In honor of my beloved Falala who had the courage to put her safety and well-being above others’ opinions. I would have worried about you the whole time, my friend. Thank you for your strength. ❤
The picture has nothing to do with the chapter. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.
This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Season 5 Episode 24
I’m looking out the window of our Las Vegas suite trying to mentally formulate a plan of action concerning what’s next for my mother. Wendy is on her way over to help with that since she knows more of the ins and outs of this kind of thing. The sun is setting on the Strip and we’re trying to decide what the travel plans are going to be for the next couple of days. Everyone that’s here now came down in about two or three trips, and Christian has informed me that since he basically furnished the Romper Room suite that all that stuff is coming back with us minus the cribs and the bedding. He was going to leave the highchairs, too, but I told him to send those to Seattle so that we could have them on one of the other floors of the house.
On that note, Keri and Marilyn are getting the babies prepared to fly back in the morning with all the baby equipment and the extra security detail that has been here for the trial. The only people staying are me and Christian, Jason, Chuck, Marilyn, and two of the guards on rotation at my mother’s hospital room. They’ll remain here on rotating twelve-hour shifts with weekend relief until my mother is released from the hospital. She has agreed to that, but refuses to have 24/7 security once she leaves the hospital.
“I know how to tell reporters to leave me alone,” she had declared. “I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.”
I’m going to respect her wishes since she’s an adult and the only reason she had covert surveillance in the first place is because Christian thought she was trying to get to me.
Her psychiatrist was much more professional to me than all the doctors and nurses I’ve come in contact with since this entire ordeal began. Maybe he didn’t know the backstory…
A few hours earlier
“I’m going to be candid with you since I know that you’re a psychiatrist, too, Dr. Grey,” Dr. Hamlin says. “Your mother is suffering from severe depression. Of course, before knowing if she really did or didn’t attempt suicide when her car went off the overpass, I had to treat her like she’s a risk to herself and others. For that reason, she had to be restrained.”
I look over at my mother, who hasn’t raised her gaze the entire time I’ve been here.
“She’s clearly not restrained now, so…” I say, my voice trailing off.
“Your mother isn’t a constant threat to anyone. She’s just very unhappy,” he admits. “She’s had quite a few things happen, and she hasn’t sought any professional help for any of it.” He looks over to my mother. “She’s harboring a lot of guilt for quite a few things from her past, including her treatment of you…” he looks briefly over at me when he says that, then looks back to my mother. “She hasn’t healed from the loss of her husband, even though she’s trying to move on. She’s self-medicating, for lack of a better word, with her good deeds and giving back to the community, but it’s not fixing the problem.” He turns back to me.
“She’s borderline clinically depressed,” he continues. “She’s not suffering from major or manic-depressive disorder, but she is solidly dysthymic with occasional manic episodes. The occasional episodes are what give me cause for concern. It’s those moments that can be the most dangerous…
“Because it only takes a moment of desperation or hopelessness during one of those occasional episodes to do something drastic or harmful… or fatal,” I finish. He pauses.
“Exactly,” he says. I take the seat next to my mother’s bed and continue to listen to Dr. Hamlin. “As a professional, you know we have to get to the bottom of this. So, our first order of business was to find out what happened during that accident. I have to tell you that I’m still not sure, not because Mrs. Morton won’t tell me, but because I honestly think she doesn’t quite know.” I frown.
“Are you talking about, like, a blackout, or dissociative amnesia?” I ask.
“Right now, it could be either,” he says. “She had a head injury from the trauma, so there’s no way to tell if there was any pre-existing condition before the accident, something that could have caused a blackout, for example. She had a toxicology test done when she arrived to make sure she wouldn’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia—nothing, not even alcohol. If she had some sort of natural blackout, she just didn’t have control of the car anymore.
“However, if she was overwhelmed by despair or depression, it could have been a moment of desperation and the immediate reaction was to turn the wheel to the guardrail—no thought or premeditation…”
“Just opportunity,” I say, looking at my mother.
“You’re a good psychiatrist, aren’t you?” he says after a beat. I turn to him.
“I had therapy after I left home and went to college,” I tell him. “After my therapy, this was my way of self-medicating.”
“Face the beast head-on,” he says.
“Exactly,” I reply. “That’s how I knew she sounded suicidal.” He sighs.
“She doesn’t want to die,” he says, turning back to my mother. “She’s just in despair, and she needs to come out of it. I truly believe this can be managed without institutionalizing her, but she’s going to be here for a while—mending from her physical wounds. I suggest we begin intensive therapy and a regimen of anti-depressants.
“She has some serious monsters that she needs to deal with, and she hasn’t done it. We covered a lot of ground in our sessions, but not nearly enough. Her ‘come to Jesus’ moment with you and the loss of her husband both happened within the last two years. She loved Stephen and now he’s gone. She never talked to anyone about that—never grieved properly. No one even came to his funeral except you, and even that experience was unpleasant. Once you left, she fell apart. Yes, her behavior to you even on that day was deplorable, but she was still grieving.
“She’s vicariously watching your life bloom through the press and she can’t be a part of it. She can’t see her grandchildren. She can’t celebrate your triumphs. It’s adding salt to her wounds. By no means am I telling you that it’s your responsibility to forgive your mother for how she behaved towards you, but it is her responsibility to forgive herself or if she doesn’t succeed in killing herself by opportunity, she’ll succeed by stress.”
I look over at my mother. I get everything he’s saying, and while I appreciate his attempt to remove the responsibility from me for my mother’s mental recovery, he’s still pointing to me as the source of her depression.
“What do you think of this, Mother?” I ask. He’s right about one thing. I’m not going to take responsibility for her. If she’s beating herself for the person that she was—or wasn’t—when I needed her, well then, she just has to deal with that. She shrugs in response to me.
