‘I understand what you’re saying,’ Nicholas spoke in his cultured, European accent as he paced his sister’s bedroom after listening to her and Abby. Molly was cleaning up in the kitchen while Frankie was in Carly’s study going over work he’d brought with him. ‘But what you’re asking me to do is going to prove very difficult.’
‘But not impossible, right?’ Melanie persisted.
‘Impossible... no. But the term “deep undercover” is no exaggeration, ladies. And a man with Bo Brady’s expertise and years in law enforcement will be hard to find if he doesn’t want to be found; especially, according to his brother, he’s acting on his own. That’s what he told you, Abby?’
‘What’s this mission he’s on, anyway?’
‘Uncle Roman didn’t tell me. I don’t think he would anyway, to protect him. But Uncle Bo didn’t come back with his mum after he took her to California to treat her Alzheimer’s.’ Abby said.
Nicholas frowned, deep in thought. ‘If we can just find out who or what Brady’s investigating we could probably take it from there. Melanie, if Roman Brady’s sincere about what he said to you at the hospital, he might tell you.’
‘Fine, I’ll ask him.’
‘There’s another option. I’m willing to bet Bo has a contact; someone he’s passing his Intel to even if he’s acting on his own.’ Nicholas went on.
‘Well, it’s not Uncle Roman; he swore he has no idea where he is.’ Abby said. ‘And I don’t think it would be Shane either.’
‘Who’s Shane?’ Melanie asked.
‘Bo has a sister living in California, Kimberly. Shane’s her husband and he used to be an ISA agent. Bo won’t pass secret info to a civilian would he?’
‘I don’t think so.’ Nicholas agreed.
Abby remembered something else; a conversation she overheard at the Brady Pub between Kayla and Caroline.
‘Who?’ Melanie said, exasperated.
‘My uncle... Steve Johnson. He’s in the ISA. Actually, that’s the reason why Kayla divorced him in the first place. He’d left law enforcement for years then decided to get back into it.’
Nicholas stopped pacing. ‘We’re getting somewhere. Actually, it would make things easier for us. If there’s a chance this Steve Johnson is Bo’s contact...’
‘He’ll know where he is!’ Melanie and Abby said in unison.
‘He’ll be able to pass our message to him!’
‘Exactly,’ Nicholas smiled triumphantly.
‘Oh Nick!’ Melanie got up to hug her brother. ‘Thank God, you’re here. I knew you would be able to help find him.’
‘Let’s just hope that Johnson is the contact.’
Abby rose too, more aware of Nicholas Alamain than she could stand. When he’d arrived he’d looked at her inquiringly until she reminded him they were introduced on his last visit. He was devastatingly handsome; no doubt like his father but he had Carly’s green eyes, just like Melanie. And he was so polished and charismatic; like a prince. A crush, it’s just a crush... it will blow over in time, she thought.
‘Well... guys. I’m taking off now.’ She said rather reluctantly.
Melanie turned to her, taking her hands. ‘Thanks a lot for this, Abby. You’re a great friend.’ She smiled faintly. ‘Well... at least I hope we are from now on.’
‘Considering the history between our mums, this is how it was supposed to be anyway.’ Abby kissed Melanie on the cheek, hugging her. She turned to Nicholas. ‘See you, Nicholas.’
‘See you too, Abigail.’
Abby wanted to automatically correct him but found she liked the way her name in its actual form sounded from his mouth; in that polished accent. Smiling shyly at him, she picked up her purse and Melanie saw her out.
‘You kids had quite a long confab upstairs,’ Molly was on the couch, the T.V remote in her hand. ‘Will I be a nosy woman if I ask the subject of discussion?’
Sitting down next to her, Melanie told her and Molly listened, nodding in agreement. ‘You’re doing the right thing, Mel.’
‘Yes. And I hope Uncle Frank will understand why we’re doing this.’
‘If he doesn’t, I’ll talk to him, make him see reason.’ Molly promised. ‘you’re really doing your best for Carly. I’m glad to see it.
‘Thanks,’ Melanie picked at a loose thread on her jeans. ‘After all that hurt and misunderstandings she went through; I want to bring him back to her. Since that thing with Bo she never smiled, Molly. Even if she doesn’t get back with him, she’ll have that closure. She’ll smile again and get to raise Starr without a cloud over her head. And she’ll forget the misery of the past... at least I hope so.’
