Sleep when the baby sleeps.
It's what the parenting books told Frankie. It's what other moms told Frankie. It's what Cass told Frankie.
What no one told her was how precisely you were supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps, if every time you closed your eyes your mind instantly overflowed with visions of medicinal vials turning up where they weren't supposed to, cousins who would probably never forgive you now... and a dead woman standing in the nursery, holding your infant with one arm, and that damn ever-present vial in the other.
"This is a dream," Frankie told herself firmly.
"Of course it's a dream," Cecile's familiar, scornful, condescending voice reverberated through Frankie like a wave of nausea. "For a woman who claims intimate connection with the universe, you've proven disproportionately dim at picking up clues it's practically punching you in the face with."
Despite understanding that none of this was real, Frankie still felt compelled to lurch towards Lori Ann, telling Cecile, "Get away from her! Get away from her or I'll "
"What? You'll what? Kill me?" Cecile giggled without a trace of pleasure. "Someone already beat you to it. See?" She bared her neck to Frankie, showing off the ugly purple bruises that encircled her throat. "Aren't they absolutely glorious?"
Frankie shuddered. "They're horrible."
"You mean it doesn't delight you to see the gory details of my demise? To know that I suffered? That I inflicted these beauties on myself as I desperately clawed for that last bit of air even as my throat tightened and tightened... Oh, I'm sorry, dear. How insensitive of me. You 'died' in a similar fashion, did you not? Or, at least, in the fashion my death throes were so meticulously staged to resemble. You know, Mary Frances, you should be grateful to me. Certainly, I made you forget Cass and that carrot-haired spawn of yours. But I also allowed you to disregard your last moments with one Mr. Fax Newman. I offered you the blessing of failing to remember what it felt like to have the life squeezed out of you, your eyes bulging, your heart pounding in your ears, before finally there's nothing but black..."
"Stop it!" Frankie screamed, her hands pulling at her own throat as Cecile's words brought the horror she'd suffered back to the surface. "Shut up! You're dead!"
"I am," Cecile nodded calmly, her smile widening as her eyes drank up Frankie's distress. "But not gone. You and I are going to be seeing a lot of each other, darling, just like this. I'll be right here," she tapped Frankie on the forehead with a sharp, manicured nail. "You won't escape me."
"Why?" Frankie pleaded. "Why are you doing this? What do you want?"
"For you to face the truth."
"That, contrary to all appearances, I've won. And you're about to lose... everything."
"Am I bugging you?" Jasmine asked timidly, sticking her head around the corner of the stable, where Kirkland stood, aimlessly loosening and tightening the leather straps of his saddle with seemingly no intention of actually plunking it, much less himself, atop of a horse.
"Hi, Jazz," he said, not answering the question but, then again, not shooing her away, either.
She took it as a positive sign and approached carefully. "Everyone at school wondered where you were."
He snorted. "Everyone at school knows where I am. And why. I don't care, though. I don't care what they think. My dad's innocent."
"Of course, he is!" Jasmine agreed loyally. "Uncle Jamie is a good person."
"Thanks," he said absently, still fiddling with the straps.
"Are you scared?"
He turned his head to look at her and quietly admitted, "Yeah."
"I was worried about you."
He allowed himself a small smile. "Thanks, Jazz. I'm okay."
"I thought you might need cheering up."
"Yeah, listen, thanks, but you don't have to "
"Oh, not me," she said quickly. "I know you don't.... I'm not... I I called Charlie. I told her you needed a friend to hang out with. A real friend your own age and stuff. Is that alright?" Before Kirkland could answer, Jasmine ducked back outdoors to call, "I found him, Charlie! He's in the stables!"
"Hey," Charlie came in, rubbing her hands together and blowing on them from the cold.
"Hey," Kirkland said.
"How's it going?"
"Yeah, Jazz told me." Charlie indicated the saddle. "You going for a ride?"
He shrugged. "Thinking about it."
"Come on," Charlie offered. "I'll race you."
"You'd rather mope?"
"Yeah, well, not an option today. Either saddle up or I start filling you in on everything you've missed at school so far, including who said what to whom in homeroom, who sat next to whom at lunch, and who likes who and who's breaking up with "
"Okay, okay," Kirkland laughed. "You win. Anything but that."
As Charlie reached up to grab some riding gear of her own, Jasmine awkwardly inched towards the door, waving. "Well, bye, guys, have fun...."
