-brown with sheep fur on the inside and the zipper has a bit of an oily black dust on it. It sounds horrible, but it means a lot to me. It belonged to my dad.

Yes, I know I’ve been calling him my father, but I’m tired of being formal about it. He’s my dad, and despite what I’ve said about him, I always have and always will love him. I may have my issues with him, but just like any close relationship, love never dies nor does it change.

Every time I put that jacket on I felt like part of him was with me.

After meticulously checking the house to make sure I can leave without burning or flooding the house, I get into my car with Rosy in the back.

I was finally about to leave my house, which now seems like a death trap that kept me from where I am in my life right now. The life I have right now is immensely better and quite different than the life I lived at that time. Little did I know I was headed down a path quite different than any path I had ever been on.

***************************************************************************

I drive on the freeway encompassed with a grey sky, sounds of thunder, and heavy rain that creates this bleak yet peaceful aura. I don’t know what it is about gloomy weather, but it’s always been my favorite kind. I think it has to do with being a writer; however, the bigger picture is that it reflects who I am. Specifically, how I live my life and what I have done to overcome personal issues.

Take rain, for example—every person I know says they hate rain and grey clouds because it ruins their day when they want to go outside. Strange, since most people stay glued to their phone without any voluntary need or want to go outside. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me who thinks rain and grey clouds are calming in a somewhat poetic way. The sounds of rain and thunder create this symphonic environment that drowns out any falsified sense that life makes sense and has no consequences. You can’t live your life expecting sunshine and rainbows; furthermore, it just makes sense to be real and embrace the rain and thunder that comes with life. I guess that’s my way of being philosophical and sounding smart. At the time, I was just a guy who liked to be left alone sometimes.

Rosy begins whining after about an hour. I know it isn’t because she has to pee or go number two because she did her business right before we left. The more likely reason for her behavior is her weird, irrational fear of thunder.

“I know, Rosy, it’s not a nice day today. Don’t worry, you’re with me, sweetie. Everything will be OK,” I say, looking in the rear view mirror as she lies down and sighs.

She is a rather tough girl, could definitely hold her ground if she needed to. I take her on walks at night sometimes, and when another dog the same size or bigger barks at her, she barks back even louder. She even gives a bit of a crazy look at the dog or cat—that made me laugh every time.

About an hour later, we get to a pit stop in Hope. I use the washroom then take Rosy outside the car so she can do her business as well.

She sniffs around looking for the right spot as all dogs do. Little did I know, someone was behind my car siphoning my gas.

Rosy finishes doing her business then kicks her back feet to dig it up—I always thought it was strange yet funny when she did that.

I’m about to go around to my side of the car when I see feet from under the car and hear gurgling sounds.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing?” I yell with Rosy barking.

The guy takes off so I grab my cell phone and dial the police. “Yes, hi, some guy just siphoned my tank and just took off. Please bring a cop by before he gets too far!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t do anything about it.”

“What the hell do you mean?”

“Sir, please calm down. Could you give us a description?”

“Why would you want a description if you’re not coming to help?”

“Sir, what you are talking about has been happening for the last month by the same person. Please cooperate so we may put it on file.”

“Fine, he’s about six feet tall, worn-out black leather jacket, torn white jeans, salt and pepper hair that seemed pretty long and greasy, greyish beard, and a tattoo on his right forearm.”

“What was the tattoo?”

“Not sure kind of looked like the one my father had, it’s a Taurus with a breast cancer ribbon around its neck. He got it a year after my mother died.”

“Thank you sir, I’m sorry … your name, please?”

“Henry Field.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Field.”

“No problem, I guess.”

I hang up kind of frustrated but also curious about the man who siphoned my tank. That tattoo looked exactly like the one my dad had. Plus, he’s about the same height.

I put Rosy in the backseat and unhook her leash.

I get back in my car, and as I turn the key to start the car, it starts rattling and then kind of … Well, it just won’t start. I keep trying for about ten minutes or so but the car won’t budge.

A couple cars pass by making me feel even more frustrated since they are in motion and I’m not. For the next hour, it seems like I am in a ghost town with no buildings; just a washroom, a thick forest, and houses hidden in the middle of it.

I pass out for about a couple hours until a cop scares the crap out of me by knocking on my window with his flashlight and blinding me. I flinch like I just saw Chucky or … Wait, what is more terrifying then a serial killer doll? Maybe that is an extreme example of how I reacted.

“Roll down your window,” he says through the glass as rain pours down.

“You can’t park your car here, sir.”

“Sorry, officer, my car won’t start and someone siphoned my gas tank.”

“I see.”

“I think maybe my car battery is dead.”

“How do you know that’s the case?”

“Umm, well, like I said, my car won’t start.”

He nods as if he is in an awkward conversation. I mean, he may as well be.

“License and registration, please.”

I give him my info and he goes back to his car. He’s gone for five minutes but it feels like an hour.

“OK, you are good to go, but because you cannot leave your car here and there isn’t a single car parts store near here, I’ll give you a spare car battery.”

“Thank you, officer.”

“It’s gonna cost yeah, though.”

“How much?”

“Three hundred.”

“Kinda steep, officer, don’t you think?”

“It’s the price of your ticket. More if you have a problem with it.”

“It’s not a problem.” I give him cash and he looks at me funny.

“How do you have this amount of money on you?”

“Long road trip, and I’d rather not use my debit card too much. Service and usage fees are not my thing. Oh, and I don’t’ have a credit card.”

He stares at me for an oddly long time then takes the cash and goes back to his car for the spare car battery. He comes back and makes a hand motion for me to pop open the hood of my car. I reach down to pull the tab to unlock my hood, and as I try to sit back up, I hit my head on the side of my steering wheel.

“Ow!”

The officer unhooks the dead battery and puts in the new one. I can’t really see what he’s doing so I pretty much have a quiet staring contest with my opened hood. When he’s finished, he comes back beside me and looks at me while he chews gum. Pretty sure he’s just pretending because he talked to me earlier like nothing was in his mouth. What a douche.

“Try to start your car.”

I put the key back in the ignition and turn it. The car starts with ease.

“If I catch you here again, you’ll get a bigger fine. Understand?”

I nod, and he goes back to his car then takes off.

I wait a minute or two then start driving again.

We pass a sign that says Coquihalla 134, far from another pit stop or civilization and still in the thick treed area with no signs of life in sight. As I drive, I notice a sudden change in the weather. Full overcast, rigid and strong winds gusting here and there. Snow swirls in the air like a sharp white fist punching at nothing.

The ground is compacted with fresh snow and ice. Dangerous conditions that scare me knowing I’m pretty much blind with all this snow and no visible form of life.

Even though it is a 110 zone, I’m only going 65km—it’s pretty much an ice rink that could break your ankles. By now, I have been driving for at least two hours and am starting to drift. That coffee and energy drink I had earlier is obviously wearing off.

There’s a bit of a bend coming up and the car starts to skid a little bit. Jolting a bit, I straighten the wheel.

My eyes start to feel heavy like someone has a magnet forcing my eyes shut.

The car drifts sideways, and I accidentally hit the accelerator with Rosy barking mercilessly, feeling in danger.  Then I slam on the breaks causing my car to spin into a downward slope; which feels like being in the most ruthless car wash pulling me into this vicious cycle that’s blurry and fast. The only thing that keeps me from passing out aside from fear of the situation is Rosy’s merciless barking and crying.

We hit a tree so thick and strong that we both are knocked unconscious on impact. It was like getting hit by a titanium wall, not that I have but I imagine that’s an accurate description. Thankfully, my car isn’t completely destroyed.

This was its final battle, though, and I will certainly miss it. Been through a lot in that car, from trying to outrun a cop to getting my first kiss. I know, corny and typical. All of us wanted the same things when we were younger, right? Adventure, love and excitement. Funny how the things we want as we get older become more simplified and necessary.

Sadly, I remember nothing else until the next morning.

 

Chapter 3

The Cabin

My head leans against the window, which is cracked in half with some of my blood on it trickling from my left temple. I remember that because when I woke up I had a pounding headache that felt like a fat raccoon with a bowling ball on its stomach was sitting on my head. I know, weird image but that is how it felt.

Rosy has a few cuts but seems fine. I figure that was the case because while I am trying to blink my way into seeing what is in front of me, she licks me while whimpering. She is obviously scared but cares more about if I am alive and OK. I love that dog, she has been more loyal to me than any human being I have ever crossed paths with.

Luckily, I have some extra strength Tylenol with me in the car. Although there isn’t any water, I do have one travel-sized vodka bottle. I take a handful of Tylenol and down that little bottle of Vodka then throw it down beside me.

Rosy’s eyes dart toward my every move.

I undo my seatbelt, take my keys out of the ignition, then attempt to open the door, but it won’t budge. The car had flipped on an odd angle where the door almost cleared the trunk of the tree but the back half leans against it. Plus, it’s slightly bent, so I bust the window open with my elbow and crawl out while gripping the top of the car.

Outside of the car, I stand as safely as I can with only a few cuts and bruises. This car has always been a beast of a thing. It’s a 2000 Honda civic that my father reinforced with this strong metal—I can’t remember what it was called. Furthermore, he wanted to hold on to this car as long as possible. Obviously, it has, but it looks like this car isn’t going anywhere.

Rosy climbs up to the front looking at me with a scared yet glad look that I’m OK.

Shards of glass rest the edges of the window frame so I pick up a branch from the ground and clear the shards. I put the stick on the ground, grab Rosy, and pull her out gently. She holds onto me, licking my face and wound which almost stops the bleeding. She loves giving kisses.

It’s bitterly cold and we are in the middle of a forested area. I walk around the tree admiring its enormity, the thick beautiful bark with a bit of dark green moss on it. It must be at least a hundred and fifty feet tall and old. I’m surprised it didn’t fall over. It did crack, though. Interesting thing about this tree, upon a closer look at the crack I see on the inside of the crack the word Picasso. I have no idea why it’s there or what it means, but I do know he’s always been my favorite painter. I’ve always found his paintings inspiring to the point where I purchased his biography that apparently was written by a close friend of his—Patrick O’Brian. I purchased not too long ago another book about him called Picasso: Challenging the past by Elizabeth Cowling. Apparently, he was alone a lot of the time but had an intriguing view on life that he showcased in the most creative ways. Thankfully, I packed these books and have them with me for down time.

I also packed protection, so that means a pocket knife, hand gun with at least four clips of ammo and brass knuckles I stole from my father when he used to get into fights at my age. He made it himself; it’s made of stainless steel, oak wood with a dark varnish on it, and on the tips of the knuckles he put sharp titanium tips. I don’t know what kind of fights he was getting into, but man is that a deadly thing.

I put on my dad’s worn-out jacket and grab a winter coat for Rosy which has pretty thick fur. I strap on my backpack, lugging the travel suitcase with me and all the weapons.

“All right, Old Blue, it’s time to say goodbye. You’ve always been a true friend that has been loyal and caring.”

Yes, I talked to my car sometimes, but this car wasn’t just a car. It was my life. Tough, tormented, been through a lot but stuck through a lot of hell and bad decisions.

Walking up to it, I pat it. “You’ll be dearly missed, my old friend. Rest in peace.”

I look at Rosy as I put her leash on and say, “All right, Rosy, we better get going.”

As we walk through the forest, I remember the night my ex-wife served me the divorce papers. Don’t know why it pops in my head, but I tend to remember the odd things at odd times. Plus, I’m in the middle of nowhere so obviously my mind has time to wonder.

 

 

5 years ago….

It was an early morning with the sun barely peeking through the blinds.

Cheryl, like me, was a big time coffee drinker, and she liked it rich and strong.

That morning as I walked through the living room I could smell the intoxicating aroma of freshly-ground Colombian coffee—which we bought the previous year when we went on a trip to Colombia. We were such coffee addicts that when we went there we bought four bags of it in case we didn’t have the chance to come back.

She poured herself a cup and put in one teaspoon of sugar and nothing else. Like I said, she liked it strong. I was always jealous of how beautiful she was, whether it was in the morning with no makeup on or all dolled up when we went to dinner or special events. I, on the other hand, looked like I went partying and was really hungover. Sometimes I’d do that but only once in a blue moon. I always told myself I’d never want to be an alcoholic like my father was when I was little. Guess, I became the classic “Father like son” type.

I came in to the kitchen wearing my old, velvety, blue bathrobe, brown slippers, and a 5o’clock shadow. Some might call that handsome, I called it Monday morning.

“Good morning, handsome,” she said with that smile that always made me melt.

Handsome, certainly not how I felt that morning but hey, a compliment is a compliment.

I was a public figure as a writer, you could even say a celebrity. The thing about that is although Cheryl didn’t mind it, she’d always worry about things she heard in the tabloids. Sometimes, I wished I could burn all those magazines that she read.

She handed me a cup as I walked toward the patio, and she followed me. She asked me something I’d heard her ask time and time again, but this time there was a change in her tone. It was more inquisitive and somewhat sharp.

“Are you seeing her again?”

I was about to sit down on my recliner chair my father used to sit on; which now faced a beautiful view only to be ruined by her snake-like tone.

I hesitated to answer but was so used to it I just answered in a slightly bitter but curious tone. The tabloids always selected a different actress or a fake attractive woman. You know the “hot chick at the bar” type? Yeah, that one.

“Who?” I said a bit restlessly.

“You know who I am talking about,” she said demandingly.

This always bothered me because I told her when we first started dating to not read tabloids about me. I also told her that if she did, it was best to not believe a word they said because it was all for attention, and it was all bullshit. She agreed and believed me for a while, but for some reason when I’d come home late, she’d get sucked into believing the tabloids were right.

I’m kind of glad I’m not a celebrity anymore. I never liked being the center of attention. It feels undeserved and somewhat obnoxious that your work is being seen as glamorous. Art is meant to be personal not a glorified version of who you are.

“If I did, I wouldn’t ask you who you’re talking about,” I said getting a bit restless but not really making an effort to show or act on it.

She put a newspaper on the coffee table with the headline: Henry and Clarissa again?

“You do know that these stories are all bullshit, right? I mean, for God’s sake, I told you when we first dated to not believe any of this stuff!”

“I know that, but why did she leave a voicemail?”

I looked at her puzzled. She moved the little table stand with our home phone toward me and played the voicemail:

“Hi, Henry, it’s Clarissa. It was nice to see you again. Hope we can get together again sometime. Call me when you get the chance. Bye bye now.”

I scoffed and looked at Cheryl amused at her insanely jealous attitude.

“OK, fine, you wanna know the truth?”

She didn’t say anything she just looked at me with her arms crossed and eyebrows risen.

“We went for coffee at some indie place she told me about. That’s the place you see us leaving in this picture,” I said, pointing to the place behind us in the picture.

