BOOK ONE: DECEPTIONS
Chapters One to Twenty Six
Vignettes 1 - 140

BOOK TWO: YESTERDAY ECHOES
Chapters 27 to
Vignettes 141 -

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vignette #234: He Knows

David Turner stroked the cat in his lap and didn’t bother waiting for a salutation when he heard the line being picked up. “He knows.”

“Everything?”

“Well, not everything, but he knows enough.”

“That’s what we wanted. Isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Turner took a deep breath. “We’ve let him grope around in the dark so long, when we could have just sat him down and told him at the beginning.”

“But then we would have had to tell him everything...” The voice stressed “…Everything…and that’s the last thing we want. This way he finds out enough of the truth to correct all of our mistakes…”

“Most of our mistakes.” Turner corrected.

“Fine, most of our mistakes and we all live happily ever after.”

“You don’t know him like I do. There will be a price to pay.” Turner said almost to himself.

“Is that a problem?”

“No.” He insisted. “This just isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds.”

“It never is.” The voice added. “It never was.”

“There’s more.” David Turner bit his lip. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone else who knows or at least has figured it out.”

“How on Earth could someone else figure it out, David?” The voice scolded him. “We’re not even 100% sure ourselves.”

“Then why?”

“Then why what?”

“Why is someone trying to kill him?”

There was silence on the other end of the phone. “You’re sure? It wasn’t just a one time occurrence?”

“There have been other definite attempts. The FBI is even very discreetly involved.” Turner smiled. “I’m not supposed to know, but then I end up knowing everything.”

“Almost everything. I recall one or two important facts that managed to slip your attention.” The voice reminded him. “How could someone else figure it out?”

“I don’t know…” Turner stroked the cat and thought. “Unless…”

“Unless?”

“They could just be guessing.”

“Like we are.” The voice suddenly insisted. “End it, end it now. It could be the only way to stop anyone else from getting hurt.”

“And what do I say? I’m sorry but the liars believed a lie that had them looking for a unicorn in the wrong garden for oh about fifty years, give or take a year, and now we feel so guilty we’ll do anything to make it up to you short of telling you the reason why it all happened?”

Silence again. “You’re right, and still it’s a shot in the dark. He may very well not be who we think he is.”

“We decided we didn’t care about that anymore.” Turner reminded them. “We decided that it was the most likely hunch and true or not he was in fact the most deserving of all the possibilities.”

“There’s still so much we don’t know.”

“I know for a fact now that he is the one.” Turner insisted.

“You have proof?”

“Finally, I do have proof.”

“How?”

“Young Justyn’s not the only one with a Genetics lab on speed dial.”

“David…”

“I had a DNA test of my own run.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

He smiled. “Since when has bending the law a bit stopped us from getting what we want? That’s what started this whole mess in the first place.”

“And the test was conclusive?”

“There is absolutely no doubt that he is the one.” David Turner sighed, and his lips trembled as he said it out loud for the very first time. “Ian Justyn is my grandson.”

Vignette #233: The Color Burple

“Oh, stop.” Tippy slapped at him. “Clare’s not that bad…anymore…well not as bad…okay, she’s trying really, really hard…or maybe we’re all just getting used to her…or…”

“She’s a like a human kudzu.” Ian sighed. “She gets one finger in the door and she somehow manages to take over, strangling the beauty and the breath out of everything for miles and miles and miles.”

“Hey.” Jesse elbowed his brother. “You knocked her up.”

“Don’t you need to be buying condoms and speed dialing Sarah Palin?”

“Okay, someone has to be the adult in the room.” Ripley hiked up his britches. “I guess it’s my turn. Billy, did you come bursting in here just to tell us your daughter was listening to the baby move?”

“Oh…yeah…right.” Billy turned back to Ian. “I made a few phone calls and discovered something that may be important.”

“Okay.” Ian blinked, bracing for the worse.

“Is Kellen still here?” Billy looked amongst the group. “Kellen should hear this.”

“No. I think he went out earlier.” Tippy pointed over her shoulder. “I don’t remember where he said he was going. Do you?”

“No.” Colton thought a moment. “I saw him go out the front door, but I don’t recall him telling anyone where he was going.”

“He may have told Clare.” Reese said. “I saw them chatting just before he got up and left the house.”

“You want me to ask?” Jesse piped in.

“You just wanna hear the baby move.” Ian teased.

“I can’t help it.” Jesse blushed. “It’s cool.”

“So cool.” Ian agreed.

“Okay…once again…adult in the room?” Ripley said. “Whose turn is it?”

“Never mind.” Billy didn’t know whether to laugh or roll his eyes. “Let me just get this out before we get into cyclical and linear configurations and who invented the color burple.”

“Purple.” Ripley smiled. “The color purple.”

“I have a four year old.” Billy blinked. “To her it’s burple.”

“Who did invent the color purple?” Jesse quandered.

“Well, I know who wrote it.” Tippy said. “But I don’t know who invented it.”

“It’s a color.” Ian insisted. “You can’t invent a color.”

“Stop it!” Billy interrupted. “Ian, I made some phone calls about the renovations…”

“I thought you were doing the renovations/” Colton said.

“I am.”

“But you said…”

“Okay, stop before we get way off track again…” Billy waved his hands in the air. “Everyone take a deep breath and hold it in until I get this out. Now, on the count of three…one…”

“Is this really necessary?” Tippy asked looking around the room.

“…Two…” Billy stared her down.

“Oh.” She realized what she was doing. “Maybe it is.”

“…Three.”

Tippy and everyone in the room took a deep breath and held it.

Billy began to race verbally before people started passing out. “I called the Vespa Brothers, the people Elizabeth Elysian contracted to do the renovations that disconnected the third floor and half the second. I didn’t find out why she insisted it was done, but I did make a discovery that may answer a few other questions. One of the men in the crew doing the renovations was Blue Richards.”

Ian took a breath of air and sputtered. “Blue Richards?”

“He worked with the crew for three weeks until Miss Elizabeth insisted that he be fired.”

“She had him fired?” Tippy took a deep breath, and put her hand to her ample bosom.

“She said she was constantly finding him in parts of the house, by himself, where he wasn’t supposed to be.” Billy informed them.

“That’s odd.” Ian said.

“That she had him fired or that he kept turning up where he wasn’t supposed to be?” Jesse asked.

“Well…kinda both.”

“Focus people…focus or take another breath and hold it.” Billy warned. “Here’s the good part, Blue and another guy were specifically assigned to rebuild the master bedroom closet.”

“My closet?” The statement hit Ian like the proverbial ton of bricks. “Can we talk to the guy? The one who worked on the closet with him?”

Billy crossed his arms and shook his head. “Can’t, turned up dead in a dumpster about three weeks later.”

“Surely the investigators knew about all of this.” Tippy said out loud to herself.

“Uhm…Peyton Balouche?” Reese reminded her.

“That explains how he was able to hide in the house all night without anyone knowing it.” Ripley added.

“And maybe…” Ian looked from the couch up the stairway, “...Where his clothes are and what he took from the house.”

The group looked at each other and began a mass exodus to the master bedroom closet.

“Shouldn’t we call somebody before we do this?”

“Like who? The police think this case is closed.”

“Kellen or maybe Yancy?”

Too late, they were already in the closet ripping everything off the walls looking for latches or levers or anything that would allow entrance into the blocked off portion of the house. In seconds all of Ian’s carefully hung clothes, stacked shoes and folded shirts were a huge messy pile on his bed.

“I think I found it.” Reese said in triumph.

“What?”

He ran his fingers beneath the crown molding on the ceiling. “See? This is the top of the door. I think the whole wall must just swing.”

“What, do we push it or is there a latch?” Ian shoved slightly on the wall.

“Ya’ll are silly” came the little girl’s voice in the closet doorway.

“Vonnie, Angel, we’re trying to find something.” Tippy explained.

“I know.” She said confidently. “But it only swings the other way.”

All movement and conversation ceased as heads slowly turned to the four year old in the doorway.

“Oops.” Vonnie said, folding her hands sweetly in front of her and smiling as innocently as she could possibly figure out how to do.

“Vonnie?” Her father said an octave or two lower than usual.

“Uh…Auntie Clare sent me in here to tell you something important.” She quickly changed the subject.

“Auntie Clare?” Ian’s eyebrow went up again.

“World…ending…” Jesse muttered.

“Yuh huh…” Vonnie smiled and batted her eyes. “It don’t make much sense to me, but she said it was a ‘mergency…her water broked…”

Vignette #232: Defining Goober

Billy rushed into the living room. “Okay, the world is definitely coming to an end.”

Reese shoved his little brother from behind Ripley. “Guess you’ll be calling Sarah Palin.”

“What would I call that thing for?” Jesse sniffed.

“You said when the world came to an end you’d do her.”

“Oooh! Baby Doll that would make a great television show!”

“What, my little brother having sex with a rather…let’s not even get into that…politician?”

“No.” It was Tippy’s turn to roll her eyes. “An anthology comedy series about all the promises people would have to keep when Hell freezes over.”

Ian’s eyes popped. “Let me write that down.” He reached to the little drawer under the coffee table for one of his little pads.

“That one’s on your desk in the den.” Ripley reminded him. “I saw you write something on it and take it in there this morning.”

Tippy jotted a note down on something she pulled out of her bra. “Here. I want partial creation credit.”

Ian grabbed the note with two fingers and swallowed hard. “Uh…thank you?” He looked for a place to put the offensive slip down.

Billy put his hands on his hips. “I’m sure that being a Goober has its benefits, but most of the time it just means you’re a Goober.”

“What’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“I think it’s one of those Southernisms.” Ripley said.

“Wasn’t that a dude on the old ‘Andy Griffith Show’?” Someone piped in.

“I don’t think you can be a dude and be a Goober at the same time.” Reese mused.

“Mom, what’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“Well, honey.” Tippy thought a second. “Usually that’s a term we use for…”

“Obviously, I’ve just tossed another crayon on the floor in a room full of Bi-Polar children hopped up on sugar.” Billy moaned then clapped his hands. “Attention! Attention people, back on the important subject.”

“Yes, right.” Colton has to think a moment and then got back to the original subject. “So Billy, why is the world coming to an end?”

“Actually, that wasn’t the subject.”

“Yes, it was.” Ian corrected him. “You came in the room and said the world was coming to an end.”

