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Episode 133

 

Release Date:  March 4, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

 

  

Episode 133

"From the Stars"

 

of telephone poles and the swaying of power lines loomed ominously in the distance along the long stretch of highway.  He turned his eyes to the rearview mirror and surveyed the devastation coming his way.  His car began vibrating softly, its low hum breaking the eerie silence.  Within seconds, the entire ground was shaking beneath him.  The rumble of the quake exploded like gunfire through his ears.  He quickly stopped and turned around in his seat. 

Ethan Blackthorne was a mile from Hotel Terranova and had no idea if Brooke or the rest of his family were safe back at Stormy’s wedding.  Was it better to be inside or outside during an earthquake?  He couldn’t remember.  All he could think about right now was avoiding colliding into obstacles in his path.

An object began traveling toward him from behind.  He squinted, trying to get a closer look.  By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late.  The ground opened up, forming a gap in the road that got wider the farther it traveled.  Before he could maneuver to safety, his car collapsed inside the sinkhole.  He screamed for help, pounding on the car windows and trying to get them to open, but realizing all too quickly that he was trapped, slowly becoming buried underground.

He struggled with the car door, desperate to open it enough to crawl through and lift himself back to the surface.  He could smell gasoline leaking from the tank which only instilled further panic.

“Help me!” he screamed, pounding on the roof of the car as the engine caught fire and the interior filled with smoke.   “Someone help me!”

The car shifted, rocking on its wheels as it settled into the ground.  Large pieces of earth fell onto the car and caused his head to slam against the steering wheel with mind blowing force.  For a few moments he lost consciousness, his head bleeding from the crushing blow. 

Then he heard the pounding and the yelling from above.  He coughed uncontrollably as the interior filled with smoke and the engine continued to burn.  More pounding.  He could almost hear someone above him.  It sounded like a man. 

Then came the glass that shattered from the sunroof above his head.  He closed his eyes to shield them from the debris.  A shovel came down inches from his head.   Before he knew what was happening, he was being pulled up through the sunroof, through the thick dirt and rubble, and safely onto the road.

For a few moments he laid coughing and sputtering, his head bleeding and his skin covered in dirt and soot.  He wondered how hard he’d hit his head because he could barely focus his eyes.   But moments later, when he finally opened them and saw the man standing above him, the late afternoon sun peering just behind, he realized he’d miraculously been saved.

“It’s coming!” the man was yelling.  “It’s coming, I’m telling you!  I told the others but they didn’t listen!  But it’s coming!” 

“Wha---?” Ethan mumbled, still unable to focus. All he could make out was the outline of the portly man.  He saw long, straggly hair and an unkempt beard, but details came in and out of focus.  “Please, help me.  My head-“

“We gotta get outta here!” the man continued, lifting Ethan up and hoisting one of his arms over his shoulder.  “This is just the beginning!”

Unable to resist, Ethan found himself being loaded into the front seat of an old beat up pick-up truck idling nearby.  He lay against the window with exhaustion, still coughing, his head feeling like it would explode.   The man climbed into the drivers seat and slammed his foot onto the gas, propelling them immediately forward. 

“Everyone said it was gonna happen in 2012, but it’s here.  It’s happening.” 

Ethan could barely hear him.  He stared at an old, worn copy of The Great Gatsby wedged between the dash and the windshield.  He couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

“Damn naysayers,” the man went on.  “Yep.  It’s the Apocalypse.  Armageddon!  First come the earthquakes, then the fires, then the floods.  Pretty soon the whole damn world is nothing but a big fire ball!”

“Brooke…” Ethan mumbled, slowly losing consciousness.

“Yeah, you should sleep while you can,” the man said as the truck barreled down the highway, rocking up and down on its well worn shocks.  “We’ve got a long drive ahead of us.  Long drive to safety.” 

And the last thing Ethan saw was the book slide across the dash and ricochet onto the floor between the seats.  His eyes fluttered closed and everything went black.

Ethan Blackthorne

The sun peeking over the horizon was the first thing Ethan saw when he awoke.  The next thing was a copy of The Great Gatsby that sat between the seats of the old truck, which seemed to be stationary.  His head ached and he could feel dried blood matted to his forehead and the hair that lined his right temple.  Wincing, he went to touch the wound and cringed when it sent pain drilling through his skull. 

Frantic, but unable to move very quickly, he looked around at his surroundings.  He was in an old truck parked at a gas station somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing looked familiar to him.  The driver’s side door opened and the old man climbed inside with a bag, regarding him carefully.

“You’re awake,” he said.  “Thought you were a goner for a while.  Slept nearly twenty hours.”

Ethan frowned and craned his stiff neck.  “Twenty hours?” he asked.  “Where am I?”

“Interstate 80 near North Platte,” the old man replied and pulled two sodas from his bag.  He opened the first and handed it to Ethan.  “Here, drink this.  I’ve got sandwiches too.  You must be starved.” 

He looked at the drink and nodded.  “Yeah, I am.”

“I figure we’ll be in New York by tomorrow night if we keep going at this rate.  I got a paper to see if they’ve been hit yet.  Doesn’t look like they have.  So far California’s the only casualty.  But it’s coming.  Trust in that, friend.” 

“New York?” Ethan asked. 

“That’s where I live,” the man said while cramming a cold Chuckwagen in his mouth.  “Got a bomb shelter we can hide out in.  It’s stocked with supplies.  We should be good for a few weeks while we wait it out.  I’m Emmett, by the way.  Emmett Lawson.”

Ethan noticed he was extending his hand to him so he shook it tentatively.  He looked at the man, tall and overweight with a brownish red beard and hair that was covered by a Yankees ball cap.  He wore a pair of stained overalls that seemed to be busting at the seams. 

After a few moments of silence, Emmett looked at him.  “What’s your name, partner?”

Ethan looked down.  He was dressed in a black tuxedo, now stained with dirt, soot and blood.  He vaguely remembered the old man pulling him from a car, and the more he thought about it, the further away the images seemed to get.

“You got a name, ain’t ya?” Emmett repeated, then bit off another piece of his sandwich.

Ethan looked down at the copy of The Great Gatsby.  He remembered reading it.  Remembered the characters, the story, the parts he liked and the parts he didn’t like.  So if he remembered all of that, why couldn’t he remember his own name?  Or how he came to be dressed in a tuxedo?  Or where he came from?

“You feelin’ okay, buddy?  That bump on your head looks pretty bad.”

He blurted out the first thing he could think of.  “Dan,” he replied, realizing he needed to come up with a name, and one that belonged to a character from The Great Gatsby was the only one he could think of.  “Dan Cody.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Dan Cody,” Emmett said.  “So how’d you happen to be on that road when that sinkhole opened?  Headed somewhere?”

“I don’t know,” Ethan replied and shook his head in confusion.

Emmett regarded him suspiciously.  “Don’t know, huh?  What kind of answer is that?”

Ethan took a drink of the soda.  It was sickeningly sweet but the moisture felt good on his lips and throat.  “I don’t know.” 

“Hmmm.  Well, we better get moving.  Got about twelve hours of sunlight.  Want to get as far away from the west as we can before more devastation hits.”

Ethan wasn’t sure what he was talking about.  At first listen, he sounded crazy.  He didn’t have to remember anything about his life to know that much. 