“You do remember that she is a writer too, right? We went as friends, and that’s it. Do you not trust me? Because if you don’t, then this marriage isn’t going to work.”

She started to sigh and tap her foot then stormed out, going upstairs without saying a word.

I went into the kitchen expecting a fight to happen since there was a bit of a rhythm when it came to the start of a fight. First she’d ask me about some crazy story she heard about me and some skank. Then after I calmly explained to her that it was simply not true she’d give me a hard stare. She’d go off about certain things I did that worried her and that I needed to be home more. I’d tell her sarcastically, “I’m sorry I have a career, would you like me to end it so you can keep an eye on me twenty-four-seven?” This time it was different because I was unwilling to argue and go through the same fight over and over again. It was like being in one of those ten-hour loop videos of the same thing you could watch once in two minutes.

I heard her come back down with a quiet whimpering.

Upon first seeing her, I tried to pick up on her body language and what she had in her hands. Her eyes were unfocused, not really looking at me or anything. Body a bit slouched holding a stack of papers. She stood at the bottom of the stairs looking at me teary-eyed on the verge of crying.

She stood right in front of me and with a broken and choked voice she said, “You are right, I can’t trust you.”

She handed me the papers which upon a closer look I saw they were divorce papers. I could not believe my eyes. Before I could even say anything she said, “I’m leaving tomorrow morning, I cannot stand one more day in here. Do not stop me, do not talk to me. I’m done!”

 

I’d say that was the worst night of my life, which it was, but it felt more confusing than a bad day. It’s not like we drifted apart or fought on a constant basis; in fact, when we did, we were able to work through our issues. I guess she was hiding a lot of things from me, not men but feelings of mistrust or lack of sincere feelings toward me. That is what hurt the most. Knowing she loved me in the beginning but not admitting when something bothered her or if she had doubts. I’d rather have known she had a change of heart or was angry at me right when I did something upsetting. Soon after the divorce, I talked to a lot of people to avoid slipping into bad habits which did help for a bit; however, other things piled up causing me to be in a place I wish I wasn’t in. Luckily, I am no longer in that place.

***

By the time I’m done day dreaming, Rosy and I are in the thick of the forest that seemed to not lead anywhere but to more trees. The sunset seemed to be peaking soon so I grabbed my flashlight until the sun would show.­­

We walked enjoying the soft sounds of snow falling as we came across a rough path leading toward a small bridge. The surface of the path was uneven and narrow for the most part but manageable. Rosy seemed to take a liking to the snow, licking it and jumping to eat a flake or two. Giant roots crept in on us a bit but as we got closer to the bridge they dispersed a little bit.

The bridge itself was interesting because it somehow gave the impression that it had this magical ability to increase the horizon of what we could see beyond it. Once we reached about halfway on to the bridge, I saw smoke poking out over some of the trees.

We finally crossed the bridge and within only a few steps I felt a surprisingly smooth surface under the snow. Kind of like a walkway to a house.

The sunset peeked out finally, and I could see a rather small cabin. I thought the smoke coming out of the chimney was strange since my father had been (at least to my knowledge at the time) dead for 20 years and no one in my family claimed the cabin or even mentioned them living in it. For some reason, I was getting nervous. I thought maybe someone broke in or my father never bothered to put a lock on it and maybe a relative decided to swing by or something.

We finally get to the door, the floor boards on the deck creaking and cracking under our feet like dry, tiny chicken bones. Again, I know I have a weird way of painting a picture.

I fished out the key from my jacket that had surprisingly kept me warm in the sharp and cold weather. I looked down at Rosy to check if she’s ok. I thought maybe she needed water or was cold, but it might’ve just been a little thirsty. She panted while smiling happily as she always did when we’d go on a walk during the summer.

I went over to the ledge of the right corner of the deck where there was a lot of snow and grabbed a handful.

I bent down in front of Rosy and said, “Here Rosy eat this, think of it as a flavorless snow cone.”

She sniffed and licked it, then paused and licked it some more. Before you knew it, she was taking little bites of it. By the time she finished it she was back to normal and as always smiling happily at me with a wagging tale.

I stand back up and look through the keyhole to see if I can find anyone in there.

I saw someone pass by very quickly.

“HEY!” I yelled.

I shoved the key into the lock opened the door and took out my handgun. I looked around wide eyed and a little scared. I walked into the house saw that the coast was clear so I dragged in all my things and Rosy followed me in as I closed the door.

I took off my hood, unclipped Rosy’s leash and hung it on a coat hanger. This place seemed deserted, almost as if no one had been there since they settled in. The permafrost I saw glazed over the entire cabin made it look like a frozen hell hole no one ever entered. I’m surprised Rosy and I didn’t slip.

At this point I kind of forgot about that mysterious person I saw through the keyhole. I was more focused and curious about the inside of this cabin. I could feel some form of energy and even warmth. I was bewildered at how I felt far less cold then when I was outside. Something strange was in there, I could feel it. Kind of like an energy you’d only find in your childhood home.

I started walking toward what looked like the living room. I heard the sound of wood crackling in a fireplace. After taking a couple steps into the living room I saw a roaring fire place with elk antlers hanging right above it.

I went up to it with Rosy right behind me shaking off the snow. I looked up at the antlers, nothing I haven’t seen before but there was an engraved signature that caught my eye.

Charles Fields.

Well then, at least I knew I was in the right cabin. Funny how I had an address good and ready to go and ended up not needing it. Thank you mother nature for literally spinning and crashing me into this place.

There was a dim light coming from a small kitchen that flowed in to the living room.

The living room itself, aside from the fireplace was quite sleek, rustic and welcoming. Maybe even sophisticated.

There was a black leather couch that somehow seemed intact but something seemed strange. Like there was an imprint in the middle of it like someone had been sitting in it for years.

Right across from it was this beautiful coffee table with finely crafted legs, dark varnish on this quarter log of what looked like pine. My father and I worked at a mill when I was 14, so we had to learn about different kinds of trees that was fed through a wood chipper. Apparently pine is not only good wood but has a nice smell to it.

As for the surroundings of the fireplace it was oddly modern compared to the rest of the room. Rock wall with marble outlining the fireplace.

Now as nice as this place looked it still felt somewhat abandoned cause there were no pictures, books or any decorations. Very plain in terms of it feeling like a home; you could say it’s as if it was set up to be sold.

I sat down on the couch to give my feet a rest. Rosy was looking at me smiling and panting (probably because she was still wearing her jacket and was close to the fireplace). I called her over then took off her jacket. She shook herself dry then hopped on to the couch beside me.

Underneath the table was this thick white fluffy area rug that seemed to be hiding something.

I saw what looked like the corner of a picture frame poking out underneath the table. I grabbed it out of curiosity and was astonished yet angry at what I saw in that picture. Nothing extravagant but it was the time and look of the people in the picture. It was a picture of my father and some man on a fishing dock smiling happily. He held a fish in his arms smiling like it was the best day of his life. The man stood there smiling as well with his hands on his hips. The crazy thing about this picture is that he had a mountain man like scruffy beard that was pretty much gray and his hair was kind of long and messy with a silver look to it. He was always a clean shaven man. My mother liked that about him, always seemed so suave and clean cut.

Does this mean the man that siphoned my gas tank was dad?” I thought to myself.

I turned the picture over to see if there was a date. It was blank, I thought maybe I was going crazy or my father only appeared older than when he died. I unhooked the locking parts of the back of the frame, took out the cardboard protecting the back of the picture and saw a date: July 26 1994. My father died, or well I thought he died in 1984.

“Son of a bitch. The old man is still alive.”

I ran my hands through my hair feeling confused and bewildered by what I just saw.

As I leaned back I felt the back rest move slightly. I took my hands off my face puzzled and getting more and more curious. I stuck my hand in between the cushions with my right hand and felt a piece of metal in the shape of a latch. I pulled on it and it flung me back to where I had my eyes facing the ceiling. To make things even crazier than my discovery of my father being alive, there was a parchment paper nailed to the ceiling with my name in bold letters at the top of the page.

I got up and went to the kitchen to grab a chair. I brought it over right behind the couch where I could reach the parchment paper. Luckily I was tall enough to grab the edge of it but it seemed to be glued on to the ceiling by the permafrost. I took out my flashlight and read it:

Dear Henry Field (my handsome boy)

I hope your arrival to the cabin has been pleasant. I have given you the deed to my cabin as mentioned in my will. I hope you can forgive my lack of presents in your life and the choice I made on how I decided to live my life. The deed is underneath the foot rest of the middle of the couch. Please sign it. I know you’ll take good care of it.

Love Charles Fields (your father) December 25th 2004

 

 

I walked back over to where I sat and knelt down on all fours to find a rolled paper and grabbed it. I stood up and took off the elastic and unrolled it. I read it quickly and felt flattered yet wanting something more valuable than a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I wanted answers to one too many things. Twenty years of abandonment had now left me with an overwhelming feeling of anger and confusion.

I wondered over to the front entrance that seemed the darkest of the entire place.

I was about to head into what seemed like a bedroom when I heard footsteps coming from underneath the floor boards.

“Who’s here?”

The footsteps stop and it is dead silent. I still felt some presents in the air.

I looked around for a light switch but couldn’t find one.

I took out my flashlight scanned the ground with no cut outs or handles for a trap door or crawl space. I walked back to the kitchen gun in my hand as I continued to scan the ground. I started looking at the cupboards and as I turned toward the sink my foot kicks something metallic on the ground. It was a handle for what looked like either a trap door or storage space. I thought it was weird to have one in the middle of a kitchen.

I opened it with my gun aimed to whoever might come out of there. There was nothing but canned food, blankets and an old shotgun. I took the shotgun and examined it. It was the same gun that blew up in my father’s face when he took me to a gun range when I was 16. The sound of the gun exploding in his hand made me flinch. The peeled metal from the handled seemed to be fixed and reinforced.

I walked back to the living room and moved the coffee table and area rug to the edge of the room. This time I found even bigger trap door in place of the coffee table which lead to a secret basement.  Underneath the latch was something written quite small:

Upon entering please do not discuss anything you see here. You will be killed and buried without a trace.

Well that’s dramatic.” If he wrote that there is something strange beyond him being alive.

I stared at it nervous as to whether or not my so called dead father is in there probably waiting for me. While I stared at the trap door a memory popped in to my head.

 

30 years ago…..

“Son, today I’m gonna teach you how to fish”

I was only 10 at the time so I was just innocently smiling at the fishing rod like it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

“You wanna learn how to cast your fishing rod?”

I was too excited to say anything so I just nodded.

He was looking at me with a smile I had only seen on rare occasions. He pretty much only smiled when he did things with me that only he liked. Those are the moments I cherished the most. I always loved seeing others happy because I fed off of their energy.

“Alright, so what you’re going to do is bring it back over your shoulder then whip it forward.”

I was a pretty small guy so I did as he told me with all my might that my little arms had and cast my rod into the water.

“Good job Henry.”

I didn’t think I did much so I just stared blankly forward. To this day I still have no knowledge when it comes to fishing. Even that memory made it seem vivid and uninformative, but I guess memories aren’t meant to inform but rather make you feel an emotion.

Good or bad.

 

Present…

 

I pulled on the latch and opened the trap door revealing stairs leading into the basement. I didn’t know if I was going to face my father or not so I looked at Rosy and said, “I need you to do something important for me ok?”

Rosy just turned her head sideways confused as to what I was saying.

“Stay here and keep watch in case any one comes in. Got it?

She smiled happily. Sometimes I think she can actually understand what I’m saying rather than just my tone.

I patted her on the head and went down the stairs as I closed the trap door behind me.

I pointed my flashlight and gun out in front of me as I finished going down the stairs.

It was pretty dark so as I walked around with what little light I had coming from my flashlight. I came upon a chain dangling from the ceiling with a light bulb beside it and turned it on. It lit up only half the room that actually had some interesting things.

A chalkboard with coordinates and what looked like plans for a boat trip on the back wall.

I wonder if maybe this was his escape plan when he…well I guess it is safe to say at that point I knew he faked his death. There was a blueprint of a rather large boat resting on a desk underneath the chalkboard.

As I looked at it carefully running my fingers over it I heard footsteps behind me.

I turned slowly curious as to what I just heard.

The footsteps stop.

I stood there silently with my gun pointed at who or whatever was there. I was going to pull out my flashlight but was too scared to see who or what it was.

The footsteps continued and this time someone emerged into the light.

My father stood there looking like either a homeless man or literally like someone had been living out in the wilderness for a long time. Big scruffy grey beard and long silver hair, long dark brown coat,  torn black jeans and winter boots that didn’t seem to have aged well. Kind of like his face. It seemed weathered by emotion, scars on his chin and forehead. He looked like a real mess.

He took a step forward.

“Stop!” I said with my hand shaking not being able to hold the gun stable.

“Son I know it must be hard to see me.”

I pressed my lips and held back tears from years of grieving my so called loss.

“You’ve been gone for 20 years, I was at your funeral.”

“I know Henry.”

“How could you let us grieve like this for so long?”

“Please let me explain.”

That really got me riled up. Explain? He could’ve come up with the most “reasonable” explanation and it still wouldn’t make up for what he did.

“Explain what? That you faked your own death for 20 years so that you could what? Leave everyone behind? Not want to be with us? What you did was unforgivable!”

I was getting so angry I could no longer stand in one place. So many thoughts and feelings entered my head all at once like an angry beehive. I started to pace back and forth while Charles tried to justify what he did. I wasn’t looking at him, gun pressed flat against the side of my head as I looked down breathing hard gritting my teeth with foam and spit coming out of my mouth.

“Son I know this is a lot to take in but you have to understand I had no choice.”

“NO CHOICE? I GAVE UP MY CAREER AND MADE BAD DECISIONS BECAUSE OF YOU!

I punched him in the face. He backed up putting his hand on his face with a tear in his eye.

“You are the reason I have a drinking problem, isolated myself from any form of socialization…and I could no longer comprehend the idea of being sane.” I said in a hush but angry tone. You know that level of angry where you over enunciate each word while gritting your teeth? Kind of like a riled up bulldog.

Overwhelmed with emotion I approached him a little closer then said, “Start talking and don’t bullshit me.”

My father put his hand over my gun.

“Sit down son,” he said as he grabbed a chair behind him.

I put my gun down by my side and grabbed a chair from the desk.

We both sat down in front of each other. It was like being in the most uncomfortable and tense interrogation seen minus the table, handcuffs and mirror.

“Son, remember how the police said a body wasn’t found when the boat went down?”

I wanted to believe every word that came out of his mouth whether it was nothing but lies or the brutal truth. I remained motionless the entire time he talked.

“I went down with the boat, but a group of young men pulled me out before the boat sank to the bottom. Apparently they left me on the shore of Lake Moraine. After that I went on to live a life in peace. ”

I broke my gaze and got agitated at the fact that he didn’t mention any justification as to why he faked his death.

