Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Episode 8: Where Secrets Bloom

Episode 8: Where Secrets Bloom

Shay was paralyzed.  Heavy emotions held his body to the bed as if they had hands.  To the outside world, the rise and fall of his chest was the only indication he was still alive, but on the inside… That was a different story.  Everything in his life sank below the water as he drowned.  Tears wouldn’t come. His eyes wouldn’t shut, instead staring at the blank white ceiling, waiting for an angel to dip a hand through the plaster and take him away. 

He wondered what he was supposed to do now.  Did they all expect him to exist this way?  Was this really living when he felt so dead inside?

The night of his attack, the very act he’d tried so hard to wipe away, had been shown to thousands of people.  His body, contorted yet limp and very naked had been seen all across Hedgewater.  And if that wasn’t bad enough they’d watched him unconsciously give away his virginity to a vile psychopath.  He couldn’t remember everything, only bits and pieces that didn’t make much sense.  His head bashed into a brick wall.  Flesh rhythmically pounded inside of him then pain, so much pain.

Broken and lost, Shay wished he could sink into the mattress and let it swallow him whole.  He didn’t want to be here anymore.  He’d had enough.  Water polo, these people, this place… He couldn’t do it.

Not without River—the only bright spot in his life that had been ripped away.  He deserved it, but not really.  He’d tried to explain.  He’d tried to recant what they’d thought he meant.  But to no avail, the authorities and his parents let him wallow alone and made up his story for him.  His fault had been to let the man he loved be beaten and bruised just like he had been.  He should have stood up for River.  He should have let Owen do whatever he wanted to him instead of River; he would have taken anything to protect him.

The truth of the matter was Shay hadn’t done anything to stop it.  Once again he’d cowered away and let his life spin out of control.  God he was worthless.  He didn’t deserve to live this way or any way at all, at least from his point of view.

He wasn’t sure when he’d sat up or when he’d opened his bedside table, but Shay found himself staring at a full bottle of pills.  The orange container seemed so large in his palm.  His name printed on the label made him angry.  Warning stickers colored almost every available space on the plastic; don’t exceed the limit; take with food; don’t operate a vehicle; will cause drowsiness…

The list went on.  His pills were for people who couldn’t cope with the world.  They were for people like him; people who couldn’t manage on their own without seeing every detail as a nightmare.  Wasn’t it just perfect that he happened to live in a nightmare now?  His life was blown wide open. He had nowhere to hide.  There was nothing left for him here.

No longer was he the confident, studious, and charming Shay Foster whose hopes and dreams had been tied up in River Hathaway, love, and the sport he used to breathe.  He didn’t know who he was anymore.  When he looked in the mirror now, he didn’t recognize the sad blue eyes staring back.

Would anyone care if he was gone?  Would he make things better by ending it all?  River would be free of him, unburdened to move on with his life.  The water polo team had their stars already, they wouldn’t really care.  Owen and Francis would be caught eventually.  His parents had Leif to get them by.  No one else knew him or cared to know him.  He would always be the pitied one anyway.  No one would dare to come close to the crazy boy who kept to himself out of fear of opening up.

The lid to the bottle fell into his lap.  Colorful pills, the kind designed to look pretty enough to make everything okay felt smooth under his fingertip.

Nothing would ever make Shay okay again.  Nothing anyone said or did would take this feeling away.  He was done.

A pill rolled into his hand.  A tear slid down his cheek.  He choked out a silent sob, gasping for air, and tilted back his head.  Just as he was about to open wide and swallow the first pill to his sweet escape, the door to his bedroom opened from the living room suite.  Shay let the bottle fall to the floor.  Red and purple capsules went rolling across the brown tile of his room.

The last person he ever wanted to see stood there, looking from him to the floor in horror.

“Shay?”  Jackie Hathaway closed the door behind her.  “What are you doing?”  Her voice was barely a whisper.  A whisper so soft it couldn’t be real.

Scattering to the ground, Shay tried to scoop up as many pills as he could.  They slipped through his fingers, escaping his shaking hands.  “Come on,” he whispered urgently, trying to hide his dirty plan.  “Go away.”

Her delicate hands stopped his within seconds.  He glanced up into her bright green eyes, reminded of River in a gut-wrenching stab of agony.  “Go away,” he repeated.  “Just leave me alone.  All of you just leave me alone.”

