Word count 5,735
2nd in the Empty Place Series: which explains why Scott left Lancer and didn’t return.
Scott Lancer hated the month of June. For it was during June, five years ago, that he left them. Left his father. Left his sister.
And God forgive him, left his younger brother.
He would never forget the fear and confusion that went through him when Jelly handed him the telegram that fateful day, urging his immediate return to Boston.
The day that had been filled with such laughter and joy. And love for his brother.
Since Scott was clearly confused about the request by his grandfather’s attorney to return to Boston, he gave no explanation to his family. He decided he would explain it to them upon his return, when he understood it himself. He knew he would be gone a while, but he really did mean it when he told them he would be back, for that is what he believed.
When he got to Boston, he learned that his grandfather was terribly ill, some sort of blood disease that came upon very quickly. The old man succumbed a few days after Scott’s return, and it was only after the funeral and burial that Scott decided to wire his family and inform them of the news.
But when a special delivery letter was received from the Greenhaven Institution for the Mentally Insane, advising Harlan Garrett that he was two months behind in payment for the upkeep of one Mary Lancaster, Scott was puzzled. He barely remembered the references to the place he had heard about growing up, and a long-ago conversation he had with his grandfather about a business associate came back to his mind.
A feeling went through Scott that something wasn’t right; that there was a deep, dark secret Harlan Garrett took to his grave. And he had this awful feeling that it had to do with his family. . . .his father and his brother.
And what Scott Lancer learned shocked and shamed him so much that he knew he could never face his father, and especially, his precious brother, again.
So he wrote them a letter, stating he had decided to remain in Boston, that he missed his friends, his old life, his freedom. But nothing was further from the truth. For the past five years, his life had been one of work, taking over the reins from his late grandfather, and drowning his sorrows in whiskey as he lived alone in his grandfather’s mammoth Boston mansion.
Alone except for the household staff. And the nurse, Celia, hired by Scott to take care of the woman to whom Scott promised would never be hurt again.
The Greenhaven Institution for the Mentally Insane was located far from the prominence of Boston society. It was a large, dark, haunting structure surrounded by barbed-wire fences and look-outs manned with armed guards. There were no trees or anything of beauty or life within miles of it, and it was often said that a person would rather die then be sent to the place referred to as “hell on earth.”
As a child, Scott had heard reference to it by his grandfather and other adults, and remembered the shiver that went through him when the Boston Clarion ran pictures and an article on the institution when he was twelve. So his curiosity was piqued when he began to assist his grandfather in his business and noticed various checks and invoices relating to Greenhaven. When asked, Harlan Garrett simply told his grandson that the upkeep of an unfortunate in the institution became his responsibility through the will of a deceased business associate. Scott never questioned it, but thought it strange when all references to the institution had vanished from the books.
But then the Civil War came, and Scott’s own hell on earth took away any thoughts he had about the Greenhaven Institution.
When he visited Greenhaven a week after receiving the letter, Scott was surprised that the visitors lobby, dining areas, and the administration offices were clean, bright, and cheerful. He spoke with Dr. Mark Christian, who had been the administrator for only a few years and was trying hard to clean up the place, to make it a respectable hospital where people could be helped with their problems.
The doctor admitted to Scott that there was still a section of the building where the “lost souls” were housed. People that had been there for years; that had no family, that were just waiting to die. Dr. Christian told Scott his heart bled for these unfortunate individuals, and that death would be the best thing to happen to them. Scott inquired how many people like that there were, and Dr. Christian replied there were five, one of whom was the individual in which Scott was interested in, Miss Mary Lancaster.
Dr. Christian commented it had taken his staff two days to go through the ancient, dust-covered files to find the history of the woman in Cell C. Scott was informed that Mary, and the other unfortunates, were kept in the basement, chained in locked cells, not only to protect the staff, but to protect themselves as well. Mary wasn’t violent; however, she did have some outbursts and had to be drugged and restrained on occasion. Most of the time, though, she was catatonic, living in her own little world, and speaking what Dr. Christian thought was Spanish.
When Scott inquired the age of Mary and was informed she was between 40 to 45 years old, he felt the breath being sucked from him. Dr. Christian continued that according to the report, she had been brought in by representatives of one Mr. Harlan Garrett in late October of 1850.
Scott’s heart raced as he listened to the sympathetic young doctor relay the information from the report. She had been hysterical when brought in, speaking rapid Spanish and English, stating she had been kidnapped and her child stolen from her; that she was married to a well-to-do gringo cowboy in California who no doubt would be searching for her and her child. Upon the routine examination given to female patients, it was confirmed she had given birth within the past three years.