Billy got an odd look on his face. “Oh, yeah.”

“Now who’s a Goober?” Jesse snorted.

Billy gave Jesse a playful shove. “Um, sorry, I just walked by Ian’s den and my daughter is in there, sitting on the love seat with Clare giggling and listening to her belly.”

“Vonnie? And Clare?” Ian froze at the thought.

The room was silent for a moment, finally broken when Jesse said softly. “Does any one have Sarah Palin’s cell phone number?”

“The room temp wasn’t fifteen degrees lower either.”

“I never understood what the two of them have against each other.” Tippy asked no one in particular.

“Some people just naturally don’t like each other.” Ian said.

“Like Batman and Joker.” Jesse added.

“But Vonnie’s a little girl.” Tippy retorted. “How can anyone simply not like a sweet little girl?”

“Tippy, Vonnie is my daughter.” Billy told her. “I love her without question, and wouldn’t have her any other way than she is, but let’s be honest she’s not the typical sweet little girl.”

“She’s a hellion in pigtails.” Ian smiled.

“Sometimes.” Reese agreed. “Sometimes just one pigtail with a mass of hair on the other side and a little pink ribbon screaming to get away.”

“That about sums it up.” Ripley nodded. “I adore her, but I can see how she and Clare wouldn’t be able to stand each other. They’re so much alike.”

Everyone in the room froze except for Ian who quietly turned to Billy and put his hand on his forearm. “Drown her. Drown her now. We’ll all swear it was an accident.”

Vignette #231: Other Things

“I will hurt you two.” Ian raised that one eyebrow and pointed a Reese. “I will come after you with a big stick, and then go after you with a bloody stick!” He looked at Jesse.

“Children!” Colton warned with a grin on his face. “Do we need a time out? Now…we’re all a little quirky. Ian, do you feel a little better about this now?”

“Uhm…” Ian sat back down again on the couch, resigned. “…Right now I’m going to put it down on the list of things I still need to figure out about Elizabeth Elysian but can wait until I figure lots and lots of other things out.”

“Other things?” Tippy piped up. “There are other things about Miss Elizabeth that unsettle you?”

Ian looked at Jesse, whose head was poking out from behind Ripley. Ripley looked at Ian and took another big step to the left exposing Jesse Shores. “You didn’t tell them?”

“You told me not to until you figured out why she did it.” Jesse tried to grin. “See, I’m the brother you can trust with a secret.”

“Hold it!” Tippy demanded. “What else has Miss Elizabeth done that we may or may not know about?”

“What do you know about the sale of the house?” Ian said.

Tippy looked at Colton, who shrugged and answered. “That she sold it to you at a bargain price and disappeared almost before any of us had a chance to ask any questions.”

“And that’s all?” Ian tried not to be accusatory.

“Is there more?” Tippy looked at Ian and then at her youngest son.

“Yeah, Mom.” Jesse admitted. “There’s more…a whole lot more.”

“There’s not a problem with the sale, is there?” Colton was worried.

“No, nothing like that.” Ian assured him. “In fact everything is signed, delivered and air tightly legal.”

“So what’s the problem?” Reese was interested.

Ian stood again and turned to face the family, less to face them than to see if he could tell if any of them knew more than they were letting on. “So none of you actually know about the transaction, the whole transaction?”

Tippy was obviously nervous. “The whole transaction? Baby Doll, that sounds ominous.”

“Ominous? No, and maybe just another one of those little quirks of hers, one that makes me wonder why she would do such a thing.” Ian said out loud.

“Just spit it out, Ian.” Ripley said. “It’s weird, but maybe these are the people that can explain it.”

“So you know what he’s talking about.” Reese looked to Ripley, who nodded.

“I told Ripley they day I found out, and Jesse was my driver the day I had the meeting with my lawyer and accountant and discovered the…quirk.” Ian scratched the back of his head.

“It’s some quirk.” Jesse admitted. “Even I’m not sure why she did it.”

“Did what?” Tippy couldn’t stand it anymore. “Did what?”

“Without his realizing it, Elizabeth Elysian sold Ian more than the house.” Ripley mumbled.

“What?” Colton asked.

“Colton, maybe I misunderstood the offer, and I should have done more than take all the paperwork to my lawyer, I should have read it in detail…”

“So much for being anal retentive.” Jesse said quietly making Reese snort.

“Yeah, yeah…in my defense for the price I paid I could hardly believe I was getting this house, there’s no way I could have imagined what I was buying. I took it straight to Jerry Wolfe just to make sure there wasn’t something I wasn’t seeing, like more money down the road…blah blah blah…”

“It’s pretty hard to believe but by the time you found out the deal was done, way too late for questions.” Ripley added.

“Okay, okay…” Colton was losing patience. “Enough with the reasons why whatever slipped you by, I take it that there was a surprise in the real estate deed.”

It was Ian’s turn to snort. “Little surprise? Colton, she sold me everything.”

“Everything?”

Ian nodded his head. “My accountant picked right up on it and thought I knew what I’d purchased. He kept making comments and they kept going right over my head. Now I truly know what the term ‘caviar at bubble gum prices’ means.”

“Baby Doll, we still don’t know exactly what you are talking about.” Tippy looked at Colton and then back to Ian. “She sold you everything. What do you mean by everything?”

Ian crossed his arms. “Most of the block.”

“Most of the block?” Tippy’s mouth dropped open.

Ian nodded his head. “Kellen’s house, the apartment building next door, the two at the beginning of the cul-de-sac…”

Ripley jumped in, “And from what we can tell every business and company she owned.”

“And all her stocks and share holdings.” Jesse finished up.

“Basically by the time I made the first payment on what I thought was the house and just under two acres of land, I had accrued enough profit to pay off the loan…” Ian’s trademark right eyebrow went up, “…from just the interest off the bank cds, that somehow were also part of the deal.”

“Oh…my…God…” Tippy had to sit slowly down on the couch. “Why would she do that?”

“How could she do that?” Colton joined his wife, stunned, on the couch.

“She used a codicil that’s basically used for relatives so they don’t have to pay inheritance tax. It’s perfectly legal, but rarely used for someone who’s not an intended benefactor in a will.”

Ripley added, “The only thing that wasn’t sold to Ian for the bargain price of $500,000 was her personal bank account that we know of. Everything else either became Ian’s or Ian’s name replaced hers as the bearer effective 90 days after they both signed the paperwork.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Tippy blurted out.

“Congratulations?” Reese managed.

“Which brings us back to the original question,” Ian said. “Actually two original questions; why would Elizabeth Elysian do something like that and maybe most important of all, why me?”

Vignette #230: Next Question

“Let’s just forget who didn’t tell who what or who didn’t notice what and start with the next question.” Ian plopped on the sofa.

“Like?” Tippy sat motherly on the arm beside him.

“Why would Miss Elizabeth do something like that to begin with?”

“Not tell you she’d blocked off half the second floor and all access to the third?” Jesse blinked.

“No, just not tell me…anything…at all.”

“She is in her nineties; maybe she just forgot she did it.” Ripley thought out loud.

“Her mind is still like a steel trap.” Tippy defended.

Colton shook his head. “God love the ol’ girl, but she didn’t do or not do anything unless she specifically thought it was for the best.”

“That’s not even the question, but it is certainly one of those points that gloriously seem to point toward so many other questions.” Ian jumped in the get back to the point. “I want to know why someone would just block off half a house.”

“Well, Baby Doll, the basic reason is because it was she couldn’t bear to look at it.” Tippy smiled.

“And she couldn’t stand the thought of remodeling it.” Reese interjected. “She wanted it to remain as it was. I guess she thought when you moved in you’d, you know, make the place all yours, open those walls back up and she’d never have to think about his stuff being touched again.”

“Okay, still a little lost.” Ian looked at the crowd. “What couldn’t she bear to look at and or touch?”

“The second floor she partitioned off was Herman’s bedroom and the third floor was his studio.” Colton sat next to him. “His death was a hard on her. We wondered for a while if she’d even survive it herself.”

Jesse nodded, sitting beside his father. “It was awful, just awful.”

“It came so sudden.” Reese looked at the floor. “No one expected it.”

“What happened?” Ripley had to ask. “I mean, it wasn’t something, you know, Freddy Krugerish or anything, like here in the house was it?”

“No.” Tippy smiled a little. “He did pass away here at the house, on the third floor, but it was a stroke.”

“I think what hurt her most was the fact that she wasn’t home.” Colton said. “The doctor said it was massive, nothing could have been done to save him, but she wasn’t here, by his side, when it happened.”

Ian nodded and looked to the floor. “No one wants to die alone. You always hope someone you love is nearby.”

“And she wasn’t.” Jesse sighed.

“She was at George’s shop, getting a perm and a touch up.” Tippy said. “Miss Elizabeth never was very vain, so I think the fact that she was getting her hair done when her husband of who knows how many years was dying on his studio floor was almost more than she could stand.”

“A little unorthodox,” Ian finally agreed, “But now I can sort of understand it. She blocked off their bedroom and his studio so she could remember everything as it was and find a way to continue on.”

“Well, it wasn’t their bedroom.” Tippy corrected him. “Just Mr. Herman’s.”

“They had separate bedrooms?” Ripley was a little shocked. “I understand they were part of a very different era, but they slept in separate bedrooms?”

“You did not know the Elysians.” Jesse piped up. “They may have been from a totally different era, but they in no way embodied it.”

“Maybe it was the Hollywood they were a part of,” Reese thought out loud, “Maybe they were just the first hippies but they never blinked an eye at anything.”

“Including Reese and I…” Jesse stopped himself.

“Including Reese and I…what?” Tippy raised an eyebrow.

“You know…” Jesse sputtered.

“Having sex in their pool constantly?”

“You know about that?” Ian’s jaw dropped.

“Well, we didn’t video tape it or anything but yes, we knew our sons occasionally brought dates home for a little…in the pool.” Colton admitted.

“I don’t understand what everyone is tip toeing around for.” Reese spoke out. “The Elysians never seemed to be shocked or horrified no matter what sex Jesse and I had sex with in their pool.”

“Ooookaaay.” Ian said.

“I just wanted to hear Jesse say it.” Tippy bit her lip to stifle a giggle, then leaned over to Ian. “Jesse’s the prude in the clan.”

