Shattered Dreams

Disclaimer: Neither Lizz nor I own the rights to Murder, She Wrote nor it's characters. We just like to play games with them. I suggest a rating for this fan fiction of PG-13, for some gorry, gorry stuff. As always, read at your own willingness.

"What's the matter, Jess?" Seth asked his best friend as they walked down Main Street together. "You're awful quiet today.

"That doesn't necessarily mean something is wrong!" she snapped at him. He turned to look at her, but said nothing. She immediately regretted her words.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I just didn't sleep well last night, that's all." She told him, winding her fingers around his. "I didn't mean to take it out on you."

"Forgiven. Why couldn't you sleep?" he asked, concerned.

"Oh, I don't know. A touch of insomnia. It will pass." She lied, and immediately felt guilty. She'd never lied to Seth before. The truth was, she'd had a horrible nightmare. But she didn't want Seth to hover over her. Besides, she told herself, it was only one nightmare. Later, Jessica found herself in a dark room. All she could see was a hand, illuminated by a spotlight, waving through the air as though it was conducting a band, but there was no music. Suddenly, the spotlight went out, and she was in complete darkness. She turned in a circle, looking for some ray of light. The spotlight again illuminated the hand, this time holding a knife, and seeming to float toward her. She tried to run, yell for help, anything to get away, but she was frozen in place, and though she opened her mouth, no sound came out.

She heard a strange sound, as she opened her eyes. The phone! She'd been having that nightmare again. "Hello?" she said, pulling the receiver to her ear, still drowsy.

"Mrs. F," Mort said. "I hate to wake you up..."

"No, that's okay, Mort," Jessica interrupted, grateful to him for awakening her.

"Well, the reason I'm calling is that we got a call about ten minutes ago," Mort continued.

"Oh, dear," Jessica said, now fully awake. "What's wrong, Mort?"

"There's been a murder."

"Oh, no! Who?"

"Christopher Mills. His wife found him, when she got home from a bar. Doc Hazlitt is on his way to pick you up. I'll fill you in when you get here."

"Okay, thanks Mort." Jessica said and hung up. She climbed out of bed and quickly got dressed. She had just finished when she heard Seth downstairs. She met him at the bottom of the steps.

"You really should lock your doors with a murderer on the loose, Jessica." He said sternly.

"Oh, Seth! You're not going to start that are you? I didn't know there was a murderer out there."

He helped her into her coat and said, "I'm sorry Jess. I just don't want to see you get hurt. You mean too much to me."

Jessica kissed him gently. "Thank you for caring. It's nice to be loved."

Together, they headed out into the dark, cold night.

"What happened, Mort?" Jessica said after arriving with Seth and being directed to the murder scene.

"Looks like a stab wound to me," he replied, pointing to the corpse.

Jessica looked to Seth, her eyes wide, as if wanting a second opinion.

Seth slowly knelt down to examine the corpse. The three stood in silence, the only sound the forensics team milling about the room.

"Ayuh," Seth said, looking up at Jessica, and showing her the stab-wound on the corpse's chest. Jessica grimaced and walked to the opposite side of the room, looking for something to help her.

"You said Mrs. Mills found him when she got home from a bar?" Jessica asked suddenly.

"Yeah. Seems she was a regular at one of the bars uptown," Mort told her.

"So, she was gone every night?" Jessica said as more of a statement than a question.

"I suppose," Mort replied, rather confused.

"What do you mean, woman?" Seth piped up, himself unable to understand her thinking.

"Well," Jessica started humbly. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but, couldn't someone have known she would be gone and planned it around this time?"

Mort and Seth's raised eyebrows told Jessica she hadn't been wrong.

"Then anyone could have killed him," Mort said unhappily.

"What does the motive appear to be?" Jessica asked.

"I don't know. Nothing seems to be missing, but we'll find out for sure when his wife wakes up."

"Wakes up?" Seth asked.

"She passed out. Too much to drink. Did Chris have any enemies?"

Seth and Jessica turned to look at each other.

"No," they said together.

"Yeah, I didn't think so." Mort said rather sadly. "He was nice to everyone."

"You didn't think this would be easy, did you?" Seth asked.

"No, not really. I guess I don't need either of you here anymore. I'm just going to go through the desk and see if I can find anything."

"We can help," Jessica said quickly. She didn't want to go home and have that dream again.

"I suppose I could use the help. Why don't you two work on the filing cabinet."

Seth pulled a chair over to the filing cabinet.

Jessica followed him across the room.

"I don't see why we have to do this now," Seth grumbled.

"You don't. You can go home, Seth," Jessica replied. Seth considered this for a moment.

"Why don't you want to go home, Jess?" He asked gently.

"I'm just not," she stopped and yawned, "tired."

Seth gazed at her. "Have it your way."

After a few minutes spent in silence, Jessica came across a small bag of assorted "lucky" charms. Wordlessly, she took Seth's hand and placed on in his palm.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

He looked up at her. "Jessica, what is it that's bothering you? And why do you feel you can't talk to me? You know I'll always listen."

Jessica was silent.

"Jess?" Seth asked, concerned.

"Can we talk about this later, Seth?"

"Of course."

The conversation would continue later that morning, back at Jessica's.

Jessica was asleep at 8 when Seth arrived that morning. He had knocked on the door for nearly five minutes before going in to check on her. Sure enough, there she was, asleep on her bed with a manila envelope in her hand, and the contents, what she found at the murder scene that she thought might be of interest, was strewn out on the bed. Seth sighed to himself and sat in a chair next to her bad. She was sleeping peacefully. "At least you're not getting yourself into trouble, woman," he said quietly to her before standing up again, gazing at her for a moment, and going back to the kitchen.

Jessica was awakened around 10 that morning, by the smell of...

"Blueberry muffins?" she asked, a puzzled expression entering her face. "Who could...?"

Just then, Seth came in with a tray of blueberry muffins, orange juice, coffee, and toast, with the obligatory single rose in a vase.

"Mornin', Jessica," he said, grinning.

"Seth? What's all this?" she asked him as she sat up and he placed the tray on her lap.

"Your breakfast," Seth told her. "A little late, though. 'Spect you'll be havin' lunch, soon."

Jessica quickly glanced at the clock, and her eyes grew wide.

"Six hours!" she said aloud. "I've been asleep a whole six hours!"

"Ayuh," Seth said, with questioning eyes. "8 would've been better."

"Oh, Seth," she told him, sounding slightly annoyed.

"Six hours without that nightmare again!" she thought and smiled.

"I believe you promised me some conversation, Jessica," Seth said, again taking his chair near the bed.

"Oh, Seth," Jessica said smiling. "I was just tired. Really!"

"Jessica...You insisted that you weren't tired. Something..."

"Well, I was wrong," she interrupted him. She paused and smiled. "I'm fine, see?" She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head as if she were outside soaking up a spring breeze to emphasize the point.

"I don't believe you," Seth told her, a hurt expression filling his face.

Jessica felt a little guilty about not telling Seth about her nightmare and considered telling him now, but she thought better of it. Apparently, the nightmares had gone, but she didn't want to unnecessarily alarm Seth. So, she changed the subject, focusing on the items in front of her.

"What do you think this is made of, Seth?" she asked him knowingly of a tiny, gold, giraffe-shaped charm.

"I'm a doctor, Jess, not a jeweler."

"I think it's gold, Seth," she continued, ignoring his sarcasm. "Pure gold."

"What does that have to do with anything? We're not talking about little gold animals. You're not telling me the truth, Jessica."

"Seth! I'm all right! Stop hovering!" she cried, growing frustrated with him.

Seth's eyes flashed with a mix of anger and hurt. Then without another word, he stood and left the room.

"Seth, wait!" Jessica called after him. She got no reply and a few seconds later heard the front door slam behind him. Jessica sank back into her pillows, her eyes filling with tears. She hadn't meant to be so rude to him. Didn't he understand? But then, how could he? She hadn't bothered to explain anything to him.

Seth left the house angry at himself, angry at Jessica. She wasn't telling him the truth. Couldn't she see that he was worried about her? Didn't she know how much he loved her? He only wanted to protect her.

Daisy Mills woke up with a splitting headache. What had she been drinking the night before? She couldn't really remember. Where was Chris?

"Oh, no!" she moaned. The night before all came back to her. She'd had about four shots of straight Tequila and started dancing on the bar. Her friends had dragged her home before she made a complete fool of herself. When she got home she'd found Chris.

Mort finally got to go home around 11am. He still had to talk to Daisy Mills, the coroner and Jessica. But he just couldn't function. He was about to make a pot of coffee when he decided against it, and instead went into the living room and fell into a deep sleep on the couch.

One O'clock that afternoon found Jessica at the coffee shop, hoping to see Seth having lunch there between patients.

"What can I get you, Mrs. Fletcher?" the waitress, Morgan Blackstock, asked her as she sat down.

"A salad would be wonderful, thanks," Jessica replied, looking around. "You haven't seen Dr. Hazlitt in here today, have you?"

"Not yet. He usually comes in about now." Morgan hesitated before asking Jessica, "Have you heard about Chris?"

"Ohh, yes," Jessica replied, her attention immediately with the young woman.

"Chris and I grew up together," she started, but then excused herself to go get Jessica's salad. That seemed to be all she could say. Jessica was starting to think about that when Seth came in.

"Seth!" She called to him, and waved him over.

Seeing no other open tables, he came and sullenly sat down.

"Seth, I'm sorry," she said.

His eyes grew a little wider.

"Well, don't look so shocked. I should be sorry, you know. I didn't explain things very well."

He nodded.

"Can't you say something?" she asked him, frustrated.

"Ayuh," he smiled. "I'm glad you've decided to tell me what it is that's bothering you."

"No, Seth. I meant about those charms. Remember?" She took the charm out of her purse. "The little gold giraffe?"

Seth's expression changed to one of sadness and disappointment.

"Seth, I'm fine. You're the only one who doesn't seem to understand that. I--" Morgan came and set her salad in front of her.

"Where'd you get that, Mrs. Fletcher?" Morgan asked, indicating the giraffe.

"Oh, Sheriff Metzger let me have a look at this. It's from Chris' house."

Morgan held up her wrist, around which a charm bracelet was clasped, "Are the others like these?"

Jessica looked closely at the girl's bracelet. There were five charms in all: a pig, a giraffe, a monkey, a bear and an elephant. Jessica got out the envelope with the other charms in it. There were only four charms. The pig was missing.

"What do you suppose it means?" Jessica asked Seth and Morgan.

"That's how we referred to each other," Morgan said, her eyes filling with tears. "And now Chris is gone…"

"What? How who referred to each other?" Jessica asked her.

"Morgan!" the manager and owner called. "Get to work!"

"Excuse me, Mrs. Fletcher," she said.

"Morgan," Jessica said, placing a hand on the girl's arm. "We need to talk."

"Maybe later, Mrs. Fletcher," Morgan replied, turning to another table.

"Now do you see why it's important, Seth?" Jessica asked, turning to him, but when she didn't see him she turned to the door just in time to see him leaving. Placing money on the table, she got up and followed Seth out.

