ACT 1

 

Jeffrey O’Neill was tired.

Slumped in his chair, body aching and mind spinning, Jeffrey didn’t even know what day it was anymore. He sighed as he fingered his cell phone, the lack of a decent signal screwing with his scheduled phone conference with Jonathan. This just needed to end, and soon.

Jeffrey was tired of the chase, of living in filth and jumping at the slightest sound, of running ragged through the night after shadows and a mad man. He was tired of it all, and this bone weary ache for home was the only thing he could think of to explain his carelessness today. Jeffrey pulled a small tattered photo from his shirt pocket, the only memento he had of his family. God, he missed Reva and Colin, but their safety was more important. It was the only thing that got him through the nights.

“I’m so sorry…” He murmured, sadly running his thumb over Reva’s smiling face one last time before tucking the photo back into his pocket. Taking a sip of his Coke, he glanced over his shoulder to see if the men at the bar had spotted him yet. He sank down a little lower in his chair, trying to blend in with the other tourists sitting on the patio of the tiny bistro.

His local contact had said to meet him here; that a gringo named Winslow had a stronghold near the village, a base where his followers worked out of. Drugs, guns, even a lucrative black market slave trade was rumored to be coming out of the compound. He needed to find it and destroy it, hitting the man where his income was coming from. Maybe it would flush Edmund out into the open again. So he could finish the man properly and end this all.

However Jeffery knew he needed to avoid his own capture first. Winslow and his men would have a field day, torturing him and then destroying those he loved. His henchmen were hot on his trail and he needed to avoid capture at all cost.

Jeffrey glanced at his watch, worried. Where the hell was his contact?

Jeffrey hadn’t seen the man in weeks. He was beginning to suspect that Edmund was sending him on a wild goose chase, keeping him occupied while he was off doing something else.

Doing something much more sinister.

Still, Jonathan and Anna had seen nothing of the man in Springfield itself, only some of his men, blundering about, knocking poor Anna around. He did feel bad about that, but she was a cop and  knew the risks of the job. She didn’t even hesitate to help him when he asked. Her sense of duty and personal honor continued to inspire him.

Crazy woman.

There should be more people like her out there.

Jeffrey glanced at his watch, worried. He had already missed his scheduled call in to Jonathan a half hour ago and there had been no sign of his contact at the rendezvous point. The damn cell phone signals were so poor down here it wasn’t funny. He’d been trying to find a land line when the goon squad found him. It had been a chase ever since.

Jeffrey saw the same two men at the bar watching him. Damn it, they had made him. It was time to go. Throwing some money on the table to cover his bill, Jeffrey made his way from the patio and headed towards the market area of town. Maybe he could lose them in the morning shopping crowd. The two large men followed, not making much effort to hide their movements.

Jeffrey had a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling.  

***

 

Reva Shayne O’Neill stared at the small handset vibrating innocently on the table, before moving to quickly pick it up.

Jeffrey.

Alive.

 It couldn’t be, could it?

And yet there it was, blinking back at her. First Edmund and now Jeffrey. Reva closed her eyes slowly letting the truth seep into her soul, reluctant to believe it, silently kicking herself. You always make sure to see the body with your own eyes.

She should have known. 

Reva stared once again at the cell phone in her hand the quiet ring tone was the theme to James Bond. She’d laugh except it hurt too much. Her eyes snapped up as she glared at her son, Jonathan’s eyes pleading with her to understand and trust him. And she wanted to, almost as much as she had wanted to trust her supposedly dead husband.

And look where that got her.

Setting her jaw, Reva flipped the phone open and answered it.

“Yes?” Her voice was cold.

“Jon… an? I d-d-d-don’t have…a l-l-lot…ime.” A very familiar voice sputtered through the phone. Despite the obvious scattering of the cell phone signal, Reva could recognize her husband’s voice anywhere, bringing hot tears to her eyes. The cold hand of fear swept over her as she clutched the handset closer to her ear. 

“Jeffrey?” She whispered into the phone, trying to wrap her head around what she was hearing. Her other hand went to Colin’s tiny head, his face hidden against her leg as he fussed. He could sense something was not right as well.

“No signal…Edmund’s men…have…. me cornered. Get Anna and…Devil’s Heart.”

Reva jumped when she heard a gun shot sound and then the phone line went dead.

“Jeffrey?” Reva called into the phone. “Jeffrey!!” He couldn’t be gone, not again, not so soon.

