Chapter 1 June 26
"Did I hear the phone ringing?"
"Mmphmff fmmffh mmm."
"Marlene, did you hear the phone ringing?" Mike looks at his watch and sees it's only three am. "Huh! It must have been my imagination. Sorry, love."
"Did you say something?"
"No. Go back to sleep."
"What time is it?"
"Three-o-clock in the morning? What did you wake me up for? Surely you don't want more?"
"Well, since your awake love, and you mentioned it?"
"Oh Mike! Go to sleep." He chuckles and settles down with her cuddled against him as usual, both naked as the day they were born. He kisses her ear and closes his eyes.
"Who's there?" He feels a presence.
"Don't be afraid, Michael."
Mists swirl and a figure emerges. Black eyes, soft and enchanting look into his. Dimples below high cheekbones bespeak a radiant smile and he knows that face with the long black hair.
"Momma. Where are we?"
"Take my hand, Michael. Come with me."
A dark skinned hand, sure and steady, reaches to grip his own and lead him. "Where are we going, Momma?"
"Come. Duncan is waiting for us on the other side. Come, Michael."
He sees many others being led as he, through the eerie landscape and a thought comes to him of his children, Richard, Shelly and Jan. He resists her pull and says, "But Momma, my children need me."
The scene starts to shift and she pulls away from him calling, "Michael, come Michael." He sees her hand still holding his but his hand is small, like a child.
"Momma! Momma!" He calls to the receding figure as it becomes shrouded and dim. "Momma! Momma!" He calls her by name, "Mother Mary! Wait for me! Momma! Momma!"
"Michael! Michael, wake up! Are you okay?"
In the light of the bedside lamp he sees his wife's face and he's confused, then murmurs, "Sorry, my love. I must have been dreaming."
"More like a nightmare, I'd say. You were calling out for your mother. What did you dream?"
Meanwhile many thousands of miles away a slim, heavy breasted young mother is nursing her babies. Two are at her breast while the third sleeps on in its cradle. Born in February, they are only four months old. Her husband, Jeff Hart, a thriving businessman climbing the corporate ladder in the world of high finance, assists her by helping support the second child. The one that the mother, Nina Hart, cradles is Anne Claymore-Hart and the other her husband supports on a pillow so it can suck from her other breast is Cathy Claymore-Hart. They're identical twins and their brother, who is still in his cradle; is half of another set of identical twins. He is Michael Claymore-Hart, but his identical twin did not survive. They are the biological offspring of Nina Hart and Michael Claymore, a result of an affair between them instigated by an affair between their mates. Once again Nina is pregnant by the same man as a result of a recent visit by the Harts of Markham, Ontario, Canada with the Claymores of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
Nina whispers to Jeff; "Don't wake Michael yet. Cathy is done but her diaper needs changing. Can you take her?"
"Ah ha! I'll take care of her, but it looks like Michael's already awake. He's being a good boy this morning unless he's still half asleep. Anyway, his eyes are open. Good morning, Michael." He carries Cathy to the foot of the bed and lays her on a baby blanket to change her. He washes her up from a washbasin and pats her dry. Nina closes her eyes and relaxes for a few minutes, waiting for Michael. She distantly hears Jeff put Cathy in her cradle then hears his sharp intake of breath and his bustling around. Sleepily she checks on Anne then looks for Jeff. He's not in the bedroom.
"Jeff, what are you doing? I'm waiting for Michael."
A strangled cry is heard from the kitchen and Jeff calls in a strained voice, "You finish Anne up, dear. I'll be right there in a minute." She hears his voice go on in a very quiet manner.
"Are you on the phone? Who are you calling this time of the morning?"
Jeff comes to the bedroom door and he is shaking visibly. "I have one more call to make. You just go ahead with Anne, dear." He walks away out of sight. He goes to the front door and turns on the outside light. He hears the siren before he sees the flashing lights. He runs out to meet the first paramedic.
"My wife is pregnant and she doesn't know yet about the baby. Can you give her something to knock her out?"
"I can give her a sedative that will make her groggy. That's the best I can do. Where's the baby?"
As they rush inside they hear Nina, "Jeff! Jeff! Where are you? Jeff!"
Jeff calls, "I'm coming, dear. I'll be right there. Are you done with Anne?"
"Yes. Will you take...? What are you men doing here? Jeff, what's going on? What are you doing? Leave my baby alone!"
"The baby is very sick. We're taking it to the hospital. I'm giving you a needle to calm you down. Please hold your arm still, Ma'am. Can you help me here, sir?"
Jeff says, "Calm down, honey. They have to take Michael to the hospital right away. We’ll follow them. Let the man give you a shot and we'll get the girls around so we can follow them."
Nina looks confused but hesitates long enough for the medic to give her a needle. Near the front door she hears two of the attendants saying something she can hardly hear but one word sticks in her mind and she screams. The word she hears is SIDS.
"MICHAEL!!" She goes crazy flailing her arms and trying to get to her baby. It's too late! Through a fog she hears the sirens receding and sees her husband bundling up the girls in their car seats. She looks around and realizes she's standing outside by the car watching Jeff load up the children. He only has two. "Where's Michael? We can't go without Michael, Jeff."
She feels sick and grips the car door. She uses sheer will power to straighten up and head back into the house. Jeff calls, "Nina! I have the baby's here. Come on, honey. We have to go."
She screams, "MICHAEL!" and goes in the door. She moves as in a dream and finds herself in the bedroom. Michael's cradle is empty. She feels panicky. She looks under the bed and almost passes out. She shakes her head and tries to think. Staring all around she shakes and hears Jeff calling for her.
She runs to the kitchen and picks up the phone. Far away she can hear the rings and then she hears his voice.
In Abbotsford, B.C., Mike Claymore is trying to explain his nightmare to his wife, Marlene.
"It was my mother and she had me by the hand but my hand was so small, tiny even, and she was disappearing from my vision in the mist. I guess that was when I called out in my sleep. It was a scary dream but a pleasant one at the same time, since it was Mom. I don't recall ever dreaming about her since she died when I was only fifteen. I don't think I’ll ever get back to sleep and its only three forty five. Damn!"
