The idea of her son being thought capable of murder was so ridiculous to Rachel that she was tempted to laugh, literally laugh; that's how absurd, how preposterous it sounded to her.
But one glimpse of Jamie's face when he was brought in for his bail hearing was enough to squelch any potential merriment, even of the near-hysterical variety. He had looked so stunned and bewildered, so... lost, that Rachel found herself barely able to muster up a comforting smile.
Chase Hamilton personally appeared in court to request that bail be denied on the grounds of Jamie's being a flight risk, while Cass, usually so notoriously cool under pressure, appeared, to Rachel's eye at least, strangely off his game.
Nevertheless, bail had been set at ten million dollars, which Rachel promptly posted, thanking God, as always, for Mac and how well he'd left them all taken care of, before shoving her way past the swarm of reporters and swooping her son home.
Once there, however, Jamie had excused himself and promptly whisked a shell-shocked Kirkland and Steven into the study, promising the boys an explanation he had yet to offer Rachel.
Everything is going to be all right, she silently promised him. I swear, this time, I'll be there to make everything all right for you.
"Mother?" Amanda's voice rang out, followed by Matt's urgent, "Mom! Where are you?"
"In here," she called, bracing herself.
"Where's Jamie?" Amanda scanned the living room. "I checked the news feed at Brava. They said he'd made bail."
"He's talking to Steven and Kirkland."
"What the hell is going on with these cops?" Matt ranted. "First, they think Donna killed Cecile, and now Jamie? Are they just going down the list of anyone she's ever met and drawing names from a hat? Are they so clueless and lazy that they can't do any real police work to find the actual killer and leave us alone?"
"Matthew, please," Rachel scolded, her eyes flickering towards the study door.
"Sorry," he muttered. "It's just... this makes no sense. What possible reason could Jamie have for killing Cecile? I don't think he's so much as mentioned her name in over twenty years."
Amanda looked uneasily from Matt to Rachel. "The news report I saw said that Cecile was blackmailing him? That, right before he came home to take care of the boys, Jamie was in a mental hospital in San Francisco? That he'd tried to kill himself?"
"Jesus, Amanda, you're in the media, you know how full of made-up crap they are," Matt spat. "Do you really think we wouldn't have known it if Jamie..." He caught the look on Rachel's face and faltered, anger gradually cooling to disbelief and shock.
"It's true," Amanda realized it at the same time, but, unlike Matt, was able to put their horror into words. "Oh, God, Mom... Poor Jamie. What happened to him? What the hell happened? And where were we?"
"Not there," Rachel said simply. "He needed his family, and none of us were there."
It was bound to happen. Bay City University was large, but it wasn't that large. Even though they didn't have any classes together, Allie and Sarah were bound to run into each other on campus eventually.
It finally happened at the library, Sarah rounding the Psychology stack and bumping smack into Allie perusing Political Science.
She tried to just slide past her without any acknowledgement, but Allie lightly warned, "Sorry, I take up the whole aisle now."
"I don't want to fight with you," Sarah hissed. "Just forget it, okay?"
"I don't want to fight with you either. I just want a straight answer. I've thought about this every day since "
"Don't you have more important things on your mind right now?" Sarah indicated the reason why Allie presently took up an entire library aisle.
"I want to know why you're treating me like this."
"Oh, God, Allie, come on. You're going to be a mom. Isn't it about time you grew up?"
"What does that mean?" she challenged. "What's so childish about wanting to know why somebody who I thought was my best friend just suddenly turned on me?"
"Do you hear yourself? Best Friend. Are we in second grade? Life isn't an Anne of Green Gables novel."
"I don't understand," Allie said simply. "Yeah, you're right, I do have a lot on my mind right now. And I would really love to have you to talk it through with."
"There! You see, there it is! It's all about you, you, you!"
"But, I also," Allie went on as if Sarah hadn't interrupted. "I also just... miss you. I miss hanging out with you. I miss watching bad movies with you. I miss seeing someone wearing really hideous 80s fashion on the street and turning around and not having to say anything and still knowing that you're thinking exactly what I'm thinking."
