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Episode 138

 

Release Date:  April 21, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Benji panicked when Jordan told him he'd called the police, believing he was the one who robbed his house. Jordan learned that Heather had read Suzanne's book, and had a disturbing reaction to the news of Brett and Suzanne's affair.  Brett tracked Suzanne down at Warren Abbott's compound in Death Valley, but she turned him away.  Ashton told Benji that Sierra had a right to see whomever she wanted.  Benji went to Blake, who confirmed the rumors that Sierra and Ashton were growing closer.  Blake pleaded with Benji to talk to the police, but Benji still had the gun he'd obtained from Van's house.  Renee and Sierra had a heart to heart about relationships over dinner.  Later, T.T. stopped by Renee's asking if they still had a chance.  Despite her true feelings for him, she turned him away.  Benji called Sierra and pleaded with her to talk to him.  She agreed to meet him.  In his car parked at a lookout, Benji pleaded with Sierra to take him back.  When she refused, he grew distant and shot Sierra in the stomach.

 


  

Episode 138

"Nobody Lost, Nobody Found"

 

Darkness enveloped the meandering stretch of Mulholland Drive.  Someone ignited a roadside flare and placed it next to the scene of the accident.  Two police cars and an ambulance were the first to arrive on the scene.  A two car pileup awaited them.  The driver, who was intoxicated, had crossed lanes and left both automobiles a twisted heap of smoldering metal and glass.

“What do you need and where do you need it?” asked a paramedic who maneuvered a second ambulance onto the scene.

“Over there,” directed a police captain and pointed for clarification.  “Two passengers were thrown from the second car.  Haven’t found one of them yet.” 

“Drunk driver?” the paramedic asked cynically.

“Walked away without a scratch,” he replied and pressed on through the rubble and debris from the accident. 

Glimmering reflections of light from the stars flickered across her wide open eyes that still stared up at the night sky.  The radio still played silently and her hands were still gripping the seat as they had been in the moments that she took her last breath.  The driver’s side door was open and the seat beside her was empty.  Beside the silver BMW, Sierra’s car was still parked unattended. 

There had been a car accident a half mile down the road, a body thrown hundreds of yards and another still missing.  When the police had arrived on the scene, they began scouring the wooded area, and that’s when they found her, alone with a bullet in her stomach and blood seeping onto the floor of the car.

The officer flashed his light inside the car, across Sierra’s face and down to her blood-soaked blouse.  Just one year on the force and still completely unused to scenes like this one, he adjusted his hat and ran a hand over his clammy face.

Following his training to the letter, he radioed for backup, then proceeded to inspect the scene with a keen eye.  A dead body, no sign of the perpetrator, the car still running, an abandoned car a few feet away, and the murder weapon discarded on the empty driver’s seat.  He went to the abandoned car, a shiny new black Mercedes, and found a purse inside with identification. 

Detective Rodriguez arrived as backup and went to the officer for a briefing on what had happened. 

“Looks like a gunshot wound to the abdomen,” he surmised.  “I’d say she came here to meet someone, got in their car, took a bullet, and the killer ran off on foot.”

“Who was she?” Rodriguez asked. 

The office flashed him Sierra’s driver’s license. 

“Damnit,” Rodriguez said with a sigh.  He knew who she was. “Get the dogs out.  If this guy’s still in the area I want him found.” 

James Blackthorne

James and Kenny were enjoying drinks at the Polo Lounge.  They’d decided it had been too long since they’d gone out and shot the breeze about life and everything going on in their worlds, so they’d met up and sat jubilantly at a table near the back of the dimly lit restaurant.

“Come on,” Kenny was saying with rocks glass in hand.  “Did you ever think at this age you’d be dating again?”

“Absolutely,” James replied with a laugh that came from deep in his gut.  “When Brooke and I divorced the second time I told myself I was a confirmed bachelor from there on out.  No more marriages for me.”

“So you wouldn’t marry Mackenzie?” Kenny asked, fishing through the dark for his phone when it began ringing.  “James, she’s a knockout.” 

“She’s also a pain in the-“ James began, but stopped when Kenny answered his phone mid-sentence. 

“Kenny DeWitt,” he answered, still shaking his head in amusement.

“Kenny, it’s Detective Rodriguez,” the man said while standing at the lookout.

“Rodriguez,” Kenny said.  “What’s up?”

“I’m sorry to bother you but I thought I should call you first.” He watched as more and more police officers arrived on the scene.  In the distance, the sound of hounds barking broke through the still night.  “You’re still listed as an emergency contact for your step-daughter.”

“Sierra?” Kenny asked.  Technically she wasn’t his step-daughter, but was at one time and came close a second.  “Why, what’s wrong?”

“I’m at the Hollywood Bowl lookout off Mulholland.  Can you get up here right away?”

James detected the look of concern on Kenny’s face and quickly sat forward. 

“Rodriguez, what is it?”

He looked back at the car and the body of the young girl in the seat, detectives snapping pictures and taking fingerprints from every surface.  “We found a body. Just get up here as soon as you can.”

Benji Rydell

Forced through the doors of the police station by two uniformed officers, Benji was thrust into a seat in the already packed waiting room.  He looked around the area while the officers checked with the girl at the desk.  Something about being full up and there had been an epidemic of emergencies that night.  When they returned to him, he looked up with a confrontational look on his face. 

“We’ll have to keep you out here until an office opens up,” one of them said. His badge read Robinson.

“What am I even doing here?” he demanded, blue hooded sweatshirt zipped up to the nape of his neck. 

“You’re wanted for questioning in a robbery,” Robinson told him.  “What were you doing wandering around the hills at night?”

“I went for a walk,” he snorted. 

“Were you hiding out?” he asked.  Your roommate told us you were at home earlier tonight when we came looking for you.  Got a guilty conscience or something?  Did you steal that stuff from your dad’s house?”

“Nope,” he said, shifting in his seat.

Robinson, or whoever he was, leaned in to his seat.  “Your daddy wants to teach you a lesson for breaking in and taking all his stuff,” he began.  “Told us he kicked you out too.  Maybe you don’t have much to lose.  What were you doing up there wandering around Mulholland?”

Benji looked away, folding his arms belligerently while watching two more police officers leading a drunken man inside the station.  Disorder quickly commenced and so he prepared himself.  It would only be a matter of minutes before they traced the car to him, and then his connection to Sierra.  His big mistake was leaving the gun behind.  But he panicked.  He was in shock after what he’d done.  But how could he go on knowing Sierra was out there and choosing not to be with him?  He had to do something.  He had to make the pain go away.  After, he’d stumbled through the brush and down the rocky hill in a daze.  That’s when they found him.

“What do you got?” Robinson asked the newcomers. 

“This is our drunk driver,” the female officer replied, struggling to keep the man upright.  “One critical at the scene and another still missing.   You hear about that dead girl on the lookout?”

“No, when?”

“Bout an hour ago. Bad night on Mulholland,” the female officer said.

Benji swallowed hard and began to sweat.

