Carl looked Rachel in the eye and, voice steely, informed her, "I did not pass on Spencer Harrison's information on Donna to Cecile. I swear it to you upon Elizabeth and Cory's lives."
His intensity, not to mention the choice of words, was enough to temper Rachel's finger-pointing. At least for the time being. Despite it being the twenty-first century, despite Rachel's liking to think of herself as a woman of the twenty-first century, despite the fact that, if asked, she would insist heatedly that she realized all superstition was ridiculous and unscientific, she still was not ready to believe her husband capable of making such an assertion upon their children's lives, if he was, in actuality, lying to her.
"Alright then. So how did Cecile get the documents, the tapes and the other things? They aren't mine. I checked. Mine are still in our safe where I left them. So these are copies."
Carl shrugged, rather uninterested in the entire business. But, for Rachel's sake, he did suggest, "Ask Spencer Harrison."
Death did not become Cecile DePoulignac.
There were no people to taunt, no strawberries and chocolate to enjoy, no beautiful Chanel dresses to frolic around in, and no men to...well... pass the time with, as she was forced to witness the abominable aftermath that was her untimely and tragic death.
Not that there wasn't much to be observed from her rather lofty position in...wherever she currently was (but the fact that she was looking down had to be a good sign, right?). Thankfully, the citizens of Bay City presented Cecile with a myriad of fascinating tableaus as they sat down with their breakfasts for the morning news, be it delivered by printed paper, television or Internet.
Grant Harrison's cigar falling out of his mouth and into his bacon and eggs as he took in the morning's headline set a rather comical tone for the proceedings. Cecile was hoping for more of that.
Unfortunately, Felicia Gallant had to get hysterical, shaking her white, goose-feather impaled dressing gown sleeves and all but swooning like one of her typically underwritten romance-novel heroines (Cecile may have skimmed a tome here and there just for a laugh), leaving poor bumbling Lucas to hover around uselessly with the metaphorical smelling salts.
Then dim-bulb Jamie (what had Cecile ever seen in that boy? Oh, yes, his stepfather's money did manage to briefly paper over a multitude of sins) had gone on and on and on with the impotent platitudes as cow-eyed Marley hung from his arm, mooing and braying her misery.
Meanwhile, at the Cory mansion, Rachel and Carl (Cecile wondered if she were now in a position to track down dear, doddering Mac and get his opinion on that pairing) were having a most interesting discussion. Cecile did so enjoy being talked about.
Throughout the pathetically, irreparably provincial, wakening small town known as Bay City, assorted citizens were finding themselves entirely unprepared for the brand new world they had awoken to.
But not, to Cecile's eternal humiliation and rage, due to the shocking news of her aforementioned untimely and utterly unwarranted demise.
No, save for dear Chad and her darling family, Maggie, Elena, Louis, Constance, the range of rather melodramatic displays that Cecile observed this morning were all due to Donna Love. And her arrest. And her dirty little secrets being brought to light. Again. Ho-hum.
Oh, the humiliation! To play second fiddle at your own murder because of yet another illegitimate daughter of Donna Love's being revealed. (Although, if Donna and Carl were married at the time, did that actually make Jenna Norris Donna's only legitimate offspring? Oh, who cared? Now even Cecile was getting distracted!)
Granted, it was somewhat fascinating that the other deceased had been sired by the most captivating and dangerous blackguard in Bay City (well, not after Rachel got through with him; but Cecile preferred to remember Carl as he was, before the unfortunate castration; Rachel kind of had that effect on all men). Alas, that only added more insult to injury as far as Cecile was concerned. Now she couldn't even needle Donna about her latest fiasco because she was dead. Dead! All because of
Well... Cecile was a bit fuzzy on those details. The identity of her killer, that is. Damn him. Her. Them.
It would have been a handy piece of information to have, if only so Cecile could properly haunt the bastard or bitch who did this to her right into a padded cell. Or perhaps even into an early grave. Hopefully the details would come to her in time.
Whoever it was that did her in, however, Cecile had obviously greatly underestimated their nerve, not to mention their rather thin skin. People always took stuff so personally. What was a little blackmail or kidnapping or drugging between friends and/or long time acquaintances? Life was too short to take the slightest mischief so seriously.
