Spring Rains by Anne Azel

Spring Rains
by Anne Azel

Part 1

The night was icy cold and Janet shivered as she waited for the truck’s heater to bring some warmth into the frozen cab. There was no moon and driving through the dark back roads of northern Canada with only the stars visible, brilliant over head, was like flying through space. Janet smiled softly, enjoying the sensation of commanding an isolated vehicle through the cold darkness.

Beside her, Ryan sat quietly. Her breath made little clouds, tinged in pink from the dashboard lights. The clouds drifted across the inner space of the cab and froze to the windscreen beside Janet’s. Janet turned up the defroster to clear the ice away.

“Aunt Janet?”

“Yes, love.”

“Do you think Mom will help us?” asked Ryan anxiously.

Janet felt her heart contract. Ryan was so outgoing and confident that one sometimes forgot that she was in many ways a very insecure and fretful teenager. Her years of isolation away from her mother and family had left some really deep wounds.

“I think she will give me an awfully rough time, Ryan. I’ll have to eat crow that’s for sure, but your Mom will help us if she can. Obby would do anything for you, don’t you know that by now? She loves you very much.” There was no answer but the tense body beside her seemed to relax a bit.

***

Robbie looked up from the computer screen her blue eyes framed by her reading glasses. The eyes were not focused on the room. They saw instead a scene a thousand years ago through the camera lens. Harold Godwinesson, King of England, stood in the darkness and looked at the night sky over Westminster. It was the eve of Letania mainor, April 24th 1066. That night the long haired star had appeared. Some called it Comet. For the next seven nights, it would shine over England. Just as for a short time Harold, the only king of true English blood, would reign over the island kingdom. Like Haley’s Comet, Harold would appear out of the Dark Ages, shine for a brief second and disappear.

Yes, the film would start in black and white and explode into colour on the flare of the comet’s tail. Headlights flashed across tree trunks outside the cabin and Robbie realized with a start that her wife and daughter were home. The rehearsal must have ended early, Robbie thought, glancing at her watch and frowning. She hoped everything had gone well.

Her family entered on a blast of frigid air. Robbie got up and walked over to help Janet out of her coat. The muscles on the side where she had her surgery were still weak and little things like

slipping out of a coat could be awkward for her.

“Hi, loves, you two are home early.” Robbie saw Ryan look at Janet with worried eyes. Robbie’s gut tightened and she instinctively wrapped an arm around her daughter. The Bartlett drama society was staging William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Ryan had been cast as Viola, one of the twins that had been cast ashore in a storm. Janet was directing this year, not feeling well enough yet to act, and Greta Corry had agreed to take the role of Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother. “What’s wrong?”

“Ahhh, Ryan, why don’t you get ready for bed while I talk to your Mom, okay?” Ryan nodded, slipped out from under Robbie’s arm and disappeared down the hall to the bedroom she shared with her sister Reb.

Cold blue eyes targeted Janet’s. “What happened?!” Robbie demanded, a sharpness in her voice.

Janet put her hands on Robbie’s chest. “Hey, easy. Nothing has happened to hurt Ryan. I promise. I just need to talk to you and it’s going to be embarrassing enough without Ryan looking on,” explained Janet, feeling the anger in Robbie subsiding. She took her partner’s hand and lead her over to the chair by the fire.

Robbie sat. Janet paced. “Ahhh, Greta Corry has to have her gall bladder out. She’s had to drop out of the play. There’s only a few weeks before opening night. Ryan’s really disappointed. We don’t have an understudy.”

Robbie’s lip began to curl into a smug smile. An eyebrow went up as she crossed her long legs and looked at the squirming Janet patiently.

Janet saw the jig was up. She sighed in defeat and the red tide of embarrassment washed over her features. “I need your help,” she muttered, looking at the rug.

Silence.

Janet looked up into eyes sparkling with devilment. “You’re going to make this hard, aren’t you?”

“Very,” whispered Robbie, trying to control the laugher that was building inside. Oh God! This was sooo sweet!

“You are the only one who could take over that part so the play can go on,” admitted Janet.

“I know,” agreed Robbie, arrogantly flashing a delighted smile.

Janet started to lose her patience. “Oh come on Robbie, this is for Ryan! You’ve got to!”

Robbie got up and moved to circle behind Janet. She whispered into a soft, warm ear. “Who me? Who was told, by you, that under no circumstances was I to show my face at the Drama Society meeting even though I’d been personally invited by Greta Corry at the Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Robbie stepped away when Janet turned to look at her. “Let me see what was it you said; ‘I am not going to let you continue to use Bartlett as your personal playground, Robbie Williams’ wasn’t that it?” she asked innocently, enjoying watching Janet squirm.

Janet laughed and shook her head. “You are loving every minute of this, aren’t you?!”

Robbie grinned from ear to ear. “Yes!” She moved up and wrapped Janet in her arms. “So what are you going to do for me for helping you out of this little problem?”

Janet took a deep breath, drawing in the spicy smell that was her wife’s. “I guess I am yours to command,” she whispered, nuzzling Robbie’s strong neck. A dark head bent and hungry lips caught Janet’s in a long, deep kiss.

“I’m going to be a very demanding taskmaster,” revealed Robbie, dropping a kiss on Janet’s nose.

“You’ll play the part?” clarified a happy drama society director.

“Sure, anything for the kid,” smiled Robbie breathlessly, as Janet gave her a tight hug.

“Go tell Ryan, okay. She’s really worried and disappointed at the moment.”

Robbie dropped another kiss on Janet’s head. “Okay.”

***

Robbie found Ryan sitting on her bed with her earphones on. Janet said the earphones were a sure sign that Ryan was upset. They were her ‘I’ve got a problem’ indicator.

Ryan’s green eyes looked up and searched deeply into her Mom’s. She turned off her radio and lowered her earphones to hang around her neck.

“Hi,” whispered Robbie, so as not to wake Reb. “Can I come in?” Ryan nodded nervously. Robbie walked in and sat down on the edge of Ryan’s bed. “I don’t do stage. I do film,” Robbie explained. Ryan’s face crumpled with disappointment before she was able to force the muscles into an expressionless mask. “So I’m going to have to rely on you to train me for the role.”

Ryan was in her arms in an instant. “Thanks, Mom! You’re the greatest!”

“Hey, what could be better than being on stage with my own daughter? Mind you, I’m not sure about the director. What’s her name….Williams?”

Ryan giggled then covered her mouth so as not to disturb her sister’s sleep. “You’d better not let Aunt Janet hear you say that. She’s tough! You’ll have to learn the lines, Mom”

Robbie rolled her eyes. “Have I not been helping you to practice your lines every night for almost two months?! Believe me, I know the lines! Come on, let’s see if we can get the director to make us some hot chocolate.”

***

The next day, Janet stepped into David Potts’ General Store with relief. She had left her truck at the dealership up the road and walked into town in the bitter cold of the afternoon. David waved and called hi from the back of the store as she wandered over to the card section. Ryan’s birthday was coming and she wanted the perfect card to give her. She sorted through the various options and finally settled on a card with a photo of a sunset over a northern lake. Inside was printed Happy Birthday. It was ideally suited for Ryan; beautiful but not mushy.

Smiling she headed over to the counter. David rang it through for her. “So who is having the birthday?” he asked.

“Ryan. She’s going to be fifteen in a few weeks. We’re planning a birthday party for her. It’s a surprise.”

“Well, that’s great! Just great! She’s a nice kid. I hear Robbie is going to take Greta’s place in the play. It’ll be nice, them getting to be a mother and daughter act. Ticket sales are really up. I’m sold out and people have been asking if the show will run for an extra weekend. What do you think?

Janet laughed. “Well, I’ll have to ask the cast. It sure would help the drama society’s finances. Do you think enough people would buy tickets to run another two nights?”

“To see The Robbie Williams on stage?! You bet. You know she doesn’t look the same in fire pants.”

Janet snorted. “I’ll let her know you said so!”

“Oh dear! She won’t be mad will she?!” worried David.

“That ego maniac?! Not likely!” Janet laughed.

David grinned and then frowned and scratched his head. “Listen, Janet, while you are here. You wouldn’t know anything about computers would you? I just got one and I’m not sure how to use it.”

“Well, I don’t know a great deal but I do know most of the basics. Sure, let’s go have a look.”

David led Janet into the small office he had at the back of the store and stepped aside for Janet to have a look. Janet looked into the room and then at David with laughter in her eyes. “I think it will work a lot better, David, if you took it out of the cardboard boxes,” she giggled.

David blushed a bright red and smiled sheepishly. “Well, I didn’t want to lose any parts foolin around with it,” he admitted. Janet poked him good naturedly and took off her coat to tackle the assembly of David’s computer system.

“There are some excellent software packages you could use for inventory and ordering, David,” Janet observed, some time later, as she fitted in place the various cables into the back of the tower. “Is that why you got a computer?”

David’s face turned a luminous red again. “Oh dear, well actually, no. I’ve hooked up to the internet.”

“Really?!” smiled Janet, as she plugged the line into the phone jack. “Do you know how to access your mail? I could show you.”

David looked very relieved. “I don’t want to keep you, Janet, but that would be a great help to me!”

“No problem,” grinned Janet, giving David a wink and slipping into the chair in front of the keyboard. “My truck is in for a tune up so I’m waiting for Robbie and the girls to pick me up. They’re over at Drouillard’s Small Motors’ so you know how long they are going to be.”

Davis nodded with a laugh. Robbie and Ryan’s fascination with all things mechanical was common knowledge in the town thanks to the members of the Bartlett Fire Department who saw Robbie as one of the boys and Ryan as the crew’s radio assistant and mascot. Ryan had taken to going to the meetings with her Mom and although she was too young to train, she had made herself useful cleaning and repairing equipment and operating their rather old and fussy radio system when they were out on a call. Robbie teased that Ryan was a bit smarter but less obedient than a station dalmatian.

Robbie had bought the station a Jaws-of-Life apparatus for helping to get trapped people out of the mangled ruins of car accidents and today some of the volunteers were over at Droullard’s learning how to use it on a wreck they had dragged out of the dump. Ryan and Reb were playing the victims.

Janet showed David how to connect to the Internet and watched with surprise as eight messages were immediately received. The addy of all of them was EWilliams Janet turned to look at David in surprise. David glowed with embarrassment.

“Tell me all!” demanded Janet, with a grin.

“Oh dear!” blushed David, clearing his throat and shuffling his feet. “Well, you know, she is a wonderful woman and her research is terribly important! But I couldn’t help but notice,” if anything David got even redder at this point, “that she was underweight. You could tell she hadn’t been taking proper care of herself!”

“You know how much I enjoy cooking, and there is only my brother Ted and me, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to courier her the occasional pie or box of muffins. Bethy and I have found we have a lot in common and have kept in touch since the wedding,” confessed David.

Janet grinned mischievously. “David Potts, do you mean to tell me that you have been secretly courting Robbie’s sister!”

“Oh dear, no! I mean, yes, well, no!” stammered David. Janet waited, showing no mercy. This was just soo cute!

“I mean, we are just friends but I had been considering asking her out to hear Yo Yo Ma perform at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto next month. I confess that I am a little nervous about approaching Robbie on the subject.”

Janet’s eyes widened in surprise. “You are going to ask Robbie to ask her?!”

“Dear me, no! But since Robbie is sort of the head of the family, I felt it proper to ask her if it would be all right if I stepped out with Elizabeth,” explained David, with awkward dignity.

Janet bit her lip to stop from laughing. This moment in Williams’ history, she just HAD to be witness to! “David, I think that’s very honourable of you,” she managed to get out without laughing.

“Hi, Aunt Janet. Hi, Mr. Potts,” greeted Ryan, from the doorway. “Mom’s out in the truck with Reb. Reb’s crying because she wasn’t allowed to bring the Jaws of Life home with her. She thinks it’s really fun to hide behind a seat and be rescued.”

Janet stood and let a critical eye trail over Ryan’s body. The teenager was covered in dirt, rust and cobwebs. “Is Reb wearing the other half of the town dump?” she asked.

Ryan grinned. “Pretty much!”

Janet laughed and shook her head as she retrieved her coat. Quietly, Ryan stepped forward to help her settle the one arm into the sleeve. Janet smiled and gave the teen an affectionate bump. Saying their goodbyes to David, they walked out to the waiting truck.

***

It was only when Robbie had turned off the lights that night and slipped into bed beside Janet, that the teacher finally had the opportunity to tell Robbie about the computer and David’s intentions. To her surprise the light was snapped on again and Robbie was standing by the bed bristling with rage.

“Robbie! What’s wrong?” asked Janet, as she pulled the bedclothes around her chest and sat up.

“If he comes anywhere near Elizabeth, I’ll….I’ll…stop him!” Robbie growled.

Concern flooded Janet’s face. She wrapped the sheet around her and stood up to hug the naked woman who towered angrily over her. “Hey, easy, love. Come on. I need to talk to you, and it’s too cold standing here undressed by the bed.”

Robbie didn’t want to lie down again. She wanted to get dressed and go down to David Potts’ and beat the daylights out of him! But she didn’t want to upset Janet, so she sat on the edge of the bed and let her wife curl up beside her.

“Robbie, the e-mails, all eight of them, came from Elizabeth. They like each other. What’s wrong with that? It would be good for Elizabeth.”

“NO!” Robbie snarled, her head snapping around so cold blue eyes challenged soft green.

Those green eyes searched Robbie’s quietly for a very long time. “This has to do with the dark time, doesn’t it, Robbie? Something happened to Elizabeth and you are trying to protect her.”

Robbie stiffened and tried to pull away but Janet wouldn’t let go. “No, Robbie, I’m not going to push for information. It’s okay. I know you can’t talk about it. I just want you to realize that your reaction stems from whatever happened then. This is now. Elizabeth is reaching out. First, to your new family and now to David. That’s wonderful, Robbie. Don’t let your fears put an end to that.”

Robbie swallowed. Janet could feel her partner shaking with the effort of controlling her emotions. “I don’t want her hurt,” Robbie managed to force out of a tight throat.

“Hey,” Janet smiled, and gave Robbie an affectionate shake, “we’re talking David Potts here! He is the nicest man I have ever met! He’s polite, caring and ever so sweet. You know that, Robbie.”

Robbie wiped sweat from her upper lip. “People aren’t always what they seem,” she muttered bitterly.

“No, they’re not. But David is. He told me that before he asks Elizabeth out on a date, he is going to ask your permission to ‘step out’ with your sister. Isn’t that cute?”

Robbie swallowed but said nothing. Her eyes stared vacantly at the Navaho rug on the floor. “Robbie? I need you to be brave. I need you to trust David to take Elizabeth out, okay?”

The seconds ticked by and then Robbie nodded.

“If David talks to you, you’re not to terrorize him,” she warned, knowing all too well how a Williams’ mind worked.

Robbie frowned. “I got a right to know what his intentions are!” she protested.

Janet giggled and bumped against Robbie, surprised to feel the sheen of nervous sweat that covered her partner’s body. “His intentions are a Yo Yo Ma concert at the Roy Thompson Hall!”

Robbie rubbed her face and stood up, turning to look deeply into Janet’s eyes. “Okay.” she finally said, “I gotta go for a run.”

Janet nodded and watched as her partner changed into sweats and left to run through the cold wintry night. She was one step closer, she knew, to getting Robbie to let her see the festering wound that her partner hid deep in her soul. But at what price?

Sighing, Janet got out of the now cold bed and remade it. She wouldn’t be able to sleep until Robbie returned anyway. Time for a hot bath, and then she’d work at her desk until Robbie got back..

She went down the hall to the bathroom and turned on the water, then slipped off her nightie. As always, an emotional shock wave knotted her stomach when she caught sight of the red scar where her breast once had been. She swallowed and blinked back the tears. It was hard to deal with the issue of a new self image, a new way of dressing, a new way of feeling, the awkwardness that sometimes came over her when she made love with Robbie. All those things were hard enough, without that constant reminder that she had had cancer to see every day.

She’d talked to her counsellor about it and to her doctor and she knew what she wanted to do. How would Robbie feel about it? She wasn’t sure. One of these nights, when they tucked into bed and it was their quiet time together, she was going to have to broach the subject with her lover.

It was two hours later when Robbie returned, wheezing with the effort of taking in warm air into lungs cold and oxygen deprived. Robbie had run full out until her muscles screamed and her head was too dizzy to think anymore. Then she had forced herself to keep up a steady jog back to the cabin.

Janet had met her there, wrapping her in a quick hug and then getting the shower ready for Robbie while the runner stripped from her sweat suit. They had showered together, Janet washing Robbie’s hair gently and soothing her like she would a child. Robbie went along numbly, needing the love and security that Janet was providing but too upset and exhausted to articulate those thoughts.

In bed, they made love, Robbie needing to be as close as she could to her wife. Janet responded with open trust, trying to reassure Robbie that love was good, safe and beautiful. Much later, Janet fell asleep sprawled on her belly with her lover already fast asleep on top of her.

***

The letter from the lawyer had arrived on Friday morning but it had been Saturday before Robbie had opened it. Janet could see by the change in Robbie’s expression that the contents of the letter had upset her. The school teacher finished wiping down the counter and then went over to whisper in Ryan’s ear as the teen helped clean up Reb from her morning breakfast of Pablum.

“I need to talk to your Mom. Could you keep Reb busy in the bedroom for half an hour?” Ryan looked over to where her mother sat at Aunt Janet’s desk. Her Mom wore that emotionless look that Ryan had come to realize meant that the feelings inside were running high.

“Sure, Aunt Janet,” she nodded softly. “Reb and I will go make your bed. She likes to play hide and seek with the covers.”

Janet smiled and gave Ryan a squeeze. “I’ll tell you about it later,” she promised, as her adopted daughter swung Reb from her highchair and led the small child out of the room.

Janet went over and placed her hands on Robbie’s shoulders, leaning over to kiss the top of her lover’s head. “Anything I can do?” she asked Robbie.

Robbie sighed. “We need to talk. You’d better come sit on the couch.”

Janet followed the tense director over. What could have gone wrong? she wondered, a frown forming on her face.

Robbie sat on the edge of the settee and looked really uncomfortable. A deep blush slowly seeped up her neck. “This letter is from the family lawyer. It is about the settlement of my brother’s estate. You know that each of my father’s children got five million on his death. Alexandria got thirty million. The remaining five million and the family estate was held in trust to go to the first grandchild born.”

“Yes,” nodded Janet.

“When Reb was born, that trust was handed over to my brother to manage, as the terms of the will indicated,” explained Robbie, nervously making eye contact with Janet.

“Robbie, Reb doesn’t need the money. It should be Ryan’s anyway. I don’t care about it,” Janet reassured.

Robbie shook her head irritably. “No, Reb’s the legitimate heir. I have no problem with that. Ryan will inherit half of my estate and you the other half. That will leave you both very wealthy women. It’s Reb I’m worried about,” Robbie swallowed and mumbled with embarrassment. “Billy spent a good deal of the money.”

“He spent Reb’s trust fund,” Janet clarified.

“Three million of it,” revealed Robbie sadly.

“On what!?” asked Janet, in disbelief.

Robbie squirmed. “Billy had some problems…because…because of before. He couldn’t…I mean he never…well, he just couldn’t do it. That’s why we were all kind of suspicious of you having Billy’s child because we knew that he’d never been capable before. It looks like he had gone through his own money on establishing himself in racing and in getting treatments for…his problem at a Swiss clinic. He needed more money so he had an heir. He took Reb’s inheritance to pay for the artificial fertilization and also for treatments for himself.”

Janet shrugged. “Oh well.”

Robbie looked up in surprise. “It wasn’t right! He stole from his own kid! He had a child to get money because he had gone through his own!” snarled Robbie.

Janet shrugged again. “Okay, I agree. It was wrong. But he’s dead, Robbie, trying no doubt to prove he was a man. I’ve got Reb and that delights me. Were my motivations anymore noble?”

Robbie blushed and looked away. Janet answered for her. “No, they weren’t! I wanted money and I wanted a child. So I’m partly responsible for Reb’s inheritance being misused. But I don’t care! I’m happy. Reb’s happy, and we are doing just fine. Don’t worry about it, Robbie!”

“I’ll make it up to the kid,” Robbie promised, taking Janet’s hand.

Janet squeezed the hand. “You already have. You, Ryan and that thing you dragged home and insist on calling a dog, Rebecca loves you all dearly. You’ve brought so much into Reb’s life! That’s all that matters. You write your silly law firm and tell them just to finish off the paper work and not to worry about the mismanagement of the trust. Reb was worth it!” grinned Janet.

Then she giggled.

“What’s so funny?” asked Robbie, putting an arm around Janet.

“I just know that when Reb is much older and can understand all this, she is going to really enjoy being the product of an illegal act!”

“Hey! That’s our daughter you are taking about and she is perfect,” protested Robbie.

Janet bumped her forehead lightly against Robbie’s. “No, she is a Williams and that spells trouble!”

***

Trouble arrived the following week with the annual old timers’ hockey tournament. Several years before, Greta Corry had organized an all women’s team to compete. “Lips”, Lady Ice Players, had never won a game against the male teams, whose players had all played on amateur hockey leagues at one time or another. Everyone did have a good time however, and the all girl team always brought out the crowds when they were playing.

This year, Greta could not take her place in goal because of her gall bladder problems and Janet couldn’t take the left wing position because of her surgery. They had to settle with managing and coaching the team.

Amanda Singh was recruited for goal and Robbie and Ryan were picked up as forwards. Suddenly, the women found they had a team that could actually win games! On Friday night, they had surprised the Creaky Joints from Harriston with a three-two win and then on Saturday they had gone on to defeat the Bartlett Golden Jets by a score of four-one! Sunday found them facing the Helingone Rusty Blades in a grudge match final.

Janet reviewed her game plan options. Amanda skated poorly but she had played goal for her school’s soccer team as a child back in India. She was flexible and fast in net despite the large pads and protective gear she had to wear. Carolyn Carr could hold her own on defense having grown up playing backyard hockey with her brother. Glades Billingsley, the minister’s wife, was a little weak on left defense but she made up for it by providing hot chocolate and cookies for the team.

Robbie had taken figure skating as a child and was quick and confident on her skates. She had a powerful shot although not an always accurate one. Ryan was a good skater too. She had played hockey on various school teams and played smart. Unlike her mother, her shots were always on the net. They would play the forward wings. In centre, Greta and Janet had decided on Stacy Barlow from the donut shop. She was a tough, wiry woman who never gave up.

The rules for old timer hockey were pretty flexible. You were supposed to be an amateur and be over thirty to play. But in the small northern towns, where the populations were low, anyone who wanted to still play hockey after they had out grown the leagues could pretty well join as an old timer. The games were just for fun and no body contact was allowed.

The women’s team was mostly women in their thirties and forties but Ryan was a teenager and Amanda and Janet were still in their late twenties. Corry had got the organizers to waver the age restriction for the women so that they could get enough players to make up a team.

Janet stood by the boards and took pictures with Robbie’s camera of Ryan and Robbie warming up on the ice. The mother and daughter skated leisurely around the rink holding Reb by the hands. Reb had on a pair of double bladed skates and was dressed up in a hockey sweater and helmet just like her big sister and aunt. Robbie had paid Floe Butler to remake a team jersey for Reb and had bought her a kid’s sized helmet. A cut down hockey stick had completed the outfit and Janet had to admit that Reb looked cute as a button.

