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Episode 37

 

Release Date:  September 1, 2006

 Read the episode Recap 

 

Previously...

Ethan was arrested for suspicion of kidnapping after his handkerchief was found in the secret tunnels outside the nursery. James visited Ethan in jail and they had it out over their differences involving Brooke and the baby.  Later, Will provided a false alibi for Ethan, who was subsequently released.  After Jordan still couldn't account for his whereabouts the night of the kidnapping, Alex told James that he should have him investigated.  Stormy became wary of Heather's strange behavior. Stormy discovered that the detective's report Brett had gave to James about Gwen's past was phony.  Brooke went to Ethan and tearfully claimed that she believed in his innocence.  

 

 


 

Episode 37

"A Tale of Two Women"

 

Jordan decided to go across the street to the Bel Air Carlton for lunch.  He left his office at Rydell Productions and informed his secretary he'd be back in a couple of hours, then proceeded to the elevators.  When the doors opened, his eyes darted to Detective Baines who stood in the car with another police officer.

"Jordan Rydell?" Baines asked and showed him his badge.  "Do you have a minute to answer a few questions?"

Unable to hide the guilty look in his eyes, Jordan nodded and gestured back into his office.  "Hold my calls," he said to the secretary before closing the door.  Inside, he turned to the detective and folded his hands neatly in front of him.  "What can I do for you, Detective?"

"You can start by telling us where you were the night before last," Baines questioned in an authoritative manner.

Jordan's eyes narrowed on him and he sat down on the edge of his desk.  "I was on my yacht," he replied.

"All night?" Baines asked with a raised eyebrow.  "Your wife says you didn't come home until the next morning.  Do you spend the night on your yacht frequently, Mr. Rydell?"

Immediately Jordan became alarmed.  What had Alex been saying about him to the police?  "Yes, as a matter of fact I do," he replied and then frowned harshly.  "What is this about, Detective?"

"We're just following up on a lead," the detective replied smugly.  "Did anyone see you at the marina who can verify your whereabouts that evening?"

Jordan shook his head.  "No. You're following up on a lead about what?"

Baines leveled his eyes on him.  "The kidnapping of Michael Blackthorne," he replied flatly.  "It seems that you've made some comments about James Blackthorne that could be construed as threatening."

Reeling from his wife's betrayal, Jordan flew to his feet and placed a hand on his forehead  "You have got to be kidding me," he shouted.  "My wife asked you to come here?"

"I'll ask the questions," Detective Baines ordered, a flicker of warning in his dark brooding eyes.  "Did you take the baby, Mr. Rydell?"

"No!" Jordan bellowed.  "What would I have to gain by kidnapping a baby?"

"Maybe because you think Blackthorne is moving in on your wife.  They were married once, and now they're in business together.  Do you harbor any negative feelings about that?"

Jordan shrugged with frustration. "Of course I do but that doesn’t mean I would kidnap his son.  This is ridiculous."  A thoughtful pause.  "I want my lawyer present before I answer any more questions."

"That's your right," Baines replied.  "And when you talk to him tell him that we're getting a court order to have your property searched.  That includes your yacht."

"What for?"

"Anything that could clue us in to the location of the missing Blackthorne baby."

Jordan blew a strand of hair from his eyes and looked around in amazement.  "Am I being arrested?" he asked.  "Because all you're going on is speculation.  You have no proof of anything.  My lawyer will see that these charges are dropped so fast your head will spin, and then you'll look like a fool."

Baines hesitated briefly and then shook his head.  "You're not under arrest.  But I'd like to remain available for further questions."

Jordan gritted his teeth angrily.  He couldn't believe what was happening. Alex had gone too far this time.

Blackthorne Mansion

James was in the parlor with Miranda and Brett when Stormy came home and darted into the room.  His eyes burned into Brett's and held up a copy of Dennis Carlyle's original report about Gwen.

"Just what the hell are you trying to pull over on us?" Stormy asked in a rage. 

Immediately Brett knew that his deception had somehow been discovered.  He stood up and looked at his brother-in-law with wide eyes.  "What are you talking about?" he asked, feigning innocence rather unconvincingly.

