This is a unedited version of “Daddy Dearest” the first 3 Chapter’s of the authors future novel. He would appreciate it if you comment below to let him know what you this of it.
The First Blow
I was in my office handling my daily tasks when I got the call that almost took my breath away.
“Ms. Thomas, you have an urgent call on line three,” my assistant informed me as she peeked into my office.
“Okay, thanks,” I smiled politely and immediately picked up the phone. I was having a great day. I was thinking about when I got off work. I was planning a fabulous dinner for my father and my son. Meatloaf, red potatoes, Kale greens, and corn bread were all on the menu. It was a household favorite and I looked forward to spending time with my family and being off from work.
“Hello,” I answered the phone with concern.
“Is this a Laniera Thomas?” a deep male voice asked; it was a bit intimidating.
“Yes, this is she,” I answered back. My heart began to race from all of the possibilities I thought about just from the caller’s tone. He had that ‘somebody’s dead or hurt really bad’ tone. “What’s wrong?…Is something wrong? Oh my God, something’s wrong.” I instantly panicked.
“Yes, I am calling to inform you of the death of a Calvin Thomas and we need you to come down the police station to answer some questions.”
“What!?!….Dead.” I hollered out. The thought of my father being dead made my head spin. “How did he die?” I really didn’t want to know. That fact that he was dead was enough. I don’t know why when people find out someone has passed away they have to know the reason why the person that died expired. The fact that they are no longer living should suffice.
“Ma’am, I can’t answer any more questions until you meet with me down at the Central Police precinct in Baltimore City.” His tone was firm and unflinching.
“Where is Jacob…my son?” I was up out of my chair by now, scrambling around my office trying to find my keys and coat.
“He’s in protective custody at the moment.”
“Protective custody?” I belted out. “What for?…is he hurt?”
“Ma’am all questions will be answered as soon as you make your way down to the precinct.” He was like an automated message, saying the same things over and over again.
“Okay, I’ll be right there.” After finding both my keys and coat I threw the phone and stampeded towards the elevator. I heard my assistant say something but I completely ignored her and darted out of my office. The elevator didn’t come fast enough so I took the flight of stairs down. I ran to my car and hopped in as fast a manner as I could. I skidded out of my parking spot and scurried down the street like a maniac.
“Daddy is dead?” Tears ran down my face and I wiped them as fast as I could so I could see while driving. I was an only child and a daddy’s girl. My father and my three year old son were my life. My everything.
I don’t know how I made it to the police station so fast, but I was there in record time. I pulled to the first available parking spot. It said ‘handicapped’ but I parked in it anyway. My father was dead, so to me, right now, I was handicapped. He was closer to me than one of my own limbs.
“I need to speak to someone,” I walked up to the first person I saw, which was behind a counter. I didn’t even know who I talked to on the phone. “Someone called me and said that my father was dead.”
“Okay?” the potbellied Caucasian cop looked at me like I was speaking Hebrew.
“I said my father is dead.” I expected him to come from behind his desk and console me but it didn’t happen.
“I’m sorry for your loss ma’am, but I need some more information.” His tone was mellow and calm.
“My father, Calvin Thomas is dead and my son was with him when he died. I got a call saying to come down here for questioning. Why would I need to be questioned about my dead father? Why can’t I go see his body?”
“Ma’am, I have no clue, but give me a minute to find out.” He turned away from me and picked up the phone. He walked away from the desk so I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I so wanted to jump the counter and snatch the telephone out of his hand to see what was going on.
“Okay,” he said as he came back over to me and hung up the phone. “You can have a seat over there and the person over your case will be out to get you shortly.” He pointed to a rickety looking wooden bench against the wall behind me. Two other people were seated on the bench as well. I clutched my purse as I looked over at the woman and man. Both looked a little suspect to me. I know it sounds harsh but this is the city and people are rough around these parts.
“My case?” I asked out loud confused. “What case? Why is everybody being so secretive? I just lost my father and you act like you could care less.” I barked as I sat down and crossed my legs. My heart was thumping and now my head was pounding with a terrible headache.
