“Am I supposed to kiss the bride now?” Kirkland asked Sarah as she stood near the modest wedding cake at her and Grant’s impromptu reception in Chase’s office, passing out plates to their handful of guests, including Lila and Jasmine, Allie and Zeno, and Iris, who was left to represent the first generation of their oddly combined family alone when Russ had to leave for work – and to fill in Olivia on what had happened. Grant stood off to the side, signing the papers Chase had prepared for them. Kirkland was pretty sure his father couldn’t hear them.
Sarah must have felt pretty sure of it, too, because she warned, “Don’t, please,” in a tone that would have tipped off anyone bothering to listen closely that there was more going n beneath the surface than met the eye.
“I’m sorry,” he told her sincerely. “I just wanted to say congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Sarah responded stiffly. “And thank you for standing up for Grant. I know it meant a lot to him.”
Kirkland shrugged. “I don’t think he noticed anyone but you tonight.”
“I told him we didn’t even have to do even this much. I don’t need a dress or a cake or… anything. I’d have been okay with just a regular justice of the peace, two witnesses… Grant said we needed to do something special. And then Lila suggested asking Hamilton to perform the ceremony, so…”
“You’ve got friends in high places,” Kirkland laughed, then indicated himself. “And low ones.”
“Grant thinks this could really be a turning point in your relationship.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve kind of lost count how many of those we’ve already had. By the way,” he made an exaggerated show of looking around, raising a flat palm to his forehead as if seeking the horizon. “Where are your mom and dad tonight?”
She smacked him playfully with the back of her hand, “Son of a bitch.”
“Just pointing out that when it comes to parents and kids and turning points, it’s… complicated.”
“Not compared to some things,” Sarah said meaningfully.
Kirkland pretended he hadn’t picked up on her drift, instead sticking to the original topic. “You didn’t invite them?”
“It’s… complicated. I figured Grandpa and Iris could represent… and tell them later?”
“You mean you didn’t even tell them you were getting married?” Kirkland asked, incredulous.
“I told them!” She defended. “I may not have told them when or where…”
“Did you at least mention to whom?”
“Why do you think I didn’t tell them when or where?” Sarah laughed, explaining, “And I swore Grandpa and Iris to secrecy. Or else I told them they couldn’t come either.”
“You’re tough,” Kirkland muttered.
Sarah sighed. “I’ve learned to be.”
“I did it,” Charlie announced triumphantly to Cass and Frankie, though neither knew precisely what she was referring to.
“Did what?” Cass inquired politely.
“I told Elizabeth that we were in a real relationship.”
Cass and Frankie exchanged looks, with her mother offering, “I’m not sure if that’s the sort of thing you exactly tell somebody.”
“Well, she asked.”
“It’s more the kind of thing two people should mutually agree on,” Cass continued Frankie’s thought, since Charlie seemed to have paid it no attention.
“She asked,” Charlie repeated insistently. “So I told her, yeah, sure, we are.”
“That’s romantic,” Frankie observed.
“Not everything needs to be romantic, Mom. Not everyone is all spiritual and in touch with the universe like you. Some of us just want to get on with things.”
“And how does Elizabeth feel about these… things?”
“Charlie,” Cass grew serious. “Why are you doing this?”
“You mean, telling you? I’m telling you because you said that I wasn’t serious about my relationship with Elizabeth. And I wanted to tell you that I was. Officially.”
“No,” he said calmly. “I mean, why are you going through these motions? Are you trying to make a point?”
Charlie rolled her eyes in disgust. “I can’t do anything right with you guys, can I? I try to help out your investigation, and you say I’m doing it wrong. I do what you say about Elizabeth, and you go looking for ulterior motives.”
“Charlie,” her parents said in near unison.
Cass began, “We didn’t tell you to – “
Frankie interrupted, “You shouldn’t… at least, not because of us.”
“I’m not doing it because of you,” Charlie insisted, realizing she’d made yet another tactical mistake. So what else was new? “I am totally doing it because I want to.”
“But, you said…”
“No. You said it. I said that Elizabeth and I were on for real now, and the two of you started jumping to all sorts of conclusions about why.”
Cass thought about it for a moment, then conceded, “You’re right. We did.”
“If I was talking about me and a guy – “
“It would have made absolutely no difference,” Frankie corrected firmly. “We want what’s best for you, Charlie.”
“We want you to be happy,” Cass agreed. “But that can’t come at the expense of someone else. No matter what your reasons for it might be.”
“Don’t worry, Dad,” Charlie assured him. “I know exactly what I’m doing. I won’t let you down again. I promise.”
“Jamie,” Russ beckoned him into the Chief of Staff’s office prior to Jamie beginning the evening’s shift. “May I have a word with you, please?”
