“Tell me, Carl!” Rachel raged, snatching the container of medication off her hospital tray and tilting it towards the floor, centimeters away from sending the pills down in a colorful shower of waste. “Tell the truth, or so help me, you won’t only be responsible for Chase’s death, but for mine, too.”
Rachel’s fury momentarily stunned her husband into paralysis. He’d been doing his best to talk his way out of the situation but, clearly, Rachel was past the point of reason. His only choice now was to go along with her wishes. Anything to keep her from getting rid of the medication necessary to keep her alive.
“Put that down. Please,” he begged her. “I shall tell you everything but, first, please put that down.”
Rachel’s arms froze in mid-air. Her eyes locked with Carl’s. He refused to budge and so did she. They were both fighting for her life, just in different ways.
Finally, after a long, fraught beat, Rachel slowly lowered the plastic container of pills. But she kept one hand on it, ready to send it flying to the floor at a moment’s notice. Or one wrong word from her husband.
“Well?” Rachel demanded, leaning back, bracing herself. “You promised me the truth. So. Tell me. Did you kill Chase Hamilton, or did he die, like the autopsy shows, from an aneurysm?”
Carl shook his head wordlessly from side to side.
“Tell me!” Rachel pressed mercilessly.
“An aneurysm,” Carl felt all fight drain from his body. He couldn’t do it anymore. He couldn’t keep up the pretense. Not with Rachel’s life at stake. “Chase Hamilton died from… an aneurysm.”
“Then why did you tell me you’d done it? Why did you confess as much to the police?”
“I would have done it,” he swore. “To save your life, I would have cold-bloodedly murdered Hamilton and anyone else it required. For you.”
“But you didn’t need to. So why the lie?”
“Oh, Rachel, you know what the Bay City Police Department is like,” he sighed tiredly. “They would have hounded me day and night to prove that I was somehow involved in Hamilton’s death. I merely decided to spare the tax payers a great deal of expense in overtime hours.”
“You’ve always been extremely civic-minded,” Rachel drawled.
Carl mused, “I daresay, Mr. Hamilton would have approved. Lower taxes was, after all, his election battle cry.”
“Don’t, Carl,” Rachel warned.
“Don’t what, my dear?”
“Don’t try to charm your way out of this. You say you confessed to Chase’s murder because the police would have declared you responsible anyway. You seem to be forgetting the minor fact that I know you are responsible.”
“Precisely. Which is why you’ll forgive me if I plead utter bafflement as to why you’ve taken the entire situation so much to heart that you are willing to put your health at risk in the name of discerning what you already know.”
“Your sniper could have killed Jamie or his children while gunning for Chase.”
“Impossible. My man is a professional. Do you know that, when it appeared that Cass and Frankie were on his tail, he cleverly absconded, leaving a dead body in his place so that it might look like our intrepid detectives had hit a dead end?”
“He shot me,” Rachel reminded.
“That was only because you chose to throw yourself in the path of his bullet. Truly, Rachel, I haven’t said anything up till now because you’ve been so critically ill, but, with all due respect, my darling, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t so wantonly chosen to take matters into your own hands.”
“None of this would have happened,” Rachel seethed. “If I hadn’t agreed with you that the only way to solve the Chase Hamilton problem is to have the man executed. Did you have to do it in front of his children, Carl?”
“Yes,” her husband said archly. “And would you care to know why?”
“Because your precious Jamie called an off-the-record meeting with Hamilton. Off the record meant Hamilton declined to take his security detail with him, which meant that it was our best chance to get at him.”
“Our best chance?”
“I had your blessing, Rachel,” he reminded.
“I know that,” she said, her hand, for the first time, wandering away from the container of pills, as Rachel realized that her husband was right. She was just as culpable as he was.
“You have not been well,” Carl cooed. “Now is not the time for us to be having this conversation.”
“You need to turn yourself in,” Rachel said, her voice dull and lifeless.
“But, my dear, I already have. It is all arranged, you must not worry.”
“No,” Rachel said. “You need to turn yourself in for the crime of arranging Chase’s murder.”
“But, why?” He thundered. “What difference could it possibly make? I am bound to serve a jail sentence either way. What purpose would altering course at this late stage of the game possibly
“Are you honestly telling me that you think the sentence for murdering a man to save your wife’s life would be the same as the one you’d earn for his contract killing?”
“Having been to prison previously, I can assure you, the daily torture remains constant, regardless of term.”