Reb idolized her big sister and aunt and most of the time Janet thought that was just great. Her daughter couldn’t have a better pair of role models at least ninety per cent of the time. Then there was that ten per cent of the time when that “no limits, no fear” attitude of the Williams’ came out and that scared the hell out of Janet. She understood that it was the quality that allowed them to take their natural talents and push them to greatness, but it was very worrying and stressful to deal with at times. She had come to realize that one of the things she could do in her marriage with Robbie was to help her partner use her tremendous focus to do good things rather than negative.

Janet smiled and brought her focus back to the game. Helingone had a good team. The game was being billed as a grudge match because Jim Adleton was the Rusty Blades star player. Everyone knew that there were bad feelings between Robbie and Jim about the Winter Carnival snowmobile race. Janet frowned. She needed to remind Robbie again that this was a friendly game and not to lose her temper.

Already there had been some underhanded play. A very embarrassed official had come to Janet and Greta and told them that according to the Hockey Association regulations all players had to wear athletic cups. It appeared that someone on the Heligone team had pointed out to the officials that if there was an injury they could be liable if the women were not wearing the proper protective gear.

“An injury to what?!” Janet had exploded, but the red faced official had just shrugged. It had been Amanda Singh who had saved the day by phoning her husband, Mohammed, who owned the local clothes store. He arrived with a large grin and enough athletic cups for the team. There had been incredible joking and giggling in the dressing room as the team fitted the useless gear into place. Stacy had the team near to hysterics when she announced that she thought she’d start wearing one full time because it was a handy spot to tuck her tips.

Greta’s voice cut into Janet’s thoughts. “Okay, ladies, come over here!” The team headed over to the bench for their final instructions.

Robbie bent down and lifted a beaming Reb over the boards to her other mother. “There you go, Reb. Don’t forget to cheer for us, now.”

Reb looked at Robbie with big, baby blue eyes. “I won’t forget, Obby. I cheer!” she promised seriously. Robbie leaned over and patted Reb’s helmeted head.

“Okay, it is the Williams/Barlow line out there first,” explained Janet, as she balanced Reb on the boards. “Stacy, you take the face off and try to get the puck to Obby. She’ll take it down the ice with Ryan at her heels. Once over the blue line, Ryan, you cut ahead and go behind the net. When you come around the other side, Obby will have passed the puck and you tap it in the corner. That’s our entire game play. Any questions?”

The team shook their heads and prepared to head out to centre ice. “Obby?” called Janet.

“Hmmm?” the director responded, coming back to the boards.

“Remember this is a FUN game. Be good,” Janet warned.

Robbie scowled good naturedly and skated off to her position shadowing Jim Ableton. The ref got ready to drop the puck.. Ableton smiled at Robbie and in a voice just loud enough for the players to hear he said, “So, Williams, you wearing an athletic cup?” Several of the male players snorted.

Robbie winked at her daughter on the other side of the face off circle. “Sure am, Jimmy. I keep trophies in it. But you’re safe ’cause I only keep the big ones.” The ref dropped the puck. Stacy snapped it over to Robbie and the Williams were on their way down the ice while the men were still laughing at Ableton. Ryan rocketed behind the net, Robbie passed and Ryan was there to jam the puck in the corner of the net before the Helingone goalie could react. Less than a minute into the game, and the ladies were leading one nothing!

“It worked! It worked!” screamed Greta, from the bench.

“Kill them!” yelled Reb, at the top of her baby lungs and Janet looked down at her daughter in shock. The Williams clan had struck again!

The less than friendly game was tied at two two in the third period when Ryan was fed a shot from Stacy and found herself on a break away. She picked up speed and careened down the ice with Jim Ableton behind her. Seeing he couldn’t catch Ryan, he dove with his stick out, stretched, and tripped her up. Ryan skidded across the cold ice on her face and went head first into the corner boards. Her helmet flew off and she lay lifeless on her ice.

For a second, everyone froze in horror, the only sound, the grating of Ryan’s helmet spinning like a top on the ice. “Ryan!” Robbie screamed into the silence, and dropping her stick and gloves, the director charged over to her daughter.

Janet passed Reb to Greta and went over the boards. She ran down the ice and slid in beside Robbie, who knelt by the still figure of her daughter afraid to move her. “Ryan, honey. Ryan, are you all right?” Robbie asked in a shaky voice.

Ryan heard her mother scream her name as the blackness closed in around her. Now she tried to fight her way through the pain and fog to reassure her mom that she was okay. The mouth wouldn’t work. She tried rolling over. “Don’t move, Ryan!” a panicky voice commanded. Ryan felt her mother’s hands trembling as they tried to support her neck and head.

“I’m okay, Mom,” Ryan finally got out, opening her eyes to watch several faces of her mother and aunt spin around in front of her. “Honest. I just got my bell rung.” She blinked several times and the world came into focus.

“The kid shouldn’t have been playing anyway,” justified Ableton from behind Robbie. Robbie gave a roar of anger that echoed through the arena like a war cry. She rose like a mushroom cloud above her teammates who were clustered around Ryan. Abeton swung his stick up in reflex when he saw the fire in Robbie’s eyes. In a lightening move, Robbie pulled the stick out of his hands.

Another Heligone player skated over to try and grab Robbie from behind. Amanda casually stuck out her goalie stick and tripped him up sending him sprawling into Stacy, who went down.

Gloves came off, sticks dropped and a bench clearing free for all exploded around Robbie. The crowd cheered them on. Janet covered Ryan with her body and secretly prayed that Robbie would knock Ableton’s block off!

The game was ended by a very frustrated and over-work ref who sent the players to their dressing rooms and called the game a tie.

***

Janet drove her truck load of Williams olives home in stony silence. Three guilty Williams sat wedged in the back seat. Ryan rested her sore head on her mother’s shoulder and Robbie held a tissue to her own bloody nose. Ryan poked her mom.

“Ahhh, are you mad at us?” Robbie asked nasally.

Silence. Her back to her family, Janet smiled. Let them sweat, she thought.

“I mean, I know you must be upset, but you’re not going to stay mad, are you?” Robbie tried again, feeling Ryan’s hand slip into her own. Robbie gave her insecure daughter’s hand a squeeze.

“Well, let’s see…in three years, Lips has never had a penalty and in just one game, the Williams managed to cause a bench-clearing brawl. Then there is the not so little matter of one of you having trained Rebecca to chant ‘Kill them.’ I could probably be philosophical about all of this had it not been for the lecture I just got at the doctor’s office for letting Ryan play when she was recovering from a major head injury! Like it is MY responsibility to keep you motley crew of Williamses in line!” Janet growled, in mock anger.

“We’re sorry,” Ryan said worriedly. Robbie gave her a hug to reassure her that everything would be okay.

Janet snorted. “I don’t believe THAT for a moment! You three were in your element, up to your collective backsides in trouble!”

“Obby killed them!” offered Reb, helpfully.

“Shhh, kid,” whispered Ryan.

“Ahhh, Reb, don’t say that, okay?” Robbie said, reaching past Ryan to pet Reb’s shoulder. “It’s not nice.”

“Ryan say it!” protested Reb, incredulously, refusing to believe that anything her big sister did could be wrong.

“Ryan isn’t going to say it anymore either!” stated Robbie firmly, giving her daughter a look. Ryan smiled sheepishly.

Janet decided that she had made her troublesome family squirm long enough. “The only reason the three of you are not sleeping in the snow tonight is the shiner Obby gave that big bully Ableton!”

Ryan’s worried face broke into a big smile. “Mom rocked, didn’t she, Aunt Janet?!”

“You bet she did!” Janet agreed, and heard the collective sigh of relief from the back seat.

“Does this mean we can still order in pizza?” asked Robbie tentatively.

Janet laughed and shook her head as she pulled up in front of their cabin. “We might as well, since we have to sit up for a while with Ryan and make sure she hasn’t got a concussion!” giggled Janet.

***

Much later that night, Janet rolled over to kiss her lover’s sore nose. “How are you doing, champ?” she asked.

“Okay,” came the nasal response and Janet smiled.

“Robbie, how would you feel about reconstructive surgery?”

“My nose isn’t that bad,”muttered the director.

“I meant for me,” came the serious response.

Robbie sat up and turned the light on, watching her partner blink in its glow. “What?!”

Janey pulled herself up beside her lover. “How do you feel about me having reconstructive surgery to form my missing breast? I…I’ve been reading up on it.”

Robbie blinked, went to say something, stopped and tried again. “Well, I don’t know. I mean I never thought about it. It doesn’t bother me that you have had a mastectomy but the thought of you having more surgery does bother me. Why would you want to? Did I say or do something that made you think I don’t find you appealing?” Janet’s worried wife asked.

Janet looked at her hands that lay folded on the bedclothes in front of her. “No, you’ve been great.”

“Well, then, forget it!” responded Robbie irritably. Those days had been like a nightmare. Robbie just wanted to forget it and move on. The last thing she wanted to do was walk through a set of hospital doors with Janet again. If anything happened to Janet … no! She didn’t want to deal with this!

“Robbie, unlike other surgeries, a mastectomy is a day to day reminder of your battle with cancer. The reminder is there in the morning when I wake up and it’s there when I take a shower. It’s there when I go to bed or when I’m trying on clothes and it is definitely there when we make love.

“You’ve been a wonderful partner through it all but I can’t help but wonder if you are affected more than you would ever admit to me. These little insecurities pop into my head now and again. I think I handled the whole episode pretty well emotionally and intellectually, but I have to tell you honestly…there are days when I don’t want that reminder…can you understand that Robbie?”

Robbie licked her lips and tried to absorb what Janet had told her. She nodded, reluctantly. “Yeah, I can understand. What would they do?”

Janet got more comfy. “Well, there are different procedures depending on the type of mastectomy. For me, it would be quite a long process. First, a saline implant that can be inflated would be implanted and a muscle from either the stomach or back would be placed over top. Gradually the implant would be inflated over a number of weeks to stretch the muscle and skin. When the muscle has been stretched sufficiently, the inflatable saline implant would be replaced with a permanent silicone one.”

Robbie looked at her, eyes wide with fright. “No! Those implant thingies are dangerous!”

Janet smiled and gave her partner a reassuring hug. “Actually, the hullabaloo over silicone is greatly exaggerated. Most problems occurred in the early years of testing or because of inexperienced doctors. Normally, everything goes just fine.”

Silence. Then, “Don’t you need that muscle in your stomach or back?” argued Robbie.

“The use of the stomach muscle is not recommended for active women because if you lift heavy things you risk getting a hernia. The loss of the muscle in the back does weaken it but with proper exercise the remaining back muscles can compensate and you can regain that strength.”

“Oh.” Robbie could feel a tension headache coming on. She knew she had to work through this with Janet but it was hard.

“Once the permanent implant is in then they’ll reshape my good breast so they match and have a more youthful shape,” finished Janet.

“Shit! More surgery?!” exploded Robbie, in annoyance. She definitely didn’t want this to be happening! Okay, so it was a bit weird having a wife with one breast but hell it didn’t matter. It wasn’t affecting their sex life…or was it?!

Robbie turned and looked deeply into Janet’s eyes, searching for the truth. “Aren’t you having good orgasms? I mean, is it bothering you to the point where I’m not satisfying you? I thought it was good. I mean it’s great with you…am I doing something wrong ’cause…”

Janet’s lips ended the flood of insecurity. “You, Robbie Williams, are as sexy as hell in bed and there is nothing wrong with our sex life! I just…I just want to feel whole.”

Robbie saw the pain in Janet’s eyes and pulled her close. “Okay, lover. If you want this, then I want it too. When?”

“Not for a few years, I think. I want to make sure…well, that they got it all. I need time to get over the treatments too.” She hugged Robbie close feeling the tenseness in Robbie’s body. “You okay, with that?”

“Yeah, I’m okay with that. Thanks for talking to me about it. It will give me time to…you know get used to the idea,” confessed Robbie.

Janet smiled. Her big, brave hockey star was a wuss when it came to anything that was going to affect Janet. Love you for that! she thought and leaned over for another kiss. “We could just test to make sure my evaluation of you as a super lover is accurate,” teased Janet. Robbie obliged.

***

Robbie and Rufus dropped Janet, Ryan and Reb off at The Bartlett School for the Gifted and headed into town to run some errands. Her last stop was to David Potts’ General Store to pick up the large bag of dog food of the type that Rufus preferred.

Rufus sat by the window watching. Inside the store, Robbie hefted the heavy bag on the counter and waited for David to ring it in. “Robbie, before you go,” started David, the colour rising in his face. “I wonder if I might have a word with you.”

The colour drained from Robbie’s face as quickly as it had risen in David’s. Oh shit! “I’m kind of busy,” evaded Robbie.

“Please, Robbie. It will only take a minute.” Robbie nodded and followed David through the store and back into his office. A new Pentium III sat on the desk top. Robbie sneered at it.

“Won’t you be seated, please.” Robbie sat, trying to look relaxed when she was anything but. Remember you promised Janet, she kept repeating to herself as she watched David carefully take off his apron, straightened his tie and slip into his jacket.

“As the head of the Williams family, I thought it proper that I make my intentions known to you and ask your approval to step out with your sister,” David managed to get out, determination winning over his natural shyness.

“Just what are you intentions?” asked Robbie, a little sharper than she had intended.

David swallowed nervously. “Well, I have told Elizabeth, we communicate daily by e-mail, that you and Ryan are going to star in Twelfth Night. I offered to buy her ticket if she was free and if you were willing to set up Bill’s trailer again for her to stay in. Also, Elizabeth has a season concert ticket to the Roy Thompson and I was going to ask if I could buy a ticket and join her to hear Yo Yo Ma next month.”

Robbie looked at David with eyes cold as ice. David stood quietly with embarrassed dignity. Robbie stood and looked directly in his eye. “Yes, if Elizabeth wishes, she may come to see Twelfth Night with you. Yes, I will arrange for the trailer. Then I’ll talk to Elizabeth and decide about the Toronto concert. I don’t want my sister hurt, David.”

David looked truly upset. “Robbie! I wouldn’t do anything to hurt Elizabeth or anyone else!”

Robbie smiled letting some of the tension go. Janet was right, David was just plain sweet. “Yeah, I know, but Bethy well, she’s not out going like me…” Robbie fumbled for words. This was not David’s business, damn it!

David nodded. “I know. She has been badly hurt in the past. She told me so,” revealed David softly. “Robbie, I haven’t had much experience with dating. But I feel very comfortable with Elizabeth and she needs me. You know that condo she owns is such a burden to her. She can’t seem to find a decent manager and…”

“Elizabeth owns a condo?!” exclaimed Robbie, eyes widening in surprise.

“Yes, the one she lives in. She is doing very important research and she doesn’t need to be bothered with number 32A’s leaky showerhead, now does she?” asked David, coming to Elizabeth’s defense.

Robbie smirked. “No, leaky heads are a bitch,” she acknowledged, knowing David would not pick up on the double meaning.

David nodded in agreement. “And you know, she doesn’t take care of herself. She gets so involved in her work that she forgets to eat properly. I’ve been sending her some treats. She is very fond of my sticky buns.”

Robbie tried not to laugh. She never thought she would end up enjoying this conversation with David! David went on unaware of Robbie’s merriment. “I thought I’d take my tool box down to Toronto, that’s if it is alright, and see what I can do to help out around there. I’m not as active as my brother Bill, but I think I can handle a tool as good as any man!” David finished with feeling.

Gathering all her stage presence, Robbie managed to say, “I’m sure you can, David. Please tell Bethy we’ll look forward to seeing her. The kids will be delighted that they will be seeing their aunt again.” Then she escaped to the truck. Rufus sat on the front seat beside her and watched her with a puzzled expression. Robbie kept bursting out laughing and wiping her eyes to see the road as she headed the truck back to the cabin.

***

Janet sat at her desk working at her computer, listening with one ear to the family noises. Squeals and laughter floated out from the bathroom where Robbie was dying Ryan’s hair to the same colour as her own and helping her with her make up for the play opening tonight. In the living room, Reb had recently discovered that Rufus followed voice commands and she was making the shaggy dog’s life a living hell.

“Sit!” commanded the small figure looking up at the huge dog that stood in front of her. Rufus reached out his massive muzzle and licked the top of Reb’s head affectionately before sitting as he had been told. “Good dog!” praised Reb, petting the wide, shaggy chest.

“Reb, play with your toys and leave poor Rufus alone. He needs to sleep.” suggested Janet.

Her daughter, Rebecca, looked at her with big, serious eyes and then back at the dog. “Sleep, Rufus!” she commanded, and then sat down on the rug to play with the blocks that Ryan had bought for her. Sometime later, Janet looked over to see her daughter fast asleep curled up against Rufus’s side. Quietly, she got out Robbie’s camera and took a picture. Sometimes, she loved her daughter so much it almost hurt.

Carefully, she lifted her daughter and got her ready for bed. Carolyn and Amanda were going to take turns baby sitting during the play nights. She went into the bed room to change. A few minutes later the other half of her family barged in all smiles.

Janet started in surprise. With the expert make up job and change in colouring, Ryan was the spitting image of her mother. “My God! You two could be twins!” gasped Janet. Both Williams smiled.

“Mom’s a bit taller but I’m gaining on her,” observed Ryan.

“Kid, you are never going to be as tall as me!” teased Robbie, giving her daughter a poke. “I’m just going to check on Elizabeth and then as soon as Carolyn arrives we can be off.”

Janet looked at Ryan after her mother had left. The resemblance was amazing! “Are you nervous?” asked Janet.

Ryan frowned and thought about the question in the serious, intense way that her aunt Elizabeth had. “I would have been if I’d been playing next to Greta but not with Mom. Mom will make sure everything goes all right. If I forget a line of something, she’ll ad-lib. She’s cool,” Ryan observed proudly.

Janet nodded. “Yes, she is. That sounds like Carolyn’s car so we’ll better get our coats on. You’ll need lots of time to change into your costumes and review before the performance.”

At the trailer, Robbie had tried to stall, saying that she didn’t think she should leave Elizabeth alone. Janet pointed out the obvious, that Carolyn and Reb were in the cabin only a few feet away if there was a problem. Robbie chewed on her lip and tried to think of another excuse to stall until David got there. Janet, however, gave her a warning frown and herded her into the truck, noting Elizabeth’s look of relief as she did so.

The play was a roaring success. Elizabeth had a wonderful evening with David and the entire family, including David, had ended opening night with a late dinner at Maria’s. The next day, Elizabeth had taken the helicopter back to Toronto. David had shown up in time for the goodbyes and been so bold as to kiss Elizabeth on the cheek. Janet had held onto Robbie really tightly!

Ryan blossomed on stage and had a sense of timing with the audience that had them in stitches as she played Viola the shipwrecked twin who had dressed as a man and found the Lady her master, Orsino, had sent her to court on his behalf was actually falling in love with her!. Sebastian, the male twin was played by Robbie and the audience howled as she was courted by the Lady, Olivia, who thought she was still the male Viola .

The following weekend, Janet had time to note how Robbie only took over the stage when Ryan was not on with her. She carefully let her daughter have the limelight. Robbie was just good down to the centre of her being but she hid it so well behind that protective wall of aggressiveness, Janet realized. From the wings on the last night, Janet used up the rest of the film in Robbie’s camera. The cast took their final bow and walked off stage to a standing ovation.

The cast party had been a cheery affair and the Williams clan had slept in a bit the next morning. Robbie and Janet were up in time, however, to get a special breakfast ready. It was Ryan’s birthday, and Robbie was trying to make up for all the birthdays she hadn’t been there for Ryan.

Finally, Robbie could stand it no longer and she went in to wake her daughter up. “Happy Birthday, Ryan!” she grinned, hugging her daughter close to her as Ryan sleepily sat up in bed. She felt Ryan stiffen and realized the old hurts were returning. Robbie was getting better at dealing with them though. “Ryan, I wish I could make up for all those birthdays when I should have been there for you. Please, just indulge your mother today, and let me try to show you how much your birth meant to me in my heart. I love you, Ryan.”

Ryan’s body relaxed and she hugged her Mom back. “I love you too, Mom,” she responded softly.

“Come on! We’ve got a birthday planned for you that will be the talk of the town!” laughed Robbie, pulling her daughter out of bed. The morning had been a happy if riotous affair. They had breakfasted on French crepes filled first with ham and scrambled eggs and second with fruit and whipped cream. Then they’d sat around the fire and let Ryan open her presents. Reb’s present was opened first. It was a crayon picture of Ryan in a sailboat on Long Lake, Reb explained in her serious way. It had been carefully framed down at Paul Digby’s art and framing shop. Ryan promised to hang it on their bedroom wall and gave her little sister a teary hug.

Janet had bought Ryan her own life-vest and had a cherry wood paddle made for her that had her initials etched into an oak leaf pattern on the blade. Ryan ran her hand over the polished wood and looked up with tears rolling down her face. “Thanks, Aunt Janet,” she got out hoarsely.

Then Robbie’s gifts got brought out. A table saw, jig saw, tool kit, and a set of plans for the building of an Australian sailing dory. “I thought we could build it together this spring,” explained Robbie nervously. Ryan said nothing. She wrapped herself in her mother’s arms and stayed there sobbing. Janet took Reb to clean up and left the two alone.

“You okay, Ryan?” asked Robbie insecurely.

Ryan nodded and pulled her mother closer. “We’re going to stay together, right mom?” Ryan asked.

Pain shot through Robbie’s heart and she stroked her daughter’s hair. “We are a family, Ryan. That’s forever. I promise.”

“That was some birthday!” Ryan sniffed, pulling away a bit to wipe her eyes.

“Kid, this is only the beginning! We’re going to have a great day! Come on, let’s get dressed, and go and have some fun!”

The Williams clan was just slipping into their coats when the knock came at the door. Janet opened it. It was Constable Jarvis, who boarded down at Greta’s. “Hi, Jerry, come in!” said Janet. “We were just celebrating Ryan’s birthday!”

A look of pain ran across the young Constable’s face. “Robbie, this isn’t correct procedure, but I asked the Sergeant if I could come in here and leave the others outside. We all know you, what with all of us volunteering on the fire brigade and well, this isn’t easy. “Roberta Williams, I’m arresting you for the murder of your father…”

“What?!” interrupted Janet in disbelief, moving to stand by her partner defensively.

Robbie’s hand came up to touch her shoulder lightly before falling away. “Shhh, Janet. Let him read me my rights.”

Jerry Jarvis bit his lip. “I gotta put these cuffs on you, Robbie. It’s the rules.” Robbie nodded and turned around putting her hands behind her. The Constable stepped forward and nervously snapped the metal cuffs around her wrists. She turned back again and Jarvis took out the card to read Robbie her rights.

“You’ve got to come now, Robbie,” he explained, when he was finished. The room was deathly quiet and he felt very uncomfortable. Robbie looked around the cabin that she had come to love.

Her eyes met Ryan’s and saw the pain of betrayal. Ryan turned and walked out of the room. Reb looked at her with eyes wide with fear and on the verge of tears. Then her eyes met Janet’s and she saw that Janet knew the truth and loved her anyway.

Janet reached up and kissed Robbie. “I’ll come as soon as I get in touch with your lawyer, love.” Robbie nodded. Jarvis looked at his boots. He’d heard rumours that Robbie and Janet were gay but he hadn’t really believed it. This was turning into a hell of a day.

“Is the press out there too?” Robbie asked quietly.

“Just Lucier so far,” Constable Jarvis responded.

Robbie grinned cynically. “An exclusive, eh? Lucky him. Let’s go.”

