Alan made the call sometime after midnight. He had been sitting in the study nursing an eight ounce glass of scotch for hours; working up the courage to face the reality of his situation, looking for the strength he needed at the bottom of his drink. It was Thursday October 16, 2014.
From January 2009 through December 2012, the experimental drug the Supreme Court had cleared the way for Denny Crane to take had worked beyond both their wildest expectations. It worked so well, in fact, that Alan did not open his Legal Aid practice until after they had been married for three years. They had spent the first three years of their marriage fishing, traveling and simply enjoying life and each other. Though their marriage was sexless, it was far from loveless. If possible, they became even closer, better friends than when they first married.
But, that was then and this is now, he thought sadly as he sipped his scotch, and now, Denny lies dying inch by inch upstairs. I have to call Adrienne; I promised both of them I would when the time came. It's just, it's just when I make this call, it means I can't deny anymore that the end is coming, it's really coming. And, I don't know if I'm ready. I don't know if I'll ever be ready.
In her Montrose, Colorado split level house, Adrienne had just decided to get ready for bed when her phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID, she noted it was 10:35 and that Alan was the caller. This can't be good; it's 12:35AM in Boston.
"Alan? What's going on?" She could hear him trying to speak. "Sweetie?"
Alan's voice answered her sounding both tired and strained, "Denny's taken a turn for the worse. I'd, um, I'd really appreciate it if you could come to Boston as soon as you can." He was trying very hard not to break down. The time for tears will be here soon enough.
"Oh, Alan, I am so sorry. I have to make some calls to hand off my cases to my partners. I'll text you my travel information as soon as I arrange it. Hang on, Alan. Hang in there, I'm on my way," soothed Adrienne. You don't maintain a close friendship with someone for more than forty years and not know how to read him emotionally. He's on the edge, she thought. "Don't worry about anything; everything is going to be okay."
Deplaning at Boston's Logan Airport after touching down on time at 8:45PM the next night, Adrienne walked toward the baggage claim area while keeping an eye out for a sign with her name on it. Not seeing one, she concentrated on retrieving her luggage from the carousel. Why are my bags always the last friggin' ones to come down the slide?, she thought irritably as she watched person after person haul suitcases off the contraption and head for the exits. Finally, she saw her two bags, grabbed them and turned just as a man in a black suit lifted a sign with "A. Peyton" written on it in bold black letters.
She walked up to him and announced, "I'm Adrienne Peyton."
The man responded, "Hi, Ms Peyton, I'm Dave, Denny and Alan's chauffeur." He dumped the sign in the trash, took her bags and then led the way to the parking lot. "How was your flight?" he asked.
"There was some turbulence but, not too bad and call me Adrienne. OK?"
Dave smiled as he opened the rear door to let her into the car. "OK, Adrienne," he replied. He jogged around to the driver's side, got in, started the limo and pulled out of the parking lot As he expertly negotiated the traffic as they headed to the Crane suburban home, he remarked, "I hope I'm not speaking out of turn Adrienne but, I gotta tell ya I am really happy that you're here. I've heard your name mentioned a few times over the years so, I know you mean a lot to Alan and Denny. Alan needs you here; I hope you can help him. He needs a friend."
Adrienne, who had been pretending to watch the lights and exits go by as her thoughts swirled in her mind, caught Dave's eyes in the rearview mirror and answered softly, "I'm glad I'm here, too" before turning her gaze back to what little scenery she could make out through the window. It remains to be seen if I can help him.
Adrienne was sitting in the living room where Rodeo had brought her sipping the cup of tea he had provided for her. "Alan is upstairs with Denny; he's aware that you are here and asked that you wait here for him," he had said as he showed her into the tastefully decorated room. The fireplace was lit and she stared into the flames trying to find shapes in them to pass the time. Twenty minutes later, Alan came into the room looking like the proverbial weight of the world was on his shoulders.