Jackie pulled him to her chest.  Her guilt and regret encompassed him with motherly hands.  She shook against him, kissing his hair.  “This isn’t the answer, honey.  This isn’t it.”

“You don’t know what it’s like.  You hate me.  I hate me.”  Even as he argued softly between gasps and tears, Shay clenched her blazer between his hands, begging her not to let go.

“I’ve seen.  I do know now.”  She held on tighter, rocking him back and forth.  She toed off her heels, bringing her knees closer to his side.  “I should have known, Shay.  I shouldn’t have pushed you away from him because I get it now.  He’s what you need and he needs you just as much.”

“I never told them he did it, Jackie.  I would never do that.”  He sniffled, laying his head on her shoulder.  His heart pounded.  His eyes hurt to keep open.  His nose stung with tears.  “But I don’t deserve his forgiveness.  I don’t deserve anything.  Just let me go.  Go and don’t look back.  No one will care.”

“I can’t stand by and watch you hurt yourself and others in the process.  I’m a mother, Shay.  My kid would die if he found out.  He would be ruined if he knew I stood by and let you kill yourself.  I’d be ruined. Your parents wouldn’t recover…  I just can’t let you.”

“You don’t understand!”  He pushed away from her.  His back to Jackie, Shay put his arms around his knees.  “I stood by and watched what that stupid fuck did to River.  No matter how scared I was, I should have done something!”  He swallowed salty tears, nose running and vision a blur.  “I watched as he did what was done to me.  River didn’t deserve that.  I love him and I let him almost die…  I don’t deserve to live anymore.  I don’t want to watch anymore. I don’t want to feel.”  His raspy breath sounded foreign to his ears.  “They’ve all seen how dirty I am… And I deserve it.”

“No, Shay.  No.”  She covered his back, pulling his hands from his face.  “You’re not dirty.  This isn’t your fault, what that man did to you.”

“I let River take that beating.  I stood by.  I cried the entire time like a fucking baby.”

Jackie was silent for a long time before she asked, “Do you know who hurt River, Shay?”

He keened through closed teeth, nodding.  His head rested on his knees.  He allowed himself to be hugged from behind because if she let go again, he was likely to pick up the closest sharp object and make it all go away.  “Then make this right.  Tell me who it was, Shay, and let it all out.  Tell the truth and he’ll stand by you no matter what.”

“He deserves better than me, no matter what I say.”

“You can be better, Shay.  You can be a man and own up to your faults and grow from this.  You can’t let that bastard ruin you.  You have to fight for what you want.”  She soothed his hair with a gentle hand.  “I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t fight for it.  You can’t just quit when it gets hard.  You.  Are. Better than that.”

He turned in her arms.  He wiped his eyes on the back of his arm.  “Why are you here, Jackie?”

“Because I realized none of this is your fault, and when I saw that video…”  She caressed his cheek.  “I knew I couldn’t let you think what I said to you was true.  The guilt was eating me alive, Shay.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t true.  I was just angry that they profiled my son, even though they had every right to suspect him under the circumstances.  I wanted someone to blame for the way he felt and for the way he changed, and you were the perfect target at the perfect time.

“What I said was wrong.  I’m not perfect and neither are you.  I have to accept that you’ve been through hell, too, and no matter what happened this wasn’t your fault.  Shit,” she grabbed at him again.  “Tell me, Shay.  Tell me who it was.  Give me a person to blame.  Please, he’s my baby.”

Shay’s arms fit around her neck.  Jackie smelled of Chanel and fresh dry cleaning, like his own mother. The scent comforted him enough to feel safe, if only for a moment.  “Owen,” he whispered.  “Owen Trusou.”

Jackie stiffened.  “Trusou?”  His name sounded cold and distant.

“Owen did this,” he said more forcefully.  “He did this to River.”

She hugged him until he almost couldn’t breathe.  “You’re positive?  No doubt in your mind?”

“I was there,” he confessed.  “I told him to stop.  He was so angry, Jackie.  He thought River was the one who left those movie tickets for me.  It’s all my fault.”

She hissed then sucked in air next to his ear, ignoring the mention of movie tickets because she was too busy envisioning Owen’s head on a stick.  “You were never there.  Do you understand me?  You were never there, Shay.”