"They're back," Sarah said. "80s fashions are back. Shoulder pads, studded leather, metal mesh, neon. It's all over the runways this season."
"I should go dig in my grandmother's attic. You won't believe what's up there. I saw an actual Members Only jacket. I'm afraid to find out who it belonged to."
"Carl, maybe?" Sarah suggested, as the two of them burst out laughing at the image.
"And the fingerless, lace gloves are my grandmother's?"
"I see Rachel more as the fishnet stockings type."
"Oh, no. That's your grandmother."
"Uh-uh. With Iris, it's knee-high boots and riding crops. She's an 1880s, D.H. Lawrence kind of girl," Sarah whooped, then had to cover her mouth at the librarian's angry shushing.
"I miss you," Allie repeated once they'd calmed down. "I miss... this."
"I have to go," Sarah said. She turned around, reaching for the first book her hand touched, not even bothering to peek at the title. "Good luck with... everything," she called over her shoulder, scurrying off and back around the corner.
Jamie, Steven and Kirkland sat in the study, neither one saying a word.
The boys still absorbing what their father had just told them, while Jamie merely waited, wondering and watching them both as he futilely tried to prepare himself for what they might say or ask or do or
A hug was not the first thing Jamie expected from either of his sons. But then, to his complete surprise and incredulous relief, Kirkland launched himself into Jamie's arms; enveloping his father in a tight clasp Jamie hadn't realized he rather desperately needed until that very moment.
"You got hit with a lot of crap," Kirkland sighed, looking up at him with bewildered, concerned eyes; Vicky's eyes, big, blue, full of loyalty and idealistic zeal.
"That's an understatement," Steven muttered, but not so quietly that Jamie failed to hear the strain in his older son's voice. "When we first came to live with you, you didn't... you seemed okay..."
"I was okay. Remember Alice, my stepmother? She was part of the medical team and she made sure I got excellent care. I'd finished my treatment by the time Vicky called and asked if I could take you both for a couple of weeks while she and Jake did some business in Oakdale. Then, when she died, it just made sense for you two to keep staying with me. I knew I couldn't do it alone, so I moved back home. I've been happy and healthy with you guys ever since."
"Until that Cecile De Poulignac came to town," Kirkland shook his head. "I don't get this lady. I know she's Maggie's mom and everything but, seriously, what's her problem? She kidnapped Frankie, too, didn't she? Who does stuff like that?"
"Forget about Cecile. She's not... she's dead and gone, let's just leave her that way."
"Kind of tough to do when you've been arrested for her murder," Steven mumbled, earning a sharp glance from Kirkland. "Well, it's true. Those news vans parked outside the gates aren't just loitering for the fun of it."
Kirkland turned back to Jamie. "What happens now? Is there going to be a trial?"
"That's weeks, maybe months away."
"So, it gives us time."
"Time to do what?"
"Time to find the real killer. What? Don't look at me like that," Kirkland shook his head at Jamie's touched smile, made up of equal parts appreciation and gentle reprimand. "I know Steven and I aren't the Hardy Boys. We won't do anything stupid or dangerous. Actually, that's a lie. I'll do whatever it takes to prove that you're innocent. I'm not letting them send you to jail for something you didn't do, Dad."
"I appreciate your support, both of you. But the last thing I want is for this mess to make your lives anymore complicated or crazy than they already are. Steven," Jamie prompted. "You hear me?"
Unfortunately, unlike his brother, Steven hadn't inherited Vicky's openness, her utter and complete inability to keep whatever she was feeling from radiating or glowering across her face the minute she felt it. Sadly for all of them, Jamie realized, Steven had inherited or maybe he'd merely internalized his father's ability to keep everything buried so deep down inside, even he wasn't sure of his own state of mind most of the time.
Which meant that despite Steven's distant, "Yeah, sure, Dad, everything's fine," Jamie actually had no idea what his older son's true reaction to the situation might be.
Kirkland snorted. "Don't worry about us. We're used to complicated and crazy."
"Screw nirvana," Frankie sighed as she rose from her lotus position, blew out the candles and tossed both pillows off the floor back onto the couch, giving up her hour-long attempt at meditation. Her brain was just firing too wildly, any efforts at reaching a state of all-encompassing peace, or even plain old composure, being overrun like Wile E. Coyote with a steam-roller by swirling, piercing questions that had no answers.
