Disclaimers : See Part 1

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Part 4 of Loose Change Series - The Addy and Karen series.
(01) Turning on a Dime
(02) New Quarters
(03) One Little Bit
(04) Joint Venture

 

Joint Venture

By

K-Morgan

kmorgan.5674@yahoo.com

(Feedback is appreciated)


Part 4

Concurrent with the investigation, Addy set out to look for a new school where Alex's safety would be guaranteed and which would provide the academic enrichment she needed.

It took Addy no time to get into her new task. She had already done her research and it was a matter of visiting the schools. On three different occasions, she dropped off Alex with Karen and went to visit the schools on her own. She narrowed them down to two.

“How are we going to tell Alex?” Karen was worried about Alex's reaction. She had heard so many stories about people's kids having tantrums and not getting along with parents that sometime she was afraid that Alex would be one of those spoiled kids. The issue here was that Alex, even at an early age, had a strong character. She had an air of confidence that few children had at that age and that was a bit intimidating even for a parent.

For Addy, however, dealing with Alex was second nature. “What do you mean how am I going to tell her? I'll just talk to her and talk her into it, period.”

“Just like that! Huh? Like she's not going to start with her questioning? What if she doesn't want to go? One day we are going to be in trouble with that kid. There might be a day when we might regret encouraging her participation in decisions. Why do we need to talk to her? Why can't we just tell her this is where you are going to school and that's that?”

“Because, she is a smart kid. We will tell her where she is going, but we need to make her want to go there. It will be easier this way.”

“I don't know. You seem to complicate things more sometimes, Ad . . .” Menacing brown eyes stopped her.

“Stop! Let me handle this, okay?”

Karen put her hands up in front of her in a defensive gesture. “She's all yours!”

“Thank you!”

**

A few days before they were going to visit the schools, Addy spoke to Alex. They were sitting in the dining room table. Everyone was on their laptop. This was something Addy came up with to keep the family together in the technology era. Alex called it their “office time.” It was a way to share time, even when each was doing their own browsing. While at it, they would share finds, or simply do their own thing. But the setting lent itself for sharing, if even a look or a smile. Sometimes that was more than enough.

“Hey, Alex, I want to show you a school I found. It's really pretty. Come here.” Addy wasted no time. She was compulsive sometimes. When there was something troubling her, she had to take care of it immediately. Karen looked up from her computer and smiled.

Karen was looking for a pair of shoes she had seen at a store and which she had not been able to buy because they didn't have her size. Karen didn't just go for any shoe, comfort was her priority and she always claimed that there was something wrong when no one had ever been able to associate comfort with a pair of nice shoes for women. So now that she had found these particular ones, she was determined to buy them.

“What school? Where?”

“It's a real nice place. I want you to see it.”

“Why?”

“I might want you to go there?”

“Why?”

“Because it's soooo pretty.”

Alex laughed. She was always amused with Addy's expressions and ideas. “Okay! Let me see it?”

“Look, isn't it pretty? It's got a beautiful gym and a swimming pool and look at the soccer fields! I wish you could go there. I almost wish I could go there myself! I want to go check it out. You want to check it out with me?”

“Sure. But, M'Addy, you can't go there! You already went to school. This would have to be for me. When are we going to see it?”

“I don't know. Let me call them to see if we can just show up, or if we need to make an appointment. Let me just tell you that the minute we show up there, they are going to want you to go there.”

“Why?”

“Well, because when they look at you, they are going to see that you are a top student and I'm sure that's just what they want at their school. Besides, you are too pretty! Who wouldn't want you?” Addy tickled her and Alex laughed.

Karen raised her eyes from her keyboard and shook her head while smiling. Amazing! The woman is a master!

 

She looked at a very smiley Addy while Alex was looking at the school on the school's web page. Addy stuck out her tongue. Karen grinned and looked back to her computer.

“Want to see it, Mommy?”

“Sure, let me.”

“Wow! Who wouldn't want to go there?”

**

 

Two days later they were visiting St. Claire. Surprisingly, with a very excited Alex in tow.

Karen liked it. Addy could tell from her demeanor and comments. What was not to like? The school was number one in academics. It looked like some sort of fortress with beautiful landscape grounds inside, and it was fifteen minutes from Altee. To get inside the school grounds, visitors had to check in with the guard at the entrance. Anyone going inside needed an ID card. The school also had all types of sports facilities. The tuition was an arm and a leg. But the school offered everything they wanted for Alex. It went up to the 8th grade and then the school had a preparatory or high school which was about 30 minutes from Altee. It was all perfect.

“I love it, Addy. I'm ready to make the move. Your call.”

Addy was pleased with Karen's reaction. It was a very nice place and she had no reason to doubt that Karen would go for it no matter the cost. Which was rather steep, but because they were financially sound, that was no problem for them.

Alex loved the school grounds and was really excited about all the facilities, as well. The school was fabulous, but admission was difficult. Not only the student had to have excellent grades and the parents capable of affording it, there was the matter of having the right recommendations. Addy was not concerned about any of that because they had it all. Addy handled the whole application process. Lord Phillip Tidwell was a reference and when listing the mother's name Addy made sure that Karen's name appeared as “Lady Karen MgGill Larsen.” There was no father, and Addy listed herself as “Legal Guardian.”

It was not long, after the tour ended, that Alex made the unexpected comment.

“M'Addy, everyone is wearing a uniform!” Alex's eyes were huge and her nose was all wrinkled in her usual way whenever she disliked something. She was also making her usual gestures with her hands.

