Tom wasn’t quite what Michael had expected. He’d expected a six foot six, barrel chested g-man. Instead, Tom was only five-nine and sinewy. But he could tell that the man was strong. Stronger than he looked. And possibly dangerous.
Though this was their first face-to-face meeting, Michael had heard the tales. How Tom had begun in the mafia, but found his calling in the CIA via a stint in the FBI. His time in the FBI had been short, due to a disagreement with J. Edgar Hoover, as had his time in the CIA. But Michael had heard that the lifespan of an agent was always short, no matter how good they were. Either they got killed by enemies, captured, or were terminated after their mission was over.
Tom, it seemed, had been smarter than most. He’d left before he was given his notice. At least that had been the main story, though others circulated that he was still linked with both the CIA and the Mob.
Still, Michael wasn’t one to listen to gossip. He only knew that the man before him could prove to be a very dangerous enemy. An enemy he did not need or want.
He smiled. “Tom?” He offered Tom his hand. “I’m Michael Morrow.”
Tom smiled and shook his hand. “Of the world-famous Morrow family. Welcome to Council Bluffs.If you like, you can leave your car here and I can drive you to where your daughter is. Or, you can follow me in it. Either way, it isn’t a long drive.
“I am not sure how she’ll take your presence, but I do know that she needs you and any other family who is willing to reach out to her. If you can contact cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings…she needs all of you. Everything she has been through has scarred her deeply. We almost didn’t reach her in time after the letter appeared.
“She had begun to retreat into herself by the time she was found. Thank god she responded to the musical therapy my wife tried. Don’t know what we would have done if it hadn’t. Anyway, Charles Goodacres has told her that you are coming. It is his son that has won your daughter’s heart, and a better man you’ll never find.”
Michael smiled. “I see. We’ll leave our car here since I have taken the liberty of booking a room for the night here.” He looked at their host. “You think she’ll be up for a week-long visit?”
Tom shrugged. “We’ll have to wait to see how she reacts to you tonight. I hope so. She needs you, even if she doesn’t want to admit it.”
Michael and Valeria got into the back of Tom’s sedan. They knew they were in good hands. Hell. If he was protecting their daughter, she was in the hands of the very best.
Susie was amazed at how easy the three year old Matt was to teach. He was a natural, and so comfortable at a piano. It was almost as if he had been born to play. She watched him sit and finger the keys, his curious mind exploring each aspect and every possibility.
It was more special as she watched his fascination with the sounds, the music. He was so deeply interested. Unlike his mother, who merely saw the therapeutic rewards, Matt saw the pictures it created in the mind. And Susie could see that. He was what they called a prodigy, a born master.
To him, it was the combination of sound and vision. Music at it purest. Its most beautiful. Its most powerful, most intoxicating.
She could tell that he would learn what she had to teach him in almost no time. He was like a hungry little sponge, wanting to learn everything he could. For as young as he was, he seemed to push his own limits. While other toddlers seemed interested in building blocks, he was intrigued by the piano and its many sounds. He played with the keys when not at lessons, seeing what sounded good as a melody. It was as if he had found his calling.
A couple weeks in, he could play the simplest melodies. His tiny fingers finding the correct key for each note. She had never seen such a quick study. Never. She’d read about Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and the other masters showing their genius at an early age, but Matt was so much younger than they. And yet, he showed as much promise if not more.
It seemed all he had to do was listen to a piece once and he could play it back, note-for-note. He was going to be a concert level pianist by the time he was five, she could tell. He just had that finesse, that ability. And he seemed to have a knack in surprising everyone.
The sound of Chopsticks filled the house as Tom and the Morrows entered. Tom turned and smiled. “Matthew is quite the little musician, isn’t he?”
Michael’s jaw dropped. “How old is he?”
Susie appeared. “He is exactly three years old. The most curious three-year-old I have ever taught. While most are fidgeting and squirming, he sits and intently watches…and learns. I’ll bet he knows how to play the piano better than he knows how to talk. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t heard him speak yet.
Michael looked at her. “Is there something wrong with him?” His concern was evident.
She shook her head. “No. I just think that he hasn’t had much to say yet. When he gets going, the world better watch out.” She changed subjects quickly. “Your present concern should be for your daughter. Matt will be fine. Right now, though, Natalia is not. Not completely. She has been deeply scarred by all that has happened in the recent past, including the events that led to Matt’s birth. Any woman would be.”
Charles Goodacres’ wife entered the room. “I agree. I have been through what she went through, but not to the extent she was. Tom was told the full story of what happened as it was recounted to him by someone who is also forced to live the nightmare.”
Tom handed Michael a note containing the signed account of the incident. “A friend of mine was protecting your daughter until just recently When he left, he asked me to finish what he started. He was the one who was given this account by a young man who was forced to watch. He still bears the scars from the barbed wire they used to bind his hands and feet.”
Michael read the account, his eyes growing wide with horror. “Oh, God! No wonder she misread my emotions.”