“You saw Lorna shoot Carl?” Jamie grabbed Rachel by the arm and whipped her around to face him, ignoring Toni’s follow up questions and the shock of his brothers and sisters. This was between him and Rachel.
“Yes.” She raised her chin defiantly, meeting Jamie’s eyes, unapologetic.
“Then why didn’t you do anything? Stop her?”
“By the time I came downstairs, it was too late. The deed was done. My priority, at that point, was my husband.”
“So Lorna, what? Shot Carl in cold blood, dropped the gun, saw you, and still walked out the door?”
“She never saw me. It was dark.”
“Then how can you be sure you saw her?”
“I know what your wife looks like, Jamie. Besides, she came in and out via the French doors. I saw her in the moonlight. I was in the hall, in the shadows.”
“You’re certain of this, Mrs. Hutchins?”
“Damn it, Mom, why would Lorna – “
“I don’t give a damn,” Rachel seethed. “Lorna’s feelings towards Carl have never made one ounce of sense to me, and this time is no exception. The man saved her life countless times. She would be nothing, she would have nothing, if it weren’t for him. And still she treats him with contempt, making up lies, trying to turn all of Bay City against him – “
“Rachel?” Another voice, this time more familiar.
Morgan exited the operating room, still dressed in scrubs, his face-mask down around his neck.
Instantaneously, Rachel lost interest in her conversation with Jamie to pivot and charge at Morgan, desperate to know, “Is he…”
“Carl’s in recovery. We got the bullet out. Stopped the bleeding.”
“He’s going to be alright?” Rachel seemed terrified of letting herself believe such a thing.
“Everything went as well as can be expected. It’s not going to be an easy road back, especially not at his age, and there are still plenty of complications to watch out for, but, yes, so far, he is doing very, very well.”
“I need to see him,” Rachel asserted. “When can I go see him?”
“Right now,” Morgan offered. “I’ll take you.”
“Mrs. Hutchins,” Toni interrupted, attempting to block their way out of the waiting area. “We’re not finished. We’ll need a formal statement from you about – “
“Not now,” Rachel all but shoved her aside. “Right now I need to be with my husband.”
“I heard about Carl,” Felicia apologized to Donna, who seemed to be the only one left at the Cory Mansion when Felicia stopped by. “I assume Rachel is at the hospital. I didn’t want to impose, so I came here, thinking you might have the latest news.”
“Last Matthew texted me, Carl was still in surgery.”
“Is he expected to survive?”
“He’s Carl. He’ll bury us all.”
Felicia didn’t dispute it. “I saw the police cars outside. Do they know who – “
“Is there a single name I could invoke that would surprise you?”
“Rachel,” Felicia offered weakly, half kidding, half… not.
Donna understood exactly what she was getting at. Anyone in Bay City could have gone gunning for Carl. Even Rachel. “We both know the effect Carl has on women. How everything with him is perfect… until it no longer is.”
“You loved him once,” Felicia reminded.
“I was married to him,” Donna corrected.
“So you never loved him?”
“I was…” Donna waved a hand in the air, looking for just the right word. “Infatuated with him. He was everything I’d been raised to value in a man… plus infinite charm.”
“I suppose after Reginald, Carl really did seem like the lesser of two evils.”
“The Devil himself would have appeared preferable after Reginald. And Carl always knew the right thing to say, the right gift to buy to smooth over any rough patches that might come up.”
“What finally prompted you to leave him, then?”
“Jenna,” Donna replied what Felicia had merely suspected. “I could handle Carl. I’d learned to. Like you said, after Reginald, it was barely a challenge… But, a child… I had no right to expose a child to that man. The one thing I could do for Jenna was protect her from the monster whom fate made her father.”
“Lori Ann looks like you,” Felicia blurted out. “I see it more and more every day. She looks like Jenna. But, it’s obvious now – Jenna looked like you.”
“Thankfully, she took after her other mothers in personality. You and Gloria made Jenna the person that she was. I made the right choice giving her up, no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.”
