A/N: I am SO sorry! Please forgive me for not updating in about 20 years! Hahaha. You guys really can't imagine how crazy and busy things have been for me – coming all the way home after a semester abroad isn't easy… so much packing and unpacking, family and friends to catch up with, stuff to sort out with my work and my school (not to mention celebrating my 21st birthday last week hahaha).
PLEASE READ THIS EXPLANATION! (thanks!)
Now that I have your attention (hahaha)… This chapter was meant to be about twice as long as it is, but I didn't want to keep you guys waiting any longer! That's why it's so short compared to all my other chapters. I had finished all the way up to the "XXX" chapter break literally about a month ago, but I knew it wasn't done.
I wrote the last few paragraphs of this chapter literally about 10 minutes before I'm posting this… so they might be total crap haha. I just wanted to add a little bit of Chuck to the chapter before I ended it.(The original plan was for the conversation that begins at the end of this chapter to actually play-out all the way through to the end, but that obviously didn't happen!).
Again, I apologize for the long wait and the short chapter! I swear you won't have to wait this long again!
"Took you long enough." Emerson grumbled as the heavy stainless steel door finally swung open. He practically leapt from his seat in the uncomfortable folding chair beside the still-silent coroner's desk. "I was just about ready to –" His words were cut-short at the sight of the pie maker's face. "Hey… what's the matter?" He asked as an extremely pale Ned strolled by him without speaking.
"Damn it," Emerson called, hurrying to catch up with Ned, who was already standing out on the sidewalk in the bright August sun. "What is your problem?" He asked harshly. "You look like you seen a ghost or something – and don't get cute, you know what I meant."
Ned was quite literally unable to speak, so he said nothing as he continued struggling to remember how to breathe.
Emerson's eyes suddenly widened as a horrible thought entered his mind. "She better be dead back there." He practically hissed, his eyes quickly scanning the sidewalk for any poor soul who may have dropped-dead in Dominique's D'Aubigne's place.
"She is." Ned replied in almost a whisper, suddenly finding his voice.
The P.I. breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, good." His gaze returned to his friend's face. "So what's the matter then?" Emerson's eyes narrowed. "Do I need to remind you that I've got a business to run? Do not tell me you wasted my minute being all cute and goin' on about 'dreams' and 'inspirations'" He batted his eyelashes mockingly as he spoke.
"Only half of it." Ned murmured, his eyes staring off into the distance and his mind clearly elsewhere.
Emerson was already growing tired of this bizarre behavior. He sighed heavily in exasperation. "Well then what did she say?" He demanded. "Was she murdered?"
Ned did not immediately respond. "She seemed to think so, but, uh…" He swallowed nervously. "She said she didn't wanna talk about it… again."
He nodded. "Looks like someone else beat us here. Heh." A faint trace of what was supposed to be a smile came to his lips, but vanished almost instantly. Ned finally glanced at Emerson for the first time, awaiting his reaction.
He appeared to be, momentarily, at a loss for words. "So you're telling me someone else already came here and woke the poor bitch up?"
Ned nodded yet again.
Emerson did not look pleased. "Boy, your market value just went way down."
This was not the response the pie maker had been expecting. "What?"
"Well, here I was, thinking my little secret weapon was 'one of a kind' or 'special' or something… and it turns out you just a dime a dozen like everyone else." He shook his head sadly.
"Um…. I wouldn't say 'dime a dozen'… I'm thinking it's more like a two-for-one special." Ned replied nervously and, with a shaky deep breath, he repeated to Emerson exactly what Dominique had told him.
It was a few moments before Emerson finally spoke. "Well damn." He muttered. "You never told me your daddy was a freak too."
"I didn't know!" Ned cried. "I mean… I still don't know." He corrected himself hurriedly. "I can't just jump to any conclusions, right?" He finally forced a smile, fighting to keep his voice casual. "I mean, there are plenty of burn victims or plastic surgery patients out there who need to cover their faces… so that could have been anyone. And lots of people believe that everyone in the world's supposed to have a doppelganger."
