“So was Iris telling the truth?” Rachel wondered as Amanda poured over the documents of her half-sister’s newly acquired majority share in Cory Publishing.
“Is the answer to that question ever yes?” Amanda snarked back.
Rachel smiled grimly. “Let me rephrase: Did Iris break the law by going behind our backs like this?”
“If she did, she did an excellent job of covering her tracks.”
“There’s a question to which the answer usually is, yes,” Rachel confirmed.
“Except…” Amanda’s finger stopped on a particular line, and she double-checked what she thought she’d stumbled onto before turning to Rachel. “Take a look. See the date when Iris bought her first block of shares?”
Rachel nodded. “The day the stock started dropping, right after Hamilton went public with the news that he’d confiscated Carl’s original loan.”
“Right. Iris made a lot of purchases that day. Most of them were on the open market, but this one… This was a private transaction with one of our former Board members.”
“So? Iris confessed as much when we confronted her. That’s how she was able to accumulate a majority.”
“Look at the time,” Amanda stressed. “Iris bought his shares at fair market price before they started dropping.”
“A little too lucky for my taste.”
“You think Iris jumped the gun?”
“I think she went to him, told him the stock was about to start sinking, and offered to buy him out now, or he could take his chances later. The question is, how did Iris know in advance that our stock was about to go under….”
“Unless she got the information from Chase Hamilton?”
Amanda grinned. “That’s insider trading.”
“And that is definitely illegal.”
“Both for Iris,” Amanda began.
“And for Hamilton,” Rachel finished.
Having seen a photograph of Owen Lax in his apartment the previous day, Frankie knew for a fact that the bulky security guard scrutinizing their purloined invitation in front of the Hermitage Museum that evening was not the man they were looking for. So at least there was no danger of him recognizing the missive as being originally his.
On the other hand, this particular guard didn’t look particularly thrilled to see them, nonetheless.
“It’s just part of the job,” Cass reassured. “He’s paid to be cautious.”
Overly so. First, he studied the invitation, then he scanned it, then he checked it under ultra-violet light. And still, he wasn’t letting them in. Or cracking a smile.
“Envelope,” he demanded, holding out his hand.
“Envelope?” Frankie repeated, as if the word were utterly foreign to her.
“Invitation envelope,” he clarified. “Show me.”
“That’s right,” Cass chimed in. “Show the man.”
Frankie turned around to look at him in confusion. Which was utterly faked. She and Cass had done this together enough times to know the drill.
“I don’t have the envelope,” Frankie said.
“Of course, you do,” Cass tapped his foot impatiently. “I gave it to you right before we left the house.”
“No,” she corrected him, voice rising shrilly. “I gave it you.”
“Why would I have the envelope when you have the invitation?”
“Because you wanted to show it to the taxi driver, so he’d know which entrance to drop us off at.”
“Why would I talk to the taxi driver? I don’t speak Russian.”
“That’s what I told you when you asked me for the envelope!”
“Which is why I left it with you!”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake, why don’t you just admit you lost it? How much did you have to drink before we came?”
“Enough to make the evening bearable. Same as you.”
“Oh, trust me, there isn’t enough alcohol in the world!” Frankie snapped, turning her back to him.
Cass grabbed her by the arm, spinning Frankie around. He raised his hand as if about to hit her. Always, previously, at this point of the psychodrama – they liked to say that Frankie was the drama and Cass the psycho; or vice versa – the guard would step in to stop him, allowing Cass to transfer the belligerence over to him.
Apparently not in Russia. The guard merely continued standing as he was, watching, possibly even looking amused.
Leaving Cass with the choice of either striking his wife in public or…
Frankie recognized Cass’ dilemma and beat him to it, shoving Cass with all her might so that he stumbled backwards and into the guard.
Excellent, Mary Frances, bravo! Cass silently cheered her ingenuity and, par for the course, complimented himself on his phenomenal taste in wives.