Jamie? Under arrest for murdering Cecile? How? Why? When? What for?
It didn't make sense. Despite knowing everything that she did about his and Cecile's torturous history, both past and present, Frankie still couldn't visualize her cousin a doctor, a father, the epitome of a boring, good guy; and Frankie meant that as a compliment, she really did strangling his ex-wife with his bare hands, then walking around town as if nothing had happened.
"Thank goodness!" Frankie leapt on Cass the minute he walked through the door. "I was losing my mind, waiting for you to come home. How's Jamie? Did he make bail? What do they have on him?"
"Where are the girls?" Cass asked, pressing Frankie to him so tightly she could barely catch her breath, clinging to her as if she were the only thing keeping him from collapsing, exhausted.
"Charlie's at school; she texted me to say Kirkland wasn't in today. And Lori Ann is asleep upstairs. I've got her monitor hooked up, we'll hear if anything goes wrong." Frankie pulled back from Cass' embrace and studied him at arm's length. "You look fried."
"Is that all?" Cass' sluggish fingers struggled and failed to loosen his tie. Frankie stepped in to finish the job. "I feel like I went through a meat grinder about half a dozen times, then thrown into a food processor for good measure. Hamilton's in rare form, even for him. He's already got Jamie tried and convicted. Only decision left is whether to go for the death penalty or generously settle for life imprisonment."
"What do they have on him, Cass? Tell me. This is no time for client confidentiality. This is Jamie we're talking about. Despite... everything... he's still my family."
Cass sighed. "They know about his being in the hospital. They know Marley paid Cecile off so it wouldn't hurt his custody case. They claim that Jamie's motive was to permanently silence Cecile, keep her from become a recurring problem."
"But Jamie didn't need to kill her. He already had a way of stopping Cecile. The information he got from Sandy was more than enough to send her to prison."
"I brought that up. But Hamilton pointed out that even prison wouldn't have kept Cecile from continuing to blackmail Jamie. She had plenty of contacts on the outside who could get the job done if she snapped her fingers."
"So Jamie killed her, and framed Donna? Impossible."
"I'm just telling you what the DA's theory is. To be honest, I'm still trying to catch up to his line of thinking, myself."
"I know. I'm sorry. I just... I thought this was finally over. I thought Cecile was out of our lives forever."
"She is," Cass insisted. "Cecile can't hurt us anymore. This thing with Jamie..."
"This thing?" Frankie repeated, stunned by his nonchalance. "This thing could send Jamie to prison for the rest of his life."
"I won't let that happen," Cass, realizing how insensitive he'd sounded, vehemently swore, "I'll do everything I can to help him."
A sharp knock at the door caused them both to look up.
Not bothering with an invitation, Jamie pushed his way past Cass, focusing on his wife.
"What the hell have you done, Frankie?" he demanded.
"You don't waste any time, do you?" A balled-up piece of paper hit Grant squarely in the face, keeping him from fully appreciating Marley's fuming expression as she raged, "That's what you can do with your summons, you son of a bitch. You will not use Jamie's arrest to manipulate the court into taking Kirkland away from us. I won't allow it!"
"I'm afraid that's not up to you," Grant answered calmly, looking up and removing his reading glasses. He set both them and the book he'd been perusing atop an end table next to his chair. "Given that my son's physical custodian has been arrested for the brutal murder of his ex-wife, and my son's legal custodian is married to the aforementioned accused murderer, our judge has wisely seen fit to approve my request for an emergency hearing. I'll see you in family court. Shortly."
"Why wait? Why not drive over to the Cory mansion and drag Kirkland kicking and screaming here, right now?"
"Don't imagine I wasn't tempted. It galls me to think of my son living under the same roof as a man who's done the sorts of things Jamie is accused of."
"Give me a break! Like your rap sheet is any shorter." Marley sneered, "The only reason you're cooling your heels is because you're setting yourself up to play the sympathetic hero with Kirkland." Marley's voice dropped to a low, mocking rumble as she imitated Grant. "It wasn't my doing, son. It was the court who felt that circumstances being what they are..."
