#34 – Smouldering
- Leticia McKinelle and her ex-husband, Oswald Glendale, in the pool house at Red Terrace, had an argument that became physical.
- Father and son, Kirk and Lawrence Waterford, along with unlikely ally Senator Charles Taylor, confronted Oliver Jordan in another part of the pool house and thwarted his attempt to take over their company.
- Jason Marshall and Kaitlyn Godspeed, wanting to see how the other half lives, sneaked onto the grounds of Red Terrace and had a tryst in the pool house.
- The pool house burned down.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him into the house, “what the hell do you know about it? My Dad is the chief of police; I know how this stuff works. When you suspect someone of something the people that they hang around with can give them away.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means that the police are still looking for suspects… and we were at Red Terrace when the fire started, Jason. We shouldn’t be seen together, it’s suspicious.”
“We didn’t set that fire at the most we singed a carpet. The candle was all the way out, I made sure,” Jason said rolling his eyes and throwing his hands in the air. “I don’t know how many times we have to go through this.”
“Forgive me if I don’t trust your firefighting skills since that building ended up burning down. And they still don’t know how the fire started… so you don’t know… it could have been us.”
“God! Relax! You are such a pain in the ass when you get like this.” He crossed the living room and flopped down on the couch.
“Two people died, Jason… and one of them was a senator. And that other man was burned… it’s not being a pain in the ass when it’s a big deal. It’s been on the news, like, every night since. It was on CN-freakin’-N.”
“Whatever. It was probably the same guy who started the other fire downtown the night before,” he shrugged, “like an arsonist or something.”
Kaitlyn sighed heavily, “that’s what my Dad said.”
“You told your father? Are you fucking stupid?”
She scowled at him and punched him in the arm, “I didn’t tell him about us being there; just that there were two fires. He’s still in California working on the trial of your brother, dickwad.”
“Okay,” Jason said. “Just checking. Good.”
“Hey, if you’re so sure that we didn’t cause the fire then why’re you so worried about anyone finding out that we were even there?”
Frank Denzre stood awkwardly in the living room of Kerstin Waterford‘s apartment. On the couch was a disheveled and clearly distraught Leticia McKinelle-Glendale, with whom he had only a passing acquaintance. He had entered the apartment without the foreknowledge that Leticia was inside and, he suspected, even Kerstin herself was unaware of the other woman’s presence in her home.
“I’m just here to pick up a change of clothes for Kerstin,” Frank stated after having realized that neither of them had spoken in some time.
“Okay,” Leticia said.
“So, I’m just going to go do that then.”
He turned toward the hall that lead to the bedroom but was stopped by the ringing of the phone. He glanced immediately at Leticia, who shrugged, and then at the phone. “Should I?” He asked.
“Unless you want me to?” She replied.
“Who is it?” He asked, since the phone was on the coffee table in front of her.
She leaned forward, a collection of wadded up tissues rolled onto the floor. “Red Terrace,” she replied.
Frank winced. The phone rang its third ring. He quickly paced the distance and picked up the phone, “hello?”
“Who’s this?” The woman’s voice on the line asked.
“Frank Denzre,” he replied, “is this Ophelia?” Kerstin’s aunt had a particular sounding voice that was unmistakable in any medium. “Kerstin’s at the hospital I’m just here picking up…” He was immediately cut off as she began to speak.
The rest of the conversation was entirely one-sided with Ophelia relating to him the message that he was instructed to give to Kerstin. He hung up the phone when she was finished and regarded Leticia, who had in the interim made some attempt to rebuild her countenance, again. “Dinner at Red Terrace,” he said simply. “Although I got the distinct impression that Ophelia would be quite okay with Kerstin not getting the message.”
Leticia nodded, “sounds about right.” She pursed her lips, “something’s up, then?”
Frank shrugged his shoulders, “isn’t it always?”
Jehua Stanley cleared his throat as he passed through the doorway of the hospital room. From her place at the side of her father’s bed, Kerstin Waterford looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes and forced a smile. “Hi,” he said weakly. “I was just in the hospital to… y’know, just for…” he pivoted to gesture out the door and then snapped back to face her, “how is he doing?”
Kerstin shrugged slightly, “the same, really. They say he’s perfectly okay,” she paused and drew her eyes across her father’s form laid out on the adjustable bed, “but he’s clearly not.”
Jehua looked at the comatose Lawrence Waterford. He was hooked up to numerous machines and monitors; the various clicks, beeps and whirrs they created were inescapable. Bayview Hospital was renowned for its organic layout, its homey and unassuming atmosphere, but these machines created a backdrop of hospitalness that no custom artwork or natural light could upstage.