She had refused to eat and was violent toward the staff, and had tried numerous escape attempts. As a result, she was moved to a cell in the basement that she shared with another unfortunate. She and her cellmate had planned an escape around 1857, and it turned out to be the last attempt for both.
The two women had been captured and drugged, and both suffered overdoses. The older woman ultimately died, but Mary had survived; the overdose leaving her in a semi-comatose state.
Dr. Christian reported there were moments when she would seem lucid; these were the times she would be taken outside by Celia, the sympathetic nurse who cared for her. She would constantly talk about her nino, Juanitio, and talk in Spanish to the child in her mind.
Most of the time, though, she merely sat in her cell and rocked back and forth, humming some sort of lullaby, and forever clutching the baby doll that Celia had given to her.
Dr. Christian told Scott that at one time, she had been a beautiful woman, but there was only a shell of that woman left now. He said it was a shame she had been committed.
Scott asked on what grounds Mr. Garrett had Mary placed at Greenhaven. The doctor replied that Harlan Garrett had Mary Lancaster committed because she was raped and impregnated with, according to the words in the report, “a half-breed bastard.” Because Garrett had some sort of ties with the supposed rapist, he had the woman committed to keep her mouth shut. The child she bore, the report said, had died.
And that’s all there was. . . . .
Scott felt sick; he almost fell off his chair, but Dr. Christian grabbed him firmly and gave him some water. After he recovered from the shock of the story he had just heard, he asked if he could see Miss Lancaster.
Dr. Christian advised the surroundings were extremely unpleasant; Scott told the young doctor he had been at Libby. Dr. Christian nodded in understanding.
The cheery corridor disappeared as Scott and the doctor, followed by two guards, rounded the corner and descended down two flights of stairs. The air was rancid; the smell of urine and sweat assaulted Scott’s senses, and the thought of Libby was forefront in his mind. The moans of the people there, and the rattle of chains made Scott ill. Finally, the doctor stopped at a heavy wooden door with a small window at eye level, covered in bars. Dr. Christian looked in and said to Scott, “Mary is awake.”
The doctor asked one of the guards to get Celia, the nurse who was one of the few people whom Mary trusted, and the other guard followed the two men into the cell that was opened by the doctor.
Slowly, carefully, Dr. Christian walked over to the corner of the cell, where the frail, tangle-haired woman with big brown eyes looked up, terrified at the stranger in her cell.
“She hasn’t had a visitor in years. From what I understand, Mr. Garrett was the only person to see her, and it was after he visited that Mary became violent,” the doctor explained. “No one seems to know why, the staff said he was a gentleman in their dealings with him.”
Scott shook his head, for he knew his grandfather.
Dr. Christian spoke softly to Mary. “Mary, it’s all right. You have a visitor. This young man would like to meet you.”
Scott approached the frightened woman very carefully. He smiled and softly spoke to her.
“Hello. . . . .Maria. . .”
A spark of recognition came to Mary’s face. She approached Scott and held her hand out to him. At that time, Celia walked in and noticed the change in her favorite patient.
Scott was a little alarmed, but he allowed the woman to touch him. He spied the baby doll she clutched, obviously, a female baby doll. But to Mary, the doll represented a lost little boy. . .and Scott knew this.
“I like your baby, Maria. Is it a little boy?” he asked.
She handed him the doll, its face marked with two blue circles on it, representing eyes. “. .nito. . “ she croacked.
“His name. . .Juanito?” Scott asked.
She excitedly nodded yes.
“Is your name Maria. . . .Lancer?” he softly asked, his voice holding back tears.
Tears formed in the haunted brown eyes of the woman. “. . .ia. . . .ncer” she rasped. Celia went to her and comforted her.
“Mr. Lancer, do you know Mary?” a confused doctor questioned.
“No, but. . .I know of her.” There was a silence. Celia said she would tend to Mary, Maria now, as Scott wanted to talk to the doctor privately. Scott had a good feeling about Celia, and wanted to speak with her, after he talked with Dr. Christian.
Scott said good-bye to Maria, and told her he would visit her again. She seemed to understand.
When they returned to the doctor’s pleasant office, Scott relayed to Dr. Christian, in strict confidence, the story of his father and Maria. “She was married to my father. She should never, ever, have been placed here. She had a life. . .a child. . .a husband who loved her. She did nothing to deserve this, except fall in love with my father, after the death of my mother.”
