Midnight in Nightfall
It was pitch black in Edwina’s house when she finally walked through her front door. Twenty minutes earlier she awakened to find herself lying on Vincent Savage’s couch. She couldn’t remember if Vincent was in the room or if it was just his lingering spirit that made her spine take notice. Trancelike, Edwina collected what was left of her senses and left the house. How she wound up safely in her own home was just another memory she would never possess.
Although she was once again in the familiar surroundings of her home, she wandered from room to room as if she had never been there before. She traced the fabric of the tangerine taffeta curtains that hung in her living room with curious fingers and then caressed the maple sofa table, admiring its smooth texture. All the while Edwina breathed in the fragrance of the hydrangea that sprang forth from the etched crystal vase, which sat on the matching maple cocktail table in the center of the room. Although her body was lifeless, her senses were revitalized and accepted and acknowledged every form of energy in the house.
Edwina explored the newness of her home until she could not stay awake a moment more. Stumbling into her empty bed, it took mere seconds for her dreams to begin. Her eyelids fluttered as the landscape of her dream became a dark red river in which Edwina was swimming. Soon she stopped all movement and allowed the red water to carry her downstream until she reached land and Vincent Savage’s waiting arms. Meekly, or as meek as Edwina could become even in dreamland, she glanced at the stranger’s face, then closed her eyes to accept his hungry kisses and let his large, powerful hands travel, roughly, down her red-stained body. But when she opened her eyes in her dream she wasn’t staring at Vincent’s smooth face, but at Joe’s rugged features.
Startled, then hopeful, she began to search Joe’s eyes for a flicker of love or at least compassion and found only emptiness. Her response, less startled, and more hopeless, was to become wildly angry. She pulled him closer to her and kissed him aggressively, using her tongue to force his mouth open. Simultaneously, she ground her pelvis into his crotch with desperate thrusts. While Joe didn’t pull away, he didn’t participate. Even in her dream state, Edwina realized that she would have to recall a happier time if she wanted this encounter to be fulfilling and willed her memory to travel back to the time she and Joe shared in Mykonos when they first made love and conceived Jonatha. She remembered how his bare wet skin felt against her sun-soaked flesh. She could hear the waves crashing furiously in her ear as if they wanted deliberately to hurt the beach. And she felt Joe’s awkward and tentative touch turn more confident and dangerous as they both realized they were not just exploring a moment, but creating a relationship that would alter their lives forever. She felt the surprise of Joe’s first kiss and how the shock of it spread throughout her body. And then the memory stopped.
Again she tried to remember making love to Joe, but she could not get beyond the point of their first kiss no matter how hard she tried. She reflected soberly that her present life with Joe was being taken from her and now her past life with him was being robbed as well. It was more than a narcissistic, spoiled heiress could take.
“Get out!” Edwina cried to Joe in her dream. “If you don’t want to be a part of my life Joe, then get the hell out!”
Three doors away in the Lassiter guest room, Joe tossed the down comforter off his body and rolled over once again in an attempt to rid his mind of the dreams that currently plagued him. He was dreaming of Edwina. Specifically, he was dreaming of the time he was in Mykonos searching for a con man who had escaped Nightfall after swindling several of the older female residents out of their life savings. Joe’s superiors thought that sending him in pursuit of a criminal against the steamy backdrop of island beauty would help detangle Joe’s mind which had become too complex and preoccupied for a police officer’s good. Joe accepted the assignment not because it would help him forget his son, but it would help him ignore the problems brewing between he and Amanda.
In his unconscious mind, Joe was now on the white sandy beaches of the Greek city, the day after her caught con man, Reggie Smythe, and only two days after arriving in the sun-kissed isle. It was also the day Edwina arrived on its shores.