Janet watched Robbie leave with the Constable. She never looked back.
Part 2
The library of the hundred and ninety-five year old house was warm and cozy. One wall was book shelves rising to the ten foot ceiling. On the second wall, a fire in the old hearth crackled softly against the morning chill, the third contained an archway of french doors and the last held a carved Victorian china cabinet. The walls not covered by books, were rag rolled to look like soft suede and framed on them was an eclectic mixture of rare art; a fragment of an ancient Egyptian painting on papyrus, an illustration from a 16th century Persian manuscript, and two 18th century wood block prints from a Japanese pillow book. On the mantel was a section of rock containing fossilized fish from the Green River prehistoric fossil beds and sitting on the oak library table, were the woman worked, was three Nigerian clay ink pots tied together with bark. An Edwardian chandelier bathed the room in mellow light and Antonio Vivaldi’s Larghetto concerto OP. 3 played softly in the background.

It was a scholar’s room, the remaining furniture consisting of two over-stuffed wingback chairs, and the library table’s sturdy armchair. The woman sitting there, however, was a jarring contrast to the surroundings. She was tall and lean with the wiry muscles of an athlete. She wore running shoes, sweat pants and a T-shirt that read: FORENSICS: The Dead Do Talk!

The dark head leaned forward holding the magnifying glass close to the small object that she held in her other hand. She was examining the left anterior view of a fragment of maxilla bone. The frontal, zygomatic, and alveolar progress were present as was the anterior nasal spine.

Deciduous teeth, only DI2, DC1 and DP3 remaining. Considerable charring, Doctor Alberta Pateas noted, placing the jaw fragment back in the cardboard box that held the rest of the bones. Male, approximately three years old. A First Nations’ pot burial, she concluded, closing her eyes and letting her senses drift on the flow of the music. The child in the box had been forgotten.

The oak, pendulum clock on the wall had just softly chimed the hour when the vibration in Alberta’s pocket indicated a phone call. She sighed, slipping a long slim hand into her pocket to pull out a small cell phone and flip it open. “Pateas.”

“Al, it’s Tom Bates. There is a squad on the way. I need you to exhume a possible murder victim before the press get word of it. This one looks like it is going to be high profile. The body was buried in a shallow grave about fifteen years ago.”

“Terrain?”

“Woods.”

“Shit! I hate acting like a pig hunting truffles!” Pateas growled.

The man snorted. “As if. Al, it’s the Williams’ case. The body’s possibly the old man, Philip Williams. A witness, who was a kid back then, got a bout of conscience and came to tell us. She saw the grave dug and led police to it.”

Pateas sneered. “So how much did the tabloids pay her to discover her conscience?”

“Enough, I guess. She had a reporter in tow claiming to be doing his civic duty. I need you out there quick before the place is crawling with them. Once this guy publishes his exclusive, all hell will break out. Go get the bones, and I’ll do the examination as soon as they arrive.”

Alberta looked out the window. It was a grey, cold, blustery spring day. Yesterday, it had rained heavily. She sighed; rank had privilege. “Okay.”

***

Bill Gorski had been on the force for less than a year but he knew of Doctor Alberta Pateas. She worked out at the same fitness centre as he did. She was gorgeous! Nice enough too…as long as you didn’t try to get too close. Word had it in the police rumour mill that she had about as much emotion as the dead she worked with. A pretty strange profession really, examining bones for a living. Why would anyone WANT to do that?! Still, if his grizzly remains were ever found in a shallow grave, he sure hoped it was Pateas’ beautiful hands fondling his bones. He smiled at his own joke as he turned off the car and opened the door.

A cold, wet wind blew around him. This was going to be a hell of a day to play in the mud, he sighed, as he walked up the pathway. He rang the door bell of the French lap building, and read the blue metal historical plaque on the wall as he waited; The Sinclair House, 1805.

The door opened. “Come in. I’ll be right with you. You might as well enjoy some warmth while you can,” the beautiful woman said, her tall figure moving away from him down the hall as he watched.

“Ahhh, thanks.”

“What’s your name?” asked the voice from inside a closet.

“Gorski, ma’am. Bill.”

Pateas reappeared carrying a big gym bag and now wearing a warm rain jacket. “I’m Alberta. Let’s go, Bill.”

At the estate near Unionville, Bill drove the squad down the long paved drive and around the back of the house. Off in the distance, across the perfectly manicured lawns, yellow police tape could be seen tied to trees at the edge of the bush. It fluttered wildly in the wind. Alberta sighed and opened her door, letting the blast of the blustery spring day enter the confines of the warm car. Bill grimaced and got out to join the forensic anthropologist.

Alberta had got her bag out of the back seat and, hoisting the strap up on her shoulder, she headed out over the cold, soggy grass. She was glad she had changed to waterproof rain shoes. Bill kept pace beside her. He wondered if he should offer to carry the heavy looking bag. Better not. The lady seemed capable of taking care of herself, and word had it you didn’t want to offend the Doctor.

Several miserable looking officers stood around a partly dug up grave. The outline of a skeleton could be seen in the wet, black earth. “Morning, men. Hell off a day,” greeted Pateas, dropping her gym bag down and squatting by the hole. “Did you guys do the digging?”

“Yes, ma’am,” came the response from a burly looking cop standing on the opposite side of the grave.

“I’ll need the dirt collected and boxed for sifting. There might be evidence in it we can use. Did they take photos?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Pateas stood and then bent over the gym bag. She pulled out a pair of hip waders and stepped into them. Taking off her jacket, she passed it to Bates to hold, while she slipped her suspenders into place. Then gratefully she accepted back the jacket. Next, she pulled a cement trowel out of the bag. Without a word, she stepped down into the grave and started to scrape away the debris.

Bill realized that like the others, he had been standing there staring at the mesmerizing woman who now straddled the dead man and casually worked dirt out from around his ribs. “Come on, you two, let’s find something we can get this dirt in,” he growled. They left Pateas to her quiet, methodical work.

***

Several days later, Alberta read about the arrest of Roberta Williams in the morning newspaper as she sat in the white wicker chair on her sun porch. She lifted her coffee and took a thoughtful sip as she looked at the picture of the handcuffed director being put in the squad car.

In the background of the photo, a small blond stood in a doorway looking on worriedly. Cute, Alberta concluded, and then let her eyes drift back to the figure of the director. The bones she had dug up came back into her mind. Something….yes, something about those bones didn’t fit the pattern of the police report. She made a metal note to have another look at them now that they had been cleaned up and Bates had finished his work

***

Robbie sat on the bunk in the Bartlett jail starring at the stained cement floor. She had been sitting like that since they had booked her and apologetically locked her in the only cell that Bartlett had. What the hell had she done to the people she loved and had sworn to protect? Wrecked their lives, that’s what! You weren’t supposed to get involved, Robbie. You knew that! What the hell have you done?!

“Robbie?”

Dull blue-grey eyes looked up to met soft, worried green. The eyes widened and Robbie was at the bars in an instant. “What are you doing here?!” she growled.

Terry quietly opened the gate and let Janet in. Then quickly locking the door shut again, he walked away. “Where else would I be?” Janet responded belatedly, stepping closer so Robbie could wrap her in her arms.

Instead, Robbie backed off. “You shouldn’t have. Where are the girls?”

Janet looked taken aback for a second. Fear mixed with pain crossed her face and then was replaced with tender understanding. “Amanda’s at the cabin with them. Don’t do this, Robbie. I’m your legal partner,” continued Janet, moving close again and grabbing onto Robbie before she could escape.

The director’s body was rigid and unresponsive. Janet stroked her lover’s back pretending not to notice. “I love you. I married you knowing that you kept a dark secret that you feared would someday come back to haunt you. You were honest with me, Robbie. You tried to warn me off but I didn’t care. I still don’t. I love you and that’s forever.”

Strong arms came up to pull the smaller woman in close. “I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t be,” answered Janet firmly, reaching up to plant a kiss on Robbie’s chin.

“Does Ryan hate me?” mumbled Robbie, looking at the far corner of the room, as her jaw worked nervously.

Janet hesitated and then told the truth. “She thinks she does.” Janet felt the pain shoot through her lover. She reached up and grabbed Robbie’s face forcing her to make eye contact. “Don’t you dare give up on us!” she snarled angrily. “Because we are not going to give up on you!”

Robbie swallowed, fought for emotional control and then spoke, placing her hands on Janet’s shoulders and looking intently at her partner. “You listen, that joint bank account I established, I put a lot of money in it. You take a leave, get our kids out of here. Change your name, just disappear!” begged Robbie.

“No,” responded Janet.

Robbie pulled away in exasperation, walked to the corner of the cell and turned back to look at her determined wife. “You have no idea what it is like! The press are going to have a field day with this. How long do you think its going to be before the marriage certificate comes to light?! Jesus, Janet! Just go away! I should never have got involved with you in the first place! Or thought that it was safe to contact my daughter! Christ! What have I done?!” Robbie finished, sinking down onto the cot.

Janet came over and sat stiffly beside her. “Don’t you love me anymore, Robbie?” she asked quietly.

Robbie’s head snapped around, eyes blazing. “Of course, I love you! That’s what makes this whole thing so wrong! You don’t hurt the people you love!”

Janet shrugged. “It sometimes happens,” she responded philosophically, taking Robbie’s cold hand. “If it was the other way round and I was in here, would you leave?”

A moment’s silence then a humourless laugh. “No, I’d be ripping the walls off to get to you,” she admitted.

Janet giggled and lifted the strong hand to kiss it. “Well, I didn’t have to go quite that far, but I did have to get pretty firm with Terry and the desk sergeant! I got permission to leave my cell phone here with you too.”

Robbie pulled Janet into her side in a hard hug. “I don’t deserve you!”

“I like that attitude,” joked Janet, kissing the ear of her lover, “It gives me the upper hand. I’m going to get you out of this, Robbie. I don’t know how, but I…” fingers against her lips stopped her speech.

“Janet,” whispered Robbie. “I killed him.”

Green eyes hardened in determination. ” I am going to get you out of this!” she repeated with determination. “Now, you’ve started. Tell me the rest.” demanded Janet, already knowing that her lover was going to lie.

Robbie squirmed, swallowed and started.

***

Janet drove home an hour later with a lump in her throat that was threatening to choke her. This was no time for tears. Later tonight, maybe, in the privacy of their bedroom, but not now. She had the girls to worry about, particularly Ryan. Earlier that day, after Robbie had been taken away and Janet had contacted both Robbie’s law firm and Amanda for help, she had sought out the teenager.

She’d found Ryan, curled in a ball in the corner of her bed, her earphones in place and her eyes closed.

“Can we talk?” Janet had asked, standing at the bedroom door with Reb in her arms. Eyes similar to her own in colour, opened in a cold stare but the teenager nodded.

Janet had walked in and sat on the bed. Reb had immediately squirmed out of her arms and into Ryan’s, curling up quietly into her big sister’s lap and sucking her thumb. “Reb never sucks her thumb,” Ryan noted, her voice dull and lifeless.

“No,” agreed Janet. “She’s scared. We all are.”

Ryan fought back the tears. “Did she do it?”

“I don’t know what really happened that night. Robbie never wanted to talked about that time in her life. I do know that your Mom is not capable of murder.”

Ryan looked up and met Janet’s eyes. She saw only trust and confidence there but her pain was too great for her to believe again. “Robbie’s not my mother. I might as well not have had one,” she said.

Janet looked at the floor. Ryan was so controlled. So without emotion. Why didn’t she cry or yell? Anything to get her pain and disappointment out? “Mrs. Singh is going to come to babysit Reb. I’m going down to the police station to make sure your …Robbie’s okay. Do you want to come with me?”

“No.”

Janet tried not to show her worry and anger. She got up and looked down at Ryan. “What ever happens, Ryan, you remember that, with your permission, I adopted you as my daughter. Just as Reb was adopted by Robbie. I am very proud to have you as my daughter. I love you. We will always be together as a family.”

Ryan snorted. “Yeah, my…Robbie said the same thing only a few hours ago!”

Janet cringed inside but outwardly she remained calm and smiled. “Good, because she is right. We are a family and we will stay together. Don’t give up on us, Ryan. This damn branch of the Williams family is worth fighting for!” For a second, their eyes held in silent communication. Then Ryan slipped her earphones back in place and, hugging Reb tight, she once again closed her eyes. Janet had leaned down and kissed each of her daughters on the head and then had walked out to wait for Amanda.

Now, several hours later, Janet pulled into her driveway and tried not to think about the pressure headache that was threatening to take the top of her head off. Just stay together a few more hours, she commanded herself, as she slid out of the cab into the cool afternoon air. Amanda was waiting at the door, a worried expression of sympathy on her face.

“How’s Robbie?” she asked, as Janet stepped up on the porch.

“Upset,” stated Janet.

Amanda nodded knowing not to push. “Nothing on the news. I checked,” Amanda reported. Janet smiled weakly, too tired to be glad of the brief reprieve. Amanda helped her out of her coat and gave her a hug. Janet allowed herself to be held for a second, needing the emotional warmth and support. How had she become so dependent on Robbie so quickly? She felt like part of herself had been torn out.

Before she completely lost control, she pulled back and smiled her thanks to Amanda. “Thanks for helping out. Where are the kids?”

“I put Reb to bed. She fell to sleep in Ryan’s arms. Ryan paced about a bit and then said she was going to chop wood. I wasn’t sure I should let her in her present state of mind, but I didn’t know how to stop her. She’s so…so controlled! I’ve been watching her from the window until I heard your truck.

Janet nodded again, aware now of the sound of an axe splitting wood. The rhythm was similar to the pounding in her head. For a second, she closed her eyes. Amanda took her arm. “You okay? Do you want me to stay?”

“No. I’m fine, just a headache. I need to talk to Ryan. Listen, could you just quietly let the others on staff know? I don’t want them to wake up tomorrow to find 60 Minutes on their doorsteps wanting interviews!”

Amanda smiled at Janet’s attempt at humour. “Sure thing!” She slipped into her coat and before heading out to her Honda Civic, she turned to look at Janet. “Call if you need anything. You know you have friends. Don’t be afraid to lean on us.”

Janet smiled through misty eyes. “Thanks.”

Amanda nodded and was gone. Taking up her coat again, Janet crossed over the livingroom and went out the front door to find Ryan placing a log on the old stump. With a powerful swing of the axe the wood was split in two. The teen put the axe down and bent to throw the pieces on a nearby pile.

“The first thing Robbie asked was whether you hated her,” remarked Janet. “I told her you thought you did.”

A cry of pain came from deep inside Ryan. She took the length of wood she was holding and smashed it against the tree stump over and over again. Janet waited, letting Ryan work the anger out on the tree. When she saw the blows were starting to weaken, she went over and wrapped Ryan in her arms. “Why?” sobbed the heartbroken child. “Why did they take Mom away from me?”

‘Shhh, love. Shhhh, don’t you worry. We’ll find a way to bring her back to us,” soothed Janet, gently rocking the teen like she would Reb. She held her tight for a very long time. When the painful sobs subsided, she pulled back a little and smiled. “I left my cell phone with your Mom. You want to phone and say hi? It would mean a lot to her. She’s really down on herself.”

Ryan nodded. And the two walked back into the house together.

***

Robbie lay on the cell bunk, now staring at the cement ceiling. She wasn’t sure that she could spend years locked up like this. She closed her eyes and tried to fight down the fear and worry. Silently, Janet’s phone went off in her pocket.

Like a drowning woman reaching for a life preserver, she pulled out the phone and flipped it open. “Hello.”

“Mom,” inquired a quiet voice, tentatively.

Robbie’s heart contracted and the blood roared in her head. “Ryan! Ryan, I’m so sorry!” she choked through her tears.

“I was angry,” the teen admitted honestly. Then added to lighten the impact. “For an actor, you sure have bad timing.”

Robbie sniffed out a laugh. “Yeah, I sure do. I love you, Ryan.”

“I know, Mom. You okay?”

“I am now. How about you?”

“Okay, I guess. Aunt Janet wants to say good night,” evaded the teen, and handed the phone over to Janet.

“Is she okay?” asked Robbie.

Janet thought about that for a minute as she watched Ryan disappear into the bathroom. “No. But she will be in time. She had herself a good Williams’ scene when I got back and that let some of the pain out. She is a remarkable child, Robbie. Strong, like you. She’ll work through this, it’s just going to take time.”

“No kid should have to work through something like this. I love you all so much! I never…”

“Robbie,” cut in Janet, “we’re past that. Now we are moving forward as a family to see this through to a happy conclusion that can bring you back to us.”

“Janet…”

“I love you, sweetheart. Feel my arms around you tonight. I am still with you and always will be,” reassured Janet, as tears silently rolled down her face. She knew Robbie was crying too.

“I love you too, Janet. I am so lucky to have you. Good night, love.”

“Good night,” whispered Janet and hung up.

***

The next morning, Janet woke to the sounds of the door bell ringing and Rufus barking. She was just slipping into her housecoat, when Ryan appeared at her door on the run. “Reporters! They’re all over the place! I pulled all the drapes.”

Janet sighed, knowing that they would have to face the gauntlet on the way to work. The phone rang and she went over to her bedside table and picked it up. “Hello, Janet speaking.”

“Hi, it’s Carolyn. The Sun out of Toronto has broken the story of the arrest this morning. Wouldn’t you know it’s Lucier’s story. I’m going to kick him where it hurts next time I see him!

Listen, Janet, I phoned to warn you; the front page has a picture of Robbie in handcuffs being put into the police car. You’re in the background. There is also a copy of your marriage certificate on page two.”

“Oh shit,” whispered Janet. Ryan’s eyes widened in surprise. Aunt Janet rarely swore.

“As soon as I saw the paper, I headed over for coffee at the donut shop. I figured you’d want to know what was going down. The town is crawling with reporters! Stacy took me aside and told me that there is a meeting of the school trustees this morning. They sent Larry Butler over to get them all donuts and coffee. They’re meeting in the boardroom at the car dealership and then going out to see you at the school.”

Janet sank down on the bed. “This doesn’t sound good,” she muttered. Ryan came to sit beside her and Janet wrapped an arm around her, needing Ryan’s warmth as much as Ryan needed Janet’s reassurance.

“Yeah. Glady Billingsley stopped in. You know how she and Rev. Billingsley powerwalk with God in the mornings?”

“Yes.”

“Well, they’ve got a mess of righteous indignation up their back ends and it looks like they’re going to take steps to ask you to leave the church. You’re living in sin.”

“No, I’m not,” argued Janet drily, “but I want to be.”

Carolyn laughed. “Opinion is going to be split in town, Janet. You know that. Just remember you and Robbie have a lot of friends, no matter what!”

Janet smiled. “Thanks. That means a lot to me, Carolyn. I appreciate you calling to let me know the lay of the land. I’d hate to be facing today blindfolded. It’s going to be ugly. Our cabin is surrounded by reporters. They keep ringing the door bell. I’ll get us to school as soon as I can. Try to keep everyone on our regular schedule and warn them not to talk to the press. Phone the police and see if they can spare an officer to be up at the school. I don’t want the school kids getting harassed.”

“Okay, bye for now.”

“Bye, Carolyn. Thanks.”

Janet looked at Ryan. Their eyes communicated their feelings. Suddenly, devilment danced into the worried principal’s eyes. “Let’s phone your Mom and give her a rough time for being the biggest damn olive in the Williams’ jar!”

***

Robbie paced one way, then the other, trying to fight the urge to smash at the bars. The constable on morning duty had brought her The Sun with breakfast; a big, grin on his stupid face. Damn! This was going to be a nightmare for her family! She checked her watch again. Still a little too early to phone and warn Janet.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the vibration of the cell phone. “Hello.”

“Morning, love! How are you doing?” came Janet’s tense voice over the sound of the doorbell ringing. The ring stopped abruptly. “Thanks, Ryan,” Janet called out.

“Lucier broke the story in The Sun, this morning,” Robbie stated. “Is that the press at the door?”

“Since six this morning. We are under siege here. Carolyn phoned to warn us,” explained Janet, as she smiled up at Ryan, who having disconnected the door bell, had just walked in with Reb and Rufus.

“Phone! Phone!” squealed Rebecca, running over to her mother. Janet laughed and held the phone to her daughter’s ear. Reb’s beautiful eyes sparkled and she grinned broadly with delight. She had just discovered the magic of phones.

“It’s Obby,” Janet explained to the child.

“Obby?”

“Hi, Reb.”

“Are you on a plane?” asked the child.

“No Reb. I …I had to go away for a bit,” Robbie evaded, feeling her heart filling with loneliness.

“You come home!” commanded Reb, with a pout.

Shit! What do I say now?! Robbie fretted.

“Obby will be home when she can,” Robbie heard Janet say to her daughter.

Then there was the sound of the phone changing hands again. “Hi,” stated Ryan. “You okay?”

Robbie snorted. “Probably better off than you are. I’ve got police protection. You okay there?”

“Yeah. Here’s Aunt Janet,” was the awkward response.

“Hi, well my favourite olive, you have really spiced the pot this time!” came Janet’s happy voice again. Robbie could hear the tension hidden behind the brave front.

” Janet, I never meant…”

“Robbie! Don’t, okay?!” snapped Janet, running a nervous hand through her hair. “We are going to get through this. The news of your arrest has just been broken so there was bound to be a bit of a sensation.”

“They published the marriage certificate. How is that going to impact on you?” asked Robbie.

There was silence for a minute. “Our friends are being very supportive. There are going to be some repercussions obviously. You are well liked in this town, Robbie. Once the nine day wonder is over, we’ll be fine. Your law firm will have someone there today for you. I’ll be around as soon as I can. Don’t worry.”

“I am worried. You keep the kids close and stay away from strangers. I don’t want some right winged, neo-asshole hurting any of you because of me!” snarled Robbie, the fear and frustration of the situation mounting by the minute within her.

“I promise,” Janet said firmly and calmly, trying to relieve some of the stress that her partner was under. “We have to go now. I’ll phone you as soon as we are safe at the school. Don’t worry!”

“Be careful! Don’t let the press stop you! Don’t talk to them!” advised Robbie, in a nervous rush.

“Okay,” agreed Janet, “Love you, bye”

For a long time, Robbie stood there looking at the phone in her hand. Dear God! This is awful!

***

An hour later, Janet helped Rebecca into her spring coat, while Ryan stuffed her books into her school bag. “Okay, This is it. Ryan, you carry Reb. Keep your faces away from the cameras if you can. I’ll go first with our stuff and open the truck doors. We’ll take Robbie’s truck. Stay right behind me, and no matter what happens, don’t react or speak!”

Ryan nodded nervously, and Janet moved forward to give her a big hug. “You don’t know how much your support means to me! I know this is an terrible thing for you to have to go through. Just remember it won’t last forever and there will be better times ahead.”

Ryan nodded, hugging her aunt stiffly. Then Ryan bent to pick up Rebecca. Janet looked at the big hairy dog that brushed protectively against her knee. “Rufus, don’t bite anyone! Well, at least not too badly,” she amended, smiling up at Ryan and giving her a wink. “Keep Rufus by you.”

The nervous teen nodded. “Heel, Rufus,” she commanded quietly, and the lumbering orange dog came to sit beside Ryan’s knee.

“Good dog!” Reb encouraged, looking down from Ryan’s arms. Rufus wagged an affectionate tail.

“Ready?” asked Janet. Ryan nodded. Janet opened the door to the sound wave of clicking, whirring cameras. As they stepped off the porch in a tight formation, reporters swarmed in from all sides.

“Did she do it?”

“How is Robbie handling her arrest?”

“Have you spoken to her?”

“What’s it like to be in a gay marriage with Robbie Williams?”

“Is she pleading guilty or innocent?”

‘Did your mother tell you she’d killed her father, Ryan?”