It was the way she said it that made Karen worry. Karen immediately looked at Addy for a possible resolution of this imminent and unexpected tragic discovery. Karen was the type of person who was always prepared to resolve and face any foreseeable or unforeseeable situation, except those that related to Alex. With Alex there was no possible preparation. She never knew what was coming at her. This was one of the things she had ever found most disconcerting in her life, the lack of instructions on raising children. For Karen, there weren't enough books on the subject.  She had entire shelves filled with them, and still, she never had the right answers.

Addy always laughed. “There can't be instructions for everything, Ker! Sometimes you have to wing it.” Karen was usually in horror when Addy made that kind of remark. In Karen's world everything had to be organized, studied and planned. “How can you wing it? Raising a child is a major event in anyone's life! It should require planning to the smallest detail. Otherwise, it's like a trying to construct a building without blueprints.”

Most horrifying to Addy was when Karen began to quote Dr. Spock's baby or parenting books. “Pleeeease! Karen that man wrote those books in the 1950s and based, probably on his sister's kids!”

“But it's all there is in raising children. And all I have to go by.”

“Maybe you should write one, I think that you are as much of an expert as he is. At least you have a real kid.”

“Maybe I will. Still, I may have my personal expertise, but I'm not a doctor.”

“Trust me, from what I read of his books, I don't think that man is a parent or a maybe even a doctor!” Addy chuckled at her own comment. “But, I'm afraid that if you wrote a book on raising children, it would be like a supplement to Dr. Spock's.”

“Ha, ha, very funny. And are you questioning my parenting skills?”

“No, baby, I would never do that, if you'd only relied on them and not on all those books. I think that you are a much better parent and doctor, for that matter, than Dr. Spock.”

Karen felt better on the positive comments of her parenting skills, but furrowed her brow on the comment about being a better doctor. Addy was obviously still mocking her. Karen was the one who was always ready to either medicate Alex at the first symptom of a possible cold, or apply first aid whenever Alex got hurt playing, or riding her bike.

Invariably, when Alex threw a curve ball, it was always Addy who had to bat it because Karen usually just froze. She'd call on Addy for what she called “one of her wacky answers.”

Karen grinned expectantly, thinking that she wouldn't be able to handle this one. But she was astonished by the unexpected response from Addy which immediately made her look for Alex's reaction. She actually looked expectantly from one to the other, as if she had been watching a tennis match.

“Wow! Isn't that wonderful? Ker, did you notice that? Everyone is wearing a uniform! Aren't we lucky!”

Alex was looking at her with the same wondering look as Karen. Karen was still waiting for more of a response, and wondering where this would go.

“Imagine how great it will be?” Alex watched smiling, as Addy raised her eyebrows and opened her eyes while making all sorts of gestures with her hands. “Not having to worry about what you are going to wear in the morning, or the next day, or any day! Because you'd already know!” Then she started to laugh and Alex with her. Karen chuckled, unbelieving the mother-daughter reaction.

“And what about at the beginning of the school year when everyone is rushing to the stores trying to buy school clothes? We, instead, won't have to worry about any of that because we would already have our school clothes, and we would be at the pool tanning and swimming. Isn't it great to have all that much time for the fun stuff?”

To Karen's astonishment, Alex agreed.

“Hey, you know what? When I was a little girl, like you, I also had to wear a uniform. In fact, I even went to a high school where we also had to wear a uniform. And I'm sure Mommy Karen did too.”

“Yes, I did and I--.”

“She loved it. She would always tell me all about it.  What color was it, Ker?”

“Blue and yellow.” And Karen hated it and Addy knew it. She hated it as much as anyone who has ever worn a uniform to school, but they weren't going to tell Alex that! Addy had also hated her brown school uniform with a long ugly skirt. The truth was that uniforms had come a long way since their time and the one for this school was actually pretty and modern.

“They are usually very comfortable, you'll see.”

Alex seemed to have accepted her fate well.

“Am I going to have to wear it all the time?”

“Well, I don't really know about that, but I do know one thing . . . ”

“What's that M'Addy?”

“I'm sure glad it's not pink!”

“Me too!” They both laughed.

“Well, really, I don't think I would have sent you to a school where they had pink uniforms.  This one is so much better and prettier.”

“Yeah! M'Addy, when do I come here?”

“Soon, baby. We need to sign you up and buy the uniform.”

Alex continued to walk and skip in front of them in a most “business as usual” way. Alex had not only accepted the uniform, but she also found it pretty. As they were walking back to the car, Alex was still walking in front of them, so the women were able to speak without being heard.

“I once again bow to your many skills, my dear. The matter was masterfully dealt with.”

“Thank you. I know how to handle my daughter.”

Alex and Addy got in the car about the same time. Karen closed Addy's door. She always held the door for Addy. Karen beamed as she went around the car to the driver's seat.

**

Addy later reminisced about how mad Karen was when she found out that she had used the “Lady” title and that Addy appeared as “legal guardian” instead of “mother” also. Karen didn't find out until Alex was in second grade. She didn't care so much that Addy had used her ‘Lady' title, but she was livid about the fact that she had not listed herself as Alex's mother.

“I had to do it, Ker. They wouldn't have accepted her otherwise. Those people are very picky and I didn't wasn't to ruin Alex's chance.”

“Well, maybe she shouldn't go there! A school that is not progressive enough to accept that a child may have two mothers is not the school I want our daughter going.”

“Ker, I don't know that they think that way. I just didn't want to risk her chances.”

They went to bed that night in a lot of silence. Addy later woke up in the middle of the night only to find that Karen was not in bed. She got up and went looking for her. She found her sitting on the ‘purging' spot. This was at the far end of the sofa in the living room. Karen always sat there to think whenever anything troubled her to the point she could not sleep.