. . . . . . . .

Road signs told him they were somewhere in Indiana when the sun went down that night.  Ethan had begun to feel a little better, especially after washing up in a bathroom at a small gas station off the interstate.  His head still hurt, mainly from the struggle to remember even the smallest details of how he’d ended up there.  The more he concentrated, the less he remembered.   He knew Emmett had picked him up in Los Angeles, but aside from that he knew nothing.  

“What were you doing in California if you live in New York?” he asked Emmett after they’d been driving in silence for a while.

“Picking up supplies,” he told him, steering the old truck through the night.

“What kind of supplies?”

“Never you mind that,” was the only answer Emmett offered.  “I was headed out of town and that’s when I spotted you.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when that sinkhole opened up and swallowed you whole.  Thought you were a goner.”

“I appreciate you coming back for me,” Ethan said, realizing he’d never thanked the crazy old man for saving his life.  

“Minute I heard you screaming for help I knew you were a kindred spirit,” Emmett said while chewing on a toothpick.  “I could tell when I pulled you out of there you knew it was the apocalypse.  A lost soul.  Figured we could do right by each other if I brought you along with me.” 

Ethan decided to humor him rather than doubt his eccentric beliefs.  “So you believe the earthquake was the start of the end of the world?”

Emmett looked at him with certainty.  “I don’t just believe it, son, I damn well know it.  Mayans predicted it.  So did that Nostradamus fella.  You seen those documentarian things they did on him on those cable channels?  Creepy as shit.  Soon as everyone started talking about it I got to planning.  Turned my old cellar into a shelter.”

“Do you think we’d have heard if there was anything else happening?  Earthquakes and things like that?”

“Communications could be down,” Emmett said with a shrug.  “Might do us good if you call home and check things out.  Next time we stop you see if the lines are operational.” 

“I wouldn’t know who to call,” Ethan said while looking out the window. 

“What about that name you were mumbling before?” asked Emmett.  “Pond or River or something…”

“I mumbled a name?”

“Back before you passed out.  Oh, I know, it was Brooke.  She your old lady?”

Ethan struggled to remember but grew frustrated when he couldn’t.  He shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Maybe.”  

Emmett shook his head and sighed.  “Well, chances are she’s with the rest of California floating around in the Pacific Ocean anyway.  If she did survive the quake, the fires and the floods will kill her.  Hell, the whole west coast is probably under water by now.”

Head injury or not, Ethan could still tell the man had a few screws loose.  His own safety didn’t appear to be threatened, however, so he decided to overlook it.  What alternative did he have, anyway?  He had nowhere to go.  He wouldn’t know where home was if he did.  He had no ID and nothing in his pockets that was of any use.  Right now, Emmett Lawson was all he had.

. . . . . . . .

A day later they had reached New York.  Ethan watched out the window of the truck as they meandered along winding roads surrounded by trees and brush.  Judging from their surroundings, he could tell they were far from any major cities.  They passed a few rundown houses set back off the main road, leading him to believe they were in a fairly unpopulated region.  He didn’t know New York very well so it was impossible to tell where they were exactly. 

A flurry of activity began when they reached a house nestled at the end of the road.  Emmett cut the engine and jumped out of the truck in one fluid movement.  Immediately, he began removing items from the bed of the truck and carrying them to the side of the ramshackle house. 

“Sophie!” he called as he worked.  “Sophie, get out here!”

Ethan stepped tentatively out of the truck and surveyed his surroundings.  At that moment, the rusted screen door of the old clapboard house swung open and a pretty girl who looked to be in her mid twenties stepped outside.  Ethan noticed her immediately.  She was small and petite with short blond hair and an innocent face.  When their eyes met he managed a faint smile which she returned before rushing off to assist Emmett.

“Help me unload this stuff and then we should get down to the bunker,” he said, frantically carrying the boxes from the bed of the truck.  

“The bunker?” the girl, Sophie said in a panic.  “What happened?”

Emmett stopped only long enough to look at her with fear in his eyes.  “It’s bad,” he said.  “Earthquake out in California hit as I was leaving.  Should be more headed this way soon.  We’ll take what we can down there today.  Rest might have to stay out here.  Ain’t much room with the three of us.” 

Sophie assisted him in the unloading, watching as Ethan joined in to help.  He moved a box to the side of the house and paused when he began to feel light headed.  His head was better, but the sudden movement hit him like a ton of bricks. 

“Are you okay?” Sophie asked and ran to catch him before he fell.

Ethan nodded while trying to maintain his balance. “Yeah, I think so.” 

“He was hurt in the quake,” Emmett said and joined them.  “This is Dan Cody.  My daughter, Sophie.  We should get you inside and into bed.  Sophie, help him inside while I finish up here.” 

She did as her father instructed, allowing Ethan to lean on her as she maneuvered him inside the house.  They went through a kitchen and into a dark living area with several antique televisions placed throughout.  On a shelf against the wall was a line of transistor radios.  He barely had time to take everything in before she was laying him on a worn textured sofa.

“Thank you,” Ethan said.  As soon as he turned his head, she was gone.  When she returned moments later she had a cold cloth that she laid on his forehead. 

“You just take it easy,” she said, kneeling down beside him.  “You’ve had a long drive.”

“The bunker?” he began to ask.

“Daddy’s being cautious,” she told him, although he got the feeling she wanted to say more.  “It won’t be that bad.” 

He decided to trust her.  What other choice did he have?

 . . . . . . . .

The first night in the bunker was easy because Ethan slept soundly until the next morning.  When he awoke, he was more clear headed than he had been in days.  His name and other details of his life, however, were still a mystery to him. 

The bunker was an old converted cellar with cement poured walls and three cots positioned against the walls.  They used candles and lanterns to see by, and a sterno to heat water for cleaning up and making coffee.  A smattering of dehydrated foods with Property of NASA written on the labels filled several of the boxes Emmett had carried down from the truck.  There was a working toilet and sink with running water, but nothing to heat it with but the sterno.

Stacks of decade old magazines and newspapers were piled around the room, and a transistor radio provided news updates from a local AM radio station.  Despite his memory loss, Ethan still recognized that Emmett and his daughter hadn’t kept up with the times.  Maybe living out in the middle of the wilderness was a sign that they’d defected from society. 

The second night in the bunker while Emmett slept, Ethan decided to question Sophie.  In the dark with only a single candle to see by, they whispered from their cots.

”Does he still think something else is going to happen?” Ethan asked.  “The earthquake was days ago, and three thousand miles away.  There’s been nothing on the news-“

“He does this any time there’s a natural disaster,” Sophie whispered.  “I know you must be thinking we’re crazy.” 

“Well…” 

She checked to make sure he was still asleep, then got up and went to Ethan’s cot and knelt down beside him.  “Since my mother died his mind just isn’t what it used to be.  Spends all his time thinking about the end of the world.  Lost his job with the government and now we live on his pension.” 

“So you don’t think the world is coming to an end?” Ethan asked.

She smiled and shook her head.  “In a couple days he’ll decide it’s safe and we’ll go back up to the house.  It’s just better if he decides on his own rather than me telling him.  He doesn’t like that much.” 