Kenny DeWitt

Much of the road was blocked due to an accident, so they pulled over and continued on foot.  When James and Kenny arrived at the lookout, there were still a half dozen police investigators combing the dark area.  The first thing they saw when walking up the road was the coroner’s van.  A bleak look crossed their faces. 

“Rodriguez!” Kenny called when he spotted his friend from the force.

The detective approached quickly, placing a comforting hand on Kenny’s shoulder and offering a look of sympathy.  “I’m sorry to have to drag you up here but I need a positive ID.” 

“There’s got to be some mistake,” James said.

“I hope so,” Rodriguez said, stopping two men from the coroner’s office as they wheeled the sheet covered body on a stretcher.  He took a breath and lifted the sheet from her face. 

“Oh my God,” Kenny whispered, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index finger.  His eyes filled with tears and he went to touch Sierra’s face.  “God, no…”

James put an arm around him for support, his eyes stinging and his face twisted into a state of confusion.   “What happened?”

“Someone shot her,” the detective told them.  “We found her in that car right there.”  He gestured to Benji’s BMW for clarification.

Kenny ran forward, noting Sierra’s black Mercedes parked beside it.  “That’s her car,” he said, hands on his head in a panic.  “What was she doing here?”

“We don’t know yet.”

Kenny turned to James and repeated himself.  “What was she doing here?”

“It looks as if she was here to meet someone,” Rodriguez explained.  “Got in his car and he killed her.” 

“He?” James asked, unable to take his eyes from the stretcher as the coroner loaded Sierra’s body into the van. 

“The car’s registered to Jordan Rydell.” 

They both looked at him, startled.

“This is Benji’s car,” James said after looking at the vehicle.  “She was killed in his car?”

“Where is he?” Kenny asked.

“Fled the scene."

”James ran his fingers through his hair.  “You don’t think he did this, do you?  Maybe he’s a victim too.  Maybe he went to get help.” 

Rodriguez’s expression clued them into the fact that they were grasping at straws.  He’d seen this way too many times.

“I have to go and tell Renee,” Kenny said, his face drawn.

James put a hand on his shoulder.  “I’m coming with you.” 

Benji Rydell

They put Benji in a chair in a glass enclosed interrogation room at the police station.  He sat, arms folded, watching through the glass at the commotion the drunk driver was causing.  It took three police officers to restrain him. 

“Are you ready to call someone?” Robinson asked him. 

“I told you I didn’t steal anything.” 

The other officer walked into the room and handed Robinson a piece of paper which he read silently to himself before flashing his eyes toward Benji. 

“Were you aware there was a murder less than half a mile from where we picked you up?” he inquired.  “Know anything about that?”

“No,” he said in a controlled tone. 

“That’s interesting,” the officer continued.  “She was found in your car.”  A beat while he waited for him to respond.  “Still want to waive your right to make a phone call?”

“My car was stolen,” Benji said. 

“Right,” he said with a doubtful shake of his head.  “Of course it was.  When was it stolen?”

“Earlier today.”

“And who took it?”

“A guy named Ashton Childers.  You should be talking to him, not me.” 

The other office made a note on a pad of paper while exchanging glances with Robinson.   “You’re a real smart ass, you know that?”

Benji frowned, annoyed by his response.

“Investigators say the gun used to kill her was stolen from a police officer a few nights ago,” the officer said to Robinson.  Some hooker made off with that and some cash.” 

Robinson turned back to Benji.  “Met up with any hookers lately?” he asked.  “Maybe strangled one in an alley off Hollywood Boulevard a few nights ago?”

Benji frowned with a roll of his eyes.  “I don’t fuck hookers.” 

“No, you just kill them,” he said.  “So this girl they found in your car, was she a hooker?”

Folding his arms, Benji sat silently in the chair.  He knew the evidence was already weighing against him.  All he could do was deny it.  It had worked for his whole life up until now.  To this day, he still maintained that he hadn’t raped the dean’s daughter at Beau Soleil, even though he could still see the look of fear in her eyes as he held her down and did what he knew she’d been begging for. 

“Looks like he’s done talking,” Rodriguez said to his partner. 

Benji stewed angrily.  He hated that they talked like he wasn’t there.  He hated that they assumed he might be a murderer.  When the drunken guy started flailing about making a scene out in the waiting area, he formulated a plan. 

“He ran out in front of me!” the guy was screaming in a drunken haze.  “I couldn’t even see the fucker!”

Once guns were drawn and the drunk had the female officer in a choke hold and Robinson and his partner raced out to assist, Benji jumped from his seat.  This was his only opportunity to get away before they locked him up for good.

The female officer dropped her keys during the struggle with the drunk driver and Benji quickly retrieved them, tearing out into the night and checking the squad cars that were right in the vicinity.  He jumped into one and sped off through the parking lot just as Robinson came barreling outside, his gun drawn. 

Jordan Rydell

At home, Jordan paced back and forth in the living room.  Alex sat uncomfortably across the room while watching him stalk from one end of the room to the other.  They spoke no words, only meeting one another’s glances periodically as if to see what the other was thinking. 

When the doorbell rang, Jordan tensed.  Moments later, the butler ushered Brett inside.  In his arms, Violet slept soundly.  

“It’s after eleven o’clock,” Brett said.  “What the hell was so damn important that you have to have me come all the way over here?  I do have a three-year-old, you know.”

“Alex, take Violet into the other room,” Jordan demanded. 

Quickly, she did as he requested.  Brett grudgingly let her go while he looked at Jordan in confusion.  

“What’s going on?”

Heather knows,” Jordan said after Alex had left the room.

“Knows what?”  The creased in Brett’s forehead deepened with each passing second.

“About you and her mother.” 

“How?”  Panic quickly set in. 

“She read that goddamn book!” Jordan screeched.  “Do you want to tell me how she got a hold of it?”

Brett blinked a few times and gestured toward his chest. “You think I showed it to her?” he asked in disbelief.  “I can’t even get near her thanks to you!”

Someone sent it to her,” Jordan said, his voice rising.  “If it wasn’t you, then who was it?”

“You’re the one who threatened to tell her after you lost the custody suit!  You wanted to punish Suzanne for testifying for me!  If anyone’s to blame for this, it’s you!”

Jordan quickly realized he’d targeted the wrong person.  He turned and started pacing again.  “I was angry when I said that,” he admitted.  “I would never hurt my daughter intentionally.  Maybe it was a reporter.” 

Who cares who did it,” Brett said.  “What are we going to do about Heather?  If she knows about my affair with Suzanne, I’ll never get my family back together.  Have you seen her or talked to her?’

He shook his head.  “Dr. Bouvier said I should wait.  He said she’s acting out toward everyone and that he’s concerned about a setback in her treatment. Just when she was starting to show promise.” 

“I have to go see her.  I have to explain.”

“Explain what?  That you and Suzanne couldn’t keep your hands off of each other?  That the only reason I found out was because Benji found out first and set it up so that I would-“ 

He stopped mid-sentence as the pieces of the puzzle slowly came together.  “It was Benji,” he said, devastated.

“You think he sent the book to Heather?  Why would he do that?”

