Hello? Is it safe for me to step out into the cyber sphere? I sure hope so. Well...let's just say I got A LOT of responses to Part 1 of the last chapter. All were surprised, many cried, and others vowed never to come back, declaring the story a disappointment. Well, no one's holding a gun to your head, I'm not going to beg any one. Despite all of the angry comments (they were always fun to read), I was very proud of that chapter. I think it's some of the best writing I've done-ever, so, no apologies there.
Sorry to break it to y'all who don't already know, but life isn't always rainbows and unicorns. Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Hawthorne all wrote about real life-I'm not even close to their ranks, but as an author, I think it's my duty to portray reality, which can be messy.
But don't despair, by golly, there's a Part 2 (sorry Allison, but I couldn't keep Part 2 to myself) and here it is. For all of you who stuck around, here is the end.
I am so honored that the previous installment evoked such (violent?) emotions; it's humbling that y'all are so invested in this story. So, if any of you jumped off of any bridges or wrote hate mail-just read the chapter. Then we can talk. #MLMS
All's Well That Ends Well: Part 2
What do we have?….Abdomen….Buckshot
Straight through...Blink!...He just started
Accident?...No...Do you know?
One minute and fifteen seconds.
No big gasp...Lucky…
One minute and fifteen seconds.
"I feel very...you know...I dreamed about my family. I'd dream about it all the time; how my husband would propose, what I'd name my kids, the colors I'd paint their rooms. I would have Sunday suppers...the best dinners this side of the Mississippi. I'd sit at my husband's right side, and smile at him–proud, as he spoke about how our daughter was the star in the school play, our son made the football team. Christmas would be an occasion–red and green wrapping paper covering the living room floor, me shaking my head at how much Grandpa splurged on the kids, and glaring at their Uncle for the toy gun he bought for my boy.
"I'd have a big and beautiful house...the driveway lined with oaks whose roots sunk into the green grass and whose branches were lined with Spanish moss. There'd be a gazebo in the back...yes. A tall white gazebo, separating the vegetable garden from the roses, and I'd yell at the children to mind themselves near the flowers. Time would go by fast, like old folks say it does. 'Little Jane grew so quickly, I blinked and by golly, she's grown,' that's what I'd say.
"I always thought that by this age I'd be on the road to starting that life...not just here without–I can't even think about it. I can't even say his name. I just want to go to sleep. I thought I had more fight in me...but I just want to lay my head down, I'm so tired. But there are reminders every where, and I know a part of me is supposed to be sad. I know it. But I reckon there's no room left for sadness. Being sad doesn't help anybody. I'm angry. Just angry...and it's tiresome."
Clarence could feel his wet palms slide down the leather steering wheel, and he quickly slid them up again. He made sure his cap was securely on his head as he looked at Morgana in the rearview mirror. She was in the back seat, sitting perfectly upright, her neck turned ever so slightly to look out of the window as she delivered her soliloquy. Her voice would thicken with emotion, only to level out again in an airy and distant tone.
She had been like that, perfectly rigid and poised, since they left the Estate. She had received the call from the sheriff himself, desiring to make a personal call to inform her that her father had just been processed and was at the county jail. Clarence, the family chauffeur, was in the next room with, Marge and Alice who had paused in their chores. Morgana sauntered into the room, and her clean and kept appearance surprised them. She had locked herself in her room, not bothering to interact with the outside world.
Her hair was pinned up and her shoes perfectly polished as she informed her dwindling staff that she would need a ride to the jail, that Uther was in custody. She was so matter of fact when delivering the information, as if she were reporting a usual occurrence.
That's when Clarence knew that she had lost her mind. Last week's Morgana would have been hysterical at the news, but now she seemed so numb. And when she began her monologue in the car as they neared the station, he just listened, glancing at Morgana as often as he could without crashing the family's car.
"All of that is just a dream now...a fairy tale. No man, not in this town any way, will ever associate with me. Since all of this has happened, not one person has stopped by the house. Not even Vivian, but...People may forget about–pretend to forget about Arthur and Gwen after a while. Fair enough. That would be a couple of years, and it's not like this is the first time something like this has happened. But he ran away with her, that's what did it. Nobody does that–when the rumors come out, the man get married and the girl is sent to the country and she's never heard of again. They never run off together. Now my father has gone insane too, assaulting Percy Wallace...what was he thinking?"
Clarence wondered if he should answer, perhaps change the subject. He considered adding: "It looks like rain, miss," and it did, but Morgana continued before he had the chance.
"I know Percy isn't the most agreeable man, but I can't imagine my father physically striking a man. This all is too much for him, you know, Clarence. His heart is broken, absolutely in bits." Morgana turned away from the window, pushing some hair behind her ears. "Disloyalty is the gravest sin, in his book."
The car pulled into the parking lot of the police station.
"I bet that Arthur is half way to the Natchez River by now. He gets to run away, escape all responsibility after driving a bull dozer over our lives. He always was a selfish bastard. I just loved him too much to realize."
"We're here, ma'am." Clarence hastily parked, opening the door for his boss. He nearly jumped backward when she placed a single hand on his shoulder, and he looked around to see if any one else was in the lot.
"You know Clarence, you're a good Negro." She tilted her head to the side, smiling at the older man who looked absolutely terrified.
"Thank you kindly ma'am," he politely stepped around her to close the door. "I"ll just wait out here for you, miss."
Morgana checked her hair through the tinted window, before nodding in agreement. "I'll be out soon." She pulled a pair of white gloves from her small purse, slipping them on as she walked to the entrance of the small station, a place she had only been inside one other time. One of the officers held the door open for her, and she gave him a gracious smile.
"Can I help you ma'am?"
Morgana noticed one of her father's lawyers a short distance away. "No, I'm quite all right, thank you."
The lawyer was at the booking counter, obviously agitated with the officer before him. Morgana cooly approached the two, the officer pointing in her direction and the lawyer looking over his shoulder.
"Miss Pendragon, so glad you came."
"Mr. Buchanan, so good to see you again. I do wish that it was under other circumstances."
"The bail has been paid, and the hearing will be next week."
Morgana hung head, taking a deep breath. "So, Percy is pressing charges?"
Buchanan looked once more at the officer who was eavesdropping, and he took Morgana aside. "Don't you worry about that. I'll work on it, your father won't step a foot in that courtroom. But the first thing is to get him out of that cell. They let me meet with him for about five minutes before they placed him in holding again."
"How is he?"
"He's a little embarrassed, upset."
"He should be embarrassed, this is a disaster."
"I'm trying, to clean it up as best I can."
"I can't say that about the rest of your coworkers. For goodness sake, we have an entire public relations team–what have they been doing? Playing hopscotch and braiding each other's hair while my father was left to hand this himself? He shouldn't have had to those buffoons over at the Dearborn Journal; he pays someone to do that."
"Once stories like this get out, they're hard to curtail."
"Well if it's too difficult for them, perhaps we need a new team." The serenity which Morgana had been trying to retain since she had received the news was beginning to unravel, and she struggled to keep her voice at a polite tone without too much bite. She leaned over to Buchanan. "Any word from Arthur?"
She straightened, moving away from the man. "Of course not."
They were guided to a waiting area just around the corner, and sat in painful silence for five minutes until Uther came out, escorted by another officer. He was rubbing his hands were the handcuffs were. He was wearing a suit, but carrying the jacket over one arm, his tie loosened, and shirt untucked. Morgana leapt from her seat, wrapping her arms around her uncle. She quickly pulled away to have a good look at him.
