Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll © 2009 By Cyberdyke

This story depicts a consenting sexual relationship between adult women, oh and a man and a women too. There is occasional bad language and violence.
Disclaimer: All characters are fictitious and made up from the depths of my mind. Any similarities with living or dead people just sucks.

 

Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll – Part 7 (Conclusion)

35

“Well thank you for taking my call finally.”

“Hurry up, my time’s valuable. What is it you want?” The man’s voice was gruff.

“I know you’ve put out a contract on my life…”

“…The hunter becomes the hunted. Interesting situation isn’t it?” The man chuckled, as he cut off the assassin.

“Laugh all you want to, but if you don’t call off your trigger man, then I’ll be forced to send all my secrets to the news media.”

“What do you mean?” the man asked, after a long pause. His voice had changed – there was uncertainty in it.

“Do you think I’m a fool? I’ve kept names and dates and figures of all the business we have done over the years…”

“…You’re bluffing!” he interrupted, almost shouting into the phone.

“Can you be sure of that?” the assassin asked.

“What do you want?”

“I want you to cancel the contract.”

“Then what?” he asked, sounding cautious.

“After you’ve done that, and I’ve retired to a nice secluded spot, I’ll send you all my information – with the understanding that if anyone ever comes after me again, you’ll be the first to die.”

“But how will I know that you won’t have made a copy of the information?”

“You won’t; you’ll have to take my word on it. It has always been good enough for you in the past, why change that now?” asked the assassin.

“Let me think about it…”

“…Sorry, this offer expires almost immediately. What’s your answer going to be? Yes, or No?”

“Fine, I don’t see what other choice I have. But I want that information by next…”

“…You’ll get the information when I feel safe enough to send it to you. Oh, and don’t try to double cross me; I’m much too angry for that.” The assassin hung up.

 

36

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 “Man this place is a palace!” Rita exclaimed, as Kris drove the Willys past the black wrought iron gates and along the tree lined drive. A Spanish style two-story hacienda house with white stucco walls, red tiled roof, and dark timbers sticking out of the stucco near the roofline came into view. It had a large porch in front on the first floor, with rattan furniture arranged in small comfortable conversation groups. The windows and doors seemed to be cut right out of the stucco.

On the second floor, several of the windows facing the drive had private balconies made out of ornate black iron opening off of French doors. Large wrought iron lamps hung from the porch roof in the front of the house. The doors were oversized and heavy, made from black oak. The handles again reflected the ornate black wrought iron.

Kris pulled the Willys up in front, and they climbed out of the car. Gertrude jumped from the car and began to investigate everything. The sounds of birds chirping in the branches of the palm, oak and eucalyptus trees filled the air. The flowerbeds near the house were filled with bright red bottlebrush, cactus pads and bird of paradise, which looked very exotic next to the red and white pansies. Melissa thought the whole place looked like a movie set. After unlocking the massive door, they carried their bags inside. The entrance hall was grand, with a curving staircase up to the second floor taking center stage. A massive chandelier illuminated the area. Gray flagstones about four to six feet each made up the floor. A white wooden bench that matched the interior color of this room sat next to the staircase.

“Here we are; home sweet home,” Kris stated, tossing her duffel off to the side of the sparsely furnished interior. It made an echoing ‘thunk’ sound as it landed on the stones.

“I’ll just check the place out,” Rita stated, as she moved past them into the house.

“Wait! Let’s do this right,” Melissa suggested, as she picked Kris up in her arms and carried her across the threshold.

“Welcome home Mrs. Culter-Davis” Melissa beamed as she set Kris down.

“Welcome home Mrs. Davis-Cutler,” Kris echoed as she kissed Melissa passionately. “We really have to work out a better last name, that is just too hard to say.”

“Kris, did they move our stuff in?” Melissa asked, as they climbed the stairs , looking through the doorway into the next room, and seeing a few boxes stacked in what she thought was the living room.

“Yeah, I think so,” she replied, walking into the next room. “Here’s some boxes.” The five stacks of boxes, about five feet tall and about two feet in width, stood dwarfed by the enormity of the room. It was about seventy-five feet long and about twenty feet wide with a light wood floor and the same white painted walls as the entrance hall.

“This place is kind of creepy.” Melissa’s voice echoed off though the empty house.

“Too pretentious, don’t you think?” Kris asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Definitely,” Melissa agreed.

“OK, the place looks fine,” Rita reported as she joined back up with them. “This place is huge! What are the two of you going to do with all this space?” Rita asked, as she looked about.

“Well, let’s take the tour,” Kris replied. “The main floor is going to be converted into a recording studio,” Kris explained as they stood in the middle of the large room. “There are ten bedrooms and five and half bathrooms right now. We’re going to have to do some conversions; we’ll need to put a kitchen up here and expand this breakfast nook into a dining room that will seat about 25 people. I want more bathrooms as well,” Kris finished, as they stood in the upstairs den, looking out the massive floor to ceiling windows across the pool at the azure ocean view below.

“This is quite the view! Nice pool; what’s over there?” Rita asked, pointing out the window.

“Probably the tennis courts,” Kris replied, looking where she was pointing.

“Hon, I think those are the stables. I think the tennis courts are over here,” Melissa corrected, pointing in the opposite direction.

“This is only the second time we’ve been here,” Kris explained.

“Do you think ten plus bedrooms will be enough for the two of you?” Rita asked, drinking in the view.

“Oh, we aren’t going to live here,” Kris answered.

“What? I’ve missed something.” Rita looked very confused.

“This is going to be the guest house. We’ll actually be living in what is now the guest house,” Melissa explained.

“Let’s take a walk over and see how the work’s coming along on our house. Casa Pequena de Cutler-Davis,” Melissa suggested as they headed for the stairs.

“Is that Spanish? What does it mean?” Rita asked.

“Yeah; it means little house of Cutler-Davis,” Kris replied.

“Whenever the group gets together to make an album, it’s worse than a Roman orgy. At the beach house, after a long day of recording, I would want to crash in my own bed; I got really tired of finding someone, usually that I didn’t know, doing it in my bed,” Kris explained as they walked outside. The grounds were covered with foliage. It made Melissa think of a jungle; if you weren’t careful, once you stepped out the door you could become lost. They had walked the hundred yards through their private little forest, when suddenly a small, cute, two-story Spanish style house popped out of the underbrush. It was in the same basic style as the other house, but on a much smaller scale, looking almost like a dollhouse. It was compact and almost square. There were several pick-ups parked in front of it, most with a company name emblazoned on the door. Piles of wood and building materials were stacked up everywhere outside. The sounds of electric saws and hammering could be heard as they drew closer.

“I told Kris that kind of crap wasn’t going to go on in my house,” Melissa said firmly, as they walked up to the little house. The front door stood wide-open, and plastic drop cloths covered every surface. The women moved to the base of the stairs, as a construction worker descended towards them.

“Can I help you with something?” he asked, looking rather unsure.

“Yeah, we’re the new owners; we just came over to see how things are coming,” Kris explained.

“Oh, hi. Well, we’re on the downhill side now. The major construction is finished, now we are just doing the finishing touches,” he explained, as they climbed the stairs together. At the top of the stairs was one doorway. It was devoid of a door. The walls were bare sheetrock, with little dabs of white here and there. Through the door was one very large room; directly opposite the entrance were sliding glass doors that looked down on the ocean below. Along the same wall was a fireplace, and then a bank of windows. Off to one side, a good-sized bathroom had been roughed in. The plumbing fixtures had not yet been installed. The floor was bare plywood sheets, covered with white footprints and building debris. The bare sheetrock walls were dotted with holes with various wires sticking out. These would soon become electrical, telephone, and cable receptacles. Kris made her way carefully through the room to the balcony, and was happy to see that the two-person hot tub had been installed.

“Wow! That view is even better than the one at the other place,” Rita exclaimed, drinking in the view.

“Would you know where Lindsay Davis is?” Melissa asked their tour guide.

“You’re not his sister are you?” he asked.

Melissa smiled proudly. “Yeah.”

“He told me he was working for you,” the tour guide explained. “I think he had to go into town to get some permits. I’ll let him know. I’m late for an appointment, excuse me.”

“Sure, just one more thing; how much longer do you think it’ll take?” Kris asked, as they followed him down the stairs.

“A week at the most. Bye.” He left and they heard the sound of an engine starting.

“This place is really nice,” Rita stated, as she looked about.

“This is the living room, and over here is the kitchen and breakfast nook, Kris’ office, bathroom, weight room and my office,” Melissa explained, as they walked about the main floor.

“We’re having the upstairs two bedrooms converted into one large master bedroom suite,” Kris explained, as they left the little house and made their way back over to the mansion. Rita couldn’t get over how you couldn’t see or hear one place from the other; the seclusion was quite complete. Back at the other house, they all carried their bags upstairs. Kris and Melissa walked into a huge bedroom, about a thousand square feet, where Kris’ furniture had been set up and looked like dollhouse furniture in the gigantic room. Kris launched herself onto the bed, making large waves that she rode lazily.

“Sleep, perchance to dream… that’s what I want to do for about a week. No phone calls, no fans, no family intrusions, no interviews, just sleep,” Kris stated.

“Sleep, that’s all you want to do?” Melissa asked, lying down next to her and kissing her.  “I think this bed is even better than the one we left at the beach house.”

“I think we need to break it in.” Kris wiggled her eyebrows, before continuing, “Well, how about spending about a week in this bed. Is that better?” Kris asked, smiling and hugging Melissa. There was a knock on their open door.

“I was just wondering how much longer you are going to need me?” Rita looked a little embarrassed.

“Now that the tour is over, and we are safely ensconced in our fortress, I think the security risk has subsided,” Kris stated, still lying on the bed but propped up on one elbow.

“I’d feel better if you could hang around until we can officially move into the other house. That is if you don’t have anything pressing at home,” Melissa requested.

“Of course not, that will be fine,” Rita replied, and started to leave.

“Well if you are going to be our guest, maybe we ought to get you something to sleep on?” Kris said, sitting up and swinging her legs off the bed.

“Oh that’s right, there’s no furniture in this house,” Melissa said, getting up.

“Just what’s in this room. I think this sounds like a shopping trip,” Kris stated, as they left the room.

“I’m hungry; I don’t suppose there is any food in here?” Melissa asked, as they came downstairs.

“I doubt it. Who would have stocked us up? Besides, we have no pots and pans or dishes,” Kris answered.

“Then I guess we have a few more items to pick up.”

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Kris’ new house was a fortress. It was going to be nearly impossible for her to break in. The street out front was so narrow, there was no place to pull over and watch the place either. Susan stood in some nearby trees and watched as the Willys drove out through the wrought iron gates and headed toward town. Maybe she could run her off the road, but she was hardly ever alone. Now that the tour was over, she had to find a way to get to her. She nearly had her with that attack at Lilith Fair. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work twice, and she didn’t think that Melissa would be likely to allow her inside the fortress again. She had to find a way to get in there, and finish the job. She might be able to trick Kris into coming to her somehow, but then Melissa wouldn’t be able to see the great defeat.

 

37

Melissa had some shopping that she wanted to take care of, and while Kris was sleeping late seemed like the perfect time. She climbed into the ’Vette  and headed out through the gates. An average sedan picked her up on the corner and followed her at a discreet distance.

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Kris awoke to the ring of the telephone. “Yeah,” she said in a very groggy voice.

“Hey Sis, how are things?” Rick asked, his voice full of enthusiasm.

“What time is it?” she asked, pulling the pillow off her head.

“10:30; were you sleeping?”

“AM or PM?  Yes. Is everything OK? Kris asked, coming fully awake.

“AM – yeah, sure. It’s been awhile since I talked with my big sis, so...”

“Lucky me,” she said very sarcastically.

He sounded a touch dejected. “Well, I can change my mind…”

“…I’m sorry,” she interrupted him.

“I should expect it. I know what you’re like in the morning.”

Chuckling, she asked, “Did you call just to have me grump at you?”

“No, I was wondering if I could invite myself up to your place.”

“Sure. Wait a minute, you sound really chipper; what’s up?” she asked, sitting up in the bed, pushing her hair out of her face.

“Tess called me the other day, and yesterday we spent the day together. I think you could call us an item,” he answered, happiness dripping out of the phone.

“Tess?! Our Assistant Tour Manager?” Kris asked, perplexed.

“Yeah, how many other Tesses do you know?”

“Well this seems kind of sudden, doesn’t it?” Kris asked, trying to figure out what was going on.

“Yeah, maybe. But you would know much better than I about sudden courtships.”

“Yeah, right. Well, you’ve caught me off guard, I don’t know what to think…” Her voice trailed off as she tried to put the pieces together.

“So I was thinking about early afternoon…”

“…What?” she interrupted him, coming back to the conversation.

“To come up to your place.”

“Right. Will you be alone?”

“Do you want me to be alone?”

“No, you can bring Tess if you’d like; the more the merrier,” she replied, as she gave the directions to him and then rang off. She sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, trying to decide if it had been a dream or not. Getting up, she found the house was empty, except for Gert. A note on the kitchen table explained where Lissa was, and gave a guesstimate of when she would return.

“Well girl, it looks like it’s just you and me this morning,” Kris stated, patting the dog on the head and grabbing a box of Cap’n Crunch off the shelf. She took the box and headed for the TV with Gert following at her heels.

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Melissa was wandering around town, window shopping and picking up a few things that she needed. Furnishing the little house was fun, but she realized that there were a few things she really needed that they had not yet acquired. The day was another beautiful, perfect, southern California sunny day – temperatures in the 80’s, not too hot and no humidity. Perfect. She wasn’t sure that she could get used to all of this sunshine; it was too bright all the damn time! Everything looked so brown and dry as well; she could understand why there were all those awful fires. She was constantly trying to water the plants on the grounds back at the estate, but Kris and the gardener were always intervening to tell her that was a waste of water, which they, and Santa Barbara in general, was in short supply of. Everything seemed so strange here; she felt likeAlice in Wonderland a lot of the time. Take for instance money. She could go anywhere she wanted, and buy anything she wanted. She didn’t have to look at the price, wonder if it was in her budget, wonder how she would pay for. It was a frightening power, one she wasn’t sure she wanted to have. Kris was bugging her to get a car of her own; she had driven down to the car lots twice, but couldn’t make up her mind. She felt she should get something inexpensive, because that’s what she had always done, but on the other hand, money was no object. It boggled her mind! Kris kept threatening to buy her something and surprise her with it. She had finally decided that she’d give this ’Vette a spin , surprised that the car dealer would allow her to ‘borrow’ the car for a few days to see if she liked it.  She had to keep telling herself that this was the lifestyle she needed to get used to, but after a lifetime of comparison-shopping and bargain hunting, it was hard to just buy something. She was walking back to the ’Vette when someone came up next to her; turning, she saw it was Susan.

 “What are you doing here?” she questioned, looking unhappy. She could feel something hard jabbing her in the ribs.

“Just keep walking over to the car,” Susan instructed. Melissa looked down and saw a black handgun being pointed at her. She jumped and let out a gasp of surprise.

“If you want to call attention to us and get hurt, keep that up, otherwise keep walking,” Susan stated. They reached the ’Vette, and Susan climbed in and pointed the gun at Melissa.

“Get in; don’t make me shoot you,” she commanded.

A thousand things were going through Melissa’s mind all at the same time. ‘I hope we’re not going back to Portland, I have less than a half of a tank of gas.’ She started the car, and they began to move.

“Drive carefully, and don’t call attention to us,” Susan was saying.

“What’s going on? I thought I told you the last time I saw you that we were through,” Melissa replied, as some of the shock was wearing off.

“Did She teach you to say that? I’ll change your mind.”

“I don’t think so…”

“…Shut up and drive!” Susan barked as she cut her off.

“Where are we going?” Melissa asked.

“Back to Her house,” she explained, as they drove on.

Melissa puzzled, “Who?”

Susan’s tone was filled with anger, “Stop being so obtuse, back to the mansion.”

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It had been a couple of hours since Rick had called, and Kris was beginning to wonder what had happened to Melissa, when the gate buzzer sounded.“Yes?”

“We made it; let us in please,” Rick replied, as Kris pushed the gate button. Before too long, she could hear the car engine as it neared the little house. She opened the front door, and Gert ran out to greet them. Barking and wagging her tail, she sniffed and licked; when she was sure they were not smuggling any other dogs, she bounded off into the undergrowth.

“It looks like you’ve passed the challenge,” Kris called from the doorway.

“Why are you here when you’ve got that mansion to live in?” Rick came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Kris hugged him in return. “Because that mansion is going to be the guest house. Besides, it’s just not us. Come in,” she replied, as they both came inside.He looked at her critically as Tess approached. “Tess, your arm looks great,” Kris exclaimed as they all sat down in the cozy living room. “Would you guys like a beer?” she asked, standing and moving to the kitchen.

“Yeah, that sounds great. I’m finally on the road to recovery. What about you; where’s the cast?”

“Got it off last week; it feels great to be free!” Kris replied, flexing her fingers, and tossing her a cold can of beer, and then one to Rick.

He asked, his brow furrowed, his eyes narrowed, “Is that my shirt?”

She looked down at herself and then met his gaze, shrugging. “Maybe.”

“You told me you were going to stop raiding my closet!  Fuck, now I know why I never have anything to wear.”

“Can I help it if you have really good taste in clothes?” She smiled as she continued, “Look on the bright side, your closet is safe now.”

“Show us around,” Tess ordered, ignoring the siblings as she got up and looked at the awards that were displayed on the living room wall. “This is a cozy place. It makes me think of you.”

“Where’s Melissa?” Rick asked, as they moved through the rest of the house.

“She’s doing a bit of shopping. Will you be staying for dinner?” Kris asked, as they climbed back down the stairs.

“We wouldn’t want to impose…”

“…Don’t be silly; I think we’ve got lots to talk about, and you’re more than welcome here,” Kris interrupted; Tess looked pointedly at her.

“Well great! It’ll be like old times,” Rick stated as they made their way over to the Hacienda.

“Welcome to Hacienda de Mucho Escrow!” Kris opened one of the large wooden front doors.

“That’s funny! Is that what you call the place?” Tess laughed as she stepped over a rather large pile of debris.

Kris smiled at the joke. “Yeah. I thought it was fitting.”

“This place is huge!” Tess commented, her voice echoing off the bare walls, as they walked around the mansion.

Kris agreed as their feet left white footprints from the drywall dust. “Yeah, it’s going to be a great guest house.”

“Did you buy it in this condition?” Rick ducked under some loose wires dangling out of one of the walls.

Kris replied, having no problems walking under said wires, “No, we’re having some work done.”

“Where are all the workers?” Rick asked, as they walked over more piles of debris.

“They don’t work on weekends,” Kris answered.

“What all do you have here?” Rick asked. They looked out at the view from one of the upstairs windows.

“A pool, stables, tennis court, spa, twenty acres with beach access…”

“…That’s some list. What it’d set you back?” Rick asked, interrupting her.

“Didn’t you learn that was impolite?” she asked, looking at him in a stern way. “The whole package cost seventy-eight point six, but with the remodeling it’s pushed it up another five and half. Not to mention all the furniture and stuff I’ll need to get. I figure the total figure will be under about hundred,” Kris replied, as they headed back to the other house.

“One hundred what? Million?” Tess asked, a little surprised.

“That’s correct; give the little lady a Kewpie doll!”

“It’s too bad we didn’t bring our swim suits,” Rick replied.

“That’s OK, no one’s around; I’ll hang out here, and you guys can skinny-dip,” Kris stated, although she was thinking, ‘Its not like we haven’t all seen each other in the buff…’

“Let’s grab a couple of cold ones for the swim,” Rick stated, as he went to the refrigerator and took out two more beers.

“We need to talk alone,” Tess whispered to Kris as Rick returned. “OK, we’ll see you after a while,” Tess said, as they started off.

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The drive out to the house wound all the way through town, and the going was slow as traffic was heavier now that the afternoon had arrived.

“Susan, why can’t you just leave me alone? I told you months ago that I didn’t want to see you anymore.”

“That’s Her brainwashing talking, not your true feelings,” Susan replied.

“You think Kris brainwashed me?” Melissa asked, incredulous.

“I know She did; you loved me, and then She came along and changed all that…”

“…I guess it escaped your attention that we had broken up a week before I met Kris. She had nothing to do with me breaking up with you,” Melissa interrupted.

“No, you were seeing Her before you broke it off with me!” Susan was adamant.

“No, I broke up with you because of you; there was no other reason.”

“You’re lying to protect Her!”

“No, I’m trying to tell you the truth. I broke up with you because of the fantasyland that you live in. This is the perfect example of what I mean.”

“I don’t live in a fantasyland. I know that I love you, and that you love me; all I have to do is get you to see through the crap She’s told you.”

“How are you going to do that?” Melissa asked, not wanting to hear the answer.

She will tell you herself that she brainwashed you, and then you’ll be mine again.”

“What if Kris doesn’t tell you what you want to hear? Are you going to use that gun on her?” Melissa had begun to sweat; she wished she could warn Kris. She wished she’d gotten a restraining order; she wished she could get the gun away from Susan.

“I think I can find a way to persuade her; I noticed that the cast has come off…”

“…You were responsible for that?” Melissa nearly drove off the road as the realization began to shine through. New terror gripped her, as the memory of all the accidents from the tours came back to her. This woman was much more dangerous than she had ever imagined.

“Hey, watch your driving! That was great wasn’t it? The injury level was much higher than I had anticipated,” she answered, looking very pleased with herself.

“You blew up that light that burned Tess and cut me?”

“Absolutely not!  I would never hurt you. It’s really too bad that Kris wasn’t there instead of Tess!”

“If you think killing Kris is going to change my mind about you…”

“…If I’d wanted to kill Her, I had plenty of chances while the tours were going on. I don’t want Her dead; She won’t be able to suffer in her loneliness, knowing that I have you, not Her, after I take everything away from Her, like the bitch did to me!” Susan stated, her voice full of anger. Every time she referred to Kris, she made it sound like she had a bad taste in her mouth.

They drove on in silence for a while; Melissa’s mind was in overdrive as she tried to think of a way out of this. Surely she would wake up any minute from this awful dream. The traffic was so heavy, there was no chance to get picked up for speeding. In all the time they had been here, she hadn’t even seen a cop on this road. She wasn’t sure if she should try something. How ready was Susan to shoot her? Was she really ready to find out? If Susan shot her, would she be able to help Kris? This was ridiculous; she couldn’t sit here and do nothing; she was going to have to try something. Melissa slammed the accelerator to the floor, and the ’Vette jumped forward, all four hundred horses pushing them both back into their seats. Pulling out into the oncoming traffic, she began to drive crazily, dodging cars and weaving through them. A side street loomed on the edge of her vision; she took it, flying over a speed bump.

“What are you doing? Stop this car right now!” Susan was yelling as she held on tight. Melissa wasn’t really listening; she was trying not to hit anyone on the road. A car pulled out of a driveway; she swerved, fishtailing with tires squealing, and missed it. Melissa took a street off to their right and flew over a hill, scraping the bottom of the car with a shower of sparks.

“I’m warning you, I’ll shoot you if you don’t stop this car….” Susan was interrupted by the screeching of the car as it slid sideways to a halt. A blue cloud of smoke that smelled of burned tires floated up around the car. Susan’s whole body flew forward and crashed into the dash. Melissa quickly grabbed the gun and began to wrestle it out of her grasp. Several residents of the street had heard the commotion of the car hurtling down their street and begun to venture out to see what was up. The explosion of the gun shattered the returning calm.

Melissa looked at the hole in the door near her leg and shouted, “You could have shot me, you bitch!!”

One brave or crazy man called from his yard, nearest the ’Vette. “Hey lady, do you need some help?”

Susan’s teeth were clenched as she ordered in a menacing whisper, “You keep your mouth shut, or I’ll fucking kill Her, slow and painful!”

Melissa looked at Susan, wanting to pound her head in, but she could see that the only thing behind Susan’s eyes was craziness, and that chilled her right down to the bone.

“Drive away nice and slow, no more heroics,” Susan ordered.

Melissa’s panic was starting to rise out of control as they neared the estate.

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Kris was doing some business at her desk when she thought she heard the back door to the house open.

“Hello?” she called out.

“Kris?” Tess’ voice sounded full of anxiety.

“I’m back here,” she replied, getting up, a little curious.

“Rick’s hit his head and is unconscious…” Tess was out of breath and looked very worried.

“Oh my god! I’ll call 9-1-1!” Kris stated, reaching for the phone.

“You know CPR, don’t you?” Tess asked.

“Yes, I’ll go up, give him mouth-to-mouth…” Kris replied, as she ran out of the house.

