In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn’t exist. Why would it? His social security number, date and place of birth were all valid. The list of previous known addresses and work history lead me to meetings with individuals who all claimed to have known, been friends with, or worked with him. Why would I have ever considered him to be bogus? My own mother was the individual, who provided me with his name, so why would I question his validity? I would have never started my search if I knew that it was under the false assumption that he was a living, breathing human being that could be located and spoken with if only I put enough time and effort into the endeavor.
What I don’t understand is why my mother provided me with a name she must have known was phony. Why did she not want me to find him? What was she hiding? Unfortunately I would never have the opportunity to ask and would be forced to be content with what she provided me – absolutely nothing. Six years of nothing. And that’s a long time to invest in anything, especially something that was just a pack of lies. I sacrificed so much of my life. And for what? What did I have to show for it? A string of failed attempts at a meaningful relationship, a slew of inconsequential friendships, and crap jobs that lead me absolutely nowhere.
I exhaled a cloud of smoke and growled at the squirrel that had courageously approached me in search of the fallen remnants of the bagel I had just consumed. It scampered back in the direction it had advanced with its gray tail flicking, and climbed quickly up the trunk of the large maple tree empty handed. I snorted, flicked my cigarette butt onto the pavement, and stomped on it before taking a gulp of lukewarm coffee from the styrofoam cup I held in my left hand. I was ambidextrous, as was my father, or so I was lead to believe.
“What now?” I muttered.
I ended up in this crowded city because of my search, not because I specifically wanted to live somewhere that regularly experienced single digit temperatures in the Winter and high humidity in the Summer; where both heat and air conditioning were not luxuries, but simple necessities of daily life. I wasted two years living in a small, cramped, apartment on the fourth floor of an old brick building where the elevator consistently broke, because I foolishly believed that I was close to finally meeting the man I had been searching for; only to be proven wrong that very morning. What a sad joke my life had become!
I stood from the bench and followed the foot path towards Beacon Street, intending to walk home and catch a nap before my shift started at the hotel. I was asked to cover for a coworker who was out and even if I wasn’t excited to work more hours that week, it would mean making decent money in tips, so how could I turn down the opportunity? It was a Thursday and the hotel was completely booked due to its prime location on Tremont Street and the fact that there had been a political convention hosted in the city for the last two days. Tonight marked the conclusion of the convention schedule, which meant guests would be consuming a lot of food and alcohol, translating into generous tips for servers such as me, who were eager to pocket the cash. I knew how to work my tables. I was young, attractive, and possessed a witty charm; all the vital characteristics required for earning substantial tips.
I had walked more than half way through The Common when the cell phone in my pocket rang. I glanced at the screen. I never answered numbers that were foreign to me. Contrary to my current job in hospitality I wasn’t someone you would call a “people person”. The number belonged to a friend on the West Coast and while yesterday I would have been excited to speak with him, as it would mean a new lead for my search or verification of information I already gathered on David Addley, I now hesitated. I didn’t want to put any more of my time or energy into the fantasy, so I ignored the call and slipped the phone back into the pockety of my sweatshirt.
The entire situation infuriated me, creating a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach that was difficult for me to ignore. I knew that being angry with both my mother for her deception and myself for believing her bogus story, would only bring me misery, but it was more than a little challenging for me to pacify my anger once it had been fully acknowledged. My hopes of meeting the man who had been an integral part of my creation were smashed into tiny fragments during the thirty minute visit I had with Gene Femino yesterday afternoon. Though Detective Femino had retired a few years back, he had been assigned to District C-6 during the timeframe that David Addley had lived in the city, but Gene revealed to me that the man had also died during that time as well. He clearly remembered the incident because it occurred during an unprecedented corruption case, involving detectives in the homicide department, some of which he admired. He was personally struck by David’s story because he felt that it paralleled his own life; no wife, no children, deceased parents, estranged family members, and no close friends to miss him when he died. A body was found during the early morning hours of June 13, 1990 in a dumpster behind South Bay Center shopping mall and was identified through dental records as David Addley. When I showed the detective the only photograph I possessed of the man I was told by my mother was David Addley, Detective Femino had been unable to verify my mother’s claim, but assured me with unrelenting conviction that David Addley had not been alive in August of 1991 and encouraged me to visit the City Clerk’s Office in order to consult the death certificate, which I did that morning. The retired detective was accurate; David Addley’s death was recorded as June 12, 1990, which meant the man in the photograph with his arm around my mother, who was holding me in her own arms at the Swedish Hospital, could not be David Addley. So who the fuck was he?
