Smoke And Mirrors
Chapter 1 – Invasion From Outer Space
The waitress in the small Italian restaurant was a young, pretty redhead. Her beautiful smile and huge grey eyes were instantly apparent as she graciously handed around the menus to her customers.
'Hi, my name is Maggie,' she introduced herself with a sweet, melodious voice. 'What can I do for you today?'
Before the other man could open his mouth, the taller one winked an emerald green eye at her and smirked. 'For starters,' said Richard Addison, 'two glasses of Merlot, a bottle of water and a note with your phone number would be nice.'
Maggie smiled politely and walked away in silence; but when she turned around, David noticed she was rolling her eyes.
'Dork,' he hissed and kicked his brother under the table.
'Ouch!' Richie complained.
David bent forward and shot him a furious glance. 'Behave like a normal human being and not like a sex driven Neanderthal! I might want to have lunch here some day again without being kicked out!'
Richie raised his hands in defense, palms up. 'Great googly-moogly, bro – chill down a bit, will ya?' He shook his head in disbelief. 'What's happened to you? That hurt!' He bent down and rubbed his right shin where David's foot had hit him.
'Good!' David growled.
'Hypocrite!' Richie shot back. 'That was just the sort of thing you would say!' he defended himself.
'Would have said, idiot!' David snapped. 'Ten years ago! Five. Okay, maybe three. Anyway, past tense, got it?'
Richie smirked. 'Bro, you've got it bad.'
'Agreed.' David gave an involuntary shrug and smiled. 'But a good bad.'
Maddie had just put little Davey to sleep (in his crib) in David's office so she would be able to work without disturbing him. She closed the door in careful slow motion until it softly clicked behind her. Happy that Davey would no longer be disturbed, she whirled around with a wide smile, opening her mouth to say something funny to Agnes. She was smiling a lot these days. However, she froze in mid-movement when she noticed that there was something decidedly wrong.
Everybody in the main office were on their feet, but nobody was moving. They were rooted to the spot, all staring at her with wide eyes, as if they had just spotted some obscenity. MacGillicuddy's jaw had dropped. Maddie raised her eyebrows and focused on Agnes. Only Agnes was not looking at Maddie; she was burning holes, with her large brown eyes, into the back of the head of the visitor. This visitor slowly turned around to look directly at Maddie. She felt the blood rush to her head.
'Sam!' she uttered. The shocked undertone in her voice expressed her disbelief.
Sam Crawford smiled his pleasant lamb-roast smile. 'I just stopped by to say hi...'
Behind her desk, Agnes seemed to grow a few inches. She said in a loud, clear voice, sounding a little impatient: 'Well, hi!'
Sam didn't even bother to turn around, he just smiled to himself, his eyes fixed on Maddie.
She swallowed and murmured a bit guiltily: 'Hi.'
He nodded. 'Hi.'
There was an awkward moment...
Then, after a long pause, Maddie took a deep breath and walked over to him. Much to Agnes's dismay, she kissed Sam lightly on the cheek, but Agnes also noticed that Maddie didn't seem to be at all comfortable with this action. All the same, Agnes was horrified, when Maddie suggested to her former lover:
'Let's talk in my office.'
Without waiting for an answer, she walked past him and Agnes's desk, with Sam Crawford following at her heels.
When she was just passing the reception desk, Agnes whispered: 'Miss Hayes, I could...' ...call Mr. Addison.
Maddie stopped dead in her tracks and turned her head to Agnes. 'No,' she interrupted sharply, just to add in a softer voice: 'That won't be necessary, Agnes.' I can handle thismyself. Don't worry.
Sam pretended not to have noticed the exchange between the two women. He followed Maddie into her office, and when the door closed behind them, Agnes cracked the pencil she had been holding in her right hand with a sharp sound.
Inside Maddie's office, there was another uncomfortable silence, then Maddie started to talk: 'It's been a long time...'