"And where do you think you're going?" Kirkland and Charlie asked in near unison.
"Scared to race with the big kids?" Charlie teased.
"We'll give you a head start." Kirkland winked.
It took Jasmine a moment, but once she finally realized what was happening, that she was being included, that not just Kirk but Charlie too actually wanted her around, nothing could stop her ear-to-ear grin, even as she put one hand on her hip, wagged her finger and told them both, "Uh-uh, don't need your head-starts. There's going to be some serious dust-eating today, you just watch!"
"I wanted to talk to you privately," Jamie ushered Steven into the study for the second time in as many days and closed the door. "Without Kirkland."
"What's up?" Jamie studied his son, noting Steven's hooded, guarded expression and rigid stance, realizing, with a stab of guilt, that the boy was literally bracing for another blow. " What's gone wrong now?"
"I'm sorry for putting you through this... I never... All I wanted was for you to have a normal, happy life and I... I'm sorry I couldn't give that to you."
"Normal's overrated," Steven shrugged. "Besides, Mom was anything but normal so my life being a circus can't all be pinned on you. And you have given me a great life. As normal and happy as it could be after she died. You've been a great dad, the best a kid could hope for." Steven sighed. "Are you going to cry now?"
"Possibly," Jamie laughed, even as he forced down a lump in his throat. "Thank you for saying that."
"So what's the latest with Kirkland?" Steven seemed unwilling to dwell on the previous subject any longer than necessary.
"Grant pulled strings to get an emergency custody hearing. He thinks he's got enough leverage to push for Kirkland to be returned to him permanently."
"Not if I give Marley an annulment," Jamie said, the unexpected answer causing Steven's eyes to widen. "That would get Kirkland out of my orbit."
"And into Grant's? Dad!"
"I'd send him to live with Marley. Grant has no grounds to complain about her as long as she isn't married to me." Jamie saw something in Steven's face. "Are you okay with this?"
"Hell no. You know what this sounds like? Breaking up with Marley, letting go of Kirk? It sounds like you're getting ready to... to give up. Again," Steven said pointedly, voice cracking in spite of his best efforts to remain in control.
"I'm not," Jamie insisted, understanding exactly what he was alluding to. "I'm not giving up on anything, most especially you and your brother. I'm getting ready to fight harder than I have ever fought for anything in my life."
"I talked to Alice," Steven said quietly. "She told me... she explained what you went through. Before."
"And I came out the other side," Jamie reminded. "A good bit tougher than I went in. If I could get through that, I can get through this. But something I learned back in the hospital is that you need to tackle your demons one at a time. First, I fight off this damned murder charge, and then I'm coming back for Kirkland. And following that, the three of us are going on a long, long vacation to someplace where there's no Grant, no blood-thirsty DAs, and no computers."
Steven searched his father's eyes, looking for something and seemingly finding it as, after a long moment, he allowed himself to relax and observe, "Let's not get crazy, Dad."
"I told the judge the truth," Kevin reminded Gregory and Allie back at his office. "We got randomly lucky in that you and GQ happen to have the same blood type. We've put him off for a couple of weeks, but Allie, I said this the first time we met: You can't hide from GQ forever. He's going to see your baby and know that it's his son."
"What if he never sees him?" Allie asked.
"How are you going to make that happen?"
"I can leave town," she said. "Right before the baby is due, I can leave town, and then I can just hand him over to Rick and Mindy, and GQ will never know where to find him."
"As your attorney, I really can't recommend that. It's fraud, for one thing. And it's wrong. The best thing for you to do is to come to an agreement with GQ. Let him meet Rick and Mindy. Maybe he'll agree with you that it's for the best. This will be an open adoption. You can both continue to have contact with him."
"GQ would never allow the baby to be adopted by them. You heard what he said on the stand." Allie hesitated, her certainty of a moment before dissipating as she asked Gregory in a small voice, "Do you think he's right? Do you think we'd actually be putting the baby in some kind of danger, letting him grow up with a white family?"
"I don't know," Gregory said. "GQ seemed to believe it."
"Rick's daughter is African-American," Kevin reminded. "Why don't you ask her how she feels about having a white dad? I, personally, don't think it's that big of a deal. Being a good parent encapsulates a lot more than matching skin color. But, I've got my own vested interest in believing that to be true. If it'll make you feel better, you should hear it straight from the source."
