Looking for Daniel MasonbyMandy01©
"How many secrets can one person live with, before the secret impact on their life?" This was a question that Dan had asked himself more times than he cared to remember, although it wasn't what he was thinking this particular morning as he settled down for his usual cup of coffee while he read his morning paper.
Dan heard a noise and looked up from his paper to see a young man walking down alongside his cabin.
"Can I help you young man?" He enquired just before he took another sip from his coffee cup.
The gentleman came to a halt and looked around apprehensively as though he wasn't quite sure if he was where he should be, or how to begin. "I'm looking for a Mr Daniel Patrick Mason, would that be you sir?"
Dan's brow furrowed and he left tension begin to seep into his neck muscles. "Might be, might not! Depends on who's asking and what you want him for?"
The young man straightened and looked down his nose at the man in front of him. "My name is Jason Stevenson and I need to know if you are he? Otherwise it really is none of your business what I want to see him for!" Jason had seen photos of Mr Mason, but this man had a full beard, and long shoulder length hair, making identification a little sketchy.
Dan sighed and brought his gaze back to his paper. "Well then Jason Stevenson; you better go find out a little more about this Daniel Patrick Mason, hadn't you, and stop wasting my time!" Dan felt his face heat up and tried to subdue his anger at this young twerp's stolid arrogance.
If Dan had been looking, he would have seen the indecision on Jason's face as he turned on his heel and started to walk back around the cottage. Stopping but a dozen steps, not turning around, he stated. "My girlfriend, Gracie dearly misses her father, and I'm looking for him! Do you have a daughter, Sir?" He took a gamble.
Dan's cup stopped halfway to his mouth as his breath caught in his throat at the mention of the name and he shot a look at the back of this young man. In a strangled voice he countered, "I'm sorry to hear that, but I don't have any children, so I can't help you Mr Stevenson!"
Jason heard the tremor of emotion in the man's voice and knew he'd hit the mark, turning he continued, "Somehow I find your statement a little hard to believe. My intel is rarely wrong! It's my belief that you are Mr Mason and that you do have a daughter by the name of Gracie Lynn Mason. Your wife's name is Katelyn Rose Mason! You have two sons as well; Joshua Benedick and Robert Luther, they're twins!"
Dan watched as Jason stood there and stared at him with a defiance that said, "Prove me wrong!" Jason watched as Dan's face harden at this information. "Well! Am I wrong on what I have said or are you going to concede?"
Dan's eyes clouded up as all his memories came crowding back, and threatening to overwhelm him. Jason certainly did know a lot about the family, more than would be necessary for a casual acquaintance. The last time he'd seen any of this so called family was a little under four years ago and this was the last thing he want be confronted with.
Dan remembered the last time he had been around the family. He had been in a good mood for the last week, the sale on the cottage was finalized and he was looking forward to handing the title over to Kat as a gift to her on their fifteenth wedding anniversary. It had been a dream of theirs to have a little get-a-way cottage to retire to when the time came and the children were off their hands.
Coming home early was something he'd rarely done, but now standing in the archway to the kitchen with roses and chocolates in hand, he heard the voices of Gracie and her mother; he wanted to wait until they had gone before he could wrap and hide the presents for later that evening. Keeping out of sight, he listened to his wife as she spoke to Gracie.
"So is everything set for this afternoon? Kat asked her daughter.
"Don't worry mum, everything is going to plan. I've got you both a reservation at the Harriet, the Honeymoon Suite, and Jacuzzi, King Size bed, champagne and strawberries! All compliments of the management. Does he suspect anything?"
"You have got to be joking! We'd need an air raid siren to make anything filter down through to my dopey husband. You know what he's like, the sun could cease to rise and he wouldn't notice until the solar hot water system started to get cold! God it's been so long I can't even remember what it's like! How are we going to keep him occupied?"
Dan felt the arrow penetrate his heart, "Is this what my ever loving wife thinks of me?"
"Don't worry about that either. Josh and Rob will take him golfing, I've told them everything and they're all for it. They've been laughing to themselves ever since I told them! I know I'm so happy I can do this for you!"
