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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: What is the Lie?   Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:44 pm

Chapter 6                    Sat

 

            Jumping involuntarily on the brink of sleep, Tom overbalanced into wakefulness. So he lurched out of bed and got himself a glass of milk. He had been wrestling with his thoughts for half the night. Tortured with doubts about his father, he started to reminisce about family life and how bereft of affection he had been in the last few years. As an adult he had resigned himself to the fact that his parents had gone their separate ways. These days it was commonplace. But to Tom, it was a sad state of affairs. Surely it didn’t have to be. Was he destined to inherit this unhappiness? He wondered if ‘knowing the truth’ could alter relationships.

            Resigned to not sleeping, Tom picked up the Bible and found the passage that had dogged his thoughts. Reading in John chapter eight about the cross examination of Jesus by some religious leaders. His head spun as he considered the claims of Jesus—the Light of Life and the Son of the Father. The words were unfamiliar and confusing to Tom. Could he be like those who were labelled killers because they didn’t understand, and he didn’t understand? Even though he knew the story at a superficial level, he also knew that millions of people had based their lives on the claims of Jesus. He reflected on the people known to him who adhered to these teachings. They were quite decent and personable. Ed, Lynne and Lori were a prime example of people he respected. Ed had proudly told him that his two older sons had gone into the ministry. That communicated to Tom that they were serious about their beliefs.

            Still, it was not enough to convince him. Even though reasonable people had a faith that resulted in a moral and ethical lifestyle, it was not enough. Tom had to be convinced it was real, that it was true, and that seemed unlikely to his logical mind.

            Having exhausted his abilities in attempting to decipher some sort of magical recipe for life, Tom got dressed. There was more he had to do. Suddenly he felt a surge of anger toward Ed. Why was he angry? Because the ‘old friend’ his father contacted was probably Ed. He knew Ed would have knowledge of what his father had been doing; they had been friends, yet he never breathed a word about Tom’s father to him. Was he being unreasonable? Tom reflected. If Ed was his friend he’d expect some discretion, some confidentiality, wouldn’t he? So, the friendship between himself and Ed hadn’t progressed as far as he’d imagined. Or, the links between the older men were more substantial. He eventually rationalised that he could live with that.

Tom’s mind was racing now. He scrabbled tiredly trying to prepare himself a bowl of cereal, totally distracted. What about the possibility that Ed could profit from his family’s demise? If Tom were charged with the crime, Ed, with power of attorney, could run the business. Tom’s face went into his hands. Without having eliminated his father from the list—something he had assumed would be a mere formality—he had now added weight to Ed’s presence on the list. Granted, his older work colleague had been proactive in assisting his escape. He couldn’t fault him there. But who knows? A devious mind could manufacture some loyalty content to let the irresistible machinery of the law pursue to an inevitable and predictable capture. Who was he kidding? If anyone had a devious mind at this point in time, it was Tom Witney.

The sooner he got to the office and looked through Ed’s files, the better he would feel. Not finding anything, he thought, would be enough to exonerate someone he had always looked upon as a friend.

***

 

            It was only just dawning when Tom arrived at his work. Before he realised it he was heading for his normal parking spot. Trying not to look too suspicious, he drove the white utility past the labelled parking bay and did a loop toward the back of the engineering building. Letting himself in through a side entrance, Tom found a pair of overalls and put them on. He then made his way up to the offices. His office was much the same as he’d left it. Tempted for a moment to open some current work files, Tom pulled himself short of turning on the computer. His finger stalled centimetres from the button.

“You’re being investigated for murder you dope! What could possibly be more important than clearing your name,” he muttered to himself. He sauntered slowly to Ed’s office and unlocked the door, entered and relocked it from the inside. Already he felt dirty, almost traitorous.

“Some day I’ll be apologising for this Ed,” he vowed audibly, to quell his protesting conscience.

 Tentatively at first, Tom tried the filing cabinet. The drawer slid out noiselessly. Before long he was immersed in his quest for some clue, some file exposing a plot, any family business that was out of the ordinary.

