Toni’s phone rings at 4am.  Ugggh.  I forgot to turn it off and plug it in she mutters. She grabs the phone and looks at the caller ID.  It’s Mike.  Mmmm.  She answers. Sorry, was just going to leave a message.  Mmmm.  Jax is awake.  WHAT!  We’re all at the hospital.  He’s been up for a couple hours, talking to Rolf and Simon.  I am so glad you called.  Should we come right over?

***

The district attorney gives a press conference:                                                           Captain Howard has interviewed Jaxton Ayers.  And has since requested that the charges against Lana Radley for assaulting an officer be dropped.  Since both men have declined to press charges, we’re releasing her from custody, effective immediately.  But on behalf of the city of New Orleans, I’ve asked that the state licensing board revoke her private investigator’s license for moral turpitude. That’s all I’ve got to say and I won’t be taking any questions.

***

Lana comes out of the jail wearing a hoodie, escorted by Toni and several agents wearing FBI windbreakers.  Stay back, she yells at a cameraman, who tries to get a picture of Lana’s face.  Lana gets into Deluca’s Escalade, and it speeds off.

Thank you, Deluca, Lana tells him when he pulls up to the curb.  I’ll see you in class, he replies.  Lana nods.

***

In Jax's hospital room, his parents watch Bettina rush out of the apartment as the tan luxury SUV pulls up.  They see her wave to the driver, and take Lana's arm after she's closed the door.  The girls walk together, ignoring the press and the shouted questions.  Once they get inside the main entrance, and out of the tumult behind them, the cameras show the two hugging each other.

It’s so good to be home, Lana says, as she walks in the door.  What’s going on with you, Bettina?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m on paid leave from the station, so I’m here to wait on you hand and foot, Bettina declares.  And I made your favorite meal.

This is so good.  Lana says as she eats.  She takes a deep breath.  Thank you so much Bettina.  Bettina smiles widely.  I’m so glad you’re back.  Lana covers her hand with her mouth as she yawns, that was so delicious.  I’m going to take a shower.

Twenty minutes later, Lana comes out in her pajamas, a towel around her head, and a  blanket around her shoulders.  And sits down on the couch.  Bettina finishes putting away the dishes then puts a glass of water on the coffee table, sits down in the other corner of the couch, and tucks her legs under her.  She holds up her hand for Lana to wait, and abruptly goes into the other room, and comes back with a blanket.  Alright, tell me everything.

Bettina, are you sure you want to know?  Yes.  So I was working at Rolf’s when I got the pictures, a special delivery for me, along with some yellow flowers.  No card, but I knew who it was from after I saw the pictures.  Who?  Bettina asks. Raul’s aunt.  So what did you do?  I set Jax up.  Ever see a movie at a drive-in theater?  Of course he was up for it.  I was beyond angry, Bettina.  I’d just wasted six months of my life, and I took it out on him.  Next thing I know, someone is honking a horn and headlights are on us.  I threw down the photos and left.

Then I called Kostamo and told him that I’d broken up with Jax and had given him a beatdown.  I asked him if he’d go with me to talk to Rolf.  What did you tell Rolf? I told him about the pictures and what I’d done.  And that there was a witness and that I was going to prison.  What did he say?  He told me to wait to turn myself in until the morning, and said that I should get some sleep.  And my magic bed came through for me.  When I woke up, Deluca was downstairs having coffee with Kostamo.

Lana, why did you hurt him?  I was angry, Bettina.  Not hot anger, but cold fury, if you know the difference.  I was waiting for him to propose to me, and then to see those pictures.  Bettina, they were very graphic.  At the bookstore before you and Rolf joined us, he asked me what I would do if he got me a sex book.  Bettina nods. I told him that I’d be amused if it was blank, but that if it had pictures, I’d slap him into next week.  And he knew what I was telling him, and got embarrassed and went to the restroom.  Well, Bettina -  he got me a sex book, published by the Ortega cartel.  And to top it all off, I saw them kiss when it was over.  There were time stamps on the black and white pictures.  Bettina grimaces and bites her bottom lip.

Bettina, he had a day to call me to break up.  Did he?  Lana asks rhetorically.  He thought he could get away with it, no consequences.  So I had him meet me at the old drive in theater.  Yes, it was entirely premeditated.  And I showed him how the movie ends; he’s my conquest – for me to use and discard like the trash he is.