Jonathan reached for the phone, pulling it out of her freezing hands, trying desperately to reconnect the call. He locked eyes with Anna Li across the room, solemnly shaking his head. It was dead.

Reva glared at him and glanced around at half of Springfield standing there in Phillip Spaulding’s office as her youngest child clung to her leg, crying.

“Will someone tell me what the HELL is going on?”

***

 

Edmund Winslow couldn’t rest.

His head throbbed uncontrollably and the gouges scratched along his neck itched like the devil. Just when he had thought his plan was starting to come together, it all started spinning out of control. He just needed to think, there was still time. All the tiny threads of discord and hate, pushing people off balance, getting them rattled and scared.

Edmund knew he just needed to focus. He needed a little sleep and some food and then things would work themselves out. He was still certain that he was on the right course. It was time to make them all pay. It would be glorious and worth it all. Make them all hurt the way Lara’s death had hurt him. Take their children, just as his daughter Lara had been taken from him forever.

Edmund leaned back against the singed barn boards and slid down to sit on the little bit of hay still scattered around on the floor. Jessup’s farm, it had been his present to Cassie so long ago now. He knew this place and all its secrets well. Olivia and her family lived here now, making the farmhouse a true home and that actually gave him some peace. Someone should be happy here. And he had always rather liked Olivia, despite her misguided affections for his brother Richard. Although, she had lost some of her edge lately mind you.

Happiness only makes you soft. Pain on the other hand just proves that you’re alive and kicking.

Edmund chuckled to himself, pressing a hand to his forehead, the swell of his headache threatening to overtake him. He couldn’t believe his luck when Ava had arrived at the farmhouse alone. It was like a gift wrapped present after the debacle that morning.

The garbage can lid to the head hadn’t helped his headache at all though. He worked his way through the accompanying wave of nausea and sighed as the pain in his head started to recede again. Now if the headaches would just stop life would be perfect.

Well, except for that little murder in the park.

Edmund hadn’t meant to kill that girl. He knew he should have waited to snatch Sarah, biding his time like he had originally planned. But the opportunity was suddenly there and he couldn’t let it go by. It was that damn nanny’s fault anyway. If she hadn’t jumped at the gun, she’d still be alive now. It was her own fault for trying to mess up his plan. Taking little Sarah would have ripped a hole in Reva’s heart, twisting the knife in poor Jeffrey’s back.

Selling that adorable child would have fetched such a fabulous price in the black market.

Such a pity about the nanny, though. Still, every war has its casualties; and make no mistake, this was a war.

Edmund shifted around in his makeshift hideaway, trying to take his mind off the pain. The old barn behind the farmhouse apparently was used mostly for storage now. He poked at the artificial white Christmas tree kept there with a few other boxes marked Beacon on them in Olivia’s neat printing. Surely Olivia didn’t have such horrible taste in decoration? It was almost criminal.

He could feel the headache starting to lessen, his breathing slowly returning to normal. The barn was the perfect place to lurk, at least part time. It seemed like all of Springfield eventually ended up at the farmhouse. And who would think to look for him here? The increased security was becoming an issue though. He knew he’d have to move on soon, find another place to stay to watch the excitement.

Edmund turned his head and stared at the burn marks on the walls still visible after all this time. He should have just let Jeffrey die in the barn fire all those years ago. It would have solved so much. On the other hand he was enjoying this little game of tormenting him through his family. With so many balls in the air, it was nice to see some of his plans coming together.

Oh, how he wanted to make Jeffrey suffer. It was almost as much fun as making poor Reva suffer.

His men had urged that disgruntled boy from the Beacon to spray paint those nasty words on the side of the hotel. The vandalism, the  threats on Anna’s life, and various other little things had been meant to escalate unrest and tension, breeding fear in town, with the desired outcome of having Olivia’s daughter eventually turn up to make sure her mother was all right. It played right into Edmund’s plans to exact revenge on Jeffrey.

Edmund couldn’t believe his luck when suddenly Ava was there at the farmhouse, alone and ripe for the snatching. A little torture captured on tape to torment Jeffrey and then off to the slave trade with her. Jeffrey would spend forever searching for her, trying to save her from her new hell, but it would still be too late. Her life will have been shattered. Just like his world had been shattered.

Edmund smiled at his diabolical plan. Selling Ava into that twisted world would be a fate worse than death with the added bonus of making up much needed funds after losing the San Cristobel royal jewels. The jewels had been rightfully his anyway; he was the legitimate heir to the throne after all.

