"Let the record show," Grant reminded Chase. "That Mr. Todd is under no obligation to answer any of your questions."
"Let the record show," Chase dismissed in turn. "That the court is deeply impressed with your memory for legal procedure. Tell me, did they offer continuing education courses at that island you hid out on? Sit down, Mr. Harrison, and be quiet. I am not in the least bit interested in talking to you." He turned to GQ. "On the other hand, I am most interested in hearing what Mr. Todd has to say. Tell me something, GQ, how well did you know Gregory Hudson?"
GQ shrugged. He looked at Grant, who indicated that it was all right to answer. GQ admitted, "We hung out with some of the same people."
"Like Allie Fowler?"
"Mostly, yeah. She's Steven's cousin. Steven and I work together. Plus, he's in my girlfriend's class at Bay City U. Sarah is, too."
"So, really, you have no personal stake in this? You barely knew Gregory."
"Mr. Todd isn't admitting to anything at this time," Grant interrupted.
"Fair enough," Chase changed tacks. "I don't want to send you to jail for this, GQ."
"Then why are we here?" Grant challenged.
"We're here because it's my job to prosecute crimes. And Assisted Suicide is a crime. But that doesn't mean you all have to go down for it. I was sincere in what I said. Help me build my case, GQ, and I will give you full immunity."
"Because you're a swell guy that way."
"Because I am running for Mayor of Bay City, and I don't particularly want to put a Black man behind bars for something that a bunch of stupid White kids pulled him into. Wouldn't look good. Wouldn't play good."
GQ cocked his head to one side. "That's honest," he admitted.
"And self-serving," Grant put in.
"I want you to understand where I'm coming from, GQ. Because I understand where you're coming from. I know what it's like to flit on the edges of the mainstream, fully cognizant that, at any moment, all those rights and privileges that everyone else takes for granted could be yanked away from you on a narrow-minded whim."
"Don't." Whatever goodwill Chase's earlier honesty had earned with GQ dried up in response to his subsequent attempt. "Do not play the we're-all-brothers-in-adversity civil rights card with me. I don't want to hear about your Johnny Come Lately Stonewall riots like it's even vaguely the same thing. I don't get to pick and choose when and how I come out. I don't have the option of passing whenever I feel like it. You do. You ever been arrested for driving while gay?"
"No," Chase replied calmly. "You ever been arrested for dancing while Black?"
That seemed to set GQ back a bit. "For real?" he asked.
"Well, that's not right, either," GQ conceded.
"I've been straight with you," the District Attorney reiterated. "No pun intended."
GQ had to smile at that. Even Grant did.
"I've only got one free pass to hand out. I would prefer it to going you. I explained why. But, the fact is, I don't have the luxury of being choosy. First defendant to give me what I want takes the prize. It's why I wanted to speak to you before the rest. Offer is on the table, GQ. But the clock is ticking."
"We've got a problem," Matt barreled past Lorna, already opening up his lap-top as, not seeing any available chairs, he plopped down on the floor, sweeping the assortment of cleaning products she'd piled on the coffee-table off to the side.
"We have several," Lorna, dressed in a tank top and shorts, her hair braided and pinned atop her head, remained at the front door, hoping Matt would take the hint. "However, as I told, texted and memo-ed you earlier, I am not dealing with any of them this week. I'm off the clock."
"This is a real emergency," Matt insisted. Though, apparently, not one so great that he couldn't take a moment to look around and let out an impressed whistle. "Wow, nice place, guys. You and Jamie must've dropped a pretty penny for a crew to hustle and get everything up and running so quickly."
"My grandmother was a cleaning lady." A fed up Lorna slammed the door shut. "I know how to scrub."
"Oh, I see. So we're talking you, Jamie, a French maid costume...."
"Your brother and I don't need props to keep things interesting, thanks for asking. Now leave, or you'll be wearing a nice, shiny, embalming coat of Pledge."
"This isn't like you, Lorna," Matt tsk-tsked censoriously. "Back in the day, you were on the job 24/7. You were the one always busting my balls about slacking off."
