1973 -- Weissman/Donovan residence, London
"I will always remember the haunted look in his eyes as he handed my mother the jewelry his father had purchased with the proceeds from the sale of their furniture, antiques and silver. There were half a dozen rings in all--two diamond, two sapphire and two ruby. My mother thought they were fakes."
Danita smiled. "Unlike many other families, the Abelson's family jewelry was real."
Frank furrowed his eyebrows in thought. He wanted to get his reasoning right. "So when people fled from Hitler, they converted their posessions into jewelry so they'd have something, anything to start over in a new country."
"That's right. More tea?"
Frank nodded. "Please, mummy." Frank was lying on the divan, propped up on fluffy down pillows. Danita had pulled up a chair next to him and between the chair and the divan was a small table Danita used for tea.
Danita poured each of them another cup of the fragrant bergomot flavored tea. She watched her young son, his eyebrows furrowed once again in thought. He's like me at that age: introspective, she thought to herself. Always has to get what he wants. Wonder where he gets that from? She smiled and chuckled inwardly.
And now, like her son, Danita was also thinking, remembering how at seven years old she was living through the Blitz, about how she spent her seventh birthday in the bomb shelter. Remembering London's devastation, of looking out her door and seeing Stepney half destroyed.
And she remembered the haunted looks of the children her age and older who were summarily packed up and sent to the surrounding countryside. Some kids whom she had known in school had been sent to Ireland--escorted by a tall gentleman whom the kids referred to as Uncle Jonathan. There had been times during the war when she'd wished she'd been sent to Ireland. Her mother Carmiela had asked her once if she would prefer to be sent to the countryside or to Ireland to be with her friends.
She didn't know it at the time, but children everywhere shared the same haunted look when being separated from their families: crying children watching their parents recede into the distance. The long bouts of crying--and slowly realizing that no parent would hug you and wipe away the tears--would gradually lessen until there was nothing but a tangled, hardened lump of emotions.
And she was thinking of herself, all of seven years old, and how she had scrunched up her face, went to the front door, opened it, and stood looking out at the ruins of Stepney.
Danita rather suspected the expression on her face was the same as the expression on Frank's face. Her seven year old voice came back to her, "No, mummy. I don't want to leave London. Sometimes I do, though. But I won't. I will stay and help."
Now Frank's voice brought her back to the present. "So there were cheaters who exchanged costume jewelry for the proceeds of the sale of the homes and furniture."
Danita gave a little start. She set her tea cup down. "Yes. They cheated the refugees out of their life savings." She smoothed her cream wool dress.
"That wasn't very nice," Frank's voice had a tone of anger. Danita couldn't blame him.
"No it wasn't, dear."
Frank's eyebrows furrowed again. "But the Abelson's jewelry was real." Frank said this as a statement, which meant that he wanted affirmation.
"Yes. Jacob's father, Noah, had travelled to Geneva and Amsterdam when Hitler was first coming to power in 1932. In Amsterdam Noah purchased the two diamond rings and one of the sapphire rings. The two ruby rings and the second sapphire ring were purchased in Switzerland in 1938 with the proceeds from the family's silver and the remaining antiques."
"And the gems were examined by a jeweler?"
"Yes. In Geneva."
"What happened to Jacob and his family?"
Danita picked up her tea cup and sipped while she pondered her reply. How much about the Holocaust does Frank know? she asked herself. But she should have known Frank, indomitable Frank, would know at least part of the answer.
"I know about the concentration camps, mummy."
Danita smirked, then put down her tea cup. Apparently her indomitable son had mind reading capabilities.
"Mummy, it was all over your face. You didn't know how much I knew about the concentration camps. See, we're talking about World War II. And Hitler. And, the beeb had a programme on about the War a few weeks ago."
That explained things. "Jacob decided to go back to Poland," she told her son.
Now it was Frank's turn to smirk at his mother. "That's not a complete answer, mummy. And you know it." He picked up his tea cup and sipped.
"Before he left, Jacob named the other members of his family: his aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces. Jacob sent word back that most of his family perished in various camps. He had just been captured and the Nazis had told him how his family members had been 'selected'. After the War, my mother verified the news by cross-checking all the lists, just in case deaths had been reported in error."
"There was no error. Jacob had been asleep in a burned out part of Warsaw when he was caught and sent to Auschwitz in late 1943. He saved a lot of lives and brought out a lot of information."
