Previously on "The Mysteries of Our Lives": Summer of Seasonal Eruption
ø Billy was none to please to hear that Mindy was cozing up to Morgan Hysterias, the man that singlehandedly dismantled his company for no apparent reason. Mindy tried to convince Billy that Morgan's decision wasn't personal, and that he isn't the reincarnation of the late Javier Sanchez. But in an angry huff, Billy accused her of having misaligned allegiances. (~)
ø At H&B Fashions, Vanessa was livid after being served with a restraining order. Lucien's attempt to explain away Danielle's actions only added more fuel to the fire, solidifying for Vanessa the undeniable rift that had formed between them. Later that morning, Vanessa confronted her nemesis with the protective order and warned her she would not stand by and allow her to use it as yet another way to come between her and Lucien. Danielle, in a rather harsh tongue, told Vanessa she is the source of dissension between her and Lucien, and no one else. (~)
ø Upon discovering her art studio vandalized, Shanna and Jessica were escorted to the police station for official statements. Shanna, however, remained mum about the exact nature of her conversation with Andrew Stokes the night before the vandalism, although mounting evidence suggested he was not only a likely suspect, but operating under an assume identity. (~)
ø Earl realized he could no longer hold off in letting his brother know that he was leaving town, and made a call to Matt urging him to stop by the apartment. Despite desperately wanting to track down Dana, Matt agreed. Meanwhile, Evelin let the cat out of the bag as she informed Royce that Earl was leaving Hallandale tomorrow night.
***Life can often be described as a series of trials, where the choices you make can alter the path you take. The choice can be as routine as going to work, or as difficult as having to let someone go. Some choices are voluntary . . . some are made for you . . . some because of you . . . and others are just out of our hands. No matter the choice, every action creates a ripple, and those ripples aren't as clear and serene as those you might find beneath the fountain circle of the Springfield Lakes Resort. Yet even what's clear can often be overlooked, especially when you're caught up in your own world, oblivious to what bubbles just beneath the surface.
Matthew Pryce, even as he settles in front of his brother's apartment door, continues to be plagued by this nagging guilt that he abandoned Dana in her time of need. His head implores him that she is out there alone, making him more anxious to somehow let her know that he's still in her corner; that he's not going anywhere. Instead, he finds himself with a raised fist at his brother's door. Knocking twice, he pushes open the already unlocked door.
"Earl," he calls out as he makes his way inside, spying the columns of boxes lined up behind the couch. He presumes it to be donations for goodwill until his eye happens to catch the end of a photo frame sticking out at the top. Underneath, he finds plenty more, which explain the baren shelves that suddenly come into focus. In his hand, he holds a family portrait--one of him, his brother and their parents in formal wear. His eyes gravitate toward his father's face, one that still feels very foreign to him after all this time.
Returning from the backroom, Earl's eyes widen and speed ceases when he spies the back of his brother's head looming over the boxes. Gripping the end of the box in his hand a little tighter, he takes a slow breath and paces forward.
"Hey," he announces as he drops the box at Matthew's feet.
Earl notice that his brother barely breaks from the photo to acknowledge him. Moving in closer to his brother's side, he peers over Matt's shoulder and shares a look. His eyes light up with recognition as he takes in the image of his brother, who couldn't have been no more than 3 or 4 years old, sitting on their father's lap. Sitting to the left was their mother, whose arms caressed the shoulders of 9-10 year old Earl Pryce.
"You know," starts Earl, breaking their moment of reflection, "I've always suspected, but it is there."
Matt cocks his head, "What is?"
"The resemblance . . . between you and our father." Earl notes that his brother's face begins to scrunch the longer he looks at the photo. "It's right there," his index finger landing squarely on their father's face. He further adds, "It's all in the eyes."
Matt hones in on his father's beaming gray eyes in the photo, but he's not sure he sees what his brother sees. It's almost too much to hope for as he places the framed photograph back into the box with a weighted sigh.
"So what's going on?" He turns away from the box of unfamiliar momentos, and looks squarely at his brother. "Why does it look like you're cleaning house around here?"
Seeing no need to beat around the bush, Earl confirms: "Because that's exactly what I'm doing."
(<- HatcherKeller & Associates ->)
The second the words escaped Evelin Vasquez' lips, it was like an invisible blast of ice had set still the moderately-chilled breakroom. The only thing he can hear is the subtle roaring of the vending machine nearby. With his mouth still slightly gaped, Royce inches closer to his friend and colleague before asking: "Earl is leaving Hallandale?"
"Tomorrow," she simply notes, clutching on to her unopen Snickers bar.
"Wow," he starts, taking a few steps back, "I'm not even sure what to say."
Evelin can tell by the way his eyes flinch through almost every word that the affirmation of his former childhood friend's relocation plans resonates with some part deep inside him. Perhaps a part that he hoped/thought he buried.
With a steady, more controlled breath, Royce further adds: "I mean . . . I guess I shouldn't be surprise. This is classic Earl . . . running when things get too intense."
"That is not what he's doing," asserts Evelin, her jaw clenched and her hands firmly pressed against her side. "He feels like he's been given a second chance. He doesn't want to waste that being apart from his son."
Royce scoffs, "I think young Jason is past the stage where he needs daddy around."
"That may be true," she resolves, dropping her hands. "But I think you of all people know that sometimes you're never too old to want to reach out to them."
"And how do you feel about that--the love of your life being there and not here?"
She does not answer his question right away. Instead, she widens the space between her and Royce as she makes her way around one of the oval shaped meeting tables. Although she settles at one end, she is unable to remain completely still, nor look Royce directly in the eye for more than two seconds at a time.
"It's going to take a little while to get use to, but I know this is what Earl needs in order to be content with himself."
Royce moves in closer to the oval shaped table, and unconsciously drives his fist into it. "And what about your own happiness? Earl is leaving, where does that leave you?"
"Earl's leaving has nothing to do with me." She turns away from his magnifying gaze, only to catch the eye of one of their colleagues--a man in his mid-to-late 20's with a bit of limp to his walk--stopping into the breakroom. Evelin advances back toward the table, taking a seat where she had been previously been pacing back and forth. Royce joins her as their unexpected third party lingers in front of the vending machine.
