~ Echoes of the Past ~
revised and reedited
J. M. Dragon & Erin O'Reilly
In an operating room a voice said, “She’s losing pressure.”
“We’ve got a bleeder,” the surgeon said.
“Pressure is 80 over 60.”
Another voice said, “Her heartbeat is erratic.”
“Damn it we’re losing her.” When the monitor gave a long, slow steady beep the surgeon said, “She’s crashing.” He took the internal cardiac paddles and pressed them to her heart. “Clear,” he said watching the monitor for any sign of life. “Again.” After one more try a steady beep, beep filled the room. “Hang more blood and let’s get her closed.”
+ + +
Dan looked up and saw the surgeon heading toward him with a grim expression. He said, “How is she?”
“We nearly lost her several times. I repaired what I could. The bullet exploded inside causing extensive damage. We did what was necessary to keep her alive. Once she gets stronger, we’ll have to go back in and repair the rest. We found the biggest fragment of the bullet lodged near her spine. I won’t lie to you, she’s critical and right now she’s lucky to be alive.”
“Can I see her?”
The surgeon patted Dan’s shoulder. “When she’s out of recovery they’ll move her to ICU. That should take an hour or so.”
“Thank you,” Dan said softly. He sent up a silent prayer before making a phone call. “She’s out of surgery…it doesn’t look good.” He listened then added, “It may have to change depending on the outcome.” Finished, he folded his phone and sat down to wait to speak with Parker.
+ + +
Quietly, Dan opened the door to Parker’s ICU room and nodded at a nurse who was adjusting some of the machines. “You can only stay a moment,” she said.
“I know.” Dan moved beside the bed and took Parker’s hand in his. When her eyes fluttered open he said, “We need to talk.”
Parker’s eyes tried to focus on the man but she was having a difficult time keeping them open. She whispered something so softly that Dan couldn’t hear her. He leaned in so his ear was close to her mouth.
“What did you say?” He listened carefully and when she finished he said, “Don’t worry about that right now.”
In reaction to her agitation, the monitors began to fluctuate. Again, she whispered in Dan’s ear and when he nodded, she closed her eyes.
A nurse scurried into the room and said, “You need to leave now.”
Dan shook his head, bent down, and whispered, “I’ll take care of it,” before he left the room.
Dan entered Olivia’s room with wheelchair in tow. “The surgery is over and she’s in ICU,” he said to the obviously agitated Olivia.
“What the hell took you so long,” Olivia growled.
“She just now got into ICU.”
“You should of come and gotten me when the surgery was over not an hour later!”
“Hey, I’m on your side. What good would it have done to take you there…you couldn’t see her.”
Olivia closed her eyes. She was too tired to argue the point. “Assemble the team and I’ll contact Parker’s parents. I want Stevie, Chris and Sally to go to Philadelphia and locate the Durant woman. Once they set up surveillance, I’ll want to know if she so much as sneezes.” Olivia moved off the bed too quickly causing her to close her eyes as a wave of nausea washed over her.
“I’ll set that in motion and when I get back I’ll take you to intensive care.”
“It’s wheels up for the jet. I want them to pick up Parker’s parents. Tell Tom to head southwest and when you come back I’ll give you the exact coordinates.” Olivia turned her back on the man. “Get going and make sure the rest do their jobs too.”
+ + +
Before Dan walked out of the hospital, he sent a text message to the rest of the team to meet with him at a predetermined location.
Stevie was the first to arrive. She looked at the man sitting next to her in the command center van. His voice said calm and collected, but his face said something altogether different. “Is she pissed?”
Dan sighed. “Yep, but we expected that.”
“Both.” He looked past the woman. “I think an operative being shot wasn’t something she anticipated…I know I didn’t, not with someone like Parker.” His eyes rested on the younger woman and saw no emotion on her face or in her cold blue eyes. “Do you feel anything?”
Stevie shook her head. “No, I don’t. It is part of what we do Dan. We save people and sometimes a death or injury occurs. I can’t allow myself to dwell on that…I couldn’t do my job. ”
Dan shrugged. “Yeah you’re right.” Inside he felt sorry for the woman.
The rest of the team arrived and gathered inside the roomy van. “How’s Santos doing,” one man asked.
“She has a mild concussion along with bruises and minor lacerations. They want to keep her overnight.”
“What about Davis?”
Dan looked at the group and cleared his throat. “Tom, I need you up in the air as soon as possible and head southwest. I’ll radio you with the exact coordinates within the hour.” He looked at Stevie. “I want you, Chris and Sally to go to Philly, find the Durant woman and keep tabs on her until Olivia arrives.”
“She’s going after that woman without any concrete proof of her involvement?” Stevie said. “Am I missing something here?”
Annoyed, Dan flexed his jaw. “The mission isn’t finished yet. The Durant woman needs to be brought to justice.” He gave Stevie a hard stare. “If you don’t want to piss off Olivia more than she already is, I’d get my butt down to Philly. Eric, you need to speak with Olivia’s contact at the police department and make sure they bury the shooting. I told the doctor it was a suicide attempt so he’s obligated to report that to the police...we don’t want them snooping into our business.”
“No problem Dan. He cooperated with us at the funeral so I see no reason for him not to now.”
“Good. I take it that you have cleaned the site and disposed of the body.” Everyone nodded. He said, “Ok. Tom let me know when you’re on the ground. I’ll expect reports from you three when you’re in Philly and Eric let me know if we need to persuade the police by calling in a few favors.” Dan blew out a breath. “Ok, you all know your assignments…you’ll be advised of any changes.”
Dan opened the door to the van and slid out. He took a quick look at his watch before taking a deep breath. “Man, I hate this.” When he reached the door to the hospital emergency room, he went inside to face Olivia again.
Olivia sat in the wheelchair beside Parker’s bed. The low lighting embellished by the monitors checking her vitals and the odd beep from the equipment were her only companions. Her eyes cast to the clock on the wall of the intensive care nursing station. Unable to hide her frustration anymore she said, “It’s been over an hour why the hell aren’t you waking up Parker?”
Parker was in a dream state. As she felt her consciousness wanting to leave the beautiful visions, she tried to fight it–she lost. When she opened her eyes, she stirred slightly and saw Olivia sitting next to her.
The movement of the eyelids had Olivia glued to Parker’s face. The relief she felt when the eyelids opened and she saw Parker’s disorientated brown eyes gaze at her was palpable. The tears she’d kept in check slowly ran down her cheeks. “Hey Parker, at last. Bet you thought you’d skip town on me before I got a chance to speak to you huh?”
Her dry mouth made it difficult to form words. “O,” was all she could whisper.
A thousand things traveled through Olivia’s mind at that precise moment and she didn’t know what to say. She closed her eyes briefly then gave Parker a small smile. “Do you need a drink?”
Olivia poured water into the paper cup on the bedside table and gently placed the end of a straw against Parker’s lips. “I’d better call the nurse. They wanted to be informed if you woke.”
With a shaky hand, Parker grabbed Olivia’s wrist. “No…I want to tell you…that I have…” To weak to continue, she closed her eyes and could not stop the lone tear that trickled down her cheek.
“Hey it’s ok. What do we need the nurse for anyway? I know you’re going to be back on your feet in no time.What do you want to tell me?”
Parker heard the words from the one person she trusted with her life and struggled to open her eyes. She stared into the blue pools that once held so much love for her and more tears fell. “I love you,” she said.
Olivia felt a constriction in her throat as she heard the three words.
It took all Parker’s energy to continue speaking. “I never stopped.” She closed her eyes.
The words pierced Olivia’s being, slicing her in half. For a long moment, Olivia was speechless. “I called your parents, they’ll be here soon.”
“Mom’s gonna be pissed.” Parker tried to smile. “Bet she cries,” she said. Her eyes drifted in and out of the clouds that kept calling her name.
“Yeah, Ruth’s not going to be easy on me for putting you in a situation that might get you…,” Olivia said. She refused to think of Parker in any way but alive and well.
“I knew the risks. Dying is the chance we take.” She knew she needed Olivia to know what went left unsaid for ten years. She dug deep down for the strength to continue. “You didn’t do anything O.” She struggled to continue. “I should have fought harder to...” She couldn’t stop the onslaught of tears. “…I loved you so much then and still do.” Parker heard her own words echoing around her and desperately wanted to say more. “I didn’t betray you…I’d never do that.” The words, ‘Don’t leave me’,screamed noiselessly before her mind sank deep into an abyss.
The bleakness of the words and their meaning wasn’t lost on Olivia as she took Parker’s hand and lifted it to her lips and kissed it reverently. “Don’t you know that I’ll always love you Parker? You were my first love and until the day I die you always will be, that can’t ever change.” She buried her face in the hand trying to stave off the tears that threatened to flood the sheets.
For what seemed like an age, Olivia remained in that position until she realized that Parker’s breathing was shallow. Something was wrong. She hit the button for the nurse.
A nurse, dressed in brightly colored scrubs, came into the room, pushing past the man standing in the doorway.
“What’s the matter?”
“She woke up and now she’s gone again…can’t you do something to bring her back?”
Calmly the nurse checked Parker’s vitals. “Ms. Davis can you hear me.” When she had no response, she took Parker’s hand. “If you can hear me Parker, squeeze my hand.” The nurse turned to Olivia. “I need to get her doctor.”
Olivia’s eyes fell on the pale features of her ex-lover. “Why…what’s wrong?”
The kind eyes of the nurse smiled at Olivia. “Let me get Dr. Holmes. She’ll answer all your questions.” She patted Olivia’s shoulder. “This is not unusual when there’s been massive trauma. I’ll get the doctor.”
Something inside Olivia snapped. For a few seconds her eyes drank in the sight of the woman who, whenever she thought of her, was certainly not like this reflection of a waxwork. Her image had been one of intense vitality and a trust of the world at large.
“Dan, get in here…there’s work to be completed.”
As Dan started into the room, a woman with a long white lab coat over green scrubs stopped him. “You can’t go in there. I need to examine my patient.”
Dan looked through the doorway to Olivia and shrugged.
Dr. Holmes looked at Olivia hovering near the patient’s bed. “Please step out while I examine my patient.”
“I’d have been gone if you’d allowed him to come in and push me.” Her glanced passed over to Parker one last time. “Take good care of her Doctor,” she said.
The doctor looked sharply at Olivia. “I’ll let you know when I’m done with the exam. Will you be close by?”
Dan quickly took the opportunity to retrieve Olivia and wheel her toward the door. Olivia quietly answered, “I’ll never be far away.”
As they entered the corridor, Dan switched his cell back on and immediately it bleep with a text message. Once he retrieved the message, he showed it to Olivia.
“That makes my mind up…get me out of here now. Let’s go.”
“Don’t you want to wait to see what the doctor has to say?” Dan asked. As if on cue, the double doors opened and Parker’s doctor came out.
Dr. Holmes looked at the dark, pensive woman who she was sure she didn’t want to cross. “Right now her mind has shut down while the body heals.”
Olivia nodded. “How long?”
“No way of telling.”
Olivia sucked in a deep breath. “Thank you.” Once the doctor left, her eyes flashed up to Dan. “Nothing I can do here now, but, I can do something that will make Parker happy when she wakes. I’m going to Philly. Take me to the heliport then come back and watch over Parker. When her parents get here, I want you to speak with them directly about what happened. Under no circumstances should they hear from the doctors that Parker tried to commit suicide.” She thought for a moment. “You should tell them she was on a covert assignment and that was the reason you told the doctor’s suicide.” She leveled cold blue eyes on the man. “Nothing happens to
Parker or her parents. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Dan said. “I won’t let you down.”
“You already did when you let her go after O’Donnell.”
Amelia considered going back to the bar to forget her troubles in a wash of alcohol again. From her perspective, she was a spare wheel in Olivia’s life…Olivia pointed that out in stark clarity. The words still echoed in her head. ‘I don’t need you Amelia. Please go.’