"But what happened to Jacob? Is he still alive?"
"Now that I am unsure about. I know that Jacob survived Auschwitz but he seemed to disappear afterward. I've been searching for the Abelson survivors ever since."
"You said most of his family died. How many others survived?"
"Only two: Jacob's youngest sister Anne, who was only five at the time, and his aunt Judith, who was a very young twenty."
"Why not go through the MI5?"
Danita was flustered. She had recently told Frank about her spy work; indeed, Frank was still recovering from his appendectomy. And it had been Frank's hiding his swollen and painful abdomen that had prompted her to tell him about her job. "I'm trying that route," she replied.
"And no luck?"
Danita shook her head. "No. No luck so far. It's been thirty two years since I've seen Jacob."
"You said his eyes haunted you."
"Yes, Jacob lived in Warsaw, in what was known as the ghetto. The Nazis were determined to kill everyone living there and used guns, gas, and anything else they could think of to carry out their plan. Jacob witnessed his friends gunned down in the streets. Others he watched die from the gas the Nazis pumped into the sewers. Jacob crawled through the sewers to reach the outside, carrying information about the concentration camps along with his family jewelry, in case he needed to pay for assistance along the way."
"And once he arrived in London, you put the pieces of paper back together, then grandmother Carmiela deciphered those cut up pieces of paper."
"Yes. Jacob's arrival in London with those pieces of paper gave the British government their first terrifying glance at what Hitler was doing over on the Continent."
"And the government didn't like what they read, did they?"
"Not at all. My mother didn't like what she read and when she read the contents to me, I didn't like it."
"And that's why his eyes haunt you to this day."
"Yes. He was gaunt, lice infested and he had scurvy, a skin disorder that happens when you don't get enough Vitamin C in your diet. Everything about Jacob haunts me: his ordeal, his escape, his appearance. He shook the whole time he related his story, never once eating or drinking. It took a few days to convince him that the food wasn't poisoned and that the water was safe to drink."
Danita paused a moment and wiped a tear from her dark eye before continuing. "Jacob's ordeal was reflected though his eyes: although he was only eighteen years old, he had deep lines around his eyes that made him appear as if he were in his eighties."
"He thought the gas the Nazis used poisoned the food and water?"
"Apparently. He believed the gas floated across the Continent from Warsaw. Jacob hadn't eaten much since he'd fled Poland--only when he was so dizzy that he felt he couldn't stand up. Even then, he only took a few bites. Water he didn't much drink at all. The doctors had to use an IV to get fluids into him. He was very close to death by the time he arrived in London."
Frank went quiet. The programme on the beeb had disturbed him. He wanted to forget the images but found he couldn't. And his mother's explanation about Jacob Abelson further disturbed him. But there had to be a way to find Jacob, his younger sister and his aunt. Surely they were still alive. Maybe they were living in London and had watched the beeb's programme!
"Mummy? Do you think Jacob came back to London?" Frank asked excitedly. "Perhaps he saw the beeb's programme a few weeks ago."
Danita frowned. "That could be, but many refugees went to America."
Now it was Frank's turn to frown. "America. Can you find a way to contact him there?"
Danita smiled wanly. She looked at Frank, his dark eyes wanting her to do something, anything to return the Abelson jewelry to its rightful owners. "I don't know where he is. It would take a miracle to find him, for America is a big place."
Frank was downcast. Danita reached out and patted his arm. "Don't be so downtrodden. I'm still searching for him, his sister Anne and his aunt Judith. I'll search until the day I die."
"If you haven't found the Abelson's by then, I'll continue the search," Frank said. That, at least, was something Frank could do. He vowed that if his mother couldn't locate Jacob, Anne and Judith by the time she died, he himself would continue her search.
"I'll be right back, sweetie." Danita rose and left the room. Frank wondered where she was going then thought she was off to the loo. He settled back on the divan, ensuring his pajamas didn't pull on his bandages. He was still sore from his recent operation but he didn't want to think about that, although he knew his classmates would be interested.
As he looked out the bay window, Frank thought about ways to contact someone long thought lost. Exactly how did someone go about searching for a person lost for over thirty years?
Frank's dark eyes watched the newspaper boy deliver the afternoon edition of the paper. A thin edition printed on even thinner paper, the afternoon paper carried brief news blurbs about the events unfolding around the world that day, hinting at more in-depth stories in the morning paper. He was an intelligent child and always read the London Times front to back before going off to school--a trait that his mother chuckled at as she spread marmite first on Frank's toast and then on her own toast.