Dan's stomach started to felt queasy, thinking back over his life with his family, "My children seem to share my wife's opinion of their loving father."
"He's been after them to go with him for years, so I've finally got them to acquiesce and go. He won't be anywhere around to get in the road. They promised to keep him out of our hair until it's all finished."
Dan felt the humiliation all over again as though it was yesterday and as much as he fought it, it showed on his face. Looking up at Jason with tension in his eyes, he conceded. "You're right with two things Mr Stevenson. I am Dan Mason, and I was married to Katelyn, although I feel she has most likely divorced me by now to be with her lover and the father of her children!"
Jason shook his head in astonishment. "I have to admit that I'm only new to the family. I met Gracie eighteen months ago, but from what she has told me, I find it difficult to believe your statement. They can't understand why you have disappeared like this. As far as I know, Mrs Mason hasn't divorced you or been seeing anyone else. I'm of the understanding that all Mrs Mason's children are yours and they love you and miss you dearly."
Dan managed to get his emotions under control and stared blankly back at the young man standing before him. "Well that just goes to show you that not all your so called intel is accurate. Just out of curiosity, how did you find me?"
Jason beckoned to a chair on the other side of the small table that held Dan's coffee cup and was rewarded with a curt nod, sitting himself he continued, "The family has been looking for you ever since your disappearance Mr Mason. Mrs Mason has spent tens of thousands of dollars on private investigators with little to no success."
Dan studied Jason's face to see if he could judge his sincerity. "I know there were some people out looking for me, but I managed to elude them before they got to me. I seem to have misjudged you on that score?"
Jason smiled sheepishly. "I have to admit I have a certain advantage that other investigators lack but I won't go into detail. Suffice to say that I work for a government department that crunches information, and I not so ethically put my recourses to use in finding you."
Dan raised an eyebrow, "Some sort of secret government Black Ops Agency?"
Jason chuckled, but not at the mention of his work place. Tracking terrorists was now high priority and his desk was filled with one sort of information or another. His mirth was stimulated by the thought that he'd managed to forge a little rapport, with the person he hoped was his future father-in-law. "It's not that drastic, and although I am governed by the secrets act; most of what I do is rather boring and this little adventure has been quite stimulating."
Dan scowled. "I'm pleased that you think its fun to interfere in other people's lives!"
Jason backed up. "Please Sir; don't get me wrong, I'm doing this for the one I love and her family. They miss you terribly and want you back where they believe you belong. The fact that I have enjoyed this journey of discovery... well now that I have found you; it's just the icing on the cake if you will."
Dan screwed his face up in confusion. "You keep saying that they miss me, when in fact I damn well know they don't. I suggest you go back and do a little more homework young man and leave me in peace."
Jason sat back in his chair and pondered. He loved jigsaw puzzles and this was proving to be an enormous one that had many missing pieces. "May I ask a favour?"
Dan didn't feel any easier and it showed in his face. "Now why on earth would I do you a favour when I don't know you young man and have nothing to gain by it?"
Jason saw the truth in what was said. "I understand your reluctance, but I have my reasons and I'll explain them even though I maybe saying more about my job than I'm legally allowed." Jason wondered if putting himself in a vulnerable position work wise, would make Mr Mason feel more receptive about opening up about his past."
Dan gazed dispassionately at Jason. "Ok! Favour for favour! You tell me why you're so damn interested in my problems and those of the family I left behind. What's so damned important that you're willing to spend hours to track down someone who obviously doesn't wish to be found? Maybe then I'll consider your favour."
Jason smiled to himself and nodded, "Fair deal Mr Mason! I can boil my work down into two words... Bean Counter! Not the usual bean counter as in accountant, instead of numbers I crunch facts, but that's what I am...do! I take snippets of information and put them together and with my talent, I draw conclusions. I have a knack for seeing patterns in information and facts. I'm very good at what I do, and the government pays me extremely well for my services. I've applied what I know of this situation and at the moment there are too many variables to come to any real conclusion. Think of this as a mystery novel and we're only dealing with half the pages, and those pages are not sequenced, or maybe a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing."
Dan nodded, intrigue catching his interest. "Let me guess! You were fascinated with Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes as a child?"
