Strange Meeting

Cade's been quiet the past couple of days. Quieter than usual. He spends hours just sitting in the hammock, swinging and staring into space, a desolate look on his face that nearly breaks my heart. I can't imagine what he's going through. I left my family voluntarily; divorced my wives happily. I have no real attachment to people except Cade and maybe Mary Ann. I can do without them, no problemo.

But Cade feels things deeply; he has such compassion for strangers that I often wonder what keeps him going when his background is so tragic. Most people would have given up on the human race long ago, but not Cade. Knock him down and he comes up fighting, hurt him and he comes back caring even more.

One thing I do know is that it's his birthday in a week. Maybe he is thinking about past birthdays-I can't even remember if we did anything to celebrate his birthday last year-heck I don't even know for sure how old he is, don't know if even he knows.

I don't know much about his childhood, he's not a sharing kind of guy, not a bleeding heart. I know his mom died, that he never knew his father and that his step father taught him most of what he knows about being a thief. He hasn't said where his stepfather is now and I don't wanna ask. I know his childhood wasn't happy. I know he finds it hard to lighten up and despite my sincerest efforts to cheer him he won't laugh. Now he is even more moribund-as if that were possible.

So you can imagine my wariness when the emails started coming. One a day at first, graduating to two a day. Always the same message:

"Tell Cade Foster I need to meet him. It concerns his father. "

I didn't tell him for several days because I thought it was a prank, a malicious joke. But 20 emails later I started to wonder. He added things like Cade's mother's name and the fact they lived in Chicago. He mentioned Harry too.

Cade was thoughtful when I showed him the messages and said he was willing to check it out.

"This could be a trap, Foster," I warned him hoping that he recalled Lena Hansen.

I certainly can't forget that nightmare of a day-I nearly drowned saving his butt and he almost died of an infected gunshot wound. He was surprised when I pointed out that she (Lena) was probably lying about her mother being a nurse as if the thought had never occurred to him. She lied about everything else. I gave him my stranger danger lecture whilst I treated that mess of holes in his side but I guess a lot of it must have gone right over his head. Maybe I should have waited till the delirium passed; he was too weak to take notice of my advice. He almost didn't survive that time and I would have thought his faith in human nature would have been crushed-but no, not Cade. Up he pops again like an inflatable clown little kids play with. She's e mailed the Paranoid Times at least 5 times but I never told Cade. I don't want him hurt any more. I deleted them without reading.

He nodded, and directed sad eyes at me. You know that puppy dog look? "What if it really is about my father, Eddie? I never knew him. As far as I know he was killed before I was born. I have to find out." I should have known better than to warn him about traps. Since when did he ever take my advice?

So I e mailed back asking for date, time and location and it wasn't long before we had the trailer hooked up and were heading for a small green town in Connecticut.

I found a nice big trailer park somewhere outside Bristol. It's quiet and there's a lot of wildlife. I hardly got a word out of Cade on the journey here. A few sentences in response to my persistent queries about his Dad. Poor guy can't even remember his Dad's name. He showed me a black and white photo though of a young man in a uniform-he looked very much like Cade does. I don't know where he got the photo, Uncle Harry maybe. He rubbed a thumb over the image: a young man dead before he could fulfil his dreams. Kinda tragic. I don't want that to happen to his son, to Cade. There's so much that's a mystery about this guy I call my only friend, my brother. It just shows that you don't have to know every little detail about a guy to be his best buddy, to be the one he trusts. I find it hard, sometimes to put into words what I feel about him. I just know that he is here for a reason and I have to make sure he stays alive for the sake of all of us. I know he is the one who will save us from the Gua, and as long as he's fighting, I'll be fighting also. There's nothing I won't do for him.

I have a birthday present for him-a Bears cap, I have it hidden away where he won't find it. Last year he told me he rarely got presents on his birthday. He remembered getting a hockey stick from Uncle Harry and that his Mom one year gave him a hockey shirt which he wore till it disintegrated. He told me he spent one birthday locked in a dark basement whilst Ned held a "meeting" in the house. His step father beat him up a lot and was responsible for that scar on his face. One thing he said really tore into me, "Birthdays were just like any other day, Eddie. I try not to think about my childhood."

Yeah he was a regular little Oliver to Ned's Fagin. Yet he still turned into this principled adult, this man with a desire to save humanity. And it's not just for revenge any more. Oh it was originally; but after he killed the Gua responsible for Hannah's death he carried on. Most people would quit at that point having got what they wanted. But not Cade. Hating the Gua had become so much a part of him by then that he bought into the Nostradamus Book completely. He was the Twice Blessed Man and he had to carry it through, to Armageddon and beyond.

And until this week there has been no room in his life for personal considerations.

I've made sure the meet happened somewhere public, midday at Rockwell Park by the Lake. I wired him up also though he was reluctant to have it. I guess there were things he intended to say that he wanted kept private, hidden even from me. I wouldn't put it past him to disconnect.

I gave him one last parting shot as he exited the Caddy-"The Gua are probably messing with your mind again, man."

He just stared at me with an unfathomable expression, shrugged his shoulders and in a gruff voice threw, "I don't know who I am any more, Eddie. I want to find out," at me as he strode into the park.

That was three hours ago.