Dennis waited for Marley to finish her shower.
Eventually, she came out of the bathroom, wearing a robe, drying her hair with a towel, looking confused.
“I thought you were going to join me?”
Her smile faded when she saw what Dennis was holding. And the expression on his face as he did.
“What are those?” Marley asked.
He thrust them at her.
Photos. Dozens of them. All of Dennis and Olivia. Walking. Talking. Kissing. All taken during their time of island captivity.
“You were watching us?” Dennis demanded. “The whole Goddamn time?”
She leafed through the photos, Marley’s face growing redder and redder with each shot.
She waved the pictures at Dennis, stopping at the one of him and Olivia in each other’s arms. “I thought you said what happened between you two was nothing?”
“Don’t change the subject!”
“You lied to me!”
“You had me kidnapped,” Dennis sputtered, unable to believe that Marley was insisting on still playing the victim, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
“Are you out of your mind?”
“These pictures were in your drawer!”
“Are you kidding me? Are you really going to deny it?”
“Why, Dennis?” Marley asked reasonably. “Why would I have you kidnapped? And why
would I have brought Olivia along, for Pete’s sake?”
She had him there. But Dennis was too far along in his righteous indignation to stop now. “To trap me,” he accused triumphantly. “You wanted to put me in a situation where I’d be tempted to cheat on you – “
“Which you already have,” she said calmly. “Which I’ve already forgiven you for.”
“It was a test. It was a test that you expected me to fail so that you could say I Told You So?”
“Seriously? That’s the best you can do?”
“Hell, I don’t know. But how do you explain these?”
“Obviously, I’m being framed.”
“Someone is obviously determined to keep us apart.” Marley tapped a finger against her cheek. “Now who do you think that could possibly be?”
“How did your mom take it?” Lorna asked Jamie as she climbed into bed next to him. “Seeing Carl’s body?”
He shifted his arm so that Lorna could curl up against him, her head on his shoulder. “I don’t know. She asked to be left alone with him.”
“And you let her?”
“I went in first. Told her I wanted to check what state the body was in to make sure it wouldn’t be too upsetting for her.”
“But what you really wanted to do was drive a silver cross through his heart to make sure he wouldn’t rise again,” Lorna guessed.
Jamie’s lips twitched. “Nothing quite so melodramatic but… yeah.”
“And how did he look to you?”
“Is that a medical term?”
“What I saw matched up with the initial forensics report. No visible, prominent marks, no sign of struggle or foul play or obvious trauma.”
“So what killed him?”
“You don’t believe he’s really dead.”
“What number shuffling off his mortal coil is this? I’ve lost count.”
“But it’s different this time. This time there’s a body. You saw it yourself.”
“Cass saw Frankie’s body. Your mother saw Lucas’.”
“So if you think it’s another scam, why did you let your mother be alone with him?”
“Well, it was the respectful thing to do. Plus, I figured, even if Mom had some magic elixir on her to wake him up again, she was hardly going to smuggle Carl out of prison in her purse.”
Lorna had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from snorting loudly enough to wake up the sleeping girls next door.
Jamie said, “They’re transferring Carl to Bay City Hospital tomorrow for the official, full autopsy.”
“I guess getting sliced from chest to groin and having his skull removed is one way to make sure Carl stays really, most sincerely dead. Is Rachel on board?”
“She said she was. She signed the authorization papers.”
“So maybe this means…”
“It’s hard to imagine Carl being really gone. You know, as opposed to just hiding away in his lair, plotting a triumphant return.”
“Mom loved him,” Jamie said wistfully. “She really did. More than Mac, in a way, I think. Because Carl needed her in a way Mac didn’t. And Mom needs to be needed.”
“Is she going to be okay?”
“No. Not for a long time.”
“Are you going to be okay? You and her, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” Jamie confessed. “Right now, I honestly have no idea what might happen next.”
“Good morning!” Grant offered brightly, breezing into Sarah and Daisy’s home as if it were his. Which, as a matter of fact, it was.
