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But the stalker thing wasn't holding water well either. The doctors had already ruled out poison in Nathan's case, and it was obvious that what Thomas had done, he'd done to himself. Still, she promised herself that she would call that detective, Walt something, who had taken Thomas's statement about his own suspicions and the possibility of foul play regarding Nathan's catatonia.

But that would have to wait. Already, Emily had too many things to think about today. Things that needed to be done.

Things she didn't want to do.

Refreshed by her shower and feeling much more comfortable in a clean pair of jeans and a magenta cotton top, Emily slipped behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and stared at the cellular phone. She was prone to doing business in the car, using that otherwise wasted time as best she could.

Purposely moving her eyes away from the phone, Emily put the car into reverse and pulled out of the driveway. The entire ride north on Broadway toward the hospital, Emily was hyperaware of the calls that needed to be made. But before she would make those calls, she needed to see her son. And she needed to see Thomas.

In Thomas's hospital room, which was two floors below Nathan's, Emily stared at the pallid features of her ex-husband. The urge to curse him had waned, but she could not escape the anxiety his condition caused. She wanted to ask him again, to whisper to him though she knew he could not answer. She had to know why he had done it. But she wasn't alone, so she said nothing.

"How is he?" she asked.

Dr. Gershmann, who had been tending to Nathan, seemed to deflate when Emily asked the question. They'd come in together only moments ago, and the doctor had obviously been waiting for that question. Rather than answer, however, he inclined his head to defer the question to the young woman who stood at his side. She had the blackest, most perfect skin Emily had ever seen. When she smiled, Emily could not help but smile in return.

"I'm Callie Cardiff," the woman said pleasantly, moving forward with her hand extended. Emily shook it, and noticed simultaneously the surprising firmness of her grip and the fact that she was much shorter than she had originally appeared. Charisma, Emily thought. It did wonders.

"I'm the doctor handling your ex-husband's case," Dr. Cardiff went on. "To answer your question, he's stable. I'm not going to use the word 'fine.' He's far from fine."

Emily glanced over at Thomas. "The pills?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

"Phenobarbital," Dr. Cardiff replied. "Washed down with scotch, apparently. If there had been just a few more in that bottle, he'd probably be dead already. According to his records, he'd had the medication for seizures, and that means he would have been given the usual warnings. But he must have known what he had might not be enough to kill him, so his actions puzzle me. Nobody takes a fistful of barbiturates and washes them down with whiskey unless suicide was their goal."

Emily stared at her. Whatever charm the woman possessed was gone. She almost made a comment about how the real puzzle was Dr. Cardiff's bedside manner, but she remained silent. Taking that silence as her cue to continue, Dr. Cardiff moved toward Thomas's bed.

"We almost lost him during the night," the doctor said.

With a start, Emily looked at Thomas, and then over at Dr. Gershmann. She felt a lot more at ease with him than Cardiff, but Gershmann was a pediatrician.

Still, it was Gershmann who explained, hands on his belly as usual, as though he were keeping it from exploding even further. "Your ex-husband experienced respiratory failure shortly after you brought him in. He's stabilized now, so it probably won't happen again."

"Probably?" Emily asked.

"At this point, we're doing everything we can to get him out of this," Dr. Cardiff explained. "Maybe I'm an optimist, but given the actual number of pills he took, I'd have thought he might have come around already. The longer he stays in a coma, the less of a chance that he'll simply wake up. It's really just a wait and see situation now."

Emily shook her head slowly, sighed, and tried to keep the tears at bay. "Just like Nathan," she said.

"Not exactly," Dr. Gershmann replied. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to come down here and speak with you. Nathan's case differs significantly from his father's. Mr. Randall has done something radical to his body. The reaction is severe and possibly fatal."

Emily blinked at that.

"Nathan is perfectly healthy," Gershmann added. "All our tests confirm it. We've sent his MRI results and other lab reports to specialists in Boston and Chicago, and nobody has ever seen anything like it. For all intents and purposes, Nathan is fine. His brain activity shows a very normal and very wide-awake pattern. Now it isn't unusual for a comatose person to show high brain activity — the imagination and the sub-conscious are powerful things. But the level here is extraordinary."