Then again, perhaps if she hadn't treated everyone and everything like a joke quite so often, she wouldn't currently be a beautiful, but nonetheless very dead corpse occupying a cold slab in the Bay City Morgue.
Oh, well. C'est la vie. What was done was done. No use crying over spilled champagne.
The only thing left was to enjoy the show down below and keep a look-out for any small ways that those nearest and dearest to her heart were still feeling the sting of Cecile's presence in their lives.
It was rather reassuring to know that not even death could ultimately keep a good bitch down for long.
And Cecile DePoulignac was ask anyone the best bitch there'd ever been.
A million thoughts skittered through Allie's mind following GQ's accusation. There were a million things she wanted to say to him, too.
But the first thing that came out of Allie's mouth she heard it at the same time that GQ did was a blithely dismissive, "Steven needs to mind his own business." She shoved GQ out of her way and kept walking to class.
He caught up with her in three quick strides, falling into step beside Allie and hissing, "You are pregnant. I can tell."
Allie reflexively sucked her stomach in. She didn't think it was all that visible yet. She was only in her first trimester still. As her mother had so helpfully pointed out, the problem could still be "fixed."
However, understanding that there was no use in denying what would soon become obvious, Allie merely shot back, "I didn't say that I wasn't. I just said Steven has no business playing town-crier."
"Is it mine?" GQ demanded.
"God," Allie stopped in her tracks, enjoying the flicker of power she felt when GQ overshot and had to double-back. "Ego much? You know I've been dating Gregory Hudson for months."
"Then why did you sleep with me right before Halloween?"
"Temporary insanity," Allie shrugged, looking anywhere but at his face, clutching her backpack so tightly the metal buckles dug into her skin.
"I know you, Allie. You don't sleep around. If you and Gregory were serious, you never would have "
"So I made a mistake. If you can make a mistake being with me, then I get to call it a mistake, being with you."
"I never said you were a mistake, Allie." GQ looked at her sympathetically. "I just said that there were issues bigger than "
"Shut up," Allie snapped, wondering if the pregnancy hormones were making her irritable or just finally brave. "I don't want to go through this again. You and me? We're done."
"Not if the baby's mine," GQ insisted.
"I told you it isn't."
"I don't believe you."
"I don't care what you believe." She tried to walk off again, but GQ grabbed her arm. "Let go of me," Allie snarled, and then threw his own words back at him. "Aren't you afraid your Mommy or somebody from the NAACP might catch you with your hands all over a cute little white girl? Can't have that, now can we?"
Donna jumped up from perching at the edge of her cot as the door opened with a jarring clang. A moment later, Marley slowly entered and warily approached Donna's cell.
"Matt sends his love," she conveyed flatly, her gaze rooted to the tips of her shoes. "He would have been here himself, but they wouldn't let him in since he's not family."
"Oh," Donna nodded, thrown by Marley's tone, all the questions she'd intended to ask, about Bridget and Michele, about the boys, about how they were handling all this, what Marley and Jamie had told them, dying dryly in her throat.
"I spoke with your lawyer," Marley went on, addressing the empty corner behind Donna's back. "He says that your bail hearing has been set for tomorrow morning. I brought you a change of clothes. They're with the guard."
With that distasteful chore out of the way, Marley turned to leave.
"Wait!" Donna called. "Please. Don't Would you at least look at me?"
"Why?" Marley spun around. "You've been shutting me out for months now. Why the sudden urge to reconnect?"
"For goodness' sake, try to understand. I couldn't tell anyone about "
"You told Matt. You trusted Matt. Your on-and-off boy toy. But not your daughter."
"I was trying to protect you! Carl would have gone after anyone who "
"Stop it!" Marley furiously smacked the bars between them, causing Donna to jump back. "Listen to yourself! You're just spouting any excuse that floats through your head!"
"They're not excuses. They're the truth."
"Here's the only truth I know," Marley swore. "The truth is that, because of you, Jenna is dead, Lori Ann is facing a lifetime of health problems, and Dean is so shattered that he took off and left his own daughter behind. You destroyed an entire family in order to protect yourself. That's the truth. Everything else is details."