“Hi,” Sarah offered hesitantly in return. A chipper Grant was a Grant with something up his sleeve. And that was never a good thing.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“It’s raining,” Sarah gestured in the direction of the window, and of the wet camel-hair coat Grant was currently peeling off and hanging on a hook.
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed?”
“That would be because you’re such a happy guy?” Sarah guessed.
He shrugged, blithely. “Maybe. Don’t know. Hadn’t thought about it.”
“And how is Lila?”
“She’s terrific.” Grant beamed. “How’s Kirkland?”
“Is he here?” Grant looked around curiously, eyes drifting up the stairs and toward the direction of what had once been his bedroom, too.
“Oh. I’m surprised. I would have thought – “
“He has a restaurant to run. It’s very time-consuming.”
“Right, yes. I really should stop by and check up on my investment.”
“It looks great,” Sarah said sincerely. “You’ll be proud of him.”
“Proud of you both. Weren’t you a key player in getting everything up and running?”
“I was. Until Daisy disappeared. And then I kind of found it hard to stress over napkin colors.”
Sarah’s words sobered Grant up. “It must have been awful for you.”
“Yeah. It was. Especially coming on the heels of your death.”
Not wishing to travel down that particular, well-worn path, Grant changed the subject. “Daisy is what I came to talk to you about. I figured it was about time we formalized a custody agreement.”
“Oh, you did, did you?” Sarah crossed her arms.
“Children need stability. They need a routine they can count on. The sooner you and I work out a regular visitation schedule…”
“No,” Sarah said calmly.
Grant blinked. “What do you mean, no? I have my rights.”
“The dead don’t have rights, Grant.”
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That’s – that’s a technicality.”
“Kind of a big one, in my book.”
“Are you really going to make me go to court to prove that I’m alive?”
“Actually, I would love some evidence of you possessing a heart, much less a functioning one.”
“Sarah, if anyone has seen my heart, it’s you.“
“Irrelevant,” she cut him off before Grant got maudlin again. “Dead or alive, you have no rights to Daisy.”
“I’m her father!”
“You signed custody away, remember? To Marley?”
His eyes narrowed. “You know why I did that. I did it for you.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’re still out of the loop.”
“I’ll go to Marley. I’ll convince her – “
“I’ll make her see reason. Give her anything she wants in exchange.”
“Still won’t help.” Sarah sighed. “Marley signed joint-custody of Daisy back over to me.”
“She did? When?”
Sarah hesitated before confessing, “Last year.”
“Last year? So before…”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Because of exactly this situation,” she burst out. “Because no matter how much I loved you, there was a part of me that didn’t believe I could trust you. Not when it came to my daughter, anyway. And I was right, wasn’t I, Grant? You can’t be trusted. I will not let you do to Daisy what you did to me. I will not let you break her heart over and over again. Right now, she loves you unconditionally. Let’s keep it that way. You were willing to let me go for my own good – supposedly. How about doing the same for Daisy? Only for real, this time?”
“Allie isn’t going to file charges against GQ,” Zeno informed Frankie when he dropped by the Love Mansion, addressing Cass in the same breath.
Cass turned to his wife. “Did you go to Allie with this? After I told you she had no case?”
“No case in front of the law,” Frankie clarified. “The president of BCU…”
“Oh, God, Frankie!”
“What was I supposed to do? Just stand by while yet another girl gets victimized and the male power structure refuses to do anything about it?”
“Allie says GQ didn’t rape her. I believe her,” Zeno said.
“Allie doesn’t understand. She’s probably still in shock. Think of everything GQ already put her though while convincing her it was all her fault.”
“The worst thing GQ did to Allie was sleep with her, then dump her. If you want to start prosecuting for that, those University courts are going to be working around the clock.”
“Well, maybe they should be! What he did to her – “
“Wasn’t a crime,” Cass interjected.
“What she did to you – ” Frankie addressed Zeno.
“Wasn’t one, either.” He softened his voice. “I get what you were trying to do, Frankie. You were looking out for me. But this is no way to go about it.”