Ethan smiled with a sense of relief.  At least he wasn’t going to be stuck in a cramped cellar for the next few weeks. 

“I just take care of him, you know?” Sophie continued.  “Nobody else will.” 

“You’re a good daughter,” Ethan said in admiration.  “He’s lucky to have you.” 

Staring into his eyes, she paused for a few awkward seconds before flying back to her cot.  “Better get some sleep.  He’ll be up listening to the news in a few hours.” 

“Yeah,” Ethan said and nestled his head down against the flat pillow.  “Good night.”

“Good night, Dan,” she said. 

 . . . . . . . .

Just as Sophie had predicted, by the third day in seclusion Emmett decided it was time to leave the bunker.  There had been no incidents since the big earthquake, so he conceded that this time it was an isolated incident.  His obsession over the eventual end of the world, however, didn’t waver.   While Sophie made breakfast, Emmett sat the kitchen table reading an encyclopedia from 1979.  He concentrated on every word and jotted things down in a spiral bound tablet of graph paper.  When he got up to check something on a map that he’d taped to the wall, Ethan studied his notes.  Emmett’s handwriting was precise and as neat as any he’d ever seen.  More surprising than that were the series of formulas and equations he’d written all over the page.  He was no mathematician, but it appeared legitimate.   He decided to try to get more information about the crazy old man. 

“So what kind of work did you do for the government, Emmett?” Ethan asked as he finished his plate of steak and eggs. 

“How’s that?” he mumbled without looking up from the book.  Sophie turned from the sink and flashed him a look. 

“When you worked for the government,” Ethan repeated, ignoring the warning he got from Sophie.  “What did you do?”   

“That’s classified,” he replied.  In one quick movement, he slid the tablet between the pages of the encyclopedia and closed it.  “Think you’re up to helping out outside today, Dan?  Winter’s coming and that snow fence needs repaired.” 

“Yeah, of course,” Ethan told him.  “I owe you so much for saving my life.”

“Don’t need your first born or anything,” Emmett said, rising from the table and grabbing his jacket from the hook by the door.  “Just need you to hammer a few nails.” 

Ethan grinned and flashed Sophie a look after Emmett left the house.  “Is there something I should know?”

“What do you mean?” she asked. 

“Come on,” he said.  “Your father may be a little out there but he’s obviously a very intelligent man.  And they don’t sell those NASA supplies at Walgreens, so-“

Sophie dried her hands on a towel and shook her head.  “You’d be wise not to ask him again.  Daddy doesn’t like to talk about it.” 

Deciding it was none of his business, Ethan stood up and headed for the door, stopping and flashing her a smile before he left. 

 . . . . . . . .

The perimeter of the house was shrouded in trees, most dead and rotted, so Ethan suggested they cut them down.  After a great deal of protest, Emmett grudgingly agreed.  They spent several weeks going through the painstaking effort of cutting them down, chopping the branches into mulch, and loading compost at the back property line. 

Sophie returned home one day from the market with two paper bags full of groceries.  As she climbed out of the truck, she lifted the bags into her arms and Ethan came running over to assist. 

“Let me get those,” he said, sweaty and shirtless and arm muscles bulging.

Sophie quietly submitted to his offer to help, blushing as she watched him effortlessly lift the bags from her.  When their skin touched, she let out a tiny gasp of excitement and secretly hoped he hadn’t noticed.   Her eyes didn’t move from his strong physique and his tanned skin.  Being around him made her weak in the knees.  She’d grown quite fond of him in the weeks he’d been there.  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt these feelings take over. 

Quietly, she followed him to the old screen door, clumsily opening it and waiting for him to go inside before following.  Once in the kitchen, he set the bags on the counter and turned toward her. 

“It’s pretty hot out,” he said. 

She nodded awkwardly, staring at his body for a few moments until she forced herself to turn away.  “I should get you some lemonade,” she said and hurried to the refrigerator.  “Made it fresh this morning.” 

“Thanks,” Ethan said and wiped his forehead with the back of his dirty hand.  “I could use a break.” 

“Where’s Daddy?”  She busied herself with pouring a glass of cold lemonade, her hand trembling. 

“Down at the compost,” he replied, graciously accepting the glass from her and taking a few heaping gulps.  Afterward, he looked at the bags.  “Do you need any help with these?”

“No, I’ve got it,” she said.  “Sit down and relax for a few minutes.”

He did as she suggested, watching her hurriedly place the groceries in their proper places.   “You like living out here all alone?”

“I’m not alone,” she said.  “I have Daddy.” 

He laughed.  “I mean no one else around.  Nearest house is a mile away.  It’s forty-five minutes to the nearest store.  Must get kinda lonely.” 

She shrugged and pulled a bottle of milk from the bag.  “I get used to it.  I have my dolls.” 

“Dolls?” Ethan asked. 

She stopped what she was doing and moved to the doorway.  “I’ll show you.” 

They went down the hall and into a room beside the kitchen.  Ethan followed her inside where there were shelves attached to the wall with dozens of dolls propped against it.  On a table in the center of the room was sewing machine and piles of fabric.

“You made these?" he asked, walking up and examining one of the dolls.  A porcelain-faced figure with blond hair and aquamarine eyes.

She blushed and nodded with a smile.

“They’re really good.  I always wondered what was in this room.  Do you sell them?”

“Some,” she replied, picking up   “There’s a store up in town that buys them.  Usually around the holidays.  I don’t get much for them but it helps out with what the government gives us.” 

Staring into the doll’s eyes, Ethan got a strange feeling.  Almost like a déjà vu, though he didn’t know why.  It was just a doll.   

“Dan?” Sophie asked when she noticed the faraway look in his eyes.  “Something wrong?”

He set the doll back on the shelf and turned to her.  “No.  I guess not.”   As he turned, he bumped into her and knocked a box of plastic eyeballs onto the floor.   “I’m sorry.  I feel like a bull in a china store.” 

She laughed and knelt down to assist him.  “It’s okay.  Really, I’ll just-“

Their hands touched and they both stopped and looked into each other’s eyes.  The proximity of their bodies propelled him forward and he kissed her on the lips.  To him, it seemed like a natural progression.  They’d been living in the same house for weeks.  They’d shared thoughts and feelings and had an obvious attraction to one another.  He hoped that she wasn’t offended by his actions.  When she returned the kiss, going as far as to place her hand on the back of his head, he soon realized she wasn’t. 

They rose to their feet but their lips never parted.  Sophie moved closer to him, letting her hands move across his chest and arms as they kissed passionately.  The sound of the front door opening and closing didn’t immediately register with either of them, but when Emmett’s voice called out from the hallway they quickly pulled away from one another. 

“What’s going on?” Emmett asked when he appeared in the doorway. 

“I was just showing Dan my dolls,” Sophie replied while grinning knowingly at Ethan. 

“They’re really amazing,” Ethan said, playing along, though wanted nothing more than to continue where they’d been interrupted. 

“I see,” Emmett said gruffly.  “Well, when you’re done playing with dolls I could use some help getting this stump out of the ground.”

Sophie stifled a giggle after her father left.  Ethan placed a hand on hers and gave her a lingering stare before leaving.  When he’d gone, she continued picking up the plastic eyeballs, staring dreamily toward the doorway. 

