Dante's Peak 2
Part 11

As soon as they returned to the house, Harry went into the study and called Donna Morgan to tell her that Brian had returned and was going to cause trouble. She quickly assured him that she didn't think Brian could do anything, and said she would start the adoption proceedings. "But Harry," she said, "You need to make VERY certain that this is what the kids want. The judge is going to talk to both Lauren and Graham, and if he sees the slightest hint that they don't want this,-"
"I understand." He looked up to find Graham in the doorway as he hung up the telephone. "I thought you were outside with your mother and Lauren," Harry told the boy.
"Who was that man on the motorcycle, Dad?" Graham asked.
Harry looked at him for a long moment, then stood. "Why don't you and I go for a walk, Graham?" he suggested. "By the lake."
After telling Rachel where they were going, and getting her assurance that she and Lauren would be in the house, Harry and Graham went toward the lake. "I saw you coming through town this afternoon," Graham told him. "You looked like something was wrong, and I got scared -"
Harry put his arm around Graham's shoulders. "Graham, if you had the chance to see your father- your REAL father-"
Graham stopped, looking up at him. "You ARE my real father as far as I'm concerned, Dad. I don't need anyone else. It was him, wasn't it?"
"Yes. He saw one of the ads we placed and has decided that he's going to fight the adoption."
"Why? He never cared about Lauren and me. He always had something more important to do than to spend time with us. I don't care if I never see him again. You're not going to let him take us away, are you, Dad?"
"I'm going to try my very best, Graham. Does Lauren feel the same way?"
"She doesn't even remember him. She was only two when he left. I think she feels the same way I do. That YOU are our dad, and we don't want anyone else."
"I'm going to need you to be alert for the next few days, Graham. Keep an eye out when I'm not here. If he shows up, I want you to get into the house and call me.
I'll be here as soon as I can."
He nodded solemnly. "I understand. Are you going to tell Lauren about him being back?"
"I think your mother was going to do that."

"I don't want anyone else," Lauren was saying as Harry and Graham returned to the house. She turned and ran to Harry, throwing her arms around him. "You're my Daddy. Not him."
Harry knelt to return her hug. "You're certain about that, Lauren? You don't want to see him or talk to him? Let him tell you why he left-"
"He left because he didn't love us. You do."
Harry smiled over her head at Rachel. "Then it's settled. We're a family, and we're going to stay a family. Right?"
Three voices answered in unison. "Right!"

After getting the children in to their beds, Harry and Rachel went out onto the porch for awhile. "How did you know that Brian was here, Harry?" she asked.
"Terry called me. He and Nancy were packing up to leave Dante's Peak, and Brian showed up."
"They've been up there all this time?"
"Standard procedure after an eruption," Harry lied, taking a drink of the wine that Rachel had poured for him. "Nothing to worry about." He kept his eyes on the lake. "I tried to call as soon as I hung up from talking to him, but there was no answer."
"I was outside, sitting by the lake right after Lacey and the kids left," she explained, "then I came back up here to take a nap-" she sipped the spring water in her glass. "I still think there's more to Brian's sudden return that just wanting the kids, Harry. Some hidden reason that he didn't tell us."
"Donna said she would hire a private investigator to find out what he's up to." He took another drink. The picture of Brian throwing his helmet to the ground and starting toward the porch, fists clenched, came to him. "Rachel, was Brian ever- physically abusive?" She looked away, toward the lake. "If you'd rather not talk about it-"
"No- the only other person who knows about it is Jane. It was just before he left - I found out I was going to have another baby-" she shook her head, not really wanting to remember that scene. "Brian was angry -" this time she laughed nervously. "Angry, he was FURIOUS. We were standing on the stairs - he wanted me to - he said he wasn't going to be tied down to another child. I told him I was going to have the baby whether he liked it or not. He pushed me - trying to get down the stairs so he could leave, and I fell." Harry reached out to take her hand in his, squeezing it gently. "I got up, thought I was fine, but Brian took off on another of his little disappearing acts. I lost the baby that night - Jane said the fall caused the miscarriage -"
Harry's face was a mixture of love for Rachel and rage at Brian for his treatment of her. "What happened when he came back?"
"I told him that he'd gotten his wish, that I'd lost the baby." She closed her eyes. "He said he was glad, Harry. Said maybe he should have done the same thing before -"
"He's not going to hurt you again, Rachel," Harry told her, pulling her across the porch swing and into his arms to rest her head on his shoulder. "I promise you that." He kissed her hair. "At least tomorrow's Saturday. I won't have to leave you here all day. It might not be a bad idea to contact the local police, either. Have them keep an eye on him."
"He hasn't done anything illegal, Harry. The police won't be able to do anything until he does."
"It won't hurt to try. "
She smiled against his shirt as he held her. "This is nice, having you hold me. How is your arm?"
"Aching a bit," he admitted. "But not too bad. Dr. Morrison said it might hurt for a few days. I'm supposed to start therapy Monday afternoon." He smiled. "But I think I know of a therapy we could begin tonight."
Rachel smiled up at him. "Sounds interesting."
"Let's go inside and I'll show you what I have in mind," he said, pulling her to her feet beside him. For the first time since they moved into the house, Harry made sure every door and window was securely locked, and that Ruffie was in Graham's room, standing guard, before he joined Rachel in their bedroom.