“Ms. Thomas?” I turned in the direction of the voice and a conservative black female walked up to me and reached out her hand to shake mine. I shook her hand, hesitantly. It was a few minutes after I sat down and I was ready to get some answers.
“Yes,” I looked at her puzzled as I got up out of my seat and fixed my slightly disheveled skirt. She didn’t look like the police officer type and she sure wasn’t dressed like one. She was dressed in a clinging, navy blue, knee length skirt suit. I had a one just like it and she was working it just as good as I did.
“Could you please come with me?” I nodded my head and followed her down a small hall and into a room where a black cop was sitting at a desk reading a piece of paper. I assumed he was the one I talked to earlier.
“Ms. Thomas?” he asked. It took me a minute to figure out who I was. I was so out of it.
“Yes,” I finally nodded my head.
“I’m Detective Clark, have a seat.” He instructed me. The black woman closed the door and came and sat down in the chair next to me. My hands were trembling like a leaf on a lone branch in a hard storm.
“I am sorry to have you down here under these circumstances, but I really needed to see you face to face. This is not a situation you want to discuss or hear over the phone. Seeing who your father was and the impact he had on this city I thought it would be best if I discussed this with you first.”
“Can you please tell me what’s going on and leave out the condolences for later,” I spoke with obvious tension in my voice. “What in the world is going on? Why is my son in protective custody?”
“Well, Ms. Thomas, I’m Linda King and I’m with the Department of Social Services,” the black woman chimed in next to me so I shifted in my chair so that I could get a clear look on her face. I’m an eye to eye person and she had my full attention. “We need to ask some questions before we get to that part.”
“Questions?” I looked at her like I wanted to snap her neck. But I just nodded my head and mouthed ‘okay’ lightly. I learned a long time ago that you get more bees with honey than vinegar. I’ll save nasty for later and be hospitable right now. I needed them right now.
“Yes….How often did you leave your son with your father?” she asked with a pen and pad in hand.
“Everyday… why?” I got offensive, quickly. She wrote something down quickly and then focused her attention back towards me. Snatching the pad and inspecting what she wrote flashed across my mind, but I kept it professional. I had to keep my composure so I could comprehend everything that was discussed and/or asked.
“Do you know everything about your father?” she looked at me seriously. Seriously, he’s my father miss.
“Excuse me?” I looked at her like she had two heads. “What kind of question is that? He was my father. I’ve known him all my life.”
“Okay,” she scribbled something and then asked me another question. “Was he your only option when it came to the supervision of your son?” she had her pen primed and ready to scribble something down.
“No, but he was my father. It was logical and economical. What in the world is going on? Why aren’t you telling me what’s going on?” She didn’t answer my question, but scribbled something down on her pad again. Her and that pad were about to be kissing this green linoleum floor in a minute. I’m not violent in the least, but under the circumstances she was pushing it.
“Ms. Thomas your father died of an apparent heart attack this morning. A neighbor heard your son crying from the house next door and since your father is older they called the police out of worry for your son’s safety. We found your father unresponsive in the bed with your son.” The black officer spoke mildly.
“Oh My God!” I covered my mouth with my hand to mask the loudness of my voice. The shock exculpated my pitch quite a bit. All I could think about was Jacob lying next to my dead father. He was going to need counseling for sure. I broke down and sobbed really hard. Ms. King compassionately rubbed me on the back trying to comfort me. She grabbed a few Kleenex off of the desk in front of me and handed them to me.
“That still doesn’t explain why my son is in protective custody.” I looked at him and then her. They both hesitated for a moment before Detective Clark spoke up.
“Ms. Thomas, I don’t know how to say this. I have never had to do this before but…” he paused and picked up the paper he had in front of him and then put it back down. He shook his head as to say ‘tsk tsk tsk’. “We found your father naked and some semen leaking from his private area. Your son was naked as well.”
“What?…Huh?…Come again?” I know he wasn’t suggesting what I thought he was suggesting. He couldn’t have. It was unthinkable and there wasn’t a shred of truth to any of it.
