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Second Chances

“Mrs. Eta! Look what I taught Junior to do!”

I turned from my desperate attempt to weed the little garden overlooking the beach and found HM holding a dog biscuit in the air. He carefully placed it on the tip of the little dog’s nose and amazingly Junior didn’t try to knock it off. Just as HM said ‘Now!’, the little dog nosed the biscuit into the air and caught it in his mouth. “That was great HM! Since when did Junior start learning tricks?”

HM bounced over to where I was kneeling, “Oh, I’ve been trying forever, even BA tried to help but he never seemed to pick it up. Then the other day at the VA, I found this book and well…see for yourself!”

I leaned back to see around HM as he nodded toward the dog. I couldn’t help but laugh as the little thing barked and stood on his hind legs.

I’d have to say that HM and I were having a pretty good day together. So far we had weeded the flower beds in the front of the house as well as around the patio. Just as we were finishing up, the phone rang. “Well, I think it’s time for a break anyway. Why don’t I get the phone and you pour us some of that lemonade?”

“Sure thing, Mrs. Eta.”

***

“Yes..Yes…Alright, we’ll be ready.” I nodded to HM and waved for him to sit down as I finished up the phone call. “Oh course, Father…Goodbye, Father.”

HM’s head snapped up at the mention of ‘Father’. “Was that Father Maghill?”

I slowly hung up the phone, “Yes, it was.”

I have to hand it to him, HM handled himself pretty calmly. I know that I must have looked at least somewhat distracted.

“What did he want? What are we going to be ready for?”

“I don’t know.” And honestly I didn’t, but it had to be important and I didn’t want to tell him how stressed the priest’s voice had sounded. In the end, I opted not to say anything. “He’s sending one of the young priests to come pick us up. He said there was something he needed to show us and also that he needed our help.”

HM and I sat quietly in the kitchen drinking our lemonade until the young priest rang the doorbell. Before the bell had even been silenced, HM was out of his seat and bounding for the door. Following more slowly, I grabbed my purse as I joined HM and the priest at the door.

“Hello, Ma’am, Sir. I was told to pick you up and take you back to the orphanage.”

He was a very young priest indeed. He had brown hair and brown kindly eyes and looked to be in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. I gave him a nod and motioned back down the walkway to his car.

As soon as we were situated in the car, myself in the front passenger seat and HM in the back, I asked if he knew what this urgency was in regards to. He didn’t, of course. I knew that he wouldn’t but I had to ask. Also, I knew that if I hadn’t, HM would have hounded the young man with endless questions. I was actually a little surprised that he didn’t do that anyway.

It took twenty-five very long minutes before we arrived at the orphanage. Stepping from the car, I gazed up at the building before me. It was a beautiful old building, its’ architecture leaving no doubt that it had been built by the Catholic Church.

HM bounded around the car only to stop by my side. Just as he took my arm to help me along, Father Maghill came flying out of the large double doors at the front of the orphanage. The old priest waved the young one away as he made it to my other side, also intent on helping me inside.

“I’m so thankful you are here. I couldn’t believe it but it only took one look to see…And even if not for the resemblance…”

By the time we had made it up the steps and into the orphanage the Father had me thoroughly confused and HM in quite a tither. Seeing that some control was in order I stopped and held up my hand, “Father! Father, calm yourself.” When I saw that I had startled him I continued, “We don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh! Quite right. Forgive me.” The old priest stopped babbling, took a deep breath and smiled. After a quite chuckle he motioned us further down the hall. “Let me start at the beginning…”

I placed one hand on the priest’s arm as we walked and reached out to give HM a reassuring pat with the other. “That would be wonderful, Father.”

***

“…and so you see why I think your presence would be appreciated when he hears this news…”

“Oh, yes, of course, Father.” And I did. This could be very upsetting if not done correctly. I think that it will be good news in either case, but still upsetting. “Have you called him yet?”

Father Maghill shook his head, “No. I wanted to be sure that, how do you say it…all the bases were covered.”

I nodded, “Well, I definitely think we should do it here. He’s actually filming somewhere near here. Let me find the number and we’ll give him a ring.”