“Good; I’ll call an ambulance!” Tess called after her. She counted to five, and then she started to search the house. When Kris got up to the pool and found nothing wrong, she would be pissed, but Tess could pass it off as a practical joke. If she was really good, she could get Rick to join in. Now where the hell had Kris put that ugly black coat of hers? she wondered as she opened doors, looking for closets. She didn’t have much time; they would be back here any moment. Well it wasn’t downstairs, so that only left one place – upstairs. She took the stairs two at a time, then pulled back the louvered closet doors to the large walk-in closet. She was pawing through the contents and had nearly run out of clothes, when she spotted it hanging up in the back in a dark corner. She grabbed it and pulled it from its hanger. Feeling the item, she found the bulge that she was looking for in the hem at the bottom of the coat. ‘It’s still here!’ she thought to herself as she got out her pocketknife and began to tear the stitching away.

“What the hell are you doing?” Kris looked very angry, standing in the doorway to the closet as Tess looked up. She grabbed the black address book and pulled it from its hiding place inside the coat.

“Kris, you startled me…”

“…What are you doing?” Kris asked again, scrutinizing her. Tess stepped past her and out of the closet.

“Just retrieving something I left with you, for safekeeping,” Tess stated. Like lightning, Kris reached out and grabbed the hand that was holding the book. The grip of a vice caused Tess to gasp in surprise, as Kris removed the book from Tess’ grasp. “Kris, you’re hurting me,” Tess protested. Kris let go as she examined the book.

“An address book? Why would you hide this with me?” Kris kept the book, her eyebrow raised, her eyes narrowed.

“Well everything on the tour got so crazy, that I didn’t trust what would happen next,” Tess tried, watching as Kris put the book in her pocket.

Kris’ tone was icy, “I don’t appreciate you using me to be some kind of mule…”

“…Kris, give me that book.” Tess sounded a little desperate. “Why aren’t you up at the pool?” she asked, trying to keep herself under control.

“It didn’t feel right.” She moved out of he master bedroom to the landing at the top of the stairs. “What’s so important about that little book?”

Sounding more in control, Tess said, “You might call it my life insurance policy.”

Kris sounded doubtful, “Life insurance? From an address book?”

Giving a small placating smile, she added, “Can you just give it back to me, please?” Tess sounded a little frustrated.

Kris looked at her for a long moment, not saying anything.

“What’s going on? This hidden book, and out of the blue you call Rick up and want to start a relationship. What about us? I thought you were gay,” Kris finally stated, as she headed down the stairs.

“Us? I thought you told me our relationship was over? Or are you not married anymore?  Or are you just jealous of Rick?” Tess’ voice had an edge of sarcasm to it.

“Jealous?! Why would I be jealous? I’m just surprised that you are interested in men,” Kris replied as they entered the living room.

Rick was standing outside the back door, about to come into the house, listening to the conversation.

“Well I am. And just for the record, I never said I was gay. I also never said I would be exclusive with you either.” Tess looked smug.

“Oh my god! You’re shitting me, right?” Kris asked in horror as the reality of what Tess was saying sank in.

Looking quite proud of herself, Tess said, “No, I’m afraid it’s all true.”

“I was making love to you, and you were making love to a man?!” Kris was starting to feel sick.

“Not just any man either, your own brother,” Tess stated, rubbing it in a little.

Rick walked in, looking unbelieving. This had to be some joke they were trying to pull, but when he saw how pale Kris looked, he knew it was true. His voice was full of disbelief. “Man, I thought you were straight!”

Smiling broadly, Tess replied, “Surprise! Know what? When we were making love, I was thinking about Kris,” Tess stated; her smile turned devilish.

“That is so kinky!” He sounded disgusted. He turned to Kris, and in an accusatory tone asked, “Why didn’t you think about the fact that I was already doing it with her?”

Kris’s mouth was hanging open, as she looked incredulously at her brother. “How many gay women have you had? Hey pal, for your information she came on to me like there was no tomorrow…

“…You have such high morals, why didn’t you tell her to take a hike?” he interrupted.

Kris put her hands on her hips. “When was the last time a babe came on to you, and you turned her down?” Rick looked blank for a moment, before Kris said, “I had no reason to think she wasn’t gay. I also had no reason to think that she was doing it with you!”

Rick’s tone was defensive. “Well how was I supposed to know she was gay? She was sleeping with me, for Christ’s sake!”

“I feel so violated!” Kris’ voice was filled with anger, as she wrapped her arms around herself and began to shiver.

“Hey, cheer up! Look at it this way, you both have the same taste in women,” Tess stated, looking quite pleased with herself.

Looking appalled, Rick stated, “You are one twisted broad.”

Tess gave him a knowing look. “Hey stud muffin, you are not as good in bed as other men I’ve been with. In fact, your sister could give you some pointers…”

“…Oh that’s it! I don’t want to hear about this, I’m not kidding!” Kris interrupted, looking green.

“What’s wrong? Sick about the truth?” Tess asked, feeling very pleased with herself.

“No, we never agreed to be exclusive with one another, but I didn’t think you’d be doing it with men either. I feel dirty, like I’ve got bugs crawling all over me.” Kris shook all over.

Tess’ tone was sweet, “Rick, do you have any diseases?”

“Not that I know of. How about you?” he asked, looking sternly at her.

“That’ll just be my little secret.” Tess looked very haughty.                                             

“Tell me that you practiced safe sex!” Kris looked worriedly at her brother.

Tess was smiling broadly, as she was enjoying this way too much. “Didn’t you know? Rick doesn’t believe in condoms.”

Kris was shooting daggers at Rick as he looked away.

“Well I feel better, now that we’ve cleared the air. My book please.” Tess held her open hand out to the dark haired woman.

Her face impassive, “You don’t really expect me to give it to you now, do you?” Kris asked, opening the door and going outside.

“Yes I do. Give it to me, and I’ll be on my way out of your life,” Tess said as they stood next to her car.

“Right you are; you’re fired.” Kris looked angry.

“Well guess what? I quit!” Tess replied through gritted teeth, standing right in front of Kris with her hand held out for the book. “Now give me my book back.”

“Why?” Kris’ voice was no more than a whisper.

“The truth?” Tess looked Kris in the eye.

She felt tired and disillusioned. “That would be nice for a change.”

“I was sleeping with Rick first, but then I got to know you, and when I found out you were a lesbian, I became obsessed with sleeping with you. Afterwards, I found you to be very comforting. I always felt safe and special in your arms. I do care what happens to you, so let me have my book, so I can get out of here without bringing you anymore trouble,” Tess replied; her voice was soft, as she reached out and stroked Kris’ face with the back of her hand. She looked as though she was going to kiss her.

Kris pulled away from Tess, her jaw muscles clenching and unclenching. “What do you mean, more trouble?”

“You don’t really think all those accidents during the tour were a coincidence, do you?”

Kris’ eyes narrowed as she weighed what the answer might actually be. “Maybe, why?”

“You were always a bit naïve.” Tess laughed. “Someone was trying to kill me, and anyone that happened to be standing next to me.”

“Why would someone want to kill you?” Rick asked, standing behind them in the doorway.

“It might have something to do with my occupation.” Tess smiled as she toyed with them.

“Being Assistant Tour Manager?” Kris questioned.

“That was my cover, not my occupation.”

“Could you speak English please?” Rick asked.

“My occupation is a paid assassin; my cover was working in your band.”

“Excuse me?! Did you say assassin.” Rick looked as though she was from Mars.

“Like in kill people?” Kris could feel her legs turn to jelly as the full meaning of what Tess had said began to hit home.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he asked, not being able to register the truth.

“Oh, I only wish it were.”

“Do you mean I’ve been sleeping with a cold-blooded killer?” Kris looked anxious.

“Killer is such an ugly word. I prefer assassin,” Tess stated, removing the book from Kris’ relaxed hand. “It’s really quite easy, after the first one,” Tess replied matter of factly.

“How many times did you kill someone before we slept together?” Kris asked, looking sick.

“I used to get a real rush when the job went well, but lately the thrill was gone. It was exciting to come back from a hit, which usually happened during the concert, and then within the hour made love with either of you. Don’t think it hasn’t been fun, because it will be hard to replace both of you. What a set up!” Tess stated.

Kris’ eyes turned hard as the color drained from her face.

“Get out!” she ordered in a hoarse voice, choked with emotion.

“Are you coming then?” Tess looked up and smiled suggestively at Rick.

“You have until the count of five to get off my property before I call the police!” Kris ordered. Tess climbed into her car and drove away. Kris turned to go into the house and came face to face with Rick. She turned around and headed off across the grounds.

Kris sat down on a boulder in between the two houses. She was trying to sort her thoughts and feelings out. She wasn’t sure what upset her more, the fact that Tess had been sleeping with a man, her brother, or was a killer. It seemed the least of her problems was that she and her brother had shared a lover. Her major problem seemed to be that she could have exposed Melissa to A.I.D.S. Tess’ words kept repeating in her head, “Didn’t you know? Rick doesn’t believe in condoms?” Since she had never had sex with a man, and never wanted to, she had always been careful to make sure her sex partners were men free. Why hadn’t she followed through with Tess? Had she just been blinded by convenient sex? No, she had just assumed that Tess was gay. She never saw Rick hanging off of her like he usually did his conquests, so there was no reason to think Tess was sleeping with him. She had never brought up the subject of being exclusive, because she never felt that there was a future with Tess, and it seemed stupid to tie them both down to a pact when they were together just for sex. She felt sick to her stomach as the implications of what this revelation held. How could she have slept with a cold-blooded killer? Why hadn’t she seen what Tess really was? How could she have been so wrong about someone? It made her doubt her ability to read and trust people. Tess was just another in a long line of really bad relationship choices that she had made.

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Rick left the house for a walk around the grounds, being careful to go in the opposite direction of his sister. He didn’t want to see or talk with Kris right now; he wasn’t very happy with her. He couldn’t believe that she had the balls, for lack of a better term, to be sleeping with his girlfriend. He had after all been sleeping with her first! Kris always prided herself on the fact that she didn’t sleep around, but she had a lousy track record with relationships. He thought maybe she should have tried sleeping around a little more!

 

38

Melissa saw the white Miata convertible driving away and wondered who had been visiting Kris. Then her curiosity changed to despair as she realized that maybe her last chance to escape was driving away. She pulled up in front of the little house, which looked deserted.

“Get out nice and slow,” Susan commanded.

Melissa opened the front door and entered the house, followed closely by Susan with the gun pointed at Melissa’s back. The house was deadly silent.

“Where is she?” Susan demanded. She grabbed Melissa’s arm and stopped her from going any further into the house.

 “I don’t know,” Melissa replied. The back door stood open, a view of the dense foliage was all that could be seen. Susan roughly pushed Melissa towards the back door. She kicked open the screen door and then stepped outside. A gravel path led them off in the direction of the Hacienda.

‘This is very strange; what’s Kris doing at the Hacienda?’ Melissa wondered as Susan pulled her along in silence. Their feet crunching on the gravel of the path with the occasional bird song all that could be heard. As they came around a bend in the path, Kris could be seen sitting on a rock; her back was towards them. Susan pushed past Melissa in her haste to get to Kris. Susan grabbed Kris by the collar and pulled her up onto her feet.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for some time,” Susan sneered.

Kris looked blankly at her as she stood in Susan’s grasp.

“Kris!” Melissa shouted.

Kris looked past Susan, seemingly aware for the first time that Melissa was there.

Susan dropped her hold on Kris’ collar and delivered a punch to Kris’ face, knocking her off her feet. As Kris sat in the dirt, rubbing her jaw with a look of confusion on her face, Susan roughly grabbed Melissa’s arm and ordered her to be silent. They struggled as Melissa tried to get to Kris.

Susan brandished the gun threateningly. “Don’t make me hurt you!”

Kris’ confusion was suddenly replaced with anger as she got to her feet. Watching this unknown woman push Melissa about, Kris’ hands clenched into fists.

Susan shoved Melissa away from her as she turned to confront Kris.

Coming up behind the two, Kris demanded, “What’s going on here?”

Susan backhanded Kris across the face “I’ll ask the questions!”

Kris stumbled a few feet away, putting a hand to her face and feeling stunned.

Continuing, Susan asked, “Tell us how you brainwashed Melissa into thinking you were in love with her.”

Melissa cried out as she struggled to get past Susan. “Oh Kris!”

Kris dabbed at the blood from her split lip, anger racing through her. “What are you talking about?”

Susan pushed Melissa away and turned and slapped Kris across the face again. “You don’t listen very well.” She chuckled.

Melissa tried to get to Kris’ side, but Susan caught her and shoved her back. Kris regained her balance and lunged at Susan. But Susan was faster and punched Kris in the stomach. Kris dropped to her knees as the pain and surprise dropped her.

Susan stood over Kris, her free hand in a fist, her voice full of contempt. “I knew you’d be soft. You rich bitches are all alike. You sweep through town and just take anything you want, no matter whom it belongs to!”

Melissa tried to push past the crazy woman to get to her lover again. “Kris!”

Kris looked up and made eye contact with Melissa, letting her know she was OK. Her mind raced, and she knew this drivel sounded familiar, but from where? She looked up into Susan’s laughing face and suddenly she remembered. This woman had been at theMalibu house, Melissa’s ‘ex’, the one that had tried to attack her. That made Kris’ anger burn a little brighter.

Susan kicked Kris, catching her in the ribs. “I’m going to teach you a lesson about stealing other people’s property.”

Kris was glad she was still on her knees; it was a lot shorter trip to the ground.

“Right after you convince Melissa how you brainwashed her,” Susan finished as she roughly grabbed hold of the struggling blond.

Kris looked up, and through clenched teeth answered, “I didn’t brainwash her. I love her.”

Susan pushed the muzzle against Kris’ forehead. “Ennnn, wrong answer! Cut the crap! Admit that this is an act!”

Melissa gasped as she watched this crazy woman put the gun against the woman she loved more than anything in the world.

Kris ceased her struggling, trying not to look at the gun that was much too close. “Why would I go to this much trouble if it were an act?”

Susan cuffed the back of Kris’ head, knocking it toward the ground. “Don’t try to fuck with my head too!”

Melissa couldn’t watch this any longer; breaking free of Susan’s grasp, she advanced on Susan swinging. “I told you! Why can’t you just admit that it’s over between us?!”

“I have to admit that you are very good!” Susan was trying to ignore Melissa as she held out a hand and placed it on Melissa’s forehead, keeping her at bay. She was getting tired of having to fight her. “But in the end the truth will come out!”

Melissa ducked and grabbed Susan by the shoulder. “The truth is that Kris and I love each other. We met after, after you and I broke up. Get that through your thick head!” Melissa was shouting at Susan as she tried to get her in a chokehold.

Susan’s full attention was on Melissa. “No!! You’re mine, not hers!!”

Kris was slowly and quietly getting to her feet.

Melissa stated defiantly, “No one owns me! I choose to be with Kris. Just like I chose not to be with you!”

Melissa stumbled backward and then fell to the ground from the blow Susan had delivered. Kris exploded with rage; rocketing to her feet, she punched Susan in the kidney. As the gun brandishing woman turned around to confront her, Kris hit her with a right cross that knocked Susan to the ground. Kris grabbed Melissa’s hand and pulled her to her feet as they took off running.

They blindly ran through the foliage, avoiding the path toward either of the houses. Ducking under the low-hanging branches and stumbling over the underbrush, they made their way toward the little house and the phone.

Melissa broke through the brush, with Kris close behind, onto the parking area in front of the little house. The ’Vette was parked a short distance away as they sprinted for it.

Suddenly an explosion rang out, and the two women jumped as the windshield of the ’Vette shattered and pieces of glass rained out onto the hood.

Another shot rang out; a red-hot knife sliced through Melissa’s left thigh. The pain sucked the breath from her lungs, and suddenly her leg wouldn’t support her weight. She hit the ground hard, biting her tongue and tasting blood. Her left leg, from mid-thigh down to her toes, was on fire. Every movement of her body sent stabbing hot knives of pain through it. Melissa opened her eyes and looked up to the dark canopy of the trees, obscuring the bright turquoise of the sky above her. The air was tinged with the scent of gunpowder.

Kris ran past Melissa a couple of steps before she could stop her momentum; turning, she held out her left hand as she took a step towards her fallen lover.

Melissa reached out her hand in response to the safety that Kris’ outstretched hand represented to her.

 “NO! Get away from her!” Susan screamed out as she emerged fully from the foliage and saw the woman she hated with all her being moving toward the woman she loved with all her heart, her plans dissolving before her eyes.

A shot rang out, and Kris’ outstretched hand was being cradled against her chest by her other hand in a protective gesture, as she knelt on one knee.

Melissa attempted to get in a kneeling position and move to her lover, but the pain from her leg came alive and threatened to steal her breath away. Trying to push the pain from her mind and focus on getting out of this situation, she called out in dread, tears stinging the backs of her eyes, “Kris, oh baby!”

Kris’ face was a tableau of pain; as her eyes made contact with the blond’s, they were filled with sorrow and fear.

Susan looked down at Melissa for a moment, then focused her attention on Kris. “How’s it feel to be taken down?”

Kris turned her head slowly and looked up at the woman standing over her.

“You are going to pay!” Susan growled.

Kris thought she looked like a demon dog, with her lip pulled back in that sneer. Suddenly Susan reached down and grabbed Kris, pulling her up to her feet. They stood nose to nose as the world spun like a top for Kris, and her arm screamed its objections to being moved.

Melissa’s voice was desperate as she addressed her lover, “Kris!” Turning her attention, to Susan her voice was hard, as she shouted “Leave her alone!”

Susan ignored the blond, focusing her attention on Kris. “You think just because you’re some rich bitch, you can just come in and take anything you want?!” Her face was just inches from Kris’, her breath hot and stale.

This again? Why did this sound so familiar? Kris’ mind groped for the answer, but since it felt like it was stuffed with oatmeal, it was proving difficult.

“You can’t take what isn’t yours! I’m going to teach you a lesson,” Susan lectured.

Kris’ eyes were having trouble staying open as her body started to shut down from the trauma.

Susan had a sneer on her lips as she asked, “I’m sorry, am I keeping you awake?” Grabbing her by the front of her shirt, she threw Kris at the ’Vette.

Kris crashed into the driver’s side front panel with her hip hard enough to jar her whole body, and then stumbled back a step. She groaned from the pain in her arm and a new dull throbbing pain in her hip. Her legs decided to succumb to gravity, and she fell to her knees, roughly parallel with the ’Vette. She was about to dive face first into the gravel, when Susan grabbed her roughly and pulled her back up to her wobbly feet.

Kris’ left hip was awash in pain as it complained when weight was put on it, as it threatened to collapse.

“Melissa’s mine, and you can’t just swoop in and put a spell on her! Didn’t anyone ever teach you that stealing was wrong?” Susan demanded.

Her face swam in and out of focus for Kris. What was she talking about? Kris wondered, then she suddenly remembered. “You sent the threatening faxes,” Kris stated through thick lips, her voice sounding like she was drunk.

Smiling menacingly, Susan replied, “Ah, you’re not as stupid as I gave you credit for! She was mine before you came barreling through with your money and your good looks!”

“What are you talking…”

“…I guess you’ve done this so many times that it’s hard to remember their names, right? Melissa, you do remember her?!” Susan asked in a sarcastic tone.

Kris was having trouble keeping up with the conversation. “Melissa?”

“You stole her from me!” Susan looked hurt.

Kris’ mouth was dry, the taste of blood still on her tongue. “She’s with me of her own free will.”

“You brainwashed her!” Susan eyes shot daggers of hate at Kris.

Tiring of the game, Kris pulled out all the stops. “She’s with me, and not you.”

Susan pulled her roughly around to face the ’Vette. “You will pay!” Susan pulled the neck of Kris’ shirt down toward the broken-glass-covered hood, forcing Kris’ head to follow suit.

As Kris was forced to bend at the waist, she tried to get her arms underneath her to push herself off the hood; her right arm was all she could get to move. Weak from shock, it wasn’t enough. Susan pushed Kris’ face into the shards, puncturing and cutting her face. Kris cried out and, with renewed determination, pushed herself up and away. Susan grabbed a handful of hair and forced Kris’ head back down to the waiting daggers, where she smeared Kris’ face into the glass.

Howling in pain, Kris was trying to get away and stomped down on Susan’s foot. As Susan loosened her grip, Kris caught Susan with the back of her left arm, the fire of pain coming alive. A ‘pop’ was heard as Susan stumbled back, holding her face. Kris slid off the hood of the car like a rag doll and fell to her knees on the gravel below. The undamaged side of her face lay on the cool metal right above the front tire. Her face was screaming in agony and felt wet and sticky. Her eyes closed, she focused on breathing; her stomach was doing flips and she really didn’t want to throw up.

“NO!!!!!” Melissa cried out as she struggled to go to her fallen lover.

“Dew broke by d’ose!” Susan screamed. In a blind rage, she began firing at Kris. The area quickly sounded like a battlefield with sounds of the gunfire.

Rick had been wandering around the grounds, thinking and releasing his anger at his sister. He decided it was time to head back to the house and call a cab for a ride back toMalibu. Suddenly the air was filled with the sounds of gunfire, a ricochet, a tire deflating and a bullet digging deep into metal. Rick ducked and took cover behind a tree as silence descended once again. He began to run full out toward the house.

The air was thick with the smell of cordite. Melissa didn’t notice as she forgot about the pain in her leg while her heart nearly ceased to beat, and her eyes grew wide as she watched the woman that was her whole world fall silently to the ground. Gritting her teeth, she pulled herself up; standing on her good leg, she took a step and the waves of pain threatened to drive her right back down. With determination born out of desperation, she again took another step, crying out with the effort. The tears were freely falling now as she prayed that her lover was still alive.

“You!” Melissa screamed as Susan stood before her.

Susan was still pointing the gun at Kris as she removed her hand from her nose, the bleeding mostly stopped. Suddenly her head snapped back. Pain ripped across her face, and she could taste blood in the back of her throat. She lashed out and backhanded Melissa across the face.

Melissa lost her balance and put all of her weight on her bad leg, screaming out in agony, arms pinwheeling to regain her balance. Breathing hard, she had the taste of copper in her mouth; touching her fingers to her lips, they came away bloody. “You fucking bitch, you’ve killed her!!!!!!!” She launched herself at the other woman, her arms swinging madly, fists connecting to deliver the most damage possible.

Susan found herself under attack by a crazed woman, a woman she had never seen before. A woman she never suspected existed.

“You bitch!” punch “You killed her.” Punch “She never did anything to you.” Punch, slap “She’s dead!” hit, slap, slap “Murderer!” punch “Dead!” punch, punch

At first, as blows rained down on Susan, she was only trying to protect herself, but as the barrage continued, she got angry and tried to fight back. Surprised at how difficult it was, at how strong and determined this woman was, to defeat. She finally managed to land a solid punch on Melissa’s jaw.

It knocked the blond back, dumping her unceremoniously on her ass on the gravel. The impact made Melissa’s teeth click loudly together and the reverberations brought new fire to her leg; the pain brought a wave of darkness, as she fought to stay conscious.

Nothing moved for a couple seconds as Susan regained her breath, the pain from her badly broken nose subsiding a bit. Then Susan looked at Melissa, and realized that the blond’s heart really did belong to the rich bitch, and even now when she was most probably dead, Susan didn’t have the slightest chance to get back in Melissa’s heart. Well if she couldn’t have Melissa, no one would.

Susan raised the gun, which had been resting next to her leg, and pointed it at Melissa’s chest. She was momentarily overcome by a wave of sadness at the thought of killing this person that she truly loved, but then it passed. “I’b sorry d’it worked out dis way, bood-bye.”

Melissa looked up to see the black eye of the gun staring her down, and a cold chill swept over her. She watched as if in slow motion as Susan cocked the hammer of the revolver. She was suddenly filled with a sense of peace. ‘Now Kris and I can spend eternity together,’ she thought, and actually smiled.

Susan’s face showed her puzzlement as she watched the smile break out across her former lover’s face. Suddenly very strong arms were wrapped around her own, and she was picked up off her feet. The gun went off as she was whipped around 180 degrees from where she’d been standing, looking at the body of Kris still laying where she’d fallen.

“Put b’me down!!” Susan ordered, as she struggled to be free from this stranger’s grip.

The arms were gone, but before she had a chance to turn and confront her attacker, her right hand exploded in pain and a very loud pop was heard.

Rick held the gun as he let go of Susan and she slumped to the ground screaming out in pain at her broken wrist.