They were outside the next morning when a black Cadillac pulled into the drive and Donna Morgan, wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt, got out. "This place is fantastic, Harry," she sighed.
"Thanks, but - what are you doing here?"
"I have some information that you might like to see - Hello, Rachel."
Rachel turned to Graham and Lauren. "Why don't you two go down to the lake? But stay in sight of the house, okay?"
Graham looked at Harry, who nodded, and the boy took his sister's hand. "Come on, Lauren. Ruffie!"
Donna sat down on the porch. "I think, if I lived here, I'd never want to leave to go to work. That view -" She opened her briefcase. "All of the requests that USGS got for you from the media, Harry have been shunted to my office. Since you requested that I screen the offers, I've been doing just that."
"We're not interested in talking to anyone about what happened, Donna-"
"I know that. That's why the telephone call I got this morning was so interesting. It was from a TV newsmagazine. They wanted all of you - but were willing to have the children if they couldn't get you."
"No way," Rachel said.
"That's what I told them. But that's when THEY told ME that they had already been in touch with someone claiming to be the children's biological father who said he could get the kids for them - for a quarter of a million dollars."
"That's the reason, Harry. He thinks he can make money off of what Lauren and Graham went through on the mountain."
"Can we use this, Donna? In court?"
"Quite likely, Harry. There's no way Brian Wando will get his hands on those children when the judge sees this. I do, however, have an offer that Rachel might be interested in -"
"I don't think-"
"One of the networks is trying to round up the Council members and Mayor to interview them about the claim against USGS. You could be a help, Rachel. If you and Dr. Fox both go on there -"
"I don't think there's anything Jane or I can say that will change any minds, Donna. I know Mary and the others, remember? I can't believe that -"
"Rachel, if you don't agree to tell your side of this, then it's quite likely that USGS and Paul's widow will have to pay them what they're asking. You, Jane Fox, and Harry are the only ones that were at that meeting who know what happened."
Rachel looked up at Harry, who shrugged. "It's your decision, Rachel. I can't get involved because of Paul. But Donna might be right about your input and Jane's."
"Let me talk to Jane about it first," Rachel said. "I really wish all of this with Brian were settled before I get into this -"
"Once he finds out we're onto what he's trying to do, I think he'll leave you alone," Donna said. "There's no way he can win."
"I'm willing to do it, Rachel," Jane told her later, "if you are. You're the one who's going to take most of the heat. You realize that, don't you? You were the mayor - and the situation is complicated by your marriage to Harry."
"I don't see that it's that complicated, Jane. I'd only just met Harry - hadn't even known him twenty four hours - when I called that meeting. After what happened at the springs -" she shuddered at the memory of those scalded bodies.
"Then let them know we're available," Jane told her. "Now. About Brian -"