She adds in a whisper, "The fact is Earl and I are not together, and I doubt even if we were, that it would stop him from leaving Hallandale. He's relocating for his son."
"And when he goes, so does your chance for a relationship with him."
"I realize that." She diverts her focus to the man at the vending machine, only to find him crouching down to grab the honey bun and bag of chips he bought.
"So you're conceding?"
"He's leaving tomorrow! What am I supposed to do?" She fires back, this time catching the eye of their unexpected guest departing with his snacks. He reciprocates a light smile, and moves as quickly as his limp will let him. Evelin leans in when she's sure the man is out of earshot: "I can't just throw the 'L' word on him now. It wouldn't be fair."
"Forget about what's fair! Life isn't fair," stresses Royce, "and it is way too short to waste second guessing yourself. Tell Earl how you feel."
"Why are you pushing this? Last time I check, you couldn't stand the guy."
"I care about you, and I don't want to see you stuck in this meaningless rut, wishing you had made different choices."
"Like you wish you'd done? Because no matter how hard you try to hide it, Earl still means something to you."
She can practically see the sweat protruding from his forehead as he sits there in stone cold silence, unwilling--or rather, unable--to muster an answer.
(<- Springfield Lakes Resort :: Earl Pryce's Apartment ->)
"So this is what you and Evelin were so hush hush about on the day of Samantha's service." Matthew infers as he takes a seat on his brother's couch, the news of Earl's plans to leave Hallandale settling in.
Earl does not join him. Instead, standing across from the couch with his arms folded across his chest. His legs continue to sway back and forth. "Things were tenuous enough without shifting the focus to me."
"I understand. I just can't believe you're actually leaving."
"Well, I've had a lot of time to think about the choices that I've made, and I realize going back that there are things that I would change. One of the biggest is not being there more for my son. I don't want to wake up on my last day on Earth with miles between us."
Matthew certainly understood where his brother was coming from, considering they had both suffered a similar fate when their father was tragically killed on Mt. Ridge Creek nearly 25 years ago.
"Of course. I--It just won't be the same without you here."
"Well, you could always come with me?!"
Matthew chuckles, "I think I'll survive. Besides, my life is here now."
"Who would have thought two years ago you'd be saying that?"
"Certainly not I. Strange how life works out."
"Yeah, it is." He silently motions, his whole body beginning to relax. "I mean, I've been at a crossroad before. I've left Hallandale before."
"But this is different?"
"It feels like something I need to do," he emotes by kneeding his fingers together. "I'm not running away from the future, but towards it. There are no loose ends. And as much as I dislike leaving you behind, I know that you can take care of yourself. That you don't need your older and wiser brother to micromanage your life."
Nodding his head in agreement, "No, I don't. But it's always been kind of nice in small, frustrating kind of way."
Earl chuckles at the grimace on his brother's face, knowing the admission was more for his benefit than anything else. He moves to the front of the couch, taking a seat next to his brother. Their eyes connecting, he places his hand on Matt's shoulder.
"I've always just wanted to protect you. To keep you safe," he moves his hand away from his brother's shoulder, lowering his head. "And part of that was brotherly concern." He manuevers his body parrallel to the couch, shifting his eyes from the floor to the blank TV screen ahead. "The other part, I think, just wanted to fill a void. My marriage to Dalia was a colossal mistake . . . I had given up custody of my son . . . and you were tapping into this gift you obviously got from our father."
"I didn't want to lose you to this greater cause," he confesses, his eyes once again connecting with his brother. "So I lied and I kept things from you that I shouldn't have, and I can't tell you how sorry I am for that."
"You did what you felt you had to do, and I've done my best to accept that."
"And you are great for doing that, but I was wrong. You deserve to know the truth. You did then and you do now."
"And what is the truth?"
"That I was jealous. You got the gift that defined such a huge part of our father," the admission leaves Matthew's mouth open. "He saw and felt things in a way that many of us couldn't. It didn't matter where he was or who it was, he could just tap into it and know what was coming. His gift had no boundaries, and that made him extremely formiddable. He would follow anywhere if it meant helping someone, and he did. Ultimately, he would follow it right to his death."
(<- H&B Fashions :: Studio Floor ->)
Danielle realizes she could have exercised a little more tact with Vanessa, but she didn't ask to be thrown into this woman's constant drama. No way was she going to be made to feel guilty by Lucien or anyone else for telling that woman what needed to be said. That much becomes evident to Vanessa and Lucien as she fires back at them:
"It is not my fault if the truth is a little hard for Vanessa to swallow. It does not give your friend the right to put her hands across my face."
"Of course not. I would never--" Lucien barely has enough time to refute the implications of her statement. Instead, he takes a step back as she blasts him further.
"Then don't stand there and throw this all at my feet, Lucien." Shifting her eyes from him to her, Danielle lifts and tips her head pointedly at Vanessa. "She is the one violating the terms of a protective order!"
"And you're just loving it, aren't you?" Vanessa advances forward, stopping at Lucien's side. Feeling more bold and in control, she adds: "Go ahead, call the authorities. I would love to hear you explain how I'm supposed to exercise a 25-mile radius in the very studio that we both work."
"I did not create this situation. I'm just trying to do my job, and you're making it exceedingly difficult."
"Oh," she starts, adding a little distance between the two of them. "I'm making things difficult?" Lucien observes Vanessa, in true dramatic fashion, pointing her hand toward her chest. "You're the one serving restraining orders. Believe me, you haven't begun to see difficult."
"Vanessa--" Lucien faintly warns.
"No! I'm not going to be quiet, nor stand for this Lucien." Her eyes soft and approval seeking one minute, and harsh and revenge seeking the next. "This is ridiculous," she adds, glaring directly at her nemesis.
Danielle does not cave under her rival's attempt at x-ray vision. In fact, she emits a light chuckle because she and Vanessa are finally in agreement on something.
"You're right. It is ridiculous . . . that it has come to this. But make no mistake, you're treading on very thin ice."
"Are you threatening me?" Vanessa breaks away from Lucien's side, narrowing the gap between her and Danielle.
"You are in violation of a court-appointed restraing order. So take this as a warning and stay out of my way." Danielle walks off without another word. Vanessa starts to charge right after her, but Lucien calls out to her.
