A Storm Named Zach

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 18

I watched as Padula Danghardt walked over to the other camera and pulled out the video card. "Here. Now you have both of them. I'm serious when I say this has nothing to do with the shooting. I couldn't care less about that. It's entirely something else, and I desperately need your help. It's vitally important; otherwise, I wouldn't be putting my job on the line like this. I do feel a tad sorry for that kid, but let's be real here. He's never going to be a reporter. He just doesn't have it."

"Trivialize it any way you want, but that was a really shitty thing to do to Stoney," I said. "I was doing a favor for the hotel, giving an exclusive to a local station, so it's not just Stoney you screwed up. The Director of Publicity's going to be pissed too."

"Whatever. That reporter's a pretty face, but a complete rube. You know it, I know it. Better he finds out now while he's still young so he can find another career. Besides, the twenty grand I gave him is much more than he'd get when they eventually show him the door at the station. He was on probation anyway."

"I hope you're right and it works out for him, but still, that's just one more thing I don't like about you. So, we're down to eight minutes. Better get busy. When my alarm goes off, I'm out."

"Fine. Short story? Do you know the name Eve Whitrock?"

"Um, I do. Just recently. Why?"

"She's my – well – was my daughter. That makes Zach, my grandson. Here. Eve's certified birth certificate."

She pulled a bunch of papers out of her ridiculous high-priced bag (I knew how much it cost because Fi had the same one), riffled through them, and handed me the certificate. It could have been faked, but I didn't think so since it had a seal and an embossed stamp from the County of Los Angeles.

"How do you know we were looking for Zach's mom Eve?"

"Because I have contacts all over the place. I didn't become a star investigative reporter without help. One of the dance studios my daughter ran called me and told me someone was looking for Eve. It couldn't be anybody other than Zach, with your help, Jeremy. My guess? You tossed the mansion and found his birth certificate. Plus, a whole lot of other interesting things I'd love to know about."

"You never will. Trust me on that. They're locked in a safe," I lied. Man, I hated this woman. "Six minutes. Hurry it up, lady. I don't want to be here with you any longer than I have to. Besides, Zach wants nothing to do with you. Wasn't that apparent when he tossed you in the pool?"

"I understand that! But he has no idea who I am. Eve went to great lengths to keep her life secret from him. That was part of the agreement when she dropped Zach off with Ziggy Dumont and his whack-job wife. I'm sure she regretted that to the day she died."

"Why would she do that? Why give her baby up like that?"

"Because that slimeball Ziggy paid my daughter large for Zach. Once she got pregnant from him, she couldn't dance any longer. Unlike me, she would never have an abortion. That fat slob Ziggy Dumont set her up in a grand apartment overlooking Central Park, got her the best medical care, and a mid-six-figure cash settlement. All under the table, of course. That's when she came out here to start a new life. She wanted to start a nice dance studio. It was then she and I stopped talking. She didn't understand what a huge mistake she was making. Eve should have had an abortion like I told her to do and get on with her great career. But she wouldn't listen. But then, I was a horrible mother, so she didn't have much to go on. Plus, we always butted heads. She was so much like her father, God love him."

"Okay, I get all that. But why your sudden interest in Zach? And to be truthful, you haven't made a very good impression. At all. What kind of granny trespasses and breaks into houses, and then basically holds me hostage and kicks her co-worker to the curb? Why didn't you just be upfront and tell Zach you're his granny? Do you have dementia or something? You seem kinda nuts, lady, no offense."

"No, I don't have dementia. And don't ever call me granny again. I have Leukemia, and I need a bone marrow transplant. And I need it now. Zach is my only hope since he's my only living relative. My doctors have been unable to find a suitable match in the database registry. That's the bottom line. That, Jeremy, is the God's honest truth. And now, as much as I hate saying this, I'm at your mercy."

I shut off the alarm because I had so many questions. And, unfortunately, I was getting steamed. "So, let me get this straight. After Eve gave Zach away to Ziggy and his wife, you never tried to contact Zach, let alone Eve? You basically washed your hands of all of them? You're entire family? And because you're dying…Shit! I can't even fathom the words here because you are so disgusting."