"I'm more tenor than baritone," Grant critiqued. "But I do give you points for style." He sighed. "Why won't you admit the inevitable, Marley? We both know I've won. What you fail to realize is that you you've! won, too."
"Are you insane? You taking Kirkland from Jamie and me... What exactly have I won?"
"Your freedom," Grant offered it to her like a bequest. "Your freedom from Jamie Frame. By telling Toni the truth, you've finally taken a knife to the suffocating cord that has been holding you back and making you miserable for years now. It might have been a bit passive/aggressive on your part; rather than telling him to shove off face to face. But it got the job done. Admit it, Marley. It was time. You knew it and you acted on it. So three cheers and a triumphant huzzah for you!"
Marley stared at Grant, speechless, spent, her mind, body, and soul so sick and tired of not just his games, but also the games she was playing with herself.
"I know that, once upon a time, Jamie Frame was probably the best man who ever loved me. I know that he was the best friend I ever had. And I know that I let you use me to hurt him. That I hurt him again after hurting him so badly years ago. I thought I could make up for it. I hoped that we could recapture what I so stupidly threw away. Instead," Marley's mind spun back to the previous night, the pain as fresh now as it had been then. "I saw the way he looked at her... and it killed me. It's the way he used to look at me. I finally understood that he would never, ever look at me that way again."
"You'll live," Grant's voice was suddenly next to her, suddenly close as he rose to his feet. "What you're feeling right now isn't actual loss, it's just the normal growing-pain of finally letting go."
She turned away, unwilling to face either him or the possible truth of what he was saying, but Grant refused to be left behind. With one hand, he brushed a lock of hair from the back of Marley's neck, placing his lips there instead, tracing a line from the crook of her shoulder up to just below her ear.
She wanted to extricate herself, knew that's exactly what she should be doing, even as she accepted that this was also precisely what she deserved.
His breath scorched her skin until Marley at last stopped fighting it and allowed herself to crumple against him with an appreciative moan.
"Tell the truth," his mouth was next to her ear. "Tell the truth, Marley, how long has it been?"
"Too long," she whimpered, turning around, surprising even Grant with her intensity as Marley slipped one arm around his head, yanking him closer and kissing him hard enough to raise a pinprick of blood along his bottom lip, while, with her free hand, she reached for the buttons of his shirt. "And long enough."
"Keep your voice down," Frankie attempted to hush an irate Jamie. "Lori Ann's asleep."
"Cecile's vial," Jamie lowered the pitch of his voice, but not the intensity, hissing, "The one she gave me, and I gave to you. Where is it?"
Frankie's eyes darted to Cass. "I don't... why?"
She could hear Jamie mentally counting to three before answering, resisting a very obvious urge to yell. This, Frankie couldn't help musing, this is the man believed capable of murder. A man who, with his entire life on the line, still takes care not to wake a sleeping baby. This is your cold-blooded killer.
"That vial, or rather the drug that was in it, is what killed Cecile."
Frankie's vision swam in and out of focus as her lungs shriveled. "No... No, I... Cecile was strangled. That's what they said. They said she was strangled."
"They were wrong. She actually died from an allergic reaction to the same drug she'd once used on you. The strangulation scenario was a deliberate misdirect, set up to frame Donna."
Frankie looked from Cass, who nodded briefly in confirmation, to Jamie, the implication of what he'd just said finally hitting her, the reason for why he was here, pacing her house, looking at Frankie like that....
"Where is the vial?" Jamie over-articulated each word, his patience near an end.
"Frankie doesn't have it. And neither do I," Cass answered. "And while I appreciate the strain you're under, Jamie, you do not come into my home and talk to my wife like that."
"So, the vial just walked off my desk and over to Donna's?" Jamie ignored Cass' warning to badger Frankie. "Is that what I'm supposed to believe?"
"You have no proof Frankie took that vial. You dumped it in front of her and stomped off in a snit, anyone else could have "
"I took it," Frankie admitted even as her husband groaned. But she refused to play it Cass' way. Jamie had once been their good friend. And he was still their family, no matter what.