“Why else?  To punish me.” 

Benji Rydell

Careening through the night in the stolen police car, Benji gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles.  Panic and disorientation plagued his senses.  He had no destination in mind, only to get away.  Far away from the police and from the horror at the lookout.  He sped down Fountain Avenue, ran two red lights turning onto Las Palmas, and took Lexington all the way to Highland.  By the time he started heading north, he saw two police cruisers in the rearview mirror, their lights on and sirens wailing through the night. 

Cursing silently to himself, he repeatedly hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand.  From the police radio he could hear calls coming from the station alerting all units to be in the lookout for the car and the murder suspect who’d escaped custody. 

A muffled cry escaped his throat and he quickly shut the radio off.  They didn’t understand that it wasn’t like that.  He wasn’t a murderer.  He just had to stop the pain of Sierra leaving him.

Renee DeWitt

After luxuriating in a hot bath, Renee put on her robe and enjoyed a nightcap while listening to Sinatra on the stereo.  The doorbell interrupted her quiet time and she rose from the sofa, certain that it was T.T. returning with another attempt at changing her mind about him.  In actuality, her resistance wasn’t about him, it was about herself.  Her own fear of being hurt again by any man. 

With a sigh, she swept across the room and pulled the door open.  To her surprise, it wasn’t T.T., but James and Kenny, each with solemn expressions on their faces. 

“James,” she said, then narrowed her eyes on Kenny.  “What is this?  Kenny, if you’re here with another lame apology, you can save your breath.  I’ve heard my share of empty promises tonight.”

“It’s not about us, Renee,” Kenny said.

“That’s fantastic, because it’s not happening,” she said, moving aside when they strode into the living room.  “At least you’ve finally realized it’s over between us.” 

“Renee, we need to talk,” James said, standing beside Kenny as she shut the door.  “It’s about Sierra.” 

“Sierra was just here,” she said and gestured to the door.  “We had dinner and talked for hours.  I really think she’s finally in a good place.”

“Renee-“ Kenny said, staring at the floor while he tried to summon the strength to tell her what had happened.  He didn’t know where the words would come from, but he had to find them. 

“What did you need her for?” Renee interrupted.  “You should probably wait until tomorrow.  She was going straight home to bed.”

James closed his eyes tightly for a moment.  “Renee, we really do need to talk to you.” 

She could sense the severity of his tone. “Okay,” she said.  “But make it quick. It’s late and Sierra and I have plans early in the morning.” 

They walked deeper into the sunken living room and exchanged quiet glances.  Renee followed them, certain that something was wrong.

“Okay, so what is it?” she asked, wringing her hands together. 

“It’s about Sierra,” James repeated. 

“What about Sierra?”

Kenny gestured to the sofa. “Maybe….maybe we should...uh…sit down for a second.” 

She shook her head.  “No, I’m fine.  What about Sierra?”  She was beginning to grow frightened by their faces and the sounds in their voices.  She wished they would just say what they came to tell her.

“Something happened tonight after she left here,” James said, struggling to maintain his composure.  He couldn’t let her see him get upset. 

“She went up to that spot…the lookout point at the Hollywood Bowl,” Kenny added.   “It appears that she was meeting someone.”

Renee continued shaking her head.  “She was going home.  She left here and she went home.” 

Kenny reached out and took her hands in his.  Behind him, James’s eyes flooded with tears.  “There was an accident down the road,” he explained.  “The police were searching the area and they found Sierra in a car.  She’d been….she’d been shot.”   A pause while he waited for her to register the information.  “She didn’t survive.” 

Instantly, Renee pulled her hands from his and staggered back a step. “No!” she screamed.  “I don’t want to hear it!”

“I’m sorry,” Kenny said, his eyes pleading as she began walking away. 

“No, no, you’re wrong,” Renee said and gestured to the door.  “You’re wrong.  Sierra’s meeting me tomorrow for breakfast.  We’re going shopping.  She’s meeting me on the terrace.” 

“No, sweetheart, she’s not,” James said in misery over the devastation in her eyes. 

Kenny went to her again and tried to reach his hand out to her but she pushed him away.

“No!” she screamed.  “No! No! No!” 

“I’m so sorry,” James cried.  “Sierra is gone.” 

Renee walked back across the room and sat down on the sofa.  They quickly went to her and sat down on either side of her. 

“No, Sierra isn’t gone,” she said, her voice quavering.  “She’s isn’t gone.  We have plans.  We have plans for breakfast and to get manicures.  She’s thinking of going back to school.  She has her whole life ahead of her.  No, she isn’t gone.  She wouldn’t do that.  She wouldn’t.” 

“Kenny and I saw her,” James said.  “We went up to the lookout and we saw her, Renee.”

Quickly, she stood up.  “Well then you know that she can’t be gone.  She’s still alive.  If you saw her then…”   A muffled cry escaped her throat and she covered her mouth with her trembling hands. 

“We saw her body,” Kenny went on.  

“I know that it’s so hard to accept,” James said, walking to her.

“How could you leave her there?” she asked, shaking her head.  “How could you just leave Sierra up there like that?  You said you were there so where is she?  Where is my baby girl?”

“Renee, the coroner-“

“They don’t know Sierra,” she said, going to the table where they’d been eating and began cleaning up.  “She had plans to go back to school.  She wanted to sing.  She wanted to do things.” 

The extent of her denial was excruciating to James.  Watching her reason the truth away brought a flood of tears to his eyes.  When she began crying hysterically, he rushed toward her. 

“Nothing stops Sierra when she wants something, okay?” she went on.  “Give me the number of the coroner.  Let me talk to them.  I’m her mother.  I want to know.  I want to see my baby girl.  I want to help her get better.”

“She can’t get better,” Kenny said.  “She’s gone, Renee.” 

“Then I want to see her,” she said, wiping her eyes.  “Am I just supposed to believe you when you tell me my little girl is gone?  No, I want to see her for myself.”

Jordan Rydell

Pounding on the door startled Jordan away from his conversation with Brett.  He couldn’t think of anything else but the possibility that it was Benji who’d sabotaged Heather’s recovery.  Everything else seemed trivial at the moment. 

“Jordan Rydell?” asked a police officer when he opened the door.

“Yes.”  He looked at them blankly.

“We need to talk to you about your son.” 

Jordan groaned with frustration.  “If this is about the robbery, I’ve already told you guys everything I know.  I’m sure it was Benji who did it.  Just arrest him already.” 

“It’s not about the robbery,” the officer said.

“Then what?” he demanded crossly.  “What has he done this time?”

“May we come in?”

Jordan ran his fingers through his hair and gestured into the foyer before letting his hand drop to his side with exasperation.  Brett emerged from the living room and looked on with concern. 

“Some officers picked your son up a little while ago wandering around Mulholland Drive,” the policeman began.  “They took him in for questioning in the robbery.” 

“Good.  Did he confess?”

Alex came down the stairs after putting Violet to bed.  She went to Jodan’s side and looked on intently. 

