The cacophony of screams and sirens barely
penetrated Natalia’s mind. All she really registered was movement. A man ran
past her then slid to his knees next to a woman face-down in the dirt only a few
feet in front of her. Then she saw it – the gun, still raised, the glint of
sunlight off the metal reflecting brightness and beauty no longer evident in
Her hand shook as another hand slowly
lifted towards it from the side. The touch was familiar and gentle, and she saw
it shaking as well as it reached for her. Fingers wrapping around her wrist, her
chilled skin was enveloped in a warmth that could only belong to one person. Her
whole body quivered as realization closed in on her, and she collapsed into
comforting arms and understanding green eyes.
The scene played back as she huddled
against Olivia’s body, the weapon forgotten and abandoned on the ground by
their knees. Edmund Winslow had ranted at the crowd, people had been crying and
screaming in pain and loss, while Anna and Jeffrey approached Edmund from
different sides demanding he surrender. Then a horrifying sound –
Francesca’s cry, loud and resounding over all the other noises. Edmund’s
reaction was instantaneous and Natalia saw the cold, desperate glint in his eyes
as he turned towards her crying child. She imagined that was the last image Jane
must have seen before he took her life while she fought to protect Emma.
She didn’t recall thinking anything, but
she felt everything - the raging fear and livid anger of a mother desperate to
protect her young. It was primal and instinctive. Without regard for herself or
anyone around her, she reached into her purse and found Olivia’s forgotten
gun. As she raised the gun, the crying and injured people faded to the
background. She caught a glimpse of Olivia reaching for her and begging her to
stop, and of Emma clawing at Leyla to get away and get to her. But when she
stepped from her safe hiding place with the weapon drawn, the rest of the world
disappeared. The only thing she could see was Edmund’s cruel glare and the
only thing she could hear were Francesca’s cries.
She stood between Edmund’s gun and her
daughter, and that was all that mattered.
Time seemed to stand still. What probably
happened in a few seconds felt like it took a lifetime.
Even when she pulled the trigger, there
was no noise and for a moment, she wondered if the gun even went off. She only
knew that something had happened when she saw Edmund’s head snap back and a
splash of red spray into the air.
But here, now, her face buried against
Olivia’s chest, the noise was too much. She heard every word, every plaintive
sob, and every movement except the one she really needed. There was one sound
missing – their baby’s cry. Fear gripped her and she fought to get away from
“Francesca! Where is she? Where’s
Francesca?” She pushed against Olivia, who was desperately trying to hold her
and calm her.
She saw Olivia’s mouth moving, but
couldn’t hear the words, so she continued to struggle, assuming the worst. She
screamed in panic. “Where’s our baby, Olivia?”
Suddenly Rafe appeared at her side, his
eyes red and his hands shaking as he handed his sister over. Natalia sobbed and
quickly took Francesca, rocking the small child in her arms and burying her face
against the soft skin of the baby’s neck.
“No one will ever hurt you,” she
murmured over and over into Francesca’s ear while Olivia held both of them in
Remy had covered Christina and Clayton
with his arms and body as soon as he realized what was happening. He fought to
hide his shaken nerves and glanced down at his sobbing wife and frightened son.
He stroked Christina’s hair. “Are you
okay?” She nodded quickly, but remained silent. “Hey, little man, how about
you?” He ran his hands over his son’s tiny form and let out a deep sigh of
relief when he didn’t see so much as a scratch on him.
When a few moments of silence passed, he
got to his feet. Looking around he saw that the scene had descended into chaos.
It looked like a miniature war zone. Chairs and tables were flipped over and
broken. Flowers were scattered haphazardly around the grounds. The smell of
panic and gun smoke still lingered in the air. All around him, small groups of
people were huddled together crying. Several people were holding bloody,
lifeless bodies in their arms. One looked like a nurse he had seen at the
hospital, but there was so much blood on her face that it was hard to be sure.
He didn’t recognize any of the dead as close friends.