"Did they treat you alright? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine. I wasn't there more than two hours. Horace, thank you for working so quickly," Uther patted the lawyer on the back.
"No problem, sir. I'm working to clear everything up, I have people who are planning to spend the night at the office, as we speak." Buchanan increased his pace to a light jog, trying to maintain stride with Uther who was nearly running for the door while righting his clothing, barking orders as quickly as his mind could churn.
"Do whatever Percy Wallace wants, give him whatever he asks for–I don't care how much, I just want these charges dropped! They always take the money in the end, they always do. I want someone at the Journal all day, I don't care if y'all have to take rotating shifts or sleep outside of the building in tents, that story will not be printed. If it is, your next job will be finding me an entirely new legal and P.R. team. I want everyone around the clock on this–looking through every law book to find as many libel and slander laws as you can: I want a complaint as long as the Mississippi, using words those inbred sons of bitches can't even read, and threaten to take them all to court after which they won't be able to get a job bagging groceries in this town! When this is through, they'll be too afraid to print the Pendragon name even in a weekly business report much less in a tasteless gossip piece. I want you to personally meet with their president and owner, and ask them why they've been avoiding my calls, and not to be surprised when my annual contribution check gets lost in the mail."
"Yes sir, we're working on it. All cylinders fired up, sir."
"I want an update on my son, but I want you to see to that personally."
"Of course sir, that's a priority as well."
"Before I hire someone to find him, I want you to keep this as hush as possible, and ask around, see if anyone's heard of him making plans to leave, or if that girl of his has less sense than I thought, and is still in town. Hire a Negro you trust to go to her neighborhood–for goodness sake, find out where she lives for starters. I want a full report on my desk within two hours time about her family and anyone else she's close with. How much debt are they in, do they own their house, do they have any relatives out of the state–up North perhaps? Does she have a criminal record, do they? If her tax filings are just a penny off, a want a copy. You hear? Everything you can dig up on this girl, I want it! I don't care how unimportant it seems to you, I don't care if your entire team has to march to my house with cardboard boxes stacked three times high, I–" Uther had to pause for breath as he stopped next to his car, Clarence stepping out of the driver's seat.
"I will have my best on it. No stone will go unturned, I assure you."
"Good man. I want an update in," Uther checked his watch, "three hours time. From you, personally."
"Oh, Mr. Buchanan," Loretta finally spoke, "her full name is Guinevere Louise Gibson. She has one brother, a couple years younger than her I think, named Elliot and her father is Tom. Her mother died in a car wreck, and they live across the street from where Ray Neely lived. She doesn't have many friends." She ignored the confused look her uncle gave her. "Just to help you start."
Horace Buchanan shook Uther's hand heartily. "I'm going straight to the office. Rest easy sir, we're getting a handle on it."
Uther waved at Clarence to hurry as he stepped into the car, Morgana joining him in the backseat. "Back home Clarence, and step on it."
Morgana waited until they were on the main road once more before addressing her Uncle, with caution. "Are we going to talk about this?"
"It's not fair that I have to come and get you out of jail and not receive any type of explanation."
"There's nothing to explain."
"There's everything to explain!"
"I lost my temper. This discussion is over."
Morgana looked her Uncle directly in the eye, crossing her legs. "What you did was irresponsible and childish. All you succeeded in doing was making more bad press for us. We still have to live here."
"It was a lapse in judgement."
"And what about Arthur?"
"You heard what's happening there."
"It's been two days since you kicked him out, he's probably halfway to Timbuktu by now! He's gone, Uncle, and you let him get away!"
"I thought he'd come back." Uther said this quietly, hanging his head momentarily. "I thought he'd come back the next day, I wasn't planning for any of this." He rubbed his wrinkled forehead, closing his eyes.
"He's not coming back."
"He will eventually."
"He thinks he's in love. If Arthur, Merlin, or that tramp are still in town, for some ungodly reason, I say you have all three of them arrested."
"I can't, yet."
"But let's be sensible here–where would they go? They have nothing!"
"Don't worry Morgana–"
"I see that you're obviously not worried! Besides the fact that we're town pariahs, over night, we've been black listed. You're the most powerful man in this town, one of the most influential in the state–country! And you can't even reign in a colored maid and your juvenile son."
"Morgana, it's not as simple as all of that!" Uther's temper was beginning to rise at his niece's persistence; this wasn't his first crisis. "I will take care of it all, don't you worry. If they're at Merlin's house, as I suspect, can't just go into Merlin's house and root them up, I can't. I have to think about the family company, I can't have any more damage to our reputation. This is damage control, not offense."
Morgana crossed her arms over her chest, fully reclining in the seat. She pushed her hair from her face, positively seething. Uther sighed, closing his eyes tightly as he set his head against the leather head "You should've come to me sooner. You should've told me about them sooner."
"Don't blame this on me."
"I'm not blaming you, I'm just informing you that had I known sooner, more could've been done. The girl would be paid off, leave the house, and spent the rest of her days comfortable and away from Arthur. Arthur would forget about the tryst and continue his life as he should."
Morgana turned her entire body away from her Uncle, her shoulder pressed against the seat. They sat in total silence for a few minutes before Clarence turned on the radio to ease the tension.
"Sorry sir, I gotta pull over." The driver heard the blaring sirens before seeing the flash of red and blue lights in the mirror. He used both hands to quickly turn the wheel to the right, parking along side of the curb, as the cars behind him did the same. The white ambulance flew past them, going around the cars in both lanes by traveling down the middle, running the red light which was up ahead.
Clarence whistled before pulling back onto the road. "It's been sometime since I've seen one of them." He looked in his mirror to see if either of his passengers had shifted at all, but they remained as frozen and angry as a pair gargoyles, sitting as far apart from each other as they could. He turned the volume dial one notch to the right.
Merlin didn't realize that he had fallen asleep until he felt the first cold rain drops from the storm on his cheek. His eyes slowly opened to view the over cast sky. It was a sunny morning, but an afternoon storm was forecast. He was sitting on the deck of his empty home, not doing much of anything before he fell asleep. He had taken a book outside, telling himself that he would do something semi-productive, but the exhaustion of the past couple of days overtook him, and the book had slid to the ground from his lap long ago.
Merlin quickly picked up the book, placing it securely underneath his arm as he hurried back inside. He was used to being in the large home by himself; his parents gone traveling, and the couple of maids he had only coming three days a week. He thought about buying a dog once. But today, it felt eerie to be alone, as if he didn't belong there. That's why he retreated to his deck, hoping to distract himself with something other than worry.
He groggily trudged to his living room, sitting on the center of the sofa as he stared straight ahead at the rain slide against the room's large windows. He wondered how Arthur and Gwen were, and when their train would stop and they could give him a call. He looked at his watch, knowing that just over two hours had passed since they left his home, and yet, he was so lonely. Being in an empty house had never bothered him because Arthur's was only a short drive away, but now he would be on the opposite side of the country in exile.
Merlin's mind drifted to the hushed conversation he had with Arthur the night before. Arthur had just returned from his meeting with Alice and Stella, and he was reviewing the suitcase Alice had secretly prepared for him. Gwen was sleeping in one of the guest rooms, and the men were making final preparations in Merlin's.