“Umm ok but why did you fake your death?”

“I have done a lot of bad things in my past Henry; and because of what those things involved I couldn’t risk getting caught being seen in public ever again.”

“What bad things?”

“I can’t tell you that unless you do me a favor.”

“A favor? Seriously? After all you’ve done to us?”

“I just need you to change that lightbulb.” He said pointing to a part of the sealing behind him.

I thought he was just messing with me to avoid being honest with me.

I took out my flashlight and looked at the other lightbulb then back at him sitting there quietly.

“Well whatever it is I’m sure you can come back now.” I said not really caring for the discussion.

“It’s too late.” Said Charles sadly.

“Mom is in the hospital.” I said in a dry tone.

“Is she ok?”

I shook my head no.

“Is it…is it cancer?”

“No, her kidneys are failing and needs donors for both of them before she…”

My father stayed silent.

“I’m not sure her seeing you right away is a good idea. We all suffered because of you.”

Charles gets up and walks toward the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

“Hunting; there are spare lightbulbs in the top right drawer of the desk. Change the lightbulb please.”

He continued on up the stairs. I could hear Rosy barking and then the door shutting moments later.

Rosy barked for a little while then calmed down. I thought maybe Charles strangled her or something.

“Rosy?” I said. She walked a bit then plopped down on the ground. She does that every time she’s tired or just wants to laze around.

At the time I didn’t think much of it but I realized something as time went on. He said the lightbulbs were in the top right drawer of the desk. Doesn’t that mean he could’ve changed the lightbulb himself? Did he want me to change it because there is something in the room that could explain his absence for the last 20 years?

None of this made sense to me until I discovered why he was hiding for so long.

I went over to the desk and pulled on the top right drawer but it was locked.

“Jesus old man, you really don’t trust anyone. What are you hiding?” I said thinking out loud.

I was going to shoot it open but then I remembered dogs get scared easily by gun fire.

I took the back of the gun and repeatedly tried to smash it open. All it did was make little dents in the wood. My father was always a crafty guy, so I started to run my hand over every inch of the desk looking for some hidden compartment or key hidden in the desk. He must’ve really not want anyone to know his secrets and as to why he no longer wanted to exist. Something was off and I knew it.

I got down on my knees, turned on my flashlight and looked at every corner and surface under the desk. Nothing was there.

I backed up a little bit then looked at the left leg, ran my hand over it and felt a small gap about 3 inches long. I dug my nail into the gap and ripped out the piece of wood in which a silver key was hidden. Odd place to hide a key but hey, whatever works to keep people away from whatever is in here.

I put back the piece of wood then unlocked the drawer. I was expecting nothing but dust covered lightbulbs; however, there were some interesting artifacts in there.

I took out a couple lightbulbs then saw something that caught my eye. Something I had seen before but not in a long time. It was my father’s harmonica, a vintage M. Hohner Marine Band A44O in key of C to be exact, man could my dad make that thing sing. Every morning when I was little he’d play it on the deck. There were times when birds chirped in tune with him, it was incredible. He stopped playing when I started university because, according to him, he lost it while he went fishing. What a liar.

There were some smaller items like an old wallet, smoking pipe (don’t know why it was in there since my father never smoked), mints, a hunting knife, bullet shells and that’s pretty much it.

I took one of the lightbulbs, dusted it off then headed over to the second light source Charles pointed at. I changed the lightbulb which gave me a bit of a zap.

I flinched a little but as soon as I stopped looking at the lightbulb my attention was immediately drawn to a big billboard at the back of the other room.

I walked over slowly in awe of what I saw.

This billboard looked like it was part of a classic cop or detective’s investigation room. Trying to connect the dots to who committed a crime and how they did it. Pictures of criminals, my father, mother, and the guy who was in that fishing picture with my dad; furthermore, there were articles from newspapers spread out in between pictures. All of which were connected with red yarn and pins. It’s as if he either wanted to cover his tracks or maybe find a way out of a situation that got him in trouble. I carefully looked over every picture and article and landed upon one particular article.

The headline read:   Man accused of stealing infamous painting of Night Watch by Rembrandt Van Rijn

 

“That’s it? He stole a painting and thought he had to hide?”

I was missing something so I looked to an article on the left side pinned from the article I just read:

Original owner Raphael Von Schmidt declares his anger at Charles Field in which he states ‘If I ever find that man I will kill him for his unforgiving thieving act! I paid good money for that painting, money I worked very hard for and went through a great deal of difficulty getting it. That man is a thief and a coward!

A string connected that article to one right above that had the picture of Raphael. He seemed like a rather tall fellow with a gaunt look on his face and is probably German.

The article read:

Sources say that although Charles confesses to have possession of this painting he has no affiliation with Mr. Von Schmidt and that it was given to him by his grandfather whom presented it as a gift in his will before passing away.

“This is insane! My father is an art thief? Is that why it was so easy for him to pay for my schooling? I thought he was a plumber and art history tutor!”

My mind was exploding with curiosity, intrigue, anger, confusion and all sorts of chaotic thoughts. I could not believe my eyes!

 

This then points to an article underneath the main article that read:

3 weeks ago Charles had been in a terrible boating accident and has been presumed dead; Von Schmidt, still infuriated, last words before going into hiding were ‘As satisfied as I am that this poor excuse of a man has been put to rest I still want my painting and will go to the ends of earth to retrieve what is rightfully mine!

This made sense to me as to why my father remained hidden all these years; however, I was not sure as to why my father didn’t act more carefully. Aren’t thieves supposed to be stealthy and craftier when caught stealing? Maybe this was all before he became a professional. I mean if he made a whole plan on this billboard to see a loophole where he can erase this from his past and come back to the public there has to be something more to what I am seeing.

Maybe he stole a lot of paintings and he just didn’t know how to tell me, so he just hinted at a small portion of it.

 

The secrecy of how my father had been while I was younger started to make a little more sense. There were times when I’d ask how work was and he would just shrug his shoulders. Or he’d tell me how it was but it would come off as vague. Even then I knew something was off, especially when they paid my tuition for university. At the time my mother and father fought a lot about money. Then out of nowhere it just stopped, like literally from shouting to silence in a screeching halt. It wasn’t like they stopped talking; they just didn’t fight about it anymore.

I was looking at the board now as a whole from a little further back and noticed a canvas draped with a white cloth. It was in the corner where it was kind of out of sight. I was surprised I didn’t see it but then again he is an art thief so why would he leave it out in the open? Did he leave it out on purpose for me?

I went over to the canvas and uncovered it. It was the painting that my father had reportedly stolen according to the news article on the billboard.

On the bottom end of the frame it said: Night Watch by Rembrandt Van Rijn

I myself love art, not that I know or have studied every painting but I do love detail and wondering what the story is behind the art piece.

This seemed quite Shakespearean based on the year written at the bottom which was 1642. The best way to describe the painting is a crowd of people surrounding two men in the middle of an open room that seemed to be discussing something important. Both were dressed like they were important people. Leaders is a good way to describe them, especially the man on the right. He had a velvet black hat, a frilly doily thing, a red sash, and dark clothes. The man to his left was wearing a yellowish gold color outfit including a hat. On the right corner there was a cut out or white silhouette of a dog. Someone must have tried to vandalize or deface the painting out of anger or something. I’d go into further detail but again I don’t know much about history. I mean I should since I’m a… well used to be a writer right?

Aside from all of this detail and rich in history something more particular caught my eye at the bottom left corner of the frame.  There was a set of numbers in white chalk: 7 55 24. I was certain that this must be a code for a safe or a secret room; so I ran my hand all over the wall for any inconsistencies, ridges or maybe even a hollow point. I took the painting down carefully and set it aside against the wall.

When I turned back to where the painting was I saw a lock combination pad. What was odd is there wasn’t anything else. No safe or cut out in the wall for a door. I thought I was going crazy so I re-examined the wall. I ran my hand from the edge of the wall to the edge of the right side of the billboard.

Nothing.

I thought maybe it was a pivot door or something like in the movies. I punched in the code repeating the numbers in my head but also mouthing them: 7 55 24, 7 55 24, 7 55 24…

There was a distinct clicking sound then dead silence.

“That’s it?”

Then a part of the wall on the other side of the room pushed and slid backwards.

I walked over with my flashlight then turned on a light switch that lit up a room full of stolen art, jewellery, old rolls of film and I don’t know what else. Besides the astonishing amount of art from different eras, foreign jewellery and rolls of films I probably never even heard of; the room itself seemed quite modern and probably had a far better security system.

My father sneaked up behind me saying, “I see you found my treasure room.”

I thought it was kind of childish he called it a treasure room.

“Treasure? Don’t you mean stolen art?”

Charles looked a bit restless, maybe even annoyed that I was harping on the fact that he’s a thief. How else am I supposed to react? Delighted? Grateful my dad stole art just so I can go to college? Happy he found his “calling”?

“Look I don’t expect you to understand…”

“You are right I don’t understand! So please you bloody cartoon pirate, enlighten me.”

“You know how your mother and I said we made an account for your college fund?”

It was obvious what the answer was but I knew I had a plethora of questions for him so I played along.

“You paid for my university by being thieves?”

He began to look a little more professional in terms of posture, tone of voice and canter.

“We didn’t have a choice…your mother couldn’t work because of her artificial hip and I only made enough money to pay for what we needed.”

That to me felt like he was just looking for sympathy and forgiveness. Not likely old man…not likely.

“So instead of taking a second job or have me get a job you decided to steal art?”

“I was scared ok? Plus I was pushed in to it.”

I couldn’t believe how juvenile and ignorant he was being. Scared? Really? How does “not knowing what else to do” lead to a life of thievery? Who does he think he is? Aladdin?

‘Pushed into it’ made it sound like there was more to it but I was too aggravated at the specifics of what he said. I couldn’t take it anymore, it was too much. I had to leave the room and process this cluster of lies, deceit and childish justification my father was emitting.

“Where are you going?”

I didn’t even look at him, I just took off toward the stairs. I left the harmonica on his desk and climbed up the ladder and crawled out the trap door. I had no interest in my father, nor did I have any interest in his so called “art collection”.

Rosy was lying on the couch waiting for me.

While I was looking at her so many thoughts entered my head. All of this new information was hitting me in all directions like a sporadic full speed stampede. My father faking his death, living a secret life of thievery, toying with everyone’s mind and emotions. Funny thing is I’m not that mad; rather, I wish he would’ve just thought things through a little differently. Like why take that route instead of a logical one like take a second job or something? Why did he have to do something so crazy? Why was he ‘pushed into it?’

I must’ve looked so paranoid and wide eyed to Rosy. I could tell she sensed something is wrong because she bowed her head down and wined a little bit.

I went up to her and petted her softly like she was the most delicate thing I had ever seen. She always seemed so concerned for my feelings.

“You are a good girl Rosy, daddy’s ok.”

I took one last look around before grabbing anything.

“This would’ve been a good home.”

I grabbed the lake picture of my dad and Raphael out of the frame and stuffed it inside my pocket. I knew that despite my hatred and confusion toward my father’s action I still loved him. However, I couldn’t stay and chat with him; it was too much emotion for me to handle at the time. I felt like I had my heart broken and lied to on such a deep level I couldn’t physically bare being near him. I took the picture because although my feelings were torn I wanted something to remember him by. Doesn’t really make sense looking back on it, maybe part of me was happy he was alive.

I took all the bags up to the front door and discovered another trap door only a few feet away from the front door. This one much was smaller though, I thought it was a mini secret storage space or something. Why it was in front of the door I have no idea. I’m surprised I didn’t see it before when I was looking for one.

Part of me really wanted to leave and not discover anything else about my father. I had already seen and heard too much. My curiosity was deeper and bigger than my hatred so I let go of everything.  I knelt down and opened it.

There were a few things: a big shoe box, two rifles that looked surprisingly well maintained with cartridges next to it, a walking stick, snow shoes and baby shoes (belonged to me). The one thing that I was most curious about was the shoe box. Most people I know use it as a memory box or a nick-nack storage box. Pretty sure it was a memory box. There weren’t any labels or anything so I picked it up then walked back to the living room and sat on the couch. I placed it beside me and put my hands on my face in utter stress of everything I witnessed and went through today. I went from being a miserable forty year old with no life to an angry confused middle aged man with no idea about what the hell is going on!

I took the shoe box into my hands staring at it as my emotions created high turbulence in my head. I opened it first looking at the underside of the lid that was labeled in black felt pen: Only For You My Darling.

“WHAT?”

This meant that not only did my father fake his death, but my mother knew it and they had been talking to each other through letters for 20 years! Are you kidding me? Is my mother even sick? Is she a thief too? Is this going to be some weird family business?

All these questions ran through my head like bees flying madly! Before I could open the first letter with my dad’s name on it he came out of the trap door looking rather miserable and terrified.

I wanted to sympathize with him but I was too overwhelmed to be on his side.

I put the box down beside me and was about to pull out my gun but decided to just stand up face to face with him.

We were both now standing face to face like a western standoff. Only both of us had very different expressions compared to those confident outlaw types.

If you looked at me you’d say I was angry, sad, puzzled, longing for clarity.

My father on the other hand looked like he had lost everything and given up. I knew he felt guilty and full of regret but I was too blinded by my rage to understand how he felt.

“You’ve been talking to mom all these years?”

I was expecting him to go into a long explanation or some pity speech to forgive him but instead he just said, “Yes.”

“Does this mean she’s in on it too?”

“Yes, son there is something you don’t know.”

“Pretty sure there isn’t a lot I don’t know. Go ahead…tell me everything.”

“It’s not just your mother and I that went into the business of stealing.”

My heart was pounding so hard I swear I felt a drop of sweat drip from it. What the hell was he talking about?

“The entire Fields family are art thieves.”

“Sounds a bit farfetched, what is the truth dad?”

“That is the truth.”

“Bullshit!”

I started to hyperventilate like an enraged Pitbull.

He went toward his bedroom and I followed behind him while keeping my distance.

I stood outside the bedroom while he stared at a wall. He turned his attention to me and said, “Well, do you want the truth or not?”

I walked in still with a stern look on my face like I was ready to punch him any second.

On the wall was what looked like a family tree with the title at the top middle:

 

 

 

The Fields Family

Masters of the Art of stealing since 1843

“How would you like to be a part of the business?”

“Are you kidding me?”

Again, still couldn’t believe what was going on. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

I went up to him and said while pointing my finger at him.

“Not only do I not want any part of the business, I do not…I repeat do not! Want you in my life.”

That made him bow his head immediately.

“When I see mom, I will make damn sure she doesn’t have any part of the business or anything to do with you!”

“You can’t do that.”

“Oh, yeah? And why the hell not?”

“Because she was a thief before me.”