Arriving at his house, which also served as his office, Jessica knocked impatiently on the door. Seth arrived, opening the door shortly afterwards.

"Seth, what do you want? What do you want me to tell you? Do you want me to tell you that I'm having a horrible week and cry on your shoulder? I mean, really. What do you want from me?"

"The truth, Jessica."

"I told you the truth."

"I don't believe that you did, Jess."

Jessica sighed. "It's over, Seth. What was bothering me is gone. I'm not worried about it, and you shouldn't be, either."

"That just it, Jessica. You should've told me then. Maybe I could've helped."

"Seth," Jessica said gently. "There are some things you can't protect me from."

Seth looked down sadly, and for a minute, Jessica thought he would close the door and go back inside, leaving her alone on the porch. Instead, he opened the door a little wider, held his hand out and sadly said, "Would you like to come in, Jessica? We can talk about this more inside."

"Thank you, Seth, but I can't. I have to get over to Mort's and talk to him about what I've come up with. It could be important. Then I've planned a lovely little nap. It's been a long couple of days. However, I will call you when I wake up. Dinner at my house?"

Seth nodded. "Be careful, Jessica."

"I will, Seth," she said nodding, and waved as she left.

Upon arriving at Mort's and learning from Adelle that Mort was still asleep, she wrote him a note about talking to Morgan Blackstock and headed home for her nap.

After she had fallen asleep, Jessica found herself in a dark room. All she could see was a hand, illuminated by a spotlight, waving through the air as though it was conducting a band, but there was no music. Suddenly, the spotlight went out, and she was in complete darkness. She turned in a circle, looking for some ray of light. The spotlight again illuminated the hand, this time holding a knife, and seeming to float toward her. Closer this time than the last. She tried to run, yell for help, anything to get away, but she was frozen in place, and though she opened her mouth, no sound came out. She tossed and turned a little, and was awakened when someone placed a hand on her shoulder. She flinched and opened her eyes to see Seth staring down at her.

"Now do you want to tell me what's bothering you?" he asked.

She sighed. She didn't seem to have a choice. "It's just a nightmare, Seth. That's all," she said, brushing it off.

"Jessica," Seth started. "Why didn't you tell me? What happens?"

"It's nothing, Seth. Nightmares happen to everybody. What time is it?"

"Almost time for dinner. It's cooking downstairs. But we're not eating until you tell me what's going on with this nightmare of yours."

"Oh, all right, you win," Jessica told him, sitting up. "Well, I'm in a small room, and there's this hand moving through the air, I'm not sure what it's doing exactly, but, a light goes out, and quickly comes back on, and the hand is holding a knife. That's it. Then I wake up," she said resolutely, leaving out the fact the hand seems to be getting closer each time.

Seth considered this for a moment. "I don't like it, Jess."

"I'm not particularly fond of it, myself, Seth. But, I'll be fine. Really. It'll go away. Nightmares always do."

They went downstairs and she helped him finish cooking dinner. As they sat down at the table, Seth asked her, "Jessica, why were you so reluctant to tell me about the nightmare?"

"It seemed so childish to go running to you about a dream."

"Jess," he said reaching across the table, "You can come to me about anything, you know that."

"I know. Now, let's forget about it."

"Just promise me something?"

"Depends."

"Tell me if you have that nightmare again?"

Jessica paused and thought for a minute. "Yes." She said at last.

"Thank you, dearest."

Morgan Blackstock entered her house after her shift at the coffee shop. Everything was dark.

"That's funny," she said aloud, "I could've sworn I left a light on."

She closed the door, and was about to turn on a light when a hand shot out of the darkness behind her, plunging a knife into her heart. Morgan fell to the ground. Her killer reached down and broke the giraffe charm off her bracelet, then left the house by way of the back door.

"You ready to talk to Miss Blackstock, Mrs. F?" Mort asked Jessica the next morning as they were sitting in her kitchen with Seth.

"What's the mattah," Seth asked. "You can't go by yourself?"

"Seth," Jessica said in a mock version of sternness. "I WANT to go."

"Jessica, I don't think that's a good idea with your--"

"I'll be fine, Seth," Jessica interrupted him, giving him a stern look.

"Something wrong, Mrs. F?" Mort asked, concerned. "Yes," Seth said. "Although she'd never--"

"Enough, Seth!" Jessica interrupted, agitated. Then, turning to Mort, she added, "I'm fine. Seth's just being over-dramatic." Seth looked slightly angrily into his coffee cup, while Jessica grabbed a coat from a peg in the hallway. "Let's go, Sheriff."

Once they were in the car and headed to Morgan Blackstock's house, Mort began the conversation.

"Uhh...Mrs. F," he said tentatively. "I'm not sure what Doc thinks is wrong with you, or what's going on, but, I just wanted to remind you, I'll do anything I can to help."

"Thank you, Mort," Jessica replied. "But really, I'm fine."

"Whatever you say, Mrs. F. So, what was it you wanted to talk to Miss Blackstock about?"

"These," she replied, pulling the manila envelope containing the charms out of her purse.

"Jewelry?"

"Not just any jewelry, Mort. See, Morgan has a charm bracelet containing the same charms as these. She also said that she grew up with Christopher Mills. Maybe she knows something that can help us. Besides, she can tell us why the pig charm is missing from these."

"The what? Hold on, Mrs. Fletcher, where'd you get THAT?" Mort asked incredulously.

"Morgan's bracelet. She had five charms. A pig, a giraffe, a monkey, a bear and an elephant." She dumped the charms from the envelope into her palm. "The pig is missing from this set."

Mort parked the car and they each got out. They headed up the steps and knocked on the door. No answer. Mort knocked again. No answer. The third attempt prompted the same response.

"Stand back, Mrs. F.," Mort told her, drawing his gun. He took a few steps backward, then charged at the door, bursting into the house. There, on the floor, was Morgan Blackstock.

"Oh, my God! Is she dead, Mort?" Jessica asked.

Mort knelt and checked for a pulse. He found none.

"Mrs. F, go call Doc Hazlitt for me." He said softly. Jessica set off in search of a phone. She found one in the kitchen and dialed her number. She was relieved when Seth picked it up.

"Seth, we need you to come down to Morgan's. There's been another murder."

"I'm on my way." He said and hung up.

Five minutes later, he arrived at Morgan's house.

Jessica met him on the porch.

"Jess, are you all right?" he asked, concerned.

"Yes, I'm fine."

Seth went in and quickly examined Morgan's body. "She's been dead slightly less than twelve hours. Rigor mortis is almost complete. Cause of death was stab wound through the heart, probably made with a large knife."

Jessica gave an involuntary gasp and turned away.

"Something wrong, Mrs. F.?" Mort asked.

She turned to Seth, a haunted look in her eyes.

"Seth, you don't think there's any connection between…"

He stood and wrapped his arms around her.

"No, there couldn't possibly be. It's all right Jess."

"What is going on here? Why is it you never tell me anything?" Mort asked. "I'm beginning to think I should just turn over my sheriff's badge to the two of you!"

Jessica looked up at Seth, and a silent understanding passed between them. Seth launched into an explanation.

"Lately Jess has been having this recurring nightmare about a knife and hand, detached from the rest of the body, coming after her."

"So you thought that maybe there was some connection between the two deaths and your dream?" Mort asked Jessica.

Jessica stepped back out of Seth's arms and began to pace the room.

"I just thought that it was a little strange, that each time we found a body, it was not long after I had had the nightmare."

Seth, who had been thinking for a moment, spoke up.

"Whoever killed Morgan had to have been in the coffee shop with us, Jess. How else would they know that she planned to give you information concerning Chris and the charms?"

"Unless the murderer was someone close to her whom she didn't suspect of the killing and she just told them she was going to talk to me." Jessica replied.

"Well that really doesn't narrow things down any." Mort said.

"We have to find out what these charms represent. Morgan said 'that's how we referred to each other'. How who referred to each other? And who are the other people?"

"Where do we start?" asked Mort.

"Well," Jessica started, pulling away from Seth and straightening herself. "I think," she continued, becoming more composed. "That we need to find other people Christopher Mills and Morgan Blackstock grew up with. Once that's accomplished we visit them and find out what all this animal charm reference is about."

"Ayuh," Seth nodded. "Sounds like a plan to me. the Sheriff and I can handle that while you go home and rest." His stance changed, seeming to indicate the end of a discussion.

"No, Seth," Jessica replied defiantly. "I'm going with you." Jessica's own defiant stance seemed to over-power Seth's as he fidgeted, thinking about what to say next.

"You sure, Mrs. F?" Mort asked. "Doc and I can go if you want to catch up on your sleep."

"I'm fine!" Jessica responded, somewhat annoyed. "Let's go talk to Daisy Mills and find out what all this means!"

"Yes?" Daisy Mills said, opening the door in a bathrobe with an ice pack to her head.

"Mrs. Mills," Mort said. "I know that now isn't the best time, but we need to ask you some questions."

"Well, I'm not exactly dressed," Daisy replied, wincing against a sudden throbbing in her head.

"We'll wait," Jessica said. "It's important that we speak with you."

Daisy thought for a moment and stepped aside as she opened the door. She led them to the living room and excused herself to go get dressed. Jessica immediately began looking at the pictures placed miscellaneously around the room. She had taken time to study three of them before calling Mort and Seth over to the fourth--a picture of 5 teenagers at what appeared to be a picnic a decade or two before.

"I don't get it," Mort said, confusedly.

"Christopher Mills," Seth said, pointing at one of the teens in the picture.

"Morgan Blackstock," Jessica said, pointing to another.

"Wasn't his name Ray somethin' or other?" Seth said of another one.

"Lee," Jessica told him. "And there's Rachel Bolger. Remember her, Seth? She disappeared in the early 80's. Probably not long after this picture was taken."

"Ayuh," Seth said, remember more of the details. "If I recall, wasn't that young man in a car accident around the same time?" He pointed to the last man in the picture. "Anthony Powell, right?"

"That's it," Jessica replied. "I'd nearly forgotten his last name."

"So?" Mort piped in, thoroughly confused.

"So," Jessica said. "These are the people we need to talk to besides Mrs. Mills.

"How do you know?" Mort asked. "It could just be a group of people in high school."

"But, see, Mort," Jessica said, picking the picture up off of the desk it had been set on. "Morgan's wearing her bracelet. Chris has a necklace on with that pig charm on it. Ray Lee has a big bear pin on his collar. Rachel Bolger is wearing a vest with elephants on it..."

"And Anthony Powell has that shirt on with the monkey on it." Mort broke in.

Jessica nodded. I think that's how they "referred to each other."

"Completely correct, Mrs. Fletcher," Daisy Mills said coming down the last couple of steps, now dressed. "What can I do for you?"

"Where did Chris grow up?" Mort asked.

"Near Portland until after high school when his friends asked him to move to this dump," she replied, plopping into a chair. "Please, have a seat."

"Well, I don't mind..." Mort started.

"Thanks, but we can't stay long," Jessica interrupted.

"Oh, gee, that's too bad," Daisy replied somewhat sarcastically.

Seth, who had been amazingly quiet, pulled Jessica aside.

"Not exactly the grieving widah type, is she?"

