11 November 2011


Soooo I'd actually done about half the posts for the finale, and was planning on getting the rest today. And then my game broke somehow, and the only way to fix it is to apparently reinstall everything. 


Needless to say, I'm not enthused about that. Since I was going to have to reinstall everything anyways when I got my new laptop, I'm just going to wait until that happens, rather than go through the hassle now. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but on my current computer it takes forever. (Plus, it involves scouring my whole house for all the discs that I always seem to misplace, moving all my CC, waiting for my computer to take hours to uninstall and reinstall everything, etc.) 

Soooo long story short, the finale will be coming out in early January. I know that's over a six month gap, and I'm really terribly sorry! After the finale's out, I'm going to attempt to return to a regular-ish posting schedule. 

06 August 2011

Quick Apology

Before anyone gets too excited, no, this isn't a new post. I just wanted to update any readers I may still have that a new post IS coming shortly- I know I said the end of July after my family went back to California, but I got sick pretty much immediately afterwards and have barely been on my computer, let alone able to sim. BUT, I am currently working on the last post of this chapter. I don't know if anyone really cares at this point, and I'm going to try to be better about posting on time next chapter (at least, "on time" according to the timeline I used to set for myself).

See you soon!

03 July 2011

Finale: Part 1

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. Really, I have no excuse for this delay other than having to uninstall/reinstall again. The problem, as ever, lies in my obsession with CC. Fair warning: the next half of the finale and the last post of this chapter will not be posted until the 20th, at the earliest. My cousin's coming to visit and I won't be on my computer a lot because we've got Lots of Stuff planned for her. Plus, my computer takes up like the whole living room and will have to be put away for the majority of the day. I will be working on the post in bits and pieces at night, however, and I'm really trying to make an effort to be more on top of my writing. To be honest, if it weren't for Kaleeko and PiB, I might never have finished this post! So basically... I love all you guys. You keep me motivated and restore my faith in the Sims community. Never stop reminding me to work on my updates. <3

It was cold, dark, and damp in the rotting shack, but none of her surroundings compared to the humiliation Jane felt at being tricked and caged by someone she’d trusted. He’d been two steps ahead of her the entire time, but she’d been too blinded by her ego and her own petty problems to see it. She’d spent the first few hours of her captivity cursing her stupidity, while her captor prowled around the room muttering to himself in a tone of desperation. In fact, he’d seemed rather wound up ever since they’d driven up to the decrepit house in the middle of the swamp. Jane could barely hear, but every so often she would make out a string of words, mostly involving Amy.

As the hours had gone by, she’d begun to entertain the faint hope that his mental instability would prove to be her escape. If she could only get him to talk, perhaps she could make use of his nerves and guilt to find a way out of this mess. But to do that, she’d need to introduce the subject in a way that wouldn’t provoke another sort of reaction- one that might have quite a different ending.  It was clear that her kidnapper was hardly a sane man, despite all the indications to the contrary- and while she wanted to believe that he wouldn’t harm her, she couldn’t help but think about the fact that he had committed murder once before.

And there was nothing to stop him from doing it again.

"What did you do, what did you do?" Matt muttered as he paced back and forth in front of the dingy bathroom mirror. "You kidnapped someone, you freaking idiot..." It didn't seem to matter, or perhaps it had simply never occurred to him, that he'd already done things so much worse than a simple kidnapping. There was the murder, the blackmail, the arson... His crimes had piled up somehow, quite without his noticing, and now it was too late.

But perhaps the ends justified the means, he reflected. After all, what choice had he had? All of his careful work to hide the events of that terrible afternoon... Everything he'd done would have been for nothing. If only that blonde reporter could have kept her stupid mouth shut. She should have been content with the police's official findings, but instead she'd kept digging. He had half a mind to kill her right here and now for all the hell she'd put him through.

But if it hadn't been Jane, it would have been someone else, and as much as Matt Schtick was a killer, he wasn't a monster. What had happened with Amy... It had been a mistake, no doubt about it. He'd regretted it every day since, and the guilt had been almost as bad as Jane's meddling. In a way, he was almost grateful to Jane for finding out. No matter what happened now, it would be the end of everything, and perhaps that was the most he deserved.

"No, it's more than you deserve," he admitted to himself with a sigh. The worn couch creaked as he sat down, but he hardly noticed the noise. He'd only lived here for a few months, and he'd never made the effort to invest in furniture that wasn't falling apart. He hadn't thought it necessary, at the time; perhaps a part of him had always known that he wouldn't be staying here very long. He buried his face in his hands, trying to figure out what the hell he was going to do. There was simply no way out of this that he could see.