Shay leaned back to look into her venomous eyes.  “I was there, Jackie.”

She grabbed his chin.  “You were never there.  Owen is going to pay, Shay.  Do you want to go down with him?”

Shay shook his head like a coward.

“Do you never want to see River again?”

He shook his head.

“Then let’s get this cleaned up and I’ll handle everything from here.  Your parents are out there.  They’re worried about you.  They would miss you if you were gone. Don’t do this to them.  That would be your fault.”  She kissed his forehead and dabbed her eyes with her sleeve.  “Get changed and wash your face.  We’re going to see River.”

Shay covered his mouth with a hand, pulling her to him with his other arm.  “Thank you, oh my god, thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet, Shay.  The worst isn’t over.  It’s only just begun.”


A few miles up the coast, a short drive from Hedgewater, Agent Rogan pulled onto a dirt road.  Gates closed behind him, affirming his companion was already there.  A minute later he came to a stop in front of a small green summer rental. One bedroom, shaggy beige carpeting and a lousy screened in porch out back and the place wasn’t much, but it would do.

Another vehicle was parked under the carport.  Rogan got out and walked up the gravel path.  Red and orange fall leaves covered the ground.  Wind rattled the branches above.  To any passerby, the place looked abandoned for the fall.  It was a shit shack and that was why they’d chosen it in the first place.

Agent Rogan fit his key into the lock.  Out of habit, and because of the direction the case was heading, he put his hand on his gun holster, flicking the buttoned latch up just in case.  “Wickham,” he called out, opening the door.

“Expecting someone else?”  Agent Wickham turned in his computer chair by the window. He leaned back, stretching out.  “Gonna shoot me?”  He smiled.

Rogan backed his hand off of his gun and shut the door.  “I bet you did the same thing when you opened the door.  Don’t give me that shit.”

Agent Wickham flicked him off, laughing.  “It’s not about to get any easier from here.  We can’t start jumping at our own shadow if we’re gonna catch him, Matt.” His laugh died as he eased back in front of his computer.  “We have to catch this guy.”

Rogan laid his jacket on the back of a ratty old chair.  He sat on an ottoman that had been pulled up next to the desk.  He thoughtfully pondered his next words.  There was no way to tread lightly where his friend was concerned.  “We will.  I promise you, Wick.  My question is, now that you’ve had time back at that school, can you handle this?  I mean, I put my neck out for you with Jackson to let you continue on this case because you’re my friend.  After…after Garrett can you really do this?”

Wickham glanced over.  His pale hazel eyes full of contempt, he pushed away from the desk.  “I told you I could and don’t worry about your job.  I’m not going to fall apart.  I’m going to channel this shit going in here,” he tapped his chest, “and find that son-a-bitch.  Did you see that fucking video, Matt?  He did that to Garrett, only Garrett wasn’t lucky enough to wake up the next day.  He let him suffer.  He let him lay there and die. So, don’t think for one second that I won’t stop until I see that bastard in a place lower than hell.”

“Luca,” Rogan murmured.  “If you can’t do this—”

“I can do this!”  Luca snarled, pulling himself back to the computer.  He squinted at the screen.  “Francis sent the video out on the HH app this morning.  He called me right after.  He wanted me to collect everything from the user inbox we link the app to and see what sounded good to post today.  If Francis isn’t eating this shit up and he’s putting the workload on me, then the killer has something big on him.  That’s unlike him.”

Rogan nodded.  He stood up and fingered the wall where they’d started mapping out suspects.  A web of students and parents were graphed out in a hierarchy of sorts, with the serious suspects lingering at the top.  “That means he’s out as the killer, Wick, but he’s still guilty.”

“Of course he is.  He’s holding onto a box of federal case files, a wad of hush money, and we’ve got him on countless charges just waiting to go.  He’s ruined so many people in Hedgewater I can’t even count. And that’s not even the half of it.”

“Francis didn’t say anything about last night when you talked?  Did he sound agitated?”  Rogan continued to stare at Francis’s school photo.

“He sounded quiet.  That’s what scares me.  I don’t think he’ll run on us, but I think he might do something to himself if he’s pushed into a corner.  If we lose him, we lose prime contact with the killer.”  Luca logged into his private case notes.  “Are you going to bring him in?”