"Go take a hot shower and you'll fall off to sleep as soon as you get back in..." The phone rings.
Mike and Marlene stare at it. Mike extends a shaking hand and picks it up. Before he can speak he hears a hysterical voice calling his name. "Michael!" He shudders and tries to identify the familiar voice.
"Nina? Nina! What's wrong love? Nina?"
"Michael! Michael's gone!" She cries and calls suddenly, "MICHAEL!" Marlene can hear her on the other side of the bed and asks Mike what is wrong. "I don't know. It's Nina," then into the phone, "Nina, my itty bitty pretty love, what’s happened?"
The phone is silent for a few seconds then, "Mike? I can't find Michael. Oh Mike, please come and help me. I can't find our baby. Please, Mike." She screams again, "MICHAEL!"
Mike hears a man's voice in the background, “...on the phone, Nina?" He comes on the line, "Hello. Who is it?"
"Jeff, it's Mike. What's going on? What's wrong with Nina?"
"Oh, it's you. Just a moment." He leaves the phone and Mike can hear him talking to Nina. He comes back on the line, "I can't talk now, Mike. I have to get her to the hospital. She's in shock." He speaks in a lower voice. "I'm awfully sorry to say this but Michael's died. The medics say its SIDS. Nina's hysterical and I have to get her to the hospital for sedation. Good night." He hangs up.
Mike sits staring at the phone. Marlene bites her lip and says, "Something's wrong? Oh Mike, it's one of the babies? What is it, Mike?"
"Jeff says Michael has died and I knew it before he said it. Nina's hysterical and he's rushing her to the hospital for shock." He hangs up the phone and slouches down in the bed.
Marlene pushes back the covers and gets up. "I'll start packing. I'll never go back to sleep tonight." Mike just stares at her. She says, "What ever happened to him?"
Mike turns a vacant gaze her way. He mumbles, "SIDS."
"Did it just happen?"
"She called. I don't know if she even realized she was calling us. She just said she couldn't find Michael and kept screaming his name."
"I heard her."
"Jeff came on the line and said he was taking her to the hospital for shock. He said Michael was dead." A single tear rolls down his cheek.
"I'll call for reservations on the early morning flight to T.O. (Toronto). You better call CPX and I'll get Trudy as soon as it's light out”. Mike drives truck for CPX (Canadian Pacific Express and Transport) out of their Pacific Terminal in POCO (Port Coquitlam) on Kingsway. He drives a blue Kenworth with built in sleeper and takes intermediate haulage throughout B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. CPX also hires local drivers for the Fraser Valley deliveries and long-haul drivers for cross Canada haulage. Out of deference to his wife and family he avoids the long hauls so he can spend more time at home.
When he isn't driving truck, he does security work; based on the years of experience he has had with the Canadian Penitentiary Service (CPS). This work has led him into three murder investigations to date and he is developing a reputation as a private investigator. His partner in the security business, Trudy Millicent Garneau (nee Black) is an ex truckstop waitress separated from her military husband. She often shares more than the business with him, including her bed and has been recognized by his wife as his mistress, or sister wife of sorts. She is now eight months along to having his child. She often baby-sits for them so they can get away together.
Mike tries to go through the motions of helping her pack, but Marlene finally says, "Go and call CPX. I can finish this. It's nearly five so I guess you could call Trudy after you call CPX."
Mike goes downstairs and puts on a pot of coffee. He picks up the phone and hears Marlene talking with the flight desk at Westjet. He listens for a moment then gently puts down the receiver. He watches the coffee finish and pours a cup, then picks up the phone again. He hears the dial tone and punches in the number for the CPX dispatch office. He hears a familiar voice. "Good morning, Jerry. It's Mike."
"Good morning, Mike. I though that was your voice. Haven't got anything for you today but I might have one out to Sicamous tomorrow night."
"That's what I'm calling about. Can you drop me from the line until I can get back to you? We've suffered a death in the family and I'm flying out this morning to Ontario for the funeral and to console the remaining family members. I don't know when I'll be back but it shouldn't be more than a week."
"Oh! I'm sorry to hear that, Mike. Was it a close relative?"
"Oh God, Mike! Take all the time you need. We'll see you when you get back. I'm so very sorry, my friend."
"Thanks, Jerry. See you when I get back."
Mike sips his coffee and looks at his watch. He dials Trudy's number. Her sleepy voice comes on the line, "Hello."
"Mike! Is that you? Are you here outside my window with your cell phone?" She giggles. "Come on in. The bed's nice and warm and so am I."
"No, I'm calling from home, my love. I have some rather sad news and I need your help."
She perks right up, "What's wrong, darling?"
"I got a call this morning from T.O. Michael has died of SIDS. I need..."
"Michael! Oh God, don't say that! Not Michael! He was so much like you. You must be in agony and Nina must be crazy with grief. What can I do to help?"
"I need you to baby-sit while we fly down. We're on a morning flight today with Westjet. Can you do it?"
"I'll be there within an hour. Don't worry; I'll look after things while you're away. Are you okay?"
"I think so. I know so! I have to be! Nina's going to need me! Don't you go pushing yourself too much getting here. I'll make sure the kids understand to give you a hand as often as they can. How are you feeling?"
"About twelve month's pregnant; otherwise, not too bad. See you in an hour. I love you."
"See you, my love."
Marlene comes down the stairs in a robe. "Did you call Trudy?"
"I just talked with her. She's on her way down. Do you want coffee or milk?"
"I better have milk. I'll probably have coffee on the plane." Marlene is close to three month's pregnant so she is watching her caffeine intake. "Thank God my morning sickness has stopped last week. I'm still having the occasional light headed spell and with these giant boobs of mine, I almost lose my balance."
"They're quite a bit larger this time. I wonder if that's because you're older."
"I'm not that old!"
"You're nearly thirty now, dear."
"That's old? Remember, you're a year older."
"Right. What time's the flight?"
"Seven. That puts us in Toronto at four this afternoon, their time. It's a direct flight with one stop in Calgary. We better get the kids up early."
