"Why won't Allie let me help her?" Amanda unloaded on Rachel in response to her mother's query regarding how things were going with Allie's defense. "Despite what Hamilton suggested, she can't flip on the others. She was obviously the instigator here. Our only chance of an acquittal is to prove that she was no more capable of making a rational decision by that point than Gregory."
"I doubt Allie sees it that way," Rachel offered gently. "I looked at her face the entire time we were in court. She's proud of what she did. Don't you realize that by claiming she wasn't in her right mind, you're taking that away from her?"
"Allie's self-esteem versus a three year jail term.... You know what, I'm going to take what's behind Door Number One, and let the chips fall where they may. This is her life we're talking about. Her future."
"When I spoke to Allie about her pregnancy last winter, she told me that she viewed the baby as a mistake. I'm afraid Allie feels her entire life has been a mistake."
Amanda froze in her tracks. "Thanks, Mom. Just the reminder I needed."
"Oh, grow up, Amanda," Rachel snapped. "Now isn't the time to tip-toe around what we all know is true. You said it yourself; this is Allie's future we're talking about. Whether you meant to or not, you and Sam did a marvelous job of convincing your daughter that her existence ruined your marriage and who knows what else?"
Stunned by the unprecedented attack, Amanda could only blink dumbly in surprise.
Rachel, though, was apparently just getting started. "I love you, my darling. As much as, if not more than, you love your own child. But that doesn't blind me to your flaws. You are so desperate to fix Allie's predicament in order to make up for past offences, that you are utterly and completely ignoring her feelings on the matter. After a lifetime of considering herself a mistake, Allie is confident that she has finally done something right for a change."
"So confident she's willing to go to prison for it?"
"Yes," Rachel said. "I believe so."
"Well, I have no intention of letting her," Amanda threw her hands up to indicate the topic wasn't up for further discussion. "Even if she feels this way now, she might feel completely differently in a few months or so. Only by then, it'll be too late. She'll be in jail, and then what? No, whether Allie likes it or not, I have to save her from herself."
"She won't thank you for it."
"I don't care," Amanda insisted, her voice wavering just a touch.
"I think you do."
Amanda shook her head. "You're just loving this, aren't you?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"I think you do," she deliberately imitated. "Me vowing to do what's best for my daughter, even if she doesn't see it that way, even if she deliberately orders me to stay away and mind my own business. You've been waiting for this day to come since Allie was born. Go ahead, say it, say, I told you so."
"If attacking me makes you feel better, Amanda, go ahead. I can take it. Believe me, I've heard worse. But, it won't change the situation with Allie. It won't exactly do wonders for our relationship, either. And right now, my darling, you need all the friends you can get. That includes your mother. Even if you don't see it that way at the moment. After all, who knows how you might feel in a few months?"
"Everything is going to be fine, Kirkland," Jamie used his son's phone call as an excuse to blow by Lorna on his way out the door, bypassing his traditional cup of coffee... and Lorna's frown indicating they still needed to talk about the previous night. He headed down the driveway towards his car, reassuring, "We'll get your brother out of this mess."
"You sound like Steven. He said the same thing."
"Must be true, then. He is the family intellectual."
"He also sounded scared. Like you do."
"I'm not scared." Jamie paused by his car door, key in the look, realizing that he couldn't pull off lying and driving at the same time. "I'm... concerned. Bailing my son out of jail is not an experience I care to get used to. Do me a favor and, in this particular thing, don't follow in your brother's footsteps. I don't think my middle-aged heart could take it."
"Getting arrested in this town is practically a rite of passage," Kirkland snorted. "And considering who my Dads are, I can almost hear the hand-cuffs calling my name now."
"There is no fate but that which we make," Jamie resorted to Terminator quotes when he couldn't think of a vaguely appropriate response.
"Except when you've got both nature and nurture working against you."
"Speaking of which..." Jamie honestly didn't have the emotional wherewithal to even begin tackling the boy's rejoinder. "How are things at Grant's house?"
"Cool. Weird. Little bit of both. Dad...."
"Yeah?" Jamie slipped into the front-seat.
"I'm kind of ready to come home now."
"I didn't forget," Jamie swore for the umpteenth time in twenty-four hours. "I know we were going to go furniture shopping yesterday, get your room all set up."
"But, then your obviously not as smart as he thinks son screwed up and you had to go take care of his mess. I understand, Dad. Really. You know, we don't actually have to test out the floor-models. I can take care of it myself. I've got the web and a credit card..."
