Dirty Little Secret


The Basics
Release Date May 15, 2015
Tagline "When we live such fragile lives, it's the best way we survive; I go around a time or two, just to waste my time with you..."
Theme Song Dirty Little Secret, by All American Rejects
Interlude(s) Another Place and Time, Part One
Wordcount 84,450
Casualties Caleb Hennessy (suicide by hanging); Michael Goldman (shot, presumably)
Preceded By Innocent
Followed By Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Independence Day, Book Four: Dirty Little Secret released on May 15, 2015. It contains ten chapters and the first part of the Another Place and Time interlude. It is the longest book to date, clocking in at over 84K words.


During a routine stop at the Chester Bourne Library, Evan entertained walking in and opening fire, because he could sense the judgment of those inside. He managed to quell the urge, and even resisted temptation to attack Harold, when he approached to talk about the way things transpired. Harold insisted that he'd never wanted things to happen the way they did, but Evan wanted no part of it, blaming him for the breakup of his marriage.

Meanwhile, Marnie (who's been on the receiving end of the unsolicited advice of her mother and all her mother's friends for days) did her best to deflect all of Jeff's concern when he paid her a visit at the church. They were interrupted by Julia, who'd come to get a few of her belongings, which she'd left behind in Brett's office. The reunion between Jeff and Julia was brief, but it was enough to prove to Marnie that their connection was very real -- specifically, when she realized that Jeff had never shown that type of tenderness with her, not even when they were still a couple. The memory of how broken Brett was the last time he was there, though, gave her a harsh reality check and she had to bite her tongue so not to tell them how disrespectful she found their display. After a hushed conversation, Julia disappeared into the office and Jeff quietly excused himself -- but not before asking Marnie not to be mad at him.

While incarcerated, Caleb struggled to figure out the best way to prove his innocence to Haven Park at large, and began writing out his version of the story. Joshua Bartlett, his attorney, came by for a visit and related that Caleb's long absent mother, Dana Anderson, had called the night before and wished to see her son. Angrily, Caleb said he wanted nothing to do with Dana, nor her high-powered new husband William. Joshua told him that he needed to consider the bigger picture and at least hear what Dana had to say, but Caleb continue to insist that he wanted no part of her -- not even the idea of her posting his bail, as Joshua suggested.

After seeing Julia again, Jeff went to collect the children. When he arrived, Mona told him that they weren't there, announcing that Stan wanted to talk to him. Before he could ask what about, Mona shut the door in his face. Jeff's mind flashed back to a conversation he'd had with Stan months before, in which Stan promised that one day, Carol would realize the truth about him. When he got home, he found Stan waiting, armed with both the statement that Jeff gave Michael and a revolver. He confronted Jeff on his whereabouts the night that Carol died, and even resorted to physical violence. At first, Jeff did his best to placate Stan and smooth over the situation, but it soon became obvious that "his day" had indeed come. At the end of his rope, Jeff told Stan that Carol was not the saint that he tried to make her out to be. This only infuriated Stan even more, and he whipped out his gun, threatening to kill Jeff if he said one more slanderous word about his daughter. After considering the situation, and realizing that this essentially meant he would never see the children again, Jeff told Stan to go ahead and do it. Stan seemed surprised, but quickly took him up on the suggestion. Before he could pull the trigger, however, Mrs. James, from across the road, intervened, announcing she was calling the police. Jeff left before they could arrive.

Later that evening, Jeff went to see Julia at her mother's home in Cottage Cove, a broken, drunken mess. He told her about his earlier encounter with Stan, and apologized for the many ways he'd screwed up her life before breaking down in her arms. Touched by his vulnerability, Julia confessed that she loved him for the first time since the night her husband was stabbed. At first, Jeff didn't seem to take her seriously, but when Julia told him to sell her wedding ring in order to finance renting a nearby home, he seemed to grasp the depth of her feelings. Jeff pleaded with her not to tell him what he wanted to hear, because she felt sorry for him and Julia affirmed that they were in this together. They kissed on the front porch -- a kiss that was witnessed by Julia's mother, who was none-too-pleased. Julia later begged her mother to let Jeff stay the night, as he was far too inebriated to leave, but her mother refused, saying that she was not running a boarding house for Julia's boyfriends. Despite her mother's refusal, Julia let Jeff in anyway, spending the night in bed next to him, trying to figure out a way to appeal to Mona and ensure Jeff could remain in the lives of the children he loved so much.