"Like, just bring it up out of nowhere? Won't they think it's weird?"
"It doesn't have to be out of nowhere. You've talked to Rick and Mindy, but it's perfectly appropriate for you to ask to meet the rest of the family. I can give them a call, set it up. You and Gregory can go to Springfield, spend some time with all the Bauers, the Lewises, too. I would have recommended it under any circumstances. They're going to be your baby's family. And while you're there, you can chat with Leah. You are certainly within you rights to wonder how she feels about Rick as a dad. See what kind of vibe you get. It might help put your mind at ease. And if it doesn't, remember, nothing is cast in stone."
"Okay," Jamie said as he closed the door to his family's study behind Grant, leaving a hopeful, smiling, nearly giddy Kirkland in the hallway. "He isn't here. You can drop the act. Nice move, telling Kirk you were going to help me. He's thrilled. I have no interest in disillusioning him, I figure you'll take care of that sooner or later all on your own. So, tell me, how long do we need to stay here pretending to discuss your generosity of spirit? Because, I warn you, thirty seconds of quality Grant time is about all I can stomach right now."
"A promise is a promise," Grant shrugged. "Do you have any objections to my assisting in your defense?"
"About a million."
"I can understand why," Grant nodded sympathetically. "A man who hid something as sinister as a suicide attempt followed by involuntary commitment most likely has other things to conceal. Things that he'd prefer to stay buried."
"Hate to disappoint you, but if there was something more to find out about me, Grant, you would've dug it up by now."
"Then you don't mind if I keep digging? Of course, in lieu of your current unfortunate situation, as an officer of the court, you realize that I am obligated to surrender any information I find on you to the District Attorney, whether I believe it relevant or not. And even if I were to suppress the urge to turn the information in, just having it in hand... I'm sorry to say it would be too tempting. I know my weaknesses. I just wouldn't be able to help myself and let something slip..."
"You really are a despicable bastard."
"I also don't want to get Kirkland's hopes up," Grant continued on as if Jamie hadn't spoken. "Only for his esteem of you to be dashed by whatever new unsavory truths my people would uncover. It would grieve me so for Kirkland to feel in some way responsible for your downfall. The thing about fathers and sons... how a man's son views him is of paramount importance, perhaps the most important thing there is, don't you agree? Does he see you as a good man, a noble man? Or as a disappointment? Something to be shunned..."
"Kirkland didn't shun you even when you deserved it," Jamie reminded. "He welcomed you with open, forgiving arms."
"Yes, but it's not the same. You've spent your life cultivating this image of the good guy, the white knight, the perfect father."
"I've never claimed to be any of those things."
"Nonetheless, that's your label, you're stuck with it. I, on the other hand, have always been looked upon as the scoundrel, the villain, a man devoid of morals."
"We've met. What's your point?"
"My point is that when it comes to me, people expect bad things, but when it comes to you, the dirt doesn't wash off so easily. The fall from that pedestal is a lot longer and a lot harder, especially for a thin-skinned, silver-spooned case like you."
"Yes, and you started life as a homeless orphan scrounging for pennies in the gutter. That's Spencer's mythology, not yours."
"Kirkland may be able to overlook your little stint in a mental hospital that even carries a whiff of tragic nobility, if you squint and tilt your head sideways. But what about anything else I might find? Would he still look at you with those big blue eyes full of respect and trust, once all your dirty past deeds come to light? Would Steven?"
"I have nothing to hide from my boys or anybody else. You want to go on your fact-finding mission, go ahead. But it's a waste of time, money and energy you could otherwise spend on your son."
"Look at you, trying to bluff. Listen, you fool," Grant dropped into a low tone. "I'm giving you the chance to salvage what's left of your dignity. To at least keep this facade of being the perfect father, since that's just about the only thing you'll have to comfort you in prison."
"Don't get ahead of yourself, Grant. I haven't gone on trial, yet. Who knows? Maybe my actually being innocent will shockingly lead to my being judged innocent."
"Even without my meddling, I wouldn't advise you to make any long-term plans. If by some miracle you survive all those skeletons spilling publicly out of your closet, you'll still have nothing waiting for you at the end. Well, at the very least, you won't have Kirkland. Because he'll finally be with his real father."
"Whatever happens to me, you'll never get Kirkland. Marley will see to that."