Sam had been quietly watching her. 'Yes, well, a long time.'
She strode over to the mauve chair with firm steps and carefully sat down, motioning towards the matching sofa. If Sam had noticed that she had chosen her seating accommodation deliberately, so he couldn't sit beside her, he didn't show it. Maddie cleared her throat. 'So... what brings you back to L.A.?'
Sam sat down on the edge of the chair and shrugged. 'Oh, just business,' he said evasively. 'I've quit NASA.'
Maddie nodded slowly, not exactly knowing where to look. 'I see...' Her thoughts were racing. Why was he here? What did he want? She had managed to push, to the back of her mind, the role he had played in her life a year ago, expecting to never see him again, and yet there he was, sitting before her. She sighed.
He continued nonchalantly, with a pleasant smile: '...and I thought I'd just come by... to see how you're doing.'
Her blue eyes widened in disbelief. 'You just came by to see how I'm doing?' she repeated.
He blinked innocently. 'Yes, sure.' He was scrutinizing her closely now. 'How are you doing?'
Maddie folded her arms and pursed her lips, already slightly annoyed. 'Why did you never come back to find out my answer to your question?' she asked without answering his previous question.
Sam shrugged. 'Well, I thought that...' he paused for a moment and then went on: '...had your answer been yes you would have found a way to let me know.'
She frowned and bent instinctively forward on her chair, not to create nearness, but to fully comprehend what he was saying. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. 'Uhm... did I get this right? You asked me to marry you, but you didn't bother to wait for the answer – ' she took a deep breath ' – and I am supposed to let you know?' At this point, Maddie sounded livid but this somehow escaped Sam's perception.
He smiled indulgently, almost a little patronizingly, and spoke softly to her like an understanding teacher or parent would speak to a stubborn teenager. 'Maddie,' he said in honeyed tones, 'I really think you were too confused to make the right choice.'
Maddie nodded slowly, thoughtfully. You have no idea how right you are. 'Guess I was.'
Sam got up to his feet, taking a step in her direction, self-confidence dripping from every pore. Wow, how come I never noticed his here-comes-the-golden-boy-attitude? She stared at him in fascination. He mistook her glance for admiration, admiration for his generosity. 'And...?' he went on in that pretentious tone, 'are you still confused?'
Maddie also rose to her feet, retreating a step, keeping the distance between them. Judging by the way he looked at her, Sam seemed baffled by this. She answered him in a calm and determined voice: 'I've never been so clear.' Again, she folded her arms. 'So... let me get this straight...' – the tone of her voice rose only half a nuance – 'you are saying you'd like to know if I'm smart enough to make the right choice today?'
That was the moment when Sam Crawford noticed that something was drifting out of his orbit here. He raised both hands in a defensive mode. 'Maddie,' he tried to soothe, 'I wouldn't exactly put it that way...'
'Well, I would,' she interrupted, unnerving him with her stitched on smile. 'And you're gonna get your answer.' She walked past him to the door. His eyes followed her with a puzzled look, and he spun around to face her again.
'I'll be right back, Sam,' she promised. 'I just want you to meet someone.'
He frowned, smiling somewhat uneasily. 'Okay...'
When the office door closed behind Maddie, he blew his cheeks in a clueless way.
Maddie strode through the main office with long, determined strides. Agnes jumped to her feet the moment she heard the door and opened her mouth to fire her with questions, but Maddie just held up a hand to silence her before she could say anything. Agnes sighed and shut her mouth again, but then, strangely enough, she noticed that Maddie was wearing a very small, mysterious smile on her face.
Maddie walked into David's office, and Agnes murmured: 'What the...' and only after a few moments, Maddie reappeard, gently carrying the baby in her arms. Davey was still asleep. Agnes's eyes widened in surprise, but when she saw how Maddie smiled down at the sleeping child in her arms and then briefly raised her glance to meet hers with that same smile – she knew that there was no need for worry.
