Who Killed Carl Strummer?

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Go, Meredith, go!"

There was a sense of urgency pushing Meredith Kane into her car as she walked home from her sister's house. She called the babysitter, kissed her youngest son goodbye, and found herself watching the scenery roll by as she drove into the far reaches of Riverview's countryside. Although her husband had been in jail for less than 24 hours, she felt like she had no time to waste -- the detectives were only becoming more and more convinced that Jebidiah had murdered Carl Strummer... And if Tana was right, he was being framed.

As she turned a corner, Meredith pulled out a small scrap of paper her sister had slipped her before she'd left to go home: Mimi Brown's address. To be perfectly honest to herself, Meredith wasn't sure what to expect. Tana had mentioned that Mimi was a family-loving person, and would understand the pleadings of a wife, but if she was really so stubborn turning in the complete evidence to her fellow cops, what good would she be to Meredith? "I guess I'm just going to have to find out," she thought to herself, as she pulled up to the small farmstead where the Brown's lived.

To Meredith's luck, the dark-skinned woman she'd met at Jebidiah's work party was out working in her garden, and no other family members were in sight -- good, no one around to overhear. With a deep breath, she shut off the engine of her car, walked across the lawn, and cleared her throat as she neared the woman who had betrayed her husband.

"Mimi Brown?" she asked, her voice cracking.

"Yes, what is-- Oh. Hello, Mrs. Kane."

The way that Mimi recognized her, and smirked to herself, only made the butterflies in Meredith's stomach jump faster. But, she had to do this... For her family. For her husband. "Look... Mimi, I need your help. Can you spare a minute to talk?"

"I suppose I can, but lady... You gotta realize, I'm not really supposed to be talking to you off-duty. Wouldn't look too great at the depar--"

"It'll only take a minute. I just... Mimi, I know my husband didn't murder that man." As Meredith gulped back her fear, Mimi simply stared, and blinked. She said nothing.

Frustrated, Meredith continued. "My husband was arrested for someone else's crime... And I know that you have evidence that could help Jeb. Why are you hiding it?"

"For plumbbob's sake, has Tana been filling your ears with nonsense?" Mimi shook her head, clearly annoyed. "Look, lady, I found something that might get Jebidiah off the hook, but you don't understand -- I've spent the last few years of my life trying to nail the Company. Years of my life that would be wasted if I let Jebidiah walk out of prison when there are crimes he did commit. I know that it's all hitting you hard right now, and that it's hard to believe how your husband was a criminal, but of the entire Company, he's the only one I was able to get... If I turn in this evidence, they'll start to question everything else, and then everything I've done to try to rid this town of crime will be for naught."

Meredith looked at Mimi with a confused look, which inspired her to explain. "Everything about this job was pinned on connecting Dallas to the crime. Get the crime lord, get the whole operation. But outta sheer dumb luck, I underestimated him, and he skipped town the moment he heard there was trouble. Cody got herself near completely off the hook by agreeing to help me nail everyone else, and Tameka... Well, she was the one who was supposed to keep the Strummers gone that night. Obviously, she chickened out, or somethin'... Because the Strummers were obviously home."

"So... So do you think Tameka framed Jebidiah?"

"Of course Tameka didn't do it, she a crook and a thief, but only 'cause her mind's too young to understand it's wrong. She's always been a little... off her rocker. She still deserves a year or two in the slammer, if you ask me, but... Honestly? The girl don't have the attention span to plan something like that. Maybe a murder of passion or something, but clearly, that ain't what this was."

"So you know it wasn't Jebidiah, and yet you still won't help him? When you know he'll spend the rest of his life in prison, when his wife is left alone with two kids to raise on her own? Don't you understand what you're doing, by letting this happen?!"

"Calm down, Meredith!"  Mimi said, backing away from the outraged redhead. "You gotta understand, even if I did tell the Department, they'd probably laugh! No one even seems to care if Jebidiah didn't do it... He's the perfect scapegoat. Everyone's wanted to get Blackjack behind bars since the moment he stepped into the scene of Crime, they're happy knowing he's going to be behind bars forever... Even if I don't think he should."