Edmund sighed and ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. That was all water under the bridge now. His plan to snag sweet little Ava Peralta had been perfect. It had just been a matter of time, and a little patience, of which he had both, in spades. However, what he hadn’t planned on was that strange girl showing up and flinging a garbage can lid at his head.

Another wrench in his plans.

Edmund looked up at the morning sunlight filtering in through the barn boards and sighed. No wonder he had a headache. 

***

 

“Well, hello…” James Spaulding murmured to himself as he looked up from the sports page in time to see his mother talking to a stranger before the petite woman make her way outside onto the patio with his sisters. He looked the young woman over with an appraising glance - shoulder length hair, dark sparkling eyes, and faded blue jeans fitting her just right. Who was this new girl?

“James!” Emma raced over and wrapped her arms around her big brother, just about knocking him out of his patio chair.

“Hey munchkin.” He squeezed her back. “Who’s your friend?”

“Leyla Rivera.” The girl smiled warmly. “I’m Natalia’s little sister.”

James blinked. Oh my, those dimples. Of course she was related to Natalia. He smiled back and then it all started to click.

“Oh, you were the girl with Ava at the gate. When the guards called up saying that Ava was hurt and they were worried about an unconfirmed friend coming in with her…” 

“That was me. Thanks for your vote of confidence and saying it was ok to send us through.” Leyla ducked her head shyly. “I didn’t think they would ever let me in. This place is like Fort Knox.”

“Yeah, Granddad was a little security crazy and Dad seems to be following in his footsteps lately.” James laughed thinking of Alan. Damn he missed that old man. “Still there are plenty of ways to sneak in and out of the place if you’ve lived here long enough.” He grinned slyly.

“James! Where are the puppies?” Emma interrupted anxiously.

“They’re in the kennels out back.” James ruffled his sister’s hair, smiling at the glare he got back in return. “Wanna go find them?”

“Yeah!” Emma and Peyton shouted together.

“Let’s go.” James smiled at the petite brunette before scooping Peyton up for a piggy back ride. Emma giggled and headed out across the lawn.

“Come on, Leyla!”

Leyla laughed and took off after the group of siblings.

***

“Don’t even start with me.” Reva growled at her son as Jonathan gave her a look and frantically fiddled with his cell phone. “You are in so much trouble right now.”

“What did he say?” Anna appeared at Jonathan’s side.

Colin wailed a little louder at Reva’s leg. She kneeled down to hug his tiny shoulders, needing the comfort almost as much as the child.

“Shh, baby.” She cooed, rocking the boy and trying to get her bearings.

“Here, let me take Colin out back with the other kids. There are puppies!” Beth stepped forward as Colin’s tears started to dry up. Reva nodded and stood her own tears falling harder. Once the child was out of sight, she let out a long sigh. It was all too much all at once.

“I know it’s a little early but here, I thought you might need this.” Phillip handed Reva a glass of whiskey. She accepted it gratefully and took a long drink before closing her eyes, shutting everything out if only for a moment.

Phillip could relate. He couldn’t believe the weekend they had all been having. People murdered and attacked, homes broken into, the dead coming back to life. His daughter and grand-daughter had almost been taken from him.

Phillip glanced over to Olivia and the weight, the true horror of what he had done to her in the past, fell heavy on his shoulders. How could he have stolen their daughter from her, taken his children away from all of their homes? What kind of monster had he truly been? He was no better than Edmund and this truth made him burn with shame. It was no wonder Olivia had wanted to kill him.

Olivia looked up from her perch on the couch, their eyes meeting as she smiled softly at him, oblivious to the dark turn of his thoughts, but somehow sensing his unease.

How could she have ever trusted him with Emma again?

Phillip watched as Natalia slid her hand down Olivia’s back, finally finding her hand and entwining their fingers. Olivia turned to face her partner, the love shining from her eyes.

Phillip smiled. They had both changed so much. It could have been so different, so much more difficult than it needed to be. He looked up found his wife staring at him from the doorway. Beth walked over and took his hand, adding her silent strength to his own.

“I’ve sent Hilda out with Colin and Francesca to play with the other kids. And there’s a security detail watching them.” Beth turned to look at the gathered friends and family in the room. Bill and Lizzie sat to one side, Lizzie nervously massaging her swollen belly. Ava sat propped up in an easy chair, trying to get comfortable despite her headache and various bumps and bruises from her attack. Frank, Doris and Anna stood by the small fireplace in the lavish mansion office, arms crossed looking like they would prefer to be anywhere else. Nestled on the couch sat Natalia and Olivia, holding hands, with Reva huddled in the other corner, clutching a throw pillow. The woman was as white as a sheet. Beth’s heart went out to her the most.  