Jane watched as her captor broke down, torn between a vicious anger and an unwilling sympathy. She didn't owe this man anything, not after the window, and the notes, and the fire. He'd cost her family so much, but she couldn't help feeling an odd surge of compassion for him. He looked so devastated and beaten down- a sharp contrast to the brutal coldness with which he'd greeted her at the cemetery. She realized with a chilling clarity that she was watching someone lose their mind.

"Is... everything okay?" she asked haltingly, the words sounding false even as she spoke them. It was simply routine, the good manners that her mother had drilled into her from her youth. She didn't really care about his answer, but she was curious to see if this sudden weakness could be exploited. From the looks of the empty bottles cluttering the cabin, Matt had developed a heavy drinking problem, and it was only a matter of time before he would need another drink. If she could get him to talk about whatever was plaguing him, it was sure to speed up the process, and a drunk kidnapper was bound to be much easier to subdue than a sober one.

"Yes... No. I don't know anymore. Everything's... This wasn't the plan," he declared, a sense of urgency haunting his words. "None of this was supposed to happen."

"You didn't mean to kidnap me?" Jane's voice held only a hint of bitter sarcasm.

"No, not that. Just... all of it. Amy... I never meant to hurt her," Matt confessed. "I mean... I know what I did. But it was never meant to go that far, none of it. Not Amy, not the blackmailing, not you. But you had to stick your nose where you had no business being, didn't you?" He scowled, kicking at the beat-up coffee table. "But it had gone wrong long before that. All of my plans for that afternoon, and nothing went right. Of course, you could always count on Amy to do the exact opposite of what you wanted her to do." He smiled mournfully, his eyes staring across the room at Jane without seeing her as his thoughts carried him far away from the tiny shack.

"I can still remember the day I met her, all those years ago. I'd just moved to Twinbrook, and I didn't know anyone. She was playing in the sandbox, though I don't know if playing is the right word. She had always had an imagination so much bigger than the world around her. Other people looked around and saw what was there, but she could look through it, seeing things in a way that everyone else had forgotten how to do. I was in such awe of her; I think I stood there for ten, fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, just staring at her and trying to figure out just how to talk to her.

"She was building a sandcastle, though she would destroy it every five minutes and start over again. She never seemed to be happy with what she created, but I think it was more than that. I think for her, the real beauty was in the destruction. She loved smashing the castles to pieces, flinging the sand in every direction and watching her hard work being reduced to a mound of rubble. She would sit there, staring at the mess, and after a few seconds she would smile in satisfaction and start over again.

"I finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, and she barely looked up from her work to smile at me and toss me a shovel. 'Well?' she asked expectantly. 'What are you waiting for? Start digging!' Even then, I did exactly what she asked without question. I always did.

"I tried to emulate the way she threw the sand everywhere, but from the frown on her face I knew I was doing it wrong. There was a passion in her destruction that I could never quite copy, a method to the madness that only she knew. I contented myself with building the structure and watching patiently whenever she decided to knock it down.

"After a half an hour, she had lost interest in her sandcastles altogether. She stood up abruptly, eyeing the rest of the playground to decide what she wanted to do next. I'd barely stood up myself when she took off like a shot, racing across the playground with a brief smile back at me. I knew without her telling me that I was supposed to follow, and I did.

"That was always the way between the two of us. She would run headfirst into things, and I would try to keep up. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but it became our dynamic. She started running the day we met, and I think I spent the rest of my life trying to catch her.

"By the time we were teens, she had me wrapped around her pinky. I was helpless to do anything other than follow her around like a lost puppy, and she was oblivious to how much I needed her. She started dating when we were in middle school, and from that point on she almost always had a boyfriend. And they were all the same," Matt noted ruefully, a wry smile playing across his lips. "The worst, of course, being Chase.

"She never saw him for what he was. None of them ever did. To her, he was her prince charming, her ticket out of Twinbrook. She thought he was perfect. But if he was so perfect, would he have cheated on her? Would he have broken her heart and left her alone with a baby?" His voice rose as his anger did, and Jane drew in on herself, sheltering herself from his rage.

"I saw who he was, of course," Matt added. "I tried to tell her, but she would never listen. He was so handsome to her, so sophisticated and experienced, and he picked her out of all of the other girls in school. That's what did her in. She'd never been picked first in anything, but Chase was drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and she loved that. Amy was the kind of person who wanted other people to need her more than she needed them. She led him on for months, rejecting him for date after date, until she finally decided it was the right time. It seemed a bit cruel to me, at the time, but I didn't have the heart to tell her."