The only lie he told was that his brother. . .Maria’s child. . . had died. He did this to protect his brother, as he wanted no reference to Johnny known to anyone.
He also acknowledged that Harlan Garrett was his grandfather, and that he was ashamed at the actions of the old man. Scott asked if it was humanly possible for Maria to be released from Greenhaven and be taken care of by him, if a professional nurse was hired as well.
Dr. Christian was uneasy with the idea, but said he would move Maria to a room on one of the upper floors, away from the other patients. She would be kept clean and have proper food and sunlight, and he would place her in Celia’s care. If after a few weeks Mary. . Maria. .he corrected himself, seemed to adapt, he would talk with Scott about the possibility, and about assigning Celia to be her caregiver.
Scott thanked Dr. Christian for his time, and advised he would make a financial donation to the betterment and upkeep of the institution. The young doctor appreciated Scott’s kindness. . .and concern for a woman he didn’t even know.
The next several days were hell for Scott; he was confused and didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, he loved his grandfather. He had raised him well, always provided for him, and although strict, provided the guidance that every child needs. But on the other hand, he loathed him. How he could be so spiteful and full of hate that he would ruin the lives of a young man and woman, and their little boy, was unforgivable to Scott.
And the hell that he knew Murdoch, Maria, and Johnny endured all these years, and all because Murdoch Lancer dared to marry and have a family, and be happy, after the death of his first wife.
My mother, Scott sighed.
He cried for his brother. Then the question came to his mind that since Johnny’s mother was kidnapped and interred in a mental institution, who in the hell was the woman who raised Johnny? The woman that his brother believed to be his mother? Scott needed to know exactly how Maria Lancer came to be in Boston at the Greenhaven Institution for the Mentally Insane, and who the mysterious woman was who raised Johnny.
The household staff told Scott that Mr. Garrett had outdated documents and pictures in the attic, and as Scott perused them, he didn’t find anything unusual. Old family photographs. Pictures of a young, happy Harlan Garrett and his beautiful wife, Elizabeth. Their beautiful daughter, Catherine Louise. He even found Scottie, his toy puppy dog that his grandfather took away from him when he was seven, deeming he was to old for toys. Scott gave Scottie a hug.
But in a small box, hidden in the corner, was the information Scott sought. Apparently, his grandfather had hired the services of the McClellan Agency, a highly recommended detective agency years ago, but that been out of business for years. He was able to ascertain that after the death of Catherine, Garrett had hired the agency to keep tabs on his son-in-law in California. Various references to the Lancer ranch were noted and highlighted; purchases by Murdoch, but mostly, the failures of the young rancher.
Scott remembered the time early on when Murdoch had told he and Johnny how hard it was at first for him to make ends meet. It seemed whenever a prosperous deal was about to happen, it would fall through the loops. Now Scott knew why.
Garrett had hired people to travel west and become friends with Murdoch, gain his trust, and discuss purchases for the ranch. Just when Murdoch was sure the deal was a sure thing, it would fall through. Unbeknownst to Murdoch, there was never any deal to begin with. The people hired by Garrett were well-paid for their efforts. And their secrecy.
As he went through the paperwork, Scott noticed that for a few years, Garrett’s obsession with Murdoch Lancer had ceased; but then Scott remembered that is when his grandfather resided in Europe. It was upon Garrett’s return to Boston in late 1849 that the McClellan Agency notified him that Murdoch Lancer had remarried and had a son.
And that is when Harlan Garrett’s madness took off. . . . .
Harlan traveled to the theatre district of New York and found himself two out of work Spanish actors. He hired Miquel Torres to travel to a small town in California called Moro Coyo to ‘accidentally’ meet, and court, one Maria Lancer. His job was to make the beautiful, hot-tempered Mexican woman fall for him and leave her husband.
His job was made easy. Garrett ensured Torres had plenty of money to play the part of a well-to-do gambler. And Torres’ own dark good looks made him easy prey for any young woman. He was also tasked to take a liking to her half-breed son, ensuring the young Maria they would both be better off with him instead of Murdoch Lancer.
Torres did one hell of an acting job, because Maria fell right into the trap. She left with two-year old Johnny in the middle of the night with Miquel Torres, to a life, she thought, would be one of wealth and splendor.
Maria Lancer was so wrong. . . .