"Please, Mimi..." Meredith was running out of options. The undercover cop had only given hints on who it couldn'tve been.. Which didn't really help much. "If the cops won't look for the evidence, then it's gotta be brought to them... Just give me the chance to find out who did this, then they can be locked up for killing Mr. Strummer... Jebidiah can serve out the sentence he deserves, I just want to know I'll get him back someday... Please..."

Mimi sighed, but Meredith had obviously gotten through to her. Looking around briefly to make sure that they weren't being watched, she began to speak in a low voice.

"A couple of days before the job, I got an e-mail from an anonymous address. Got it on my work account, and pry only sheer luck that I got that email outta anyone else in the department. Don't make a lotta sense to me, which is why it kinda caught my eye." Meredith gave Mimi a look as if to say, 'Go on'. "It was a tip. Somebody wrote to tell me that they knew there was gonna be a murder, at the Strummers' exact address... But since I was inside and knew what was happening, I knew there weren't gonna be a murder. So whoever sent the email..."

"Was the killer," wheezed Meredith. "But how does that help?"

"Whoever sent the email didn't cover their tracks real well. They obviously didn't know I got Jebidiah's hacking software installed on my computer... All I had to do is hit a button to see what computer sent it."


"And, it was sent from the library, which is no good."

She paused, before ripping a piece of paper from a notebook in her pocket, and handing it to Meredith.

"But I did get the address."

Meredith slammed the door when she arrived back at her house. There was a small crack in the glass as a result, but she didn't care... It didn't matter in the slightest, right now.

She'd gone to Mimi for help, and this is what she got: an email address. She didn't have a copy of the email, any proof that her husband was framed, nothing but a scrap of paper and the pleading of a wife. At this rate, she'd only be locked up too, since the cops would have the think she was aiding him in some way on this whole crime.

Come to think of it... She was.

"Aaaagh!" she yelled, kicking a chair -- which was even dumber than it seemed, because she was wearing sandals.

"Are you alright Mrs. Kane?" asked the babysitter as he came running from the other room.

"I'm fine... Fine..." she winced as she limped away from the scene of her stubbing... But as she walked, her eyes turned to the table.

She carefully began to think. "I don't have any proof, but the killer does. And I can contact the killer. Maybe... Maybe if I..."

But the idea almost made her laugh. What, and ask them to give themselves up? What a laugh. If anything, all she'd do is set herself up to get killed, too...

No. She'd hit a dead end. Tana had sent her on a wild goose chase, and she'd gotten excited for nothing. "I have no one to blame but myself."

Trying to get back to normal was harder than Meredith had imagined. It was no use lying to Travis -- he knew what was going on, even if his mother had refused to tell him. He was already talking to his friends from school about how his father was going to be convicted for murder. She tried to ignore it, but it stung more than anything in the world... Seeing her children suffering the same burden of knowledge that she was. At least Bradley was still young... At least Bradley did not have to know that he would likely never see his father again. For now.

In fact, Meredith was so absorbed with what was going on, she didn't realize it was her birthday -- she was now fully adult... And she felt it. So childish, she never thought she'd feel old, even when grays hairs spouted from her head -- but all it took was a few hours of agonizing defeat to feel broken down. She didn't bother telling Travis, either -- this wasn't how she wanted to celebrate her birthday, so... She'd just wait another day. There were more important things to think about.

Yes, more important things. Seems that we're always back here, watching as Meredith fights to fall asleep.

As she stared at the cieling, thoughts kept going through her head... The tortures of being alone while raising her children. The torture Jebidiah was surely going through, trying to convince the cops he was innocent. The torture her son was going through to know his father was a criminal. And, of course... The torture of her heart. "I just want him here. I need him here."

Closing her eyes, she took another deep breath. It was time to do the wrong thing... But it was the best idea she had.

Opening the laptop, she carefully spent hours trying to figure out her husband's hacking program... But he'd already done all that for her. What the cops couldn't find, she'd seen him open hundred's of times -- and there, there was everything she needed. A cop's email address to write from -- fake, most likely, but obviously used on several occasions before. ("Dear Plumbob, my husband was brilliant.") In her hand, the email address to send to.

"Need a follow up interview on the murder of Carl Strummer. Please go to Lost Willow Park at 8pm tomorrow evening, bring all information you have to help solidify the case against Jebidiah Kane. There is some discrepancy at the department over the details of the murder, and since you seem to have a good idea what happened, I need your help to nail this guy. You're all I've got.