His mother's footsteps sounded in the hallway and the board just outside the parlor creaked. Frank smiled to himself as he heard his mother curse under her breath. He continued to watch the paper boy--only two years ahead of Frank in school--expertly throwing papers on each of the porches.
"Paper! Afternoon paper!" came the faint cry through the closed window.
"Oh!" Frank heard his mother exclaim. "Frank? Let me get the paper and I'll be right in!"
Frank listened to Danita's footsteps: she walked light and airy, but her short heels still made a sound on the bare wood flooring of their home. The front door creaked and shortly Danita returned with the afternoon edition of the paper.
"Read me the afternoon edition, mummy?" he asked, looking up at her and smiling.
"Of course, dear. Let's see." Frank settled himself deeper into the pillow. "Front page. President Nixon is upset over the oil crisis in America..."
Frank felt himself drifting off. The newspaper always carried lots of stories. Silly! he chastised himself as he listened to his mother's voice reading about President Nixon. Stories are the reason why the newspaper existed! Frank liked to read and he even read the classifieds. That was how he had found their new puppy--Foster.
Classifieds! "Mummy! Owww!" Frank had sat up so suddenly that he cried out in pain.
"What is it? Ohhh!" Danita asked worriedly, putting the paper down.
"Can't we put a classified in the newspaper? Surely Jacob or Anne or Judith reads the newspaper! If they are in America, someone over there must know who they are and might see it!" Frank was excited now and Danita felt a tingle of excitement crawling up her spine.
"The newspaper! Well, that could be something. It's a long shot, Frank. It may take years, but it could work."
"I know it will work!" Frank said, leaning back into the pillows.
"Now don't get too excited about the outcome. There's a lot of work to do, you know."
"Don't count your chickens until they've hatched," Frank intoned seriously.
Danita smiled. "Who told you that?"
"Mrs Mitchell. At school."
This time Danita let out a chuckle. "Witch Mitchell was what we called her when I was in school."
"You had Mrs Mitchell in school?" Frank was dubious but his mother nodded.
"Just after the war ended, she was recruited to teach. I was around eleven or twelve and she was nasty then."
"She's nasty now." Frank changed the subject back to finding the Abelson's. "What kind of work will we have to do?"
"Let's see, now. Put ads in the New York Times, the Chicago Times and the LA Times. The Washington Post wouldn't be such a bad idea either."
"Once a month?"
"Once a week," Frank told her definitively.
Danita considered. "Once a week for a year. On Saturdays and Sundays. Then once a month until we can find them."
"That is a good idea. I know we will find them. We must find the Abelson's. We simply must return their family jewelry."
As usual, Frank was insistent.
And like herself, Danita thought, Frank always got what he wanted.
Chicago, early 2002
"Cody, I have a little assignment for you. Come to my office," Frank crisply said, then spun on his heel and walked to his office. Alex glanced at Jake and then gave Cody a sympathetic look.
"Doesn't look like he's in a very good mood today," Jake observed drily, pausing in his game of computerized battleship that he was playing with Monica. Monica had on head phones and the faint strains of jazz slipped though.
"Gotcha!" Monica yelled, then ducked her head. Bobbing her head up, she first looked around to see if Frank had poked his head through the door of his office. Seeing that Frank was still in his office, Monica stuck her tongue out at Jake. "I sunk your battleship!" she mouthed at him, not taking her headphones off. Jake moaned and Monica laughed.
Cody, however, was grim-faced. Careful to speak softly so Frank wouldn't hear, he muttered, "I hate it when he's in this kind of a mood."
"Chin up, Cody. It might be an interesting assignment," Jake suggested just as softly. Alex nudged him.
"Careful," she whispered. "He hasn't been in a good mood as of late. The bank hostage crisis took a lot out of him."
Cody nodded as he walked to Frank's office. Dressed in jeans and a black turtleneck sweater, he stood in the doorway a moment, feeling a bit underdressed compared to Frank. He watched Frank, dressed in a pale blue turtleneck and steel grey pants, write something in his day planner.
Sensing Cody's gaze, Frank looked up. Frank motioned with his head for Cody to come in and sit down.
