Washington D.C. – June 6, 2007
“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”
Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC)
Cynthia Powers brought the small cake into the dining room of the condo. Two small number-shaped candles adorned the top, a six and a three. J.P. was already sitting at the table gathering up the dinner plates and silverware. He smiled as she approached.
“Where’s my present?”
“Later,” she nodded toward the bedroom.
“In that case…” he got up and quickly cleared the table.
After the dishes were in the dishwasher and Cynthia had poured two cups of steaming hot black decaf coffee, they sat down to enjoy thin slices of his birthday cake.
“I can’t ever enjoy my birthday without thinking of my father,” he hesitated. “I mean the man who raised me. D-Day, the sixth of June.”
“Oh, that reminds me.” She hopped off her chair and grabbed the pile of mail she hastily dropped on the hallway table. She flipped through it quickly until she found one particular manila envelope. It was addressed to J.P. She brought it to the table.
“I was so anxious to get the cake into the freezer I forget this was there.”
J.P. looked at the return address. It was from Frank West’s widow. J.P. had attended the funeral just two weeks prior. It was another touching ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. He tore open the envelope. There was a handwritten note along with a picture.
Thank you for attending the burial Mr. Kilroy. Frank always spoke well of you. He asked me to send this to you after he passed. He said you would understand. I wish I could be more helpful but Frank didn’t share much with me regarding you or your situation.
J.P. held the picture. It was one he took a few years ago at Arlington National Cemetery. Frank was kneeling at his father’s gravestone. His right arm was on top of the stone. His left hand was gripping the side of the stone. J.P. studied it for a moment and handed it to Cynthia.
“Do you see anything here?”
She looked at it for a moment. “Just a man kneeling by a grave.” She handed it back.
J.P. kept looking at the picture as he spoke. “Every time I feel like I got this behind me, something happens to stir it up again. More than once I was determined to let it go but Frank kept hinting I still didn’t get it. Of all the guys, he seemed like the only one who really wanted me to know the truth. Even from beyond the grave he won’t give it up but keeps sending me clues.” J.P. shook his head in curious disbelief as he propped the picture up against the sugar bowl and continued to study it. “I’m getting too old to worry about this shit!”
Cynthia saw the writing on the back of the photo, reached across the table and read the comment. “When you see it, find Macie Vance. Frank.”
“See what?” he said aloud.
Cynthia studied the picture of a white marble gravestone.
WORLD WAR II
FEB 9 1924
OCT 15 2003
“Who is Macie Vance?” she asked.
“I believe she was Jake’s girlfriend or fiancée before she sent him a Dear John.”
Cynthia studied the picture. “It’s got to be here. We’re both staring at it. Whatever it is.”
J.P. picked up the picture and held it up. Nothing! Then he flipped it upside down, still nothing. “At least he could have pointed me in the right direction,” he finally said in desperation.
Cynthia took the picture. “Pointed? I think he did,” she said. “Look at his index finger on the hand gripping the side of the stone. It’s pointing between John and Kilroy.”
J.P. studied the picture from that perspective. He let out a deep sigh. “Oh, my God!”
“You see something?” she asked.
“I think I do and I can’t believe it.” He leaned back in his chair, looked up and tapped his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Can you pull some strings for me and find Macie Vance?”