“Not yet.  Not until I have those tapes from last night’s traffic cameras.  We know it was Owen that attacked River.  It all makes sense.  But, therein lays the big problem.  If I bring Owen in I have to bring Francis in, too, based on Kelly and Jagger’s statements.  If I bring them in without evidence, the Chief is going to flip a lid and start making a mess for us.  Plus we’d get the added bonus of Judge Ozella and I’m not looking to have your cover blown when he starts digging, which he will and we both know it.”

“This place is a mess.  For fuck’s sake, Matt, you know it was the Chief who took those tapes.  Who else could take evidence from lockup without signing it out?  Chief Trusou.  His boys would look the other way in a heartbeat.”  Luca stopped typing.  He got a curious look on his face.  “Matt?”

Agent Rogan followed his train of thought and took Francis’s photo off of the wall.  “The killer has those tapes.  That’s what he has on Francis.  It was either Francis and Owen or Shay Foster.”

“Fucking hell.”  Luca ruffled his hair.

“Call Francis.”  Rogan smirked.  “I want you to put on the act of your life.  Tell him you just got a message from the killer.  You’re terrified the killer is going to leak a tape of you and Garrett together and you need to meet with him.  It’s not entrapment.  It’s researching a crucial lead.”

“That’s low, Matt,” Luca whispered.

“No, you said you could do this.  I’m not trying to play with your head here.  I’m sorry you got your heart broken and ripped out of your chest.  I’m sorry you’re starting to play with fire where De Angelo is concerned.”

“Matt, I’m not—”

“You are.  You’re case notes on Kelly were a little beyond the standard, more affectionate than normal.  I’ve seen that once before and I don’t like the look of it.  Now get your shit together, from one friend to another, and get in with Francis.  We need those tapes, Luca, and we need concrete proof Francis sent that video of Shay.  Wire up, set up a camera, I don’t care, but I need him to confess to Owen and him putting River outside of the hospital last night.  The only way to do that is to offer him some kind of connection he’s looking for.  If he thinks someone else is in the same boat, he’s going to talk.”

“What about the Chief?”  Luca played with a stray string at the hem of his shirt.

“He’s not the Hedgewater killer.  We’ve known that from the start.  However, he is involved in all of this and not as the friendly town Chief of Police.  Covering up evidence to save his son’s ass isn’t going to win him any points with us, either, but he’s one of them and they have a long past of secrets and lies.  They’re good at running and covering their tracks, Wick.  Now their kids are involved because of something they did.  Chief Trusou is not only protected by the secrets they share, no matter how much they hate him, but he’s also a crucial pawn in this game.  We can’t take him down now, not until we know more.”

Rogan put his hands on his hips, sighing at the wall.  Pictures of the students’ parents stared back at him.

“Make the call, Luca.”  He pointed at Luca without looking.  “I need you to prove to me you can do this.”

Standing from his chair, Luca numbed at the thought of calling Francis.  He had no other choice.  To get the ball rolling on the killer’s end, getting closer to Francis was what he needed to do, and as a fledgling agent he had to show that his emotional attachment to this case wouldn’t interfere.  If it did he wouldn’t be front and center when they finally nabbed Garrett’s killer.  He owed it to his one-time lover and friend to carry on.

“I’ll try and set something up with him after the HGG meeting.  But, I have to attend those meetings.  I need to keep Priest on hand.  He’ll get suspicious if I miss a night and we plan on recruiting him, I need to keep it normal.  Plus, Kelly is going to join and it’s the perfect way to get him to open up.  I know he doesn’t know anything about his dad or the other parents yet, but he may hear something if he hasn’t already.  It’s been an eventful day.  That video is sure to get the gossip mill going.”  Luca grabbed his coat, playing it cool.  “What do you have planned for tonight?  Should I meet up with you after I talk with Ozella?”

Rogan’s brows furrowed.  He pinned Francis’s picture to the Hathaway case board.  His train of thought barreled along at full speed.  “I’m going to the hospital.  Tilly called me before I came here.  Jackie Hathaway asked to speak with the agent in charge.  Tilly also said Kelly, his dad, and the entire Foster brood is with her.”

“What about the Chief?”  Luca’s heart raced.  He didn’t want Chief Trusou anywhere near Kelly.  If what they knew from their research was actually true, there was nothing safe about the Chief of Police.

