Read Part Eight First!
The street was disturbingly empty as John and Mavis walked towards Peace Masterson's small cottage. There seemed to be no one around at all-- even though this was normally a fairly busy time of day in Harmony. There was no one to be seen anywhere other than the schoolyard, where the village's two teachers stood talking together as the children played.
"I wonder where everybody is," John said, raising a hand in greeting to the teachers. They gave him a perfunctory wave before going back to their apparently engrossing conversation.
"That's strange," Mavis remarked. "They usually come over to talk a bit when I pass the school during their break time."
"Yer right, they do. Look how they're watchin' us, too, like they're hopin' we don't notice the attention. Somethin' about the whole atmosphere in this town is givin' me a nervous feelin' this mornin'."
While she would ordinarily have laughed away his paranoia, Mavis said nothing, which made John more nervous still.
As they passed the sturdy brick building which served as the council house, they were surprised to see half a dozen wagons squeezed into the empty lot next to it.
"This must be where everyone is," Mavis said. "Did you hear anything about a town meeting this morning?"
"Not a word," John replied. "Maybe we oughta go in and see what it's all about...although somethin' tells me I don't really want to know."
As soon as they entered the building, which was indeed filled with everyone in the village except for the children, it became clear that the meeting did have something to do with them. One of the village elders, Jerry Carmody, was at the front of the room, and as soon as he saw them come in, he stopped speaking. In the moment of silence that followed, every head turned in their direction, and no one spoke a word.
In an effort to break the suddenly palpable tension, John spoke up.
"What's goin' on?" he asked, trying to keep his voice light, although it betrayed him by shaking slightly. "Talkin' about us, were ye?"
Jerry ran a hand nervously through his waist length blond hair and offered a nervous cough before speaking. "As a matter of fact, we were," he said at last. "We were just trying to figure out how to tell you about something we've all just recently learned."
Even though this man had been a regular visitor to the pub and usually joked easily with John, he was now plainly ill at ease, looking for all the world like a bearded child, caught with his hand deep in his mother's cookie jar. His gentle blue eyes searched John's face, and he added softly, "Of course it is you. How could I not have seen it?"
Another of the village elders stood up and approached John and Mavis. By now, both of them felt as though nothing would be nicer than if they had been able to sink into the floor and disappear, but this man's eyes were also kind and when he saw how uncomfortable they both were, he smiled gently at them.
"Don't worry," he said softly. "We're all your friends here, just as we always were, although we do wish you'd trusted us enough to be more honest with us from the beginning. Come on up front and sit down. We were actually just getting ready to send someone to get you."
John seated himself at the front of the room with Mavis beside him, the baby in her arms. John's stomach was decidedly unsettled; he felt just as he had years earlier whenever he went on stage to do a show. He made himself smile, hoping desperately that he would not vomit. The man who had brought them up to the front of the room stood and began speaking to the crowd.
"We are all agreed, then," said Jerry after a moment, "That Brother John did the only thing he could do under the circumstances. If he wanted to bring young Sean here without having to reveal who he really was, he had no choice but to simply take the boy and bring him home to the island. Since he is the child's father and his only surviving parent, taking the boy was justified."
"Yes," called a woman from the back of the room. "But why did he have to pretend to be someone else? Why let everyone in the world believe that he's been dead for the past two and a half years?"
John recognized the speaker. She was Becky O'Dell, and he had shared her bed several times before he had become involved with Mavis. Now she looked at him with an uncharacteristic shyness, her cheeks coloring, finally dropping her gaze to the rough, wooden planked floor in response to his eyes upon her face.
John looked across the audience in front of him. It was very small compared to most in front of which he had stood to perform during his lifetime; there were perhaps a hundred people in the little council house, and every eye was upon him, every face expectant, every voice hushed.
That was the difference. No one was screaming, there was no hysterical weeping-- but it was more than that. As he looked at the people, he really saw them. This was no sea of anonymous, contorted faces. These were people he knew, some to a greater extent than others, but every one of them was familiar to him. There were men he joked with in the pub, women he had flirted with--some he had done considerably more with before becoming involved with Mavis--and those he had merely a nodding acquaintance with, but in at least some small way, he knew them all. There was no need for him to feel pressured to perform. He was among friends and neighbors, people he cared about and who cared in turn about him. As they sat there, quietly waiting for him to speak to them, he felt his apprehension melt away.