“Close the door.”
Jamie did so, his heart growing heavier even as he hoped against hope… “What’s up?”
“Olivia,” Russ said.
Well, there went that hope.
Russ said, “Sarah got married earlier today.”
“Right. I knew that. Kirk is Grant’s best man. I’d say congratulations, but…”
Russ raised an eyebrow to indicate he realized condolences would be more appropriate under the circumstances. “Anyway, she didn’t want Olivia at her wedding. I went over after the fact to fill her in, which is when Olivia told me…”
Jamie braced himself.
“You’re the father?” Russ finished.
Jamie didn’t answer one way or the other. But Russ interpreted his silence as consent. Exactly as Olivia had expected he would.
“Listen, Jamie… I realize that Lorna’s return was a huge shock. To everyone. And I understand that she’s your wife and that you have children together; young children. But, surely, you realize that you have responsibilities to Olivia and to her child, as well.”
“I know exactly what I owe Olivia,” Jamie said.
“How do the two of you intend to handle this?”
“With all due respect, Russ, that’s between Olivia and myself.”
“She indicated that you don’t want to play any role in this child’s life. Is that correct?”
“That’s what Olivia and I agreed on, yes.”
Russ frowned. “This isn’t like you, Jamie. My goodness, you married Vicky when she was pregnant with Steven. Now, I certainly don’t expect you to make the same choice here, but… For God’s sake, Kirkland isn’t even your biological child, but you fought Grant tooth and nail to keep him. And now you’re willing to turn your back on – “
“I have my reasons.”
Russ threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t understand!”
Jamie remained silent.
Russ pressed, “I know you cared about Olivia. You didn’t love her, no – I told her as much myself. But, you must have cared about her.”
“Then how can you just walk away at a time like this? From her or from her child?” Russ hesitated, then ventured a guess, “Does this have something to do with Carl? Are you afraid that your family is still in danger from him?”
“I am,” Jamie confirmed. And though it would have been easy to lie and slip off the hook, remain in Russ’ good graces, he added, “But that’s not what this is about. Not directly, anyway.”
“So what is it about then?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Damn it, Jamie,” Russ exploded. Then, when no explanation proved forthcoming, added, “I guess you’re not the man I’ve always thought you were.”
“I’m sorry I disappointed you,” Jamie said.
“So am I,” Russ waved Jamie out of his office in disgust. “Very, very sorry.”
“Well,” Grant asked Sarah after their guests had left and Chase was preparing to shoo them out of his office. “Did I get it right?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did I give you exactly the wedding you wanted? Low key, no parents; just friends… and no Daisy.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want her – “
“I understand,” Grant assured. “Your explanation made perfect sense. You’re right, maybe she won’t ever remember that we weren’t together from the beginning. I get it. But, I still wanted to make the day special for you – within your very, very specific parameters. Did I give you what you wanted?”
“I wanted you,” Sarah reminded. “Everything else, the Mayor, the guests, they were all just bonus.”
“Bet that was the first – and last – time Iris will ever be considered any kind of bonus.”
“Did you notice how she wore black?” Sarah laughed.
“I noticed how she kept glaring daggers at me! Honestly, during the Does Anyone Have Any Objections part….”
“She wouldn’t dare!”
“No. But, I thought Russ might. Or even Allie.”
“You don’t need to worry about Allie. She’s gotten enough crap about her own relationships to ever pass judgment on anyone else’s.”
“That only left Kirkland,” Grant mused. “And he seemed… okay with it. Okay with us.”
“Did you expect him not to be?” Sarah asked, sharper than she’d intended.
“Well, he’d certainly have reason to. To start with, he and I aren’t exactly on the best of terms. And then there’s the way I treated his aunt….”
“Kirkland was never thrilled about you marrying Marley in the first place. I’m sure he thinks she dodged a bullet.”
“There’s also your former relationship with Steven…”
“This is Bay City. You married twin sisters. So did his other dad. So did Jake, whom Kirk was crazy about. And we’re not going to talk about all the family members Lorna has gone through, and Kirkland doesn’t have any issues with her.”
“I worried how he would feel about you being only a few years older than him. It’s got to be… uncomfortable.”
“Kirk didn’t look uncomfortable. In fact, did you see him flirting with Jasmine?”
Grant grinned. “So that wasn’t my imagination!”
“No! And she was flirting right back!”
“That would be… something,” Grant mused. “Lila’s daughter and my son… That would really be something.”
“My point is, Kirkland is way too interested in his own love life to give a damn about yours. You’ve got to stop worrying about what people will think about us, Grant.”
“I know. You’re right.” He kissed her once, then twice to reiterate his point. “You’re always right. It’s just that I’m… scared.”
