This time around, Lorna made sure to call and double-check for herself exactly what time Cass' allocution and Lucas' release were scheduled for.
She arrived a half-hour late deliberately, happily managing to miss the bulk of Felicia and Frankie's testimony singing Cass' praises and demonizing Cecile (not that Lorna objected to the latter, if asked she certainly had a story or two of her own to contribute) during the sentencing portion. Morgan was there, too. Lorna exchanged a quick glance with Cass' brother he raised one palm in a wave and she instinctively, if somewhat self-consciously, smiled back before slipping into the wooden pew across from her mother and the rest of Cass' cheering section.
Lorna looked around, noting that Lucas hadn't been brought in yet. She realized that as far as Felicia was concerned, his pardon was a done deal. That's how much she trusted Cass. But Lorna had no intention of exhaling until her father had been officially declared a free man, the handcuffs taken off and Lucas allowed to walk out of the courtroom, get in his car and drive home without a black and white picking him up along the way. That's how much Lorna trusted... anybody.
The Ballad of St. Cass finally over, Chase Hamilton stood up, sighed, turned to address the gallery and wondered out loud, "Would anyone else care to confess to this murder? Ollie-ollie-home free, speak now or forever hold your peace."
"Mr. Hamilton..." the judge warned.
"Sorry, Your Honor." And yet he didn't really seem to be. Hamilton reminded Cass, "As an officer of the court, you have to know that all of this could have been avoided if you'd simply trusted the system you were a part of. No one is questioning that the deceased was a reprehensible human being. But that's what the law is for. To deal with people like her. To protect your wife and your children."
"You did a terrific job of it fourteen years ago," Felicia snapped, earning a sharp rebuke from the judge.
"We might have done better this time," Hamilton pointed out. "If Mr. Winthrop hadn't first allowed two other men to be arrested for his crime. There was nothing admirable about what you did, Cass. Understandable, maybe. But that doesn't make it acceptable."
"If you're through posturing for the nightly news," Cass shot back. "I'd like to get on with my sentencing, please."
"Nothing would make me happier." Hamilton returned to his seat.
The judge cleared her throat and, looking down at the notes she'd taken, proceeded to condemn Cass Winthrop to twelve years in Bay City prison, with eligibility for parole in five. It was, to Lorna's view, a ludicrously light sentence, especially considering the thirty years Jamie had been facing. But to judge by Felicia's expression, you might have thought her best friend had been damned to an immediate hanging.
Lorna heard the courtroom doors open behind her and, without turning her head, knew that it was Jamie. She supposed, if asked, she could justify that she recognized his footsteps or, as he drew closer, the sound of his breathing, even the smell of him. But, the fact was, Lorna simply knew, and that was that. Eyes still on the judge as she laid out the details of Cass' incarceration, Lorna stretched her hand to the side and slightly behind her, waiting until Jamie had slipped his palm into hers and took the seat next to Lorna's. He kissed her temple and she smiled lightly, exhaling just the slightest amount, despite her earlier vow not to do so until Lucas was home safe.
Remanded immediately into custody for transport to prison, Cass stood up slowly, as if he'd aged a decade in between the judge's first and last gavel tap. He turned to face Frankie, the two of them standing so close together, they had to have been breathing the same air, if not thinking the exact same thoughts. They kissed and whispered words no one could or should have been privy to. Frankie kept nodding her head and wiping the tears from her eyes as if they were inconsequential, nothing to worry about. Cass kept murmuring platitudes intended to reassure, but seemingly only made her cry harder.
At the last minute, Cass stopped to embrace Felicia, who, once again, could only thank him so profusely that Lorna had to turn her head away, clutching Jamie's hand even more tightly and taking deep breaths to keep from exploding.
Frankie followed Cass out of the courtroom, the both of them hesitating ever so briefly as they passed by Jamie. For a moment, Cass looked as if he might say something, to maybe acknowledge his role in Jamie's false imprisonment or even go so far as to apologize for it. But, rather than meet his former attorney's and cousin's gaze, Jamie focused on Lorna, stroking her palm with his thumb until the moment had passed and the Winthrops had disappeared through the main doors.
Having witnessed the non-interaction between them, Hamilton leaned over the barrier and threatened Jamie, "Swear to God, Frame, if you're here to confess again, I might go on a killing spree myself."
"Relax," Jamie patted him mockingly on the back. "That's not why I came."
Hamilton looked from Jamie to Lorna, then back again. He smiled. "Good call."