Come alone."

And now... To wait.
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The Search for Truth

Friday, June 25, 2010

 When something happens in such a small town like Riverview, it isn't long before every neighbor has told their neighbor about a bit of juicy news that was shared along the grape vine; it had become an exceptionally difficult place to even think about keeping a secret. It isn't that people in Riverview are naturally prone to gossip, but that the town seems so deceptively boring at times that the slightest shred of interesting information turns into an adult version of "telephone" only minutes after the news is sprung.

In the driest of times, sometimes even the least interesting news floats between the ears of Riverview's residents. When Wayne Dow accidentally dropped his keys down a storm drain, Riverview's finest found a way to turn public knowledge of the Dow's declining marriage into an event of epic proportion: Trista, having enough with her husband's scandalous cheatings and beatings, broke out into a fight on their driveway, where she ceremoniously tossed her husband's keys down the drain. Naturally, nothing of the kind actually happened, but... Bored residents will do anything to make themselves feel justified living in such a remote, podunk town.

It was the same for the time the Self's mansion caught on fire because of a suddenly outbreak of violent, arsonist teens in the neighboorhood... an incident which was really just Taryn forgetting to turn the stove off before she went shopping. Greg Newbie's scandalous exploits in the bedroom, the Remington ghost causing havoc at the Riverside Swim Club, and the Shallow's locking their children in the basement with only food and homework -- examples of hyperboles spread by Riverview's citizens in order to try, for a little while, to act as if life could be a little bit more interesting.

But Riverview's hungry rumormongers didn't have to wait long for their gullets to be full once again -- and this time, with a story that didn't need an ounce of twisting to become a storybook standard for their homely, boring, small farm town.

The phone calls were sweeping in by the minute. All Meredith had to do was hang up the phone, and once again it was ringing off the hook. The house phone, the cell phone -- eventually, she unplugged and turned off them both, desperate to find a sliver of silence to actually reflect on the pain that was closing her in.

The night before, things had been too quiet. In some matter of sick chance, she knew something was wrong before she picked up the phone, and heard the dark words from the police department: your husband was caught at the scene of both a robbery and murder. "We need you down at the station for a quick statement, Mrs. Kane," she heard over the line. "But I'm afraid we can't let you in to see your husband, yet."

"Travis, I need to go out. Something important's come up -- no, I can't explain right now, I'm sorry -- so please, just go to bed. I'll be home as soon as I can."

"What about Bradley?" Travis whined. "He's gonna start crying the second you're gone, and thenni won't be able to get any sleep at aaall."

"I'm calling the babysitter on my way out, he'll take care of Bradley -- you're just going to have to manage until he shows up. Now go to bed!"

Meredith was considerably unhappy, but nothing could compare to the sinking feeling in her stomach as she pulled up to the police department. She went inside, and as they'd said they'd be, they were quick -- just a few questions to make sure she had been unaware of the situation, a brief explanation of what happened, and a boot out the door without a goody bag... Unless you counted the invisible knife splitting her gut -- and heart -- in two.

"How could this happen," she wailed as soon as she left the building, burying her face in her hands. Her worst fears had come to pass -- Jebidiah had finally been caught for his crimes... With the addition of one she had never believed him capable of.

When she got home, everyone was sound asleep -- thank goodness. But even in the dead silence of the night, she found it hard to sleep herself... A growing trend in the Kane household. With a sigh, she flicked on the light, taking a moment for her eyes to adjust to the time on the clock.

"3 o'clock," she murmured to herself. But, after looking at the time, her eyes turned to the other nightstand... The photograph of their wedding, a painful reminder of how happy and simple things used to be... Pulling her knees into her chest, she began to cry once again. She had never imagined this, not even in her darkest nightmare scenarios.

But no one ever seems to let the Kanes have any rest. As Meredith finally felt the first shred of sleepiness tug on her eyelids, a sharp sound began to resound from downstairs:

The Burglar Alarm.

The cops, having mostly been out at the Strummer Crime Scene and trying to track down any of Jebidiah's accomplices, were mobile enough to get there in the nick of time -- nothing was stolen, but that didn't mean that Meredith wasn't left exceedingly unsettled.