Through a dream, Brett relived the evening that he was stabbed and awoke in a panic. Terri, who'd come to see him, apologized for disturbing him, and Brett did his best to play off how upset he was. Terri lamented how much the community was judging her, especially upset by how they even went so far as to judge her unborn child. She told Brett that it was enough to make her leave and never return. He surprised her by admitting that he felt the same way, and took it one step further: unveiling his plan to resign as pastor of First Baptist. At first, Terri tried to talk him out of it, citing how much the congregation loved him, but soon conceded that she would support whatever decision he made.

As he'd planned, Joshua Bartlett met with Dana Anderson at his office. Dana came across as very classy and refined, a far cry from the picture Caleb painted of his mother. She admitted that she'd had her son far too young (at the age of fourteen) and that she didn't know how to be a mother. She even went so far as to say that she had better things to do than tend to his needs, so he was sent to live with one relative after another. She was quick to pledge that she and her husband, attorney William Anderson, would do anything they could to help Caleb through this difficult time. Joshua suggested she might be able to bail him out and Dana immediately recoiled, telling him that she was not made of money. After that, she made the hastiest getaway possible, leaving Joshua to wonder if perhaps Caleb's assessment of Dana Anderson as "a worthless waste of space" was far more accurate than he'd imagined.

Meanwhile, in his jail cell, Caleb pondered the road that led him to Haven Park. He lamented his decision to trust Terri, as all he'd done was arm her with all the ammunition she needed to sell him out. He also scoffed at how everyone thought he'd changed identities so many times out of guilt. Caleb insisted that he'd been unable to bear another day of the life he was born into (a life that included both sexual and physical abuse, as well as neglect at the hands of his mother and other members of his family), and that Roy Wyatt being stabbed had nothing to do with it. He stressed that he'd never meant to stab Roy Wyatt at all, and that the whole thing was a set-up, because Roy owed him far more money than he could ever conceivably repay, and wished to keep his parents in the dark about his drug habit. Defeated, Caleb realized that his best efforts to clear his name would not amount to much, as everyone seemed content to blame him for the murders. He realized that he could not live under those circumstances and subsequently hung himself in his jail cell.

After having been on the receiving end of another of Helen's stern warnings, Marnie found her way to the bar and spent much of the evening drinking away her troubles with Shane. The more the two drank, the more intimate their conversation became. Shane asked her the reason that she'd left her husband and again, Marnie refused to talk about it. This left Shane to speculate that this sort of thing seemed to happen a lot -- an obvious reference to her unsuccessful relationships. Marnie pointed out that one could say the same about Shane, and by the end of the evening, she'd parked herself in his lap. She suggested that they take the party somewhere a little more private and Shane said that he would have to be a fool to say no to her. The next morning, Marnie awoke to find Shane on the phone with Michael. Horrified, she realized that she'd spent the night with him. Shane told Marnie that he didn't want things to be awkward between them, something she agreed to, and confided that Harold was at the station, giving Michael an earful. Realizing that Harold was spilling the beans and exposing her private pain to the world at large, Marnie broke down. Shane attempted to console her with the revelation that he viewed her as his dream girl, but it didn't seem to help at all. Marnie went home to ease her hangover, feeling defeated.

As he waited for Shane to arrive, Michael did his best to make sense of the story Harold told him. It seemed that earlier in the day, Harold came out of his home to find his car tires slashed -- but the most troubling part of it, and the part that brought him to the police station, was the bloody handprints the culprit left behind. There was also a cryptic message: it's on your hands. Harold was convinced that Evan was behind the vandalism and told Michael that he believed that Evan might've had something to do with Francine's death, because she knew far too much about their secret relationship. He confided that he feared Evan might try to do the same thing to him, but before he could say much else, a young cop named Manton interrupted, telling Michael that Hennessy was dead. Michael was appalled to find three different officers gawking and laughing at Caleb's dead body, and immediately deduced that someone was telling a lie, because the body was stiff -- which meant that Crawford couldn't have possibly performed all of the customary checks. He confronted Elton Frazier about the lack of professionalism and Frazier angrily tore into him, reminding him that this was his town and his boys.

