"What do you think?" Grant proudly showed Kirkland around his new room, complete with loft bed, state-of-the-art home entertainment center, extreme sports silhouettes stenciled in black on the walls and a retro-style vending machine packed with enough soda and snacks to feed a small army or one teenage boy. "Lila really worked overtime to get everything ready in time for the hearing. I thought... Well, anyway, this is where you'll be staying when you come to visit, and maybe down the line..."
"It's really nice, Grant," his son told him sincerely. "Thank Lila for me, would you? I'd do it myself, but I got the feeling she's going to be sleeping in most of today."
Grant chuckled. "Sorry about that. When Kevin said he'd be stopping by the house in the morning and could pick you up... I didn't think it through."
"That's okay. I'm a big boy."
"You are," Grant sighed despondently, resting a hand on Kirkland's cheek. "You really are. You're almost a man. And I missed so much... I don't know how you can forgive me. I am just so, so grateful that you have."
"If I didn't forgive you, I wouldn't get to have you in my life. And I don't want that."
Moved, Grant hugged Kirkland tightly, then stepped back, both of them slightly embarrassed. To change the subject, he offered, "Well, at least it's nice to know that I haven't burned my bridges at both ends of the family tree."
Kirkland guessed, "Are you mad at Spencer?"
"He's mad at me. For a change."
"Is it about me?"
"Again, for a change, no."
"You could apologize to him," Kirkland pointed out the obvious.
"Does that tend to work?"
"It did with me."
"That," Grant conceded with equal parts regret, shame, acceptance, and just a touch of pride. "Is because you weren't raised by a Harrison."
"Listen up, you son of a bitch," Lucas hissed at Carl over the phone, sitting outside in the car to make sure that Felicia couldn't overhear. "Stay away from my wife, stay away from our granddaughter, or, so help me, I'll "
"What?" Carl wondered, deeply amused at how this would all play out. "Or you will inflict what upon me, precisely?"
"You know what."
"Is that a fact? My good man, truly I wouldn't if I were you. You stand to lose a great deal more than I should the details of our arrangement come out."
"You think Rachel would ever forgive you?"
"Sooner than the state of Illinois would forgive you," Carl predicted.
Sarah asked Steven, "Did you tell Jen Fowler that it was my idea to hook her up with GQ?"
Steven finished brushing his teeth, rinsed, and addressed Sarah through the bathroom mirror as he splashed water on his face. "No. I never talk to Jen outside of class."
"Then how did she know?"
"Maybe he told her. Or she figured it out for herself. She knows GQ and I are working together. She knows you and I are dating. She's pretty bright."
"You really think so?"
"Are you kidding?" Steven stepped out of the bathroom and went rifling for clean clothes. "She's brilliant."
"Then why do you spend the bulk of our class time acting like you think she's an idiot?"
"I'm just busting her chops. It's all in fun. She knows that."
"Are you sure?"
"Yale? M.I.T.? We can be relatively certain I'm not the first cerebral blowhard she's come across. Difference is," he grinned. "I've got the crazy intellect to back it up."
"You could have gone to any one of those fancy schools if you'd wanted."
"I could have," he agreed matter-of-factly. "I got into CalTech. Princeton. University of Chicago, that's practically up the road."
"So why didn't you?"
"Well, for one thing, I was barely sixteen. Dad didn't want me moving out so young. But, I probably could have worn him down, if I'd really tried. I didn't actually want to, though. I I didn't want to leave Kirkland and the girls. I mean, I know they have Dad, and Marley and Grandmother, and Kirkland had Spencer popping in and out this was before Grant's resurrection, obviously; and Michele and Bridget have the whole extended McKinnon clan. But, and maybe this is just my ego talking, I felt like, I'm the only other person who knew what it was like to lose Mom. The girls never knew her at all, and Kirkland was so young... I'm the only one who can help them remember her. That way. The songs she used to sing and the games she'd play with us, and how she'd tuck me in at night starting at the feet, and then she'd just keep going, put the blanket over my head like she'd forgotten, until I'd laugh and pop out and she'd scream like she was surprised. Stuff like that... Don't know if it's worth giving up a CalTech degree for...."
Sarah stood up and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Your brother and sisters are very lucky to have you. I'm very lucky to have you. And I'm not letting you get away."
"Do you think you might want to tell me what's wrong?" Spencer asked Alice as they were finishing up breakfast in his dining room. "You've been distracted since you arrived last night."
"I'm sorry," she squeezed his hand. "It isn't you."
"I'm relieved to hear it. Though it doesn't make me any less concerned."
Alice shrugged. "I guess I'm not as young as I used to be. It's taking me longer and longer to bounce back from my latest... chat... with Rachel."
