Chapter Twelve: A Burns' Family Secret
Meanwhile, oblivious to the commotion the remainder Jewel were causing
in the centre of Birmingham, Nancy and Taylor had located the busy executive
in her hotel room, sorting out a pile of papers with her mobile phone flashing
at intervals. She swung open the door, a harried expression on her face
as she surveyed her daughter and her nephew.
"Well?" She demanded. "What's all this about? Or do you just like sending me cryptic phonecalls from Taylor's car for nothing, Nancy?"
"No, this is something all right." Nancy said. "Mom, can we come in? Taylor needs to speak to you."
Jetta sighed, pushing open the door fully.
"Okay." She said resignedly. "I can see I ain't gonna get any work done till I've 'eard you out. Go on. Tell me."
"It's not so much something I can tell you, more a favour I have to ask of you." Taylor sat down on the end of his aunt's bed. "I've come on behalf of Grandpa in London."
"Dad?" Jetta looked startled. "What does 'e want with me?"
"He wants to see you, quite urgently." Taylor replied. "About some family business."
"Well, 'e's no family of mine so 'e can whistle for all the attention I'm gonna pay 'im." Jetta shrugged. "If that's all..."
"Mom, please." Nancy grabbed her mother's hand in her eagerness to convince Jetta of it's importance. "This isn't just some imposition, it's something important. Something which might even explain why Uncle Jeremy chose to abduct me when and where he did."
"I don't need me Pa to explain why Jeremy did that. Jeremy was psycho." Jetta said bluntly.
"It's more than that." Taylor said.
"Well, then why don't you tell me what it's about?" Jetta demanded. Taylor sighed.
"I promised I wouldn't. He wants to do it himself...apparently he made a promise to his father that he'd tell you in person and he wants to keep his word. I don't think he's in the best of health, either, to be honest. He's an old man now and it shows."
"Wait...'is father? My Grandpa?" Jetta demanded. "What about 'im?"
"Grandpa wants you to go to London and see him." He said finally. "That's all I can say, Aunt Sheila. I promised."
"Nancy? Are you in on this too?" Jetta eyed her daughter quizzically. Nancy nodded.
"Please, Mom, go speak to him." She begged. "It's important, really it is."
"You think I 'ave time to drive up to London?" Jetta asked.
"Mom..." Nancy's eyes became beseeching, and Jetta sighed.
"All right. All right!" She exclaimed, tossing her paperwork down on her bed and grabbing the keys to her hire car. "I'm going, okay? But this 'ad better be good, or you're both gonna be in big trouble when I get back to Birmingham!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"So, how much did you spend?" Nancy greeted her friends in the lounge
of their hotel suite, casting them an interested grin. "Did you break the
"No, but we did find a new fan." Topaz grinned. "He liked Copper, was very taken with her."
"He asked for my autograph, that's all." Copper responded. "But it was kinda sweet to be recognised."
"So what was Taylor's problem?" Sylva demanded. Nancy frowned.
"I'm not sure I should say anything." She replied. "It concerns Mom more than it does me...I never knew any of the people involved all that well and it doesn't change much in my mind. I'd rather not talk about it, at least until Mom comes back from London."
"What? Jetta's gone to London, just like that?" Sylva looked startled. Nancy nodded.
"Went to see...see Grandpa." She agreed. "About what Taylor wanted. And that's all I can say right now."
"Whatever it is hasn't upset you, has it?" Copper looked worried. Nancy paused, then shook her head.
"No." She replied. "It might've if I'd known more of Mom's family or grown up round them or something but it really doesn't bother me. I don't think it worries Taylor either...but it might concern Mom...I hope it won't upset her."
"Jetta isn't one to get upset over nothing." Topaz said wisely. Nancy looked troubled.
"I know." She responded. "But this isn't nothing. I hope...I hope it's going to be okay."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jetta stepped out of her car, pausing as she gazed up at the small terraced
house which had become her father's home since the death of his wife some
years before. Hesitating for a moment, she quickly got to grips with herself,
heading resolutely up the path and ringing the bell.
It wasn't long before the door creaked open, and for the first time in years Jetta and Bertie met face to face. The old man eyed his visitor with both surprise and relief.
"I wasn't sure you'd come." He admitted softly. Jetta frowned.
"I wouldn'tve, only Nancy seemed to think it were important." She said bluntly. "Well? What is this about, Dad? I ain't got all week you know - in case you 'adn't noticed, I'm workin'."
"I know." Bertie frowned, leading the way into the sitting room and letting the door slam shut behind them. "No lip, Sheila...it ain't the time for it."
"I'm not a kid now." Jetta pointed out acidly. "You don't 'ave any say over me, you know."