"A teen-age boy, the web, and a credit card. Just what every father longs to hear."
"I'll take care of my own furniture. I'll even arrange to get it delivered and set up."
"I hear you, Kirk. Just give me a couple of days, okay? The house is still a mess, and I've got back-to-back hospital shifts scheduled. It wouldn't be fair to you. I already feel like a lousy parent, you having to sleep on the floor would not help my self-esteem."
"It'll be like camping," Kirkland offered feebly. Then groaned, "Oh, fine. I guess I can put up with Grant buying me anything I want before I even know I want it for a few more days."
"That's the spirit!"
"The things I do for you, Dad...."
Jamie had to swallow hard, grateful all over again for Kirkland and his seemingly boundless capacity to forgive. "I miss you too, son."
"So glad you could join me," Chase welcomed Jen and Kevin into his office.
"I didn't realize it was a request," Kevin countered.
"GQ turned you down, so now you want a crack at me?" Jen challenged.
"Not interested," she declared.
"How about you, Mr. Fowler? You interested in what I have to say to your daughter?"
"My client," Kevin stressed. "Has made her feelings crystal clear on the matter."
"Now, that wasn't my question, was it?" Chase sat down, indicating for them both to do the same. He told Jen, "I've been looking over your c.v. Youngest adjunct professor ever hired by Bay City University. Darn impressive. I was one of those late bloomers, myself; didn't even decide on law school till I'd been out of college a few years, kicking around, trying to figure out who I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, once my mind was made up, I went after my goals one thousand percent to make up for lost time."
"Fascinating," Kevin drawled.
"See, in my experience, that's the problem with being a prodigy. I see it again and again. The emotional development never keeps pace with the intellectual. After all, no one can be gifted across the board, something has to lag and suffer. Seems like the smarter you are, the less mature you are. It would be an awful shame if such a promising academic career were cut down by the equivalent of one bad, adolescent decision."
Jen waited. When it appeared that he was done, she asked, "That's it? That's all you got? Name-calling, a pathetic grasp of development psychology, and a warning that I might hurt my career? Aren't you going to play the race card with me, too? What's the matter," she slipped into a touch of mock-Ebonics. "Bitch not Black enough for you?"
"Actually, if my initial approach didn't work," he deftly ignored her bait. "My bigger ace in the hole was going to be a trip through your family tree."
Kevin's reaction proved more extreme than Jen's. He looked ready to leap out of his chair and disembowel the District Attorney on the spot. However, it took Jen only a split second to collect herself and smile sweetly, "Give it your best shot, Counselor."
His smile in returned proved just as ingratiating. Chase tapped her file with his finger. "I didn't just pull you academic records, you know, Ms. Fowler. MIT, Yale, Brearley... They hardly tell the entire story."
"Do your scholastic degrees tell the entire story about you?" she challenged.
"Not at all," he agreed. "But, if someone were to look at my life before the age of seven very Jesuit, wouldn't you say? Give me a child until he is seven and "
"Are you assuming I never cracked a book while at MIT? Or Yale? Or Brearley? Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man. Point made, Mr. Hamilton, feel free to move on."
"If someone were to look at my life before the age of seven, they'd have a pretty good idea of how I might turn out and what could be expected of me. You, on the other hand.... You were so close, Jennifer, so close to escaping the inevitable, condescending prediction for a young woman of your background. Why in the world would you want to give in to it now?"
"I don't know what to do," Sarah told Steven honestly. "I can't figure out what you want me to do for you."
He stared at her, genuinely confused. "I don't want you to do anything. Why would I want...."
"You're just so unhappy right now."
"Yeah, well, that has nothing to do with you."
"But, I want to make it better. Tell me how I can make it better."
"It's I'm fine. I mean, I'm out on bail, so obviously I'm not all that fine. It's a pain in the ass, and it's going to put GQ and me seriously behind schedule; that's even assuming the university won't raise a fuss and suspend our research privileges. God, that would suck. But, why does everybody think there's more to it than that? First Marley, then my dad, then Kirkland, now you..."
"You haven't been acting like yourself."
The hint of a smile, and a reminder, "That's empirically impossible. How can a person act as anyone but themselves, no matter how seemingly erratic their behavior?"
"You'd be surprised," Sarah told him dryly, declining to elaborate. Instead, she stuck to her guns, attempting to explain, "It's just that, if you're not you, then who are... we?"
"I have no idea what you just said," he admitted.
"I didn't expect you to," Sarah conceded.