When he was settled, Frank reached under his desk and pushed a button which released the door and shut it softly. Cody heard its soft snick as the door settled in its frame.
"I wonder what's going down in there," Alex wondered. Like Cody, Jake and Monica, she was dressed in jeans and a turtleneck sweater. Upon arriving at the nest this morning, Alex had nearly burst out in laughter as she saw just how much alike the team had become.
"Sounds very private, whatever it is," observed Jake, making his choice of moves in the battleship game.
"And if it's private," Monica commented, her headphones askew on her head as she took off her earrings. "Frank is not going to like us discussing what his motives could be. Especially since his shutting the door by that remote thingie symbolizes his desire for us to 'keep out'."
"That private?" Jake asked.
Monica nodded, placing her dangly earrings on the table. "Shutting the door is a visual symbol. Whatever Cody's assignment is, Frank doesn't want us to know one detail."
"Think it's something that could get him into trouble?" Alex now asked quietly.
"Frank or Cody?" Jake inquired.
"Both," Alex supplied.
Monica considered. "It's probably something personal, so don't ask too many questions. Especially do not ask Frank anything."
"Aye, aye!" Jake said. "Your move, Monica."
Monica smiled as she replaced
her headphones. Alex went to the window and looked out as her teammates
continued their game of battleship.
In his office, Frank folded his hands together and gazed at Cody. Cody was curious as to why Frank wanted his assistance. Why didn't Frank just come out and tell him as soon as he sat down? A man of few words was Frank Donovan. Cody merely looked back at Frank, trying to keep his face placid, lest his expression give away the fact that he was getting nervous under Frank's scrutiny.
Minutes seemed to tick by. Just why was Frank taking so long to tell Cody what his assignment was? Was it something 'not by the book'? If so, Cody had trouble stopping a smile from coming to his lips. The entire Special Operations Unit was 'not by the book' so what the reason for all the secrecy?
Was there something about one of the team members that Frank wanted to know? Cody found himself surprised and had to suppress another emotion, for he knew Frank expected him to sit quietly until Frank was ready to speak.
If Jake was in trouble, or Alex or Monica, would Frank want to know? Yes! Cody's inner voice sounded instantly. Frank couldn't be in trouble; Frank could take care of himself. Was it something to do with Frank? A personal request? Was this was Frank was sitting with his hands folded and gazing at him for what seemed like hours now?
"You're wondering why I called you in here and shut the door," Frank stated succinctly.
Cody started. "Uh, yes. Yes, sir," he found himself stammering.
"This is a personal request." Frank said bluntly.
Cody noted there was ever so slight an emphasis on the word personal. He looked at Frank and realization slowly dawned on him. Frank wanted him to do a personal favor--use Company resources for personal use and he was asking Cody if he was willing to be an accomplice. Like Frank, Cody could get into a lot of trouble using Company resources for personal use.
Was Cody willing? "Name your request, sir."
Frank nodded ever so slightly. "This goes back to World War II...and three missing members of a family."
Cody raised an eyebrow. "Holocaust?"
"Yes. These three survived and I'd like to trace them."
"You have basic information?"
"Yes. Last known names were Jacob, Anne and Judith Abelson. Jacob was freed from Auschwitz when the camp was liberated while Anne and Judith were freed from Bergen-Belsen."
"You think they came to America?"
"My mother did. When I was young, she started to put newspaper ads in the New York, Washington, Chicago and LA newspapers asking for information about the Abelson family. But no replies."
"I can go through the banking
systems, immigration at Ellis, tax records. They may have changed their
"Still no luck."
"None at all."
"There has to be steamer records or other transport records. I'll check into it, sir."
Cody stood up and turned to leave. With another snick, the door opened. Cody couldn't help but smile.
"Cody? I'm holding family valuables for the Abelson's."
Cody turned around. "I'll trace them, sir."
Cody managed to get to the door of Frank's office before a thought stopped him in the doorway. He turned back to Frank, who wasn't going to like if it appeared Frank hadn't thought of all the options.
"Yes?" Frank asked, in response to Cody's expectant expression.
"Have you thought of Canada?"
"My mother thought of Canada about two years after we started putting newspaper ads in the stateside papers. She also thought of Sydney and Perth."
"No luck there?"
"None at all."
"So they could be anywhere."
"If they're out there, I'll find them."
"I hope so. This is not a rush project."
"And no word to the others."
