"NO SON OF MINE"
This is part two of a trilogy that
started with "Let The Truth Be Known".
The key to my survival was never in much doubt,
The question was how I could keep sane, trying to find a way out.
Things were never easy for me, peace of mind was hard to find,
And I needed a place where I could hide, somewhere I could call mine.
I didn't think much about it, 'til it started happening all the time.
Soon I was living with the fear every day of what might happen at night.
I couldn't stand to hear the crying of my mother, and I remember when
I swore that, that would be the last they'd see of me, and I never went home again.
Well, the years they passed slowly, I thought about him every day.
What would I do if we passed on the street, would I keep running away?
In and out of hiding places, soon I'd have to face the facts;
Wed have to sit down and talk it over, and that would mean going back.
They say that time is a healer, and now my wounds are not the same.
I rang that bell with my heart in my mouth, I had to hear what heed say.
He sat me down to talk to me, he looked me straight in the eye,
He said, you're no son, you're no son of mine.
"But where should I go? And what should I do?"
You're no son, you're no son of mine.
"But I came here for help; I came here foryou."
-- Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford
** ** **
"I'm gladthat's over with," Rachel exclaimed with a sigh as she plopped herself onto the couch in the Parlor. Things had been so strained between Nick and Derek all throughout the case they had just finished. All during it, Alex kept excusing Nick's behavior by stating that she thought he was still not completely healed from the injuries he had sustained a month ago during Jonathan Boyle's attack. But Rachel felt that the injury Nick was still feeling was the mental rather than the physical one. She watched as the young man solemnly sat across from her, facing the fireplace instead of his friends. She rose and walked over to him, kneeling beside the chair. "You okay?" she asked as quietly and compassionately as she could.
He turned his head towards her and Rachel could immediately tell that he wasn't. He looked back into the fire before him and stated simply, "I'm fine; I'm just glad it's over with, too." Nick was never one for a lot of words ... not unless he truly felt passionate about a subject, but Rachel felt a real unease settle through her at how distant the ex-SEAL was becoming -- to her, Alex, Philip, Derek ...especially Derek ... and even to Kat. She rose and left the young man to his thoughts.
Crossing back to the couch, she noticed Derek's questioning look. She shrugged her shoulders in answer to the unspoken question; she knew how concerned the Precept was for his youngest associate, but she also knew that he was staying very ...uncommunicative ... about the events that had happened. Every time Rachel tried to approach the subject of Jonathan's accusations, Derek would change the subject. "You need to talk about what happened Derek," she had told him time and time again this past month. "Both you and Nick need to talk about it!" But the Dutchman had refused and the situation had become more and more strained.
"Well," Nick said suddenly rising and heading out of the room, "I'm heading out for a while. See ya!" Just before he walked out of the room, Philip moved in his way.
"Where are ya goin'?" he asked innocently.
"What's it to you?!" Nick snapped back, seeming more defensive and aggressive than the conversation called for.
"I just thought I might join ya," Philip answered, trying to keep his own temper in check. He could tell all throughout their latest case that Nick was "on the edge", and tried to treat him gentler than usual; however, Nick never made that task easy! "That's all," he continued. "I thought ya might like some company."
"I don't know exactlywhere I'm going," Nick answered, a bit calmer, but still sounding quite agitated. "I'm just going out ... and, if I wanted 'company', I would've asked you to come along." With that, he passed by Philip and left the House, slamming the door behind him.
Philip sat in the place vacated by his younger "chosen" brother, and looked at Derek, concern crossing his face. "He's not handlin' this verra well, Derek," he stated the obvious. "He's closin' himself off from all of us more an' more ever'day. Ireally think you ought t'talk t'him about what happened."
Derek looked at Philip, staring with a scowl that was unnecessary for the conversation taking place -- so like Nick a few moments ago ... over-reacting to an innocent situation. "And what should I say to him, Philip?" Derek questioned. "Tell 'im that what happened didn't happen?! Assure him that that bastardreally is his father and that he should get over that fact?! Exactly what would you have me say to him?!"
Before Philip could respond, Derek himself rose and headed to the sanctity of his office. Once there, he realized that he had indeed behaved just like Nick --or was it Nick behaving just like him?! -- and felt even angrier and more confused. 'How am I suppose to help Nick get over Jonathan's accusations when I can't get over them myself?!' Derek wondered to himself. 'Gott, Jonathan really is destroying us after all.'
** ** **
Nick had started down the path he normally ran down, but had neither the strength nor the ambition to run right now. He finally returned to the garden area and sat with his head between his knees, trying to clear out all the thoughts that were raging through his troubled mind. 'Why? Why won't Derek justtalk to me about what happened?!' he wondered. 'Does he think I actually believed any of that bullshit?!' But, even as he thought these thoughts, he realized that ... at least a part of him ... did believe the accusations! And that was the worst feeling of all!
He thought back about the conversation he had overheard the other evening. Derek and Rachel had been in the Library, finishing some research on the case they were working on. Nick had decided that it was time to talk to Derek -- to get everything out in the open. Looking in at the two people sitting at the table and the fact that Derek was drinking ...quite quickly in Nick's opinion! ... caused him to pause. As he stopped just outside the doorway, he heard Derek exclaim to Rachel, "What're you asking me? If it's possible that Nick could be my son?!" The sound of Derek's voice -- outraged and incensed -- stopped Nick in his tracks.
Nick was not the type of person who stood outside of doorways eavesdropping on conversations; but then again, Derek wasn't the kind of person to be drinking brandy so swiftly either! Jonathan's accusations had caused a great many differences in the lives of the San Francisco Legacy members -- just as he had intended it to! Nick listened as Derek continued, "It's none of yours or anyone else's business what kind of relationship Miranda Richardson and I had! But no ... I don't see how Nick could be my son! He's nothing like me, Rachel. No son of mine would have so many traits of Jonathan's ... his temper, his stubbornness ....."
With that, Nick had turned and left. He no longer wished to discuss the matter with Derek, knowing now how the Precept felt. Days later, that opinion hadn't changed; Derek didn't think Nick could be his son -- in fact, he had sounded like he didn't want Nick to be his son! -- and so the young man decided not to question Derek about it any further. However, Nick still needed answers to the question Jonathan had raised.
Suddenly the answer came to the ex-SEAL ...he had to get out of here! He had to go to Boston and see his Mother. He knew that she was in a coma and might not be able to give him any answers right now, but he couldn't just continue to work day-by-day, side-by-side with Derek anymore without learning the truth. It was obvious to Nick that Derek wouldn't (or couldn't?) discuss the matter with him. And, even if Derek did talk to him about it, Nick now knew how the Precept felt -- he didn't want Nick to be his son!
Nick felt his only recourse was to make a trip to Boston. He rose to go back in the House and let the others know he was leaving!
** ** **
Standing against the banister of the stairs, Nick was lost in thought, wondering how to bring the matter up to Derek and the others. He didn't hear Kat as she quietly approached him coming down the stairs and was startled when she jumped on his back. He stood up, letting her slide to the floor. He turned and snapped, "What the Hell did you think you were doing?!"
Kat, stunned at Nick's outburst and reaction, could feel the sting of tears in her eyes. She saw the look of anger on his face and it frightened her. "I ... I'm sssorry," she stammered, trying to fight back the tears that threatened to overflow. "I ... I just thought we ... could play ... 'airplane'!" With that, she turned and ran up the stairs, unable to hide her tears or hurt any longer.
The others had heard Nick's voice and walked out into the hallway to see what was the matter. They arrived just as Kat was rounding the top of the stairs. "What happened?!" demanded Rachel, as she started to follow her daughter."What'd you do?!"
Nick felt guilt wash over him for his outburst and he shook his head, holding his hands out. "Rach ... I'm sorry. She jumped on my back and startled me. I didn't mean to yell at 'er like that. Could you tell her ... tell her I'm sorry?"
"Maybe you should go up and tell her yourself, Nick," Derek suggested.
"No!" Rachel countered, thinking more about her daughter's feelings now than those of her working associate. "I think it's best if he just stays away from Kat right now!"
Those words stung Nick like a hard slap in the face. He turned to Derek and simply stated, "I'm leaving for a while. I'm gonna go to Boston to check on my Mom. I don't know how long I'll be there. I'll keep in touch." With that said, he turned and headed up the stairs.
"Nick ..." Derek called. He watched as the young man stopped and turned to face him. "Why don't we go in my office and talk about what's bothering you?"
Nick shook his head slowly. After what had just happened with Kat, he knew he had to get out of this House -- right now before he ended up doing something else he regretted. Besides, he already knew how Derek felt. He didn't need to be kicked twice by his Precept and mentor! "It's too late for that, Derek," he stated quietly and directly. "I have to go." He turned and continued to his room to pack.
** ** **
"Alex said Nick is going to Boston," Rachel stated as she walked into the Parlor and sat beside Derek. "Is it because of what just happened with Kat?"
"Partially," Derek answered, "But I think mainly he's hoping to go find out ... answers to Jonathan's accusations."
"Then you think he believes they could be true," observed Rachel. "Did you try talking to him about it?"
