“Jamie!” Toni called as he was preparing to leave the station, Kirkland’s lie detector test finally completed. She caught up to him, asking, “Kirk still around?”
“No. I just sent him back to school. Do you need – I could call him.” Jamie reached for his phone.
“No,” Toni said. “Actually, I was waiting for him to leave. I wanted to speak with you, alone.”
Jamie hesitated. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Come into my office,” Toni suggested.
He did as bade, following Toni around the corner, noting that she pointedly closed the door behind them before offering Jamie a seat.
Toni sighed, slowly opening the manila folder she was holding even as she explained, “I shouldn’t be doing this. However, considering what this department put you through during our investigation two years ago… I felt like we owed you one.”
“That definitely doesn’t sound good.”
Toni pulled out a printout, turning it upside down so that Jamie might get a good look. “These are the results of Kirkland’s polygraph.”
“Okay. What does it mean?”
“It means that he’s lying, Jamie. About everything.”
“What? Even his name? Where he goes to school?”
“Well, that’s ridiculous. Obviously your system is off.”
“It might be. Or it could be that Kirkland was excessively nervous…”
“He’s a seventeen year old boy being dragged down to the police station and hooked up to equipment that could send him to prison. Who wouldn’t be nervous?”
“Kirkland’s anxiety surpassed expected levels.”
“He was always an anxious kid. Damn it, Toni, you know what he’s been through. Vicky and Grant… Ryan, Jake. And more recently, my almost going to prison, Donna’s involvement with Jenna’s death, Spencer…. Who wouldn’t be high-strung after a life like that?”
“He’s lying, Jamie,” Toni reiterated. “When it came to the details of his accident, the numbers were off the charts. Even factoring in nerves.”
“He says he doesn’t remember anything. He almost died, Toni. That wasn’t a lie.”
“He knows more than he’s saying.” She traced a particularly outstanding result with one finger. “Look at his reaction when Charlie’s name was brought up. His heart-rate went through the roof.”
“That… That could be due to other factors.”
“Please don’t tell me a high-school crush – “
“No. Not that.”
“Okay. Well, that’s why I wanted to talk to you first. If you can give me some reason why Kirkland’s results were so extreme…”
“Then what?” Jamie leaped on the option.
“Then I could help you,” Toni ventured cautiously. “Off the record. If you give me something to work with, I might be able to schedule another test, or at least get this one mitigated to a degree… I know Kirkland is a good kid. I won’t hide evidence or falsify it. But, I might be able to help you spin it in a way most beneficial to him.”
Jamie sighed, running a hand through his hair, bitterly divided, wondering if anything was worth betraying his son’s confidence, suspecting he had little choice in the matter.
Finally, Jamie said, “Charlie… She – she and Kirk have been friends since they were kids. A couple of years ago, it started turning into something more. They’ve been, I guess you could call it dating, since they were about fifteen. I didn’t have any problem with it.”
“Didn’t,” Toni observed. “Past tense?”
“Last summer,” Jamie spoke in spurts, weighing and dissecting every word prior to releasing it. “It seems that Charlie felt she was ready to have sex. Kirkland… wasn’t. He turned her down. And Charlie – Charlie attacked him. She hit him, she called him names. He was devastated.”
“You saw this happen?”
“No. Of course not. Kirkland told me. Rather, I pried it out of him. And he was acting then… he was acting a lot like he’s acting now.”
“You’re certain he told you the truth?”
“Come on, Toni, what teen-age boy would make up a story like that? What would be the point? He was mortified. Swore me to secrecy.”
“Except that you’re telling me.”
“Because. Frankly, based on Kirkland’s reaction, I’m afraid something similar happened New Year’s Eve. And that’s what Kirkland is claiming not to remember.”
The moment Jen and Steven left the Harrison house, Kevin began tearing about like a whirling dervish, moving from his computer to his phone and back again, punching a series of keys madly, then quitting equally as abruptly, freezing in place as if paralyzed, before resuming the initial pattern all over again.
Amanda felt powerless. So she merely watched him, finally gathering up the courage to, during one of his listless moments, wrap her arms around Kevin’s waist from behind, resting her chin on his shoulder and whispering, “Tell me what I can do to help you.”
“Nothing,” Kevin spat, the bitterness obviously not directed at her, but at the world – with himself at the center of it. “Nothing. Nothing anybody can do.”
