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Episode 74

 

Release Date:  December 1, 2007

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

Miranda found a picture in David's cabin of a young blonde girl with pigtails nicknamed Babydoll.  David told Brooke that she reminded him of Babydoll, a girl that he met in Big Bear some twenty years earlier.  A fortune teller told Heather that her first born would pay for her sins.  When Heather learned that she was pregnant, she and Brett celebrated.  After leaving James and Leigh for dead at Hotel Terranova, Seth arrived at the Filmmaker Awards and demanded Alex reveal the location of the missing truck.  When she revealed that she didn't know, he took her and Heather hostage, demanding fifty million dollars and a helecopter on the roof of the Los Angeles Theater or he would kill them.  Brett blamed himself for getting Heather involved, prompting him to race to the roof to reason with Walker.  Meanwhile, Jordan attempted to take Seth by surprise, succeeding only in getting shot in the shoulder.  Marilee came up with the money, and just as the helecopter arrived, Seth decided to take Alex and Heather with him.  Brett intervened and rescued them, sending Seth falling from the roof to his death.  Alex told an injured Jordan that she'd decided to marry him after all.  Sierra, tormented by the trouble that followed them, told Miranda that she didn't want to be a Blackthorne.  Kenny arranged for Stormy and Eddie to be released on bail pending charges of gun running.  James was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery with a grim prognosis.  Word spread that Leigh didn't survive.  Heather told Brett that despite his heroics, she dind't think that she could forgive him for his involvement with Walker, but Jordan expressed his gratitude for saving the day.  Kenny told Alex and Renee that they could be looking at prison time for Blackthorne-Reynolds' involvement with Stratotech.  

 


 

Episode 74

Season Finale

"One Wonderful Day"

 

James Blackthorne had seen the white light in the moments after he was shot.  He found that heaven was just like he'd been taught in Sunday school back in Kansas.  There were floating clouds, angels with harps, and a golden archway welcoming him to the afterlife.  They taught him that he would feel peace, and he did.  They taught him that he would be reunited with loved ones past, and he was.  They taught him that he would have to answer for his sins, and he did. They taught him that he could look down on those he left behind and be comforted in the fact that for them too the pain would someday end as it had for him, and yes, he did.  

Jordan's House

In the five days since the rooftop calamity at the Filmmaker Awards, Alex and Jordan had not gotten a moments peace.  Reporters had been camped out at the front door of Jordan’s house in Beverly Hills on a twenty-four hour basis.  With every quote or "no comment" they uttered involving Alex’s involvement with the late Congressman and Stratotech, a dozen more questions were asked.  The role that Blackthorne-Reynolds played in the scheme was still under investigation by the government, and it hung over Alex’s head like an unpaid debt.  Renee had already issued her own personal statement to the media saying that she had no knowledge whatsoever in their involvement.  It didn’t bode well for the possibility of corporate fraud charges being brought against Alex.

It was the hottest story of the moment, shadowed only by the public’s disbelief that the former actress was planning a quickie wedding to be held that afternoon on the grounds of Jordan’s estate.  As if the criminal investigation wasn’t enough to hamper any celebratory nuptials, her ex-husband was still laying in the ICU at Cedars-Sinai following the bloodbath that occurred at Hotel Terranova.  Some said she was in denial.  Alex thought of it simply as multi-tasking.

“Those go over there!” she shouted, standing in the foyer of Jordan’s house.  The wedding planner had everything arriving at the same time; marble columns, fountains, linens, flowers and centerpieces.  She supervised the deliveries, stressed over the guest list, and argued when they tried delivering the ice sculptures six hours early; all while communicating with the wedding planner through a two-way radio headset.  

It was eight-thirty in the morning when Jordan came down the stairs to the hustle and bustle of wedding preparations.  Groaning, he tried slipping undetected into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  While he was thrilled that Alex had agreed to marry him again, he wasn’t so sure that she was thinking with a clear head.  Her first ex-husband, whom she was still quite close to, was in a coma following a life-threatening gunshot.  To her it was just another wedding setback. 

“Don’t you try to sneak past me,” Alex said when she spotted Jordan sidling along the wall.  “I see you, Jordan.  I need you to have some  last minute invitations messengered this morning."

Jordan rolled his eyes and approached her with caution.  “More invitations?” he asked.  His arm was bandaged from the bullet he’d taken the other night, but the pain was at a minimal.  “Alex, are you sure you’re not rushing things a bit?  The wedding is at two o’clock.  How are these people going to clear their schedules in time?  Why can’t we wait and get married next month?”

“I don’t want to wait!” she replied, obviously hurt that he would suggest it.  “I didn’t think you did, either.”

He immediately regretted suggesting it.  “Then why don’t we just go to city hall and get married by a justice of the peace?  It would save a lot of headaches, and plus, with everything going on, are you sure you’re not overexerting yourself?”

“When have I ever done that?” she mused and scanned the length of a clipboard. 

Jordan slipped his hands around her waist and looked into her eyes.  “James is in the hospital, your children are terrified that he won't make it, we just got through burying Leigh yesterday, and may I remind you that you could still be facing prison time for that whole Stratotech business?”

Her reply was simple and efficient.  “James is going to pull through.  I’ll make sure we videotape the ceremony to show him later.  Stormy and Miranda will be fine.  They’re strong.  They take after their mother and father.  And the investigation into Stratotech will be put to rest after the press conference.”

“What press conference?”

“The one I’m giving this morning,” she replied, distracted by a ornate cherub fountain being delivered.  "Get rid of that monstrosity.  I specifically said no peeing fountains."  With a sigh, she turned back to Jordan.  “Didn’t I tell you about the press conference?”

As if on cue, the doorbell rang and the butler responded.  To Jordan’s surprise, a procession of reporters and television news stations entered the house and began setting up their equipment in the foyer.   He placed a hand on his forehead and watched his house turn into further chaos.  When Renee and Kenny entered behind a reporter from Image magazine, he knew that the press conference was no joke.

“I hope your bride knows what she’s doing,” Kenny said to him warily.

You don’t event know what she’s got planned?” Jordan asked, dumbfounded.   "Jesus, you're her lawyer."

“It better be something really good,” Renee said and folded her arms.  “I do not intend to go down with her sinking ship.”

Kenny smiled at Jordan with amusement.  “Oh, and congratulations on the wedding.”

Jordan sighed with exasperation.  Just as he turned to finally retrieve his morning cup of coffee, he heard a voice that resonated in his mind.  Frowning, he whipped around and spotted his son, Benji, weaving his way through the crowd of reporters, wedding planners, and interested parties. 

“Benji?” he exclaimed in surprise.  “What on earth-“

“This place is like a circus,” he said and dropped a suitcase and a duffel bag onto the floor.  “What’s going on?  Are they shooting a movie here or something?”

Jordan ignored his questions.  “What are you doing here?  Why aren’t you at school?”

“Didn’t you get my e-mails?” Benji Rydell asked with disappointment.  He was seventeen years old, a lanky six feet tall, and had green eyes and dark hair that fell lazily over his forehead.  He wore chinos and a navy blazer with the Beau-Soleil crest insignia on the chest placket.  By appearance alone, he was truly his father’s son. 

“No, I didn’t get any e-mails,” Jordan said insistently.   “Are you on a break?”

“I graduated early,” Benji announced.  “Today was the end of the semester so I’m an official high school graduate.  I can say goodbye to boarding school, steel wool uniforms, and Switzerland.”

“Graduated early?  I guess I didn’t realize you were doing that well this year.”  He finally got over his shock and pulled his son into an embrace.  “I wish I would have known you were coming.  Things are a little nuts around here right now.”

Benji looked around and cracked a wiseacre smile.  “I’ll say.  What’s going on?  Does this have anything to do with that stuff that went on at the Filmmaker Awards?  I saw it on E.T. and I couldn’t believe it.  I was freaked out.”

