The Eagle Lakes Series
13: Laying the Ghost...
The weather was glorious and the twins were making the most of it. It was still too early in the season for many bookings with the dive school and TJ was helping Jed at the house. The internal decorating was all finished and they had decided it was time to tackle the outside. So far there was only a gravel drive in the front with beds ready for planting. The boys were at the back of the property checking out the trees.
"I think some of these will have to come down, Jed," TJ said, looking at the older pines.
"Yeah, you could be right. I don't want them to come down in a bad storm. For now I think we'll just mark the ones we need to clear and then Bear can come up when he has some free time and we'll get them felled for him."
"Jed, did you know about the maples when you bought the place?"
"To be honest, no. I didn't really check beyond the pines. The agent told me the acreage and that the stream runs through the far end about 200 yards my side of the boundary. I just knew I wanted to build here, especially as it's close to the folks, not too far to go for the gym and the pool."
"And Ma's cooking," TJ added, laughing.
"Yep, that too," Jed smiled. "I'm thinking of letting Jim tend the maples. We should get a good crop and he'll take it up to his place and get it ready for selling for us."
"We'll also never have to buy any for our own use ever again," TJ grinned, noting how Jed always said 'we' and not 'I'.
They walked round marking the trees and then began clearing some of the scrub between the back of the house and the tree line. It wasn't too long before they had stripped to the waist as they worked hard in the rising temperature. Jed was comfortable for his twin to see his scars but apart from TJ, Eliot and Ric were the only two who knew just how bad they were.
"Jed, we've got company," TJ said, head tilted to one side as he listened intently.
Jed looked up from his work, keeping still until he too heard the sound of an engine. He rushed to grab his t-shirt, pulling it on just as a voice called out. He smiled; it was their father. Ric appeared around the side of the house and waved to his sons.
"I thought you could do with some refreshments," he said as he reached the boys and gave them both a hug. "I've got stuff in the car. I'll go get it and meet you both in the kitchen."
The twins grinned at each other as they made their way to the back of the house and went through to the washroom just inside the back door.
"Hey, Sis. How's it going?"
Nova looked up and smiled at her brother. "It's going kind of slow, Mato. I know what I want the piece to look like in my head but for some reason I can't seem to get it down on paper."
"You've been working on it for days now and I think you need to step away for a while. I'm going down to Jed's later. He and Tom have been marking some trees for me to take a look at. If I can use them we can get them down and hauled up here. What say you come down with me and visit with Jed for a bit?"
The smile on Nova's face was the only answer he needed. He grinned as she jumped up and gave him a hug. He followed her out to the truck, wondering when Jed was going to realise just how deep Nova's feelings were for him.
James looked up at the remembrance wall in the foyer of the police headquarters. She sighed when she looked at the empty space that had held the photograph and plaque honouring Scott Willis. She shook her head, thinking it was a good thing that it hadn't been up there long enough to be officially unveiled by the commissioner. Sadly, she realised it was better that way. If the press got hold of the reason it was not there, the department would be seen in a bad light. As she turned away she realised it could have been a lot worse. They could have held the ceremony only to have to remove all trace. The press would have had a field day. She wondered if anyone would comment on the fact that their latest 'fallen hero' was not being honoured in the usual way, especially after the department funeral they had held for Scott.
She stepped out of the lift and walked to her desk, smiling at her partner, Summers, who was making a fresh pot of coffee. "Hey, partner," she called. "Ready for a new day protecting and serving?"
Bird and Ayiana were enjoying a coffee and muffin in the local coffee shop. Bird smiled. It was a nice change to be able to sit down and be waited on. She adored her family and would never complain about looking after them well when they came to visit, but every now and again it was a treat to be pampered. Of course, to most people being pampered was a day trip to a spa but Bird could do that any day by popping into the fitness centre her daughter owned. This was much nicer, a quiet corner in the Cozee Coffee shop, enjoying some down time with her only daughter.
"Are you happy, dear?"
"Couldn't be better, Mama. I was worried to begin with. Had I done the right thing signing those papers? Eliot was so good, making sure the agreement was weighed heavily in my favour and the new backers are great. They don't want to know about the day to day and are happy for me to do what I think is best."