"I think you have everything you need," Merlin said eyeing the full suitcase which sat next to him on the bed. Arthur was peering at it, deep in thought, his hands on his waist. "Nothing else can fit in there."
"I just want to make sure that they packed enough." Arthur began to lift up the folded clothing, mindful of the more fragile items which were placed between them.
"I'm still a little uneasy about all of this."
"Merlin, you should come with us, I–we–told you that."
"I'm not worried about that, being here for a little bit longer."
Arthur stopped, looking his friend squarely in the eye.
"I don't think taking the train is a good idea."
"We've been over this a thousand times, we have no other choice. I don't have a car, and even if I did, it'd take too long. She'll sit in the colored section, I'll be in the white, no one will know we're together."
"It's too public."
"Well I can't walk there, now can I? Perhaps go on horseback?"
Merlin nervously tousled his hair. "At least let me wait with you at the station."
"You'll drive us there, and drop us off at opposite ends of the station, that way we'll walk in separately. Then you leave. I don't want you getting into this any more than you already are. Go straight home, and meet us as soon as you can."
"I want to come with you two, but I should–need to say good bye to my parents first. They should be back in a few days, then I'll meet you out West."
"Okay. When we stop at the first station, I'll call you from a pay phone, let you know how we're doing."
Merlin didn't sleep the entire night, and he was completely embarrassed as he fought back tears before dropping Gwen off at the colored entrance for the station. She patted his back tenderly, reminding him that she would see him soon, and thanking him for his help. Arthur gave him a tight hug and a bright grin.
"Thanks Merlin," Arthur took a noticeably large deep breath, "we couldn't have done this without you. I owe you my life, really."
Merlin nodded, bowing his head slightly. "Don't do anything stupid, be safe."
"I'll call you, okay?" Arthur picked up his suitcase, turning around and taking a few steps away from his best friend, before turning around again. "I'll call."
"Go, go," Merlin did his best to give a happy smile, waving his hand.
Merlin wiped his hands over his face as he remembered his goodbyes to Arthur. He reminded himself that this was a very temporary goodbye, he would be reunited with his friend. He thought about why he had resisted leaving the state.
His first thought was that Dearborn was his home, a place that he had ties to despite its flaws. He couldn't just leave his house unattended while his parents were away. No matter how estranged and distant they were, he was still their son and owed them a decent farewell at the very least.
When the telephone first rung, Merlin wasn't sure if it was his subconscious anticipating Arthur's call or reality. He waited a moment, but on the third ring he looked to his right to see the phone shaking. He looked at it curiously before answering.
"Hello?" There was a lot of background noise; chatter in the back, beeping of machines, and the ringing of other telephones.
"This is Josie at Dearborn General, how do you do? Is this Mer–"
Merlin sat up straight, his heart racing as he wondered why a representative from the town's Negro hospital was calling him. "This is he."
"There's a patient here by the name of Gwen Gibson, and she told us to give you a call, that you're her emergency contact."
"W-w-w-hat happened to her?"
"She's fine sir, just a little light headed, she's ready to be discharged."
"Discharged?" Merlin was already standing, the phone pressed tightly against his ear.
"She just had a little shock, is all. I'm not sure of all the details, I'm just work at the desk. You will know her status once you arrive."
"Okay, okay. Is she with a man? Let me speak to him."
"No sir, she came here alone."
"...Are you sure?"
"Yes sir, you're the only contact information she gave us. We've been trying to call for the past two hours."
Merlin hung his head, rubbing his eyes, chiding himself for not being within earshot of the telephone. "I'll be there as soon as I can." He quickly hung up the phone, sprinting to the front door where he snatched his hat and jacket from the coat rack. It was a miracle that he didn't tumble down the slick steps face first, but he was able to safely plop into the driver's seat. He parked his car at the back of the house so that if anyone came around, they would think that it was empty. He drove around the front and sped down the driveway.
He didn't know what condition Gwen was in or if Arthur was actually with her. All he knew is that they were still in Dearborn and perhaps they shouldn't have taken the train.
The first responder was prepared to exit the ambulance even before the driver emerged, opening the doors and helping him extend the wheels of the gurney and pull the patient safely to the ground. A doctor approached the parked vehicle with haste, already expecting the patient.
"What do we have?" He moved briskly next to the gurney, examining the young man who was still, his arms laying straight against his side.
"Two gun shot wounds to the abdomen," the first responder said, pushing the rolling gurney as quickly as he could with the help of a nurse as the doctor moved along, his fingers prodding and examining.
"Is there any buckshot?"
"No sir, not from what I can tell. They went straight through–clean shots, must've been a high powered rifle. I couldn't believe it…" The responder looked down at Arthur whose eyes were moving about frantically, looking up at him then at the doctor.
"Son, can you hear me? You're going to be just fine, blink if you understand what I'm saying."
Arthur blinked rapidly, his eyes still rolling as he felt himself moving with intense speed through the hospital hallway. He opened his mouth to speak, but his lips froze, unable to aid his tongue.
The doctor looked at the white bandages wrapped around Arthur's abdomen which were now stained a crimson-brown with dried blood, and at the pallor of his patient who undoubtedly had a tussle with the Reaper. "We have to hurry, if we get him straight to surgery, he just could make it."
"He just started to–he was dead, sir. His heart stopped and everythin'; we declared a time of death."
The gurney stopped at the double doors which lead to the area of the hospital devoted to surgeries. The doctor pulled the responder over to the side momentarily, as two nurses tended to Arthur, undressing him and preparing him for immediate surgery. "Hunting accident? We've gotten a couple of those this week already."
"No sir, attempted murder. I don't know much. One man told me that someone had just come and fired shots at him, an assassin. We left as quick as we could. Sir...do you know who that is?"
The doctor shook his head. "Who? The mayor's son."
"No sir, better than that. That there's Arthur Pendragon." They turned to look over at the bloodied man in unison.
"His heart stopped for one minute and fifteen-seconds. I thought for sure he was a goner, there was nothing we could do, he had lost too much blood by time we got there and wasn't responsive. We were on the road, and all of a sudden, his fingers–they just started twitching, and he began to murmur nonsense. No big gasp for air or nothin'...he just started again, like he had fallen asleep. I ain't never seen anything like it."
"He's awfully lucky."
"One minute and fifteen-seconds," the responder repeated again in disbelief. "Damn right, he's a lucky somethin'."
"Good job, I hope that he can thank you himself later." The doctor patted the first responder on the shoulder before approaching Arthur and hovering over him. "We're taking you to surgery son, you're gonna make it through this." He watched the patient struggle to speak and lift his head up so he could be heard. His blue eyes were calmer, but he remained pale and rigid.
"Yes, yes, we're going now, son. Don't you worry, we're going now."
Arthur laid down again in exhaustion as felt himself being wheeled away to the operating room. He kept his eyes on the moving ceiling and he felt something hard and cold cover his nose and mouth. Bits of the hurried conversation he had just heard replayed in his mind as he struggled to keep his eyelids open.
What do we have?….Abdomen….Buckshot
Straight through...Blink!...He just started
Accident?...No...Do you know?
One minute and fifteen seconds.
No big gasp...Lucky…
One minute and fifteen-seconds.