"Dad!" Lorna sprung out of her seat upon spying Lucas being brought in, as did Felicia, who reached out to fleetingly touch his shoulder. Lucas looked from his wife on one side of the aisle, to his daughter on the other, and frowned slightly. But now wasn't the time to ask questions. He did, however, lock eyes with Jamie for a split second, taking in his protective stance over Lorna, and the way she was gratefully leaning against him. In response, Lucas offered his former cellmate the most infinitesimal of nods. Which, nevertheless, said it all.
Unlike the long, drawn out breast-beatings over Cass, for Lucas, the proceedings seemed to be over instantaneously. The judge merely read the new, lowered charges, agreed that sentence would be waived to time served and sent him on his way with a brisk, "Good luck. I hope we never meet again."
Hamilton didn't even get his second primetime close-up.
Felicia flung herself into her husband's arms, repeating his name over and over again as if, without it, she couldn't make herself believe he was really there.
Lorna hung back, loathe to interfere, genuinely reveling in the expression on her parents' faces, trying to freeze both the image and the sentiment in her mind. She'd forgotten how perfect they looked together, how... inevitable. How it appeared that it didn't matter what life kept doing to yank them apart, something else, something bigger than all of them, kept bringing Fanny and her Luke back to each other again and again and again.
"Go hug your dad," Jamie urged Lorna, nudging her gently forward. "It's over. It's all finally over."
She shook her head, struggling to find her voice. "No... This... this should just be about them."
"You are a part of them," he reminded.
Lorna nodded absently, declining to admit even to Jamie that, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't actually make herself believe it.
"You said you'd do anything to make up for treating me like crap," Allie reminded Sarah as they sat in the latter's dorm room. "Help me with this, and I say we're square."
Sarah wasn't sure whether to laugh or to call in a psych consultation for Allie. "You want me to help you help Gregory to commit suicide?"
"He's not committing suicide. He's going to die no matter what. He just wants to do it his way."
"Okay. But what you're planning to do, Al, it's called assisted suicide. And it's against the law."
"It's what Gregory wants. It's the only thing he has ever asked of me. Do you have any idea how much I owe him?"
"He isn't being fair to you."
"I don't remember asking your opinion. I just asked you to help me. If the answer is no, fine, I'll do it myself."
"How?" Sarah wondered, not snotty, just practical. "How do you intend to get Gregory out of the hospital without anybody noticing? He's got to be on monitors, right? Ones that are hooked up to the nurse's station? An alarm probably goes off whenever there's a change in his vital signs. Plus, there are security cameras everywhere. You won't get past the front door without it being broadcast. And even if you do manage to sneak him out, where are you going to go? Your room at the Cory house? The family cabin? Some hotel? Those are the first places the cops'll look. And, trust me, if what you told me about his parents is even a little true, they'll have the cops out after you within minutes. What are you going to do for money while you're hiding out? How are you going to get food? Oh and, one more thing, Allie Dying isn't pretty. It's not like closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep. Gregory is going to be in a lot of pain for who knows how long. He's going to need round-the-clock care. Have you thought about how you're going to handle that?"
Allie shook her head, the take-charge attitude she'd stormed in with slowly crumbling following each of Sarah's pertinent questions. "I don't know," she admitted. "I just I want to do this for him. I have to do it for him. He needs me."
"There's got to be another way," Sarah prompted softly.
Sarah sighed and just sat there, silently thinking.
"I remember what you said," Allie looked down at her hands, avoiding Sarah's eyes. "When you said I wasn't worth being friends with anymore."
"Oh, hell, Al, that was...."
"You said I always came running to you to clean up my messes, and that you were tired of it."
"I didn't mean it. I told you why I said it then. I just wanted you to "
"You were right. That's probably why it hurt so much. Because I knew you were right. I've never taken responsibility for anything. Even Hudson. I said the words, but, in the end, I just gave him away."
"That was you taking responsibility. You did what was best for him."
"I did what was best for me. I've always done what was best for me. You don't know some of the things I've.... Anyway, everybody's let me get away with it for too long. I don't understand why, honestly. The only thing I know is, I can't keep on living like that. I can't keep on being this spoiled, sheltered little princess everybody pats on the head and says it's okay even when it's not. I have to grow up."
"This is a hell of a way to do it."
"I have to start somewhere." Allie finally met Sarah's gaze head on. "And, by the way, don't think I'm missing the irony here. I finally decide to start taking care of things on my own, and how do I do it? By turning to you, the person I always turn to, to take care of things for me. And when you up and quit, I glommed on to Gregory."
"This is too big for you to handle alone, Al."
"I know. And it's not about me. It's about Gregory. That's why I have to make sure I do everything right. Will you help me, Sarah? Please..."
"I'll help you," she said. As if there had ever really been any question in the matter. "But we're going to need reinforcements."
"If you came to punch out my dad, he's already gone to turn himself in." Charlie stood at the door, pressing her face against the frame.