"I realize that you're angry with me, Marley "
"Angry? I'm angry with you? Do you think, under the circumstances, that you could, even temporarily, give up a lifetime of Potemkin habits and stop shoving pleasant words onto very, very unpleasant situations?"
" But surely, you don't think, not for a moment, that I actually meant for any of this to happen?"
"You never meant to keep from me that you were my mother and not my sister for my entire childhood, but you did. You never meant to sleep with Jake, knowing our history, but you did. You probably also didn't mean to nearly kill me while trying to kill Vicky when you hit me with your car, but you did. You never mean to do anything, Donna. Unfortunately, your remorseful and convenient hindsight is cold comfort to the people whose lives you've mangled beyond recognition. A.k.a. your victims."
"Marley," Donna reached for her through the bars, only for Marley to recoil. "Please... I'm sorry. You don't know the whole story."
"Save it," Marley spat at her mother. "Your apologies mean nothing to me now. You mean nothing to me now."
Steven raised his hand, indicated the various cognitive models Jen had written out for the class to ponder and, flashing a smug check this out grin in Sarah's direction, asked, "Why are we wasting time on logic programming when we can solve these problems faster, easier and more effectively with Bayesian probability?"
"Because," Jen replied pleasantly. "While Bayesian probability makes a nifty SPAM filter, being able to tell the difference between an e-mail from your mom "
"My mom is dead," he interrupted.
"So is mine," she deflected smoothly and continued. "Telling the difference between an e-mail from your girlfriend and one selling Viagra, is not a task that requires actual intelligence. Which is what we were talking about in this class." Jen turned to Sarah and asked, "Ms. Wheeler, do you agree with Mr. Frame? Do you believe that Bayesian probability effectively models a neural network?"
Sarah opened her mouth, looked helplessly from Jen to Steven, then ducking her head, mumbled, "Yeah. I guess."
"Is that all you have to say on the subject?"
"Yeah," Sarah repeated. "I guess."
"Interesting," Jen observed, turning to take a question from another student.
She waited until the session was over before asking if she might speak with Ms. Wheeler for a moment. Without Mr. Frame's presence.
Steven shrugged and told Sarah he'd wait for her in the hall. "You're in trouble..." he teased, closing the door behind him.
Jen told Sarah, "I'm still a little puzzled by your assertion from before."
Sarah shrugged. "I didn't know we'd be talking about that today. I wasn't ready."
"Especially since, in the paper you wrote to gain admission to my seminar, you specifically argued against Bayesian probability as an effective cognitive model." When Sarah had nothing to say to that, Jen sighed and informed her, "What you do in your personal life, is entirely your business, Ms. Wheeler. But if I feel that you aren't performing up to the level I believe you capable of, it will be reflected in your grade. That was a half-assed answer you gave me, and you know it."
"Fine," Sarah said. Then noted, "I wasn't sure you realized there was anybody else in the class except for Steven. You call on him more than anyone."
"He amuses me," Jen admitted. "He's very bright. If equally misguided. I'm just trying to save an academic lost soul."
"Steven doesn't need your help," Sarah snapped.
"I realize that," Jen replied, cautious. "I was joking. Perhaps it was inappropriate. But, then again, so is risking your grade in order to play dumb and assuage your boyfriend's ego. Not only is it bad for you, but a smart guy like Steven is bound to get tired of the airhead act sooner or later. Why not let him see the real Sarah?"
"I'm sorry," Sarah said. "Remind me how this is any of your business?"
"Your grade," Jen reminded. "The rest is up to you."
"Thanks. Can I go now?"
Jen indicated that they were finished; Sarah was free to leave.
Grabbing her book-bag, Sarah stomped out of the classroom, already formulating a believable version of what she would say when Steven asked about the conference... along with a plan for neutralizing her Jennifer Fowler problem once and for all.
"Thank you for coming with me," Marley smiled tightly at Jamie as they approached the courtroom doors. "I just... I couldn't... not by myself."
"You were there for me," he reminded. "I wanted to be here for you."
"As I recall," Marley noted. "You weren't too thrilled with my expression of support earlier."
"Then let's hope I do a better job of it than you did." Jamie squeezed her hand, striving to joke Marley out of her dark mood.