“I’ve been to prison, too, Carl. For a murder I didn’t commit.”
“Then why would you insist on subjecting me to the same fate?”
“Because you did do it, Carl,” Rachel was almost sobbing now, realizing that she was to blame for all of this. “And I let you. I let you believe that anything you did was okay, as long as you did it for me or the children. I looked the other way when you kidnapped my son’s wife and put him and their children through hell for three years. I ignored our own son when he said he would rather go to jail than allow me to fall deeper and deeper down this rabbit hole you’ve dug, where all morality is flexible and anything can be justified in the name of love.”
“I love you, Rachel,” Carl swore. “I love you more than anyone or anything in this world. Yes, even more than the children. Certainly more than myself.”
“I believe you. And I believe that everything you’ve done, you’ve done out of some twisted sense of honor. You did it for me. Which makes it my responsibility to put an end to it, once and for all.”
“Now you are sounding like Cory.”
“I owe my life to Chase Hamilton. Which means I owe him justice. Tell the truth, Carl. All of it. Let’s clear the slate and start all over again. We’ve done it before. Do you remember? When you followed me to New York, I was able to overlook everything that had come before, and look only at the future. I’d like to do that now. I would like to start again. Because I know you can still become the man you and I both believe you can be. I will help you, Carl. I will be with you every step of the way. You will never lose me, and I will never give up on you. But, first, we have to make amends. Your going to jail for Chase Hamilton’s death, will be the penance for both of us.”
“It was so sweet of you to stay with Sarah,” Jasmine told Kirkland as the two of them grabbed a quick dinner at Carlino’s, Kirkland checking his phone every few minutes, just in case a new message had come in about Dennis and Daisy.
“She doesn’t really have anybody,” Kirkland considered. “She’s not like you and me, with our families who’ll do anything for us, drop anything if we need it. Sarah and her parents don’t really get along. She doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. There’s Iris, I guess, but she’s not really anybody’s first choice – for anything. And with Grant dead…. Daisy is my sister. I feel like I should be doing something.”
“You are. You helped Sarah a lot. I could tell.”
“Then where the hell is Daisy?”
“They’ll find her,” Jasmine squeezed Kirkland’s hand.
He attempted a smile. “How do you do that?”
“Manage to see the best in everything? In everyone?”
“Well,” Jasmine seriously considered the question. “The obvious answer would be that I’ve been so sheltered and spoiled my whole life, that I just don’t have a good grasp on what the real world is like.”
“You are not spoiled,” Kirkland said.
“I noticed you didn’t say anything about the sheltered part.”
He hedged, “So your life hasn’t been horrible. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“The worst thing that ever happened to me was my parents got divorced. But I was a baby then, so it’s not like I had time to be traumatized. Then, for most of my life, I had an extra dad in Cass. He and Mama getting divorced was rough. Especially when Charlie decided she didn’t want anything to do with me, either. But that’s nothing compared to what happened to you, with your mom dying, and Jake, and then the custody battle between Grant and your dad, the car accident you were in when you almost died, getting kidnapped, Charlie going mental on you….”
“Okay, okay, I was there, you don’t need to recap.”
“The point is, maybe I can see the bright side of things because I’ve never really had to not see it.”
“I like that about you,” Kirkland admitted. “I like that you’re not… angry. So many people are just so angry all the time. I get that they’re hurting, but then they turn around and hurt other people to make themselves feel better. I can’t imagine you ever doing something like that.”
“That’s sweet,” Jasmine said, then repeated for emphasis, “You’re so sweet, Kirk.”
“I’m not, though,” he stammered. “I – I’m not the nice guy you think I am. I used to be. Maybe. But, not anymore.”
“I think you’re wrong,” Jasmine said simply. “I think you’re the one who doesn’t see himself clearly. I do. I can see right through you.”
“Is this a bad time?” Kevin poked his head into Amanda’s office the next morning, catching sight of a half-dozen Brava staffers running in and out in a seeming frenzy, with Amanda at the center of it all.
“Rotten,” she yelled over the din. “Carl confessed to murdering Chase last night, and I want to get the expose on our stands by the afternoon.”
“I thought that happened a few days ago.”
“No. A few days ago, he confessed to killing him in the hospital. Now he’s admitted to setting up the original hit. There is no way the son-of-a-bitch can skate on this after all that. He’s going down, and I intend to enjoy every moment of it.”
Kevin asked what to him was the next logical question. “How’s your mom handling it?”