“I’ve never really thought about dying,” she admits. “I told you how I feel about the so-called afterlife. I’m just tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of all the darkness and I’m tired of feeling like there’s no hope. Even the things that I do that make me happy only last for a moment and then they’re gone. And I really feel like no one would miss me if I were gone…”
I stand up and leave the room. I retrieve the sign-in logbook from the podium next to her door and re-enter the room.
“Well, I can tell you that’s not true,” I say, tossing the sign-in logbook onto her bed. Her brow furrows as she takes the book and opens it.
“What is this?” she asks.
“That’s the logbook of every visitor that has come to see you since you’ve been in the hospital,” I reply. “I’ve had to have flowers removed from your room three times to make room for fresh ones. I had the others delivered to other rooms that didn’t have any flowers because there were so many in this room that people couldn’t get in here.”
She turns the page and scans it, then covers her mouth, tears pushing through her tightly squeezed eyes. She shakes with sobs for a few moments, before she composes herself.
“I don’t like feeling this way, Dr. Hamlin,” she says between her tears. “What do I need to do to make it stop?”
Of course, when we get to the root of her problem, I would be there. I fucking hate that. She didn’t take responsibility for my pain and I’m supposed to take responsibility for hers? I was a kid, and I did want to die. I wanted to die for nearly four years to get away from the hatred and the scrutiny and the ostracization—to feel safe walking to and from the bus stop and not like somebody was going to jump out at me, crack me upside the head again and finish the damn brand! She never felt that. She never felt the anguish, shame, and fear that I felt. No matter how badly she feels right now, she never felt that, and she never will!
And yet, I still feel shitty.
“Hey, God,” I say, looking out the window and over at the Aria Hotel. “It’s me again. I know You’re all perfect and everything, but I’m not. I don’t even want to be perfect; it’s too big a responsibility. I hate what she did to me. I hate how she made me feel. It was easy to let that go as long as I didn’t have to deal with her. Now, I feel like I’m succumbing to peer pressure—like I’m supposed to let her off the hook because she’s suffering so much now.
“The thing is that when I suffered, she wasn’t there for me. I didn’t have the knowledge that I have now and getting to the next day was pure hell. I couldn’t see the horizon or over the rainbow. I didn’t know what was waiting for me when I left home, I just knew that I had to get out of there. I was willing to run off into total uncertainty and the black abyss just to get away from her. I was afraid to turn to the one person that I knew still loved me for fear that she would find me, and now I’m supposed to feel guilty for her plight?”
I sigh heavily and drop my head.
“Forgive me, Lord, but I don’t,” I say, a single tear falling from my eye. “I feel somewhat guilty for not feeling guilty, for not feeling any kind of conviction for her human suffering. What kind of cold-hearted human being does that make me for not feeling guilty for what my mother is going through? I just want to get everything set up and get out of here.”
I know what’s going to happen to her now, and I know what needs to be done. I figure taking care of all of the preliminary things that need to be done can be done in the next 24 hours. Everything else can be coordinated through telephone and email and whatever other means, but on Friday morning, I’m flying out of this joint. I’ve had enough of this place.
“Give me strength to get everything done here that needs to be done and to get back to my peace,” I say finally and end my prayer.
A few minutes later, Marilyn comes to the suite to help me set up for my meeting with Wendy. She’ll be coming to help start getting things set up for my mother and to be listed as the primary contact wherever I need her. That conversation with my mother after Dr. Hamlin left was one to remember…
“Do you trust Wendy?” I ask her pointedly. She sharpens her gaze.
“With my life,” she says emphatically, as if the answer should be obvious to me.
“Good,” I reply, looking down at my phone, “because she’s going to be responsible for making decisions for you on my behalf when I’m not here,” I add as I compose a text to Wendy to come to my suite this evening. “I just want to be sure that you’re not in the hands of someone who would take advantage of you or abuse you.” My mother scoffs lightly.
“Anastasia, I trust Wendy more than I trust you,” she replies. I raise my gaze to her and she’s looking directly at me, unapologetic. I can’t say that I blame her. It should smart a bit after everything I’ve done for her in spite of the circumstances, but it doesn’t. I’d have to care for it to hurt. That’s Wendy’s department.
I’m not sure if she said that just to get under my skin, but just in case, I return with a shot of my own.
“As well you should,” I reply unfazed, returning her unapologetic glare. She deflates infinitesimally, and I see that I’ve sent her a message that I haven’t sent before. Any other time that we’ve talked before this incident, I’ve been at the disadvantage as a child, or I’ve been emotional or chasing her out of my life. This time, she gets to see that not only am I not the same child that she took advantage of, but that I can be as cold, callous, and unfeeling as she was during my time of suffering and that she really can’t do or say anything to hurt me anymore. The fact that she seems to have everyone falling at her feet and worshipping the ground that she walks on when she treated me like such shit… yeah, that hurt. But her direct actions and words… nah!
I know who you were, they don’t. If they know who you are now and they love you, all well, fine, and good, but they didn’t have to deal with what I dealt with and who I knew. I don’t know this person, and when I needed you, you weren’t this person to me. So, yes, you should trust one of them more than you trust me.
“This is the best bed for when she comes home,” Wendy says, showing me an adjustable queen-sized bed with rails and a pillow-top mattress. “If you were looking for something not so costly, there’s this one. It’s a full and the mattress isn’t a pillow-top, but it’ll still serve the purpose.”
“Why the queen instead of the full?” I ask.
“It’s easier for me to change her position in a queen,” she says. “She can roll all the way over without having to scoot. It’ll help prevent bed sores, and I expect for her to be in bed a lot… at least for the first few weeks or so, until she comes to grips with her situation. That’s why I suggested the pillow-top.”
