"There's tape on top of the backpack," Joe rasped, before breaking into another fit of coughing. Jerry got the tape and helped wrap McCormick's hands and feet. Frank, meanwhile, released Joe from the straightjacket and tape which still bound his feet.
That evening, Joe lay in a bed at the Bayport Memorial Hospital. He had pneumonia and several bruises and abrasions but the doctor had assured him and his worried family and friends, he would be as good as new. Joe had spent most of the day sleeping and was now ready for company. Shortly after a light dinner of soup and crackers, he had been unable to eat anything else, Chief Collig, Con, Biff, Chet, Tony, Phil, Jerry, Callie, Vanessa and his family all gathered in the hospital room.
"So, who actually killed Cornett?" Chet asked.
"Paul did," Frank answered. "He wanted revenge against Mrs. Brown as well as dad and used the murder to frame Joe."
"What about Blevins and Barnes?" Jerry asked.
"That was Tony," Chief Collig said. "He gave a full confession when his brother was brought in today. Tony admitted to killing them but fingered Paul for killing Dr. Wagner. We already had a witness for Jim's murder."
"The guy who put Tony in charge of Joe's evaluation," Vanessa reminded the group.
"What I don't understand is why you confessed?" Con asked Joe, his face puzzled.
"Yeah," Callie agreed. "What made you think you could have killed Cornett?"
"Paul was trying to drive me crazy," Joe informed the group. "He planted receivers in my ears when Jerry, Brad and I went hiking. He then made recordings and played them over and over. The receivers were so far back in my ears, I actually thought I was hearing voices in my head."
Laura was crying and Joe took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "The voice kept telling me to rob Maxines. When I woke up and found the stuff they had planted in my drawer, I really thought I'd gone over the edge. Then, when Cornett was killed, the voices told me I had killed him. Paul and Tony had managed to drug me somehow. I was unconscious in the boy's bathroom the whole time. Anyway," he continued, "when I got to Corwin, I heard two of the orderlies talking. They sounded exactly like the voices in my head. I made the mistake of saying something to the doctor and then he decided to keep me drugged and remove the receivers so no one could find them later. He was going to arrange for me to hang myself but he changed his mind," Joe stopped and started coughing.
No one spoke until Joe had finished coughing and was breathing okay. Frank handed him a cup of water which Joe accepted gratefully.
"What changed his mind?" Vanessa asked.
"You did," Joe said, smiling at her. "And Frank. When you discovered the Maisieno, Tony realized the jig was up and kidnapped me. I don't really remember much about what happened," he said slowly, trying to remember. "I do remember a red-head trying to make me walk but I fell and that's it until I woke up in the shack."
The nurse came in and announced visiting hours were over. Everyone but Frank left. He was staying the night with Joe. Frank took the chair his mother had vacated. "I'm sorry little brother," Frank said softly, taking Joe's hand and absently rubbing his thumb back and forth across the top of it.
"For what?" Joe asked, his voice low. He was getting sleepy again.
"For not listening," Frank answered. "You told me you thought you were going crazy and I basically brushed you off."
"No," Joe denied, smiling up at Frank. "You listened. You even tried to convince me I wasn't. And you were right," he added. "Neither of us could have known what the McCormicks were up to. I know you're not omnipotent," Joe told Frank. "And we're brothers. We fight sometimes. But I knew, without a doubt that you would find me," he added, squeezing Frank's hand. "When it counts, you're always there for me. And I want you to know, I'll always be there for you too."