KENN MICHAEL GLANCED into the rear-view mirror as he turned off The Queensway at Windermere, on his way to Mark's place. A light blue Ford was tailing him, causing his hackles to rise -- cops. Kenn Michael didn't like cops at all. Not because he was doing anything wrong, but since he had a record for drug possession, he had been periodically harassed by the police. This time gut instinct alerted him it was going to be more than just a routine hassling. These guys were detectives in plain clothes. Just as he approached Lakeshore Boulevard they pulled him over. Better co-operate with the bastards, he decided acrimoniously.
"Mr. Harrison," the dark-haired burly, plain clothed cop addressed Kenn Michael, showing his badge first. "We have reason to believe you are in possession of an illegal substance, and we have a warrant here to search your car. Would you like to get out please?"
"I don't fuckin' believe you guys, yer know that! I've been clean fer the last six years, and yet yer still fuckin' houndin' me." Kenn Michael swore as he got out of the car. "Go 'head, be m'guest. And yer better find something. Because God knows, yer going to have one helluva lawsuit on yer hands fer this if yer don't. I've got a lot of people who can attest to my character and my stand against drugs in the last six years. I had a record..."
"You have a record," the detective corrected gruffly. "Now stand against the car with your hands up on the hood," he ordered, as he started to frisk Kenn Michael, while his partner who had joined him, looking through the car. People slowed down to stare as they went by. Upon finding nothing in the car, the other cop took the keys and went to open the trunk.
"Well, well, what have we here?" A malicious smile curved his lips, as he picked up what looked like a half-pound bag of white powder. Kenn Michael blanched. He felt his head reeling.
Jesus H. Christ, this has gotta be some kind of bloody nightmare. He thought, incredulous, as the cop opened the bag, stuck a finger in and tasted it, before confirming to his partner that they had hit pay dirt, it was indeed heroin.
The reading of his rights, the chill of cold metal handcuffs slapped on to his wrists; the ride down to the police station; the gruelling interrogation (because the amount of heroin found was way above average for mere personal use, and it was the police's belief that Kenn Michael intended to traffic the stuff), all seemed to move in slow motion for him, like in a nightmare from which he thought he was going to wake up.
* * *
FROM ACROSS THE STREET in a beaten up grey Honda, Oscar Larson watched as the detective place a shocked and dazed Kenn Michael Harrison, in the back seat of the unmarked car and drive away. Like the police, he too had been following Kenn Michael's red Ferrari from a safe distance, anticipating what had just occurred. Oscar pulled into the nearby gas station, and got out to use the pay phone.
* * *
AT THE BRANDON house the phone rang. Eagerly anticipating the call, James grabbed the phone in his study on the first ring, unaware Claire had also picked it up at the same time when it rang.
"The job's bin done," was all the gruff voice on the other end said as James answered.
"Good. The money will be deposited into your account tomorrow morning." James hung up the phone and with a complacent smile. He decided to take a drive, confident that things were going his way.
* * *
IN HER BEDROOM Claire hung up the phone, and returned to packing what she needed for her four weeks stay in Britain, while wondering what the call was all about, and that voice which made her flesh crawl. She had heard it before when whomever it belonged to, rang James a while ago. James walked in a couple minutes later to inform her that he was going out for a while.
"Where are you going?" She asked casually.
"That was Sol Bernstein on the phone. He got a couple of the boys together at his place. We're going to sit around and have a few beers and catch the Jays' game on T.V. Don't wait up for me, sweetheart. You need your rest for those upcoming concerts. If it's too late and I've had too much to drink, I'll stay at the condo tonight." He kissed her on the cheek and left. "I'll see you before you leave tomorrow."
"You bloody liar doc'. You're up to something, and I'll bet my next royalty cheque, that it's no good," Claire muttered once he was out of earshot, quite relieved he had left. It didn't matter he would be spending the night with Ginny. James had claimed she was paying him rent for the place. Did he really expect her to believe, Ginny would let him sleep undisturbed in the guest room? "Right, Jamie darling, and pigs really do fly."
Claire resumed her packing, wishing she could take Jeffrey along, so that Colin and his wife could see him, but James had absolutely forbidden it. He still didn't trust her, any more than she trusted him.
About nine o'clock the phone rang again, this time for her. It was Mark Hammond.
"Jen, sorry to lay this on you love, but Kenn Michael's in trouble."
"What kind of trouble, Mark?" Claire asked anxiously, feeling a leaden weight suddenly drop in her stomach.
"He's been arrested and charged for drug possession."
"What? You can't be serious!"
"Yes, Jen. Bail was set at fifty thousand."
"Where are you?"
"I'm leaving the station with him shortly. We're going back to his place."
