The late autumn
morning was progressing nicely in Springfield Township and Doris Wolfe was
feeling good about herself as she stepped out of her SUV and onto the small
parking lot next to Company. Sure, Edmund Winslow was still at large, but there
had been no incidents since he disappeared. While it was her nature to remain
pessimistic, there was a chance Chief Cooper was right and Winslow had fled the
country. Still, she was taking no chances and expected a preliminary report from
A.C. Mallet when he arrived in town. Which Doris sincerely hoped was soon.
Also arriving home
for the Thanksgiving holiday was her daughter Ashlee, flying in from California
with her best friend Daisy Cooper. Doris was looking forward to seeing Ashlee,
but not as much as she was looking forward to seeing the feisty redhead who
already had her morning cup of coffee ready and waiting for her as she stepped
through the entrance door.
Blake gave her a
bright smile and handed her the coffee after Doris perched herself at the
counter. She took a sip and hummed in absolute pleasure as its warmth penetrated
her body just as the fire in Blake's eyes filled her soul.
you," she said. "It's wonderful, as usual."
pleasure," Blake said and leaned across the counter to steal a quick kiss.
Doris sighed happily and congratulated herself for not looking around to see if
anyone had noticed. Blake had been good about giving her space, but Doris found
herself more and more at ease with the idea of a relationship with Blake.
Actually, she admitted to herself, they were already in a relationship, but at
last she felt they were ready to move it toward the next level.
"How are you
this lovely morning?" Doris asked.
"It just got
even lovelier now that you're here," Blake said, then it seemed to Doris
that she suddenly grew nervous. "So, I was wondering…tomorrow is my
goddaughter's birthday party."
Doris said with a nod. "I was a little surprised that Frank sent me an
invitation, but I figured it was Olivia's influence even though he's hosting the
Blake said, absently. Obviously something was on her mind and Doris wondered
what it was. "Well…I was wondering if you'd go with me?"
Doris was charmed
at the faint blush on Blake's face. "Don't you have to work?"
"I'm going to
ask Buzz for the night off."
yes," Doris said with a nod. "I'll go with you."
Blake's face lit
up. "Great! It's a date." She paused with a frown. "It is a date,
Doris laughed and
nodded. "Yes, Blake. I will go with you to Francesca's birthday party on
our first official date."
smile made Doris's stomach flip happily.
The parking lot of
the SFPD building was already filled with cars as Olivia swung their car into it
and double-parked in front of the entrance. Natalia quickly exited the vehicle
and started to unbuckle Francesca from her seat in the back.
Olivia popped the
trunk and pulled the baby's weekend bag out. She quickly double-checked the
contents then slammed the trunk closed. Natalia was already walking up the steps
and she rushed to catch up. Natalia never liked Francesca's weekends with her
father and always wanted to get the goodbyes over quickly.
Olivia opened the
door with her free hand and waited while Natalia walked through, then she
followed. Inside, the desk sergeant buzzed them through with a smile. Frank's
office door was open, but Olivia rapped on the sill and Frank looked up from his
paperwork, his frown at being interrupted turning into a smile upon seeing his
there," he said, getting up and coming around the desk to take the baby
from Natalia's arms. "Hi! How's my baby girl?"
Poppy," Francesca said wrapping her arms around Frank's neck in a tight
laughed at Frank's shocked expression. The baby had been putting together simple
sounds for weeks now, but this was the first time she successfully spoke the
name of her father.
"Oh, my baby
girl," Frank said happily as he hugged his daughter.
Poppy," Olivia said with a smirk. She glanced at her partner who had tears
in her eyes. She reached over to take Natalia's hand who in turn gave her a
"So is there
anything else you need, Frank?" Natalia asked.
"I don't think
so," he said. "You sent enough milk?"
bag," Olivia answered. "We'll bring more to the party tomorrow night.
If you run out, just call."
he said, nodding his head. They went through this every time they turned the
baby over to him and she guessed they'd be doing it for a long time. It was
simply a reflection of Francesca's parents: her and Natalia's obsessive concern
and Frank's chronic absent-mindedness.