"Eve didn't want anything to do with me after I told her to get an abortion, and Ziggy threatened to kill me – literally – if I tried to interfere with Zach. I didn't even know Eve had died until recently. I admit I'm a terrible parent and more interested in my career. I'm a horrible person, I get that. But now, I need him. Desperately."

"So, let me guess. You want me to tell Zach all of this, and that you want him to get a blood test or something to see if he's a match. Am I correct?"

"Exactly. And I'll make it worth his while, whether he's a match or not. I'm loaded, and when I die, I have no one to bequeath my estate to. I'll pay him a million dollars just to see if he's a match. And if it works, I'll make him my sole beneficiary. I have millions. Please, try and explain it to him. I'm running out of time."

I sat there quietly fuming for a moment, digesting everything she just said and then tried to center myself and cool off. I realized that ultimately, this was a decision Zach would have to make all on his own. But I knew one thing: I couldn't sit here listening to this shitbag for one more second.

"I have to get out of here before I say or do something I'm going to regret. Where can we reach you? And I'm telling you right here, right now, you do not contact Zach again. Do you get that? We're heading home tomorrow, and we'll be discussing this with our attorneys. If he decides to do it, we'll take it from there, through our attorneys. If Zach says no, you have to accept that and find some other donor. And if he says no, be warned that both of us are going to file restraining orders against you. One more thing. I have more than enough money to take care of both of us. He doesn't need your money. Do you get that?"

"Okay, okay. I do. Here's my card with my personal contact numbers. Please, don't take long. Time is of the essence. I'm leaving for the airport in an hour to fly home to Manhattan. I'll be there for a week. Please, Jeremy, I'm begging you. Don't tell Zach no, just because you hate me."

"Lady, you have so much to learn. I would never tell Zach to either do it or not do it. It's his decision to make and my hatred for you has no bearing. It's up to him, and only him. And no, I actually don't hate you, as much as I want to. I feel sorry for you, for all of the great things you've missed out on. I suggest, on your way to New York, that you start asking for forgiveness to all of the people you've wronged. That might go a long way turning you into a decent human being, and maybe then, your life will be better."

"I'll try, but I think that ship has sailed."

"That's really, really sad. I ask to the spirits above that I never have to see you again. You're a real piece of work, lady. The worst part is you know it."

I left the Presidential suite with my head spinning. How in the hell was I going to tell Zach all of this? But my greater worry was for Isaac. I had to assume Padula Danghardt didn't know Isaac existed. I knew that it was up to Zach and me to do everything in our power to keep it that way.

One of the security detail people was waiting for me, and I asked her, "What happened to Rick? He was going to meet me when I got finished."

"He had an emergency with some reporter having a meltdown. But it's no problem. I'll get you back to your room safely."

"Thanks. I appreciate you folks watching out for us. I really do."

"All part of our job, Mr. Farnsworth." She was all business, and I got comfort from that.

When we got off the elevator to our floor, security was still stationed at both ends and at our door. I was glad for that, especially now that Padula Danghardt was on the prowl. There was just no way of knowing what was up her sleeve. I walked in to our suite to find club music playing loudly and Zach dressing Isaac up in some of his new clothes. They were laughing and dancing and having a great time, and it warmed my heart that they had bonded so quickly and easily. They didn't hear me, so I watched them for a moment before I said, "Hey, guys. Looks like you're having fun."

Zach came running over to me and gave me a giant hug, while Isaac yelled out, "How do I look, Jeremy? I've never dressed up like this before. I feel badass!" Then he made a couple of seriously impressive moves that made me laugh. I bet his mom taught him that when he was younger.

"You look great, buddy. All you need are some cool shades. You know, it's so weird you both have practically the same style of glasses. If you were older, you could almost be twins."

"I know! We were just saying that."

"How'd you're interview go?" Zach asked. "You don't look too happy."

I lied and said, "Dude was a complete moron. I left, so no interview. No big deal."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I'm not. I didn't want to do it in the first place. So, what's next? Did you guys find an awesome restaurant?"

"We did! It's really, really expensive, though. But you said it was a special thing, so I hope that's okay."

