Read To Save a Son Online

Authors: Brian Freemantle

To Save a Son

BOOK: To Save a Son

To Save a Son

Brian Freemantle

writing as Jack Winchester


Come on! Come on, Eddie! Harder, you've got to try harder! Nicky's winning! He's doing better! Harder, Eddie! Be the best, always try to be the best

Eddie Franks jerked awake, sweat-soaked from the dream he hadn't had for a long time, immediately concerned for Tina, beside him. She slept on, undisturbed, and he relaxed slightly. Franks lay in the darkness, trying to remember the last occasion. Actually in America, he supposed. Not the first time, when he really had been a refugee. Later, at college—he turned again to his wife's indistinct shape—when he'd realized how much he loved her, and was learning from the opposition of her family, the family who'd taken him in, that although they'd done everything to make it seem otherwise, he was still an outsider when it came to marriage. And always would be.

Nicky's getting better results! Better grades! Harder, Eddie! Try harder!

They'd had to give in, over Tina. And he would go on showing them, vowed Franks. He'd show Poppa Scargo and he'd show Nicky Scargo and for different reasons he'd show Tina. Now that his father wasn't around anymore to obstruct and hold him back, he was going to show
. Be the best.


Pride goeth before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a



Eddie Franks wanted to feel more: to know some emotion. It wasn't fitting; it was disrespectful, like his bad-dream relief that morning at no longer being held back by the old man. His father was dead; about to be buried. A father who had loved him and cared for him and tried to protect him. “I was determined you'd survive,” the old man had always said, “determined we'd both survive.”

Eddie wished he could remember some of that time, for himself. The stories were a further source of guilt. They'd seemed exciting—adventurous even—when he was young. Not terrifying as the old man intended. Later, when he'd grown up and seen the films and read the accounts and knew it was all true, Eddie had still been unable to imagine what it had been like. Actually to
his mother had left the apartment in Liberec one morning to buy bread and never returned, snatched from the street by a Jew-hunting squad and dispatched to a camp his father had never located. Or to imagine how the old man, after his search failed and the pogroms began when the Sudetenland was annexed, had really carried him, papoose-fashion in a wrap across his back as he trekked across Europe, always frightened, always trying to elude the squads that his unknown mother had failed to evade. Running became a way of life:
way of life. Until England. It was in England that the old man changed their name: from Frankovich to Franks. His given name, too. Isaac became David. Still Jewish, but not so identifiably so. Edmund was kept, but inevitably shortened to Eddie. His father had explained that changing the name was part of running. And it wasn't even the original intention to stop. He'd intended moving on to America when he could.

Which was why he'd sent Eddie on ahead. The U-boat sinking in 1940 of the
City of Benares
, with the loss of so many wives and children heading for American safety, deterred a lot of men from sending their families across the Atlantic, but not the newly named David Franks. It was an acceptable risk to a man who had walked one step ahead of his pursuers throughout Europe with a whimpering baby strapped to his back.

The approach had been made to David Franks before Eddie arrived in America; before the name change from Frankovich to Franks. To pass initial immigration formalities, his father had been required to provide a lengthy account of his European flight. Within weeks of providing that information he had been interviewed by a recruiter for a disinformation division nominally attached to British external intelligence. It was an environment in which Eddie's enterprising, survival-conscious father flourished; he was fluent in every language of the European countries through which he'd wandered.

The job—and the recognition and the prestige—meant for his father more than just the fact that London would not be a temporary resting place. It meant that when the conflict was over—and there were citations and even medals for David Franks for what he had done in that conflict—there was a wide network of people and a seemingly endless number of open doors for a life in peacetime.

David Franks was one of the few people in Britain to recognize that after the sacrifices and the deprivations of the war years, people would want to enjoy themselves. And so—having known unhappiness for so long—he set about making other people happy.

Some of the wartime-opened doorways were into banks and financial institutions. David Franks had no trouble borrowing money—about which he showed a care only possible from someone who had never possessed any—and with that money he established amusement arcades and facilities immediately adjacent to the holiday camps the more adventurous and entrepreneurial developers were creating.

It meant David Franks was not locked into debt when the immediate postwar celebration times became latter-year boom and expansion times. And he could move quickly, when he had to. From the safe sidelines David Franks studied the holiday business and anticipated the moment when people would want to cross the channel by ferry and airplane instead of by landing craft and assault plane. It was still cautious anticipation. Unlike some of the later businessmen, the old man didn't consider building his own hotels in Spain or Italy or France. Or even leasing existing facilities. He contented himself with block bookings, always a runaway number of units in the various countries, and moving gradually toward an upper, moneyed end of the market.

