you're there to lead me home
 

November 21, 1959

Tim Mangan climbed the fire escape to his old apartment using mostly his arms, dragging his right leg wearing the cheap prosthesis along with him. He tried to keep his attitude positive, grateful he only needed one working leg to make the climb, extremely grateful to be back in Manhattan. He reached the landing and all his worries returned. The phone calls he'd tried to make to Sarah never actually connected, and when he'd gotten to the building, he could see the windows to the apartment were dark. He hoped he wasn't about to break into someone else's place, but he couldn't imagine Sarah ever moving out of their small home.

He snapped the screen out of the window frame and pushed up on the glass pane carefully. It gave, and he soon had the window open. He waited a moment, listening for any signs of anyone being in the apartment. Confident there was no one, he clambered over the sill awkwardly and painfully, nearly injuring himself, but, for the first time since he'd left the very same apartment more years ago than he cared to recall, he felt like he was home.

Only something was wrong. Something was very wrong. It took a few seconds for him to register what it was. There was no furniture. No battered old couch, no coffee table over-crowded with books, record albums, and files. "Sarah?" He whispered the name, almost afraid to say it too loud. It was difficult to see, but when he made his way to the wall to flick the light switch, it remained dark. He sighed.

He wandered through the place with his slow, uneven gait, still remembering the layout enough to manage in just the dim light coming from the street lamps outside. Every room was empty. Every room. Even the small hideaway in his office. He'd had to lower himself to the ground to work the switch, and then pull himself back up using the wobbly bookshelf to brace himself, but he had expected that room to have something, if only just a note to say where she and Danny had gone.

It was late and he was exhausted. He went to the kitchen, aware that it was the only room that had some kind of furnishings. He leaned against one of the cabinets, using it for support. He removed his pants and the belt that held his right leg in place, taking the damned thing off, and then lowered himself to the floor and tried to sleep.

 

Tim woke up feeling the cold floor beneath him and glanced around the room. It was still dark, but a different kind of dark, or maybe it was the quietness of the streets below, but he knew it must be nearing sunrise. He reached for his prosthetic leg, donning it with a scowl. Then he grabbed onto the edge of a cabinet and pulled himself into a standing position. He hobbled over to the window, peering out at the city in the early morning pre-dawn. New York City. Manhattan. He surveyed the street outside, devoid of any pedestrians at that early hour, and then looked up, above the neighboring apartment buildings in the area. Memories of good times spent with his wife and his son flitted through his mind. He really was home, but home wasn't here waiting for him.

He noticed the sky lightening and realized he should get started on his new goal. There were only two people in this city that might know where his wife and son were. He'd have started with Unay, but Unay was always moving, always running from his crazy ex-wife, always acting like he was undercover even when he wasn't. Unay would be too difficult to find unless he still stopped by on occasion. He'd leave him a note, later, when he picked up some paper and a pen. It was too bad he couldn't just go to the office and find out about his current assignment, though.

That left Theodore Hill. Teddy. Hopefully he still lived in that ostentatious brownstone on Sugar Hill. If he remembered correctly, and he wasn't sure that he did, it was about a thirty-minute walk. That was a pretty quick trek, then again, that had been when he had two good legs. Now he'd have to travel at a snail's pace and rest every few blocks. Well, if he left right away, hopefully he'd make it there before Teddy drank himself into a stupor or mainlined enough H to keep himself incoherent for the rest of the day.

 

It took him over an hour to walk to Teddy's front door, and, by the time he arrived, he was in a considerable amount of pain. He pounded on the door and waited. He knocked again and then pressed his ear to the door. Someone lived in this house; he could hear the faint footsteps of a person moving around. He pressed the doorbell. Yes, the footsteps inside were getting louder, closer, and then they stopped.

Tim glanced at the peephole in the door and frowned. He could almost sense that someone was right behind the door. He wasn't certain Teddy Hill would open it if he knew it was him. He knocked again anyway. It was his best chance of finding Sarah and Danny. "Teddy!"

The door opened with a jerk and the man inside the house gasped. "Tim?" Teddy Hill rubbed his eyes and stared again. "Tim!" His mouth broke into a grin.

Tim grunted. "You seem glad to see me."

Teddy opened the door wider. "Get in here. My God, are you a sight for sore eyes."

Tim studied Teddy's face carefully. No bags under his eyes, and the whites of his eyes were actually white, not red. The skin on his face was nice and taut, not puffy, and the color looked like his natural shade of brown. He looked clean. Not shower clean, but as if he hadn't been getting high clean. "Is it really you, old friend?"

"Who else would I be?" Teddy asked. "I'm the one that should be asking if it's really you. You're not a ghost, are you?" He reached a hand out to help Tim up the steps to the main level of the house. "You feel solid. But you look a mess and you don't smell too great. Maybe you're a zombie."

"You've gotten your sense of humor back, I see." Tim followed Teddy into the living room.

"And I hope you still have yours," Teddy replied, guiding Tim to a comfortable recliner. "I'm afraid you're going to need it."

"Hmm." Tim frowned. Humorous wasn't something he'd been feeling a whole lot of lately. He looked Teddy up and down, both surprised and relieved in the change in his friend. "You look decent for an old man, Teddy. Are you using?"

"Still as blunt as ever." Teddy's eyes relaxed into a soft expression, small wrinkles showing at the corners of his eyes. He sat down on the edge of the sofa seat, facing Tim. "Not for five years."