He walked straight over to her and she stood wordlessly and pulled him into a hug. He put his arms around her as he dropped his head onto her shoulder and allowed her to rub his back and slowly rock him from side to side. She felt some of the tension in his body leave him as he took several deep breaths. She kissed his cheek and leaned back to look at him. He saw the question in her eyes.
"Today was a bad day, Adrienne. Denny was verbally fighting with his nurses; he was arguing with me, he was confused about what day it was, what year…" He pulled her back to him and laid his head back on her shoulder for a moment. Sighing heavily, he broke the embrace and tilted his head toward her cup of tea. "Do you have any whiskey in that tea?" When she shook her head, he asked, "Do you want some whiskey in that tea?"
Adrienne grinned and replied, "I would prefer a glass of red wine. Care to join me?"
Alan smiled for the first time in he couldn't remember when. "I would love to have a glass of wine with you." They sat on the couch while he used the intercom to ask Rodeo to bring two glasses and two bottles of Australian Shiraz sauvignon. In response to Adrienne's raised eyebrow, he said, "I hope you're not too tired; I really, really need to vent and maybe get your insight on a lot of stuff."
"Alan, I deliberately got up early this morning and ran myself ragged packing, updating my partners on the status of the cases I was handing over to them, booking my flight and arranging for someone to drop me off at Montrose Regional Airport. I was tired on the flight to Denver but forced myself to stay awake until I boarded my Boston flight. I never even felt us take off; I woke up about thirty minutes outside of Logan. I am wide awake and focusing all my attention on you. Talk to me."
At that moment, Rodeo arrived with a tray loaded down with different kinds of cheese and crackers and two stemless red wine glasses. The wine he carried in a wine tote. He opened a bottle and poured the contents into each glass and placed it on the coffee table next to the tray. "Will there be anything else, sir?" he asked formally and when Alan smiled and shook his head No, he said, "Thank you, sir, good night."
"Good night, Rodeo!" they said in unison.
"Thank you for everything, Rodeo!" Adrienne added as she watched him close the living room French doors to give them even more privacy even though Alan was reasonably sure that his Major Domo was on his way to join his wife in the servants' quarters which meant that the security guard, Leon, was the only regular employee out and about on the property and he wouldn't start checking the house interior until after they went to bed. Denny's nurses had no reason to come into the living room.
Alan handed a glass to Adrienne and they clinked glasses and tasted the wine. Adrienne looked at Alan expectantly.
"Adrienne, the drug stopped working earlier this year but, even worse, it seems to have sped up the progression of the disease. He's gone from the early stage symptoms of Alzheimer's to moderate stage symptoms within six months. He's frustrated continually because he keeps forgetting what things are called so, he refers to everything as 'whatchamacallit.' He becomes furious if the nurse, staff or I don't know what he is talking about. He can't read anymore because he can no longer concentrate; he's not coordinated enough anymore to be able to write or type. He took a nasty fall two months ago. Thankfully, he didn't break anything but, he wrenched his knee horribly. He's been bedridden ever since. Dr. Forrester said he still, for the moment, is coordinated enough to walk with a cane or maybe a walker but, he won't. He's afraid of falling again. I can't say that I blame him. I moved into the bedroom next to ours when I hired fulltime nursing staff to care for him. I, I miss him in bed with me; I haven't slept through the night since."
Adrienne, don't cry! she thought and looked away quickly to compose herself. He needs me, I can't let him down. If he's got the strength and guts to live it, I should at least have the strength and guts to listen to him tell it without falling apart. She looked back at Alan when she realized he had stopped speaking.
He freshened his drink and was swirling the liquid while apparently lost in thought. "This evening, Denny became extremely agitated. He was throwing things; he didn't recognize me or the nurse who's been with him sixty hours a week for the last two months. He…he lost control of his bladder."
"Oh, Alan," she breathed.