“Come on,” Jordan said and led him toward the kitchen.  “I’ll fill you in on everything.  First I need to get some coffee or I’ll freak out.”

Miranda Blackthorne

The heart monitor beeped as it was supposed to, air from the oxygen tank made the whooshing noise that it should, and the EKG registered normal brain activity.  But Miranda couldn’t leave her father’s side.  He was stable, yet critical, whatever that meant.  She was convinced that if she left his room the heart monitor would stop beeping, the oxygen tank would turn off, and he would fade away. 

She held his hand tightly as she sat at his bedside.  He hadn’t woken up at all since the shooting.  A trauma-induced coma, as the doctors put it.  The main problem now according to the doctors was the internal bleeding that they’d only managed to stop temporarily, or the infections in his kidneys as a result of the bullet fragments that remained. 

She wore no makeup and her hair fell flat against her face but she didn’t care.  She wasn’t there to accept compliments on her appearance.  David had been there with her most of the time, as had Stormy.  Heather, Brett, Brooke, Ethan, Kenny and Renee had come by every day but there had been no change.

The door opened and Stormy entered, walking up behind his sister and placing a hand gently on her shoulder.  “I’m gonna take off for a while,” he said.  “Mom’s got that press conference this morning before the wedding.  Are you okay?”

She nodded and touched his hand with her fingertips.  “Tell mom I’m sorry but I don’t think I can go today.”

“Miranda-“ Stormy pleaded.  “You can leave for an hour.  I know it’s bad timing for a wedding, but I think mom really needs us there.  This has been really hard on her too.  I don't think she's coping very well."

“I’m sorry, Stormy, but I don’t think that I can go to a wedding and celebrate with mom and Jordan while Daddy is here hanging on for his life.”  She got up and walked to the head of the bed, fluffing the pillow beneath James’s head.   “Besides, I want to be here when he wakes up.  I have to tell him about Leigh.”

Stormy knew how hard she was taking this, and he knew that nobody was as close to their father as she was, so he didn’t argue with her further.  “I’ll be back after the wedding,” he said and left the room. 

Out in the hall, he met up with Eddie who approached quickly.  “How’s your dad?” he asked.

Stormy shrugged.  “The same,” he said and put his hands in the pockets of his trousers.  “Come on, are you ready to go?”

Eddie nodded.  “What do you think your mom’s going to say at this press conference?” he asked.

Stormy shook his head indifferently and led him to the elevator.  “Who knows?  Knowing her she could be planning on reciting a monologue from one of her films.  But whatever she says, I hope to God it gets us off the hook.”

Alex Reynolds

“I do own the Stratotech Corporation,” Alex began as she stood in the foyer of Jordan’s house amidst dozens of camera flashes.  “The rumors you’re hearing are true.”

Startled gasps and hushed whispers fell over the crowd.  Jordan stood in the front row listening intently.  Beside him, Kenny, Renee, Stormy and Eddie watched in anticipation.

“However, I only bought the company because I learned that Congressman Seth Walker was planning on using it to sell arms to Central America,” she went on, speaking clearly into the microphone.  “Being an American-loving citizen, and a supporter of our troops, I couldn’t let a trusted politician get away with this injustice.  I’m a firm believer in gun control, and that was my main motivation in getting involved with this dangerous, dangerous man.”

Renee rolled her eyes in disbelief.  Supporter of our troops?” she whispered to Kenny.  “Is she kidding?”

“Rather than see these dangerous weapons in the hands of potential adversaries, I asked a favor of my son, Ryan Blackthorne, who hijacked the truck carrying these explosives in hopes that it would delay them reaching their destination so that I could coordinate efforts with the authorities.  In hindsight, I now realize this was a mistake.  No one could have predicted the Congressman’s reaction, and unfortunately, lives were lost, and others were left in jeopardy.”

“So far so good,” Eddie murmured to Stormy.

Alex smiled and winked at Jordan before continuing.  “Fortunately, the selling of arms to Panama was successfully stopped, and Congressman Walker’s reign of terror is now over.  I attribute this mostly to my stepping in and taking control of the situation.  And now, as an apology to the California Land Commission, who were so viciously taken advantage of and lied to by Congressman Walker in his dealings, I am happy to announce that I am donating the land at Costa Mesa to them so that they may continue their practices of animal and natural resource and environmental conservation right here in our beautiful state.”

The crowd clapped with admiration.  Kenny raised an eyebrow and shook his head in astonishment.  He couldn’t believe how well Alex had spun the events to make her look like a champion of the people.  He watched as Alex stepped away from the microphones and put her arm through Jordan’s.  Cameras flashed and several members of the Land Commission shook her hand. 

"Miss Reynolds, I understand Blackthorne-Reynolds was shut down when the investigation into your involvement began," said a reporter from the Times.  "In light of the circumstances involving your ownership of Stratotech, will you be petitioning the SEC for the right to continue operating Blackthorne-Reynolds?"

Alex smiled and placed her hands before her.  "I do not intend to, no," she said.  Her remarks were following by gasps and inquisitive looks from the media.  "I'm sure my partners, James Blackthorne and Renee DeWitt will support me in the decision to let the judgement remain as is, with the proceeds from Blackthorne-Reynolds being divided amongst the three of us.  Blackthorne-Reynolds will remain defunct."  

Renee glared at her from across the room, furious that her partner didn't bother discussing the matter with her.  

Brett Armstrong

Across town at his condo, Brett switched off the television after catching the coverage of the news conference.  He sighed and rose to his feet, believing that Alex should have been the one to go into public relations.  She was very good at making herself look like a hero. 

“I guess it’s over,” Heather said from the kitchen where she made herself a cup of tea.  “For us, anyway.  I keep thinking how torn up Miranda and Stormy are over James.  If he doesn’t pull through I don’t know what will happen.”

“He’ll pull through,” Brett said and sat down at the breakfast bar.  “James Blackthorne can’t die.  Do you know how powerful he is?”

Heather slammed her cup down on the counter in a fit of anger.  “Life isn’t all about power, Brett,” she said with abhorrence.  “I thought after the other night you would have realized that.”

He looked at her apologetically.  “I do realize that,” he said.  “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

"I know exactly what you meant," she said with frustration.

"Look Babe, I know you're still angry about-"

"You bet your ass I'm angry," she shouted.  "You put my life and Alex's life in jeopardy.  Leigh was killed, and James may die because you put your own selfish desires first, as usual."

"That's not fair," Brett insisted.  "James and Alex got involved all on their own.  I had nothing to do with that.  Look, I know that what I did put your and our baby in jeopardy, but I can't be held responsible for everything Seth Walker did.  Heather, I would never do anything to hurt you intentionally.  You have to know that."

She threw her hands up in resignation.  “I’m going to go start getting ready for the wedding,” she said and started to the bedroom in a huff.

“I will too," Brett said and started after her.

"No," she said and paused in the doorway.  "I don't want you to go.  I'm sorry but I just don't think I can be around you right now."

"What are you saying?" Brett asked, his heart racing.

She looked down at the floor and then back up at him.  "I just need need some time," she said.  "Time to think."

With that, she turned and went into the bedroom.  She opened the closet and surveyed her wardrobe.  She rubbed her throat, feeling as though she was coming down with something.  The flu or a cold of some kind.  She’d been achy and swollen for days.  On top of that, she had no appetite whatsoever.  Probably a side affect from the pregnancy, she decided, pulling a black dress from the closet and holding it in front of her.   That or the stress over her marriage.

Jordan Rydell

“Nice work,” Jordan said and approached Alex after the press conference.  He kissed her and shook hands with a few passing reporters. 

She smiled with conceit.  “Some of it was true,” she said with a wink as Kenny approached with Stormy and Renee right behind.