As she pulled up beside a building, she was vaguely surprised to see that it was home. Home, its Olivia’s home not mine. A gremlin in her head kept repeating I’m just here because she allows it. She instinctively deactivated the security, watched as the garage door went up and parked more by instinct than purpose.
Amelia stepped out of the vehicle and sighed heavily as she saw Teal and Sophie heading in her direction.
“Hey how is she, I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.” Teal asked. Her ready smile quickly replaced by a frown when she saw her friend’s face. “There hasn’t been complications has there?”
“No, no she’s doing great. She’ll be back tomorrow, they’re just keeping her in overnight for observation…they do that with concussion victims.” Amelia replied mechanically.
Teal let out a sigh of relief. “That’s great news, isn’t it?”
Amelia nodded. “Yes it is. Look, do you both mind if I take a nap, I’m exhausted. All in all it’s been quite a hectic few hours.” It was her excuse to sidestep any more questions–it didn’t happen.
“Have you seen Parker? I was expecting her to check up on me, if not in person at least by phone,” Sophie agitatedly asked.
Amelia wanted to give Sophie a reality check but thought better of the idea. “I’m sure she’ll be in touch as soon as she can, Sophie. If she hasn’t called by the morning, Olivia will know why and you can ask her.”
Teal watched Amelia leave. A thoughtful expression crossed her face before she turned to the other woman in the room. “Sophie, why don’t you make us a cup of coffee?”
Sophie, aggrieved at being in the dark, shrugged. “I’ll do better than that. As we haven’t had anything since early this morning, I’ll make us snacks.”
“Excellent idea. Do you mind if I leave you for a few minutes?” Teal smiled warmly. “I’ve just remembered a message that I need to give to Amelia.”
Sophie responded with a smile of her own. “Take your time. I like to prepare meals and I always work better in the kitchen on my own.”
Teal waited for Sophie to climb the stairs and enter the kitchen before she tentatively tapped on Amelia’s bedroom door. When she didn’t receive an answer, she opened the door, popped her head around it and with difficulty saw that Amelia was on the bed. By the muffled sound, she knew that her friend was crying. She stepped inside the room and walked the few feet to the bed and asked, “Amelia why are you crying? Is Olivia ok? You can tell me, please.”
From the depths of her despair, Amelia heard the entreaty bordering on worry in Teal’s voice. She pushed the pillow away and quietly replied, “She’s fine it’s nothing but a mild concussion and we both know she has a hard head.”
Teal smiled slightly. “You know, I’m not good at talking to inanimate objects Amelia. Will you at least sit on the edge of the bed and speak to me.”
With a heavy sigh, Amelia moved to accommodate the request. “I need to be alone right now Teal, please.”
“We’re friend’s Amelia, and friends don’t leave without trying to help when they see someone in pain. I’ve known you enough years to figure out something has broken your heart. Just tell me who and I’ll make them pay.”
A tiny smile flickered around Amelia’s lips at the diminutive woman’s defense of her honor. “That’s a bit drastic Teal. You have to give your heart to someone or something for it to be broken.”
“Ok, then what’s happened to make you cry?”
“I guess for the first time, I found out where I am in the scheme of things around here. I feel inconsequential.”
Teal rolled her eyes. “What a crock that is Amelia. If Olivia was here and she heard you say that, she’d be taking you to task for it. You are as important in the scheme of things, as you call it, as the rest of us…more so from certain people’s point of view.”
“That’s just where you’re wrong Teal, she doesn’t give a damn.” The words seemed pathetic and selfish.
“Who…Olivia? Give me a break Amelia, we both know different and if you don’t I can tell you…” Teal didn’t finish as Amelia interrupted her.
“She said, and I quote. I don’t need you Amelia. Please go.”
Teal frowned heavily. “Look Amelia, it’s been a rough day she probably wasn’t thinking straight after a blow to the head. Are you sure, that’s what she said? In what context did she say it exactly?”
“Those were the exact words and in context to me being there for her…especially now,” Amelia said.
“Especially now? Why now?”
“Parker was shot, she’s critical. Olivia wanted to be with her.”
Teal’s mouth had dropped open in astonishment. “Why didn’t you mention that? That poor woman in the kitchen is waiting for Parker to get in touch.”
“I can’t tell her. Sophie will want to go to the hospital and that wouldn’t be a safe place for her right now. I suspect it will be in the morning.” Amelia tried to calm her own shattered emotions as she focused on the completion of the mission.
Then it dawned on Teal what the impact of Parker’s condition would have on Olivia. “Look, Olivia’s one of those people who doesn’t want anyone hurt on her watch. You know that Amelia…I know you do. She’ll want to ensure that Parker is ok that’s all.”
More to emphasize it on her own psyche than for Teal’s benefit, Amelia whispered, “Parker was Olivia’s partner ten years ago. When I say partner I mean like you and Phil…they lived together. She didn’t want me there because she’s realized that she still loves Parker and I’d be an embarrassment.”
“My god, I didn’t know that Amelia. That doesn’t make any difference to what you and Olivia have together. She cares about you Amelia.” Not knowing what else to say Teal shrugged. “Besides, I know that Parker and Sophie are sleeping together, surely that means something.”
“I’ve watched Parker. No matter what you say, she loves Olivia. It’s in the way she responds when Olivia is close to her or even speaks.” Amelia felt the wave of anguish wash over her again as tears fell unchecked.
“For Olivia’s sake, I hope Parker makes it. They both deserve to be happy and I think that Olivia realizes she still loves Parker too.”
Teal didn’t hesitate. She literally jumped on the bed and placed her smaller arms around her friend. Amelia took comfort in the sympathy of her friend and leaned into Teal’s embrace. “It’s going to be ok Amelia, it really is. Everything will return to normal when this case is over you’ll see.”
“It can’t ever be again Teal. I feel so lost. What will I do without her in my life if she doesn’t want me here anymore?” Amelia sobbed into the small woman’s shoulder.
Teal didn’t say anything as she silently comforted her friend.
Dan Estevez readjusted his legs as he sat in a chair outside Parker’s room. When the hospital staff asked why he was there, he flashed a badge and said he was protecting the woman. He saw a couple, who he guessed were in their fifties, hurrying toward him. When they got to the door, he stood up and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Davis, I’m Dan Estevez…I’m a friend of Olivia Santos.” He offered his hand.
Ed Davis ignored the proffered hand. “Where’s our daughter?” he demanded.
“Oh Ed,” Ruth said. “He isn’t usually this rude you have to understand we’re worried about our Parker.”
“Yes, I appreciate that,” Dan said. “Would you both come with me to the family room so I can speak with you in private?”
Ruth’s hand went to her mouth. “Oh, my god…Parker has died.”
“No, no she is very much alive. I just need to tell you about the circumstance around her being injured.”
Ed pushed past Dan “We’ll see our daughter first then we can talk.”
Ruth patted Dan’s arm. “We just want to see her for ourselves. You can understand that can’t you?”
Dan nodded. “I’ll be right here until you’re done.”
After Ruth entered the room, Dan heard a loud sob and he clenched his jaw.
+ + +
Ruth took Parker’s hand and held it close. “Ed, look at our little girl…she’s so still,”
Ed said nothing as he fixed his eyes on his daughter while gnashing his teeth.
“Parkiepoo, its Mommy, can you hear me?” Teary eyes looked at Ed. “Do you think she can hear me?”
“She hears you,” an unfamiliar voice said.
Ruth looked toward the door and saw a nurse. “What do I say?”
“Just speak to her like you normally do. The conventional wisdom says that coma patients hear everything you say to them.”
Ruth’s hand went to her mouth again. “When will she wake up?”
“No telling,” the nurse said. “Do you mind stepping outside for about five minutes I need to check her vitals?”
“Come on Ed let’s speak with that nice man outside.”
+ + +
Dan escorted Parker’s parents to the family room and closed the door. He said, “I want to tell you how Parker was injured.”
“You better tell us everything if you know what’s good for you mister.” Ed said.
Dan’s eyes fixed on the older man realizing he was close to exploding. “I plan on doing just that Mr. Davis.” Dan cleared his throat. “Your daughter and Olivia Santos were protecting a woman named Sophie Durant from an assassin.
“That’s the young woman Parker had at the house,” Ruth said.
“The man they were looking for killed a friend of Ms. Durant’s whose funeral was today.” He looked at his watch. “There was a shootout…your daughter had the man cornered. He was the person that shot her…then I shot him dead.” He heard Ruth softly crying and noticed that Ed’s face was stoic. “Your daughter was directly responsible for tracking him down. It was because of her determined pursuit that we got a confession about who the man worked for.”
“He should rest in hell,” Ed said.
Dan nodded. “I’m sure he is.” After a cough, Dan continued his edited version of what happened and who was involved. “It was because of Olivia’s connection with an organization that works undercover that we were able to track and find the man. When we brought your daughter to the hospital we thought it wasn’t prudent to tell anyone about the operation.” He tugged at this collar. “We told them that Parker attempted suicide,” he said. “I wanted you to know what really happened so if any of the hospital staff mentions suicide you will know the truth. We’ve replaced your daughter’s initial doctor with one that works directly for our group.”
“I don’t understand,” Ruth said. “Did Parker work for the group too?
Without hesitation, Dan said, “No.”
“Then why was she there?”
Ruth nodded. She didn’t need further explanation for she knew Parker was there to be with Olivia. Anyone watching the two together could see the bond between them.
Quiet prevailed in the small room. Ed finally stood up, approached Dan and held his hand out. “Thank you. I’m sorry about earlier and bein’ rude…I’m just worried about my little girl.”
Ruth asked, “Where’s Olivia?”
“She’s gone after the person that hired the assassin.”
With an understanding nod, the couple stood up and started for the door. Just as Ed Davis took hold of the doorknob, Dan added, “Mr. and Mrs. Davis there’s one more thing you should know...
The droning of the engine of the helicopter and the whirling of the blades above Olivia, amplified the pain in her head. For the second time on the journey, she reached for the pills Dan acquired before leaving the hospital. Just as she popped two more in her mouth, the pilot pointed to the landing pad.
“That’s where we’ll put her down,” he said.
“You’ll be contacted when we need a collection,” Olivia said. Her gaze scanned the miniscule figures waiting on the roof of a federal building. Minutes later, she saw the thumbs up to vacate the transport. She hopped onto the landing pad making sure her head was low enough from the back draft of the revolving rotors.
Two people moved forward to greet Olivia. “Is everything set up?”
Stevie looked at the woman whose face seemed etched with anger. “Yes, we know her whereabouts. Chris is there now and told us that the woman just got home.”
“Who else is in the building with her?” Olivia barely looked at her colleagues as she walked rapidly to the elevator.
“As far as we know,” Sally said, “there is the household staff that consists of two women, the cook and the nanny. The child is in the house and there’s also a gardener on the grounds.”
“Yes, everything is set in motion.” She pulled out a schematic of the area. “We also have a way to get in undetected.”
Stevie added, “Whenever you say, it will be a go.”
Silence greeted their plans for a few moments as Olivia felt a searing pain in her head. “Good, how far away are we from the residence when we hit street level?”
“We have a van in the garage and it should take about thirty minutes to get to the house depending on the traffic,” Sally said.
Stevie added, “She went to the bank this morning and I managed to plant a small tracking chip on her clothes.” She waited for a question about what would happen if the woman changed her clothes, but got none. “Chris is monitoring her movements in the house with a remote device.”
With a low curse Olivia growled, “Damn Philly and its narrow one way streets. We’d be better off on motorcycles. I take it the driver is familiar with the foibles of this city?”
“Yeah, I went to Penn so I know all the streets.”
Olivia gave Sally the once over. The woman was new to her ops team transferring from one of the other six teams or the HQ team. “Stevie advise the pilot we’ll be ready for pickup again in two hours.”