“So I have Carl to thank for both my daughters,” Felicia hated to even say the words, but it was true. “He’s Jenna’s biological father, and, if it weren’t for him, who knows if Lorna and I ever would have ended up in the same place? Do you realize that at the time Carl first came to Bay City – allegedly because of me – he already had Lorna stashed away somewhere? I was mourning the baby I’d lost, and Carl already had his hands on her. I could have saved her from him then. If only I’d known. Everything would have been so different, if only I’d know then what I know now…”
“My surprise is… Kirkland?” Sarah’s voice trembled as she looked from father to son, her heart beginning to hammer madly.
“And I guess you’re mine,” Kirkland addresses Sarah, stepping into the house, closing the door behind him. “Grant promised me a surprise, too.”
“What’s going on?” Sarah demanded.
“I had a brilliant idea,” Grant announced, gesturing for them both to take a seat on the couch while Grant pulled up an armchair.
Kirkland and Sarah did as he bade. Sitting about as far away from each other as humanly possible, exchanging confused looks, then hurriedly glancing away.
“Remember, Sarah, how I told you I wanted you to have a life and interests of your own away from me and Daisy?”
“And, Kirkland, you know I’ve never been thrilled with you burning the candle at both ends, working two jobs when there is no earthly reason for you to do so.”
“It’s none of your business, Grant.”
“Funny you should use that word: Business. That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to buy a business – a restaurant, to be precise – that you and Sarah could run together.”
“Excuse me?” Sarah all but popped off the couch. “When did I ever say that I wanted to run a restaurant?”
“Your degree is in hospitality and marketing, isn’t it?”
“You’re exactly what Kirkland needs!”
“For God’s sakes, Grant!” Kirkland’s explosion mirrored Sarah’s. “I didn’t ask for any of this. If I want to open my own restaurant – “
“Are you denying that it’s been your dream since you were a child?”
“I have plenty of my own money to do it. Spencer left me everything, remember? He cut you out and left everything to me?”
If his last barb was intended to wound, it hit its designated target – then promptly and harmlessly bounced off. Grant was too excited about his idea. “The money Spencer left you is in trust until you’re twenty-five. You’d have to wait years – “
“Or ask my Dad to give his okay.”
That one actually hurt more. “Jamie would never do that,” Grant dismissed. “He’s too prosaic. He’ll have you paying your dues as some underpaid busboy until you’re too burned out to go after your dreams.”
“If paying my dues sours me on my dreams, I clearly wasn’t cut out for the restaurant business in the first place.”
“But, why wait for some far away day down the line, when you can have everything you ever wanted right now? I’ll buy you the restaurant – and Sarah can help you run it. It’s the perfect win-win for everyone.”
“A win-win, huh?” Kirkland wondered, narrowing his eyes. “So what’s in it for you, then?”
“Mom says she saw you shoot Carl,” Jamie filled Lorna in the minute he got home – having run more than a generous amount of red lights in the process – after making sure Devon and Zee were out of hearing range. “She’s giving a statement about it to Toni Burrell.”
“Is Carl dead?” Lorna asked, swallowing hard.
“No. It looks like he’s going to be fine. Listen, Lorna, we might not have a lot of time, so, I just want you to know: Say the word, and I can be packed and ready to go with you and the girls in five minutes. We’ll lock the door behind us, get in the car, and take off to where nobody can find us.”
“But…” Lorna was still trying to wrap her mind around what Jamie was saying. “What about Steven… Kirkland?”
“Steven and Kirkland are adults. They can take care of themselves, and we can always find ways to get in touch with them later. Felicia and Lucas, too. But, right now, the only thing that matters is you, me, Devon and Zee. We can be the hell out of Bay City before anyone even realizes we’re gone. Just tell me what you want to do, Lorna, and I will do it, no questions asked.”
“Are you… are you offering to run away with me because… because you think I really did shoot Carl?”
“Where’s your Mom?” Charlie asked Elizabeth, looking around the hospital’s waiting area. Amanda was in the corner, furiously typing on her cell-phone. Matt and Cory sat across from her, heads down in whispered conversation.