Before Stormy could respond, the front doors opened and Brooke rushed in with Ethan fast on her heels.   She spotted everyone in the parlor and led him inside the room, a panicked look on her face.

"Brooke?" James asked.  "What's wrong?  You've been gone a long time."  He looked past her when Ethan entered the room from behind.  "What the hell are you doing here?  I can't believe you'd have the nerve to show you face here. Criminals don't usually return to the scene of the crime."

"Ethan didn't kidnap our son," Brooke claimed, shaking her head in protest.

"Damnit, Brooke!  You can't keep looking at this with blinders on! "

"It's true, James," Ethan said.  "I didn't kidnap Michael.  I told you that."

Angered by the way his wife persistently defended him, James folded his arms and leveled his eyes on Ethan menacingly.  "Nobody buys your phony alibi.  Will Thomerson isn't exactly a strong defense," he announced. "Besides, the police have evidence that places you outside the nursery on the night of the kidnapping.  They found your handkerchief."

"He wasn't in the tunnels that night," Brooke said, her eyes darting toward Miranda.

Terrified by the inevitable accusations that would surely be made against her, Miranda took a step back and looked at her father with red, watery eyes.  She swallowed hard, feeling everyone turn to look at her.

"But Miranda was," Brooke continued, then glared accusingly.  "Weren't you, Miranda?  You were the one who dropped the handkerchief outside the nursery."

James, Brett and Stormy turned to look at her, immediately noting the guilty look on her pale face.  She was hiding something and James knew it.  But kidnapping her own brother?  He knew she was jealous but to go that far was unthinkable.

"So what if I was?" Miranda said defiantly.

"Miranda?" Brett said, suddenly realizing why she'd been acting so strangely since the kidnapping.  "What were you doing in the tunnels?"

"How did you even find out about them?" Stormy questioned his sister, unwilling to believe she had anything to do with the disappearance of their baby brother.  "We just found out yesterday that they even existed."

Miranda felt her eyes sting with tears and she looked at everyone with hurt in her eyes.  She hated the fact that her own family was treating her like she was some kind of monster.   "What are you saying?" she asked.  "That you all think I'm the kidnapper?"

"It would make sense," Brooke replied, her tone full of contempt.  "You've been jealous of Michael since the day we brought him home.  Hell, you were jealous before he was even born."

"That's not true!" Miranda sobbed, the walls feeling like they were closing around her.

"Miranda, were you in the tunnels or not?" James demanded.

"You said it yourself, Miranda," Brooke continued relentlessly.  She glared at her furiously, a year of resentment culminating in one heated moment.  "You hated my baby because he was taking your father away from you!"

"No!" Miranda cried and backed up away from her.

"Suddenly you weren't daddy's little girl anymore," Brooke taunted, trembling from head to toe.  Her eyes were clouded with tears and she felt like she would break down at any minute.  "Just like when I moved into the house last summer.  You couldn't stand having to share your father so you did everything you could to break us up.  You could have killed me that night in the driveway!"

"Brooke, please-" James said, reaching out to his tortured wife.

She shrugged him away, her eyes riveted to Miranda.  "But that baby.  He was innocent. You couldn't handle it so you took him away from us!"

"Stop it!" Miranda screamed.

"Well are you happy now?" Brooke shrieked.  "Our baby is gone and now your daddy is all yours again!  You don't have an innocent little baby to share him with anymore!  Is that what you wanted?"

"Leave me alone!" Miranda lamented and buried her face in her hands.

"Where is he?" Brooke cried, grabbed her by the arms and shaking her hard.  "Where did you take my baby?  Tell me the truth before I shake it out of you!"

Miranda struggled to get free of her grasp, her hair flying in her face and whipping through the air.  "Fine!  I did hate that baby!" she screamed, bringing the room to an eerie silence.  "I wanted him gone!  Is that what you want to hear?  I didn't want him here!"

In a fit of despair, Brooke brought her hand up and slapped Miranda neatly across the face.  Her eyes unmoving, she stared at the willful young woman in a rage.  She didn't care if she'd acted on impulse, she wouldn't have her talking about her baby that way.

James looked at his daughter with a startled expression.  He never thought his daughter would feel so much anger and resentment toward a baby.  How far had she gone to get her wish?

