The next day, Toni leaves early for work, and Bettina sleeps in. Then goes about cleaning the apartment and cooking. At eleven am, the drizzle stops and the sun comes out. She changes into a workout outfit, putting an unzipped hoodie jacket over her Channel 5 Tshirt and heads outside with a covered dish. A CNN film crew comes out of their van and approaches her. Good morning, she says brightly with a smile. And walks over to the next apartment building and disappears inside. Five minutes later, she comes out with a huge St. Bernard on a retractable leash, and they head out down the sidewalk. The dog stops abruptly at a sniffy spot and Bettina goes into a boxer skip until the dog has peed, and then they’re off again, until they’re out of sight. Should we follow her? The film crew asks their reporter. She shakes her head no, and they go back inside their van. An hour and a half later, Bettina and the huge dog return. The dog looks exhausted. But Bettina looks energized. The dog lays down on a patch of grass and pants. Bettina drops down next to him, and pets his head. What’s news? Bettina asks the reporter. You are. Well, viewers, this is Runt. I traded his owner some homemade apple crisp for his leash. Now he’s about to go back home and take his nap. Don’t you work? The reporter asks Bettina. Clown patrol is serious work; someone has to do it. Clown patrol? Bettina’s face contorts into a snarl. I hate clowns, she mutters. The dog looks at her. It’s okay, Runt. He lays his head back down.
Did you just call me a clown? The woman reporter says incredulously. Are you wearing a wig and lots of makeup? Do you lure children into sewers? Let me see your nose - so I can be sure, Bettina says, suddenly getting up and lurching toward the reporter, who backs away quickly. Do you want some apple crisp? Bettina asks the cameraman. That sounds great, he replies. I’ll be right out with some. Time for your nap, Runt. The big dog lumbers up and follows her to the neighbor’s apartment building. Bettina comes out a minute later with an empty dish, and walks over to her apartment, and holds up a finger for them to wait for one minute.
She comes out five minutes later with a huge bowl of apple crisp topped with ice cream, and two spoons. I put a little banana cream pudding on the side. You made this from scratch? The reporter asks. Sure. Is it organic? The reporter asks. Bettina sighs. If I wouldn’t serve it to Jesus, I wouldn’t serve it to you; it’s the best of what I have. The reporter stares at Bettina with a look of complete shock. I brought two spoons. I know how to work a camera, she tells the cameraman. Trade? He hands it to her and she shoulders it. Sorry, viewers, I haven’t done this since college. SMU. Go Mustangs!
Is that why you drive a Mustang? The reporter asks. Part of it is sentiment for my alma mater, part of it is personal preference, but most of it is performance. But I lost my license. Trust me, “But officer, boys were chasing me” may get a laugh, but it won’t get you out of a ticket. The cool cops write me for five over. But the last officer must have spilled his coffee when I went through his speed trap. He tore up my license on the spot. How long ago was this? A couple weeks. Rolf and I were racing Jax and Lana.
This is delicious. The cameraman says, filling in the awkward pause. What’s going on with your roommate? She’s still not talking. Toni was going to try and see her after work today. Have you spoken to her parents? I’m going over for dinner later. Which should I bring? The pudding. I’m gaining weight just looking at the crisp with that ice cream.
So have you spoken to the guys in the band? Speaking of, and Bettina films Jax’s Hellcat pulling up to the curb. Interview over. She says and sits down with the camera in her lap. Want some apple crisp? I just baked it this morning. Simon shakes his head no, and looks at her. I’m lost. Bettina gets up. Let’s go for a walk, she tells him. Thanks for letting me be the cameraman. I’m adding it to my resume.
The reporter sees Bettina rub Simon’s back with her hand as they slowly walk away, and the cameraman takes a quick parting shot. Jim, what are the chances that any of that footage will make the cut? We’ll be back tomorrow if we don’t bring something in, he tells her. CNN posts the entire interview on their website, and the next day, there are scores of reporters hanging around Bettina’s apartment, waiting for her to come out.
Simon walks along with Bettina, and she rubs his back. The tox report came back clean, he blurts out. She nods. It makes sense that it would. Pharmacology is so far advanced. The cartel has the motive and means to pay for the absolute best. What about his bloodwork? The markers are inconclusive. You need a baseline to go off of, and we don’t have that.
Toni said that Jax would always have a Redline before his workouts that he’d buy at the gym. It would be easy to dope. And the gym manager would have put it in his hand. Have they found her yet? Toni says that she and her fiance have dropped off the map.
There was a private plane that left for Thailand with two passengers plus crew; it refueled in Cozamel.
Okay, it’s obvious that it was a setup. But was he drugged? Of course he was. They’d leave nothing to chance. What did Raul say? That he knew nothing. I believe him, Simon. His alibi is airtight. The property owner rescheduled the day before, then ran late the day of. He told the police that the assailant ran away when he laid on the horn. What really happened? She stopped kicking him and threw the photographs on his body, and then walked away without a glance back. Simon shakes his head and scowls.
What have you heard from Rolf? No one has seen him since Lana turned herself in. What did he tell you that night in the waiting room? Bettina frowns. That Jax would pull through, that they’d drilled a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure, but that he wouldn’t be playing guitar anytime soon.
She’s psychotic. Simon declares. NO, she’s not. Bettina snaps. It was provoked. Someone pointed her at Jax and pulled the trigger. Lana has an empathy switch that she’s able to turn off. And don’t tell me that he didn’t know what Lana was capable of. Toni told me that she warned you guys. You’re making excuses for her. No, I’m not. And let me remind you, that if Jax hadn’t strayed, none of this would have happened.