He took a deep swallow of his wine. "When that happened, it shocked him into silence for a few seconds and then, he burst into tears. When you arrived, I was helping the nurse change him and the bedding." He looked abjectly miserable. "Adrienne, I think it's time. It's past time," he whispered fiercely.
She exhaled loudly and slid closer to him. "I think you're right," she agreed and put her arm around him when he laid his head on her chest and began to weep. She didn't think he wanted her to say anything so she didn't. She rubbed his back and when he stopped snuffling and sat up, she got up and picked up the tray with the glasses and gestured for him to grab the second bottle of wine. He used his free hand to open the living room door and followed her out.
Rodeo had placed her bags in the guest room on the other side of the one Alan was currently occupying. She walked into the room and placed the tray on the round cherry wood table that sat next to the window. She took the bottle from his hand and filled both their glasses. She took a sip from her glass and said, "I'd like to see Denny."
"He's sleeping; the nurse gave him a mild sedative."
"I won't wake him. It's just…I need to see him to make it real for me. We have some profound stuff to talk about and I need to have no illusions about his condition. Can you understand?"
Alan nodded, "Of course. Come with me."
They walked into the master bedroom and nodded to the nurse who smiled and left the room to give them privacy. Denny was sleeping peacefully; flat on his back with his arms outside the blanket at his sides. His snoring was steady but, soft and every once in awhile, he would make what he called his "pig noise." Adrienne moved so that she was standing near the head of the bed. He looks cold to me, she thought as she lifted his arm gently and placed it under the covers. Alan nodded and did the same thing to Denny's other arm. Adrienne watched him for a few more minutes; she took her right hand, kissed her fingers and placed them against his temple. She backed away from the bed and turned to leave.
Adrienne stopped in front of Alan's room. "Why don't you put your jammies on and come back to my room?" She didn't wait for an answer; just kept heading to her room. By the time Alan came in, she had changed into her preferred sleepwear; an oversized T – shirt and was sitting at the round table. She motioned for him to join her. "Tell me, Alan," she said as she reached for a piece of brie, "it must be so hard to reconcile that serene looking man in there with the person he's become when he's awake. How have you been dealing with all this?"
Alan sat on the edge of the bed and shrugged. "I don't go in to see him asleep for one thing. Tonight I did only because I wanted to go in with you. I discovered that watching him night after night was making me an emotional wreck. When he's asleep, he looks like the old Denny Crane and I would find myself thinking 'Maybe tomorrow will be better, maybe tomorrow the medication will start working again.' And when tomorrow would come and things were unchanged, I would feel devastated all over again. He's not even on the drug anymore; Dr. Forrester determined that it was starting to do more harm than good. Unfortunately, stopping the medication did nothing to slow the progress of the disease."
"The biggest horror, Adrienne, the reason I've waited to honor Denny's wishes is: Some days Denny is lucid! Granted, they are few and far between but, they still happen."
Adrienne forced her face not to register the shock she felt. "When was his last lucid day?"
He ran his hand across his face and scooted back until his back was against the headboard. "A week ago Wednesday. I was heading out with Dave when Rodeo sent me a text that said Denny was asking for me. I ran up to the bedroom and he was sitting there smiling at me. He said he just wanted to watch a movie with me so, we did. It was so like old times, I dared to hope he was coming back to himself. We watched a movie and then we talked about my practice and he was asking me intelligent, appropriate questions about the cases he had been working on before the illness made him stop. It was wonderful."
Adrienne got on the bed and sat next to Alan. "It sounds wonderful. How long was he…himself?"
He looked over at her. "Do you know what 'sundowning' is, Adrienne?"
She closed her eyes for a moment to think and then responded, "Isn't that when a person with Alzheimer's starts exhibiting symptoms like mood swings, disorientation and hallucinating in the afternoon or early evening?"