"What did you do, Miranda?" Stormy asked as he looked at her with wide eyes.

She looked at Brett and then back at her father, ignoring Brooke's penetrating unmerciful stare.  Her face stung from where Brooke had hit her but she ignored it.  The pain was numbing compared to what she felt inside.

"I had seen Ethan at Hotel Terranova," she began, her voice slow and methodical.  "I was upset because you had cancelled our lunch plans."  Her eyes flickered past James and then back to the floor.  "Ethan comforted me and gave me his handkerchief.  I left to go home in such a hurry that I forgot I still had it."

Ethan listened intently, recalling the disturbing conversation they'd had that evening.

"When I got home all hell broke lose," Miranda continued.  "I was so hurt that I ran out the door and went around to the pool house.  I stayed there most of the night, watching when everyone left for the premiere."

Brett frowned as he listened to his wife's story.  He'd looked all over the grounds for her that day and came up with nothing.  He never thought to look in the pool house.

"I'm not sure how it happened, but I found a lever against the wall that triggered a hidden door," she explained.  "It was dark and I couldn't see very well but I made my way all the way up here to the main house.  I got lost and couldn't find my way back."    She paused momentarily, scanning the room with undaunting eyes.  "Then I heard the baby crying.  I knew I was near the nursery so I kept going, letting Michael guide me to his room."

"What happened then?" Stormy asked.

Swallowing hard, Miranda pushed a lock of long black hair from her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself.  "Finally I came to a door.  It was open and I could see right into the nursery.  It was dark but I knew someone was in the room with him."

"Who was it?" James demanded.  "Did you get a look at him?"

She shook her head.  "It was too dark.  Whoever it was had on a ski mask and black clothes.  I don’t even know if it was a man or a woman.  It all happened so fast."

The news unsettled James and he stepped forward, reaching out to his daughter.  "Go on, Miranda."

"I called out to them and they saw me.  But by that time it was too late.  Whoever it was already had Michael in their arms and was coming at me." She stopped, taking a deep breath before going on.  "All I can remember next is being knocked down.  When I looked up they were gone.  I tried to go after them but the tunnels are like a maze.  It took me half an hour just to find my way back to the pool house.  I guess I dropped Ethan's handkerchief when I fell."

Brooke shook her head angrily. "I don't believe you," she said.  "You're lying.  Do you expect us to believe that you wished for my baby to be gone and the next thing you know he's being kidnapped right before your eyes?"

"Brooke, I'm telling you the truth," Miranda insisted.  "You don’t honestly think that I could have kidnapped him, do you?"

"That's exactly what I think!" Brooke exclaimed. 

"Miranda, if you saw Michael being taken, why didn't you do something?" James asked in a rage.  "My God, if you'd acted sooner we could have found him before this maniac got off the property!"

"You don't know that!" Miranda cried.  "By the time I tracked you down at the premiere he still would have been long gone."

"And yet you said or did nothing," Brooke said through clenched teeth.  "Until you decided to come home the next day, that is, when you pretended to act all surprised that Michael was gone. "

Shaking her head, Miranda could see that everybody blamed her.  Even if they didn't suspect she was the kidnapper, they still held her responsible.  "What good would it have done?" she asked, suddenly feeling drained.  "He was gone.  There was nothing I could do."

"You could have done something," Brooke said and buried her face in James's shoulder.

"Daddy-" Miranda protested.

"She's right, Miranda," James interrupted.  "If you saw something you should have come forward immediately.  I could have left the movie premiere and been home in five minutes.  I think you just didn't want us to find him."

Overwrought with guilt, Miranda felt a stream of tears flow from her eyes.  She couldn't stand the look of disappointment in her father's eyes.   The hurt he was enduring was tearing her up inside. 

In a flash, she was darting out into the foyer and up the staircase to her room.  Brett looked around and decided he should go after her.  She shouldn't be alone at a time like this.  James and Brooke were relentless and Miranda probably felt like an outsider right now.  He of all people knew what that was like.

"I'll go talk to her," he said and started out of the room.

"Brett, wait-" Stormy said.

Irritated, Brett turned and flashed him a look of defiance.  "She's my wife.  I think you all just did a pretty good job of ripping her apart.  I'm going to go talk to her."