Tim regarded him carefully and then gave his old friend a genuine smile, a rare occurrence these days. "That's great news."

Teddy's expression became pained. "What happened over there, Tim? Where the hell have you been all this time?"

Tim groaned, partly from the physical pain he was currently in, but mostly due to the horrible experience from which he'd barely escaped.

When Tim didn't answer, Teddy didn't push the question. "Have you gone ... home yet?" he asked instead.

Tim lowered his eyes. "Doesn't look like anyone's home right now. That's why I came here." He peered at Teddy cautiously. "Where are Sarah and Danny? Did she give up on me and move on?"

Teddy seemed very interested in a spot on the hardwood floor.

Tim wished he had the strength to go over there and shake him and scream at him to tell him where his family was.

"She never gave up on you, Tim." Teddy's voice was filled with sadness and pain, and Tim just knew what the other man meant and was afraid to say.

But he had to be certain he wasn't misunderstanding. "She's gone?"

Teddy sighed deeply.

He had guessed as much, but had hoped it really was just her moving on with her life. He'd have preferred to believe she was happy with someone else than know she was dead. He stared into his old friend's eyes. "How did she die, Teddy? Did she go peacefully at least?"

Teddy shook his head.

Tim let the tears flow that he hadn't cried the previous night. From the day he'd been captured, she had been his strength, his reason to keep going—Sarah and Danny, and his promise to come home to them. Eventually, he choked back his sobs. "What about Danny? Where's my son?"

"Dan's fine." The older man seemed relieved to be able to give him some good news.

"Where is he?"

"In Brooklyn."

"Take me to him." Tim needed to see his son.

"Sure. Of course." Teddy looked him over. "But you might want to get cleaned up a bit, first."

"Take me to my son. Now." He could clean up later.

"You should shower. Put on some clean clothes." Teddy grimaced. "You stink. I don't think you want to meet Rose Diamond looking and smelling like you just climbed out of the trenches. Besides, if you don't clean up first, she'll probably take you in her bathroom and bathe you herself."

Tim didn't recognize the name. "Who's Rose Diamond?"

"Dan's mo—guardian. She and her husband took him in." Teddy looked uncomfortable delivering that information.

"I see." Tim glared at his friend. "Are they good to him? Treat him decently?"

"Yes. They're good people, Tim. Dan's been in great hands." Teddy stood up and then reached out a hand to help Tim do the same. "You need a cane."

"I need my son." He sighed. "And my wife." He looked into Teddy's eyes, and realized he was probably right. It wouldn't do to get his son looking and smelling like the homeless man he now was. "I'll get cleaned up, but you need to tell me everything."

"I will." Teddy helped him to the bathroom. "I'll go grab you some clean towels and a change of clothes."

Tim glanced down at Teddy's wide girth and then at his own skinny waist. "I don't think your clothes will fit me."

Teddy nodded, agreeing. "Don't worry. I'll send for some." He looked down at Tim's leg.

"Your bathtub have one of those hand-held shower heads by any chance?" Tim patted his recently acquired right leg. "And a chair? I can't stand too long on one leg."

"No." Teddy sighed. "The one upstairs does. No chair though. I'll put an old towel over the edge of the tub that you can sit on. Would that help?" Teddy was already on the third step. "Can you make it up another flight of stairs?"

"Yeah." Tim limped over to the stairs and glanced at them, mentally preparing himself. "I know I shouldn't be asking the ex-drug user this, but you wouldn't happen to have any extra-strength pain killers lying around, would you?"

"I'll send for some of those, too." Teddy regarded Tim seriously. "It's good to have you home, Tim."

 

Tim climbed out of the bathtub carefully and dried himself off. He did feel better after showering, but his muscles were still really sore from the exertion of the last few weeks. The prosthetic leg didn't fit quite right, or maybe it was because his wound had never been properly taken care of, but, either way, wearing the leg was uncomfortable. Sometimes he thought it was more trouble than it was worth. But then hobbling around on crutches or being bound to a wheelchair would be even more difficult.

He sighed, slipping into the robe Teddy had left for him. On his one good leg and with support from the surrounding bath fixtures, he made it to the door. He called out to the empty hallway. "Teddy?"

Teddy jogged up the stairs. "Done already?" He gave Tim a shoulder to lean against and helped him to a bedroom. "I'm waiting on a friend to come by with some clothes for you. And that sock thing you had on your leg, can that be bleached? I hope the answer is yes because I've already got it in the washer. I'm surprised you didn't get an infection with that old thing wrapped around your stump."

Tim nodded. "Thanks, Teddy. Thank you." He sighed as he lowered himself to the bed. He was anxious to go, not sit here and wait. He hadn't seen his son in over seven years.

His restlessness must have shown. Teddy was peering at him sympathetically. "We'll go see Dan soon. Why don't you rest a minute?"

"Do I have a choice?" Tim glared at his old friend, but it wasn't Teddy's fault he couldn't walk.

 

It was nearly an hour later before Teddy knocked on the bedroom door, a pile of clothes in his hand topped by the leg sock, which was looking white instead of gray for a change. "Do you need a hand?"

