Author's note: Thank you all for your kind messages throughout the posting of this story. I have so much fun reading all your thoughts, recaps and speculations every day and once again, now that the story is over, I shall go into withdrawal! LOL A special thank you also to my friends from Collar-quences who test read, advised and encouraged me to continue when I got sidetracked! And, if you haven't seen Witness (the movie) you should. You won't be disappointed. :)
WITNESS - EPILOGUE
"Come on Neal, pick up your pace," Peter checked his watch as he glanced back over his shoulder to make sure his instructions were being followed.
"What's the rush Dad," Neal skipped a couple of steps to catch up with the older man's larger strides, "And come to think of it, why'd we have to catch the subway anyway? You could have just dropped me off."
"I wanted to make sure you wouldn't get lost making your own way home."
Neal stopped walking and put his hands on his hips, clearly put out by that statement. "Oh you're kidding me right?"
Peter smiled but didn't slow down, "I knew you weren't listening to a thing that was being said to you last night…Car's in the shop for a service."
"Oh," Neal really hadn't been listening at all. "In that case, I guess it's all right."
"Move it Neal, we don't want to be late. Your mom told her we'd be there at eight-thirty."
Neal jogged a few paces before he was matching Peter's once more. "What's this ole bags-" Neal quickly clamed up after receiving a stern glare from his dad, disrespect had zero tolerance in the Burke household. "Ah, I was about to say, what's this dear old lady's name again…Mrs…?"
"Mrs Ellington, June Ellington."
"And how does mom know her again?"
"You really didn't listen to a thing your mom said did you?"
No, I tuned her ramblings out half hour into the lecture… "Yeah, sure I did but there was a lot to take in."
Peter sighed knowingly. He could pretty much pinpoint the moment Neal had zoned out but there would have been little point in telling El. "Your mom has catered for Mrs Ellington on a number of occasions and she mentioned that she was on the lookout for a someone to help with odd jobs around the house, a bit of gardening, small paint jobs, moving boxes in and out of storage, you get the idea." The agent made a sharp right hand turn to cross over into the park and Neal once again had to skip to catch up.
"So it's a paid position?"
Peter delivered another pointed look in his son's direction.
Neal winced understanding the unspoken message loud and clear, Don't even go there! "Uh, where's the house? Much further?"
"Nope, it's that grey building just at the end of this park. See it?"
"Yeah. It's pretty flash. Mrs Ellington lives in one of the units there?"
"Mrs Ellington owns the whole building. She lives there alone."
"You're telling me."
"And she can't afford a gardener?"
Neal got the look once more. He was a slow learner but decided anyway it was probably time to move on and change subjects. Besides, he just had a thought, "Dad."
"Can't I just spend the two weeks doing chores around our home. There's plenty there to keep me busy and out of trouble. I'm sure Mrs Ellington is a real sweet lady and all but she's going to want to tell me all about herself and all her troubles and how the world's not the same place it was when she was my age and well let's just say my ears have already been chewed off from where Mom made known her displeasure about my being suspended-"
Neal ignored his dad and continued without missing a beat, "Don't get me wrong, hanging out with Mrs Ellington sounds like a real hoot, but don't you think someone of my formative years should be tasked with fine tuning specific skills. For example, I know one neighbour in particular who'd be appreciate at having a talented young artist such as myself, repaint her exterior feature walls."
"Said neighbour wouldn't happen to be Mrs Erica Masters by any chance?"
"How'd you know?"
"Son, if I had a dollar for every time you looked up hopefully at Miss Penny Master's bedroom window when we walked Satchmo around the block, I'd never have to work a day again in my life."
"I have to try and get her attention somehow," Neal defended his apparently blatantly obvious actions. "Penny's sat across from me in home room all year and not once has she noticed me. Which is really quite…disconcerting, considering all the other girls who practically fall over each other to to chat with me. Every one of them except Penny Masters. She just sits by the window looking so happy and wonderfully glorious, doing her own thing. A couple of times I've purposely bumped into her on the way into class but she's simply said 'excuse me' and carried on like it was nothing."
Peter chuckled, "Have you ever considered actually just walking up to the girl and you know, saying hello?"
"Daaad!" Neal whined, "That's not how it works these days…Now perhaps back in your day it might have worked a treat-"
"No, back in my day we had to carve our messages to each other into stone tablets and then ride our wooly mammoths over to the girl's cave to deliver it."
"Not funny dad!" Neal playfully slapped at his father's shoulder. "Anyway, back to my point…"
"Can't I see out my sentence for being suspended from school somewhere closer to home where my talents won't wither away for two weeks?"
"Like at the Master's house?"
"Dad!" Neal grumbled, "Why not? This unpaid labour mom's committed me to seems rather harsh for a fairly minor offence. I don't see what the big deal was. It's not like I was suspended for forging IDs or anything. All I did was take a test for a friend of mine."
Peter came to a complete stop and Neal all but ploughed into the back of him. The agent turned and pointed his finger, "If I find out young man that you've so much as even thought about forging documents you'll be grounded for so long you'll need a whole new wardrobe when you're finally let out because all those fancy shirts of yours will be severely out of date!...Is that clear?"
