"Too late," Charlie snapped in response to Dean's pronouncement about finally feeling ready to raise Lori Ann. She didn't even both to look up from where she was squatting on the floor, helping her baby sister to take a few toddling steps on her own. Though already sixteen months old, Lori Ann was still a bit delayed on her major milestones. But, Charlie intended to fix that shortly.
"Charlie..." Frankie began, unsure of what came next since, at the moment, her mind had gone effectively and completely blank.
"What, Mom?" Now Charlie did deign to look up, ignoring Dean as thoroughly as Lori Ann was. "What? He took off, remember? He dumped her. We're her real family now. He doesn't get to just swoop in and take Lori Ann away."
"I'm sure Dean doesn't mean to..." Frankie looked helplessly at him for confirmation.
"No, no, of course not. I'm not She loves you guys."
"And she doesn't even know who the hell you are," Charlie reminded.
"Dean is our family, too," Frankie corrected firmly, sticking to concrete facts in order to avoid thinking about the intangibles.
"So that means we're just supposed to forget all the crap he pulled?"
"Please watch your languages, Charlotte. I know you're upset "
"No, you don't. Because you never get upset. Anything that happens, well, that's just the will of the universe, so why bother?"
"That's not true. You're completely misinterpreting, not to mention simplifying "
"Okay. Then it's not the will of the universe. But, if it's family, then it doesn't count? Dean's a deadbeat. He wasn't here when Lori Ann was sick, when she needed surgery, when she came home from the hospital, her birthday! But, he felt all sad and unshaven, so we have to just suck it up. Dad kills a woman and goes to jail for twelve years? No problem, we still love and support him no matter what. Makes me want to run out and commit a crime just to see how far I can push this."
"Charlie..." This time, Frankie's invoking her name carried a completely different meaning. She finally understood. Charlie's tantrum about Dean actually had very little to do with Dean at all.
Which didn't prevent her daughter from railing, "So I guess it's okay to bail on your family and play dead, then come back and expect to be accepted with open arms as if nothing had happened. Good to know for future reference."
"There won't be any future..." Frankie struggled to reassure her.
"You can't promise that. Crap happens."
"You're right. You are absolutely right. Nobody can promise that bad things won't happen. That we won't lose people we care about. Again. All we can promise is that we'll make the best of whatever comes our way."
"And your idea of making the best of it is to just hand Lori Ann over? He doesn't even know anything about her monitoring equipment or how to set it up. First time he puts her down for a nap, he'll probably kill her."
"I know I have a lot to learn," Dean insisted. "All I meant to say before was... I'm ready to start."
"Bully for you."
"We'll help you, Dean," Frankie promised. "We'll make this as painless for you and Lori Ann as possible."
"And then what?" Charlie demanded. "Once he's up to speed and everybody's got the hang of pretending he's been here all along, then what? We're all going to live together? One big happy family?"
"I " Frankie's head swiveled from her daughter to her cousin. "I I don't know. I guess we'll figure it out as we go along."
"Well, let me save you some time, Mom. Dean travels, remember? That's why we hardly ever saw him before. But, that's okay, 'cause we're family, and that trumps everything. You going back on the road, Dean?"
"Probably... Eventually... I'd like to. It's it's what I do."
"And you're going to take Lori Ann with you?"
"It's what Jenna and I planned."
Charlie crossed her arms, turning to face Frankie. "And what do you have to say to that, Mom?"
"May I come in, son?" Grant knocked on Kirkland's bedroom door, the boy glancing up briefly from shoving a fistful of wrinkled clothes into his overnight bag.
"Sure. What's up?"
"How was your Thanksgiving? With Jamie and Steven."
"Pretty depressing, if you want to know the truth. Steven and I did our best to try and cheer Dad up, but..."
"Understandable, understandable." Grant cleared his throat before moving on. "You know, I've been thinking, until Lorna recovers, Jamie will most likely be spending the bulk of his time at the hospital; am I right?"
"Looks that way." Kirkland grabbed a handful of books from his nightstand and stuffed the pile into his backpack.
Grant quickly slid Kirkland's laptop out of his reach, earning an irate glare in return. "Which is why I think you should move in here with me until things with Jamie are a bit more stable."
"No thanks," Kirkland dismissed without a hint of how he felt about the offer being made in the first place. "I'm going home."
"I'm sixteen," Kirkland groaned. "I know not to burn the house down or open the door to strangers. Anyhow, I won't be alone. Steven's moving out of the dorm and in with me, too."
"Steven is barely an adult himself!" Grant sputtered.