"It's true, and it doesn't matter, Zach. You only get engaged once. I hope it has 'weird shit' we can order and make Laughing Coyote try. You know, things like Snail Pate, maybe, or cockroach intestine in a white wine reduction sauce?"

"Oh, God, Goofy Owl. Shut the hell up. You are too weird for words."

"It's not all that weird," Zach laughed. "How does Gordon Ramsey's Steak sound? It's right across the street in the Paris hotel. It's supposed to be killer, and we won't have to drive. Plus, I reserved us a private banquette. Hopefully, no one will notice you from that video."

"Sounds great to me. I've heard great things about his restaurants, and you know I love steak."

"I've heard that too! That's why I'm so excited, and that's why we're figuring out what Isaac can wear. It's kind of fancy, and he doesn't have any other clothes with him."

"We're going to fix that before we leave tomorrow. What time's our reservation?"

"Seven. We've got almost three hours to ourselves."

"Perfect. Did you get ahold of Sally to see if they can do lunch with us before we take off?"

"No, I'm sorry. We got caught up dressing Isaac. We'll do that right now."

"No problem. I need to go into the bedroom and make some calls. After that, you and I are going to have a nice long soak in that ginormous tub while the kid can stream a movie or play Fortnite or watch porn or something on his new phone. We need some alone time. That okay with everyone?"

"You guys going to do the big nasty again? I'll turn up the volume to drown you out."

"Isaac, you just wait. And no, we're not going to do the nasty, if you must know. We're saving that for later when you're asleep so we can get really loud and keep waking you up. Just like at home with your foster brother."

"Hey, big brother? What do you see in this guy? He's nasty. Cute, but way nasty."

"You're just jealous. You wait a couple years – you'll see."

"I know. I just like slinging Horny Owl some of his own bird shit. Apparently, from what I've read, that's my job as the little brother-in-law to be," the kid laughed. It was good to see he felt comfortable to dish it right back at me.

"C'mere, Coyote Breath and give me a hug. You know I love you, right?"

"I do. Thanks for taking me under you're wing. Hey! I just made a funny."

"Get going, guys. I've got calls to make."

I shut the door behind me because I didn't want Zach or Isaac hearing this. I punched up my contacts and found Fiona's dads work number. It was only going on four, so I knew he'd be in his office. Ten and twelve-hour days were his norm. When he picked up on the second ring, I said, "Hey, Big Daddy. You got a second for me?"

"Of course, I do, Jeremy. Always. You know that. You're family to me. What's going on? Something about that butthead you neutralized this morning?"

"No, not that. This is a weird one, and I need some serious advice. It has to do with Zach."

"Okay, tell me. I've got the next half-hour free."

"Good. But bill me on this, okay? It's not right I'm getting all these free hours."

"Does Henry charge you for your real estate investments he reviews?"

"No, but…"

"Then I'm not charging you either. Like I said, you're family, and we've known each other forever. So, spill it." It was uncanny how he talked just like Fi, and was always one step ahead of everything.

"Okay, here goes. I was supposed to do a short exclusive interview with a local TV reporter about the shooting, but I got blindsided. It wasn't anything that I agreed to. At all. Do you know the name Padula Danghardt? She's one of those cable news reporters that tracked us down and crashed our door trying to get a scoop from Zach when his dad fled the country."

"Is she the one Zach accidentally bumped into during all the chaos at Ziggy Dumont's mansion, and she fell in his pool while Ms. Danghardt was trespassing?"

I laughed. Only a lawyer could twist it like that. "Yeah, that's her."

"I've never met her, thankfully, but I hear she's a hard-nosed reporter who always seems to have a big scoop or some salacious scandal to report. I think she's on one of those cable news stations you can't trust to be fair and unbiased. Why do you ask? Did she follow you guys out there? Is she still trying to get Zach's take on his dad, Ziggy?"

"No, not this time. I went into the room to do this interview about the shooting, and halfway through it, she comes out and tells the reporter to beat it. It was a total setup to get to me."


"Because she says she's got Leukemia and needs me to ask Zach to do a bone marrow test to see if they're a match. Apparently, no one is, and she's running out of time. Get this: She said she'd pay him a million dollars just to do the test. Turns out, at least according to the birth certificate she showed me, she's his grandmother. Thank God she didn't seem to know anything about Isaac."

