(See the first chapter for disclaimer, notes, spoiler, etc.)
Chapter 41: "Servatis A Periculum"
Tim Kelly rushed through the courtyard of his apartment complex, soft yellow-orange lights guiding his way. The water of the community pool glowed ethereally, casting odd shadows that wrinkled the surrounding buildings. He rasped for breath as he mounted the staircase, hurrying up to his second floor apartment. His neighbor's dog began to bark as he passed, a grating yap that would no doubt have him banging on their shared wall if the little ankle biter kept it up.
But, for right now, he didn't care. He had work to do.
He reached in his pocket for his key ring, the keys jingling as he fumbled with the lock. His small apartment was shrouded in darkness and he fumbled for the light switch. "Let there be light," he muttered as he let the front door close behind him. He dropped his notepad on the coffee table as he passed through to the kitchen. With a grunt, he opened the refrigerator and leaned down, scanning the contents. He reached in for a carton of leftover Chinese, missing the shadow that passed over him.
The carton popped open and he sniffed tentatively, wrinkling his face after a long moment. "Ugh," he sighed, his face twisted in a grimace as he looked inside. It may have once been egg foo young, but he wasn't sure. It was hard to identify through the green fuzz that was growing on it.
He stood up, slamming the fridge door shut as he reached over to throw the carton out. As he did, a searing pain went through his side and he cried out. Stars danced in his vision as he doubled over, his hand flying to his left side. His groan segued to a hysterical pitch as his fingers grazed the handle of a knife embedded in him. He fell to his knees as the overhead light came to life and a pair of legs came into view. He looked up, his eyes moving over the thighs and waist. A young blonde woman crouched down, her hand coming to his shoulder. "It isn't nice to be stabbed from behind, is it?" she asked.
He exhaled sharply and slowly met her eyes. "Why?" he croaked. "Who are you?" Her mouth set as she cocked her head and, for a moment, he wondered if his natural tendency to ask questions had finally caught up to him. Her fingers danced down his arm and quickly moved to the handle, which she promptly twisted. He howled in agony, icy pain rolling through him. "Wh- what have I done?" he cried, a whimper clouding his question.
"Oh, Tim Kelly…what haven't you done?"
He shook his head as the panic racing through him nearly knocked him over. "I don't…understand."
"Don't worry," she cooed, reaching for his hand. "You will. Now, lean back." He fell back, the wooden cabinets cushioning his fall. As he moved, the knife wound in his side howled and he grimaced, stifling a cry. Something told him the blonde woman wouldn't appreciate it. He watched as she sat in one of the kitchen chairs and he winced as she said, "There…more comfortable, right?"
Tim nodded dumbly as he broke out in a cold sweat. His heart raced as she leaned over the table, her hands studiously folded. Blood was quickly soaking through his shirt, the material heavy and sticky. "Have we met at the station? WHOC?"
She shook her head, her blue eyes dancing wildly. "Save yourself the trouble of wondering, Tim Kelly. You've never had the privilege of meeting me." He nodded encouragingly and forced himself to lean in, flashing a shaky smile. She took the bait. "I'm Ruth. Ruth Richards. And, you have not been saying very nice things about my husband lately."
"Richards?" he gasped as nausea rose in his throat. He swallowed past it as his mind raced, struggling to understand. "You mean, Gregory Richards?"
"Of course, Gregory Richards." Her voice was clipped and her brow furrowed as she frowned. "Have you been slaughtering any other person named Richards in your columns lately?"
"I don't understand." His shaking hand came up to wipe the dripping sweat from his forehead. "Gregory Richards is married to Olivia Richards."
Ruth's hand came down on the table as she shrieked intelligibly. "Don't say her name!" she cried, repeatedly banging her fist on the surface. "That bitch isn't his wife! I am! I am Mrs. Gregory Richards!"
"Ok! Ok!" he shouted. Her breathing was ragged as she ran a hand through her short hair. "I'm…just c- confused," he said, causing her to look up slowly.
"He loves me," she declared, her eyes wide as she leaned in. "Me!"
"Right, right, of course he does. I'm sorry. It's just…been a b- busy day."
"Were you writing more lies about Gregory?"
"No," he said quickly, gesturing back to the living room. "No, I was covering his daughter's kidnapping."
"Kidnapping? What kidnapping?" He watched her face turn, her thin lips parted in surprise. "Caitlin was with me, where she belongs." A shiver crept up his spine and his mouth ran dry. "Well?" he heard her say, her voice high-pitched. "Why do you think she was kidnapped?" He sat quiet, truly at a loss for words as he watched her head fly up. "She reported me, didn't she! That bitch!"
"M-maybe the police got it wrong," he said urgently as she jumped up, shaking the table. He watched, his head swimming in nausea, as she began to pace the kitchen.
