Janna could not believe her eyes. She sprinted across two lanes of traffic and flagged down the nearest taxi. She swung the door open a little too hard and screamed at the taxi driver, “Follow that car!” The taxi driver didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t even turn around to see who she was. He did like he was told as if he had seen these exact words a million times. Janna could not take her eyes off of the red sports car just ahead of them. She hoped that her taxi driver had some skills and that he could catch that car. After all, what was in that car was something that Janna had not seen in over twenty-five years.
“Come on, come on. Run the yellow light.” Janna screamed at the taxi driver. “Please don’t let that car get away.” She continued.
“Look lady, I am doing the best I can to keep up. Calm down.” The driver replied.
The taxi driver sped up and weaved in and out of the morning traffic along with the red sports car they were following. He hoped that his passenger would give him a good tip for all this speeding and running red and yellow lights. He slowed when the car slowed and turned when the car turned and finally traffic came to a stop. He turned and looked at Janna and she dug in her purse and handed him three twenty-dollar bills and then she did something nobody had ever done before in his taxi. Janna got out of the taxi on the highway and raced towards the stopped red car.
“Why did I have to wear heels today?” She said aloud in the air.
She ran as fast as she could and passed all onlookers from the other cars. Most of those people didn’t pay much attention to her as if this was an everyday occurrence. And maybe for some it was. Janna hoped that she would get to the car before the traffic moved again and hoped that she would not be road-killed if it did. She was almost there when the cars slowly started to move again, and horns honked at her in every direction.
As luck would have it, Janna’s taxi was still there inching along with the traffic. She jumped back into the taxi and gave the driver the exact same directions as before. She wanted him to follow that car and this time she didn’t intend to get out of the taxi until the car was parked.
Twenty-five years ago, Janna was five years old and living with her parents in a house in the middle of a city in Northern California. She was just starting kindergarten and in her world all was good. Then one morning life as she knew it changed. Janna woke up and her world was changed.
“Don’t lose that car!” Janna screamed into the taxi drivers' ear from the back seat.
“Okay, Lady, do you want to tell me why we are chasing this car? I mean are you some kind of PI or something and that guy is a wanted criminal or a cheater or something? That’s it. Are we on that show cheaters? Is that your boyfriend?” The taxi driver asked as he weaved in and out of traffic trying to keep up with the sports car.
“Sorry we are not on the cheaters show and that guy is definitely not my boyfriend. Less questions and more driving please. Thank you.” Janna said, holding her purse tightly on her lap so it would not fall on the floor.
“Well, you don’t have to be all snippy about it. I was just asking. After all, it is not every day that a woman wearing four-inch heels and a business suit jumps in my cab and tells me to follow some car. I hadn’t had that happen since 1999.” The taxi driver said, chuckling.
“What’s your name?” Janna asked. She held back the laughter.
“It’s Vincent but you can call me Vince.” The taxi driver said.
“Well, Vince, I know that all of this seems suspect and crazy, but I have my reasons for wanting you to follow that car. I can’t explain them to you but believe me if you knew what I knew you would do the same thing. Now, watch out! “ Janna screamed.
“I see that truck. I see it. Don’t worry. I didn’t learn to drive yesterday, you know. I have been driving since you were probably in diapers, and I have driven for this taxi company for over twenty years. I am going to retire in six months. My youngest daughter will graduate from college, and I am going on a permanent vacation from the rat race. I am going to take a nice long vacation to someplace warm and tropical.” Vince said.
“That all sounds good. But don’t let that car get away.” Janna said.
“Who's in that car? You said it wasn’t a boyfriend. So, is it a relative or long-lost friend or something? Vince asked. “If you don’t mind me asking since I am on this low-speed chase with you after all.” Vince continued.
“Actually, I do mind you asking. But since we are on this low-speed chase as you put it, I guess I can tell you. In that car ahead of us is my supposedly dead father.” Janna said.
“Wait what? What do you mean supposably? Either you are dead or you’re not.” Vince said.
