Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 9

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"Central Tech," he lied.

"What kind of information do you need, exactly?"

"Anything on adoption agencies."

She gave him an odd look, but he held her gaze. "Well, the Children's Aid Society usually handles adoptions. I don't know if we have anything, but I'll have a look," she said. She walked over to another desk, and he turned and walked out.

In the phone booth outside, he asked the operator for the number of the Children's Aid Society and dialled.



"Children's Aid. Good afternoon."

"Do you have children for adoption?" he asked.

"I beg your pardon? Do we-?" the woman asked.

"Have children for adoption. Do you put children up for adoption?"

The woman said, "This is the Children's Aid Society. To whom would you like to speak?"

Dean hung up and waited ten minutes. He called again and in a deep, ponderous voice, he said, "May I please speak to the adoption department please?"

"Young man," the woman said, "we have work to do here."

"My name's Clark. My wife and I want to adopt a child."

The woman hung up.

At school, he decided to talk to George Gerard, whose habit of reading things unnecessarily had given him a head full of facts and an irritating but interesting way of poking holes in what people thought. He'd say, "See, that's where you're wrong," and suddenly you would see. They were sitting under the football bleachers, sharing the last of George's cigarettes. Dean blew a sloppy smoke ring and said, "Hey, you ever meet anyone who was adopted?"

George nodded. "Cousin in Sudbury."

"Does he know?"

"That he's adopted? Don't know. Only met him once. We had to share a bed one Christmas when we went up there."

"He must feel terrible. If he knows."

George considered this. "Why? It's not like it's his fault."

"True," Dean said. He hadn't thought of that. He lit a match and watched it burn down. "Only he doesn't actually know who he is, your cousin. What if his mother was a wh.o.r.e or something, and his father was a gangster?"

"Look!" George had produced a perfect smoke ring. "Top that, Turner."

"He'd inherit that bad blood," Dean persisted.

George shook his head. "That's an old wives' tale. There's nothing in blood. It's just blood. That's how they can do transfusions."

Dean took the cigarette from him and inhaled. George was right. There was nothing in blood. Good old George. He exhaled a misshapen smoky oval and rubbed out the b.u.t.t in the gra.s.s. "You wouldn't feel weird if you found out his real dad was serving time for murder? Come on. You'd think twice about sharing a room with him again."

George laughed. "I'd think twice, anyway, because the little b.a.s.t.a.r.d p.i.s.sed the bed." He pa.s.sed Dean the last cigarette.

"But it goes against nature," Dean said. He was dragging up everything now for George's cross-examination. "I mean, look at animals, right? It's instinct. No animal just walks away from its young, unless there's something wrong with the kid."

"Our cat did that once when its kitten was deformed," George said. "With people, I think it's more like something's wrong with the parents and the government takes the kid away. For its own good, like."

Dean watched the smoke twist up from the cigarette and curl around his fingers. Something wrong not with the kid but with the parents. Another idea he hadn't thought of. "Yeah, but if there's something wrong with the parents, there's probably going to be something wrong with the kid, eh?" Dean pa.s.sed the cigarette to George and waited for him to say, "See, that's where you're wrong."

George thought a moment and said, "You mean they're going to pa.s.s it on, like hair colour. Yeah, I see what you mean."

"So it is bad blood, then," Dean said coldly.

George shrugged. "I guess." He handed the end of the cigarette to Dean. Dean knocked it away. "For f.u.c.k sakes, Gerard, I don't want the b.u.t.t."

"All right. Don't take my head off."

Dean spat and stood up suddenly. "Where'd you get these cigarettes, anyway? They taste like the bottom of an old lady's handbag." He kicked at the cigarette pack, just missing George's hand.

George stared at him. "Jesus, Turner. What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing," he said. Everything.

Finally he went to see his English teacher. Brother Nick looked over his silver half-gla.s.ses and told Dean to take a seat. Dean still owed him a descriptive essay on one of the seasons. "What can I help you with, son?"

Dean said, "Well, I've got this cousin, see, who has this dilemma about his parents." He looked up to see how Brother Nick was taking this. Brother Nick was frowning ever so slightly. "He's actually my second cousin," Dean added, for that extra whiff of veracity. "He thinks he might be adopted."