"I offered, but I'm afraid I'm too late. He doesn't trust himself now ... not after yelling at Kat like that ... and so he believes he has to leave -- forhis sake as well as ours!" Derek sat, wishing he could go back a few days; wishing he would have taken the time to talk to Nick about what Jonathan had said. Now, he knew that it was too late.
** ** **
As Nick exited his bedroom with his bags, he noticed Philip standing against the wall, his own bag in hand. Nick sighed and rolled his eyes -- this was the last thing he needed ... another confrontation! He walked up to his chosen older brother and said, "What do you think you're doing?! Leaving The Legacy again?!"
"No," Philip answered, refusing to allow Nick's tone or attitude to get to him. "I'm goin' t'Boston ... with you," he stated, matter-of-factly. "I know that yer not up t'company right now, but I could be doin' some Church business in Boston while yer visitin' yer Mom. Kinda like killin' two birds with one stone, so t'speak."
"Well,'kill birds' on your own time," Nick snapped, "not on mine. I'm going to Boston, but I'm going ALONE! I don't need a babysitter and I don't much feel like yours -- or anyone else's! -- company, so I think you better plan your own trip to Beantown for 'Church business' another time, Friend!"
"Listen, Nick," Philip attempted to reason, "I was the one who believed you about your fath ... about Jonathan being the cause o'your accident --remember?! You don't think I'm gonna let ya go off all alone now, do ya?!"
Nick softened as he placed his bags on the ground and put his hands on Philip's arms. "Look, I know you want to help, Philip; but this is something that I really need to do on my own. I really appreciated your faith back there in the hospital ...and your standing up for me in the Library when my old man appeared ... but I really need to do this alone, Philip." He picked up his bags as he passed his friend in the hallway. He half-turned and said, over his shoulder, "Sorry." With that, Nick left the San Francisco House, bound for Boston ... and the truth!
** ** **
At the airport, Nick was about to purchase his ticket to Boston when a thought occurred to him. He checked the flight schedules and then stepped up to the counter, prepared for his journey to find the truth. As the girl at the counter smiled and asked if she could help him, Nick smiled back and replied, "Yeah, I'd like a one-way ticket to Houston, Texas, please." As he paid the fare and headed to the departure area he was pleased that the idea had occurred to him -- he would go and talk to Art Peterson first. Maybe then he'd get some answers!
** ** **
Derek had watched Nick pack his few meager bags into the trunk of his Mustang and then watched him drive away. Shortly afterward, he sat alone in his office with his thoughts -- remembering how the House used to be when William, Jonathan, Art, Miranda ... all of them ... when they had all been friends and associates; rememberinghow happy he was to have Jonathan's son working with him ... particularly after seeing how useful Nick was! ... and remembering the look on Nick's face when Jonathan had made his accusation regarding Nick's parentage!
Suddenly, the image of Nick flashed in Derek's mind and a thought occurred to him. He quickly crossed to the phone and placed a call. Shortly after that, Derek picked up his Journal and wrote:
I just got off the phone with Arthur Peterson. I told him that I believe Nick is heading his way to discuss the accusations Jonathan had made. But, Arthur wasn't surprised; he said that he had "been waiting for the Kid to show up."
I hope that Arthur can handle him; Gott knows that I've never been able too! I just hope that Arthur will be able to help him -- to give Nick the answers he needs so that he'll come home.
Arthur assured me he would let me know if and when he heard from Nick. I just hope my hunch about Nick going to Texas is right. I really hope Arthur can handle the situation and that Nick will come home soon. I know that every time I look at Nick now, I wonder ...... I know that Nick is wondering too. I pray to God this will end soon ... for both our sakes!
** ** **
On the plane, Nick pulled out his Journal and wrote:
I keep wondering what I'm doing. I guess, deep down, a part of me wishes Jonathan Boyle wasn't my father. But another part of me can't believe anyone else could be, either. I tried to put it out of my mind while we were working on our last case, but I can't. Every time I look at Derek, it's there. Sometimes I feel like he's wondering too!
I'm hoping that Art Peterson will have some answers for me. Maybe he'll know something that he couldn't bring himself to share in front of the others. I remember that my Mom used to talk to him a lot when I was little, and I remember her saying that she could always trust and depend on him. So .....
I guess maybe I'll find the truth in Texas. At least, I hope so!
** ** **
Nick had decided against calling Art and letting him know that he was in town and on his way over. He figured he could get a more honest reaction from the Texan if he just showed up on his doorstep. 'Part of that old SEAL training,' he thought to himself as he parked in front of the house Art lived in. 'Never let 'em see you coming until it's too late!' he remembered.
However, when Art opened the door, Nick realized that -- somehow -- Artknew he was coming. He walked in, took the offered drink and a seat opposite the large Texan and then said, "Look, you've probably guessed why I'm here. I'm looking for answers ... about what my old ... about what was said back in San Francisco."
"I pretty much figured that's why yer here," Arthur admitted. "I just don't know how much help I can be t'ya. Me and yer Momma ... well, we were real good friends back in the ol' days. And yeah, believe it or not, she even went out with this ol' cowboy once or twice on a date. But, it just wasn't meant t'be. We both knew it on our second date and decided t'remain real good friends." He saw the look of disappointment on Nick's face and continued, "I know that this isn't much information ... and maybe not whatcha were hopin' t'hear, Partner, but it's the truth. I surely wished Iwas yer Daddy ... Lord knows, I could've done a Helluva better job than ol' Jonny did at takin' care o'ya ... but the plain truth o'the matter is, yer Momma and I were just friends. Nothin' ever happened between us."
"I get your meaning," Nick said, disgusted with himself for wishing to hear more. He took another swallow of his drink and then asked, "You were there during that time, though -- what doyou think is the truth?"
Arthur also took another sip from his drink. This was going to be the harder part ... because he just wasn't sure how to answer the kid. He took one more swallow and then slowly replied, "Well, I don't know what t'think, Nick ... t'be perfectly honest with ya. I mean, I remember Jonny back before he and yer Momma got married. He was a good man, Nick -- areal good man! It's just so hard t'believe that he turned into such a monster!! I guess the truth o'the matter is, I imagine it would've taken somethin' pretty dramatic t'change ol' Jonny's heart an' make him capable o'such brutality. But ...."
"So you think itcould be true?" Nick interrupted. "That someone else from the House slept with my Mother?"
"Now I didn't say that, Son," Art answered, strongly and defensively. "I'm sayin' I don't know what made Jonny change ... that's all. I mean, Hell, alcohol can change a person sure as I'm standin' here. So, it could've just been the booze! The bottom line is, Kid, I don't know what went on between yer Momma an' any o'her other dates with the fellas. I only know that nothin' went on between her and me!"
Nick knew that he must now head toward Boston, hoping and praying that he might find the answers there. He thanked Art for his candor and promised to stay in touch, knowing that he would probably not be keeping that promise. He raced to the airport to catch the next available flight to Boston, unaware that someone was following him!
** ** **
"I'm real sorry," Art repeated into the phone. He knew that Derek was disappointed. 'Hell,' Art wondered, 'did the man think I was gonna admit t'bein' the Kid's father or somethin'!' He cleared his throat and continued, "I'm sure he's headin' on t'Boston now. If ya want, I can follow 'im. Make sure the Kid's alright."
"No," Derek answered quietly. "I appreciate you calling me and letting me know what happened." He paused and then inquired, "How did he ...seem ... to you when he left? Was he alright?"
"He hasn't been alright since Jonny first showed up, Derek," stated Art. "An' he's notgonna be alright until he gets some answers. The blasted irony of the situation is that Jonny is probably his ol' man and he's just puttin' his Son through Hell as usual!! If I had only known what that bastard'd been doin' t'his family ...."
"I know," Derek finished. "I know! But the main thing now is ...how to reach Nick."
Art took another sip of his drink and then stated the obvious to his one-time friend, "Well, I think the only way anyone's gonna reach 'im is by tellin' him the truth." He paused, and then added, "Which yashould've done by now, Derek."
Derek was silent for nearly a full minute before replying, "I know, Art ...I know!" With that, the Dutchman hung up the phone and turned to his remaining associates. Concern and worry was written on each of their faces as he stated, "Nick is headed to Boston."
"Is there anything we can do?" Alex inquired, worried for her junior partner and friend. "Should we go there ... be with him while he visits his mother?"
"Not yet," Derek answered solemnly. "But Iam going to call William and tell him what's happened." Derek left the others, as he went into his office to place the call.
** ** **
Nick headed straight to Boston Mercy Hospital after picking up his rental car. He doubted very much that his mother would be out of the coma yet, but he prayed that she would nonetheless. 'I can't believe I'm doing this,' he told himself as he made the long drive in silence. 'Why can't I just let this go?!' But even as he thought the words, he realized that he would never have any internal peace until he learned the truth about Jonathan's accusations. 'Sonofabitch,' he thought as he drove, 'you justnever could let us go, could you?!'
Entering the hospital, a chill ran through Nick; he hated hospitals and dreaded the thought of how his mother might look, hooked up to life supporting machines and IV units. He inquired as to her whereabouts at the front desk and then proceeded to her CCU room. Looking in, the chill again coursed through his body as he looked at the helpless form lying in the over-sized bed. She looked so small and at peace that he hated the thought of disturbing her rest.
