A Murder Misstery Aloftbythrillerauthor©
© 2008 by Thrillerauthor
For those who came in late, Matt McCoy – now Madeline Moreau – is on the run for a crime he did not commit, and a murder which she did....after discovering a shocking secret about her past, Maddy spreads her wings, and more.
The journey from St. Martin to Montreal, on a charter flight crammed with sunburned Canucks, was sheer penance. Stuck in a miserable coach seat between a snoring slob and a psychotic woman who talked my ear off, I endured a horrid meal featuring tough, tasteless chicken, a moldy bread roll and an undrinkable split of wine, serenaded by a screaming infant in the seat behind me. The worst part was having to climb over the slob in my skirt to stand in line for the stinking coach toilet...hoisting up my skirt and tugging down my panties and hose to straddle the pee-covered seat, I bemoaned my decision to become a woman.
Despite the wine and a sleeping pill, I couldn't even doze off as the endless hours droned on. Finally, after circling the airport for what seemed like an eternity, we were lucky to be able to land in a near blizzard on the frozen tundra. When I stepped outside the terminal to find a taxi, it was immediately apparent that my pathetic skirt, sweater and nylons would be no match for the brutal Canadian winter. I'd spent most of my life in Chicago, but not in a skirt, so the blast of frigid air took my breath away. Fortunately, the turbaned taxi driver heated his cab to 90 degrees, and it almost felt like I was back in the Caribbean as we made our way into downtown Montreal.
My hotel, which catered to road warriors and government types, was located in a tatty section of downtown Montreal, and my threadbare room was immediately depressing. Fortunately, Montreal is connected by a maze of underground shopping centers, and I was able to avoid the elements while I bought a sturdy woolen topcoat and a pair of calf-length leather boots, as well as gloves, a long scarf and a beret. I lingered at a little bistro over onion soup and red wine before I trudged through the snow to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I asked the concierge to show me the agenda for the upcoming medical conference, and learned that Jacques would be presenting his paper in three days' time.
Wondering how to maintain my sanity until then, I decided to kill some time at an Internet café. As always, I began by Googling my old name to see if there was any news about Matt McCoy. Instead, I got the shock of my life when I found my father's obituary on the Chicago Tribune website:
Bradford T. McCoy, age 71, of Winnetka, IL. Beloved husband of Marie, nee Rickerson of Winnetka; dear father of Michael McCoy of Evanston, Mark McCoy of Barrington, and the late Matthew McCoy of Chicago; devoted grandfather of two; fond brother of Beatrice (the late Arnold) Foster of Fort Myers, FL. Retired owner and President of Great Lakes Industries. Vet U.S. Navy. Funeral Services 3 p.m. Monday, at the St. James Cathedral, 55 East Huron Street, Chicago IL. Burial private.
Tears were streaming down my face as it slowly sunk in. My father and I had never been close, and my thoughts turned more towards my mother, widowed and facing the rest of her life alone. She was fortunate in that my two brothers and their families resided in the Chicago area. With chagrin, I realized that Matthew McCoy was a sad footnote to our family's history...at least my father's death notice didn't mention that his youngest son was wanted for embezzlement and murder before he fled the country and committed suicide disguised as a woman!
Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the need to be there with them. Impulsively, I logged onto on online travel site and searched for flights to Chicago, before I stopped myself. Returning to the United States would expose my bogus passport to the scrutiny of US immigration officials, and there was a good chance that it would be flagged as a forgery. Think, Maddy...what if I were to fly to the Canadian side of the border and cross into the USA unobtrusively? It didn't take me long to come up with a plan.
I wasn't sure how my family would react to me, but I was determined not to embarrass them, or myself. Returning to Montreal's subterranean shopping mecca, I searched until I found a tasteful black dress, black hose and simple pumps which were appropriately funereal. I also stocked up on some more cold weather clothes. Then it was back to my room for a restless night in my lumpy bed.
Early Sunday morning, without checking out of my dreary hotel, I packed my suitcase with my new dress, put on some wool slacks and a turtleneck sweater that I'd purchased the day before, and called for a taxi to take me back to the airport. All of the flights were delayed on account of the lingering winter storm, but I finally was able to fly from Montreal to Windsor by way of Toronto. It was early evening by the time I got in, which presented no problems since my chosen means of transport across the border was a courtesy bus from the Windsor Casino to downtown Detroit. Passport inspection was cursory, as I anticipated, but it was almost midnight by the time I found myself back in the United States.