Stevie gave Olivia a furtive glance then quickly strode toward their vehicle to make the call.
Sally said, “You do realize that the mansion has a gate? Two hours is optimistic at best.”
The bomb that had been ticking in Olivia’s head exploded at the young woman’s words. Her lips curved into a snarl. “Two hours is all you have. If you’re incapable of meeting my targets go back to where you came from or better yet, join something that you can take your time in–origami might be more in your line.”
Sally gaped at the rejoinder. “Chris is inside the grounds. He has the code for the gate when we get there he’ll open it then we’ll have to go about a hundred yards to reach the house. Fortunately, there’s lots of cover so we should go undetected. We noticed that the door near the pool is always open and that will be where we enter.”
“Then the only thing that remains unproven is your driving skills, let’s go.” She climbed into the back of the vehicle where Stevie was waiting.
“I can assure you that my driving skills are more than adequate. No matter what I drive I never get lost, have an accident or fall off a motorcycle.” Sally locked her eyes at the woman in the rearview mirror before buckling her seatbelt.
Olivia leveled a glacial glance in the young woman’s direction–she appreciated the low blow. She nodded slightly and said, “You’re on the clock as of now.”
Sally threw the vehicle into gear and the wheels squealed as she drove toward their target.
The dark van stopped in front of the gated mansion’s driveway. Olivia glanced at her watch…it had taken them twenty-two minutes. Each woman affixed a headset and did a sound check. Then, from inside the van someone said, “We’re here Chris.”
Chris Archer whispered, “The gate to the side of the bigger one is open. I’m about twenty-five yards to the left of that.”
Once the three women exited the vehicle, Olivia spoke into her headset. “Chris you take care of the gardener and Stevie along with Sally will neutralize the inside help.”
They approached the smaller gate, pushed it open and moved to the left toward a stand of trees. Chris waved them over indicating that they should keep low. Stevie crouched next to the man. “What do you have?”
Olivia ground her teeth at the reply. “What part of neutralize the gardener didn’t you understand Chris?” Her eyes scanned the terrain for any other obstacles.
“I did, just give it another minute.” He pointed to the man tending the roses and said, “Five, four, three, two, one…there he goes.” The gardener collapsed backwards.
“What did you do to him?” Stevie asked.
“It’s a prototype of a spray that renders a person unconscious for forty-five minutes and when they awake they have no idea that it happened.” He grinned. “Pretty neat isn’t it?”
Stevie grinned. “Do you have any left for us to use inside?”
“Sure do.” He handed the two women aerosol cans. “Just be sure you don’t use too much. We don’t want them out any longer than we need to get the job done.”
“We’ll be careful,” she said. “Come on let’s get going, we have less than forty-five minutes.”
“She’s in the master bedroom.” Chris started for the house along with the others.
Olivia made a mental note to add that concoction to her next shopping list with DOCO. She continued her private surveillance of the area and the home in particular. Then, she returned her attention to her colleagues who were now out in the open and heading toward the house. “Where do you think you are going Chris?” she said.
“I’m going to the house to help out,” Chris said as whipped his head around to look at Olivia.
“Hey, we’re wasting time here.” Stevie’s bravado was short lived when she saw the scowl on Olivia’s face.
As Olivia stepped closer to the figures, she felt the tension building particularly in Chris. “I asked you to secure the perimeter Chris. You have extinguished the known threat. What happens if someone unexpected arrives and you’re inside? You stay here and deal with it…end of story.” Her glacial eyes moved to Stevie and Sally. She flicked her head toward the house. “You have two minutes.”
Stevie and Sally ran toward the house and gained entrance before neutralizing the cook and the nanny. “All secure.”
As Olivia entered the building, she spoke to Stevie. “Check on the child. I don’t want anything tragic happening to an innocent. Sally, you keep a close eye on the nanny and the maid. I’ll contact you next when we need to exit the building…you be ready.”
+ + +
Olivia activated the recorder in her pocket and quietly opened the bedroom door.
Evelyn Durant, who sat at her desk compiling a list for the nanny, felt a slight breeze on her cheek and unconsciously wiped a hand across it. She had exactly one hour to get into the city and meet her husband at the art museum. Her ears perked up when she thought she heard a strange sound. A quick glance of the room showed nothing out of place. Just as she finished the list, she felt something cold against her neck.
“Shamus sends his regards from the grave Evelyn. I’m here to replace him.” Olivia’s intimidating voice was cold and menacing. She felt her finger twitch eager to squeeze the trigger of her Glock semi-automatic.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Evelyn said. “Exactly who is this Shamus person and where did we meet?”
Olivia, with the gun never leaving the woman’s skin, stealthily moved to face Evelyn Durant. “If I mention Sophie, inheritance and assassin would you remember?”
Evelyn assessed the woman with the gun and felt a small shiver run down her spine. She found herself drawn to the cold blue eyes – she’d seen the same look in Shamus’ eyes. “You certainly don’t look like an assassin,” she said. She fixed Olivia with her own cold, hard stare.
“You’re guessing and this is all some elaborate ruse.” Olivia gave the woman a feral grin. “Is that a chance you want to take Evelyn,” she purred.
“How do I know that he is dead? Maybe this is a deception to extort money.”
Olivia reached inside her jacket pocket and took out the cell phone used to capture images of Shamus’s body.
“See for yourself.” She held the phone so Evelyn could see the picture. “If I go back one you’ll see his useless cousin Sean.” She flicked the button. “See they’re both dead.”
Evelyn looked briefly at the pictures. She sighed and let her eyes fix on Olivia’s face and body. “What, exactly do you want from me?”
Olivia tipped her head to one-side not hiding her deliberate assessment of the woman from her head to the heaving breast implants–she saw fear. She flicked her tongue over her lips and caught eyes that held veiled panic. “For starters I’ll complete the task you gave Shamus, but I’ll want more than what you were paying him.” Her voice changed from menacing to sultry and playful as the tip of her gun made small circles on the woman’s cheek.
Evelyn still wasn’t convinced. “I don’t respond well to demands.”
“Fine by me…but don’t forget that I’ve got her and you want her. It’s your call as to what I do next. I can keep her safe for the next few months or …”
Evelyn let out a nervous laugh. “You don’t have her.”
Olivia smiled, glad that she had the foresight to take a picture of Sophie in a staged hostage condition. She pulled the picture out of her pocket. “It’s dark and a bit grainy, but you’ll get the general idea.”
Evelyn’s eyes darted from the picture to the cold blue eyes of Olivia. “I’m not interested in keeping her safe. You’ll need to deal with her before August third…can you do that?”
A thin smile played around Olivia’s lips and she raised an eyebrow. “Of course.”
“You can play with her anyway you want, but her body needs to be found no later than the end of July.” Evelyn leveled Olivia with a hard look. “How do I know you can deliver?”
Olivia winked. “I’ve never had any complaints.” She moved her gun down along Evelyn’s neck to rest in the valley between her breasts. “All I need from you is confirmation of your arrangement with Shamus and your agreement to my payment terms.”
Evelyn gulped when the cold steel touched her breasts it felt strangely erotic. “You give me confirmation the job is done and I will pay you.” A quick glance at the clock brought a smile to Evelyn’s face. “The nanny should be here any moment so you either agree to my terms or leave…I’m sure you don’t want anyone to identify you.”
The scent of victory permeated the air as Olivia moved to within inches of Evelyn’s face. She could feel the breath of the woman on her cheek and it made her nauseous. “Forget the nanny Evelyn. It’s just you and me, and right now, I’m the one with the upper hand.” The gun moved under the flimsy bra and stopped over a nipple. As the cold touched on the sensitive skin, the other nipple became visible through her silk shirt.
“Shamus liked to play with little girls I prefer mine more…” Her eyes greedily rested on Evelyn’s breast. “Mature.”
Evelyn grabbed the barrel of the gun. “Get that thing away from me!” she ordered. She couldn’t disguise the panic in her voice. “I want the body to be found to prove she is dead. Is that clear?”
“You grab the barrel again and I’m not sure I will be able to keep my finger from pulling the trigger.” Olivia let out a cruel laugh. “You really don’t like your stepdaughter do you. Hmm, I wonder if I should just keep her safe.” She let her eyes feast on Evelyn’s breast again. “No, she’s not my type. Enough of this small talk…either you agree to my terms or not.” Olivia shrugged. “Either way I get paid.”
“She’s offered to pay you?” When Evelyn saw Olivia nod she eyed the woman who she was certain wanted to harm her. She said, “I‘ll match whatever Sophie offered along with the hundred thousand I still owed Shamus ...” Her eyes opened wide and she shivered as she considered another option–the woman was sent by her husband.
A feral look glinted in Olivia’s eyes when she heard exactly what they needed to indict this woman for conspiracy to commit murder. “Oh Evelyn, I certainly don’t want your money.”
Olivia closed in on Evelyn and ran her tongue along the woman's cheek. “You Evelyn…and right now, I’ve got you.” Her hand turned like a vice around Evelyn’s wrist as she spoke into her mike. “Stevie, Sally we have what we need, time to leave.” Although her earlier injuries protested, Olivia managed to pull the stunned woman from the chair, drag the awkwardly walking woman out of the room and down the stairs to the two waiting women. “Let me go,” Evelyn screamed. “Are you going to kill me after you and your friends rape me?”
Stevie’s eyebrows shot up as she heard Evelyn’s panic filled screams. “Want me to deal with the mouth?”
The distaste Evelyn’s comment had on Olivia’s already overworked system had her almost puking on the stairs. “Take her away and use that stuff on her and keep her as far away as possible from me.” She looked at Sally. “Get this tape to the local police. It will be interesting to see how they treat one of their elite involved in such a scandal.”
“You got it,” Sally said.
Stevie grabbed Evelyn and covered her face as she squirted a small amount of spray in Evelyn’s direction.
Olivia adjusted her headset. “Chris I need you to keep the child safe until one of the help wakes up and is fit to take over. If they spot you show them your police ID.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds recalling how she’d left Parker. Then grimaced as another scenario she’d set in motion came to the forefront of her thoughts.
Amelia was grateful that the lights in the console area of the warehouse were dim–her head was exploding. The result of the tension caused by crying required attention. “I need ibuprofen.” She glanced around. She really didn’t want to face any more questions, she sighed before climbing the stairs listlessly.
“I wish I knew were Parker is,” Sophie said. She saw Amelia arrive, but ignored her and carried on speaking and walking with purposeful strides. “I thought for sure we’d hear something by this morning.”
“I’ve a headache, otherwise fine and dandy.” She smiled warmly at her friend.
“Well I’m not ok,” Sophie interjected. “I want to know what’s happening. I hate them keeping us in the dark like this. After all, it’s my life that’s on the line.”
“I’ll take care of that headache for you Amelia. Why don’t you and Sophie go downstairs and I’ll bring us coffee and breakfast…oh, and the ibuprofen too.” Teal didn’t allow either of them to argue as she motherly waved them toward the exit.
While she walked down the stairs, Amelia listened in irritation as Sophie whined behind her. “I don’t know how you do it…living in this place. It’s like a god damn jail.”
Amelia scowled at the comment and her thoughts about Sophie were less than charitable. However, she refused to have Sophie draw her into a reply. She silently sent up a prayer. Please God help me have patience with this woman. A few moments later when they entered the dining room, she settled silently into a chair.
“I bet you’ve heard from Olivia, haven’t you.” Sophie paused then added, “I’m the one paying the bill so I don’t understand why you are all keeping me out of the loop.”
Finally, Amelia broke and lashed out.“For the record, I don’t work for you and you aren’t paying for my services. This is my home and I’ve generously allowed you, a stranger, a safe haven because a friend asked me for help. If I have contact with anyone, including Olivia, it’s my business not yours.”
