Page 3 of 4
We entered a large, marble-floored foyer that led to an enormous room decorated with furniture and wall hangings seemingly taken from a French chateau. Tall, narrow windows with a northern exposure let in a soft afternoon light.
"Vanessa's spent her money well," I remarked.
"Daddy's money," Caitlin said.
Rachael Hass had disappeared. She had probably gone to begin the process of finding Vanessa.
I wondered where in all this eighteenth century brick-a-brack my father could be. Caitlin was evidently thinking the same.
"Upstairs," she said to her partner and they ascended the massive marble staircase. I followed behind them, if at a somewhat slower pace. I was still being impressed with the length and breadth of Vanessa's mansion, impressed with what she'd done with our father's money.
I paused at the top of the stairs. I had no idea where Caitlin had gone, but off to my left, down the sumptuously carpeted hallway, I could hear the muted sounds of a string quartet playing. Mozart. My father's favorite.
I found a den made over into a small entertainment center with a stereo and speaker system on one side of the room and a series of comfortable chairs and a couch at the opposite side. Behind the couch stood hundreds of my father's books in bookshelves taken from his USC office.
And sitting in one of the chairs was my resurrected Dad, Harl Grozak.
"Jordan?" my Dad said as I entered the room. "Is that you?" He rose from his chair and walked over to me. "My God, it is you!"
"As I live and breathe," I said, astonished.
The last time I had seen my father alive was right before I shipped out to the South China Sea. He was dead by the time the war was over. Dad had been a bit heftier then, as yet unravaged by the walking pneumonia that eventually killed him. This version of Harl Grozak was somewhat more stooped and thinner than I remembered. He probably looked like this right about the time he died of congestive heart failure.
"Dad," I said. "You're looking . . . good." I shook his hand and found it rather feeble, insecure. The Harl Grozak I remembered had been a hale and hearty man most of his life. If his grip wasn't all there, it was because he wasn't all there.
"How have you been?" I asked him, not really knowing what else to say.
"Been well. Been well. Come on in. Let me turn the stereo down."
Beside the stereo was a shelf of hundreds of music discs in their coin-sized racks. Dad's taste in classical music didn't go much past the 1790s, so I assumed that his library was mostly Mozart.
"I see you have your Mozart," I observed.
"Oh, yes. Vanessa—" He seemed doubtful for a moment, then turned to me. "You know Vanessa?"
"Yes, Dad," I said. "Of course I do."
"Vanessa treats me well. And I have Mrs. Haas to take care of me during the day. I don't think she likes to climb the stairs, though. I don't think Mrs. Haas likes much of anything. Did Vanessa tell you that we're having an elevator installed next week?"
"No, she didn't, Dad."
He sat back in his recliner. The chair, I noticed, was his chair, his ancient recliner that he'd had for most of his adult life. Vanessa had apparently thought of everything, anticipating all of his possible needs — the chair, the couch, the books, all were his.
"That Vanessa," Dad said wistfully. "I don't know what I'd do without her. She runs her own company, you know."
"I know, Dad. We're all impressed with what she's done."
I couldn't take my eyes off him. Here was my father. Here was a man who had died a natural death eleven years ago and now he was talking to me.
"And do you know," he said as he reached for one of the CDs on the table beside him, "that they've got all Mozart's symphonies on one CD now? Boy."
"Amazing, isn't it?"
"Hmm," he said.
My father was a happy ghost of himself, happy with his new life, a life completely contained in this room.
A glimmer of recognition then passed across his face and he suddenly sat forward. "But aren't you in the Air Force? Aren't you flying those air planes nobody can see?"
"A long time ago, Dad," I told him. "After the war, I worked for Lockheed Martin as a consultant. I'm retired. I live in Azuza now. A nice little community."
"There was a war?"
"It didn't last long, Dad. It's over now."
"My goodness," he said, faintly overwhelmed by the news. For a former history professor, he showed scant interest in the events taking place in the outside world. The books behind us on the wall were old and outdated. They were only there to make Dad feel at home, nothing more.
Caitlin and Nicole finally found us. They seemed out of breath. "Good," Caitlin said, walking up to our father. "Dad, hi."
My Dad blinked at the two new people.
Caitlin placed her briefcase on the coffee table and removed a legal-sized document from it. She then took out a pen and attached the document onto a clipboard and handed it over to my father. "We need your signature for this, Dad. And yours, too, Jordan. While you're here."
My father took the clipboard. "Is this important?"
"Yes, Daddy. Very important," Caitlin said. "It means the world to me."
"Well, you always knew what you were doing," Dad said. He proceeded to sign on a dotted line at the bottom of the document.
"And you, Jordan. Please," Caitlin said to me.
"What is this?" I asked when clipboard came my way.
At that moment Ms. Haas burst into the room. She had apparently finished making her phone calls and was breathing hard from the climb up the stairs.
"What's going on here?" she demanded. She saw the clipboard in my hand with its official-looking document. "What are you doing, Mr. Grozak?"
I thought Rachael Haas was speaking to my Dad but she was looking at me.
Caitlin came up to me. "Sign the paper down where your name is, Jordan. Please." Caitlin pointed to a line just underneath Dad's signature. Nicole Torres stood off to one side watching nervously.
The document was a simple statement of transfer of ownership. The bottom two lines had Caitlin's signature and that reserved for a notary public.
I shrugged and scribbled my signature on the line that had my name fully typed out next to it. I figured that as long as I wasn't transferring ownership of my condo to anybody, there wasn't much harm in adding my name to the document.