He paused, a brief expression of pain crossing his features. "I warned her about him, each time. She didn't even know about most of the times he cheated on her, and the ones she did find out about were easily forgiven. It was my word against his; he was so charming and smooth, and I was just a kid with a bad haircut and even worse social skills.

"Every time I watched them make out, talking to each other in those stupidly sweet voices, I felt like jumping out a window. But I owed it to Amy to be there for her, even if I didn't agree with her relationships. What was my alternative? I had to have her in my life, and I didn't really care how. Still, I can't deny it hurt every time she went out on another date, every time she talked about how great her current boyfriend was, every time she bemoaned the lack of decent guys in her life. Every time she would get crushed, she would turn to me for comfort, and I'd listen and be there for her. But when she started dating Chase, she turned to me less and less.

"We'd had a standing agreement that we'd go to prom with each other our senior year, since neither of us had been asked our junior year and we didn't want to skip out on the experience again. But shortly after she started dating Chase, she asked me if I wouldn't mind if she went with Chase.

"She was never the type to out-and-out boss people around, but she had a way with words that made you want to do things for her. You wanted to help her, you wanted to make her happy, because when she smiled, it was the best thing in the world, and you'd do just about anything to see it again and again. So of course, I said yes, every time. This was no different.

"'Of course I don't mind," I said, knowing that each word was a lie. 'I was going to ask this sophomore anyways.' There was no sophomore, but Amy didn't know that, and I don't think she even realized that I wasn't at the prom that year. She believed me without question, just as she always did. In her own naive way, she believed in the best of everyone; she wouldn't have comprehended why I would lie to her, or that I would even be capable of it.

"'You're the best, Matt,' she'd replied with a happy sigh, drawing me close for a hug. And every ounce of anger that I may have felt towards her evaporated, the way it always did, because I'd do just about anything to have her hug me with that smile on her face. I'd have put up with just about anything to have her in my life, even as a friend.

"That was why I was never able to tell her how I felt, even if hadn't been dating Chase Cruz. I couldn't bear the idea of her rejection, knowing that it would likely remove her from my life forever. So there I was, in the worst and best situation possible: friendship.

"But in the end, I lost even that." Matt sighed heavily, staring down at his black gloves. "It was that jackass Cruz's fault, of course. After graduation, they'd moved in together, and when I heard that he'd proposed to her and she'd said yes, I begged her to reconsider. But she was stubborn, and we got in the worst fight we'd ever been in. After that, I decided it was time to give up the ghost." He paused, his words harder to find now that he'd come to the real center of his story.

"When I saw her again, it was years later. Chase had left her by then, and Amy had started to run into trouble. I think you know what trouble I'm talking about," Matt said, eyeing her with a mix of disdain and caution. "You must, or you wouldn't have been able to trace me to that afternoon."

Jane said nothing and stared at her feet neutrally.

"I'd been working with Jenni for months," Matt admitted carelessly. "It doesn't matter if I tell you now, anyways. Amy had had no idea. I don't think she even knew I was still in town." Matt smiled proudly, an odd satisfaction lighting up his features. "I even moved houses, just in case she wanted to look me up. At first, I was determined to put her out of my life altogether. But when I met Jenni, who harbored a grudge against Amy for stealing Chase's affections from her... I decided to form a plan.

"Of course, Jenni's still convinced that the plan was her idea, but it had been my words that formed the strategies we employed. My goal was simple: by encouraging Jenni to ruin Amy's life, I would be able to turn her into the police and look like the hero for once. I knew I wasn't the hero Amy had always pictured, but I was convinced that when I offered to help her turn Jenni in, she would change her mind.

"I arranged to meet her that afternoon at Hollowlog Springs. It was secluded, quiet, romantic- everything I could want for my plan's setting. I think she was surprised to hear from me after all those years, but if she suspected anything, her voice betrayed no sign.

"I told her everything, from the way I felt about her- had always felt about her- to the revelation that I knew who had been blackmailing her. I told her I could get Jenni to stop, that I could help her with her debt, that we could be happy together. 'These are for you,' I said, pulling out a bouquet of white roses. 'White roses, for purity and new beginnings...'' My voice faltered then, as I waited for her response.

"I had pictured this moment a thousand times in my head, but the one reaction I never considered was that she'd start crying. A pained expression crossed her face, and I knew immediately that my plan was not going to work. All of the words I'd practiced, the gestures, the romance- it all went up in smoke the minute she looked at me with tears in her eyes and answered me with a sharp and resounding 'No.'

