It’s funny, but she was the only other person in the world I felt like I could be completely open and honest with and know it wouldn’t get back to somebody. So I didn’t censor anything I said, in honor of that. “I get pissed off. I get hurt. But I’m usually really happy, ‘cause he’s always doin’ these little things that let me know he cares about me. Like this one time, when I was havin’ problems with this graphic novel I’m workin’ on. I stood out on a balcony in the freezin’ cold for I dunno how long tryin’ to figure it out and finally just came inside, still lost, and...and Tone had – he’d made me some hot cocoa with marshmallows and a dark chocolate bar melted in, just as I like it. And I sipped some and he leaned over and wiped the chocolate off my moustache and licked his fingers, his eyes dancin’ like a happy kitten’s, and I -- I ached for him. I knew right then I’d kill anybody who tried to hurt him. Almost did.”
“I caught a guy stabbing him. In that cell. I plowed into the bastard and grabbed the knife away and would’ve cut that fuck’s throat if Matt hadn’t stopped me.”
“Wollitz. A friend of Tone and me. Lives with us. He...he yelled at me not to mess up the knife with someone else’s blood. That’d hurt it as evidence. Then the deputies pulled me away and...well...it was good I didn’t do it. But I didn't care.”
She nodded and said, “In some ways you are so much like your father, and in others you are so completely different.”
“I don’t wanna talk about him.”
“All right.” She dug deeper into her salad.
“What’s this really about, Mira?”
“He’s let his therapist share his notes. Has he told you everything he’s done?”
“I got most of it. It’s just...he’s so unsure about himself, he thinks he needs to be unsure about me. He’s healing, Mira, and I’m stayin’ with him. Forever.”
“Is that wise?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your work is in Copenhagen. You are now a citizen of Denmark.”
“You don’t abandon someone who’s got cancer or AIDS or heart disease, not if you love ‘em. This is the same thing. You still haven’t told me why you’re askin’. Is it Uncle Ari? Have you been talkin’ to him?”
“I’ve been listening. He likes your work. His clients like your work. He wants you to become a partner in his business. It is an excellent idea, but you will have to return to Copenhagen to live. Antony cannot leave until next year, at the earliest.”
Talk about a load of crap. Uncle Ari hadn’t even hinted about anything more than meeting this client and sending more art assignments my way, and he wasn’t the kind of guy not to talk about his plans. He and my dad may have been brothers, but they were cut from different DNA, because he was open and gregarious and never met anyone he couldn’t like...and couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. So there was something else going on and she didn’t have the nerve to be up front with me. Which brought her down a notch in my eyes, because if she can’t tell by now that I can be trusted, she never will. That hurt.
It also pissed me off. “This is bullshit, Mira. What’re you really gettin’ at? And don’t hand me any more crap about Uncle Ari. You know me better’n that.”
She stopped in mid-chew and nodded and swallowed then took a sip of her wine. Burgundy with a salad -- there’s somethin’ wrong about that.
“Your mother has contacted your father.”
“I do not know why. He will not tell me. And when your father becomes this secretive, it worries me. I think, if you stay in America much longer, something will happen. And you are better protected in Denmark.”
“He is an easier target.”
“I dunno about that -- .”
“He cares more about you than he does himself, Iacof.”
Which makes anybody vulnerable. I couldn’t argue with that. “So why do you think this concerns me?”
“Why would you not think so? As your father tells the story, he and your mother hate each other. Why else would she call him, except about you?”
Phone call, huh? Yeah, that meant way too much. I’d learned how to pinch pennies from my mom, so for her to spring for an overseas call to a man she despised almost as much as I did, instead of popping off an e-mail...well, that was a big deal.
“Neither one of ‘em have even tried to get hold of me, and they both know how. Maybe mom’s askin’ dad for money.”
Mira rolled her eyes at that. I shrugged in agreement. So why would she have called him?
Mira had no answers, but I got an idea soon as I got to my place in Copenhagen. Mrs. Lund had put an envelope on our table, from my Uncle Owen in Palms West, California. He’s my mom’s half-brother, from Gramma’s first marriage. It’d been there for a month, judging by the dust, and in it was what looked like a house key and a printout of a note that read – “Dear Jacob, You’ll need this when you come. O.”
“Dear Jacob?” He never called me that. WTF?
I tried to call him, but his phone went to voice mail then disconnected because it was too full to accept more messages. And an e-mail I sent bounced back to me. I contacted the service and found out his in-box was too full of unread messages for it to accept any more.
Then I got a text from Mira saying she’d found out my uncle’d disappeared. She had the idea mom’d called dad to see if he could use his influence to push for an investigation into it.
What Mira didn’t know was, Uncle Owen’s gay, too, and had been cut off from most of the family for twenty years. The only reason I knew him was through Gramma; she figured out early on that it’d be good to have him available for questions once I started asking them. Which I did just after I turned fifteen. Then he and Gramma’d been the only ones who backed me up once I got outed, and once I went to jail, and once I got released. He knew me too damn well to call me “Dear Jacob.”
Which meant he was in trouble.
Which also meant soon as I was done at Uncle Ari’s, I was headed for a talk with my mother. Something I hadn’t done in years.
Shit, I’d rather be back in jail.