When Jeff awoke, he was surprised to find Julia was still beside him and found himself again questioning her commitment to him. Julia emotionally insisted that she meant every word she'd said the night before, and spent the rest of the day trying to prove that to him. With her guidance, he was able to sell the ring and secure the rental home. Julia also promised that she would talk to her cousin about getting him a job, but Jeff couldn't stop himself from expressing misgivings later in the day. He reminded her that he was no Brett and could not offer her the kind of life she was accustomed to. Julia told him that she didn't want him to offer her anything but himself. Jeff later confided that this was the fourth time he'd had to start over during his lifetime -- but that this time hurt the worst, because it was all his own fault. He related how he'd come to the United States from Wales on a boat at the age of twelve, and how difficult it had been to find stability in America. He likened it to the way he felt now, saying that he'd lost everything all over again. Julia once again affirmed that they were in this together and that he shouldn't give up, because she'd already gone to talk to Mona. He told her that she shouldn't have done that, but she swore that she was not going to stop until Stan and Mona saw how much the children needed him in their lives...and how much he needed them.

When he came home from the hospital, Brett was forced to confront the harsh reality that Julia had moved out in his absence. He was also forced to confront memories of getting stabbed, as Julia had neglected to take care of the blood that was left on the living room floor. Unable to cope with both the physical and emotional pain, Brett took full advantage of his pain pills and spent much of the morning in a stupor. When Shane arrived to break the news of Caleb's suicide, he and Brett had a very bizarre conversation, in which Brett advised him to find more constructive ways to spend his time, rather than drinking so much. The pills took their toll and Brett slept, in his chair, for most of the day. When he awoke, from yet another vivid dream, he immediately reached for more pills in order to quiet his raging spirit. He made it to the bathroom, but dropped the pills all over the floor before he could take any of them. In short order, Brett ended up on the floor as well, where he finally broke down and begged Jesus to help him. The cold realization that his life had still fallen apart, despite all of his faith in God, devastated him, but he still found himself hoping for a miracle. That miracle arrived in the form of Terri, who did her best to comfort him, though Brett did his best to downplay how miserable he was.

Later that evening, Marnie came by Shane's house, to discuss just what Harold had told him. At first, Shane debated whether or not to talk with her about it, but he reasoned that if he didn't, Goldman would. He mentioned that Harold was of the opinion that Francine had some help getting into the water, and Marnie was quick to refute it. Her vulnerability appealed to Shane even more, and he made a move on her. Horrified, Marnie got out of the situation as quickly as possible, but not before berating him and reminding him that earlier that day, he'd told her that they were both adults and that he didn't want anything to be awkward between them. Shamed, he tried to apologize and convince her to stay, but Marnie left in a huff.

The next morning, Brett surprised everyone by coming to the church. Shane arrived to break the news that Caleb had committed suicide, and Marnie was the first person he saw. He again attempted to apologize for his behavior the night before and when Marnie told him that the church was not the place to discuss such matters, Shane suggested they get coffee later. Marnie surprised him by taking him up on the invitation. Inside the office, Shane was shocked to find his friend so together, especially after what a mess he'd been the day before. Shane attempted to tell Brett that he needed to focus on himself right now, but Brett said that he didn't want to -- that all he'd been thinking about was himself for the past ten days, and that if he thought about himself any longer, he would probably lose his mind. Talk then turned to Caleb's suicide, and Brett admitted that he already knew (presumably, having been told by Terri the night before). Shane apologized for the fact that Brett would not get any justice, and told him that he deserved better. Brett said that Caleb did too, much to Shane's surprise. He said that Caleb came from a similar home and that they both had significant trauma in their lives. Brett, however, was the one that everyone deemed better off, though he wondered aloud if that was really the case. Unexpectedly, Brett broke down in front of Shane and confided his plans to resign as pastor of First Baptist.