"I'm so pleased for you, my darling. It's good that you are happy with your life and are close to home."
"You've got all your brood close again, Mama."
Bird sighed before answering. "Yes, child. How I wish your brother hadn't been put through all the pain before coming home though."
Ayiana reached across the table and took her mother's hand, smiling. "He's going to be fine. His house is finished, he's getting better every day, and he's even been offered a job."
"Yes," Bird smiled, "he's healing slowly. I just hope his mental health is healing along with his body."
"TJ, take a look at that."
TJ was working on one of the planes at the airstrip and turned to look where Freddie was pointing. "Damn but that's one hell of a nice-looking bird," he replied.
They both walked to the tail of the plane and watched as a state of the art helicopter approached the runway, moved across and hovered over the tarmac, then landed softly about 50 feet from the two watching men. The rotors slowed as the pilot went through the shutdown and the engines were finally silent. The front passenger side door opened and a tall, dark man emerged, heading towards TJ and Freddie.
Freddie looked at his friend and saw the smile on TJ's face as he started to walk toward the newcomer. He held out his hand but was soon enveloped in a warm embrace.
"Alex, what on earth are you doing up here?"
Before Alex could answer, a private jet landed and the screaming engine drowned out any speech as it made its way to the apron to park. Alex smiled and waved to the pilot.
"It is good to see you, Tomas. How have you been keeping?"
"I'm good, Alex. You look well."
"Thank you, my friend. I am on a mission for my father and need to see Jed if that is possible."
"Not a problem, he should be either at the boat or at home. I'll take you in the jeep."
Just then there was the sound of a throat being cleared. Both men turned to look at Freddie.
"I'm sorry, Freddie. I'm forgetting my manners. Alex, this is Freddie. He's my right-hand man both here and at the boat yard. Freddie, this is Alex Peters, a good friend of Jed's from Chicago."
Freddie held out his hand, a shy smile on his face. "Welcome, Mr. Peters."
"Please, call me Alex," he replied.
Eliot was up to his eyes in paperwork. He was wondering how his small town practise could produce so much more than being a state attorney did. He had just finished reading a long report before signing it off when he heard Mel's beautiful laugh. He put the papers back down on the pile and got up to see who she was entertaining.
"Hello, Jed. What can we do for you today?"
"Hi, Mel. I thought I'd try and steal you away for a trip to the coffee shop."
"You're on, if I'm invited too," came a baritone voice from Eliot's office.
Jed and Mel turned to see El smiling at them both.
"Well damn, I was hoping to take your lady away without you finding out," Jed laughed at his eldest brother, who was now putting on a sad puppy face. "Can you leave the office empty for a bit?"
"Don't see why not. I've got no appointments this afternoon," Eliot answered.
"Apart from with all that paperwork," Mel winked at her boss.
"Come on then, I'm buying," Jed answered, heading for the door.
TJ pulled up at the boat yard entrance and hopped out of the jeep. He jogged over to the office and was soon back, shaking his head. "Vic says he hasn't seen Jed all day so I guess he's at home."
He was soon at Jed's house but found it empty. He looked at Alex and shrugged. Taking out his phone, he hit speed dial and waited.
Eliot picked up Jed's phone before it vibrated right off the table. "Jed's phone."
"Hey, big brother. What ya doing with JD's phone?"
"Stopping it from vibrating off the table," Eliot answered, smiling.
"I'm looking for Jed."
"Well, you've found his phone at least," Eliot laughed at his brother.
"Is everything okay? Why didn't he answer?"
"He's too busy chatting up my lady to be bothered with taking a call."
TJ laughed before asking where they all were. Being told they were heading back to the office, TJ asked Eliot to make sure Jed stayed where he was until he got there.
"What did he want?" Jed asked, coming back from paying at the counter.
"You know, even after all these years, you two still manage to spook me at times," Eliot said.
"Yes, me too," Mel added. "Are you ever going to tell me how you know when it's TJ?"
"It's a twin thing, Mel," Jed replied, kissing her cheek.
They had just settled down in Eliot's office when they heard the jeep pull up outside. TJ burst through the door and smiled. "I've brought someone to see you, brother."
He stood back from the door and let Alex walk through.