“Offloading that land was a nice touch,” Kenny said with a grin.  “The Land Commission is loving you right now.”

Renee rolled her eyes.  “All right, enough.  Why don’t we just give her the Medal of Freedom while we’re at it?  For God’s sake, the woman made herself sound like Mother Theresa.”  She glared at Alex and stepped toward her.  "How could you do that?  You know how much Blackthorne-Reynolds meant to James and I, and you just announce that it's history before he or I can have a vote in it?"

“What do you think the chances are that they won’t press charges?” Stormy asked.

Alex shrugged indifferently.  “Well, I’m not going to sit around all day worrying about it.  I have a wedding to get ready for.”  She turned to Jordan.  “Darling, I’ll be upstairs getting into my dress.  I’ll see you at two o’clock.”

Everyone watched in disbelief as she marched care-free up the stairs, completely unwilling to accept the possibility that things weren't as neatly resolved as she'd like to think.   When she reached the top landing,  she paused as Benji came out of his bedroom.

“Benji, your father told me you were back,” she said with a smile.  “My God, I can’t believe how grown up you are.  You are so handsome.”  She walked up and gave him a quick squeeze.  “When was the last time you came for a visit, anyway?”

Benji blushed and dug his hands into his pockets.  “A little over two years ago,” he said.  “I was here for Stormy and Heather’s wedding.”

Alex nodded with the recollection.  “That’s right,” she said.  “Well, your sister’s married again.  Only this time you missed the wedding.”

He nodded and pushed his bangs from his eyes.  “Yeah, I heard the guy is a real jerk,” he said.  “He was married to Miranda before, wasn’t he?”

Alex folded her arms.  “He was a jerk, yes, but a lot of us owe him a debt of gratitude,” she said after thinking about the events on the roof of the Los Angeles Theater.  She shuddered to think of what would have happened to her or Heather if Brett and Jordan hadn't intervened.  

“I'm so happy you and my dad are getting married again,” Benji said, his eyes beaming.

She smiled and grew serious for a minute.  “I know you must have a lot of questions about us.  Your father and I, I mean.  Like why we divorced in the first place, and why we’re just now remarrying.  But I want you to know that I love your father very much and I never stopped.  Things just got in the way.  But now I think we have a chance to be really happy.”

“I’m glad,” he said timidly.  “Looks like I came back just in time.”

“You sure did,” she said with a good natured laugh and started toward Jordan’s bedroom.  She paused and turned back, growing serious again.  “One more thing, Benji.  I would never try to take the place of your mother.  Suzanne loved you very much.  I just hope that you and I can be friends.”

The corners of his mouth turned up and he nodded appreciatively.  “I’d like that,” he said.

Alex smiled and continued on her way, realizing that she didn’t have much time to finish getting ready.

Ethan Blackthorne

Ethan found Brooke at the hospital pacing the waiting room with a steaming cup of coffee.  He approached her and placed a gentle hand on her arm.   “I just went by your hotel room and the nanny said you were here,” he said.  “Has there been any change?”

She shook her head. 

“I saw your things packed up in your suite,” Ethan continued.  “Are you going somewhere?”

She nodded absently.  “I’m moving into a house.  Staying at Hotel Terranova was only a temporary arrangement.  I can’t live there forever.”

Confused, Ethan ran his fingers through his hair.  “Wait a minute.  You’re moving?  I know we’re taking things slow, but I thought we’d eventually move in together.”

“Ethan, I-“

I know, I know.  You’re not ready now.  I get that.  But this makes it seem like it’ll never happen.  You’re moving into a house and you’re moving on with your life.  Without me.  I don’t get it, Brooke.”

“Do we have to do this now?” she asked and dropped her hands to her sides.  “James is still in a coma.”

“I realize that.  But do I have to remind you what he did to you?  The way he treated you?  Why are you hanging around here like-”

“Forgive me if I’m concerned about the man that I was married to for the better part of two years.  He’s your uncle, for God’s sake.  What would you have us do?  Pretend this isn’t happening?  Turn our backs on him?”

“Of course not,” he replied.  “It just seems that you’re using James as an excuse to avoid me.”

She glared at him in disbelief.  “That’s ridiculous,” she said, even though she knew it was entirely true.  “You’re just-“

“What?” Ethan cut her off.  What am I doing?”

She looked at him plainly and folded her arms.  “You’re smothering me.”

“I’m smothering you?” he yelled angrily.

“I told you that I needed time!  I told you that I didn’t want to rush, and all you do is badger me about moving in together and spending time together and I just can’t handle it right now.  I’m sorry!  I need room to breathe!”

After waiting for her tantrum to finish, Ethan set his jaw and stalked toward the door.  “You want room to breathe?” he shouted.  “You’ve got it!”

Brooke buried her face in her hands, cringing as the door slammed shut when he left the room.  She shook her head and sat down, jumping with a start when the door opened again.  She found herself hoping it was Ethan returning.  She didn’t mean to go off on him, but everything was piling up and she was growing increasingly distraught.

“You okay?” David asked when he entered the room. 

She smiled vaguely.  “Fine, thank you.  How is Miranda holding up?”

He entered the room with his hands in his pockets.  “About as well as can be expected,” he said and gestured to the seat beside her.  “Do you mind?”

She shook her head. 

“I tried to get her to come with me to the cafeteria but she refuses to leave his room,” David said as he sat down on the plastic chair.  “She won’t leave his side.”

“He means everything to her,” Brooke murmured sorrowfully.  “You take away the tough exterior and the chip on her shoulder and she’s just a scared little girl inside.  A little girl who wants nothing more than to have her father all to herself. She's hanging on to that.  She doesn’t want the fantasy to end.”

“You seem to know them pretty well.”

“I do.  I understand their relationship.  In many ways they’re all each other has.  They take care of each other.”

David hung his hands between his knees and stared blankly at the floor.  “When my father died it was totally unexpected.  A car accident.  He had been driving home from one of his hotels in Santa Barabara and the highway was blanketed with fog.  He probably couldn’t have seen a bird on his windshield it was so dense.  There was a ten-car-pileup and he was in the middle of it all.  He was in a coma for a week.  I visited him once during that time.”

“Why only once?” Brooke asked.  "I thought you were close to your father."

David took in a breath and shrugged.  “It was too difficult seeing him like that,” he said.  “The powerful Royce Jennings reduced to a vegetable.  I just couldn’t bring myself to watch him deteriorate.”

“Were you with him when he died?”

Nodding slowly, David looked at her and then back at the ground.  “I was, yes.  I finally decided to risk being uncomfortable.  It’s selfish, isn’t it?  I was too uncomfortable to see my father in that state.  Never mind what he was feeling at the time.  I was uncomfortable.”

Brooke studied his expression and realized there was more to David Jennings than she’d realized.  She wondered if he’d opened up like this to Miranda.   Something told her he hadn’t.

“So the day I went to see him, I walked into his room, sat down beside the bed, and held his hand,” David continued.  “He opened his eyes for the first time in a week, looked at me, and then he died.”

Brooke’s eyes stung with tears.  “He was waiting for you.  He couldn't let go until he saw you again.”

“Do you believe that?”

She nodded and wiped her eyes.  “I do.  I don’t believe that God takes us until we have a chance to say goodbye.  Your father hung on because of you.”

Now it was David’s turn to wipe his teary eyes.  He hung his head low, squeezing his eyes shut when Brooke reached over and enclosed his hand in hers.

Jordan's House

The small gathering of guests had assembled on the flowing green laws of Jordan’s home in Beverly Hills.  Rows of white chairs adorned with pink bows were filled with friends and family.  The delicate strings of a harp played the wedding march as Jordan and Alex made their way down the aisle between the rows of chairs.  Her in a slimming white satin gown and him in a dapper black suit.  They stopped in front of the minister and he began the ceremony.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman…”

Twenty minutes later, they were officially reunited as husband and wife.  The receiving line moved at a snails pace.

