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June 17, 2024

Patterns in Blood 31

By Lydia Manx

Seal Beach
Coastal Los Angeles County
The Present

We arrived at the small shotgun styled home by mid-afternoon. The front door opened to a surprisingly spacious living room. We immediately dropped our stuff in an awkward pile by the door and got right to work at the kitchen table. The house was owned by one of Paul's friends, thus we were fairly sure the Hagens couldn't trace it to me. Eventually we'd figure out who was behind all of this.

While I spent the rest of the day attempting to complete the descriptions of the family, Michael and Paul began to track down all my past friends. It was hard to concentrate, but I kept plugging away while the men continued to abuse their minutes on their cell phones. One of the things I had purchased during my shopping spree was another cell phone charger. Michael had Paul grab some of his clothing during the afternoon when Paul went to pick up some of his clothes and work material. Michael had only a single set of spare clothes, so Paul had swung by Michael's and picked him up a duffle bag full of the necessities. Their mumbling and grumbling could be heard throughout the silence of the beach house.

Early in the evening we sat in the front room and spread out our notes to see what we'd discovered.

"Alanna, what do you have?" Michael was sipping some water while waiting for me to dig through my notes. I'd just simply taken down all the questions they had and added more information to my first part of the Hagen saga.

Since the Hagens were the real problem, I approached the topic first with a detailed description of each of the players. Carefully I laid out each member of the family on separate sheets of paper and together we went through the whole family and tried to find the missing thread that would tie everything together. I had never met Randolph's brother. Hell, given all the crap I'd absorbed in the past few days I wasn't even sure that he even really had a sibling. Everything had always been about Rachel, Randa and Marge. Nobody else was in the center stage like they were.

The basic information went like this. Randolph Wilson Hagen III would have been thirty-four if alive -- which was still up in the air as far as I was concerned -- and his physical attributes were pretty much the same as far as I knew. Michael nodded that he had Randolph's physical description and I filled Paul in on Randolph. His not having a driver's license made them both more than a bit nervous.

The most important thing I told Paul was that Randolph was more than capable of lying and good at mimicking voices. Randolph claimed that he had an older brother, Wilson Drake Hagen. The story he told me was that when he was about five his brother, who was about ten or so, tried to smother him. That was when Randolph was shipped off to stay with his Aunt Randa at the family's estate at 825 Hollyberry -- which was roughly two hours north of Los Angeles. He told me that he went to a private military day school and had graduated from high school there. I didn't have anything to contradict those supposed facts.

During his school vacations, he traveled with Randa and Marge to meet up with only Rachel while abroad. The rest of the Hagens pretty much kept clear of Randa and Randolph from everything I'd been told. There was a vague mention of Rachel and Marge having an apartment down in Venice but I wasn't ever invited to meet them there during my marriage. Instead they would come over to Hollyberry and eventually they moved back in saying it was silly to keep running both households.

Nevertheless it wasn't the most common of houses regardless of their attempts at normalcy. I had thought it was Randa's home but later was told it was a family home that Rachel allowed Randa to raise Randolph in during his childhood. I'd always thought that Randa always wandered around the house looking over her shoulder as if she was expecting to be kicked out at any moment.

Some of the newspaper clippings I'd been given from Randa all those years ago were locations that Randolph had traveled to during the school's season and summer breaks. He had talked about cross-country trips that included the Ohio area, which figured in some of the bad fires reported in the newspaper articles, and other places around the United States. Indonesia was one country he met his mother in, and I knew that Randolph because had really enjoyed that trip and talked about it at great length mostly because he'd been in his early teens and got to spend hours surfing the local shores -- in spite of all the poisonous sea snakes and curses the natives told him about while he was there. He liked to brag to me once we were married like he thought that he still needed to impress me.

Randolph said that he went to Australia for one trip and he went scuba diving with sharks. Scuba diving is done off the coral reefs and considered extremely dangerous. During the nights Randolph thought he needed to tell me tales he had bragged that his family never had a clue where he was going and believed his stories about sitting on a beach towel all day and soaking in the sun. I was horrified at the thought that a mother would let her child run so wild. Yet Randolph always spoke as though it were nothing for them to let him be, and from what I saw, basically, his family had abandoned him.

Randolph rarely spoke of his immediate family, I figured out when I was trying to painstakingly detail his world for Michael and Paul to research. The more they asked me questions, the deeper I dug into my brain. I had these whole sets of bits and pieces of what Randolph, Randa and Rachel had alluded to and what Marge had sneered at when I had talked with her but nothing in the way of concrete facts.

