Two, three, seven, nine and twelve. Those were his favorite numbers, although I didn’t realize it until the night I received word of his untimely death. That’s a night ingrained in my head forever. My world came crashing down around me. Everything I knew was stripped away and I had to start from scratch, rebuild my entire view of my childhood, my parents, my very existence. Nothing was as it seemed and that was never more evident than the night I had to find his so called life insurance policy.
I’m a semi-typical-17-year-old girl, well, 18 tomorrow. In fact I’m supposed to graduate from high school in two weeks, but I don’t know if I’ll be around to walk across the field with all my friends. A police officer knocked on my door tonight and said my father had been killed in a car accident. I shrugged. Nothing I hadn’t heard before. Dad’s body had yet to be recovered, something about being too badly burned, which didn’t make too much sense since the officer had his wallet to hand me. I rolled my eyes. The officer even looked apologetic. He could tell I wasn’t buying it, but when I asked further questions he had no answers. Typical.
Then there was the issue of being underage. He wanted to put me in the care of an adult. Somehow, I managed to convince him that technically I was legal, since in two hours and thirty-seven minutes I would be eighteen. He let that go and left me with his card, telling me to call if I had any questions or needed help. I informed him I would be fine and not to worry. My neighbors knew me well and Grandma lived just down the way. That wasn’t entirely truthful. She’s a few states away, but he didn’t need to know that. After all, that was the plan if anything like this ever happened. I was just following instructions.
So after the police officer left, I was able to take Dad’s wallet and finally find the truth. That was part of the plan too. See, Dad’s a lawyer that works on high profile cases. He has had a lot of people out for his blood and for as long as I can remember, he’s been running me through the “if this happens” drills. “If this happens to me then you respond this way . . .”, “If that happens to me, then this is the way you act . . .”, “If someone says this to you, you say this . . .”, “If I don’t come home after a trip, then you do this . . . .” We would practice at least once a week if not more. So I assumed this was just another one of those times. I followed protocol like I was supposed to. Now I find out what’s really happening and when Dad would really come home.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that this would be the real deal. I just figured it was another “drill.” So when I found the note in his secret compartment, right where it was supposed to be I blew it off, threw his wallet on the couch and stuffed the note in my pocket before fixing something to eat. Then plopping down in the recliner I flipped on the TV to watch Dad’s and my favorite show, Jeopardy. We loved to see who could answer the most questions. I munched on the sandwich I had made, saying the answers between bites. When final Jeopardy hit, I glanced at the clock. 10:56. I froze mid-bite. The time was wrong. The “drills” never happened in that hour. My heart beat faster as realization hit home. Slowly I put down my sandwich and found Dad’s note. It didn’t say what they usually say. It didn’t tell me what time he would be home or where to meet him. There were no comforting words in this note. All it said was, “Find my life insurance policy and then you’ll understand.”
I stared at it for three full minutes, scrutinizing it for any deviations, missed details, codes, anything, but nothing was there. So why the wrong time? I clicked off the TV, being bathed in the blue light as the hum slowly decreased. In the silence, I listened for another three minutes to absolute silence. If someone was attached to this drill, I would have heard or seen them by now. Is he serious this time?
With only one thing to do, I headed to Dad’s study, the note clutched in hand. Opening the door, I stood staring at his large oak desk, the familiar hum of his fish tank in the background. Everything was so orderly and clean. The faint smell of Pledge still lingered from the last time he cleaned. No piles of paper either. A smile played on my lips. I would give him a hard time about that. “Dad, a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind!” I’d say grinning as he rolled his eyes.
“But everything has its proper place and we don’t want to be leaving any trails for someone to find now do we?” He would scold back, but I could see him trying to hide his upturned lips as he spoke.
I laughed inside. I bet he’s even wiped it down to get rid of his finger prints.
Tentatively I reached out to the bottom left hand drawer, my fingers almost touching the shiny brass drawer handle before remembering not to leave my trail. Donning the extra pair of black gloves Dad always leaves for me, I knelt by the drawer, pulling it open. It felt heavier than I imagined it would. No sound greeted me as the drawer glided along its runners. I expected some type of sound but there was nothing save the thump of my heart in my ears. Thinking I would have to search for his life insurance policy I peered into the drawer. I should have known better. The file lay right on top.
My hands shook as I pushed the drawer closed and went back to the front room. I sat with the policy in my lap for an hour somehow knowing my life would never be the same and not quite ready to find out exactly why. Finally, taking a deep breath, I bit the bullet and extracted it from the manila folder. I didn’t know what I expected to find or even what a life insurance policy looked like, so when a letter from Dad slid out, I had to smile. It was so him. I began to feel a bit more comfortable about the situation when I saw his handwriting. It had been a long time since he’d actually written something for me. Usually things were typed, presumably to make it more difficult to trace. Dad, always so paranoid, but as I scanned through the letter, my smile faded. He had a right to be paranoid . . . and now so did I.