"Seth, we can't expect her to burst into tears right in front of us, you know. She's at least trying to be a gracious hostess."

"Where were you last night, Mrs. Mills?" they heard Mort ask and abruptly ended their conversation.

"Well...well, you can't possibly think that I..." Daisy paused, sniffling. "That I killed him, could you?" She finished with overflowing, misty eyes.

Jessica sat next to her on the couch, and put an arm around her.

"Of course not," Jessica told her. "But the Sheriff has a job to do, and that means he has to ask you that."

"I was," Daisy replied, beginning to cry more. "At the bar. I have no idea how I got home."

"Were you there alone?" Mort asked her.

"No, I couldn't have been. Someone had to take me home, didn't they? Carla and Libby must've been there too."

"Carla and Libby?" Mort questioned.

"Carla Holt and Liberty Ponsette. We always go out together." Daisy replied.

"You were regulars at that particular bar?"

"Yes, they have the best music in town. We just go to dance really, and then end up drinking."

"So you have no idea what happened at the bar that night?"

"Not a clue. Ask Carla or Libby. They handle alcohol better than I do."

"Why didn't your husband go out with you?" Jessica asked.

"Oh Chris never went out with us. He didn't like to dance, and he didn't like to intrude on our girl time." "And you found him when you got home?" Jessica continued.

"Yes," Daisy replied, sniffling again, "I found him in the hallway on my way upstairs. At first, I thought maybe he was just asleep, but then I saw the blood on his shirt and on the floor around him." Daisy began to sob uncontrollably.

"We'll come back another day when you're feeling better, Mrs. Mills." Mort said softly, and he motioned for Seth and Jessica to follow him out.

Outside, Mort asked, "I'm going to go talk to her friends. You're more than welcome to come along."

They all piled into the car, and headed out to Carla Holt's house. They were lucky enough to find both her and Liberty Ponsette there.

"Oh, hello Sheriff!" Liberty exclaimed when they pulled into the driveway.

"You're timing is wonderful. You just caught us before we headed over to Daisy's." Carla added.

"I think she could really use good friends like you about now." Jessica told them.

"I only have one question for you ladies." Mort said, "Were you with Daisy at Lucky's Bar and Grill the night her husband was killed?"

"Yes," Liberty said smiling, "We brought her home. She had been in a fight with Chris and had more to drink than usual. She started dancing on the bar!" she collapsed into giggles and missed the glare that Carla threw her way. Jessica didn't.

"What kind of fight?" asked Jessica.

"Oh, not really a fight. Libby has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I believe it was just a little tiff about whether or not they should get rid of some perfectly awful china his mother had given them." Carla answered quickly before Liberty had a chance to respond.

"Then it wasn't something to kill over." Mort said.

"Good heavens, no! Daisy and Chris were very happy, they never really fought! Now, if you'll excuse us Sheriff, we'd like to go check on Daisy."

"Yes, of course. Thank you for your help."

The two women got into Carla's car and drove off toward Daisy's house.

"I don't believe her." Jessica said.

"Neither do I," said Seth.

Safely out of sight of Mort, Jessica and Seth, Carla turned on Liberty.

"You fool!" she screamed at her, "Do you realize what you could have done? If the sheriff finds out that Daisy and Chris were going to divorce, he's going to think that she killed him! Do you want to see her go to jail?"

"No, of course not. What kind of friend do you think I am?" Liberty asked meekly.

"One who doesn't use her head! From now on, let me do the talking!"

"Carla, did she… did Daisy…"

"Did she kill him?"

"Yes." Said Liberty softly.

"She couldn't have. He had already been dead for a few hours when we brought her home." Carla told her firmly. "How do you know?"

" Daisy told me Doctor Hazlitt said he had been killed around 10pm. We didn't drop her off at home until nearly 12:30. And she was with us the whole night."

"Then who did kill him? And poor Morgan Blackstock?"

"I don't know. Just leave it alone." Carla snapped at her.

"I'm sorry, I was just curious."

"Drop it, Liberty!"

Later that night, Seth and Jessica were sitting together on her sofa watching Casablanca. After the movie, they were sitting quietly each lost in their own thoughts when Seth said suddenly, "I'm sorry, Jess."

"What? Why? For what?"

"For being so impossible. And for being so angry because you didn't tell me about your nightmare. You were right, I can't protect you from everything, but forgive me for trying. I love you more than anything Jess, and I just want to keep you safe."

"Oh, Seth," she said, tears filling her eyes, "I accept your apology. And I'm sorry I was so rude to you. I shouldn't have been so short-tempered. I love you too."

"Forgiven." He replied, kissing her tenderly and pulling her close to him. It was at that moment that the person outside the window behind them fired a shot.

The bullet barely missed Jessica and lodged itself into the wall on the opposite side of the room. The person cursed silently and sprinted away. Seth and Jessica sat frozen for a moment, before Seth recovered and got up pulling Jessica with him into the kitchen to call Mort.

"What happened, Mrs. F?" Mort asked, walking quickly into the kitchen.

"She was almost KILLED, that's what happened!" Seth said frantically.

"Yes, Doc, I got that," Mort replied, annoyed.

Then he turned to Jessica, who hadn't said a word since the incident and was sitting in a chair, staring into space in thought. "You all right, Mrs. F?"

"What?" Jessica seemed to momentarily come out of her trance. "Oh, yes. Yes, I'm fine." she stood up slowly. "Can we talk about this in the morning?" she asked, shakily. "I'd like to just sleep, now."

"Of course," Mort replied softly. "You gonna be okay?"

"Oh, yes, of course," Jessica replied, slightly dazed.

"I'll come back in the morning, then," Mort said, hesitant to leave.

"That would be perfect," Jessica told him, again out of her trance and yawning.

"Comin', doc?" Mort asked as he turned to leave.

"I think I'll stay," Seth said, wide awake, staring at Jessica.

"Oh, Seth," Jessica said, turning to him. "Go home. I'll be fine."

"Jessica, someone almost shot you! I can't--"

"You can, and you will, Seth," Jessica said, walking toward him.

"Jessica..."

"I'll be fine, Seth. I'm going straight to bed." she smiled innocently at him, hoping he'd believe her and decide to go home.

"But Jessica, they know they missed. What are you planning to do when they come back?"

"You may stay until I fall asleep, Seth, and then I expect you to leave. the only reason I'm saying THAT is because I'm too tired to argue with you." She turned to Mort and finished with, "Thank you, Mort. We'll see you later."

"G'night, Mrs. F. Good luck with Doc Hazlitt. If he gives you any trouble, give me a call," Mort said with a chuckle as he walked out the door.

"You can't protect me from everything, Seth," Jessica said when she's settled into bed and he had taken a seat next to her.

"We've been over that, Jessica," Seth said, relaxing in the chair next to her bed.

"And we'll go over it again until you stop smothering me!" Jessica said sternly. "Seth, you can't be here all the time. Get it all out of your system right now, because you can't follow me around all the time and hold me prisoner in my own house. I'm a big girl, okay? I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself." Having said this, and leaving Seth looking sad in the chair, she finished with, "I'm sorry, but I can't be suffocated in my own house." She turned over and pulled the covers up to her chin. She shut her eyes tightly and waited for Seth to leave. When she didn't hear him get up, she relaxed a bit and went to sleep, feeling safer, she knew, than if he hadn't been there.

Again she found herself in the small, dark room. She recognized it immediately and tried to will herself somewhere else. But this dream was different. Seth was there. She started to talk toward him when the light went out. She stopped, afraid to move. The light came back on and she saw Seth lying on the floor, a crimson pool beside him. Her knees gave out and she fell to the ground next to him.

Seth had been watching her tossing and turning, but when she winced, he'd decided it was better to wake her up. He walked over and gently shook her. She awakened immediately, crystal pools in her usually bright and cheerful, but now tired and burdened, blue eyes threatening to over-flow.

"Seth!" was all she could manage to say as she sat up and threw her arms around his neck. He sat down next to her and held her close, allowing her to cry.

When she stopped crying he asked her, "What happened, Jess?"

"It was you…" she trailed off and buried her face in his chest again.

"What do you mean, it was me? I had the knife? But you know I would never…"

"No!" she said, interrupting. "You were…dead. Whoever it was, they were after you."

Seth shivered, and held her tighter, no longer sure of whether he was protecting her or finding comfort for himself.

Several moments passed in silence then Jessica said, "Seth, I've changed my mind. You can stay."

"I had no intention of leaving."

Something suddenly dawned on Jessica. "You never did."

She said pulling back to look up at him, an amused twinkle in her tired eyes.

"Well…no," he replied, smiling at her.

"This time I'm glad you didn't listen to me." She paused a moment, "I don't think I can go to sleep now."

"I wouldn't expect you to be able to." He replied kicking off his shoes and moving to sit beside her on the bed. "Let's just sit and talk. We haven't done much of that lately." He added, sliding his arm around her. She snuggled closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Why do you think Carla Holt lied?" he asked.

When she didn't answer him, he glanced down and smiled. She was fast asleep. Seth reached over and turned off the light, tightened his embrace, and was soon asleep as well.

Seth awoke around 8 that morning, alone in Jessica's room. Feelings of panic swept over him and he jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, hoping she'd still be there.

"Seth!" Jessica exclaimed as he entered the kitchen. "When did you--"

"Why didn't you wake me up, woman?"

"Well, you were up late last night, too, and I just figured you needed your sleep."

Seth walked over to the sink and closed the blinds over the window above it. "Be careful, woman. Do you want to get shot at again? Next time they might not miss!"

"I don't think they intended to hit me the first time."

"What?"

"Sit down, Seth. Have some breakfast," she told him, setting a plate on the table for him. He numbly sat down. "I was thinking about the whole thing this morning, an--"

"The whole thing? How long have you been up?"

"An hour or so."

"Couldn't have gotten much sleep," he yawned.

"Oh, Seth. You're still tired. Why don't you go home and sleep?"

"Jessica-"

"Seth, I was thinking about last night, too." She wiped her hands on a dish towel and sat across from Seth. "It's not fair of me to want you to always be here for me. You have patients, and besides, you need sleep, too."

Seth opened his mouth to speak, but she stopped him.

"I appreciate you staying last night. More than I can tell you. But I would just feel awful if I kept you from your patients."

"Nonsense, Jess. One phone call and I can be here as long as you need me." He stood and walked over to the stove to retrieve the cooking bacon and eggs, and took the toast from the toaster before setting the plate in front of Jessica. "Eat your breakfast. I'll be right back." He left Jessica to stare in disbelief at her breakfast.

She picked up her fork and gently pushed the bacon around on her plate, trying to hear Seth, but he had gone upstairs and there was no hope of hearing anything more than murmurs.

Several moments passed before Seth came back downstairs and, kissing the top of Jessica's head, remarked, "You haven't touched your breakfast, Jess. You feelin' all right? Well, considering the circumstances."

"Seth! I can't believe you! Your patients have always come first."

"And right now, I consider you my patient. The one who needs me most. Not to mention my dearest friend and the woman I love." He kissed her gently and sat down to his own plate to eat. "You are the most important to me, Jessica," he said, meeting her eyes. "Patient or otherwise."