On the beach, Joe turned around and the sun’s glare made him squint so he could see that Edwina was standing in front of him in a white crocheted bikini that skillfully accented her olive complexion and auburn hair. Backlit by an extraordinary sunset, Edwina looked inviting. Joe remembered her awkward explanation about how useless she felt back home and how she knew Joe was only using this assignment as an excuse to run from the immense hurt he must be feeling over the loss of his son. She said all the right things to him on that beach, all the things Amanda had failed to say to him. He thought Edwina, unlike Amanda, understood that he too was in pain and needed comforting. She also took her understanding a step further, and leant Joe a sympathetic hand.
They walked along the beach, close to each other, and spoke quietly about Joey’s disappearance and how ambivalent Joe was about his future because of it. He wasn’t sure he could go on or even if he wanted to. Yes he had a wife and daughter, but if he couldn’t protect his own son, what use was he for any other member of his family. For the first time he admitted that he was a broken man. Edwina had no verbal response, she just let her hand find his.
Joe rolled over again in his bed because even in a dream state he knew betrayal was only moments away. He remembered that they had walked so far the flat beach had grown smaller and a few feet in the distance were dunes. Unsure of which direction to take, Joe broke from Edwina’s grasp and ran into the ocean, hoping the cold water would revitalize him and reintroduce him to his morals. Unfortunately, the shock of the water didn’t work, it only made him feel more alive and more aroused.
Edwina followed Joe into the water and swam to him. They floated side by side holding hands until Joe abruptly let go of her and ran out of the ocean. He ran in the direction of the dunes and like a rocket with a predetermined course, Edwina ran behind. She found him leaning against the wall of a large sand dune, his head in his hands, and she heard the distinctive sound of crying. Then, Joe felt Edwina’s touch and he let out a moan. His moans of pain, however, quickly turned into sighs of desire as his lips pressed against Edwina’s sweet mouth for the first time. They never mentioned Amanda, but her spirit was so thick around them it was suffocating. They both fought to drive the image of Amanda from their minds and by the powerful stirring in Joe’s loins he knew he was
In his guest bed, Joe was sweating as he always did when he recalled his first liaison with Edwina, but this time was different: he was going to allow himself to remember the first time they made love. It was almost as if Joe’s subconscious mind was punishing him with the memory of his first dalliance. Clutching the bed sheets Joe tried to prepare himself for the agony he was about to endure, but it never came. After Joe dreamt of kissing Edwina, his mind went blank and just the repetitiveness of the crashing waves continued. On so many occasions, Joe had begged God to erase that event from his memory and it seems that God had finally listened.
Exhausted from her disturbing day, Amanda slept quietly in her cherry wood four poster bed. It was the bed that belonged to her grandmother, Priscilla, and usually gave Amanda a peaceful sleep. Tonight peace would not be offered.
She was breathing softly as she dreamt of being pregnant with her son, Joey. Even as an unborn child, Joey brought Amanda incredible promise. Conceiving a child together had been Amanda and Joe’s main desire and now that passion was being fulfilled. As the months passed during her pregnancy, Amanda radiated joy at the prospect of strengthening her bond with Joe, a bond that she already considered indestructible. Those were halcyon days filled with smiles and unexpected kisses and stolen glances. Those were the days when Amanda fell in love with her husband all over again.
Her dream suddenly shifted from the days of her first pregnancy to the present days of her latest, and much more complicated, pregnancy. Alone she envisioned herself walking near Serenity Pond, which had always been a source of peacefulness for her. She submerged her bare feet beneath the pond’s calm, cool surface and hummed softly to the child she was carrying. Tracing lazy circles on her swollen stomach with her fingers Amanda didn’t notice the darkness creep in until she saw a woman standing before her.
Amanda immediately sensed danger and instinctively felt the urge to protect her unborn. She stood up to look the strange woman in the eye and, although she was frightened, she couldn’t help but acknowledge the woman’s incredible beauty and the fact that her raven-colored hair almost touched the earth. Amanda looked into the woman’s black eyes and wanted to run, but was unable to.
