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I got to my room with no more interference from staff and let myself in, then made my way to the bedroom. I looked longingly at the bed, thinking a nap sounded wonderful, but first I needed to figure out what to do with my suit.
I stepped into the bathroom and froze. My suit was gone! I was sure I left it hanging next to the shower this morning. In a panic, I ran to the closet and pulled it open, only to see a garment bag hanging there next to my shirts. I cautiously unzipped the strange bag. Inside was my suit, fully pressed. I pulled it out and looked at it, then noticed all my shirts hanging in the closet were freshly pressed as well.
There was a note attached to the garment bag. “We noticed your suit hanging in the bathroom and thought we would help you out by having it pressed. Your shirts as well. We hope you are enjoying your stay here with us.” It was signed by Housekeeping. I don’t care what the front desk manager said, Housekeeping was getting a big tip when I left.
I had put Amanda’s letter on the desk when I entered the room and it stuck out lying there, unopened, from where I was standing. I debated about reading it now or waiting until this evening when I would have more time to deal with whatever emotions came up. I decided on later.
I was famished so I went down the hall to the Club lounge where I discovered delicious, gourmet hamburgers and french fries. Even the ketchup was top notch. I spied more of the chocolate mousse I had had last night and took two glasses of the fluffy dessert back to my room.
I ate them looking out my window at the mountains in the distance. They were so beautiful from that far away. Up close, I supposed they might be treacherous in places but, from here, they gave me a peaceful feeling.
I dressed in my suit and tie–I even polished my shoes with the little shoe shine kit in the bathroom–and was back down at the lobby entrance at one o’clock. I patted my breast pocket to make sure I still had Amanda’s letter safely stored there. I never had a nap but the food and the view restored me to some semblance of my version of normal.
As I stood there watching people come and leave the hotel, I noticed a couple of very sexy men in three piece suits walking by. I laughed at myself–yep, if I was ogling the guys, I would be alright.
Billy picked me up on time–again intimidating the bellboys to stay back from his car–and we had Clyde with us in short order. The ride to the courthouse was spent listening to Clyde browbeat some court clerk for holding up some kind of paperwork he needed processed. He was still giving him grief when we walked up to the door of Judge William Bartells’ chambers. Billy waited with the car as we did not expect to be too long.
Clyde hung up his call after being assured the requested paperwork would be ready this afternoon, then knocked on the judge’s door.
“Enter,” said a loud, booming voice. We obeyed.
Sitting behind a standard, government-issued desk was a small, unassuming man. His official robes were hanging on a coat rack next to the desk. His shirt sleeves were rolled up and a napkin was tucked under his chin. He stopped eating his sandwich, wiped his mouth and hands, and stood up to greet us.
“Clyde, great to see you again. Been too long. How are you?”
“Fine, Bill, just fine. I have with me Jack Schaeffer, the heir to the Franklin estate that you had requested to meet. Judge William Bartells, meet Jack Schaeffer.”
I stepped up to shake his outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you, your honor.” I hoped that was the right greeting. Why was he staring at my face? I suddenly felt like a criminal on trial.
He smiled at me. “Likewise, Jack, likewise. I have to tell you, when Clyde first came to me with the story of the lost son and all of that, I didn’t know what to make of it. But I had the privilege of meeting Phillip and Amanda Franklin a time or two and I have to say, you are the spitting image of Amanda. Isn’t the resemblance remarkable, Clyde?”
Clyde looked embarrassed. It dawned on me why he and Sharon stared at me so strangely when we first met. Apparently, I looked a lot like my birth mother. I had never, ever considered that possibility. I wondered if anyone had a picture of her. I suddenly wanted to know more and more about this mystery mother of mine.
“Well, Bill, as you can see, he is definitely related to Amanda, which should satisfy the Colorado statute of exclusion for disinterested parties. I have amended my filing with a notarized affidavit as to his identity and the supporting legal evidence we have compiled, along with his signatures on the required forms.” Clyde had had me sign those in the car on the way over. He handed the judge a folder containing a lot of papers.
“I’m satisfied, Clyde. You’ve found your man, alright. Congratulations, Jack,” he said, shaking my hand. “I hope you will be very happy with your new life. Clyde, I have the final adjudication report waiting for my signature. I’ll sign it right away and have my clerk file it immediately electronically. If I know you, you have someone waiting downstairs to stamp it so you can pick it up on your way out of here, am I right?”
Clyde grinned, visibly relieved. “You know me too well, Bill. Thanks for everything. We’ll get out of your hair now so you can get back to the bench. Tell Mary Jane I said hi.”
“Same to Shirley from me. Don’t be a stranger.” That last part was said as we departed out the door and down the hall at a brisk clip. Clyde was muttering under his breath and seemed aggravated about something.
“You okay, Clyde?” I asked, trotting to keep up. “I thought everything went according to plan back there. You seem upset about something.”
“What? Oh...yeah, well, sometimes Bill can be a real jackass. I know he’s a big shot judge and all but sometimes he has a really big mouth.”
“Did he say something he shouldn’t have?” I was still confused.
Clyde calmed down a little bit, seeing as how I was not upset. Our pace slowed. “I guess not. I just didn’t like how he blurted out how much you look like her. I mean you do, Jack...a lot. It’s uncanny really, but I guess that should be expected. If I hadn’t been sure from the demographic data Sharon uncovered, one look at you would have convinced me. Sharon feels the same way, I can tell you.”
“It is a little weird, Clyde. But I didn’t take offense. I’m actually curious now to see a picture of her. Do you have any I could look at?”
“I’m pretty sure I do back at the office. We’ll look together, okay?” He was feeling better, and so was I. “Now, let’s go see if the deadbeat civil servants downstairs can still figure out how to process a simple court order.”
He was back in lawyer mode, safer terrain for him. We had to wait about forty minutes for the necessary papers to flow from the court clerk to the circuit clerk then be stamped and filed electronically, before Clyde had everything he needed. He stopped at a public fax machine near the county clerk’s office and sent two copies of the reports, to whom I didn’t know.
We found Billy by the car in the parking garage next to the courthouse and Clyde instructed him to head back to the office. I relaxed into my seat while Clyde started making more phone calls. I tried to ignore him as I looked out at the traffic passing by, the sunlight warming my face. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.