"Jamie, Amanda... She's feeling threatened so she's lashing out. Nothing I haven't been through before."
"But she must have said something that upset you more than usual?"
"I really shouldn't take her seriously. She has been known to stretch the truth where I'm concerned. Once or twice. And even if what she said is true, I'd just be playing into her hands by..." Alice drifted off, realizing that she was thinking out loud with no idea of what might come out of her mouth next. And that was no way to carry on a delicate conversation.
She was actually quite grateful for the interruption of first, a ringing doorbell, followed by an entering Grant.
Spencer, however, didn't seem nearly as pleased.
"I'm busy," he told his son tersely. "Can this wait?"
"Good-morning, Dr. Frame," Grant ignored the curt dismissal.
"Please," she said. "It's Alice."
"I came to apologize to my father," Grant explained. "I alleged some things to him recently... I had no right. I was completely out of line."
"You can say that again." Spencer refused to turn around and face him.
"I'm sorry for that. And I'm also sorry, Dr. Frame Alice, for making so little effort to get to know you. I, regretfully, made the erroneous assumption that you were just a... an insignificant fling for him."
Now Spencer did finally turn around, clutching the back of his chair, demanding, "This is how you apologize?"
"I've realized since then, that you are much more than that. You have made my father happier than I have ever seen him in my entire life. He's a different man. He's a better man, and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it. Obviously, you mean a great deal to him. I'm happy for you both. And, again, Dad, I'm sorry." Grant bobbed his head. "Enjoy your breakfast. I'll see myself out."
"Grant!" Spencer barked, though the gruffness now seemed mostly for show.
"Yes?" He hesitated.
"To what do we owe this change of heart?"
"Kirkland," Grant said simply. "My son is a much bigger person than I could ever hope to become."
"That's how it should be," Spencer said.
Alice spoke up, "Thank you very much, Grant. That was most kind."
"And apology accepted," his father attempted a grumble, but ended up unable to suppress a smile. "Give my regards to Kirkland."
After he'd left, Spencer noted, "That was gracious. Didn't think the boy had it in him, to be honest."
"Children do have a way of changing our worldview, hopefully for the better."
"And he was right, you know. You do mean a great, great deal to me. I hope you realize that."
"I do," Alice said. "Now."
"We have a problem," Kevin sat across his desk, facing Allie and Gregory. He took out a document and spun it around so that they could read it right side up. "GQ's hired a lawyer, a Dr. Melissande Boudreau from Springfield. I don't know her, but then I don't know a lot of the local talent. However, she has an MD and a JD, so we have to assume we're not dealing with an idiot, here. GQ is demanding a paternity test."
"After the baby is born?" Allie asked.
"Will that hurt?" she cringed.
"Not if I have anything to say about it. I'm going to do my best to insure it doesn't happen at all." Kevin told Allie, "We will need to go to court to fight this, though. The date's been set."
"Isn't a test like that dangerous for the baby?" was Gregory's concern.
"A little," Kevin conceded. "Though for the purposes of my arguments to the judge a lot. There's also one more thing I want to try... Gregory, do you know your blood type?"
"B negative," he said without a moment of hesitation.
"What about you, Allie?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure."
Kevin pushed two more documents at them. "Do me a favor, sign these, so I can get copies of your health records from the hospital. We're going to need them."
Allie reached for a pen, scribbling her name and sliding the paper back at Kevin before he'd even finished giving her the instructions.
Gregory hesitated. "What kind of records do you need?"
"Just to confirm what you told me about the blood type."
He nodded thoughtfully, and, after a pause, signed, as well.
"You have that look again," Alice informed Jamie after the fourth or was it fifth? time his gaze wandered from the stack of patient charts they were trying to get through in his office and towards a random corner, brow furrowed as if trying to puzzle out a thorny problem even as a cryptic smile tugged on his lips.
"Sorry." He flushed furiously at being caught and reached for a chart, any chart, to cover up. "I'm ready. Let's get back "
"Hard to do when one of us pretty obviously has his mind on other things. Or people? One person in particular? A certain previously discussed irrefutably beautiful woman..."
"Do I hound you about your personal life?"
"You know better. Same as I know how you feel about my relationship with Spencer," Jamie involuntarily shuddered at his name. "Though, to your credit, you've been most respectful. I appreciate it. I just don't feel a pressing need to do the same. I'm old, Jamie. And one of the privileges that come with age is the right to poke my nose into someone else's business especially the business of those I care about and particularly when they seem so happy, for a change. So. Speak."
It wasn't a request. Caught, Jamie searched for an appropriate starting point, realized there was none, and just began.
"Last night, Lorna and I... talked. Well, we made an appointment to have a talk."