Frank turned to the
baby. "Say goodbye to your moms, baby girl," he told her.
Olivia leaned in to
kiss the girl on the cheek. "Bye, Sweet Pea.
Mama," the girl replied.
Natalia leaned in
for a kiss as well, but also lovingly caressed the spot she kissed on the baby's
cheek. "Bye, my beautiful girl."
expectantly for a few moments and then pulled away. "Call anytime,
Frank," she said. "For any reason."
"We'll see you
tomorrow, Frank," Olivia added.
enthusiastically. "For the party – I can't wait. My baby girl's first
Olivia held on to
Natalia's hand as they left the station, leaving Frank behind them as he tried
to get Francesca to call him Poppy again for the other officers.
In the car on the
way to the hotel, Natalia was quiet. When Olivia finally pulled into her spot at
the Beacon, she turned to her love and asked, "What is it?"
Natalia gave her a
rue chuckle. "It's silly," she said.
"Not if it's
bothering you," Olivia said. "Tell me."
just that Sweet Pea calls you Mama and now Frank is Poppy, but I'm no one."
"That's because Frank and I spend hours a day trying to get her to speak
our names. And you're not 'no one,' Natalia. You're her mother."
"No, I'm only
the one who carried her for nine months, endured endless hours of labor and fed
her every day of her life," Natalia said and Olivia's heart clenched to see
her love's eyes fill with tears.
baby," she said. "Come here."
Natalia and rubbed her back. "Look, with Rafe it was just you; you were his
entire world so of course you came first. It was the same with Emma and me, but
our baby has a whole passel of people who love her and I think that's a
too," Natalia said. "I told you I was being silly."
you're not silly," Olivia said and pulled back so she could dry Natalia's
tears. "Sweet Pea loves you and so do I."
you," Natalia said and leaned in to give her a thorough kiss. By the time
she pulled back, Olivia's head was in the stratosphere.
Olivia said. "What was that for?"
"For loving me
and our family so well," Natalia answered with a warm grin.
"I can't help
it," Olivia said. "It's as natural to me as breathing. Come on, love,
let's get to work before one of our employees catches us making out like a
couple of horny teenagers."
Natalia gave her a
playful smirk. "Like that hasn't happened before."
Olivia said, rolling her eyes. "Don't remind me."
Olivia was warmed
to her soul when Natalia took her hand as they walked into the Beacon.
Frank Cooper stared
at his beautiful daughter. She was quietly playing with her brightly colored
plastic toys as she sat in her walker. He found her happy mutterings soothing as
he worked and although he knew a police station was no place for a baby, he
enjoyed having her there. It wasn't as often as he would have liked that he got
a chance to spend the whole weekend with Francesca, so rather than finding a
babysitter for the few hours he needed to be here today, he decided to just let
her play in his office.
He wondered how
Natalia endured the separation from their baby. Even though she worked full
time, she was rarely away from their daughter, a fact that he both appreciated
and resented. The former because it meant his daughter received the love and
attention she needed from her mother and the latter because Natalia didn't need
to work at all and should be giving Francesca her full
attention instead of sharing it with the Beacon or Olivia.
Not for the first
time, Frank wondered how their life would have turned out if he and Natalia had
married as they should have. Francesca would have two proper parents to love her
and Natalia would have been able to stay home with the baby. Sure, if she
decided to go to work when their child grew older he would have fully supported
that. And if she hadn't, then he would have been more than happy to support her
for the rest of her life. It was a role he was fully prepared to take on.
A knock on his door
interrupted his reverie and his mood immediately brightened as his former
son-in-law appeared in his open doorway. "Mallet!" he said happily as
he stood up to shake hands.
Mallet said, enthusiastically pumping his hand in a firm grip. "It's so
great to see you, although…"
dimmed a bit. "Yeah, I wish you were here under better circumstances, but
still I'm glad to see you, too."
Mallet said releasing his hand. He turned toward the baby. "Wow, what a
beauty she is!"