Carlotta Juarez was hired to play Miguel’s sister. She lived quite comfortably, thanks to Garrett’s money, in Mexico City where she waited until Torres arrived with Maria and Johnny. Her role was to befriend Maria and her son, to gain her trust. Maria trusted both of them completely; so much so, she would often leave Johnny with “Aunt” Carlotta while she and Miguel would leave for days on end for passionate rendezvous and nightly parties in the exciting Mexican capitol, courtesy of Harlan Garrett’s funding.
Two months after arriving in Mexico City, the actors were notified their roles would soon be ending, and that two agents from the McClellan agency would be coming to take Maria away. They were not told why she was being taken, or where, and nothing was said about the fate of the child.
But what Harlan Garrett didn’t count on, what he couldn’t know, was that Miguel and Carlotta fell in love with one another. And with Johnny.
The lovers were left in the dark about when the agents would arrive; they naively assumed Maria would be taken away quietly, and they would be paid for their services. They planned on marrying and raising Johnny as their son, and no one would be the wiser. But that was not the way Harlan Garrett wrote the script.
In the middle of the night in early September 1850, the home was invaded by the agents. Maria was taken violently as she screamed and called for her son as he was ripped from her protecting arms. Carlotta grabbed the child and ran, with Torres on her heels. But the handsome actor was shot in the back by the agents and died instantly, while Carlotta was nicked in the arm as she made her getaway. It all became clear what was supposed to happen.
Both Miguel and Carlotta were meant to die that night; their roles of a lifetime violently ending, the only witnesses forever out of the way. And Johnny? It seemed he was to be killed as well, an innocent child’s life ended needlessly and violently.
But Carlotta had escaped, taking “her” son with her. She knew that Harlan Garrett would forever be on her trail. She could no longer be Carlotta Juarez, and she couldn’t be Maria Lancer either. So began a long journey for the beautiful Mexican actress—a journey of lies and deceit; of changing names and identities; of traveling from town to town along the Mexican border; of drinking and sex with any man that would have her; and worst of all, of lying to a little boy she truly loved to protect herself.
From Harlan Garrett. . . .
There were reports through the next several years of sightings of Carlotta and a “half-breed” in and around Mexico and the Texas border towns, but she was always one step ahead of the agents. Until the day in April of 1859 when Carlotta was finally caught. . .and murdered. Scott’s eyes opened wide with horror as he read the “half-breed” was murdered with her, and both were buried in unmarked graves.
Scott found a final receipt of payment from Harlan Garrett to the McClellan Agency, and a final letter that read “Lancer/Juarez Case Closed. . . .July 1859.” Attached to the letter was a newspaper article from the New York Post dated January 1861, stating the McClellan Agency had been shut down and indictments were being sought due to “unethical and unlawful practices.”
Scott sat riveted on the attic floor, tears of shock rolling down his handsome face. His brother’s whole life had been the sick creation of his grandfather; one of obsession, hate, and bigotry. The thought that he was even related to this man sickened Scott, and the love he felt for him, even after learning about Greenhaven, died with the printed words he had just read on the faded pages. And he realized that all these years, his grandfather thought that Johnny was dead. Out of the picture. Out of Scott’s life.
God, I bet he had a coronary when I wrote him from Lancer telling him I had a brother, Scott thought with some satisfaction. Then he sadly wondered if any of the trouble that seemed to follow Johnny since his return to Lancer had anything to do with Harlan. . . But he couldn’t worry about that now. For Harlan Garrett was dead. And his wrath would never touch Johnny, or any member of his family, again.
It took Scott several days, and several bottles of whiskey, to digest the sick, twisted story he had read. If it were a novel, he would of thought it nothing but sordid trash, but this was real; a harrowing story that involved his family: his parents, his brother, his brother’s mother, and his grandfather.
He knew he couldn’t return to Lancer. He couldn’t face his father and brother, knowing the sin, the shame, that he carried. And he couldn’t leave Maria in Greenhaven to rot like some mad animal. He decided right then and there that the remainder of her life would be spent in the comfort and dignity that his grandfather had robbed her of so many years ago.
So he wrote his father and brother a letter stating his desire to remain in Boston to reclaim the life he realized he missed. But it was a lie. . . .just one more lie to add to the sick, continuing saga that Harlan Garrett had started.
But this lie, Scott convinced himself, was necessary. Necessary to protect his father. And his brother Johnny, the person that Scott loved more than his own happiness.