* * *
I tied the starched white apron around my waist and smoothed down the material with both hands before sliding the order pad and pen into the side pocket. I grabbed a stack of newly printed menus from the pile on the servers’ station, inhaled deeply, and approached my first table with as genuine of a smile I could muster.
“Good evening, my name is Jessie and I will be your server tonight,” I began my standard greeting while handing each guest a menu. “While you look at this evening’s offerings, would anyone be interested in a drink from the bar?”
The older gentleman sitting on my immediate left loosened his collar and tie as he responded, “A scotch and soda.”
I nodded and turned my attention to the man sitting next to him, who distinctly reminded me of my mother’s brother, Donald.
“I’ll have a vodka martini,” he requested with the hint of an East Coast accent, as he held up two fingers of his left hand without looking up from the menu. “With two olives.”
“A glass of the Elouan Pinor Noir,” the unnaturally blonde woman sitting next to him requested. I made eye contact with her as she ordered and nodded when she was finished speaking.
“Just bring her the bottle,” suggested the handsome older man sitting on her left, as he gestured towards the bar then back to their table. “Otherwise she’ll have you running back and forth for refills all night.”
She playfully hit him on the arm, “Mitchel!”
“Oh Sheila, you know he’s right,” giggled the red haired woman on my immediate right, as she stared at the man who seemed not to notice, but which made me feel just a tad uncomfortable.
“Mitch is always right!” smiled the youngest man at the table, as he clapped his colleague on the shoulder practically crawling into the man’s lap desperate for his attention and approval. I assumed from his behavior that he was either his intern or assistant.
“That he is, Greg,” agreed Mr. Scotch and Soda, as he exchanged a subtle nod with the man they were all fawning over.
Shelia dramatically threw her arms up in the air, “What the hell! Bring me the bottle. It’s been one of those days.”
“Don’t you mean weeks?” Mitchel chuckled.
The seated party erupted with laughter and applause as they nodded at each other clearly referring to a shared experience.
Mitchel focused on me once the laughter subsided.
“I would like a stout, the darker the better. Whatever you have on tap is fine,” he said, dropping the letter “r” from the words; darker, better, and whatever, and replacing it with the sound of “ah”, the signature trait of the regional accent.
“You got it,” I nodded. He was clearly the leader of the group. Everyone seated at the table was focused on him, which made me want to hate him, but I realized that he would be the one to determine my tip even if he wasn’t paying the check. The rest of the guests would be influenced by his opinion of me and would happily follow his suggestion, as if his words were Holy Scripture.
“A club soda with lemon,” ordered Greg with his arm now resting on Mitchel’s shoulder.
I seriously wanted to puke, but instead concentrated on the final guest. “And for you?”
“A white wine spritza, please,” ordered the red head.
“Very good. I will return with your drinks shortly,” I smiled at them before turning and maneuvering my way through the guests that were quickly filling the dining room. When I reached the bar I recited my drink order to Marz, the usual weekend bartender.
“About ten minutes,” he winked.
I retuned his gesture with a flirty grin of my own. Marz was charming and pleasing to the eye, but I could never really determine if he was interested in me or just being overly polite. Ten minutes gave me just enough time to welcome the party of two that the hostess had just seated in my section three tables over from where Mitchel and his minions were seated. I glanced in their direction and saw that they were engaged in an animated conversation while still consulting their opened menus. I couldn’t help, but feel disgusted by their blatant admiration for that Mitchel guy and I convinced myself that they were going to be more work than what the tip they would leave me would be worth. I silently berated myself for sacrificing a night of cuddling up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and binge watching the newest Netflix original series.
I replaced four of the menus I had been holding to the established pile at the server’s station, inhaled deeply, and walked toward my newly seated table. When I was just three steps away from my intended destination, I was intercepted by Mitchel.
“Excuse me, Jessie,” he said touching me on the forearm. “Could you please point me in the direction of the restrooms?”
“Certainly,” I smiled, pulling away from his touch as I pointed past his seat towards the restaurant’s lobby entrance. “Through that alcove over there; men’s on the left, ladies’ on the right.”
“Thank you,” he said, turning away from the direction I had been pointing in order to face me.
