Face to Face
by Dwight Krauss
part 1 of 2
“I’m sorry,” said the tweedy woman across from Lane, “we can’t release those records.”
Show time. “Well, actually, you can,” he kept his voice smooth, lawyer smooth, “release of local adoption records is at the holder’s discretion. You have only to satisfy the state requirements, and I believe this document,” Lane handed the forgery to her, “suffices.”
The tweedy woman, Mrs. Conover, black, fiftyish, officious, the air of Protecting Our Children about her, took it with an air of ready rejection. Lane inwardly sneered. Was it civic duty? Or just the power?
Mrs. Conover finished reading, “I understand the adoptee is deceased...” Her practiced Voice of Regret kicked in.
No, he isn’t, Lane flashed a thought at her, he’s sitting right in front of you. She didn’t catch it, of course; lesser beings didn’t have his gifts, like the reading of expressions. Hers was saying she bowed to the gods of statute, and statute said no release under any circumstances. Time to introduce a more powerful god.
“Perhaps this will ease any concerns?” Lane handed her the second forgery and watched as she read, her eyes widening.
Texture, Calvin had said, that’s why fakes get spotted. Not enough texture. People think they can knock something together on PhotoShop and fool somebody. Amateurs.
Lane had used the stylus, adding weight to the signature and watermark until both were perfect. Judging by Mrs. Conover’s expression, it was passing muster. He breathed deep, pressing a sharp thumbnail into his leg to keep it from bouncing. Stay calm. Only one shot at this.
“Well...” Mrs. Conover hesitated, “I suppose if the Senator assures us anonymity...”
Oh my God, it was working! “He does.” Lane remained lawyer smooth, proud of his self-control. “Your agency will never be cited.”
She still looked doubtful. Lane produced the Senator’s business card, another forgery, but a lot easier to do. “If you want, you can verify all of this.” And he gave her the card with an expectant smile and an encouraging nod at the phone. Don’t call, don’t call, don’t call, he chanted under his breath.
She considered, looking at the card and the phone. Lane braced for sudden flight. She compared the card against the two letters and the two letters against each other
Calvin had warned him: Three pieces. Two will make them suspicious. Three are convincing.
Then she looked up. “It’s just for genealogical research?”
Lane sang. She’d bought it. They were now in what Calvin called validation.
“That’s all,” Lane smiled and cocked his head and put expansive, innocent hands out. Nothing to worry about, Ma’am. You’re validated.
“I’ll be a few moments.” She got up.
“Take your time.” Lane said casually while inside he screamed Hurry up!
She was back in twenty agonizing, world-ending, someone called the cops and they’re outside right now, minutes. No cops. Just her. And a manila folder. She kept it out of view, just a last few moments of torture. “You understand you can’t have this,” she warned.
He nodded vigorously, “Yes, Ma’am. I only need to take a couple of notes.”
“So who is the Senator’s friend?” she asked, still holding it back which made Lane too anxious and, for a moment, he looked at her blankly. What the hell are you talking about? Oh. Right.
“Now, Mrs. Conover,” he said it conspiratorially, “this is a discreet matter. If I told you, I’d be violating a trust.” Left unsaid was her own reluctance to violate trusts, a meeting of common interests. So let’s be sports about this, hey? Give me the goddamn file, you stupid bitch!
“The Senator had only to call us.”
She wasn’t suddenly suspicious, she was curious. What high and mighty person had a quiet need to check ancestors? Make them think they’re part of it, Calvin had said. Lane leaned forward and dropped his voice to a whisper, “Let’s just say, presidential aspirations are involved?” He raised his eyebrows and glanced off to the side.
She handed him the file and sat back, watching. He held it for a moment, which is about the only time of reverence the play allowed. Across the top, his name, his real name.
He opened it, deliberately keeping his eyes steady. But he lost a bit of control and shakily leafed through documents until...
He had never seen his birth certificate. He only had a Report of Birth in Lieu of Certificate. Sure, he had all the ones he and Calvin made, but this was the real deal. This was him. Father: Unknown. Mother...