"He's old enough to drink, drive, vote, get arrested "
"That part we know."
" And handle a firearm. Besides, he baby-sat me like a million times while I was growing up. This is the same thing."
"I disagree. Steven watching you for an evening or even a weekend is one thing, but this situation with Lorna could last weeks, months... who knows how long! Not to mention that Steven has a trial coming up. He could end up being gone just as much as Jamie. I simply do not feel comfortable with you living there."
"There is my home. It's not just someplace I go to crash when the mini-bar over here runs out of bottled water and organic beef jerky."
"I didn't mean for it to sound like that. I'm concerned about you, that's all."
"And I'm concerned about my dad. Even if Jamie spends the majority of his time at the hospital, at some point he's going to need to come home; get fresh clothes, take a nap, whatever. I don't want him walking into a dark, depressing, cold, empty house. He's going to need to see a friendly face. And that's going to be Steven and me. If you don't get that, I'm sorry, but it's what's going to happen whether you like it or not.."
"Enough stalling," Kevin snarled. "Let's have it. Discovery. What exactly do you have on Alice Frame?"
"Alice Frame? How formal," Chase clucked his tongue against his teeth. "We're all friends here. I was hoping I'd get to call her Grandma, too."
"You know, the people of Bay City didn't elect you Mayor due to your sense of humor."
"You're the second person to tell me that."
"You're about three seconds away from officially obstructing justice."
"Enjoy those three seconds, Counselor," Chase strongly suggested. "Because you are not going to like what you see once I stop."
Kevin held out his hand, and Chase, with a shake of the head and deeply regretful sigh, balanced a thick manila folder directly on top.
"Thank you," Kevin was about to slip it into his briefcase and walk away.
But, Chase extended a finger and wagged it from side to side. "There's a lot of official mumbo-jumbo in there, T's crossed, I's dotted, precisely as the law requires."
"Good for you. Expecting a standing ovation for doing your job?"
"But, there's one photo." Chase leaned over and, without bothering to ask permission, swiped open the file, indicating a grainy, black and white print-out of a car stopped at an intersection, clearly snapped by a security camera, laying on the very top. "I'd like you to take particular note of."
"Thanks for the tip." He attempted to leave for a second time.
Chase went on, unperturbed. "As you can clearly see, that's a gorgeous picture of your grandmother's car at the appropriate place literally the turn up to the cabin and time to match exactly within the timeline of Gregory Hudson's death."
"Circumstantial at best," Kevin shrugged, hoping that was all Chase was trying to tell him. Strongly suspecting it wasn't. He just looked way too pleased with himself. "You can't even make out a face."
"You will also note, based on the view through the windshield, that your Grandmother does not appear to be driving her own vehicle. Instead, evidence suggests it is being driven by a young, African-American woman. Any thoughts as to who that might be?"
"Son of a bitch..."
"First physical evidence I've pinned down on Jen."
"You can't prove it's her."
"Seriously?" Chase cocked an eyebrow, stopping Kevin dead in his tracks. Then, dropping all pretense of kidding around, Chase leaned forward, arms braced on the table and advised Kevin for the last time. "Get your daughter to flip on your grandmother. Or, you have my word, I am taking them both down."
Kevin wanted to tell him to go to Hell. Well, frankly, he really wanted to tell him to do something a great deal more biologically impracticable. But, with his last ounce of self-control, Kevin only managed to hiss on his way out, "Let Doug know; he wants to do a single parent adoption, my office door is always open to him. If I ever see your face in there again, I'll make certain you're disqualified from getting so much as a dog license."
Utterly accustomed by now to the small, grim army of various medical specialists tromping around Lorna's bedside, Jamie, Felicia, Lucas and Morgan barely blinked when yet another one came through the ICU doors and announced himself to be Ms. Devon's new attending physician. He greeted Jamie and Morgan with the familiar nod of a co-worker, then introduced himself to Felicia and Lucas as Dr. Abel Marsh.
"We've met," Felicia corrected absently. "Years ago. I knew your brother, Leo, too."
"Yes, of course," he agreed. "I didn't expect you to remember. Especially under the stressful circumstances."
"How's my daughter?" Felicia was done with the social pleasantries.
Abel hesitated. No one thought that could possibly be a good omen.
"She's stabilized," he began. "Which is a very positive preliminary indicator. There is no sign of infection at the surgical site. The blood thinners are doing their job, we haven't come across any clots. The inflammation and swelling in her brain is within normal range. Her heart is strong, she's breathing with no problems. Her EKG is surprisingly affirmative. There is definitely brain activity."