He turned around and knelt down next to Melissa. “How you doing?”

She looked up to him with red swollen eyes and tear-stained face, which crumpled as she replied, “She killed her.”

With her head resting against his arm, he turned in horror to look at the body of his fallen sister. ‘Kris is dead? I didn’t hear that right; can’t be.’ Gently he removed the blond’s head, and with dread-filled steps, went to his sister’s side. His jaws clenching and unclenching, and the sting of tears on the back of his eyes, his ears were ringing and he felt dizzy as he saw all the blood. Three times he attempted to reach out and touch her, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to find out that she was truly dead. Finally he reached out and laid his fingers on her neck, trying to find a pulse.

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“Now you said that you’ve never seen this woman before today?” The gruff voice of the uniformed officer broke through Rick’s chaotic thoughts.

He tore his eyes away from the squad of paramedics that were working on Susan. “Ah, that’s right.”

Writing something down in his notebook, the detective asked, “And you were where when all this was happening?”

Rick turned and pointed vaguely off into the foliage. “I was just out walking over there.”

The detective eyed him suspiciously. “I see. You only came around here because you heard the gun shots?”

“That’s right.” Rick was beginning to lose his patience as he scrubbed his face with his hand. This guy seemed thick as a brick.

“Officer! A word please,” a plain-clothed detective called from the squad car.

The detective stood close to the officer, and in a conspiratorial tone, stated, “HQ says to give this guy the kid glove treatment.”

“What?” The officer looked incredulous.

Holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender, the detective replied, “I know! He sounds guilty as sin to me, but apparently he is some big shot.”

“Man that just bites!” Putting away his notebook, the officer asked, “Why do these big shots always get special treatment? Usually, in the end, they’re guilty.”

“Detective? We’re ready to transport,” an EMT announced as he grabbed hold of the gurney and hoisted it into the ambulance.

Clapping his partner on the shoulder, the detective ordered, “Jimmy, you go on to the hospital with Crazy Jane and I’ll wrap things up here.”

The ambulance drove away, its lights unnaturally coloring the trees and shrubs that surrounded the drive.

“Have you lived here long?” the detective asked, turning back to his suspect.

Rick was very much trying to hold his emotions in and under control as he watched the ambulance drive away. “I don’t live here; I’m up from L.A.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

‘Jesus, and this guy’s a detective?’ Rick thought to himself as he took some deep breaths, trying to stay calm.

After conferring with his radio, the detective returned his attention to Rick. “Do you know how to get to the hospital?”

Rick looked at the detective. “Ah, no.” His face was drawn, and he looked like he was going to burst into tears.

Feeling a little sympathy for the poor sap, the detective offered, “Well, you’re welcome to follow me if you’d like.”

“Ah sure, that would be gre…. I don’t have a car,” Rick suddenly realized. ‘Ah, but I’ll just borrow Kris’s car…’ His eyes swung over to the silver sports car; his stomach flip-flopped as he took in the gore-covered car.

“Well, I can give you a ride if you like,” the detective offered.

The ride with the detective was filled with edgy silence, and Rick was very happy to get to the hospital. Walking into the emergency room, Rick felt like he was in a dream. ‘I’m going to wake up any moment,’ he thought, as a short stocky woman with dark hair done up in a bun behind her head assaulted him.

“Did you just come in with those women?” she asked, waving a clipboard at him.

“Yes.”

Shoving the clipboard into his hands, and walking him over to the counter on the edge of the room, she commanded, “Fill this out, and then return it here.” She was off in a blur.

Looking down at the forms, it suddenly hit him how little he really knew about his sister. Her address – he began to fill in the blank with theMalibu house, and had to pull back when he remembered. Her age – he had to think about that one. ‘Let’s see, she was always three years ahead of me in school, so that would make her 32.’ The rest of the form was just as hard to fill out. He finally gave up and returned it to a chipper older looking woman behind the counter.

Her expression changed to one of doubt as she looked over the forms. “There’s a lot of information missing here.”

Feeling like he was in the principal’s office, he said, “I’m sorry, it’s the best I could do.”

“Fine, we’ll get it later. There is a waiting area at the end of the hall. You’d better make yourself comfortable; you might be here awhile,” she directed.

Rick went over to the pay phone; after racking his brain for a few moments, he was able to come up with the phone number that he thought he knew by heart.

“Hey, Bridget? It’s Rick.”

The older woman’s voice sounded surprised but guarded to hear from him. “Rick, what’s up?”

Rick’s voice sounded tired. “I wanted to let you know what’s happened.” He took a shuddering breath. “There’s been a situation up here.” The sound of a doctor being paged over the P.A. system could be heard through the phone.

“Rick, what’s going on?” Concern filled her voice.

Rick stood resting his head in his left hand, elbow resting on the top of the pay phone half booth. His right held the phone. “Kris and Melissa are in the hospital…” His voice cracked. He had to take a couple of deep breaths before he could force his voice to work again. “It’s serious.”

Bridget could feel the dread wash over her. She pushed it aside as her mothering skills took over. “Rick, where are you?”

“I’m at some hospital inSanta Barbara…” He pulled the phone away from his face as he looked about, trying to see a name.

“Rick are you at a pay phone?” Bridget’s voice was calm and soothing.

Rick’s voice sounded far away, as he was still looking for a name. “Yes.”

“Look down at the bottom of the phone; there should be a name, address and phone number there.”

Looking down, he was surprised to find all the information, which he relayed to her.

After writing down the information, and grabbing her keys, and heading for the door, Bridget said, “OK honey, just sit tight. We’ll get up there as quickly as we can.” Almost as an afterthought, she said, “Don’t talk to anyone from the press; see you soon.”

The phone went dead in his hand, and he replaced it back on the cradle. Feeling very alone, he was unsure what to do until the troops arrived. Still leaning against the half phone booth, he began to sob softly, unable to keep it in any longer. After several moments, he pulled himself together and sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting area.

After vegging and staring out the window, he was abruptly brought back to reality by a camera flash going off.

The sharks had found him, and were surrounding him with flashes going off and the bright light of the video camera light blinding him.

“Mr. Cutler, is it true that you were involved in a lover’s quarrel with your sister?”

“Mr. Cutler, tell us what happened.”

As they closed in for the kill, he wished he was anywhere but here.

A woman in her mid-fifties in an impeccably tailored dark suit suddenly appeared at his side. “Hello, I’m Mrs. Van Allen, the chairperson for the board of the hospital. The hospital and myself would like to thank you for your compassion and concern towards Mr. Cutler at this unfortunate time. I’m sure that Mr. Cutler will have a statement later for you.” Security escorted the sharks out of the hospital.

Rick turned to his savior. “Ah… thanks….”

“Mrs. Van Allen. I’m very sorry to hear about your sister.”

That caught him off guard, and he could feel the tears threatening to spill.

She continued, “I apologize that I was not here earlier to meet you, but I was in the middle of a board meeting when your sister was admitted.” She gestured for him to follow her. Using the keycard hanging by the lanyard around her neck, she opened some automatic heavy metallic doors that led down another nondescript hallway. “I think you’ll be more comfortable waiting over here. This area is completely off-limits to the press. She opened a heavy wooden door and motioned him inside a large dark wooden paneled office.

He felt completely lost. “Thanks.”

She walked over to the large red wooden desk. “Let me just get an update on your sister’s condition,” she continued as she picked up her phone.  “Just make yourself at home; if there is anything you need, just ask my secretary for it.”

He felt completely unbalanced. This isn’t happening!

After listening on the phone for a moment, she put down the receiver and addressed him. “Mr. Cutler, your sister has lost a lot of blood and at this time we are working to stabilize her condition. The young woman that came in with her…. Ms. Davis, we are stabilizing her as well. Unfortunately their injuries are more severe than we are equipped to treat. As soon as they are stable, we will be transferring them by helicopter to Cedars Sinai Medical Center in L.A. You are of course welcome to travel with them.”

He nodded mutely.

She could sympathize with him. “Why don’t you have a seat, and I’ll come and get you when we are ready to transport.” She opened her office door and stepped into the hallway.

As an afterthought, he asked, “May I use your phone? I need to tell my brother and sister-in-law.”

She smiled and replied, “Absolutely.”

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Franklin was in the lead as they came hurriedly into the emergency entrance to Cedars Sinai. He scanned all the people in the large waiting area as he made his way to the desk. “Excuse me; I’m looking for my sister…”

The nurse looked up from the paper she was writing on and interrupting asked, “Name?”

Franklin leaned a bit closer and lowered his voice, “Kris Cutler.”

The woman moved her attention to a computer screen, seeming not to react to the name. “Ah yes – the helicopter is about ten minutes out.” She gathered up some papers and attached them to a clipboard, which she handed to him along with a pen. “Why don’t you fill out these forms, and I’ll come and get you when they’ve landed.”

Bridget was anxiously standing next to him. “Well?”

He bent over the task of filling out the forms. “Haven’t landed yet.”

They walked over to some chairs and sat down. After a few moments, he looked up at his wife. “How old is Kris?”

Bridget took the papers from her husband and filled them out.

The nurse was standing in front of them. “Mr. and Mrs. Cutler? Would you come with me please?”

They got up and followed her through two large white metal doors with windows in the middle of them stating Authorized Personal Only. In the distance, they could hear the sound of a helicopter, as they turned and went down another nondescript corridor. Standing at the end of the corridor was Rick.

As they got closer, Franklin called out, “Rick?”

He turned his head in their direction, but his eyes were blank for a second before recognition set in. “ Franklin!” He took a step as the two men embraced in a hug.

The nurse said, “Someone will be out to talk to you shortly.” And she was gone.

As the two men ended their embrace, Bridget stepped up and threw her arms around Rick, holding him tight for quite a while. The hug ended, and she asked, “How are you?”

He shrugged and mumbled, “OK I guess.”

Franklin motioned for them to sit, as a row of hard plastic orange chairs lined one wall.

Bridget was shocked at Rick’s appearance. His hair was disheveled and his bright Hawaiian print shirt and khaki cargo shorts were smeared with blood. Even his bare legs and flip-flop clad feet were splattered with it. His red-rimmed eyes were haunted, and he looked like he was going to break down and cry at any moment, and as if his best friend had died. ‘Jesus! Is that what had happened?’ she suddenly wondered, as the pit of her stomach fell.

Rick said in a sort of disconnected way, “You guys made good time.”

Franklin replied, “Well, after we got your call, we had to turn around. We were stuck taking I-405…”

Rick interrupted, “The parking lot? And you still managed to make it?”

Bridget chuckled. “You should have seen your brother driving.”

They were quiet for a moment, all of them not giving voice to the questions that were on their minds.

Patting Rick on the shoulder, Franklin asked, “What happened?”

Rick took a shuddering breath and his jaw flexed a couple of times before he replied, “This fucking bitch…. she shot ’em.” That was it – the dam burst, and the tears began to flow down his cheeks. Bridget put an arm around him and held him close, making soothing sounds as she let him get it out of his system. She exchanged worried looks with her husband, mouthing “shot ’em?”.

He looked like he was going to be sick as he made a gesture, saying that he was going to get some coffee, and left them.

Bridget opened her purse and removed a small packet of tissues, which she handed to Rick as he began to pull himself together.

Sniffling, Rick said, “I’m sorry.”

Bridget gave him a warm smile. “’S’OK, don’t worry about it.”

Rick looked around. “Where’s Franklin?”

Franklin appeared and walked over to them; he handed Rick a steaming tiny paper cup. “Who shot them?”

Bridget took another proffered cup. “How did she get into the estate?”

Rick cradled the cup in his hands as the steam rose up into his face. “I don’t have a clue who she was; never saw her before.”

Franklin sat down with his own cup. “Maybe you should start at the beginning?”

Rick let out a sigh. “I don’t really know. Tess and I drove up here today to see Kris’ new place. We were having a good time…” He stopped talking as he realized that he didn’t want to tell his adoptive parents the sordid details of the fight with Kris. He cleared his throat. “Kris and Tess got in a fight, and Tess took off, leaving me without a ride back home. I went for a walk around the grounds at the house to calm down and figure out what I was going to do. When I headed back to the house, I heard the gunfire.”

“Jesus!” Franklin said under his breath as he blew on his coffee. His imagination was painting horrid images in his mind.

“I ran back to the house and found some crazy woman shooting the place up; I saw her almost kill Melissa. The next thing I knew, I was standing over her with her gun in my hand.”

Bridget and Franklin sat in stunned silence as Rick finished his tale. Neither of them had wanted to speculate on the “serious” that Rick had reported on the phone. Now they had some idea, and it was worse than they had imagined.

After sitting in silence for a few moments, Bridget asked, “Rick, you haven’t talked to the press, have you?”

“No. I only talked with the police at the house. No one has bothered me since the chairperson of the hospital inSanta Barbara rescued me from the sharks.”

Franklin stated, “I’m calling Emily now.” He produced a cell phone. Walking a few paces away, he began making the call.

“Were they shot up bad?” Bridget asked as she cradled the steaming small paper cup. Wanting to know, and not wanting to know the answer to that question.

He nodded his head yes, not trusting his voice.

It was odd how much better Rick felt as his surrogate parents took over the decisions and problems from his hands and shoulders. He had felt so lost before they arrived. He had needed to turn to his problem solver, Kris, but she wasn’t available and the point had been driven home very clearly. All of his life, he had turned to his big sis to take care of things like this. She always knew exactly what to do, and took care of him. Suddenly he thought, ‘What if she dies?’ Fuck, where had that come from? He suddenly felt sick to his stomach and took off running for the bathroom.

Bridget got to her feet, puzzled at Rick’s actions. She turned to her husband who shrugged his shoulders as he ended his phone conversation.

“Emily is on it. She’s also going to pass the word along to the rest of the band.” Moving his head in Rick’s direction, he asked, “What’s going on?”

Bridget’s brows were furrowed. “I don’t know; he just bolted.”

Franklin sat down next to his wife and put his arm around her shoulders. “It probably all just came crashing home for him.”

She rested her head on his shoulder. “Probably.” She was quiet for a moment, then continued, “Honey, he said that they were shot up pretty bad.”

He kissed the top of her head, glad she couldn’t see the turmoil of emotions on his face.

Rick returned after awhile, looking a little green around the gills as he sat down next to them. An attractive woman in her late twenties dressed in a white nurse’s uniform came up to them. “Cutler?” she asked as she consulted her clipboard.

Franklin stood. “That’s us.”

“I wanted to give you an update on …” Consulting her clipboard again. “Kristen’s condition. She has lost a lot of blood and is in surgery now. If you like, you can wait up there. It’s likely to be some time before there is another update.”

“Ah, thanks.” Franklin replied, as they followed her down the hall.

Bridget spoke up, “The young woman that was brought in with her, do you know what her condition is?”

The woman consulted her clipboard again. “She is also in surgery – but that is all I can tell you at this time.”

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Several hours had passed since they had all been moved to the waiting room outside of surgery. So far they had lucked out, and the press hadn’t found them.

Franklin had helped Rick clean the blood off his body after borrowing some green scrubs from the hospital staff, so at least he didn’t look like a refugee from a horror film.

Rick had stretched out on the orange plastic chairs, his head resting on Bridget’s thigh. He slept as she absently stroked his hair. She was desperately trying to keep her imagination from running away with all of the possibilities until she actually heard some facts. She faced the fact that she was scared shitless. It felt like there was a fist around her heart squeezing and her stomach was rolling like a stormy sea. Things couldn’t be much worse unless it were her biological daughter that was in surgery now.

Franklin came back over and sat down next to his wife. He put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her temple.

“Did you get a hold of them?” she asked, pushing back into his warm reassuring presence.

He rubbed her shoulder. “Finally. I didn’t really want to leave this kind of news on the answering machine. I’m so glad I called Kris’ secretary and had her send the band’s jet up there. They said they would call when they landed.”

Bridget asked, “You remembered to have the car waiting for them when they landed?”

Franklin nodded yes as he let out a sigh. “Boy, I sure didn’t want to make that call…”

She interrupted him, “But think how you would feel in their place.”

“Oh I know; I just wish I had something to tell them.”

She turned her head and kissed him on the cheek. “I know; hopefully we will have some news.”

Suddenly the hallway was filled with harried looking people all moving toward them.

Steve had his arm around his wife’s waist as they stopped in front of Bridget and Franklin, his eyes worried and searching. “Hi, any news?”

Bridget smiled weakly up at him. “How nice of you to come down here.”

Franklin replied, “We haven’t heard anything yet, they’re still in surgery.”

Tom was standing behind Steve, looking like a lost little boy with his hands in the front pockets of his camo cargo shorts, his elbows straight and his shoulders up around his ears. “Yo. Major bummer, huh?”

Bridget had to chuckle. “That’s an understatement.”

Emily walked up. “Bridget, Franklin, if there is anything I can do….”

Franklin replied, “Thanks for coming down.”

Emily’s tone was hushed “I couldn’t reach Paul. I know he’s on vacation…”

Steve interrupted, “It’s OK, we’ll find him.”

Tom asked, “Dude, where’s Tony?”

Bridget answered, “She’s on the rez – no phones. We’re trying to track her down, but it’s going to be awhile.”

A set of double doors down the hall opened up, and a woman in her mid to late forties with short red hair came towards them. She was dressed in green hospital scrubs; she had sweat marks under her arms and her hair looked a little damp. “Cutler?”

Franklin stood and replied, “We’re the Cutlers.”

Bridget shook Rick slightly. “Honey, wake up.”

Instantly his eyes opened and he sat up. “Is it Kris?”

The others clustered together a few steps away from the family.

The woman stuck out her hand. “I’m Dr. Callahan, Kristen’s doctor.”

“I’m Kris’ older brother Franklin, my wife Bridget, and her other brother Rick.” Franklin made the introductions.

She looked over his shoulder at the expectant faces.

Bridget answered her unspoken question, “Doctor, meet the rest of the band.”

She gave them all a warm smile. “I wanted to come out and talk with you.” She reached over and grabbed one of the plastic chairs and brought it in front of them and sat down before continuing. “We just finished surgery on Kristen; she is one lucky lady. She had lost a lot of blood…”

Rick couldn’t wait. “Is she going to be OK.?”

She met his gaze. “I won’t lie to you, her chances are fifty/fifty, and the next twelve hours will be critical.”

Franklin fell into the orange chair he had been standing in front of as the feeling went out of his legs.

The tension level of the band went into the atmosphere as they watched his reaction.

Rick’s elbows were resting on his thighs, and he held his head in his hands as he began to rock back and forth.

Emily whispered, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Forcing air back into her lungs, Bridget asked, “How bad is it?”

Dr. Callahan replied, “She has suffered multiple gunshot wounds…”

Franklin got to his feet and began to pace. “Jesus!”

The doctor continued, “The left side of her face has suffered multiple lacerations; we are hoping that there isn’t nerve damage, but we won’t know until she wakes up. She was lucky one of the bullets only grazed her hand/wrist area. But of greatest concern to us, a second bullet entered her left upper chest area, went through her lung, and exited after fracturing her second rib.”

It was silent a minute until Rick replied, “Sweet Jesus.” The tears were running down his face.

The doctor’s voice was soothing as she continued, “Surgeries on her face and left hand will be needed as soon as she’s stable. She also has some minor bruises and a concussion.”

Bridget was the next to speak in a shaky voice, “I see; thank you Doctor…”

Rick interrupted, “Can I see her?”

The doctor gave him an indulgent smile, “She’s in recovery now, and then she’ll be moved to Intensive Care. I don’t see why you can’t see her there.” She got to her feet and was attempting to move the chair back where she had found it.

Bridget asked, “Oh Doctor, she came in with another young woman, Melissa Davis; can you tell us how she’s doing?”

The doctor looked blankly at her for a moment as she finished putting her chair away and then replied, “I don’t know, but I will have someone tell you.”

Franklin began to pump her hand vigorously. “Thank you very much Doctor.”

She smiled at him. “Of course. I’ll stop by in the morning.”

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A hurried couple in their mid to late fifties came around the corner into the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. After speaking with a nurse at the desk, they were pointed off in the direction of a group of people sitting outside one of the rooms.

A platinum headed man was staring unflinching through the glass wall into the room he was sitting Indian style in front of. Another young man was sitting with his arm draped across the shoulders of a young woman. A third young man was snoring softly from a chair. The older man was sitting with his head resting against the wall and his eyes closed. The older woman sitting next to him also looked to be resting.

“Mr. and Mrs. Cutler?” the old harried man asked as he stood before the group.

Franklin opened his eyes and sat up, scrubbing his face. “Yes?”

Craig stuck out his hand. “I’m Craig Davis, Melissa’s father.”

Franklin smiled in acknowledgement. “Ah yes, I spoke with you on the phone.”

Craig shifted his coat from one hand to the other. “Good to meet you; too bad it’s under such circumstances.” He indicated the woman standing next to him. “This is my wife, Frances.”

Frances stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you.” She turned to Bridget. “You must be Tony Rain Cloud’s mom.”

Bridget gave a small smile, as she blinked the sleep out of her eyes. “Yes, she’s my daughter; please call me Bridget.”

Frances said, “Thank you so very much for arranging the plane and car – it was really so much faster.”

Bridget replied, “I know that I’d want to be here as quickly as possible.”

Craig got down to business. “We just came from Melissa’s room, and wanted to check and see how Kris is doing.”

Franklin stood and stretched his back, as he gestured towards the glass room across from them. “She’s alive, and we’re thankful for that.”

The Davises turned, and Frances let out a gasp as her hand went to her mouth. She walked up to the glass and peered into the room.

Kris was lying in a white antiseptic room, looking almost as white as the sheets on the bed. She was hooked up to a ventilator to help her breathe, and there were machines monitoring her vital statistics.

Frances turned around, seeming to have found her voice. “Oh my.” She walked over and sat down next to Bridget and took her hand inside her smaller one. “Is she going to be all right?”

Bridget had to swallow a couple of times before she could get rid of the lump that had filled her throat. “We won’t know for a few more hours yet.”

Wanting desperately to change the subject, as he felt the sting of tears behind his eyes, looking down, Franklin asked, “How’s Melissa?”

Craig ran a hand over his face, thinking that he needed a shave. “She’s OK. Her leg is all screwed up, but she’ll be fine.” He came over and stood in front of Franklin. “Boy, this is a hell of thing.” He sat down between Rick and Franklin. “Does anyone know what happened? The hospital staff couldn’t tell us anything?”

All eyes suddenly fell on the very quiet Rick as the silence stretched out. He turned and looked back at the others.

Franklin tried prompting him. “Rick, since you were there, can you shed some light on this?”

Craig jumped on this information. “You were there?”

As the rest of the band had been awakened by the newcomers, there were some mumblings from them at this new information.

Rick closed his eyes, the images a haunting vision that hadn’t stopped playing like a freakish loop inside his brain ever since getting to the hospital. “That crazy bitch shot them.”

“What crazy bitch?” Frances insistently asked, moving to the edge of her seat.

Rick shook his head as he got up and walked to the glass wall. “I don’t know; I’ve never seen her before.”

Bridget cleared her throat. “You know, I wasn’t thinking clearly before because I should have asked, how did she get past the gate?”

Rick’s back was to them as he shrugged his shoulders. “I was out walking on the grounds.”

Craig asked the question on everyone’s mind. “What did the woman look like?”

Rick was silent a moment as he concentrated on the whack job. “She was about this tall,” he indicated by putting the edge of his hand next to the top of his shoulder. “Brown hair in a crew cut, built like a wrestler, about my age I guess.”

“I think that’s a friend of Melissa’s,” Frances said, looking deep in thought.

Franklin said under his breath, “Some friend.”

Feeling a change of subject was in order, Bridget asked, “Where are you staying?”

Craig spoke up, “We came straight from the airport.”

Bridget turned to Frances . “You are more than welcome to stay with us.”

Frances smiled slightly. “That is very kind of you. I don’t know about you, but it has been a very long day.”

Franklin stood up. “Why don’t I take you back and show you where everything is?” He walked over and gave Bridget a kiss on the forehead. “I need some fresh air.” Addressing his obsessed little brother, he asked, “Buddy, you coming?”

Rick was still sitting, watching Kris. “No, go ahead.”

Bridget walked over and knelt putting her arm across Rick’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, she’ll pull through.”

He rested his head on her shoulder as new tears flowed down his cheeks.

 

37

The room was bright and quiet as Melissa opened her eyes. It took a second for her eyes to adjust to the brilliant white room. She was lying on her back in a hospital bed; she could see the I.V. bag hanging over her head.

As she began to come more awake, the pain began to grow from an annoyance to excruciating.

“Honey, Mommy’s here,” Frances stated, as she got up from a chair under the window.

