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
“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
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.
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.
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
“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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
In this case, it had been a
“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
“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.