But he was drugged, Bettina protests.  Yes -  with LSD: lust-sin-death, Lana replies.  Now he can get on with his life without me, and without his guitar.  I took from him the thing he loved most.

Lana, the gym manager, well, she doped his energy drink.  Bettina, I’m not stupid. Of course I considered that.  I know what I saw.  It would be one thing if she straddled him while he was out of it lying on the floor and he didn’t resist.  But she was the passive one.  He did the work, and his hands were full, literally.

Bettina winces.  I actually know what happened; Rolf does too – I told him what Raul told me.  He found out a couple days after and asked me if I still wanted to know.  The gym manager spiked his Redline with an overdose of Vitamin B3.  It makes the skin flush and tingle, but isn’t harmful at all.  Jax came into the office and she led him to believe that she had roofied him.  Then Raul quoted a Proverb to explain.  Bettina gets up and fetches her Bible and hands it to Lana.  Chapter Seven, Verse Twenty One.  Lana reads the verse and looks over at Bettina.  Raul called it the placebo effect.  He said that and the power of suggestion allowed her to remove Jax’s inhibitions.  He told me that even though the game was rigged, Jax still could have won, that his free will wasn’t violated, and that he lacked integrity in the moment of choice.  Raul didn’t apologize, Lana.  And he was the one who brought Jax to the emergency room.  Toni said that the ones who admitted them said that he was weeping uncontrollably.  He lawyered up right away.

How did he know where to go?  They must have my cell phone bugged, Lana says. But how did he have an alibi?  He stopped there the day before to meet with the owner the day before.  I don’t know, Bettina.  Ramon must have anticipated me and planted the thought in my mind somehow.  It’s possible to do, but it’s really involved.

So now what?  Bettina asks Lana.  I’m going to take a nap in my own bed. Tomorrow let’s go to daddy's and get some sun, Bettina says.  And get ready for the parade of men who are going to want to meet you, wild thing.  Lana breaks out laughing.  Thank you so much Bettina, for everything.

***

Several hours later, Lana finds Bettina stretched out on the couch reading.  She scoots Bettina’s feet over and puts them on her lap and starts giving her a foot rub. You parents want us over for dinner, Bettina tells her.  What time?  When we get there.  I told them that you were taking a nap.  I want to stop at Rolf’s afterwards, Lana replies, to see if I still have a job.

***

When they stop by Rolf’s after dark, they see Jon’s white Tuscan and Sam’s red GTO in the drive.  You called ahead, right?  Bettina asks Lana, who nods, and goes up to the door.  Which is opened by Rolf.  Hello, Rolf.  Lana, Bettina.  Please head on into the living room and find a seat.  Everyone stares at Lana, as she sits on the floor in front of the TV.  Bettina sits down next to her.  Rolf hands Lana and Bettina each a water, then sits on the floor next to Lana.  Simon gets up off the couch and sits down next to Bettina.  She smiles at him.  Good evening, she says in a deep voice.  He grins at her.

Explain yourself, Lana.  Mike tells her as he glares at her as everyone sits on the floor in a circle.  What do you want me to say, Mike?  The cartel doped Jax’s Redline; you didn’t even give him a chance to explain, Jon tells her, and gives her a reproachful look.  Lana looks down at her hands.  He had a day to call her, Jon, Bettina says.  He didn’t.

I can understand giving him a beating, Sam says, but why did you smash his hand? Because I’m wicked.  Lana says quietly, still looking down.  What happened, Lana? Toni asks.  Do you need a timeline?  Lana replies, still looking down.  Sure.  Toni says.  The day of, I got a flower delivery – yellow roses, along with the photos.  I knew exactly who sent them.

Let me back up.  When we were in Vegas, Kostamo told me the story of how Raul talked his brother down from killing Jax.  He wanted him tested with the three temptations of the simpleton in Proverbs: the whore, the strange woman, and the adulteress.  And if he passes, he gets me.  Have it your way, brother, Ramon told him, and hung up.  Kostamo said that Ramon gave in too easily, and that Jax was in grave danger.  That the Ortegas were a law unto themselves and lived like feudal lords, and they wanted me for Raul.