A part of Beth still couldn’t believe she’d been married to Edmund Winslow. She knew better than many gathered here how the mind can play tricks with you. How Edmund could play tricks with you. How easily you can get lost in the shades of gray and make a mistake.

In this case, it had been a deadly mistake.

“Time to come clean.” Anna murmured quietly as she looked up at the handsome man at her side. “The boss is in trouble, Edmund has finally revealed himself and he’s escalating. We need Jeffrey here.”

“Problem is we don’t know where Jeffrey is now.” Jonathan hissed back, shaking his head and avoided the pointed glares of most of the room.

“If you two don’t stop mumbling away over there and tell us what’s going on, I’m going to have to hurt someone soon.” Reva grumbled. “Probably Olivia.”

“Me?” Olivia turned stare at the stout blonde sitting beside her on the couch. “What did I do?”

“The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Olivia,” Reva took a quick sip of her drink before smirking evilly. “But it’s still on my list.” She paused and then elbowed her old adversary, smiling wider as Olivia simply raised an eyebrow.

“Fine, I’ll start then.” Anna glanced up at a hesitant Jonathan and then looked around the gathered group, taking a cleansing breath before beginning.

“My full name is Xing Lung Li, I changed it when I came to America because I wanted to forget my past, distance myself from my father, but I soon realized some things can never be forgotten. Or forgiven.” Anna looked over at Doris who merely stared at her harder, and unable to take the emotions barely contained there, she dropped her eyes to look her hands before continuing.

“My father was head of the Royal Guard for the Winslow family on San Cristobel.  I grew up living in a small cottage with my father; my mom had died when I was small.  Our whole world was the royal family and the palace.  My father even made me work the parties, do odd jobs around there. The only time I had any sort of freedom was at school. That is where I knew Olivia from.”

Olivia shifted as she felt the weight of the stares around the room. Natalia’s hand gently squeezed hers, reminding her that she wasn’t alone. She turned her attention back to the petite Asian woman as she continued her story.

“Well, I knew of her, but she never really noticed me. Anyway, as I grew up, I saw a lot of bad things happen around there. The Winslow family was virtually untouchable, and as head of the Royal Guard and chief of security, my father made sure of it. They had these lavish balls and parties…really wild affairs. One night when I was about eighteen they threw this gala ball and everything changed. 

Anna paused trying to figure out the best way to phrase this next part, without hurting Olivia. Her family had done enough to the poor woman. Olivia made a small coughing noise and took the decision away from her.

“I was there that night.” Olivia’s voice sounded far away, her eyes never leaving Ava’s. “And so was Jeffrey. We both had too much to drink and ended up in a bedroom upstairs together and well…” Olivia paused, the pain coming over her again in a wave, looking down as Natalia squeezed her hand tighter. Ava shifted in her chair. Although she knew she was the product of date rape, it was still difficult to hear it, to see Olivia still struggling with it. “Anyway, the next thing I knew I was being bundled up and tossed out by security.”

“Dear Lord…” Reva took another gulp of whiskey, shaking her head. She felt like she didn’t even know the man she’d married.

“I had seen Jeffrey leave and found Olivia messed up and unconscious. So I naturally ran to get my father, who told his second in command to take care of things and make sure Olivia got home. My father didn’t want anything to do with this. Angry at how Olivia had been treated and just dismissed, I confronted my father; he told me it was none of our business. And as I persisted, his eyes grew cold and it was as if he was no longer looking at me, his own flesh and blood but rather someone who was in the way, who would cause trouble for him.  It stunned me and scared me.”

Anna’s eyes turned to Doris, a glimmer of hope that she would understand her a little more now. Doris steadfastly looked at her feet, but at least she was listening. Anna swallowed hard and continued.

“When Olivia eventually came back to try to get some justice, she was turned away and I never saw her again until I came to Springfield. When I once more went to my father about Olivia, I was beaten for my troubles. My father was a coward who sold his soul to the Winslow family for power and wealth. And I was disillusioned and disgusted but I was trapped.

“That bastard!” Olivia growled, unable to help her quiet outburst. She had no idea that any of this had occurred on her behalf; that this tiny dynamo had stood up for her against her powerful father. She began to think that she had misjudged Anna Li. She glanced up at Doris who stood with her arms crossed, still stubbornly angry, and sighed, hurting for her friend.

