Frederick’s pupils dilated in an instant, a surge of anger flooding his eyes as he demanded, “What do you mean?”
Barnes, filled with righteous indignation, blurted out, “Mr. Winston, Hayes, he was… was…”
But his words were abruptly cut off. A searing pain suddenly spread from Barnes‘ throat, climbing upwards with brutal speed, choking the breath from his lungs.
Clasping his handcuffed hands to his neck, his body began to convulse.
“Argh… it hurts! It hurts…”
He muttered repeatedly, then slowly fell silent, collapsing to the ground, his condition unclear.
“Someone call a doctor! Chuck, dial 911!” Marguerite, never having witnessed such a scene, fumbled in panic, urging Chuck to call for an ambulance.
Chaos reigned in an instant. But unnoticed in the corner, Yuna’s face was streaked with tears, her eyes, however, sparkled with a sinister triumph.
The drug had taken effect at the perfect moment!
He wanted to rat her out? Well then, she’d make sure he’d never speak again!
The ambulance arrived swiftly, and the paramedics immediately conducted a thorough examination of Barnes.
“Mr. Winston, his throat has sustained permanent damage, and he’s in a coma. I’m afraid he might never speak again,” one reported grimly.
“How long until he wakes up?”
If he couldn’t speak, he could still write, right? Frederick could wait.
The doctor’s expression was troubled as he replied, “It could be… a very long time.”
Frederick’s anger flared at the vague answer, his voice a low growl, “I need a precise time!”
The doctor, visibly shaken, stammered, “Well… Mr. Winston, the EEG shows brain activity, but his body isn’t responding at all. He’s… in a vegetative state. I can’t predict when, or if he’ll ever wake up.”
Vegetative state? Damn it! The truth was so close, yet always just out of reach.
Marguerite, witnessing Frederick’s emotional spiral, instinctively reached out and clasped Frederick’s clenched fist, squeezing gently.
Then she turned to the doctor, her voice soft, “What caused him to fall into this state? Is there any way to find out?”
The doctor shook his head, relieved at the kinder face before him, “We can’t determine the cause right now. Unless he passes away, an autopsy could reveal if he ingested any harmful substances. Otherwise, we can only wait for him to wake up.”
Frederick’s face was taut with barely contained fury, a seething rage threatening to erupt.
Unable to contain himself, he spun around and seized Yuna by the throat, his tone cruel and wild, “Spill it! What were you and Barnes up to?”
Yuna, gasping for air under his grip, coughed painfully, tears streaming down her face, “Freddie, it’s a misunderstanding! I’ve told you everything, he was threatening me! And for years, he’d threatened me with my parents. When Hayes and Manley were born, he started using the kids as leverage. Just now… he admitted it, he was using the kids to blackmail me!”
“What did he mean with his last words? Why mention Hayes? Manley and Hayes are both your children, he had no reason to threaten just one!”
Yuna couldn’t explain herself and resorted to feigning ignorance to deflect.
She shook her head frantically, the very picture of distress, “Freddie, I really don’t know what’s going on, I’m just as confused. Hayes is my own flesh and blood; even if I’ve been a bit biased, I’d never hurt him!”