"Aw, crap. Unbelievable. That had to be unsettling."

"No kidding. But here's my dilemma. I have to tell Zach, and I don't want to sway his answer. So, I guess what I'm asking you is what do I need to know about these kinds of things. Can she make him do it? Does she have a chance of making Isaac do it once she finds out about him? You know, sooner or later she'll find out about the kid. Can she get guardianship of him? I'm just kinda freaking out over all of this, and you know me. I don't like not being in control."

"Wow, that's, that's…as Fi would say, a fustercluck. Only she wouldn't put it so nicely. She's got her mother's nasty mouth. Okay, so first of all, no, the reporter cannot compel anyone do that. The test or the transplant. It's all voluntary. Secondly, when you boys get home, I need you to come into the office to sign some papers, so I'm officially Zach's attorney of record. And third, try and keep this between you and Zach. There's no need to tell the boy. Jeremy, please don't worry. We'll get this all worked out. You have my word."

"Thanks for that. That helps a lot. I'm sure Henry and my sister would say the same thing, but they're in Spain."

"Henry definitely would. He's a smart guy. Is there anything else I need to know before I get my assistants researching Ms. Danghardt? She sounds a bit unhinged."

"That's putting it mildly. There is one more thing. I know this is fast, and completely not like me at all, but I proposed to Zach today."

I held my breath and hoped he didn't react like his daughter did.

"Jeremy, that is the most fabulous news! I know you love that boy. He said yes, right?"

"Not at first. He told me to get up, and then he took a knee and asked me! Can you believe it?"

"I can. You are a wonderful young man, and you wouldn't have asked him unless you were sure you two were going to be together for the rest of your lives. Add that to the fact he asked you means he loves you just as much as you love him. Age is irrelevant. Your sister married at eighteen, and Fiona's mother and I married during our first year of college. So, congratulations!"

"Thanks for that."

"Um, this might, well, be a bit rash, but I have a thought. Let me think here for a moment. Yes. Would you be willing to marry Zach before you leave Las Vegas? The only reason I say that is because when we go for guardianship of the boy, you have the financial ability to take care of both of them. That would go a long way getting the court to approve Zach. Especially since he really has no means to care for his brother. We might be able to make you co-guardians, but I'd have to check that with my colleague in Family Law. That's not my area expertise."

"Thing is, I wanted us to have a big wedding with all our family and friends. But I'd do it in a heartbeat if you think this would help Zach and his brother, and keep that witch away from them."

"You still can. Just have a second wedding with all the bells and whistles. The one that we're invited too. I wouldn't miss that for anything. Plus, Fi is going to be pissed you got married, and she wasn't there."

"She's already pissed because I asked Zach to marry me. I think she thought I was pranking her."

"Sounds about right, but don't be so sure. She probably got overwhelmed. You know my daughter doesn't like surprises, and like you, not being in control. You two have always been alike in that sense."

"I know. You're right."

"Okay, let me run across the hall and see if this is a good thing or not. Would Zach be willing to do that, this soon?"

"I don't know. Probably. Especially if it helps his brother. We already talked about the three of us moving into the house I just closed escrow on next door to us. But honestly, this is just way too fast. I don't want to get married at some drive-thru Elvis chapel. If you guys think it's in our best interests, we'll do it back at home with a justice of the peace or something."

"That sounds like a good plan. I'll call you when I know something. And Jeremy? Congratulations. You know Fiona's mom and I love you just like you were our own son."

"I know you do. And I love you guys too. Thanks for always being there for me. I mean that."

"Thanks for saying that. Jeremy, we'll talk soon."

I debated about giving Fi another call, but then I thought I'd let her stew in her own juices for a while. I had more important things to do than deal with her drama. What I really wished was to talk with Wolfie, but he was still in Canada on some uninhabited island with no cell service. I missed him, not to mention his sage advice.

I came back into the living room to find Zach and his kid brother talking on their new phones. They looked up at me and smiled and waved, but I got the impression something was up – I'm not sure exactly why – and that they were planning something. It didn't matter. I'd let them have their fun. It just better not be embarrassing. I'd hate that.