Merlin was running to the entrance of Dearborn General, not caring to avoid the puddles or stopping as a car cut in front of him. There were a few people walking to the entrance with umbrellas, but they stopped and stepped aside as he shot past them, nearly sliding against the slippery sidewalk.
The hospital wasn't very large, with only a couple of wings for patient care, and a small tuberculosis ward separate from the main building. It had one hundred beds to serve the entire black population of the town, whereas the newly renovated Memorial Hospital serving whites had three hundred and fifty beds, fully equipped with staff and supplies.
"I'm here, looking for Gwen Gibson," Merlin skidded to the front desk, panting and out of breath. He leaned on top of the large desk as the middle aged receptionist gawked at him, looking over her shoulder nervously.
The patients in the waiting area looked at Merlin curiously, peering over their newspapers and whispering about the young man who was in the wrong hospital.
"Sir, I think you might be looking for Dearborn Memorial, that's just two miles–"
"I'm not lost!" Merlin snapped, and the woman visibly recoiled, taking a step backward. "I was called, I don't know what she's in for, but she's here. I'm the only person she has. Could you please help me?" He made his voice as gentle as he possibly could despite his distress.
The receptionist hesitated, cautiously looking down at her book where the patients were listed. "...What's her name, again?"
"Gwen Gibson," Merlin rubbed his forehead, tapping his feet impatiently as the woman looked at the book.
"Could I have your relationship to the patient?" She cleared her throat once Merlin narrowed his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. "She's on the first hall, take a right, bed 115. You might wanna–"
Merlin waved at the woman, thanking her as he ran in the direction which she pointed. He went through another set of doors and stepped into the women's ward of the hospital. He stood gasping as he looked around the room at the women who scampered upright in their beds, pulling the sheets over themselves and shrieking at the sight of a white man in their hospital ward. Merlin ignored the nurse who approached him, undoubtedly to question his presence, and the terrified and confused glances leveled at him from every direction.
The women's ward was a large open room with beds lining the room in two columns against the wall, some beds with curtains around them, but the rest open to the floor plan. The first bed was 100, and Merlin slowed to a brisk walk to the last bed on the first row, bed number 115. He stopped at the foot of bed, out of breath as he stood there silently, waiting for Gwen to acknowledge him. She was sitting up right, the thin white sheets covering her legs. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, exposing the bandage which covered the gash on the side of her forehead she received when she fell and lost consciousness at the train station. Her eyes were a little red, but hardly noticeable from a distance.
Hours ago, Gwen had awoken from unconsciousness, where the doctor explained that she had gone into shock, and that she was on mild pain medicine for the cut on her forehead which was bandaged with gauze. She sat there, perfectly still and calm, listening to the man explain her condition. He asked her a few questions, but she didn't respond.
She just wanted to be left alone.
Finally, the doctor left, and a nurse tried to coax some answers from Gwen with patience and gentle kindness.
"I don't have any family," Gwen finally told the young nurse. "I don't have any one."
"That can't be true, sugar; everyone's got someone. What about a neighbor, a pastor?"
"There's one person, his name is Merlin. Call him." Gwen gave the kind nurse his number, and just as the woman was turning to leave, Gwen grabbed her arm tightly. "Don't call any one else. No one else can know I'm here, don't let any one else know, or they'll come for me too. They'll come and kill me, finish what they started. Promise me that you'll call Merlin, and only him. No one else."
The nurse looked at the patient who she assumed was rambling due to the delirium. She gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, sugar."
That was two hours ago. The hospital repeatedly called the number which Gwen had given them, and even confirmed with her a second time that it was correct. When Gwen was informed that Merlin could not be reached, the staff had to intervene and set her back in bed for she insisted on leaving that instant. She started looking for her shoes and crying, telling the staff in between sobs that they must have killed Merlin too, and that she would be next.
"Merlin...you're alive." She stated the fact with a hoarse voice and little emotion. She was too numb to his presence to be excited, and she had to take a moment to ensure that he was really there, and not a figment of her imagination.
"Of course...Gwen," Merlin looked around the room, all eyes on him. "Where's Arthur? Is he in a separate waiting room?"
Gwen only cleared her throat, running her hands over her eyes. She was so tired of crying, and she could hardly say the words. "Merlin…"
"Gwen..." he walked next to her, his eyes wide with fear. "Gwen!"
"He's...gone, dead," she finally whispered.
Merlin blinked, shaking his head. "C'mon, stop messing around. That ain't funny."
"I ain't, he–they–someone shot him. Came to the train station, and pulled a gun on him point blank. By time the ambulance came...it was too late," Gwen couldn't help but shed a few tears as the images of Arthur gasping for breath marred her memory, and the weakness in his voice as he muttered his last words, and as she felt him go cold. She shuddered, and closed her eyes tightly. "He died right there, in my arms." Gwen rolled on her side, unable to watch Merlin crumble as she had. She had seen enough destruction for one day, for one life time.
Merlin felt as if his throat was closing and his mouth was going dry. The weight of Gwen's words struck him with full impact, and he stumbled to a chair at Gwen's bedside. He sat for a moment, paralyzed by silent grief. He could feel the tears gather at the edge of his eyelids, and he sniffled once, wiping them away quickly, rubbing his eyes with both hands. He had seen Arthur that morning, and he never expected that his brief farewell would be his final goodbye. Arthur was about to start a new life, he was finally going to be happy.
Merlin was staring at his lap when he saw Gwen's feet next to him, and she gently took his hand. He slowly raised his head to look up at her, and he noticed that her eyes glistened as his did.
"This wasn't supposed to happen."
"He wanted to tell you thank you, for everything you've done. He didn't suffer, not for long."
"That doesn't make it any better."
Merlin stood up, pulling Gwen in for a tight hug, and she quickly embraced him, holding onto him tightly as he patted her back. "I'm so sorry."
"Merlin, we have to go," Gwen said against his shoulder. "You can't stay here, they'll come for you too."
"Who was it?" Merlin finally broke the embrace, but he kept his hands on Gwen's shoulders. "Who killed him?I want to look that bastard in the eye before I go any where and have–"
"There's no time for revenge."
"I want justice."
"I don't know, his face was covered, he said something, but I don't remember his voice. It all happened so fast, there was so much screaming and–I couldn't even tell you."
Merlin took a deep breath and nodded. "Let's go."
The nurses kept Gwen in the clothes she arrived in, so all she did was slip on her shoes and grab her suitcase which she had with her at the train station. She stopped as she noticed that they had also placed Arthur's there, one of the passengers must have told the first responder that it was her's too.
Merlin saw Gwen hesitate to pick up Arthur's suitcase, and he did it for her.
"Hey! Y'all can't just go like that!" One of the nurses yelled as she saw the two run to the nearest exit of the wing. "Come back!"
Merlin and Gwen ran into the rain, each clutching to their suitcases until they reached Merlin's car which he illegally parked by the entrance of the hospital. Merlin saw two security guards chasing after them in his rearview mirror, but they stopped at the entrance, out of breath, watching his car race out of the hospital.
"Where are we going? To get your things? We have to hurry." Gwen looked over her shoulder to see if they were being followed.
"We've gotta go to Dearborn Memorial."
"The white hospital? Merlin! We don't have time!" Gwen screamed as Merlin ran a red light.
"We need to check on Arthur–see what happened, maybe...you never know."
"Merlin, whoever killed him could be waiting there."
