The Journey

by PatriciaS

Sunset Beach and all the characters etc. belongs to Aaron Spelling and scriptwriters etc. No profit is made out of this piece of fiction.

Ratings - it's based on the Soap Opera so expect the lot.

Omissions and errors keep ducking, changes and extra characters are mine, written 2000 when the idea drove me daft till it wrote it. Feedback is welcome.

The story takes place after Ben went to Seattle and it is now just after Thanksgiving Day. Everything that had happened to Ben, Meg and family in Sunset Beach took place. The Gabi - Antonio - Ricardo triangle is different. Antonio and Gabi slept together but Ricardo did not have a stroke and did not chase after Antonio and Gabi but did cause them some trouble.

Starts off in the basement in Seattle

Chapter 1

Lying on the floor trying to find a more comfortable position to ease his aches and pains from the beating Ben wondered again what had happened about the paintings and things he'd found out.Perhaps he'd failed and no one knew about them or they had given Ricardo a plausible answer when he questioned them. He remembered the shock of seeing the paintings in the window... no, he couldn't go there and turned his mind away from what it could mean... and tried to calm his thoughts as the familiar feeling of panic began to rise.

He had no idea of how long he'd been here … only it was a long time … possibly months rather than weeks. No idea of day or night as a dim light was left on all the time and they never allowed him to speak to them. And now they were giving him sandwiches and water infrequently with less food each time - foretelling the inevitable outcome.

He knew he was getting weaker and even without the beating he could not escape. As usual they had chained his wrists together onto a chain around his waist and then to the wall, so he had to sit or lie awkwardly on the floor. And his ankles were chained so he could just about stagger to the bathroom when they released him from the one on the wall. Now they had gagged him as punishment, after the police raided next door and he had tried to attract their attention even though he had known it was futile.

His body tensed as he heard the door open, and he quickly made sure the photo he had of Meg was hidden in his shirt pocket, before they came down the steps. He could not stop the tremor of fear or the thought ... were they going to kill him now? He knew it would happen soon … his brother had told him so the last time he had phoned and they always came together when they were going to move him.

The well built one spoke quietly but clearly it was a voice that carried command. You knew that any threat made would be carried out. "There's a phone call for you. You just have to listen. Any trouble and Jake will get angry again and you don't want that. So, let him undo the chains and follow him. I'll be behind you just to make sure."

After leaning forward so the chain to the wall could be released but not the one round his waist Ben tried to get up but failed. Not waiting for a second try they dragged him up the stairs into a room laid out with dining table and chairs. It faced onto the enclosed back garden, so there was no hope of anyone seeing them. Ben noticed the phone on the table with a lead attaching it to a recording machine. He was put in a chair by the phone and the well built man, whose name he didn't know but had nicknamed Tubs, picked up the receiver and spoke into it.

The man told whoever was listening sharply that they were ready and that he would have to put the call on loudspeaker as he was not going to release Ben's hands so they could talk privately. Then the man pressed the buttons on both machines and stood waiting but watched Ben in anticipation.

Ben felt a cold tremor go through him as Maria's voice came over clearly. "Hi Ben darling I hope they are treating you well." Her laughter was light and playful and full of success. "Oops! I forgot you can't speak... never mind I just thought I would give you this farewell message and clear up a few things. I know Derek has been keeping you up to date with his fun and games. The papers are through without a hitch so I'll not have to play the merry widow over your body. But I want you to know my side of things so you see the whole picture." She stopped as if gathering her thoughts in truth she smiled what she'd just said.

In the room in Franklin Street they silently waited... Ben not really wanting to have his fears confirmed, that she had been with Derek willingly then and now. The others were hoping for something they could use in future … blackmail was a powerful tool.

Maria's voice broke into their thoughts. "You know the first time we met, at Annie's? Well, I knew I could use it as a way out. You were looking for love and a family to belong to, somewhere you could settle down. It was so easy to pretend... to show everyone how in love I was with you, I knew you would continue to be successful, make the money I wanted and then after a while I could have freedom...Have it all to myself."

She paused, and then her voice became more serious as though she wanted him to know it had never been an accident. "Annie helped by telling me all about you and then was so willing to step aside to let our true love blossom and then without knowing provided the alibis I needed later. You know when you funded the gallery and were so supportive when it failed."

There was a pause then a giggle. ... he waited, realising she never really loved him, and how he had been used …. Then her voice broke into his thoughts. "I sold all the things and the gallery at a profit, and the money you gave me all went into an account for later if things went wrong. You were always so kind and trusting with money, not asking too many hard questions and accepting my answers.

It was around the time I started calling you English more frequently. I know you didn't like it but you cared so much for me you would tolerate it. It was so easy to talk to Annie about my times with him and she would think I was talking about you. I knew she would never say anything to anybody, as I was her only friend. I met him on one of my evenings out with her, you know the sleepovers … you were working a way from home so I knew it wasn't you, he intrigued me."

Ben's heart missed a beat not needing the name of 'him' to know who 'he' was as she carried on.

"It was in a bar. Annie had gone to the ladies and I turned and bumped into him. He knew who I was and told me to lose Annie. Well that was easy! She had her eyes on someone across the room, so when she came back I told her to enjoy herself and I would go to my room and see her in the morning. Derek and I got to know each other well that night, I knew I had to have him and I enjoyed the danger of it during all that time."

She heard him groan and laughed with enjoyment then carried on in a tantalising gentle voice. "Well you did have all of me for a while my love; I was wondering how long I should give it. Your fortune was getting larger."

