He seemed to have drifted away and I had been warned not to interrupt so I didn’t dare.
He buzzed for the butler. “Mr. Winslow, would you please bring us a light lunch and some coffee? We’ll have it out on the veranda.”
Mr. Winslow, acting every bit as prim and proper as Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey said “of course, sir. Right away.” It was clear that we were going to eat lunch before the conversation continued.
We were served a scrumptious salad made of baby spinach leaves, topped with strawberries and almond slivers. That was followed by Jerk Salmon with a hefty helping of Couscous. Although out of my realm of casual dining, I imagined that Mr. Harville dined that way every day, served by said prim and proper butler. Yep. I still hated him.
We finished our meal and went back to the library, where he surprised me when he pulled out a box of cigars from Gurkha Her Majesty’s Reserve, which he boasted cost $15,000 a box. The number 38 was stenciled on the box and I wondered if that was an indication of just how many boxes he owned. I didn’t ask and although I didn’t smoke, I graciously accepted and hoped that I didn’t make a fool of myself by coughing up a lung while trying to pretend that I knew what I was doing.
Once again, he leaned back in his overstuffed chair that I was sure cost as much as that box of cigars, took a few puffs and began.
“When Parker was five years old, she was kidnapped. After a frantic search, ransom demands were sent to the Patterson’s. The demand was ten million dollars for her safe return.”
“They consulted me of course and asked me to get the money together. I urged them to follow the FBI’s protocol, which was to not pay the ransom. We reminded them that after 48 hours the victim rarely survives and it had already been 36 hours, but they were determined.”
Against the FBI’s advice and mine, they agreed to pay the ransom. Arrangements were made for the trade but the FBI had placed cut-up pieces of paper in the bag in lieu of actual cash. The kidnappers were being watched and knew they were being watched. After they noticed they had been scammed, they opened fire, killed the agents and escaped.”
“There was one more phone call to the Patterson’s and that was to tell them that they had ‘fucked with the wrong people’. They didn’t get another call and two weeks later, their house burned to the ground. When the fire was put out, their bodies were found and aside from being charred, they had been tortured.”
“No one could figure out how the killers gained access through the Patterson’s tight security. One agent suggested that Parker may have been used as a means of gaining entrance. If that was true, it would never be known. If she had witnessed their torture, it would also never be known. All of the security cameras and videos were destroyed in the fire.”
“In reality though, everyone assumed that Parker was dead. She was ‘buried’ alongside her parents. I was Parker’s Godfather and the Patterson’s will stated that their entire fortune would go to Parker but would remain in my possession until she reached the age of 25.”
As I listened, I was mesmerized and had a bazillion questions but he had already warned me not to interrupt, so I just sat and waited for the “next chapter.”
He continued. “Even though we buried Parker and her parents, I could never shake the feeling that Parker might still be alive. We always had a special connection and I didn’t feel like it had been ‘broken’ for some reason. You know how sometimes you just feel something in your gut? I never gave up hope that some day, she would come skipping down the hall and into my library.”
I remember the sadness in his eyes and I didn’t care if I made him mad by “speaking out of turn.” I said “obviously, she survived.”
He didn’t react in the hostile way I expected when he said “well, there’s surviving and then there’s surviving. Yes, she survived in that she was still breathing. The kidnappers had kept her but they had not kept her as a toy or a child of their own.”
“When she was fifteen, she somehow managed to escape. A farmer found her running along a road out in the country and called the police. They weren’t quite sure what to make of the situation but they took her to the station and she offered no resistance. At the station, several officers tried to talk to her, both male and female but she wouldn’t say a word. She just sat in the corner with her head resting on her knees.”
“A sharp-eyed officer remembered seeing a missing child flyer from ten years earlier. Using the process of age-progression, a rendering of what Parker Patterson might look like at fifteen years old revealed a dead-on match and a little digging into the past, revealed my name.”
“I’ll never forget the day my phone rang.”
To be continued_______________