“Before I start, I want to ask that you all follow two rules. First I want to ask all of you to let me tell what I need to tell and leave questions for afterwards. Keith will add anything to it when it comes to his fact finding mission. Is that ok?” She looked around as when no one said anything she continued.
“The second thing is…. Well I already apologized for what I did to your Dad but not to you, Nick and David. I want you to know that what ever I tell you is because I want you to know. It is not to try and make you understand why I did it or even excuse me for it. So please accept my apology and listen. My intention is first to help to find Francis and then if you want to be some how even if it is in a small way to be part of your life, so be it. But first be open, to listen as I am sincere in my willingness to help you.” She waited again and looked at us.
I saw that she meant it but that doesn’t mean it was easy to see why and how.
“I never had the intention to get back into your lives. I made my choice so many years ago when I left and although I would have liked to come back into your lifes their was no way that I could. You both deserve better then that. But when I saw you on TV I really didn’t ponder my response and started to make plans to get out here as soon as I could. Now you wonder that was not soon enough but it was the first opportunity that I could create without arousing any suspicion,” she stopped and looked at Keith.
“She told us how she did it. We verified that in the second round after we found out how dangerous the organization is. The last thing we wanted is to bring any one of you in any danger.”
“So when I saw the picture of Francis I knew what he meant for you Nick. It was plain to see for any one that was looking for it. Oh I didn’t see it the first time nor the second time but around the fith time I definitely got the idea that there was more then just the painter and his model in that. I got online and did some research about what had happened. I read that the police thought that he was just run away and that a possible raw was the reason for it. I found it flimsy and I was happy that Keith told me he though so too.”
“Not that we found clear evidence for this guys. But I think we can say for sure that the sherriff down there was in on it and knew that this was the only explanation he could give,” Keith added.
“So all in all, I knew there is a big chance that Francis was kidnapped because of your relationship with me. Now you might wonder why would they bother as that is easy to explain. About a week or two before his disappearance I had a talk with one of the bigger bosses and he wanted me to do something. I said straight out “NO” to that. I found that it was going to far and I didn’t want to. He more or less threatened me at that point. If I would refuse then they had the means to make this work for me. They still haven’t gotten back to me on this but I have the feeling that they were waiting so that I could be pressured to do what they wanted.”
“What did they want?” David asked.
“Sorry David, maybe one day but not at this time. I just had enough and this was the drop that was to much for me.”
“Did you investigate this?” I asked to Keith.
“No not yet. Your Mom has not told us and it might come up in the future for sure.” Keith smiled at Mom and she started to go on again.
“But that is all from the last few weeks. That is why I am here but not why I left. Although you might start to see that me leaving was not voluntarily. Oh no, let me rephrase that. It was voluntarily but only because I felt that otherwise at some point I would be to easy to blackmail through you. I felt pressured and also I saw what happened with other people. I wanted you safe and it seems for quite some time I managed to get that done.”
“So you left because you where afraid we would get hurt?” David asked.
“Please let me finish David, maybe you will understand then.”
“It all started about 2 years before I ran off, when I got acquainted with a group of people. I liked it and got friends with them fast. They found out that there was something that I had that they could use. Make a profit out of it and at that time I got pulled into their little group. First with innocent things but a few months before I left they got serious and I knew by then when they mean business it was business. I then, for the first time found out what they had done. A man that I had met at one of the parties and who was a good friend of one of my girlfriends was gone missing. Now I got lucky as I knew where he lived and found out through his daughter that the last thing he would do was run off just before the birth of his grandchild. I could see reason in that so the run away story as they have used it before. It was not until about 3 years later I met him and he had changed, but also we talked as they didn’t know that we had known each other, before. So just by accident I found out that they kidnapped him as well.”
“I can verify that was one of the stories your Mom told and although it was not easy we were able to locate that man and asked him if he could tell us that this was all true”.
“As the run away story was to obvious I got in contact with a private eye. I asked him to look into some people. What I didn’t realise at that time was how dangerous they were. He was not a good one and he didn’t go easy so the next thing what I got back from them was, that they had taken care of your private eye. Please don’t do that anymore or you will regret it more then he will understood. The next morning there was a newspaper on the table with a story in it saying that they had found him dead. I recgonised his picture that was printed to go with it.