“Get that one, then,” I say, looking at all the equipment my mother is going to need to keep from going to a nursing home—shower chairs and catheters and bowel assistance kits, a wheelchair… the house is going to have to be retrofitted for accessibility. We’ve already looked into purchasing a van and having it fitted with a lift. The list goes on and on and on, but I count it a blessing that Wendy is already familiar with all of this.
There’s going to be a huge outlay of money to get everything prepared for my mother in the time before she goes home. We’re expecting her to be headed to rehab in about a month when her broken bones heal, but we already know there’s not much they’ll be able to do with her legs. This will be to help her deal with the abilities that she has lost and to function without the full use of her legs.
I’ve already spoken to Christian about issuing a credit card to Wendy since we’re not going to be here, and that’s one hell of a step. In light of that, I let Wendy know that the spending will be monitored closely by our accountant, just in case there’s any temptation to spend on something frivolous or unnecessary.
“I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m threatening you, so please don’t take it that way,” I say to Wendy. Her pupils constrict and I have her full attention.
“I think this was what my husband was trying to say to Abe, but it didn’t go well, so please let me get everything out.
“You already know that my relationship with my mother is estranged at best. I never intended to see or talk to her again until it was time to bury her. When my security informed me that her car went off an overpass, quite frankly, that’s what I was prepared to do—bury her. The only thing is that when I heard the news and I came face to face with possibly having to bury my mother, I didn’t know how to feel. At first, I just wanted to be near my children, but I was leaving them at the time to come here. Then, I was just numb. For hours, I was numb.
“When I got to the hospital, I saw myself lying in that bed, hopeless and helpless. I didn’t know that she had a support system. I thought it was just me. When all her friends started coming around, I started to feel like the intruder. I still do.
“I don’t know any of you people, but my mother does… and she trusts you, so I’m leaving her in your hands because I don’t have a choice short of moving down here or moving her to Seattle. Both of those options are impossible for me and at least one of them is impossible for her.
“What my husband was trying to tell Abe is that I can’t be worried if my mother is being taken care of or taken advantage of. I have way too much on my plate to add that stress to my life. It’s clear to see that you and Abe care for my mother, but with all the unknown variables, I cannot stand by and allow her to deliberately be misused or mistreated. I don’t have that in me. She may not be my favorite person, but I don’t wish her any harm. I never have.” I drop my gaze a bit.
“Having said that, I have to say that I’m expecting you to be my eyes and ears, and I will say without hesitation that if I discover that my mother is being misused, mistreated, or taken advantage of in any way, there will be hell to pay by whomever is doing that to her. I’ll admit that for my own reasons, she’s not my favorite person, but she is my responsibility, and I will not stand by and allow her to be deliberately hurt. That’s the very least I can do for any human being.”
I raise my gaze back to Wendy’s face, and she’s gazing at me—somewhat softly with a slight curl at the corners of her lips.
“Understood,” she replies, and that’s all she says. I raise my brow at her.
“May I ask why you’re smiling?” I question, a bit perturbed.
“Carla thinks you hate her,” she says. “She’s clearly not your favorite person. I don’t expect any open-armed reunions and neither does she, but it’s clear to see that you don’t hate her. Even those immature, unprofessional, uninformed, nosey nurses know that you don’t hate her.” My eyes widen when she brings up the nurses.
“Yes, I know,” she says. “So does Carla. She’s too busy wallowing in her sorrow to say anything about it, but she knows. I felt it wasn’t my place…”
“My husband took care of it,” I say. “He’s very sensitive when it comes to me.”
“I can tell,” Wendy replies. “I can’t convince you that we only have Carla’s best interest at heart. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”
“I never doubted it,” I admit, “either of you. It’s just, these days, you just can’t be too sure. I can tell that Abe loves her. I know love when I see it.”
“I imagine you do,” she says. “You and that young man have passion written all over you.”
Butterfly spends the rest of the evening and all-day Thursday making sure that everything is prepared for Carla when she’s discharged from the hospital. We know everything there is to know about Wendy and Abramio all the way down to the color of the socks donned on this morning and the security detail is still going to keep a covert eye on everything down here until further notice.
Butterfly is giving Wendy the golden ticket in the form of a corporate Amex Black strictly for Carla’s care. I was against it at first, insistent that all purchases should go through us first. However, Butterfly illuminated a good point, that if all purchases needed to go through her that she would never get any peace and she might as well stay here. It’s pretty much going to be the same anyway, since every purchase on that card is going to be pinged to the accountant.
Our children were on the jet first thing Thursday morning along with all the extra staff and the equipment from the Romper Room suite. Gail has assured me that the staff will be able to arrange the play area so that Butterfly can still have some space for her yoga and dancing. It’s a pretty big room, after all. She was pleased to hear that.
She went to the hospital Thursday morning so that she and her mother could give Wendy whatever authority was needed when it’s time for Carla to be discharged. She’s very serious about not coming back to Vegas. Finally, with as many loose ends tied up as could be, Friday morning, March 6, the Greys and the rest of their staff leave Vegas once and for all. Good riddance.
My wife falls dramatically onto the marble floor in the grand entry, thanking Grey Crossing for being “home sweet home” and declaring that she’s not leaving the house for three days. I won’t argue with that. I have no plans whatsoever of going anywhere either. I won’t even call Grey House.
But Grey House is intent on calling me.
“Chris, is Jewel with you?”
“No, and if you were looking for her, why didn’t you call Jewel?” I scold.
“Well, wherever she is, you two might want to get in the same room so that I only have to say this once,” he says.
