Chapter Thirteen - Great Balls of Fire

Story Summary: In the aftermath of her divorce, a heartbroken Bella Swan looks for danger to give meaning to her life. If only her hot ex-husband would stay out of the picture.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot of the Twilight Saga are the property of its author. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media.

Copyright infringement is not intended, nor will I ever make a dime from this fanfiction. So there.

Thanks to LJ Summers, detochkina, prettyflour, jmolly for the beta-ing. Many thanks to GinnyW_31, muttnfeathers, Kristin Hazzard, twilover76, and eternalsummer79 for the pre-reading.

AN: The subject of the death of a child occurs in this chapter.

At some point in this chapter, someone is going to tell a lie. A big one.


BPOV

The scent of Edward's cologne comforted me until all hell broke loose.

The lamp to the right of me exploded into clay shards and I might possibly have screamed loud enough to burst Edward's eardrums. As we took cover, I felt burning on my cheek and clapped a palm over it. I could feel my heart racing. The scent of my blood brought up bad memories and I tried mightily to block them.

Edward whispered, "Are you hit? I smell blood." He sounded panicked.

"No. A shard from the lamp hit my face when it shattered. It's not bad."

"Okay–"

"Get out here, Edward!" Carmen yelled from the parking lot. In all the years I had known her, I'd never once heard her raise her voice in anger. The short hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I felt the rage I had pushed away when I'd heard of Aro and Cicy being murdered surge within me.

I'd fantasized about what I would have liked to see happen to bring justice for my relatives. I couldn't reconcile the saccharine woman that existed in my mind with the one that screamed like a harpy outside. But I could identify with her at least on one thing - the men in our lives made us resort to firearms –or desks –or hot coffee –whatever– to get their attention.

If I had to guess, Edward knew more about Carmen than he admitted, because he quickly went from panicked to calm.

Speaking of attention, I noticed Edward was awfully quiet, considering someone had just taken a shot at us. Fingers flying, he tapped something into his phone. I could not believe at a time like this the man was fiddling with a gadget - in the dark. I admit I actually gawped at him for a few seconds in silence before turning my eyes toward the broken window. And he had the gall to think I was nuts? Some people. The rage and the fear combined to create a tight band that squeezed my chest. I could feel the dark of the room crowding in on me.

I saw a boomerang that Edward had bought as a souvenir on our honeymoon in Australia sticking out from a box. For a fleeting moment, I actually smiled, remembering the days we had spent there, how passionate we'd been for one another, how close. I was tempted to use the boomerang but had no talent for that particular weapon. With my luck, I'd probably club myself to death. My kingdom for a desk. Images of my baby cropped up like land mines. I thought I heard a whisper behind me and jerked my head –and found nothing out of the ordinary.

The smell of my blood and the slick feel of it on my palm, the sight of the shattered glass from the window gleaming in the dim light turned my wistful ruminations dark. I hadn't felt this distressed since the night I lost the baby. The images from my past became overwhelming and I succumbed as my mind dragged me kicking and screaming down Memory Lane.

I gingerly wiped at the tears on my throbbing face. "I want to see my baby."

Emmett said, "Okay, but first I need to ask you some questions. Those are some bad bruises you have on your face and arms. Bella, someone clearly worked you over. I need to make sure that you are safe. I should report this to the police."

His grave face moved in and out of my blurred vision.

"No police," I yelped.

"I have to ask, did Edward do this?" He wore this expression like he contemplated doing violence to my husband. It alarmed me.

"No, he's away with the rest of the family. I fell, Emmett. Honest."

I picked up my phone and dialed Edward's cell. "I'm calling him now."

Emmett's pager went off, making me start in fright. He cursed. "Bella, I have to take this. Stay here until I get back."

I had a private moment in the chaos of the room as no one paid attention to me. It took all my courage to call my husband again. He was going to hate me. This was all my fault. I cringed when I heard his voice mail. Again. "Edward, I'm so sorry." I started crying. It was difficult to talk. "I lost the baby last night. Please come home. I need you. I can't do this on my own." I broke down completely before I could say anything else.

