“What did I say to you?” Kelly asked.
“I’m not sure I remember the exact words, but they were something like, you’re all better now.”
“What happened to you after we parted ways?” Kelly asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”
Duncan replied with one of his chuckles. Kelly liked how he did that and was quickly becoming accustomed to it. “I don’t mind at all.” He said.
“I spent the next eight years on the move; working odd jobs, saving up my money and staying hidden. Once I was old enough to not have to worry about the workhouse anymore, I returned to my happy shipyard.”
“There was a new guy at the security gate who told me they didn’t need anybody, but I spotted a couple of the guys I used to work with nearby. I yelled out the nicknames I used to have for them and they stopped to stare at me for a minute before running over to let me in.”
“After a few minutes of them trying to talk over each other to me, while also telling the guard who I was, we were on our way to the boss’s office. By the time we got to the office door, there was a whole group around me.”
“The boss came out to see what all the noise was and, upon seeing my face, immediately teared up and pulled me into one of his bear hugs.”
“I told him I would like to come back. He laughed and asked me how I’d like to learn how to run the place. I was stunned but everyone else seemed excited about it, so I accepted the job.”
“When I asked if I still had a room there, he told me no, but he knew another place.” Duncan laughed. “He was so excited to show me that he wouldn’t wait until the end of the day. We left right then, early morning, and went back to his house.”
“He reintroduced me to his wife, who had been so kind to me when I was there as a boy. She squealed so loud I feared for my poor eardrums.” He laughed again.
“The boss told her that I was back and needed a place to stay. She gave him a knowing look with tears in her eyes. Then she shook her head and walked back into the kitchen. I wasn’t sure what that meant until he led me down the hall to a bedroom that had clearly been set up for a boy.”
“He told me that he had built the room onto their house and his wife had fixed it up, back when I first came to the shipyard; all in hopes that I would come live with them one day. I then understood her reaction to those words. They had been planning on taking me in the whole time.”
“He also told me that he wanted to go get me the second it was finished and bring me to my room, but she had made him swear not to say anything until my birthday. She was planning a nice dinner and a big chocolate cake, just for me. The room, and all the stuff in it, was going to be the present. He said she even made the giant bow that was still on the door all this time later.”
“He then added that she had been living with guilt all these years because she’s the one who wanted to wait until my birthday. No one could talk her out of it. He suggested that I try. I went straight to the kitchen to do just that. When I told her that guy would have just followed me here too and that leaving was the only way to get away from him, she scolded the boss for telling me, and told us both to go wash up for dinner.”
Duncan smiled fondly at the memory of his adoptive mother.
“Eventually, the boss and I built my house next to theirs. And when I met the woman I wanted to marry, they were the ones I told first. The boss’s wife redecorated my whole house to suit the needs and tastes of a woman.” He chuckled.
“They were beside themselves when my first child was born; and equally excited when the next three came along. They spoiled them and taught them and told them stories, like all the best grandparents do.”
“Time passed and the boss and his wife grew old. Their kids had grown up and left before I’d come back. Their son had died in war and their daughter had moved far away, so the business was left to me when they passed, as was their home and property.”
“I continued to live a life much like the boss had lived. I ran the business and took care of my wife and children.”
“It was when my wife was on her death bed that my own age came into question. She had made a remark before she passed about how I had barely aged at all since we met. It, being one of the last things she ever said to me, got stuck in my head. Then I started paying attention to my reflection; she had been right.”
“By the time my grandchildren grew up and had their own kids, it was the topic of nearly every conversation. I had barely changed at all in over seventy years.”
“I am so very sorry.” Kelly said.
“It’s all right, miss.” Duncan replied.
“But I know that pain and I would not wish it on anyone.” She said.
He smiled. “It really is alright. Should I continue with the story?”
“Now, as you have stated, you know that pain; which means you also understand the need to stay on the move.”
Kelly shook her head. This she understood very well.
“When all of my own children passed, I gave everything to my grandchildren, and moved to a distant town where people didn’t know me. There I started a new career as a private investigator.” He chuckled again.
“I never thought of myself going fully over to that side of the law, but, I guess stranger things have happened, huh?”
This made her laugh. She really did like this man.
“I was able to help so many people, mostly thanks to a lot of life experience. Also, I was able to locate a great number of run-aways, due to my own childhood. More than that, I was able to help the kids who didn’t have a proper home to go back to. It has been an extremely fulfilling life and I am grateful for every moment of it.”
“Me and all of the people I was able to help, all of the people whose lives I was able to make happier, all of the children and grandchildren that I helped to raise and teach who have gone on to help others… it is all thanks to you.”
Kelly started to cry. “I understand now why you call it a gift. It is rare that these abilities ever lead to anything good, even with the best intentions. But I have enjoyed your company today immensely. I believe I needed your visit and I needed to hear your story. You can now count me as one of the people whose life you have improved.”