Melissa turned her head to look at her; Frances looked tired. Her face was lined with worry, her clothes rumpled. Her smile was sad as she blinked several times to keep the tears at bay. She came and stood next to the bed, reaching out and taking Melissa’s hand.

Melissa’s face was covered with a light sweat, and distorted into a grimace of pain as her moans were beginning to grow in intensity. Craig left the room, only to return almost immediately followed by a nurse. The nurse inserted a needle into the I.V. tube on the back of Melissa’s hand, and almost at the same time Melissa could feel the pain decreasing.

“Where…” Melissa croaked out, as the nurse departed.

“ Cedars Sinai Hospital in L.A.” Her father offered her a bendable straw from a plastic cup that he lifted to her lips.

The water tasted sweet and cool on her fiery throat. She raised her head off the pillow slightly and surveyed her body. All of her seemed to be covered with a white blanket, except for her left leg, which was hooked up to some sort of medieval torture device that had it hanging above the bed. It was bruised and wrapped in white gauze, which started at mid-thigh and continued down to right above her knee.

Her father took the cup and set it back down on the bedside table. “Feel better?”

Melissa moved her head up and down slowly. She felt very dazed and confused. Her mind moved sluggishly, and she had trouble keeping her train of thought going in one line; it seemed to only be functioning on half power. She looked at him for a long moment before she finally asked, “Kris?”

Her parents exchanged worried glances. “Kris is fine; how are you?”

Melissa could tell that something wasn’t right, but in her state she couldn’t put her finger on it. She was pale, and the dark circles under her eyes made her look like something out of a horror film. Her face looked tired and strained; her eyes looked flat, like some of the sparkle had gone away. Even her hair looked lifeless.

Melissa looked pointedly at her parents; her voice was just above a whisper, “How did you get here?”

“We got a call from Mr. and Mrs. Cutler and hopped on the band’s plane,” Frances stated as she brushed errant strands of hair from her daughter’s brow.

Melissa thought, Why would Kris’ parents call you? She hasn’t spoken to them in years.

Her parents exchanged glances again. Frances asked, “Honey, can you tell us what happened?” Melissa raised her head and looked around the room, her voice stronger now. “Where is she?”

With a slight pause, Frances replied, “Kris is in another part of the hospital.”

Trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice, Craig asked, “What happened anyway?”

Melissa broke eye contact. “Susan attacked us.”

Frances had to hold her tongue not to say I told you so. “Why would she do that?”

Melissa was looking over at the door. “I think she was jealous of Kris, and she’d never gotten over my breaking up with her.”

Craig couldn’t help it. “Did she seem violent while you were seeing her?”

Melissa came back to scan his face. “No, of course not… not right at first.” Hurrying on, “That’s why I broke it off with her.”

Craig’s voice sounded calm. “I’m glad to hear that. I’m also glad that this woman has been securely locked up.”

Frances replied, “Oh that reminds me, the police want to talk to you. They need to know if you are willing to testify, and they’ll need a statement.”

“Of course I want to testify!” Melissa’s voice was filled with venom. “That bitch shot me!!” She was so adamant that she shook the bed, causing her to suck in her breath and close her eyes as a wave of pain shot through her.

Craig looked on, helpless. “Honey, are you OK? You want me to get the nurse again?”

Melissa nodded her head yes as she lay back on the bed. Craig left the room again, and once again returned with a nurse in tow.

After the nurse had left, Frances’ voice was a bit demanding, “Melissa, I think it’s time you told us what happened.”

Melissa was suddenly aware of how tired she was, as the pain in her leg became a constant throb. Nothing was making any sense, and all she wanted to do was go home and hold Kris.

The door opened, and a man dressed in hospital greens with a white coat over them entered. He looked to be in his late twenties, with thick black hair and silver frame glasses. He was carrying a metal clipboard of sorts, and under his arm was a very large manila envelope.

“Ms. Davis?” he asked, looking over the top of his glasses, pen paused in scribbling on the clipboard.

“Yes,” Melissa replied tiredly.

Moving toward the bed, he offered his hand. “I’m Dr. Desmond.”

“Hello.” Melissa shook his hand.

“How are you feeling?” He consulted his clipboard.

Sighing, she replied, “Tired and in pain.”

“I see. Do you know where you are?” he asked, checking her pulse.

Melissa made eye contact with her dad, who shrugged his shoulders. Then she replied, “In hospital.”

The doctor took out a penlight and flashed it in her eyes. “How about your name?”

“Melissa Davis.” She was trying to cooperate, but her patience was wearing thin.

“Good. Is that a lot of pain you’re experiencing?” he asked, moving down to her leg.

Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Compared to what?”

When the doctor didn’t even look up, she decided not to fight it and just get it over with. “Not after the nurse gave me something.”

“I see. Do you have any numbness, or pressure?” He was lightly touching her leg near the wound.

“No…”

“…Good. Well I think you will be as happy as we are with your leg.” He pulled the x-rays out of the large manila envelope, and held them up to the window. “The bullet fractured your femur right above your knee,” the doctor explained as he pointed to the x-rays.

“What are all those little things that look like dust around the bone?” Craig looked over the doctor’s shoulder.

Melissa realized that she hadn’t introduced her parents. “Doctor, these are my parents, Frances and Craig Davis.”

Craig stuck out his hand and shook the doctor’s hand.

Lifting the x-ray, and pointing with his pen, the doctor answered, “Bone fragments. We thought for a time that we might have to take out a section of your femur and replace it with a metal rod, but once we got the bone fragments removed, the damage to the bone wasn’t as severe as it first looked.” The doctor looked quite pleased as he spoke.

Frances asked, “There’s an awful lot of hardware in that x-ray.”

Dr. Desmond replied, “Ah yes, the damage to the bone was still quite severe, and it is going to need some help to repair itself.”

Wondering just when the pleased part was coming in, Melissa asked, “Will I be able to walk again?” Her voice was full of anxiety and sounded small.

Looking at her face for the first time since he had entered the room, the surgeon said, “Well that’s up to you. It’s going to take some hard work in physical therapy, but it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to walk without the use of a cane.”

“Why hard work?” Frances asked.

“Well, in addition to the broken bone, there was also some tissue damage.” Dr. Desmond looked at the blank expressions on their faces and continued, “The fragments tore up some of the muscle and tendons. It’s going to take you some time to retrain your body how to use them.”

Melissa was still not sure when the pleased part was arriving. “How long will I be in here?”

“Once your stitches have healed up, we’ll be transferring you to a cast.” He consulted his clipboard again. “I should think a couple of weeks, tops. Right now, maybe you should be getting your rest.” He looked pointedly at her parents.

“Right, we’ll come back later.” Craig leaned over and gave Melissa a peck on the cheek as the doctor left the room, her parents not far behind.

 

Craig was smiling as he walked over to Melissa’s bedside and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Hello! How goes the battle today?”

She wrapped her right arm around his neck and kissed him back. “You’re up early!”

Craig moved out of the way to allow his wife in. Frances kissed her daughter on the cheek; “He couldn’t wait to get over here to see you.

“Did you get some rest? You both look a lot better than yesterday.” Melissa smiled.

“Yes we did. But you should talk; you look a million times better!” Frances noticed that the twinkle had returned to her daughter’s eyes; there was some color in her face today, and some of the tiredness and pain had left her. The dark circles had receded a bit, making her look more human.

She pushed some stray blond curls off her face. “Thanks, I feel a little less confused today. Whatever they’ve got me on is great; I want to take this stuff home!” she joked, laughing.

An awkward silence grew between them, all of them having questions that they wanted answered but were afraid to ask. Frances was the first to break it. “We talked with Meg last night, and she’s on her way down here…”

Melissa was not sure she was ready for the family and their pity. “Oh, I’m not sure I want the whole family down here yet.”

Craig laughed. “Don’t worry, it’s just Meg; she’s leaving the kids with Chad .”

Melissa smiled. “OK, as long as there are no rug-rats running over everything.”

Frances pulled one of the plastic chairs near the wall over and sat down. “Brandon wants you to call him tonight; he’s very concerned about you.”

Melissa smiled. “He’s such a sweetie.” Lost in thought for a moment, she asked, “So, how’s Kris feeling today?”

Her parents exchanged that worried look again. “Ahh, well she’s…”

Melissa’s voice was filled with urgency as she interrupted her stammering Father, “Tell me!”

Her parents exchanged looks, and then her mother answered, “Honey, we didn’t want to tell you until you were a little… stronger.”

The color drained from Melissa’s face as she became panicked, interrupting, “Jesus, tell me… what?!”

Frances laid a reassuring hand over her daughter’s. “She’s still in Intensive Care.”

Melissa took a deep breath, visibly relaxing. “She’s alive.” As she looked from one parent to the other, her eyes widened. “How bad is it?”

Craig patted the back of his daughter’s hand, looking very serious. “Pumpkin, we were hoping to have better news for you this morning, but…” He broke off, unable to hold her gaze. “She’s stable, her prognosis is better, but she’s still not out of the woods yet.”

Melissa’s voice was full of determination as she threw the blanket off her lower body, “I want to see her.”

Frances put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “I don’t think that would be a real good idea.”

There was fire in Melissa’s eye as she met her mother’s gaze. “Mom, if it were Daddy, would you let anything stop you from being by his side?”

The room was filled with a static charged silence as Mother and Daughter had a war of wills.

Craig was the first to break it; “I think I saw a wheelchair in the hallway.”

“Hold it you two! I understand your feelings, but I think we should find out from your doctor if you can be ambulatory yet.”

Craig looked like a little kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. “Pumpkin, your mother’s right.”

They were interrupted by a knock on the door; Bridget stepped into the room. “Is this a bad time?”

Frances gave her a warm smile. “Come in; we were just going to get some coffee. Would you like some?”

Bridget came over next to the bed. “Ah, no thanks, I’m about coffeed out this morning.”

Melissa asked, as her parents departed, “How are you?” She looked tired and worried.

She smiled slightly. “I’ve been better, that’s for sure.” Leaning against the rails on the bed, she asked, “How are you?”

Melissa had to smile. “Great! I’m ready to run theBoston marathon.”

Bridget looked at the younger woman with raised eyebrows, disbelieving her statement, as she looked over her leg in its contraption.

Melissa indicated with her index finger for her to come closer. “Want to do me a favor?”

She looked over her shoulder to make sure no one could overhear them. “Sure, what do you need?”

“I need to get out of here and go see Kris.”

Bridget looked very serious. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be moving around with this?” She gestured with her thumb at her leg.

The blond smiled mischievously. “You know, frankly I don’t really care. I just need to see Kris, and make sure she’s really all right, you know?”

The older woman’s smile was a bit sad and knowing. “I do indeed know what you mean. I think I saw a wheelchair out in the hall.”

Bridget took the weights off the traction device on Melissa’s leg, causing her to emit a tiny sound of pain as she gritted her teeth. She stood next to the bed, looking down at the blond. Bridget noticed that the young woman’s face was covered in a light sweat and was paler than when she had first come in. Bridget’s voice was filled with compassion. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Melissa was panting slightly as she replied, “I definitely need to see Kris, but I don’t think my leg is up to traveling.”

Bridget gave her a sad smile. “I hear you. Let me put your leg back, and then I’ll get a nurse for some more drugs.”

Melissa caught her arm. “How is she?”

The dark haired woman’s eyes were filled with sadness and worry. “She’s not good. Got shot up pretty bad. Doctor said that she was lucky to be alive…”

Melissa sucked in a breath and closed her eyes against the pain of her words. “I knew Susan was whacked, but I never thought she would do something like this.”

Bridget looked slightly surprised. “That’s right, you know her?”

Melissa blushed slightly with embarrassment. “Ah… yeah, she’s my ex.”

Now both of Bridget’s eyebrows were raised. “Shit! So you two thought you’d get together for old times and shoot up the place?”

Melissa took a deep breath. “She kidnapped me at gun point and forced me to take her back there.”

Bridget looked thoughtful. “I can see why she’s your ex.” She sighed. “Sounds like you have the same track record Kris does when it comes to relationships.”

Melissa regarded the woman for a moment. “Hopefully, that’s a thing of the past.”

Bridget smiled. “Absolutely!”

Craig and Frances returned carrying steaming cardboard cups.

Bridget said, “Ah, looks like you found the coffee kiosk?”

Craig held his cup up. “Well it’s not Starbucks, but it’s not half bad either.”

Bridget chuckled. “Oh that’s right; I forgot you come from the land of the coffee snobs.”

Frances piped up, “Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

Melissa lay there yawning and enjoying the camaraderie. She was really happy that her parents got along with Kris’ surrogate parents. Before she realized it, she was asleep.

 

Melissa was alone and lying in her bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering how her life had come to this point.

The door opened and Tony’s dark head poked inside. Smiling, she said, “Hi, do you have a minute?”

Melissa returned the smile. “Hey! Come in.”

Tony entered the room and approached Melissa’s bed. Behind her was a woman not much older than Melissa. She was dressed in faded jeans; her white lab coat contrasted nicely against the black of her T-shirt, which read, “I only play a doctor on TV.”

She approached the bed with an outstretched hand. “Mrs. Davis? I’m Dr. Callahan, Kristen’s doctor.”

Melissa was smiling and returning the handshake. “Yes, but please call me Melissa.”

“All right Melissa, only if you call me Jamie.”

“Tony was concerned that we not leave you out of the loop. I wanted to talk to you about Kris’ injuries.” Jamie put her hands into the pockets of her lab coat.

Melissa was nodding her head and looking grim. “Yes, I’ve been wondering about them.”

The doctor placed a hand on her shoulder, and smiled reassuringly. “Kris has suffered a severe trauma, and her body is going to heal, but her mind is going to take this hard.”

Melissa could feel the tears welling up, as she bit the inside of her cheek to keep them from falling. “As you can see, I haven’t had a chance to see Kris yet. How bad is it?”

Jamie took a breath and rubbed her chin as she looked at Melissa. “I’ll put it this way – I’ve seen worse, but not by much. The left side of her face looks like a road map of L.A., but with 164 stitches that’s to be expected. There was some minor nerve damage, but I think with therapy she’ll work through it. There are several small scars that will fade over time and be almost invisible. But there is a large one that runs from an inch under her left eye to an inch above her chin. That is never going away.”

Melissa’s mind began to draw the picture of Kris’ face, and it was not pretty. The tears spilled down her cheek. “I see.”

The doctor continued, “Kris is still in a coma…”

Melissa interrupted, “What? That can’t be good?”

Jamie smiled. “In cases like this of extreme trauma, we see it a lot. It’s the body’s way of shutting off the brain so that it can get on with the job of healing – if it lasts longer than a week or two, then it’s bad.”

Melissa look concerned as the dread welled up inside here. She struggled to keep it from consuming her.

Jamie rushed on, “But all the tests look good for there to be no reason for the coma to persist. No brain hematoma; a concussion, but it’s mild. She was very lucky in regard to the multiple GSWs – the first bullet entered her left upper chest area, went through her lung, and exited after fracturing her second rib. She was lucky that the second bullet only grazed her hand/wrist area.”

Tony asked, “She won’t have any problems playing the drums, right?”

Jamie smiled. “Nope, it was to use a term I hate, just a flesh wound – it did pass through the soft tissue of her wrist and hand. No nerves were damaged and no bones were broken. She will probably need a little PT, but holding a drumstick shouldn’t be a problem.” Jamie looked serious. “Ladies, Kris’ mental state is going to be problematic once she gets a good look at herself…”

Tony interrupted, “But she was never very concerned with her looks.”

Jamie looked brighter. “That is a good thing. But a major change has taken place to her self-image. Just imagine if suddenly your hair was a different color and there wasn’t anything you could do about it, and it was going to stay that way forever?” She looked each of them in the eye before continuing, “It’s going to take awhile to get used to the way she looks now. It’s going to be really hard for each of you to not look at her differently. Right now we have the wound covered, but soon I’ll take off the dressing. It’s going to be swollen and really angry looking – you have to be prepared for that. If you look horrified by how she looks, it’s going to add to her mental stress. And in the end, it might mean the difference between Kris being well adjusted to this or not.” She reached out and squeezed Melissa’s shoulder. “I would love to stay here talking with you both all day, but duty calls. If you have any questions, please contact me.” She went to the door, pulled it open, and then looking at Melissa, said, “Good luck with your own recovery.” And was gone.

It was silent in the room for a long time as the two women were lost in their own thoughts.

 

It was late afternoon as Melissa sat alone in her hospital room reading. Her parents had been gone for awhile on their dinner break. She was finding it hard to concentrate as her mind kept wandering to what might be going on with her lover.

“Melissa?” A female voice called from the doorway.

Melissa looked up to see Adrianne, the group’s lawyer, standing there smiling warmly, “Hello…. Adrianne wasn’t it?”

Adrianne’s smile became a little brighter as she stepped into the room followed by another woman. “Yes that’s right; this is Amanda Polk.”

The other woman offered her hand as she stepped up to the side of the bed, “Hello, nice to meet you.” She was about ten years older than Melissa, with dark hair that had some gray running through it. It was short and stylishly cut. She wore a dark green power suit that was tailored to a T and really highlighted her green eyes.

Adrienne addressed Melissa, “How are you doing?”

Melissa smiled self deprecatingly. “I’m ready for my Iron Man competition.” Then she sobered, “I’ll be able to walk again.”

Adrienne smiled with a touch of sadness. “At least you still have your sense of humor.”

Melissa returned the smile. “Oh that’s the drugs – they are awesome here!”

All the women laughed.

Amanda took over the conversation, “I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m here representing you and Kris.”

Melissa looked from Amanda to Adrienne her face registered her confusion.

Adrienne spoke up, “I’m an entertainment lawyer….”

Melissa interrupted, addressing Amanda, “And you’re criminal.”

Amanda smiled. “Yes, that’s right. I need to talk to you about the case against Ms. Babbit.”

Adrienne turned, placed Melissa’s hand inside of her own, and squeezed it. “I’m going to check in on Kris and let you girls talk shop.”

Melissa returned the squeeze. “Thanks for coming by.”

Amanda opened her briefcase on the floor and said, “I’m going to need to get some background from you and I will be explaining a bit about how things work.”

Melissa liked that she got right down to business.

Amanda rose holding a yellow legal pad and a manila folder, which she laid down on the moveable table over Melissa’s bed. “Let’s start at the beginning; this is a criminal case. Ms. Babbit has been arrested and charged with the following crimes: Attempted murder, felony, which carries the penalty of life with chance of parole.  Aggravated mayhem, felony – life with parole. Kidnapping, felony – life with parole. Assault and battery – four years. Mayhem – four years. Illegal possession of a firearm – one year.”

Melissa looked unconcerned. “Sounds like it sucks to be her.”

“As you may know, attorneys are like gamblers; they only want a sure thing. Here in California, our justice system works like this; if the evidence is sufficiently weak to suggest there is a reasonable doubt that the defendant, that’s Ms. Babbit, was involved in the crime, the public defender will recommend a trial. However, if in our case the evidence is strong, and that no conceivably credible explanation for the defendant’s innocence can be devised, then a trial is not recommended unless the case is very serious.”

Melissa was waiting for the punch line.

Amanda smiled, “What that means in a nutshell is that our case against Ms. Babbit is strong, and therefore we don’t need to go to trial.”

Melissa tried really hard, but it still didn’t make any sense. “Sorry, must be the drugs here, did I say they’re awesome! I don’t get it – we aren’t going to trial?”

Amanda continued to smile. “We are going to request that the DA seek a guilty plea.”

Melissa was shocked, “You have a magic wand to force her to do this?”

Amanda chuckled, “Not really; you see 99% of parole in California is denied. What we will offer her is 10 to 15 years on the felony charges concurrent, and 4 years each on the others, and by the time the trial is over we will concede the firearms charge as time already served.”

Melissa took a deep breath, “So you want to have her serve 15 years total – instead of 3 life sentences and some change?”

Amanda’s lips twitched as she looked like she was trying not to laugh, “I’ve never heard it put quite like that before, but yes.”

Melissa’s eyes turned hard. “Susan tries to kill Kris, and cripples me, and she’s going to get off in fifteen years? Instead of spending the rest of her life behind bars?”

“Let me first say that criminal trials can be quite long and expensive. They can also be quite intrusive in people’s lives. Take this case; Ms. Babbit is facing some very serious charges and some lengthy time behind bars. But because Kris is a celebrity, this case is going to attract the press – and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that they don’t leave stones unturned – anything in your past that you’d rather not have become public knowledge is going to be hard to keep quiet.”

Melissa suddenly flashed on the “Jenny Incident” and swallowed hard.

Amanda continued as she opened a manila folder and, using the table over Melissa’s bed, began writing on her yellow legal pad. “Ms. Babbit as well as yourself are from out of state. We are going to have to interview all of your family, friends, co-workers. Any of those people that have information about the trial will have to come back here to testify. They’ll have to be here for as long as it takes for them to do that.”

Melissa’s voice held an edge, “Tell me, is this the pep talk you give to all of your clients with an open and shut case?”

Amanda smiled that went all the way to her eyes. “Yes. In my experience, Ms. Davis, no case is ever open and shut. It is true that we have a strong case against Ms. Babbit, and her counsel will be advising her that her only defense is to plead insanity, which weakens our case against her.”

Melissa took a deep breath, “Won’t you call me Melissa?”

Amanda continued to smile. “I would be happy to, thank you.” She looked down at the contents of the folder again. “Please understand that we are on the same side here. My job is to advise you through this quagmire that is the legal system.”

“I feel like the other shoe is going to drop any minute.”

Amanda scribbled something on the legal pad. Chuckling, she met the other woman’s gaze and replied, “Unfortunately the decision for the ultimate way this case will play out is out of our hands. If Ms. Babbit decides that she would rather take her chances with a jury, then we will go to trial.” Reading something in the folder, she continued, “Ms. Babbit is your ex-girlfriend, is that correct?”

Melissa shifted in her bed. “Yes, that’s correct.”

“From your statement to the police, it is clear that this attack was done by a jealous jilted lover.”

Melissa felt uncomfortable discussing this with this complete stranger. “Yes that is true.”

Amanda stood poised with her pen ready to write on the legal pad. “Well then, it’s possible that Ms. Babbit might want to drag you through the mud, as it were, of a very public trial.”

Melissa looked down, “If I were a vindictive possessive bitch, that’s what I would do.”

Amanda put her hand on Melissa’s lower leg. “I will do everything in my power to see that we don’t have to go to trial and make sure that Ms. Babbit serves as much time as we can get.” She consulted her notes. “I see that Kris hasn’t made a statement to the police yet.”

Melissa looked a little surprised. “She’s still in a coma.”

Amanda met the blond’s gaze, her eyes full of compassion, her voice full of sincerity. “I’m sure she will be up and around in no time.”

 

It had been nearly a full week since the incident. Melissa was starting to get worried that Kris wasn’t going to come out of the coma. Her own recovery was moving right along, and they were going to put her into a splint. Afterwards, she fully intended to visit ICU and finally see Kris for herself.

The elevator opened onto the ICU floor. It was very quiet and bright. As the orderly pushed her wheelchair along the floor, she spotted the familiar faces and signaled her ‘driver’.

“Holy Shit! Do they know you’ve escaped?” Tony asked, as she got up and came over and gave Melissa a hug.

Franklin patted her on the shoulder. “It’s nice to see you. How are you feeling?”

Bridget came back from the nurse’s station with a Sharpie pen. “Can I be the first to sign your cast?” She smiled at the ‘driver’. “I think we can take it from here.”

Melissa was smiling broadly. “They called it a splint, but go for it.” She hadn’t felt this good all week.

Tony was smiling. “Ooo, me next!”

Rick was sitting cross-legged on the floor facing a glass window of sorts that went from floor to ceiling. The cubicle was dimmer than the hallway, and it was harder to see inside. He didn’t come over or say anything to the newcomer.

In a conspiring tone, Melissa asked Tony, “What’s up with him?” moving her head in Rick’s direction.

Tony was busy writing a limerick aboutNantucket on Melissa’s splint. She looked up and over in Rick’s direction. “Huh? Oh, he’s on a vigil. He hasn’t left here since Kris was brought in.”

Melissa looked impressed. “Wow!”

Tony whispered, “He’s really fucked up over this.”

Melissa whispered back, “Aren’t we all?”

Franklin came over and, almost in Melissa’s ear, he asked, “You ready to see her?”

Melissa turned her head and smiled nervously. “I’d like to, yeah.”

