…Flatline, no vitals…
The words shouted between the paramedics echoed over and over again in Scylla’s head as Porter drove at breakneck speed following the ambulance.
“She’ll be okay,” her friend said, trying to give them both comfort as he reluctantly broke away from the ambulance to find parking at the hospital.
“I should have gone in the ambulance with her,” Scylla said.
Porter shook his head, “Tally is FBI, they’re more likely to give her information, let her know what’s going on even though she’s not family.”
Scylla put a hand to her mouth, Raelle’s drying blood smearing on her cheek, “oh Goddess Porter, Edwin.”
“We can call him as soon as we get inside and know what’s actually going on.”
The doors of the hospital parted to admit them, Scylla made a beeline for the redhead standing in one corner of the ER waiting room.
“Well? How is she?” Scylla demanded.
Tally met Scylla’s gaze evenly, “They lost her for a bit, but they were able to get her back. She’s still in surgery.”
Lost her? How could they have… And then the phrasing made sense to her and she understood what Tally said. Raelle had died and they managed to bring her back. Could it have happened that quickly? One minute the woman she loved was there, alive, and the next she was gone? She had…Scylla began to tremble and Tally pulled her into her arms.
“She's a tough cookie, Scylla. She literally died and came back for you. She’ll certainly fight to keep living for you.”
Scylla began sobbing on the redhead’s shoulder and Tally held her tight, hands lightly stroking her back. As Porter approached them, Tally gave him a look and he reached for Scylla’s arm.
Reluctantly, Scylla broke away from the comfort her loves best friend had offered and looked at Porter.
“Quinn’s driving them to the airfield and they’ll fly out as soon as the plane can get off the ground. Edwin wanted you to know he’ll call the hospital and tell them to make sure you can get access to what’s going on with Rae.”
Scylla nodded to her childhood friend with a smile of sadness but appreciation. With that news, Tally directed them to a row of chairs against one wall. By this point, exhaustion was setting in for everyone.
They waited for what seemed like forever until at last a short dark skinned woman walked out and after talking to a person at the desk came over to them.
“Miss Ramshorn?” Agent Craven?” The woman took a seat across from them after they both nodded and began to speak. A lot of it made no sense to Scylla, it was mostly medical jargon but the important parts she understood.
Raelle was alive. Yes, they were still cautious, but the surgeon was optimistic.
No, they couldn’t see Raelle yet, but they could visit in the morning if she remained stable throughout the night.
Dawn arrived, and so did everyone else. Alder brought Byron after the FBI wrapped up what was essentially a crime scene. Quinn and Edwin finally arrived at the hospital after flight delays related to the weather in WV. Izadora and Glory arrived last, ready to support Scylla. Quietly, they were all moved to a private waiting area by the hospital brass as the rumors had already spread like wildfire that the famous musician was at the hospital.
The news channels broadcasted the story about a shooting at the Ramshorn estate and the death of a longtime friend and employee of the musician. Izadora gently suggested that Scylla would need to make a statement to calm her fans.
“Just turn it off,” Scylla grumbled and Izadora reached for the remote. As the television went dark, there was a collective sigh of relief.
“It’s almost ten,” Edwin said, peering at the pocket watch Raelle had given him several birthdays ago. “Why haven’t they come to take us to see her?”
Quinn shook her head and squeezed Edwin’s shoulder. She’d spent some time talking to the petite surgeon and she knew Raelle had a long way to go to being well.
“Sometimes no news is good news, Edwin.”
In a corner of the room Alder and Tally whispered quietly to each other and after Scylla catching them sneaking glances her way, she turned to them.
“What is it?” She asked.
Alder shook her head, “I can’t really comment on an ongoing investigation.”
A high pitched laugh emanated from Byron and Porter squeezed his hand. “What ongoing investigation? Theodore Hearst is dead. The end, right? He even admitted to killing those girls, to taunting Scylla.”
Alder only frowned at the man, but Tally shook her head. “Sarah, they have to be told at some point. Might as well do it now.”
The older agent’s frown deepened but after a moment she shrugged.
“You know that forensics found a partial print belonging to Miss Graves on one of the dolls.”
Scylla blanched, vividly seeing her old friend dead at the pond. “She wasn’t the killer, she was a victim.”
“True, she was not the person who committed the murders, but she was the person who sent you the dolls.”
Scylla shook her head in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“Mr Hearst sent you a few letters and the package at the hotel, but he wasn’t the only one taunting you. We found a small room beneath one of the hothouses. Miss Graves had converted it into a workroom. We found the materials needed to make the notes and the dolls there. We even found a partially completed doll.”
Scylla’s mouth worked but no sound came out. Eventually Quinn, who had been listening to the conversation, spoke up.
“Why would this Helen girl do that?”
“Because she always wanted you, Scyl. And she couldn’t have you.” Byron answered.
“We believe that Mr. Hearst caught Helen by surprise and she didn’t have the opportunity to hide things away and lock up.We also found a journal that matches Mr. Ramshorn’s hypothesis.”
Scylla shook her head, a part of her still refusing to believe that someone she’d made a part of her family could do such terrible things.
“It doesn’t matter,” Scylla finally whispered. “She was family.”
The musician looked up at the agent and spoke firmly, “She didn’t deserve to die and she doesn’t deserve to have her name destroyed.”
Alder pursed her lips but after a moment nodded. “Agreed.”
It was another hour before the petite physician entered the waiting room to speak with them about Raelle’s condition. After a short conversation they were allowed to go in two by two for a few minutes each to see the blonde.
