your lover, now, and forever. I miss you so very much. Be careful!
Robbie read the letter over and over, her hands nervously straightening the paper on her lap.
Janet, I love you! Oh God, Janet, I don't deserve you but don't ever leave me! I miss you and the kids so much! Tears rolled down her face unchecked.
Alberta had done her best to cheer the Williams' family up once Janet had returned from the jail.
She had taken them to the Toronto Zoo. Sitting in the Don Valley, the zoo covered hectares of parkland. For the most part, the animals were confined by natural barriers such as water or deep ravines rather than by fences. Each wild life area had been specially designed to reflect the natural environment from which the animal had come.
There were also huge pavilions, each representing the flora and fauna of a specific hemisphere.
They walked about for hours, Ryan looking at everything with a scientific eye and asking Al and Janet a thousand questions and Reb laughing joyously at every new animal she was shown. They returned to a warm fire, hot chocolate and Alberta's home made apple pie.
Reb was put down for her nap and Ryan went off to do the studies that Janet had assigned for her. Janet curled up on the couch in the living room and read through the home study curriculum that she was using for Ryan. It had been a much needed day of relaxation, Janet mused, looking over at the red embers that still glowed in the hearth ash. They certainly owed Alberta a lot.
Off in the distance, Janet could hear soft classical music playing and smiled. Alberta had beautiful taste in everything. On impulse, she went in search of her new friend.
She found her in an empty room towards the back of the house. One wall was windows and looked out on a small oriental rock garden. Alberta was in a black exercise outfit that emphasized every muscle in her body. In her hands, she held long thin knives each with horn-like hilts of metal. Highlighted in the evening sun, she became a living sculpture; beautiful, powerful and fascinating. The music started again, Johann Pachelbel's Canon En Re Majeur in D major. It floated softly across and pulled Janet into the room. She sank slowly to the floor by the door and watched as Alberta swayed in gentle, sensual movements.
The music was soft and flowing and Alberta moved in a slow dance, the knives an extension of her form, flashing in the sun and forming silver arches of light around her. It was as much dance as it was martial arts, each movement balanced, graceful and liquid. Every position, became a single note in a harmonious worship of peace and power. Yin and Yang. Love and hate. Life and death.
A shimmer of moisture now coated the dancer's body, glistening off soft tanned skin that rippled with controlled strength. Janet felt her own warmth; this was more than training, more than art, it was a powerful dance of love: sexual, forceful, and beautiful. Alberta's breathing deepened as the music rose to a climax. Her body spun, arched and heaved, following the lines of the twin blades.
Janet's lips parted, sucking in air as she was carried away on a tidal wave of feeling. The music reached a climax and for a second blue eyes turned to caress green. Janet felt her emotions reach a pinnacle and then tumble out of control down the other side as the glance was broken, and Alberta's body slowed to the music that flowed in an aftermath of sound.
What was it the French called a climax? The little death. That was what Janet had felt and she knew that Alberta had experienced it too. The air was heavy with the musky scent of desire and still the dancer swayed to the music, the sharp knives now thrusting slowly to the rhythm . Janet stood, fascinated by the dance of the little death. As the music ended, Alberta moved towards Janet, a lover, dark, mysterious and deadly.
For a moment, the dancer looked down at her. Janet followed a single bead of moisture that curled down the planes of Alberta's face and dropped like a pearl to her breast. Janet looked up, soft, warm lips met her own and hands carrying deadly weapons drew her gently into safe arms. Janet's hands slid up hot muscled arms and the kiss deepened, expressing their love.
"You need to trust me, Elizabeth," David was saying some miles away. "There is nothing that you can say to me that will make me think less of you. I am not going to judge. I am going to accept you as you are."
Elizabeth sat stiffly at one end of the couch, her hands folding and unfolding in her lap. David sat at the other end, earnestly searching Elizabeth's eyes for a clue to the secret she kept hidden there.
The physicist nodded, swallowed and tried to collect herself to relate a story she had only once in her life ever revealed, and not for fifteen years. "My father, he... he sexually abused Billy and me," she whispered.
David said nothing. He slipped slowly across the empty space between them and took Elizabeth's cold hand in his own, waiting.
"He did horrible things to us," Elizabeth went on, the tears now following freely. "That night, Robbie came home for the weekend and found him...on me. I was trying to fight him off. Billy, he'd hidden upstairs. Robbie pulled him off and called him a name. He swung at her and she ducked and then hit him really hard in the face and he fell down. Then she wrapped me in her arms and picked me up and carried me upstairs.
"She helped me shower and washed my hair, then gave me a pill and I went to sleep in her arms. When I woke up it was much later, and Alexandria was home and Robbie was gone. I could hear Alexandria singing in the room down the hall. I just lay there terrified, until Robbie returned in the morning. She took Billy and me for a walk and told us that our father had gone sailing and she had come over to babysit. But I knew that wasn't what had happened. Later, when he was reported missing, I asked her and she told me that she had killed him when she had hit him that night and that I must never tell the truth," Elizabeth ended, now sobbing convulsively against David's shoulder.
David held her and whispered softly to her that everything would be all right now.
Alberta felt the body that had molded to her own stiffen and pull away. "Alberta, I..." Janet backed out of the dancer's arms. "That was wrong. I shouldn't have done that."
Alberta gave a sad, lope-sided smile. "I think I've fallen in love with you, Janet."