"You mean what us old people might call a date?" Alice clarified.
"Yeah, a date. I guess."
"You're not sure?"
"We have an agreement to go out on a date. Once I've gotten this situation with Kirkland and Grant and Marley worked out." He hesitated. "I kissed her."
Alice blinked. "Who? Marley?"
"Lorna. Well, technically, Marley, too. Actually, she kissed me."
Oh, dear, Alice bit her lip. "You covered quite a bit of ground last night."
"You have no idea. After Marley kissed me, she made it clear... she flat out told me, that she wants our marriage to be in more than name only. Which means, as of this morning, she's probably still pissed at me for telling her that I don't love her like that and we could never have a real marriage. Ever. I didn't like leaving it that way. She was very upset. But I thought I should give her some space before I try talking to her again."
"Good idea," Alice agreed sympathetically. "Now about that other kiss, the one you initiated with Ms. Devon "
The furrowed brow was back. "This doesn't make you uncomfortable? Us, talking like this?"
Alice shook her head in amusement. "Should it? We're both adults. And, honestly, this is nothing compared to a conversation I had a few weeks back with your sister."
"Okay. Now I'm uncomfortable."
"So enough about me and more about you. What's next for you and Ms. Devon?"
"I don't know. This thing with Lorna is completely new ground for me after..." he confessed, "Previously, the thought of actually pursuing a relationship with anyone... with her... never would've crossed my mind... Well, not in any sort of realistic way."
"I don't know," Jamie repeated, struggling to provide not just Alice, but himself, with a concrete answer. "Last night, I was standing in front of her, and she brushed my hand... It wasn't even anything... I didn't want to let her go. I was holding her and... under any other circumstances, the feeling, this sensation of something that I can't control, it would have terrified me. Sent me shooting in the opposite direction. And I was scared. I was; it was all still there, just like always. But, at the same time, I also felt... safe. Does that make any sense? All of a sudden, it just seemed... possible... that I could talk to her, that I could tell her everything and that...somehow... this could work out. I don't know, I... to answer your question, I have no idea what happens next."
"And yet you're smiling," Alice noted, unable to keep her expression from mirroring his.
"Yeah," he laughed shakily. "My best friend hates me, I might lose my son, I have no idea how to tell a woman that I really, really like the things that I have to tell her, but, yeah, I'm smiling. Is that crazy, or what?"
"Could be crazy. Could be love. Very little difference between the two states, actually."
Before Jamie could recover enough to comment, there was a knock on the office door, and Toni Burrell entered with Detective Chiang.
"Sorry to interrupt," Toni told Alice while looking at Jamie. "We need to speak with you, Dr. Frame. Dr. Jamie Frame, that is. Regarding our investigation into your ex-wife's death."
"Cecile?" Jamie frowned, as Toni caught and filed away the quick, concerned glance Alice directed at Jamie.
"If you could just come with us to the station, please."
"Do I need to call my lawyer?" Jamie asked.
"That would probably be for the best."
"Yo! Anybody home?" Kirkland called out as he shut the door to the Love mansion, new glass now installed to replace the pane Felicia had broken. "Aunt Marley?"
They nearly collided as she hurried into the foyer to greet him. "Hey," Marley smiled nervously, eyes first darting to the door, then searching the foyer. "How did you get here? Is your father with you?"
He looked at her strangely. "Dad's at work... Oh. You mean Grant. No, he dropped me off. I was over at his place earlier, checking out my other room. Guess it's my day for real estate, huh? Is everything okay? Should I come back later?"
Marley shook her head and forced the fakest, tightest smile Kirkland had ever seen. "No, I'm fine. Everything's fine. There's just so much to do to get everything in order here, and I've... been a little crazy today."
"Anything I can do to help? Distract the twins? Organize the library? Mop floors?"
"No," Marley actually laughed. "The twins are out with Jasmine and Lila, and I think I've got everything more or less under control here. Once you and Jamie get your stuff moved in, we'll be all set."
"Are you sure you're okay?" Kirkland asked again, hearing the hesitation in her voice over that last bit. "I mean, it must be tough for you to be here after everything that happened with Grandmother, and finding her here... upstairs... that had to suck."
"It did. But, I'm fine. Donna is getting the help she needs, finally, and... I'm not going to allow ghosts to take this house away from us. This is where Michele and Bridget grew up. It's the only home they've ever known, except for Jake and Molly's. We can get past what's happened here."
"Are you sure? Grandma keeps saying we can stay at the Corys' as long as we want."
"No. I think I've taken advantage of her and your father's generosity long enough," she answered quickly. "We're going to be fine here. You, me, the girls... Jamie. Maybe we'll even convince Steven to drop in once in a while. It's going to be... it'll work."
