Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The characters and events of the Seasons Series belong to the author.
My special thanks to Fran, who allowed me to tell you part of her story on the journey to recovery from cancer.
My special thanks to Pat for her expert assistance in rescue and fire fighting procedures.
Check out the Seasons dolls at http://www.geocities.com/maclay529/azel.jpg
My thanks to the readers who have taken the time to let me know that you are enjoying my stories or to share your own with me. You are special people! My grateful thanks to my beta readers Lisa and Inga for their hard work and to Susan for her guidance and insights.
Note: The stories in this series interrelate and should be read in the order they are posted.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. If you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp please do not read on.
When Robbie returned to her cell again, she picked up the newspaper that she had been reading before she left. She stared at the black and white photo of Janet leaving the police station the previous day after making her statement. She was tucked under Alberta's protective arm. Alberta carried a smiling Reb and Ryan followed along behind. The picture cut through her gut and smashed her emotions around. She wanted to stop looking at it but the photo held her with a morbid fascination. The caption read, "The Williams and a close family friend."
The heat of Janet's slap burned against her cheek. She reached her hand up and touched it. Janet had hit her! She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips recalling the sweet taste of her wife. I was a bit rough, she concluded.....no, she'd been more than rough, she had been a first class bitch! What the hell did I do!? she thought, as realization hit. Damn, I acted like a jealous jackass!
Robbie leapt to her feet and flung herself against the bars. "Hey, warden, hey! I've got to use the phone! Hey, it's an emergency! Come on!" she screamed, banging at the bars. Tracy watched with interest from her position on her cot.
After a while a guard came down the hall. "Quiet down, Williams."
"Look, I've got to use the phone!"
"Sorry, block time is over. It will have to wait until tomorrow."
"I can't!!!" screamed Robbie, shaking the bars in angry frustration.
The nightstick slammed against the bars in front of Robbie's face. "You can and you will! Now settle down, Williams! You're disturbing the whole block. Keep it up and you'll get isolation."
Suddenly, Tracy was there between Robbie and the bars. "Fuck you, turnkey. We just wanted to send out for pizza."
"The guard sneered. "Cute, Lanker," responded the guard, whose attention had been drawn away from Robbie. Tracy gave him the finger as he walked away. Then she turned to look at Robbie.
"You crazy or somethin?"
Robbie put her head against the bars. "Yeah, I just might be," she muttered.
"So what is it worth?" asked the cell mate with a smirk.
"So what is it worth to you to make that phone call?"
Blue eyes turned and made contact with brown. "What do you want?"
"Thousand bucks," stated Tracy.
"No, you'll spend it on drugs and I'm stuck in here with you. I'll get you a decent paid job when you get out of here and cover the lawyer fees for your appeal."
Tracy chewed her lip and considered. "That would be more than a thousand dollars"
"A lot more," agreed Robbie.
"Okay. Come here, yer gonna have to help."
Carefully, Robbie drained the water out of the toilet bowl with her toothbrush cup as Tracy had instructed, pouring it back into the sealed tank until it was full to the brim . Tracy sat on the bed and kept a look out while she explained. "See, the pipes are all connected. So once the water's out, you can stick your head in there and pass a message from block to block.. We gotta guy upstairs who'll place the call and pass on the message. It'll cost you twenty bucks and he only allows ten words."
"You're kidding!" growled Robbie.
"Listen, you wanta get the message out?!" responded the woman.
"Okay," sighed Robbie.
Tracy came over and started rapping on the toilet bowl. A short time later, a muffled rap came in response. Tracy nodded to Robbie. "Gimme the phone number."
Robbie looked at her blankly. "The phone number!" Tracy snapped.
"I don't know it, " admitted Robbie.
"Shit, woman! Whatcha thinkin' of?! Well, give me someone's fuckin number!"
Thinking desperately, Robbie gave Tracy Gwen's number hoping, Gwen would be able to pass the message on. Tracy tapped out the code then gave Robbie her final instructions. "State your first name and your message. Don't yell but speak loud."
Robbie stuck her head into the bowl. "Robbie. Janet, I'm sorry. I love you!"
She turned to look at Tracy. The woman smirked. "Ahhhh, aint that sweet!"
"Screw off," muttered Robbie, getting up and brushing the dust from her knees.
Tracy laughed. "See ya put the water back in or the damn water rats come crawlin' up the crapper."
Alberta could tell that Janet was upset as she walked across the prison parking lot to where the scientist sat waiting in the van. Janet got in out of the cold wind and sat white and stiff beside her.
"You okay, hon?" asked Alberta.
Janet's head snapped around. "What did you call me?!"
A slow red washed up Alberta's neck. "Hon. I asked if you were okay. I was concerned."
It was Janet's turn to look embarrassed. She nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay. Robbie picked a fight. She's...she's different."
Alberta nodded and said no more. She started her Honda van and slipped into the busy Toronto traffic leaving Janet with her thoughts.
It was much later that night, after Janet had kissed both girls good night, that Alberta called upstairs that Janet had a phone call from Gwen. Janet picked up the phone, a feeling of apprehension taking root. Why would Gwen be phoning at this hour?