Downtown Detroit is no place for a single woman, day or night, and I was fortunate to hail a roving taxi which took me to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The last fight to Chicago was long gone, and I was too exhausted to search for an airport hotel, so I curled up in a plastic chair next to my suitcase and nodded off until the airport came to life on Monday morning. I'm sure I looked like death warmed over, but I was too groggy and grungy to care. After a chocolate croissant and a bracing cup of hot coffee at an airport Starbucks, I passed through security and boarded the 6:00 am flight to Chicago. Thanks to the time difference, I arrived into O'Hare a few minutes after I departed, Chicago time.
How strange it felt to be back in Chicago, almost a year to the day since I'd dressed as a woman for the first time! What a roller coaster I'd been on, losing my identity, my sex, and now my father...I found myself scrutinizing the flight attendants as I walked through the crowded concourse, wondering what had become of Tracy, the girlfriend who had first set me on the path towards femininity. Trying not to think about the enormity of all that I'd been through, I checked into the airport Hilton, asked for noon wakeup call, set the clock radio as a backup alarm and collapsed into bed.
* * *
"Okay, honey, time to play dress up again."
I switched off the electric train and reluctantly started up the basement stairs. "Oh Mom, do I gotta?"
"You know how much fun we have, please do it for me one more time, and I'll let you help me make a fudge cake and you can lick out the beaters."
That was incentive enough for me. Both of my brothers were still at school, my Dad was at work, so Mom and I were alone in the big old house, as usual. She gave me a big hug when I joined her in my bedroom, where my usual outfit was laid out on my bed: a frilly white blouse, pleated skirt and tights. First, Mom made me take off all my boy clothes and put on a pink robe before she braided my long hair into pigtails, which she tied with ribbons while humming to herself. Then there was the usual spat over the cotton panties and cami which she insisted that I wear under my girl's clothes. When I was finally dressed, she helped me squeeze my feet into a pair of Mary Jane's.
"Your feet are getting too big for these shoes," she sighed. "Oh well, since you're starting kindergarten next month, I suppose our dress-up games will have to come to an end. This will always be our little secret, honey. I promise that I'll never tell your father and brothers if you don't."
The very thought sent a chill down my spine. My older brothers were always teasing me about being a wimp, and I shuddered at what my father would do to me if he saw me in a dress. "Please don't tell anyone, Mommy," I begged her.
She gave me another hug. "I promise, honey. You are so sweet to be my little girl, even if it's only for a while. This will always be our secret," she repeated, then we were off to the kitchen to bake a cake.
* * *
At first I didn't know where I was, or even who I was...why was I listening to a Chicago radio station? I sat up with a start in the pitch dark room, and for a moment I thought I was back in my old apartment, being awakened by the 5:00 alarm for another manic day on the trading floor....
Grim realization slowly dawned after I opened the blackout curtains and switched off the radio. I was back to myself by the time the hotel operator called to inform me that it was noon, cheerfully adding that it was ten degrees outside before wishing me a pleasant day in Chicago. After a quick shower and shampoo, I unpacked my mourning clothes with feelings of dread and foreboding. Dressing as a woman was totally routine for me by now, but I was very nervous as I tried to get my eyeliner on right, and the brand new black pantyhose I bought to wear with my dress got a nasty run when I tugged them on! Fortunately I'd brought another pair, but they were nude and I worried whether they would be right for a funeral....
What the hell was I thinking! I was about to return from the dead and show myself as a woman to my family for the first time, on they day when they were burying my father, and I was worried about what shade of nylons I had on? I almost chickened out before I put on my wool coat, closed my suitcase and took the long walk down the hall to the elevator. After I checked out, the doorman hailed a taxi for me, and my stomach was churning all the way to downtown Chicago. Seeing the familiar landmarks once again made me ache for the life I'd left behind, and I could almost taste the flavors at my old haunts as we passed them by.