“Tilly told him the boys were off limits from any local interrogation until we could talk face-to-face.”  Rogan rubbed his left temple, feeling a migraine coming on.  “He’s going to do anything he can to keep those boys quiet, especially Foster.  I saw Shay the night he came into the hospital, Wick.  He knows more than he’s saying.  If he was with Francis and Owen that night like Jagger said, he’s going to be our prime witness on this.”

Luca slipped his laptop into his bag then logged off of his desktop computer, making sure their data was locked up tight.  “He needs some friends, Matt.  We can’t protect him every second of the day.  Shay requires personal connections to feel safe enough to open up.  River is out of the picture until he can stay conscious long enough to answer questions. He can’t exactly help Foster right now.” 

He turned to Rogan. “I’ll do what I can, but I’m not his RA and I don’t want to draw attention to myself by hovering. If Kelly and Jagger are still at the hospital when you get there, make it happen. Give them a little nudge, suggest they hang together.  I’m positive they’ll take Shay under their wing.  Three is better than two and who knows what puzzles they can solve together.  My guess is they each have a little piece that doesn’t make sense.”  Tiredly, Luca went to the front door.  “I’ll continue to work with Kelly and see what he comes up with, casually speaking.  You work on Foster. We’ll go from there.”

“You’ll continue to work with him or date him, Luca?”  Agent Rogan started turning lights off to avoid his colleague’s piercing stare.  He wanted to avoid the conversation altogether, but he wouldn’t be a good friend if he didn’t point out the obvious. Luca was going to get hurt.  After the last time Luca blew it, getting attached to a student while undercover, he had to worry Luca was going to do it again.  “If Kelly finds out who you really are you’ll ruin not only this case, but his heart.  And yours…again.”

“I’d never hurt him, Matt,” Luca said quietly.  “He just—I can’t explain it.”

Matt sighed, closing his eyes for a second.  “I know.  Please be careful, though.  That kid has been through enough. You’ve seen his file.  It’s a wonder he made it this far.  You shouldn’t mess with him, even if you are serious.”

“They’ve all been through enough.  I don’t want anyone hurt again. So, just trust me to do my job and back off a little.  Whatever I do on my own time is mine to worry about.  I can handle it.”  Luca jumped when someone knocked at the door.  He nodded to Matt who went for his gun.  “Who is it?”

Matt fingered the front blinds, peeping through the small crack to see who was outside.  His confusion was relayed to Luca.

“Who is it?” Luca repeated.

“Uh, delivery for…hold on a sec.  I got my hands full here.”

Glaring at the door, Luca opened it slowly.  He waited until Matt was in position behind it to move into the porch light.  A delivery man stood on the front step, holding a giant vase full of pink peonies.  “Here it is. I have a delivery for Matthew Rogan.  I hope I wasn’t supposed to wait at the gate.  It opened for me.  I thought you knew I was coming.”  The delivery man peered around, suddenly a bit spooked.  “I’m sorry, did I get the wrong address.”

“No.  I’ll take those.”  Luca took the overflowing vase.  He quickly slid his eyes to the door, hoping Matt got a good look at the delivery man from his side.  “Thanks.  Do you know who these are from?”

The man checked his phone.  “Nah, man, I’m sorry.  It was a cash payment.  Even if I did have a card I couldn’t give you a name.  Company rules and all that.”

“Right, well, thanks again.”  Luca lifted the vase, smiling tightly.  “Have a good night.”

“The same to you, man.”  The delivery man trotted off to his van and drove away.

The door shut, but Luca stood there for quite some time, just staring at it.  “I didn’t open the gate for him, Matt.”

Matt clipped over to the gate keypad by the desk.  He checked the monitor and snapped his fingers. 

“What?”  Luca set down the vase to join Matt at the screen.

A barely visible wire fed through the ceiling from the keypad.  Someone had been there before either of them.  A tiny blinking red light was revealed as Matt pushed away a tile in the drop ceiling.  “We’re being watched.”

“That’s not possible.  I swept this room hours ago.  Wait, what is that?”  Luca tugged on Matt’s hand.  He pointed to the screen.  Words formed a marquee across the small monitor that usually focused on the gated road.

Peonies in pink.

He’s the missing link.

