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Not mine, not beta-ed, not earning either. Mrs. Soper, however, is the exception. For better or worse she is all mine. Feedback welcome!
Family Reunion 6/?
"Just checking that no one's home," Chris turned to grin over his shoulder at his brother.
Elliot grinned back.
"In my line of business, we listen for sounds of a struggle and then break through the door to `make an arrest'," he said.
"You hear anything `suspicious'?" asked Chris, choosing a key from his set.
Bonnie had kept his keys for him all those years he was in Oz, even though she knew what he used them for. That's what love is. Then she'd given them back when she hooked up with that ass wipe she married. He found the key he wanted and was about to apply it to the door, when Elliot grabbed his wrist.
"Wait - I do hear something," he said.
"You sure?" said Chris.
He could hear nothing.
"There's someone in the house."
Chris lowered his hand and concentrated. Still nothing. Damn Howell. He was glad he broke her fucking neck. Elliot put his gloved forefinger to his lips.
"They're coming closer," he said.
Chris put his keys back into his jacket pocket.
"Here they come," murmured Elliot.
Chris could see a vague shape through the voile curtain of the door.
"How many?' he whispered.
"One," said Elliot.
Chris' hand went to his gun automatically. He'd tucked it into the back of his jeans when he'd got out of the Ford. Elliot noticed and shook his head, making a lowering motion with his hand. Chris stared defiantly at him and kept his hand on his gun. Elliot stepped in between Chris and the door.
"Fuck you," muttered Chris.
"Fuck you too," Elliot muttered back.
The door handle turned.
Chris and Elliot found themselves looking down on one of the smallest old ladies that either of them had ever seen. She was wearing a terry cloth robe of indeterminate color and had slippers on her feet. A large paisley-spattered shawl was around her shoulders. She could have been anywhere between eighty and a hundred and fifty. Chris took his hand off his gun with a wry expression. She looked up at them with milky eyes.
"Hello," she said.
She had a reedy, quavery voice.
"We're here..." began Chris, meaning to add "to read the meter".
"I'm sorry, dear, I can't hear you," she interrupted.
"We're here..." began Chris again, but louder.
"Wait a minute," she dug in a large terry cloth pocket and came up with cough drops, several Kleenex and a small object, which she inserted into her ear.
"It's my hearing aid," she explained. "I don't like to keep it in all the time because the batteries run down. Let me put on my glasses too."
Another exploration of another pocket brought up a thick pair of spectacles. She pushed them onto her face and looked up at Chris and Elliot again, like a small owl.
"We're here..." said Chris for the third time.
"I've been waiting for you," she said. "Do you want to come inside?"
Elliot stepped forward.
"Ma'am, you shouldn't let people into your house when you don't know them. We can ask you what we need to know out here."
"But I know who you are," she said. "You're Chris and Elliot. I remember you from when you were little boys."
"You know who we are?" demanded Chris.
"Of course I do," she said. "I've been waiting for you and yesterday I saw you parked outside in that blue car. I wondered why you didn't ask to come in. It was freezing."
Chris shot Elliot a glare. Elliot ignored it.
"We didn't know what to do," he said. "We need some information and were wondering if you could help us."
"Yeah," muttered Chris, "by telling us who you are for starters."
"Oh, I am Mrs. Soper," she said.
Elliot pulled out his pocket book, flipped it open and scanned his abridged notes.
"There's an Arnold Soper who was connected to the guy we're after," he murmured to Chris.
To Mrs. Soper he said, "Let's go inside out of the cold."
"Is Mr. Arnold Soper here?" he asked her once she had closed the front door behind them and they were all standing in her lobby.
Chris glanced around him. The lights were on in one of the back rooms, but everything in the front was shrouded in darkness, which was why the place had looked uninhabited yesterday. As far as he could tell, there was no sound of life, other than the faint soundtrack of a TV program. He could see the blue light from the screen across a thick rug. As far as he was concerned, they should have asked if she was home alone before going into her house like that. Elliot was forgetting basic common sense in his effort to find their parents. Chris hoped his oversight was not going to cost them too much. He fingered his gun as he stepped across the lobby to the door of the TV room and looked inside.
"I'm afraid my late husband passed away twenty four years ago," Mrs. Soper told Elliot.
"Ma'am, do you know why we're here?" asked Elliot, trying to hide his disappointment.
She looked up at him blankly.
"How did you know who we are?" Elliot asked patiently.
"Why I looked after you when you were babies," she said. "You were such adorable little things, like a little matching set. Whatever one of you wanted, the other had to have. Whenever one laughed the other did too. When you cried you cried together. You were the sweetest..."
"Did you have a yellow blanket?" Chris interrupted her.