He put out his hand in a stopping action. “Ladies, please; she has a very important appointment.” He wheeled her into the dimly lit room with all of the machines beeping and flashing. There was rock music softly playing as they neared the foot of the bed. Suddenly she wasn’t sure she wanted to do this anymore.

Franklin leaned near Melissa’s ear as he slowly pushed her toward the head of the bed. “Personally, I think if she hears your voice it’s going to help her find her way back to us.” He put on the brakes as they had reached the head of the bed.

“Kris, it’s Franklin, and I have a special party guest for you today.”

Melissa’s mouth had gone dry and she wasn’t sure what to say. She looked up and met Franklin’s concerned eyes, and suddenly she heard herself say, “Hi baby! I’ve sure missed you.” She was only slightly aware of Franklin making his departure. She took in the pale complexion, the angry black stitches and swelling of the smallest cuts and bruises on her lover’s face, as well as the bright white large bandage covering most of the left side of Kris’ face. She could feel her stomach flip as the pain of what Kris had gone through became evident.

Looking down through her tears, she put her hand around her lover’s and began to stroke it with her other hand. “I’m sorry I haven’t been by to see you before this, but they had me hostage in another part of the hospital. But that’s all changed now; I’m here, and nothing’s going to keep us apart.” Melissa started a litany of topics that she shared with Kris. She wasn’t really sure how long she had talked for.

Bridget looked up over her magazine to see Craig and Frances coming toward her. “Hi you two. I’ll bet you are looking for someone?”

Craig replied, “We were pretty surprised not to find her in her room.”

Frances said, “But when the nurse said they had fitted her with a cast, we were pretty certain she was here.”

Craig said, “I’m surprised we were able to keep them apart this long.”

Bridget chuckled. “Well that’s true.” She got up and motioned for the newcomers to follow her. They stood in the doorway to Kris’ room, listening to Melissa talk. Suddenly she jumped and a made a little surprised cry.

Craig was instantly at her side. “What’s wrong pumpkin?”

Almost too startled to speak, she managed, “She squeezed my hand.”

Bridget replied, “Really! That’s fantastic.”

Melissa voice was filled with excitement, “Hey drummer girl, I know you’re in there; show me those pretty eyes.”

Bridget suggested, “Maybe all she needs is a kiss from Princess Charming?”

Melissa looked up at her; the uncertainty on her face was quickly replaced by understanding. She struggled to get out of her chair. Craig helped her stand so she could reach her lover’s lips.

Leaning over, and mere millimeters from her lover’s lips, she said, “I love you; I will always love you.” At first the kiss was chaste, but then Melissa added just a hint of passion. Breaking the kiss, Melissa said, “Come on lover; don’t leave me here all alone.” She gently caressed the right side of Kris’ face as she held her hand.

Kris’ eyes were doing rapid eye movements, and her heart rate picked up according to the monitor.

Melissa tried again. “I miss your arms holding me.”

There was a long exhale of breath as her brows furrowed.

Bridget was excited. “It’s working!”

Melissa leaned over and kissed her again, with just a hint more passion than the last, and after breaking the kiss, she whispered in Kris’ ear, “I need to feel your naked body under me.”

A moan could be heard as her eyes began to flutter.

“That’s it, come back to me. Open those beautiful brown eyes.”

Her eyes fluttered open, as she moaned.

Melissa kissed her on the cheek. “Baby, I’m waiting right here.”

Kris’ eyes opened but seemed not to focus on anything. She blinked a number of times as her mouth slowly fell open and the moan became more of a groan.

“Baby, are you in pain?”

Bridget said, “I’ll get the nurse.”

Kris’ eyes landed on Melissa’s face as she tried to focus. The groan increased to almost a cry. As the nurse entered, inserting a needle into the I.V. tube on the back of Kris’ hand, almost instantly the volume of Kris’ discomfort decreased. Unfortunately her eyes began to slide closed.

“No, no, no baby, stay with me!”

Kris fought it for a few more seconds but her eyes closed again.

Bridget came over and clapped Melissa on the back. “Nice going kiddo! I knew you could do it.”

Melissa had an expression of concern. “Bridget, you OK? Are you crying?” Her voice was filled with awe.

Bridget wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I am now. I was starting to doubt if Kris was going to come out of the coma.”

Craig spoke up, “How about a round of coffees to celebrate? It’s on me?”

The party moved out into the hall as the good news was distributed. Rick instantly got up and went and stood next to Kris’ bed.

Melissa watched Rick from the hallway. “He’s taking this really hard.”

Tony spoke up, “He’s a little lost right now. I don’t think any of us really realized how much he depends on Kris.”

Melissa replied, “I’d be devastated if one of my siblings were in this situation. And I don’t spend 300 days a year with them.” She raised her eyes and met her mom’s gaze. “When does Meg’s plane get here?”

Her mom smiled. “A few more hours – she is going to be so happy to see you.”

Franklin clapped Melissa on the shoulder. “Hey, nice going! You must be some kisser; I’ve never met anyone that could bring someone back from near death with a kiss.”

Melissa turned bright red – as everyone laughed.

 

Kris was sleeping with her right arm behind her head, when Melissa came for a visit. Again she leaned over and kissed Kris. Kris awakened with a start and then saw that it was her lover, and enjoying the sensation, opened her mouth to grant her lover entry. She was really enjoying the sensation, when Melissa’s tongue touched one of the stitches in Kris’ mouth. A wave of burning fire erupted for Kris, and she violently pulled away, nearly smacking Melissa’s head with the arm under her own head as it jerked free.

Kris lay there for long moments as the pain in her mouth and chest subsided. She looked up at Melissa, whose face was a tableau of concern and question.

Kris found that moving her face was painful, so she talked through clenched teeth. “Something painful in my mouth.” Cautiously she moved her tongue to the left side of her mouth, which caused her mouth to open wider, giving her a stab of pain. She slowly explored until she ran across the stitches. Confusion mixed with pain crossed her face as she tried to figure out why she would have stitches in her mouth. Tentatively, with her left hand still wrapped in its bandage, she gently explored her face, which she found covered in its own gauze.

They were interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Callahan. “Hello, Melissa wasn’t it?” She extended her hand as she walked over to Melissa’s wheelchair.

Melissa smiled as they shook hands. “Yes. I have to ask, do you buy those by the gross? I think the teal is a nice color on you.”

Dr. Callahan looked momentarily puzzled until she looked down at her t-shirt, which read, “I only play a Dr. on T.V.” She chuckled, “Well in my line of work, it’s nice to make people feel at ease, and I find this does it faster than anything else.”

“Good point.” Melissa also chuckled.

The doctor moved around to the other side of the bed as she consulted Kris’ chart. “You look like you’re feeling better today?”

“Yeah – what’s wrong with me?”

The doctor crossed her arms over her chest and over the chart. Looking down with compassion, she asked, “What’s the last thing you remember?”

Kris thought about that for a moment. “Being in the limo on the way home from the awards show.”

Melissa couldn’t help herself. “That was almost two weeks ago!”

The doctor said, “Well, our greatest concern is the bullet wound to your left upper chest area. The bullet entered your upper back about an inch from your spine, entered your lung, collapsing it, after fracturing your second rib exited through the outside edge of your breast,.” She had been demonstrating the bullet’s path with her finger over her own chest. “Is it still hard to breathe?”

Kris took a breath. “Not too bad – the drugs are doing a great job.”

The doctor nodded, and raised her eyebrows as she looked directly at Melissa, “Squeamish? Faint at the sight of blood?”

Melissa shook her head no.

Jamie put her chart down on the side of the bed and pulled the blanket back to expose the top of Kris’ hospital gown; she pulled it down to expose the large piece of white gauze on the left side of Kris’ left breast. With practiced fingers, she gently pulled up the adhesive tape and then removed the bandage.

Melissa stood up from her wheelchair to take a look. There was a nasty, red, swollen, black row of stitches about two inches in length, halfway up the outside of Kris’ left breast. She looked up and met Jamie’s gaze.

Jamie answered her unspoken question. “No structural problems; all the plumbing continues to work fine – just cosmetic. That scar will fade over time. If you wanted to, you could have a plastic surgeon take a look at it.”

Melissa felt relieved as she returned to her wheelchair.

Jamie was continuing to look at the wound. “You really are lucky; if the bullet’s path had been a centimeter to the left, it would have struck your heart. A centimeter to the right, and it would have shattered your shoulder blade. After striking your rib, it didn’t ricochet around inside your chest – it simply exited.”

Melissa was shocked at this revelation.

The doctor returned the gauze and the gown and the blanket as she turned to Kris’ hand. “The second bullet only grazed your left hand/wrist area. How’s your mobility?”

Kris wiggled the fingers on that hand slowly. “Not bad – depends on how I move if it objects.”

Jamie held the limb and slowly flexed the wrist. “Good. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of swelling, and your mobility is great. I don’t think this is going to be a problem.”

Kris said, almost to herself, “I just got this out of a cast.”

Jamie cocked her head as she looked at the woman.

Kris looked up. “Did I say that out loud? It’s kind of a long story – we had a lot of mishaps on our last tour.”

Jamie nodded in acknowledgement, turning her attention to Kris’ face. “You have several small lacerations on your face. However, the left side was lacerated pretty badly; hopefully there won’t be any nerve damage.” Dr. Callahan gently probed the area in question, without removing the bandage. “Can you open your mouth?”

Kris attempted to do so, but with a grimace of pain.

“How about smiling?”

Kris again attempted to do so – mostly only on the right side, followed by a grimace of pain.

“There’s a ton of swelling, so hopefully things will continue to improve…”

Melissa interrupted, “Or?”

Dr. Callahan was silent for a moment as if she really didn’t want to put voice to it. “Worst case scenario, there could be some nerve damage.”

Kris felt a little panicked. “What does that mean exactly?”

The doctor put her hand on Kris’ shoulder. “No need to cross that bridge yet, with physical therapy it might not even be an issue. But worst case scenario, you might have reduced mobility.” She looked at the blank panicked look, “Your face might not act or look as it did before.”

Swallowing down her panic, Kris asked, “Is that why I have stitches in my mouth?”

Dr. Callahan was writing on the chart. “Yes – the main laceration was so deep that it actually penetrated into your mouth.”

Kris replied, “This just keeps getting better and better.”

Dr. Callahan consulted her chart. “I’m thinking, with the improvement you’ve made, we might be able to move you out of ICU in a couple of days.” She looked over at Melissa who was still looking a bit shaken. “What do you think, want a roommate?”

Melissa tilted her head to the side and smiled. “Yeah, that sounds great!”

Jamie smiled. “Oh my gosh, I’m due on the set! Ta-Ta!” And she was gone.

Both were silent for a moment, lost in their own thoughts.

Melissa took a deep breath, and then looking Kris in the eye said, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

Kris’ eyebrows rose. “That doesn’t sound good.”

Melissa caressed Kris’ face. “I need to tell you what happened to us.”

 

Kris had spent most of the previous day sleeping, only to wake every once in a while for a few moments and then return to sleep. Today was slightly different; she was able to stay awake for long stretches of time, but suddenly she would feel as if someone had pulled the plug on her and she would suddenly fall asleep. Now that she had come out of her coma, she wasn’t in such grave shape, and the hospital had allowed the family to move into the room en masse.

Kris’ eyes fluttered open as she waited for her vision to clear. The white walls stared back. She could hear a lot of voices, rock music near her head, someone playing a guitar and the sound of…. baseball? As she turned her head, she distinctly heard Melissa laughing. Instantly a smile crept to her lips. She could now see the other half of the room. Tom, Steve and Franklin were all watching baseball on the T.V. at the end of the room. Tony was sitting on the end of Kris’ bed, strumming her guitar and softly singing. Bridget and Melissa were talking near the head of Kris’ bed.

There was a loud cheer from the baseball game, which made Kris and the heart monitor jump, as a wave of pain swept through her chest.

Tony’s attention turned to her friend; she reached out and squeezed Kris’ foot. “How’s it going?”

Kris replied through gritted teeth, “Party?”

The smile was evident in her voice. “Yep, celebrating having you back.”

Kris sighed, “Wish there wasn’t so much pain.”

Tony squeezed her friend’s foot again. “Shall I get you some more drugs?”

Tom was standing next to her bed. “Yo! How about a hot dog?” He waved the object toward her face.

She waggled her eyebrows. “How about a beer?”

Tony smiled. “Now you’re talking.” She turned her head back to the game, raised her hand, and deftly caught a bottle of root beer.

Bridget, cueing in to what was going on, said, “Ah, hold on there.”

Kris and Tony both whined, “Ah Mom!” But Tony held up the bottle so her mom could see the label.

Bridget gave her daughter a knowing smile.

Tony unscrewed the cap and poured some into a plastic cup with a bendy straw in it. She held the cup down and the straw as Kris put her lips around it.

Kris took a drink and her face dissolved into a grimace of pain as her mouth opened and the dark liquid flowed out all over her chin to her hospital gown. Tony quickly put down the cup and grabbed a handful of tissues, which she used to clean up the mess.

Bridget came over and said, “Why don’t you rinse your mouth out with some water?” producing a cup with said liquid in it.

After rinsing her mouth out, and a few minutes, most of the pain had subsided.

Bridget looked hopeful. “Better?”

Kris nodded her head yes. Through clenched teeth, she said, “That sucked.” Narrowing her eyes at her sister, she said, “And it wasn’t even beer!”

Bridget brushed some errant hair off of Kris’ forehead. “Maybe acid and bubbles aren’t so good for stitches?”

Kris nodded in agreement.

 

Dr. Callahan stood next to the head of Kris’ hospital bed, having drawn the curtains across the glass wall, blocking any unwanted visitors. “I’ve been waiting for the right time to unmask you as it were.”

Kris’ eyes were filled with slight apprehension; her jaw was set, her voice calm. “Let’s get this over with.”

The doctor leaned over and looked the young woman in the eye. “I want you to remember that you still have the option for plastic surgery.”

Kris had steeled herself for the absolute worst, that she now resembled Frankenstein’s monster.

With gentle practiced hands, Dr. Callahan removed the gauze dressing that covered the one-hundred and sixty-four stitches that had healed into a long scar from just below Kris’ left eye near her hair line to nearly the corner of her mouth. She knew she was as nervous about this as her patient. No matter how much she tried to prepare them, it was never enough. Kris could feel the cooler room air blowing slightly over the previously covered skin. With trembling fingers, she took the proffered hand mirror. Took a deep breath and held up the mirror. She was shocked by the angry pink line that haphazardly ran down the left side of her face. Frankenstein certainly came to mind. “Now remember, after a bit of physical therapy you’ll be able to move your face like you used to,” Dr. Callahan said reassuringly.

Kris wasn’t sure how she felt. She had no memory of the attack, the pain and anger that went with that didn’t exist. Looks had never really been that important to her. Hell, between Tony and Rick she always felt like the ugly duckling anyway. But how would Melissa respond? Would it be too much? That scared the shit out of her, more than the idea of getting in front of thousands of people with her “new look.” Kris laid the mirror down and raised concerned eyes up to her doctor. “How long until plastic surgery?”

“You’ll have to wait at least a year – until it’s completely healed.”

“A year?! That’s a long time to wait….” Her voice broke off as she thought of a pair of stormy blue laughing eyes. Her eyes met the doctor’s once again. “What if she can’t wait?”

Dr. Callahan was surprised. Over the years she had witnessed many reactions to news of this kind, but this was the first time a patient had been more concerned about another’s reaction. She reached out and laid her hand comfortingly on the other woman’s hand. “If she loves you, it shouldn’t matter.”

Kris snorted as a tear slipped down her right cheek. “Good one Doc. It’s not like I can hide it from her. She’s going to see it every freaking time she looks at me!”

“Kris – don’t you trust her?” Dr. Callahan had put more force into her voice than she had intended. Confused, sad, watery eyes looked up at her.

In a heartbeat, Kris replied, “With my life.”

The doctor smiled. “Then before you get all worked up, see what she has to say.” She picked up the remnants of her official visit and said, “I’ve posted you no visitors and only minimal staff. Do you want me to bring Melissa in?”

The heart machine next to the bed picked up its beeping as Kris’ brow furrowed. “I need….” Suddenly her throat closed up.

The doctor nodded her head and left.

Dr. Callahan had only told Melissa that Kris wanted to see her. She didn't warn the blond about what was waiting for her in the hospital room. As they neared the room, she began to second-guess herself as to whether that was the right thing to do.

Melissa was visibly nervous – it wasn’t like you always got a summons from your lover’s doctor. She knew something was up, but really had no idea what it was. Jamie had assured her that Kris was well, but had wanted to talk with her. They got to Kris’ room, and Melissa noticed at once that the drapes were drawn and the door was shut, also with its drapes drawn. ‘The bandages have been removed,’ she thought to herself as she swallowed nervously. Meeting the doctor’s gaze, her suspicions were confirmed. She gave the professional a small smile, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

“Hi.” She was smiling and trying to get the butterflies in her stomach to stop flying around.

Kris had her head turned so the left side of her face couldn’t be seen; her eyes darted about Melissa’s face not making eye contact. “Hey.”

Melissa tried to keep her voice cheerful. “Jamie said you wanted to talk to me?”

Now that the moment was at hand, Kris was afraid to reveal the “new her” to Melissa. “Yeah… I need to ah… show you…” her voice trailed off as her eyes locked on her lover’s. Slowly she turned her head to expose her scar.

Melissa’s eyes slid from Kris’ for a moment while they quickly took in the carnage that was revealed. Pain flashed across her face.

Kris looked concerned as she met her lover’s eyes. “You OK?”

Melissa swallowed hard. “Yeah. Just seeing….”

Kris interrupted, “The freak show.”

Melissa’s brows knitted for a second and then her eyes turned cold, her face hard. “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again.”

Kris shrugged. “It’s true.”

Melissa’s voice rose, “Damn it Kris, it is not true. I was just thinking about all the pain that you were – are in from that wound, and it just made me woozy.”

It was quiet for a few moments before Kris said, “You don’t have to feel obligated to stay. I want you to be happy…”

Melissa was puzzled. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not holding you here; don’t feel that because I’m injured, you have to stick around.”

Melissa was almost nose-to-nose with her lover. “My love, I love you – nothing is going to change that.” She leaned forward and touched her lips to Kris’. Breaking the kiss, she continued, “I hope you know me well enough by now not to think I would be so shallow as to only be interested in your looks.”

Kris looked a little anxious. “And all this time I thought it was my money you loved?”

Melissa smiled. “Well, that and your sense of humor.”

Kris looked deep into her lover’s eyes. “Seriously, I don’t want you to have to wake up to this every morning if you don’t want to – I’ll make sure that you never want for anything…”

Melissa covered the dark haired woman’s lips with her own, trying to convey as much love as she could in the kiss.

The kiss broke, and Melissa opened her eyes to see tears leaking out of the corners of Kris’ eyes. “We all know that in my family Rick got all the looks.” She turned her head to the side dismissing the objection she knew was coming. “It’s OK I know I’m not a beauty like Tony. I’ve always been OK with that. But now… I don’t think you’re shallow, but it’s not really what you signed on for.”

Melissa gently wiped away the tears. “Someone once said beauty is more than skin deep.”

Kris was joking, but there was an edge to her voice, “Damn good thing in my case.”

One corner of Melissa’s lips quirked up. “Someone also said beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Kris’ eye had a twinkle in them. “OK now, you’re just making that up.”

Melissa gently caressed her lover’s face with her finger. “I can’t lie to you – when I first saw your injury I was shocked. But I don’t even see it now.” She kissed the dark haired woman’s lips again. When the kiss broke she smiled warmly at her lover. “Kristen Caysi Cutler, I love you and nothing,” she raised her eyebrows and looked very seriously at her lover, “Nothing will ever change that.”

 

Kris was reading in her hospital bed in a rare moment when she was actually alone.

A gruff male voice asked from the doorway, “Kristen Cutler?”

Momentarily surprised, Kris’ head jerked up and she looked warily at the stranger, “Who are you?"

He took a step into the room, and reaching into the breast pocket of his gray/green sports jacket, retrieved a gold police shield. “Detective McWilliams, L.A.P.D.”

Motioning him forward, she was still wary. “I’m Kris Cutler; do you mind if I have a closer look at that?”

He held it out to her, as he got out a notebook and began flipping pages.

“You’ll understand that I need to call and verify that you are who you say you are.” This was not a question as she gingerly reached for the beige phone next to her bed. He produced a business card, which she used to dial the phone number. When she was satisfied he was who he said he was, she asked, “What can I do for you?”

His hazel eyes softened for a moment. “How are you doing?”

Her eyebrows rose. “Better. One day at a time, thanks.”

“Ms. Cutler….”

She interrupted him, “That’s Mrs. Cutler.”

He looked puzzled as he looked up from his notebook. “Ah… right, sorry about that.” He blushed slightly before continuing, “Now that you’ve regained consciousness, we need to get a statement from you about what happened to you.” Making a few scribbles on his notepad, he looked up and said, “In your own words, tell me what you remember.”

Kris thought about that long and hard for a moment and then had to concede, “I’m sorry I don’t remember anything.”

His mouth literally fell open. “Excuse me?”

Kris looked apologetic. “Nothing; it’s a complete blank.”

He stammered, “I… but…. nothing?”

She shrugged. “Had something to do with the trauma and the coma they say.”

His shoulders slumped. “Temporary?” he asked, brightening slightly.

“Let’s hope. Although it might be nice not to have those particular memories floating around.”

He folded up his notebook, looking unhappy. “Well, this does complicate things.”

Kris waited but apparently no further info was coming. “Why?”

He looked up, seemingly coming back to the conversation. “With your statement, we have an open and shut case. Without it, the case has been weakened considerably.”

Kris was alarmed. “She’s going to get off?”

“No, but her assertion that she was insane at the time has more merit.”

 

39

The day had finally come when they were released from the hospital. They were returning to the Casa Pequeña de Davis, where they were going to convalesce. Several health care workers had been hired to assist.

The limo drove through the tree-lined drive, the dappled light filtering into the vehicle. Melissa smiled at her lover and reached over and wrapped her hand around the dark haired woman’s. Kris returned the smile, as she turned the page on the new record contract that she was reading. Since Kris had discovered the damage to her face, she had thrown herself into her work. She was totally engrossed in the contract as the limo entered the gates to the estate. Melissa’s cell phone rang.

“Hello?” Melissa asked, she then handed it to her lover. “It’s Adrienne.”

Kris made an apologetic face as she took the instrument. “Hello?”

The car came to a halt, and the driver opened Melissa’s door. Because of the full-length cast that she wore, her leg was being supported on one of the jump seats in the back of the limo, which meant that her mobility was severely curtailed. It took the driver almost pulling her from the vehicle for her to vacate it. He got her stable on her crutches, and then went around to help Kris out.

Melissa let her eyes roam over the gravel parking area in front of their little house, when her mind began to re-play the attack. Everything seemed so real, the sounds and even the smell – she could swear she could smell gunpowder. It was a bit too much, and suddenly she couldn’t take it anymore; she fell back into the car in a bit of a panic. She grabbed the car phone and called her mom.

“Mommy?”

Instantly Frances was on the alert. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh God – it’s too much… I can’t deal… the pain….”

Frances interrupted, “Melissa, slow down – I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think I can do…. oh God!”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the car, Kris had just ended her call with Adrienne, and the driver had a hold of her under her arms and was helping to bring her to her feet. Because of her chest wound, she couldn’t pull herself up to her feet. The driver was blocking her view of the house. He got her stable, and he went around to the back of the limo to retrieve their things.

Kris’ eyes landed on the gravel parking area, and suddenly she felt as if someone had punched her in the gut. A wave of pain overcame her, and she called out. When her eyes landed on the partially tarped ’Vette, her memory and all of the pain it held came rushing back. The attack played out in vivid 3D Technicolor as Kris experienced it for the first time.

Kris was standing at the limo. “Oh God!” She reached out and grabbed hold of the top of the open door she was standing next to. “Oh God!” Her knees went weak. “Oh my God!” When she relived the damage to her face, she doubled over and threw up. She then fell in a heap, shaking violently and completely incoherent.

 

“I’m sorry to do this to you – but I didn’t know what else to do.”

Bridget ran her hand through her shoulder-length black locks. “No, I understand, and it’s completely fine. Shit, what a mess this is.”

Frances replied, “Thanks. Craig and I are on our way to catch a flight right now. I think they are both going to need some counseling big time. Melissa was nearly hysterical when she hung up the phone.”

“OK, let us know when you arrive; we’ll have the car waiting there for you.”

Frances sounded relieved. “You don’t know what a huge relief that is.”

“Is there anything we should do for them until you arrive?” Bridget asked, as she grabbed a beer from the fridge. She wished she wasn’t alone, but Franklin was at work.