“Ian freaks out at things like that more than I do.” Jesse pouted.

“But I was raised in the mountains by drunken rednecks. Boxer briefs still shock me.” Ian defended his defenses. “Obviously Elizabeth and Herman Elysian were two very healthy, very progressive people. So why would they sleep in separate beds?”

“Probably so Herman could get some sleep.” Colton said looking around at his family who all nodded in agreement.

“Okay…T.M.I.” Ian shook his head then held it in his hands.

Tippy let loose a snort, then a giggle when she realized what Ian was thinking. “No, no Baby Doll. Miss Elizabeth snored.”

"Miss Elizabeth didn’t just snore, she rattled the windows, peeled pain of off walls snored.” Reese added.

“Okay, well that doesn’t make me feel so icky.” Ian sighed in relief.

“Icky?” Reese teased.

“Hey, I’m the long lost big brother and I’ve still yet to collect on a lifetime of noogies.” Ian warned. “So Miss Elizabeth snored.” Before anyone could add anything else he added, “Reverberating the dead after the nuclear holocaust snored. I’m still a little confused. If she snored so terribly the love of her life had to move to another bedroom, why didn’t she just have something done? You know, one of those sleep apnea machines or surgery?”

Tippy tried to hold back the next in the latest series of giggles. “Face it, Baby Doll, when you are in your eighties that last thing you want to do is go to sleep every night with a mask strapped around your face wired to a machine unless of course, it’s the only way of waking up the next morning.”

Colton nodded in agreement. “And as far as surgery goes, once again I’m not sure of the whole story but when Miss Elizabeth was younger she spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. Back then they weren’t nearly as much fun as your recent visits.”

Ian rolled his eyes and did his best to ignore that remark.

Reese smiled at his brother. “Snoring like a constipated backhoe was stuck in her sinuses seemed to be one of life’s oddities that she and Mr. Herman learned to live with like we’ve learned to live with your obsessions about, well, practically everything.”

“Yes. We’ve decided to find it quaint.” Jesse agreed.

“Mommy, Daddy, the babies are picking on me again.” Ian whined.

“Aw honey.” Tippy smiled and pulled her husband closer. “See, we are a real family.”

Vignette #229: Up Front

“Don’t you think that’s something you should have told me right up front?” Ian seethed, uncharacteristically running his hands through his hair, grabbing a handful and pulling. “Hello, we’re your neighbors and half your house is missing!”

“Right, next time I’ll add that to the list.” Colton deadpanned. “Hello, I’m your new neighbor, your biological father and half your house is missing.”

“Uhm…and don’t forget.” Jesse added. “…You knocked your girlfriend up with twins.”

“Jesse, honey, I don’t think you’re helping any.” Tippy tried to rub Ian’s shoulder, but he immediately pulled away. “Technically, it’s not missing, Baby Doll, it’s still there, just walled off so no one can get to it.”

Ian shot her a look.

“Don’t think that’s helping much either.” Reese said under his breath. Jesse couldn’t help but giggle.

“What’s so funny?” Ian snarled.

“Sorry, but I’m kind of enjoying watching you unravel.” He smiled then took a step behind Ripley to protect himself. “You know, the calm cool collected Ian Justyn comes apart at the seams. It makes you wonderfully human, Superman.”

Ian put up his hands and took a deep breath. “Okay, okay. I’m not angry at ya’ll.”

Tippy smiled and Ian pointed his finger at her. “Don’t push it.”

“Sorry, Baby Doll, but we all know when you’re tired because that Southern drawl rears its head. When you’re angry, well honey, it sits up, wags its tail and barks ‘ya’ll’.”

He had to smile at that. “Forgive my diphthongal changes, but back to the initial question. Don’t you think that in the past oh six, seven months at one time or another one of you might just have mentioned that there was entire floor and a half of the house hidden somewhere behind door number three?”

“Son, forgive us, but we thought you knew.” Colton shook his head. “Miss Elizabeth was always extremely detail oriented. We just assumed that when she sold you the house she explained that to you.”

“Obviously she skipped that little detail.” Ian resigned.

“And we thought that’s why Billy was getting both sets of blueprints.” Tippy said. “So you could see what was hiding…well…above your head…and beyond your master bedroom.”

“Actually, behind the closet of the master bedroom.” Jesse interjected and took another step further behind Ripley.

Ian nodded his head. “Tell you what, when they prove that Al Gore actually won that Presidential Election and the country gets a do over, I’ll write a note on the back of my hand to ask Elizabeth Elysian if by any chance there’s anything behind all the solid walls in the house before I sign on the dotted line.”

“See now, that’s pretty simple.” Jesse quipped.

“Still not helping.” His father looked at him.

Reese took a tentative step into the defense foray. “And quite frankly Ian, Mr. Anal Retentive, I’m surprised that in the past oh six, seven months you didn’t notice a huge discrepancy between where your terrace ended and the rest of the house beyond it.”

“Not to mention all that, you know, space above it.” Jesse nodded in agreement, shirking further behind Ripley when Ian gave him yet another dirty look.

Ripley cleared his throat as he reached behind himself, grabbed Jesse and shoved him in full view. “In Ian’s defense, the size of the house is extremely deceptive. I never noticed myself until someone pointed it out…about fifteen minutes ago.”

“I guess unless you knew it was there, you just don’t notice.” Colton shrugged.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Ian frowned. “With all that’s gone on, I’m just gonna chalk up this new discovery as another in a series of I probably would have noticed if something more spectacular hadn’t jumped in front of the car.”

“It does seem like every time one thing comes up another pops up right behind it to take your attention off what you wanted to look at from the first…” Tippy struggled along.

“…Bomb?” Jesse helped.

“Don’t say that!” Ian snapped. “That’s the only thing that hasn’t gone off in this house since January. Let’s not encourage fate, karma, God or Harry Dresden with something they may not have thought of.”

Ripley nodded. “Probably a good idea.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chapter 47: Goober's Peas

“Don’t you think that’s something you should have told me right up front?” Ian seethed, uncharacteristically running his hands through his hair, grabbing a handful and pulling. “Hello, we’re your neighbors and half your house is missing!”

“Right, next time I’ll add that to the list.” Colton deadpanned. “Hello, I’m your new neighbor, your biological father and half your house is missing.”

“Uhm…and don’t forget.” Jesse added. “…You knocked your girlfriend up with twins.”

“Jesse, honey, I don’t think your helping any.” Tippy tried to rub Ian’s shoulder, but he immediately pulled away. “Technically, it’s not missing, Baby Doll, it’s still there, just walled off so no one can get to it.”

Ian shot her a look.

“Don’t think that’s helping much either.” Reese said under his breath.

Jesse couldn’t help but giggle.

“What’s so funny?” Ian snarled.

“Sorry, but I’m kind of enjoying watching you unravel.” He smiled then took a step behind Ripley to protect himself. “You know, the calm cool collected Ian Justyn comes apart at the seams. It makes you wonderfully human, Superman.”

Ian put up his hands and took a deep breath. “Okay, okay. I’m not angry at ya’ll.” Tippy smiled and Ian pointed his finger at her. “Don’t push it.”

“Sorry, Baby Doll, but we all know when you’re tired because that Southern drawl rears its head. When you’re angry, well honey, it sits up, wags its tail and barks ‘ya’ll’.”

He had to smile at that. “Forgive my diphthongal changes, but back to the initial question. Don’t you think that in the past oh six, seven months at one time or another one of you might just have mentioned that there was entire floor and a half of the house hidden somewhere behind door number three?”

“Son, forgive us, but we thought you knew.” Colton shook his head. “Miss Elizabeth was always extremely detail oriented. We just assumed that when she sold you the house she explained that to you.”

“Obviously she skipped that little detail.” Ian resigned.

“And we thought that’s why Billy was getting both sets of blueprints.” Tippy said. “So you could see what was hiding…well…above your head…and beyond your master bedroom.”

“Actually, behind the closet of the master bedroom.” Jesse interjected and took a step back behind Ripley.

Ian nodded his head. “Tell you what, when they prove that Al Gore actually won that Presidential Election and the country gets a do over, I’ll write a note on the back of my hand to ask Elizabeth Elysian if by any chance there’s anything behind all the solid walls in the house before I sign on the dotted line.”

“See now, that’s pretty simple.” Jesse quipped.

“Still not helping.” His father looked at him.

Reese took a tentative step into the defense foray. “And quite frankly Ian, Mr. Anal Retentive, I’m surprised that in the past oh six, seven months you didn’t notice a huge discrepancy between where your terrace ended and the rest of the house beyond it.”

“Not to mention all that, you know, space above it.” Jesse nodded in agreement, shirking further behind Ripley when Ian gave him yet another dirty look.

Ripley cleared his throat as he reached behind himself, grabbed Jesse and shoved him in full view. “In Ian’s defense, the size of the house is extremely deceptive. I never noticed myself until someone pointed it out…about fifteen minutes ago.”

“I guess unless you knew it was there, you just don’t notice.” Colton shrugged.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Ian frowned. “With all that’s gone on, I’m just gonna chalk up this new discovery as another in a series of I probably would have noticed if something more spectacular hadn’t jumped in front of the car.”

“It does seem like every time one thing comes up another pops up right behind it to take your attention off what you wanted to look at from the first…” Tippy struggled along.

“…Bomb?” Jesse helped.

“Don’t say that!” Ian snapped. “That’s the only thing that hasn’t gone off in this house since January. Let’s not encourage fate, karma, God or Harry Dresden with something they may not have thought of.”

Ripley nodded. “Probably a good idea.”

“Let’s just forget who didn’t tell who what or who didn’t notice what and start with the next question.” Ian plopped on the sofa.

“Like?” Tippy sat motherly on the arm beside him.

“Why would Miss Elizabeth do something like that to begin with?”

“Not tell you she’d blocked off half the second floor and all access to the third?” Jesse blinked.

“No, just not tell me…anything…at all.”

“She is in her nineties; maybe she just forgot she did it.” Ripley thought out loud.

Colton shook his head. “God love the ol’ girl, but she didn’t do or not do anything unless she specifically thought it was for the best.”

“Her mind is still like a steel trap.” Tippy agreed.

“That’s not even the question, but it is certainly one of those points that gloriously seem to point toward so many other questions.” Ian jumped in the get back to the point. “I want to know why someone would just block off half a house.”