I was becoming so stupefied that I just screamed in frustration and agony.

“Henry…”

I stormed out and headed to the door and grabbed everything.

“Rosy! Come on, we are going now.”

I opened the door.

My father started to walk over to me.

“No! Do not follow me and do not dare say another word to me.”

I left without looking back dragging everything with me and Rosy right next to me.

Before I closed the door I took out the picture from my jacket and put it inside the house. I didn’t even take a glance at Rosy’s leash. I wanted to take off and never look back.

Charles picked it up then looked at me teary eyed.

I shut the door on him then picked up everything again and took off toward the direction I thought led to the freeway so we could hitchhike. I was done with the adventure. I just wanted to see my mom, make sure she’s ok and maybe get her side of things.

 

Chapter 4

On The Road Again

 

I wanted to go back to my car and grab something but felt it was too far. On top of that the forest and the cabin were starting to give me the creeps. Something about it came off as haunting, maybe even nightmarish.

By now the cabin started to look smaller as we approached the trees forming a U shape around the cabin. Kind of odd how much space there is considering Charles is an art thief hiding from the public.

Rosy seemed unfazed by everything that just happened. I don’t know if she is just playing innocent to keep me from worrying or she’s oblivious to everything. People have told me that when I say my dog is acting a certain way I sound crazy. That dogs don’t really have emotions and there is no way to tell what they’re feeling. Seriously? Just because an animal doesn’t speak your language or looks like you doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t have emotions.

“Rosy you don’t have to play dumb with me, I know you heard everything and I know you got scared. I heard you barking loud and clear.”

She just looked at me with a big smile like it was the best day of her life.

Sometimes I think I am crazy talking to my dog and thinking she understands me. Some of the things I say make me laugh. One time Cheryl had me try on clothes she had bought for me. I thought I looked like a Chippendale dancer with a dress shirt on.

 

12 years ago…..

“Oh my god you look so…” said Cheryl.

“Gay?”

“What? No I was gonna say proper but sure we can go with a stereotype.” She winked at me.

I looked at Rosy who was only a couple weeks old.

“Do I look gay Rosy?” Both of us laughed like it was the funniest thing ever. Not that funny anymore though.

Anywho.

We were in the thick of the trees, smells of pine and oak trees gave me a boost to lug everything with me. I could hear cars going by, the sound of them whizzing by becoming louder and louder. I was so determined and excited to hear sounds of civilization that the pain in my shoulder didn’t matter all that much to me. I didn’t even change my grip, so my hands eventually felt cramped up. I didn’t care, I needed to get away as far possible from Charles.

Rosy went ahead of me up the little hill leading to the freeway.

“You lucky girl, no need to help me I’m fine.” Even that made me chuckle.

I finally dropped the luggage, my hands had given in to gripping. I stretched out my hands hearing every bone crunching and re-lubricating from not moving for what seemed like several hours.

“Hey Rosy, can you give me a hand?”

I was definitely delirious because even for me that is a bad joke.

As I was having myself a little laugh I heard a gunshot coming from where Rosy was.

“ROSY!” I said hearing Rosy bark then whimper.

I threw everything up the hill and climbed it like a soldier in a trench.

I made it up the hill dragging my legs behind me to find Rosy flat on her stomach crying.

“Rosy! What happened?”

I looked around and couldn’t find anyone. Must’ve been a drive by or something but why kill a dog? That is just insane and odd.

I examined Rosy carefully. She had a gun wound on her back left leg.

“You’re ok Rosy, you’re ok.”

I took out a Swiss army knife and grabbed a bit of snow to clean her wound.

She whimpered.

“Don’t worry, its ok.” I said as calmly as I could.

I gently put all my weight on her then carefully took out the bullet.

She cried mercilessly. “Easy Rosy, it’s done. The bullet is out. Now I’m just going to bandage you up.” I had to act fast since blood was gushing out of her leg.

I reached for my backpack and took out my mini first aid kit. I put the dressing on as carefully as I could due to her age and the cold. Both of us waited there patiently and exhausted hoping for someone to drive by and pick us up. We had quite the day and were just drained in every way.

About a kilometer away was a little dark blue truck coming toward us at a slow pace. I wanted to wave at the driver to stop for us but my arms were to tired and sore to move. As it got closer and closer it started to speed up. I thought I knew we were done and no one wanted to help us.

The driver went by us and did a double take as if he or she recognized us. It looked like it might’ve been a women. She had a hat on and a long ponytail.

She backed up right in front of us then rolled her window down.

“Do you two need a ride?” Rosy perked up recognizing her voice.

“Depends, are you allergic to dogs?”

She seemed either puzzled by my face or was trying to figure me out.

“Henry?”

I kind of figured out it was my sister but I hadn’t seen my family in a long time so I just sat there silently.

“I haven’t seen you in so long!” She said excitedly.

“Sis?”

“Get in before you get hypothermia you idiot!” As soon she said idiot the first thought I had was ‘Yep, definitely Amelia.”

I got up with a struggle like an old man without his walker. I felt way older than forty; it was as if I was made out of stiff cardboard.

“You ok?”

I finally stood up and waved her off like the stubborn man that I am. I dragged everything into the trunk grimacing in pain. Rosy got up as well with a struggle with her back leg limping.

“Oh no! Is she alright?” I was still in a bit of a state of shock so I nonchalantly went over to Rosy and picked her up to put her in the backseat of the truck. Amelia got out the truck and opened the backseat door on the right side. She helped me put Rosy in.

“Thank you.” That’s all I could muster before she hugged me. I was physically in pain but grateful emotionally and felt relieved to feel some warmth and love from a family member I don’t hate. I cried for a brief moment, but it wasn’t a cry of sadness, happiness, physical stress. It was all of them at once amplified. I felt a tremendous amount of emotion but I knew the relief would only be brief. I still had a lot to discover, whether it was old or new information I was in for another whirlwind of information. I could feel everything as soon as I sat in the passenger seat. I could also sense my sister looking at me worried about how I looked. I felt love, anger, deception, confusion, defeat, physical and emotional pain. Kind of like I had just lost an intense Chess game, only the pieces were parts of me. Kind of like the lack of knowing and knowing what moves to make could decide what my life will be.

I was about to pass out before I took a glance at my sister I hadn’t seen in 7 years. She was wearing a navy blue baseball cap, a weathered brown winter jacket, ripped jeans and worker boots. She looked like she had grown up to be a real working girl; which is the polar opposite of how she was before. Never liked to work for what she really wanted, just expected to become what she wanted. I on the other hand was always determined to get into writing. No matter what form it was in, I was going to write and I knew I would. Charles always said I need to get a real job, probably something all parents said but in a way he’s right. Any job you choose to do has to bring you success so you can feel like you’ve become accomplished in something you love.

Eventually she grew out of that phase. I used to think that she would have an epic story that pushed her to grow up but no, she just grew up and everything started to click. I mean she did have a job at Dairy Queen that she absolutely hated and could not stand being in that building any longer. She would tell me things like: “You have no idea how horrible it is; it takes every fiber of me to not leave.” When she would come home complaining to Charles would get so annoyed that he wouldn’t say anything. One day he snapped when she was about 16 or 17 and said, “For god’s sake Amelia! If you really hate working there you need to do something about it! You either start applying for other jobs or suck it up!”

At this point she crossed her arms looking away trying hard to avoid eye contact.

“Listen, I know it’s hard working your ass off and not feeling like you are getting something out of it. Believe it or not you are getting something out of this job.”

This made her break out of her paralyzed state and she looked at him in shock.

“What could I possibly be getting out of working 10 bucks an hour at a sticky ice cream place?”

He paused for a second then replied.

“Work ethic, despite the fact that you hate that job you have stuck with it for the last what? 2 years? Trust me, when you go to school and study for what you really want to do… you will know what it takes to succeed.”

“So what are you saying? I have to work there until I go to university?”

“I’m sorry honey but I just think its best you stick with it a little longer. You graduate in a year anyhow. I know you can do it, just turn your brain off when you’re at work and just work ok?”

“Why should I be miserable any longer? Can’t I take a break from work to finish school?”

“Your brother did the same until University so yes you have to work. You remember how hard that dishwashing job was for him don’t you? Having dirty water splashed on him for 8 hours, even 10 hours at a time? Getting yelled at by his boss’s nearly every day?”

That shut her up right away. By the way I was in my room during the entire conversation. Despite the fact that we lived in a decent home with a great security system the walls were still thin. I could hear and tell she was upset and embarrassed; she was sobbing and ran into her room.

The last thing I remember from that night was her crying quietly in bed at 2 in the morning. I could never stand crying for long periods of time without trying to calm the person down. That night I got up quietly and went in her room quietly.

“Sis? You ok? I heard everything.” I said standing at the door that was half open.

She wiped her tears away with her sleeve and sniffled.

“I can’t do it anymore, it’s too much and I hate it.”

She cried a little louder this time.

“I know, but like dad said I went through the same thing only a lot worse.”

“That’s not possible.”
I scoffed at that because I started to remember the nightmares I endured.

“You know I got spat on a couple times by a co-worker right?”

This made her eyes go wide.

“Mhm that’s right, his name was Luke. I fucking hated that slime ball. He spat on me because he had extreme anger issues. He went psycho and spat on me twice. I wanted to quit so bad.”

“Why the hell not? That sounds horrifying and disgusting! Did you report it to your boss?”

I sighed at that because there were countless times I could’ve quit.

“Uh yeah but they didn’t really care. Besides, I knew I needed to pay for my car, phone and that pretend rent during senior year.”

She looked like she still didn’t quite understand what I was saying. I knew I had to explain it in a way she can relate as opposed to being lectured.

“Let me ask you something, if there was something you’d love to do and put all of your heart and energy into it what would that be? Something you are willing to give up sleep for?”

She thought for a second before answering.

“Painting.”

I was kind of surprised by this even though she loved art; however, I never knew if she practiced any of it. I mean I’ve seen drawings and they are pretty good but she always said they were just doodles.

“Painting? Really?”

She nodded and reached for a big box from under her bed and turned on her night light.

She handed it to me. I opened it carefully and my eyes fell upon a beautiful painting. It was a woman with auburn hair, pink skin with a light glow and dressed in a pale blue gown with her hands out. She was cupping her hands together looking up as if she was seeking for hope or love. She faced a bit sideways surrounded by dark trees in which she was the spot light. Kind of had this Alice in wonderland feel with a darker tone.

“Amelia this is…it’s beautiful.”

She smiled.

“How long did it take you?”

“I don’t know, at least a couple months. I’d paint for like 3 hours before bed after work or all weekend.”

“Then that’s what you need to focus on at work.”

She looked puzzled.

“Focus on what you love and are passionate about when you are at work until you go to school for what you really want. By thinking from a literal stand point you end up destroying your sanity. Knowing what you want and knowing you will do whatever it takes to do that for a living helps incredibly.”

She hugged me then laid down.

I got up and closed the door knowing I did what all good brothers should do, support your sibling and your family.

Right when I was about to go to bed my dad whispered from his and mom’s room:

“Thank you Henry.”

Despite this sweet hallmark(ish) memory of my sister eventually growing up by my father’s love and care; this was probably the last time he ever shared wisdom. It’s as if he only acts lovingly when he really feels the need to explode on us. He had always been a reserved person when it came to emotion. My father had only been with us until she graduated from high school. Why he chose that moment to fake his death I’ll never know.

I woke up to the sound of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash and my sister humming to it. That was a little odd for me since she never liked that type of blues. She was more into BB King or Jimi Hendrix. She said that the Johnny Cash sounds weird and kind of depressing. I thought maybe my father’s absence might’ve changed her.

At this point I was still kind of out it but I could definitely feel every ache in my body.

“So what have you been up to Henry? I haven’t seen you in what 5 years?” My sister said all excited.

“7.” I was still frazzled so I didn’t really feel like talking that much.

“Meh, it’s still a long time!”

I sat there quietly and stared out the window. There were so many things I wanted to tell her. Not just from today but all these years I haven’t seen her. I guess so much has happened that my brain went on pause. To be honest though I was just too scared of the information I had that I felt could’ve probably shattered her entire psyche. I did have one question for her though.

“Do you still paint?”

She seemed caught off guard when I asked that but she answered anyway.

“Umm yeah here and there, nothing sophisticated. I mostly draw now.”

“So then what’s with the outfit? You look like a house painter.”

“Oh well I do paint houses as an on call job but I’m actually a psychologist.”

“What? Why?”

She gave me a look like I had gone insane. While she stared at me it began to hale hard.

“Well after those visits with the family therapist when we were younger I fell in love with the idea of helping those in a hard time. I love what I do.”

“Ok hold on a second, if you are a psychologist then why are you doing an on call job? Don’t psychologist get paid ridiculously well?”

I could tell she was feeling squeamish.

“I lied. I’m just a psychologist. I do paint though.”

“Just a psychologist?”

She started to get a bit restless with my questions. Sometimes she forgets that I am analytical and feel the need to understand everything.

“You ok?”

I looked at her with as straight of a face that I could pull off yet my fear of what I knew showed. I turned back my attention to the front.

We passed a sign with cymbals that represented a gas station, food and shelter.

“Looks like we’re getting close to Hope.”

“Mhm.”

“Do you wanna go see mom?”

“I guess.”

She pulled over. I knew this wasn’t going to end well if I don’t think before I talk; which has always gotten me in trouble. I mean yeah when it came to expressing how I truly felt I had no problem but still.

She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel pursing her lips the same way my mother did when she was angry. I had never seen that look in my sister’s eye. She slowly turned her attention to me.

“Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

I looked outside the window hoping she’d be too impatient to deal with me.

“Don’t look away from me and tell me why you are being so…so…uggh”

“You’re a psychologist figure it out.”

“That’s right I’m a psychologist, not a fucking psychic! Now tell me what’s wrong or I swear I’ll leave you on the curb!”
I knew I couldn’t keep what I know to myself for too long. Plus we were getting close to a hospital that I thought my mom was staying in.
“DAD’S NOT DEAD!”

I felt so overwhelmed, like that one sentenced was just going to unload everything I’ve been keeping inside.

“I know.”

“What did you just say?”

“I know dad’s alive.”

“How? When? Ugh I can’t take this.” I hopped out the car and started to walk hyperventilating a little.

“What are you doing? I can’t leave my car here for that long. It’s a freeway for god’s sake!”

I stopped walking, not because she was freaking out but because I had an epiphany. I thought to myself: “Hold on a second, she said she paints from time to time. Does that mean she’s an art thief too? Am I the only sane member of the family kept out of the loop of this thievery business?”

I had to ask her, even if she was going to lie I’d know if she is one or not. I walked back to her side of the car. Before I could ask her she said:

“Would you get in here? I don’t wanna get a ticket for stopping on a highway.”
“Are you an art thief?” I asked without hesitation.