So I was going to break up with him, only to find out that I didn’t have to because Rolf took a beating for Jax, and I knew that the cartel couldn’t hit him now without outing Raul.  Then Bettina and I ended up meeting Raul and Ramon for dinner after church.  When Ramon left the table to check on his trap for Kostamo, I confronted Raul, and let him know that I knew about his test and told him that I wasn’t going to warn Jax, and that if he failed, I’d take care of him myself.  Bettina nods at this.  I was certain that Jax would pass.  I was wrong.

But he was drugged, Jon says angrily, and glares at Lana.  Lana looks back at him. Do you think that I didn’t consider that possibility?  Yes, Jon replies.  He was an active participant, Jon.  There were two sex acts in the photos, with time stamps. DO YOU WANT DETAILS?  Lana asks, raising her voice.   Jon looks at the floor. He even kissed her afterwards, Bettina says indignantly.

There’s silence in the room, as everyone digests what Lana has told them.  Bettina looks at Lana, and Lana gives her a tiny head shake not to tell.  I don’t want to ever see Jax again.

When you smashed Jax’s hand, you killed the band, Lana.  Don’t tell me you didn’t know that, Simon says.  Lana starts to say something, but then looks down at the beautiful maple floor.  What?  Simon says.  Consider that a gift; now you’ll never be Nickelback.

How can you be so cold?  Toni asks.  You’re all free now, thanks to the scorned woman.  Now Rolf can go drum out in the Serengeti without feeling guilty.  Simon can record a multiplatinum Christmas album with Bettina.  Jon can teach music at Julliard, and Mike can run for Senator and get elected.

What about Jax?  Sam asks.  He’s free to fornicate as much as he likes.  Mike rolls his eyes and looks at Rolf.  Lana, Jax is the one who sprung you.  Rolf tells her. And in return he gets my silence; I’m the bad guy.  Don’t wife that with three exclamation marks.

It’s not right what you did, Lana.  Toni tells her.  Lana looks down at her hands. Tell me what I should have done, Toni.  A phone call?  A text?  A letter?  He’d never leave me alone.  I’m so sorry; it will never happen again, she says derisively.  Do any of you have any illusions of Jax and I getting back together?  No one answers her.

Lana, I’ve got a question.  Sam pipes up.  What if you were married to Jax and this happened?  Lana closes her eyes.  You don’t have to answer, Sam says quickly, her face turning red with embarrassment.  If you’re going to play what if, make it positive, Sam.  What if you couldn’t fail, Sam?  Imagine the ideal, and work toward it.

Why don’t you answer her question?  Mike says.  I don’t do counterfactuals, Lana replies calmly.  She asked a hypothetical, Jon says.  What’s the difference?  Mike asks Jon.  Counterfactuals are what ifs about the past; hypotheticals are what ifs about the future, Jon replies.

What would you do, Mike, if the shoe were on the other foot?  Bettina says. Mike doesn’t answer, and Simon breaks out into dry heaves of laughter.  I’m just trying to imagine Mike married…to Jax.  Everyone joins in.  You know what I mean, Bettina says, trying to frown at Simon.  Yeah, I don’t want to go there either, Mike admits.  Jon and Lana stare at each other.  Vulcan, Lana mutters.  Klingon, Jon grunts.  And they grin at each other, and the others chuckle at their exchange.

Lana, please visit Jax in the hospital.  Simon tells her.  I know that you’re past getting back together, but will you do that for him?  We’ll all go with you.  To what end, Simon?  What good will come from it?  The optics – for both of you, Bettina says.  Lana looks over at Rolf.  I’m not playing Oprah; keep me out of this.  Bettina frowns at Rolf and throws up her hands in exasperation.  Lana shakes her head no. Simon, I don’t want a media event.  Well, if Muhamed won’t go to the mountain, the mountain will have to go to Muhamed.  Absolutely not, Lana says.  It’s a free country, Lana.  Simon replies.

I can sneak you in, Sam tells Lana.  No one needs to know.  I don’t want to meet his parents, Lana states.  Toni and I will take them out to dinner, Mike says.  The coast will be clear.  Lana looks over at Bettina.  I won’t leave your side, Bettina tells her.  You should do this.  Lana looks at Jon.  You need to hear his side of the story, Lana.  Jax was given a psychotropic cocktail.  It wasn’t Jax in those pictures.  Lana puts her hand on Bettina’s arm to keep her from speaking.  Okay, here’s the score. I’ll go to listen, but I do not want to be alone with him.  You three are going to be witnesses.  Set it up, she tells Sam.