My phone never rang. At first I thought it was because I had one of those roaming triangles showing on the screen when I was in the hospital. I didn't really pay that much attention when a nurse told me they had a room for me.

Emmett came back and said, "You're sure you want to do this?"

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Do what?"

"Maggie asked you if you wanted to see your baby."

"Oh. Yes."

I saw an empty rocking chair and almost wanted to crawl right back out the door. I changed my mind when I saw a crib.

My hands reached out and I whimpered. Emmett helped me get in the chair and handed my baby to me. It felt like someone had dipped him in ice; the cold permeated through the blanket. My abdomen was tender, and I couldn't hold him in my lap. So I held him against my breast instead, using my arms as his cradle - the only one he'd ever have.

He was born in the pitch dark. He looked much smaller than I expected. I never got to see his eyes open, to see him recognize me, to hear him coo. He was so tiny and so cold. I clutched him to my chest, rocking back and forth, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, baby." He didn't feel like my child. He felt like a hard plastic doll I had played with as a child. I felt awful for even thinking that as I clutched him to me. No amount of tears woke him up, though. Somewhere in my shattered heart lived the futile hope that God would grant me a miracle and my son would open his eyes. But God held His tongue, and I continued to weep. Where was my family? Didn't they care about the baby? Who attacked me? Why? What had I done to deserve this?

Emmett put his arm around me. I leaned my head against his shoulder and sobbed.

"I'm so sorry, Bella."

His pager went off, again. Emmett gently said, "I have to take this," and rushed out of the room.

I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"My name is Maggie. You stay here as long as you want, honey. Then I'll take him. I promise I'll take good care of him." I waited for what felt like hours for Edward, Mom, Dad, Jasper, anyone to come. They were all well known at the hospital. Finally, I gave up when I was nodding off holding him. I feared I'd drop the baby. What kind of mother would that make me? Edward wasn't coming, and I was too stunned to even cry over it. I'd given the baby all my tears. I handed my child to Maggie and said, "I want to go home."

"You'll have to talk with Dr. McCarthy about that and he's in surgery."

"Maggie, have you ever lost a baby?"

"Yes." She gulped. We both heard the singing from Christmas carolers that were wandering around the almost empty hospital with holiday cheer.

"I'll sign myself out AMA. My family will be there for me." I lied through my teeth. "I'll have two doctors watching over me. I promise. They're on their way back from out of town."

"Mrs. Cullen?" Sheriff Rey leaned against the doorway.

"Y-yes?" I stuttered.

"You want to tell me what happened?"

I had to think fast on my feet, and I'd never been good at that. I remembered my attacker's voice as he threatened to kill me if I talked to the police. I believed him. If Edward found out what happened, he could get killed too.

"I fell down the stairs and lost my baby." Tears coursed down my face. Sheriff Rey backed up a step, in obvious discomfort at being in the presence of a hysterical woman.

"He and my family are out of town with Eleazar."

"I'm going to have to call him."

"Please don't. I need to break the news to him myself. Eleazar will vouch for him and my family. I fell, plain and simple. I wish I had someone to blame it on aside from me."

Sheriff Rey dialed his phone.

"Are the Cullens with you? All of em? Okay fine." Heart thudding in my chest, tears running down my face, I pleaded with my eyes. I put my hands together as if I were praying. Sheriff Rey sighed. "Nah, just wanted to ask Carlisle a question. It can wait."

He turned to me and said, "My condolences, ma'am." He left as silently as he arrived.

It took half an hour of wheedling before Maggie gave up and I signed a stack of paperwork that I never bothered to read. I just wanted to leave.

I didn't have a coat, but I still had my slippers. Maggie arranged for one of the nurses to get me a pair of scrubs, and helped me dress. I finally managed to sign myself out AMA. She wheeled me to the back exit, so I wouldn't have to see anyone. The usually bustling halls were odd looking dripping in decorations with no one in sight. Maggie wheeled me to a cab, quietly pleading with me to rethink my decision. The driver rushed to my side when he saw me.

Maggie whispered in his ear. I saw his smile wilt.

"Bella, this is my husband."

He choked on the Merry Christmas that had started to come out of his mouth and gulped. Voice cracking, he said, "Let's get you into a warm car."

