End of the Dream
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! I was watching the episode Lady in Waiting, and well, being a Richard Anderson fangirl, his poor character being killed didn't sit well with me. It was delicious to watch Columbo catch Bryce's rotten sister. Writing this little addendum to the episode was also delicious. And squeeful. I hope Columbo sounds alright; this was my first time writing for him. I did it for the prompt The sweet civility of angels at the Livejournal community 31 Days and finally decided to put it up on this website too.
Lieutenant Columbo strolled into Central Receiving Hospital deep in thought.
Beth Chadwick had been arrested late last night, finally caught in her lies over her brother's death being accidental. At the station she had sullenly admitted it was cold-blooded murder and told of her plan.
She had taken pride in that devilish plot, despite the holes Columbo had discovered in it. And she had shown no remorse whatsoever for her crime. Bryce had held her back throughout her life and she had wanted to be rid of him.
Mrs. Chadwick was, of course, devastated. She had been angry and hurting as it was even when she had believed it really had been an accident, the result of thinking Bryce was a burglar. Now that she knew the truth, she was beside herself.
"How could you, Beth?" she had cried. "Didn't you love your brother at all? Ever?"
Beth had regarded her with cold, unrepentant eyes. "Long ago, Mother. But he drained that love from me every time he held me back from living my own life. I'm not sorry he's dead. I'll never be sorry. For a few days, at least, I had something I've never had before—freedom."
"And now you'll never have it again!" Mrs. Chadwick had wailed. "You murdered my son. I hope you pay the highest price for your unforgivable crime!"
"I don't care if you never forgive me, Mother," Beth had answered. "You always loved Bryce better anyway."
Mrs. Chadwick had flinched. "Because of you, I have lost both of my children. That's something no mother should have to bear, especially like this!" That had been her final declaration before turning and walking out.
Columbo frowned. Could the entire tragedy have been prevented if Beth had not been sheltered and protected all her life? Or was this end unchangeable? Had her father and brother been right to shelter her due to her irresponsibility and recklessness? Would she not have been irresponsible and reckless had she not been sheltered?
Maybe both cause and effect were hopelessly intertwined, a vicious and cruel "which came first" cycle.
But there was one bright spot in this familial mess. Or rather, one other in addition to finally catching Beth in her lies.
Columbo briefly spoke to the nurse, who directed him to a room at the other end of the building. A police guard was standing by, watching for trouble. He came to attention as Columbo approached.
"Hello, Lieutenant," he greeted.
Columbo nodded a greeting. "Hello, Officer Thorton. How's the patient?"
"He's awake now," Officer Thorton said. "The doctor thinks he's going to be okay."
"Great," said Columbo, pleased by the news. "Is he up to talking?"
"Just for a few minutes, the doctor said," Officer Thorton said. "And is Mrs. Chadwick going to be called soon?"
"I'll tell her personally as soon as I leave here," Columbo replied.
He knocked quietly on the door. After a brief silence, the weak response came from the other side. "Come in."
Columbo pushed open the heavy door and stepped into the room. Bryce Chadwick regarded him with weary and sad eyes from the bed.
"Hello, Mr. Chadwick," Columbo said by way of salutation. "I'm glad to see you awake."
"Have I really been in a coma for over a week?" Bryce rasped. "It seems like just last night that Beth . . ." He trailed off, haunted.
"It's really been over a week," Columbo said somberly. "No one was sure you'd pull through at all, after three bullets were pumped into you."
"And no one knows I survived?"
"No one except a select few members of the LAPD," Columbo said. "I'm sorry we had to do it this way, Mr. Chadwick, but considering what you knew, we had to protect you from Beth coming back to finish the job before you could talk. It was imperative that she believe you were dead."
Bryce looked away, gazing up at the ceiling. "Beth . . ." He shook his head sadly. "I still can hardly believe it. Even while she was firing that gun, I couldn't believe it was real. It's a horrible nightmare, something you should be able to wake up from. But I can never wake up from this." He looked back to Columbo. "Why, Lieutenant? Why did she do it?"