"Yes, it is. Denny is a sundowner; it supposedly has something to do with circadian rhythms but, no one knows for sure. Anyway, everything was fine until suddenly, Denny got this outraged look on his face and shouted at me 'What did you just say to me?' Adrienne, I swear I had not said a word; he was speaking! I never did find out what he thought he heard. He threw me out of the room and gave his nurses hell right up until he fell asleep for the night."
Adrienne pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. "Alan, has Dr. Forrester mentioned to you that Alzheimer's patients with Sundown Syndrome deteriorate faster than those who don't?"
"Well, someone has been doing their research! I'm impressed and yes, he did tell me. That's what pushed me to decide that it's time to have his…pain managed."
"Have you spoken to Dr. Forrester about Denny's…pain management? Is he on board with handling it? Alan, the last thing I want is for you to be stressed out by a court battle."
Alan walked to the round table, divided the last of the wine between the two glasses and returned to the bed where he handed one to Adrienne and then returned to his spot. "Adrienne, five years ago, I represented a coworker of mine when she wanted her father's 'pain managed.' She and I both suffered tremendously during that court appearance. I nearly drove myself to tears in my closing statement. Her father's Alzheimer's was much more advanced than Denny's and he and I both saw what he had devolved into: A former brilliant legal mind that couldn't comprehend anything; speechless, lying in his own filth…. Denny made me promise I wouldn't let him get to that point. I've already spoken to Dr. Forrester and he will do what I ask when I ask it."
Adrienne put her head down and murmured, "'When' is the operative word." She placed her glass on the night table, grabbed the bedding and slid underneath it until she was flat on her back looking up at Alan. "I know you're thinking soon otherwise you wouldn't have called me," she said as a matter of fact. She patted the bed next to her.
Alan got under the covers and put his hands behind his head. Sighing deeply, he said, "I didn't tell you: Denny was in the courtroom during that closing. He heard what I said about him trusting me to know when the time has come to still that wild, foolish heart of his and end his life. Later on that evening, he told me I was right. He does trust me to know but…"
She turned to face him. "But what, Alan?" she asked quietly.
"What if I'm wrong? What if this isn't the right time?" Alan's voice was ragged with pain. He stifled a sob.
"Alan, one thing that Denny and I have always had in common is our complete and utter faith and trust in you. Your heart has never misled you or us. What is your heart telling you?"
A tear escaped the corner of Alan's right eye and slid down toward his ear. He turned to face Adrienne so she could gather him into her arms. "It's saying that the time has come."
She kissed his forehead and settled in to go to sleep. "Then it has. We can talk tomorrow about who you want to come say goodbye."
When Alan woke up the next morning, he saw Adrienne sitting at the table dressed, drinking coffee and looking at her laptop screen. "Good morning," he grumbled as he raked his hand over his face, "What time is it and how long have you been up?"
"Morning, Sweetie. It's just after eight and I've been up since about five. "
Alan was heading toward the bathroom. "What? Why didn't you wake me?" he asked as he closed the door.
She raised her voice so he could hear. "For what? You said you hadn't had a decent night's sleep in weeks. I showered, dressed, went downstairs to the kitchen and Olympia made me something to eat and a pot of coffee that I brought back up here." When Alan came out of the bathroom, she poured him a cup and put it in front of the other chair. "Black, right?" she asked.
He sat at the table and took a sip. "Right," he answered, "What are you doing?"
"I just finished taking care of my email. I was reading the Montrose Daily Press online. The biggest news is the local medical marijuana shop was robbed again. Same stuff, different day."
Alan nodded and took a bite of the buttered roll that had been on the tray. They sat in companionable silence for awhile, Alan sipping coffee and eating, Adrienne perusing the internet. Finally, he looked at her and said, "After you went to sleep, I thought about who I would let come here to say goodbye. There are many people I will invite to the public memorial, a precious few I will invite to the private service but, only one other besides you that I will allow into that room to speak to him."
Adrienne smiled knowingly. "Shirley," she stated.
