Episode 115

The scene seemed to replay in slow motion as a gunshot roared through the Ashford estate followed by a second one. The room grew cold as Blake let out a shriek of horror unable to refrain from losing herself to the madness that surrounded her. Patrick holstered his gun as both Diane and Simon hit the floor. A puddle of blood formed quickly underneath their bodies tarnishing the otherwise flawless marble flooring beneath them with the thick, crimson color.

Ben pulled away from the officer and rushed over to the bloody mass in horror. Simon has a bullet straight through his forehead. No doubt about it, he was dead. Diane's head had blood covering it as well and his breath caught in his throat in the moment he felt his dreams coming to an end with the woman he loved in such a state. Examining closer he saw that the bullet had grazed her forehead. Tears welled in his eyes, even as he realized Diane was still alive. He grabbed hold of her and held her closely to his chest. "Diane, please be okay! Someone get an ambulance!"
Paramedics rushed in almost immediately working on Diane. Ben stood up and advanced towards Patrick. He shoved Patrick into a wall and held him there, anger flashing through his tear jerked eyes, "How could you do that?"
"I saw a chance and I took it," Patrick choked back as two officers pulled Ben away from him.
"Because of you she got shot," Ben yelled trying to pull away from the officer's grasp, "You bastard!"
"Kid, be happy she's alive. His gun went off. I had no way of knowing," Patrick walked towards the front door and made his way out, "Besides she's got more of a chance now then she would have if I didn't shoot."
"You bastard," Ben sniffled as he wiped away the tears with his hands. He looked down and noticed his crimson blood stained shirt but didn't care. He rushed back over to Diane's side as the paramedics loaded her onto the backboard. He followed them as they entered the ambulance. The paramedics got to work on her as Ben continued to watch with horror in his eyes.  He loved Diane so much and he couldn't let her die. She couldn't leave him. Not like this. He ran his hand through her hair and whispered to her, "Diane, baby, please stay with me okay? We have a life to live together. We have so much we still have to do together. It isn't your time yet you hear me? Damn it!  It isn't your time. God, please don't take her away from me. Take me instead, but please don't let Diane die." Ben leaned his head against the gurney and sobbed uncontrollably as the ambulance made it's way to the hospital.


Caitlin sighs tiredly as she plops down on the bed in her and Ken's hotel room. Ken had some business to attend to that couldn't be put off but promised to be back as soon as possible.

Caitlin: What a day.

She closes her eyes about to drift off when there is a knock at the door. Her eyes fly open and she jumps up.

Caitlin: Ken?!

She hurries to the door and opens it to find Johanna on the other side. Her face falls clearly disappointed.

Caitlin: Oh, it's you.

Johanna laughs.

Johanna: Not who you were expecting huh?

Caitlin smiles and blushes.

Caitlin: Sorry.

Johanna shakes her head.

Johanna: Not a problem. So can I come in?

Caitlin steps back to allow her in.

Caitlin: Oh, yeah, sure. I'm sorry. So what brings you by?

Johanna smiles.

Johanna: Well, I heard Ken was called off on business, and Zack is tired and has proclaimed that he just wants to sit in the hotel room and watch base ball and order room service. I on the other hand feel like going out, and I'm guessing you'd rather not be alone. So, you and I are going to dress up and paint this town tonight!

Caitlin smiles

Caitlin: I don't know Johanna. I mean, Ken could be back soon.
Johanna: Or he could be gone all night! Come on, you can't wait around for a man. Your Dad is doing fine and you're in a fun city. There is no reason you should be held up here in the hotel room all night. Now come on, let's get going.

Caitlin: Well, it has been a long time since I had a girl’s night out.

Johanna: Even more reason to go out tonight.

Caitlin smiles.

Caitlin: Okay, you talked me into it. I'll just leave Ken a note.

Johanna: Sounds good to me. Now, I brought some stuff down for myself.

She indicates bag she's holding.

Johanna: So we can get ready together. So let's go.

Caitlin: Why not.

An hour later both are extremely dressed up. Caitlin is wearing a short, slinky, strapless, black dress, and has her hair in a French twist. While Johanna is wearing a strapless, long beaded red dress.

Caitlin: Uh, I really feel over dressed for a girls night out.

Johanna: Oh come on, it's fun to dress up now and then. Let's go.

Caitlin shrugs and fallows Johanna out.

Caitlin: So where are we going?

Johanna: Oh let's just wing it.

Caitlin laughs.

Caitlin: We're dressed like this and we're winging it?

Johanna shrugs.

Johanna: Why not?

They get out side and see a huge white carriage with red and gold interior, with a huge white horse with gold rains at the front. The carriage is decorated with flowers.

Caitlin: Oh wow how beautiful!

Johanna: It really looks majestic, doesn't it?

Caitlin nods.

Caitlin: I wonder who it's waiting for?

Just then a man dressed in a tux and a top hat and white gloves who has been standing by the door of the carriage addresses them.

Man: Would you ladies care for a ride?

Caitlin: Oh I don't know...

Johanna: Oh come on! How many times do you get a chance to ride on a carriage like this.

Caitlin smiles.

Caitlin: Good point.

She turns to the man.

Caitlin: We'd love to.

The man helps Caitlin into the carriage but Johanna stays back.

Caitlin: Johanna, come on.

Johanna shakes her head.

Johanna: I just felt my cell phone vibrate, it might be important. Enjoy the ride I'll see you when you get back.

Before Caitlin can protest Johanna has raced inside the hotel and the man in charge of the carriage has shut the door and is atop the carriage ready to start the ride. Caitlin sits rather confused in the carriage but soon begins to enjoy herself as she rides along. People stare and point and Caitlin can't help but feel like a celebrity. Suddenly the carriage stops at a beautiful restaurant. The driver gets out and comes to the door.