Molly sighed. ‘I hope so too. The whole thing’s so sad. Back in the day, I regarded them as the luckiest couple in town. Their story was just so romantic; the love and passion they shared... anyone would want to feel that way. And to hear it all went to hell, I can’t understand what could have happened. I don’t mean the second time around, I mean back then.’
Melanie shrugged. ‘She wouldn’t talk about it with me; I think it was too painful. But I get the feeling back then their story had an unnatural ending as this one. Because I just can’t see how two people so deeply in love and so connected found each other and then get torn apart; twice.’
‘You told me you’ve been reading her diaries, does it say what happened that day?’
‘No, I haven’t gotten to that part yet.’ Melanie admitted. To be honest, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue reading it. The misunderstandings were now cleared- the reason why Alamain died by her hand, why she’d kept Chloe’s secret, snippets of her past revealed. But she was going to later get to the part where Bo had to leave her and remembering Carly’s tears that day, Melanie could tell the later entries in the diary will be full of pain; especially the entry narrating the breakup. Melanie wondered if she was brave enough to read the rest.
‘Maybe Mum will tell me, eventually.... when she’s ready to talk about it.’ She said. ‘And maybe I’ll know what really happened back then. You’ve told me a lot about them, but I wish I knew more. Their story, from the very beginning. All the stuff that's not in her diaries.’
Like Roman promised, Carly and Starr had some more visitors. Sami came with flowers and baby things, accompanied by Marlena who had sincerely wanted to reach out to Carly since her return to town but Carly’s aloofness didn't encourage her. Daniel was informed of what Melanie had gathered about Carly and silently read the entry Melanie wanted him to read, passing the diary back to her in silence; shock and disbelief on his face. ‘Chloe...’ he shook his head. ‘That rigged elevator was meant for Carly?’
‘Yes. Mum still kept her secret, only because of the test. The whole time she had no idea the other man was Phillip, it didn’t matter to her since the test was positive.’
‘You mean allegedly positive,’ Daniel said bitterly. ‘No thanks to Caroline Brady’s interference, remember?’ And Carly almost lost her license just because she was trying to help me out.’
‘Dad, we owe her a lot, a whole lot.’ Melanie emphasised.
‘I know,’ Daniel said nodding, looking back at the long list of injustices towards the mother of his daughter. How could he have accused her of not letting him be a father.. when she never got to see Melanie’s first steps or hear her first words? And to say he could’ve handled Alamain, the same man who beat, raped and did all sorts of terrible things to Carly because she wouldn’t say who fathered her child? Shame and anger hit him as he remembered the cruel words he would give anything to take them all back. As for Chloe... he’d been in love with a viper the whole time. ‘I’m glad you showed me this, honey. It really explains a lot now.’ He touched her shoulder, smiling faintly at her. Then his expression grew serious. ‘But now, I want you to do something for me.’
‘If this is about Jennifer again...’
‘Please, let her visit Carly. This grudge you’ve got towards her is ridiculous.’
‘Dad...’ Melanie fought to hold her temper. ‘She had the nerve to...’
‘I know, I know... what she did was wrong; allowing Hope in there was inappropriate and wrong. I get it. But you’ve punished her enough.’
‘Not nearly enough. It’s bad enough she wasn’t there for Mum but to bring that woman into her room to gloat,’ she shook her head angrily.
‘I’m not defending Hope Brady but I really doubt she was there to gloat. I know she partly caused Carly’s pain but she’s not a bad person either. Neither is Jen. She made her mistakes but so did you, so did I.’ Daniel put his arm round Melanie’s shoulder. ‘Do this for your old man, please.’
‘Fine,’ Melanie said sullenly, moving away from him. ‘but tell her to keep out of my way. I’m going back to check on Mum.’
Daniel shook his head at his daughter’s temper. Melanie was so sensitive and emotional; fiercely loyal to the people she loved and unyielding to those who crossed her. As he turned towards the direction to his office, he saw Kayla talking with Carly’s obstetrician. Taking his mind back to past events, he wondered if she was asking about Carly as Chief Of Staff or was concerned about her.
‘Checking on Carly’s progress?’ he asked after Dr. Long left.
Kayla looked at him inquiringly. ‘But of course, she’s a patient.’
‘Hmm. Have you actually seen her, or Starr?’
Her silence gave him her answer.
‘Don’t you start with me.’
‘Just as well you were able to force Carly out of this hospital. I see you still hate her.’
‘How dare you accuse me of forcing her out.’ Kayla said, her voice tight with anger.
