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Beautifully Damaged(122)

By:L.A. Fiore

"Are you saying that Darlene and Doug hung out even after he married my mom."

"Yeah, she loved him and was really pissed when he married Victoria. He told me once that Darlene was getting too possessive and that he was going to tell her to stop coming around but after I moved to New York they started spending more time together not less."

"She failed to mention that." Trace hissed.

It was genuine surprise that flashed over Vivian's face. "You found Darlene?"

"Yes, why?" I asked.

"She just dropped off the face of the planet after Doug and Victoria died. I always wondered what happened to her."

"Did you know about my mother?" I asked.

"I knew your mom had suspicions, particularly after Darlene mentioned that Mandy knew about the scripts. I also knew that Darlene was nervous, scared even, of what Mandy might uncover. I should have paid better attention but I was very self-centered then; hell, I still am."

"Did you know my mom was trying to get DHS involved and that she was trying to get Trace and Chelsea out of that house?"

It wasn't feigned surprise that flashed over Vivian's elegant features. "No, I didn't. Your mom suspected what was happening?"

"We think Victoria told my mom that she feared for her children's safety but before my mom could make anything happen she was killed in a hit-and-run by a car that matched the description of Douglas' car."

Vivian looked downright sick. "Oh, my god."

"What?!" Trace all but barked.

"Douglas rode around on a motorcycle; Darlene had been using his car."

"Shit." I said as Trace reached for my hand. "That explains why your dad had that newspaper article and the receipt to the garage. He really was trying to get proof. How much do you want to bet Darlene was blackmailing him? Take out the person who could potentially take away the man she loved and use that crime to bind that man to her."

Trace's voice was so very soft when he said, "I'm sorry, Ember."

I leaned over and pressed a kiss on his mouth. "Silver lining, Trace, I got you."

Uncle Josh called a few days later with news on Mrs. Fletcher and, sadly, when I learned what he had uncovered I wasn't all that surprised since it was what I had suspected.

"She's dead, Ember, she died in 1994 in a car crash after someone ran a light." As soon as the words were out of his mouth I needed to sit since my legs were refusing to hold my weight.

"That seems suspect." I said.

"I agree. Who was she?"

"...their cook. Trace really bonded with her and it was she who taught him everything he knows about cooking. She discovered Doug's secret and then she just stopped coming to work."

"Jesus." My uncle hissed through his teeth. "He has had more than his share of shit."

My gut told me that Darlene was responsible: another way for her to protect Doug while at the same time binding him more tightly to her.

Trace and I had not yet shared what we learned from Vivian because once my dad and uncle learned of it, Darlene would be in some serious shit.

It seemed probable that it was Darlene who killed Douglas and Victoria in a jealous fit of rage but the only thing that kept me from completely getting behind that theory was the police report or, more to the point, the lack of victim-identification. We were missing something and until we knew why Detective Vincent Gowan withheld certain information from his report, I couldn't take that final step.

That night, while Trace and I got ready for bed, I told him about Mrs. Fletcher.


He was already dressed for bed and was standing at the counter in the bathroom brushing his teeth. His eyes found mine in the mirror as I approached. I waited for him to finish and turn to me before I reached for both of his hands.

"I asked my uncle if he could find out what happened to Mrs. Fletcher."

I felt, as well as saw, the tension that entered his body in reaction to my words but a part of healing was closure and he needed to know that Mrs. Fletcher wasn't one of the angels who saw, heard and spoke no evil. I wasn't sure how to break it to him so I decided to just come right out and say it.

"She died, Trace, in 1994 when her car veered into a median to avoid a car that had run a light."

It took him a minute to comprehend my words but when he finally did, I saw his eyes turn moist as understanding dawned. His voice was hard when he said, "Silenced?"

"If Mrs. Fletcher learned Douglas' secret, and Darlene was the one to kill my mom, then it would follow that Darlene would want to silence Mrs. Fletcher to protect Douglas," I said.

"She was a good woman; she had a family."

"I know where she's buried, Trace, if you want to visit her."