Green eyes, soft with passion looked up. "I love you too, Al but you are not Robbie. Robbie is more than my lover, she is my soulmate. I'm sorry, I could have loved you but not now that I've found the one who was meant for me."
The bitter smile hovered again at the corner of Alberta's mouth. "What if you are my soulmate?" she asked softly.
Janet shook her head. "No, it doesn't work like that. Everyone has that special somebody. You can love many but there is only one who can bond to your soul. I'm not her, Alberta," Janet explained, as she searched the dancer's eyes. "I belong to another. You have yet to find your soulmate."
"Will I?" Alberta asked sadly.
Janet reached up and brushed a soft kiss across lips swollen with their kiss. "I hope so. The lucky ones do. You will find someone who loves you very, very deeply, Alberta. You are a very special person and I love you." Janet turned and left leaving Alberta to return to her dance alone.
Robbie woke with a start, knowing that something was wrong. She rubbed shaking finger tips over her mouth removing the sheen of sweat that had formed on her upper lip. Then a feeling of utter peace and security flowed through her and she smiled. I love you, Janet, she thought and lay down again to stare at the cement ceiling and listen to Tracy's soft snoring.
Ryan had taken Reb out to play in Alberta's backyard. The two adults sat over their morning coffee, a little embarrassed with each other's company after the kiss they had shared the night before. Alberta was more quiet than normal and sat looking moodily into her coffee mug. Janet, uncomfortable with the silence, tried to think of something to start a conversation.
"You were so beautiful to watch yesterday. Tell me about the knives."
Alberta looked up and smiled sadly. Then, realizing they had to move on, she went on to explain. "They are called Sais. They are a branch of the original seven disciplines of the martial arts. Their history is associated with the ninja class but they have deep spiritual ties in their doctrine with Shinto."
"Are you very good? You seemed to be," asked Janet, buttering another piece of toast.
Alberta leaned back, "I have a ninth dan." Janet looked at her blankly and Alberta smiled. "That is the ninth level of black belt."
"Oh! That's very good isn't it?" Alberta shrugged in response. "Can I see your Sais?" Janet asked.
"Sure," agreed Alberta, and got up and left the room. In a few minutes, she returned to place a black leather case on the table. She opened it to reveal the two knives fixed in place on a red silk
"Oh, they're beautiful!" exclaimed Janet. The blade was octagonal in shape and the prongs were intricately etched with detailed designs. The handles too were a work of art. Coloured string had been woven into interlacing patterns of depth and beauty.
Alberta smiled with pride. "They were hand forged in Che Chao-po. The blades were tempered using the traditional clay process that has been used there since 700 AD. The hilts are covered in string-ray skin and then finished in Japanese cotton cord wrapping."
"Have you studied long?" Janet asked, looking directly into Alberta's eyes for the first time that morning.
Alberta's heart stopped but she managed to go on, hiding her feelings behind a passive face. "Since I was a child living on the ranch in Alberta. There was a Japanese master living near by. He had been taken from his home in Vancouver and put in an internment camp during the war and had just stayed on in the area. I learned a lot from him," explained Alberta.
Janet nodded. "You know, you told me the first day we were here that the only thing you took from the west was your name but that wasn't really true." Alberta's eyebrows went up in surprise. "I hear you telling Ryan stories about your childhood in the foothills of the Rockies and your voice is filled with love."
Alberta closed the case and went and sat down again. "You read me wrong, Janet," she responded. "I worked my tail off so that I could escape being a cattle rancher's wife."
Janet laughed. "Maybe. But you still love the land and you have lots of happy memories. Do you still have family out there?
"Two of my three brothers and my father are still alive. We still keep in touch. My mother died when I was twelve," Alberta responded, warming her coffee up from the carafe that sat on the table.
"Do you go back often?" Janet asked, amazed that the private woman was being so open.
"Not since I left the ranch for university fourteen years ago," Alberta drawled.
There was silence from across the table. Alberta looked up into concerned eyes. "You need to go home," stated Janet.
Alberta snorted and passed Janet the last of the toast to distract her.
It was later that Saturday morning when Janet received a phone call from Elizabeth. "Janet," said a voice raw with emotion. "I'm sorry I haven't answered your calls. David is here now. Can we meet you a...and talk?"
Janet smiled tenderly. She realized that this was a very hard thing for the reclusive scientist to be doing. She must love Robbie very much. "I need you to know, Elizabeth, that Robbie doesn't want me to talk to you. I told her I would not involve you in the case unless there was no other way."
There was a moment's silence. Then in a clear, firm voice Elizabeth responded, "Robbie's wrong. I need to end the secrets and come to some sort of closure on what happened."
"I think so too," Janet responded. "I'm proud of you, Bethy. I'll ask Alberta to pick you up in her van. The press might know your car and follow you otherwise."
"No, that's okay, Janet. David has his car here and no one will recognize it. I feel safe with David."
Janet smiled. She gave Bethy the address and hung up.
It was a quiet, obviously shaken pair that arrived sometime later. They stepped into the house timidly and looked around nervously. Alberta made them feel welcome, settled them in the living room and brought tea. Then she herded the girls out and left Janet to talk to Elizabeth and David.
Ryan watched Reb as she played with Rufus on the kitchen floor. She would hold on to one end of a short rope and Rufus would pull on the other end, dragging the small child across the floor on her backside as the massive dog backed up. Then Reb would let go and Rufus would trot back across the room with the rope in his mouth to wait patiently for Reb to get up and run over to do the whole performance over again.