"And they could be waiting at my house. They could be anywhere. We owe it to Arthur, maybe someone at the hospital knows something, maybe there are witnesses, I can't just leave knowing that I've left Arthur like that."
Merlin pulled into the hospital a couple of minutes later, parking in the first available space. He unbuckled his seatbelt and turned off the ignition when he realized that Gwen wasn't budging. He pushed the wet hair from his face, and looked at her.
Gwen looked at the larger hospital, shaking her head in fear. "There's no way I'm goin' in there."
"I can't leave you here."
"Have you lost your mind? There's no way they'll let me in. I don't want to see Arthur like that any way, so cold and lifeless. I ain't gonna, I ain't."
"Gwen, we've got to try."
"Try what!" Gwen yelled. "Try to get arrested? Try to go in there and identify his body? Try to go in there and pretend that my life isn't over? Well you go on then and try Merlin. I'm finished, I'm not going no where. If those goons want to come after me, well they can have at it. They've taken everything I had any how, just let them finish what they started."
Merlin shoved the keys into his pocket. "Fine." He slammed the door to his car with so much force that it gave Gwen a jolt.
She rested her head against the seat, closing her eyes and wishing that she could just fall asleep and everything would be right. She would be married to Arthur, living hundreds of miles away with him in the home which they would make together, and the children they would raise together. She didn't even have a photograph of him, only memories.
"Don't stop livin' on my account, that'd be the worse than never loving you at all. Don't let those bastards win."
Gwen remembered Arthur's painful last words as her fingers felt the necklace she gave him. "Merlin, wait!" She leapt from the car, running to catch up with Merlin who was about to enter the hospital. "I'll come, I'll try."
They entered the front portion of the hospital, situated similarly to the black hospital just two miles away. There were three receptionists at the desk rather than one, all older white women, two of which put on their spectacles when they watched a drenched young man approach them with a Negro.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Merlin addressed the woman in the middle, but all three of them were eyeing Gwen who was careful not to make eye contact.
"I don't know what you're up to young man, but I can have the sheriff on the phone in a skinny minute," the woman on the right picked up the telephone receiver, waving it in the air. "This is a whites only hospital, she has to go."
"Please, she's my maid, I–"
"I don't care who she is, she can wait outside."
Merlin glanced at Gwen, who looked up at him with a defeated 'I-told-you-so' stare. "We're looking for a young man who was brought in, Arthur Pendragon. He was shot, fatally. We're here just to see–"
"You must be mistaken, sir. Mr. Pendragon's been out of surgery," the third one remarked only to receive glares from her colleagues.
Merlin and Gwen looked at each other at the same time, their hearts thumping at the revelation. They resisted the urge to jump in the air to click their heels, embrace each other with tears of joy, yell praises and thanksgiving.
"I'm his cousin."
"And we have no problem whatsoever, it is your right to visit your kin, but she can't be in here. I will have to phone security." Merlin tried to think of what he could say to convince these women to let Gwen with him. The last thing he wanted to do was leave her alone, and if Arthur was alive, there was no negotiation. "We'll be in and out in five minutes."
"Son, I can tell that you're from around here, so there's nothing to explain. Absolutely no Negroes–none are treated here, and none are visitors. We've asked you kindly to take the colored girl with you, the next words will be with the sheriff."
"Listen to me, I don't know who you think you are–" Merlin took a step closer to the receptionist, his blood boiling when a janitor who was taking trash from the area intervened. He was an older colored man with graying hair and a disarming smile.
"Miss Etta, I'll show 'em out, ma'am. No need to call security," the man glanced at the two trouble makers. "They'll go easy."
"If they don't Curtis, I'm phonin' the police!"
"Yes ma'am." The man wheeled the large garbage can around the desk.
"So, Negroes aren't good enough to visit a patient for five minutes, but they're surely good enough to clean up your trash?"
"Merlin," Gwen whispered, grabbing his shoulder. "C'mon."
"Excuse me! I have half the mind to–"
Merlin held up his hands in surrender, and followed the janitor down the empty hall only far enough so as to be out of view from the three women. He held onto Gwen protectively, drawing her near. "We can see ourselves out," he bit out angrily at the man who was leading them to another exit.
The janitor abruptly stopped, looking around the hallway where a few nurses passed, one doctor staring down at his clipboard. He prepared to turn into a private room, and stopped when he saw the colored girl.
"Doctor Henries, this is my niece, she just came by to give me my lunch. She's just leavin', sir." Curtis gave the aging doctor a small grin, and the man turned away, closing the door to the room behind him. He looked at the pair of young people who looked at him expectantly. "You must not got two brain cells to rub together if you thought you could just mosey on in here. Not with no colored gal, you ain't."
"Just show us out," Gwen said with an angry sigh.
"Everyone's sayin' it's a miracle. That the boy was dead for more than a minute and just sprang back to life. Work here long enough, and you'll hear a story like that every now and again."
"What are you talking about?" Merlin asked, his eyebrows furrowing.
"You're cousin, or who ever that boy really is, he's breathing like you and me. Everyone's saying it's a right miracle– do y'all believe in miracles?"
They both nodded.
"Well you best believe."
Merlin looked around the hall. "Where are you taking us?"
The old man snorted. "I ain't takin' you nowhere. But I can tell you where he is, then y'all are on your own." Curtis pointed behind Merlin and Gwen towards a stair well. "He's in room 224, can't miss it, it's right there after you get to the second floor, take a sharp left; it's in the corner. He looked at his watch. "The nurses will change shifts in about five minutes, and then they'll all be comin' down those steps, so you better hurry. What are you waitin' for, if you wanna see him, then get!" He waved his hands, shooing them away.
Merlin looked to the door which led to the stairwell with caution, fearing that it was a trap, but Gwen nearly ran for the door, opening it. "Come on!"
"Why are you doing this? Why are you helping us?"
The janitor sighed at the lanky young man who "I was in that boy's room to take his trash, and all he could talk 'bout was his gal named Gwen. He said that you'd come a lookin' for him, that you was colored. I've heard the rumors 'round town, I know who you are, girl. I'm just helpin' a sister out. Y'all better hurry–sharp left."
Merlin reached into his pocket, quickly pulling a twenty dollar bill from his wallet. "Thank you."
"If they catch you, you ain't never met no Curtis in your life." The old man turned around with his rolling bin, whistling a chipper tune. Merlin and Gwen walked to the edge of the steps, listening to see if any one was coming up from the basement or down from the second floor. When they heard nothing, they merely looked at each other before sprinting up the double set of stairs.
They stopped at the wooden door marked "Floor 2", and Merlin held his hand up for Gwen to take pause. "I think this door puts you on the end of the hall. Let me step out and see how close Arthur'r room is to the stairwell. When I give you the okay, just put your head down and shuffle over. Don't move too fast and draw attention. Okay?"
"Okay, just hurry before someone comes."
Merlin finger combed his hair, not wanting to appear too disheveled and draw attention to himself. He opened the door and was exactly where he expected: at the end of the second floor. Just as Curtis said, directly on the left were individual patient rooms were. Room 224 was only a few yards from the stairwell, and it would only take he and Gwen a couple of moments to safely enter the room. He stepped back into the stairwell, and he waved his arm frantically for Gwen to join him. She put her head down and let Merlin guide her to the room which was only a few steps away. He opened the door quickly, and they nearly jumped inside.