“Well, Baby Doll, the basic reason is because it was she couldn’t bear to look at it.” Tippy smiled.

“And she couldn’t stand the thought of redoing it.” Reese interjected. “She wanted it to remain as it was. I guess she thought when you moved in you’d, you know, make the place all yours, open those walls back up and she’d never have to think about his stuff being touched again.”

“Okay, still a little lost.” Ian looked at the crowd. “What couldn’t she bear to look at/touch?”

“The second floor she partitioned off was Herman’s bedroom and the third floor was his studio.” Colton sat next to him. “His death was a hard on her. We wondered for a while if she’d even survive it herself.”

Jesse nodded, sitting beside his father. “It was awful, just awful.”

“It came so sudden.” Reese looked at the floor. “No one expected it.”

“What happened?” Ripley had to ask. “I mean, you know it wasn’t something Freddy Krugerish or anything, like here in the house was it?”

“No.” Tippy smiled a little. “He did pass away here at the house, on the third floor, but it was a stroke.”

“I think what hurt her most was the fact that she wasn’t home.” Colton said. “The doctor said it was massive, nothing could have been done to save him, but she wasn’t here, by his side, when it happened.”

Ian nodded and looked to the floor. “No one wants to die alone. You always hope someone you love is nearby.”

“And she wasn’t.” Jesse sighed.

“She was at George’s shop, getting a perm and a touch up.” Tippy said. “Miss Elizabeth never was very vain, so I think the fact that she was getting her hair done when her husband of who knows how many years was dying on his studio floor was almost more than she could stand.”

“A little unorthodox,” Ian finally agreed, “But now I can sort of understand it. She blocked off their bedroom and his studio so she could remember everything as it was and find a way to continue on.”

“Well, it wasn’t their bedroom.” Tippy corrected him. “Just Mr. Herman’s.”

“They had separate bedrooms?” Ripley was a little shocked. “I understand they were part of a very different era, but they slept in separate bedrooms?”

“You did not know the Elysians.” Jesse piped up. “They may have been from a totally different era, but they in no way embodied it.”

“Maybe it was the Hollywood they were a part of,” Reese thought out loud, “Maybe they were just the first hippies but they never blinked an eye at anything.”

“Including Reese and I…” Jesse stopped himself.

“Including Reese and I…what?” Tippy raised an eyebrow.

“You know…” Jesse sputtered.

“Having sex in their pool constantly?”

“You know about that?” Ian’s jaw dropped.

“Well, we didn’t video tape it or anything but yes, we knew our sons occasionally brought dates home for a little…in the pool.” Colton admitted.

“I don’t understand what everyone is tip toeing around for.” Reese spoke out. “The Elysians never seemed to be shocked or horrified no matter what sex Jesse and I had sex with in their pool.”

“Ooookaaay.” Ian said.

“I just wanted to hear Jesse say it.” Tippy bit her lip to stifle a giggle, then leaned over to Ian. “Jesse’s the prude in the clan.”

“Ian freaks out at things like that more than I do.” Jesse pouted.

“But I was raised in the mountains by drunken rednecks. Boxer briefs still shock me.” Ian defended his defenses. “Obviously Elizabeth and Herman Elysian were two very healthy, very progressive people. So why would they sleep in separate beds?”

“Probably so Herman could get some sleep.” Colton said looking around at his family who all nodded in agreement.

“Okay…T.M.I.” Ian shook his head then held it in his hands.

Tippy let loose a snort, then a giggle when she realized what Ian was thinking. “No, no Baby Doll. Miss Elizabeth snored.”

“Miss Elizabeth didn’t just snore, she rattled the windows, peeled pain of off walls snored.” Reese added.

“Okay, well that doesn’t make me feel so icky.” Ian sighed in relief.

“Icky?” Reese teased.

“Hey, I’m the long lost big brother and I’ve still yet to collect on a lifetime of noogies.” Ian warned. “So Miss Elizabeth snored.” Before anyone could add anything else he added, “Reverberating the dead after the nuclear holocaust snored. I’m still a little confused. If she snored so terribly the love of her life had to move to another bedroom, why didn’t she just have something done? You know, one of those sleep apnea machines or surgery?”

Tippy tried to hold back the next in the latest series of giggles. “Face it, Baby Doll, when you are in your eighties that last thing you want to do is go to sleep every night with a mask strapped around your face wired to a machine unless of course, it’s the only way of waking up the next morning.”

Colton nodded in agreement. “And as far as surgery goes, once again I’m not sure of the whole story but when Miss Elizabeth was younger she spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. Back then they weren’t nearly as much fun as your recent visits.”

Ian rolled his eyes and did his best to ignore that remark.

Reese smiled at his brother. “Snoring like a constipated backhoe was stuck in her sinuses seemed to be one of life’s oddities that she and Mr. Herman learned to live with like we’ve learned to live with your obsessions about, well, practically everything.”

“Yes. We’ve decided to find it quaint.” Jesse agreed.

“Mommy, Daddy, the babies are picking on me again.” Ian whined.

“Aw honey.” Tippy smiled and pulled her husband closer. “See, we are a real family.”

“I will hurt you two.” Ian raised that one eyebrow and pointed a Reese. “I will come after you with a big stick, and then go after you with a bloody stick!” He looked at Jesse.

“Children!” Colton warned with a grin on his face. “Do we need a time out? Now…we’re all a little quirky. Ian, do you feel a little better about this now?”

“Uhm…” Ian sat back down again on the couch, resigned. “…Right now I’m going to put it down on the list of things I still need to figure out about Elizabeth Elysian but can wait until I figure lots and lots of other things out.”

“Other things?” Tippy piped up. “There are other things about Miss Elizabeth that unsettles you?”

Ian looked at Jesse, whose head was poking out from behind Ripley. Ripley looked at Ian and took another big step to the left exposing Jesse Shores. “You didn’t tell them?”

“You told me not to until you figured out why she did it.” Jesse tried to grin. “See, I’m the brother you can trust with a secret.”

“Hold it!” Tippy demanded. “What else has Miss Elizabeth done that we may or may not know about?”

“What do you know about the sale of the house?” Ian said.

Tippy looked at Colton, who shrugged and answered. “That she sold it to you at a bargain price and disappeared almost before any of us had a chance to ask any questions.”

“And that’s all?” Ian tried not to be accusatory.

“Is there more?” Tippy looked at Ian and then at her youngest son.

“Yeah, Mom.” Jesse admitted. “There’s more…a whole lot more.”

“There’s not a problem with the sale, is there?” Colton was worried.

“No, nothing like that.” Ian assured him. “In fact everything is signed, delivered and air tightly legal.”

“So what’s the problem?” Reese was interested.

Ian stood again and turned to face the family, less to face them than to see if he could tell if any of them knew more than they were letting on. “So none of you actually know about the transaction, the whole transaction?”

Tippy was obviously nervous. “The whole transaction. Baby Doll, that sounds ominous.”

“Ominous? No, and maybe just another one of those little quirks of hers, one that makes me wonder why she would do such a thing.” Ian said out loud.

“Just spit it out, Ian.” Ripley said. “It’s weird, but maybe these are the people that can explain it.”

“So you know what he’s talking about.” Reese looked to Ripley, who nodded.

“I told Ripley they day I found out, and Jesse was my driver the day I had the meeting with my lawyer and accountant and discovered the…quirk.” Ian scratched the back of his head.

“It’s some quirk.” Jesse admitted. “Even I’m not sure why she did it.”

“Did what?” Tippy couldn’t stand it anymore. “Did what?”

“Elizabeth Elysian sold Ian more than the house.” Ripley mumbled.

“What?” Colton asked.

“Colton, maybe I misunderstood the offer, and I should have done more than take all the paperwork to my lawyer, I should have read it in detail…”

“So much for being anal retentive.” Jesse said quietly making Reese snort.

“Yeah, yeah…in my defense for the price I paid I could hardly believe I was getting this house, there’s no way I could have imagined what I was buying. I took it straight to Jerry Wolfe just to make sure there wasn’t something I wasn’t seeing, like more money down the road…blah blah blah…”

“It’s pretty hard to believe but by the time you found out the deal was done, way too late for questions.” Ripley added.

“Okay, okay…” Colton was losing patience. “Enough with the reasons why whatever slipped you by, I take it that there was a surprise in the real estate deed.”

It was Ian’s turn to snort. “Little surprise? Colton, she sold me everything.”

“Everything?”

Ian nodded his head. “My accountant picked right up on it and thought I knew what I’d purchased. He kept making comments and they kept going right over my head. Now I truly know what the term ‘caviar at bubble gum prices’ means.”

“Baby Doll, we still don’t know exactly what you are talking about.” Tippy looked at Colton and then back to Ian. “She sold you everything. What do you mean by everything?”

Ian crossed his arms. “Most of the block.”

“Most of the block?” Tippy’s mouth dropped open.

He nodded his head. “Kellen’s house, the apartment building next door, the two at the beginning of the cul-de-sac…”

Ripley jumped in, “And from what we can tell every business and company she owned.”

“And all her stocks and share holdings.” Jesse finished up.

“Basically by the time I made the first payment on what I thought was the house and just under two acres of land, I had accrued enough profit to pay off the loan…” Ian’s trademark right eyebrow went up, “…from just the interest off the bank cds, that somehow were also part of the deal.”

“Oh…my…God…” Tippy had to sit slowly down on the couch. “Why would she do that?”

“How could she do that?” Colton joined his wife, stunned, on the couch.

“She used a codicil that’s basically used for relatives so they don’t have to pay inheritance tax. It’s perfectly legal, but rarely used for someone who’s not an intended benefactor in a will.”

Ripley added, “The only thing that wasn’t sold to Ian for the bargain price of $500,000 was her personal bank account that we know of. Everything else either became Ian’s or Ian’s name replaced hers as the bearer effective 90 days after they both signed the paperwork.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Tippy blurted out.

“Congratulations?” Reese managed.

“Which brings us back to the original question,” Ian said. “Actually two original questions; why would Elizabeth Elysian do something like that and maybe most important of all, why me?”

Billy rushed into the living room. “Okay, the world is definitely coming to an end.”

Reese shoved his little brother from behind Ripley. “Guess you’ll be calling Sarah Palin.”