"Thank you," she whispered, realizing that he wasn't about to back down.

"Now, why do you think whoever shot at you meant to miss?" he questioned.

"Not whoever. I think it was Carla Holt. I think she was trying to scare me away from this. She doesn't have the heart to ever actually kill, but she could certainly fire that gun to protect someone."

"That someone being Daisy Mills."

"Precisely. They weren't telling us the whole truth. At least Carla wasn't. Somehow, we need to talk to Liberty Ponsette alone."

"s long as you don' go anywhere without me."Seth said, in a tone that indicated she was not to argue.

Jessica was about to tell him she didn't want to be smothered, but something in his eyes, and her heart, made her refrain.

"What if," she said suddenly, "That shot wasn't meant for me?"

"You mean someone is after me?"

"Yes. And what about my dream last night? You were so worried about me, you never thought to take care of yourself, did you?" she asked him.

"No," he admitted after a moment. "It never crossed my mind that bullet was meant for anyone but you."

"So let's say they were coming after you. For what reason?" Jessica asked, studying her best friend. She now understood why he was so protective and worried about her.

"I don't know. I can't think of anything I've done to anger anyone." He replied.

"Neither can I."

"Which means that you could be in danger." He said.

"I could, but I still don't think that I am."

"I wish Mort had some idea who shot at you. It doesn't do my heart any good to know that someone so dangerous could get so close."

As if on cue, Mort entered the back door without knocking as usual. Seth looked at Jessica, his eyebrows raised.

"And you still don't lock your doors," he said dryly.

Jessica ignored him. "What have you found out, Mort?"

"Nothing really. No footprints, no fingerprints, no witnesses. The only thing we have is the bullet. Standard shotgun shell, every hunter in the world uses them. It's not likely we'll ever find this person."

Jessica, suddenly rendered speechless, nodded.

"Well I gotta get back to work. I'll let you know if I find out anything else." Mort said then left the same way he had arrived.

"Every hunter in the world." Seth quoted, turning to Jessica. "Whoever it was, it was not Carla Holt, and they were not just trying to scare you."

"I know." She whispered.

"And what makes you think she'll tell YOU?" Jessica asked Mort while she was visiting him in his office. Seth sat in the chair in front of Mort's desk.

"I'm the Sheriff," Mort replied, somewhat hurt.

"I'm sorry, Mort, it's just that, if she lied to you before, what makes you think she'll tell you the truth now?"

"I…dunno," Mort stammered.

"Let me go talk to her. Maybe she'll open up more to me and tell me the truth."

"Girl talk?" Mort replied.

"Well, I guess you could call it that."

"Not too much girl talk," Seth spoke up. "I'll be there, too."

Jessica glanced at Seth, momentarily forgetting about his new, to her at least, determination to see her "safe". Catching herself from commenting, she turned back to Mort. "Right. Seth wants to go, too."

"Well, you know I've always been open to her help, Mrs. F…" Mort started tentatively.

"Why do I feel a 'but' coming?" Jessica said unexpectedly.

"HOWEVER," Mort continued. "With the current situation…well…are you sure? Someone out there is after you."

"They could just have easily been 'after' Seth," Jessica replied calmly. "We don't know, yet. I'm hoping that by going over to speak with Liberty Ponsette alone, I can find out more about it." She stopped to glance at Seth. "Sorry, Seth, but I think it's something I have to do. She won't talk to me as freely if you're there, too." He started to say something when she finished with, "If you ever do anything for me, do this, Seth. It's something I need to do."

Seth looked deep into her bright, blue eyes, contemplating the dangers and trying, without much success, to read her thoughts. He knew she wanted to do this herself, but he was torn between her desire to go it alone and his desire to protect her. He sat in silence for a few moments, being studied by both a wide-eyed, attentive Jessica, and the slightly sleepy, but tough-looking, Mort.

"Okay," he said almost inaudibly.

Jessica's eyes light up and she bent down to give Seth a hug and quick kiss on the cheek.

"I knew you'd come around, Seth,"she said before whispering, "You be careful, too. You're still in danger, you know," and starting out the door. "I'll be back as soon as I can!"

After she'd left and Seth was still sitting in the chair, Mort spoke up.

"Why'd you give in, Doc?"

"I can't smother her, Mort."

"Since when has that stopped you?"

"Since now, I believe. As if I asked you."

"Women," Mort said in disgust.

"Stubbornest people I ever met," Seth replied.

"You have to hand it to her, though, Mrs. F's got spunk."

"That's going to get her into trouble," Seth said, disgustedly. "I better follow her."

"Don't let her see you," Mort said, walking around the counter nearby for a cup of coffee.

"Give me a little credit for having been around Jessica this long, Sheriff," Seth said, walking out the door.

Seth left the Sheriff's Station just in time to see Jessica turn the corner. He hurried after her, but was careful to keep his distance so as not to be seen. After walking out of the town, Jessica turned down a winding, wooded road. Seth knew that Liberty Ponsette lived in a small house about a mile down the road. When he turned onto the old dirt road, Jessica was nowhere to be found. Seth knew there was a shortcut somewhere on an old hunting trail, but he hadn't a clue where it was. He had taken a half a dozen steps in the direction he thought Jessica had gone, when a loud shot rang out. Seth froze where he was, waiting for another shot. He cast his eyes heavenward and said a silent good-bye to Jessica. But a second shot was not fired. There was no doubt in his mind now, the first shot the night before had been meant for him. Instead of continuing on to Liberty's house, Seth turned around and went back to the station.

Mort looked up in surprise when he entered.

"Back so soon?" he asked.

"Mort, that shot last night was for me. Someone just tried again."

"What? Where? When?" Mort exclaimed.

"Just now. I was on that old road that goes out to Liberty Ponsette's. Jessica must've taken the shortcut because I didn't see her anywhere. I was just walking down the road when somebody tried to kill me!"

"All right, all right, calm down. Obviously they missed."

"That's what doesn't make sense. They had the opportunity to…kill me, but they didn't."

"Yeah, that's a little strange. And you don't know where Mrs. F. was?" Mort asked.

"No I… Oh, God, what if whoever shot at me has her!" Seth cried, "Mort we have to go find her!" "Why don't we call Miss Ponsette and see if she made it there."

Seth considered for a moment. If they showed up at Libby's, that would require an explanation, which he didn't want to give. "You're right. Let's just call." He said at last. "And Mort, I don't want Jessica to know about this."

Mort nodded, dialed the number, and handed the phone to Seth.

Jessica sat in Liberty Ponsette's living room, totally unaware of the events of the afternoon. Liberty was chattering away about going dancing with Carla and Daisy the night before when the phone rang. Liberty went to answer it and came back almost instantly. "Mrs. Fletcher, it's for you."

Jessica followed her into another room to take the phone call. Liberty retreated to give her some privacy.

"Hello, Seth," Jessica said when she picked up the phone.

"How did you know…?" he began.

"Because I know you. And I'm fine, Seth," she interrupted.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, dear," she said, willing herself not to become irritated. "I'll meet you at my house in half an hour."

"Okay." He paused, and thinking of how close he had come to being killed added, "I love you."

Jessica smiled. "I love you, too."

She hung up the phone and returned to the living room.

"Everything okay, Mrs. Fletcher?" Liberty asked.

"Yes, thank you." She replied, taking a seat opposite Liberty. "Liberty, do you remember what happened the night that Christopher Mills was killed?"

"Yes, why?"

"You were with Daisy, correct?"

"Yes, we had to take her home. She'd had too much to drink."

"Was that normal? Does Daisy usually drink a lot?"

"No, she had been in a fight…" Liberty caught herself just in time. "With someone at work, and she was feeling pretty miserable."

"Are you sure it was someone she worked with? It wasn't Christopher?"

Liberty was silent a moment. Jessica sensed her hesitation, and told her, "It's okay, Liberty. You can talk to me. I won't tell Carla you did."

Liberty relaxed and poured out the story, "She was fighting with Chris. They were going to get a divorce. Chris was getting really mad at her for going out every night. He and Morgan Blackstock were always really close, and Daisy didn't like that. He would go and talk with Morgan whenever Daisy went out with us. Carla was afraid if we told you and the sheriff the truth, he would think that Daisy killed Chris. And then Morgan. But she didn't, Mrs. Fletcher! I know she didn't! She's not like that!" The girl was becoming hysterical.

"It's all right, Liberty. I believe you. I don't think that Daisy killed her husband and Morgan, and neither does the sheriff." Jessica said soothingly, and Liberty calmed down. Jessica stood, ready to leave.

"You won't tell Carla, will you?" she asked Jessica at the door.

"No, I won't." Jessica replied.

"Thank you." She said softly, as Jessica started off back to her house.

Jessica stopped on the path on the way to her door to admire her garden a bit. She had seen Seth's car parked out front on her way in and felt a certain sense of security knowing he was there. But she also felt compelled to quite literally stop and smell her roses. She walked into her garden to admire her handiwork a bit more closely.

Seth had seen her from the kitchen window, as he'd been in the kitchen tidying up a bit. He gave her a few moments alone before going outside to the garden to greet her.

"Now, what are you doing out here all alone?" he asked her, sitting next to her on a little bench.

Jessica looked up, just catching Seth's eyes with her own burdened, blue ones.

"What's wrong, Jess?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing, Seth. I'm just thinking."

"'Bout what?"

Jessica looked at him in surprise, her eyes growing wider. "About this case. I just wish we could solve it before someone else gets hurt, Seth." Her chin dropped a bit, dropping her glance to the grass. "Last night was…just way too close. Seth, I have the strangest feeling that something else is going to happen."

Seth wrapped his arms around her. "Nothing's going to happen, Jess. Last night was close, yes, but they haven't tried again, have they? Doesn't that make you feel at least a little safer?"

"Much," she replied, laying her head on his shoulder. Several silent moments passed, each of them thinking of different things. Seth, Jessica's safety and Jessica trying to tie the murders together and assign motives for a faceless, nameless murderer. She yawned and looked up at Seth.

"This garden needs weeding," she told him, smiling.

"You need a nap," he told her. "Go on. Get some sleep. Things should be quiet for a while. How many murders can we have in 48 hours?"

