Sitting at the small kitchen table, clutching the beer his uncle had just handed him, Dan bent his head, as if he were praying.
Bill Regan took one look at his nephew, turned the chair around and straddled it. He knew Dan would talk when he was ready. Taking a deep swallow of his beer, he did what he would do with a skittish colt…he waited.
Blowing out a deep breath, Dan looked up into patient eyes; eyes just like his mother’s. “Uncle Bill, I think I screwed up. Problem is, I don’t know how I did it.”
“Well, Danny, you’ve been in a pinch before and we figured it out. I suspect we can work this out, too. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me the whole story.”
Sitting back, he recounted what happened at Crabapple Farm a few hours ago. When he got to the details of the birth certificate, Regan interrupted for the first time. “Impossible. Mart couldn’t be the father. Not only would he not cheat on Diana, but that girl doesn’t let him outta her sight. Those two have been inseparable since high school. Sorry for interrupting, continue.”
“That’s about it. After Brian took the baby to the hospital for tests, Trixie went to her office and I went into the station. We were each trying to find as much information as possible.” Dan finished off his beer and ran his hand through his dark hair. It was past his collar; making a mental note to get a haircut, he completed his story. “I ran the mother’s name. Nothing major. Some traffic tickets and an arrest for shoplifting. It wasn’t until I saw her booking photo.” He stopped, put his head down on his folded arms.
“Just get it out, Dan. Then we can work on solving the problem,” Regan prompted soothingly.
“I…last year…just once.” Releasing the pent up anxiety, he said it as fast as he could. “We hooked up, once last year. I met her in a bar in the city. But, Uncle Bill, honest, I don’t know why she listed Mart as the father. I swear I didn’t tell her my name was Mart Belden, I swear.”
Trixie pushed open the kitchen door of Crabapple Farm and allowed Jim to enter ahead of her carrying four pastry boxes. Giving a gentle tug on the leash, she said, “Come on Sherlock, the grasshopper will be there for you to chase later.”
“I sure hope you got me an apple fritter,” her father remarked from behind his morning paper.
Easing the door quietly shut behind her, Trixie assured, “Yes, Daddy. We got four dozen pastries and donuts including six apple fritters.” As she passed by, she pecked a kiss on his cheek. She bent down and unhooked the leash before hanging it on the hook next to the door.
“Are you the only one up?” Jim inquired, helping himself to the coffee pot.
“Helen’s changing the baby,” Peter replied, folding the paper before picking up his own cup. “It was very late when they got back from the hospital.” He ran a hand over his tired face before rubbing his eyes with a knuckle. “I had forgotten that a baby has super screaming capability.”
“It will be better once she gets on a normal schedule,” Helen commented entering the kitchen, with Myriam in her arms. “Speaking of which,” she added, handing the baby over to Trixie. “It’s time for this girl to have a bottle.”
“So, what happened after we left last night?” Trixie asked, taking the baby and sitting down at the kitchen table with her father.
“Well, Brian and Myriam got back just before 4:00 AM. Mart drove Honey and Diana to the Manor House.” Seeing Trixie’s eyebrows go up in classic question mode, Helen continued as she finished mixing the formula, “Honey invited Diana to stay with her. I’m glad she did. Di shouldn’t be alone with her thoughts. I’m sure she’s still working through things.”
Helen carried the baby bottle and the coffee pot to the table and sat down. She handed the bottle to Trixie as Jim got up, grabbed another mug and the cream from the fridge.
Trixie shifted the tiny infant in her arms and the baby began to quickly drain the bottle. “I know in my heart that Myriam isn’t Mart’s child, but she sure likes her food like he does.” She looked up into shining green eyes.
“How do you do that?” Jim asked.
“Do what?” she asked quizzically, looking up at Jim as she held the baby and bottle in one hand and reached for her coffee with the other.
He gestured like he was juggling and pointed to her. “That,” he said circling his index finger.
Not having given it a second thought; she looked down at the nursing baby, the dog lying comfortably under the table where she was stroking a furry ear with her foot, and shrugged. Trixie saluted him with her coffee. “Instinct?”
The phone on the kitchen wall rang. Before any of the Beldens could move, Jim said, “Stay. I’ll get it.” He stood up, leaned over the curly blonde head and whispered, “I love your instincts. We should explore them some more.” He quickly kissed her forehead and grabbed the phone on the third ring. “Belden residence.”
“Jim? Good morning. Di and I were just getting ready to come down and I was wondering if Myriam needed anything. Well, not that Myriam can actually need anything, but if Helen needed anything that Myriam might need. You know?”
“And good morning to you, sister dear,” Jim grinned at his sister’s well known rambling. “Myriam and all of us at Crabapple Farm are fine. Just waiting the rest of our bevy so we can get going. Trixie and I picked up pastries from The White Plains Bake Shoppe.”
“Oh, I love their crullers,” Honey said.
Jim smiled. “Well, Mart’s not up yet, so you may still be in luck. Hurry down.”
“We’re on our way. See you in a few.”
Hanging up the phone, Jim returned to the table and said, “Honey and Di are on their way. So, what did the doctor say?”
“I think it’s probably best to wait until everyone is here, that way we’re not repeating the same thing over and over again, like last night,” Trixie said, moving the baby to her shoulder and patting firmly.
Helen nodded in agreement. “Heavens, I repeated that story so many times, I think I was mumbling it in my sleep.”
“So, do we need to wait for the rest of them to start on the fritters?” Peter asked hopefully.