“What's wrong?”

“I'm thinking what I should do.”

“About what?”

“About you appearing as Alex's “legal guardian” at school and not as her mother.”

“Oh, Ker! Leave that alone. It's no big deal.”

“It is to me, Addy. How, can you ask me to accept this? You! The one person to whom she owes her life! That you not appear as her mother? It's totally unacceptable to me. You are her mother. Legally and morally. I can't accept it. Addy, you know that I'm very mellow and that, most of the times, I don't object to most things, but Addy this is too big and too important to look the other way. I can't. I will go to school tomorrow and clear it all, and if they don't want us there. We'll go somewhere else, or we'll buy the school and run it too!”

“Ker, but Alex is doing so well.”

“It doesn't matter, Addy. Things are like they are. We are not closeted and I don't think that should change because of Alex. I've thought about this, Addy. She has to deal with things as they are. Whether she likes it or not, and whatever it brings to her good or bad, she is our daughter and she will have to learn to live according to who she is and who we are. We cannot teach our child to lie or hide. People have to be accepted for who they are. This is what I want her to learn. You are as much her mother as I am. Maybe more. I only had her physically. You conceived her in mind and soul, and she is the beautiful little person you sold me. She's yours, Addy. In heart and soul, she has to be yours at school also.”

Addy smiled. “I sold her to you?”

Karen smiled. “When you talked me into having her, you didn't just sell her to me, you made a miracle, Addypooh. I still think, to this day, that you don't realize the magnitude of your deed. I never, in my wildest dream or nightmare, ever, ever, contemplated the idea of having a child and much less that such a child would come from inside me. You my loved one, are a miracle worker!” She kissed Addy. “Come on let's go to bed.”

In bed, Addy continued to talk. “I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.”

“I know, Addy. But you forget that you are the heart of our family. I want you and I need you to be in the center of it all. We revolve around you.”

Addy didn't know what to say, so she said nothing and just cuddled to Karen.

Karen squeezed her.

**

The Scotland Yard investigators came to report their findings and to see if they could offer any more leads into the investigation. “Ms. Larsen, we have determined that the cause of the fire was arson, but we have been unable to identify anyone. Unfortunately we don't have any suspects. We followed the lead you gave us, but I'm afraid your relative was at a party that evening and more than twenty people can vouch for him and his wife.”

Karen pursed her lips in fury. “Inspector, you don't think he did it himself, do you? He's not an idiot! He's the kind of person who would hire someone to do his dirty work because he doesn't have the b—.”

Addy cut in to stop her. “We thank you for coming, inspector. Please, continue to look into the matter. And make sure to continue to keep us apprised of any developments.”

The inspector looked at a very disgruntled Karen and not knowing what to do, he addressed Addy. Karen was intimidating when she was mad. “Yes, ma'am. This continues to be an open investigation. I just wanted to give you a status report.”

“Thank you, Inspector. We appreciate your thoughtfulness.” Addy opened the door for him to leave. She immediately looked for Karen. She found her in the kitchen looking out the window. She came back behind her, put her arms around her waist, leaned her chin on Karen's shoulder, and kissed her under the ear. “They'll catch him. He must have done something wrong. There's got to be a loose end somewhere.”

“Come on, let's go up. I'll give you a back rub.” Addy massaged Karen's shoulder as she spoke.

“Okay, but give me a minute. I'm going to call the PI.”

Karen called the security company and doubled the security in all their properties. She requested that the security company patrol day and night and requested perimeter alarms and cameras, and motion sensor lighting outside. And of course all the doors and windows were already alarmed.

“I just had another thought. I'm going to call him tomorrow again and double his pay to give him more incentive.” Karen said still deep in thought.

“Come on, let's go up.”

“Addy, I can't enjoy anything.” She turned to face Addy. “I feel threatened. You and Alex are at the heart of the matter here. If he stabbed me in the belly he wouldn't cause so much pain as what I feel now. This uncertainty, this fear kills me.”

“I know. Don't you think I know?”

Karen nodded.

“Come on, up!”

“It's like a nightmare, Addy. Damn man!”

“I know, babe, but we need to be patient and take one thing at a time. Up to now, nothing points to Charles. Maybe it's not him.”

“I wish I had your optimism, Addy. But I'm convinced he's behind it all. The coward bastard!”

When they reached the top landing, Karen locked the door on the staircase and peeked inside Alex's room to check on her. She was sound asleep all snuggled with her stuffed toys. Karen smiled and walked into their room, leaving the door of their room cracked.

“Leave the door open, Ker. Come on, lay down.”

“We need our privacy, Addy.”

“It's temporary, baby. You need to get some rest.”

Karen left the door open and followed Addy's instructions and laid down. Addy lowered the lights and got close to her and began to rub her back.

“That feels good.”

“Try to relax. Everything is okay. You are too tense.”

“If they try anything on Alex or you, I swear I will kill him with my own two hands.” Karen tensed even more.

“Nothing like that is going to happen. You'll see. Relax.” Addy stopped her massage and instead placed her leg over Karen's and began to gently caress her back first in circular motion, and later up and down. She got closer and kissed Karen's neck. Karen broke down and began to cry. Addy covered her with her body and held her. She gently combed back her hair and placed small, tender kisses around her ear, cheek and neck. “It's okay, baby. It's going to be okay. Sleep, I'll keep an eye out tonight. You are exhausted.” Karen turned and nestled herself on Addy's chest. Addy placed her arms around her and caressed her back and her hair and Karen slowly drifted to sleep, finally finding a little peace in Addy's arms.

