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A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

November 20, 2018 04:28AM
A/N: Well, the good news is I haven't forgotten about this. And the bad news is I can only manage one chapter every 4-6 months. So let's call it even? smiling smiley If you need a reminder on what is going on, feel free to ask. I had to give myself a refresher, oops. Happy Thanksgiving!

~~

CHAPTER 31

As the cab pulled away, Elizabeth felt a sense of calm wash over her, years of training in the field focusing her on the tasks that were achievable over the worries that could not be alleviated. Worrying about the future was a luxury reserved for those who didn’t constantly have survival on their minds. Elizabeth had spent many a sweltering day in crowded markets and alleyways, in deserted municipal offices, at tense checkpoints, where the singular goal was to watch and listen and record and witness and hope to return to do it all again tomorrow. Over the years, she had learned how to tune out distractions, to keep her eyes trained on the subject while monitoring any sudden motion in her peripheral vision. She was a lethal combination of poise and foresight, a useful ally and a formidable foe in times of duress. Luckily for Lydia, in her time of need, Elizabeth was on her side.

Elizabeth picked up her phone and called Carter. “Carter, it’s Liz.”

Carter sounded relieved to hear her voice. “Liz, where are you?”

“I’m back in New York.”

“Oh good.” Carter paused. “Your sister is in trouble.”

“I know.”

“You do?”

“She’s been arrested.”

“What?!”

“For attempted grand larceny. She tried to extort Henry Crawford.”

“Oh, well, damn, that’s worse than I thought it’d be.”

“You’ve seen her with George Wickham, I take it?”

“Yeah,” said Carter. “She’s been hanging out with him for a few months. I didn’t think anything of it, even when I learned her last name was Bennet.” Carter paused. “I’m sorry, Liz. I should have figured it out sooner. Just never occurred to me, you know?”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I feel responsible. Whatever she’s mixed up in, I know that lowlife Wickham got her into. I could have warned her.” Carter sighed. “The other night, as she was leaving, I heard her say something about how her sister got blown up in Iraq, and then it all clicked.”

“It’s in the past,” said Elizabeth. “Tell me what you know about what Lydia has been up to.”

Carter recognized the calm precision in her voice and almost felt sorry for Wickham. His life was about to take a turn for the worse. “Honestly, I don’t know that much. She’s been coming around to the club with him. A lot. It didn’t seem that serious as he’s been with other girls too. I figured she was just another one of his girlfriends.”

Elizabeth felt her stomach turn. “That’s just great.”

“Sorry, Liz.”

“I don’t suppose you heard them say anything about Henry Crawford?”

“Nope.”

“Did you see anything else that concerned you?”

“She may be…- experimenting with a few substances. I can’t be sure. I just wanted you to know she was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Nothing but trouble, the lot of them.”

“I appreciate the tip. Thanks, Carter.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m headed to the precinct now. I have no idea what’s actually happened. Jane was a bit hysterical.”

“Understandable under the circumstances.”

“Yeah. At least we should be able to hire Lydia the best lawyer. Anne is seeing to it.”

“I’m glad,” said Carter. “You…- ahh, want me to interrogate Wickham?”

Elizabeth felt a shiver run down her spine. “Carter, no.”

“I can be very persuasive if allowed to use all my…- talents.”

“Absolutely not. Thank you, but no. We can’t deal with him that way.”

Carter was silent for a moment. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

“Thanks. For everything. Seriously. I owe you.”

“Are you trying to make me angry? You know I feel about you constantly thanking me.”

“I know, I know, sorry, old habit. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on what I learn.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

“And if anything changes with George…-”

“You’ll be the first to know.”