“Steven said her prognosis was good. And Jen told you both Jamie and Alice are looking out for her. She’s got a great team in her corner.”
“I can’t believe Alice didn’t tell me.”
“She didn’t have the right to.”
“I promised Jenny’s grandmother I would keep her safe. That’s all she asked of me. Damn it. The one thing she asked me to do…”
“We’ll be there for her. All of us. You and me, Alice, Jamie, Steven, GQ… We’ll all help her through this.”
“How?” Kevin whipped around, demanding. “How are any of us going to do a damn thing? You know, two years ago, when she and the rest of the kids were being charged with Gregory’s death, I was terrified. But, at least then, I felt I could do something. I felt like some part of her fate did rest in my hands. I’m her father. I’m her lawyer. I could make things right again. What the hell can I do for her now?”
“You can be her father. She’s going to need you. Even if she claims she doesn’t. You know, when I was in labor with Allie, I had Sam there, and an entire medical team, and everything was fine, and there wouldn’t have been anything my father could do in any case. But, I was still happy knowing he was around, rooting for me. I wanted my Daddy. And so will Jen.”
“You’re right,” Kevin nodded fervently. “You’re right. I’ve got to pull myself together. The last thing Jen needs is me lurching off the rails.” He took a deep breath, rubbing his face harshly with both hands, forcing himself to snap out of it and refocus.
“You take care of Jen,” Amanda promised. “And I’ll take care of you.”
“Thank you,” Kevin exhaled, pulling Amanda closer, burying his face in her hair. “Thank you for everything.”
She savored the moment, wallowed in it even, her enjoyment only slightly clouded by her understanding of the price paid to make it come about. Amanda wished it might last forever.
She felt Kevin starting to pull away and, in an attempt to hold on to it, to him – even though she told herself her motives were more altruistic, that she was doing this for Kevin; to cheer him up, to give him hope, to distract him – Amanda blurted out, “I know this might not be the best time to bring it up, but, I’ve been thinking about it and, Kevin, I think I’d like to do it. I’d like us to adopt Ike.”
It took him a moment to process what she’d said, to shift gears from possibly losing one child to gaining another. “Do you mean it?”
He looked so happy that all of Amanda’s concerns may not exactly have faded away, but they certainly shifted into the background. “Yes. Yes,” she said, only hedging with, “Unless you think now wouldn’t be a good time. You know with Jen…”
“It’s not a great time,” Kevin admitted.
“But, it’s the right time. Ike needs us now. Not a year or six months or even six weeks from now. He’s someone I actually can do something to help. Which makes it the perfect time. Thank you, Amanda,” Kevin said again. “You’re amazing. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
Which, really, was all she needed to hear.
She’d had the photos of Dean and Jeanne for over twenty-four hours now, and still Donna didn’t know whether or not she should use them.
On the one hand, she’d made a promise to Matt. She’d promised him she’d stop going after people. On the other hand, Dean had come after her. (What else would you call hiring Frankie to investigate Donna?)
What more did they all want? How many confessions was Donna supposed to make? How many times would she be forced to beg for forgiveness? How long would she be banished and punished for her crimes while all around Donna, people who’d done the same – worse even; people like Carl and Lucas and Grant and Rachel and Morgan and Lorna and Jeanne, (most especially Jeanne ), were allowed to get off scott-free, treated like saints who’d inadvertently stumbled, rather than habitual sinners destined to never reform, and thus worthy of any scorn heaped upon them, and more.
And yet there was Matthew. Who forgave her, who trusted her, who loved her. Who only asked one thing of Donna, and that was that she… behave. That she prove herself worthy of his love and his trust and his forgiveness.
“Good afternoon, Bella,” without so much as a ringing doorbell or a warning knock, Carl materialized in Donna's bedroom. An exploit to make any woman shudder with dread.
“What are you – How did you – “
“That lovely child inexplicably related to Iris let me in downstairs.”
“Oh, I’d say Sarah’s bloodline isn’t all that inexplicable. It leads to Iris rather directly, if you ask me.”
“Threatened by the sight of a nubile young female cavorting about your crypt? The contrast must be truly frightening.”
“Isn’t she a little old for you, Carl? I thought teen-agers were more your style.”
He smiled. “Speaking of which, tell me, Bella, how is our dear Matthew these days? Getting ready to make the transition into long pants at any moment, I hear. That is, if he ever deigns to come out of hiding from behind your skirts.”