Lucas exhaled and briefly closed his eyes in gratitude. Though neither Jamie nor Morgan budged. They could hear the 'but' coming from a mile away.
"But," Abel obliged. "She isn't waking up."
"Why not?" Felicia demanded.
"We're not sure," he admitted. "Over the past few days, we've invited half the hospital in here for a consult of one kind or another. The consensus seems to be.... " If he'd been treading carefully before, he was on full alert now. Abel explained, "In spite of all the equipment we've got here, in spite of the medical advances that have been made just this century alone, sometimes the best thing to do is to leave the body alone to heal itself."
"For how long?" Morgan wondered, his reputation for preferring to treat aggressively popping up even in what technically wasn't his case... or, Jamie thought, his business. Jamie supposed he could ask Morgan to leave. But, that would merely have been wasted energy better spent focusing on Lorna.
"There is, however, a problem," Abel ignored Morgan's question. "Judging by other vital signs, Ms. Devon's body is being stressed much more than can be considered optimal for sufficient facilitation of the healing process."
"English," Lucas snapped.
Abel was about to oblige, when Morgan interrupted. "Lorna needs all her strength and resources to pull through this. Her body needs to be one hundred percent honed toward healing the brain injury so she can wake up. But, it's not right now."
"Why not?" The words were barely out of Felicia's mouth before Jamie interrupted.
"The baby," he said dully.
"Yes," Abel offered almost no, genuinely apologetic. "It's our opinion that the demands of the fetus are interfering with the rest of her current, physical needs. It's funneling away energy that she desperately requires right now. As a result, we're forced to recommend termination of the pregnancy. Immediately."
"Did you come to make good on your threat?" Donna inquired, her voice shaking only the slightest bit, upon encountering Dean outside John's door, lying in wait for her.
"I'm not here to kill you, Donna. Lori Ann's already got one father in prison."
"And a grandfather who really should be, as well," Donna couldn't help noting.
"If that's supposed to be an opening to preach the Evil of Carl in your defense, save it."
"Why are you here, Dean?" she asked, not unkindly, but a nonetheless tersely. "I assure you, there is nothing you can say to me that Felicia and Carl and Lorna and Matt and my own daughter haven't already "
"Do you ever stop talking?" Dean asked. "Have you ever tried listening for a change?"
"I'm listening," she defended.
Dean waited a moment, testing her. When Donna remained as she was, lips determinedly pursed, he plunged on ahead. "Jenna and I, we'd talk, once in a while, about her real mother. I mean, the woman we thought was her real mother. Gloria. Jenna always tried to put a positive spin on it, but, deep down, she could never really understand why Gloria sent her away when she was just a little kid. When Jenna finally got pregnant, she used to say she couldn't imagine wanting to be separated from her baby for even a minute. I'd kid her and say, wait till the Terrible Twos or, even worse, the Terrible Teens." He looked at Donna, as if expecting some sort of response at this point. But, true to her word, she remained stoic.
Somewhat thrown off, he nevertheless went on, "When we were being held, first in that place that looked like a hotel, only nobody ever went in or out, and then in the convent, we had a lot of free time on our hands. Before Jenna got really sick, anyway. We talked and tried to guess who could be doing this to us. Honestly, Donna, you didn't even make the top 10."
Again, a pause for a comment. Again, she said nothing.
"Finally, the only thing we could think of is that it was connected to Jenna's real father, somehow. We did pull Gloria's death certificate, that's what started it all. When Jenna first went looking for her dad, after that whole mix-up with it maybe being Cass, you know? There was a time when the clues Lucas dug up pointed to it being somebody in organized crime, a major bad guy. I think being locked up finally drove home to Jenna just how not-kidding-around of a danger Gloria was protecting her from by sending Jenna to the convent. Jenna said she finally got it. She wouldn't want to be separated from her baby for a minute, but, to protect her, she'd also do anything she had to. No matter what it cost. Right before she got so sick she could barely talk, could barely move, could barely do anything, Jenna told me she finally forgave her mother Gloria everything. She understood and she didn't blame her."
"Why why are you telling me this, Dean?"
"To prove that, if you'd just come to Jenna at any time after Gloria died, if you'd told her the truth, explained your position, she'd have forgiven you."
"I couldn't. Carl..."
"Would do what? What did you expect him to do? You killed Jenna and, as far as I can tell, he hasn't done a damn thing to you!"
"That is odd," she agreed.
"So it was all for nothing," Dean said abruptly, bringing both himself and Donna up short. He'd barged in thinking he knew what he wanted to say to her. And why. But now, it seemed he really hadn't known at all. Because this this! was the point. That, ultimately, there was no point. "Everything you did. The lying and the hiding and the kidnapping... Lucas, Felicia, me... Jenna. It was all for nothing, Donna...."
