|Release date:||August 15, 2013|
|Next chapter:||Loose Tongues|
And so our detectives found themselves back at Goth manor with Cassandra and Don. "Um, Ms. Goth, if you don't mind, we'd like to go through the study, city hall, and Bella's belongings to see if we can find more clues to the murder," Ridge asked carefully. It was a fairly heavy question. While it was snooping of the largest kind, it was important, but still some people refused. Cassandra seemed like she might fall under the later category. She looked irked. She looked from her shoes to Don to the detectives, bit her lip, inwardly swore 'Justice if it means disrespect', and nodded. "Thank you," Drake said. "I think we'll start here and look through city hall files tomorrow if the search warrant goes through."
Cassandra first led Drake and Olivia to the third floor, through a hallway, and into a purply-blue room that was spotlessly clean. Drake frowned. Messy rooms were easier; they showed both what was used most often and what was put away most carefully. Cassandra briskly told them she'd rather stay downstairs with Don, and left saying, "The left door leads to the study, to the right, a bathroom door. Mortimer shouldn't come in; he's changed bedrooms after Bella was shot. Let me know when you find something." Ridge looked agitated still over the Cassandra-Don engagement, but via phone she had left Don, and now it was time to be professional. "Alright," she said to her investigative partner. "Where do I start?" Drake shrugged. "I don't know. You're a woman. Where do ladies keep their secret stuff?" Ridge immediately headed for the vanity that sat against the far wall. "Men never check the vanities," she was saying as she reached for the drawer handles. Locked, naturally. She got down on her knees and stood on tiptoe for a few seconds before she discovered a fancy key tucked in the crevice between the back of the mirror and the frame. After unlocking all of them, she did a brief once-over of each drawer before sitting down and inspecting individually. The first's contents were socks and underclothes and tights (etc.), the next contained jewelry, the next various papers and envelopes. The next had two books, one medium, one large. Drawer Five had more articles of wispy clothing. #6 had a tidy pile of nothing but checks and cash. A discovery made her raise her eyebrows. Picking one leaf-patterned piece of paper up, she saw it was made out for §500,000, by a man named Goopy GilsCarbo. It wasn't the amount or the weird name that surprised her. It was the owner of the name itself. Goopy was renowned for his riches, and for some reason, some of those simoleons flowed to Bella. But why? Suddenly, something clicked. It was about Sam GilsCarbo. Maybe it was a fund that got passed on to the illegitimate son, maybe it was about keeping it under Bella's designer hat, maybe Goopy thought she was keeping Sam in the mansion and he payed child support to a woman who didn't have the child with her. Olivia was learning not to underestimate Bella in any sneaky field. But she'd get back to all the stacks of simoleons. She was going through the drawers in order. Just then Drake came back into the room. "Got anything?" Ridge inquired. "Not much," he rejoined. "I was talking to the servants about their late boss, and they all told me she was a generous mistress, a loving mother, an affectionate wife, a conscientious missus-of-the-house, a gracious celebrity, yada yada yada. A few of the dumber ones almost told me something, but the brighter staff covered for them. It was disappointing. Did you find anything?" "I was about to start really digging into the vanity. I looked briefly at each drawer, and that's all. In the last one I found--Guess what?--Hunks and tons of simoleons, both in checks and cash.You know that Sam GilsCarbo? There's a check for five hundred grand in there from the kid's father." "Oh my god," Drake said. "Why's he sending some of his dough over to her?" Olivia shrugged. "I don't know. I've got the feeling they had an ongoing affair, not a simple fling. I'm curious, though: If she has a giant safe around the house, why keep so much money in a drawer in her bedroom? Is it a secret stash for an income Mortimer was never supposed to know about? Is she worried he won't take kindly to the names on the checks? This is such a juicy case." Drake laughed and agreed. "I'm gonna go back to doing the social investigation. You stay here." Olivia nodded and turned back to the vanity as he walked away. She then proceeded to pull out every drawer and dump them all out, one by one. The first drawer yielded nothing but lingerie. At the bottom of the jewelery drawer, weighed down by lockets and pendants and bracelets, was an envelope. She opened it carefully and, using her fingers like forceps, pulled out a no-nonsense sheet of white paper. She unfolded it and read what would have been pathetic if it wasn't so sorrowful:
Though I still love you, I know you have destroyed me. I've almost ruined my family life for you. My oldest son will never forgive me, and my wife will never forgive you. I can't help it, though: I still love you. No matter how cruel you can be, I still adore you. I will keep and have kept longing for you, even after you told me I was really nothing to you. Please, tell me that someone so beautiful, adored, respected, and kind as you can't have really meant that. You asked me to go out with you, you flirted and complimented and almost kissed me. You are too perfect to have really meant what you said when you broke my heart. After all you and I did together, I know you better than that. You wouldn't have just led me on when you knew that it could ruin my life.