Laughing, Helen got up and got one of the pastry boxes. The quartet was finishing up their first selections when the back door opened and Bobby came in leading Honey and Diana. “Look who I found on the path coming down here. Can I keep them?” he joked with a grin and waggle of his brows. Closing the door and hanging up his coat, he glanced at the occupants of the kitchen. “What are you all doing up so early?” He reached into the open pastry box and grabbed a piece of fried goodness and stuffed it in his mouth. He went to the fridge and grabbed the milk. As he was pouring a glass, he looked back at the table. “Hey, whose baby?”
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Mart said, having heard his brother’s query as he was coming down the stairs. “The doctor said we should know something in three days. It would have been sooner if we had a maternal DNA sample. Brian’s in the shower. He’ll be down in five and Dan just texted and said he’d be here shortly.”
Twenty minutes later Myriam was tucked into the Belden’s antique bassinet while the group was seated around the table, their plates piled with pastries and cups full of either coffee, tea, or in Dan’s case bright-green, caffeine-laden soda. After taking a huge draw from the glass he turned to Trixie. “Do you want me to go first? My intel is probably more basic.” At her affirmative signal, he told the group what he found out about Myriam’s mother.
“As we know, her name is Elizabeth Ann Charles, age 24, no known aliases.” Dan went on to tell them what he found out about her parking tickets, job history and her minor brushes with the law. “One for disturbing the peace and the suspicion of shoplifting. Both charges were dismissed.”
He looked around the table at his oldest friends and was about to continue with his personal revelation when Trixie interrupted his thoughts.
“Well, I didn’t find out too much more, but I followed a hunch and searched the family. Her father is Carson Andrew Charles,” Trixie started when she was interrupted by her father.
“Drew Charles? The stockbroker slash investment banker?” Peter asked in disbelief.
“One and the same, interesting isn’t it?” Trixie said.
Diana shyly raised her hand. “I’m sorry, but who is he and what does he have to do with Myriam?”
Mart kissed the back of the hand he held tightly in his. “Diana, my dove, Drew Charles was arrested last February for investment fraud. If I understand it correctly, he was running a ponzi scheme out of his offices on Wall Street.”
Both Trixie and her father were nodding in agreement. “If fact, it’s one of the largest that the FBI has ever investigated. There was a huge file on him. It took a while to dig down to the family. But they lost everything. The government seized all property tied to Mr. Charles.” She went on to tell the group the massive listing of properties which included the home on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.
With this additional information, the group sat back and began their speculations. Different theories and ideas where bandied back and forth. Used to this type of Bob-White conversation, Honey was watching the interactions. When she noticed Dan was unusually silent, she quietly gestured towards him to get his attention around the racket.
She stood up to go check on the baby. Dan joined her seconds later. She threaded her arm through his and leaned her head on his shoulder. “So, Dan-the-man, you wanna tell me what you left out?”
Chuckling at her perception, he bent his head and rested it against hers. “We never could keep anything from you, Madeleine. With Trixie, push her buttons, she’s blinded for a minute or two, but never you.” He took a deep breath and said in a whisper, “I knew her, Honey. Myriam’s mom. We hooked up, once. But I swear, I didn’t tell her I was Mart. I don’t know what to think.”
Turning towards Dan, she gathered him in a hug, rubbing his back. He melted into her like a sad, lost boy. After a minute, she stood back. “We’re your family. Family doesn’t keep secrets, so you need to tell them. We’ll figure this out together. Do you want to call Regan?”
“No, I spent the night up there. We hashed it out around the table with a bottle of Jameson’s. He’s got an early appointment with Dr. Riley. But that’s what we decided, too. Full disclosure. I was just about to tell you guys when Trix started in about Drew the Screw.” He placed his arm around Honey’s shoulders and peered down at the sleeping baby.
Myriam had both arms raised above her head, thumbs tucked in; dark lashes dusted her cheeks as her rose-bud mouth worried an imaginary pacifier, her lips poking in and out. Every now and then her legs would twitch. Honey reached down and adjusted the light blanket over the infant. “She is a beautiful baby, Dan. Do you think she could be yours?”
“Until last night, I would have said no way. But the only thing I know for sure is Mart never had sex with that woman. Guess I need to go to the hospital and have my cheek swabbed,” Dan sighed.
“Probably a good idea, but don’t you think you need to tell the…well what should we call them, the Village?” Honey teased.
“Village?” Dan raised one dark eyebrow.
She smiled up at him, her dimples winking. “You know…it takes a village.” She turned and tugged him back to the kitchen. “Time to face the music.”
“No way am I doing the YMCA, Wheeler. No way! It might be our village, but we ain’t the Village People.”
“Smartass.” She swatted him on the butt. “Excuse me! Could everyone get quiet please?” The room quieted down as Dan took his seat and she continued, “Enough speculation. I believe Dan has something else he’d like to tell us.” She squeezed his shoulder in support and walked back to her seat.
Taking a deep breath, Dan looked around the table at his village, and told his story.
Our lovely editors of Joycey, Kelly and Mylee make our stories sooooooo much better with their edits and suggestions. If there are boo-boos left in this story, they belong to us, Jenny and Jo.
The White Plains Bake Shoppe actually exists and has a fantastic and delicious looking photo gallery.
Jameson Irish Whiskey has been made since 1780
Background is from allfreebackgrounds.com
Header and dividers created using MS Clipart manipulated by Jo
Word count – 2159