“You’d know better. He does live beneath your roof. Oh, wait,” Donna demurred. “He doesn’t. How lax of me. Matthew moved out after a fight with Rachel… over her taste in men. And I hear you soon followed suit.”
“A temporary reassignment, I assure you. In point of fact, I shall be returning to the Cory domicile momentarily – with young Matthew’s full support.”
“I can’t imagine Matthew happy to see you back in anything short of a coffin. And even then, there is always the perennial fear of even Hell returning you to sender.”
“Fortunately, I find myself in a position to grant him a great favor. You see, Donna, I have agreed to testify on Dean’s behalf at his hearing. Frame Versus Love: May Fairness Prevail at Long Last.”
“You’re bluffing!” Donna did precisely what she accused him of.
“I am deadly serious.”
“Au contraire. For the chance to see you ground to powder beneath Justice’s Heel, I daresay I would do just about anything.”
“Including dredging your own dirty dealings up into the light of day? I doubt it.”
“I am doing this for my daughter,” Carl managed to make the final word sound infinitely menacing. “And for all those who loved her.”
“Why now?” Donna challenged. “You could have done it years ago, when the truth first came out. Why did you wait until now to make your grand, poetic gesture?”
“Rachel asked me to. You know what a romantic I am. I am incapable of denying my wife anything her heart desires. Well, a wife I am actually fond of, that is.”
“So,” Donna mused, intrigued. “Rachel is finally letting you off your leash.”
“You mean the collar and chains are still firmly in place?” she asked innocently. “How very Marquis de Sade of you two.”
“The only ever restrictions on my actions were my own.”
“Of course, darling,” Donna agreed sympathetically, the way one might humor a small, cranky child.
“You will not get away with this,” Carl predicted, thought it was difficult to tell precisely which sin he was currently referring to. “At long last, you will be made to pay for those crimes which you committed against me and against our child.”
“If,” Donna stressed. “You get the chance to testify.”
And thought again about the photos lying in a padded envelope on her bedside table.
“I noticed you didn’t tell your dad when exactly you planned to start chemotherapy,” Steven observed to Jen as they walked towards the BCU computer lab.
“Oh, you noticed that, did you?”
“I’m a real sharp guy,” Steven reminded, refusing to let her play this off as a joke. “You are planning to get treatment, aren’t you?”
“Gregory didn’t,” Jen said softly. “And you were all okay with him.”
“Gregory did,” Steven stressed, stopping and grabbing Jen’s arm, forcing her to look at him. “Gregory got treatment for years and years. And he lived for years and years after. Until it stopped doing him any good. Gregory didn’t just give up because he was afraid of not being the smartest person in the room anymore.”
“I thought with you around, that title was never up for grabs?”
“Cut it out,” Steven said.
“You see, I told you,” Jen accused. “Everyone just assumes I’m going to want to get shot up with poison. No one even considers the possibility that – “
“You’ll chicken out? No. Because we know you. You’re not the chickening out type.”
“Are you daring me?”
“I’m double-daring you. Chicken out, and sacrifice the right to tell me: I told you so forever. Trust me, you wouldn’t like it.”
At that, there was little left for them to do but go into the lab, where GQ sat, working. He looked up and smiled when he saw them both. His smile wavered and gradually faded as Jen and Steven filled him on why she was there.
GQ glanced from one to the other, then, without a word, stood up and hugged Jen tightly, leaving Steven on the outside looking in, and feeling very, very superfluous.
Standing outside the door to Lila’s bedroom at the Cory house, Amanda, for her part, was feeling very, very foolish.
What the hell was she thinking, even considering accepting a tip from Grant? Especially on something so utterly ludicrous.
This had to be a set up of some kind on his part. He was trying to make Amanda look foolish. Or worse.
After all, just because Amanda couldn’t immediately figure out his motive didn’t mean he didn’t have one. Grant always had a motive. And an angle. And an agenda.
And yet… the story he’d told her was so fantastic… And if it was true, well, Grant was right, this wouldn’t stay local news. It would go national, possibly international. Brava would become a household name around the globe. Sales were bound to skyrocket. And, in this day and age, when any kind of print publication was at best, flat, at worse, failing fast, could Amanda afford to discard the possibility?
Even if it did come from Grant?