Which reminded me that I hadn't had anything to eat since I left Detroit. It would be half an hour before the memorial service, so I asked the driver to drop me off a block away from the cathedral, and started tugging my suitcase behind me on the crowded sidewalk. It was a bright clear day, windy and bitterly cold, so my legs were freezing by the time I entered a Corner Bakery across the street from St. James's. I found a seat by the window overlooking the street, and passed the time sipping hot coffee and munching on a blueberry muffin.
My seat afforded an excellent view of the entrance to the cathedral, and I recognized some familiar faces as the mourners started to arrive. Neighbors, business associates of my father, my Aunt Beatrice with one of my cousins...suddenly a stretch limo pulled up to the curb, and out stepped my mother, looking so much older than I remembered her, with one of my brothers on each arm. I pressed my hand against the plate glass window as if to reach out to them, trying to muster the courage to get up and join them...instead, I just sat there, rooted to my chair, ashamed of myself for all that I had put them through, and afraid to show them the person who I had become.
Good thing! Further down the street, a gray sedan with two men in it caught my eye. One of them seemed to be using binoculars, and even at a distance they looked awfully familiar...of course! Mutt and Jeff, the FBI agents who had pursued me from Chicago to Barcelona, were staking out my father's funeral. Which could mean only one thing: they never bought my fake suicide, and they were still looking for me!
I crouched down in my chair and tried to keep from hyperventilating. Thank God for my week knees, which were shaking under my dress. I would have been arrested the moment I stepped outside the Corner Bakery, in full view of my family, turning my father's funeral into a farce...and that would have been only the beginning. My trial would have been a media sensation, turning me into a freakish celebrity as the man who changed his sex to stay out of prison. By the time I got there, probably with a life sentence, the boys would have been waiting for me, and I'd have spent the rest of my life as the plaything of vicious criminals.
I blessed my decision to cross the border on a casino bus, wondering how I'd ever be able to make it back across to Canada, and France. The memorial service for my father was all but forgotten as I plotted my escape, and it wasn't until I saw the mourners begin to walk down the steps from the cathedral that I realized it was over. I felt ashamed and very, very sorry for myself as I watched my family, for the last time, hugging and kissing before they drifted off.
Then things happened very fast. As the crowd disbursed, the FBI agents gave up and pulled away. Then my brothers took leave of my mother to go their separate ways, leaving her all alone on the sidewalk to wait for the limo to take her back to Winnetka. The thought of her returning to spend the night as a widow in that big, lonely house broke my heart, and without thinking I threw on my coat, grabbed my purse and raced out the door of the bakery. Running as fast as I could in my high heels, I made it to her limo just as it was about to pull away, and I pounded on the windshield with both firsts before my mother rolled down her window.
I will never forget the look on her stricken face when I stuck my head inside. "Mom, it's me," I said in a fierce whisper. "Please, let me in." Her eyes widened in recognition, the door opened, and I tumbled inside, falling into her arms before we both started bawling like babies. The chauffeur must have taken my suitcase and put it in the trunk before he closed the door and started driving towards the northern suburbs.
Somehow I found the presence of mind to press the switch raising the glass partition between us and the chauffeur. "Is it really you?" Mom asked through her tears. She took a tissue out of her purse and gently wiped my face. "Your mascara is a mess, Matthew."
I took the tissue from her and returned the favor. "So is yours, Mom," I said, and my woman's voice temporarily threw her. She sat back in her seat and took a long, hard look at me. What must she be thinking, I remember asking myself as I self-consciously tugged my dress down over my knees. She studied me from head to toe, shaking her head in wonder.
"At first I didn't know who you were," she said at last. "Then, when I realized that it was really you, I thought I was seeing a ghost. We all thought you were dead..." She started crying again. "I'm sorry, I've been through so much...."
Now it was my turn to try to comfort her. "Mom, I'm sorry I ran out on you like that. I didn't steal that money." How to tell her that I had, in fact, murdered the man who set me up? "I'm so sorry about Dad," I added quickly.
"Your father never forgave you," she said dispassionately. "He was a wonderful man, but stubborn as a mule, and once you ran away, and we heard about what you'd done to yourself...." Her voice trailed away as she studied me once again. "Did you have a nose job?"