They were jostled about, unable to make much headway until Rufus let out a threatening growl and started barking. The shaggy monster came off the porch in a rush and scattered reporters in all directions. Janet nudged Ryan, and they used the opening to get to the truck. Rufus stood behind them growling menacingly at the stunned crowd, as the Williams unlocked the doors of the truck, placed in their bags and strapped Reb into place.

Janet started the engine, “Come, Rufus,” she called, and the big dog leapt into his regular place beside Reb. Janet reached back and closed the truck door and they were off.

Things were a little better at the school. Carolyn had arranged to have an O.P.P. police cruiser at the gate for the start of the school day and had ordered a few more security guards to help patrol the grounds. Once Janet had slowly edged the truck through the swarm of reporters at the gate, they were safe.

Parking the truck in the spot reserved for the principal, Janet felt a cold dread spreading through her being. She turned to look at the silent teen beside her. “I might lose my job today. If that happens, I’ll come and get you and Reb and we’ll get out of here. Robbie set up an account just in case something like this occurred. Her law firm too is doing everything it can for us. Robbie tried her very best to protect us. Try not to worry. We are going to get through this no matter how rough it gets in the short haul.”

Ryan nodded, her jaw white and clenched with stress. “I’ll take Rufus to his pen.”

Janet nodded, squeezing Ryan’s hand before she opened her door and then turned to open the back door to get Reb out of her car seat. Holding her daughter’s hand she watched Ryan and the big, ugly dog disappearing around the corner. Ryan was like her Mom, she internalized too much. How much could one child handle emotionally? With a worried frown, she led Reb into their small day care centre.

Carolyn Carr stood and came out from behind her desk to give Janet a big hug. “They’re down in the staff room waiting for you to arrive.”

Janet nodded, knowing that “they” had to be the members of board of trustees. “I need to speak to Amanda and Milka, first. Have Jason, Alex and Wanda cover for them and get them down here as quickly as you can.”

“Sure thing, Janet.”

“Ask Jason to sort of keep an eye on Ryan, just in case there are problems. She seems to have fit in nicely now but…well, ask him,” fretted Janet.

“Done.”

Janet nodded her thanks and went into her office. She wanted to get her paper work caught up just in case. Ten minutes later, Amanda Singh and Milka Gorski came into the office and Carolyn flagged the two worried women on into the office.

Janet was all business, needing to keep a barrier up between her and her emotions until she had everything organized. “Have a seat, ladies.”

“Janet, we’re all so sorry. You know you have the support of the staff, don’t you?” said Milka.

Janet smiled. “Thanks. That means a lot to me. I’m surprised I have Wanda’s support. She is very religious.”

Milka laughed. “She said that she couldn’t approve of your life style but she didn’t think it was any of her business. She thinks God will get you so she doesn’t need to bother!” the English teacher laughed.

“Oh, brother!” sneered Amanda, rolling her eyes.

Janet shook her head in disbelief. “Well, I appreciate her tolerance if not her mind set,” sighed Janet. “Okay, down to business. There is a good chance I will be asked to resign. I won’t, so that means they will have to place me on leave with pay or buy out my contract. Either way, I think it’s fairly safe to say that my career is done like dinner after today.”

“It’s just not fair! You are so good at what you do!” protested Amanda, and Milka nodded.

“Thanks, but the Board of Trustees is going to have trouble with the image of their school principal being in a gay marriage with a suspected murderer,” responded Janet, cynically.

“Bored trusses!” muttered Milka, using a favourite teacher expression for the Board of Trustees.

“I need to review how to handle things with you. I’ll recommend both of you as possible replacements. You both have the education, knowledge and experience to take over.”

“Please,” interrupted Amanda. “I would like to help anyway I can, but I have a young family at home. They come first in my life at the moment. I don’t want the job, not yet anyway.”

“I want it but not like this!” protested Milka.

“It won’t be your fault if I loose my job, Milka, and I’ll feel better leaving knowing the person taking over will do a good job. Okay, let’s go through this stuff quickly, the Board’s waiting.”

***

An hour later, Janet sat on an orange plastic chair and looked at the elected citizens who were in a position to judge her despite the fact that not one of them knew anything about education. The old tradition of a community body overseeing the local one-room school seemed ludicrous some times in today’s modern society.

“Mrs. Williams, ahhh, the Board met this morning and we don’t feel that the present situation you are in is good for the school’s image. We know you have two years left in your contract but we would like to ask you to resign,” Bartlett explained.

I should have let Robbie finish tearing him apart at the party, Janet thought. “My marriage is quite legal and fortunately people are still innocent until proven guilty. I do realize that this is embarrassing for the school but I will not resign. I have done nothing wrong.”

“Yes, well, of course, you are right, but Bartlett has a paying clientele and image is everything in this business. We would ask that you reconsider for the sake of the school,” said Bartlett, feigning the more in sorrow than in pain tone.

“No.”

The Trustees squirmed uncomfortably in their seats and looked from one to another. Bartlett sighed. “Then I’m sorry. We have voted to put you on a leave of absences with pay until your contract runs out. It will not be renewed.”

“Fine. You would do very well to promote either Milka Gorski or Amanda Singh to my position.

They are both well qualified,” Janet said, without any sign of reaction.

The Tustees looked surprised. “We have been very pleased with your work, Mrs. Williams. It is just an impossible situation for the school. We hope there are no hard feelings,” one member felt the need to justify.

Janet smiled. “Yes, there are hard feelings. If I decided to take this to the Equal Rights Commission they’d make mincemeat of you. It might, however, be quicker just to sue for damages, since you have no cause for dismissal. You have made a very poor decision today. Good day.” Janet got up and walked out of the room. Let the assholes chew on that!

***

Ryan walked down the hall to her locker aware of the wake of silence around her. Jenny Kingsley, who had the locker beside hers, leaned around the beige metal door. “Hi Ryan. We’re really sorry to hear about your Mom. Look if there is anything we can do to…”

“Thanks,” came the sharp response; then softer, “Thanks, that’s good of you. I don’t know what is going to happen. The press are like vultures out there.”

Debbie DeLuca stepped over and patted Ryan on the back. “Yeah, that’s the trouble with having a famous parent. Look, when you first got here…we didn’t treat you very well because we were all afraid of Stacy. We’d like to make it up to you this time round.”

“No need. Look, I know a lot of you are not comfortable with the gay issue. You don’t have to pretend you are. If you want to help just stay out of it! Okay!?” Ryan slammed her locker shut and hurried down the hall to home room.”

“Well, she wasn’t very nice!” grumbled Nona.

“Cut Ryan some slack!” snapped Debbie. “Shit! Her mother’s a queer married to her principal and probably killed her grandfather! How would you feel!?”

“Talk about your bad hair day,” interjected Angie, trying to lessen the tension.

“Yeah,” agreed Debbie with a nervous giggle.”Come on, let’s get to class.”

***

Janet signaled through the small window in the classroom door to Ryan. Quietly, Ryan got up, took her books and left.

“Hi,” greeted her aunt a bit awkwardly.

“You fired?” asked Ryan bluntly, as green eyes met Janet’s.

Janet smiled cynically. “No, I’m on permanent leave.”

Ryan rolled her eyes and looked around the school hall sadly. She had always wanted to go to this school. She could have got a good education here.

“So I could home school you if you like,” Janet stated, watching her niece and adopted daughter closely for a sign of what was going on inside. Ryan and Robbie were both charged with emotion but it displayed itself in such subtle movements of muscle under skin or a slight twitch of a nerve. Rarely did the emotions play across their faces openly. They were always on guard. Always afraid that if they showed the weakness of feelings they would be hurt. She had to deal with her partner and her daughter so gently.

Ryan’s muscles tightened, causing her jaw line to whiten. A small vein throbbed at her temple.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” she stated toughly.

Janet nodded. “Let’s clean out your locker and get Reb. You want me to call a few of your friends out to say good bye?”

Ryan looked back through the glass. New friends sent fugitive, worried glances towards the door. “I was kind of abrupt with them earlier. I think I owe it to all of them to say good bye properly.”

Janet smiled and hugged Ryan. “You, kid, are one of a kind. I hope Reb grows up to be like you. Go say good bye. I’ll be back to get you.”

***

Alberta Pateas wore a lab jacket and sat on a tall stool. Her face was only inches away from the skull of Philip Williams as her magnifying glass edged along a deep indentation in the left temporal. The blow had shattered the articular eminence and filled the squama of the temporal with a web of hair line cracks that formed a concave dish. It had been a hell of a blow. So had been the one that had cracked his jaw.

“Are you double checking my work?” came an amused voice from behind her.

Alberta straightened and twisted to look seriously at Doctor Thomas Bates, the chief pathologist in the Toronto Forensic lab. “No. Your report is very accurate. There is just something here that I’m not comfortable with and I don’t know what it is.”

Bates walked over and picked up the left ulna, playing with it absentmindedly. “It’s our job just to report the medical facts, Alberta. Not to draw conclusions. That’s for the lawyers.”

“But the lawyers will want to know what we can deduce!” protested the forensic anthropologist, her eyes blue and clear as they looked at Bates.

He had been that idealistic at one time; that eager to find truth. He still did his job well, but he’d come to realize over the years that truth was a very slippery eel. In the end, no matter how clear the facts, court procedure and jury perception ruled, not truth. Truth lurked in the muddy depths of people’s conscience and was rarely caught, no matter how highly we prized the quality.

Alberta was relatively new to police work, having done her earlier research on prehistoric Inuit sites. Yet she’d quickly made a name for herself. She had that special combination of intelligence, observational skills, and gut feeling. Better still, she was cool under cross examination in court.

“Doctor Pateas, I could tell you to just do your job and not try to be a hero or play God but you wouldn’t listen,” Bates drawled, tossing the arm bone back on the gurney and taking out his pipe. He slowly and lovingly filled his old briar with the strong St. Bruno tobacco then continued, “but you wouldn’t listen! So tell me what you have observed and perhaps whatever is bothering you will reveal itself in the process.”

Alberta smiled. She liked Doctor Bates and felt in a short time she had learned a lot from him. She especially appreciated his tolerance now and was willing to forgive him his noxious smoking habit as a result. He never actually lit the pipe inside the building but the smell of stale tobacco tended to follow him like a wake. Most people in this line of work smoked. At the morgue or in the Forensic department, a good sense of smell was not necessarily an asset.

“The subject was hit with a blow to the left side of the mandible, close to the mental foramen, resulting in this green fracture. It was not the cause of death, although most likely it resulted in unconsciousness.”

“An assumption, Doctor,” muttered Bates, sucking happily on the stem of his pipe. The fact that the damn pipe was not lit seemed to go unnoticed by the smoker.

“Yes, an assumption. But it is on fairly safe ground. It was a blow hard enough to cause a broken jaw and he was an older man,” responded Alberta. Bates nodded, but said nothing.

Alberta went on. “It was not the blow that killed him. The one that did was to the right temple area after the subject was on the ground.”

“Explain.”

“The first blow was an upper cut by a right handed person. The second blow was a down stroke …” Alberta stopped and stared at the skull. “The murderer was left handed!” she exclaimed.

“There were two different people there that night the murder took place!”

Bates smiled, his eyes sparkling.

Alberta looked at him in surprise. “You knew that!?”

“Yes.”

“But you didn’t state it in your report!”

“No. It is an assumption, although highly likely. The defense will have their own medical experts to analysis this data. They will draw the same conclusions based on my report and it will most likely come out in court under cross examination.”

“What if it doesn’t!?”

“We report scientific facts. We also work FOR the police not against them. That’s why they have two sides to the courtroom, Alberta,” stated Bates, wiggling his eyebrows mischievously. “All the information is there. Each side can do with it what they may.” Bates patted her arm affectionately, and walked back towards his office. Alberta looked down at the bones and brooded.

At his office door, he turned and remarked, “Of course, Doctor, it could have been a gentle blow to the jaw that caused the damage, if the victim had osteoporosis. He was after all getting up in years. Also had the attacker been facing the opposite direction, the blow to the temporal squama could have been made by a right handed killer. Please verify your facts, Doctor. Lawyers are very exacting.” Having played the Devil’s Advocate, Bates disappeared into his inner sanctum.

Alberta stood there looking over her shoulder at the closed office door. “Shit!” she mouthed silently and then sat back down on the stool to cover the bases she had missed until Bates had pointed them out to her.

***

“What!? When!? Well, Jesus, why didn’t somebody notify me?! ….Okay, okay. Where was she taken? Yeah, I’ll pick up my phone when I get the chance. Good bye.”

Ryan sat in the chair across from the principal’s desk and looked at her upset aunt. What had gone wrong now? She felt a tightening in her stomach; was her Mom safe?

Janet hung up the phone angrily. “Your Mom was transferred today to Toronto. She’ll be held there until she is remanded for trial, then she’ll be sent down to Kingston.” A nervous hand ran through her hair as she fought for self control. “Obby’s not going to be able to handle being locked up very well. She wanted to phone me but they wouldn’t let her take the time. They took the cell phone away from her before she was transferred ”

Then tears spilled over and she covered her face with her hands and once again fought them back. Silently, Ryan pulled some tissues from the box on Janet’s desk and passed them to her aunt. Janet gave a weak smile in thanks, wiped her eyes, blew her nose and squared her shoulders. At least now she knew what to do next.

***

The ride to Toronto in the back of the paddy wagon had been boring. Robbie sat in the tin box with a female police officer whose job it was to prevent her from doing anything drastic. She looked at her handcuffed hands that were chained around her waist and to ankle cuffs. You’d have to be pretty imaginative to do so. Robbie spent the rest of the time coming up with various alternatives on that theme. She’d come up with twenty-seven possible scenarios by the time they had reached Toronto. Six of them, she felt were quite feasible.

The booking process had been humiliating. Once again, she had been finger printed and photographed. Then she was ordered to strip and shower with a matron watching on. Lady, if I was going to do anything drastic, I’d have done it in one of twenty-seven creative ways before I got here, Robbie thought as she stood in the grotty stall and made herself presentable for her prison debut. She was drying her hair on the thin, small towel when she saw the matron walking towards her wearing plastic gloves. Oh shit!

The search for illegal substances had been embarrassing and disgusting. After, Robbie had been given an orange coverall to put on. It was a little short in the arms and legs and a bit baggy in the hips and ass.

Once again she was fitted with her stainless steel jewelry and lead to another room where she stood at a counter with the matron. The ferret faced woman handed over Robbie’s personnel effects to the clerk who slowly and laboriously listed each item on a form.

“You gotta take the ring off too,” he growled, shoving a manila envelope over for her to put her watch, gold chain and wedding band in.

“It’s my wedding ring!” protested Robbie, as she slipped off her watch.

“Yeah, so I hear,” the clerk sneered. “Put it in the envelop, lady. Gold is valuable. She ain’t worth getting mugged over.

Robbie took the ring off. It was just a ring she knew, but removing it filled her heart with a sense of dread. It was as if she had broken some precious link that joined the two of them together. Janet, I’m sorry! The ring dropped into the brown envelop and then she quickly sealed it.

“Look this list over and sign that’s all you got,” ordered the clerk.

Robbie read and signed. The matron took her arm and lead her to the first of the barred doors that would lead to her cell and new life.

***

They had left the school grounds by a little used service road and once at the cabin, the remaining Williams family had packed hurriedly while the press was still unaware they had left. By three they were on the 401 heading south to Toronto.

“Are we going to stay at Robbie’s?” asked Ryan.

“Yes,” responded Janet briefly, preoccupied with her own thoughts. The teen kept silent after that. Now it looked like she’d lost her home too.

They had hit the rush hour traffic, moving along like a vertebra in a slow moving metal snake. Janet gripped the steering wheel in angry frustration. Her nerves and patience were ragged after today. It was nearly seven o’clock when they finally turned into the condominium complex by Lake Ontario, where Robbie had made her home.

With a sigh of relief, Janet activated the garage doors to enter the underground parking lot. Swinging around a pillar, she was surprised to find a Ferrari in one of Robbie’s parking spots. Did Robbie own it too? Janet had no idea. She knew Robbie had the Stingray and the B.M.W. and, of course, the truck she was now driving but she wasn’t sure if Robbie owned any other vehicles. Really, she knew very little about Robbie.

She felt a dread creep into her heart with that thought. Robbie had so willingly moved into her small Canadian town world. Except for the funeral, Janet had very little contact with Robbie’s world. How much did she really know about the history of the woman that she had married? How much of the legend of the Williams family was true and how much lies?

Tiredly, she unloaded some of the basic luggage they would need and herded her family into the private elevator that would take them to the penthouse. Janet leaned back into the corner of the lift and allowed her eyes to close for a minute while she listened to Ryan explain to Reb that they were going to stay in Obby’s house for a while. Reb was being fretful and difficult. Who could blame the poor kid. Her routine had been turned up side down in the last twenty-four hours.

Janet opened her eyes and leaned forward to rub Ryan’s shoulder affectionately. “Here, let me take her. It’s just been too much for her and she is over tired. We all are,” reassured Janet quietly.

Ryan nodded and handed up the whining child. She too had just about had all she could handle. The door to Robbie’s home slid open and a sharp voice stunned them out of their exhausted state.

“Just who are YOU and what are you doing in MY daughter’s home?!”
Part 3
“Ryan, meet Alexandria,” Janet remarked, with a roll of her eyes, as she stepped out of the elevator with her children and shaggy dog. “I’m sure you haven’t forgotten me, Mrs. Williams. I am your son’s widow and your oldest daughter’s wife,” she pointed out, with a forced smile.

“It is preposterous! I simply will not accept it! What was Robbie thinking of?!”

“Sex,” Janet shot back unfairly, for the shock effect. “She is a very basic individual.”

“Couldn’t she have just slept with you?!”

“Not and lived,” observed Janet, helping Ryan lift in bags. Ryan said nothing, but her eyes sparkled with amusement as she listened to her aunt spar with Alexandria.

Reb, released from Janet’s arms, made a bee line to the stranger and looked up. “Where is Obby?” she asked earnestly.

Alexandria looked down in surprise. “What… is… an… Obby?!” she demanded.

Janet took Ryan’s hand and went over to capture Rebecca’s little sticky hands just before the child made a grab for Alexandria’s furs. “That’s the name Rebecca gave Robbie. Alexandria, you remember my daughter, Rebecca, and this is Robbie’s daughter, Ryan,” introduced Janet politely.

Eyes the same colour as Robbie’s snapped up to look at Ryan curiously. “Oh yes, I have heard rumours over the years of Robbie’s bastard”.

Janet felt Ryan stiffen and she gently ran her thumb over Ryan’s hand, hoping the gesture would calm Ryan like it always did her mother.

“Alexandria, Robbie and I are very proud of our children. Don’t you EVER talk to them that way again! I think I must ask you to leave now. The children and I have had a very taxing day and we are not up to entertaining.”

Vicious anger flashed across Alexandria’s face, and for a second Janet thought the older woman was going to strike her. Instead, amusement sparkled suddenly into the cruel eyes. “Well, I don’t think you’ll be getting any sleep for a while. The police have gone through the place looking for evidence,” informed the tall woman, as she swept past and stepped into the elevator. “I just HAD to co-operate with them!” She smiled at the parting shot as the doors closed.

“Hope the cables snap!” muttered Ryan.

Janet shot her a warning look and Ryan fell silent.

The condo was a mess. Drawers had been opened and furniture cushions and mattresses tossed aside. Janet wasn’t completely sure that it had been totally the work of the police. It didn’t make sense that Alexandria would come here or that she would co-operate with the police.

Suddenly anger boiled up inside of Janet, and she heaved a pillow across the room. It was that damn ‘dark time’ again! There was a vow of silence around it that the remaining Williams cherished. She loved Robbie so deeply, trusted her completely, and yet the trust had not been returned a hundred per cent. Janet had always been left on the outside, finding out things that everyone else in the family knew only after it was necessary for her to be informed. Damn all Williams to hell!

The anger passed as quickly as it had come. Janet just didn’t have the energy after the taxing day to stay mad. She looked around for her family. Reb, the resourceful toddler that she was, had crawled into an armchair and was fast asleep with Rufus guarding the little body with his big, shaggy bulk. Ryan had wandered out onto the barren terrace garden.

Janet quickly set up Reb’s portable play pen and laid the sleeping baby carefully into it, then went out to Ryan who was sitting on a garden bench looking out over Lake Ontario. Ryan didn’t react as Janet slipped in beside her.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Janet said softly.

“I thought I had a home and mother at last, and I wasn’t going to be a bastard anymore,” muttered Ryan, the tears spilling over with the effort of expressing her emotions.

Janet felt the tears well up and stream down her own face as she felt the pain of the teen. “Oh Ryan! Honey!” she exclaimed, and pulled her niece and adopted daughter into a deep, tight hug.

Ryan held on tightly and sobbed.

Janet let her and then, after a few minutes, she offered Ryan her tissue, wiping her own tears away with the back of her hand. “Ryan, a home isn’t a building, it is the family that dwells there!” Janet stated earnestly, taking the teen’s hand. “We are a family. Robbie didn’t leave you, Honey, she was taken away. Her first thoughts were of you.”

Ryan broke eye contact and looked moodily out over the water. Janet went on quietly. “I know you have lost faith again in Robbie. That’s okay. The two of you will have time in the future to work that out. But I won’t allow you not to believe in us. You are MY legal daughter and I love you just as much as I do Reb and Robbie. We ARE a family, and you are a very important part of that union. That’s not going to change, not where it counts, here in our hearts.”

Ryan swallowed and, blinking back tears, she turned to look deeply into Janet’s eyes that were, surprisingly, so very much like her own. “Can I call you Mom instead of her?” she asked bluntly.

Janet didn’t hesitate although she would have liked time to consider the consequences of such a decision on Robbie’s tender soul. Ryan had to come first, and Ryan needed this. “I’d be very proud and honoured if you called me Mom too, Ryan,” Janet smiled, through eyes brimming over with emotion.

Ryan nodded seriously and looked back out across the huge lake. “Okay,” she agreed.

Janet laughed in relief and gave Ryan’s hair a mess. “Come on you! I need some help in there or we are going to have to sleep in kitchen drawers tonight!

After an hour of tidying and making beds, Janet had made up a box of macaroni and cheese for the three of them. Once Ryan had showered and Reb had been bathed, she had tucked them into bed and told them stories.

Janet sat in the girl’s room until she was sure her daughters were both asleep. Then, with relief, she walked back to the master bedroom, showered, and crawled between the cold sheets. She was so tired and yet now she was here, alone in Robbie’s bed, the sleep wouldn’t come. Instead, the tears did and she sobbed her heart out until finally exhaustion claimed her.

***

Elizabeth sat curled up in the corner of her couch. She had been at home all day, phoning in sick when she had heard of Robbie’s arrest. She knew what she had been told to do, and say, by Robbie, but the emotions and fears that roared inside her made it hard for her to think. It was wise to stay in here away from everyone.

All these years she had guarded the secret and now it had come out. Only part of it, that was true, but enough that she now felt very vulnerable. Her thumb tip slipped between her teeth and she rocked back and forth absently. Robbie promised her that no one would ever know the whole truth. Robbie always kept her promises.

How could she cope without Robbie’s towering strength? Her big sister had always been there for her. She wanted to phone the jail and talk to her, make sure she was all right, but that would mean talking to others, strangers, and she didn’t think she could at the moment. Besides, Robbie’s instructions had been quite clear that she was not to contact her. Robbie had gone over it with her so many times. She knew what Robbie expected of her. She always did what Robbie said….yet inside she felt awful.