"Sacha! What are you doing here?"
"Jed, it is good to see you. You are looking well. I have been sent north of the border by my father for two reasons. The first is to bring you a gift from him and then he wishes me to extend an invitation to you. He needs to see for himself that you are recovering from your ordeal but, sadly, he does not feel up to the trip himself at this time."
"Sorry to hear that, my friend. It'll be great to come down to visit with your folks, but he really didn't need to send you up with a gift. You could have called."
"I think when you see your gift you will realise it would be impossible for me not to deliver it in person, Jed."
"Okay, I'll go along with it. May I see the gift?"
"Of course. However it is not here. We need to go to the airstrip to see it."
TJ suddenly smiled, realising just what his brother was going to be presented with. "No time like the present, little brother. Let's go."
They all walked out to the jeep and Eliot said that he and Mel would follow. There was no way they were going to miss out on this 'presentation'.
They were soon at the airstrip and Freddie waved as they pulled up beside him. He had been chatting with the two pilots that were waiting for Alex to return. Everyone walked over from the two cars, all but TJ wondering why they had to come here for Alex to give Jed his gift.
Alex pointed to the helicopter and looked at Jed. "What do you think of it, my friend?"
"It's beautiful, Sacha," Jed replied, walking round the silent machine, running his hand softly along the bodywork.
"It is yours, Jed. A gift from my father to you."
Jed turned and stared at his friend, opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"Are you okay, Jed?" Mel asked, rushing to his side.
He just stood there staring at his friend, shaking his head slowly, in total shock.
"Do you like it?" Alex asked.
Jed nodded slowly, still unable to find his voice.
"Can I take a look inside?" TJ asked.
"You need to ask your brother. It is his now."
TJ walked over to his twin and rested his hand on Jed's shoulder. Jed turned to him and they just looked into each others eyes for a few seconds. TJ nodded and walked back to the helicopter, opened the door and stepped up inside.
Alex walked up to his friend, a worried frown on his face. He stopped just in front of him and spoke softly. "Jed, is everything all right?"
Jed looked at his friend and nodded.
"Do you like your gift?"
Jed nodded once again.
"Would you like to take a look at it?"
Jed shivered and then grinned, nodded and turned toward his gift. He climbed up into the pilot's seat and looked at the controls. TJ was sitting next to him, bouncing up and down in delight.
"Are you going to take it up?"
Jed looked across at his brother and frowned.
"I'm sorry...silly question. Shall we take passengers?"
Jed nodded and turned, calling to Alex, Mel and Eliot. "I'm taking her for a test drive. Want to come along for the ride?"
Mel looked at Eliot. "Can we? I've never been in a helicopter before."
"Of course we can."
They piled into the passenger seats and strapped up. Jed and TJ went through the pre-flight checks and were soon hovering about 20 feet off the ground to let Mel get used to it, then they headed off towards the lakes.
"Bird, where are you?"
"I'm out here on the terrace, Ric. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, my love." Ric kissed his wife and smiled. "Jed just called. He's going down to Chicago for a few days."
"What brought that on?"
"His friend Alex turned up at the airstrip and said his father was inviting Jed to visit."
"Well, I suppose even if he is retired, you still don't say no to the head of the Russian mafia, do you."
"You're taking it very well."
"He may be my youngest son but he's a grown man who knows his own mind. If I couldn't stop him going down there to join the police I can't stop him from going on a visit, can I? At least I know that he will be safe while he's there."
"Have I told you today just how much I love you?" Ric asked, hugging his wife.
"Not since breakfast," she replied, smiling and kissing her husband.
Jed was quiet on the flight and hardly spoke in the car from the airport.
"Is everything all right, Jed?"
"I didn't think I would feel so strange coming back. Chicago has been my home for so many years and now I feel nervous about being here."
"I think that is understandable, my friend. You have been through a great deal of pain and heartbreak. It is only normal for you to have these feelings."
"Are you sure you're a lawyer and not a shrink?" Jed asked, smiling for the first time in hours.
"I am your friend, Jed. I do not claim to have the same connection that you have with your brothers, especially Tomas, but I feel we have known each other long enough for me to understand the way you think and feel."
Jed smiled and squeezed his friend's shoulder in response.