“She’s in with Father.” Elizabeth looked up. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see how you were holding up,” Charlie said, figuring it sounded better than I was forced to see how you were holding up.
“I’m scared,” Elizabeth said. “I mean, I know of new all my life that there were people who wanted Father dead. That’s why we had to hide all that time, because of Iris and the compound. But, I never thought they’d actually be able to do it. Father always said we were safe. And he always acted so… so – “
Charlie sat down next to Elizabeth. “I think that’s kind of a dad’s job. They’re supposed to make you feel safe, like they’ve got everything covered. I used to feel that way about my dad. Until my mom died. Well, until we thought she was dead. My dad tried to cover it up, but he totally felt apart after she was gone. Scared the hell out of me. If my daddy couldn’t protect me, who could, you know?” Charlie shifted awkwardly in her seat, no longer certain why she’d started this train of thought, only knowing that she couldn’t stop until she’d gotten everything connected with it off her chest. “Remember when Cecile died? I overheard my mom and dad talking. Dad said the reason he did it – killed her; even though he didn’t meant to, he just wanted to wipe her memory, give her a taste of her own medicine for what she did to Mom – Dad said he did it because he wanted her and me to feel like we could count on him, like he could protect us. He’d let us down once before. He was scared of doing it again. So, in a way, it was kind of all my fault. Maybe if I hadn’t made him feel like he’d let me down, like I didn’t trust him to protect me, maybe none of that would have happened. My dad wouldn’t have gone to jail and lost his law license and… everything. Oh, shit,” Charlie said suddenly, as if waking up from a reverie. “I’m sorry. I was supposed to be making you feel better, and here I am, babbling about my own crap.”
“No,” Elizabeth said slowly. “It’s… it’s okay. I never heard you talk like that before.”
“I promise it won’t happen again. Damn hospitals, I think they make me woozy, or something. Secondhand drugs, you know?”
“I didn’t know you felt that way.” Elizabeth confessed, “I sometimes feel like that, too. Father left town and my mom in order to protect Cory and me. If he didn’t have us, he could exterminate his enemies the way he always did before. But, he’s got to set an example now. Mom won’t let him be the Carl Hutchins he used to be. Because of us. If it weren’t for Cory and me, none of this would have happened, either.”
“None of what?”
Elizabeth leaned over, whispering in Charlie’s ear.
“Wow.” Charlie sat back, shell-shocked. “Are you going to tell anyone?”
“I can’t,” Elizabeth pleaded. “You understand why. It’s all my fault.”
“Yeah… I mean, no. Not exactly.”
“I can’t tell,” Elizabeth repeated. “And neither can you, now….”
“What’s this?” Marley wondered, waking up in Dennis’ bed to find him standing over her, a goofy grin on his face, hands behind his back.
“Close your eyes,” he commanded. “And don’t open them until I tell you.”
“Am I going to a beheading?” She asked playfully, nevertheless doing as he said. She felt Dennis crawling into bed next to her. “Can I open them now?”
“Yes, now,” he agreed. “Open them now.”
She did. To find Dennis in front of her, standing on one knee, holding a jewelry box with a diamond ring inside of it out at her.
“Will you marry me, Marley?” he asked. In case his meaning wasn’t otherwise clear.
She sat frozen where she was, the blanket falling from Marley’s hands.
“Why?” Marley sputtered the first thought that came to her mind. “Why would you want to do a thing like that?”
It wasn’t exactly the reaction Dennis had been hoping for. “Because I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Why?” Marley repeated, seemingly equally as befuddled by his answer as she had been by his question.
“Because, even after all these years, you are still the best woman I know.”
“But, I’m not,” she told him, stunned that Dennis could be serious about his claims. “I mean, maybe, once upon a time, I did try to be a good person. I tried to do the right thing. And it cost me… everything.”
“I know. I know how badly you’ve been hurt. And I know that I can never undo what’s happened in the past. But, I really, really want a chance to be a part of your future. A good part, I hope.”
“I thought the only way to deal with the crap people kept throwing my way was to throw it right back. Grant and Sarah and Olivia and Donna… I wanted them to feel what it was like, being taken advantage of, being treated like your feelings don’t matter, like you’re… disposable.”