"Go back to bed, ma'am," the police officer said, resting his hand on her shoulder. "There's nothing else you can do right now. We'll keep a car close by for the rest of the night, but we're going to need to send someone by in the morning to ask a few more questions."

As she settled into bed for the second time, Meredith almost wanted to laugh at her predicament -- could it get any worse? Her husband was in jail for robbery and murder, and now a burglar had tried to break into her house for the third time in only a couple of weeks. The same thing that the cops were wondering was haunting her mind, as well: what did they want?!

The first thing in the morning, Meredith sent Travis off to school with heavy circles under her eyes, fighting to answer her son's questions without breaking into tears. "Where's Dad? I didn't hear him come home last night. Does it have anything to do with why you were gone all night? How come people keep trying to steal stuff from us? When's Dad coming home?" Meredith was awful at coming up with excuses... She mumbled her way out of most of them and sent him off to the bus stop -- but she couldn't handle being alone anymore. Without even changing Bradley from his pajamas, she settled him onto her hip and walked across the street to Tana's.

But as she approached, she realized her sister wasn't alone. Peeking through the window,  Meredith hugged Bradley tighter when she saw that there were cops in her sister's house, one of which having a rather heated discussion with her in the living room. "Martin, as much as I am really enjoying this conversation, there's someone at the door. Why don't you go join the rest of the department in sacking my home while I go see who it is?" Tana's voice resounded through the door in such a way that Meredith could've sworn she saw it shiver -- she'd never seen her sister so angry before.

As soon as Tana opened the door to greet her sister, Meredith set Bradley down to go find the toys inside to play with. "What the heck is going on?" she asked her sister, almost pleading. "Could you please explain to me what's happened?"

"Listen... Meredith," Tana started in a low voice, peeking carefully over her shoulder. "I'm only going to say this once, so I need you to listen very carefully. Jebidiah was working for one of the largest crime syndicates in the State, based here in Riverview... The heist last night was supposed to be it's biggest job yet, but a mole in the Company completely blew the operation. Jeb got caught, and now the mole's forking out information that will bring the whole Company down."

"But what does that have to do with you?"

"I've... Meredith," Tana groaned, her voice slipping down to a whisper. "I've been working as an insider for the Company for almost 6 months."

"You what?!" Meredith had a hard time keeping quiet. She'd known about Jebidiah's job in crime, but her sister's involvement had only been a sneaking suspicion... One she had always hoped to keep that way.

"I know, I know, I get that you're angry, and I'm really sorry Mere," Tana sighed, looking away from her little sister's gaze. "I wish I could've told you, but the Company... They've got rules..."

"Scratch their rules, how about everyone's rules? You know, the law?!" She groaned. "Isn't anyone in this family anything but evil?!"

"It's just who we are, and we don't need your approval to be that way, Mere, you can't change anything," Tana said. "But you can yell at me about it all you want, later. Right now... Sis, I really need your help."

"My help? Why should I help you, after everything you've kept from me all this time? After everything you've done?"

"Because otherwise, your husband is going to rot in jail for the remainder of his life, and I know you don't want that."

"Jebidiah..." Meredith sighed. All she needed was a painful reminder of what her husband had done. "There's nothing I can do to help him. He's killed someone, Tana..."

"No. He didn't." Meredith looked at Tana with her eyes thinned, suspicious... but Tana continued. "Look, I know it's all really hard to take in right now, but even though Jeb's a thief and a dirty rotten liar, he isn't a murderer. Something went tragically wrong last night, and as far as what I've picked up down at the department, even the mole doesn't have an explanation for why the Strummers were home, or how Carl just dropped dead. Until the autopsy comes out, no one will know for sure, but even then... No one even wants to begin to think anyone but Jebidiah committed the crime."

"I don't want to be a bloody criminal, Tana," Meredith said, exasperated. "And I certainly don't want to help you, now that--"

"Mere, this isn't just for me. I've got my own butt covered, no one at the department, even the mole, has any way of tracing anything back to me, yet, and as long as I'm careful, it'll stay that way. But if you really love your husband..."

"But what the hell is so important you need me to do it?

"I need you to talk to the mole. She's concealing something about what happened, and no one else at the department gives a damn but me... And she hates my guts. But, I know she's a sucker for family, and I've got a feeling she'll open up to you if you hit the right chords. You just need to find out what she's hiding... It might be the key to figuring out who the real culprit is."