**

The next day a much rested Karen did as she said. She doubled the incentive bonus for the PI. He had more than enough reasons to deliver, and he did. He arranged surveillance 24/7 in front of Charles' house, and place of work.

One evening, when he left work, Charles went to visit his attorney. It was the same one who handled the custody case against Karen and Addy. His name was Henry Tobias, and he was the typical ambulance chaser. He could be found walking the halls of the courthouse looking for people in distress to acquire their business and squeeze money out of them or whomever he could squeeze it from. Karen had given the PI the name of the attorney and when Charles contacted Tobias and made some inquiries, he immediately became a suspect to the PI. The PI immediately began to trail Tobias also. The meeting between Tobias and Charles lasted for an hour, and then Charles went home.

The PI's staff continued to trail Tobias 24/7 as well. Anyone having any contact with him was checked thoroughly. All leads and contacts were followed. Soon a name surfaced. Gregory Sullivan, an ex-con with a long list of crimes to his name. Coincidentally, Gregory was seen in Altee the day of the fire. As it turned out he had been seen with a woman recently hired in the distillery. This was all too much of a coincidence.

The entire matter was reported with full details to Scotland Yard. The woman from the distillery was interviewed. She had met Gregory in the pub. He bought her a few drinks and dinner. She said he seemed interested in knowing about the area because allegedly he might move there. She said he asked about the distillery and the stables. She didn't know any more about him.

Scotland Yard picked up Gregory for questioning as a person of interest. Of course, he would not talk, so they had to let him go until his alibi could be confirmed. The alibi didn't hold and he was picked up again. This time Stephanie made sure that the best investigators conducted the interrogation.

When the investigators mentioned Tobias' name, Gregory's demeanor changed. The investigators pressed on and told him that Tobias was going to talk in exchange for immunity. He still wouldn't say anything and was allowed to leave again. His mistake was that he panicked knowing that Scotland Yard had made the connection between him and Tobias and he ran straight to Tobias' office. Charles had also been questioned by Scotland Yard. He was asked whether he knew a Gregory Sullivan. He denied it, but also panicked and ran to see Tobias as well. They both arrived, crashing into Tobias' office.

Charles screamed at Gregory. “What are you doing here? You idiot! They probably followed you here!”

“No they didn't I made sure. They could have followed you just as well!”

Charles was furious.

Tobias echoed Charles' concern. “You better keep your mouth shut. The best thing for you to do is to get out of town.”

“I can't. I have no money. You have to help me get out of here.”

“I can't give you any more money. I don't have any more.” Tobias replied.

Gregory was not fooled and thought this was a good opportunity to get more money from the pair. “In that case I'm going to go straight to the police and tell them the whole story.”

“You wouldn't, you scumbag!” Tobias was frantic.

“Why wouldn't I? What have I got to lose? They already found me! All I have to do is hand the two of you over. They'll make me a deal.”

Tobias was enraged and grabbed him by the neck and they started a scuffle. In the heat of the moment, Gregory pulled out a gun from under his shirt. Charles saw the gun and panicked. Tobias tried to grab it, but in reaching for it, the gun went off and Gregory got shot. He fell to the ground.

“Bloody idiot. You've killed him!” Charles yelled.

Tobias felt for a pulse. “He's dead!” Tobias panicked. “We need to dump him somewhere! Get rid of him and the gun.”

Charles was horrified. “We? What do you mean by we? I can't.”

“What do you mean you can't? Your hands are as dirty as mine. We are in this bloody shit together whether you like it or not. So help me wrap him up in a blanket and let's dump him in the river.”

Charles had no alternative but to help. Tobias was right, his hands were very dirty. Between the two, they carried Gregory out and dumped him in the river. In retrospect he thought that it was even better that this idiot was out of the way. With him gone, no one would tie either of them to the fire.

In the meantime, Scotland Yard was looking for Gregory for further questioning. He was their only lead and they were looking for him everywhere. Of course, they couldn't find him at his registered address.

While looking for him, Scotland Yard got a report that someone spotted what appeared to be a person floating in the river. The body was picked up and was identified as Gregory Sullivan. Scotland Yard immediately went looking for Tobias to question him on Gregory's disappearance and death. Tobias was not in his office, nor anywhere to be found. After establishing probable cause, they procured and obtained a search warrant.

The investigating team found fresh, recently cleaned blood stains on the carpet in Tobias' office. Within two days, the forensic report established that the blood in Tobias office matched Gregory's blood. A search began for Tobias and he was picked up within the next few hours. He immediately talked and in hoping to cut a deal, he gave up Charles. The search for Charles began immediately.

**

When Charles heard that Tobias was picked up, he panicked. He needed to leave the country and hide, but he had no money. Then he thought of Karen. “That bitch! She's loaded and here I am scrambling!” He was thoughtful for a moment and then reacted. “I'll show her!”

He went upstairs got the gun he kept in his closet. He then got in his car and left for Altee. He didn't want anyone to see the car, so he parked a considerable distance from the Manor house and proceeded on foot. The driveway was gated, but he jumped the fence and got inside the property. He found Karen and Alex playing outside the cottage.

When Karen saw him she froze. She stood in front of Alex as he spoke to her in a demanding tone.

“I need money. I need you to give me money!”

“Are you crazy? What right have you to show up at my door asking for money? Get out right now before I call the constable!” When Karen turned to leave, he grabbed her by the arm. Karen had pushed Alex to walk ahead of her.

“You are not calling anyone, you little bitch! I'll show you!”