Unamused, the security guard grabbed them both by the scruff of their collars, looking for a minute like he might knock their heads together, but, instead, settled merely for lifting them off the ground, then dropping them down again.
He removed his hands distastefully and brushed them one against the other, as if having touched something diseased. He sniffed. “Go. Now. In.”
Frankie stuck her tongue out at Cass, the last beat of their traditional act, and nose in the air, marched on inside, Cass following, still mumbling epithets under his breath.
They were both so pleased with the result of their routine, that neither noticed it hadn’t actually been their act, but a subtle nod from the senior guard that granted them access.
Or the fact that, from the moment they stepped through the doors of the museum, they were being watched.
“Kirk’s not home,” Jamie filled in Grant when his son’s other dad stopped by.
“I came to see you.”
“Okay,” Jamie opened the door and let him in. “What’s going on?”
“I… First of all, I wanted to offer my condolences….”
“Thank you,” Jamie said stiffly.
“I – She… Lorna loved you very much. You made her very happy.”
“We made each other happy,” Jamie stressed.
“Yes. I’m sorry. I – I don’t know what else to say.”
“Was that the only reason you came by?”
“No,” Grant admitted. “The real reason I came by… I wanted to tell you – I’m running for Mayor again, Jamie.”
“Good luck. He’s damn popular.”
“The man tried to put you in jail for a murder you didn’t commit.”
“The man was doing his job, he admitted his mistake as soon as he had evidence to the contrary, and – key fact – I’m a single voter. He’s done a lot of good for a lot of people in Bay City. He’s cut both taxes and unemployment without creating a deficit. They’re likely to remember that at the ballot box.”
“Your mother doesn’t count herself among those people whose lives he improved.”
“What does my mother have to do with this?”
“Rachel is funding my campaign.”
Jamie opened his mouth, then closed it abruptly, genuinely unable to think of what to say.
“I wanted to give you the head’s up,” Grant continued. “Between Rachel and Kirkland, odds are, you’re going to get pulled into this race, whether you like it or not.”
“Do I get a veto?”
Jamie shrugged. “Alright then. That’s that.”
“I’m going to do my best to run a clean campaign,” Grant struggled to make Jamie believe it. “I don’t want to see anybody hurt.”
Jamie snorted. “Sounds like that’s precisely what my mother does want.”
“She wants to hurt Chase. Not you. Never you,” Grant swore.
“I’ll sort this out with my mother, thanks. I don’t need you playing interference.”
“Kirkland was so proud of me the last time I ran. This could be good for him. For us.”
“I hope it is. I hope you don’t disappoint him. Again.”
“You don’t sound like you’re putting much stock in that.”
“Past performance,” Jamie reminded.
“It’ll be easier, this time,” Grant predicted. “Kirkland won’t be in Bay City. He’ll be in college for the bulk off – “
“No,” Jamie said, shaking his head.
“What do you mean, no?”
“Kirk’s decided to defer for the year. I’m hoping to talk him into just making it the Fall semester, but he seems adamant.
Jamie sighed, running a hand through his hair. “He’s worried about me. Doesn’t want to leave me alone until Lorna….”
“Kirkland told us you think she’s still alive.”
“I tried to convince him to go. If you want to give it a shot, be my guest.”
“I’m sorry,” Grant blurted out from the blue.
“You said that already.”
“No. I mean, I’m sorry…. I was thinking the other day, if I hadn’t treated Lorna the way I had, if I hadn’t made promises I had no intention of keeping, if I hadn’t strung her along for as long as I did, maybe the two of you would have found each sooner. Maybe then you would have gotten more time together before – ”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Grant. You are not the linchpin the entire world revolves around. My past with Lorna has nothing to do with you. And neither will our future.”
“I thought I’d tell you, I’m not going to Sarah Lawrence in September,” Charlie filled in Zeno who made a point of continuing to trudge through his fields ahead of her, declining to look back. “I’m staying in Bay City. With Kirkland.”