"Doppelganger… it means a person who looks just like you." Ned explained. "So… apparently my look-alike enjoys the company of horribly disfigured and/or extremely vain people… Yay!" He said unenthusiastically.
Emerson wasn't buying it. "So you really think there just happens to be a guy out there who looks just like you, can also wake dead people, and hangs around with some guy covered in bandages?"
"Um… yes?" Ned tried yet again to smile, but failed miserably.
"Mmm-hmm…" Emerson took a step closer to him. "And of all the places in the entire world, this, uh… interesting little pair just happens to show up in Paris the exact same time as you and visit the morgue on the exact same day?"
"Now that's not fair!" Ned replied defensively. "No one knew I was planning this trip!"
"But it wasn't you doing the planning now, was it?"
He shook his head in disbelief, immediately understanding what Emerson was implying. "Don't be ridiculous. Chuck hasn't heard from her dad in ages, and we only just decided to come here at the very last minute…" He explained. "Y'know, we actually knew about this show for more than two weeks before Chuck decided that…we…should…go…" Ned's voice trailed off as his mind went back in time to seven weeks, two days, fourteen hours and thirty-three minutes before.
Chuck had just gotten off the phone with her mother and was practically jumping up and down with excitement. "They're going to Paris!" She'd told him excitedly over breakfast one morning. "Oh, wouldn't that be incredible?"
He and Chuck had briefly discussed the possibility of meeting-up with Lily and Vivian at their performance in the famous "City of Love" and finally celebrating their long-awaited honeymoon. But, in the end, they had mutually decided that it was too short of notice to plan such an elaborate vacation with no one to care for Digby or look after the Pie Hole and no passport or travel documents for the supposedly dead and, therefore, non-existent Chuck.
"I'll take you there someday." Ned had promised her. "Just… not this time."
Chuck had grudgingly agreed that it was simply not meant to be, and did not press the issue. In fact, she did not mention Paris once for the next two weeks, three days, twenty-two hours and six minutes.
All the pieces suddenly began falling together. "She went down one morning to get the mail. Like she always does…" Ned mumbled to himself. "But then she acted so weird the whole rest of the day… She hardly said a word to me until that night, when she…"
"Suddenly changed her mind about taking that honeymoon?" Emerson tried. "Some coincidence, huh?"
Ned's mouth suddenly felt very dry. Hadn't Chuck's father been communicating to her through letters? And it had been such a long time since the last one… "She would have told me." He said firmly. "I would have understood if she wanted to see her dad again, she knows that."
Emerson simply shrugged. "Well maybe it wasn't her daddy she was so worried about."
Ned felt very much like he was going to vomit. He took a deep breath and steadied himself. "I need to talk to Chuck."
The second hand seemed to be moving at a snail's pace as Chuck stared intently at the tiny silver watch face on her wrist. She sat on the edge of the bed and tapped her foot anxiously, glancing at the door every few moments. Where is he? She wondered desperately.
It was all a mistake, Chuck had decided. Lying to her husband like this… was it really worth it just to see her father again? She still wasn't sure… Especially after finally coming face-to-face with Ned's father that afternoon. That was why she had decided that it had gone on long enough – she needed to tell him the truth.
Chuck's state of panic was slowly increasing as she once again began to wonder what could possibly be taking him so long. But before the thought even had the chance to fully form within her mind, the soft creaking of the opening door reached her ears. She practically leapt up from the bed.
"Ned," Chuck began speaking before her husband had even stepped foot inside the room. "We need to talk."
Ned stood motionless in the doorway. The look on Chuck's face said it all – Emerson's suspicion had been correct. His wife had lied to him, gone behind his back, and betrayed him worse than she ever had.
"Yeah." He said softly, his face stony and expressionless. "I think we do."
A/N: One more time: sorry for the short chap (and kind of crappy ending). You won't have to wait a month and a half for the next chapter, I promise haha. Thanks guys! Please review!