What Carlo Donati had to say shocked the hell out of me.
When I reached his business, his secretary forwarded my call to his cell phone. I introduced myself and told him why I was calling. He admitted without hesitation that he was Benjamin's father before saying, "I'm heading through your city on the way to a meeting with a client up north. I'd like to talk to you in person if you're available. Say around eleven?"
I agreed and gave him the address.
He showed up right on time—a tall, slender, dark-haired man in a conservative business suit. Once we were seated in my office he asked what Ms Engel had told me about their relationship.
"That you had a fairly passionate, well affair I guess, and she got pregnant. She implied that you were happy with that turn of events until your parents stepped in and made it clear you either left her or they'd stop paying your tuition."
He snorted. "The first part is the truth, more or less. We did have a thing going on and she did get pregnant. Then, when she found out”—he shook his head—"She wanted us to drop out of school, get married and after Ben was born, be one happy family. I'll freely admit I wasn't willing to do that. School was too important. I didn't want to end up working at some dead-end job to support the two of them. So I had a long talk with my parents. I explained exactly what had happened, and what she was pushing for."
"I gather, from what she said, they weren't exactly happy with the turn of events."
"Quite the contrary. They were elated. Oh, they didn't like the fact she wanted us to leave school. They offered to take Ben after he was born and raise him until we both graduated. As my dad said—by then we'd be ready to deal with life and if we still wanted to get married that was fine with them."
"She wasn't happy with that?"
"No. She said they were trying to manipulate me. Us. Then she laid down the law, so to speak. We do it her way or she'd leave school, go somewhere where I couldn't find her and when he was born, she'd give Ben up for adoption."
I nodded. "That didn't happen."
"No. We, my parents and I, came up with a plan. At the end of the spring semester I'd drop out, telling Coleen it was that or lose my parents paying my college tuition. After I did, I'd wait and when Ben was born and she contacted an adoption agency, dad's lawyer would step in, let the agency know I hadn't terminated my parental rights and that I wanted him."
"Hard to do when your name wasn't on the birth certificate."
"Indeed. I had to submit to DNA testing to prove I was his father."
"How did you find out which agency she used?"
"The lawyer found a nurse who was willing to let him know the one Coleen had chosen." Carlo smiled slightly. "Probably not quite legal in the grand scheme of things, but he managed to do it so that nothing would come back on the nurse."