It wasn't until the next
morning, when the three of them were sitting on a plane bound for Chicago,
jetting off to prove Lucas' true identity, that Rachel thought to
ask him, "How is it that, after seventeen years, you were just able
to leave the compound without anyone stopping you?"
Lucas indicated Carl, sitting
across the aisle from them, brooding and glaring at his wife as she
engaged in conversation with a man he'd accused of peddling the alliterative
"foul font of falsehoods." Lucas explained, "It's because
I was with the guy who put me there."
Rachel said, "Well, now I
can't believe I'm here with you. After
all these years...."
"Tell me about my girls,"
Lucas pleaded. "Tell me everything I've missed."
"I don't know where to
begin," Rachel struggled for words. "Felicia took your death...
what we thought was your death... so hard. She started drinking.
Drinking too much. We all had to finally step in and confront
her about it. She got help. She's been sober for years."
"Thank God," Lucas said.
"Felicia told me once that
all of her relationships, both her husbands, the ones before you found
her again, Zane and Mitch, they were really just her looking for different
parts of you in other men. Zane, he was pure, direct and honest,
like you'd been. And Mitch was so stoic and silent, an enigma
in a way, just like you, she said."
"What about Louis St. George?"
"I don't know," Rachel
mused. "Felicia never mentions him. Maybe it's because
his name started and ended with the same letters as yours?"
Lucas laughed at that.
He asked, "Did Fanny ever remarry?"
"Well, yes," Rachel admitted.
"But it was to this... boy. This Russian who claimed he was
dying of aplastic anemia and was about to be deported, to boot.
Felicia only married him to help him out. And then it turned out
that not only was he not dying, but he was also writing a tell-all book
Lucas shook his head.
"I hope Fanny kicked him to the curb."
"Eventually. You know
how big Felicia's heart is. She forgave him, she offered him
another chance. She even considered giving their marriage a real
go. But it was ridiculous. They had nothing in common.
The relationship was over before Y2K."
"You know, a part of me wants
to wring the little blini's neck. But another part of me hates
the idea of Felicia being alone."
"She's not alone.
She has her friends. Cass, of course, being first and foremost.
And she has her family. Lorna had a very hard time after losing
Lucas nodded. "We'd
just started.... We'd just gotten past... I only got to tell her that
I loved her once. Do you know how many times over the past seventeen
years I've kicked myself over all the time I'd wasted? Not
just the years that were stolen from us by Fanny's stepfather, that's
one thing. But all the time I wasted not being able to accept
"She forgave you," Rachel
reassured. "And she forgave Felicia and Jenna. They were
able to become a real family. But, the thing is, especially for
Lorna, I don't think she could ever completely get past feeling unwanted.
It was just hard-wired into her. I think that's what led to
her rotten relationship with Grant Harrison... "
"Is there any other kind
where Harrison is concerned?"
"But there was this nice
guy, too. Gabe McNamara, a cop."
"Lorna and a cop? God
help us all!"
"It might have lasted.
She did seem crazy about him. And I think he may have even gotten
her to a place where she could feel secure, loved. But Gabe was
killed, and I don't know if there's been anyone special in her life
"Jenna... " Rachel couldn't
help sneaking a glance at Carl as she said the name. "Jenna
got her happy ending. She and Dean left town to go on a world
tour together. They got married as soon as it ended and have been
together ever since."
"Any kids? Am I Grandpa?"
Rachel hesitated. "A
little while after they lost you, Jenna got pregnant. Dean stood
by her, it was going to be okay, even if it was unplanned. But
Felicia was drinking then, and she and Jenna fought about it.
It got very, very intense. One night, Jenna started miscarrying,
but Felicia was in no shape to help. She couldn't call an ambulance,
she couldn't drive her to the hospital. She tried, but she was
too drunk... Felicia got lost. It was awful for both of them.
Jenna lost the baby, and I think she's been having trouble getting
pregnant since. I don't know, honestly, Felicia has been cryptic
about it. She blames herself so much, I never want to push her
on the subject."
Lucas buried his head in his
hands, shaking it from side to side. "I should have been there,"
he groaned. "I should have been there for both of them, for
all three of them."
"You couldn't help it,"
Rachel said, again unable to keep from looking at Carl.