Mesmerized, Amanda watched the raven-haired woman in her dream levitate a few inches above the ground and hold her right hand up to the sky. The next images of action in her dream flew by so quickly, Amanda couldn’t see clearly what was happening. She heard laughter, screams, and another sound that made Amanda, now drenched in sweat, sit up in her bed and question her sanity. She heard the sound of a baby crying and then a whispered “Thank you.”
Nightwind – The Next Morning
Breakfast at Nightwind is not a formal affair. However, judging by the tense silence that held Amanda, Perry, and Madeline captive no one would believe that they had ever been jocular, or even, casual with one another. Perry kept his eyes focused on his plate with such conviction, Madeline was convinced his eggs benedict were about to prophecize. She couldn’t wait for him to leave the room so she could be alone with Amanda and after a few more bites, Perry put down his knife and fork, rose from the table, nodded to his wife and daughter (who were not looking at him), and left the room. It was the cue Madeline was waiting for.
“You don’t look well, Amanda,” Madeline said. “How do you feel?”
“I’m fine, mom,” she replied. “Just very tired.”
“You had a restless night?”
“How could I not?” Amanda asked. “I’m going to see another doctor.”
“That’s wise,” Madeline said. “If it will make you feel better.”
“You think I’m lying about this pregnancy, don’t you?” Amanda said.
“I think you would like this pregnancy to go away,” Madeline replied.
“You have to believe me,” Amanda implored. “There is no way that I could be four months pregnant.”
“I know about you and Joe,” Madeline said quietly.
After a pause, Amanda said: “That was very recently. Even if it did result in my becoming pregnant, I would only be a few weeks along, not four months.”
“So it’s true!” Winter cried. “You have been sleeping with Daddy!”
Once again Winter slid into a room, and the conversation, effortlessly and wasn’t noticed by the adults until it was too late.
“No!” Amanda replied. “Let me explain.”
“It’s a simple question,” Winter responded. “Yes or no.”
Like most adults who find themselves without an alternative plan when confronted by their child’s difficult questions, Amanda chose to speak the truth.
“You don’t want to stay in town because of me or that baby you’re carrying,” Winter said. “You can’t stand to be away from Daddy!”
The tears flowing from Winter’s eyes blurred her vision so that she could barely see in front of her. She ran blindly through the house not knowing where she wanted to go, but knowing that she didn’t feel safe in the place she called home any longer. Amanda watched her daughter run from her, aware that once again her actions had caused Winter immense pain. She remained frozen, unable to run after Winter, until she heard her mother’s harsh command: “Go after her Amanda!”
“Why?” Amanda quietly replied. “She doesn’t want me.”
“She’s your child. Tell her you love her, that’s all she wants to hear.”
Her mother’s words jolted Amanda to action and she realized she couldn’t ignore Winter’s feelings any longer. That is, if she wanted to maintain any type of healthy relationship with her daughter. Amanda ran from the room and turned into the main entranceway just in time to see Winter smash a photograph of Amanda, Joe, and Joey against the glass etierge on the other side of the room. Glass splattered and skidded all over the polished wood floors, a few pieces scurrying past Amanda’s feet.
Winter saw Amanda and screamed, “Leave me alone!” before running outside. But before she hit the bottom step of Nightwind’s external stairway, Amanda cried out to her.
“Don’t run away from me!”
“Why?” Winter said turning to look up at her mother who stood on the top step. “You act like I’m not even here anyway.”
“I’m sorry, Winter. Please listen to me.”
“I’m tired of your lies, that’s all I ever hear from you.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” Amanda replied descending a few steps. “I’m always trying to protect you, but I only end up pushing you aside.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about the letter?” Winter asked. “He’s my brother.”
“I didn’t want to raise everyone’s hopes. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with everyone’s pity if it didn’t come true.”
“You’re not the only one who’s suffered mom,” Winter said climbing a few steps closer to Amanda.