“They later discovered that a young woman had been murdered near the spot where they picked Benji up,” he continued.  “She was found in your son’s car.” 

Alex gasped, holding her hands over her mouth.  She saw the look of confusion on Jordan’s face and lowered her hand to his. 

“I don’t understand,” Jordan said.  “Are you telling me someone was murdered in Benji’s car?”

“Unfortunately, Benji escaped custody before he could be questioned,” the officer went on.  “He took one of the squad cars from the station.”

Jordan turned and looked at Alex and Brett in disbelief. 

“Who was the woman?” Brett asked. 

“Sierra Merteuil,” the officer told him.  “Does she have any connection to your son, Mr. Rydell?”

Jordan turned white as a sheet.  “Sierra?” he asked, his heart sinking in his chest.  “Sierra is dead?” 

“She’d been shot at close range with a nine caliber pistol.” 

“Oh my God,” Alex whispered, placing a hand on her chest while trying to comprehend the news. 

“Did your son know her?” the officer repeated. 

He nodded slowly, staring at the floor in a daze.  “She was his girlfriend,” he said slowly.  “She broke up with him a couple of weeks ago.” 

The policemen exchanged glances, which Jordan picked up on immediately.

“Just because she broke it off with him doesn’t mean he killed her,” he said loudly.  “My son is not a murderer.” 

“Then do you have an explanation of why he fled custody?”

Jordan shook his head in agony.  “He was probably scared,” he said.  “He…he was confused and he….” 

Alex pulled him close as he began to break down.  “Jordan, I’m so sorry.”

“No,” he said and pushed her away.  He looked at Brett and then at the police officers.  “No, my son wouldn’t have done that.  He wouldn’t have killed Sierra.  He loved her.” 

“Mr. Rydell, I know it’s difficult, but we’ve seen cases like this far too many times and-“

“Stop saying that!” Jordan bellowed.  “He didn’t do it!   He didn’t…he didn’t kill her!”

They looked at each other again.  “We have a number of cars in pursuit of him right now,” one of them said.  “They’re proceeding with caution.  They don’t want to alarm him or cause him to act out in any way.  We’d like to ask a few questions about your son if you have a few minutes.” 

Jordan was too bewildered to react.  Brett saw the pain in his eyes and took a few steps forward.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asked. 

Jordan laughed in spite of the grave circumstances.  “You can find Suzanne and get her ass back here,” he said before turning and leading the officers into the drawing room.

Benji Rydell

Speeding north on Highland, Benji watched the police cars through the rearview mirror.  His hands were sweaty and his head pounded furiously.  He unzipped his sweatshirt in an attempt at cooling down, but the tell-tale blood stains on the t-shirt underneath sent him into even more of a panic. 

Images of Sierra’s lifeless eyes staring up at the night sky plagued him.  He’d held her in his arms after she’d died.  She couldn’t push him away.  She couldn’t tell him that everything they’d shared had been a mistake.   Those last few moments that he spent with her were precious to him.  No one could take them away. 

Blackthorne Mansion

Miranda and Stormy arrived home within seconds of each other and went into the parlor where Brooke and Ethan were waiting.  They could see the forlorned looks on their faces and immediately knew something was wrong. 

“What’s going on?” Miranda asked.  “Brooke, you sounded terrible on the phone.  Is it Daddy?  Is he okay?”

“He’s fine,” Brooke said and left Ethan’s side.  “He called a little bit ago with some very sad news.” 

“What kind of news?” Stormy asked.  He’d just gotten back from taking T.T. Levitt to the airport when he got Brooke’s call. 

“Sierra died,” Ethan said solemnly. 

Miranda looked at him with wide eyes and then turned her gaze toward Stormy.  “What?”

Stormy slowly sunk to the arm of the sofa, staring off in a daze.  “She’s dead?” he asked.  “How?”

Brooke looked uncomfortably at Ethan before replying.   “She was murdered.” 

“Murdered?  She couldn’t have been,” Miranda said in shock.  “Sierra was the sweetest, most giving-“ 

“We were just as shocked as you were,” Brooke said.  “James and Kenny are with Renee right now.” 

“She must be destroyed,” Miranda remarked, her glassy eyes beginning to flutter with the weight of her tears.  “Sierra was everything to her.” 

“Who would have murdered her?” Stormy asked.  “I don’t understand.”

Brooke cleared her throat.  “They seem to think that Benji had something to do with it,” she said.

“Benji?” Miranda lamented.  Why Benji?”

Brooke shook her head dismissively.  “They found her in his car and when they questioned him, he took off,” she explained.  “I don’t really know anything else.” 

“Jordan,” Miranda said and ran to the phone. “I have to call Jordan.” 

“James already tried,” Ethan said.  “Brett’s there with him and said they have to keep all the lines open in case Benji calls.” 

“Well then I’m going,” Miranda said and started to the door. 

“There’s nothing you can do, Miranda,” Brooke said.

She spun back around.  “I’ve got to do something!” she cried. 

Benji Rydell

It wasn’t so much that Ashton had been hovering around Sierra for the last several weeks.  He could have dealt with him himself, the same way he did Malcolm and Hunt.  But he could feel her slipping away from him.  He saw the dejection in her eyes and the way she regarded him as if he were a stranger.  How could she think that after how close they’d gotten? 

Benji was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn’t immediately notice the convoy of police cars that had amassed a few hundred yards ahead.  A road block had been established, several officers with their guns drawn positioned near the line of squad cars. 

Blake had turned on him, his father had turned on him, his mother abandoned him.  But the thing that hurt more than anything was that look in Sierra’s eyes when she looked at him.  It’s me, he wanted to say.  The same person you gave yourself to that night at Paradise Cove.  The one who held you tight and made love to you.

She didn’t listen.  She continued to pull away.  The rejection felt like chaos in his mind.  He had to silence it.  He had to silence her.  He knew if he did he would feel better.

When the roadblock came into view, he gripped the steering wheel harder.  He was not going to let them take him.  He only did what he had to do.  In their minds, he’d done something wrong but he knew it was the right thing to do.  It was the only way the chaos would stop. 

The police raised their guns as the car came closer.  The lights from their patrol cars created dizzying patterns on the road.  Benji pushed his foot harder against the pedal.  The car lurched forward faster and faster. 

When the police realized he wasn’t going to stop, they scattered.  Benji squeezed his eyes shut when the car plowed through the police cars directly in his path.  Sparks from metal scraping metal flew into the air and pieces of steel scattered in every direction.   Glass windows shattered.  The force of the collision caused Benji’s car to spin around two times before screeching to a stop just on the other side of the blockade. 

It took a few moments, but once he realized he’d made it though unscathed, he looked up at the bewildered faces on the police officers.  They started to come for him.  He quickly stepped on the gas and spun the car back in its original path.  Squealing tires and smoke lingered in the distance as he gunned the engine and sped away.

It was all for him.  The convoy, the roadblock.  He panicked, realizing he would eventually have to stop running, and when he did, he would see her eyes staring at him.  He would see the vacant look that was permanently etched into his mind.  The chaos would return and he would be left with nothing but the realization that Sierra was gone forever. 