Shirley and Carl arrived that evening at approximately six – thirty. They were sitting in the living room with Alan and Adrienne chatting about glittering generalities in an effort to ignore the real reason for their visit. Finally, Shirley said, "Alan, I think I'd better go upstairs now before I lose my nerve."
Alan stood up. "It was kind of a bad day for him so; his nurse gave him a mild sedative. He'll either be asleep or just very quiet." He glanced over at Carl and said, "Please, don't be insulted, Carl but, I would rather that you didn't see Denny. I know he would kill me if I allowed you to see him like this; just like I know he would kill me if I kept Shirley from him."
Carl had stood when Alan did. "I'm not insulted at all, I understand completely. I would rather remember him the way he was. Adrienne and I will keep each other company while you're gone." He watched them leave to go upstairs and then sat back down. Carl had opted for Shirley to do most of the talking for them both while he had been observing the unspoken interplay between his former colleague and his friend as they sat across from him on the couch. Though they had sat inches apart and had not been touching, one would have to be blind not to see the connection the two obviously shared. They are extremely comfortable together, he had thought, they seem to anticipate what the other one is going to do and say.
"So, Adrienne, has Alan ever told you that Shirley and I met Adrian when he came by the office years ago?"
Adrienne smiled at the mention of her son's name. "Really?" she said, "So can Alan and I cook or what?"
Carl laughed, "He is a good looking young man. Shirley and I saw him step off the elevator and knew immediately that he was either Alan's son or an alternate universe doppelganger. I haven't seen him in years, though. How is he?"
"He got married two years ago to the young lady Alan and I met when we first, well, met him. He's a gerontologist and he and Nora live in Chicago now." She walked over to the bar set up that Rodeo had arranged prior to the Sacks' arrival. "I'm going to have a glass of wine. Care to join me or are you driving?"
"I'll have a scotch if you don't mind. I arranged for a limo to drive us. Shirley is going to be upset when she comes downstairs and I want to be able to focus all my attention on her. There's a bar in the car, so she'll more than likely have one then; in fact, I'll make sure of it."
Adrienne handed him a glass and they clinked them together and drank. After a few moments of silence, Carl looked up and said, "Shirley was worried about Alan's state of mind after, well, you know. We're both glad you are here to support him."
She smiled sadly and replied, "I'll be here as long as he wants me to be. I'll take care of him to the best of my abilities."
Carl raised his glass in salute. "Of that, I have no doubt." Just then, Shirley and Alan came back into the room. Her eyes were red – rimmed and it was obvious she had been crying. Alan looked distraught.
Shirley stuck her hand out to shake Adrienne's and said, "It was a pleasure to meet you; I just wish it had been under better circumstances. Carl and I really need to get going."
Adrienne and Carl put their glasses down and the four of them walked toward the front door. Alan handed them their coats from the front closet and after getting hugged by both, opened the door to let them out. He and Adrienne stood in the doorway until their chauffeur had closed their door and gotten in the driver's seat. It was too cold to watch them drive away.
"Are you okay?"
Alan's shoulders slumped. "No," he said, "but, with you here, I will be. Let's go upstairs and talk."
The two friends were comfortably ensconced in Alan's bed sipping hot chocolate Rodeo had brought up for their nightcap. Alan put his cup down and announced, "I've made some decisions and I want to know what you think."
Alan took a deep breath. "I've decided that you and I need to say our final goodbyes tomorrow because I'm calling Dr. Forrester on Monday. I won't make arrangements for his memorials until after…until after it's all said and done. I just want to follow his wishes; I don't think I could handle anyone's judgment so, no one will know what's been done except you, Shirley, Carl, Dr. Forrester and me. I'm dismissing the nurses tomorrow."
She looked at him. "What about his body?" she asked.
"Denny wants to be cremated and have his ashes strewn from his office balcony on Boylston Street. That will happen but, I know from experience that a human body produces a lot of ash so some will be scattered from the balcony, some will be scattered around the grounds here and the rest will be scattered at Nimmo Bay."