“You’re right. But you have no idea what it’s like to have a child taken from you. For 15 years I have lived with an emptiness that threatens to overwhelm me. An emptiness that has prevented me from embracing you. I’m sorry Winter. I know I haven’t shown you the kind of love a child deserves to be shown.”
The morning wind ripped through the space between Winter and Amanda as the two stared into each other’s eyes. They both understood their next words and actions would either further destroy or begin to sever their already tattered relationship and even though only ten steps separated them it felt like they had miles to go to reach each other.
“And do you have any idea what it’s like to know I can never satisfy you?” Winter tentatively began. “I know that only Joey can do that. Nothing I ever do can be good enough.”
“I never meant for it to turn out like this. And I never meant to sleep with your father again. We were lonely and we needed each other.”
“What about Aunt Edwina?”
“I’m sure my sister already knows about us. But that’s our problem. You should just think about being reunited with your brother.”
“It scares me to think that might happen.”
“It scares me too,” Amanda admitted. “But it’s what I’ve dreamed about all these years.”
“Me too, but I’ve been too selfish to admit it.”
“You haven’t been selfish . . .”
“Yes I have. I know I’ve done some hurtful things.”
“You haven’t done or said anything that I didn’t deserve. I only hope you can forgive me.”
“I love you mom,” Winter said as she moved in to be on the same step as Amanda. “No matter what I may ever say or do, I love you.”
Winter and Amanda hugged, awkwardly at first and then warmly. Years of conflict and misunderstood emotions started to peel away from them them. Amanda watched Winter go back into the house and sat down on the steps to contemplate her morning, which had gotten off to a complicated, but positive, start. As Winter turned to look at her mother once more, she suddenly realized she was no longer in control of her body. From somewhere within her mind she heard the raven-haired woman say, “That’s right Winter, get closer to your mother. It will be so much easier for me to destroy her that way.”
From behind the large oak desk in his office, Perry shouted furiously into his phone, pausing only when Nadine, his assistant, Noelle’s assistant, entered the room to place a manila envelope on his desk. Nadine’s presence made Perry pause, not because her size siz figure was shimmied into a size two dress, but because it reminded him of the reason for Noelle’s absence: the death of her fiancée, David Anderson. Noelle, and Nightfall, recently heard of David’s death from an as of yet unknown reason, and she was in mourning. Perry, alone, however, knew of the reason. When Nadine closed the door behind her, Perry resumed shouting into the phone.
“Don’t you understand what’s at stake here?” Perry yelled. “If you can’t meet Vincent’s deadline, I don’t have to tell you what he’ll do.”
On the other end of the line, Perry’s lead scientist, Astrid Hallström, remained as calm as she could as she listened to Perry’s tirade from her secluded, state-of-the-art laboratory in Oslo, Norway. Her unwashed blonde hair fell into her bloodshot eyes and she was beginning to feel the effects of working thirty-six hours straight in an attempt to meet the mysterious Mr. Savage’s demands. The lack of sleep was making the usually docile Norwegian, extremely irritable.
“Don’t you understand that Mr. Savage’s request is unreasonable?” Astrid replied. “There s no way we can produce the serum on this new timetable.”
“We don’t have a choice!”
“Perry you might not have a choice, but I do,” Astrid said. “Tell your Mr. Savage, or better yet, let me speak to him in person. It’s about time I met our tyrannical client.”
“This is not a game Astrid! This is serious!” Perry screamed. “You don’t know what Vincent will do if we don’t come through for him.”
While Perry continued ranting and raging at Astrid he didn’t notice that someone had opened his door, just a crack, but enough to hear every angry word.
“He is an extremely powerful man,” Perry continued. “More than you can ever imagine.”
“Perry, through the years I’ve put up with your arrogance, your veiled threats, and even your unwanted sexual advances,” Astrid said in a tired voice, “but I will not put up with your cryptic warnings. I am going home, unplugging my phone, and going to bed.”
“Astrid, I need you!”
