Vol 1: Spellbound‎ > ‎Read‎ > ‎

Ch 02: Chocolate Pie

Knock, knock.  Jack was at the door.  I was delighted.  He brought me another chocolate cream pie.  And this time, a new surprise - a tiny black kitten.  I’ve always wanted a cat, but my mom said no.  We lived in a small apartment and moved frequently. “Can we pleeease keep him Mom? Pleeeeeease!”  She saw the yearning in my face.  “Sure,” she grudgingly agreed.  “Zimbee, that’s what we'll call her,” I giggled.  I sat and held my new black fur-ball, stuffing my mouth with creamy deliciousness. The chocolate pie was heavenly as usual. 

Jack brought me a cream pie whenever he came to see my mom, which was every couple of months or so.  He bought them down the street at the Hillcrest Bakery, where we lived in Bothell, Washington.  Hillcrest Bakery, which still sells the same great chocolate pies, was legendary in the area for their baked goods.  I loved their pie, and Jack knew this.  But this special treat was reserved for Jack’s visits, as we couldn't afford cream pies.  We couldn’t afford much of anything, but my mom and I always seemed to make things work.  Jack’s been bringing me pies since we moved to Bothell and he discovered I had a penchant for chocolate cream pie.  Jack’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Sadly, he told me this was the last time he would visit us.  No more pies for me.  As if that weren’t bad enough, my mom informed me right before Jack arrived that we would be moving again.

Growing up, we moved almost every year.  I was in the fourth grade when Jack brought me my last pie, and I was tired of new schools and making new friends.  So far, I had attended four different elementary schools.  Every time we moved to a new place all of the kids already knew each other; they had been friends for years.  I was constantly the outsider trying to find a place where I belonged.  Every time we left, I waved goodbye knowing it would happen again.  This time, I pleaded with my mom to stay.  I was tired of moving and envious of the other children whose lives seemed to never change.  But, this time my mom was sick, very sick.   I learned we had to move in with family friends because my mom could no longer work.  And, now Jack told me I had to forgo my pies too. Why was Jack leaving, I sobbed to him.  I didn’t understand, as it seemed to me Jack had always been part of my life.  Jack told me he had nothing more to offer us.  Now, I don't think he ever did.

I often wondered why we moved so much.  I use to make up fantastic stories.  I would lie in bed and think that maybe my dad used to be in the mafia and my mom testified to put away his real nasty boss - now the mob was after us. Or perhaps my mom used to rob people and at her last big heist she robbed the wrong guy.  I often pestered my mom, “Why do we have to move again?” Usually, she answered “money” or “to be closer to a new job.” But as I got older I started to understand the real reason.  My made-up stories could not match the truth. She was afraid – afraid of her older brother Gary, the uncle I don't remember.  I decided we moved to run from her past.

When I was twelve, my mom changed her name.  Mom told me she didn’t want her dead mother’s name anymore.  My Mom was named after my Grandmother’s nickname, “Jody.”  Now that name brought only painful memories (I’m named after my Grandmother as well, my middle name is Joanne).  My mom also did not want her ex-husband’s, my father’s, last name.  She said she was ready to be independent and finally move on with her life.  Perhaps there was some truth in her words, but I also felt this too was because of my uncle Gary. 

Gary was the reason Jack brought me pies.  Jack worked for the FBI.  He was in charge of investigating the suspicious deaths of my grandparents, who died one month after I turned four years old.  By the time I was nine, the FBI gave up their investigation.  My grandparents’ death became another unsolved case in the mountains of FBI files. I picture their file somewhere in the basement of a cold windowless building in Washington D.C., gathering dust along with countless other files waiting for answers, waiting for closure. Like many other families searching for answers to horrifying questions, we gave up on “why” but have continued to be bothered by “what.” Just knowing the answer to what happened might finally help my family to have peace.

DID YOU KNOW . . . About Jurisdictional Issues in International Waters?

I have a vague memory of a man in cut-off shorts, a T-shirt, and long hair standing in the driveway at my aunt Bobbie's house. Other than that, I really don't remember Gary. Gary is three and a half years older than my mom and her stepbrother by marriage. This is where my family tree is a bit complicated. One year after my grandmother – her name was Joanne but everyone called her Jody – was widowed, she married Loren Edwards. When Loren and Jody met, my grandmother had two daughters from her first husband, Robert: Little Jody (my mom) who was two when Loren married her mother, and Bobbie, who was one.  Loren had two boys from his first wife, Phyllis.  Gary was five when they married, and Larry was six.  A year after their marriage, Jody and Loren had a daughter, Kerry. While the Edwards family tree is complicated, they really seemed to be one big happy “Brady Bunch” family growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.  Friends and relatives have fond memories of this time in the Edwards’ lives.

Even though I don’t know Gary, no one has influenced my life more than him, regardless of whether or not he committed the acts he was accused of.  It seems strange that I do not know the one man who in an instant may have changed my life forever.  He is certainly the person who caused my mom to fear, to weep each year on the anniversary of her parent’s death, and to run.

Every year in February, my mom and her brother Larry, who lives in San Diego, California, spend the night on the phone remembering, crying, and drinking.  I learned early on not to interrupt them. After many hours of heated discussion, and a bottle or two of wine, my mom would hang up spent.  I could finally drift off to sleep knowing she would be okay.  In the morning life would carry on as usual until the next year, when the ritual repeated itself.

I have very early memories of my mom and Larry debating what happened to their parents onboard the Spellbound in the South Pacific Ocean on that fateful weekend in February 1978.  They spent hours trying to figure out what possibly could have gone so wrong.  They talked about what it was really like to grow up in the Edwards’ home.  Inevitably the conversation always turned towards what Gary, Kerry, and Lori know that they have not shared with the FBI or the family.  My aunt Bobbie rarely participated in this dance, as she never liked to talk about her parents’ deaths.  And, while Bobbie and my mom are only a year apart in age, they have dramatically different personalities.  Uncle Larry and my mom always seemed to get along better, their sense of loss and betrayal manifested in similar ways.

While my mom and her brother considered the fate of their parents, I engaged in my own bit of contemplation.  I was too young to grasp what had really happened but I could sense their pain.  As I got older and understood more of the tragedy I would pretend my grandparents were not really dead.  I just knew they were stranded on some island waiting for me to grow up and rescue them.  Sometimes they visited me in my dreams – they seemed to be waiting for me, waiting for something.  The only thing I have of their ill-fated trip is a small sandalwood Tiki necklace on a leather strap.  My grandmother had it carved for me in the Marquesas Islands along with one for herself and my cousin Jasmine, Bobbie’s daughter.  I believe she was buried with hers.  I now wear my Tiki as a good luck charm and a reminder of the woman I never got to know, of a future that wasn’t meant to be.  This is my attempt at rescuing the memory of my grandmother, a strong, energetic woman by all accounts. Those who knew her well assert she would never have committed suicide, though this is the only explanation given for her death onboard the Spellbound.   But, I am getting a head of myself.