When Alex saw the man grab his mom she froze. Karen tried to wrestle with him to free herself, but he gave her blow that took the air out of her lungs and made her bent over, then he pushed her violently throwing her to the ground. She hit her head with a rock and was bleeding lying on the ground. Alex began to scream as all this was happening. “Mommy, M'Addy! Mommy, M'Addy!”

“Shut up, you squirt! Shut up!” Alex came over towards him to try to stop him and to pull him away from her mom. He then grabbed Alex, who was still screaming.

Peanut Crunchy was barking like a mad dog and going around in circles around them.

When Addy heard the screams, she came out to the window and saw what was happening. Charles had Alex under his arm and Karen was semi-unconscious on the ground. Addy did not hesitate. She grabbed Karen's gun and ran downstairs.

“Put her down or I'll shoot!” Addy was pointing the gun at him.

When Karen opened her eyes and saw the scene evolving in front of her eyes she panicked. This was the last thing she'd ever thought she'd see in her lifetime. The scene looked surreal. So much planning and security and there they were, this was precisely what she had tried to avoid by all means. Even hurt, she tried to go for him again. Charles saw her and kicked her again. “Stay there, bitch, or I'll shoot her!” He pointed the gun at Alex who appeared unable to move. Go in the house and give me all the money you have if you want to keep the brat alive.” He told Addy while pointing the gun at Alex.

“Addy, do what he says.”

Alex had been yelling until she saw Addy with the gun. Then her beautiful green eyes became huge and she became silent. She remained quiet staring at Addy. Karen was doing the same. They both knew that Addy was fearsome when her family was on the line, and they both knew that Addy was very capable of anything at this moment.

“Charles, put her down or I'll shoot you.” Addy repeated her threat. In truth the only reason she had not shot him already was because he was holding Alex.

“She'll shoot, you. She will. She'll shoot you, I know her.” Alex told Charles.

“Shut up, squirt!”

Peanut Crunchy continued to bark. “And tell your dog to shut up, or I'll shoot him too!”

Charles was distracted trying to quiet Alex and the dog when Karen threw a huge rock at him to dislodge the gun from his hand. The rock hit his hand and he dropped it. Alex was squirming in his arm trying to get lose. Charles was trying to grab the gun when all of a sudden Alex stopped screaming and in a very calculated manner put her two little fingers together and poked him in the eye. Charles was still startled from having lost his gun and all of a sudden the pain in the poked eye was apparently too much. He dropped Alex and she hit the ground running.

“Run, Alex, run!” Both Karen and Addy yelled. Peanut Crunchy ran after her.

Alex ran towards Karen to apparently try to help thinking that her mom was hurt.

“Go in the house, inside the house, and stay there!”

“But Mommy, you are hurt!”

“Inside now! Quick!”

Alex opened her huge eyes and nervously ran inside followed by Peanut Crunchy dog and immediately dialed the constable's number while still watching from the window. She was afraid, but she couldn't take her eyes of her moms, especially Addy who was still pointing the gun at Charles.

“You are going to have to shoot me, bitch, or give me what I want!” At that moment, Charles began to walk towards Addy.

Karen got up, she was in extreme pain but she would not let Charles hurt Addy. She was afraid Addy wouldn't shoot because it was not in her nature to be violent. Karen began to crawl towards Charles, but he continued his march towards Addy, making it impossible for Karen to reach him in time.

“Shoot him, Addy! Shoot him!” In panic and in tears, Karen yelled in a ferocious tone from her kneeling position. Addy didn't hesitate when she heard Karen's voice. She shot twice.

Karen looked in awe. Addy had actually shot. However, the kickback from the gun was such that it threw her to the ground and she missed. Charles started to laugh.

“You are a dyke but you shoot like a woman.”

Both Karen and Addy began to gather themselves from their respective ends to go head on with him. He was about three feet away from Addy when it happened. Two huge Canadian geese fell from the sky and hit Charles in the head knocking him unconscious to the ground.

Addy immediately jumped on him followed by Karen who had just about made it to them.

Addy yelled. “I got him, Ker! I got him!”

“Hold him down, babe! Hold him down! Are you okay?” Karen was lying on the ground holding Charles feet. Addy's body was right across Charles holding him down.

Addy was not able to answer. It was then when the security officers and Scotland Yard agents, the constable and the PI all arrived and ran towards them and grabbed a very groggy Charles. They immediately handcuffed him.

Karen was a pack of nerves, and was all bloody, but she took Addy in her arms. “Are you okay, baby, are you okay?”

Addy was shaking. “Yes, are you? Where is Alex? You are hurt!”

“I'm okay. She's in the house.”

“I'm here, M'Addy. Mommy, I called the police!” She came running to them and hugged them as soon as she saw the police there. Peanut Crunchy came out with her.

“Mommy, M'Addy are you okay? Who is that man, Mommy?”

They held their daughter and cried together still kneeling on the ground. The constable and the PI came over and picked them up and walked them inside the house. “Ms. Larsen, Dr. Naylor is on its way. He's coming to see you.”

“Thanks, Constable Johnson.” The men helped them off the ground and they all walked inside the house. The three of them sat on the sofa holding on to each other. Unbelieving they had made it through the terrible ordeal. Karen's face revealed anguish. She was in pain, but it was the thought that Addy and Alex had been in such grave danger and her inability to help then that hurt the most.

Addy got up from the sofa. “Where are you going?” Karen asked. She was still apprehensive.

“To get some ice for you.” When Addy came back with the ice pack, she saw that Karen was about to start crying, but was holding back because she didn't like to cry in public. Addy sat next to her and took her in her arms.