Caitlin: Why are we stopped here?

Man: I was asked to stop here.

She looks at the man questioningly.

Caitlin: That's strange.

Man: Perhaps your friend is meeting you here.

Caitlin nods

Caitlin: That must be it.

She steps down and looks up at the restaurant.

Caitlin: Tulio Ristorante. I've heard of this place, it's supposed to be really good.

She gets a melancholy look on her face.

Caitlin: Though I'd rather be eating here with Ken. Oh well.

She looks to the man.

Caitlin: How much do I owe you?

The man smiles.

Man: it's been taken care of.

He tips his hat and heads off.

Caitlin: That's odd, I don't remember Johanna paying him.

She moves towards the doors which are suddenly swung open. A man dressed in a suit and tie addresses her.

Man: You must be Caitlin.

Caitlin stairs at him stunned.

Caitlin: Yes, I am. But how...

Man holds the door open to her.

Man: Right this way madam.

Caitlin looks at him quizzically but enters. The restaurant is dimly lit with candles glowing and the sweet smell of flowers everywhere. While a violinist plays soft music as he strolls amongst the tables. The man speaks in whispers to a waiter who nods and turns to Caitlin.

Waiter: Please fallow me.

As she fallows him he takes her towards a small candle lit table in the back. As she gets closer she sees someone is already sitting there and as they approach he stands and she gasps when she sees who it is.

Caitlin: Ken?!

He smiles and hands her a beautiful pink rose.

Ken: A rose for the lady of my heart.

Caitlin: Oh, Ken it's beautiful! Thank you. But what's going on? Why are you here?

He smiles at her.

Ken: I thought a surprise night of romance was just what the doctor ordered.

Caitlin shakes her head as tears come to her eyes.

Caitlin: If you aren't a prince I don't know what one is.

He moves close and pulls her to him.

Ken: Anything for you my love, anything.

They kiss tenderly as on lookers smile at the young couple.


The stinging rays of the sun assaulted Heather while she lay in Diego’s guest room--penetrating her after her already restless night in this unfamiliar place.  Sighing as she rolled over onto her side, she allowed her eyes to drift over to the clock finding that most of the morning had already come and gone while she’d been sulking.  Sure, she hadn’t slept much, but then again she hadn’t particularly felt like getting out of bed either.  Top that off with the fact that Diego hadn’t bothered to try to pull her from the blankets in some nauseating pep talk during the morning and now she was convinced that had it made.  Well, at least she had enough space to give her time to forget the world that is.
“Forget,” she grumbled to herself hugging the sheet over her body in an attempt to try to rid herself of the chills that had overtaken her the previous evening.  Sure, she’d tried to pretend that the past didn’t matter--that last night was nothing more than a blur, but the cold, hard truth was that the previous evening had been something that would forever shake up her world from here on out.
“Quit feeling sorry for yourself Heather,” she groaned tossing her pillow aside while balling up her fists beneath the sheet.  It was bad enough that she’d had a pity party over what Cameron had done, but then to make matters worse she’d acted like a complete fool in front of Diego.  With that thought lingering over her, she winced in agony.  Releasing the sheet she noticed the bandages still on her hands serving as a reminder of her hasty at of impulse.  Or was it an insanity, she wondered.
“Stop it Heather,” she began to sit upright throwing back the sheet, “You are not about to go Sybil all over again.”
With that declaration, Heather mustered up enough strength to pull herself out of bed.  So what if her husband had violated her?  So what if Cameron had taunted her about her past?  She wasn’t that woman anymore.  Sure, she’d had plenty of men try to shake her up and make her feel weak, but this time she wasn’t going to shy away from confrontation.  She was ready to fight and fight she would…that is just as soon as she found a way to get herself out of Diego’s home without making more of a fool of herself than she’d already had.
As if he could hear her thoughts, Heather listened to the sounds of Diego tapping on the door.  Quickly she shuffled back into bed, pretending to be fast asleep beneath the blankets while she tried to think of an easy exit out of Diego’s home.  She could hear him opening the door, slowly at first, but then the steady sound of his footsteps on the floor alerted her to his presence in the room.  She tried to remain still pretending to be sound asleep, but she could feel the brush of him against the comforter of the bed.
“Still sleeping huh,” Diego sighed stepping in beside her.  His dark eyes were tired and full of concern as he knelt down beside her just watching her sleep.
“I wish you would tell me what’s going on so that I could help you,” Diego began in a pained voice, “Last night I hated to have to push you away when God knows I wanted to be kissing you as much as you were kissing me, but Heather I owe you more than that.  So much more that I can’t bring myself to do that to you.  I just wish you’d understand,” he finished reaching out to push a loose strand of her blonde hair from her face before her rose up to his feet again.  Giving her one last look, he leaned down to adjust the blanket over her before leaving the room unaware that Heather had taken in each and every one of his words.
“Oh Diego,” Heather sighed opening her eyes after she was certain he’d left the room, “how I wish I could let you in, but I see now that isn’t an option for us.  I can’t let you know the truth about what I truly am.  Not now and not ever.”