Realising now to the fullest what I had my self into I know I needed to make a decion. I either tell you and go to the police or just run away. The police was at that point not an option. I realized that none of us were actually safe anymore, so I left. I saw it at that point as the only option open to me. So I ran towards them and helped them to get richer and richer. I am sorry but there was no other way I saw at that point”.
We were silent, not knowing what to say I guess, letting it sink in, at least I was. I saw a change on David’s face so he was starting to understand as taht was what I guessed.
“So what was it that you where so precious to them? David asked.
“I am sorry David but for the time being I can’t tell you more. I know that might be not enough but I can’t, not yet”.
“Sexual?” He said with a big disapprovement in his voice.
“David, that is not something to ask,” my Dad said quite determent.
I saw Mom looking at me. Not sure why but …
“No, not to make them money with David.”
“So ..” he wanted to go on.
“Not now David,” Alexei said looking at him.
“Did you look into that Keith, did she tell you then?” David asked him.
“Sorry David, she didn’t tell us what kind of talent was useful to them. But a few things that she told us, were not known to the public so somehow I must say that there is truth in the fact she had something worthwhile for them.”
“Will you tell us or Keith so he can check?” I asked.
“Not yet,” she said.
“But if we need to know to be able to find Francis?”
“I might then, but only if I can feel it is necessary.”
“Oh,” I just said. Although her story so far had been compelling and even to horrible to think about the choices she had to make. It still felt strange; we still needed to believe just on her word for the more major parts of the story.
“So any questions?” she asked when it got silent.
“Plenty,” David said, “But I got the idea you won’t give answers. I think you have told us all you want to tell us for now and I know it is quite a bit but still it leaves questions.”
“I know and you have to trust me, no wrong word. You have to believe me that I will tell more if I could but I don’t want to bring you in any danger at this point”.
“So you will go to the police with this then. Make sure they are going to pay?”
“I think this is the only way out of it but there needs to be put safe guards in place, first. Keith is working on them”.
“Yea, we need to make sure that she is able to speak out freely without any ways or means of blackmail on to her. So what she didn’t want you to undergo 15 years ago might mean you have to deal with it now. I don’t think it will be to severe but it might include police cover for all of you including your wife and son David. If she goes to the police that is something you have to realize that you are all in danger”.
I had triggered that bit already but saw that now David did as well. “You should have stayed away,” he said accusing.
“Who knows but I have been going through the pain of not having the person you love and expect to live your life with around and that is something that I didn’t want my son to feel. So sorry David but I hope for once in my life that I made the right choice.”
“Thanks,” my Dad said. “I think we need to work through this first and let it sink in. I am grateful that you where willing to tell all of us this and I think we need to consider what the next step would be. But not now as lets do that tonight after dinner. I know you have things to do Keith so I hope you can come back later tonight.”
“Yea that is a plan.”
“You want me there then too.”
“If you can.”
“I will and if anyone in the meantime have any questions let me know, ok? Your dad has my cell phone. I can be here in a few minutes.”
“Ok, but I think we can do that tonight.”
We got up. I walked with Keith and Mom towards the front door.
Just before Keith opened the door, my Mom turned around “Can I come earlier tonight Nick and talk with you?”
“You painting as I knew you could draw. I still have some of the drawings you made for me,” she said softly.
“Just because it is something you have passion for and I …. . it is part of the family. I though you might like to know about that.”
“No, but your granddad did.”
“Ok, as long as it is about that ok?”
“Yea, don’t worry it will be.”
“Ok, come over then around 6.30 we will be finished with dinner and I don’t think Keith you will be here before 8 or so?”
“No, that is what it will be. I want to go home first to have dinner.”
“Ok, 6.30 then yea?”
“Ok and thanks Nick. You won’t regret.”
Keith opened the door. Looked outside and then the left. My Mom had put the cap of her coat on.
Now why did I say yea? I didn’t feel comfortable with her around and definitely didn’t want to talk about painting. She had surprised me with the question that was sure. But I guess she had made a difficult decision for sure. But forgive her, never I thought, but what if she could help with Francis. I understood she was risking her life for that. That was something worth it, wasn’t it? I pondered it all as I had not moved away from the door yet as I heard someone come up from behind me.
