Written in 61 minutes.
Quartermaine Estate: Family Room
Jason stepped back from hugging Monica, touched her shoulder. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m managing,” Monica said, squeezing his hand. She gestured for him to join her on the sofa. “Some days are better than others.” She hesitated. “I’m sorry about Sam. I didn’t know her that well, but I know you cared for her.”
“I did,” Jason said, a bit uneasy. “But not the way I used to. We broke up months ago, but we were really over a long time before that.”
“That’s what makes grief complicated,” Monica told him. “Just because you’ve moved on and you’re planning a future with someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to pretend you didn’t have a history with someone else—”
“It’s not—” He stopped, considered how to put it into words. “Sam knew Maureen Harper kidnapped Jake,” he told Jake, and her expression tightened. “She saw her do it. She didn’t stop it. She didn’t say anything. And I don’t think she ever would have. Jake was an obstacle to her. Not a person.”
“Oh. Oh.” Monica closed her eyes. “Oh, how horrible. I’m so sorry, Jason. Of course that makes this so much more difficult. And then she testified against you—”
“And was trying to have me arrested for making threats against her life,” Jason continued. “That’s—it’s part of the reason why I came over. Sam—she doesn’t fit the profile. I know that Robert Scorpio has a theory to explain that, but there are cops who don’t—they’ve asked for my alibi. Last night. And for—” His throat tightened. “For the others.”
“They what?” Monica demanded, her tone low and dangerous. “They can’t seriously think you had anything to do with what happened to Emily! She was your sister! And why would you hurt Georgie? Or Leyla, or Georgie’s poor roommate—oh, I can’t think of her name—”
“Chelsea.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t think anyone seriously does, but I didn’t want you to hear the rumors and—I don’t know. I didn’t want you to hear about it another way.”
“It’s preposterous, and I’ll be making that clear to anyone who will listen. And your grandfather, well, he’ll go straight through the ceiling—I hope you told them to take their questions and go to hell—”
“I’m letting Diane handle it for now. I don’t want to worry you, Mon—” Jason hesitated. “Mom.”
Her face softened, and she touched his hand. “I know it’s uncomfortable for you, Jason. You don’t have to call me that after all this time.”
“It means the world to me that you’ve let me in. That you’ve given me time with your children. Made me—and Edward—part of your future. But don’t do anything you aren’t ready for.” She touched his cheek, then smiled. “I have something for you. Give me a minute.”
She rose and crossed over to the bookcases lining the back of the room. She pulled out a photo album and brought it back over. “I thought you might like…” Monica flipped it open to a page with a photograph of Alan holding a baby. She touched it. “You were almost eighteen months old here. You’d just come to live with us, and that’s your old room upstairs.”
Jason studied the photograph of a much younger Alan holding a toddler to his chest, grinning. The child looking up at him with a matching smile, clearing adoring. He’d loved his father. “I don’t want to have the same the regrets with you or Edward that I have with Alan,” he said slowly.
“You won’t. We won’t.” Monica flipped back to the beginning. “I was upset for so long when Alan wanted these photos in here,” she said, holding the book back out to him. “I didn’t want a single reminder that someone else was your mother. But Susan loved you, too, Jason. And you look so much like Jake—”
Jason could see the resemblance now as he considered the infant in the woman’s arms. She was a pretty woman, he thought. With brown hair and a happy smile. And the baby she held really did look like Jake.
“I didn’t want you in this house,” Monica said, and he looked at her. “I nearly divorced Alan over the possibility. I didn’t want any reminders of Susan after you came to live here. I wanted to forget it ever happened. The night Susan died, I didn’t even think about where you were. I didn’t—” She took a deep breath. “I didn’t care about you.”
Jason frowned, bewildered at the turn in the conversation. “Why—”
“You told me about Sam. About seeing Jake as an obstacle,” Monica said. “That’s what you were to me, Jason. Before you were mine, I always thought of you as someone else’s. And it was wrong, of course, but I wasn’t a very good person. I regret it now. I regret every moment I wasted with you. Sending you to boarding school. Spending so much of your childhood and growing up years mired in my own personal problems. I was a selfish woman, but you were always the best of sons and you deserved so much more than I could give you then.”
“You don’t want to have any regrets, you said. And I’m telling you that we won’t. The past—we won’t let it matter.”
Lake House: Living Room
Alexis was always far more comfortable in a courtroom than she was in her own personal life, and words always came more easily to her when she was slipping and sliding through the intricacies of the law.