"Ahhh, Janet. I just got a really weird phone call from some guy who wouldn't identify himself. The call came from a pay phone, I checked. He said, 'This is a message from Robbie in prison: Janet, I'm sorry. I love you'." Janet's knees gave out and she sank onto the end of her bed.
"You there?" asked Gwen.
"Yes, thanks, Gwen," laughed Janet weakly. "Thanks."
"Well, good night."
"Good night. Thanks," responded Janet, in a daze. How had Robbie managed that? She smiled;
that was more like her Robbie!
Ted Potts had been transferred to Toronto. He had suffered a broken back and hip in the roll over. David drove to Toronto to be with his brother. Now, forty-eight hours later, he was standing in the hospital parking lot wondering what to do next. His hand rubbed against a two day old stubble. He needed a room, food and a place to sleep.
Getting into his car, he considered what street would be the most likely to have a decent hotel where he could stay at a reasonable price. That was going to be no small order in an expensive city like Toronto. He started his Ford and headed off. Much to his surprise, he found himself heading instead to Elizabeth's condominium. He needed to see Elizabeth, he admitted to himself. Her calm, practical reasoning would put Ted's accident in the proper perspective.
Walking into the lavish entrance hall, he pressed the unmarked intercom button that he knew would connect him to Elizabeth's apartment. There was a long wait, followed by static but no greeting. David took the chance. "Elizabeth is that you? It's David Potts."
"David?! Oh, David! It is so good to hear your voice! I don't know what to do!" came the distressed voice, from the speaker.
"Open the door, Elizabeth and I'll be right up," organized David, and was pleased to hear the latch release almost immediately on the security door. David pulled the door open and entered.
Alberta paced down the large living room. Antique walnut furniture shown richly in the firelight and the soft glow of the Chinese lamp. The lamp had been a gift to herself when she had got her present job. The fine china bowl was hand glazed in 24 carat gold and the shade was pure silk. It had been very expensive. Usually, Alberta shopped for bargains and refinished each piece meticulously herself. But this piece had been beautiful and represented to Alberta the changes that she had fought so hard for in her life. The lamp was more than decorative, it was a symbol of victory.
Alberta sighed, placing her hands on her hips and looking moodily at the floor. She wasn't feeling victorious tonight. She was feeling foolish. This evening had been...disturbing. It wasn't the dog hair that was forming dust bunnies the size of walrus in her hall, or the copper pots and pans she found Rebecca pounding together in the kitchen. It wasn't Ryan's ten million questions about Alberta's life on a western cattle ranch as a child, or the way the kid followed her around. It wasn't Janet's panties she found left inside her drier. It was the whole thing. The sitting down at a table with a family and hearing happy voices around her. She hadn't felt that sort of closeness in a long time. It...it felt good, she had to admit to herself.
She liked the girls. They were very different and yet both really neat. And Janet, hell, she more than liked her. She found herself very attracted to the woman and it was hard to keep reminding herself that the beautiful, vivacious woman was married to somebody else.
She looked around; her meticulously ordered domain was in a state of chaos. Ryan's runners were by the couch were she had kicked them off while reading. The forensic book Ryan had taken from the library shelf was on the end table. Reb's doll, that Rufus had carried in, was lying near the hearth with the big shaggy dog sleeping beside it and Janet's notes on Robbie's case were scattered over the campaign trestle table in the corner of the room. What surprised her was that she didn't care. She liked it. It was sort of a ready-made family. A nice one.
"I got a message from Robbie!" announced Janet, bouncing into the room.
Alberta looked up and forced a smile. "That's good. I take it from your smile that the fight is over."
Janet nodded, her eyes sparkling. "Yah, she sent a message to say she was sorry and loved me."
Alberta smiled but said nothing. Janet smiled back shyly. She really liked Al. The woman wasn't at all like Robbie in personality although she had similar chestnut hair and neon blue eyes. Alberta wore her hair short, almost like a man's, Robbie's was a bit longer and more styled. Robbie's face was movie star beautiful. Alberta's was handsome. The planes of her face were stronger, more defined, her body just as fit as Robbie's but while Robbie had the light frame of a runner, Alberta's body was sinewy and strong.
Robbie was a firecracker exploding with jokes and ideas all the time. Alberta was quiet, controlled and commanding. Janet saw the scientist's eyebrow raise in question and Janet realized with a start that she had been staring. She smiled and quickly looked away, going to study the three water colours of tall ships framed side by side over the mantel. The pictures were moody and stylistic, painted with a limited palette. The result was the haunting feel of power and movement frozen in time.
"These are beautiful!" she exclaimed.
"Thank you," Alberta responded. "I painted them for ...a friend many years ago."
"You painted them?!"
"Yes," responded Alberta, feeling the heat climbing up her neck.
"I love them! You are really very talented! Did you paint this big one too?" asked Janet, going to stand in front of the large picture of summer flowers that hung over the couch. The flowers were in full bloom, soft, and sensual in their rendition.
Janet turned to look at Alberta. "You are amazing, you know. Did you do all the art in the house?"
Their eyes met and locked. Alberta was the first to look away. "No," she laughed, "only in this room. The rest are pieces I've collected over the years. I'll make tea, if you like, while you get on with your research," suggested Alberta, needing time alone to calm the heat that was spreading through her desires focusing on the small woman who stood happily in front of her.