Peonies in pink.

I’ll kill them in a blink.

Luca looked up at the camera recording their every move.  He pulled it down to eye level, giving the cable a good tug.  In a rage that welled up from deep within his heart, Luca threw the device to the ground and smashed it under his boot.  He stomped and stomped until there was no way the camera would ever work again.

“Luca, stop!”  Matt restrained Luca from behind, holding his arms tight.  “Stop,” he screamed.

Hair covering his eyes, Luca hung his head.  “I have to go.”  He twisted out of Matt’s embrace, fighting a maelstrom of anger in his head.

“Call in sick.  We need you here.  Priest won’t sketch out if you miss one night.”

Luca pushed his hair back with a wry smile.  “You don’t know Priest.  I’m leaving.  Clean it up, Matt.  I can’t be here another minute.”  He snatched his bag up and slammed the front door on his way out. 

The peonies shook in their vase on the table.  Matt cringed as he heard Luca’s vehicle screeching onto the main road.  Once again his eyes were drawn to the peonies.  He plucked a single flower from the vase, observing it as it twirled between his fingers. 

“The missing link?”  Matt turned back to the suspect wall.  Eyes sliding back and forth, he studied each parent.  “What are you saying, you bastard.”


Kelly pushed open the bathroom door at the hospital.  He had to pee, but he also wanted an excuse to get away from the awkward reconciliation going on in the private waiting room.  Shay’s parents were making up with the Hathaways, which had nothing to do with him until the Winegartens decided it was best if they made a show of support for their friends while their son was in the hospital.  His dad thought it was a good idea, too, and now here they were, being subjected to one giant cryfest with people he didn’t know but was expected to get to know.

Bypassing the mirror because he knew he looked like shit, Kelly parked it in front of a urinal and unbuttoned his jeans.  He’d never been a fan of the stall in the corner that accompanied almost every men’s room he’d ever been in.  Guys tended to focus on that stall and the person in it more than they did the guy next to them at the urinals.  He hated being the center of attention, even in the bathroom.  But what he hated more was being in an otherwise empty bathroom, only to have a stranger sidle up next to him.  The awkward silence was terrible.  Staring at the wall in front of him was just as bad.

He kept his eyes front and center when a man moseyed up next to him.  Toes tapping in his sneakers, Kelly handled himself below and did what he came to do.

“I don’t bite.”

Stricken with fear, Kelly leaned away slightly.  “I’m sorry?”

“Kelly, it’s me, Jude.”  Kelly looked up to his left.  Jude Winegarten smirked then cleared his throat.  “Got tired of watching the ladies cry, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“They’ll settle down.  I understand you’re just getting to know everyone, but this summer was shocking for all of us.  Our families were really close before the attacks started.  I’m sure you knew that Jagger—”

“Used to date River, yeah, I know.  I get it.  I’m sure I’ll get comfortable with all of it soon.  I mean, not that River in the hospital is comfortable or anything.”  He cringed.  “I’m not good at this.”  He shook it out and zipped up.  The urinal whooshed as he stepped away.

“It’s alright, son.  No one expects you to be okay with the situation.  I’d be slightly worried if you were.” Jude started to readjust himself.  Something dropped out of his pocket and he bent down to grab a piece of paper.  Kelly couldn’t help but watch him.  As Jude dropped his head, Kelly noticed the small rose tattoo peeking out from under his collar.

Like he’d been shocked, Kelly froze.  Roses are red.  After having the fear of God zapped into him, he made quick work of washing his hands and drying up.  “Okay, well, nice chat.  I’m gonna get out there.”

“Kelly?”  Jude stood up straight, smiling.  “Would you do me a favor?”

“Uh, sure.”  Kelly practically bounced with nervous energy.  He had to get out of the bathroom before the walls closed in on him or worse, Jude pulled a knife from behind his back and went all Jack the Ripper.

“Maybe try and include Shay.  God knows he isn’t Jagger’s favorite person, understandably so, but I think you three would benefit from being friends.  Shay needs someone right now.  He’s been through a lot.  I don’t want to see him slip away because of something he had no control over.  It wouldn’t be right.”