“Congratulations!”

“Third time’s a charm!”

“See if you can make this one stick."

The well-wishes and thinly veiled digs came fast and furious.  While Alex was disappointed that Miranda hadn’t been there, she understood that she didn’t want to leave James.  To her it was business as usual.  The more she told herself nothing was wrong, the sooner he would wake up.

“I’m so happy for you,” Marilee said as she approached and gave Alex a quick squeeze.  A tear formed in her eye and she quickly masked it with a smile and a deep breath.

“Marilee, are you okay?” Alex asked sorrowfully.  “I would have understood if you didn’t come.  After everything you’ve been through-“

“Seth Walker wasn’t the first husband I’ve buried, Alex dear,” Marilee said bravely.  “And I’m sure he won’t be the last.”

Alex laughed at her friend’s good natured sense of humor.  “I’m sure he won’t be,” she agreed.

“But seriously, Darling, I’m so sorry for everything he put you through,” Marilee continued.  “Seth had ways of distracting me.  I feel like a fool for having been so blind to him."

"We're all blind when it comes to love," Alex said.

Next was Jack Fallmont's turn in line.  He shook hands with Jordan.  “Congratulations,” he said and kissed Alex.  “It was a beautiful ceremony.”

“Thank you,” Alex replied.  “Jack, how are you holding up?”

“Better now that I know Adrienne’s killer is in hell,” he replied.  “I want to thank you all for everything you did to uncover the truth.  I can finally sleep at night knowing her killer isn’t walking the streets.”

“We’re so sorry about everything, Jack,” Jordan said.

Jack looked at his watch and jutted out his hands.  “Well I have to go,” he said.  “I want to go by the hospital and check on James.  Then I have a flight to catch.”

“Business?” Jordan asked.

He shook his head.  “I’m moving back to Denver to be with my children.  Adrienne’s death has been very hard on them.  I decided to head up the Colorado division of Fallmont Industries and leave Los Angeles to my V.P.  Too many memories here, you know.”

“We’re sorry to see you go, Jack,” Alex said and hugged him warmly.

Heather Blackthorne

“I can’t believe you’re really here,” Heather said to her brother as they walked arm in arm on the other side of the lawn.  “I’ve had Daddy all to myself for so long that I don’t know if I can share him with anyone else.”

Benji laughed as they stopped at the punch table.  “I’m just excited to be back and to have a normal life.  Seeing you guys once a year and on holidays just wasn't enough.  I missed you.  I missed having a family."

“Well you’ve got more family now than you’ll know what to do with,” she said and rubbed her hand over her stomach.  “Including your niece or nephew who’s on the way."

"What about your husband?" Benji asked.  "Alex said he was a descent guy.  I guess he must be if he did what they said he did up on that roof the other night."

The mention of Brett made Heather tense.  She didn't know what to do or think about him anymore.  Despite everyone's warnings, she married him with the full belief that he had changed.  His association with Seth Walker proved otherwise. Now she was back to her inability to trust him.  Only now they were married and she was carrying his child.

"Brett was a hero," Jordan said and approached them.  "He saved your sister's life."

Heather exhaled and shook her head in frustration.  It was odd hearing her father sing Brett's praises.  Part of her thought he was as naive as she had been.  "Daddy, not now.  I know you're suddenly Brett's biggest supporter, but his saving my life doesn't change the fact that he put it in danger in the first place."

"You're right, he did put your life in danger," Jordan said.  "And I will never forgive him for that.  He will always be on thin ice as far as I'm concerned.  But anyone who risks their own life to save my daughter's automatically gets a second chance with me."

Heather ran her fingers through her hair, more confused than ever.  "You're just saying that because I'm pregnant with his baby."

"No, I'm not.  If I didn't think he loved you, I'd be the first to tell you that I don't give a damn if he fathered your baby."  A quick pause while he shifted subjects and pulled both of his children to his side.  "Now what's going on with the two of you? You aren’t already ganging up on your old man, are you?”

Heather laughed.  “Dad, we’re not kids trying to stay up past our bedtime.  We’re adults having an adult conversation.”

Jordan took a deep breath of fresh air and kissed them both on top of the head.  “I must be the luckiest man alive.  I’ve got my two children with me, the woman I love, and a grandchild on the way.  What more could anyone want?”

Benji smiled and flinched when Jordan pulled him close and ruffled his hair.  They stopped and Heather placed a hand on her stomach, nausea setting in.  She couldn’t tell if it was the pregnancy or the flu that she suspected she was coming down with.

“Are you okay, Princess?” Jordan asked and looked at her with concern.

She nodded.  ‘”Just a little nauseas,” she replied.  “I think it’s probably morning sickness.  Daddy, do you mind if I take off early?  I’d like to stop by the hospital and check on Miranda and see how James is doing.”

He kissed her forehead.  “Of course not,” he replied.  “Give Miranda my love.”

She hugged him and Benji and then turned and started off to get her car from the valet. 

Renee DeWitt

Several feet away, Renee pushed her hand through Sierra’s hair and admired her beautiful daughter with a tender smile.  

“Sweetheart, what is it?” she asked.  “You seem so sad.”

“I think I’ve made a decision,” Sierra replied, wrapping her arms around herself.   “I got offered acceptance to the music department at Sarah Lawrence.”

Renee couldn’t hide her surprise.  “In New York City?  Sierra, I had no idea you were thinking of leaving.  I don't know if I want you to."

The details were difficult for Sierra to talk about, but she knew that she owed her mother the best explanation she could give her.  “I need to get away from here,” she said softly.  “Ever since I showed up on your doorstep it’s been one thing after another.”

Renee felt her throat closing and she stifled back the tears that threatened her eyes.  “You’ve been through a lot,” she said.  “More than any young woman should have to go through.  I know most of it is my fault and I’ll never forgive myself for what it’s done to you.”

“It’s not your fault,” Sierra insisted.  “Well, not entirely.  It’s this place.  Bad things happen to good people all the time, but I don’t think I can take anymore.  At least not right now.  I know I have this new family here and all, but right now I just don't think that I want to know them.  Does that make any sense?"

“Have you talked to Dr. Anderson about this?”

Sierra nodded.  “He thinks it’s a good idea.  It’s not forever.  The vocal program is only a year.  And the coaches at Sarah Lawrence are some of the best in the country.”

“You don’t have to justify yourself to me,” Renee said and pulled her close.  “You are a brave, intelligent, beautiful, talented young woman and I want you to have all the opportunities that I had.  I know I wasn’t a very good mother when you were growing up, but I want you to know that I love you more than anything in the world.”

A tear fell down Sierra’s cheek and she clung to Renee with all her might.  “I know you do,” she said.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” Renee cried, rocking her back and forth in her arms.

Eddie Distefano

Inside the tent, Eddie followed Stormy around to each food table, picking up one of everything he did.

“Come on, why not?” Eddie asked, barely noticing the food falling from his top-heavy plate.

“Because I am not a private investigator,” Stormy insisted.  “I’m an executive at Sunset Studios.  I have responsibilities there.  I can’t just ignore that to be the Fred to your Shaggy.”

“I’m Fred,” Eddie said with a grin.  You’re Shaggy.”

You’re Shaggy.”

Groaning, Eddie continued following him around the reception.  “What makes you think you still have a job at Sunset Studios?  Now that Blackthorne-Reynolds is no longer, your father will probably reclaim his throne in Hollywood.  Then you’ll be back to playing PS3 all day in your underwear.  Come be my partner.  We’re a good team and you know it.  Look how we cracked that Costa Mesa case wide open.”

“Eddie,” Stormy said irately. “No.”

Cedars-Sinai

By the time Heather got to the hospital, she felt worse than before.  She was now convinced that the flu she’d been coming down with for the past few days was hitting her hard.  She headed to James’s room in the ICU and bumped into Brooke just outside the door. 