Slowly, people begin to stand and move. He
helped Christina and CK up then found his cell phone. He took care of urgent
matters first and called 911 for help.
Reaching under the back of his jacket, he
found his service weapon. He had no idea if the shooter was still around or had
gotten away. Lifting his pants leg, he pulled a smaller gun from a holster and
handed it to Christina. Her frightened eyes stared back at him and she shook her
head refusing to take the weapon.
“Please, baby. I have to check the
injured,” he begged her. Squeezing her eyes shut tight to hold back the tears,
she nodded her head. Leaning over, he kissed the top of her head before running
to a huddled group to check for injuries, all the while keeping a lookout for
the shooter. In the distance, he could hear the sirens of ambulances and police
cars drawing closer.
Nearing the stage, he saw a body sprawled
out on the stage. Anna ran up to him from the left, holding her shoulder as a
small trickle of blood oozed out between her fingers.
“You’ve been shot.” He reached for
Anna waved him off as her eyes searched
the crowd. “I’m fine. It’s just a nick. Have you seen Doris?”
Remy looked around; the faces and images
were like a blur in front of him. “Um, no, I haven’t seen her.”
She pulled a set of handcuffs from her
belt. “Do me a favor. Help me with this so I can go look for her.”
“And what is this?” He followed Anna
as she jumped to the stage. She held her weapon out in one hand, pointing to the
body on the stage, while she clutched the cuffs in her other hand.
Anna saw Edmund’s gun, inches from his
hand, and kicked it out of the way. Kneeling and keeping her gun trained on the
figure, she felt for a pulse. “This is Edmund Winslow. Our shooter, and he’s
still alive. Here, put those on his ankles.” She tossed the cuffs to Remy, who
promptly attached them to Edmund’s ankles.
Remy moved to Edmund’s other side,
looking for the injury that had him down. When he saw no wounds on Edmund’s
torso, he lifted him slightly.
A small puddle of blood under the man’s
head made Remy draw back. “Oh boy.”
“Is he dead?” Both Anna and Remy
glanced up at the pained voice as Jeffrey collapsed next to them holding his
leg, blood gushing out around his hand.
“Jesus!” From the amount of blood,
Remy was pretty sure a bullet had hit his femoral artery and Jeffrey could bleed
out in minutes. He pulled off his jacket and ripped his shirt off. He made a
tourniquet out of it and tied it off tightly around Jeffrey’s thigh.
Remy heard the squealing of tires and
looked up with relief as several ambulances pulled to the curb of the park. Like
an army of ants, medical personnel climbed from the vehicles and ran towards the
injured. Right behind them, police cruisers bumped the curb, officers pouring
out of the cars and racing towards the scene.
“Hey, you got this?” Anna’s voice
pulled his attention back to her.
He nodded. “Yeah, got it.”
She stood and tucked her gun in the back
of her jeans. “Good. I’m going to find Doris.”
Frank looked up at Marina when he heard
what sounded like the entire police station blaring past Company with their
sirens going. He pushed off from his spot on the floor of the kitchen where he
had been playing with Henry and ran out through the front door of the
Cruisers, ambulances, and even a fire
truck flew down Main Street. He looked back at Marina as she exited Company with
Henry in her arms. “What the hell’s going on?”
Marina shrugged and shifted Henry in her
arms as the little boy squealed at the noisy sirens and tried to jump from her
grasp in all of the excitement. “I have no idea.”
Frank reached for his phone to call the
police department when it started ringing. Seeing the station number, he flipped
it open to answer. “Yeah.”
Marina watched her father as a frightened
look came over his face. She stepped closer to him to ask a question, but he
raised his hand to ask her to wait while he listened to the person on the other
end of the line. He ran his hand through his hair and finally said with a shaky
voice, “Do…do we know who was killed yet?”
The answer on the other end wasn’t what
he wanted to hear, and he shook his head, closing his eyes. “I’m on my
way.” He flipped the phone closed and turned to his daughter, “There’s
been a shooting at the park, right in the middle of the
wedding…Francesca…I…I have to go.”