Remember she looks happy because her partner just sent a message to say she loves her, damn it, Alberta, she thought, as she stomped down the hall to the Victorian kitchen. Don't make a fool of yourself!
Alberta sat reading by the fire, her tea cooling at her elbow. Janet was back at the desk researching the news clippings at the time of Philip Williams death. "Alberta? Could a child have killed Philip?" Janet asked, chewing on a pencil. Alberta hated chewed pencils but Janet looked so cute doing it.
Alberta considered. "How old?"
The scientist thought about it. "Yes, if the weapon was swung such as a golf club or bat," she concluded. "By the shape and size of the depression, I'd put my money on a golf wood or perhaps a fireplace tool. There was a fireplace in the room."
"If it wasn't Robbie it had to be either Elizabeth or Billy," concluded Janet quietly.
"The police don't like dealing with child killers," observed Alberta dryly, taking a sip of tea and then frowning at it. It had gone cold while she had been caught up in her reading.
"They are not children now," argued Janet. "And Robbie is covering for someone."
Alberta looked at Janet. "She is covering for Elizabeth, Janet. We both know that, but why?"
"I wish Elizabeth would talk to me," sighed Janet.
"She can hardly talk to you if she's hiding the fact she is the murderer, Janet," pointed out Alberta practically.
Janet stood up and paced around the beautiful room. "It's a Catch 22. If I find evidence to free Robbie and that evidence points to Elizabeth, Robbie would never forgive me!" moaned Janet.
Alberta said nothing. She had an emotional bias and now was not the time for her to be offering advice. She didn't wish any harm on Robbie but then again a Robbie out of the picture would suit Alberta just fine!
Suddenly, Janet stopped and clicked her fingers. "If Elizabeth won't talk I know who will! Billy!"
Alberta's eyes got big. "Janet, the man's dead. Even I couldn't get that information out of his remains."
"Al, for years he took therapy at a Swiss clinic. What if he told his doctor about the killing?
Alberta's eyebrow cocked up. "That's a possibility. You'd have to get your lawyers on it to make it legal. I've got some friends with Interpol that could probably put some muscle behind a legal request for disclosure."
"Let's do it!" decided Janet and Alberta stood to go to the phone. Much to her surprise she found herself being hugged by Janet, who reached up and kissed her cheek. "Thanks."
Alberta smiled weakly and tried hard not to be so petty as to wish that Billy had identified Robbie as the killer.
Robbie walked the yard, trying to soak in as much of the weak spring sunlight that she could. She wasn't sure how she was going to survive for years in prison. The walls closed in on her and she was exhausted from trying to force down the panic and anger that built up inside.
She looked across the yard; Tracy was busy making a drug deal. Shit! Another night of Tracy in lalaland! Voices were getting louder, Tracy feeling the price was too high. A push. Retaliation. In a second, a brawl had started.
Robbie watched as Tracy was surrounded by three inmates. She was giving as good as she got until one of the women grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms. The other two set in on her. Robbie charged across the yard and started swinging.
The next day, Janet arrived right on visiting time, lining up with other loved ones and family. She was anxious to see Robbie again and sort out the emotions that were driving a wedge between them. She signed in and went through the metal detector and then requested to see Roberta Williams. The guard clicked down the computer screen.
"Sorry, Roberta Williams is confined to her cell. She is not allowed visitors for a week."
"What?! Why?!" exclaimed Janet.
The guard rolled his eyes. "Bunch of them went at it in the yard yesterday. A real free for all from what I heard."
Janet paled. "Is she hurt?"
The guard looked back at the screen and brought up Robbie's individual data file. Janet watched his eyes scanning down the screen. "No. She wasn't sent to infirmary so she must be okay."
"Can I get a message to her?" Janet asked.
The guard looked up and smiled. "Sure. Here's some paper and an envelope."
Janet smiled her thanks and wrote a note to Robbie, folded it and sealed it in the envelope before handing it back to the guard. "Thanks," she smiled.
"No problem," responded the guard, not looking up from his computer screen this time. Janet walked away disappointment and frustration bringing tears to her eyes.
The letter reached Robbie in the late afternoon. She was alone in the cell. Tracy was with the lawyers that Robbie had arranged to help her with her pending appeal. She took the letter from the guard and went over to sit on her bunk, looking at Janet's neat teacher handwriting on the cover. Then, carefully, she opened the envelope and pulled out the letter.
Fear held her heart in a tight vice. What if Janet was not going to forgive her? What if she'd had enough of the problems Robbie was always bringing into her life? She unfolded the envelope.
Good morning my love. I got your message! Thank you! You
are so wonderful, darling! Well, my beautiful olive, you've done
it again, haven't you! I hope you are all right. It must be awful
for you to be in there. I'm going to get you out, Robbie. I know
you don't want me to involve Elizabeth and I won't if I can avoid
it. But nothing is going to stop me from getting you back with us.
Robbie, I LOVE YOU. That is the only thing at the moment that
is a constant in our lives. Trust me, Robbie. I know that trusting
is hard for you but trust me. I am your soulmate, your wife, and
your lover, now, and forever. I miss you so very much. Be careful!