"Cass and I dusted it for fingerprints. To see if we could tangibly connect the drug to Cecile, to put the evidence in her hands, so to speak."
"She was wearing gloves when she handed it to me," Jamie recalled. "The only prints would've been "
"Yours," Frankie agreed.
"So what did you do with it then?"
"I I threw it away."
"You threw it away," Jamie repeated in an even tone. "You must have quite an arm for it to make it clear across town and land on Donna's property."
"I don't know how the vial ended up at Donna's. But I swear to you, Jamie, I swear on Charlie and Lori Ann, it wasn't because of me or Cass."
"And I should believe you, because, what? We're family? We'd never sink so low as to blackmail each other or make ugly threats?"
"You think I would send you to prison to protect myself?"
"You were willing to destroy me and my kids once to shield yours." His anger was gone, replaced by a chilling, deadly calm. "Why wouldn't you do it again?"
Cass stepped protectively in front of Frankie. "Get the hell out of my house, Jamie. And you should probably find yourself another lawyer."
"You think?" Jamie snarled as he slammed the door behind him.
Matt told Donna, "I almost don't know where to start."
"What's on your mind, Matthew?" she greeted him in her room, acting, like usual, as if they were taking high tea at the Plaza, despite Donna's being dressed in a standard issue hospital gown. She did, however, provide her own red silk robe and matching slippers to counter the effect as much as possible.
"Jamie's been arrested for Cecile's murder," he blurted out, still only partially able to believe it.
"Jamie?" Donna repeated, her jolly mask slipping for just an instant as she brought one hand to her throat. "Why would Jamie..."
"She's been blackmailing him, apparently."
"Jamie? Would could Jamie possibly have to hide that's worth killing for?"
"It doesn't matter," Matt dismissed.
"Of course, it matters. He's your brother. Are you alright, darling?"
"No," he snapped. "I can barely wrap my head around it. They're saying it was cold-blooded, pre-meditated..."
"Jamie?" Donna repeated in disbelief.
"They have evidence. Enough to charge him with, anyway. Which means," Matt deliberately changed the subject before he risked storming out of the room or bursting into tears. "That the charges against you have been dropped."
"Oh..." was all Donna said. She let the news sink in for a moment. Then, as if prodded in the back, leapt up and told Matt. "So that means I can go now. Thanks goodness. The accommodations here left much to be desired. I tried to make some constructive suggestions. I do have experience in the interior-decorating field. You'd think they would be grateful to have a woman of my expertise advising "
"Donna!" Matt interrupted.
"Cut it out. Please. I'm sorry, I can't take it anymore."
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"You can't just waltz out of here. This isn't a hotel."
"Of course not," she agreed. "I just told you the accommodations are atrocious."
"You were committed for psychiatric observation."
"Because that horrible partner of Douglas' in the DA's office thought I'd killed Cecile. Now that they know I'm innocent, what grounds could they possibly have for keeping me locked up in here?" The rising hysteria in Donna's voice belied her attempts at clinging to a nonchalant veneer. To be honest, Matt found the crack vaguely reassuring.
"You weren't sent here because of Cecile."
"Well, it can't be due to Jenna. My lawyer told me they don't have enough evidence to charge me. Everything found in Cecile's room is inadmissible; they haven't been able to corroborate a thing."
"It wasn't because of Jenna, either," Matt said through clenched teeth, unable to suppress his own sarcasm when he added, "Though wasn't it terribly convenient for you that the Mother Superior at Sacred Heart, the only person who could actually connect you to Jenna, Dean and Felicia being held at the convent, is currently holed up in the Vatican, taking a vow of silence and piously refusing all extradition requests?"
"Terribly convenient," Donna agreed.
"You can't leave," Matt told her. "You tried to commit suicide."
"Goodness, how many times do I need to explain this? It was a transitory lapse. Haven't you ever had a particularly low moment? It passes, they all do. It won't happen again."
"I've had plenty of low moments. None of them have driven me to taking a razor blade and slashing my wrists."
Donna's voice stiffened. "I don't want to stay here, Matthew. I'm not happy here. Now, would you kindly call my lawyer and demand that he get me released?"
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