"I came to see you," Kirkland corrected. "You came to cheer me up when it was my dad who was in jail."
"You dad didn't do it. Mine did."
"So does that mean you don't need cheering up?"
Charlie opened the door all the way and let him in. "Give it your best shot."
"Are you okay?" he asked, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot.
"Are you stupid?"
Kirkland shrugged to indicate that was always a possibility. "Do you want to come riding at my house? Or swimming? We could go right now."
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure your family will be just thrilled to see me, after what my dad did."
"Your dad," Kirkland reminded. "Not you."
"I thought you'd be mad at me."
"You didn't do anything," he reiterated.
In a small voice, Charlie said, "I still love my dad. I told him I hated him. And I do. But I don't. I guess I should."
Kirkland shrugged. "I am so totally the wrong guy to ask about that."
"Yeah..." she actually smiled sheepishly. "And you've got two of them."
"So do you want to come over?"
"No... I I think I should wait till my mom comes back. From court."
"You want me to stick around and wait with you?"
"You don't have to."
"It's no big deal."
"No. I'm not Maybe some other time, okay? I just want to... think about stuff. By myself. Is that cool?"
"But, ask me again, okay? Soon?"
"Hey, we've got all summer."
"So that's all I have to say on the subject." Having discarded their clothes as mutually unnecessary, Lorna and Jamie lay wrapped up and facing each other atop her bed, his forearm beneath her head, Lorna's leg flung over Jamie's hip, his fingers diligently massaging the furious knots of tension vibrating along her spine. "Which means now it's your turn to curse out Cass and Frankie." When Jamie didn't immediately get with the program, she cajoled, "Please?"
Jamie sighed. "I... I really don't see the point of it."
"It's a mental health issue. I need to know that I'm not the only one who thinks Cass is a lying conniving SOB. Come on, humor me. Just call him a low-down, dirty bastard for everything he's done."
Dutifully, Jamie repeated, "Cass Winthrop is a low-down, dirty, hypocritical, selfish bastard for everything he's done not just to me and Lucas, but to everyone who cares about us, too."
"Thank you. I especially liked how you added the hypocritical part. He so, so is that."
"Are we done?" Jamie wondered. "Because, I'll tell you the truth, Lorna. The only thing I feel towards Cass right now is pity. I'm no stranger to the sorts of extremes that Cecile can drive men to. There but for the grace of God... I'm lying here with you, and he's sitting in a jail cell, contemplating being separated from his wife and children for over a decade. Charlie will be fully grown by the time he's out. Lori Ann will barely know him. And Frankie... he just got her back and now this...."
Lorna rolled over on her back, though not far enough that they ever completely lost contact, and pouted, "Remember when I predicted there'd be times you were going to be too damned nice and sensible for your own good?"
"And that it would piss you off. Yes, I remember."
"This is one of those times."
"I figured." To cheer her up, he offered, "Maybe I'll be able to summon up a bit more righteous outrage tomorrow. But for now, I am just so damn happy to be with you again after what feels like, I swear, an eternity."
"Two days," she reminded. "What's two days after ten years?"
"Cruel and inhuman punishment," Jamie informed her, pulling Lorna back into his arms, kissing her with all the pent-up hunger of his self-described eternity.
"I missed you, too. I wanted to call you so badly. Not just about Cass, but to find out how it went with the boys." The look on Jamie's face told Lorna everything she'd been afraid to know. "You told them."
"As soon as we got to the hotel. They kind of ambushed me."
"So how did it go?"
"Beats me. Kirkland was his usual, unbelievable, upbeat, sympathetic self. I swear to God, how Grant and Vicky ever managed to produce a kid like that "
"Grant, Vicky and you," Lorna stressed. "Emphasis on you."
"Meanwhile, Steven just sat there, insisting it was all good, don't worry about him, move along, nothing to see here, absolutely expressionless."
"Sounds like another Frame man I know." Lorna's fingers gently trailed from Jamie's forehead, down his cheek and toward his lips. "You get it, too. The Face. When you're chewing on something but haven't decided how to react yet. I can already tell it's going to drive me crazy."
"I like the idea of driving you at least a little bit crazy," Jamie attempted to change the subject and Lorna, understanding how desperately he needed to, gracefully let him.
"You know," she continued moving her hands downwards, her mouth cheerfully following in their wake. "Last time, you were so focused on pleasing me, I never really got the chance to discover exactly what it is that you like."
Jamie groaned in response to her newfound interest in carnal investigation. "I'm a guy, Lorna. I like it when a beautiful woman kisses me. Touches me. Makes love to me." The groan turned into a gasp that was part surprise, part wonder. "We're pretty simple that way."