. . . . . . . .

For the next several weeks, they would wait for Emmett to go to bed, which was usually by nine o’clock, and then Sophie would creep into Ethan’s room and they would spend hours making love and holding each other.  Their first night together was amazing, partly because Sophie had been a virgin up until then and being with a man was new to her.  She’d never felt such pleasure in her life and she’d come to look forward to their secret meetings more than anything. 

Keeping their relationship from Emmett became increasingly difficult, but Ethan insisted on it.  The old man had taken him in, given him a place to live and food to eat, and sleeping with his daughter was no way to repay him.  Sophie reluctantly agreed.

One cold afternoon in the spring while Emmett was in town gathering supplies, Ethan and Sophie went for a walk.  They held hands and talked and when Sophie began to shiver from the cold, he put his arm around her. 

“Does it bother you that you can’t remember?” she asked him. 

“I don’t think about it anymore, really,” he replied.  “Does it bother you?”

She shrugged.   “No.  I just worry that one day all of this will come to an end.”

“Why?”

“Because you had a life before,” she reasoned.  “People who cared about you.  A family.  A woman maybe.  What if you start to remember her and you leave?"

“I love being with you,” he said.  “Can’t that be enough?” 

“It is,” she said and stopped alongside the road.  “I just worry about what might happen, that’s all.” 

Smiling in hopes of putting her fears at ease, he pulled her into an embrace.  “I can’t say what will happen, but right now I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.” 

“Really?” Sophie asked. 

“Really,” he replied and kissed her. 

They stood alongside the road for several minutes, wrapped in each others arms and blocking out everything around them.  When Emmett drove by in his pickup truck and saw them holding each other, neither of them noticed. 

 . . . . . . . .

When they returned from their walk, they resumed their usual pretense and walked inside the house.  Emmett was sitting at the kitchen table with a sour look on his face and looked up when they entered. 

“Daddy, when did you get home?” Sophie asked.

“Few minutes ago,” he said.  “I got your newspapers.  They’re back in your doll room.”

“Thanks Daddy,” she said.  “I guess I better start making lunch.  What are you hungry for?”

“Lunch can wait,” Emmett replied gruffly.  “I need to talk to Dan in private for a minute.  Can you leave us?”

Reluctantly, she walked out of the kitchen and down the hall to her doll room.  Once she was out of earshot, Ethan went to sit down at the table. 

“What’s on your mind, Emmett?”

His question was answered by the barrel of a shotgun that Emmett drew from under the table and pointed straight at him.  Eyes wide, he swallowed hard and immediately began sweating. 

“How long you been groping my daughter?” Emmett asked plainly. 

“Sir?”

“Cut the polite good ol’ boy routine.  I saw you on the side of the road.  Your tongue was so far down her throat I’m surprised she didn’t choke.  How long this been going on?” 

Ethan swallowed hard.  This was exactly what he didn’t want to happen.  “A few months,” he replied, deciding the truth was his only recourse. 

“So let me get this straight,” Emmett said, jabbing a toothpick beneath a fingernail to clean it, all the while the shotgun resting on his leg crossed beneath the table.   “You’ve been sleeping with my daughter under my roof all this time?” 

“I didn’t mean to disrespect you, Emmett,” Ethan said nervously.  “Honestly.  I just…it just happened.”

“You love her?”

“What?”

“Sophie.  Do you love her?  You’re sleeping with her, ain’t ya?  Gotta mean you love her.” 

“Yes, I suppose I do.”

After a few moments of silence, Emmett stood up from the table and hoisted the shotgun over his shoulder.  Then in one swift movement, he put an arm around him and drew him into a bear hug.  Terrified at first, Ethan analyzed his actions and then finally began to relax. 

“I'll be damned,” Emmett said with a big hearty laugh.  “Well this is just the best news I could had gotten.  My baby girl’s finally landed herself a man.”

Smiling, Ethan stepped back, still a little nervous.  “Really?” he asked.  “It’s okay with you?”

“Well, I’m not happy with the way you was sneaking around behind my back, but I guess I can overlook it if you really do have good intentions where my daughter is concerned.  I reckon you’re about the best thing to happen to her since she was born.” 

“Thank you,” Ethan said, relieved. 

“This calls for a shot of whiskey,” Emmett said and went to the cabinet where he produced a bottle of Wild Turkey.  “You do shoot whiskey, don’t you?”

Ethan nodded.   “Yeah, sure.” 

Down the hall, Sophie stood in the doorway and smiled.  She knew her father was protective of her, and was overjoyed that he’d accepted her relationship with Dan.  At least now they didn’t have to sneak around.  One less thing she’d have to worry about, she decided. 

Content, she went to the worktable in the middle of the room where several new dolls were lined up in rows. She took the first stack of old newspapers her father had gotten from town and started packing them securely in a box.  A new store in the next town had taken an interest in them and wanted to sell some, so packing them safely for the trip there was first on her list of priorities.  With any luck, she’d make enough money to get them out of that little town and into a decent house.  She also had dreams of getting her father the help he needed to return his mind to what it once was. 

Humming along softly, she placed each doll in the makeshift padding and then gently secured them inside the box.  The next stack of newspapers she grabbed from the pile boasted a picture that caught her eye.  She paused, unfolded the paper and began trembling as the words came into focus.  

The article was tucked into the corner of the local newspaper and was dated November of the previous year.  She read the headline first and then proceeded to the brief story. 

Heir to Hollywood Studio Dies in California Quake

Below the headline was a picture of Dan, looking well groomed and smiling for a publicity photo.  The text of the article referred to him as Ethan Blackthorne, the son of a Broadway producer and nephew of a Hollywood film mogul.  It went on to report that he’d been at a wedding for his cousin when the earthquake hit, and that he had a son and a fiancé who were mourning his death. 

“Dan,” she whispered to herself, tracing her finger down to a second photo, this one of a beautiful blond woman.  “Oh my God.”  

Panic immediately set in.  Never in a million years did she think Dan Cody, the man she’d grown to love more than anything, was from a wealthy family in Hollywood, with a son and a woman he was about to marry before the earthquake happened. 

Her worst fears began to be realized.  As soon as Dan…or Ethan, saw this, he would know who he was and where he came from.  He would be gone in a flash, back to California never to be heard from by her again.  A tear slowly formed in her eyes. 

“Busy?” called a voice from the doorway. 

She looked up when Ethan entered, a bright smile on his face.   “No,” she said, quickly turning the paper over onto the table.  “How did it go with Daddy?”

“Good news,” he said, walking up and placing his hands on her petite waist.  “He gave us his blessing.  He’s actually thrilled that we’re together.  Isn’t that wonderful?”

She smiled. “Yes, it’s wonderful,” she said in a daze as he pulled her into an embrace. Tears flowed down her face until she began sobbing.

“Hey, what is it?” he asked.  “I thought this would make you happy.  We don’t have to sneak around anymore.”

Looking into his eyes, she realized she couldn’t let him go.  The past few months had been the happiest she’d been in her whole life.  How could she give that up?  Send him back to a woman he didn’t even remember?  A son he wouldn’t even know if he ran into him on the street?

“I’m just really happy,” she said and wiped her eyes. 