He drove me home, didn't bother me by trying to engage in a conversation, and refused to accept money from me as he walked me to my front door. When I walked inside, I noticed the television was gone, along with Edward's stereo system and the DVD player, too. The tile floor in front of the staircase had been cleaned. I could smell the tang of chlorine from where someone had used bleach.

Fingers trembling, I slumped into the sofa and tried Edward again. It went straight to his voicemail. I called Mom and left her an hysterical message. She'd always been there for me. When time passed without a call or a single car driving by, I lost it. I saw the brightly wrapped gift I'd made for the baby and snapped.

I used one crutch like a club and batted down the Christmas tree until it lay shivering on the carpet. I hobbled to the garage and came back with a small set of pruning shears and methodically cut it to pieces. Like a corpse on a bier, only the bare trunk remained with stubs where branches once had waved.

Our tree had been covered with wooden ornaments from Germany. I couldn't bear to look at them; I found Edward's favorite hammer from his tool box. I smashed every ornament, one by one, making them all beyond repair – just like me. Edward was never going to forgive me. Heck, I would never forgive me. I picked up another one. Five survivors smirked at me from the floor.

"Bella." I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and turned with the hammer raised. Mrs. Bishop had a lot of strength for someone her age. She held my hand immobile in the air.

"I spent the past hour looking for you at the ER. What are you doing out of the hospital?"

"The baby's gone," I sobbed.

"I know, honey. I'm so sorry. Where is Edward?"

I had to tell someone. I couldn't hold the pain in any longer. So I gave her the part of the truth I felt safe confessing. "He left me three days ago. He won't return my calls. Neither will anyone in the family."

She sounded shocked. "Does he know what happened?"

"I've left him several messages. I called my Mom too, and she didn't answer, either."

Mrs. Bishop got on her knees by me. She handed me an ornament – a big smiling Santa. "Here. You have five left. Let me see you swing."

I smashed it and the four others Mrs. Bishop quietly handed to me. In the aftermath, the only thing I could hear was my panting and sobbing.
Then I looked around for something else to destroy. I didn't care about the wooden shavings on the carpet. I felt Mrs. Bishop's hand on my arm.

"Bella, child."

"Yes?"

"You are not alone, and I'm not leaving you here. I found your medication. I'm going to give you something for the pain, and then you're going to come and stay with me, okay?"

"Yes ma'am." I didn't really care where I went. It didn't matter. I just wanted to get out of that house. I didn't bother calling my family and telling them where I was going. Clearly, they no longer cared. My whole body felt like one big festering wound. Pain medication would be nice.

She shuffled upstairs, and I heard drawers slamming. Mrs. Bishop had my silver suitcase packed rather quickly for someone her age. She all but picked me up off the floor, stuffed my good arm into my coat, while draping the other side over my shoulder to keep me warm. She led me like a lost child over to her house.

When I got inside, I felt better. She didn't have a single Christmas ornament up.

"Thank God."

She asked, "What?"

"No Christmas stuff around."

"I'm Jewish. I married a man who happened to be Christian with the last name Bishop. So no, I don't celebrate Christmas."

"I never will again." I dissolved into a mess of tears and sobs. I had never cried so much in my life in the past five days. Mrs. Bishop held me in her arms and patted my back.

It took me a while to stop. Then she covered me with a blanket and sat in a chair by me for the rest of the night. Every time I heard a car drive by, I couldn't help but have a part of my heart hope that it would be Edward and my family. They'd help me. That's what families do, right? And every time I was disappointed, a little part of me died. I tracked the passage of time by the painkillers she gave me. I insisted on holding my cell phone in my good hand, willing it to ring. It ignored me. I drifted off into a miserable sleep wishing devoutly that I'd never wake up, hoping she'd leave the pill bottle where I could reach it. I had nothing left to–

I came back to the present, startled by a warm hand on my shoulder. I felt at the padding on my chest as I heard the sound of Velcro.

"What?"

"It's a bulletproof vest." Edward stroked my cheek and said, "Please stay here, Bella. I've got help on the way. I have to talk to Carmen."

"Edward, she's got a gun."

