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Unjust Suspicions
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The Softball Game
by Twig

This time, Julian led off, and surprised everyone by hitting a line drive directly to Millicent, who missed it. By the time she retrieved the ball and tossed it in, Julian stood proudly on second base.

"Your brother sure is good," Hank said to Sheridan in surprise.

Simone grounded to Kay, who threw the ball to Ivy, getting her friend out easily.

Then Beth got up and smacked the ball past Sam, sending Julian to third base and standing on first easily.

"That Beth sure is a good athlete," Hank said, poking Luis, "You and her are made for each other."

Luis simply shook his head, amazed at how dense his old friend could be.

"Hank," he said finally, "You're up."

Hank stepped up to the plate and grounded to Miguel, who threw to Kay on second to get Beth out.

"Get ready for the third out," Sheridan told Luis glumly, long since given up any hope of winning their little bet.

Miguel tossed the ball back to Ethan, not noticing the blue dust that was coating it. Ethan threw the ball to his aunt, who swung the bat and missed it by a mile.

"Strike!" Tabitha shook Timmy eagerly, "The dust is working!"

Ethan threw the ball past Sheridan again for strike two.

"Come on," Luis yelled from the dugout, "Just focus!"

This time as the pitch sailed over home plate, Sheridan swung mightily and connected with the ball, firing it straight back at Ethan, where it struck him square on the forehead and sent him sprawling to the ground.

Tabitha cackled evilly.

"Oh god," Sheridan moaned, "I did it again!"

"She killed Ethan!" Theresa shrieked.

"Ethan's not dead," Whitney reassured her, "He'll wake up in a minute. Remember what happened last time he got hit in the head?"

Theresa thought back to the collages he had made, and then grinned from ear to ear.

"It's fate," she whispered.

Millicent stomped through the muddy grass over to the infield, where Ivy stood staring at her prone son in horror.

"That's it!" she snapped, "I'm going home!"

"Home? You can't leave, Millicent!" Ivy said desperately.

"I could be shopping right now! Having a nice lunch at a little café! But instead I'm standing around, ankle deep in mud, waiting to be struck in the head by a little ball."

"It won't be much longer," Ivy said weakly, her gaze flitting from the still unconscious Ethan to Sam, who looked properly worried.

"I would like to make it through the day alive!" Millicent grumbled.

"If you leave we won't have enough people to play," Ivy attempted to reason, "And then the Russells will have to leave!"

"So let them leave! What do I care?"

"Just a few more innings?" Ivy pleaded.

"Oh, fine," Millicent sighed, and made her way back out to the outfield.

On the pitcher's mound, Ethan slowly sat up, blinking rapidly. "Ohhh," he said with a groan, rubbing his forehead, where a fresh bruise had sprouted up over the old one.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked him, looking down.

Ethan sat up with a moan of pain, "I'm okay…"

"Can you still play?" Chad asked him, standing over him, catcher's mask in hand.

"Yeah," Ethan waved them off, "I'm fine. Just a little…startled…"

He blinked again as he stood up, wondering why there seemed to be millions of Theresas floating around his head. Fortunately, he did not voice this concern to the people standing around him.

Sheridan was standing on first base, still gazing at her nephew with concern. Luis glanced from her to the dazed Ethan, finally flashing her the thumbs up sign. She gave him a weak smile in return.

"Let's play ball," Tabitha demanded, trying to keep the joy out of her voice.

Luis got up and hit a long shot to right field, sending Millicent scurrying. She grabbed it out of the mud and threw it in as Julian and Hank scored, leaving Luis on second base and Sheridan on third.

"The Harmony Eves are leading, four to one!" Tabitha squawked, bracelets jingling. Timmy, still tucked under her arm, sighed inwardly.

Charity stepped up to bat.

"Come on Charity!" Miguel urged from the field.

Kay narrowed her eyes, "Miguel, she's on the other team! You should be hoping Ethan strikes her out!"

"She's my girlfriend," Miguel shrugged, "I don't really care who wins this game."

Kay groaned, watching as Charity touched the bat to the ground before raising it up over her shoulder, a fine dusting of blue substance coating the barrel.

"Oh no," Timmy mumbled, hiding his eyes.

"Yes!" Tabitha hissed to him, her commentary going unnoticed by those around them.

Charity narrowed her eyes and focused on the ball as it coasted over the plate. She swung mightily, missing the ball but the bat slipped out of her hands, arcing through the air. The ball bounced harmlessly out of Chad's mitt and fell to the dirt, but no one was watching. They stared in horrified fascination as the bat looped through the air, almost in slow motion, and began it's descent to the ground.