"Sit with me for a few minutes." She sits next to him.
Quietly she says as she sips her milk, "He was your other son, wasn't he? I'll try to have a son for you." Mike's expression never changes but she knows she’s hit the mark.
"I think my mother was trying to tell me that he was destined to cross over early. She was a shaman in more ways than the regular shaman in our tribe. Among the six nations of the Iroquois, we Mohawks have the most liberal policies concerning women who marry white men, but even with us they are usually ostracized. Not so in the case of my mother. She married my father, a Scotsman, and yet was still regarded highly with a respect afforded a senior clans woman. To all she was still Mary Morris, 'she who waits', although by law she was Mary Claymore or Mrs. Duncan Claymore. It was because of their respect for her that she was afforded a place in the Mohawk cemetery in Brantford, Ontario beside my father."
"I wish I had been given the chance to meet her. I think I would have liked her very much."
"In many ways, in your Celtic ways, you remind me of her. That was probably one of the reasons I fell in love with you so quickly. That and the fact you were part nympho." He grins.
She swats his shoulder. Mike bows his head in silence at the table. Marlene rubs tears from her eyes with her hands and says nothing. They stay this way for nearly fifteen minutes, then Mike stirs and says, "I guess we better get the kids up."
Marlene nods and goes to the stairway. When she checks she finds Richard awake. "What's going on, Mom?"
"We got some bad news in the night. Your half brother Michael has died son. Sometimes that happens for no real reason. They call it Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS for short. Your Aunt Nina called and she is very sad. Dad and I are going down to Toronto to be with her for a little while, maybe a week."
"Little Michael? Why?"
"The doctors say it has something to do with a nervous reaction that causes the heart to fall out of proper rhythm and it just stops. It only happens very rarely and only to babies in the first year or two of their lives."
"Can I go with you?"
"I don't think that would be a good idea. You still have another week of school and it will just be a bunch of adults down there. You stay home and we won't be too long."
"Dad promised I could go with you the next time you went down to Ontario so he could show me the Six Nations and I could meet his family."
"I keep forgetting you’re eleven now. Soon you'll be a man. You'll have to ask your Dad."
She goes on and gets the girls up. Shelly and Jan want to know how come she is getting them up so early so she has to sit down with them and explain in a way they can understand. Shelly is turning nine next month on the twenty-first and Janet will be eight in August. They promise to get dressed and be right down. Marlene returns to the kitchen. Mike is talking with Richard.
He looks at Marlene and says, "I guess you better pack this guy a suitcase, too. Suppose we can get him on the flight?"
"I'll call the airline. Come on, Rick, let's see what you want to take with you." They head back upstairs. Before long Trudy arrives and takes Mike’s face into her hands as he bends down to kiss her. Her eyes are all puckered and red from crying.
"I came as fast as I could, darling. You poor man, what you must be going through. Hurry down there and try to console that girl. I imagine she needs a steadying hand right now. Don't you worry about a thing back here. I'll look after everything."
"I know you will, Trudy. I know I can count on you. By the way, Rick is going with us so you will only have the two girls."
Shelly and Jan enter the room and Shelly says, "Daddy, Mommy told us about the baby and we're real sorry. We'll be real good girls for mama Trudy."
Jan adds, "And we'll help her every night when we get home from school." Marlene comes in and nods at Trudy.
"Coffee's on if you want a cup."
"No. Maybe later." She gets out of her rain jacket and goes to hang it up.
To Mike, "I called the airline. He's booked with us."
"Good. I did promise him when we made our sweat lodge together I would take him down to meet his native relations next time we went down to Ontario. I try to always keep my word."
Mike starts loading the luggage and soon Richard is giving him a hand. When everything is loaded he stops to give Trudy another kiss and tells her to get lots of rest. She only has a few weeks left until her baby will be born. She laughs and says, "I know and do my Kegel exercises. Hurry back, coach. I don't want to go in there without you."
"I will. You hang in there."
Marlene hugs her and says, "Thanks again for being there again. It seems we are always calling on you. Do like Mike says. Get lots of rest. You know the rest."
Trudy tries to throw an arm around Richard's neck and exclaims. "You’re getting taller every time I see you."
"I thought you were getting shorter."
"Be careful now. I can still take you across my knee." They all laugh and head out to the car. They are taking the Buick station wagon that Mike's wife usually drives. He won't take a chance on leaving his '69 Candy Apple Red Mustang Convertible in the parking lot for a week at the airport.
They arrive at the airport with little time to spare. By the time Mike is back from parking the car in a storage spot they are boarding, and he has to hurry and put their luggage through. They settle back to enjoy the flight as best they can. It's a 737 so they have some comfort and Marlene promptly goes to sleep. Mike sits in brooding silence staring out the window while flying fascinates Richard. It's his first trip by plane so he bugs the stewardess with questions and wanders the plane when he's not staring out the windows or watching the movie.
He makes friends with other passengers easily and finds another girl about his age to finally settle down with in animated conversation. When they let down in Calgary, he leaves the plane with her and they almost miss getting back on board before departure. The girl's aunt notices she is missing and alerts the stewardess, who has an announcement made for them by name. They come running back to the plane. Mike frowns at Richard but Marlene says, "Like father, like son."
Soon they are winging eastward again and having dinner. Richard introduces his playmate, Sheila Olinique. She's a very mature saucy brunette of eleven years traveling with her aunt to Toronto to visit another aunt. Marlene doesn't particularly like her and when they disappear after dinner she urges Mike to go and find them.
Mike says, "They're on the plane somewhere. Don't worry about them."
"That girl is a lot more trouble than Julie ever was." Referring to a neighborhood girlfriend that Richard was sparking until a month or two ago.
"You worry too much. Let the boy have his fun. He has a level head on his shoulders. Trust him, my love."
About an hour out of Toronto, Sheila and Richard return from somewhere in the rear of the plane and sit chatting across from Mike and Marlene. Mike thinks his son looks very grown up, almost a man as he ushers her back to the seat by her sleeping aunt. Richard comes back and with a grin he winks at his dad as he takes his seat. Mike grins back. Marlene misses the conspiratory looks that pass between them.