Stormy walked up and stood before him.  "First we need to discuss this," he said, holding up the report from the private investigator.  "I think we might have scratched Gwen off the suspect list a little too soon."

"What's going on, Son?" James asked with a frown.  He took the report from him and scanned through it.  "What the-"

"It's the report Carlyle did on his investigation into Gwen's background," Stormy explained, his eyes riveted to Brett's.  He knew he'd catch him in a lie soon or later, but he couldn't for the life of him understand what he had to gain by covering up for Gwen.

After reading the details of Gwen's sordid past, James shot his attention to Brett and shook his head warily.  "Brett, do you have an explanation for this?" he asked.

Playing the innocent act to the hilt, Brett took the report and pored over it with mock enthusiasm.  "Oh my God," he gasped.  "I don't understand.  This is not the report I saw."

Rolling his eyes, Stormy decided he didn't believe him for a second.  "So what happened?  It mysteriously vanished and the phony one we saw took its place?  Come on, Brett, how dumb do you think we are?"

"Stormy, let Brett explain himself," Ethan said.   "I’m sure there's a logical explanation."

Brett swallowed hard and glanced around the room.  All eyes were on him and making him feel very uncomfortable.  He'd have to do some quick thinking if he wanted to cover himself this time.   "Well obviously Gwen found the original report and switched it with the phony one."

"How?" Stormy demanded.

"I don't know!" Brett replied defensively.  "It was in my office all day before I got a chance to look at it.  She probably came in, found it and switched it.  Obviously we're dealing with someone very resourceful here."

James reviewed the new information in his mind.  The facts were right there in plain English.  Gwen had been institutionalized after having a miscarriage.  She was later sent to prison for the attempted murder of a woman she worked for as a governess.   Suddenly he realized how fragile a state of mine Gwen must really be in.  She'd recently suffered another miscarriage, afterwards becoming alarmingly possessive of Michael.

"Wait a minute," Brooke said as she read the report over James's shoulder.   "Stormy said that Gwen was planning on leaving that night.  She had her suitcase packed."   She looked at James with fear in her eyes.  "She could have been planning on leaving town with our son, James."

Brett closed his eyes with regret.  All hell was about to break lose and Gwen wouldn't hesitate to admitting everything they'd done.  The pills, the affair, her pregnancy.  It was all going to come out.

Jordan's House

Jordan walked into his house in Beverly Hills and slammed the door shut so hard that it nearly came off its hinges.  He looked around the entryway and called up the stairs to his wife.  "Alex!" he bellowed.  "Alex!  Where the hell are you?"

Slowly she came downstairs, a timid look on her perfectly made up face.  "Hello Jordan," she said, studying him carefully.  By now he had to have been paid a visit by the police.  She expected him to be angry but the look on his face was far worse than anything she'd ever seen.

"Do you enjoy playing with people the way you do?" he asked as he walked slowly toward her.  "Just tell me the truth.  What kind of sick pleasure do you get out of torturing everyone in your life?"

"Jordan, before you say anything-" she began, backing up the staircase.

"Don't!" he yelled, his voice booming through the entryway.  "Don't you dare try to talk your way out of this!  I just got back from the marina where my yacht has been searched from stem to stern by the police looking for anything that could connect me with the kidnapping of Michael Blackthorne.  This was after they came to my office today and badgered me for two hours because of something you said."

Alex continued retreating up the stairs, terrified by the deranged look in his eyes.  "You can't blame me for thinking you had something to do with it," she said.  "How many times have you told me how much you resent him?"

Jordan grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her back down to the landing.  "My own wife accusing me of baby snatching!" he yelled hoarsely.  "How could you do it, Alex?  How could you think I would do something like that, and then have the nerve to go to the police?"

She shook her head insistently.  "I didn't go to the police.  I told James that I was concerned that maybe you had-"

"James!" Jordan hollered.  "Of course you went to James!  He seems to be the only reason you do anything anymore!"