"That is it in a nut shell Mr Mason, a very big nut shell! Piecing together events with limited information gives me a buzz like no other."
Dan looked upon the man sitting opposite, and mulled it over. Something was missing here, and it was more than just simple curiosity, "That only answer half my question. There's more to it than you're telling me?"
Jason chuckled. "Curiosity is contagious; isn't it Mr Mason? But you're right, I have an ulterior motive. You see, I happen to love Gracie, and we would like to get married, but there's this one small but significant problem."
Jason shifted uneasily in his chair. "Gracie wants desperately to have her father walk her down the aisle. I honestly fear that she'll stay single until her father comes back to her. I also have a need to ask him for her hand in marriage! Now I can solve mine without you leaving here, but that doesn't solve your daughter's problem."
Dan raised his cup and found to his dismay that it was empty. "Damn you Mr Stevenson! Don't try to emotionally blackmailing me into returning, if you think that way, then you're barking up the wrong tree!" Getting up annoyed, suddenly he halted; he needed to give himself time to calm down. He asked if Jason wanted a cup as he walked into his cabin to refill his.
Jason was shaken by the outburst of emotion, realising that he needed to be patient, and called after him. "I'm sorry for upsetting you and I didn't mean to pressure you into anything Mr Mason." Jason mentally castigated himself for his stupid remark. "Yes Mr Mason I'd like a coffee thank you; that'd be nice, two sugars and milk if you have it?"
Dan threw a folder down on the table as he place Jason's cup in front of him, I can help you out on both your problems and without ever needing to go anywhere near that lot again Mr Stevenson."
Dan sat back in his deck chair. "For a start, asking me for Gracie's hand in marriage would be a total waste of time, and if she wants her father to walk her down the aisle then you had better look up someone by the name of Edward Carlyle. I'm not one hundred percent certain that he's her father, but it's more than likely."
Dan pointed to the folder, "Those DNA test results prove that I'm not the father to any of Katelyn's children! They do say that all the siblings are full bloods, but I don't have any DNA samples of Edward to compare to these, so that's all conjecture and supposition on my part."
Dan took a sip of his coffee before continuing. "I just know that Katelyn had an affair with Mr Carlyle a month before she told me she was pregnant with the twins. You do your fact crunching thing and tell me I'm wrong!"
Jason sat back after reading the report, "Ohhh wow! This certainly changes matters somewhat."
Dan and Jason spent the next few hours talking about events leading up to the present day, even going so far as to wetting a couple of lines off the jetty that ran from Dan's back deck to the lake.
"So Jason, what's that favour you wanted to ask?"
Jason was only half listening as he reeled his line in and readied himself to leave. "Ummm...Ohhh...sorry I was miles away. I was going to ask if you could see your way clear to atleast escort Gracie at our wedding, but now things seem to have become a little more complicated than I first thought. I will ask if you will let me keep in contact with you. Although I liked the chase, I really don't want to have to go through all that again just to find you, if I can help it. And believe me I will be able to find you again."
Dan sighed. "I dare say you can Mr Stevenson, ok on one condition! I have a fairly good sense of people I do business with, my social life is yet another matter entirely and I see that you're a man of your word. I don't think the government would have you working for them if you couldn't be trusted. What I want is your word that you won't tell them where I am, you don't give them my phone number without my say so, and you keep them away from me at all costs. You can tell them that I'm fine, healthy and doing well and have no wish to reunite with them."
Jason put his hand out. "Mr Mason, you have my word that I'll do everything in my power to respect your privacy. But I would like to keep on this and find out where it all leads, if it ok with you?"
Dan smiled; he was starting to warm to this young man. "Knock yourself out! I have driven myself half-mad trying to understand why they did this, and have come up empty handed. If you get to the bottom of it then by all means come back and enlighten an old fool."
Gracie watched as Jason closed the door to his car. She wondered where he'd been all day, leaving way before daybreak and now only getting back way after dark. "Where the hell have you been Jason? You've had me worried out of my skin!"
Jason stood at the bottom of the steps leading up on to the front porch, looking at the woman who had taken his heart. "I'm tired Grace and I really need something to eat and drink, can we wait till I atleast get inside before you tear me a new arsehole?"