Alex was very worried looking at her mom. “I'm fine, Little Bit. I just twisted my ankle, and hit my head on a rock when I fell.”

Addy decided to distract Alex who had a very worried face looking at her mom's bloody head. “Alex, did you see how I got those birds?”

“It was like a miracle!” Alex proclaimed as she laughed. “And did you see how I poked him in the eye?” Alex asked.

“Yes, that was awesome, baby. Did you learn that in your karate class?” Karen added to also pretend that things were okay.

“Not really. I just heard two of the older guys talking about self-defense. I thought I'd give it try, and it worked!”

“It sure did. You are some warrior!” Addy praised her also.

Addy was looking at Karen who had a slight smile on her face now, but was still about to crack. Then Addy winked at her, and she cried and chuckled at the same time burying her face into Addy's shoulder. Alex was still on Addy's lap.

JP and James showed up and created a distraction. “Heavens! Heavens! Are we ever going to have peace around here? You would think that hardly anything happens in this tiny, little, forgotten town and as of lately there's been more crime here than in New York City !”

Alex looked at him and smiled.

He continued with his nonsense. “If things continue like this, I'm going to consider getting some mace or maybe a stun gun. One can never be too careful! By the way, I don't know if you know, but there are two huge dead birds in front of the house.”

The three of them started to laugh. “Uncle JP, maybe you should get a real gun and practice shooting birds with M'Addy.” Alex's comment got a teary Karen to chuckle.

Her nerves were giving way to laughter now.

“Adriana! Did you shoot those birds? Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?” JP asked in his usual exuberant tone and demeanor.

Alex explained the whole incident to him.

JP's eyes were huge. “Goodness gracious! How fortunate can you be?”

“It was sort of funny too, Uncle JP.”

“I don't know about that, Alexandra. I don't think people pointing guns are funny.”

Carol and Marshal also arrived. “Is everyone okay?” Carol asked. Then Carol commented. “What's with the dead birds in the front?”

Alex again took great pleasure in explaining, as all of them continued to laugh.

“And you saw all of that young lady?” Marshal asked.

“Yes, first it was scary because I thought the man was going to kill M'Addy, but when M'Addy shot the birds and they landed on the guy, it was hilarious.”

James went to Karen. “How are you feeling?”

Marshall also went over to check Karen. “Are you hurting?”

“Some, but Dr. Naylor is on his way, oh wait. There he is now.”

“Okay, let's go on to the next room and give the Dr. and Karen some privacy.” Marshal rounded up Alex, JP, and James and took them to the rec room. Carol went with them.

“Thanks, Marshal.”

“Anytime, Addy.”

Dr. Naylor took a look at Karen's head first and then her ribs and finally her ankle. He took care of the bloodied head and wrapped the ankle. He gave her a band to put on around her ribs. Charles had kicked her hard near her rib cage.

“I would like to take some x-rays. I need you to come into my office today. We need to check this today. Ice it now and don't move around too much. Here, these are pain pills. I will leave some for later, but I want you in my office today. I'll be waiting for you. I'm glad your ordeal is over. He will be behind bars for a long time, for life if we are lucky. We don't need his kind around.”

As Dr. Naylor examined Karen she was watching Addy in the distance. Addy had been called aside by the Scotland Yard inspector and the PI. She was smiling and her eyes welled up. Dr. Naylor thought he had hurt her. “Does it hurt?”

She looked back to him. “No.” She wiped away her tears. “I'm so proud of her.” She didn't intend to voice her thoughts but the moments she had just lived had been intense and she was off her normal self.

Dr. Naylor smiled and patted her leg. “Karen, you and Addy have taught this old man a great lesson. Before I met you, I'm ashamed to say, I was not in favor of gay marriage. Meeting the two of you changed my mind. If anyone asked me if I knew the perfect couple, I would have to mention your names. I know of no man\woman arrangement that can even come close to what the two of you have. So, yes, she is a great woman and you are very lucky to have each other. Alex is lucky to have such great parents.”

Karen was moved by Dr. Naylor's words, and shed some tears. “Now, now! This is all over and you can have your rest and peace at last.” He patted her leg and got up to leave. “Thanks, doc.”

“You are welcome.”

“I will be expecting the two of you, Addy. I need to x-ray her.” Addy had rejoined them by now.

“We'll be there, Dr. Naylor.” Dr. Naylor had always remained a good friend, ever since that dreadful winter night when they all risked their lives to take Sarah's son to the hospital when he had his appendectomy. Dr. Naylor always said that if it hadn't been for Karen the child would have died.

Addy saw Dr. Naylor leave and bid him goodbye. “We'll be there as soon as we clear things here.”

When everyone left the group in the rec room rejoined them. Alex had been so impressed with her ability to poke Charles in the eye and the shooting of the bird that she just couldn't stop talking about it. It was fortunate that in the midst of a tragedy, she still found a way to distract herself. One day, all she would hopefully remember from this sad moment was how she poked the bad man in the eye, how Addy shot two passing birds and how they fell on him. There was no need for her to know that he was family, or the history that would go away with him.

Addy kept nodding enjoying how amused Alex was with the shooting of the birds. Alex came to her and kissed her. “I love you, M'Addy.”

Addy closed her eyes and held her daughter tight almost in tears. “So you liked how I shot the birds, was that a good shot or what?”

Alex laughed. “I don't know M'Addy. I thought you were supposed to be shooting the bad man.”

“Nope, that was not my plan. I had it all figured out.” Alex climbed on her lap as everyone watched and listened to the interaction of the two.

“Na! You missed, you missed, M'Addy. I saw how you fell on your butt!” Alex was kidding her big time and laughing.