“What would I call that thing for?” Jesse sniffed.

“You said when the world came to an end you’d do her.”

“Oooh! Baby Doll that would make a great television show!”

“What, my little brother having sex with a rather…let’s not even get into that…politician?”

“No.” It was Tippy’s turn to roll her eyes. “An anthology comedy series about all the promises people would have to keep when Hell freezes over.”

Ian’s eyes popped. “Let me write that down.” He reached to the little drawer under the coffee table for one of his little pads.

“That one’s on your desk in the den.” Ripley reminded him. “I saw you write something on it and take it in there this morning.”

Tippy jotted a note down on something she pulled out of her bra. “Here. I want partial creation credit.”

Ian grabbed the note with two fingers and swallowed hard. “Uh…thank you?” He looked for a place to put the offensive slip down.

Billy put his hands on his hips. “I’m sure that being a Goober has its benefits, but most of the time it just means you’re a Goober.”

“What’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“I think it’s one of those Southernisms.” Ripley said.

“Wasn’t that a dude on the old ‘Andy Griffith Show’?” Someone piped in.

“I don’t think you can be a dude and be a Goober at the same time.” Reese mused.

“Mom, what’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“Well, honey.” Tippy thought a second. “Usually that’s a term we use for…”

“Obviously, I’ve just tossed another crayon on the floor in a room full of Bi-Polar children hopped up on sugar.” Billy moaned then clapped his hands. “Attention! Attention people, back on the important subject.”

“Yes, right.” Colton has to think a moment and then got back to the original subject. “So Billy, why is the world coming to an end?”

“Actually, that wasn’t the subject.”

“Yes, it was.” Ian corrected him. “You came in the room and said the world was coming to an end.”

Billy got an odd look on his face. “Oh, yeah.”

“Now who’s a Goober?” Jesse snorted.

Billy gave Jesse a playful shove. “Um, sorry, I just walked by Ian’s den and my daughter is in there, sitting on the love seat with Clare giggling and listening to her belly.”

“Vonnie? And Clare?” Ian froze at the thought.

The room was silent for a moment, finally broken when Jesse said softly. “Does any one have Sarah Palin’s cell phone number?”

“The room temp wasn’t fifteen degrees lower either.”

“I never understood what the two of them had against each other.” Tippy asked no one in particular.

“Some people just naturally don’t like each other.” Ian said.

“Like Batman and Joker.” Jesse added.

“But Vonnie’s a little girl.” Tippy retorted. “How can anyone simply not like a sweet little girl?”

“Tippy, Vonnie is my daughter.” Billy told her. “I love her without question, and wouldn’t have her any other way than she is, but let’s be honest she’s not the typical sweet little girl.”

“She’s a hellion in pigtails.” Ian smiled.

“Sometimes.” Reese agreed. “Sometimes just one pigtail with a mass of hair on the other side and a little pink ribbon screaming to get away.”

“That about sums it up.” Ripley nodded. “I adore her, but I can see how she and Clare wouldn’t be able to stand each other. They’re so much alike.”

Everyone in the room froze except for Ian who quietly turned to Billy and put his hand on his forearm. “Drown her. Drown her now. We’ll all swear it was an accident.”

“Oh, stop.” Tippy slapped at him. “Clare’s not that bad…anymore…well not as bad…okay, she’s trying really, really hard…or maybe we’re all just getting used to her…or…”

“She’s a like a human kudzu.” Ian sighed. “She gets one finger in the door and she somehow manages to take over, strangling the beauty and the breath out of everything for miles and miles and miles.”

“Hey.” Jesse elbowed his brother. “You knocked her up.”

“Don’t you need to be buying condoms and speed dialing Sarah Palin?”

“Okay, someone has to be the adult in the room.” Ripley hiked up his britches. “I guess it’s my turn. Billy, did you come bursting in here just to tell us your daughter was listening to the baby move?”

“Oh…yeah…right.” Billy turned back to Ian. “I made a few phone calls and discovered something that may be important.”

“Okay.” Ian blinked, bracing for the worse.

“Is Kellen still here?” Billy looked amongst the group. “Kellen should hear this.”

“No. I think he went out earlier.” Tippy pointed over her shoulder. “I don’t remember where he said he was going. Do you?”

“No.” Colton thought a moment. “I saw him go out the front door, but I don’t recall him telling anyone where he was going.”

“He may have told Clare.” Reese said. “I saw them chatting just before he got up and left the house.”

“You want me to ask?” Jesse piped in.

“You just wanna hear the baby move.” Ian teased.

Jesse blushed. “Can’t help it. It’s cool.”

“So cool.” Ian agreed.

“Okay…once again…adult in the room?” Ripley said. “Whose turn is it?”

“Never mind.” Billy didn’t know whether to laugh or roll his eyes. “Let me just get this out before we get into cyclical and linear configurations and who invented the color burple.”

“Purple.” Ripley smiled. “The color purple.”

“I have a four year old.” Billy blinked. “To her it’s burple.”

“Who did invent the color purple?” Jesse quandered.

“Well, I know who wrote it.” Tippy said. “But I don’t know who invented it.”

“It’s a color.” Ian insisted. “You can’t invent a color.”

“Stop it!” Billy interrupted. “Ian, I made some phone calls about the renovations…”

“I thought you were doing the renovations/” Colton said.

“I am.”

“But you said…”

“Okay, stop before we get way off track again…” Billy waved his hands in the air. “Everyone take a deep breath and hold it in until I get this out. Now, on the count of three…one…”

“Is this really necessary?” Tippy asked looking around the room.

“…Two…” Billy stared her down.

“Oh.” She realized what she was doing. “Maybe it is.”

“…Three.”

Tippy and everyone in the room took a deep breath and held it.

Billy began to race verbally before people started passing out. “I called the Vespa Brothers, the people Elizabeth Elysian contracted to do the renovations that disconnected the third floor and half the second. I didn’t find out why she insisted it was done, but I did make a discovery that may answer a few other questions. One of the men in the crew doing the renovations was Blue Richards.”

Ian took a breath of air and sputtered. “Blue Richards?”

“He worked with the crew for three weeks until Miss Elizabeth insisted that he be fired.”

“She had him fired?” Tippy took a deep breath, and put her hand to her ample bosom.

“She said she was constantly finding him in parts of the house, by himself, where he wasn’t supposed to be.” Billy informed them.

“That’s odd.” Ian said.

“That she had him fired or that he kept turning up where he wasn’t supposed to be?” Jesse asked.

“Well…kinda both.”

“Focus people…focus or take other breath and hold it.” Billy warned. “Here’s the good part, Blue and another guy were specifically assigned to rebuild the master bedroom closet.”

“My closet?” The statement hit Ian like the proverbial ton of bricks. “Can we talk to the guy? The one who worked on the closet with him?”

Billy crossed his arms and shook his head. “Can’t, turned up dead in a dumpster about three weeks later.”

“Surely the investigators knew about all of this.” Tippy said out loud to herself.

“Uhm…Peyton Balouche?” Reese reminded her.

“That explains how he was able to hide in the house all night without anyone knowing it.” Ripley added.

“And maybe…” Ian looked from the couch up the stairway, “...Where his clothes are and what he took from the house.”

The group looked at each other and began a mass exodus to the master bedroom closet.

“Shouldn’t we call somebody before we do this?”

“Like who? The police think this case is closed.”

“Kellen or maybe Yancy?”

Too late, they were already in the closet ripping everything off the walls looking for latches or levers or anything that would allow entrance into the blocked off portion of the house. In seconds all of Ian’s carefully hung clothes, stacked shoes and folded shirts were a huge messy pile on his bed.

“I think I found it.” Reese said in triumph.

“What?”

He ran his fingers beneath the crown molding on the ceiling. “See? This is the top of the door. I think the whole wall must just swing.”

“What, do we push it or is there a latch?” Ian shoved slightly on the wall.

“Ya’ll are silly” came the little girl’s voice in the closet doorway.

“Vonnie, Angel, we’re trying to find something.” Tippy explained.

“I know.” She said confidently. “But it only swings the other way.”

All movement and conversation ceased as heads slowly turned to the four year old in the doorway.

“Oops.” Vonnie said, folding her hands sweetly in front of her and smiling as innocently as she could figure out how to do.

“Vonnie?” Her father said an octave or two lower than usual.

“Uh…Auntie Clare sent me in here to tell you something important.” She quickly changed the subject.

“Auntie Clare?” Ian’s eyebrow went up again.

“World…ending…” Jesse muttered.

“Yuh huh…” Vonnie smiled and batted her eyes. “It don’t make much sense to me, but she said it was a ‘mergency…her water broked…”



David Turner stroked the cat in his lap and didn’t bother waiting for a salutation when he heard the line being picked up. “He knows.”

“Everything?”

“Well, not everything, but he knows enough.”

“That’s what we wanted. Isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Turner took a deep breath. “We’ve let him grope around in the dark so long, when we could have just sat him down and told him at the beginning.”

“But then we would have had to tell him everything...” The voice stressed “…Everything…and that’s the last thing we want. This way he finds out enough of the truth to correct all of our mistakes…”

“Most of our mistakes.” Turner corrected.

“Fine, most of our mistakes and we all live happily ever after.”

“You don’t know him like I do. There will be a price to pay.” Turner said almost to himself.

“Is that a problem?”

“No.” He insisted. “This just isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds.”

“It never is.” The voice added. “It never was.”

“There’s more.” David Turner bit his lip. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone else who knows or at least has figured it out.”

“How on Earth could someone else figure it out, David?” The voice scolded him. “We’re not even 100% sure ourselves.”

“Then why?”

“Then why what?”

“Why is someone trying to kill him?”

There was silence on the other end of the phone. “You’re sure? It wasn’t just a onetime occurrence?”

“There have been other definite attempts. The FBI is even very discreetly involved.” Turner smiled. “I’m not supposed to know, but then I end up knowing everything.”

“Almost everything. I recall one or two important facts that managed to slip your attention.” The voice reminded him. “How could someone else figure it out?”

“I don’t know…” Turner stroked the cat and thought. “Unless…”

“Unless?”

“They could just be guessing.”

“Like we are.” The voice suddenly insisted. “End it, end it now. It could be the only way to stop anyone else from getting hurt.”