As they disembark at Toronto, Marlene goes to arrange for a rental car while Mike and Richard attend to the luggage. Mike says quietly to his son, "Am I to take it that you have joined the 'Mile High' club, son?"
Richard laughs, "How did you know? Sheila told me about it and we decided we would. Have you ever done that?"
"That's my secret." They laugh together as they pull luggage from the roundel and watch for more coming down the chute. "I hope you were a gentleman and ensured the lady's pleasure before seeking your own." Richard nods.
"Where does she live?"
"Seattle. She's staying at her aunt's in Vancouver for the summer. They’re visiting here in Toronto for two weeks."
"Think you will see her again?"
"Maybe... or maybe not. Who knows?" He shrugs.
Marlene returns, "I've lined up a '95 Chrysler Intrepid with Hertz. It's a four door and black so it should serve us well while we're here. Bring what luggage you can carry and we'll come back for the rest."
Richard says, "I saw a baggage cart by the wall near the washroom. I'll get it." He run off and returns in a moment with the cart. Mike loads the luggage and they follow Marlene with Richard watching that nothing falls off. They find the car in the Hertz lot and Mike looks it over. No air conditioning but it has a sunroof and tinted glass. "Must have come from the States. That much tinted glass is borderline legal here in Canada." He checks the oil and notes it has a 3.6 Liter V6 engine, which is nice and clean. No apparent oil leaks or radiator leaks in evidence. Everything seems to be in order. He closes the hood.
They load the luggage and Marlene gives him the keys. Richard runs the cart back inside and they pick him up at the exit from the Hertz lot. Then they head for Markham. Richard has the whole back seat all to himself and their carry on luggage. Marlene sits over by Mike and asks quietly, "Did you speak to your son about his actions on the plane." Mike nods.
They pull up to the house in Markham and Mike parks by the curb. It doesn't look like anyone is home, so Mike says he will check. He goes to the door and rings the bell. No answer. As he walks back to the car he uses his cell phone to call their number. On the second ring Jeff answers. "Hello."
"Jeff? It's Mike. I'm out in front of your house. I didn't think anyone was home."
"Oh, come in, Mike. I heard the bell. It woke me, but I heard the phone so I grabbed it first. Come on in."
"Be right in. Is Nina here?"
"Sleeping. Sedated, really. But I have to rouse her shortly to feed the girls. Come right on in. The door's unlocked."
He punches 'end' and puts the phone back on his belt. He tells the others to come with him and goes to the house. Before they reach the door Jeff is there, waiting for them. When he sees Marlene he gives a cry and takes her into his arms. They speak then he rests his head on her shoulder for a few minutes. They all go inside.
As the rest talk in the living room Mike strides through to the master bedroom. He sits on the bed next to Nina and takes her hand in his. He studies her harried face in uneasy slumber.
Quietly he says, "My itty bitty pretty one, you've had a rough time of it. Rest easy now, my love. I'm here."
Her countenance clears a bit and she mumbles, "Mike?" She takes a firm grip on his hand but sleeps on a bit easier. Mike looks over at the two small bassinets and his sleeping daughters, Anne and Cathy. He looks around and sees the familiar surroundings. He waits for her to wake.
In a while Jeff comes in and says, "We better rouse her up. The babies are overdue for their feeding and will be fussing before long. He anxiously checks on them. "I'm almost afraid to check on them any more and I have a thousand times today. It's so unbelievable that she nursed him at three and at seven he was gone. Life seems so uncertain now."
Mike squeezes the hand and gently shakes her shoulder. "Nina? Wake up, itty bitty pretty girl. It's time to nurse the babies."
She opens her eyes and stares at Mike then suddenly she's in his arms and cries on his shoulder. He holds her and lets her cry it out while he rubs her shoulders and back. Soon one of the babies gives a long wail and starts fussing. She pulls back from him and looks to the bassinet. "Please bring me Anne. Life goes on and she must be fed." She bows her head and the tears run from her nose and cheek.
Mike says to Jeff, "Wait for a minute. Try to occupy the babe." He turns Nina and massages her back between her shoulder blades and along her spine. As he feels her melt and relax he nods to Jeff. Marlene looks on with a smile. He has Nina lay back and puts the baby to her breast. She gives a wan smile and the baby starts nursing. She whispers, "You know all the tricks, don't you, Mike?"
"I know you have to relax before you can nurse the child. Do you want the other one? She's still sleeping but it's up to you."
Weakly, "Let her sleep for now. If I go to sleep, please wake me." Her eyes come up and light on Mike, "Did Jeff call you? I'm so glad you're here." Then she notices Marlene for the first time and says, "Marlene. You came with him. How nice." There's no warmth in her voice.
The phone rings and Jeff goes to answer it. As he talks on the phone he beckons Mike to come to the kitchen. Mike slides that way and Marlene takes his place by Nina.
He goes to the kitchen and stands by Jeff on the phone. Jeff puts his hand over the receiver, "Funeral director. What's your preference in a casket?"
"Plain. He’ll be buried with my mother. I'll see to it."
"What! That's not right! How do you know what Nina might want? Have you spoken to her about that?"
"It's what she will want. Never fear, I'll tend to it."
"Well, you’re the father! Do as you please!" He speaks in the phone again and Mike wanders back to the bedroom. He stands by Richard in the doorway.
"Aunt Nina is a beautiful woman, isn't she Dad?"
"Yes. You're seeing her when she is most tender, with her baby. She's an attractive and exacting woman when she wants to be."
"Women are hard to figure out. I'll be glad when I get older and can understand them like you do."
Mike snorts, "You'll never understand them. I don't! I simply give them their way. It seems to work out best that way."
Jeff brings Mike a phone number on a piece of paper. "He's at the hospital morgue. You can reach them at that number." Mike takes the number and enters it into his cell phone memory. He nods at Richard and they go out through the sliding glass doors to the back yard.
"Son, I have to make burial arrangements for Michael so I want you to stay with your mother. You can comfort Nina but try not to upset Jeff. He feels I’m taking over where I have no right, but I’m simply doing what’s necessary. My mother came to me in a dream and I know what I must do."