“We have reason to believe that your father was sexually violating your son.” The black woman grabbed my hand and spoke it as easily as she could. She looked like she was about to cry. I got up out the chair and walked the floor in a circle and then I got light headed and weak. The last thing I saw was the black detective rushing over to me as I fell towards his desk.
I awoke on a couch in the same office I walked into. The black woman had my head in her lap like I was a child. I slowly sat up and felt my head wobbling around again as I thought about what I was just told.
“Is this a dream?” I looked at her and asked.
“No, honey…This is all real.” She looked at me with more pity than I liked.
“Okay,” I just nodded my head and stared out into space. I snapped myself back to reality and asked her a question, “When can I see my son?”
“Right now they are running some test and then you have to go to court to see if you can get custody back.”
“What do you mean by ‘get custody back’? He’s my son. I already have custody.” I spoke up like I wanted to punch her in the throat, again.
“Well, Ms. Thomas it’s not that easy. Your son was found in a very compromising situation and for his safety we have to evaluate him and you and get a ruling by a judge. It’s for his safety.”
“Evaluate him and me? His safety? I didn’t even know this was going on. If it was going on. I can’t believe this. You all are taking my son away from me for something I didn’t know about.” I looked at her and then him. I was about to snap and break a few things in this room. I prided myself on being a lady at all times, but that was about to change in seconds if they didn’t come up with something better to tell me about my only son.
“Well, we don’t know if you had anything to do with it or not. We have to interview a few of your family member and neighbors to check on your habits and such.” The black cop spoke this time and then paused again.
“Until then, he will be in our custody.” I looked at her after she said that and the urge to punch her came back one more time.
“Have you all lost your minds in here? I want to see my son. I have to see if he is okay.” Tears flowed freely again. I was extremely hurt and confused right now. This couldn’t be happening. This had to be a dream. A real bad dream. A nightmare.
“He’s fine and when the time is right you will get to see him. Supervised of course.” She added. “Until then you can go home and we will contact you shortly on what will happen next.”
“So that’s it? I just walk out of here and go home. Isn’t this some mess? I can’t believe this. So I have no choice when it comes to seeing my son?” I had my hand on my hip eyeing the both of them down defensively.
“At the moment, your son belongs to the State of Maryland.” The cop spoke again. I wanted shove all of his paperwork and computer on to the floor, but I held back because I didn’t want to make the situation worse by acting out.
“Okay, I’ll go home, but I will be waiting by the phone and I might just call my lawyer.”
“Whatever gives you comfort.” The cop spoke sarcastically. It was like he thought I molested my son too. I just got up and walked out of the office, out of the precinct and into my car. I pulled off and drove across town towards my house.
I sat in front of my house for what seemed like hours, but in actuality it was only like fifteen minutes. I didn’t want to go in my house. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the door and walked into a place where ‘they say’ my father violated my son. The curiosity got the best of me and I got out of my car and walked up my front steps to my door. I saw a few of my neighbors sitting on their stoop watching my every move. I minded my business most of the time and I really didn’t socialize with my neighbors much. I bet they were getting a kick out of this. I opened the screen door to my house and enter my home.
“What is going on?” I asked myself this question as I sat at my dining room table. Pictures of my family were strategically placed on the walls around me: my mother, father, son, dead fiancé, and other family members were staring at me. But one picture stood out the most; the picture of my son on my father’s lap as he was dressed up like Santa just a few months ago. Just yesterday I was telling a few members of my staff at the Christian Academy school where I am the Principal, about the wonderful father I had in my life. I went on and on about how my mother and father were the best parents and how much of a good childhood I had. I gushed and gushed about my upbringing and how I never saw my parents argue or have any type of disagreement.