"I started all this," Lucas
insisted. "Every single thing you just told me about, I set
it all in motion by going looking for Jenna's father. And the
kicker is; you know what the kicker is? I was the one who told
Jenna that if she goes looking, she might not like what she finds."
"Grant is blackmailing you?"
Matt demanded. "That's why you broke up with me? Because
"It's for Kirkland's
sake," Donna tried to make him understand. "If you and I aren't
together, Grant has nothing to hold over my head to make me testify
"Okay, yeah, that's true.
You know what else would blow Grant's hold over you right out of the
"What?" Donna asked, curious
in spite of herself.
"If you and I dropped this
secrecy thing and went public. I mean, what's the big deal?
You're single, I'm single, it's not like we have to sneak around.
And we were already married once, for Pete's sake. Our getting
back together would hardly be without precedent in Bay City. Look
at my mom and Mac. Look at you and Michael! What was it,
three marriages each, for all you guys?"
"Well, the second one was
technically a vow renewal for Michael and I. But yes, I follow
"Heck, you and I ought to
be ashamed of ourselves. Giving up after only one bad marriage!
That's not the Bay City way!"
Donna tried very hard not to
laugh. As usual with Matthew, she failed miserably.
Seeing that he had her, Matt
pressed on, "Come on, let's really stick it to Grant. Let
me take you out to lunch at the Harbor Club, show you off."
"Right now. We'll
show Grant we're not afraid of him. We'll show everyone we're
not afraid of them."
"The last time we took our
relationship public, Matthew, all we got were disapproving looks and
"I didn't like it."
"Maybe it's grown on you
"Stop making me laugh."
She had to cover her mouth with one hand and look away.
"Sorry," Matt peeled her
fingers away from her face and told Donna. "I've learned there
are two things you can't make me do. Stop making you laugh,
and stop loving you." Before she had the chance to respond,
Matt pushed her front door open the rest of the way and led Donna outside.
"I think we should get a table right at the front...."
"I suck?" Grant double-checked
with a wet and shivering Kirkland. "Because I gave you a birthday
"You don't even know when you're doing it, do you?"
"Well, no," Grant agreed. "I was not aware of my sucking prior to your pointing it out to me."
Kirk's grunt in reply may have had a trace of admiration in it. "At least now I know where I get my smart-ass tendencies from," he mumbled.
"I'm afraid I can't take all the credit. Your mother was quite skilled with the pointed barb, as well."
"There you go again!"
"Sucking?" Grant inquired politely.
"Messing with my head! Bringing up my mother whenever you want to get my attention? How am I supposed to buy that you're all changed, that you're a good guy now, when even you doing something nice comes with a price tag?"
"You're wrong, Kirkland. There is no price tag. And I am not, what did you call it, messing? with your head. I am trying to be straight with you. I am telling you the truth. I want to be your father again. I want the two of us to be a family."
"Families are supposed to trust each other. I want to be able to trust you, but when you're sneaking around, hiding in bushes to see me, and taking pot-shots at Marley and Jamie every chance you get, you make it hella hard."
"Hella hard?" Grant raised an eyebrow. "My vocabulary is just expanding by leaps and bounds today. First sucking, now perhaps you wish to enlighten me as to what hella hard means?"
"It means that if you're fishing for some kind of father/son bonding moment, you first need to act like a normal human being. Which means no more stalking me, and no more bad-mouthing my family just to make yourself look better."
"Can I continue to do it recreationally?" Grant wondered.
"Would you cut it out! And as long as we're making a list: No more trying to kill people or blackmail people or set them up to be sent to prison or some sanitarium."
"You have been doing your research on me."
"I mean it," Kirkland yelled. Even in bare feet, he was able to confront Grant face to face. "You screw around with anybody, not just Jamie or Marley, but anybody to get to me and we are done. Do you understand? Done!"
It was a moment before Grant nodded, but nod he did. "So you're willing to give me a chance, then? If I follow your rules, you'll give me a chance?"
"Yeah," Kirk mumbled, looking away and at the water, wishing, more than anything, that he hadn't bothered to resurface this morning. "I guess. If you follow my rules, I'm ready to give you a chance."