With his smile
growing again, Frank said, "That she is." He pressed the intercom
button on his phone. "Li, get in here," he said and then disconnected
the line without waiting for a reply.
Mallet hunched down
to get eye level with the girl. "Hey there, little one," he said,
raising his hand toward her. Francesca immediately grabbed his finger and tried
to bring it to her mouth. Mallet grinned and pulled his hand away; replacing it
with the baby's teething ring she had dropped on the play mat.
Francesca said bouncing happily in her seat.
Both Frank and
Mallet laughed at her as Mallet stood back up. "She's going to be a
heartbreaker when she grows up, Frank," he said, still chuckling.
is," Frank quipped.
"And she's not
even a year old yet, right?" Mallet asked.
birthday's next week," Frank answered, proudly. "In fact, we're having
her party at Company tomorrow night. Why don't you come by?"
might be fun," he said with an agreeable nod. "We'll do that."
Frank asked with a frown.
Before Mallet could
answer, there was another knock at the open door. "What's up, Chief?"
Anna asked as she entered the office.
"Li, this is
A.C. Mallet, the investigator the mayor hired," Frank said with a nod
toward the man, his mood again growing foul at the thought of the mayor's
constant interference in police business.
Anna strode forward
to shake Mallet's hand. "Anna Li," she said.
meet you, Detective" he replied.
the investigation," Frank said. "She's your contact."
Mallet said, his tone serious now that they were down to business. "I'd
like to see what you have so far."
I've got everything ready for you."
Frank gave a sharp
nod. "Then why don't you two get to it," he said. "The sooner you
get started, the sooner you can clear the department." He answered Anna's
resultant frown with a glare. "Any questions?" he added.
Chief," she said. She turned to Mallet. "Want some coffee first?"
He nodded. "I
know where it is," he said. "Let's go."
Frank watched them
leave his office and absently turned back to check on Francesca. He reflected
that life was so simple for her. She didn't have to deal with criminals or
politics or overbearing mayors. Her needs were few and uncomplicated. With a
heavy sigh, he said a silent prayer that it would always remain so for her.
While Mallet got
his coffee, Anna quickly grabbed the boxes with the case information she had
prepared for him and brought it to the conference room. She was laying out the
various folders and evidence when he joined her, sipping at the steaming
"Is this all
you have?" he asked, sarcastically.
"So far, Mr.
Mallet," she said, dryly.
Mallet, Detective," he said. He set his briefcase and coffee on the table.
right," she said with a nod.
so let's see what you've got." He sat down and pulled a yellow legal pad
and pen from his briefcase and set them on the table.
Anna sat down next
to him and opened up the first folder. "Okay, so we think it all started
Coming into the
kitchen, Blake spotted Buzz standing at the prep table chopping carrots.
"Hey, Buzz," Blake said and the stocky man turned around.
"Are you out
of here, Blake?" he asked.
"Yep, I've got
to pick up Clarissa," she said. "But first I wanted to ask if I can
have tomorrow off."
Buzz thought a
moment. "Yeah, that's fine. Marina already promised to help with the party.
You're going to miss it?"
Blake said. "Not going to miss my goddaughter's birthday. I'm coming with a
rose and he asked, "Really? Who's the lucky fella?"
Wolfe," she answered with a bright smile. Buzz's eyebrows rose nearly to
Doris Wolfe?" Frank asked as he walked into the kitchen carrying Francesca
in her car seat.
"You ready for
lunch, Frank?" Buzz asked, throwing his towel over his shoulder. "What
can I make you?"
Frank ignored him.
"What about Doris, Blake?"
Blake stared at him
for a few long moments, totally nonplussed. It was one thing to announce to the
world she was dating a woman, but quite another to tell her ex-boyfriend who
already had two previous lovers fall for each other. She wasn't totally
insensitive to his feelings, but she was not ashamed of her burgeoning
relationship with Doris and he would find out eventually.
Doris to Sweet Pea's party tomorrow," she finally answered. "As my
Frank shook his
head as if he was clearing his ears. "Your what?" he asked.