~~

The specifics of the Henry Crawford case was as tawdry as it was laughable. In other words, it was exactly the kind of insane circumstance that would attract Lydia Bennet. It appeared that Henry Crawford had a penchant for younger women and an inability to curb that inclination while on the set of his show, Late Night with Henry Crawford. Such indiscretions - if made public - would have been embarrassing to the very married Crawford. At least that was the basis for the attempted blackmail scheme for which Lydia now claimed sole responsibility. After several threatening letters, Henry Crawford had called the authorities and agreed to meet Lydia at a public place. Once she had been arrested, he disclosed the entire affair on his show. Not exactly the turn of events Lydia had expected.

“How is she?” said Elizabeth, a glass of wine in her hand. It had been a long day of bail hearings and her mother’s shrieking in her ears over the phone.

“Finally calm, I think. She’s going to get some sleep,” said Jane as she sank into her couch.

“You sure you don’t mind her crashing with you?”

“Of course not. I should have done it sooner. Maybe none of this would have happened if I’d kept a closer eye on her.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Everyone in Lydia’s life feels more responsibility for her than Lydia herself. We treat her like a child. She is 26. I was already in a war zone by that age.”

“Most of us are not like you, Liz,” said Jane with a small smile.

“Do you know what she told me?” said Elizabeth. “She thought scoring $2 million or whatever from this Crawford guy would be like a class action lawsuit… - I don’t even know how to describe how little sense any of this makes. Like, she actually thought she would get away with it and do what exactly? Distribute the ill-gotten spoils to Crawford’s many girlfriends?”

Jane sighed. “Well, at least her motives were noble.”

Elizabeth felt like screaming. “No. Jane, just no. You will not make this into some kind of quixotic quest for justice. She was being reckless and stupid - something with which she has a lifetime of experience. And now she will be charged with a felony and spend time in jail. So I guess we can stop lecturing her about consequences - if you’re looking for the bright side.”

Jane shook her head. “I refuse to think there is no way out of this mess.”

“There isn’t, and I’d prepare yourself for the worst.”

“You really think so?”

“The evidence is ironclad and she confessed on the spot. Because she clearly learned nothing from the hours of Law & Order marathons we consumed growing up. Unless she names a collaborator and cuts some kind of deal, I don’t see why the prosecutors would go easy on her.”

“You still think George Wickham is involved”

“Absolutely.” Elizabeth nodded. “You think she came up with this ridiculous idea on her own?”

“She claims she knows one of the girls who slept with Henry Crawford.”

“Maybe she does, but there’s no way Lydia planned an entire blackmail without some direction. I’m sorry. She’s our sister and I love her, but she has the attention span of a gnat.”

“You’re being too harsh.”

“And you’re being too understanding. So I’d say all is well in the universe.” Elizabeth smiled.

Jane laughed. “So, what are we going to do? We need a plan before mom arrives.”

“We’re going to make Lydia realize her only option is to stop protecting George.”

“And how do we do that?”

“Don’t know yet. I was going to start by badgering her constantly.”

“You know she’s as stubborn as you, Liz. I doubt that’ll work.” Jane paused. “I don’t suppose you could tell her what you know of his past.”

Elizabeth’s eyes darkened. “No. I couldn’t betray Will’s confidence.”

“Right. We’ll have to find another way.”

“Carter and I will keep investigating George’s connections to Henry Crawford. Something is bound to come up.”

“Let’s hope,” said Jane. “What an awful mess.”

“Are you ok?” Elizabeth reached out to squeeze her sister’s arm. “I know this has been hard for you.”

“I couldn’t breathe for a full minute when I heard. Charles had to get me a paper bag. I…- I could see her entire future flash in front of my eyes. She’s so young. I know that’s not an excuse, but she really has a good heart and just doesn’t have the best judgment. I don’t want her to pay such a hefty price for being misguided.” Jane looked at the ground for a moment, lost in her thoughts. “I just don’t understand how this happened.”

“There have been warning signs, Jane.”

“I know.”

“No one has been able to reach her for years. She’s lived this vapid existence since she was 15.”

“She’s still our sister, and my heart aches for her.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Yes, I know. I feel sad too. I just can’t focus on that. Right now, the only thing that matters is getting the facts right. And righteous anger always fuels me way more than sorrow.”