I am an only child and I as a child was treated like royalty all the time. I had all of the things I needed and never desired for a single item or garment. My father was a retired police officer and my mother was secretary for a part of her life. He was a decorated officer and he was highly respected in the neighborhood and parts of the city. This is why this news that I received is so baffling. He was Officer Friendly at some of the schools in the city. He loved children. He would never hurt nor harm them. I think this was a set up and someone is or was jealous of my father’s reputation. I am going to have to do some investigating myself. This was not going to be the dismemberment of my father’s good name. I won’t allow that to happen.
It just didn’t feel right in my house. The spirit wasn’t right. It just felt cold. And it was eighty degrees outside and there was no air conditioning on in my house at the moment. It definitely didn’t feel like the home I left earlier this morning. Yes, everything in the house was exactly like I had left it but there were something missing. My father’s spirit was gone. The voice of my son calling out –Pop Pop- was absent from the air. They both were snatched away within in a blink of an eye. Here today gone tomorrow were true in both instances of absence; my son and my father. One dead the other alive but still absent from my presence right now.
I looked at the fresh mail in the living room as I walked in and saw the few envelopes and junk mail sitting in the same place they did when I came home each day, but much later in the evening.
A few of my son’s toys were strewn about as if he was just playing with them. The picture of a stranger snatching my son up into their arms and carrying him off to an unknown destination popped into my head. A few tears fell down my cheek and I walked out of the room, down the small hall that led to the steps that led up stairs to the second floor. I got to the stairway and put one foot on the first step and then I placed my hand onto the banister. My arm was shaking involuntarily and my heart began to pump faster. I put my hand over my heart willing it to stop, but it didn’t happen. The unknown was just up these stairs. Three bedrooms and a bath. My father had the big bedroom room in the front, next to his was my sons’ and in the back next to the bathroom was my room. My father had the big bedroom out of respect.
I finally willed myself up the stairs and one by one I made the climb as if I was climbing or trekking a great mountain side. I made it to the top and pause. I breathed out a breath and looked around as if I was lost or as if it was my first time in this house.
“Jesus,” I whispered. I didn’t have anything else to say. It felt appropriate to call out Gods’ name.
I looked down the hallway towards my father’s room and yellow caution tape was stretched across the door. I was relieved for the moment. Until I realized that I couldn’t see what was behind the door. But did I really want to know what was being hidden beyond those doors? I was curious but I walked the few steps into my son’s room instead. I would have to deal with that when the time came. Jacob’s scent lingered as I inhaled deeply. His twin bed was partially made as if he just got out of it. Jacob was an advanced boy for his age of three. He had Leapfrog and almost all of the learning games that went with it. I made sure of it. I made sure had a head start very early in life. Learning was very much a great part of his life. He knew his alphabet and numbers by the age one.
“Jacob…my baby,” I picked up one of his favorite action hero off of the floor and squeezed it in my arms like it was my flesh and blood son. I cried, because my son was supposed to home with me instead of somewhere unknown playing with toys that weren’t his own with children whom he didn’t know. He only had a few play pals that I trusted from the neighborhood. He wasn’t allowed in anyone else’s house without my supervision and I didn’t frequent going to any neighbor’s house. I did allow one or two to come over from time to time with my father, because he said that a little boy needed friends to build people skills and interaction with boys his age was necessary.
After a few moments more in Jacob’s room I gathered his dirty clothes hamper and put it next to mine in the hallway so that I could wash them before he came home. I anticipated him coming home very soon, despite what I was told earlier.
Then something that clicked in my head that made everything around me stop. I was in my room changing into some sweats and tee shirt like I normally did when I got home after work, when I realized that I had a funeral to plan. It was like I had momentarily forgotten that my father was dead. He was on a cold slab in a freezer like he was a slab of bacon in the supermarket. I hadn’t planned one or been a part of planning one since my mother died five years ago from breast cancer, of which my father did most of the planning. Now I was all alone to plan the sending off of my father. The instant weight of it all made head spin, enough so that I had to lie down and take a quick nap.
The telephone had awakened me from my nap. It was indeed that. I had only been asleep for about twenty minutes.
“Hello?” I answered groggily.