"Thanks. I can actually dress myself." Tim grimaced as he hoisted himself up into a sitting position. He picked up the package of new underwear and then gave a mock glare to Teddy to shoo him out of the room as he pulled out a pair. The sock for his leg was slipped on next, and then he slipped his stump into the socket of the prosthesis and strapped the belt around his waist. He picked up the trousers Teddy had procured for him. They were brand new and so was the shirt. A pair of socks and a new pair of shoes had also been placed in the room. Not wanting to worry about where his friend had gotten the items early this morning—and fairly quickly—he simply donned them. And there he was, indebted to Teddy once again.

A quick glance in the mirror made him turn away in disgust. His cheeks were sunken, his hair too long, and he had nearly a week's growth of stubble on his face, but at least he was clean.

He hobbled down the stairs carefully, one step at a time, hoping Teddy was ready to leave. The sooner he found Danny, the better.

Teddy was on the phone downstairs. Not talking into it, just holding it. When Tim entered the room he put down the receiver and turned to him. "Well, you look a little more human, now."

"Right. Who were you calling?"

"The Diamonds. Still no answer, though." Teddy frowned. "I hate to just show up and spring this on them."

"You have a point. But I need to see my son. Let's go. I'll camp out on their doorstep until they get home if I have to." Tim was anxious to leave.

Teddy lent him an arm down the stairs to the street level entrance. "I've got a cane down here that might help. How bad is the leg?"

"I have no leg." He frowned.

"I meant your left leg. I can't believe you're walking around so much. You seem like you're in a lot of pain." Teddy snapped his fingers. "I knew I was forgetting to give you something. Pain killers." He tapped his pocket. "But not on an empty stomach."

"I don't want to eat; I want to see my son." He did. But he couldn't get his legs to move forward. Teddy's earlier words echoed in his head. It would be a shock to Danny; he'd be unsettling his son's new life. Maybe it was better to just disappear; Danny thought he was dead anyway. And what if his son didn't even want to go with him? He turned to Teddy. "Should I?"

Teddy gazed back at him, puzzled. "Should you what?"

"Should I go see Danny?" Tim let his worries crowd his mind. "Will he even want to see me?"

"Yes." Teddy sighed. "He'll want to see you. And I know this about your boy: If he finds out you came back from North Korea and you didn't try to see him, he won't ever forgive you."

Tim swallowed. "You're right. And I'd never forgive myself."

He followed Teddy to the street, the borrowed cane helping somewhat. Teddy insisted on stopping at a small diner. Tim had to admit that the coffee and eggs helped improve his mood. And he'd swallowed a few of the codeine tablets, while he was at it.

Once they were in a taxi, Tim's anxiety returned. "How long before we're there?"

"Half an hour," Teddy replied. "We're headed to Brighton Beach."

"Hmm. How did Danny end up in Brooklyn?" Tim questioned.

"I'm not really sure," Teddy answered. "Every time I've asked him about what happened, he evades the questions. I figured he just wasn't ready to talk about it, at least not to me."

"What happened," Tim said, not asking the question but simply repeating the words. And what happened to Sarah? The thought of Sarah brought a new wash of pain—heartache—and he squashed it down, ever the soldier. "But you do know what happened, don't you? To Sarah anyway?"

"Yes, I know." Teddy studied Tim carefully. "Are you sure you want to know?"

Tim nodded. "I need to know."

Teddy frowned. "Remember Tony Reyes?"

Tim scowled. "Nasty guy smuggling guns to South America? Yeah, I remember him."

"He killed her." Teddy never had been one to beat around the bush, at least not with him.

"God. No." Tim turned to the window, mentally blocking the grief. He could grieve later. Right now he had to be strong.

"He's serving a life sentence. No chance of parole." Teddy's voice drifted over to him from the other end of the seat as the yellow cab continued its trek to Brighton Beach.

"How?"

Teddy sighed.

Tim waited for him to answer. "Tell me how."

"It's bad, Tim." He could hear the pain in his old friend's voice.

"Tell me."

"He shot her full of drugs. Cocaine, heroin, mostly, a few other things."

Tim closed his eyes, picturing Sarah; beautiful, feisty Sarah. He could swear he felt something inside him break. All those years in that damned prison camp, they couldn't break him. But here, just hearing the truth, knowing that Sarah had been murdered, that's all it took.

"She put up a fight," Teddy continued. "But she couldn't overpower him."

"You don't die right away from an overdose. How long did she suffer?" Tim steeled himself for the answer.

"The dose was really high and the cocktail of drugs made it deadlier than your normal speedball. We think about fifteen or twenty minutes. No more than thirty." Teddy frowned. "It's worse."

Tim tried to ignore Teddy's voice. His friend was a talker, and that was sometimes a good thing, but, right now, all he wanted was a moment of silence for Sarah. Besides, what could possibly be worse, especially for her?

"Dan was there."

"What?" Tim turned to face his friend. "What do you mean he was there?"

"When Tony killed her, he was there. He saw the whole thing. He's the one who called for an ambulance. He's the one who watched her suffer." Teddy's eyes were filled with unshed tears.

Tim turned away and stared out the window. Maybe he should've just given up over there. He should have let himself die.

 

They passed the rest of the cab ride in silence and it gave Tim some time to climb back out of the dark mood. He did survive, he was alive, and his son was alive, too. Life still had a way of giving him hope.

"We're here," Teddy finally said as the cab driver pulled over to the curb.

Tim groaned in pain as he climbed out of the cab. Once they were outside in the cool late-morning air, he studied the streets, the houses, but mostly the people. It seemed like a cozy neighborhood, a good neighborhood.

