Moira had access to a wealth of resources in the crime lab. The first thing she did was check Jeremy’s birth certificate.
“The name on the original is Kirkpatrick. An amended version changing your name to Caudell was filed after your parents adopted you.”
“Bought me, you mean. So the birth certificates were no help in tracing my biological father. What other options do we have?” Jeremy asked.
“Good old DNA,” Moira replied cheerfully. “If you’ll give me a sample, I’ll run it through the data base for a match. It may take a while. The lab is always backed up.”
While they waited, it seemed natural for Moira and Jeremy to meet a couple of times a week to share information. Jeremy didn’t admit to himself how much he looked forward to those evenings. They’d sit talking for hours and Jeremy felt he knew Moira better than he’d ever known anyone. He secretly hoped the lab would stay backed up forever.
One evening Moira hurried in, her face alight with news. “I found him!” she said without preamble as she plopped into the seat across from him. “You aren’t going to believe this.”
“Now, brace yourself. This will come as a shock. Are you ready?”
“Jeez, just spit it out, will you?”
“Your father is Hank Kirkpatrick.”
“Hank! What about Myrna’s mysterious affair? If Hank’s my father, why did he sell me? Why would he do that?”
“I can only speculate that Myrna really didn’t know which man was the father of her child. Hank assumed you weren’t his.”
“But how did you get his DNA? He refused when I suggested it.”
“Turns out, it was already in the system. He’d had a traffic accident a couple of years ago in which he was at fault and the other driver was seriously hurt. The officer at the scene gave Hank a Breathalizer test and preserved the mouthpiece just in case. If the other guy had died, Hank would have been facing charges. Once I unearthed that piece of information, putting it together was simple.”
Jeremy recalled Myrna’s sorrowful face as she stood silently behind her husband at their front door. Hank said Myrna needed a lesson and he’d certainly given it to her. In a colossal mistake born of vengeance and anger, he’d sold his own son.
“It’s like an O. Henry story,” Jeremy said, shaking his head. “What am I supposed to do now?”
“O. Henry was known for his plot twists,” Moira said. “You get to write this one. How do you want your story to unfold?”
When Jeremy delivered the dinner invitation, Hank refused outright.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” he said with his trademark snarl.
A small, firm voice spoke up behind him.
“Yes, we’ll be there,” Myrna Kirkpatrick said. When Hank rounded on her with fire in his eyes, she faced him down for the first time in their long married life.
“We’ll be there,” she repeated, made brave by the need to reclaim her child. “We owe it to our son, Hank. We’re going to get to know our boy.”
The little group sitting around the dining room table was anything but at ease. Mr. and Mrs. Caudell were hosting Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick and heartburn was on the menu. Moira rubbed a muscle in Jeremy’s shoulder that was taut as a wire.
“Will this night ever end?” he whispered.
“The next time will be easier,” she whispered back.
Jeremy had decided to get all his parents together in one room. He thought it was time they collectively faced what they’d done if there was to be any hope of reconciliation. After the last plate was cleared, he cleared his throat, stood and became the focus of all eyes. Moira winked.
“The past is the past and nothing can change what’s happened,” Jeremy said, “but there will be no more secrets going forward. We are an unconventional family, and maybe it’s too much to ask that you become friends. That’s up to you, but I’m going to treat the four of you as my parents, and I hope you’ll treat me as a son. Moira and I want to see you all sitting together in the front pew at our wedding.”