‘You were sure glad she left and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.’ Maxine, some nurses and several doctors blamed Kayla behind her back for Carly’s departure.
‘Carly resigned on her own and it’s because she was a sore loser. The board appointed me as Chief of Staff over her because they felt I was the right person for the job.’
‘You and I both know she was the better person for the job; especially after she won that Medical Merit Award along with me.’
‘The board doesn’t look kindly on doctors with a history of illegal activity and Carly’s guilty of that; obtaining your DNA sample without your permission to run that paternity test at St. Mary’s under false pretence.’
‘Which you couldn’t wait to report to the board.’
‘I only did my duty, she deserved to lose her license.’
‘Carly didn't give a damn about that position and I doubt she would’ve accepted it anyway. Don’t flatter yourself, Dr. Johnson.’ Daniel said scathingly. ‘Carly left because she knew how you felt about her. Lexie sided with Hope too but at least she treated Carly with professional respect; which you wouldn’t have done. You would’ve made her life here a living hell. The last thing she needed while dealing with the misery your brother put on her was a vindictive woman like you. And speaking of illegal activity, what do you call what Caroline did?’
‘Remember I’m your superior, I will not be spoken to like this.’
‘Feel free to report me too then, boss.’ Daniel snarled. ‘Go ahead! The truth’s always harsh and that’s what you’ve been hearing. You and your family are nothing but a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites. Melanie’s told me what she found about her mother’s past so far... a past you all decided to forget and kept from her. How you sleep at night I’ll like to know.’
Kayla glared at him, refusing to give way. ‘Carly knew Bo and Hope had children a long history but she threw herself at him anyway and too bad she got hurt when my brother came to his senses eventually. He needed Hope more than her and Carly couldn’t stand that. I’ve got nothing to apologise for; and I’m guilty of nothing.’
‘You’re a heartless bitch, Kayla Johnson.’ Daniel said, really disgusted.
‘Daniel... I’m warning you.’ As she spoke, out of the corner of her eye she saw someone was standing not far off, overhearing the heated exchange. Frankie, his eyes fixed on her.
Without thinking, Kayla abruptly turned and began walking away but Frankie swiftly caught up with her, grabbing her by the arm. ‘What’s your hurry, Kayla?’ he hissed, spinning her round to face him. Daniel decided not to interfere; whatever Frankie had in mind for her, as long as it wasn’t physical violence, she deserved it.
‘Frankie... let go... no, let go of me!’ Kayla protested as Frankie firmly pushed her into the first empty room he found, slamming the door shut between them.
‘I would never have believed you and the family would be capable of what you did.’
‘Carly only told you her side of the story...’
‘Her side of the story or the whole story! ’ Frankie shouted at her, shaking with anger. Frankie usually was capable of holding his temper but not this time. ‘Didn’t you just confirm it back there just now?’ Kayla turned her eyes away. ‘It’s bad enough you all treated her that way, but to justify your actions and caring nothing about my sister’s pain... how could you?!’
Kayla wrestled her arm off his grip, ‘You should understand...’
‘There’s nothing to understand except that you’re truly a heartless bitch, just like Daniel said. Don’t you even try it!’ he grabbed her hand as she raised it to slap him. Kayla felt angry tears prick her eyelids as he held her wrist in a painful grip.
‘You’re no longer my family.’ He said slowly. ‘You, Caroline and especially that coward; I’ll never forgive every one of you. Ever.’
He freed her, Kayla starring down at the floor as Frankie slammed his way out of the room.
Jennifer opened the door of the Horton House, her eyes narrowing when she was her visitor was Hope.
‘Hey. Come in.’
Hope followed her cousin into the living room, immediately noticing the large baby gift basket on the couch.
‘I was just getting ready to go the hospital to visit Carly and Starr.’
‘Yes, Starr Isabella Manning, Hope. Carly and Bo’s daughter.’ Jennifer firmly informed her. ‘And if I were you, I’d let Ciara know that she has a little sister now.’
‘Just like you had Roman tell Shawn D and Chelsea.’
‘They have a right to know. Whatever story you choose to tell Shawn Douglas when he gets here, just make sure you tell him the truth. Otherwise, Melanie will and it won’t be pretty coming from her.’
Hope was silent, looking down at her hands as Jennifer finishing wrapping the box containing Carly’s present. She’d bought her a silk nightgown and matching robe along with a pair of novelty slippers; some accessories she thought Carly might need were in a shopping bag beside Starr’s gift basket.