He kissed her softly on the lips and went back to the doorway.  “I’m gonna go help you dad with something.  We have to celebrate tonight.” 

“Absolutely,” she said.  When he’d gone, she looked at the newspaper again and quickly folded it into a neat square.  Turning, she tucked it securely beneath the base of one of her dolls. 

 . . . . . . . .

By late that summer, wedding plans were well underway.  It was to be a very simple affair, with only Ethan, Emmett and Sophie present, along with the local pastor and his wife.   But being that Sophie only planned on getting married once, she wanted it to be perfect.

She spent weeks sewing a dress with fabric she bought from the sale of some of her dolls.  At an estate sale in a neighboring town, she found suits that fit Ethan and her father well enough, so she splurged on them and mended holes with a needle and thread.  Since Ethan had no identification to apply for a marriage license, she had him apply for a new one which was easier than anticipated.  The fact that he now had proper identification showing that he was Dan Cody made her feel a little better about things.  She still hadn’t revealed that she knew who he really was.  He was happy marrying her, so she didn’t see a reason to spoil that. 

The ceremony took place in the living room, which Sophie had painstakingly cleaned and decluttered, decorating it with wild flowers from the field behind the house and some papers streamers.  It was brief but poignant, bringing tears to everyone’s eyes, including her father which surprised her. 

“You may kiss the bride,” the pastor said while his wife played a recording of an organ playing the wedding march.

Happily, Ethan lifted Sophie’s veil and kissed her.  Emmett wiped his watery eyes and embraced them both.  Afterwards, he announced that he was taking off for a few days to go on another supply gathering mission.  He joked that leaving them alone as newlyweds was his present to them. 

Alone in the house that night, they made love for the first time as husband and wife.  For the next three days they lounged in bed, went for walks, and laid in each other’s arms under the sun.

The last evening before Emmett was to return, they finished dinner and Sophie said she wanted to get some work done on her dolls.  He sat on a stool across the room poring over a book while she worked.  He couldn’t help but look up every so often and admire her soft beauty, her brilliant eyes and her glowing smile. 

“Are you trying to make me nervous?” she asked while painting a face onto a porcelain doll head. 

“Sorry,” he said.  “I can’t help it.  You’re just so beautiful.”

The distraction got the better of her and she tipped the bottle of paint over.  Slowly, the liquid seeped out across the table, instilling panic as she jumped up to try to stop it. 

“Oh, shoot!” she said and jumped up from her stool.  “I’d better go get something to clean it up with.”  In a flash, she was darting out of the room.

Ethan walked across the room to try to assist.  He bent down to pick up the paint brush and when he stood up again he bumped into the shelves, knocking one of the dolls off and onto the floor. 

“Bull in a china shop,” he murmured to himself with a chuckle.  But when he looked down, his smile faded.  The doll’s head had broken into several pieces.  That’s when he spotted the newspaper clipping tucked beneath the base.   Frowning, he picked it up and unfolded it. 

Confusion quickly set in as he saw his own picture, then the headline and the story about his apparent death in the earthquake.  Realization slowly set in.  This was the life he’d left behind.  The people he couldn’t remember.  The wedding he was racing to get to when he got stuck in that sinkhole. 

“I swear it’s those eyes,” Sophie was saying gleefully when she walked back into the room.  “I can’t concentrate on anything when you’re looking at me like that, Dan Cody.” 

She stopped in her tracks when she saw him holding the newspaper article.

“What’s this?” he asked, eyes wide with alarm. 

She couldn’t speak.  Swallowing hard, she tried to think of what to say.  The truth seemed too selfish.   “Please don’t be upset,” she said, trembling.  “I was going to tell you eventually.  I was just waiting for the right time.” 

“The right time?” Ethan demanded.  “The right time to tell me I have a son?  A fiancé that I was going to marry before that damned earthquake?”

Tears suddenly burst from her eyes.  “I was afraid of losing you!” she cried.  “I knew that the minute you found out about them you would have taken off and left me!”

“You don’t know that!”

“Come on, Dan!  If you’d have known where you came from would you have thought for a second about staying here in this house with my father and I?” 

“I never got the chance to decide that for myself!” he screamed.  “How long have you known about this?”

“Not long,” she said.  “A few months.”

He walked toward her.  “You’ve known about this for months and you never said anything? You let me marry you knowing that there were people who thought I was dead?” 

“It was selfish, I know!” she cried.  “I’m a terrible person!  But I would do it again in a heartbeat!  We have a life together here!  You’re part of our lives, not theirs!” 

“This says I have a son,” Ethan said in a rage.  “A five year old son that thinks I’m gone forever!  How could you do that?” 

Before she could say a word, he was rushing toward her and shaking her hysterically by the shoulders.  She pleaded with him to listen but he was too angry.  In one movement, he pushed her away and watched as she fell back and hit the floor.  The sound of her head cracking against the cement foundation sent chills up and down his spine.  At first glance, she didn’t appear to be moving.

“Sophie?” he said, standing above her.  “Sophie, answer me.” 

But she didn’t.  He quickly scrambled over to her and placed his hands behind her head.  When he brought them back up he saw the blood.  It oozed out onto the floor in huge amounts, covering his hands and matting the back of her head. 

“Sophie, wake up,” he said in a panic and shook her gently.

Terrified, he brought his ear to her mouth and listened for breath.  Nothing. 

Weakly, he stood up.  She was dead.  He’d killed her. 

On the floor, he spotted the newspaper clipping and picked it up in his bloody hand.  Confused and frightened, he ran outside into the night, as far away from her as he could get.  Without thinking, he decided to hide out in the bunker.  It was the only place he could think of to escape to.

He hid in the dark until they came and found him. 

Ethan Blackthorne

The public defender was assigned to Ethan’s case and there was a brief trial in the county courthouse. Misery had overtaken him during the weeks he spent in a small cold jail cell waiting for sentencing.  Whatever happened to him now, he didn’t care.  He’d snuffed out the life of a vibrant young woman whose only crime was loving him.  He’d taken her from her father, a man whom he owed his life to.  Whoever he was in the past didn’t matter.  His real name may indeed be Ethan Blackthorne, but he still felt like Dan Cody, the man who’d spent a year of his life with two fine people who asked nothing of him.  

“Dan Cody, are you prepared for your sentence to be read?” the judge asked. 

“Yes, your honor,” he said.  He could feel Emmett’s eyes burning into his back from the row of seats in the back of the courthouse. 

“Dan Cody, you have been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Sophia Jeanine Lawson.  It is hereby ordered that you will be remanded to the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in the State of New York for a minimum of three years but not more than five years.”

Ethan lowered his head and felt a tear wash down his face.  Five years seemed like such a short time for taking a life as good and innocent as Sophie’s.  At their wedding they exchanged vows they’d written themselves.  Hers were filled with love and emotion.  Eloquent words of devotion that he truly believed came from her heart.  And despite that he had an entire life that he couldn’t remember, he’d still given her as much of himself as he could. 

“Five years!” a voice boomed from the back of the courtroom.  Heads turned and the judge hit his gavel to call order.   “For killing my daughter he only gets five fucking years!?”

And just as Ethan turned, Emmett was tearing across the courtroom and attacking him mercilessly.  Pandemonium erupted and the bailiff sprung into action, desperately trying to pull the man away from him. 