I took my time and went over to the mini-bar to get another cold bottle of water, and after looking at the fountains, sat down next to Zach. He whispered into his phone and said, "Gotta go. See you soon. And thanks."

Totally confirmed my suspicions. But that was okay. I knew he wouldn't do anything stupid. Probably had something to do with dinner, or our lunch date with Sally and Natalie tomorrow.

"Was that Sally?"

"No. I already talked to her. We're on for lunch around noon. And guess what?"

"I have no idea."

"Both Steven and Antoine will be there. Isn't that great? But Antoine's wife can't make it. She has a seminar of some kind she can't miss."

"That's too bad. I'd like to meet her. And I bet she'd like to meet Natalie."

Isaac hung up his phone and said, "I'm gonna go take a shower, if that's okay. I'm stinky from being out there in the sticks, and that way you have your privacy in the other bathroom."

Double trouble. They were definitely up to something. And not very good at hiding it, either. I didn't need to see a DNA test to know these two were brothers. "Sure. But Isaac, I need you to promise me something first. And it's super important."

"Okay," the kid said. He looked worried.

"While Zach and I are soaking in that giant tub, do not, under any circumstances, open the front door. If someone knocks, find us and we'll take care of it."

"But you'll be naked! I don't want to see that!"

"Settle down, Laughing Coyote. We'll put on robes the hotel provides. I'm serious. Do not open the door, okay? I wouldn't say that unless it was important."

"Okay. Should I be scared? Is one of the shooter's friends coming after you?"

"No. But the press is still hounding us, and I don't want you to get caught up in any of their nonsense. You're young, and you shouldn't have to be subject to that kind of bullshit. That's one of the reasons Zach and I came out here – to get away from that. I just want you to be safe. Well, all of us to be safe. We've been through a lot today, and the reporters are ruthless and want to get a scoop to further their careers and make more money. They don't care about anything else but getting a story. They'd throw anyone – even you – under the bus just to get a headline. You get that?"

"I guess I do. I'm sorry our dad is such a dick. Is this going to follow us around forever?" Isaac asked.

"No. I'm working on something that will keep you guys away from the press and until you're old enough to talk. Maybe sometime, you both can write a book or something. But for now, don't open the door. Got it?"

"Loud and clear. I've said it before, guys, thank you for watching out for me. I really mean it. If some reporter shoved a mic in my face, I'd probably lose it and look like a babbling idiot."

"I doubt that's going to happen, but I just want you to be prepared. And if by chance that ever happens, just say 'no comment' and keep moving. Zach's gone through a lot of shit like that, and we don't want you to have to deal with that kind of stuff either. Just trying to keep you safe, you know?"

"I do. Thanks for that. I truly appreciate it."

"Good. Okay, Smelly Coyote, you got something to wear tonight?"

"I do, Rat Eater. You know owls eat vermin, right?" The kid could hardly contain his laughter, and Zach was biting his tongue and near tears.

"Yes. They play an important part of our eco-system. That's why at dinner, we're having ratatouille. Plus, I think Zach told me one of the specials tonight is Tree Rat Tartare. I can't wait."

"What in the hell is that? Are you freaking serious?"

"I'd never fool you, young buck. It's so red, and so raw, so squishy and so delicious. Zach and I are going to make you a gourmand before you know it."

"Big brother? Is that true? I'm about to spew chunks here."

"No. Well, it is actually, but we're not eating any of that. He's just yanking your chain. But here's a learning lesson. Don't ever go up against Jeremy unless you can get him good. It's difficult, but every once in a while, when you slip one in on him, it's outrageous."

"How can I both love and hate this guy? My head's about to explode."

"Then I'm doing my job," I laughed. "Go take your shower. See ya, don't wanna smell ya."

"You just wait, shithead. When I get you, it's going to be freaking epic."

"Looking forward to it, Squirt. Last thing. Don't open the door."

"Got it."

Once the kid left to take his shower, I grabbed Zach's hand and pulled him into the bigger of the two bathrooms. Bigger was actually an understatement. Glossy white marble was everywhere, and there were two separate sinks with all of the toiletries anyone could want. Big, fluffy white towels with satin blue stripes were piled up everywhere, and the glass-enclosed shower had jets coming out of everywhere.