"You saw Grandma in a dream?"
"Yes. She leads Michael away with her and I know he must be buried with her. I'm calling a funeral director who is Mohawk. He will make the arrangements."
"Will I meet Uncle Terry and Great Uncle Broken Feather?"
Mike grins, "You mean Great Uncle Two Long Feathers, not Broken Feather. That was Terry's nickname for him. I hope Terry's home from New York. I’d like you to meet them all."
Mike calls a number and when a woman answers he says, "Hello, my sister. I'd know your voice in a million. So much like mother's"
"Silver Heels! Where are you?"
"In Markham. I'm down here on rather sad business, I'm afraid. My son’s died suddenly in his sleep. He was only four months old."
"Oh Mike, that’s so sad to hear. Do you want to speak with Terry? He's here and we're waiting for Grant and Caitlin. They are on their way up from Montreal for a visit. What a coincidence you should be in the area at the same time."
"First I have to contact a Mohawk funeral director. Then I can visit perhaps. Who’s in the funeral business these days."
"Call our shaman. I have his number here somewhere. Talk to Terry and I'll get it."
"Silver Heels, you rascal. How's my little brother?"
"Are you going to be at Nancy's for a while?"
"Yeah, I don't have to be back in New York until the fifteenth of July. What about you?"
"I only have a week and it's going to be tied up quite a bit. I'm down here to bury my youngest son. Michael was only four months old when he died in his sleep."
"Ahhh, that's not easy. I feel great sorrow for you, little brother. Here's Nancy."
Nancy gives him the number and name of their shaman and he promises to try and get over to see them while he’s here. Next he talks with the shaman and tells him of his dream. The man understands and says he will do his best to arrange for Michael to be buried in a common grave with Mike's mother at the Mohawk Chapel. He says he will talk to the family members and secure their consent. Mike tells him where the child's body is resting and says he will secure the mother's consent to have it removed. They talk of the old ways but soon Mike has to hang up.
He goes back into the house and accepts coffee from Marlene in the kitchen. He sits with Jeff at the table but they don't speak. Marlene sits with them. She says, "Mike. Have you made the arrangements."
"I have. All I need is Nina's consent. He will be buried in common with my mother at the Mohawk Chapel in Brantford."
Marlene takes Jeff's hands in hers. "We’ll attend together, Jeff. If Nina can attend, she should be with Mike. Do you understand?" Jeff looks defeated. He nods.
"Don't look so glum. Am I so awful?"
A small grin forms in the corner of his lips and he shakes his head. He lifts her hand to his lips briefly. Mike gets up and goes to the bedroom. Richard is with her and they are talking about Michael "...like Dad but there has to be a reason why he is needed somewhere else. Maybe they are short of angels. Maybe he's in training now as an apprentice angel."
"Oh, you're so like your Dad. That is a pleasant thought and who knows, you might be right. Come in, Mike. Your son and I are just talking while I finish up with this last pretty one."
Mike comes in and takes her hand as he sits on the bed beside them. "Nina, arrangements have to be made for our son and I have done all I can. I need your permission to go ahead with the rest."
"What is it you want, Mike?"
"I have arranged for his burial with my mother, subject to your approval. There’s a reason. Do you feel up to talking about it?"
"I don't think I want to hear any more. I trust you and will approve anything you want. Do I have to sign anything?"
"If it's necessary I'll bring it to you."
"Thank you, Mike. I'm just not up to much right now. I'm sorry. I appreciate your help and your being here."
"I have another call to make. Rick will keep you company, if you like."
"I'd like that."
Mike steps out of the bedroom and goes into the living room. He dials the shaman again and tells him he has the mother's permission for them to pick up the body. If the hospital needs her signature, he should bring the paperwork by the house. He gives him the address and phone number. He assures Mike it will be done as he wishes on the morrow. His enquiries among the family members have met with approval and elders are in agreement that Mary's grandson should be placed with her. Mike thanks him for his help and closes off the call. Marlene is by his elbow so he asks, "Jeff has accepted my arrangements, right?"
"You didn't give him much choice. He will accept them but I’ll have to stay by him or he might change his mind. Is everything set now?"
"I think so. My brother, Terry and my sisters are all over at Nancy's. I would like you and Rick to meet them. Maybe tomorrow?"
"Maybe we'll all go over. It will give Nina something to take her mind off this tragedy. No doubt they would like to meet your daughters, as well."
"That would be a great idea, but do you think Jeff will go for it?"
"He will. I'm sure."
"You're going out somewhere with him, aren't you?"
"We'll be back early in the morning. It wouldn't be proper for anyone to see us. He’s been cut out by your arrival. This is between you and Nina. He needs to get away from you for a while, a diversion if you like, or at least a distraction."
Mike nods, "So be it." She pulls him around and kisses him then goes back to the kitchen. In a few minutes they come out to the front door together. Jeff nods at Mike as they leave.
Mike goes back to the bedroom door and says, "Who's hungry here? Do you both want to take a chance on my cooking?"
"I'm just finishing up here, Mike. I'll come and fix something. Jeff can show you where everything is and I'll be right there."
"I remember where everything is. Don't worry."
"He's gone with Marlene, hasn't he?"
"She had to get him away from here. He feels I have invaded his home. She’ll console him."
"If she wants him so bad... No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I don't know what I mean. Oh Mike, I'm all mixed up."
"Don't get all upset now. I understand. You just need to rest and relax. I'll throw us together some supper."
He goes back to the kitchen and cooks up bacon and eggs with hash browns and a fresh pot of coffee. In the fridge he comes across a part pitcher of martinis and groans. He dumps the dregs down the drain. When Nina comes out of the bedroom with Richard, she notices the empty pitcher in the sink and looks repentant. Mike says nothing but she knows his disapproval.
They sit down to supper and he pours her milk. As they eat Nina says, "Did they say when they would be back?"
Mike looks at Richard, then shrugs and says, "Early morning is what Marlene said. Before the neighbors are up."