Molly, thankfully, was just too young to have this conversation, and Ric had promised to keep her a bit longer, but Kristina? Oh, she was old enough. She’d loved her big sister, and now Alexis had to tell her that Sam was never coming home again.
“Thank you,” Alexis managed as Sonny closed the door behind him and stepped down into the living room. “I can do this, but I think it would just help for you to stand there. To just…” She twisted her fingers together. “To just be there.”
“I want to be wherever Kristina and you need me to be.” Sonny took her by the hand. “Ric is bringing them home today?”
“Just Kristina.” Alexis touched her forehead. “Molly’s barely two years old. God. When I think—”
“It’s okay—” Sonny stepped as the knock at the door came, and he turned to find Ric pushing the door open, Kristina in his arms. His chest tightened as always when seeing his half-brother with Sonny’s daughter, but that wasn’t important right now.
“Daddy!” Kristina wiggled and hopped to the ground, racing over to her father. Sonny swept her up, kissed her cheeks. “Daddy Ric bring me home for you! Him and Mols having Daddy-Daughter day, so I get to?”
Ric winced when Alexis looked at him. “I wasn’t really sure how to—” He swallowed. “How to explain why Molly was staying with me, so—”
“No, it’s all right.” Alexis nodded. “Thank you.”
“I better let you, ah, get to it.” Ric held Alexis’s gaze for another minute. “I really am sorry. I know you might not believe that, but—”
“I do. Thank you, Ric.”
When he’d gone, Alexis turned back to her daughter. And prepared to deliver the news.
Spencer House: Living Room
“I don’t bloody care what my brother said,” Robert said, sweeping past a surprised Lucky and into the house. “You’re still on this case until the damn end, and that’s just how it is.”
“I don’t want to do anything to mess up the case—”
“You won’t.” Robert stopped, took in Lucky’s exhausted appearance. “Mac told me you’d kicked a pain pill addiction last year. But I know it’s been a bad few months. Are you still clean?”
Lucky winced, closed the door, then faced Robert. “Yes. I’m going back to meetings though. But I’m clean. And staying that way.”
“Good. Had to be asked, of course. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. That’s the consequences of what I did. Were there any developments after I, uh, left last night?”
Robert shook his head. “Nothing beyond what we expected. If not for Robin and Elizabeth’s statements that they heard footsteps running away just as they discovered the body, if not for the tight time frame, I’d have serious doubts this was connected. Sam’s neck was broken. It was a quick death. She likely only had moments to realize something was wrong.”
“That tells us something though,” Lucky said, regret swirling. What if he’d taken Sam more seriously the week before? Or at least spoken to her? What if he’d tried hard to get her to come around to his side? Into getting on with their lives? Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to Kelly’s, maybe she wouldn’t have gone into a fight with Robin and Elizabeth.
But then maybe Robin and Elizabeth would have been the targets. There were no easy answers.
“It does. Our guy knows how to make this kill. No easy feat to break a woman’s neck and cause instant death. He’d need the strength and the knowledge.” Robert rocked back on his heels. “So we’ll apply that to the profile and see what we turn up.”
“Yeah.” Lucky sat on the arm of the sofa. “What, um, do you think about Robin being the target twice? Do we think it’s random? Or planned?”
Robert’s expression was pained. “I want it to be random,” he said slowly. “That it could have been any two women at a public place. But I think it’s important that we not let go of the possibility. I’m going over to talk to her about that.”
“Maybe it was random,” Lucky said, considering. “But a different kind of random. He could have chosen them at random, but then once he’d locked in, he looked at them differently. I can’t get over the parking garage — it was a shift change.”
“So maybe he chose them for different reasons, and then waited for an opportunity.” Robert exhaled slowly. “Which means he chose Robin and Emily. And Robin changed his plans.”
“So he chose her again, and she’s slipped away—again.” Lucky fisted his hands. “But that would mean he also chose Elizabeth.”
“And he’s lost on both of them. It’s still just a theory,” Robert cautioned. “We need to work with our shortlist, but I don’t like even the smallest possibility that Robin could be the target. And I’m sure, despite all the history, you’re not keen on Elizabeth being in his sights either.”
“No. I’m not.” Lucky waited a moment. “But Elizabeth lives at the Towers. The security is tight. I went to see her today. You can’t get to certain floors without the right access key. And the parking garage—I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think there’s any blind spots. And I know they don’t do shift changes. There’s always an overlap. I, uh, used to wash Jason’s cars when I was a kid,” Lucky said when Robert frowned at him. “I did some work at the Towers. Security got tighter. There’s a list of people with access, but I’m not on it.”