Her eyes shifted to the computer as the screen saver flashed off to be replaced by incoming e-mail. It would be David. He and Robbie alone knew her home addy. She couldn’t communicate with David anymore. It wasn’t right. He was nice and had high moral standards and she…

Elizabeth stood suddenly, pushing the last thought from her head. She never thought those things! Never! She wouldn’t allow herself to! With the look of grim determination that all Williams seemed to share, she walked over to her desk and lost herself in the beauty of numbers and the poetic structure of physics equations. Quantum Mechanics was like a balm for her tortured soul.

***

Ted Potts drove the heavy dump truck down Lakefront Road oblivious of the panoramic view of evergreens and northern lake to his right. He’d been out at Larry and Flo Butler’s place picking up his paycheck and now he was on his way over to the Bartlett Car Dealership to get the truck’s safety certificate for another contracting season.

He liked working for Larry Butler well enough. The pay was okay and Larry was good to his employees even if he was kinda short tempered at times. In the summer, he drove the dump truck, running loads from Larry’s gravel pit down south of Indian Gorge to whatever site the company was working on. In the winter, he drove snow plow. But he was getting on a bit now and the lifestyle was getting harder, especially in the winter when he’d have to get up in the middle of the night. It was no fun. When the snow started to fall, he’d be called out into the freezing cold and be on the plow for eighteen hour stretches trying to keep the roads open.

Ted sighed. When he was younger, he’d thought his brother David was really stupid tying himself to that variety store and a big mortgage. But now David had paid off his bank loan and he seemed to be doing real well. He was his own boss, made his own hours and didn’t have to go out in the cold if he didn’t want to. David always was the smart one.

It was a split second later when the deer ran out in front of Ted’s truck. He slammed on the brakes and swerved around the fleeting creature. The wheel locked and the back end of the vehicle spun out on the wet spring pavement. Over the truck went, rolling into the ditch and slamming the cab roof against a large granite boulder. Moisture shaken from the stark branches above rained softly on the twisted and silent cab.

David came out of his office feeling depressed and annoyed. There was still no response from Elizabeth. He hoped she was all right. He thought they had been getting on very well together! Each day they e-mailed each other and when she had come to the Drama Society play, she’d had a very good time. She’d agreed to go with him to Roy Thompson Hall…but now when she should want a friend, she had completely cut him off from her life.

Okay, David, don’t let your hurt feelings cloud the issue, he scolded himself. Christian charity begins at home. You know that Bethy is very insecure and easily hurt. Naturally, she has hidden away from the press. It must be awful for her! One could see how upset Alexandria was on T.V. last night. She had cried and said that she just couldn’t talk about it. That the thought of her poor Philly lying in a cold, wet hole all those years was just too much for her to bear. David had been quite moved. He was sure that his Bethy would be even more upset than her mother, especially with Robbie under arrest.

He walked over to the door and flipped the open sign out and then undid the latch. David had only turned around when his beeper went off. He looked at the code screen: Vehicle Accident: Lakefront Road. Quickly, he switched the sign to closed again and locked the door. Removing his apron, he tossed it on the counter and headed out the back way to his car. Already he could see other members of the volunteer fire department taking off down the road.

***

As soon as David saw the truck, he knew it was his brother. Ted always drove the same truck for Butler. He pulled to the side and leapt out to be met by a worried Larry Butler. “David, it’s Ted. He’s alive but he’s pinned in there good and tight. It’s hard to know how bad it is. He’s in a lot of pain. Said it was his back and right leg,” the man explained, as he walked with David down to were the huge truck lay on its side.

George Drouillard was lying on the cab door with his head through the smashed passenger window talking to Ted, while Paul Digby and Moe Singh got the Jaws of Life ready. David climbed up the fire ladder that had been leaned against the undercarriage. George moved aside and let David take a look.

“Hi Ted. How are you doing?” asked David, his voice tight with worry. Below him he could see his brother’s head and shoulders sticking out from underneath a twisted lump of metal that had once been the roof of the cab. Beside him, half way through the front window, was a muddy Doctor Perkins.

“Sure… hurts David. But… that… might be a good… sign, eh.” Ted responded, through gasps of pain.

“Yeah,” agreed David. “Look, we’re going to use Robbie’s Jaws of Life to get you out. You just hang on!” Ted nodded, his eyes now closed and his face ashen. David looked at Perkins.

“His signs are good, David,” Bill Perkins reassured the worried brother.

“Okay, Moe, it will have to be you going in there, on account of you bein the skinniest. Paul, you and Walt get more four by four to shore up this truck. I want a good cribbing in place before we start using the Jaws of Life,” organized the fire chief.

Then he looked around and yelled over to the fire engine, “Ted!? You get on that fancy car phone of yours and see what the E.T.A. for the hospital helicopter is gonna be. Reminded them to land it in the skating rink parking lot. Then phone over to White’s Funeral Home and tell them to get the hearse up here. We’re gonna have to put a backboard under Ted, and we’ll need their stretcher.”

George looked over at David and smiled. “Sure wish we had that little Ryan here. She could always get the damn Engine radio to work, eh. Could do with Robbie squeezin down into the cab too! Damned if I ever thought we’d need women on the fire department. But those two are all right. I guess in the city you get a lot of females on the fire department now days.”

“I guess,” responded David, absently, watching Larry Butler wedging timber against the truck to make sure it would not roll or shift while they were working on it.

George cleared his voice awkwardly. “Ahhh, you heard anything? You know, about Robbie and the family…folks have been askin. They’re well liked although some are a bit turned off by their

ahhh…peculiarity.”

David looked up sharply but saw no disapproval in George’s face. “No, no, I haven’t heard a thing. Janet left with the girls not because of the town, but because the press wouldn’t leave them alone. And of course, stupid Bartlett over there had Janet fired!”

George looked over at the man on the phone in the car. “Well, John’s always been a jackass, right from a boy. Accordin’ to my mama, he comes from a long line of them!”

Moe climbed up the ladder and then reached down to grab the heavy Jaws of Life apparatus that would be used to get to Ted through the twisted metal. “You be careful, son,” warned George, patting Mohammed on the back. “David, I gotta ask you to get off now, so as we have more room to work.

David climbed down the ladder and stood at a safe distance with Paul. Moe carefully lowered himself as far as he could into the mangled cab and then waited as George handed down the Jaws of Life. Moe looked around thoughtfully, decided where the best place would be to start pulling the metal away from Ted’s body and slipped in the metal prongs. Holding on to the handles, he held down the start button and the scissor like prongs slowly spread, edging the wreckage away from Ted’s pinned body.

George was watching carefully from above. Doctor Perkins monitored Ted’s signs from his position in the muddy ditch. An hour later, they were able to carefully strap Ted to the back board and slide him out the front window of the cab. The men gently carried Ted up the slippery bank and slid him in the back of the hearse, which in Bartlett doubled as their ambulance. Ted was on his way to the helicopter that would fly him to the Barrie hospital miles to the south.

***

Robbie had spent some time with her lawyers, who had arranged for her transfer to Toronto and for the court hearing for formal charges to be laid the next day. They had told her not to plead guilty to the charge of first degree murder. They wanted to plead a case of accidental homicide. Robbie didn’t really care; her worst nightmare had now become a reality.

The matron had lead her by the arm down into the cell blocks and placed her in a cell with another woman, whom she introduced as Tracy. Robbie looked around. The cell was small, a bunk on each side and a metal toilet and sink at the end. The walls were brick spray painted cream. The whole place smelt of cheap disinfectant and sewage.

She looked at her cell mate. She was a wiry, tough looking woman with bulging muscles covered in poorly done tattoos. Her hair was cut real short and she ignored Robbie as she sat reading a Hard Metal comic book.

“I’m Robbie,” the director said, walking farther into the cell. “Is this my bunk?” she inquired politely.

“If I say so,” came the response.

Robbie gritted her teeth and tried to stay calm. Just my luck to get a stupid bitch with an attitude.

“Well, you were here first so I guess you get first choice. So which one is yours?” she responded, letting her impatience show.

“Both,” responded the woman, uncoiling slowly like a snake and standing up. “You can sleep on the floor until I decide about you. Right, girls?” she said, speaking a little louder so those in other cells could hear. A chorus of cheers came back.

Robbie smiled. So this is the sort of hazing crap that Ryan has had to put up with over the years. I think I’m really, really getting pissed! “That’s not acceptable to me. So I think you’d better choose…now.”

The con brought her fist up and slammed it into Robbie’s temple. Robbie let it happen. She didn’t want to have started this fight. Then satisfied that the hit had left a mark, she went for Tracy, letting all her built up anger out. Three blows and the con was on her knees and dazed.

Robbie walked forward, stuck two fingers up the lady’s nostrils and lifted her up off the ground by her nose. The woman screamed in pain as the cartilage in her nose broke and blood poured out. Robbie slammed the half conscious woman against the bars, holding her high so that she had to stand on her toes to ease the pain. The director looked out at the silent women that had been watching. “No one messes with me! Got it?!” she snarled, and then let Tracy sink to the floor. With disgust she went over to the sink that was attached to the wall beside the toilet and scrubbed her hands really well.

***

Alberta sipped at a liquor glass of Benedictine. She watched the reflection of the flames from the living room fireplace dance across the polished oak floor that edged the Persian rug. Leaning back into her arm chair, she closed her eyes and thought about her findings. Philip Williams had not had osteoporosis. She had dug out the shots of the murder scene too. The body had fallen with the top of the head near the base of a love seat. The second blow could have only come from the one side. The first blow had been right handed, the second left. There were either two people involved in the murder or, Alberta smiled foreseeing her boss’s next point, or the killer was a switch hitter.

She opened her eyes, took a second sip of her night cap and lifted the statement that Robbie had made to the police in the presence of her lawyers.

“I argued with my father that night over my sexual preferences. He took a swing at me and I blocked it and hit him back. He fell to the floor. I thought he was unconscious.

“I went to find my kid sister and brother who were upstairs in their beds to make sure they were okay. I found them asleep. I went back down stairs planning on leaving, but I found that my father was dead. I panicked and buried him in the woods. Then I drove to the Port Credit harbour, took out his sailboat a couple of miles, and made it look like he’d fallen overboard and drowned. I swam back to the shore. The next afternoon, I reported my father missing. I’d told my brother and sister that my father had called me at my university residence and asked me to babysit so that he could take his boat out for the weekend. He sometimes did that. My mother was out of town that weekend.”

Alberta put the paper down on the sherry table beside her chair. She smiled softly, Robbie Williams, you are lying and I’m going to prove it!

***

Janet had been notified early the next morning about the hearing. It was to be at eleven o’clock. She was anxious to get there and see Robbie, although the lawyer had reassured her that her partner was all right. Ryan was content to stay at the condo and babysit Reb while she went alone to the court house. Kissing her two daughters good bye, Janet took the elevator down to the parking garage and got into her truck. She was preoccupied, upset, and over tired, and she didn’t sense any danger until she stopped at the end of the driveway and her door was yanked open.

“Fucking pervert!” screamed the teen, as he grabbed Janet and tried to pull her from the truck. Another teen leapt into the passenger side and started hitting Janet to get her out of the driver’s seat. Fear clutched at her heart, as she tried to fight off her attackers. A blow to her right temple sent her reeling out onto the side walk. The teen leapt out of the slowly moving truck and started to kick at her with the help of the other.

***

Alberta had tried unsuccessfully that morning to contact Robbie’s sister, Elizabeth. At ten, she had decided that she might have better luck if she tried to contact Janet Williams, Robbie’s partner. On impulse, she decided to jog the few blocks from her home to the condo by the lake. As she came around the corner, she could see the two skinheads kicking at someone on the ground. A truck left in gear had rolled across the road and was buried in the hedge. Alberta sped up and hit the two punks at full speed. A few carefully placed kicks and the two thugs took off.

Breathing heavily, she took a second to get her breath and then squatted down beside the figure that was curled in a ball on the ground. “You okay?”

The figure shrunk away at the touch. “Hey, it’s okay. They’ve gone now. I’m Doctor Alberta Pateas. I’m going to call 911 and get you some help.”

The figure stirred and a bloody face looked up. “No! Please. I’m okay. I got to go…I mean..I’ve got an appointment. I’m late.” Janet got to her feet with grim determination and only with the support of the tall woman beside her. Her head was throbbing and to her embarrassment, she threw up on the side walk. The woman stood behind her and held her with strong hands by the shoulders.

“First, I have to take you to emergency. Then, if they say it’s okay, I’ll take you to your appointment,” organized Alberta firmly.

“No! I’d be hours at emergency. Please! I’m okay. I’ll clean up in the Ladies when I get to the court house,” argued Janet, holding her side in pain.

Blue eyes snapped up to meet green. “Are you Janet Williams?”

The green eyes looked cautious and worried. “Yes.”

Alberta smiled. Janet thought she had a lovely smile. “I was on my way over to talk to you. I’m one of the forensic experts working on the case. Look, let me get you into the truck and get it out of the hedge. Then I’ll drive you over to my house which is just a few blocks down the road. You can clean up there while we talk and then I’ll take you to the courthouse.”

Janet opened her mouth to protest but Alberta held up a long, graceful hand to stop her. “Janet, no security guard is going to let you in to the court house looking like that. Better you’re late than not there at all. Come on, we’ll be as quick as we can.”

Janet nodded and let the confident woman take her by the arm and lead her to the truck. She couldn’t remember who she said she was but it was something that sounded okay. She felt tired and disoriented and just about every bone in her body hurt.

Alberta backed the truck off the curb and onto the street. She was concerned when she heard the soft gasp of pain from the small woman beside her. Janet was pale and her eyes didn’t look too focused. Alberta considered taking her to emergency anyway. Then decided against it. She’d get faster care if Alberta just took her home.

***

The next real clear impression that Janet had was sitting on a toilet lid with the woman who had rescued her, T-shirt covered breasts in front of her face. Nice breasts, nice abs. The woman was in great shape, observed Janet, as confident fingers worked to clean and bandage the cut over her eye.

“There, I think that’s going to be okay. I’ve got a sweat shirt here that you can put on. Your shirt is blood-soaked. Janet looked down in surprise. Had she been hurt that bad? “I couldn’t get your nose to stop bleeding,” explained the woman.

Janet nodded. “What’s your name again?” she asked in embarrassment, struggling to her feet as the woman stepped back. She was beautiful, with dark, curly hair cut short and blue neon eyes like Robbie’s.

“I’m Doctor Alberta Pateas. I’m a forensic anthropologist working for the Metro Toronto Police. I was the one who recovered Philip Williams remains,” Alberta explained.

Green eyes widened in surprise. “Oh.” Janet turned, steadying herself by holding onto the sink. Her side pained terribly and she was finding it hard to breathe. Looking into the mirror she was shocked to see what a mess she was. The right side of her face was swollen and bruised and a large plaster covered the cut on her eyebrow. Her nose was red and swollen and her chin scraped.

“Look, you need a real doctor,” observed Pateas.

Janet looked at the woman behind her in the mirror with pleading eyes. “I have to be there for Robbie,” she stated quietly.

The woman grimaced. “Janet, it’s already too late. The hearing would be over before I got you there.”

“Oh shit,” groaned Janet, closing her eyes and feeling the emotion and physical pain waving through her body.

Firm, warm hands took her shoulders. “This is what we are going to do. I’m going to take you to the clinic down the street and get you looked at. Then I’m going to bring you back here. You can’t stay where you are in your present state if you are going to be a target.”

Janet couldn’t think. It was just too hard and blackness was again invading her vision. “I need to go to the clinic,” she admitted, and felt strong arms wrap around her and lift her off the ground. She should protest she knew, but instead she found herself resting her head on a broad, comfortable shoulder. “I’m worried about my children,” she managed to get out before passing out.

The next few hours were kind of fussy. She saw a doctor and had x-rays and then taken home; she was stripped and put to bed. She thought she had held Rebecca for a while and that Ryan had talked to her but she wasn’t sure that she hadn’t just dreamed it. Through all the misty images was the figure of the quiet, dark woman who had rescued her.

***

Robbie sat on her bunk and stared at the wall. Yesterday, she and her cell mate had come to an understanding. Once she had cleaned the blood off herself, she had wet a towel and taken it over to the woman who huddled in the corner.

Squatting down, she had held out the cloth. “I really lose it when I get mad,” she said quietly. “Don’t make me mad again.” The bloodied woman nodded, fear in her eyes as she cautiously took the towel. “We are stuck in here for a little while, so let’s make it as pleasant as this hell hole can be. I don’t get in your way, you don’t get in mine. Agreed?”

The woman nodded again, grimacing as she tried to clean the blood away from her broken nose.

Robbie looked at it critically. “It should heal pretty straight if you tape it.” She held out her hand and after a moment’s hesitation the battered inmate wrapped her hand around Robbie’s wrist. Robbie got a grip on the woman and hauled her to her feet. After that things had gone better.

Until the hearing. Janet hadn’t been at the hearing. The lawyers had told her that Janet had e-mailed to say she was at Robbie’s apartment and that they had phoned her back to let her know about the hearing, but she hadn’t come. None of Robbie’s family had. Not that she could blame them. This must be horrible for them. And Janet was still pretty run down from her treatments. And Ryan, well she’d pretty well betrayed that kid’s trust and love. Robbie buried her head in her hands. She hurt so bad inside.

“Hey, the hearing not go so well?” asked a nasal voice.

Robbie looked up at the woman across from her. What had happened at the hearing? She was so upset at not seeing Janet she hadn’t really taken much in. She’d pleaded not guilty like her lawyers had told her. The crown had argued for more time because of other charges pending further investigation. What charges? Her lawyers had tried to get her out on bail. The request had been denied. They were appealing. Where were Janet and the kids?!

“It was okay. I don’t know where my partner and kids are,” Robbie confessed, surprising herself as much as her cell mate.

“Didn’t they show today?” Tracy asked, shifting a bit to get more comfy. She’d got the shit kicked out of her yesterday and she was anxious to try and get Robbie on her side so it didn’t happen again.

“No.”

“She got somebody else?”

“No!”

“Okay! Easy!” soothed Tracy, holding up her hands. “I was just askin. It happens a lot ya know.

They get sick waitin’.”

“Not Janet. We got something special going,” responded Robbie, trying to reassure herself as much as Tracy. Tracy nodded and let the conversation drop, returning to her comic book.

Several hours ticked by, Tracy reading and Robbie staring at nothing. Then some guards showed up at their cell. “Williams, you’ve got a visitor. Marlow, step to the back, Williams place your hands on the back of your neck and step up to the gate.” Tracy gave the guard the finger from behind her back and walked slowly to the back wall to lean on the sink. If they think that having her put her hands on the back of her neck is going to protect them then they’re fools! Tracy thought, watching with interest as one guard put chains on Robbie while the other stood by watching.

Robbie’s stomach fluttered; maybe it would be Janet. She really needed to see Janet. They lead her through the corridors and up and elevator and finally down a hall to a small room. It was divided in half with a counter and thick glass partition. To Robbie’s surprise and disappointment a stranger stood on the other side. She was tall and well built, with dark curly hair cut short. Intelligent blue eyes met Robbie’s as she entered and watched her as she moved over to the partition.

“Hello, I’m Doctor Alberta Pateas. I’m with the forensic department. Janet sent me,” said the woman.

“Where’s my family?!” asked Robbie, her eyes flashing with concern.

“They’re okay. They’re at my place. Sit down. We need to talk,” responded Alberta. They stood looking at each other for a few seconds, weighing each other up. Then Robbie looked away, broken and took a seat. Alberta didn’t feel a winner. Just some one with an unfair advantage; she sat.

“Janet got worked over pretty good by a couple of skinheads that live in your building,” Alberta said, and watched the colour drain from Robbie’s face to be replaced by white anger. The prisoner leapt to her feet and smashed herself against the wall screaming in anger. The guard came running in. Alberta stood and watched helplessly from the other side as Robbie cried.

“Leave her!” Alberta ordered. “She’s okay. She just got some really bad news, that’s all. Give her a chance, for God’s sakes.” The guard hesitated, looked again at Robbie who seemed to have calmed some, and then shrugged. He went to stand outside the door again, watching closely through the window.

“How bad is it?” asked Robbie, her face against the wall.

“She’ll be okay. Three cracked ribs, cut over the eye that took three stitches and a concussion. I’m going to see the boys are charged. They’re the teenage sons of some wealthy right wing business executive. They’re spoilt rotten and looking for a cause.

“The girls?”

“They weren’t there at the time. The incident happened at the end of your driveway while Janet was on the way to the court house,” responded Alberta. ” I had the police go and pick your children up. I wasn’t sure how secure your place was with the boys living in the same building…They’re safe now at my place. Sort of under semi police protection.” Alberta added, trying to lighten the situation.

Robbie was silent for a few seconds as she tried to get her emotions under control. Then she walked over and sat down, looking up to met the woman’s eyes who had also resumed her seat.

“Thank you.”

“No problem. They’re a nice family. Ryan was really upset. I had to let her stay with her Mom. She just wouldn’t let go of Janet.

Ice blue eyes looked up. “Ryan’s my daughter, ” she said quietly.

“Oh,” frowned Alberta, “She calls Janet Mom, so I thought Reb must be yours.”

Robbie looked down at her manacled wrists. “Maybe that’s for the best.”

“Janet sent you a note. Here it is,” stated the woman, pushing the letter through the slot. Robbie took it in her hand and held onto it tightly. “She sent some books for you too. The guards will bring them down once they’ve been checked over,” she finished awkwardly.

Alberta swallowed. She wasn’t used to dealing with emotion. Her work was objective, scientific and when the dead spoke it was in sign language, the screams long gone with their lives. “Look, I need to talk to you. I know you are lying. I want you to tell me the truth.”

Robbie looked up slowly from the letter, her emotions now masked behind still, hard muscle.

“I made my statement. I’ve nothing else to say,” she spat out.

Alberta sighed in frustration. “At least answer this. Are you left or right handed or can you use both equally well?”

“I’m right handed.”

Alberta looked at her. Now was not the time to push, she decided. She got up and signaled to the guard who watched through the window. “You need to change your mind about talking.”

“I won’t,” Robbie responded. Alberta frowned and turned to leave. “Alberta?”

The doctor looked back. “Thanks,” said Robbie again.

“I’ll see that nothing happens to them, Robbie.”

Robbie nodded as the guard took her elbow and led her back to her cell.

***

“Jesus fucking Christ, Bates! The crown’s got a water tight-case here! Damn it, she admits to hitting him and covering up his death. We have a witness that saw her bury the body. What do you want? A trail of blood to her door step?” yelled the police officer, pacing as best he could inside Tom Bates’ small and over crowded office.

The scientist sucked happily on the cold pipe. “I told you at the time, not to be too quick to pick her up. Now you’ve got a charge that you might not be able to make stick,” he mussed.

The homicide officer stopped his pacing and leaned over the desk. “Oh, I’ll make it stick alright!

With or without your help!” he snarled. “We found an old letter at Robbie’s that she had sent to her mother just after the murder. In it, she said she hated her father and wouldn’t be at the memorial service because she hoped he rotted in hell! Now what do you think about that, doctor?! The officer didn’t wait for an answer. He stormed out of the office, almost side swiping Alberta as she walked towards the door.

She looked into her friend and mentor’s office with a worried frown. “Come in, Alberta,” the old man invited cheerfully. “And close the door.”

“Are we in trouble, Doctor?” Alberta asked, moving aside a dried, weathered bone that had been left on the only other seat. Male coxa, Alberta identified to herself out of habit. An old guy by the look of things. She placed the human bone carefully on an already over crowded shelf and sat down on the now empty chair. She didn’t understand how Bates could work in this mess. Her domain was fanatically ordered and neat.