I waited for him to move, but his hesitation indicated to me that he wanted something more. I focused on his face so as not to roll my eyes, but I was becoming impatient with the man. He obviously had never been a server otherwise he would have realized that I still needed to welcome my newly seated party before Marz had my drink order ready for me.
“I apologize if I seem odd or out of line,” he began nervously, which seemed out of character for him. “But I was curious if you had family here in the city.”
“I’m sorry?” I attempted to hold the sarcasm from my tone of voice, but I wasn’t convinced that I had done so successfully. I was confused by his question. Was he seriously asking me about my family or was he hitting on me with some out of date pick-up line? I mean, it seriously had to be an attempt to get me in bed, because no one had ever asked me about my family, not even my coworkers there at the restaurant. He certainly had an unusual tactic, one which I was completely unprepared for. I had no clever response to offer in return, which was highly unusual for me. Being a server in a hotel restaurant, I was propositioned frequently by both genders and with invitations to many different experiences, but this man’s approach was certainly the most sublime and unique, setting it apart from all the others.
“I only ask because you remind me of an old friend that I haven’t seen in years. You look like him,” Mitchel explained.
I raised my eyebrow. His tone was genuine, but was he for real?
“Well, I mean, you don’t look like him exactly,” he continued, “He’s a man. You’re a woman. He’d be much older than you. Obviously you don’t actually look like him, but there is a strong resemblance around your eyes and nose. I thought maybe he was your family, that you were related to him, which is why I asked.”
“It’s okay, I understand what you mean,” I reassured him.
It seemed as if he was for real. I was stunned. It was pleasant to have a man with an innocent intention approach me about something, anything. He scored bonus points for his ability to hold my gaze without leering at my breasts or visually peeling the clothes off my body. I wanted to help him, but there was nothing for me to say. It had been confirmed just hours ago that I, in fact, had no family connection to this city; all my blood relations, the one’s I knew of, were on the West Coast and I had no idea about my father’s family. I didn’t even know the man’s name.
“I’m sorry,” I shook my head. “I don’t have any family here. I’m from Seattle.”
The poiyant shadow of disenchantment crossed his features and settle on his brow, creating a few more minor wrinkles around his eyes. I could see that he had convinced himself that I was the connection he had been hoping for and I felt pity for him.
“It was a long shot,” he shrugged and gestured to the waiting party. “I apologize for keeping you from your table. I will be sure to make it up to you. Thanks for entertaining such a crazy idea from an old man, Jessie. You’re a sweetheart.”
I smiled weakly. “No problem.”
* * *
My shift flew by and soon the last of the patrons were paying their checks and heading out of the restaurant. My tables were easily pleased, largely due to the efficiency of the kitchen and bar that evening, which allowed me to provide my guests with a level of service that rewarded me with generous tips. I was not disappointed by the amount of cash I left with in my pocket that night. Even the original expectation I set concerning Mitchel’s party went unmet. They left me a generous tip of twenty-five percent of the total of their bill; I was grateful. His promise “to make it up to me” was kept, proving to me that he wasn’t as unlikable as I first assumed him to be. I valued personal integrity and this man possessed it.
I slung my bag over my shoulder and waved to my coworkers as I left the dining room through the quiet hotel lobby. I was exhausted and wanted a long hot shower followed by a restful night’s sleep in my big, comfortable bed. As I approached the glass doors that lead to the busy street outside, the intoxicated laughter of the patrons from the hotel’s famous Whiskey Bar tickled my ears. The bar wouldn’t close for another hour and at that moment I was grateful that I hadn’t been hired as a cocktail waitress.
The cell phone in my bag buzzed, alerting me to a waiting voice mail message. I paused to check the number of the missed call, curious as to who had called, as I did so, a man grumbling to himself and distracted by the cell phone in his own hand, entered the lobby.
“Thank you for your generosity,” I called as he passed me.
At the sound of my voice, he glanced in my direction and smiled with recognition. He casually slipped the phone into his suitcoat pocket as he approached me.
“My pleasure, Jessie,” he smiled. “Did you have a good shift?”
I nodded. “I did. It was busy, but good busy.”
“Excellent,” he nodded. “Personally, I’m never disappointed by the hotel restaurant. Every time I’ve eaten here the food, as well as the service, has always been impeccable.”
“Well, that’s good to hear,” I said. “I must admit that I was a little concerned that you weren’t satisfied with my service when I returned to your table for a check-back and found you all had already left.”