"You see!  You're so jealous you can't even see what you're doing!" Alex lamented as she tried dodging her way around him.  "Am I really that far off for thinking that you would do something to get back at him?  And the other night you didn't come home so I thought that-"

"You thought that I was out stealing babies?" Jordan yelled.  After taking a moment to gather his thoughts and calm down, he took a deep breath and looked at her directly.  "Well for your information, the police found nothing to connect me with it.  They have no evidence and nothing to go on except for the paranoid delusions you saw fit to share with your ex-husband."

Alex appeared relieved, placing a hand on her heaving chest.  "I'm glad.  Jordan, I didn't want to believe it, I just-"

"You just chose Blackthorne over your own husband again," Jordan finished for her and started up the stairs. 

"Where are you going?" she asked.

He turned and met her gaze.  "I'm going to pack.  I'm leaving you, Alex."

Jasmes Blackthorne

Back at the Blackthorne mansion, James and Brooke walked down an upstairs hallway and paused outside of Gwen's bedroom door. 

"James, I think we should call Detective Baines," Brooke said with pleading eyes.  "I don't want to risk messing this up and having her get away.  I want our son back."

Nodding, James put a hand on her shoulder and tried to comfort her.  "I do too, Darling," he reassured her.  "But we can't go in there accusing Gwen of anything. She's liable to run off and then we'll never see Michael again.  We have got to do this so she doesn't feel threatened."

Realizing he was right, Brooke waited patiently as James knocked on the bedroom door, then stood back and paused.  A few seconds later he knocked again.  When there was still no answer, he reached out to the knob and pushed the door open.

Inside the empty room, they could feel a draft coming through an opening in the closet.  Stepping closer, James noticed that the doorway to the tunnel was ajar and Gwen was nowhere to be found.

"Where is she?" Brooke asked and peered through the secret doorway in the closet.

Miranda Blackthorne

Down the hall, Brett entered he and Miranda's bedroom and found his wife crying silently in the chair by the window.  She clutched onto a stuffed cat and curled herself into a ball, barely acknowledging when her husband came in.

"Miranda," he said, his heart breaking for her.  Despite his behavior at times, he loved her very much and hated to see her strong will shot down by James and Brooke.  "Babe, are you okay?"

She shook her head and sobbed into the stuffed cat.  "Why does everyone have to think the worst of me?" she asked behind her river of tears.  "Am I that horrible of a person?"

Hoping to convince her otherwise, Brett knelt down and put his arm lovingly around her.  "No, you're a beautiful, vibrant young woman.  You're passionate and you're demanding, but that's who you are, and that's why I love you."

Miranda wiped her eyes and looked up at his tan, handsome face.  "You probably wouldn't have married me if you'd known what I was like."

Smiling, Brett kissed her warmly.  "No, probably not," he said with a smirk.  "But now you're stuck with me."

Unable to keep herself from smiling, Miranda wrapped her arms around him and allowed him to hold her close.  "I don't know what I'd do without you," she said.  "You're the only one who understands me.  You're the only one I can trust."

Brett closed his eyes and prayed that that wouldn't change.  When they confronted Gwen she would surely tell them everything.

Blackthorne Mansion

“Call Detective Baines,” James called to Stormy as he and Brooke rushed down the staircase to the foyer.  “Gwen’s gone.  She took her suitcase with her.”

“What?” Stormy exclaimed as he rushed for the phone.  “Why would she leave now?”

“She’s been in the tunnels!” James shouted, pulling open the front door.  “She must have heard us talking about her inthe parlor room.  We’ve got to get her before she takes our baby!”

Brooke plastered her hands over her mouth and stood helplessly.  “James, the pool house!  She’s probably planning on getting out that way!”

Deciding she was right, James darted out the front door and across the front lawn to the back of the house.  He made his way along the hedged walkways and started down to the pool. 

Inside, Brett and Miranda came out of their bedroom after hearing the commotion downstairs.  “What’s going on?” Brett asked.

Stormy had just hung up with Detective Baines when he looked up at them and offered a furious scowl.  “Gwen took off,” he said.  “She knows we’re on to her about her past.”

“I’ll help find her,” Brett announced as he raced down to the landing.

“I think you’ve done enough!” Stormy shouted as he moved closer until he was inches from his face.  “You may have everyone else fooled but to me you’ll always be Rick Shively, a con man.  Now I don’t know what’s going on with you and Gwen but as soon as we catch up to her I’m going to find out.”