I was expecting her to deny it or dance around the question.

“Get in and I’ll tell you everything.”

“No! Tell me right here right now! It’s a yes or no question!”

“Fine you little shit yes I am an art thief just like mom and dad. Everything I told you was a lie. So was the family therapy. Now get in here or I swear I’ll beat the shit out of you!”

“What? The whole family is in on this? No I will not be a part of this.”

She took out a gun and aimed it in between my eyes. I stared down the barrel of the gun petrified at what Amelia had become; my sister went from this sweet little girl that hated work and getting dirty to holding gun aimed at my face.

“Get in…now”

I went over to the passenger side with her eyes and gun following me.

I got in and closed the door with my eyes locked forward scared out of my mind.

“Here’s what’s going to happen…Broman. We are going to pay mom a visit, have a nice cup of coffee and a light chat. Ok?”

I wanted to leave the car so badly but I knew I was trapped. What the hell happened? My life was so simple and safe! My life would never be the same after that day. It became eerily quiet as the hale finally stopped.

She took some dirt road that probably doesn’t exist on google maps. We were in a thick forest heading into a wider path.

“I thought mom was sick.”

She scoffed.

“That was just to get you here. Now shut up and be polite when you see mom. Oh and please take it easy on the questions alright?”

This was not what I was expecting to happen when I saw my sister for the first time in 7 years! How the hell has everybody kept this a secret from me? I am usually a good reader of people but I guess not as good as I thought.

My hands started to feel clammy as I started to squirm, closing my fist tightly trying not to move out of fear. What has my life become? Will I have to become an art thief by force? Guess those questions got answered pretty quickly.

 

 

Chapter 5

Family Reunion

 

All of these thoughts ran through my head so fast I couldn’t see straight. My stomach felt like there were knives stabbing every organ. All the potholes wrecking my stomach and hurting every ache in my body. We came into an opening similar to the one at Charles’s cabin. In fact when she pulled up to what looked like a slightly bigger cabin, it looked exactly like the one my father has! Even the driveway is the same.

There was however one distinctive characteristic; though the build of the cabin is the same there were no windows. Granted the windows at my father’s cabin were tinted but they were still there.

Were they hiding something even bigger and more secretive here? I asked myself.

I had no idea what I was getting into and I certainly wanted no part of it.

The entire ride Rosy was sleeping soundly, she has always been a calm mannered dog. We pulled up to the cabin and after having not looked at me once since she scared the shit out of me she looked at me and said:

“Listen, I know this is a lot to take in but whether you like it or not you are a part of this family and that means you cannot escape what the family has been doing for generations. Got it?”

I wanted to say no and pull out my gun but I knew things would just get messy; however, I knew I had protection on me so I had a slight urge to devise a plan to get out of this mess. I nodded as if I agreed and understood what she had said.

“Good, now get your things from the trunk because you are going to be here for a long time so you may as well get comfortable. Ok?”

This was all so strange, how did she go from sweet to serious so quickly? This is not the sister I once knew. I played a long nodding again then slowly opening my door and went to the trunk to get my stuff. When I gathered my things I heard her talking on the phone.

“Yeah, we’re here. Yes mom Henry is here and has complied with the agreement.”

I couldn’t really here the rest as I dragged my stuff up to the door.

“Can I get Rosy?”

“Oh right, sure. Don’t wanna let her freeze to death.”

Questions started piling up and giving me a headache.

I walked over to the truck and opened the backseat and gently picked up Rosy.

“Alright Rosy, time to go.”

She whimpered a little bit when her injured leg grazed the edge of the door.

“Oops, you’ll be ok sweetie.” I helped her down gently as she hobbled a long side of me.

My sister glared at me as I came up to the front door.

“Does she not have a leash?” She said acting ticked off and tough. Probably one of her characteristics that never seemed to go away.

“No, I forgot it at Dad’s cabin.”

“She’s going to get eaten alive by coyotes if she trails off in the woods.”

“Why would she trail off in the woods?”

“We might go to dad’s cabin once in a while to gather things and go to the underground meeting room.”

Now I had a whole new set of questions. I was about to ask something when she said:

“What did I just tell you? Easy on the questions! You’ll get all the answers you need when we get inside. Now quit your whining and come inside right now!”

She grabbed a key from underneath a welcome mat and unlocked the door. One look inside and I was floored by how modern it was. What kind of art have they been stealing?

There was beautiful laminate flooring, big open entrance showing the living room and kitchen. The details don’t quite matter right now but I’ll get to that later.

Rosy went right to the fire place and laid down in front of it. Amelia giggled and said: “She must’ve been freezing.” I was happy she was loosening up a little bit but this was all still unnerving and new to me. Despite the fact that this place is beautiful, I couldn’t help but feel like I’m in a place that should’ve been investigated. All of this was built and paid for through money that shouldn’t belong to people who steal for a living. Regardless of how I felt at the time I still wanted to see my mom.

“Where’s mom?” I said looking around amazed yet unsettled.

“Upstairs. She’s been kinda sick lately so she’s resting.”

“I thought you said she wasn’t sick.”

“No I said the story about her kidney failure was a lie. This is just a bad cold she’s had for the last 2 weeks?”

“You never specified the kidney thing but whatever. Wait…if she’s been sick for more than 2 weeks shouldn’t she go to a doctor?”

“I told her that but she wouldn’t listen to me. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

I felt like she was stalling for something. I looked at her for a good minute or two trying to figure out her angle. I went up the stairs.

“First door on your left.” She said not seeming phased by my questioning.

I went up to the first door and knocked.

“Mom? It’s me Henry.”

No answer. I knock and slowly open the door.

No one was in there.

“AMELIA! YOU FUCKING LIAR!”

I heard lightning fast and light footsteps devouring the stairs.

She came in a somewhat calm manner with her gun held out in front of her face.

“She’s not here.” She said pointing out the obvious.

“No shit Sherlock.”

I looked at the nightstand and noticed a piece of paper.

I picked it up.

“What is that?” Said Amelia.

“Note from mom, she’s…she’s in the hospital.” I said with my voice trembling.

“Read it.”

“I don’t know if you want to hear it…”

She cocks back the gun.

“Read the damn note.”

I sighed and started to read.

“Hello my sweet angels, I have taken it upon myself to go to the hospital. I have been coughing blood for 3 days and my body hurts. I could not bear my poor health onto you so I got professional help.  Love Mary”

My sister shed a tear as I placed the note back on the night stand.

“We need to go now.”

“How do you…”

“No more questions for God’s sake!”

She signals me to go downstairs with the gun.

I hurry down the stairs scared out of my mind with my sister pointing a gun at me from behind.

I pass by Rosy who was laying by the fire.

Rosy perks up by the sound of my feet and looks at me.

“Can we please bring her?” I said looking at her trying to show a brave face.

Amelia sighs then nods.  I grab Rosy’s jacket then headed over to her.

“Alright girl we are going for a little car ride ok?”

“Hurry up!”

That kind of pissed me off. Can’t I talk to my dog for five seconds? I put her jacket on carefully to not hurt her injury. She gets up and hobbles along.

Amelia grabs a leash from the wall including her jacket. She hands me the leash as Rosy follows me toward her.

“Leash her please.” She said as I take the leash with no retort.

I open the door after having leashed Rosy; while I stood at the door waiting she puts on her jacket without any sign of being sad or scared. I for some reason felt really proud of her. She had no fear of anything and has obviously had to become tough as nails.

She shuts the door and locks it quickly.

There was no talking or anything. It’s like she was on a mission. I still had so many questions but I was tired of inquiring information with everything that was going on.

We got in the car without saying a word to each other and then took off. This has to be the ultimate silent treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

Family Reunion Continued

 

We got to a hospital named Chilliwack General Hospital. It was a decent sized hospital but looked rather corporate and unwelcoming. It took us at least an hour and a half to get there. Not sure why mom was at a hospital so far away.

Anywho.

We pull up into the parking lot.

Amelia hid her gun in the glove compartment and hopped out the car. I did the same and went to a bike chaining station to attach Rosy.

“You’re going to leave him outside?”

“It’s a she and she’ll be fine.”

“They have a room inside for pets.”

She detached Rosy and we headed on in. The way Amelia was acting came off as nurturing and strong yet scared. I could tell she was hiding a lot of emotions and trying to disguise them as her being in control.

We got up to the front desk and a woman behind the desk said:

“Hi folks how may I help you?”

“We are here to see Mary Chester Fields.”

She does some typing while taking a couple glances at us.

“Ooh you must be her daughter!”

Amelia seemed a bit stunned by her enthusiasm. As if our mother had been here for some time.

“Yes and this is my brother Henry.”

I smiled forcefully still feeling paranoid. Kind of like Chandler in the show Friends when he couldn’t smile naturally in front of the camera.

“And who might this beautiful gal be?” Said the secretary. Rosy happily smiled and wagged her tail.

“It’s my brother’s dog.”

“Rosy. Her name is Rosy.” I said slightly nervous about how I looked. My eyes darting here and there momentarily.

The secretary smiles.

“Well, leave him with us and one of the nurses will take him in to the pet room. Your mother had her room changed to the second floor and the room number is 255.”

“Thank you.” Ok, I know I am quite the inquirer but how the hell was Amelia not asking any questions? Was mom sick all along and she just miscommunicated to me? Or she meant at that moment? Or is she just really good at making a poker face?

We headed toward the elevator.

The secretary looks at one of the nurses that happened to pass by and gets her attention.

“Cheryl could you take this little beauty to the pet room please.”

“What did she just say?”

The elevator door opens and I stare at Cheryl. What the hell was she doing here? She became a nurse? I was blown away not just at the fact that I coincidently met her here of all places but how stunning she looked.

Amelia pulls on my arm.

“Come on let’s go.”

I walked in the elevator while still staring at Cheryl.

As the doors close Cheryl walks by with Rosy.

Rosy looks at me happily and right before the door closes I got one last glimpse of Cheryl’s face: perfect pastel pink lips, dirty blonde hair and green eyes.

Elevator starts to go up to the second floor. Amelia, me, a doctor and a nurse all awkwardly stair forward.

The song “Escape/pina coladas” plays softly in the background which brought back memories of my childhood. It was playing in the style of Jazz instrumental.

Amelia and I quietly hummed the song until we got to our floor.

We both excitedly look at each other and awkwardly shuffle and dance. My sister and I loved singing this song when we were little so it didn’t take long before we went into a full on duet.

I didn’t even notice the doctor and nurse standing there smiling awkwardly and glaring forward. How my sister went from a stone cold person to a fun and happy girl I will never know.

Amelia giggled in excitement, which is something I wasn’t expecting to hear but it looked like her darker self was coming back.

Once the doors opened she immediately went back to a more calm, focused and somewhat intimidating person. I’ll never understand that woman. None of what has happened makes any sense.

 I mean seriously, a family of art thieves? I must be adopted. I thought to myself.

Everyone awkwardly poured out of the elevator with Amelia and me being the only ones to leave in the same direction. We went down a little hallway that lead to my mother’s room.

“255…255 ah this is mom’s room.”

She opened the door and went in. I followed with a cautious manner scared of what my mom was going to say. I thought she was going to start off by saying she is happy to see me then lead into asking me to join the business. I couldn’t say no to my own mother right?

Amelia walked in and stood at the right side of mom who was asleep.

I stood still at the door staring at my mom who looked pale and weak with her arm hooked up to an IV. Amelia sat on the bed looking at my mother lovingly as she caressed her brown hair.

She looked at me stunned and mad I wasn’t with her on the bed or the chair.

“Aren’t you going to say hi?”

“I…I don’t know.”

She gave me the meanest look I had ever seen.

“Just get over here.”

I stuff my hands in my pockets then slowly walked up to the other side of the bed.

“Talk to her.”

“But she’s asleep.”

“Yes but she can still hear you.”

I exhaled and ran my hand through my hair. That was always something I did when I was scared, frustrated or depressed.

“Hi mom…”

Amelia did a hand motion signalling me to keep going.

“Umm…I quit smoking a long time ago.”

Amelia kept looking at me like she was trying to figure me out.

“Oh um Rosy will be 13 soon….and I take her to that dog park we used to take Jessy to.”

Mary’s right hand moves and she tries to speak.

I took the chair behind me and sat down.

I held her hand hoping she opens her eyes.

My wish was granted but in an odd way.

“You both know I’m not actually sick right?”

I shot Amelia a dirty look. I could’ve sworn she lied to me again.

She looked back at me shrugging her shoulders.

“Can you not tell that this is all make up?” Mary said taking a wet towel to her face and cleaning off the makeup showing a healthy glow.

Both of us looked at her in shock and awe.

“Ok, what the hell is going on? I need answers right now!” I said acting panicky all over again. That is probably the biggest pet peeve I’ve always had. Someone telling me something they say they mean but meant something else.

Mary finished wiping off the makeup then took out the IV.

“This was the only way to get you all together with me so we may become a real family again.”

“What do you mean ‘all’ of us?” I said inquisitively.

Amelia and I were puzzled by what she was saying. That was until she pointed to the window.

Both of us went up to the window and looked outside to find Charles standing outside in the pouring rain.

There were so many things I could’ve asked first like why is dad outside? Or why are you all lying to me so much? Instead all I said was:

“I’m going to talk to him.”

“Henry be gentle with him ok?” Amelia said softly.

I wanted to explode on her but instead I walked out without looking back.

I made my way through the hallway right to the elevator. I was so angry I could feel people glaring at me like I was an angry bull with steam coming out of my nostrils. I wanted a drink so bad that if someone gave me a case of Jack Daniels it would be gone by the time I was face to face with my dad. I miss my friend JD.

I pressed the elevator button mercilessly till it opened. Right then a brief moment of relief and wonder began when I saw Cheryl and Rosy.

“Hi Henry…” She said softly with her hand holding my dog gently.

There were so many things I wanted to say but I knew if I said anything it would just come out as dog shit. I stepped in then turned around.

“Don’t you have to go?” I asked.

She looked at me curiously then said:

“I was but I realized dogs aren’t allowed on the second floor unless they are a service or Seeing Eye dog.”

“Huh, well that’s too bad huh Rosy?” I said looking down at her noticing she didn’t have a bandage on.

“What happened to her bandage?”

“Oh well I had a look at it and the doctor treated it with this special healing cream and it cleared right up.”

“Oh, well tell him thank you.”

She nodded with that beautiful smile of hers.

“Wait, if you knew you couldn’t bring her up then why did you?”

She sighed and said:

“I just wanted to see you for a moment to say hello.”

“Ah.” I said awkwardly then I went into my best Jerry Seinfeld impression. “Helllloooo!” I said with the exaggerated hand jesters and all.

She laughed just the way she used to laugh at my jokes she considered funny. Not to most of my jokes but still. The elevator stopped and she walked out in front of me walking elegantly as she always had.