That yellow blanket he had remembered when he'd been lying in that coffin in the warehouse was the single thing he could remember about his early childhood. Elliot had a whole cache of memories. He had only that. He was determined to make the most of it.
"I'm sorry, dear?" she asked.
"When you looked after us when we were babies, did you have a yellow blanket that you let us sit on?"
"Yes, I believe I did, dear," she said.
"Was it a bright, sunny yellow?" Chris asked.
"Well, I would describe it as more of a soft, buttery yellow," Mrs. Soper mused. "Can I bring you some tea or coffee?"
"Not right now, thank you," Elliot smiled.
"Yes, please," smiled Chris. "I could really use a cup of coffee."
Elliot looked at him. He looked back.
So Mrs. Soper showed them into her TV room and trotted off to the recesses of the house. She was gone for some time. Elliot sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Be patient, Elliot," Chris said. "Let's get as much info as we can."
He glanced around the TV room. Every surface and every bit of wall was covered by framed photographs. As of one mind he and Elliot stood up and started to walk around the room, scrutinizing the pictures. Mrs. Soper had a large family and a comprehensive collection of mementoes that spanned several decades. They saw no one they recognized.
"Guess we weren't part of her family," said Elliot, with a resigned lift of his eyebrow.
"Yeah, but pretty much everyone else is," said Chris, peering at a large portrait above the dresser of a plump mustachioed man in his fifties.
"Isn't he handsome?" said Mrs. Soper behind them. "That's my Arnie."
She was carrying an impossibly large tray on which were balanced two delicate cups and saucers, a coffee pot, a milk jug, a large sugar bowl that didn't match the other crockery and plate of chocolate praline wafers.
"Let me help you with that," said Elliot, making his way over to her, but Chris got there first and took the tray with a smile.
He set it down on the coffee table. Mrs. Soper poured the coffee and passed each of them a cup.
"Aren't you going to have anything, Mrs. Soper?" asked Elliot, taking his cup.
"Oh, no, dear," said Mrs. Soper. "If I have any tea or coffee past midday I can't sleep at night anymore. You drink up now."
Elliot took a couple of sips of his coffee, leaned forward in his chair and put his cup down again on the coffee table. Chris sat back in his chair, crossed his legs and took a leisurely drag on his cup. This beat the hell out of sitting the cold, damp sedan for another day, staring at an unyielding door. The TV was advertising a rerun of the Miss Sally ice show extravaganza. He tried to catch the date and time. As soon as Toby called him, he'd let him know when it was on. Toby'd get a rise out of that.
"Mrs. Soper, do you know who our parents are?" asked Elliot.
Chris affected to be watching the TV, but in reality his whole attention was suddenly trained on Mrs. Soper. He noticed how her expression closed up and her posture tensed subtlely. He wondered whether Elliot had seen it, but Elliot gave no indication of noticing.
"Please, Mrs. Soper?" begged Elliot.
"Oh, I don't know..." said Mrs. Soper uncertainly.
"I need to know who I am," he told her. "I know that you know something. Please tell me. I've searched my entire life to know the truth."
And then he was telling Mrs. Soper his life story, how he and Chris had been separated when they were small, how they'd grown up apart and had not seen each other until last year, how they'd never known who they were.
"I didn't realize they separated you," said Mrs. Soper.
"We haven't been a matching set in forty years," said Chris in as melancholy voice as he could muster. "We were inseparable, like peas in a pod, and they broke us up. We lost everything when we lost each other. We didn't deserve that. We were just little children. We're trying to put back the pieces now, if it's not too late."
"Oh my," said Mrs. Soper, putting a small hand to her mouth. "I never knew...Why that was just cruel."
"We deserve to know the truth," said Chris.
"I can't tell you," said Mrs. Soper.
"Sure you can," purred Chris.
"I promised not to, for your safety," she said.
"I'm sure we're quite safe now," said Elliot.
"We can look after ourselves," said Chris.
"Please tell us," said Elliot. "You're the only one who can help."
"Oh dear," said Mrs. Soper. "He's not going to be happy at all."
She got up from her chair and tripped over to the dresser beneath Arnie's portrait. She wrote something on a pad with a trembling hand, then tore off the sheet of paper and came back to the coffee table.
"Don't tell him you got this from me. He won't be pleased at all. If he asks, tell him I said nothing."
Elliot took the paper and read it. The spidery scrawl was an address, with no name.
"Will I find him here? Will he help?"
"Maybe," conceded Mrs. Soper reluctantly.
She no longer seemed very talkative. In fact she seemed eager that they should leave. As she showed them out into the cold again, she quavered, "Remember I didn't say anything!"
And her front door closed, leaving them in the street.
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