Karl Malone woke with a start and sat up in bed, breathing hard, his pajamas were soaking wet. He threw the bedcovers off and put his legs over the side of the bed. The clock on his nightstand glowed 2:15.
The hall light came on. “Dad?”
“It’s ok, Sweetie.”
“Yeah. Did I wake Sonny?”
“Yes, but I told him to stay in bed. He’s worried, and so am I. Can I get you anything?”
“No, I’m all right. Just going to sit here awhile. You go back to bed.”
“Call me if you need anything.”
“I will. Thanks, Kathy.”
He rubbed the back of his neck and put his head in his hands. ‘What in the world is she trying to tell me?’
He hadn’t told anyone the truth of the matter because it was so strange. His dreams had been of Hilda, his late wife. It was the same dream over and over. ‘Find it.’ She kept telling him, ‘Find it.’
‘Find what?’ He couldn’t imagine what she was referring to if it really was Hilda trying to communicate with him. But why? She was gone and beginning a new life somewhere else. What was so important she needed to cut through the veil?
He shook his head, got up and exchanged his pajamas for dry ones. As he lay down he whispered, “What is it, Hilda. What do you want me to find?” He closed his eyes and felt the comfort of his wife near him as he drifted off to sleep. “I’ll always love you, my friend.”
Then he heard her again. He wasn’t asleep this time. He strained to hear every word, “It’s been stolen, my dearest. You must find it.”
“I don’t know what you are referring to but I will search. I promise you. I will search.”
The day had already broken when he opened his eyes. He climbed out of bed and headed for the shower muttering to himself, “I will find it, Hilda. I will find it.”
“Mornin’ … yum, pancakes. And with raisins. Raisin faces. Who did that?”
“I did.” Sonny, his seven-year-old grandson, laughed and ran into the arms of his grandfather.
“What a shame to eat those beautiful faces.”
“I can make more.”
“You’re a very talented artist. You know that, don’t you?”
Sonny giggled and went to his chair as Kathy laid the first plate of pancakes on the table.
“I heard you last night. Who were you talking to?”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Dad, would you mind telling me what’s going on?”
“It’s probably nothing. Just a mixed up dream.”
“Please tell me anyway.” She poured coffee into Karl’s cup and paused a moment, staring at him.
“It’s your mother.”
“The dreams. I know this sounds crazy but she keeps coming to me and telling me to find it.”
“I don’t know, but in the last dream, she said it had been stolen. You’ve gone through all her things. Was anything missing?”
“Dad, I wouldn’t know if something had been stolen. Wait a minute. There was something odd.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when I cleaned out her dresser I noticed that the lock on her jewelry case had been broken as if a screwdriver or some object had been wedged in and the lock was forced open.”
“Was anything missing?”
“I don’t know. The contents didn’t seem to be disturbed. Perhaps she lost the key and forced it herself.”
“No, she didn’t lose it. She kept it on that charm bracelet she always wore.”
Kathy got up from the table and hurried out of the kitchen. When she returned she laid the charm bracelet next to Karl’s plate. “You’re right. Here it is.”
“She said it was stolen so it must mean a piece of jewelry was taken. I can’t think of anything else. But why? Nothing she had was that expensive. We need to go through the box and see if we can figure out which piece is missing, if any.”
“Then someone got into the house if that’s the case.”
“I never lock the doors. Maybe it was one of the neighbor kids who saw we were away.”
“Let’s go through the jewelry box when I get back.”
“Where you headed?
“The Beckway’s are having a yard and garage sale. I want to get there early. They always have such good stuff. Would you watch Sonny? I won’t be long.”
“I think we’ll tag along. Haven’t seen Greg since he did the plumbing repairs.”
“Was he in the house alone?”
“No, I’ve always been here. It’s not Greg. Why would he do such a thing? It has to be some neighborhood kid.”
“You’re probably right. And in case you’re interested, Gloria will be at the yard sale.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Kathy laughed, “Mom told me you had eyes for Gloria.”
Karl smiled, “Did she really say that?”
