He probably should have had Anne Marie come with him after all. He'd decided not to this morning.
Well, he didn't want to look like a fool.
If he was wrong he supposed he wouldn't look like a complete fool. If he was right, though, and the guy was a dick to him or something then he'd look like an even bigger fool. So, she was at his house babysitting his brother and sister instead. He hadn't been completely surprised she made the offer, but he was a little. He liked his little sister, but she could be kind of bratty sometimes. Their mom told Kyle (repeatedly) it was her age, but it seemed it'd been her age forever now. His little cousin didn't seem to act the same way as Dee, but he was a little older now than when Dee was that age. So maybe he saw things differently.
He pulled open the door leading to the police station. He'd never been here before. He'd never had reason to be. He knew where it was, of course, but going in here or knowing where to go look for someone exceeded his knowledge.
"Hi. Uh, I'm looking for Officer Bender," Kyle said to the woman at the desk.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
"Uh, no, ma'am, I just need to speak with him if he's here."
"All right. Let me see if he's in," she said. He listened as she picked up a phone at the desk and spoke to someone on the other end. "He'll be up in a minute."
"Thanks," he said, walking back to the entrance and looking outside. He shoved his hands in his pockets, wondering what he was even doing here. What were the odds? He had no idea if his birth parents were even from Shermer, but they almost had to be. He'd gotten the impression from things his dad had told him over the years he hadn't been adopted from an agency or anything. Wouldn't that indicate his parents were local for his mom and dad to adopt him?
Then what he knew about the adoption process was nothing. He could admit that. He'd never had much reason to think about how his parents got him, just grateful they had.
"Hey, Toni," someone said from behind him and Kyle turned to look. It was Officer Bender.
Kyle watched him for a second, trying to see him how Doug had seen him back in junior high. Was Kyle just seeing things today because Doug had planted the thought in Kyle's head? He remembered him, though. He'd never forgotten the officer because unlike most people who look like one or the other of their parents, Kyle didn't. He'd never had that. So the guy had stood out in Kyle's mind because it was something so many people took for granted.
"He looks as good as new," she said, stepping away from the desk a bit to pet the officer's dog. Kyle hadn't been paying attention to what they said to one another, but she was obviously talking about his dog.
"I was surprised to get your call to come up here. I thought you didn't work days during the summer at all?"
"Short-handed so they pulled me in."
"Not quite. I'm working twelve."
"Well, I appreciate having you here."
"Thank you, John," she said. Kyle glanced between them a little closer then. It was pretty clear she was into the officer. The way she said thank you caught his attention, but even the way she was standing closer to him than the dog really. "I'm so glad Randy's all right. I was worried about him," she said, sliding her hand against the officer's.
"You and me both, Toni," he said. Kyle knew when the policeman spotted him. He drew his hand away immediately. Too quickly, as if he'd been caught or something. What business was it of Kyle's if the two were involved? The woman, Toni, looked between the two of them a little curiously. She didn't look too pleased the officer had brushed her hand off his as he had. "I hope the day goes by quickly for you."
"Thanks," she said.
Now that the officer was walking toward him Kyle had no idea what to even say.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
Fuck. He didn't even remember him! That didn't bode well. Surely if Kyle really looked like him he'd see it, too, especially if there was the possibility he was his birth father.
"Uh, yeah, my name's Kyle Standish. You came by our house…"
"Oh, right. I remember. Sure. Everything all right?"
"Yeah, sure. I just," he said, glancing back at the woman he'd been talking to before spotting Kyle. She was watching them. She was trying to not be obvious about it, but she was. "Can you, like, go outside for a minute?"
"Sure," John said. "I'm going to take Randy for a little walk across the street, Toni. I have my phone on me if anyone needs me. Otherwise I'll be back."
"All right," she said.
The policeman fell into step beside him. Randy was on the other side of the officer but he had no trouble keeping up with them.
"Did something happen to him?"
"Randy? The woman back there said she was glad he was all right."
"Oh, yeah, he was shot a while back. Your…" he said and stopped. "You know how people get around animals. Your sister isn't the only one who loves them. Anyway, he's fine."
"Oh, good. I didn't really think about the fact that could happen."
"Is that what happened to your other one?"
"No, just old age, thankfully."