Shay Foster, the tall, broad shouldered, golden boy that everyone was so obsessed with was back in the waiting room.  He hadn’t said a word the entire time they’d been thrown together.  He had his headphones on, eyes mindlessly staring at the wall, and his hood up on his sweatshirt.  Kelly knew he was hurting.  The bags under his pretty blue eyes were rather telling.  And always the nice one, Kelly nodded with sympathy.  Shay was hurting, silently hurting.

“I’ll talk to Jagger.”  He bit the inside of his cheek.

“Thank you, Kelly.  I’m glad you’re here.  Jagger could use a good friend.”  Jude sighed, seeming nothing more than a father desperate to keep his son safe.

Kelly’s intuition was twisted, offering him nothing in the concrete answer department.  He only knew he didn’t want to be alone with Jude Winegarten and that something was definitely up with him.  “No problem.”

He slipped out into the hallway.  He came upon the adjoining hall where the waiting room was and turned right only to stop in his tracks.  Agent Rogan smiled at him as he passed.  All of the parents had moved out of the waiting room.  They watched Rogan walk between them.  He held a single pink peony in his hand, gauging their reactions as he looked from side to side.

Kelly moved in next to Jagger and Shay.  “What’s going on,” he whispered in Jagger’s ear.

Jagger leaned in.  “Rogan showed up to check on River and the rents are acting weird.”  He cocked his head at the adults next to them.  Every one of them seemed to be in some state of shock, watching Rogan carry the flower into River’s room.

Kelly flicked his eyes to the other end of the hallway.  Chief Trusou leaned against the wall at the far end, eyes narrowed and lips in a tight line.  He pushed off of the wall and Shay moved closer to Kelly and Jagger.  The Chief stood there for a minute then walked towards them.  Shay reached out to grab the closest person.  Kelly’s hand was forced into Shay’s, subjected to Foster’s fearful grip.

Trusou glared hard, coming so close even Kelly leaned back.  The Chief smirked and turned the corner.  When Kelly looked over his shoulder, he almost gasped.  Behind him, the parents had formed a wall so close he could have leaned back into Gloria Foster’s chest.  Their eyes were trained on the corner where Trusou had disappeared.  They stayed put, breathing heavily as if there cubs were being threatened.

The moment was so tense Kelly was scared to breathe, but not as scared as Shay.  He kept on holding Kelly’s hand, shaking from head to toe.  Kelly didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t think he ever would, but he rubbed Shay’s hand with his thumb to show his support.  The guy needed something.  Kelly wasn’t asshole enough to deny him the comfort he’d needed his entire life.

Then he looked to the window of River’s room and found himself in an entirely different frame of mind.  Agent Rogan had drawn the shades.  The fed stared right at him as if he could read his mind.  Whatever game was going on, whatever was happening between them and their parents and this whole fucked up town, it had only just started.  Agent Rogan blinked and it was like the checkered flag had been waved.

Kelly trembled, leaning slightly into Jagger for support.  The three boys huddled together, forming an unspoken alliance against Hedgewater and whatever was coming their way.




See you next week!


  1. Wow Luca is an agent. That was a shocker, but I'm glad he's one of the good guys. So thrilled Rogan and Luca know what a bastard Francis and Owen are. It was weird to find out that the Cheif is a bad guy. Not only for stealing the traffic tapes hut for other things Rogan suspects him for.

    It was so great that Rivers mom came and forgave Shea. It was heartbreaking that he felt suicide was his only way out. Hopefully now that he has River and Jaggers family's love qnd support he won't feel so hated and alone. I also hope that Jagger will play nice and bring him into his and Kelly's group even though he was hurt that River left him for Shea..

    I don't know what to make of Jagger's dads tattoo. I hope it doesn't turn out that his dad is a bad guy. But obviously these people did something in the past and the killer is coming after tbeir.kids for it.

    This was an awesome chapter. Can't wait to find out what happens next. Hope you have a good weekend.


  2. Bam, you shocked me again! Love it!

  3. whoa, was not expecting that.
    Glad the boys are working together now and there is hope for River and Shay. I was not liking Shay but you wrote his feelings very nicely and now I am feeling sorry for him and kinda want him and River to work things out....though it wont be easy.....
    Can't wait for more.


  4. Wow. This just gets better and better, and more and more twisted. I can't believe Luca is an agent. Crazy. And I'm glad the boys are going to help Shay, poor kid needs some true friends.