Chapter 6

~Oh How the Years Go By~

Margo sat at her desk and looked over the file on Jake McKinnon and his daughters as she had every year since his death. She still felt like she was missing something. The cousin who wasn't, but whom he had known. The brother in jail and the fake whom had taken the girls. The fact that both parties knew too much about the McKinnon's not to have been connected to Jake in someway.

And that was what drove her to this. What was that connection? Was it connected to Steinbech? Wallace? Some unknown force out there waiting to pounce?

Besides, she had to admit she had played a role in this. She had arrested Jake even though she hadn't believed that he had murdered Sutter. Suspected that he was protecting someone. And then after Abigail's breakdown, she'd been proven right. The young woman had finally remembered what had happened that night. Remembered a blonde who had saved her from being raped, although they never had been able to learn who the woman had been, there was a belief that Jake had known her because of a comment Abigail had remembered. Case or not, I couldn't let him do to her what he did to her what he did to Paulina. What that was exactly, Paulina Carlino had never revealed, and the truth was she had never really pushed.

Shaking her head she put aside the file and started to pave her small office. She was missing something they all were. Aside from the changed custody papers, there were so many oddities in his will. The trusts set up for Molly, Abigail, Sean, Steven, and Kirkland, but not the twins. The fact that Carl Hutchins and not Lucinda Walsh was the executive of it. That his newspapers went to Chris Madison, a never present supposedly best friend, who stepped into the role of protector to Molly and Abigail. The strange untraceable business transactions. The disappearance of the medic who had transported him to the hospital after getting offered a 'better job.' The doctor who was one staff only for that day because her husband hadn't gotten a transfer at the last minute. Yet, one of the handful of patients she had treated had been Jake.

Alone, it wasn't much. Together it was a conspiracy she doubted they'd ever be able to crack. But she'd continue to set aside the time once a year to at least try, just like she had for the past five years. . .

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Molly sat in the park enjoying the sun, yet cringing at the laughter of the children around her. They should have been playing with them, a voice in her head nagged as it always did. And it was the truth. In a perfect world the twins would be running with the other children, playing and laughing, while she sat on the bench with Jake laughing at their antics and maybe at those of a child of their own. But both were just images from a dream. Jake was gone and they had never had the change to fix things between them. And the girls were gone. She had been unable to keep her promise to Vickie; her vows to Jake. She'd never get over either.



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He walked quickly through the house and onto the sun porch, whistling slightly as he did. It was one of the few times in the last few years he had gotten any semblance of good news. Smiling, he stepped onto the porch only to stop short.

He hated seeing the women he cared about upset, and it was clear from the way she leaned against the railing and glass that she was. "Hey, what's the matter?" he asked as he approached, noting how she turned towards him in surprise and swiped at her tearstained face.

"Nothing," she told him quickly.

"Tell it to someone who doesn't know you better. We've known each other what? 15 years at least?" he shot back as he walked over to her.

"Reminding me of my age is not a good idea right now," she told him testily.

"I still have close to ten years on you, or don't you remember?"

"Shaving a few years off there, aren't we?" she asked with a raised eyebrow and quivering lip.

"Thanks a lot. Now to make up for the disparaging comments you can spill."

"I told you it was nothing," she said defensively.

"Hey, this is me, remember?"

"You're not going to let this go, are you?"

"Um. . . let me think a minute. No."

"He's gone," she said softly, so softly he almost didn't hear it.

"What?"

"He's gone. He's running communications on this. . ." she threw her hands up. "The fact that they found out. . . knew who else. . . it was supposed to be a good thing. I never thought he'd go with them. Guess it's just the case he never finished."

He nodded, "now tell me the rest, Red. Because him going isn't what's got you so peeved. You never thought it because on some level you knew."

"What would you know?"

"Close to 20 years of you. So, what's really eating at you?"

"What if something goes wrong, again? If this time he really doesn't come back? What the hell am I going to do then? I don't think I can go through it again. Bury him a second time."

"If you do, you will. You're one of the strongest women I know, Castilingo."

"Thanks, Ebberhart," she said sarcastically.

"You one thing I'm not going to miss about this?"

"What's that?"

"The damn alias. I still don't know how someone didn't pick up on it."

She shook her head slightly, "too obvious."

"Yeah," he sighed. "We're quite a team."

"Huh?"

"We're not looking at the good parts."

"You were."

"Yeah, and then you had to bring up burials. She's not going to forgive me for this, no matter how much I want her to. She's going to knock me on my ass when she sees me."

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"You mean you didn't knock the good Captain on his at the time?"

"First time I saw him I was kinda busy pushing out our kid. Next time. . . well, it's kinda hard to knock a guy in a wheelchair on his ass."

"Ouch. Didn't realize."

"Don't get me wrong. Part of me wanted to. Wanted him to get out and never come back, but the part that had wanted it all to have been nothing but a bad dream. . ."

"That part won out huh?"

"It wasn't that simple. Truth is it's hard to do when the man's sitting their holding your kid, ready to leave if that's what you want. It was tough as hell to work through; hell we still are working through it at times."

"Like now."

"Yeah. Like now."

"Well, I'll tell you what. You at least have me to rely on."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?" she asked on a slight smile.

"Figured it couldn't make it worse," he hedged, causing her to laugh slightly. "She really is going to knock you on your ass," she told him.

"Yeah. I figured."

"Just get up and don't give up this time around."

"Yeah," he sighed as he ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair.