"It isn't right that he even gets a say in this," Heather protests.
"That's the law, though," Ulises explains. Now that they're married, he wants to legally adopt Laurel, but since her biological father is still alive, they need his consent for that to happen. He and Heather got a lawyer to find him and get him to sign off, but they haven't heard back from him in weeks since they made their request.
"Don't start fretting about it yet," Ulises advises, putting Laurel down to give his wife a long, tendr kiss goodbye for he heads off to the station. "Just because we haven't heard from him doesn't mean he's going to give us trouble. Just relax and wait it out."
"I love you," she whispers, holding back tears of frustration.
"And I love you. We have that, so everything will be fine," Ulises promises, giving her one more kiss before he goes.
Heather has been oversensitive and emotional since they started this process. She thought it was just from trying to contact Trace and having to deal with lawyers. But in the last few days, her breasts had become tender, and now she's late. As soon as Ulises leaves for work, she heads upstairs and takes the pregnancy test kit she'd hidden in her dresser. After a few fretful minutes of suspense, her suspicion is confirmed; she's pregnant. Heather smiles, her outlook brightened by this positive news.
When Ulises calls her an hour later, she nearly blurts out the good news, but stops herself just in tim. She wants to make the announcement face to face. She'll make a special, romantic dinner, she thinks, maybe even wear a nice dress...
"I have a...situation...here," Ulises interrupts her daydreaming, "Someone in San Francisco filed a missing persons report on your friend Rebecca."
"What? Who?" Heather asks incredulously.
"A Shannon Daughtry, it says."
"That's her boyfriend. Or was anyway," Heather explains, confused herself about what's going on.
"Well, apparently she didn't tell anyone up there where she was going, and she's been missing long enough that there's a case open. Mariposa, I have to report her whereabouts."
"I know," Heather sighs, "But, she'll be here in like n hour. Can you just give me the time to talk to her about it? Get her to report herself? Maybe there's a reason she's on the run."
"All right," Ulises agrees, "Call me after you talk to her. But if she won't come in herself, you know I have to report it. Police are out there wasting time looking for a woman that isn't really missing. If she needs protection from this Shannon guy, SFPD can help her."
The knock on her door comes while she's playing with Laurel. "It's open," she calls out, expecting Rebecca.
She gets up to greet her friend, only to find someone she really wasn't expecting. "Trace," she says, her voice flat.
"Heather," he responds, "I thought if I was going to sign away all rights to my daughter, I should do it in person."
Heather sighs in relief, "Then you'll consent?"
"I didn't say that," Trace says, "This is a huge thing you're asking of me."
Heather notices that though his daughter is playing on the floor in front of him, he hasn't even glanced in her direction, "How huge can it be?" she asks, "You've never been a part of her life, you still haven't even met her. Consenting to the adoption would just make the arrangement we already have legal."
"But, Heather, a cop? A fucking cop? Are you insane?"
Not this crap again, Heather thinks with a sigh. "Trace, my husband is a good man. And he's been the father to Laurel you haven't been. He helped her take her first steps, he was there when she said her first word. He's here for her, and he loves her. Your feelings about his profession are irrelevant."
Rebecca comes in without bothering to knock at all. "Trace? Is that really you?" she gasps, grabbing him for a friendly hug, "It's been ages!'
"You were at Berkley, right?" Trace asks, "I thought you were up in the Bay Area."
"I was," Rebecca says, "I got a few stories published, and I briefly had a job at the Chronicle. But, you know, budget cuts. I was cut loose."
Trace nods, "Tell me about it. I'm thinking of going to Berkley now, myself. For a my masters."
Heather turns her attention toward her daughter while the two friends catch up, sharing their college stories.
"Well, I should get going," Trace finally turns back to Heather, "I came at a bad time. I'll call you later and we can set up a time to discuss this issue. Becca, give me a call later. Maybe we can get drinks?"
"I'm free tonight," Rebecca says with a smile, "I'll call you in a couple of hours, okay?"
"How's Coby?" Heather asks when they're finally alone together.
"Stoned and sleeping when I left," Rebecca answers with a laugh.
Heather sighs, "Look, I know it's none of my business..."
"I'm just staying at his place for awhile," Rebecca says, "Yeah, it's a friends with benefits kind of deal. But he's not a teenager anymore, Heather."
"I know that, Becca," Heather says, "But he's, well, more sensitive than he lets on."
"Oh, yeah, Mr. Sensitive," Rebecca snorts, "The guy with a new girlfriend every week. Look, Coby and I are both adults, and we both know what this relationship is and what it isn't."
"I just worry about him," Heather says, "He was so heartbroken about that other girl."