He hung back as Teddy rang the doorbell. A woman answered the door, her blonde hair neatly coifed. "Mr. Hill. What a pleasant surprise. Come in. And who's your—" The woman turned to him and stopped, mid-sentence, apparently a little flustered.

"Hello," Tim managed. Now that he was about to meet the couple who had taken Danny in and treated him as their son, he was feeling very nervous. "I'm Tim Mangan."

"Mrs. Diamond." Teddy tipped his hat to her in greeting. "Sorry to stop by unannounced—"

"That's fine. Don't worry about it. Please, both of you, come in." She opened the door wider and ushered them indoors.

Inside the comfortable home, a small ruckus could be heard. Tim set the borrowed cane aside and peeked toward the dining room. A boy, probably about Danny's age—but he didn't think it could be Danny—was leaning over a mess of wires and circuitry and other parts of something spread out on the dining table, apparently trying to put it together. But he wasn't the one making the clanging noises or constantly shuffling his feet.

Two other boys, both brandishing fencing épées and wearing face masks and protective clothing, were dueling, right there in the dining room.

"Not like that," one boy said, parrying the other's attack. "You'll never get a point that way. You need to thrust or jab."

"I'll jab you, all right." The other boy didn't jab though. Instead, he backed up to avoid an attack from the taller boy, running into the more studious boys' elbow.

"Hey! Watch it," the boy trying to assemble something called out. He leaned over the table to pick up a screw or bolt that had fallen out of his hand at the unexpected contact.

"Boys!" Mrs. Diamond had shouted it once already. This was her second time trying to get the attention of the three teens.

The unmasked boy looked up. "Yes, Mama?"

"We have company." Mrs. Diamond, apparently not the least bit worried about being accidentally attacked by the fencers, tapped one of them on the shoulder.

The boy turned around. It was hard to tell through the mesh of the head gear, but he seemed to be staring straight at Tim.

The other boy also stopped fighting and removed his mask. "Dan ...." He tapped the other boy lightly on the shoulder with his épée.

"Dad?" Dan removed his mask as well, placing it and his weapon on the table. "Dad?"

Tim nodded, feeling his eyes mist over as he stepped forward. God, how he's grown!

And then Dan rushed forward and hugged him tightly, and Tim put his arms around his son, timidly at first, but then squeezing him as hard as he could. "Danny, my boy." He couldn't say much more than that over the lump in his throat and the tears that were streaming freely from his eyes.

"Dad." Dan eventually let go of him but then stood there staring at him.

Tim put his hands on Dan's shoulders and gazed in wonder at the young man that his little boy had become. "Dan, son, I'm so sorry."

Dan leaned forward into Tim's embrace once again and he could feel his son's tears wetting his shoulder.

Someone in the room sniffed, and that small noise of someone else's presence broke the spell. Dan pulled away slightly but took Tim's hand. "You've met M-Mama?" he asked quietly, almost as if he wasn't sure he should call her that in his presence.

"Call me Rosie," Mrs. Diamond replied.

In that same quiet voice, but with a little more assurance, he turned to the other two boys. "These are my brothers, Neil and Harvey." He gestured to his fencing partner, and then to the boy looking over the wires on the table.

"Hi, Mr. Mangan, Mr. Hill," Neil addressed them.

"H-hi," Harvey echoed.

"Why don't we all sit down, please. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea?" Mrs. Diamond bustled into action.

Teddy approached Dan and handed him the bottle of codeine pills. "Don't let him take too many of these. Okay?"

Dan nodded, glancing at the bottle and then at Tim.

"If you'll excuse me, Mrs. Diamond, Tim, boys." Teddy backed up toward the door. "I feel like this should be more of a private family moment."

"You don't have to go," Mrs. Diamond said quickly.

"No, I do. I actually had some plans this afternoon. But thank you." Teddy peered at Tim and then turned to Dan. "Call me if you need me to come back, okay? And don't let him stay at the apartment. He can always come to my house if needed."

Dan nodded again. "Thanks. Thank you for bringing him here."

Tim gave a very brief nod as well. "Thanks, Teddy. We'll be in touch. Now that I'm back, I'll probably be in your hair constantly."

"Hmm," Teddy winked as he patted his thinning gray hair. "As long as you're not trying to get to my brains, everything's good." He made his exit smoothly, leaving Tim alone with his son's new family.

"Brains?" Harvey echoed.

"Just a joke." Tim actually smiled. It was going to take a while, but he was starting to feel like he was on the road to becoming human again.

"Dad," Dan gazed at him a long moment, still looking as if he couldn't believe he was there. Tim barely believed it himself.

Dan finally found his voice again. "I ... I've missed you. Stay here, tonight." He turned to Mrs. Diamond. "He can stay here, can't he?"

Mrs. Diamond nodded. "Of course he can."

"I understand you've been taking care of my son," Tim said, addressing Mrs. Diamond. He felt very awkward and wasn't sure how to best approach the subject. "Thank you."

"Dan's a great boy. Strong character, good upbringing." Rosie's eyes misted over. "Tea," she suddenly said. "I'll be right back."

"It can wait." Tim smiled at the woman, trying to put them both at ease.

"No offense, Mr. Mangan, but you look half-starved. I'll bring out something to nosh on, as well." Rosie walked briskly to the kitchen and he could hear her opening and closing cupboards. But he hadn't missed the way her eyes had teared up.

Dan called her 'Mama'. He considers the boys his brothers. "She's scared I'm going to take you away from her, isn't she?" Tim sighed.