Tears flooding his eyes, he drove faster.  What had he done?  He thought that living in a world without Sierra was better than living in one where she didn’t want to be with him.  But flickers of doubt kept eating away at him.  Silencing her seemed devastatingly permanent all of the sudden. 

Jordan Rydell

Jordan walked down the stairs wearing a jacket and jiggling his keys in his hand.  Before he made it to the bottom landing, Alex was already approaching fast. 

“Where are you going?” she asked.  “Jordan, you can’t do anything to help.  You just have to wait.”

“Don’t tell me I can’t help,” he said irately.  “I have to help.  I have to do something to…fix this.” 

“You can’t,” she said, stopping him and placing a hand alongside his face.  “You have to let Benji go.” 

“Let him go?” Jordan asked with a frown. “He’s my son.  Jesus, Alex, I know I’ve been hard on him lately but it was only to teach him a lesson.  Having the police suspecting him of murder is entirely different.  No, I have to do something.”

Just then, his phone rang.  He fished it from his pocket and checked the display.  Eyes wide, he looked at Alex with a hopeful expression. 

“Benji,” he said when he answered.  “Son, where are you?  What’s going on?”

“Daddy,” Benji cried from the squad car as it barreled down the road.  “Please help me.  I can’t do this.” 

“You don’t have to, Benji,” Jordan said, pacing the foyer while Alex watched him in painstaking suspense.  “I’ll help you.  I promise I will.  Tell me what’s happened.”

Shaking his head in agony, Benji stared at the road ahead through a haze of tears.  “I had to make it stop,” he cried.  “It just kept getting louder and louder.”

Jordan shook his head.  “What kept getting louder?” he asked. 

“Everything!” Benji cried.  “It just wouldn’t go away.  I thought that if Sierra was gone not because she wanted to but because she had to, that it would stop, but it didn’t.”

Jordan stopped his manic pacing.  His eyes flickered past Alex’s and he turned pale and his legs grew weak and immobile.  “You…killed Sierra?”

“It was the only way,” Benji said, shaking his head as he sped through the night.  With his vision blurred, he swerved into the next lane.  Cars honked at him and he quickly maneuvered back on course.  “I just wanted it all to stop.”

Jordan swallowed hard.  Hearing his son admit that he’d taken another life, the life of an innocent young woman, made him sick to his stomach.  How could he have raised a child to grow up and do something so horrific?   Where had he gone wrong? 

The only thing he knew was that he had failed him, and he wouldn’t do it again.  No matter what Benji did, he would always protect him.  No matter what. 

“Benji, please just stop the car,” Jordan said.  “Pull over and let’s talk, okay?”

Benji shook his head.  “I just want to come home,” he said.  “Daddy, please let me come home.  I promise I’ll stop doing bad things.  I promise.  I’ll make it up to you and to Heather and to everyone I hurt.  I just want to come home.” 

Jordan blinked away a few tears that welled up in his eyes.  “Yes, come home, son,” he said.  “Just come home and I’ll take care of everything.” 

“Promise?” Benji asked. 

“I promise.  Just come home and we’ll figure it out.”

“Okay,” Benji said, wiping his eyes and nodding.  “I will.” 

Jordan sighed with relief.  “Okay.  Hurry.  I’ll see you soon.”

Benji nodded.  “I love you, Dad.” 

“I love you too, son.”   He hung up and looked at Alex.

She went to him immediately, knowing that he would need someone to lean on. And just as he’d been there for her after rehab, she wanted to be there for him.  

Benji Rydell

Benji clicked off the phone and dropped it into the seat beside him.  He looked around to try to get an idea of where he was.  He’d been driving in circles, zig-zagging between the same two streets so much that he had grown disoriented.  The sky was pitch black and there weren’t many cars on the road.  It made it difficult to see. 

Deep down, he knew that his father couldn’t help him.  He couldn’t pull strings and get him off this time.  The only thing going home would accomplish would be for him to see the look of disappointment on his father’s face.  He couldn’t do that. 

Staring through the windshield, he tried to focus on the road.  The pounding in his head grew worse with each second.  Then he saw something ahead, illuminated in the headlights.  It made everything go away.  The voices, the pounding in his head, the chaos.  They were all gone.

Sierra. 

She stood in the road in a flowing yellow dress and beautiful ebony hair cascading down her shoulders.  She looked enchanting.  Benji smiled, relieved to see her.  The twinkle in her eyes made him feel like none of the bad things the past few weeks had happened.  They were still married and happy.  He wanted to reach out to her and to be with her.  He wanted to take back what he’d done. 

But then she changed.  Her face turned to one of pain and misery.  Blood poured from her stomach and ebbed from her mouth.  Benji shook his head to dispel the image.    When he looked at the road ahead again, Sierra was no longer there.  In her place, he saw his mother.

“Mom,” he said, tears exploding from his eyes.   He watched her standing perfectly still in the road, smiling at him like some kind of angel.

When the car got closer, he panicked, turning the wheel in a hasty effort to avoid hitting her.  But in the blink of an eye, she was gone, vanished as if she’d never been there.  In her place were the cement pylons that supported a stretch of highway 101.

The car smashed head-on into the pylon, crunched like an accordion, glass and metal flying in every direction.

Renee DeWitt

The coroner led them into a room at the hospital.  Renee thought that since they weren’t in the basement, it meant her daughter wasn’t in the morgue.  And if she wasn’t in the morgue, then James and Kenny were wrong. 

“Are you sure about this?” Kenny said before entering the room.  “You don’t have to do this, Renee.” 

“Kenny, I have to show you that it’s not her,” she said indignantly.  “Then we can go home and put this whole misunderstanding behind us.” 

James and Kenny exchanged worrisome glances while following her into the room where a stretcher stood in the center of the room, a sheet covering the body that rested on top. 

“Renee-“ James said and reached for her. 

“Stop, please,” she said and pushed his hand away.  She looked at the coroner and nodded.

Slowly, the man took the sheet and lowered it.  James closed his eyes with sadness after seeing Sierra’s face that was void of any sign of life. 

Renee looked at her daughter, her lip quivering.  She turned away, breathing heavily and fighting to control her emotions.  They were right.  Her daughter was gone, taken from her quickly and mercilessly.  Inside, her stomach churned and her heart ached. 

“Renee?” Kenny said and reached for her.  “Are you-“

“My baby,” she sobbed, turning back to Sierra’s body and placing a hand along her face.  “Oh my God, my baby girl….” 

Kenny’s heart broke over the sound in her voice and the pained expression on her face.  What mother deserved this?  No parent should outlive their child. 

“My baby,” she cried, sobbing hysterically and refusing to leave her daughter’s side. 

James went to pull her away but she pushed him violently, returning to Sierra and throwing her arms around her motionless body.

“Oh God…” she cried, shaking her head in agony.   “My beautiful baby girl….”

“Renee,” James said, trying desperately to pull her to him.   "Maybe we should step outside."

“Who did this?” she cried.  “Who did this to my daughter?”