“Why don’t you call her and tell her, and she’ll tell me? I’m right in the middle of something.” I’m actually trying to plan a party for Jewel to celebrate the verdict and sentence and getting the hell out of Las Vegas and you’re holding up my line.
“Trust me, whatever it is, it can wait. Find Jewel.” Son of a bitch.
“Activate two-way communications,” I say between my teeth. When the system comes alive, “Locate Anastasia Grey.” After a beep or two…
“Ana… okay, I’m with my babies, so who is this?” she says, and she sounds irritated.
“Your presence is requested in my study,” I reply.
“What?” she protests. I don’t repeat myself. She heard me. “This better be good.”
“Trust me, I’m saying the same damn thing, End two-way communications.” The system deactivates.
“I didn’t say she had to come to your study. I said, ‘find her.’”
“And I did, now you deal with her attitude when she gets here,” I reply.
“Like I’m dealing with yours?” he inquires.
“Damn straight,” I confirm.
“I’ll be waiting for your apology before this call is over.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” I retort.
“You can really be a pain in the ass sometimes, Chris,” he says.
“And so can you, like right now. You’re holding up progress. So, like my wife said, this better be good.”
“Who are you fussing at?” Butterfly scolds when she enters my study.
“Your gay boyfriend,” I reply. “Okay, she’s here, Forsythe, and you’re on speaker. Out with it.”
“Out with it!” Butterfly and I demand simultaneously.
“Jesus, alright! Don’t get your hair in a bun! You were in different rooms, so I know I didn’t interrupt you fucking! Why so uptight?”
“Forsythe-Fleming, I’m two seconds from disconnecting this call,” I threaten.
“And I’m leaving,” Butterfly cosigns.
“Alright, alright! You may want to sit down…”
“Goddammit, Allen!” Butterfly yells.
“Okay! Geez! Larson’s been blowing up my email all day! Plea requests are coming in faster than he can process them.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.
“Pleas?” she says. “Seriously?”
“Yes, seriously!” Allen confirms. “Those people saw Sullivan’s verdict and they’re like, ’65 years? And he didn’t even get convicted of all seven charges? Fuck that!’ He’s getting people willing to turn state’s evidence on folks who haven’t even been charged yet. There hasn’t been a case this big since the Manson killings! You’re gonna make fucking history, Jewel.” She twists her lips.
“What a way to go into the history books,” she says, unenthusiastically.
“Yes, what a way!” he cheers. “You’ve set a precedent. You’re going to change bullying laws. What happened to you was horrible, but it’s going to be a catalyst for some serious reform. You just watch and see.”
“Well, I guess that’s something,” she says.
“I’m waiting for that apology, Chris,” he presses.
“Hold your breath,” I reply. “This is great news, but my wife still could have told me.” I can almost see him rolling his eyes through the phone.
“What’s more, this will give you ammo for your lawsuits.” I had forgotten about that. Butterfly visibly ponders the thought.
“Yeah… no.” She says. My eyes widen.
“What?” Allen says
“No,” she repeats, “I want this to be over. This was enough. I don’t want anymore. Tell Larson that I’m fine with him taking whatever pleas he sees necessary. I’m not going back down there. And I’m not suing anybody.”
“Jewel, you’ve got a better case for compensatory and punitive damages than the Goldmans and the Browns and they won. Are you sure you want to do this?” Allen asks incredulously.
“And how long is it going to take?” she asks. “How long is this going to follow me around? I was in Vegas for over a month and it was one of the most miserable times of my life. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want anything else to do with that place. Tell Larson to keep it quiet but to take whatever pleas he can get and shut this shit down. And yes, I’m sure. Karma will have to follow everyone else because yes, I’m done with this.” I hear him sigh.
“What about the cases that you have against George Sullivan, the Henderson Police Department, the Clark County District Attorney’s office, and the sitting DA in 2001? You want to squash those, too?” he asks.
“Especially those!” she declares. “Those are going to take longer than the others. I don’t have the strength for it, Al, I really don’t.” He pauses.
“Okay, if you’re sure that’s what you want,” he relents.
“Absolutely sure. Close this chapter as quickly and cleanly as you possibly can.”
“Okay, I’ll keep you posted on the pleas.”
“Can he please correlate that information with you?” she asks me. My brow rises.
“You really are done with this, aren’t you?” I ask.
“Completely,” she says. “I proved my point. They were wrong. They know it and now the world knows it. I don’t have anything else to prove. I’m washing my hands of this whole thing.”
“Okay, baby. I got you. Did you hear that Allen?”
“I heard it,” he says. “I’ll let you know information as soon as I do.”
“Thank you.” I end the call and turn to Butterfly.
“I think he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to go after the Green Valley gang,” she says, “but I’ve truly had enough of this, Christian. I don’t need their money and I don’t need to prove anything. I just want to get on with my life.”
“The only thing is—and I’m remiss to bring it up—is that you said that you were going to donate any proceeds from the lawsuit to Helping Hands. Now, they won’t get that donation,” I point out.
“Well, this is one time where Grace is just going to have to accept a donation directly from me to make amends… if you don’t mind,” she replies.
“Of course, I don’t mind,” I say, pulling her over to me with one arm and kissing her on the forehead. “Whatever you want, baby. This has really been a horrendous ordeal and I, like you, would definitely like for it to just be over.”
“Good,” she sighs. “I’m going back to be with my babies, and you can get back to… whatever you were doing.” I kiss her on the lips.
“I won’t be long,” I promise. She nods and leaves my study, and I get back to what I was doing before Allen called.
“Marilyn, did you have any luck?” I ask when I get my wife’s PA on the phone.
“I was able to get the Bennion Room next Friday from 5pm – 10pm. It was short notice and the best I could do, even with the name drop. You’ve got a live band and it seats 50. They can cater if you get them a menu by tomorrow noon. Otherwise, you’ll have to cater it yourself.”