"In that case," Lorna mused. "I think it's time we broadened your horizons."
"Jesus, Allie," Steven looked from his cousin to his girlfriend and scratched both eyebrows with his fingers. "Seriously?"
"Yes," Allie said firmly.
"We're talking a felony here."
"Are you in or out?" Sarah demanded.
"Allie and Gregory can't do this alone."
"Then maybe they shouldn't do it at all."
"I know you can make this happen, Steven," Sarah said.
"Was that flattery or a threat? Hard to tell all of a sudden."
"I need your help," Allie pleaded. "Gregory needs your help."
"Maybe I could ask my dad," Steven offered. "Maybe he could talk to John. Or, if that doesn't work, at least see to it that Gregory gets treated his way."
"Uncle Jamie is a doctor," Allie reminded. "He'll side with John. And he's Sharlene's nephew. No way would he go against them."
"It's worth a try."
"We don't have the time. Please, Steven, please."
"Jesus," he repeated, but this time both girls could see the wheels starting to turn in his head. "Give me some time to think about it. I'll see what I can come up with...."
"I would appreciate you toning down the Hansel and Gretel routine, and not sprinkling your belongings throughout my house like rancid bread-crumbs." Marley plopped a single cufflink right into Grant's plate of French toast, followed by the key she'd found on her nightstand into his cup of coffee. "I have no use for either."
"I beg to differ," Grant grimaced as he fished his prized, golf-club cufflink, Kirkland's Christmas gift, from a pool of Vermont's finest maple syrup. "As you have just utilized the proffered key for its precise purpose."
"Adding a little iron to your coffee?"
"Continuing to surprise me with these delightful, unexpected, yet inevitably passionate interludes that somehow always seem to lead to "
"Not always," Marley clipped, turning away and heading for the door.
"I have no intention of chasing you," Grant chuckled from the table.
"I wasn't expecting you to."
"The hell you weren't." Breaking his word but wasn't that half the fun? Grant rose and was able to beat Marley to the exit, grabbing her by the arm, whipping her around and kissing her, waiting out the pro forma struggle that always always! came before her predictable surrender, understanding, even if she didn't or couldn't or wouldn't, that it was all simply part of their dance, part of the foreplay.
Grant was wondering whether it wouldn't make a pleasant change to strip her right then and there in the foyer, they'd always gone at it in the dark, or at least the half-dark up to this point, wouldn't a spot of natural light add to the overall experience, it was about time, after all; when his amorous rumination was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of the door opening, and an even more instantly recognizable voice asking, "Uh... Dad?" followed by a less certain, "Aunt Marley?"
"Oh, my God," Grant heard Marley murmur as she literally froze and slid out of his arms.
Grant took a big gulp, turning to face his son, ready with a quick smile to explain away everything... definitely not ready to encounter, in addition to a wide-eyed Kirkland, the boy's smug, grinning, utterly delighted other aunt, Amanda.
Rachel actually thought that she'd done an admirable job of avoiding speaking directly to Carl for almost a full day, despite their needing to be in the same room several times with either Elizabeth or Cory.
However, when she entered her art studio hoping to spend the next few hours pondering her options while keeping her hands blessedly occupied, to find not just Carl but Spencer Harrison, of all people, waiting inside, her vow of self-imposed, fuming silence went inadvertently out the window.
"What kind of unholy alliance is this?" she looked from one to the other.
"I was aspiring to make a point," Carl agreed with her analysis of the situation.
"Oh, I can't wait to find out what that might be."
Spencer explained, "Carl tells me you've asked him to help convict Donna by exposing their mutual connection to the Canada compound."
"And you came by to beg me not to obliterate your meal ticket?" she snapped.
"Hardly. I came because Carl thought the sight of both of us on the same side for a change might drive home to you the notion of just how dangerous such an action would be. Carl coming clean would put him, you, your children and your grandchildren in fantastic danger."
"I had no idea my family's continued health was such a concern of yours."
"Kirkland lives on your property," Spencer reminded her pointedly. "And, as I'm sure you've no doubt guessed, the danger would extend to my loved ones, as well."
"You did start all this by trying to blackmail me," Rachel knew it was petty, but she couldn't help drawing a modicum of pleasure from his visible discomfort.
"Actually," Carl corrected. "You started it, my dear, by suspecting me of being the one who'd kidnapped Felicia, Jenna and Dean in the first place."
"You'd given me plenty of grounds for my suspicion over the years."
"I regret that mightily," was all Carl had to say in reply.
"Drop this, Rachel." Uninterested in their domestic dramas, Spencer got right to the point. "If you insist on prosecuting Donna by relaying what you know to the authorities, it could very well spell the end of us all."
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