"Van, don't." He grabs hold of her hand to prevent her retreat.
"Did you not hear the way she was talking to me? I have to stop this."
"You're right. You have to stop . . . stop going after Danielle."
The command--although Lucien does not intend for it to come out that way--sends her tumbling back. Listless, her voice fluctuates from medium to low tones: "My god. Just when I'm starting to think that you're actually on my side . . . wham!"
Lucien states emphatically, "I am on your side! But she has a restraining order against you, so do what the damn paper says and stay away from her!"
Her mouth drooping and shoulders slumped, Vanessa is not sure how to follow that. In all the years she had known the man before her, he had never raised his voice at her like he did today. Although she knew it was out of concern, it occured to her that all roads once again lead to that smug, self-righteous Daniella Marquez.
(<- Hallandale PD Headquarters ->)
Walking into the HPD station, no one could argue that it's business as usual. Nearly every corner of the ground floor is covered with lab techs, personnel and officers coming and going in any which direction. Detective Ralph Lombard--coffee in hand--even has to finese his way through 3 or 4 of his fellow officers stationed near his office door. As he reaches the entrance, he finds the widow Mrs. Hemmings holding her head down in between her legs.
Opting for a little privacy, he shuts the door to his office, thereby drowning out some of the conversations. It's the sound of the lock clicking against the door latch that sends her head spiraling up, a mop of her dark brown hair swinging back. Ralph hands her the cup of coffee as he takes a seat next to her.
"Thank you," she says, taking a sip of the coffee. The strong whift of caffeine is welcome distraction to this whole crazy drama she somehow found herself in the middle of.
"Would you like me to call someone to come and pick you up?"
"No." She urges, cradling both ends of her coffee cup. "I can't leave, not until I know who is behind this."
Meanwhile, Shalia Guittierrez makes her way into the police station, avoiding a near collision with two officers racing out the door. Her husband, Derek, arrives only a couple seconds after she reaches the receptionist desk.
"Hi, I am looking for Officer Andersen." Shalia informs the man sitting behind the desk.
"Is she expecting you?"
"Shalia?" Derek calls out as he nears her. Turning swiftly at the sound of his voice, Shalia finds her husband covered in smears of oil and grease. He had only managed to cover up his grease-stained wifebeater with a half-button collared shirt he found lying around.
"Derek! What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing."
Fidgeting with her hair, she answers: "I received a call from this Andersen woman insisting that I come down here for questioning. When I attempted to ask her more about it, she abruptly hung up."
"I received a similar call. I wonder what is--" Derek starts before spying his deceased friend's wife stepping outside of Ralph's office. "What is Shanna doing here?"
Hiking her shoulders, Shalia turns her head in the direction her husband's eyes are affixed. "I don't know. I didn't even realize she was here," she adds, suddenly beginning to question her decision to comply with the officer's orders.
Their attention diverted to Shanna, who is now in the presence of Ralph and another officer, Derek and Shalia do not notice a female officer with caramel complexion appear behind them. Despite her small size, her voice commands an audience.
"Mr. and Mrs. Guittierrez!"
Derek and Shalia's heads turn immediately. While her husband advances forward, ready to get some answers, Shalia stands back, observing the woman with her husband.
"Officer, what is going on?" He asks, noticiing the tag on her police jacket that reads 'Andersson.' "Why were my wife and I summon down here?"
While Shalia's ears are peaked, her pulse is racing at the thought that this might have something to do with Andrew. Could he have made a move on Shanna already? "It's not possible," she tells herself. After all, she was just with him a few short hours ago.
Officer Andersson explains, "There was a break-in between last night and this morning at an art studio belonging to Shanna Mallory Hemmings. Both you and your wife's fingerprints were found at the scene."
Derek scoffs at the implication of her words while Shalia moves in more, having only caught the words 'fingerprints' and 'art studio.' Her husband, however, doesn't seem to be able to keep still.
"Are you suggesting . . . " he stops short, realizing saying out loud would only give credence to something that was completely ridiculous. "My wife and I did not break into Shanna's art studio."
"Relax Mr. Guittierrez." She holds up her hand in protest. "You and your wife aren't suspects, at least, not officially."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Derek inquires, placing his arms firmly across his chest.
"It means that we would appreciate you and your wife's full cooperation if we're going to get to the bottom of what's going on here."
"I'm not sure what help we could possibly be." Derek turns to his wife, who appears to be in agreement with him.
Officer Andersson proceeds to pull out a white sheet of paper from her jacket vest. In her next breath, she holds up the printed photograph for Derek and Shalia to see.
"Well, for starters, you can tell me if you recognize this man."
Shalia moves in closer as her husband takes in the image of a man baring an uncanny resemblance to Andrew Stokes, except the name below the photo doesn't identify him as such. Shalia jerks her head upon seeing Andrew's mug staring back at her, and fears this is far worse than she could imagined. When her eyes connect with Derek, she can feel the noose practically tightening around her throat.
Meanwhile, across the way, another officer braces Shanna for the same jaw dropping news.
"We've received a match on the other set of fingerprints found in your studio, only they don't belong to Andrew Stokes."
"I don't understand. Whose are they?"
Handing over the printout, he advises: "Take a look for yourself."
Shanna does not understand why the officer just doesn't tell her. Instead, she accepts a replica of the printout Officer Andersson provided to Derek and Shalia. She is even more thrown when her eyes clearly tell her that the man in the printout is Andrew Stokes. But as she scans the profile description below, it all becomes tragically clear.
His words still ringing in her ears, Vanessa paces quietly around the studio, scanning the wall of studio shots that Stephen and Michelle just recently put up. There are individual ones of her, Lucien and of course, Danielle. The particular shot they chose of Danielle captures what Vanessa loathes most about her--that sweet, cutting smile.
Lucien observes his troubled friend gawking at Danielle's photo, and decides to move in. Best not to give the devil on her shoulder anymore time to persuade her into something foolish.
"Are you thinking over what I said?" He asks, slipping his hands halfway into his side pockets.
Choosing not to look at him, she laments, "I can't believe you're asking me to roll over and accept this."
