“Ah hem”, the waiter coughed, drawing my attention back to the present. I checked the time, only to find a half hour had passed since I’d arrived. Looking to the waiter, I spoke, “I’m sure he’ll be here shortly.” I said, roughly enough that I knew he would not protest. “Naturally sir. I was only wondering if I could get anything for you while you wait. A bottle of wine perhaps?” he responded, maintaining his composure. The conversation was already beginning to bore me, so I shook my head and focused my gaze back on my fork. After a few beats, the waiter left me alone with my thoughts. It was unlike Michel to be so late. I hadn’t heard anything from him, so I assumed there was an emergency at the hospital, or something else that would take precedence over collecting his laptop from me. “Dad?” I looked up again, this time to find Michel standing over me. “Hello, son.” I stood up and embraced him. I paused for a second and smelled him, felt the roughness of the coat fabric and felt my heart swell. “Please sit. How have you been Michel?” I said as I pulled away. He sat, and picked up the menu, browsing it quickly and efficiently. When he spoke, he didn’t look up, not interested enough to give me his full attention. “Maureen and I are well. Work is busy, but I cannot complain.” “Lovely Maureen! How has she been? Your mother and I have missed her greatly.” “Ah, sorry to hear that, how is mother doing? Has the new treatment caught?” He dodged my question gracefully. I gave him a brief update of his mother’s condition. I tried to lighten up the conversation by bringing up his wife again. “Where has Maureen been? Your mother would love to have her come visit!” I encouraged him. “I’ll bring her when I visit this week. It’s just been absolutely hectic for her. She’s applying for a promotion at work, and with everything else, she hasn’t been able to find the time. But she sends all of her love and well wishes.” Michel smiled sympathetically. “Oh, speak of the devil!” Michel said, feigning enthusiasm as he looked down at his phone, vibrating on the table, and showing a big picture of Maureen grinning. “I don’t mind, answer it Michel.” I said. “No, no, she can wait, she probably just wants to pester me about a paint colour for the kitchen.” He said, almost bitterly. Just then, the waiter approached, and Michel quickly ordered the first thing he saw on the menu. I ordered the same thing, and there was an awkward pause. I racked my brain for a way to bring up what was on the laptop, but my mind was blank. Just as I was about to speak, Michel’s phone began to buzz again. He rolled his eyes, but this time picked up. “Yes?” He said, sounded disinterested. I could hear Maureen’s soft voice in the background. She seemed to be apologizing or pleading for affection. He continued to answer in one-word phrases, guiding the conversation to a close. I politely ignored his open rudeness to his wife. I couldn’t possibly imagine what she could have done to warrant a reaction like that from him. Maureen was beautiful, intelligent, and funny. They had met around 3 years ago, at a benefit of some kind and married not even a year later, in a lavish ceremony most women dream about. Newspapers and tabloids had sent photographers and reporters to capture the union between Maureen Sommes, and Michel Lohamn. Now, they lived in a big house in one of the nicer suburbs in the city. They summered in Greece, or Italy, and attended extravagant galas every weekend. Michel had the life millions aspired to. He was certainly better off than his cousin, Rick. Although both Rick and Michel had avoided prosecution for their crime 15 years back, Rick had fallen into bad habits. He had already been jobless for years, had bursts of homelessness, and recently, had been hospitalized due to his substance abuse. I was grateful that Michel had been able to lead such a successful life, and that he had not been as weak as Rick had been. Michel had focused on his studies all through secondary school and college, and had gotten into medical school. He excelled and ended up specializing in surgery. I was sure that it was some kind of redemption for what he had done. He had killed someone, and now he spent his life saving people. That’s why the images on his laptop had bewildered me. The waiter brought out the food, and we began to eat, our chewing filling the awkward silence. After a long pause, Michel looked up at me. “Dad, while I’m thinking of it, can I get my laptop back from you?” Michel said. My heart pounded, now was the time to speak. “Of course, here!” He had left the laptop behind at our house over the holidays, and I suggested we could meet up so I could return it. I reached into my bag and pulled it out and passed it across to him. He reached out to take it but I didn’t let go. “Son,” I leaned in closer, “can I ask you about the Family Vacation folder?” Michel’s face didn’t change, but he leaned in close to my face. “Like father, like son, right dad?” Confused, I thought back to the photos. Dozens of people, sleeping, or more likely unconscious, but maybe even dead. They were all in compromising positions Initially, I thought they were some kind of medical inquiry, but then I noticed the logo burned into all of their bodies. MIB. It confused me at first, but I worked out: Men in Black. “How does that have to do with me Michel?” I was disturbed by his comparison. He simply laughed. “Michel this is serious, I thought you put this behind you!” I was getting more and more frustrated as the conversation progressed. I had hoped that he would provide an explanation, but he was only confirming my fears. “You taught me to be the person I am today. You introduced me to this years ago. I honestly didn’t think this would bother you, after the ATM incident.” Michel said, still sporting a half grin. “Michel, the ATM incident was just boys fooling around, you just dealt with a situation, and I did with the bike shop owner. But this? This is psychotic. You need to talk to someone about this.” I tried to reason with him. He stood. “Thank you for lunch, and for the laptop back, I’ll see you soon.” He pushed back his seat and walked out. “Michel, you need to get help, or I’ll be forced to make this public.” I shouted after him. He turned slightly, he made eye contact with me, and his faced transformed into one of deep thought momentarily. “That won’t be necessary father.” He said calmly, and pushed through the doors. I returned home, and spent the night pondering what to do next. I wished I could talk to Claire, but she was so ill. I decided to sleep on it, and I headed up to bed. I got into bed, which still felt empty without Claire. As I fell asleep, I thought of her, and wished she were lying next to me.
I woke up, feeling groggy. My eyes took a minute or so to become accustomed to the light, but as they adjusted, Michel came into focus, sitting at the fireplace in my room. “Michel, what on earth is going on?” I pushed myself up so that I was resting on my elbows. I couldn’t get any further though; he must have drugged me, my body felt too heavy to move. I could see now that Michel was holding some kind of long rod into the fire. “I really thought you understood me, dad, after the bike store, and standing up to Uncle Serge. But you don’t, and I won’t have you threatening me.” He stood and walked towards me with a large syringe in one hand and the object from the fire in the other. I squirmed and pulled away as far as I could, but my range of motion was reduced, and he pushed the syringe into my arm. As my eyes began to flutter, I made out the object in Michel’s other hand. It was a large metal cattle brand, with a large MIB focused in the centre.