Sophie’s mouth flew open as she stared at the woman across from her. “I…I thought you were a nun. How dare you speak like that to me? Have you forgotten that I’m the one whose life is in danger? Do you think I like being here one second longer than I have to be?”
“I’m not a nun! I’m also not beholden to you in any way. In fact, if it were up to me I’d have taken you to a hotel by now. However, some promises I like to keep no matter how distasteful they might be personally.”
Sophie bit her lower lip. “My stepmother already had someone I love killed, I don’t think I could bear it if it happened again.”
Amelia felt uncomfortable at the apology and the woman’s professed love for Parker. “Look, we’re both a little fraught with anxiety right now. I hate it when Olivia gets hurt. She isn’t the best patient in the world and I have to live with her.”
Blue eyes refused to look up as Sophie wiped away a tear. “For over ten months I’ve been on the run trying to stay one step ahead of whoever my stepmother sent after me.” She lifted her head. “This is the only place where I’ve felt completely safe. I know it is your home and you’ve graciously let me…us stay here. It must be hell for you knowing that the person you live with and love is injured.” She reached her hand across the table.
“Can we be friends?”
A hand went out automatically at the gesture of friendship as Sophie’s words tumbled mercilessly in her head.
“I know it’s been tough for you, but believe me you’re in good hands.”
Without thinking, Sophie got up, went around the table and bent down to give Amelia a hug. “I know I am,” she whispered. “We’ll both get through this.”
“Right now, waiting seems to be our lot in life doesn’t it?” As Amelia said those words, she made a decision.
“Look I’m going to go to the hospital. Olivia will need a ride home once she’s released this morning. With luck, she’ll have the answers to all your questions. Please just be patient a little longer.”
With a soft smile, Sophie said, “I’ll do what it takes to get this done.”
“Here we go ladies,” Teal said. The tray she carried was almost as big as she was. “Anyone interested in scones, hot coffee and jam?”
Amelia smiled warmly at her friend. “Teal you’re the greatest. I’m going to collect Olivia from the hospital. Will you please stay with Sophie just a little longer?”
Teal hopped up on to a chair next to Sophie. “Sure, Sophie and I are buds.” She eyed Amelia. “You do remember that we have a business, clients and all that good stuff?”
“Good stuff, huh? I promise I’ll be back before lunch. Save some of those scones for me will you, they look delicious.” The tension headache she woke up with was remarkably disappearing. Amelia grinned at her friend. “I’ll take a coffee with me, but first I need my purse.”
With a laugh that belayed her size, Teal watched Amelia leave. “I guess she thinks work can wait.” She turned to Sophie. “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”
Sophie winked and stabbed a scone with her fork. “Beat you.”
“Hey, no fair, my arms are shorter.”
“Ms. Santos checked herself out AMA,” the nurse brusquely informed her.
Amelia stood at the nurse’s station perplexed. “What was her condition when she left?”
“We don’t know since she chose to leave before the doctor checked her.”
She frowned as her thoughts pulled up various scenarios of Olivia lying in a gutter unconscious. “I’m sorry to bother you again, but do you have any idea what time she left?”
The nurse eyed Amelia. “I have better things to do then discuss a patient who caused nothing but grief while she was here.” When she saw the concern in the brown eyes, the nurse smiled in sympathy. “No one really knows. She left in a wheelchair to see another patient and never returned. I do know she’s not in the hospital…security searched and didn’t find her. Now, if that is all, I have to get to work.”
Parker! “No, that’s all, thanks for your help.” Amelia strode off with purpose toward the elevator before she realized she didn’t know where Parker was. She quickly scanned the hospital directory, found what she was looking for, and after a few minutes of waiting in irritation, entered the elevator.
Amelia fished in her purse before she entered the ICU. Once she found her identification badge, she clipped it to her collar. She pushed the door open and located the nurse’s station. With a nonchalant voice said, “I’m Dr. West, which room is Parker Davis in?”
Certain that she looked guilty as sin, Amelia waited for the nurse to ask what kind of doctor she was or why she was there. Instead, the nurse said, “Her parents are visiting her and you’ll have to show your ID to the guard at the door.”
“Sure no problem,” she said.
“It’s the last door on the left.”
It wasn’t hard to know which room was Parker’s for it was the only one with a man sitting by the door. The man looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place him. When she got to the room, the man, who towered over her, stood to his full height and barred her entrance.
“Only family allowed,”
The hard look on the man’s face made it unreadable. The more Amelia stared at him the more she thought she’d seen him before. “I’m Dr. West.”
Dan Estevez eyed her guardedly as he studied the ID on her collar. She’s Olivia’s business partner. For a moment, he considered why the woman would be there. Olivia hadn’t said anything about her partner coming here.
Amelia saw the serious unbelieving look on the man’s face. “Look, it’s important I see my patient. Are you going to let me in or not?” Amelia countered.
“Doctor West, if you’re looking for Olivia she had to leave on urgent business.”
Amelia’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “How did you… Oh yeah, that’s where I’ve seen you before…you’re the man that was in her room yesterday?” Amelia felt relieved that at least someone knew Olivia’s whereabouts. “I came to take her home and found she checked herself out.” She shrugged. “I thought Parker would be the best place to start. Was Olivia ok when she left? Do you know when she’ll be back?”
Dan shook his head. “She’ll be back when our work is complete.”
“Will Parker make it?”
Ruth, who heard voices outside the door, hoped it was a doctor with some good news. When she opened the door, she saw a stranger speaking with Dan. “Who’s asking if my little girl will make it?”
Ruth turned the name over in her head and then she recalled why it sounded familiar, “Ah, Olivia’s Amelia?”
“Yes, yes that’s right.” Amelia caught her breath at the words.
“Dan, it’s ok. I think Olivia would vouch for her integrity don’t you.” Ruth gave the man a motherly smile before he sat back down.
Minutes later, after meeting Parker’s father, she stood with Parker’s parents looking at the motionless woman.
Amelia felt her heart break for many reasons, but the pain emanating from Parker’s parents affected her most.
“I don’t know what religion you are, but would you mind if I prayed for your daughter?”
Ruth gave Amelia a warm hug. “Thank you. We will pray with you…right Ed?” She looked at her ashen-cheeked husband.
A brittle “yes,” was all he could muster before he returned his gaze to his daughter.
The three moved to a corner of the small room to send their message to God for leniency and healing. As three sets of eyes focused on Parker, Amelia crossed herself and said, “In the name of the Father, the Son…”
She heard a low moan and the nurse, Susan Martinelli, turned to see the comatose patient beginning to stir. She walked quickly to the side of the bed and said, “Parker can you hear me?” When she didn’t receive a response she took the woman’s hand and said, “Parker if you can hear me squeeze my hand.” The nurse felt a barely discernable grasp and smiled. “Good. Can you open your eyes for me?”
Parker heard a voice she didn’t recognize, but tried to comply with the request. She willed her eyes to open and when they did, she stared blankly at a young woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She closed her eyes again and said, “Oh, yeah I’m in the hospital…someone shot me.”
When Susan heard the words, she frowned. The chart said the woman attempted suicide and she assumed that was why Dr. West was there. The last thing she needed was a critical patient who was delusional. She held a cup of water with a straw near her patient’s lips. “Drink this slowly.”
With effort, Parker sucked in the water. “Thanks,” she whispered. She allowed her eyes to drift away from the nurse to the glass window and the people standing on the other side. She recognized her parents and knew she’d seen the woman with them before, but couldn’t place where.
“I’m going to page your doctor. I’ll be right back.”
The patient grabbed the nurse’s wrist. “My mom and dad…I want to see them.”
The nurse hesitated. “Sure, I’ll tell them you’re awake…they’ve been worried about you.”
She watched as the nurse spoke with her parents and when her mother hugged the woman, she smiled. Her eyes fixed on the other woman who looked like an angel standing next to her father. “Amelia.”
Ruth Davis walked quickly to her daughter and engulfed her in a gentle hug. “My baby,” she said with tears in her eyes. “You had me worried, but now I know you’ll be ok.”
Parker swallowed and ran her tongue over her teeth and around her mouth to give it moisture. “Mom, I love you.”
As he stood on the other side of the bed, Ed Davis wiped a tear from his eye. “Hey, how’s my princess?”
She reached out and took her dad’s hand. “I love you Dad.” She looked over at her mother who was still crying. “Don’t cry…I’m in good hands.” Her eyes focused on Amelia who was standing at the glass looking in. “Amelia.”
Ruth smiled. “She has been such a comfort to us…she prayed with us for your recovery. Her voice and manner was so reassuring that she gave us hope.” Ruth wiped her eyes with a tissue. “And, you woke up.”
Ruth leaned in and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “I’ll send her in.” She looked toward Ed. “Let’s give them some privacy.”
With a smile and a wink Ed said, “We’ll be right outside when you’re done.”
+ + +
When Ruth Davis told her that Parker wanted to see her Amelia frowned. She reluctantly complied and entered Parker’s room. “Hey how are you doing? I had to tell them I was your doctor to get in here, it’s like Fort Knox outside,” she said smiling weakly.
Parker closed her eyes and gave Amelia as much of a smile as she could manage. “Where’s Olivia?”
Amelia quietly replied, “I believe she’s completing the assignment. That’s according to her associate outside the door.”
Parker shifted slightly at the answer and snorted. “That’s so like her…the job is everything.” She eyed Amelia for her reaction when she said, “I vaguely recall she fell off her bike. Was she hurt?”
Amelia felt her own anxiety grow over Olivia’s disregard for her own health. “A concussion and she was supposed to stay overnight–she didn’t,” she said with a shrug. “Anyway, no one can stop her when she decides something needs doing.”
Parker struggled to speak. “Yeah, I understand that.” Her memories clouded her face as she felt sadness etching into the lines.
“Yes I’m sure you do.” Amelia’s compassion overriding her inner worry over Parker and Olivia’s old status allowed her to squeeze Parker’s hand in understanding.
Parker raggedly whispered, “I need you to...”
When Parker’s breathing quickened and she seemed to labor for each breath, Amelia gently touched her hand.
“Why don’t we talk when you’re stronger?”
“No.” Parker gasped for air and focused on Amelia’s face. “I was Olivia’s lover.”
Amelia felt her body stiffen with the words. “I know,” she whispered.
Parker struggled to speak as she closed her eyes when a pain surged through her chest. “I don’t think you do.”
All Amelia could do was dread what was coming next. “I know she loves you Parker.”
“I know,” she said weakly.
Amelia wanted to run and hide. However, she remained quiet as thoughts of the two together rattled in her brain.
“We’ve been in love since we first met,” Parker whispered. “Passion like ours is hard to forget.”
Just then, Parker’s DOCO doctor entered the room and Amelia breathed a sigh of relief. “You need to step out while I examine my patient.”
“Certainly,” Amelia said. As she looked at the pale woman, she felt her world shatter around her for the second time in her life. In a barely discernable voice she replied, “I need to leave.”
Amelia remained rooted to the spot at the words. If it was true, she had to start her life all over again without
Olivia and that was incomprehensible to her. Her emotions goaded her into saying. “Not all soul mates are good for one another it might not be what you think.”
Parker resisted grinning and closed her eyes. “I know what we feel.”
“You really need to let me examine her,” Dr. Bastrop demanded.
Olivia and Stevie boarded the helicopter as the blades whirled above their heads. Evelyn Durant was in police custody for conspiracy to commit murder. The tape Olivia provided them would help in sending the woman to prison. The authorities needed Sophie’s statement and it would be Stevie’s assignment to make sure the woman returned to Philadelphia safely.
The entire ride back to Portsmouth was in silence. Olivia’s mind however, was circling like a hawk over its prey. She considered all the possibilities of her current predicament. Dan’s observations about Parker’s abilities in the field were helpful in making a determination. Once Parker got better she’d ask her to joint WHMH. That would alleviate her workload giving her more time to spend at home with Amelia. From all appearances, Amelia and Parker got along and that was a plus too. Her mind flitted to the often flirtatious ways–she would have to keep an eye on her. There were many possibilities and all were interesting.