“Well,” Kyle questioned squeezing the man’s arm again while the trio stood on the front lawn outside Russell‘s neighbor‘s home, “What do you say Russ?  Want me to get rid of him?”
“Perhaps,” Russell decided giving the guy a long once over, “but then again maybe we should let him talk.”
“Personally I vote for throwing him to the sharks,” Kyle shrugged his shoulders once again.  He wrenched at the smaller man’s yet again watching the man wince in agony.
“Please, if you’ll just give me five minutes,” the man started to explain desperately, “I really wasn’t meaning to spy like that, but when I saw you inside I wasn’t sure…”
“Wasn’t sure about what,” Russell demanded hearing the sounds of Avery approaching.  Immediately he thought to how he’d urged her to call for help.  Sure, the police had sounded like a great idea at the time, but if this man before him had any knowledge about Bruce, then perhaps having the police be the first on the scene wasn’t a good idea.  With that thought in mind, Russell turned to Kyle.  “Look, take him in the backyard and I’ll deal with this in a minute.”
“For real?,” Kyle questioned giving him a strange look.
“Yeah, if he knows something than I want to hear it, but under my terms which don’t include upsetting Avery.  She’s been through enough lately,” Russell offered up with a frown, “So can you just take him out back and I’ll work on getting rid of anyone else who might stand to put an end to this talk we’ll be having shortly?”
“Sure, why not.  You’re the boss,” Kyle’s eyes widened in surprise before a thick, eager grin expanded over his features.  Nodding quickly, he reached for the neck of the guy’s shirt tugging at it around the neck and practically pulling him off of the ground in the movement, “Come on pal.  It’s time we had a little talk about manners.”
Russell waited for a minute before taking in a slow breath.  Turning around he found Avery on the porch wrapped up in her robe with worry evident behind her eyes.  He made his way towards her contemplating how to approach the situation with Kyle and their uninvited guest.  With each step he took towards his wife and home, he found himself more determined than ever to keep his wife from having any further worries or concerns about Bruce than what she’d had when he’d broken into their home.  He had to find a way to spare Avery the grief he was certain this new arrival would bring along with finding a way to find out just what it was that the man knew about Bruce with no intrusions.
“Did you catch him,” Avery questioned with a tiny shiver tightening the robe around her body.
“He got away,” Russell lied feeling a pang of guilt upon the admission, “It was just one of the neighborhood teens looking to score a good time.”
“I hardly consider being a peeping tom a good time,” Avery frowned feeling a huff rise in the back of her throat.
“Kids have serious issues these days,” Russell added stepping up onto the porch with her.  “Cheap thrills give them a charge of something.”
“That’s just plain sick,” Avery groaned inwardly.
“I couldn’t agree more,” he moved in beside her wrapping his arm around her shoulders, “but I think he got the life scared out of him in the run away from our house.”
“Yeah well he deserves it considering that I was terrified when I saw him out there.  For a minute I thought it was Bruce coming back to finish what he started on our house the other day,” she admitted bringing her hand up over her chest in an attempt to ease the racing of her pulse.

“I know sweetheart and I’m sure that he’ll get what’s coming his way for that, but right now, why don’t we get inside and get you dressed?  You can go pick up Rusty from my parents’ house and then we’ll try to salvage the rest of the day.”
“But what about the police?” she gave him a strange look, “You just had me call and…”
“I’ll call them back and tell them it was a false alarm, but you, well you should get dressed and ready to get our little kitten.  I’ll meet up with you later or better yet, while you’re gone I’ll work on making us something special for dinner,” he suggested off the top of his head.
“How about we wait for the police together and then we go over to get Rusty from your parents’ house?  I’m sure your mom would love to see you right now considering everything that’s been going on,” she suggested still a bit shaken up from the intrusion.
“Actually I was hoping to get a few things done around here.  I wanted to try to connect with Dave again and well, Avery, come on,” he began with a sigh.
“Russ, someone just scared the hell out of me and now you’re acting strange.  What’s going on?” she questioned in confusion.
“Nothing is going on.  I just thought you might like the time to unwind in going over to get Rusty.  Not just that, but I wanted to wrap up with what I was working on earlier.  Plus, you know the police.  They’ll still find their way out here to harass us and right now you just don’t need that.  Our baby doesn’t need that.”
“Well maybe you’re right on that, but promise me that if I do go and you happen to finish up here earlier that you’ll call me or come on over.  Your father could probably use some time with you right about now since Grady’s gone,” she reminded him simply.
“I promise I’ll try to make my way over there,” he reached for her kissing the top of her head before pulling her into an embrace, “I love you, you know.”
“I love you too, but somehow I get the feeling that there’s something going on here that you’re not telling me Russ and I don’t like that,” Avery stated plainly, her dark eyes penetrating his with an intense stare.
“And I think that you’re too busy worrying to see there’s no ulterior motive to this one other than my wanting to spare my wife and our child a little grief,” Russell offered up feeling yet another hint of guilt eating away at him for fibbing about what was going on.  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t entirely an untruth as he had truly wanted to keep Avery and the baby safe.
“Fine, but don’t think that I’m happy about this,” she remarked with one last protest.
“Objection noted,” Russell reached out to kiss her once again, “Now go get dressed before the idiot squad makes their way over.”
“Alright,” Avery nodded in agreement making her way into the bedroom.
Russell turned his attention to the kitchen thinking about what had taken place in the front yard.  Sure, things weren‘t at all as he‘d made them seem to Avery, but he was working on making sure that things didn‘t blow up in both of their faces.  Carefully looking over his shoulder he made sure that Avery was in the bedroom.  He moved to the window pushing aside the curtain just enough to see Kyle doing as he asked in keeping the guy out of Avery’s sight.  Somehow that man had to offer up some kind of key into what was going on with Bruce, Russell thought to himself while closing the curtain once again.  At least that’s what he was hoping for, his mind added leaving him to wonder if the nightmare with Bruce would ever truly come to an end.   


