Survivor: A City of Heroes novel


Chapter 27 - "Signatures"

It was Sunday evening, and the sun was just westering over Salamanca.

Jon adjusted his dark blue fedora to a more rackish angle, then thought better of it, and set it straight again, being careful to stuff his hair smoothly up under it. Trustworthy, he thought to himself, you want to look trustworthy. He smoothed the lapels of his jacket, yanked fruitlessly at the bottom hem, tugged at his gloves.

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, tried to still the trembling of his hands, failed miserably.

Trustworthy, he thought to himself again, making a mantra of the word, as he raised a hand, balled it into a fist, and tapped, lightly, with the knuckles on the wooden door.

There was the sound of laughter interrupted, the clink of glass and metal, the scrape of wood against wood, before heavy footsteps approached the door from the inside.

A hand pushed the lace curtain in the window to one side, an older man's darkly weathered face peered at him, dropped the curtain.

A moment later, he heard the rattle of the bolt.

The door opened a crack. "Yes? What is it?" a deep male voice boomed.

"Sir, I understand this is the Wellborne residence, is that correct?" Jon said, carefully.

"Yes, you got that right. What do you want?"

"It's about the family who built this house. I'm trying to track down some of my own family, and I was hoping that perhaps you might be able to help me with some information." Jon crossed his fingers behind his back, invoking an old children's charm of good luck.

The man behind the door hesitated, then shut the door. Jon heard the rattle of a chain, and the door reopened, wider this time.

A man of perhaps 60 years of age, maybe older, peered out at him, squinting.

"How do you do, sir," Jon continued, extending a gloved hand. "I would really appreciate any help you could give me."

The man stared at Jon's mutilated face under the brim of his fedora. "You don't look like anybody from around here," he commented.

Jon withheld a sigh. "No, sir, that's right," he agreed. "I've accident, sir. But that was some time ago." He paused, withdrew the proferred hand. "I'm really sorry to be bothering you at this hour, if your family is having dinner I can come back at another time."

The man continued staring.

"Henry....who is it?" a woman's voice called from inside the house.

"Just a minute, Martha...." he hollered over his shoulder.

He looked Jon up and down, calculating everything from his weight to his income. "Well, I guess you better come inside, Mr.....what did you say your name was?" He held the door wider.

"Smith, sir, my name is Jon Smith," the scrapper said, gratefully stepping through the doorway and allowing the man to close the door behind him, quickly taking his hat off and holding it in front of himself in both hands, his long blonde hair falling to his shoulders.

Wellborne gave him a sharp look, but refrained from comment.

"Well, come in, I guess the missiz won't be happy until she's tried to feed you." Wellborne turned and strode through the tiny living room to the kitchen-dinette.

Jon held back, worry flitting across his face. "That's very kind of you, sir, but I wouldn't dream of putting you and your wife out...."

"Oh, for Pete's sake, sit down, boy," the elderly woman clucked at him through the doorway, dragging a chair forward from where it rested against the side wall. Jon stepped forward, glanced around the room, quickly dropped his hat on a sideboard, and reached forward to pick up the chair, looked to her for direction, and placed it where she pointed, next to the side of the dining table.

"My boy won't be back until later tonight," she told him as she bustled about collecting flatware and china, and setting it in front of him. "I've got way too much food's a habit, you know, when you raise three growing kids for all those years, you kind of forget they've gone their own ways these days...." She seated herself, as Wellborne did likewise, and they began passing laden plates and bowls to the scrapper.

Embarrassed, he nevertheless felt compelled by courtesy to complete the family playlet the Wellbornes were acting out.

When all three were finished eating Jon tried to help the elderly woman stack the dishes, but she wouldn't allow it, pushing him toward the living room where her husband was already sitting.

Jon perched uneasily on the edge of a damask-covered chair seat.

"Well, Mr. Smith, you say you're from these parts?" Wellborne began.

"Not exactly, sir." Jon swallowed, plunged onward. "I'm....sort of an orphan, I'm not sure where I'm from, but I seem to remember some details about the Henderson farm, and I found a piece of wood that someone had carved the name Jonathan on....I'm not sure, but that may have something to do with my own name, sir."

"I see." Wellborne got up, crossed to a cabinet, began pouring brown liquid into shot glasses, handed one to Jon on his way back to his seat. Jon raised the glass and lowered it in salute, touched the rim to his lips, then put it down. The last thing he needed was to be drinking right now.

"Jonathan, you say," the older man mused, still staring at Jon.

"Yes, sir. I talked to Aubrey last Friday night, and he was very helpful, he seemed to think that there had been someone named Jonathan living in this house before you bought it. I was hoping that you could tell me the last name of the family you bought the house from. It might give me a lead, at least."

"I see."

Please, Jon thought,'s just a name. It's harmless....just a name....

After a long moment, the older man stood, opened a drawer in a desk, shuffled through it, pulling out a thick sheaf of stapled and yellowing paper. Mutely, he handed it to Jon, who accepted it, puzzled.

He glanced at the top sheet, then peered more closely at it. The ornate scroll work caught his eye first, then the large lettering at the top in a Gothic script, which read "bill of sale".

Immediately rivetted, he began pouring over the document, searching. Flipping through the sheets, he finally found the signatures at the back.

Henry David Wellborne

Zebediah Norman


Copyright, November 26, 2012