Lucas' plan to confirm his identity for Rachel and Carl led all three of them to Chicago, to the doorstep of Lorna Devon's apartment.
Lucas told Carl, "You didn't believe it when Rachel recognized me. Maybe my daughter will convince you."
"You're so certain that Lorna will in fact authenticate your contention? I'd say it's rather risky on your part. After all, the lovely Ms. Devon knew you for years before the finer points of her lineage were exposed. Don't forget, I knew her then, as well. A sight better than you did, if I may add."
"Don't remind me," Lucas gagged.
"And I recall no sense of mystical familial kinship on her part, or yours, for that matter, on those occasions when you two did happen to cross paths."
"She's my daughter," Lucas reiterated. "She'll know me."
"What say we find out," Carl challenged, and defiantly rang Lorna's doorbell before Lucas had the chance to do so himself.
She opened it, clearly dressed to head out for work, and expecting, at most, an early-bird Federal Express man or salesperson, not her mother's old friend from Bay City, her former benefactor/tormenter, and...
Lorna dropped the portfolio she'd been holding. She looked at all three of them, dumb-struck. The only word Lorna managed to force out of her mouth was, "Daddy?"
"I admire your self-control," Kevin told Amanda while they sat side by side on the picnic blanket he'd spread out, facing the Little League Game, engrossed in the action. "You haven't mocked that batter's manhood once."
Amanda indicated the tow-headed boy with Carlino emblazoned along the back of his jersey and confessed, "It hasn't been easy. He's my nephew. But he does hit like a 13-year-old kid."
Kevin handed Amanda another glass of wine and asked, "Having fun?"
"Yeah," she admitted.
"More than you expected?"
She actually turned to face him for this one. "Yeah."
"Good." Kevin smiled. "That's all that I was after."
"Oh, really?" she challenged. "Then what was all that stuff about wanting to uncover the real Amanda Cory?"
"That's just part of the fun." He leaned back, elbows locked, bracing himself on his palms, legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles.
"Gotta disagree with you there. It's actually kind of tedious. And ultimately futile."
"Why is that?" He was either teasing her, or genuinely curious. To be truthful, Amanda wasn't sure which she preferred.
"Because," she confessed. "If there is one thing that Amanda Cory has learned after lo these many decades of being Amanda Cory, it's that Amanda Cory will become whoever you want Amanda Cory to be."
"Wow. I had no idea I wanted you to become someone with such a deep aversion to pronouns."
Amanda laughed. "You think I'm kidding?"
"Actually, I think you're being deliberately perplexing."
"In that dossier you keep on every member of my family, did you happen to read up on my marital history?"
"I skimmed it," Kevin divulged. "It wasn't particularly relevant to my purposes."
"I wouldn't think so. Turns out it wasn't particularly relevant to my purposes, either."
"Amanda," Kevin sat up so that they were facing each again. "If you're trying to tell me something, I'm afraid I'm not getting the message."
"Sorry," she shook her head. "I shouldn't be dumping this on you. It's my issue. It's just, when you said that thing about finding the real me, it reminded me of something I've been thinking a lot about lately. That even I don't know who the real me is. I look back over my life, and it's like I become a completely different person every time there's a new man in it. With Grant, I'm the perfect political wife-wannabe, a cross between Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. When I'm no longer useful to him, our marriage is over. With Cameron, he needed to feel like he was the hero, like he was rescuing me, so suddenly I'm getting caught in cave-ins and being stalked by this lunatic who thinks I'm the reincarnation of his dead wife."
"Yeah, I read that. What was that all about?"
"I try not to think about it." Amanda sighed. "But when I stopped falling into wells every few days, our marriage crumbled, too. Even with Sam, he didn't fall in love with me. He fell in love with this persona I created, Mandy Ashton."
"Well, now, don't knock Mandy Ashton. I found her rather beguiling myself."
"There! You see! You found my pretend personality more interesting than my real one. It was the same with Sam, you know. It took me forever to realize it, but finally I understood the reason that our marriage fell apart was not because he decided to focus on his country-music career "
"Another one I'd like explained to me. Wasn't he an artist originally?"
"I try not to think about that, either." Amanda waved her hand dismissively. "My point is, our marriage fell apart because he was never in love with me, Amanda Cory, to begin with. As far as I can tell, no one's ever really been in love with Amanda Cory."