"You owe me $200!" Bridget announced proudly to Grant, holding her hand out.
"Actually, he owes you $400," Kirkland noted, consulting the title card for her property. "A hotel raises its value."
"And here I thought we were a team," Grant mockingly bristled as he counted out several peach colored bills and handed them to Bridget.
"We are. But, sisters trump teams." Kirkland threw the dice, moved his piece, and snorted upon seeing where he'd landed. "Go directly to jail. That sounds about right."
"I have a Get Out of Jail Free card," Michele offered. "You can have it."
Grant swiftly snatched the scrap before Kirkland could accept. "You really shouldn't just give this away, my dear. It's a valuable bit of leverage. I see that you are dangerously low on cash, while Kirkland, due to an admirable monopolization of railroads, is flush."
"Probably why I'm going to jail," Kirkland proposed. "Anti-Trust Act."
Grant schooled Michele, "You might consider selling him your card for a hefty price to help you get back on your feet."
Michele looked from Grant to her brother, then back again. Kirkland's father held up five fingers. Michele pursed her lips, wrinkled her brow and nodded sagely. She informed Kirkland, "That will be $500, please."
"Well, I see the pre-teen corruption is coming along swimmingly," Marley said lightly as she returned to the living room with a tray of snacks, setting it down on the coffee-table next to the Monopoly board.
"Grant's teaching us how to succeed in business," Bridget defended.
"Well, isn't this precious?" Donna observed in a voice that managed to sound perfectly innocent to the children, unmistakably sardonic for the adults.
"I thought you were going to change the locks," Grant whispered Marley's way.
"I did," Marley fumed. "Maybe she flew in through the window."
"Hello, my darlings," Donna addressed her grandchildren. "It's been such a long time. How wonderful to see you all! And what a cozy family scene. It just warms my heart."
"From Hell's heart, I stab at thee," Marley mumbled into Grant's ear, prompting a grin. She stood up, taking each girl by the hand even as Donna was attempting to pull them into an embrace. "Time for bed."
"But, I was winning," Michele whined.
Bridget simultaneously protested, "I can't quit now, I'm losing! Mr. Harrison said that's the worst time to quit."
Donna smiled sweetly at Grant, "Mr. Harrison is an expert on the subject of failure."
"Now, now, Donna," he corrected. "I'm not even in your league...."
"Kirkland..." Marley began.
But, her nephew proved way ahead of her. "Anyone under the age of twenty-one, exit stage left. I got it. This conversation's about to go NC-17. Come on, Midget," he beckoned his sisters. "I'll read you a chapter of something less vicious before bed. Maybe there's a copy of American Psycho lying around here somewhere."
"Thank you, Kirk," Marley called up after him. He just looked at the three remaining adults, shook his head in exasperation, and left.
"You know, Donna, Kirkland has enough on his mind these days he's worried sick about Steven, for one thing without having you waltzing in here to make things a thousand times worse."
"You don't think I'm worried about Steven?" Donna defended. "If it weren't for John, I wouldn't have even known my grandson had been arrested. None of you thought to pick up the phone or "
"How is John?" Marley interrupted Donna's personal pity party.
The question knocked Donna off her tirade, as well. "He's heartbroken. Devastated. He walks around as if it physically pains him to take a breath, much less go on living."
"Would you please give him my best? I've tried to call, but, there was no answer."
"He doesn't want to talk to anyone. He's too raw. Even Sharlene... those two can hardly bear to be in the same room together. Only if they absolutely have to. John told me all he sees when he looks at her is Gregory's face. It's the same for Sharlene, only in reverse. They're completely destroyed. The both of them."
"And it's only going to get worse," Marley realized. "The trial... Steven...."
"Yes," Donna clipped. "It's an awful, dreadful, nearly unbearable situation. But, that isn't what I came here to speak to you about."
"Right," Marley followed her lead. "Enough about other people who might be suffering. Back to you."
"No need to be so testy," Donna bristled. "It's simply that I'm in a bit of a time-crunch. Would you be so kind as to turn on the television, please? KBAY is about to premiere an eye-opening special report regarding the true story behind Jenna Frame's death...."
Rachel's first impulse when she spied the missive from Donna Love in her e-mail box was to delete without reading. But, a curious onset of feeling which she was loathe to describe as fear prompted Rachel to confront the situation head-on. She opened the note, skimmed its contents, and promptly pushed back from her desk, hurrying from her studio to the main house in search of Carl.
