Chase Hamilton may not have actually licked his lips in anticipation at Detective Chiang's news. But that was about the only thing he didn't do, between the leaping out of his chair and the rubbing his hands together with glee.
"How is Jamie Frame connected to the drug that killed Cecile De Poulignac?" He reached for the toxicology report.
"Turns out the Bay City Hospital lab already ran a test on the exact same substance in December. Before Cecile De Poulignac was murdered. At the request of one Dr. Jamie Frame. That's why they were able to identify it for us so quickly."
"So what? He's a doctor. It's a medicine."
"Except that this particular medicine hasn't been approved for use in the US. It's still in trials in Europe. Jamie Frame has no business so much as having it in his possession."
"So far you've given me a misdemeanor not a felony. That only ties him to the same potion that killed Cecile, not the actual dose that killed her. What else have you got?"
Now it was Chiang's turn to crow. "The vial from the Love estate? The one the drug came in? Only set of prints on it "
"Please, please, please," Hamilton prayed.
"Dr. Jamie Frame."
"Woo-hoo!" He turned to Toni, indicating Chiang. "I like this guy!"
"I like the fact that he's Donna Love's son-in-law," Toni said. "Means he had access to her house to steal the scarf and leave it at the murder scene, same with the vial afterwards."
"My favorite part is how this makes it all pre-meditated." Hamilton theorized out loud, "So, Jamie Frame kills his ex-wife by giving her a lethal dose of an experimental drug we can prove was once in his possession, then plants evidence to frame his mother-in-law, which we can prove via the fingerprints. This good. This is very good. Final detail: What's the motive?"
"She's his mother-in-law," Chiang pointed out. "You need more than that?" Off Toni's look, he took a step back and apologized, "I'll tone down my misogyny."
"We don't need his motive for framing Donna," Toni corrected. "We need it for killing Cecile."
Harrison leafed through her file, confirming that his memory was accurate, "Didn't Grant Harrison say he was at the murder site in the first place because Cecile wanted to talk about Jamie?"
It wasn't until much later, when Cass and Frankie were lying in bed after having coerced both an overtired infant and an equally cranky teen into doing the same, that he remembered to ask, "What was Lorna in such a snit about earlier? Not that it takes much."
Frankie confessed, "My fault, I'm afraid."
"I seriously doubt that. She's my best friend's daughter and, over the years, we've negotiated an armistice where we don't rub each other the wrong way too much of the time. But warm and fuzzy, Lorna Devon will never be. You know what they called her back in the NICU."
"She came over to visit Lori Ann, and I... I went a little bonkers."
"I watched them like a hawk. Wouldn't let Lorna so much as approach the crib without a dozen warnings, and then I all but bit her head off... "
"I am Woman, Hear Me Roar! Mama Lion Frame! That's one of the things I love best about you. If you sense so much as the suggestion of a threat to someone you care about, you spring into action. That's nothing to be sorry about, it's something to celebrate."
"Lorna is no threat to Lori Ann. She may not be the most maternal person in the world but she loves her, anyone can see that. I was the one who'd lost her grip. But the thing is, ever since we brought Lori Ann home, it's really been just her and me. Yes, you and Charlie remembering Valentine's Day still makes me go weak at the knees "
"That was the plan."
"But mostly, it's just been her and me. Yes, it's been exhausting, yes, it's been frustrating at times and, Heaven knows, it's certainly had its stretches of excruciating boredom. Six month olds are pretty lousy conversationalists. Who would have thought?" Frankie confessed, "But, in spite of all that, it's also been wonderful. When we agreed to adopt Lori Ann, even when I was holding her in my arms and bringing her into the house to be my daughter, there was a part of me a small part, to be sure, but it was there, and I don't have to deny it anymore that really wondered if I'd be able to feel the same way about Lori Ann as I do about Charlie."
Cass propped himself up against the headboard, looking Frankie in the eye. "You never said a word..."