Harry looked up from where he'd been sitting on the porch to where Graham and Lauren had been moments before. Lauren was still sitting on the pier, fishing. But Graham was nowhere to be seen. Harry refused to panic again. He'd done enough of that. Putting down the papers in his hands, he rose and walked briskly to where Lauren was sitting.
"Catching anything?"
She shook her head, smiling up at him. "Nope. Just nibbles."
Harry looked around. "Where's Graham?"
"He went to go get some more worms," she told him, watching as the float on her line jumped but didn't go under. "See? They won't take it."
"Patience, sweetheart. Which way did your brother go?"
She pointed to the left. "Over there. He's got a place behind that tree where he says he finds really good worms."
Harry peered closely at the area she indicated, hoping he wouldn't have to go in search of Graham. At last the boy appeared, stopping when he saw Harry standing there, watching him. He came forward slowly. "Sorry, Dad. I needed some more worms-"
"It's all right, Graham," Harry told him quietly. "Just let me know you're going next time, okay?"
"Okay. Wanna fish with us?"
Harry grinned. "If you'll go get my pole."

Rachel was about to get into her truck when she heard Brian's voice. "Well, well. Came scurrying to Jane Fox. Wanting to tell her all about how big, bad Brian's back to try and take his children."
"Leave us alone, Brian," Rachel said, starting to open the door.
But Brian's hand fell against the metal, preventing her from doing that. "Where are you going?"
"Home, Brian. Back to my husband and children."
"Look, Rachel. I just want to see them. Talk to them. Let them get to know me."
"Why? So you can convince them to let you put them on TV like some circus sideshow attraction? Make money off of them? They don't want to see you, Brian."
Brian's face darkened, and Rachel drew back, suddenly afraid she'd said too much.
"Rachel? Is everything all right?" Hank Jameson's voice was a welcome sound as she turned.
"Hank. Could you find a policeman for me?"
Brian lifted his hand from the truck and backed off. "That won't be necessary. I'm going. But I'll be back, Rachel."
Hank put a hand on Rachel's arm. "Who was that?"
Rachel opened the door of the truck and got inside. "Ask Jane. She can tell you all about him." She started the engine. "I need to get home."
Hank watched the red Suburban until it turned the corner, then went inside Jane's office.

Harry was heading toward his truck when Rachel's came into view. He waited for her to put the vehicle in park, then opened the door. "Are you all right? I was just about to come looking for you."
"Jane called you?"
He pulled her into his arms as she got out of the truck. "She told me that Brian accosted you in town -"
Rachel rested her head against his chest. "Where are the kids?"
"Down by the lake. Graham's cleaning the fish we caught. I think he's hoping to convince you to cook them for dinner."
Rachel smiled up at him. "I think I can manage that."
"What did Jane say about the interview?" he asked as they started walking toward where the children were working.
"She said she'll do it if I will. I need to call Donna and clarify some things before I agree."

In his motel room, Brian dug a crumpled peice of paper from his pocket and smoothed it out to read the telephone number he'd written there. After taking a drink of warm beer, he dialed the number and asked the woman who answered to speak to Marty Drew. "Tell him it's Brian Wando calling." He waited until the man came on the line.
"Marty Drew. I'm glad you called, Mr. Wando."
"I've got good news," Brian said, not hearing the man's tone. "I should be able to bring the kids in there in a few days-"
"I'm afraid that's the problem," Drew said quickly. "Are you their legal guardian?"
"I'm their father," Brian said. "That counts for something."
"But you and their mother are divorced. And SHE has legal custody. Without her agreement, we can't interview the children."
"We had an agreement," Brian yelled into the phone. "You said if I could deliver the kids -"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wando, but there's nothing I can do."
Brian slammed the telephone down, then threw the bottle of beer against the wall. He picked up the newspaper photo that he'd cut out, the photo that had been taken upon the miraculous rescue from the mine. Rachel and the kids had been hanging on Harry Dalton. Brian took out his knife and methodically began to cut around the outline of the kids, taking them out of the picture. Then, with equal deliberation, he struck a match and set fire to the rest of the picture, smiling as the images of Rachel and Harry Dalton turned into blackened ash. He dropped it into an ashtray, and once it had gone out, he broke it into tiny peices and threw it into the air. Ashes.
Brian's eyes narrowed. Ashes. He smiled. Ashes.