"She can't stand that Gregory loves me! That he's going to leave her and take the children with him! She's a bitter and vindictive woman! She uses those poor children to keep herself in his life!"
Slumped over, he nodded and said, "So, he's leaving Ol- her for you?"
She looked up, incredulous. "Of course. Haven't you been listening to a single word I've said? Gregory is the only man I've ever loved." Her face softened and she smiled, looking down bashfully as she asked, "Do you want to know how we met?"
An icy numbing sensation crept over him as he pressed his hand over the wound, applying pressure. "Yeah, sure. Of course."
With a happy sigh, she smoothed her hair down. "It was nearly three years ago," she began. "One of those happy coincidences that ends up changing your life, like what you see in the movies. It was a pouring rain and I was running up the sidewalk. I had to get to Darcy's and pick up an order for Mrs. Russell. Only she wasn't Mrs. Russell then, she was still Ms. Finch."
His ears perked up at the mention of Cashlin and he glanced nervously to the phone, sitting on the corner of the counter. "Naturally, I forgot my umbrella in the car and I was soaked. I was nearly at the bakery when my purse slipped out of my hands and fell. It spilled open and everything flew out onto the sidewalk," he heard her continue and he looked over, forcing himself to nod. "That's when Gregory came to my rescue."
She sighed, dreamy as she remembered. "He stood over me with his umbrella, shielding me from the rain as I picked everything up. Then, he held out his hand as I stood up. I couldn't breathe," she admitted, reaching out and clasping the air, as if Gregory's hand was there now. "Until then, I'd only seen him from afar at the office. But, up close…oh, he just has the most beautiful eyes. Rich and brown. Did you know they light up when he smiles?"
He shook his head, but she was beyond noticing. She leaned against the counter, a smile dancing on her lips. "Then, he asked if I was going to Darcy's. When I said that I was, he walked me to the door, holding the umbrella over me the entire time. He even opened the door to the bakery for me." She closed her eyes, remembering the warm aroma of cinnamon as they stood in the doorway, music from inside the bakery surrounding them as she whispered her thanks. "My cherie amour, lovely as a summer day," she sang, her hands clasped to her chest. "My cherie amour, distant as the Milky Way. My cherie amour, pretty little one that I adore."
"Sounds like love at first sight," he finally said, apprehension dripping in his belly.
"Oh, it was. We've made so many plans for the rest of our lives. It's going to be wonderful. Just us and the children."
He nodded enthusiastically and licked his dry lips. A thought came to him, dancing enticingly. A hiss escaped from his lips, the wound aching as he said, "You can live your life now, now that Olivia's had the baby. You can have-"
"What?" Ruth's head flew up and she moved closer to him. "She had our baby?"
"Yes, yes. Olivia went into labor this afternoon after the kidnap- I mean, when you took your daughter. She's at South Bay right now."
"Our baby is here?"
"I knew you would want to know," he said, watching as her hand twitched against her thigh. She moved closer to him, breathing heavily. "See, you and Gregory can live happily after-" He cried out as she grasped the knife and yanked it out of him. Shaking, he pressed his hand to the wound, a warm river of blood rushing forth. "Shit!" he screamed, his stomach turning as he watched her use the hem of her shirt to clean the blade. "What the hell is wrong with you, lady?"
"Thank you, Tim Kelly," she murmured, blandly patting him on the shoulder as she passed by him. "Thank you."
He clutched his side as the door to the apartment closed resoundingly. Crawling slowly across the linoleum floor, he reached up for the phone and pressed zero. The line rang aimlessly as a chill went through him and he slumped against the cabinet, the handset slipping from his bloody hand.
Bette hurried down the hallway, the suitcase and shopping bag knocking into her legs. The waiting room in the Maternity ward was at the end of the hall and she blazed forward. "Ok, Greggy, I'm here!" she gushed, bursting into the small room. Gregory looked up slowly, his face shrouded in exhaustion and she frowned. Next to him, Caitlin was stretched out across two chairs, her hands tucked beneath her sleeping face. "How's Livy?" she asked, her voice dropping to a soft whisper.
"Asleep," he murmured, meeting her eyes briefly before he turned back to his daughter. He rubbed her back, his hand moving in a slow methodical circle. "The nurse said she came to briefly in Recovery, but she fell back asleep."
"Well, that's good, isn't it? Rest helps." He didn't look up as she sat by Caitlin's feet, the bag on her lap and the suitcase on the floor. "I brought Livy's suitcase from the house. I think I packed everything she would need. I also brought a change of clothes for Caitlin."
He nodded, his eyes still fixed on the child. He knew she should go home for a bath and a good night's sleep in her own bed, but he wasn't letting her out of his sight. No matter what. "Thank you," he said simply, his voice devoid of any semblance of emotion.