            File after file was examined. One drawer, and then the next, was filled with customer details, contacts and proposals. One drawer was filled with bank information, budgets and financial arrangements. There were the plans for expansion that he had worked on with Ed and others and staff records. Surprisingly, there was a file with his academic record and an accumulation of notes and data. He studied the file carefully. In it was a note from his father to Ed:     Have a look at him carefully. Let me know if you don’t think he’s up to it. He has to earn his place like everyone else. Tom didn’t know what to think. He felt gratified that somehow he merited his position, but also he felt a little empty. He had to prove himself to his own father!  Ironically, when he was under the impression he had received special dispensation as a son, that hadn’t seemed a bad thing. Now, when he determined that he wasn’t privileged, he felt disowned and a little resentful that he had to win over his own father.

            By 10a.m. Tom had reached the last set of files. He was just about to open the drawer when he heard some movement and talk from outside the office. Quickly, he slipped into the adjoining office where Winsome usually worked. Then, fearing that he might still be too exposed, he stealthily continued back into his own office. A minute or two standing pressed against the door straining his ears, led to Tom cautiously cracking the door open. Still unable to hear anything but indistinct murmuring, he edged his way closer to Ed’s Office.

            “Well, you were right; Clarissa had filed some documentation about you.” It was Ed’s voice.

A softer, gravel voice replied. “I’m glad. I wanted some sort of affirmation that she hadn’t forgotten me. It’s not why I came, but I thought I should find out from you, that since I’m her son, whether I was mentioned in the will.”

“Well, you’ve found out that she recognised you as a son, but I won’t divulge that, or the will details, til the other participants are present.” Ed sounded reflective, “What are you going to do now?”

“I, I guess I’ll stay around for the funeral, although I don’t suppose the rest of the family would want to meet me.”

“Ashley, they don’t know you exist. Turning up just when your mother is murdered won’t necessarily endear you to anyone.”

“You don’t think I had anything to do with that?”

“I don’t know, did you?”

“No.”

“Well they’re good people. Give them a chance. With the proper timing I’m sure they’ll accept you. You might be surprised.”

            Tom was staggered by the revelation; he had a half brother! Where was he when his mother had been killed? There was one thing for sure, it was another name for his list. Tom jumped as the trudge of footsteps grew louder. Footsteps that hurried toward where he was. He fled into his office and then to the small flat at the back. There was a pounding on his door and impatient rattling. He tensed for action.

“Open up, Police,” shouted an insistent voice.

Tom peered though the small gap wondering what to do. How could they know he was there? There was a rear exit, but he wanted to know more. A slamming door, footsteps and a demanding query signalled Ed’s arrival.

“What’s the meaning of this Detective?”

“Ah, Miles, there you are. We hear you’re having a clandestine meeting with a young man. Where’s Witney?”

“You need to get your facts right Burton.” Ed sounded more agitated than Tom could recall.

“It’s bad enough you following myself and members of my family around, but bursting in when I’m meeting someone and making outlandish accusations is reprehensible.”

“So who are you meeting? Burton sarcastically asked as a constable opened the door to Ed’s office. Ashley sauntered out looking highly amused.           

            “Detective, this is Ashley Moore and he does look a little like Tom Witney if you discount the dark curly hair. So I could forgive your, er … confusion,” Ed said with emphasis on the last word.

“So where do you fit in Mr Moore?”

“Fit in?” Ashley feigned ignorance.

Burton continued, “Look, we could run all the records and find out, so why don’t you save us some time and tell me why you’re here.”

“I have some legal business with Mr Miles.”

“And?” Tom imagined Burton’s expectant gaze.

“I’m Clarissa Witney’s son.”

There was a stunned silence before the detective spoke with a knowing whine, “You’re here about the will aren’t you?”

There was no reply. Burton eventually restarted the conversation. “Well, while we are here why don’t we go into Witney’s office and have a chat? You don’t mind if some of the boys look around, do you?”