"I've been to a lot of swanky hotels before when I was younger, going on trips with my shithead dad. I even stayed in the one in New York where they filmed the Home Alone movie. I thought that was great, but this…wow and wee."

"Yeah, this is a bit much. I wouldn't want to be the one that has to clean it. You know that's one of my pet peeves," I said.

"I do. That's why I'm glad Bella's coming to work for us. And now she gets a decent wage and benefits. So cool. You think when we remodel the new house, is it possible we can get a shower like that? It's got a rainforest showerhead. How cool is that?" Zach asked.

"We can get anything you want. It's going to be our house, so yeah, definitely. Besides, you'll probably need it after all the cooking you're going to be doing at your restaurant. And after that, I'll be right there giving you the most luxurious massage ever."

"You are too good for me. But I'm not going to complain."

"Good. Because I won't listen if you do. I Just want you to be happy. So, question. Bubbles or no bubbles?"

"Definitely yay to the bubbles. I'll never say no to that. Ever."

"Great. I was hoping you'd say that."

I turned on both faucets, dumping a massive amount of some fancy-smelling purple bath gel into the water. While we waited for the tub to fill up, I asked Zach, "Permission to strip you?"

"Permission, granted, fiancé. I can't believe that happened."

"I can't either. But honestly, it was going to happen. Sooner rather than later. Zach, we're meant for each other. Everyone knows it. You, me, our family, friends and even people we just met. I'd say it's crazy, surreal, maybe, but…I love you so much. You have no idea."

"I know you do. And I'm so happy and love you so much, too," he said as I lifted him up on the counter and started taking off his shoes. "God, I love it when you take care of me like this."

"Good. Because I love taking care of you. That's my number one mission."

"I know. Just like when we were kids sitting on the curb in front of your house waiting for Mother to pick me up. You know, in a way I'm glad she was always late. That gave us time to get into all those great discussions. Thanks for being there for me, way back then."

"No thanks needed. I got just as much out of it as you did. Hold up your hands," I said, as I pulled off his shirt. "You realize that while I was the de facto big brother to my nephews, and while I love them to death, I always felt I was missing out on something. That's why Fiona, Wolfie and I bonded so tightly. We all felt the same way. Neither one of them had siblings, so we kinda made our own pack when we all met. It got us through a lot of stuff. I am such a better man, thanks to them."

"Well, it worked. Fi's great, and I bet Wolfie is too. I can't wait to meet him. When's he coming back home?"

"Not sure. A couple of weeks maybe. I texted him to Facetime me if he ever gets close to a town with cell coverage. I miss him, and I really want you to meet him. Now stand up. I gotta get your pants off."

"You better hurry up. The tub's getting super-full of bubbles."

I turned around and looked. "Shit!" The bubbles were so tall they were starting to slowly roll over the side of the tub onto the floor, kinda like an iceberg calving but in slow motion. Guess I put too much soap in there.

"It looks likes the mountains in Switzerland in winter," Zach joked.

"It does. Let's hurry up and get in there. Front or back in the bobsled?"

"I'll take the front. We need to distribute the weight efficiently. Besides, you'd squash me if you were in front."

"Yeah, but that might be fun, me in your lap."

"True that."

Once we had settled into the warm, soapy water and I had wrapped my arms tightly around my boy's chest, I said, "Looks you and Isaac are really hitting it off. I'm so glad this is working so well between the two of you."

"I am too. He's a great kid. He's a lot like me in many ways, but different, too. He's way more outspoken then I am, but I don't think that's a bad thing. He's smart, too. Did you see him dance?"

"I did. He's got your mom's moves, I bet."

"I know. I think he and I are going to have to teach you so we can dance at our wedding. Don't you think that'd be fun?"

"Maybe. But I'll do it just for you. I forgot you gotta dance at a wedding. Make it so, young warrior."

"Jeremy, somethings bothering you. I don't have to look at you to know. I hear it in your voice because you'd never agree to learn to dance so quickly. What's up? You know you can tell me anything."

"I know…but Zach, this one's mega-huge. And it sucks. Big time. I guess I'm just going to spit it out because there's no easy way to tell you this."