“Then hop on a flight,” she calmly replied. “By the time you land in Oslo, I’ll be well-rested.”
The dial tone pierced through Perry’s ear with such ferocity it felt like a dagger struck through his heart. He only had a moment to compose himself before his door swung wide open and he was confronted with another angry woman.
“So Daddy,” Edwina asked. “Why does Vincent Savage have you quivering like a scared bunny?”
For the fourth time Dashiell returned the phone to its cradle. It was the fourth time he had tried to reach Winter Lassiter in the past hour and he had just crossed the line from feeling inconvenienced to feeling annoyed.
“Where the hell could she be?” Dashiell exclaimed. “She’s on school break this week.”
“Perhaps she went on a shopping spree,” Llewellyn said, reclining in the green plaid club chair next to the window. “Americans do love to buy things.”
“Stop auditioning for the role of the haughty European, Lew, you know how tiresome it can be.
“As can you’re impatience,” Llewellyn replied haughtily.
Instead of entering into a verbal duel with his lover, Dashiell dialed Winter’s phone number once more. Surprisingly, he heard her voice on the other end instead of her recorded message.
“Winter!” Dashiell cried. “It’s me Dashiell. Llewellyn and I just got into town and we want to take you and Jonatha to lunch.”
“Well, that’s right to the point.” Winter replied, somewhat thrown by Dashiell’s request.
“Please say you can join us.”
“Well,” Winter said. “I guess it’s the least we can do since you and Llewellyn did travel across the Atlantic just to see us, though I will have to yell at you for a solid ten minutes for not calling me first.”
“I’m sorry love,” Dashiell said in a whisper. “I can talk to Jonatha easier, you get me all tongue-tied.”
“That’s probably a lie,” Winter said with more delight than she wanted to convey, “but I’ll buy it.”
“Smashing,” Dashiell replied. “We’re staying at the Collins Inn. Do you know where that is?”
“Please,” Winter replied sarcastically. “You know the portraits in the dining room?”
“They’re of my great-grandparents. There’s not an inch of this little town that I don’t know.”
“Then how lucky are we to have you as our tour guide,” Dashiell said as Llewellyn rolled his eyes and smothered his face with a pillow in a mock suicide attempt. “Now where shall we meet you?”
“I know Jonatha went to the library this morning,” Winter began, “I’ll call her on her cell phone and we’ll meet you at the Town Square near St. Agatha’s college.”
“I’m sure we can find it,” Dashiell said, then quickly added: “I think we’re all going to have a . . . a . . . smashing time getting to know one another.”
Before Winter could reply Dashiell hung up the phone. Winter immediately went to her large walk-in closet in search of the perfect outfit and reflected with teenage melodrama that she wasn’t sure she could take any more surprises this morning. Back in their room at the Collins Inn, Llewellyn was staring at Dashiell incredulously.
“Do you realize you actually said the word ‘smashing’ twice?”
Although there was a definite chill in the air, the noontime sun shone brightly on Madeline’s face as she looked out the kitchen window and gazed at the ocean. She ran cool water over a colander that held recently cooked linguini and closed her eyes so the warmth of the sun could spread over her. How relieved she would be when Aimee returned from her vacation to help out with the preparations for her 60th birthday party next Friday night. Cooking didn’t come easy to Madeline.
“Did you make enough pasta for two, Mom?”
Amanda’s question made Madeline turn from the sun and towards her daughter who was looking much more relaxed than she had at breakfast.
“Yes,” Madeline replied. “You’re going to join me?”
“Yes. It almost smells as good as Aimee’s.”
“Well I doubt that,” Madeline said. “Did you speak with Winter?”
Amanda relayed the conversation that played out between mother and daughter on Nightwind’s steps earlier that morning and Madeline was relieved that a few members of her family were learning to communicate.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Madeline said, wiping a few tears from her eyes. “When I heard Winter leave so abruptly before I had lost hope that you two resolved your differences.”