"Not worried about me, I see," Rebecca laughs, "Not concerned that he'll break my heart."
Heather smiles, "I do worry about you, Becca. More than you know. But not over Coby, no."
"So, what was Trace doing here?" Rebecca moves on to another subject.
Heather explains the situation to her friend, about Ulises wanting to adopt Laurel. "And now Trace is holding back consent because he's a cop," she ends with a deep sigh.
"I'll talk to him about it," Rebecca promises.
"Oh great, you can team up with him against me," heather says bitterly.
"Not at all," Rebecca protests, "Yeah, I'm still not in love with the idea of you being married to a cop. But I've seen how it is here. Trace blew off his parental responsibilities. Sure, when we were in high school, it was his parents that forced him to stay away. But when he went to Stanford, he never looked back, right? Never called you, never offered help, never even tried to meet Laurel. He has no business coming in to interfere now. And I can actually vouch your cop; I've seen him with Laurel. I wish I had a father as affectionate as him."
"Really?" Heather smiles, relieved, "I'd really appreciate it if you could talk to Trace about this. He'd have to listen to you."
"I'm happy to help," Rebecca says.
"Rebecca, I have to ask, what's going on with you and Shannon?" Heather says.
"Why do you think something is going on?" Rebecca demands.
"Well, last I heard, you were living together, had been together for awhile. Then, you come down here with no plans to return to the Bay Area. You don't just walk out on a relationship like that, right?"
"What if I did?" Rebecca challenges.
"Becca, he filed a missing persons report on you. You left town without telling a soul where you were going."
Rebecca sighs. She just wanted to disappear for awhile, but the world just doesn't let people run away like that. "I don't owe him or you or anyone an explanation."
"Okay, don't explain," Heather throws up her hands, "But, you have to clear up your missing status with the police."
"Or your husband will do it for me?"
Heather's eyes drop, "He has to, Becca," she says quietly, hoping this won't change Rebecca's mind about talking to Trace, "He promised to wait for me to talk to you about it, to let you do it yourself. But if you don't...look at it from his perspective. They have police out there wasting time searching for you. And even without him, they'll find you. As soon as you use a credit card or something like that."
"Fine, I'll call SFPD," Rebecca says. "And don't worry, I'll still talk to Trace for you."
After Rebecca leaves, Heather gets dinner in the oven, settles Laurel down in her crib for the night, and puts on the dress she wore for her first date with Ulises. All that's left to do now is choose some romantic music to set the mood.
"Don't move, bitch."
The gun presses against her neck. Heather freezes in place, raising her hands instinctively. She senses another man behind her, but doesn't dare turn to look.
Esparza grabs her, dragging her toward the couch. Now she sees the second guy, his own gun drawn. Her gun, the one Ulises got for her and taught her to use, sits uselessly in her desk drawer.
The gun presses against her hip. If she screams, maybe the neighbors would hear, and maybe they'd do something. Or maybe it would just wake Laurel up. The toddler is quiet now, out of sight. Heather fears what these animals might do to her daughter if they were made aware of her presence, and she doesn't scream.
"You like fucking that cop, bitch?" Esparza growls, "You give him a message. You tell him that no one fucks with Aaron Esparza."
Ulises. He'll be home soon, Heather thinks. He'll rescue or her. Or he'll die, she realizes with sudden dread. There are two of them, with guns. She has to warn him. But she can't do anything with Esparza holding her down, his gun pressed against her hip. She can't save herself, can't protect her daughter, can't warn her husband, she's completely helpless.
Something is very wrong Ulises realizes immediately. A stray dog whines plaintively and scratches in front of their open door. Something is burning in the kitchen. And, faintly, he hears Heather sobbing, and the low threatening voice of a male.
Drawing his sidearm, Ulises steps into the house, making as little noise as possible.
There are two of them, Esparza and Ancelotti, both armed. There's little to no chance he'll be able to take them both. But he has no choice, Heather needs him now.
Ancelotti turns toward him as Ulises charges into the room, both firing their weapons simultaneously.
Esparza drops, and Heather collapses on the floor, sobbing. Ulises took a bullet to the stomach, leaving Ancelotti the only man standing.
"Mariposa," Ulises hisses through the pain, "The gun. Take his gun," he says in Spanish. Ancelotti doesn't speak Spanish.
The gun. It's in Esparza's limp hand. Heather reaches tentatively to her right, until her fingers wrap around the gun's handle. She stands quickly and fires, just like Ulises taught her to do.
From the floor, Ulises watches Ancelotti fall. He couldn't protect her, he failed at the one thing he had to do, the only important thing. He failed her. But she's safe now. His head drops to the ground as he loses consciousness.
"No," Heather moans, lifting him into her arms, "No no no no..."