With that, he turned and darted out of the house to help James.  Brett stood on the landing, fully aware that Miranda and Brooke were looking at him with confusion.  All he needed was either of them to start asking questions.  As far as he was concerned, Gwen was a risk.  A risk that he’d have to deal with once and for all.

Jasmes Blackthorne

James scrambled into the pool house with Stormy falling fast on his heels.  They stopped inside the small building and looked around.

“Dad, the lever!” Stormy shouted.  “Find it!”

Acting fast, James began searching the walls for the hidden door lever.  Miranda hadn’t said where it was but she seemed to have found it easily enough.  It was probably right under their nose and they didn’t even know it. 

“Try that bookcase,” Stormy said as he clattered through the fixtures inside the room.

James raced to a built in bookcase in the wall and started pulling books from it right and left.  Each dusty volume toppled to the floor and still nothing happened.  “It’s got to be here somewhere,” James murmured, frantically searching for the one item that would open the hidden door. 

Finally, Stormy felt his hand scathe across a switch along the doorframe to the bathroom.  He paused, frowning as he felt around for the lever.  “I think I’ve got it, Dad,” he said, quickly pulling the lever down.

The hidden door in the wall slowly sprang open, revealing Gwen, suitcase in hand, just as she was about to enter into the pool house.

Blackthorne Mansion

A short while later, Gwen was seated in the library of the main house, her head sunk down as Detective Baines, James, and the rest of the family interrogated her relentlessly.

“How did you first come to find out about the tunnels?” Baines asked as he stood before her, his hands firmly planted on his hips.

She took a deep breath and kept her eyes directed at the floor.  “It was a few nights ago,” she began.  “The night of the movie premiere.  I was doing the baby’s laundry down in the basement and I found the tunnel by accident.”

“Did you go inside the passageways?” Baines asked.

“Not at first,” she said, shaking her head.  “But later on I heard noises and I thought they were coming from inside the tunnels.”

“And that’s when you went inside?”

“Yes,” she replied softly.  “I got a flashlight and made my way through the hallways…”

Dressed in her nightgown, Gwen shined the light into the eerie darkness, her hands trembling uncontrollably.  She heard voices and scuffling in the distance.  Quickly, she stopped and ducked around the corner, switching off her light,  terrified and frozen in fear.

She heard crying and footsteps.  She knew it was the baby.  She was near the nursery but she couldn’t get her bearings long enough to tell where she was in the sordid maze of tunnels.

When she thought the coast was clear, she stepped out from the crevasse and went to turn the flashlight back on.   Suddenly the sensation of a presence nearby sent chills down her spine and she ducked back into her hiding spot.  Miranda darted past her, heading in the direction where the crying had disappeared to.

Her heart beat wildly inside her chest and she waited until she decided Miranda was far enough away that she could emerge from the dark corner.  Finally, she switched on the light and made her way back to her bedroom, stepping through the hidden door in the closet and shuddering with fear.

Quickly, she bolted across the room and closed the door with a start.  She’d never been more frightened in her life.  She wanted nothing more than to get into bed and forget the awful feeling of walking around in the dark tunnels alone…

Miranda put a hand on her beating heart.  She couldn’t believe that Gwen had been so close to her in the tunnel and she didn’t even know it.

“If you heard the baby crying and noises coming from the tunnels then why didn’t you do something?” James asked in anger.  “You didn’t go check on him again?  Nothing seemed wrong to you?”

She finally looked up, a tear falling from her eye.  “I was terrified,” she said.  “I thought I was hearing things.  I thought the baby was crying from his crib and that he’d stop like he always does.”

“Forgive me,” Detective Baines interrupted and looked back and forth between Gwen and Miranda.  “The two of you were both in the tunnels at around the same time and neither one of you thought to check on the baby?  That doesn’t make any sense.”

James held up his hand and tried to get a grasp on the situation.  “So Gwen, you’re telling us that when we came home from the premiere, you had no idea that the baby had been taken?”

“Yes, honestly Mr. Blackthorne.  I just wanted to forget the whole terrible ordeal.”

“But you have been in the tunnels since that night, haven’t you?” Detective Baines asked.  “Suddenly it didn’t seem so scary to you anymore?”

