Previously on Montecito: Ava returns from Europe and finally gets all the details regarding the case from Beth. She’s unsure whether to believe in her father’s innocence. Claire makes her usual daily visit to the jail, believing if she tested her blood, she could save Robert. Noah meets with Nicole and learns that he is not the father of her baby.
Does Ava believe Beth, or does she continue to believe her father is innocent?Click To Reveal Results
Montecito College, Dean’s Office
Jace pulled up to the vacant parking lot on campus. Normally, a spot so close to the door was a reason to rejoice. But Jace wasn’t feeling very celebratory. In fact, he felt more like he was a dead man walking. The air-conditioning that hit him as the door opened did little to combat the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Jace continued to rehearse his very plausible explanation for knowing so much about those damn emails as he walked the empty halls.
Directly outside the dean’s office, Jace actually contemplated turning around and running in the other direction, anywhere but there. He didn’t, however, because he was an adult, right? Wasn’t he? He smirked to himself as he opened the door because the answer was unequivocally - no.
At that unfortunate moment, Dean Clark emerged. “I don’t know why you’re smiling. You’re late.” Clarke looked down at his watch. “But it’s good to see you so happy. You must think this is a laughing matter! Well, it will make this much easier.” He turned on his heels, leaving Jace standing there, dumbfounded.
Jace looked down at his own watch. 9:02. Oh, come on! Really?
“I..” began Jace, but Clark was already gone. He reluctantly followed him into his inner sanctum.
“Take a seat.” Clark indicated to the chairs in front of his oversized desk. He leaned back, enjoying how much Jace was squirming.
It made him feel powerful.
And he needed to feel powerful, because if he lost control of this situation, if it ever got out that he commissioned Jace to break into student emails, he’d be a dead man. Clark couldn’t even think about that. It was not a possibility.
“Let’s make this quick.” Dean Clark finally broke the silence. “One - you will NOT be receiving the last thousand dollars as you have breached the terms of our contract-”
“I didn’t breach the contract!” interrupted Jace.
“Do you think I’m an idiot? Is that what you think? How can you possibly believe that you didn’t break the contract! I expressly instructed you not to read any of the emails!” yelled Clark, leaning forward in his chair, hands braced on his desk.
“But I didn’t!” insisted Jace. Although it was a bold-faced lie, he wasn’t going to back down now. He continued with his rehearsed explanation. “As I was forwarding all the emails, without opening them, I couldn’t help but see all the subject lines - and almost all of them had something to do with Network, so I just assumed she was behind it…” The dean’s face was unmoved and Jace realized how lame this excuse actually sounded when said aloud. There were subjects lines with Network, for sure, but nothing that would lead anyone to make the link. He had hoped the dean would accept this, however. After all, how could he know for sure what anyone could be thinking? Right? Perhaps Jace was a brilliant mind and his talents in intuition have gone unnoticed?
But as the dean’s face began to harden and his eyebrows furrow, Jace’s voice trailed off. He had lost all confidence behind the lie.
“How dare you insult my intelligence? Did you really think I’d fall for that? Then you’re even a bigger imbecile than I previously thought. And so, as I was saying, one - you don’t get the grand.” Clark grinned and continued, “Two- there is that little matter of you engaging in a questionable relationship with a student. As you well know, any sort of inappropriate relationship with a student is strictly forbidden and cause for your termination.” Clark sat back in his chair again and folded his chubby fingers together in satisfaction.
“I’m fired! You’re firing me?” Jace’s question was quiet. He couldn’t believe that this was happening. Sure, he expected Clark to be pissed about the emails, maybe not pay him, but fire him? For seeing Josh? How would Clark even know about Josh? But, why else would he be at a college party filled with only co-eds if he wasn’t seeing one. Maybe he didn’t know about Josh exactly, but it was pretty clear he was hanging out with students.
“Don’t sound so surprised!” Dean Clark tapped a document resting in front of him on his desk. It was Jace’s contract and stapled to it, the Professional Code of Conduct.
The Dean leaned back again and said, “Yes, firing you is well within my rights. However, I don’t like the negative attention it may bring. Let’s consider it one option for what needs to happen here.”