“She did. She said you could window shop all you wanted to as long as you took your meals at home.”
Karl laughed out loud. “That sounds like your mother all right.”
Kathy left Karl and Sonny to fend for themselves when they arrived at the Beckway’s. Karl was content to follow Sonny wherever he wanted to go. They were rummaging around in the garage when a familiar voice got Karl’s attention, “Morning, Karl.”
“Gloria, how nice to see you again.” His voice trailed off as he stared at a pendant around Gloria’s neck.
“Oh, you noticed. Isn’t it lovely?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Greg found it at an antique store downtown.”
“Did he really? How nice. It’s not an antique by the way.”
“It’s not? Greg told me it was.”
“No, I gave one just like it to Hilda on our anniversary. Is there an inscription inside?”
“I didn’t know it opened.”
“Yes, you just have to turn it slightly and it pops open.”
“Well, let’s see.” She removed it from around her neck and handed it to Karl.
“You seem to know all about this. You open it.”
Karl opened the pendant, then looked up. “Gloria, this is my wife’s pendant.”
He turned the pendant so Gloria could read the inscription, “To my darling wife, Hilda.”
She looked at Karl. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m certain you don’t, Gloria. Greg stole this from Hilda’s jewelry case the day he was over to do plumbing in our bathroom.”
“Karl, I don’t know what to say.”
“There is something else inscribed which I didn’t do. I’d like to have the pendant back if that’s ok.”
“Well, of course, it’s okay. My God, I hope you don’t think I had anything to do with this?”
“I know you didn’t. That never crossed my mind.”
I can hardly believe Greg would do such a thing.”
“I can. Gloria, look around. You have more yard sales than anyone else in the neighborhood. Where did all this stuff come from?”
“I don’t know, I never thought about it. Greg seemed to have a handle on the situation.”
“I’m afraid Greg is a professional thief. If I were you, I’d get a good lawyer.”
“A good divorce lawyer is more like it.”
“Be careful, Gloria. He’s no dummy. Don’t get even … get everything.”
Gloria rested her hand on Karl’s arm. “Karl, I can’t thank you enough.”
“By the way, if you ever find yourself on your own again, let me know. I’d love to take you to lunch.”
“I will. I definitely will.”
“What was her reaction when you showed her the inscription?”
“The word flummoxed pretty well covers it.” Karl grinned. “But look at this. There’s a number inscribed on the inside. I didn’t do that. I wonder what it means.”
Sonny was standing between Karl’s legs with his arms on the kitchen table. He reached for the pendant and laughed.
“What’s so funny my fine feathered friend?” Karl let Sonny have the pendant. He kissed the top of his grandson’s head.
Sonny looked up into his grandfather’s face. “It’s a box number.”
Kathy looked at her son, “What do you mean, a box number?”
“Like they have in a bank.” He ran his fingers along the inscribed number.
“How do you know this?”
“Grandma did it.”
“Where were you and Grandma when this happened?” Karl looked at Kathy.
“That Jewelry store downtown.”
“He must mean Fabians Jeweler’s.”
Kathy turned to Sonny, “Before you were at the jewelry store, do you remember where you were?”
Sonny smiled and nodded his head.
“Are you going to tell us where you were?”
“The first bank.”
“The First National Bank?”
“Thank you, Sonny,” Karl hugged his grandson.
“Yes, Mr. Malone, I opened the safety deposit box account for your wife. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your name is on the application. Do you have some kind of identification? A driver’s license will do. And you’ll need the key.”
“Oh, my God, the key. Kathy, did you see a key anywhere?”
“No, I didn’t”
“We can have the box drilled open but there’s some paperwork that needs to be filled out.”
“Wait a minute.” Kathy smiled and looked at her son.
“Mrs. Cline, would you show my son what a safety deposit box key looks like.”
“Yes, of course. Here you go.”
“Sonny, have you ever seen a key like this?”
Sonny smiled and nodded.
“Do you know where it is?”
Sonny reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring with a dozen keys. He handed to his mother.