"Just what kind of dog is Rufus?" asked Alberta, placing a plate of cookies on the table and pouring three glasses of milk. "Reb, come here and get your hands washed before you have your snack."
"We have no idea. We're not even sure that he's a dog. Obby thinks there might be tree sloth in him," explained Ryan.
Alberta laughed at the family joke as she lifted Reb up on the counter and took a cloth to wash the child's hands. "It sure is one big ugly thing!"
"Nah, he's one big ugly orange thing," argued Ryan. "Whatever he is, we've been treating him like a family pet and he's responded very well. Rufus is very loyal."
Alberta laughed and shook her head as she lifted Reb into her arms, carried her over and placed her on Ryan's lap since they did not have a high chair. Ryan gave Reb a cookie and she happily chewed on it.
"Is it bad in prisons?" asked Ryan after a few seconds. "You know, you see movies and stuff and.."
The cookie on the way to Alberta's mouth halted and returned to the plate. Shit! What do I say now! "Prison is not a nice place to be, Ryan. You spend hours locked up in a small room with another person. You are surround by dysfunctional individuals many of them capable of considerable violence. There is no privacy and no time when you can completely relax. Robbie can hold her own, however. I don't think you need to worry," finished Alberta.
"I wasn't worried!" protested Ryan. "You just hear things about prisons, you know. Mom said Obby got into a fight."
Alberta finished chewing the cookie that she had finally got to her mouth. "Yeah, I phoned some of the people I know just to make sure everything was okay. Her cell mate, Tracy, got into an argument in the yard. That's the area where the prisoners are allowed to walk outside twice a week. She got jumped and your mom waded in to help her out. The three who started it got solitary and the others, including Robbie, just got confinement to their cells for the week."
"She'd hate that," muttered Ryan, pushing crumbs around her plate with a finger. "She's pretty active. Always moving about restlessly."
Poor kid, Alberta thought, she sure is going through a lot! Reb looked up at her big sister. "Obby come home soon, Ryan?" she asked. Ryan kissed the dark head of the child that sat on her lap. "I don't know Reb," she answered honestly.
That night, Janet had the time to share with Alberta what Elizabeth had revealed. "So we are not much farther ahead. If Bethy is telling the truth and I think she is, then her story is the same as Robbie's. In away I'm glad. It would kill Robbie if Bethy was put in prison for the murder. So it looks like we can get Robbie off a charge of second degree murder but we are still looking at manslaughter," Janet sighed. "What would she get for that, Alberta?"
"Two to seven, most likely," responded the scientist. "But I don't think manslaughter is going to hold up. There were two blows, most likely from two different people. We now know that initially Robbie only hit her father once just like she said. Either someone else came into that room and finished him off while Robbie was upstairs or Robbie came back down and killed him."
"Robbie wouldn't do that!" Janet protested, looking up sharply from where she sat on the couch. "She can be hot tempered but deliberate murder, no, Robbie would never do anything like that!"
Alberta leaned her head on her hand. This was really hard, trying to go on business as normal when she was hurting like hell inside. Worse still, she found herself in the position of having to help the one woman she would rather see in hell! "If it wasn't Robbie or Elizabeth then it had to be Billy. He was the only other person in the house that night," stated Alberta, to the fire.
"God, I hope our inquiry turns up something!" sighed Janet.
"They might not be willing to release the information. Patient/Doctor confidentiality and all that," suggested Alberta wishfully.
"Well, I was his wife and Robbie's lawyers are also asking too. They should be willing to release that information to us. After all, he's dead!"Janet responded hotly.
Alberta's eyebrow went up. Janet's marriage to Robbie's brother seemed very strange to Alberta.
The Williams' relationship tangle made the Gordion Knot look simple! Maybe Janet married the guy and then realized she was gay. It was pretty obvious that she had never loved him.
It was near the end of a very long week when Robbie's lawyers contacted Janet with the information sent back from Switzerland. The response was brief and to the point. Billy had talked about the weekend his father had disappeared. He had stated that his father had died in a boating accident.
Janet curled up in Alberta's arms and had a good cry. Alberta kept her face passive. Her heart ached for Janet and she felt sorry for Robbie but most of all she felt damn sorry for herself. It was only with great effort that she was able to remain supportive in a drama that she wanted no part in. Love was a bitch!
Later, Janet paced the floor restlessly. Back and forth. Back and forth. She could hear the classical music coming from the back of the house but images of the beautiful and deadly dance were buried under Janet's fretting for Robbie. Back and forth she walked, and in the back of the house the music went on and on.
Alberta trained until she almost passed out from exhaustion. Then she leaned against the wall and watched the red spots dance across her eyes. If she could make it upstairs to her bedroom, maybe she could sleep tonight.
With a groan, she pushed herself off the wall and dragged herself upstairs. She stripped down and took a shower, only to find that sleep was still an elusive element no matter how tired her body was. The bedroom was large with hard maple floors. Down one end was a writing desk of oak with a matching set of drawers. Down the other was a sitting area. The centre area was dominated by a large oak sleigh bed and on the opposite wall was the last of the three fireplaces in the house.
Alberta slipped into navy blue silk pyjamas and sat down in the comfy wingback chair by the fire. Leaning down, she put a light to the kindling and pulled the screen in place. It promised to be a long night.
She must have dozed because Janet rushing into her room woke her with a start. "I know who did it!! I know!"
