Alice said, “When Spencer left the house this morning, he didn’t take his wallet or his passport. At first, I thought he’d decided to go on the run under another name. ”
“Spencer would never leave you. ”
“He would. If he thought he was protecting me, he would. Last night, the things he said to me… I knew something was wrong. But, I’m afraid I reverted to old habits. I was too scared to ask him. I hoped by ignoring… When I saw that he’d left all his identification behind, I thought I understood what he’d been trying to tell me. But, then I saw his watch. Spencer has this pocket-watch. It was his father’s. He always carries it. Always. It doesn’t matter where he was going or who he was pretending to be. He wouldn’t leave that watch behind. Not unless…” Alice met Jamie’s eyes, daring him to contradict her. “Spencer told me he was planning to leave the watch to Kirkland in his will.”
“Don’t. Don’t, Jamie, please. Don’t break it to me gently. Tell me what the hell went on here last night. ”
Jamie nodded in the affirmative, all the while stalling for time, less for her sake than for his, resenting Spencer for putting Jamie in this position, understanding that, considering the circumstances, he had no right to begrudge the old man anything. Jamie said, “The people behind the compound wanted to punish Spencer for exposing them and getting their operation shut down. As a warning to others with similar ideas in the future. When they couldn’t get to him because your property was so well guarded, they grabbed Kirk, offering a trade. Spencer accepted. He went with me and Grant and we… we got him back.”
“I’m so sorry, Jamie. For you and Lorna, for Kirkland, for Grant…”
“Kirk’s safe now, that’s all that matters.”
“What you must have been going through…”
“It’s over,” Jamie insisted.
“And Spencer?” Alice asked in a small voice.
“I don’t know,” Jamie confessed. “He… He was phenomenally brave, Alice. Honestly, I never expected… He went with his head held high and… He saved my son.”
“He’s the one who put your son in danger in the first place,” she refused to let Jamie sugarcoat the situation. “And for all of Spencer’s bravery, he couldn’t quite summon up the courage to fill me in, now could he?”
“He loved you very much,” Jamie said, inadvertently and instinctively slipping into the past tense.
“So what now?” she wondered, her voice cracking. “Am I just supposed to sit around, waiting for my husband’s mangled body to wash up in the Bay? Am I going to need to identify him by his wedding ring?”
Jamie hesitated. And then, reluctantly, he reached into his pocket, holding out the gold band Spencer had given him.
“I have wonderful news!” Donna flung her arms around Matt’s neck, pulling him into her office at KBAY-TV and kissing him for good measure. “I’ve talked to Cass. He and Frankie have dug up the most interesting scandal regarding your Ms. Ewing.”
“She’s not my – “ Matt begun, then decided not to get into it. He peeled off Donna’s embrace and, looking at her head-on, asked, “Well? What is it?”
Donna reached for the file Cass had given her, opening it up and leafing through the pages, choosing to start at the beginning, the better to set her scene.
“Look at this,” she handed Matt a document. “Tell me what you see.”
“I – “ he wasn’t sure if it were a trick question. “It’s Jeanne’s birth certificate.”
“Correct!” she trilled gaily.
“So what? Mother: Clarice Ewing, Father: Larry Ewing. Birthdate: October – “
“Yes,” Donna said. “About that birthday. Take a look at this.” She handed him another document. “What do you make of this?”
Matt frowned, wanting to make certain he understood correctly. “It… It’s a police report. Clarice… she was raped?”
Donna nodded. “Poor woman, it must have been horrible for her. Not only in her own home, but by her husband’s best friend! Some fellow named Jerry Grove. Apparently, he was severely mentally ill, but no one realized it until it was too late.”
“What does this have to do with Jeanne?” Matt asked, confused.
“Check the dates, darling. Your Ms. – I’m sorry, Jeanne – was born exactly nine months after her mother’s attack.”
Matt stared at her, dumbfounded, “You think…”
“It stands to reason, doesn’t it? And even if it’s not ultimately the case, us merely raising the speculation – “
“We’re going to do what?”