When neither Kenny nor James replied, she turned to them.  “Who did this?” she screamed. 

“Renee, we don’t know the details,” Kenny began.  “All we know is-“

“Who murdered my daughter?” she screamed at the top of her lungs. 

Kenny reached out to her, holding her hands in his.  After she seemed to have calmed down a little, he decided he had no choice but to tell her.  “We don’t know the details, but the police are questioning Benji-“

The sound of his name sent alarm coursing through her body.  “Benji?” she said, horrified.  “He did this to my baby girl?  He killed her?”

“Renee-“ James said, but it was too late.  She was tearing out of the room. 

Benji Rydell

The paramedics burst through the doors of the emergency room, wheeling Benji’s mangled body strapped onto a gurney.  Several police officers were present, making mild attempts at questioning the EMT’s on his condition.  When Dr. Farraday arrived, however, he ordered them out of the room. 

“What have we got?” he asked the emergency personnel.

“Multiple lacerations, at least nine broken bones, possible spinal cord injuries,” one of them stated.  “Pulse is very weak.  He’s lost a lot of blood.”

“Has he been conscious?”

“No.”

“Prepare the O.R.,” he told a nurse who stood in line beside him.  “We need to open him up right away and stop the bleeding.” 

“Right away,” the nurse said and wheeled the gurney down the hall with the assistance of two other nurses.  

Brett Armstrong

Brett took the Sunset Studios helicopter to Death Valley, cutting the usual five hour drive down to a ninety minute flight.  When they neared the compound, the pilot began to set the chopper down in a clearing a few hundred yards away.  Once he got the all clear, Brett darted through the night.  He could see the glow of the bonfire in the center of the compound, and detected the rustling of the inhabitants when they became aware of his presence. 

“Mr. Armstrong,” Warren Abbot said as he emerged from his ten.  Behind him, Linda followed.  “You certainly know how to make an entrance.”

“Where’s Suzanne?” he demanded, in no mood for the man’s word games.

“Suzanne made it clear she didn’t want you around,” said Ross when he approached with several other followers.  “She has a new life here in New Abbott.  She doesn’t need you and the disappointments she left behind.” 

“Suzanne has secured her position with us,” Warren added.  “I’m sure she would support me in asking you to leave.” 

“If it’s just the same, I’d like to hear that from her,” Brett said and barreled past them.  He began searching the tents for her, calling her name.   “Suzanne!  Suzanne, where are you?”

“Leave now and you’ll avoid the consequences,” Warren called after him. 

Moments later, Suzanne emerged from one of the tents.  She looked at Brett and then at the Warren and Ross who stood by prepared to stop him.  

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Suzanne, I have to talk to you,” Brett said, relieved to see her.  “It’s about Benji.” 

“Brett, I told you that I’ve left all of that behind.” 

“He’s your son!” Brett argued.  “He needs you, Suzanne.  Something’s happened and you need to be there.  You need to be with your family.”

“Would this be the same family who abandoned her?” Warren asked, following Brett. 

“Nobody abandoned her,” he snapped.  “Suzanne, please.  Benji needs you.  You don’t have to come back for me or for Jordan or for anyone else, but do it for your son.”

Suzanne looked at him blankly.  “Thank you for coming, Brett,” she said slowly.  “Triumph in the inner power.”

Frustrated, he turned to leave.  Maybe she was a lost cause.  Whatever brainwashing techniques these people used on her, it had a strong hold on her will power.  Maybe she wasn’t strong enough. 

But he couldn’t just leave without trying.  He turned and grabbed her, throwing her over his shoulder and making his way up the hill to the clearing where the helicopter was waiting.

“Let go of me!” she screamed.  “Put me down!”

“This is for your own good,” Brett said, ducking when they neared the chopper blades that kicked dust and dirt up all around them.

Ross tried to go after him but Warren waived a dismissive hand through the air. 

“But he’s taking her!” Ross exclaimed. 

“Don’t worry,” Warren said with a self-assured grin.  “She’ll be back.  Mark my words, she’ll be back.” 

Ross sighed, watching as the helicopter rose from the ground and started heading west again. 

Jordan Rydell

In his scrubs, Dr. Farraday walked into the waiting area just as Jordan and Alex raced inside from the parking lot. 

“Neil, what’s happened?” Jordan asked in a panic.  “How is he?”

“He was in bad shape when they brought him in.  I got the internal bleeding stopped,” Dr. Farraday said, holding a hand out to calm him.  “He’s got some immediate internal problems that I need to go in and look at again but I need your consent to do it.” 

“Do it,” Jordan said.  “Anything.  I don’t care.”

“I’ll do everything I can,” Farraday said.  “A nurse will be by with some forms for you to sign.”

Jordan shook his head adamantly.  “I don’t care about the damn forms.  I care about Benji.  How bad is it?”

The doctor leveled a sincere look at him.  “It’s bad,” he said.  “I’m not sure that anything I do in there is going to help.” 

“You’re saying my son could die?” Jordan asked.  Alex clung to his arm. 

Dr. Farraday took a deep breath.  “The odds are against him.  Time is of the essence.” 

“Then go!” Jordan screamed. 

“I’ll update you as soon as I can.” 

After he’d gone, Jordan turned to Alex who pulled him into an embrace.  When the elevator doors opened and Renee emerged with James and Kenny on either side of her, he pulled away from her instinctively. 

“You God damn son of a bitch!”  Renee screamed, racing toward him and slapping him hard across the face.  “My daughter is dead!  My daughter is dead because of your insane, demented cretin of a son!”

Jordan recoiled, shielding his face from her fists as she pummeled him mercilessly.  James and Kenny tried to restrain her but in the moment she was fueled with grief. 

“How could you let him do this to her?” Renee cried hysterically.  “How could you let him take her away from me?”

“Renee, I didn’t know he would-“

“Yes you did!” Renee screamed. “You knew!  You knew what he was capable of!  You and I both know that you’ve been aware of what he’s capable of for years.  You just chose to ignore it.”

“No, I-“

“You son of bitch,” Renee said, slapping him again.  “My daughter is gone because you couldn’t do what needed to be done!” 

“Renee, please, let me take you home,” Kenny said while pulling her back. 

Alex watched with wide eyes, tears in her eyes as she saw the devastation that had overtaken Renee. 

“This is on your head, Jordan,” Renee said, pointing a finger at him as she trembled uncontrollably.  “You should have stopped him.  You should have stopped him!”

Finally, she allowed Kenny to lead her back out of the room. 

“I’ll take her,” he told James.  “You stay here.” 

“I’ll call you in a while,” James said and patted him on the back.   After they left, he turned to Alex.  “I heard Benji was in an accident.  What happened?”

“He crashed the police car,” she told him. 

“How?” James asked.  “I mean, was it an accident?  Were the police in pursuit?”

Alex shook her head and looked across the room at Jordan who paced back and forth in misery.  “We don’t know,” she said softly. 

“Do you think he crashed on purpose?” James asked.  “I mean, do you think he meant to…”

Alex looked at him and sighed.  “I don’t know.” 