Johanna and Zack sit at a quiet little table in a small restaurant talking over a candle lit meal.

Zack: Sounds like my sister is getting one heck of a romantic surprise right about now.

Johanna smiles.

Johanna: I can only imagine the look on her face. When I first went over there she was clearly missing Ken so I know tonight is just what she wants and needs.

Zack nods.

Zack: I have to admit, as much as I don't trust the guy she sure knows how to romance a woman.

Johanna nods.

Johanna: A surprise night of romance what make anyone melt. I'm just glad she went along with everything so easily. I admit I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to get her all dressed up and on the carriage.

Zack: Yeah, she's pretty trusting. That's one of the things that always worries me about her, you know? She always wants to believe the best about people, and trust that they are completely on the up and up. But that's just not how the real world works.

Johanna: Sometimes it does though. And I really do believe Ken is one of the good guys.

Zack: I hope you're right. For her sake I really hope you're right. By the way it was really nice of you to help get her ready and on her way.

Johanna shrugs.

Johanna: What can I say I'm a sucker for romance.

Zack nods then laughs.

Johanna: What?

Zack: Do you remember the time you tried to make me this huge surprise birthday dinner?

Johanna turns beat red and puts her head in her hands.

Johanna: Oh God...

Zack: You wanted us to have this elaborate, romantic, birthday dinner and instead you nearly burnt the house down and we ended up eating pizza at a local hotel cause there was to much water and smoke damage to stay at the house.

Zack is laughing hard Johanna throws a napkin at him.

Johanna: I wanted your birthday to be memorable!

Zack: Oh, it was!

Johanna sighs and flops back in her chair. Zack smiles at her.

Zack: Come on, you have to admit it was pretty funny. And hey, you gave me a memory I will never forget.

Johanna sighs and smiles in spite of herself.

Johanna: Yeah I guess it was funny. Embarrassing, but funny. But hey at least I never ripped the seat of my pants out in public.

Zack groans and puts his head in his hands.

Johanna: We are at this extremely crowded dance club and this guy starts hitting on me. So, I start jokingly flirting back, not serious in the least. But you go and get all jealous and pull me out on the dance floor and begin showing off moves that I've only seen gymnasts on TV do!

Zack is turning beet red, but can't help but snicker right along with Johanna.

Zack: I guess I was a little out of control.

Johanna raises her eye brow.

Johanna: A little? You jumped in the air, did the splits while in the air and on the way down the whole club saw and heard your pants go rip!
They both start laughing hard.

Zack: Yeah, we did have some funny moments.

Johanna smiles.

Johanna: They really are moments I treasure.

Zack nods and sighs taking her hand in his.

Zack: Me too, me too.


Ken and Caitlin sit happily enjoying their romantic dinner.

Caitlin: I absolutely love this place! The decor, the food, the service, it makes me feel like I'm really in Italy.

Ken smiles.

Ken: I'm glad you like it. I figured you would.

Caitlin laughs.

Caitlin: Oh you did, did you?

Ken: Well, you have several paintings of Italy, several cook books for Italian food, as well as several CD's of Italian music. So I figured Italian was the way to go.

Caitlin laughs and puts her hands up.

Caitlin: You got me. I'm in love with Italy.

Ken: From everything I've seen and heard it's a wonderful place.
Caitlin nods.

Caitlin: A friend of mine goes there every summer and I swear every story she tells, and picture she shows just makes me love it all the more. I really hope to go someday.

Ken gets a twinkle in his eye and smiles.

Ken: Maybe you will.

Caitlin scoffs.

Caitlin: Yeah, right. With our schedules? Not to mention the cost.

Ken: You never know. So what part would you like to see?

Caitlin considers this.

Caitlin: Well, Venice of course. I mean, it's supposedly the most romantic city in the world. I'd also like to see Tuscany and the Chianti region. Both are known for their beautiful landscapes. And of course I'd want to explore some other towns there. See all the rich history.
Ken nods smiling his mind clearly working on something but Caitlin doesn't notice.

Caitlin: So how about you? What's your dream destination.

Ken smiles at her lovingly.

Ken: Anywhere you are.

Caitlin laughs.

Caitlin: I'm serious!

Ken: I'm serious too. I couldn't imagine a better place then right at your side.

Caitlin smiles and shakes her head.

Caitlin: Sweet talker. Okay, okay. But if you had to choose an actual place where would it be?

Ken: You're going to laugh.

Caitlin: No I won't, where?

Ken: Well, I would love to go rock climbing some place really challenging.

Caitlin spits her mouthful of wine out of her mouth as she starts laughing.

Caitlin: You! You, rock climbing?!

Ken blushes.

Ken: You asked.

Caitlin smiles

Caitlin: I'm sorry I just can't picture it. But why?

Ken shrugs

Ken: Well, I'm good at challenging myself mentally and I'd like to try challenging myself physically too. That and it's always seemed like such a beautiful and exciting way to see nature.

Caitlin nods.

Caitlin: Well, it would definitely be challenging, and I guess I could see it being exciting. But I think I'll pass on it myself.

They both laugh.

Ken: Well, it probably won't happen any time soon. I'm more interested in us and Italy at the moment.

Caitlin smiles.

Caitlin: I would love to go there. But I don't think now is a good time.
Ken: You never know.

He takes her hand and gazes lovingly into her eyes Caitlin smiles back at him.

Caitlin: Thank you.

Ken: For what?

Caitlin: For tonight. It was just what I needed.

Ken nods.

Ken: I kind of figured it was.

Just then the violinist comes over to them and begins playing for them as Ken and Caitlin stair deeply into one another's eyes.