Brother Nick raised a furry grey eyebrow. "What makes him think he's adopted?"

It came to him so fast, it was scary. "Both his parents have blue eyes, see. And my cousin has brown eyes. And he just learned in science that's impossible."

Brother Nick leaned back and considered this. "Has he spoken to his parents?"

"Well, that's what I said. Why don't you ask your parents, and he said, oh, I could never do that, and I said, well, is there any other way to find out, and he said-"

Brother Nick broke in. "All right, Dean, let's stop right there. It sounds like your cousin needs to speak to his parents immediately. Or his priest. This is quite serious. If he doesn't speak to his parents, you have to tell your parents."

Dean nodded vigorously. "Exactly! That's what I was thinking I should do. But he said he's going to call some office, the Children's Society or something-"

"The Children's Aid Society? Here in town?"

Dean nodded.

Brother Nick shook his jowly head. "Oh no, no, no. That's not ... they can't ... they wouldn't be able to tell him."

"Maybe he meant another office, like a headquarters?"

"The main office is in North Bay, but that's not the point. Even the North Bay office wouldn't tell him anything."

"Why not?"

"They aren't allowed to. It's the law."

"Oh."

Brother Nick s.h.i.+fted his bulk in his seat. "I've heard of cases like this before. This has to be nipped in the bud."

Dean wanted to snort. Now he was a case. "I'll talk to my parents as soon as I get home," he said. "Anyway, my cousin's probably going to just forget the whole thing."

"That's not the point," Brother Nick said, and he laid out the point, the problem and the solution: the point was G.o.d's guidance, the problem was that we thought we knew better than G.o.d, and the solution was prayer, because no matter who our parents are, we have One Father, the Lord our G.o.d, and one Mother, Mary, and we have to trust in their divine love, and if we did, then all would be well.

It took Dean another ten minutes to extricate himself. He kept his forehead furrowed to convey seriousness while his brain whirled and whistled. So they wouldn't tell him anything. They weren't allowed to by law.

The law, huh?

It came to him in one backlit image, what he would do, how he would do it. He wouldn't need much. A car, of course. That was the hard part. Everything else was simple: a crowbar, a hammer and a flashlight for reading papers in the dark.

DISAPPEARING ACTS.

Even the car turned out to be easy. He'd put it in his black book under "Disappearing Acts." Instructions: Say good night to your parents at the usual time. Lie in bed, fully clothed, until they go to sleep. Wait. Wait some more. Then down the stairs (avoid the creaky step). Pick up the key from the basket on top of the fridge. Fetch the bag you hid earlier in the bas.e.m.e.nt. Open the door, slip out into the darkness. So long "Mom." So long "Dad."

He put the car in neutral and pushed it out of the garage. The crickets were making an awful racket. Upstairs, the windows were completely dark, but just to be sure, he pushed the car all the way to the end of the driveway. At the end of the road, he turned right. The streets were empty, the houses dark. The steel plant blazed like a house on fire, but everything else was silent and still. When he got to the highway, he braced his arms against the wheel and gunned her.

He'd left no note. Eventually, it would leak out. Did you hear? he imagined people saying, Dean Turner is gone. Really? Where? No one knows. He just disappeared in the night. Stole his parents' car. Right out of the garage. They'd all be jawing over it for weeks, trying to figure it all out, cooking up one wrong story after another.

He didn't care what they came up with, because he wasn't ever coming back.

Now you see him, now you don't. Common magic had its uses, after all.

Half the town must have known he was adopted. You couldn't just come home with a kid one day and say it was yours. It was old news to everyone except him. He had always thought people looked at him differently, too closely, at church, walking down Queen Street, at the doctor's office. All this time, he'd thought they were saying, That's Dean Turner, who climbed out a window at school after the teacher locked him in the detention room. And when the teacher turned around, there he was, sitting right back in his seat. Now he knew. All this time, they had been turning to each other, telegraphing their knowledge with raised eyebrows (Did you know? Oh yeah, I knew), while he blathered and boasted and carried on, oblivious.

YOU ARE NOW LEAVING SAULT STE. MARIE, a sign said.

"Good riddance," Dean replied.

Easiest thing he ever did, until the first complication: the car ran out of gas, a few minutes outside of Sudbury. The sun was just coming up, a pink stain on the horizon. He let the car sigh to a stop on the side of the road and made a mental note to add to his instructions: Before you leave, check the gas.