“Brooke, hi,” she said.  “Has there been any change?”

She shook her head.  “No, sweetie, there hasn’t,” she replied.  “How was the wedding?”

“It was very nice,” Heather replied.  She started to feel dizzy, the room spinning and her skin feeling cold and clammy. 

“Heather, are you all right?” Brooke asked when she noticed her start to sway on her feet.  “You don’t look so good.”

“No, I’m fine,” she replied, placing a hand on her forehead and trying to will herself to feel better.  She had no time to get sick.  There was too much to do with the baby coming and with the uncertainty over her marriage. 

“Maybe you should come sit down,” Brooke insisted and led her to a row of plastic chairs in the waiting room.

She followed her slowly, her vision sudden blurring to the point of blackness.  Her knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor.  Brooke darted over and knelt down beside her in a panic.

“Help!” she called to the nearby nurses station.  “We need some help over here!”

Alex Reynolds

The reception continued, although Jordan and Alex found time to sneak away from the guests and the paparazzi for a private moment together under the gazebo.

“So how does it feel being Mrs. Jordan Rydell?” he said and kissed her.

Alex exaggerated the movements of hesitation and sighed evasively.  “About the same as it felt the last time I was Mrs. Jordan Rydell,” she joked, then cracked a smile.  “Only this time I think I’m even more in love with you.”

Jordan gazed out at the wedding guests and took a deep breath.  “So what do you think went wrong the first time?”

Alex frowned.  “Well unless you want this time to start off badly, I suggest we forget about the past.  Why would you ask such a thing?”

“So we don’t make the same mistakes,” he replied.  “I intend to grow old with you, Alex Reynolds.  I want to go to film premieres when we’re ninety and we’re both in walkers and our children have shipped us off to the Actors Retirement Village.”

“As long as your mother isn’t still there,” Alex said with a wry smile.

Jordan offered a hearty laugh.  “I have a feeling she probably will be.”  He looked into her eyes and grew serious.  “I think we didn’t trust each other enough. We let the past and our expectations for the worst get in the way."

“Let’s make things different this time,” Alex said and took his hand in hers.  “If we agree to be honest with each other and trust each other then we’ll be halfway there.  We’ll already have a leg up on last time.”

Jordan nodded.  “Agreed,” he said.  “No secrets, no distrust.”   

"And we can start by you telling me something that I've always wanted to know, but never got a straight answer about."

"What's that?" Jordan asked and spun her around the gazebo in a slow waltz.   

"Why did Suzanne leave you?"

Jordan stopped dead in his tracks and looked at her curiously.  "Why would you ask that?  That was twelve years ago."

She shrugged.  "I don't know.  I guess with Benji coming home I couldn't help but think about it.  She left without a word to anyone."

He continued taking her around the gazebo, masking the anguish behind his eyes.  "She wasn't mentally well, you know that," he replied easily.  "'We'd been having problems and she left."

"What did you tell your children about why she left?"

"I said what I had to say.  I didn't want them knowing the truth, that their mother was unbalanced."

"But why would she leave her children like that?" Alex asked.  "That's what I don't understand.  Even if she had emotional problems, she wouldn't just up and leave her children without ever seeing them again."

"Alex?  Why is this important?  You never really liked Suzanne to begin with."

She shrugged and decided to drop it yet again.  It seemed that anytime Jordan's first wife came up in conversation he was quick to change the subject.  She realized that Suzanne's leaving must have broken his heart so badly that the very thought of her was too difficult for him.  They had been very much in love during their marriage.   The fact that he could be so destroyed over it made her love him even more.  

Heather Blackthorne

“You have a toxoplasma infection,” Dr. Farraday said, taking care so as to explain himself clearly.  “The flu-like symptoms you’ve been having are not an uncommon side affect from toxoplasmosis.”

“What is it?” Heather asked, terrified.  She was sitting on an exam table with Brooke seated across the room.  She was relieved to have someone there with her.  When she woke up not knowing where she was, she'd never felt more vulnerable. Brooke had been kind and stayed with her until the blood tests came back.  

“It’s a parasite,” he explained.  “It usually comes from exposure to infected water supplies, cats, or from raw meat that’s been contaminated. “ 

Heather sat on the table, frozen with fear as she listened.

“I’m going to start you on an antibiotic called spyramicin,” the doctor explained.  “It should clear the infection up fairly quickly.”

“And then I’ll be okay?” Heather asked hopefully.

“Yes, fortunately the antibiotics are very effective.”

Heather looked down at her stomach and then at the doctor.  “But what about my baby?” she asked.  “Should I be worried?”

Dr. Farraday leaned in and folded his hands together.  Congenital toxoplasmosis affects the fetus inside the placenta.  It’s common among women like you who have come into contact with toxoplasma antibodies for the first time.  The fetus is especially at risk after the first trimester, and you’ve just entered your second.”

“So my baby’s been exposed to it?” Heather asked and looked over at Brooke with horror.

“I’m afraid so,” the doctor said. 

“But the antibiotics will clear it up, right?” Brooke asked.  “You said it would help Heather, so it’ll help the baby too.”

He shook his head sorrowfully.  “Unfortunately not.  A fetus at this stage of pregnancy doesn’t have a developed immune system.  The antibodies will be very difficult to treat with medication.”

Heather brought her hands to her mouth and she shook her head in despair.  Brooke immediately rose to her feet and put a comforting hand on hers.  “So what will happen to my baby?” Heather cried, tears flowing down her cheeks.  “Dr. Farraday, please.  You have to help my baby get better.”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do.”

His words were like a thousand daggers sticking into her skin.  She immediately thought of the worst case scenario.  “Will I lose the baby?”

“Some women do, but many women carry to full term and give birth with few or no complications,” he explained.  “However, in many cases the infant is born with some form of mental retardation."

The news kept getting worse.  Heather sobbed uncontrollably, clinging to Brooke’s arm and trying to get a grasp of what he was telling her.

“I know this is difficult to hear,” he said.  “There’s a chance that you could give birth to a normal, healthy baby.  However, those chances are slim.  But you do have choices, Heather.”

She frowned amidst a haze of tears.

“Many women in your position opt to have a therapeutic abortion.”

“A therapeutic abortion?” she lamented.  “That makes it sound so easy.  It’s not.  It’s not easy, Dr. Farraday!  You’re asking me to choose whether I want to have my baby or kill it before it even has a chance to be born!  How can you ask me to do that?”

“You don’t have to decide right now,” he said.  “We have a small window of time before we have to make a decision.  You should talk it over with your husband.  Search your feelings, Heather.  Ask yourself if you can give the same love and affection to this baby if it turns out that something is wrong with him.  If the answer is no, It doesn’t make you a bad person or a selfish person.  Millions of women opt to terminate in this situation.”

Heather shook her head sorrowfully.  She honestly didn’t know the answer to his question.  Did she want to bring a baby into the world knowing full well that there was a chance he could live a life that was incomplete or filled with emotional pain?  It seemed cruel to think about.

Then she thought about Brett and how much he wanted this baby.  He’d been destroyed when Miranda had her miscarriage.  How could she terminate this pregnancy and see that same voided look in her husband’s eyes?  It broke her heart to think about it. 

"If you'd like, we can perform an amniocentesis to detect any abnormalities.  If a birth defect or mental retardation are present, we’ll know.  Then you can make your decision based on that.”

She shook her head and stood up.  “I don’t want any tests,” she said.  “I don’t want a test to be the deciding factor of whether I’m going to keep this baby or not.  I’m sorry, Dr. Farraday, but I can’t.”

“Heather, maybe you should just have the test.  At least that way you’ll know,” Brooke said.  “At least think about it.”