There was a sickening thud as it struck human flesh.

<<<~~~>>>


"Oh Theresa, I love you so much…" Ethan, his image encased in swirling purple mist, said to her, a huge smile on his face. And then she was in his arms and he was kissing her, just like she knew was meant to be…

"It's fate," Theresa said, and opened her eyes. Ethan was looming over her, no longer hovering in mist, but there, nonetheless. The ugly bruise on his forehead, nowhere in sight during his confession, was once more glaring forth.

"What's fate Theresa?" Ethan asked, confused, as he helped her to sit up.

For the first time she noticed that there was a huge crowd of people around them, all of them looking concerned.

"Wow Ethan," she said, her voice slightly dazed, "Look at everyone who came to see us declare our love…"

"Our love?" Ethan was baffled, "Our love of what?"

"Our love," she reiterated firmly.

"You mean our love of softball," Ethan nodded his head, grinning foolishly, "Theresa, I don't know if you remember, but you got hit in the head with a bat. I was afraid that you'd been killed."

Rubbing her sore head, Theresa once more glanced around, the previous events rushing back into her mind, "Oh."

"Theresa, we have to get you to the hospital," Eve Russell said worriedly, checking the bruise on her forehead that seemed to match Ethan's perfectly.

"No, I'm okay," she said with a shaky laugh, trying to stand up. Once on her feet, she wobbled dizzily, reaching out to grab Ethan's arm for support.

"At least go sit down for a while," Eve sighed.

"She's right Theresa," Ethan told her, gripping her arm, "You shouldn't be on your feet."

"Okay Ethan," Theresa said dreamily, letting him escort her to the dugout.

Tabitha grinning like an idiot, clutched her shirt in her fists, "But now we're short another player!"

Ivy scanned the crowd of people gathered to watch, "Pilar!"

Theresa's mother, who was watching the unfolding events with a stricken expression, jumped at the mention of her name, "yes Mrs. Crane?"

"You can play in Theresa's place!"

"Oh…no…I couldn't…"

"Yes you can!" Ivy gripped her confidante's arm and dragged her onto the field, causing Millicent to roll her eyes.

"Oh, dios mio," Pilar muttered under her breath, taking her place in center field.

Charity, trembling now, walked reluctantly back to the plate.

"I almost killed Theresa," she whispered, her eyes wide with fear.

"Oh, now now," Tabitha consoled with a smirk, "Everyone is going to be just fine. You just…pick up that bat and swing away."

Charity picked up the bat and held it loosely in her hands, "I don't think I want to play any more."

Kay let out a little inward cheer.

"Of course you can play!" Miguel encouraged, "You can do it!"

With a sigh, the sweet, innocent girl picked up the bat, praying that she wouldn't unleash any more devastation.

"You see this Timmy?" Tabitha shook the doll merrily, "My dust is working!"

"Timmy thinks this is a bad idea."

Ethan lobbed the ball over the plate slowly, and Charity swung forcefully. However, she had taken a step backwards from nervousness, and was a little too close to Tabitha as the bat came around. Tabitha leapt backwards out of the path of the wayward wooden stick, but it caught Timmy behind his head and sent him launching out into the field, where he landed in an ungraceful heap.

"TIMMY!" Tabitha shrieked.

Charity dropped the bat and covered her mouth with her hand.

"Oh my god!" she whispered, all color draining from her face. "Tabitha, I'm so sorry! I almost hit you! And your doll…"

All attention turned to the poor, crumpled pile that was Timmy. Tabitha scurried out to the field and scooped him up.

"Oh poor Timmy," she whispered, cradling his limp form in her arms, "My little Timmy…"

"That's it," Charity said in a shaky voice, "I'm not playing any more. I want to go home."

Eve tapped Grace on the shoulder, "Grace, your niece is right. Everything is going wrong…TC's leg, Ethan getting hit in the head, Theresa getting hit with the bat, and now this with the doll…I think we should just call the whole thing off."

"Don't be silly," Grace swatted her away, "you're just paranoid about moving away. Well trust me, if I have my way, your family will be living in Harmony for a long, long time."

"I'm sure we will," Eve said with a tight smile.

Sheridan stood on third base, watching worriedly as everyone made their way back to their positions to resume the game.

"There sure are a lot of accidents," she muttered to Luis, who had walked up behind her.

"I'll say," he agreed, watching as Tabitha, still patting Timmy with all of the attention one might lavish on an actual living being, meandered back behind home plate.

"With my luck, I'm sure something horrible will land on my head next."

"Don’t say that," Luis scolded.