Avery drove towards her mother and father-in-law’s home knowing full well that her husband wasn’t on the up and up with her about things, but oddly enough she was going to let it slide.  Or was she, she frowned pulling over at a stoplight as she thought about what she’d thought she’d seen back home.  She could’ve sworn that Russell was speaking with someone a minute before he’d come back to the house, yet he’d informed her that the man watching them had gotten away.  Then with the way he was trying to get rid of her, that in itself left a funny feeling inside of her.  Sure, okay so Russell really hadn’t ever lied to her about much, but this time…
“Okay get a grip,” she muttered to herself wondering if her own paranoia was starting to set in.  Looking to her cell phone on the seat beside her, she wondered if she should dare trying to call and check up on him again.  Sure, it wasn’t what she’d planned on, but as she thought about his strange behavior, the more comforting a thought calling home was.  Reaching for the phone, she shifted it between her hands ready to dial when it began to ring.
“I knew you weren’t going to just let me walk out without your being up front with me Russ,” Avery brought the phone up to her ear ready to hear what her husband was really up to, “Spill it.”
“Avery, sweetheart it’s your mother,” Brooke began in a sugary sweet tone.
“Hi mom,” Avery replied with a slight air of disappointment in her voice, “how are you feeling?”
“I’d be feeling much better if I saw my little girl once in a while,” Brooke explained with obvious frustration, “Why is it I haven’t seen you?”
“Russ and I have been really busy lately.  There’s been a lot going on with his brother and…” Avery started.
“Ah yes, I heard all about what happened to Grady and it’s absolutely dreadful.  I can’t even begin to imagine what Cheryl must be going through to lose a child like that.  My heart breaks for the woman,” Brooke continued in an exaggerated tone, “When I think of all the pitfalls that family has had over the years…”
“Yes, mom I know it’s heartbreaking, but right now I’m in the middle of traffic on my way to pick up Rusty so if I could call you back in a few…” Avery cut her off.
“Actually, since you’re out, would it be too much trouble to stop on over here at the mansion?  I’ve been missing your father like crazy this week and since he’s out of town, well it just hasn’t been the same.  Sure, Brant has been more than generous with me, but with your father being gone and Guy wrapped up in the things he’s working on for the company…” Brooke explained laying on the beginnings of a guilt trip.   
“I have to go over to Elliot and Cheryl’s, but maybe later Russ and I…” Avery started noticing the traffic light turn green.
“Avery, sweetheart, surely you can spare five minutes for your miserable mother.  I know full well that you’ll be passing by here to head on over to the Denton home.  Why not at least come over and say hello?”
“Mom, I really can’t…”
“Of course you can,” Brooke insisted firmly, “and I’ll be waiting for you with tea, so hurry on up.”
“But mom,” Avery started to object only to be met by silence on the other end of the line.  While she’d had absolutely no intentions of stopping by the Ashford Estate, she thought about her mother’s near brush with death and a feeling of guilt tugged at her insides.  Sure, she and Brooke hadn’t had much of a relationship over the years, but Brooke was trying and Avery had to give her credit for trying.
“Oh hell,” Avery frowned turning off the main street and heading up towards the Ashford estate, “I don’t know why I bother sometimes.”


