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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Bennett Residence

Elizabeth sat in the living room of the Bennett house, listening intently as Miguel described the sequence of events that had led to Charity's institutionalization.
"…So she had some sort of message on her wall, written in lipstick…and she supposedly hacked up Kay's clothes in the middle of the night-"
"It's not supposedly, Miguel," Kay said dully from where she was leaning against the wall, "I SAW her with my own two eyes."
"I just can't believe she would do something like that," Miguel shook his head.
"Neither can I," Elizabeth said, glancing pointedly at Kay.
Kay narrowed her eyes and looked away, "She HAS been acting weird lately."
Miguel shook his head stubbornly, "No. I've never seen any indication that something like this could happen."
"How about all those crazy premonitions she's been having?" Kay exclaimed, frustrated.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, "Premonitions?"
"She seems to think that she's psychic or something," Kay said in an exasperated tone of voice. "If you ask me, she's a lot better off being locked up."
"Kay, I don't believe that for a second," Miguel sounded slightly angry.
"I ONLY mean that she's less of a danger to herself," Kay backpedaled, "And to others. I mean, I'm only glad it was my CLOTHES that she decided to attack and not me!"

Elizabeth stood up, carefully pushing aside the slice of pie that Grace Bennett had so graciously offered her.
"I want to speak to you," she said sharply, grabbing Kay's arm and pulling her aside.
Left alone, Miguel shrugged and picked up the slice of pie.
"What do you want?" Kay yanked her arm out of Elizabeth's grasp.
"I want to know how you pulled this one off."
Kay feigned indignance, "Excuse me? It's not MY fault that my cousin went nuts."
Elizabeth bit her lip, "Like I said, I don't know how you managed this, but rest assured that I WILL figure it out. And I will make sure that everyone in this town sees you for exactly what you are."
"And what exactly would that be?"
"A self-absorbed monster who feeds off the misfortune of others."
"Are you sure you don't have me confused with YOUR family?" Kay shot back.
Elizabeth looked stunned, "WHAT did you say?"
"I think you heard me," she said shortly, turning on her heel, "I've got nothing more to say to you."
And with that she flounced out of the room, careful to keep her smug expression out of Miguel's line of vision.
Elizabeth shook her head slowly, amazed.




Crane Mansion

Amanda flung open the door to reveal Noah, who was standing before her with a somber expression.
"Gee," she said, "And I thought I looked glum. What's the matter with you?"
Noah shook his head, "Amanda…Is it just me, or is this entire town COMPLETELY screwed up?"
She raised an eyebrow, "While I may have some doubts about your sanity, in this case I'd have to agree and say it's DEFINITELY the town."
"I thought so," he sighed and flopped down on the couch in the living room.
"You didn't answer my earlier question," Amanda said, crossing her arms, "What's got you so morose?"
He looked down at his hands, "It's just…I come home from school, find that my mother had a long lost twin sister who died, which no one bothered to tell me about, by the way. Then I find out I've got a cousin who's living in the house. And NOW to top it all off, aforementioned cousin was just shipped off to the mental institution because she tried to murder my siblings!"
"Sounds like you've got some problems Romeo."

He shook his head again, "I just don't understand it! My mother is a bit eccentric, but she's a nice person. And my father is the chief of police! How in the world did we end up with such a screwed up family dynamic?"
"You think that's bad? Try living here."
"Do you have a witty comeback for everything?"
"Would you like to test me on that?"
He sighed, "Amanda, my cousin is in the mental institution. Her boyfriend is hovering around like a lost puppy dog…to be honest, I don't think he's LEFT my house once in the past two weeks. And now that she's gone, jeeeez."
"No wonder Pilar always has leftovers that she brings here."
"I'm sure my mother is glad that there is one other person on the face of the earth that appreciates her cooking."
"He could be one of those rare people who was born without taste buds."
He sighed again, "Anyhow, now that I've unloaded all of my problems onto you, I've come over to see if you still want to try and figure out that secret."
Amanda smirked, "Do you even have to ask? My brother locked my parents in the study. They shouldn't be a problem."
"ETHAN did that?"
"Of course not!" she scoffed, "William is the only one with the intelligence to figure out which way to turn the key in the lock."
"Then what are we waiting for?"
Amanda snickered, "You take the north wing of the house. I'll take the south."
"Meet in the middle?"
"We've got a plan."