Gwen grabbed onto Merlin for support the moment the door to the room closed and they were in privacy. The room was empty, save for Arthur who was laying against a multitude of pillows in a hospital gown and an I.V. attached to his arm, along with other apparatuses and needles which neither of them understood.
"That was awfully f–" Arthur's mouth dropped the moment he saw Gwen, and his raspy voice croaked in disbelief. "Guinevere?"
Gwen looked up at Merlin who was staring at Arthur as if he were seeing a ghost. She grabbed onto Merlin's arm. "Merlin...are you seeing this too?"
"Gwen...it's really him."
She looked over at Arthur, frightened. It was one thing to hear an accidental report from a receptionist, and another to see the man who died in her arms breathing and talking. It took her a moment to gain composure, and she felt her knees go weak, but she was able to remain standing. She approached Arthur's bed with caution, and he was silent, watching her every move. He closed his eyes gently as he felt her fingers graze his cheek, pushing his hair from his forehead. She finally embraced him, holding on to him tighter than anything she had before, and he did the same, burying his head in the hollow of her neck. She kissed him, placing small kisses all around his face.
"Arthur! I thought I lost you."
"Are you okay?" He asked placing both hands on her face, looking her directly in the eyes after giving her a quick once over. "Did they hurt you? Your forehead…"
"It's nothing," she said pushing his hand away. "It doesn't matter."
"Arthur, you're here, you're still here," she said through tears.
"I wasn't going to leave you without a fight. I promised, remember?" he said with a weak smile. He tok Gwen's hand, holding it tightly as she used the other to wipe her eyes. "Merlin...I knew you'd come. You've always followed through."
His light eyes glistened at the sight of his best friend. "Always."
"Well, at least I'll have a nice scar to show for my trouble." Arthur tried to bring some humor, but both Merlin and Gwen remained solemn, still processing the fact that they were having a conversation with Arthur rather than identifying his body at the morgue. "So y'all know that I'm fine now. But you've got to go."
"My father and Morgana are here. Just before y'all came, Morgana was called away by a nurse, and my father was in the cafeteria before that. They'll be back any minute, you're lucky"
"I'm not going any where," Gwen said shaking her head. "They'll have to drag me out of here."
"Guinevere, if they find you here, it won't be good. I don't want them to know where you are. You and Merlin have got to go. I wouldn't spend the night here, not in Dearborn, I mean."
Merlin took a step toward Arthur after looking over his shoulder towards the shuttered window. "Arthur, I don't understand."
"The person who did this to me could be coming for you and Gwen next. Merlin, you don't have a choice now, you have to leave. Please, I'm begging you. Just go straight home, pack up your stuff, and then take Gwen with you and don't stop driving until you're three counties over-in McCormick."
Merlin shook his head. "No! Absolutely not! We're not leaving you."
Arthur tried to sit up farther, but cringed as a stinging pain erupted in his side, and he clutched his wound for a moment. "There's no time to argue. Just go! Before they come back! Go! Get a hotel room in McCormick, and get a separate one for Gwen. Lay low, I'll meet y'all in a couple of days."
"How?" Gwen asked at the ludicrous plan.
"Guinevere, just trust me."
Merlin took Gwen's shoulder, feeling the urgency of the situation. He pulled her towards the door when she tried to remain rooted beside Arthur. "It'll be fine Gwen. We've got to go."
"What if you don't make it? Arthur, how will you find us?" She asked, pushing Merlin away from her as he tried to pull her out of the room.
"McCormick county is small, with only a couple motels. I'll be able to find you. If I'm not there within three days...go to New Mexico without me." Arthur saw the look of worry flash over Gwen's face, and he tried to makes his voice as reassuring as possible. "It'll be fine. Go, please, go."
Merlin nodded, pulling Gwen towards the door.
"Arthur, make it to us safe."
"We've come too far to give up."
And with that, the two ducked out of the room, going the way they came and using the exit directly next to the stairwell and away from the entrance. They were panting with excitement and anxiety when they finally entered Merlin's car.
"I think my heart is 'bout to explode," Gwen said grasping at her chest.
"I've given up trying to predict what will happen in my life," Merlin turned the car over. "He's right Gwen, it's not safe for us here. McCormick is more than an hour and a half away; far enough to stay under the radar and close enough for Arthur. He's smart and determined."
"I won't rest easy until we're out of here. Please, hurry."
Morgana quickly glanced at her watch, shaking her head in disbelief. She looked at the three receptionist, two of which were as silent as death as the other recounted the event. "How long ago was this?"
"No more than five minutes ago."
Morgana looked to her uncle who stood next to her at the front desk, a frown set on his wrinkled face to match his niece's. "And they were escorted out?"
"Yes ma'am, immediately."
"I told you this would happen Uncle. I knew that they would come. And we missed them."
"Are you sure it was her?" Uther asked the receptionist for the third time.
"Yes sir, she was just like you described. And the fella she was with was tall with black hair just like you said. We knew even before they said anything, and sent them away."
Morgana crossed her arms over her chest, thinking for a moment before thanking the woman for her alertness and efforts. "Keep an eye out. You call the cops if either of them step foot in here again."
"And tell him what, Miss Pendragon?"
"It doesn't matter, just get him here."
Morgana hastily pulled her uncle aside, the two huddled together in a hall way while a couple of doctors and nurses passed them by. She held onto his arm, her voice low with rage. "This is turning into a mess. She came here, she actually showed her face here! Of all places–she has no shame, none whatsoever! She's trash...but that's beside the point. What if one of those women from the desk talks–to reporters? That'll be the next headline 'Negro mistress visits Pendragon at hospital.'"
"I'll see to it that the women's silence is properly compensated." He rubbed the wrinkles on his forehead. "Soon, the entire town will be on my payroll, either through hires or bribes." He emitted a sarcastic chuckle, causing Morgana's frown to tighten.
"Uncle, you're not putting a lid on this issue, and it's running wild."
"It's being handled."
"Not very well! Arthur was shot, in broad day light. A Pendragon man was gunned down in broad day light at a train station! Now that's a news story you're not getting rid of."
"This may garner some sympathy for us. We can focus the town's direction on finding the gunman, and bringing him to justice. Arthur's affair will be a pale shadow."
"Arthur knows who did it. I could see it in his eyes," Morgana bit the corner of her lip as she remembered how Arthur reacted when she asked him who committed the crime between inconsolable sobs.
"If he knew, he'd tell us."
"That's what I would think, but he's keeping something from us."
"I know, he's not telling us where that girl is, or where he was planning on going."
"We know that she's still in town, and Merlin to. As long as Arthur's here, they're not going any where."
"I think that he's come to his senses now. He'll stay here after this mess is cleaned, he won't be leaving town."
"What makes you so sure?"
"His heart stopped for more than a minute–he was dead. Such a thing has a way of bringing a man back to his senses. Maybe a near death experience was what he needed."
Morgana suppressed a smile at the news. If she had known that this is all that it took….she promptly shook the thought from her head. "He'll resist at first."
"Of course, it'll be his pride. Did you call Vivian?"
"I did. She refuses to come."
"He needs to see her."
Morgana shook her head. "That's not going to work."
"Why not? They were interested in each other before."
"Just trust me. Once he's discharged, we'll take him home, he'll fully recuperate there if need be, and we'll put all of this behind us, and be a family again. Then we can work on making sure the brute who shot him doesn't feel the sunshine until the next century."