“She was going to meet Jonatha and those boys they met in London at St. Agatha’s for lunch.”
“So the blokes really did wash up on our shores.”
Madeline was very amused by her granddaughter’s latest escapade and hoped it would help her have a more normal teenage experience. Having so long ago bid farewell to her own innocence, Madeline enjoying living vicariously through those whose innocence was still intact. But Madeline was about to learn that innocence was not in large supply in Nightfall.
Before Dashiell and Llewellyn actually saw Jonatha they heard the clicking of her heels on the cobblestone street. When they did see her they marveled at how young she looked, much younger than she did when they met in London’s Hyde Park. Dashiell shook away a shiver when he thought that it wasn’t youth that emanated from within the depths of Jonatha’s soul, but rather purity.
“Jonatha Lassiter,” Llewellyn said noticing Dashiell’s preoccupied expression. “How good it is to see you again.”
“Well, Llewellyn,” Jonatha said. “You’ve already said more to me than you did the entire time I was in London. I guess America suits you.”
Llewellyn looked into Dashiell’s eyes and realized Dash still needed another moment to find his voice so he continued his conversation.
“The States are known to be the best tonic for what ails a reserved Brit.”
“And I’m sure England has been known to make even the most gregarious American a bit more demure.”
“Then we can both learn from each other,” said Dashiell, much to Llewellyn’s relief.
Once Dashiell reclaimed his ability to speak it was difficult to get him to revert back to his impersonation of Marcel Marceau. He rambled on and on about how charming the Collins Inn was and how proud Jonatha must be that her family’s portraits hung in its walls. He only took a breath when Llewellyn kicked him in the shins, not at all subtlely when he said the word “smashing” yet again.
Jonatha listened to her new friend and accepted his excessive chatter as a sign of nervousness and found it to be quite pleasant. However, she knew that Winter would have the completely opposite response and so she tried to break up Dash’s energetic monologue with questions.
“How do you find our weather, Dashiell?” Jonatha asked.
“Um, well, yes, I, familiar I must say,” Dashiell stammered.
“The crisp air has intercepted any feelings of homesickness we might have experienced,” Llewellyn said.
“And what about St. Agatha’s Church,” Jonatha said. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
The young men looked to their left and saw a small, stone church that they barely noticed before. Its structure reminded them of something they might see stranded in one of the old villages in the English countryside. The large wooden cross that stood next to the church also reminded Dashiell of the creature he was longing to become.
“It seems as if it’s weathered many a storm,” Dashiell said.
“Oh yes,” Jonatha replied. “Physical and spiritual.”
With what Llewellyn considered perfect timing, Winter showed up at that moment and the conversation veered away from the religious to the more practical.
“I am so hungry,” Winter announced. “Let’s eat.”
Both Amanda and Madeline gasped when Joe Lassiter walked into the kitchen unexpectedly and with one quick glance at his dour expression they knew that this was not a friendly visit.
“What’s wrong?” Amanda asked nervously.
“I came as soon as I could,” Joe quietly replied. “I wanted you to hear it from me first.”
“Joe, tell us what happened?” Madeline demanded.
“David Anderson’s body wasn’t the only one they found last night at Serenity Pond,” Joe said. “He was laying next to Aimee.”
“Oh no!” Madeline cried.
“Joe, is she dead?” asked Amanda.
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
Silence echoed throughout the kitchen as the women digested this information and waited for the intellectual understanding to be overtaken by an emotional response. Madeline picked up her plate from the table and looked like she was going to place it in the kitchen sink, but instead she smashed it to the ground. Pieces of white and blue china scattered everywhere and Amanda and Joe jumped back as startled by the airborne flatware as they were by Madeline’s uncharacteristic reaction.
“This is happening again, I can feel it!” Madeline screamed. “It’s just like before, but worse!”
“I think you’re right Madeline,” Joe replied.
“Tell me this, Joe,” Madeline said, trying to control her anger. “Did she have wounds on her neck?”