She shook her head in agony.  The decision was impossible.  Now all she could think about was Madam Valda and her predictions of the future.  She'd told her that her offspring would suffer for her sins.  It seemed that now that prediction was a reality.

Brooke Taylor

After leaving a somber Heather at the hospital, Brooke went back to her suite at Hotel Terranova to finish getting her things packed up for the move.  Surprisingly, she didn’t have much to pack.  Most of her belongings went straight into storage when she married James.  Her apartment in Sherman Oaks didn’t hold much so she didn’t have alot to her name.  Material possessions weren’t really what she cared about anyway.  She had memories.  Memories of her life before it came to such a boil.

She put Michael down for a nap and sent the nanny to her room before nestling down with a black marker and masking tape.  Just as she did, a knock at the door interrupted her duties and she sighed with frustration.   What next? she thought to herself as she went across the room and pulled open the door.

“Hello baby,” said a blonde woman standing in the hall, her arms outstretched.

Brooke’s eyes flashed open in surprise.  “Mother!” she gasped.

Jordan's House

Back at the reception, Kenny found Alex and Jordan and pulled them off to a corner of the lawn.   “I have news,” he said.  “I just talked to my contact with the state department.  We should go somewhere and talk."

Minutes later, Renee joined them in the parlor room inside Jordan's house.  They paced around the room waiting for Kenny to deliver their fate.

"It looks like your press conference did some good after all," he began.  "The charges against Stormy and Eddie have been dropped, but they can't just brush this whole thing under the rug.  They're looking to make an example out of Blackthorne-Reynolds.  Far too many corporations have been caught trading arms with enemies and all they get is a slap on the wrist.  You're going to have to be the bar that everyone else is weighed against."

"That's not fair!" Alex guffawed.  "Why should I have to bear the brunt of the government just because they went too easy on all those companies grandfathered in during the Clinton administration?  Clinton said it was good for the economy.  Now all the sudden it's worthy of  their attention?"

“The government was very grateful for your donation to the Land Commission.  They’re naming a street after you in Costa Mesa.”

“How fitting,” Renee said wryly as she sipped from a tumbler of bourbon.  “Let’s hope it’s a two-way street.  You know, to match your two faces.”

"Well, that donation probably saved your asses," Kenny continued with apprehension.  "The criminal charges were dropped, but you will have to pay fines.  Despite the technicalities of Walker's influence, on paper it looks to them as if you were part of the operation. They're going easy on you by dropping the criminal charges, believe me."

"How much in fines are we talking?" Renee asked.

"One hundred million dollars," Kenny replied, flinching as if waiting for a boiling pot to explode.

"What?" Renee shrieked at the top of her lungs.  "That's insane!"

"It's better than prison," Kenny insisted.  

"One hundred million dollars?" Jordan demanded.  "We don't have that kind of money.  Even if James, Renee, Alex and I pool our money together, we'll be bordering on bankruptcy."

"It isn't as bad as all that," Kenny insisted.  "The sale of Blackthorne-Reynolds will knock that down to seventy-five million."

"Oh, brilliant!" Renee exclaimed and turned to Alex.  "I hope you're happy.  Because of you, this fifteen million dollar investment of mine just cost me that plus an additional twenty-five million.  I could kick your ass."

"Bring it on, bitch," Alex said defiantly.  

"You knew about this, didn't you?" Renee demanded angrily.  "That's what all that talk was at your press conference about leaving Blackthorne-Reynolds to be shut down.  You knew that we'd need to liquidate it to pay these absurd fines.  You've been in talks with the state deparment all week, haven't you?"

"I had to do something," Alex insisted, realizing that she couldn't hide the truth.  "They said if I surrendered the land they wouldn't press criminal charges.  And I knew that the fines were going to be steep.  We had to sell off Blackthorne-Reynolds to make even a dent in them.  Otherwise we'd be in worse shape than we are now."

"Well thanks for letting the rest of us in on your little deal," Renee said and folded her arms with a scowl.

"Relax, we'll come up with something," Alex said and chewed nervously on her fingernails.  "I mean, we're all wealthy, successful people.  Surely we can think of a way to come up with twenty-five million dollars apiece and not have it affect our livelihoods.  Renee, you still own Merteuil Industries, and James has Sunset Studios."

"And what about you?" Renee asked.  "How on earth are you going to contribute to the Seth Walker Screwed Us Fund? You have your house in Malibu, but that's a few million tops.  As usual you are inept on every level, Alex.  A complete waste of skin.  And mark my words, I will not rest until I destroy whatever is left of your miserable existance."

Alex planted her hands on her hips and gave her an imperious scowl.  "I'll have you know I am perfectly capable of contributing.  I did have a career before this whole mess started, you know."

They all looked at her, skepticism evident in their raised eyebrows.  

"I'll just go back to work.  The world's been waiting for my big return to the silver screen, and that's what I'll give them.  Alex Reynolds has officially returned from her sabatical from showbusiness."

Before anyone could respond, Stormy darted into the room.  He looked at them blankly, glancing at his cell phone and then back at them.  “We have to get to the hospital,” he said.  “Now.”

They looked at him knowingly.  The tone in his voice and the look on his face was enough to make them crawl out of their skin with anticipation.

James Blackthorne

They gathered in the waiting room and paced back and forth, some permitted to go in and see James and others not.  When Alex and Stormy entered the room, they saw Miranda seated beside the bed with James's hand in hers.  Tears flowed from her eyes and she sobbed when he saw them. 

Out in the hall, Dr. Farraday spoke with Renee and Jordan.  “He’s out of the woods,” he said happily.  “Just the fact that he woke up on his own is a miracle.  The internal bleeding is under control and his kidneys are responding to the medication.”

Renee shut her eyes and clung to Jordan with tears in her eyes.   “Thank God,” she whispered.

“Family only right now,” Dr. Farraday continued.  “But I’m sure that all of you being here means the world to James."

Renee appeared relieved, gazing through the window into the room where Stormy sat holding his father’s hand.

“You look very handsome,” James said weakly and looked into his son’s eyes. 

“I take after my old man,” Stormy said and beamed happily.  He felt his eyes burn and he took a deep breath in an effort to maintain his composure.  He’d never felt so relieved in his life.  They’d came so close to losing him, and only then had he realized that he'd often taken their relationship for granted.  Why did it take a tragedy to bring family closer?  

Alex walked over and sat down next to him.  “James, save your strength,” she said and squeezed his hand.  “Save your strength so you can get home and take care of your family.  They need you.  We all need you."

“Alex,” James said through clouded eyes.  “You’re wearing a wedding dress.”

She sniffed and sucked in her tears.  “I got married this afternoon.”

“Again?” James asked and attempted to laugh.  “Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Jordan,” she said and smiled.   “We decided to give it another go around.”

“He always did love you,” James said through a fit of grunts and deep breaths.  “He’s loved you for years.”

“But you won me over first, didn’t you?” Alex asked.

“Alex, I'm sorry that things went so wrong for us."  His voice was weak, every word a struggle for him to speak.

Alex kissed him on the cheek.  "But we'll always be in each other's lives," she said.  "We have children together and for that I will always love you."

"What happened to Walker?" James asked, suddenly remembering how he got there in the first place.  He remembered walking into Leigh's hotel room and seeing her dead on the floor.  He remembered picking up the phone to call the police. After that it was all a blank.   "We have to stop him.  He shot me.  He shot...Leigh."

"Shhh," Alex said.  "He's dead.  Seth is dead and he can't hurt us again."

“Daddy, you need to save your energy,” Miranda said and walked back to his bedside.  "Try not to talk."

“My little girl," James said and coughed.  "Always looking out for her dad."

“And I always will,” she said, relieved that he was awake and had a positive prognosis from Dr. Farraday.  Finally she could breathe.   Finally this nightmare was over.

"Where is Brooke?" James asked, his eyes shifting around the room.  "Is Brooke here?"