Columbo shook his head. "I'm not sure there was just one reason, Mr. Chadwick. Things like this are often pretty complicated."
"I knew she was unhappy and felt I was controlling her life, but I never once thought she'd resort to killing me." Bryce gripped a handful of the blanket. "Most people would never kill a family member."
". . . I'm sorry, Mr. Chadwick, but do you feel up to giving me a statement?" Columbo asked. "I can come back later if that would be better. I understand you need time to process all of this."
"No," Bryce answered quickly. "No, Lieutenant, I'll give you my statement now. I'd rather get it over and done with."
"Of course," Columbo nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Chadwick."
It did not take long. Bryce confirmed the story as Beth had already confessed it. But the horror in his eyes as he told of being repeatedly shot by his sister was fresh and new.
"It's strange," he said quietly after the conclusion. "To come that close to the brink of death and then be brought back, only to find out that everyone thinks you're dead anyway. I don't even know how I survived. When I fell to the floor, I thought I was done for."
". . . Well, to tell you the truth, you were done for, Mr. Chadwick," Columbo said. "You were examined and pronounced dead at the scene."
Bryce started and stared at him, sheet-white. "What?! But that's impossible! I'm here. I'm alive. I'm alive right now!"
"Right now, yes," Columbo nodded. "But when Beth shot you and you fell to the floor, the shock was too much for you to handle. Your heart stopped beating. It was only on the way to the hospital that you somehow revived."
"Somehow?" Bryce echoed. "The paramedics didn't bring me back?"
Columbo shook his head. "Not when you were pronounced dead at the scene. They didn't have any reason to try."
Bryce slumped into the pillows. "There but for the grace of God," he whispered under his breath. "The sweet civility of angels. . . ."
"Oh. It's a poem my mother used to read. Something about God and His angels watching over you. I don't remember much." Bryce looked pleadingly at the rumpled Lieutenant. "How is my mother?"
"Heartbroken," Columbo admitted. "But she should feel a lot better after I go see her with the news that she hasn't lost both of her kids."
Bryce nodded. "Please tell her, Lieutenant," he said. "I don't want her to suffer with all of this pain any longer. Couldn't you have at least taken her into your confidence?"
Columbo shook his head. "We couldn't," he said. "She had to believe you were dead, too. Otherwise, she might've given everything away too soon. I'm sorry."
"Well, I don't approve," Bryce frowned. "I understand, but I don't approve. She's been through so much already."
"If there had been any way to safely tell her, we would have," Columbo said. "I didn't like keeping it from her, either."
"How did you manage the funeral?" Bryce wondered. "It sounds morbid to even talk about it, but . . ."
"Now that was complicated," Columbo said, jabbing the air. "Maybe I'll tell you sometime, after you're feeling more on top of things.
"I'll have your mother here within the hour. That's a promise."
Bryce nodded. "Good. Oh, and Lieutenant?"
Columbo turned back from where he was heading towards the door. "Yes?"
"Don't mention it," Columbo said. "Just get some rest and I'll be back before you know it."
He stepped out of the room and looked to Officer Thorton. "You've done a good job, Officer," he complimented. "Now I'm going to leave here and be back with Mrs. Chadwick. I've promised to bring her in less than an hour."
Officer Thorton smiled. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Oh, that is going to be one happy reunion."
Columbo quite agreed. Maybe, perhaps, it would help heal some of the wounds inflicted on this family as it was torn apart. And maybe, perhaps, it would serve more than one kind of justice.
He wondered what Beth would think when she learned the charge was attempted murder. And what her face would look like when she saw her brother again, perhaps as he stood to testify against her in court.
"The sweet civility of angels," he mused as he wandered into the parking lot.
It sounded like an interesting poem. He would have to look it up.