"I'll be there in about an hour." Claire hung up the phone, grabbed her handbag making sure she had her car keys. She didn't even bother taking the time to change from the jeans and red cotton blouse she was wearing. Stepping over to her closet, she selected a pair of sneakers from her wide array of shoes, carelessly kicking aside the slippers she had been wearing. She quickly slipped them on, begrudging even the time she had to take to tie the laces, after which she dashed to the nursery to see if Jeff was already asleep. If he wasn't she would take him with her, but he was and Claire didn't want to wake him, so she rang Rita in the guest house and asked if she would come over and stay with Jeff while she was gone. After resting for a day from her last tour, Claire had given the nanny two days off, since she was home. Rita reluctantly agreed to come.
"I'm truly sorry about this Rita, but my husband's not here right now and an emergency has come up. I will see that you're compensated for your trouble," Claire pleaded with the woman.
Thirty-five minutes later she arrived at Kenn Michael's place, thinking it must have been her lucky night. She had zoomed along the Q.E.W twenty miles over the speed limit, without getting stopped.
"All right guys, you want to tell me what happened?" She demanded of the sombre faced man, one woman, and one furious little man in Kenn Michael's living room, as soon as she walked through the door.
"I've been fuckin' framed that's what!" Kenn Michael spat out bitterly, his face dark with fury as he paced, a lit cigarette in one shaking hand. "They found nearly half pound o' bloody' heroin in my trunk!"
"Oh my God, no." Claire remembered the phone call she had overheard earlier. "No it can't be!"
"Well, it fuckin' is!" he continued to rant. "D'yer know how long I can get sent up the goddamn river fer this? Not to mention my professional reputation!"
"No, that's not what I was referring to. There was a phone call I overheard this evening. Somebody rang James and all he said was, 'the job's been done.' and James told this person that money would be deposited in that person's account tomorrow morning."
Kenn Michael stopped, staring at her, his amber eyes still blazing. "What? What did this character sound like?"
"Coarse, grating. He made my flesh crawl." Claire shuddered as she thought about that voice on the phone. Kenn Michael's eyes narrowed. "I smell a fuckin' rat here....."
"Come on man, watch your language, you're talking to a lady," Mark Hammond scolded him.
"The lady's used to me, an' I'm sure she understands that I'm goddamned pissed off right now!" Kenn Michael snapped.
"Kenny's right, Jenny," Carolyn interposed for the first time. "I've known James for a long time and I know just what he's capable of. Maybe this is not the time to bring it up, but you might as well know James has every reason to hate Kenny and me." The twisted expression of hatred on her face made her appear gargoyle-like in the softly lit room.
"Carrie I don't think you should bring that up," Kenn Michael suggested.
"No, please let her continue," Claire instructed.
"Long before he met you, James and I had an affair. I became pregnant but he didn't want me to have the baby. He was also my doctor at the time, and one day when I was over at his place he drugged me. When I woke up I found out the bastard had performed an abortion on me, right there in his apartment. He murdered his own child!" Carloyn cried. That's not all. He botched the job, and now I can never have children!"
Claire drew a deep breath and swallowed hard to maintain control. She knew James could be cruel, but this was unforgivable. "Since then he's been paying me to keep quiet about the whole thing." Carolyn continued bitterly, her dark eyes murky with burning hatred coupled with pain, and Claire felt sad for her. Thanks to James, this poor woman who so adored children, could never have her own.
"I'm so sorry, Carolyn. But why did you accept the blackmail money? Why didn't you report him? Abortions are illegal in this Province unless there's a medical reason for one, as I've been lead to believe."
"Have you ever been in so in love with a man, that no matter what he does to you, you still hold on to hope that maybe one day he would change and love you back? Also, there was another reason that made it impossible for me to go to the cops.
"There was a time when I was really mixed up with drugs myself. I had just moved in with Kenn Michael, but he didn't know what was going on because he was hardly ever around. He had just become Mark's business partner, so he was very busy. I knew I was in trouble, but I thought I could kick the habit on my own, if I stayed away from my old friends. I had started seeing James, and I really thought things were going to work out for us. So I got clean for a while, but one of my old friends found me and before I knew it, we got back into the same old scene. By then I was having trouble with James, and in the state of mind I was in, it was easy to slip back into the old habits.
"One day there was a party when Kenny wasn't home, and one of my friends OD'ed on heroin. My other so-called friends disappeared leaving me alone with the body. Kenny happened to come home early. I would swear the man had the devil's own sense of timing, but James showed up to see me. He was very understanding and helpful. He agreed to help Kenny dump the body somewhere that night."
"Princess, I couldn't go to the cops because of my record. I was too afraid they'd think I supplied the drugs, and I was just beginning a new life as Mark's business partner," Kenn Michael interposed.
"You knew about this?" Claire turned to Mark who shook his head.
"I understood Bear's position, and his fears. And though I was disturbed when he told me what had happened, I had to agree with him that it was the best course of action they could have taken, given the circumstances," Mark admitted.