She expected Kevin to respond. That's how conversations went, after all. She talks, then he talks. Not to do so would be breaking a social contract. She also expected him to disagree with her, because that was part of the social contract, too. She says something self-deprecating, he issues a knee-jerk denial. No one feels any better, but at least an obligation is fulfilled.
When he didn't choose either of those two things, Amanda figured he agreed with her. A not particularly appealing option, but one Amanda could nevertheless understand.
What she didn't understand was him declining to do anything.
Here she'd gone and spilled her guts, and Kevin seemed to have decided against any response whatsoever.
That was rather rude, wasn't it? At this point, Amanda was ready to accept a pithy observation or a wry comment just to keep things chugging along. And to stop him from staring at her so intently that it felt like Kevin was looking through, rather than at her.
Finally, instead of speaking, Kevin simply leaned over and rested his lips on her bare shoulder. His kiss may have only occupied a square inch of flesh, but Amanda felt it like a firecracker going off in each and every possible direction. She caught her breath, but didn't budge. It was Kevin who did the moving for both of them, slowly, so slowly, excruciatingly slowly, his mouth traced a trail up her shoulder, dipping down into the hollow between her collar-bones, then up her throat, almost as if he were savoring her every gasp, nibbling her chin, her jaw-bone, her cheek, teasing her to the point where she imagined she could feel the vibrations he was setting off throbbing through the tips of her fingers and driving her to such a state of anticipation that, by the time their lips finally met, it was all Amanda could do to keep herself from leaping on top of him.
She didn't, of course. She still had enough self-control left to allow him to set the pace after all, he was doing a superb job of it so far and gradually lower her down atop the picnic blanket, their bodies now as intertwined as their lips. Amanda pressed against him, her arms wrapping instinctually around Kevin's shoulders.
"Hey," a little girl with brown pigtails, wearing a Springfield Spirits uniform with Reardon written across the back, dug her fingers into the chain-link fence surrounding the ball-field and called out, "Why don't you two get a room or something!"
At her suggestion, Kevin and Amanda briefly separated. Faces still only inches from each other, his leg thrust between hers, tangled in her skirt, Kevin remarked, "A most reasonable recommendation. What do you think?"
Having trouble coordinating any breathing or moving that wasn't specifically targeted to the situation at hand, Amanda only managed a dazed nod. "Okay..."
Allie arrived a few minutes early to pick up Jasmine from her fencing lesson. After promising GQ that she would be bringing a date to their new-in-town get-together at Carlino's that night, Allie had stuck around just long enough to find Steven and extract his promise to attend, as well. After all, that was the point of the exercise, for him to meet Sarah. Allie and GQ were inconsequential.
Well, Allie, GQ, and her mystery date To Be Named Later.
Though, with dinner less than 12 hours away, later had better become sooner awfully fast.
Allie grabbed a folding chair and watched as, on the main training floor, Gregory Hudson was putting Jasmine, Bridget, Michelle, and a half-dozen other children through their paces. The kids stood around in a circle while Gregory, holding a sword, spun in the middle, slashing the sword either up or down, forcing the kids to decide in a split second whether they'd be ducking or jumping over it. Those who got poked were deemed out, elimination-style. Allie was amused to note that both Bridget and Michelle were wearing T-shirts proudly proclaiming, "I'm the Evil Twin!" Though Michelle's was green while Bridget's was purple.
Jasmine was the last combatant to be eliminated, and Gregory walked her over to Allie. Marley had come to grab the twins, and she waved to the rest of them on the way out.
"I'll see you next week, Jazz." Gregory high-fived his student. "Practice those lunges. It does you no good to take the biggest step if you end up losing your balance and falling over."
"You don't like my original technique?" Jasmine giggled.
"Let's call it a work in progress."
Allie had known Gregory all of her life. He was family, if you considered that Gregory was cousin to Allie's cousin Steven's little sisters on the Hudson side, and Allie's uncle Jamie's cousin on the Frame. (It wasn't for nothing she'd told Sarah that their ancestral tree could get complicated.) But she didn't know him well. He'd always been so quiet and distant. And then there was the issue with his mom. Sharlene Frame Hudson had serious mental problems. She'd disappeared for a while, lost her memory, developed other personalities, and she was constantly, to this day, going in and out of treatment facilities. Allie was usually afraid to ask Gregory how things were going, because the answer wasn't always good.