"Are you?" Neil asked.

Tim regarded Neil, recognizing the protective tone in his voice. Was he? During the taxi ride, he'd imagined coming here, seeing his son, taking him back to ... somewhere—maybe to Teddy's house. "No. ... I don't know." He turned to Dan. "I don't want to disrupt your life, dropping in like this."

"How could you not?" Dan smiled shakily as he asked the question. "But some disruptions, like this one, are good."

"Right. Well." Tim wondered if Dan would even want to come home with him if it were an option. He seemed really happy with his new family. Maybe he shouldn't have come after all. "I hope so," Tim finally said, breaking the awkward silence. "I can't get over how grown up you are. How old are you now? You should've turned seventeen earlier this year."

"I should've and I did." Dan managed a more genuine smile.

Tim glanced around nervously, not sure what to say or do now that he was here. He spotted a shelf overflowing with books, magazines, and other papers. One of the pages caught his eye and he carefully walked over to it, trying not to limp, but the artificial leg always made his gait irregular. Guitar music.

"That's Neil's." Harvey pointed to the boy in question. "He's the guitar player."

Neil blushed. "I do okay. Nowhere near as good as you."

"It's been years since I've picked up a guitar." Tim's eyes misted over again. "How do you know how good I am—was?"

"I saw you play, eight or nine years ago now." Neil grinned. "More than once. And I have some recordings you did with Harry Volpe."

Tim sighed at the mention of his old music mentor. He looked over the page in his hands, hearing the notes in his head. "Did you write this?"

Neil nodded. "It's more of a doo-wop sound, I guess."

Tim smiled. "It's good, seems catchy. I'd like to listen to it."

Rosie returned with a tray full of food and mugs of tea, placing it on the coffee table. "I've called Pop. He's on his way."

Tim put the music back on the shelf and then turned around. Dan had taken a seat on the couch, and he slowly lowered himself onto the cushion next to him.

"Please, eat something." Rosie waited until he sat and then pushed the tray closer to Tim.

"Ooh, babka!" Harvey stared at the plate eagerly, but Rosie gave him a look that clearly said he had to wait until their guest had gotten some first.

Tim smiled at him and reached for a slice of the bread or cake—he couldn't quite tell what it was, but it smelled good. Then he gave the tray a slight push in the boy's direction. "Harvey?"

Harvey said something quietly before taking the babka, but Tim couldn't make it out. His right ear had lost quite a lot of hearing. He was about to ask Harvey to repeat it, but then Dan was talking to him.

"So, how long have you been back?" Dan had asked.

Tim sighed. He reached for one of the mugs of tea and took a tentative sip. "I've been back in the States for over two months, but only managed to make it to Manhattan last night. It took some doing to get here with no money, no id card, nothing." He looked down into his tea. "Dan, I don't have a home to take you to; I have nothing. I don't even have a change of clothes, because I'm pretty sure Teddy's planning on burning the rags I was wearing this morning."

Dan gave him a small smile. "I know the feeling."

"What do you mean?" Tim gazed at his son with worry. He didn't want Dan to ever have experienced even one small bit of the hell he'd been through, and yet he knew Dan had already been through his own nightmares watching Sarah die.

"No money, no home, well, I did have a change of clothes." Dan shrugged one shoulder.

"Like son, like father," Mrs. Diamond said softly, turning the saying around.

"Dan lived on the streets for over a year." Neil grimaced.

"Oh, Dan." Tim frowned. "I'm so sorry. I never imagined what you've been through. Especially since your mother ... Teddy told me what happened to Sarah." He still couldn't believe his wife was gone. And Danny—apparently he had been left homeless after the ordeal. It was all too much for a young boy to handle.

And Tim hadn't made it home to be there for them. He should have been with them. Then maybe Sarah wouldn't have been killed. And Dan wouldn't have been homeless and alone. "I'm sorry, Dan." He lost his composure and started crying again.

Dan put a hand on his arm, tentatively at first and then grasping him solidly. Tim covered it with his own, letting his son's quiet support comfort him, and slowly eased his sobs.

The front door opened; Tim heard it, and jumped slightly.

"Don't worry about a home just yet. I know Mr. Hill invited you to stay with him, but you can also stay here with us as long as you need," Mrs. Diamond offered.

"Who can stay here, Rosie?" A tall, broad-shouldered man with a bushy mustache and equally bushy eyebrows entered the room.

"Kieve, this is Tim Mangan, Dan's father." Mrs. Diamond smiled at the newcomer, who could only be her husband.

He gazed at Tim in astonishment. "I can see that, Rosie, but I can't quite believe it."

"Mr. Diamond?" Tim had wiped away the tears from his cheeks with his sleeves before holding out his hand.

"Yes, call me Kieve." He shook hands. "Welcome."

"The resemblance is strong, isn't it?" Mrs. Diamond smiled.

"Remarkable." Mr. Diamond nodded. "How have you come to be here?"

"Tim just got into New York last night, Kieve." Rose filled him in on what he'd already shared.

"I ... it's been a long journey. I escaped from the internment camp over a year ago, but finding my way back to the States took a while." Tim frowned. "I'm really sorry to inconvenience you. I can go stay with Teddy Hill until I can get everything sorted and am able to start my life again."

"You've been gone for what, more than seven years? Seven years you haven't seen your son and you want to leave? I don't think so." Kieve crossed his arms in front of his chest and spoke with authority. "You'll stay here. You're moving in."