“But, I’m not staying for him,” Charlie clarified.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m staying for you.”
That, at least, managed to stop Zeno in his tracks. “Cut it out, Charlie.”
“Why? It’s true.”
He finally turned around to face her. “It’s stupid.”
“Maybe. But, I want to understand what’s going on between us. And I can’t do that from upstate New York.”
“Nothing,” Zeno stressed. “Nothing is going on between us. You’re dating Kirkland and I’m dating Allie, and there is nothing between us. Never was, never will be.”
“Why?” she demanded.
“Where do you want to start? Your mother is – “
“No relation to you at all.”
“She thinks I’m her and Cass’ son. Which makes me your – “
“You weren’t think about that when we – “
“I wasn’t thinking about anything, that should be perfectly clear.”
“You… me… being with you. It was different than – than Kirkland.”
“Yeah, so you’ve said.”
“I don’t get it. I don’t get what any of it’s supposed to mean!”
“Nothing,” Zeno reiterated. “It means nothing. It means that I know what I’m doing and he doesn’t, and that’s not his fault. Maybe he just needs more practice. Or for his girlfriend to be straight with him, for a change. Tell Kirkland what you want – “
“I didn’t have to tell you!”
“Quit it, Charlie. Okay? Please? You’re putting way too much stock in something that’s supposed to be – “
“The most important thing in the world?”
“Then why does everyone act like it is?”
“Hell, if I know.”
“And why does it feel like it is?”
“Because you’re eighteen. And you’re inexperienced. And you’re confused.”
“You’re right,” she admitted.
“And that’s exactly why I plan to stay in town. Until I’m not confused anymore. Or inexperienced.”
“First things first,” Dr. Raya Ng stressed, looking down at a pale Sarah as she lay in an Emergency Room hospital bed, Dr. Ng spreading gel across Sarah’s still impossibly flat stomach, Marley hovering on the periphery, soothingly stroking Sarah’s hair. “The baby is fine.”
Marley exhaled in relief, but Sarah pushed onto, “Then why was I bleeding?”
“Your hemorrhage was cervical, not uterine,” Dr. Ng explained. “Hormonal changes can make your cervix extra-sensitive, but bleeding there has nothing to do with the baby. In any case, it’s stopped now, and there’s no reason for you to experience another episode.”
“Was it because I went swimming? Did I overdo it? Did I push myself too hard?”
“That’s very unlikely. On the other hand, just to be safe, you might want to take it easy for a little while.” Raya looked up at Marley. “Are you her mother?”
Marley blinked fiercely several times, then merely shook her head.
“She’s my friend,” Sarah said. “I – I work for her.”
“I’d like you to stay on bed-rest for at least a week,” Raya told Sarah. “Do you have anybody who can come and take care of you?”
Sarah was about to answer in the negative, when Marley interrupted to say, “She can stay with me.” She glanced down at Sarah. “You can stay with us.”
“No.” Sarah raised herself up on both elbows, ignoring the fact that Raya was now applying her wand to Sarah’s stomach and adjusting the sonogram machine. “No, Marley, I can’t let you do that. I’d be in the way.”
“You are never in the way. And after everything you did for Michele and Bridget when I couldn’t be there for them, it’s the least we owe you. The girls will love it, getting the chance to take care of you, for a change.”
“I’d take her up on the offer,” Raya advised. “You’re going to feel weak for at least the next few days. You’ll appreciate the assistance. Besides, enjoy being pampered for a bit. By the time this little one comes,” she tapped the sonogram screen. “You’ll never have a moment to yourself again.”
The rap of Raya’s knuckles drew both Marley and Sarah’s attention, prompting them to gaze where she was pointing, and take in the tiny… thing, projected there.
“What’s that supposed to be?” Sarah blurted out, prompting both Marley and Raya to laugh, though not unkindly.
“That’s your baby,” Marley prompted. “Look.”