She sighed and went back to her normal voice "When we decided it was time to move, we had it all planned. Those headaches you had, me with my loving care … I knew what was causing them. The messages he left you added to your confusion, the arguments people heard were between him and me, and of course dear brother Ricardo, ready to be the protective brother already half set against you by my hints... the scene was set. Then, that night, even the elements played into our hands."

She was really enjoying herself, so her voice rose in anticipation and remembering what had happened and how she felt. "We knew that when you saw us in the studio in bed together you would run, and where... well you thought he had killed himself after your mother's death and you were partly to blame for his death so you had no reason think he was still around. Mind you, if you had come earlier, you would have caught us in the middle of a very pleasurable time."

She paused slightly "On the boat you weren't paying full attention to me because of the storm, so it was easy to jump when the time was right. I knew you would try and rescue me. In the water I slipped my hand through your fingers, always making sure you were further away from the boat and then, when you could not get back, I left you for the final time."

Her voice wavered slightly. "The only thing that went wrong that night was that the small boat came and rescued you before you went down for the third time. It was close, I grant you that. He pulled you in and radioed for help. He was right - he did see a small boat in the distance that was Derek picking me up. Ricardo refused to believe him and the boatman did say he was not too sure what he saw, he was busy trying to help you. We went back to the house. I had things packed just in case I had to disappear... you remember the clear-out I had of my favourite clothes a few days earlier, I took those with me and then Derek cut himself, and we wrecked the studio."

"We stayed out of sight and watched over the next few days while you hunted for me and came to terms with what you thought I had done. It was very touching, the loyalty, even more when you collapsed on the beach. Did you feel me then because I was there watching you till Bette found you?" She paused as if waiting for an answer but knew she would not get one she just wanted it to sink in the carried on gently. "If you had died then I would have come back as the grieving widow but you survived, sort of living death I suppose. We moved to our second plan and kept watch on you over the years."

She said in a sad gently voice as though she was thinking out loud "You see I can't have children and Tess was pregnant with Derek's child." In a happier voice "Oh yes we make a great foursome - Me, Tess, Benjy and Derek. So when the account ran out we came back."

She ignored his stifled groan; he could feel a sadness welling up in him, for the child he had loved and thought was his. He felt as if she was in the room with him and no one else existed as she carried on. "Tess let me adopt Benjy at birth so he is mine and we agreed that she would have another later, we both love him and Derek so it will work out well. He will be well loved and you have provided well for him."

She gave a short pause collecting her thoughts, checking through things. "You know most of it from then on... Derek managed to make his way back to Tess after your fight at the cabin. The ledge he landed on crumbled soon after he crawled off it onto another path, so everyone thought he had gone straight down. He was not too badly hurt. I really did lose my memory after the car accident. I was coming back to see why Derek had not contacted us and to finish to the job we had started. I got my memory back at your wedding reception, that was a good touch by Annie and Tim I could not have done better myself, and that started the way back to now."

Her tone changed as if she was clarifying things in her mind. "It was not easy... things got in the way...and you always went back to Meg ... I do know you love her so deeply that if anything did happened to her you would not survive,... what would they call it... died of a broken heart? She is your rock isn't she? She would survive because of her family ties are so strong, but you only have her. So I think this will be the best way."

She paused and sighed remembering how she felt as she admitted. "I realised that I would have to use Benjy, I was missing him anyway. It's just as well you did not check about the trip that night to get the divorce - you would have found it was full, and Tess played her part beautifully. It was all planned, every turn you made away from me and towards Meg was punished, you know those false memories I had, and you were so forgiving, always trying to do the right thing.

You were being were isolated away from your friends till you would go and check things out and when you returned no one would notice the difference, or if they did, just blame it on the decision you had finally made. If needed I would become the merry widow and then move away after a reasonable time."

She gasped in anticipation "But I'm missing the best part!... When I finally had you make love to me. … Oh!.. I know it was not me you wanted but I did so want you one more time before you were to die." Her voice was full of "passion" almost like a cat licking the cream and enjoying every mouthful.

Ben wanted to hide, not to hear what was coming, he felt as he was going to break... He shifted in his seat and Jake pushed him hard to make sure he stayed.

She carried on "Remember the day you went to LA and you took me to the airport to go to visit old haunts to get my memory back. But I decided to return home, after worrying about Tess and Benjy.

Well, Tess saw Meg in the park watching us leave, and arranged things with Tim so that at the Casita it would look as if you had taken me there for a romantic date. She set Meg up to go there thinking I had been with you. You came back from LA tired and walked in on our scene with Benjy and when Tess turned and defended Meg that confused you... I think that was a good touch... then I encouraged you to find Meg.

We knew she would turn to Casey. Earlier Tim had set things up to split Sara and Casey, so we knew he would be hurting, and it worked. I didn't know then you had seen them kissing under the pier and heard her say that she never wanted to hear your name again. That was the icing on the cake. Tess told me you were at the Deep in a bad way so I came, the dutiful wife.." she laughed... "You were sinking, going in even deeper than when I "died" and I kept on pressing reminding you of our love. Each time you tried to push me away I came back, I thought I pushed a bit too hard when you tried to throw me out but no, I managed to turn that around till you didn't know what you were doing... clinging on... Oh I wanted you!! ... then you made love to me that was bliss!!"

She stopped as she heard his stifled cry. It was really a scream from the heart he thought was breaking from the pain he felt then, the hurt he had caused Meg, the way he had been used, the guilt he had felt from that night and for every thing that had happened to him and his friends.