The patrolman rushed up the front steps of the precinct and pushed through the doors. "Hey, Sarge! Guess who I just saw?"
Sergeant Hancock looked up from the crossword he was working on at the front desk and smiled. "Well, I wouldn't be able to think, Officer Johnson...Oprah, perhaps?"
Johnson pulled a face at his sergeant and shook his head. "Better than that, Sarge. I swear I just saw Sgt. Hawkins!"
"WHAT? WHERE?" Hancock shouted.
"He was coming out of the Russian Tea Room with that lawyer, Alex Peters."
If he thought Johnson was mistaken before, that made him think that perhaps JD Hawkins really was in town. Telling Johnson to watch the front desk, he headed off to the lift and up to the detectives floor. He burst through the double doors and looked round to see who was there.
"Hey, Sarge," James said. "Where's the fire?"
"Ah, I'm glad you're here. Do you still have Jedediah's number in your cell phone?"
"I sure do. Why?"
"Can you give him a call and ask where he is for me?"
Alex and Jed arrived at the Petrovich mansion in the early afternoon after having stopped off in the city for a quick coffee in the Russian Tea Room and Jed was pleased to see that both Alex's parents were standing just inside the open front doors. He sprinted up the steps as Alex got his bag from the back of the car and was soon engulfed in hugs from both Nicolai and Galina, Galina showering his face in motherly kisses as well. They were soon settled in the main sitting room at the back of the mansion, overlooking the glorious grounds.
"Nicolai, Galina, it's wonderful to see you again and both looking so well. I've been worried about you, Nicolai."
"Jedediah, it is so good to see you once again also. You are looking very fit after your terrible ordeal," Nicolai said, holding Jed's hand.
"You are too thin," Galina added.
"It's muscle, Galina. I've been working hard on my new house." He stopped and took out his phone to show them both his new home. "Everyone in Eagle Lakes lent a hand with the building and it was finished in record time. All the internal work is finished and my brother and I are working on the grounds now."
"It is a beautiful place, Jedediah," Nicolai nodded, "I hope to be able to see it one day."
"No time like the present, Nicolai. You are both looking really well right now. Do you think you're up for a trip?"
"I will speak with my doctor when he comes to see me at the end of the week. You will stay this long with us?"
"I'll stay as long as you'll have me," Jed smiled in reply. "I need to speak with you about the wonderful gift Sacha delivered to me. I don't know what to say. It's really too much."
"You don't like it?" Nicolai asked.
Jed grinned back, "I love it. It's the most wonderful gift a pilot could wish for, but..."
Nicolai held up his hand for Jed to be silent. "Jedediah, you are the second son Galina and I were never able to have. We blessed the day when you met Sacha and accepted him, knowing who his father was. We were distraught when we thought you might be lost to us last year. This was our way of letting you know just how much you mean to us."
Galina sat next to her husband, tears streaming down her face, and smiled at Jed. He went over to them quickly and hugged them both, knowing that accepting the extravagant gift was the right thing, the only thing, to do.
They spent the next hour catching up on each other's lives and then Jed's phone rang.
"Hi, Hawk. How are you?"
"I'm good thanks. What can I do for you this bright sunny day?"
"Hawk, I don't want this to sound funny but...where are you?"
Jed grinned before answering, "Just looking out at the lake." He winked at Alex as he spoke. The Petrovich mansion had grounds going down to the lake shore.
"Ah, Sarge said it's beautiful. I hope to see it one day."
"I wouldn't call it beautiful, James...big, yes but not beautiful. And you see it every day."
He pulled the phone from his ear as a high pitched squeal came through.
"So you're really here? When did you arrive? How long can you stay? Were you gonna come and see us?"
"Yes, today, about a week, yes." he laughed, answering all of her quick-fire questions. "I can come over in about an hour if you're not too busy."
"I'll let LT know," James said.
"Well," Jed said as he put his phone down, "it looks like I've got a date at the precinct. I'll see you all later."
"I will drive you, Jed," Alex said.
"Just call when you are ready to come home. Sacha will come get you," Galina said, accepting a kiss from Jed.
As they walked to the car Jed was smiling. He loved the fact that Galina saw her home as Jed's home.