Simon, I’m not capable of doing what she did. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to. Rolf asked me two strange questions that night. First was if the police had the photographs as evidence. I said yes. And second, what I would do if I had the power to destroy. So, what’s your point? Rolf is a partner in Lana’s firm. He knows how to find people from working with Lana. How much do you want to bet that he’s chasing down the gym manager? Rolf’s not a violent person, Simon says. If he’s able to locate them, Kostamo will do the rest, Bettina replies. He was the one who brought Lana over to Rolf’s afterwards and stayed and watched the house while she was resting.
I’m lost, Bettina. What should I do? Confront reality. Do you remember what Kostamo told us about team dynamics back in Vegas at dinner? Simon nods. Jax and Lana are never going to get back together. Simon breaks down into tears. Why would you tell me that? Because you need to hear it. Simon, you and Lana have always had a connection. If you step up now and be there for her, she’ll pay you back with a lifetime of devotion. I want you to come with me tonight to her parents as my date. Jax will hate me, Simon says. What happened to Jax is not your fault, Simon. We both know that Lana will never take him back; I think that’s why she almost beat him to death, so she couldn’t.
Simon, SH5 is finished. You’re going to have to build a new team like Kostamo did. Simon stops walking and sobs with his head down. What you guys did at Raul’s club was so amazing. It was the summit. Rolf knew it. He told the truth around the campfire when he said that he felt hollow and empty afterwards.
How am I going to face Jax?
He cheated on Lana. How is he going to face you?
I don’t think I can do it, Bettina.
Find me a soda bottle in the trash and I’ll bring it home, wash and rinse it, and turn it into a treasure for you. Oh really, he tells her, chuckling now. Yes. I’ll wrap it with masking tape and write I CAN on it in huge letters. And you can take it with you in your travels. And it will give you permission to live your dreams, to go for greatness. Or store it on a shelf, and keep your balls in it. Your choice.
I love you, Bettina. She purses her lips and frowns and looks ahead.
So against the odds, it’s you and I and Lana and Jax – we live in adjoining mansions out Portland. Toni and Mike live in Detroit, and Sam and Jon live in NYC. Rolf drops in every now and then, and looks around and nods his approval at you guys, and the music never stops.
Why not? Simon says. Make it a We Can, not an I Can.
I’ll play it forward. So you and I live out in Portland. Our house is filled with singing and laughter and kids. One of them will be an adopted girl from China with special needs. We’ve got new friends from our church. We’ve no contact with Lana and Raul and Sam and Ramon. Toni is a widow. She keeps talking about moving, but we both know that she’ll never leave New Orleans. The guys in the band and my father are dead. Only you and I are left. But we’re happy, mostly. We fight more as the older kids become teenagers. I need you here, or our kids will go to the devil. You reprioritize, and things are good again. But the phone stops ringing. And it’s then you realize that your career is dead.
Late at night - you cannot sleep because of the baby that’s crying, and I’m sick again from being pregnant. So you take the crying child into your mancave, and watch the up and comers sing covers of your SH5 songs, and suddenly realize that you are now Nickelback to these kids. And you’ll think back to that one moment when everything was right. Just after the greatest concert of the 21st Century. Maybe it was when we gathered around the fire, and told stories. And Rolf said that love was a woods elf who likes to play hide and seek. And you knew then that love was there around the fire, embracing us. Simon breaks down in tears.
We can, Simon, but you’ll think back to that moment when you jumped the pews to land next to Lana, and how happy she was to see you, and how right it felt when she put her arm around you. And how hurt you were when you saw the disappointment in my eyes that it wasn’t Rolf who came. I’ve always disappointed her, you mutter. And then you’d think about how you stood up to my dad, and got Lana out of there.
And then you’d think back to this moment. When you could have gone to Lana’s parents with me. And everything would be different.
I hate you, Bettina. Simon sobs. Shhh… She tells him. He pulls away from her, and wipes the tears from his eyes. The band comes first. There is no future; there is only the present. Bettina sighs and takes his arm and they walk back in silence.
Someone who has a direction isn’t lost, Simon.
You think you’re so smart. That you can see around corners. You’re the one who is going to look back with regret on this day, Bettina.
I like the way you say my name, Bettina announces with a grin, and bumps into Simon with her shoulder as they walk along.
He grins back at her. I’ve never met anyone like you. I can safely say the same. I like that you’ve thought about us, he admits. How did it play out after our lunch? She smiles. I was willing to put up with a lot to live next to Lana. And you showed up to church, which impressed me. And my dad really likes you, and he’s a good judge of character.
So if you see Lana and I happily ever after, Mike and Toni, Sam and Jon, where does that leave you? With Rolf obviously. Simon shakes his head no. And you talk to me about confronting reality? I’ll hear what you have to say, Bettina responds. Simon doesn’t say anything as they walk along. You’re a good man, Simon. Bettina says. Let me ask you a question. In percentage terms, give me the probability that you see Rolf stepping up. 20%, Simon says. It hurts me to hear that, Bettina says.
An “I CAN”, huh? Simon says to Bettina with a smile. I’m going to make one for Jax. If I can find one of Jonny’s empty Orange Crush’s, it’d be the perfect get well gift.
Bettina picks up the ice cream bowl from off the lawn and goes inside without saying another word. She looks out the window and sees his car drive off and breaks down into tears. She calls Rolf’s number. This mailbox is full and cannot accept new messages. She hangs up and wipes her eyes, and looks at the picture of her and Lana on the end table. She takes a deep breath and steels herself. It’s time for triage, Bettina. She picks up her cell phone and dials.
Hi, Raul. I know it’s short notice, but would you be willing to drive me over to Lana’s parents? I’ll introduce you.