Bates didn’t answer for a bit. He had put down his pipe and now he was playing absently with a jar that contained the remains of a severed hand in formaldehyde. It had been partly dissected.

“This hand is from one of the victims in the restaurant shooting last week. I’d like you to render it down to the bone and have a look at it. I’d like your opinion, Doctor.”

“Yes, Sir,” responded Alberta, taking the jar that was pushed her way. “What am I looking for?”

A quick smile flashed across the worn face and devilment danced in pale eyes as Doctor Tom Bates picked up his cold pipe again and leaned back in his chair. “Now, telling would spoil the surprise!” he laughed. Alberta smiled. He really was an old bastard!

For a second, Bates content himself sucking on the stem of his pipe, a thoughtful look on his face. “Yeah, the police are not happy with us. We’ve rather thrown a monkey wrench into their case.”

Alberta leaned back and stretched out her legs crossing her ankles. “Don’t they want to catch the right person?”

Bates wiggled his eyebrows. “They think they have. The examination of human bones is not an exact science. For all our little charts and graphs in the end you rely on the gut feelings of the forensic examiner. Lawyers throw fits when you answer that you’ve looked at a thousand bones and this one just wasn’t quite right.” The old man laughed enjoying his little joke.

Alberta smiled. What he said was true. You even got used to the bones of the general population that you worked with. If you had to deal with another culture’s different bone structure, you were at a disadvantage because you sometimes missed the subtle differences.

“I’ve talked to Robbie Williams,” Alberta confessed.

“And?” enquired an amused boss.

“Her statement is a lie. I’m sure of it. But she wouldn’t tell me the truth. I tried to talk to her spouse but I arrived just in time to see two skinheads pounding the stuffings out of her.”

The pipe popped out of Bate’s mouth and he leaned forward. “Is she alright?”

Alberta nodded. “I put the boots to them. Janet’s got a bad concussion and is not real clear of things yet. She’s at my place. So are their kids.”

Bates closed his eyes and shook his head. “Why is it, Al, you can’t just practice the science of forensics? Why must you always get personally involved? If you must solve cases single-handedly, join the police force and train as a detective!” Bates sighed.

Alberta’s jaw moved but she didn’t respond. It was not a question she was comfortable answering, even to Doctor Bates. It revealed too much of who she was. “It just happens,” she justified instead.

Bates looked at her, then decided to let the matter drop. Alberta was young, brilliant, idealistic and driven by some inner demon. Over the years, he’d learned that it was best not to go looking for demons in others.

***

“Whatcha readin?” asked Tracy, coming back from making use of their loo.

“A book on Greek architecture, that my wife sent,” responded Robbie moodily.

“Ain’t you high bred! Give me a good old super-hero comic book any day!” the con snorted.

“Same thing,” muttered Robbie.

“What?!”

“Same thing,” she repeated, sighing as she rolled off her bunk. She just wanted to be left alone to try to deal with the news that Alberta had brought. But it would be stupid not to take an opportunity to get Tracy on her side. Tracy could be bad news and Robbie didn’t think she was above sticking a knife in her ribs while Robbie slept.

“Oh yeah,” scoffed Tracy.

“No. Look,” said Robbie, shifting over with some books to sit beside Tracy on her bunk. “See, here is a picture of a male Greek sculpture.”

“Ohhh, nice cut,” moaned Tracy.

“Exactly! The ancient Greeks set the standard by which we judge the male body. Because of the nature of marble, their figures tended to have a foreshortening of the limbs which emphasized the chest muscles even more. Now look down here,” said Robbie, pointing to the spot where the abdomen met the hip bone. “See how the abdomen muscle extends over the hip bone. That’s called a Greek Fold. The ancient Greeks thought it was a sign of a well developed body and it was greatly admired.”

“I’m admiring! Them Greeks were really hung, huh?!”

Robbie rolled her eyes. “The fold, Tracy,” she reminded the woman.

“Oh, yeah the fold.”

“It’s actually a genetic trait and only 20% of males have it. No females do. Okay, now look at the picture of Adam here in Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel,” said Robbie, flipping through another art book. “See the bunchy muscles, the foreshortened limbs, the Greek fold….same style.”

“You mean, Michelangelo copied some ancient Greek!” exclaimed Tracy, taking the book and looking at the picture closely. “He didn’t copy the dick. That thing’s puny.”

“The artists of the Renaissance, really all artists, learned their anatomy by copying the works of the ancients because nude modeling was considered a sinful act. So they picked up the style,” explained Robbie.

“So?” asked Tracy, tossing the book back having lost interest.

“So, artists still do that. Look at your Batman comic here. Bunchy muscles, foreshortened limbs, Greek Fold; three thousand years later and our concept of how to draw the human form has stayed the same.”

“Hey, cool, Batman’s Greek! Hey, look, so is Superman!”

“Modern day cartooning has very close parallels with classical work. Look at the dramatic, heroic movements in your comic. They look just like the figure in this Greek frieze of a battle.”

Robbie, feeling that she had made a point, took her books and went back to her bunk. Tracy looked for a long time at her comic books, flipping from page to page and book to book.

“Tell me something else,” she demanded at last.

“About what?”

“About my comic books,” snapped Tracy, impatiently.

Robbie took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. If she stayed locked in here much longer they could convict her of Tracy’s murder!

“The Greeks established theater as an art form. Our concept of the hero is very much that of the ancient Greek hero,” Robbie explained patiently.

“Yeah?”

“Aha. Take the original Herakles. Not the T.V. show or the cartoon. Herc has all the four elements of a Greek hero,” pointed out Robbie. I’m lying on a damn metal cot in a cement cell lecturing some Joe killer about dramatic form! I think I’ve lost it!

“So are you going to tell me what the four things are!” growled Tracy, interrupting Robbie’s thought.

“Oh, sure, sorry. An unusual birth or childhood, super-human ability, tortured soul and a need to help others,” listed Robbie. “Look at Herakles. He has the unusual birth alright. His mother is a mortal and his father is Zeus. And he has unnatural strength that makes him a super-human. His soul is tortured because he killed a man, that’s why he had to do the twelve labours as a punishment. And he was always going around doing good deeds to get noticed by his father. He is a classic Greek hero.”

“Oh, so?”

“Well, take a modern day hero…ahhh…”

“Xena!” suggested Tracy, with an evil grin.

Robbie rolled her eyes. “Okay, Xena. Unusual birth? Maybe, if she is the daughter of Ares. Certainly she had an unusual childhood because her father tries to kill her. She has super human strength, so the second criteria works. Tortured soul? You bet. She kills half the Greek nation at least once a week and always regrets it. And she has this need to help others.”

“Hey! That’s cool!” exclaimed Tracy. “Do it for one of the comic book guys!”

“Okay. Superman, unusual birth because he comes from another planet. He’s an alien. He definitely has super powers! He has the tortured soul thing because he has to live a double life in order to be accepted. I bet he hates being Clark Kent. And of course, he has an almost pathological need to help others. He’s a regular boy scout.”

There was silence for a minute. “Do Batman.”

“No! Let me read!” snapped Robbie. Tracy went back to her comics and when Robbie thought she was asleep, she pulled out the letter again that Janet had sent.

I’m so sorry I wasn’t there in court for you, Robbie!

You warned me to be careful and I wasn’t. I will be from

now on! Don’t worry, the girls and I are all right. We are

staying for the time being with Alberta until I feel better.

She’s really nice and the girls like her. She stopped the

guys who were beating up on me and then just took over and

saw to things. She’s great! We’ll be all right now, I promise.

I’m going to get you out, Robbie. I won’t stop until I do.

I love you. I love you. I love you. Don’t forget that.

She read it a few more times and then folded it carefully and stuck it back into her bra. Tears rolled down her face; she felt like she had lost everything she ever wanted in life.

***

Brian McGill placed his hand on the small of Gwen Smith’s back to reassure her as they waited for the guard to let them through the barred gate. “This place is awful!” muttered Gwen, just loud enough for Brian to hear.

“Yeah,” he responded, his voice strained with worry and fatigue. It had been a hell of a spring. First there was the stress of Gwen’s marital break-up, and then the confusion and frustration he was experiencing in his feeling towards Gwen and now the extra burden of Robbie’s arrest. All hell was breaking loose at the office.

They were led by the guard into a room divided by a counter and a glass wall. They sat down on the metal folding chairs and waited. After a while, a door on the other side opened and Robbie was escorted in. She wore an orange cover all and her hands and feet were chained and linked to her waist. Her face was lean and her eyes haggard. Gwen did her best to stifle the gasp of shock that escaped her lips.

Robbie shuffled over and sat down. Her smile was thin and brittle. “Hi, guys. Thanks for coming.” The blue eyes moved to Brian. “How is it going?”

“Shares are down in the video, special effects and production companies. Your other interests are holding their own because no link has been made to you yet. The investors are complaining but so far have not taken any legal action. The films making too much money for them to worry about any splash effect from the bad publicity.”

Robbie smiled cynically. The eyes turned on Gwen. “Well?”

“Lots of calls, Robbie. Three companies want permission to do made for T.V. films on your story. I declined on your behalf. Most of the CEO’s of your companies have touched base. They’re pretty nervous.”

“Afraid the green buck well might dry up?” Robbie asked bitterly.

Gwen let it pass; after all she was right to feel bitter. A lot of feeder companies made their money off of Robbie’s drive, talent and success. “I’ve got those forms for you to sign.” Gwen folded them so that they would fit through the slot at the base of the glass. The guard came forward and took them away from Robbie.

For a second, the old spark flashed across her eyes, then the blue dulled again in defeat. “My censor board will have to approve my reading material first,” she joked sarcastically. “I’ll get them back to you as soon as I can.”

Gwen nodded. “We’ve been to see Janet and the kids.”

The blue eyes flashed up. “Is Janet okay?” Robbie asked earnestly.

Brian grimaced. “She’s pretty banged up, Robbie. They kicked her about the face and chest. She’s still really swollen and sore but she and Alberta both said that the doctor felt Janet would be fine. She hopes to visit in the next day or two as soon as the ribs will let her. She’s in a lot of discomfort.”

Robbie nodded, her jaw moving under the pale skin. She said nothing.

Gwen laughed. “Ryan has decided she is going to be a detective now!”

Blue eyes flashed. “No she is not! She’s going to get her doctorate in physics like her aunt!”

Brian and Gwen exchanged looks. “Oh,” the secretary responded noncommitally. Time to change the subject, she thought.

“I’ve been searching through the files. The name of the crown’s witness rang a bell with me and I thought I’d just check it out. Isabella Selo is the daughter of a gardener that worked on the Williams’ estate. That’s why she was around and saw…well, what she was,” stumbled Gwen. She went on quickly, “Last year, she wrote asking to be president of your official fan club. We turned her down nicely, explaining that you already had an official fan club.”

Robbie sneered. “A disgruntled fan.”

“It appears so. I told Janet, and she is going to pass the information on to your lawyers. They might be able to use it to discredit the witness.”

Robbie shrugged and said nothing. They talked about business after that, avoiding anything about the case.

***

Two days later, Robbie was again taken upstairs to see a visitor. To her surprise, she was searched this time. Then she was taken to a different room. The room held only two wood chairs placed side by side in opposite directions. The chairs were bolted to the floor. Janet sat in one.

She rose stiffly, a look of shock and worry on her face, as Robbie shuffled over and stood looking down at her. The guard waited by the door, watching. Robbie’s face was cold and masked of feeling, her lovely eyes dull and lifeless.

Janet stepped closer and wrapped her arms around the stiff figure, holding her tight’ feeling the chained hands separating their bodies. After a seconds delay, Robbie’s head lowered and rubbed against Janet’s. Janet looked up to see eyes filled with pain. “I love you, Robbie,” she whispered before hard, demanding lips met hers.

Janet pulled away from the kiss. It had not been tender or loving, just demanding and crude. This was not the Robbie she had fallen in love with. This was the old Robbie, cold, ruthless and commanding. “Ahhh, ribs hurt. Sorry. Can we sit down?” she muttered, not wanting to get into an issue with her lover when their time together was so limited.

“You okay?” asked Robbie in concern, showing emotion for the first time.

Janet nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “Robbie, Alberta knows you are not telling the truth. Please, hon, you have to!”

Cold blue eyes looked up. “You’ve never called me, hon, before.”

“What?!” asked Janet, startled by Robbie’s reaction.

“So who is your hon, Janet?”

Janet’s face reddened in anger. “That was not called for, Robbie,” she said quietly. Then went on trying to keep her temper in check. “Reb asks about you. She can’t understand why she can’t phone you whenever she wants.”

“And Ryan? I hear she calls you mom, now,” commented Robbie, looking at a corner in the room.

“Ryan is really having trouble with this, Robbie. She is feeling very insecure. She’s afraid she has lost you and that I’ll abandon her. She is trying to strengthen the bond with me in the hopes that won’t happen. She is a very scared child, Robbie, with a lot of baggage,” Janet explained softly.

Eyes burned bright blue. “You think I don’t know that!?” Robbie snapped.

Janet swallowed and wiped the tears that had over flowed away with her hand. “I tried to contact Elizabeth but so far I haven’t been able to get through.”

“Leave Bethy out of this!” commanded Robbie.

Janet looked into the ice blue eyes that once shone with love. “I will do anything for you, Robbie, except let you rot away in here for something you didn’t do.”

“Read my statement, Janet. I did it!”

“Alberta said you didn’t and Gwen has proof that the witness could be no more than a disgruntled fan.”

“Fuck Alberta!” snarled Robbie, getting up. “Or do you already!?”

Janet got to her feet awkwardly and slapped Robbie across the face. Then she walked to the door and slammed out. Robbie let a smirking guard lead her back to her cell.
Part 4
When Robbie returned to her cell again, she picked up the newspaper that she had been reading before she left. She stared at the black and white photo of Janet leaving the police station the previous day after making her statement. She was tucked under Alberta’s protective arm. Alberta carried a smiling Reb and Ryan followed along behind. The picture cut through her gut and smashed her emotions around. She wanted to stop looking at it but the photo held her with a morbid fascination. The caption read, “The Williams and a close family friend.”

The heat of Janet’s slap burned against her cheek. She reached her hand up and touched it. Janet had hit her! She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips recalling the sweet taste of her wife. I was a bit rough, she concluded…..no, she’d been more than rough, she had been a first class bitch! What the hell did I do!? she thought, as realization hit. Damn, I acted like a jealous jackass!

Robbie leapt to her feet and flung herself against the bars. “Hey, warden, hey! I’ve got to use the phone! Hey, it’s an emergency! Come on!” she screamed, banging at the bars. Tracy watched with interest from her position on her cot.

After a while a guard came down the hall. “Quiet down, Williams.”

“Look, I’ve got to use the phone!”

“Sorry, block time is over. It will have to wait until tomorrow.”

“I can’t!!!” screamed Robbie, shaking the bars in angry frustration.

The nightstick slammed against the bars in front of Robbie’s face. “You can and you will! Now settle down, Williams! You’re disturbing the whole block. Keep it up and you’ll get isolation.”

Suddenly, Tracy was there between Robbie and the bars. “Fuck you, turnkey. We just wanted to send out for pizza.”

“The guard sneered. “Cute, Lanker,” responded the guard, whose attention had been drawn away from Robbie. Tracy gave him the finger as he walked away. Then she turned to look at Robbie.

“You crazy or somethin?”

Robbie put her head against the bars. “Yeah, I just might be,” she muttered.

“So what is it worth?” asked the cell mate with a smirk.

“Huh?”

“So what is it worth to you to make that phone call?”

Blue eyes turned and made contact with brown. “What do you want?”

“Thousand bucks,” stated Tracy.

“No, you’ll spend it on drugs and I’m stuck in here with you. I’ll get you a decent paid job when you get out of here and cover the lawyer fees for your appeal.”

Tracy chewed her lip and considered. “That would be more than a thousand dollars”

“A lot more,” agreed Robbie.

“Okay. Come here, yer gonna have to help.”

Carefully, Robbie drained the water out of the toilet bowl with her toothbrush cup as Tracy had instructed, pouring it back into the sealed tank until it was full to the brim . Tracy sat on the bed and kept a look out while she explained. “See, the pipes are all connected. So once the water’s out, you can stick your head in there and pass a message from block to block.. We gotta guy upstairs who’ll place the call and pass on the message. It’ll cost you twenty bucks and he only allows ten words.”

“You’re kidding!” growled Robbie.

“Listen, you wanta get the message out?!” responded the woman.

“Okay,” sighed Robbie.

Tracy came over and started rapping on the toilet bowl. A short time later, a muffled rap came in response. Tracy nodded to Robbie. “Gimme the phone number.”

Robbie looked at her blankly. “The phone number!” Tracy snapped.

“I don’t know it, ” admitted Robbie.

“Shit, woman! Whatcha thinkin’ of?! Well, give me someone’s fuckin number!”

Thinking desperately, Robbie gave Tracy Gwen’s number hoping, Gwen would be able to pass the message on. Tracy tapped out the code then gave Robbie her final instructions. “State your first name and your message. Don’t yell but speak loud.”

Robbie stuck her head into the bowl. “Robbie. Janet, I’m sorry. I love you!”

She turned to look at Tracy. The woman smirked. “Ahhhh, aint that sweet!”

“Screw off,” muttered Robbie, getting up and brushing the dust from her knees.

Tracy laughed. “See ya put the water back in or the damn water rats come crawlin’ up the crapper.”

***

Alberta could tell that Janet was upset as she walked across the prison parking lot to where the scientist sat waiting in the van. Janet got in out of the cold wind and sat white and stiff beside her.

“You okay, hon?” asked Alberta.

Janet’s head snapped around. “What did you call me?!”

A slow red washed up Alberta’s neck. “Hon. I asked if you were okay. I was concerned.”

It was Janet’s turn to look embarrassed. She nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. Robbie picked a fight. She’s…she’s different.”

Alberta nodded and said no more. She started her Honda van and slipped into the busy Toronto traffic leaving Janet with her thoughts.

It was much later that night, after Janet had kissed both girls good night, that Alberta called upstairs that Janet had a phone call from Gwen. Janet picked up the phone, a feeling of apprehension taking root. Why would Gwen be phoning at this hour?

“Ahhh, Janet. I just got a really weird phone call from some guy who wouldn’t identify himself. The call came from a pay phone, I checked. He said, ‘This is a message from Robbie in prison: Janet, I’m sorry. I love you’.” Janet’s knees gave out and she sank onto the end of her bed.

“You there?” asked Gwen.

“Yes, thanks, Gwen,” laughed Janet weakly. “Thanks.”

“Well, good night.”

“Good night. Thanks,” responded Janet, in a daze. How had Robbie managed that? She smiled;

that was more like her Robbie!

***

Ted Potts had been transferred to Toronto. He had suffered a broken back and hip in the roll over. David drove to Toronto to be with his brother. Now, forty-eight hours later, he was standing in the hospital parking lot wondering what to do next. His hand rubbed against a two day old stubble. He needed a room, food and a place to sleep.

Getting into his car, he considered what street would be the most likely to have a decent hotel where he could stay at a reasonable price. That was going to be no small order in an expensive city like Toronto. He started his Ford and headed off. Much to his surprise, he found himself heading instead to Elizabeth’s condominium. He needed to see Elizabeth, he admitted to himself. Her calm, practical reasoning would put Ted’s accident in the proper perspective.

Walking into the lavish entrance hall, he pressed the unmarked intercom button that he knew would connect him to Elizabeth’s apartment. There was a long wait, followed by static but no greeting. David took the chance. “Elizabeth is that you? It’s David Potts.”

“David?! Oh, David! It is so good to hear your voice! I don’t know what to do!” came the distressed voice, from the speaker.

“Open the door, Elizabeth and I’ll be right up,” organized David, and was pleased to hear the latch release almost immediately on the security door. David pulled the door open and entered.

***

Alberta paced down the large living room. Antique walnut furniture shown richly in the firelight and the soft glow of the Chinese lamp. The lamp had been a gift to herself when she had got her present job. The fine china bowl was hand glazed in 24 carat gold and the shade was pure silk. It had been very expensive. Usually, Alberta shopped for bargains and refinished each piece meticulously herself. But this piece had been beautiful and represented to Alberta the changes that she had fought so hard for in her life. The lamp was more than decorative, it was a symbol of victory.

Alberta sighed, placing her hands on her hips and looking moodily at the floor. She wasn’t feeling victorious tonight. She was feeling foolish. This evening had been…disturbing. It wasn’t the dog hair that was forming dust bunnies the size of walrus in her hall, or the copper pots and pans she found Rebecca pounding together in the kitchen. It wasn’t Ryan’s ten million questions about Alberta’s life on a western cattle ranch as a child, or the way the kid followed her around. It wasn’t Janet’s panties she found left inside her drier. It was the whole thing. The sitting down at a table with a family and hearing happy voices around her. She hadn’t felt that sort of closeness in a long time. It…it felt good, she had to admit to herself.

She liked the girls. They were very different and yet both really neat. And Janet, hell, she more than liked her. She found herself very attracted to the woman and it was hard to keep reminding herself that the beautiful, vivacious woman was married to somebody else.

She looked around; her meticulously ordered domain was in a state of chaos. Ryan’s runners were by the couch were she had kicked them off while reading. The forensic book Ryan had taken from the library shelf was on the end table. Reb’s doll, that Rufus had carried in, was lying near the hearth with the big shaggy dog sleeping beside it and Janet’s notes on Robbie’s case were scattered over the campaign trestle table in the corner of the room. What surprised her was that she didn’t care. She liked it. It was sort of a ready-made family. A nice one.

“I got a message from Robbie!” announced Janet, bouncing into the room.

Alberta looked up and forced a smile. “That’s good. I take it from your smile that the fight is over.”

Janet nodded, her eyes sparkling. “Yah, she sent a message to say she was sorry and loved me.”

Alberta smiled but said nothing. Janet smiled back shyly. She really liked Al. The woman wasn’t at all like Robbie in personality although she had similar chestnut hair and neon blue eyes. Alberta wore her hair short, almost like a man’s, Robbie’s was a bit longer and more styled. Robbie’s face was movie star beautiful. Alberta’s was handsome. The planes of her face were stronger, more defined, her body just as fit as Robbie’s but while Robbie had the light frame of a runner, Alberta’s body was sinewy and strong.

Robbie was a firecracker exploding with jokes and ideas all the time. Alberta was quiet, controlled and commanding. Janet saw the scientist’s eyebrow raise in question and Janet realized with a start that she had been staring. She smiled and quickly looked away, going to study the three water colours of tall ships framed side by side over the mantel. The pictures were moody and stylistic, painted with a limited palette. The result was the haunting feel of power and movement frozen in time.

“These are beautiful!” she exclaimed.

“Thank you,” Alberta responded. “I painted them for …a friend many years ago.”

“You painted them?!”

“Yes,” responded Alberta, feeling the heat climbing up her neck.

“I love them! You are really very talented! Did you paint this big one too?” asked Janet, going to stand in front of the large picture of summer flowers that hung over the couch. The flowers were in full bloom, soft, and sensual in their rendition.

“Yes.”

Janet turned to look at Alberta. “You are amazing, you know. Did you do all the art in the house?”

Their eyes met and locked. Alberta was the first to look away. “No,” she laughed, “only in this room. The rest are pieces I’ve collected over the years. I’ll make tea, if you like, while you get on with your research,” suggested Alberta, needing time alone to calm the heat that was spreading through her desires focusing on the small woman who stood happily in front of her.

Remember she looks happy because her partner just sent a message to say she loves her, damn it, Alberta, she thought, as she stomped down the hall to the Victorian kitchen. Don’t make a fool of yourself!