“I took you in!” Emmett was screaming, beating him with his fists.  “I saved you when you needed saving!” 

Instinctively, Ethan shielded his face from the man’s powerful blows.  He couldn’t argue with anything he was saying to him.  He deserved to be attacked, and so much more. 

“She was all I had,” Emmett said, tears running down his face as two police officers drug him away.  “She was all I had an’ you took her from me.  I was right about the apocalypse!  It was you!  You were the apocalypse!"

Frazzled, Ethan watched as the man was taken miserably from the court room.  He was led through the back of the room where a transport was waiting to take him two counties away to the prison. 

  . . . . . . . .

Processing took several hours once he arrived at Arthur Kill on Staten Island.  Prisons in New York State were overcrowded as it was, thus the journey several hundred miles to a facility outside of the normal jurisdiction.  Visions of Emmett’s breakdown in the courtroom plagued him and were far worse than the humiliation of undergoing cavity searches and being sprayed for lice.  By the time he got to his cell, his body ached and his skin was dry and irritated. 

Sitting in the dark, he tried to process the events of the past weeks.  With everything that had gone down since Sophie’s death, he’d barely had time to react to the revelation of who he really was.  The name Ethan Blackthorne meant nothing to him, nor did the details of his life and death that were depicted in the brief newspaper article.  All he knew was that he’d been presumed dead, so anyone who may have known him before the earthquake had no idea where he was.   He was alone. 

“What’re you in for?” a voice called from the darkness. 

Instantly, Ethan looked up, unaware that he had a cell mate.  He stood up just as a man emerged from the dark corner of the cell.   Once he was in view, he saw a man about his height and build, short cropped hair and green eyes.  

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ethan replied. 

The man went to his bed positioned against the wall across the cell and sat down.  “I’m in for drug trafficking, illegal use of explosives, and murder.”  He seemed to gauge Ethan’s face as if waiting for a reaction.  “I’m innocent.” 

Ethan didn’t feel like talking.  He sat rigidly on his bed with his hands hung between his legs.  Whoever his cell mate was, he seemed adamant about his innocence.  He only wished he could say the same about his own situation. 

“Name’s Fenwick,” the man said.  Kyle Fenwick.  What’s yours?” 

Despite not being able to remember anything about his life, he remembered seeing enough prison movies to know that it was a bad idea to start your sentence on a bad note with his fellow inmates, so he obliged the question.

“Dan Cody.”

“Nice to meet you, Dan.”  Kyle stood up and extended his hand to him, which Ethan shook politely.  “How long you in for?”

“Three to five,” replied Ethan. 

“Seven to ten,” Kyle said as if trying to one-up him. 

“How long have you been in?” Ethan asked purely to keep the conversation at an even keel. 

Kyle walked across the room and leaned against the cold cement wall.  “Two and a half.”

“How bad is it?”

“Could be worse.  It’s medium security.  There’s a library and a gym.  You can watch TV in the lounge if you want.  Most guys are pretty okay.  They keep to themselves.  Occasionally there’s a bad seed though.  Especially if you turn out to be a rapist or child molester or something.  For some reason they get after those guys.”

Ethan sighed and laid down on his bed.

“Do you fit into that category?” Kyle asked. 

“No,” Ethan replied.  “I killed my wife.” 

Kyle Fenwick

The first week at Arthur Kill was like being in a fog.  Ethan went about his days getting used to the routines of prison life but barely reacting.  The situation he was in seemed so surreal to him.  His life had changed in an instant.  He half expected to wake up each morning back at the old clapboard house with Sophie cooking breakfast in the kitchen.  Nothing seemed real to him. 

He’d begun to open up and relate a little more with his cell mate, Kyle, including asking him once over breakfast if he was really innocent of the charges against him.  To him, it seemed everyone claimed their innocence in prison.  Half the guys he’d talked to said exactly the same thing. 

“I was set up,” Kyle revealed to him, his tone very serious.  “I was never involved in that drug operation and I didn’t blow up that hotel.” 

“Who set you up?” Ethan asked.

“The guy that owned the hotel I was working at.  He and his son had it out for me and my father so they made it look like I was running drugs through the place.  You heard of Royce Jennings?”

Ethan shook his head. 

“He and my dad had it out for each other.  His son David was working with the detective assigned to the case.  They made it look like the whole thing was my idea, including the fact that the place was blown to bits, taking the evidence with it.”

“Who was killed in the explosion?”

“The detective’s partner.”

“Killing a cop is a big time offense,” Ethan said, thinking Kyle was lucky to have only gotten seven to ten years.

“They charged me with third degree murder since it wasn’t premeditated and I supposedly didn’t blow the place up with the intention of killing anyone.  But the fact is I was with the detective when the bomb threat was called in.  She and I were involved.” 

“And you think she turned on you?” Ethan asked. 

“I know she did,” Kyle said with dark and brooding eyes.  “She and Jennings were in on it together.  And when I get out of here I’m going to prove it.” 

Ethan Blackthorne

“You don’t remember anything before you met these people?” Kyle asked in disbelief a few weeks later when they were working out in the gym. 

Ethan shook his head, grunting while finishing a set of bicep curls.  “It’s like the day I got pulled out of that car was the beginning of my life,” he said after lowering the weights onto the floor.   “Crazy, huh?”

“Yeah.  Did you ever go see someone?  Like a doctor or somebody that might be able to help?”

Wiping sweat from his forehead, Ethan walked to the floor mat across the room and started doing crunches.  “Didn’t really think about it.  Besides, Emmett and Sophie lived like it was thirty years ago.  They had no money to speak of.  I doubt there was even a doctor within fifty miles of their house.”

Kyle sat down at the chest press and laughed in spite of the circumstances.  “If I were you I’d be curious as hell where I came from.  Jesus, Dan, what if someone’s out there looking for you?” 

“They’re not,” he said when he finished his sit-ups.

“How can you be sure?”

He got up and went back to the barbells.  “They think I’m dead.” 

Marco “The Fence” Esposito was a Hispanic inmate serving five years as part of a plea bargain made after a police raid of a New York gang.  Feared by many at Arthur Kill, he ruled his territory with an iron fist.  Over the course of the months since Ethan’s arrival, he’d begun to target him as an enemy. 

One afternoon when the prisoners were allowed free time, Ethan and Kyle were in the lounge with several other inmates who were each glued to the television during the day’s episode of The Young at Heart.

“Are you serious?” Ethan asked with a grin when Kyle took the remote control from him.

“You don’t mess with these guys and their soaps,” Kyle warned with a shrug.  “A few months ago a riot broke out because someone said a disparaging remark about Cassidy Solomon’s acting skills.  He was in the infirmary for a week.”

Amazed, Ethan looked back at the television where Cassidy was amidst one of her legendary scene stealing moments.  When a figure blocked his path, he looked up and saw Marco’s thin form standing before him. 

“Get up,” Marco said.

“Excuse me?” was Ethan’s response. 

“Get up, man.” 

“What’s the problem, Marco?” Kyle asked.

“Your friend, that’s what.  I don’t like the way he looks at me.” 

“I wasn’t looking at you,” Ethan said, hoping to avoid another altercation with the man.   “Just watching the show.” 