Maddie re-entered her own office, and when the door was shut behind her, Agnes let herself sink slowly back on her chair, smiling.
When Maddie had come into her office with the baby in her arm, Sam Crawford's eyes widened in disbelief, and his jaw dropped open; he was obviously speechless and could only stammer.
Maddie looked him straight in the eyes and said very quietly: 'Sam, this is my son.'
Sam wasn't looking at her, he was eyeing the baby somewhat suspiciously, frowning, obviously calculating the passing of time. Maddie felt spontaneous anger well up. 'How old...?' he managed.
'Almost three months,' she answered.
Maddie could read his mind which was furiously calculating by now, counting down the months. Then he attempted: 'Does that mean we...'
'No,' she interrupted firmly, 'not we. He's David's.'
Sam gasped and almost spat out the name. 'David's? How... I mean, how can you be so sure?'
Maddie was standing there in the middle of the room, self-confident, solid as a rock. Her son was still sleeping peacefully in her arms. She smiled at her former lover. 'Believe me, as soon as he opens his eyes, you'll see that there's absolutely no doubt about that.'
Sam drew a deep breath and remarked sourly: 'Oh. I see.' He folded his arms. 'You... you didn't waste time, did you?'
'Oh, you're wrong, Sam,' Maddie contradicted. 'I did waste time. Way too much.'
He shrugged, his feeble smile shallow. 'If you say so. And... where is he, if I may ask?' he added in a sarcastic voice, full of disdain: 'Did he get drunk and crawl into his hole?'
Maddie controlled her anger, because she was holding her son in her arms (this, thank goodness,gave her the ability to stay calm, although her instinct was screaming at her to throw something heavy in Sam's handsome face). Instead, she just answered: 'You were the one who ran away, Sam. I ran away. David was the only one who didn't.' Somehow, she delighted in the way he pursed his lips, obviously annoyed at her words. She went on: 'He's been here all the time, ever since, even when I told him I didn't want him. Even when we both thought the baby... wasn't his. He never left my side.' Her voice had gone very deep and dark, underlining the seriousness of her words, along with the ice-cold blue fire in her eyes. 'He stuck like glue.'
'Glue?' Sam echoed.
'Yes, glue,' she almost savored the words in her mouth.
Sam shrugged, obviously feeling uncomfortable, and admitted reluctantly: 'Okay, he's more adult than I thought, then. But...'
Maddie shook her head. 'No, he's not,' she interrupted, smiling. 'Never has been, and never will be. But that's okay with me, because he's more than that. So much more. He may not have a great career or a wealthy family, he may not have a sophisticated background or formal dining etiquette, but he's got what really matters: heart and soul and honesty.' Maddie paused for a brief moment, utterly enjoying this feeling of conviction that she had; every word she uttered came from the core of her heart. Then, although it wasn't really necessary anymore: 'He's everything to me, Sam, he's my lifeline. I love him. I have loved him for a long time. And he loves me.' She nodded.
Sam swallowed, not quite sure of what to say. 'Well...' he started in a lame tone, 'I hope the best for you, Maddie. I just hope he's worth it.'
'He is. We are.' Maddie smiled again and looked down at the child. 'We are.'
Sam cleared his throat. 'Well, I guess there's nothing left to say, right?'
'You could give us your best wishes,' Maddie suggested. 'We're getting married in three days.'
He gave a little snort and then, remembering that he definitely hadn't been cast as the bad guy here, he replied: 'Of course I wish you all the luck in the world.' He couldn't refrain from adding under his breath: 'You might need it.'
As soon as she heard those words, Maddie's face closed down. If she still had had any qualms about how she had treated Sam one year ago, this was now retracted by the revelation of his arrogance, they were gone. 'I've already had more luck than I probably deserve,' she said quietly.
He slowly shook his head, still in shock about the news – not so much about the kid, but more about what she had said about David. He found it totally unbelievable. 'You know, Maddie,' he said in a regretful tone, 'with me you wouldn't be in need of luck. Or of anything.'