Quietly, he entered the room and approached her unmoving body. They had informed him at the front desk that she had not yet regained consciousness; however, they allowed him visitation with her anyway. He stood over her, looking into her serene face. At once, he felt ashamed for some of the thoughts -- some of the accusations -- he had been prepared to hurl at her. He thought about what it must have been like for her -- Jonathan in that car beside her, forcing it off the road -- and he felt hot tears sting his eyes.
He took her hand gently in hers and whispered, "Mom? It's Nick ... can you hear me?" He waited for a few minutes for some kind of miraculous sign -- a squeeze of the hand, a muscle twitch, movement of her eyelids ...anything! -- but nothing came. "It's alright," he continued, "I'm here and everything's gonna be alright. I'm sorry I've stayed away so long; sorry about the way I left things the last time we talked. It's just ...." His voice trailed off as he had to choke back the emotion threatening to overtake him.
After a few moments, the young man continued, "Jonathan came after us --at the San Francisco House. Everyone's alright, Mom, but he ... he ... he made some ... accusations; he said that hewasn't my father." He looked hard into the face of the woman before him, wishing again that he would see some kind of sign that she heard him. "Mom," he continued in a whisper, "is it true? I need to know, Mom; I'm not gonna hate you or anything -- I just need t'know!"
Realizing that she wasn't going to respond ... even if shecould hear him, Nick released her hand and brushed back his hair in frustration. Somehow he had to learn the truth! But, as he thought this, sadness washed over him; because the real truth was that he just wanted his mother to wake up -- even if she could never tell him anything ... he wanted her to wake up! The young man bent his head to pray for his mother, unaware of the person lurking in the shadows outside her doorway.
** ** **
William Sloan answered the monitor, already knowing that it would be Derek. He had ordered a close eye to be kept on the comings and goings of Nick Boyle after the incident with Jonathan and had been aware that Nick had left the Legacy House and gone to Texas. He was equally aware that the ex-SEAL would now be headed toward Boston. "Hello, Derek," William answered. "I assume you're calling me to tell me about Nick."
Derek shook his head at the image before him -- he should have guessed that Sloan would be monitoring the situation. "Obviously you know that he's been to see Art and that he's on his way to visit his mother," Derek stated.
"Yes," Sloan answered. "There's a man in Texas who told me that Nick went to visit Art and that he caught a flight for Boston. I assume he's probably there by now."
"Do you know if there's any change in Miranda's condition?" Derek inquired, a little angry that William was so blasé about Nick's whereabouts. "Has she regained consciousness yet?"
"I'm afraid not," came the dreaded reply. "In fact, I'm not sure she's evergonna regain consciousness, Derek. According to her doctors, her injuries were quite substantial." Derek could see the look of sorrow cross his associate's face. "It's really a shame -- she was such a beautiful and bright woman."
Derek nodded, feeling overwhelmed by emotion and the onslaught of past images of the striking young woman. He cleared his mind of these thoughts and again stated the obvious, "Nick is going to need our help, William. He's searching for the truth ... and wehave to help him."
This time, it was William Sloan who sadly nodded his head. "I'm afraid you're right, Derek. I'm afraid you're right."
** ** **
Nick was vaguely aware of the set of headlights that followed him out of Mercy's parking lot, but he gave no serious thought or notice to them. He drove the streets in silence, finding his way to his Aunt Jeanette's house where his mother had been living. Pulling up, he was relieved to see that there were lights shining within it. 'Good,' he thought, 'at least I won't wake her up.' He got out of the rental car and grabbed his few bags, heading for the front door.
Just as he approached it, a petite elderly woman threw the door open and rushed into his unexpecting arms."Nicky!" she exclaimed in excitement and emotion. "I had hoped you'd come! Come in, my boy ... come in!" With that, the elderly woman shuffled the young man through the doorway and into the living room area.
Nick glanced around quickly at the homey residence. He noticed that every table top and surface was filled with pictures from the past. Aunt Jeanette had a fire blazing in the fireplace and an old fashioned tea kettle sitting on a wrought-iron holder near the fire. Everywhere he looked he could spot the combined touches of his mother and her sister. Despite his apprehension and worry over his mom's condition, he felt a kind of calming peace settle over him.
Jeanette moved over to the fireplace, picking up an empty cup. "Let me pour you a cup of hot tea, Dear," she stated, as she already started to do so. "You've had a long trip if you've come all the way from San Francisco."
Nick started to refuse the cup she pushed toward him, but he didn't want to hurt the elderly woman's feelings. He took several tentative sips of the brew and decided that it wasn't too intolerable ... well, not for tea anyway! He sat in the chair she indicated with the point of her hand and tried to relax his body, face and tone as he replied, "Yeah, it's been a long day. I left San Francisco and went to Texas to see ... a friend. Then, I headed here to Boston."
"And have you been by Mercy to see Miranda yet?" Aunt Jeanette questioned. She looked warmly at him over her teacup and Nick found that he was completely at ease, sitting here with his mother's sister. This surprised the young man a great deal because it had been a long time since he had been comfortable around anyone in his immediate family. "She's still not awake yet, you know," Aunt Jeanette finished.
"I know," Nick answered, finding his voice and impressed he had kept it sounding cool and even. "I did stop by there first to see her. They told me that there hasn't been any improvement in her condition."
His aunt suddenly leaned forward, taking Nick's hands in her own. "You don't believe what they've said, do you?" she asked abruptly. "Whatever else Miranda has done in her lifetime she would never have tried to take her own life!"
Realization dawned on Nick and he quickly shook his head. "No," he answered, squeezing her hands, "I don't believe that she did this to herself."
Jeanette slowly drew away from him and picked up her teacup. After taking several small sips she stated, "William Sloan stopped by here on his way back to London. Did you know that?"
"No," Nick responded, his curiosity peaked.
"Well," she continued, "he did. He wanted to know if Miranda had any diaries or Journals lying around here." She stared long and hard at her nephew, awaiting his reaction.
It came swift and furiously as he rose and shouted,"You didn't give him anything, did you?!" Realizing that he was yelling at his fragile, elderly Aunt, he sat back down and immediately calmed himself. "I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to yell at you like that. It's just ...."
"Miranda's business is her own," Jeanette finished. "It's alright, Nicky. I would never've given anything private of hers to anyone ... not to anyone --except you."
Nick looked into the knowing eyes of the spinster and quietly said, "So, shedid keep something."
"Yes," Jeanette responded. "Her days with 'The Legacy' taught her about writing down the facts of her life. She got in the habit and said she could never bring herself to break it. You know, Nicky, those years she spent in San Francisco were among the happiest of her life; until you came along that is!"
Feeling as though he had just been slapped hard in the face, a sudden flush appeared in Nick's cheeks. Noting his expression, his Aunt quickly recovered, "Oh no ... I didn't mean it like that, my boy. I mean ... giving birth to you and raising a son was the happiest part of my dear sister's life. She only regretted what kind of father -- and husband -- Jonathan had turned out to be. But you must know how much she loves you, Nicky; you must know that!"
Nick's mind was whirling at his Aunt's revelations: his mother had kept some kind of Journal or diary all these years; she was happiestafter he had been born -- despite the life they led; and she must have spoken to her sister about her deep love for him! His mind wandered to thoughts of what she had just told him about Jonathan -- that his mother had "regretted" the kind of father and husband he turned out to be. 'Does that mean Jonathan was my father?' his mind screamed. He could feel the overwhelming emotions ready to overtake his aching heart and soul, and so he took another long swallow of the tea to choke them back.
He looked at his Aunt with compassion and said, "I'd like to see her Journals. I need ...."
"Iknow you need to see 'em, my boy," Jeanette interrupted. "But not tonight. You've had a hard time of it, Nicky ... it shows in your eyes. Whatever's happened to you lately has ripped you apart inside -- I can see it as plain as the nose on yer face! You look so much like Miranda when she was younger. Now, you're gonna go to bed and get a good night's rest and we'll talk about yer Mom's things in the morning!" With that, she rose to escort Nick to "his" bedroom.
After he had heard her close her door for the night, Nick stepped back out into the living room. Tears stung his eyes as he looked over all the pictures scattered about the cluttered room. There were so many of his mother that he had never seen before; so many things she'd done recently that he knewnothing about! Finally, he sat on the floor and gazed into the fire, trying to collect his thoughts and control his emotions. He was totally unaware of the man standing out in the chilly Boston air, watching him through the front window.
** ** **
Nick rose early that morning -- even before his elderly Aunt did! -- and he headed out into the crisp morning air for a quick run. He scribbled a note before he left, just so that Aunt Jeanette wouldn't worry and then he headed out. He didn't know -- or care! -- where he was running to, but he knew what he was running from. All night, Nick's sleep had been plagued with nightmares from his childhood. Several times, he was certain Jonathan had come back again and was in the room with him. He felt himself pumping his muscular legs even harder to run from these memories.
As he ran around corner after corner, he began to feel a sense of unease surrounding him. Several times, he paused in his jogging to look over his shoulder. He had the distinct impression that someone was watching him. Carefully, he noted the makes and models of all the vehicles on the streets around him and then he continued his journey. Several minutes later -- and quite a few streets away from his previous stopping point -- Nick stopped again to "catch his breath". As he did so, he looked around to see if any of the cars were similar.
Only one of the vehicles resembled a make and model he had seen a few streets back. He got the uncanny sensation that he wasindeed being followed. 'Get over it,' he told himself, almost starting to laugh. 'Now you're getting paranoid. Who would possibly be following you here in Boston?!' Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought, and with that, he turned and continued on his run, ignoring the strength of the impression that he was still being followed. The man in the car smiled to himself, aware that Nick was beginning to get suspicious. 'That's alright,' the stranger assured himself. 'He still isn't certain I'm here!'
** ** **
As Nick entered Aunt Jeanette's house, he couldsmell the signs that she had gotten up and was already busying herself in the kitchen. He walked in and gaped at the feast spread out on the table in front of him. "I didn't know exactly what you would want for breakfast," she explained, noting the stunned expression on her nephew's face. "So I made a little bit of just about everything!"
"That's an understatement," Nick replied as he walked over to the table and sat down. Everything looked and smelled so good that the young man didn't know where to begin. He smiled up at his Aunt as she stood there patiently, ready to serve him an eight-course meal. "Ya know Aunt Jeanette," he chided, "I'm gonna gain every ounce I just ran off and then some if I eat everything you have out here."
She laughed as she placed a small portion of scrambled eggs with diced ham, a half of a bagel loaded with cream cheese and a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal in front of the ex-SEAL. "Well then, why don't you just start with this for now. And," she said turning to the sink and pouring a strong, hot cup of coffee in front of him, "this."
Nick smiled, "I guess youdo know me pretty well after all, Aunt Jeanette." He took a long, appreciative swallow of the hot brew and then picked up his fork to dig into the plate before him. After eating several bites and commenting on how good her cooking was and how delicious the meal was, he changed the subject to what he really wanted to talk about -- his mother's Journals. "I really do need to see Mom's Journals, Aunt Jeanette; it's ... well, it's why I'm here."
"I know," the elderly woman responded. "You're here for answers, aren't you? And, with Miranda in the coma, she's not able to give them to you. So, I guess you're stuck with me, Nicky. What is it you're after?"
Nick put down the fork and pushed the food aside. He took one more gulp of the coffee and then answered, "It's about Jonathan ... my father. Some things have come up recently and I was hoping to be able to talk with her about it. But, you're right, I guess I'm gonna have to settle for hoping she wrote down what I need to know in her Journals."
"I'm her sister," Jeanette stated simply. "I know an awful lot of things about her life, Nicky. Whatspecifically do you want to know about her?"
Clearing his throat, Nick weighed his options; it was clear that his aunt was stalling ... hesitating at letting him read his mother's personal diaries (not that he couldblame her for her loyalty to her sister!), but he felt so uncomfortable broaching this subject with someone he still considered a stranger. "Like I said," he answered, a little quieter. "It's about her relationship with my old man. I mean ... I know what he was like when I was a kid -- and I guess she's told you about 'im." He watched as Jeanette slowly nodded her head. "Yeah, well, I need to know if I was the reason he drank -- why he would beat her ... and me."
Jeanette's face was clearly dazed. "What do you mean ...were you the reason?! Nicky ... the man was sick! He had a drinking problem!! That's why he did what he did to you and Miranda! It wasn't your fault, my boy. It was his!"
Nick realized the angle that his aunt was speaking from and realized he was going to have to be more blunt than he had been. He took one more small sip of his coffee and blurted out. "I need to know if Jonathan thought -- for any reason! -- that I wasn'this son. If that's what drove him to drink and do what he did."
Again, he watched a surprised look cross his aunt's face; but, for a moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of something else as well. She rose and placed many of the dishes from breakfast in the sink before responding to Nick's comment. Finally, she turned and stated, "If you're asking me if your mother had an affair while she was married to Jonathan, Nicky, shedidn't. And I don't know what kind of foolishness put that thought into your head but ...."
"No," Nick interrupted, rising and standing in front of Jeanette. He took her two hands in his own and gently said. "Something came to my attention -- to the attention of several of the people Mom used to work with before she married my father. Itimplied that Jonathan wasn't my father; I guess what I'm asking you is ... did she ever say anything to you about his suspecting I wasn't his son?"
Tears brimmed in Jeanette's eyes. She could hear the pain and anguish in her nephew's voice, but wasn't sure how best to answer. 'What would Miranda want me to do?' she wondered. She stared into Nick's face and could see Miranda there -- he was so like her! Sniffling, she replied, "Your mother is a good woman Nicky ...."
"I know that," he answered. "I justneed to know the truth."
"Like I said," she continued, almost as though she hadn't heard him. "She was a good woman ... bright, beautiful and full of life when she was a young gal. She flirted something fierce andall the boys were always attracted to her. I have no doubts she behaved the same way when she was out in San Francisco." She paused and then continued, "But she wasn't what you would call a 'loose' woman, Nicky; she did have her standards. I know that she fell in love with several of the men she was working with -- Jonathan included. If there was more to it than that, well ... I guess you'd have to find out for yourself in her Journals."
"Can I see them now?" Nick asked quietly.
Jeanette pulled her hands out of her nephew's and answered, "Go see your Mom again. I'll pull them out from her 'hiding place' and have them here for you when you get back."
"Why don't I ...." he started.
"Because, I want you to tell your mother what you're doing ... that you're going to be reading her private thoughts and papers!" exclaimed Jeanette. "I want you to face her and let her know what you're doing andwhy you're doing it. Then, you can read her Journals ... but only then, Nicky!"
"Alright," he stated, resigned to his Aunt's request. He turned and headed toward his bedroom to change. He dreaded going back into that hospital room and seeing his mother lie so still; he dreaded even more telling her what he was about to do, but he knew that his Aunt had been right. Quietly, he finished dressing and left the house.
** ** **
'I wonder where he's going now,' the man in the vehicle across the street wondered. He ducked down, out of sight, until the ex-SEAL had driven away. He started the motor of his own vehicle and began to pursue the rented one. "Soon," he said to himself aloud. "Soon it'll be time for me to let him know that I'm here." He smiled as he stayed a safe distance from Nick's rental car.
** ** **
As Nick was headed into the CCU room where his mother was lying, a nurse called out to him, stopping his entrance. "I'm Nick Boyle," he introduced himself. "She's my mother." The nurse nodded that she was aware of that fact, and that she had a message for the young man. She handed him a folded sheet of pink paper and smiled as she walked away.
'Who would've left a message for me here,' he wondered to himself as he opened the message.'I should've known!' he thought as he read over the message. It said:
It's imperative that we talk as soon as possible. Please call when your receive this message.
Nick crumbled the piece of paper into a tight ball and threw it in the nearest garbage can. 'It'stoo late for that now, Derek,' he thought to himself as he entered his mother's hospital room. He looked at the helpless figure of his mother and a rash of anger overcome him as he whispered, "It's too late to talk to you now, Derek."
He approached his mother's bedside and took a seat. Taking her hand in his, he sat silently for nearly a half hour. The words Aunt Jeanette had spoken to him before he left -- advising him to tell his mother what he had asked her for -- were echoing in his mind. Finally, Nick cleared his throat and confessed the real purpose of his visit to his mom. In her comatose state, there was no reaction to the words he was saying. However, as he admitted the reason for his visit, guilt overcame him. Quickly, he rose and headed out of her room.
As he was walking down the hallway, the nurse who had given him the message from Derek earlier, called out to him. Nick turned as she came down the hall and exclaimed, "Mr. Boyle, there's a gentleman on the phone for you ... he says it's urgent." Nick knew who it would be and didn't want to take the call but knew that it was unavoidable under the circumstances. He nodded and followed the young woman back to the nurse's desk.
Taking the phone in his hand, he took a deep breath before answering, "Yeah?"
Derek's voice sounded so distant, and yet Nick could hear the concern in it. He brushed past these sentimental feelings and listened for whatever the Dutchman had to say. "Nick? I've been trying to reach you; didn't you get my message?"
"Yeah," Nick answered, nonchalantly. He wasn't about to give anything about what he was feeling, thinking or doing away to his mentor. He had been hurt and angry that Derek hadn't wanted to share his past with him and he was even more hurt at what he had overheard Derek telling Rachel. Nick had no intention of allowing Derek to hurt him again. "I've been busy," he finished. "What's up?"
Derek could hear the harshness in Nick's tone and looked up at the Priest, who was listening to the conversation -- Derek had placed the call on speaker-phone the minute the nurse said that she would put Nick on the line. "Listen, Nick," he started, "I realize you're worried about your mother and you're there to seek ... answers, but I think the best thing right now would be for you to come home. Weneed to talk ...."
"It'stoo late for that, Derek," Nick responded, his voice rising slightly. He saw the look the nurse shot at him and took a deep breath in order to control the rage and anger building within him. "We've been through all this already. You like to keep secrets and I need answers ... it's not exactly the perfect combination. I'm gonna stay in Boston for however long it takes."
Derek decided to try a different approach. "I know that you went to see Art Peterson, Nick, and ...."
"What?!"Nick practically shouted into the line. He saw the warning look the nurse gave to him, but he didn't much care if he caused a scene right now. 'How dare Derek check up on me!' his mind screamed. "I can't believe this ... you're spying on me now?!"
Realizing that this tactic had only made matters worse, Derek was about to backtrack. He wasn't sure what to say to the angry young man and, before he could answer Nick, Philip cut in, "Nick, it's Philip. I know you're angry and upset, but yareally need t'listen t'us now. You belong back here. We'll find the answers, together, my friend. You can't do this alone, Nick!"
Nick couldn't take any more! First, he had barely received any understanding from his Aunt Jeanette; then, his mother was unable to provide him with any kind of peace, and now Derek and Philip were hounding him to come back to San Francisco! "I'm staying," he said simply into the phone, controlling the agitation in his voice. "If you don't like it, Derek, you can fire me!" With that, Nick slammed the receiver down. He looked up at the friendly nurse and said, "Sorry," as he left the hospital to return to Aunt Jeanette's.
** ** **
Jeanette dusted off the front of her dress after she had moved the boxes back into place. She gathered the Journals she had pulled out from Miranda's hiding place in the attic and carefully headed down the steep stairway with them. Arriving at the kitchen table, she placed the leather-bound books down and grabbed a damp cloth to dust them off with. As she wiped off the years of soil and dust collected on each book of various shape and size, she once again checked the inside's contents, making certain she hadn't brought down any that she didn't want Nicholas to see.
Sitting at the table alone, she recalled how many times she and Miranda had discussed these diaries -- how many times Miranda herself had talked about letting her son read all of them. But now, alone, Jeanette didn't feel that it washer place to make that decision for Miranda. She knew how angry Nick would be if he found out that she had withheld several of his mother's Journals from him, but she just couldn't bring herself to share them all with him -- not unless Miranda were dead ... not unless Miranda agreed to it; she just couldn't betray her own sister like that.
** ** **
The man in the car following Nick hummed a happy tune to himself. Everything was going to work out just fine; he was certain of that. Watching the ex-SEAL sitting by his mother's bedside in such agony had inspired him. But it was overhearing the conversation on the phone -- the one that Nick had with his Precept and Priest-friend -- that really had encouraged the stranger. 'Soon, Mr. Boyle,' he thought to himself. 'Soon my plan will take place -- and you will take center stage in that plan!'
** ** **
"That's all there is," Aunt Jeanette lied, rather easily, to her nephew. "I pulled 'em out and cleaned 'em up for you. I don't know if what you're looking for is in these books, but I do know that, once you read them, you will have invaded your mother's privacy." She studied the young man's reaction to her words very carefully and could see the confusion and torment on his chiseled features. "Alright then," she stated, pushing them toward Nick, "it's your choice."
Nick could feel a lump developing in his throat and struggled to force it down. He moved the books closer to him and looked into his aunt's eyes. "I'm sorry," he replied, "but Ihave to know the truth, Aunt Jeanette. I can't go on like this -- wondering and not knowing!"
She sighed as she rose to leave him with the Journals and his thoughts. Before exiting the room, however, she turned and said, "I wished you would have trusted her, Nicky."
"Excuse me," he remarked, already lost in his anticipated thoughts of reading his mother's private diaries.
"I said Iwished you would have trusted your mother -- trusted her to tell you whatever you needed to know. I wished you didn't feel like the only way you could learn about her is to read her private thoughts and feelings." She noticed the look of anguish on the young man's face, but felt she had to have her say. Jeanette finished by stating, "It's just a shame that you have to read her diaries in order to learn things that you could have asked her about years ago."
Nick felt a rush of anger and shame flood over him. Part of what his Aunt was saying was true ... he knew that in his heart. He had neglected talking to his mother for the past several years and they had drifted further and further apart. But Aunt Jeanette just didn't understand how difficult it was for Nick whenever he spoke to his mother; how just thesound of her voice would bring back a wealth of pain and anguished memories from his childhood. No, he wouldn't feel guilty for protecting himself, he decided. "There's a lot about my mother and I that you don't know, Aunt Jeanette," he snapped. "There are reasons why ....."
Jeanette turned and sharply corrected her nephew. "I know much more than you think I do, Nicky! And some of what I know is how often your mother has sat in this very roomin tears because her birthday has come and gone and she's heard no word from her only child. I've seen my sister choke back tears for the past five years because her only son doesn't want anything to do with her! So, don't be telling me that I don't understand things, Nicky, because I understand a whole lot more than you do!"
She left the room quickly, choking back her own tears. Jeanette hated hurting Nick like that but she couldn't help herself; she had seen the pain Miranda was living with every day before the accident and a part of her blamed Nick for it. She knew the young man had come here in search of answers about his mother's past, but she could not bring herself to betray anything her beloved sister had shared with her.
Nick sat at the table in stunned silence. Never had he guessed that his aunt would attack him so viciously --or that he had really caused his mother that much grief. His heart ached from the sadness and sorrow that was engulfing him. He struggled to push that all aside, however, as he turned to the volumes in front of him. Within these bound books might lie the answer to his questions and he couldn't give up his quest for the truth -- not now after he had already paid such a high price!
** ** **
Derek sat silently in the dark of the parlor, staring into the slow burning wood of the fireplace. A vision came to him ....
...Something was causing him great physical pain...
...The roar of an unearthly beast -- and the sound of cruel, maniacal laughter...
Derek quickly shook his head, trying to dispel the vision. His last conversation with Nick went horribly and he wondered if he had projected his own personal fear into the vision or if he was really foreseeing something deadly ahead for Nick. Either way, hecouldn't and wouldn't allow the young man to continue alone any longer.
As he rose and headed up the stairs, Philip called from the top, "You're ready t'go t'him then?" Derek nodded his head, his eyes telling the story. "Then I'm comin' with you!" he exclaimed as he went to pack his own bag to head for Boston. He also wasn't going to leave his chosen brother to face whatever lay ahead for him ... alone!
** ** **
Nick poured himself yet another cup of strong, hot coffee and headed back to his mother's Journals. He had found that reading them had been much harder than he had suspected it would be. At first, the ex-SEAL tried to detach himself from the words and the emotions behind them, but often he read something about someone familiar -- and many times things about himself! -- and he found that it was impossible to separate his own emotions from what he was reading.
The one thing he had noticed, however, was that there appeared to be several gaps between volumes; between the ends of some books and the beginnings of others, there was a space of time missing. He didn't know if these gaps were due to his mother not writing any entries or if it was because those particular diaries were missing; he only knew that he wasn't learning what he had come here to find out -- he was only invading his mother's privacy, as his aunt had feared!
Closing the last of the books, he headed to his room to pack the few things he had laid out. Nick knew now that he would find no answers here. After packing the few things he had, he sat down and began to write an entry in his own Journal. He wrote:
I came here to find out the truth and all I've learned is that this has been a terrible mistake. Aunt Jeanette warned me against reading mom's personal diaries and I didn't listen. Now, I've been forced to realize things about myself and what I've done to her that I never knew -- and never wanted to know!
Mom wrote often about how hurt she was that I would never call her; how distant I was toward her and how much pain that caused her. All I ever thought about was my own pain -- I didn't stop to think about hers and the fact that I was causing hers to continue. Maybe I am Jonathan Boyle's son after all because I certainly caused her the same amount of grief and anguish that he did!
But in the end, I didn't learn any answers. There were hints of other relationships within the San Francisco Legacy House at the time, but I couldn't find anything specific. I know that Derek wants me to come "home", but I just can't face him yet ... not after knowing how he really feels about me; he doesn't realize that I overheard him talking to Rachel, but I did. I know what he's thinking ... and how he feels.
So, I'm leaving tonight for London. It's time I face William Sloan. Perhaps I'll get the answers I'm looking for from the Head of the Ruling House. I had this feeling when he left San Francisco that he wanted to tell me something --well, I'm gonna give him that chance now. I know I should call Derek and let him know where I'm headed, but I just can't do it right now. Maybe I'll call from England.
Nick read over the words he wrote and then grabbed a blank sheet of paper. On it, he apologized to his aunt for his previous harsh words and for invading his mother's privacy. He told her where he was headed and thanked her for her hospitality, promising to stay in touch. Nick almost scribbled out that last part, knowing that it was probably a lie -- just like the one he had made to Art Peterson. Rising quietly, the young man exited Jeanette's house, unaware of the vehicle that started it's engine when it saw him come out the door.
** ** **
Nick looked up at the departures board at the airport. A plane was leaving for London in two hours, so he made his way to the check-in desk, hoping to get a vacant seat. After Art's less-than-helpful information, and the useless diary entries, Nick felt the only place he might get answers now would be from William Sloan. And, ifhe couldn't help, Nick just didn't know what he would do. All he knew was that he just couldn't go on like this. He dumped his bag down at his feet as he waited in line, looking around at the bustling patrons rushing past. Nick just couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched.
He gave a small hiss as he was jostled violently by the person behind, and he began to turn to glare at whoever it was. But before he could, he felt something hard press into the small of his back. The shape of it was quite obvious to the ex-SEAL.
"Please don't make a scene," said a maddeningly familiar voice. "I really don't want to have to kill you."
"Whoare you?" Nick asked softly, keeping his voice even so as to not show the slight, rising panic he felt.