I never met Randolph's older brother. Randolph didn't talk about his older brother in the least other than the off-comment about his attempted smothering. I don't think ever. It was Marge or Randa who'd toss Wilson Drake stories at me. Given he supposedly tried to kill Randolph I didn't see the need to press him for details. Besides he rarely mentioned his parents in relationship to his Hemingway-styled tales of conquering a mountain or an animal. He claimed that he'd gone on safari when he was younger, but I never heard anyone else support that story. In the end I thought he'd made up such anecdotes to amuse and mislead me. He also told such yarns when we entertained at home. I did see some pictures from a trip to Ohio, another to Indonesia, Australia and a few childhood photos of him overseas. Yet, in none of these pictures was he more than three or four years of age and the cities were blurred behind him. Randolph always was vague about which countries he lived in during his youth.

I had to confess to Michael and Paul that I never felt the need to ask him for details once I'd discovered his alleged journeys were plagiarized. About four months after we'd married I read an article in a magazine. The credits for the article revealed that the travel guide who'd attended Randolph's high school had written the piece. The man told a story that was nearly word for word the tale Randolph had recounted previously over a fancy dinner with some of our friends. They never were his friends -- always mine that I'd shared. But this man had included pictures with the locals and himself featured quite prominently on the glossy pages. Nowhere in the article was there any mention of Randolph being included in the journey. Later I asked Randolph casually about his trip and whether or not he went with his classmates or his family.

Randolph said that he'd never gone anywhere with his schoolmates. Finally disgusted with his constant denials, I gave him the article I'd read. While he looked over the slick pages, he claimed no knowledge of piracy on his or the author's part; all the while he remained chillingly calm and undisturbed by the similarities. This probably concerned me the most. His lack of feelings whenever I caught him in an apparent lie or fabrication was odd and he rarely seemed to care.

Randolph Wilson Hagen II had been deceased for at least ten years, as near as I could figure. Randolph never said how his father died, or when, other than when I once asked he'd vaguely said, "Not too long ago."

Since I don't like talking about my own parents' death, at the time I didn't find this particularly unusual. The family lived in various foreign countries, at least when Randolph was younger. Once Randolph was out of the picture and living with Randa, the story went that his father purchased a separate residence in downtown LA that was about hour and half from the homestead out at Hollyberry. Randolph's father's work was all consuming, I was told time and time again with arched eyebrows and a smug condescending look. Randolph claimed his father was a spy, in a joking tone.

Marge told me that her uncle was with the embassy, but never saw fit to include a precise job title. Instead she acted as if I was undeserving of the information and it was utterly private and for 'family only' and she didn't think I was worthy of the title no longer how long I was married to her cousin. Randolph described his father as distant and cold, supposedly he looked remarkably like his father but I'm not sure of how close the resemblance since I never saw any family photos.

His father traveled between all of the Hagen households while not staying long at any one spot. The apartment that Rachel and Marge had shared, the Hollyberry home and his own secluded city dwelling were all on his lists of homes. Randolph blamed his father completely for his childhood being so chaotic. He told me that his father hated kids and was cruel to him when he was little. His father never figured prominently in any of his stories, real or imagined, so I have no idea if that was true or not.

Rachel Salinger Hagen was probably in her mid-sixties. She had been widowed by her own admission at least a decade. I was told that she was the daughter of a career diplomat. Randolph liked to claim that was how his mother got her wanderlust. She always loved to travel and visit various friends and family all around the world. Personally, I thought she used all of her trips as an excuse to flee troubles at home. As far as I know, she still writes for a few national newspapers a 'Notes from abroad' column about exotic locales, local etiquette and tribal customs. Her style mixes gossip with a naming of the who's who in the United States and overseas.

Rachel was very controlling whenever I was around, constantly fussing and telling me how I wasn't doing things properly. Like any unsolicited advice I just ignored her spiteful stabs. I never had a feeling for how she was alone with her son. Randolph was polite to his mother but not in any more than a vague distant way. At the wedding I did overhear some odd stories about Rachel's father and his past indiscretions while abroad. I heard that some had been noteworthy; allegedly his sexual appetites were voracious and unusual. But she presented herself to the world as a very discreet and proper individual. Rachel always came off as a gentile widow for lack of a more concrete description. She used to be a vibrant redhead but her hair had grayed and faded so it no longer had that bright coppery color, leastways last time I saw her. To me she always looked far older than her given years.

Surprisingly Marge Hagen was the daughter of Randa. Given her looks I knew it was true but she couldn't be more different than her mother, I'd always thought. Last time I saw Marge she was a brunette. But keep in mind that she liked to dye her hair often and changed her looks nearly seasonally. She had the trademark Hagen blue eyes. She was about thirty-two years old or so. She grew up tagging after Randolph. Marge went to a private girls' school near where Randolph attended the military school.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-06-23
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