“Wait!” I said running after her with the door closing on my foot as I fell to the ground in an animated fashion. I then got up like nothing happened. I brushed myself off and exhaled.

“Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?”

“I’d love to but…” She pointed to her ring finger which had nothing on it.

“You don’t have a ring on.”

“I know and I don’t want to get married to you again.”

“All I asked is if you wanted to go for coffee.”

“Fine, but not now. I’m busy.”

Pretty sure she was lying but I had to attend to my father who for some reason was standing right at the door like a lost dog. Wouldn’t he be next to my mom or hiding somewhere to make some somber entrance? This man is full of surprise and I never liked it.

He starts to walk away slowly as I approach the door.

“Coward.” I said with a dry bitter tone not having any of his gameplay.

I open the door with force and power walk over to my father.

“Stop!” I said demandingly. He stopped without hesitation and turned his head slightly with a look as if he’d done something terrible. I mean he did lie constantly and avoided justification of his actions. Not that it would make me feel better but at least I’d know why.

“You know…”I took a deep breathe because I knew that I had a lot to say. Usually I would spew nonsense or explode in a way that is unhealthy. I’ve always been one to not have a filter; however, there are some things I have and still keep to myself. I’ll leave that for my diary though.

“You taught me to be honest, faithful and kind to others. So please for once in your life, eat your own words and be straight up with me.”

Charles turned toward me. Both of us stared at each other for a good two minutes. The rain pouring down on us like an ice cold shower. Symbolically it felt like either we are about to be cleansed of bad blood or something ugly was about to happen.

“I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

That one stung so deep I couldn’t even speak. I wanted to leave and run screaming.

I punched him right in the jaw and he stumbled to the ground. He got up slowly rubbing his jaw. He was always a tough bugger. That old man sure could take a punch. I was expecting, wanting actually, for him to react. Instead he pulled out what looked like a worn out journal. It was the exact same one I saw back at the cabin.

“Everything you need to know is in here.” Charles said expecting me to just take it.

I smacked it out of his hands then took a couple steps forward and looked him dead in the eye.

“I don’t need answers from a God damn journal. I need answers from you.”

I pointed to the window of Mary’s room where I could kind of see them standing at the window.

“You see that window there? Your family is in there. Which brings me to my first question, why weren’t you in there?”

“I needed to talk to you alone before I came in.”

Didn’t really feel like an answer so I let him go on.

“The reason why your mother and I went into the art thieving business with the rest of the family is because your mother lost her job when you were starting your senior year. I only had enough money to pay the bills.”

“Ok but you could’ve taken a second job? Or ask me to help with the bills?”

“Yes I could’ve, but your Uncle Carson proposed an offer for me. He said if I didn’t accept he’d frame me for a crime he committed. Like I said before, I was pushed into it.”

It all started to come together now, only one thing still bothered me.

“Couldn’t you call the cops? Or go to the cops privately and tell them about the situation?”

“No, he had people on the inside…everywhere.”

“So in other words you were too screwed to do anything?”

Charles nodded without really making eye contact.

“But now I am well off and we can do this as a family.” He said with a hopeful tone.

“Ok listen, I understand I can’t really back out of this. But I’m not just gonna shake your hand and accept. I’m dead against this line of so called ‘work’ “

“I understand son, trust me I felt the same way when I first started but it has been a part of the family for years, decades even.”

I grew tired of the discussion and wanted to just take off into the woods. Looking back at my body language I knew I was done talking. I had one hand on my hip and the other scratching my head. Kind of a cliché thing to do when you’re frustrated or done with something but hey that’s how I was at the time.

“Can we go inside now? I’m still pissed at you but I have nothing else left to say now.”

I mean of course I did but with everything he said I had nothing to say at the time.

Now here’s the thing about the relationship I had with my father.  First off he never liked the idea of catering to someone’s every need and desire. He wasn’t the overly nice parent that wanted to be friends or fake nice to his child. He believed in being firm, honest and upfront when it came to being a mentor. That is where my desire to push myself every day came from. Well to a certain point obviously, as you know I pretty much gave up on the idea of having my life together when my divorce took place.

Not only that but I also learned from him that you need to stick up for yourself when it comes to your work. That if someone tries to say or prove you are wrong you need to stand your ground. Just because someone thinks they know the answer doesn’t mean they are right. He also believed that you need to be certain of the career you want and do your absolute best.

Anyhow, my father wanted what was best for us until he disappeared evidently for a good reason. Certainly not the feeling or understanding I had before but nevertheless he did what he had to do. The thing though about me that still hasn’t completely gone away is I’ve always been used to an orderly life. I had to adapt to a life of constant change eventually and when it came to family I felt many things. Betrayal, confusion and evidently anger. The way my father was behaving during the so called visit to see my mom who had fallen “ill”, was far different than the man I knew before.

He’d always been good at keeping it together and not breaking character from his rough exterior. I guess a lot has happened to him though. All the things he had to do in order to be kept in the business as a valuable asset. Not that I had sympathy for him but now I understand and forgive him.

Back to the story.

We both walked back into the hospital in a sort of independent fashion. I was ahead of him staring forward like I was in the biggest fight of my life; which is something I expected, wanted and hoped for because of my pent up anger. Guess having an understanding of someone’s actions is better.

Charles stopped for a second to pick up his now soaked journal.

I knew that because I could hear his footsteps dragging on the ground then coming to a slow halt. The sound of a wet book being slowly picked up and dripping on the ground echoed behind me.

I turned back as I put my hand on the door noticing my father hugging his journal like it was something he treasured. On the outside I was still mad as hell, but deep down I felt bad for that man.

I’ll always love my father, no matter what he throws at me.

I go in nonchalantly with a stone cold look on my face; although to be honest I was feeling a lot of things and was tired so I didn’t really know what the few people around me saw. I do know that after my father walked in, Cheryl stood there wondering what was going on. I could tell she wanted to say something; however, after what happened between my father and I there was nothing I could say nor could I look at her.

Charles and I went into the elevator without saying a word or even make eye contact. Something was different though, it’s as if the fight (more of an argument really) diffused the confusion and frustration but something else took its place. The anger I still felt is a given now, I no longer have to delve in or understand its place. It’s as if there was this weird energy between us. Like although at this point I was closer to becoming an art thief (yes that’s right, I caved into the idea of being one) there was still that feeling of doubt from my side. He himself probably had a little doubt but most likely he hoped for my acceptance to be a part of the business. Just so he can “have his son back” which is what it felt like.

My life was never the same after that day.

 

 

 

Chapter 7

Family Reunion Finale

 

All of us were in Mary’s room in total silence, there was an odd mixture of energy and feelings in the air. I was leaning against the door with my arms crossed pondering what I should do. On the one hand I wanted to escape and be all dramatic like I’m in a movie. Kind of like those scenes in horror films when the one character decides to make a run for it but ends up dying pretty quickly. On the other hand I thought I had no choice but to join. I mean I am a writer and this would make for a good story; even more so, I had a pretty boring life until this trip took me into whirlwind of nonsense and chaos. There were other things going on in my head like running into Cheryl and if Rosy was in good care. I felt everybody kind of staring at me, I probably looked like a psycho just staring wide eyed at nothing.

Once I snapped out of it I noticed everybody was in a different place emotionally. Amelia looked rather bored or just drained. She has always been a little hard to read. Mary looked either troubled or upset.

“You ok mom?” I asked with my voice that was a bit shot and broken.

She sighed and said: “I’m fine sweetie.”

She looked over to Charles like he did something wrong. Is there something I’m still not being told? I mean I was warming up to the idea of being part of the family business (if it was going to be done professionally of course). I swear something was always being kept from me.

“Why didn’t you tell him?”

Charles just kind of shrugged his shoulders with a guilty look on his face. He didn’t even make eye contact with Mary.

“Tell me what?” I said turning my attention to him.

I took a few steps forward pulled up a chair that was in a corner and sat right in front of him.

“Listen Dad, I understand that this…type of business isn’t something you could’ve sprung on to me and I’d just agree to it. But I’m your son, now whatever it is please tell me. Please tell me why you couldn’t tell me? I mean Amelia knows and is a part of the business.”

Mary looked at Charles and grabbed him gently by the chin. He looked at her lovingly as he sighed softly.

“Go ahead hun.” She said softly and kissed him.

Charles looks back at me fiddling with his thumbs. I didn’t break from my stern look and focused on him.

“Son you have always been a good and honest boy, in fact you were too honest.” He said emphasizing the word ‘too’ for some reason.

I raised one eyebrow wondering what he meant by that.

“When I’d tell you something that happened at work that was personal you’d go blabbing to others about it. Remember that one Easter dinner at Aunt Jamie’s house when you were 15?”

I remembered that, my father had told me a couple days before the dinner he got into a screaming match with someone who didn’t get their mail. He almost got fired, which for some reason I decided to blurt in the middle of dinner. My dad stared at me like he was going to beat the crap out of me. I think I blurted things out because when it came to my parents keeping me honest with them, I kind of took it too literally. Plus I always felt that I was boring and had nothing interesting to say. I was definitely a naïve idiot with no idea what social cues are.

I wanted to fight him on it but I knew he was right and started to see where he was going with it.

“The most crucial part of this business is quite simple, you cannot expose yourself. That being said, I could not risk the family business by telling you when you were still too young to understand that there are some things that you should keep to yourself.”

I finally understood why he kept this from me for so long. I could now see eye to eye with him for his secrecy.

“Wait, if you simply wanted to keep the family business under wraps and away from me, why did you feel the need to fake your death? Like couldn’t you just wait for the right time to tell me and stay…well…alive?”

He started to tap his foot nervously like he was about to tell me something bad.

“I was going to tell you on your twentieth birthday about the business but someone caught wind of it.”

“So?”

“So, one day when I was walking to my car after having picked up your mother’s ‘special milk’.”

Mary smacked him. “It’s just lactose free milk, how is that special? Would you rather I have a farting competition with you?” Both giggle.

Charles goes on.

“Anyway, a black SUV rolled up and dragged me in and took off on the highway. It was Raphael Von Schmidt, a driver and what looked like two meat headed henchmen. Raphael said:

20 years ago…

 

“Hello Charles, you thieving prick. How are the kids?”  He said in a sarcastic yet dark tone.

Charles scoffed and looked at him with a dead pan look on his face.

“Listen, I’d like to make a deal with you. Give me my painting back and I will drop the lawsuit. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy you a beer.” Said Raphael.

“I don’t know what painting you are talking about.”

He scoffed and pointed a gun at Charles.

“You are a terrible liar you know? If you don’t give me the painting in the next half an hour I will kill both of your children. Maybe I’ll have some fun with your wife too eh?”

He laughs hysterically and while he’s laughing Charles swiftly takes the gun out of his hands and shoots all 3 like it was nothing.

The driver swerved and the car rolled over. Charles jumped out the car and as he stood up he dialed a phone number. His quickness kept him from being part of a nasty car crash against a tree that sent the driver through the windshield.

“Hi Mary, it’s been taken care of but I am completely exposed now. We have to go with plan C.”

 

Present…

“What is plan C?” I asked now finally relaxed and rather intrigued.

“Plan Cabin.”

“Ah, that makes sense.”

My father nods. “So that’s why I kept things from you and the reason of faking my death to avoid Raphael’s goons and his father.”

“His father?”

Charles nodded.

“Dangerous man. You would not want to cross paths with him.”

At this point I was done being angry and my attention focused on my hunger. Literally, all I could think was “I’m hungry.”

“Is anybody hungry? Because I’m starving.” I said like a mildly excited 5 year old.

 

       

All of us were sitting at some local diner called Jenny’s Café, which looked kind of run down but not in a way that it seemed deserted. More like those little cafes you walk by on the country side of BC without really looking at it. It had a wholesome feel to it, almost like we had been there several times. We all sat at a booth without saying anything for what felt like an hour or two but was probably only ten minutes.

Dad was staring into the abyss of his half empty cup of coffee. Mom was kind of in a haze but snapped out of it and smiled forcefully at Amelia and I. She looked kind of serious and was probably itching to say something business like. I was feeling rather neutral, not like I was all honky dory about being a part of a family of thieves but rather blank. What was I gonna do? Run away? That would just cause more problems and they’d probably find me pretty quickly anyway.

Rosy was outside waiting patiently, I’m surprised she wasn’t pouting. I’m sure she wasn’t feeling left out or anything but we’ve been inseparable since she was a puppy. She was going to be 13 in a few months but still acted like she was a puppy. There are however times when I worry she’ll drop dead sooner than later.

Anyway.

As for what the inside looked like, the walls were a bland white color with pictures of people in parks and unknown actors from the 1920’s and 30’s.

There is a mix of middle aged and young servers, we got a young server who probably didn’t understand that a lot of makeup doesn’t mean lots of tips. I worked in restaurants for a long time and the one thing I learned from female servers is that makeup can work but in most cases it’s the guest that really have the power. Some servers were like magicians, they could turn a cheap tipper into a big tipper. God I hated working in the food industry.

Across from us was a bar that was vacant aside from an old man on the far right with a Frenchman’s hat, a tattered old dark brown winter coat, jeans and worker boots. Seemed like he had a pretty interesting story to tell. That’s one of the things about writers. They like to observe and talk to all kinds of people to draw inspiration for the story that they are writing. Not that writers are creeps, I mean they can be but usually it’s to sort of open their horizons to different walks of life. Not only that but different personas and approaches to someone’s life.

For some reason I was fascinated by this man; there was just something about him that made me want to create his potential life in my head. He drank his coffee quietly and took a bite of his apple pie. It’s as if he had been through and done so much in his life that he’d rather keep to himself.

Before my mind could wander any longer I noticed my dad lift his head up and look at the same man I was staring at.

“You alright?” I asked wondering if maybe he knew the man.

“I’m fine, just thought I saw someone I knew.” He said somberly.

I looked back over my shoulder at the old man.

The old man turned his head and glanced at Charles but then blankly stared forward as he continued to sip his coffee.

The man at the bar points to a waitress and asks her to top off his coffee. I could’ve sworn there was some kind of connection between those two. I knew something was going to happen, maybe not then but soon.

A waitress came by to top off my dad’s coffee and said:

“That man at the bar told me to give you this.” She said handing him a folded napkin with a coffee stain on the top left corner. Yes I am a keen observer.

“What is it?” Charles asked. The waitress shrugged her shoulders then looked around the table to pour everyone a coffee. I nodded yes and the ladies waved her off sipping their coffee.

Charles unfolded the napkin reading it with a vague look on his face that soon turned into a hard look. Kind of like a mild or almost identical Clint Eastwood grin.

“What does it say?” Amelia asked. Charles sighs a sigh of exhaustion, takes a sip of his coffee and slides the napkin toward me. I stare at the napkin for a second at what is written on the other side of it. I flip it over and read it quietly in case anyone was listening that could be dangerous.

