Jeremy hadn’t even wanted to go to the book discussion group, but he was interested in the young librarian who led it. Joining her book club would get him noticed. He whistled The Things We Do For Love as he tucked in his new shirt and headed out the door. If he’d been pressed to put his thoughts into words, he might have said ordinary day, ordinary guy, good to be alive. He had no premonition that he was walking into a vortex.
He surveyed the crowd of mostly middle-aged ladies at the library without much joy. He was paying a high price for the pretty librarian. But one woman looked at him with the intensity of a laser. She immediately crossed the room and introduced herself: “I’m Moira.” Puzzled, he’d asked if they’d met before. She said, “In a way. I’ve been looking for you.”
That was the beginning. She took his arm, led him firmly to a nearby diner, settled into her side of the booth and proceeded to turn his world upside down.
First off, his name. He’d been Jeremy Caudell all his life. That’s what his parents called him and it was his legal name on all the documents that defined him for the world. But this Moira person said his name was Andrew Kirkpatrick, he’d been kidnapped from his crib when he was a baby, and he had parents, “real” parents, who still watched and waited for his return. He was Andy? His parents weren’t really his parents? He’d been kidnapped? Jeremy shook his head. He was getting angry.
“What are you talking about?” he said, glaring across the table at Moira. “Where did you get this crazy idea?”
And Moira told him, patiently unraveling her life-long obsession with the baby who’d gone missing and had never been found. She described her job in the crime lab, how she’d worked from a baby picture to make a forensic forecast in clay of his adult face. Here she paused to produce her phone and show him a photograph of her sculpture. Jeremy was silenced by the unmistakable resemblance. He felt the hair on his arms raise, a sign, his mother always said, that you were hearing the truth.
“I’m sorry, I know it’s tough, but I think you have a right to know,” Moira finished.
“I can’t believe – I won’t believe – my parents kidnapped me,” Jeremy said slowly.
“Were you adopted?” Moira asked.
“I was. I’ve always known that.”
“Better ask your folks how that came about.”
Jeremy went directly to his parents’ house. Sitting in the familiar living room, he recounted Moira’s story, expecting a storm of indignant denial, or maybe even laughter. As he talked, his mother’s head drooped lower and lower. His father’s face got paler and paler. They were silent.
Then his mother looked up. “I always knew this day would come,” she said.
Sick with confusion, Jeremy stood and left without another word.
Of course, he went to see his so-called birth parents. He approached a little house with glowing windows. It floated in the dark like a ship at sea, and Jeremy felt he was diving into very deep water. He rang the bell and the porch light came on.
“Yes? Can I help you?” The elderly lady who answered the door looked him over indifferently.
“Are you Myrna Kirkpatrick?”
“Yes. What do you want? I don’t buy from door-to-door salesmen.”
“That’s not why I’m here. I understand you had a son named Andrew.”
“My son died as an infant.”
“Did he? What if he’s still alive? I’ve been told I was that baby.”
“Hank?” She turned and called over her shoulder, her voice fizzing with panic. “Hank, come quick. There’s a man here who says he’s Andy.”
Hank shuffled to the door in sheepskin slippers and a cardigan with leather elbow patches. His glasses slid down his nose and he re-anchored them to consider Jeremy.
“Look, mister, I don’t know what your game is, but it won’t work.”
“Just let me explain,” Jeremy pleaded. “Let me come in and explain.”
“You can say what you’ve got to say right here.”
For the second time Jeremy told the story of abduction to a set of parents. The couple listened without expression, but the woman’s eyes brimmed with tears she didn’t even seem to notice.
“So I think we should all take a DNA test and find out for sure if I really am your child,” Jeremy concluded.
“No way!” Hank snapped. “I won’t give back the money, I sold that kid fair and square and it’s been more than thirty years ago.”
“Sold? But what about the kidnapping you reported? What really happened? Tell me! I have a right to know.”
“I don’t know about your rights, but I’ll tell you just to get rid of you. Myrna, here…well, that baby wasn’t mine and I didn’t want to raise another man’s by-blow. Myrna needed to learn a lesson, and I needed some cash.” He shot a poisonous look at his wife. “Paid off the mortgage with what I got for that little bastard. Don’t know who you are, with your fancy DNA talk, and don’t care. It’s ancient history now, and if you go to the cops I’ll say you’re a con man trying to take advantage of us. Now clear out.”
The door swung shut and Jeremy heard the dead-bolt slide into place, locking him out, locking his past in. He turned and walked heavily back to his life. An ordinary life where nothing would ever be the same.