Chapter 1 – The Quest – Modern Day
For the last couple of years, the life of Jason Clifford had been decidedly rough, to say the least. Mary, his dear wife of twenty-four years had succumbed to breast cancer, his youngest daughter, Shirley, had almost died from a drug overdose and his only son, Seb, had been killed in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver.
Although the life insurance from his wife’s death and the compensation received for his son’s accident in no way relieved his sorrow it provided him with enough financial stability to be able to take early retirement from his job as a teacher. It was also felt, by the powers that be at his faculty, that because of all the potential phycological repercussions he may experience due to these unfortunate series of events, he would also receive a disability pension until it was time for his retirement pension to kick in.
All these events had left Jason with a sense of withdrawal, a lack of motivation and more poignantly, a will to live. Prior to all these problems, Jason had been in great health, each week-day morning he would drag his slim, six-foot frame out of bed and visit the gym where he would put his body through rigorous cardio sessions and strenuous exercise routines. His light-brown tousled hair, damp with sweat, would cling to the forehead of his handsome face, tanned by hours of outside activities in the summer and skiing in the winter. Now, he looked pale and gaunt, he was listless and had lost weight. Basically, his life was devoid of purpose and despite the efforts of family and friends rallying around to lift his spirit, there remained a growing concern that he was turning suicidal. That is, until an unassuming conversation took place during a family Thanksgiving dinner at his parent’s home.
Both Jason’s daughters had accompanied him to the event, together with their respective partners. Jeannette, the eldest, who was with her long-time fiancée Allan, and Shirley, escorted by her partner Allison. The whole family had accepted Shirley’s sexual preference ever since she first came out, and now that she was with Allison, she had reverted to the old Shirley, the one they had all known and loved.
As usual, the evening went well and they all enjoyed a great dinner and Jeannette drove her father home, albeit a little worse for drink. Once Jeannette departed, Shirley insisted she stay the night to make sure he would be O.K. Jason equally insisted that he was fine, and no chaperone was required. When Shirley was finally gone, Jason poured himself a nightcap, something he rarely did, then he sat in his comfy chair and began thinking about the conversation he had after dinner with his father. It had all started with the usual question about his grandfather’s mysterious disappearance just before the end of World War II, and he began to recall the conversation as he sipped his whiskey.
“Well, all my mother was told was that your grandfather was flown by private plane from Canada, where he had just docked,” William Clifford began, “he landed in Knoxville where a car was waiting to take him to meet with some top brass in a hotel. Next thing she knew, him and another sailor were put on a cabin cruiser to sail up river somewhere. That’s the last my mother ever heard of your grandfather and of course, I was born that year in 1944.”
“Didn’t grannie ever try to discover more details of his disappearance?” Jason asked.
“Oh sure, but all they ever told my mother was that he was categorized as ‘missing in action’ while carrying out war-related maneuvers. But what war games he could have been playing in a cabin-cruiser on a river, beats the hell out of me.” William replied philosophically.
“Surely grannie could have pursued this to obtain more information.” Jason pleaded.
“You have to remember son, things were different in them days, the war was still going on, the government told you nothing and they made you feel as though they were doing you a favor by giving you a small death benefit each month.” William replied. “It’s not like today, after all this time, a lot more information is available and with the internet not only can you dig deeper it’s also more difficult to cover things up. But in those days….” William just shook his head as if to say there was nothing more that could have been done.
But it got Jason to thinking, he could carry out some research as to the disappearance of his grandfather. The statutes of limitation on most of the war’s events had expired and a lot of the information is now available on-line if you knew where to look, and he did. This was to be Jason’s new quest and it gave him a real purpose that he hadn’t felt since his college days.