“And what do I say? I’m sorry but the liars believed a lie that had them looking for a unicorn in the wrong garden for oh about fifty years, give or take a year, and now we feel so guilty we’ll do anything to make it up to you short of telling you the reason why it all happened?”

Silence again. “You’re right, and still it’s a shot in the dark. He may very well not be who we think he is.”

“We decided we didn’t care about that anymore.” Turner reminded them. “We decided that it was the most likely hunch and true or not he was in fact the most deserving of all the possibilities.”

“There’s still so much we don’t know.”

“I know for a fact now that he is the one.” Turner insisted.

“You have proof?”

“Finally, I do have proof.”

“How?”

“Young Justyn’s not the only one with a Genetics lab on speed dial.”

“David…”

“I had a DNA test of my own run.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

He smiled. “Since when has bending the law a bit stopped us from getting what we want? That’s what started this whole mess in the first place.”

“And the test was conclusive?”

“There is absolutely no doubt that he is the one.” David Turner sighed, and his lips trembled as he said it out loud for the very first time. “Ian Justyn is my grandson.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vignette #228: Solid Plans

And she was right. Ian found Clare on one end of the couch silent; Ralphie at the other. Both of them were staring unmoving as though daring the other to blink. “You two sharing a Vulcan mind meld?”

“I think he’s plotting to eat my brain.” Clare said, refusing to blink.

“No, that would be Rodie. Ralphie’s just probably trying to figure out how to get to the other end of the couch to lick your face without the shift in weight killing you both.”

“Har Har.” Clare looked up at him.

“Sorry, that was mean.” Ian walked to stand over Clare and kissed the top of her head. “Ralphie’s not that huge.”

Clare smacked at him and Ian began to rub her shoulders. “Oh, that feels soooo good.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“Ian, I know I sound like a broken record but I am so miserable. My back hurts. My feet are swollen and a catheter could make me stop peeing. Let me just clue you in Ian, next time you wanna have kids…you get pregnant and see how you like it.”

“Let’s not go there.”

“Gladly.”

“Dinner will be ready in a few.” Ian didn’t stop rubbing her shoulders. “We’re going to look at the house plans and figure out where to build the nursery afterwards. I assume you want to help make that decision.”

“Frankly, Ian, I’ll leave that up to you guys.”

Ian stopped in mid-rub. “You’re kidding? How did you get in Clare’s body and what planet are you from?”

Clare attempted to look at him, until he finally sat lightly on the arm of the sofa beside her. “Honestly, Ian. This sounds awful, but at this point I don’t care where the nursery is as long as one of these babies isn’t sleeping on my bladder and the other on my intestines.”

“That’s just a lovely picture, thank you.”

“You want Happy Pregnant Lady? Watch “I Love Lucy”, cause in the real world at this stage of the game we’re all miserable and want everyone else to be as well, especially the bastards who knock us up.”

Ian smiled and nodded. “Once again, lovely pictures, just lovely. I think I’ll just mosey into the den. I’m suddenly feeling the need to protect my testicles.”

“Probably a very good idea.”

Ian backed slowly toward the den.

Ralphie, determined to see everyone happy shyly slipped toward Clare but was immediately frozen in mid-stride as Clare barked, “That tongue comes anywhere near my side of the couch and you lose it!”

“Uhm, Ralphie, you’d better come with me.” The dog wasted no time joining Ian in backing out of the living room.

“Rodie?” Ian called out. “Clare wants to see you on the living room sofa!”

“What?” Came a voice from inside his den.

“Nothing.” He said as he and Ralphie entered the room. “Remind me to give Ripley a raise. Putting up with Clare all day can’t be worth what I’m paying him.”

Billy looked up from the desk, Jude looking over his shoulder and Reese not far away at the bookcase. “Maybe we should just lock her in the garage until she gives birth.”

“There’s a good idea.” Ian smiled.

“Nah.” Jude looked up from the blueprints. “She’d jes’ scratch up yer paint job and eat the fenders.”

“Probably.” Ian looked down at the renderings from his side of the desk. “What have we got here?”

Billy pointed. “Well, these are the plans for the house as it currently stands. See, first floor…” He flipped the page. “Second floor. Everything is sound and supported enough to knock out almost any wall you choose.”

“You’ll prob’ly have to give up some closet space ‘er a bathroom, but you kin’ put it enny where ya want.”

Ian rubbed his hands together. “Okay, let’s have a look.”

The trio parted for Ian to take the seat Billy had been occupying behind the desk. “What are those?” He asked.

“Oh those, are the plans for the house before Miss Elizabeth did the renovations.” Reese informed him.

“We wanted to double check both sets to make sure nothing from the original structure would be weakened by any changes you want to make.” Billy said. “We keep forgetting this house is actually very old and only part of the original house.”

Ian nodded and reached for the second set of blueprints. He flipped a few pages and then went back to the set before him and looked again. “I’m confused.” He held up one set of blueprints. “These are the plans for the Hutton Mansion?”

“No, no.” Billy smiled. “Those are here.” Low and behold, Billy produced a cardboard roll from a chair and pulled out yet another set of plans. Rolling them out he pointed as he explained.

“See, this was the original lay out.”

“Holy smokes, that was huge!” Ian was shocked. “Even for way back then, it was huge!”

“That stone wall in your back yard was the foundation for the back wing. According to these there were three wings connected. This is the only wing that survived the fire.”

Ian looked up at him from the plans. “Back wing? I thought Kellen’s house was part of the original structure.”

“No.” Reese piped in. “Didn’t you pay attention when you were on ‘America Alive’? Kellen’s house was a guesthouse on the property. I think they used it as servant’s quarters.”

“An’ that Redfield feller lived in yer house?” Jude asked.

“No.” Reese corrected him. “James Redfield lived in the house that is now the apartments at the end of the cul-de-sac. David Turner lived in my house.”

“Turner?” Jude shot one eye open a little further. “I thought him and the Darla woman was married.”

“They were.” Ian said looking intently at the plans.

“Then why’d he live in another house?”

Reese looked at Billy and Billy looked at Reese. “Uhhh…”

“Never mind that.” Ian waved they’re attention back. “I’m really confused. You say these in front of me are the plans as the house stands now.”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure?”

Billy nodded. “Absolutely.”

“’Kay…” Ian looked at the second set of plans. “Got a question, then. What the heck did Elizabeth Elysian do to the house?”

“What?”

Ian pointed to the first page. “I can see she added the spiral staircase in the center of the first floor.”

“Yes.” Billy looked over Ian’s shoulder and checked them against the plans before the renovations. “There was a simple staircase and first floor landing. She put in the spiral with the mid-level landing. See? Not much else was done to the first floor, all the drastic changes were made to the second.”

Ian nodded his head. “Am I just reading the what you call it wrong? The little key in the corner here that tells you a quarter inch equals a foot?”

“No, that’s right.” Billy said.

“Hmmm…” Ian looked back at the prints in front of him and back to the pre-renovation set in Billy’s hands. Finally laying them side by side. “It looks to me like the second floor used to be a whole lot bigger.”

“What?”

“Look.”

Billy and Jude examined both sets of blueprints closely. “Huh. Reese, do you know anything about this?”

“About what?”

“The outer perimeters of the house match up.” Ian pointed out, but the second floor…some of it seems to be missing.”

“What?” Reese leaned in to take a look.

“Maybe it’s like Doctor Who’s Tardis only my house is the opposite, bigger on the outside and smaller on the inside.”

“Huh?”

“According to the current plans the only thing on the second floor is my bedroom, the walk-in and the hot tub off the side.” Ian told him.

“That’s right.” Reese confirmed.

“But look at the old plans.” Billy said.

“Half of it is missing.” Ian and Billy looked at Reese. “What did Miss Elizabeth do with the rest of the second floor?”

“Uh…Ian, son….” Jude interrupted. “…and we may as well ask ‘im, bout this, too.”

“What?”

Jude pointed to the key, licked his finger and split apart another page to the old plans that were stuck together. “I can see mebbe misplacing part of the second floor, Reese, but got any notions as to where the hell the whole third floor went?

Vignette #227: Right Minds

“That was quick.” Ripley looked up from the oven when Ian entered the kitchen, now dressed in flannel pants and a tee.

“There are days all I can think about is coming home and taking Ian Justyn off, wading him up and shoving him in the dirty clothes hamper.” He was shoved into a seat at the table, a glass of fresh iced tea placed in front of him. Ian picked it up and held it against his cheek. “Today was definitely one of those days.”

“First of all, Baby Doll,” Tippy turned to him fussing over something in a bowl on the counter, “You’ve never wadded up anything and shoved it in the hamper.”

“The first time I tried to do laundry for him, I got so confused.” Ripley looked over Tippy’s shoulder. “Ooh, add some lemon juice, just a little. It took me an hour to figure out that no one in their right minds would keep clean clothes folded neatly in a clothes hamper.”

“When does the term ‘right minds’ and the name ‘Ian Justyn’ ever belong in the same sentence?” Ian mused then gulped his tea.

“Did you have a rough day?”

“Not a all. It was a great day as a matter of fact, I just didn’t want to be there.” Ian admitted. “I just wanted to be here. Maybe I just wanted to be with my family. Maybe I just wanted to get this whole nursery thing started and maybe I just wanted to come up with new ways to torture the cat.” Rodie cocked her head from her position not far from him as she had been from the moment Ian stepped in the door. “I haven’t decided yet.”

Ian stared at Rodie. Rodie stared back. “I think I’ll give the cat a bath.” Rodie freaked and ran. Ian turned to the duo making dinner. “Yeah, that was why I came home.”

“You love that cat.” Tippy scolded him.

“Do not.”

“Do, too.”

“Children…” Ripley warned. “Don’t make me separate you two.” He dipped the pad of his finger in Tippy’s concoction and tasted. He smacked his lips a moment and thought as Tippy waited anxiously. “It’s good, but it’s missing just a little something.”

“What?” She gave it a taste, as well. “Hmm…you’re right. Baby Doll, taste this and tell me what it’s missing.”

Before he had a chance to say anything, Tippy shoved a spoonful in his mouth. His eyes darted to the left and then to the right, then swallowed. “What is it?”

“Guacamole.”

Got up from the table and looked down in the bowl, then to the counter and turned to Tippy. “Simple…” He picked up two green veggies from the counter. “Try adding some avocado.”