He fetched his bag and an empty jerry can from the trunk and headed to town, rehearsing the lines in his head. "My dad and I ran out of gas. Just down the road a bit. He said I should go on account of I'm young and my joints aren't acting up yet."

A delicate layer of frost covered the brown fields and the still-bare branches of trees along the road. He walked faster. From somewhere, a rooster crowed. The jerry can smacked his leg, and the hammer and chisel in his bag bit into his hip. The gas station was dark and silent. He kept going. In town, outside the Empire Hotel, he stopped at a row of cars and began pressing his face against windows, peering into the dark interiors. He saw nothing of interest until he came to a dark blue Packard: the owner had left a pair of leather gloves on the dashboard and a tweed cap on the pa.s.senger seat. Not his style, but useful additions to the currently empty disguise compartment of his bag of tricks. Dean slid in and fitted the cap onto his head. "Not bad, old chap," he said to the rear-view mirror. If only he had a pipe. He was wriggling his fingers into the leather gloves when he noticed the keys in the ignition. He shook his head. "Oh, that's very kind of you, but really, I couldn't." The key turned easily and the engine cleared its throat and began to murmur softly. "Well, if you insist," he said, s.h.i.+fting the car into gear. By now the sun had hoisted itself above the barren hills and was glaring at him through the winds.h.i.+eld. Dean pulled down the sun visor, and an unopened packet of cigarettes fell into his lap. He smiled. "Don't mind if I do."

It was mid-morning when he reached North Bay, the early spring sun appearing as polish along the tops of everything. He parked the Packard outside Delilah's Grill and checked his face in the rear-view mirror: he was pale, with dark wells under his eyes and in the hollows of his cheeks. He smoothed back his hair and got out. Inside Delilah's, he ordered bacon and eggs, toast and chocolate milk. The waitress had fluffy blond hair pulled back from her face with a blue hairband. Her name tag said ROSE. She called him honey and said he looked tired. He said he had been driving all night and waited to see how she reacted. She didn't look surprised or say, "What? Aren't you kind of young to be driving all night by yourself?" She just nodded and asked if he wanted coffee as well. When she brought it, he told her he was on his way to meet his real mother for the first time. "She gave me up when I was a baby because she was too sick to look after me," he said. "But she's better now."

"Oh, that's terrible," Rose said, and she looked like she meant it. "What did she have?"

"TB," Dean said.

"And she's had it since you were a baby?"

"There were complications," Dean said.

"So you've never seen your real mother, that you can remember?"

"No," Dean said, and his eyes filled up with tears. Rose gave him an extra plate of toast on the house, and he wanted to leave a whole dollar tip, but then he thought better of it. He was on his own now; he needed to save his money.

His plan was to drive by the office and case the place in daylight, but out on the street, two policemen were standing beside the Packard. They appeared to be just talking, not looking specifically at the Packard, but Jesus! Cops were a complication he definitely did not need. Dean ducked into a stationery shop and pretended to study the pens in a display case near the window. The cops crossed the street and went into Delilah's Grill. Dean bought a newspaper and hurried out of the store and got into the car as fast as he could without appearing to run.

Turning off Main Street, he looked for a strip of quiet, respectable houses where a Packard would not be out of place. He finally parked under a tree at the end of a dead-end street lined with old stone houses, and set out with his newspaper and tweed cap to find a park bench. He needed to keep some distance between himself and the Packard until darkness fell. He also needed a nap.

The front door was solid gla.s.s, but at the back of the building was a row of windows at eye level. He put on the leather gloves, lifted his hammer and chisel, and went to work. The idea was to separate the frame from the wall and slide the whole thing out, neatly, silently, cleverly. He wanted to go in like a ghost, disturb nothing, put the window back on his way out. Do it with style. After a half-dozen attempts, he'd made only a small incision in the wood; he was sweating now in spite of the cold, and his arms ached from holding the chisel at such a weird angle. To h.e.l.l with style, he thought, and raised the hammer. The night shattered into a thousand sudden pieces. Using the chisel, he knocked out the jagged pieces of gla.s.s. Then he laid his jacket over the ledge and hoisted himself in.

