"What happened in there?" Amanda leapt on Kevin the moment he stepped out of the interrogation room with the kids and Hamilton. Jamie may have been less forward, but he was just as curious.
Kevin beckoned them both over into a corner, then lowered his voice. He said, "Son of a bitch is trying to scare them, claiming he can press manslaughter charges."
"Manslaughter?" Jamie gritted his teeth. "You said, at worst, we were looking at a Class 3 Felony. Manslaughter can go up to Class 2." In response to the looks on both their faces, he reminded, "I've recently had to brush up on the Illinois penal code."
"It's a bluff," Kevin insisted. "Hamilton's whole strategy is divide and conquer. He offered immunity to the first one who'll flip on the others."
"You mean, if say, Sarah, decides to save her own skin by "
"She didn't," Kevin said. "None of them did. They all held firm. You should have seen it. You ought to be proud of your kids."
"That's right now," Amanda said. "What's to stop any of them, the minute they're released on bail from "
"Well," Kevin sighed. "For one thing, we won't be able to get a bail hearing today. It's too late in the afternoon. Docket is already full."
"They're spending the night in jail?" Jamie groaned.
"Here at the station, not in general pop. It won't be particularly comfortable, but it'll be okay," Kevin reassured.
"Like father, like son," Jamie mumbled.
"Hey," Kevin reminded. "My kid's in there, too."
"And all because of mine," Amanda added. She pleaded, "Is Allie alright? How did she seem to you?"
"Strong," Kevin said, sounding almost surprised at the first adjective that popped into his head. "She was the only one who tried arguing with Hamilton. Don't worry, though, I told them all to keep quiet. I don't want anyone saying a word without me around. She's okay, Amanda. She's keeping it together. Like I said, you should be proud of her."
Jamie nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. So what next?"
"Nothing for now," Kevin admitted. "I'll see you all at the courthouse first thing tomorrow morning but, until then, there really isn't anything to be done. Oh, I guess, being who you are and all, you might want to let your public relations people know what's going on, in case the press starts calling."
"I'll put my Brava people on it," Amanda said. "They know the drill by now."
"And I'll head over to tell Mom. Better she hears it from me than a reporter. You want a lift back to the house, Amanda?" Jamie offered. "You look a little shaky to be getting behind the wheel."
"I'm fine," she insisted. "I can make my calls from here. I want to stay a bit longer. Maybe... Maybe Allie will change her mind and see me." She looked hopefully at Kevin.
He shrugged. "I can ask again."
"Would you? Please?"
"No problem; do it right now." He smiled reassuringly and walked away.
"They're going to be alright," Jamie hugged his sister. "If Kevin could make Grant look like an acceptable father, he'll have no problem proving that our kids are innocent, that they were just honoring their friend's last wishes."
"My daughter is twenty-two years old. And she's already given up her baby, and helped his father to die. Why didn't I protect her, Jamie? Why haven't I managed to protect her from a single thing?"
"An expose on... you, Ms. Love?" Jeanne double-checked.
"Would you... care to elaborate?"
"When the time is right. For now, I simply need you to go into the archives and assemble everything you can on Jenna Norris' death, as well as the kidnapping of Dean Frame and Felicia Gallant."
"You mean the case that you..." Jeanne wondered when she'd lost her ability to finish sentences.
"What's that?" Donna's positive, downright buoyant mood dissipated as she caught sight of the piece Jeanne had been editing prior to the interruption. John Hudson's face, a file photo dating back to his fall from a lighthouse after struggling with The Sin Stalker in 1987, flickered across the screen. "Why are you doing a story on John?"
"That's what I was trying to tell you earlier. The D.A. is going to announce the arrest of five accessories in the assisted suicide death of Gregory Hudson. And three of the defendants are Corys! I tried calling the house to get a statement, preferably from Rachel, but no one was answering. I even called my Uncle Sandy to see if he knew what "
But Donna was no longer listening. Without another word to Jeanne, the apparent subject of KBAY-TV's forthcoming expose turned and fled from the room.
"What are you doing here, Marley?" Grant asked in surprise upon finding her at his house, curled up on the couch, an art book open on her lap but Marley's mind obviously elsewhere.
She blinked up at him, as if waking from a most disturbing dream. "Carl stopped by," she began tentatively. "We had the strangest conversation... I'm sorry, Grant, were we supposed to be somewhere right now? I got so caught up trying to make sense of "
"No," he sat down next to her, kissing Marley reassuringly, stroking her hair. "You're fine. I just thought... I assumed you'd be with Steven."
"What's wrong with Steven?" She popped up, alarmed. "What happened?"
"Jamie didn't call you?"
"No! Jamie no! What's happened to Steven?"