Still, he was a nice guy. Polite, if not exactly chatty. He was clearly good with kids. And he loved his mom a lot, no matter what she'd put him and his dad through. He seemed like the kind of person you could depend on in an emergency.
What Allie had sort of qualified as an emergency.
She told Gregory, "Listen, I know this is totally out of the blue, but my friend, Sarah, is new in town, and I'm getting together some people tonight to sort of introduce her around. Would you like to come? It's at Carlino's at eight. Totally casual. Steven will be there."
Gregory cocked his head to one side, thinking it over. Allie wasn't too worried. He always thought things over before he answered.
Finally, Gregory nodded his head slowly. "Okay. I'll come. Thanks."
"Sure. No problem. Listen," Allie figured if she were just as low-key about the second half of her request, it would be equally casual. "How'd you feel about going as my date?"
This time, Gregory seemed to be taking longer than usual to think it over. But, in the end, his expression didn't change. He simply nodded again and said, "Sure...."
"Perfect!" Matt exclaimed. From their requested front and center table at the Harbor Club, he and Donna had an ideal view of every customer who came in or out. But nothing made Matt as happy as the sight of Grant Harrison entering. He told Donna, "What luck! We can get everything taken care of right here and now!"
"Matthew," she pleaded. "Don't make a scene. Please. Not here. Just let him go. I'll talk to Grant later, explain everything."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to make a scene. I'm just going to educate the man about a few very important facts of life. Grant!" Matt called before Donna had the chance to protest again, and waved him over.
The former Senator appeared surprised to be summoned (he also appeared vaguely damp, but that was the least of Matt's concerns). Nevertheless, Grant did pause and change trajectories, abandoning his initial destination of the bar in order to join Matt and Donna at their table.
"Yes?" Grant asked. "What is it?"
"You tell us." Matt indicated himself and Donna, dining out in public for all the world to see.
Grant took in the scene, then shrugged. "Okay, you got me. What am I looking at?"
"Donna and I are calling your bluff."
"My bluff," Grant repeated.
Matt lowered his voice, leaning in closer so Grant could hear every word. "I know all about it, Harrison. I know how you blackmailed Donna, threatening to tell everybody about her and me being back together unless she testified for you at Kirkland's custody hearing."
Donna winced at Matt's words and looked like she wished she could crawl under the table, or, at the very least, disappear inside the pages of her menu.
Grant, for his part, merely looked from Matt, to her, and back again, with an expression of abject, and seemingly sincere, confusion. "What are you talking about? First of all, Donna is back to prowling kindergartens for her bed-mates? I can't say I'm particularly surprised. Or all that interested. The only little boy I'm concerned with these days is my son. And I would no more blackmail Donna to testify on my behalf at his hearing than I would simply ask her. For one thing, I don't need the help. I am Kirkland's biological father, and no court will ultimately go against that. For another, Donna would make an absolutely appalling character witness. She was a horrible mother herself."
"Now, you hold on a minute!" Matt interrupted.
Grant declined to do so. "She abandoned her own children. She ran Marley over with her car!"
"That was accident!" Donna protested.
"Only because you were aiming for Vicky!"
Donna didn't really have much to say to that.
"My point," Grant stressed. "Is that Donna Love is the last person I would want testifying on my behalf. I don't know what she told you, Junior," Grant ruffled Matt's hair despite the latter's attempt to smack him away. "But I've got nothing to do with this." Grant nodded his head at them both. "Enjoy your lunch. And your romantic reunion."
"Can you believe that son of a bitch?" Matt demanded, despite Grant still being within hearing range. "He looked me in the eye, and he flat-out lied to me! What a sociopath! Well, it doesn't matter if he denies it or not. The important thing is that Grant knows he doesn't have anything to hold over your head anymore. We beat him, Donna! We won!"
"Stop it, Matthew," Donna said quietly and gestured for him to sit.
"What's the matter?"
Donna twisted her napkin in her lap, then listlessly allowed it to un-spool again. She said, "Grant isn't the one lying. I am."