"I'm scared I may have made a whopper of a mistake." Lila hustled Grant into his study, cutting short the front stoop good-bye to Kirkland, who looked most grateful for it as he clambered into the sports-car his father had given him and pulled looking both ways with exaggerated caution out of the driveway.
"I'll say," Grant stood at the window, visually tracking Kirkland's progress until the boy was long out of sight before turning around to moralize sternly, "Taking Kevin back after his dalliance with Amanda? Not your brightest move by far. Plenty of better quality fish in the sea."
"I'm not talking about Kevin! I'm talking about that damaged volunteer car. The one that I called you about earlier?"
"The one that you had repaired and returned to the rental agency?" Grant nodded slowly, willing his demeanor to remain casual. "What about it?"
"Lorna and Morgan."
Grant bit his tongue, slowing his response so as not to look too anxious. "I'm sorry, I don't follow."
"Their accident happened the night of the election. The same night the front end of your campaign car got smashed in like an accordion."
"There are a great many cars on the road at any given time. You can't seriously think "
"I don't want to think it, Grant, but it would be a hell of a coincidence. It'd also explain why the fool who took the car snuck it back onto the parking lot after hours and didn't come clean. They got into way more than a little fender bender."
"Alright," Grant conceded. "I suppose anything is possible. But I'm afraid I still don't see this supposed mistake of yours."
Lila turned on Grant, hands on her hips. "I may have tampered with evidence of a crime! Covered it up! Become an accessory after the fact!"
"I think you're being a tad overdramatic. You have no proof, no reason to believe that "
"Even if this car wasn't the one that hit Lorna and Morgan, it was still quite obviously in an accident. Which I should've reported. Instead I did what guilty people do. I lied."
"You're getting yourself worked up over nothing. If the rental agency accepted the car with no problems, why would they or anyone, for that matter even think that you or the campaign had anything to do with Lorna and Morgan's accident?"
"There might have been witnesses. Or Lorna and Morgan may come forward. Hell, the driver could still come forward, Tell-Tale Heart guilt and all."
"If there were witnesses, we'd have gotten our visit from the police by now."
"It could just be a matter of time. What if there was a traffic camera near the accident?"
"Traffic camera!" Grant repeated slowly. "Bay City has traffic cameras now?"
"Oh, yeah. Take ten years off, lots of things change."
"I didn't think of that," he admitted, more to himself than to her.
"Right. Which means our friendly neighborhood felon may not have committed the perfect crime, after all."
"No," Grant swallowed the bile in his throat and the urge to immediately commence kicking himself before looking to Lila. "But, that's their problem. We know that our car was not involved in Lorna and Morgan's accident. Because the car we returned to the rental agency didn't have a scratch on it."
"So that's our story and we're sticking to it?"
"I don't see why not."
"Well, I do. It's a lousy cover. All the cops need to do is go to the shop where I dropped off the car "
"I thought you told me they were discreet?"
"When dealing with the rental company, sure. They know what side their spark-plugs are buttered on. But, the police are a different story."
"The police would need to locate the right mechanics, first," Grant pointed out. "These are the people who arrested how many innocent men for Cecile's murder before Cass finally confessed on his own?"
"They might get lucky," Lila snapped. "At which point, the longer we wait, the worse it'll look for us. If we cooperate from the word go, tell the police we came in as soon as we realized something was wrong "
"Tell the police?" Grant repeated, disbelief and panic his first truly genuine emotions of the entire exchange. "That is, without question, the worst thing you could do!"
"I beg to differ. My rap sheet may not be quite as full of felonies as yours, but I've been around the block enough times to know that, bad as the original sin can be, it's the cover-up that ultimately gets you pinched. Not to mention the stress of constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering if this is the day you finally get nabbed."
"But, you didn't do anything wrong!" Grant stressed. "Say you do come forward and the cops examine the car, but realize it wasn't involved in Lorna and Morgan's accident."
"Well then, we've been upstanding citizens and I can sleep soundly at night. Case closed."
"Wrong! You'd still be charged with accessory after the fact, plus failure to report a crime. Think about Jasmine "
"I am. If my baby were in the hospital, fighting for her life, the least I'd hope for from a Good Samaritan would be to turn in any information they might have on the piece of scum that put her there. Not to mention, Jasmine is home right now, frettin' about her dear friend, Lorna "
"Think how much fretting Jasmine would do," Grant pointed out. "If her mother were in jail...."
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