Meredith hung her head, but as angry as she was at her husband... Deep down, she knew there was no other answer she could give. "Alright. Who do I need to talk to?"

"Mimi Brown."

As they'd already been outside longer than was safely non-suspect, Tana went in and Meredith followed -- she'd need to pick up Bradley before heading home. However, as soon as Tana went off chasing a cop into her bedroom ("Hey, could you please try not to break anything?!") Meredith was pulled aside by an officer -- the same one that had arrested her husband the night before.

"Mrs. Kane, I'd like to ask you a few more questions about last night."

She didn't have much of a choice but to go through yet another interrogation... "Do you have any idea what the burglar may have been after, last night?" "Did your husband ever bring home anything from work that seemed suspicious?" "After we're through here, we're going to need to come across the street of your house and do an inspection, do you have any problems with that?" ... Things of that kind.

As Meredith tried to answer his questions as loosely as possible -- judging by what Tana had just asked her to do, the last thing she wanted was to give  these cops any ideas -- but she agreed to the house inspection.

"So long as I don't have to be home," was her only request.

She had somewhere else to go, today.
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The Deadly Sins

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A cold wind passed over Dogwood Lane that Tuesday night, softly stirring the leaves that had shaken from the endlessly green trees of Riverview. It felt abnormally chilly, Meredith thought... She tucked her hands into her elbows, letting her camera hang loosely on her wrist as her eyes were drawn skywards.

The cloud shielded the stars, and the moon still hung brightly on the horizon, deceivingly large against the rolling fields surrounding the town. Noises still flowed in from all across the nearby streets, but the most predominant was the sound of video games in the living room. "Will that boy ever go to bed on time," she murmured to herself, an eye peeking into the window to see Travis's head still bobbing in front of the television. As she turned to head inside, something else caught her ear: the phone began to ring.

"Meredith, you don't have to forgive me... Just please, can you at least stop walking away from me when I try to talk to you?"

Jebidiah grabbed his wife by the shoulders, and tilted her head to face his. "I'll get this straightened out, just wait, okay?"

"I'm going out, taking some produce to the market before the midday rush," she responded loosely, turning to head towards the shower. "I'll see you before you head off to work. Stop badgering me about this, alright?"

He grimaced angrily as she walked away, climbing back into bed for a few more hours of sleep to help him get through the night. Meredith sighed as she dried off and pulled on a sweater, looking through the glass door into the bedroom with a weary look. "Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him," she thought, but then instantly shook her head. "Nah. He deserves it."

As she pulled into the grocery parking lot, a familiar face caught her eye -- and she only barely made it out of the car unscathed, she got out so fast... even forgetting the fruit in the backseat.

"You think you can mooch on my husband and get away with it?" Meredith approached Tameka calmly, the words slithering out at the younger woman with disdain. Tameka merely blinked, completely shocked at the accusation that seemingly came from nowhere. Still, Meredith remained deceivingly collected.

"Well, I have only one thing to say to you..."

She pulled in close, grinning devilishly at her husband's latest love affair. "I'll let it go this time, but if you ever touch my husband ever again..."

Tameka, however, was distracted -- her eyes kept tracing to the right, watching the old man passing by them with a wide-eyed expression. "Carl Strummer..." she muttered under her breath.

For the rest of the afternoon, Meredith felt surprisingly upbeat -- the first time since she found out about her husband's treachery, she felt... okay. Perhaps seeing Tameka in the flesh and confronting the woman to her face had done some good. "See Farah, I can play grownup if I want," she whispered cutely to her dinner plate after shoving the last forkful into her mouth; Jebidiah, having only just woke up, was rather confused, but... Didn't ask. Good Jebidiah. Goooood boy.

Jeb waited until Travis ran off to work on his homework before turning to watch Meredith finish washing the dishes. "I'm... I'm heading off," he shrugged, eyes still on his wife.

"Alright, have a good--"
"Walk me to the door?"

Meredith was confused, but she did anyways; there, he stopped, and pulled her into his arms. "I don't know when I'll get back," he said, reaching to touch her cheek. "But I needed... To tell you, before I left..."


"...You're so beautiful, Mere."

"Just go to work already, you dork."