Jessica's eyelids flew wide open at that remark, and she stared silently at Seth.
"Poor choice of words," he told her. "Go on up to bed. It'll be fine. I'll be up soon to sit with you."
"Seth, you don't need to-- "
"I know, but I want to. Let's go," he said, taking her hand. "It's about time you had a good sleep without anything to worry about. All this stress isn't good for you, you know."
Jessica relented and was asleep merely minutes after lying down, Seth sitting beside her, holding her hand.
Seth began to nod off, but was wide-awake when he felt Jessica flinch, and looked down at her face to try to understand what was going on. She moved around a bit, her face telling him that she was in great distress. He felt a pang through his heart. He didn't want to sit and watch her suffer. She started to roll over, and he decided she'd suffered enough.
"Jessica," he said softly, taking her by the shoulders. "Jessica, wake up."
Jessica's eyes flew open, misty and more burdened now than before.
"I can't do it anymore, Seth. This can't keep happening," she said, sitting up and drawing her knees into her chest.
"Jessica, what happened this time?" he asked her, moving next to her and putting an arm around her shoulders.
"I'd rather not talk about it, Seth," she replied, running her fingers through her hair and glancing at the clock next to her bed. "Would you like to stay for dinner?" She got up, and walked toward the door, Seth following her closely every step of the way. "Could you follow a little further behind, Seth? Give me a little breathing room, at least."
"Jessica, you've got to talk to me."
"If I'm not mistaken, Seth, I don't HAVE to talk to you about this dream."
"Well, you SHOULD talk to someone about it."
"Fine. I'm about to call Mort," she reached the kitchen about this time and picked up the receiver. Instead of a dial tone, she heard silence.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Mrs. F?" Mort replied. "I didn't even hear the ring."
"No, me neither."
There was a slight pause before Jessica asked him, "Has there been another murder?"
"Yes, I'm afraid there was." Mort said after a moment of silence.
"But that's not possible! I only just had the dream!"
Seth stared at Jessica, completely baffled.
"What dream? The same nightmare?" Mort asked, concerned.
"Well, not exactly the same." She replied, and Seth noticed her hand shaking. He took it, and held it between his two, a gesture to tell her he was there for her.
"Is Seth there?" Mort asked.
"Yes, yes of course he's here." Jessica told him.
"Good. I want him to stay with you. Let me talk to him for a minute."
Jessica handed the phone to Seth. "What is it, Mort?" he asked. After listening for a few minutes, he hung up and turned to Jessica.
"What's happened now?"
"Anthony Powell, was found dead in his car on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean out on State Route Six."
"How?"
"Mort wouldn't tell me. We best get out there." He told her, taking her hand and leading her out to his car. hr

When they arrived, Mort and his deputies were searching the area around the car for any sign of footprints, or tire tracks, anything that might help them. Seth and Jessica immediately went to the car to examine the body. Mort caught Jessica before they reached it.
"Mrs. F. I wouldn't go over there if I were you." He said.
But she pulled away and followed Seth, peering over his shoulder as he pulled back the sheet that covered Anthony Powell. She gave an anguished cry and her knees gave out. Seth caught her in his arms and knelt on the ground, holding her as tight as he could. Mort came and sat next to them.
"I should have told you before. I'm so sorry, Mrs. F."
Jessica's face was white as a sheet, and her voice shook as she looked up at Seth an asked,
"What's happening to this town? Was he… was he really…?"
"Yes," he murmured, so softly Mort almost didn't hear him. "He was scalped."
"Seth, I can't do this anymore. I just can't take it…" she clung to him, sobbing. In all the years he had been a doctor, he had never felt so helpless. There was nothing he could do to ease her pain. So they sat on the ground for several long minutes before Jessica composed herself and pulled back. Seth and Mort stood, then helped Jessica to her feet. They each put an arm around her, and supported her between them.
"You should just take her home, Seth." Mort said.
"No, Seth. I'll be all right." Jessica spoke up. "It was just a shock."
"Jessica, you've had a very rough day. Mort is right. It's best that you and I go home."
Mort spoke up. "We've all had a rough day. I mean, from you getting shot at Doc, to…" he stopped short as he realized what he'd said.
"You, what?" Jessica asked, gazing at him sternly.
"I… got shot at. When you went to Liberty's, I followed and someone took another shot at me." He replied, glaring at Mort.
"Why didn't you tell me Seth? You know I worry about you…" she trailed off, and suddenly began to smile. "Oh, I'm sorry, Seth. I understand now what you felt when I didn't tell you about my nightmare."
"And I'm sorry, Jess. I was only trying to spare you some stress." He replied hugging her. hr

It was late in the evening when Seth and Jessica got back to her house. They cooked dinner together and afterward, washed the dishes.
"Jess," Seth said as he wiped the last dish dry, "Why don't you go get ready for bed. I'll finish cleaning up in here."
Jessica was so exhausted, that for once she didn't argue. "Seth, you're not going to go home, are you?" she asked him.
"Absolutely not!" he said. "I'll sleep in the guest room."
She went upstairs, and soon after he came up and sat on the edge of her bed. He took her hand.
"Try to get some rest, Jess. If you have any dreams at all, come and wake me up."
"All right, Seth. Thank you for everything," she replied.
He bent down and kissed her goodnight, and soon she was fast asleep. He stayed with her until he was sure she would be okay, then went to his room.
It seemed as though he had just fallen asleep, when he heard the door open. He opened his eyes and found Jessica in the doorway.
"What's wrong?" He held out his arms to her.
"I'm ready to talk about my dream now." hr

"Jess, that's terrible!" Seth said, tightening his arms around a sobbing Jessica when she was finally finished explaining her latest nightmare. "It was truly the same thing as the real murder?"
"Seth it was bad enough to see it the first time in the nightmare, and then out there on State Route Six…" her voice faded into sobs.
"Shhh, it's all right, Jess. You're gonna get through this." Seth winced at the thought of her nightmare, and the fact that she had to go through the same thing on the highway made his heart beat faster with the anger that he felt. Why was all this happening to Jessica? The nightmares. The murders. Enough was enough. "Jess, if I could switch places with you, I would. I—"
"Don't you say that, Seth," Jessica replied, looking up at him, tears still falling slowly down her cheeks. "No, you don't deserve these nightmares at all, and I'd do everything I could to stop them if it was you having these nightmares instead of me. Just like you're doing. And I love that you're here, Seth. Thank you."
"Jess, you don't deserve it either. I just wish there were something I could do to—"
"You're doing it, Seth. Just that you're here is wonderful," she stopped crying and forced a smile, despite the pain she still felt.
"Well, I'm glad to do what I can. But that Sheriff of ours is something else!" Seth chuckled and then turned serious. "He's really worried about you, too, Jess."
"I know. I'll talk to him in the morning."
"And tell him the truth, I hope."
"And what truth do you want me to tell him?"
"That you're NOT 'all right' or 'just fine', Jess. He's worried about you, and we both know what that's like. Tell him the truth, and he'll be less worried."
"He did seem sort of like an adolescent awaiting a geometry test," Jessica said, bringing a smile to her face, momentarily pushing the nightmare and real murder to the back of her mind. She stretched and yawned, adding, "I suppose I better at least try get some sleep."
"I'll let you sleep in the morning," Seth said, scooting out of the bed himself and pulling the covers over the almost-asleep Jessica. He sat down again at the foot of the bed watching her as she fell asleep, a serene smile on her face.
The next morning, Jessica awoke to find Seth lying across the foot of the bed, fast asleep. She smiled to herself, and quietly got out of bed. She got dressed and went downstairs. As she was cooking breakfast, there was a knock at the door. She opened it to find Ray Lee on her doorstep.
"Come in, Ray. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"
"No thanks, Mrs. Fletcher. I can't stay long, but I have to talk to you." He said coming in and sitting down at the kitchen table. "It's about the murders."
"What about them, Ray?"
"I think I know what ties them all together. It's the animals."
"What do the animals mean, Ray?" Jessica asked.
"It was a secret 'club' that we made."
Chris, Morgan, Anthony, Rachel and I, all grew up in the same orphanage in Portland. We were best friends, and we made a pact. If we were ever separated we would stay in touch, and not forget the person who had been taken away. When we graduated High School, we decided that we wanted to go to college in Cabot Cove. Chris was dating Daisy and he convinced her to come with us. We hadn't been here very long when Rachel disappeared."
"Did you ever find out what happened to her?" Jessica questioned.
"No, she just vanished. We searched for years, and eventually just gave up on her. We figured that she was either dead, or just wanted to live her own life without us."
"Ray, do you have any idea why someone would be going after the four of you now? Was anyone against this animal club thing?"
"Well, Daisy Mills was always a little jealous of us. Especially Morgan, because she and Chris were really close."
"Do you think it could be Daisy that's behind all this?"
"I guess anything is possible, but I don't think it's Daisy. Whoever it is, they must be crazy."
Jessica agreed. "It's hard to imagine something so heartless and brutal could happen in Cabot Cove."
"I've got to get going, Mrs. Fletcher. Thanks for listening."
"Thank you for coming to talk to me. Be careful, Ray. You're still in danger if this person is coming after the entire animal club."
He nodded, and left the house. Jessica shut the door behind him and turned to see Seth in the doorway behind her.
"Seth!" she gasped. "You startled me."
"I'm sorry. How'd you sleep?"
"Just fine. But you'll never guess who was just here."
"Mort, and he's caught the killer?" he asked hopefully.
"No. Ray Lee, and we had an interesting conversation about those animal charms." She said and quickly told Seth about the rest of the conversation.
"That is odd. We should warn Metzger to keep an eye on Ray." Seth said.
Suddenly, Jessica cried out and her hand went to her forehead. She began to fall, and Seth was across the room in two steps to catch her.
"Jess, what is it? What's happened?"
She looked up at him, pure terror in her eyes.
"It's too late, Seth. Ray's gone."
"How do you know?" he asked, a chill creeping down his spine.
"I saw it. It wasn't even a dream this time. It was a vision. We've got to call Mort."
"Jessica," Seth complained as they were walking to the Sheriff's office. "How can you know for sure—"
"Where's the Sheriff?" Jessica asked the deputy when she didn't see Mort.
"He got a call," the deputy replied. "Actually, he's out looking you. I think he got worried when you weren't home. He hasn't even been to the scene, yet."
"Well, could you let him know I'm here?" Jessica asked.
"Sure thing, Mrs. Fletcher."
"Seth," Jessica said, turning to him and leaning against Mort's desk. "I just KNOW something's happened to Ray Lee."
"How? How do you know?" Seth asked somewhat angrily.
"I saw it, Seth. He was just lying there in the road with—" she paused for a moment. "With a bullet in his chest. Seth what's going on in this town? People are taking shots at other people and killing each other for no apparent reason. It just makes no sense!" She sat in a chair in front of Mort's desk.
Seth, in an effort to comfort her, walked over and placed his hands on her shoulder.
"I know, Jess," he said, unsure of what comfort it would bring or what else to say.
"Mrs. Fletcher!"
She looked up. It was Mort.
"Mort! I heard you were looking for me," she chuckled, momentarily forgetting about the current situation and bringing an unexpected smile to Seth's face as well.
"Where have you been? I've been looking for you."
"You forgot to check the most obvious, place," Seth said sarcastically.
"Apparently," Mort retorted, then turned to Jessica. "You have to tell me where you're going. Right now, you're in danger, and nothing's gonna harm you if I can help it. You have to stay safe, Mrs. F."
"Mort," Jessica said sweetly. "I appreciate your concern, but I'm perfectly fine. Isn't it enough that Seth refuses to leave me?" She asked with a wink toward Seth. "Anyway, that's not important right now. Something's happened to Ray Lee!"
"How do you--" Mort caught Seth's expression and stopped. "Nevermind. I have a feeling I don't want to know. Look, Mrs. F, the reason I was looking for you and Doc is because I got a call, about 10 minutes ago about some guy lyin' in the road up on State Route Six."
"Ray Lee," Jessica said. "Is he all right?"
"I don't know, I haven't been there. Let's go," Mort told her, gesturing towards the car. "Doc I went ahead and sent Doc Beckwith since I couldn't find you. If the guy's alive, he should be getting medical attention about now," Mort said opening the door and letting Jessica and Seth exit. "Andy, keep an eye on things, will ya?" he said, closing the door. hr
In the car on the way out to the highway, Seth turned to Jessica.
"Jess, what did you see in that vision?" he asked.
She shuddered and leaned against him. "I saw a gun; I heard a shot, and then saw Ray on the ground beside his car." She fell silent.
"We'll get through this Jess," he said putting his arms around her, "I promise."
Mort watched them in his rear-view mirror. They both looked exhausted, and he had never seen Jessica so dependent on another person. Something very strange was going on in Cabot Cove and it frightened him.
They arrived at the scene in time to see Dr. Beckwith stand up, and drape a sheet over the body of Ray Lee.
"Oh, no," Jessica cried. "Seth, I can't do this. Not again."
"I know. And you don't have to. It's not your job to solve this. Just leave it to Mort." Seth replied, slipping his arm around her waist and heading in the opposite direction from the body. They stood together for a moment, gazing out to the sea. Then Mort joined them.
"He's gone. There was nothing anyone could do. Bullet to the chest just like you said, Mrs. F. However, he managed to write with his blood on the side of the car. There's three letters, 'E-L-E.' I don't know what it means. Do you?"
Both Seth and Jessica shook their heads. Mort walked away to help his deputies.
"Seth," Jessica said quietly. "I…I'd like to go home, Seth."
"Of course, dearest. Let's go home." hr