Bwizville Manor

Paloma sighed and glanced at her reflection in the mirror outside of the ballroom. Her black dress complemented her figure perfectly, and her long, straight brown hair hung down her back. Her aunt Maria had assured her that she looked wonderful when she left the house.
"Well well well," Sara said, grinning as she came up behind her, "Ready for the big event?"
"I am a fifteen year old girl. I shouldn't be subjected to these stuffy social events yet."
"Get over it. And besides, YOU don't have to stay the whole night. Once your brother comes to get you, I'll be left here to fend for myself for two weeks."
"And I'll be fending for myself somewhere else," Paloma snorted, "Neither option sounds appealing."
"At least YOU'LL get two weeks vacation from old Ruth Green in the filing department."
Paloma shuddered at the mention of the perpetually cranky old woman who worked at the hospital, "Thank god for small favors."
"Now let's go before we miss the whole party!"
Sara dragged Paloma through the door.

Some oldies tune was playing as the two young girls made their way through the crowd of well dressed people. A speckling of people their age were gathered around the punch bowl, and they hurried to join them.
"Oh god," Sara muttered, "Look at old Ruth Green!"
Paloma glanced at the dance floor and saw Ruth dancing with her senile old husband, Rufus. Rufus was swinging her around the dance floor, laughing gleefully. The old woman looked less than enthused.
"Please, please, PLEASE let Luis come early," she muttered as she watched the old couple with a morbid fascination.
"I thought you didn't WANT to see your family!" Sara exclaimed, gulping down a glass of punch, "make up your mind already!"
"Anything is better than this."
"Hey look, that secretary is here. Maybe romance is in the works after all."
Paloma made a disgusted noise, "Sara, quit trying to play matchmaker for two people you've never met. From what I've heard, my brother is completely devastated over this. I REALLY don't think he wants to meet anyone right now."
"Fine," she sighed, grabbing a potato puff off of a tray.

They sat in abject boredom for more than two hours, watching people get up and make fools out of themselves on the dance floor.
"THANK GOD!" Paloma suddenly yelled, leaping up.
Sara followed her gaze to the entranceway. She let out a low whistle, "The pictures do not do your brother justice."
Paloma whacked her in the arm, "Would you stop?"
"Sorry!"
"Luis!" Paloma yelled waving her arms, "Luis, over here!"
She watched Luis try and make his way through the crowd, laughing as he almost got trampled by the overly enthusiastic Rufus Green, who was still twirling his wife around on the dance floor.
"Hey Paloma," he said with a smile.
She smiled back, "Bout time."
They embraced.
Sara grinned, "Awww…a Kodak moment."
Paloma sighed, "Luis, this is my friend Sara. She has a hard time keeping her mouth shut sometimes."
"I know people like that," Luis bit his lip, a faraway look in his eye.
"Can we leave?" Paloma begged, "Please, can we leave?"
"You're not going to hear any arguments from me," Luis' smile was forced, "I hate these kinds of parties."
"Let me just go get my bag. Stay here, and don't let Sara bore you to death," Paloma dashed off.

Sara grinned, "Me? Boring? Never."
"SARA!" Paloma suddenly yelled, "Stop hitting on my brother and come help me find my bag!"
Sara sighed and headed off after her friend.
Luis, left alone for the moment, leaned against the punch table, closing his eyes. This was going to be harder than he'd first imagined. He could only hope that they could get away from the party before—
"And now," the DJ said brightly, "I'd like to invite all you happy couples out here to try your hand at the tango!"
Oh god, he couldn't do this. Luis glanced down at his hands, which were shaking. Turning abruptly, he scanned the crowds for his sister, hoping beyond hope that they could make a hasty exit before he completely lost it.
"Care to tango?" a voice came from behind him.
He froze. This was too much. He couldn't take any more…"I'm sorry," he said, his tone flat and not encouraging any further conversation, "I don't tango."
"Oh come on, I'm sure you couldn't look any more ridiculous than that old man out there."
Luis gritted his teeth, "I didn't say I COULDN'T tango, I said I DON'T."
He turned to face the person who had inadvertently caused him to have an internal meltdown, and suddenly he felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. The room spun around him and he was having a hard time getting enough oxygen to his lungs. Standing before him was the most wonderful, amazing sight he had ever seen in his life.
"Sheridan," he breathed.




Crane Mansion

Ivy let out a loud, heaving sigh as Julian downed his tenth consecutive glass of brandy.
"You keep that up, and you'll pass out," she finally said.
Julian scowled and refilled his glass, "At least I wouldn't have to deal with YOU."
"Julian, we have been locked in this room for five hours straight!" Ivy waved her arms in the air. "It's dark outside!"
"How would you know?" he asked with an over exaggerated glare, "The window's boarded up."
"Julian, one tends to realize that when it reaches ten-o'clock at night, that it is dark out," Ivy said pointedly.
Refusing to grant her that victory, Julian headed back towards the alcohol.
Ivy yawned loudly, "Your presence is boring me. I'm going to sleep."
"Where?" Julian asked in a bored tone.
Ivy glanced purposefully at the couch that sat in the middle of the study.
Julian followed her gaze.
They both eyed the couch with determined expressions, pausing once to look back at each other.
Then they pounced.