Frank turned his attention back to his paperwork and Cody stepped through the door. He watched the door shut in his face but he knew that Frank wasn't pushing him away.
Cody slowly walked back to his computer banks where the others were still gathered around. Jake was still vying for Monica for the battleship crown.
"Well?" Jake asked.
Cody looked up. He'd been staring at the floor between his feet. "Huh?"
"Things. How'd they go in there?"
"Oh, uh, fine."
"We watched him shut the door by that remote thingie you found for him. Things went that bad?" Alex asked and Monica perked her ears up. She'd just taken off the headphones.
"What went bad?" she asked, putting the headphones on her lap.
"Nothing went bad. Things went fine," Cody replied as he sat down at his computers.
"Cody? What went down?" Monica asked, curious.
"Nothing." Cody was a bit agitated at all the questions. "Frank and I are cool."
"Sure?" Jake asked, but Monica caught his eye. She shook her head and motioned towards the kitchen. Alex and Jake got up.
"Want us to leave?" Monica asked.
"You can stay."
Jake sat back down and he
and Monica started another game of battleship. Alex took up a book and
sat back down. Cody was trying to figure out just how to proceed with his
search. He wondered just how often Frank was going to ask him for updates.
He hoped it wasn't too often, for this time Cody didn't think his computer
wizardly would be of much use in this particular assignment.
Two months later...
"Sir? May I come in?"
Frank looked up. There was an excited expression on Cody's face--an expression which told Frank that Cody had found something--found a tangible lead in the search for the Abelson family survivors. Frank hid the emotions welling up within him. After all these years, was it possible there were finally some leads in his mother's search?
"Please," he told Cody, careful to not let his voice betray the growing emotions he felt: excitement about the potential leads; nervousness that Cody's clandestine research would tell him the Abelson family was still missing in action; and fear that all three surviving members were dead.
Cody came inside Frank's office, a sheaf of papers in his hand, and Cody heard the snick of the door shutting behind him. Cody walked over to a chair in front of Frank's desk and sat down. He held the papers out to Frank.
Frank reached for them. "These are what I think they are?"
"They are," Cody affirmed.
Frank read the summarizing top sheet.
"You can be there inside of six hours," Cody softly said. Frank nodded.
"They're all alive."
"Jacob hid his trail very well. Must be a relation of yours," Cody drily said, but Frank brushed off the comment.
"My family's been searching for them since 1940."
Cody whistled. "Sixty one years."
"And now my search is over."
The next day...
Oddly, Frank found himself nervous as he walked up the sidewalk of the large brick house in a gated St Louis community. Cody walked beside him, still ignorant of one minor detail about his assignment: the exact nature of the family valuables Frank was keeping for the Abelson's.
The times were very few that Frank found himself nervous...and it had been many years since he'd experienced that particular emotion. He was interested in analyzing his reaction to today's events later on this evening in his journal--although he suspected that tonight he would get very little sleep.
A dog barked, interrupting Frank's reverie. A girl's voice from inside the home shouted, "Grandpa! Visitors!" And the heavy oak door swung open.
The girl, small, dressed in jeans and a sweater, her dark hair bouncing on her shoulders, stood in the doorway. "You look like me," she noted to Frank. "I'm Meredith. And you are?" ?"
"Well Mister Donovan and Mister Forrester, won't you come in?" Meredith asked politely and stepped aside to allow Frank and Cody inside the spacious and well-appointed home.
Once inside the foyer, Frank looked around: Jacob, here in America, had done well for himself, his aunt and his younger sister Anne.
"Meredith? Ask our visitors to the parlor," a male voice called out. "I'll be right there."
"This way, sirs." Meredith lead the way off to the right into a formal sitting parlor. Frank hadn't seen a formal sitting parlor since he'd lived in London. This parlor was furnished with well-chosen antiques. He winced inwardly as he remembered his mother Danita telling him how Jacob's father had had to sell off the family antiques during the years leading up to the War. Frank was betting that Jacob had tried to re-create his family home back in Warsaw.
"May I offer you some coffee?" Meredith now asked.
"Yes, please," Frank said, smiling at the young girl.
"Yes, please," Cody echoed. Meredith left the parlor as a man in his eightieth year stepped through the doorway. Dressed casually in chinos and button down shirt, he cut a fine figure. He patted Meredith's head as she paused and smiled up at him. "There's a good girl. Black for me, you know."
"Yes, grandpa." She skipped down the hall.