The radio silence was eating Jebidiah's nerves, but he knew that he couldn't stir any of the neighbor's attention. The last thing he'd heard was "The lines are cut. Go." and then, the show was his. It felt abnormally simple, tiptoeing across the lawn...

"Second story window, above the door -- are the lights supposed to be on? Oh, right, automatic when the security is disabled... Right."

He prepared his gear, volleying the ropes onto a secure roofpoint before crawling up to the window. When he heard his lockpick open the window with a 'click', he carefully slid the plated glass away, and drew out a pinchful of powder. He blew it across the window entrance: "No beams... So far, so good."

He ducked inside the window frame, and unhooked himself from his rope just in time to see his reflection in the most beautiful jewel he had ever seen.

"My plumbbob," he accidently gasped aloud. He'd seen photos, but actually seeing the thing in person... It was magnificent. Not that it didn't need to be -- it was worth everything he owned... times five or six. Or seven.

"Alright, precious," he chuckled menacingly to himself. "It's time to get you a new home."

Even without another puff of powder, he could tell that the security cage around the gem was disabled. The weight trigger on the pedestal was another thing, but he had the replacement hooked to his belt. All he had to do was grab the jewel... grab the jewel...

"Hold it right there."

Jebidiah reacted immediately and carelessly -- he grabbed the gem and swung around, instantly flailing at the sight of someone else in the room.

Carl Strummer.
What the heck -- what was he doing here?!

"Jebidiah Kane, you're under arrest for--"

*** CRASH!!! ***

Jebidiah leaped onto Carl, instantly tackling the old man to the ground... sort of. Carl put up a good fight for a man of his age, and Jeb had to wrench him into a headlock in order to get him subdued. "Gotta get outta here, gotta get outta here!" He was frantic, now, but there was nothing he could do until he's successfully beat Carl and wouldn't be pursued.

Finally, Jebidiah triumphed -- the man began to wheezing, going limp in his arms... But something was wrong -- he began to fall, clutching his stomach. "What... what have you done to me..."

 Jebidiah backed away, watching as the old man collapsed to the floor. "Kane... What have you done..."

For a moment, nothing else mattered -- Jeb forgot the gem, and the fact that he'd triggered the safety alarm on the pedestal, that the cops were likely on their way... No, nothing else captivated his attention like watching Carl Strummer tumble to the ground, as he clutched his stomach... Moaned...

... And died.

Jebidiah let out a yell -- wordless, but conveying his agony all the same.
What just happened?!

He suddenly realized, though, that he had no time to think -- he needed to get out of that house as quickly as possible. Without even bothering with his escape plan, he bolted out the front door, nearly tripping down the steps as he fled.

But he was too late.

"I didn't do it... I didn't do it!" he gasped as he continued to try to flee, as if it would somehow make a difference.

"Didn't do what? You can't lie to me, Jebidiah."

"Mimi, he's dead... He's dead... but I didn't -- Wait." Jebidiah stopped. He blinked. Mimi.

"It was you! You all along!" With unbridled rage, Jebidiah jumped the woman he had known first as his boss... then his collegue... His friend.

But now he knew the truth. Furiously, they fought in a duel to be remembered -- but as Jebidiah heard the sound of more approaching sirens, he kicked Mimi out from under her feet, and threw her into the surrounding bushes.

"You always were a terrible boxer," he spat in her direction, before turning to flee.

He had no idea where to go. Mimi was supposed to be the getaway driver -- and some driver she was... A ride to the police station! And now, it gave him time to think... About the betrayal... The Strummer's presence... About why Carl died.

Jebidiah was aimless, but he though that of all places, going the most populated would be the best; he ran into the public library, hoping to hide out amongst the crowd of teens working on homework.

But it was not his most brilliant plan.

"Jebidiah Kane, you are under arrest for the theft of the Pink Spire Diamond, and the murder of Agent Carl M. Strummer. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you..."

... As she turned to head inside, something else caught her ear: the phone began to ring.

Meredith walked through the front door and picked up the phone. "Kane residence," she responded, her eyes still on her son.

"Is this Mrs. Meredith Kane?"

"Yes... who is this?"

"Mrs. Kane, I'm afraid I have some bad news... You may want to sit down."

A cold wind passed over the town of Riverview that Tuesday night, softly stirring the leaves that had shaken from the endlessly green trees.  It felt abnormally chilly, for a wind in this small town... Abnormally loud. It was a whisper, on the wind...