Jeff awoke in his new home and struggled to figure out where to go from here. He once again mulled Julia's abrupt decision to renounce her life to be with him, and realized that if he wanted to get ahead, he was going to have to resort to some of his nastier habits. Julia, meanwhile, got an unexpected visit from Terri, who'd come by to deliver some of the things she'd left behind in Brett's home. Terri also used the opportunity to confront Julia on her affair. Julia did not take this well, especially considering Terri's own infidelities with Caleb, and told her to stay out of it. A verbal confrontation ensued, culminating in Terri vowing to tell the world that Julia was not the saint she tried to make herself out to be.

Meanwhile, Michael paid Evan a visit to attempt to get to the bottom of Harold's allegations. He only ended up more confused, especially when confronted with Evan's many photographs of Francine. Michael attempted to establish some common ground with Evan, by relating that he, too, had lost his wife, and for a few moments, it seemed to work. Before long, however, Evan launched into a bizarre tirade that doubled as a stern warning. Harold had ruined his life, he said, and he would ruin Michael's too if he wasn't careful. Later, Michael stopped by the church and attempted to talk to Marnie about the situation, but she refused to tell him anything. Evan stumbled into their conversation and drunkenly demanded that she go into the office to talk with him. Michael attempted to intervene, but Marnie still conceded, rather than let Evan make a public spectacle of himself.

In the office, Evan apologized to Marnie and begged her to come home. Marnie told him that she did not want to come home to someone who lied to her, and Evan told her that she had to forgive him, because he'd already forgiven her. When asked for what, Evan replied, "For sleeping with that cop." Though she was horrified that he knew of her dalliance with Shane, Marnie still chose to say nothing of it and attempted to tell Evan that what they shared was over, because she could not trust him. Over the course of the conversation, Evan got crazier and crazier -- which eventually caused both Shane and Brett to intervene. Shane attacked Evan when he made a reference to how whomever stabbed Brett should've finished the job, and Evan quickly saw himself out. Marnie followed him to the door and Evan told her that her new boyfriend couldn't have her, because he was not giving up that easily.

After the commotion died down, Brett reluctantly took to the pulpit and delivered a sermon that doubled as a long apology to his congregation. He confessed that he hadn't been genuine, and that he'd tried to be what they needed him to be, but he couldn't pretend any longer. He apologized to them for the deception, and admitted that he was broken right now, resigning as pastor on the spot. As she waited for Shane at Hazel's Diner, Marnie wondered what his resignation would mean for her position at the church. She also wondered how Evan could have known about her night with Shane. While there, she met up with Jeff, who surprised her by casting a twenty-dollar bill across the table, saying he never had any change. She asked him where he'd come up with that type of money, especially after he'd told her he was broke, but he remained mum about its origins, except to say that he didn't steal it. They were later joined by Michael, who made an awkward attempt to be friendly with Jeff, while continuing to antagonize Marnie. Jeff confronted him on how Stan got his hands on the report -- a report Michael had promised would remain confidential -- but Michael insisted he'd had nothing to do with it. He suggested that perhaps Shane had been the one to hand it over to Stan, given that he didn't seem to like Jeff very much, anyway. Later, Jeff told Marnie that he'd had it with Shane's antics, and vowed to kill the son of a bitch, much to her horror.

At the police station, Mayor Pierce and Elton Frazier discussed the rather prolific written legacy that Caleb Hennessy left behind, and Mayor Pierce admitted that he wasn't convinced of Caleb's guilt. He referenced Roy Wyatt's stabbing, and pointed out that the witnesses painted a very different picture than the victim. Roy had always said that the stabbing was at random, and that Caleb had been attempting to rob him, but witnesses had stated that it appeared the victim had walked right into the knife, making the whole thing an accident. Frazier was embarrassed and angry that he'd never read the statements before, because he didn't think they mattered. Mayor Pierce told Frazier to get with Michael, as he had much better insight into the case than he did. He also said that though everyone might've wanted it to be, he didn't believe this whole ordeal was over just yet.