"What are you doing up, woman? You missed several hours of sleep last night. Why not go to bed early?" Seth asked, looking at Jessica sitting at her kitchen table arranging wooden tiles in different orders on a scrabble board appearing not to have slept for days.
She dropped the tile to the table and looked up at Seth.
"I can't, Seth. I can't help but think there's something that we're missing. Something that should be obvious. Something that if I weren't so tired I would've seen right away." She put her elbows on the table and rested her head in her hands. "What is it?"
"Jessica," Seth started, sitting next to her and choosing a few tiles. "How about a game of Scrabble. It'll be good to get your mind off this murder business."
Jessica raised her head and looked at him confusedly, then smiled.
"I suppose you're right. It would take my mind off things to beat you in a good game of scrabble."
"Beat me? You must be mistaken, woman."
"Oh really? When was the last time you used the word 'zephyrs' in a game of Scrabble, Seth? Triple points for using all my letters." She winked at him and drew 7 tiles.
They'd been playing for about an hour, Jessica frequently making words like, "bear", "pig", "monkey", and "giraffe" on one lucky turn, when Seth finally said, "Well a lot of good this did. It's not getting your mind off things, you're just dwelling on it."
"But I think it's helping, Seth. Some things are beginning to come together. I just have to figure out how to prove it."
"Prove what?" Seth asked, laying down his tiles.
Jessica stared at the board in amazement, her eyes growing wider.
"What'd I say, Jess?" Seth asked, seeing the look on her face.
"I was wrong, Seth," she replied, look down at his newly placed tiles. "Do you see that, too?"
"All I see is the word 'trunk'," Seth said confusedly.
"Yes," Jessica said, looking up at him, her eyes still wide. "And what animal has a trunk?"
"An elephant?"
"Of course!" Jessica said, her eyes lighting up, her exhaustion disappearing. "Seth, we have to talk to Mort. Now," she told him, getting up for her coat.
"What?"
"I'll explain when we get there, Seth. Let's go!"
But just as she stepped out her front door, a shot was fired.
Jessica froze. The bullet had hit the molding of the door, not six inches from her. Seth pulled her back into the house and slammed the door shut. She turned to face Seth, her eyes wide with fear.
"Are you all right, Jess?" he asked, as it was all he could think to say.
"No!" she shrieked, her nerves finally breaking, "I can't do this anymore! I can't, I can't, I can't! My own home isn't safe anymore! I never imagined something like this could ever happen here, Seth; not in Cabot Cove. I always thought it was the safest place in the world, and now I can't even step out my front door without being shot at! Seth, I just can't do this…" she began to cry, as she hadn't cried in a long time. Seth held her in his arms and let her cry.
After all, there was nothing else he could do.
When Jessica calmed down, he led her into the living room and sat her down on the couch, closing the curtains so anyone who might be outside, couldn't see in. Going into the kitchen, he put on a pot of tea, and called Mort at the sheriff's station.
"Mort, we've been shot at again. I want you to post a deputy outside the house."
"I plan on it. The two of you all right?"
"Physically. Jess is taking this really hard. It's too much for a person to handle. I'm surprised the pressure didn't get to her before this. Mort, if anything else happens…I don't know if she'll be able to make it through. We've got to do something. I can't lose her."
"I know it," Mort said, "And I wish I knew what to do."
Seth hung up after saying good-bye, and turned around. Jessica was in the doorway behind him. She said not a word, but went straight to him and threw her arms around his neck.
"You won't lose me," she said almost inaudibly, "I'm not ready to leave you yet. But if something does happen to me, I'll always be with you. Here." She said placing her hand over his heart.
Seth wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close so she couldn't see the tears forming in his eyes.
"Nothing's gonna happen to you, Jess. You'll make it through. That's why I'm here, remember?"
Jessica nodded, still clinging to Seth.
"Jessica, I wasn't going to do this," Seth started hesitantly. "But you're exhausted and I think it will be the only way for you to get some sleep…"
"Oh, Seth, no, I don't need…"
"Now just listen, woman. You haven't had a decent night's sleep in weeks. It'll help, and you need to sleep. You look positively exhausted."
Jessica, letting go of Seth, started toward the stairs.
"Let me know when Mort gets here, please. I'd like to talk to him."
"Jessica…"
"Yes, Seth…I want to sleep. A sedative would be perfect. But not until I know someone's out there protecting you. After all, if I'm not awake there has to be someone looking out for you." She grinned at him and started slowly up the stairs.
"Ayuh," Seth chuckled, and went to work putting the scrabble board away. He had just finished putting the lid on the box when the doorbell rang. He cautiously walked to the door.
"Who is it?" he called out.
"It's Mort."
"Come on in, Mort," Seth said, opening the door.
"Jessica's upstairs getting ready to sleep. I have to run home and see if I've got anything there to help her sleep. You'll stay here for awhile, won't you?"
"Of course. Should I just stay down here or…"
"She wants to talk to you. Go on up," Seth turned the doorknob and started to leave, but he turned back to Mort, adding, "Try to discourage her from trying to find the answer to all this nonsense. I'm not sure how much longer she can keep it up."
"Well, Doc, you know as well as I do that when Mrs. F gets something in her head…"
"I know…It's hard to discourage her. But I really hope she'll listen this time." He closed the door behind him and went out to his car.
"Mrs. F?" Mort called up the stairs.
"Come on up, Mort," Jessica yelled to him. "I'm just putting the last few pieces together."
"Few pieces!" Mort repeated as he walked up the stairs.
When he got to Jessica's room her found her in a chair, leaning over the bed, upon which were scattered the few charms found at the various murder sites.
"It's beginning to come together," she told him. "We've been looking past this to Daisy Mills the whole time and it was right under our noses. Obviously they all grew up in Portland. What do children give to their childhood best friends?"
"Nicknames?" Mort questioned.
"That--" Jessica said, "and something to symbolize their friendship, right? Necklaces, bracelets, little trinkets."
"So with this group, it was the charms, pins, and clothing, right?"
"Exactly. Now, I've got some of it figured out, but there are still a few pieces that don't fit."
"Like what?"
"Like where Rachel Bolger is now."
"Rachel Bolger? Isn't that the one you said disappeared in the early 80's?"
"Yes. But if this pattern keeps going the way it is, she'll be next. And, of course, that still leaves the question of who else knew them when they were younger."
"Whoa…Mrs. F, you need to relax. Doc would be furious at me if he got here and you're trying to piece this whole thing together."
"Nonsense. I'm perfectly fine, just a little tired. And Seth's planning on taking care of that."
"Still. How do you expect to find out where Rachel Bolger is now?"
Jessica raised her eyebrows.
"Me?"
"Who else? Mort, this is important. You don't want someone else to end up dead, do you?"
"And who's to say she's not dead already?"
"I don't know. I just have a hunch."
"That still leaves a lot uncovered, Mrs. Fletcher. I mean, why kill them in that order? Christopher Mills, Morgan Blackstock, Anthony Powell, Ray Lee. Why kill them at all? And what's with all the different murder weapons? The knife, the gun…It seems like we've still got a lot to figure out. Why don't you get some rest and the boys and I will work on that."
"You know you're beginning to get as bad as Seth? As for the order…I…I'm not sure. The different murder weapons could simply be an attempt to make them all look like separate crimes. They're all detached, this way. I think your first step is to find out who Rachel Bolger's physician was. Maybe he or she can tell us why Rachel suddenly disappeared. If it was for medical reasons…"
"Yes, Mrs. F. I get the picture."
"Good. Is there anyone else that grew up with them that could tell us anything?" Jessica paused for a moment before snapping her fingers and saying, "Daisy Mills! That's it! Mort, we have to have another talk with Mrs. Mills. Maybe she'll know something about Rachel Bolger's disappearance. At least who her physician was, maybe."
"I was Rachel Bolger's Doctor," Seth said entering the room with his black bag and an annoyed look on his face. "You know, woman, you are going to kill yourself one of these days. Would you relax and let the Sheriff do his job? After all that's what he's paid to do."
"You were?"
"I was what?"
"Her doctor, Seth!"
"Ayuh. Since she was a baby. Grew up in Portland. The whole five of them."
"Seth! That's terrible!" Jessica cried.
"What?" Mort and Seth replied in unison.
"None of those shots were meant for me. Seth, they're after you!"
Mort and Seth's eyes grew large as they both stared at her, deep in thought.
"But why? What do you know about them, Seth?" Jessica asked him, wide-eyed.
"I…nothing beyond what's in their medical files," Seth muttered.
Jessica sighed. "But there has to be something that someone doesn't want found out. Why else would they go about shooting at people?"
"You think it has something to do with Rachel Bolger's disappearance?"
"I think that's a very good possibility."
"That's enough talk for now." Seth said. "Jess, you need to get some rest."
"All right, Seth. As long as there is a deputy outside."
"There is," Mort told her, "And there will be until this whole mess is cleared up." with that, he left for his house, and some sleep.
"Seth, I don't really think I need a sedative." Jessica said.
"Jessica, don't argue. You need to sleep."
"I know that. And believe me, I WANT to sleep. But I think I'll be okay without a sedative."
"Jess, you won't hear a thing with just a little shot. You can sleep soundly the whole night."
"Seth, I WANT to hear things. I WANT to know if you're in danger!"
Seth relented. "You win. Do you want me to stay with you?"
She nodded. "Yes, please." He sat beside her and she leaned against him, his warm presence soothing her.
"What happened to Rachel Bolger?" she asked suddenly.
"I can't answer that, Jess. I don't know." he replied.
"Why did all this happen to us, Seth? I mean, my nightmares, you nearly getting killed..." this last thought frightened her, and she held onto him a little tighter. Sensing her fear, he embraced her and kissed her softly.
"I'm not going anywhere." he told her. She didn't say anything, but he felt her relax a little in his arms.
"I don't know," he continued. "I can't think of a reason for this happening to us."
"What do you remember about Rachel Bolger's medical record?" Jessica asked him.
"Nothing important. She was always healthy."
"And never any mental problems?"
"No, not that I recall. How come you're so stuck on Rachel?"
"Ray Lee was trying to tell us something. I just wish I knew what!" she said sitting up, frustrated.
"Dearest, you're supposed to be resting," he said, pulling her close to him again. Jessica was just drifting off to sleep, feeling perfectly safe enfolded in Seth's arms when suddenly they both heard a crash downstairs. It was a though a stack of books had fallen of the shelf. Jessica and Seth both jumped when the sound reached their ears. Jessica, quicker than usual, was on her feet, stepping into her slippers.
"What are you doing, woman?" Seth whispered, finally getting up himself and stepping between Jessica and the door.
"Seth, did you hear that?" she asked him softly.
"Of course I heard it. I think half of the people in the Cabot Cove cemetery heard it."
Jessica put a finger to her lips, telling Seth to be quiet and walked around him, into the hallway.
"Wait a minute!"
Jessica shushed hum and continued slowly down the hallway. Seth quickly caught up with her at the head of the stairs.
"Jessica," he whispered. "I'm not letting you go down there."
"You're not LETTING me?" Jessica asked, her eyes wide. "Seth, this is my house, and besides, they're after YOU, remember?"
Seth stared blankly at her, unable to comment.
"I think that shuffling noise is coming from the living room," Jessica told him and started down the stairs.
Seth caught up with her halfway down the stairs and took hold of her arm.
"Jessica," he whispered, looking ahead of them.
"Shouldn't we call Mort?"
"They could get away in that time!"
"How do you plan to keep them here, now, Jess? Offer him some cookies?"
Jessica's shoulders drooped. "I guess you're right, Seth. I am being foolish, but there's someone in there! I can't wait around for the Sheriff!"
Just then, they saw a shadow on the wall coming towards them.
"Seth! Look!" Jessica said, a little too loudly, pointing at the shadow on the wall.
"Jessica, go upstairs," Seth said, almost too loudly.
"Seth, I can't—"
"Now!" Seth said, walking toward the shadow.
Jessica sank down on the steps, not wanting to further anger Seth, but not wanting to be far away if something happened and he needed her.
Seth disappeared around the corner, and she sat, eyes wide, staring into darkness. She sat up straighter, listening for sounds, but all she heard were vague murmurs. She started nervously wringing her hands, but she heard laughter and saw a light come on in the kitchen. But it wasn't Seth's laughter. She stood up and walked cautiously down the hallway and to the kitchen.
"Hey, Mrs. Fletcher," Andy Broom greeted her, still laughing.
"Jessica," Seth started, grinning, barely able to contain his laughter. "There's your burglah."
Jessica's wide-eyes went back and forth between the two of them, and once she had recovered from the shock a few moments later, she began to laugh as well.
"I didn't mean to frighten you. It was just getting a little cold outside. I didn't think you'd mind if I came in." Andy said to Jessica.
"Oh, it's all right. I guess we're all a little jumpy."
"Back to bed for you, my dear." Seth said to Jessica.
"All right, Seth." She said, as he led her from the room and up the stairs. "Good night Andy," she called back to him.
"Good night Mrs. Fletcher!" hr