"Lucky for me, I've found a more pleasant way to spend my time."
"Riiiiight. Lorna Devon 2.0 loves nothing better than getting down on her hands and knees to scour floors while her erstwhile boyfriend is off gallivanting "
"Jamie," Lorna seethed. "Is at the hospital. He had a real emergency, not something that could be fixed on a laptop. And before that, he was at the courthouse with his son; your nephew and your nieces whom you are obviously deeply concerned about, I can tell."
"If my nephew or my nieces need my help, all they have to do is ask. As they haven't, I am going to presume that Jamie and Amanda have everything under control, and focus on my work which, while it may not be life or death, is suffering a bit of a crisis right now."
"I wish you Godspeed, then."
"Oh, come on, just take a look at this one release I mocked up and "
"Fine," she held out her hand, figuring that giving in would be quicker than arguing. "Leave me the materials, and I'll e-mail you something coherent by end of day."
"No," Matt said. "Going back and forth with changes and comments on e-mail will take forever. If we work together, we can knock the whole thing out in a couple of hours."
"Hours? I'm sorry, were you expecting the War and Peace of press releases?"
"Would you just put down the Pledge and let me explain what's going on? Do you really think I'd be here, subjecting myself to frostbite from your eternally congenial personality if these weren't desperate times?"
"You do know how to butter up a girl."
"I don't have to butter you up. I'm your boss, Lorna, remember?"
"I'm not going to do it, Cass. I won't use what I know about Jamie to make Lorna back off on Lori Ann."
Cass rocked back, stunned. "It's all we've got, Frankie. Lorna certainly isn't going to pull any punches. Neither should we."
"Fine, but whatever punches I throw, I'll throw at Lorna. Not Jamie. And not this. It isn't right. And it isn't fair."
"My being in jail isn't right. Or fair. Lorna trying to take our daughter away is most certainly not right. The only way to make it a fair fight is to blow her out of the water before anything even gets to court. Jamie is our best shot at that."
"Would you listen to yourself? You're talking about my family."
"I'm your family. Charlie, Lori Ann. We're your family."
"So to protect us, I should say to hell with everyone else? No, Cass. That's how Cecile did things. Are you asking me to turn myself into her just to get what I want?"
"We're talking about our daughter!"
"We're talking about using any means necessary. How has that particular course of action worked out for you?" Frankie demanded. "I know how it worked out for Sharlene. She held on to Gregory so tightly that she lost him. She didn't get to be with her son as he was dying, and there is absolutely nothing that she can do now to fix that."
"I am so sorry about that, Frankie. You know that Gregory meant a lot to me, too. Remember when he was little and so sick...."
"I remember," Frankie said softly. "You saved his life then."
"If I could have done it again.... But, Gregory and Sharlene... that was a completely different situation."
"Not really. What happens ten, fifteen years down the line, when Lori Ann finds out what we were willing to do to keep her with us?"
"She'll understand how much her parents loved her," Cass couldn't believe that Frankie failed to grasp this. "She'll know that everything we did, we did for her. If anybody should be worried about what Lori Ann will think of them down the line, it's me. Most likely, I won't be out of prison until she's in middle school."
"You're here," Frankie parsed. "Because of a mistake. A deadly one, but still a mistake; the manslaughter conviction itself testifies to that. If I expose Jamie, I'll be inflicting my damage deliberately."
"You bear no responsibility for what Jamie did."
"But Cecile does. She got her kicks from twisting people around until they ended up doing things they never would have under normal circumstances. You and I certainly both know that."
"I'm paying for what Cecile made me do," Cass pointed out. "Why shouldn't Jamie?"
"Because damn it, Cass, will you please listen to me! it would turn me into Cecile!"
"It would cost me my soul," she hissed.
"You're being melodramatic."
"Alright. Then how about this: How am I supposed to live, watching Jamie's life fall apart because of something I did, and not come out hating myself for it in the end? How am I supposed to be your wife, and Charlie and Lori Ann's mother if I can't bear the person I've become?" She swore, "I'll find another way, Cass. We'll find another way."