She scrutinized him closely, looked down at the baby for a moment and then back at Sam. 'Can I ask you something, Sam?'
He frowned. 'Sure.'
'If I had chosen you – would you have made me leave Blue Moon?'
He shrugged. 'Well, if you were my wife, you certainly wouldn't have to work. At least not - ' he paused shortly and raised an eyebrow ' - in a detective agency.' There was no real disdain in his words, but Maddie could feel it in the air between them.
She replied dryly: 'Oh, I really appreciate how much you seem to respect my business and what I have achieved through it.'
He raised his hands. 'Maddie, I didn't mean it that way...'
Maddie shook her head in a barely perceptible move. 'It doesn't matter, Sam. It just shows that we might have been close once, but now you don't know anything about who I really am – whereas David knows me like the back and the palm of his hand. Better than anyone else in this world.' The baby stirred slightly, and she held him a bit closer to her chest, in a protective gesture. It was like she were protecting her whole new life from Sam's disdain. 'He'd never ask me to give up a job that I have grown to love.' She took a deep breath. 'And yes, I guess there is nothing left to say.'
Sam nodded and then inclined his head in an ironic little bow. 'Good bye, Maddie.' his voice sounded sour, defeated. Clearly, he wasn't used to suffering a rebuff like that.
Maddie didn't feel the need to say anything, instead she just smiled and watched him in silence, until he turned around, opened the office door and disappeared from her life.
When David entered main office after his lunch with Richie, he directly took the road to Maddie's door. Agnes jumped up from her chair like she had been stung by a bee and stepped boldly in his way. 'Uhm, Mr. Addison...' she stammered, 'Miss Hayes shouldn't be disturbed.'
David raised an amused eyebrow. 'Agnes, I have always disturbed Miss Hayes,' he reminded her, 'and in three days I'll be even legally entitled to do so, I might add.'
His composure made it clear that he expected Agnes to step out of his way, but she was not giving way. 'But this is a... special case,' she insisted.
'Don't worry, Curlyhead. I've seen her nursing before.' he said dryly and lowered his voice to an ironic whisper, as if he were telling a secret. 'You know, I'm around her quite often.'
Agnes surprised him now by raising both hands and giving her usually girlish sounding voice a firm note. 'No.'
David frowned; his expression was swaying vaguely somewhere between amused, alarmed and curious. 'Okay, now I'm really...'
Agnes saw that now he really wanted to go and see what the fuss was all about; she couldn't think of any other measure than putting both hands on her boss's chest and pushing him backwards, away from Miss Hayes's office door, towards his own. David, completely taken aback, obeyed and "followed" her. 'What the...'
Agnes opened his office door and pushed him into the room, she closed the door behind them, blocking his exit. She stared at a completely baffled David with a determined look, in silence now, at a loss for the right words (Agnes DiPesto had never been the one for great words).
David was determined to find out what was going on. 'Agnes, what is this all about?' he pressed, but she didn't answer, couldn't answer. David's senses were all alert, and he clearly could detect that there was something rotten in Cleveland.
He tried to push past her, but she didn't give an inch. 'No,' she firmly objected. 'You can't. Miss Hayes is not alone right now.'
David pointed at the empty crib. 'I know. But...'
Agnes shook her head. 'I'm not talking about the baby, Mr. Addison. Miss Hayes has... a visitor.'
'A visitor?' he echoed, frowning.
'A visitor.' she nodded.
He raised his hands in a questioning gesture, slowly losing his patience. 'A client? So what?'
'Not a client.'
'Not a client? What then?' David ruffled his hair in despair. 'What? Taxmen? FBI? Invasion from outer space?'
Agnes suddenly winced. 'Kind of...' she managed, and something in her voiced touched a string in him, and the tune it played wasn't pure.
