Prologue

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Three Years Ago

Scott Desmond was looking at a dead man.

He shook his head, swiped at the sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes, tried to focus more clearly on the sight before him.

There was no mistake about it.

The man he was looking at across two sets of train tracks was none other than his father – a man who had died almost eighteen months earlier.

Scott shook his head for the second time, rubbed his eyes, tried to focus through the humidity of the August day. But there was simply no disputing the fact.

The man he was staring at across the GO train platform had to be his father.

The man had first caught his attention because of the unique way he walked. The man, in his early-sixties, moved with a distinct lurching gait. He shuffled forward, half-dragging, half-lifting his partially crippled left leg; a movement Scott was intimately familiar with.

From his earliest memories, Scott both visually and audibly recognized his father’s unique way of getting about. The man, whom, Scott had learned, had almost lost his life at the age of twenty-one in a spectacular motorcycle accident on the highway, ended up walking away from the crash with a single side-effect.

Perhaps calling the response “walking away” was a bit of an exaggeration. It was only after a series of three intense surgeries and almost two full years of intense therapy that Lionel Desmond was able to walk, and at that, in the lurching gait that Scotty came to associate specifically with his father.

For example, his father, an early riser, would get up and proceed down the hallway to the kitchen to put on the coffee, and Scotty, lying in bed, could hear the unique step and slide movement his father made.  Years later, he could instantly spot his father in the hallways of the school where he worked as a custodian, and could tell, even from a few dozen yards away, that the man moving in a half-step, half dragging walk, one in which the man’s left leg dragged along, in a lurching drag-step motion that was immediately distinct and unique.

That step, that unique lurching gait, was what first caught Scott’s attention when he was standing on the GO train platform and waiting for the train that would take him back home from Exhibition Station to Hamilton.

His father had died, suddenly, one bitter cold morning in February nearly two years earlier.

He had been diagnosed with a cyst on his liver; a lump that the doctors weren’t exactly sure was benign or malevolent. But the best option, the doctors had agreed (both Lionel’s family doctor and the specialist who had been assigned to his case), was to have the preventative surgery to remove the kidney, in hope of nipping the cancer in the bud.

After a brief family discussion, which was easy enough to do, considering Scott was the only son of Lionel and Jeannette Desmond, it was decided that Lionel would undergo the surgery, have the cyst and entire kidney removed, and be able to move on to enjoying the imminent retirement that lay less than six months before him.

Only, the day of the surgery led to a strange combination of delays and angst. Scotty had driven back to his home town in Parry Sound, Ontario from his home in Hamilton to be a part of it all, be the self-appointed chauffeur for his parents during this ordeal.  And, needing to be at the Sudbury hospital for 8:00 AM in order to be ready for the 9:00 AM scheduled surgery, they had had to leave Parry sound a few minutes after 6:00 AM.  So they had already been up for an extended period of time and anxiously awaiting the impending surgery, when hospital staff kept returning to the pre-op room they had all been waiting in to inform them that the surgery was, again, delayed for another hour.

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