“What can I do for you, Mr. Winthrop?” Chase barely looked up from the stacks of paperwork on his desk, briefly making eye contact with Cass before diving back in.
“Actually, this is about what I can do for you.”
Chase snorted. “I hope your pick up lines are better than your business ones.”
“I don’t need pick up lines,” Cass corrected. “I’m just that good.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Chase still didn’t look up. Though he did smile.
“Frankie and I have been hired by Lucas to prove Carl is lying about where he’s been and why he took Lorna.”
“Good luck with that,” Chase said sincerely. “I’d love to see what you dig up.”
“You can,” Cass dangled enticingly. “As long as you answer a few questions first.”
“Ah,” now Cass had Chase’s attention. “I forgot whom I was dealing with.” He rested his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “What have you got?”
“Lorna Frame was admitted to a clinic in Switzerland, suffering from a head injury, on the exact same day that Rachel got her phone call from Cory.”
“Interesting. But inconclusive.”
“Do you believe in coincidence, Mr. Hamilton?”
“If it helps me win a case? You bet.”
“You didn’t fake that call, did you?”
“Nope,” Chase shook his head.
“Steven found evidence of tampering.”
“Not by me.”
“Take me through the process,” Cass urged. “How did you first get the recording of Cory’s phone call?”
“I tapped her line. Perfectly legal; took me forever to get the proper paperwork signed. Shame. If I’d known then about the NSA listening in on everyone’s conversations, I’d have just gone the federal route. I… know people there. But, as it is, everything was done locally.”
“Did you hear the call as it came in?”
Chase shook his head. “No. We don’t have those kind of resources to devote to a single case.”
“So how long from the time Rachel received it until you heard it?”
“A could of days, maybe? I had a cop designated to check in once a week or so, then send me a report. So it could have been a day or two, could have been over a week.”
“Enough time for someone to tap in and alter the recording?”
Chase’s eyes lit up. “Do you have proof that’s what happened?”
“No,” Cass confessed. “It’s only a theory at this point. I’ve got Steven Frame working on it. I thought if you – “
“No good,” Chase winced. “I just finished giving Rachel a lecture about how I couldn’t accept evidence against Iris exclusively gathered by Carl. It’s the same thing, here. If Steven is working for you, and you’re working for Lucas… fruit of a poisoned tree, you know that, Cass.”
“But what if Steven is able to come up with something for you to verify independently?”
“Then we’re in business. Though I’m not sure what it would prove, exactly. Even if the call was altered, and even if Carl was indisputably the one responsible for it, that’s hardly a major crime – well, not compared to the rest of his pantheon.”
“It would cast doubt on the story he’s telling. Lucas isn’t so much keen to put Carl away as he is to prove that Carl’s lying about Lucas being in on Lorna’s abduction.”
“My goals are a bit loftier than that.”
“I know. And, frankly, in that case, if I can offer you a bit of advice… I think you ought to be talking to Cory. If he really made that call about Lorna, then Carl’s son might well be the key to this whole mystery.”
Chase considered Cass’ suggestion, but dismissed with, “You think Carl will let me get anywhere near his son?”
“Cory’s eighteen, you don’t need his parents’ permission.”
“I do, however, need just cause to bring him in. Being the Mayor doesn’t allow me to skip over due process.”
“Like that’s ever stopped you before.”
“Actually, it has,” Chase corrected. “We poor, underpaid drones in the District Attorney’s office don’t have nearly the wiggle room you, fat-cat, defense types do.”
“Did,” Cass reminded. “My days as a defense attorney are over. Thanks to you,” he couldn’t help adding.
Chase ignored the dig – primarily because it wasn’t true and Cass knew it – but also because it gave him an idea. “That’s right. You’re not an officer of the court anymore.”
“And have the disbarment documents to prove it.”
“But, you are a Hutchins’ family friend.”
“Still. You can speak to Cory whenever you like.”
“And report back to you?”
“If you so wish,” Chase shrugged innocently.
Steven studied his aunt warily. “What are you doing here?”
Amanda attempted a laugh. “That’s a fine way to say hello.”
“Hello,” Steven’s guard stayed up. “You don’t usually drop by like this.”
“I don’t usually have something this important to talk to you about.” Amanda looked around. “Is Jen home?”
Steven escorted Amanda into his apartment, though his body language suggested he would much prefer leading her in the opposite direction. “What can I do for you?”
Amanda said, “I’m worried about Kevin.”
“What about Kevin?”
“Steven,” Amanda sat down on the couch and looked her nephew in the eye. “I need you to level with me.”
“About what?” Patience was clearly not her nephew’s strong-point. Then again, Amanda couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him this jumpy.
“What Kevin did, the way that he set up Jen’s father… he couldn’t have done that on his own, could he?”
“W-What do you mean?”
“You’d have to be a computer expert. Kevin is hardly that.”
Steven shrugged, non-committal.
“He had to have gotten help. Hired help, I presume. And I can’t imagine it was of the legal variety.”
“What are you asking, Amanda?”
“I’m worried that, when he did what he did to Horace, Kevin may have gotten mixed up with some pretty dangerous people.”