"No...I don't think I ever did." Bertie said slowly. "But for once just sit down an' listen, will ya? Shut that wide open trap o' yours an' 'ear me out. What I got to tell you is somethin' I promised long ago I'd do an' never did. Well, we promised."
"We? You and Ma?" Jetta asked. Despite her discomfort at being there, her curiosity was also piqued and she settled herself more comfortably. Bertie nodded.
"Yes." He agreed. "We promised your ol' Grandpa, before 'e died, that we'd tell you all of this stuff soon as you were of age to know it - 'e meant twenty-one, of course, because that was when it mattered."
"Go on." Jetta's eyes narrowed. "So far you lost me, but go on."
"Well, I ain't gettin' younger." Bertie said frankly. "An' since I've been on me own it's been 'arder to get through the days. It might seem odd to you, but I thought of you. I knew I 'ad things to tell you, but then your brother came to me an' said it didn't matter to you to know, an' since 'e was the eldest it wouldn't affect you anyhow."
"I'm still lost. Explain." Jetta instructed.
"Your brother's death changed a lot, Sheila." Bertie frowned. "Look, I'll be straight with you. I ain't young an' I ain't fit as I could be...I don't know 'ow many more years o' life I 'ave in me, an' I want to settle things the way I should've settled them years ago. You see, kid, you ain't all you think you are."
"I beg your pardon?" Jetta stared. "I ain't what?"
"We brought you up." Bertie said slowly. "An' in many ways we resented 'avin' to do so. But you never really knew why that was, did you?"
"It's a long time ago now. It doesn't matter any more." Jetta said flatly.
"It does matter, Sheila. It matters a lot." Bertie said gravely. "It matters to the tune of eighty grand, that's how it matters."
"Eighty thousand pounds?" Jetta stared. "What are you talkin' about? Dad, I know you're gettin' on but you ain't senile yet, talk some sense! Where does this all come in? What do you mean?"
"You aren't my daughter." Bertie admitted finally. "You...you never were. Your brother neither. We...Flo an' I...we weren't your real Ma an' Pa."
Shock filled Jetta's grey eyes and she stared at the old man, unable to comprehend fully what he was saying.
"Not...my real parents?" She demanded finally, struggling to get to grips with her composure. "What in hell do you mean, not my real parents? Who am I then? A foundling baby?"
"Don't be daft." Bertie was cutting. "They told me you 'ad some brains, now use 'em. Of course not."
"But I look like Grandma...Grandpa always said it." Jetta's brain was working. "That don't make sense!"
"It does. I didn't say you weren't his grand-daughter." Bertie retorted. "Me father loved you like nothin' else, daft old fool that he was, and indulged you, too. But it weren't just your Grandma you looked like, kid. It were your ma, too. Devoted to 'er, 'e was...took 'im apart when she died."
"Back up. Slow down. You're losing me." Jetta held up her hands. "Explain."
"Well, you know I 'ad a brother an' a sister, growin' up." He began slowly, twisting his hands together. "Never really bonded with 'em, in truth, I was the middle kid an' all that. Me elder brother Frederick was in the navy...'e was killed in action, an' me kid sister an' I were all that were left for Ma an' Pa to cling to. Losin' me brother tore 'em both up, though I know it wouldn't've been the same if it were me." He paused. "My sister Patricia got married fairly young, to a naval officer she 'ad met through our brother's friends at sea at some memorial or another. 'E were devoted to 'er, an' I guess so 'e should've been, because it were said about town that there weren't any girls so pretty as 'er. When 'e died, in a freak accident sometime in the mid sixties, he left 'er alone with two small kids to bring up...one of which were a baby girl."
He frowned, eying Jetta's expression. The executive's face was unreadable, and she met his gaze impassively.
"Go on." She said quietly.
"Well, me sister were never strong in 'ealth." Bertie shrugged. "The war years didn't 'elp 'er, growin' up as she did with rations, an' 'avin' kids an' all made it worse. In the end she were run-down an' some infection overtook 'er. She didn't stand a chance...she died not long after 'er 'usband, all told. Pa always said it were losin' 'im...broke 'er 'eart." He frowned. "Of course, Pat dyin' 'ow she did meant there were kids to worry about. Pa...asked Flo an' me to take it on. Flo 'ated the imposition - 'ated kids an' all - an' I weren't too thrilled, but 'e promised us a 'ealthy stake in inheritance if we did. So...we accepted guardianship of the little boy an' girl - Jeremy an' Sheila. You an' your brother. An' of course, we adopted you, an' you became Sheila Burns."
"Why did I never find this out before?" Jetta's voice was low but it held a note of repressed anger. "Why didn't anyone tell me this stuff as a kid? I grew up with two people who never cared if I lived or died...the least you coulda done was to tell me the truth then!"