“Why, confront Jeanne, of course. She’s blackmailing you into marriage? I say we blackmail her right back. Considering how conscientiously she cultivates her public image, I’m sure Jeanne wouldn’t want a whiff of scandal – “
“But,” Matt stammered. “This has nothing to do with her! I thought we were looking for a secret from her past. Something she did that she’s justifiably ashamed of. Jeanne isn’t to blame for what happened to her mother. And neither is Clarice.”
“Did I say she was? Did I say either of them was? I said no such thing! All I pointed out was that Jeanne probably would not want the circumstances of her birth to become public knowledge.”
“She might not even know them herself.”
“That’s neither here or there,” Donna dismissed blithely. “I am proposing that we merely aid her in keeping her private life private.”
“For a price,” Matt said grimly.
“Well, of course, darling. I’ve never been the benevolent sort, I think you’d know that about me by now. Besides, to coin an expression your darling Jasmine might employ: She started it.”
Matt continued staring at the documents in his hands. Dully, he said, “You know that Clarice was my mother’s stepsister? Charley Hobson, he married my grandmother Ada. ”
“Yes, I believe I may have been aware of that.”
“You want me to expose something so personal, so horrible – “
“You’re not listening, Matthew,” Donna sighed. “I don’t want you to expose her. That’s the entire point.”
“But, you want me to threaten – “
“Well, yes, threats are rather imperative to a successful blackmail venture.”
“You’re enjoying this,” Matt accused. “You’re smiling.”
“Of course, I’m smiling. I’m happy that we finally have something with which to check that little bitch once and for all. Have you forgotten everything she’s done to us? She blackmailed me over Marley. My daughter is in a mental hospital – “
“That’s not Jeanne’s fault!”
“It didn’t help,” Donna said. “Maybe if I hadn’t been preoccupied with Jeanne and what she was holding over my head, I might have been better positioned to help Marley.”
“Am I exaggerating when I say Jeanne is about to cost me you? And I won’t stand for it, Matthew, I won’t. I allowed Reginald to keep Michael from me for years. We lost an entire lifetime together, our children’s lifetime, our family’s lifetime. I will not let Jeanne do the same where you’re concerned. I intend to fight her with everything I have. The question is, do you intend to join me?”
“Alice,” Jamie gently placed a hand on his stepmother’s shoulder. “We’re here. ”
“Oh…” Alice startled in the passenger seat, looking from her window out through the windshield at her home looming above them.
“Are you sure about this? Coming back, I mean? There’s plenty of room at Lorna’s and my – “
“Your focus should be on your son. He needs you much more than I do right now.”
“At least let me call someone for you. Russ or Kevin. Pat. You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I can’t… what would I say to them? How would I explain? I don’t even know what’s happened to him, where he is or if he’s even…”
“You need someone with you.”
“I need my husband with me. If I can’t have that, I’d rather be as close to him as possible, which means being back here."
“Okay,” Jamie sighed, getting out of the car. He opened the passenger side door, extending his hand to help her out.
“Thank you,” she permitted Jamie to guide her up the walk and to her front door. “I can take it from here.”
“I’m not letting you face this house alone,” Jamie plucked the keys from her fingers.
“I’m sure Spencer’s security has been keeping an eye on things. The house should be safe enough.”
“That isn’t what I meant,” Jamie unlocked the door and escorted her through, flicking on the lights. “Besides, I have a favor to ask you. I’ve been up now for over twenty-four hours, living on adrenalin. I can feel myself starting to crash. I’m scared I won’t be able to make it home without falling asleep behind the wheel. Think I can trouble you for a cup of coffee for the road?”
Alice almost smiled at that, poised to inform Jamie that he wasn’t fooling anyone, but so grateful for something concrete to occupy herself with, that all she offered instead was, “I believe I can do that.”
It wasn’t until after she was already in the kitchen, pouring the scalding water into a mug for Jamie that Alice’s hands began trembling so violently that she was forced to set the coffee-pot down with a thump and grab onto the counter to keep from collapsing herself.
Jamie was by her side in an instant, clutching Alice’s elbow and easing her into a nearby chair. “What is it? Talk to me. Tell me what to do.”