“One option?” Jace asked, allowing just a faint hint of hope to form.
“Yes. Another option will be for you to transfer to Austin College. I have connections there, I can get you set up with another job as a TA. Any coursework you need to complete as a grad student can be finished there. The semester doesn’t start again until September, so this is a perfect time for a transfer.”
“So it’s an ultimatum then? Either I transfer to - what - Austin College or I’m fired? Is that it?”
“Well, look at you, not so dumb after all. Yes, that’s pretty much it. I’ll give you the rest of the weekend to decide. I’ll expect your answer Monday morning. Now get out of my office!”
“Can we talk about this? Listen, I don’t want to leave Montecito. My work is here. My life is here,” Jace pleaded, hoping Clark would have some kind of heart.
“Well, I guess you’re just going to have to get a new life in Texas, now won’t you.” Clark turned back to his monitor, shaking the mouse to wake his computer.
Jace got up slowly from his chair and left the office without another word. As he walked back to his hall, all he could think of was Josh. What would it mean for them?
Montecito Police Station
Ava’s nose wrinkled at the scent coming from the officer’s aftershave. He was young, maybe a few years older than herself, but he smelled like an old man trying to cover up old age. The officer, she never did get his name, had made her wait the better part of an hour to see her father because she had come without warning, no appointment, no scheduled visit. Now, she followed him down a narrow hallway, holding her breath as the aroma of Eau d’Whatever-is-on-sale wafted into her face. The officer stepped aside so that she could enter a small windowless room with no door and little privacy.
“Right through here,” he said, smiling as though he hadn’t just assaulted her nose. Thankfully he left, leaving her in the doorway, unsure whether she actually wanted to enter.
He father was standing in a tan colored jumper, smiling, happy to see her.
“Sweetheart!” Robert stepped forward, ready to embrace his only child. His supervising shadow made a noise that sounded as though he was clearing his throat, but in reality is was a reminder, or likely a warning. There was to be no hugging at these meetings.
“Hi.” Ava took a step in, sat in the open chair and took note of the officer in the corner. This was an older man who looked as though he was pretending to be interested in something on the wall when in fact, he was listening and watching everything in the room. Ava nodded to herself as she confirmed that the room, in fact, would have no privacy.
Robert sensed immediately something was wrong. He sat down across from Ava and tried to make eye contact, but she was watching his shadow with assessing eyes.
“Don’t mind him,” reassured Robert. “He has to be here. It’s his job. I’ve gotten used to it. Just ignore him,” he said reassuringly.
Seriously? Ava continued to stare at the officer. Robert had been reduced to having supervised visits, as though he couldn’t be trusted around people anymore. More shockingly, he had found a way to ‘get used to it’?
She continued to look at this man for a bit longer. It was easier than looking at her father at the moment.
“Ava,” repeated Robert, desperate to connect with her. “How was your trip? I’m sorry you had to cut it short.”
Europe. It seemed so long ago now. So much had happened in the last few days. Ava’s confrontation with Beth. Her meeting with David Moore, Lux’s father. Her own research and discovery. She had spent two hours with her grandmother discussing things she had found and picked apart all aspects of her parents’ relationship. Her grandmother was of little help, so she went a bit further, trying to track down the relatives of Brenda Scott Williams, her father’s first wife. She had found her only living sister, a woman named Samantha, but hadn’t been able to reach her as of yet.
“Europe? That’s what you want to talk about?” she asked, finally tilting her head to face her father.
“Okay, we don’t need to talk about your summer,” he conceded. “What would you like to talk about?”
“My mother,” she replied without missing a beat.
“What about your mother?”
“Did you kill her?”
“Do you think I killed her?” he asked.
“You didn’t answer the question.” Her voice was shaking now. Ava tried to steady herself, not wanting to lose control so soon. She had too many questions that needed to be answered and she wanted to be able to process his responses with a clear head.
“You know the answer. What I don’t understand is - why are you asking me that?” replied Robert, refusing to dignify her question with an answer.