“Yes,” Joe said. “And so did David.”
“It’s been unleashed again.”
“Mother what are you talking about?” Amanda asked.
“Evil!” Madeline said.
The four teenagers sat together at a too-small table in St. Agatha’s Café, which was nestled between St. Agatha’s rectory and St. Agatha’s Gift Shop on St. Agatha’s Street. The street had the distinction of being the narrowest street in Nightfall, which, Llewellyn noted after a bite of his chicken salad sandwich, was not a simple feat.
“How delightful to be able to eat red meat again,” Dashiell said with a mouthful of medium-rare hamburger, “and not worry about getting holes in your brain.”
“I really don’t know why you English are so anti-American,” Winter said sipping a cranberry-blueberry-grape protein shake, “I mean, you can’t even control your cows.”
“Winter!” Jonatha chided. “The English are not anti-American.”
“They are too,” Winter said in her defense. “They’re jealous that we’re capitalist pigs and they’re Socialists. If you ask me it’s all Maggie Thatcher’s fault.”
More accustomed to hearing Winter speak about the differences between Armani couture and their lower-priced Armani Xchange clothes line, Jonatha was bemused by Winter’s words. Luckily, Llewellyn and Dashiell seemed to take Winter’s Brit-bashing good-naturedly and engaged in a debate about the United Kingdom’s most famous female prime minister. Winter sprinkled so many foreign political names in her debate and expressed her thoughts so logically that, if she wasn’t watching her manners, Jonatha’s jaw would have definitely smashed into the table. What Jonatha didn’t realize was that Winter wasn’t speaking her own words, but merely reciting those of the raven-haired woman, who was controlling Winter’s every move and thought.
“Okay enough about Ms. Thatcher and her inability to unite a nation that’s roughly the size of three American states,” Winter said. “What do you two really want from us?”
“Don’t you ever knock?” Perry shouted, knowing that Edwina knew that he knew he was deliberately evading her question.
“Are you really going to make me ask you again?” Edwina replied exasperated.
“Not everything needs to be understood by that conniving little brain of yours.”
“Please Daddy, don’t insult me,” Edwina said, laughing at her father. “I
caught you in the middle of a screaming match with your Norwegian lab rat about my new best friend, Vinny Savage. I am your daughter, I am involved, and I am so close to running home to Mommy and telling her you’re up to no good. Yet again.”
Watching her father turn the darkest shade of red she had ever seen on a human face, Edwina’s heart began to race as she realized this impromptu visit to her father’s office was going to result in her uncovering some major gossip. Perry banged his fist on the intercom button and yelled at Nadine to hold all his calls and not allow anyone to come into his office unannounced. Only the “yes” in Nadine’s reply of “yes, sir” was heard before Perry once again banged the intercom powerfully.
“I must say, Daddy, you are putting on quite an entertaining show today,” Edwina said. “You should really have a video camera installed to capture these more dramatic moments.”
“Shut up Edwina!” Perry roared.
“I will when you tell me why Vincent Savage frightens you.”
“I’m not frightened.”
“You haven’t been this scared since Joey was kidnapped,” Edwina remarked. “Your relationship with Vincent goes far beyond the professional and I want to know just how far.”
Realizing that Edwina was not going to drop the subject, Perry took a different tactic and softened his voice and demeanor.
“He’s an unscrupulous businessman,” Perry began, “and I’ve gotten in over my head with him financially.”
“With family money?” Edwina asked.
“Don’t worry,” Perry said with a sigh, “your trust fund is as healthy as ever.”
“Well that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”
“Unfortunately, he wants to push up the deadline for our joint venture and Astrid informs me that we cannot adhere to an earlier completion date.”
“So why were you so furious with her?”
“I want Vincent out of my life for good,” Perry said, “and the quickest way to do that is to meet his demands.”
Melting into the black leather couch, Edwina scrutinized her father’s expression and came to a very quick, but accurate, conclusion.