I have nothing left but a fragile hope that you truly love me. My family no longer respects me, and neither do I. Unless I know in two days you feel the same way for me that I do for you, I'm going to kill myself. I'm sorry to burden you with this, but it's true. This is the way I feel, and I had to tell you. With love,
The letter slipped out of Ridge's motionless fingers. It was actual, physical proof of more than one thing. One, Skip's death was really a suicide. Two, Bella had carried on an affair with him, and she led him on in it. It wasn't a fabrication by a woman who refused to accept that her husband was guilty. Three, Bella really let a man die rather than help him. She obviously received this letter and hid it here, though whether to hide guilt or to hide an affair was not clear. But either way, Bella didn't warn the police, comfort Skip, or do anything about it. She might as well have sent a rejection letter, or held his head under the water herself. In a way, Bella was a murderer. Olivia did her best to overcome the shock of the expose of Bella's true self and to be professional. She moved on to the next drawer and picked up a few. She saw that a portion of the stack was obituaries. One was Skip's. Another was a man named Tony MacDiarmid. Gunther Goth's obit was in there too. As Ridge went through, she saw that the cause of each death wasn't natural. Gunther was poisoned, several were shot, like Tony, and Michael Bachelor died in a fire. It clicked. Bella had a collection of obituaries of the men she'd done away with. For some reason she'd wanted all of these dead, even her brother and father-in-law. Olivia was horrified, but set them aside and dug further into the bin. What she found was amazing. A letter from an assassin saying "I'm done. Gimme my cash". More obits. Love letters with pressed flowers. This drawer was Bella's little scorecard of victory, in love and war. If Olivia was right about half the stuff in this one drawer, Bella was more a monster than the person who was responsible for her death. All she'd done, all she'd had done, not to mention all she was going to do, would have gotten her killed sooner or later. Ridge swallowed and moved on to drawer #4. She lugged the large book out of its place with the medium one. She flipped through the smaller of the two and saw that first it was newspaper clippings. Back twenty-five years, into Bella's teenage days. A guy was found dead, bludgeoned, in the Bachelor home. Police were investigating whether or not it was Bella's fault. Olivia wondered if her murderous streak could possibly have started that early. The gilt word Journal on the other book caught her eye, and she opened to big block writing that told that it was Bella Bachelor's "dyry" and she was five. After a while of babble about her first day of school, Olivia speed-read to the week of the date on the newspaper clipping. The second entry in that week was longer than the others, about a day in winter when Bella was fourteen. It told about what happened when a creep broke into the house. He started to chase Bella through the house until she got a meat tenderizer from the kitchen and managed to beat him to death with it. The next entry said the cops were investigating, and though it was self-defense, word would get around. Bella couldn't bear that. The words she wrote made it clear that she had several problems with insecurity, with her family, with herself. She said that she was ignored unless she went above and beyond, that she never got what she wanted. She felt useless unless everyone approved of her. To her, image was everything. The results were displayed in the next entry, which was shorter, but more heavy.
I did it again today.
I don't think it was right this time. It was self defense, again, but in a different way. A reporter came over, the tan kind with the high cheekbones and the really high heels who only does big cases. The kind all of SimNation hears when she talks. So when I slipped up over her fast-paced questions and implied it was me who killed the guy, I freaked out. She thanked me for my time and listening, but I saw how triumphant she was. She was going to ruin my reputation and get me in even more trouble than I was already in. So I got Daddy's mounted rifle off of the wall, which he'd set there since they guy broke into our house. I shot her down and buried her in the pond banks up the street. I can't write more. Never mind. I'm still freaked out about it, even though this is the most successful I've ever been.
There was a lull of seven years, and the next entry read,
I don't have much to say today. Nothing really happened. I stopped recording the kills I made ever since Mike almost read how I killed the creep. But now I'm Mortimer's fiancee and business partner and roommate, and I'm free to say that murder is the best way to get what you want, if one can pull it off, like when I killed the other girl the filmmakers of my movie were wanting to hire instead of me. It's also good for keeping things how you want them. For example: A guy named Tony MacDiarmid almost spilled the beans about my business practices, so I had him shot. Sweet guy, nice lover. Too bad he couldn't keep a secret. No more for now.
It was horrifying to see how easily Bella settled into the role of a killer, a saboteur, a fraud, a monster. In the little change between 14 and 21, she had become perfectly comfortable with it. For a brief moment, Olivia stood in the shoes of whoever killed Bella and knew that it wasn't such a marvel they did it. With a dose of personal grievance, she might have done in Bella herself. Bella wasn't doing any good for anybody when she was alive. She was a psychopath.