David frowned and looked at her questioningly, as if he could pull the answers out of her merely by piercing her with looks. There was a long pause before... all of a sudden, the penny dropped. 'Wait a minute... don't say...' David pointed his left index finger at Agnes. 'It's not... Buck Rogers in there?' he spat.
Agnes just managed a nod. Without another word, David sped towards the door; she raised both hands in desperation, almost menacingly, and gasped: 'No, Mr. Addison, don't!'
The joke was over. David demanded in a low, determined voice: 'Get out of my way, Agnes. Now.'
Agnes was surprised by her own chutzpe, but she had no choice. She pushed him back again and raised her voice bravely. 'Will you just use your brain for one minute!'
David was so completely taken aback by Agnes's bold behavior, that he was left speechless; after a pause, he spoke up, almost pleading: 'Agnes, the last time spaceman showed up, I almost lost her.'
She put her hands to her hips and replied dryly: 'True, but you contributed to that situation.'
Bang! His jaw dropped, and there was nothing he could possibly say to object. 'Agnes...'
'Mr. Addison,' she interrupted firmly, 'I might not be the brightest bulb in the luster, but have I ever given you bad advice about Miss Hayes?' She raised her chin and looked at him in a bossy, un-DiPesto-ish way.
For a moment, the room was filled with utter silence. David mulled over what she had said. In fact, she had never given him bad advice. After a pause, he finally asked: 'So, what's your point?'
'She can handle this by herself.' Agnes claimed.
'Handle it by herself?' David echoed. 'If I had let her handle it by herself the last time, she'd...' suddenly, David fell silent. Yes, what would have happened? She'd have sent Sam away.
Agnes interrupted his thoughts by putting her hands on his shoulders, shaking him. 'Mr. Addison, a little more confidence!' she demanded fiercely and added: 'Where's your Dale Carnegie?' That made him smile involuntarily. 'After all that has happened, do you really think she climbs the Enterprise just like that?' Agnes snapped her fingers before his eyes and made him blink.
He ruffled his hair again in his typical boyish gesture. 'So... what am I gonna do?'
'Leave it up to her,' Agnes said with utter conviction in her voice. 'She should do that alone. So there can be definitely no doubt that this is 100 % her decision. And, Mr. Addison – we both know what her decision will be.'
After a short inner fight David sighed and gave in. 'Okay then. But you...'
Agnes nodded eagerly. 'I'll buzz you as soon as Buzz Aldrin has buzzed off.'
David nodded too, slowly. When Agnes saw he was going to stay there and wait, she finally turned around and grabbed the doorknob.
She turned around again. 'Mr. Addison?'
He smiled and touched two fingers to his lips. 'Just to stay in the metaphor... you're stellar.'
Maddie entered David's office with sleeping Davey in her arm; she was smiling a very tiny, far away smile. It had felt like a weight she hadn't even remembered carrying had been lifted off her shoulders when Sam Crawford had walked out of her office. She had heard the door of the outer office being slammed, and she was quite sure that Agnes had been the culprit there. It amazed her every time how fiercely La Dolce DiPesto fought for and defended her and David's relationship against all odds and intruders.
David was standing in the middle of the room, his hands thrust deeply in the pockets of his pants, as if he had been expecting her. From the way he was looking at her, Maddie could tell he was somehow tense, she could feel it. She wondered what the matter was and truly hoped he hadn't fought with his brother. She smiled tentatively.
'David! You're already here! What about your lunch with Richard?'
He shrugged. 'Well, you know Richie. He's always got something to fuss about.'
Maddie walked up to him and kissed him on the lips. 'He'll be a good best man. Don't worry.'
David put his left hand to the back of her head and kissed her back; then he gently touched the sleeping baby's cheek. 'Well... Rich and best man is a contradiction in itself.' Maddie rolled her eyes. He cleared his throat and motioned to their son. 'Did you just change Junior?'
She looked down on the baby and slowly shook her head. 'No. I just wanted someone to meet him.' She put the baby carefully back in his crib; as usual he didn't wake up. David was scrutinizing her.
