There you are. I've been expecting you, so don't be offended if I seem a little underwhelmed by the fact you've actually, finally turned up. To be honest, would you expect anything less from me after you killed my Father. Was it the fact that he ignored you all those years? Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe that was his mistake. We’ll never know.
Since Father died I’ve been waiting. Not in an obsessive way, don’t flatter yourself, but I’ve been waiting. Quietly. Patiently. I knew you would come.
You see I know all about you now. After Father died I started asking questions. I learnt of the sly, underhand way you operate. You disgust me.
The problem with Father, he was weak. It was too easy for you. It’s a fight he could never win. I shared lots of things in common with him, but being weak? well, as you will find out, is not one of them.
A man approached me at Father’s funeral. He waited until everyone had gone. With his silver hair and expensive suit, he looked like a gangster boss from an old movie. And although he walked with a cane, and his body was old and worn, when he looked at me his eyes were still full of life. He spoke slowly. Thoughtfully. His voice was so familiar yet we were strangers. Said he was an old friend of Father’s. They had been at school together when they were boys. Proper best friends. He smiled at the memory and his lined face revealed a glimpse of the youth he talked of. Said had he known Father was in trouble he could have helped, could have stopped you. He was full of regret that he and Father had drifted apart over the years as people do, all too often. He said he could have stopped you if he had found out you were here. He said he could have made a few calls, pulled in a few favours. Even paid someone to get rid of you. Completely. He knew of you. If only he and Father had kept in touch. If only Father had told someone.
We walked for a while around the crematorium gardens. He told me things about Father I never knew. Never would have known, thanks to you. About the old bomb site they played on when they were 6 years old. They found the remains of a Messerschmitt, claimed it as their own. Had that many bullet holes in it they nicknamed it the colander. The radio still worked when they first found it and they would twist all the knobs and dials picking out Foreign commands between the crackling static. Said they decided they could fix it themselves. Get it flying again and win the war with it. They were 6 years old! The best years of his life he told me. Said he remembered it like it was yesterday. Said he couldn’t remember much these days but if he shut his eyes, he could still smell the leather on the seat of that plane.
“As thick as thieves we were”, he said. He told me they lost touch once they had finished school. One of the biggest regrets of his life. He kept meaning to get in touch. But work, marriage, kids, life got in the way. Always too busy, always something else more important to do. Now it was too late.
He went on to become a success. “Whatever you perceive a success to be.” He said, through tear-filled eyes.
He stopped talking as his voice began to fail him and blinked away the tears. We continued slowly on in silence, listening to the gravel crunch under our feet. I glanced at him as we walked, he reminded me of Father a bit. Probably just his age, or the faint smell of his aftershave. But it was nice. I closed my eyes and felt the warm sun on my face, and for just one tiny moment I imagined I was walking with Father again. One last time. Even though he was a stranger, I could feel Father with me.
I told him I was scared you would show up again one day. Said I felt it was only a matter of time.
I was right.
He took a moment, thoughtfully rolling my words over in his mind. His composure regained, he said, money was no longer something he gave any thought to. In fact, at his age, he said he had far too much. More than he could possibly need. He said he would like to help me. He understood it would not bring Father back. But for him, in some way, it might help put those memories to rest. So he made me an offer. He called it a donation. I think he knew it was the only way I would accept it. He produced a small leather-bound note pad and gold pen from the inside pocket of his suit. His generation had such a charm about them. He wrote down the number of a friend of his he played golf with when his body had allowed him to. Said he was the best. He said if you showed up I could call him any time. And I wasn’t to worry about the cost, he would take care of it. As he passed me the note he clasped my hand between his. He straightened himself up and looked at me.
“I won’t take no for an answer.”
He smiled in a way that only a man who has seen and lived can. Infinite wisdom in one expression. “You don’t need to be scared," he said. “Your Father and I used to look out for each other. Can’t tell you how many scrapes he got me out of when we were kids. So now I’ll look out for you. I know I’m old and, well, who knows how long any of us have left, but I’ll look out for you . . . For your Father.”
He reached into his pocket and held something in his hand.
“I want you to have this”, he said, “We found it on the plane. I kept it all these years. It’s brought me luck”. He placed it in my hand. It was a thin silver box. Worn on the corners. It was warm where it had been in his pocket. It had a faint word engraved on the side. "Henri”. I turned it over in my palm. “Wait, it’s got my name on it? How did you know?”
“I didn’t” he paused, then a slow smile crept onto his face “Your Father must have remembered the engraving on it. . . He remembered!”
“It’s a lighter," he said, taking it and flicking it open. “It still works, go on try it”.
I took the lighter and rolled my thumb over the wheel. It sparked and lit first time.
“Wow, first time. It must be, what, 80 years old?” I said.
“Older than that I reckon. Your Father found it first and gave it to me, said it meant we would be best mates forever. I guess in a way he was right. I’ve carried this with me every day. Would find myself holding it in my pocket. Always made me think of him. And that plane. We won the war so many times in that thing.” He laughed. “I want you to have it, I won’t take no for an answer.”
I found out he died 2 weeks later of a heart attack. Strange how the universe works isn’t it?
So here you are.
Here we are.
The Consultant I spoke to on the phone number he gave me was happy to see me. Said the money he left would cover the treatment I’ll need, and we’ll have to start immediately. He said you’re the same cancer Father had.
Only you’re not going to kill me.
I knew you were coming.