“Just keep them calm. Oh, anything around that might remind them of the attack? You’ll want to put it out of sight.”

 

The doorbell rang, and Franklin left the girls’ room to answer it. He shook Craig’s hand, and gave Frances a little hug.

Frances asked, as the hug with Franklin ended, “How are they?”

Franklin closed the door after the limo driver had delivered the bags into the foyer. “Melissa has recovered, mostly. Kris is a basket case.”

“Well I’d better get up there,” Frances stated, as she headed for the stairs.

“Apparently it took both the limo driver and Bridget to carry the hysterical Melissa up the stairs and into Kris’ old room,” Franklin said as the trio climbed the stairs.

Frances walked into the room, and Melissa instantly raised her arms and outstretched them just like a little kid. “Mommy!” she called.

Bridget got up quickly from the woman’s bedside and left the room, giving Frances’ arm a squeeze as they passed each other.

Outside in the hallway, Bridget greeted Craig with a little hug. “Good to see you again.”

Craig gave a slight smile. “We really need to stop meeting under these circumstances.”

Franklin replied, “I agree. Next time, let’s get together for a happy occasion.”

Bridget winked. “Like a wedding?”

Craig looked concerned. “Hold that thought. How are they?”

Bridget sighed, “Well, I haven’t been able to leave Melissa’s side since they got here. Kris is completely out of it.”

Franklin said, “I’m afraid Frances has her work cut out for her.” He indicated that they should go downstairs. “To completely change the subject – are you having reservations about their marriage?”

They returned to the living room and Craig sat in an overstuffed chair, with Bridget and Franklin across from him on the couch.

Craig cleared his throat. “Don’t get me wrong, we think Kris is a great woman, and couldn’t ask for nicer people as in-laws…”

Franklin interrupted, “But?”

Craig smiled self-deprecatingly. “I just think they might be rushing into this.”

Bridget had been holding her breath. “You too? They’ve only known each other for less than a year.”

Craig sat forward and began to talk with his hands. “Exactly.”

Franklin said, “But they are grown ups – they aren’t going to listen to us.”

Craig smiled. “You sound like Frances.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not saying they can’t get married, I’m just saying maybe they should wait a bit longer.”

Bridget replied, “Their relationship has been a roller coaster of conflicts…”

“I want nothing more than for Kris to be happy, and Melissa seems to do that. But if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out – I don’t think it’s our place to intervene,” Franklin said, crossing his leg.

Craig sensed a change of subject. “Well, let’s put this off until they are feeling better.”

 

“Oh Mommy, it was horrible – the whole scary thing came back as soon as I stepped out of the car. It felt like it was all happening again!”

Frances was sitting on the bed, holding her oldest daughter, and stroking her hair as she tried to get her to calm down. “Shh, it’s OK – you’re safe – nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Melissa sniffled. “I know. I mean, I do know that, but shit I just felt so exposed… helpless. The worst part was, I couldn’t do anything to save Kris.” She blew her nose. “I mean, it’s my fault that all of this happened in the first place…”

“You can’t know that,” Frances interrupted.

“But I do. Susan kidnapped me in town and forced me to take her out to the Hacienda. If I’d just driven her to a police station…”

“She would have found another way and time, and maybe it would have turned out worse.”

Melissa’s head turned quickly to regard her mom. “Oh my God!”

Frances returned to stroking her child’s hair. “Susan is mentally FUBAR – she was going to go after Kris one way or another. There is absolutely nothing you could have done to stop her. She is obviously obsessed, and unless she somehow gets help to overcome this obsession, she will always be a danger to herself and others.”

“That’s for sure. I don’t think I’m going to be able to go back there again.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” Frances asked as she kissed her child on the top of her head.

Melissa shrugged. “Kris just spent a boatload of money fixing it up.”

“Then it should sell quickly...”

Melissa interrupted, “It’s triple digit millions.” She continued, “That’s our first home together.”

Frances’ eyebrows shot up almost to her hairline as she calmly said, “It’s only a thing. Things can be replaced, and they are really not what’s important in life.”

Melissa shook all over, her heart rate was racing again, and her breathing was short and quick. “Gods, it’s horrible.” The attack flashed through her mind again.

Frances tightened her hold on Melissa. They sat like that for some time, before Melissa asked, “Mom, can you help Kris now?”

Frances kissed her on top of her head. “Are you sure you’re ready? I’m going to need your help.”

Melissa nodded her head. “Yeah – I’m good.”

Frances got up and went over to where Kris was still lying in a semi-fetal position on the other twin bed in the room. She was slowly rocking back and forth, staring off in space.

She placed her hand gently on Kris’ shoulder and in a calm voice said, “Kris, it’s Frances .”

Kris angrily shook off the hand and began to rock more vigorously.

Frances called down to the rest of the family to join them. As the others entered the room, she said, “I think it might be a good idea if we move Kris to the floor.” The men moved Kris to the center of the floor.

Bridget tried next to reach her surrogate child, but to no avail.

Franklin also had the same reaction.

Frances helped Melissa get down on the floor so she could lay her body next to Kris.

“Hey baby, I’m right here. I’ve got a hold of you – you’re safe.” Melissa wrapped her arms around her lover and just kept saying the same thing over and over.

After several minutes, Kris began a low growl of sorts. Melissa exchanged surprised looks with everyone. Frances suggested that Melissa keep doing what she was doing. The growl began to grow in intensity and volume as Melissa valiantly held on to her lover. Without warning Kris broke out of Melissa’s hold and got to her feet. She moved quickly to a nearby wall; facing it and with an animal-like power and anger, she let out a primal scream. When she had finished, she was bathed in sweat and rested her head against the drywall.

From her position on the floor, Melissa said, “Hey.”

Frances also spoke up, “Kris, do you know where you are?”

Kris partially turned her head, still resting against the wall, her eyes roaming the room, her breathing fast. Suddenly the walls of the room were closing in around her. And as if she were drunk, she headed for the doorway, which she ran into in her haste to get out of the room. She bounced off the walls of the stairway like the silver ball in a pinball game. Opening the front door, she stumbled outside and fell to her knees on the lawn.

Bridget was the first one outside, and she sat down on the front steps a few feet away from her stricken friend. She had a moment of déjà vu as life with Kris after she had been released from juvy came flooding back. She shook her head to clear the memory.

“Tough day kiddo?” she queried.

Kris was breathing hard, her back facing her sister-in-law. “Needed some air.” She was out of breath. Kris slowly got to her feet and just as slowly re-entered the house. She fell into an overstuffed chair by the base of the stairs.

Bridget thought, ‘She looks like hell; her color is bad, and she looks like she’s going to keel over any second.’

Kris sat in the chair and laid her head back against the cushions; her eyelids fluttered a couple times, and she asked, “How old am I?”

Bridget’s brow was furrowed as she just looked at her sister-in-law.

Kris raised her head, and looking unhappy, she asked again, with more force, “How old am I?”

Bridget was very puzzled as she responded, “Thirty-two.”

Kris laid her head back against the cushions of the chair and closed her eyes. Within a few moments she was asleep. Bridget pulled a crocheted blanket off the back of the nearby couch and carefully placed it around the young woman.

Frances, Franklin and Craig were all standing at the bottom of the nearby stairs, watching in silence. Bridget motioned for them to follow her to the kitchen.

Frances spoke first, “Well that was interesting.” She took a deep breath. “I’m really surprised that she was able to snap out of it that quickly.”

“I’m not sure she’s one hundred percent out of it,” Bridget stated, looking worried.

Franklin said, “I hope she sleeps for awhile – she looks wiped, and she’s still healing.”

Frances asked, “What drugs did they send home with them?”

Franklin handed her the small paper sack full of prescriptions.

Their attention was jerked back to the living room. As they quickly ran into the room, they saw Kris jump to her feet as she was screaming for Melissa.

A panicked Melissa, alone upstairs, called back, “Kris!!?” Her voice was tinged with anxious urgency. “I’m up here.”

Kris took the stairs two at a time. “Lissa!”

Melissa replied, “I’m OK up here in your room.”

The adults all came to the foot of stairs to watch the drama play out before them.

Kris got to the doorway in question and stopped in her tracks. It looked as though she were fighting with herself about going inside. “Baby, you OK?”

“I’m good – how about you?” Melissa called from inside the room.

Kris was muttering almost like a mantra, “I’m thirty-two, I’m thirty-two…” She turned away from the room, her voice filled with anguish, “I can’t do this – not again!” She slowly descended the stairs, unshed tears in her eyes as she passed the cluster of parents and went back outside.

The parents stood in a cluster watching Kris’ retreating figure, unable to move – not knowing what was going to happen next.

“Daddy? Can I get some help please?” Melissa’s voice held a note of worry.

Frances followed Kris outside, while her husband ran upstairs to attend to his daughter.

Franklin whispered to his wife, “I don’t know if I can do this again.”

Bridget put her arms around his neck and kissed him. “I’m right there with you – this too shall pass.”

Kris was sitting on the cement steps of the front of the house, her arms wrapped tightly around herself, her knees pulled up in front of her.

Frances rested her shoulder against the wall next to the outside front door. “How’s it going?” She could hear Kris repeating her mantra.

Bridget appeared and sat down next to her charge.

Kris instantly turned her tear-stained face to the older woman. “Bree, I can’t stay here. I can’t do this again… I’m thirty-two, I’m thirty-two…”

“I’m right here with you.” Bridget’s hand hovered above Kris’ shoulder, then she dropped it back at her side. Remembering when Kris was released from Juvy that she had an aversion to being touched – sensing that she might be having a similar problem.

“Please, can I go to the beach house? It’s too much…. there’s too many…. not again!”

Frances watched this exchange fascinated. ‘What am I missing? Whatever it is, it was something major.’

Bridget’s voice was soothing. “Sure, if you want to leave, that’s cool.”

The relief on the young woman’s face was evident.

Bridget continued, “Let me just say that as you have unpleasant memories here, you might be bringing the same thing to the beach house. You sure you don’t want to leave that neutral?”

Kris looked as though she were going to be physically ill. “I can’t… not again, please?”

Bridget smiled indulgently. “Sure Hon, whatever you want – let me get my keys.” She passed Melissa in the living room.

“How is she?” Melissa asked as she grabbed Bridget’s arm, stopping her progress.

“She wants to go to the beach house. We’d better order some furniture for that place.”

Melissa’s brow furrowed. “Why? She left it all there...”

Bridget removed her arm, continued on her errand. “Ah, bought all new stuff together, did we? Good.” She grabbed her keys off the counter, and continued, “ Franklin, why don’t you throw some stuff in a bag for us, grab the Davis’ luggage, and meet me over there? I’m thinking Kris is going to need some space.”

Melissa sat on the back seat, her cast resting on Frances’ lap, while the guys sat in the front seat.

Frances had been peppering her daughter with questions, “Why does she need to keep reminding herself how old she is?”

Melissa was getting tired of talking about Kris’ trauma without Kris’ permission. “She’s probably having some problem confusing the past and present.”

Frances sounded pleased. “This is so fascinating – Do you know the cause of her original trauma? I know you said it had something to do with a difference in opinion with her parents, but…”

Melissa had a humdinger of a headache, which combined with the worry she was feeling for her partner was really getting to her. “Mom! Can we just drop this until we get there?”

Frances realized how tired her daughter looked. “Of course Dear, I’m sorry.”

Bridget and Kris arrived at the beach house; almost before the car had come to a stop, Kris got out and entered the house. A little out of breath from climbing the stairs, she grabbed the remote from the coffee table and switched on the stereo. The room was suddenly filled with loud rock music; Kris stood in the center of the speakers and just let the music wash over her.

As Bridget finished climbing the stairs into the house, she watched as Kris’ head dropped back. It reminded Bridget of standing in the shower and enjoying the sensation of the hot water running over your body. The music was loud, but not club volume. Bridget had experienced this many times as the Musketeers multi-tasked, listening to music while watching TV and writing songs. She wasn’t sure what her next move was, as she had no idea what Kris was going to do next. She stood and watched, knowing that everyone else would be here soon enough. Kris turned and headed for one of the couches and climbed up onto the cushions and lay down in a semi-fetal position.

‘OK now what?’ Bridget asked herself as she continued to watch her charge. Within a few moments she moved closer to the couch and realized that Kris was asleep.

It took both of the men to get Melissa up the stairs, as she was not supposed to put any weight on the leg.

After helping Melissa into Kris’ bedroom, and returning to the living room, Craig asked, “Can we turn the volume down?”

Franklin replied, “We can try.” He quietly picked up the remote and turned the music down a couple of decibels – holding his breath for Kris to wake up. But to his surprise she didn’t.

 

A few hours had passed, and things were getting sorted out at the house. All of the health care workers had been given the new information and would be arriving the next day. A wheelchair and a couple of rental cars had been ordered and delivered. Melissa and the Davises had gotten a nap, Franklin had gone grocery shopping, and Bridget was getting some work down. Most importantly, Gert had been retrieved from the Hacienda.

Everyone was in the kitchen while Bridget put together one of Grand’s recipes – Frances was chopping up vegetables; Melissa was shredding cheese from her wheelchair. While the guys were discussing sports, Frances was tweaking her offspring by telling family stories.

Kris came suddenly awake, her head shooting off the cushions. Her heart was racing in her chest as she tried to figure out where she was. The music was still on, but there was an undertone of voices. The wonderful spicy scent of a Bridget Special filled the air and her stomach growled approvingly. She suddenly needed Melissa – it was a feeling unlike anything she had ever experienced before. She clumsily and sleepily got off the couch and headed toward the sound of voices.

Franklin spotted his sister in the doorway of the kitchen and said, “Rip Van Winkle is awake!”

Kris had a very intense look on her face as she scanned the faces in the kitchen until she found the one she needed.

Melissa looked up and smiled warmly at her lover. “Hi, hungry – Bridget’s cooking up a masterpiece.”

That need to touch her lover, drove Kris forward. But before she could reach her target, Bridget turned around and said, “Thought you were going to sleep the day away.”

Suddenly Kris’ world was topsy-turvy – the reality of the present morphed into the past, specifically right after she had been released from juvy. All of the memories, feelings and experiences came flooding back. Kris was completely unaware of what time period she was standing in.

Melissa’s smile faded, replaced with a look of concern. “Baby, are you OK?

Slowly the past was replaced with the images of the present as Kris chanted her mantra to herself, ‘I’m thirty-two.’

Kris needed to ground herself in this reality; she needed to feel that this image of her lover was real; she closed the distance between them, and as her hand was reaching out to make connection, her old phobia of being touched reared its head and screamed at the top of its lungs for her to stop. Her outstretched hand closed gently on Melissa’s exposed toes.

Melissa tilted her head, her brow furrowed. “Hey, what’s up? She then reached out and touched her lover’s hand, which Kris violently jerked away. Embarrassed at what she’d done, she had no idea what to do with the appendage; it hovered at her side for a moment before awkwardly dropping to her side. Aware that all eyes were on her, and not having an explanation for her actions, she felt the room closing in on her and bolted to the sliding glass door and the open space of the deck.

Everyone looked at each other in confusion. Franklin shrugged his shoulders and said, “I have no clue.”

Melissa rolled her chair to the open sliding glass door and looked out at the back of her lover standing alone, leaning on the railing of the deck, the wind blowing her dark locks about, her arms wrapped tightly around herself.

Bridget said, “I’d give her a couple of minutes.”

Frances asked, “Does this have to do with her old trauma?”

Bridget and Franklin exchanged surprised looks.

Frances picked up the anxiety; “Kris mentioned something about that the first time I met her.”

Franklin cleared his throat. “That’s kind of a touchy subject…” His voice trailed off, then he hurriedly continued, “Because of her celebrity status you understand.”

Frances watched the tall man for a moment as he fidgeted like a little boy. “I see that this is something that affected the whole family.” She didn’t need an answer as Franklin avoided her gaze. “This must be some skeleton.”

Bridget sighed, “It was a long time ago – I think we’d all rather keep it buried.”

Melissa decided it was time to help Kris and headed out to the deck. It took her a couple of minutes to get her chair positioned close enough to her lover.

It took a couple of beats before Kris turned her head to regard her lover.

“Hey.”

The two women looked at each other in silence for a moment before Kris dropped her gaze.

In a light tone, Melissa said, “I’m beginning to think that we’ll never be alone in this house.” Trying to keep things light, she continued, “I don’t know who’s worse, Rick and Tony, or our parents.”

In a quiet voice, Kris replied, “It’s been a long time since there were this many people staying here.”

Melissa slowly rolled a bit closer. “It’s a little confined in there, that’s for sure. But at least it’s not the band screaming.”

Kris nodded her head ‘yes’; in a voice that was almost a whisper, she said, “I miss you.”

Melissa almost missed it over the roar of the ocean and wind. She reached out her hand. “I’m right here.”

Kris looked at the outstretched hand like it was a poisonous snake.

It felt to Melissa as if Kris was screwing up her courage to take the proffered hand.

Kris slowly raised her hand to make contact and said in her quiet voice, “Right here.”

Melissa watched as if she were in a dream. Kris took her hand, her shoulders rising and falling quickly. She never took her eyes off the hand clasped in her own.

Melissa smiled and said, “I love you.”

Kris looked as if she were going to cry. “I love you.”

Melissa tugged her hand slightly towards herself. “Come here; you’re safe with me.”

Kris let herself be pulled to her lover; it was almost like a magnetic attraction, and she couldn’t have resisted even if she wanted. She ended up sitting/collapsing onto Melissa’s lap. The faint scent of licorice filled Kris’ nose as she buried her face in Melissa’s shoulder. The tears came then; Melissa held her and said quiet nothings to soothe the other part of her soul.

 

The moon was just a sliver, its silver light flowing through the uncovered windows giving the room an eerie glow. Kris’ eyes opened quickly as she held her breath, listening intently. She knew it wasn’t her night terror that had awoken her, and she strained to hear what it might have been. But only the crashing of the surf and the steady breathing of her lover lying next to her filled her ears. To say she felt less than secure was putting it mildly. She even checked the front door to make sure it was locked. Something she actually couldn’t remember ever doing before. She had been sleeping lightly all night, with every sound bringing her into an anxious awakened state.

Melissa sat bolt upright in bed covered in sweat, screaming at the top of her voice.

Kris struggled with the bedclothes to sit up. Having just gotten soundly asleep, now she was jolted out of Morpheus’ grip. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she pushed mussed hair out of her eyes, trying to figure out what was going on. “Hey, it’s over!” Kris placed a hand on her lover’s shoulder, her skin overheated. Melissa began to fight to get away from Kris.

“Lissa, it’s me!” Kris said in a calm voice. Never having been on this side of the nightmare, she found it almost as disconcerting as actually having the dream.

Melissa had stopped screaming; as she tried to get out of bed, she was shouting, “No! Stop, get away!”

Kris was trying to help wake up the blond woman; but as she fought her unseen attackers she was actually fighting Kris. She could see Melissa’s panic fear filled eyes, and knew that she was still in the grips of the dream.

A loud pounding on the door and Craig’s voice, “Everything OK in there?”

Kris was trying desperately to keep them both off the floor. She had let go of Melissa, but the blond had a good hold on Kris and was thrashing around.

The pounding came again. “Melissa, can you hear me?” Craig’s voice was filled with anxiety.

Kris was just trying to be relaxed; her naked back and top of her buttocks were facing the door as it suddenly flew open, and then the bright overhead light bathed everything in its harsh white light.

Melissa jumped a little as she finally came fully awake. “Oh!” She stopped moving, but it took a couple more seconds before she let go of her partner.

Craig was the first one into the room, followed closely by Franklin. Bridget and Frances stood in the doorway, looking concerned. Bridget’s jet black locks were disheveled, her long legs bare – an old T-shirt covering the rest of her with her arms wrapped around herself – thoughts of déjà vu filled her mind. Frances’ silver blond hair was sleep mussed as she stood, her hands in the pockets of the long robe she was wearing.

Craig approached the bed, wearing only pajama bottoms; it was evident from his face that he was concerned, but he was also blushing as he realized that his daughter was naked. “Pumpkin, are you sure you’re OK?” Melissa was breathing hard, as the night terror receded. Looking up into his face, she nodded as she replied, “Yeah I think so.”

Franklin was a few feet inside the room; he couldn’t take his eyes off his sister’s back, the angry pink one-inch vertical scar near her spine. ‘Jesus! That’s the entry wound!’! he thought.

Kris brought the sheet up to cover them. “Darlin’, let’s cover you up.”

The blush could be seen all the way down to the top of the sheet.

Kris chuckled. “You are so beautiful when you do that.” Frances had also been staring at the scar on Kris’ back, cringing at the pain that it must have caused, was still causing. She finally shook her head to clear it and called out from the doorway, “What happened?”

Kris had taken Melissa’s hand in her own and had met the blonde’s gaze. “Lissa had a nightmare.”

Franklin asked in a surprised voice, “Really?” His eyes moved anxiously from bare foot to bare foot. His jeans weren’t buttoned up all the way, and the shirt he wore was on backwards.

Melissa was busy looking into the brown eyes of her lover, feeling the dream slip back to the shadows and her heart calming down. “Right. I remember now.”

Kris raised her hand to Melissa’s face and cupped her cheek; “You feeling alright?”

Craig continued to look uneasy as he stood near the foot of the bed. Sounding the protective father, he asked, “Are you OK?”

Melissa tore her eyes away from her lover and looked up at her father, “I’m fine Daddy.”

Bridget called out, “Hey old man, let’s get back to bed.”

Franklin smiled at his wife. “Just like old times, huh?”

Bridget shook her head in disbelief, as she took her husband’s hand.

Frances called from the doorway, “Honey, since you’re OK and in capable hands, we’ll let you get back to bed.” She was making a hurry motion to her husband as Bridget and Franklin walked down the hall to their room.

“Yeah OK, you let us know if there is anything you need.” He ruffled his daughter’s hair as he reluctantly left the room.

Melissa smiled at him. “I will, thanks.” As the bedroom door closed, leaving them alone, Kris got off the bed and entered the connecting bathroom; the sound of running water could be heard as she came back with a wet washcloth, which she handed to her partner. “Are you really OK?”

Melissa placed the cloth on the back of her neck. “Thank you. I will be.”

Kris climbed into the bed, arranging her pillow behind her, lying down in a semi-reclining position. She held her arms outstretched; Melissa didn’t need to be asked twice; moving forward, she lay down on Kris’ naked chest, pillowing her head on Kris’ shoulder, laying her arm across Kris’ stomach. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know.” Melissa lay there idly drawing patterns with her index finger on Kris’ exposed skin, “This is kind of weird, me having a nightmare.”

Kris chuckled. “Yeah, feels a bit surreal.” She reached behind her and turned off the light as she wrapped her arms around the blond woman. “I’m right here if you want to talk; I’ve got you.”

Melissa snuggled in a bit closer. “Mmm, that’s a good thing.”

Kris kissed the top of the blond head. “I think so.” They were quiet for a moment, and Kris asked, “Was your nightmare about the attack?” An involuntary shiver ran through Melissa. “If you don’t mind, I really don’t want to think about it.”

Kris replied, “That’s fine with me.”

They were quiet for a while. As Kris was starting to relax, she could feel Melissa’s breathing evening out.

“I’m really glad you’re here and holding me. I don’t feel a hundred percent safe here.”

Kris was surprised at the admission. “That’s interesting, I’ve been feeling unsettled and anxious tonight.”

Melissa kissed the skin she was lying on. “As much as I want to be alone with you, I’m glad that we aren’t.”

Kris tightened her hold on the woman. “We’re safe here together.”

Melissa tightened her hold also. “I do believe we are.” She raised her head up and placed her lips on Kris’. Before long the kiss deepened and passion was stirred. The kiss ended, and the two women were breathing hard.

Kris was caressing the skin under her hands; her voice was slightly huskier. “Let me see if I can’t chase that dream away.”

Melissa lay on her back with the dark head pillowed on her stomach. Kris’ breath was tickling the fine hairs on her bare skin. It had taken some careful movements, but they had finally found a way to make love. It had been slow and passion filled. Melissa was relishing the sensations and drifting along on the post love making high. She heard the house creak and was jolted into full alertness. She mentally kicked herself for being so jumpy. But after the attack, she felt slightly justified.

Kris’ sleepy voice asked, “Can’t sleep?”

Melissa jumped despite herself. “Sorry I woke you.”

Kris kissed the skin she was lying on. “’s OK.” She sighed, “I missed this. I missed you.”

Melissa smiled. “I missed this too! I thought we were going to have to play Twister in order to make love.”