Later that day, Shane attempted to talk to Terri about the phone call she received from Caleb's mother, and did his best to offer support, but Terri wanted no part of it. Inwardly, she struggled to reconcile her feelings for Caleb in the aftermath of his suicide, and found that despite it all, she still loved him. After Shane left, Terri went to check on Brett and found him having taken some of his pills to regroup. She asked him why he'd told Shane about Dana Anderson's phone call, and later confided her mixed feelings about Caleb's death. She was afraid that Brett would hate her for still feeling that way for the man who'd stabbed him and done harm to so many others, but he assured her that he understood, using his lingering feelings for Julia as an example. As the pills began to take hold, Brett asked Terri to stay with him, and told her that she would make a good mother. Terri said she could only hope he was right.

At the diner, Michael verbally sparred with Val the waitress (a woman he'd dubbed Hagatha, for her poor attitude toward him) and observed a conversation between Val and Shane. From their talk, Michael gleaned that not only was Shane seeing Marnie, but that he had, in fact, been the one to hand over Jeff's report. Hagatha then insisted that he pay his check and get out, prompting Michael to wonder what was wrong with the ladies in this town. He reflected on the fact that he'd attempted to date in recent months, but wasn't certain what women even liked anymore. Then, he was distracted by someone approaching behind him. Initially, Michael believed that the person simply wanted to pass, and moved out of their way, but instead, they stopped right behind him, thrusting a gun into the back of his head. Michael did his best not to panic, even after realizing he'd left his service weapon in the car, and tried to rationalize with his assailant, convinced that he was being robbed. As Michael attempted to appeal to the person behind him, the book cut off mid-sentence, leaving Michael's fate ambiguous. It is strongly implied, however, that the reason he never finished his sentence is the person behind him opened fire.

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The theme for book four is what desperation can drive someone to do. This will be demonstrated when relationships end, when lives are torn apart and when two more characters die.

The theme song for this book is Dirty Little Secret, by All American Rejects: "When we live such fragile lives, it's the best way we survive; go around a time or two, just to waste my time with you..."

This is the first book not to include an interlude upon its release. This was because I was running short on time, and wanted to make sure that I could release the book by the May 15th deadline. The interlude planned for books four and five was non-canon, so it did not necessarily have to be part of the book in order to release it. It was subsequently released on July 5, 2015, premiering to the ID Batcave on Facebook ( and then added to the final versions of book four.

This is also the first book not to premiere as webfiction.

This is the first volume in which two characters die. It is not the last.

The Lyrical Challenge III: For Real This Time:

For this book, I decided to resurrect The Lyrical Challenge, something I'd previously come up with during the webseries era and had employed during book two. The concept is simple: I would take lyrics from some of my favorite songs and insert them, one per chapter, into the book. The only rule is that the lyric has to be spoken by a character. The results are as follows:

  • "We don't have to say a word, sometimes it's better when we don't." -- From the song "Stay", by PFR. This was used in chapter one and was spoken by Jeff.
  • "Nobody knew where to find him." -- From the song "Don't Lose My Number", by Phil Collins. This was used in chapter two and was spoken by Dana.
  • "So be careful when you talk to me." -- From the song "Watch Your Mouth", by Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken. This was used in chapter three and was spoken by Shane.
  • "This empty hole inside drinks the wine of remorse." -- From the song "Sobering (Don't Turn Around)", by Plumb. This was used in chapter four and was spoken by Opie.
  • "I must admit, I had my doubts." -- From the song "There Goes My Heart Again", by Jacob's Trouble. This was used in chapter five and was spoken by Helen.
  • "Face down in a life of tragic development." -- From the song "Soul Need", by Santa Fe. This was used in chapter six and was spoken by Brett.
  • "This conversation's long overdue." -- From the song "I'll See You Yesterday", by Mindy McCready. This was used in chapter seven and was spoken by Terri.
  • "I guess I have to learn to give you room to breathe." -- From the song "Remember Me", by Chris Eaton. This was used in chapter eight and was spoken by Evan.
  • "Have you heard the one about Alfred?" -- From the song "The Rumor Weed Song", by The W's. This was used in chapter nine and was spoken by Val.
  • "It all seems like such a waste of time." -- From the song "Compromise", by Brent Bourgeois. This was used in chapter ten and was spoken by Michael.

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