“You are a fucking miracle worker,” I tell her. “No wonder my wife can’t live without you. I’ll put a menu together before I go to bed. Did they give you any options?”
“Check your email,” she says. I quickly open my email and see a list of the available options for a formal dinner at the Broadmoor Country Club.
“Fucking miracle worker,” I repeat. “Thank you, Marilyn.”
“Anytime,” she says and ends the call.
“I’ve just landed at SeaTac, sir. I really need to talk to you, and it needs to be face to face.”
Alex has called me on my cell phone Sunday morning just after I finish my workout. He’s got my antennae up since he’s calling me directly from the airport. I want to question, but I know he wouldn’t be calling me if it wasn’t important, and he definitely wouldn’t be requesting a face-to-face if it wasn’t imperative.
“I can meet you at Grey House if you’d rather not alarm Ana,” he adds.
“My going into Grey House on a Sunday would alarm her anyway. Let Jason know that you’re on your way. I need to shower.”
“Will do, sir.” I end the call and take the elevator to the main floor. As I suspected, my wife is at the breakfast bar drinking coffee and eating a bagel.
“It’s Sunday,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “That’s not breakfast.” I fill a glass with ice and water from the dispenser.
“I just wanted something quick to keep from gnawing my arm off,” she says. “I plan to eat a real breakfast.”
“Speaking of eating… Marilyn,” I say, broaching the topic carefully. Butterfly sighs.
“I know. She’s not gaining any weight or looking much healthier at all. She nibbles, but she’s not eating. She hasn’t done anything recreational besides karaoke, which turned out to be a disaster. I still don’t think she’s sleeping, and when she does, she’s plagued by nightmares. I see her making emotional strides to try to get better, but as a professional, I’m afraid it’s not moving fast enough. It’s been a month and I would venture to say that she’s lost more weight rather than gained any.”
“You’re right, she has,” I say, finishing my water and filling my glass again. “This is not good at all and there needs to be some type of intervention or she’s going to do herself some serious damage.”
“She’s bordering on an eating disorder,” Butterfly says. “She’s been meditating and trying to find her center and get her mind back in the right place, but I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I don’t know that she can be committed or at least admitted like my mother was, but she really needs to be talking to someone, and something has to change soon.”
“What do you suggest?” I ask, taking another healthy sip of my water. She twists her lips.
“Let’s give it another week,” she says. “Let me do some gentle chiding and see if I can get some results. If not, I’m going to insist that she goes back to the doctor. I’m going with her, and I’m going to give it to her doctor straight about my fears.” I nod.
“I think that’s a good idea,” I reply. I unlock my phone and pull up a copy of the options that I chose for Friday’s dinner menu.
“What do you think of this?” I ask, sitting down on the stool next to her and showing her the menu.
“It looks like a gourmet feast,” she says, scrolling through the menu. “What’s it for?”
“It’s for Friday,” I say. “We’re having a gathering of friends at the country club—good food, drinks, and dancing—to celebrate the huge victory you had in Green Valley with the case. I was going to surprise you, but I kind of get the feeling that an ambush may not be the best thing.” She smiles and nods.
“I think you’re right, and I love you.” She kisses me quickly on the lips. “This is wonderful. Thank you.” She smiles at the menu again.
“Oh, so that you’re not stunned into thoughts of the Apocalypse, Alex is on his way over here to talk to me about something.” Her brow furrows.
“About what, may I ask?” she inquires, concerned.
“I don’t know,” I say, finishing my water. “He’s been in DC for the last couple of days. I’m assuming it’s something to do with that, especially since he’s coming straight from the airport.”
“The airport?” she says. “This doesn’t sound like good news, Christian.”
“Well, good or bad, I won’t know until he gets here, but I’m assuming that it’s pretty delicate.” She sighs.
“I hope it’s nothing else that we have to be concerned about,” she says. “It always appears that when it rains, it pours with us.” I nod.
“Hear, hear, but let’s keep positive thoughts about this until we know otherwise, okay? The only reason I mentioned it is because I’m going to get in the shower, and I didn’t want him to show up while I was still in there and you panic.” She nods.
“I appreciate that,” she says. “I’ll keep my head on until we find out what’s going on.”
“Good girl,” I say, and head up to the bedroom to shower.
Once I’m all clean, shaved, and trimmed, I come back down to the dining room to find a full breakfast spread on the dining table along with all the usual suspects… and Alex.
“I’m so glad you were able to make yourself at home,” I say to Alex as I take my seat and fill my coffee cup.
“She insisted,” he says, gesturing to my wife who is feeding Minnie a spoonful of apple-cinnamon oatmeal. “Have you ever tried to say, ‘no’ to this woman?”
She turns a gaze to me, and I raise a brow.
“Pass the eggs,” I say.
“I was trying to get him to tell me what brought him here straight from the airport, but he insists that it’s not breakfast conversation. So, since he came here directly after he landed, I’m certain he hasn’t eaten,” Butterfly says.
“I’m curious as to why you flew out so early,” I ask. “To get to SeaTac by eight, that means that you had to leave the east coast by, what, six?”
“Five,” he says, loading his fork. “There was no reason to stay.”
“It had nothing to do with the news you’re going to give me… like Washington wants you to come back to work for them and you had to fly back here early so you’d have enough time to get back to punch in tomorrow?” I load my plate with sausage, toast, hash browns, eggs, and pancakes. I raise my gaze to see Alex twisting his lips at me.
“No offense, sir, but in my line of work, you’re always working for Washington. Nice tactic, but no, I’m not going back to DC.”
“Well, in that case, somebody pass me the syrup.”