She found him in the study, television already on, Donna's visage filling a majority of the screen, with only a tiny corner given over for her interviewer, Jeanne Ewing. (Rachel made a mental note to call up her stepson, Sandy, and request that perhaps next time, his niece might give them fair warning about these things.)
"I gather Donna spammed you as well," Rachel observed dryly.
Carl nodded absently, his entire being focused on the screen, clearly determined not to let a single moment of this potential travesty pass by unexamined.
Jeanne addressed the camera, prompting Rachel to take a moment to appreciate just how much Jeanne resembled her mother, Clarice, only with her father, Larry's, coloring. "I am sitting here today with Donna Love, who has agreed to give an exclusive interview to set the record straight regarding her connection with the late Jenna Norris Frame."
"My God," Rachel gasped and dropped into a chair next to Carl's desk. "She wouldn't. She didn't..."
"Why have you decided to come forward now, Ms. Love?" Jeanne asked Donna.
"Because I've realized that none of us can move on from this tragedy unless questions are answered and atonement made. I want Jenna's loved ones to finally be able to begin the process of healing, and I know that it can't happen until the truth comes out."
"Which truth would that be?"
"That I was Jenna's biological mother. And that Carl Hutchins was her biological father."
Rachel placed a hand on Carl's shoulder, feeling muscles stretched as taut as steel, his silent rage a nearly physical thing, a third party in the room with them.
"Carl Hutchins? The intercontinental magnate currently married to Mackenzie Cory's widow, Rachel?"
"One and the same," Donna confirmed. "Although the munificent humanitarian that Carl presently portrays himself to be is utterly at odds with the man that he was while I was married to him."
"You're referring to Mr. Hutchins' criminal past?"
"Yes. Although common criminal was ultimately the least of his offenses. Carl was an uncommon monster. I could fill our allocated hour ticking off his many offenses against decent society, and still merely scratch the surface. I was quite young and naive when I married him. And I was escaping a not particularly pleasant situation of my own, at home. I didn't initially realize the depths of Carl's depravity. However, as soon as my eyes were summarily opened, I comprehended that it would be an even greater offense on my part to allow Carl to influence an innocent child. Merely divorcing him was not a viable alternative. Carl plays by his own rules, not those set by any court of law. My only option for protecting our daughter was to place her secretly in a loving, adoptive home."
"With Gloria Norris, a longtime editor at Cory Publishing?"
"Yes. Gloria was a wonderful mother to Jenna. And when she lay dying, she arranged for her good friend one of her Cory authors, actually Felicia Gallant, to take over Jenna's upbringing. Felicia was a devoted parent, as well. I had occasion to observe her and Jenna together over a period of many years. But only, of course, at a distance. I knew that if Carl ever found out about what I'd done, he would exact his revenge on me, and inevitably claim Jenna as his own by any means necessary...."
"Just when I thought that perversion of a human being couldn't sink any lower," Felicia seethed to Lucas as she paced, then sat, then paced some more, back and forth in front of the television in her living room. "You should've let her die, Luke. You should've let her bleed to death on that bathroom floor."
"At the moment, I'm hard pressed to disagree," Lucas said grimly as they both continued staring at the screen, listening to Donna obfuscate her way through another question.
Jeanne wondered, "What do you say to rumors that you were involved in the kidnapping of Jenna, her husband, Dean Frame, and her adoptive mother, Felicia Gallant?"
"What can I say?" Donna raised both arms to indicate that she was tragically at a loss for words. "Other than to hark back on a matter of public record: Alleged evidence linking me to those kidnappings was found at a crime scene that Jenna's adoptive father admitted he staged in order to frame me for murder. Make of that what you will."
"Oh, that slippery bitch!" Felicia spat.
"So you are saying, Ms. Love, that you most definitely did not have anything to do with Jenna's kidnapping, which inadvertently led to her death?"
"I'm not saying that at all, Jeanne. The reason I have decided to come forward now is precisely because I realize that I do bear a share of responsibility for those tragic events. If I had been strong enough and wise enough to make different choices in my efforts to protect Jenna... matters would have turned out quite differently. That knowledge will haunt me forever."
"Damn you, Donna!" Felicia raged. "She's making herself sound like the victim! She is using having killed my daughter as a way to obtain sympathy!"
"... Jenna's death was a tragedy," Donna tearfully sighed. "My heart goes out to her family. Her true family; Dean, Felicia, Lucas, Lorna.... And most especially her precious baby girl, Gloria Ann Frame...."