Alberta caught her in her arms and spun her around, laughing with her. "So are you going to share the answer, Mrs. Holmes?" asked Alberta playfully, acutely aware of the feel of Janet's body through the thin layer of fine silk. Did Janet know what she was doing to her? No, Alberta sighed inwardly, Janet was focused on one thing and one thing only and that was getting her soulmate back.
Alberta pulled away and went to get her housecoat from the closet. Putting it on, she turned to see an upset and worried face. "Oh Alberta! I'm sorry! That was pretty callous of me!" Janet apologized.
Alberta shrugged and gave a weak smile. "I hope some day someone will love me that much. Here come and sit by the fire and tell me what you have worked out."
Janet gave Alberta a quick hug and kissed her chin. Then she went to sit in the other arm chair on the other side of the hearth. "It was something Elizabeth said. She said that she heard Alexandria come in and she was singing. Doesn't that strike you as a strange thing to do if you had two children in bed? Unless you wanted to be heard because you needed to set the time for when you got home so it was AFTER the murder!" explained Janet, her eyes sparkling.
Alberta rubbed her chin and considered. "You think she came home early, maybe witnessed what had gone on and decided to take the opportunity while Philip was out cold to off him?"
Janet nodded. "It explains why Alexandria was so willing to help the police! She planted that letter in Robbie's apartment in the hopes of making the case against Robbie stronger! Why would Robbie have a letter she had sent to her mother years ago? She wanted to prove Robbie had attacked Philip and harboured really angry feelings towards him!"
"It makes sense," concluded Alberta, "but how are you going to prove it?"
"I can't. But you can help me flush her out!" Alberta's eyebrow went up and Janet smiled at her wickedly.
Janet once again lined up with those going to visit inmates. This time she was given clearance to see Robbie. Once more she was led to a small room with two wood chairs bolted to the floor. The woman that entered barely looked like the woman that she loved. Her face was pale and her eyes deep set and dark. Someone had cut her hair in a ragged short cut. She looked haggard, hard and depressed.
Robbie walked over and stood quietly looking down at her. Hesitantly, Janet wrapped her arms around the woman that was her soulmate. The stiff body convulsed at the touch and Robbie lowered her head and rubbed her cheek against Janet's head like a kitten seeking affection.
They stayed that way for a long time, each afraid to speak in case they hurt each other. Finally, Janet looked up into sad blue eyes. "Kiss me," she requested, and Robbie lowered her head and gently caressed her lips.
"Here, sit down, love," Janet instructed, frightened now that Robbie had not spoken. "You don't look so good," she commented, using her fingers to comb Robbie's short hair into some sort of order.
"I don't feel so good," came a whisper, from a voice that sounded rusty from lack of use. "I...I don't like being locked up," she confessed.
Janet nodded, tears welling in her eyes. "It will be a little better now that you can get out of your cell again sometimes," soothed Janet, pulling the unresponsive body into a hug. She hated the sound of the chains when Robbie moved and the smell of stale cigarettes and sewer that clung to her clothes. It was like ham stringing a race horse to keep Robbie locked up.
Robbie didn't answer. She just nodded and rubbed her head against Janet's again. Janet smelt of the outside; of summer days and wild herbs under a hot sun. How could she tell Janet that she was going slowly crazy in there?
"I can't tell you anything, Robbie, but Alberta and I are onto a lead that we think will get you out of here," whispered Janet.
Robbie forced herself not to react. She didn't want to fight with Janet but she was getting very sick of hearing Alberta's name. Now they had secrets they were keeping from her. Could you blame her, Robbie, if she found someone else? How honest were you with her? "I love you," Robbie croaked out, in desperation.
"I love you too," Janet whispered. They didn't talk after that. They just sat together, Janet's arms around the handcuffed woman. Two very lonely lovers, close but apart.
Alberta paced around the parking lot waiting for Janet. She'd been in there a long time. The thought of someone else touching Janet ate at her guts. Anger hardened the muscles in her face and she forced them to relax in a deadpan expression as she saw the petite figure heading over the parking lot in her direction.
Janet smiled up at her friend. "The first really warm day. Maybe our April showers are over," she said.
Alberta nodded, looking around, anywhere but at Janet's lips. "Yeah, summer's close now," she responded, pleased by how normal her voice sounded. "Ready to go and get this over with?"
Janet nodded. "This has got to work! If we can't flush her out I don't know where to go from here!" she confessed worriedly.
Alberta gave her hand a pat. "We'll make it work," she promised.
They drove north out of Toronto then headed west to Unionville. Once again, Alberta pulled into the driveway of the Williams' estate, not to pick up the bones of Robbie's father this time but to pick at the soul of Alexandria. If Janet was right, this woman had let her daughter carry the guilt of the death of Philip Williams on her shoulders for years and then had coldly tried to set Robbie up to be wrongfully convicted of that murder! It was hard to believe that anyone could be that self-serving.
They were led by the maid into a morning room were Alexandria lay lounging with a Vogue Magazine. "Oh, it is Robbie's little friend!" exclaimed Alexandria. "I am surprised to see you here!"
"You shouldn't be," retorted Janet, "I own the house."
"Really! You are common aren't you. The estate has been used by all the family for years!" responded Alexandria, tossing the magazine aside.
"Not by you anymore. I will be selling the place. I want you out as soon as possible. You're likely to put prospective buyers off!"