“It wasn’t very long before I found Jeffrey and confronted him; he broke down with guilt and remorse. I told him about what had been happening afterwards, how my father was covering up the incident and that his men had been threatening me to shut up. Jeffrey told me it wouldn’t be the last time I would be harassed, and I knew he was right.” Anna started to pace a little, needing to physically do something. “He said that he had tried to find out who he had been with at the ball but all he had been told was that she had been taken care of, like usual. It seemed like what had happened to Olivia was not an isolated occurrence. “In fact it was business as usual, I just didn’t know about them.”

Anna looked up and met Olivia’s haunted green eyes, wondering how many other women like her were roaming the world because of her father. Disgust rolled in her belly.

“I was incensed and confronted my father again, even going to Richard and Edmund but the threats against me only became more sinister. I felt like Jeffrey was the only one who I could trust anymore, and I was right.” Anna ran a hand through her hair and smiled, remembering the boy who had changed her life that day.

“He took me to see his father the ambassador, and he admitted everything, including the threats to my life. His father helped me escape to America, but on the condition that I never spoke of what happened there. With a clean slate and a new name I was able to join the police force and I never looked back.” Anna glanced up meeting Frank’s concerned eyes, not sure she was comfortable being so vulnerable and open with the man. There would be a lot of fence mending and trust building needed after all this was said and done.

“From that day onward, I swore that I’d do everything in my power to take down my father and everything associated with that time in my life. Including Edmund, as I am sure my father is involved somehow with him still.” Anna sighed and started pacing again.

“When Jeffrey contacted me about coming to Springfield to protect his friends and family here and to be his eyes and ears, I didn’t hesitate. Hell, it’s the least I could do.” Anna ran a hand through her hair, finally glad to have gotten the burden off her shoulders. Her eyes met Reva’s, deadly serious. “He’s a good man, don’t judge him too harshly.”

Reva merely looked away, not sure what to make of it all.

“Why didn’t you inform the mayor or the police force of what was happening?” Frank finally spoke up. “Surely this was something we should have all been aware of, guarded against. You can’t just take the law into your own hands, Detective.”

“I had no concrete proof and Jeffrey refuses to come forward. Jonathan and I have been trying to build a case, but Edmund was officially dead and his men are very clever. We unfortunately needed Edmund to make a slip in order to bring this into the light of day. And Jane ultimately paid for it with her life.” Anna ducked her head, one hand clenching into a fist. Jonathan stepped forward, putting a comforting hand on the petite woman’s shoulder.

“Jeffery swore us to secrecy. Edmund blames Shayne Lewis for his daughter Lara’s death. And he has focused all his venom on Reva, vowing to make her suffer. That was why he tried to frame her in the first place for his murder. He seems to see her as the cause of all his misery.”

“Well, if that ain’t the kettle calling the pot black.” Reva snorted, shaking her head.

“Why is he targeting the children?” Natalia leaned into Olivia, gathering strength from her warm presence beside her.

“Because he’s a crazy son of a bitch…” Lizzie piped up across the room as Bill dropped a gentle kiss to his wife’s hair.

“Well, there is that.” Jonathan smirked. “Jeffrey had tried to lure Edmund out of hiding, suspecting that Reva was framed for his alleged murder. His plane went down and he found me and Sarah, encouraging us to return to Springfield for our own safety. Edmund apparently confronted Jeffrey during one of their many skirmishes, swearing to kill the Lewis children if Jeffrey told Reva he was alive. I think in his crazy head it’s expanded to all of his supposed enemies, to all our children.” Jonathan turned to look at his old friend Ava. “Apparently even the grown children of his enemies.”

“Oh my God. Shayne, Marina and Henry are in danger too.” Reva gasped locking eyes with an equally concerned Frank.

“Jeffrey has continued to chase Edmund and his men around the world. He tried to flush him out and eliminate him, but Edmund keeps eluding him. I’m getting worried though. He missed his regularly scheduled phone contact and I think he might be in trouble.” Jonathan chewed his thumbnail and stared at his mother. Why did all hell have to break loose now?

“I think the vandalism to the Beacon back in February was the first concrete step, gang activities in the schools, general break and entering happening around town, escalating now to the vandalism at the farmhouse. All of it has the familiar feel of my father’s men while under the command of Edmund Winslow. Just part of the crazy mans diabolical plan. I think the attempted kidnapping, the assault on Ava and Jane’s murder are just the start. To me, all of this clearly points to Edmund’s return to Springfield.”

The room fell silent as the full implications hit them all.

This was war.

***