Blake glanced at
Buzz and noted he was silently watching them. She turned back to Frank and said,
"My date, Frank."
date?" Frank asked, shaking his head again. "Doris Wolfe is your
Frank," she said, starting to get exasperated with him.
Frank," she repeated with a sigh. She knew him well enough to guess what
nuts?" Frank yelled.
down," Buzz said. "We've got customers out there."
"Stay out of
this, Pop," he shot to his father, but Blake was glad to note he did lower
"No, Frank, I
am not nuts and who I date is none of your business," Blake said.
sake, Blake, Doris Wolfe?" he
blustered. "That woman is a shark, she'll eat you alive."
certainly hope so," she flung back and out of the corner of her eye she saw
Buzz put a hand over his mouth in an attempt not to laugh. "God, I never
realized you were such a homophobe, Frank."
He blinked in
surprise at her. "I'm not," he said. "I don't care that it's a
woman, Blake, it's Doris Wolfe I can't stand."
just too bad," she said, pointing her finger sharply against his chest.
"So you better tell me right now if we're welcome at your daughter's
birthday party as a couple or not."
He stood there for
a few moments, his face turning red. "No, no you're both welcome to come.
Francesca is your goddaughter and Natalia wouldn't like it if I banned
Buzz started, but Frank once again stopped his father.
Pop," he said and then turned to Blake. "Look, you know what? You're
right. It is none of my business. We're not together and you're free to date
whoever you want." He turned to Buzz. "I'm going to take Francesca
upstairs to feed her. I've lost my appetite." With that he turned and
walked out of the kitchen.
Blake sighed and
looked at Buzz. "I'm sorry, Buzz."
He shrugged his
shoulders. "Not your fault, Blake," he said. "You're just trying
to find someone to make you happy. I'm sorry that person couldn't be my son, but
I've seen you and Doris together a lot and I'd say you two really have
so?" she asked, a bright smile on her face.
really do," he said. "Good luck, dear."
Buzz," she said and glanced at her watch. "Oh gosh, really gotta run
now. Poor Clarissa is waiting."
already!" he said and waved her onward with a laugh.
More coffee cups
and the remains of a delivery lunch littered the table. Mallet sat back and
rubbed his eyes with a sigh as Anna returned the last evidence bag to a box. He
finally opened his eyes and looked at her. "You've done some good work
here," he said. "Too good. I hate to admit it, but you and Eleni might
rolled her eyes as she sealed the boxes. She knew her evidence was solid and did
not need Mallet's affirmation or praise. Remembering Doris's request to keep an
eye on him, she remained silent.
"But we need more if we hope to pinpoint who Edmund's inside man is. Have
there been any leads on DeSilva?"
"He was last
seen in El Paso, Texas," she said. "That was eight months ago and the
trail has gone long cold."
he's long over the border," Mallet said. "No sign of him in
we've been able to determine," she said. "The drug situation in Mexico
makes requests from small-town police departments their lowest priority."
He made a note on
his pad. "I'll get on that immediately," he said. "I've still got
a few contacts in Mexico City."
"See if they
also have any leads on where Winslow moved his base of operations. My bet is
DeSilva is there."
"Even if he
is," Mallet said, continuing to write, "getting him extradited will
take time, but if we can question him, we might be able to find out who he was
working with inside the department."
shot," Anna said.
Mallet nodded and
stood up to walk over to the bulletin board where photos of Edmund Winslow and
his henchmen were tacked. She watched as he touched the one of her father. Even
from her chair across the room, the photo's penetrating dark eyes haunted her.
"He seems too
young to be your father," Mallet noted and then turned to look at her with
his eyebrows raised.
was taken some time ago," she said. "The latest we have was a partial
taken by Homeland Security when he last entered the country legally. It shows
his hair is much greyer now, but there's not much aging in the face."
walked into the country?"
"Happens," she said succinctly. "Of course, he and everyone else
on that board are on every watch list in the world so it will be harder for them
to come and go as they please."
like you don't believe that," he pointed out.
She shrugged again.
"My father is very good at what he does, Mallet," she said. "But
for what it's worth, I believe he and Winslow at least are still close by.