"I think I'd always known that she would never look at me that way, that she simply couldn't. But I'd had to hear her say the words out loud until I would believe it for myself. 'No, Matt,' she'd said, shaking her head and taking a step backwards. 'You're ruining everything!' I half-expected her to stamp her foot and whine. Had she always been so childish? Had I simply never noticed?

"I was frozen, unable to drop the flowers, unable to look anywhere else. Everything flew through my head in that moment, everything I had ever felt for her since the first time I saw her sitting there in the sandbox, taking such pleasure in destroying the things she had built. Only now, I saw her for the first time, really saw her.

"When I could finally move, I found myself asking the one question that was on my mind. 'Why?' I blurted out, fling the flowers aside on the grass. 'Why not me? Is it how I look? How I act? You've never even thought about me as anything other than a peon to do your bidding, no matter how hard I tried. I've seen you date everybody else in this town, even if they weren't any good for you. I was always good for you, Amy. Why?'

"She couldn't look at me, but I wanted to hear her say the words.

"She looked at the ground, her hands falling limply to her side. 'I just don't think of you in that way, and I don't think I ever can, Matt. You're just... not enough for me.' Her words cut me to the core, but she hardly even noticed.

"She had never noticed me.

"I was full of anger in that moment, anger at who she really was, anger at myself for making such a fool of myself over someone like her, anger that my plan had failed so completely. 'This isn't how it's supposed to go!' I yelled suddenly, my fists curled into balls. 'You're supposed to love me! That was the plan!'

"'What plan?' she asked, her eyes narrowing in curiosity and suspicion. I ignored her, my mind racing ahead to try to salvage the situation.

"'You're supposed to love me,' I repeated slowly. 'I earned that much." I leaned forward, trying to kiss her, trying to get her to see. But she cringed away from me, and her expression of disgust and fury brought me to my senses.

"No, she did not love me. And she never would."

"I let go of her slowly, pushing her back as if to physically repel her. How could I have not seen what kind of a person she was? She was no angel; she was cold, calculating, manipulative, and selfish, and everything she did was to further her own means. I doubted if she'd ever cared about anybody else in her life. She certainly hadn't cared about me. What had our friendship meant to her, if anything at all? I'd sensed the truth long ago, but love had blinded me to her flaws.

"I reached into my pocket and pulled out the leatherman knife I always carried with me, flicking it open and running my thumb along its blade. I was past all sense of logic or reason; I only knew that I wanted to hurt her like she'd hurt me. And it was clear, so painfully clear, that my words would never be enough to get through to her. I had to make her pay.

"The rest is a blur. I remember it like a series of pictures, each one more gruesome than the last. Each one stands out sharply in my mind, even after all these months. I remember the feeling of my knife sinking into her stomach, the grimace of pain on her face as she stared at the pooling blood, the smell of the grass in the late afternoon.

"But most of all, I remember the combination of panic, adrenaline, and freedom that flooded my veins as I realized what I'd done.

"She sank to her knees, and there was nothing of the grace I remembered in her movements. She was awkward and rigid, and as I watched the life leave her body, I was surprised at how easy death was. Life- life was the hard part. And yet, it was all too simple to end the struggle. I saw that now.

"She begged, in the end." Matt laughed then, a cold and startling laugh that sent chills down Jane's spine. "I was amazed at how weak she was once she had been knocked off her pedestal. She was merely human now; there was nothing left of her magical hold over me. She cried, and begged for me to get help. 'You didn't mean it, I know you didn't,' she said, panic creeping into her voice. 'I'll tell them that, too, just... please. Please call 911.'

"I didn't, of course. She didn't deserve mercy, not from me.

"As I watched the life leave the woman I'd once loved, I began to realize what I'd done. I'd killed a person- and not just anyone. I'd killed my best friend. No matter what Amy had said or done, we'd once been closer than I'd ever been to anybody else, and I'd taken her life. I wavered back and forth between a certainty and crushing doubt, not knowing whether or not I'd done the right thing. Hatred and fear fought a fierce war within me, and in the end self-preservation won out.

"It would be hours before the police found her body, and by that time I would be back home. No one would be able to find the knife, and no one had known that she was going to Hollowlog Springs to meet me. There would be no way to trace me to the crime, and I resolved to put it behind me. I would never speak about what had happened to another living soul. And until you stuck your nose in my business, I didn't." Matt's voice trailed off, his memories fading behind a heavy curtain. Jane sat there, speechless and unable to process the words she'd just heard.

"And now, of course, I can't let you survive to tell this tale," Matt announced, his voice almost cheerful at the prospect. "So it looks like I'm going to have to kill you after all."