"I don't think you have a choice in the matter," he explains in a soft, regretful manner. "The restraining order makes it perfectly clear that you're not allowed anywhere near Danielle unless it's business related."
Vanessa counters, "Well, I think this would qualify as unfinished business."
Moving forward, his body brushes up against hers. The unintentional transfer of static electricity through her body is enough to get her to turn her head to him. His mouth upside down and his head dipped, she can practically see the words on his face before they even come out.
"I think you're only going to make things worse . . . at least until you've given yourself a chance to calm down."
"How am I suppose to calm down?" She shoots back, clenching her jaw in between words. "That bitch is going around town, telling anyone who will listen that I'm a stalker and a physical threat to her."
"And what is going to look like if you go running after her, ranting and raving?"
The fact that she proceeds to expel off a heavy gust of hot air tells him that she is still capable of some rational, sound judgement. Her posture, however, remains a bit rocky and stiff to the idea.
He hastens to add, "Just let it rest for a day--or three. In fact, why don't we get out of here for a while?"
"I'm not going to scamper off for Danielle's sake." She turns her head away, only to see that mocking, cutting smile of Danielle's glaring back at her.
"Then do it for me," he counters, reaching out to touch her hand. The gentle guesture pulls her back, their faces and bodies once again connecting. "Come on, I think we both can use some fresh air."
She can't figure out how he does it. Just a few short hours ago, she was able to pull away from his embrace without struggle. Now he has once again rendered her powerless and weak-kneed. Her hand light in his, she allows him to escort her out of the studio.
(<- Springfield Lakes Resort :: Earl's Apartment ->)
"What do you mean, to his death?" Matthew asks, practically itching to jump off the couch.
Earl cautions, "Look, I don't have all the details. What I do know is that our father was following one of his visions when his vehicle took a nose dive off a cliff near Mt. Ridge Creek. Investigators say he was dead before the car even made impact. His heart just stopped."
Matthew can feel the invisible noose tighten around his neck as he struggles to get a clean breath out in between words, "How? How does that happen?"
"I don't know. It was never fully explained. The medial experts speculated a blood vessel near his heart likely clamped up while driving, causing him to lose control of the vehicle."
Matt shutters at the thought, "Do you buy it?"
"I mean, it would explain why he was unable to stop his vehicle from going off that cliff."
"But?!" Matt adds, sensing there is something else on the tip of his brother's tongue.
Earl abruptly rises from the couch, but it does little to shield him from his brother's wide-eyed interest. It was too late for him to shut this can of worms.
"It just all seems very random. Our father is headed to Mt. Ridge Creek on some mysterious rescue mission when his heart goes out for no apparent reason?!"
His brother reasons, "You think it was foul play?"
"When I was working with the CIA, I did some digging around and I discovered that Mt. Ridge Creek is at the center of a lot of unexplained events. In fact, there have been similar incidences where people like our father have met tragic, unexplained ends."
"So you're saying he was targeted because of his gift? The same gift that I have? Which is why you worked so hard to dissuade me from using it. You were afraid I might become a target."
"You're my younger brother. I'm supposed to keep you safe."
"But I'm not safe. Not if there is someone or something out there targeting people like me, or Dana, or Crystal. In fact, we're sitting ducks because of you."
(<- HatcherKeller & Associates Investigations :: Break Room ->)
Royce reclines back as much as the chair will allow him, wringing his hands as he charters on unkind times: "Earl and I were friends for many years. It's kind of hard not to feel anything."
"Yet you certainly made a sport out of trying."
"You don't get it. Our parents grew up as friends; it was practically etched in the stars that their children would be too. And that all seemed likely until the morning of my mother's death." Royce takes a moment to run the back of his hand over his mouth, and then proceeds to slide the tip of his fingers over his heavy eyelid. "It was then," he continues, "the reality of our parents' friendship started to unravel."
"So you're saying that you can't be Earl's friend because of his mother's treachery?"
Leaning in from his chair, Royce barks, "She was my mother's best friend, and she was sleeping with my father! Even if I could get past that, my mother died as a result of that affair. He refused to see that. He stuck by his mother's side."
"What was he suppose to do? Ostracize his mother?"
He counters, "How could he support someone with so little compassion? Did you know his precious mother had the audacity to show her face at my mother's funeral . . . expressing her phony condolescenes all the while itching to jump back into bed with my father?!" He pauses, half-expecting her to offer some response.
Evelin remains tight-lipped.
He continues with his rant: "Yeah! That was Amelia Pryce--a lying, backstabbing, disgusting adultress. It was obvious to everyone that she didn't give a damn about my mother. No, all she cared about was herself."
"Wow. You really hate her." Evelin surmises, her elbow pressing up against her forgotten Snickers bar.
"You're damn right I do."
"And now that she's gone, you've redirected some of that anger toward her son. Can't you see that?"
"This isn't misplaced anger, Evelin. This is about the fact that he was my friend, and his loyalties were with the very woman that caused my family so much pain. A woman that he knew I suspected was behind my mother's death."
"Do you really believe that Earl was trying to hurt you or your family?"
"It does not matter." He snickers, "It's never intentional with Earl. Things just happen. He didn't mean to contract blackadder36, but he's cured and my sister is dead!"
Evelin gasps aloud at the severity of his words. Royce regrets them the moment they leave his lips, but he knows deep down he can not change that part of himself that feels Earl Pryce is responsible, no matter how rational or irrational the thought may be.
Naturally, as he would expect, she defends Earl: "I think you know how deeply Sam's death affected him."
Royce, however, can't bury his dissidence. "He seems to be recovering though. Going through his 200th transformation, all the while leaving behind those should give a damn in a wake of disaster. But at least he can have his precious restart," he ends with a wry grin. "My sister was robbed of her chance."
Evelin pulls away from the table, unknowingly knocking over her Snickers bar in the process. This conversation was quickly entering into murky waters. She figured it was time to make a clean break: "Maybe we should just not talk about Earl."
"No," he implores, "you wanted to know how I felt. Now, Earl is a decent guy. I mean," he chuckles, "he certainly is no Alexander Pierre. But his family has cost me a lot, and everytime I see his face, I'm reminded of it. The years of friendship just evaporate into a puff of smoke," he emulates using his right hand. "Now it may not be rational, but it's how I feel."