The voice gave a low, dry chuckle. "Oh, come now! Surely your memory isn'tthat short!" The voice sighed. "Turn around ... slowly. But I warn you, I have men placed all around the airport, with their guns trained on you. If you try to disarm me -- or try to run -- they will shoot you on the spot."
Nick closed his eyes, letting out a shaky breath. Then he turned around ... and stared into the face of --Randolph Hitchcock! "What do you want?" Nick hissed, making no attempt to disguise the hate he felt for this man.
"I only want to help you," Hitchcock smiled, but the attempt just made him look evil.
"I don'tneed your kind of help!" Nick said. "I ought to kill you right now for what you tried to do to Derek!"
"That would be difficult," Hitchcock replied, nodding down at the gun he held -- it was Nick's. Somehow this slimy bastard had managed to disarm him without his realizing it. Hitchcock was a tougher opponent than Nick had thought possible. The young man stared at him, paling slightly.
"Come, Nick, I don't want to fight you." Hitchcock said, his doughy face softening. "I heard about what happened with regards to Jonathan, and I truly am sorry. None of us ever knew what was going on when you were a boy, or we would have done something."
Nick looked down at the ground. He didn't want this man's sympathy! He had tried to kill Derek! But then the young man's own anger at Derek took over, and he looked back up at the older man. "So, what sort of help are you offering?"
Hitchcock smiled. "If you remember, I was a member of the Legacy, both before and after you were born."
Nick frowned. "But when you came to San Francisco last year, you and Derek ... you never said ...."
"I know," Hitchcock interrupted. "If you had recognized me from the past, then we would have said something, but Derek and I felt it was better not to say anything. If you hadn't noticed, you aren't all that receptive to any of your father's old friends; your mistrust of Sloan, for instance. Since you showed no indication of recognizing me, we felt it was better to bury the past -- make a new start."
"You didn't," Nick pointed out. "You tried to kill Derek."
"Nick, let me explain something to you. There were only two women I have ever truly loved in my life; Alicia ... and your mother."
Nick's eyes widened immediately. "What ......"
"Sir?" the woman at the check-in desk called to Nick. "Sir, can I help you?"
"Nick, I have the missing diaries," Hitchcock whispered urgently. "Come with me. Book a flight to San Francisco. I promise you, I'll tell you everything."
"Sir?" the flight desk clerk called again.
"I ... I don't want to go to San Francisco," Nick stuttered. He didn't want to go back just yet; he wanted to see Sloan, find out some answers. But Hitchcock said he knew the answers himself ...
"You don't have to go back home!" Hitchcock told him. "But book the flight! There are Legacy spies everywhere. Nick, please! You must trust me!"
Nick turned back to the clerk, "I'd like a ticket to San Francisco, please."
** ** **
"Derek, he's headed home." Sloan told the other man. "He booked a flight from Boston about an hour ago."
"Thank Gott," Derek sighed. He and Philip had been all packed and ready to leave for Boston, when Sloan had called. Another few minutes, and they would have missed the call altogether. "Now, maybe we can get this all over and done with."
"You want me there?" Sloan asked.
Derek shook his head at the monitor. "No ... no, this is something I need to sort out with Nick by myself."
"Derek, Jonathan's accusation wasn't completely directed at you, you know ... unless you know something, that is!"
"William, I am not Nick's father! It's just ... I feel responsible for him, that's all. He's a member of my team and a dear friend ... he's also Miranda's son -- nothing else."
Sloan arched his eyebrows. "Derek, I didn't mean that I thought you were Nick's father! I just thought that you might know something the rest of us don't, that's all!"
Derek sighed, and rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "I'm going to bed. What time is Nick's flight arriving?"
"Around ten in the morning."
"Philip and I will pick him up. Wish me luck."
Sloan gave a sly grin. "You'll need it."
** ** **
At ten the next morning, Derek and Philip were waiting for the flight from Boston to disembark. People spilled out into the arrivals lounge, blocking Derek's view of the exit. "There!" Philip shouted, grabbing Derek's arm and pointing. Derek saw the back of a young man's head, familiar dark brown hair, suede jacket, and slim build, and breathed a sigh of relief. Despite Sloan's previous information regarding Nick returning to San Francisco, he couldn't shake the foreboding feeling that engulfed him.
"Nick!" Derek called. The young man continued walking away from them, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. "Nick!" Derek repeated, running after him. He caught up to the young man, and grabbed his arm, before stepping away hurriedly. "I'm sorry," he told the stranger before him. "I thought you were someone else."
The young man frowned and walked away, disappearing off. Philip and Derek looked around the room, but there was no sign of Nick anywhere.
** ** **
"William, he wasn't on that plane!" Derek said angrily. "Where is he?! Did it make a stop en route?"
Sloan was glad he was on the other end of the phone, and not in the room with the angry Precept. "Derek, he bought a ticket at Boston for that flight! It was a non-stop to San Francisco."
"Then where is he?!"
"I don't know! Look, let me get back to you, someone's obviously screwed up royally ...."
Derek slammed the phone down, and glared at Philip, who hovered nervously in the corner of the room. "What'd we do?" Philip asked.
Derek looked down at his hands. "I don't know," he sighed. "I just ... don't know. But I don't like this ... not one bit!"
** ** **
Nick looked around the tiny arrivals room on the island's airport, and wondered why the Hell he had come here with Hitchcock. True, the island of Jersey, in the middle of the English Channel, would be the last place Derek or anyone else from the Legacy would look for him, but that thought also made him uneasy. Hitchcock was meant to be the enemy, not the ally; but then, everything Nick knew seemed to have been turned upside down. What did he have to lose?
Hitchcock signaled to a burly man that had accompanied them the whole journey, and the lackey swung Nick's bags off the ground where they had been placed. The airport wasn't even big enough for a luggage carousel. "Isn't there a Legacy House on this island?" Nick asked Hitchcock.
The older man chuckled. "If there was, do you think I'd be here? No, the nearest House is on mainland France, at Le Touquet. Don't worry, no one will be able to track you here."
That thought was both a comfort and a worry to Nick. What would he do if Hitchcock turned nasty? There would be no help nearby. 'Right!' Nick thought. 'Like anyone can help you now. This is how its always been, Nick -- you against the world. And that's how it'll always be.'
Then, another thought struck Nick. If Hitchcock was a member of the San Francisco House before Nick was born, was he involved in Jonathan's accusations like the others? His "old man" hadn't mentioned Hitchcock but, given how things went down at the time, that didn't mean anything. Nick looked at the doughy-faced, tall man signaling for Nick to follow him.
Nick rolled his eyes heavenwards. 'Oh, man -- what am I doing?!'
** ** **
The car ground to a halt on the dirt road, barely ten feet from the edge of the cliff. Hitchcock climbed out and Nick dutifully followed, glancing around nervously. He hadn't seen any houses since leaving the islands main road about five miles back. The land around was long, unkempt grass, patches of it dry and dying. It seemed like such a contrast from the bright, colorful fields and parks that sheltered the homes and hotels in the previous area. Here it just felt ... dead.
Hitchcock's driver and lackey picked up Nick's bags, and they began to make their way towards a high, wrought-iron gate and railings that blocked the rest of the way. Hitchcock followed them, before looking back at Nick. "Are you coming? I'm sorry, we have to walk from here." He unlocked the gates, and slowly, Nick walked through.
'Abandon hope, all ye who enter,' Nick thought wryly. Then he gazed about him in wonder at the grounds he found himself in. A once-magnificent mansion, crumbling and molding, lay about a quarter of a mile away, situated on the edge of the cliff. Between the mansion and the cliff were the deserted remains of a carnival: big wheel, funhouse, ghost house, tunnel of love, and a merry-go-round. The big wheel had toppled, smashing in to the smaller structures. Only the ghost house remained intact, its paint faded, doors blowing softly in the breeze.
"What is this place?" Nick whispered.
Hitchcock turned to him, sunlight glinting off his smudged glasses. "This," he said grandly, "is my home."
"So, what happened to it?"
"This is the family estate of the DuPonts ... or it was," Hitchcock explained. "They owned the land since the 16th Century, and held annual carnivals for the whole island. When the Germans seized the island during World War II, the DuPonts were killed and the house was commandeered as a base. Fortifications were built under the ground, enhancing the catacombs already there. When the place was opened again in the seventies, after it was finally sold, the new diggings to the catacombs proved unstable."
Hitchcock nodded towards the downed big wheel. "It collapsed mid-afternoon, when part of the ground underneath gave way. There were two thousand people here that afternoon -- six hundred walked away." He stared across the shattered carnival. "Sometimes I think I can hear them screaming."
Hitchcock shook his head as if to clear it and continued, "Anyway, I bought the place after leaving San Francisco twenty years ago. Five years ago, I bought the place back from myself, under a different name, so I could be sure no one would find me."
"And no one has," Nick said softly.
Hitchcock chuckled, "No; no they haven't, have they?" He motioned towards the house. "So, Mr. Boy ... Nick ... are you ready to face the truth?"
Nick turned his gaze over the bay, watching the sun begin to sink lower in the sky, casting sparkles over the waves. "Not yet," he managed to say. "I ... I'd like to be alone first; I just need some time."