“You’re lying,” Edwina stated. “I don’t believe a word that you said except that you want to sever all ties with Mr. Savage.”
“It’s the truth I tell you!” Perry shouted.
He continued shouting at Edwina, the air, himself, and didn’t notice Edwina was ignoring him until she was speaking on the phone.
“Hello Payroll, this is Edwina Lassiter, the daughter of the man who employs you,” Edwina announced. “Yes, it’s delightful to hear your voice as well. I would like you to put me on the payroll immediately. I will be taking a more active role in Love Industries.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Perry asked.
“I am going to be Mr. Vincent Savage’s personal assistant,” Edwina said and then hung up the phone. “Daddy, if you’re not going to tell me what’s up Vincent’s designer sleeves, I’ll just have to find out myself.”
Alone, Joe Lassiter sat in a chair in Nightwind’s front room. He knew Madeline would take Aimee’s death hard, the women were much more than employer and employee, they were friends, but he had not expected Madeline to link her death to those deaths 15 years earlier. Madeline Wexler Love looked like a bored society matron, but obviously she was much wiser.
“She’s finally asleep,” Amanda said as she entered the room.
“Good,” Joe said. “I should go then.”
Shaking, Amanda held onto Joe’s arms and laid her head on his chest. She breathed in his scent and allowed it to mingle with her own. Naively, Amanda felt that if she could just hold on to Joe, the only emotional anchor she had ever known in her lifetime, then perhaps the bad things that were happening to her and her family would be held at bay. Looking up into his blue eyes, Amanda asked: “Is it true Joe?”
Too weak to lie, Joe replied honestly: “Yes. Aimee and David died just like all the others did years ago.”
“Around the time Joey was kidnapped?”
“Yes,” Joe answered. “But these killings have nothing to do with our son.”
“I know,” Amanda said. “Our son is alive. How much longer are we going to have to wait to see him again!?”
“I don’t know.”
Amanda informed Joe that the entire family now knew about the letter and that a reunion was in the works. Surprisingly, he thought it was for the best, so at least one of their lies would be out in the open. When he said this, Joe involuntarily flinched and Amanda realized that he was having problems with her pregnancy.
“I have another doctor’s visit, Joe,” Amanda said. “Come with me.”
“I can’t. I have a lot of work to do.”
Joe kissed Amanda tenderly on her check and began to leave. As Amanda watched Joe walk away she noticed his shoulders were slumped slightly and his whole body seemed deflated of all its energy. And she knew that she was the cause for this.
“Wait!” Amanda cried.
She ran to him and stood between him and the doorway. “You must believe me Joe, this child I’m carrying, if I’m truly pregnant, is yours. I haven’t been with another man in all these years. It’s only been you. You’re the only man I’ve ever loved.”
With tears in his eyes, Joe knew he had to tell her the truth.
“And you’re the only woman I’ve ever loved all my life.”
“Oh Joe,” Amanda cried. “Why couldn’t we make it right? It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“It’s my fault, I betrayed you. But I will make it up to you. This child will have a father. And that man will be me.”
As Amanda and Joe held each other tightly it was almost as if their broken hearts were beginning to mend. They kissed softly, passion would have to wait until later that evening, right now they were quietly confirming their love for one another. Amanda watched Joe walk down the steps, get into his car and drive away. She held her stomach and for the first time in years she felt complete.
She turned to go back inside and she saw a white dove fly by and rest on her mailbox. The dove was completely out of place, but looked as if it was exactly where it needed to be. She heard it coo and she began to walk towards it. Remarkably, when she reached the mailbox, the dove didn’t move, it just stared at Amanda.
Intrigued, she looked into the mailbox and found another envelope, like the ones she received on the anniversary of Joey’s disappearance. With trembling fingers she opened the enveloped and saw another letter written in the all-too-familiar script. The note read: “The time has come. You will see your son in one week’s time.”