Neither of them will rest until their revenge is complete."
do they want?" he asked. Anna recognized the bewildered expression on his
face; it was the same look Frank and the other officers have when trying to
understand Winslow's motivations.
wants whatever Winslow wants and Winslow wants to destroy everyone he believes
has ever hurt him, that includes their families."
near everyone in town," Mallet huffed in frustration. He paused a moment.
"What about you?" he finally asked. He walked away from the board and
leaned his hands on the table. "You're his daughter. If the evidence didn't
show Winslow has had someone in the department for long before you got here,
you'd be a prime suspect for the insider."
Anna refused to
show how much the insinuation rankled her. "Hung Feng Li ceased being my
father a long time ago," she said. "I've spent nearly my entire adult
life fighting to bring him and Edmund Winslow to justice for all the hurt they
have caused. I won't relax until they're both behind bars."
thoughtfully and Anna guessed he was going to remain as reserved toward her as
she was toward him. "Why the children though?" he asked.
Anna breathed an
inner sigh of relief that he had moved on to the next subject. "Why should
they live when his own daughter is dead?" she answered. "Judging from
his attacks on Sarah Randall, Emma Spencer and Ava Peralta, he seems to grab on
to any opportunity to cause mayhem."
we didn't lose any kids in the massacre," Mallet said, shaking his head.
"Not for lack
of him trying," she said bitterly. "He was targeting Francesca Rivera
when Jeffrey finally managed to take him down."
Anna could see he
was thinking again. "So Olivia Spencer's great-niece, both of her daughters
and her girlfriend's daughter." He ticked off on his fingers. "Maybe
he's focused on Olivia?" he suggested.
unlikely. Olivia is not the only one who's pissed Winslow off," she said.
"Again, I think those were just opportunistic. He hasn't had a shot against
Jeffrey's son and that would be even greater revenge for him."
"So anyone is
fair game," he said.
"In fact, I'd say the only kid in town who's fairly safe is Marina Cooper's
son, Henry," she said and felt a small degree of satisfaction at the hurt
that briefly flashed across the man's face. She had gotten the whole story
thanks to whispered water cooler gossip about how a sterile A.C. Mallet had
illegally adopted a child for his wife, never suspecting the infant was the son
of Shayne Lewis and Lara Pizano, Edmund Winslow's daughter, tragically killed in
a senseless accident.
"Was Henry at
the wedding?" he finally asked and Anna noted how his jaw muscles clenched
"He was safe
at Company with his mom," she said, shaking her head.
Mallet thought a
moment. "So why hasn't Winslow kidnapped his grandson yet?" he asked.
"If only to get him out of the line of fire?"
questions," she answered. "He might be planning to do just that or
someone else might be a target. We just don't know."
at the wedding just seems so random," he said. "None of the victims
were his obvious prime targets although they were there."
chaos," Anna said. "A lot of people got really lucky that day."
"Did the Saint
of Springfield really take a shot at him?" he asked, shaking his head in
wonderment. "I never would have believed it of her."
did," Anna answered firmly; obviously Mallet wasn't as observant as he
probably thought he was if he couldn't understand a mother's motivation. "I
told you, Winslow was about to shoot her daughter. I just wish she had a better
aim than Jeffrey."
ruefully. "Well, we've got a lot to do so let's get to it."
she said in agreement, eager to get back to work. "I need to run to the lab
to pick up some more analyses on the older cases."
"And I'll get
on the horn with my contacts," he said. "Again, Anna…great job.
Let's hope all that hard work pays off and we get our man. One dirty cop makes
us all look bad and I don't like it."
Mallet," she said. "Me either."
Eleni looked around
at the gaudy Christmas decorations festooning the wide spaces of the Springfield
"It's not even
Thanksgiving yet," she remarked to Frank who was pushing his daughter's
stroller as they walked. "Didn't they used to wait until after the holiday
Frank gave her an
absentminded shrug as he looked around the busy crowds for their destination.
"They're doing it earlier and earlier each year. By the time Francesca's in
school they will probably be decorating before Memorial Day."