“Almost there,” the pilot said.
As the helicopter touched the tarmac, Olivia looked at Stevie. “Do you understand your mission?”
Stevie frowned for she’d had her fill of the morose woman. “Yeah, I’m not stupid. How difficult will it be to collect the woman and get her back to Philly?”
Under normal circumstances, Olivia would have put the woman in her place with a glacial stare and sarcastic words. She was too tired to give anything but the minimal response. She opened her phone and snapped a picture of Stevie then sent it to Amelia. “I have no interest in your intelligence only in your performance.”
After she exited the helicopter, she dialed Amelia’s number.
“Olivia, are you ok?” Amelia asked anxiously.
“Yes. I’ve sent you a picture of the woman who will be there shortly to collect Sophie.”
“Where have you been? I’ve been worried about you no one would tell me anything.”
“Please have Sophie ready to go when Stevie Jenkins gets there.” Olivia deliberately kept her voice calm and businesslike for the benefit of the younger woman standing next to her. However, her thoughts were in total contrast.
Amelia frowned at Olivia’s cold tone. “Does that mean you’ll be home soon?”
“As soon as I get Stevie on her way I’m going to the hospital.”
Alarmed, Amelia said, “Have you had a relapse?”
“I need to see Parker… she takes precedence,” Olivia said. “I don’t know when I’ll be there so don’t wait up.”
“I met Parker’s parents and they seem like really nice people. Do you want me to come to the hospital after Sophie leaves?”
“You saw Parker?” Olivia could feel her blood boil.
Amelia heard the anger. “Yes, I was worried about you and wanted to see if she knew anything.”
“Just make sure Sophie is ready to go. Stevie will be there shortly.” She didn’t wait for a reply. When the pilot emerged, she said, “Wait here for Stevie and another passenger. Then take them both back to Philly.”
The man nodded. “How long?” he asked Stevie.
She looked at Olivia. “Will she be ready when I get there?”
“It shouldn’t take anymore than forty-five minutes tops,” Stevie said.
“I need to refuel. I’ll be back here in thirty.”
Olivia didn’t wait, as she headed for the door. In her last conversation with Dan, she learned that Parker had a major setback.
Once Olivia was out of sight, Stevie opened her phone and dialed. “She’s on her way to the hospital now.”
With rapid strides, Olivia ate up the long corridor that led to the ICU. She pushed the double doors open and went inside completely ignoring the protesting staff.
“Olivia,” a woman’s voice said. “Wait up.”
When she stopped and looked around, Olivia saw Karin Baker, a woman she met at one of Teal’s Wednesday night get-togethers. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I really don’t have time to talk right now.”
“If you want to visit someone in here you need to sign in. If you don’t they’ll call security to escort you out of the hospital,” she said.
Olivia sucked in a deep breath to calm her rapidly, climbing blood pressure and shook her head. “My…I need to see someone, can you help me Karin?”
“What’s the name?”
“Parker, Parker Davis.” When she saw Karin’s facial reaction turn serious, she held her breath for a moment.
“Is she still alive?”
“Yes. You must be the Olivia she’s been asking for.”
Olivia felt her shoulders relax. “Can I see her please?”
“Sure, I’ll take care of the details here.”
Ed and Ruth Davis were standing by their daughter’s bed when Olivia entered the room. She said, “Hi.” When the couple turned around with ashen looks on their faces, her smile disappeared.
Ruth spoke first. “Olivia is here baby.” With tears glistening off her cheeks, she turned to Olivia. “She’s been asking for you.”
Somehow, Olivia made her feet work and she moved closer to the couple. “How’s she doing?” Her eyes settled on Parker.
Ed patted her on the shoulder. “We’ll wait over there,” he said indicating the chairs in the corner of Parker’s ICU room.
Ruth impulsively wrapped her arms around her daughter’s friend and whispered, “Thank you.”
Olivia nodded and moved closer to the bed. “Hey,” she said as she picked up Parker’s hand.
“You came,” Parker said.
A smile that was a mixture of sadness and pleasure crossed Olivia’s face. “Evelyn Durant is in police custody. I have her on tape admitting everything.” She smiled. “We always did make a great team Parker. I’ve been giving this some serious thought and wondered if you would like to work with me.”
Parker closed her eyes and struggled for a breath. “You were the only partner I ever wanted.” She began to shiver as the drugs Dr. Bastrop gave her began to kick in. She remembered the conversation she had with Dr. Bastrop and Dan several hours earlier.
“Are you sure this is what you want to do Parker?” Dan asked.
Parker smiled and said, “Yes it’s the perfect solution,” she said as she wheezed in a breath.”
“What about your parents?” The doctor asked.
“It will be hard on them…eventually they will know what I did was for the best.”
Dr. Bastrop held the syringe. “You’re absolutely certain?”
With that word, he inserted the needle into the IV port.
“I’m so cold,” she whispered.
Ice blue eyes looked at the numerous blankets covering Parker. “Want me to get you another blanket?”
The feelings and emotions coursing through Olivia’s mind were vaguely familiar to her. From a place deep inside she said, “You got it.” She crawled next to Parker and wrapped her arms around her. “Are you warmer now?” she asked.
Parker’s ragged voice said, “Yes.” She turned her head and moved so her lips and Olivia’s touched in a warm sweet kiss. “I’ve always loved you O.”
Olivia frowned at the admission. She found it difficult to reply to the raw passion Parker emanated and struggled to answer. “There was nothing to prepare me for what happened back then Parker. I eventually forgave you. I now know that what you did was for the best.”
“I didn’t betray you O, you have to believe that.” She sucked in as deep a breath as she could. “Is there enough forgiveness to love me?”
Olivia’s mind ran riot as she held Parker to her. Before she could say what was on her mind, Parker stilled her lips with trembling fingers.
With each breath Parker took in, she gurgled, rattled and wheezed. A lone tear rolled down her cheek.
“Everything I’ve done is because I love you…always.”
Olivia felt her eyebrows meet. “Parker it’s not as easy as…”
Her reply was a long droning beep from one of the monitors. She didn’t have time to react as a code blue team rushed into the room.
“Please move away,” Karin ordered.
In disbelief, Olivia got off the bed and moved to where Ruth and Ed stood wrapped in each other’s arms. She stared numbly at the people who moved into the room like a well choreographed dance.
Just as they were about to put a tube down Parker’s throat and start compressions, everything ceased when a loud voice boomed, “Stop!” Vince Bastrop, Parker’s doctor, stood in the doorway. “She DNR.”
Karin frowned. “That’s not what it says on her chart.”
The doctor held up a paper. “She signed this earlier today…her parents are witnesses. I’m sorry I didn’t get it into the chart, but I had an emergency in another part of the hospital.”
The attending physician took the paper. “All seems in order. I’m calling it…time of death eight twenty-two.”
Olivia tried to hold her emotions in check and treat the situation much like any other–she couldn’t. “When you are ready call me and I will make sure the plane is available for you to take Parker home.”
With mournful sobs, Ed engulfed Olivia in his arms. “Thank you.”
After Ed let her go, Ruth hugged her and kissed her cheek. The two grieving women held the each other in an embrace for several minutes. Then Ruth whispered. “Go home to Amelia. She will help you through this…she was a great comfort to us earlier.”
Olivia let Ruth go and turned to the bed, bent down and kissed Parker’s still warm cheek. She mouthed, “I’m sorry,” before she turned away. “I…” she started to say. “Please let me know if you need anything.” She kissed Parker’s parents then left the room.
Karin saw Olivia emerge from the room and approached her. The cold hard face that she saw frightened her. The only other time she’d seen anyone with that look on their face they went and killed someone. “Olivia, I’m sorry…I know how you’re feeling,” she offered.
The icy blue eyes of the dark woman stared at her. “How the hell would you know what I’m feeling,” she growled. With one swift motion, she pushed Karin out of the way and walked toward the exit rapidly.
Dan, who had been watching the scenario, could only shake his head. He hurried out the doors and down the corridor with his phone opened. “Santos has left the hospital.”
In the ICU, the staff covered Parker’s body and waited for someone from the morgue to collect her. Karin, still in shock from Olivia’s reaction, picked up the phone to call Teal.
“Karin, we need you in room three.”
Karin put down the phone she’d call Teal later. She felt cold run down her back as she recalled Olivia’s eyes.
Danger was an understatement.
+ + +
Karin finally had a moment to collect her thoughts. The ICU was hectic and full of drama that night, but Teal’s friend Olivia was never far from her thoughts.
She dialed the number and heard a sleepy voice say, “Hello.”
“Teal, this is Karin.”
“Oh yeah, hi Karin…what time is it?”
“Listen, I’m sorry to be calling so late, but something happened here that I think you should know about.”
The seriousness of her friend’s voice made Teal sit up straight. “I’m almost afraid to ask,” Teal said.
“Your boss…I mean friend Olivia was in here visiting a patient.”
“Yeah, I know, her friend Parker.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.” Karin hesitated wondering about the wisdom of divulging a patient’s information. Then she remembered the angry, feral look in Olivia’s eyes. “She died in Olivia’s arms,” she said.
“Oh no, that’s awful.” She thought about her earlier conversation with Amelia about the woman. “Was Olivia’s business partner with her?”
“No, she was alone and that is why I thought I should call you.” She took a deep breath. “I’ve seen my share of people who have lost a loved one and for the most part they act in one of three ways. They are either stunned, tearful or want revenge. Olivia was neither Teal. I’ve never seen anyone whose eyes and face looked as angry as hers did.”
Teal digested the information and looked at the clock. It was eleven thirty and she knew Olivia and Amelia would be asleep.” Thanks for telling me Karin, I’ll take it from here.”
“You’re welcome Teal. I just hope Olivia doesn’t do anything crazy.” She started to hang up then she added,
“From what I saw, Olivia really cared about Parker.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Goodbye Teal, I’ll see you next Wednesday.”
“Yeah, goodbye,” Teal absently hung up the phone.
“What’s that all about,” Phil asked.
“Olivia’s friend died. Do you think I should call Amelia?”
“No, it’s late and don’t you think Olivia already told her?”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll speak with them in the morning.”
The anger and insurmountable ache of not knowing what was happening was something that Amelia had never felt before. Olivia wasn’t being fair! The uncharitable thoughts she experienced about Parker didn’t entirely make sense to her. It was all new terrain just like her life. She now knew how Sophie felt when she’d waited for news of Parker and they’d used stalling tactics. “I can’t do this Olivia. Maybe you and I need to go separate ways.”
Once again, she felt like a caged animal as she paced the console area becoming more frustrated with each step.
+ + +
The intensity of her self-hatred over Parker’s death rung in Olivia’s head as Dan drove her home. They hadn’t spoken since she’d asked him for the lift. She guessed he felt just as responsible for Parker’s demise as she did. Now, all she wanted was to go home and crawl into her bed. She’d take as many sleeping tablets as she could without committing a foolish act and wake up to the soothing sight and sounds of Amelia. The guilt she felt weighed heavily as the distance from the hospital became greater, much like the chasm that death brought between her and Parker.
“Olivia we’re here.” Dan quietly pointed out as he pulled up next to her building.
Olivia turned her gaze from her inward thoughts to the reality of the situation. “Thanks Dan. I’ll be at headquarters in the next few days to file the reports.” Her hand tugged at the door handle and it sprung open.
“No! I’m done with this case and so are you. Stevie can handle the rest of the operation.” Olivia replied.
“Sure. Well, I guess I’ll see you around Olivia.”
The tempo of his voice finally invaded her own sorrow as she turned to him. “Don’t beat yourself up over this Dan,” she said. “It’s the nature of the beast…we lose people.”
