Well, here we are. We have finally reached the end of this little tale. The reception for the last chapter left me completely speechless and I was so happy and proud to know how much you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to write and I even scared myself a little bit with it!
I know it's taken me well over a year to get it finished, but I had every intention getting back to it and I thank everyone one of you who started with me, picked it up in the middle, or picked it up at the end. Each one is very special to me, even those of you who didn't like it. A writer needs all kinds of feedback and I take every bit of mine and use it to its fullest.
I also need to thank my best friend and medical expert, Tree66. She was there for me so I could bounce ideas off of and answered all of my medical questions when they arose. She was also a constant source of encouragement and she kept me going on this.
I really hope you enjoy this last chapter. I'm tossing around a few ideas in my head for another story but it may not be for a while since I am pretty busy with college and work right now.
As always, mistakes are all my own.
Thank you for your support and enjoy!
Frank Hardy glanced at his watch and sighed. It had been almost three and a half hours since they had found Nancy at the old Mills house, thanks to the GPS in her phone. Three hours since she had been rushed to the hospital. Three hours since she'd had surgery to repair the damage Dom had done to her leg. Three hours since he had been able to see her. And over three hours since she had said a word to him.
Luckily, the damage to her leg hadn't been too severe. Dom had managed to knick the popliteal artery, which while it caused a slow, steady bleed and made walking difficult, Nancy's quick thinking about trying it off prevented more damage from being done.
Frank had never been more grateful to see her in his life. He'd just had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that when they got to her, it was going to be too late. Even seeing her there, covered in blood, was better than not seeing her at all. What made it even better was seeing that Shepard would no longer be terrorizing them.
What worried Frank though, was the fact that Nancy hadn't said a word to him. He'd tried to coax something out of her back at the Mills house, but she simply refused to say a word. He'd watched her as she'd stared at Shepard's body, almost as if she was under some kind of trance. A feeling of dread had washed over Frank's body as he'd realized that Dom's death had been no accident.
Nancy had used her hands to kill another human being. While Frank knew it was something that was unintentional and most likely saved her life in the end, he also knew that Nancy would blame herself for it. She wouldn't see past the fact that she had killed another living person, no matter how despicable he was.
Frank was going to have to be there to support her, to make sure she got through it. And that was exactly what he was going to do. He refused to sit back allow her to blame herself, to allow the guilt to eat away at her. He wasn't about to lose Nancy to that darkness; he wouldn't allow Dominic Shepard to have that victory.
"Are the police still in there with her?" Joe asked as he came around the corner, a cup of coffee in each hand. Handing one of them to Frank, he sat down beside his brother before taking a sip of his own brew.
Frank nodded as he sat back in the stiff vinyl chair. "I wish they would hurry up."
"You still don't know what's going on?"
"Do you really need her to tell you, Frank?" Joe asked, casting a sideways glance at him. "I mean, we saw the scene in there and we can pretty much put two and two together."
Frank remained silent, staring at the coffee in his hand. He knew what Joe was talking about but neither one of them had vocalized it yet, whether they were afraid to actually acknowledge it or not.
"She killed him, Frank," Joe continued softly.
"I know, but she didn't have a choice, Joe."
"I'm not arguing against what she did. Hell, if she hadn't done that, it would have been her we found—"
"Don't…just don't." Frank couldn't bear to hear those words. He didn't want to have the confirmation of the fear he'd been feeling, knowing that his wife could have very well been dead when they'd gotten there.
The brothers sat in silence, both preferring to stay lost in their heads than continue on with the current topic of discussion. Frank was taking a long sip from his lukewarm coffee when the door to Nancy's room opened and Detective Jensen and another officer came out. Standing up, Frank tossed the Styrofoam cup into the trash can.
Doug nodded at his companion and the officer took off towards the bank of elevators. Then, he focused his attention on the brothers. "Nancy gave us her account of what happened at the house. She told us where we could find Barry Campbell's body."
"The bastard made her watch as he killed him," Doug said, disgusted. "And then to add to the torture, she was forced to watch as he buried him."
