NOVEMBER 2019 - The Stranger - from Resurrection

Saturday morning the doctor's wife almost always went shopping. The young doctor’s two small children were visiting school friends and the doctor was home alone. He was reading a book when he heard the soft knock on the door. Vaguely annoyed, he put his book aside; the story was just getting into a good part. Dr. Colombo wasn't expecting anyone and the interruption upped his irritation level a notch with the thought that the caller might be another door-to-door salesman. A tall, slim, athletic, well-dressed man in his forties, the doctor’s senior by more than a decade, stood on the porch smiling pleasantly. Despite his unassuming manner the doctor was apprehensive. The visitor’s face and jaws gave him the lean and hungry look of a predator. A shock of unruly black curly hair, careful dark eyes and olive skin told the doctor that his caller might be a person of Mediterranean ancestry. Alarm bells rang in John Colombo’s mind; the stranger looked dangerous. Ordinarily, the visitor's sinister appearance would have prompted the doctor to send him away quickly. Yet, he hesitated; he had the odd feeling that he knew the man. The stranger’s next words erased Colombo’s small feeling of uneasiness. “What can I do for you, sir?” “I'm sorry to disturb your Saturday, Doctor. I had to meet you.” The stranger smiled again and nodded, speaking almost in apology. “I grew up in this house so I thought I'd stop by to see the old place while I had the chance. I live in New York and I'm only here for today. I’m attending a science conference.” The doctor was intrigued. “When did you live in this house, sir?” “In the thirties. Until I was eighteen. When my mother died I moved away. My father died before I was born.” The stranger smiled again and his expression seemed to hide other feelings. “But that was a long time ago.” The doctor felt even more certain that he had seen him before. His visitor glanced toward the gate that led to the back yard. He reminisced, “I used to swing on that gate when I was a boy.” A small chuckle escaped his lips. “The yard looks lot smaller.” For the first time he offered his handshake. It was dry and strong. “My name is Russano, sir. John Russano.” “I'm Dr. John Colombo.” “We have the same first name,” the stranger said. The stranger smiled apologetically. “I looked you up before I came. We have the same last name too.” Dr. Colombo acknowledged the statement with raised eyebrows. “Didn't you say that your name was Russano?” “It is. You see, my mother's married name was Colombo. We aren’t related, though.” The stranger frowned in an effort to explain. “It's a little confusing, Dr. Colombo. Originally, my father's name was Russano. For some reason, he changed it to Colombo. Mom never explained why. Something to do with time Dad spent in Chicago.” The stranger paused, reluctant to continue, then, making up his mind, he finished more resolutely. “He was on trial for a crime that he didn't commit and they found him innocent. When he and mom came to Los Angeles I think he just wanted to forget the ugliness of the trial and start over.” The stranger’s face clouded, remembering more. “Just before I was born, Dad was killed. My mother died a few years later and I went to work in New York. I chose to keep my father's real name.” He paused once more. When he spoke again the doctor sensed a note of pleading in his voice… as if he was trying hard to find an answer to a riddle. “The coincident of our names… this same house… you understand. I wanted to see the house again and meet you.” “Yes. That is an amazing coincidence,” the doctor replied, slightly puzzled. “Won't you come in, Mr. Russano. You're welcome to look around.” “No. No, I'd rather not. I just wanted to see the house one more time. I've got to get back to my meetings. I’m giving a technical paper on the subject of Quantum Mechanics and String Theory.” This was said almost apologetically. “I have to review my notes before my talk.” The stranger smiled and the powerful sense of familiarity grew stronger. “Some of the conservatives in the audience are sure to throw some tough questions at me.” The doctor, for reasons he could not understand, had an overpowering need to know more about the stranger’s business. “You are giving a technical paper? As a doctor and a scientist I am always interested in new ideas. What is your subject?” The caller was reluctant to explain more than he had. He answered almost unwillingly. “I’m speaking on my pet theory; it has to do with string theory and other dimensions… and the nature of Time.” He had gone too far. He was embarrassed. The subject was one that some people scoffed at and he did not want this man to think ill of him. “It’s a way-out subject. I’ll probably get laughed out of the hall… If it gets published I’ll send you a copy.” Abruptly he became all business, anxious to go. Colombo was greatly perplexed. The strangers voice and his demeanor belonged to someone he had known before. Who was this man? It bothered Colombo. “What was your mother's name? You look very familiar, Mr. Russano.” “Rose. Rose Benedetti. That was her name before she married Dad.” The woman's name triggered other memories that tickled the back of his mind. “I thought I might have known some of your relatives, Mr. Russano.” “It’s not likely. I don't have any that I know of. “ Colombo blurted before he thought, not wishing to appear insensitive. “You said that your father was killed?” “Yes.” The stranger’s face was bleak. “My father was a doctor too. Like you.” He sighed. “He was murdered in this city not far from here.” After a moment he finished, “They never found his killers.” The visitor turned again. “I apologize again if I interrupted your Saturday, doctor. Thank you for your time. I just wanted to see the old homestead where I grew up one last time. I've got to go. Thanks again for your courtesy. It was a pleasure to meet you, sir.” The doctor wished him well and the stranger was gone. He disappeared down the street, walking fast. The doctor watched him from the porch until the stranger turned the corner. Colombo regretted that he had not pressed him to stay but that would have been contrary to the doctors habit of good manners. Still, Dr. Colombo was strangely disappointed. He wanted to talk with the stranger some more. He could not shake the powerful feeling that he knew the man, but clearly, his visitor was in a hurry and the doctor didn't want to detain him. He never saw the stranger again. Dr. John Colombo would have to wait twenty more years before he discovered who the stranger was…before he discovered the stranger was his son.