“I know. I understand.”
“How can you even look at me after everything I’ve done? How can you say you love me?”
“Because I do. Because, no matter what, you’re still Marley. You’re still the warm, kind, loving woman I fell in love with twenty years ago. The circumstances may have changed. But, you haven’t. Not really.”
“Why are you saying this?” Marley demanded, near tears.
“Because it’s true.”
“It’s not, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is,” Dennis insisted, cupping Marley’s chin with his hand and forcing her to look at him. “And I’m going to keep saying it, until you believe it, too.”
“I don’t think you shot Carl,” Jamie answered without a moment’s hesitation.
“But, your mother said…”
“My mother is lying. Or she’s mistaken. Either way, I know you didn’t do it.”
“How? How do you know?”
“Because, no matter what that man put you through, no matter what we’re both terrified of him still putting you through, our family means too much to you for you to risk throwing it away over a piece of scum like Carl. You’ve already lost three years with the girls. No way in hell would you risk losing even a minute more.”
Lorna nodded, slowly at first, then faster, relieved and grateful. So grateful. “Thank you, Jamie. Thank you for believing in me.”
“Us.” He took both her hands in his. “I believe in us. I know you didn’t shoot Carl for the same reason you know I didn’t. He isn’t worth it.”
“Then why do you want to run?”
“Because he’s also not worth putting up with an investigation for. The cops will tear this place apart, they’ll go through our lives with a fine-tooth comb, they’ll turn everything upside down. And they might find things they have no business finding. It’s easier for us to just take off now, then come back once it’s all settled.”
“And if it’s never settled?”
“Then we never come back,” Jamie said simply, having clearly given it adequate thought on the drive over. “Nothing is more important to me than you and girls. If I have to give up every other aspect of my life for you three, then so be it. I’ll find a way to contact Kirk and Steven later; they’ll either understand or they won’t, but I can’t worry about that right now. Other than them, there is nothing in Bay City I can’t leave behind forever.”
“I tried to get you to run away with me once before, remember?” Lorna couldn’t help asking.
“Yup. Back when it was my neck on the chopping block.”
“You wanted to come back and face the music. So that I wouldn’t find out that Lucas was involved in Cecile’s death.”
“A lot has changed since then. Everything’s changed.”
“You haven’t. You’re still my hero.”
“You’re still mine,” Jamie said without a trace of embarrassment or self-consciousness. It was a fact. It would always be a fact. “So what do you say? How do you want to play this? I’ll go along with anything you want.”
Lorna believed him, but still, she needed to know, “Rachel is sure…”
“Sure enough to tell the police it was you.” Jamie added, “Whoever it was, they knew how to bypass the house’s security system.”
“Well, that hardly absolves me,” Lorna said. “Remember the night I crawled up to your bedroom window…”
“Vividly,” Jamie said.
“I wonder how long fingerprints keep.”
“That was years ago. Besides, the gun and the French doors were wiped clean. I have to assume the security panel would have been, too.”
“So a professional job.”
“Or an inside one,” Jamie began.
Which was right when the doorbell rang. “Police, Dr. Frame. Mrs. Frame.”
Jamie and Lorna exchanged glances.
“We could ignore it,” he said.
“Our cars are both in the driveway.”
“We went for a walk. In sub-zero weather.”
“Open it, Jamie. Let’s get it over with.”
“I didn’t do it,” she reminded.
“Yeah, that counts for a hell of a lot in Bay City,” Jamie grumbled, opening the door, but blocking the frame with his body. “Yes?”
“Hello, Jamie,” Toni said.
“We’d like to speak to Lorna, please. May we come in?”
“No,” he said.
That took Toni by surprise. “We just want to talk.”
“It would be warmer inside.”
“I know my rights,” Jamie said. “I’ve had to. Police are like vampires, they need to be invited for it to be legal. We can talk out here, I am not obliged to let you in. I’m not even obliged to answer your questions.”
“We could come back with a warrant.”
“Knock yourselves out.”
“Or we could arrest your wife right now.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|