“You ok Nick?”, the voice of Randy said.
“Yea, she wanted to talk about painting, it seems it runs in the family, my granddad seems to have done the same.”
“You want to or not?” he asked
“Well not sure but she got me by surprise with that so yea, I said yea.I told him, “Do you want to be there Randy as I don’t think I want to see her on my own?”
“If that is what you want, but might your Dad or David not a better idea?”
“No as not sure they will understand.”
“You might be surprised, but ..’ he put his arm over my shoulder. “I will be there if that is what you want”..
“Ok, lets get back.”
The rest of the day was spent doing a few things. We went out for a run and sorted through some e-mails we had. I chatted with David for some time and found out that Thomas was doing ok. I told him I would keep him up to date and that I hoped it all was over soon and that I could then finish the painting as he said he understood.
Just after diner the bell went and Dad opened the door. I heard him talk with her in the hall. I was not sure to interrupt or wait. He lead her into the living room and then said, “Can you take your Mom to your room Nick ”.
“Yea, hmm is it ok if Randy is there too?”
“No problem Nick. You have no secrets for him.”
“Not as far as I know, he has been a good friend as he rescued me some years ago.”
“Yea, surprised? I kept up to date with what happened.”
“And you didn’t …. “ I stopped half way through the sentence.
“What, come and help you, wanted to be with you….”.
“Of cause but at that point I knew I couldn’t. I would only made things worse. Remember I had made a choice and knew it was mine to deal with.”
“You never wondered if we would like to have known if you were still alive?” I said more or less accusing as that was one of the things that I wondered about and now more or less here walking up the stairs, slipped out.
“Yea but again that would not have been the only question and then there was the danger.”
I opened the door to my bedroom. “Randy” I yelled over the hallway.
“Is she there?” I heard someone shout
“Ok I am on my way.
“Nice room, she said when she got in.
There were some drawings on the wall and that was it as rest I had taken care of and presumed this would be the place where we ended up talking. She walked up to the wall and looked at the drawings. “You got a great technique you know. So natural.”
“You know about techniques, you did paint yourself then?”
“No, I haven’t Nick. Not that I don’t wanted but….”
Randy walked in. “Is it ok for me to come in?”
“Yea, come in Randy,” she said
“Thanks for being there for my sons. I know this isn’t easy on them.”
How do you know I wanted to ask but I swallowed that question as I understood that was just my anger talking?
“But what Mom?” I said to make sure that we would go on where she left.
“Can we sit?”
We sat down and she looked at the drawings again before she surprised me with the next question.
“I understood you made quite an impression with your art debut?”
“Yea, it seems so. I’ve only had one exhibition and that was with two other artists, nothing more.”
“Then how did you end up on TV … and on Rosie’s show, of all places?”
“It seems I got to know the right people.”
“I guess so … you were on with some well-known people. But those two paintings were incredible. The woman with David … was that his wife?”
“Kathy … yea … a remarkable girl. He’s very fortunate.”
“I’m glad to hear you like her … though they’ve had a child together very quickly, haven’t they?”
“They’re doing just fine, to be honest. David has a good chance to qualify for the Olympic trials and Kathy is doing very well at university at the Moment.”
“You don’t need to defend them, Nick. Sorry … but it’s just strange for me to think of them having kids … as, in my mind, David is still my child, to be honest.”
“Well … that is what happens when you leave … you miss parts of our lives.”
“I know … and it’s not something I expect to get back. I just hope that I can be somehow a part of it all again … even if it’s from a distance.”
I didn’t want to go on that route as I knew I would probably get angry again.
“You want to talk with me about my granddad?”
“Yea, he was quite a painter as well. I will have to make sure you see some pictures that he did.”
“So he was good?”
“Yea, he had a special gift that made his paintings look incredible.”
“I think you know, Nick. I think there’s more than just the ability to draw that you inherited from me. I can see it in your paintings.”
“Can’t you see, there is so much more in your paintings. The capture of the emotion in it is a gift you know. Only great painters can do that.”
“So I am gifted?”
“Yea, but it is not only that. The gift comes along with something.”
I started to feel faint. How did she know, did she mean .. no she couldn’t.
“I know they are not easy to accept to start with Nick.”
“So you had them, the visions?”She asked