Frank felt his fists clench at his sides. "That son of a bitch—if he wasn't dead already—"
Doug held up a calming hand. "Believe me, there would be a long line of people who would have gladly offered to bring him to a stop."
"Doug…Nancy, she's not…" Joe let his voice trail off.
The detective shook his head. "We won't be pressing any charges against her. In my book, what she did was purely self-defense. Besides, she's punishing herself enough as it is."
"But it wasn't her fault."
"I've tried telling her that but she's not listening." Doug sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "Maybe you'll have better luck with her."
Frank nodded. "Thanks, Doug."
"I'll let you know if we need anything else from her," Doug said before patting Frank on the shoulder and heading towards the elevators.
Exchanging a look with Joe, Frank led the way to Nancy's hospital room, knocking softly before entering. She had her head turned away from the door, staring out at the window. She didn't even acknowledge the brothers as they came in.
"Nancy?" Frank called softly, walking around the bed. His heart nearly broke at the void expression in her blue eyes, ones that usually held such promise of life. Her injured leg was peeking out of the blankets, wrapped in gauze. A purplish-blue tinge highlighted the left side of her face and her bottom lip was split.
"Come on, Nan. We're not used to seeing you this quiet," Joe said, attempting to lighten the mood. "You always have something to say for any kind of situation."
Frank looked sharply at his brother and Joe took a step back. "Sorry, I was just trying to break the ice."
"Nancy, you have to talk to me," Frank said, sitting in the chair beside her bed. "How can I help you if you won't talk to me?"
"No? What do you mean no?"
Nancy finally turned her eyes to him. "You can't help me, Frank. No one can."
"It wasn't your fault, Nan. You have to believe that. You have to understand that."
"They're just words, Frank." Nancy closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. "You don't understand. I killed another human being, Frank."
"You didn't have a choice!"
"That's just it, Frank. I did have a choice! I had about a hundred different choices."
"What are you talking about?" Frank noticed that Joe took a step closer out of the corner of his eye.
"I could have hit him, knocked him unconscious. I could have given him an injury that didn't kill him. We both know that I have had plenty of self-defense classes." Nancy finally stopped long enough to take a breath. When she looked up at Frank, a tear was streaming down her cheek. "I didn't have to kill him, Frank. If I could have just held off for one minute more, then maybe…"
"Hey, hey, hey…calm down, okay?" Frank said, standing up and taking her in his arms as she began to sob. "Everything's going to be okay now."
"He was coming at me and I just lifted the poker up and I stabbed him," Nancy continued. "I felt it go into him and he was actually smiling at me as he died."
"I'm no better than he is, Frank."
"No, Nancy! No!" Frank gently took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. "You are nothing like him, do you hear me? I will not stand by and allow you to compare yourself to that psychotic son of a bitch."
"Nancy, you did what you had to do in order to save yourself. He didn't give you a choice in the matter," Frank explained, firmly yet gently. "If it had been me, I would have done exactly the same thing. Joe, too."
Joe nodded. "I wouldn't have even needed a reason," he muttered.
"Joe," Frank said, glaring at his younger sibling.
Joe just shrugged nonchalantly.
Frank returned his attention to Nancy. "If you hadn't done what you did, I wouldn't be talking to you right now, Nan. Instead, I would have been claiming your body at the morgue." Frank saw the hurt flash across her blue eyes but he couldn't care about that right now. He had to be brutal in order to drive home the point he was trying to make. "You are one of the most caring people I know in this world. You were put into a situation that most everyone would have given up on. You didn't—you fought back."
"This isn't something I can just bounce back from," Nancy said.
"No one is expecting you to. You're not supposed to get over this, Nancy. It's supposed to eat you up." Frank smiled softly at her. "If you had doubts before, then you can't anymore. That right there, that's what makes you different from Dom and the other monsters out there. You have a conscience and you have guilt—he never had that. That's what makes you human, Nan."
Nancy grabbed his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Thank you."