Melissa could feel Kris smile against her naked skin. Kris replied, “Being with you is never dull.”

Melissa was caressing her lover as her mind wandered. “Can I ask you something?”

Kris idly stroked the silky skin under her fingers. “Sure.” Melissa really wanted to know the answer to this, but she was afraid it was going to push her lover’s buttons. “When we got to Bridget’s house yesterday…. what happened?”

Kris let out a long sigh. “I was reliving the time after I was released from Juvy.” Kris took a deep breath. “That and the reality of me getting my memory back about the attack were morphing back and forth to create a very bizarre reality.”

Melissa replied, “Wow, no wonder you were freaking out.”

“I didn’t know if I was sixteen or thirty-two. I couldn’t be sure if the stuff that Susan had done wasn’t another horrible thing that had happened to me while I was locked up. While all that was going on, there was this anomaly of you and your parents – pretty much the only thing that was keeping my head from exploding.”

The silvery light of the moon gave everything a rather eerie glow as Melissa met her lover’s troubled gaze. “When we were at the Hacienda, you got your memory back?”

Kris nodded her head yes. “It was really powerful.” She took a deep breath. “I mean my injuries hurt before, in the hospital – but when I got my memory back, suddenly the pain was turned up to eleven.” She let out a shuddering breath.

“It was pretty intense when we were back there…” Melissa’s voice trailed off. She took a deep breath and her voice cracked. “All I could think was, ‘why couldn’t I protect you?’”

Kris rose up on one elbow, reached out and stroked the woman’s face; her lover’s tears hidden in the dark. “You’re not supposed to protect me; that’s why I have bodyguards…”

Melissa interrupted, “You were vulnerable, and I should have protected you.”

“How? You were busy trying to stay alive yourself.”

“I should have found a way never to have brought her to the Hacienda…”

Kris put her fingers over Melissa’s lips,. “Shh… I’m just glad that you didn’t get hurt during the drive.”

Melissa let out a sob. “I’m so, so, sorr….””

Kris kissed her lover on the lips. “Babe, it’s OK. – you didn’t do anything…”

Melissa said through sobs, “She was my ex, and I brought her right to you. I might as well have put the gun to your head myself.”

Kris caressed the blond’s cheek. “If you feel the need to feel responsible about something, then the fact that she was your ex is the only thing. Everything else was out of your hands – Susan of her own free will did all of those things, nobody else.”

Melissa was still sobbing. “It’s all my fault…”

Kris interrupted, “Baby, look at me.” She held Melissa’s chin and pulled it up so that were looking into each other’s eyes. “I don’t hold you responsible. I will never hold you responsible.” Kris raised an eyebrow. “OK?”

Melissa looked less than convinced.

Kris dropped her gaze and lowered her voice to right above a whisper. “I was terrified that you would be sickened by my face. But since you are OK with it, then I’m OK with it. I think if you hadn’t been OK with it, I would be a raving homicidal bitch by now.”

Melissa reached out and put her fingers under Kris’ chin and slowly pulled her head up so that their eyes met. “Hon, I love you, and no physical change is going to change that.”

Kris smiled as she looked into those beautiful blue eyes. “What did I do to deserve you?”

Melissa smiled as she ran her fingers through the dark locks. “I’ve always felt very protective of you.”

Kris kissed her lover’s palm, “Do you think of me as a damsel in distress?”

“No – but everyone always wants a piece of you.” Melissa lifted her hand to her lover’s cheek, along with her eyes to her lover’s. “I want to keep them away from you. To keep you safe.”

“And here I thought I was the Butch.”

Melissa cupped her lover’s cheek and pulled her closer. “You don’t have to pretend with me – be yourself.”

Kris leaned forward and kissed Melissa soundly on the lips. “Am I that transparent?”

Melissa smiled. “Only to me, my love.”

Kris asked, “Have I told you that I love you?”

Melissa chuckled. “I’m never going to tire of hearing that.”

Kris lay her head down on Melissa’s shoulder and hugged her. “Good, because I’m never going to tire of saying it.” Kris took a breath. “It feels like we’re back in high school, with our parents in the next room.”

“You think that’s weird, usually we’re surrounded by band members.”

Kris chuckled. “True, but I never have to worry about shouting out your name in that situation. I think your parents might have a different view on that?”

Melissa smiled. “Touché. And thanks for that, now I’m going to be thinking about that as long as they’re here.”

Kris kissed the skin she was lying on. “You are very welcome – doing my job to keep things in perspective.”

 

Melissa was sitting in her wheelchair on the deck, looking down at the beach, watching her lover play fetch with Gert in the surf. It was the same story all week; they’d come home from physical therapy, and Kris would grab Gert and head for the beach. Kris had spent little time in the house this week; Melissa was beginning to think that she had done something to upset her lover, as Kris hadn’t said more than a dozen words to anyone all week. Melissa could tell that Kris wasn’t getting more than a couple of hours of sleep each night. Which probably accounted for the attitude. They were both plagued by nightmares off and on.

Franklin came up next to her and leaned on the deck railing as he offered her a can of soda. “How’s it going?”

Melissa took the can. “Thanks. OK I guess.” Her eyes returned to her lover.

“Are you getting a little frostbite?”

She looked up at him her brow furrowed. “Beg your pardon?”

He smiled, and it reminded Melissa very much of Kris’ “trademark smile.” “Seems like Kris is giving everyone the cold shoulder.”

“Oh – well she’s been distant….”

He interrupted, “And withdrawn and moody.” He took a breath. “Stop me anytime.” He gave her a wry smile.

She returned the smile; he thought how much younger she looked doing it – as the tense lines in her face relaxed.

Her eyes twinkled a bit. “I see your point. But then you know her much better than I.”

He turned his attention to the subject of their conversation. “Mmm. This is what she was like when she came back from juvy. Except she had a dangerous air about her.”

Melissa cocked her head. “Oh yeah? Dangerous, how so?”

He turned his head in the blond’s direction. “I always got the sense that, if she wanted to, she could have taken my block off with one hand and without breathing hard.”

Melissa’s eyebrows rose. “Interesting. Has she ever talked to you about…. any of that?”

He took a sip of his soda. “Not really. I tried several times after she came home, but she didn’t want to talk. After awhile, I think we all just wanted to move on – you know?”

She sipped at her soda. “Was that time hard on you as well?”

He was thoughtful for a moment. “It was frustrating. I could see that something was bothering her – but she kept everyone at arm’s length, like now.” He met her gaze, his eyes sad. “I know that terrible things happened to her in that place.” He stopped talking and swallowed several times before continuing, “I will never get over the anger of that and the sadness that there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening.”

Melissa put her hand on his forearm in comfort. “You’re a good brother.”

He didn’t meet her gaze. “Not that good – I don’t want to go through this again.”

Melissa was surprised at the statement. “Surely this isn’t the same…”

He interrupted, “No, not exactly the same, but those couple of years before she turned her life around were hell on earth.”

Melissa watched him. “You know, she told me that you and Bridget saved her life.”

His head snapped around to face her. “She said that?”

Melissa nodded. They were silent for a time just watching the action below.

 

It had been a couple of weeks since they’d been released from the hospital, and they were starting to get into a routine. Kris went off to physical therapy; after, she and Melissa worked out in the weight room that Kris had set up – with their personal trainers. Melissa was happy to have something to do; at least she could work on her upper body.

Kris would then go off to her drum lesson, and after that she would meet with her voice coach. Sometimes Kris would run on the beach with Gert, or ride her mountain bike, trying to get her lung capacity back.

Frances and Craig were debating about going home. Franklin had long since returned to work. Bridget, of course, was able to work at the beach house.

Melissa was getting bored; she couldn’t really do anything that she wanted to, and she was sick of reading and watching TV.

Kris called out, “Gert! Come on girl.”

Melissa rolled her chair toward the dark haired woman. “Where you going?”

Kris squeezed the blond’s shoulder, “Thought I’d go for a run.”

Melissa looked unhappy. “Oh.”

Kris knelt down so that she was on the same eye level as her lover. “What’s up?”

Melissa shrugged and turned her eyes away. “Nothing.”

Kris reached out and caressed Melissa’s cheek. “Doesn’t sound like nothing; you can tell me, really. I’ve been told that I’m a pretty good listener.”

Melissa met her lover’s gaze. “I’m bored. I want to do something other than be in this chair and this house.”

Kris smiled. “OK where do you want to go?”

Melissa shrugged again. “I don’t know, anywhere but here.”

“Sky’s the limit.” Kris said as she picked up the phone’s receiver. “Hawaii, Fiji, Europe, Australia?”

Melissa looked at her lover. “You’re dead serious, aren’t you?”

Kris’ smile dimmed a bit. “As a heart attack Baby. Now what’s your pleasure?”

Melissa rolled forward and took the phone from the dark haired woman’s hand. “I don’t really want to go to any of those places when I can’t walk.”

She let out an exasperated sigh. “You’ve got to stop paying for everything.”

Kris knelt down and kissed the blond on the forehead. “I get it – a change of scenery?”

Melissa nodded her head yes.

Kris continued, “Hey, it’s not like I can’t afford it.”

Melissa’s voice had a slight edge to it, “That’s not the point. We are in this together. We need to share expenses.”

“OK, make you a deal, next time we go to Europe, you buy.” Kris suddenly put her arms under Melissa, and before Melissa knew what was happening, Kris had put Melissa into a Fireman’s carry over her shoulder and was heading for the sliding glass door.

“Kris! Wait, put me down!”

Kris’ voice was a bit muffled, “Keep your shirt on, we’ll be there soon.”

Gert started barking as she followed the duo down to the sand.

Once on the sand, Kris carefully put her lover on her feet. “There, how about we go for a walk?”

Melissa was smiling at least. “Ah, I only have one leg.”

“That’s OK, you can lean on me.”

Melissa leaned her head so that their foreheads were touching. “I do love you.”

Kris smiled. “Cool!” Then she got a bit serious. “I know you are tired of looking at these four walls, and I am happy to take you anywhere you want to go. I’m a little anxious about meeting my public again. As long as you’re next to me, I’ll give it a try.”

Melissa kissed her lover on the lips. “Babe, I do understand that, but you can’t live in this house forever. Why don’t we find a quiet al fresco place to have lunch at?”

Kris had found them a little place that she liked down on Venice Beach that was little more than a shack. It was kitschy and busy; the show that was Venice Beach made for an entertaining meal.

Melissa put down her bottle of Dos XX. “Wow that was really good!”

Kris had her ever-present baseball cap on, more to shade her face than for a disguise. She was convinced that no one would recognize her these days. “Yeah, not bad for a dump.”

“How’d you find this place?”

Kris put down her partially eaten taco. “One year, on break, I was bored and decided to come down here and be entertained. The food smelled good, so I gave it a try.”

Melissa smiled slyly. “Tell the truth; you wanted to see if anyone would notice you down here, right? When was that? I’m thinking after the third album.”

Kris chuckled. “Busted!” She blushed. “Am I that shallow?”

Melissa looked indulgently at her lover. “Nope. Just wondering if the hard work was paying off?” She reached across the table and squeezed her hand, then asked, “Well?”

Kris continued to chuckle. “Yeah, I got noticed; not a mob scene, but it got old real fast.”

Melissa was still smiling. “That’s the double edged sword of fame, Sweetheart.”

Kris put her elbows on the table, then rested her chin on top of her hands. “That’s one of the many things I like about you.”

“I’m happy there are several to choose from.” Melissa wiggled her eyebrows.

Kris wiped her hands on her paper napkin as she finished her taco, “What do you say we take in a movie after this?”

Melissa frowned. “I won’t be able to sit next to you.”

Kris smiled suggestively. “I could sit in your lap.”

Melissa laughed. “I could get behind that.” Kris bent over to pick up her dropped napkin, and Melissa saw a woman that was intently watching them from across the sidewalk. When the woman realized that she was being watched, she shifted her gaze very awkwardly. Melissa leaned toward Kris, “Don’t look now, but I think you’ve been recognized.”

Kris didn’t react. “Where?”

“Behind you.”

Kris began searching her pockets in order to pay the check.

Melissa took the beer bottle from her lips. “Ah too late, she’s on your three.”

Kris casually looked up at the woman who was standing next to their table.

“Um hi, I was watching you from across the way.” She pointed behind them before hesitantly continuing, “You’re Kris Cutler, aren’t you?”

Kris replied, “Yes.”

She extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Carry. I read about what happened to you in the papers. How are things going?”

Kris was reluctant to take the woman’s hand for a moment but then did. “Nice to meet you Carry. One day at a time.”

Carry smiled. “Good! You need to get healthy. I want to see you running your ass off at the next concert, just like always.” She looked over at Melissa and smiled. Melissa smiled in return.

Kris did a mock salute. “Ah, yes ma’am!” She was watching the woman’s eyes closely to see if she was staring at her scar. Her eyes only flicked there once with no other reaction.

“I’ll let you get back to your R&R.” Carry turned to leave.

Kris asked, “Don’t you want an autograph?”

Carry’s smile was large as she turned back. “I didn’t really want to intrude – but if you’re offering…”

Kris chuckled. “Got a pen?” Paper and pen were thrust in front of her.

Carry beamed as she picked up the autograph, waved good-bye, and left them in peace.

Melissa put down her empty beer bottle. “That went pretty good.”

Kris laid some bills on the table and released the brakes on Melissa’s chair. “Yeah it did. She didn’t freak out about my face, and she wasn’t staring at it either.”

Kris was pushing the chair as they rolled into the traffic on the sidewalk, making their way back to the car.

Melissa turned in her seat slightly so that she could see Kris. “Hon, most people will look and then be polite enough to let it go.” She put her hand on top of Kris’s that was holding on to one of the handles as she pushed the chair. “If it were me, I’d have a response ready for those that stare and really burn them with it.”

“Oh, you mean like, ‘take a picture, it lasts longer’?”

Melissa chuckled. “That’s the idea, but it needs to be more embarrassing.”

Kris bent down closer to her lover’s ear. “Something like – see something you like?”

Melissa laughed. “Well that wouldn’t get the response I was thinking about.” She turned a bit serious, “Kristen Cutler, I hope you don’t go around saying such things to other women?”

Kris let the surprise register on her face. “Surely you jest!” Then she asked, “There are other women? Because I only have eyes for you Babe.”

Melissa’s chuckles ran down, and she looked lovingly at the dark haired woman, “Oh my Gods, that was so mushy! I love you.”

Kris beamed as she stopped the chair and leaned in and pressed her lips to the blond’s. “I really like the sound of that.”

 

40

It was hot and the stench of the building and its contents were detected outside.

Bridget was loath to touch anything; she already felt dirty. The greasy little man with the paunch and the bristly limp black mustache had given her the once over when she had entered the jail, making her skin crawl. She did have to admit that it had been a long time since she’d been “checked out” that overtly, but his gaze had felt like he’d undressed her and was running his hands over her body in his mind.

Bridget wanted to get this over as soon as possible. “Olé Rick Cutler, por favor.”

The sleazy man looked thoughtful as he replied in rapid Spanish, “It will cost many American dollars.”

In little hole-in-the-wall villages like this, it always came down to how much moola you had in your pocket. She replied in perfect Spanish “OK, how much?”

He eyed her, leering. “How about we have a drink and discuss it?”

She had to stifle the shiver that ran down her back, as well as the nausea that was brewing. Calmly she slipped the nine-inch hunting knife out of the sheath at the small of her back and began to clean her fingernails. Then in English, she replied, “We could do that, but I’m on kind of a tight schedule.”

His eyes grew wide. “Very well then. It is going to cost three hundred American dollars for Señor Cutler.” His accent was thick, his English good.

Bridget used her free hand to reach into her coat pocket, pulling out a wad of bills, and peeled off three hundreds and laid them on the counter. She made eye contact with the little man. “If you make it quick, there’s a hundred in it for you, just between us.” She fanned her face with the bill in question.

He huffed but grabbed the keys out of his desk drawer and disappeared into the back of the building.

Bridget let out a breath and tried to get her racing heart to calm down. She could hear voices and the sounds of metal clanging against itself. Then Rick was dragged before her. He was a mess; his light blue polo shirt was torn, filthy and splattered with blood. His hair was filthy and glued to his head. His face was bruised, swollen and bloodied, his right eye too swollen to open.

The officer unlocked the handcuffs and gave Rick a shove toward Bridget. In a serious tone he stated, “It will cost one hundred American dollars to release this prisoner.”

Bridget smiled wryly and handed over the money. ‘Little bastard is going to take the 300 and run – tricky!’

As they left the dark and smelly building, Rick smiled as he met Bridget’s gaze. “Hi Mom, did you miss me?”

Bridget reached over and grabbed him by the back of the neck. “I should turn you over my knee!” She gave him a push towards the vintage Wagoneer. “Get in the car and don’t talk to me until we cross the border.”

They drove along in silence for a while before Bridget’s anger got the best of her. “What were you thinking to get thrown in jail in Mexico?”

Rick replied, “I was just minding my own business when this girl came over to me. How was I supposed to know she was some other guy’s squeeze?”

Bridget was shaking her head. “Stupid, stupid, stupid! You are so lucky that I was home and could come rescue your ass…”

Rick was getting defensive. “Hey, you didn’t have to come down here…”

Bridget shot right back, “No, I could have let you rot down here!”

After a few minutes of quiet, Bridget asked, “What happened anyway?”

It took a few minutes before Rick replied, “This little Chiquita came up to me and I started to make the moves on her, then her old man comes over and starts getting in my grill ’cause I’m after his old lady. I back off, but he doesn’t, and hit me, so I beat the shit out of him.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, before Rick asked in a quite reproachful voice, “So how much do I owe you for rescuing me?”

Bridget ran her fingers through her jet locks. “Oh you owe me big, and I’m going to make you work it off.”

Rick rolled his eyes. This was precisely the reason he didn’t want to call her. Usually he just called Kris, but he couldn’t do that this time. ‘Gods I wonder how she’s doing? I wonder if she’s ever going to be OK?’ He couldn’t get the image of her damaged face out of his mind. He had thought that if he could get away and get drunk enough, he would just erase it, but he’d been down here three weeks already, and been almost blind drunk every day, and could still picture the carnage. He could have walked away from that fight three days ago, but he wanted someone else to hurt as much as he had been.

Bridget was saying, “I’ve got some landscaping that I’ve been wanting to start, and I think you’ll be the perfect candidate to help. Call it prison work program.”

Rick’s voice was filled with unhappiness. “Why don’t you just shoot me?””

Bridget laughed, “Because it is so much more fun to fuck with you.”

Rick made a disgusted sound. “Look, I’ll give you a thousand no, ten thousand dollars to just call it even, ’kay?”

Bridget watched him out of the corner of her eye. “You really don’t want to do this, huh?”

He turned his head and looked at her. “I really hate doing yard work. I’ll buy you a fucking new yard, how’s that?”

Bridget smiled sardonically. “I’ll let you off the hook with some minor barbeque duties if you’ll do one thing.”

Rick looked on expectantly. “Well?”

Bridget turned and made eye contact with him, “What happened to you at the hospital?”

There was no pause. “What d’you mean?”

She kept her eyes on the road. “I mean you were Velcro boy, never leaving Kris’ room – then she wakes up, and you’re history. What up, dog?”

He put his head back and laughed. “Oh my God, you have no idea how fucking funny that sounds coming out of your mouth!” His laughter was winding down as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “Do me a favor and never say that again.”

Bridget was chuckling. “Fine, but tell me what happened?”

Rick tried to sound nonchalant. “No big, she woke up – I left.”

The sign for the harbor was just ahead; their time together was almost at an end. She tried another tack. “Dude, there is no shame in admitting that you need your sister.”

He sounded offended by her suggestion, “I know that.”

Bridget pulled up in front of his moored yacht on the rickety looking dock, put the Cherokee in park and killed the engine. “Hey, I’m not too proud to admit that I thought she was going to die.”

His head snapped around so he was facing her, his face registering his surprise at her admission.

“Not a very good feeling, was it?”

His eyes narrowed but he didn’t comment.

“I cried when she came around – I was so relieved.” Bridget could feel herself getting misty.

“Yeah, relieved.” He was quiet for a moment. “She’s my best friend… I was so lost.” His voice cracked suddenly, the confines of the car were too close as he quickly got out.

Bridget quickly got out and followed him as he made his way for the gangplank for his yacht. “There is no crime in crying; you’re human, you’re entitled.”

He ignored her as he made his way to his boat. “Never mind.”

She reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping his retreat. “Don’t be afraid to say you love her.”

His jaw was firm. “I’m not.”

They stood there for a moment, eyes locked, as he tried to get his inner turmoil under control. He failed, and his façade crumbled as the dam broke and the tears came. Bridget reached out and wrapped her arms around him as he cried on her shoulder.

Through the tears, he said, “What would I have done if she’d died? Oh God!” He awkwardly pulled away from her and began to retch. She steadied him at the waist until his stomach was finished rebelling. She pulled him into a tight hug.

He pushed back from the embrace. “Sorry, I guess I just needed…”

Bridget supplied, with an arched eyebrow and smirk, “Your mom?” She cupped his cheek. “Feeling better? I know that a good cry always makes me feel better.”

He wiped the tears on his cheeks with the back of his hand. “Yeah, thanks.” He cleared his throat and then added, “Thanks for everything.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome.” Then she turned serious, “When are you coming home? I haven’t seen you at all this break – I miss having your butt around to kick.”

He smiled. “Yeah, yeah, yeah Mommy!” He met her gaze and said seriously, “Soon, I promise.”

She replied, “You better be – or I’ll come down here and kick your scrawny ass!”

She watched him climb aboard the yacht before she returned to her car and headed home.

 

Rick walked into the beach house; he had noticed the extra cars out front, but didn’t recognize them. It was quiet, which was odd, and there were signs of habitation – maybe Tony was hanging? He went into the kitchen to grab a beer; he opened it and took a long pull as he looked out at the ocean. He heard a squeaking noise and turned around to find Melissa sitting in her wheelchair in the doorway of the kitchen.

“Rick! I’m so glad to see you.” Melissa rolled her chair next to him and reached out and took his hand. “I never got a chance to thank you so very much for saving us…”

His eyes narrowed, as he pulled his hand from her grasp. “’S o.k.” He took another long pull from his beer; it was obvious that he was uncomfortable. “What’re you doing here?”

Melissa rolled her chair back away from him a little bit. “Ah, staying here.” Her brow was furrowed as she tried to figure out his response.

He glared at her. “Why?”

She looked up at him. “What?”

He looked angry. “Why are you staying here? Don’t you each have a home you could be staying at?”

Before she got a chance to answer, the sliding screen door into the kitchen squealed as it was opened and closed. Kris’ out of breath voice could be heard, “Lissa, you will not believe…” Her voice trailed off as she looked up and caught the angry look on her brother’s face. Suddenly the worst day of her life, the day Susan attacked them, came racing into her brain. The color drained from her face and her eyes grew wide.

Melissa was slightly alarmed. “Babe, you OK?”

“OH MY GOD!” Kris blurted, with her eyes locked with Rick’s

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked, as he moved into the living room. He thought how good her face looked considering what it had looked like the last he’d seen it.

Kris followed him, her mind whirling as the information about Tess came flooding back. “You and Tess came up to the Hacienda – that really happened?”

Rick stopped and turned, eyeing his sister suspiciously. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? If that’s your idea of an apology, you suck.”

Meanwhile, on the deck, Mr. and Mrs. Davis, Gert, Bridget and Franklin were all standing, ready to enter the house.

Kris took a deep breath. “Then that really did happen.”

“What in the fuck are you talking about? Of course it really happened,” Rick shouted.

The parents entered the house, hearing the raised voices.

Rick continued, “Why the fuck would anyone make that up?”

Kris was angry. “Excuse me, but I’ve had amnesia, or did you forget?”

Rick just looked at her a moment. “You’re going to have to do better than that for an apology.”

Melissa sat in her wheelchair, watching the siblings; it was like a twisted tennis match.

The Davises looked to the Cutlers for a clue as to what was going on. All the Cutlers could do was shrug.

“I’m not going to apologize – you’re the one that was wrong.”

Rick scoffed, “Oh here we go – get down off your high horse, Miss Morals!”

“Oh please; you knew she was gay…”

“Give me a fucking break! How would I know she was gay? By the way she liked dick?!”

All of the adults acted as if they had just been slapped across the face. Franklin made a move to leave the kitchen to break up the fight, but Bridget grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“God, that is so sick! Do you eat with that mouth?” Kris had her arms wrapped tightly around herself, looking green.

He gave a big Cheshire cat grin. “Yep, pussy!”