"This is a lot different from what I'm used to," he began. "For one thing, nobody's paid to get in here; at least not that I know of. If ye have, please let me know, 'cos if that's the case, I'm owed a percentage o' the take."
There was a ripple of warm laughter, and the people seated in front of him smiled encouragingly. Any residual apprehension John had felt was gone.
"I guess ye all know by now that I haven't been exactly honest with ye, but I've had me reasons, and in a few minutes ye'll all know what those reasons are," he told them. "One of 'em is over in the schoolyard right now, playin' with all of his new friends. Another, his mother, in fact, is dead now, recently shot the same way I was over two years ago; before I came to live here."
John paused to take out a cigarette, and continued speaking after lighting it.
"When I woke up in that hospital in New York, I wasn't as surprised as ye might imagine," he said, taking a deep drag and letting the smoke out slowly. "I'd been noticin' things for years. There were funny noises--little clicks and such--on me private phone line, and I'd been noticin' that wherever I went, there was always some fella wearin' a suit and sunglasses about; not always the same one, but the same type. It didn't take a genius to figure out that I was bein' watched. I had an idea of why. I'd given some money to the Cause in Ireland, and the American government didn't care for that. They also considered me a bad influence on their young people."
A few of the men nodded sympathetically. They agreed that it was high time that Ireland should be returned to its own people, and they knew they would have done the same had they been in John's circumstances. Besides that, many of them had been influenced by John's ideas about peace and wholeheartedly endorsed his belief system.
"For a while," John continued, "I'd been in a sort of retired state. The monitoring seemed to let up a bit, but once I decided to go back to work again it started up even more intensely than before. The noises were on the phone every time I used it, and those fellas in the suits, who'd I only been seein' from time to time for the last few years, were everywhere again, sometimes even in pairs.
It was makin' me fuckin' nervous, believe me. I even told me doctor that if anything ever happened to me unexpectedly and I survived, I wanted him to pretend that I hadn't pulled through, just to get these people off me fuckin' back and to protect me wife and child."
John crushed his cigarette out and closed his eyes briefly, remembering the night he'd been shot.
"It finally happened," he went on, "And I had me face slightly altered and decided to come here. As many of ye know, I used to own this island. I bought it to build a retreat here, but I decided against it and signed it over to a group of folks lookin' for a place to call their own. Some o' ye were there that day, includin' me own sweet Mavis, though she was nobbut a child at the time.
The funny thing is that now I think of this as so much more than what it meant to me at the time. It's not just a place to retreat to any more. It's become me hearts' true home, and many o' ye here are like family to me. I kept up the story I'd come here with to protect ye, not outta distrust but outta concern. If nobody knew who I really was, nobody would feel as though they had to lie for me if it ever came down to it, and despite the way I've deceived ye, the truth is very important to me."
Mavis reached for his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. John smiled at her and faced the audience once again.
"Now that ye all know the truth, I hope ye won't think less o' me," he said, getting to his feet. "If ye think I've done summat wrong and ye feel the need to inform the authorities, please just let me know so that I can have the time to get meself and me family away from here. Thanks for listenin'. We'll leave now and go home so that ye can decide what to do without havin' to feel like yer bein' pressured."
Mavis followed John from the front of the room, and as they made their way down the center aisle and out of the front door of the council house, each and every eye followed their progress. No one said a word, but some of the older women brushed tears from their eyes, and more than a few men felt compelled to clear their throats as the couple passed through the crowd and exited the building.
"I thought that went well," John said as they headed for home. "At least I hope it did. I don't wanna have to take ye away from yer home, me love. Hell, I don't wanna leave here meself; I've never been happier."
"You have to trust the people of Harmony," Mavis replied. "They'll understand that you were only doing what you needed to do. They really do care about you."