Frank held out his hand. "Frank Donovan. And this is my assistant, Cody Forrester."
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Alan Jacobson. That was my granddaughter, Meredith. Daughter of a very late-in-life but highly valued son."
"Very well mannered young lady," Frank observed.
"She had a strict teacher."
"Yourself?" Cody politely inquired.
"You have a wonderfully furnished home," Cody noted.
"I like antiquing. St Louis has some wonderful antique shows, although they can't beat the New England area. Please, sit down," Alan motioned towards the couch, a cream velvet high backed couch.
Frank and Cody sat down as Meredith came back into the parlor balancing a tray. Setting the tray down on a serving table, she began to pour the coffee.
Alan continued. "Now that piece over there," he pointed to a mahogany high-boy. "That's from the early nineteenth century. Paid a few hundred dollars for it back in the late fifties. Got it off a lady who was moving. Yard sale. Know how much it's worth?"
"No, sir." Frank replied kindly.
"Seventy thousand. Most expensive antique in the house. My parents always liked antiques and I developed a taste for antiques at a young age. Never lost it," he said.
Frank noted a tinge of sadness in Alan's voice. He wasn't quite sure how to go about his business with Alan Jacobson. Meredith placed a small table between Frank and Cody, then went back to the serving tray to pick up the coffee cups.
"Is it a family heirloom?" Frank inquired very gently. He knew what horrors Alan Jacobson--formerly Jacob Abelson--had lived through.
Alan nodded. "It is now," he smiled, and his expression gave Frank a way to reopen old wounds as gently as possible.
"Here you go, Mister Donovan," Meredith said as she handed Frank a cup of steaming coffee, then carefully handed Cody his own cup of coffee. "And for you, Mister Forrester."
"Thank you," Frank and Cody said simultaneously as Meredith went over to her grandfather and curled up on his lap.
"Well, Misters Donovan and Forrester. What brings you here? Antiques? I'm well known on the antique selling circuit. I've a lot of them and I do sell those I don't want anymore."
"In a way." Frank paused. "My grandmother was Carmiela Weissman."
Alan's mouth dropped. "Carmiela." He put his hand up to his mouth and tears watered his eyes. "Where...?"
"I'm sorry to say she passed away when I was very young."
"I'm sorry. She was very good to me."
"She never stopped thinking about you. Nor did my mother." Frank nodded slightly and Cody reached into his coat pocket. He brought out a small package.
Alan's eyes grew large and he was silent for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. "She kept those."
"Yes. She wanted them returned to you." Cody handed the package to Alan.
"I didn't think," Alan's hands were shaking. "I couldn't remember her name until you spoke it just now. I kept thinking Carmen, Carmen."
"Grandpa, what's in the envelope?" Meredith asked, her voice full of curiosity.
Alan hugged his granddaughter. "Some family treasures." To Frank and Cody he said, "I remember she had a little daughter, your mother? Not that I remember much about that time. Things get jumbled up at my age."
Frank nodded. "That would have been Danita. She told me about you when I was around Meredith's age."
"I'd like to thank your mother."
Frank looked away briefly then looked back at Alan. "She passed away."
"Grandpa? Are you going to break the envelope?" Meredith asked. Alan looked at the envelope clutched in his hand.
"No. May I open it?" he nervously asked Frank. Frank nodded.
Alan tore open the envelope, turned it upside down. A small black velvet bag slid into the palm of his hand. Meredith took the envelope and held it while Alan opened the velvet bag. He took a deep breath, then turned the bag upside down and into his palm tumbled out six rings.
"Ohhhh! Pretty! Rubies and sapphires and diamonds! Are those real, grandpa?"
Alan nodded. "Yes, dear. These were my family's back in Warsaw, from back before the War."
Meredith looked surprised and turned sideways to look at Alan. "How can they come from Warsaw when most of my ancestors died in the concentration camps?"
Alan looked at his young granddaughter and then at Frank and Cody. "Frank's family kept these safe for us."
Meredith now turned to look at Frank. "All these years? You kept these all these years?" she inquired of Frank.
"Yes. Your grandfather gave my grandmother Carmiela these rings for safekeeping when he first arrived in London. My grandmother searched for your grandfather until she passed away, and the rings came into my mother Danita's care. She died and I took up the search."