Royce turns in his chair, and then hoists himself onto his feet. He realizes, "Maybe it is for the best that he's leaving." He lets out a heavy sigh, "I'm just sorry for what it is inevitably going to do to you."
Walking over to his friend, he gives her a quick peck on the cheek and whispers into her ear, "Good luck." Royce then quietly exits the breakroom, leaving Evelin alone with her thoughts and neglected Snickers bar.
***(<- Hallandale PD Headquarters :: Near the Front Desk Reception/Entrance ->)
Pointing obstinately to the printout in Detective Andersson's hands, Derek condemns, "That man has been passing himself off as Andrew Stokes for months. You believe he's the one that trashed Shanna's studio?!"
"Let's just say he's a person of interest," she teases, slipping the printout under her notepad. "How well did you and your wife know him?"
He shakes his head, "Not well. In fact, I was a little put off with his sudden presence in Shanna's life."
"Why's that?" The detective asks, briefly locking eyes with Shalia as well.
"Well, he was her carpenter. Yet even after construction was complete on her studio, he lingered around. It just seem to me he was looking for a little more than gratitude."
The detective scribbles something on her notepad before peering over Derek's shoulder to address his wife, "And what about you, Ms. Guittierrez?"
"Barely. An interaction here and there; that was it."
"And how would you categorize your interactions?"
"Umm," she stammers, "Well, he . . . it could be . . . un--unnerving. He seemed very protective of Shanna. I suspect she may have intimated that there was bad blood between us."
"Do you believe that he and Shanna were involved---romantically speaking?"
Shalia doesn't even have time to formulate a response as Derek quickly steamrolls the conversation.
"That is absurd! She just lost her husband."
"It's a logical question, Mr. Guittierrez. Mrs. Hemmings, by your account, was spending a considerable amount of time--"
Once again, he interjects, "I dont care how much time she was spending with Andrew. I know how much she loved her husband--my best friend, by the way. So no, I don't believe she was sleeping with another man."
Shalia lightly caresses her husband's taut arm as he encircles the area he was standing, mumbling to himself how unbelievable this all was.
"Mr. and Mrs. Guittierrez, it is not my intention to conjure up unpleasant memories. We all want the same thing--to get to the bottom of what's going on." She takes a lengthy pause before adding, "I won't keep you any longer."
"Wait," counters Derek, "what is being done to protect Shanna? I mean, if Andrew is the one that vandalized her studio, then couldn't she be in potential danger with him still on the loose?"
"We've assigned someone to watch over Mrs. Hemmings," she smiles, touched by his obvious devotion to his friend's wife. "In the meantime, I encourage the both of you to contact us if you remember anything else, no matter how big or small."
"Certainly," confirms Derek, "thank you."
Shalia drapes her arms around her husband as the detective makes her way past them, the women locking eyes briefly. Shalia tries not to let it rattle her. Instead, she moves to the front of her husband, finding comfort in the fact that she is still able to touch his face and look into his beautiful, deep eyes. There was something on his mind . . .
Balling his fist at his side, "I knew something like this would happen. What I don't understand is why he went through all the trouble of concealing his identity." After all, the printout Detective Andersson presented to him and Shalia made no mention of previous crimes or bouts of insanity. Yet, he couldn't shake this nagging feeling: "It just feels like there is something I'm missing."
"People adopt pseudonyms all the time," explains Shalia, "It could be nothing. I mean, we have no idea what his motivation is behind any of this."
"And I think that makes him more dangerous," he stresses to his wife.
"Andrew Bryce . . . Bryce!" Shanna repeats his real name to herself, while her heart rate continues to climb. "Terrell had an older brother," she recalls, "but he was away most of the time. God, what was his name?"
"Shanna?" Ralph calls out, moving in as one of his colleagues steps aside.
Shanna looks up at him, mist forming around her eyes. But she might as well be looking at a blank wall. "How could I not remember? God, how could I not see it?!"
"Shanna?" He says, taking a seat next to her, but she remains unresponsive. He calls out again, "Hey?!"
Shanna jolts when his hand connects with her shoulder. For a second, it slips her mind that she's in the police station. But then she takes note of the two officers directly behind Ralph.
"Ralph? What is--Oh god, it can't be?"
"I'm afraid it's true," he confirms softly as Shanna shakes her head in protest. "It appears Andrew is Terrell Byrce's brother."
"Oh my god!' Shanna cries out, raising her hand over her mouth to muffle the gasps that follow.
(<- Trio ->)
"What is this place?" Vanessa asks as Lucien opens the door for her. "Thank you," she adds, walking inside. Lucien follows swiftly behind.
"Trio," he answers. "I've only been here once or twice, but the food and service is good, and I like the ambience."
Vanessa nods her head in approval, taking a quick glance around the establishment as Billy Clyde greets them near the entrance.
"Welcome to Trio! Will you be dining in?"
Billy grabs two lunch menus and instructs Lucien and Vanessa to follow him. He stops at a table half-way between the bar and the entrance/exit. Vanessa can see people passing by as she takes her seat at the right of Billy, thereby leaving Lucien with the seat at the left facing the bar.
"Can I start you off with anything to drink?" He asks, handing them their lunch menus. He adds, "You can find our drink selection on the back. We have the trio fruit specials, an assort of cocktails, carbonated beverages, and of course, water w/ choice of lemon or lime."
Vanessa thanks him, flipping over the lunch menu. Ordinarily, she would opt for a coke, especially on a day like today, but it appears Trio is a Pepsi supporter.
"I think I'll start with a water w/ two lemons for now."
"Alright!" Billy quickly notes, and then turns to Lucien, "And you sir?"
"I'll try the Strawberry Explosion."
Billy smiles, "Good choice. You'll love it, or your tab's on us."
Lucien chuckles, "I'll hold you to that."
"We're sure you're gonna love it," he winks. "Someone will be over take your order in a few minutes."
"Thank you," they both say in unison.
Billy walks off to grab their drinks, running into an available waiter enroute. Meanwhile, Lucien and Vanessa peruse their respective menus. After a few minutes, Lucien drops his menu and speaks, "Anything peaking your interest?"