"Where have I heard that before? Oh, wait, I remember. It was right after Jamie left the two of us the four of us; Charlie and Lori Ann included twisting in the wind by refusing to testify against Cecile." When she failed to respond, Cass pressed on, "Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes. Sometimes the ends do justify the means. If it ends up protecting the people you love, then it's worth the sacrifice."
Frankie's moist eyes went to the cement walls, the prison guards, the inmates moving around them. "Not from where I'm sitting."
"That's Lori Ann, isn't it?" Rachel ventured to quietly ask Carl, his head sharply turning towards her in surprise. He'd been studying the photo on his computer screen so intently, he hadn't heard Rachel enter the study.
"Felicia was kind enough to send it," Carl smiled proudly. Rachel forced back a lump in her throat as she realized that, in another window, Carl had opened a still from the infamous Ladykiller video, Jenna's figure frozen in a youthful, vibrant glow. Carl mused, "I daresay, Lori Ann resembles Elizabeth a bit at that age."
"Definitely. I see it." Rachel leaned over to slip her arms around Carl's shoulders, resting her head upon his. "I know this is hard for you."
"Pshaw! Considering how much practice I've had at losing my children: Perry, Ryan, now Jenna, this process of grieving and staunchly moving on should be old hat by now." Carl briefly covered his face with one hand, forcing himself to regain control. He choked out, "In my youth, the only thing that mattered was power. Acquiring it, holding on to it, utilizing it against others to make them serve me, to make them fear me. Mission accomplished, as they say! I successfully inspired such trepidation in Justine and in Donna, that they both made the choice to abandon their own children rather than risk being bound to me via them."
"Those were their decisions. Not yours."
"They were made on account of me. On account of the man I was."
"That man no longer exists," Rachel reminded. "The man in front of me is a wonderful father. Because he understands love and compassion. Because he appreciates the gift and the blessing of mercy and forgiveness."
"But therein lies the problem, my love," Carl smiled bitterly. "Those very qualities which you champion, have made me far more dangerous than I ever was before. I feel deeper now. I love deeper. I hurt deeper. Which makes me want to hurt others in ways I previously could barely fathom. The only thing that keeps me from doing so... is you."
"I don't believe that," Rachel said staunchly, confidently. "You are the keeper of your own conscience, Carl. Not me. I wouldn't stand for anything else."
"As always, your faith in me is... humbling."
"My faith in you," Rachel turned his chin to face her. "Is absolute."
"Come on, admit it," Matt prodded Lorna with his elbow as she sat beside him at the dining room table she'd hastily turned into a make-shift workspace. "This is kind of fun. You and me burning the midnight oil again, putting our heads together to stave off yet another company-squashing catastrophe."
"It isn't midnight," Lorna didn't bother looking up from her computer. "The worst this latest gaffe of yours will do is cost C-Squared some money and goodwill, nothing we can't painstakingly earn back. And," she sighed, wrists sagging at the keyboard. "I don't think either Dean or Jenna are about to come walking in through that door."
"Way to bring down the room, Lorna."
She shrugged and, with a final click of the SAVE key, triumphantly spun the laptop around so Matt could take a look. "Done and done."
"I'll be the judge of that." He peered at the screen, reviewing what Lorna had written, clicking a few links, making noncommittal sounds.
"It's perfect," Lorna gestured with her hand for him to move it along. "Now thank me profusely and go home."
"It'll do," he conceded, as Lorna rolled her eyes. "You know, I don't understand why you're in such a hurry to get rid of me. Jamie could be at the hospital all night."
"He'd have called."
"Not if he's elbow-deep in some guy's chest. You'd better get used to it, Lorna. You've got lots of lonely nights ahead of you; eating dinner alone, having your plans cancelled at the last minute, constantly readjusting your schedule to his."
"We'll figure it out," Lorna dismissed.
"Unless togetherness isn't really your guys' thing. For instance, why didn't Jamie ask you to come to court with him today?"
"Because, for one thing, bailing your son out of jail isn't exactly a rollicking, date night. And for another, I was the one who declined to go; as long as Jamie didn't need me. I don't want to force or impose myself into Steven's life. He and Kirkland had their dad all to themselves for years, I've upset things enough already."