Hitchcock nodded. "I understand. When you're ready just come up to the house. But watch your footing, we don't want you falling through the ground, now do we?" He walked away from Nick, toward the house.
Nick wandered over to the very edge of the cliff, and stared out. The sun sank lower and lower, until it kissed the ocean, casting a fiery glow over the land. A sea breeze gently blew at Nick, but he didn't feel it. His mind was too far away. 'What am I doing here?' he wondered. 'Am I really so desperate to rebel against Derek, that I trust myself to the man who tried to kill him? How do I even know he has the diaries? And, how did he know about them?! Oh God, Aunt Jeanette, why didn't I listen to you?!'
Nick shivered. He didn't need to be a psychic to feel that the place was pure evil. And yet there was an underlying sadness to it that brought a lump to his throat. He stared down at the waves crashing far below, and the cry of seagulls came to him, almost like the faint cry of people. Nick didn't have to imagine the terrified screams of the spirits of those lost at the carnival behind him, the terrified wails of those who drowned in shipwrecks far beneath him; his own inner torment.
He thought of the conversation he had overheard between Derek and Rachel and rage flooded through him. 'Damn you, Derek!' Nick thought angrily. 'I will find out the truth! Whether you like it or not!' With that, he turned toward the house and headed for the truth, not noticing the translucent, sad-faced sailor that watched him go. The apparition sighed heavily. 'Poor child.' Then, he cocked his head as if listening to someone call him, and faded away into the air.
** ** **
Nick pulled the dust sheet off the armchair and sat down letting himself sink into the depths of the cushions. Hitchcock handed him a mug of coffee, before sitting in a high-backed chair opposite Nick. The rest of the room was dotted with shapeless lumps covered with dust sheets that had greed with grime. The faded wallpaper probably hadn't been replaced since the turn of the century or before, and the room had to be lit by portable floodlights. It reminded Nick of the Drawing Room on Angel Island, only much bigger. Somewhere, he thought he heard the haunting strains of a popular tune.
"So, would you like the diaries?" Hitchcock smiled, interrupting Nick's thoughts.
Nick took a long swallow of his coffee. "Guess so," he answered slowly. "I mean, what Aunt Jeanette said about how I should have trusted my mother to tell me the truth, she was right, but ....." his voice faltered, and he looked down at his mug, which was clasped tightly in his hands.
"But you haven't talked to your Mom for years," Hitchcock carried on. "And now ... unfortunately ... you may never get to talk to her. And if she does die, you'll want to know who your real father is, someone you can talk to, to share your grief with ... if he's still alive, of course."
Nick felt the hot sting of tears in his eyes as he listened to Hitchcock. True, he had thought that his Mom may never wake up, but that was a line of thought that he didn't want to entertain! Nick angrily scrubbed his eyes, damning whichever bodily genes gave such a clear show of weakness.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, voice sounding stronger than he felt.
"Sorry?" Hitchcock frowned, "I don't understand."
"In return for the diaries," Nick replied. "I take it there's some sort of price."
"Nick!" Hitchcock feigned a hurt expression. "I only want to help you. Let's just say you'll owe me a favor and be done with it, okay?"
"That's it?!" Nick asked suspiciously. "You give me my Mom's diaries and I just ... owe you?"
Hitchcock smiled again. "That's it exactly. Now, what do you want to do? Read the diaries, or just walk out of here and return to San Francisco -- back to Derek and the Legacy. It's your choice, Nick."
Nick was silent. He knew he couldn't go back knowing that the truth was within his grasp. He didn't want to go back to Derek and see the embarrassment in the Precept's eyes every time he saw Nick; didn't want the continual sympathy and the "babysitting" from the others. This was it, now or never -- do or die. He looked up at Hitchcock. "Where are they?"
Hitchcock inclined his head, until the light reflected off his glasses, and Nick could no longer see his eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked quietly, a teasing, malicious tone to his voice.
"Yes," Nick stated, feeling uneasy. "Please."
Hitchcock snapped his fingers suddenly and the sound was like a rifle crack in the still air of the room. One of the lackeys -- there were five by Nick's reckoning -- walked forward, holding out a worn canvas bag. Hitchcock took it and unsnapped the clasps. Slowly he took out six leather-bound Legacy Journals. He looked at them a minute, then held them out to Nick.
The young man received them, and looked at the front one. In the corner, diagonal to the ornate "L" was his mother's maiden name ... Miranda Richardson ... written in her own flowery hand. Underneath was a heart with a little cartoon face in it ... the same that was put inside his birthday cards year after year when he was a kid. Nick felt a sudden rush of sadness as he looked at the picture, it was so much the essence of his mother. He gently traced the writing with his finger, stalling before having to open the diaries, having to face what was inside, whether he liked it or not.
Hitchcock stood up, startling Nick from his reminiscing. "Maybe you'd prefer somewhere a little more ... private?" Hitchcock suggested. "This room is a little imposing, don't you think?"
"I'm fine here," Nick began, but two of the lackeys moved to either side of the armchair and stared down at him threateningly.
"You know what?" Nick said, "Maybe I should move." He stood up and dutifully followed Hitchcock from the room, the two musclemen close behind. Hitchcock led Nick to a door at the other end of the mansion and pushed it open, motioning Nick inside.
The young man went in and frowned at the setup before him. The room was small, no bigger than his bedroom at home. Against one wall was a bank of TV screens, all of them dark and dead. A control panel squatted in front of them, and behind that, an oak breakfast table, on which there was a steaming pot and a mug.
"I have things to do," Hitchcock said, excusing himself. "Help yourself to coffee; call if you need anything." With that, he turned and exited the room, closing the door behind him.
Nick looked around the room again and noticed any windows that might have been there were either bricked up or blocked by the screens. On a hunch, he tested the door. It was locked; he was truly trapped. Nick felt anger course through him at his own stupidity. How could he have let himself get into this situation? He was so stubborn ... so bull-headed ... so much like Derek! Nick sighed, and, resigned himself to the current situation -- for now! -- sitting atop the oak table and spreading the dairies out in front of him. It looked like he might be there a while so he might as well use this time constructively.
He flicked open the cover of the first one, and gave a sigh of relief as he saw the starting date of the diary written inside the cover. Opening up the other diaries, he soon put them in order. The six Journals made up for the gaps in the collection Aunt Jeanette had shown him. Opening the oldest, he began to read.
The diary began about a year or so before Nick had been born. The first few months were mostly about cases the House had handled. In between were entries about various dates Miranda had been on with members of the House -- Derek, Sloan, Art, Felix, Jonathan ... even Monroe and Cord! Aunt Jeanette was right ... Miranda had loved all the men of the House in her own way, but somehow she had finally ended up with the worst of them.
Yet from the first diary entries, Jonathan seemed like a completely different man than the one Nick remembered; the man Miranda described was kind, warm and passionate. Nick read all about Hitchcock's coming into the Legacy and how his mother had been so taken in by this polite, intelligent young man. He read how Miranda had finally married Jonathan, and how she regretted showing that she loved one of the men over the others. Then, came an entry that made Nick sit up and take notice.
Nick stared long and hard at this cryptic ending. What did it mean? Had his mother slept with one of the other House members, just to spite Jonathan? Nick read on, guilt washing over him at reading his mother's private thoughts. He knew he should just put the books away, but Aunt Jeanette had been adamant that Miranda had been faithful to Jonathan throughout her marriage to him. Yet here, Miranda herself was inferring something completely different!
Nick turned the page and froze at the next entry. The writing was messy and disjointed, blurred by small, circular drops as though something had spilled on the page ... more than likely, it was tears.
Nick gasped! He read the Journal entry over and over, his mind reeling. His mother had slept with the other men -- at least one of them! Aunt Jeanette had lied to him! Nick desperately tried to think who his father could be, if it wasn't Jonathan; Monroe, Cord, Matthew and Felix were all dead, none of them had confessed to Jonathan's angry spirit. His mother had ruled out the possibility of William Sloan. That left Jonathan, Art, Derek and ... Hitchcock!
The young man began to flip desperately through the Journal, looking for some sort of clue but couldn't find any. The last entry he read, however, sent a chill down his spine -- "He knows," Miranda had written.
Nick let out a cry of anguish and hurled the book away from him, letting it smash into the corner. Then he jumped off the table, grabbed the diary and pushed his slim frame into the corner of the room, clutching it protectively against his chest. He stared blankly ahead, a single tear rolled down his cheek. He was vaguely aware of the haunting music again, playing faintly throughout the room. His emotions were a turmoil now and he found it difficult to dwell on anything other than the words before him.
"Why couldn't you have told me Mom?" he cried out loud. "I loved you so much ... why couldn't you have trusted me?!"
** ** **
"Are you done?" Nick looked up through bleary eyes at Hitchcock, standing in the doorway. The young man slowly stood up, his numb fingers still clutching the Journal, his legs stiff from sitting in the corner so long.
"You knew what was in them?" Nick said, quietly. Hitchcock nodded. "Do you know who my real father is?" Nick carried on.
Hitchcock smirked, "Probably."
"Then who is it?!"demanded Nick angrily.
