Chapter 46 – Surprising Developments – Modern Day
That evening, Jason spent the time snacking and talking to his daughters, promising faithfully that he would return home the coming Friday for a long weekend. He retired to bed early and he was up with the larks the next morning, showered, had breakfast and ventured up to the Blue Moon Café where he expected the boys to be. Sure enough, they were holding court at their usual table, each nursing a cup of coffee and discussing the world’s problems. They were all eager to hear news of any further progress Caroline and he had made on locating Tony’s family’s whereabouts. Archie, however, gave him a bit of an elbowing and a wink.
“Yes Jason, you made any progress yet?” Archie said lecherously.
“Yes, we did get some successful hits,” Jason replied, ignoring Archie’s question, “but it looks as though it is going to take a bit of time to locate any descendants.” It was then that he revealed the packet of biscuits Caroline had given him to pass on and placed them on the table. They were pleasantly surprised to see the offering and Archie wasted no time in opening the wrapping and grabbing a couple of the biscuits. As they began to devour the biscuits Lorla, the café’s proprietor passed by giving them a contemptuous look, in return, the three men looked away like puppies who had been caught eating something they shouldn’t. As Lorla passed, she smiled conspiratively at Jason, she really didn’t care, the men brought in too much custom for her to worry about a few cookies.
As the men continued to devour the contents of the packet, Jason gave them a quick update as to where they were in the research and what they hoped to be doing that day. That proved to be an excellent segue for him to take his leave and head out to St. Louis, it had begun to rain, and he would like to arrive before the weather worsened.
Jason said his farewells, bought a coffee and a muffin to go and was on his way. On arrival at Caroline’s place, he rushed from his car to the door that Caroline had opened for him.
“It’s pouring now,” Jason said, stating the obvious.
“Yes, I was getting a little concerned, thought you’d be here sooner,” Caroline replied.
“Well, it seems drivers in St. Louis are like everywhere else. Any sort of bad weather and traffic snarls to a halt.” Jason stated, although stopping to purchase a bottle of wine hadn’t contributed to his promptness.
“Weather forecast is for more of the same,” Caroline said, giving a quick look at the sky before shutting the door, “thunderstorms and possibly a tornado warning could be issued later.”
“Tornados? Really?” Jason asked as he removed his jacket and kicked off his shoes simultaneously.
“That time of year and the right type of conditions,” Caroline replied nonchalantly.
“So, any luck with any of your phone calls?” Jason asked.
“’Fraid not.” Caroline replied, “I’ve left a few more messages but no replies, as yet. I seem to have arrived at a dead-end, but not to worry, we just have to keep plugging away until something comes up. Coffee?”
“Love one,” Jason quickly replied, the one he had purchased at the café was long gone having been consumed while stuck in traffic.
Jason gave the bottle of wine to Caroline, for which she thanked him, and he followed her to the back of the house. As she went to pour the coffees, he fired up his laptop to check on his emails. He scanned down the incoming mail, but he didn’t see any replies from the inquiries he had sent out the previous day. “What do you think should be our next steps?” Jason asked Caroline as she returned with the coffees and biscuits. On seeing the goodies, he added, “oh, by the way, the guys really appreciated your biscuits.”
“My pleasure,” she replied with a laugh, “but in answer to your question, not too sure with this research. Normally, after I have exhausted all my avenues I would hire some research bureaus and bill the client. Of course, we can still do that, but that can be quite expensive.” Caroline said, “what would you do?”
“Pretty basic stuff really, I’d start with ‘Lawless Chicago’ and see what comes up.” Jason replied shrugging his shoulders, not knowing quite how else to approach the problem. In response, Caroline turned on her swivel chair and keyed exactly what Jason had suggested into the search line of her browser. Jason successfully dunked a biscuit, took a bite, then moved his chair closer to read the results of the search with Caroline.
Jason found Caroline’s perfume intoxicating and as they were both wearing t-shirts their bare arms brushed constantly as she manipulated the keys of the computer. Either she was oblivious to their closeness or she chose not to make an attempt to move her chair further away. Jason was definitely aware of her close proximity to him, but he too made no attempt to move away. For a few seconds, Jason wallowed in this intimacy until the phone rang.
It materialized that the call had nothing to do with their current research so Caroline extricated herself from her chair and went into the other room to take the call. Meanwhile, Jason moved over to the other chair to continue browsing through the search results. Normally, with any search, only the first few pages of results are relevant, after that, the contents begin to appear less meaningful, but as he was waiting for Caroline’s return he continued scrolling down the pages of data. It was then that an entry for ‘Lawless & Sons Tugboats of Chicago’ caught his attention. He clicked on the entry and discovered that it was a brief reference to a company that had operated in the Chicago area from 1940 until 1944, formerly, it had been named ‘Lorento Shipping’.