Adrienne stretched and started settling in for the night. "That all sounds good to me, Alan. Denny would like everything you're talking about, I'm sure of it."
Alan grinned briefly and said, "Before you drop off, there is one more thing."
He looked uncomfortable for a moment before he pushed forward, "Please think about this before you answer. Adrienne, would you please consider giving up the bounty hunter life and staying here with me? I know you enjoy the work and always have but, we both are getting older…"
"- and I worry about you so much," Alan kept speaking, "and we have always loved each other and…"
"- you don't have to answer right now mmmph…" Alan was silenced by Adrienne's hand covering his mouth.
"Alan, I've answered you twice already!" Adrienne laughed as she removed her hand, "Yes, I will retire from bounty hunting and stay here with you. I've actually been thinking about stopping for some time now but, can we speak about this later? It would just be too weird to have that discussion now."
Alan reached to turn off the lamp and then moved to spoon up against her. "I agree. I will say though, that maybe this horrible black cloud that is hanging over me and this house is showing a glint of silver lining. Love you. Goodnight."
"Love you, too, Alan. Goodnight."
Sunday afternoon found Alan and Adrienne sitting in the master bedroom watching Denny while they prepared to say goodbye. The nurse had been sent out on an extended break to give them privacy. Alan was sitting on the bed holding Denny's hand. He rubbed his thumb across the older man's knuckles to keep himself calm. He couldn't believe that Denny had experienced another setback. He was slipping away steadily and faster. Dr. Forrester had said when he came by earlier in the day that they were in "uncharted territory" meaning that since no one else in the country was taking the drug, everything that was happening to Denny was an unknown. In just forty – eight hours, Denny had become comatose, though both Adrienne and Alan were certain Denny could hear them.
Adrienne looked at Alan who nodded and then stood up to leave. "No, Alan, don't go; I want you to hear what I'm going to say to Denny."
After Alan sat back down, Adrienne scooted her chair closer and took hold of Denny's other hand. "Denny, it's Adrienne. Guess what? You were right; Alan asked me to stay. I want to thank you for not taking my bet!" she laughed and rubbed his arm. Her smile faded to a serious look as she gathered her thoughts. "Actually Denny," she began, "I want to thank you for so much more. I remember having a phone conversation with Alan years ago when he told me he had met the famous Denny Crane and had accepted your invitation to go to work for Crane Poole and Schmidt."
"Thank you Denny, for believing in Alan's professional abilities and giving him another chance to practice law with a topnotch firm. Thank you for befriending him. Thank you for not judging him." Adrienne wiped tears from her face and took deep breaths to compose herself. "I can do this," she whispered more to herself then to the men in the room. "Denny," she started again, "I used to worry about Alan. I know, I know; I'm the one with the semi – dangerous job but, I'm not talking about physical danger. I was always worried that Alan would one day reach his threshold for emotional pain and just shut down. He has been hurt so many times in his life; he has trusted so many times only to have that that trust betrayed."
"You saved him Denny; you gave him a safe place to put his heart. I will be grateful to you forever for doing that. And, I will be grateful to you forever for what you said to me five years ago. I never forgot it and I never will. Thank you for including me in your life. I'll never forget you." She stood up and leaned over him to kiss him gently on his forehead and his cheek. "Goodbye, Denny."
She turned to exit the bedroom. "Adrienne, please stay. You don't have to go," Alan spoke from the other side of the bed. He had stood and motioned for her to sit again. She looked at him and smiled.
"Yes, I do," she answered him softly, "He's your husband; you don't need an audience to say goodbye. I'll be in my room."
Alan watched her leave and then turned back to look at the man lying with his eyes closed whose hand he still held. Instead of retaking his seat on the bed, he sat in the chair She always knows when to stay and when to give me space, he thought warmly.
