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A Long Story Told

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“Tell her,” Abe said from behind him.

Dr. Henry Morgan, the immortal Medical Examiner, looked at the picture that Detective Jo Martinez held out to him. He knew he needed to tell her his story but how? Where did he start? If he started at the beginning, would she believe him? If you'd asked him a couple of weeks ago, before Abe and Lucas had tracked down where Abigail had lived and died, he would have said yes. But now? He wasn't so sure. Now she might be like Nora and have him committed. Insane asylums were nicer places these days but still he didn't relish being locked up.

“It's a long story,” he finally said as he stepped aside to let her in.

“Shall we go upstairs and be more comfortable?” Henry suggested. Maybe by the time they got upstairs he would figure out what to say.

“Tea?” He asked as they passed through the kitchen.

“Sure,” Jo answered. The way Henry was acting said this would probably be a conversation that tea or something stronger might help along.

Five minutes later Jo sat on one settee and Henry on the one at a right angle to it. He had set the tray with the teapot, cups and saucers, milk and sugar on the low coffee table.

“Milk?” Henry asked.

“A splash,” Jo replied. “One sugar.”

Henry prepared her cup and handed it to her. Then he made his own. He still had no idea of where to start.

“Time to stop stalling, Henry,” Jo said after she had taken a sip of her tea and set the cup and saucer down again.

“Right,” Henry said as he set his own cup and saucer down. “Where to begin.”

“How about with the picture?” Jo prompted. “The man looks just like you. But it can't be you. Can it?”

“That is baby Abe, his mother and father,” Henry said. Jo looked like she was going to say something but he continued. “And yes, that is me, Abe's Father.”

“Abe's Father?” Jo exclaimed. “That would make you ...”

“Two hundred and thirty-six years old, yes,” Henry supplied.

“That's not what I was going to say,” Jo said. Then his news caught up to her. She blinked. “Wait, you're two hundred...”

“And thirty – six years old,” Henry finished. He calmly took a sip of his tea. Shocking revelations always went better with a nice strong cup of Assam. Joyous news was better met with Darjeeling.

The news finally fully registered. Suddenly his comments about living “one very long life”, “live long enough you learn a thing or two”, and even the comment a bout a “rather complicated relationship” with death started to make sense. She would have to ask about the death thing latter. The lectures about the history of New York neighborhoods and the statement about “until recently” the brownstones had been pastureland also clicked. So much that was strange about Henry finally made sense. The sense of style and decorum was now understandable.

 

“We'll come back to that,” Jo said. “What I was going to say was, if you're Abe's Father than the woman we found out in Westchester was your wife.”

“Yes,” Henry agreed. “That was Abigail.”

“No wonder you went a little crazy and accosted a Federal Judge,” Jo said. She laid a hand on his knee. “I'm so sorry for your loss.”

Henry placed a hand over hers and squeezed it gently.

“Thank you,” Henry said. “Though I did lose her a long time ago.”

“Abe told Lucas that she left in 1985,” Jo agreed. “Why?”

“She was growing older and I wasn't,” Henry explained. “We would go out and people would tell me how nice I was being for taking my Mother out for a meal. I wouldn't care but she started to. So she left me, in the middle of the night one night. She left a letter saying she needed some time away to think. I went a little crazy.”

“That would be understandable,” Jo commiserated. “I did. You saw, when we first met.”

“Yes, the drinking and the one night stands,” Henry agreed. “I crawled into a bottle and became obsessed with finding her. Abe had to pull me out of the bottle. I passed out one night and he took away my bulletin board of clues. He said he tossed it out but apparently he kept it all this time. It's what he and Lucas used to track Abigail down.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. They each drank their cups of tea, lost in their own thoughts. That was one of the things about their friendship. When they were getting along, words weren't needed.

“There must have been some good memories,” Jo said.

“There were,” Henry agreed. “There was the first Christmas we spent here in New York as a family.”

It was 1946. The Morgans were still living in the apartment with the radiator that acted up. Abigail had become an expert at taking the wrench and whacking it to get the heat to work. Henry was working in the emergency room. Abe was toddling everywhere.