"I know. I felt guilty every time Felicia cooed over what a wonderful mother I was being because, honestly, I felt like I was just going through the motions. I felt like an imposter, like I was acting out the part of the perfect, selfless, devoted adoptive parent, instead of actually being one. It took a long time, Cass. But all these weeks we've spent together, I finally feel like Lori Ann's true mother. She's burrowed just as deeply in my heart as Charlie is. I was so happy when it finally happened. So happy and so relieved and so grateful to Mother Nature for crafting us human beings to be capable of such deep, bonding love. I couldn't give Lori Ann up now. Not for anything."
"No one is asking you to."
"I know. But seeing Lorna, having her push her way into this little cocoon Lori Ann and I created for ourselves... It just reminded me of how fragile, how tentative everything is. She made some stupid crack about running off with Lori Ann when I wasn't looking "
"That sounds like Lorna."
"And all I could think of was Cecile and her threats against Charlie and I just... I lost it. I lost it big-time. I owe Lorna an apology."
"Cecile is not a threat to us anymore," Cass reminded firmly.
"I know. I know, I know, I know it. It's just... it's just like with Lori Ann.... I can say the words, and I can go through the motions, and I can fake it so that no one is the wiser. But I can't feel it. Not yet. I can't feel safe. Every time you and Charlie walk out the door, there's this flash, this instant, where I'm certain I'm never going to see you again."
"If you're going to throw things, do it in there," Lila told Grant the next morning as, in a fit of post-custody hearing pique, he'd flung a one of a kind Swiss Bella Donna figurine at the wall and was now eyeing a Tiffany vase Lila had just taken possession of the other day.
With Kevin's help, she corralled him into the study, standing back as Grant first slammed shut the door, then promptly clanged something substantial against it.
"That sounded like the antique candlesticks from the fireplace," Lila winced.
Kevin calmly looked up from the court document he was perusing. "You can discern the sound a candlestick makes when it's thrown?"
"I got a good ear," Lila replied. Then, lest Grant seize on any more bright ideas, shouted through the door. "Don't you even think about trying to move the desk, you hear me? It's solid oak. You'll throw your back out!"
Kevin watched her with amusement. "Are you worried about Grant or the furniture?"
"Both," Lila shot him a glare. "Which is more than I can say for you. You seem to have no reaction whatsoever regarding your client's mental state after losing."
"First of all," Kevin straightened from his casual lounge against the wall. "I did not lose."
"I don't think Grant is in there doing a victory dance," Lila cut him off. "And I don't see Kirkland moving any belongings into his room upstairs."
"As of this morning, Grant has been recognized by a court of law as Kirkland's father. He didn't have that before. Considering that he's been back in town for less than a year, it's the best we could have hoped for. Last couple of months, he didn't have a judicial leg to stand on. I got him a seat at the table with Marley, and I effectively took Jamie out of the equation. As for his little temper tantrum? You let him be. Better he take his anger out on candlesticks than doing something rash along the lines of fleeing the country with Kirkland or picking up a gun to take care of his Jamie Frame problem."
Lila shook her head. "He would never... then again I suppose you're right," she muttered off Kevin's knowing look. "At least this way he's only hurting himself."
"All things considered, I'd say Grant is taking the court's decision well. You must be rubbing off on him in a good way."
"Not me," Lila smiled. "Kirkland. He brings out a side of Grant that... I never knew he had it in him, frankly. Sweet, endearing, charming. And I mean charming sans the evil glint in his eye. I was honestly hoping things would work out for him today."
"Today's outcome was just another round in the war. Neither side won or lost definitively."
"But Marley and Jamie still have full custody of Kirkland."
"For now. In six months, we'll go before the judge again and revisit the issue. By that time, Grant will have shown himself to be a consistently good, nurturing and positive influence on his son. I think, as long as no one decides to do anything stupid "
"That's a big ol' if."
"I'll be able to get Grant a custody agreement akin to any divorced parent. He'll have a guaranteed set of visitation days, including weekends and every other holiday."
"Well, that'll make him happy," Lila said dryly.
