I telephoned Frances and asked her if she wanted to come for lunch. Once I had fed them all and the children were out in the garden, shrieking and giggling on the trampoline, I took out the rather dog eared paper and handed it over.
I watched as she read it a couple of times without comment. She took in a deep breath and laid the letter on the table top. “So, that’s a turn-up.”
I giggled, her reaction was so understated, so unlike my own and she grinned back at me, gave me a minute to collect myself.
“I suppose you’ve been in a state about it?”
I just nodded and she leaned and gave my hand a pat. “I expect you’ve been wondering what to do next.”
Again, I just nodded.
“I suppose you think that wise old Fran will be able to tell you what the answer is.” She held up a hand as I opened my mouth to answer. “It’s a shocker and no mistake and there are a couple of things we need to think about right up front. First of all, we have no idea who the hell this bloke is. There is nothing, absolutely nothing here that proves he’s your dad. Second, even if he is you don’t need to do anything about it. You can just ignore this letter, stick it in the bin and pretend you never saw it.”
I was nodding at her. It was lovely that she’d taken the problem on with me. I felt the tension lift a bit now – a trouble halved in a very real way.
“Now then,” she continued, “the next thing is how you really feel about it emotionally. If we can prove that he is your father. And, to be honest, I have serious doubts – however, if he is, what, if anything would you want to do?”
“I don’t think I want to do anything,” I said. “I wish the thing had never come. I don’t want to have to deal with it. He doesn’t say he wants to meet up, does he?”
“No, but he says he’s always wanted to get to know you and really why would he bother to search you out if he didn’t want to meet up. Mind that brings us right back to what I said before. I don’t reckon this is anything other than someone trying to catch you out with a scam.” Frances paused for a minute and then said, “I reckon your best bet is not to do anything. Throw the thing away. He’s surely a con man. He’s seen the notification about your mum and done a bit of digging and now he’s trying it on.”
“But how could he? I mean how could he know my situation?”
“Oh, come on.” Frances raised her eyebrows at me. “You, in your work, are very aware of how easy it is to check up on people’s background. It’s no problem at all to see copies of birth certificates and what have you. You pay a couple of pounds to an internet site and that’s it. Some times you don’t even have to pay anything. It’s all there. I know you didn’t put anything on Facebook but other people did, didn’t they? I saw them”
“Yes, I did ask people to take them down, I didn’t want it all there in public but not everybody did. But, why would he bother?”
“Money. Plain and simple. These people aren’t stupid. They know all about this stuff. You have a house, your mum had a house that will now be yours …”
“No. Come on. Nobody would go to that trouble.”
“Don’t be so bloody naïve, Mel. You must have read about people being taken in to the extent that they’ve practically given away their life savings. I tell you, there’s big money to be made by fooling people. Look at the address for a start, a PO Box – who has those these days. I didn’t even know you could.”
I saw now that I had been approaching it from the wrong direction. I had believed he was who he said he was. How had I been so bloody stupid?
“God, Frances. I can’t believe it. What a wicked thing to do though, eh?”
“It’s a wicked world, Mel. That’s why we have to look out for each other. Anyway, the way I see it, you can either just throw this away and assume that he’ll bugger off when he doesn’t get a response– or – you could take this to the police.
I re-read the letter and then with a quick look at my friend I tore it into a dozen pieces and stuffed it into the bin.
“Let’s have a drink,” I said, “thanks Fran, thanks so much. I don’t know where my head was at. It threw me did that but I’m sure you’re right. It seems so obvious now.”