“So where shall we start,” Russell questioned taking in a slow breath after he’d made quick work at getting rid of the police and scooting Avery out of the door.  Now that he and Kyle stood in his kitchen with the mystery guest seated in one of the oak chairs, Russell couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bit extreme.  Okay, so maybe it looked a bit ridiculous, Russell couldn’t help but reason with himself noting the ever intimidating Kyle Houston towering over the scrawny, tired looking man. 
“How about his arm,” Kyle suggested with a low growl causing the man to shiver upon his words.  At six foot four and two hundred and sixty pounds of muscle Kyle Houston was never one to be messed with, but now there was no denying the obvious fear behind the man’s eyes once Kyle had targeted him.
“Not just yet,” Russell waved his hand dismissively feigning an air of control in opposite to Kyle’s rage--an act that Russ had seen Kyle and Grady perfect over the years when trying to intimidate a rival football team’s lead quarterback in college.  “So where were we?”
“I was about to tell you what I know about Bruce Mathis,” the man explained in a shaky tone, “that is if you call your guard dog off.”
“Hey, I object to being called a guard dog,” Kyle’s brow wrinkled with obvious displeasure before he leaned in closer towards the man in an intimidating gesture, “I was thinking pit bull was more appropriate considering the mood I’m in.”
“Okay, Kyle, calm down,” Russell reached out to place a distance between Kyle and the man, “we don’t need to hurt him…yet.”
“Fine, fine,” Kyle threw his hands up in the air, waving them with heavy emphasis, “but I often find after a few broken bones people are far more willing to cooperate.”
“Hey, I never said I wouldn’t cooperate,” the man objected with a squeal, “I just said I didn’t want you to rough me up when I was doing my civic duty in showing up here today.”
“I didn’t realize that a civic duty included getting your rocks off on spying on newlyweds,” Kyle remarked sourly.
“That’s not what I was doing,” the man clearly protested before turning to Russell again, “I wasn’t doing that.”
“Okay, fine.  We’ll forget that you were spying on my wife and I and we’ll cut to the chase.  Who are you and what are you doing here…other than owning up to your so called ‘civic duty’?” Russell questioned reaching for a chair and taking a seat in front of the man.  “Well?”
“My name is Randy…Randy Harvey,” the man admitted with a painful sigh, “and a few months ago Dr. Mathis contacted me about keeping an eye on his girlfriend.  At first it seemed like a pretty decent, cushy job.  I had to take a few pictures here and there and that was about it.  The girl didn’t exactly lead the most exciting of lives, but the pay was well..”
“Ah, so let me guess, you started taking pictures and got interested in checking out the goods more up close and personal, which is why you’re here today.  You couldn’t get enough, huh?” Kyle piped in shaking his head in disgust, “That’s it, I say we just shoot him now and get it over with.”
“Hey, who do you think you are,” Randy glared up at him.
“The man who happens to think you’re full of it.  You’re just searching for any reason for us not to hand you over to the cops, so you’ll say what’s on the top of your head.  How do we know that you’re not someone who showed up today to cash in on the fact that my pal here and his wife have been having some high profile media attention?” Kyle taunted him.
“That’s not what I was doing.  Mathis hired me to watch his girlfriend and that’s exactly what I did.  I took pictures of her when they were together and more when they’d parted.  It was a job that I did for him and I did it well when I was working for him,” Randy informed him bluntly, “I caught every dirty little detail about her life on film and got paid great for it.”
“See, I told you Russ, we’re dealing with a pervert,” Kyle reached out to pluck the man up from the chair.
“Wait a second,” Russell stopped Kyle for a moment before turning to the man, “You told me that you were watching my wife when Bruce was calling the shots, so then why come here today?  Why keep following her around if you knew the job wasn’t paying you anymore?  Why bother with it when you weren’t given your fees for the work you’d done?” Russell questioned sensing something was off about the story.
“Because he’s a bored and lonely soul with no life,” Kyle piped in with a glare.
“I am not,” Randy objected feeling Kyle slap him upside the head.
“Shut up,” Kyle snarled down at him, “Were we asking you to speak?”
“Look, I don’t need to take this.  I came over here to help today, not to be abused,” Randy protested standing up only to have Kyle push him back down in his chair.
“You aren’t going anywhere until we get the truth out of you slime ball,” Kyle ordered before nodding in Russell’s general direction, “So start talking.”  
“Okay, so maybe I haven’t exactly been honest with you about things here, but the truth to the matter is that I got a call not so long ago.  Mathis pops up at my trailer and insists that I do this bang up job of your place.  He says since I know the layout from taking all the pictures that I should find it in me to deliver you and your wife a message for him,” Randy continued with an uneasy breath, “I didn’t want to do it, but well, the guy is a serial killer for God’s sake.  He shows up at my place, threatens me and pushes me around a bit and then, well then how can I say no?”
“Go on,” Russell folded his arms in front of his chest awaiting for information.
“Look man, I didn’t know what it was he wanted when he insisted I bring you the package,” Randy continued uneasily, “I was just supposed to pick the locks, come inside and mess a few things up.”
“Is that what you were supposed to do?” Russell’s voice rose with anger, “And gee, is this where the videotape and the dead woman come in?”
“Dead woman,” the man repeated shaking his head adamantly, “No, that had nothing to do with me.  I swear to you that was all Mathis.  He showed up halfway into my wrecking the place and he had me go out to his car with him.  He pulled this bag out of the trunk and I swear to you that I had no idea what it was until he set it up in the bedroom,” he paused a shudder passing over him, “The man is a psychopath--a real nut job if you ask me and when he did it, I knew that I had to get the hell out of there.  Blackmail or not, it wasn’t worth what he was trying to get me into.”
“So what was he trying to blackmail you with,” Russell questioned in confusion, “What would make a man go so far as to participate in a sick and twisted game like the one he had going?”
“I’d really rather not say,” Randy insisted shakily, “but I will tell you that I didn’t have a choice.”
“Nope, wrong answer,” Kyle shook his head while reaching for the man‘s arm once again, “You start talking or else you can forget about your golf swing here.”
“Hey,” the man winced in agony feeling Kyle pull on his arm in a fashion that it wasn’t used to bending, “come on.  It’s not relevant to…” the man cried out again as Kyle applied a little more pressure, “Okay, okay.  It turns out that Mathis was watching me.  He’d been keeping his tabs on me for a while before he hired me and my girlfriend, well she’s got this kid…a real looker and when they first moved in I swear I didn’t know she was fifteen…”
“Okay that’s it.  I’ve heard enough,” Russell rose up from his chair heading over towards the phone, “I’m calling the police over now.”
“No wait,” the man pleaded with him, “Look I didn’t want any trouble.  After the pictures, well I just didn’t want to be wrapped up in any of this, but Mathis is a real whack job.  He started following me around--threatening me with the information he had over my head.  Look, I made a mistake.  It could happen to anyone and I didn’t want to lose my girlfriend over it.”
“Then you should’ve kept it in your pants pervert,” Kyle added with a menacing glare.
“You’re right.  I screwed up and I never would’ve touched her if I would’ve known.  I mean you didn’t see the way she was tempting me.  With those eyes and that body…” the man recounted his disgusting tale as Russell cut him off.
“Tell me how this is relevant to your being here today,” Russell clenched the cordless phone in hand.
“I tried to slip away…tried to keep from interacting with Mathis when he started flipping out.  I saw how he sliced up that girl and it freaked me out.  It really scared the hell out of me.  When he’d first started watching me, I knew he wasn’t right.  I knew that I should’ve backed off, but with the money I just got so sucked into it.  Eventually I saw that he was certifiable, but it was too late.  He’s got it set in his head that your wife is his and he’ll do anything to make that happen.  He’s crazy and when I left your place that day, well the truth is my life hasn’t been the same.  I went home and it was too late.  My girlfriend wouldn’t even speak with me and…”
“Imagine that,” Kyle quipped.
“And my life was in shambles,” Randy continued desperately, “I lost my girlfriend, lost my trailer and most of all, I knew that Mathis was out to get me.  He knew I was the one person who could lead the cops to where he’s been and that wasn’t going to sit well with him.  He and I had met up a few times just outside of town and one night after we’d exchanged a few words, I decided to follow him.  He wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I took some pictures--pictures of him with some very influential people in town--people who have been helping him hide out from the cops you see and if you are willing to help me, then I’ll see to it that you get your hands on that information.”
“Why should I believe a word you’re saying,” Russell asked full of doubt.
“Because I know those pictures can incriminate him.  I know that those pictures and the information that I have been digging up on him and for him can put him behind bars.  I know that’s what you want for your family and for a price I can make it happen.  All I want is a way out of town,” Randy pleaded with him, “I have them in a safe place and if you agree to help me, then I swear to you that I’ll get you everything you need on Mathis to get him out of your life forever.”