Felicia grabbed a hardback edition of her latest novel and, before Lucas even realized what she was doing, much less made any move to stop her, flung the tome at the TV, splintering the screen and cracking Donna's self-satisfied, smug, lying face into a million pieces.
Matt forced himself to watch every second of Jeanne's exclusive; simultaneously loathing the Donna he was seeing onscreen and longing to be at her side.
This wasn't Donna. Not his Donna, anyway. The woman on the screen didn't just sound different her voice pitched higher than usual, her vocabulary just a smidge off she didn't even look the same. That wasn't how Donna smiled. Not really. Not when she meant it. This was all an act that she was putting on for the camera.
"Do you have any contact with your granddaughter, Ms. Love?"
"No. Felicia Gallant and Gloria Norris are Lori Ann's grandparents. They were Jenna's true mothers. Not I."
"Stop telling everyone who you aren't, Donna," Matt muttered. "And try telling us who you are. You can start with me...."
"You suffered a breakdown shortly after your arrest and attempted suicide."
"Yes," Donna nodded. "I did try to take my own life."
"Rumor has it that your suicide attempt was actually either a failed murder bid by Carl Hutchins to avenge his daughter's death, or by his associates to keep you from verifying the documents found at Cecile's murder site."
"I can assure you, Jeanne, neither is the case. My wounds were entirely self-inflicted. I had reached such a low point in my life that I simply could not face going on for another moment longer. Fortunately, through some excellent medical care, I was able to recover, both physically and mentally. Believe me, if either Carl or any of his associates were behind my injuries, I would not have lived to tell you the tale now."
"Damn straight," Spencer muttered, despite viewing the televised travesty in private. "And all our lives would have been better, certainly safer for it."
"As it stands," Donna continued. "I am well aware that Carl and a number of people in his professional acquaintance may still have issues with me, and the actions I took to protect Jenna. Consequently, I have taken several precautions. I am quite prepared to defend myself if need be against anyone who threatens me or my family. That is one of the reasons why I did this interview. I wanted the public to know not only the truth regarding Jenna, but the circumstances under which I made my decisions to guard her. Carl's world involved a number of nefarious characters..."
"Stop talking," Spencer commanded through clenched teeth. "Damn it, woman, just stop talking!"
"... People who considered themselves above the law. People who would have been all too willing to use anyone and anything against Carl including his children. Sequestering Jenna with Gloria was only one of the means by which I shielded her. I also took steps to amass information that I could use to neutralize any and all threats against myself or my loved ones should the circumstances ever call for it."
"You dumb, ignorant..." Spencer growled at the television screen. "You'll ruin us all..."
"... Of course, I've also gotten an incredible amount of support from my one surviving daughter, Marley Hudson," Donna gushed onscreen. "She and our former Mayor, Grant Harrison, have been extraordinarily encouraging."
As if they hadn't already been adequately shell-shocked by the interview, Marley and Grant's eyes now widened further, each turning to look at Donna in surprise.
"Grant Harrison?" Jeanne repeated. "How so?"
"Well, as everyone in town knows, Grant has quite a history with my family. He's the father of my grandson, Kirkland, and he is currently dating Marley. Despite my recent scandals and the potential effect this might have on his mayoral campaign, Grant has been most gracious. I can't tell you how appreciative I am of his assistance in the healing of my family as we all try to start a new phase of our lives..."
"Wow," Grant breathed appreciatively. "Who knew I was such a swell guy?"
Interview over, Marley clicked off the television, turning to Donna, demanding, "What exactly do you think you've just done here?"
"Why, Marley, you were the one who told me to start taking responsibility for my actions. That's precisely what I have done. I went out and publicly confessed to everything "
"Not everything," Grant snorted. "Not even close."
"Are you that eager for the police to arrive at Spencer's door with a subpoena?" Donna threw back at him. "Especially now? Two months before Election Day?"
"I see your point," he conceded and withdrew for the moment.
Donna told Marley, "I did what you wanted of me. I apologized..."
"Hardly." Marley didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She guessed it depended on whether her mother was putting on yet another act, or if she actually believed her own ridiculous show of contrition. "What did you hope to accomplish via all this? Do you really not realize what you've done?"
"You're the one who doesn't realize it. Not yet, anyway. But if you and Grant would allow me a moment to explain my motivation, I think you'll see that I did the right thing. And maybe even begin to appreciate the arrangement that I am about to offer you..."
POLL: What is Donna up to?
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