"You don't want to marry me?"

"Oh, hell no! Like Isaac says. That's not it. Okay, here goes. When I went upstairs to do that TV interview, I met with Director Rick's boyfriend. He was really something, and not in a good way."


"See, I got sandbagged. It was a bogus interview from the start. Four or five stupid questions in I started to get pissed, and then I told him I was done. I got up and headed for the door…but then this lady – and I use that term very loosely – came out of one of the bedrooms and told me to stop and sit back down. I recognized that voice instantly, and it sent a shock through me."

"Please, don't tell me it was Padula Danghardt."

"Okay, I won't."

"But it was her, right? It would have to be. What the fuck is wrong with that woman?"

"Turns out, a lot of things. She told the reporter to beat it, and that he was never going to get the interview with me. See, she arranged the whole thing by paying him twenty thousand dollars when she found out he was interviewing me. Because of what she did to him, she pretty much ruined his career. At least at this station. She's such a…"

"You can say it. You can even call her the "C" word if you want because we both know what she is. What happened next? And am I going to get pissed? Because I'm thinking we need to get a restraining order on her. And one for Isaac, too. Hopefully, she doesn't know about him. That would be a terrible situation."

"I know. But no, I don't think she knows about him. Yet. Unfortunately, I think she's probably close."

"Why? How in the hell would she know about him?"

"I'm just going to blurt this out because there's no easy way to tell you this part. She knows about Eve, your mother."

"How is that even possible? I just found out about that a couple of days ago."

"I asked Padula the same thing. Then she pulled out a copy of Eve's birth certificate." I let out a deep breath. "Zach, it said she's Eve's birth mother. That makes you and Isaac her grandchildren."

Zach turned around, pushing some of the bubbles out of his face. Then he surprised me by laughing. "That's a good one. You're funny. Man, now I'm going to have to get Isaac to help me out to pull a great one you."

"Zach, no. This isn't a joke. She had a certified birth certificate for Eve that looked too real to be faked. It had a seal and was embossed by the county of Los Angeles. She and her husband had Eve. I think she really is Eve's mother."

He thought about that for a moment, and then said, "So assuming that's all true, why is she bringing this up now? And to you? She had ample opportunity to tell me herself all those times she was trespassing on our property. This doesn't make any sense. Did Eve leave money Padula is trying to get?"

"That's not it. I don't think Eve had much money when she passed away. Sally told me she was almost broke when she died, using up whatever savings on her medical bills. Eve and Isaac really struggled there at the end. And Padula doesn't need any money. She's a high-payed reporter."

"Then, what's her angle? What am I not seeing here?"

"Since you are – for the sake of this conversation until we know for sure – her grandson. And apparently, you are her closest and only living relative. At least that's what she said, and which leads me to believe she doesn't know about Isaac. And the reason why she needs you is that she's sick –"

"Duh! In her freaking head."

"No, Zach. She says she has leukemia and that she needs a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately for her, her doctors haven't been able to find a match in the donor registry. That's where you come in as a blood relative. There's a greater chance of a match with family. She wanted me to ask you if you would take a test to see if you are a match."


"No? No what? You don't believe it, or you won't do it?"

"Both. All of the above. Everything. Is she fucking serious?"

"I think so. I called Fi's dad just now, and he walked me through how a blood donor thing works. And he's getting on his staff to research Padula to see if this is really true. But let me tell you, I let her have it. She's about as slimy as you can get."

Zach didn't say anything and turned around and leaned back against my chest. I didn't want to say anymore because he needed time to process this. I held him tight until he was ready to say something.

It took a few minutes, and I had to turn on the hot water because the bath was getting cold when Zach barely whispered, "What if she really is my grandmother? How can I say no? I mean, let's assume I get a test, right? And it's a match. It doesn't even matter that she's a relative or not. How can you possibly say no to something that could save another person's life?"

"I don't have the answer to that. I wish I did. Even if I did, I would never tell you what to do. This is your decision, and yours alone to make. But I promise you, whatever you decide I'll back you up one hundred percent and I'll be there every step of the way."

"Oh, God." That's when the waterworks started, and I'm not talking about the bathtub.

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