"She needs me alive. I'll be careful."

"Please don't go."

"It's the only way we'll get out of here. Trust me."

I could tell by the stubborn set of his jaw that he'd made up his mind.

"Okay." My voice sounded flat to my ears.

"Get out here or I'll start shooting again!" Carmen shrieked. The sound echoed across the complex. I hoped the other neighbors were calling the law.

I said, "She sounds unhinged."

Edward stood with his back to the wall and peeked through the blinds every few seconds. He called out, "What do you want?"

"I want to know what you did with my drugs!"

"What drugs?"

"The ones that were in the warehouse. I know you sold them before you burned the place down."

"I didn't burn the warehouse down, Carmen. That sounds like something Eleazar would do, though."

"You did what?" I furiously whispered. "Did you set her warehouse on fire?"

Out of the side of his mouth he quietly answered, "Well, technically Jasper started the fire. We wanted to get rid of their way of making money." Before I could answer, he shouted, "I'll come out and talk to you, though."

For a second, I feared he was going to kiss me, he stood so close. I felt his hand running down the back of my head.

"I love you, Bella. Stay here where it's safe. I'll be right back."

He walked out of the apartment slowly with his hands raised. He asked, "So, Carmen, was anyone hurt in the fire?"

I took this as permission for me to move to where he had stood by the window. He had been perfectly safe there. That was totally fair.

Carmen's face twisted into an ugly scowl. "Who the fuck cares?"

"Is Eleazar okay?"

"He outlived his usefulness." She stared off into space and said, "This wasn't supposed to happen this way, but I can fix it." Carmen seemed lost in her own little world. I wondered if Edward realized how irrational she sounded.

Even on his best day, Edward was clueless with most women. But with someone deranged? I worried for his sake.

He asked, "Fix what?"

"Your father and I are supposed to be together. You and Jasper and Bella are the ones standing in the way of our happiness. I just need you three dead and Carlisle will come to me. He promised." Her voice sounded like she was reading off a grocery list. It was spooky. I wondered where the pod people were.

"When?" He sounded baffled.

She giggled. "He and I don't need words to communicate. We're soulmates. I left red roses on his mother's grave, and he wore a red tie the next day. We were always meant to be. That was when I knew he wanted me to kill Aro and Cicy. I did it for our love." Languidly, she ran her fingers over her mouth, like one would do after being kissed. She wore a dreamy smile like the Emperor's new clothes. "Get on your knees."

She said that so nicely. My hands shook at my sides. I wanted to leap on her, gun be damned and beat her senseless –and then do it all over again.

I had no idea how he stayed calm. Edward had his arms up in surrender. "Can you please explain something to me? Where does my mother fit into this?"

"She can have Eleazar. He's been crushing on her for years."

Edward said, "But I thought he was dead."

"Beggars can't be choosers," Carmen trilled. "So I guess she goes as well."

What the heck did that mean?

Tapping her shoe impatiently, she continued, "You're beginning to irritate me. Where are the drugs?"

"I don't know." Edward held out a hand, palm facing forward in supplication. "I would really rather get a promise from you that you leave the rest of my family alone in exchange for me helping you find the drugs. My family has suffered enough."

"They can't live. I'm sorry. This is how it has to be," Carmen answered in a sugary voice. She sounded like she was about ready to pull out Goodnight Moon and read him a story.

Edward was about twenty feet away from her. I could see he had his gun tucked in the waistband at the small of his back. I waited for her to shoot one of us. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I calculated how far I was from her. I tensed and prepared to spring.

From out of the darkness a familiar voice sounded, "Nice party you have going. Mind if I join?" I felt relieved when I saw him. Alec definitely was good to have around in the worst of times.

"Who the fuck are you?" Carmen hissed.

"My name doesn't matter," Alec said. "Put the gun down before you hurt yourself." He stepped forward. From this distance I couldn't tell what type of weapon he had, although it clearly was a gun. Damn, his voice sounded cold. If that were me in her stilettos, I'd have dropped the gun and scurried off into the pine forest. But I was a wimp here cowering in the dark.

