At Crane House, Fancy knelt on the stairwell, closely examining the carpet of the steps Gwen had traversed when Jane had her accident … if it was an accident. Fancy hoped that there could be a slight tear in the step's carpet to catch the heel of Gwen's shoe and cause Gwen to wobble and lose her grip on Jane's hand, causing the little girl to tumble down the stairs. Fancy took a strong, lighted magnifying glass and inspected the steps carefully, hoping to find a flaw that would explain this bizarre incident.
After peering at the steps for over an hour, Fancy stood up and rubbed her knees in total frustration. There was nothing defective about that carpet; nothing. There was no flaw that could have caused Gwen to lose her balance. Gwen was lying. No, Fancy corrected herself. In her disjointed statement to Fancy, Gwen had never claimed to have lost her balance. She said "it" shoved her arm. That something Gwen called The Perpetual Motion Machine with its Ethan Project, Luis Project and Kaye Project.
So, if Gwen was truthful when she denied throwing Jane down the stairs and Fancy believed she was, then something had shoved her arm. Or, to be exact; someone. A slight frown marred the loveliness of Fancy's glowing face. That ugly suspicion of hers was coming back again. There was only one someone in a position to shove Gwen's arm and that was Sheridan. Fancy remembered looking up and catching that hateful expression of Sheridan's just seconds before it happened.
But then, Fancy also remembered that Sheridan was watching Fancy with Luis and that little boy, Matthew … who looked so much like Marty at that age. Oh, boy. Fancy wanted to kick herself. She knew that Sheridan was still mourning the loss of Marty and probably always would. Moreover, she knew that Sheridan still had strong feelings for Luis. Watching the three together must have felt like salt being rubbed into the wound.
Maybe Sheridan had jostled Gwen's arm but was too wrapped up in the unpleasant tableau she witnessed to immediately notice? But , wouldn't it make sense that if asked if she could have accidentally moved into Gwen's step before Gwen had completely left it, at least say she wasn't sure? No one would think that Sheridan would want to see Jane hurt or dead. It was not like she would worry about Theresa prosecuting her.
Fancy knew that Sheridan and Gwen were best friends forever and as thick as thieves. Wouldn't it make sense for Sheridan to give her best friend plausible deniability by implying that it could have happened? Why would she be so adamant that the theoretical scenario that Fancy had given her never happened and reject the "out" that it gave both her and Gwen? If Fancy didn't know better, she'd swear that Sheridan wanted Gwen to remain in trouble with the Harmony authorities.
Fancy thought about talking to Luis about this and then thought better of it. Of all people, Luis was all too aware of her and Sheridan's romantic rivalry over himself and Fancy was pretty sure that her chief, Sam Bennett, was aware of it as well, because Harmony was such a small enclave that everybody knew everybody else's business.
Fancy knew how she would look to these men or anybody else in the department she might talk to about this. Like a mean, petty and jealous woman who feared more romantic challenges from Sheridan now that she was a widow, so she was projecting those insecurities on her aunt to keep her away from Luis. It was no good talking to anybody about her suspicions. Better to wait until she had real incontrovertible proof.
At her hotel room, Gwen put Jenny back to bed, kicked off her shoes, and had room service bring her up some more wine to calm her nerves. But it did not work. So, she tried to distract herself by unpacking her bags and organizing their contents. Gwen folded Jenny's clothes and some smaller items of her own and put them into the drawers then hung up her garments on the clothes hangers. Meticulously, she put her shoes in a row on the bottom of the closet floor. Shrugging she went back to her chair to look for the shoes she kicked off, but she could not find them. Bewildered, Gwen got on her knees and looked under her bed to find nothing there but dust bunnies.
This is odd, Gwen thought. Where were the shoes she just had on? She had not taken them off since she had put them on for the wake and she was absolutely sure she had walked out in them! Or had she?! She was still too upset over Jane's accident to remember. She did not remember kicking off her shoes in her room at Crane House. Was it possible that she had and simply slipped into another pair of shoes? Not knowing whether she was coming or going, Gwen was no longer sure.
"How is Jane doing," Fancy asked anxiously, as Luis approached her.
"She's doing fine," Luis reassured her. "Ethan told me that all Eve thinks Jane has is a slight concussion but they are keeping her overnight for observation. Naturally Ethan and Theresa want to stay with Jane, but if all is okay, they will all be home shortly after breakfast tomorrow."
"Thank God," Fancy said fervently, looking at the bottom of the blood-spattered stairwell. Scalp wounds are pretty scary, because they look so much worse than they really are, she thought.
"Uh, you thought that Gwen could have tripped on some sort of carpet flaw," Luis reminded Fancy tensely. "Did you find anything?"
"Not yet," Fancy admitted. "I'm taking a break and then I'm going to examine it again."
Luis stared at Fancy intently. "You've been combing those steps for a couple of hours now and you haven't found a thing. Are you sure that Gwen didn't throw Jane down the stairs?"
At that moment, Fancy felt rather than saw a movement just outside of her upper peripheral vision and saw Sheridan at the top of the stairwell, watching the crime scene technicians comb the stairwell for more evidence.
"Luis, I have no proof that Gwen is innocent," Fancy answered, "but in my heart of hearts, I believe she is and I swear to God I am going to find a way to prove it," she continued more loudly, staring Sheridan in the eyes.
At that moment, Sheridan's cell phone rang.
"It's Gwen," Sheridan said as Luis turned and looked at Sheridan. "Hi, Gwen, how are you doing?"
