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Tax Time

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Tax Time
by DabbaDo

     

Part Seven Ė Pops and The Weasel

Edís parents were hosting a tea for the wedding couple. Sheridan put on a beautiful sleeveless pale pink silk shantung dress that hit her right above the knee. Luis was wearing flax colored linen pants, a white shirt, a navy jacket and the yellow Hermes tie that Sheridan bought him in Paris. He looked hot.

At the Meyer house, the back garden was full of other wedding guests, enjoying the cakes and sandwiches and listening to the sounds of the jazz quartet. Luis and Sheridan walked over to Ed and Hettie. "Quick, Ed. Find Pops. Theyíre here."

Hettie ran over to Sheridan and hugged her. "Pops canít wait to see you." Ed brought Tommy Breyer over to Luis and Sheridan. Hettie said, "See Pops. I told you she would be here. And just look who she brought." Mr. Breyer hugged Sheridan and stood back, examining Luis. His face went pale.

Luis said, "Hello Mr. Breyer. Itís me. Luis Lopez-Fitzlgerald. Martinís son." Mr. Breyer was stunned. He finally replied, "I know who you are. I would recognize you anywhere. Give me hug, son. And whatís this Mr. Breyer nonsense? Itís Uncle Tommy." Luis was warmed by their exchange. Tommy was the closest thing Luis had to a father. They all talked about the old times.

At the end of the evening, Luis and Tommy sat alone at the table, while Sheridan and Hettie hit the dance floor. Tommy asked, "How is your mother?" Luis explained that she was well. She still worked at the Crane Mansion and believed that Martin might one day return.

Tommy looked down at the ground, "Luis, you have to know that your father loved you all very much. Whatever happened, he left because he had to. He would never have left otherwise." Luis felt like Tommy knew more. He asked, "Uncle Tommy, do you know why he left? Please. You have to tell me. Sheridan and I have been investigating this for a while. She thinks that she may know something about my fatherís disappearance, but so far weíve come up empty."

Tommy looked over at Sheridan and Hettie on the dance floor. They were laughing and giggling as Ed took their picture. Tommy explained, "Sheridan is a very special girl, Luis. She was so beautiful as a child, just like a little angel. She really helped Hettie come to terms with the death of her mother. Martin and I were both very fond of Sheridan and would do anything to protect her." Luis knew all about Sheridanís better qualities. Tommy didnít have to tell him how wonderful she was. Where was this leading, he wondered?

"Your father was concerned about Sheridan growing up in that house. He always made certain that Pilar watched over her. Martin was very protective. He lost his sister growing up and the pain never left him." Luis listened and remembered hearing about his Aunt Colleen, who had died as a young girl in a drowning accident.

Tommy continued, "Martin never believed that Colleenís death was an accident. She was an excellent swimmer and would never have been out on the lake alone. When they found her body, Martin suspected that someone had lured her there and killed her. He had one person in mind, but could never prove it.

Years later, Martin and I saw this man on the island meeting with an associate of Alistair Crane. Martin believed this man was connected to the Cranes and went to the mansion to talk to Alistair. All I know is that something happened at the mansion that night, something that had to do with that man and Sheridan. Martin called me and told me he had to go into hiding.

Luis was stunned. More pieces to the puzzle but still no clear picture. Ed, Hettie, and Sheridan came back to the table. Hettie said, "Well, tomorrowís the big day. Weíd better get going." Sheridan and Luis went back to the Inn.

Sheridan asked Luis what was wrong, and Luis explained that Tommy had been telling him about his father. He didnít want to go into all the details now. They needed to get some sleep for Hettie and Edís big day. The next morning Sheridan went to help Hettie get ready for the wedding. Sheridanís bridesmaid dress was a lovely pale yellow silk column, with spaghetti straps and an open back. Hettie was wearing a traditional off the shoulder wedding gown with a headband veil and a long train.

She and Sheridan talked about Ed and Luis. Hettie said, "I hope I didnít embarrass you the other night with my wedding talk." Sheridan replied, "No, not at all. I hope that someday Luis will ask me to be his wife, but weíve got a lot of things to get straight before then." Hettie was puzzled, "What do you mean?"

Sheridan explained that Martinís disappearance and her familyís involvement was still a looming question. She and Luis had to get some answers before making a lifelong commitment to each other. Hettie suggested that they talk some more with her father and maybe even with her grandmother, as she used to know the Cranes when she lived in Harmony.