He succeeded up to a point. She patted the back of his hand with her other palm, indicating that she appreciated the attempt. But then, all Marley could say was, "Why the hell did I come here, Jamie?"
"Because, for better or worse, she's still your mother. In any case, Donna wasn't arrested over what she confessed to doing to Jenna. This is about what she allegedly did to Cecile. I don't even know if the DA is planning to file kidnapping charges."
"I don't need to file charges." Felicia's voice tore down the hall only a few steps ahead of her enraged presence. She wore no make-up or jewelry, leaving Jenna's grieving mother looking particularly vulnerable. Jamie had spent day after day with Felicia in the NICU, and even when things were at their worst, he'd never seen her this bad. "I'm happy to rip Donna to pieces without waiting for a trial."
"Felicia," Marley exhaled reflexively, addressing Lucas as well. "I - I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry for... for what Donna did."
Without warning, Felicia raised her arm and smacked Marley across the face. Lucas lunged too late for his wife, while Jamie pulled a horrified Marley away.
"Don't you dare say a word to me about Jenna," Felicia hissed. "Don't you so much as look at me."
"This isn't Marley's fault," Jamie defended. "She was as much in the dark as anyone."
"I don't care," Felicia struggled to wrench out of Lucas' grip. "I don't want to hear anything any of you has to say. This was my daughter. You have no right to lecture me on who is or isn't to blame. You don't know what I'm feeling. None of you have any idea what the hell I am feeling."
"I do," the barely raised voice from behind them belonged to Jenna's father. But it wasn't Lucas' voice. Carl stepped forward and told Felicia. "I know exactly what you are feeling."
"Get lost, Carl," Lucas snarled. "We don't need you. You are just as responsible for what happened to Jenna as Donna is. Maybe even more so. If you hadn't been such a monster that Donna felt she had to take drastic measures "
"Are you defending Donna?" Felicia asked Lucas, stunned.
"No! Of course not! But Carl doesn't get to come around, wringing his hands and delivering sonnets on the sanctity of parenthood, when he's the one who started this entire nightmare in the first place."
"I agree." Now it was Matt's turn to join the melee. "This is all your doing, Carl. First, you victimized Donna "
Felicia stared at her former stepson in shock. "Donna is the victim here? Donna? How dare you, Matthew? You loved Jenna once. You were her friend! And you have the gall to look me in the eye and tell me that the woman who tortured and killed her was a victim?"
"You don't know the whole story, Felicia."
"Oh, I know from stories. I've written a million stories. And let me tell you, the only thing that matters in this one is that my daughter is dead, and that bitch you can't seem to stop screwing no matter how many times she screws you in return is responsible."
"Don't waste your time on him, Mom." Lorna brushed by Matt, the look on her face so glacial, it was amazing he didn't instantly crack and disintegrate on the spot. "Donna is the enemy. Her minions can do whatever they want. Let's just go in."
"After you, my dear," Carl held the door open for Lorna.
"Not now, Carl," she told him, and deliberately stepped aside, taking hold of the door herself, so that he, along with Felicia, Lucas, Marley and Matt, were forced to walk in ahead of her.
She fully intended to follow them. But the sight of Donna already sitting, hands primly folded in front of her, at the defendant's table filled Lorna with such rage, followed immediately by an equally extreme sense of helplessness, that she was struck by an abrupt impulse to just turn around and run, get away, bury her head in the sand and avoid the emotional turmoil inevitable the second she stepped into the room.
Lorna froze, unable to move one way or the other; unable to even decide on what it was she really wanted to do, when Jamie quietly stepped up behind her and rested his palm on the small of her back.
"You can handle this," his voice assured her. "No matter what happens in there, you can handle it."
He knew exactly what words she needed to hear, even when Lorna didn't know them herself. And he also, one way or another, understood that what she needed even more at that moment was to feel supported, physically as well as emotionally, for someone to reassure her in a concrete, tangible way that she wasn't going to be ripped, or worse yet, fall apart.
Lorna allowed herself the briefest of instants to fall back against him, to close her eyes, take a breath, enjoy the comfort of letting someone else be the strong one for a change. But when she opened them again, the most curious thing happened.
She turned to smile at Jamie, to thank him, but when she saw him looking down at her with compassion... compassion and nothing else, nothing else at all... she felt a stab of disappointment so acute, it immediately eradicated whatever warm words she'd been intending.