"It's something. This is a marathon we're in the middle of, not a sprint. If Grant proves responsible with visitation, we'll petition for joint custody, then sole. In the end, I will get Grant his son back." Kevin checked his watch. "I need to go. I have another appointment. Will you be alright here?"
"Oh, sure. I'll be dandy. Can't vouch for the furnishings I've just spent half a year hand-picking, but I'll be fine."
"Good." Kevin kissed Lila and asked. "We still on for this evening?"
"Sure as shootin'. I deserve a night out after a day like this."
"Can I presume Marley had more pressing matters to attend to rather than seeing me off?" Donna asked Matt as he helped her settle in to her new room private, of course at the Clareview Sanitarium in Ogden.
"You're not going on a cruise, Donna," he reminded. "And, anyway, Marley had to be at Kirkland's hearing." He looked at his watch. "It's probably over by now. Got to call Jamie, find out how everything went."
"We could have waited until after it concluded. I might have liked to attend myself. Offer the court a few choice opinions on Grant Harrison's fitness as a father."
She's sick, Matt reminded himself. That's why she's acting like this. It's a symptom. She's not deliberately trying to set you off. That's why you're here, to help her get better. She's sick. The mantra only worked up to a point. He hissed, "I don't think having you there would have been a boon for Jamie and Marley's case. Besides, the court order said you needed to be checked in by nine a.m. or face being arrested again. You don't realize the hoops I had to jump through just to get permission to drive you here myself, instead of your being handcuffed and transported."
"That doesn't sound particularly pleasant," Donna mused. "What sort of hoops?"
"Let's just say that, as of right now, the State of Illinois is pretty much holding the deeds to everything I own."
"How horrible!" Donna shuddered. "Lord knows the moment the government gets their hands on any enterprise it inevitably goes downhill. Why in the world would you ever agree to such an unpleasant arrangement?"
"Because," Matt told himself to breathe, just breathe. "It was the only way I could convince Mr. Hamilton that I would, in fact, deliver you to Clareview, rather than take a wrong turn and end up, say, in the south of France."
"The south of France was an option?" Donna asked. Then, off the look on Matt's face, rushed to plead, "Oh, I'm sorry, darling, I'm sorry. I do appreciate everything you're doing for me, really, I do. I was just trying to make a silly little joke. You've been so stressed and serious "
"A joke?" he snapped. "Forgive me, which part of this situation, exactly, do you find the most funny? The part where Jenna is dead? The part where Dean is a wreck? The one where Lori Ann is a virtual orphan, or the detail about you killing Cecile?"
"I did not kill Cecile," Donna reiterated. "I wanted to go to trial. I wanted to clear my name."
"Yeah, I don't think that's ever going to happen now. If I were you, I'd honestly hide out here, behind the high walls and the locked doors and the crack security team for as long as possible. You think Lorna and Lucas coming after you was bad? What do you think Felicia and Carl are going to do once they finally get their crack at you?"
His curiosity beating his common sense, Kirkland drifted towards the voices coming from the study. His Aunt Marley didn't sound too happy, and from what Kirkland heard, Mr. Winthrop was earning his paycheck, trying to fast-talk her down from the ledge.
This can't be good....
If Marley was this upset, it meant that whatever the judge had decided, she most certainly hadn't agreed. Then again, he hadn't heard from Grant, either. If things had gone totally Grant's way, there'd be a moving truck parked outside the Cory mansion right now, ready to take him "home."
Peeking into the small crack of the slightly open door, Kirkland looked to Jamie as the deciding factor. One look at his dad's face would give Kirkland a better idea of what'd happened that morning.
Now what does that mean? he thought to himself as Kirkland spied Jamie quietly leaning against a desk, looking a lot calmer than could be expected after a morning in court with Grant. No frown. No clenched jaw. He almost seemed mellow.
And, for some reason, just seeing him like that was enough to make the knot in Kirkland's stomach relax. What made it go away completely was Jamie glancing towards the door and seeing Kirkland. He flashed his son an amused look that said: It's all good. We'll talk later. Now, kindly scram. Aunt Marley is having a moment. Punctuated by Jamie nudging the door closed.