“My son did not kill himself,” Jordan railed when he overheard their conversation.  He approached steadfast, eyes riveted to James.  “How can you even think something like that?”

“Jordan, I’m sorry, I didn’t-“

“Do me a favor and keep your theories to yourself, James,” Jordan cut him off.  “Or better yet, get out of here and worry about your own family.” 

Alex closed her eyes, distraught over seeing him in such turmoil.  She knew it was only a matter of time before he broke down completely. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Ethan, Brooke, Stormy and Miranda went to the hospital after getting the call about Benji’s accident.  When the giant automatic sliding doors opened from the parking lot, they rushed inside.  They took the elevator up a floor and everyone raced over to James and Alex. 

“Daddy,” Miranda said and hugged him tightly.  “Is there any news?  How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad, sweetheart,” he said. “Benji’s in the operating room.” 

“How is Renee?” Ethan asked, placing a comforting hand on Miranda’s shoulder.

“She’s devastated,” he told them.  “Kenny took her home.  If you could have seen the look in her eyes when we told her about Sierra.  It was the most awful thing I’ve ever witnessed.  I don't know if she'll ever recover from this."

“She doesn’t deserve this,” Miranda said, her eyes tearing up at the thought of Renee losing her only child.  It made her maternal instincts kick in even more than before.  All she could think about was protecting her daughter from the ugliness of the world. 

“This is just awful,” Brooke said, her arms wrapped around herself as she looked at Ethan and then Stormy.  “All I’ve been thinking about is how none of us really made an attempt to get to know Sierra.”

Stormy nodded in agreement.  “She’s family but I can’t remember the last time I sat down and had a conversation with her.” 

“We weren’t very supportive,” Miranda said solemnly. 

“Don’t beat yourselves up,” James said.  “If anyone’s to blame it’s me.  I should have integrated her into the family more.  The sad fact is that I don’t think she wanted to be.  After she found out Nathan was her father, she sort of withdrew from most of us.” 

“We should have tried harder,” Brooke said tearfully. 

. . . . . . .

Miranda approached Jordan across the room.  She stepped tentatively, afraid to disturb him but at the same time wanting to let him know that she was there for him.  When Jordan saw her, he pulled her into an embrace. 

“I’m so sorry,” Miranda said.  “Are you holding up okay?”

He nodded, his hand lingering in hers.  “I just don’t know what happened, Miranda.  I don’t know what was going through his mind.” 

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” she assured him.  “Once he’s out of surgery, he’ll be able to tell us what happened.  Until then…”

“I already know what happened,” Jordan said.  “The same thing that happened to Heather.  I’ve done such a bang up job of raising my children that they’ve both literally self-destructed.”

“Stop,” she said, placing a hand on his chest.  “These are two totally different situations.” 

Jordan closed his eyes.  “My son killed Sierra in cold blood.  Genetics is the only thing I know that can keep me from believing he’s a monster.” 

. . . . . . .

Alex decided it was as good a time as any to approach Stormy.  When she did, however, he greeted her with the same hostility that he had for the past few weeks. 

“Stormy, I want you to know that-“

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say,” he said to her, cold as steel eyes burning into hers.  And with that he turned and walked to James and Ethan. 

Alex stood behind, eyes watering.   Couldn’t he even take a break from his resentment during a time like this?  She began to wonder if he would ever forgive her.  After what happened to Sierra and Benji, she’d realized how precious family was.

. . . . . . .

Ethan saw Brooke hovering across the room and could immediately tell that she was about to lose it.  He knew her better than anybody. 

“Are you okay?” he asked tenderly when he approached.  

She wiped her eyes and nodded.  “I don’t know why I’m so upset.”

“Because you have a big heart,” he said.  “And because you hate seeing other people in pain. That’s one of the big reasons I fell in love with you.”

She recognized his words as the first glimmer of the old Ethan she once knew.  Since he’d returned, he hadn’t said a single nice thing to her.  Seeing the softer side of him made things a little easier to take. 

“Do you remember when you first moved into the house?” he continued.  “Miranda couldn’t stand you.  In fact, she was horrible to you.”

“How could I forget?”

“I walked into the parlor one day and found you crying.  When I asked you what was wrong, you didn’t say anything about what it was doing to you.  You were worried about what your being there was doing to James and his relationship with his daughter.  That’s the Brooke that I remember.  The one that I fell in love with.” 

She looked at him for a long time, as if realizing for the first time that he’d been gone for a year and a half.  She’d changed a lot since then.  Maybe he was expecting her to be the same naïve woman she was back then. 

Renee DeWitt

Kenny took Renee home and gave her a sedative.  Lying on her bed clutching a framed photo of Sierra, she shook her head miserably.

“Why?” she cried, her eyes stained with tears.  “Why did he take my baby away from me?”

“Shhh,” Kenny said, running his hand alongside her face.  “Try to get some sleep.” 

“I can’t,” she said, although her eyes were growing droopy.

“You’re going to get through this.”

“How?”

His eyes fell and he shook his head.  “I don’t know.” 

Within minutes, she was half asleep, the frame still gripped tightly in her hands.  She flailed about fitfully, waking once and screaming out in hysterics.  Kenny eased her back against the pillows and soothed her with a gentle hand on her forehead. 

“T.T.,” she murmured in her sleep.  “T.T., I need you.” 

Kenny sighed, took off his shoes, and sat in the chair beside her bed.  He stayed awake most of the night and watched her sleep.  He knew she would need someone in the morning. And as much as she hated him, he was determined to be there for her. 

Alex Reynolds

By one o’clock in the morning, there had been no word from the operating room.  Brooke, Ethan and Miranda were sitting quietly in a row of chairs while James paced back and forth.  Across the room, Alex approached Jordan and placed a hand on his back. 

“You haven’t said anything in over an hour.” 

“I don’t know what to say,” he told her. 

“Say anything,” she pleaded. “Tell me how you’re feeling.”

He laughed in spite of himself.  Shaking his head, he turned toward her.  “You want me to say that I’m a terrible father because I turned my back on my son when he needed me?” he began.  “You want me to say that if I’d just believed in him none of this would have happened?  Sierra would still be alive and he wouldn’t be in there on an operating table?”

She put her hands alongside his face and brought him closer.  “What happened tonight is not your fault,” she said.  “Do not do this to yourself, Jordan.” 

. . . . . . .

Across the room, Stormy entered and Miranda looked up inquisitively. To her surprise, Eddie appeared just behind.  Hoisting herself up from the chair, she rushed over to him.

“When did you get back?” she asked, pulling him into an embrace.  “I thought your case wasn’t over for another week.” 

“The hospital called me about Blake so I came right back,” Eddie said, squeezing her tightly.

“Blake?” Miranda asked.  “What happened?”

“He was in an accident earlier tonight,” Eddie told her.

“Oh my God,” Miranda exclaimed.  “What happened?  Is he okay?” 

“He and Ashton Childers were in driving up Mulholland and a drunk driver came out of nowhere.  They were both thrown from the car.  Blake’s stable but Ashton's not doing so good.  He’s in critical condition.  They don’t think he’s going to make it.” 

