March 12th, 2013
0.1 -- Tromsø, Norway
Leif Trulsson is just falling asleep when the home phone rings, jolting him awake. The old thing is hung up on the wall next to his chair -- he suspects it’s a ploy by his wife, Aerona, to make him answer so she doesn’t have to.
Over the years they’ve been together, she’s changed from forbidding him from answering the phone to making sure she never has to. He’s always left awkwardly making small talk with his wife’s sisters, who never seem to want to stop gossiping.
When he checks the phone, though, it isn’t one of his sisters-in-law. It’s an American phone number, one he doesn’t recognize.
“Leifson household, Leif speaking. May I ask who’s calling?” Aerona peers at him from over her juvenile romance book, approvingly.
The voice on the other end, male and definitely American, doesn’t bother to return his pleasantries. “You’re Leif Trulsson?”
Confused and a little put off by the lack of manners, Leif answers, “yes, I am. Who’s this?”
“My name is James Collins. I work at a prison in Virginia, USA for major crimes.” Leif’s blood turns to ice. He doesn’t have much family in the states, but one of the branches is in Virginia. So the call can only mean that one of his grandchildren has gotten themselves into a mess, a very big mess. “Unfortunately, I have some news regarding your son, Mikael Leifson. Just to be sure, your son’s full name is Mikael Sebastian Leifson, correct?”
If Leif had had a drink, it would’ve been spit out. The twist of going from one of his grandchildren to the son he’d lost so long ago makes his head and heart hurt.
“Yes, yes that’s correct. Mikael Sebastian Leifson, born August 4th, 1960.”
Aerona’s head snaps up at the name of their son, eyes immediately watering. He’s been missing so long, any news is rare. And it’s been so long since they said his name….
“Okay, so I have the right guy. When was the last time you and your son spoke?”
Leif has to think about it before he can answer. “Almost thirty-five years ago. It was 1977, I believe."
James blows out a breath. “Okay. Wow. Um, well, I have some news to share. He was in prison from August of 1996 to just a few days ago for -- “
“Has he escaped?” He tries to clamp down on the hope his question stirs. Aerona shifts closer, not quite sitting on the arm of his chair. He moves so she can press her ear up against the receiver.
James clears his throat uncomfortably. “No. I’m sorry to say, Mikael passed away on the 10th of March. He had a heart attack.”
Aerona gasps, tears leaking from her eyes. He wraps an arm around her, pulls her onto his lap. They’re old, but comfort is eternal.
Strangled, he says, “you were about to say why he was in prison.”
Papers shuffle on the other side, stalling the response. Finally, the man hesitantly says, “two counts of second degree murder and three counts of battery with a deadly weapon. All committed on May 10th, 1996. … I’m very sorry you had to find out this way,” he murmurs.
Leif is barely thinking about the man, though. He’s thinking about the fact that his son, who was bossy and mean, had killed two people and seriously hurt three more. The picture of his baby boy, grudgingly taking care of his younger siblings, did not compute with the image of him standing over a dead body.
Not exactly firing on all cylinders, he asks, “why?”
“Why did he -- ? He killed his wife and her ex-lover, and severely beat three of his children. I don’t know why, what possessed him to -- I’m sorry,” he almost squeaks, “I’m not very good about keeping my mouth shut. I’m really sorry.”
Leif sighs, shocked and dismayed and sad. He thinks he’s in shock; he feels, mostly, numb. A sob falls from Aerona’s lips, at the thought of grandchildren they don’t know getting hurt by their own father.
“Tell me what happened between him going missing and...and two days ago. Please.”
James smacks his lips nervously. “As far as I know, he came to Richmond, Virginia from London in September 1977, along with his wife Esther. They got temporary visas until they could be naturalized. They moved to Mystic Falls, Virginia in January 1978, along with their daughter Freya. In Mystic Falls, they had six more children -- Finn, Elijah, Niklaus, Kol, Rebekah, and Henrik. There were some police calls for noise and similar disturbances. There were also some issues with custody of Niklaus, as it was revealed that he wasn’t Mikael’s son. Then, in 1996, the police were called to the home, and Mikael was arrested for, like I said, murder and battery. He was convicted immediately, and sent to prison. He just rotted there for almost seventeen years. When he died, we checked his will, and everything he owned except for one thing went to you.”
“What was the one thing?” He asks. He doesn’t know what else he could possibly say.
“Oh...a letter. It hasn’t been opened, but it’s addressed to the children.”
“Where are they? What happened to them?”
“They were taken to the hospital afterwards. Freya had three cracked ribs and one broken one, minor internal bleeding, and minor bruises. Elijah had two stab wounds, a concussion, and major internal bleeding. Niklaus had four broken ribs, a concussion, major internal bleeding, a broken collarbone, and a fractured radius. And probably a broken heart, I’d wager. This all happened only six days before his ninth birthday.”
“After a few days, they were separated into different foster homes, before the younger three were adopted. The older four aged out of the system. Well, actually, Niklaus ran away and has been missing since 2005. The other three did age out.”
“Herregud,” Leif repeats, no other response appropriate for the situation. “Have any attempts been made to find them? To tell them their father is dead?”
Aerona looks away, biting her lip. He doesn’t look away from her as he listens to James talk.
“Frankly, I don’t think any of them will care. Accounts from them all indicate he was verbally and physically abusive for years. They’ll probably be glad he’s gone.” James bites his tongue, forcing himself to be quiet once again.
“Is there any way they can be found?”
“No. They’re scattered all over. The records were botched almost immediately after the sentencing, so no one knows where these kids went. I’m really sorry. All we know is that they’re adults now. Look, I’ll call you if I get any more information. Okay?”
Leif barely gets out, “okay,” before James is hanging up the phone.
As soon as his hand falls to his side, still clutching the phone, Aerona is turning his head to look at her.
“We have to do something,” she says, determined. When she gets like this, he knows, there is no arguing with her. None at all.
“We’re in Tromsø, Aerona, we can’t do anything,” he protests weakly.
Her eyes turn fiery. “Yes we can, Leif Trulsson. We can and we will. We’re going to the United States to find our grandchildren.”