Despite his aunt's voice rising to new and exciting levels of outrage, Kirkland continued on his way, encouraged that Jamie, at least, appeared to still be sane. And still his dad.
"Dr. and Mrs. Bauer," Kevin said. "This is Allie Fowler, and Gregory Hudson."
"Please. Call us Mindy and Rick." Mrs. Bauer stretched her hand forward. "It's so nice to meet you. Both of you. We're so excited to meet you. Meet you both. We're "
"Babbling, we're so excited," Rick interjected. "And we're also very, very nervous."
"I'm nervous, too," Allie admitted.
They sat in the reception area of Kevin's suite, Rick and Mindy on the fainting sofa, facing Allie and Gregory who each had an armchair next to Kevin.
He balanced a yellow legal pad on his lap and looked from one couple to the other. "There are no hard and fast rules to this, folks. We can do it anyway you choose. Allie, would you like to start? Do you have any questions for the Bauers?"
She hesitated, then Allie said, "I saw in your file that you've got other, older kids. Do they live with you?"
"No." Rick shook his head. "My son, Jude, lives with his mother in Greece. He visits. I see my daughter, Leah, more, though she lives full-time with her mom, too. But, at least, she's in the same town."
"Springfield is a wonderful place to raise children," Mindy gushed. "It's small and friendly, everybody knows practically everyone else."
"Everyone is practically related to everyone else!" Rick piped up.
"Yeah," Allie said. "It's kind of like that in Bay City, too."
"And we both have tons of family nearby. My father and stepmother live just a few minutes away. Rick's dad and his girlfriend always stay with us when they're in town. The house where we live, it's the same house Rick grew up in. And my brother and his wife, they just had a little girl in the fall. Rick's sister has two kids. My cousin has a toddler son. Our best friends we've been friends since we were all in high school together; we called ourselves the Four Musketeers they have a little daughter. Your baby would have grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and so many friends... We have huge Christmases. Sometimes St. Nick even stops by. Honest, I know it sounds weird, but we're all pretty sure it's really him! And every 4th of July, the Bauers host a barbeque; it's kind of a local tradition..." she trailed off. "I'm babbling again, aren't I?"
"It's okay," Allie whispered. "I I liked what you said."
Rick indicated a so far-silent Gregory, not realizing that it was, more or less, his usual state. "Don't let us hog the conversation. Do you feel like asking us anything?"
Gregory turned his head to meet Allie's eyes, she nodded briefly, then blushed and looked away. It was left to him to pose the question she most wanted answered.
"Allie had a sonogram last week. The baby is a boy."
"A boy," Mindy gasped, unspeakably thrilled, despite the fact that hearing it was a girl would have been equally wonderful. Simply knowing one way or the other made this child so much more real.
"The tech said he was perfectly healthy."
"Great!" Rick boomed.
"But," Gregory began. "You're a doctor. You understand that things can always still go wrong. Now or down the line. Allie and I wanted to know how you'd react if the baby... if he wasn't exactly what you expected?"
Marley still angrily paced the floor of the study. "I cannot believe that after all Grant has done, a judge could look at him and even consider..."
"He's Kirkland's biological father," Jamie spoke up. "You and I have spent too long pretending that it doesn't matter. It matters to the court. And it matters to Kirkland."
"But don't you see? Grant's been given an inch. In six months, he and Kevin Fowler will have taken a mile, two miles, the whole damned state in order to maneuver themselves into position to take Kirkland away from us."
Cass cut in, "Only if the judge feels that Grant can provide a stable, positive home-life. Let's be honest, Grant is anything but stable. Short of it being revealed that Jamie runs a drug lab in the basement and you're the mastermind behind a money laundering scheme that funds foreign terrorists through the art gallery, you two will remain Kirkland's preferred guardians."
"Grant can't decorate his own house apparently. How's he supposed to be even partially responsible for the welfare of teenage boy?"
"He'll have some say," Cass corrected. "His parental rights being reinstated and legally acknowledged does give him a modicum of pull. But, for the most part, things will continue to go on just like they have been."