For the next five years, Scott Lancer took care of Maria. She was deemed functional enough to leave Greenhaven, and along with Celia, who provided medical assistance, was brought to live with Scott in the Boston mansion that was now his. He smiled a wry smile at the thought of this, and that Old Man Garrett, as Scott now referred to his grandfather, would surely be rolling over in his grave. He had removed all traces of Garrett, and even pictures of Catherine, just in case their presence would spark some unwanted memory in Maria.
In the months that followed, Maria’s physical being and appearance improved greatly through proper diet, sunshine, and fresh air. Although she would never be whole mentally, she was able to feed herself, communicate with gestures and facial expressions, and could even manage a game of checkers with Scott and Celia.
Scott engaged the services of a dentist to repair her rotted teeth, and a lady who specialized in women’s hair was hired, first washing, then cutting her damaged, tangled hair. In a few months, Maria’s hair had grown to a healthy, shiny black/gray color, her teeth were presentable, and a glint of a sparkle appeared in her dark, sorrowful eyes.
Outings were commonplace, and trips to the park and museums delighted Maria. During these visits, she had to use a wheelchair, but around the mansion, she was able to navigate on her own two feet.
During Christmas of 1872, Scott took Maria, Celia, Dr. Christian, and the doctor’s pretty young wife, Alicia, to the symphony. Scott’s greatest gift was the look of pure joy on the face of Maria Lancer, which for that one night, displayed the breathtaking beauty and sparkle that had entranced Murdoch Lancer some 25 years before.
And he could see the face of his brother as well. . . .
Health problems plagued Maria, however, with pneumonia being her downfall. Years of breathing the rancid, damp air from her basement prison had affected her lungs, and even the simplest cold brought on bouts of pneumonia. She had always rallied; however, just after Christmas 1874, she caught a cold that grew progressively worse as the dark, Boston winter intensified. The doctor told them to expect death at any time, for the little lady was so tired and frail. And so lonely. For her little boy. . . .
It was April of 1875 and Scott knew Maria would not last much longer. He wasn’t sure how much she knew, if she had any clue as to who he was. He had never mentioned Johnny or Murdoch, for fear she would somehow want him to take her to them, and that was simply not an option. So he said nothing, only that her child was alive and well, and she seemed to be happy with that knowledge. With the end drawing near, though, he and Celia decided to let Maria Lancer finally see her son. . .and her husband.
She had been sleeping a lot, and awoke only to drink broth and water. This one night, though, she seemed to be improving; she was awake, alert, and smiling. Scott was encouraged, but Celia gently advised him that this is often the final stages just before one passes on. It was then that Scott presented Maria with a small picture of Johnny and Murdoch that he kept in his billfold. It was taken of the three of them on their first family trip to San Francisco, but Scott tore himself out of the picture, leaving just Murdoch and Johnny, arms on each other’s shoulders, both of them glowing.
She stared intently at the picture, then looked at Scott, as if seeking confirmation to her thoughts. “Maria. . .that is Murdoch, your husband. And that is your baby, Johnny. . Juanito. He’s all grown up now, a very handsome man. He looks so much like you. And he and. . .his father are together at Lancer. It is such a beautiful place. They are happy, Maria. You can rest well, they are happy. And together.”
Tears welled in Maria’s dark eyes as she clutched the picture to her heart. She then looked at Scott. “Brother. . .Scott. . . .Catherine’s boy. . . .” she managed to say more clearly than she had talked in five years. For she had known all along. . . .
“Yes. I’m so sorry, Maria. If I could change things. . .” Scott’s voice choking with tears.
She put her hand to his cheek, and gently rubbed it. “Go. . .to them. You. . .need them, they. . . need you,” she said breathlessly.
She took one long breath, and looked at Scott with those dark eyes, and a small smile appeared on her beautiful face. “Gracias. . .ti emo. . .” The dark eyes closed, the breathing ceased. Maria Lancer was gone, and she entered eternity with a contented smile and clutching the picture of the two men in her life, and the “doll” that to her was her lost son, her Juanito.
Scott Lancer sobbed. . .unashamed.
The funeral was quiet and dignified. Dr. Christian and his wife attended, along with Dr. Stone, the physician who tended Maria; Dr. Mays, her dentist; Nora, the hairdresser who helped make Maria look so beautiful, and of course, Celia. The marker was simple but elegant: Maria Lancer, 1827-1875. Beloved Wife. Mother. Friend. Rest in Peace.
Because Scott didn’t know the exact age of Maria, her birth year was an estimate. From what he knew, she been about 20 when Johnny was born, which was 1847. He hoped he had estimated correctly.
