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Eight

William Drexler III St. Louis, Missouri 2010

Did you get everything sorted out with the Demure case? My father never bothers to look up from his screen. I did. Everythings been filed, all financial matters have been transferred to Ms. von Strassenbergs responsibility. A tight grimace flits across the lines of his face, Ms. von Strassenberg now, is it? We took care of the name change with the rest of the paperwork. She didnt want to keep her stepfathers name. Not that I can blame her, especially now that she knows her familys name. She knows her mothers name. Not her fathers and in my fathers mind, that is what counts. Yes, she knows her mothers family name. Excellent. Thank you, William. It is a rare moment of simple gratitude, and without needing

to consider the source of it, the words unsettle me. There are perhaps two moments in my life when my father bothered to utter the words, Thank you, to me. It was never a matter of, Pass the peas, please, followed by a quick word of thanks. That would mean he had been home for dinner. The first time I can remember William Drexler II offer his verbal gratitude to me, I was eight years old. My mother had just passed. She had been depressed for many years, he had told me, and one day, quite suddenly she decided it wasnt worth it anymore. There was a brief note she had left for me. Father had given this to me reluctantly and followed the exchange with an uncompromising, Tell no one of this note. I was eight and terrified and had wanted nothing more than to please the one remaining parent I had left, what little of him I had left. He had never given me much of himself. So I nodded eagerly, Yes Father. He had patted my head and smiled, Thank you son. I read the note and locked it away in my Box of Secrets. In the morning it was gone. I wanted to believe it had been a magic sort of note, that had faded away with my mothers spirit, but part of me sensed, even then, my fathers true character and I knew he had come in the night and stolen it away. My sweet and gentle mother, a beautiful woman, who moved with the grace of a swan and whose smile had chased away the evil terror of the night, had taken her own life shortly after my birthday and had written to tell me, to reassure me, that it wasnt

my fault. She loved me so much her heart ached from it, but she could not stay. She could not stay because the demons were coming, she had said. Tell no one, son. He whispered in a tone that was meant to be gentle but carried more foreboding than kindness. They will think she was insane and we dont want that, do we? I shook my head, a mass of black curls my mother insisted on keeping just long enough to vex my father. Let them believe she was simply sad and lonely. Wouldnt that be better? To this day, I still cannot fathom what purpose my father had in even showing the note to me. I can only imagine he wanted only to comfort me, using her as he always did to handle the emotional aspects of having a child. The funeral was beautiful, the cathedral filled with masses of heavilyperfumed Madonna Lilies, my mothers favorite flower, every seat in the pews taken. The attention my father hadnt lavished upon her in life, he lavished upon her in death. When everyone was watching. It would have been unlike him to waste an opportunity. At eight years old, I sat in my pew, watching my father deliver a powerful, moving eulogy and wondered how he had conjured up the tears that glistened in his hazel eyes. I never believed he cried for her. It seemed possible he was crying for his son, who had lost his mother, but even then I doubted this very much. Whatever my father was he was not a kind man. And whatever I was, I was not a fool. I had seen her torment, the dark, passing

clouds that filled her countenance when she thought she was alone. She had been a beautiful soul, my mother, and she had taken her life because she could not deal with the idea of her demons, however imaginary, coming to find her. When my father flew to England the day after the funeral, saying he would return in a months time, I realized then, that whatever demons my mother had thought were coming for her must be terrifying. For she had dealt daily with the only demon I had ever met and he had not driven her to madness. Father looks up now, irritated that I havent left, why am I taking up room in his office and breathing his air? Sorry, Father. Hurrying out into the hall, soaking in the warmth after the preternatural chill of his office, it occurs to me, the only times my father has ever thanked me were times he was asking me to keep a secret.