This time Dan looked at her directly. “I know, but it doesn’t take the edge off losing a good person. Take care of yourself Olivia.”
She watched the vehicle drive away. She could feel it in her gut–he wasn’t telling her everything. Then her eyes drifted to the building she called home. For the first time in the ensuing hour since Parker left them, she felt that she could go on. “I can do that because I have you Amelia. I wonder what you’d think of that confession.” Her footsteps moved automatically toward the side door and she entered the security code.
+ + +
Amelia watched Olivia walk over to the console, press several buttons and then bend her head toward the screen. The dread she had been feeling since she last spoke with Olivia had turned to rage. The fact that Olivia chose to look at her email first was the last straw. With speed that she didn’t realize she was capable of, she arrived at the console. “Oh, you finally decided it was a good time to visit the place you call home. Don’t you know how worried I was about you? For goodness sake, Olivia you could have had a major relapse out there.
Don’t you care what happens to you or how we all feel about you?”
Olivia felt wounded by a sharp knife as the censure in Amelia’s voice pierced far more than her ears. She blinked back the tears that she’d allowed to fall and reset the security alarm. She didn’t turn around. “I’m tired Amelia, can we have this conversation tomorrow?”
“No! No, we can’t. I’ve been out of my mind with worry. You left the hospital without a word only to return and take up with your old girlfriend,” Amelia lashed out jealously and anger fueling the fire.
“I needed to finish the assignment. As you already know, Parker couldn’t do it. Thank you for going there. Her parents were grateful,” Olivia replied. “Your praying with them gave them comfort during a difficult time.”
Amelia scowled in the half-light of the console’s blinking lights. She couldn’t make out Olivia’s expression and that irked her even more. “I would offer my help to anyone in pain you know that. What I want to know right now is do you want me to leave and give you a clear run for your renewed relationship with Parker?”
Parker’s name and the essence of the question sparked the last vestiges of Olivia’s own frustrated anger. She brushed away the tears and spun around to face Amelia with dangerously glittering eyes. “Is that what you think I want?”
“Yes, in fact I know it. Parker loves you. I think she hopes that one day you’ll be together setting up a life again. Don’t let me stop you! I’ll be out of here in the morning,”
Olivia saw the blind anger registered in Amelia’s eyes. “Then go, get lost! I don’t give a damn Amelia. Besides, I don’t want a homophobe around…it cramps my style. Didn’t want to tell you before, but living with a chaste nun is hell.” Olivia crossed her arms.
Amelia saw a cold, uninviting expression appear on Olivia’s face as she spoke. That hit harder than the angry words, as her heart did a somersault at the pain they caused. “I hate you Olivia, you’re the first person in my life I’ve ever felt like that about. I’m glad you want me to go because I would have gone anyway.” She didn’t feel or mean the caustic bravado her words conveyed, but once said she had to stand by them. She fled to her bedroom and slammed the door.
Olivia watched the whole scenario like a scene out of a play where she was a spectator. “Well, you can’t hate me more than I do myself at this moment Amelia and it’s for the best. You’re better off without me, everyone I love dies.” The words floated around her. Then automatically went to her bedroom and sank down fully clothed on the bed. With the bottle of pills clutched in her hand, she reached for the water on her bedside table.
The helicopter had been in flight for Philadelphia for about two hours. The pilot said, “Dan needs to speak with you.”
Stevie frowned. “He does?” She made her way to the cockpit and took the headpiece from the pilot. “Hey, Dan what’s up?”
“I just wanted you to know that Davis died. Olivia said the rest of the operation is yours.”
With a quick glance at Sophie, Stevie shook her head and rubbed her neck. “I’m sorry to hear that. Once I deliver the package to the police I should be done except for the paper work. Of course, I’ll keep in contact to make sure that all runs smoothly. Thanks for the information.” She handed the pilot his headgear and made her way back to Sophie.
“What’s up,” Sophie asked. “Or is it a state secret?”
Stevie shook her head. “It’s no secret,” she said. From the short amount of time she was with Sophie, she liked the woman. Telling her the news would not be easy for Sophie who had asked at least twenty times if Stevie had any word about Parker.
“If it’s not a secret then tell me.” Sophie cocked her head and smirked. “Pretty please…with cherries and whipped cream on top.”
The irony of Sophie’s insistence on knowing the secret was not lost to Stevie. “Hmm, I have some bad news.” She refused to make eye contact.
“Did the evil stepmother get bailed out and run away?”
“I wish it were that Sophie.” She clenched her jaw. “I thought that once this operation was over we could recruit Parker to work for us.”
“Oh that is a wonderful idea Stevie…I can attest for her professionalism and knowledge of how to protect someone,” Sophie said. It dawned on her that the woman had said she had bad news. “Was she in an accident?” she whispered.
“She was shot by O’Donnell.”
Sophie gasped. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? Turn around this minute! I need to go back.” She began fumbling with her seatbelt.
Stevie put her hand on Sophie’s in an attempt to calm the agitated woman. “We can’t turn around Sophie.”
“I beg to differ with you! We will turn around this moment. Hey, you up there in the cockpit turn this thing around we need to go back to Portsmouth.”
The pilot turned and looked at Stevie who shook her head.
“Why are you telling him that? I need to go back and see Parker!”
“She died an hour ago.”
“No,” Sophie wailed. “No, no, no you have it all wrong.” Sophie closed her eyes in an effort to stave off tears. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? Did they think it wouldn’t matter to me? Well, it does.” Her shock turned to anger. “That damn Amelia had to know! And that fucking Olivia, how I hate her guts for letting this happen.” Then tears started to flow uncheck. “I was just getting to know her,” she sobbed.
All Stevie could do was pat the distraught woman’s hand and be there for her. “Look, after we get to Philly, I’ll make some calls and find out when and where the funeral is. Then I personally will escort you there.”
With zombie like precision, Amelia woke, showered and had her first cup of coffee before leaving for work took control. When she glanced at the clock, she groaned. “It’s only six-ten, I can’t remember the last time I got up this early except in my novice days.”
She looked around for any evidence of activity–nothing. Olivia was usually up and around by then. Olivia! She let out another groan of deep misery. Their argument the night before had cumulated in her rash statement…she was moving out. In the silence of the kitchen, she spoke aloud. It was something she often admonished her patients for doing. “God was I being stupid by saying I was going? Even though the cracks in our relationship have been appearing for some weeks I still want to work with her. I don’t know why she won’t be honest with me and admit that she loves Parker and wants to start again.” The words said aloud ran a tremor through her body that made her heart jump in reaction. “She doesn’t want me here and I don’t want to be here like this…at least we agreed on something last night.”
Sipping the hot coffee, she felt abject misery crashing around her. “I guess the best thing for me is to leave everything and that includes our business partnership. Teal should stay. She likes Olivia and they work great together. I bet Parker will fit in so perfectly that they won’t even miss me.”
She sighed deeply and automatically reset the coffee pot for Olivia before setting off on her journey to the office. Traffic was light as Amelia steered her vehicle into her parking spot. As she looked at the two other spaces, sadness enveloped her. She normally was the last to arrive. “Today I’m going to be first for the last time. Talk about irony.” It was a little strange for her to open up the office, but she managed to remember the security code and entered the lower floor that they owned.
As she entered the building she recalled a conversation she’d had with Olivia, “I remember when we argued about rental or outright purchase. Olivia wanted to rent. A precaution she said in case I change my mind. I said it wouldn’t happen. She was right to doubt me.” After she flicked on the lights, she passed Teal’s office space. “I’m going to miss working with you Teal, but you’ll understand you always have.” Her leaden feet took her to the corridor where her office door and looked to the far end of the hallway where Olivia’s office was. On impulse, she walked past her door and tried to open Olivia’s–locked. Retracing her steps, Amelia unlocked her door and stepped inside. The aroma of the leather furniture and the polished wooden surfaces filled her nostrils. She felt tears roll down her cheeks as she hugged her arms around her middle. In the past, when all around her was changing, she could enter her office and know she was safe in her own environment. Never again would she feel that way.
On shaky legs, she walked toward the bookcase and began fingering the old and well used volumes. With resolve she dragged up from a place deep inside, she began to take them off the shelves.
+ + +
Teal didn’t know what to expect, after hearing the devastating news of Parker’s passing. She expected that Olivia would take some time off…Amelia would insist on it. As she turned her vehicle toward her parking spot, she was shocked to see Amelia’s car parked there. “Whoa, Amelia never gets up early.”
After entering the first floor office suite, she didn’t immediately see anyone, but the light was on. She walked a short distance and heard the gentle thud. Intrigued Teal knocked on the door but didn’t wait for a reply. She opened it and dropped her head around the opening. “Hey, I wasn’t expecting you.”
Amelia, with a book in hand, stopped and turned to face Teal. The quiet comment was almost her undoing as she drew in a deep breath. “I have stuff to do. Besides, it makes a change for me to be early.”
“Yeah it does, but frankly I thought you’d want to be with Olivia,” Teal replied as the rest of her small body joining her head in the room. She spied the numerous books strewn across the desk and a box that was on the floor. “What’s going on Amelia?”
“Nothing…absolutely nothing! It’s time for a change that’s all.” Refusing to allow the tears to fall in front of her friend, she managed a weak smile.
Taking steady steps toward her friend, Teal knew something was drastically wrong and it had to involve Olivia. “Has this anything to do with Parker?”
“That woman, again...will I never hear the end of her?” She looked directly at Teal. “Yes, Olivia has decided that she’s more important therefore, I’m leaving.” Amelia flung the book she held down on the table and it bounced once before landing with a thud and breaking the spine as it hit the floor.
Teal asked, “You’re leaving I don’t understand?”
“I’m leaving the business and Olivia’s home. When I find new premises I’ll have you send my things. Olivia and I decided last night that it was the best thing for us both. Besides once Parker moves in…”
“Hold up there babe,” Teal said as she edged closer to her friend. “When Parker moves in? Let me get this straight. You think that Olivia is going to take up with Parker again. Didn’t you see her after she came back from the hospital last night?”
Something in Teal’s tone caught Amelia’s attention. “Yes. She made it clear, or at least I made it clear for her, that Parker still loved her therefore she didn’t need me around as a spare wheel. She agreed.”
A hand went to Teal’s mouth as she stopped a squeal of distress. “You and Olivia argued last night over Parker?” Teal saw the pain etched on Amelia’s features.
Amelia said, “She said I cramped her style. I guess she’s right. I’m an ex-nun on the run from my own emotions and I can see how that would cramp anyone’s style. I said I’d leave today and that’s what I’ll do. She and Parker will be great to work for Teal. You’ll like Parker, she’s like Olivia, but lighter if you know what I mean.” In the cold light of day, she wasn’t so sure her angry words of the night before were what she wanted. She was still angry at Olivia’s belligerent attitude, but she knew that would pass.
Teal closed her eyes. “Parker died last night Amelia. She died in Olivia’s arms. There’s never going to be them again. What I don’t understand is why she didn’t tell you.”
“Parker’s dead,” her anguished voice cried out. “What am I going to do Teal…I didn’t know. She just let me rant and rave…why did she do that?”
Amelia’s distress filled the room as Teal rushed forward and hugged Amelia around the waist. For a few seconds they remained like that until Teal sighed. “You need to go home and speak with her. She needs you right now.”
“I don’t think she thinks that Teal.”
“Maybe not, but we both know that you can help her through this. It’s who you are. Your empathy with people crushes any other emotion that gets in the way. Please Amelia, go. The friend who told me about Parker said she was worried about Olivia.”
Amelia’s eyes flew open wide in shock. “What do you mean?”
Teal shrugged. “She said Olivia looked like she could kill someone or might do something…perhaps even herself. Did you see her this morning?”