“Even if that were true, what do you think they’re going to do – encode him to death?”
“I’m worried that he’s in over his head. That he owes – “
“Did Kevin tell you this?”
“Not in so many words. But something mysterious is going on, Steven. He hasn’t been himself since he got out of jail.”
“It’s jail. It’s rough. Give the guy a break.”
“He’s keeping secrets from me.”
Steven raised both palms towards the ceiling. Amanda noticed they were shaking ever so slightly. “I don’t know anything.”
“I think you do,” she pressed.
“You’ve got something to say, Amanda, spit it out. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but I have work to do.”
“I think you know exactly how Kevin set up Horace. I think you know, because you’re the one who actually did.”
“You mean you’ve never fooled around before?” Charlie asked Elizabeth as they were both lying on Elizabeth’s bed, the door locked to make sure no one walked in on them, even accidentally.
“No,” Elizabeth confessed, blushing.
“So that was really your first time?”
“Not even, you know, by yourself?”
Elizabeth shrugged, unsure of what to say. Afraid to say anything that might make Charlie lose interest in someone as boring as her.
“It’s okay,” Charlie reassured. “I mean, it’s not your fault. All those cracks I made about your dad locking you up in a convent, I guess I wasn’t kidding. For God’s sake, where did he stash you guys?”
“We moved around,” Elizabeth knew she wasn’t supposed to say anything. Father had stressed how dangerous it would be. But telling Charlie about their three years in hiding sure beat further discussion about Elizabeth’s sexual inexperience. “Europe, mostly, but South America, too. You see, Father has these safe houses.”
“And there was nobody else there? It was just the four of your?”
“Well, we had servants, of course. Local people.”
“Now you’re talking. Hot, Latino guys strutting around with their shirts off…”
Elizabeth had to laugh at the image. “It was mostly little old ladies who came to cook and clean and didn’t speak any English.”
“Well, what about in Europe, then? Where were you guys? France? Italy? Come on, throw me some crumbs, here.”
“It was mostly Switzerland. That’s where we started out, anyway.”
“Now you’re talking! Sexy, blond ski instructors!”
“We didn’t do much skiing. The town where Father’s safe house was, it’s kind of isolated and small. He more or less bought it.”
“Your dad bought an entire town? People and all?”
Elizabeth knew how ridiculous it sounded. “He had to be surrounded by people he could trust. So, yeah, he bought a town and he paid everyone in it to protect us.”
“Alright, now I’m seeing Dracula’s castle, and the wild-eyed villagers swarming around below, under his spell.”
“Only in this case, the spell was money, not a bite on the neck.”
“I like it,” Charlie nodded approvingly. “So are you telling me that your daddy owned a whole town of strapping, Swiss guys, and you couldn’t find a single one to…”
“If your livelihood depended on pleasing Carl Hutchins, would you risk it by paying any attention to his daughter?” Elizabeth asked tiredly.
“Oh. Ouch. Yeah, I see your point. That’s rough.”
“Sorry.” Charlie said, then, as if the thought had just occurred to her, added off-handedly. “Damn, I told my mom I’d be home by now.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth said, disappointed, trying to hide it and failing miserably.
“But, you know what, I can call her, let her know I’ll be late. If you want.”
“I… uhm… yeah. That’d be cool. If you could stay a little longer.”
“Except… I forgot my phone,” Charlie said. “Can I borrow yours?”
“When did you start remembering?” Jamie asked Lorna as she moved, almost as if in a trance, about their house, touching the familiar things, seemingly still in shock that she was back here again; something Lorna once thought could never, ever happen.
“After you kissed me,” she admitted. “In the Garden. Things started coming back to me. Bits and pieces, at first. And then all in this avalanche. I remembered everything. You, me, the girls…” Lorna whipped around, holding a photo of Devon and Mackenzie to her chest. “Tell me about them. Tell me what they’re like. Devon was so young when I left, but she was already becoming her own little person. This cool, funny, little kid. But Zee, I could only guess how she might turn out.”
“She’s a lot like you,” Jamie took Lorna’s hand, leading her to sit next to him, stroking her hair as he said, “They’re both like you, but in different ways. Devon, she’s quick to get angry.”
“That sounds familiar.”
“But just as quick to forgive. Zee… it takes a lot to get her worked up. But, once she does, that child can hold a grudge like nobody’s business.”
“That sounds familiar, too.” Lorna sighed. “They don’t remember me, do they?”
“I made sure they did.”
“Why?” Lorna demanded. Then, “How? How did you do it, Jamie? From the moment I got back to Bay City, all I heard was how you never gave up hope. How you were sure that I’d be coming home. How in the world did you manage that?”
“You taught me to have faith,” Jamie reminded. “You forgave me and believed in me long after I’d thought no one ever would. The least I could do was return the favor.”
“I’m so sorry. The things I said to you… “
“If you hadn’t said them, I wouldn’t have realized that you remembered.”
She shook her head, laughing through tears. “I can’t do anything right, can I?”
“What happened, Lorna?” Jamie prodded gently. “What happened to you? Where have you been? How did you get hurt? Why didn’t you want me to know that you’d gotten your memory back?”