She shrugged.  “Not after I began exploring them, no.  It was actually kind of fun sneaking around and seeing where I could end up.  It’s like every kid’s dream.”

Brooke brushed past Ethan and made her way up to Gwen, flashing her piercing eyes directly at her.   “So that’s it?” she asked.  “You went into the tunnels because you heard noises and then you just went to bed?  Come on, I know there’s more to it than that.  Ever since we brought Michael home from the hospital you were stuck to him like glue.  You didn’t want to be apart from him for a minute.  That day you took him for a walk outside….I was terrified that something had happened to him, and meanwhile he’s with a convicted felon and mental patient!”

Gwen flinched from her harsh words, feeling the sting from the verbal assault.

“That brings us to our next question,” James said, eyeing Stormy and Brett across the room.  He handed her the report that Dennis Carlyle had done on her.  “Did you take this report and replace it with a different one?”

She looked at him with a frown, then her eyes traveled across the room where Brett was nervously waiting for his comeuppance.  He knew he was busted and she had the power to bring him down.  On the other hand….

“Yes, I did,” she said apologetically.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Blackthorne, I just didn’t want you to find out about my past.  I made some mistakes and I didn’t want you to hold them against me.  I really am a changed woman.”

Stormy looked at her in disbelief.  He never thought in a million years that Brett had been telling the truth.  He thought this time for sure he would catch him in the act and would finally be able to prove to everyone that he was still nothing more than a con man.

“No secret transgressions about your two miscarriages?” Baines asked.

“What do you mean?” Gwen said in confusion.

Realizing there was no easy way to say it, he decided to be straight with her.  “Mrs. Blackthorne thought that maybe since your pregnancies hadn’t come to term, you might be replacing the babies you lost with Michael.”

She looked at Brooke with wide eyes.  “You think I would kidnap your son to take the place of my own?” she asked.  “I would never do something like that.  Those babies that I lost are irreplaceable.  No one can take their place.  Not even a baby as sweet as Michael.”

Brooke couldn’t help but feel somewhat guilty for her suspicions.  On the surface it seemed like Gwen was the culprit, but the more they talked to her the more it seemed that she was simply misunderstood.

“But you were ready to leave,” Stormy interrupted.  “Not just tonight but the night of the kidnapping.  Why then?  Why now?”

Gwen started crying silently and buried her face in her hands.  “I was planning on leaving town before the kidnapping,” she said.   “After my miscarriage, I didn’t think I could handle being around another baby.  Not being I was afraid of what I might do, but because it was just too hard.”

“And tonight?” James asked.

She shrugged and wiped her eyes.  “I guess I figured that since you found out about my past that I would be asked to leave anyway.  I just wanted to make it easier on everyone.”

Sighing, James rubbed his face with the palm of his hand.  It had been a long day and they had gotten nowhere in finding out who had taken Michael.  All the time they were wasting on innocent people took away from the possibility of finding the real kidnapper.

Gwen stood up and looked at James uncomfortably.  “Mr. Blackthorne, what are you going to do?” she asked.  “I realize that I lied to you about my past but I swear to you I didn’t know anything about your son's kidnapping.  I would give my life for that baby before I let anything happen to him.

James didn’t want to deal with it now.  He had to focus on finding Michael.  “We’ll discuss it tomorrow, Gwen,” he said, then looked around the room, his eyes darting toward Ethan.  “It’s late.  We should all try to get some rest.”

Ethan turned and started out of the room, pausing long enough to give Brooke a nod of his head.  He felt terrible for what she was going through.  Her own baby taken from her, not knowing if he was safe or not.  It was the worst thing that could happen to a parent, and he felt every bit of her pain.

After the room cleared out, James held back, standing by the fireplace as Brooke approached him from behind.

“What are we going to do now?” she asked.

Mesmerized by the glow of the fire, he reached his hand out and clasped it around hers.  “I don’t know,” he said softly.

Brett Armstrong

Brett entered Gwen’s room and found her sitting on the bed.  Quietly, he closed the door and approached her timidly.

“Why didn’t you tell them?” he asked.  “About the phony report, and about us and….”