“Oh no, she can’t…God, please don’t let her do that,” Amelia cried. “I didn’t see her and that is unusual, but I was so hurt and angry that I never considered that she was there. I need to go. I’ll call you Teal…I promise.” She fled the room leaving Teal with the chaos inside.
+ + +
Amelia was surprised she hadn’t received a ticket after she broke every speed limit on her way home. Once at the garage door, she fumbled with the security key to open the doors. Inside she ignored her designated parking slot and parked in the middle of the garage. Knowing that would create yet another subject of friction between them but she’d relish that rather than her friend unable to say anything at all. Without looking around, she shouted, Olivia…Olivia…you up yet?” The words echoed off the building’s walls–no reply.
With her heart beating rapidly, she took a deep breath, knocked gently on her friend’s bedroom door, and entered. “Olivia, are you…” The crumbled bedclothes were the only evidence she’d slept there.
“Ok so she’s not answering and it looks like she isn’t here.” Then Amelia saw the open drawers and blinked rapidly as she headed for them. They had a ransacked look of someone packing at speed. She’s left me! As the voice in her head announced the fact, Amelia felt an incredible loneliness invade her.
When she finally exited the room for the computer console, she walked like a zombie. Only then did she notice for the first time that the Jeep was gone. Hard as she tried, she couldn’t remember if it was there when she left earlier when her blind rage was in control. With trepidation, she opened the mailbox they used for private messages between them. It blinked–no messages.
In a blur of tears, Amelia picked up the phone extension and dialed Teal.
“Hello this is When Heaven Meets Hell how may I help you?”
When she heard Teal’s voice, she knew she had met hell head on. In a voice that was curiously alien to her, she said, “Your friend was right Teal. Olivia was involved in a killing, but she didn’t instigate it…I did. I think our relationship is dead.” Then she burst into tears as the grief of the tragic situation hit her hard.
The church, filled with somber people grieving the passing of one of their own. For Ruth, Ed, Frank and Crystal the day was surreal. Parker was voted the most likely to succeed in high school along with the best girl athlete and the outpouring of people attested to the fact that she was important to far more than her immediate family. Before the service began, many of the attendees paid their respects to the family.
Sophie Durant stood in the line nervously waiting to speak with Parker’s family. With the help of Stevie, she made her statement to the police before traveling back to Parker’s hometown. Stevie was her rock and Sophie felt a genuine fondness for the woman although they had only known each other for a brief time.
“Mr. and Mrs. Davis, I am so sorry for your loss. I didn’t know Parker that long, but in the time that I had with her I found her to be a wonderful, loving woman. She was someone I will always remember for her humility and kindness.”
With stoic faces, the couple shook the woman’s hand. “Thank you, Sophie. We are grateful for your kind words and support,” Ruth said.
Sophie’s heart broke for the Davis’, but she had said what she needed to. As she walked down the aisle, she looked for Stevie and smiled briefly until she spotted someone else–Olivia Santos.
+ + +
The night before the funeral, Olivia watched through a window as the family sat with the coffin. She was glad to see that they kept the coffin closed. She wanted to remember Parker alive and vibrant.
The next day she discreetly joined the entourage shortly after the hearse left the funeral home. When they arrived at the chapel, she watched as the family entered the small building behind the coffin. A debate went on inside her head as to if she could actually attend and pay her respects without losing it altogether…public displays of emotion not her scene. What she hadn’t expected was the arrival of Sophie Durant and Stevie.
“The unexpected occurs, isn’t that why this is happening? You didn’t answer my question. Why are you here? We never attend funerals of colleagues. It isn’t wise in our line of work,” Olivia said.
Stevie nodded her head in agreement. “Yeah, I know, but I told the Durant woman I’d make sure she got here.” She looked at Olivia and wondered if she’d changed her clothes or slept since Parker’s death. “I am certain there are no other assassins out there, but I didn’t want to take that chance.”
Olivia stared at the woman speculatively. “I’ve been checking. Believe me if I could prove there was anyone else they wouldn’t be alive now.” She had the feeling that Evelyn wasn’t in it alone, but couldn’t come up with any proof. “It’s over. The Durant woman can get on with her life.” She lifted her eyes. “Speak of the devil.”
“You think I care about her opinion. The only opinion that matters to me…” She caught Sophie’s loathing eyes as the woman reached them.
“How dare you show your face here,” Sophie growled.
Stevie moved between the two women. “Listen, I know you both have strong opinions about the other, but this really isn’t the time or the place.” Her voice softened. “Why not wait until later.”
“There will never be another time.” Olivia’s eyes locked on Sophie. “Just say what you need to Ms. Durant and I’ll ensure we are never this close to each other again.”
Olivia’s calm response had Stevie’s senses on edge. “Are you certain you want to do this in here?” She eyed the church full of people. “You two should take this outside.”
Olivia felt several pairs of eyes on them. “Stevie’s right,” she whispered. Without another word, she slipped away and sat in a pew mingling with strangers.
Once they left the chapel and most people were in their cars, Sophie grabbed Olivia’s arm and screamed, “You murderer!” How dare you come here and act as if you cared about her! We both know you didn’t.”
Sophie gritted her teeth. “You’re the only one responsible for her death…how can you live with yourself?”
She moved closer and began pounding Olivia on the chest. “How could you have been so cruel?”
“It’s time to go,” Stevie said, amazement glowed in her eyes that the she-devil was actually allowing this kind of personal contact. “The helicopter is waiting.” She touched Sophie’s arm. “Come on we need to go now.”
For her part, Olivia allowed the physical act of aggression and anger.
With a hateful look, Sophie glared at Olivia one last time. “May you rot in hell for what you’ve done Santos.”
Then she took Stevie’s arm and turned away
“You need to take care of yourself Olivia. I’m sure your friend Parker didn’t think the same way as Sophie. I’ll see you around,” Stevie said.
As the rotor blades swirled into action, Olivia climbed into her jeep and followed the other mourners to the cemetery.
+ + +
From the limousines window, Ruth saw the altercation between Sophie and Olivia. She was disappointed that Olivia didn’t come into the house with them, but she knew that mingling with others wasn’t her style. She excused herself, filled a plate with food and headed for the barn–she knew where to find Olivia.
When the squeaking barn door opened and allowed the bright sunlight to filter inside she saw Olivia sitting alone on a hay bale with a devastated expression. “I’ve brought you a plate,” she said.
Blue eyes, filled with unshed tears, stared for a moment blankly at the older woman and wondered if it was how Parker would look at that age. Olivia said, “You didn’t have to do that Ruth. I’m not very hungry.”
Ruth took in the whole of the woman. “Olivia, you look awful. When was the last time you slept or ate?”
“Does it matter? Nothing much matters anymore.” Her grave words echoed dully off the barn walls as her mind counted the people she’d loved and lost not only to death, but in Amelia’s case, life too.
Although her nerves were still raw, Ruth knew that she might lose Olivia too if she didn’t speak. She sat next to Olivia and put her arm around her shoulders. “We need to talk,” she said. “There are things you need to understand.”
Olivia swallowed hard. “Ok.”
Ruth wiped away a tear and contemplated telling Olivia the truth. When Dan Estevez told them that Parker was going into witness protection, she assumed that Olivia knew–it was now obvious she didn't. The pain in the young woman’s eyes screamed for the truth but Ruth knew that if her daughter was to continue being safe, she couldn’t say a word. “When Parker was here last week,” she cleared her throat. “It seems so much longer than that,” she said. She shook the thought away and continued. “We talked about you. Did you know that she and your old partner Max were friends? He called her weekly to let her know how you were.”
A frown appeared on Olivia’s forehead. “I never knew that,” she replied.
“She was there at his funeral in one of her ridiculous getups, blonde hair you know Parker. She saw how devastated you were and wanted to comfort you. When she saw you with a woman she saw your body language and knew that you had found love again.”
Olivia blinked back the tears that threatened to wash away her last vestige of hold she had on her emotions. “I wish she had talked to me…I needed a friend that day.”
Ruth waited a moment before she said, “She was devastated that you moved on.” She dabbed a tear away. “My daughter lived in what might have been for that was her comfort zone.” The woman let out a long sigh.
“She didn’t deserve to have blood on her hands.” She allowed the tears to freely fall.
Ruth patted Olivia’s hand. “I don’t think she wanted to let go of the dream of you.”
For a long time they sat silently each with their memories of Parker and how much they would miss her. “She told me, that if anything ever happened to her that I needed to make sure you knew she loved you.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “I think she knew she was going to die,” Ruth whispered.
They reminisced for a while until Ruth stood up. “I really should be getting back to the house. She took a few steps then turned back around before slipping her hand into her apron pocket. “Here,” she said. “There was an incident when you and Parker were on the police force and there was a shootout and one of the officers was killed.” She saw Olivia nod in acknowledgement. “After that, Parker told me that she didn’t want to die without telling you how much she loved you.” Ruth wiped away tears. “She asked me to give you this letter if anything ever happened to her.”
Ruth moved closer to Olivia, leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I love you. Promise you won’t be a stranger.”
“I won’t,” Olivia whispered.
With a gentle smile, the older woman nodded. “Oh, Frank and Crystal are going to name their baby after her." Ruth let a small smile cross her face and pressed her hands to her cheeks as the tears began to flow again in sentiment rather than grief. “I'd better get back to the house.” She left this time without turning back.
Olivia smiled slightly at the new information. “You’re right again, Amelia. When one door closes, another one opens. I hope it’s a girl and she turns out just like you Parker.”
Olivia drove to the warehouse with a forlorn hope that everything was just as it was before Parker entered her life again. Before pressing the security access code, she stared hard at the building. A deep-seated fear settled in the pit of her stomach as her thoughts turned to Amelia and wondered what she’d done in the intervening five weeks of her absence. “I guess the only way to find out is to go inside.” She entered the code and moved her vehicle slowly into the assigned spot. Her heart sank as she saw two empty places. One belonged to her beloved Harley that was beyond repair, and the other for Amelia’s car. The sinking feeling in the pit of stomach worsened.
Walking into the main area, she glanced at the console, where lights flashed continuously, automatically carrying on as programmed. They were as she’d left them. With a shaking hand, she pressed the internal memo board–no messages.
Her thoughts flashed over the previous weeks. She woke the morning after the argument, set on making Amelia understand why she was as she was. Parker’s death took more of a toll on her than she expected and she wanted to apologize but found that Amelia was gone. The woman never woke early so all she could surmise was that Amelia meant what she said. “God help me, I ran away from Amelia, Parker, her death and worst of all myself.” Her mind wandered over the few days she’d spent at DOCO headquarters and her report. They needed her help on a case and taking it seemed the best solution. She figured going back to her old ways would help.
Parker’s funeral was the day before she joined the others in the field. It was her only contact with anything familiar. She’d sent a cryptic message to Teal for her to look after the office, as best she could until she returned. “There were times when it would have been so easy to place myself in the firing line. Each time I did, I saw your face Amelia. How am I going to live any kind of decent life if you aren’t here to help me?”
Her mind wandered back to her last days with DOCO…
+ + +
Once the work was successfully completed, and she filed her report, her mind drifted to the letter Ruth had given her. She pulled it from the pocket inside her jacket that was closest to her heart and ripped open the seal.
She saw Parker’s distinctive writing and began to read the contents.
Olivia allowed the words to permeate her thoughts and she made a far reaching decision. DOCO had to go immediately. If she had any chance salvaging what she and Amelia had together, it was the only way…a fresh start for them both.
With that new resolve and courage that she thought she misplaced along the way, she stood before the director and made her proclamation. “I’m not going to work for you anymore,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Surely there is something we can do to persuade you to continue your work with us,” the director said.
“What part of I won’t work for you anymore didn’t you understand?”
“Is it the money? You’re due a raise…and we can sweeten the pot with additional incentives. There are several new prototypes due out in a month that we’d like you to test for us.”
Olivia held up a hand. “I’ve more than fulfilled my obligations and I won’t be back…end of discussion,” she said with an icy gaze.