Heather sat in the bed feeling a sigh overcome her. She got up her strength to get out of the bed despite her conflicting emotions about it. She opened the door slowly walking out into the hallway. She looked around the house surprised to find that Diego was not at home. If she could leave, now was the time. She grabbed her stuff and headed to the door to leave. When she opened the door she jumped to back to find Diego at the door wit a bag in his hands.

“God, you scared me,” Heather said putting her hand on her head.

“Sorry, what were you doing anyways?” Diego asked walking into the house.

“I was looking for you.”

“Outside?” Diego asked putting the bag on the floor and sitting down.

“Well, I couldn’t find you, so I was going to look outside and you were there. What is that?” Heather asked seeing Diego grab the bag.

“It’s for you.”

“Really, what is it?” asked Heather sitting down next to Diego.

“See for yourself,” said Diego handing her the bag.

She slowly opened the bag and pulled the item inside out. It was an Atari she realized unable to bring the words to escape from her mouth as she felt a lump grow in her throat.

“Diego,” Heather started.

“Hey, it was no problem, a special gift for a special person,” Diego said getting a smile from Heather.

“Thank you, no one never did anything like this for me. It’s great,” said Heather grabbing Diego and hugging him tightly.

“Hey it was no problem, I care for you and I wanted to make you fell better,” Diego said as Heather let go of him.

“Well, it worked,” Heather said smiling.

“Do you want to play, I even got Pac Man.  It took a little digging around, but I finally found it,”  Diego said reaching inside and grabbing the game.

“That would be great,” Heather nodded eagerly unable to believe what she was seeing with Diego.  While she’d intended to leave, suddenly he’d thrown her a curve that she wasn’t expecting.

“Here let me set it up,” Diego said grabbing the box. He went over to the television and looked puzzled as he tried to hook it up.

“Do you know how to do it?” Heather asked grinning at the puzzled expression that washed over him.

“Oh yeah,” he said looking at it ready to give it another go at trying to set it up before turning to her, “on second thought, can you show me how to? I was never really good with these.”

“Sure,” she said laughing and going over to help him suddenly more eager than ever to spend time with Diego.  Sure it wasn‘t part of her plans for the day, but now that he‘d surprised her with listening to her and trying to make things better for her, how could she not want to stay for a while?


Quickly Avery turned up the road towards the Ashford estate thinking about her change of plans.  She had called Cheryl to let her know that she was running behind schedule and would be picking up Rusty a bit later than anticipated.  Sure, Avery certainly had not wanted to be spending this time with her mother considering how hectic life had been, but that in itself said what kind of inconsiderate person Avery had been being lately.  Here her mother had been violated by a man that Avery had invited into their lives and she owed her mother that much to at least try to be a good daughter. 
Shaking her head at the thought of her own selfish considerations, Avery vowed to give her mother a chance to spend some quality time with her even if it meant putting everything else on hold.  Russ didn’t seem to be ready to race out the door when Avery left, so what harm could a few more minutes do, she thought to herself while driving up to the Ashford estate.  She would just go in and have a cup of tea with her mother, share a little small talk and be on her way.   Yes, that was the plan indeed, but as Avery began to pull up towards the front gates of the estate, she found herself surrounded by red flashing lights.
“What in the world…” Avery questioned bringing her car to a stop when a sudden sense of panic swept over her.  Fearing the worst, she put her car into park.  Racing out of the driver’s side door, she jogged up towards the gates wondering if somehow Bruce had made his way into the mansion to hurt her mother once again after Avery had hung up with her.  Feeling guilt tug at her insides, Avery stepped up the pace only to find herself met by the police officers before her blocking the entrance.
“What’s going on in there,” Avery demanded desperate to know what was going on inside the estate.
“Miss, you can’t go in there,” one of the officers informed her bluntly.
“Please, my mother is in there,” Avery started again ready to do whatever it took to get inside and see what was happening, but before she could try to make any further ground with the officer before her, she heard someone calling out to her.
“Avery,” Brant’s voice rose above the sounds of police radios and the static that followed them, “Avery, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Avery confessed turning around to face him.  She rushed over to him seeing the same worry growing behind his dark eyes, “I just arrived.  Brooke called and invited me over, but when I got here, they were already outside the gates.”
“Let’s just see what’s going on,” Brant insisted reaching for Avery’s hand and marching through the crowd directly to the same officer that had shunned Avery’s attempts at entering, “What’s going on here officer?”
“Sir, I’m afraid you’ll need to back off.  You can’t go in there,” the man stated firmly.
“I live in there.  What’s happened,” Brant questioned puffing his chest out as he stared down the man before him.
“There’s been a shooting sir and that’s all I know,” the officer explained while Avery let out a gasp.
“Oh God.  Brooke is in there…what if Bruce…” Avery cried out feeling the weight of the situation fall upon her.
“Don’t think like that Avery,” Brant reached out to her pulling her into an embrace, “I’m sure that’s not what’s happening and I swear to you that I’m going to get to the bottom of this starting now.”
“Brant I…” Avery started looking through the gates only to see an ambulance before them.  Watching as the paramedics went to work, she noticed Blake up ahead.  “Brant it’s Blake.”
“Where,” Brant questioned following the direction Avery had pointed out as he wondered just what kind of disaster happened at the Ashford estate. 