Robbie read the letter over and over, her hands nervously straightening the paper on her lap.
Janet, I love you! Oh God, Janet, I don't deserve you but don't ever leave me! I miss you and the kids so much! Tears rolled down her face unchecked.
Alberta had done her best to cheer the Williams' family up once Janet had returned from the jail.
She had taken them to the Toronto Zoo. Sitting in the Don Valley, the zoo covered hectares of parkland. For the most part, the animals were confined by natural barriers such as water or deep ravines rather than by fences. Each wild life area had been specially designed to reflect the natural environment from which the animal had come.
There were also huge pavilions, each representing the flora and fauna of a specific hemisphere.
They walked about for hours, Ryan looking at everything with a scientific eye and asking Al and Janet a thousand questions and Reb laughing joyously at every new animal she was shown. They returned to a warm fire, hot chocolate and Alberta's home made apple pie.
Reb was put down for her nap and Ryan went off to do the studies that Janet had assigned for her. Janet curled up on the couch in the living room and read through the home study curriculum that she was using for Ryan. It had been a much needed day of relaxation, Janet mused, looking over at the red embers that still glowed in the hearth ash. They certainly owed Alberta a lot.
Off in the distance, Janet could hear soft classical music playing and smiled. Alberta had beautiful taste in everything. On impulse, she went in search of her new friend.
She found her in an empty room towards the back of the house. One wall was windows and looked out on a small oriental rock garden. Alberta was in a black exercise outfit that emphasized every muscle in her body. In her hands, she held long thin knives each with horn-like hilts of metal. Highlighted in the evening sun, she became a living sculpture; beautiful, powerful and fascinating. The music started again, Johann Pachelbel's Canon En Re Majeur in D major. It floated softly across and pulled Janet into the room. She sank slowly to the floor by the door and watched as Alberta swayed in gentle, sensual movements.
The music was soft and flowing and Alberta moved in a slow dance, the knives an extension of her form, flashing in the sun and forming silver arches of light around her. It was as much dance as it was martial arts, each movement balanced, graceful and liquid. Every position, became a single note in a harmonious worship of peace and power. Yin and Yang. Love and hate. Life and death.
A shimmer of moisture now coated the dancer's body, glistening off soft tanned skin that rippled with controlled strength. Janet felt her own warmth; this was more than training, more than art, it was a powerful dance of love: sexual, forceful, and beautiful. Alberta's breathing deepened as the music rose to a climax. Her body spun, arched and heaved, following the lines of the twin blades.
Janet's lips parted, sucking in air as she was carried away on a tidal wave of feeling. The music reached a climax and for a second blue eyes turned to caress green. Janet felt her emotions reach a pinnacle and then tumble out of control down the other side as the glance was broken, and Alberta's body slowed to the music that flowed in an aftermath of sound.
What was it the French called a climax? The little death. That was what Janet had felt and she knew that Alberta had experienced it too. The air was heavy with the musky scent of desire and still the dancer swayed to the music, the sharp knives now thrusting slowly to the rhythm . Janet stood, fascinated by the dance of the little death. As the music ended, Alberta moved towards Janet, a lover, dark, mysterious and deadly.
For a moment, the dancer looked down at her. Janet followed a single bead of moisture that curled down the planes of Alberta's face and dropped like a pearl to her breast. Janet looked up, soft, warm lips met her own and hands carrying deadly weapons drew her gently into safe arms. Janet's hands slid up hot muscled arms and the kiss deepened, expressing their love.
"You need to trust me, Elizabeth," David was saying some miles away. "There is nothing that you can say to me that will make me think less of you. I am not going to judge. I am going to accept you as you are."
Elizabeth sat stiffly at one end of the couch, her hands folding and unfolding in her lap. David sat at the other end, earnestly searching Elizabeth's eyes for a clue to the secret she kept hidden there.
The physicist nodded, swallowed and tried to collect herself to relate a story she had only once in her life ever revealed, and not for fifteen years. "My father, he... he sexually abused Billy and me," she whispered.
David said nothing. He slipped slowly across the empty space between them and took Elizabeth's cold hand in his own, waiting.
"He did horrible things to us," Elizabeth went on, the tears now following freely. "That night, Robbie came home for the weekend and found him...on me. I was trying to fight him off. Billy, he'd hidden upstairs. Robbie pulled him off and called him a name. He swung at her and she ducked and then hit him really hard in the face and he fell down. Then she wrapped me in her arms and picked me up and carried me upstairs.
"She helped me shower and washed my hair, then gave me a pill and I went to sleep in her arms. When I woke up it was much later, and Alexandria was home and Robbie was gone. I could hear Alexandria singing in the room down the hall. I just lay there terrified, until Robbie returned in the morning. She took Billy and me for a walk and told us that our father had gone sailing and she had come over to babysit. But I knew that wasn't what had happened. Later, when he was reported missing, I asked her and she told me that she had killed him when she had hit him that night and that I must never tell the truth," Elizabeth ended, now sobbing convulsively against David's shoulder.
David held her and whispered softly to her that everything would be all right now.
Alberta felt the body that had molded to her own stiffen and pull away. "Alberta, I..." Janet backed out of the dancer's arms. "That was wrong. I shouldn't have done that."