"Wow. You're just the ideal girlfriend, aren't you?"
"I'm trying to be," she told him honestly. "Jamie is too important to me to risk messing things up."
"I wish you luck then," Matt said. "I know that Donna and I "
"Don't you dare pollute my nice, clean house by whining about your psychotic crone."
"All I was going to say was that I tried my best not to mess things up with Donna, too. I was the guy who wouldn't judge her, who would support her unconditionally, no matter what. I was going to be her defender and her protector... And that still wasn't enough to make us work."
"Because she's evil, Matt. You picked the worst person on the planet to pour your heart into like that. Except for maybe Carl. Or Grant. Trust me. You deserved somebody so much better."
"How about you?"
"I deserved somebody better, too. Luckily, I finally found him."
"No. I mean, do you ever think that if I'd been the guy I wanted to be for Donna with you, things might have turned out differently for us years ago?"
"You mean if you didn't constantly judge me and berate me and compare me to some perfect paragon you'd dreamed up in your adolescent fantasies?"
"Yeah," Matt admitted guiltily. "That."
"How can you say that? When we were good, we were pretty damned good."
"And when we were bad, we were brutally bad. You made it crystal clear back then that we were done and that there was no going back. So I moved on."
"I was young. And stupid."
"True. And very true. But, in both cases, you and I know we were never built to last."
"You loved me."
"I thought I did. But you thought I was too needy, too manipulative, too ruthless. I never felt good enough for you. Or believed that you loved me."
"I should have worked harder to make you believe it." Matt stood up, inching to close the distance between them, looking intently into her eyes.
"Get out, Matt." Lorna pushed back instinctively. "It's late, you're tired, and Donna has your brain permanently scrambled."
"I'm not talking about Donna."
"You're always talking about Donna, the actual words don't really matter."
"Are you saying that you feel nothing for me?" Matt asked Lorna, his lips nearly touching hers. "That there is nothing left from way back then?"
He leaned in and kissed her with undeniable intent and emotion. Prompting Lorna to leap up and shove Matt back with all her might.
He stumbled against the protruding sofa arm. When he tried to right himself again, Lorna's hand whipped across his face, sending Matt sprawling.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Lorna screamed down at him, shaking with rage.
"Mind if I take a guess?"
Lorna and Matt's heads both snapped in the direction of the entryway, where Jamie now stood, his face an indiscernible mix of barely restrained emotion.
"I'm here," Kevin faced Cass through the prison glass. "I've got my hat in my hand. I could eat it if you like."
"What the hell do you want, Fowler?"
"I need your help."
"If you're here representing Jamie "
"In a manner of speaking."
"I don't want to hear about it."
"I'd like you to help me defend my daughter. And Jamie's son. And the rest of the kids charged with Gregory's death."
"I realize your busy practice probably keeps you from reading the fine print in the latest legal journals, but convicted felons tend to get disbarred as well as incarcerated. I'm not certain if all my paperwork has gone through yet, but I suspect "
"I'm not interested in the state of your license. I'm interested in what you know about the local judges, the D.A., the jury pools, all the stuff that only a guy who's practiced law in the same place for thirty years would know."
"According to you, I practiced pretty crappy law."
Kevin reminded, "I did promise to eat my hat, if that's what it'll take."
"To do what?"
"Get you on my side." He confessed, "I am not a criminal lawyer. I need someone who is. Someone local, someone experienced, someone with a lot of time on his hands, and a bit of karma in need of fixing."
Cass snorted. But allowed Kevin to continue.
"I did my research. Of the three judges we are likely to pull on this case, you have the best long term acquittal record against all of them. You have the inside track. Which means if you want me to beg for your help, Cass, I'll beg. I have no problem with that. My daughter means the world to me."
"So do both of mine," Cass said. And then, he told Kevin, "You want my help, Counselor, here's what you can do: Use your particular legal expertise to get Lorna Devon to drop her custody suit against Frankie and me, and I and my particular legal expertise are all yours. And your daughter's."
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