"What happened to the body? Was it ever found?" Claire asked.
"Yes. We called it in anonymously from a payphone. The police dismissed it for what it was, An OD. No investigation was conducted, and I thought that was the end of the issue. We were home free," Carolyn continued. "Then James found out I was pregnant and wanted me to abort the baby. He threatened to talk to a couple police friends of his, about a certain drugged up body he had helped Kenn Michael dump. Only he would make sure he wasn't implicated. Get the picture?"
Claire shook her head. "Oh yes." The conversation she had overheard between Kenn Michael and James on the day of the party, flashed through her brain. Suddenly it all fell into place. The blackmail threat, James' certain responsibility, and James claiming in return that he could destroy Kenn Michael.
Carolyn continued with her story. "Your husband was strange and paradoxical man Jenny, because after he did the abortion on me, he turned around and started giving me money. The threat of implicating Kenny in the body fiasco would have been enough to keep me quiet. Then he started seeing Ginny."
"Maybe he was just trying to salve his conscience for killing his own child," Claire said sadly. She was past bitterness. These people had become her friends, and Claire felt badly for the way James had used them. For some reason, he was still trying to destroy Kenn Michael. God, when was it all going to end?
"Talking about Ginny," Kenn Michael interposed. "She gave me a package fer yer, yesterday luv'. I was going to give it t'yer tomorrow night on the plane. But since yer are here, yer might as well have it now." He went into his bedroom and returned with a bulky brown manila envelope, which he gave to Claire. "Gin also asked me t'warn yer that whatever yer do, don't let James see that package."
"All right. Kenn did you ring the sponsors in England and Scotland to reschedule the engagements? We can't very well go now, because I don't imagine you'd able to leave the country."
"No, I can't, but yer are still going, luv'. Mark is taking yer."
"But, Bear, we can't just go and leave you to face this trial by yourself," Claire protested.
"Don't worry 'bout me, Jenny. I'm a big boy. Besides, the show must go on," he continued inexorably.
"Very well, but I'm cutting the tour short to three concerts; the ones in London, Manchester and Liverpool and we'll be back here by next week Friday." She looked to Mark for confirmation. He nodded affirmatively, feeling the same way she did, about Kenn Michael's situation.
"No, yer don't," Kenn Michael argued.
"Sorry, Kenn Michael, you can't persuade me otherwise. I'm sure the sponsors would understand. A no show would be tacky, not to mention disappointing. However, a shortened run due to a family emergency shouldn't ruffle as many feathers. We can always reschedule for a couple months later, or as long as it takes for this matter to be straightened out."
"Jenny..." Kenn Michael started to protest, but Claire cut him off.
"Bear, don't argue with me. We'll get you out of this somehow. This is a time when you need all the people who love and care about you, around."
"Jenny, I could go to jail fer a long time...."
"Kenn Michael, shut up with that kind of negative talk. I know you and where you stand on the drug issue, so does Mark and just about everybody else at DHD. Then there was that incident in Hollywood. When I return I'm going to ring that producer, and see if I can get him to come to Toronto to testify on your behalf. I know it's probably a long shot but it's worth a try anyway. Plus there are a lot of other people in this business I'm sure, who have known you for the last six years." Kenn Michael looked at her, touched, his expression now softened. Sure, he had helped put her where she was, but never once had he thought the day would come when she would be helping him.
"It's not that easy Jen, but there's another way yer could help me."
"If you heard that voice again in person, would you be able to identify it as the same voice you heard on the phone?" By now, he had calmed down.
"I couldn't forget it," Claire shuddered.
"All right, when yer get back, I'll let you help me do some sleuthin'. Before I forget Jenny, could yer come with me? There's something I've to tell yer in private. Excuse us fer a couple minutes guys," he said to Mark and Carolyn then led Claire into his bedroom. "I think yer better sit down, fer what I'm going to tell yer," he advised her.
"I doubt I can be shocked any more tonight, Kenn Michael. Spit it out."
"Jenny, Lance Stevens is alive..."
"I beg your pardon, but is this your idea of a joke...?" Claire gasped, stunned and disbelieving.
"Do I look like I'm laughing darlin'? I didn't want yer to have a bloody heart attack if yer went back home and heard about it, as yer were bound to. He's running SEI. His wife was killed recently in a car accident in France and he has a young son."
Claire put her hand her chest, as her heart started to thump dangerously fast. "Ohmygod, I've got to sit down." She sank down onto Kenn Michael's bed.
"Jenny, there's something else."
"He's partially crippled. It must have happened in the plane crash."
"How long have you known Bear?" Claire asked in a small, strangled voice. By sheer will she managed to keep the tears from falling. She picked up a pillow from his bed and hugged it close to her, for something to hold on to.