She shook her head, dazed. “He knew they would kill him. He knew what he was doing and didn’t give it a second thought…”
“Yes,” Jamie agreed softly. “Spencer was incredibly brave.”
“And her,” Alice prattled on, deaf to Jamie’s words. “That woman, she walked into this house and actually gloated about what they’d done to Spencer to my face…”
Jamie frowned, gradually realizing that there were two very different conversations happening here. “Alice, what… I don’t understand…”
She faltered, suddenly realizing what she’d said and whom she’d said it to, unsure now about how to backtrack.
“Alice, whatever it is, you can tell me. You can tell me anything. God knows, I’ve certainly told you everything.”
“You’ve had so much on your plate, Jamie. You’ve been through so much. The last thing you need is even more worries – “
“Worries about what?”
“About what Carl did. About what Carl… and your mother… did.”
New school year, clean slate, new attitude, Allie reminded herself as she walked onto the Bay City University campus, her messenger bag slung over her shoulder.
She had every reason to be positive, to even smile a little.
Her grades from her summer classes had been posted, and while they weren’t great, she wasn’t looking at being a super-senior anymore due to lost time from the previous year.
She’d finally decided on a major. Or at least had a few ideas. And, last but not least, she had no drama on the horizon. No babies, no hospital escapes, no trials – criminal or civil. Sure, there was always the possibility of running into GQ, but that was only if she strayed near locations she knew were his haunts. And even if they did cross paths… so what? He had Jen now. He had no reason to bother with Allie. Just like Allie had every reason to be positive, to smile a little, to have a spring in her step even.
Until she noticed the stares and whispers preceding wherever she went. Which, given that she’d suffered them all last year, shouldn’t have fazed her.
But they did. This was supposed to be a new year, a clean slate. She’d done nothing wrong.
Even if everyone’s eyes said otherwise. The wide berths given her in the halls, the quad, even the classrooms and cafeteria told her otherwise.
It seemed she was a plague. A pariah. Still.
Unable to think of anything else to do, Allie ignored them. Ignored the cowards and their self-righteous sniggers and sneers. Stared right back at the blatant looks of disdain that some people no longer bothered to hide.
She was beating them at their own game. She was winning.
Allie stared uncomprehendingly at her ruined car, slowly walking around it, taking in the smashed lights and dents and gouges, coming to a shuddering stop when she read the words keyed viciously into the side of her car.
Now what? Grant’s brain pummeled the question at him as he stood inside the foyer of his dark, empty, silent home, absolutely clueless as to what his next action, what his next thought should be.
He wanted to be with Kirkland. He belonged with Kirkland.
Except that Kirkland belonged with Jamie. Grant would only add to his son’s burden at the moment. Confuse him. Make him feel pulled in different directions at a time when what Kirk needed most was stability and comfort.
There was nothing Grant could do for his son, save drive by Jamie and Lorna’s to make sure they’d gotten home safely. Which he did several times, circling the block aimlessly until it hurt too much to keep it up, hoping for a peek through the window, some kind of sign, anything.
There was nothing Grant could do for his father, either. Except keep replaying his last image of Spencer, walking into the darkness, towards shadow figures with disembodied arms and hands, and unforgiving voices, over and over again, same way he’d impotently circled Kirkland’s home earlier.
Seconds later, Grant found himself in his study, drawing desperate, deep gulps of the first thing he could get his hands on, straight from the decanter.
“That isn’t going to help anything.”
A strangled, wounded whimper clogged Grant’s throat in response to his visitor’s familiar voice, and he struggled to keep the contents of his stomach at bay. He wasn’t nearly drunk enough yet.
“Don’t,” Grant pleaded, rather than commanded. “Not you, too. Please, not today. I already… Vicky already… I can’t… I can’t face you today.”
“I’m here to help,” his brother’s spirit seemed to be emanating from everywhere, and nowhere, at the same time. Which meant there was no place Grant could run to get away from it.