Alberta gave a sad, lope-sided smile. "I think I've fallen in love with you, Janet."
Green eyes, soft with passion looked up. "I love you too, Al but you are not Robbie. Robbie is more than my lover, she is my soulmate. I'm sorry, I could have loved you but not now that I've found the one who was meant for me."
The bitter smile hovered again at the corner of Alberta's mouth. "What if you are my soulmate?" she asked softly.
Janet shook her head. "No, it doesn't work like that. Everyone has that special somebody. You can love many but there is only one who can bond to your soul. I'm not her, Alberta," Janet explained, as she searched the dancer's eyes. "I belong to another. You have yet to find your soulmate."
"Will I?" Alberta asked sadly.
Janet reached up and brushed a soft kiss across lips swollen with their kiss. "I hope so. The lucky ones do. You will find someone who loves you very, very deeply, Alberta. You are a very special person and I love you." Janet turned and left leaving Alberta to return to her dance alone.
Robbie woke with a start, knowing that something was wrong. She rubbed shaking finger tips over her mouth removing the sheen of sweat that had formed on her upper lip. Then a feeling of utter peace and security flowed through her and she smiled. I love you, Janet, she thought and lay down again to stare at the cement ceiling and listen to Tracy's soft snoring.
Ryan had taken Reb out to play in Alberta's backyard. The two adults sat over their morning coffee, a little embarrassed with each other's company after the kiss they had shared the night before. Alberta was more quiet than normal and sat looking moodily into her coffee mug. Janet, uncomfortable with the silence, tried to think of something to start a conversation.
"You were so beautiful to watch yesterday. Tell me about the knives."
Alberta looked up and smiled sadly. Then, realizing they had to move on, she went on to explain. "They are called Sais. They are a branch of the original seven disciplines of the martial arts. Their history is associated with the ninja class but they have deep spiritual ties in their doctrine with Shinto."
"Are you very good? You seemed to be," asked Janet, buttering another piece of toast.
Alberta leaned back, "I have a ninth dan." Janet looked at her blankly and Alberta smiled. "That is the ninth level of black belt."
"Oh! That's very good isn't it?" Alberta shrugged in response. "Can I see your Sais?" Janet asked.
"Sure," agreed Alberta, and got up and left the room. In a few minutes, she returned to place a black leather case on the table. She opened it to reveal the two knives fixed in place on a red silk
"Oh, they're beautiful!" exclaimed Janet. The blade was octagonal in shape and the prongs were intricately etched with detailed designs. The handles too were a work of art. Coloured string had been woven into interlacing patterns of depth and beauty.
Alberta smiled with pride. "They were hand forged in Che Chao-po. The blades were tempered using the traditional clay process that has been used there since 700 AD. The hilts are covered in string-ray skin and then finished in Japanese cotton cord wrapping."
"Have you studied long?" Janet asked, looking directly into Alberta's eyes for the first time that morning.
Alberta's heart stopped but she managed to go on, hiding her feelings behind a passive face. "Since I was a child living on the ranch in Alberta. There was a Japanese master living near by. He had been taken from his home in Vancouver and put in an internment camp during the war and had just stayed on in the area. I learned a lot from him," explained Alberta.
Janet nodded. "You know, you told me the first day we were here that the only thing you took from the west was your name but that wasn't really true." Alberta's eyebrows went up in surprise. "I hear you telling Ryan stories about your childhood in the foothills of the Rockies and your voice is filled with love."
Alberta closed the case and went and sat down again. "You read me wrong, Janet," she responded. "I worked my tail off so that I could escape being a cattle rancher's wife."
Janet laughed. "Maybe. But you still love the land and you have lots of happy memories. Do you still have family out there?
"Two of my three brothers and my father are still alive. We still keep in touch. My mother died when I was twelve," Alberta responded, warming her coffee up from the carafe that sat on the table.
"Do you go back often?" Janet asked, amazed that the private woman was being so open.
"Not since I left the ranch for university fourteen years ago," Alberta drawled.
There was silence from across the table. Alberta looked up into concerned eyes. "You need to go home," stated Janet.
Alberta snorted and passed Janet the last of the toast to distract her.
It was later that Saturday morning when Janet received a phone call from Elizabeth. "Janet," said a voice raw with emotion. "I'm sorry I haven't answered your calls. David is here now. Can we meet you a...and talk?"
Janet smiled tenderly. She realized that this was a very hard thing for the reclusive scientist to be doing. She must love Robbie very much. "I need you to know, Elizabeth, that Robbie doesn't want me to talk to you. I told her I would not involve you in the case unless there was no other way."
There was a moment's silence. Then in a clear, firm voice Elizabeth responded, "Robbie's wrong. I need to end the secrets and come to some sort of closure on what happened."
"I think so too," Janet responded. "I'm proud of you, Bethy. I'll ask Alberta to pick you up in her van. The press might know your car and follow you otherwise."
"No, that's okay, Janet. David has his car here and no one will recognize it. I feel safe with David."
Janet smiled. She gave Bethy the address and hung up.