Jane giggled. “I miss you so much. You sure you can’t move back to New York?”

“You know I would if I could. But my heart…- it belongs at QED.”

“I know. And I’m glad you found a place that deserves you,” said Jane. “I couldn’t have parted with you for anything less.” She paused. “How was the Board meeting?”

“Productive.”

“Is it done?”

Elizabeth nodded. “Sold our souls at the altar of capitalism.”

“Still raw, huh?”

“Yep.”

“You’ll get used to it.”

“We have to.”

“Can’t imagine how much fun you guys are when you don’t get an influx of millions of dollars.”

“We’re pretty insufferable, no matter what,” said Elizabeth with a smile. “In all honesty, I feel strangely excited, optimistic even. We have essentially unlimited resources at our disposal with limited editorial interference. Imagine how many more stories we can tell.”

“It sounds like you negotiated a good deal.”

“I think so. We were out-lawyered, for sure, but Will and Ed developed some kind of weird bond that no one else could figure out. It gave us all confidence in the process. Strategic move on Ed’s part, I must say.”

Jane smiled. “Will brought his best self to the negotiating table?”

An image of Will with his collared shirt, sleeves rolled up, poring over a stack of papers flickered in front of her eyes. She cleared her throat. “He can be charming when he chooses.”

Jane looked at her for a second. “How has it been? Working with him. You don’t talk about him much.”

Elizabeth felt her pulse quicken. “There isn’t much to say. He’s smart and capable and a shrewd negotiator. Pemberley is lucky to have him. We’ve…-- ah, become friends.”

“Friends?” Jane sounded dubious.

“Yes, friends,” said Elizabeth firmly. “We had to work together. A lot. And when we weren’t working, we were arguing about history and politics and the hopelessness of modern media. And we cooked…- well, he cooked. I ate. He’s a really good cook, did you know that? And he made me watch this ridiculous show. Battlestar Galactica. Never tell him I said so, but it’s actually kind of great. The best part of watching that show was his laugh. He has this laugh…- it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It only comes out in his unguarded moments when he thinks no one is watching. I think I love the sound of that laugh. You know what I mean? It made me forget all the things that I didn’t know I still remembered.” Elizabeth blushed. “I…- It’s been nice getting to know him.”

Jane nodded, a small smile on her face. “And have you said any of this to him?”

“Like I said, there’s nothing to say.” Elizabeth gathered the flustered thoughts that were cascading out of her consciousness. “We’re friends and colleagues and now that the deal is done, he can return to his life in New York.”

“Is that what you want?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is that what you want? For him to come back to New York.”

“It’s not up to me where he chooses to spend his time.”

“That’s not what I asked. Liz, it’s me. Talk to me.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I don’t know what I want. Besides, it doesn’t matter. He made it clear he’s not interested.”

“Really? When?”

“When he heard about Lydia.”

“You told him?”

“Not by choice. He was there when you called. I wasn’t in a position to censor my response.”

“Oh,” said Jane. “I’m sure you misinterpreted him.”

“I did not. It’s fine, Jane. For the best, probably. I don’t know what I think could have happened. I’m at peace. And I’m happy. I’m finally happy. I don’t need any distractions.”

“It doesn’t have to be so binary…-”

“Jane, drop it.” The edge in her voice was unmistakable.

So Jane did.

~~

From: William Darcy [william.darcy@pemberley.com]
Date: November 26, 2014 04:21 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Call me back

Why aren’t you picking up your phone? I need to talk to you. I’ve been working on this Lydia situation and I have some thoughts. She needs to negotiate a deal ASAP. Assume you’re working on it? I have leads. Call me.
SubjectAuthorPosted

A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

TanishaNovember 20, 2018 04:28AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

Lucy J.November 22, 2018 06:57AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

AlidaNovember 21, 2018 09:51AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

FitzroyNovember 21, 2018 12:04AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 31

KarenteaNovember 20, 2018 05:10PM



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