As I dug through my purse, I smiled at the wonder of the news I had just become privy to. Spotting the number, I grabbed it and hurriedly dialed the number. After a quick conversation, not giving anything away mind you, I hung up. Turning to the old priest, I smiled, “He’s on his way.”

Twenty minutes later I was standing in the large dayroom looking out through the pane glass windows when he walked in. As Father Maghill motioned him to a seat, I tore my eyes away from the play yard and the tall pilot just beyond the glass.

“Father. Mrs. Eta.”

As he nodded his greeting I could tell that he was confused and slightly worried about being here. I think it was mostly the situation but I’m also certain that the location had a small part to play in that. He hadn’t been here at all since…”John.” I gave him a smile of reassurance and a little pat on the arm as I sat down beside him.

Uh oh, now he really looks worried. “John, something wonderful’s happened.” All right, now he’s starting to relax. I nod to Father Maghill to go ahead.

The old priest cleared his throat, “John, Mrs. Eta’s right. Something wonderful has happened. Early yesterday morning Sister Agnes…”

“Hannibal!”

Startled, we all turned toward the entryway to find a breathless HM smiling at us. “Hannibal, did you hear?”

John shook his head as he looked at Father Maghill and me before he turned back toward HM just in time to see HM coax a small child with blond hair and blue eyes out from behind him. Looking up he broke into a cheshire grin, “Look Hannibal, It’s a little Faceman!”

***

“Wha…How…?”

To say John was a little stunned would be an understatement. He was completely thrown by this sudden turn of events. I squeezed his arm as he watched the little boy slowly walk across the room to Father Maghill where he held up his arms and was promptly plopped into the priests lap.

Father Maghill gave the child a little hug and then looked at John, “Hannibal, meet your grandson, Thomas.”

“What…when…I mean, how did…?”

I just sat back as I watched the old priest laugh, “Well, ‘what’ is a bouncing baby boy, ‘when’ would have been yesterday, and ‘how’…well, I would assume in the usual manner…”

John laughed, “The usual…Well, Face was never much for the ordinary.” He turned to look at HM, who by this time was standing behind him. I could see it on his face that he was trying to assess how this turn of events was effecting the pilot. When all appeared to be well, he turned back to the priest, “Uh…Can I hold him?”

“Of course,” standing up the priest hefted the little boy, “Thomas, this is your grandfather, John “Hannibal” Smith.”

Thomas leaned over and held his little arms up for John to take him. Once he was settled in John’s lap he wiggled and squirmed until he was looking up at him, “You can’t be John, that’s my name!”

Everyone laughed including Thomas. John looked down at the serious little boy in his lap, “I thought you name was Thomas.” In response the little boy squirmed out of John’s lap and stood up straight proudly announcing that his name was “John Thomas Peck”.

Smiling, Father Maghill suggested that HM take Thomas back outside so that they could discuss some things. HM held the little boys hand as they walked to the door where Thomas turned and waved over his shoulder and yelled “Bye, bye!”

With both HM and Thomas outside, Father Maghill reached under the table and pulled out a small duffel bag that had gone unnoticed. “Before you ask Hannibal, let me explain. Yesterday morning Sister Agnes was coming back from her daily walk and found him on the front steps.” Hefting the small bag, “This was all he had with him.”

Hannibal nodded and glanced in the direction that HM had taken Thomas, “Other than the resemblance, how do we know that this is Face’s kid? It could just be a coincidence.”

In my heart I had already accepted that he was Templeton’s son but in my head I knew that John would need something more. He was still dealing with Templeton’s unexplained disappearance and death. For something like this to happen and then to find out it was all a mistake later would be too much…

“I thought you might need some sort of proof.” The priest reached into his pocket, “When he was found on the steps he was wearing this.” Father Maghill opened his hand and both John and myself leaned over to see the thin gold chain with the little cross. “I gave this to Templeton when he was just a little boy. He never took it off.”

John nodded. I do recall him mentioning the cross before. It was one of the things that was missing when they found…when they found Templeton. That and the ring…

“He also had this.”

John reached out with a shaking hand and took the ring from the old priest’s hand. He looked up with watery eyes, “I gave him this.” He rolled it over and I peered closely at the inscription, ‘To T from H, M, & B’. Wiping his eyes he broke into a huge grin and laughed, “I have a grandson.”

***Fini***