Two weeks before Christmas, Henry got a tree to put up in the dinky apartment. Abigail had strung popcorn and cranberries and put it around the tree. Henry had been able to buy a box of a dozen cheap glass ornaments to hang on it as well.

One afternoon, Abigail and Abe made a chain of red and green paper to add to the decorations. Henry had smiled at the sight. Not just the new festive decor but at his paste covered wife and son.

Christmas day dawned bright with a light snow covering the city. The sounds of merry making could be heard through the thin walls of the neighbor apartments. Breakfast had been a lazy affair as Henry had the overnight shift at the hospital so he could enjoy most of the day with Abigail and Abe. Abe tore open the paper on his gift – a new teddy bear. Abigail opened her gift carefully and revealed an antique pearl necklace.

“Oh, Henry,” Abigail sighed. “Can we afford this?”

“I was able to find my old stuff in storage from forty years ago,” Henry explained. “Those were my Mother's pearls.”

“Oh, Henry,” Abigail sighed again. She made sure that Abe was playing in the corner with his new bear, and launched herself in to Henry's arms. She kissed him.

Henry shook himself out of the memory. That was nearly sixty years in the past. Now he had to explain his age to Jo.

“There were good memories but not enough,” Henry said.

“There never are,” Jo agreed.

Henry poured second cups of tea. He sipped his for a moment. He wondered when the shock would set in and Jo would call the men in white coats on him.

“You're taking this rather calmly,” Henry said when he couldn't stand the silence any longer.

“I've known you for a while now, Henry,” Jo said. “You've hinted at living a long time and sometimes they way you talk sounds like you were present at historical events. It really makes more sense than it surprises.”

“That is a new perspective on it,” Henry said. “Not one of the few people I've told believed me so easily.”

“You expected me to do something else?” Jo asked.

“Call the insane asylum and have me locked up comes to mind,” he said.

Jo looked at him, really looked at him. That was why he had covered up and lied when she pushed him to confide in her. Someone had not believed him and had locked him up. Now he expected her to do the same.

“Did someone do that to you?” Jo asked. “Lock you up?”

“My wife,” Henry admitted.

“Abigail?” she asked.

“No, the first one,” he answered. “Nora.”

“You had a wife before Abigail?” Jo asked. “I guess with two hundred and thirty-six years you probably had been married before.”

“I was married to Nora when I discovered my curse,” Henry said. He smiled a wry smile. “Do you remember the story Issac told about the Empress of Africa?”

“The story about the slaves being free because a dead crew member dropped a key?” Jo asked. She looked at him. “That was you wasn't it? The Doctor crossing on a ship from Africa who dropped the watch was you as well.”

“It was me,” he agreed. When the Captain of the Empress shot me and had me tossed over board. That was my first death.”

“First death?” she asked, startled at the thought that heir might be more. “Have there been more?”

“Many more,” Henry admitted. “When I die, I emerge from the nearest large body of water, naked without the marks of my death. The only scar I carry is from that first death.”

“So you really were shot,” Jo murmured. “Naked you say?”

“Yes,” he simply agreed as he drank the rest of his cup of tea,

“That skinny dipping at Christmas was because you died?” Jo realized the implications. While the precinct was teasing him, he'd been recovering from dying. “Oh, Henry. The amount of stuff you've been keeping to yourself.”

“Well now you know,” Henry said.

“I want to know it all,” Jo said.

“Did you tell her?” Abe said as he came upstairs.

“Yes, I told her,” Henry said.

“Good for you, Pops,” Abe said. He turned to Jo. “So, since you're not rushing out to call the men white coats for the old man, can I assume you'll stay to dinner?”

“If you're cooking,” Jo agreed. Suddenly the relationship between the two men took on a whole new light. Henry had always seemed the more closed off of the two but now she saw that it was just Henry never having let go of the fatherly role.

“I want to hear the real story about you two.” Jo said referring to the fact that the first time she had joined the two men for dinner she had asked about their relationship and they had lied to her.

“I have some doozies to tell,” Abe said as he turned to go start making dinner.
That night Jo learned all she wanted to and more about the Morgan family. It was a treat to see Henry really let loose with Abe and let their real relationship shine through. It was such a different story than she had expected to hear when she knocked on the door that afternoon.