Hailey was determined to get to the bottom of the family mystery.
At ten the next morning, she was sipping a takeout coffee, parked on Lakeshore Road outside Thomas Gunn’s Law office.
She was determined to see him and made up her mind to wait all day if necessary in order to intercept him before he went in.
But she didn’t have to wait long. Just after ten, his black Mercedes swept into the lot and parked in the space nearest the door.
She was out of the SUV and walking toward him as he was reaching back into the car for his briefcase.
“Mr. Gunn, I’d like a word with you.”
At the sound of her voice, he spun around quickly, a shocked look on his face. It took a few seconds for him to regain his composure and muster an uncertain smile.
“Hailey! What are you doing out so early?”
“I need to talk to you privately Mr. Gunn.”
“Certainly.” The smile was gone from his face. “May I ask what about?”
Hailey ignored his question and glanced quickly around. Satisfied they hadn’t been seen, she leaned in close and whispered, “I bought you a coffee. Perhaps we could talk by the lake.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to talk in my office?”
“I’d prefer absolute privacy Mr. Gunn. My SUV’s parked on the street—it’ll only take a few minutes.”
He hesitated, and then seemed to come to a decision. “Very well—lead on.” He gestured toward her black Explorer and accompanied her out of the lot.
She drove to a small strip park that bordered the lake and parked facing the water.
She shut off the engine, and handed him a cardboard cup of coffee. “Cream, no sugar—isn’t that how you take it, Mr. Gunn?”
“You’re very observant, Hailey,” he smiled.
“I’m sorry if this all seems so cloak and dagger, Mr. Gunn, but I’m feeling paranoid lately, although not without good reason, I’m afraid.”
He pulled back the plastic tab and took a sip from the cup. “So what’s troubling you, Hailey?”
“I want to know why Mother placed Aunt Clare’s ashes in the wall at the foot of the estate and why you were present at meetings that took place in the week after Aunt Clare’s death.”
He sighed, placed the cup into the coffee holder on the dash and leaned back in the seat.
A few moments passed and Hailey waited, watching him as he looked out over the water, scanning the horizon as if seeking some inspiration for a response.
She watched his jaw twitch and his lips compress into a firm line.
“I will find out, Mr. Gunn. I’d prefer to hear the truth directly from you.”
He nodded and closed his eyes, exhaling slowly.
“Why is this so important to you, Hailey? Your mother’s gone and your aunts have no influence over you now. Wouldn’t it be better to let sleeping dogs lie?”
“NO!” The intensity of the response surprised both of them. He blinked at her, his eyes wide.
Was it fear, or curiosity? She wasn’t sure. It was just a moment, before he recovered, allowing his facial muscles to go slack, adopting a bland persona.
“It won’t work, Mr. Gunn. Aunt Alicia and Archibald Leech have tried to stymie me, but I’m determined to press on. It’s only a matter of time before I know all the details. I thought we were close, but if you don’t want to help, I’ll find another way.”
“I know you will. I know where you get that determination.”
“Do you? I don’t. Mother’s default approach was to be indirect and as for Father—I know almost nothing about him.”
“He wasn’t your father,” he hissed.
Hailey had been staring at the lake, but now her head snapped around so fast that she experienced a momentary spell of vertigo.
Thomas Gunn’s face shuddered and then locked back into focus.
“What do you mean he wasn’t my father?”
“I’m your father.”
The words were spoken so quiet and matter of factly that she stared at him as if he were mad.
“This is crazy…insane. Have you lost your mind?”
He met her wild eyes with his own unwavering gaze.
She had seen the look before. He stared that way when he stood his ground with Alicia and the aunts. It meant exactly what it meant: the facts were the facts.
“You and Mother?”
He raised his hand. “Clare and I. You’re our daughter.”
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.