“Aren’t you violating your own restraining order?” Olivia wondered when Donna showed up at the Matthews home.
“It’s been rescinded.”
“Couldn’t fight the urge to call me names in person instead of through the courts, huh?”
“I’ve dropped the attempted murder charges, too.”
Olivia snorted. “As if they ever would have stuck.”
“Don’t you have any pride at all?” Donna wondered.
“This from the woman who went publicly on the record as saying she wasn’t putting out so her husband had to turn elsewhere, all so she could see me dragged off in handcuffs?”
“I don’t expect you to understand me, Olivia. And I suppose I shouldn’t ever attempt to understand you, either.”
“I’ll get over it.”
“But, the thing is, you’re not an unattractive woman – on the surface, at least.”
“Thanks. Your approval means the world to me.”
“And you obviously have certain charms men seem to find irresistible.”
“Were you looking for a tutorial?”
“So why in the world would you waste all those advantages by exclusively pursuing unavailable targets, instead of setting your sights on a relationship with actual, long term potential?”
“Do I seem like the long term potential type?” Olivia challenged, the bravado still there, but now tempered with a twinge of genuine curiosity.
“Have you ever tried it?”
“Dennis and I tried it. For Sarah’s sake. We didn’t even make it as far as the delivery room. Seems he was still in love with your daughter.”
“That hardly made him available then, did it?”
“Well, yeah. But, he could have been a lot clearer about it. I mean, I left town, he didn’t have to follow me. He could have stayed in Bay City and had his perfect life with perfect Marley. He didn’t have to lie and claim he was willing to give us a chance, then spend every free minute pining away for The Blonde and the Blah.”
“Is that when you decided never to risk your heart in that way again?” Donna inquired, not precisely sympathetic, but a lot less acerbic than she had been earlier.
Olivia shrugged. “I like knowing what I’m getting into upfront.”
“Well,” Donna briskly returned to form. “One thing you won’t be getting moving forward – upfront, backwards or otherwise – is my husband. Matthew and I have resolved our differences. Your services are no longer required.”
Olivia raised a knowing eyebrow. “Yay, Matt.”
“I’ll pass on your good wishes to him,” Donna drawled.
“I’m glad you finally wised up.”
“Thank you,” Donna echoed Olivia’s earlier compliment. “Your approval means the world to me.”
The two studied each other for a long beat over Chase’s desk, prompting him to break the silence by asking, “Did you come to take roll call?”
“You tapped my private phone lines.”
“I did,” he confirmed.
“You had no right.”
“Would you care to see the paperwork? I made certain everything was in order.”
“If your objective was truly finding Carl and Lorna, rather than merely making a fool out of me, why didn’t you come forward as soon as you had your evidence? Why wait two months to make your grand announcement?”
“I was waiting for you to do the right thing. I warned you, Mrs. Hutchins. I told you I had something in my possession destined to cause you great harm. I begged you not to make me use it.”
“And what did it get you, in the end? You’re no closer to finding Carl now than you were before.”
“It got me definitive proof that you know more than you’re saying about your husband’s disappearance. For all I know, your entire grieving widow act is nothing more than a soggy subterfuge to throw me off track.”
“The fact that you can say that with a straight face proves to me that you’ve never, ever suffered the kind of loss that I have.”
“I have not,” he agreed. “I’m very fortunate in that regard.”
“I’ve had you investigated, Mr. Hamilton.”
“Really? What for? My life is pretty much an open book.”
“Too open,” Rachel agreed. “Most people have at least one skeleton in their closets. A murky period of time no one will talk about, a record conveniently expunged. You, on the other hand, have practically every moment of existence dutifully accounted for.”
“And that’s a problem?”
“Maybe in your world.”
“You’re hiding something. You have been from the beginning. No one’s record is that pristine, unless it’s been deliberately wiped clean. Or doctored.”
Chase laughed. “What a disturbing view of the world. Innocence proves guilt. How very, very Lewis Carroll of you.”
“You’ve got a vendetta against this family,” Rachel went on. “Why else would you have been so single-minded about going after my son, my granddaughter, my husband…”
“Your son confessed to murder. Your granddaughter absconded with a deathly sick boy whose parents claimed he was incapable of making rational decisions. And your husband violated the terms of his agreement with the US government. You said it, Mrs. Hutchins, a personal vendetta, one and all.” Chase observed, “During the same period of time, I also arrested Mrs. Harrison for Physician Assisted Suicide, attempted to bring Ms. Love to justice for her role in Ms. Gallant’s family’s kidnapping and strenuously pushed to have your daughter-in-law’s hit and run investigated. Not to mention the few hundred other criminal cases on my docket. May I presume you’ve decided not to make those particular incidents all about yourself at this time?”