The wedding was beautiful. Tommy made a wonderful toast at the reception. Luis and Sheridan danced for hours. Tommy pulled Luis aside at the end of the festivities. "Luis, I know you and Sheridan are planning to go home tomorrow, but stay a few extra days. I made some calls last night after out talk and there is someone who wants to see you." Luis was curious. Surely, it couldnít be his father. But who was it and what did they know?

Hettie was getting ready to throw the bouquet. Sheridan stood at the back of the crowd, but Hettie aimed it right at her and she caught it. Sheridan was so embarrassed. Ed also aimed the garter at Luis. Luis and Sheridan were ordered to the dance floor.

As they danced, Sheridan noticed that Luis was a million miles away. She tried not to take it personally. After the wedding, Luis and Sheridan went back to the room. Sheridan asked, "I hope you werenít too embarrassed by Hettieís remarks the other night." Luis replied, "Hettieís remarks?" Sheridan answered, "Yeah. I didnít think anything of it, but then, tonight when I caught the bouquet and we danced, you seemed uncomfortable." Luis realized that he had been neglecting Sheridan.

Luis held her hand and sat her down on the bed, "Sheridan, itís not you. More than anything, I want you to be my wife someday. Itís just some things Tommy Breyer has been telling me about my father." Luis explained in detail, even the part about the strange man Martin thought was stalking Sheridan. When he got to the part about someone wanting to meet with him tomorrow, Sheridan asked, "Do you think itís your father?"

Luis replied, "I know it canít be, but I have this strange feeling like maybe it is." He smiled at the thought that he might actually see Martin again. Sheridan said that she hoped it would be Martin. Luis kissed her gently and lay down next to her on the bed. Luis imagined what it would be like on their wedding day. He hoped that they would find his father. The sooner they got some answers, the sooner he could begin his life with Sheridan.

The next morning at breakfast, the innkeeper gave Luis a note. He and Sheridan needed to be at the Riverboat Pavillion by 10 AM to meet this mystery person. Sheridan and Luis got ready in the room. "Nervous?" Sheridan asked. Luis nodded. Sheridan added, "Do you want me there? Or would you rather do this alone?" Luis replied, "Youíre coming with me. After all, the note was addressed to both of us." He smiled and held her hand. They were in this together.

Luis and Sheridan walked into the Pavillion. Luis said, "Iím going to look around. Why donít you stay here." Luis walked down the stairs to the lower level. He saw the man in front of him and knew him instantly. There was complete silence as they stared at each other, both with tears in their eyes. "Papa?" Luis said. Martin nodded, "Yes, Luis. Itís me." They hugged each other tightly for several minutes.

"Whereís Sheridan?" Martin asked. Luis replied, "Sheís upstairs." Luis and Martin walked up the stairs. Sheridan had her back to them. As soon as she turned around, Martin smiled. He walked over and placed his hands on her ears, as though he were going to lift her into the air. "Flora" he said. Sheridan had tears in her eyes. She hugged him, kissed his cheek, and whispered "Uncle Mick".

Martin asked Sheridan and Luis to come with him to his boat. Luis helped Sheridan onto the deck. Martin untied the rope and they set off. Luis let his father get everything settled on board. Martin kept looking at the both of them. "Son, I canít believe it. Youíve grown into a man. I am so proud of you."

Martin smiled at Sheridan, "And my little Flora. Look at you. Youíre a beautiful woman." Finally Luis couldnít take it any longer. He asked, "Papa, whatís this all about? How did you find us? Did Tommy tell you we were here?" Martin nodded. "Yeah. I check in with Tommy every now and then. He helps me out and keeps me up to date. I spend most of my time on this boat."

Luis wondered aloud, "Why? Whatís kept you away, Papa? Why did you leave us?" Martin explained, "I had to leave, Luis. I did something. I made a mistake. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. Even now, Iím not so sure."

Martin told them the whole story, "Years ago when my sister died, a young man came to her funeral. No one in our family knew him. He had this slight smile on his face throughout the entire service. There was something about him that unnerved me. I always wondered if he had something to do with Colleenís death. I never saw him again until the day that Tommy and I took the girls to the island. He was there meeting with John Purcell, a man who worked for Alistair Crane. I had to know who this man was and how he was connected to Mr. Crane.

I felt like I should talk with Alistair about my suspicions. I decided to go to the mansion. As I was getting ready to knock on the door, I looked in the window and saw the man in Alistairís study. He was hiding behind a door. I looked up and saw Sheridan coming down the stairs. Sheridan went into the study. The man stood there watching her from behind the door. He picked up a letter opener and starting walking up behind Sheridan. I really thought he meant to harm her. He looked just like the boy from Collleenís funeral.