It was a quiet, obviously shaken pair that arrived sometime later. They stepped into the house timidly and looked around nervously. Alberta made them feel welcome, settled them in the living room and brought tea. Then she herded the girls out and left Janet to talk to Elizabeth and David.
Ryan watched Reb as she played with Rufus on the kitchen floor. She would hold on to one end of a short rope and Rufus would pull on the other end, dragging the small child across the floor on her backside as the massive dog backed up. Then Reb would let go and Rufus would trot back across the room with the rope in his mouth to wait patiently for Reb to get up and run over to do the whole performance over again.
"Just what kind of dog is Rufus?" asked Alberta, placing a plate of cookies on the table and pouring three glasses of milk. "Reb, come here and get your hands washed before you have your snack."
"We have no idea. We're not even sure that he's a dog. Obby thinks there might be tree sloth in him," explained Ryan.
Alberta laughed at the family joke as she lifted Reb up on the counter and took a cloth to wash the child's hands. "It sure is one big ugly thing!"
"Nah, he's one big ugly orange thing," argued Ryan. "Whatever he is, we've been treating him like a family pet and he's responded very well. Rufus is very loyal."
Alberta laughed and shook her head as she lifted Reb into her arms, carried her over and placed her on Ryan's lap since they did not have a high chair. Ryan gave Reb a cookie and she happily chewed on it.
"Is it bad in prisons?" asked Ryan after a few seconds. "You know, you see movies and stuff and.."
The cookie on the way to Alberta's mouth halted and returned to the plate. Shit! What do I say now! "Prison is not a nice place to be, Ryan. You spend hours locked up in a small room with another person. You are surround by dysfunctional individuals many of them capable of considerable violence. There is no privacy and no time when you can completely relax. Robbie can hold her own, however. I don't think you need to worry," finished Alberta.
"I wasn't worried!" protested Ryan. "You just hear things about prisons, you know. Mom said Obby got into a fight."
Alberta finished chewing the cookie that she had finally got to her mouth. "Yeah, I phoned some of the people I know just to make sure everything was okay. Her cell mate, Tracy, got into an argument in the yard. That's the area where the prisoners are allowed to walk outside twice a week. She got jumped and your mom waded in to help her out. The three who started it got solitary and the others, including Robbie, just got confinement to their cells for the week."
"She'd hate that," muttered Ryan, pushing crumbs around her plate with a finger. "She's pretty active. Always moving about restlessly."
Poor kid, Alberta thought, she sure is going through a lot! Reb looked up at her big sister. "Obby come home soon, Ryan?" she asked. Ryan kissed the dark head of the child that sat on her lap. "I don't know Reb," she answered honestly.
That night, Janet had the time to share with Alberta what Elizabeth had revealed. "So we are not much farther ahead. If Bethy is telling the truth and I think she is, then her story is the same as Robbie's. In away I'm glad. It would kill Robbie if Bethy was put in prison for the murder. So it looks like we can get Robbie off a charge of second degree murder but we are still looking at manslaughter," Janet sighed. "What would she get for that, Alberta?"
"Two to seven, most likely," responded the scientist. "But I don't think manslaughter is going to hold up. There were two blows, most likely from two different people. We now know that initially Robbie only hit her father once just like she said. Either someone else came into that room and finished him off while Robbie was upstairs or Robbie came back down and killed him."
"Robbie wouldn't do that!" Janet protested, looking up sharply from where she sat on the couch. "She can be hot tempered but deliberate murder, no, Robbie would never do anything like that!"
Alberta leaned her head on her hand. This was really hard, trying to go on business as normal when she was hurting like hell inside. Worse still, she found herself in the position of having to help the one woman she would rather see in hell! "If it wasn't Robbie or Elizabeth then it had to be Billy. He was the only other person in the house that night," stated Alberta, to the fire.
"God, I hope our inquiry turns up something!" sighed Janet.
"They might not be willing to release the information. Patient/Doctor confidentiality and all that," suggested Alberta wishfully.
"Well, I was his wife and Robbie's lawyers are also asking too. They should be willing to release that information to us. After all, he's dead!"Janet responded hotly.
Alberta's eyebrow went up. Janet's marriage to Robbie's brother seemed very strange to Alberta.
The Williams' relationship tangle made the Gordion Knot look simple! Maybe Janet married the guy and then realized she was gay. It was pretty obvious that she had never loved him.
It was near the end of a very long week when Robbie's lawyers contacted Janet with the information sent back from Switzerland. The response was brief and to the point. Billy had talked about the weekend his father had disappeared. He had stated that his father had died in a boating accident.
Janet curled up in Alberta's arms and had a good cry. Alberta kept her face passive. Her heart ached for Janet and she felt sorry for Robbie but most of all she felt damn sorry for herself. It was only with great effort that she was able to remain supportive in a drama that she wanted no part in. Love was a bitch!
Later, Janet paced the floor restlessly. Back and forth. Back and forth. She could hear the classical music coming from the back of the house but images of the beautiful and deadly dance were buried under Janet's fretting for Robbie. Back and forth she walked, and in the back of the house the music went on and on.
Alberta trained until she almost passed out from exhaustion. Then she leaned against the wall and watched the red spots dance across her eyes. If she could make it upstairs to her bedroom, maybe she could sleep tonight.