“Laniera, honey, what are you doing home this early?” My aunt Ernestine asked. “Where is Calvin?” Ernestine was my father’s younger sister. She was a short stubby woman with a boastful voice and always had a lingering opinion. She called the house on a regular basis. She called herself looking after us after my mom passed. I believed that she was nosy, but I never discussed it with anyone. I didn’t like to stir the pot or cause trouble. My father and I knew that we would be fine after my mother passed, but Ernestine thought differently. I always keep the conversations between us short and respectful.
“Aunt Ernestine, I don’t know how to say this, but my father passed away this morning,”
“Oh Lord No!” she belted out. “My big brother is gone! No…no…no…no.” She let out a big wailing cry. She did this when my mother passed as well. I just let her cry.
“Auntie, it’s going to be alright. Everything is going to be just fine.” I tried to console her with warm words. The voice that I used to console a child in my office when something bad happened.
“I…I…I just talked to him last night,” Her voice started to break up and then sniffed back some tears. “He sounded fine.”
“I know Auntie; it was a surprise to me as well.”
“Do they know what happened?” she asked.
“They say it was an apparent heart attack.” I answered.
“Oh, lord, Calvin…Calvin…Calvin,” I could see her shaking her head from side to side even though we weren’t in the same house. “My big brother GONE! Lawd No!” This was a picture of what was to come at the home going service I knew it. She performed at my mother’s funeral and I know she will be putting on a show for her last brother. I shook my head in shame just at the thought.
“Auntie, it’s going to be alright. I promise it will.” I tried to console her again.
“Where is my great nephew at? Is he all right?
“He is doing just fine Auntie.” I could only hope that Jacob was alright. My baby was good boy and I knew that he would get through and over this situation.
“Y’awl eat. You need me to come on over there and whip sumthin’ up.” Her southern accent came shining through when she talked about eating. My father’s side of the family known for throwing down in the kitchen and she is one of the best.
“No Auntie. Everything is alright on this end. I have to go now. I have some planning to do.” I tried to end the conversation so I could get off of the phone and breath and/or cry. I was missing my son extremely now.
“Yes, that is right baby. You go ahead and start and I will be over in the morning to help you with it later. We going to send my brother away like the king he is. Tah Tahhhh!” She hung up the phone without letting me get another word in. Now that she knew I knew that the rest of the family knew. She was on Facebook too so it was a done deal. I turned the ringer on my phone off because I knew that droves of call would be coming through soon and I didn’t want to be bothered with rehashing my father’s death over and over again. I know that tomorrow was going to be a zoo and I had to get some sleep to prepare for it.
The smell of bacon and egg combined with the noise of chatter awoke me from my sleep. I sprang up in the bed and looked at the clock on the wall.
“Six thirty three,” I read it out loud. The window curtains in my room had been drawn and I was greeted by bright sunlight. I wasn’t a morning person and especially today. I untangled myself from my bed linen and slid my feet into my slippers that were next my bed.
“Good morning sleepy head,” My head snapped towards my bedroom door to see my aunt standing in it. My father suggested she get a key to the house in case of an emergency since she was closer to the than my job, which was in Baltimore County.
“Morning,” I mustered up a half of a smile. The other half was not willing to make an appearance at the moment.
“I set your clothes out for the day and hung them on the back of the door for you to get dressed. Breakfast is waiting for you down stairs. We have a ton of work to do so make it snappy.”
I didn’t even have strength to argue. I was drained and my body felt heavier than normal as I got up off of my bed and walked over to my dresser to retrieve some undergarments for after my shower. I walked out of my room towards Jacobs’ room to give him a kiss and to wake him like I normally did in the morning.
“Ja…cob,” I whispered as I opened his door to his room. His bed was empty and the reality hit me again as I remembered the events of yesterday. I felt even worse that I slept through the night with my son not being in the house. What kind of mother am I to not worry feverishly over my absent child? I slowly detoured back towards the bathroom for my shower. My heart was heavy with guilt.
I showered and exited the shower. I then grabbed a towel and draped it around me like I normally did.