He gestured with a wave of his hand. “Oh, no, everything was excellent and you, my dear, are attentive and efficient. My colleagues were just impatient to be on their way; they all had prior commitments elsewhere.”
“I understand,” I said, blushing. I did understand. It wasn’t unusual behavior at the restaurant especially on busy nights such as it was that evening.
“And I apologize if I made you uncomfor – ,” he began.
“No,” I stopped him midsentence. “There’s really no need. No need at all. I could tell you’d really like to reconnect with your friend and I empathize with you. I know what it’s like to want to make a personal connection with someone, someone who played an important part in your life.”
He looked towards the hotel’s glass doors as he spoke. “I found it strange that I hadn’t thought of him in such a long time and then,” he looked back at me, “I see you tonight and all the forgotten memories I had of him came flooding back and completely overwhelmed me. I wasn’t expecting it.”
We stood in silence for a short time, each of us caught up in our own thoughts. I briefly considered that it could be entirely possible, though highly improbable, that Mitchel’s friend and I were related, but I quickly realized that the idea was just my own desire to help him, someone who had shown me a small kindness, find solace.
“I actually don’t know much about my family, well, not on my father’s side anyway,” I admitted. “Honestly, I don’t even know who my father is,” I chuckled, a touch of hysteria creeping into my voice. “Isn’t that messed up? All I have is one old photo of him and a name that my mother gave me, but, get this, it turns out the name isn’t even his. The whole situation is a little bizarre, if you ask me.”
In seeing the authentic concern Mitchel held for me presented on his face, I realized I was being more emotional about the situation than I originally thought, but I was exhausted and I had a tendency to be hyper sensitive about my relationships when I was overtired. Mitchel eased his arm around my shoulders and gently guided me towards the nearest armchair, gesturing for me to sit while he settled into the one next to me.
“Why would my mother give me a fake name? What kind of person does that to her child?” I lamented, allowing my weight to drop into the chair.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?” he suggested.
“I would if I could,” I scowled. “But she’s dead, and I don’t talk to dead people.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, me, too.” I picked at the upholstery on the arm of the chair.
“You mentioned that you were from Seattle, did you come to Boston to find your father?”
“Yeah, the name Mom gave me led me to a man that lived and worked here, but apparently he died the year before I was born. So there is no possible way that he could have been my father,” I shook my head and shrugged. “Mathematically it just doesn’t work out.”
Mitchel agreed. He looked down at his hands for a brief moment before requesting to see the photograph. “Do you have the photo you mentioned with you?”
“Yeah, I do.” I searched through my bag as I spoke, “What are you thinking?”
“Well, I know some people with law enforcement that would run his face through the system if I asked.”
I felt a twinge of hope followed instantaneously by distrust. I stopped rummaging through the depths of my bag to interrogate him. “Why would you do that for me? You don’t even know me. Why would you offer to help someone you just met? A waitress in a hotel restaurant? What’s in it for you? I can’t pay you.”
“Why are you so suspicious of my intentions? Can’t someone just do something for someone else out of kindness?”
I spit out a laugh that echoed in the stillness of the hotel lobby. “Seriously? ‘Out of kindness’? Please, that sounds really nice, but people aren’t like that. Well, maybe in books, or on TV, or in the movies, but not in reality, and especially not here in this city.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Jessie. It saddens me to think that you have been jaded by life at such a young age to believe that no one in life acts out of kindness, but there are people who do. I do. I help strangers without expectations of reimbursement. I’m finally in a position in my life where I am able to help others, so I do. And like you said to me just a few minutes ago, I can empathize with you. I know what it’s like to want to make a connection with someone who played an important part in your life. So, let me do this for you.”
He looked at me so intently, I had to look away. I dropped my gaze back to the open bag sitting on my lap and began to rummage through it again. I couldn’t seem to locate the photo and with tears gathering in my eyes, the fear that I might have lost it gripped me. I had no way to replace it if it was lost and without it there was certainly no hope of identifying and ultimately locating my father. Just as I was about to give into the fear, I caught sight of the photo lying at the bottom of my bag face down. I retrieved it and gingerly handed it to Mitchel. My heart felt heavy and light at the same time.
He took it from me and gazed down at the image. The expression on his face shifted immediately. He seemed surprised or startled.