"This is really starting to turn into a Lifetime movie," Joe muttered. "Are you sure there aren't any cameras hiding in here?"
Nancy chuckled softly, which garnered a smile from both boys.
"So, when did the doctor say you could get out of here?" Frank asked, changing the subject.
"This afternoon, if things continue to go the way they are."
"How is your leg feeling?"
"It hurts a little," she admitted. Then she glanced over at Joe. "How are you doing?"
"I'm good as new." Joe held out his arms, revealing the blue cast covering his right arm. "You know, aside from the broken arm and the nice, gaping hole in my abdomen."
"Yeah, you're back to normal, alright," Frank said, rolling his eyes.
Two days later
Nancy knew this was a bad idea.
Not only did she know that, but she had the voice in her head telling her so, not to mention Frank who'd been against it from the very beginning. But she had to do it—she needed closure for herself. She needed to know it was okay to move on with her life.
If it had been anyone else, Nancy would have thought the scene to be rather sad. No one ever wanted to die, having no one show up to the funeral. But for Dominic Shepard, it was fitting. He was receiving a pauper's funeral, no one ever coming by to claim the body.
Nancy wasn't coming to the funeral to offer her support or grief. She wouldn't mourn him for one split second. Instead, she was there to get validation—she had to see with her own eyes that he was dead and about to be planted firmly into the ground. She had to know that he would not be able to terrorize anyone she cared about anymore.
She had to close this chapter of her life.
It didn't matter that the medical examiner, mortician, or the police assured her that Dom was dead. She wouldn't believe a word of it until she could witness this final act with her own eyes.
"Nancy, are you really sure about this?" Frank asked as he came around the car to help her out. Opening the back door, he pulled out a pair of crutches and handed them to her.
"No…but that's exactly why I have to do it," she answered, as she lifted herself out of the car. Bracing the crutches under her arms, she moved away so Frank could close the door.
"We don't owe this to him, Nancy."
"You're right, but I do owe it to myself."
Nancy and Frank slowly made their way across the small cemetery, where a casket was waiting to be put into the ground. Aside, from the two cemetery workers and the funeral home attendant, a priest was standing near the grave. The whole picture didn't look right to Nancy, but she guessed everyone every one deserved funeral rites, no matter how evil and despicable they were.
The priest smiled at them as they stopped near the grave. "I was beginning to think no one cared about this young man."
Nancy didn't say anything, allowing the priest to remain blissfully unaware of the person he was committing to the ground. Instead, she looked at the funeral home attendant. "Can I see him?"
The balding man actually looked flustered. "Uh, I-I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't th-think that would be appropriate. We-we usually reserve the viewing of the body f-for the wake."
"Please…I just…I need to see him."
The attendant still looked at her strangely but eventually complied. Opening up the upper half of the casket, he stepped back to allow Nancy to see inside.
Taking a deep breath, she hobbled forward thankful that Frank was at her side. Peering into the casket, she was slightly repulsed to see a smile on Dom's face. Maybe he was happy he'd died or maybe it was the fact that he had gotten to take a little of her to the grave.
Whatever it was, Nancy didn't like it.
I hope you rot in Hell, you bastard.
Stepping back into Frank's arms, Nancy nodded at the attendant. He stepped forward to close the casket and the priest then opened up his Bible and began reading.
Nancy tuned it all out as she watched the cemetery workers lower the casket into the ground. Dominic Shepard was finally going where he truly belonged. She actually had proof. She was seeing it with her very own eyes, not relying on the word of someone else.
A sense of calm washed over her as they began to shovel dirt into the grave. For the first time, in a very long time, Nancy felt at peace, as if she could truly start living her life and enjoying it. Sure, she knew she had a long road ahead of her and the nightmares would plague her for nights to come.
But she knew if she just took it one day at a time, everything would eventually get better. She had to have that faith and confidence. If not, then she could say that was just one more thing being committed to the ground.
And she wouldn't do that.
She wouldn't allow Dom to take that away from her.