Hitchcock's grin widened. "Personally, all my money's on Derek. Your mother loved him most, even though she married Jonathan. They were alwaysterribly close."
"So,you slept with my mother?!" Nick said angrily.
Hitchcock shrugged. "Like I said, I loved her. But as I also said, I believe Derek to be your father."
"Why?" Nick cried, "Whyhim?!"
Hitchcock stared at Nick long and hard. The young man grew uncomfortable under his unnerving gaze. "You hate him, don't you?" Hitchcock said, finally.
Nick looked down at the floor. "It's not hate, it' s ... I don't know! We just don't see eye to eye."
"He doesn't want you as his son, does he?" Hitchcock said suddenly.
Nick looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"
"When he was drinking brandy ... talking to Rachel?" Hitchcock smiled. "Weren't you outside listening to them? I believe you went to talk to him, but left before they even knew you were there."
"How did you know that?" Nick paled, feeling his stomach lurch and develop a sick feeling. Something about the atmosphere of this place was giving Nick a splitting headache. And, that continued low drone of the music was getting on his already-frazzled nerves.
Hitchcock walked over to the Control Panel in front of the TV screens and flicked a few switches. The screens sputtered to life, and Nick immediately recognized the Library on Angel Island -- its image spread out all over the screens. Hitchcock pushed a button and the view changed to Derek's Study, the Kitchen, the Parlor and the Hallway.
"How did you do this?!"Nick asked, amazed.
"It's amazing what even loyal staff will do for a few thousand dollars," Hitchcock smirked.
"Youspied on us?!" Nick was incredulous. How could someone ... even Hitchcock ... have the nerve to do that!
"Ah, here comes Derek!" Hitchcock rapidly changed the subject as the Dutchman's image on screen walked through the front door. There was no missing the Precept's anger as he strode up the stairs in the direction of his office. Hitchcock changed the view to Derek's Study a split second before the man walked in. Derek sat heavily in his chair and took a deep breath. Then, he grabbed his Journal from his desk drawer and began to write. Hitchcock zoomed in, so that both he and Nick could see what was being written.
William can't find any trace of Nick anywhere! It seems he's just disappeared, and he hasn't told anyone where he is going. I'm fed up with this; I don't care whether he comes back now or not! I've had it with his attitude and tantrums. That kid has a massive chip on his shoulder and frankly, I'm glad I don't have to deal with it anymore! Things will be a lot easier -- and quieter -- if he just stays away. I'm glad he's Jonathan's son and not mine; I wouldn't want Nick as my son for all the wealth in the world!
Derek slammed the Journal shut and stalked out of the office.
Hitchcock turned to Nick. "Oh, dear," he said almost gleefully as he quickly switched the monitors off.
** ** **
Derek stood in the center of the Control Room catching his breath. His worry, anger and frustration had gotten the better of him and he had taken it out on Nick in the only way he could --in his Journal. Thinking now of the harsh comments he had written, he walked back to his desk and pulled out the Journal.
The entry was written on a fresh page -- almost as though it had been done so on purpose! -- and Derek grasped the upper corner of the paper. He dimly recalled the warning that Legacy Journals werenever to be tampered with. They were used to record feelings and observations and should never have pages missing or items blacked out simply because the feeling about that subject had changed.
He ripped the page from its home and crumbled it up, tossing it in the garbage. Nick meant more to him then "Legacy rules" ... more than just about anything!
** ** **
Nick stared at the blank monitors for what felt like hours, a stunned expression on his face. Then he turned, and strode out of the room.
Hitchcock hurried to catch up with him. "Where are you going?" Hitchcock asked, puzzled.
"Back to Boston," Nick answered, "I have to talk to Aunt Jeanette."
Hitchcock stopped walking. "I don't quite think that's going to be possible," he said quietly.
Nick stopped, and whirled to face him, a look of dread on his face. "What'd ya mean?!"
"I'm afraid poor Aunt Jeanette is dead," Hitchcock said, without emotion. "Howelse do you think I obtained those diaries?"
"You bastard!"Nick screamed, launching himself at Hitchcock. The older man went down with a grunt, flinging his arms up to protect his face from Nick's fists. Nick became more and more furious as Hitchcock began to laugh, though the vicious blows from his younger adversary did knock the wind out of him. Rage and grief coursed through the young man as he thought of his fragile aunt, ruthlessly murdered by the man who had slept with his mother.
Then Nick felt a blow to the side of his head, and he tumbled off Hitchcock, ears ringing. He looked up just in time to see one of Hitchcock's lackeys aiming another kick at his head. Nick rolled out of the way, springing to his feet. The other man advanced on him swinging his fists in deep heavy blows, but Nick kept moving out the way. The young man then launched a karate kick into the heavy's midriff. The guy's breath blew out in a sharp blow, as he doubled over, winded. Nick turned and ran for the front door.
Tugging at the door Nick realized it was locked. He looked around for a key, but saw none. He ran to the big room he had first been taken to, remembering some large French doors leading to the outside. Nick could hear four sets of feet running behind him, and he realized that Hitchcock's other men had discovered the attack on their boss and colleague. There was no time to test if the doors were locked or not -- Nick smashed into the glass at full speed, hitting the concrete path outside heavily. He felt hundreds of tiny, and not so tiny, shards of glass cut at his bare skin and he was immediately glad he had flung his arms up to protect his face.
Scrambling up from the concrete, Nick ran for the ruined carnival, dodging between rides and stalls, hearing the men pound after him. Nick had nearly reached the edge of the carnival and the open quarter mile of land, when a flying tackle landed, hitting his knees and he was sprawled in the grass and dirt. Nick twisted round, throwing a punch into the guy who loomed above him. The man let out a yell, clutching his bloodied and broken nose. Nick pushed him away and had just got to his feet when he felt a sharp crack across his head. The former SEAL fell to the ground again -- curling into a fetal position -- under the rain of blows from feet and fists. Finally, one blow connected with his temple and he fell back into oblivion.
When Nick awoke, he did so slowly and painfully. His ribs burned like they were on fire, and his head felt like someone was going at it with a sledgehammer. His back and legs felt terrifyingly numb, and he could feel the sharp bite of ropes digging into his wrists. Nick opened his eyes and the world slowly swam into focus. He was lying on his side on a couch in the large room. One of Hitchcock's men sat on a wooden chair across from him, holding an ice-pack to his nose and glaring at the unfortunate young man before him.
When he saw Nick was awake he got up and walked over to him. The man was still for a moment, then he lifted his fist and brought it crashing down on Nick's cracked ribs. The young man let out a cry of pain, and the other man bent close to his face. "Thanks for breaking my nose you little bastard!"
Nick looked at the other man, then spat in his face. "Any time," Nick managed through the pain. The guy's face turned almost as red as his bloody nose.
"Why you ....." he reached down, grabbing hold of Nick's sweater, hauling him off the sofa.
"That's enough!"Hitchcock's voice rang out through the room. The lackey grunted and shoved Nick unceremoniously back onto the sofa. Hitchcock jerked his head towards the door and the other man left. Hitchcock came and stood before Nick, reaching into his suitcoat pocket. He brought out a hypodermic needle, and gently squeezed the end, letting some of the fluid spray out.
"I see they didn't quite beat all the fight out of you," Hitchcock noted. "This won't take but a moment."
He reached down and pulled up the sleeve of Nick's sweater. The young man tried to squirm away but the pain of his injuries and Hitchcock's vice-like grip, made that impossible. Hitchcock jammed the needle into Nick's forearm, depressing the plunger. Nick let out a hiss of pain at the new hurt, tears smarting his eyes. Then he slumped back into the chair, feeling the effects of the drug take place. He tried to concentrate on the pain of his wounds, trying to stay awake, alert, but he couldn't. Hitchcock smiled as watched Nick's eyes flutter shut, then reached out and gently tipped Nick's head back.
"Uh-uh, don't go to sleep on me yet!" he whispered. "I need you to do something for me first!"
"Wha ......" Nick mumbled, fighting against the blackness that threatened to overcome him.
"I need you to make a phone call for me. It won't take long."
"And why www .... would I hel .... help you?!" Nick said, weakly.
"Because if you don't," Hitchcock smiled cruelly, "I'll kill you right now -- as painfully as is possible. It's your choice."
Nick stared at his hands, not wanting to look at his tormentor.
Hitchcock stared at his captive and then jabbed him viciously in the ribs. Nick gave a yell of pain and his eyes clouded over. "Didthat hurt?" Hitchcock asked innocently. Then his eyes narrowed and hardened, and he leaned forward until he was face to face with the ex-SEAL. "I can make the pain go away Nick, just make the call."
Nick looked at Hitchcock, trying hard not to show the hurt he felt. He had trusted this man -- had thought he may be able to put an end to the questioning ache in his soul. But Hitchcock had widened the wounds ... taking everything Nick held sacred and twisting it until the young man knew nothing but hurt and confusion. How stupid he had been to trust this man! If he had just listened to his head instead of his heart, he wouldn't be in this mess! The pain of his wounds hurt so much more than he'd ever felt before -- the physical and mental hurt entwining as one. He just wanted it to go away.
"Okay," he said numbly. "I'll ma ... make the call."
Hitchcock smiled like the cat who got the cream. "Excellent."