Given that Jason’s grandfather had been chosen for the fateful assignment based on his river experience he wondered if Tony had been selected because of his relationship to this company. He was just about to follow this new lead when Caroline re-appeared in the room. He stopped what he was doing but then her phone rang again, he turned back to the computer as she exchanged initial greetings with the caller. After a slight pause, she tapped Jason on the shoulder and placed the call on speakerphone mid-way through the caller’s explanation.
“….personally, I cannot help you in your research Miss Ashdene but there are senior members of our association who may recall knowing something of Tony Lawless’s family and possibly their whereabouts now. Our next meeting is at the weekend, so I can ask around then. That’s the best I can do I’m afraid.” The caller was a man and he spoke perfect English with a gentle voice but a slight Italian accent.
“That would be great Monsignor Costello, thank you.” Caroline replied.
“Monsignor Costello, my name is Jason, my grandfather was with Tony when they disappeared,” Jason explained.
“Oh, my son, I am so sorry to learn this.” The man replied sympathetically.
“Thank you. Look, we’ve just discovered another piece of information that may or may not be relevant,” Jason said with some excitement. “It’s possible, but not definite, that Tony’s surname was originally Lorento and his parents would have been Angelo and Sophie Lorento.” Monsignor Costello repeated the names, sounding as if he was making a note of them.
“I will ask around, but you have to remember, the people who may have any knowledge of these names, well, it was a long time ago and let’s just say, they are not quite as young as they used to be. Hey, but you never know.” Monsignor Costello told them as diplomatically as he could.
“You never know indeed, thanks again for your help Monsignor,” Caroline added, and after polite farewells, she terminated the call.
“Wow, that was an interesting snippet you threw in there!” Caroline said, “good work, I might hire you yet.”
“I don’t know about that!” Jason replied, “just thought it was a bit of a coincidence, that’s all, the tugboats and the name.”
“No, good thinking, I agree,” Caroline responded as she resumed her position in her chair to look at the item thrown up by the search. Jason returned to his chair, but this time, he gave her a little more space to maneuver. They continued surfing the net for further scraps of information and after, yet another unproductive session, Caroline decided it was time to break for lunch, with no argument from Jason.
They followed much the same routine as the previous day, Jason opened the wine while Caroline prepared lunch, which today consisted of assorted meat subs. and home-made potato chips followed by strawberry cheesecake. Today, however, instead of returning to Caroline’s office they retired to the drawing room where Jason and the guys had been seated the first time they came to the house. Caroline and Jason felt that they had put out as many feelers as they could, for now, so if it materialized that their efforts to date didn’t pan out then they would resume their research. So, Caroline put on her lawyer hat and they spent a little time discussing the facts they had available to them based on Jason’s findings. Caroline made a few notes and said she would work on a suitable legal argument to present to the government once the F.B.I. had completed their research at the marina. For the remainder of the afternoon they exchanged history about themselves as they continued to drink their wine while outside, the storm raged on.
At about the time Jason was scheduled to leave, the rain was so bad, visibility couldn’t have been much more than fifty yards.
“I’m not sure driving back, just yet, in this weather is a good idea, Jason.” Caroline said, “why don’t you stay for dinner and see if the conditions improve.”
“No, I don’t want to impose,” Jason said, although realizing that driving in those conditions was not a good idea.
“Impose, and anyway, we’ve both enjoyed a few glasses of wine this afternoon, you’re probably over the limit,” Caroline replied. “You need to wait.”
Caroline prepared a beautiful meal of beef bourguignon, more wine, and after coffee Jason once more prepared to leave. As Jason gathered his stuff, Caroline checked the weather channel. The good news was, the storm had passed, and the tornado warnings had been canceled but as Caroline looked out of the window she made a comment that brought a smile to Jason’s face.
“It’s still raining cats and dogs out there.” She said casually. Jason understood the expression, but it wasn’t one that you heard every day in the U.S. “Look, let’s have another coffee, I think I have some Baileys somewhere, then you will definitely have to stay the night. Jason joined her by the window and saw how bad the weather was. At times, gusts of winds drove the rain almost sideways and the smaller trees were being bent over to their maximum, consequently, Jason reluctantly agreed to stay. Jason also stayed the following night, but he didn’t sleep in any of the spare bedrooms.