"Hey Joe, I just hired a kid that looks just like you. Younger, of course, but your spitting image. I didn't know you had any family. You didn't spread your seed around about nineteen years ago, did you?"
"Nope, never happen, Pete. What's the kid's name and where is he from?"
"John Midden, and he comes from upstate near Bright Springs."
"Do you have a next of kin listed in his records?"
"Mother, a Mrs. Jonathan Midden. According to what he says, he also has a sister who is a couple of years younger than he is. I almost turned the kid down for the job because he is so young, but he begged me for a chance. The vehicle he was tested on wouldn't start. He had it running in ten minutes. He made some adjustments in the next fifteen. I put it on the computer. The car runs like a top and everything checks out. I'm going to keep him on even if he does look like you."
"Okay. Your business anyway who you hire. I hope he works out for us."
My name is Joe Ambles and I am the son in Ambles and Son, Auto Repair. I own a string of four automotive shops. My father, Joe Senior, is retired and has been for five years. Before that we were partners for ten years and before becoming a partner, I was learning the business. Three of the four repair shops are totally my new acquisitions since Pop turned the business over to me.
I am now through with expanding, as I have the city covered with a shop in all four quadrants. That was my goal and I reached it a year ago. Business is good and I am fast becoming a rich man. Nearing forty years of age, my next goal is to find me a wife.
I did have a wife many years ago named Stacy, but I was concentrating on learning the auto repair business and didn't pay enough attention to her. She was from money and couldn't see the sense of me being so work-oriented. Maybe the problem was her folks. They looked down on the boy/man who married their daughter. They made sure that my wife got invited to all of the do's uptown as they climbed the social ladder. She resisted at first, but I urged her to attend, not wanting her to have to spend time alone evenings while I was learning the business. That was a big mistake.
Before I knew it, those functions became more important to her than I was. When I tried to call a halt to her going out so much, I found it was too late. She had established a lifestyle and had a group of friends she wouldn't give up. We parted on terms that were not exactly amicable. I resented the fact that she couldn't see my side of the situation. After some contentious arguments, I was served. The divorce was arranged by her parents and I didn't even bother to attend any of the proceedings. They moved out of town shortly after the papers were signed.
We hadn't been married long enough to accumulate much in the way of material goods, and for signing off on the divorce, what was left came to me. Since the divorce, I have never had any contact with Stacy. I still live in the same apartment that we leased together, although I can now afford one much more lavish. That change is on my list of things to do sometime in the future.
Did I ever think back to the time and to the woman I married? Sometimes, but only to the fact I wondered how her life turned out. Was she glad that she had divorced me? Did I wish sometimes that her life had turned to crap? Sure, that would be normal, and I was about as normal as a person could be. Still, in odd moments I missed her, even after this long a time.
I left Ambles Auto Shop-Main and headed over to the Ambles Auto Shop-South, where this kid had been hired by Pete, the manager of this particular shop. Curiosity, I guess. I mean what guy can go and see a younger version of himself? On the way, I tried to fit any possibility of this kid into my past life. What if Stacy had been pregnant when we divorced? That would seem the most probable answer and would make me the father. Maybe I could find out by asking the kid what his mother's given name was--discreetly, of course.
Pete was all smiles when I entered the office. "I wondered how long it would take you to get over here. Stand by the window where you can see him. The kid is working on the red car in the third bay. I'll tell you Joe, that boy is a natural mechanic. I guess his father was into hot rods and taught him a lot.
"His old man left his mother for another woman, she thinks. He is pretty bitter about it. Not so much as how he treated the mother, but in how his father left him and his sister. The kid had plans to go on to trade school to become a mechanic, if not more. I don't know if it is necessary, he is that good. He is having to work and help support the family now. He told me all of this in confidence, so don't blow it for me."
"No I won't. God, he does look like me, doesn't he? Take me out to meet him. I have to have a closer look."
John looked up as we approached. The kid was neat and well-groomed. The shop coat he was wearing was cleaner than those worn by the other mechanics. He put the wrench down that he had in his hand, wiping it with a clean shop rag. "John, I'd like you to meet our boss. This is Joe Ambles and he owns this shop as well as some others. He started much like you are doing twenty years ago. Of course he had the advantage of working for his father. Still he is a first-rate mechanic--or was. Now he just runs around giving everyone orders."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Sir. I want to thank you for letting Pete hire me."
"Not my doing. My managers have full control over who they hire. The downside is they sometimes have to fire someone if they don't turn out well. Pete tells me you are doing fine. Welcome into our little world." I shook his hand and turned to Pete. "I have some figures I want to go over in the office." I turned back to John. "We'll be seeing each other off and on. Again, welcome." Pete and I went back to the office after I went down the line of cars being worked on. I knew everyone by name and I spoke to each as I came to them.
When we reached the office I said to Pete, "Give me what you have about where he lived before. His father and mother's names and their old address. I think I'll look deeper into the family. Maybe he is a cousin or nephew or something. I'll hit Pop and my uncles after I find out more. Maybe one of them jumped the fence."
"Lisa, this is Joe. How are you doing, cousin?"
"Fine Joe. You've never called during office hours before. Is this a friendly call or do you need my services?"
"I need your services."
"I don't have an operative available right now. Is it something you need immediately?"
"Nope. I wish you could handle it personally though. Nothing may come of what I want, but I want it kept as discreet as possible. You might even be involved slightly."
"Can I take you out to dinner tonight so I can tell you all about it?"
"Wow, this must be serious if you are springing for dinner."
We made a date. Lisa was my cousin. She was in law enforcement for awhile, but finally went to work as a private investigator. She married the owner of the agency and they were the top ones in the city.
After dinner we sat down and planned what I wanted her to do. "Lisa, Pete just hired a kid as a mechanic. He looks enough like me to be my son. His name is John Midden. There is a younger sister who I haven't seen and a mother named Mrs. Jonathan Midden--no given name. Their home address is over on Spruce Street and I don't think they have been in town very long. Originally they came from somewhere near Bright Springs, up in the northern part of the state."
"Why the interest? They say everyone has a double somewhere."
"You go into South Shop tomorrow. The kid has the third bay assigned to work in. When you see him, that will be the answer to that particular question. I guess I want to rule out that he isn't family and that is why I want him checked out. Take as long as necessary. I think I have given you enough to start with. The trouble is, this will be all the information I can get without asking questions myself."
"Okay, I can take a look at him tomorrow. It may be a week before I can start as we are pretty busy right now. Let's see, I'll spend two or three days finding out what I can here and then maybe a week tracing his background somewhere upstate. That's only if I think he looks enough like you so I can't shoot you down on this. I'll call you in three weeks for sure if I can get any information to give you. Anything else?"
"You might ask around as to what happened to Stacy. The thought came to me that she might have been pregnant when we divorced."
"You still carrying a torch for the bitch?"
"No, nothing like that." I understood Lisa's derogatory comment and sentiment. At the time I was courting Stacy, Lisa was more than half in love with me herself. Being cousins, it couldn't go anywhere and we knew that--but admittedly there was an attraction between us--still is. Lisa was perceptive enough to know that Stacy and I were too much different for the marriage to work back then. She saw it, where at the time I didn't. Man has to learn from his mistakes.
"Hah! I bet. You'd take her back in a minute if you found out this kid was yours by her."
"No. Think about it. There is no stretch that this John would turn away from the mother who raised him to a woman that discarded him. Right now the kid is helping support his mother. That's the woman who raised him. There must be a lot of love between them."
"I guess you are right. I'll get on things as soon as possible. You're buying dinner again in three weeks. Invite Matt too. He claims I'm out too much alone at night."
.... There is more of this story ...