“I know they are lying on you daddy. You weren’t that kind of person. I know you wouldn’t do that to Jacob or me. I know it.” I quietly spoke to myself as I dried myself off. I put lotion on my body and then put my underwear and bra on. I exit the bathroom and quickly walked into my room to get dressed. I didn’t know who all was down stairs and I didn’t need to have someone catch me walking around in my undergarments.
I dressed in a few minutes and then walked back to the bathroom to fix my hair. I pulled it back in a ponytail since I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere near work today. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a beautifully stunning woman. I looked good for thirty-five years old I was a splitting image of my mother; Dark chocolate skin, high cheek bones, shoulder length black hair, and I was medium built. My aunt had picked out navy blue dress pants and a white silk blouse to go with it. I slid my feet into some open toed wedge sandals, spritz on some perfume and made my way downstairs. I put on a happy face and pushed myself to be vibrant and upbeat, despite the present situation.
Finally getting to the bottom of the stairs, I paused once more to completely compose myself. I heard a few voices in the living room so I headed that way first even though I was hungry and in need of a cup of coffee.
“Lanieraaaaa….” One of my female cousins, Precious, came up to me and embraced me in a hug. The hug was genuine. Precious is what they called her but she was far from it. She was my Aunt Ernestine’s oldest daughter and she was a chronic weed head. Her lips and gums were almost as dark as the black asphalt outside my house. We were the same age and were raised similarly, but she got caught up with the wrong crowd and you know the rest. We were bosom buddies at one point in life but then she just wondered off in another direction and so did I. She was smart and had potential, but she made choices that got her into trouble. Well, enough about her for now. I turned around after she let me go and was greeting by the very pleasant smile of Uncle Charley, Ernestine’s very gracious husband. He was quite the opposite.
“Hello, Uncle Charley,” I greeted him with a warm smile. He was the one that I loved to see all of the time. His demeanor never changed. He was always pleasant to be around.
He eased out of his chair and wrapped his arms around me. he was a large guy like my father was; Around two hundred thirty pounds and tall with the exception of his light skin. Daddy was a shade lighter than me.
“How you holding up baby girl,” He whispered in my ear as he held me.
“I’m doing fine.” I softly spoke back into his ear.
“Good, I’ll keep your aunt from getting on your nerves as best I can. I know you are going to need your space for grieving and all.”
“Thank you, Uncle.” I pulled away and looked into his eyes. He had that loving gaze that always made me feel better.
Next to get up and hug me was one of my male cousins, Lee. He was my Aunties’ youngest and only son. He was one of my favorites as well; he looked just like Uncle Charley just a lot thinner.
“Wassup Cuz, you hanging in there?” He hugged me and then pulled back. Lee was a conservative thug, if that is possible. He had is pants slightly below his behind and the white Lacoste tee on. He listens to rap and had the tricked out car; tented windows, fancy rims and the like. But he was completely respectable and he always had a conservative young lady he dated.
“Yes,” I nodded my head and smile a little again. “I can’t complain.”
After that I walked out of the living room and down the hall towards the kitchen. My aunt was on the phone running her mouth about the passing of my father. She was Superman competition when it came to speed and getting the word out about something. I’m pretty sure the whole family knew about my father’s death by now.
“Yes, Gertrude, my brother is gone. A heart attack dun took him on outta here… it’s just me and Anne now. Yes, Yes, Yes …I know. I’m taking care of myself and I’m making sure Anne is too.” This is what I walked in on her saying to one of my distant older cousins on the phone. I’m sure this is not the first one and definitely won’t be the last one. I quietly went over to the stove to fix myself a plate of eggs and bacon. She was still rambling on on the phone as I fixed my plate. I sat down at the table said grace over my plate and ate as she talked. One phone call after the next she was spilling the beans to the whole family, near and far. I heard ‘Calvin is dead’ and so many variations of it while sitting there at that table until I couldn’t bare it any more. I got up from the table, scraped what was left of my plate into the trash and made my way down into the basement. I decided now was a good time as any to go digging through the boxes of pictures and things my father had down here to get for the obituary.