Alberta listened to the catty exchange with eyes wide with surprise. This fiery bobcat was a part of Janet's personality that she had not seen before.
"Alexandria," Janet went on before the woman could say anything more. "This is Doctor Alberta Pateas. She works in the Toronto Police Forensic Department. She had made some interesting discoveries. Doctor?"
"Mrs. Williams, it might be to your interest to know that the forensic lab can prove that Philip Williams was struck twice that night. Once by a right handed swing to the jaw by Robbie and once by a club of some sort swung by a left handed person. It was the second blow to the temple that killed him. You are left handed aren't you, Mrs. Williams?"
"What are you saying?! How dare you!" sputtered Alexandria, shaking with rage.
"We can also prove that you planted that old letter in Robbie's condominium. Why would you need to do that, Alexandria, except to divert the blame to Robbie?"
"I never did! This is character assassination. Haven't I gone through enough! My husband murdered by my perverted daughter! I suffered! And now this!" Alexandria carried on dramatically.
Janet ignored the melodramatic acting. "You should be warned that we can prove what time you got home the night of the murder. The same woman that witnessed Robbie burying the body also witnessed...other things," bluffed Janet.
Alexandria had now turned pale. Her long, bony hands twisted nervously around each other. "You bitch," she whispered.
Janet's eyes narrowed. "Whatever, it takes to clear my wife's name," she stated calmly. "You are, unfortunately, Robbie's mother. For that reason, and only that reason, I am here. The truth is going to come out within the next few days, Alexandria. I don't want Robbie and Bethy to have to waste time with you. Leave. Get out of the country as quickly as you can. Disappear or face the consequences." With that, Janet and Alberta walked out.
Back in the van, Alberta looked over at Janet. Janet had a grin from ear to ear. "Yes!" she exclaimed excitedly. "We've got the bitch on the run!"
Alberta laughed and put the van into gear. "Lady, I'm sure glad you are playing on my team!"
Then her face went serious. "I hope, Robbie, appreciates just how special you are."
A gentle hand touched her arm reassuringly. "Robbie, is a very complex and moody person. She doesn't always react the way you would want her to but she loves me, Alberta, above all else. I don't doubt that and I love her above all others."
Alberta sighed. "Yeah, I know," she said dejectedly, the hand squeezed her arm in sympathy before pulling away.
Robbie was surprised when she was taken from her cell again and told she had visitors. It wasn't visiting hours and usually they were pretty strict about that. Maybe it was her lawyers. They had been milling about in a near panic since she had been arrested. To her surprise, she was led to the family room. Walking in, she found herself facing her two daughters across the room. Their reactions were different. Ryan's face showed shock and fear. Reb's lit up, after a second, with recognition and she came running across the room to Robbie.
"Obbie! Obbie!" she laughed, reaching her arms up. Robbie bent down and scooped the child up as high as the chains would allow her. She hugged the small child close, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill.
Carefully, she lowered the child to the ground and walked over to Ryan. Ryan backed up a step.
"Reb wanted to see you," Ryan said, defensively. "She was worried, even though Alberta said you could handle yourself in here... You don't look so good."
Robbie nodded, letting Ryan away with the face-saving lie. "Janet know you two are here?"
Ryan shook her head. "We took a taxi," she responded.
Robbie nodded again. "I'm okay," she assured her daughter, as she stroked Reb's head. The little child had wrapped herself around Robbie's leg and was holding on tightly.
"Obbie, Mom said she and Alberta are going to get you out. Don't worry, okay 'cause, Mom can do anything!" reassured Ryan awkwardly.
Robbie swallowed her pain with difficulty. Okay, so she was Obbie now not Mom. What did you expect! The only birthday you were ever at and they drag you away in handcuffs! At least she cared enough to come and see for herself that you were all right. "Listen, Ryan. Janet loves you very much. She's a good Mom. You...you be good for her. You take care of her, okay?"
The guard came forward. Ryan licked her lips and started to say something then stopped. Tears welling in her eyes, she reached down and pulled a scared looking Reb away. "Come on, Rebecca, we have to go now. Say good bye to Obbie," she instructed, through a tight throat.
"Bye, Obbie!" Reb waved, as Robbie walked backwards across the room.
"Good bye, girls. Ryan..." Robbie tried to formulate the words she needed to say to her daughter, then gave up, "just, be careful on the way back."
Spring Rains html
Spring Rains Part 5 by Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The characters and events of the Seasons Series belong to the author.
My special thanks to Fran, who allowed me to tell you part of her story on the journey to recovery from cancer.
My special thanks to Pat for her expert assistance in rescue and fire fighting procedures.
My thanks to the many readers who have taken the time to let me know that you are enjoying my stories or to share your own with me. You are very special people. My grateful thanks to my beta readers Lisa and Inga for their hard work and to Susan for her guidance and insights.
Note: The stories in this series are interrelated and should be read in the order they are posted.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp please do not read on.
The phone call had come the day after Janet had talked to Alexandria. Gwen was so excited that she could barely make herself understood. "Janet? It's Gwen! Listen, I got to thinking about what you told me and I thought to myself if Isabelle Selo saw Robbie bury her father, maybe she saw other things too! So I hunted up her address from our files and Brian and I went over there.
"Boy, what a weird place! She's got pictures of Robbie all over and candles and things! Robbie would have a fit! Anyway, she did see something! She saw Alexandria's car go up the road towards the house hours before she was supposed to be there! You were right, Janet! Alexandria was there when the murder took place!"