We spend breakfast talking about the case—only a little—and more about Carla’s condition and what’s going to be done now. Butterfly is planning to go into Helping Hands tomorrow to get back into the swing of things and to get caught up on what’s going on. I’m chomping at the bit to know why he had to come here straight from the airport, so once breakfast is done, I dismiss everyone from the table that doesn’t need to be present and get down to brass tacks. Butterfly doesn’t leave.
“If it’s about GEH, I deserve to know what’s going on. If it’s about us, I deserve to know what’s going on.” She’s got me there. I shrug. Alex nods.
“Well, obviously there’s something you need to know,” he begins.
“And that is?” I ask.
“Robin Myrick is dead.”
I have to let the words sink in for a moment before I react, then I twist my lips.
“He’s been dead before. Why should I believe he’s dead now?” I ask.
“Because that little trip I had to take to renew my ‘clearances’ was only partially to renew my clearances. They were still good until August, but I got a little tip earlier this week. That trip was mainly to identify the damn body. They didn’t need me to identify it, but I wanted to make sure that fucker was dead.” He drops a picture of a blue-faced Robin Myrick with what looks like ligature marks around his throat, eyes partially open and blank with the mask of death. “Trust me, I touched that cold dead body. He’s gone.”
“Still fucking Ginger Creepy Guy even in death,” Butterfly says, looking at the picture on the table. I forgot that’s what she called him.
“Another suicide?” I ask in disbelief, looking more closely at the picture.
“It looks like it,” Alex says.
“It seems so fucking easy for somebody to kill themselves in jail,” I point out. “I don’t buy it, though. He was too fucking cocky. He didn’t want to die.”
“Well, either he did it, or somebody did it for him, he’s dead. I touched that body—cold as ice. Robin Myrick/Louis Millfeld is now a memory. You may want to know that Myrick, Jr., was paying for his protection in the federal penitentiary with money that he had squirreled away that the authorities hasn’t attached while he’s awaiting his extortion trials. However, his well ran dry and he was starting to be treated badly in the pen. When you’ve got money and protection, you start throwing weight around that you don’t have, and you make a lot of enemies that way. He thinks that the feds have found his money when in truth, Anton Myrick drained his accounts and put the money in his personal stockpile.”
Anton. Fuck, there’s that name again.
“When Robin contacts his dear old Dad and tells him about his situation, Myrick informs him that he can’t send any money to Robin because Sunset will trace him and find him. He tells Robin that he has to tough it out in prison until the trial is over, and the trial date is coming up soon. It appears that young Robin is a pussy and he can’t take it, especially since he’s made quite a few enemies with his big mouth and now he can’t pay for protection. So, either he did himself or somebody did it for him. Either way, he’s dead.”
“When did this happen?”
“About a month ago,” he says. “Nobody’s claiming the body, not even his mother.”
“A month?” I say. “This man and his father orchestrated a hacking plan that could have wiped me out and nobody thought we should know?”
“Witness protection…” Alex begins.
“And yet his father is still moving money!” I accuse.
“We’re not sure of that, but that’s the theory.”
“So, if that’s the theory, why can’t we fucking put our hands on Anton Myrick? Myrick Jr’s trial was coming up soon, but they can’t put Sunset’s trials on a docket so that they can bring this fucker out and somebody can snipe his ass. What the fuck does he have to do, kill somebody himself?”
“I hate to tell you this, sir, but you know that Sunset is using you as bait, right?” Alex says.
“Do I look stupid?” I ask. “Of course, I know. Haven’t we had this conversation before?”
“I think we did,” Jason says. “I’m not sure if we all did.” Jason throws an inconspicuous glance at Butterfly. I thought I told him that she knows about Sunset… but it doesn’t matter.
“Well, you should also know that the Feds are most likely using Myrick as bait for Sunset,” he says. “Whatever Myrick has on him, it’s not going to change, and there’s no reason for them to wait to start the case against him. They want him to get antsy—to come out and find Myrick—and that’s when they plan to pinch him. What they don’t understand is that Sunset is patient. He’s got nothing but time and money. Just like you, he can wait ‘em out.
“We’ve got four players here, each with their own level of clout—you, Sunset, Myrick, and the Feds. Somebody’s going to slip. We’re all just waiting to see who.”
“So, basically, what you’re telling me is that I just have to wait until this sucker strikes again before I can get to him,” I lament.
“Pretty much, unless he screws up sometime before he strikes.” I sigh.
“I’m in the public eye,” I seethe. “He knows where I am. He can get to me. They know he’s after me, yet they won’t tell me where he is.”
“That’s not how it works, Christian,” he says. “The government feels that they have control over Myrick while they’re protecting him, so that if he does try to make a move on you, they’ll get him before he gets to do it.”
“Like they did with Myrick, Jr., right?” I say sarcastically. “I had to lead those fuckers right to him before they even had a clue what was going on! I fucking had to save myself and now, I’m fucking supposed to trust them with my life with this maniac? I don’t think so!” Alex just shakes his head.
“This is a real bang-up fucking guy,” I say in disgust. “He created this monster. Then when the monster presents himself in his image, he deserts him! He fills the kid’s head with lies and horror stories about who I am, making the kid come at me and then he leaves him to rot after the kid does exactly what he wanted him to do!”
I’ve never felt this way before in my life, let alone verbalized it inwardly or outwardly, but I’ll be glad when this motherfucker is dead.
“Well, in all honesty, Myrick is bound to have some kind of reaction to this,” Alex says. “If he’s as unstable as you say he is, he’s most likely blaming you for Robin’s death as we speak.”
“Then, he’s most likely blaming me because he’s as unstable as a two-legged chair,” I confirm.
“Should we increase security?” Jason asks. My wife’s head shoots up from the picture on the table. I ponder the idea for a moment.