He was just trying to be kind, just being a friend, like they'd agreed on. It wasn't enough. It should have been. But it wasn't.
Lorna jerked away, her anger clearly confusing him. And her, as well.
"I think your wife is looking for you," she said.
Gregory glanced up from the end-of-class dismissal salute to his Y-12 fencing students, and caught sight of his father standing at the waist-high barrier that delineated the competitive strip from the parental waiting area.
John smiled and raised one hand, fingers splayed, offering a low wave. When Gregory took off his mask and walked over, his dad observed, "I remember when it was you running around with the blue foam swords."
"I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a Musketeer or a pirate."
"I thought it was Peter Pan who started the whole thing."
"Shh," Gregory winked to an eavesdropping Jasmine. "You'll blow my cover."
"That's okay," Jasmine giggled. "I still think you're cool."
"Thanks," Gregory handed the girl over to an arriving, and just as quickly departing, Lila. He looked at John expectantly.
"I have a feeling you know what I'm here to talk to you about," John shrugged apologetically.
"I'll get changed. Be right out."
A few minutes later, both wearing winter jackets, they were walking toward the general vicinity of John's car, though neither one really intended to drive anywhere.
John said, "Your mom is really, really upset."
"I know you are." John stuffed both hands in his pockets and, looking straight ahead, said, "I know you're not the kind of person who ever does anything to upset people deliberately. That's why blowing off your mother the way you did... "
"I didn't," Gregory wasn't arguing, just correcting him.
"That's what it felt like to her. She just wants to understand why you and Allie have made the choices you have. She wants to be a part of it."
"I'm sorry," Gregory repeated. "But she's not."
"You are an amazing young man," John turned, stopping in the street and placing his hands on Gregory's shoulders. "When other people compliment me on just how amazing you are, I tell them thanks, but all the credit goes to you. I just stood back and watched. I don't know how your mother and I got so lucky, you turning out this way. But I do know that you are not the sort of young man who would turn his back on his own child."
"That's not what I'm doing." Again, not an argument, a statement of fact. "I'm doing what Allie wants. I love her. I'm not going to push her."
"But she can't be thinking clearly right now..."
Gregory didn't say anything. He simply kept looking at his father, until John was the one forced to duck his head and admit, "Alright. I get it. I'm not exactly qualified to lecture against loving a woman who might not be thinking clearly at all times."
"Do you still love Mom?" Gregory asked.
"You know I do. You know I always will. But, ultimately, the things that she wanted needed out of a relationship, they didn't work with what I wanted or needed. It sounds like you and Allie are looking at the same thing, here."
"I just want to make sure she's okay. I want to make this as easy as possible for her."
"So you're there for her. Who's going to be there for you?"
Gregory shrugged. "You?"
"That goes without saying."
"You've never let me down, Dad," Gregory reassured.
"We both know that isn't true."
"I don't blame you," Gregory said. "Time you stopped blaming yourself."
"How do you plead, Ms. Love?"
"Not guilty," Donna answered with a clear voice, refusing to so much as look over her shoulder at the bloodthirsty mob behind her.
"Liar!" Felicia led the charge, pleading to anyone who would listen the judge, the DA, the bailiffs, "How can you allow her to stand there and lie about what she did?
"I didn't kill Cecile," Donna insisted, despite knowing that no one, in fact, was listening.
"Your honor," the ADA took that as his cue. "Given the brutality of the crime and the defendant's extensive resources, the people ask that bail be denied "
"My client is not a flight risk. She has ties to the community. Four grandchildren, a daughter "
"How about her other daughter? The one she killed." Unlike Felicia, Lorna didn't need to yell. Her words were deliberate, perfectly enunciated and positioned just right to echo accusingly off every single courtroom wall. Two decades of working inside of recording studios had prepped her well.
"Stop it, Lorna." Matt ordered.
"Or what? Your girlfriend gonna kidnap me to shut me up?"
"Bail is set for one million. Cash or bond."
While the rest of the courtroom erupted in protest, Carl remained in his seat. He caught the judge's eye, and bobbed his head reverentially.
"Thank you, Your Honor..."
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