Upstairs, in Jessica's room, she settled back into bed. Seth lingered near the door, unsure of whether she wanted him to stay or not. Jessica wasn't so sure herself. Then the wind began to pick up outside, blowing eerily through the trees around the house. Her decision made, she held out her hand to him. He crossed the room, and took his place beside her once again.
"How long can this go on, Seth?" she asked him, "I mean, how long before the murderer slips?"
"I don't know, Jess. But don't think about it now. Just get some sleep." He said.
"You're right, as usual." She said smiling at him.
It wasn't long before she was asleep. Seth smiled to himself and tucked the covers up around her before turning off the light and drifting off to sleep. hr

A few hours later, Jessica awoke with a start.
Seth sleepily opened his eyes.
"What is it dearest? Another nightmare?" he asked, preparing to comfort her if she broke down again.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I've woken you up."
"That's why I'm here. For you when you need me."
She kissed him softly. "Thank you. But this dream was different, Seth. There was no knife; there were no people. Just animals."
"Animals?" Seth asked, confused.
"Yes, baby animals. A baby pig, giraffe, monkey, and bear. Then the elephant came…" Jessica said, sounding a bit dazed.
"The elephant came," Seth prompted her.
"The elephant came and trampled them all. All those poor little animals died." All of a sudden, it hit her and she snapped out of her trance. "Seth! That's it! This dream gave me the answer! It was Rachel Bolger!"
But Seth wasn't paying attention to her, for he had just realized something too. "Jessica, I delivered them! All five of them were born in the Portland Hospital, and I delivered ALL of them!"
"Then that's why Rachel went after you! What else do you remember."
"There was this one time, when they were all about 12, Morgan was going to be adopted. That was when they made that pact Ray told you about. Morgan was getting a check-up before she got adopted, and the other four insisted on coming into the room with her. Chris was very broken up about it, because he and Morgan were really close. Rachel came up with the idea for the pact. If one of them got taken away, they wouldn't forget each other. They would keep in touch no matter where they were. They wouldn't give up on their friendship. Morgan's adoption didn't go through in the end, and no one tried to adopt any of them again. What is it, Jess?"
Her eyes had been growing wider and wider as he spoke. "Seth, I know what the motive is."
"What?" he asked incredulously.
"They gave up on her, Seth. Ray told me that himself. When Rachel disappeared, they searched for a while, then gave up on her! That's why she killed them all!"
"How do you know? And why come after me?"
"I don't know why you. Only Rachel knows that, but we have to find her before she finds you." Jessica said, now wide-awake.
"Mrs. F, that's not much to go on," Mort replied after Jessica had finished explaining her theory about Rachel Bolger to him. "I mean, 'It appeared to Jessica Fletcher in a dream' isn't exactly the kind of evidence I can use in court."
"Yes, but what other possible explanation--"
"It could be coincidence," Mort bluntly interrupted her.
"Coincidence?" Seth interrupted, placing a hand on Jessica's shoulder. "Then why would someone be shooting at Jessica?"
Jessica rested her hand on one of Seth's and said softly, "or shooting at Seth."
"That's another thing that doesn't fit," Mort said, standing up nervously. "We don't really know who this person or persons was shooting at." He finished with finality and sat again, satisfied that he'd stumped them.
"What possible explanation--" Jessica began, then paused. "You're not suggesting someone's coming after me because I found them guilty of murder?" she said, more as a statement of incredibly outrageous proportions than a question.
"It's possible, Mrs. F."
"But not likely."
"Could be, Jess," Seth spoke up.
"Oh, Seth, not you, too," Jessica said, a little disappointed. "Seth delivered them all," Jessica said, turning to Mort. "Maybe..." she paused, and the two men leaned closer to her, waiting for more. "Maybe there is something someone doesn't want found out, something they expected Seth to remember!"
"Like what, Jess?" Seth asked. "I don't know," Jessica sighed. After thinking a moment, she added, "I just don't think Seth should be left alone."
"Now, Jessica--" Seth started, but was interrupted when Jessica continued.
"And away from my house. They know he's there. Rachel Bolger, somehow, knows. It's not safe."
"But what about you, Jess?" Seth asked, concerned.
"Seth, they're not after ME. But anyway, I don't intend to leave you."
"Wait a minute!" Mort said, catching both their attentions. "Do I have anything to say about this?"
Seth and Jessica glanced at each other, then looked to Mort.
"We'll post guards outside Doc's house, and Mrs. Fletcher, you can stay there with him."
"Glad to see you using your brain, Sheriff," Seth grunted sarcastically.
"Be careful, you two," Mort replied, brushing off the insult. "Even with guards posted..."
"Of course, Mort. Thank you," Jessica said, standing up. Seth came and put an arm around her waist, walking out with her. When they had reached the door, she stopped, turned around and said, "I think I know how to prove it, now. But I'm going to need both of you to help." hr
Later that night, around 11pm, Jessica and Seth stood outside the door to the guestroom in Jessica's house. Andy had taken his car home, and went back to the house on foot.
"I can't believe I'm actually letting you do this," Jessica said.
"Jessica, I'll be fine. And you said yourself, it's the only way." Seth replied.
"But it's dangerous…" she began but he placed a finger over her lips to silence her.
"Not with Mort and Andy in the next room. They'll catch her before she even gets near me."
Jessica gave in. He was right, there was no other way, but she hated to think that she was putting him in danger. Seth saw the mixture of love, worry, and guilt in her eyes and he pulled her into a tight embrace.
She clung to him, afraid to let him go.
"I'll be all right, Jess." He told her softly. "And after tonight, all this will be over and you, my darling, can return to living a normal life."
Seth gently pushed her back and looked deep into her eyes. "I'll always be with you. Here." He told her, placing his hand over her heart as she had done the day before. She smiled at him despite the tears that welled in her eyes and began to stream down her face. "Shh…Jessica, everything will be all right." He said, hugging her close again.
"Promise?" she asked him tearfully.
"I promise." He replied, "The sooner we start the sooner all this will be over," he reminded her.
"I know," she said, pulling back and regaining her composure. "I'm sorry. This has all been very frightening."
"Nothing to be sorry about. I understand. Now, go and wait with Mort and Andy."
She nodded and turned away to go down the hall, when suddenly she pivoted to face him again.
"I love you, Seth."
"I love you, too." He told her, embracing her tightly and kissing her lovingly.
Then, he turned and disappeared into his room. Jessica joined Mort and Andy in her room.
"Everything all right, Mrs. F?" Mort asked.
"Yes, Mort. Although I still can't believe I'm letting him do this."
"Don't you want to catch Rachel?"
"Of course I do. It's just…" she trailed off.
"I know." Mort told her.
They fell silent, listening for the sound of Rachel breaking into the house. An hour passed. In his room, Seth fought to stay awake. He thought back to the last few days, wondering what he would have done, had things turned out differently. He sincerely hoped that Rachel would show up, so Jessica wouldn't have to suffer anymore. His thoughts were interrupted by a sound that was barely audible from behind his closed door.
In the next room, the other three had heard it too: the scratch of a lock being picked, and a few minutes later, footsteps on the stairs.
"Mort," Jessica whispered, suddenly overcome with panic. "Seth--"
"Shhh," Mort replied, motioning for her to back up a little. "He'll be fine."
"But he--" Jessica whispered, walking closer to the door. "I can't let him do this alone. There are just so many risks, I--" she put a hand on the door knob and began to turn it.
"Mrs. F," Mort whispered almost inaudibly, taking her hand from the door, and steeping between her and the door. "He'll be fine. Why don't you go sit on the bed over there and try to relax a little?"
"Relax?" Jessica whispered. "With Seth in there about to confront a killer?"
"I know. It's not something that any of us wants, but Doc wouldn't let us do this any other way. Sit tight and help us listen for her. Silently."
Jessica nodded and sat down on the foot of her bed. She listened. There were footsteps in the hallway. Her heart beat faster as the footsteps got louder and she heard a door open. She leaned her head forward and listened intently for anything. Nothing. Her heart beat faster, and she felt as though it would burst at any second. Her head felt heavy, and the room was spinning. She saw things happening around her, but couldn't hear anything. She laid down on the bed in an attempt to calm her dizziness. hr
She vaguely saw herself standing with Mort after a murder in the Cabot Cove in the early 80's and heard Mort saying, "I said do me a favor, please, and tell me what's going on in this town?"
"Sheriff, I'm sorry." Jessica began.
She was interrupted when Mort interjected with, "I've been here one year, this is my fifth murder. What is this? The death capital of Maine? On a per-capita basis, this place makes the South Bronx look like Sunnybrook Farm!"
"I assure you, Sheriff..." Jessica tried to continue.
"I mean, is that why Tupper quit? He couldn't take it anymore? Somebody really should've warned me, Mrs. Fletcher. Now, now perfect strangers are comin' to Cabot Cove to die. I mean, look at this guy. You don't' know him. I don't know him. He has no ID. We don't know the first thing about him!" Mort finished.
Even through all his tantrums and thoughtless fits, Jessica knew Mort cared about her and valued her opinions.