"What do we need to do in the meantime to strengthen our position for the next hearing?" Jamie pressed on, hoping to get Marley focused.
"Be a nice, normal family. No drug labs or ties to terrorists..."
"So, in other words, do nothing?" Marley frowned at him incredulously. "That's your advice?"
"Well, I suppose the two of you could dress this marriage up a bit more. Appear in public together, make it not quite so blatantly obvious you're leading separate lives. Get a house and actually live together, for one."
Jamie wondered, "Why do we need to get a house? We're all living here under the same roof."
"It's not the same. It's a matter of record that you were living here with Steven and Kirkland prior to the marriage and that Marley," he cast a quick, apologetic look in her direction. "Only moved in recently due to the issues with Donna. If the two of you were to make an investment together and buy a home for yourselves, it would show that you're committed."
"Or," Marley began, hesitantly looking to Jamie. "We could just move into my mother's house. The five of us; Steven is living primarily at the dorms these days. Donna is gone. Matt took her to... this morning. And the renovations from the smoke and water damage should be done soon. That way, we wouldn't have to wait to find a house, buy it, go through contracts and all of that. We could be in there tonight if we wanted."
"Not a bad idea," Cass gently encouraged, Marley looking back to him and missing the first troubled look to shadow Jamie's face all morning. "You all go about your lives as a family, and you let Grant dig his own grave. Sooner or later, he always does."
Mindy and Rick exchanged looks off Gregory's question.
"You mean, if the baby were sick, something along those lines?" Rick clarified.
"Anything," Gregory said firmly. "Right now, you have this image of a perfect baby in your head, right?"
Mindy had to agree. Despite only finding out a few minutes earlier that Allie's child was a boy, Gregory was right, she did already have a full-out, 3-D image in her mind of her and Rick's son, from newborn to eighteen. And beyond. Mindy nodded tentatively.
"Well, what if he doesn't live up to that? What if he's different from what you imagined?"
"I think we're all different from what our parents imagined," Rick said lightly. "No kid comes with a guarantee."
"No parent, either," Mindy added. She leaned closer, confiding, "I just... I just went through something pretty intense with my father. It turned out he wasn't exactly who I thought he was. In some ways. But in others, he was still the Daddy who loved me and raised me and spoiled me rotten. Maybe I wasn't the daughter he bargained for, either. But he never gave up on me. Rick and I, neither of us comes from a perfect family. Both our dads drank no, Rick, don't shush me, I'm going to be honest; they deserve to hear it all. Both our daddies are on the wagon now. We both lost our moms when we were young, though we ended up we terrific stepmothers... Bottom line is, we both come from people who really did their very, very best, despite the fact that they were far from perfect. And that's all I can promise you. The barbeques and the Christmases, all of that is great, it honestly is. But lots of parents can offer your baby that. All Rick and I have is generations of examples about how to stick by your family, no matter what. Even if they don't turn out exactly the way you expected."
"His name is Hudson," Allie said.
"What?" Rick, Mindy and Gregory looked like they'd been whip-lashed.
"His name is Hudson. You can give him any middle name you want, and you can call him anything you want, but his name, on his birth certificate, it's got to Hudson. After Gregory."
While Gregory turned to stare at Allie quizzically, Rick and Mindy also traded glances.
"Hudson Bauer..." he said.
"HB..." Mindy grinned.
Mindy told Allie and Gregory, "My granddaddy, his name was Harlan Billy Lewis, but everyone called him HB. Hudson Bauer. I love it."
"Does this mean," Rick cautiously asked Allie. "That you'd be willing to have us adopt your baby?"
Jamie sliced his racquet sharply and smashed the miniature black ball right into the wall with a satisfying grunt. Sweat dripping down his back as well as both sides of his face, he was so focused on the thrashing he was giving his imaginary opponent, that he failed to notice Lorna passing by the Plexiglas side of the court.