With a groan, she pushed herself off the wall and dragged herself upstairs. She stripped down and took a shower, only to find that sleep was still an elusive element no matter how tired her body was. The bedroom was large with hard maple floors. Down one end was a writing desk of oak with a matching set of drawers. Down the other was a sitting area. The centre area was dominated by a large oak sleigh bed and on the opposite wall was the last of the three fireplaces in the house.
Alberta slipped into navy blue silk pyjamas and sat down in the comfy wingback chair by the fire. Leaning down, she put a light to the kindling and pulled the screen in place. It promised to be a long night.
She must have dozed because Janet rushing into her room woke her with a start. "I know who did it!! I know!"
Alberta caught her in her arms and spun her around, laughing with her. "So are you going to share the answer, Mrs. Holmes?" asked Alberta playfully, acutely aware of the feel of Janet's body through the thin layer of fine silk. Did Janet know what she was doing to her? No, Alberta sighed inwardly, Janet was focused on one thing and one thing only and that was getting her soulmate back.
Alberta pulled away and went to get her housecoat from the closet. Putting it on, she turned to see an upset and worried face. "Oh Alberta! I'm sorry! That was pretty callous of me!" Janet apologized.
Alberta shrugged and gave a weak smile. "I hope some day someone will love me that much. Here come and sit by the fire and tell me what you have worked out."
Janet gave Alberta a quick hug and kissed her chin. Then she went to sit in the other arm chair on the other side of the hearth. "It was something Elizabeth said. She said that she heard Alexandria come in and she was singing. Doesn't that strike you as a strange thing to do if you had two children in bed? Unless you wanted to be heard because you needed to set the time for when you got home so it was AFTER the murder!" explained Janet, her eyes sparkling.
Alberta rubbed her chin and considered. "You think she came home early, maybe witnessed what had gone on and decided to take the opportunity while Philip was out cold to off him?"
Janet nodded. "It explains why Alexandria was so willing to help the police! She planted that letter in Robbie's apartment in the hopes of making the case against Robbie stronger! Why would Robbie have a letter she had sent to her mother years ago? She wanted to prove Robbie had attacked Philip and harboured really angry feelings towards him!"
"It makes sense," concluded Alberta, "but how are you going to prove it?"
"I can't. But you can help me flush her out!" Alberta's eyebrow went up and Janet smiled at her wickedly.
Janet once again lined up with those going to visit inmates. This time she was given clearance to see Robbie. Once more she was led to a small room with two wood chairs bolted to the floor. The woman that entered barely looked like the woman that she loved. Her face was pale and her eyes deep set and dark. Someone had cut her hair in a ragged short cut. She looked haggard, hard and depressed.
Robbie walked over and stood quietly looking down at her. Hesitantly, Janet wrapped her arms around the woman that was her soulmate. The stiff body convulsed at the touch and Robbie lowered her head and rubbed her cheek against Janet's head like a kitten seeking affection.
They stayed that way for a long time, each afraid to speak in case they hurt each other. Finally, Janet looked up into sad blue eyes. "Kiss me," she requested, and Robbie lowered her head and gently caressed her lips.
"Here, sit down, love," Janet instructed, frightened now that Robbie had not spoken. "You don't look so good," she commented, using her fingers to comb Robbie's short hair into some sort of order.
"I don't feel so good," came a whisper, from a voice that sounded rusty from lack of use. "I...I don't like being locked up," she confessed.
Janet nodded, tears welling in her eyes. "It will be a little better now that you can get out of your cell again sometimes," soothed Janet, pulling the unresponsive body into a hug. She hated the sound of the chains when Robbie moved and the smell of stale cigarettes and sewer that clung to her clothes. It was like ham stringing a race horse to keep Robbie locked up.
Robbie didn't answer. She just nodded and rubbed her head against Janet's again. Janet smelt of the outside; of summer days and wild herbs under a hot sun. How could she tell Janet that she was going slowly crazy in there?
"I can't tell you anything, Robbie, but Alberta and I are onto a lead that we think will get you out of here," whispered Janet.
Robbie forced herself not to react. She didn't want to fight with Janet but she was getting very sick of hearing Alberta's name. Now they had secrets they were keeping from her. Could you blame her, Robbie, if she found someone else? How honest were you with her? "I love you," Robbie croaked out, in desperation.
"I love you too," Janet whispered. They didn't talk after that. They just sat together, Janet's arms around the handcuffed woman. Two very lonely lovers, close but apart.
Alberta paced around the parking lot waiting for Janet. She'd been in there a long time. The thought of someone else touching Janet ate at her guts. Anger hardened the muscles in her face and she forced them to relax in a deadpan expression as she saw the petite figure heading over the parking lot in her direction.
Janet smiled up at her friend. "The first really warm day. Maybe our April showers are over," she said.
Alberta nodded, looking around, anywhere but at Janet's lips. "Yeah, summer's close now," she responded, pleased by how normal her voice sounded. "Ready to go and get this over with?"
Janet nodded. "This has got to work! If we can't flush her out I don't know where to go from here!" she confessed worriedly.
Alberta gave her hand a pat. "We'll make it work," she promised.