“I love you,” she said simply.
“I just want you to be happy, Zeno.”
“Not at the expense of someone else. Allie is my problem. Not the court’s, not the college’s, mine. I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
“You haven’t been married that long. You could probably get annulment. Right, Cass?”
“How about we let Zeno decide what he wants? Like he said, he’s a big boy.”
Frankie looked at the younger man lovingly. “You were such a little boy when we met. I can still remember you running ahead of Orly, your hair flying in every direction.”
“It still does that.”
“I just fell in love with you on the spot. I knew you were mine somehow.”
“Frankie…” Cass warned, sensing Zeno wasn’t currently in the mood to humor her reincarnation beliefs.
So Frankie went with something they could both agree on. “I wish your mother were here.”
“You could use her advice.”
“She’d probably just tell me to find someone worse off and help them, so I’d stop obsessing about my own problems.”
“That does sound like something she’d say.” Frankie reached to stroke his arm, grateful when Zeno didn’t pull away. “I know I can never take her place. And not only because my advice tends to be less altruistic and more vindictive.”
Zeno smiled. “Mom had a temper. It just came out over different things.”
“Well, she wouldn’t be thrilled with me at the moment.”
“She always said your heart was in the right place.”
“If you need anything, Zeno, please, come to me. Talk to me. I want to be there for you. For you and Allie.”
“I know,” Zeno admitted. “I’m just not sure there is an Allie and me anymore.”
“You’re not my regular doctor,” Charlie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as she followed the directions she’d been given to pick up the results of her monthly blood test.
“I know that,” Raya said. “Take a seat, Ms. Winthrop.”
“Is something wrong? Do they need to readjust my medication levels again? I’ve been really good about following the protocol. Well, I haven’t exactly had much choice in the matter, my parents watch me like hawks.”
“Your blood-work looks fine,” Raya glanced over the documents she’d been given.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“We may, however, still need to adjust your dosages.”
“Because,” Raya said. “You’re pregnant.”
“Listen to me! I am his wife!”
Walking down the hospital hallway, Alice heard a voice that, after years of experience, she instantly recognized as Rachel’s.
And it seemed to be coming from the direction of the morgue.
She hurried toward the forensics lab, only to encounter Rachel mid-altercation with the coroner, who was showing her paperwork and insisting, “It says here that you gave permission for an autopsy.”
“Well, now I’m revoking it.”
“I’m afraid you can’t do that, Mrs. Hutchins.”
“And why not?”
“Because,” Alice stepped in, sensing that Dr. Shevchenko was out of his depth. His patients did not, as a rule, talk back. “An autopsy is mandatory when someone dies under suspicious circumstances.”
“What’s so suspicious about a man Carl’s age dying behind bars? What did the judge think would happen when she condemned him to a life sentence?”
“Your permission is technically not required for the procedure. This autopsy is authorized by the state.”
Rachel snorted with derision. “I guess this is all my fault for not spiriting him away to Ireland in time.”
Alice let the remark pass without comment. Instead, she asked, “Why are you so against Carl being autopsied?”
“Because I want him to rest in peace! Is that so difficult to understand? After all the indignities he was forced to suffer in life, is it necessary to defile his body in death, too?”
“But you signed the papers.”
“Because Jamie was there, practically salivating at the chance to watch my husband be desecrated one last time. I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him. He was already all but gloating. I finally had to ask him to step outside so Carl and I could have a final moment of privacy together. I’m amazed he agreed without insisting on a guard being present.”
Alice picked up the implication in that slight, as well. As Jamie had requested, she’d sent two of Spencer’s personal security details to keep an eye on Lorna and her children. Just in case.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do,” Alice said as gently as possible. “An autopsy must happen. The hospital cannot release the body otherwise.”
“I’ll get a court order!”
“You don’t have enough time. Or a good reason.”
“Alice, please,” Rachel begged. “You have to help me. I know Jamie made it possible for you to be with Spencer at the end. Can’t you find it in your heart to offer me the same courtesy? Damn it, Alice, you owe me!”
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