Kathy fumbled through the keys, selected one and held it up.
“That’s the one. Follow me.”
“Come on, Sonny. I’ll give the keys back in just a minute.
Mrs. Cline laid the box on the table, “You folks take your time.”
“You open it, Dad. I’m too nervous.”
Karl lifted the lid and laid it back. He picked up a hand full of papers and laid them on the table.
Karl began spreading the papers and then stopped, “Oh, my God.” Tears welled in his eyes and spilled over on his cheeks.
“Dad, what is it?”
Karl handed her one packet of papers. “This is some sort of pardon and it’s from the President of the United States.” Kathy looked up at her father. “Dad, what does this mean?”
Karl was so overcome with emotion he just shook his head. Kathy opened the document. “This pardon is for a Gunther Frederick Geffert.” She looked up, “Dad?”
“I’m Gunther Geffert.”
An hour later, “We’ll be closing soon. Do you require more time?” She looked at Karl, “Is everything all right?”
“Everything is fine, Mrs. Cline. There was just some good news in the box. Here, you can replace the box.”
“Can I have my keys back?”
“Yes, Sonny, here they are. You take good care of them. They are very important.
Sonny smiled and fingered his collection.
Kathy poured coffee into two cups and sat down at the kitchen table. She folded her hands and waited.
“I was seventeen when I decided to kill the town bully. It was premeditated and I didn’t lie about it at the trial. I was sentenced to the penitentiary for sixty years. The van slid off of the highway during a snowstorm and I escaped. I ran and ran and ran. I was so frightened of losing my life in a cell I just kept on running. I lied and cheated and stole just to survive. I finally got a break at the hardware store I worked at for so long. Gus Mathews never asked me any questions. Before I left him years later I asked him why. All he said was that he knew there was goodness somewhere inside of me.”
“I met her a few years later and fell in love and then there was you.” Karl looked up and smiled at his daughter.
“Did she know?”
“Obviously she did but never said anything to me. Look at all these letters from Jackie Kennedy. Your mom petitioned for clemency with the First Lady and her husband granted it.”
“What about this envelope? It hasn’t been opened.”
“You read what’s inside. That’s your mother’s writing.”
“My dearest Karl. I did this for you but decided not to tell you. You would have been ashamed and it probably would have ruined our perfect marriage. You’re free now to live your heart’s desire. Forever love, Hilda.”
“Dad, are you going to change your name back?”
“No, he’s long gone. I’ll keep the one I have now and have a lawyer make it legal. Your mother was so right. I would have been ashamed if she had told me.”
Sonny turned eight and was learning to ride his new bicycle.
“Good morning, Karl.”
“Gloria. How nice to see you again.”
“Well, it’s done.”
“So I’ve heard. How did it go?”
“I got the divorce lawyer you recommended and then I confronted Greg. I simply told him I knew everything and if he didn’t give me an uncontested divorce immediately I’d put him in jail for a very long time.”
“And what did he say?”
“He took it calmly and agreed. He asked how I found out. I mentioned the pendant and he never said another word. The divorce is final, he’s gone and I have everything, thanks to you. I’m a free woman again.”
“Actually you should thank Hilda.”
“Come on. Let’s have lunch and I’ll tell you everything.”
“Do you think Hilda would approve?”
“Gloria, she would insist.”
“She was quite a woman.”
“She was indeed.”
“I hope I’m not jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
“Not exactly, but there was a moment.”
“Are you going to tell me?”
“I certainly will.”
Gloria smiled, “Did I ever mention you have a beautiful face? You must have been a knock out when you were younger.”
“Gloria, you have no idea the trouble I got into.”
“So, what you’re saying is that you have a past.”
“Yes, I do and it will probably shock you.”
“As long as it doesn’t bore me. I’ve had enough of that.”
“It won’t. Where would you like to eat?”
“Somewhere al fresco.”
“I know just the place. Hey, I’m babysitting. Can Sonny come along?”
“Yes, by all means. I think I’ll feel a little safer with him around.” They laughed.