"About as well as can be expected, Gwen answered. "I'm sorry to bother you, Sheridan, but I can't find my shoes. It's weird. I could have sworn that I haven't taken them off since I wore them to the wake, but they aren't here and I've torn my hotel room apart. So, I figured that maybe, in all the excitement, I kicked them off in my room at Crane House, slipped on another pair and left them behind. Is there any way you can search my room at Crane for them?"
"I thought you walked out of Crane House in those shoes out, too," Sheridan replied, "But I'll be happy to check your room to be sure."
"We'll help you," Fancy said, ignoring Sheridan's scowl in her direction
"Tell Fancy I said thank you," Gwen told Sheridan, hearing Fancy in the background.
Sheridan, Fancy, and Luis arrived in Gwen's room and started to search. They were not in the wardrobe or in plain view.
"They aren't here," Sheridan said.
"Let's check under the furniture," Fancy insisted.
"The only piece of furniture it could be under is that chair, because Gwen never sat anywhere else and it's not there," Sheridan said impatiently.
"I'll check under the bed," Fancy said, ignoring her. Gwen's shoes touched Fancy's fingertips as if her fingernails were made of magnets.
Fancy said triumphantly, "Here they are!"
"That makes no sense," Sheridan said dully. "Gwen never left that chair."
Suddenly a thought struck Fancy. Frowning slightly, she started to closely examine Gwen's shoes.
Irritated at the way Fancy was ignoring her, Sheridan asked, "What are you doing?"
"I thought Gwen tripped on a defective seam or hole in the carpet, but now I think …. No, now I know … what the problem was," Fancy said. "Luis, look at this. It's her heel! The heel of her shoe is defective. Look at how sturdy the heel of her left shoe is, but the one on her right shoe is a tad weak, like it either wasn't set in properly or came a little loose."
Luis came over and peered over Fancy's shoulder as she placed both shoes side by side on the dresser, slipped her hands into them, and leaned into the shoes.
"I'm definitely feeling a slight 'give' on the right," Fancy said.
Luis came up to the dresser and squatted back on his heels.
"Press down into them again," Luis ordered Fancy.
As she complied, he noticed, from his vantage point that the heel seemed to wobble slightly.
Fancy and Luis stared at each other and smiled.
"Gwen is innocent, just like I thought," Fancy said.
"Yes, she is," Luis confirmed.
Sheridan asked, "So that means Gwen won't be charged with attempted murder?"
"No," Fancy said. "It was clearly an accident and nothing intentional. I'll take this to forensics to bag and tag to back up our report."
"You do that," Luis said. "I'll call Gwen and let her know what we found so she won't be so stressed."
"Well, I'm glad that you found the evidence to clear Gwen," Sheridan said, "But I'm exhausted from all the stress. If you'll excuse me, I'm heading for bed."
"That's a good idea. You look like you could use a little rest," Luis said. "Have a good night."
Heading towards her room, Sheridan felt rather than saw Fancy smile up at Luis and say, "I'd like to go see Gwen and give her the good news face to face."
Sheridan heard Luis answer, "That's a great idea. Gwen once told me that she has come to always expect the other shoe to drop where Theresa is concerned. We'll probably have to show her the evidence before her mind will finally be put at ease."
"Yeah," Sheridan continued to listen intently as Fancy responded speculatively, "That makes sense. A guy who used to work with her once told me that Gwen was a Type A control freak. Gwen's life has been so off the rails since Theresa came into Ethan's life, it isn't funny. So that seems like a natural reaction to me."
Sheridan didn't stick around to further witness Fancy and Luis psychoanalyzing Gwen, because she knew one thing that they didn't. Theresa felt as out of control around Gwen as Gwen did around Theresa even though Gwen operated alone without any help. Except, of course, from that ditzy mother of hers who was more of a hindrance to Gwen than anything else.
Theresa, on the other hand, never had a shortage of accomplices in her never-ending quest to prise Ethan out of Gwen's grip, including, to Sheridan's own everlasting regret, Sheridan herself.
How could I have ever tried to talk Gwen into simply walking away from the love of her life, Sheridan chastised herself. What was I thinking? She reflected a little more on the subject. Oh yes, Sheridan thought bitterly. I was going to be with the love of my own life and he just happened to be the brother of the interloper in Gwen's relationship with Ethan. That little bitch, Theresa, counted on me throwing Gwen's romance with Ethan under the bus for my romance with Luis. What galls me is that she was absolutely right!
With Theresa and so many of her minions lined up against her, it was a miracle that Gwen managed not only to marry Ethan but hang in there and keep her arch rival at bay for almost a decade. No wonder she was so exhausted now.
All these years, Gwen has had no one in her corner and fought on alone only to be tarred and painted as the wicked stepsister in Theresa's Cinderella Story with Ethan. I imagine she got tired of it and gave up her own dreams of happiness with her one true love, Sheridan thought. Rebecca's clumsy antics didn't help any . But this time … this time, Gwen is going to win and Theresa is going to be the one who will be seen by the town and by Ethan himself as the nasty little witch in all this.
This time, Gwen's hands will be clean because no one will ever suspect that one of Theresa's staunchest allies, the woman who once aspired to marry Theresa's own brother, switched sides. Sheridan helping Gwen get Ethan back would be a secret even to Gwen herself, giving Gwen the ultimate in Plausible Deniability in blowing up Theresa's Cinderella Book dreams.