“By reminding that I’m now two for two in surviving kidnapping exchanges involving my son, while the other, unfortunate Harrison in the vicinity meets his untimely end?”
“You don’t know that Spencer’s dead.”
“If he isn’t by now, he will be soon. Quite frankly, considering who we’re dealing with, death is probably preferable to the alternative of what those people could do to him…” Grant took another fortifying gulp of what he believed to be vodka, and welcomed the dizzying euphoria that came along with it. “I’d ask you to keep a look out for him, but the odds of Dad sharing afterlife space with you are slim.”
“He wasn’t as bad as all that.”
“That’s not what you thought while you were alive.”
“Different time, different perspective,” Ryan advised. “Sometimes you need to get some distance from a situation in order to see it clearly.”
“There isn’t enough distance between Heaven and Earth to change the fact that Dad was… Let’s just say he wasn’t a saint. Like you.”
“Never been a saintly Harrison,” his brother corrected. “Seriously doubt there ever will be one. Even Kirk, great kid that he is – ”
“You were the best man I ever knew,” Grant said, tears spilling from his eyes. “And I…”
“It was an accident. Besides, didn’t you tell Jasmine a while back that brothers have been wanting to kill each other since the beginning of time?”
“Of all the things I ever succeeded in doing…” Grant laughed drunkenly before his face crumpled in anguish. “It should’ve been me. I should’ve… if anyone should have died that night, it should’ve been me. Kirkland would’ve been the better for it.”
“No kid is better off growing up without a parent. You and I sure learned that lesson the hard way."
“I could’ve gone out a hero! Deified in death like you and Victoria and Jake. I should have died for my son – no one would’ve been able to take that away from me – instead of letting others die in my place. I’d be something to him then. Something which made him proud.”
“Do you feel proud about what Spencer did to save you and Kirkland?”
“Spencer’s goal was to save his only grandson, period,” Grant was quick to correct. “I wouldn’t have even known about Kirk’s kidnapping if Jamie hadn’t told me. Our father was done with me. I was nothing to him in the end.”
“You were everything to him. Spencer didn’t just save Kirkland. He saved your son. For you. He loved you, Grant. More than his own life. If tonight didn’t prove it, think of all the other sacrifices he’d made for you.“
“Stop it… Don’t say…” Grant wept. “Or at least don’t tell me that. Tell me anything but that.”
“Why? Because you think it’ll be easier to get through this if you stay mad at him? It won’t.”
“Let me try, damn it! Stop trying to console me! I don’t need it! I don’t want it! I can’t accept it! Not from you and you know that! So leave me alone! Go gloat with Vicky! Just leave me the hell alone!”
Grant waited for Ryan to argue with him. Ryan always argued with him.
Except for now.
Now there was nothing, just like when Grant first stumbled in.
Silence. Darkness. Emptiness.
“Damn it, Ryan,” Grant screamed, glaring at the empty decanter in his hand and hurling it at the wall. “Damn it, don’t you abandon me, too!”
“You have a message,” Lucas indicated Felicia’s quietly but insistently chirping phone. “Must have come in the middle of the night.”
“It’s from Spencer,” Felicia said, curious, pushing the button to listen, her expression going from surprised to confused to concerned as she finished.
“What’s wrong?” Because there was no way Lucas could imagine something not actually being wrong.
“He – he called to say thank you,” Felicia repeated Spencer’s enigmatic message. “To thank me for being his sponsor, helping him with his drinking. When Alice left him last year, he was afraid he might fall off the wagon again. He called me. I came over. We talked. He wanted me to know how grateful he was then. How he’ll never forgot it.”
Lucas mused, “Ever hear of a middle of the night bout of gratitude being good news?”
“Was he drunk?” Lucas clung to the one possible, alternative explanation.
“No,” Felicia said firmly. “Stone cold sober.”
“Was he saying good-bye?”
Felicia nodded slowly. “I think that’s exactly what he was saying.”
“If that son-of-a-bitch has taken Alice and gone underground… Damn it, the selfish SOB. It’s one thing to do it on your own, but to drag someone else in…” Lucas’ I should know hung unspoken in the air.