Gracie back up and waved him past. "Dinner is non-existent, I had no idea when you'd be back, and I've already eaten, so the most I'll fix you is a sandwich."
Jason's mind wasn't on Gracie's angst but he knew he'd have to say something before too long. The problem he had was that she wasn't going to like it, no matter how he phrased it. "A sandwich will do fine sweetheart, just let me get out of these cloths and grab a beer. I have some good news and some not so good news!"
Gracie noted the concern on Jason's face and her earlier irritation faded. "What's the matter Jason, what's happened?"
Jason waited for what seemed hours, trying to sort all the facts into some sort of order. The tick of the wall clock resounded as though it were a hammer on steel; finally, he came out with it. "I found Mr Mason!"
Jason wondered if Gracie would realise that he hadn't used father as the title for the man he'd sort for the last month.
Gracie spun and lost the grip on the knife she was using to cut up some tomato. The knife slipped from her hand and clattered to the floor. "You found Dad? When? Is he all right? Where is he? Why isn't he with you? You have to take me to him!" Jason could see the almost blind panic in her face. "Please Jason, now!"
Jason watched as Gracie started to run out of the kitchen then stopping as though she'd remembered something, then running back up the stairs. Jason caught her at the bottom of the stairs as Gracie was donning her coat. "Please settle down Gracie, it's too late to go anywhere tonight and it's too far to travel anyway."
Gracie was frantic as she tried to get her arm into the sleeve of her coat. "God Damn It! No Jason! No, no no no we're going now! I need to see him."
Jason held her tightly and spoke firmly, "Grace please!"
Tears were flowing down her face as she broke down and blubbered, "I want my father, I need him! You have to take me to him! Please Jason!" She sagged his arms and cried.
Jason had his own tears falling down his cheeks as he watched the love of his life fall apart. In a soothing tone he cooed, "Gracie sweetheart please trust me, I will do everything in my power to see that you are reunited with him. Tonight we have to talk and then we can work out some way to make it happen. Think of it this way, atleast we know he's safe and healthy, I know where he is and can contact him when it's the right time."
Gracie wiped at her teary face and sniffed. "You've actually seen him, talked to him?"
Jason smiled and nodded. "Yes sweetheart, I've spoken with him for most of today."
Jason had been wrestling the whole trip home with how to go about telling Gracie. The next few moments would see if his idea held water.
Taking Gracie in his arms, he held her. "I know how you have been wandering around in purgatory since I have known you and all because of your father's disappearance. I know you want nothing more than to go to him, but believe me that, that would be a step back at the moment."
Jason looked Gracie straight in the eye. "Think about it! We are one-step closer to our goal, and that is to have your father back with you. We have direction, but I have to tell you that with that direction there are so many pitfalls to get by and we need to take our time and find the safest route."
Gracie sat and listened to Jason, she could hear the concern in his voice, and she could also hear strength, a backbone in his tone, it gave her hope that her beloved had the answers. She knew Jason had always taken time to assess any problem and could be relied upon to act accordingly. "I love you Jason and you know I trust you. This has been so unexpected that I lost it. Please sweetheart, tell me about my father. Give me some hope that everything will be as it was."
Jason brow furrowed at this last request. "Gracie my love, nothing will ever be like it was by sheer definition. All we can hope for is that we have the strength to accept what is!"
Gracie realised then that Jason was struggling with a knowledge that he didn't want to divulge, but knew he had too. "There's something bad you have to say and you don't want to hurt me anymore than I'm hurt already?"
Jason dropped his head as he nodded. "I fear that this is going to get much worse before it gets better!"
"Jason you're scaring me, please just tell me what has happened."
Jason's jaw set in determination. "Let me play devil's advocate in this! I'm probably the only one who can sit back and critically analyse all the facts and get to the truth. What do you remember of the day your father went missing?"
Gracie couldn't understand why Jason wouldn't just come out and tell her what the problem was, but remembered that she had agreed that she trusted him. "I don't know? There was so much happening that day. Mum and I were organising their fifteenth wedding anniversary celebration!"