Viki Willis walked slowly towards the wall of honour and looked up where Scott's photo and plaque should be. Her hands formed into tight fists when she saw the empty space. What the hell was going on? She stormed out, trying to decide what she should do next.
"Hey, Sarge," a quiet voice spoke across the high front desk of the precinct.
"Jedediah!" Sgt. Hancock cried, almost falling as he got down from his chair and coming around the desk as quickly as he could. He looked up into Jed's eyes and smiled, then hugged him close. "It's so good to see you, son. You're looking great."
"You're not looking too bad yourself, Sarge. James gave me a call, so here I am."
"Yeah, Johnson said he was sure he saw you earlier so I got her to give you a call. Damn but I'm glad you're here. Come on, I'll take you upstairs."
"Do I need a visitor's badge?" Jed asked.
"I think we can do away with that," Sgt. Hancock winked at his young former colleague as he headed down to the lift.
James was at the coffee machine when the double doors opened. She looked over to see who was coming in and promptly dropped her mug. Hearing the crash, Lt. Masey came out of his office to see what the problem was.
"HAWK!" he cried, rushing over to his former favourite detective. "What are you doing in town?"
"Hey, LT," Jed replied, almost gasping in the bear hug his former boss had him locked in. "I'm here for a few days visiting with Sacha and his folks."
Lt. Masey nodded quietly. He was still amazed that Jed could be friends with the son of a mob boss but knew that Alex had never been part of his father's 'business'. "Well, you're looking good, son. How are things going?"
"Slowly. I'm getting there, though."
"Have you decided what you're going to do once you're 100% again?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"Sgt. Hawkins! How the devil are you?"
Jed turned around to see his ex-captain striding across the office. "I'm good. Thanks, Cap."
"Come down to the conference room. Let's all play catch-up."
Vikki Willis strode into the detectives' office and looked around. There was only one person there. She thought her name was Summers. The detective looked up and smiled.
"Good afternoon. May I help you?"
"I'm Dr. Vikki Willis and I would like to see Lt. Masey."
The smile froze on Summers' face but she managed to keep cool. "Hello, Dr. Willis. I'm sorry but Lt. Masey is in a meeting right now."
"Okay, I'll see the captain then."
"Sorry, he's in the same meeting."
Just then, loud laughter could be heard coming from the conference room and Vikki recognised Masey's voice.
"Sounds like a pretty informal meeting to me. I'll just go along and say hello."
Summers tried to stop her but Vikki was too quick. She rushed down the hallway and threw open the large door. She was shocked when she saw just who was at this meeting.
Jed turned towards the voice and stared for a second. "Hello, Vikki," he said quietly.
For the next twenty minutes the air was blue as Vikki tore into the captain and the lieutenant and then she started on Jed. None of the men could get a word in and when she finally ran out of steam she turned and strode out of the office. Her parting words were, "This isn't over."
Everyone stood looking at each other, not saying a word until James uttered, "Wow!"
"Understated as always, James," Jed remarked, breaking the tension.
"That was not pleasant," the Captain said.
"It's about time we laid the ghost of Scott Willis," Jed said.
For the next couple of hours they all sat around the conference table trying to work out just how they were going to break the news to Vikki about why Scott's memorial had been removed from the wall of remembrance. James looked over at Jed with a worried frown.
"I think we should call it a day, Cap. Jed needs to get out of here."
"You're right, Sgt. James. Hawk, this is our problem, not yours. Thanks for all the input from you. You didn't have to stay and I'm grateful that you did."
With hugs all round, Jed said his goodbye's to everyone and walked back to the detectives' office, sitting for a moment at his old desk while he called for Alex to come and get him.
"Sacha, can we get the doctor to come see your dad tomorrow instead of the end of the week?"
"What is wrong, Jed? You have not been yourself since your visit to the precinct."
"Vikki turned up."
"Ah! I shall call him now. He may even be able to come over this evening. If he agrees, we could leave in the morning."
"Thanks, brother. I feel the need to get as far away from here as possible."
"Jed's coming home!" TJ rushed into his parents' kitchen to give them the news.
"When, darling?" Bird asked.
"He's in the air right now, and he's bringing guests."
"Did he say who, son?" Ric asked.