Tippy put her hand to her mouth and giggled. “Pffffffttttt…it’s been one of those days.”

“Do you want me to take over dinner?” Ian put an arm around her, squeezed her close and rubbed her shoulder.

“That’s sweet, Baby Doll, but it’s my turn to make dinner. You go find Billy and Jude and start making some plans.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“Okay.” He kissed her temple as she began to gently mash avocado in a second bowl. “Don’t worry, if you forget to add any other major ingredients we’ll just tell the kids it’s poor Mexican night and we have to imagine most of dinner.”

“See, you always know what to do.” Tippy laughed.

“Have you seen Clare?” Ian asked Ripley. “She should probably be in on this from the get go.”

“Actually, not for a few minutes.” Ripley sighed. “Which surprises me. I don’t know what’s been up with her today, but she’s been like this bad after shave smell wafting up my nose every time I turned around.”

“Clare?”

“Ian I swear, if I hadn’t locked the bathroom door, she’d have sat in my lap while I did my business.” Ripley shook his head, and then grabbed a potholder to take the olive oil brushed pizza dough from the oven. “It wasn’t until Jude and Billy showed up a few minutes ago that she finally deigned to let me leave her sight.”

“She’s probably just scared to be alone.” Ian looked over his shoulder as Ripley began to spread his special tomato sauce on one of the pies. “She is about to give birth, to twins, at any moment. Wait…guac and pizza?”

“It’s Thursday night.” Tippy looked up from her gentle folding.

“Vonnie chose dinner.” Ian said and Tippy and Ripley nodded.

“Honestly Ian, Clare’s driving me crazy.” Ripley put another spoonful on and spread it. “I think something’s wrong.”

“I’ll go chat with her. Where are the kids?” Ian asked as he swiped a pepperoni from the plate.

“Reese and Billy are in the den. Vonnie’s outback playing with Ralphie.” Tippy began folding her avocado in. “And Ronnie and Jesse are playing some video game.”

Ian smiled. “I love how the term ‘kids’ around here is sort of a yours, mine and ours overview.”

“Well, Baby Doll, let’s face it, we got us a redneck hippy commune goin’ here.”

“And we all kinda like it.” Ripley added while adding shredded cheese. “Don’t get too involved with the plans just yet, Boss Man.”

“Why? You and Clare gonna plat each other’s hair and paint your nails?”

“Funny.” Ripley scowled at him. “No, dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes.”

“Time to put the tortillas in the oil.” Tippy announced to herself.

“Okay, I’ll find Clare, check in with Jude and Billy then round up the little hippies and get ‘em cleaned up.”

Ian made his way out of the kitchen just in time to run into the littlest hippy, today anyway. “Uncle Ian!” She giggled and jumped into his arms.

“Vonda Rae.” He squeezed her tight. “You’ve gotten even more beautiful than the last time I saw you.”

“Just since this morning?”

“Yep, and I think…just a little bit….” Ian looked Vonnie over well. “…More ticklish!” He tickled her ribs as the child squealed with delight. He finished the tickle attack with kisses all over her face before sitting her on her feet. “Honey, dinner is almost ready. Why don’t you wash up and then head into the kitchen and see what you can do for you Granny and Uncle Ripley?”

“’Kay.”

“Vonnie.” He stopped her in mid-bounce. “Have you seen Clare?”

“Ya huh.” She nodded her head. “She’s beached on the far end of the couch. Don’t worry. Ralphie’s sitting on the other end so it won’t flip over.” With that she was gone.

Vignette #226: Vantage Point

From her vantage behind the curtain, a stunned Tess watched paralyzed as Darla’s feet went from kicking the air to barely twitching. A blood-curdling scream filled the air. Tess looked up to see the last horrified sound come from Darla’s mouth.

Instead, Tess’s attention went to Lucille hitting the floor and screaming, her silky nightgown in flames, candles fallen over from the dresser as it was kicked by a struggling now lifeless Darla swinging from the rafter. Lucille screamed and struggled to put out the flames now creeping up from the hem to her stomach.

Tess instinctually yanked the draperies in front of her down. It took two powerful pulls, but the long hiding adrenaline in her kicked in and she heard the rod holding them snap. Tess jumped past the swaying body and pounced on the burning Lucille.

It seemed like it took forever, but it only took a moment. Lucille lay gasping for air, face twisted in pain. Her eyes focused on the panting young woman, lying on top of her. “Baby, it’s you.” Lucille half smiled.

Tess looked up, finally seeing the full face of Darla Hutton. It was frozen in shock, and at the same time, as the body twisted lightly back and forth, seemed to have this wry knowing smile. She cocked her head staring in the open, bulging eyes, the smell of burned satin and burned flesh filling the air.

Suddenly there was a whoosh as fire danced up the walls and across the mussed bedspread.

“Come one, Lucille, we’ve got to get out of here.” Tess yanked the charred drapes off Lucille and grabbed at her.

Lucille grasped Tess’s arm and held it still. “Oh Baby. You’ve burned yourself.”

As she half stood, for the first time, Tess got a look at the lower half of Lucille’s body. “You, too.” She took a deep breath and forced herself not to stare or vomit. “We’ve got to get out of here, Lucille. The room is on fire.”

The woman nodded and tried to get up. “Help me.” She gasped as she tried.

As the walls began to crack like the campfires Tess remembered from Girl Scouts not that long ago, she stopped trying to help Lucille up, grabbing her by the shoulders and began to just drag her from the room. She could hear Lucille moan in pain, but she had no choice if she wanted to save her life, if that were even possible.

She made it to the top of the stairs. A sturdy poof made Tess look back at the room she’d just dragged Lucille from. It was now the pit from Hell, and it was still racing toward them.

“Mizz Sinclair?” A voice came at her from the staircase.

“Jasper!” Tess had avoided having contact with any of the staff before, negroes scared her, but she was never so glad to see anyone in her life. “Help me! Lucille is hurt.”

“The house is on fire!” Jasper looked over her shoulder and cried out.

“I know.” Tess grabbed his arm to grab back his attention. “A lit candle fell over and caught Lucille’s dress on fire. I grabbed the drapes to put it out, but I don’t know…we have to get out of here. Help me. I think she’s passed out.”

“Lawdy.” Jasper uttered the one word of fear and then picked up Lucille like she was the morning paper and raced down the staircase with her. Tess followed behind them until they were out the door, the burning wing behind them.

“Is there anyone else inside?” Tess thought to ask.

“No, Miss Lucille sent everyone home.” Jasper cradled Lucille like a sleeping child, gently swaying her and looking at her sleeping face with love. “I always stay behind for Miss Lucille and Miss Darla.”

“We need to call someone…the fire company…the hospital…” Tess turned around and ducked at a loud pop from behind the door. “It’s burning so quickly.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Tess stepped off the stoop with him, willing to follow him to the nearest phone.

“No.” Lucile’s eyes were closed but her voice was strong and full of calm focus. “This is what we’re going to do…”

Vignette #225: Controlling Darla

The scream startled Tess, as Darla let it out and scrambled to the top of the dressing table, kicking at a laughing Lucille who danced around her and pawed at her. Darla kicked and yelled. Lucille laughed and menaced until Darla whipped off her belt and started hitting her attacker with it.

After several very adept thwacks with the buckle, Lucille finally backed off, but only a little. “Okay, ya little bitch. Keep it. Didn’t want it anyway.”

Darla caught her breath, but didn’t dare leave her perch from the dresser top. She looked around the room. “What are all these…” She whipped her head to Lucille. “You’ve been screwing in my bed.”

“Jealous?” Lucille had to be quick to put her hands up in defense as the belt snapped in the air just an inch from her face. “You crazy bitch!”

“You’ve been screwing…in my bed! Haven’t you!”

“Yeah.” Lucille glared at her. “It’s not like you were using it. Hell, we haven’t seen you since the night you ran screaming “They’re trying to kill me” out the front door leaving that disgusting trail of whatever it was when you’re water broke.”

“You are trying to kill me, me and my baby.”

“You’re still breathing aren’t you bitch?”

“But you want me dead!”

“I could care less.” Lucille calmly smoothed the silky front of her lingerie. “I just want the threats and the paranoia and the general nightmare of insanity you create gone.”

From her steadfast perch on the dresser Darla looked down. “You just want to keep me quiet.”

“Doesn’t seem any one is able to do a good job with that. Quiet is hardly a word in anyone’s vocabulary when you’re around, these days anyway.”

Darla pointed a finger at Lucille. “I know what’s been going on, Lucille. I know what all three of you have been doing. I’m not stupid.”

“Darla, you barely know what your name is…”

“You want me out of the way so I won’t tell anybody. You want me dead so no one will ever find out. There’s a word for want you all have done. I don’t know what it is, but there’s a word for it.”

Lucille laughed again. “You just keep proving me right.”

“…And I don’t think it’s legal. You’d have an awful lot of explaining to do if I died.”

“Honey, I keep having to explain things when you’re alive.” Lucille rolled her eyes and looked at her fingernails. “Alive…dead…it don’t seem to make much of a difference.”

“You’re just upset because I’m in control now.” Darla mocked her.

“Darla, you can’t even control your bowels.”

Darla kicked out and caught Lucille in the jaw sending her reeling out of Tess’s sight. In seconds Lucille came back into view howling like a wounded animal on attack. Darla jumped from Lucille’s lunge and landed on a chair between the dresser and the draperies.

“Stay away from me, Lucille!” She warned. “Stay away from me or I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Lucille growled, hunched over like a linebacker ready for defense.

“I’ll…I’ll…” Darla looked up at the ceiling. She smiled and looked back down at the huffing Lucille. “Or…I’ll…do this…” In the bat of an eye, Darla whipped one end of the cloth belt around the thick wood brace that ran the length of the ceiling and tied the other end around her neck.

“I see we’ve been hiding our past as a calf roper.” Lucille giggled uncharacteristically.

Tess could see Darla’s face clearly. It was full of rage and vengeance. “I’ll do it. I swear, Lucille. You come one step closer and I’ll kill myself.”

“Oh do it, bitch.” Lucille sat on the bed and crossed her legs. “Get it over with. We’re all tired of the threats. Do us all the favor and just get it the fuck over with.”

“You’ll never find my baby.” She threatened.