Tears began to sting Duncan’s eyes at those words. “I am glad to hear that. More than glad, I am thrilled!” He said enthusiastically.
“I’m serious! It’s not often that a woman tells a man that he has managed to say all the right things to make her life better.”
At that Kelly burst into laughter. And when Duncan joined in, everyone in the diner started to laugh along quietly as if his laughter was contagious.
He does have one of those laughs, Kelly thought. He really is a joy to be around and she is happy to call him her friend.
Once the laughter settled and more fresh coffee was poured, Duncan’s expression became more serious.
“As much as I hate to do this, it is just one of those things that must be done.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “I have told you all the good news up front, but there is, unfortunately some bad as well.”
Now it was Kelly’s turn to take a deep breath. She nodded her head when she was as prepared as she could be.
“While I was tracking you, I came upon two other people who were doing the same. They don’t know about me. I found them out and did my best to race ahead of them to get to you first. I am unsure of their intentions, and I was unable to investigate them thoroughly, as I was in a rush.”
Kelly drew her eyebrows together in confusion as her mind raced to figure out who else might want to track her down, and why.
Duncan continued. “One of them is male and one is female. Both are said to be immortal.”
Kelly’s heart sank to the pit of her stomach.
“I couldn’t find too much else about the female, but the male is apparently a bounty hunter. One who specifically hunts for other immortals.”
“An immortal bounty hunter who hunts other immortals? How many can there be?!” She asked disconsolately.
“Calm yourself, miss. You can’t possibly be responsible for them all. In fact, I know you aren’t. I spent a lot of my life, investigating and researching. I have come across quite a few who have absolutely no ties to you whatsoever. And before you even think it, yes, I am certain. How am I so sure? Because some of my research led me back into the stone-age. Were you alive then?”
Kelly shook her head, no.
“Of course, you weren’t!” He said cheerfully. “Do you know what all of this means for you?”
She shook her head no again.
“It means that you can stop walking through your life with all that weight on your shoulders, because immortality and even strange abilities have always existed. Case and point, no one made you immortal or gave you these abilities, did they?”
She could only stare wild eyed at him now.
“Exactly.” He said. “As far as I can tell, immortals are born right along-side everyone else in this world; some with incredible talents, others with strange or dangerous ones. And… some live longer than others.”
No one had ever had this much of her attention before. “Does that mean we can die?” she asked.
“It means that some do, yes. Though some require a certain method of death, such as beheading, there have been several who suddenly died of natural causes.”
“I should point out that your particular ability gives you certain persuasions over life and death, so your case seems to be unique. I also haven’t come across any other with the ability to create other immortals; either intentionally or unintentionally.”
Duncan looked down at his forearm as if he were looking at a watch that wasn’t there, then back to her.
“Unfortunately miss, I must be going soon. I was able to find someone to help me get to this mystical island to speak to you, but only for the day, that was the deal.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I found a lady who was able to give me directions to this island. But she told me that only certain people were allowed to stay on the island, and I’m not one of them, so I can only visit. And I can only do that once.”
“That sounds similar to how I found my way here.” she said.
“I know.” He replied. “I tracked you all the way to her shop. She called me by name when I walked in the door; called me straight to the back room and started talking. I didn’t have to ask a single question.”
“That’s convenient.” She said.
“Yes, it was.” He checked his arm again. Unfortunately, we have run out of time. I knew I would be leaving you with a lot of questions…” he trailed off as he reached into the seat next to him and retrieved a small bag.
“…so, I brought this for you. This bag contains all of my personal journals. The journals are records of all my research. I won’t be needing them anymore.”
Kelly gasped as she took his meaning. “You mean you’re dying?” She asked as tears filled her eyes once again.
“Yes miss, I am. The nice lady who helped me to find and visit you today told me that I would have enough time for this and to make my way home to my family.”
“I have kept in touch with them throughout the generations, so they are aware of immortals and of my story. I also let them know what will be happening today. Everything is all set and ready. I have a nice comfy bed waiting for me when I get there, since the lady was also nice enough to inform me that I would be dying peacefully in my sleep after a wonderful dinner with my great, great, great, great grandchildren.” He chuckled.
Kelly smiled at him through her tears. Knowing that she could do nothing to change the situation, she simply reached across the table to hold his hands in hers. “I wish we could have stayed in touch. It has truly been a pleasure to be in your company and I am honoured to be included in your last day.”
Duncan patted her hands before standing to leave. “The honour has been mine, I assure you.” He replied through a smile. “Say, you wouldn’t want to escort an old man to the docks by any chance, would you?”
Kelly returned the smile. “It will be a privilege to be seen on the arm of the most handsome man on the island.”
They shared a laugh as they exited the diner arm in arm.
End of Phantom Island-Story 8-Part 4-“Mr. McCray”
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