Which really meant fear, Eddie knew.

His father had been terrified—what else could he have been?—fleeing through the Nazi-occupied countries. He'd gained surface but fragile confidence during his wartime service with the propaganda divisions, sufficient confidence to take the chance that had worked during the immediate postwar period and then the expansion to the Continent. But by then—by the time the returned Eddie had finished the expensive prep schools and gone back again to America to study at Harvard, because the Oxford or Cambridge education upon which the old man set his heart was not possible—that fragile confidence began to chip. When Eddie urged expansion—actual hotel purchases and the leasing of airplanes—his father argued continuing caution, content to watch other people's fireworks. David Franks had found his sanctuary and was satisfied with it, a successful survivor who never wanted to run again.

Eddie Franks stopped the reflection, turning physically from the whitely new gravestone. Tina answered the look, smiling sadly at him. If his still-nervous father hadn't sent him to America—not once but twice, he realized—he would never have married Tina and now be awaiting the birth of their first child. As if aware of his thoughts, Tina Franks cupped her hand protectively over the bulge that shaped her expansive mourning dress. Would his son—Eddie had already convinced himself the child would be a boy—find as much difficulty expressing emotion over him as he did over his own father? Eddie hoped not.

It would be easier, for his son. He'd grow up safe and protected and know what was happening to him, all the time. For Eddie, his own mother's abduction and his backpacking across Europe had only ever been stories; the reality was standing on a wind-blasted dockside at Southampton in 1951, proudly conscious of his American clothes and his American sneakers and his acquired but soon-lost American accent and—because he wanted to impress—his American chewing gum, and being embraced by a complete stranger and being called “son.”

And not feeling like anybody's son.

Eddie Franks felt then like he had always felt. Alone. Eddie's eyes remained on his American wife, self-irritation filling the emptiness. How could he wonder about his ability to love—or lack of it—when he loved Tina so absolutely? And his love for her
absolute. He became aware that she was nudging him into reaction and that the service was over. He smiled, in apologetic concentration, thanking the rabbi for performing the funeral anyway, after his father's prolonged lapse from the faith and his own complete disinterest in it. He passed over the sealed envelope containing the donation, emptily agreed to remain in contact, and then solicitously took Tina's arm, to help her back to the car.

They drove unspeaking for a long time, until the car was approaching the M-4 on the route to their country house at Maidenhead. Tina said suddenly, “Your father was very proud of you, you know. I think that's the first thing I ever remember him telling me. How proud he was.”

Franks looked to his wife, pleased at hearing her say it. The secret, hidden difficulties he had in reacting to his father's passing didn't make him a man incapable of normal feelings or love. It was particular to the circumstances of his early life, that's all. Quite understandable, considering those circumstances. He had always been a dutiful, obedient, loving and loyal son. Certainly his father had never had cause to suspect the inward irritation; no one had. Franks smiled at his wife, who did not know—and who would never know—the promises he had made to himself. He said: “He'd have reason to be prouder.”

Tina frowned back at him. “What do you mean?”

“He was satisfied: content,” said Franks. “I'm not. I'm not content at all.”

The baby was born precisely on the date the gynecologist gave and was a boy, as Franks expected. It was an easy, uncomplicated birth, and at Tina's suggestion they called the child David, after Eddie's father.

“You said it would be a boy,” she reminded him.

“Everything is going to work out like I said,” anticipated Franks, almost boastfully confident. He added, “And it's all for you.”

That was an unnecessary lie, he thought in immediate self-criticism. Materially he supposed it was for Tina. But on that hidden level there was another reason. The Scargo family had provided him with a home—first on the Lower East Side and then, as they prospered, in Westchester—and with love as they felt able to give it. But always there had been the enforced competitiveness between him and Nicky, Tina's real brother. The booming-voiced Enrico had chided one to play softball better than the other. Stipulated the runs they had to get in baseball, criticized them when they failed, and praised one against the other if one succeeded and the other didn't.
“Harder, Eddie; try harder.”
Now, at last, he was going to be able to; at last he was going to show them. And beat Nicky.


It did not take long to initiate what he wanted, even for someone of Franks' impatience. Because of his father's restraint their banking record was impeccable, no overdraft on any account. But there was a reluctance when he made his applications in the managers' and directors' sterile, polish-smelling offices, as if people imagined he still needed his father's backing. He got the loans, although not as much as he wanted; it made him careful in the spending, which later he came to believe wasn't a bad thing.

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