Alberta sat reading by the fire, her tea cooling at her elbow. Janet was back at the desk researching the news clippings at the time of Philip Williams death. “Alberta? Could a child have killed Philip?” Janet asked, chewing on a pencil. Alberta hated chewed pencils but Janet looked so cute doing it.

Alberta considered. “How old?”

“Twelve.”

The scientist thought about it. “Yes, if the weapon was swung such as a golf club or bat,” she concluded. “By the shape and size of the depression, I’d put my money on a golf wood or perhaps a fireplace tool. There was a fireplace in the room.”

“If it wasn’t Robbie it had to be either Elizabeth or Billy,” concluded Janet quietly.

“The police don’t like dealing with child killers,” observed Alberta dryly, taking a sip of tea and then frowning at it. It had gone cold while she had been caught up in her reading.

“They are not children now,” argued Janet. “And Robbie is covering for someone.”

Alberta looked at Janet. “She is covering for Elizabeth, Janet. We both know that, but why?”

“I wish Elizabeth would talk to me,” sighed Janet.

“She can hardly talk to you if she’s hiding the fact she is the murderer, Janet,” pointed out Alberta practically.

Janet stood up and paced around the beautiful room. “It’s a Catch 22. If I find evidence to free Robbie and that evidence points to Elizabeth, Robbie would never forgive me!” moaned Janet.

Alberta said nothing. She had an emotional bias and now was not the time for her to be offering advice. She didn’t wish any harm on Robbie but then again a Robbie out of the picture would suit Alberta just fine!

Suddenly, Janet stopped and clicked her fingers. “If Elizabeth won’t talk I know who will! Billy!”

Alberta’s eyes got big. “Janet, the man’s dead. Even I couldn’t get that information out of his remains.”

“Al, for years he took therapy at a Swiss clinic. What if he told his doctor about the killing?

Alberta’s eyebrow cocked up. “That’s a possibility. You’d have to get your lawyers on it to make it legal. I’ve got some friends with Interpol that could probably put some muscle behind a legal request for disclosure.”

“Let’s do it!” decided Janet and Alberta stood to go to the phone. Much to her surprise she found herself being hugged by Janet, who reached up and kissed her cheek. “Thanks.”

Alberta smiled weakly and tried hard not to be so petty as to wish that Billy had identified Robbie as the killer.

***

Robbie walked the yard, trying to soak in as much of the weak spring sunlight that she could. She wasn’t sure how she was going to survive for years in prison. The walls closed in on her and she was exhausted from trying to force down the panic and anger that built up inside.

She looked across the yard; Tracy was busy making a drug deal. Shit! Another night of Tracy in lalaland! Voices were getting louder, Tracy feeling the price was too high. A push. Retaliation. In a second, a brawl had started.

Robbie watched as Tracy was surrounded by three inmates. She was giving as good as she got until one of the women grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms. The other two set in on her. Robbie charged across the yard and started swinging.

***

The next day, Janet arrived right on visiting time, lining up with other loved ones and family. She was anxious to see Robbie again and sort out the emotions that were driving a wedge between them. She signed in and went through the metal detector and then requested to see Roberta Williams. The guard clicked down the computer screen.

“Sorry, Roberta Williams is confined to her cell. She is not allowed visitors for a week.”

“What?! Why?!” exclaimed Janet.

The guard rolled his eyes. “Bunch of them went at it in the yard yesterday. A real free for all from what I heard.”

Janet paled. “Is she hurt?”

The guard looked back at the screen and brought up Robbie’s individual data file. Janet watched his eyes scanning down the screen. “No. She wasn’t sent to infirmary so she must be okay.”

“Can I get a message to her?” Janet asked.

The guard looked up and smiled. “Sure. Here’s some paper and an envelope.”

Janet smiled her thanks and wrote a note to Robbie, folded it and sealed it in the envelope before handing it back to the guard. “Thanks,” she smiled.

“No problem,” responded the guard, not looking up from his computer screen this time. Janet walked away disappointment and frustration bringing tears to her eyes.

The letter reached Robbie in the late afternoon. She was alone in the cell. Tracy was with the lawyers that Robbie had arranged to help her with her pending appeal. She took the letter from the guard and went over to sit on her bunk, looking at Janet’s neat teacher handwriting on the cover. Then, carefully, she opened the envelope and pulled out the letter.

Fear held her heart in a tight vice. What if Janet was not going to forgive her? What if she’d had enough of the problems Robbie was always bringing into her life? She unfolded the envelope.

Good morning my love. I got your message! Thank you! You

are so wonderful, darling! Well, my beautiful olive, you’ve done

it again, haven’t you! I hope you are all right. It must be awful

for you to be in there. I’m going to get you out, Robbie. I know

you don’t want me to involve Elizabeth and I won’t if I can avoid

it. But nothing is going to stop me from getting you back with us.

Robbie, I LOVE YOU. That is the only thing at the moment that

is a constant in our lives. Trust me, Robbie. I know that trusting

is hard for you but trust me. I am your soulmate, your wife, and

your lover, now, and forever. I miss you so very much. Be careful!

Robbie read the letter over and over, her hands nervously straightening the paper on her lap.

Janet, I love you! Oh God, Janet, I don’t deserve you but don’t ever leave me! I miss you and the kids so much! Tears rolled down her face unchecked.

***

Alberta had done her best to cheer the Williams’ family up once Janet had returned from the jail.

She had taken them to the Toronto Zoo. Sitting in the Don Valley, the zoo covered hectares of parkland. For the most part, the animals were confined by natural barriers such as water or deep ravines rather than by fences. Each wild life area had been specially designed to reflect the natural environment from which the animal had come.

There were also huge pavilions, each representing the flora and fauna of a specific hemisphere.

They walked about for hours, Ryan looking at everything with a scientific eye and asking Al and Janet a thousand questions and Reb laughing joyously at every new animal she was shown. They returned to a warm fire, hot chocolate and Alberta’s home made apple pie.

Reb was put down for her nap and Ryan went off to do the studies that Janet had assigned for her. Janet curled up on the couch in the living room and read through the home study curriculum that she was using for Ryan. It had been a much needed day of relaxation, Janet mused, looking over at the red embers that still glowed in the hearth ash. They certainly owed Alberta a lot.

Off in the distance, Janet could hear soft classical music playing and smiled. Alberta had beautiful taste in everything. On impulse, she went in search of her new friend.

She found her in an empty room towards the back of the house. One wall was windows and looked out on a small oriental rock garden. Alberta was in a black exercise outfit that emphasized every muscle in her body. In her hands, she held long thin knives each with horn-like hilts of metal. Highlighted in the evening sun, she became a living sculpture; beautiful, powerful and fascinating. The music started again, Johann Pachelbel’s Canon En Re Majeur in D major. It floated softly across and pulled Janet into the room. She sank slowly to the floor by the door and watched as Alberta swayed in gentle, sensual movements.

The music was soft and flowing and Alberta moved in a slow dance, the knives an extension of her form, flashing in the sun and forming silver arches of light around her. It was as much dance as it was martial arts, each movement balanced, graceful and liquid. Every position, became a single note in a harmonious worship of peace and power. Yin and Yang. Love and hate. Life and death.

A shimmer of moisture now coated the dancer’s body, glistening off soft tanned skin that rippled with controlled strength. Janet felt her own warmth; this was more than training, more than art, it was a powerful dance of love: sexual, forceful, and beautiful. Alberta’s breathing deepened as the music rose to a climax. Her body spun, arched and heaved, following the lines of the twin blades.

Janet’s lips parted, sucking in air as she was carried away on a tidal wave of feeling. The music reached a climax and for a second blue eyes turned to caress green. Janet felt her emotions reach a pinnacle and then tumble out of control down the other side as the glance was broken, and Alberta’s body slowed to the music that flowed in an aftermath of sound.

What was it the French called a climax? The little death. That was what Janet had felt and she knew that Alberta had experienced it too. The air was heavy with the musky scent of desire and still the dancer swayed to the music, the sharp knives now thrusting slowly to the rhythm . Janet stood, fascinated by the dance of the little death. As the music ended, Alberta moved towards Janet, a lover, dark, mysterious and deadly.

For a moment, the dancer looked down at her. Janet followed a single bead of moisture that curled down the planes of Alberta’s face and dropped like a pearl to her breast. Janet looked up, soft, warm lips met her own and hands carrying deadly weapons drew her gently into safe arms. Janet’s hands slid up hot muscled arms and the kiss deepened, expressing their love.

***

“You need to trust me, Elizabeth,” David was saying some miles away. “There is nothing that you can say to me that will make me think less of you. I am not going to judge. I am going to accept you as you are.”

Elizabeth sat stiffly at one end of the couch, her hands folding and unfolding in her lap. David sat at the other end, earnestly searching Elizabeth’s eyes for a clue to the secret she kept hidden there.

The physicist nodded, swallowed and tried to collect herself to relate a story she had only once in her life ever revealed, and not for fifteen years. “My father, he… he sexually abused Billy and me,” she whispered.

David said nothing. He slipped slowly across the empty space between them and took Elizabeth’s cold hand in his own, waiting.

“He did horrible things to us,” Elizabeth went on, the tears now following freely. “That night, Robbie came home for the weekend and found him…on me. I was trying to fight him off. Billy, he’d hidden upstairs. Robbie pulled him off and called him a name. He swung at her and she ducked and then hit him really hard in the face and he fell down. Then she wrapped me in her arms and picked me up and carried me upstairs.

“She helped me shower and washed my hair, then gave me a pill and I went to sleep in her arms. When I woke up it was much later, and Alexandria was home and Robbie was gone. I could hear Alexandria singing in the room down the hall. I just lay there terrified, until Robbie returned in the morning. She took Billy and me for a walk and told us that our father had gone sailing and she had come over to babysit. But I knew that wasn’t what had happened. Later, when he was reported missing, I asked her and she told me that she had killed him when she had hit him that night and that I must never tell the truth,” Elizabeth ended, now sobbing convulsively against David’s shoulder.

David held her and whispered softly to her that everything would be all right now.

***

Alberta felt the body that had molded to her own stiffen and pull away. “Alberta, I…” Janet backed out of the dancer’s arms. “That was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Alberta gave a sad, lope-sided smile. “I think I’ve fallen in love with you, Janet.”

Green eyes, soft with passion looked up. “I love you too, Al but you are not Robbie. Robbie is more than my lover, she is my soulmate. I’m sorry, I could have loved you but not now that I’ve found the one who was meant for me.”

The bitter smile hovered again at the corner of Alberta’s mouth. “What if you are my soulmate?” she asked softly.

Janet shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work like that. Everyone has that special somebody. You can love many but there is only one who can bond to your soul. I’m not her, Alberta,” Janet explained, as she searched the dancer’s eyes. “I belong to another. You have yet to find your soulmate.”

“Will I?” Alberta asked sadly.

Janet reached up and brushed a soft kiss across lips swollen with their kiss. “I hope so. The lucky ones do. You will find someone who loves you very, very deeply, Alberta. You are a very special person and I love you.” Janet turned and left leaving Alberta to return to her dance alone.

***

Robbie woke with a start, knowing that something was wrong. She rubbed shaking finger tips over her mouth removing the sheen of sweat that had formed on her upper lip. Then a feeling of utter peace and security flowed through her and she smiled. I love you, Janet, she thought and lay down again to stare at the cement ceiling and listen to Tracy’s soft snoring.

***

Ryan had taken Reb out to play in Alberta’s backyard. The two adults sat over their morning coffee, a little embarrassed with each other’s company after the kiss they had shared the night before. Alberta was more quiet than normal and sat looking moodily into her coffee mug. Janet, uncomfortable with the silence, tried to think of something to start a conversation.

“You were so beautiful to watch yesterday. Tell me about the knives.”

Alberta looked up and smiled sadly. Then, realizing they had to move on, she went on to explain. “They are called Sais. They are a branch of the original seven disciplines of the martial arts. Their history is associated with the ninja class but they have deep spiritual ties in their doctrine with Shinto.”

“Are you very good? You seemed to be,” asked Janet, buttering another piece of toast.

Alberta leaned back, “I have a ninth dan.” Janet looked at her blankly and Alberta smiled. “That is the ninth level of black belt.”

“Oh! That’s very good isn’t it?” Alberta shrugged in response. “Can I see your Sais?” Janet asked.

“Sure,” agreed Alberta, and got up and left the room. In a few minutes, she returned to place a black leather case on the table. She opened it to reveal the two knives fixed in place on a red silk bed.

“Oh, they’re beautiful!” exclaimed Janet. The blade was octagonal in shape and the prongs were intricately etched with detailed designs. The handles too were a work of art. Coloured string had been woven into interlacing patterns of depth and beauty.

Alberta smiled with pride. “They were hand forged in Che Chao-po. The blades were tempered using the traditional clay process that has been used there since 700 AD. The hilts are covered in string-ray skin and then finished in Japanese cotton cord wrapping.”

“Have you studied long?” Janet asked, looking directly into Alberta’s eyes for the first time that morning.

Alberta’s heart stopped but she managed to go on, hiding her feelings behind a passive face. “Since I was a child living on the ranch in Alberta. There was a Japanese master living near by. He had been taken from his home in Vancouver and put in an internment camp during the war and had just stayed on in the area. I learned a lot from him,” explained Alberta.

Janet nodded. “You know, you told me the first day we were here that the only thing you took from the west was your name but that wasn’t really true.” Alberta’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “I hear you telling Ryan stories about your childhood in the foothills of the Rockies and your voice is filled with love.”

Alberta closed the case and went and sat down again. “You read me wrong, Janet,” she responded. “I worked my tail off so that I could escape being a cattle rancher’s wife.”

Janet laughed. “Maybe. But you still love the land and you have lots of happy memories. Do you still have family out there?

“Two of my three brothers and my father are still alive. We still keep in touch. My mother died when I was twelve,” Alberta responded, warming her coffee up from the carafe that sat on the table.

“Do you go back often?” Janet asked, amazed that the private woman was being so open.

“Not since I left the ranch for university fourteen years ago,” Alberta drawled.

There was silence from across the table. Alberta looked up into concerned eyes. “You need to go home,” stated Janet.

Alberta snorted and passed Janet the last of the toast to distract her.

***

It was later that Saturday morning when Janet received a phone call from Elizabeth. “Janet,” said a voice raw with emotion. “I’m sorry I haven’t answered your calls. David is here now. Can we meet you a…and talk?”

Janet smiled tenderly. She realized that this was a very hard thing for the reclusive scientist to be doing. She must love Robbie very much. “I need you to know, Elizabeth, that Robbie doesn’t want me to talk to you. I told her I would not involve you in the case unless there was no other way.”

There was a moment’s silence. Then in a clear, firm voice Elizabeth responded, “Robbie’s wrong. I need to end the secrets and come to some sort of closure on what happened.”

“I think so too,” Janet responded. “I’m proud of you, Bethy. I’ll ask Alberta to pick you up in her van. The press might know your car and follow you otherwise.”

“No, that’s okay, Janet. David has his car here and no one will recognize it. I feel safe with David.”

Janet smiled. She gave Bethy the address and hung up.

It was a quiet, obviously shaken pair that arrived sometime later. They stepped into the house timidly and looked around nervously. Alberta made them feel welcome, settled them in the living room and brought tea. Then she herded the girls out and left Janet to talk to Elizabeth and David.

Ryan watched Reb as she played with Rufus on the kitchen floor. She would hold on to one end of a short rope and Rufus would pull on the other end, dragging the small child across the floor on her backside as the massive dog backed up. Then Reb would let go and Rufus would trot back across the room with the rope in his mouth to wait patiently for Reb to get up and run over to do the whole performance over again.

“Just what kind of dog is Rufus?” asked Alberta, placing a plate of cookies on the table and pouring three glasses of milk. “Reb, come here and get your hands washed before you have your snack.”

“We have no idea. We’re not even sure that he’s a dog. Obby thinks there might be tree sloth in him,” explained Ryan.

Alberta laughed at the family joke as she lifted Reb up on the counter and took a cloth to wash the child’s hands. “It sure is one big ugly thing!”

“Nah, he’s one big ugly orange thing,” argued Ryan. “Whatever he is, we’ve been treating him like a family pet and he’s responded very well. Rufus is very loyal.”

Alberta laughed and shook her head as she lifted Reb into her arms, carried her over and placed her on Ryan’s lap since they did not have a high chair. Ryan gave Reb a cookie and she happily chewed on it.

“Is it bad in prisons?” asked Ryan after a few seconds. “You know, you see movies and stuff and..”

The cookie on the way to Alberta’s mouth halted and returned to the plate. Shit! What do I say now! “Prison is not a nice place to be, Ryan. You spend hours locked up in a small room with another person. You are surround by dysfunctional individuals many of them capable of considerable violence. There is no privacy and no time when you can completely relax. Robbie can hold her own, however. I don’t think you need to worry,” finished Alberta.

“I wasn’t worried!” protested Ryan. “You just hear things about prisons, you know. Mom said Obby got into a fight.”

Alberta finished chewing the cookie that she had finally got to her mouth. “Yeah, I phoned some of the people I know just to make sure everything was okay. Her cell mate, Tracy, got into an argument in the yard. That’s the area where the prisoners are allowed to walk outside twice a week. She got jumped and your mom waded in to help her out. The three who started it got solitary and the others, including Robbie, just got confinement to their cells for the week.”

“She’d hate that,” muttered Ryan, pushing crumbs around her plate with a finger. “She’s pretty active. Always moving about restlessly.”

Poor kid, Alberta thought, she sure is going through a lot! Reb looked up at her big sister. “Obby come home soon, Ryan?” she asked. Ryan kissed the dark head of the child that sat on her lap. “I don’t know Reb,” she answered honestly.

***

That night, Janet had the time to share with Alberta what Elizabeth had revealed. “So we are not much farther ahead. If Bethy is telling the truth and I think she is, then her story is the same as Robbie’s. In away I’m glad. It would kill Robbie if Bethy was put in prison for the murder. So it looks like we can get Robbie off a charge of second degree murder but we are still looking at manslaughter,” Janet sighed. “What would she get for that, Alberta?”

“Two to seven, most likely,” responded the scientist. “But I don’t think manslaughter is going to hold up. There were two blows, most likely from two different people. We now know that initially Robbie only hit her father once just like she said. Either someone else came into that room and finished him off while Robbie was upstairs or Robbie came back down and killed him.”

“Robbie wouldn’t do that!” Janet protested, looking up sharply from where she sat on the couch. “She can be hot tempered but deliberate murder, no, Robbie would never do anything like that!”

Alberta leaned her head on her hand. This was really hard, trying to go on business as normal when she was hurting like hell inside. Worse still, she found herself in the position of having to help the one woman she would rather see in hell! “If it wasn’t Robbie or Elizabeth then it had to be Billy. He was the only other person in the house that night,” stated Alberta, to the fire.

“God, I hope our inquiry turns up something!” sighed Janet.

“They might not be willing to release the information. Patient/Doctor confidentiality and all that,” suggested Alberta wishfully.

“Well, I was his wife and Robbie’s lawyers are also asking too. They should be willing to release that information to us. After all, he’s dead!”Janet responded hotly.

Alberta’s eyebrow went up. Janet’s marriage to Robbie’s brother seemed very strange to Alberta.

The Williams’ relationship tangle made the Gordion Knot look simple! Maybe Janet married the guy and then realized she was gay. It was pretty obvious that she had never loved him.

***

It was near the end of a very long week when Robbie’s lawyers contacted Janet with the information sent back from Switzerland. The response was brief and to the point. Billy had talked about the weekend his father had disappeared. He had stated that his father had died in a boating accident.

Janet curled up in Alberta’s arms and had a good cry. Alberta kept her face passive. Her heart ached for Janet and she felt sorry for Robbie but most of all she felt damn sorry for herself. It was only with great effort that she was able to remain supportive in a drama that she wanted no part in. Love was a bitch!

Later, Janet paced the floor restlessly. Back and forth. Back and forth. She could hear the classical music coming from the back of the house but images of the beautiful and deadly dance were buried under Janet’s fretting for Robbie. Back and forth she walked, and in the back of the house the music went on and on.

***

Alberta trained until she almost passed out from exhaustion. Then she leaned against the wall and watched the red spots dance across her eyes. If she could make it upstairs to her bedroom, maybe she could sleep tonight.

With a groan, she pushed herself off the wall and dragged herself upstairs. She stripped down and took a shower, only to find that sleep was still an elusive element no matter how tired her body was. The bedroom was large with hard maple floors. Down one end was a writing desk of oak with a matching set of drawers. Down the other was a sitting area. The centre area was dominated by a large oak sleigh bed and on the opposite wall was the last of the three fireplaces in the house.

Alberta slipped into navy blue silk pyjamas and sat down in the comfy wingback chair by the fire. Leaning down, she put a light to the kindling and pulled the screen in place. It promised to be a long night.

She must have dozed because Janet rushing into her room woke her with a start. “I know who did it!! I know!”

Alberta caught her in her arms and spun her around, laughing with her. “So are you going to share the answer, Mrs. Holmes?” asked Alberta playfully, acutely aware of the feel of Janet’s body through the thin layer of fine silk. Did Janet know what she was doing to her? No, Alberta sighed inwardly, Janet was focused on one thing and one thing only and that was getting her soulmate back.

Alberta pulled away and went to get her housecoat from the closet. Putting it on, she turned to see an upset and worried face. “Oh Alberta! I’m sorry! That was pretty callous of me!” Janet apologized.

Alberta shrugged and gave a weak smile. “I hope some day someone will love me that much. Here come and sit by the fire and tell me what you have worked out.”

Janet gave Alberta a quick hug and kissed her chin. Then she went to sit in the other arm chair on the other side of the hearth. “It was something Elizabeth said. She said that she heard Alexandria come in and she was singing. Doesn’t that strike you as a strange thing to do if you had two children in bed? Unless you wanted to be heard because you needed to set the time for when you got home so it was AFTER the murder!” explained Janet, her eyes sparkling.

Alberta rubbed her chin and considered. “You think she came home early, maybe witnessed what had gone on and decided to take the opportunity while Philip was out cold to off him?”

Janet nodded. “It explains why Alexandria was so willing to help the police! She planted that letter in Robbie’s apartment in the hopes of making the case against Robbie stronger! Why would Robbie have a letter she had sent to her mother years ago? She wanted to prove Robbie had attacked Philip and harboured really angry feelings towards him!”

“It makes sense,” concluded Alberta, “but how are you going to prove it?”

“I can’t. But you can help me flush her out!” Alberta’s eyebrow went up and Janet smiled at her wickedly.

***

Janet once again lined up with those going to visit inmates. This time she was given clearance to see Robbie. Once more she was led to a small room with two wood chairs bolted to the floor. The woman that entered barely looked like the woman that she loved. Her face was pale and her eyes deep set and dark. Someone had cut her hair in a ragged short cut. She looked haggard, hard and depressed.

Robbie walked over and stood quietly looking down at her. Hesitantly, Janet wrapped her arms around the woman that was her soulmate. The stiff body convulsed at the touch and Robbie lowered her head and rubbed her cheek against Janet’s head like a kitten seeking affection.

They stayed that way for a long time, each afraid to speak in case they hurt each other. Finally, Janet looked up into sad blue eyes. “Kiss me,” she requested, and Robbie lowered her head and gently caressed her lips.

“Here, sit down, love,” Janet instructed, frightened now that Robbie had not spoken. “You don’t look so good,” she commented, using her fingers to comb Robbie’s short hair into some sort of order.

“I don’t feel so good,” came a whisper, from a voice that sounded rusty from lack of use. “I…I don’t like being locked up,” she confessed.