Janet closed her eyes and sank to the chair. "Janet? Are you there?"
"Yes. Yes, I am. Gwen, I can't thank you enough. We are no longer bluffing now. We've got Alexandria on the run! I can't thank you enough! You and Brian are such good friends!"
"Hey, anything for you and Robbie, you know that," responded Gwen happily. "I'll let you go. Give Robbie our love the next time you see her."
"I'll do that. Thanks, Gwen." Janet hung up and then danced a little gig.
Alexandria looked around the room with disdain . She walked over to the chair that sat by the counter and made sure the guard noticed as she cleaned the seat with a tissue, dropping the soiled item on the floor when she was finished. The guard's face remained frozen in an expression of disinterested boredom.
With a flourish, Alexandria arranged herself on the chair and watched through ice cold eyes as her daughter was led into the room. The mother's lip curled in a cruel smirk as she observed Robbie shuffling over to the seat on the other side of the division and sliding awkwardly into the chair. The chains made a tinkling sound like ice crystals rushing through black, cold water.
Robbie looked like hell, how delightful! Alexandria observed. She was skin and bones and had a hollow, mean look. "Your bitch and her new mate have been to see me," Alexandria remarked, and was rewarded by the flash of pain across Robbie's face. Robbie said nothing.
"They were all over each other, really it was so infantile!" dramatized Alexandria. Still no reaction. "The bitch actually had the nerve to threaten me!" Alexandria laughed. "I don't take that sort of thing well." Dark eyes stared back at her, now cautious and interested.
Alexandria leaned back and smiled. "I've decide to go overseas to live. Your little escapades have made it impossible here what with the press and all! But before I go I have a little secret to share with you." Alexndria leaned forward, "I hate you," she whispered cruelly.
Shook registered on Robbie's face then disappeared behind a well trained facade. "More than anyone else?" Robbie asked sarcastically, going on the defense.
"Yes. You are not a Williams you know." Alexandria was rewarded by an expression of utter shock on Robbie's face.
Alexandria laughed. Oh that one hurt, huh? More than knowing your sweetheart is cheating on you! "That's right, you are not one of the remarkable Williams. Your father was some one else, a loser like you turned out to be," the woman smirked. "I told Philly it was his and the fool believed me! Philly had money, your father didn't."
Alexandria got up and looked down at Robbie. Her daughter looked utterly defeated. "I just thought that, now that you are all grown up," she oozed sarcastically, "you should know. Good riddance, Roberta!"
Robbie watched as Alexandria's sharp heels clipped across the floor. "Wait!" She blurted out, leaping to her feet. "Who was he?"
Alexandria shrugged. "I don't care to reveal that information. He was a loser like you," she finished in satisfaction and walked out on her daughter.
Tracy watched Robbie out of the corner of her eye. She had been becoming increasingly worried about her cell mate. Robbie was one of those that was going to snap some day. Tracy had been in and out of prison enough to know the signs. You could see that she was one of those people that you couldn't lock up and have them survive.
She kind of liked Robbie, as much as she liked anyone. Besides, Robbie had kept her word and got her a law team that was going to help her beat this rap. Being nice to Robbie was important, at least until Tracy got paroled. You had to watch Robbie though. She'd learned that the first day. The glamour queen had a side that was vicious when she lost her temper and she had the muscle and skill to back up her threats. It was best to tread easy around the actor.
Something had happened upstairs that was for sure. Robbie had come back from the visitors' section white and silent. She had been sitting on the very edge of her cot ever since, staring at the wall like a zombie. Tracy watched Robbie over the top of her comic book, feeling the actor's anger radiating off like sound waves crashing against her. She had only glanced down at her comic when it happened, taking her completely by surprise even though she had been expecting it; a scream and then Robbie went berserk.
Tracy just managed to take cover under her bunk when the sink was ripped off the wall and water came shooting out all over. Mattress stuffing went flying about and, absorbing water, sank to the bottom of the melee in soggy lumps. Robbie was hurling herself at the bars now and the other women in the cells around had moved forward to watch. It was a scene that most had seen many times before but it drew them with morbid curiosity. There was satisfaction in seeing it happen to someone else. It was a visual reinforcement that the horror and panic they felt inside was shared by all.
The guards arrived. Tracy covered her face and held her breath. Robbie took the pepper spray to the face but didn't stop. It took three shots of the irritant to finally bring Robbie to her knees. The pain was intense. Her eyes burned like hot coals and tears and mucus ran down her face. The gate clanged open and heavy footsteps surrounded her. She heard Tracy curse as she was dragged out from under the bed and dumped down beside Robbie. The actor blindly lashed out at those who were manhandling them. Once again, the spray burned her face and she sucked it into her lungs, sending them on fire. Their arms were cuffed behind them and searching hands stroked their bodies for weapons.
Robbie was lifted up and half led, half dragged away. At one pointed, she vomited, the burning now spreading from her lungs to her throat. Her breath came in raspy, watery gasps. Blackness closed in around her.
They had taken the ferry over to the Toronto island that day. Reb had wandered into the children's maze and had to be rescued by her big sister who could see over the hedges. They had fed the ducks and geese pieces of bread by the water edge while Reb explained again how Ryan had shown her the way out of the maze. "Ryan, knew the way out, Mommy. She tall so she could see the path. Ryan showed me where to turn and then I got out! It was a trick place, mommy, but Ryan knowed the trick!"
