A Jewel Whodunnit...
Chapter Ten: Flame

"What's eating you?"
Fiona Daniels swung open the door of her apartment, reading her girlfriend's expression with a startled one of her own. "I've only been back in town ten minutes, are you that happy to see me you're about to burst into tears?"
"I'm glad you are back. I've been needing to talk to you." Zoe admitted softly. "Can...can I come in? Are you alone?"
"Zoe, I just flew in from Europe, of course I'm alone." Flame, as the dancer was better known said wryly. "And you know you're welcome. So come in, sit down, spill. Tell me. What's up and who do you want me to pound for you?"
"It's not like that." Zoe obediently did as she was bidden. "The whole mess at Misfit Music hasn't helped, either. You've heard?"
"Damn right I've heard." Flame agreed, perching on the windowsill. "They caught the guy who torched it yet?"
"No..." Zoe looked troubled. "Listen, Fi, I want to tell you something, but it's entirely in confidence. I know I should get the police involved, but I'm afraid, and..." She faltered, then slowly she outlined the events of the previous few days, explaining the conversation she had overheard, and then the frustration of the birth certificate. Flame looked thoughtful.
"Weird." She said finally. "You seriously think he's your Pa?"
"Stop being so flippant!" Zoe was really near tears by now. "Fi, I'm scared...I'm worried he'll hurt Mom, that Mom'll get in trouble, and dammit, I feel so awful about the whole thing. It's my fault in a way...if I hadn't been born this wouldn't be happening!"
"Oh, can that." Flame told her bluntly. "Listen, idiot, your Mom chose to have and raise you. You didn't choose to be born. As for being flippant, well, I'm sorry, but family isn't everything, you know. You're damn lucky to have what you do."
"I might've known you wouldn't understand." Zoe buried her head in her hands.
Flame frowned, softening her tone.
"Zo, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you more." She said slowly. "But really, whether he's your Dad or not, it's not important. If you want, I'll go kick him in the head for upsetting you, but either way no kid chooses their parents. It's your Mom's bad judgement if he is your father. Not yours." She gestured to illustrate her point. "I mean, I'm not dating your father, am I? I'm dating you. You're not the same person, and you're not responsible for what he does."
"But I've got his genes." Zoe murmured. "That can't be good."
"Nonsense." Flame said firmly. "You ain't a bit of him. Trust me, I know you damn good by now, girl. So forget the creep, let the cops handle him if he is to blame, and tell me about the investigation."
"I...I don't know much about it." Zoe admitted. "I've tried to keep out of it. Besides, this...has been bugging me. I'm sorry, Fi, but I can't help it. I know you're right and it doesn't matter in the big scheme of things, but to me it does."
"Then you need to tackle your Mom about it again." Flame shrugged. "No other course of action possible."
"Guess so." Zoe bit her lip. "Okay. Tomorrow, then. Maybe then I'll finally find out what I want to know."

It was late in the afternoon by the time Zoe got a chance to speak to Constance once more. The television studio was, she recognised, not ideal, but either way it didn't matter. She needed to know, and, as she and Flame had talked it out, she had realised that to some degree it was her right to know. After all, he was one half of her heritage - and even a name was better than nothing.
"If only it isn't Warren Brooker." She murmured to herself as she pushed open the door of her mother's dressing room rather tentatively, sending the presenter a smile.
"Hi...do you have a moment?"
"Sure, Zoe. What is it?"
"Fiona came home yesterday, we talked a lot and I stayed over at hers - she made me think about things." Zoe began, taking a seat rather nervously.
"You guys are ok now, I hope?" Constance asked. Zoe nodded.
"Oh yes. We're fine." She agreed. "It was only a little lover's tiff anyhow...nothing major. No, this was something...something else."
"Oh?" Constance looked interested, but Zoe thought there was a hint of edginess in her expression. "Go on."
"It's...about my Dad." Zoe paused, assessing her mother's reaction. Constance sighed.
"Why did I think that'd be it." She said wearily. "Zoe, listen to me. I don't want to talk about your father. Not now, not later, not ever. Do you understand me? And especially not at the moment. It's something past, he's no part of you or your life, so leave well alone. You hear?"
"Mom, it's my right to know." Zoe's voice shook. "I don't know anything about him, not even his name! And whatever you say, he is a part of me! He's half my heritage, half of who I am...why can't you understand that this matters to me?"
"I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never get him involved." Constance spoke in low, angry tones. "His lifestyle was not right to sit down and play father...it couldn't have benefitted either of us, and it couldn't have benefitted him. Leave it, Zoe. It's not your right to pry into my past and my private life."
"So you do know who he is!" Zoe exclaimed. "You lied!"
"I never told you that I didn't know his name." Constance snapped.
"No, but you claimed as much on my birth certificate!" Zoe returned. Constance whitened.
"You went snooping behind my back into this?" She exclaimed. Zoe bit her lip. Her mother had a hot, impulsive temper, but these days it was rarely aroused.
"You wouldn't tell me." She murmured now. "I wanted the truth."
"Dammit, Zoe, how many times!" There was pain in Constance's voice. "What in hell have I done wrong with you to make you want your father so badly?"
"Nothing!" Zoe protested. "Mom, I love you to death, you know I do! And...and if he hurt you, I'm sorry. I really am. I...I just...I want to know who I am."
"You're Zoe Montgomery." Constance intoned softly. "That's who you are and that's all that matters."
"Is he dead? Is that it?"
"No, Zoe. He's not dead."
"Then why won't you tell me? What did he do to you?"
"Zoe..." Constance frowned. "I was hurt a very long time ago, and I don't want to talk about this now. It reminds me too much of things I've left behind me...so don't ask me any more, please. Leave it. You're my daughter and I love you...let that be enough."
Zoe swallowed hard, half debating whether to push the issue, but not wanting to hear any more pain in her mother's voice.
"All right." She whispered. "I...I'll go. I'm sure you have enough to do."
With that she slipped out of the dressing room. Constance got to her feet, pacing restlessly across the floor as the tears pricked at her eyes. Zoe was everything to her in so many ways - the thing that had made her pull her life into some kind of logical, coherent and successful order, had tamed her natural wild streak into a sense of maternal love, and had made a well-liked woman out of the wilful, spoilt child. And yet, there were things she did not feel ready to disclose. Memories filled her troubled mind, and she sighed.
"Maybe one day." She murmured. "But all this...I really don't need this, with him so close to ruining everything. I hope she won't stay mad...maybe one day she'll understand."


Chapter One: Stormer Tries
Chapter Two: Phyllis Returns
Chapter Three: Justin's Vigil
Chapter Four: A Call Of Conscience
Chapter Five: Investigations
Chapter Six: A Fright For Zoe
Chapter Seven: Dean Takes A Hand
Chapter Eight: Questions
Chapter Nine: A Dead End
Chapter Ten: Flame
Chapter Eleven: A Ray Of Light