"Yeah, all but that guy on the farm nearest the cemetery, that Josiah Masterson," John pointed out. "He doesn't like me at all. He fancied ye before I came here, and ye know he expected ye to marry him as soon as ye came of age. Every time he comes by the pub, he gives me that look--it'd strike me dead if looks could kill. Imagine our sweet Peace havin' a son such as that one."
"Ah, but John, he loves his mother so-- and he knows how much she loves you. He wouldn't hurt her that way, I'm sure. Besides, I think he's getting over it. He's been hanging around with Dawn Fairweather lately, and I think he's practically forgotten about me."
"Then he's even stupider than I thought. Yer worth ten o' Dawn, Mavis," he replied.
They had reached the pub, and John opened the door for Mavis and followed her inside.
"Put the baby down for a bit, whydontcher," he suggested. "Sit down here by the fire, yer cheeks are all red from the cold. Hard to believe Spring is nearly here. I'll get us some coffee while we wait for the verdict. I feel as though I'm on trial and waitin' to hear me sentence."
As a matter of fact, as John and Mavis sat drinking their coffee, Josiah Masterson was addressing the villagers in the council house.
"I just don't see why we should go along with his lie," he said sullenly. "My mother trusted him, and she nearly had a stroke when she found out who he really is. Besides, if we don't turn him in, that makes us accessories to kidnapping. Have any of you even thought about that?"
"Josie, hush," Peace interjected. "If it wasn't for John Evans, this village wouldn't even exist. He gave this island to us, and he should be able to live here in peace for as long as he wants to stay."
"You mean John Lennon," Josiah pointed out. "There's not even any such person as John Evans. Besides, he only gave this place away because he didn't want it anyway. It wasn't good enough for him then, but now all of a sudden it's a fine place to hide from the police, isn't it?"
"He reason he gave the island away isn't important," Peace replied to her son. "And he'll always be John Evans to me, no matter who he may have been before he came here. If anyone from the Yard asks me, I'll tell them that he's John Evans, and so will you, if you know what's good for you. Shame on you for acting so! You're with young Dawn now, and I'm only glad that she's at the school with the children and not here to see how you're behaving. Do you think she's so stupid that she won't realize you're acting this way because it pisses you off knowing that Mavis chose John over you? It's about time you let that all go and concentrate on Dawn, or you're going to lose her too. It shames me to hear you talk this way."
Josiah stared at his mother, but her eyes never wavered. At last he sat down, looking at his shoes. "I'm sorry, Mum," he said softly. "You're right. We should let him stay."
Peace sat beside her son and put her arms around him. "That's the son I love," she said gently.
"A show of hands, then," called Jerry Carmody, who had led the meeting. "Who thinks Mr. Evans should stay and receive our support?"
It was a unanimous vote this time. John would be invited to stay on Harmony for as long as he liked.
Jerry dismissed the villagers, and they dispersed slowly, congregating in small groups at the side of the lane before reluctantly returning to their respective homes and businesses.
Jerry did not go home, but headed instead for the pub to tell John and Mavis what had been decided. As he walked he thought about the day that John had shaken his hand after handing him the deed to the island. He'd been a much younger man then, slightly star struck at finding himself standing so close to a music icon. It had been John and his band who had inspired Jerry to take up the guitar, and before that day he had scratched out a meager existence singing about peace in coffee houses frequented by other idealistic, 'hippie' types. There had been so much in his heart that afternoon, so much he wanted to say to the famous musician and his enigmatic, diminutive wife, but his mouth had turned dry and he had found himself practically unable to speak.
Jerry had been the leader of the small commune in which he then lived, and his head was filled with the vision of what Harmony could become. His idealistic dream had been more than realized since then, and it seemed to him that Harmony Island had become the utopia he had envisioned despite his initial, clumsy attempts to bring it to life. He had advertised in several newspapers, petitioning those with similar visions of a peaceful world, exhorting them to join him in his efforts to make this place a reality. In the end, about thirty people had come here with nothing but the most basic necessities, and they had pooled their meager funds to buy the supplies needed to start this small community. They had built the village with their own hands, had tilled the soil and erected the cottages, continuing to invite others and have children until now they numbered well over a hundred souls. There was little need for Jerry's leadership these days, and meetings like this one had become a rare occurrence. For the past several years, the council house had mostly been used for occasions such as weddings and funerals, since Harmony had no church building.