Tim was about to protest but he noticed the look in Dan's eyes. Dan wanted him here, in this house, not halfway across the city in another borough. He could swallow his pride and stay, at least for a while.

Neil spoke up. "I'll sleep in Harvey's room. You can use my bed."

Harvey's head snapped up as he stared at his brother. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "It's just for a week, right? You'll be back at school after the break is over?"

Rosie reached over and ruffled Harvey's hair. "You've put up with your oldest brother all your life. You can handle another week with him in close proximity." Then she addressed Tim. "I think Neil's idea is fine for the next few nights. It'll give the two of you some time alone."

Kieve nodded in agreement. "After that, Harvey and Dan can share a room. You should have your own room, Tim."

"Thank you, all of you. For everything you've done for my boy and for your hospitality now." Tim felt overwhelmed. He'd originally come here thinking he was going to take Dan 'home', whatever that meant. He couldn't see himself doing that now that he saw how Dan and his new family felt about each other, but he didn't want to—he just couldn't—leave Dan again. "I'm so grateful."

 

Tim sat on the edge of one of the beds and stared at his son. After tea, Rosie had suggested he and Dan spend a little time alone. So, here they were, but there was still all this nervous tension in the air between them. His stomach was turning in knots as he tried to figure out just what to say to Dan.

He sat further back on the bed and positioned his right leg so he could stretch it out more, keeping the socket of the prosthesis from digging into his skin at an odd angle. He looked around the room, taking in his surroundings and realizing this was Dan's room, and probably had been for many years.

It was a large bedroom. The two twin beds, a bookshelf, and a desk managed not to overcrowd the room. Another small shelf held a radio and a turntable and there were boxes of records underneath it. The window in the room had its striped curtains pulled to the side, letting in lots of light. A door on the far wall stood partway open, and he guessed by the linoleum on the floor that it led to a bathroom.

"Dad?" Dan's voice was timid, and Tim could almost picture the nine-year-old he had said goodbye to all those years ago.

"I still can't get over how much you've grown." Tim shook his head. "I lost track of time when I was there. I tried to mark the days, but, somewhere after one thousand, I gave up."

Dan regarded him steadily.

"I didn't even know what year it was anymore." He frowned. "I've missed so much. So much. I can't get those years back."

"I know. And I missed you. But you're here now."

Silence, again. What was he supposed to say to his son who he hasn't seen in years? How could he get to know Dan again?

"Dad?" Dan asked.

"Dan?" He looked back at his son, trying not to let his nervousness show.

"I don't know if you noticed or if Teddy told you, but, before we eat dinner, you ought to know, the Diamonds are Jewish." Dan smiled softly.

"Oh? No, I didn't know. That's interesting." Tim mulled it over for a few seconds. "I didn't do anything offensive, did I?"

Dan shook his head. "No, and don't worry about that. Even if you did, they wouldn't mind."

"How'd you end up here, with them?" he asked, seizing the opportunity to learn anything more about his son.

"I met Neil at a jazz club. We became friends."

Tim thought about that, and then started chuckling. It felt odd to laugh, but it was a good kind of odd. "Jews, jazz ... my father would be thoroughly disappointed."

"Your father's an asshole." Dan scowled.

"You've met him? Oh, God, Dan, I'm so sorry." Tim's heart went out to his son. "He is an asshole."

"You haven't gone to see him yet, have you?" The question seemed important to Dan.

"No. I hadn't even thought to go see him. I haven't talked to him since—" He choked. "Since ...."

"Since you left the box with him?" Dan asked.

"What? What are you talking about?" Tim shook his head. "What box?"

"The evidence against Tony." Dan's tone had gotten angry. "That you left with your father. Who you told me was dead."

He had told him that long ago. He was surprised Dan remembered. "I'm sorry I lied. It seemed easier than explaining everything to a young child. I wished he was dead." Tim frowned, looking down at the bedspread. He was ashamed of his long-ago behavior. And no matter how he felt about his father, he shouldn't have lied to his son about him. "I nearly killed him myself, once. Uh—someone stopped me. Thank God he stopped me."

"Unay. I know. He told me the story." His son's voice was strong and comforting. "I wouldn't have blamed you in the least if you had. He was threatening Mom."

Tim looked up, astonished, brown eyes meeting another pair of brown eyes set in a face so like his own. "Are you in touch with Unay?"

Dan shook his head. "Last time I saw him was in St. Louis."

Tim let out a small breath of air. "No kidding? What were you doing in St. Louis?"

His son shrugged his shoulders. "It was probably the worst vacation ever. My girlfriend and her best friend nearly got killed. Gun runners."

"Wow." He regarded Dan carefully. His expression said it was a closed subject, but he had to ask anyway. "They're okay?"

"It was over a year ago. They're fine. Well, hopefully. They're in Paris right now." Dan's eyes softened as he spoke. "They left Friday night and they're only there for the weekend, so hopefully they won't get into any trouble. They'll be home tomorrow night."

"A weekend jaunt in Paris?" Tim raised an eyebrow.

Dan blushed. "Her family is pretty wealthy. Honey's mom wanted to go to some couture fashion thing."

His son really had grown up. He had a girlfriend. He had a whole life that Tim knew nothing about, of course. "I'd like to hear more about her. What did you say her name was? Is she Jewish, too?"