'Oh,' he made and paused for a second, 'someone I know?'
'It was Sam,' Maddie replied in a firm voice. No hesitation in it.
'Sam?' David echoed. 'Sam as in...?'
'Crawford,' Maddie said quickly and looked him directly in the eyes. 'Sam Crawford.'
David nodded slowly, nonchalantly. 'Oh. And he just... happened to be in town and wanted to refresh an old friendship?' Despite trying to avoid it, David couldn't help the tinge of sarcasm in his voice. He tried to play it light though – Maddie hadn't seen the real extent of Sam's double-faced behavior when he had visited the last time, and the last thing David wanted was to look bad by sounding mean, talking mean about an old friend of hers.
Maddie covered the sleeping baby with the blue blanket. 'No, not exactly,' she explained. 'Basically, he wanted to see that we...' – she raised her head and looked David directly in the eyes – 'collided and sunk.'
David raised his eyebrows questioningly, surprised by the obvious hard edge to her voice. She didn't sound as if she was talking fondly about an old friend who had come by to say hi.
She went on: 'He wanted to say I told you so.' David scrutinized her in his typical David-silence; he noticed that she looked somehow disappointed, unbelieving, angry – but he was not the subject of that anger, he realized this with a stupid kind of relief – after all, she didn't have the slightest reason to be mad at him. She added thoughtfully: 'He wanted to see if I had smartened up enough to choose him.'
It cost every inch of David's self-control to remain calm, motionless at this revelation of arrogance; the muscles of his jawbones tightened, and his hands closed to fists, all by themselves. He pressed through clenched teeth: 'That's what he said?'
Maddie nodded. 'Kind of.'
'Kind of?' he repeated and took a deep breath. 'And you kind of replied... what?'
This time Maddie shrugged. 'That of course any woman with a functional brain would be a fool not to choose him.'
He sourly pursed his lips. 'Is that so.'
Maddie's lips slowly curved into a teasing little smile. 'That is so.'
David was still scrutinizing her closely, searching her face. Of course, he knew that she loved him, but deep deep down, in a faraway corner of his mind, that little tinge of fear was always lurking; that fear that, presented with an alternative, Maddie might still come to the conclusion that he wasn't good enough for her, that he just wasn't the man she was supposed to be with. But here she was – for the second time (obviously) she had let Sam Crawford go and turned to him. He drew a deep breath and asked quietly, lightly, almost in a joking tone: 'Well... then how come you're not running after him this very moment, mastermind?'
Maddie's reply was serious, honest; she hadn't expected how much it would still affect him, not after what they had gone through, what they had become over the last few months. 'Because my choice was made a long time ago, stupid.' Her eyes twinkled. 'Because these kinda choices are not made with the brain. They form in a region far south of it.' She put her right hand over her heart and smiled at him, openly, lovingly.
David's heart leaped, and he returned his crooked grin, stunned by his girl. 'Is that so?'
'That is so,' she confirmed. 'And, besides – I happen to be a fool.' She took one step closer in his direction. 'A fool for you.'
He swallowed hard, clearly touched by her words. Although she opened up to him a lot more now, she still wasn't too fond of admitting her weakness to him. She never would. 'A fool, huh?'
She nodded again and took another step. 'Hopeless. Defenseless.' The following words were almost whispered. 'Beyond any measure and reason.'
There was no point in holding back any longer. She had just told him she was his, and no space cowboy could ever change that. David reached out for her and pulled her into his arms, burying his face in her hair. Maddie closed her eyes and pressed herself deeper into his embrace. 'Welcome to the club,' he whispered into her hair.
She pulled back a few inches, so she could look directly into his green eyes. 'You know,' she said, 'I was never so fond of Luke Skywalker... I found him boring.'
David's hands rested possessively on Maddie's waist. 'You did?'
'I did.' she winked at him. 'I was always more the Han Solo kind of girl.'