"Which all boils down to you still not knowing what's wrong with my son," Emily said bitterly. "There's nothing wrong with him except that he won't wake up. You're just waiting on a visit from Princess Charming, is that it?"

Gershmann frowned, seemed put off, and Dr. Cardiff picked up Thomas's chart, completely ignoring her.

"Now, Ms. Randall," Dr. Gershmann said grumpily, stroking his mustache, "there's really no need to . . ."

"No need?" Emily said, her mind reeling. "You tell me the only thing that matters in my life has been taken away from me and you can't figure out why, and the only person who could understand what that's doing to me decides to overdose . . . and then you want me to be calm, never mind be fucking civil?"

Part of her was revolted by this tirade. The doctors were doing their best. She knew that. But another part of her needed it so desperately. Needed to vent on someone. Gershmann and Cardiff just looked at her a moment, matching looks of concern on their faces. Which only made it worse.

"I'm . . . I'm sorry, I . . ." Emily began. Then she waved at the air as though an insect had been harrying her.

"Not at all, Ms. Randall." Dr. Gershmann stepped toward her, effectively eclipsing Cardiff, who seemed relieved at the rescue. "Would you like to go upstairs and see Nathan now?"

Emily chewed her lower lip. Her purse sat on a brown cushioned chair in the corner of Thomas's hospital room. She stared at it for a long moment. Her flip phone was inside the purse. As was her small personal phone book.

"I'll be up in a little while," she said absently. "I've got some business to take care of, first, and I might as well do it here."

Emily went over to sit in a chair next to Thomas's bed. There was a strange smell in the room, as if something were burning. She frowned and leaned in toward Thomas, somehow not surprised when she realized the smell came from him. He'd been nowhere near a fire, of course, but his clothes smelled of smoke.

The doctors excused themselves and turned toward the door. When Gershmann held the door for Cardiff, Emily glanced over at Thomas and wondered what the odds were that something like this could happen to anyone. Her son and her ex-husband, so near to one another and yet far, far away from anyone.

What were the odds?

"Dr. Cardiff?" she asked sharply, causing both physicians to pause at the door to the room.

Out of the direct light from the room, Dr. Cardiff's skin looked even darker. Sable black, with a sheen so distracting that Emily felt the momentary urge to touch her face. Her eyes so dark, her nose so aquiline and perfect, her cheekbones high.

She looked like a bird.

A crow.

Emily blinked several times, then cleared her throat. "Have you performed an MRI on Thomas?"

"We have one scheduled for later today, actually," Dr. Cardiff replied. "We want to get an idea how much damage he may have done to himself."

"I'd like to know the results," Emily said. "I'd also like you to monitor his brain waves for patterns similar to what you're finding with Nathan."

Dr. Gershmann stepped more completely into the room now, and both of them looked at her oddly. "Ms. Randall," he said, "I've told you there's no similarity between your son's condition and his father's."

"Even if there were," Dr. Cardiff said, none too tenderly, "you're his ex-wife. We'd need his next of kin to make those kinds of requests."

Emily stared back. "My divorce was quite amiable. Thomas and I never revoked our mutual powers of attorney or our health care proxies. Unorthodox, but that's Thomas. That health care proxy makes this a request as if it were coming from your patient himself. Please do as I ask."

"To be honest, now that it seems we won't have a quick recovery, we'll be monitoring brain activity in any case," Cardiff replied. "But there's no reason to expect any similarity. Do you know of any reason we may be unaware of?"

"Just please keep me informed," Emily said, unwilling to respond to the question. To do so would mean asking herself the same question. And that was something she just couldn't do.

Not now.

"Will do," Cardiff agreed. Then she turned and walked from the room, casting a strange look at Gershmann. A look Emily was sure questioned her own mental stability.

Well they needn't worry, she thought. She wouldn't be doing anything as crazy and stupid as overdosing on barbiturates and booze. Once again, she looked at Thomas and smelled smoke, like wood burning in a fireplace. When she looked up, Dr. Gershmann had also left, and she was alone with her ex-husband.