He felt himself fidget and remembered that he’d gone to try to offer his support. “Do… do you need anything?”
She shook her head, “not really. Frank is at my place getting me some clothes and stuff… my Mom was here a while ago and brought me a book to read,” she held the book up from her lap. “It’s about a kid with cancer…” her voice trailed off and she shook her head; her expression cracked to the slightest wry smile.
Jehua clamped his eyes closed and shook his head, “wow, not the most sensitive choice.”
She shrugged, “actually it’s pretty good.” She ran her fingers over the cover, “but yeah, you know my Mom…”
Jehua chuckled in spite of himself, “yeah.” He slid into the chair adjacent to Kerstin’s. “Speaking of family, that’s why I’m here…” She cocked her head sideways, “no, I mean,” he continued, “why I’m here at the hospital.”
“Oh,” she said.
“Yeah, my new little cousin James had an…”
“Hang on,” she said raising her hand and jumping out of the chair. “Doctor Bachman,” she called as she headed toward the door. “Doctor Bachman!”
She stepped back inside the room, followed by Doctor Bachman, a clipboard clasped in his hand, and began to speak as soon as he was clear of the threshold. “You told me that we’d know more by today,” she said.
He nodded, “I planned to come in to talk to you later on in my shift.”
“Well you’re here… talk to me now,” she said. Jehua stood and walked to her side. Bachman briefly glanced at him before looking back at Kerstin. She continued, “he hasn’t woke up, he’s still on all the same machines he was on when he came in here… actually,” she said pointing to a machine in the corner, “I think that one’s new.” She pinched the bridge of her nose, “I don’t understand… what’s going on?”
Bachman’s expression was a mixture of annoyance from having been ambushed in the hall, compassion for a young girl with a comatose father, and something that Jehua couldn’t quite figure. He spoke, “there’s really nothing to tell, Kerstin. All of the brain activity is normal… for someone in a coma… but aside from that, there is no sign that he’s…”
Jehua immediately noticed Kerstin’s eyes begin to water; she held up her hand. “When is he going to wake up?”
Bachman shook his head, “I don’t know.”
“I wouldn’t mind the back-up,” Frank said as he folded another shirt and tucked it into the duffel bag.
“Huh? Oh,” she said after a moment. “At Red Terrace?” He nodded and pulled another shirt out of the drawer. Kerstin didn’t need this much clothing but he wasn’t sure what went with what.
She continued, “oh, uh… well if Kerstin’s going to be… I could stay at the hospital with Uncle Lawrence.” She tilted her head slightly, “and Aunt Ophelia probably doesn’t want me there…”
Frank chuckled, “that’s sort of my point.”
“I don’t… what’s your point?”
“That there’s safety in numbers. With Lawrence in the hospital and Kirk…” he stopped and cleared his throat, “well… it’s better if Kerstin has someone… someones… in her corner.”
Leticia nodded slowly but said nothing.
“Have you been back there since the fire?”
She’d been watching him fold the clothes, but suddenly her eyes darted up to his, “what? Why? No. Uh, what does the fire have to do with me… anything, I mean… what does the fire have to do with anything?”
Frank pulled the zipper on the duffel bag closed, “I have a feeling we’ll find out tonight.”
“What does that mean?”
He smirked, “when I first got here you told me that we shouldn’t be seen together, and then you basically jumped on my crotch.”
“Eff you,” she said, “and it’s not like you didn’t come here for that.”
“That is not the point,” he said emphatically, “admit it you’re hot for this.”
“What was that, like, an aftershock? Y’know, like after the 9.0 on the Jichter – that’s Jason-Richter – scale. Get it, nine… like my…”
“What is wrong with you?” She said, throwing the blanket over his head and jumping out of bed. “Can’t you be normal for just a little while?”
Every time Frank pressed the elevator button on their floor in The Rockwell he was drawn back to the first time that he saw Kerstin Waterford in the flesh. Yes, he’d seen the pictures that Oliver Jordan had shown him when he was hired to get close to the woman and to get whatever information he could about her father’s business – which had turned out to be none at all – but at the elevator was the first time that he’d made her acquaintance. She had been repeatedly pressing the button as if it would impress a sense of urgency on the machine that would result in its sooner arrival at the floor on which she waited.
He pressed the button a second time as he stood beside Leticia McKinelle-Glendale, a sort of silent homage to Kerstin’s emphatic urging of the elevator. He hoped, in some way, that the kindred act might send a supportive vibe to her now as they were apart and she held vigil over her father. A smile broadened across his face.