"Deceit..."      "Betrayal..."      "Murder."
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Love Through Betrayal

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Every choice he made that I withstood, every secret of his I kept in the dark, every sin I forgave, was because I thought he loved me... Because I thought it was what forever was all about."

Meredith fixed the rearview mirror of her car, still shaking in anger and pain. She had no idea where to go, but she knew she had to get out... away. Thank the plumbbob that Travis was spending the night at a friend's house -- she couldn't bear the thought of his questions. Bradley would be fine with Jeb until the morning... Let him play the parent for a while. Always her, changing diapers. Always her, reading them books and helping them with homework. Where was he all that time... Off screwing his coworkers while looting the town?

She wiped a tear from her cheek, and pulled out of the driveway. No idea where to go, but if she started to drive, maybe she'd find out where she was going on the way.

After plugging the gas pedal as far down as it would go, Meredith found herself all the way across town... Farah's house. She remembered ending up here once before, when she discovered Jebidiah's dark secret -- see how his mother handled it now when she found out he was cheating scum, too.

But when she rang the doorbell, no one answered. She rung it again... And again. By that point, it was obvious no one was home, but Meredith could do nothing but bang on the door, hoping for a miracle.

... Nothing. Eventually, furious and tired, she wiped her cheeks once more and laid down on the bench outside her door, falling asleep.

When Farah drove up, she immediately noticed something was awry. Why was Meredith's car in her driveway? Why was the security lighting around her house lit up?

Climbing the steps to her front door, she found Meredith there, asleep. She didn't bother having to wake her daughter-in-law, though -- the moment she ascended the last step, Meredith was awakened from her stupor, and looked up into Farah's half-egyptian eyes. "I need somewhere to stay, tonight."

Farah unlocked the door and ushered Meredith inside, scowling as she looked the young woman over. "What's happened?"

"He's been cheating on me, Farah. He's a bloody rotten liar... All this time, I thought he loved me, but apparently he's been off, fooling around with other men's wives... Even in my own home..." Meredith fought back the sniffles as Farah reached out her hand to try and comfort the redhead.

"Oh, sweetheart," she delicately said. "Are you sure there hasn't been a mista--"

"Of course there hasn't been a mistake!" Meredith yelled, balling her hands into fists. "His own boss told me, having seen it himself! What reason would he have to lie to me?"

"Meredith, calm down!" Farah's eyes had grown wide. "I can think of several reasons that his boss would have to lie to you, but that's not why I ask... I know my son can be a malicious man, but if there is anything in this world that has caused even a shred of hope that there's been a change in his life, it's you. Why he would do this... It's beyond me." She sighed deeply, rubbing her own face in confusion.

After a moment, Farah pointed down the steps. "Your old room is made up as a guest bedroom, you're more than welcome to stay the night. Sleep on it... We'll talk again in the morning."

There was something oddly reminiscent about pulling back the covers of the place she and Jebidiah used to sleep -- as if it had only been yesterday when they spent their first night together... Only yesterday when he got down on one knee... "Oh why, Jebidiah... Why?"

Meredith wasn't the only one having a hard time sleeping that night. "You've screwed up big time, this time," Jebidiah said aloud to himself as he looked around his empty living room, rubbing the back of his sore neck to try and alleviate some of the tension he'd self-served. Of course, his betrayal wasn't the only thing keeping his mind occupied. His boss's flinchless knife in his back... Cody's disgusted reaction... Mimi's lack thereof... Not to mention that it would not be much longer before he would have to trust his safety to the very people that now were likely lighting flaming dungheaps on his front lawn.

There's no rest for the wicked... And certainly not a wicked father.

But there was something comforting about the way that Bradley reached for his hand as he came to soothe his cries. "You're still too young to hate me," he sighed, touching his son's cheek. "Give it time. I'll find a way to screw up our relationship in the end."

You have to try not to, though, Jebidiah... You have to at least try.

When morning came, Meredith sought out Farah's computer and started duking it out on some computer games. Nothing to ease the tension like pummeling a quarterback in pixellated pixel-vision.

Farah wasn't going to let her daughter-in-law get off so easy, though. After she'd had herself a cup of coffee, she followed Meredith into her study and they began to talk.