“That’s the spinal cord right there,” Raya used her finger. “That’s the brain. Those are the very beginnings of arms and legs, and that’s his heart. See it beating?”
“His?” Sarah asked, making it clear what she wanted to know.
Raya dismissed, “I used the term generically. It’s too early to tell yet, but, if you want to know before delivery, we should be able to see something – or not see it, as the case may be – by the 20th week or so.”
“Thank you so much, Dr. Ng,” Marley said.
“No problem.” Raya hit a button and, in a moment, produced a print-out, which she handed to Sarah. “For the baby album.”
“T-Thanks,” Sarah accepted it, still looking slightly overwhelmed.
“I’ll get started on your discharge papers.” Raya stood and patted Sarah on the shoulder. “Everything looks good. Go ahead and schedule a regular visit, though; with me or any other OBGYN. We want to make sure you both stay healthy.”
“Are you okay, Sarah?” Marley asked after Raya had left, and Sarah still sat there, silent, studying the sonogram picture. “I didn’t get a chance to ask before, but… you are planning to keep the baby, right? I mean, you were so upset at the possibility of losing it, but I don’t want to assume…”
“I’m keeping it,” Sarah said firmly.
“Good,” Marley said. “Good. Then we’ll support you and help you in any way we can. That is… if you don’t have any other options.”
“What do you mean?” Sarah tore her eyes from the sonogram long enough to ask.
Marley pulled up a chair and sat down. Her voice soft, so as not to come off judgmental or scolding, she asked, “Who’s the father, Sarah?”
“Iodine pills,” Steven announced, flinging open Horace’s medicine cabinet to present the bottles he found there to both Kevin and Horace.
“Yeah, so?” Horace challenged, though with some of his usual bravado gone.
“Iodine pills raise body temperature, you son of a bitch,” Kevin flung himself at Horace, and only Steven stepping in between them kept Kevin’s fist from making contact.
“Is that a fact?” Horace drawled, taking a step back, trying his best to cover the panic that was just beginning to rise in his eyes.
“Why are you doing this to her?” Kevin demanded. “Why are you jerking my daughter around like this?”
“My daughter,” Horace stressed. “Mine. You need any more evidence, Counselor, you look at who she came to for help. All your money, all your glossy phrases and endless depositions and documents in triplicate, and you can’t do a damn thing for her now, can you?”
“But, you can,” Kevin pleaded, belligerence replaced by desperation. “You can help her. So why won’t you?”
“Got every intention of doing just that,” Horace said.
“You got the tattoo on purpose,” Steven didn’t so much accuse as reel off a litany of facts. In his mind, as long as Steven knew he was speaking the truth, there was no possible argument anyone could offer to contradict that. Why they’d even bother trying was always beyond him. “You knew that would make you ineligible to donate. Then, when my dad managed to get around that, you went with faking a fever.”
“Why?” Kevin repeated.
“To make a point,” Horace said calmly.
“About Jenny needing you more than she needs me?”
“That was certainly one of them. Got a few more, though.”
“What do you want, Johnson? Do you want me to beg? To humiliate myself? Fine. I’ll beg.” Much to Steven’s shock, Kevin got down on his knees, instantly and without a trace of self-consciousness. “I’m begging,” he said. “I am begging you to help Jenny.” Kevin stood, dusting off the knees of his pants. “There. Are you happy?”
“Not really,” Johnson explained. “See, way I figure, you deal in words all day long. You know how to twist them and turn them till they don’t mean a damn thing. So, saying some words, that’s not really a hardship for you. Bet I could get you to say just about anything.”
“Then what do you want?” Kevin demanded.
“A little respect would be nice. But, I realize that’s beyond your capabilities. So, instead, remember how, back at the hospital, you got real hot under the collar, accusing that nice GQ of thinking you were putting a price on your daughter’s life. Care to reconsider your stance? Come up with a nice, solid figure. See where that gets you…”
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