“We actually have extra security in Sunset’s men,” I say. “They want his neck as much as I do and if he shows his face…” I do the beheading gesture with my hand.
“Yeah, they want his neck, which means they’ll take it at any cost, even if it means collateral damage. We’re here to protect you, they’re not. They just want the kill,” Jason points out.
“Well, isn’t this lovely after-breakfast conversation,” my wife says. I throw a glare at her. You were the one who decided to stay and listen—nobody forced you. Alex came straight from the airport saying that he had news. What did you expect him to say, that he’s getting married?
“I know, I know,” she replies, as if I just had the conversation with her aloud. I turn back to Jason and Alex.
“Covert,” I say. “Let’s not make it too obvious. The world doesn’t know what we know.”
We tie up some loose ends and Alex thanks us for breakfast before leaving to return to the city.
“Do you really think he would come after us?” Butterfly asks. “Wouldn’t it be better for him to just lay low since this Sunset guy is after him? Seriously, we’re right in the spotlight and that’s exactly the opposite of what he wants, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what he wants,” I tell my wife. “He convinced his son that I was Robin’s long, lost brother. That asshole knew he wasn’t my father. He knew I was a kid when the crack whore killed herself, but he convinced that man that I was the root of all his problems. So, here I am, a billionaire living in mansions and penthouses in the Pacific northwest while they’re toughing it out in the ghettos of Detroit… when they’re not hiding out in witness protection. I’d think I was the root of all evil, too, if I was in their shoes and didn’t know any better.”
“Thank you so much… I feel so much better,” she says sarcastically.
I’m beginning to look over my shoulders and in the rearview mirrors constantly as I’m heading in to Helping Hands on Monday morning. I almost expect for Myrick to swoop down from the sky on a rope like Batman and land on the hood of my damn car. I know that’s not likely and I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t help it after yesterday’s conversation with Christian.
This crazy ass fucker makes me nervous. He burned cigarette burns into the chest and back of a four-year-old for sport. He’s cocky enough to believe that he can outrun a gangster with a bounty on his head—which he has been doing for several years now, so I’m told. And now, his son is dead, and he likely blames my husband for that—the same four-year-old that he burned with cigarettes against whom he’s had a personal crusade for the last 25 years.
Yeah, this crazy ass fucker makes me nervous.
“Ana! Welcome back!” Ebony hugs me as soon as I hit the door.
“Thank you, Ebony,” I reply, trying to hide my anxiety.
We’re fine, everybody’s fine, I keep repeating to myself. Ebony and Keri get the twins situated and I head to my office.
Dear God, there’s a mountain of stuff that needs to be done. There’s no time to lament over or worry about Myrick because there’s too damn much to do. Requisition orders for books and supplies; the housekeeping and janitorial logs that need review; Grace has been knee-deep in the grant proposals and the compliance documentation since I’ve been gone, and the licensing board has been out here again, just to make sure that everything was running like it should be. She didn’t tell me that they had come out here.
“They didn’t send Liam Westwick again, did they?” I ask.
“As a matter of fact, they did,” she says. “He knows the lay of the land here, so to speak, so they sent him in the interest of saving time.” I twist my lips.
“How did things go?” I ask.
“It went well,” she says. “Everything went fine.”
“It’s a good thing I wasn’t here, then,” I remark, and I say nothing else about it.
It’s about 11:30 when I get a visitor to my office. I’m knee-deep in paperwork and it’s probably the last person that I expected to see. He knocks on my door to get my attention.
“Do you have a moment?” he asks as I raise my head.
“Fred! Sure, come on in,” I say, standing to welcome Fred Wilson into my office.
“I’m sure you heard what happened with my granddaughter,” he says as he enters my office. I sigh and gesture for him to take a seat.
“Yes, Fred, I have heard,” I reply after we take a seat. “The newsflash got to me all the way in Vegas.”
“I heard about that. Are you okay?” he asks. I shrug.
“I’m as well as can be expected,” I reply. “The whole ordeal took a lot out of me. I’m just glad to be home.” He nods.
“I’m sure you are,” he says. “You know, things happen that you really wished would have happened years ago and you have a hard time accepting that it finally happened.” I raise a brow at him.
“Are we talking about my trial or your granddaughter?” I ask.
“Both, I guess,” he says, entwining his fingers. “Addie tried for years to try to get that girl to see what she could become. She was conniving and sneaky and selfish. We gave her everything and it still wasn’t enough. By the time Addie had sent her back to her mother, she was at the end of her rope and heartbroken—totally disillusioned. I just didn’t want to see that happen to her again.”
“I understand,” I say. “I can even see why it’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Trusting someone after they’ve broken your trust is an extremely hard thing to do—sometime impossible. However, I’m of the firm belief that if you can’t forgive someone, you should just move on. If you can’t contribute positively to their journey, you should just leave them alone.” Fred chuckles.
“This doesn’t sound like the same woman who was accosted by my granddaughter a year and a half ago,” he remarks. I smile.
“It’s the same woman,” I assure him. “It’s just not the same granddaughter. I gave up on her, too, Fred. I don’t know if she told you, but I pulled my gun on her once when she showed up asking for help.” His brow furrows.
“No, she didn’t,” he says. I nod.
“I was still pregnant with the twins, and she had threatened me. I didn’t feel safe and I didn’t trust her, so when she showed up, I was ready. She’s not that girl anymore. She’s found direction and focus… and love. She’s found a purpose now when she didn’t have one before. I know better than most people who she used to be, but everybody deserves at least one chance for redemption. I’d say she’s utilizing hers pretty well.”
“I’ll be honest,” Fred says. “I really didn’t think she could change. I thought this was another one of her tricks, but she obviously has… considerably!”