“What? What is it? What’s wrong?” I felt as if I would vomit. I moved forward so that I was sitting closer to him.
He leaned over so that we were able to look at the photograph together. He pointed to the photo specifically at the woman. “This is your mother?”
I nodded, glancing from the photo to his face. “Yes.”
“And,” he pointed to the baby in her arms. “That’s you?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
He tapped the image of the man, “And this is the man your mother claimed was David Addley, your father?”
“Yes, Mitchel. What is it? You’re making me nervous.”
He exhaled, leaned back in the chair wearing a look of bewilderment and paused before laughing heartily, holding the photograph to his chest and shaking his head. I was confused and sat in silence, watching him experience the personal catharsis while trying to keep the French fries I ate on my break inside my stomach.
“Jessie, as unbelievable as this is going to sound I have some information to share with you regarding the man in this photo,” he explained, as he handed it back to me.
“God, don’t tell me it’s you,” I said sarcastically.
“No, no. It’s not me,” he chuckled. “But the fact that you resemble my friend, the one that I haven’t seen in years is because, if all the information that you’ve shared with me is true, then you are his family. It seems that your father and my old friend are one in the same man.”
This was becoming surreal. What were the odds – a million to one? While it was true, I had briefly considered that it was entirely possible that his friend and I were related, but I hadn’t considered that his friend was the man I was searching for.
Mitchel nodded enthusiastically. “The man’s name is Dillion Adler. He was an officer with District C-6 when I was working for the District Attorney’s office. We became close friends during the time of the McLaughlin case.”
“Yeah, it was all over the news at the time. Everyone wanted to know about the corruption. Some high ranking and influential homicide detectives were indicted.”
“So, you were friends with my father?”
“Yes, he’s the old friend that you reminded me of.”
“Was he one of the detectives that were indicted?”
“No. Your father had integrity. He was privy to a lot of incriminating information and was witness to events and exchanges that he would have rather forgotten or not seen at all. It was because of what he knew and what he saw that he was convinced that the guys in homicide would realize that he was too much of a liability to their case and kill him. When David Addley’s body showed up, it seemed like a simple solution for your father. I convinced him to assume David Addley’s identity and leave the state. Three days later, he was gone and I knew he had taken my advice. I never heard from him again.”
I was stunned. This was a dynamic story, not even in my realm of consideration when I fantasized about the man who was my father. I was somewhat doubtful about Mitchel’s recount of the past, but he was certainly providing me with facts that I could easily check, a place for me to begin digging into the mystery of the man in the photo.
* * *
I placed the cigarette between my lips and took a long contemplative drag allowing the smoke to fill my lungs with its toxins. I knew I needed to quit. Smoking wasn’t just a dirty habit, it was costly. I was sickened to think what I could be spending my cash on if I wasn’t purchasing cigarettes. Saving the money for an airplane ticket back home wouldn’t seem as daunting as it currently did, and that is what I truly wanted most in my sorry life; I wanted to go home. Things here made less sense to me than they did just a week ago. I felt more lost and confused with each piece of knowledge I gained about Dillion Adler, my father. I just wanted to be back in a familiar place where I knew and felt comforted by, even if my memories had been built around a fairytale my mother crafted for especially for me. I craved comfort and Boston offered me none.
As I took the last drag of my final cigarette I began compiling a mental list of people who might be able to help me reestablish myself in Seattle. My list wasn’t long, but it was solid. I had confidence that most of my contacts would be willing to do what they could for me.
I dropped the butt of my cigarette onto the pavement and crushed it under the heel of my boot. I stood, slipping my hands into the pocket of my hoodie, and began walking my usual route towards Beacon Street. It was late morning so the foot traffic in the Common was light. Most of the individuals passing by were wearing business attire and carrying briefcases, but there was one man, walking directly towards me who was different. He was less harried, with a canter that was more relaxed, slow and deliberate yet there was a hesitance, which fascinated me. As the distance diminished between us his features became clearer to me; the stray gray strands in his otherwise dark, wavy hair, the stubble on his cheeks and chin, his reserved smile, which affected not only his mouth, but his eyes. There was something strangely familiar about his eyes. I had seen them before . . . looking at me with the same curiosity.
The man stopped walking just a few feet from me and though I was tempted to continue past him, I was compelled to stop. I stared at him and him at me. I knew who he was even before I realized that I knew. All the repressed emotions that I had been carrying within me erupted with a single word.