“Why did you take out the life insurance policies?” Ava could barely keep from shouting. She blinked as a tear snuck out in defiance and snaked down her nose. Ava quickly brushed it away and continued to pelt him with questions.
“Why so much? So much life insurance?” she asked, not giving enough time for Robert to even respond before firing another question. “What did you need that much money for?”
“You think I did those horrible things,” said Robert ignoring her barrage of questions. He was busy drifting into a new reality. An understanding that his daughter didn’t believe him. She no longer looked at him with her adoring eyes. She no longer trusted him.
“Did you take money out on me?” she asked, breaking his thoughts.
Robert didn’t even know how to reply.
“Tell me! How much am I worth dead?” Ava began to count off on her fingers, “Alive, I am only costing you money. School, housing, food - trips to fucking Europe!” She threw her hands up in the air. “What was my number, Dad?”
“Everyone takes out insurance,” Robert explained, keeping his voice level. “I even have an insurance policy on myself. I wanted to make sure you were taken care of if something were to happen to me,” he offered this explanation, but it fell flat with his daughter.
“Only it never does. Does it? If only your wives had the same luck!”
Robert could see that any confusion, hurt, and questions had been taken over by anger, rage and accusation. She had already tried him and found him guilty in her heart.
“I’ve seen the files. Lux’s dad showed me the evidence!” she was shouting now.
“It’s all circumstantial. You know it is, or David wouldn’t take on my case. If he thought I was guilty, do you think he would even bother?” asked Robert, as though this was the most obvious piece of evidence.
“Yes, of course he would!” He’s a lawyer for God’s sake! Even Jeffrey Dahmer had someone represent him!”
Jeffrey Dahmer? Did he hear that right? Robert grabbed the loose material covering his legs, clenching his fists into a ball. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Jeffrey Dahmer? Are you comparing me to a serial killer?” Robert turned his head to the statue beside him, who was now smirking, clearly enjoying this exchange. “Isn’t that the asshole who ate his victims?”
“Believe so,” replied the officer, not making eye contact, smirk widening.
“Well, then,” said Robert, relaxing his fists, placing his hands on the table and leaning forward, as though ensuring every last syllable made it into Ava’s ears. “If my own daughter thinks I’m that kind of monster, then what are my odds in a courtroom?”
“I didn’t say you were that kind of monster,” said Ava, standing up, “but there are lot’s of different kinds out there, aren’t there?” Her question was directed to the officer standing a foot away from her father, but he didn’t respond.
“Do you actually think I’m capable of murder, Ava?” Robert asked.
“Honestly Dad, I don’t know! My heart doesn’t want to believe it, but there’s so much evidence against you! And you lied to me! You were married before! And if you killed my mom, I hope you get the death penalty!”
“Ava! You don’t mean that!”
“I think I do, Dad. You still haven’t even said you didn’t do it! I can’t believe this is even happening!”
“So, what, does this mean you’re going to side with Beth, testify against me?” he asked.
“I haven’t even begun to think about that! I’m just trying to process! I have to get out of here.” Ava turned and walked out of the room.
Robert was momentarily struck speechless. His own daughter didn’t support him? He finally found some words and shouted after her, “You can't testify even if you wanted to! There is nothing to testify against!” He hoped she hadn’t gone too far to hear.
Williams Mansion, Montecito Hills
Claire entered, waiting for the sense of satisfaction that always accompanied her each time she walked through the doors of her home. Except that, this time, it didn’t come. Of course not! Because now, the emptiness just reminded her that Robert was in jail. She drew in a calming breath before she headed up the stairs to confront her daughter.
This wasn’t going to be pleasant.
Claire jogged up the stairs quickly and marveled how easy the trek was. Just last week those same stairs would have winded her. See? There’s nothing to worry about. I was just sick with some infections, and now, I’m not.
As Claire paused outside Beth’s door, she couldn’t help but hear her daughter’s nagging voice in her head - “You’re feeling better because Robert’s in jail, and can’t continue poisoning you!” Claire shook those thoughts away. That was preposterous, Robert loves me. She’s just too young to understand.