I kicked open the front door and ran into the house. I wrestled the man to the floor. He fell on the letter opener. There was blood everywhere. Sheridan ran out of the room screaming. Alistair came in and seemed unfazed by the sight of this man lying on his floor in a pool of blood. He almost looked happy. I explained the situation to him and asked if we should contact the police. I told him we needed to find Sheridan. She was probably in shock.

Alistair said that the man was a business associate and that there was no way he meant to harm Sheridan. He convinced me that I would lose everything if the police arrested me. He told me that he would take care of everything. I should go home and pretend like nothing ever happened. He would contact me later. I contemplated calling the police, but I couldnít risk it.

Alistair finally called me to meet me at the docks. He said that Sheridan was deeply upset and was going to be sent away. He knew how much I cared for his daughter and convinced me that the scandal would destroy her. He gave me some money and told me that he would provide for Pilar and the rest of the family until things calmed down. I never heard from him again." Martin breathed deeply.

Sheridan tried to process all of this as Luis held her hand. "All these years, I thought I killed this person. Julian told me it was all a dream." Martin calmed her, "Julian was just trying to protect you. I donít know if he ever knew what really happened." Luis asked, "Who was this man?" Martin answered, "I donít know. His death was never reported. All I know is that he was a tall, thin man with the initials NWL on his shirt pocket."

Sheridan shivered, "Nelson Lowry." Luis and Martin both looked at her. She said again, "Nelson Lowry, the man in the photograph. Iím sure of it." Luis explained to Martin that he and Sheridan had been looking through old records and found Nelsonís picture.

Luis argued, "But Sheridan, I checked him out. He moved to Arizona years ago." Sheridan stood up, "I know itís him. If Iím right, he never moved anywhere. He is six feet under somewhere, and I bet that my father knows where. This man may have been meeting with my father that evening. Maybe Nelson was blackmailing him and thatís why he was with John Purcell on the island."

Sheridan and Luis convinced Martin to dock the boat and come back to the Inn with them. Luis called Tommy and told him to bring Ed over. A plan was taking shape. Luis and Sheridan told Ed what they needed and swore him to secrecy. They needed tax records for Nelson Lowry and any other confidential information he could find through his contacts. Ed was quick with the reply. Nelson Lowry had moved to Arizona but had never paid one cent to the IRS since he left Harmony. In fact, there was no record that he had ever earned or spent one dime in Arizona.

It was as though he had fallen off the face of the earth. Sheridan called her father on his private line, summoning him to Savannah. Alistair balked at her request, "What would I want to go to Nowheresville, Georgia for? Iím entirely too busy with my business affairs." Sheridan threatened, "Oh, I think you can make time for this, Father. I met a very dear old friend of yours, Nelson Lowry."

With that, Sheridan hung up the phone. Martin looked at her, "Are you certain you know what youíre doing?" Sheridan looked at him straight in the eye and stated, "We donít really have any proof that my father did anything wrong other than covering up a murder committed by someone else. Itís time to bluff a little and see what heís hiding."

Hettie recruited her Granís help in the investigation. Jean Breyer had lived in Harmony many years ago and knew a lot about its residents. According to Jean, Nelson Lowryís family was peculiar and reclusive. His mother died when he was seven, and his father was very strict and an extreme disciplinarian. Jean knew nothing of John Purcell, except that he worked for the Cranes and seemed very loyal to them.

Sheridan and Luis were getting dressed. Alistair would be there any minute. "Nervous?" Luis asked. "Yeah, I am," she replied. "In one way, I want to know what really happened. In another way, I donít want to know the extent of my fatherís involvement. Heís my father. All Iíve ever wanted from him is unconditional love. I wish that I could respect him, the way that you do your father. The truth is heís always been distant. I know so little about him." Sheridan concluded. Luis held her hand, "Iím going to be right there with you, if you want me. Weíre going to get through this together." Sheridan leaned over and kissed him tenderly. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

Luis got up to answer the door, while Sheridan tried to collect herself for this confrontation. Luis opened the door. It was his first meeting with Alistair Crane. Luis didnít smile. He gave Alistair a stern look. Then Luis remembered that this man was the father of the woman he loved. Someday, Alistair Crane might actually be his father in law. He extended his hand and said, "Mr. Crane, Iím Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald."

Alistair was stunned by this gesture. Alistair returned the handshake and said, "Luis, itís a pleasure to finally meet you face to face. I understand from Julian that you have stolen my daughterís heart." Luis didnít like the word Ďstolení but was glad that Alistair acknowledged his relationship with Sheridan.