"No, Brooke's not here," Miranda said, wondering if he was only asking because he was so doped up on medication.  They certainly hadn't had a civil relationship as of late so she couldn't imagine he would want her there.  "So don't worry, Daddy. Brooke is out of your life forever.  You never have to see her again if you don't want to."

He shook his head. "I want to see her.  I have to make her understand.  I have to tell her how sorry I am for everything."

Miranda pushed his hair from his eyes and forced a smile over her rigid expression.  She prayed that during his brush with death he hadn't come to some kind of revelation that would lead him to forget about everything Brooke Taylor had done to him.  That would be the worst thing that could happen apart from his dying.  

"I'll tell her, Daddy," she said through pursed lips.  

"Sweetheart, you have to.  I have to make things right with everyone that I've..."  He stopped, grimacing in pain, coughing a deep rooted cough that pulled at his stitches.  Once it subsided he took a breath and continued.  "I died, Miranda.  I died and went to heaven and saw so many people.  Georgie was there, and your grandparents, and Jonas, and-"

"Shhh," Miranda said and placed a finger over his mouth.  She was positive that he had dreamt whatever it was he thought he saw.  He'd been out of it for almost a week.  Any number of things could have gone through his head, including the belief that he had gone to the hereafter.  Whatever it was, she was just happy to have him back.  

Brett Armstrong

Heather returned home from the hospital and found Brett waiting for her.  He came out of the bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt and wondering if she was about to unleash on him again.

“How was the wedding?” he asked.

"It was fine," she said, dropping her purse onto the sofa.  "I went to the hospital afterwards and checked on James."

"How is he?" Brett asked.  "Has there been any change?"

She nodded slowly.  “He woke up.  The doctors think he’s going to recover.”

“That’s fantastic,” he said.  “I can imagine what a relief this is to Miranda.”

Heather walked to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water.  She felt numb. The news Dr. Farraday had delivered weighed heavily on her mind.  She couldn’t think of anything else, even muster the elation necessary to celebrate in James’s recovery. 

“Are you okay?” Brett asked when he detected the somberness in her face.  “Are you feeling all right?”

She nodded.  “I’m fine.”

“Everything okay with the baby?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” she said.  She couldn’t bring herself to tell him the truth.  He’d already lost a baby.  How could she tell him that theirs was in jeopardy?  He would be destroyed.  He wanted this baby more than anything, and she was determined to give it to him.  Nothing else mattered to her now.  

“When do you see the doctor?”  Brett asked.  “For a checkup, I mean.  I’d love to go with you.  I want to be with you every step of the way during this pregnancy.”

She forced herself to smile in an effort to ease any worries he might have.  “I already did,” she said.  “They said everything was fine.  There shouldn’t be any problems.”

Brett smiled with relief and pulled her into an embrace.  “I’m so happy to hear that,” he said and kissed her warmly.  “I guess after everything that’s gone on lately, we deserve this, don’t we?”  When she didn't pull away as she had every time he got close to her recently, he began to realize that maybe she was softening towards him.  Maybe she could learn to trust him again.  

She fought back the tears, staring off in a daze and praying that by some miracle their baby would be born happy and healthy.  Doctors could be wrong, couldn’t they?

Benji Rydell

Benji Rydell had been away from home since he was six years old.  After his mother left them, Jordan sent him to boarding school in Switzerland.  It was there that he learned manners, class, distinction, got an excellent education that rivaled any available in America, played on every sports team, was popular with every student in school, messed around with a lot of girls and a couple of boys when no one was looking, had his first experience with pot, a messy experience with pills, learned to ride horses which spawned a passion for polo, went skiing every month in the alps, broke his leg when he was twelve, broke it again when he was fourteen, got a tattoo from a Swedish whore in the neighboring village, grew a foot taller when he turned sixteen, got an STD from the Swedish whore, cheated off his roommate on a final exam in the eleventh grade, got his roommate expelled but not before sleeping with his girlfriend and getting her pregnant and paying for an abortion with money from Jordan that he said was for skiing lessons, found out that he was far more well-endowed than most men, learned that teachers were easily bought when your father was a Hollywood film producer, got in thirty-two fist-fights since the age of eight, blackmailed the headmaster after finding her in a compromising position with a jar of peanut butter and her golden retriever, started the rumor that the cafeteria had rats, learned how to get candy from the vending machines without paying, rarely wore his uniform in the required manner, stole from the Gap, started the fire that burned the stables down in 2004, bragged to his friends that his sister was the one who killed Will Thomerson, bragged that his step-mother was Alex Reynolds, thought he had poison ivy and then found out it was an STD, hacked into the school computer and changed his grades, slept with the dean of discipline’s daughter even though she said she didn’t want to, was forced to graduate early and was politely asked to never come back and to please skip the graduation ceremony the following summer.

Now here he was back in Beverly Hills.  After the tediousness of the wedding reception, he went up to his bedroom.  There he lay on his bed talking on the phone with Duke Summerfield, a friend from school. 

“Sure it feels weird being back,” he said and lit a joint.  “My dad’s acting like he’s Ward Cleaver and my step-mom is totally overcompensating.  They keep saying how happy they are and how we’re going to be one big happy family.”   A pause while he laughed.  “It’s like a Mentos commercial."

“So what are you going to do now that you’re out of school?” Duke asked over the phone.  “Go to college?”

Benji harrumphed and inhaled deeply from the joint.  “No way,” he said with a frown.  “I’m going to take it easy.   My dad’s so eager to make it up to me for shipping me off to Switzerland for twelve years that I can probably get away with anything and he wouldn’t say a word.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it made,” said his friend.  “Just don’t do anything to screw it up.”

Benji shook his head and stared at the joint.  “Believe me, I won’t,” he said.  “I plan on being an exemplary son.  I’m going to make nice with my step mother and my sister, I'm going to say please and thank you, and I’m going to stay out of trouble.”  He got up off the bed and went to the window, staring outside at Jordan who had just returned home and was climbing out of his car in the front drive.  “And then, when he least expects it, I’m going to make my father pay for what he did to my mother.”

Jordan Rydell

Jordan left Alex at the hospital with Stormy and Miranda, believing she needed time with her children before leaving James who was now recovering.  His talk with Alex earlier about trust weighed heavily on his mind.  Plus the fact that she was so curious about Suzanne's leaving made him realize that they were starting their second marriage with more lies and more deceit.  Nothing had changed.   With all the questions that Alex posed to him, he couldn't help but think of his and Suzanne’s first meeting in 1981, and how in love with her he'd been...

Lola cornered Jordan by the gazebo where he played a crochet match with Renee Merteuil.  She pulled a young woman along with her, nudging her before her son as if offering a prize.

"Darling, look who it is,” Lola said with a grin.

Suzanne,” Jordan said with a smile as he extended his hand to the ravishing brunette.  “How are you?”

“I’m well,” replied Suzanne Rogers, an eighteen year old brunette and former star of the daytime drama, The Young at Heart.   She was now starring with Nathan in another of Jonas’s current productions, Happy Neighbors.

“Do the two of you know each other?” Lola asked, surprised that her match making skills were so finely tuned.  Maybe her intrusion wasn’t necessary.  Maybe Jordan wouldn’t be so dumb as to fall for Mary Ann McCormack, or Alex Reynolds of whatever she was calling herself these days.

“Yeah, I met Suzanne the other day on the set with Nathan,” Jordan said, finding the young woman to be startlingly beautiful.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

“How lovely,” Lola said.  “Well, I should leave the two of you alone.  I’m sure you have a lot to talk about.”  She kissed Jordan on the cheek and sauntered off to join her husband.

“I wonder what that was all about,” Suzanne said with a grin and waved a polite hello to Renee.

Jordan blushed and dug his hands into his pockets.  “She’s always trying to fix me up.  I guess she just worries about me.”