Amanda made up her mind. Steeling her nerves, swallowing her manners, and already preparing an apology just in case this all turned out to be a major bust, she put her hand on the knob and, without knocking, opened the door to Lila’s room.
Where she found her former sister-in-law in bed and naked… with the mayor of Bay City.
“Not Jeanne’s best on-camera work, I will admit,” Donna told Dean as she dropped the surveillance photos, one by one, into his hands. “But, then again, poor thing didn’t have the benefit of KBAY’s lighting or make-up teams on this shoot.”
Dean grabbed at the pictures as they floated by, the blood in his ears pounding so loudly he could barely make out Donna’s words. All Dean could see was the smug, cat ate the canary smile on Donna’s face. And the curtain of lurid images between them.
They kept coming. Dozens of them. Dean and Jeanne in his apartment. Was it just the other day? Hard to tell. The shots all blended one into the other, even as each became individually imprinted on his brain.
“I suppose it was inevitable,” Donna went on. “You always did want whatever Matt had, didn’t you? And Jeanne, well, she’s just a little slut, that’s obvious.”
“Shut up!” Dean flung the photos on the floor. That only seemed to amuse Donna more.
“Can you imagine what a judge would think,” Donna mused as if he hadn’t spoken. “You making your case as the grief-stricken widower, unable to go on with his life, unable to even parent his child, you’re so tragically overwrought. All the while, behind your best friend’s back…”
“None of this has anything to do with you killing Jenna!” Dean caught on quickly enough to what exactly she was implying.
“Oh, but, it doesn’t look good, does it?”
“I don’t care,” Dean said. “You want to show these to a judge? Be my guest. It’s been over two years since Jenna died.”
“And you’re certainly allowed your fun, yes, I agree.”
“Jeanne wasn’t fun,” Dean seethed.
“So sorry to hear that,” Donna sympathized.
“I know about you and Matt,” Dean desperately flung out the only thing he could think of that might throw Donna off her game. “I know you and Matt are married.”
“Yes. Frankie told me you’d hired her to spy on me. I must confess, I did not appreciate it. If you had merely left well enough alone, I never would have felt the need to…” she waved distastefully at the photos littering Dean’s floor. “But, I had to protect myself.”
“You expose me and Jeanne,” Dean threatened. “And I’ll expose you and Matt.”
“Please do,” Donna urged. “I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of playing second fiddle to that cheap tramp you and Matthew seem so besotted with; Lord only knows why. The sooner this sordid business concludes, the better. I would be most appreciative of you hastening the process.”
“You want me to expose you and Matt?”
“What I want,” Donna spoke slowly, so there might be no misunderstanding. “Is for you to drop your civil suit against me. Anything else is merely bonus.”
“Printing those photos in the newspaper will make Matt look like a fool.”
“Printing those photos in the newspaper will give your little Ms. Ewing no legal leg to stand on should she decide to take Matthew to court. It will also effectively kill any sympathy she might wish to whip up for herself in the press. Truly, Dean, this is all a win-win. For me.”
“You think Matt will appreciate it? You screwing him over like this?”
“I could well ask you the same question, couldn’t I?”
“I didn’t – Jeanne and I – It’s not what you think.”
“Is that a fact? I realize it’s been a while since I’ve fit squarely anywhere within the young and hip demographic, but, truly, I find it difficult to believe that things have changed all that much since my day. Is there something else this could look like?”
“Jeanne loves Matt,” Dean said.
“What a unique way she has of showing it!”
“She’s happy being married to him. She wants to stay married to him.”
“In that case, all the more reason for you to insure these pictures never see the light of day, then. Unless…” Donna paused, trying to stay one step ahead. “Unless you’d like to see Matthew’s marriage break up?”
Donna, for one, wasn’t convinced. And neither was Dean, exactly. “Want Jeanne all to yourself, do you? I’ll make a point of noting it to the judge. Somehow homewrecker just doesn’t carry the same ring to it as innocent victim, does it?”
“How about bigamist? How do you think that will sound?”
She shook her head. “I know Frankie filled you in. No one is a bigamist in this scenario, most especially not me. Matthew and I are legally married. He and Jeanne are not. And, as you said yourself, neither has anything to do with what happened to Jenna.”
“If I drop my case against you…” Dean began, defeated.
“Your sordid, back-alley affair will stay between you and Jeanne. Nobody need ever be the wiser.”
“You won’t tell Matt?”
“You have my word,” Donna said.
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