            Tom was spurred into action. In silence, he grabbed a few items of clothing and retreated quickly down a corridor, into the factory area and out a back exit. He halted when he saw a small red car parked alongside Ed’s utility. There was no one to be seen but he repressed the desire to flee. Standing in the shadows like some covert agent, he examined the two parked cars. There was no movement; however the presence of the unfamiliar vehicle in his work car park on a Saturday morning bothered him. Slinking quickly to concealment behind a cargo container, Tom scrutinised the red car and the pickup. Even when he thought it was safe he compelled himself to wait a little longer, wary that he was at high risk of being caught.

            Finally, having spent his limited patience the young fugitive strode toward the car confident that the area was deserted. Tom scanned furtively about as he threw open his door. His pulse was settling and his breath was easing when the passenger door was flung open. Tom’s face blanched. He was transfixed—a rabbit caught in the spotlight. It took several seconds for him to realise that Lori had climbed into the cab, but he still struggled to speak.

“I can see you’re speechless. Caught you red handed with my dad’s stolen car,” Lori scowled playfully, teasing him with a mock accusatory declaration.

            “Where did you come from? … The place was empty,” Tom’s voice trailed off.

“I was lying in the back seat. I knew you’d come eventually,” boasted Lori quietly. Then more urgently, “Tom is there anything that I can do to help?”

“You could tell me what you’re dad is up to.”

“What do you mean,” Lori rejoined defensively.

“I mean, he doesn’t tell me I have a half brother. He doesn’t let me know what my father is up to. And if I disappear, he has a fair bit to gain in the company.” Tom regretted it the moment the words escaped his mouth. Lori was furious.

“What are you insinuating!” she turned on him challengingly. “My father has done everything for you. How dare you suggest he’s any way involved.” Tom recoiled at the avalanche of indignation.

            “I’m sorry. It’s true you both have done more than I deserve. It’s just that I keep finding out stuff. I need all the information I can get.” He looked remorsefully at Lori. She calmed a little and spoke pensively, “I know my dad; and if he doesn’t tell you something,” she slowed as if recalling a memory, “then, he has his reasons.” Lori fixed her gaze on him. He warmed to her proximity. “Hey, nice overalls. Is that part of your disguise?”

“It might seem funny, but I thought it would help,” he shrugged as he gave a crooked grin.

“It might if you weren’t wearing pure white designer sneakers.”

Tom looked down then back to Lori with a toothy ‘oops’ type of frown.

She slowly shook her head in disbelief, then swung the subject around, “We’re picking up Holly at the airport tomorrow … thought you’d like to know.”

Tom nodded not knowing what to say. “The funeral’s on Monday, but I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.” She said it as if sensing his thoughts about how he might attend. “I’ll get her to call you. You’ve got Dad’s car phone don’t you?”

“Uh huh,” he responded. “You on my side now?” he asked with an uncertain smile.

Avoiding his eyes she deflected his invitation to recant. “I still think you should have gone with the police. Have you found out anything yet?”

It was a stinging rebuff. He answered sullenly, “No, if anything I’m worse off because I’m beginning to suspect my family and friends.”

“How can I help?”

“I need to meet with your dad. I have to find out about this half brother of mine, and,” he looked in anguish as he went on, “I need to know what my father has to do with all this.”

            Lori was shocked. “You don’t think he has anything to do with the murders do you?”

“I don’t know what to believe,” he sighed. “Give me a call and let me know where we can meet.”

She agreed and appeared to want to continue the conversation. “Where are you hiding?” He ignored the question. A truck drove past noisily crunching its gears.

            Tom looked about nervously. He’d been here too long. The police would soon find him if he didn’t keep moving. “I have to go Lori,” he insisted. Lori leaned forward and put a hand on his knee. “What did you mean by ‘half brother’?” She looked curious.

He was abrupt. “It’s all just news to me. Ask your father.” He pulled a pained face that screamed loudly ‘I have to go’. But at the same time it dawned on him how he relished Lori’s companionship. It was good to have someone to talk with. She answered with a little forward head jerk that just as clearly responded, ‘I get the message’. Averting her eyes, Lori moved.

“I’m going. Look after yourself,” she added hastily as she exited the utility and shut the door.
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