"Yes…sir," Neal swallowed hard. Over the years, he had learnt it was in his best interest not to respond with a smart ass comment. "Very clear."
Peter nodded, satisfied that his warning had been heeded. He had no doubt in his mind that there was a strong possibility his seventeen year old son was dabbling in forgeries, testing the waters with his forever developing dubious skill set, but now that Neal knew his dad was on to him, he'd probably shelve the idea and put some distance between himself and his next mischievous venture.
"Good. Now come on, or we're going to be late…" Peter started off but the teenager remained unmoving. "Neal…Neal…"
"….Neal, come over here son, I want to show you something."
"Dad…" Neal looked around examining his surrounds.
"Did, uh did I ever live near here as a kid?"
Peter turned back towards his son and gazed about thoughtfully, "I'm not sure sport. I could probably look it up, see if you and your mom lived in this area…Does something look familiar?"
Neal ambled over to the fountain at the centre of the park and shrugged, "I'm not sure…maybe….I think I've been here before."
"Perhaps as a youngster you passed through on one of your many solo hiking expeditions."
Neal rolled his eyes and chose to ignore his father's teasing reference to all the times he wandered off as a kid, and instead, began examining the statue beside the fountain. It was a life-size figure of a young woman playing a violin. The inquisitive teenager ran his hand along the brass arm while considering that her 'one moment in time' expression, had the most beautifully contented look he had ever seen. "Someone's done a fine job of crafting her…
"You like her, Neal?"
Peter smiled while admiring his son, admiring the art. Most passerby's wouldn't have given the statue the time of day but his kid had never been able to walk past a work of art without caressing and appraising each and every detail.
"She is a beauty isn't she…She reminds me of your mom… That's why I picked her."
"Picked her…What for Dadda?"
"Well," Carl boosted his boy higher on his hip so the little tyke could get a better viewing angle, "see that big ring on her finger?"
The little boy screwed up his nose, "Yeah, course I do."
Carl laughed, "Well…That's daddy's present for Momma."
"You gonna give her that ring, Dadda? It's not very shiny. Momma likes clean fings."
"I know kiddo," Carl had matched the dull brass coating perfectly. "It doesn't look all that appealing does it? But you remember what Momma taught you? It's what's underneath that counts."
"What's nundaneaf that Dadda?"
"Something that's worth lots and lots of money kiddo."
"'Nough money to buy one of those cool new scooter twikes like I saw that boy riding 'esterday?"
"Kiddo, more than enough to buy that luxury yacht you point to every time we take the ferry."
"Are you gonna buy us a boat Dadda? Can I have a boat for my birthday?"
Carl ruffled the little boy's curls while chuckling, "No, I'm not going to buy you a boat for your birthday but I am…" he leaned in close like he was divulging a closely guarded secret, "But I am going to buy your Momma a house."
"But that's zactly what Momma wished for when I found her a floating dandy wishing flower. How did you know, Dadda?"
"Oh, you'd be surprised what your dadda knows sport."
"Can I see the house? Does it have a swing? I hope it has a big swing."
"I know you do kiddo, but you can't see it yet. I have a few things to sort out first."
"When can I see it Dadda?"
"Soon Neal. Very soon, but listen, I don't want you to tell your mommy about the ring just yet okay?"
"Because it's a surprise for Mommy."
"It's a secrwet?" The little boy's blue eyes sparkled.
"Yep, it's our little secret Neal. Just between you and me." Carl kissed his son on the head and placed him carefully back on his feet. "Now come on kiddo, we have to get home before Mommy sends out a search party to look for us."
"Okay Dadda," the little boy was about to follow his father but stopped to have one last look over his shoulder at the statue.
"Let's go Neal…"
"Neal," Peter walked back and placed a gentle hand on his son's shoulder. He recognised the look in the teenager's eyes as one of those times his son had drifted off and stepped back in time for a moment or two. Over the years, Neal had recalled many snippets from his past when something jogged his memory but unlike the early days when it was an emotionally difficult issue to deal with, Neal had learned to enjoy discovering things about the years he spent with his first mom and dad and was always excited to share those memories with Peter and El. "What did you remember son?"
"Uh," Neal snapped back to the present, "Um…I was here with my dad."
"Really?" Peter was surprised. Mostly Neal's memories were of his mom and him. Carl rarely factored in.
"Yeah. I'm sure he brought me here and showed me this statue."
Peter examined the statue with renewed interest. "Perhaps he liked it too?"
"I think so. Something about it reminding him of mom."
"Yeah, I guess I can see that." Peter ran his hands down the woman's hair before checking his watch. "We really better get going, but if you like, I'll check up the housing records and see if I can't find where you were living at the time and we'll come back and take some photos."
"That'd be great." Neal began to run his fingers over the ring on the woman's hand.
"Nice ring," Peter indicated with a nod of his head, "Pity it's not real."
"Yeah…Pity," Neal responded distractedly.
"Let's go sport," Peter made a move in the direction towards the house.
"Coming…" Neal rubbed the ring one last time before heading off after his dad, his brilliant teenage brain ticking over possibilities and scenarios. "Do you think Mrs Ellington will have a hammer?" Neal asked as he caught up.
"What for?" Peter's words were out before he had thought about it. "Nope, no," he held up his hand, "I don't want to know."