"Kirk!" Bridget and Michelle
squealed in unison as soon as Marley brought them home from fencing
to find the girls' big brother sitting on the floor in Donna's office.
They rushed to pile on top
of him, tripping along the way over photo albums Kirkland seemed to
have pulled off the shelves in a haphazard manner, then left lying where
He accepted their hugs without
protest, but peered over Bridget's shoulder, locking eyes with Marley
as she surveyed the mess and made a pretty good guess as to what was
"Whoa, girls!" Marley called.
"Let Kirk breathe. He's not going anywhere."
"Are you staying, Kirk?"
"Yeah, sure," he mumbled.
"For a little bit."
"Want to watch us fence?
We're really good."
"We're much better than
Jasmine," Bridget agreed. "She falls when she lunges."
"In a little while," Kirkland
Seeing that he had a lot on
his mind, Marley told the girls. "It's shower-time, you know
"But, Kirk is here!"
"And he'll still be here
when you no longer smell like the inside of a fencing bag."
Marley shooed Bridget and Michelle upstairs. "Right, Kirk?"
"I'll stick around till
they're done," he nodded.
"Beat you upstairs," Michelle
challenged her sister, and took off at a gallop. Bridget followed
behind, brandishing her sword like a butterfly net.
Keeping her voice deliberately
light, Marley picked up one of the discarded albums and attempted to
set it back on the shelf. "Can I help you find something?"
"I'm good," he said,
without bothering to look up. Marley noticed the stack of photos
he'd pulled out to examine in detail. And she noticed one that
most certainly hadn't come from any of the albums in the Love house.
Kirkland saw Marley craning her neck for a better view, and snatched
it away. "That one's mine."
Marley nodded, determined not
to overreact. She sat down next to Kirkland on the floor and observed,
"That's a beautiful picture of your mother."
"Yeah," Kirkland agreed.
"She and Grant look really happy."
She heard his challenge. Everything
that happened between his parents hadn't been all bad. The picture
in his hands was proof.
"It was the night Grant won
his Senate seat," Marley began. "Vicky had worked so hard during
his campaign and she was celebrating the moment."
"That's all you see in
"It was one moment in time.
A moment where, yes, your mother and Grant were happy."
"I knew it!"
"But you're not seeing
the complete picture. They weren't even together at this point. Vicky
was with Ryan. Grant was still in love with Paulina."
"This is when it began, though.
"In a way, yes," Marley
conceded. "Grant and Paulina had broken up, and your mother and Ryan
were having some issues. Grant and Vicky had thrown themselves
into their work and became... close."
She took the photo from Kirkland
and gazed down at the face of her sister. A face that had once been
hers as well.
God, had it really
been eighteen years since this snapshot was taken?
"But the truth is, Kirkland,
your mother still loved Ryan. She was trying to work things out
"But she ended up with Grant."
"Only because Grant began
to take advantage of the situation. He wanted Vicky, and he did
everything he could to get her."
"Come on! Are you honestly
telling me that my mother, the one you guys are always going on and
on about that my mother ever in her life did something that she didn't
actually want to do? That Grant was this freaky master manipulator
and she was the innocent victim powerless against his Death Star evil?"
"No, I can't say that."
"Good. Because I wouldn't
"Vicky being with Grant was
always less about her loving him and more about..." she stopped, realizing
what she'd been about to say.
But Kirk didn't need Marley
to finish. "So I was, what? just some collateral fallout from
my mom getting pissed at Ryan and screwing his brother to get back at
He plucked the picture from
Marley's fingers, face flushing a deep red that made a lump come to
her throat. "No, Kirkland. That's not how "
"You know it's funny,"
Kirk grimly began as he secured his picture in a book and shoved it
into his backpack, heading for the door. "Everyone loves to
tell these horror stories about how immoral my dad was and how he made
everyone's life hell "
"Kirkland, wait," Marley
pleaded, scrambling up from the floor to follow him.
"But the more stuff I hear
about Mom, like the baby-switching, the playing one brother off against
another crap "
Marley reached out and grabbed
Kirkland's arm, pulling him back. "Don't leave like this."