Yet the query still appeared to catch Amanda by surprise. “I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her. But, if I know Mom, I’m sure she’s getting her defense speech ready. All things being equal, I think I’d rather skip it.” She looked up after signing off on yet another layout and remembered to ask Kevin, “Why are you here?”
He reached inside his pocket and brought out a stack of legal documents folded in three. “Our divorce papers arrived.”
She froze, as did most of her employees. After a moment of awkward looking around during which no one wanted to meet anyone else’s eyes, Amanda cleared her throat and asked, “Could you give me a minute alone, guys?”
Everyone was more than happy to acquiesce, scurrying off without another word, even thoughtfully closing the door behind them.
Amanda gingerly picked up the documents. “So… what? I just sign them and…”
“Like it never happened.”
“Well, not exactly. That would be an annulment. With a divorce, our marriage will always be a matter of public record.”
“Oh, good. I’d hate for the public to be deprived of you another Amanda Cory screw-up.”
“I contributed my part,” he reminded.
“But I’m the one who drove the final nail in. Telling Jen about what you and Steven did…”
“It’s a no-fault divorce, Amanda. Irreconcilable differences. We’re hardly the first couple in Bay City to split up. Doubt we’ll be the last.”
“I really wanted this to work.”
“I always want my marriages to work.”
“I waited most of my adult life before I was sure I’d found the right person.”
“Ha! Joke’s on you.”
“I’m sorry, Amanda.”
He leaned in to kiss her goodbye, but his soon-to-be ex-wife was having no part of it. She jerked away, stepping behind her desk for that extra barrier of protection and demanded, “I suppose you’ll go running straight to Lila now.”
“She is, after all, the one you chose to confide in. Not me. And she kept your secret. She didn’t blab it all over the place.”
“Lila and I – “
“Have a pretty good shot now that Morgan isn’t sniffing around her anymore.”
Kevin frowned. “I thought they were – “
“Nope. Over and done with.” Amanda couldn’t help smiling as she revealed, “I made certain of that.”
“This is quite the interesting development,” Eduardo respectfully laid a copy of the morning newspaper on Alice’s desk. The headline, and even the sidebars, were all about Carl’s latest confession.
“Yes,” Alice picked it up gingerly, the chilling facts somehow seeming more real in print than they had earlier that morning as merely an electronic headline on her phone. “I heard. How is your son taking it?”
“My son… I am afraid my son did not inherit my taste for vengeance. As he informed me when I inquired immediately after the fact, nothing will bring Chase back, so how can he possibly take any pleasure from this latest twist in the tale?”
“I would ask you to convey my condolences, but I know from experience how empty such words are. Especially coming for a virtual total stranger.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “I remember when my wife died, and all these crowds of people came pouring into our home, making sounds and faces that were supposed to be a comfort to me. All I wished was for them to disappear, so I could be left alone with my memories.”
“You had Douglas. That must have been something. And Douglas has his children with Chase.”
“He is a good father,” Eduardo said. “Much better than I was. Douglas puts the children first. Always. He is not consumed with old grievances. Or crippled by them.”
“So is this it?” Alice wondered. “Have you finally gotten the vengeance you spent most of your life attempting to mete out?”
Eduardo shrugged. “But at what price? I wanted justice for my father and my brothers, and it comes at the cost of my son.”
“If it helps, seems that it cost Carl his son, too.”
“As Douglas pointed out under different circumstances, that will not bring my lost family back.”
“Again, I realize that condolences are pointless…”
Eduardo smiled, “Do you know what I was thinking?”
“I cannot say that I do.”
“I was thinking that yet another tragedy of this entire situation is that Carl’s confession means I no longer have any excuses left to spend time with you.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“When I came to ask for your help in bring down Carl Hutchins, I was sincere. But, I was also rather intrigued by the prospect of getting to know you better.”
“Oh,” Alice said. And then she added, “So is that possibility now completely off the table?”
“That,” Eduardo offered. “Is up to you.”
Dennis remembered why he’d been a terrible father. It’s not that he wasn’t intrigued by the idea of having children, or moved by the sight of his own child. But, the sheer tedium of keeping a small, demanding, easily bored, shrieky, sticky person entertained for hours upon hours was his idea of Hell.
Even if they did appear to be in Heaven.