"Yes, among other things." It took her a moment to figure out what I meant. "I'm a woman now, Mom," I finally said.
If she was shocked, she didn't show it. "Thank God your father isn't here to see you," she sighed. "He never knew...." There was a faraway look in her eyes, and she pressed on before I could ask her what she meant. "Do you remember the dress-up games we used to play when you were little?"
So the dream I'd had that morning was real! Old, forgotten memories began to stir in the deepest recesses of my mind. "Tell me about them, Mom."
"I always wanted a daughter. Once your brothers were born, we thought our family was complete, and when we finally decided to have another child, I was praying for a little girl. I really thought you were one, too," she smiled, "back in those days you really didn't know until the baby was born, and then out you came! Your father was very happy, and of course I loved you with all my heart, but I must confess that I was very sad and disappointed...the doctors told me it was post partum depression, and in a way I suppose it was, only the reason was that you weren't a little girl!
"Your brothers were already in school by then, and as you know your father traveled constantly, so one day when we were the only ones in the house, I dressed you up as a girl. You were so precious! Your hair was still quite long, and I kept persuading your father to put off your fist haircut, although I'm sure he never knew that I secretly trimmed your bangs. I used to spend hours brushing and braiding it while you sat in my lap, all the while imagining that you were the daughter I always wanted. You had quite the wardrobe by the time you were four, I kept it all locked away in a cupboard when your father and brothers were home, but as soon as we were alone, I'd pick out the dress or skirt were going to wear, and help you with your slip, your tights...." She closed her eyes, lost in her memories. "We used to go everywhere together! To the museums in downtown Chicago, or shopping for dresses for you, although I always drove out to the Woodfield Mall so we wouldn't run into the neighbors."
She opened her eyes, and there was a guilty expression on her face as she surveyed me once again. "You make a lovely woman. So many times I would look at you as you were growing up, and wonder what might have been...." I was hanging on every word as she revealed the secrets which explained so much. "Once you were old enough to go to kindergarten, I knew I had to put an end to my fantasy, and I promised you that it would always be our secret. By then, I could tell you were getting tired of it, and in a way I was happy that you forgot about your dolls and dresses and adapted so well to being a full-time boy. Until you made the newspapers," she said wryly, "I'd all but forgotten about it too, although I must say I wasn't entirely surprised when they said you ran away disguised as a girl." She leaned forward and took my hand. "I'm sorry for what I did to you, I know I was foolish and selfish, and looking at you now, I can't help but wonder if it's all my fault."
There was a look of infinite sadness in her eyes. I tried to imagine all that she'd just been through: the death of her husband, so soon after the loss of her youngest child, after he'd been branded a criminal and committed suicide, only to discover that he was really alive and living as a woman...these weren't life passages, these were bobsled runs! I was trying to think of the right words to say when Mom said them for me. "So I guess you have me to thank for your perfect disguise and getaway. Will you stay with me for a little while before you go?"
* * *
Once again I awakened in a strange bed, only this time my surroundings were familiar – my old room! I stretched in my nightgown and thought back over the incredible evening we'd spent together, sitting on the family room sofa and gabbing till midnight like mother and long-lost daughter, which in a sense I suppose we were.
As if to prove to myself that it really happened, I reached over to the night table and looked at the photograph which Mom had given me the night before. It showed a little girl, in a velvet dress and white tights, sitting on Santa's lap. The back of the photo said that it had been taken at Marshall Fields. The little girl was me.
There was a rap on my door, and Mom walked in, looking ten years younger, with a contented smile on her face. "Morning, sleepyhead!" she said as she drew back the curtains. "Breakfast will be ready in half an hour."
I quickly showered, washed and dried my hair, and returned to my room to get dressed. Soon I was bounding down the stairs in a kilt, turtleneck and tights, just the way I used to when I was her little girl, only now it was all for real. The smell of bacon and coffee was wonderful, and I busied myself with helping her set the table and pour the juice. Breakfast was delicious, and we sat down at the kitchen table, each lost in her own thoughts, as we lingered over our morning coffee. "My lawyer is coming over this morning," Mom finally broke the silence. "I need to sign some forms to probate your father's estate. Afterwards, I thought we might go downtown for a ladies' lunch."