“Like anyone cares, Darla. You’ve done us all a favor and gotten rid of the thing. One less mess I have to clean up.”

“Think of the scandal, Lucille. You hate scandal.”

Lucille leaned back on the bed, casually sighing. “Actually, Darla. I love scandal. It’s what I make my living off of. If there ain’t one hovering around. I got nothin’ to do, so I create one. Those are the best. Those I can always make in my favor.”

“They’ll find out the truth!” Darla hissed. “Everyone will know what I’ve known all along.”

Tess couldn’t help but notice Lucille tighten her body language just a bit. She tried to remain nonchalant, but the slight crack in her voice gave her away. “And exactly what is it that you think you’ve known all along Darla?”

“Darla…hah!” The woman with the make shift noose around her head snorted. “Darla Hutton doesn’t exist!”

“Of course she exists, you idiot!” Lucille spit. “You’re Darla Hutton…”

“If I kill myself, they’ll investigate. It’ll be all over the papers! Everyone will know!”

Lucille stood but went back to examining her fingernails. She sighed. “Everyone will know what, Darla?”

“Don’t come any closer!” Darla wailed. “I’ll do it. I swear!”

“Everyone will know what?”

“That I’m not Darla Hutton.” The woman seemed to be relieved to admit that fact. Tess couldn’t help but notice the pleasure in her face giving her the courage to go further. “If I die, they’ll know that truth. I’m not Darla Hutton and I never really have been!”

Lucille laughed, never taking her eyes off her cuticles. “Oh honey. You are insane.”

“You’ll never be able to explain your way out if I kill myself.”

“Actually, Darla Not Darla Never Really Have Been Darla, suicide is not my first option, but one I can so easily deal with. It easily explains so much…”

Before Tess had a chance to gasp, Lucille turned her back, kicking behind her and knocking the chair from beneath Darla’s feet. Stunned, she watched Darla struggling to find solid ground beneath her.

“Most of it would be a lie, but most everything about everything these days has nothing to do with the truth.” Lucille spoke, back to Darla as her feet did a horrifying dance in the air.

Vignette #224: Hiding Places

It wasn’t her idea but, since no one was there, they wanted to make love in Darla’s bed, and they had all afternoon. It was her first real love affair and she was thrilled, adventurous and found it all so adult and exciting.

They had met on the set of “Just In Time”, her first big role in a big motion picture. She knew the moment she got it; it would be a huge stepping-stone in her career. Everyone wanted to be in an HRT project. Everyone wanted to work with David Turner, James Redfield and the elusive Darla Hutton. It was a rarity but they were all three working together again. She was right there working along side them.

Little did she know how much would change in her life before the film even was released. Things happened so fast. One minute she was the na├»ve young actress working on a major motion picture. The next she was a seasoned pro, a large role under her belt and waking from an afternoon rendezvous in the star’s bed when she wasn’t home.

It served the woman right. She had hoped to learn so much from working with Darla Hutton. What she learned was the kind of star she didn’t want to be. The woman pitched temper tantrums shutting down or delaying the shoot constantly. Then a few minutes later, the same shrew was cowering in a corner bawling her eyes out.

Darla Hutton spoke to only a chosen few, and seemed to enjoy making everyone around her miserable. She treated her co-star and her director with disdain, often picking up a prop and hurling it unprovoked at one of them.

Oh she was beautiful, even more breath taking in person than on the screen, but quite frankly not only was she unprofessional, she wasn’t a very good actress. It surprised her.

Teresa, as she was called back then, had been mesmerized by “Breathe Again”, as everyone who saw it had been. Although Darla’s five other pictures didn’t have that same exact magic, Darla was brilliant and the films excellent.

“Just In Time” would probably be at best good. James Redfield was incredible, as usual, and the script seemed inspired, but Darla Hutton was terrible. The only time she could even stand her in the rushes was in the musical numbers. As terrible as Hutton was in this role, her vocal abilities were unmatched.

David Turner had a reputation for spinning gold. She had her fingers crossed that he’d be able to work his magic in the editing room. There was no way she wanted her first major role to be in Darla Hutton’s first major bomb.

She stirred in the big brass bed. Her lover was gone. Tess sat up looking around the ornate room. Sighing she looked down on the floor and then reached for her clothes. It wouldn’t be the first time she had awakened after a thrilling hour of passion to find herself alone. She guessed that was the way things would always be as long as she was sleeping with someone who was already married.

She dressed lazily and looked at the mussed bed. She thought about making it, but remembered it hadn’t been made when she had been thrown on it and ravaged. Tess smiled. She started to blow out the many candles lit around the bedroom. She’d almost forgotten how they’d taken her breath away when she was led in and she saw them for the first time.

With a quick breath out went to first candle. She loved the perfumed wax smell as that little dash of smoke curled in the air after whiffing the flame out. Tess touched a clear drip from the candle and let the hot goo dry almost instantly on her finger. She was looking at it when she heard her coming.

She couldn’t make out what was said, but she could make out an argument was ensuing and coming straight for her. Panicked she looked around the room, dashing behind the flowing drapes just before the bedroom door was slammed open.

From her hiding place she heard the big bed rock, as a body was either thrown against it or someone threw themselves on it. She didn’t dare look to see who it was, as much as she wanted to. She trembled waiting for a moment when she could slip away unnoticed. She tried to crane her head around to see if she might be able to slip out the window when she became suddenly aware that there was someone else in the room.

“Don’t you ever walk away from me!” The voice growled.

“I’ll do anything I please!” Came the voice from the bed. “I’m free of you now and I don’t take orders from you or anyone else anymore!”

“Free?” The other voice scoffed. “You’re back in this house aren’t you?”

She heard the woman sit up on the bed. “I just came back to get my things.”

“Two questions Darla. How long will it take you to pack your bags and get the hell out and when will we all be free of you?”

Tess turned her head slightly to the left and realized that she could see the mirror on the dresser from her hiding place. Remembering her acting teacher once telling her if you can see the audience, they can see you. She began to slip further behind the drapes, but instead wrapped them discreetly around herself until she could no longer she her own reflection.

From her hiding place she could see Lucille take a step toward the woman on the bed. “I’m waiting for an answer Darla. How long until we’re all rid of you for good?”

She couldn’t see Darla’s face, only that back of her thick black curls. “Soon enough.”

“What you want something more?” Lucille pulled the yellow frock tighter around her chest, trying to cover the lingerie she was wearing. “Blood?”

Tess could hear Darla smile. “Not really, but if I asked for it, you’d have to give it to me. You know you would.”

She saw Lucille pull a large cedar box she’d been hiding behind her back so Darla could see it. Tess noticed Darla’s head move like a cat getting ready to pounce on a mouse. Lucille smiled and tossed it on the bed and out of Tess’s sight.

“Here.” The triumph evident in her voice, “I don’t have any cash on me, but these should do. My jewelry is worth a fortune. Take It, get out and don’t come back. In fact never let us hear from you again.”

Darla’s manic laugh was unmistakable. “You think I need money?”

“Of course, you need money.”

Tess could hear the cedar box open and the sound of fingers dipping through the jewelry. “You aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are Lucille. I have money, lots and lots of money.”

“But all in a joint account with your husband. Remember him?”

“David? Of course, I remember him.” Tess could she her cock her head from the reflection in the mirror. “Is he dead yet?”

“No.” Lucille smirked. “He’ll be fine. So will James. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“There.” Tess started to panic again when she realized Darla was getting up from the bed and walking toward the mirror. She had to stifle a laugh, no a guffaw, when she got a look at Darla getting a look at herself.

Darla leaned into the mirror, and then turned to Lucille covered in every piece of jewelry she had space for. “Do I look like a cheap whore yet?”

Lucille crossed her arms. “You don’t need to be slathered in too much jewelry to look like a cheap whore.”

In a flash the cedar box was hurled at Lucille who ducked and laughed. “Almost got me. You move pretty well for a woman who just had a baby. You did just have a baby or were you just messing with us all again?”

“Yes, I had a baby.” Darla got defensive, rubbing her belly slightly.

“What’d you do with it? Drop it by the road and high tail it home to whine until one of us goes and finds it for you like a lost earring?”

Tess watched Darla whip around to face the mirror, hurt flashing across her face and then just a quickly smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know where my baby is?”

“Couldn’t care less, Darla.”

“That’s what you want. That’s what you all want. You want me to hand over my baby and then you’ll take it and get rid of me.”

“Actually, Sweetheart, my personal choice is just to wash my hands of you and the little pooping brat.” Lucille took a step toward Darla. “So what was it, a boy poop or a girl poop?”

Darla whipped around to face the mirror again, her eyes darting around in dismay. “A little boy…David has a son.”

“David?” Lucile scoffed. “Are you sure it’s David’s?”

“Of course, it’s David’s.”

“I don’t know, Darla. You got awful chummy with Mike Kincaid. You guys got friendly and all of a sudden all you could talk about was blowing whistles and getting out. You been blowin’ Mike Kincaid’s whistle Darla?”

Her voice became cold and deadly. “I’ll have you know the only man who’s ever touched me is my husband.”

Lucille laughed out loud. “Not surprised. Who’d wanna touch a crazy bitch? That’s exactly what you are Darla, one crazy bitch.”

Darla turned slowly and deliberately until she was facing Lucille. “I bet you wish you could say the same.”

“I got one up on ya, Darla.” Lucile put her hands on her hips and let the peignoir fall open, giving Darla a flash of cleavage. “I’ve never been touched by…a man.”

“Perverts!” Darla gasped. “You all are perverts!”

Lucille threw back her head and laughed. Then like a tiger waiting for the perfect moment, she pounced on her prey. “Is that what’ll take to get you off everyone’s back? Me?”

Lucille yanked Darla to her and kissed her deeply. Darla struggled, finally pushing her off and wiping her lips disgustedly with the back of her hand. “You ever touch me again and I’ll kill you!”

“Like I haven’t heard that before.” Lucille pushed herself up off the floor.

Darla put out her hand. “I mean it. Don’t come one step closer!”

Lucille took a daring step toward Darla, who threw herself against the dressing table, rattling the mirror and the contents on top of the dresser.

“Ouch!” Darla grabbed her hand, and cradled it where a candle hand fallen over and burned her.

“Aw, darling.” Lucille smirked, advancing toward her. “Let Mama kiss it and make it all better.