"Haven't I had my share of unusual accidents lately? This would be just fitting."

"GO BACK TO YOUR POSITIONS!" Tabitha roared, waving her arms frantically.

Shaking his head at Sheridan, Luis made his way back to second base.

Charity was shaking like a leaf caught in a hurricane, "I really don't want to play."

"Come now dear, everything will be all right. No one got hurt before," Tabitha assured her with a false smile.

"Easy for you to say," Timmy muttered into her shoulder.

Ethan, ever so cautious, tossed the ball to Charity. She swung and hit a line drive, right at Sheridan.

"AAH!" Sheridan yelled, trying to dive out of the way. But alas, she was too late, and soon the Cranes had their second casualty of the day.

Eyeing the crowd of people around the unconscious Sheridan Crane, Grace lifted her megaphone to her lips and nervously announced that there would be a short break for everyone to get themselves calmed down.

"Come on," Luis whispered softly, picking Sheridan up as he had so many times before, carrying her gently to the dugout, where he laid her down on the bench.

"Someone get me something to put under her head!" he snapped, and Ethan handed him a softball glove.

Eve hovered worriedly over them, "That's it…I'm calling this game off."

"No don't!" Grace begged.

Luis was oblivious to the arguments around him as he gently tried to wake Sheridan up.

He tenderly brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes, rubbing her head. Slowly her eyelids fluttered, as she finally began to awaken.

"Luis?" she asked softly, her blue eyes darting around, confused.

"Shh," he whispered to her, "You're gonna be fine."

Hank shouldered his way through the crowds, "Sheridan! Thank god you're all right!"

"I'm fine," she said weakly, attempting to sit up.

"Don't!" Luis and Hank yelled at the same time, holding her down.

"You were unconscious for a while," Luis explained, "Just lay down for a few minutes."

"I told ya so," she whispered to him with a smirk, before closing her eyes and passing out again.

Luis shook his head in amazement, "Always have to have the last word, don't you?"

Eve threw her arms in the air, gesturing to the filled dugout. TC sat on the bench, his leg extended out in front of him. Theresa was holding an ice pack on her head. Ethan, now that there was a brief reprieve from the game, had also found some ice for his head. Charity was trembling so much she appeared to be traumatized for life. And Sheridan was passed out on the bench.

"GRACE!" she snapped, "You are slowly but surely killing off all of the townspeople! Can we please stop this before anyone else gets hurt?"

Unseen behind them, Tabitha found Julian's ever-present flask, which had been left unattended on the baseline, and she sprinkled some blue powder into it.

"That will teach Julian…" she cackled to Timmy, who groaned in pain.

"Timmy wants an ice pack."

Grace looked crushed, "But we're only in the second inning!"

"How many more innings are we going to get in?" Eve responded, "At this rate, both teams will be in the hospital before we get to the fifth!"

Ivy eyed Millicent, who was creeping towards the fence. "DON’T YOU DARE!"

Millicent whirled to face her, "Ivy, I am NOT staying around here to be killed by some stupid ball! God, you'd never know that I was an actual, civilized person!"

"How can you be so heartless?" Ivy asked her.

Millicent pointed furiously to her new sneakers, which were black from the mud, and her dirt-stained new clothing. Several strands of grass poked out of her hair, and there was a streak of mud right under her left eye just to complete the effect.

"I. am. never. going. to. forgive. you. for. this."

"But Millicent-"

"I COULD BE SHOPPING RIGHT NOW!"

"But Millicent-"

"I COULD BE SOCIALIZING WITH NORMAL PEOPLE!"

"But Millicent-"

"I COULD BE ANYWHERE BUT ON THIS GODFORSAKEN FIELD WITH YOU!"

"But Millicent-"

"YOU ARE INSANE! DO YOU HEAR ME?! INSANE! DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO SPEAK TO ME AGAIN UNTIL YOU GET SOME HELP!"

Ivy sighed as Millicent trudged back out into the outfield, her energy spent.

"Simone, this is perfect! Charity is not only a horrible softball player, but she's murderous too! She almost killed Miguel's sister! And Sheridan Crane! There's no way he can love her after that!"

Simone gaped at Kay, "Are you serious? LOOK at them!"

Kay scowled as she caught a glimpse of Miguel hugging his girlfriend and whispering reassurances into her ear.

"I don't care," she said stubbornly, crossing her arms, "Miguel loves me."

Simone shook her head in annoyance, "Kay, he is in love with Charity! Your plans always fail, why don't you just give up?"

"I will NOT give up on him Simone! I love him! Besides, if her horrible athletic skills aren't enough, I've got a new plan…"

"Oh no."