“Yes, Fred, she has,” I say, “and she’s already been ambushed once into an unexpected meeting with her grandmother. I won’t be a part of having that happen to her again.”
“Thank you, Ana. I appreciate that.”
I look to the door and see Courtney standing there. My immediate reaction is to apologize and explain, but she waves her hand to indicate that she knows what’s going on.
“What is it, Grandfather?” she says firmly, folding her arms. She’s a bit perturbed. “Grandmother won’t speak to you until we’ve patched things up? Tell her that we’ve patched things up. She can call me to confirm it if she wants. You can go home now.”
She’s take no prisoners this morning.
“You’d lie to your grandmother?” he says. She scoffs.
“Contrary to what you think of me, Grandfather, I have no desire to cause problems in your marriage. That’s why you’re here, right?” He raises a brow.
“No,” he says. “My marriage is just fine. I just… I came because I wanted to talk to you.” She sighs.
“You said quite enough when you tried to buy me out of your life. You got your wish—I’m out of your life, and it didn’t cost you a penny. I’m not ditching Grandmother unless she says that she doesn’t want to speak to me anymore. What else could you possibly have to say?”
“I just want to talk,” he says. “Let’s have lunch…”
“We tried that, remember?” she retorts. “You stared at me the entire time like I was a jungle cat ready to pounce on Grandmother’s jugular. I don’t need that. I don’t need your money, and quite frankly, I don’t need you if that’s how you think you’re going to treat me. I understand that you don’t trust me, and I know why. I’ll give you that, but I’m not that person anymore and I’m not going to let you treat me that way!”
I feel a twang listening to her and thinking about my mother… not that person anymore…
“I believe you, Courtney,” Fred says. “I really want to sit down and talk to you, just you and me… please.”
“I really don’t think…” I gently touch her arm and she looks at me. I mouth, “Give him a chance.” She sighs heavily and petulantly and rolls her eyes.
“Fiiine!” she nearly growls, stretching the word. “I need to get my coat.”
“Courtney, wait.” I turn to Fred. “Fred, can you give us a moment?” He examines me for a moment, then nods and leaves the room. I turn to Courtney.
“Breathe in,” I say. She looks at me incredulously. “Courtney. Wilson. Breathe in.” She rolls her eyes again and breathes in. “Hold it… now breathe out.”
We repeat the process a few times until I see that she’s not as combative.
“If you go to this lunch with your armor up, you’re wasting your time.” Her gaze softens. “Talk to him. Listen to him. Try to understand what he’s feeling and try to make him understand what you’re feeling. If it doesn’t work, you tried.” She stares at me for a moment, then closes her eyes, sighs—not so petulantly—and nods. I give her arm a squeeze, then send her out into the battlefield.
Since I’m playing a massive game of catch-up, I ask Marilyn to pick up some of those kabobs that I like from the Mediterranean restaurant. When she returns, she looks peaked as usual and even a little green in the face, and I already know.
“I can tell by your face you didn’t eat anything,” I confront. “Does the smell of food make you sick?”
“I tried, Bosslady,” she excuses. “I got one of my favorite blueberry muffins from the coffee shop on Cherry St, and when I bit into it, it tasted like garbage.”
“You’ve been here for hours! What have you eaten?” She shrinks infinitesimally.
“Pedialyte,” she replies, her voice timid. I don’t let up. This has to stop.
“That’s not eating,” I say. “I know the doctor said that was okay as a meal replacement, but you can’t do that forever. You’re wasting away, Marilyn. Where are you now?” She drops her gaze.
“One-fourteen,” she says. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! You’re killing yourself here. I understand grieving, but this is becoming reckless.
“You’ve got five more pounds,” I say, and I’m being generous as hell. “Five more pounds, Marilyn, and I’m checking you in. You can go willingly, or I’ll call your parents, and I have no problems with an ambush.”
“Okay, okay,” she relents. Her eyes roll and I see the wheels turning. Could she really be progressing into an eating disorder and she just hasn’t recognized it yet? She’s giving herself an excuse not to eat because of her grief, but she’s really fucking hurting herself and this has to stop.
“You are going to the victory celebration on Friday, right?” I ask. If she doesn’t come, I’m taking her to the hospital kicking and screaming and I mean it. This hermit, starving herself shit ends right now! She looks at me as if I’ve just invited her on a lovely trip to the gallows.
“Who else is going to be there?” she asks, and I know what she’s asking, but she’s still going, whether he shows up or not.
“All my friends and family are invited, but to answer your unasked question, I don’t think Gary will be there. I haven’t heard from him in months.” Her expression is mixed with relief, regret, and a pinch of pain… well, maybe more than a pinch.
“Fine, I’ll go.” I would have done better to put her on punishment, but I can’t stand by anymore and watch this. We’ve tried it your way, Caldwell, and it didn’t work. Now, we’re doing it my way. It’s at this moment that I thank God that she decided to stay with me instead of getting her own apartment. I put my arm around her shoulder.
“You’re going to hate me, Caldwell,” I say, “because I’m your friend and I’m not going to let up on you. You had a social life before all of this and now, you don’t. You have other friends and I know that you haven’t spoken to them. If you have, you’ve done it in secret. This is not you. It never has been. Everything about you has changed, and I understand that grief can do that to you, but you can’t curl up and die, and it seems like that’s what you’re trying to do.” Her shoulders fall.
“That’s not what I want to do,” she admits, tears flowing freely from her eyes. Jesus, she can cry on a dime these days. Things are extremely hard for her, and I know it. That’s why I can’t let up. She’s gotten it down to an art to cry without sound or movement, just an unending flow of tears. I know that stifling sadness, so I just let her cry.
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/