As the plane taxied to the Terminal at Toronto's Pearson International, my energy plummeted. Breakfast, cardboard coffee, and a poached egg on toast, had been at eight that morning, San Francisco time. Too many hours, a continent away.
A donut and more coffee would do now as I arranged the car rental, checked the GPS for Beaver Falls and lined up in commuter traffic on the 401. In an hour I exited on to the ramp to my destination, to connect with my son, Bruce. The coffee and donut worked. I focused and my energy surged.
Signs along the road promoted Beaver Falls, the historic Town Hall, two hundred year old churches, a library, the park and a stone bridge across the river. The Scots masons, immigrants from the Highlands to a new country, a new life years past, had left their architectural imprint on the community.
In the town center, Open Kitchen, a cozy restaurant nestled among the boutiques, got my attention. I imagined perching on a stool overlooking the kitchen, talking up the chef and serving staff as they prepared my lunch or was it a second breakfast?
The only seat left was at a table where another customer, a woman studied the menu. Glancing up, we made eye contact and she beckoned to me. I eased out of my jacket and sat down.
"I hate eating alone. Please, join me." She reached to shake hands. "I'm Sheila Woods."
"Jake Rodriquez. Thanks for your hospitality."
"Well you're not a local. She smiled. "Hmmm, let me guess. Not a New Yorker, not from the deep south, nor the mid-west." She paused. "California, the tan says it all. But, what brings you here as winter threatens?"
"So, you must be a detective-Lady Agatha, or is it Miss Marple....?" I laughed. 'Right on the mark, Berkley, California. I'm in the Sociology department at the University of California.
"And you've come to enjoy our nasty weather."
"My son, Bruce, came to hike the local trail. We plan to connect. However, I've not heard from him since he left home which is most unusual. We're always in touch when he travels. His mom passed when he was eight so I did the single dad thing and loved it. Still a full time job, Bruce being a hiker, traveler and gypsy. I count on him to email me at least once a day. Already, it's been two days since I've heard from him. No replies to my emails."
"He knows the area?" Sheila asked.
"Yeah, from visiting here as a kid. May also be looking for a country cousin. Alicia, his mom, had grandparents from here. We adopted Bruce, privately, through a local doctor. I unfolded my napkin. "Bruce has suddenly become interested in finding his roots."
"So many young people do that when they reach a certain age."
I pulled up my screen, "Yeah, here's the name, his contact, Warner, Dave Warner."
"He's a local, for sure. A lawyer."
I closed my I-phone.
"Bruce believes Warner may be his birth father."
We ate in silence for a few minutes.
"For a missing person, your best bet is Detective Stokoe. He's known as the one who keeps the town safe should a stranger from away make an appearance. The police station is just around the corner. When we finish lunch, I'll take you there. Chloe, my dog's in the car, out front, with her legs crossed so will enjoy a walk."
"Jack Russell cross, right?" I laughed as Chloe leaped from the car and jumped up and down to greet us.
Like the rest of town, the station had a sense of permanence, a solid stone structure with the original details in the moldings, the trim and the startling red main door.
Detective Stokoe was at Reception when we arrived and Sheila did the introductions.
"So, what brings you here, Sheila. I've had no complaints from your neighbors about Chloe." He laughed.
"Jake hopes to connect with his son, Bruce, who came planning to hike the trail before winter sets in."
"May be hoping to find his roots since he's adopted. My wife, Alicia, and I connected with a local doctor, family friend of her grandparents. Doctor Thomson arranged the private adoption when the mother abandoned her baby boy at birth."
"Do you have a name, for starters?"
"Dave Warner," I replied.
"How about that! Dave and I have been buddies forever. Never heard him mention a son."
"How can I get in touch?"
"Like I say, not sure Dave would be of any help."
"He's a lawyer, correct?"
"Great guy and outstanding lawyer. In high school he was the football hero, quarterbacked the team to win the Provincials. First time in years for this dinky little high school to do that. He was a straight A student and went to university on scholarships. We always had each others back. Mom wanted me to be a priest. Dave and I agreed that with me as a cop and him a lawyer, the town was in good hands. Criminals wouldn't have a hope in hell here in Beaver Falls. We have each others back, right?"
"How could I get in touch with him?"
Before Stokoe answered. a call came in. "Sorry, I have to take this." He listened for a few minutes. "A body's been found in the river. Got to go." He left.
"I've reserved a room at the Best Western, Sheila. Thanks for your help. I'll unpack and figure out my next step. Local contact, probably. Word of mouth carries a lot of weight, I imagine , in Beaver Falls."
"Here's my number." She passed me her card. "If you need help, don't hesitate. Remember, you're not alone, Jake."
I unpacked then set up the motel room as I liked it. Cleared all the surfaces of the usual collection of tourist brochures and advertisements.
I turned on the TV. A local police bulletin. A body had been found.
Journalists and photographers crowded around the crime scene, yellow taped to keep the curious distant. Stokoe and two other officers examined the body.
My heart pounded against my chest wall. Breathing stopped.
On the screen, the familiar hiking jacket, back pack, hiking boots.
Bruce prone on the ground, not moving.
'The victim's identity...."
I collapsed on the bed. "No, no, not Bruce." I screamed.