"Later. You're changing the subject." Dan gave him that 'no-nonsense' look that he usually associated with Sarah. She was definitely as much her boy as his.

Tim sighed. "What subject was that?"

"Your father," Dan prodded. "You saw him before you left for Korea. You hid the box that had the evidence against Tony in his house."

Tim shook his head. "No. The last time I saw that bastard was when he showed up after Sarah's graduation and started ranting at her. You must've been around four." He watched Dan's face. "The box you're talking about? I left that with your mom. She hid it somewhere—do you mean to tell me she hid it in that asshole's house?"

Dan nodded, looking somewhat incredulous. "I guess so. That's where we found it. That's where the message said to go."

"Message?" Tim's eyes widened. "The music? Those pages ... I remember now. She'd written down where she'd hidden it, but I didn't have a chance to pass that on to anyone."

"'Forgive the past, visit Patrick'. Something like that, anyway." Dan pressed his lips together tightly, and then stared into Tim's eyes. "You didn't know she'd left it with him?"

Tim shook his head. "No. It's been a long time, but I remember some kind of riddle. Street names, numbers. She'd said only Unay or I would be able to figure it out."

"Unay did, yeah. I tried." Dan frowned. "I couldn't get past 'forgive' without his help, and I wouldn't even have gotten that far without my other friends."

"So, you met your ... that ... Patrick?" Tim wasn't sure how to refer to the man who was his biological father. "Didn't Unay warn you away from him?"

"He thought you might have made up with him before you left. You know, 'forgive the past' and all? We thought you had hidden the box there." One side of Dan's mouth turned down. "He was awful, Dad. He hates me. And after the things he said about Mom, I couldn't even imagine her going there."

"Your Mom was full of surprises." Tim sighed. "I miss her, Dan. I can't believe she's gone." He could feel the tears building up in him again and he felt like he'd cried enough for one day. "I'm sorry you had to meet that man, though. He's dead to me; I'm done with him. But if you want me to confront him and tell him off for the way he treated you, or anything, I will."

"Nah. He's not worth it." Dan managed a small smile.

"You're right. He's not." Tim smiled back at his son. He started to lie back on the bed, feeling much more relaxed. He and Dan were talking; they'd gotten past the initial uneasiness. It was going to take time for them to get to know each other again, but it was a start.

Dan continued to stare at him, but his expression was softer somehow, more compassionate.

Tim suppressed a moan. The pain in his legs was getting too difficult to bear. "You have those pain killers Teddy gave you?"

"Yeah." Dan stood up and picked up the bottle from where he'd left it on the desk. "How many?"

"Two or three. Try two for now." He sat back up and massaged the calf of his left leg, the one that'd been supporting all his weight, not that he weighed all that much.

Dan handed him the pills. "I'll get you some water."

Tim swallowed the pills before answering. "No need." He closed his eyes briefly, still in a half-sitting, half-laying position.

When he opened them again, Dan was still standing there. "You okay, Dad?"

"No, son. I think it'll be a long time before I'm okay again." He frowned. "Will it bother you if I take my leg off?"

"Of course not." His son's eyes flickered in understanding. "Do you need any help? Or privacy? Either way ...."

One side of Tim's mouth turned up in a half-smile. "I don't need help, but thanks."

"Okay." Dan sat back down on his bed, and then stood again. "Actually, let me get you that water anyway."

Tim nodded. He removed his pants and then the prosthesis, setting it near the bed, then slipped his pants back on. When Dan came back in, Tim had stretched out more comfortably.

Dan set the water down by his bed. "Here."

Tim glanced over at it. "Thanks, son."

Dan sat down on the edge of Tim's bed, eyeing the artificial leg next to it. "Dad? We were told you were in some kind of accident, the jeep you were in hit a mine, everyone died. Did that really happen?"

Tim remembered that moment, the explosion, the blinding pain, the eerie silence after. "Except the 'everyone died' part, yes."

"Is that when you lost your leg?"

Tim nodded. "Yes."

They sat there in silence a minute.

Then Dan smiled. "I should tell you about Uncle Bill."

"Uncle Bill?" Tim thought for a moment, wondering where Dan's thoughts had taken him. Did he mean one of the Diamonds' relatives? Or ... Willie. "Sarah's little brother? I thought he'd run away again."

Dan's mouth formed a half-grin. "He did, if you're thinking about that incident that was in the papers back in '51. A judge we know, a friend, helped track him down."

"And you two are in touch now?" he asked.

"Yeah." Dan nodded. "He looks a lot like Mom. He's great. He's a groom, works with horses. He taught me how to ride. He's really patient." His eyes had a faraway look for a moment but then focused back on Tim. "Uncle Bill's really been there for me when I needed him."

"That's good to hear." Tim was glad to hear it, but, at the same time, he felt that stab of guilt. He should have been there for Dan. "Is he anything like your mom other than in looks?"

Dan's half-grin spread into a full one. "He's got the Regan temper all right." His gaze turned to the window momentarily. "Anyway, he lives up in Sleepyside and I usually go up there once or twice a month to visit." He met Tim's eyes, his expression apprehensive. "He'll be coming down here for Thanksgiving so you can meet him then. You are going to stay here, aren't you?"

Tim gazed back at his son. He was still trying to get used to the idea, still trying not to let his pride get in the way. But he needed to be wherever Dan was. He nodded. "For as long as you want me to."

Dan's face relaxed again as the two of them both fell silent.