Uther agreed, but he was slightly unnerved at the ease which Morgana's harsh words flowed. For a moment, her genteel façade was removed, and her gritty core was exposed. The swift calculating tone with which she had dealt with the entire situation–from damage control, releasing him from holding, and now Arthur's injury astounded him. He never considered her to be cunning or especially crafty.
"This is all business which we can discuss later. Let's just be with Arthur. He needs us–his family."
The moment Arthur heard the door knob of his room jiggle, he pulled the sheets to his chest and closed his eyes.
"Oh, he's sleeping," Uther whispered to his niece.
"Good, he needs the rest," she said as she quietly closed the door.
Arthur counted to three before slowly opening his eyes, rubbing them groggily. "I just closed my eyes for a bit. What took y'all so long?"
Morgana and Uther were sitting next to each other, and they looked at each other before Uther decided to respond. "Just some...news."
"Is something wrong?" Arthur's throat went dry. "Did something go wrong with the surgery, and you're trying to break it to me easy?"
"No, not at all. The surgery was a success. It's...Merlin was here."
Arthur feigned confusion.
"And that gi–Gwen," he said with obvious distaste. "Don't worry. They won't disturb you."
"What happened to them?"
"They were sent away."
Morgana took the cup of water which was next to her, handing it to her cousin. "Here, drink some."
Arthur took it without protest. "Merlin can't see me?"
"He insisted on bringing that woman up here too. I think that it's best that you too are...apart for a while. Let this media circus die down."
Arthur handed the cup back to Morgana, and he saw that she was carefully analyzing him as she returned to her seat next to her uncle. "I think you should stay out of public view for a while."
"I think that's a good idea, son."
"Well, I'll be in the hospital for a couple of days."
"After that, I'll make plans to have you stay for a week or two at the cabin in Redmond Grove. We'll send a couple of maids with you. Just for a little...consider it a vacation."
"It's not a vacation, it's imprisonment."
"You can think of it that way, if you choose. But you are staying in Dearborn. This is your home."
Arthur sighed, nodding reluctantly. "You're right."
Uther and Morgana's eyes both widened with surprise, and they couldn't resist exchanging confused glances.
"I'll stay. This is my home. I'm ready to start fresh, be serious about my life, settle down, make a life for myself." Arthur had never seen Uther smile as widely as he did in that moment, and he knew that he was doubly convincing when he saw the corner of Morgana's mouth turn upwards into a small grin.
"So we can put this entire escapade behind us?"
"...Yes. I'm sorry for all of the pain I've caused you."
"It's just a road bump, that'll be paved over easily enough."
"I'm glad that you came back to your senses," Morgana said, clasping her hands together. "You know that we only wanted what's best for you and your future. You know that, right?"
Arthur felt his jaw clench, and he reminded himself to stay relaxed, and maintain the pretense. "You two only did what was best." Arthur delivered his best yawn. "I think I'm going to take a nap now."
"Go ahead and rest, get strong, then you can come home."
With a small twinge of pain, Arthur rolled onto his good side, unable to face his father and cousin for a moment longer. He opened his eyes and rolled onto his back as he heard the door open and close; his father stepping out to make a few phone calls, and Morgana stopping by the house to pick up a few things.
He took the time to develop a plan–his escape plan. This time, there would be no tragedy or unexpected pauses. He would finally begin to live–on his own terms.
The day after Arthur's shooting rocked the city of Dearborn, it was splashed against the front page of the Dearborn Journal, only a day after their story about the town's golden boy gone rogue sold the most papers in the history of the establishment. Vivian Remington listened as her father read the front page story over breakfast, her mother relishing every gory detail.
"Thanks be to God that you didn't marry into that family after all, and become the laughing stock of the town. Not to mention a near-widow."
"I always knew there was something off with that boy. Vivian, you dodged a bullet, my dear."
Vivian listened to her parents go back and forth, sharing memories of Arthur and his wild days, claiming that such a scandal was to be expected of a man of his caliber. After a few minutes of the relentless chatter, Vivian pushed away from the table.
"Vivian! Where are you going?" Her mother called after her as she left the room.
It was warm that morning, but Vivian Remington decided that she would start a fire and burn every picture she had of Arthur and her together, every letter and memento, and she would then violently scrounge her room for anything which reminded her of Morgana and their schemes, and throw it to the flames as well.
Though the smoke from her fire place entered her lungs causing her to cough, she smiled as she watched the things from her old life turn to ash. She resolved to create a new beginning for herself, just as Arthur had. She would begin as he, leaving behind the old and creating her own new.
Tom stopped at a news stand, one of many on the busy streets of Detroit, stopping his son as they walked to their new job at a Ford factory.
"The bastard makes headlines even up here." He took a nickel from his pocket, handing it to the owner of the new stand. There was a smiling picture of Arthur under the headline "Son of Real Estate Mogul Gunned Down". He and Elliot read it together in silence.
"Do you reckon that Gwen's okay?"
"She must be. It doesn't say anything 'bout her."
"Where do you think she is?" Elliot asked as his father tucked the newspaper underneath his arm. The two continued to walk, unable to afford being even a minute late and have their wages docked, even if it was just by a penny. They were saving each dime they had to pay for their new home which need many renovations and to send money down to Bobbi so she could eventually move up North with them.
"I hope far away from that place. She'll be fine, I know it. She'll find us some day, some how."
"What makes you so sure, Pop? Y'all didn't exactly have a happy goodbye."
Tom hung his head in shame, for not a moment passed when he didn't cringe at how he treated his daughter. "I was wrong for that. She'll always be my baby girl...I just gotta get used to the idea of them...give me some time son."
Elliot looked at his father, smiling because he knew that an effort was being made on his father's part despite the pain. He would try too. He lifted up a prayer for his sister, where ever she may be, that she was safe and happy, and that the three of them would be together again.
"Jesus Christ!" Alex hopped up, nearly dropping the newspaper as he waved his friends over to the living room, where he sat alone on the couch. "Hey, bring a beer for me too."
"What are you hollerin' 'bout now?" Roger opened his own beer after handing one two Alex. Drake plopped onto the couch next to Alex who was nearly vibrating.
"Spit it out already."
"We're on the front page."
Roger grabbed the newspaper, before throwing it back into his friend's lap. "Son of a bitch."
"That headline should read 'Pendragon Laid to Rest at Dearborn Cemetery'," Alex said after sucking loudly on his bottle. "Isn't that right Mr. I-can-hit-anything-from-a-mile-away?"
Drake rolled his eyes as he looked at Roger's pouty face. "Or should we rename you, Mr. Fuckup'?"
"Well Alex, what did you wanna do, huh? Set him on fire? 'Cause that's all you can do, you bastard. And I told y'all when we were driving over to the station that I didn't wanna use that pistol, it didn't feel right."
"It's not registered to any of us; we had to use it."
"Well y'all can go to hell, because the kickback was too hard; I couldn't aim right." Roger explained again. "Besides, we got our point across. Lie with Negroes, and you'll die like one."
"He deserves to get it worse than he got," Drake said staring at Arthur's black and white picture. "I wish my Uncle Percy could get a crack at him and his dad. How can someone just go into someone else's job and just beat them?"