“What’s so funny?” Leticia asked.
He shook his head, “nothing.”
He turned to face her, “wait, I didn’t think you were a Waterford?”
“I’m not,” Leticia replied.
“But you called Ophelia Waterford ‘Aunt Ophelia’.”
“Yeah, but… not really like an aunt-aunt,” Leticia said. “Uncle Lawrence is my uncle because he was married to my Mom’s sister, my Aunt Stacy, but my Mom wanted us to be as close to the Waterfords as possible so we grew up calling Ophelia and Trey aunt and uncle even though they’re really not.”
After he didn’t speak for a moment she added, “it’s only confusing because you’re not from here.”
He chuckled, “how long before it all starts to make sense?”
“Sometime after your first evil twin shows up in town, probably.”
He tilted his head and jutted his lower jaw forward, “what?”
She shrugged in a sort of hopeless way, “you’ll see.”
Jehua’s arms wrapped around Kerstin Waterford as she cried. The sound of her sobbing was growing more and more controlled and he hazarded pulling away slightly so that he could look down into her face. She looked up at him with the too-wide eyes of someone trying to stem the tide of tears and he immediately felt the spark of closeness that they’d shared in the storage room at the P & Q more than a month before.
He flinched in spite of himself and he could see that she felt it. “Sorry,” he said, his voice sounded hoarse in his own ears.
“Thank you,” she said.
“For being here,” she said, “for being here and not trying to make it better or to tell me that everything is going to be okay. For just letting me stand here and cry for as long as I needed to cry.”
He opened his mouth to speak but said nothing for a long moment. His mouth turned into a shadow of his patented crooked smile, “I wanted to, but I just didn’t know what to say.”
“There’s nothing to say,” she said, her eyes still locked on his.
He could barely continue holding her for all the feelings that were running through his body, but he knew that her eyes were locked to his for no reason other than she refused to look at her father, laying prone in the hospital bed, because to look at him was to acknowledge his state. He nodded and pulled her back into him.
“Kerstin,” he whispered, his mouth an inch away from her ear; she sobbed again and pressed herself more tightly in to him.
“Yes,” she said, softly, against his chest. He could feel her faster breathing against his chest. He could feel the electricity of the storage closet and knew that she could feel it too. He leaned his head even closer so that his lips could feel the heat from her skin a mere fraction of an inch away.
“Kerstin,” he repeated. He swallowed hard, “I lo…”
“Uncle Jay?” a small voice said from the doorway.
Jehua started. He straightened slightly and turned as much as he could to regard the youngster standing there. In the rapture of Kerstin’s touch he had nearly forgotten about the boy, the boy who was his reason for being at the hospital in the first place. “Hey buddy,” he said his voice cracking and sounding extremely loud in his own ears, “is your appointment all done?”
The child held up a piece of paper and nodded, “yup,” was all he said.
“Good,” Jehua turned to look at Kerstin, who he noted was staring intently at the young boy. “This is James,” Jehua said, “he’s the kid who was in the car accident a while back… my Uncle Brentwood adopted him.”
Kerstin nodded slowly, “I heard,” she said.
“Hey, James,” Jehua said, “Kerstin’s having a bad day… how about you come over here and help me give her a hug to make her feel better?”
The young boy bounded across the room, arms wide and grinning from ear to ear.
Leticia’s mind was racing as she and Frank Denzre turned the second to last corner before Lawrence Waterford’s hospital room. There was a growing list of places in Emerald Heights that she didn’t want to be and Bayview Hospital was topped on that list only by Red Terrace itself.
In her mind’s eye she was two floors up and one ward over in the wing that housed her ex-husband who had also been in the hospital since the fire that burned down the Red Terrace pool house.
She’d been there that night. In the fire. With Oswald.
She shook her head violently to clear the image from her mind and wavered on her feet. Frank proffered an arm and she took it briefly as she gave a uselessly awkward look to try to explain away her sudden stumble. “Sorry,” she said.
“No problem,” he said, “I hate these places, too. Nothing good ever happens in hospitals.”
They rounded the final corner and as the door of Lawrence Waterford’s room came into view Frank’s words hung in the air as they were greeted by the sight of Kerstin Waterford and Jehua Stanley in a deep embrace; both, in turn, enwrapped by a small boy.Tags:Bayview Hospital, Doctor Bachman, Frank Denzre, James Stanley, Jason Marshall, Jehua Stanley, Kaitlyn Godspeed, Kerstin Waterford, Lawrence Waterford, Leticia McKinelle-Glendale, The Rockwell