She still didn't sound all that sure, but Kirkland decided not to push it. Instead he told his aunt, "I know Grant coming back and me wanting to hang out with him hasn't been easy for you, after everything he's done. But I really appreciate you being cool with it. Or at least, you know, not completely losing it like my mom did and turning this custody thing into World War III. I get that she had her reasons," Kirkland continued before Marley could interrupt. "But, in case you haven't noticed, Grant's been keeping the plotting to a minimum. It's like, when you don't freak out, Grant doesn't freak out. Things stay... normal. Or as normal as it gets around here. No one's trying to kill anyone or kidnap anyone or blackmail or send them to prison. It's nice."
Kirkland left Marley in the foyer and bounded up the stairs to examine his room.
"Nice," she repeated to herself, wondering how long, now that she'd spoken so rashly to Toni Burrell, any of this normalcy was destined to last.
No one's trying to kill anyone or kidnap anyone or blackmail or send them to prison....
Toni placed the vial in its evidence bag on the table in front of Jamie, and watched as the color drained from his face. "Can you tell me what this is, Dr. Frame?"
From their seats behind the interrogation room's one-way mirror, Chase Hamilton and Detective Chiang each took their own notes.
"It's..." Jamie cast a quick look at Cass, who'd met him at the police station full of bluster and indignation, but now appeared to suddenly have the wind knocked out of him. He blinked at the vial, seemingly in as much shock as his client.
"It's a medicinal vial," Jamie answered after a long pause. "Pretty standard issue. The hospital is full of ones just like it."
"Do you recognize this particular vial?" Toni pressed.
Again a look to Cass, who finally unglued his tongue to snap, "Is he supposed to? Dr. Frame just told you, Bay City Hospital is drowning in them."
"Do you recognize it?" Toni repeated. When Jamie shook his head, she corrected, "You should. You had your lab run a test of its former contents several months ago."
"I'm sure Jamie's had a lot of tests run at the Bay City Hospital lab," Cass spoke slowly and patronizingly. "Because, as we've established, he's a doctor. And doctors work in or around labs. What the hell does this fact have to do with my client or with Cecile De Poulignac's death?"
"What it has to do with your client is that this particular vial has his fingerprints on it, and what it has to do with Cecile De Poulignac is that the drug found in this particular vial with his fingerprints on it, is also the one that killed her."
"That doesn't make sense," Jamie swiveled his head from Toni to Cass.
Ignoring his client's questioning look, Cass reminded, "I thought you ascertained that Cecile died due to strangulation? You have Donna Love's scarf."
"That's what the scene was set up to look like, yes. But the autopsy told a different story. Cecile De Poulignac actually died of asphyxiation as the result of an allergic reaction from this drug." Toni nodded at the vial. "Which we know was in your possession as early as November 2009, Dr. Frame."
"That may be true, but I didn't..." he turned to Cass angrily. "Tell her I didn't "
"Jamie Frame having this vial in his possession in November of 2009 does not mean that he still had possession of it at the time of Cecile De Poulignac's death. Where did you even find it? It could have gone through a half-dozen hands since Dr. Frame first had it analyzed."
"His fingerprints were the only ones on it."
"Okay, then. Did you find it at the hospital? Because there are a million reasons why "
"It was found during our search of the Love estate."
"Which points back to Donna, not Jamie!"
"Considering that it's the primary residence of your client's wife, we believe Dr. Frame had ample opportunity to both plant the vial on her property and steal her scarf in order to frame Ms. Love for his own crime."
"I did not kill Cecile," Jamie stated firmly. "I had nothing to do with her death. We've been divorced for close to 25 years, we've barely spoken. Why would I "
"The same motive as we originally had for Ms. Love, coincidently enough. Cecile was blackmailing you, too. Mrs. Frame confirmed as much for us earlier."
"Marley..." Jamie whispered his wife's name, as if unable to reconcile it with what Toni was saying.
"So we went ahead and did a little digging." She placed Gary Sinclair's file in front of Jamie, and watched with practiced curiosity as the man seemed to age right before her eyes.
Because Jamie didn't need to read beyond the name of the institution, In-Patient Behavioral Health Program/St. Francis Hospital, to know what was inside.
"You're in a custody battle for your son with Grant Harrison. He's the type to play dirty. I imagine that his finding out about your commitment for an attempted suicide would pretty much end any legal chance you might have to stop him."
"I didn't kill Cecile," Jamie repeated, his fingernails nervously scraping the metallic tabletop. "I did not kill her."
"You had the means, you had the motive. Your alibi is you were home asleep; basically worthless. Dr. Jamie Frame," Toni stood, her signal for Chiang and Hamilton to come in. "You have the right to remain silent..."
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