"He's fine," Grant rushed to reassure. "He's just he's been arrested."
"For what?" Marley gasped. When Grant hesitated a moment longer than Marley could stand, she repeated urgently, "Tell me!"
"Marley... I hate being the one to...."
"What is going on, Grant? You're scaring me now."
He did his best to break it to her gently. "Gregory Hudson is dead."
"Gregory?" Marley whimpered. "Oh, God. I knew he was sick. And I heard about him going missing. But, I was sure.... John's a doctor. I was sure he'd find him. He said there was a treatment. He said there was still hope..."
"My understanding is that he refused treatment. Allie helped him escape from the hospital, and then she, Steven, Sarah, and a few more of their friends, hid him someplace until he died. In Illinois, that's considered assisted suicide. It's a crime. A pretty serious one. I was in Hamilton's office when the call came in, that's how I know."
Marley's whimper turned into a full-out moan. "I should call John. He must be... oh, and Sharlene. How are they both going to get through this? And Donna... Donna loved Gregory. She really did. He was so little when Sharlene disappeared. Donna totally stepped up that time. She helped John with Gregory for months. I never thought about it, but my mother never got to be with any of her own children when they were that age. Gregory was really the only baby she ever raised. Does she know? And does she know about Steven?"
Grant shrugged and half-rose. "He's at the police station now. We could go try to see him; at least hire a lawyer."
"I'm sure Jamie's got everything under control." Marley reached out her arm, pulling Grant back down. "If he wanted my help, he'd have called by now." She didn't see the need to add that, a year ago, Jamie would have called her anyway. Because, a year ago, they were a team. Not anymore....
"Who the hell cares what Jamie does or doesn't want?" Grant dismissed with a snarl. "This is about your nephew. And Vicky's son. We should go down there anyway. Offer Steven a show of support, if nothing else."
"His being Vicky's son still matters to you," Marley observed, not judging, just resigned.
"Does that bother you?"
"No," Marley insisted. "Steven needs all the friends he can get right now. Especially ones in high places. In fact," she went on, as if to press her point and refute his earlier query. "I think you should be Steven's lawyer."
"What?" Grant's eyebrows shot up.
"Do you think anybody that we or Jamie hired would be more diligent or thorough or ruthless in protecting Vicky's child than you?"
"There's a compliment in there someplace, right?" Grant smiled uncomfortably. "I may have you in my corner, but I suspect Jamie won't be too thrilled with "
"Who the hell cares what Jamie does or doesn't want?" she echoed. "Leave him to me."
"Alright," he said slowly, reluctant to argue when she seemed so determined.
"And you should defend Sarah, too. Amanda will get someone for Allie who did you say the other kids were?"
"Jennifer Fowler and GQ Todd."
"Okay. So obviously Kevin is looking after Jen's interests. And if I know Carter and Thomasina, they'll go to the mat for their son and beyond. That just leaves Sarah. I wouldn't put it past Amanda to hang her out to dry just so she can stick it to Olivia and Dennis. Who knows where Sarah's parents are right now, or if they even care what's happening with her? We need to look out for Sarah, too."
"Sarah is who you and Jamie were planning to "
"It doesn't matter. She's a lovely young woman, she's Steven's girlfriend, and she doesn't have anyone else."
"The Corys "
"Have never considered Sarah one of their own. She's Iris and Olivia's, which makes her persona non-grata. Iris went to jail for shooting their precious Carl. You think Rachel gives a damn about the girl, even if she is Mac's great-granddaughter?"
"I'd be happy to help Sarah," Grant said finally, realizing the futility of arguing with Marley while she was in such a state. "If that's what she wants."
"I'll talk to her. Make both Sarah and Steven see that this is the best thing for them. And," she told Grant. "For you, too."
"I don't follow."
"How did your meeting with Hamilton go this afternoon?"
Dizzy from the change of subject, Grant could only offer, "I gave him some food for thought. Not sure yet how he plans to respond."
"Well, while he's mulling it over, I say you give the voters a little sneak peek of what Harrison versus Hamilton will look like, by going head to head with him in court."
"Is that what this is all about?" Grant didn't know whether to be horrified, impressed or grateful. "You want me to exploit Steven and Sarah's predicament so I can score early points against Chase Hamilton?"
"No. I want you to help my nephew and my and Sarah, while scoring early points against Chase Hamilton."
"Wow," Grant said. "That's Spencer would be proud."
"There's a compliment in there somewhere, right?" she teased.
"You know," Grant mused. "If I'd come up with this plan first which isn't to say everyone won't assume that I did..."
"It's okay. I don't need credit. Just results."
"If I had come up with this first, you'd have called me every name in the book."
"Probably. But that was before."
"Before I understood that one can both exploit and be of assistance to those being exploited at the same time."