The name of God on children’s lips. He held his breath as he read:
Mary Lloyd Vincent. A birth date 20 years and some months before his own. A birthplace, Pemberton, New Jersey. An address in California, current as of the certificate.
* * *
It started when he was about eleven. Before then, he played with his three sisters, their pale blonde hair flying, their blue eyes sparkling as he, their only brother, chased and tagged and swam and biked and screamed the high hilarity of summers and afternoons and Christmases and weekends. It was perfect and golden and innocent. Until Henry.
“So how come you look so different?” Henry the Bully, bent down and scrutinizing him, “how come you all dark? You Spic?”
“Nooo,” Lane had used the kid tone of ridicule, “I ain’t. I’m the boy, stupid. I got the dark hair and eyes.”
“From who?” Henry snorted. “You parents is as lily-ass white as you sisters. You must be Spic or something. You’re weird lookin’.”
They fought, Lane getting the worst of it. “Mom,” he wailed as she bandaged him, “Henry said I’m weird lookin’ because I’m dark and the girls are all blonde.” And he saw it, the quick look away, the hesitation. “What?” he’d asked.
“Nothing,” she said, “it’s because you’re the boy, that’s all.” But her hug was tentative.
“You’re just the boy,” Dad had said but he looked away, too, and Lane was suspicious. He searched filing cabinets until he found the documents. His sisters had genuine certificates that listed Mom and Dad. All he had was a Report in Lieu.
“What’s this?” he’d asked. “How come it’s different than Beth’s and Jo’s and Meg’s?”
“You’re adopted,” his parents said.
Speechless, he listened to a tale of sisters who did not carry the family name and the need for a son to do so and the going to a lawyer who found the agency who arranged his placement and they just loved him so and he was like their real son...
He raised a hand and stopped them. “So who’s my mother?”
“We don’t know,” they said and they both looked sincere and giving and open and Lane wanted to smash their faces.
“I’m adopted,” he told Henry.
“So you are a Spic. And your mother was a whore,” Henry crowed. Lane blinked, picked up a brick, and opened Henry’s head. Sixty-seven stitches and six months of rehab. Lane got six weeks in Juvy.
When he got out, he went to his, er, parents. “I want to know who my mother is.”
“We can’t tell you that.”
“Well, first, we don’t know, and second, we’re your parents.” Dad. All business.
Lane burnt the house down, hoping to take them all but he only managed to get Jo. At least one of them was now dark, if only on one side of her face.
They put him in hospitals at first. He resisted, which got him medications and restraints and solitary. He finally realized resistance was stupid. All they wanted was a sense that all their hand-wringing concern for his well-being was leading to something. So he developed a practical ability to con and used it to get out of the hospitals and into halfway houses, and from there into lots of foster homes.
When you represent an extra $500 per month in free money, you have some popularity. He got quite a schooling in the various adult personalities, from the overly compassionate, to the indifferent, to the cruel. He tested and lost and tested and won and learned a lot.
And he spent far too much time studying himself. One of the overly compassionate sprung for counseling and that’s where Lane first heard of the Oedipus complex. “You have an unhealthy fixation on your mother,” the bearded, glasses-wearing geek had said. Well, duh. Fathers could be anyone, but you only had one mother.
Identity, the Holy Grail of Adoption. Lane knew that if he saw her, scrutinized her, compared himself to her, then everything would fall into place. Beard geek didn’t think so, but that didn’t matter because he was only a factor for about three sessions, when the money ran out.
He’d met Calvin while doing two years for fraud. It was the best two years of his life. Calvin was doing 45 and figured his counterfeiting days were done and he needed an apprentice. Lane had some forgery skills, making it only natural they fell in.
Their lovemaking was the usual prison type, tension release only, but Calvin truly liked him. “You’ve got real talent, kid,” he’d say, pinching a bit of Lane’s face, an act that would get anyone else shanked. He taught Lane everything. Lane told him everything.
“Say hi to your Mom for me,” Calvin shook his hand on the day Lane was paroled. Lane hugged him. Father.
* * *
Copyright © 2008 by Dwight Krauss