Roger ran a hand through his hair. "Arthur's gonna live the rest of his life with that scar on his side, knowing that I put that there," he said with pride. The three men sat there, drinking their beers. One moment the bottles were to their lips, and the next they were on the floor pouring the liquid onto the carpet of Roger's apartment, as the three of them were pressed agains a wall, handcuffs snapping around their wrists.
"We didn't do nothin'!"
"You got the wrong guys!"
"Call my lawyer! Call him right now!"
"You're under arrest for the attempted murder–"
"Y'all two are under arrest for acting as accomplices to–"
The protesting screams of the three young men drowned out the arresting officers, and persisted even as their heads were pushed down and they were thrown in the back of a squad car, packed together in the backseat. They silenced, realizing that any thing else they said could only incriminate them further. Their mugshots would be taken within the hour.
Gaius removed his spectacles, taking a sip from his piping hot tea as Father Soma rubbed his forehead, reclined in his office chair.
"I've never seen anything like this. This town is going to hell in a hand basket"
"Arthur called me, I was able to speak with him a little."
"Is he alright?"
"He sounded tired, but he had plans, good plans to leave with Gwen and one of his friends. They'll be fine, I'll make sure of it. His guardian angel must be working over time, though," he joked, resting the up on his saucer.
Father Soma chuckled, tossing the newspaper to the ground. "What's happening to our world? It's despicable, absolutely terrible that a young man could be violated in this way. Where is the justice in this? How will Arthur ever receive retribution for this mindless violence?"
Gaius grinned, cleaning off his spectacles. "Oh, there will be justice; I have seen to it. Let's just say that after I spoke with Arthur, I wrote a very anonymous and detailed note to a very important man...perhaps the sheriff…?"
Father Soma held up his hands, entrenched in enough secrecy for now. "I trust you, old friend. Say no more."
"I think that things are changing...they'll get better. It just takes courage, a little bit of courage."
The priest and the old man simultaneously raised their drinks, and sipped in content silence.
Alice and Marge were sweeping the foyer in silence, still adjusting to the quiet which had befallen the lifeless Pendragon Estate. The ding of the doorbell disrupted their work, and Alice set her broom against the wall.
"I needed a break any how."
"I hear you."
Alice hurried to the door when she heard the bell ring a second time, and she wondered what could be so urgent. She was surprised to find an old black man at the door, holding his cap in his hands and holding a blank white envelope. She looked at it silently, waiting for an explanation.
"I was sent to deliver this, in person."
The old man peeked over the maid's shoulder, and whistled in awe at the interior of the house. "Mr. Pendragon."
Alice's eyes narrowed. "Who are you?"
"Just a janitor at the hospital." He pushed the letter towards Alice, and she received it with caution. "Be blessed, have a nice day." The old man put the hat back on his head, and turned around to walk down the steps.
"Hey! Who is it for! What is it?"
But he ignored her, whistling as he sauntered away.
Alice quickly closed the door, not surprised to find that Marge had been eavesdropping. She approached her, nearly snatching the envelope. "Have you seen him before?"
"No," Marge said, examining the envelope. "It feels light. It ain't money."
"What would that man be doin' givin' money to the Pendragons? Stop talkin' like a fool."
"It's from Arthur…"
"Don't you think I know that? Who else could it be from?"
Both women peered down at the envelope, and they could feel the weight of its significance burdening their hands.
"Ain't they supposed to be bringing him home today? He's been at theta hospital for three days, now."
"Miss Morgana and Mr. Uther were just fixin' to leave to pick him up."
Morgana approached the maids, slipping on some gloves. "Why are you two just standing around?" She pointed to the envelope with a gloved hand. "What's that you got there? Who was that at the door?"
"Some man came and delivered it. Said to give it to you."
Morgana snatched the letter away, dismissing the two women with a wave of her hand.
"What's that, Morgana?"
She looked at the front, where there was no address or names. She shrugged, breaking the seal with her finger. She gently unfolded the single paper as her uncle looked over her shoulder at the handwriting of his child–slanted and sloppy as ever.
Father and Morgana,
By time you read this, I will be far away from Dearborn. I have made many decisions in my short lifetime, some good, but most of them, things that I wish I could take back. I have always chased after what I wanted, and maybe that's been my problem, but now I'm running like hell after it. I have left with Guinevere, and that's a decision I will never regret.
I am sorry that it has to be this way, believe me, I am. But you said it yourself Father, there comes a time where a man must put away childish things and settle down, think about his future. I began doing that when I met Guinevere, and I'm a better man for it. I have put aside childish things, and this is how I know that what we have, the love we share is no childish fling.
We will be married soon after you read this, and starting a family. I hope the two of you can find it in your heart to forgive me for any suffering I have caused. It isn't always easy doing the right thing.
I will not tell you where we are until you push aside all desires to punish me and my fiancée, and you accept what has happened. I will not apologize for choosing to be happy. I don't want this to be our final good bye, but I won't be coming back to Dearborn for quite some time. I will call the house once every month, hoping that you'll have turned around by then.
Until that time, your son and relative,
Morgana's hands trembled as she read the letter, and she looked up at her Uncle, and she was unable to tell if the look of pain on his face was because of the defeat or a deep reckoning.
"Uncle...what are we going to do? Uncle?"
Uther shook his head. "Nothing. We do nothing. Those brutes who tried to kill Arthur, his supposed friends are going to jail, the story will die down...with much time. We just have to keep moving Morgana. I can't rule over him for ever. I don't even know where he is." Uther sighed, looking at the letter. "Let it be, for now."
Morgana crumpled the letter into an angry fist, throwing it across the foyer as her father slumped away. She fell into a heap to the ground, so upset that she didn't know what to do next. For the first time in months, there was no back up plan. She had played her last hand.
When Arthur knocked on Gwen's door on the third day, she stared at him, in awe that he made it back to her yet again. He pulled her in for the longest kiss of his life, not caring that anyone who looked up from the parking lot could see their embrace.
"I told you I'd come."
"I knew you would," she said, leaning her forehead against his own.
"The worst is over Guinevere, we made it."
She smiled, caressing his cheek. "It was worth it."
"Every single bit of it." He took a step away, holding her hand. "Let's go. Merlin's waiting in the car. We've got a long drive ahead of us."
Gwen had her suitcase fastened and in her hands in no time, and Arthur gladly carried it for her. As they walked down the steps of the motel, Arthur sighed with content as he saw the sun just peaking over the white clouds. As he put Gwen's suitcase in the trunk of Merlin's car, he looked over at her with a roguish grin.
"Someone ought to make our story into one of them Harlequin books."
"I don't think they'd have the time," she said as he opened the car door for her.
Arthur shook his head. "Yeah, you're probably right."
Merlin looked at his friends, and for the first time in a long time, he felt an overwhelming sense of relief. "Let's get the hell out of here!"
Arthur cupped his hands around his mouth as he howled in boisterous agreement, and Gwen clapped her hands in joy. Merlin had never been so happy to begin a long drive, but there was something different about this trip. It was the beginning of something great, a rebirth and a celebration of love. A twenty three hour car ride never felt so liberating.
In a land of opportunity and a time of struggle,
The destinies of three lives were changed by one decision.
It has been absolutely fantastic writing this! Thank you for everyone who read, and finished until the end! You have made this experience such a fun and fulfilling one. See? I'm not such an evil maniac; I'm still a sucker for happy endings. So if you have any friends who refused to finish the last chapter (like...seriously?) tell them they need to get their life together and finish it.