Kyle grew quiet then. He had no idea what the fuck to say and the guy probably thought he was weird beyond belief for showing up here like this.
"What can I do for you, Kyle?"
"I'm not sure."
He laughed then. "Well, if you aren't sure I'm not sure how I can help. If you think you know something about those burglaries going on you can call in an anonymous tip. No one would know it was you."
"What? No," he said quickly. He didn't know anyone who'd do that shit because most of the people he knew lived in his neighborhood.
"Do you know my parents?"
He was quiet for a little bit after that. He tried to cover it up by focusing on Randy, but the dog was fine.
"I know of them, sure."
"How do I know them?"
"I grew up here the same as your dad did," he said. "I was a few years behind him, but sure I knew who he was. I think he was in grade school with me for a couple of years, fourth and fifth grades maybe."
"What more is there? Shermer's a suburb, but it's a pretty big suburb."
He shrugged then. This was a pointless, useless trip. He wasn't learning anything and the trouble was he had no idea what to say without sounding like a crazy person.
"I'm adopted you know."
"Okay," John said, sounding cautious.
"That day you were at my school one of my friends thought I looked kind of like you."
"No offense, but I think you could look like a lot of people."
Kyle had thought of that, too. He really had. He hadn't forgotten about the officer, but he hadn't dwelled on the fact Doug thought he looked like him or anything. Until he'd shown up at their house. What were the odds of that happening?
"You know your parents?"
"I wish I didn't, but sure," he said.
"Why?" Kyle asked. He wasn't sure what to make of that answer.
"Why do you wish you didn't?"
"Because when it came to parents I got the short-end of the stick. And then some."
"But you know them. You see where you came from. You can look at someone and see a resemblance."
"Sure," John said.
"Imagine going through life not having that."
John sighed softly.
"Look, Kid. Kyle. I don't know what you want me to say here."
"I was just curious, I guess."
"If I was your long-last dad?"
"I don't think going door-to-door is in your normal job description."
"I'm a step above a beat cop when it gets down to it. A big step maybe, sure and I have seniority over everyone else anymore these days but if my captain tells me to do a job I do it."
He glanced at him then. He wasn't exactly denying it. Sure, he wasn't admitting it either, but he hadn't come right out and said it was impossible. Or laughed at him for the ridiculousness of the thought.
"Listen, Kid. I don't know your mom and I barely know your dad to recognize him passing by on the street. However, I suspect they may not be too happy to hear you're going up to random people asking them if they're your mom or dad."
"It was just so strange you showing up at our house."
"I have to pay my bills just like everyone else."
Had that really been all it was? He had shown up to do a job and nothing else? Was Kyle seeing things where there was nothing to see? Maybe so, but he couldn't shake the feeling that Doug hadn't been too far off.
"It's brave what you did," he said then after a bit of silence between them. Kyle was realizing he'd made a huge mistake and this guy probably thought he was an idiot.
"How's that?" Kyle asked. He didn't feel very brave.
He shrugged, knelt down and pet his dog. Kyle did the same because he really was a beautiful dog.
"Coming here. Doing this. What if I was him and I'd told you there was a reason you were put up for adoption? Like I didn't want a kid? I mean, I could've said anything. Yet you took the chance."
"Well, it was just strange, twice. You know?"
"I do know."
More silence. The dog sure wasn't bothered by the attention he was getting. Kyle couldn't help but notice, again, the cop hadn't denied anything. Not really. Eventually they started walking back toward the police station.
"What are you studying?" he asked then.
"Oh yeah?" John asked. "You must be pretty smart then."
"I don't feel so smart right now."
"Kyle, you're not stupid. Just do me a favor, all right?"
"I can try."
"The next time you think someone may be your dad, let me check them out. Okay? There are people who'd take advantage of you, you know? Your parents are pretty well off and I'm guessing it's not common knowledge that you're adopted."
"No," Kyle said.
"You have an uncle who's a politician and probably aspires to be more than a state senator."
"Yeah?" What did his uncle Bryce have to do with anything?
"Someone may think your folks would pay some money to keep that quiet. Not sure how it would affect your uncle's future, but it could. You never know how someone could spin it if they were out to do something shady. Some folks may lie to you and tell you they are your dad, hoping to get something from you."