Sheridan walked over the two men and said, "Father." She couldnít decide if she should hug him. Alistair made the first move, "My beautiful daughter, Sheridan. Itís been too long since Iíve seen you." He gave her a hug. Luis thought Alistair was laying it on a bit thick. Sheridan pulled away, trying to remain strong.

Alistair continued, "Now, whatís this all about, Sheridan? Your phone call has piqued my curiosity." Alistair looked over at Luis with a half smile and a look that indicated it was time for Luis to excuse himself so he could speak privately with his daughter. Sheridan was aware of this glance and stood in between Luis and Alistair.

She said, "Whatever you have to say to me, you can say in front of Luis. We have no secrets." Alistair grinned, "Really Sheridan? Are you certain you want Luis to stay?" Sheridan felt a wave of confidence surge within her. "Iím certain, Father, unless youíre concerned that what we discuss might upset Luis. You donít want to see Luis upset." Luis stood behind Sheridan and smiled. Take that Alistair, he thought.

Sheridan asked her father to take a seat. She offered him a coffee. Alistair looked at his watch and said, "My schedule is very tight. Can we move this along. Iím due in New York this evening." Sheridan replied, "You may want to cancel your appointment. I donít know how long this will take."

Alistair demanded, "Whatís all this about, Sheridan. You mentioned something about running into an old friend? Lowry, was it?" Sheridan answered, "Yes. Thatís right. Nelson Lowry. You remember him, donít you Father?"

Alistair was getting uncomfortable. "Nelson Lowry? Should I know him? Iíve worked with so many various people over the years. Many people claim an acquaintance with me simply because I am a powerful and wealthy man. You, of all people, should know what itís like being pursued because of who you are." That was a low blow. Not only was Alistair bringing up painful memories of all the men who had used Sheridan, but he was also reminding her that she was, first and foremost, a Crane.

Luis wanted to jump in before Alistair completely broke Sheridan down. Sheridanís voice grew stronger, "Cut the crap, Father. You knew the man and you know what happened to him. Nelson had something on you. He threatened you. You tried to get John Purcell to handle him, but Nelson wasnít going away. Did you know about his past? Did it worry you at all having a dangerous pedophile in the same house with your daughter or were you only thinking about saving your skin?"

Alistair was visibly shaken. "Sheridan, how could you think such a thing? Youíre my daughter. I love you." Alistair looked at Luis and continued, "Where is this coming from?" He hesitated and then asked, "Youíve found Martin, havenít you?"

Luis and Sheridan sat there silently, not sure of how they should respond. Alistair explained, "I didnít really know Lowry. Nelson was working with Purcell on a development project for the island. He came to the house that night to discuss a problem he was having with Purcell. I heard a scream coming from the study. I panicked when I saw what Martin had done. Sheridan was hysterical. Martin claimed that Nelson was some sort of criminal and that he intended to harm my daughter. For all I know, it was a case of mistaken identity. There was nothing to indicate that Nelson was a killer, and I certainly would not have invited him into my home if I thought he were dangerous. I had to think of my family. Sheridan would never have recovered from the scandal and Martin may have faced prison. I did what I thought was best at the time."

It could have been the truth. The story was word for word the same as Martinís account. Sheridan and Luis looked at each other. Sheridan asked, "Why didnít you just go to the police, Father? Martin was trying to protect me. Why send him away and stage this whole cover up?" Alistair replied, "I didnít witness the murder. For all I knew, Martin had some ulterior motive for killing Lowry. I couldnít stand the thought that my sweet daughter might be subjected to a battery of questions from the authorities."

Alistair added, "Besides, Martin agreed with me. He had his family to think about. If he were found guilty of murder, think of the tremendous shame his family would have to bear." Luis finally spoke, "So instead you convinced my father to abandon us, cut off all ties with him, left him hanging in the wind, sent your daughter away without any explanation, and lied to everyone?"

Alistair argued, "I told you, at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I had to think of my daughter. I never knew what really happened in that room that night." Sheridan stated, "Maybe so, Father, but in the process you ruined one manís life and you sentenced me to years of unnecessary guilt." She added, "If I find out that youíre lying about any of this, I will not back down. If Nelson Lowry was blackmailing you and you took advantage of his death to prevent anyone from learning about your unethical business dealings, I will bury you. Do you understand me? The truth will come out. Martin will return to Harmony. Everyone is going to have questions and youíd better be ready to provide some answers."

Alistair explained that he had to be going, "Well, my dear, I only hope that next time we speak, itís under better circumstances. Luis, I look forward to seeing you again. Please send my regards to your father." With that, Alistair left. Luis stood there watching him from the window.

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