"Oh." She dejectedly eats the food without relish.
"Would you like to meet my brother and sisters tomorrow. I know they would like to meet my daughters."
"What about Michael?" She almost cries when she says his name. She looks at Mike in entreaty.
"I have a friend who will take care of everything for us. You’ll meet him tomorrow. Don't worry about a thing." She studies her plate and nods. After supper she returns to her bed and Mike suggests he and Richard take a hot tub. He asks Nina if she will mind and she says not.
They go out and immerse themselves in the hot water. After they have been out there for quite a while Nina comes out and asks if Richard will watch the babies for a few minutes while she gets in the tub with Mike. Mike agrees if she will limit herself to ten minutes only. She agrees and slips out of her nightgown and slippers. He helps her down into the tub and she sighs.
"Doesn't this bring back memories, Michael? Oh God, I said his name!"
"But it's my name as well, you know. I remember you in this same tub last year and in the one in Abbotsford. We share a lot of memories, you and I."
"Remember our spot down by the beach. You said you would take me there again, someday. Will you, really?"
"I certainly will when the time is right."
She rests her head on his shoulder, "Oh Mike, I love you. Why must our time together always be so brief?"
"Because you have a steady husband that you love as well. You know the reasons." He surrounds her waist with his arm and cups a heavy breast. His lips touch hers and she swings around into his arms. He holds her tight as they kiss and when they break his embrace continues.
"My itty bitty pretty one, I think it's time we went to bed."
"Oh yes, Mike. I'll fix Rick up in the spare room, then I'll come to you, my love."
"I've put our things in the spare room. He’ll know where he is to sleep. You better get out now. Your ten minutes are up." He helps her out of the tub. They cling together in the moonlight for one more kiss then she dons her robe and he his clothes. They return to the house.
Mike shows Richard to the spare room after Nina thanks him for caring for the girls. Mike sees him into bed and Richard says, "Good night, Dad. Be good to her, she needs you."
"Your becoming a wise man in your youth, my son. I'll heed your advice." He grins and wishes his son a good night then returns to Nina's room. She has all the lights out except a small bedside lamp and she beckons him. He smiles and goes directly to her. She lifts her robe and removes it, then holds her arms out to him. Slowly he undresses before her.
"It is nearly time for their feedings so we will have to hurry, my love." She runs her hands down his muscular body then rests her head on his stomach. Then she lays back and draws him with her. She smiles at his erection and reaches for it. Mike kisses her as she makes contact and she moans. Her tongue darts into his mouth and her hips start undulating, although he hasn't laid a hand on her yet. Mike remedies that immediately by running his hand along the inside of her thigh lightly, then caressing her bush and vulva. His other hand works in her hair and by her ear as the kiss continues. She tugs on his hips directing him to enter and he follows her directions.
She sighs and breaks the kiss to whisper, "Oh, my love, welcome to my body. It's been far too long since we've been one. Hold me, love me and ravage me. I love you so!" Her lips seek his again.
Too soon by far a baby cries in the night and they have to put their love making on hold while Mike brings the child. As the babe starts sucking, Nina puts one leg over Mike and pulls him back to her. Mike settles down to long even slow strokes so as to not disturb the child. When he feels her tense and her breathing increase he stops and slowly starts again.
When he hears the second babe cry out he withdraws and brings her to the bed. He gets her latched on, and then supports her so the two can nurse side by side. He shakes his head when Nina tries to reach for him with a foot. She smiles and nods as the babies' nurse. They know they will make strong passionate love when the babies are put down to sleep.
Mike washes up the first one and let's her air dry after he has patted her down. When the second is done they do her together, then diaper them for the night. Soon they are settled and Mike carries Nina back to the bed. This time he extends the foreplay until she almost begs him to begin and their lovemaking is both furious and fulfilling.
When the babies awaken them during the night for a short feeding, they again enjoy carnal bliss extended until they're exhausted. They fall asleep in each other’s arms. That is how Marlene and Jeff find them in the morning with the covers kicked to the bottom of the bed and wrapped around each other. Marlene smiles and leads Jeff to the kitchen where they make coffee. She explains to Jeff, "She'll be alright now. She's put the hardest part of the grieving behind her. Mike has reawakened her. She will still have rough moments but she’ll be able to cope with them, now."
"What has he got that I haven't? I don't understand what she sees in him. He's a bloody truck driver. I make million dollar deals every day."
"What do you see in me that she doesn't have?"
"Marlene! How can you compare apples and oranges? You are a tigress where she’s a lady. I would I could bed you every night and take her on my arm to the parties. You're unpredictable but she is always the same."
"Perhaps that is what she likes about Mike. He's a Scottish Highlands barbarian in bed as wild and unpredictable as I. We are well suited to each other."
"What does he see in her?"
"The fine aristocratic woman that you see and he takes pleasure in allowing her to become an animal like him."
"How does he do that?"
"There's no explaining Mike's technique. He just has a way of letting his partner know that they are safe to do whatever they want, as much as they want and as often as they want. He brings out the worst and the best in women in bed and I don't think he even knows how he does it. But it sure works!"
"Do you see other men?"
"Just you, Jeff. I mean that sincerely. In all honesty I came to you the first time because I was lonely and Mike had been away on the road for three days. I will admit that you were just a habit for me until he caught us. Then he took his revenge by screwing Nina in front of us in the hot tub. That was hard to take and I swore it was over, but the next time I longed for your touch and my feelings have grown a lot since then. Maybe you are still just a habit, but you are one that’s hard to break."
"I know what you mean. I love my wife and yet, the thrill of bedding a wildcat like you once in a while was so refreshing, so enervating that I couldn't stay away from you. You still turn me on when you come into a room. I think you always will."
"And what about your secretary?"
"She married that manager of mine she was going with and they are now down in the Maritimes."
"Ahhh. That's just as well." Jeff nods. They hear a baby cry out and before they can reach the bedroom door, Nina has the child to her breast and is sitting up in bed nursing with the covers around her. Mike is still sleeping. She smiles a good morning at them. They tip toe back out so as to not wake the other baby.