Vanessa cuts her eyes away from the grilled fish selection, "I'm thinking about getting the tilapia trio, maybe with some red beans and brown rice. What about you?"
"Well, I feel like chicken, just not sure whether I want it spicy, tangy or crispy." He mulls over the menu selection some more as a young, auburn-haired guy with glasses returns with their drinks.
Holding up their drinks, he announces, "One water w/ lemons and a Strawberry Explosion."
Vanessa holds up her hand and claims the water; the waiter then proceeds to place the Strawberry Explosion in front of Lucien. It takes him all of two seconds to realize that he's serving the Lucien Cane-Mieraves. If it was possible, he would argue the man was hotter in person. Recognizing that he's probably been staring way too long, he mentally slaps himself and asks the duo if they know what they are ordering.
Vanessa looks to Lucien, who advises her to go ahead. She glances at the menu once more, and then looks up at her waiter as she points to the Grilled Tilapia trio option.
Meanwhile, Billy makes his way over to the bar, leaning over and disclosing to Crystal: "Looks like we have two celebrities in the house."
Crystal's curiousity peaked, she follows his gaze to one of their waiters approaching Vanessa and Lucien's table.
"I can't see the woman's face, but the guy looks familiar."
"Come on, H&B Fashions. It's Lucien Cane and Vanessa Manthroll."
"Oh Yeah! Well, I told you I recognized him. I didn't realize we were on their radar."
"Well, he's been in here a few times. This is the first time, however, I'm seeing her."
"Is she as beautiful in person?"
"What do you mean?" He ask, tearing his eyes away from Vanessa and Lucien's table. Leaning over the bar counter, he replies, "I only have eyes for one woman, and she's standing right in front of me."
"Good answer," she smiles, reciprocating his kiss. It's the sound of phone behind the bar that forces Crystal to break away from his lips, "I'll get it." She manages to grab the phone by the third ring, "Trio. Alfonso, hi. Oh my god, how are you? How is Seattle?"
Peering outside the window of his 6-story office, Alfonso observes the light snow falling on the grass, trees and sidewalks. It made him homesick for his friends and family.
"I'm good and Seattle's great," he exclaims, his voice trailing off a bit. "I read about the launch of the new restaurant. Congratulations."
"Oh, thank you. We thought it was time." Crystal motions to Billy to watch the bar as she pulls off to the side, feeling the need to explain, "CF&A just never quite took off, and with your departure and everything--"
"I understand. Is, umm, Mindy there?"
"No, but she should be in later. She had some plans with Morgan."
Crystal hestitantly answers, "He's the guy she's been seeing."
"Oh. I didn't realize," his voice trailing as he falls into his desk chair. Of course, how could he when Mindy never bothered to pick up her cell phone or return his voice messages.
"Actually, it hasn't been that long," she attempts to back-pedal. "I mean, Billy and I were surprise as well, especially considering he's the new CEO of Luxury Industries."
"Wait, was he the guy that pulled the plug on Fantasy Inc.?"
"One in the same. As you can imagine, he isn't Billy's favorite person right now."
"What's your take on him?"
She mulls it over, "I really haven't had any dealings with him. Since the grand opening, he's kept his distance. Mindy does speak quite highly of him though."
"What was his last name?" He inquires, pulling his chair in toward his desk. He then proceeds to grab a pencil and a notepad to scribble on.
"Hysterias. Why do you ask?"
Dropping his pencil, he responds: "Because whether or not Mindy chooses to believe it, I do care and I want to make sure this Morgan is not someone who is going to hurt her."
"Well, I should let you know that Billy already had his own background check done, and the search came up clean." She advises as Billy assists two female patrons with their drinks.
"Maybe so, but I would feel a whole lot better if I had a look for myself."
"I understand. Did you want me to leave a message with Mindy?"
Alfonso thinks it over a minute, "Just wish her well for me, and let her know that I would love to hear from her--day or night."
"I will," she promises, sensing the depression in his voice.
"I better go. It was nice talking to you, Crystal, and tell Billy I say hello."
"Will do. Take care, Alfonso."
She starts walking back toward the telephone receiver as Alfonso lets out a simple, 'Bye.' She reciprocates, and hangs up the phone once she hears a click on Alfonso's end.
"Hey, you okay?" Billy asks as she returns to his side at the bar.
"Yeah," she mouths unconvincingly. "I just hate knowing that people I care about are unhappy, and it could very well get worse."
Billy takes her in his arms, and can't help but wonder if her concern was from simple worry, or one of her psychic visions.
(<- Springfield Lakes Resort :: Earl Pryce's Apartment ->)
"I assure you that I have exhausted every resource to get to the truth behind what happen to our fahther. There is--"
"And what is the truth, Earl?" Matt asks, rising from the couch. "Because all I've heard is speculation and conspiracy theories. What happen to our father?"
"I wish I could tell you."
Matt scoffs, "Of course you do. But let's be honest. You've spent so much time lying to my face that you've barely had a chance to do any real kind of investigating."
"That's not fair. I was a kid myself when our father died. A good deal of time passed before I was even equipped with the skills, knowledge and let alone, time, to research what happen. But I talked to investigators, I tried to obtain phone records; I went through countless scrappings of notebook paper to understand what frame of mind our father was in that night. It was not an easy task."
"And perhaps if you clued in your younger brother, he could have been of some help. Because he wasn't just your father, Earl. He was our father and how you could think that keeping pertinent details about him from me was right-- I just-- I don't understand. I don't understand how you could keep something this big from me."
"I don't know what you want me to say. You're right. This was a huge secret, but I hope now you understand the severity of the life you're getting yourself involved in."
Matt could feel his heart rate raise several decibals as it became apparent that his brother was not sorry at all for keeping this secret.
"Oh, things are perfectly clear," he states, charging toward his brother. "Our father dedicated his life to this cause, and there is no way I'm giving it up--threat or no threat. My gift may very well be the only chance we have at getting some real answers."
"And I would like nothing more, but please don't rush off in blind haste ignoring the fact that there is an obvious danger associated with what you can do."