Marco responded by grabbing him by the collar of his jumpsuit and pulling him to his feet.  “Think you’re better than everybody else cuz you got money?” he asked, gnarled teeth baring threateningly at him.  Your daddy left you all that money before he took a cap to the chest and now you think you don’t belong here?”

“What?” Ethan asked, alarmed.  “You know me?”

“Marco, ease up,” Kyle said and intervened.  “Let him go.” 

“I know who you are, muchacho.  You can tell everyone your name is Cody but you’re still that guy’s son.  Oh yeah, I read all about you in the papers.” 

“Look, I don’t know who you think I am but-“ Ethan said, prying his hands from him. 

Kyle slipped behind Marco and pulled his arm tight around his neck, muscles bulging as he yanked him forcefully away from Ethan.  He backed him against the wall and held him by the throat while flashing him a look of warning.

“Back off, man,” he said.  “You’ve got my friend mixed up with someone else.  Now go cause trouble somewhere else.” 

Marco struggled to get free, then caught the eye of a prison guard who entered the room.  He finally relaxed and Kyle let him go.  Before venturing off, he flashed Ethan one final glare. 

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Ethan replied and patted him on the back.  “Thanks for having my back, man.  I don’t now what that guy’s problem with me is.” 

“Sounds like he knows you,” Kyle said and watched Marco walk belligerently from the lounge.  “Any of what he said mean anything to you?”

Ethan frowned and concentrated.  “A little.  I don’t know.  It’s like something is right there but I can’t quite place what it is.” 

“Those headaches still bothering you?”

“Yeah, a little.” 

 . . . . . . . .

Drenched in sweat and startled awake in the middle of the night several days later, Ethan sat up on his bunk and stared at the wall across the room.  Breathing heavily and his chest heaving, he uttered the first thing that came from his mouth.

“Brooke…” 

Kyle awoke from his sleep and sat up on his bed.  “What’s up?” he asked groggily. 

“I remember her,” he said.  “Brooke.  We were going to get married. We were…we were going away together to start over with our son.”

“Do you remember anything else?” Kyle asked through the darkness.

Struggling, Ethan shook his head.  “No.  I mean, just bits and pieces.”

“Your memory could be coming back a little at a time.  Don’t force yourself.  Just let it come naturally.” 

Nodding, Ethan laid back down and stared at the ceiling of the prison cell.  He tried to sleep but couldn’t.  He couldn’t stop thinking of the face that had came to him in his dream.  The face of the woman he’d left behind. 

  . . . . . . . .

Hazy memories continued to return over the next few days.  Ethan talked them out with Kyle as they came to him.  His tumultuous relationship with Brooke, the way he’d stolen her from James, the time he was denied the rights to be a father to Michael, and even the details of learning that Will Thomerson had been his father all surfaced within days of one another.  During another free hour in the lounge, they realized that they shared a surprising connection. 

“Your fiancé is David Jennings’s sister?” Kyle was asking in disbelief.

“Half sister,” Ethan corrected him.  “She was Royce’s daughter with a woman named Roz Taylor.  She only learned the truth a couple of years ago.”

“I don't believe it,” Kyle said in a daze. 

“Kinda makes things awkward between us, doesn’t it?” Ethan asked.  “I mean, in the six months I’ve been here you haven’t had a single good thing to say about David Jennings.  Now come to find out I was in love with his sister.  Pretty unbelievable.”

Kyle laughed.  “Yeah, it’s a lot unbelievable.”

“You said your father and Royce were enemies?”

“Yeah.  Business deals went bad and they wound up at each other’s throats.” 

“Like father like son, I guess,” Ethan suggested.

Kyle nodded.  “You’d think so.  I was actually adopted by the Fenwick’s.” 

“What happened to your biological parents?”

“Died in a car crash when I was a baby.  My sister and I went to foster homes and eventually we got split up.”

“Sorry,” Ethan said. 

Kyle shook his head dismissively.  “So what are you going to do?  You’ve gotten your memory back.”

“What do you mean what am I going to do?”

Kyle looked at him with a shrug.  “Well aren’t you going to call and tell them that you’re alive?” he asked.  “You have a fiancé and a son who are mourning you.  Not to mention the rest of your family.  Think of how floored they’ll be when they pick up the phone and it’s you.” 

“That’s exactly why I haven’t called,” he said.  “Can you imagine how devastating it would be for them to hear that I’m alive and in prison for murdering my wife?  All in one sentence?  No, I can’t do that to them.” 

“Well you can’t just let them keep believing you died in that earthquake.  What are you going to do?  Wait till you get out of prison and show up at their door?”

“If I have to,” Ethan said.  “I just can’t tell them is what my life has become.” 

 . . . . . . . .

A few weeks later, Ethan was playing basketball in the prison yard when Kyle emerged in jeans, a gray t-shirt and mirrored aviators covering his eyes.  Grinning, he went to Ethan and gave him a firm handshake. 

“No way,” Ethan said.  “You got parole?”

“On my way out the door,” Kyle said with elation.  “Wanted to make sure I said goodbye first.” 

“I’m gonna miss you, man,” Ethan said and pulled him into a quick embrace.  “I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me these last few months.” 

“You take care of yourself, Ethan.  Look me up when you get out.” 

Ethan moved to the side of the court and grabbed his sweat soaked shirt from a bench bolted to the ground.  “Where you headed, anyway?”

“L.A.,” Kyle told him.  “I’ve got my name to clear.” 

“With David Jennings,” Ethan said aloud.  “At least you can clear your name.  You’re innocent.  I’m here because I deserve to be.”

“Sophie’s death was an accident, Ethan.  It’s time you stopped punishing yourself for it.”

He sighed and folded his arms across his bare chest.  “Would you do me one last favor?”

“Anything.” 

“Look up Brooke when you get to L.A.” Ethan said.  “Find a way to tell her that I’m alive.  Tell her what happened and that I’m sorry.” 

“You want me to deliver the news that the love of her life is alive?” Kyle said with a laugh.  “Oh man.”

“Please do this for me,” Ethan said.  “It’ll be easier coming from a live person rather than me calling her and telling her this kind of news on the phone.” 

Sighing, Kyle reluctantly agreed.  “Okay. I mean, I don’t know how in hell I’m going to walk up to someone and tell them their fiancé is alive and well and living in prison three thousand miles away, but yeah, I’ll do it.” 

“Thanks,” Ethan said and shook his hand.  “Call me after you tell her.” 

“I will.  Take care,” Kyle said before turning and headed through the prison yard.  

Ethan watched him go, smiling as he called after him once more.  “And don’t go falling in love with her yourself!” 

Kyle laughed and turned as he continued walking.  “I never make promises I can’t keep,” he said with a laugh. 

Alex Reynolds

A few weeks later, when Ethan was sitting in the lounge for the inmate’s daily viewing of The Young at Heart, he was surprised to see a familiar face on screen. 

“The role of Faye Richards is now being played by Alex Reynolds,” said a voiceover at the beginning of the first scene.  

Smiling, Ethan leaned forward and watched his Uncle’s ex-wife deliver her lines in a scene with the evil Dr. Max Crawford.

“Is someone there?” she asked from the attic set.  “Dr. Crawford, is that you?”