He was in some kind of nurse's room-a cot covered with an olive green army blanket, a metal desk, a white chair. The night had reformed itself into a black, silent block. He stood very still, straining to hear above the noise of his own heart. At the sight of the bed, he was overcome with sleepiness. He wanted to lie down. Just for a minute. He had a blanket just like that on his bed at home. "No," he told himself sternly. "If you sleep now, you won't wake up till they find you here in the morning."

He headed for the red EXIT glow at the end of the hall and ran up the stairs to the fifth floor. He would start at the top, work his way down. The office doors were all open. He peeled off his gloves and pulled the flashlight out of his back pocket.

At first he was neat. He opened filing cabinets and shut them quietly, ran his hands lightly over folders. He loved the idea of leaving nothing ruffled or ajar, not a paper clip out of place. He would take what he came for and no one would know a thing. The window he couldn't help, but he'd leave a rock inside and they'd think some kids had done it.

He slid a folder out of a cabinet drawer and opened it. It was an adoption file, all right. Mother: Marie Louise Pacquette. Age: 18 years. Promise of Marriage: No. Previous trouble: No. Putative father: James William Black. Unmarried. Is a declaration of paternity made? No. It was dated December 4, 1959. Last year. Everything was recent, and some drawers had nothing but notices and government letters and letters from lawyers. He went faster, and as he went faster, he got messier, and as he got messier, he got madder. It was going to take all night to go through every cabinet and cupboard. He slammed drawers and didn't bother when they flew back open and jammed, folders sticking out.

He was coming out of the stairwell on the fourth floor when they caught him.

There were two of them, Doran and Parks. They were very casual, telling him how they'd been driving by and had seen the Packard and stopped to investigate. As they were calling it in, they just happened to look up and see a spot of light moving on the fifth floor. They were so friendly that he had to ask them, "Am I under arrest?"

They escorted him to the cruiser parked out front. Doran told him to watch his head as he got in. They hadn't bothered with cuffs. He thought briefly about making a run for it, but it would be so d.a.m.n undignified if they jumped into their car and caught him before he got to the end of the road. At the station, they took his wallet and escorted him into an office and told him to wait while they contacted his parents. He was disappointed it wasn't a cell. A cell would make a much better story. Not much he could do about it, though, and anyway, the real story he had to worry about was the one that would explain why he had been rifling through files in the Children's Aid Society office at three in the morning. He could use part of the story he'd told Brother Nick: he was doing this for his cousin, guy just found out he was adopted and he was so upset he was threatening to kill himself, so Dean came down here to try to find something out. Yeah, it was wrong, bad, against the law, but for crying out loud, what would you do if you looked up from your egg salad sandwich to see your cousin practising noose knots with his school tie?

The door opened and a man came in with Frank's hammer and chisel. He said, "Dean Turner. Sergeant Cooper." At the sight of him, every thread and shred of Dean's story vanished down a deep hole. Dean recognized Cooper instantly as an inhabitant of the City of You Think This Is Funny? Town Motto: This Is Not Funny.

He had a colourless brush cut and bulging blue eyes in a big, florid face. He also had a way of pausing and blinking every few words. As if his words were so dense they needed an extra few seconds to be absorbed. He said Dean had committed very serious crimes (pause, blink) for a fifteen-year-old boy.

"But I didn't take anything," Dean said.

Blink. "You ever hear of breaking"-pause-"and entering?"

"Yeah, but people usually break and enter to steal something. What was I going to steal in an office building?"

Blink. Blink. "You tell me."

"Actually, sir, my question was rhetorical," Dean said. "Translated roughly, it means there is nothing to steal in an office building. Hence, breaking and entering for the purpose of theft would be null and void."

"You think this is funny?" Cooper pushed back in his chair and aimed his hard-boiled egg eyes at Dean. "Let me tell you why I do not think this is as funny as you do. Charge one: breaking and entering." Pause. "Charge two: grand theft auto, two counts." Blink. "Charge three-"

"Grand theft auto?"

"Your parents' car, which they told us you took and which we a.s.sume you left outside of Sudbury before-"

"I don't think you can charge a person with stealing their own family car," Dean said.

"-before you picked up the Packard which was reported stolen yesterday morning."

"What Packard?"

Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 9

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Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 9 summary

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