"You already died and lost your son once. How'd that work out for you?" What sounded like Lila's voice prompted Lorna to stop and turn around just in time to see, yup, she was right, it was Lila, all but shoving a reluctant Grant past the health club's doors, lecturing, "Between the smoking and the drinking and the tantrums, you're going to bust a blood vessel. I may not have gone to law school, but I'm pretty sure corpses don't get custody of their kids, what do you think?"
"I think that I have more important things to do than..." Grant's voice trailed off and his eyes narrowed as, over Lorna's shoulder, he spied Jamie exiting the court, racquetball gear in hand. "Son of a bitch, Frame. I ought to shove that racquet down your throat."
"Uh-ha," Jamie ignored the threat, offered Lila a polite nod in greeting and, spotting Lorna, smiled and inquired, "How's the arm?"
"Better," she gulped, feeling guilty over feeling guilty about accidentally overhearing his private conversation with Marley earlier that really, if it was so damn private, he should have conducted privately and kept Lorna from feeling so guilty about.
"Oh, cut the benevolent physician act," Grant snarled. He asked Lorna, "You know what Dr. Feel-Good here did to me today? He fixed it so that I have to beg him and Marley for permission to see my own son."
Jamie sighed, looking around, understanding that this wasn't the time or the place to get into it, but equally cognizant of the fact that, unless he did, Grant would refuse to let up. "Like it or not, Kirkland is my son, too. And as many reservations as I have about you so much as talking to him on the phone, much less visiting on a regular basis, I recognize that he wants to see you. I'm willing to make the best of this situation. In fact, I agree with the judge's decision. You should have a place in Kirkland's life."
Lorna looked from Grant to Jamie. "Did you get hit in the head with one of your racquetballs?"
He took no offense. In fact, the suppressed smile tugging at one corner of his mouth suggested that Jamie merely felt darn amused at Lorna so freely jumping into a conversation she obviously had no place in. "Kirkland is happy. He's keeping up his grades. He's still playing hockey, swimming, doing all the normal things he loves. He hasn't been transformed into some morally gray version of himself with a penchant for bad suits and cigars. I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to insure my son gets what he needs, and that obviously includes Grant. So be it."
"He needs to be with his father," Kirkland's father predictably opined, all the while wondering who invited Lorna to their dialogue. He snuck a sideways peek at Lila to check whether she was as confused as he by the turn of events. The look on Lila's face while she glanced anxiously from Jamie to Lorna, however, suggested that it wasn't confusion she was currently experiencing. It was most definitely something else.
"Give me a break," Jamie snapped at Grant. "You require a baby-sitter to make sure you don't stroke yourself into a stupor. How the hell do you think you'd be able to parent Kirkland on your own? No offense, Lila."
"None taken," she assured Jamie. While continuing to glare daggers at Lorna.
"Look," Jamie went on. "Just because Kirkland doesn't live with you, that doesn't mean you can't be a part of his life. Not to make too fine a point of it, but I'm giving you way more consideration than Vicky ever did."
"It's easy to be generous when he's living under your roof." Grant struggled to keep up his end of the clash while, at the same time, desperately laboring to decipher what the hell else seemed to be going on beneath the surface.
"You're right. I won't apologize for it. If you want to continue huffing and puffing and threatening to blow my and Kirkland's house down all so you can make yourself feel better, then go ahead. But know that Kirkland will hate you for it. And that you'll have no one but yourself to blame when he finally cuts you loose." Jamie held up both hands, indicating he was done, and turned to exit in the opposite direction.
Lorna watched him leave and, after a quick frown at Lila, who, clearly, was waiting to see what Lorna intended to do next, made a point of also exiting the other way. Just before she rounded the corner though, Lorna turned her head and, ever so briefly, glanced again in the direction Jamie had gone.
Grant noticed too.
And finally, at long last, it all clicked for him.
"Oh... My... That's.... Him?"
"Him what? Him who?" Lila parried feebly, even as her face went crimson and her eyes darted guiltily.
"This is what you were hinting about before, Lorna underfoot... inserting herself into people's marriages... involved with someone up at the house.... "
"I don't remember," she insisted. "I don't know what you mean."
"Spill it, Lila. Is Jamie running around on Marley with Lorna?"
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