Ivy reached the couch first, flinging herself on top of the pillows and holding onto the armrest for dear life.
Julian calmly picked her up and deposited her on the floor, stretching out on the couch.
Ivy harrumphed and stood up, whacking him with a pillow.
Julian raised an eyebrow but did not budge.
Ivy sighed and sat down at Julian's desk, burying her face in her hands. After a few moments, Julian began to snore loudly.
"Oh this is too much," she snapped to herself, eyeing the letter opener on the desk. As tempting as the thought was, she was at most times rather rational, and decided that killing Julian wasn't logical. There were many fates worse than death…

Julian stirred at the sound of something rustling, and then at the sound of glass clinking. He opened his eyes to the inky blackness of the darkened room, barely making out a figure at the other end, hunched over something.
"Ivy? Is that you?" he called nervously.
His wife did not answer, merely headed over towards the boarded up window. Moments later, there was another, unidentifiable sound coming from that area.
"Ivy?" Julian called again, squinting in the darkness. Finally he leaned over and switched on a lamp.
What he saw made him cringe with horror.
Ivy was bent over the window, having pushed one of the boards out slightly. She was dumping flask after flask of brandy out into the cool night air.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Julian squealed, leaping up and running over to the window.
Ivy blinked up at him innocently, "Why, Julian, I was simply doing some spring cleaning!"
He seized the last crystal flask from her hands, cradling the half-filled bottle of amber liquid as if it were a baby.
Ivy pursed her lips in amusement. Then she ran to and seized possession of the now vacated couch.




Bennett Residence

"Okay…" Elizabeth said as she came walking into the living room from the kitchen, "I've got a little more information."
Miguel stood up quickly, "What did you find out?"
"Well…" she sighed, "Grace Bennett was reluctant to tell me very much, because she figured the whole story would upset us kids, but by resorting to desperate measures, I was able to find out the name of the hospital they sent Charity to."
"What were the desperate measures?" Miguel asked grimly.
Elizabeth grimaced, "Eating nearly an entire tomato soup cake."
Jessica, who had just come into the room, shuddered with horror, "Oh god, she baked another one of those?"
"Don't worry," Elizabeth said glumly, "there won't be enough left for her to torture YOU with."
"Thank god!"
"What about Charity?" Miguel asked impatiently.
"She's being detained at the…um…Bwizville Center for Mental and Emotional Welfare."
"Bwizville?" Miguel asked hopefully, "That's where my younger sister, Paloma, lives! I'll call her and see if she can find out something-"

Kay sighed loudly from the doorway, "Miguel, your sister isn't IN Bwizville anymore. She's on her way home. Even I knew that."
"Paloma's coming home?"
"Yes," Kay nodded, "Your brother went to pick her up. He left this morning. I was talking to your mother before she went to the Crane Mansion."
"Luis left?"
Elizabeth poked Miguel in the arm to get his attention, "Miguel, it's a moot point now. The question is, what are WE going to do about Charity?"
"Nothing," Kay said loudly, "She's dangerous. I say we just leave her there until she gets well."
"Kay," Miguel said impatiently, "There's nothing wrong with Charity. This is just some big misunderstanding!"
"You weren't here before when she went mad! The men in the white coats came to take her away!"
Jessica conceded reluctantly, "She was acting pretty strange."
"We're going to help her," Miguel said firmly, "Charity is the love of my life."
Kay made a disgusted sound and stomped out of the room.
"Looks like we're on our own," Elizabeth said with a sigh.
Miguel nodded reluctantly.




Crane Mansion

Noah sighed as he leafed through some documents that were left lying in plain sight on Julian's dresser in his bedroom.
"Papers with proof of illegal stock trades…" he smirked, "This is interesting stuff, but doesn't explain my father's connection to all of this."
With a sigh, he put the papers back where he found them and continued searching.
"Nothing here," he said finally.

Amanda rummaged through her mother's closet, harrumphing in annoyance as she came up empty handed. There was nothing there that could explain Ivy's unusual behavior.
With a sigh, she headed back down the stairs, running into Noah in the foyer.
"Anything?" he asked hopefully.
"Nothing, nada, zero, zip, zilch," was her disappointed response.
"Maybe it was just a coincidence," Noah sighed.
"No…believe me…there's something we're missing."
"We've torn this mansion apart for more than five hours Amanda. There's nothing here that sheds light on anything."
"We'll have to try your house then."
Noah nodded, "I'll try to clear everyone out tomorrow. I don't know about that Miguel though…he NEVER goes home!"
"Well…get rid of him somehow," Amanda said.
Noah nodded, "Will do. I should probably be heading home…it's late."
"Yeah…you're right. See you tomorrow?"
"Bright and early."
With a smile, Amanda leaned in and kissed him softly. Noah grinned back before turning and heading out of the mansion, whistling as he walked.

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