"I made the teams up, you know. Why do you think that I put you on Charity's team?"

"I was afraid of this."

Kay pulled a tube of crazy glue out of her pocket and handed it to her best friend.

"What is this for?" Simone asked, taking the glue nervously.

"Smear it all over her glove when she's not looking. Then I'll be sure to hit something straight to her, and it will stick in her glove! She'll look like such an idiot trying to get the ball out of her glove like that!"

"You are truly horrible, you know that?"

Kay shrugged innocently and headed back towards her own dugout. Simone, looking like she'd rather be doing anything else, reluctantly made her way back to her own team.

"Okay," Grace shouted cheerily, "Who's ready to get back to the game?"

No one responded. They merely stared back at her with blank expressions.

Sam wrapped his arm around her, "Grace, honey, maybe it would be for the best if we just called the game off."

"No Sam, I am not just going to sit idly by while our best friends are forced to move away because of financial difficulty. We can help them!"

"We can think of some other way to help them."

"But Sam, they're our friends!"

Sam sighed, "All right Gracey. But we have to find a replacement for Sheridan."

Julian pranced over to where Ivy stood, watching the unconscious Sheridan with a worried expression. Before he reached over, he stooped and plucked the flask from the ground, pocketing it, much to Tabitha's dismay.

"Well darling," Julian said with a bright smile, "Looks like good old Sheridan got hurt again, eh?"

"Get away from me Julian," Ivy cringed.

Julian made no move to leave, and actually leaned in closer, "Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald looks rather close for comfort."

"He's merely concerned for her."

"I wonder if Father would see it that way."

Ivy narrowed her eyes, "You have done enough horrible things to your sister to last a lifetime. Now she gets hit in the head with a softball, and all you can think about is how close Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald is standing to her! Believe me, nothing is going on with them."

"How can you know for sure?"

"Do you remember the last time they dated? Everyone knew about it," Ivy snapped.

"Maybe they've decided to keep it a secret."

"Why? They have no reason to suspect you and Alistair of doing anything. Unless, of course, someone gave them reason to…"

"I'd watch who you threaten, dear."

"When it's a threat Julian, you'll know it. I'm just trying to keep you on your toes."

With that, Ivy stomped off to find Sam. Julian yawned.

Before Ivy could reach the object of her affection, Ethan approached Sam, causing her to freeze in fear.

"This is all your fault, Chief Bennett," Ethan said angrily, pointing to Sheridan's crumpled form.

"How is it my fault?" Sam snapped.

"You and your wife organized this game! You knew that people could get hurt, yet you arranged it anyway. And now my aunt is injured because of your lack of foresight!"

"This is a game, Ethan, everyone who plays does so at their own risk!"

"I don't like your tone, Chief Bennett-"

"STOP IT!" Ivy screamed, jumping between them, "YOU TWO ABSOLUTELY CANNOT FIGHT, DO YOU HEAR ME?!"

Sam and Ethan, startled by Ivy's erratic behavior, shrugged and walked off in opposite directions.

Grace snatched up the megaphone and her loud, cheery voice commanded everyone's attention. "EXCUSE ME! Break's over folks, we've found a replacement player, so everyone go take your positions again!"

"Who's the replacement?" Eve asked casually.

Without answering, Grace handed her a softball mitt.

"Oh, no…" Eve sighed.

"Why are we still playing?" Luis grumbled to Hank, reluctantly leaving Sheridan to sleep on the bench.

"Don't worry Luis," Theresa assured him, her eyes still slightly glassy, "I'll make sure nothing happens to her."

As the two men walked back out to the field, Hank shrugged, "I guess Grace doesn't want the Russells to leave."

"I don't want them to leave either, but this is getting ridiculous!"

"CHARITY!" Tabitha yelled, "You're still up dear!"

"I can't play!" Charity insisted, looking at the bat as though it was an instrument of torture.

Tabitha patted the girl on her shoulder, "You've gotten a bad break, dear. So many accidents. Makes you begin to think…evil thoughts…"

Charity, briefly entranced, said nothing.

"You WANT to kill the citizens of Harmony," Tabitha pressed on, much to the dismay of the still dazed Timmy.

"I want to kill the citizens of Harmony," Charity parroted in a flat voice.

"Now take this bat," the old woman instructed, "and unleash your rage. Starting with good old Ivy Crane."

"Timmy likes Ivy!" Timmy yelled desperately, but it was too late.

Ethan closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and threw the ball to Charity, before diving to the ground in anticipation of the disaster to come.

He was not disappointed.

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