“Nope, that is not how it happened. I saw those birds coming and I said ‘if I can shoot me those birds for sure they will land on the man and I won't have to shoot him'. I was not going to shoot a person! I had it all figured out.”

Alex laughed. “No! You missed, you missed! I saw you! You got lucky and I don't know how you got those birds. It was like a miracle!”

After a while, everyone said their goodbyes, aware that Dr. Naylor was waiting for Karen in his office. Addy got up from the recliner and came to the door to thank everyone for coming and to bid them farewell.

“It was a miracle, if you ask me. I agree with Alex.” JP remarked.

“Uncle JP, are you taking the birds with you to cook it?” Alex asked him in jest.

JP made a face. “Yuck! No!”

Alex laughed, she loved to mock JP and he loved her for it. “But if I did, I'd bring them to you to eat. Would you like that?”

Alex wrinkled her nose in the Addy mimicking gesture indicating disgust. “Yuck! No!”

JP rolled his eyes. “You are your mother's child! And by that I mean Addy.” He looked at Karen who couldn't have had a more satisfied face from her restful position on the sofa. “Goodbye JP!”

James smiled at her and pushed him out of the house.

“Call us if you need anything.”

Marshal and Carol had left a few minutes earlier because they had to go check the horses.

When everyone was gone, the three of them smiled. Karen laid her head back on the sofa and closed her eyes. She was sitting with the good leg on the sofa and the hurt ankle on the ottoman in front of the sofa. Alex climbed on the sofa and straddled her good leg.

“Are you okay, Mommy?” Alex leaned forward to hug her mom.

“Yes, baby, I'm fine. But be careful with my leg and my ribs, I'm still hurting a bit.” She hugged her daughter dearly, but her eyes were totally absorbed on the figure in front of her. Addy was smiling. “I couldn't be happier, Alex.” Alex pulled out to look at her mom and saw her looking at Addy, and she smiled. Karen extended her hand asking Addy to take it. She took it and Karen kissed it. Addy sat on the edge of the sofa, and kissed Alex.

“Mommy, are you going to kiss M'Addy?”

“You bet, Little Bit. She's my hero.”

Addy came forward and kissed her while Alex watched smiling.

“I like to see you kiss.” She then bolted out of the sofa when she heard Peanut Crunchy barking. “Peanut Crunchy! Oh no! I hope he didn't pee on the carpet!” She ran to find him.

“I hope not!” Addy exclaimed. While paying attention to Alex and the Peanut Crunchy situation, she felt Karen's hand up her thigh.

“Did he?” Addy asked.

“No! I'm taking him to the patio.”

Addy chuckled and came back to meet Karen's eyes which hadn't moved from its focal point.

“My butcher.” Karen was thinking of the time when they first arrived to Scotland and she was teaching Addy to drive on the left side of the road and a heard of sheep appeared from nowhere and in trying to avoid the sheep they ended up going down a ravine. Only to be stopped when the Range Rover hit a cow, killing it instantly.

Addy smiled. “Oh Ker! It's been years since that happened.”

“It seemed as if it was just yesterday to me. I'll never forget it. We had meat for a year, and we even gave some away.” Addy smiled and looked at her with her loving face. Karen knew that look.

“Oh, oh.” Karen smiled, making a hurtful face. “My ribs hurt, even from smiling, Addy.

Addy wanted to cheer her up. “We need to go see Dr. Naylor, but later tonight, I'll take care of you, unless your foot—.”

“I'd cut it off if—.”

Addy came forward to kiss her. Karen wouldn't let go of her. “I want you, baby. I don't know if I'll be able to –.”

“You are hurt and in no condition to provide attention. I'll see what I can do for you, though.”

Karen smiled. “I'm all for that too.”

Alex came back. “Okay, M'Addy. He went pee pee and pooped. What are we having for dinner? Is there any dinner? Can we order pizza?”

Upon Alex's reappearance, the moment was interrupted and Karen pretended to cry in silence, while still smiling.

Addy looked up and smiled and then looked at Karen. She whispered. “All in due time, sweetie pie. Keep that thought.” As she got up, she ran her hand deliberately up Karen's thigh and up to the place where Karen wanted it. Then she got up and walked to the kitchen to start dinner.

“Devil!”

Addy walked to the kitchen very satisfied with her mischief. After the early dinner, she called Dr. Naylor and took Karen in for her x-rays. Nothing was broken and he sent them home with more pain pills. As Karen settled in bed, they spoke.

“Honeybunch, nothing's broken, but you are in pain, and I'm afraid the attention I was going to give you would end up hurting you more. So, I think we should postpone our date for another night. What do you say?”

Karen pursed her lips. “I hate to say this, but you are right. I was barely recovering from the bike accident and here I go again. I must be all bruised inside, judging by how I hurt.”

Addy helped her undress since her ribs hurt and she couldn't move much, and her ankle was a bit swollen still. She was a mess.

In bed, Addy got close to her. “Is it okay if I put my hand on your belly? I want to make sure not to hurt you.”

Karen chuckled and kissed her. “Yes, it's okay. I'll let you know if something hurts. I think it's the only part of me that doesn't hurt.” Then there was silence. “I'm glad it's all over, Addy. I felt helpless today not being able to help. After so much preparation and readiness, there I was all broken up on the floor. And look who ended up with the gun in hand! Maybe you should take some classes.”

“No. I hope our gun days are over. No more guns. It will stay where it belongs, in the gun safe forever.” There was more silence.

“Addy? I just thought of another place where I'm not hurting where you can put your hand.”

