It wasn’t until a week later that John resumed his search on his father. The week had been busy, but a blessed relief from the past few months. He had returned to work to find that the large contract he had been procuring had actually been accepted and that he would be receiving a large commission. All he needed to do was to shore up a number of loose ends, and it would be complete. He couldn’t do anything until after lunch, so he needed a new distraction.
He sat in his office facing out of the giant wall of glass that stood between him and the one hundred stories of city below. He had always been afraid of heights but loved the view from above the city. When it was silent enough he could barely make out the rumbling of traffic from far below. He sat there in his large, leather desk-chair cupping his warm coffee savoring the sweet aroma and the silence of the hectic city. Far in the distance, John imagined he could see the white gulls soaring over the coastline. Los Angeles could be an urban jungle, but at least it was his urban jungle. It made him think of his father who had moved out here when he was a young boy.
Spinning his chair toward his desk, John tapped on the keyboard to open up the internet. He keyed in the address to the heritage website. This was his first chance in a week to try to find answers. He entered his father’s name and took a heavy sip of his coffee. After a long minute and another few sips of the warm liquid the results finally showed. He scanned the records and saw the same birth certificate from before. He forgot that he had saved it to his profile. He clicked on his link then clicked again on the birth record for the baby boy connected to his father. The name on the document read “Tom”. John had never heard the name growing up, so as far as he knew, Mike was the only brother he had. He silently wished they were still speaking so he could ask if the name was familiar to him. The certificate recorded a birth at the same hospital a few blocks down from his high rise. John wondered if the man, who had to be close to thirty-five by now, still resided close by.
He entered the name Tom plus his last name into a search engine. It produced no results. He returned to the ancestry website and searched again for a Tom with his last name. Still no luck.
If I’ve never heard about him, it’s possible he didn’t know about us either. John was now determined to find this man. He brought up the record and found the last name of the mother. This time he searched for a Tom with the mother’s last name.
Finally, a hit. It was a marriage license to a Cindy in Los Angeles County. He tried that name in a search engine, and it produced a social media page with a phone number.
“Might be an old one, but it’s worth a shot,” he said aloud to no one.
He picked up the receiver on his desk and looked around to see if anyone was watching him. Not that anyone would care after this huge deal he just landed. As he waited for the other end to pick up, John poured one more package of sweetener into his coffee. He hated the taste compared to real sugar. He sipped the beverage and loathed the doctor all the more as the semi-sweet flavor hit his tongue. Finally, after what seemed hours, an engaging voice answered.
“I’m sorry to bother you ma’am, but is this Cindy?”
“Yeah, who’s calling?”
“My name is John. I apologize for the odd request, but I’m looking for a Tom.”
Befuddled, John searched his desk to see if the line had disconnected somehow. He hung up the receiver, but when he picked it up again there was a steady dial tone. Shrugging it off, John hung up the phone and decided to leave the situation alone for the moment. There was another riddle he wanted to solve. That of his father’s missing birth certificate. He was beginning to have suspicions that his father was not who he said he was.
Suddenly, the website flashed an advertisement for a discount on international records. A thought kindled in his mind. His dad had to born somewhere. If John couldn’t find an American record, surely an international one would shed some light. He entered his credit card information and within twenty minutes John was ready to search the international interwebs for a birth record of his father. Fear held him still for a moment before typing in his father’s name in the search bar. He moved his fingers to the enter key to commence the request when his phone rang.
Again it sounded, and this time John answered it.
“Hello?” he asked forgetting to include his name and company business.
“Is this John?”
“This is Cindy from earlier. I’m sorry. I thought you was another credit collector calling. I hung up, then thought you sounded too nice. You’re not are you?”
“Um… no. I’m just looking for Tom.”
“Well him and I split up six years ago. Divorce.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Would you happen to know how to reach him?”
“What’s your deal with him?”
John wondered if he should tell her the truth.
“Honestly, I have information that might make him my brother.”
“Tom don’t have no brothers. Mom died when he were a baby.”
“This would be from his biological father.”
“Oh, that sorry piece of crap? If you ever see him, you can tell him to screw off. Done enough damage to Tom.”
“Actually, ma’am, my father just passed away.”