“Come in,” called Beth. She moved her laptop to the side when she saw it was Claire. She sighed. She wasn’t looking forward to this talk. Beth decided to beat Claire to the punch, “Look, I know what you’re going to say, and you might as well save your breath! You probably need it, with your body trying to recover from all that anti-freeze.”
“Beth! Be reasonable! That’s just ridiculous and you know it! Just because you and Robert don’t get along doesn’t mean you can accuse him of murder! Honey, these are serious accusations! You don’t know what you are doing,” finished Claire, sitting down on the bed beside Beth.
“Is that what you think? That I’m making all of this up just to spite Robert? You really believe I would do that?” asked Beth, studying Claire’s expression.
Claire shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny. “Regardless whether you believe it to be true, it’s not!”
“Oh come on, Mom! Are you really that blind? He’s been married twice before, one of which you didn’t know about. And what happened to both of those wives?” Beth shouted, not waiting for an answer, “Oh yeah, they’re dead! And, they just both coincidentally have died young with some strange heart condition? And now, you! For the third time, one of Robert’s wives has come down with the same mysterious symptoms! The evidence is all there, Mom! You’re just ignoring it!”
“You are ignoring how much Robert has done for us! Did you forget what our lives were like in Seattle? Always struggling, working paycheck to paycheck? We could never have afforded the kind of education you are getting at Montecito. You should be grateful to Robert! He took you in, supported you, paid for your education! You’re an adult, he didn’t have to, you know!”
“Yes, I know that! In fact, Robert threw that in my face every chance he got! You didn’t see it, Mom. He acts way differently with me when you’re not around!” Beth was still yelling but forced herself to change tactics. She continued, much quieter this time, “Look, we don’t need to argue about it. I’ve talked to Jess and she can arrange to test your blood for any trace of poison, and that will end it. Right then and there.”
“No-” Claire shook her head.
“No?” Beth erupted.
“I actually thought of that myself, but when I talked to Robert about that, he said that his lawyer thought it was a bad idea. I’ve been on all those medications for the bladder infections, my blood pressure, and they could show up as something else in my blood, and end up incriminating him, instead of helping him. You know how hospitals are. Tests can be contaminated, or messed up. The poor doctors and nurses work so hard in a system with not enough money, mistakes are bound to happen.”
“Oh my God, he’s OJ Simpson,” said Beth incredulously. “He’s going to fucking OJ Simpson his way out of this!”
“Bethany McKellar! Watch your language!”
“It’s true! He’s going to buy his way out of this!” Beth shook her head. “Well, not if I have anything to do with it.” She picked up her cell phone and started dialing.
“What are you going to do?” Claire was almost too afraid to ask.
“I’m going to review my testimony with Jess, make sure that this bastard doesn’t get off!”
“You’re testifying! You can’t! You’re his stepdaughter! You know how that would look!”
“Yeah, like he’s guilty.”
Jace picked up his phone and texted Josh. He’d been avoiding this conversation for several days. His stomach couldn’t handle it.
Jace barely hit send when he could see that Josh had read his text and was already responding.
Josh grabbed his keys with sweaty palms and headed quickly out to his Escalade. His hands shook a little as he fumbled with the lock. Jace isn’t going to break up with me, is he? Josh hastily pulled out into traffic, narrowly avoiding a car already in the lane. “Calm the fuck down, Josh!” he told himself. “He’s not breaking up with you, so relax.”
Josh finally pulled into the parking lot nearest to the basketball courts. Barely in park, he hopped out of his vehicle and began jogging towards the benches. He hit the lock button on his car’s remote as he rushed over, not wanting to waste even a minute. Josh had an inexplicable sense of urgency. Was Jace sick? Oh my God, did have cancer? Or was he actually breaking up with him?
As soon as Josh was within several feet of Jace, he stopped, suddenly hesitant. The look on Jace’s face confirmed all his fears. Something was definitely wrong. Some unseen force pulled Josh forward, closing the gap between them. He felt awkward as he sat down beside Jace, as if they were strangers.