“You’ve got 5 minutes to leave or this place will be shot to bits. Not by me but by someone far more dangerous to you than me.” No name was left at the bottom. I was kind of confused but based on the nature of their business it made sense.

The old man from the bar got up and put money on the table and thanked the server by tipping his hat. He came over toward us and as he walked by a business card fell out of his pocket. Being the curious man that I am, I waited for him to leave and pass by us from the outside part of the window. I picked up the card. I was certain he dropped it on purpose.

“What does it say?” My mom asked.

“It says Fields Taxidermy shop. Then under it says his name and phone number of the place. Henry Fields the 3rd.”

I look at my dad who actually seemed surprised. Not in an obvious way but rather like he was vaguely intrigued by it.

“Didn’t you say your dad died when you were 35?”

“He did die, he was gunned down by some biker gang in East Hastings.”

“Then what’s this?” I said pointing to the card.

He shrugged and went back to staring at his now nearly empty cup of coffee.

I leaned over and gave him a hard stare. Mom grabbed his hand gently as he exhaled. Amelia looked a bit troubled, possibly worried Charles might break from his tough exterior.

“Dad? Is he alive or not?” I said as calmly as I could.

“I thought he was dead. I saw the autopsy.” He said bowing his head.

“So you’re saying you genuinely don’t know if that man is your father or not?”

He nodded swirling the bit of coffee that was left in his cup.

I nodded as well, agreeing and believing he was being genuine.

I got up, threw money on the table then walked to the door.

“Where are you going? You can’t risk being seen!” said Mary.

I stopped at the door and looked at her.

“Pretty sure we’ve already been exposed. I am done hiding and I’m done with things being kept from me.”

“Move over.” Mary said to Charles. She came up to me and said:

“You can’t go because if that really is your Grandfather then that means there is a definite possibility we are being watched….everywhere.”

She sighed looking at me lovingly, I could feel her sensing my fear and frustration with not knowing everything about my family.

“I understand you want answers, but you can’t just take off in the open like you are invisible. Come with us and we’ll drive you to your Grandfather’s shop.”

I looked out the window then back at mom and nodded. She hugged me hard and didn’t let go for about a minute. I enjoyed every second of that hug.

She let go and looked at my dad mouthing the word ‘now’. Amelia and Charles get up and we all left swiftly toward the car taking Rosy off the post. When we piled into the car we all had this energy of being in unison. It was great to be back together again.

 

Chapter 8

Henry Fields III

 

We drove for about five minutes and came upon my Grandfather’s shop.  The title wasn’t that creative but the style of writing and painting around was quite unique. The font had an old English style to it with a bit of an airbrush touch to it. The painting around the lettering kind of had a Picasso feel to it. It’s as if someone rebelled against the art teacher who said to stay within the lines, angles and colors. Shapes connected to others that somehow worked in a chaotic yet poetic way. Whoever did the artwork is talented and sincerely into Picasso. I started to see a theme going on here because of that carving in the tree that my car hit. Did they set all of this up? Guess I’ll never know, but to be honest at the time I didn’t care anymore.

We parked across the street and although I understood I couldn’t be seen there was still something confusing me.

“Mom how come I had to be in the car in order to avoid being seen? I mean aren’t I going to be seen when I cross the street?”

“This area is none of my or anyone’s concern sweetie, it was just that diner. I could tell someone was watching us and didn’t want us there.”

“So someone is ok with us only being in certain areas?”

She nodded.

“Huh weird.”

No one said anything for a couple minutes and I decide to make a move to get out.

“Henry before you go in….” Charles said as he hesitated to say something else.

“My father has always been an…”

“Asshole?”

“That’s the more grotesque way of putting it but yes. I prefer to say he’s bitter and can be quite vocal if you upset him.”

I wanted to comment on that because he himself was like that too for a certain period of time. Then again that was partly because his mom died when he was in his late 30’s; nevertheless there was no need to throw his grief at us.

At the time, all I could think of was learning more about my family’s ancestry. Understand what is it about art that they love so much that they steal it for a living. How come it has always been in the family history to be an art thief?

I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door like I was about to go into a building that could either be haunted or abandoned for unknown reasons. It was still pouring rain and it was freezing too so I hurried across the deserted street. I peaked in through the window seeing a plethora of stuffed and mounted animals.  I felt kind of bad for those animals, I mean they lived a good life and have no idea what happens to them after they die. Yes the same goes for us humans but we can imagine the options; on the other hand animals are treated quite gruesomely when they are dead. They can be skinned, eaten, turned into a rug, coat or clothing, stuffed, etc. That’s what I know at least, I’m sure there are countries that do all kinds of things.

It didn’t seem like anyone was in there but the open sign was on so I opened the door. A little bell jingled as I walked in.

I took a few steps in and began to look around. It was quite the site, a small store but definitely filled to the brim with animals, books and little paintings. I felt like I was in a creepy grave full of beautiful creatures either glaring at me, each other or positioned in a form of attack. One in particular was a bald eagle with its wings spread out and claws that looked sharpened. It was facing an angry grizzly bear on its two hind legs staring at it like it was dinner. I stared at it for some time having felt drawn to it for some reason.

Oh and by the way, like some of the animals, the eagle was attached by wires from the sealing. I think that my Grandfather was not only an art thief but loved to create a story. Kind of like a live play with no lines or sounds. That would be a brilliant idea, silent theatre. Guess it would be more personal to call him Grandpa, right? Not to his face though. It was too soon and even now it’ll take time.

I came upon a door in the back left corner of the shop that had no name or anything. What drew me to this door was that it was dark cherry red, and engraved at the top was the last name Fields. When I took a closer look, I noticed that there was a small engraving on the door knob which said: Good artists copy, great artists steal. The engraving was in a circular shape on the rim of the knob with the word Picasso in the middle. As I stared at this magnificent work of art I saw an old man’s reflection with a shotgun behind me.

“Get out.” He said. In the reflection I saw that he was dressed in a patched up sweater and dark brown corduroy pants. A classic look for a Grandpa. I slowly turned around and my eyes locked on to probably the meanest looking man I had ever seen. Not in a James Bond villain kind of way, more like a mixture of Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro. Basically he looked like a crazy Italian who had seen and probably done a lot of horrible things.

I wanted to see what was beyond that door but when you have a shotgun pointed at you from four feet away you leave.

I started to walk toward the front door feeling the gun follow my every step.

“Stop.” He said.

I froze like a statue with my hands up beside my head.

“What is that white mark on the back of your neck?”

I knew what he was talking about but had no idea why it mattered.

“That’s just a birthmark.”

“What is your name?”

“Henry, Henry Field.”

I was expecting him to put his gun down but I could only hear his breath exhaling like he was about to explode.

“Why are you here?” he asked me.

“My father has been lying to me pretty much my whole life. Now that I’m part of, well, will be part of the business I want answers.”
I could feel him staring me down and putting the gun down.

I turn slowly and look at him.

“What do you want to know?” he asked with his arms crossed.

“Everything.”

“Fine but they need to come in first.” He said pointing to the car across the street.

I was kind of surprised he knew what the car looked like.

“They should know better than to park in the middle of the street.” he said with a bitter tone.

I wave them in but they don’t move. Henry grunted like he was annoyed.

“For god’s sake.” He goes behind a desk and hits and intercom.

“Get in now before you get caught, idiots.”

They all get out and as they cross the street Charles whispers something into his sleeve and the car disappears. Couldn’t he have done that before?

They all come in soaking wet and shivering.

“Alright, nobody talk until we are completely out of sight.”

Everybody nods and Henry leads us to the dark cherry red door.

Henry places his hand on the door knob then leans in to a small hole in the door and whispers:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” A locking mechanism sounds off and Henry opens the door and one by one we all went in with him being the last one.

I was confused as to where we were exactly. There was barely any room for us to move besides shuffling side to side.

“Umm someone mind telling me why we are crammed into a closet?” I said squirming like a suffocating fish out of water.

Henry, whom was across from us, scoffed and pointed to a saying up above the door. “Read it.”

“Art is not meant to be looked at or taken but lived.” I said reading it out loud as clear as I could.

“Now take four steps forward.” Said Henry.

“Why?”

“Just do it now!” he said as the ground underneath me started to slide backwards. I took a step forward and hopped a little landing face to face with Henry.

Henry’s cold breath came down on me like ice as he stared me down.

“You’re a damn fool. Next time do as you’re told son.” He said cutting through my core like a knife. He signals me to turn around and I turn tightly to see an open trap door. These people are obsessed with trap doors and art. I felt like I was in some weird rip off of an Indiana jones movie.

I was first to go down the stairs with Henry behind whom said: “You might need this, dummie.” He handed me a big flashlight. I took it and made my way down the stairs with everyone making their way behind me.

I looked around noticing that there wasn’t any source of light. “Where does this lead to? Why aren’t there any lights or fire torches on the walls?”

“You ask too many questions son. Just let Henry lead the way.” Said Charles.

Henry went ahead of me without saying a word and clipped me with his solid body. I felt like I got hit by a brick wall. I rubbed my shoulder and kept walking.

“Give me the flashlight idiot.” I handed it to him knowing I shouldn’t have taken so long to give it to him.

We walked for quite a while with no one saying anything. I felt like this family of mine doesn’t like to talk. It’s as if no one trust each other, or they have trust issues. It was like walking down the hallway in high school with everyone staring at you after hearing a nasty roomer about you.

Henry walked over to the left wall and pulled down a lever to turn on the lights. Loud thuds sound off as the lights turned on revealing encased paintings all along the walls. I could not believe my eyes, I felt like I was in a museum designed like a cat walk.  Most of the paintings were of Picasso, Peter Paul Ruben, Pierre Auguste-Renoir and some others I didn’t recognize.

“Henry I know you aren’t much of a talker but can you please tell me why the Fields family steal art for a living?” I asked still not getting this business. He stopped and turned around waving the flashlight in my eyes.  I blink franticly then squint trying to meet his gaze.

“Listen to me you chattering brainless twat. This family has no room for childlike curiosity for what we do. We are good, no…great….great at what we do so knock it off!”

I guess I was asking a lot of questions but how could I not be curious? I had been left out of the business my entire life and now I was supposed to nod my head and go along with it? I had accepted the fact that I was going to be a part of it but I had a hard time shaking off my curiosity. It wore off pretty quickly though once certain events took place.

We made it to the end of this seemingly never ending tunnel. A descending latter came down like magic but before anyone moved I noticed Henry was standing still staring at the ground.

He stood still for a good five minutes not saying anything. All of us stood behind him curious as to what he was thinking or planning. Amelia seemed like she was on a mission just glaring forward and carrying herself with pride. Dad and mom were holding hands trying to see what Henry was going to do. I myself kind of had an idea, I thought maybe there was something he was hiding.

Henry turned around and said: “Charles, do you remember that story you told me years ago about your run in with Raphael?”

Charles nodded.

“I took something that belonged to his father. He was surely going to find out quickly that is was missing. So I legally changed my name and lived a quiet life to avoid being exposed.” He said turning back and going to the wall to press a button.

A square cut out in the ground slides open to reveal an exquisite painting. One I saw at an exhibit last year; but that one was a copy. It is a rare painting by Picasso called Jeune Fille Endormie. Apparently the woman in the painting that was sleeping with her arms folded was his mistress.

We all came around the painting to admire it in all its glory. Mesmerized by the lighting and every detail in each brush stroke Picasso himself made. How did he get this? Wasn’t this in Russia? The most ruthless place when it came to protecting its most valuable possessions?

“What name did you take Henry?” Said Mary.

“Valdi Picesso Moretti.”

She opens her mouth about to say something.

“Don’t mind the middle name, I know it sounds a little on the nose.”

“I’ll say.” I said chuckling quietly. Henry gives me a hard look which shut me up immediately. Man he’s an uptight old man, which I guess I can’t fault him for being that way. I guess you’d probably need a rough exterior to be a professional criminal.

He hit the same button on the wall again closing the floor again with locking mechanism sounds.

“Time to go.” Said Henry as he climbed up the ladder quickly. He could certainly move for an old man. I went up right after him this time not hesitating. After me was Charles, then Mary and Amelia. Once we all got out we ended up being in the middle of the woods with the snow semi melted and the rain had become more of a mist.

 

**************************

 

We had been walking in the forest for about 10 minutes now and I was beginning to smell familiar aromas. The smoke coming from the chimney of what is presumably the Fields headquarters. The other familiar smell was the crisp air filled with mildew leaving a weird wet taste in the mouth. There is something about morning dew mixed with crisp air that feels very…Canadian. The oxygen provided by Canada’s flourishing greenery and not so prominent pollution makes me feel proud to be in a clean country.

This thought popped in my head because I was trying to clear my head before entering into this business that my family are somehow proud of. I’d go on a rant but I’m done fighting it. I had finally accepted that I was going to be an art thief and a writer as a cover, unless the family had other plans for me.

The cabin was now partially visible due to trees despite the fact we weren’t that close. Henry went up to a tree that had scratch marks the size of my face, and I’ve got a big head so that was made me a little uneasy.

“We need to move faster, something tells me we aren’t alone.” Said Henry in a firm and strong tone.

Everyone begins to powerwalk and there is a faint but distinct grunting sound in the distance. No one changed their pace but carry themselves like they were on guard. Charles pulled out a hand gun and so did I; Mary took out a knife and Amelia picked up a stick and taped a pocket knife at the tip of it. Henry seemed fine without a weapon, what a tough and crazy old man. The cabin was now in full site but still far enough that if one of us was face to face with a bear or some other flesh tearing animal would not make it.

The grunt now louder sounded a little hesitant with a broken rhythm. Like the creature was injured or angry. The ground begins to shake a little and before us stood a big Grizzly bear. There was a huge scar across its face and an even bigger scar on its chest. A puncture wound on its neck blead and dripped blood on the ground seemed to be the worst injury.

“This one’s hurt pretty badly.” Said Charles sizing up the behemoth of a bear and checking around the bear for whatever could’ve attacked it.

“Alright, so fortunately this bear is not a threat to us.”

“Seriously? Look at the size of that thing!” I said waving my gun at it.

“Shut up. The real threat is whatever attacked it.” Said Charles getting tired of my whining.

The bear started to walk forward limping but still huffing and puffing like it was going to attack. It got up on its hind legs and let out a growl echoing through the forest. Charles pointed the gun at him about to squeeze the trigger. Then out of nowhere a mountain lion jumped from behind the bear and mounts him. It bit down on his neck where the puncture wound was. The bear collapsed in a thud then began to thrash itself as the mountain lion locked and relocked his grip even tighter.