"Everything looks good, Angie!" Moe's voice was warm and reassuring, but Angie was still fidgeting nervously in her hospital bed. There was something nagging at the corners of her mind, something important, but she couldn't remember what it was.

"If your vitals continue to improve, we might be able to send you home as early as next week!" Dr. Pesce informed her. Angie knew she should be happy, but the incomplete memories were bothering her more than they should.

"Dr. Pesce... When will my memories come back?" she asked, afraid that the answer wouldn't be what she wanted to hear.

He hesitated. "Well, there's no definite answer. I'm sorry to say this, but they may never come back. You're fortunate, however; many people in your situation lose more than just a day's worth of memories. Count your blessings, Miss Morris."

Dr. Pesce's bubbly voice and condescending answer rubbed her the wrong way. "Great," she replied flatly. "Just peachy.

Moe frowned as he regarded his patient. Many patients in this situation suffered from post traumatic disorder or depression, and he wondered if he would have to keep her in the hospital longer than he'd anticipated.

"Angie..." he began. His reply was cut short by the sound of the door being flung open.

"Pesce! We need to talk."

Moe's eyes narrowed in suspicion and hatred as he took in the unwelcome sight of Chase Cruz. "What is it?" he snapped, forgetting to watch his manners in the presence of a patient.

"I just came from dropping Ethan off at your house, and there's something you should know. Moe..." Chase hesitated, fear flooding his face as he contemplated how to break the news to Moe. "Something's... happened."

"What? What happened? What did you do?" Moe advanced on him angrily, his mind jumping to the direst of conclusions. Had Jane left him? Had she finally succumbed to Chase's flirtations?

Chase backed away, his hands held up in protestation. "Calm down, Moe... I didn't do anything. It's Jane... she'd been kidnapped." The words fell out of his mouth in a rush of emotion and fear, and at first Moe thought he'd misheard him.

"She... what? What happened?"

"We don't know." Chase shook his head. "Isabel was talking to her on the phone, and then Jane's voice cut out and she heard a huge commotion. The police found her phone in the cemetery, but there's no sign of her. We don't know... where she is."

Moe shook his head as if he could make the words untrue by not hearing them.

"I don't... I don't understand. Who would have wanted to take her?" Moe mumbled, his voice almost imperceptible.

Angie's mind was in turmoil, struggling to remember what she'd seen and read the day of her accident. "Guys... I think I remember something."

Moe and Chase paid no attention to her, their minds on Jane and her predicament. "Isabel said that she'd been talking about figuring out who'd killed Amy, and that she was going to check something out before coming home," Chase said, his voice thoughtful.

"Guys!" Angie was more insistent now. "I remember something I read that night... I think it might be important."

Moe whipped around, looking at her with an intensity that she'd never seen on his face before. "What is it?" he demanded, his words almost rude.

"I remember reading an entry in Amy's diary... she said..." Angie frowned, struggling to remember all of the details. Every word was of the most crucial importance now. "She said she was going to meet someone at Hollowlog Springs."

"Who?" Moe and Chase's voices rang out in unison.

"It was... Matt. Matt Schtick. He was the person she was going to meet that night."

Moe's face narrowed in determination, anger, and fury. "If Jane's with Matt, and Matt killed Amy... she could be in grave danger."

Chase nodded in agreement. "There's not a moment to lose."

"We'd better not waste any time, then," Moe remarked, throwing the clipboard onto the hospital bed and running out the door. "Are you coming or not, Cruz?"

23 May 2011

A Step Too Far

First of all, I'd just like to apologize for the monumental wait between my last update and this post. It's been a bit hectic in my life, not to mention the flaming hula hoops the game's had me jumping through in order to get a single post done. The lag was almost unbearable (though seems to be in control for now, thanks to some ingenuous mod merging). I'm going to try to keep on top of things better, though my plans for the Maltese Llama might have to change slightly. Anyways, this is the first part of the finale, so I hope everyone enjoys it! It's been a crazy few months, and I'm really glad to have met you all. You guys have been great friends to me when others haven't, and you've definitely inspired me to keep writing this and keep striving to expand my photography and writing skills. So thank you, and I'll shut up now so you can read!

The steady chorus of beeps monitoring her vital signs interrupted the pleasant dream Angie had been having. She had been floating in limbo for who knew how long, but the louder the beeps got, the more conscious she was of the pain that covered her entire being. She knew that something vaguely bad had happened to her, but she couldn't remember what, or why. Where am I? she wondered. And why is my head throbbing? As she blinked her eyes slowly and fought the blurriness that threatened to take over, she glanced around the room and saw a familiar face. 

