Poison's Bend: Chapter 18
The police investigators ruled Johnny and Tank's deaths a case of murder/suicide.
I was surprised they came to that conclusion, but I quickly learned the animosity between the two men had never been a secret in this town. In addition, both Tank and Johnny had already been in and out of trouble with the law many times since their teenage years for fighting and public disturbances.
"I never expected it to end any other way, ma'am," Sergeant Mace told me sadly as he wrapped up the scene. "I'm real sorry they had to bring it to your doorstep."
Even Johnny's elderly father, a retired alien technician, seemed saddened but not surprised by the incident. When he was summoned by the police to identify the body of his son, he took me aside and told me he felt it would be appropriate for Johnny to be buried here, close beside the grave of his adversary.
“Perhaps they can learn in death what they never could in life," he told me wisely, patting my shoulder with tears shining in his jet-black eyes.
"Oui, Monsieur Smith. Perhaps they can," I agreed, and sighed.
Johnny had been so important to me.
His death left a void that would be difficult to fill.
I wondered if I ever would.
It was Catherine I worried about the most.
Just in the short time Johnny had lived with us, she had become very close with him. It was Johnny to whom she ran to exclaim over her grades, and he who took the time to help with her studies. Then, too, his children with his estranged wife were her best friends, and all four of them… Catherine, Johnny, John Jr. and Penelope, would often be found romping about the house and gardens together.
In many ways, Johnny had been like a child himself.
His refusal to let go of adolescent anger was proof enough of that.
Johnny’s passing was very difficult for Catherine, but during the funeral services, I was proud to see that she was able to put her own grief to the side in favor of helping others.
Although she, herself, was hurting and upset, she knew Johnny’s children needed her, and focused on comforting their sorrows, forgetting about her own pain.
It saddened me to see how upset Johnny’s children were, and to know they would grow up without a father!
Johnny should have never let his anger towards Tank Grunt get the better of him!
Time passed, as time does.
In a rush of adolescent hormones, Catherine became a high-school student who resembled her father more than ever.
It pleased me, although her shy, orderly personality as well as her life's ambitions told me the similarities did not extend much further than looks alone.
“I can’t wait to get married,” she sighed dreamily one night as she worked on her homework assignment. “I want to be married and I want to have children, too. Lots of children… although…”
She trailed off and looked quickly down at her books, her face reddening.
“Although…?” I prompted.
“Nothing.” she answered, lifting her head and smiling a sweet smile that reminded me so much of her father that my breath caught forcibly in my chest.
“My life’s going to be perfect,” Catherine mused. “I’m going to make sure of that. I don’t know who the right man is, but as soon as I find him, I’m going to marry him… and then I won’t have anything to worry about ever again.”
I smiled indulgently at her girlish fantasies.
"I'm sure you‘ll meet the right man one day, honey." I said, patting her arm. "Just don't get too far ahead of yourself, all right?"
"Yes, Mom," she said, returning to her papers.
She worked for a few minutes, then lifted her head again and studied me thoughtfully.
"What is it, Catherine?" I asked, feeling her gaze.
"I'm just wondering," she said hesitantly, tapping the pencil against her chin. "...if you're ever going to start seeing anyone again."
Her eyes held an odd expression that made me look at her more closely.
Was that… fear… I saw?
Oh, surely not!
"Catherine, I don't think that's anything you need to concern yourself with,” I admonished. “My relationships are for me to worry about, not you.”
Blushing, she again bent her head quickly to her books. "I know. It's just that I ran into someone today at The Corner Shoppes when I was picking up a new cell phone. I didn't know him, but he knew me. Well, actually, he knew you... and he came up to me and asked me how you were, so I thought..."
"Well, who was it?" I interrupted.
"He... he said his name was Vidcund Curious," she answered hesitantly. "Um... Mom? Do you think he's related to... you know..." she blushed and her voice lowered. "Lazlo?"
How much could she remember about Lazlo?
"Yes, it's his brother," I answered, my mind racing in a thousand different directions. Why was Vidcund Curious asking about me?
"His brother?" Catherine said, astonished. "Wow, they’re nothing alike, are they? I’d never have guessed..."
I sighed. "Why all the fuss, Catherine?"
"Well," she replied, seeming to choose her words carefully. "He's about your age, Mom, and he seemed nice enough... plus he seemed interested in you, if you know what I mean, and I was just wondering if…”
“Catherine, I told you. My relationships are my concern, not yours.”
She gazed at me with wide
grey eyes before she quickly bent her head to her books once again.
"Okay, Mom,” she murmured.
We were quiet for a time as my daughter‘s pencil scratched rapidly across the pages of her notebook. I sipped my tea calmly, but my mind was spinning. Vidcund Curious seemed interested?
Feeling suddenly restless, I left Catherine to her studies and rapidly walked through the large, quiet house, trying to remember what I could about my former brother-in-law.
He was blonde, pale blue-eyed, and painfully shy, I recalled. He was also studious and hardworking, and I didn‘t ever remember Pascal or Lazlo talking about any special companions in his life.
No, when they spoke of their brother Vidcund, it was always how well he was doing at work… a promotion he’d gotten, or a special grant for research… or something of that nature.
He was certainly just as lonely as I, if not more so… as he had no children.
Should not lonely hearts cleave to one another?
My wandering feet carried me through the house as I reflected, and soon I found myself sitting in front of my computer. I hardly used it, not being well-versed in technology, but I was sure Vidcund’s e-mail address hadn't changed from when Pascal and Lazlo had corresponded with their brother, and it would be so easy to contact him.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I took a deep breath, turned on the computer, and began to type.
My daughter Catherine told me she saw you earlier today and I was wondering… Perhaps we could get together sometime? We do have some history together, and I'm sure we can find some pleasure in each other's company. If nothing else, we can share our memories.
Let me know if you would like to meet.
Before I could change my mind I sent the message, switched off the computer, and went to bed.
I closed my eyes and tried not to think of the message I had just sent. It may not amount to anything. Likely it wouldn’t.
Then again, it might.
I could only hope.
To Be Continued…