“I know. I thought he was dead. Everyone told me that he was dead. I was a little girl when he supposedly died. But in that car is my father. I’m sure of it.” Janna said.
“So, who told you he was dead? Why do you think the old blonde in the red sports car is your dad? If you were a little girl when he supposedly died, then how do you know what he looks like today?” Vince asked as he sped through the yellow light.
“I’m not one hundred percent sure that he is my dad but see my dad had a twin brother and this guy in that car looks exactly like my uncle, Edgar. So, I figured that if my dad was alive, he would look like my uncle and everyone told me my father died including my mom, aunt, granny, just everyone that knew me practically. So, I need to find out if that man is my dad or not.” Janna said.
“I see. Well, I see sort of. This is a complicated situation. Oh, look he’s pulling in the driveway of that house at the corner. Maybe he lives there.” Vince said as he pulled over to the curb near the house.
“Maybe so. Vince, can you do me a favor? Can you please wait for me for five minutes? “Janna asked.
“I’ll wait but Janna, I don’t think that five minutes will be enough time if that really is your dad.” Vince said.
“You’re right. Okay, how much do I owe you?” Janna asked, reaching inside of her purse and grabbing her wallet.
“Janna, it is on me. Besides, you paid me more than enough the first time. Just go and see if that is your dad. Good luck.” Vince said as Janna got out of the car.
Janna walked up to the front door of the brown house. It was a plain brown house. It was nothing special. Janna noticed that it was a two-story house and wondered if the man lived alone or had a family. She imagined that he had a family because who would want to rattle around in a big house if they lived alone. If he was her father, maybe she had some brothers and sisters. Maybe she even had a stepmother and maybe…”
The door opened before Janna could finish her thoughts or ring the bell. Standing on the other side of the door was the face of her uncle, Edgar. Janna knew for sure that this man standing a few inches from her was indeed her father. He was the father whom everyone said was dead. He was not dead. He was just as alive as she was. Now, it was time for some answers and Janna intended to get them.
“Hello, father.” Janna said.
“I knew that it would be only a matter of time before you would find me.” The man said.
“Honestly, I thought that you were dead, and I was not looking for you. It was a coincidence that I found you.” Janna explained.
“Come in.” The man said and held the door open wider for her. Janna walked past him and entered the living room. The living room was modestly decorated with a long black couch on one side and a love seat on the other almost touching it. There was a brown coffee table in the middle of the loveseat and couch and on the wall was a big screen TV. Just behind the living room was a kitchen. The kitchen was painted yellow and had yellow curtains which matched the rug on the floor near the sink. Janna took a seat on the love seat and the man she knew was her father sat on the couch across from her. He sat his keys on the coffee table and took a deep breath. He slowly inhaled and then exhaled. Janna thought he looked like he was taking a short puff from a cigarette. She folded her hands on her lap and waited for him to explain.
“Well?” Janna said.
“Well, it is a long story. I don’t know where to begin.” Her father said.
“At the beginning.” Janna said.
“Well, I know that everyone told you that I was dead. As you can see, I am very much alive. See, I had to disappear. I didn’t want to. But, to keep you and your mom safe I had to. I got into some trouble when I was younger.” Janna’s father said.
“What kind of trouble would take you away from your family?” Janna asked.
“The kind that involved the FBI, the Mob and me.” Her dad said.
“Continue.” Janna said.
“When you were born me and your mother were very young. We were right out of high school and neither of us knew how to take care of a baby, but we loved each other very much and got married. Being that I only had a high school diploma it was hard for me to find a good job. I worked various fast-food jobs and even in a grocery store part time. At one time I had three part time jobs, but those jobs weren’t enough to keep you in diapers, pay rent to your grandparents, whom we were living with at the time, and keep food on the table for all three of us. Your grandparents helped as much as they could, but they told us that you were our responsibility. And I felt that it was my job, being your dad, to provide for you and your mom. I knew that is what a man did. A man takes care of his family. Well, one day I was at work in the grocery store. I was a bagger. Back then they called it a box boy or something. But, anyway, I was helping this older man, about in his 50’s to his car with his groceries. At the time I was wondering why he would need help carrying a half bag of groceries, but my job was not to ask questions just to do my job and if they requested help out that is what I did. So, the guy asked me how old I was, and I told him I was going to be 19. Well, he and I started talking and he offered me a job. I was young and foolish at the time and took the job without really knowing what it was. All I knew was that it paid me more money than I had ever seen in my young life.” Janna’s father explained.