"Yep, Alex and his parents."
"Finally, we get to meet the mobster," Bird muttered.
"Don't pre-judge, my sweet. If Jed likes them then they must be all right."
"I know, Ric. It's just still so strange to me that our policeman son has a best friend who has a gangster for a father."
"Retired gangster," TJ grinned.
"Where are they staying?"
"Not sure yet. I'm guessing Alex will stay with Jed and maybe he'll ask you if the parents can stay here with you."
Bird looked over to her husband, a worried frown creasing her forehead.
"I think that would be more than fine, " Ric said. "It will be nice to speak with someone around our own age."
"Is he our age? I thought he was retired."
"That could be due to health problems, Ma. Or perhaps he just wanted out of the day to day running of the mob," TJ laughed, enjoying teasing his mother.
"It will be fine, Bird. Jed wouldn't bring anyone to his home that would put us in danger," Ric said, trying to ease Bird's concern.
"Mama, Dad, this is Nicolai and Galina Petrovich, Sacha's parents. Nicolai, Galina, these are my parents, Richard and Cholina Hawkins."
"Please, call us Ric and Bird. It's a pleasure to meet you. Jed speaks highly of you both."
"It is good to meet you also, Jedediah always speaks of you both with unending love."
Bird looked at her son and smiled, especially seeing him begin to blush.
Vikki Willis got off the plane and headed to the small terminal building. She was going to find out once and for all what was going on and if the Chicago Police Department wouldn't talk to her, she would force JD Hawkins to tell her just what was going on. She made her way into town and stopped off at the coffee shop. The staff didn't seem to be as friendly as they were when she and Scott had visited before. She was fuming when she asked for some brown toast and got the cold reply that all toast is brown. She needed to get back across the border and to civilisation.
"I cannot believe that our time with you is coming to an end," Nicolai told Ric and Bird. "I think my Galina has fallen in love with Canada."
"You are welcome back any time you are able to make the trip. As you see, we have plenty of room here," Bird replied.
"It is good of all your family to be here for our last lunch with you. Our plane will arrive in a few hours. I could not ask Jedediah to fly us back down to Chicago."
"I would have been happy to do so, Nicolai."
Before Nicolai could reply, there was a hammering at the door.
"I'll get it," Eliot said.
As he opened the door he was pushed aside. Vikki Willis may be slight of stature but she was on a mission and nothing was going to stop her reaching her goal.
The group in the dinning room all turned to face the newcomer.
"Vikki...what are you doing here?" Jed asked.
"I want answers, Hawk."
"I'm not sure I'm the one to give them to you."
"I'm not leaving here until you do."
"Young lady, why do you think you have the right to act this way?"
"Who asked you to speak? You're nothing but a washed up Wise Guy."
"VIKKI! That's enough!" Jed said, taking a step towards her.
Ric held his hand up to stop his son, then turned to Vikki.
"Vikki, we made you and Scott welcome in our home and now you feel you have the right to burst in here and demand things from my son that he can't give you. What is the matter with you?"
"What's the matter? I'll tell you what the matter is. My husband is dead, his memorial has been taken down and no one will explain why."
She walked toward Jed before continuing. "You have come out of this pretty well by all accounts, haven't you, Hawk? A nice retirement package, a good price on your old home, good friends and family. You come back here and leave me alone. Scott was your best friend and you couldn't even stay to help me get through this."
"I seem to remember your total absence from the hospital, Vikki. Is that what friends do?"
"I was there."
"Yeah, while I was unconscious."
"It was...difficult but after, you just left without a word. Scott wouldn't have done that to you. Scott would have done anything for you."
"I would have done anything for Scott. I would have died for him. I thought he would have been the same. I thought I could trust him to watch my back no matter what...I was wrong."
"What are you trying to say? Are you telling me that Scott let you down? You got out alive, Hawk. Scott is dead. He gave his life...for you."
"NO! He didn't! I've had enough of this. Do you want to know why the department won't talk to you. I can tell you why."
"Jed, no," Eliot said softly.
"I'm sorry, El, but I have to."
"Go on then, enlighten me," Vikki spat.
Jed took a deep breath and looked at her. "They took Scott's picture and plaque down from the memorial wall because..." He stopped and took a shuddering breath, "because..."