"Do your parents live around here?"
"Yup. The same piece of shit house I grew up in. They'll be there until the walls crumble down around them I wager."
"Oh," he said.
"Hard to imagine, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've had a pretty good life I bet. Good schools and access to horses and all sorts of things. Not everyone had that."
"I know that."
"I'm glad you do. I hope you consider the fact that your parents did what they thought was best for you at the time. You know? I'm sure they didn't enter into such a thing lightly."
"I do. I mean, I guess I don't really. They were young my dad says so I'm not sure they were doing what was best for me or them."
"I'm guessing what was best for all of you was a good decision. My parents are prime example of a couple who shouldn't have given it a try. Trust me it wasn't fun growing up like that."
"I know," he said. He didn't, not really. He didn't know anyone well who grew up the way the officer was implying he'd grown up. There were kids he'd gone to school with who hadn't had good homes, but they weren't people Kyle knew.
"Maybe you should let the finding them thing rest until you're, you know, grown up a bit. On your own. And better equipped to handle whatever happens from you finding them. You don't want to piss off your parents. They've raised you."
"I know that."
"And maybe talk to them about it beforehand, see how they feel about it before jumping into it."
"I never really thought about it until now."
"No," he said with a shrug. "Mom and Dad have always told me my parents were young, you know. Too young."
"Well, then they obviously know something and they're willing to share information with you. It works both ways, you know. Talk to them, but finish school first. You're smart, no use getting distracted by something that isn't going to change anything."
"Thanks for being nice to DeeAnna."
He chuckled then as he stopped in front of the steps. "You're welcome, but she's a cute kid. You don't need to thank me."
"Well, thanks," Kyle said. He had no idea what else to say.
"Sure. Anytime," he shrugged.
"John," Kyle said as John started up the steps.
"Thanks for not laughing at me."
"Nothing to laugh at or about. What would you have done if I'd said I was?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know," John repeated, looking curious.
"I don't. I mean, it seemed so farfetched an idea I didn't think much about coming here to ask you."
"Well, if I was him I'd have to be pretty proud that you've turned out as good as you have. Your parents took a risk, too, you know. Anyone could have adopted you, good or bad. I see the bad a lot. You're lucky and I hope you know that."
"You meant what you said earlier?"
"You'd check someone out for me?"
"Sure, within reason. I mean, I'd have to know you were pretty confident the guy was an actual possibility."
"And you're not?"
The officer shook his head then.
"I only wish I could turn out a kid who's going to become an engineer."
"Cops aren't stupid."
He chuckled then.
"Are you going to tell your parents you came here today?"
"No," he said.
"Does your brother and sister know where you are?"
"No," he said.
"Where are they anyway?"
"My girlfriend's watching them."
"Oh, that's nice of her. What's her name?"
"Pretty. She goes to school with you?"
"Yes. That's where we met. She lives out in Skokie."
"Good. Well, you get on home and I can assure you I won't tell them either."
"Thanks," he said, turning away as John walked up the steps toward the precinct doors.
John rang the buzzer at the gate, wondering how she was going to react to his showing up here tonight. He'd come immediately after work so if she didn't want her kids to meet him or anything today he'd look like a police officer. He kind of had to admit he was curious what they were like, but imagined after being gone for a month and a half her house would be pretty chaotic.
"Hi, it's John," he said.
'John,' she said. 'It's not a real good time.'
"Yeah, I got that, but I'll be five minutes tops."
"I swear. I just need a few minutes of your time. Come on. I know what today is. You think I'd just show up here without a legitimate reason?"
'Okay,' she said, buzzing the gate open so he could drive through.
Ah, the ex was still there, John noticed by the vehicle that wasn't Claire's on the driveway. The hatch was open and while it was mostly empty there were still a few things in there indicating they weren't done unpacking.
She met him outside, reaching to pet Randy almost immediately through the open back window of his car.
"Sorry," he said. "Really, I'm not here to intrude." He got out of the car, letting Randy out, too. He glanced at John.
"Go ahead," he said before Randy darted off near where Claire's dogs were.
"John," she said. "This is kind of a bad time."
"Yeah, I know, I wasn't expecting he'd still be here."
"They just got home like twenty minutes ago."