The frightened look sent a cold chill
through Marina, and she put a hand up over her mouth. “A shooting? Oh my God.
Is she okay?”
Frank shook his head as he backed away
from her to head across the street to his car. “I don’t know. I have to
She watched as he raced to his car, placed
the siren on the roof, and sped away. She pulled her son closer, kissing his
soft hair, muttering softly to reassure herself more than Henry. “I’m sure
Daddy is fine. Don’t worry. Come on, let’s go find my phone, and we’ll
give him a call.”
Rick and Phillip took turns doing CPR on
Billy. His lips were turning blue and his skin was growing ashen. Vanessa held
tightly to his hand, leaning down and whispering to him. She told him all of the
things she’d never had the chance to say over the years. She apologized for
all of the opportunities that had slipped them by and all of the things she’d
done to hurt him over the years. Mindy sat at her side trying to offer a small
bit of comfort even as she cried from fear and worry.
“One…two…three.” Rick counted out
the rhythm and pumped Billy’s chest as Phillip administered mouth-to-mouth.
“Come on, where are the damn ambulances? One…two…three. You can’t do
this now, Billy. One…two…three. You have to give Mindy away.
One…two…three. It’s not your time yet.”
Over and over, Rick and Phillip kept the
rhythm, hoping to maintain an oxygen flow to keep Billy’s brain alive and the
blood moving. Sirens were heard in the distance. Bill jumped up from where he
was holding Lizzie and ran toward the edge of the park, waving his hands to get
the attention of the approaching ambulances.
Blake slowly became aware that the noise
and gunfire around them had stopped. She still had her head down, tucked safely
into the crook of Doris’s shoulder. She felt the other woman beneath her move;
it wasn’t normal movement, but a shaking.
She pulled back slightly to get a look at
Doris. Her friend’s eyes were shut tight and Blake could see a line of wet
tears running down toward her hairline. Doris’s bottom lip quivered and she
was mumbling to herself.
Blake gently put a hand to her friend’s
face. “Hey, are you okay?” When Doris didn’t respond, she spoke louder,
but still tried not to startle her. “Doris! Talk to me.”
Green eye suddenly flew open and captured
Blake’s. “I’m alive?”
Blake laughed in relief. “Yeah, I think
Doris’s frightened look turned quickly
to worry as she propped herself up on shaky arms. “And you’re okay?”
Blake nodded and moved off of her friend.
“Good.” Doris let out a relieved sigh.
For a moment, they didn’t move and simply looked at each other, until the
moment became awkward. Doris stood on wobbly legs. She reached down for Blake to
take her hand so she could help her up.
They stood and looked around at the chaos
they’d just lived through. Blake shook her head and ran her hands through her
“Thanks,” Doris said out of the blue.
Blake looked at her and felt a little
shiver course through her. It definitely wasn’t left-over adrenaline, and she
couldn’t help but smile. “You’re welcome. You know, I was going to see if
you wanted to get coffee after the wedding, but seeing as I saved your life, I
think that calls for at least dinner…with a nice bottle of wine.”
Doris flinched a little. “Maybe we
should check on our friends first.”
“Oh, of course.” Blake wasn’t
ignoring the significance of the event they’d just experienced, but it was
because of that experience that she didn’t want to let the chance to spend
time with Doris pass her by.
When Doris saw the hurt look in Blake’s
eyes, she quickly smiled and added, “But I’d love to do that.”
“It’s a date then.” Blake realized
how the words sounded, but didn’t regret them a bit.
“Yeah, a…a date,” Doris stuttered at
the thought and quickly covered by gesturing to the madness around them. “I,
um…better check on what’s happening, assess the damage, talk to the
reporters, and all that other mayor-type stuff.” She fussed with her hair and
attempted to get the leaves and dirt off her suit. “How do I look?”
Blake smiled. “Beautiful, as always.”
She was enchanted by the light blush that came over Doris’s face.
The mayor swallowed hard as her heart
raced at the compliment. “Thanks. So, I’ll talk to you later.”