‘I wish you’d let me tell Shawn D myself, Jen.’
Jennifer paused in the middle of her task to look up at her. ‘Would you have done it objectively? Admit your own mistakes to your son and make him realise it was never Carly’s fault that you and Bo were separated? If you want to be mad at me then be mad at me because I’m done, so is Roman.’
‘What does that mean exactly?’ Hope demanded defensively.
‘It means we’re not protecting you anymore, Hope. I lost my best friend’s love and trust because I sided with you,’ Jennifer said, her voice trembling. ‘Carly was like a sister to me, we were roommates in boarding school; we looked out for each other. And look what I did... what everybody did; blind to your faults when the whole time it was your fault. I don’t even have to tell you all this, Hope!’
‘Alright, I’m to blame!’ Hope shouted back, tears glistening in her eyes. ‘You want me to say it, I’m to blame! But Bo never told me about Carly, everybody made me think Billie was the only other woman while I was gone. Nobody ever told me about the elegant, perfect Dr. Manning! How did you expect me to act when I was caught unawares like that?’
‘Again, you’re making it all about you!’ Jennifer was really exasperated. ‘You moved out with Ciara! That’s it, isn’t it? Carly was more of a threat to you, because I think you realised that Bo wouldn’t have left her for you when you came back years ago.’
‘Stop it,’ Hope said through gritted teeth.
‘You realised you made a mistake moving out the moment you saw her, didn’t you?’ Jennifer pressed. ‘And that was one of the reasons why everybody shunned her, because deep down they knew. I knew! And we all pretended that her past with Bo was less important than his history with you. You caused all your problems and brought a lot of hurt on an innocent woman. You were never the victim, Carly was.’
Both cousins stared at each other, each seething in their thoughts.
‘Fine...’ Hope said at last, the tears finally rolling down her cheeks. ‘Fine, it was my fault. And everything you said... true. And it’s probably hard for you to believe but I felt bad Carly was hurt. I was jealous of her because I knew what she and Bo had while I was gone was very deep; it explained why everyone didn’t want to talk about it when I asked. And it was easier to blame her, it was easier for Bo and I not to talk about her when we got back together.’ She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. ‘Well, I’m done pretending too. I accept responsibility for everything.’ The reason for her visit was to tell Jennifer about her growing feelings for Aiden but Shawn D’s phone call prevented her from discussing it after all. ‘For what it’s worth...’
‘You should apologise to Carly, not me.’ Jennifer swiftly interrupted.
Hope nodded. ‘Fine.’ She said again. ‘I have to be somewhere, I’ll see you later.’
Jennifer nodded back, watching her cousin as she let herself out of the house. From upstairs, Abby breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Finally.’ She said softly. She couldn’t wait to tell Melanie about this.
Abby found Melanie and Nicholas at the hospital’s cafeteria while Jennifer went to visit Carly, accompanied by Daniel.
‘Hey Abby, join us.’ Melanie invited. Nicholas got up, pulling back the chair for her. Secretly pleased by his gallant gesture, Abby sat down. ‘What’s happening so far?’ she asked eagerly.
‘I got in touch with an old college friend who is in M16. Since of course Steve Johnson would naturally have an unlisted number and could be anywhere in the world right now, I asked Alistair to help us locate him. Once we locate Johnson, we’ll be able to pass our message to Bo through him- assuming he’s Bo’s contact. And I feel very sure he is. But Alistair’s ready to help us if we’re wrong but that means we’ll have to find out who Bo’s investigating for Alistair to have a lead.’
‘Well, at least thank God something’s being done right now, the sooner we can find Uncle Steve, the better.’
Abby lost no time telling Melanie and Nicholas what happened at the Horton house. Nicholas snorted. ‘a little too late for that woman to see the light, isn’t it?’
‘Whatever,’ Abby replied, ‘But I was glad to hear Mum telling her all that, it was about time Hope heard the truth. And I’m willing to bet the pretending from the rest of the family’s going to stop now.’
Suddenly they heard an announcement over the general loud speaker. Melanie paled when it was repeated; getting up from her seat.
‘What is it?’ Nicholas demanded, getting up also.
‘Code Blue on Mum’s floor... Mum!’ she rushed out of the cafeteria with Abby and Nicholas in hot pursuit. ‘Come on... Come on...’ Nicholas snapped, impatiently pressing the elevator button until the doors opened and he and the girls rushed in. Carly was not in the Recovery room when they got there.