“Oh… my bad. Well, he don’t have a working phone number, but I can give you his address.”
“That would be fine.”
She relayed it to him, and after a quick search John was surprised to find it was only fifteen minutes from his office.
“Ma’am, thank you for your time.”
“Yeah, by the way, Tom and his hood ain’t too fond of visitors. Watch your back.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
John’s lunch was only a few hours away, so he didn’t have much time. He rang his secretary.
“Gina, I need to head out for a while. Tell anyone who calls that I’m in a meeting.”
“Yes, sir. When shall I expect you?”
“Probably not until after lunch.”
John knew he was using up his collateral from the deal but he needed answers. Passing Gina’s desk he thanked her again. Gina returned with a flirtatious smile. John shook his head. Messing around at work was not his thing. He had tried to get her moved to another office because she was just too flirty for him. But she flirted with everyone, and she was good at her job, so John eventually dropped the request. Any other man might have gotten into a lot of trouble with that secretary.
He shook off the thought as he turned the ignition to his car. He entered the address into his navigation system. He wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say, but he hoped he would come up with something. Exiting the parking structure, he headed toward the I-5 South.
The entire drive his mind rattled with different ways to begin the conversation, but nothing seemed appropriate. He reached down for his coffee and nearly kicked himself when he grasped only thin air. He needed something to steady his nerves. It didn’t help that the freeway was still at a standstill. He only had two exits ahead of him, but there was no way through the throng of cars. Slowly the mob of automobiles trickled forward. Noxious fumes floated about his car like a dirty fog while aggravated drivers took turns urging those ahead of them with profanity and horns. John looked at the green digital clock on his dashboard. The fifteen minute drive had already taken thirty-five, and he had one more exit to take. A bright blue motorcycle weaved in and out of traffic making its way to the front of the pack. John watched as it took the exit he needed. Maybe I should trade this old car in for a crotch rocket too, he thought. Finally, a hole opened up and John took the opportunity to escape the melee. Within minutes John turned his silver Spectra onto the residential street his navigation system had been leading him to.
He slowed to examine the houses. He had obviously stumbled into a rough neighborhood. Most of the houses were crumbling and were surrounded by old, rusted chain-link fences. The windows all had bars on them, but some were still broken despite the extra layer of protection. He stopped the car in front of his destination. The house was no different from the rest with a rusty fence out front; dirty, crumbling, paneled walls; and a rusty metal awning over the front window. John hesitated to get out. He was still in his business suit. The warning from the woman on the phone resonated in his head. But there was no way around it. He had come this far, he might as well truck on.
Steadily, he moved from the car to the front door and knocked. After a long, terrifying few minutes constantly looking over his shoulder the door creaked open. A daddy long-leg spider ran out of the way as its web was broken.
“Who are you?” a gruff voice said from behind a latch chain.
John hesitated then asked, “What’s your dad’s name?”
“Ain’t got un. And ya got ten seconds to stop me from shooting. Ten…”
“I meant your biological father.”
“That’ my dad’s name too.”
“Seven… So? Big deal. There’s probably thousands of Brians. Six…”
When John shared the last name, the man stopped counting.
“This a joke?”
“No. I promise.”
“How’d you find me?
“Figures. Never trust a broad.”
“Listen, do you know anything about him?”
“Why don’t ya ask his sorry ass yourself?”
“Well, he passed away a few weeks ago.”
“Oh. . .” Tom said sounding a little guilty. “Nah. Ma never talked ‘bout ’em.”
“Cindy said your mother died when you were a baby.”
“She don’t know much. Ma died when I was six.”
“Do you remember her saying anything, maybe referring to another country perhaps?” John asked grasping for straws.
“Er… She’d often say something ‘bout never learning Canadian. Whatever that meant.”
“Hmmm… Well I want to thank you for your time. Here’s my card. If you remember anything else, or just, well . . . for whatever.”
“Sure thing.” He reached out to grab the card. Then reached out again. John clasped his hand.”Sure good to know I have a brother.”
“Two actually and a sister.”
“Hmm. Damn.” He released John’s hand and shut the door. John looked down at his watch. It was missing.
He wasn’t about to go asking for it back. Not in this neighborhood. He left it alone and hurried back to his office before his meeting.