Quietly Mike whispers. "Are they gone?" Nina giggles and nudges him with an elbow. Mike looks at his watch. It's five AM. He stretches and says, "I suppose I might as well get up. We'll drive around by the hospital first and sign any papers that have to be done, then drive on over to my sister's in Mt. Pleasant. Rick will go with us and help you with the babies while I drive. Jeff and Marlene can follow us in your car."
She whispers, "Will Jeff do that?"
"We'll see. I think Marlene has convinced him to do it that way, if I know her." Mike reaches for his robe and climbs out of the bed. He checks on Anne then goes to the kitchen.
Marlene spots him and smiles as Jeff says, "Good morning. Nina is alright this morning?"
"She’s much better but her peace is fragile. She’s healing spiritually and it will take time. Rick hasn't woken up yet?"
Marlene answers him, "I think he's awake. He just hasn't got up yet." Mike nods and walks to his son's door. Richard is awake and moves his hand in a half wave with a grin at his Dad as he stretches to make ready to get up.
Mike steps inside and says, "You will stay by Nina today and help her with the babies. I will be with you but I need your help." "I'll help out, Dad. I'm going to wake up in the hot tub. Want to join me?"
Mike grins and says, "Don't get too used to that thing. I may just join you, though. It does sound like a good idea. Better than a shower. You better slip on a robe or you'll scare Jeff out of his own home." They chuckle together as Rick pulls on a robe and picks up a towel.
Reentering the kitchen they announce their intentions and Marlene says she's going to join them. Jeff goes to his bedroom to be with Nina and the nursing baby, as Marlene follows them to the hot tub. Quickly she strips off her clothes under the shelter and slips into the hot water with her husband and son. Mike checks his watch by the tub and warns her not to overdo it.
The heat of the hot water seeps into all the joints and they all feel much better although Marlene has to leave before she would like to. She pats herself down with the towel and dresses. She goes back into the house.
Rick speaks to his father, "Are all women beautiful, Dad?"
"You've noticed. All women have beauty in them. Some, like your mother, shine with beauty for all to see. Others, like Nina, show their beauty to those they are closest with. They are wondrous creatures."
"Are we going to Aunt Nancy's today?"
"Yes. My brother Terry is there and Caitlin might be there with her husband, Grant. They have come up from south of Montreal, near where I grew up at the site of Caughnawaga. That area is all Kahnawake Reserve and town now. Your great uncle, Two Long Feathers or David Morris, he still lives there."
"Do you speak French, Dad?"
"Some, but not well. I never sought to learn the language. My father was Scottish and my mother spoke English most of the time. She understood and spoke French fairly well but not at home. We were raised in English and Iroquoian. I’ve stayed with English through the Navy and the Penitentiary Service. It has served my purposes well."
"What did grandfather do for a living?"
"He worked for the Government. He was an Indian Agent. I don't remember a lot about his work. I was too young when he died and was more interested in what my uncle taught us. I wish I'd had more time to get to know him better. He did teach me to play the bagpipes. For that I am thankful."
"What really happened to them in Scotland?"
"Dad's brother wrote us a letter that explained they were out for a drive in the highlands and the brakes on their car failed. The vehicle plunged over three hundred feet into a ravine before coming to rest and burning. In Brantford it was a closed coffin service. I never saw them again."
"That's when you joined the Navy, eh?"
"Yes. I rejected the Anglican Church of my father and the Mohawk traditions of my mother in my anguish. I developed a passion for roaming the country as a driver for the Naval Yards, hauling heavy armaments and ordinances from Coast to Coast across Canada. That's when I met your mother."
"Is that when you got your tattoo?" He studies his fathers tattoo on his shoulder, a flaming wheel with 'Born to Drive' boldly splashed across it. Mike nods.
Jeff has quietly come up on them and as he slips into the tub he says, "So that’s why you have that tattoo, is it?" Mike nods again.
"My friend, why have you always found it so hard to talk to me of these things? I've known you for years but we have never spoken of your tattoo or your childhood. Usually you are silent in my presence or make light conversation. We have shared wives and yet we cannot talk as brothers."
"That is true, Jeff. If I speak plainly to you, you'll not like it. Better we talk of the weather."
"But why? I don't understand."
"You see me as a half breed trucker of medium intelligence. I do not regard myself as anything less than any other man. Therein lies the difference. Now, let's talk of the weather."
Jeff's face gets red and he protests, but he soon says nothing as he soaks in the tub. Richard holds his head up high and asks his father, "So that is the pale face barrier?" Mike nods. "You told me there was a good reason why the land talks could not proceed smoothly. That is what you meant?" Again he nods as he climbs from the tub. Richard follows him and Jeff is left to deliberate on what was said.
Mike and Richard get dressed. Marlene and Nina are at the table in the kitchen and they are dressed. Mike asks them if they are ready to travel.
Marlene says for them to go and she will follow with Jeff. Mike makes sure she has the address in Mt. Pleasant then helps Richard and Nina with the babies. They load up in the car and start out for Hamilton, Brantford and Mt. Pleasant. First they go to the hospital and sign the release papers for the baby. Mike explains who will be picking up the body and they leave. Once through Oakville they follow Freeway 403 to Hamilton, then Brantford. Mike pulls around by the Mohawk Chapel and sits for a spell telling Richard about it.
Nina remembers when she last sat in this spot and Mike went to the graves of his mother and father. In two days they will be visiting his mother's grave again with their own small bundle. She grieves inside at the thought but tries not to cry out as Mike tells his son of the place. They move on and follow a county road to Mt. Pleasant.
When they arrive at the house Mike sees Jeff's car parked with the others. Nancy comes to the door and welcomes him with open arms. He introduces his son and female companion, mother of the son who died. Nancy warmly welcomes them both.
A tall dark skinned man who looks almost like an older twin to Mike bounds through the door and catches him in a bear hug. They laugh and wrestle in the front yard for a moment then Mike introduces them to the others.
Richard grins and says, "I thought you would be bigger. You’re the same size as Dad. He always makes you sound bigger when he talks about you."
"Ha! I could always get the better of him, that's why." He laughs and slides his arm around Richard's neck.