Matt turns back inches from the door, "There is danger all around us, Earl, and I'm beginning to think that you're one of them. Maybe it is for the best that you're leaving town because I really don't know how much more of your protection I can stomach. You've spent so much time micromanaging my life that you can't even get a handle on your own. So do me a favor. Go live your own life and stop living mine!"
***(<- Trio :: Main Entrance ->)
Crystal and Billy are conversing with one of their wait staff members when they hear the door to the restaurant open. To their surprise, it's Mindy Clarke waving off and shouting 'bye' to a black sports convertible parked on the curve. As Mindy allows the door to close, she spies her business partners approaching.
"Was that Morgan?" Crystal asks, catching a subtle remnant of the black convertible whipping off in the distance.
"Yeah," confirms Mindy. "My car is in the shop, so he offered to drop me off."
"Well, I hope he knows that he doesn't have to run off just because of us. He's free to come in for a drink or something."
"Actually, I would rather he not," counters Billy, inciting a glare from his girlfriend. "I'm sorry hon, but I have no interest in being cordial to that guy. He can continue his curbside routine."
Mindy is visibly apalled, but chooses to brush it off: "It's fine Crystal. I think Morgan realized the night of the gala that he's clearly not welcome here."
Billy does not argue, darting off to tend to a customer at the bar. Mindy is about to follow suit, but Crystal stops her.
"Before you dash off, I thought you should know that you received a call from Seattle today."
Mindy arches her eyebrow, "Seattle?"
"Alfonso?!" The mere mention of his name drains all the color from Mindy's face. Crystal adds, "He was really anxious to speak with you. Apparently, you haven't spoken in a while. He didn't even know you were seeing Morgan."
"You told him about me and Morgan?"
"I thought he knew."
"I haven't spoken to Alfonso since he decided to go off to Seattle in search of greener pastures, nor have I had any inclination to. So please don't feed him bits and pieces about my life, he made his choice."
"Whoa, I'm sorry." Crystal leans back, briefly holding up her palms in case Mindy wanted to take a physical jab. "It just came up. I didn't mean to step on any toes."
"I'm sure you didn't." Mindy responds, but Crystal is sure she detects a bit of wry suspicion in her tone. The speel that follows only validates that: "But I think I need to make one thing clear--that man in Seattle is no friend of mine, and the Mindy he knew when left Hallandale flew the coup the same day he did."
Crystal disputes, "I don't think he feels the same way, and I don't think you do either, Mindy."
"I don't need you to analyze me Crystal," she snarls, "I know how I feel! Alfonso made his choice, and now I'm making mine. The next time he calls here, you can tell him I'm dead because that is what he is to me. Excuse me."
"Ugh!" Crystal takes a deep breath. The holidays were definitely going to be something around here this year.
"How's the tilapia?" Lucien asks, cutting through the last piece of his grilled chicken.
"It's delicious, very tender." Vanessa responds in between bites, her fork clinking against her plate as she drops it to take a sip of her appletini. "How is your chicken?"
"Good, but then Trio never disappoints."
"Yeah, this was a good choice." Looking out toward the center of the restaurant--where the bulk of the lunch crowd congregates--she's grateful they received such a secluded, quiet spot to enjoy their meal. Turning her head back to Lucien, her face face lights up: "But then you've always had impeccable taste when it comes to restaurants. Well, except for that one place . . . Brokeback Steakhouse or whatever it was called."
"If I remember correctly, someone suggested we try something new."
"Uh huh," she grins, "I'm just glad we didn't try it there. I mean, you remember how awful it was. Your end of the booth was littered with crumbs, the dinner plate looked like they brushed it off and thought we wouldn't notice the grease build up. Oh, and don't get me started on what the hell was in our water."
Lucien chuckles, "Okay, it was bad! I mean, the poor waitress didn't even bat an eyelash when we told her we wouldn't be ordering after all."
"Probably because if given the choice, she wouldn't eat there either," she surmises before bursting into laughter. Lucien joins in unison. When the carefree moment passes, she solemnly reflects, "I've missed this--" resting her elbow firmly on the table, while her palm reaches out to the side of her face. "Being able to sit and laugh."
He takes a sip of his tropical drink, "Yeah. This last year has been a little crazy, but things are improving."
"Yeah, I'm finally modeling again. But there is still the issue of Danielle's restraing order?"
"We will fix it." He places his hand on top of her left hand as her right hand is still being used to prop up her head from the table.
"By adhering to the protective order and showing everyone you're not a threat. But that means you're gonna have to do your part in putting your issues with Danielle to rest."
Sliding the tip of her fingers across her face, Vanessa fears that is easier said than done. After all, just the mere thought of that little twit--woman--irritated her. It would be quite a task indeed.
(<- Hallandale PD Headquarters :: Outside of Detective Ralph Lombard's Office ->)
Ralph hands Shanna a cup of water as Detective Andersson approaches. She shoots a passing glance at Ralph as Shanna takes a sip of the water. A few seconds later, Shanna places the cup on the floor beneath the bench, and begins massaging her temple when Detective Andersson presses forward.
"Are you alright, Mrs. Hemmings?"
"I don't think the shock has worn off yet," Shanna answers, her throbbing head still reeling from the news. "The man that has been masquerading as Andrew Stokes is, in fact, my former brother-in-law and he's the one that vandalized my studio?!"
No matter how many times she repeated it to herself, it still sounded so surreal. What was her former brother-in-law doing in Hallandale? Did he know who she was? If so, why did he keep it a secret? The questions just kept looping and multiplying in her head.
Shanna resumes massaging her temple as the detective tries to reassure her: "We're going to find him, and when we do, you will be able to get some answers. Can you think of any place he might go?"
Jolting her head up, she asserts, "No! Like I told the officers before, I haven't seen him since last night." The room beginning to spin, Shanna lowers her face into her hands.
Ralph interjects, "Maybe we should continue this later."
Shanna flickers her eyes twice, bending over to retrieve her cup of water. She takes another gulp of the liquid and then slides back against the bench, hoping to detract away from the throbbing pain inside her head. With as much of a smile that she is able to muster at this point, she instructs Ralph that 'it's fine.'
Remembering where they left off, she adds, "I believe he had a place across from the Rendezvous Shack. He could be there."
Detective Andersson reveals, "We know about the apartment. The landlord says he hasn't been there in about a month."