"I called her parents. Barbara is arranging to get on the first available flight. I don't think Thomas will be able to fly over until next week, at the earliest." She watched him carefully, her head cocked. He said nothing, just gazed down at the sleeping child. In short, he was a wreck. "Have you seen Olivia?" she asked in a hushed whisper.
With a sigh, he looked up and nodded slowly. "When they brought her up," he explained, remembering how still and pale she looked. A stark contrast to the flushed panic that consumed her before the Caesarean section. He stood in the door, leaning against the jamb as he watched her sleep. The lights above the bed were turned low, bathing her in a soft white glow that gave way to shadows.
"And, the little guy? Sean?" she asked with a grin. She watched him turn away from her and Caitlin. Slowly, he shook his head as an unruly tremor shook his hands. "Gregory, what's wrong?"
Everything. Everything was wrong. His son may not live. The newborn couldn't even breathe without the help of a respirator. His kidnapped daughter was returned and clung to him nearly as much as he clung to her. And, his wife… He couldn't even begin to count all the ways he failed Olivia. The three of them were so far removed from him, he didn't even know where to start to find his way back.
"Gregory?" Bette asked, concerned as she leaned in. "Have you seen the baby?"
"No," he finally said, turning back to Caitlin. "I'm waiting for Olivia."
It was a lie he nearly believed.
A warm breeze blew across the parking log and Harris sighed, tying her thin dreadlocks into a ponytail. She shifted, the hood of her police car only moderately more comfortable than the hard waiting room chairs. With a long sigh, she looked back up at the hospital, her gaze drifting up to the fourth floor. The Maternity floor.
"Fancy meeting you here."
She looked over as Morales sat next to her on the car. He held out a paper cup and she took off the lid, breathing in the rich aroma of coffee. "I thought you went home," she sighed, tentatively sipping the hot drink.
"I was nearly there," he admitted, leaning back against the windshield. "But, I turned around when I realized that you probably guilted yourself into staying."
She shrugged. "I'll go home when Ruth Runyon is brought in."
"And if she's not? What are you going to do? Follow Olivia Richards around for the rest of her life?"
Morales sighed and sat up. He rested his feet on the front bumper, his knees on his elbows. "No one on the force thinks you did anything wrong."
She gently blew on the coffee and nodded slowly. "I know. But, this is where I need to be."
"Oh, man. What does Donald say about that?"
"He'll- he'll understand."
From inside the car, the police radio crackled and she glanced over, hearing her name drift through the air. "That's probably the station radioing a call from him," she heard Morales say as she slid off the hood. She flashed him a half-smile and handed him her cup before she leaned in the window. "This is Harris. Over," she said into the radio.
I open the door and step onto the Maternity floor from the stairwell. It's quiet and deserted, I realize as I glance around. My feet are barely a whisper as I walk down the hall, peering into the windows of the rooms.
My baby is here and I've come for him.
Like a good mother.
Harris stared through the windshield in disbelief, the dispatcher's words echoing in the silence. "Repeat that, Dispatch. Repeat. Over."
The radio crackled and she saw Morales turn, his face still as he watched her through the glass. "Call received through the operator. Tim Kelly reporting that Ruth Runyon stabbed him in his apartment. Suspect may be on her way to South Bay. Be on the lookout. Copy? Over."
The radio slipped from Harris' hand and she turned, her heart racing as she unholstered her weapon. Her feet moved instinctively as she began to run, hearing Morales behind her. Chest heaving and arms pumping, they raced through the parking lot and into the hospital.
Bette looked up as Gregory stood with a deep exhale. "Are you alright?" she asked, smoothing the sweater she lay over Caitlin.
"I'm going to go check on Olivia," he murmured, rubbing his eyes. He bent down, moving to pick up his daughter when she reached out, touching his arm.
"Leave her," she suggested, meeting his eyes. "She's sleeping soundly. I'll stay with her." He hesitated noticeably, still crouching over the child. "I won't take my eyes off her. I swear."
After a long moment, he nodded and placed a kiss on the sleeping girl's head. "I won't be long," he said as he straightened up. He walked out of the waiting room, meeting the quiet hum of the floor. It was somewhat busy, even at this hour of the night. A nurse passed by, smiling politely as he began the walk down the hall. Olivia was in the fifth room on the right and he looked down to where he knew the door was.
A blonde woman was at the other end of the hall, her back to him. His brow furrowed as he watched her go to a door and stop briefly before she moved on. His fists tightened, his throat running dry as he watched her stop at Olivia's door and open it. With his heart pounding, he began to run as she went inside. "Call the police!" he barked at a passing nurse as he ran down the hall.