For a second I caught myself hysterically giggling that this would be a great lesson about family feuds Southerners for Jane and Tanya. I expected someone to ask Carmen if they could call her minister to come out and counsel her any minute and put the fear of the Good Lord back into her. This was so much more twisted than the Hatfields and McCoys. Posers.

A sneer from Carmen captured my attention. She targeted her weapon on Edward. Alec stood directly behind her. I didn't see how she could cover both men at once.

She called over her shoulder to Alec. "I'll give you five million if you let me kill them and be on my way. I'll even let you keep Bella. You'll just have to help me kill the rest of the family."

Alec studied Edward like he was seriously considering her offer.

"No, thanks." Alec sounded bored.

"Miss Bella!" I heard a small voice cry out. Where did that come from? It sounded like one of my kindergarteners. I didn't know any of them lived in the complex.

Carmen's sneer brought me back. "Why? That's an outrageous amount of money for you to do absolutely nothing but mind your own business. Six million and it's my final offer."

She seemed not to notice that the entire complex could hear her making a devil's bargain.

"Miss Bella!" The voice sounded like it came from a warped record now.

"I don't make friends easy. Bella's irreplaceable." Alec shrugged. "You can shoot Edward if you want."

That Alec. Always a joker.

"Gee, thanks." Edward chuckled. "I knew there was a reason I didn't like you much."

Then I heard a whisper, calling my name. A different one. The very sound of the voice sent chills up my spine. I spun around looking for him. The man who attacked me, Ugly Eyes, he was in the apartment. I was getting out of there. I'd rather fight him in the open. As I rushed out of the apartment, though, I didn't see any trace of him. My breath came in gasps and my hands shook. Maybe I imagined it? But it sounded so real.

I stood to Edward's left, just out of his reach. I didn't bother speaking to Carmen, but I sure gave a great bitch face to hide my fright.

"Bella, what are you doing?" Edward sounded nervous, for once.

Defensively, I answered, "I was tired of sitting and watching. If you two can be out here, so can I."

Her gun resembled the second hand of a broken clock. It kept wavering from him to me and back again.

"So sorry to hear about your baby," Carmen slung that at me. I could feel the blood draining from my face as her words cut me to the bone. I saw Edward flinch as if struck before his eyes hardened. So I did what I did best. I kept my mouth shut and nodded at her.

"Well, well, someone has grown up and put on her big girl panties. I expected you to be in tears by now," Carmen jeered. "Too bad Vrabek didn't succeed in killing you, too. Good help is so hard to find these days."

I started sobbing. I could hardly believe that someone could be so evil. What had my poor baby ever done? The world narrowed to Carmen's sneer.

Alec shuffled his boot against the oil marks on the concrete.

"Now you've just given me another reason to kill her. Put the gun down and I'll make it quick." She moved her hand and Alec said loudly, "Pull that trigger and you're dead." She looked away for a moment, and Edward drew his weapon.

I had never seen him so angry. A voice inside me warned that I needed to calm down or it would distract Edward. I bit my lip to keep from wailing.

Carmen studied Edward like a rabid dog trying to decide where to bite first. "Don't you point that at me, young man," she chastised Edward.

"I won't let you hurt Bella," Edward retorted. "But I would totally understand if you took a shot at that guy." He pointed to Alec.

A streak of lightning split the night sky. I felt tears land on my face as it started to gently sprinkle.

"Yes!" She crooned, "Carlisle, baby, I'm coming for you soon." Wait. None of us had said anything to her and that was her response? Carmen was one french fry short of a Happy Meal.

I stared into her eyes and found absolutely nothing of the woman I had known growing up. This person before me had pitiless eyes like the rebel soldiers that fiendishly preyed on children: soulless.

Edward had never dealt with people like that. I had. I had to protect him.

One second Carmen stood there studying both men, and the next thing I knew I heard two shots followed by a scream. Mrs. Bishop's car came barreling around the corner and skidded to a halt, hitting Carmen. She went flying and landed hard on the hood of the car before rolling onto the concrete. One of her Louboutins landed at my feet; its red sole captured my attention. Then everything around me went black.