"Denny," he whispered, "even at this stage of our lives, you still manage to surprise me. What did you tell Adrienne five years ago?" He put his other hand on Denny's and used both his hands to lift Denny's to hold it against his forehead. He sat quietly for a few minutes with his elbows on the bed and Denny's hand resting on his head, feeling the hand's warmth, filing the feeling away in his memory so he could retrieve it in the future. "'A friend might well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.' Ralph Waldo Emerson could have been writing about you when he put those words on paper."
"I went to work at Crane Poole and Schmidt assuming that all I was getting was a job and a paycheck. Who knew I would end up with a best friend and a husband, for Pete's sake! I think you always had more vision than I did. Denny, you were always so big, so full of life and laughter and, most importantly, love. Believe it or not, you restored my faith in love, Denny. What you have done for me through the years; words can only provide the palest of descriptions.
I was done, Denny. I was so done with trusting and loving and friendship. And then, there you were; knocking down my walls with your outrageous antics, insisting that I lighten up and enjoy my life, insisting on being my friend. I had not had that kind of connection with another human being in a very long time. I couldn't help myself, I came to adore you. We had our fights and disagreements but, I never doubted how you felt about me. Never. You gave me a safe place to put my heart."
Alan moved onto the bed beside Denny and put his head on Denny's chest like he had done dozens of times before they married and every night since. He pulled Denny's arm around him as if they were about to go to sleep. "Denny, I pray to God I'm doing the right thing at the right time; Adrienne said that you two always trusted and had faith in me to know when the time is right. I wish I had the faith you have. I wish you would let me know you're OK with this decision."
Suddenly, Alan became aware that Denny's hand had cupped his face. After a few seconds, Denny patted his face. Shocked, Alan searched Denny's face for awareness or any sign of consciousness but, there was none. He could almost have convinced himself that it never happened. Except it did, he thought, Thank you, Denny, for letting me know I'm right.
"Thank you, Denny, for scotch and cigars; for health spas and fat farms; for fishing trips and Nimmo Bay. Thank you for offering me a job and for being my friend. Thank you for convincing me to marry you; these years have been among the happiest of my life. Thank you for making me promise to call Adrienne. I have a feeling you have a grand plan in place involving the two of us. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for loving me, Denny."
"'Thank you' is so inadequate but, it's all I've got. That and this." Alan slowly got off the bed, leaned in and kissed Denny on his forehead, his cheek and his lips. He leaned over to Denny's ear and whispered, "I love you, Denny. I will never forget you and not to worry: When Dr. Forrester comes tomorrow, I'll be with you."
Denny's demise was almost anti – climatic. Dr. Forrester arrived promptly at 9AM Monday morning, adjusted the morphine drip and per Alan's request, left the room to wait downstairs until he was called. Only Alan and Adrienne were in the master bedroom. Shirley had been relieved when Alan told her that since Adrienne would be there, he would not be alone, so she did not have to be because he knew how hard it had been for her to be with her father when he died.
Adrienne and Alan sat on either side of the bed each holding Denny's hand and watching his breathing get slower and slower until finally, he exhaled one last time and didn't inhale. They sat a few minutes longer and then rose, kissed his cheek and when Alan walked around the bed, Adrienne held him while he cried. When he finished, she left him with Denny while she went to get Dr. Forrester to declare the time of death.
When the funeral director picked up the body (in both their minds, Denny was gone; this was only a shell) the entire household staff stood at the front door entranceway to say goodbye.
The private service was held at the house two days later and was attended by Shirley and Carl, the household staff and, of course, Alan and Adrienne. It was officiated by the Right Reverend William Wall, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church of Massachusetts. Even though the service was only forty – five minutes long, Alan could not remember any of what had been said.