"I'm impressed," Grant admitted. "And more than a little bit scared."
"Good. That's precisely where I want you."
"Daaaah!" Lori Ann squealed with glee at the sight of Cass. She did her best to wriggle out of Frankie's grasp and take a flying leap right at him, so that Cass had to lunge forward, duck, and catch her mid free-fall into his arms.
Despite his initial resistance to the idea of celebrating Lori Ann's first birthday behind bars, Cass had given in after Felicia using a combination of charm, stubbornness, and the promise of an entire, autographed library of her books for the warden's wife (so he said) arranged to have the party in a room where the guest of honor wouldn't have to look at her father through a sheet of bullet-proof glass.
Now, if you ignored the drab cement walls and nailed down furniture, Cass' equally gray wardrobe and the pre-sliced pink and white cake due the prohibition against knives or even forks, you could actually pretend that this was a perfectly normal family gathering. Mom, Dad, Big Sister, Grandma and Grandpa. Though, of course, Lori Ann had eyes for no one but Cass.
She insisted on sitting on his lap while attempting to blow out her one candle, and then would allow only him to feed her while simultaneously working diligently on shoving sticky handfuls of frosting into his mouth. Frankie sat beside them, resting her head on Cass' shoulder, getting stray bits of pink in her hair as a result, and smiling all the while.
"It's so good to see you all together again," Felicia gushed. "Just how it's supposed to be."
"Frankie always said she wanted an unconventional family," Cass teased. "Leave it to my wife to take it just a step too far."
"This may not be exactly what I had in mind," she conceded. "But it's working. We're together, our kids have two parents "
"Living in two separate places," Cass noted.
"Neither of whom is technically related to us."
"And she has Dean," Frankie said. "I know that somehow, some way, he's going to find his path home to her."
"And she has Jenna," Felicia added softly. "Watching over her."
"I think Jenna is watching over all of us," Frankie offered. "I feel like she's the one who guided Lori Ann to where she needed to be. She was certainly the one who pulled her thought all those surgeries and health scares. Look at her now! I took Lori Ann to the pediatrician the other day, and he said she's almost caught up with where she should be, all her milestones and her weight. That can't be just random good luck. She has to have a guardian angel. I refuse to believe otherwise."
"So is her guardian angel going to keep Lorna from taking Lori Ann away from us?" Charlie demanded, cutting through the adult sappiness.
"Lorna will not take Lori Ann away," Felicia corrected firmly.
"That's right," Cass concurred. "Don't worry, Charlie, your mom and I have no intention of letting that happen."
He looked at Frankie for confirmation and took her hand in his. She smiled instinctively, nodding at him, a skeptical Charlie, a worried Felicia, a grim Lucas, convincing them all. While utterly failing to convince herself.
"Steven helped Allie?" Rachel wasn't so much asking a question as forcing herself to absorb Jamie's bombshell. "Sarah, too?" He nodded apologetically while she sighed, "Does Fowler offer bulk family rates?"
"He has to," Jamie scoffed. "He's family."
"You're right..." Rachel trailed off as, for a split second, she actually attempted to figure out how each of the currently incarcerated children were related to one another. "And Gregory... Sharlene... John... I can't imagine what they're going through right now. I've tried, you know," she told Jamie pointedly. "So many times, since I found out about you and your breakdown."
"Don't, Mom. We need to focus on the kids and their futures. Dwelling on the past my past is worthless at this point."
"I'm sorry. But, I can't stop thinking about it. If you'd succeeded in your suicide attempt, I'd have been the one getting the phone call most likely from Alice, of all people telling me that my son had taken his own life. I've tried to picture my reaction."
"Why? Why torture yourself? For what?"
"I don't know," she confessed, helplessly. "Maybe I do it to make myself feel even a fraction of the despair you must have been feeling. Maybe it's some kind of offering to the Gods. I suffer now, and they make sure it never actually happens. Except I never keep my part of the bargain. I try to envision what my response would have been, and I can't. I shut down completely. Some things really are unimaginable, I guess."
"I don't know," Jamie said. "I'm doing a pretty good job right now of visualizing my son spending the best years of his life in prison."
"I know that feeling, too," Rachel commiserated.
Jamie shook his head in agonized wonder. "How in the world have you managed to survive everything I've put you through, Mom?"
"Because I knew that it was my job to be strong for you on the outside. Even while I was a nervous, guilty wreck on the inside."
"I get the nervous part. I think I've eaten through half my stomach lining in just the last hour. But, why guilty?
"Because I didn't do enough. Because I didn't see enough. Because I didn't know enough to reach out and tell you how much I loved you and that I was there for you, no matter what. Are you honestly trying to convince me that, when you got the phone call about Steven, you didn't wonder, not even for a second, what you might have done to prevent this?"