The redhead nodded. “I’ll call you.”
Blake watched as Doris walked away, and
shook her head at her own behavior. She couldn’t believe she was actually
flirting with her best friend in the middle of what looked like a shooting
spree. She muttered to herself, “Boy, Blake, you really need to work on your
Doris saw Olivia and her family huddled
over by a large oak tree. Before she could reach them, though, she was
intercepted by Anna.
“Oh, thank God, you’re okay.” Anna
looked Doris over, surprised she didn’t even seem to have a scratch. “Are
you sure you didn’t get hurt? I tried to get to him before he took a shot. I
In spite of her reservations over Anna’s
deception, Doris couldn’t stand to see her ex upset. She calmed her down by
taking her hand. “I’m fine, really.”
Anna stuttered, “But…I…I saw him
come up the path and you were right there, and I was running, but I couldn’t
get there fast enough, and…”
“Hey, calm down. It’s okay. I’m not
hurt.” Doris put her free hand on Anna’s shoulder and felt an unexpected
wetness. She pulled her hand away and saw blood. “I can’t say the same for
you though. Anna, you need to get this looked at.”
Anna shook her head. “It’s just a
scratch. Don’t worry about it.”
Doris stood up straight then, her eyes
burrowing into Anna’s. “Oh, so you get to worry about me, but I don’t have
the right to worry about you. Is that how this works?”
“Hey, I didn’t mean it that way.
It’s just the way I am, okay? I worry about everyone else first and think of
myself last.” Anna paused, frustrated that her meaning wasn’t coming across
right. “I’m not used to anyone worrying about me, so I’m not good at
accepting it. But, thank you. I’m fine.”
Doris felt her belated frustrations with
her ex deflate quickly at the repentant look in the younger woman’s dark eyes.
She rubbed her forehead, trying to forestall the pounding headache that was fast
approaching. Looking into Anna’s eyes, she really wished she could let her
anger and hesitance go, but she needed trust and Anna had blown all of that away
with her lies. No matter how much she wanted to go back sometimes, to that time
and place of having a wonderful woman to share her life with, she just didn’t
think she could.
She took a deep breath and moved into
safer territory. “So, what do we have here?”
Frank had never driven so frantically and
dangerously in his life. He took every shortcut he knew, ran red lights, and
even drove on the sidewalk for a short stretch just to get to the park as
quickly as possible. No one could tell him who was killed or injured, or even
how many victims there were yet. He was panicked to think of so many people he
knew and loved being at risk, but most of all, he thought of Francesca - her
sweet innocent face and trusting eyes. He pressed the accelerator a little
harder. Jumping the curb, he drove into the park and skidded to a halt outside
Raised in a close-knit Greek family, there
was one thing that Frank understood: family. Nobody hurt his family and got away
with it. He may not have the best family in the world and like so many others
they were as dysfunctional as the day was long, but they stuck together and
stood by each other. And they always, always fought for and protected each
So, when he ran from his car and found
Natalia and Olivia underneath a large oak tree, he didn’t think about their
tangled past. He just ran to them – his extended family - and kissed his
daughter as tears fell from his eyes.
Doris and Anna saw Frank come up, but gave
him a moment alone with his family. Quietly, they approached and Doris rested a
gentle hand on Olivia’s back.
“Is everyone okay?” Doris reached out
and ran the back of her fingers over Francesca’s cheek. The little girl smiled
and Doris was thankful that she was too young to remember any of this.
Unfortunately, looking at Emma clinging tightly to her mother’s waist, still
visibly shaking, she couldn’t say the same thing for the other Spencer child.
Natalia leaned against Olivia, saying
nothing, but nodding. Olivia tried to smile at her friend, but it didn’t quite
reach her eyes. “Nobody’s hurt here. How about you?”
Doris shrugged. “Just some scrapes.”
Olivia saw Anna standing to the side,
whispering to Frank; the dark stain on Anna’s sleeve making her injury
apparent. “I see not all of our little group came out unscathed.”