Mike says, "Watch it!" but he's too late. Terry has Richard in a headlock and they proceed to wrestle for a few minutes to everyone's laughter. Mike goes back to the car and brings the babies to the house. Nina takes one and they go inside. Richard is enthralled with his uncle and plies him with questions about New York and working on the high steel in construction. Nancy explains that Caitlin and Grant are in Brantford but will be back at lunchtime.
Jeff sits uncomfortably to one side with Marlene. She gets up to help Nancy put on lunch and the two of them go to the kitchen. Nancy is the first to speak.
"He hasn't changed. The women flock to him. How do you put up with it?"
"I have to or lose him."
"Yes, I suppose. I don't know what drives him. Our parent's death hit him harder than any of the rest. For a while we thought he might take his own life, but he is much stronger than that. The two of you have other children?"
"Two girls younger than Rick and another to come." She pats her stomach. Nancy nods, so like her brother. Marlene feels right at home with her.
"That is the husband of his woman?" Marlene nods and they both grin. "That is one way to get even." Marlene doesn't explain that it was her affair to start with.
"Why is it that you have never married?"
"I have a few lovers when I feel the need. It’s enough."
They go about preparing lunch.
Jeff gets saddled with the babies so Mike can take Nina out for a walk around the grounds. They stroll together and she tells him of her liking of his brother. "He is so much like you. Why has he chosen such a risky career? It must be dangerous."
"Ask him. He'll tell you about it, my love. He loves to thrill people with tales of his feats on the high steel. He's an awful braggart though, so only believe about half of what he tells you." They laugh and stroll together ending up back at the house. As they come in Nancy calls him and says he is wanted on the phone. Mike shrugs and takes the phone.
It's the shaman and he explains that all has been taken care of and there will be a native service, a powwow tomorrow evening near Brantford for the grandson of Mary Morris, 'She who waits'. He is asked to attend and bring his family. He further explains there will be an Anglican service at the Mohawk Chapel the next day. Mike thanks him for all his efforts on their behalf and says he will settle with him after the service. The shaman says there will be no settling, that this is service to 'She who waits'. He can make a donation to the upkeep of the chapel if he so desires.
Mike gets off the phone and explains what will happen to Jeff and Nina. Jeff does not look all that happy with the arrangements but says nothing, while Nina appears pleased.
Just then Grant and Caitlin come in. They are greeted by all and introduced around. Caitlin presents Nina with white wampum for the babies, a sign of luck and peace. Mike explains the various colors of wampum and the meanings behind them. Nina prizes the white beads, a set for each in the form of necklaces they will wear when they are older. Jeff regards them with disdain.
Lunch is a catch as catch can affair with everyone visiting the kitchen and Marlene with Nancy loading plates and sending them off to eat where they can. The two women then circulate with coffee, tea and milk. Terry takes one of the babies while Nina gets the other settled at a breast. Mike feeds her lunch as she nurses while Jeff looks on and munches on his food. It is evident that he does not like the banek and would prefer bread but he manages and sips his coffee daintily. Richard helps Terry with the second baby so they both can eat. Everyone chats as the meal is consumed.
After lunch Nina takes the second child to her other breast on the couch while Terry regales her and Richard with his tales of daring do on the high steel. Mike sits back with Marlene and Jeff. He smiles, "You can't stop that guy once he gets going. I wish my uncle were here. Then you would meet the whole family."
He turns to Caitlin and says, "So my little sister, when will you be presenting us with papooses?"
She colors and says, "Oh Mike, you're always teasing me about that. Actually we're thinking of starting a family. I'm growing tired of the workplace and we're in a position now where I don't really have to bring home a paycheque. Maybe soon, big brother."
Jeff speaks up, "Marlene, if you're ready I do have to get back to town for some work that has to be done. I hope you'll all excuse me." He looks around and all nod at him. Marlene shrugs and says to Mike, "Do you mind if I don't hang around?"
Mike nods and says, "As you wish."
She goes to Nancy and says, "I hope we get a chance to sit down together before we have to go back to B.C. Thank you for having us in your home, Nancy. It was a real pleasure."
"You come anytime, Marlene. My door is always open to you." They leave without Jeff saying a word to Nina. She looks a bit disappointed, but Richard and Terry take her mind off the departing duo.
In the car an argument ensues started by Marlene's admission that she liked Nancy and the family. Jeff is shocked.
"A bunch of squaws and squaw men. You have nothing in common with them. You’re better than even that lout of a husband of yours."
"Jeff! Don't say things like that! I'm surprised that you feel that way. I thought you and Mike were friends."
"You know, I did too. But this morning in the hot tub he showed me where he really stands. Him and that son of yours ridiculed me for being a paleface. I was shocked!"
"You must have misunderstood, Jeff. Mike would never do that. He's the kindest and most thoughtful man I know."
"Are you calling me a liar? I know what they said, both of them! That's the gratitude he offers me for my hospitality. You should leave the bastard and come to Toronto with me. Here I would treat you like a queen, as you so richly deserve."
"Don't be silly, Jeff. Why would I leave the man I love and who's child I'm carrying to come here?"
"You could get an abortion. That doesn't need to stop you. I'm still thinking strong of a divorce from Nina. We could live together or I could set you up in an apartment and shower you with furs and jewelry. At least think about it."
"And leave the children! You are mad! Also downright ridiculous! Please drive me back to Nancy's. I don't think I want to go home with you."
"I have to talk with you some more. Please hear me out. I create and destroy men's lives on a daily basis in the world of high finances. I could offer you more in one week than he will make in a lifetime."
"Then why aren't you providing better for Nina?"
"I always provided well for her, but she chose to work and maintain some independence. Then when Mike came into the picture and ruined her, she no longer deserves that kind of leisure. Now she is paying for her transgressions. You see, where Mike may be able to control women's emotions, I control the purse strings. I have the real power - I have his wife! I can buy and sell him any day."
"Jeff, I've never seen this side of you. I don't like it! Don't plan on taking me to bed ever again. It's over!"
"Ha! We'll see!"