“Really, Dario? For all we know our lives are on the line.” She shifted her weight to the other foot, considering a way to persuade him. “Besides, we can use the webcam when the baby comes. That way, it’s not a waste of money.”
Dario rubbed the stubble on his chin, “That could work, but I’ll have to leave now. The others will be at the office soon. I’ll need enough time to plant the webcam in the Christmas tree. Then I’ll make sure it’s capturing the right angles. This should be good.”
“I hope so,” Susan wrapped her arms around herself. “I don’t like someone prying into our lives like this.”
“Don’t worry, hun,” he stroked her cheek then bent to look her in the eye. “We’ll know soon.”
From: Barb Winston
To: Marketing Team
Sent: Mon, 14 Dec 2014 11:24:35
Subject: Team Holiday Party
Don’t forget about the party tomorrow. Bring your favorite dishes and Secret Santa gifts.
After reading the email, Dario leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and breathed a sigh of frustration. He had forgotten about the party. Now he had to dredge to the store on his lunch break.
Christmas was one of those holidays Dario believed was overrated – store fights and spending money to impress others, especially kids. It was a waste of money in his eyes. Then again, he thought everything was a waste of money. Around the office he’s known for being a Scrooge – financially and in holiday spirit.
Dario grabbed his coat and headed to the nearest discount store.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
It’s the best time of the year…
Dario rushed in the store ready to conquer. He skimmed shelved and bins looking for something, anything with a feline and a cheap price tag. He picked Caroline, the cat lover of the bunch so the feat should be simple.
The more Dario searched, the less he felt holly or jolly. The Christmas music blaring was killing him. Then he found it – a blue mug with Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. This will do.
Amused with his finding, Dario sashayed toward checkout. Then he saw the lines. His jaw dropped. He had to disagree with Burl Ives. It wasn’t the best time of the year.
Margaret couldn’t believe her eyes. Last time she saw him, the two were being taken away in separate patrol cars. Now the boy of her youth was standing in front of her as a grown man. She had mixed emotions – love for the person she used to know and happiness that he wasn’t dead. But the one emotion that overrode all the joyous ones was anger.
Margaret felt her face run hot thinking about how Chase somehow escaped the police, and didn’t bother to save her. “What are you doing here?”
“I want to get to know my son, Margaret. Well, and maybe repair our relationship.”
“You have got to be kidding!” Margaret folded her arms tightly across her chest, her jaws following suit. Jake stood between them, looking from one to the other not knowing what to think of the situation.
“No, I’m very serious. I’ve thought about you all these years and even tried to find you. I had to be careful to keep from getting caught.”
“Well you didn’t try hard enough. For goodness sake Chase, I’m in the same town.”
“Yeah, I know that now. But you weren’t always here. “
“That’s true. They locked me away. Felt like being in that group home again. The only bright spot was having Jake…and Mrs. Doyle”
Locked away…group home…Mrs. Doyle. Jake had never heard these things before about his mother. He was tired of being confused. It was obvious that his parents knew something that he was totally oblivious to. “Will somebody tell me what’s going on?”
Margaret looked at Chase hard. She had hoped she never had to talk about her past. But here it was in front of her. “Jake, honey, let’s sit on the sofa.” Margaret tried to figure out a way to tell the story without it sounding bad.
When she realized there was no way around it, she confessed. “When I was twenty, Chase and I broke into someone’s home and stole a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, a neighbor saw us and called the police. We were both carried away, but somehow your father escaped. Me, well, I spent eighteen months in jail. That’s where I gave birth to you. When I got out, I stayed in a halfway house and that’s how I met Mrs. Doyle. She’s the lady you call Grandma.”
“So, she’s not my real grandma?”
“Not biologically. But she’s been like a mother to me.”
Jake sat for a moment to consume the information given. He then diverted his attention towards Chase, “So, how did you get away?”
“They didn’t have the handcuffs on tight enough so I was able to slip my hands out. When they opened the car door, I kicked the one officer and the other tried to tackle me. We tussled for a while, but I managed to get in a few lucky punches that bewildered them. Then I ran.
“Why didn’t you go back to get Mom?”
“I couldn’t. They would have caught me and thrown me in jail.” Chase felt guilty. He couldn’t look Jake in the eye anymore let alone Margaret. Her angered appearance turned to hurt and disappointment. Chase noticed. In a somber voice, he looked up and met her eyes, “I regret it now. She’s the only woman I’ve ever loved.”
Margaret’s eyes welled with tears that she refused to let fall. “Well, we can’t change the past. It’s time for you to go.”
“Mom he can’t go. He’s still a criminal. Don’t we have to call the police?”
Margaret and Chase knew Jake was right. She didn’t want to be the bad guy in this situation, but she also was trying to raise her son to be honest and do the right thing. “He’s right Chase. We have to turn you in.” A single tear finally fell.
“I understand.” Chase’s shoulders slumped.
Margaret quickly wiped the tears from her eyes as she left the room to make the call.
Chase knelt in front of the sofa where Jake still sat, “I know what I did was wrong. There’s no excuse. It’s time to pay the piper.” He put his hand on Jake’s shoulder, “I’m proud of you for sticking to what’s right. You’re a smart kid, and I hope your mom will let you come see me. I meant what I said about wanting to get to know you.”
Jake nodded. He felt awkward and guilty. He had always wanted a father and here he was giving his away. But he also knew that crimes were meant to be punished.
The doorbell chimed and Margaret opened the door for the police. They cuffed Chase and led him out of the house towards the patrol car. As Chase was bent to fit inside the car, he took a last look at the woman he still loved and the son he wasn’t sure he’d get to know. He began to shed tears as the car pulled off.
Margaret’s tears were now coupled with moans. She hurried to her bedroom and slammed the door. Jake was left standing in the front yard, watching the patrol car until it was out of sight.
He ran into the house headed to his room. Jake grabbed all the pieces to the detective kit, and threw them in the trash. He thumped down on the bed crying. He had learned a valuable lesson – criminals weren’t the only ones punished.