Again, so sorry about the kerfluffle! Here is the missing chapter! warning: MAJOR SPOILERS! Don’t read until you’re ready!
Jasper waited in the classically decorated lawyer’s office with the well-dressed attorney and two somewhat schlubby plainclothes detectives. He paced in front of the sofa that dominated an inviting sitting area, presumably to calm nervous clients.
He counted himself among that group. He’d been waiting for this meeting since the shooting, and he was very much on edge.
With a sigh, he dropped down onto the sofa and leaned forward, then started rubbing his temples. It was so odd that Zelda wasn’t beside him. Even a week after the shooting, it still seemed surreal.
The press had gone crazy, of course. The Hollywood Boulevard attack on a well-known author and heiress. One of their own.
Some bystanders who managed to catch a few pictures of that horrible event sold them to tabloids for a tidy sum. Others became social media stars, holding back the image sales in favor of likes and shares and trending on TikTok. Numerous articles were written, all trying to discern who the shooter had been. The police hadn’t caught anyone. There was no criminal to prosecute, no one at whose feet the public could lay blame.
Or at least there hadn’t been in the long days since the event itself.
Now, maybe that had changed.
Please, please, let that have changed. He wanted this to be over. He needed closure. Needed to know that everything he’d done in the interim since the shooting and the hours he’d been so alone hadn’t been for nothing.
With a sigh, he stood and crossed the room to help himself to a cup of coffee. The attorney was still talking with the cops. It seemed like everyone in the room was on edge, aware that something important was happening. That something was about to change. That maybe, after today, Jasper would have his life back.
After what seemed like another eternity, but was only ten minutes, he heard a click, then a voice over the intercom. “Mr. Michelson, your eleven o’clock is here.”
Jasper bent his head, letting his oversized jacket and black ball cap provide some camouflage. He was here to observe, at least at first. He didn’t want to be recognized.
“The door opened, and Carter Malloy stepped inside, his well-dressed wife, Amelia, standing right beside him. They both walked with stiff posture, as if they were emulating royalty.
It took all of Jasper’s effort, not to slap them. Malloy skimmed the room with those dark eyes that took in everything. The man was smart, no doubt about that. He’d accomplished a lot in his life. Perhaps too much. Perhaps he’d finally tipped the scales.
“Mr. Michelson,” Malloy said. “We’re so sorry it’s taken us so long to get here. International travel is such a bear. But we are ready to settle our daughter’s estate.”
Mr. Michelson nodded and stepped forward. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said. “Please have a seat.”
Both Amelia and Malloy stepped more fully into the room. It was only then that Malloy noticed Jasper on the sofa, and Jasper dipped his head more deeply.
“I didn’t realize you had another client,” Malloy said.
“Oh no. This isn’t a client. He’ll be leaving soon. We just have one small bit of business to attend to before that.”
“Well, this is highly irregular,” Amelia said. “After all, this is our time. And you should have respected our privacy.”
“As you know,” Mr. Michelson said, “I represent your daughter’s estate, not you. And Mr. Kent is here to stand for your daughter.”
“Excuse me?” Malloy said as Jasper clenched his fists at his sides, then slowly lifted his face.
He saw Malloy look at him. Blank at first, then something that might be recognition flared in his eyes. He took a step backwards, his eyes going from the lawyer to the two plainclothes detectives, still standing in the corner.
“What is this? What’s going on?”
One of the detectives took a step forward. “Mr. Malloy, welcome back to the United States. You’re under arrest for murder, conspiracy to murder, and other felony charges. You have the right to remain silent,” he said, continuing to Mirandize the bastard as the second cop crossed to Amelia and arrested her as well.
“This is absurd,” Malloy said, yanking back his hands as the officer tried to cuff him. A moment later, three more officers stepped in from a connecting office.
“We’d prefer not to have to restrain you,” one of them said.
“We’re here about our daughter’s estate,” Malloy snapped. “The poor girl has died, and you’re playing foolish games.
“Oh, well that’s where you’re wrong,” Jasper said standing up. “These games aren’t foolish. These games are called a sting. And thankfully, your daughter’s very much alive.”
He looked back to the door where the most recent police officers had entered from, and held his breath until Zelda stepped through.
She walked calmly at first, then hurried into his arms. They hadn’t seen each other since the shooting, unwilling to risk the press getting a whiff of the truth.
Instead, she’d been staying in a secluded suite at the Stark Century, attended to only by Damien Stark’s most trusted employees. “I’ve missed you,” she said, hugging him tight.
“Don’t you ever go away again,” he said, only realizing after he’d spoken the real meaning of those words. He glanced at her face, unsure of her reaction, and was delighted to see her wide smile of absolute pleasure.
“You little bitch,” Amelia said. “I’m your mother. I gave birth to you. I took care of you.”
Zelda glanced blandly at her mother, then turned back to Jasper. “I’m absolutely starving. Do you want to go to lunch?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Lunch would be terrific.” They left the lawyer’s office without a second look back, leaving Zelda’s mother and stepfather alone with the cops to ponder their pitiful future.