"Knew, sweetheart. Ryan knew the trick and you are right, your sister is very smart. A real hero," responded Janet, poking Ryan with affection as she talked to her younger daughter.
Reb nodded her head in the same serious way that Robbie and Ryan did. "Ryan a hero," she agreed, wrapping herself around her adopted sister. Ryan hugged the child close, letting the warmth of the innocent child warm her cold soul. Even the heat of the warm spring day could not remove that icy spot. Visiting Robbie had upset her far more than she was prepared to admit. To do so would be to concede that she still loved her mom and that would leave Ryan vulnerable to being hurt again. She was not going to allow that. Robbie was never going to leave her again because she was not going to let her back into her heart.
Alberta listened to the gentle teasing and banter of Janet and the children, letting it seep into her soul and locking it up safely there. This adopted family had filled a large hole in Alberta's life but was now about to leave her. She wanted to cherish every second that she had left with those that she had come to love.
She stood as close as she dared to Janet, watching the two girls now playing on the playground equipment, soaking in the sweet, warm scent and gentle warmth that was Janet. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed it back down. Janet had made her choice and it wasn't her. She took a step away, trying to show a courage and resolve that she didn't feel.
Janet watched her children play. Ryan was standing on the swing seat with Reb sitting between her feet. Ryan swung the swing gently back and forth with the pump of her strong legs. Reb squealed with delight and begged Ryan to go higher. Janet smiled but the light did not reach her eyes. Her thoughts were with Robbie. She knew they had Alexandria on the run, but an unexplained dread had seeped into her heart. Was there something they had missed? Her hand subconsciously reached out for Alberta's for comfort but met nothing; Alberta had already stepped away.
Later, they had eaten at the restaurant in the Skydome and had watched the Blue Jays baseball team play Detroit. It had been a happy day. One that they would all remember with affection.
Late that night, Janet and Alberta had got word from Robbie's law firm that Alexandria had left the country and that they would be calling for a new hearing based on the evidence that Janet and Alberta had provided. Janet had gone to sleep that night relaxed and happy and feeling that at last there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Some hours later, Janet woke with a start. Something had happened! The dread she had felt earlier that day was back and flooding her soul. She wiped the sweat from her face and started as the phone rang. It was a nurse calling from Toronto General Hospital.
Robbie woke with panic gripping her heart. She was restrained in a bed and her eyes were sore and her vision blurred. She'd been given something too, she suspected, because her thoughts came slowly and even the action of opening her swollen eyes took tremendous effort. A warm hand slipped around her own. "Shhhh, love, I'm here," came Janet's voice. "Lie still."
Robbie tried to say something but all that came out was a dry croak. "Would you like some water?" Robbie nodded. She felt her bed raised up and then a cool arm wrapped around her shoulder as a straw touched her lips. Robbie sucked the water up noisily, feeling the cool liquid ease some of the burning inside. "There. You inhaled a lot of pepper spray and it is in your eyes too. It's going to take some time until you feel better," the voice of her lover explained gently. Robbie nodded, the action caused tears to roll down her cheeks again.
"Where am I?" she managed to croak out.
"The hospital," came the quiet answer. "What happened, Robbie? What did Alexandria say to you?" Janet saw Robbie body physically jerk then still. Please Robbie, no more evasions and secrets, just trust me! Janet waited. Robbie said nothing.
Janet smiled sadly and looked down at their inter-linked fingers. Maybe Robbie wasn't her soulmate after all. Maybe Robbie didn't feel the same way as she did. Something was missing in their relationship. Gently, she started to slip her fingers from the grasp.
Robbie listened intently, trying to figure out what was going on as her own thoughts ran wild within her. She wished that she could see Janet. Watch the emotions cross her face. This was hard. All her life she had learned to maintain a wall between her and others. Compartmentalizing her life so that she was never completely exposed to anyone. Never vulnerable. Her secrets were kept deep inside where no one could use them against her. She'd learned survival at a very early age, now it was part of her. She wore her defenses like a second skin. Should she, could she let them down and trust that Janet had and would remain loyal to her? Especially now when she couldn't even see?
In the end, it wasn't trust that made the words come out but the very real fear of losing what was precious to her when Robbie felt Janet slowly slipping her hand out from her own. "No!" she got out in a rough exclamation, tightening her fingers around Janet's hand. "Don't leave me!"
"I didn't leave you, Robbie. You left me," said a quiet sad voice. "If you ever did belong to me."
Finally, the words came in a desperate torrent of emotion. "She said Al was your new mate, that you were all over her...she said you threatened her. B..be careful, she hates you!" Robbie managed to get out choking on the tears.
The bed moved and suddenly she could feel Janet's body next to her own. She wanted to reach out and pull her lover in close but the restraining straps prevented that. "Robbie, I love Alberta," Janet began gently, feeling the pain lance through her lover. "I kissed her." Robbie was shaking now, the tears running freely in choking sobs. "Then I apologized to her because I knew my heart could never belong to her completely because it belongs to you. Robbie, I used Alberta. I was lonely and scared and missing you so very much and she was kind and strong. It was wrong because there could only ever be you, in my heart, in my soul and in my bed. I love you, Robbie."
The body beneath her own slowly calmed. Janet wiped away tears with her hand. "Did you tell her that," Robbie asked insecurely.
"Yes," answered Janet.