Eleni shook her
head at the blatant consumerism, once again wondering at the privileged habits
of her adopted people, even in hard times such as these.
store," Frank said and pointed Francesca's stroller toward the baby
Eleni followed him
as he headed down the aisles making a beeline for the toddler dresses. After
shuffling through a dozen selections he threw his hands up in frustration.
all the same," he exclaimed.
Eleni rolled her
eyes at him in amusement. "They are not," she said. She pulled two
pretty outfits from the rack and held them up. "Which do you like
better?" One was a light blue and the other a darker cerulean.
Frank looked back
and forth between the two and shrugged. "They're both cute," he
answered. "Like I said, all the same."
Eleni was looking
between the both of them when she was rudely shoved from behind. With a retort
on her lips, she turned to find herself staring into the surprised eyes of her
As they looked at
each other, Shayne Lewis turned the corner of the aisle carrying Henry in his
the little boy cried and squirmed to get down. Shayne set the boy on his feet
and he toddled over to Frank who scooped him up.
guy," Frank said as Henry gave him a wet kiss on the cheek and hugged his
neck until Frank's eyes nearly bugged out.
"What are you
doing here?" Marina asked as she continued to glare at her mother.
your sister's birthday," Frank said. "Then we're going to grab
something for dinner. You guys want to join us?"
Eleni glanced at
him to see if he really was that heedless to the hostility pouring off of their
Marina shook her
head. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "Are you two dating?"
Eleni closed her
eyes and sighed inwardly, not wishing to let Marina know how much the vitriol in
her voice hurt.
Frank started and Eleni noted the slight blush on his face. "Yeah, I guess
Eleni turned back
to Marina just in time to see the woman's face clenched in shock.
"You have got
to be kidding me," Marina screeched and Eleni saw Shayne wince at the
come on," he began.
what…" Frank started but was cut off.
"Are you crazy,
Dad?" Marina cried. "What is it with you and women, for God's
Frank blurted out, his face turning red.
that whore Olivia and then superwuss Natalia and crazy Blake," Marina
sneered. "Now you're back full circle with this mail-order bride
Shayne proclaimed his face taut with embarrassment. "That's your
enough, Marina!" Eleni finally said, ignoring the onlookers, but was
dismayed to note that Henry had his face buried in his grandfather's neck as if
trying to hide and Francesca had a look on her face as if she were about to cry.
Marina said turning to Shayne, the look of scorn on her face shining darkly in
the store. "Just because she gave birth to me doesn't mean anything. You
can't choose your parents."
"And what kind
of example are you setting for your son, Marina?" Eleni said, jerking her
head toward the boy quivering in Frank's arms. "You're teaching him it's
all right to disrespect your mother. What are you going to do when he can't
forgive you for your actions and mistakes?"
"I'm not going
to make any!" Marina proclaimed with the righteousness of the blind fool.
"I remember all too well what it's like to grow up without a mother and I'm
not going to be like you. I'm going to love him and be there for him all his
"Be careful of
what you say, daughter," Eleni said darkly. "Don't make any promises
you can't keep."
"Oh, is that
supposed to be some kind of warning, Mother?" Marina asked, the venom on the last word causing Eleni
to grimace. "Because I assure you, I learned my lesson well from you. I
will not abandon my child."
that's enough," Frank said, handing the now-crying Henry back to his
father. "If you can't stop this nonsense and apologize to your mother, then
just go home. Don't bother coming tomorrow night."
promised to help," she started, but Frank cut her off with a raised hand.
it," he said. "We'll manage okay."
Marina huffed and turned on her heel to clack loudly out of the store
shrugged and shook his head in apology to them both. "I'll drop off
Francesca's gift in the morning, Frank," he said.
Shayne," he said.
later, Eleni," Shayne said and leaned over to kiss her cheek.
Shayne," she said and caressed her grandson's cheek.
After the two left,
she put her hands over her face, finally unable to stop the tears. Frank held
her until her tears stopped and then they continued with their shopping as if
nothing had happened.