Henry signaled us to go left which was where the mountain lion wasn’t looking. It was busy chewing on the now dying bear’s neck. Creeping away from the mountain lions feast we were now out of the woods and headed toward the front door.

Charles headed to the front door, bent down to push down a floor board that flipped over revealing a key. He took the key then pushed the board down again to flip it back over. He unlocked the door and placed the key back in the floor board. Talk about professional criminals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

All In The Family

 

All of us now sat in the living room quietly like a family member died or someone did something wrong. I know I vividly described the house before but since no one was talking for like an hour or so I had some time to look around a bit more.

First of all the windows were tinted and the blinds were down, evidently to prevent others from knowing their presence. I felt like I was in a slightly twisted version of the mansion in the movie interpretation of the board game Clue.

Before I get into the details of the parts of the house that I saw at that time I was in the kitchen talking to my mom. I wanted to understand a little more about what happened in the twenty year gap I missed.

“Mom?” I said while she sipped her coffee which smelt extremely alluring and aromatic. She looked at me with that soft angel face of hers. My mother always had gentle approachable features that made you want to listen to her with no deviation from what she had to say. The way she worded things capitalized on that part of her.

“Yes sweetie?” She said kindly.

“Is it true? What dad said about me being a danger to the business? Because of my flaw as an honest person?”

“It’s not that you were honest, it’s that when someone tells you something shocking or personal you tend to just blurt it out to someone you shouldn’t have said it to. You were like a parrot that liked to repeat personal things”

That is the same thing Charles told me and I still agree with it. I certainly got better at keeping things to myself when I got older but it took a little too long. My social skills were so bad that someone once told me my way of talking came off as a pragmatic disorder. I thought that was an exaggerated way of looking at it but I get it.

“Mom?” I said in a curious manner.

“Yes honey?”

“Did you guys socialize me when I was little?”

She looked at me like I was accusing her of doing something wrong.

“Of course we did. Why do you ask?”

“Because I think that is why I was always brutally honest and just told anyone anything that came to mind without using a filter.”

“Sweetie, you were brutally honest because we raised you that way. No secrets, no lies were kept from each other. Your lack of filter comes from your father. He was just meaner and dryer about it.”

She was certainly right about my dad. He loved to speak his mind and tell you exactly what he thinks of you. He would even tell you if he thinks you are an idiot or your cooking could be better. Well maybe just to me, family members and friends. Not sure about strangers.

“Alright, well I have something bigger to ask and please be honest.”

She took a big sip of her coffee and put it on the counter folding her arms.

“Are you proud of me? Because I feel like you guys kept me out of the loop because you didn’t trust me and felt disappointed with how I turned out.”

She looked at me shocked and kind of mad.

“Honey how can you say such a thing? Of course we are proud of you. We’ve always been proud of you.”

“Then why the secrecy for so long? Why did it take me accidentally coming upon dad’s cabin for you guys to finally acknowledge that I exist?”

“Son, believe it or not but we’ve kept an eye on you your whole life. We are your parents and your family. It is our job till the day we die to keep an eye on you no matter where you are in life. One of the reasons why we kept you out of the business for so long was because you were in the public eye. We felt so proud whenever we heard about your success as a writer; however, because you were a public figure you would’ve been a huge liability.”

I understood what she said but felt like she was basically saying that because I became successful I had no part in the family.

“Ok so why art thievery?” I asked still not getting my full satisfaction for my curious mind.

“You will understand soon enough.” She said growing impatient

“But I want to understand now. At least tell me why it wasn’t something else.” I said childishly.

“Trust me son you will understand someday. Now let’s go have a seat in the living room and just relax.” She said firmly putting an end to the conversation.

I followed her to the living room.

Before I go into detail about the immaculate beautiful living room I wanted to get into a certain part of who I am.

This part is something that never existed in me as a person when I was younger. From the age of 30 till any of this ever happened, I had no motivation and back peddled a lot. Before that I felt inspired to do better and never backtrack. I hated looking and being the fool who doesn’t understand that you have to believe in yourself no matter what life throws at you. You have to run with what life gives you and act accordingly to what life feels is best for you.

Unfortunately we all have to die someday, which means that you have to make the decisions that will help you not only move forward in life but live a life you are truly happy with. Let go of the idea that you are good or bad at what you do. Instead, go with your gut when you feel lost. I learned to believe in these methods of motivation over the years; furthermore, this is coming from someone who whenever he felt frustrated or stuck in one spot got out of it as soon as he could. I got tired of not being where I want to be or should be.

I prevailed when others didn’t believe in me, whether I was broke or not. I kicked myself in the ass and kept moving forward. I now know to use this attitude to accept who I am and it looks like I am going to be an art thief.

Where were we? Ah yes, the Fields headquarters.

Let’s start with the living room since I was sitting in that room to begin with. A couch facing the fire was dark cherry red like the door in Henry’s Taxidermy shop. The arms and legs finally crafted with little engravings written in Latin. I am a big fan of languages so I was able to read it.

Both were different but probably went together. Together the inscriptions said: Non estis operati quaerite iustum quaerite inclementia. That translates to: Do not seek righteousness, seek ruthlessness. Probably a saying the family stands by since the first generations began this crazy business.

There was a love seat on the left hand side of the fireplace and a two seat sofa on the right side. The sofa matched the couch in color and style but had no inscriptions. The love seat however, stood out as it was probably the power chair or something. It was emerald green, straighter edged compared to the more curvy nature of the other two. The legs were a little more simplistic but elegant in its own way.

I myself was sitting in that love seat with a coffee in my hand. To be specific it was a French roast that (according to my mother) was bought on a trip to France. She said it was concerned the most rich coffee. It was called Carte Noire and boy was that the bitterest coffee I ever had. I loved it, best coffee I ever had in my entire life(with no sugar or milk by the way). I heard somewhere that people who drink their coffee black have psychopathic tendencies. Guess I’m a good fit for this business then. Earlier I had kind of described the fireplace already, but just so you know this one looked like it belonged in a Bruce Wayne type of mansion.

Stone walls up to the ceiling like the cabin that my father has, except this was on a grander scale. Marble pillars on either side of the wall gave it a little more sophistication. Instead of elk antlers like my father has there was something rather odd. It was a slick black metal bar starting and ending at each marble poll. I looked at it closely trying to understand what it meant or if there was some kind tech savvy mechanism that explains its purpose.

Mary came up to me from her seat and said: “Do you still speak Latin?”

I was not expecting her to ask me that at all. Besides I hadn’t spoken Latin since I was like 28. I mean sure I can read and translate it but speak it?

“Umm well I’m pretty rusty but I guess…”

Out of nowhere a snake like voice echoed softly around the entire room:

“Quis est enim?” Who is that? Said the snake.

“Mihi nomen est Henry” My name is Henry

“Cras librum.” Retrieve the book

A rock fell forward and stopped at a 45 degree angle and a thick worn out black book rested on its back. I went and picked it up and looked at it carefully.  I opened the book and saw a message on the first page: “Recita quarto Linea page octognita quattuorIngeminant” Loudly. Read the fourth line on page 84.

“I hereby honor and respect the true art form of the retrieval of honest and timeless art. I must not be reminded nor forget the words of Picasso: Good artists copy, great artist steal.”

In a matter of seconds a hologram of the family tree appears on the entire length of the wall beginning from the black metal bar. I didn’t quite understand what was going on until I started to see some subtle differences on this version of the family tree compared to what I saw at the other cabin.

First off each person that was deceased had the word targeted stamped on them, which would flash to the word deceased. The alarming thing was each person that was still alive also had the word targeted on them as well. Then at the bottom were two other alarming differences. One was that I was on there with the word targeted as well. Right next to my picture were two empty spots with a blinking red square on each one.

“Can someone explain all of this to me?” I said feeling nervous and alarmed.

Henry cleared his throat and got up with a grunt. He walks up to me with his hands behind his back with that creepy yet soft smile.

“Well son, we are considered to be the biggest mafia of art thieves, which means that any government or secret organization that deal with our kind are always on the lookout for any activity. Especially ours.”

I nodded and just listened wanting to be in the loop of things.

“You’ve been targeted right when you set foot outside your house. Luckily that police officer didn’t catch wind of anything when he stopped you.”

“How did you…”

“There is always someone watching and listening everywhere; if not someone it is some thing.”

I nodded again wanting to hear more and more information.

“Now, as for those two red squares is a dangerous thing. It means that there are two people trying to either invade or destroy the business. Let’s have a look at who these two people might be.”

He took a couple steps forward and said: “Reveal.”

Two profiles showed up on the screen like we were in Bruce Wayne’s bat cave.

Both looked like hard core Russians that have done and seen some pretty nasty and mean things. One was called Viktoore Ruk, whom was tall and skinny but slightly chizzled and had a cold look on his face. The other based on what his info said was shorter, plus he was bulkier and older looking. I could tell and felt these two just wanted to mess things up and evidently wanted to ruin the Field name for good.

“So how exactly did they show up on the family tree?”

“They showed up because this security programs reveals many things. Think of the family tree as a real time screensaver. Those two red squares are alerts as to who might be either trying to reveal our location or are in close proximity.”

Henry waved his hand over and a live view of everything around our location showed up on screen. On the right hand side were two infrared images of warm bodies.

Charles saw this then got up and said: “Shit.”

He looked at me and said: “Are you ready for your first test?”

“If it means me being a true part of this family then yes. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

He smiles then points to the stairs. Everybody gets up slowly and follow like a unit. I thought it was odd and kind of funny that no one stopped or changed what they were doing. Amelia still sipped at her peppermint tea, mom had made herself another cup of coffee. Dad, well he was just comfortable in his pajama like clothes and Henry just looked like a postcard Christmas like grandpa.

We all walk up the stairs like we were all going to bed at the same time at an odd time of the day. On the second floor the walls of the corridor were black with a picture of Picasso at the end of hall.

Henry opened the second door on the left which was the same color as the one in his shop only the knob was just a plain silver color and no need for code or voice recognition. Everyone piled in to this less modernized room that had one item that explained a bit about what my first tasked was. That being to kill those two Russians.

Henry put his hand on the door and whispers: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” They must love Picasso.

Amelia came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder.

“Be sure to breathe and focus.” She said like she had been killing people for a living for a number of years. Kind of frightening but I guess it makes sense since she’s been in the business for quite some time.

The item that revealed what my task was a semi-automatic rifle that looked quite sophisticated and deadly. There was a silencer on it for obvious reasons.

Henry followed me to the stool that was placed right in front of the rifle.

I sat down and stared blankly out the window with just one question that puzzled me quite a bit.

“How do you know the Russians are going to be in sight at this very spot? Like is this the only designated spot to kill those that are trying to break in or reveal us?”

Everyone scoffed and I just looked at them confused as to how I’m the idiot. Excuse me for liking logic.

“Son, we are professionals, Henry brought us in here because he knows the exact pin point of where the Russians are. We have other rooms set up for different areas. Think of the second floor as a living area equipped with top notch security. Kind of like a pirate ship.”

I nod understanding this family is certainly not amateurish, nor are they in this business for the sake of being interesting or artsy. I turned back to the rifle and put my eye in the scope and gently placed my hands on the rifle.

Henry looked outside like he was just admiring the natural habitat of the environment. He even sighed like he was happy and enjoying what was happening. Without looking at me he said:

“Remember, there is no backing out. You are now a part of the business. That means you are now officially a target to whomever wants this family to be terminated. In other words, someone wants all of us and you dead. They will not hesitate to take us out. You have to draw fire first, understand?”

I adjust the scope focusing on the two Russians, both wearing thick fur coats that looked like they killed raccoons and bears. They looked as odd and off as their coats.  I knew I had to be quick but man was I sweating bullets.

“Do not hesitate Henry.” Said Amelia from the bed. Again, no idea why the setup of these room were so weird. I nod slightly trying not to lose sight of the Russians. My first shot killed the tall lanky one. The other one flinched and started to yell something in Russian. I’ve never spoken Russian in my life but I’m pretty sure he said something like “What? Who is there? Why did you kill my friend?” Minus the curse words, not sure what slang or curse words Russians use.

The shorter one began to make a run for the house firing his gun franticly.

“SHOOT HIM!” Said Mary.

I shot him a couple times which grazed his left knee slowing him down and he began to limp but didn’t slow his pace.

“Again!” Said Henry. I aimed for his head and followed him as he zig zagged then tripped and got up. I shot him in the head and he fell to the ground.

“Good job, now the hard part.” Said Henry whom looked at Amelia who nodded with no hesitation. She came over to me and signaled me to get up. I did so promptly but didn’t know what was going on. I kind of figured they needed to cover their tracks or something.

She lifted an area rug near the rifle and took a key to a part of the wall. She unlocked what looked like a safe but was actually two handles that had some form of triggers on them.

She grabbed them and said: “Lumos” which coincidently is both a lighting spell from Harry Potter and a Latin word meaning lamp or light.

I’m such a dork.

This revealed a small monitor showing both bodies, coordinates and distance. The words targets acquired come up then flashed red. She squeezed the triggers that released giant hooks that latched on to the bodies perfectly digging into the meat of their lifeless bodies. She hit the triggers again which reeled them in slowly.

While she was focusing on the bodies Mary came up to me and said:

“Son, you did a great job. I’m sure you have a lot of questions, but you must know that this will all make sense eventually. You will make a great addition to the business.”

I smiled as she ran her hand softly along my cheek.

“May I ask one question though?”

She nodded smiling lovingly.

“Does Picasso have a connection to the family?”

“Sort of.” Said Mary. I looked at her like a confused dog.

“A long time ago, Picasso had painted probably the most beautiful painting ever created. Unfortunately one night, another painter whom was nameless stole his painting one night and made a couple changes. Claiming it was his.”

Amelia butted in the conversation and said: “Both are captured and hidden, blood tracks have been evaporated and replaced by the environment.

Mary continued.

“Good job sweetie, anywho, Picasso was not too happy with this. He took back his painting and also took one of the other artist’s paintings and did the same. That’s why we became art thieves. To show people that great artists steal and make Picasso proud.”

I nodded and smiled.

“Any other questions before we all go to bed sweetie?” Said Mary.

“No, I am just happy to finally be a part of the family. I cannot wait to see this business in action and be a part of it. I hope you all welcome me as a true member and part of the business.”

This concludes the ending of my life before it became the most interesting and invigorating chapter of my life.

Before we part ways and meet again in the future I wanted to make note of something. People of all walks of life will encounter many difficult situations and experience emotions they wish they didn’t have to endure. It is these emotions and hardships that make us who we are. Unfortunately people will hurt you, but it’s up to you as to what you take from it. Take what will bring you ahead in life, not the other way around. Live life for what you want it to say about you when you are six feet underground. Unfortunately what we experience can only happen in one lifetime. Make your experiences count. For now I must leave because for me the fun will soon begin.

 

 

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

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