Rachel shook her head in disgust. “You are a loathsome man.”
“And you are headed for one hell of a fall,” Rachel promised.
“Quite likely. No one provokes an enemy like Carl Hutchins and gets away with it for long.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Rachel snapped.
“It means that I knew from the first moment I decided to pursue his case that, eventually, I’d suffer the Wrath of Carl. I am aware of what happens to people who… upset… your husband. And if I didn’t, then Spencer Harrison’s fate made it crystal clear. I know my days are numbered. But, if you’ve read my biography as closely as you claim, I’m sure you’ve noticed one underlying theme – I am really tough to take down.”
Rachel smiled grimly. “So am I.”
“Are you alright,” Frankie asked Cass gently after Charlie had stomped off upstairs, understandably furious about the foreseeable future she’d just been confronted with.
Cass took a deep breath, steadying himself. “Not my best day ever.”
“No. Not mine, either.”
“But, it needed to be done,” he shrugged. “I won’t go so far as to say she’ll thank me for it later. But, at the very least, maybe she’ll understand.”
“You’re an amazing father,” Frankie said.
Cass merely shook his head, exhausted, and slowly rose from his chair, feeling twenty years older than when he’d first sat down.
“I’m sorry,” Frankie called after him, unable to think of anything else to say, but feeling as if she ought to say… something.
“It’s done,” Cass reminded.
“I know, but…”
“But, nothing. We should be focusing on the future now, Frankie. The past is… past.”
“Don’t,” she pleaded with him.
“Don’t what?” It took all of Cass’ self-control not to bite her head off. Luckily, he was too drained to shout.
Yet Frankie heard the tension in his voice, all the same. She said, “Don’t do this, Cass. Don’t shut me out. That’s always where we go wrong, remember? One of us trying to protect the other by keeping secrets. It always backfires in the end.”
“I’m not…” Cass began, then waved his hand. “Forget it.”
“You are,” she insisted. “You’re furious with me, but you won’t admit it.”
“What good would it do?” he asked reasonably.
“It would keep us honest. It would keep us from building walls between each other. We don’t need that right now. We should be forming a unified front to help our daughter.”
“Then tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what you’re feeling. You have every right to be angry about what I’ve done.”
“Thanks,” Cass said.
“You see? You see, there it is!”
“There what is?”
“Everything that you’re trying to suppress. It’s going to come out anyway. You might as well get it over with. Let me have it.”
“Frankie,” Cass warned. “Don’t…”
“I can take it, I promise.”
“Well, what if I can’t?”
“That’s okay. Whatever you have to say to me, better we get it out in the open instead of you holding your feelings in, letting them fester, bottling them up. They’ll only explode in some other, more destructive way down the line.”
“I can’t think of anything more destructive,” Cass said.
“Then what?” she prodded him, happy to be making progress, feeling that they were near a breakthrough.
He looked his wife in the eye and gave Frankie what she wanted. He told her, “I can’t think of anything more destructive than what you have already done to this family.”
“I am sorry, Grant,” Sarah said. “I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing.”
She did seem genuinely regretful. And utterly unshakable.
“It wasn’t for nothing,” he improvised on the spot, hearing himself babbling, not caring as long as she listened to him. “You don’t love me anymore? That’s fine. You’re right. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t love me. I don’t deserve it.”
If Grant had thought reverse psychology might prove the trick where sincerity had failed, he was, once again, disappointed. Sarah merely continued surveying him coolly, not necessarily agreeing with what Grant had said, but hardly disagreeing, either.
“But, what about Daisy?” he insisted. “I know you must love her.”
“I do love her.”
“Then come back home. For her sake.”
“I… She… Marley….”
“We’ll help you,” Grant insisted. “If you don’t think you’re a good enough mother for Daisy, Marley and I will help you with anything you need. You don’t want me to leave her? I won’t leave her. I’ll do anything you say. You think Marley is good for Daisy? We’ll raise her together, then. The three of us.”
“Marley won’t like that,” Sarah predicted.
“Marley was willing to share custody of Daisy before. Why do you think she wouldn’t be willing to do it again?”
“Because… Because now that I’ve left, she can be Daisy’s only mother. I bet she was looking forward to that. Got herself all psyched up.”
“She’ll deal with it,” Grant said. “And so will I.”
“You want me to come back?”
“I thought you’d be happy. Having me out of the way.”