“Why did I save your ass?” she asked, shooting him a cold stare.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod of his head.  “You took all the blame for the switching of the reports when you knew you were off the hook as a suspect in the kidnapping.  Why didn’t you blow me out of the water down there?”

She sighed and stood up from the bed.  “Because I know that eventually after the baby is returned and all of this dies down, the Blackthornes will ask me to leave.  They may be okay with me staying on right now but that’s just because there’s no baby around.  When they bring him home a convicted felon is the last person they’re going to want taking care of him.”

“I don’t understand,” Brett said, his forehead crinkled.

“Well, without a job to support myself I’m going to have to get money some other way,” Gwen explained.  “And that’s where you come in. “  She folded her arms and stepped closer to him, a wicked smile on her face.  “If you want me to keep quiet about all of your little schemes, then you’re going to have to cough up some big bucks.”

Brett stared at her in disbelief.  She was blackmailing him. 

Ethan Blackthorne

Ethan stopped on his way home for gas, pulling into an all night convenience store just off Ventura Boulevard.  He stood at the pump, hypnotized by the giant neon sign hanging above the store as he reflected over the day’s events.

Despite the fact that Michael was still missing, he felt a surge of hope that things were mending themselves with him and James.  Even Brooke, who had all but insisted they never see each other again, had seemed to soften in light of the recent events. 

But as welcoming a thought as it was, he was still convinced she was lying to him and James.  He knew that Michael was his son.  All it took was one look into his eyes and he was certain that he was looking at his own child.  Brooke had to know that she couldn’t keep it from him forever, and certainly couldn’t fool James for long.  Once Michael was home safely he would try his damnedest to get the truth from her.

After his gas tank was full, he replaced the nozzle and went inside the store to pick up a bottle of water for the ride home.   Standing in line at the checkout, he glanced around and couldn’t help but notice a young blond woman with a scarf tied around her head placing items into a basket.

For an instant, he thought he recognized her.  Without risking losing his place in line, he squinted and tried to get a better look at her.  It couldn’t be…” he whispered to himself. 

The woman, who seemed preoccupied with hiding her face, absently bumped into a man at the end of an aisle and she dropped her basket of items.  “Damnit!” she called out angrily and quickly bent down to retrieve them.

The sound of her voice was all that Ethan needed to realize it was her after all.  He darted across the store toward her.  Winter!” he called out.

She looked up instinctively, her face in full view, and quickly looked away when she saw Ethan barreling across the store toward her.   Without wasting a second, she dropped her purchases and bolted outside into the night.

Ethan ran after her, intent on catching her and making certain there was no mistaking her identity.  But by the time he got outside, she had disappeared.  He looked around the parking lot and saw no sign of her. 

Regretfully, he went back inside the store and fended off the clerk who yelled at him about not paying for his water and gas.  He walked over to the basket of items abandoned on the floor and examined them closely. 

A box of diapers, two cans of baby formula, and some baby wipes.  He frowned, wondering if the woman was really Winter Austen, and if so, what was she doing back in L.A?  The last he’d heard she left town with a bundle of Kenny DeWitt’s money.

Winter Austen

The door to the rundown motel room opened and the woman walked inside with a bag of groceries in one arm, her purse in another, and her head and face covered by a scarf and sunglasses.

She threw her keys onto the table and set the groceries down.  “I’m home,” she called out, removing the scarf and sunglasses from her head and discarding them quickly.  “I had to go to two different stores if you can believe that.  I ran into somebody and….well, it would have been a sticky situation so I left.”

Unpacking the groceries from the paper bag, Winter Austen hummed cheerfully to herself.   When she was finished, she walked across the room to a crib nestled against the far wall beside the TV.

“My sweet little baby,” she said, smiling down inside the crib.  “I couldn’t let those people raise you, could I?  I know they’re frantic and they think they have some kind of claim on you, but I had to take you.  You’re Ethan’s son. “  Her voice trailed off into a low-pitched moan.  “My darling Ethan.  If I can’t have you then at least I’ll have your son.”

 


 Next time....

Jordan, The manhunt for Winter Austen begins. A treacherous chase leads to the edge of the pier.  Brooke and Heather have a heart to heart.  Jordan moves into Hotel Terranova.  

 

 Read Episode 38

 

 


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