Miranda gasped.  “This is the worst night ever.” 

“The weird thing is the accident happened less than half a mile from where they found Sierra,” Stormy informed her.

“What?” Miranda asked, alarmed by the coincidence. 

Ashton Childers

Three Hours Earlier

"Are you okay?" Ashton asked when he picked up the phone and heard Sierra's voice.

“I’m fine,” she said from her cabana at Moonshadows.  “Benji called me.  He wants to meet and talk.” 

“You’re not going to, are you?”

“I think I am,” Sierra replied, slipping into her shoes by the door.  “He sounds so miserable, Ashton, and I can’t help but think it’s all my fault.  I feel like if we can just hash things out once and for all it might help him to move on.” 

“You’ve hashed everything out, Sierra,” Ashton said.  “Let him get on with his life so you can get on with yours.” 

She sighed.  “I knew you were going to try to talk me about of it.” 

“Isn’t that why you called?” he asked with a smile.  “Because I’m the voice of reason?”

“Maybe,” she said with a shrug.  “But the more I think about it, the more I’m sure this is what I have to do.” 

“Well, just be careful.  I think he’s a loose cannon.  Where are you meeting him?”

“The lookout at the Hollywood Bowl,” she replied. 

“I hope it gives you the closure you need,” Ashton said, then looked at his phone when an alert signified that he had another call.  “Call me tomorrow.” 

“Bye,” she said and hung up. 

After Ashton switched over to the other call, Blake began talking a mile a minute.  “Have you seen Sierra?  Is she with you?”

“I just got off the phone with her,” he said.  “She’s at home.  Why?”

“Benji left here a little while ago and he was totally freaking out,” Blake told him.  “Ashton, he had a gun.”

“Are you serious?”

“He thinks you’re taking Sierra away from him,” Blake explained.  “People have been talking and-“

“Jesus, Sierra’s going to meet up with him right now.  He said he wanted to talk things out.”

“What?” Blake exclaimed. 

. . . . . . .

Ashton picked Blake up in his car and they headed up Mulholland to the lookout point.  It was dark on the winding road and Ashton had to squint to see the yellow lines in front of him.  

“You’ve been friends with Rydell for a while.  Do you think he’d do anything crazy?”

“I don’t know,” Blake said, shaking his head.  “I know he wouldn’t hurt Sierra.” 

“Still, I think we should be there in case things get out of control.” 

. . . . . . .

After leaving Sierra’s cold body in the passenger’s seat of his car, Benji dropped the gun on the seat and ran off on foot.  He didn’t know where he was going but he knew he had to get away.  His emotions see-sawed back and forth.  One minute he felt the rushing sense of relief that it was over, and the next he felt alone and terrified at the image of her soul disappearing before his very eyes. 

Scrambling through the darkness, he descended on the hill from the lookout and started down the road on foot.  In the distance, he could see a car coming his way.  The headlights were so bright he had to look away.  From the other direction, another car was racing toward him.  One seemed to be veering out of control, snaking between lanes as it approached. 

Blinded by the lights and by the pounding in his head, he darted across the road to safety.  The car swerved away from him and hit the other head on.  Benji could hear the sound of twisted metal grinding together, the explosion of glass shattering, and screaming from the passengers.  

He hadn’t a moment to lose.  He had to get away now.  He had to get far away from the lookout and the voices. 

. . . . . . .

At the moment of impact when the driver hit them, Blake and Ashton both crashed through the windshield, their bodies sailing through the air and landing in the brush over a hundred yards away.  In the quiet of the night with only the sounds of crickets chirping and coyotes howling in the distance, they laid unconscious and bleeding. 

Jordan Rydell

The waiting room was silent when Jordan looked up and peered down the hallway toward the operating room.  He saw Dr. Farraday emerge with a nurse and quickly rose to his feet.  The others sat quietly waiting while Jordan took the long walk down the hall to where the doctor stood.  The sound of his shoes tapping against the sterile floor echoed down the corridor.  The journey felt like it took hours.

When he finally reached the door, the look on Farraday’s face was all he needed to confirm what he’d felt in his stomach for the past few hours. 

“We did everything we could,” the doctor said with a look of sympathy.  “His internal injuries were just too severe.  I’m so sorry, Jordan.  Benji’s gone.”

It took a few minutes but Jordan finally let the news sink in. Claustrophobia overtook his senses.  He had to remind himself that this wasn’t a horrible nightmare.  Everything seemed so surreal to him.  He wouldn’t have the opportunity to make things right.  He wouldn’t be able to tell his son how sorry he was for turning his back on him when he needed him.  It seemed so final to him.

Dr. Farraday asked if he wanted to see him and he said no.  He wasn’t sure why.  He just knew that he couldn’t look at him after what he’d done to him.  He knew that later he would regret it. 

Slowly and without expression, he turned and walked back down the hallway to the waiting room.  His knees felt like rubber.  His legs only moved because he forced them to. 

When he entered the room, the others stood and approached him.  He told them the news and looked away so he didn’t have to see their shocked faces.  Miranda burst into tears, covering her mouth with her hands.  James put an arm around her while Eddie and Stormy embraced warmly.  Alex simply shook her head in disbelief.  Brooke, whose body jolted back a step upon hearing the news, closed her eyes tightly while Ethan knotted his fingers through hers. 

After a few minutes, they all gathered their things from their chairs and left the waiting room with an overwhelmingly sick sense of finality.  At the elevator, James placed a hand on Jordan’s back while guiding him inside.  They rode down in silence with shocked faces and quiet tears. 

In the parking lot, they dispersed to their own cars.  Jordan exchanged a few words of thanks to James and Miranda before he and Alex got in and drove home.  In the quiet of the night, they walked up the steps to the front door and went inside. 

In the entryway, Alex turned to say something but Jordan was already walking up the stairs.  He entered Benji’s room and looked around at the Blink 182 posters and shelves of CD’s and video games that lined the wall.  He closed the door and sat down on the bed. 

In his mind, he repeated the words that Dr. Farraday had spoke to him after the surgery.  We did everything we could.  Benji’s gone.  After a while, he couldn’t remember his exact words.  He didn’t know why it mattered but it did for some reason.  Then he thought about the last time he saw Benji, and tried to memorize everything about it even though it hadn’t been a very pleasant conversation.  Instead he tried to think about the last time they were together before everything went wrong.  It seemed too long ago to remember.

He lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, holding the pillow close.  We tried everything we could.  Benji is gone.  That didn’t seem right.  What were his exact words?  At the very least he thought he should be able to emember what the doctor said when he told him his son was dead. 

Eventually he fell asleep, knowing that when he woke everything would seem even hazier to him.  The only solace he found was that the last words he’d spoken to his son were that he loved him.  He hoped it would be enough, but he knew it wasn’t.


Next time....

The family gathers to pay their respects. Brett doesn't understand Suzanne's behavior.  Alex and Miranda are concerned about Jordan.  James pays tribue through alcohol.

 

 

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