Before the scene commenced, a news break interrupted the show.  To Ethan’s surprise, reporters were gathered on the steps of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, microphones pointed at Kyle Fenwick as he made a statement to the media.

“Who set you up?” a reporter was asking.

“David Jennings,” Kyle announced before the entire crowd.  “He used me as a scapegoat to cover up his own involvement with the drug operation.”

“Why are you in Los Angeles?  Is it because David Jennings lives here?”

“No.  I’m just trying to start over.”

“What about the other charges?  That you killed a police officer?”

“I’m not a murderer,” Kyle maintained.  “David Jennings killed that cop.”

Ethan turned away from the television, wondering if Kyle had gotten in touch with Brooke yet.  He obviously had his own agenda to work out in L.A. first.  He decided to give him a few more days to make contact.

 Ethan Blackthorne

Weeks went by with no word from Kyle.  Finally, he was informed he had a phone call in the lounge, so he hurried in and answered. 

“Esposito still bugging you?” Kyle asked from the other end. 

Ethan smiled.  “How are things in L.A.?  I see you’ve created quite a stir already.” 

“Yeah, things have been pretty crazy.”

“I’ll say,” Ethan said.  “I saw the coverage of the premier of Angel Assassin 2.  Looks like Alex had a pretty bad meltdown.  Were you with her?”

“We kind of stumbled into a friendship,” Kyle told him.  “But listen, I haven’t made contact with Brooke yet.  I think she’s out of the country or something.” 

“Out of the country?” Ethan asked.  “What for?”

“She used the money you left her to buy herself a share of Sunset Studios.  I guess she’s pretty busy.”  He decided there was no harm in fudging the truth a little.  Brooke wasn't out of the country, but they were planning on scouting locations in Mexico together.  He couldn't resist letting that scenario play out before telling her about Ethan.  

“Well…when will she be back?”

“Not sure.  But I’ll keep you posted.”  He ended the call after giving Ethan a cell number he could use if he needed to reach him. 

 . . . . . . . .

Several more weeks passed again with no word from Kyle.  The next thing he knew he was on the news again, only this time reportedly missing in a location shoot in Acapulco.

“Breaking news from Acapulco this afternoon as details are surfacing involving a film crew on location in the drug-torn Mexican city,” said the news anchor.  “Reports are coming to us that late last night several Sunset Studios crew members were kidnapped from their hotel.  Among them were legendary film star Jack Childers, renowned film director Eric Autumn, and soap opera star Cassidy Solomon.  We’ve just learned that a security guard traveling with the cast and crew was found shot to death in his hotel room.  Mexican authorities claim to be on top of the investigation but no word yet on confirmation that the murder and apparent kidnappings have ties with the warring drug cartels that have plagued much of the country for the last few years.” 

Quickly, he went to the phone.  It was time to take matters into his own hands.  Kyle had said that Brooke was working with the studio, which meant she could very well be one of the crew members kidnapped.  He had to know for sure.  Calling home was his only recourse. 

“What you think you’re doing, hombre?” came a voice from behind.

“Making a call,” Ethan said and lifted the receiver.  “Not that it’s any of your business.”

“Calling your rich lawyers to try to get you out of here?” Marco asked, pushing his chest toward him.  “How bout you tell them to get me out of here and maybe then I’ll let you live, pretty boy.”

“Look, I’ve got to make this call, Esposito.  Back off, will you?  I don’t have time for this.”

“Pretty cocky, ain’t you, boy?” Marco said and inched closer.   “How bout I fuck that smile off your face?”

Still panicked over the latest news from home, Ethan reacted in the only way he knew how.  He took the phone cord and wrapped it tightly around Marco’s neck, pulling hard and forcing him against the wall. 

“I’m not going to say it again,” Ethan said through gnashed teeth.  “Back off or you’ll regret it.” 

“Let him go!” called a prison guard who entered the room.  He darted over and released Marco from Ethan’s restraints.   “What the hell’s going on here?”

“He attacked me,” Marco said and coughed and wheezed, clutching his neck.  “I just wanted to use the phone and he freaked out on me.”

“He’s lying,” Ethan said.  “I’ve got to call home and find out if Brooke is okay.  I-“

“Not happening,” said the guard, pulling Ethan’s arms behind his back.  “Because of that stunt you’ve lost your phone privileges for a month.”

“You can’t do that!” Ethan said, writhing in his grasp as he was pulled out of the lounge.  “I have to call home!  It’s an emergency!”

But despite his protests, he was led back to his cell and thrown onto the bed.  The sound of the door clanging shut caused him to cringe. 

Mackenzie Stone

To Ethan’s relief, news reports weeks later alerted him to the fact that Brooke had been safely returned home.  The jet’s arrival back in L.A. was heavily covered by the media.  He sat in the lounge and watched them de-board the plane.  When he saw Brooke emerge on Kyle’s arm, he sat in silence while staring at the screen. 

He began using his daily phone privilege to call Kyle using the number he gave him.  In the few short conversations they had, Kyle told him that he was still working on their arrangement.  Telling Brooke that he was alive was risky business and he claimed to have to proceed with caution.  Ethan began to realize he was lying to him. 

Then one day in December a woman came to see him.  In six months of being in prison he’d never had a single visitor.  No one knew he was there.  What was more strange was that the woman called him by the name he invented for himself. 

“You’re Dan Cody?” she asked in disbelief while sitting on the other side of the glass.

“Who wants to know?” Ethan asked, staring at the woman with the long black hair and the porcelain features.

“I’m Mackenzie Stone.  I’m Kyle Fenwick’s sister.” 

Immediately, Ethan sat forward. 

“Kyle said you knew each other during his sentence.”

“Yeah, we were cell mates.  Did he send you here?  Is this about Brooke?”

“You mean that you’re blackmailing my brother into taking Brooke Taylor's fortune?” Mackenzie asked.

Ethan looked at her in confusion.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.  “Kyle is supposed to tell her I’m alive.  He’s supposed to explain how I got in here.” 

Mackenzie looked into his eyes.  “How do you know Brooke Taylor?”

“She’s the mother of my son,” Ethan told her.  “We were supposed to be married a year and a half ago but I got hurt in the earthquake and-“

“You’re Ethan Blackthorne?” Mackenzie asked.

“Yes,” he replied.  “I’m Ethan Blackthorne.”

Mackenzie ran a hand over her face and gripped the phone tightly in her hand.  “I hate to be the one to tell you this, Ethan, but Kyle hasn’t said a word about you to Brooke.  As a matter of fact, he’s been masquerading as your brother to get close to her.”

“My brother?” Ethan asked in confusion.

“He’s gotten her to fall in love with him,” Mackenzie said. 

James Blackthorne

Later that same day, Ethan received another visitor.  This time, when he was brought out from his cell into the visitation area, he sat down and looked into the eyes of the last person he expected to see.  But then again, the woman who'd been there that morning probably filled him in on her discovery.  

"Hello Uncle James," Ethan said through into the receiver.  Suddenly, he came to the realization that everything he'd hoped


Next time....

James tries to get to the bottom of Ethan's prison sentence.  Kyle's fate is revealed.  Mackenzie hopes for another chance with James.  

 

 

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