“Hey,” said Jace. “You made good time.” He was too preoccupied with wording his news correctly to notice Josh’s unease. Jace still hadn’t really figured out how much to tell Josh. The whole truth? A partial truth? A complete lie?
“Okay, I can’t stand it! Are you dying or are you breaking up with me?” Josh blurted out, completely oblivious to any students that were littering the campus still.
“What? No! I’m not dying or breaking up with you! Why would you think that?” He grabbed Josh’s hand, no longer caring who saw them. He was fired, after all.
“Uh, because of your text! Well, if it’s not that, then what the hell is going on?”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize how worried you might be. No, it’s nothing like that. Well, there’s no real easy way to say this.” Jace gulped. “But, remember how I met with Clark on Saturday? After the Network party?”
“Yeah, you said he just lectured you a bit for being at a student party, that it was conduct unbecoming of a TA, or some shit like that?” Josh smiled now, relieved that Jace was neither dying nor breaking up with him. Flashes of the many unbecoming conducts that happened before the party suddenly filled his head.
“Well, I, uh, lied. He actually threatened to fire me,” said Jace, looking out towards the courts where two students had just begun to scrimmage. Jace just couldn’t meet Josh’s eye.
“Because of me?” yelled Josh, standing up in his rage. He began to pace.
“Shh! Sit down!” whispered Jace. The basketball players looked over at the outburst.
“He’s firing you because you are with me! That homophobic son of a bitch! I can’t believe this-”
“No, no, it’s not because it’s you, or that I’m gay. I don’t think. Actually, come to think of it, he didn’t even really seem to be surprised to learn I was gay. Maybe he already knew? I haven’t really advertised my preferences, but I haven’t hidden them either.” Jace smiled slightly and readjusted his glasses. It was a nervous habit, pushing the glasses higher on his nose.
“Well, then why are you being fired?” Josh asked, sitting back down.
“Because I’m with a student. I’m a TA, we can’t have relationships with our students.”
“That’s fucking bullshit! It’s not like you’re a professor!” Josh protested.
Jace smiled at Josh’s indignation, at his desperate desire to right all the wrongs afflicting Jace. “Yeah, I know, but I do give out marks, I am a teacher. It’s definitely not allowed.”
“So, what, you’re just fired? What about your graduate classes? Are you still allowed to finish your Ph.D.?”
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Clark did give me one other option-” Jace paused.
“Well, he will transfer me to Austin College and I can TA there and finish out my degree.” Jace looked anxiously at Josh for his reaction.
“I hope you told him to shove it up his hairy little ass!” Josh replied. “The nerve of him! Well don’t worry, we will just find you another job. You only have one more year left of grad school anyways, so-”
“Josh, you don’t understand. I can’t finish out grad school at Montecito. I’m out. Either I take this job in Texas, or I’m fired and kicked out of grad school. This is my only option,” Jace finished quietly.
“So that’s it? You’re just going to take this job and leave? What about us? What about me? Thanks a fucking lot!” Josh jumped up off the bench and headed back toward his truck. Jace managed to grab his arm, but Josh shrugged it off angrily. “Leave me the fuck alone!”
“Josh!” called Jace, needing to run to catch up to Josh. While Jace definitely hated all sports and even exercising, Josh was an athlete. A football player. Despite the circumstances, Jace smiled a little at the thought that he, geeky Jace, snagged a football player. He was practically wheezing by the time he caught up to Josh. “Wait!”
“What do you want? What else is there to say? You’re leaving and apparently that’s your only option!”
“Come with me!”
“You heard me. Come with me. I bet you’d be able to transfer easily. You’re the bloody star quarterback! Austin loves their college football, they’d take you in a heartbeat! You might not get to be the quarterback, mind you, but at least we can stay together! Come with me! What do you say?” Jace waited, shoving in his hands into his jeans. He hated being this vulnerable.
“Jace, I don’t know. I need to think about it.” Josh hopped up into his car and slammed the door. He lowered the window and said, “I’ll call you later, okay?” Without waiting for a response, he backed out of the parking lot.
Jace stood there for a moment. “Okay,” he said, only to himself.
What does Josh do? Move to Austin with Jace or stay in Montecito?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.