Jim came home to find Blair sitting on the sofa, staring. The object of his attention was an 11x17 piece of paper. It had been folded at one point; obviously to fit in a pocket of Blair's backpack. The creases created an uneven surface, preventing a clear image of the drawings and words, although he recognized his friend's handwriting. Blair didn't react to Jim's entering the loft, and he realized Blair was lost in thought. Is zoning contagious, he thought, then shook his head at his own foolishness. "Whatcha looking at, Chief?" he asked.
Blair looked up, then looked back down at the paper. "A project we've been asked to do for my anthro class," he answered.
"You're taking an anthro class?" Jim asked in surprise. "I thought you only taught."
"It's more like an extended seminar, actually. I have to take something once in a while--kind of like Continuing Education credits--to show that I'm keeping up in the field. We’re studying tribal dynamics, specifically family relationships."
"So, what's this?"
"A family tree."
Jim sat down on the sofa, wanting a closer look, curious to see what was written. For all Blair talked, he rarely said anything about his family, other than his mother. Since Jim remained close-mouthed about his own family dynamics, he never pressed. He was surprised to see quite a number of boxes branching out from Naomi. It showed not only her parents and both sets of grandparents, but uncles, aunts, and cousins of the first, second and third varieties. He saw Blair's cousin Robert in a box by himself, with a line going to two boxes indicating his parents, Aaron and Rachel. He pointed. "Is that the uncle who's the truck driver?"
"No, he's an investment banker and she's a nurse. They retired to Florida. My uncle Amos is the truck driver." He pointed to another cluster of boxes. "He and Aunt Mathilda live outside Austin, Texas." He sighed as his hand lightly smoothed the half of the paper that was totally blank. His father's side of the family.
"What're you going to do?" Jim asked softly.
Blair didn't ask what Jim was talking about; he'd previously told Jim he didn't know his biological father's identity. "I don't know. Naomi's always been very clear that she didn't know or want to reveal my dad's identity. I never pressed her, and I don't want to now, if I don't have to." He shrugged. "I could just choose to leave it blank. Not everyone knows their parents' identities; like kids who've been adopted.
"Angela Stevens, one of my classmates, told me about a couple of DNA analysis companies aimed at genealogy. One of them is Ancestry.com, which is the largest one. Unfortunately, it was developed for and aimed at the Latter Day Saints, which would probably not be helpful. In my wildest imagination I can't see Naomi hooking up with a Mormon.
"The other one is called Family Tree DNA and grew from an idea by Bennett Greenspan, a Jewish American. As he traced his own family tree through DNA, he realized there wasn't any DNA genealogical analysis available to the general public, so he hooked up with another scientist who'd done similar work and they came up with Family Tree DNA." He sighed. "It's in the early stages, so there's a good chance the database won't have my family in it. And it's a bit expensive. It'll have to wait until next semester when I get my stipend."
Jim listened to the timbre of Blair's voice as he talked, so different from either his detached lecture tone or naive enthusiastic chatter. He heard longing and frustration and… hope. Jim knew better than to offer to give or loan Blair the money. They'd had the conversation before--more than once--and Blair had always refused. "Well, we could do a DNA test on you and run it through the National Database," he said thoughtfully. "Of course, it would only show a filial match if someone on your dad's side was in the military--or a criminal. Do you really want to know that?"
But Blair was looking at him with wide eyes. "You'd be willing to do that?"
Jim shrugged. "Sure, why not? We'll have to submit it under an alias, otherwise someone might think you've got a criminal record yourself."
"But what about Simon?"
"We won't tell him."
"Isn't that a waste of police resources?"
Jim smiled. "The PD's been getting you as a free resource for years. I think they can afford to give back."
Blair sat back on the couch with a thump. "Wow, Mr. Black-and-White, I never thought I'd hear you throwing out the rule book, unless it applied to you, of course," he said, looking sideways at Jim and giving him a little grin.
Jim slapped him gently on the forehead. "Don't make me regret this, Little Orphan Annie."
"Hey, I'm not an orphan, just… parentally deficient," he said, his grin widening. "In any case, I'll just gracefully accept your offer. Who knows, maybe I'm related to Al Capone--or Meyer Lansky."
Jim laughed. "Okay, Wiseguy. In the meantime, what're we doing for dinner?"