They drove north out of Toronto then headed west to Unionville. Once again, Alberta pulled into the driveway of the Williams' estate, not to pick up the bones of Robbie's father this time but to pick at the soul of Alexandria. If Janet was right, this woman had let her daughter carry the guilt of the death of Philip Williams on her shoulders for years and then had coldly tried to set Robbie up to be wrongfully convicted of that murder! It was hard to believe that anyone could be that self-serving.
They were led by the maid into a morning room were Alexandria lay lounging with a Vogue Magazine. "Oh, it is Robbie's little friend!" exclaimed Alexandria. "I am surprised to see you here!"
"You shouldn't be," retorted Janet, "I own the house."
"Really! You are common aren't you. The estate has been used by all the family for years!" responded Alexandria, tossing the magazine aside.
"Not by you anymore. I will be selling the place. I want you out as soon as possible. You're likely to put prospective buyers off!"
Alberta listened to the catty exchange with eyes wide with surprise. This fiery bobcat was a part of Janet's personality that she had not seen before.
"Alexandria," Janet went on before the woman could say anything more. "This is Doctor Alberta Pateas. She works in the Toronto Police Forensic Department. She had made some interesting discoveries. Doctor?"
"Mrs. Williams, it might be to your interest to know that the forensic lab can prove that Philip Williams was struck twice that night. Once by a right handed swing to the jaw by Robbie and once by a club of some sort swung by a left handed person. It was the second blow to the temple that killed him. You are left handed aren't you, Mrs. Williams?"
"What are you saying?! How dare you!" sputtered Alexandria, shaking with rage.
"We can also prove that you planted that old letter in Robbie's condominium. Why would you need to do that, Alexandria, except to divert the blame to Robbie?"
"I never did! This is character assassination. Haven't I gone through enough! My husband murdered by my perverted daughter! I suffered! And now this!" Alexandria carried on dramatically.
Janet ignored the melodramatic acting. "You should be warned that we can prove what time you got home the night of the murder. The same woman that witnessed Robbie burying the body also witnessed...other things," bluffed Janet.
Alexandria had now turned pale. Her long, bony hands twisted nervously around each other. "You bitch," she whispered.
Janet's eyes narrowed. "Whatever, it takes to clear my wife's name," she stated calmly. "You are, unfortunately, Robbie's mother. For that reason, and only that reason, I am here. The truth is going to come out within the next few days, Alexandria. I don't want Robbie and Bethy to have to waste time with you. Leave. Get out of the country as quickly as you can. Disappear or face the consequences." With that, Janet and Alberta walked out.
Back in the van, Alberta looked over at Janet. Janet had a grin from ear to ear. "Yes!" she exclaimed excitedly. "We've got the bitch on the run!"
Alberta laughed and put the van into gear. "Lady, I'm sure glad you are playing on my team!"
Then her face went serious. "I hope, Robbie, appreciates just how special you are."
A gentle hand touched her arm reassuringly. "Robbie, is a very complex and moody person. She doesn't always react the way you would want her to but she loves me, Alberta, above all else. I don't doubt that and I love her above all others."
Alberta sighed. "Yeah, I know," she said dejectedly, the hand squeezed her arm in sympathy before pulling away.
Robbie was surprised when she was taken from her cell again and told she had visitors. It wasn't visiting hours and usually they were pretty strict about that. Maybe it was her lawyers. They had been milling about in a near panic since she had been arrested. To her surprise, she was led to the family room. Walking in, she found herself facing her two daughters across the room. Their reactions were different. Ryan's face showed shock and fear. Reb's lit up, after a second, with recognition and she came running across the room to Robbie.
"Obbie! Obbie!" she laughed, reaching her arms up. Robbie bent down and scooped the child up as high as the chains would allow her. She hugged the small child close, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill.
Carefully, she lowered the child to the ground and walked over to Ryan. Ryan backed up a step.
"Reb wanted to see you," Ryan said, defensively. "She was worried, even though Alberta said you could handle yourself in here... You don't look so good."
Robbie nodded, letting Ryan away with the face-saving lie. "Janet know you two are here?"
Ryan shook her head. "We took a taxi," she responded.
Robbie nodded again. "I'm okay," she assured her daughter, as she stroked Reb's head. The little child had wrapped herself around Robbie's leg and was holding on tightly.
"Obbie, Mom said she and Alberta are going to get you out. Don't worry, okay 'cause, Mom can do anything!" reassured Ryan awkwardly.
Robbie swallowed her pain with difficulty. Okay, so she was Obbie now not Mom. What did you expect! The only birthday you were ever at and they drag you away in handcuffs! At least she cared enough to come and see for herself that you were all right. "Listen, Ryan. Janet loves you very much. She's a good Mom. You...you be good for her. You take care of her, okay?"
The guard came forward. Ryan licked her lips and started to say something then stopped. Tears welling in her eyes, she reached down and pulled a scared looking Reb away. "Come on, Rebecca, we have to go now. Say good bye to Obbie," she instructed, through a tight throat.
"Bye, Obbie!" Reb waved, as Robbie walked backwards across the room.
"Good bye, girls. Ryan..." Robbie tried to formulate the words she needed to say to her daughter, then gave up, "just, be careful on the way back."
fiction index | xena
homepage | what's new |