He spun around, and Marley
froze at the coldness she saw on his face. Suddenly she wasn't
looking at Vicky's son anymore, but at Grant's.
"The more I really start
not to like her."
There. He'd said it.
And neither one of them knew exactly how to react.
With Marley suddenly silent,
Kirk felt he had to talk, or it would be like she'd won. He
knew it didn't make any sense, but that's how he felt, nonetheless.
"And, you know what?
I'm getting really sick of you all defending her, 'cause it sounds
like Vicky was just as bad as Grant!"
When Marley still didn't offer so much as a peep in reply, Kirk realized he'd gone too far. He told her, "I'll wait for Bridget and Michelle out back. Tell them we can go riding or something."
Marley watched him go. And she realized that her time for merely reacting to Grant's attacks was over. Like Gregory was always telling the girls in fencing, simply parrying your opponents' blows wasn't enough. Eventually, you had to go on the offensive.
If you intended to win, that is.
"Look what the cat dragged in." Carl shoved Lucas over the threshold of Lorna's apartment. "This gentleman claims you might be able to positively identify him."
"Sounds like she already has," Rachel observed, although Carl appeared far from convinced.
Lorna, for her part, could do no more than continue staring at Lucas, mesmerized and unable to say anything else.
"Come, come now, my dear," Carl drawled. "I know you. You're a smart girl. Don't tell me this charlatan is going to succeed in pulling the wool over your eyes. Your father is dead. You were there. You watched him breathe his last. Kindly tell this second-rate con-man that whatever he may be peddling, you are not in the market for it, here."
Lucas ignored Carl. He ignored Rachel, too. All of his attention was focused on Lorna. The moment Carl stopped pontificating, Lucas took both of Lorna's hands in his own, and he said, softly, "You're my daughter, too."
The words had an electrifying effect on Lorna. She jerked backwards as if stung, and her knees buckled. Lucas had to hold her up to keep Lorna from crumpling. It was obvious to both Carl and Rachel that whatever Lucas had meant to get across with his ambiguous turn of phrase, it had achieved the desired result. And then some.
Lorna regained her ability to speak and, voice hoarse, whispered, "That's one hell of a broad you've got for a wife."
Lucas smiled widely. "Like her kid." And then he added, "I can see your face, when you were born. When I gave you that Mercury dime, I wanted it to protect you. And bring you back to me."
"You know what?" Lorna held up her hand, showing the ring she'd worn since she was a child. "It worked."
"I'm sorry," Carl interrupted. "Are we watching a Harold Pinter play? What the hell is going on here?"
Lorna and Lucas beamed at each other. And then Lorna turned around to tell Carl, "In the hospital room, after Lucas was shot, he told me that I was his daughter, too. And that he gave me this ring. Only my father would know about our conversation. This man is my father, I'm certain of it." She faced Lucas again. "How is this possible? Where have you been?"
"It's a long story, I'm afraid."
"It's a false story," Carl insisted. He told Rachel, "I've had enough of this psychodrama. I'm going home. Are you coming with me?"
Instead of answering Carl, Rachel asked Lucas, "What will you do now? Do you want to come back to Bay City with us?"
"I don't recall inviting him," Carl observed.
Lucas shook his head. "Lorna and I have a lot to catch up on. Besides, as long as Felicia and Jenna are missing, I have to look for them."
"We'll keep looking for them, too. And I swear to you, Lucas, we'll get to the bottom of this."
Lucas eyes crinkled in their old, familiar way. "It was good to see you again, Rachel."
"It is wonderful to see you again, Lucas."
Carl cleared his throat, and held out one hand to Rachel. She ignored him completely. But she did walk out the door. Carl followed. His last words to Lucas were, "I know you're a fraud. And I'm going to prove it." To Lorna, he winked, "Always a pleasure, my dear. Feel free to call me any time once you've recognized your error. I can be most magnanimous with other people's mistakes. As long as they make a clean breast of them, first."
Lorna slammed the door behind him, listening to the echo of Carl and Rachel's footsteps as they disappeared down the hall.
She turned to Lucas, hands on her hips, and sighed, "Well, this certainly screws everything up for us. How the hell did they find you? And what in the world are we supposed to do now?"