Janet nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “It will be a little better now that you can get out of your cell again sometimes,” soothed Janet, pulling the unresponsive body into a hug. She hated the sound of the chains when Robbie moved and the smell of stale cigarettes and sewer that clung to her clothes. It was like ham stringing a race horse to keep Robbie locked up.

Robbie didn’t answer. She just nodded and rubbed her head against Janet’s again. Janet smelt of the outside; of summer days and wild herbs under a hot sun. How could she tell Janet that she was going slowly crazy in there?

“I can’t tell you anything, Robbie, but Alberta and I are onto a lead that we think will get you out of here,” whispered Janet.

Robbie forced herself not to react. She didn’t want to fight with Janet but she was getting very sick of hearing Alberta’s name. Now they had secrets they were keeping from her. Could you blame her, Robbie, if she found someone else? How honest were you with her? “I love you,” Robbie croaked out, in desperation.

“I love you too,” Janet whispered. They didn’t talk after that. They just sat together, Janet’s arms around the handcuffed woman. Two very lonely lovers, close but apart.

***

Alberta paced around the parking lot waiting for Janet. She’d been in there a long time. The thought of someone else touching Janet ate at her guts. Anger hardened the muscles in her face and she forced them to relax in a deadpan expression as she saw the petite figure heading over the parking lot in her direction.

Janet smiled up at her friend. “The first really warm day. Maybe our April showers are over,” she said.

Alberta nodded, looking around, anywhere but at Janet’s lips. “Yeah, summer’s close now,” she responded, pleased by how normal her voice sounded. “Ready to go and get this over with?”

Janet nodded. “This has got to work! If we can’t flush her out I don’t know where to go from here!” she confessed worriedly.

Alberta gave her hand a pat. “We’ll make it work,” she promised.

They drove north out of Toronto then headed west to Unionville. Once again, Alberta pulled into the driveway of the Williams’ estate, not to pick up the bones of Robbie’s father this time but to pick at the soul of Alexandria. If Janet was right, this woman had let her daughter carry the guilt of the death of Philip Williams on her shoulders for years and then had coldly tried to set Robbie up to be wrongfully convicted of that murder! It was hard to believe that anyone could be that self-serving.

They were led by the maid into a morning room were Alexandria lay lounging with a Vogue Magazine. “Oh, it is Robbie’s little friend!” exclaimed Alexandria. “I am surprised to see you here!”

“You shouldn’t be,” retorted Janet, “I own the house.”

“Really! You are common aren’t you. The estate has been used by all the family for years!” responded Alexandria, tossing the magazine aside.

“Not by you anymore. I will be selling the place. I want you out as soon as possible. You’re likely to put prospective buyers off!”

Alberta listened to the catty exchange with eyes wide with surprise. This fiery bobcat was a part of Janet’s personality that she had not seen before.

“Alexandria,” Janet went on before the woman could say anything more. “This is Doctor Alberta Pateas. She works in the Toronto Police Forensic Department. She had made some interesting discoveries. Doctor?”

“Mrs. Williams, it might be to your interest to know that the forensic lab can prove that Philip Williams was struck twice that night. Once by a right handed swing to the jaw by Robbie and once by a club of some sort swung by a left handed person. It was the second blow to the temple that killed him. You are left handed aren’t you, Mrs. Williams?”

“What are you saying?! How dare you!” sputtered Alexandria, shaking with rage.

“We can also prove that you planted that old letter in Robbie’s condominium. Why would you need to do that, Alexandria, except to divert the blame to Robbie?”

“I never did! This is character assassination. Haven’t I gone through enough! My husband murdered by my perverted daughter! I suffered! And now this!” Alexandria carried on dramatically.

Janet ignored the melodramatic acting. “You should be warned that we can prove what time you got home the night of the murder. The same woman that witnessed Robbie burying the body also witnessed…other things,” bluffed Janet.

Alexandria had now turned pale. Her long, bony hands twisted nervously around each other. “You bitch,” she whispered.

Janet’s eyes narrowed. “Whatever, it takes to clear my wife’s name,” she stated calmly. “You are, unfortunately, Robbie’s mother. For that reason, and only that reason, I am here. The truth is going to come out within the next few days, Alexandria. I don’t want Robbie and Bethy to have to waste time with you. Leave. Get out of the country as quickly as you can. Disappear or face the consequences.” With that, Janet and Alberta walked out.

Back in the van, Alberta looked over at Janet. Janet had a grin from ear to ear. “Yes!” she exclaimed excitedly. “We’ve got the bitch on the run!”

Alberta laughed and put the van into gear. “Lady, I’m sure glad you are playing on my team!”

Then her face went serious. “I hope, Robbie, appreciates just how special you are.”

A gentle hand touched her arm reassuringly. “Robbie, is a very complex and moody person. She doesn’t always react the way you would want her to but she loves me, Alberta, above all else. I don’t doubt that and I love her above all others.”

Alberta sighed. “Yeah, I know,” she said dejectedly, the hand squeezed her arm in sympathy before pulling away.

***

Robbie was surprised when she was taken from her cell again and told she had visitors. It wasn’t visiting hours and usually they were pretty strict about that. Maybe it was her lawyers. They had been milling about in a near panic since she had been arrested. To her surprise, she was led to the family room. Walking in, she found herself facing her two daughters across the room. Their reactions were different. Ryan’s face showed shock and fear. Reb’s lit up, after a second, with recognition and she came running across the room to Robbie.

“Obbie! Obbie!” she laughed, reaching her arms up. Robbie bent down and scooped the child up as high as the chains would allow her. She hugged the small child close, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill.

Carefully, she lowered the child to the ground and walked over to Ryan. Ryan backed up a step.

“Reb wanted to see you,” Ryan said, defensively. “She was worried, even though Alberta said you could handle yourself in here… You don’t look so good.”

Robbie nodded, letting Ryan away with the face-saving lie. “Janet know you two are here?”

Ryan shook her head. “We took a taxi,” she responded.

Robbie nodded again. “I’m okay,” she assured her daughter, as she stroked Reb’s head. The little child had wrapped herself around Robbie’s leg and was holding on tightly.

“Obbie, Mom said she and Alberta are going to get you out. Don’t worry, okay ’cause, Mom can do anything!” reassured Ryan awkwardly.

Robbie swallowed her pain with difficulty. Okay, so she was Obbie now not Mom. What did you expect! The only birthday you were ever at and they drag you away in handcuffs! At least she cared enough to come and see for herself that you were all right. “Listen, Ryan. Janet loves you very much. She’s a good Mom. You…you be good for her. You take care of her, okay?”

The guard came forward. Ryan licked her lips and started to say something then stopped. Tears welling in her eyes, she reached down and pulled a scared looking Reb away. “Come on, Rebecca, we have to go now. Say good bye to Obbie,” she instructed, through a tight throat.

“Bye, Obbie!” Reb waved, as Robbie walked backwards across the room.

“Good bye, girls. Ryan…” Robbie tried to formulate the words she needed to say to her daughter, then gave up, “just, be careful on the way back.”

Ryan nodded.
Part 5
The phone call had come the day after Janet had talked to Alexandria. Gwen was so excited that she could barely make herself understood. “Janet? It’s Gwen! Listen, I got to thinking about what you told me and I thought to myself if Isabelle Selo saw Robbie bury her father, maybe she saw other things too! So I hunted up her address from our files and Brian and I went over there.

“Boy, what a weird place! She’s got pictures of Robbie all over and candles and things! Robbie would have a fit! Anyway, she did see something! She saw Alexandria’s car go up the road towards the house hours before she was supposed to be there! You were right, Janet! Alexandria was there when the murder took place!”

Janet closed her eyes and sank to the chair. “Janet? Are you there?”

“Yes. Yes, I am. Gwen, I can’t thank you enough. We are no longer bluffing now. We’ve got Alexandria on the run! I can’t thank you enough! You and Brian are such good friends!”

“Hey, anything for you and Robbie, you know that,” responded Gwen happily. “I’ll let you go. Give Robbie our love the next time you see her.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks, Gwen.” Janet hung up and then danced a little gig.

***

Alexandria looked around the room with disdain . She walked over to the chair that sat by the counter and made sure the guard noticed as she cleaned the seat with a tissue, dropping the soiled item on the floor when she was finished. The guard’s face remained frozen in an expression of disinterested boredom.

With a flourish, Alexandria arranged herself on the chair and watched through ice cold eyes as her daughter was led into the room. The mother’s lip curled in a cruel smirk as she observed Robbie shuffling over to the seat on the other side of the division and sliding awkwardly into the chair. The chains made a tinkling sound like ice crystals rushing through black, cold water.

Robbie looked like hell, how delightful! Alexandria observed. She was skin and bones and had a hollow, mean look. “Your bitch and her new mate have been to see me,” Alexandria remarked, and was rewarded by the flash of pain across Robbie’s face. Robbie said nothing.

“They were all over each other, really it was so infantile!” dramatized Alexandria. Still no reaction. “The bitch actually had the nerve to threaten me!” Alexandria laughed. “I don’t take that sort of thing well.” Dark eyes stared back at her, now cautious and interested.

Alexandria leaned back and smiled. “I’ve decide to go overseas to live. Your little escapades have made it impossible here what with the press and all! But before I go I have a little secret to share with you.” Alexndria leaned forward, “I hate you,” she whispered cruelly.

Shook registered on Robbie’s face then disappeared behind a well trained facade. “More than anyone else?” Robbie asked sarcastically, going on the defense.

“Yes. You are not a Williams you know.” Alexandria was rewarded by an expression of utter shock on Robbie’s face.

“What?!”

Alexandria laughed. Oh that one hurt, huh? More than knowing your sweetheart is cheating on you! “That’s right, you are not one of the remarkable Williams. Your father was some one else, a loser like you turned out to be,” the woman smirked. “I told Philly it was his and the fool believed me! Philly had money, your father didn’t.”

Alexandria got up and looked down at Robbie. Her daughter looked utterly defeated. “I just thought that, now that you are all grown up,” she oozed sarcastically, “you should know. Good riddance, Roberta!”

Robbie watched as Alexandria’s sharp heels clipped across the floor. “Wait!” She blurted out, leaping to her feet. “Who was he?”

Alexandria shrugged. “I don’t care to reveal that information. He was a loser like you,” she finished in satisfaction and walked out on her daughter.

***

Tracy watched Robbie out of the corner of her eye. She had been becoming increasingly worried about her cell mate. Robbie was one of those that was going to snap some day. Tracy had been in and out of prison enough to know the signs. You could see that she was one of those people that you couldn’t lock up and have them survive.

She kind of liked Robbie, as much as she liked anyone. Besides, Robbie had kept her word and got her a law team that was going to help her beat this rap. Being nice to Robbie was important, at least until Tracy got paroled. You had to watch Robbie though. She’d learned that the first day. The glamour queen had a side that was vicious when she lost her temper and she had the muscle and skill to back up her threats. It was best to tread easy around the actor.

Something had happened upstairs that was for sure. Robbie had come back from the visitors’ section white and silent. She had been sitting on the very edge of her cot ever since, staring at the wall like a zombie. Tracy watched Robbie over the top of her comic book, feeling the actor’s anger radiating off like sound waves crashing against her. She had only glanced down at her comic when it happened, taking her completely by surprise even though she had been expecting it; a scream and then Robbie went berserk.

Tracy just managed to take cover under her bunk when the sink was ripped off the wall and water came shooting out all over. Mattress stuffing went flying about and, absorbing water, sank to the bottom of the melee in soggy lumps. Robbie was hurling herself at the bars now and the other women in the cells around had moved forward to watch. It was a scene that most had seen many times before but it drew them with morbid curiosity. There was satisfaction in seeing it happen to someone else. It was a visual reinforcement that the horror and panic they felt inside was shared by all.

The guards arrived. Tracy covered her face and held her breath. Robbie took the pepper spray to the face but didn’t stop. It took three shots of the irritant to finally bring Robbie to her knees. The pain was intense. Her eyes burned like hot coals and tears and mucus ran down her face. The gate clanged open and heavy footsteps surrounded her. She heard Tracy curse as she was dragged out from under the bed and dumped down beside Robbie. The actor blindly lashed out at those who were manhandling them. Once again, the spray burned her face and she sucked it into her lungs, sending them on fire. Their arms were cuffed behind them and searching hands stroked their bodies for weapons.

Robbie was lifted up and half led, half dragged away. At one pointed, she vomited, the burning now spreading from her lungs to her throat. Her breath came in raspy, watery gasps. Blackness closed in around her.

***

They had taken the ferry over to the Toronto island that day. Reb had wandered into the children’s maze and had to be rescued by her big sister who could see over the hedges. They had fed the ducks and geese pieces of bread by the water edge while Reb explained again how Ryan had shown her the way out of the maze. “Ryan, knew the way out, Mommy. She tall so she could see the path. Ryan showed me where to turn and then I got out! It was a trick place, mommy, but Ryan knowed the trick!”

“Knew, sweetheart. Ryan knew the trick and you are right, your sister is very smart. A real hero,” responded Janet, poking Ryan with affection as she talked to her younger daughter.

Reb nodded her head in the same serious way that Robbie and Ryan did. “Ryan a hero,” she agreed, wrapping herself around her adopted sister. Ryan hugged the child close, letting the warmth of the innocent child warm her cold soul. Even the heat of the warm spring day could not remove that icy spot. Visiting Robbie had upset her far more than she was prepared to admit. To do so would be to concede that she still loved her mom and that would leave Ryan vulnerable to being hurt again. She was not going to allow that. Robbie was never going to leave her again because she was not going to let her back into her heart.

Alberta listened to the gentle teasing and banter of Janet and the children, letting it seep into her soul and locking it up safely there. This adopted family had filled a large hole in Alberta’s life but was now about to leave her. She wanted to cherish every second that she had left with those that she had come to love.

She stood as close as she dared to Janet, watching the two girls now playing on the playground equipment, soaking in the sweet, warm scent and gentle warmth that was Janet. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed it back down. Janet had made her choice and it wasn’t her. She took a step away, trying to show a courage and resolve that she didn’t feel.

Janet watched her children play. Ryan was standing on the swing seat with Reb sitting between her feet. Ryan swung the swing gently back and forth with the pump of her strong legs. Reb squealed with delight and begged Ryan to go higher. Janet smiled but the light did not reach her eyes. Her thoughts were with Robbie. She knew they had Alexandria on the run, but an unexplained dread had seeped into her heart. Was there something they had missed? Her hand subconsciously reached out for Alberta’s for comfort but met nothing; Alberta had already stepped away.

Later, they had eaten at the restaurant in the Skydome and had watched the Blue Jays baseball team play Detroit. It had been a happy day. One that they would all remember with affection.

Late that night, Janet and Alberta had got word from Robbie’s law firm that Alexandria had left the country and that they would be calling for a new hearing based on the evidence that Janet and Alberta had provided. Janet had gone to sleep that night relaxed and happy and feeling that at last there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some hours later, Janet woke with a start. Something had happened! The dread she had felt earlier that day was back and flooding her soul. She wiped the sweat from her face and started as the phone rang. It was a nurse calling from Toronto General Hospital.

***

Robbie woke with panic gripping her heart. She was restrained in a bed and her eyes were sore and her vision blurred. She’d been given something too, she suspected, because her thoughts came slowly and even the action of opening her swollen eyes took tremendous effort. A warm hand slipped around her own. “Shhhh, love, I’m here,” came Janet’s voice. “Lie still.”

Robbie tried to say something but all that came out was a dry croak. “Would you like some water?” Robbie nodded. She felt her bed raised up and then a cool arm wrapped around her shoulder as a straw touched her lips. Robbie sucked the water up noisily, feeling the cool liquid ease some of the burning inside. “There. You inhaled a lot of pepper spray and it is in your eyes too. It’s going to take some time until you feel better,” the voice of her lover explained gently. Robbie nodded, the action caused tears to roll down her cheeks again.

“Where am I?” she managed to croak out.

“The hospital,” came the quiet answer. “What happened, Robbie? What did Alexandria say to you?” Janet saw Robbie body physically jerk then still. Please Robbie, no more evasions and secrets, just trust me! Janet waited. Robbie said nothing.

Janet smiled sadly and looked down at their inter-linked fingers. Maybe Robbie wasn’t her soulmate after all. Maybe Robbie didn’t feel the same way as she did. Something was missing in their relationship. Gently, she started to slip her fingers from the grasp.

Robbie listened intently, trying to figure out what was going on as her own thoughts ran wild within her. She wished that she could see Janet. Watch the emotions cross her face. This was hard. All her life she had learned to maintain a wall between her and others. Compartmentalizing her life so that she was never completely exposed to anyone. Never vulnerable. Her secrets were kept deep inside where no one could use them against her. She’d learned survival at a very early age, now it was part of her. She wore her defenses like a second skin. Should she, could she let them down and trust that Janet had and would remain loyal to her? Especially now when she couldn’t even see?

In the end, it wasn’t trust that made the words come out but the very real fear of losing what was precious to her when Robbie felt Janet slowly slipping her hand out from her own. “No!” she got out in a rough exclamation, tightening her fingers around Janet’s hand. “Don’t leave me!”

“I didn’t leave you, Robbie. You left me,” said a quiet sad voice. “If you ever did belong to me.”

Finally, the words came in a desperate torrent of emotion. “She said Al was your new mate, that you were all over her…she said you threatened her. B..be careful, she hates you!” Robbie managed to get out choking on the tears.

The bed moved and suddenly she could feel Janet’s body next to her own. She wanted to reach out and pull her lover in close but the restraining straps prevented that. “Robbie, I love Alberta,” Janet began gently, feeling the pain lance through her lover. “I kissed her.” Robbie was shaking now, the tears running freely in choking sobs. “Then I apologized to her because I knew my heart could never belong to her completely because it belongs to you. Robbie, I used Alberta. I was lonely and scared and missing you so very much and she was kind and strong. It was wrong because there could only ever be you, in my heart, in my soul and in my bed. I love you, Robbie.”

The body beneath her own slowly calmed. Janet wiped away tears with her hand. “Did you tell her that,” Robbie asked insecurely.

“Yes,” answered Janet.

“Hold me,” Robbie was surprised to hear herself say. She rubbed her head along the side of Janet’s, wanting, needing the warmth that her partner’s love gave her. For a long time they lay there.

Finally, from deep inside, Robbie released the pain. “She said she hated me a..and that Philip wasn’t my father. She said my father was a loser with no money. She told Philip that he was the father so she could marry him for his money. I…I didn’t mean to kill him!” she cried, the sobs once again convulsing her body.

“Robbie! Shhh, lover, it’s okay. You didn’t kill your … you didn’t kill Philip Williams! All you did was knock him out. Alberta can prove that. The blow that killed your father came later and was most likely done by someone who was left handed. Someone who came home early that night and saw an opportunity to get rid of her husband and put the blame on the daughter she resented.”

The body beside Janet went still for a very long time. Then, “Alexandria killed him!”

“We think so,” answered Janet honestly.

“She killed him and let me live with the guilt!” repeated Robbie, anger now dissipating the pain of the secret that she had held all these years.

“It looks that way, Robbie,” soothed Janet gently. She wasn’t sure she was handling this right. They had sent for her in the middle of the night when they were unable to settle Robbie down. Even when they had given her something at the hospital, she had fought against it, screaming in her sleep. It had been Janet’s quiet, soothing voice that had finally allowed Robbie to fall into a deep slumber.

According to the guard on the door, Robbie had come back from the interview with her mother and had simply gone berserk. Now Janet understood why. Robbie was always so strong but how much could one human being take on her shoulders? She’d taken on a ready made family, then almost lost her own daughter in an explosion, rebuilt a relationship with Ryan only to have it stolen away the day of her arrest. She’d stood by Janet through all the surgery and cancer treatments and then had thought that Janet had found someone else.

Then there was the guilt and shame that she had carried all those years because she thought she had killed a perverted father in anger. Robbie thought she was going to spend a good part of the rest of her life behind bars and then, if that wasn’t enough, her mother revealed her hatred for her and told her that the man she killed wasn’t even her father! My God! It was no wonder that Robbie had lost it!

“Alberta and I have written up a report for the lawyers and we hope to get a hearing in the next few days. They haven’t got enough to make the charge of murder stand, Robbie. I’m going to be taking you home soon.”

“I don’t want Elizabeth involved!” Robbie protested.

“Elizabeth went with David to your lawyers and made a complete statement about what happened that night.” Robbie’s body stiffened. “That was Elizabeth’s idea, not mine. She needed to bury a few ghost too, Robbie.”

Is she okay?” Robbie fretted.

“Yes.”

“Where’s Alexandria?” Robbie growled.

“She’s disappeared. She left Canada, on her way to Argentina but we think that she got off somewhere on the way. It is likely that there will be a warrant for her arrest issued once your name is cleared but I don’t think they will find her. Alexandria is a survivor,” finished Janet bitterly.

Janet stroked the tired woman, trying to keep her calm as Robbie dealt with all the information and emotions that had been dumped on her. “You didn’t threaten her. You warned her so she would have time to get away, didn’t you?!”

Janet gave a soft, weak laugh. “Well, a little bit of both. She is your mother. I didn’t think you needed to go through her trial for murder.

“I…I love you, Janet,” Robbie whispered, her voice brittle and rough with emotion.

“I love you too, my sweet olive. I always will,” responded Janet with feeling, capturing Robbie’s lips with her own. They tasted acidic and peppery and her own lips came away burning. “You sleep. I’ll be here when you wake again.”

***

Robbie was released from the hospital two days later and taken by a squad car directly to the hearing. Walking in with her guard, she saw her family sitting with Alberta in the front row. The whole proceeding took less than a minute. The Crown, having read the brief submitted by Robbie’s lawyers, dropped the charges and requested that a warrant be issued for the arrest of Alexandria Williams.

Robbie held her hands out while the cuffs were removed. Then Janet was in her arms. Reb had her by the leg and Elizabeth stood by with tears running down her face as David patted her affectionately on the back. Ryan stood nearby, her lip trembling but her face expressionless. Alberta stood behind her. The scientist’s face a still, quiet mask.

Robbie eventually pulled out of the embraces and walked over to Alberta until they faced each other. Blue eyes locked with blue and a silent message of understanding passed between the two women. Robbie offered her hand and Alberta took it. Then Robbie turned away and smiled softly at Janet. She walked over and gently took Ryan’s hand leading her over to where Elizabeth stood. She wrapped her daughter and sister in a big embrace, deliberately keeping her back to Alberta and Janet. She trusted Janet. There were no more secrets. She owed it to both of them to let them say good bye in private.

Janet walked over and looked up at Alberta through watery eyes. Alberta smiled. “I’m happy for you. You’re taking a piece of my heart you know,” she confessed, through her own tears.

“And you’ll always have a piece of mine! I love you, Alberta. Thank you for giving me back my soulmate!” whispered Janet, into Alberta’s ear as she wrapped her arms around the woman who had become her anchor through this horrible time. Alberta held her tight and then gave her up. Janet reached up and softly kissed her lips, then turned and walked over to Robbie. Together the Williams walked out of the courthouse to meet the press.

***

Robbie stood in the roof garden of her condominium, Janet tucked safely under her arm. A full moon had risen and was sending shimmering diamonds of light across Lake Ontario. The night was warm. Summer was on its way. It was time for them to step out of the shadows and take their place again in the sun. It was time to grow again after a stormy spring.

***

Not too many miles away, Alberta swung a bag into her van and then slid into the driver’s seat. It was time to go home. She’d been away too long.

 

 

The End
Continued in Summer Heat

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