“I’ll tell you,” she swore. “I’ll tell you everything, I promise. Just not now. Please. Let me just enjoy this moment… the two of us, together. You looking at me like that… It’s been so long since… I was starting to believe maybe I’d imagined it… somebody loving me that much… “
“More than that,” Jamie swore, kissing her. “More than you can possibly imagine.” He broke away abruptly. “Wait. Hold on. I need to…”
He got up and moved briskly over to a drawer by the side of the door. He yanked it open, rifled around, then came back to sit next to Lorna.
He took her hand, and turned it over. In his own, he held the rings she’d left behind – wedding, engagement, and Mercury dime. Jamie slid the latter onto Lorna’s hand first, followed by the engagement ring, and finally the wedding band.
He dipped his head and kissed the back of her palm, then raised his eyes to meet hers. He said, “Welcome home, Lorna.”
“You shouldn’t have gone through my things,” Eduardo told Felicia, more resigned than angry.
“You shouldn’t have lied to me about who you were,” she shot back.
“I did not lie to you. Everything I told you about myself was the truth.”
“You didn’t say you were a Federal Agent.”
“I told you I’d been working for the United States government ever since they were kind enough to let me defect.”
“You didn’t say you were hunting Carl.”
“You didn’t ask about my cases.”
“Was any of it real?” Felicia demanded. “Did you ever have any interest in me beyond getting closer to Rachel and Carl?”
Eduardo said, “If I had been interested in Rachel, I would have pursued her that first day in France. I was interested in you.”
“I should have known you were too good to be true.”
Eduardo asked, “What have you gained by exposing me to Rachel?”
“I helped my friend!”
“Your friend is married to the man who kidnapped your daughter and faked her death, leading to years of suffering on your part.”
“According to you. And you’ve been lying to me since the day we met.”
“As opposed to Hutchins, who has always been above board in all your dealings, public and private.”
“Leave Carl out of this.”
“You have made a grave error, Felicia, choosing to throw your lot in with him.”
“Are you threatening me?” Felicia demanded.
“I am simply saying that there is no middle ground. You are either on Carl’s side, or you are on the right side. And that the consequences of choosing foolishly are grave, indeed.”
“Get out,” Felicia ordered him, whatever fear she might have felt manifesting itself as anger. “Get the hell out. Stay away from me, stay away from my family, and stay away from Rachel. You don’t know who you’re dealing with, and if you keep pushing your luck, you’re the one who might find your foolish choices leading to all sorts of unpleasant consequences.”
“Ah, there you are, Elizabeth,” Carl waved her to join the rest of them at dinner. “We have been waiting for you.”
“I’ve been… busy,” Elizabeth said, ducking her head before her parents or Cory could see the blush rising up from her chest into her cheeks. Cory saw it, of course. Cory saw everything. But Elizabeth could count on him not to squeal. After all, she hadn’t ratted him out under similar circumstances.
“With what?” Carl wondered, laying a cloth napkin across his lap and indicating that the rest of the family could begin serving themselves. “Our stay in Bay City has been so brief up to this point, I cannot imagine what you might have found to occupy your time.”
Elizabeth merely smiled cryptically and dug into her soup. She had to admit it felt nice to be keeping secrets from Father, for a change. Always before, she’d felt utterly exposed under his gaze; as if her life weren’t uniformly hers, but some kind of group project. She understood now why Cory always played his cards close to the vest. Keeping secrets gave you power over the other person. Whether they knew it or not.
Rachel said, “I’m sorry that the two of you had to come back to such negativity where your father is concerned.”
Cory shrugged. “It was like that before we left.”
“No. It’s much worse now. Mayor Hamilton is determined to put your father behind bars, at the same time as he’s refusing to lift a finger to protect us from Iris.”
“Are we sure it’s Iris who’s the threat?” Cory asked idly.
Only to be slapped down by a hissed, “I am certain of it,” from Carl.
“I know you’ll keep us safe, Father,” Elizabeth piped up.
“You can count on that,” Rachel agreed. “But, unfortunately, his task is made more difficult in Bay City. Everyone here is against us, even members of our own family.”
“Jamie,” Cory guessed.
“And Amanda, and Matt, and…” Rachel trailed off. “As I said, I am so, so sorry about what you three have returned to. I’ve tried my best to reconcile… but, your brothers and sister have dug in their heels, I’m afraid, and I am tired of seeing my offers rebuffed, time after time.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Elizabeth said. “We managed fine without them before.”
“Yes,” Rachel said. “You have. And you will again. As long as we have each other, this family will be fine, you can bet on it.”
“What’s wrong, Mom?” The harder Rachel tried to put on a happy face, the clearer Cory could see something was wrong. “What are you trying to tell us?”
She smiled at her youngest son. “I never could keep secrets from you.”
“No one can,” Cory dismissed, with a quick peek at Elizabeth to make it clear she was included in that group. “What’s going on?”
“Your father and I,” Rachel looked to Carl for help. He nodded thoughtfully and smiled to buck her up. “Your father and I have decided that there is no future for us – or for you – in Bay City. We’ll be leaving town shortly. The four of us. And I’m not certain if we’ll ever come back.”
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