Jane Pesce sat in one of the uncomfortable armchairs that littered her hospital room, exhausted, passed out, and snoring softly. Angie was surprisingly touched to see that the blonde had waited at her bedside- but what she didn't know was that Jane still blamed herself for Angie's current predicament. She'd accompanied Moe to the hospital every chance she had, and tonight was merely the latest in a string of hours-long vigils.

Moe Pesce stood across the hospital room, reading her charts and writing prescription orders. She was strangely comforted by the presence of people she knew, even if they weren't the closest of friends. Her parents were long since dead, and it was nice to have someone there when she woke up. Though from the looks of it, several people had been by to visit while she'd been asleep. 

"Wha- what happened?" Angie struggled to speak, her throat still sore from whatever she'd been through. "Why am I in the hospital?" 

Moe cleared his throat and walked over to her bed, putting the chart down as he looked at her. "There's no easy way to say this, Angie. You were... attacked. We don't know who did it, or why. The Lakeview bartender found you behind the bar, where you were apparently waiting to meet with my wife." His eyebrows raised skeptically, but he pronounced no judgment. Clearly, whatever the two had been up to had been Jane's idea- and they'd had that fight several times over the past few days. There was no sense in bringing it up with Angie when it would only upset her even further.

"At any rate, there was a sizable lump on the base of your head, but it appears that there's been no real damage other than the concussion. You've been out for a few days, so you've had a little bit of time to recuperate, but we'd like to keep you for examination for a bit. You're not completely out of the woods yet," Moe cautioned hastily. "But you're almost there. There's absolutely nothing to worry about, Ms. Morris."

"But it hurts so badly..." Angie frowned. "You're sure nothing's seriously wrong?"

"Well, unfortunately, that's par for the course," Moe explained apologetically. "Your body's been through a lot, and you're going to experience a considerable amount of pain for a little while. It appears that whoever attacked you hit you from behind with a blunt object, but was not around by the time the bartender had arrived on the scene a few seconds later. He or she must have felt that they had achieved their purpose, whether that was simply to knock you out, or... something else." Moe's voice trailed off uncertainly as he skirted around the idea that someone had been out to actually kill her, rather than merely harm her. 

"But the good news is, we have tons of lovely painkillers to help you feel better," Moe added brightly. "Such as this." He handed her a pill that was easily the size of a small dog, and she eyed it skeptically- but still took it. Anything was better than being in this much pain. 

She hesitated for only a few seconds before swallowing the giant pill. Normally, she couldn't stand medicine of any kind, but there was a limit to her bravado. Putting up a strong facade was less important than actually feeling better, and she slipped back into unconsciousness gratefully, a loopy smile playing on her face as the medicine kicked in. 

Moe watched from her bedside until he was absolutely sure that Angie had fallen asleep, then carefully pulled the blanket over her before drawing the curtains around her bed closed. 

Jane stirred from her own slumber as she heard the rustling of the curtain. "Hey- how's she doing?" she asked, her words still slurred from sleepiness. Moe tried to conceal a frown as he made his way over to the corner of the room that had become Jane's temporary camp. Despite their incessant bickering, there was still much that Moe had kept to himself, bottling it up to avoid the Big Fight- the one that would lead to the inevitable. Their marriage, like Angie's health, had teetered in the balance over the past few days, and while they'd reached a delicate detente, any small spark had the potential to start a fire that neither one of them would be able to put out. The proverbial ball was completely in Moe's court now, but he didn't know what he wanted- and that scared him more than anything else that had happened. 

"She's hanging in there, for now," he replied eventually. "The emotional trauma's going to be harder than the physical trauma, when it comes to her recovery." 

A sharp knock at the door interrupted their conversation. "Can I come in?" Matt's voice was tentative and uncertain, as if he didn't know whether or not he should enter the room- though whether this was because of the tension between Moe and Jane or the possibility that the patient needed rest, he wasn't sure. 

Moe smiled enthusiastically, perhaps a bit too grateful for the interruption. "No, no, come on in!" He waved Matt into the room. "We were just discussing Angie's prognosis."

"Oh yeah? How does it look? I mean... she's going to be okay, right?" He walked into the room cautiously, glancing at the closed curtain with a barely-concealed look of anxiety and concern. "She's really the only friend I have... If anything..." His voice trailed off feebly, as if by avoiding saying the words out loud, they wouldn't come true. 

"Oh, no need to worry about that, Mr. Schtick," Moe assured him cheerfully. "Angie's going to be just fine. She just needs a little rest and relaxation- she'll be up on her feet in no time." 