Jerry opened the familiar door and let himself into the pub. John and Mavis were sitting by the fire, their eyes intent upon his face as he entered.
"So, Jerry, what's the verdict?" asked John in a casual voice. He pushed himself to his feet and went to the bar. "Before ye tell me, let me pour us both a drink," he added. "Ye look as though ye could use one, and God knows I could as well."
Jerry slid himself onto one of the well-worn stools and accepted the glass John handed him, tossing the whisky back with a well-practiced hand.
"You're welcome to stay," he replied, and John refilled his glass with hands that trembled slightly.
"I appreciate that," John said softly. "Yer sure everyone's agreed to that, then?"
"Everyone," Jerry assured him. "As far as everyone here is concerned, you're John Evans, and John Lennon is dead, rest his soul. We'll all stand behind you no matter what happens. I think it's unlikely that anyone will look for you here, though. We're pretty much off the map and have been mostly ignored except for that business with young Joshua a few months back."
John had been feeling nothing but relief, but as soon as Jerry said that, his heart nearly stopped. How could he have forgotten? He wavered slightly and sat down hard on the stool beside Jerry.
"What is it, John-- you look as if you'd seen a ghost!" Jerry exclaimed.
John looked back at him miserably. "That policeman who was here askin' after that dead lad," he said in a quiet voice. "Detective Bob Douglas-- he knows who I am. He's sure to come back now. What if he says summat about me bein' alive and living' here?"
"Are you sure he knows?"
"Yeah, he knew almost right away and said as much. He's gonna figure out it was me who took Sean with no trouble at all, and he'll show up here lookin' for him. What the fuckin' hell am I gonna do now?"
"Maybe you won't have to do anything. Maybe he'll keep quiet about it. If he knew back when he came here before, he might not be willing to admit that he saw you here, since he obviously didn't tell anyone on the mainland your secret then," Jerry offered.
"Maybe, but he's a policeman, Jerry. He's a detective. Even if he doesn't say anything to anyone else, he'll come back here. He's gonna feel as though he can't rest until he knows whether or not it was me who took Sean away from that hospital."
As luck would have it, Robert Douglas had seen the paper two days earlier and was indeed wondering if the Japanese gentleman in the wheelchair might not have been a younger man in disguise. There was something about the way the old gentleman held the boy as the nurse wheeled them away from the hospital that made him examine the photograph more carefully, something about the way the elderly fellow curved himself protectively around the child, who indeed seemed quite content to let himself be hurried away by two supposed strangers. There was something about the old gentleman's hands, too. They looked young and strong, not frail and thin-skinned as one would imagine they ought to be.
Detective Douglas decided that, as soon as he had a day off, he would pay a visit to John and Mavis on Harmony Island and see whether there had been another little boy added to their family. If he had to be completely honest, he would have had to admit that he hoped he was right. If Sean had been taken by his father, the little boy was in no danger. Still, there were a lot of people looking for him, and he was the sole inheritor of an awful lot of money and property.Detective Douglas wasn't at all sure that anyone, even his own father, had the right to simply make the child disappear without a trace. He wasn't keen on letting the world know that John was still alive, especially since he'd covered up the information after his investigation concerning the dead boy, but he just didn't feel as though he could just dismiss his suspicions and ignore the matter of the missing child. There were no two ways about it. He would have to go back to the island and see to the matter himself, and he had to go as soon as he possibly could.
Part Ten Coming Soon!
Angel Godiva was actually was given that nickname by John Lennon, whom she met in L.A. in 1974 on her 21st birthday. She had yards of hair back then. She lives in Northern Connecticut with her second husband, and has been a Beatles fan since 1964, when she was 11. The high point of her life was meeting and getting to know John (though she never saw him again after he returned to NYC). She also writes poetry, and is currently working with an editor friend on her first novel.
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