Emily stood and went over to the ugly brown chair and reached into her purse to retrieve her cell phone. Her first call was to Lorena at work. Things were moving along fine, Lorena reported. Not as smoothly as they might have if Emily were in the office, but they were managing. There were questions to be answered, Emily's confirmation to be obtained regarding new hires. Lorena would messenger the paperwork to the house, and Emily could sign everything there. Lorena herself was hoping for a vacation in October, and Emily promised it to her, even if things hadn't changed with Nathan. At that point, she figured she'd be back at work anyway.

Nathan lay with his eyes taped shut in a bed two floors above her, and life went on around him. The doctors hadn't said anything yet, but Emily suspected that if Gershmann and his cronies weren't able to figure anything out soon, they would end up suggesting Nathan be moved to a chronic care facility.

They were thoughts of the future that Emily could barely afford to have at the moment. Not the way her eyes burned with uncried tears. Not the way her heart surged in her chest.

But they were questions that had to be dealt with. And she realized now, truly understood for the first time, that they were questions she was going to have to deal with alone, even if Thomas recovered.

If. Too many ifs, she thought. Thomas wasn't her husband anymore, but the thought of him dying was too much for her, so she pushed it away.

"You stupid son of a bitch," she whispered.

Then she withdrew the small black phone book from her purse and looked up the number for Chris Lebo, the attorney who had represented her during the divorce proceedings. She dialed his number on the cell, and got him on the third ring.

"Savage and Winter," he said.

"Hi, Chris, it's Emily Randall," she replied, and let her eyes drift across Thomas's still form and out the window. "How are you?"

"All work and no play, Emily," Lebo replied. "What can I do for you today?"

Emily paused. Her gaze shot back over to Thomas. She studied his face. His motionless eyelids. No dreams for Thomas — not right now. Maybe never again.

"Some things have happened that you should know about," she began. "I'm going to want to get paperwork going right away to get sole custody of Nathan."

She could almost hear Lebo's tiny gasp of surprise. "Wow," the lawyer said. "Maybe you'd better start at the beginning."

In the waning hours of the afternoon, most of which she had spent in Nathan's room reading aloud to him from a book of Grimm Fairy Tales, Emily realized she hadn't checked for messages all day. Once again breaking out her cell phone, she dialed her home number. There were seven messages: two from Joe; two from Lorena; one from Thomas's sister, just checking in; and two messages from Francesca Cavallaro. She was still trying to close the deal with Fox, and she needed to know who to speak to. She claimed to feel badly about disturbing Emily at such a difficult time, but the deal could be important for Nathan's future.

Or so she said.

And Emily had no doubt that she meant it all. But for Francesca, there was more at stake. There was her own commission, of course. But there was also the fact that, to Emily's knowledge, Frankie had never been involved in a deal this big. Fox was huge. And she wanted to make sure the deal didn't fall apart. Emily couldn't blame her.

With a long sigh and a shake of her head, Emily called Francesca, expecting her machine. She was unprepared when a live human being answered on the other end.

"Francesca Cavallaro."

"Oh. Hi. Frankie, it's Emily."

"Emily, thanks for calling back," Francesca said instantly. "How's Thomas?"

"For the moment, he's stable. They're still not sure what the long-term prognosis is," she replied.

Francesca let out a long breath that was audible over the phone. "Please keep me posted, okay? As for this other thing, I'm sorry, but I didn't know who else to call, and this is . . ."

"Huge. Yeah. I get it." Emily's voice was cold, but more from distraction than hostility.

There was a long pause on the other end. At length, Francesca said, "You know what? It can wait. I shouldn't have called. I just thought it was something that should be taken care of."

Emily heard the pain in the other woman's voice, and that broke the chill that had swept over her. How foolish she'd been. Frankie cared for Thomas. Not just for his work, or her commissions. She was afraid for him.

"Listen, Frankie, here's the deal," Emily said, emotion beginning to creep back into her voice. "I've got power of attorney still," she revealed. "You make the best deal that you can, and I will sign for Thomas. I'll want the blessings of his attorney, but I don't think Kym will argue. There's only one catch. Anyone involved in the deal, or in the production of the series, has to read the books."