"Pa made us promise we'd tell you when you turned 21." Bertie replied. "Not before, incase it upset you. Jeremy may 'ave 'ad fleetin' memory...you woulda 'ad none, and that was the best way for it. But see, your parents left a knot of £80,000 inheritance money when they passed on. Your father was of wealthy stock. It were meant to be divided between you an' Jeremy, each of you gettin' 'alf on reachin' 21."
"But Jeremy never got his." Jetta's eyes narrowed once more. "I'd've remembered it."
"He came to see me, some months before 'e died, demanding it." Bertie admitted. "Truth was, of course, that it were frittered away on other things by then."
"And my share?"
"Still locked up in trust, since you never claimed it." Bertie shrugged. "Pa's lawyer is a man of iron will an' after the fiasco with Jeremy's money, 'e wouldn't let us touch yours. Said while 'e were still alive an' could try an' trace you, it'd stay locked away. 'E'd promised your grandfather so, an' that was that." He frowned. "Pa always was soft on you. Your Ma, our Pat was daddy's girl all right, an' you were the spit of 'er...'er an' me own Ma to boot. Then when you became interested in 'is beloved music too...well, 'e thought you were all right, kid. 'E wanted great things for you."
"Well, he can rest in peace knowing I got there anyway." Jetta said quietly, though her voice shook a little at the mention of her grandfather.
"I'll give you the information for the lawyer...you can get your inheritance." Bertie got up, but Jetta shook her head.
"I don't want it." She said at length. "They were people I never knew, an' I don't need the money now."
"Your grandpa would be sore if you didn't claim it." Bertie reproached.
Jetta considered, then,
"Well, then I'll sign it over to Taylor. As Jeremy's son 'e should've got a share of 'is fathers, if it were still intact." She decided. "'E needs it...I don't. I 'ave more important things now than money...which is something I aint never thought I'd be sayin', but it's true all the same. 'E 'as somethin' to spend it on, anyhow."
She stood to leave, but Bertie called her back.
"There was...something else." He owned. Jetta frowned.
"Somethin' else?" She demanded. "You told me my family wasn't 'ow I grew up thinkin' it was, an' yet there's more?"
"One more thing." Bertie nodded. He got unsteadily to his feet, making his way to a pile of boxes and papers at the back of the room and rummaging through them. "Pa didn't leave you nor Jeremy money in 'is will, because 'e felt you'd 'ave your money from your folks for that. 'E left it us, for bringin' you two up, as we agreed. But 'e did leave you this. An' I told Flo I sold it...but it were the world to Pa an' I couldn't do it. 'E...wanted you to 'ave it."
Slowly he pulled a battered box from the pile and Jetta let out a startled gasp.
"The saxophone!" She breathed. "My...his...the saxophone!"
"It's yours now." Bertie handed it over and disbelievingly Jetta took the case, running her hand over it's familiar creases and cracks and pausing at the familiar worn insignia that bore her grandfather's initials. Despite her usual composure she bit her lip.
"I thought it were long gone, an' I never forgave you for it." She murmured. "But you kept it all the time..."
"Your Grandpa woulda turned in 'is grave if I'd sold it." Bertie admitted. "But I couldn't give it to you, neither. I hid it an' forgot about it till I cleared Flo's stuff after the funeral, an' found it. Now...it should go 'ome with you."
Jetta took a deep breath, closing her eyes briefly against her emotion as she flipped the case open, gazing down at the beautiful gold instrument which had given her so much joy as a child.
"It will." She murmured. "I wish I could tell 'im thanks."
"'E knows." Bertie smiled. "Listen, Sheila. We ain't always been on best of terms an', well, I may not be your father, but I am your family. I'd like to know we weren't on bad terms."
"It's past." Jetta said quietly. "That's all. I don't 'old on to it any more...it's just a piece of the past to me now. I 'ave Justin, me kids...me job an I'm 'appy. I guess I can forgive an old man a few lies."
"Good." Bertie looked relieved. "Your brother might've turned out a crook, Sheila, but you got a lot of good in you. Your Ma and Pa would be damn proud!"
Chapter One: Jewel In England
Chapter Two: Lovesick
Chapter Three: A New Sensation
Chapter Four: Cameron
Chapter Five: Sadie Gets A Warning
Chapter Six: A Little Love Advice
Chapter Seven: Topaz Makes A Friend
Chapter Eight: At The Halfway House
Chapter Nine: A Shock For Sadie
Chapter Ten: A Family Encounter
Chapter Eleven: Copper Gets A Fan
Chapter Twelve: A Burns Family Secret
Chapter Thirteen: Thicker Than Water
Chapter Fourteen: A Phonecall