My first thought was to enlist the help of Dawn. Together, we would begin what I hoped would be a wonderful, albeit bittersweet journey.
When I asked, she was more than willing, all the while beseeching me with a genteel urgency to have my house cleansed.
Our first venture was a visit with Samwell. I was hoping that he remembered the names of the people who had lived in his house. Maybe he knew the names of the children whose portraits had been painted on his basement wall. It was a long shot, but worth taking.
When we walked up to his house, he once again offered glasses of lemonade and this time, Dawn and I both accepted. I asked him about the name of the previous owners, and he said, “you know, I bought the house from the firm who was representing the estate.”
He then apologetically asked me to remind him who I was. I smiled as I re-introduced myself and told him that Dawn was my next door neighbor and friend.
“I believe their name might be somewhere on the paperwork, but I’m not sure,” he said. “If you’ve got time, I could try to find it. I’m not much on keeping things where I can rightly put my hands on them. That was my late wifes’ job. She was very organized, and she knew where everything was. She used to say, ‘Samwell, there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place’.” He looked down and turned his wedding ring around and around on his finger. “Ethel,” he said. “Ethel was her name, and I sure do miss her.”
With a touch of sadness in his aging eyes, he said, “this getting old thing is not very pleasant, you know.” He took a sip of his lemonade and said, “now tell me again. What is it you’re looking for?”
I smiled and I told him that I was wondering if he knew the names of the previous owners, “Oh yes,” he said. “Might I know why want to know?”
I told him that I was trying to find Katy, the little girl who used to live in my house, and reminded him that she was the one who painted the mural on his basement wall. “Oh yes,” he said. “The mural.” I told him that my efforts so far had been fruitless and that anything he could find might be helpful. I wanted to gently pressure him without betraying my sense of urgency.
He said, “well, let me go inside and see what I can find.” I smiled when I noticed that I was crossing my fingers.
After a few minutes, he came out with a folder, and looked very pleased with himself. He looked through it and said, “It looks like their name was McGrath. Earl and Mildred McGrath.” I asked if there was any mention of the children’s names. He shook his head and said, “No.”
I thanked him for the lemonade and the information and started walking away. As I turned and waved goodbye, Samwell said, “good luck to you. You seem like a nice person and I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
So did I.
As Dawn and I walked, I recounted my thoughts out loud to her. “I know that two of the children in the painting were boys, and although I don’t know their Christian names, surely they would carry the McGrath surname, wouldn’t you think?” Dawn agreed and offered her own take. “I think the question is; are they still in the area?”
Phone books were a thing of the past and although, as I said, everyone’s life and personal information is available online, I was thinking that it might require yet another private investigator expense, and I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. Dawn and I agreed that I should more or less put that idea on hold for the time being.
I laughed as I told her about the rude man I called “Mr. Nasty,” who lived in the house that had belonged to Katys’ grandmother. “Maybe we could go down there and threaten him,” I jokingly said. Dawn was quick to answer, “maybe I could tell him that I would put a curse on him if he didn’t tell us everything he knew, or better yet, maybe I could tell him that I knew a Voodoo high priestess who would put a curse on him if he didn’t tell us everything he knew.”
We were still laughing when we got back to our respective houses. Suddenly, as if a lightning bolt struck, I looked at Dawn and said, “what if those weren’t their children? What if they were their grandchildren? Or what if they were one of those couples who couldn’t have children, so they just had some painted?” I thought I was going to go into orbit.
Trying hard not to laugh, Dawn was trying to calm me down. She softly said, “why don’t we do what you wanted to do in the first place? Why don’t we look for anyone named McGrath and whatever we find or don’t find, we’ll deal with. We’ll start searching again tomorrow morning. How does that sound?”
I agreed and thanked her for going with me. Walking up to the front of my house, once again, my mind was racing. I began talking to myself, and I really didn’t care if anyone saw me, but I feared had the men in the white coats been close, they might have snatched me up before I could get inside.
Miss Mabel was gone. Samwell didn’t really know anything that would help, and “Mr. Nasty” struck me as a cantankerous old man who, if he did know anything, wouldn’t tell me out of pure spitefulness.
I still wasn’t quite ready to admit failure, but I was close.
That afternoon, I sat down in my favorite chair with a cup of freshly brewed tea, and just stared out the window, almost in a hypnotic trance. It took a few minutes for me to realize that I was staring at a woman, standing in front of my house. Somehow, instinctively, I knew the woman was Katy.
I jumped up and ran to the door. I turned the knob but the damn door was stuck. I was pulling, kicking, cursing, crying and screaming for it to open, but it wouldn’t budge.
I was yelling to Katy, begging her not to leave; begging her to wait for me. Suddenly, the knob turned and the door finally opened.
To be continued________________