“No one walks away…not totally. You of all people should know that,” the man said.
The disbelief she saw in the eyes of the director and two of the team leaders brought a feral smile to her face.
“Watch me…the only way you’ll keep me is in a body bag.” With a nod, Olivia turned her back on the life she had known for ten years and walked out the door.
+ + +
Unbeknownst to Olivia, a woman was sitting in the shadows while she spoke with the director. The woman moved on shaky legs toward the others in the room. “Do you think she’ll be back?” she asked.
“You know her better than most, what’s your call.”
The woman moved cautiously to the window and looked through the grimy pane to the street below. As she clung to the sill for support, she watched the black Jeep leave the building and move away. She unconsciously touched her chest. “She only thinks it’s over.”
“How can you be so sure?” the director asked.
“The one thing Olivia hates is loose ends. Right now she is in emotional flux and not thinking straight.” When she could no longer see the Jeep, she turned back to the others in the room. “She has unfinished business with DOCO. One day when she least expects it, all the pieces and questions will begin to surface and she’ll have to know the answers.” A thin smile crossed the woman’s lips. “Then, she’ll be back and she’ll be ours again. No one can prevent it–least of all her,” she whispered.
+ + +
Now, Olivia was trying to piece her life back together. The only piece that really mattered though, might not want to return to the jigsaw puzzle she called her life. With a heavy sigh, she walked over to the bedroom door that Amelia used and tentatively opened it. The bed was orderly as usual with nothing out of place. She drew in a shallow breath, closed her eyes for a second or two before opening the wardrobe. Several outfits hung there, but they were old. To the best of Olivia’s memory, her friend had never worn them. She also saw a couple of the dress suits Amelia wore for work. However, she saw none of the clothes that Amelia had worn recently.
Her feet took her listlessly to the drawer used for her underwear, t-shirts and other stuff. On opening each one, she realized there was a chance, a slim one, but one that indicated Amelia hadn’t left for good. Many of the items remained.
“I guess I‘m going to have to wait. I could call Teal. No, I’ll wait. I guess that’s what I’ve made Amelia do. It’s only fair that I do my share.” She lay across the bed waiting for Amelia to arrive home–assuming she ever did.
Amelia tortured herself repeatedly as to why she’d never admitted the truth to Olivia or herself. Knowing in her heart, that her actions had soured any chance she and her friend could continue as they had.
Her heavy steps took her to the edge of the shore and she felt the lapping of the waves caress her toes in her sandals. It was the perfect place to get her head around everything. Her parents gave the keys to the condominium without preying into the explanation of why she turned up on their doorstep at midnight requesting the use of the vacation home for a few days. Her fingers pushed back the hair that fell across her face as the slight breeze continued to play with the strands. “I’m going to have to explain why I did what I did eventually the parents are going to freak. Right now though I need to elucidate my inactions to myself first, what kind of psychiatrist am I that I can’t solve this?”
Teal was the only one she’d informed of her sudden vacation. There had been point in placing a message on the computer for Olivia? It was clear that she didn’t want to talk or come home so what would have been the use in leaving a note as to where I am. Olivia had simply left that fateful morning after their argument and hadn’t returned. All she knew via Teal was that Olivia had gone to Parker’s funeral. She’d been gone five weeks without a word except a cryptic one for Teal to keep the business ticking as best she could. “Who could blame her she probably thinks everyone she loves leaves her in one way or another. First her brother, then Max and now Parker and all I did was make it worse. God forgive me I abandoned her as well.”
The sky above turned into an indigo color as darkness fell. Amelia stood in that one spot simply breathing in the aroma of salt, sea and fresh air. The crash of the waves on the rocks to her left felt like the last week of her life. All preconceptions seem to wash away and what remained was life in raw reality.
Pondering the demise of what she had given up of her old existence and yet conversely still clung to the shroud of its demise as a security blanket. “I thought giving up my life in the church would have been the hardest decision I’d ever have to make. How wrong could I be? I’ve never actually given up on anything. I might not call myself a nun, but I still hang mentally to the way I lived my life then.”
Amelia walked a little way along the beach as her feet made contact with the odd shell that crunched under foot. It was one more example of how she was feeling. Self-analysis is the pits and it was time for her to stop.
Her eyes floated up to the sky that had fully turned into the inky depths of night except for the odd star that pierced the blanket of nightfall. I really need to go back. The thought passed like a shooting star and she knew the only place she wanted to go–Olivia.
She retraced her steps and felt the peace of her final admission sink in. Ten minutes later, she opened the back gate from the beach to the patio of her parent’s condominium. The light she left on in the kitchen was a beacon of sorts to a place she found refuge for a time. She unlocked the door and looked around the comfortable rooms. She wandered; in them all, she found memories that fortunately for her were all good. A feeling of delight surged through her as she picked up items of places and things they’d done as a family over the years. Framed photos carried a theme through the whole building–happiness.
She held a photo of her dad giving her a piggy back ride on the beach. “I want to do that with someone I love…walk through a kaleidoscope of wonderful memories and collections that we’ve built over the years.” Then her eyes captured the picture of her mom and dad sitting on the beach with arms wrapped around each other and smiling happily. Her heart beat erratically for a few seconds as she replaced her parents face with her own image and one more. The rightness and harmony she found when she did caught her breath in the back of her throat as she whispered to the empty room, “I love you Olivia. Not just love you…I’m in love with you. I want to share all this with you.”
She finally said the words that hid behind the shroud she’d refused to give up. The death of her old life finally floated away and disappeared for good. She automatically reached for her purse and pulled out her cell. She dialed the short code she had for Olivia’s private cell. As expected, the answer machine kicked in, but it didn’t matter, not now.
Amelia made a valiant plea to her friend. “Hi, it’s me. When are you coming home? I…I want, no need, you to come home Olivia. Back to those who love you…please. I know I made a big mistake and it’s my fault you haven’t returned, but we need to talk, it’s important.”
With her old life in shreds, she smiled. For the first time she felt that whatever happened, it was as it should be. The outcome might not be positive, but at least she knew she could go forward. Whatever she and Olivia decided regarding their relationship, they could both go forward .Olivia didn’t deserve to have another echo of the past on her shoulder for years. Amelia’s mind was now a safe haven for the future
Olivia drew a deep breath when she heard Amelia’s voice. Her chaotic thoughts fell away as she lay on Amelia’s bed in their shared home. “Yeah, where are you?”
The sound of the smoky voice filled Amelia with a yearning to see Olivia’s face and stare into the depths of her blue eyes, often, filled with ice, but with her, never…except for that last time. “I’m at my parent’s condo at the beach. I thought after…look…we all needed a break.”
“This break is it a prelude for leaving altogether? Teal sent me a message she suggested that you may leave the business.” Olivia held her breath waiting. Their last discussion had been acrimonious with things said that probably damaged their relationship for good.
Olivia felt tears roll down her cheeks at the definitive answer. “I’m glad. I’m home by the way, when will you be back?”
Amelia smiled as her happiness bubbled over. “I left the car in town and took the train. With luck, I can be back tomorrow afternoon.”
Olivia warmly replied, “I’ll collect you. Give me a call when you board the train, please.”
“I’m glad you came back…to us.”
Olivia smiled slowly. I came back to you Amelia and no one else. “And you’re welcome. Now get some sleep, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Amelia ended the call and sank back into her chair. “I wish I’d called earlier.” She smiled in anticipation of seeing Olivia again–it felt like a lifetime.
+ + +
The train station bustled with people moving like ants through the various terminals. Although the town didn’t have the volume of traffic of a larger city, there were plenty of people using this form of transport to commute from the numerous destinations.
Olivia paced the platform where Amelia’s train was due to arrive. She glanced at the large clock on the wall–two minutes late. A scowl of frustration gathered on her face until she heard the distinctive sound of an approaching train. She turned in the direction of the stopping train, crossed her arms over her chest and silently waited for Amelia.
A few minutes later, the doors opened and people spilled out of the doors like liquid. Men with briefcases rushed passed her, woman with shopping or children trickled by as transport staff trundled trolleys along laden with parcels. None of them of interest to Olivia until a familiar figure exited a car half way down the platform. A feeling of well-being flooded Olivia when she saw her friend. An unbidden smile appeared on her face as she strode down the concourse. Within seconds, she faced the one person with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life, needed to spend the rest of her life.
“Hey there, how was the journey?” Her voice dropped an octave or two and her eyes sparkled in welcome. She desperately wanted to hug her friend, but was afraid of the reaction.
Amelia felt her breath catch as Olivia stood directly in front of her. All she could do was return the glowing smile, her toes curling in response to their closeness. She said, “Great, nothing to report.”
Olivia didn’t move as she drank in every feature of the smaller woman. How could she begin to tell Amelia that life wasn’t worth living, without her in it?“I’m pleased about that. They wouldn’t want to face my wrath if something had gone wrong.” Her voice sounded bland and hardly happy.
“I missed you,” Amelia replied. She disregarded any decorum and with a sob of joy, she dropped her small case and threw her arms around the taller woman in a fierce hug. “Do you know how I’ve been feeling since you went away? I’ve missed you so much!” Her voice broke when she allowed her inner emotions to surface.
The instinct, especially after recent events, to push emotion away reared its head, but Olivia stomped on it aggressively and returned the hug. She bent and kissed the top of Amelia’s head before she whispered, “Yeah I think so. I missed you too and I almost lost it when I got home and you weren’t there. I should have called you. Will you forgive me?”
Amelia moved reluctantly from their tight embrace and stared up into Olivia’s face. That question she knew must have been hard for Olivia it really wasn’t in character. “Only if you’ll forgive me for my stupidity…I’m so very sorry about Parker.” Her eyes took in the emaciated skin on Olivia’s face. She saw Olivia’s eyes cloud with what she was sure was the remembrance of pain.
Then Olivia said, “We both said things that I suspect neither want to bring up again.”
Olivia felt her inner core shrink slightly at the words. “That’s good, right?” Her blue eyes captured Amelia’s brown ones.
Amelia felt the smile tug at her lips at the quiet question, “Yeah it’s good in fact it’s the best. I think anyway.”
They stared into each other’s eyes until Amelia decided to take a chance and step over the line into another life. Her hands moved to tangle behind Olivia’s neck as she gently tugged her head. They were inches apart as she breathed out before their lips engaged, “I dream about you twenty-four seven Olivia Santos, you are my life.”
The explosion of senses as their lips met left both women shaking when they finally broke apart. It took a few moments for Olivia to assemble a coherent thought from the exquisitely chaotic mess her mind was in. “Do you mean that?”
Amelia saw the incredulous look in Olivia’s glassy eyes. It was a look she felt sure mirrored in her own. Her heart was still trying to calm down as she felt the overload of passion take her down a road that was achingly recognizable yet deliciously untried. With a gentle finger, she traced the familiar lines on her friend’s face as she placed them finally on Olivia’s lips. Then Amelia smiled tenderly, as she felt a returning pressure from Olivia’s lips. “Oh yes, I know it’s probably hard for you to believe, me being that chaste nun and all.” Her eyes twinkled as she watched Olivia’s eyes roll at the comment. “We need to talk let’s go home.”
With eyes sparkling, Olivia picked up Amelia’s case and slipped her hand into the smaller one as they headed down the platform to her jeep. When they reached her vehicle and before Amelia climbed in, Olivia enclosed her in a bear hug. She was reluctant to let go and felt that Amelia had more control than she did over this situation–terrifying. “Home is where the heart is and mine is anywhere you are.”
They needed to talk. Things might not be as easy as Amelia made it right now. The main thing was that they would go down that path together whatever it brought at the end of the journey.
The vehicle moved away to the promise of a brighter future as the echoes of the past faded into the distance. Or had they?
Watch for a new story Parodox of Love - begins posting next week.