He had only gone to the funeral for one reason, to make sure his father was dead. Mitch Wilder waited in his rented Mercedes across the street from Wharton’s Funeral Home and watched the people fight the blustery wind to go inside. What a hell of a day for a funeral. He took stock of who showed up for his old man’s service. He certainly didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to be…home.
It had taken him twice as long to drive from Hamilton than usual. Wind blowing snow across the highway slowed traffic significantly. But by the time he’d gotten to Highway 15 and driven into Port Shetland the wind had eased somewhat.
Mitch picked up the single red rose on the seat beside him and held it up to his nose. With eyes closed he inhaled the sweet fragrance and brought the image of his mother to his mind. Her arthritic hands was what he saw first, disjointed fingers curving over her thumbs. He could hear her labored breathing as she pushed her heavy body out of a chair. Her knees would crack.
A tear dampened his cheek. He wiped it away with the back of his hand. Mitch remembered the last time he was inside this funeral home. It had been fifteen years ago when his mother died. Then: a week after his mother’s funeral, he’d been drinking—which gave him courage—and walked up to his old man. “So, you going to move in with Stella?”
Len had taken a step back. “How do you know about Stella?”
Mitch glowered. “I’ve known about your mistress for years, Dad.”
Len eyed Mitch for a few heartbeats before he said, “I hope you don’t hate me, son. I’m going to move in with her.”
Mitch’s eyes were cold as he raised his chin…then hit his father. It had taken his old man by surprise. After he staggered backward Len wiped the blood from his nose. “That’s the last time you hit me, Mitch. The next time you’ll be written out of my will for good.”
“I don’t want your damn money.” Mitch held his clenched hands at his sides.
“Watch your step, Mitch.” His father glared at him. “I can take the company away from you.”
“You were the one who kept begging me to work for you.”
Len nodded. “And I’ll make sure you don’t inherit it too. Maybe…”
“Maybe what?” Mitch finished his whiskey and set the glass down.
Len took several breaths then said, “Maybe I’ll leave it to your brother.”
“What?” Mitch blinked several times. “What brother?”
“You have a brother, Mitch. His name is Tom.”
Mitch clenched his hands again, then thinking better of it, he let them hang loose at his sides. “Well, I don’t want anything to do with your bastard.”
Len held onto Mitch’s sleeve, his eyes glistening. “I’m sorry, son. But your mother couldn’t… I needed…”
Mitch had stormed out of the house and despite his father’s attempts to reconcile throughout the years Mitch kept them from getting close. Even as they worked together. After that day, every time Mitch had a few drinks they’d end up in an intense argument. More than once Nora’s husband, Joe, stepped in between them. Then Mitch and Len would come to an uneasy truce until the next time Mitch had a few too many.
Mitch sighed as he opened his eyes. The rose in his hand didn’t seem to be as bright as it was when he bought it that morning. He twirled it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. The idea was to place it on his mother’s grave after the service. But as a gust of wind shook the car and made him shiver he decided not to go out to the cemetery. “This stupid little flower would just blow away, anyway.” Scowling, Mitch whipped the rose against the back of the seat beside him. Three petals flew off. “Sorry, Mom.”
Mitch set the rose back on the seat. A quick glance at his watch told him he couldn’t delay this any longer. He checked his image in the rear-view mirror and straightened his tie. After a deep sigh Mitch forced himself to open the car door.
He stepped into the lobby of the funeral home. JT Wharton, the owner’s son directed him to the room on the left. To get his bearings, and to delay this for as long as possible, Mitch picked up one of the announcements and read it. In Loving Memory, it said. He scoffed. Maybe in Nora’s loving memory but not his. Leonard J. Wilder passed away March 25, 1967. Mitch stuffed it into his pocket before he took off his coat, hanging it up on the rack where dozens of others mingled with his tailored one. It surprised Mitch to see so many people there, he didn’t think his father was very well liked. He had to force himself to walk through the double doors and down the aisle, between the two rows of seats, toward the front.
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