“So, what was the job?” Janna asked.
“At first I just delivered these envelopes to the man’s clients. He would give me a manilla envelope and I would take it wherever it needed to go. The address on the envelope. I did that for a couple of months and each time I got paid in cash. It seemed easy enough and I made enough money to move out of your grandparent's house and we got an apartment downtown in a good neighborhood. After a few months, my boss, Mr. Korinthos, told me that he had another job for me. This job was more of the same except that it was not a manilla envelope that I had to deliver, it was a box. A plain brown box with an address on it across town. I was to leave the box on the porch and ring the bell and leave. I found the address and I put the box on the porch of a big white house and rang the bell. As I was leaving, I saw a big, tall man with a black suit come to the door and pick up the box. A few seconds later his house blew up. I knew instantly that I had delivered a bomb and that the man was dead. I didn’t know what to do. I went home.” Janna’s dad said.
“You’re kidding me. You delivered a bomb to a house?” Janna asked as her big brown eyes widened.
“Yes, that’s what happened. A few days later the cops came to our house. They asked me who I worked for. At first, I didn’t say anything. I was not a rat or a stool pigeon. After they told me that you and your mom could be in danger. I told them everything. They told me that the man in the explosion was a rival mobster, and my boss was in the mob. I should have known that. But again, I was young and dumb. The FBI had been after my boss for years and tried to get him for his crimes, but nobody would testify against him. My boss was an evil man. So, they asked me if I would do it. I had to keep you and your mom safe, and the FBI said that they would move us to a safe house and after I testified, they would give us all new identities and we would move to another state. I did what they asked, and they did what they said. My new name was George Walker and your mom’s name was Marge Walker. I was going to work as a manager at a hotel and her new job was a teacher for the preschool. Your name was changed to Janna from Maude. You were named originally after your great aunt. Well, a few years after we all moved someone somehow found us. You were only around three or four years old then, so you probably don’t remember. Since they were only after me and they never knew about you or your mom I could only do one thing to keep you safe. I had to fake my own death and with help from a friend who was a cop that is exactly what I did.” Janna’s dad continued.
“So, everyone told me that you were dead.” Janna said.
“Yes, everyone thought that, even your mom. I could not risk anyone knowing the truth. My ex-boss died in prison a year ago and I was going to find you then but how could I tell you that I was alive and that I lied, and you grew up without a father?” Janna’s dad said.
“I don’t know. But you didn’t even try. If I hadn’t seen, you in that sports car and driving downtown would you even have tried to find me at all? Did you know that mom died two years ago?” Janna asked.
“I did. I was at the funeral. I wanted to just run up to you and give you a hug and tell you everything back then, but I couldn’t.” Janna’s dad said.
“I don’t know how you can forgive me. I don’t even know if I can forgive myself.” He continued.
“Tell me do you live here alone?” Janna asked.
“I do. I never remarried and I never had any more kids.” Her dad said.
“Well, dad, I am glad that you are alive, but you do understand that I need some time. I need to process all of this.” Janna said as she stood up from the couch and grabbed her coat. “When I process all of this, I will let you know something.” Janna continued.
“Baby girl. I know. We both need time. Take all the time you need. This time I am not going anywhere.” Her dad said.
“I know. I know.” Janna said as she gave her dad a small hug and walked out of the door.
“Vince. You are still here.” Janna said as she walked over to the waiting taxi.
“I told you that I would wait.” Vince said. “Just in case you needed a ride.” He continued.
“I think that I need a strong drink. Do you know where Guy’s Tavern is on the other side of town? I need to go there.” Janna laughed.
Two months later Janna called her dad, and they went out to dinner. “A get to know you dinner” as her dad put it.