“If Spencer was going on the run in the middle of the night, he wouldn’t risk leaving any trace, not for anyone. Just in case his phone were being bugged… He certainly wouldn’t take the chance and call me, of all people.”
“That only leaves one other option,” Lucas sighed with a heavy heart.
“He’s giving up…”
“I’ll go see Carl,” Lucas said. “Find out what he knows.”
Jamie squatted on the kitchen linoleum by Alice’s chair, looking up at her with concern as she hesitantly stammered out, “The way Spencer explained it, it was only a matter of time before the management behind the compound would come after us. Carl knew it, too. He came to Spencer, wanting to strike first. The best defense is a good offense…”
“But, Carl’s supposedly been out of that life for years.”
“Until Donna and Lucas exposing the compound dragged him back in.”
“Mom said Carl took care of that. Flexed his muscles or whatever it is he does.”
“Yes. But then there was Lorna’s accident. Lucas feared it was a warning meant for him. We didn’t know about Marley, and the thought that the people around him were being targeted was more than Lucas could bear. He asked Carl to look into it. Carl agreed, but he warned that it would mean stirring up a hornet’s nest. Rather than wait passively and see if the peace he’d brokered would be shattered, Carl decided he’d bring the fight to them.”
“Bring the fight to them,” Jamie repeated numbly. “What does that mean?”
“Spencer was vague on the details. All I knew was I suddenly had guards on me. So did Grant and Kirkland. And Carl did the same for Rachel and the children. You and Lorna; Lori Ann and her family, too.”
“Right. Lucas told Lorna that.”
“Carl and Spencer were supposed to be working together in this. Allies. Reluctant ones, to be sure, but still…“ Alice hesitated before revealing the final piece of the puzzle, realizing that once she did, she could never go back. And neither could Jamie. “Carl threw Spencer to the wolves to save himself.”
“Jeanne Ewing. Her reports on Donna and the compound investigation. All Carl’s doing. He fed her the info, though I’m sure she thinks she dug it up on her own. When Jeanne exposed Spencer as being the one behind that file, you know, the one that was originally believed to be Donna’s? Jeanne was seen as a neutral observer. No reason to doubt her sources. She didn’t have a dog in the fight. ”
“That son of a bitch,” Jamie didn’t even bother watching his language. “Carl deliberately put Spencer in danger. You, Grant, and Kirkland, too.”
“He did it to protect your mother,” Alice reminded. “Cory and Elizabeth, you, Lorna, and Devon. Someone needed to be sacrificed to appease their blood-lust. Carl picked Spencer.”
“My mother,” invoking Rachel reminded Jamie of something Alice had said earlier. “You said she gloated to you about this?”
“I – I was too harsh. I wasn’t thinking straight. Bad choice of words.”
“What did she do then?”
“She… She insinuated… She more than insinuated – that Spencer deserved whatever he had coming to him,” was the best an exhausted, devastated Alice could do protect Rachel from her own son. And from herself.
Jamie shook his head. “Alice, I’m sorry.”
“No. I’m the one who’s sorry. ” Alice exhaled a shuddering breath. “Spencer knew as soon as Jeanne’s report aired that there had to be repercussions. We were just hoping that Kirkland wouldn’t be involved. You had adopted him, after all. He was a part of your family, Carl’s family, not ours. We thought he’d be spared. I know I should have told you – “
“It wasn’t your place.”
“Lies of omissions are still lies, still betrayals. I should have warned you about the danger to your family. Maybe then things would’ve been different.”
“None of this is your fault. Spencer – “
“Had a life before we met, and it finally caught up to him. But he wasn’t an evil man, Jamie. And a part of him, I don’t think he ever stopped being that scared, orphan little boy just trying to survive on his own. He may have done… he did have regrets but… he didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve what Carl did to him. To be served up for slaughter while Carl sits back, safe and sound, pulling strings and benefiting from everyone else’s sacrifices… It’s not fair.”
“No, it isn’t,” Jamie agreed as he held a weeping Alice. “Unfortunately, when it comes to Carl… it never is.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|