“Maybe we can get Robin to stay there until we get this guy. I’ll suggest it to her. If we take his targets out of his sight for a while—” Robert furrowed his brow. “I’d be interested in seeing what he does without them.”
Patrick & Robin’s Condo: Living Room
Robin hung up the phone just as Patrick came out of the bedroom. “Are all men just Neanderthals masquerading as humans?”
“Not sure that’s anthropologically accurate since—” Patrick stopped when he saw the irritated look on her face. “Right. Debate later. What happened?”
“My father just called, and he wants me to ask Jason if I can stay with him and Elizabeth or something until they catch this guy.” Robin made a face, and went towards the kitchen, yanking out a glass from the cabinet. “I just got done telling you that I didn’t want to be locked up—”
“You also told me that you would ask Jason for some help,” Patrick reminded her and she scowled. “And look, that penthouse is so full of people, what’s two more? Plus, the kids. Remember, we were going to simulate a newborn with—”
“We—” Robin looked at him, her eyes wide. “What?”
“Well, if he has a guest room for you, I don’t see why I can’t go. If you think I’m letting you out of my sight, you’re insane.” Patrick leaned against the counter.
“Oh. Well—” Robin chewed on her lip. “They used to keep empty apartments,” she said slowly. “It was one thing when you and I just talked about it, but Dad seems convinced I’m…” She pressed a fist to her belly. “That I’m on the short list. That I made this guy mad because he’s tried to—”
“Hearing it from your dad made it more real.”
“Yeah.” She looked at him. “No offense, but you’re just…you’re not a cop. Or a former spy. Or…I don’t know. But Dad is usually calm about these kinds of things. Or he was. But he really thinks it might be true.”
Patrick scooped up the cordless from where she’d left it. “Call Elizabeth. Or I can. But there’s no point in either of us taking chances just because we’re stubborn. It’s not just us anymore, Robin.”
“No.” Now Robin flatted her hand against her belly, thinking of the life she carried. The precious, miracle which had already saved her once. “No, you’re right. Let me call.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“Of course he’ll say yes,” Elizabeth said, glancing over as Jason came in. “Do you want to talk to him?” She pressed her hand over the speaker of the phone she held. “It’s Robin.”
“I’m passing the phone to Jason now,” Elizabeth said, and handed it over.
“Robin?” Jason asked, taking the phone with one hand, and shrugging out of his jacket with the other. Elizabeth took it from him, along with the photo album Monica had sent home.
“Hey. Hey. I’m sorry. I know you’ve got so much going on right now, and the last thing you need is to worry about me—”
“Robin, what’s wrong?” he asked, glancing around the penthouse, looking for the boys. He found Jake napping in his playpen.
“With Spinelli,” Elizabeth answered, gesturing up the stairs, and Jason nodded, returning his attention to the phone.
“Elizabeth said she told you, uh, about my dad’s theory. That we were—” Her voice faltered. “That it was supposed to be us.”
“Yeah. He did.” And it was something Jason hadn’t told his mother, knowing it would only upset her. “What can I do?”
“Dad asked if maybe—I don’t know—maybe if we can stay at the Towers. You know, because of how secure it is. And the guard—they think the guard scared this guy—” He could almost see Robin on the other side of the phone grimacing. “I hate to ask—”
“Sonny’s old place is across the hall. It’s still furnished. You can take it,” Jason said immediately. “It’s the safest floor in the building, you know that. And even more than when we lived there. I’ll leave the keys and everything else with the desk downstairs.”
Robin was quiet for a long moment. “Just like that?”
“Of course. You matter, Robin. You always will. You just tell me what you need, and I’ll make it happen.”
“Thank you. Thank—I’ll talk to Patrick and I’ll call you back with—thank you.”
He hung up the phone, looked at Elizabeth as she looked through the album. “Monica, uh, she thought you might like to see the ones from—”
“I can’t believe we got away with the lie for as long as we did,” Elizabeth murmured. “He’s your double. And he’ll just keep growing up to look like you.”
He sat next to her, and she leaned into his shoulder. “Robert thinks this guy locks in on his victims like we’re property,” she said softly. “He came after Robin again because she got away. And now—”
“Now you both did.” Jason kissed her forehead, ignoring the sliver of fear as it slid down his spine. “We’ll be okay. I’ll make sure of it.”