Matt breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much, Doc... You don't know how worried I am." He clasped Moe's hand and shook it enthusiastically, a smile breaking out onto his face for the first time since he'd stepped foot into the room. 

"She is sleeping, however, so she needs her rest," Moe pointed out. "You're more than welcome to stay, but she won't exactly be responsive." He chuckled slightly to himself. 

"That's all right, I'll come back later." Matt smiled appreciatively and opened the door again. "Thanks for the update, Doc!" 

"I might as well leave too then, right?" Jane stood up and brushed off her jeans. "I'm sure Mom doesn't want to watch the kids for another ten hours." She grabbed her keys and headed for the door. 

"Jane, wait." Moe stopped her with a hand on her arm. "You mentioned that she was meeting you there to give you some book. I found this in her purse, thought you might want to read it, since she never got a chance to give it to you." He handed her a brightly-colored book.

"Oh... Thanks." Jane attempted to smile at him, but it felt too fake. After weeks of superficial banter and insincere smiles, she couldn't bring herself to do it anymore. She was too exhausted. 

When she got downstairs, the waiting room was largely empty, much to her relief. The rare peace and quiet was just what she needed to delve into this mysterious book that had caused Angie so much trouble. 

As she flicked through its pages, she realized that it wasn't a book- it was Amy's diary. Angie must have found it when she was going through the boxes in the attic. Whatever was in here had been enough to make Angie call her and ask to meet with her, and if Jane's instincts were right, it was the reason she'd been attacked. It was probable that the attacker and the murderer were the same person, and if he or she were willing to attack Angie to prevent anyone from seeing the diary, she knew that it had to contain some fairly incriminating information- information the murderer didn't want her to know. 

The first entries were from what would have been the last year of her life, and Jane skimmed each page rapidly, looking for anything that could be useful in discovering the attacker's identity. 

It appeared that after Chase had moved to Barnacle Bay, unknowingly leaving her behind to raise their daughter as a single mom, Amy had been forced to move to a small house hidden away on the highly undesirable back-roads of Twinbrook. It had been more swamp than house, but Amy had managed to make it a home. 

By the time Lucy was a toddler, Amy's art sales were fizzling and it was difficult for her to find a gallery willing to display her work. Her reputation as an artist had suffered severely after a long hiatus during her pregnancy, and when she returned to her work, it was difficult to build her following up again. She'd worked feverishly, producing painting after painting- but even after a few successful sales, she was still barely breaking even. 

After a year of struggling to make a living, Amy had been forced to turn to a rather undesirable source of income. A wealthy donor had paid her a large sum of money to recreate a famous painting that had been on display in the local museum, and she'd happily obliged. She'd had no way of knowing what the customer had planned for the forgery, and in the end, she'd had only her suspicions, and precious little proof. It was difficult to say whether or not the painting hanging in the museum was the original or the fake, and Amy couldn't go to the police without revealing the part she'd played in the switch- if, indeed, a switch had been made. So she'd kept her mouth shut, telling no one about the unusual job. 

But someone had found out. 

"What do you want?" Amy had begged, desperate to keep her daughter safe by any means. The blackmailer had been specific in her demands, but Amy simply didn't have the money. The majority of her client's payment had gone towards the bills that had been piling up, and what she was left with was barely enough to provide food and diapers for Lucy. Surely, the blackmailer could see that, Amy had plead. 

But the blackmailer had refused to change the demands. Amy would pay the money, or she would pay for her crime. The choice was hers. 

The blackmailer hadn't bothered to conceal her identity. Perhaps she had known that Amy would never have gone to the police, or perhaps it was simply Jenni's legendary ego blinding her to the danger of what she was doing. Whatever the reason, Jenni Jones-Brown had certainly not been worried about what she was doing to Amy, or what she could potentially be doing to herself. 

She had arranged to meet Amy in the woods at eight PM, the night that Amy had been discovered dead. The entry detailing the blackmail phone call was the last entry in the diary, and when Jane finally closed the book and put it back down, she was dumbfounded. Could it be that she'd finally received the answers to the questions that had plagued her for months? Was Jenni Jones-Brown responsible for Amy's murder? At the very least, she had been one of the last people to see Amy alive- she was certainly worth a visit. 

Jenni's large house in the rich section of Twinbrook was a marked contrast to the slum Amy had found herself living in during the last years of her life, and Jane couldn't help but feel bad for the redhead she'd never known. What could Jenni have possibly needed with the blackmail money? She'd certainly never known what it was like to need money a day in her life. 