“I think it’s sweet.”

Jordan laughed.  “Nothing about Lola Lamont is sweet,” he said and quickly switched subjects.  “This isn’t the first film of Jonas’s you’ve done, is it?”

Suzanne shook her head and flashed her effortless smile at him.  “No, I was in Hollow Tree.  Just a small part, but I had a great time.  Wasn’t your brother in that too?”

“Half brother,” Jordan corrected her.  “Troy is Lola’s son from her first marriage.”

She smiled sweetly and began plucking petals from a single white Shasta daisy.  Jordan watched her carefully, finding Suzanne Rogers to be refreshingly sweet…

Inside his house, Jordan made his way up to the attic.  He went to the center of the room and knelt down to the floor.  Glancing behind to make sure he was alone, he pulled a loose wooden plank from the floor, reached into a large hidden hole beneath the attic, and removed a small gold chain with a locket on the end.  The compartment inside the locket was empty.  The back was inscribed with a single phrase.  My Darling Suzanne - All my Love.

Reaching back into the crevasse in the floor, he slowly removed another object. This one larger and heavier.  The long wooden handle felt cold in his hand.  The razor sharp blade came close to piercing the skin of his finger when he touched it. 

He held the axe in his hands and began trembling.  His eyes focused on disturbing images from the past.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he lowered the axe back into the hole in the floor and quickly replaced the wooden planks.  He climbed to his feet and dusted off his pants before starting to the attic stairs.

Alex wanted to know what happened to Suzanne.  She wanted to know the secret.  But some secrets were better left just that, he decided.  Secret.

Hotel Terranova

“That’s wonderful news,” Brooke said, gripping the phone tightly in her hand.  “Yes, thank you for calling, Kenny.”

“What was that about?” asked her mother from across the room. 

Brooke set the phone down and turned, distracted.  “James woke up from the coma.  They think he’ll pull through.”

Roz Taylor bounced Michael in her arms and crossed the room toward her daughter.  “Well what are you waiting for?” she asked.  “Get over to that hospital and see him.  He is still your husband, after all.”

Brooke rolled her eyes.  “Mom, I don’t want to get into it,” she said, still in disbelief that her mother was standing there in her living room.  Her visit was unexpected to say the least.  “James and I are divorcing.  You know that.”

“All I’m saying is-“ Roz began before Brooke held up a hand in protest.  “Okay, I’ll stay out of it.”

“Mom, what are you even doing here?”

“A mother can’t come visit her daughter?” Roz asked.  She was an attractive woman in her mid fifties with blond hair and a buxom figure.  Her clothes were simple but classy, her jewels modest but plentiful.  She’d been on the high end of middle class for some time, but still managed to appear unaffected by her daughter’s lavish surroundings. 

“Where’s Dad?” she asked.

“On the road,” Roz explained.  “The life of a salesman, you know.  I think it’s Detroit this week.  Or maybe Dubuque.  But anyway, I know you’ve been saying you would come for a visit soon, only I couldn’t wait, so I hopped on a plane to come see you and my grandson.  And by the looks of it, I’m just in time.”

“For what?” Brooke asked and ran her fingers through her hair.  She loved her mother and had a fair relationship with her, but she exasperated her.  Having her show up during such a chaotic time in her life was the last thing she needed.

“To help you move,” Roz replied and handed Michael off to her.  “This guy looks like he’s ready for dinner, so you feed him and I’ll do some packing.”

Brooke was too tired to argue.  She turned and went into the small kitchenette to make dinner for MIchael.  Roz sat down on the sofa and opened a box of photos, letters, and clippings. 

She paused before stretching the tape across the length of the box, picked up a stack of pictures and smiled while leafing through them.  One in particular of Brooke as a young girl, blond pigtails and a pretty blue ruffled dress caught her attention.   She was posing while standing on a dock at a lake somewhere. 

Frowning, Roz called into the kitchen.  “Where’d you get these pictures?”

“Which ones?” Brooke asked from the doorway.

“In the copy paper box,” said her mother.  “I haven’t seen some of them for fifteen years.”

Brooke shrugged while peeling an apple.  “I think I took those from Nana's house after her funeral.  I always meant to go through them but it was just too hard.”

“I was just curious," her mother said distantly.

Shaking her head, Brooke returned to the kitchen.  “I don’t even know why I hang on to them.  It all just sits in a box getting musty.  Maybe you want to take them home with you when you leave.”  She hoped that her remark would open up a discussion as to exactly when her mother was planning on going home to Flagstaff.  After a few tell-tale seconds, she realized it wasn't to be.  

Turning the photo over, Roz read the handwritten scribbles on the back.

Babydoll, Big Bear Lake, 1983. 

She placed the picture back in the box and quickly secured it shut with many strips of packing tape.  "I think I will take them with me," she said hastily.  "No use having any of this around cluttering up your new house."

James Blackthorne

James Blackthorne had seen the white light in the moments after he was shot.  There were floating clouds, angels with harps, and a golden archway welcoming him to the afterlife.  They taught him that he would feel peace, that he would be reunited with loved ones, and that he would have to answer for his sins. They taught him that he could look down on those he left behind and see into their future.  

And when he did, he saw his daughter Miranda sitting vigilantly by his side, reading to him from The Tempest, their favorite Shakespearean play.  Alex, the woman whose heart he'd stolen, pouring over the casting calls in the daily trade paper in search of meaning and retribution.  Stormy, hard at work at the studio in a constant attempt at earning the love and respect of his father.  He saw his friend Renee, sorrowfully watching her daughter pack her suitcase, anguished over the misery she'd created by her own love for her.  Brooke, the woman who he'd planned on spending eternity with, secretly smiling as she watched her estranged mother playing quietly with her grandson on the floor.  His nephew Ethan, forever lovelorn while staring symbolically at a portrait of his true love.   David, visiting the grave of his father, wishing for another chance to say goodbye.  He saw his best friend Jack, staring out the window of his private jet and speaking a silent goodbye to a closed chapter in his life.  His business associate Marilee, weeping in the solitude of her malibu mansion over the loss of another husband and over the prospect of being alone again.  Lola, the forgotten actress from another time sitting alone in her retirement home while thinking of the life that she once had.  He saw Brett and Heather, mending their broken vows in a tender moment on the sofa.  And he saw Nathan, his fallen idol, trapped behind cold steel bars in his prison cell wondering if freedom was ever a possibility.  

But once he saw the loved ones he was leaving behind....he realized that he wasn't ready.  

Far from Los Angeles, a light snow fell from the sky, blanketing the ground and muffling the sounds of city streets, cars honking and the hustle and bustle of a cold December day.

The penthouse apartment was ornate, meticulously decorated and filled with pre-war charm.  A shelf of golden statuettes lined the entry.  Nothing was out of place and there wasn’t a thing that didn’t scream old money.  From the rows of books in the library to the crystal chandeliers in the foyer, to the old fashioned phone that rang next to the window in her bedroom. 

After three rings she picked up the ivory tusk receiver with a perfectly manicured hand.  Removing the Harry Winston earring from her right ear, she spoke softly and properly. 

“Hello.”

“James Blackthorne woke up from his coma.”  The caller was male and someone she knew.  “He’s going to make it.”

A long pause while she processed the information.  “I see,” she said with a certain amount of detatchment.  

Another pause.  Longer this time. 

“What are you going to do now?” the caller asked her. 

She crossed her long legs and tapped her fingers on the desk, the sparkle from her giant ruby ring catching her eye while she was distracted in her own thoughts.  “I'll just have to find another way.”

“Are you coming here?” he asked.  

“Soon,” she replied.  “I need to take care of some things first.”

“Like what?” the man asked.

She wound the phone cord through her fingers.  “I’ll call you in a few weeks.”

The line went dead and she hung up, tracing her ruby-ringed finger along the phone.


  

 


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