Addy chuckled and lowered her hand to the southern hemisphere. “Would this be the place?”

Karen moaned. “Yes!”

**

Charles and Tobias were charged with murder and arson among a list of many other crimes. The PI informed Karen of all that transpired in the short time period since Gregory was picked up by Scotland Yard.

Karen was much more relaxed now that the ordeal was over. Addy was also much more at ease also. She knew the toll the family situation had on Karen, ever since the custody battle. How awful it was for Karen to know that her own family was trying to deliberately hurt her. First by trying to take away her property, then her child, then setting the stables on fire and now trying to hurt them physically. What was most hurtful of all was when they tried to take Alex away from her to gain access to the property. Karen never forgave them for all the pain and suffering they went through. From that time on, it was as if all of them had died for her.

Karen's worst fear always was that they would make an attempt against Alex's or Addy's life. She thought them capable of anything. Especially the possibility that they would abduct or harm Alex. Since the custody battle, neither of them had a moment where they could feel that Alex was ever safe unless she was with either of them. They lived enslaved to their fear, putting the well-being of their daughter above everything at whatever personal sacrifice. Now they were finally free. Free of this deeply rooted fear.

The whole ordeal of the trial was quick. It only took two weeks to convict the two men. Stephanie, who was now Attorney General, personally saw to it that the best prosecutors were assigned to the case so as to not leave any chance that they would get away with anything. The full impact of the arm of the law fell on them and they were both given life sentences.

Neither Addy nor Karen were present at the trial. There was no point. All they wanted to know was the final result. When they got the news, they were elated.

“I almost feel bad for feeling happy about something like this, but they put us though so much. I—.”

“Addy, be happy. They got what they deserved. Aunt Margaret was not a good woman. She never was. And he was an awful man. Aunt Charlotte would have agreed.”

Gerry contacted them after Charles' arrest. As Aunt's Charlotte 's life-long friend and lover, she knew better than anyone how Charlotte would have felt and called them to give them peace of mind.

Gerry always had encouraging words for Karen. She felt it her duty on behalf of her beloved Charlotte . “Karen, I know they were blood relatives, but trust me dear, your family is Addy and Alex and no one else. Charlotte has got to be all smiles from wherever she is. She would also be happy to know that you are so loved by your partner and daughter, Karen. Be happy, love. You have a lot to live for.”

Gerry's words were comforting and both women thanked her for calling them. A few days after Charles was sentenced, Aunt Margaret was not able to deal with the news and had a massive heart attack and died. Karen was notified of the death, but she did not go to the funeral.

“I'm not going to the funeral, Addy. It's always sad when someone dies, but the real sad thing here is that I hardly feel sad for her death. She hurt me a lot. She was deliberate and cynical. I can't help not feeling sorry. What an awful family! I hope Alex never finds out about them. It's shameful. I'm also glad Aunt Charlotte, or my mom and dad weren't here to see what they became. The only true thing to be sorry about was for having such awful relatives and that you had to go through all of it. I never thought anything like this could have happened.” She sat on the sofa and Addy sat next to her.

“Don't feel bad, baby. She hurt you a lot. It's normal that you don't feel anything for her death. Anyway, it's all in the past. They are all gone and we must move on.” Still Karen shed some tears. “Ker, there's the family we are borne into and there's the family we make. You've made a good family for yourself. You've got me and Alex and with me came Laurie and Joey and their kids, and there's JP and James who have forever lived by our side and who are godparents to our daughter.” Karen was beginning to smile already. “And then there's Carol and Marshal and let's not forget Melanie and Gerry. We have very good friends who care for us, Ker. You have a great beautiful family.”

Karen took her in her arms and Addy smiled. “You have me, blondie. All of me.”

Karen wrapped her hands around her face and kissed her. “And you are all I need.”

**

 

Later there was still more horrible news. After three months of imprisonment, Charles got beaten and killed in jail. Probably as a result of his impertinent, snobby character someone had enough of him and let him have it. Karen was horrified with the news, but again, still could not feel anything. In fact, she went as far as to tell Addy that she finally felt completely relieved. He would never have an opportunity to hurt them again. She thought that in some strange way this was some sort of divine justice. Don't they always say ‘what goes around, comes around?' Finally, as if again, by divine justice, a year later, Tobias the lawyer was killed in a prison riot. When they heard the news they just couldn't believe it.

“It's really over. Totally over.”

They looked at each other. “We went through a lot on account of them.”

Karen nodded. Alex ran in the house and up the stairs. “I have to watch my show! I almost forgot.”

Both women looked at the speedy one zoom in front of them. They looked at each other. They had gone through such torment over the last years, it was hard to believe that it was all over. And even harder to believe that they survived it all. They smiled to each other. Karen extended her hand and Addy came forward. Addy could tell that Karen was choking on her own emotions. She had that look of unexplainable happiness Addy had seen so many times. Her eyes watered and her breathing became rapid while her stare became intense and fixed on her.

Addy came close, close enough to barely lean into her. Karen caressed her with her face and gently placed her hand on her back while her other hand interlaced Addy's fingers. She brought their hands up together and kissed the one she held. “Thanks.” Addy didn't reply. She just leaned into her more and kissed her. There was a long, comfortable silence. They stood quietly in the kitchen until Addy spoke. “Let's make something to eat.”

“Yes. Let's get on with our lives.”

A while later, the zooming Alex came down for dinner and gave them a full report everything that had been happening at school, karate and Alejandro. Alex, like Addy, always had story after story to tell. The women listened to their daughter's stories, but their eyes always came back to each other.

**

To be continued in Part 5.

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