"Then I have no idea," Shanna throws up her hands. "We usually hung out at my studio, and that is hardly ideal for a hideout now."
"Why do you think Andrew was so angry? What happen between you two last night?"
Shanna groans, frustrated with the repeated questions about her encounter with Andrew last night. Could they not see that she didn't want to discuss it? Too tired to argue, she opts for the abridged version of the story.
"I was concern that Andrew was mapping his life around me, and I simply advised him that he should focus his efforts elsewhere."
"Are you saying that Andrew expressed a romantic interest in you?"
Just the mere suggestion/thought of Detective Andersson's question is enough to turn Shanna Hemmings' stomach, which is why she has to hand it to the detective for managing to downplay her disgust. Still, it's a bit too close for comfort, and the widow has had enough, summoning the little energy she has left to stand on her own two feet.
"I really do not want to talk about this, nor do I see how it could possibly help you track Andrew Stokes--Byrce--down." Shanna turns away from the detective's analytical eye, leaving only one side of her body visible.
"Perhaps we should leave it," instructs Ralph.
Detective Andersson motions for him to give her one more second/minute.
"Mrs. Hemmings, we're not here to judge. It is our hope that the information you provide us will get us one step closer to apprehending Mr. Bryce. That is our goal. To figure out his next move before he strikes again."
From across the way, Derek watches Shanna being interrogated by Detective Andersson. He can't hear what their saying to one another, but Shanna doesn't appear to be holding up well. He is about walk through that wooden door when his wife returns, a cup of freshly brewed coffee in tow. She hands it to him.
"Thanks." He lifts the cup up to his nose, but can't be bothered to take a sip. "I really should go see how she is doing. I knew something like this would happen."
Shalia places her hand on his tense shoulders, "I don't think Shanna's looking for an I told you so right now."
"Of course she isn't. But because she refused to heed my suspicions, we are in the middle of a police station." Shalia wishes she could argue that point, but she is painfully aware that their is cop surrounding them at every angle. "I'm just relieved the only thing that was destroyed was her studio."
"Yeah, I shudder to think what would have happened if she surprised him in the act."
"I don't even want to think about it. I am curious to know what set him off though."
"Who knows? Some crimes have no rhyme or reason."
"Oh no, I definitely think there is a story behind this that we're not hearing." He happens to glance toward the entrance, where Dr. Jessica Chappell waltzes into the station, and sees her way toward one of the officers. The male officer seemingly points in the direction of Shanna, Ralph and Detective Andersson.
Derek motions to his wife, "I guess someone must have called Jessica down here as well?!"
"Probably. It's clear this department has no qualms about disrupting people's lives."
Jessica is about to cross the wooden door over to Shanna, when she spies Derek and Shalia at the opposite end of the station. Doubling back, she makes her way over to them.
"Looks like she's headed our way."
"Joy," mumbles Shalia under her breath.
"Derek, Shalia, hi."
Shalia feigns a smile as Derek verbally acknowledges her. "Hi Jess. Were you summon down here as well?"
"No, I was actually here earlier and had to leave to tend to a hospital emergency. I was able to resolve it quickly, and I thought I would pop back over for moral support."
"I was just telling Shalia that I should go over there and see how she's holding up. I mean, the break-in was one thing, but finding out that Andrew was behind it and now this crap about him not being Andrew Stokes, but rather Andrew Bryce. It's just sheer lunacy."
"Wait," she blinks, "did you just say Bryce? As in Terrell Bryce?"
It takes a minute for the name to register in his memory bank, "Terrell Bryce, isn't that--"
"Shanna's ex- husband!"
"I knew I was missing something. Could this man have a connection to Terrell?"
Derek can tell by the look on her face that it's an alarming coincidence she had not considered. Meanwhile, Shalia shifts uncomfortably at her husband's side, fearing the exposed connection between Terrell and Andrew could draw out the connection between her and Andrew.
Pulling away from Shalia's grace, her husband ponders, "And if so, why has he kept it secret all this time?"
Shalia finds herself vulnerable to the indirect gaze of Jessica, who wonders if Shanna has been apprised of the connection between Andrew Stokes and her first late husband.
(<- HatcherKeller & Associates :: Royce Keller's Office ->)
"His family cost me a lot and everytime I see his face, I'm reminded of it." The words he voiced to Evelin play over in his head like a tense set of nerves that even turning his neck doesn't solve. He's supposed to be the man in charge, and yet he hasn't made any significant progress on his projects in the last few hours. But then how could he when his head kept bringing him back to the past? He reclines back in his chair, attempting to expel all the bad energy from his mind, but it doesn't help. He sits back up, and takes hold of his sister's photo as the tear ducts in his eyes begin to cave.
Meanwhile, Evelin Vasquez finds herself walking idly on the dwarf of the Hallandale Pier. The holiday season appears to be in the air as kissy face couples pass her by, making her sad single existence all the more tougher to swallow. She stops at the railing on the rightside of the pier, overlooking the calming waters below. It seemed ironic considering the state of things in the real world.
"Life isn't fair, and it's too short to waste second guessing yourself. Tell Earl how you feel."
As Royce words replay in the back of her mind, she wonders if she should take his suggestion and finally tell Earl the truth. Yet more pressing was how she would cope once he left Hallandale for good."
(<- Springfield Lakes Resort ->)
Earl paces after Matthew as he edges for the door, "Matt wait."
Matthew turns back, visibly annoyed as Earl pulls something out of a nearby drawer. "What?!"
Earl hands over a huge legal size envelope. "I just wanted to give you this."
"What is it?"
"Everything I was able to stockpile on our father, his life and his death." His hand remains outstretched toward Matt. "It's yours." After moments of staring at the man in front of him, Matthew takes the envelope. "Hopefully it will help answer some of your questions."
"There are are some questions that cannot be answered and things I will never understand." His blank, dark stare pierces into the back of his brother's eyes. But with a simple tip of his head, a glimmer of light returns, "But you're my brother and I love you. And I hope you find the peace you're looking for."
With those final words, Matt turns back and walks right out of his brother's apartment door and Earl realizes as he pans over the collection of boxes and momentos strewn in his livingroom that his brother has no intention of returning.