Jane began her interrogation perhaps a bit more harshly than she ought to have, but her words were tinged with the anger she felt on Amy's behalf. "Why were you blackmailing Amy Jenkins?" Jane demanded viciously. "And what happened when you met her in the woods?" 

Jenni stared at the window, ostensibly trying to gather her composure- but Jane knew that she was simply trying to compose her lie. "Nothing happened that night," Jenni replied finally. "She never met me in the woods, and I never got my money. Satisfied?" 

Jane shook her head. "You're lying," she insisted. "You were the last person to see her alive, and you certainly had the motive and opportunity." 

Jenni whirled around, flailing her arms in anger. "Why would I have killed her if I were blackmailing her? Don't you think I would have wanted to wait around for the payout?" 

"Not if you'd already received the blackmail money!" Jane pointed out. "You had every reason to want Amy Jenkins dead. She was the reason Chase left you all those years ago, and you wanted to destroy her for it. And when you found out about the forgeries, you decided that blackmailing her would be the perfect opportunity." 

"She could hardly afford it," Jane continued, her anger mounting. "And you knew it. You knew that you'd be bleeding her dry, but you didn't care. You probably planned on turning her in anyways after she'd given you the money. What happened that night?" Jane yelled, her fury getting the better of her. "Did she turn the tables on you? Refuse to give you the money? Did she deny the forgeries, knowing you had no proof? Why did you kill Amy Jenkins?

Jenni was silent for a long time, her indignation boiling within her and threatening to spill over. When she finally spoke, her words were quiet but deadly. "You don't know anything, Pesce. Anything. You think you've figured everything out, but you couldn't be more wrong. I wasn't there when Amy died, and I certainly don't know who was. In fact, I was at the Red Rendezvous all night. I've got about ten witnesses. Amy never showed for our meeting, I never received a drop of money from her, and what's more- you've got no proof for any of this. Just a crazy woman's delusions." She walked over to the front door and gestured to the street. "Now get out of my house. I don't want to hear from you ever again."

Jane was fairly trembling with anger as she stumbled down the marble steps, but she knew that part of Jenni's speech had been entirely too accurate. She didn't have any proof, other than Amy's diary- and if Jenni said that she had witnesses, she was more than likely telling the truth. But if Jenni hadn't murdered Amy that night, who had? 

Jenni watched as Jane disappeared down the street, her anxiety increasing with every passing second. As soon as Jane was out of sight, Jenni whipped out her cell phone and dialed a number she hadn't called in years. 

"Yes, hello? It's me... We've got a major problem," Jenni announced hurriedly. Her panic was all too justified; even if Jane hadn't stumbled on to the truth yet, she was far too close for Jenni's comfort. 

"Yes, it's that Pesce woman.... She knows."

Jane found herself standing in front of Amy's grave as her helplessness and anger boiled over. Every feeling of rage, sorrow, loss, and futility from the past few weeks had finally broken her. Her life was in shambles, she was no closer to finding out who the murderer was, and there was no telling when or where they would strike next. What part of her life would this mystery ruin next? It had already taken her home and her marriage; what would be next? Her parents? Her job? Her kids? 

The thought of any one of those was too much for Jane, and she felt the familiar exhaustion threatening to sweep over her once again. What had she done? Why hadn't she stopped when Moe had told her to? She was too far into it now, too involved to let it go. And she owed it to this stranger, this mysterious person whose life was so tied to her own now. She needed to find justice for Amy- for both of them, now. It was the only way to keep the murderer from hurting her family any further. But how could she possibly find out who the murderer was? There was nothing in the diary to tell her who else would have had any motive to kill Amy... unless....

A sudden thought struck Jane, and she knew with a startling certainty that she had to be right. There was only one other person Amy had mentioned meeting with that day, one other person who might have seen Amy before her death. As she thought back over the past few months, all of the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed her mother's number frantically. 

"Mom... I need you to keep the kids for just a little bit more. I'm really sorry, I know they're a handful... but I think I finally know who's been doing all of this. I just need to check on one last thing, and then I'll be home. I hope you don't mind, I know the twins are being particularly difficult today..." 

Jane was so focused on her conversation that she didn't feel the eyes that were trained on her in the darkness, or hear the footsteps that fell almost silently on the graveyard's grass. It wasn't until she felt the hand grab her elbow that she whirled around in shock, dropping her phone in the process. 

"It's you!" she gasped, stumbling backwards. The attacker merely smiled and forced a piece of dampened cloth over her mouth, and the last thing Jane remembered hearing before the blackness swallowed her up was her mother's voice calling out her name. 

"Jane? Jane? Are you there? What happened?"

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More