Alan still held the rings in his hand. Meredith peered closer, then gave her grandfather a questioning look. He nodded and Meredith picked up one of the diamond rings and slipped it onto her thumb.
"That's pretty," she said.
Alan addressed Frank and Cody. "I don't know how to thank you, Mister Donovan."
"Frank. No thanks are necessary."
"Frank. After Auschwitz, I couldn't remember much of anything. I was beaten on the head daily. I remembered bits and parts of what I went through to get to London. I remember your grandmother. But some things eluded me. Like Carmiela's name."
"Carmiela and Danita didn't forget. I was seven when I first heard about you from my mother. She put ads in all the major papers stateside."
"I tried to hide myself well."
"That you did," Frank replied. "Danita even placed ads with your family's names, in case you had changed your name to one of the deceased."
Alan smiled wanly. "I decided to hide in plain site. Jacobson was a natural and Alan was my uncle's name."
"For a while," Alan said, then gave the two men a knowing glance. "I take it Mister Forrester was the one who found me? And that you two are not exactly, how shall I say, private citizens but you're obviously on the good guys' side. You got that from your grandmother, I'll wager."
"Yes, yes, and yes," Frank replied.
Alan nodded. "Mister Forrester, I hope I didn't trouble you too much." A tone of depreciation sounded in Alan's voice.
Cody didn't know how to reply. To respond, "just a little" would insult Alan's lifelong efforts at hiding himself. "It was worth the intensive effort. Like Carmiela and Danita, I didn't think I would ever find you. Steamship records, Ellis Island--you left no clues. I looked in Canada, Australia, even Chile. But,"
"But I made one small mistake," Alan said knowingly. Cody nodded. Alan continued. "Let me guess: the inquiry I made around London's jewelers and auction houses last year regarding an eight carat ruby ring and a two carat diamond ring."
"Uh, yes, sir. That was the tip that lead us in the right direction," Cody agreed.
"I was, shall we say, asking to be found. I'm old. I didn't think anyone was on my trail after all these years but I still wanted to be discreet, in case Carmiela was still alive or had passed the information onto her little daughter." He paused a moment. "What, may I ask, led you to look at the London jewelers?"
Meredith was still admiring the diamond ring on her thumb. She smiled at her grandfather, who returned her smile.
Cody glanced at Frank, who nodded slightly. "A news article about Switzerland's lost bank accounts. I'd thought that perhaps you'd opened up a bank account during the War. I started trawling then found a news article about unclaimed safe deposit box contents going up for auction in London. One thought led to another..."
"And here you are. And you brought Carmiela's grandson. Carmiela," Alan said softly. "She was so good to me when I arrived in London. Those days I remember--the first time anyone had been kind to me in years. Carmiela nursed me through those first few days. She refused to cut my hair off to get the lice out and she washed my hair patiently with coal tar shampoo. Where Carmiela found that during the rationing, I still don't know. I guess I was being childishly hopeful that she'd still be alive after all this time."
Frank and Cody remained silent, watching Alan watch Meredith look at the diamond ring on her thumb.
"Sir?" Cody asked Alan.
"I was wondering how you, Anne and Judith arrived in America." Cody glanced at Frank who merely gazed at Alan.
To Cody's surprise, Alan guffawed.
"Grandpa!" Meredith said, then picked up the larger ruby ring--the one that Alan had inquired about around London.
"You don't have to answer," Frank said quietly.
"And disappoint you two? A GI escorted me first to France and then onto Lisbon. I was pretty dazed, could barely remember one hour to the next. He put me on a fishing boat. I was passed from fishing boat to fishing boat until I came to Ellis Island." Alan paused.
Cody took advantage of this pause to ask, "It was there you changed your name."
Alan laughed. "Yes, my memory was still jumbled from the repeated head injuries in Auschwitz and when immigration asked me my name, I told them what I thought was my name. And the immigration officer wrote in his book that I was Alan Jacobson. Later, I thought the name very appropriate. All this I know from a journal describing my journey that the GI left with me when he dropped me off Lisbon. The crews of each fishing boat took turns writing in the journal, telling me about the journey that they knew I'd have trouble remembering."
"And Anne and Judith? Did you send for them?" Frank inquired softly.
Alan shook his head. "It took me several years to find Anne and Judith. They came the regular way, by way of the relief organizations. They'll be home for dinner at around eight, if you'd care to stay."
"We'd like that," Frank replied. Cody nodded in agreement.