"Hold me," Robbie was surprised to hear herself say. She rubbed her head along the side of Janet's, wanting, needing the warmth that her partner's love gave her. For a long time they lay there.
Finally, from deep inside, Robbie released the pain. "She said she hated me a..and that Philip wasn't my father. She said my father was a loser with no money. She told Philip that he was the father so she could marry him for his money. I...I didn't mean to kill him!" she cried, the sobs once again convulsing her body.
"Robbie! Shhh, lover, it's okay. You didn't kill your ... you didn't kill Philip Williams! All you did was knock him out. Alberta can prove that. The blow that killed your father came later and was most likely done by someone who was left handed. Someone who came home early that night and saw an opportunity to get rid of her husband and put the blame on the daughter she resented."
The body beside Janet went still for a very long time. Then, "Alexandria killed him!"
"We think so," answered Janet honestly.
"She killed him and let me live with the guilt!" repeated Robbie, anger now dissipating the pain of the secret that she had held all these years.
"It looks that way, Robbie," soothed Janet gently. She wasn't sure she was handling this right. They had sent for her in the middle of the night when they were unable to settle Robbie down. Even when they had given her something at the hospital, she had fought against it, screaming in her sleep. It had been Janet's quiet, soothing voice that had finally allowed Robbie to fall into a deep slumber.
According to the guard on the door, Robbie had come back from the interview with her mother and had simply gone berserk. Now Janet understood why. Robbie was always so strong but how much could one human being take on her shoulders? She'd taken on a ready made family, then almost lost her own daughter in an explosion, rebuilt a relationship with Ryan only to have it stolen away the day of her arrest. She'd stood by Janet through all the surgery and cancer treatments and then had thought that Janet had found someone else.
Then there was the guilt and shame that she had carried all those years because she thought she had killed a perverted father in anger. Robbie thought she was going to spend a good part of the rest of her life behind bars and then, if that wasn't enough, her mother revealed her hatred for her and told her that the man she killed wasn't even her father! My God! It was no wonder that Robbie had lost it!
"Alberta and I have written up a report for the lawyers and we hope to get a hearing in the next few days. They haven't got enough to make the charge of murder stand, Robbie. I'm going to be taking you home soon."
"I don't want Elizabeth involved!" Robbie protested.
"Elizabeth went with David to your lawyers and made a complete statement about what happened that night." Robbie's body stiffened. "That was Elizabeth's idea, not mine. She needed to bury a few ghost too, Robbie."
Is she okay?" Robbie fretted.
"Where's Alexandria?" Robbie growled.
"She's disappeared. She left Canada, on her way to Argentina but we think that she got off somewhere on the way. It is likely that there will be a warrant for her arrest issued once your name is cleared but I don't think they will find her. Alexandria is a survivor," finished Janet bitterly.
Janet stroked the tired woman, trying to keep her calm as Robbie dealt with all the information and emotions that had been dumped on her. "You didn't threaten her. You warned her so she would have time to get away, didn't you?!"
Janet gave a soft, weak laugh. "Well, a little bit of both. She is your mother. I didn't think you needed to go through her trial for murder.
"I...I love you, Janet," Robbie whispered, her voice brittle and rough with emotion.
"I love you too, my sweet olive. I always will," responded Janet with feeling, capturing Robbie's lips with her own. They tasted acidic and peppery and her own lips came away burning. "You sleep. I'll be here when you wake again."
Robbie was released from the hospital two days later and taken by a squad car directly to the hearing. Walking in with her guard, she saw her family sitting with Alberta in the front row. The whole proceeding took less than a minute. The Crown, having read the brief submitted by Robbie's lawyers, dropped the charges and requested that a warrant be issued for the arrest of Alexandria Williams.
Robbie held her hands out while the cuffs were removed. Then Janet was in her arms. Reb had her by the leg and Elizabeth stood by with tears running down her face as David patted her affectionately on the back. Ryan stood nearby, her lip trembling but her face expressionless. Alberta stood behind her. The scientist's face a still, quiet mask.
Robbie eventually pulled out of the embraces and walked over to Alberta until they faced each other. Blue eyes locked with blue and a silent message of understanding passed between the two women. Robbie offered her hand and Alberta took it. Then Robbie turned away and smiled softly at Janet. She walked over and gently took Ryan's hand leading her over to where Elizabeth stood. She wrapped her daughter and sister in a big embrace, deliberately keeping her back to Alberta and Janet. She trusted Janet. There were no more secrets. She owed it to both of them to let them say good bye in private.
Janet walked over and looked up at Alberta through watery eyes. Alberta smiled. "I'm happy for you. You're taking a piece of my heart you know," she confessed, through her own tears.
"And you'll always have a piece of mine! I love you, Alberta. Thank you for giving me back my soulmate!" whispered Janet, into Alberta's ear as she wrapped her arms around the woman who had become her anchor through this horrible time. Alberta held her tight and then gave her up. Janet reached up and softly kissed her lips, then turned and walked over to Robbie. Together the Williams walked out of the courthouse to meet the press.
Robbie stood in the roof garden of her condominium, Janet tucked safely under her arm. A full moon had risen and was sending shimmering diamonds of light across Lake Ontario. The night was warm. Summer was on its way. It was time for them to step out of the shadows and take their place again in the sun. It was time to grow again after a stormy spring.
Not too many miles away, Alberta swung a bag into her van and then slid into the driver's seat. It was time to go home. She'd been away too long.