The last thing Dennis remembered was driving away from Donna’s house, Daisy in the back-seat of his car, chattering incessantly about the number of Barbie dolls she had at home and which were her favorites and why, while Dennis counted down the seconds until he could hand her off to Marley or Sarah or, frankly, the next person he saw standing by the side of the road, that’s how crazy she was making him.
The next thing he remembered after that was waking up in a strange bed, in a strange room, with Daisy standing over him, peeling back Dennis’ eyelid and demanding, “How long are you going to sleep?”
The room itself was just one part of what appeared to be a villa on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere. There was plenty of food in the kitchen, and it was restocked regularly, with the garbage taken out, though Dennis had no idea how anything got there as, during the presumed week or so he’d been there, he hadn’t so much as seen a boat, or even a spot to dock one. The electricity was on, so they had lights and power for Daisy’s TV/DVD player (which was, frankly, a lifesaver, or else he’d never get the kid out of his hair), but no computer or Internet connection. Dennis’ phone didn’t work, which was probably why he’d been allowed to keep it. They had running water, air-conditioning, and stacks of books for when they got sick of DVDs, which were also plentiful.
The one thing they didn’t have was any explanation for where they were, how they’d ended up there, or what the purpose of their captivity was.
All Dennis knew for sure was that he and Daisy were being kept in a very opulent cage.
Daisy asked after her mother constantly. She asked about Marley, too. Obviously, Dennis was not her top choice for whom to be stranded with on a desert island.
She wasn’t exactly his, either.
Dennis didn’t think matters could get any worse.
Until the morning that he saw Olivia.
“Hey, Mom,” Jamie entered his mother’s hospital room tentatively, unsure of what he’d find and unwilling to make any potential situation worse.
She looked up wordlessly.
“How are you feeling?”
Rachel considered his words carefully, finally deciding on, “Angry.”
He nodded understandingly and approached her bed, reaching out to take Rachel’s hand. “I heard. About Carl.”
“I’m not angry at Carl,” Rachel said, pulling away, to his confusion. “I’m angry at you.”
Jamie stopped short, his arm still outstretched in her direction, but now frozen in mid-air. “You’re mad… at me?”
“This is all your fault,” Rachel said. “Every last bit of it. You couldn’t let it go, could you, Jamie? You couldn’t accept that Carl and I were happy and leave it at that.”
She waited for her son to respond. But, much to Rachel’s surprise, he didn’t. Instead, Jamie just stood there, looking at her with an expression Rachel had never previously seen from him. If she didn’t know better, Rachel would say Jamie was… intrigued. In any case, he didn’t utter a word. Which left it up to Rachel.
She said, “I did everything for you, Jamie. I turned myself inside out for you. You were the center of my world and the meaning in my life. I loved you best, and your brothers and sisters knew it. They resented me for it, but there was nothing I could do. You were my favorite. The little boy who made me the woman I am today. That’s what I tried to do for Carl, you know. Save him, the way you’d saved me. Everyone thinks it was Mac. And, yes, Mac changed me. But, you’re the one who made me want to change. I was going to be that person for Carl. At least, I tried. But, you weren’t about to let me get away with it, were you? You had to have things your way. You always have to have things your way. It’s my fault. I should have nipped it in the bud when you were a little boy. But, I couldn’t. I could never say no to you. Not a problem you’ve ever had, though, is it? You never had any trouble saying no to me. You never had any trouble ignoring me, ignoring what I wanted, what I needed. Tell me something, Jamie,
did it ever once – once – in your life so much as cross your mind to put me first? Just for a change. Just to see what it might be like to treat your mother with some respect. I guess you were too busy putting other women on pedestals. Where should I start with that? Blaine? Marianne? Cecile – oh, yes, maybe you’ll admit now that you should have listened to me about that one? Vicky? Marley? Lorna? Alice?” Rachel took special relish spitting out that last one. “You put Alice Frame ahead of your own mother. And you didn’t see anything wrong with that. You didn’t see anything wrong with going off to her wedding, toasting her marrying a lowlife mobster, while you could barely stand to be in the same room with Carl. Which meant you couldn’t stand to be in the same room with me. You believed Alice over me when it came to what happened to Spencer. You believed Lorna over me when it came to Carl taking Cory and Elizabeth. And now this. My husband is going to prison for quite possibly the rest of his life. And it’s all because of you. You started this. You made it happen. Why couldn’t you have left us alone? Why couldn’t you have prioritized my happiness for just this one time? This is all your fault, Jamie. And I will never, ever forgive you for it.”
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