The ambulance arrived at the hospital in a loud blare. The paramedics rushed out with Diane as Ben was at her side the whole time. He grasped her hand in his and kissed it gently. "Please, Diane don't die. Stay with me."

The paramedics rushed Diane into the ER and wouldn't let Ben go back there. Ben paced the waiting room tears forming in his eyes. He got down on his knees and rested his hands up on one of the chairs and began to do something he hadn't done for a while, "God, please don't take Diane away from me. She is my love, she is my life. If she dies my life will be over. I never thought someone could mean so much to me. I need her in my life. Please, don't take her away from me. Not yet. She's too young to go. We have so much we have to do still. We need to be together, raise a family, grow old together. Please, if anything take me. Just take me here as I kneel but please don't take

Ben laid his head on the chair and began to sob. He was slowly loosing control of everything in his life.  He couldn't believe that not even an hour ago him and Diane were so happy and on their way to Florida. The spot where he was going to surprise her. He felt a shutter pass through him as a hand rested on his shoulder. "Ben, everything will be okay."

Ben lifted his head and looked up to see Ria resting her palms on his shoulder. He gave a weak smile, "Hello Ria."

"How you holding up?" Ria asked bending down to see him more clearly, "You don't look good at all."

"The love of my life is in there, how do you expect me to look?" he snapped as he stood up and punched the wall, "I can't do a damn thing to help her."

"Just have faith," Ria stood up as well and wrapped her arms around him, "Have faith in her recovery Ben. It might seem foolish but it will help."

"Why couldn't it be me in there?" Ben rested his hand on the wall and laid his head on it, "Why couldn't I be the one instead of her?"

"I don't know Ben. I honestly don't." she leaned on the wall and watched him very closely, "I know this is very hard on you. It's hard on me too."

"I would do anything to switch places with her," he sniffled as his tears rolled down his cheeks, "Absolutely anything for it."

"I know you would. I would too," Ria ran her hand over his back reassuringly, "Diane is a fighter. We know how she is. She'll make it."

"How do you know?" Ben asked turning to her tears staining his face, "How do you know that God doesn't hate me and that his plan isn't to take away everything I ever cared about?"

"I feel it Ben. I feel it in here," Ria took his hand and placed it on her heart, "In my heart I feel that Diane will pull through. We both know how stubborn she is. Hell, she's laughed in the face of death. She has
been through so much and she has seen hell like no other. But she's made it every time Ben. Every single time Diane has pulled through. You have to tell yourself that she's going to pull through this."

"I know," Ben took in a deep breath, "It's just, I love her so much Ria. I wanted to share my life with her. I want to have a family with her. I want to wake up every morning with her beautiful face in a pleasant
dream right beside me. I want so many things that right now are starting to be ripped away from me faster then anything."

"Quit talking like she's gone," Ria frowned wrapping her arms around his waist, "Sweetie, she's still here. She hasn't gone anywhere. Keep it in your mind that she is going to be okay and she will be. She loves you Ben. She loves you more then I've ever seen her love anything. The love she has for you is strong enough Ben. It's strong enough to pull her through all this.  You have to believe that. You have to."

"I love her so much Ria," Ben rested his head against her shoulder and began to cry once more, "I don't know what I'd ever do without her."

"You don't have to worry about that Ben." Ria ran a hand through his hair reassuringly, "She'll make it out okay and then you and her can live happily ever after."

"God I hope so," Ben sniffled and wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, "God I hope that you're right. I don't know what I'd ever do if I lost Diane. She's the only thing in this world keeping me going. It was so hard to live a life alone. To be living without her, I don't know what I'd do. I honestly don't."

"Just think about the happy times you've had about her," she wiped away a stray tear from his face, "Think about the things about her that you love."

"I love everything about her," Ben gave a weak smile, "I love how she can annoy me yet make me laugh at the same time. I love how she can be so klutzy at times. I love how every little thing she does can make my heart flutter. I've never felt this way before and I'm afraid of losing it."

"You aren't going to lose it Ben," Ria reassured him, "I know Diane. She will come through this. It's just another hurdle to jump over. That's all."

"I remember how she used to try and get my attention," Ben gazed off not really looking at anything, "I remember how I used to turn her down all the time. I didn't want a relationship with her. I couldn't have one with her."

"But it all worked out didn't it?" Ria asked taking a seat and pulling Ben down to sit next to her, "She won over your heart."

"I tried so hard not to get involved with her. It was a challenge because she would not give up for the life of her. Finally I fell. I didn't mean to do it, it just happened. We've been through so much Ria and if I lose her now, I'll lose me for sure." Ben leaned his head back in the chair and put a hand over his eyes.

"Don't talk that way. Nobody is losing anyone," Ria rested a hand on his knee, "You're both going to be alright. You know why? Because you love each other. Love is stronger then so many things. Love can conquer a lot in the world. Hell, love is stronger then death. She loves you so much and you know that. Do you think that she's going to let love take her away from you? No, that's not going to happen."

Ben reached over and hugged Ria, "I hope you are right Ria. I really do hope you're right."

...to be continued...