Marley took the afternoon to
clean up the study. While Kirkland and the girls rode their horses
just outside her window, she gathered up all of the scattered photos,
slipped them back into their places in the albums, and put the albums
back into their proper slots on the shelves.
Having something concrete and
mechanical to do helped her think. And, ultimately, the room full
of books inspired her.
Books were repositories of
information. Which was precisely what Marley needed in her fight
Now that she thought about
it, none of them knew what exactly Grant had been up to for the past
ten years, save playing possum. Cynically, Marley suspected that
he had not been out feeding, clothing, and sheltering the huddled masses
yearning to breathe free as part of his alleged rehabilitation.
So, Marley picked up her cell-phone
and made a call.
It was time for her to use
Grant's secret past to hurt him. For a change. He didn't
have a monopoly on that strategy, after all. Knowledge, a television
show she'd watched as a child had assured her, was power.
Cass had told Lila not to wait up for him when he went out to scour the streets for Charlie and... whomever she was with.
Yeah. Right. Like Lila was just going to roll over and drift off to dreamland while her husband was out there in the dark, desperate and gradually losing his mind.
When she heard the front door open around noon the next day, Lila flew down the stairs, only to see Cass alone, and looking even worse than he had the night before.
His chin was covered with stubble, his eyes bloodshot, hands jittery from the coffee Lila had to assume he'd gulped down by the carafe just to keep going.
"You didn't find her," Lila stated the obvious.
Cass shook his head wearily. Though he looked exhausted, his body seemed to have taken on a life of its own, needing to keep moving, moving, constantly moving, when it was obvious the best thing for him would be to sit down and rest.
He paced the length of their living room, arms flailing by his side. "I drove everywhere I could think of. All the places Frankie and I... . I called all of Charlie's friends. They haven't seen her. She's gone, Lila. She's gone."
"Dad!" Charlie's voice made them both jump. Cass' daughter was standing in the doorway, looking, frankly, much better than either of them. She seemed well rested, and neatly dressed in pink shorts, matching T and Crocs. She glanced from one to the other in confusion and asked, "What's wrong? We talked last night. I said I'd be back by lunchtime. It's only a couple of minutes after noon. Why are you freaking out?"
"Where were you?" Cass flew across the room, grabbing Charlie by the shoulders and practically lifting her off the ground. He would have tried shaking the answer out of her, if Lila hadn't stepped in and pulled him off.
Charlie took a step back, frightened. She rubbed her arms and said, "Spending the night with Ariel. I told you, Dad. Don't you remember?"
"Ariel Bratton moved out of Bay City three months ago!" Cass screamed. "Don't you dare lie to me, Charlotte! I heard her! I heard you talking to Frankie!"
"Dad..." Charlie looked over at Lila for support. "Mom... she's dead." Charlie asked Lila, "Did his medication stop working? Does he need to go to the hospital?"
Lila began, "Your Daddy thinks he heard "
"I know what I heard!" Cass looked frantically around him, grabbed at the first object he could reach, a flower vase, and hurled it against the wall, missing both Charlie and Lila by mere inches. "You were talking to your mother, you were with your mother. I know your mother's voice. I am not going crazy! Stop talking to me like I'm going crazy!"
"Dad, please..." Charlie started to cry. "Stop it. You're scaring me!"
"Tell me where you were!" Cass ripped the photo of him, Charlie and Frankie off the wall. He flung it on the ground. "Tell me who you were with!"
"Cass, honey, please, I'm begging you, calm down." Lila attempted to wrap her arms around him and lead him to the couch. "You can't do this to yourself. Just calm down and we'll "
Cass shoved her away. Lila needed to grab a chair to keep from falling to the floor.
"This isn't you, Cass," she pleaded with him. "It's your illness acting up. I don't blame you. Something must have gone wrong. You probably just need your Lithium dosage readjusted."
"What I need is for everyone to stop treating me like a madman and insisting I don't know my own wife's voice when I hear it! My dead wife's voice! You think I don't hear it in my dreams every Goddamn night? I am not dreaming now! I heard her!" He siezed Lila by the arm, yanking her to her feet.
"Let her go, Cass." From behind them, he, Lila and Charlie heard a third female voice order, "You're right. You are not going crazy. Let her go. I'll explain everything."
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