Tim listened to the noises coming from the street on the other side of the window: the sound of cars driving by, people walking and talking—their voices indistinct, an occasional honk of a horn. It was just ordinary background noise, but it was so different from Korea, China, and even Hong Kong. It was a constant reminder that he really was in the United States, in New York, and it helped him relax.

He focused back on the room, back on Dan. He wanted to hear more about his son's life. "Tell me about your girl, now?"

"Honey." Tim could see the change in Dan's face when he mentioned her name. "She's amazing, Dad. I think you'll really like her."

Tim winked. "If she makes you happy, I already like her. Is Honey her real name or is that just a nickname?"

"Nickname. Her real name is Madeleine." Dan got up and opened a drawer in the nightstand between the beds. He pulled out a picture and handed it to him. "That's her."

"She's pretty." Tim handed the photo back, feeling happy for his son. "What's she like?"

"She's really nice, Dad. She treats everyone fairly, and she's very accepting of everyone."

Dan had said 'everyone' but Tim just knew he meant she accepted him.

"She wants to be a detective or investigator of some kind when she grows up. She's really good at figuring things out and she notices little details about things." Dan sighed. "Am I describing Mom?"

"Yeah, I suppose you are." Tim's eyes shone as he gazed back at Dan. "It's a dangerous line of work."

"No kidding." His son's brow furrowed. "But she and Trixie—that's her best friend—are really good at solving mysteries. Trixie actually reminds me more of mom than Honey, especially in temperament. Honey's more calm and mellow. And very observant."

"She sounds wonderful, Dan."

"She is." Dan paused in thought. "She's strong."

"Strong?" Tim thought that was an interesting word choice.

"Yeah. I think that's what I like most about her. She's been through a lot, and she always gets through it without losing herself."

Tim took in his son's expression. There was pain there, for her and for him. Whatever story or stories were behind that statement, it was obvious Dan didn't want to talk about it any further. As much as he wanted to hear it, to capture all those years he'd missed, both good and bad, he knew this wasn't the time. He changed the subject. "What about you? You must be in college now, right? What are you studying?"

"I'm still in high school, actually. A senior. I lost a year of school when I was ... homeless, I guess." Dan glanced up at him. "I'm sorry. I hope I'm not a disappointment to you."

"You could never be a disappointment. I'm so proud of you, Dan." Tim reached over and clasped Dan's hand, squeezing it. "I'm the disappointment. I'm the one who's failed you."

"No, Dad, don't say that. You can't help what happened." Dan shook his head and then quickly went back on topic, avoiding the past again. "Anyway, I wanted to be a journalist of some sort. Investigative reporter, maybe. Though, for a little while, I wanted to be an astronaut."

Tim hadn't felt this relaxed, this normal, in a long time, and it was good to be having this conversation with his son. He thought about Dan wearing a white space suit and he actually grinned. "You could be the first man in space. What made you decide that?"

"Heights. I like heights. The further away from the ground I am, the more comfortable I feel." Dan shrugged a shoulder. "I think it was the flight to St. Louis, looking down at the earth from the windows of the plane. It was serene."

"But an airplane pilot wouldn't do?" Tim winked.

"Well, that's kind of what I've been thinking since then. The space thing seems a bit too unrealistic, but I could make it as a pilot, I bet. Only ...." He paused and glanced out the window and then back at Tim. "I was thinking how peaceful everything looks from above and then how awful things really are when you look closely, and I went back to wanting to be a journalist. I want to uncover all the things that are happening in the world and make people aware of them instead of letting them just be ignored." He worked his lower lip with nervousness. "Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, it does." He really was proud of Dan. He'd turned into a remarkable young man.

There was a soft knock on the door, interrupting their conversation. Rose Diamond stuck her head in the room. "Dinner's almost ready," she announced. "And, Tim, Kieve stopped by the store and picked up a few things for you." She turned to Dan and held out a bag overflowing with clothes. "Put these away for him, please."

"Thanks, Mama." Dan stood up, kissed her on the cheek, and took the bag from her. "And thank Pops, too."

Rosie stepped back out and shut the door softly behind her.

Dan went to the dresser and cleared out a drawer by grabbing everything in it and shoving it onto the top shelf of the closet. Then he dumped the contents of the large bag onto the bed.

Tim looked it over, embarrassed by their generosity. Dan was sorting through the stuff: another pair of shoes, a hat, six shirts, four slacks, undershirts, and numerous pairs of socks and underwear. "They didn't have to do all this. It's too much."

"They wanted to, Dad." Dan put the shoes on the floor and grabbed a few hangers from the closet. He quickly had everything put away. "Believe me, they wanted to."

"Okay." Tim glanced at his stump and empty trouser leg and then at the artificial leg by the bed. "Would it be terribly rude if I didn't wear that to dinner?"

Dan shook his head. "I don't think so."

"Great. It's fine when I'm walking, necessary really, but it hurts if I sit in it too long." Tim sighed. "Help me up, please?"

Dan nodded, gazing steadily at him, his deep brown eyes brimming with tears as he held his hand out. "I'm really happy you're home. I've missed you, missed having you around."

"It's good to be home. Really good." Tim put his arm around Dan, partly for support, but mostly just for the contact. "I thought the apartment was home, but it's not. This is home. I mean, I know I haven't been here a day, but I can tell. It really is home."

Dan glanced at him and smiled. "I love you, Dad."

"I love you, Dan."


the end