This story is by Sydney Steuernagel and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When the knocking began, it was after midnight. Despite the late hour Dominic was still awake. “If it’s one of those girl scouts again…,” he muttered darkly, “I don’t know what their parents are thinking letting them wander around the neighborhood at all hours.” He rose from his chair and walked toward the door. “I’m coming.” The knocking continued. “I said I’m coming.” He flung his front-door open impatiently.
The man on the other side of the door was certainly no girl scout. He was also the very last person Dominic had expected to see. “Logan?” he asked hardly believing his own eyes.
“It’s me,” the dark-haired man confirmed. “I’m sorry for coming here out of the blue like this, but I need your help.”
Dominic cast him an incredulous look. “I haven’t heard one word from you in nearly a decade! And now you have the nerve to show up here– completely unannounced– asking me for help! Who in God’s name do you think you are Logan McKinley?”
Logan looked away from Dominic, avoiding the other man’s gaze. “I know I have a lot to answer for–but I’m out of options. Believe me when I say that coming here is my absolute last resort.”
“I suppose you might as well come in,” Dominic said grudgingly. “If we stand in the doorway like this any longer the neighbors will talk.” Pulling the door open wider he gestured for the other man to follow him into the apartment. Logan did so, and after realizing that an invitation to sit was not forthcoming, remained standing.
“Out with it then,” Dominic demanded sitting back down in the armchair he had just vacated. “What exactly is it that you need my help with so desperately?”
“You deserve an explanation,” Logan acknowledged, “but there isn’t time.”
Dominic sat forward in his chair looking grim. “They’ll be others coming then? Those on your trail will follow you here. I knew it the moment I saw you, the moment I recognized your face. You’ve brought trouble to my doorstep once again.”
“I’ve done everything possible to ensure that won’t be the case,” Logan said starting to pace, “taken every precaution.”
“That’s what you said the last time I saw you before tonight,” Dominic replied glaring at Logan. “You said everything would be fine, she would be fine because you’d taken every precaution. And look how that turned out.”
Logan stopped pacing and turned to face Dominic. “There’s not a day that goes by, not a single one, that I don’t hate myself for what happened.”
“Glad to hear I’m not the only one tortured by that day,” Dominic replied with grim satisfaction. “Now say whatever it is you’ve come here to say and then get out. I want you out of my house and my life, for good this time.”
Logan took a step back, clearly pained by Dominic’s words. “I’ll get straight to the point. There’s a child…”
“For God sake,” Dominic interrupted, “is that what this is about? You’ve gotten some poor woman pregnant and now you can’t afford child-support? You don’t seriously think that I’d give you money.”
“No no,” Logan replied hastily, “you’ve gotten it all wrong. I don’t need money. I have plenty of that. I planned on leaving you a sizeable amount, whether or not you said yes to what I asked.”
“Keep your damn money,” Dominic snarled, “I have enough of my own and I certainly don’t want any of yours.”
Logan muttered, “You might change your mind once you hear what I’m asking.”
“Then for Heaven sake,” Dominic snapped, “speak up and spit out whatever it is that you want from me.”
“The child has no one,” Logan replied, “her mother is gone and her father…”
Cutting Logan off Dominic asked, “So, the child isn’t yours?”
“She’s my responsibility.”
“And what exactly,” Dominic inquired, “is it that you want me to do about this poor child? The last time I checked I didn’t run an orphanage.”
“I would raise her myself,” Logan responded, “it would not be difficult. I love her already. But you were right when you said there will be people on my trail. You know what it’s like, existing that way. A different country, new city, changing names until you barely remember your own anymore. That’s no life for a child.”
“I still don’t see where I come in, what it is that you want me to do?”
“I can’t keep Isabel,” Logan said looking as though he wished the words weren’t true, “but you can.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Dominic asked incredulously, “you just said your life is no life for a child, well mine sure as hell isn’t. I’m a criminal! I have business dealings with crime lords all over the world, and partnerships with the governments of multiple countries. Some days even I can’t decide which is the most dangerous.”
“Exactly,” Logan concurred, “you have contacts in every corner of the globe. You can keep her safe in a way no one else can.”
“Nearly every corner,” Dominic informed him, “it’s been almost a decade remember? A lot’s happened. I’m banned from five countries, forbidden to enter three provinces, and barred from two city-states.”
“Then Isabel will have limited opportunities to vacation abroad. There are worse things for children to be deprived of, like safety and love.”
“The child,” Dominic said, “she must have important parents, for her to warrant the kind of protection you say I can provide.”
“Something like that.”.
“Who are they?” Dominic asked.
“Her father’s name was Nicolae.”
“The child’s father is dead then?”
“And her mother?”
“Gone,” Logan repeated.
“Her name?” Dominic inquired.
Logan hesitated a moment before replying, “Caroline.”
Dominic flinched at the name, as if hit by a physical blow. “That’s why you feel this child is your responsibility,” he said with dawning comprehension, “because of her mother’s name. Some sick cosmic coincidence.”
“It’s no coincidence,” Logan stated gazing intently at Dominic. “You were right, all my precautions, my careful planning, it wasn’t enough. I promised you she would be fine, but she wasn’t. I told you I would keep her safe, but I didn’t. And now I have the opportunity to do for her child what I could not do for her.”
Dominic stared at Logan in disbelief, “You don’t mean–you can’t mean…”
“I do”, Logan verified. “Caroline, your Caroline, she’s alive Dominic, and she has a daughter. A daughter who needs the safety, protection, and most of all love that only you, her grandfather, can provide.”
Shock rippled through Dominic like lightning through a metal rod. He leaped to his feet and gazed uncomprehendingly at Logan. “That’s impossible–I saw her die.”
“You saw,” Logan said gently, “what Caroline wanted you to see.”
Dominic sank back into his armchair, his face completely drained of color. “But why? “he asked in bewilderment, “why would she do that?”
“She thought…” Logan hesitated and then went on, “she felt that it was the only way to ensure her safety.”
Dominic slammed his fist down on a nearby table. “Caroline found out she was pregnant. That’s why she did it. My daughter faked her death because she believed that if I were in close proximity, danger would be invited into her child’s life.”
“Yes,” Logan confirmed; his tone almost apologetic. “She felt that, however unintentionally, your work, the family business, it would pose a threat.” Seeing Dominic’s stricken expression, he added, “For what it’s worth, I’ve been by Caroline’s side all this time, and I can tell you with no uncertainty that your daughter loves you very much.”
Dominic scoffed, “She sure as hell has a funny way of showing it.” He paused for a moment and then continued, “You’ll be going after her then.” It could have been a question, if not for the fact that Dominic’s tone held no note of inquiry.
“What makes you say that?” Logan asked in surprised.
“I’m no fool,” Dominic retorted. “You tell me Careline’s in danger. She’s running from something and you’re being followed. I suppose you expect me to do the same, to run, to hide, and to take Isabel with me.”
“It’s what Caroline hoped you’d do.”
“And you?” Dominic asked, “what were you hoping I’d do?”
“Honestly,” Logan admitted, “I couldn’t stop myself from hoping you’d say no. No to letting me in, no to listening, no to believing me about Caroline and Isabel. If you had…”
“Then you could have kept the child,” Dominic finished, “taken her to Caroline and told her in good conscience that you had tried everything but it hadn’t worked. I’d refused to help. I’d refused to take her daughter.”
“I’d say I’m sorry to disappoint, but the truth is I’m anything but.”
“You mean…” Logan’s voice trailed off. “You mean you’ll take her? You’ll take Isabel?”
“Of course,” Dominic replied tartly, “she’s my granddaughter. It’s not like I’m starting an orphanage.”