“Of what? Stupid public opinion?”
“You’ve never lived with an entire town’s stupid public opinion reaching the consensus that you’re evil and worthless and not fit to raise your own child, even though your only crime was not being the father his mother would have preferred. Victoria saw to it that I was completely ostracized by everyone in Bay City for the unforgivable crime of wanting to be with Kirkland. But, it started even before that. When I married her – when she married me; willingly, may I add – the aforementioned stupid public opinion held that I was the wrong Harrison brother. That Vicky should be with Ryan. Even though he’d been the one to swear her off. Even though I was the one who picked up the pieces. But, I wasn’t enough. Everything I did for her was never enough. I was never enough. Every single person in town made it clear to Vicky that she’d chosen incorrectly. Eventually, she believed them. And you know how that all ended.” Grant said, “I can’t bear the thought of history repeating itself. Of my losing you due to the disapproval of – “
“That won’t happen,” Sarah crossed her arms.
She looked so certain of… everything, that Grant couldn’t help but laugh. “You are so beautiful,” he told her. “And so, so young.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of losing me. Ever. If I wanted to walk away, Grant, I would have. I could have. But, I didn’t.”
He looked at her for a long beat, wondering how he might ever express every feeling that she stirred in him, realizing that he couldn’t, settling for saying, “As long as I live, I will never understand what I did to deserve you.”
“Good,” Sarah said. “It’ll keep you on your toes.”
“On my toes, on my mark,” Grant swore. “Anywhere you want me, you’ve got me. On my honor.”
“Well, since brought it up,” Sarah began playfully. “How about on your – “
But, she never got the chance to finish.
Because, in that moment, the door to Chase’s office opened and Marley poked her head in. She noticed Grant and Sarah, but looked right past them to ask the mayor, “I’m sorry, I seem to be lost.” She stretched forward a document, making certain it could be seen by everyone in the room. “Where exactly should I go to file this custodial form?”
“What exactly did you do for Iris Wheeler that concerned Carl Hutchins?” Matt felt like they were finally onto something here.
“Just a small bit of research,” Laurent insisted. “I did not know what she was planning to do with it. She came to me and asked for me to do some research.”
“About who killed the doctor?”
Laurent looked at Matt and Donna queerly. “Natural causes. The autopsy said that it was natural causes. Did you not see the report?”
“We saw it,” Matt said. “But, if that’s the case, why was Iris interested?”
“She thought, at first, perhaps Mr. Hutchins was responsible.”
“We thought Iris was responsible,” Donna said.
Laurent’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
“Because he knew something she didn’t want made public. She called him right before he died. We know this. We heard her.”
“Yes. She called him to speak about Carl Hutchins. His inopportune death was what made Iris think Mr. Hutchins was the one who did not wish for something to be made public. Iris thought he had the doctor killed in order to protect their secrets.”
Donna sighed. “So we’re the ones who’ve been barking up the wrong tree all along.”
“About Carl,” Matt scratched his forehead, thinking, sensing there was still something missing from the story. “Not about Iris.” He double-checked with Laurent. “How long have you been working for Iris?”
“A few years,” he confessed, this time without even asking for money first. “But, you will tell Mr. Hutchins I did not know what she was planning to do, yes?”
“With what? What was this information you gave her?”
“About Mr. Hutchins’ financial records. All the companies that he bought under false names. I was able to track them down, get proof that he was really the man in charge.” He indicated the flickering computer screens behind them. “It is not too difficult, once you know where to look.”
“So you’re the one who gave Iris the records she took to the Feds?”
Laurent nodded miserably. “She lied to me. She did not say she would be going to the authorities. She said Mr. Hutchins’ wife had stolen her father’s company, her birthright, and she was going to get it back by proving it was dirty money keeping it afloat. But, she did not say she would go to the authorities. I thought this was a family matter. I thought it would be handled within the family. I did not think she would expose Mr. Hutchins. He must be very, very angry.”
“He’s not happy,” Matt agreed.
While Donna asked, “How did you get the information on Carl?”
“Oh…I… acquired it.”
“Very illuminating,” Donna drawled.
While Matt summarized, “I’m guessing your methods were less than legal?”
Laurent shrugged. “Legal methods do not earn much of a salary.”
“And require paying taxes,” Donna added knowingly.
Matt said, “So Carl has been telling the truth all along. Iris really did set him up. She’s the one who drove him out of town, all so she could take over Cory Publishing.”
“So what?” Donna asked. “It’s not like the information she turned over was falsified. Was it, Laurent?”
“No, no. It was secret, but it was true.”
“So I don’t see the problem,” Donna said.
“I do,” Matt admitted reluctantly. “Because this means Carl has been telling the truth all along.”
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