The screen of her mind was then filled with images of Seth.
"Oh, Jess," he said, lying in his hospital bed after a battle with rat poison.
"Oh, Seth. You know you're the last person I ever expected to see in a hospital bed. How are you feeling?" Jessica asked him, taking his hand.
"God awful. My stomach seems to be hosting some sort of barbecue…" he replied.
Jessica looked down to hide her tears from Seth, but to no avail. He quickly saw them and lifted a hand to wipe them off her cheek, saying, "Whoa, now! There, there. What's this?"
"I'm sorry. I was just deathly worried," she told him, prompting a chuckle from each.
"'Bout what? Just a…touch of indigestion. Must be that new diet. My system simple can't abide healthy food."
"Then you don't know?"
"Know? Know what?"
"It was poison."
"Poison? Are they sure?"
"It was some thing you ate or drank just before you keeled over."
"The apple!"
"What?"
"There were some apples in a little basket on your kitchen table, I didn't think you'd mind if I…If I took one…"

"Come on, woman," Seth said impatiently, holding a ringing phone to his ear.
Jessica, hearing the phone, but busy working, finally walked over and picked it up, saying, "Hello, this is Jessica Fletcher. I'm sorry, I can't come to the phone at the moment, but I'm busy working. If you'll please leave your name and number, and I will get back to yo-"
"Jess?" Seth interrupted. "You do not have an answering device. Talk to me!"
"Seth? What's wrong?"
"Winnie is here. IN my house."
"Well, why are you whispering?"
"She wants to stay here. She's afraid of her husband." Jessica rolled her eyes and kept silent.
"Jess, do you hear me? She wants to SLEEP here! Help me!"
"Seth, look, I feel sorry for Winnie…"
"Winnie? What about me?"
"Look, If she'd come to me for help, I would've taken her in, but she didn't, Seth. She came to YOU for help."
"Because I'm closer. Closer, woman! I'm a victim of geography!"
"Seth, please."
"Jessica, this is a small town, VERY small town. The tongues wag like puppy dogs' tails!"
"Look, Seth, I'm sorry. Look, I have got a book to finish, and it has to be finished TONIGHT. Now, please, if there's any mercy in your soul--"
"All right. All right. But I fall victim to some irate husband, my blood, will be on your hands!"
"Seth?" she asked, then hung up, turning back to her typing.

"You keep that smile right there where it belongs!" Jessica told Seth with a smile.
"On my honor. Unless we run into Amos, and then all bets are off!" Seth replied

"Howdy, Jess," Seth said to her, chuckling. "Looks like Metzger's got his hands full with that friend of yours."
"Well, forget Metzger. You and I need to have a little talk." Jessica said slowly, full of meaning.
"Oh, now, Jess, about yesterday, I said some things I probably shouldn't have, I'm sorry, and I'd like to forget the whole incident."
"No, you don't, Seth Hazlitt. I've had some time to think, and I can't argue with a few of the things that you said."
"A few?"
"Well, a lot of them, I suppose."
"You suppose quite right. Just because I'm an opinionated, self-righteous, Yankee, chauvinist does not necessarily mean that I'm always wrong."
"Not all of the time. How about dinner tonight?"
"Your place or mine?"
"Mine!"
"What's on the menu?"
"Pot roast."
"Good. I'll bring the dessert."
"Rhubarb pie?"
"Have I ever brought anything else? See you 'round 7."

"Jessica what you do with your life is absolutely none of my business, and I tend to forget that." Seth said, coming into Jessica's kitchen after a fishing trip.
"And a good thing, too. Do you realize, Seth, that if I didn't have you to keep me on an even keel, than who? Out with it!" Jessica told him, shaking him jokingly.
"All right. You recall last month I asked you to go hiking with me up to Spooler's Mill?"
"Yes, and I wanted to go, you know that!"
"You had that article you wanted to finish," Seth interrupted. "And a couple months before that it was the fishing trip to Rockford, except you couldn't find any time for that, either."
"Well, I had this terribly important meeting with my accountant, and…"
"I'm sure it was very important, yes, I am. You know, Jess, I have arrived at an age—we both have—where I don't think we ought to have to rev the engine as hard as we used to."
"Well, are you saying that I'm working too hard?" Jessica asked defensively.
"I'm saying that's all you seem to have time for these days. Have you looked at your garden lately? The weeds are threatening to carry off the rhododendrons."
"Well, I…I've got a lot of obligations…"
"To whom, Jess? Now, a few years back, you needed this writing to help you get through the empty days and lonely nights. I know that; I went through it myself. But Frank's a long time gone, now, just like my Ruth, and another best-seller, or ten, is not going to fill that void."
"Seth, I know that…" Jessica replied, tears filling her eyes.
"Maybe yes, and maybe no. All I know is, if Frank Fletcher were still alive, you wouldn't be spendin' half your life chained to that typewriter and the other half chasin' 'round the country, no sir. You'd be out smelling the salt-air at sunrise."

"Jess?" she heard Seth saying as she woke up in the present, still half seeing and hearing all she had remembered. "Jess, are you all right?" he finished when she opened her eyes, laying a warm wash cloth on her forehead.
"Seth!" she said, struggling to sit up. "But what--?"
"Shhh," Seth said, gently laying her back down. "Don't sit up. You'll get dizzy again." He took her hand, partly to check her pulse, and partly to reassure her that he wasn't going anywhere. "You passed out last night."
"Well, yes, but--"
"Woman, can't you lie still?"
Jessica sighed.
"Well, obviously, I'm fine. And you'll be happy to know Mort and his minions caught Rachel Bolger trying to kill me."
"Good," Jessica said, shivering. "Where is Mort?"
"Home, I expect," Seth told her. "You've been out almost a full 24 hours."
"What?"
"Ayuh."
"Seth, what about--?"
"Rachel Bolger made a full confession this morning, Jess. Now, enough of this murder business. Lie down and relax. You've missed a lot of sleep, lately, Jessica. You deserve a break. And as your Doctor, I'm ordering you to rest."
"What about as a friend?" Jessica asked him suddenly.
"What about it, Jess?" Seth asked, confused.
"Will you do me a favor?"
"Anything."
"Let's go weed the garden," she said, taking the wash cloth off her forehead and slowly and carefully stepping out of her bed.
"Weed the garden?" Seth asked, getting up and taking her arm to steady her. "Why?"
"Then dinner," Jessica told him. "Pot roast."
"What?" Seth asked, thoroughly confused. By this time he had stopped walking with Jessica and stood in the doorway, not allowing her to exit.
"Could you make some of your delicious rhubarb pie, Seth?" Jessica said, the sparkle re-entering her eyes, and her face brightening.
Seth looked in her eyes and softened.
"Of course, Jess! But what is all this about?"
"Normalcy, Seth. Weeding the garden, sharing those wonderful dinners with you… it's all part of the normal pace of my life. And right now, I'd love nothing more than to simply weed my garden, cook a meal, and have dinner with you." She wrapped her arms around him saying, "Thank you, Seth. For always being there."
He kissed her and then took her hand. "I'm glad this is over for you, Jess," he said smiling and walking down the stairs with her to the kitchen to help the woman he loved become herself again and regain her "normal" routine.
"Hey, Mrs. F," Mort called, walking into the kitchen.
"Hello, Mort," Jessica replied, taking what kitchenware she needed from the cabinets. "We were just about to make dinner, would you like to join us?"
Seth coughed and stared at Jessica in disbelief. Jessica returned his stare with a glance in his direction, causing Seth to stand up straight and be quiet, at least for the moment.
"No thanks," Mort replied, not even catching the glances between Jessica and Seth. "I just wanted to drop by and make sure the two of you were okay now that this mess is over."
"Over?" Jessica asked. "What happens with Rachel Bolger?" she finished, sitting at the table and gesturing for Mort to do the same.
"She's pleading insanity," Mort said as he sat down.
Seth grunted and sat next to them. "I would hope so." Then, turning to Jessica, he added, "Are you sure you want to hear this now?"
"Why not?" she asked him with raised eyebrows.
"You've been through enough the past few days, I just thought..."
Smiling, Jessica took his hand in hers and turned back to Mort, an expectant expression on her face.
"Go on, Mort," she said.
"Well, in her confession, she said a lot of stuff that really doesn't make sense to me, Mrs. F., but you'll probably understand it fine."
Jessica nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"She said that the zoo left her behind. I'm tellin' you, she's a nutcake!"
"Ayuh," Seth piped in. "Something I can agree with."
"They stopped looking for her," Jessica said solemnly. "Their little group didn't stay together."
"They lost all the family they had?" Seth asked, as though he had caught on.
"SHE did, anyway," Jessica replied. "It must be terrible being so angry at your friends that you kill the people you love."
Mort nodded solemnly, and Seth put an arm around Jessica.
"Why don't you call Adelle and see if she want to come eat here, too, Mort?" Jessica suggested.
"Are you sure, Mrs. F? I mean, if you'd rather be by yourself…"
"Nonsense! Seth and I would love for the two of you to join us. Wouldn't we, Seth?" she added, staring at Seth.
"Huh? Oh, sure, sure," Seth replied, catching her glance. "Better get started on the rhubarb pie," he said, getting up and walking over to the cabinets.
"Thanks Mrs. F," Mort said, going into the living room to phone Adelle. "Adelle will sure appreciate this."
After he'd gone to the living room, Jessica stood next to Seth, assisting him with his many ingredients and bowls.
"Seth," she said suddenly and in such a way that Seth couldn't help but forget what he was doing and focus solely on her.
"Yes, dearest?" he said after a short silence had passed between them.
"If I was ever…"
"I'd never stop looking," he said before gently taking her in his arms and kissing her.
"Thank you, Seth," she whispered before laying her head on his shoulder and watching the sun set on the garden.
------The End------

written by: me, and, "completewithtypos"