"Since before we went to California."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was going to tell yer when we arrived in London, but I wanted to see the man first and feel him out, before I broke the news. Jen I didn't want yer to get hurt, no matter how all four of us might have been connected at one time. This is a different time." It was the first verbal allusion he had made to his fully accepting the past life they had all shared.
"Kenn Michael, you believed all along, about all of us?" She looked at him, not knowing what to feel. The news of Lance still being alive -- it didn't matter that he might be crippled or partially so, as Kenn Michael said -- had thrown her.
"Shhh, don't say anything. I've a heck of a time accepting the whole business m'self. We know who we are, so let's just leave it at that and take one day at a time, let things run their natural course, huh? Go now, Jenny. And I'll see yer next week Friday, if yer are so hell bent on cutting the gig short."
In the living room on her way out Mark gave her their flight information.
"See you tomorrow, Jen. Good night," both he and Carolyn said in unison. Kenn Michael didn't come back out.
"Good night guys."
ON THE RED EYE to London the following night Claire was unable to sleep. Mark had drifted off in his seat beside her, and so had the rest of the seven band members occupying the three rows behind them.
Claire stared out the window into the darkness. She was returning to England for the first time in four years. While part of her was filled with anticipation, the other was filled with an incongruous mixture of dread and desire at facing Lance again, should their paths cross.
The romantic side of her likened the situation to a scene out of Jane Eyre. Except that her Mr. Rochester would probably want nothing to do with her, if he knew the circumstances of her marriage to Dr. James Brandon.
As she continued to stare blankly into the blackness outside her window, a montage of all the happy moments she and Lance had shared started to play in her head. The very first time they danced together was to the song The First Time Ever I saw Your Face. How appropriate it had been for them; the picnics, Monte Carlo, Maxim's in Paris, Christmas at Liana's, all the events of her life since then, leading up to the present. At the end of it all, Claire felt a sense of release from the pain she had held inside, flood her being. Her face was wet with the tears she paid no attention to, as she reflected upon her life so far. What was going to happen now? She reached into her handbag and took out a travel size packet of tissues to wipe her face. Her thoughts veered and centered on Kenn Michael, the man for whom she also felt a very deep love, as she did for Lance. She felt right down to her very bones, that James was responsible for Kenn Michael's arrest.
Suddenly remembering the package Kenn Michael had given her, she reached down at her feet for her carry on bag where she had packed it. Claire took out the envelope, and opened it under the dim light in the overhead carry on baggage compartment.
"Huh?" Her eyes almost popped out of their sockets when she saw the pictures of a naked Helena with an extremely handsome dark haired man, in flagrante delecto. I dare say, these are rather interesting. There is a cassette tape too. Damn! And I don't have a tape player. Well, I'll just have to wait until I get to London. Ah, yes, and here is a letter too from Ginny. Claire started to read it.
Dear Mrs. Brandon,
I am sending these articles to you. I'm sure they will answer questions that probably have been plaguing you since you married James. Admittedly, I was insanely jealous when he married you, after I had been his steady lover for years.
However, when he returned to me two months after your marriage, I thought I'd won a victory over you by getting him back. But as I began to rethink the situation, I realized what an asshole he really was. I am a woman with a conscience, and I began to think about how I would feel if I had been in your place. However, I chose to hold on to him with the intention of eventually showing him up for the lowlife he really is. This was what I meant when I approached you at the party, and told you of my intention.
Since old habits die hard, he started sleeping around with jailbaits again, and it's only a matter of time before one of them gets smart and charges him with statutory rape. I didn't get a chance to tell you this at the party, but I think you are a decent young woman who didn't deserve to end up with the likes of James Brandon.
The articles I've enclosed here were those he used to blackmail your sister into breaking up your engagement to the man you were going to marry. I was at his place the day this package arrived and James could hardly wait to get me out of his apartment. However, having secretly made a key, I was able to sneak back in when he was at work and get a better look at the pictures. I didn't know who the woman was in the pictures, but when I listened to the tape, I connected the name Devereaux to you. I took a chance and called Helena Devereaux, and found out she was indeed your sister. She wasn't the most pleasant person in the world to deal with, but when I explained why I was calling her she agreed to meet with me. I won't go into details how I got her to do so, but she told me the whole sordid story. As I mentioned before, James used these pictures and tape to blackmail her into helping him break up your relationship with your fiancé, so he could in turn, trap you into being with him. I think you can figure out the rest for yourself.
Claire clenched her teeth and fist to keep from screaming out her rage and disgust towards her husband. She drew a couple deep breaths to calm down and steady herself, as she formulated a plan. One thing she definitely knew after reading Ginny's letter, was that she couldn't remain married to James Brandon, and she wasn't going to give up her son.
* * *
EARLY THE NEXT morning after his wife's departure, Dr. James Brandon also boarded a British Airways flight to London.