“Gods, you are such a pig!”

“Why don’t you just admit that you were hunting in my territory?”

Kris looked completely puzzled. “What?”

He put out his hand as if explaining to a child. “I had her first, then you came sniffing around…”

Kris got defensive. “I did not come sniffing around – she came after me…”

He scoffed as he interrupted, “Oh please!”

“I know to someone like you who has screwed most of the population of the planet…”

Bridget had to put a hand over her mouth to stop from laughing.

Franklin whispered, “Ooo, good one!”

Kris continued, “…That it’s hard to believe that someone would actually be pursuing me….”

Melissa’s brow furrowed. “Excuse me.”

Kris continued, ignoring the blond, “Let me ask you when was the last time you turned down someone warm for your form?” She took a breath, hardly giving him time to answer. “That’s what I thought.” Kris had an eerie flash of déjà vu – as if they had just picked this conversation up where they left off.

He turned and took a couple of steps until they were standing nose to nose. “I know what your problem is – you can’t admit that you were wrong, because if you do then that means you couldn’t actually tell that she wasn’t gay.” His eyes flashed with delight. “Holy shit, that means that you might actually like doing straight chicks…”

Kris threw her arms up in the air, her face red and her voice loud. “That is fucking enough! I don’t like doing straight chicks!” She dropped her voice and her gaze. “Tess was my first and only.”

Melissa’s eyebrows raised. ‘Tess?’ she thought. Frances gave voice to what Melissa was thinking, “When exactly were you “doing” this Tess?”

Rick was riding his anger wave. “This is none of your fucking business!” He turned and faced the older woman. “What the fuck are you doing in my house?””

“Rick, shut your fucking mouth!” Kris came to her mother-in-law’s defense. “This is still partly my house and she’s a guest.”

He scoffed, “Right.”

“Anytime you want to pony up the cash to buy me out…”

Rick interrupted, “I’ll get my check book.”

Kris corrected, “I said cash, pretty boy.”

Frances interrupted, “Excuse me, when you two are through I’d really like an answer to my question.” Frances crossed her arms over her chest, waiting.

Kris’ head hurt and she was growing tired of this conversation. She turned away from the two attackers and her eyes fell on Melissa’s. She felt all of the anger drain away from her to be replaced with dread. Dropping her eyes, and in an almost whisper, she replied, “Before I met Lissa.”

Melissa had known that Tess and Kris were an item long ago. It was nice to have it confirmed from someone she really trusted that it had stopped after Kris had met her.

Rick still had his mad on. “So you didn’t do Tess at all on this last tour?”

Kris looked at her lover, meeting her gaze. “Not after Portland, no.” She turned back to face him. “That pleasure was all yours.” She crossed her arms over her chest; her eyes were stormy. “Tell me you had the good sense to at least get tested while you were gone?”

He finished off his beer. “What was your excuse?”

Kris exploded, “I was trying not to die!!!!”

Melissa cut in, “Excuse me – tested? For what?”

Kris hung her head, she couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. “A.I.D.S., STD, you name it.” She brought her head up and gave him a smoldering gaze. “Mr.  Irresponsible doesn’t believe in wearing protection.”

Melissa gasped, “Oh my God!”

Craig came storming out of the kitchen. “Let me get this straight, you’ve exposed my little girl to A.I.D.S.?”

Kris really didn’t have an answer for that. “Not on purpose.” Gods, did that sound as lame to everyone as it did to me?

Craig was livid. “I think it’s disgusting that the two of you share sexual partners…”

Melissa interrupted, “Daddy, wait…”

Kris tried to explain; pointing to Rick and then herself, she said, “We didn’t plan this. Tess engineered this – situation.”

"Tess, the assistant tour manager?  She told me about her little tricks – I thought it was twisted.” Melissa remembered her conversation with the woman during the Lilith Fair tour.

Kris looked shocked. “You… ta…talked with Tess?”

Melissa gave her a reassuring smile. “Relax everything is cool.”

Craig took a couple of steps and was standing face to face with Kris. “I don’t think my daughter needs to be a party to this.”

Both Melissa and Frances asked, “What?”

Frances tried to calm her husband. “Honey, this isn’t really any of our business…”

“Thank God we were here to hear the truth! Don’t you worry Pumpkin, we’ll take you back home where you’ll be safe.”

Melissa turned her chair so she was facing her father; in a calm voice she said, “I’m not going.”

Bridget pumped her fist into the air in the kitchen and whispered, “Yes! You go girl.”

Craig’s train was suddenly derailed, “What? Of course you are, you’re my little girl, and you are coming home with us.”

Melissa put a little more edge into her voice this time. “I’m staying right here.”

Rick headed toward the kitchen for another beer; mostly under his breath, and in a very sarcastic tone, he said, “Great.”

Kris nailed him in the stomach as he walked by, and gave him a warning glance. “Why don’t you just go back to your boat?”

Frances tried, “Craig honey, this affair hasn’t really hurt Melissa; we should just butt out.”

Craig turned on her. “No it hasn’t hurt her; it just may have given her a life threatening disease!”

Melissa moved her chair closer to her father. “Daddy, I love Kris.” She reached out her hand and took his larger one in hers. “I’m safe here, I don’t know how to make you understand.”

He looked down into her face, and you could see him deflate. He petted her hair with his other hand. “You love her, don’t you Pumpkin?”

She nodded yes but didn’t say anything. His face took on a resigned look, as he bent down and kissed Melissa’s cheek.

Frances came over and gave him a big hug.

Craig walked over to face Kris; in a very serious tone he said, “If you ever do anything to hurt my little girl – there won’t be a hole deep enough for you to hide in.”

Kris swallowed in reflex. “Yes sir.” She could hear Rick snickering from the kitchen doorway.

Rick turned his attention to his parents and asked, “What the hell are you hiding in here for?”

Franklin replied, “Nice to have you back buddy.” He clapped the younger man on the back.

Rick shook his head no. “This is just too weird; I’m outta here.”

Bridget put a hand out to stop him. “Don’t leave like this.”

“Later.” And he stepped out the sliding glass door.

 

41

Kris and Melissa walked through the doorway into the large waiting room of the Santa Barbara County Jail; after giving their names and purpose for being there, they sat down to wait. Melissa sat anxiously; having never been to a police station before, she was both curious and nervous. People in varying degrees of sanity, sobriety and dress came past her in a steady stream. She really didn’t want to be here, but Susan had promised that if Melissa came and talked to her, that she would take the plea bargain and there would be no trial. Melissa only hoped that Susan was as nervous to talk to her as she was to see Susan.

Kris on the other hand was having Flashback City as her youth came rushing back to her like a tidal wave. She had wanted to be here to help support Melissa when she met with her ex, but Kris wasn’t sure she could stand much more of this. She fidgeted in her chair like a little kid trying to be still for a long Catholic wedding.

They had been divided on whether Kris should help Melissa back to the visiting room or not. Melissa was sure it would antagonize Susan and then she might not help them. Kris wanted to give the bitch the clear sign that she was still very much alive and kicking and if the possibility came up she would take Susan’s head off without a second thought.

Melissa was daydreaming and could hear Kris’ voice in her mind, “Babe, don’t do this – don’t give that bitch the satisfaction. I can take going to trial, even if they find out about my past. It’s worth it to see that bitch go away for life when she could have just spent a few years behind bars.”

But Melissa didn’t want to drag herself and her family through the publicity of a trial that could literally drag on for years.

A loud male voice broke through her musings, “Davis!”

Melissa stood, and grabbing her crutches, slowly hobbled over to the bellowing officer. “I’m Davis.”

He looked her up and down once, then said, “This way.” He took her to a large room that was divided at one end into several small cubicles with phone receivers hanging off short walls flanked by thick panes of glass.

Melissa hobbled up to one of the cubicles; she could see Susan sitting on the other side. Her escort assisted her onto the short stool bolted to the ground in front of a low shelf in front of the glass. Getting her injured leg into this yoga like position was a bit awkward. Once seated, her escort left; she took a deep breath and faced her ex-lover, her face unreadable.

Susan reached out and took her receiver off the wall; after a moment, Melissa followed suit.

“How are you?” Susan asked.

Melissa was determined not to let this woman get to her; she willed her voice to be emotionless. “Alive and healing.” In her mind she added, no thanks to you.  Melissa saw a wince pass over the other woman’s eyes. “You look as though you’ve healed up nicely.”

Her voice was tinged with sadness. “I had forgotten how beautiful you are….”

Melissa cut her off, “Let’s cut to the chase; you wanted to see me – here I am.”

Susan looked like she was pouting. “Sissy don’t be that way.”

A flash of annoyance passed Melissa’s eyes. “Don’t call me that – my name is Melissa.” She took a breath. “If you think this is pleasant for me, then you are mistaken.”

“I wanted to apologize for hurting you.” Susan dropped her gaze. “It was never my intention to hurt you.” She raised her eyes back up and met the blond’s gaze. “I love you – I’ll always love you.”

Melissa felt dirty. “I think you know that I don’t reciprocate your feelings.”

Susan’s upper lip turned into a sneer. “That rich bitch has brainwashed you against me.”

Letting her temper flare, Melissa slammed her hand down hard on the shelf in front of the glass. “You shot me!” Taking a deep breath she brought her temper under control. “No one brainwashed me, no one controls me. I decide who I’m going to give my heart to. For the last time, I had stopped caring for you long before I met Kris.….”

Susan bared her teeth and hissed interrupting, “Don’t say her name around me!”

Melissa’s pale eyebrows rose; she could see the scene from The Princes Bride when Miracle Max’s wife taunts him with the name of the ‘King’s stinking son who fired him,’ she wanted to just start saying “Kris” and not stop. “As I was saying, that’s why I stopped seeing you.”

Susan suddenly looked very sincere. “Does she make you happy?”

Melissa was caught off guard. “Ah… I’m not really comfortable talking about my relationship with…” She looked up and stopped herself before she said her lover’s name. “My wife with you…”

Susan interrupted her, “So it’s just the money?”

Melissa took a deep breath. “Yes she makes me very happy. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. If she were dirt poor, I’d feel the same way about her.” She raised an eyebrow in challenge.

 

42

The living room of the Davis home was filled with all of the members of the Davis family and all the members of the Cutler family.

Rick said, sarcastically, “Lovely weather you are having for Labor Day.”

Franklin flicked his ear. “Be nice,” he warned, under his breath.

Frances chuckled. “Well you know, here in rainy Portland, if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes and it will change.”

Bridget sipped her beer. “Thanks again for inviting us up to celebrate with you.”

Frances smiled warmly. “You’re welcome. We’re all one big family now.”

Lindsay said, under his breath, “Great.”

Meg threw a handful of popcorn at him. “Shhhh!”

Kris asked from the doorway, “Who needs another beer?”

Tony, Rick, Franklin, Meg, Lindsay, Craig and Melissa held up their hands.

Melissa picked a couple of chips out of the bowl on the table in from of her. “When is Karen’s first day of school?”

Chad replied, “Tuesday.”

Melissa looked surprised. “Wow, that’s soon.”

Meg chuckled, “I can’t believe how fast she is growing up.”

Kris returned with the beers; she handed them out and then took a seat on the floor next to Melissa.

Craig unscrewed the bottle. “Wait until she’s learning to drive.”

Bridget chuckled, “That’ll be next week, right?”

The parents all laughed knowingly. Craig was ruffling Chad ’s hair.

Brandon cleared his throat. “I… ah got my subpoena for your case last week.”

Kris replied, “Sorry about that.”

Frances asked, “So the trial is happening then?”

“Fucking finally!” Rick sounded annoyed; he looked up. “What? I’m sick of having that hanging around my neck, ruling my life.”

Kris gave her brother a withering stare, then turned her attention back to her brother-in-law. “Brand, you coming back with us then?”

He shrugged. “I guess – that makes sense…”

Melissa interrupted, “You’re going to miss classes aren’t you?”

“Could be.”

Melissa sounded angry, “Damn that woman!”

Kris patted her lover’s thigh. “What’s done is done.”

Craig asked, “What’s going on?”

Melissa spat, “Bitch – I don’t want to go to trial, but Susan is determined to drag us all through the mud of a public trial!”

Frances was aghast. “She didn’t take the plea bargain?”

Brandon spoke up, “She’s going to lose, she has to know that. If she wants life, then I say we give it to her.”

Bridget asked, “I thought they offered her fifteen years?”

Kris sipped her beer. “Oh they did. But she wants a trial.”

Franklin was holding his head, trying to figure out what was going on. “She said she wanted three counts of life instead of fifteen years?” Understanding dawned on his face. “Ah I see, this all goes along for her insanity plea doesn’t it?”

Meg asked, “Isn’t there anything you can do to make her change her mind?”

Melissa shook her head no. “I even agreed to talk with her….”

The room came alive as everyone was all talking at once.

Rick looked incredulous. “You actually went down to the jail and talked with that crazy motherf……”

Tony punched him in the arm to stop him for speaking.

He grabbed his arm, and looking angrily at his surrogate sister, sounded like a sullen child as he complained, “OW! That hurt.” He turned his attention on Bridget, looking expectantly at her.

She shrugged. “How many times have I told you not to swear?”

He went into instant pout.

Craig looked seriously at his daughter. “Honey, I know you don’t want to go to trial, but do you really think that talking with this woman was a good idea?”

Melissa ran a hand through her blond curls. “It’s not like we were alone in a room; she was locked up safe and sound…”

Under her breath Tony said, “I’d like to be in a room alone with her.” She looked up and met Frances’ concerned gaze. “Did I say that out loud?”

Rick sat up, looking excited. “Hey, you know where that jail is, right? Shouldn’t be too hard to get in there as her lawyers….”

Frances sounded surprised, “Whoa! You would risk going to jail….”

Melissa interrupted, her anger slightly contained, “To receive justice?” She made eye contact with the “kids” in the room. “Damn straight!” was the answer, in unison.

Frances looked incredulous. “Unbelievable!”

Kris’ anger boiled over. “That bitch tried to kill me! She’s going to be rewarded for this act by using my tax dollars to get an all-expenses-paid short stay in the looney bin, if she doesn’t just manage to get off Scott free.!”

“I can understand your anger, but the fact that Susan is going to get the help she needs, instead of rotting in a jail cell, is a good thing for society.”

Bridget had been strangely quiet up till now. “My experience with people like Susan is that they ‘trick’ shrinks into thinking that with some drugs and ‘group chats’ that the criminals they are have ‘changed’. Then are released back to society where they continue to commit their crimes.” Taking a breath, she continued, “Being behind bars, in an environment where you do what you must to survive, has a certain way of humbling a person – this is a much better ‘cure’.”

Frances replied, “In my professional opinion, drugs and ‘group chats’ are the only way to reprogram someone as socially mixed up as Susan is.”

Bridget smiled coldly, almost predatory. “In my professional opinion, 8 years as a guest of the California penal system – medium security – if Susan lived through the first year, she’d be cured.”

The silence stretched out for a few moments before Bridget grabbed some unshelled peanuts out of the bowl and popped them into her mouth, she looked at the Davises and said, “Go on, ask – what was I in for?”

Craig cleared his throat. “OK, what were you in for?”

Bridget smiled warmly and wiggled her eyebrows at them. “I murdered my first husband.”

Melissa quickly added, “Self-defense, her husband threatened Tony’s life,” feeling the need to defuse what seemed like a potentially explosive situation.

Frances asked, “Obviously you lived through your first year – were you ‘cured’?”

Franklin smiled and replied, “We’ve been married for fifteen years, and I’ve never worried that I would receive forty whacks.”

“Susan committed a violent act; prison is a violent place. I think after she was beaten up several hundred times – she would begin to rethink committing violence on anyone.” Kris ran a hand through her hair. “And just for the record, treatment options for mental problems that involve drugs and ‘group talk’ is completely bullshit.”

Brandon chuckled, “Speaking from experience?”

Kris met his gaze, her face calm, but said nothing.

Frances thought, ‘Ah, that would be the skeleton the Cutlers are all trying to keep hidden. What a PR nightmare if that should get out!’

“To answer your question, Frances – since I never intended to ever take another human life, I was in that sense ‘cured’. But it taught me a lot of things about myself.Silence stretched out for a while.

Tony gave a brilliant smile and suddenly said, “How ’bout those Dodgers?”

Lindsay replied, “Oh please, they suck! The Mets are going all the way this year.”

Franklin chuckled. “You’re dissing our hometown team.”

Under his breath, Craig said, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all?”

Brandon looked interested. “You’re baseball fans?”

“Beach volleyball is my sport of choice,” Rick announced.

Bridget ruffled his hair. “Girls’ beach volleyball you mean?”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with that sport,” Kris defended, smiling.

Franklin said, “I suppose with the Blazers you’re basketball fans?”

Meg ran her hands through her hair. “Ugh sports, sports, do we really have to talk about sports?”

Melissa chuckled, “Well about the only thing we haven’t talked about is religion and politics – and since we almost came to blows over the justice and penal systems, maybe we should find something safe to talk about?”

Meg said, “So that means we aren’t going shopping next week then?” the realization about the trial dawning on her.

Melissa shook her head no. “Besides, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment.”

Meg looked puzzled. “I thought you were going to get that transferred up here?”

Melissa’s eyes grew slightly larger as she wished her sister hadn’t just said that.

Kris asked, trying not to look as surprised as she felt, “You coming back up here?”

Melissa sounded a bit cross, “Yeah, I want to do my P.T. here. Why don’t we talk about this later?”

Kris felt as if her world had been knocked out of orbit; her stomach started to do flip-flops. “Sounds like a great idea. I think you should be close to your family for that.” She smiled, hoping it looked more sincere than she felt.

Meg tried to apologize, “I’m sorry, did I let something out of the bag?”

“Fine – let’s talk about it later.” Melissa voice had a hard edge to it.

Bridget and Franklin exchanged surprised looks. Bridget thought, ‘This was out of left field for Kris as much as us. Wonder what’s going on with them?’ There was an air of stunned silence for a moment.

Kris tried, “OK….” She leaned near her lover. “I’m sorry.”

Melissa, looking angry, turned to face the dark haired woman. “For what?”

Kris looked at a loss, and as if she were in a minefield. “Ah, for whatever has upset you.”

“Jesus Kris, I said let’s talk about it later!”

Kris looked surprised; she just sat there trying to melt into the floor.

Frances broke the silence, “Does anyone want another beer?”

Melissa jumped to her feet; grabbing her cane, she said, “Excuse me.” And left.

Kris was compelled to go after her but, with the look and reaction she had just gotten, she thought it might be a better idea to stay here.

Craig came into the room. “Alright, dinner’s ready.”

Frances got up. “OK everyone into the dining room.”

Kris just sat, staring at the floor.

Rick stopped on his way to follow the crowd. “Hey, you coming?”

Kris barely looked up. “Yeah sure, right behind you.”

His brow furrowed as he reluctantly left her.

Meg flopped down in the seat next to her sister-in-law. “Hey.”

Kris looked up and smiled weakly. “Hey.”

Meg moved her head to indicate her missing sister. “What was that all about?”

Kris sighed, “I was hoping you could tell me. You know Lissa much better than I do.”

“Sorry, don’t have an answer for you – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her act like that.” She knew that was not what the dark haired woman wanted to hear.

“Is this typical married behavior?”

Meg thought about that for a minute. “Typical, I don’t know about that, but Chad and I fight.”

Kris perked up at this. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, we used to fight a lot when we first got married – about money.”

“Oh that…”

“Ah, you’ve heard of that one?”

“Seems to be a recurring theme at our house, and in the car, and on the deck, and…”

Meg chuckled. “I get the picture. Have you tried talking to her about it?”

“Yeah – if I don’t pay for stuff, she gets pissed; if I do pay for stuff, she gets pissed; I try to stay away from places/things that cost money, that just makes her mad.”

Meg was scratching her jaw. “I see. Sounds like you’re in a no win situation.”

“No words of wisdom?”

“I think you should go talk to her.”

Kris ran a hand through her hair. “You think? She looked like I was the last person she wanted to be around.”

Meg stood. “I think you should give it a try.”

Kris got to her feet. “OK – thanks.”

Meg smiled. “Hey, what are sisters for?”

There were two places empty during dinner.

After dinner, the women were in the kitchen cleaning up.

Frances asked, “Bridget, is everything going OK with those two?”

“As far as I know – today was as much a surprise to us as it was to you.”

Meg said, more to herself than anyone, “The last time I was that moody I was pregnant.”

The kitchen was so quiet you could hear the rain outside.

Meg turned around to face the rest of the women, her eyes wide. “You don’t suppose…”

Frances laughed, “Not unless Kris has some equipment the rest of us don’t.”

Bridget chuckled, “Or maybe it’s Immaculate Conception?”

That got all the women laughing so hard tears were rolling down their cheeks.

Chad came in to grab a soda, saw the laughter, and asked, “What’s so funny?”

The women just burst out in a new round of giggles.

Chad just shook his head and left. Under his breath, he said, “Women.”

Kris had looked on the porch in the front and then the smaller one in the back, but didn’t see her lover. She was beginning to wonder what had happened to her when she saw Melissa sitting under a huge maple tree in the back of the lot.

She walked over and sat down with her back to the trunk of the tree, which mirrored Melissa.

“Looks like the rain has let up.” Kris was nervously pulling up blades of grass.

Melissa gave a noncommittal grunt.

Kris was beginning to regret coming out here when Melissa finally said, “What are you doing out here?”

“Looking for you.”

Melissa scoffed, “After the way I treated you in there?”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I’m worried about you.” She put a blade of grass in her mouth. “You want to talk about it?”

“I love you…” her voice trailed off

“I love you too,” Kris replied

Melissa was quiet for a while. “Lately you’re driving me nuts.”

Kris kept quiet as she took this bit of news in.

“I think I’m just nervous about the trial.”

Kris kept her voice neutral, “Yeah, that’s probably it. God knows I’m nervous about that myself.” It was quiet for a while. “I think it’s really a good idea that you come back up here and spend some time with your family.”

“Yeah?”

“Totally! You need to recharge, get away from crazySouthern California for awhile.”

“Sorry to have sprung that on you like that. I really thought I’d get a chance to talk to you before Meg opened her big mouth.”

Kris smiled self deprecatingly. “It’s cool; it just fed into my insecurity.”

Melissa turned so she could see Kris. “Insecurity about what?”

Kris was busily plucking lint off her pants, not meeting her lover’s gaze. She slowly raised her eyes and met the stormy blue. “You.”

Melissa brow furrowed. “Why would you be insecure about me?”

Kris dropped her gaze. “Oh I don’t know, afraid you’re going to leave me.”

“There is nothing to fear there – I love you.” She met her lover’s gaze and saw all of the doubt swirling around there. “Hey I married you, didn’t I?” She smiled and her eyes twinkled. She reached over and stroked Kris’ cheek.

Kris smiled slightly. “Yeah, that you did.”

“My ass is all wet – what do you say we go inside?”

“Oh, I’m so happy to hear you say that – I thought it was just me.”

 

Epilogue

Verdict is in on Kris Cutler-Davis Assault Case -

Santa Barbara, Ca. – Kris Cutler-Davis, drummer for the rock bands Scarecrow and Tomboy, was in court today as the decision against the stalker was handed down. In the eleventh hour the woman, Susan Babbit, plead guilty to all charges, ranging from assault with intent to kill to attempted murder. Several months ago, Cutler-Davis’s wife, Melissa, was abducted at gunpoint and taken back to their estate, where Babbit assaulted her and Cutler-Davis, disfiguring her. Apparently the incident arose from a prior relationship between the attacker and Cutler-Davis’s wife.

“I’m happy with Ms. Babbit’s plea,” Cutler-Davis remarked outside the courtroom. When asked if she felt justice had been served, she replied, “Absolutely. I don’t truly understand why this woman felt the need to commit these terrible crimes, but I’m a firm believer that we must accept responsibility for our actions, and now she’ll be getting what she deserves.” Does Cutler-Davis fear that more of her fans will come gunning for her? Her reply, “Ah, but this wasn’t a fan, just a deeply disturbed person. I don’t fear my fans.” Has this in any way changed the way she lives her life? “For awhile after it happened I was feeling scared and vulnerable, but when the shock wore off I realized I was just being paranoid. Now everything is back to normal.”

Cutler-Davis’s latest album “Cornfields’ with band Scarecrow has just gone double platinum. No word yet when the upcoming album with band Tomboy will be released.

 

The end – thanks for taking the journey with me, hope you liked it.

Kris and Melissa and the rest of the gang will be back in their next adventure – keep an eye out for it in the near future.

Send comments to: cyberdyke@gmail.com

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