"Because your husband was a dirty cop," Alex said softly.
"It's true, Vikki."
"He couldn't be. He loved police work...it was his world...he wouldn't do that to you, Jed. He would do anything for you...he would give you his last breath if he had to."
Jed was fuming. This woman he thought he knew had burst into his family's home uninvited and demanded answers to questions she shouldn't have been asking him and now she was telling him how wonderful Scott was. TJ watched him carefully. He knew that his brother was about to blow and wanted to be ready.
"I loved Scott too, Vikki, but he was not the man we both thought he was. He loved you right to the end, though. He was given a choice, Vikki. My life or yours...guess who he chose? He didn't give me his last breath, Vikki. You want to know what he did give me though...do you?"
Vikki watched Jed get angrier by the second. She had never seen him lose his temper. She took a step back but nodded at his question.
"JD, you don't need to do this, son. She's not worth it."
"Let me tell you what happened, Vikki. I was taken prisoner by Silas Thompson. Did Scott ever tell you about him? A nasty piece of filth...a piece of filth that Scott was working for. So, there I am, a little worse for wear, and Scott comes along...not as a knight in shining armour to rescue me but as an executioner."
He paused and took a couple of steps towards her, pulling his shirt out of his jeans. "He didn't give me his last breath, Vikki...he gave me THIS!" He pulled his shirt over his head, revealing the terrible scars left from the shotgun blast before he stormed from the house.
TJ started to go after him but was stopped by Ric. "Let him go, son."
Eliot turned towards Vikki. "Happy now? You know where the door is. I suggest you get out now."
Vikki was stunned. What was Jed saying? Could her husband really have tried to kill his best friend in the world? Had he turned to the dark side? She looked at the small group of people staring at her and saw anger in their faces...anger and something else...pity!
"Young lady, despite the rudeness you have shown to both my husband and this wonderful family, I am offering you a seat on our flight back to Chicago this afternoon. I think the quicker you leave this place the better."
Vikki silently nodded in agreement and walked toward the front door.
"We will take her away from this beautiful place. Her presence defiles it," Nicolai said, stepping forward and hugging each Hawkins in turn. "I think it would be best to go quickly. Please apologise to Jedediah for us not saying goodbye."
"I will stay, Papa," Alex said, kissing both his parents before glaring at Vikki, who was leaning against the large front door sobbing.
"Do not think too badly of her, Sacha," Galina said. "She needs help. The police department has not handled this situation well and because of that, Jedediah and his family have suffered. Your father and I will take care of things."
Nova shivered at her work bench and turned to look at her brother. "Something is wrong, Matu."
Bear put his book down and went over to his sister, pulling up a chair and sitting next to her, taking her hands in his. "You're freezing, sis. What is it?"
"It's JD. I don't know what exactly but he's hurting."
"No," she whispered, "emotionally."
Matu picked up the phone and called TJ.
The family group gathered at the airstrip and watched the private jet taxi to a stop close to them. There was more group hugging and promises for further visits and soon Nicolai and Galina were walking to their plane, followed by a sullen and silent Vikki Willis. They stepped aside to allow her to board first then went aboard themselves.
The family waved until the plane took off into the cobalt blue sky and turned to head back to the cars. TJ stopped when his phone rang, shaking his head at the others when he saw it wasn't Jed.
"TJ, my man. Where's Jed?"
"I don't know, Bear. Something happened at the house and he got upset and took off."
"Ah, Nova was right then. She went cold and told me it was Jed."
"She's getting more attuned to him lately, isn't she."
"What can I say, Tom...she's in love with him."
"Man, I need to kick his butt. The best thing that could ever happen to him and he doesn't see it."
"Well, I'll tell her what you said and I'll let you know if he turns up here."
"Thanks, Bear. Take care my friend."
Jed was cold. he'd stormed out without his shirt and had just run off instead of jumping in the jeep. The wind had turned and was coming from the north, bringing an early cold front with it. He looked around and realised where he was. He walked into the huge barn and huddled down in the pile of fresh sawdust, shivering.
ON TO CHAPTER 14
BACK TO CHAPTER 12
BACK TO LIBRISCROWE