"I just don't know, Farah," Meredith sighed. "My head's still spinning. How could he do this to me? To our kids? I just don't understand... None of it makes any sense. How can I possibly trust him anymore, as a husband? First he lies to me about his job, and now he's lying to me about our marriage -- why should I even bother staying with him anymore?"

"Listen, Meredith--" Farah pointed her finger towards the younger woman. "You aren't going to be able to figure any of this out if you keep childishly running away from these issues. You have to confront them head on, or you'll never know why... All you're doing is making this worse by avoiding them. Stop acting like you just stepped out of high-school and go talk to your husband.'

"I know he loves you, even if this was a poor way to show it. There must be a good reason for it... And while I'm not saying it's your fault, who knows his reasons? You aren't going to figure that out until you get dressed, and go resolve this like a grown woman. You're always talking about how you want to be a stronger person... Now's your time to prove you can be."

Meredith wanted to blow up at Farah for that advice -- how could she say that! -- but deep down, she knew that at least part of what she said was right. The longer she let this brew, the worse it would get... But still, there was one more place she needed to go before finally facing up to her husband.

"...And that's when I went to Farah's for the night. I just couldn't stand to see him anymore." By now, Meredith had fought back most of the tears, and was mostly just confused and frustrated. "I know I need to go see him, but I have no idea what to say. I wish... I wish I just didn't even know. I don't--"

"Don't say that, Meredith, that's absolutely ridiculous." Tana was infuriated -- much more than she was ever let on to sister. "You'd rather he was cheating on you but you just didn't know about it? I can't believe that -- that's so incredibly naive!" Tana threw up her arms in disgust. "I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him, he was absolutely no good -- but you never, ever listen to me, do you, Meredith?!"

But Meredith refused to respond. Her anger intensifying, she turned away... Tana did the same, stomping off to go have a dip in her pool. Meh -- all she said was an 'I told you so'... And it was a well deserved one! "Jebidiah better hope he doesn't run into me anytime soon, though," Tana grumbled to herself as she walked away.

Meredith approached the window, wearily looking across the street at her house -- but apparently, Jeb had seen her car pull up, and was running across the street. "No... No, not now..." Her breathing began to quicken, and...

Before she could stop it, the tears began to flow again. And she thought she was doing so well... But all it took was the sight of her husband to bring his treachery all back to the forefront of her mind. She was still sobbing when he walked into Tana's house, his eyes still full of the same shock from the night before.

Meredith couldn't move, even if she wanted to. Her legs were still so weak, and no matter where she went, she knew her husband would catch her.  "Meredith," he said in the most mournful tone he was capable of. "Meredith, please, let me explain."

She shook her head, but he didn't listen. "Meredith, I know you probably won't believe me, but... That woman... I only did what I did because I thought I had to. I know it doesn't make any sense, and there are some things I just can't explain right now, but I need you to know that everything I did, I did to protect our family. I know... I know it's hard to believe... But I never felt so horrible in my life, when I had to do that... Not even you finding out was worse than that.'

"I've never loved anyone but you, Meredith." For a brief moment, she reached her hand out to touch his arm... But she instantly pulled it away. He was right to think she'd be confused -- if she was before, now she was even moreso.

"Please, I know you don't want to trust me right now," he continued, putting his hands together and pleading. "But it will all makes sense in time. I want to tell you, so badly, but I can't, right now... I will soon. Once this is all over... In a couple of days... Everything will make sense. All I ask is that you wait."

"Oh Jebidiah..." She thought silently to herself as she pulled him into a hug. "I hate you, for not letting me love you less."

The rest of the day was tense, but they managed. Travis kept dinner from being silent -- he had so much to talk about from his latest baseball game and team sleepover.

After they'd eaten, Travis and Jebidiah settled into the living room to play video games. Still, Jeb could not catch his wife's eye... Nothing had ever felt worse.

Not even the anxiety that finally overtook him that night. "It's tomorrow night," he mumbled to himself while going over the details of the plan once again on his laptop. "Then it will all be over. I can take our share of the money, and go far, far away from here... I can tell Meredith everything, without worrying what the Company might do to her... I can keep my family safe, and do things how I want them done." He finished up his work, shut the lid of his laptop, and went up to bed.

"Guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

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