“I thought so, too,” he admitted. “I was wrong. I told you, Sarah – I can’t live without you. And, more importantly, neither can Daisy.”
“Don’t you think it would just confuse her, having both me and Marley around?”
“Not as badly as spending her entire life wondering where you are, why you left, what she did wrong to make you leave.” Grant reminded Sarah, “I know something about that. My mother just disappeared one day. My father told me she was dead but, on some level, I must have known he was lying. I missed her so much that, when she did come back, I – I did some horrible things, all to make sure she wouldn’t leave me again. You don’t want that for Daisy, do you, Sarah?”
“Of course not!”
“Then come home. You, me, Marley… We all want what’s best for Daisy, we all love her. We’ll find some way to make this work for everybody. Just come home, Sarah.”
“I thought you’d still be at your mother’s,” Olivia observed to Jamie. “Reading her the riot act. I know if mine had done to me what Rachel did to you, I’d have needed at least a couple of days of non-stop yelling to make clear exactly what I thought about it.”
Jamie sighed, exhausted, and plopped into a chair, pushing one of Devon’s ballerina dolls out of the way as he did so. “What would have been the point?”
“The point,” Olivia took the seat across from him, her voice rising. “Is to make clear how absolutely unacceptable this is, and how she had no right to – “
“When it comes to Carl, yelling at my mother does no good. Neither does talking, or even pleading, for that matter. The man has completely destroyed her. You should have seen her, Olivia. My strong, brave, indefatigable mother was sobbing to me about how she doesn’t know what to do, where to turn, whom to believe. Carl’s driven her to a place where she can’t even trust her own instincts anymore, can’t tell right from wrong. He’s convinced her – from the grave, from wherever – that keeping something like this from me was for my own good, that it was for the good of the whole family. That if it was done by Carl, it must be right, and that the rest of us are, at best, deluded, at worst, actively plotting against her. I could have gone off on her, sure. But it would have merely been a case of kicking a woman when she’s down. And I wouldn’t do that to her. No matter what.”
Olivia shook her head, uncomprehending. “You’re a better man than I am, Jamie Frame.”
“No. I just… I don’t have the energy to be tilting at windmills. Not anymore. Not at this point in my life. I can’t be that guy anymore who stomps around, telling other people how to live their lives and passing judgment. I have more important things to focus on. Mom… Mom is going to do whatever she wants regardless of anything I say. I can’t fight her. And I don’t want to.”
“Did she, at least, say anything about Lorna being alive?”
“Mom swears she knows as much as anyone, that the phone call was a dead end. She does have a point – if Chase could have traced it, he would have.”
“But, it does prove that Lorna is still alive, doesn’t it? Why else would Cory say – “
“I hear Donna dropped the charges,” Jamie cut Olivia off, making it clear the topic was no longer open for discussion.
Olivia took the hint – subtle as it was, and nodded. “Yeah. Not that she ever had a legal leg to stand on but, yeah, she did.”
“Good. I’m glad. The sooner you were out of that mess, the better.”
“Did you have anything to do with it? The charges being dropped, I mean?”
Jamie shrugged. “I tried to knock some sense into Matt’s thick skull about it. Don’t know how much good it did.”
“Why, Jamie? You just said you don’t have the energy to waste of stuff that doesn’t directly affect your life. Why go out on a limb for me?”
“It was hardly a limb. Matt was in the wrong here, and he knew it. All I did was remind him to fight his own battles, instead of letting his wife take her anger out on you.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I wanted to.”
“Why?” she repeated.
Another tired sigh from Jamie. “What do you want me to say to that?”
“The truth would be nice.”
He only looked at her, and shook his head in wonder. “I think you already know the answer, Olivia. Now how about you let yourself believe it, too.”
She may not have been the mayor of Bay City, but when Rachel Cory Hutchins held a press conference, she could still count on a substantial turn out. Especially when she promised to finally comment on the recording Hamilton had played earlier.
Held in the Grand Ballroom of the Cory Mansion, Rachel entered to several dozen reporters yelling their questions at her, all of them demanding an answer regarding what Rachel knew and when she knew it. Was Carl alive? Did he fake his death? Was Rachel in on it? Was Jamie? Did Carl do it in order to escape prosecution for his crimes? Why involve Lorna?
Rachel ignored them all. Instead, she stood silently, waiting for the shouting to die down. And only then, did she bring on her grandson, Steven Frame. She introduced him to the reporters. She mentioned a few of Steven’s academic accomplishments in the filed of computer engineering.
And then she stepped aside and allowed Steven to explain precisely how Mayor Hamilton had lied about everything….
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