"Oh," he said. "I'm sorry, really, but I figured you'd want to hear about my day."
"What? I mean, not that I don't, but can't it wait until an evening when I'm not seeing my kids for the first time in weeks?"
"Normally it could, sure, but Kyle came to visit me at the station today."
"Yeah, see, I thought you might like to know that today not over the weekend or next week."
"Apparently he thinks I'm his father."
"Oh my God. He said that?"
"He asked me. Well, not flat out, directly but that was his question."
"No, I didn't admit to anything, but I had to be careful. I didn't deny it either. I couldn't. I am his father, Claire. I'm not going to lie to him."
"No, I know."
"So, I sort of skirted the issue. I don't know if you want to tell Chris or leave it alone. I'll leave that up to you. You know your brother, I don't."
He reached for her then, sliding some hair away from her face.
"You look tired," he said. While he'd spent the night and they'd had sex before going to sleep and once they'd woken up he didn't think he was responsible for her looking that way.
"I had to put a dog down about an hour ago."
"Oh. Shit. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. It's just never easy even though they're not mine."
"I can imagine. You treat them so you're familiar with them."
"Well, I tell you what. As much as I'd like to offer to stay and help take care of you I know tonight isn't the time for that. So, I'm going to get on home, leave you to your kids. I just wanted to let you know."
"I appreciate it, I do. I can't believe he did that."
John shrugged. He could sort of believe it, because an eighteen-year-old John would have done it in a heartbeat if he'd been in the situation Kyle was facing.
"I told him if he ran across anyone else he thought might be his father to let me know and I'd check them out before he confronted them."
He shrugged. "I don't know. What are the odds he'll meet someone else he thinks is me?"
"Probably not high."
"That was my thought, but I figured that way I could assure him whoever it is isn't without admitting anything."
"Please be careful."
"I'm not seeing him again! He came to me!"
"Because you showed up at his house, John!"
"Yeah, okay, it was stupid. I told you I knew that before I even did it, but I had to."
"Thank you." He whistled for Randy then. "You want to talk to someone who's not a kid before you go to sleep give me a call. Okay?"
"I know you'll be fine, but your house is full again when it hasn't been for weeks. You just put an animal down and I know necessary or not that's going to affect you. So, if you need to talk, give me a call. That's all I'm saying. I'm not expecting it."
"Can I kiss you?"
"Probably not a good idea today."
"Because he's here?"
"Because my kids are here and they don't know you yet."
"I imagine at some point you'll meet them."
"Aww, that almost makes it sound like you want me around. That must mean I did something right."
"I'd love to do whatever it is I did right again sometime."
"Yes," she whispered. He chuckled, unable to help it.
"Maybe over the weekend?"
"I can't leave them alone at night."
"So come over during the day sometime."
"Why not? Sex during the afternoon is the same as sex at night just with the sun up instead of not."
"Yeah? Better than a fuck you no I guess, I'll take it. Let me know."
"Okay. I'm sorry. I'm sorry you had to lie and I'm sorry that you can't come in."
"If he wasn't here?"
"I'd probably let you come in at least."
"Is he being decent?"
"Yeah, he's fine."
"All right," he said, watching as someone came out of the house and walked toward the SUV. It wasn't her ex-husband.
"Who's that?" John asked.
"I can't, John. Not today. You aren't supposed to be here and you're a cop."
"Okay," he said, regarding the guy as he took the remaining things from the SUV and headed toward the house. He wasn't sure what his being a cop had to do with the situation, but he had to trust she'd tell him if it was important. He shrugged, letting Randy back into the car. He couldn't make her. "Get some rest."
"I hope you have a good night, Claire, really."
"I know, thank you. And yes, thank you for coming over to tell me. I appreciate it especially since I know it's out of your way to come out here."
"Worth it to see you again."
She glanced at her shoes then, but not fast enough for him to miss the blush on her cheeks.
"I'll buzz you out in a couple of minutes."
He waited by the gate for a couple of minutes and drove out. He wondered what the chances of her coming over Saturday or Sunday afternoon even were. If not this weekend since she just got her kids back after so long but some weekend? She hadn't seemed opposed to the idea in general. Her oldest boy was like thirteen so certainly old enough to babysit his younger sibling for a couple of hours.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com