Scott stayed behind for a few minutes to say a silent good-bye to Maria, and to let her know she would not be forgotten. For although she didn’t know it, she had gained another son. . .and he hoped he was worthy of the honor.
The next two weeks found Scott taking care of loose ends regarding his life in Boston. He sold his grandfather’s business to a young entrepreneur he met in New York. Scott wanted nothing more to do with Garrett Enterprises.
He had turned the deed of the Boston Mansion over to Celia. She had been a comforting and supportive presence to Scott during the past five years, and earned the right to reside in the elegant mansion that was once his home. He knew Celia would do the home proud.
He had contacted associates in St. Louis and Denver regarding possible positions with their firms. He wanted to contact firms in San Francisco as well, but it was too close to . . .home.
When he had done all he felt could be done, Scott asked Celia for some words of wisdom. Now that the nightmare caused by Old Man Garrett was over, should he contact his family? Did he have the right to ask them for forgiveness, to tell them that all he wanted to do was to come home?
Celia explained to Scott that being a family means trusting and forgiving; it means sharing good times and bad; it means loving unconditionally; and to accept an absent member into their hearts. She told Scott he had done nothing to be forgiven for; that he did what he felt needed to be done. And while his family would want, even need, an explanation for his leaving, if they were really a family, they would respect Scott’s response that “he did what he had to do, and now its time to get on with life.”
Scott was silent for a long time, then told Celia he was confused. He asked if that meant he had to forgive his grandfather, the man he had trusted and loved his whole life, but who had, in reality, betrayed him. And hurt those he loved.
Celia conceded that while Harlan Garrett’s actions were indeed despicable, maybe, somewhere in his life, he just forgot how to feel. That the loss of his wife and daughter made a part of him die, and that the dark part of his soul took over. Celia explained that while everyone suffers loss and disappointment, some hearts, and souls, are stronger than others.
She asked Scott to consider his brother. Scott had talked so much about Johnny in the past five years that Celia felt she knew him, and knew him to be a forgiving person, almost to a fault. Celia explained to Scott that Johnny was one of those rare individuals whose heart, and soul, were strong, because despite the hardships he had before he found his way home, he was still able to forgive. . . .and to love.
She asked Scott to remember the good things Harlan Garrett had accomplished. And she told Scott that he had to come terms with the events of the last five years, in order for him to “get on with his life.”
Scott nodded in agreement, knowing the words from this wonderful woman were true.
Then she asked him to consider this: if it had been Johnny that had left with no explanation, then after five years suddenly contacted his family and asked for the right to return, what would Scott do?
“I’d bring him back myself!” Scott answered without hesitation. “Then I’d beat his little ass for putting his family through agony for five years. Then I would hug him and never let him go!”
Celia smiled as Scott realized what he needed to do.
It was the middle of May when Scott wrote the letter to Murdoch. And only Murdoch, for if he was to be refused by his father, he figured it really didn’t matter anyway.
He took the letter to the post office and asked that it be mailed “Special Delivery.” His hand shook as he gave it to the man behind the counter, who stamped it and threw it in the pile of mail to be sent the next day. Scott felt like his whole life had been thrown away.
A few weeks had passed, and Scott noted it was the first of June, and the dreaded anniversary gave him a heavy heart.
If he could only go back to five years ago. . . . .
A knock at the door brought him back to the present, and he was surprised to see the postman at the door, Special Delivery Letter from California in hand. Scott signed the receipt, took the letter, and went into the living room. He stared at the letter for a good ten minutes before opening it, for he didn’t want to read the bad news he was sure it contained.
He was glad he was alone; Celia was gone for the day and right now, he just didn’t want anyone else around to see his pain.
He slowly opened the letter, and tears welled in the pale blue eyes as he read the words that blurred on the page:
We are so relieved to know you are well. Our thoughts and prayers have been with you the past five years. You need to come home, Son. We need you. Johnny needs you; he is doing well, but he misses his brother so.
Please inform when we can expect you. Anxiously awaiting your return. . .
Scott’s heart lightened for the first time since Jelly handed him the telegram five years before, and he felt like 200 pounds had been lifted from his shoulders. All of a sudden, he felt a renewed energy and lust for life that he thought was gone forever. He ran up to his room and began to pack. He couldn’t wait for Celia to come home, to tell his special friend the fantastic news:
After five long, lonely years, Scott Lancer was going home!!!
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