~The Celtic Wizard~

Chapter 38 

A.J. drove the car ever so slowly down the icy, snow covered, street.  From what he could tell, this neighborhood was an average middle class suburb.  “A slice of American Pie,” he murmured as he looked up and down the tree-lined street.  The trees were nothing more than bare branches in the cold weather.  Glancing to his hand, which held the piece of paper that had the coveted address of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Miller.  He was getting closer to one fifty nine Maple drive.

A group of kids pulled their hockey net out of his way.  They frowned as A.J. stopped in the middle of their ‘field.’

“Whacha’ want Mister?” one boy yelled, his breath frosting in the cold air.

“I want my Florida weather,” he rambled quietly under his breath.  “One fifty nine Maple.”

“Half a block down on the right.”

A.J. nodded and pushed the button to roll up his window.  Adjusting the rear-view mirror, he could have sworn the kids almost took the bumper off the car when they slid their net back in place to continue their hockey game.

Slowing the car down, he stopped at the house right before his target.  Now he had a dilemma, how to actually meet these people and get the chance to talk to them.  Something moving towards A.J. at break neck speed caught his attention.  It was large, moving fast, and the lights were on.  With a whoosh, the entire left side of his car was now buried in a snow bank. 

“Fuck!”  A.J. slammed his hands into the steering wheel.  When he heard Nick and Brian laughing, he knew they were the cause of the sudden encasement of the car in an ever so convenient snow bank.  “You wait Nick, I’ll get you when I get back!”

A.J. thought getting out of the car would be the next obvious thing.  Placing his hand on the door handle, he pushed the door.  The door wouldn’t open.  Next, he slammed his body into the door it still wouldn’t open.  As he was slamming his shoulder into the door to get it open, a knock on the passenger side window made him whip his head to the right suddenly.  A middle aged man stood next to his car, well sort of next to the car but on top of a snow bank, holding a shovel.

A.J.’s temper was ready to blow as he rolled down the window by hitting the button. 

The man leaned down into the passenger side window.  “You stuck son?”

A.J.  checked the burning retort that was ready to fly out.  “Looks like it.”

“Come on, I’ll give you a hand,” the older man jerked the passenger door open.

A.J. slid over the seat and out of the car; more like rolled, and fell flat on his face upon getting out. 

The man helped him up and looked at the kid from top to bottom.  He saw an average looking guy with a great smile wrapped up in enough layers of clothes that he could most likely roll down a hill like a ball.

“I feel like the Michelin Man,” A.J. laughed as he struggled to his feet.  He wiped the wet slop from his face with his gloves.

“Not from around here, are you?”  The older man grinned.

“Nope,” A.J. shrugged, he was hoping the man didn’t have any idea who he was.  Then why would he? 

The man’s eyes covered A.J. from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.  “I didn’t think so.  Come on, let’s get you out of this bank.”

Both of them proceeded to the other side of the car.  A.J. scooped with his hands while the man used his shovel.  The task accomplished the older man looked at the kid and then smiled.  A.J. was shivering from the extreme temps, even with the amount of layers he had on.

The man watched him shake, “Pull your car up in the next driveway, that one is mine.  Let’s go warm up.”  The man extended his hand while still holding the shovel with the other.  “I’m Frank Miller, it’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Alex, Alex Mclean.  It’s nice to meet you and thanks for the help.”  A.J. got back in the car and drove it to the driveway.  As he did, a million things flew around in A.J.’s head.  He wanted to be repulsed and pissed at Catherine’s father but he wasn’t.  The man was kind and good-natured. 

As A.J. pulled in the driveway, Frank waited by the sidewalk.  Motioning him to follow, he did.  As A.J. walked behind him, he noted the well-kept house.  As Frank opened the side door, a blast of warm air hit A.J. along with a shrill voice.  “Frank, did you help that man out?  I can’t believe these Snow Jockeys; sometimes they are so inconsiderate.  I hope you invited him in to warm up.”

Frank winked at A.J. as they began to pull off layers.  “Now Martha, you know I did.  You’re such a busy body; you’re the one who sent me out there in the first place.”

“Now Frank, that’s not entirely true.”  The voice was now harmonic and not shrill.

A.J. laughed quietly listening to the two of them.  A.J. was just going with the flow as he followed Frank into the warm kitchen.  Frank pointed as he poured coffee into the mugs.  “She’s a busy body with a good heart.”

A.J. was keeping his comments to himself but he was dying to ask.  Frank handed him a mug and walked way.  A.J. naturally followed him.  They ended up in the living room where a beautiful blonde sat in a chair, smiling.  She stood up and walked towards A.J., “Hi, I’m Martha Miller.”

A.J.’s nerves jangled.  This was eerie; Martha Miller looked just like Catherine or was it that Catherine looked just like her mother.  A.J. nervously shook her hand. 

“Are you okay?”  The same eyes as Catherine’s smiled back at him.

“Yes Ma’am, I’m fine.”  A.J. was stunned at the resemblance, if he didn’t know better, he would have thought he was looking at Catherine.  Since the day they had met Catherine all those months ago, they all were impressed by her eyes.  Kevin was in awe of them, he told everyone they were like the ocean.

“Easy A.J.,” he heard Howie, the voice of reason in his head.