"But, in my case, I actually could have done something. My gut told me he was involved. I even flat out asked him. And then I let him shine me off, because I had too many other things going on. Kirkland and Lorna and the new house...."
"You told me one of the reasons you didn't contact me when you were sick was because the twins were babies then, and you didn't want to inconvenience me."
"Okay, I see your point."
"Steven is his father's son. That boy will take the world onto his shoulders without asking anyone for a glass of water, much less help bearing up under the load."
"Oh, good," Jamie said. "There goes the rest of my stomach lining."
"Except that Steven did finally turn to you. Once he got it through that brilliant head of his that he couldn't do it alone, he made the call. Unlike Allie with Amanda. Because Steven knew you'd be there when he did. Which means you must be doing something right." Rachel asked her son, "Do you understand now that I would have done anything, dropped anything, sacrificed anything to help you? That's one of the benefits of being a parent."
"Which one?" Jamie clarified. "The ulcers, the sleep deprivation, or that crushing sense of failure chomping at your heels, ready to strike at any moment?"
"The feeling of having helped your child. The knowledge that, once in a while, you've actually gotten the chance to do what you were put on Earth to do. And that you didn't mess it up... too badly."
"Well, the jury is still out on me and Steven in that regard." He sank down on the couch, burying his face in his hands. "Kevin says this could be really bad, Mom."
"We'll find out soon enough, and then we'll deal with whatever comes. If you and Amanda don't object, I'd like to come to court tomorrow morning, see if I can be of any help at all."
"Think you could pin Chase Hamilton down while Amanda and I herd the kids off in our getaway car?"
"You know I could," Rachel said. And she wasn't kidding.
"Actually, Mom," Jamie ventured, bringing up the subject on his own for the first time since Rachel had learned the truth. "You did help me. All those years ago. You just didn't realize it. I'd barely been out of the hospital six months when Vicky died. When Jake called and asked me to take both boys fulltime... I had a moment of sheer, absolute panic. I wanted to. I wanted to more than anything. I understood what it was like for them, losing a parent that young... But, the state I was in, I was so scared I'd end up doing more harm than good. I almost asked Jake to keep them. I almost gave them up to Marley and Donna. But, then I told myself, no, I could do this. I could move back home. I could come here, and then I would know that if I ever started to veer off track, if it ever began to seem like I wasn't doing right by those boys, you'd be here to help set me straight. You wouldn't sugarcoat it, but you wouldn't give up on me, either. You'd just... be there when I needed you. When all three of us needed you. I couldn't have been the father I wanted to be for Steven and Kirkland, if I didn't have you as a mother."
"You don't seem thrilled by my proposal," Spencer attempted to add a sardonic laugh to the tail end of his sentence in order to demonstrate that he was only joking. The endeavor didn't fool anyone.
"I'm just surprised," Alice told him truthfully. "Forty-eight hours ago, you weren't speaking to me."
"And forty-eight hours from now we might be swept away into some brand new calamity. I know this town. I thought I'd take advantage of the lull."
"Proposing a major life change is your idea of a lull?"
"It's my idea of a Hail Mary pass. An old man's last-ditch grasp at a happiness he fully comprehends he doesn't deserve, but, nevertheless, still craves. You told me to be brave, Alice. This is the most frightening thing I have ever done."
"And that sounds like the beginning of a gentle refutation."
"It is no such thing," Alice snapped, unappreciative of having sentiments put into her mouth. Especially when she was already having a hard enough time doing it herself. "I've meant every word I've said. I am flattered. And I am surprised. And if you expected me to give you an answer on the spot, then I am also sorry."
"I love you," Spencer said simply, then quoted, "I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams... and other assorted Irish nonsense."
She smiled, "William Butler Yeats."
"My father taught me that poem during our crossing to America. But I, being poor, have only my dreams... I've outgrown that part, at least. The rest, unfortunately, still applies."
"I always knew you were a romantic deep down."
"I've spent my life trying to earn enough money to afford my dreams. I suppose I'm not the first fool come to realize too late that the only ones worth having can't be bought."
"Now that," Alice said. "Sounds like more assorted Irish nonsense."
"You liked the Yeats," he couldn't help grinning at her analysis. "I thought I'd try a bit of my own blarney."
"I liked it, too," she confessed sincerely. "And the man who wielded it."
"Will you at least think about what I asked?" he'd had no intention of begging, yet Spencer realized he was doing just that. He also realized that he didn't care. All he wanted was for her to say yes. Anything else was irrelevant.
"Of course, I will."
"And will you still come back here like you promised, regardless?"
She hesitated. "I'll come back. To tell you what I decided."
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