The electricity to the entire complex went out at once. We were out in the country and, without the lights, it really did seem pitch black. I started to shake. I felt like I was alone in that house with that animal that beat me and killed my baby. I thought I heard his voice again.

I shook myself to clear my mind.

Alec turned on a small flashlight and clicked his tongue at the moaning woman.

Alec looked at Edward and said, "You missed."

"No I didn't. I shot her in both kneecaps. It's awfully painful."

We all heard a loud clap of thunder nearby.

Mrs. Bishop opened her car door and said, "God help you if you scratched my paint job, Carmen."

"What are you doing here?" Edward asked as he kicked Carmen's gun out of her reach.

Mrs. Bishop looked down her nose at him like a schoolmarm at a failing student. "Did I not end our last conversation by telling you to tell your wife that I'd see her soon?"

"You did."

"Now's soon." She crossed her arms and said, "Besides, I had to do something. You yahoos," she pointed at Edward and Alec, "looked like you were trying to talk her to death." She wagged a finger at Edward, "You still need shooting lessons. You couldn't hit the broadside of a barn."

In the distance we all heard the sound of sirens approaching the complex.

"Seven million," Carmen pleaded with Alec. "Carlisle needs me."

I couldn't imagine Carlisle being unfaithful to Esme. I still shook with a nauseous combination of rage, fear, and grief.

Alec said, "Give it a rest, lady. I don't want your money."

"Everyone has a price. I just haven't found yours, yet."

She started wheezing as the sheriff pulled up. Remus Rey used to visit my kindergarten class and explain to the kids about Stranger Danger. The smile he wore as he studied Carmen looked nothing like what I recalled. He left his car door open to give us some light.

"Carmen, darling, you have some explaining to do."

She gasped, "I want a lawyer." Blood streamed down her face from a cut in her forehead and she acted like it wasn't there. I could see the blood pooling from her knees and the scent and sight of it – I shook my head.

"Duly noted," Sheriff Rey said. "You're under arrest. We'll have to see if the public defender's office can help you out since I heard you're as now as poor as Job's turkey." He noticed the weapons the men held. "What's with the guns?"

"She shot up their apartment and threatened to kill Edward and Bella," Alec answered. "Her aim seriously sucks."

"Miss Bella!" The voice now was crying. No one else paid attention to it.

Edward extended the gun to Sheriff Rey. The snapping of a branch in the woods nearby made me jump. I nearly wet myself from fright when I saw Ugly Eyes smirking at me from the forest. He crooked a finger at me. He had his other hand squeezing a terrified Peter's shoulder. Then I heard the cry of a baby. My baby could not rest in peace until that man no longer walked the earth. I didn't care if I had to die to see it done. So I snatched the gun from Edward's hand and ran like hell for the forest to kill that monster once and for all.

Eleazar and Carmen could no longer hurt anyone. I no longer had a reason to be here. I didn't run from Death. I ran to Him with arms wide open under the cold December sky.

"I'm coming, Peter."

I had to save him. That's what mothers do.

I didn't get five feet before it happened. Hard arms wrapped around me and lifted me off the ground.

"What are you doing?" Edward whispered into my ear. He held me, my back to his chest like I weighed nothing. Somewhere along the way he took the gun.

Ugly Eyes yanked Peter's arm and whispered, "If you talk, you die. He does too." And like that, they vanished into thin air before my disbelieving eyes.

The last thing I heard was Peter's wail.

Staring into the thick forest, I gulped and said through a paper dry mouth, "I thought I saw someone. It was nothing."

Wonder what's up with Bella? She'll be getting help next chapter.

Please review. And rec me some good stories.


I'm reading The Viking's Woman by LifeInkognito

Into the Wild by Miss Baby

The Blood Wars by frostflower314

References

For a hilarious explanation of the phrase, "poor as Job's turkey," see:

http:/www (dot) word-detective (dot) com/2008/11/18/jobs-turkey-poor-as/

For more on the Hatfields and McCoys:

http:/www(dot) wvculture (dot) org/history/crime/hatfieldmccoy01 (dot) html

In Richard III, he says, "A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse. I decided to play with that here.

http:/www (dot) enotes (dot) com/shakespeare-quotes/horse-horse