Anna turned at Olivia’s voice, ready to
answer, when Remy jogged up with an EMT bag over his shoulder. “What’s the
He caught Ava’s eyes, “Are you
okay?” She nodded and he tilted his head at her in concern, not entirely
convinced she was telling the truth. He wasn’t looking forward to telling her
Everyone turned to Remy and froze at the
look on his face. He glanced at Olivia and then focused again on Ava, swallowing
hard. “Jeffrey’s been hurt…really bad. A bullet hit him in the femoral
artery and he’s lost a lot of blood.”
Ava leaned heavily on Rafe who was beside
her. “Is he…?” She couldn’t finish her thought.
Her ex shook his head. “I don’t know.
I…he just left in an ambulance for Cedars. You should get there.”
Rafe took Ava’s hand. “Come on,
let’s go.” He looked at the rest of his shocked family. He tugged on Ava’s
hand. “Give me the keys; I’ll drive you and Leyla. Olivia, can you drive Ma
and Emma over?”
Olivia nodded at the confident young man,
who suddenly seemed far too mature for his age. “Yeah, I got it.”
Doris watched the shaken family gather
together purses and other personal items. When she looked up, she noticed Remy
still looked uncomfortable. “There’s more, isn’t there?” He looked away
and she leaned her head to catch his dark eyes with her own. “How bad?”
He fought to keep his bottom lip from
quivering. Realizing just how bad it was and how fortunate he was that Christina
and CK weren’t hurt, the shock was finally settling on him. “Ten are dead,
another eight wounded. Three are critical. Jeffrey O’Neill is one of the
critical. The shooter, Edmund Winslow, is another. It appears he was shot in the
head but he’s, surprisingly, still alive.”
He paused and looked at Olivia and the
others as they waited for him to continue. “And there was one that wasn’t
directly injured by a gunshot, but is still in grave danger. Billy Lewis had a
heart attack. Rick and Phillip were doing CPR, but weren’t able to revive him
before the medics got here and took over.”
“Dear God.” Olivia ran her hands
through her hair. “Has anyone called Josh?”
Remy shook his head. “I don’t know.
The ambulance left for Cedars already, so they should be there by now. You may
want to check with Vanessa.”
She nodded. “Thanks.” Guiding the rest
of her family from the park, they followed Rafe, Ava, and Leyla towards the
parking lot and the cars.
Frank caught Anna’s eye and raised a
finger asking for one minute. He jogged after Olivia and Natalia and caught up
with them at their car. “Hey, if you want, I can take Francesca…at least for
tonight, so you don’t have to worry about her.”
Natalia instinctively pulled her daughter
closer, kissing her dark hair. “Thank you, Frank, but…I don’t know if I
can let her go tonight.”
He nodded noticing how she wrapped her
arms more possessively around the child. “No, it’s...is everything okay,
Olivia opened the back door to help Emma
into the car. She waited to see how Natalia was going to respond, ready to jump
in and take the blame if needed.
“I shot him.” The words were out of
Natalia’s mouth before Olivia could interject. There was no hesitation on
Natalia’s part. “I shot Edmund Winslow and I’d do it again. He was aiming
a gun at my baby. Nobody hurts my family.”
Frank took a deep breath and looked
around. It was only the three of them and the two girls. If he had to, he’d
help Natalia out of any trouble she might get into. Though truth be told, the
town would probably honor her as a hero if Edmund didn’t make it.
He squeezed her hand and looked at Olivia.
A shared look of understanding and protectiveness passed between them.
“Don’t worry about that, Natalia. We’ll figure it out. It’ll be okay.”
He helped her get Francesca into her car
seat, taking an extra moment to kiss his daughter. Standing up, he barely had a
chance to respond before Olivia hugged him. “Thank you.”
Stepping back, he watched as they climbed
into the white car and it followed the SUV out of the parking lot.
Walking back towards the scene of the crime, he flipped his phone open. “Hey, Eleni, it’s me. I need you at the park. Bring your entire team and everything you’ve got. Yeah…it’s bad.”