Scylla stepped back to allow Quinn to go in with Edwin and was surprised when the older woman didn’t move forward and gave the musician a ‘go on’ gesture.
Quinn scoffed, “You helped save her life. Go see her.”
Scylla could only nod, the tears already falling from her eyes.
Quinn stood at the door for another moment and then returned to the waiting room chairs. She took a seat by Byron and Porter and gave them a nod.
“You boys did good, too. From what I was told, that first aid you did on the scene really gave her a fighting chance.” Quinn turned her gaze on Byron and patted his knee. “And you did some fine shooting for someone who doesn’t like guns.”
Byron blushed and Porter squeezed his boyfriend’s hand.
“Will she be okay, now?” Byron asked.
“She’s tough,” Quinn answered. “I think she’ll be just fine.
There was champagne, of course, and there was also homemade brandy. Quinn had made a batch special just for the occasion. It was a bit strong for Scylla, but both Byron and Porter sported tumblers of the pungent drink as they talked easily in lounge chairs on the other side of the fire pit.
Beside her, Raelle was sticking to the champagne. The blonde looked good, a bit thin still, but her color was back to normal and she was beginning to regain some of the definition that she’d lost. She certainly looked a world different than she did when she’d still been recovering from the gunshot wound.
Raelle felt her lover’s gaze and looked up to see Scylla’s eyes on her but the musician looked like she was seeing something far away. The blonde reached over and squeezed her hand.
Scylla met Raelle’s eyes, startled from being lost in the memories of Raelle and her recovery. She returned her lover’s smile and looked down to where Raelle had squeezed her hand. She moved hers, lacing their fingers together, the diamond ring she wore winking in the dancing fire.
“You okay?” Raelle asked, leaning over, her warm breath teasing Scylla’s ear in the cool spring air.
Scylla smiled and turned her head to look at the blonde.
“Never better,” she murmured, leaning in and gently kissing Raelle.
“Hey,” Quinn shouted from her nearby lawn chair, “save that for the ceremony.”
Beside the older woman Edwin watched the couple, a grin on his face. He’d cried when Raelle had told him that she intended to propose to Scylla over the New Year’s holiday and she cried when he gave her the engagement ring he’d given her mama and told her to use it if she thought it would be good enough. Raelle had told him that it was more than good enough, it represented the greatest love story she’d ever known besides her own. Seeing the simple ring on the brunette’s hand filled his heart with a happiness he hadn’t felt since his wife had passed on.
Porter and Byron, who had also been sneaking a kiss in the firelight, broke apart grinning sheepishly and turned to watch as Raelle and Scylla continued to kiss, oblivious to everyone else but themselves.
“Leave ‘em be, Quinn.”
The older woman snorted but she was smiling and she relaxed back in her chair, sipping her drink.
“Willa would have liked her, I think.”
Edwin nodded, “Yes, I think she would. The love they have for each other comes natural, organic. It’s an old love, transcending life and death itself.”
“Almost as if their souls already knew one another.” Quinn murmured.
Raelle and Scylla finally came up for air and when the blonde saw that everyone was watching she blushed.
“Practicing for tomorrow?” Porter teased.
“Yeah,” Raelle answered, shifting in her lounge chair. “Are you ready to be the best man?”
Porter grinned, “You know I’m here for you.”
“Oh, so you’re here for my pleasure now?” Raelle said with a grin, echoing the words Porter had spoken to her a long time ago.
"Omg.” Porter answered, blushing furiously. He glanced over at his boyfriend, but Byron was engrossed in a conversation about bluegrass with Tally and Abigail who had flown in for the wedding.
“I'm sorry for being such an alpha male. You were such an intimidating figure. Like when I was saying it, I was even calling bullshit on myself. But I still wasn't comfortable claiming the real me when you first showed up. I felt like I was being replaced. It was a jerk move.”
Raelle nodded and smiled, “It’s okay, I get it, and I can’t wait to have you by my side tomorrow.”
Porter smiled. “I’m so glad you two are going to be married.”
“You’ll hold the fort down while I’m on the honeymoon?”
Porter nodded, “Yeah, everything’s mostly in place at the office and I’ll work on interviewing staff and looking at job proposals while you’re gone.”
Raelle nodded. After Scylla announced she was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the music business, Raelle decided to trade in being a bodyguard for being a security consultant and training others. She’d asked Porter to join her and they’d opened the business only a couple of months ago in WV close to where Scylla would finally be putting her degrees to use and adjunct teaching at WVU.
Scylla leaned over and smiled at her friend, “What are you two going on about?”
“Just some shopkeeping,” Raelle said.
Scylla sighed and met Porter’s eyes, “Don’t you have better things to do? Like proposing to my brother?”
Porter blushed again and Raelle laughed. It was quickly followed by a yawn and Scylla squeezed her hand.
“Ready for bed?”
“Yeah, it’s getting late and we’ve got an early day tomorrow.”
Raelle and Scylla said their goodnights to the group at the fire and started to head back toward the house.
“Don’t ya’ll forget, you’re sleeping in separate rooms tonight.” Quinn yelled out. “It’s bad luck for the brides to see one another right before the wedding.”
As they moved away from the fire and reached the house, Scylla looked up into her lover’s eyes.
“We aren’t really going to sleep in separate rooms tonight, are we?”
Raelle shook her head, “We’ll let Quinn think she’s getting her way and I’ll sneak upstairs later.”
“Good,” Scylla answered. “Because I don’t ever want to be apart from you again. Like ever.”
“Never again,” Raelle agreed and leaned forward to kiss Scylla goodnight