A.J. calmed down some.  Sheepishly he asked, “Do you have a bathroom?” 

“Last I checked we did,” Frank grinned at Martha.

“Stop it Frank,” as Martha rose from her seat.  “Come on, I’ll show you the Powder room.”

A.J. was still trying to deal with the resemblance between mother and daughter.  As he went down the hall, his eyes took in row after row of photos and snapshots that hung on the wall, all of Catherine from infancy to her teenage years.  One particular picture stuck out.  A large photograph was framed on the wall.  A black ribbon draped over the corner of the frame.

“That’s my baby.  She’s gone now, but not forgotten.”  Martha opened the bathroom door. 

A.J. ran into the bathroom and had to stop himself from slamming the door.  “Oh shit, guys what do I do?  Did you hear that?  What the hell does that mean?”  A.J. leaned on the sink to clear his head when nobody answered him.  “Assholes, any other time you would be eavesdropping.  What the hell do I do?”  A.J. waited some more.  After washing his hands, he headed back to the couple he had left in the living room.

A.J. looked into a door that was ajar as he went to rejoin the Millers.  The room of a teenager, no doubt.  Posters taped everywhere but older posters, not newer ones.  A.J. had to get this thing moving and quickly but he didn’t want to offend and he wanted to make sure that he didn’t ruin everything either.

A.J. grabbed the coffee mug and held onto it to steady his nerves.  “Your daughter looks very much like you.”

“Yes she did, Catherine was a beautiful girl,” Frank smiled with pride.

A.J. didn’t miss the use of the past tense.  “From the pictures on the wall, she seemed like a busy girl.”

“Busy studying,” Martha smiled, “She was a very smart girl.”

“Smart and lonely,” Frank sighed.

A.J. watched the sudden sorrow come over the two parents.  “If you don’t mind me asking, where is she?”

Martha’s eyes grew watery as A.J. glanced at her; he then turned to Frank.

“Catherine was killed in car accident just over a year ago.”  Frank answered but focused on his wife.

“We should’ve never let her go with him Frank.  We should have put our foot down.”  Martha sadly looked out the window as she held her cup.  Catherine completed their family.  Now it was just the two of them.

“Oh,” was the best that A.J. could do, but he was getting information without even asking for it.  “Who did she go with?”  He felt that if they wanted to drop the subject, they would.  A.J. had the answer he had come for.  Catherine’s parents had not bothered with her because they had thought she was dead, it was that simple and that cruel.  A.J. would love to tell them the truth but knew he couldn’t, at least not yet.

“Catherine was extremely intelligent but a lonely girl.  The kids around here picked on her because she was so smart.  We moved to Virginia for a while.  While we were there, a man approached us about Catherine going to college early.  They would pay for it, a full scholarship.  So Catherine went out to California with a Dean from UCLA.  He was the Dean of the Hocus Pocus department.”

“Frank!”  Martha frowned.

“He made my daughter disappear, you tell me.  The fool gave her that car and she died in it.”  Frank left the room going towards the kitchen.

“It still bothers him.  The Dean called us the day Catherine died.  Catherine died in a car crash in California.  It was a terrible accident but she died instantly and with little pain.”

A.J. gulped, he needed to tell these people something or at least he wanted too.  “I’m so sorry, the funeral must have been difficult.”  A.J. had no idea why he said those words, maybe curiosity or maybe just wanting to see how you bury a person who isn’t dead.

“We didn’t have one, that bastard did everything out there.  Didn’t even let us know he had her cremated.  He sent a death certificate and her ashes.  He did the whole nine yards.  The Dean didn’t even have the common decency to let me bury my own child.”  Frank spoke as he leaned on the doorframe.  A.J., for the first time, took in the man’s height and weight.  Frank Miller was a looming man when he pulled himself up to his full height and he was angry.

“I’m very sorry,” A.J. nodded.  What could he say that would make these people understand that their grief was for nothing.  Then he heard Brian in his head, “Do you want them to grieve all over again?”

“I don’t understand?  Is she going to die, again?”  A.J. answered Brian only in his head, a sudden panic in his heart.

“A.J. we don’t know what is going to happen.  Leave it alone until this all done and over with.” 

Brian’s reply disturbed him.  “Well, I better get going,” A.J. set the cup down.  “I can’t thank you enough for your help and kindness.  Can I get your telephone number so I can repay you?”

Frank patted him on the back, “That isn’t necessary.  We believe when we help others, it comes back to us three-fold.”

A.J. gave him a wide grin and firm handshake back.  He had wondered if maybe they were believers.  “If I’m ever back in this area, can I stop by?”

“Anytime.  We miss having young kids around.  We didn’t have many, but on occasion someone would come to Catherine for help with schoolwork.”  Frank handed him a business card.

Taking the card, A.J. smiled.  “Oh a car buff, that explains so much.”

“Meaning?”  Frank questioned not understanding the answer.

“I collect cars,” A.J.’s head bobbed up and down.

“Well then, we have to talk,” Frank slipped his coat on and followed A.J. out to his car.  They talked for another half hour in the cold.  Promises were made to keep and touch.  A.J. knew he could too.  He liked Frank, Frank liked cars.  Catherine did too.

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This is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
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