The public memorial service was held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul across from Boston Common one week later and was also officiated by Rt. Rev. Wall. This service, however, was a standing room only, media circus as befitted the passing of a legal lion of Denny Crane's stature. Everyone who was anyone attended the service. Reverend Al Sharpton, Paul Lewiston, District Attorney Brad Chase, Mayor Jones, and even Supreme Court Justice Scalia all spoke of their friendship with and memories of Denny Crane. At one point, Alan looked around and thought, Denny would have loved this.
A week later, Alan was able to scatter some of Denny's ashes off "their" balcony despite the objections from some of the new partners of Chang Poole and Schmidt thanks to Paul Lewiston's intervention. When he had stepped off the elevator onto the fourteenth floor, he was surprised by the number of people he didn't know but, glad that he didn't have to make small talk. He was escorted to Denny's old office by Paul, a concession he disliked but, tolerated. After he had completed his mission, he had turned to Paul and said, "For Denny, I thank you but, I hope to never lay eyes on you again. Goodbye, Paul."
Paul's lips tightened and drew thin in distaste. "The feeling is mutual, Alan. Do not come back here," he sneered as Alan stepped through the elevator doors and out of his life for a second time.
Later that same day, Alan scattered some more of Denny's ashes around the grounds of their home; the gazebo, the stream and off their bedroom balcony. Afterwards, he met up with Adrienne in the living room.
Adrienne handed him a glass of scotch. "So, when are you going to Nimmo Bay? And, do you want me to go with you?"
He took a sip and put the drink down. "I'm not ready to give him up just yet so I don't know exactly when I'm heading up to Canada and yes, when I do go, I want you to go with me," he answered. "Thank you, Adrienne."
She moved closer to him on the couch and turned to face him, putting her right leg up and under her. "You're welcome," she replied, "but, for what?"
"For being here, for staying, for loving me, for everything. You made everything bearable. May I ask you something?"
Adrienne put her upper arm on the back of the couch and put her head in her hand. "You may ask me anything. What do you want to know?" She watched Alan look her straight in the eyes and smile. The light bulb went off over her head. "Oh," she said, "you want to know what Denny said to me years ago." He nodded in answer.
"After you and Denny got engaged, Denny called me one day. He asked me how I was doing and we were just shooting the breeze when he says to me, 'Adrienne, I'm convinced that Alan still loves you.' I laughed and said I know that. He says, 'No, I mean Alan still loves you.'"
Alan flushed slightly and said, "Oh, really."
She nodded and continued, "He told me to keep an open mind about moving back here because he was certain that you would ask me to retire and stay here when his time came and that ultimately, we would get back together. He told me that if that were to happen, he wanted me to know he would be happy for both of us; that when he said as much to Adrian when they had lunch one day he had truly meant it. I thought that was the coolest thing anyone had ever said to me and I will never forget it. He was concerned about your, well, our ultimate happiness even as he was getting ready to marry you."
Alan sat there digesting everything he had just heard. Finally, he said, "It's been a long, emotionally draining day. Let's go to bed."
Alan had not slept in the master bedroom since Denny's death. He had replaced the bed and all the linens because he couldn't imagine sleeping in that bed anymore. When they got to the top of the stairs, Adrienne started to head toward her room but, Alan took her hand, pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her gently. As she began to respond, the kissing became more insistent and passionate. He backed her into the master bedroom until the back of her legs connected with the bed and they landed on it. They undressed each other and made love again for the first time. They climaxed within seconds of each other and when Adrienne's breathing had slowed down, she looked into Alan's face and saw the tears standing in his eyes. She put her hands on either side of his face and asked softly, "Why are you crying?"
He smile and replied, "Remember the first time we made love and I told you I was crying because I felt safe and right and loved?" She nodded. "Adrienne, I still do."
Nine months after Denny's death, Alan and Adrienne became Mr. and Mrs. Alan Crane in a civil ceremony presided over by a Justice of the Peace at the house. The only witnesses were Dr. and Mrs. Adrian Alan Anderson. They flew to Nimmo Bay together to spread Denny's ashes.