Graham's eyes were wide as he asked, "Are you REALLY going to be on TV, Mom?"
"It looks that way, Graham," Rachel told her son as they ate the fish he and Harry had caught.
Lauren picked at her food. "Are you going to talk about - Grandma?"
"No, Lauren. They just want me to talk about what the City Council did to evacuate the town. I've already told them that I'm not going to answer any other questions."
"They want to talk to her about why the council didn't warn everyone earlier," Graham told his sister. When Harry and Rachel both gave him surprised looks, he shrugged. "I overheard you talking about it. When are you going to be on TV?"
"I don't know yet. Probably sometime next week."
After dinner, the children tucked into their beds, Rachel and Harry went out onto the porch as usual. She watched him as he sat on the railing, staring up at the mountain. "What's wrong, Harry?" she asked.
"I was just thinking about Paul. He was really very good at his job, Rachel. I learned so much working with him -"
"And you're afraid that I'll say something during that interview that will hurt his reputation," Rachel guessed.
"I can't tell you what to say, Rachel. Paul himself even admitted that he had been wrong -"
"But he didn't see the things you did, Harry. And going on what he DID see, there was no danger of an eruption."
"I know."
Rachel put a hand on his knee. "Harry, I'll do what I can, but I have to tell what happened. I told the truth at USGS, remember, and they didn't seem to think that Paul did anything wrong. Or you for asking me to call the meeting."
Harry looked at her, smiling, before putting his arms around her. "Do you know how much I love you, Rachel?"
"Almost as much as I love you?" she asked.
"More. More than I could ever hope to say. Let's go upstairs."
She looked at him. "Aren't you going to go for your run tonight?"
"Not tonight. I don't want to leave you and the children here alone with Brian in the area." He stood up.
"And what are you going to do Monday?" she asked. "You can't stay with us twenty four hours a day, Harry."
"I'll run tomorrow morning," he told her. "Right now, I have other plans."

As he sat at the bar, enjoying a beer, Brian heard a young woman talking nearby. "She's really very nice," she was saying.
"She certainly seems nice," her friend agreed. "I saw her at the city council meeting the other night."
"Wouldn't it be funny if she ran for mayor?"
"I doubt she'd do it. She's only just moved here, after all."
"Yes, but she was the mayor up at Dante's Peak, remember? Of course, with the baby and all-"
"Baby? Mrs. Dalton's gonna have a baby?"
"I shouldn't have mentioned that. Promise you won't let it go any farther? If Gramps found out I'd let that slip - "
"I won't tell a soul," the other girl promised.
Brian finished his beer. So Rachel was pregnant again. Dalton probably felt the same way she did about kids. Some people were like that, he supposed. Putting some money on the counter, Brian left the bar and went to the motel. He had to be up early tomorrow.

Rachel sat on the porch, enjoying her coffee as she waited for Harry to come back from his early morning run. He'd run up the road toward the mountain, intending to return the same way. Graham had decided on the spur of the moment to go with Harry, leaving Lauren still in her bed. As Rachel sat there, surveying the peaceful scene before her, she heard a motorcycle and stood up, waiting.
The vehicle appeared, but stopped before reaching the turn into their drive. Brian sat there, feet on the ground, helmet still on, watching the house.
Harry and Graham would be returning any minute, she thought. And if Lauren woke up and came outside-
To Be Continued...

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