"I can handle Marley. Same way I handled her last night, in my bed, making love to me for hours on end. She was begging for it, Jamie. Begging for a man who finally knew how to please her, how to satisfy her, how to make her moan, how to make her scream. And if you don't believe me," Grant smugly continued, taking in the delicious sight of Jamie's stunned, gaping face, misunderstanding just why exactly Jamie looked like he might become violently ill on the spot. "I'd be happy to offer up all sorts of intimate, personal, physical details you're bound to appreciate. Seeing as you and I are only two of three men, Jake McKinnon unfortunately still being quite dead, to have experienced the not-quite identical pleasures of both Hudson sisters "
"You son of a bitch," Jamie said in a lethal tone that made even Grant pause and momentarily wonder if he'd pushed the good doctor too far. "I'll kill you."
"With Kirkland on the other side of the door?" Grant quickly said, trying to keep his voice calm as Jamie charged at him.
To Grant's relief, Jamie pulled up, stopping just short of grabbing him by the lapels and flinging Grant against the wall hard enough to shatter vertebrae, not to mention a tooth or two. But Jamie still got close enough for Grant to look into his livid eyes and, for the first time, not see the weak-willed Dr. Frame he'd always taken for granted, but a different man altogether. A man capable of... well, just what Grant didn't precisely know.
He was, however for once, genuinely afraid of finding out.
"Gregory," with Allie out of the room, Kevin cleared his throat and finally brought up something that had been on his mind since even before the hearing. "When I asked the hospital to send me confirmation of your blood type, somebody screwed up and sent me your entire file."
"Oh," was all he said, face devoid of expression, except for the resignation in his eyes, which suggested he knew exactly what Kevin was alluding to.
"Does... does Allie know?"
He shook his head. "Are you going to tell her?"
"No. Oh, no. That's none of my... No."
"Gregory?" Kevin, usually never at a loss for words, struggled. "I'm sorry..."
Gregory just shrugged, then looked up and smiled amiably as Allie walked back in.
Rachel sat across from Cory, and Carl, Elizabeth, as they tried to explain to their twelve year old children, in age-appropriate detail, what was going on with Jamie.
"Until the trial starts, and especially after, there will probably be things written about not just Jamie, but our whole family, in the paper and on-line and such," Rachel said. "I don't want you to pay any attention it. And if you see something that upsets you, please, don't hesitate, come to your father or to me "
"Did he do it?" Cory asked, nonplused. "Did Jamie kill that woman?"
"No!" Rachel exclaimed. "Of course not."
"Why not?" Elizabeth wondered.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You said she was blackmailing him. That she was working with Mr. Harrison to help take Kirkland away. What else was he supposed to do?"
"Elizabeth!" Carl hissed.
"It's self-defense," Cory insisted.
"Jamie did not kill Cecile," Rachel reiterated.
"Okay," he concurred agreeably. "But, even if he did, it's okay, Mom, we understand, she deserved it."
"No place indeed should murder sanctuarize," Elizabeth quoted. "Revenge should have no bounds."
Rachel looked at Carl helplessly, but he only muttered, "Hamlet."
"I wasn't asking for a citation," she snapped.
Carl had suspected as much. He told the children, "No one deserves to be murdered, no matter what they may have done."
"What about Iago?" Cory wondered.
"What about Lady MacBeth?" from Elizabeth.
"Those aren't real people," Rachel looked, completely stymied, from one to the other. "And even if they were... no, murder is never justified. And it's certainly never noble or poetic or glamorous. Murder is... it's horrible. It's real and it's raw and it's... it makes you a little less human just to be a part of it."
"You've killed people," Cory said, not accusingly, merely matter-of-fact. "That lady in St. Croix. And Ryan's mother, the one who looked like you."
Rachel turned to Carl a second time, now wondering how in the world, with her being so careful, they could have possibly known about....
"Google," her husband intoned darkly, as if the word, and the evil it represented, were a curse.
Making a mental note to dismantle every computer in the house, Rachel told Elizabeth and Cory, "I In both those cases, I was protecting myself, the people I loved."
"But isn't that what Jamie would have been doing?" Elizabeth asked again, not unreasonably.
It wasn't unusual for Mike Bauer to have a client show up on his doorstep late at night. After all, if they had normal well-adjusted lives, they'd have no need for a lawyer. He'd learned early on in his career that he wasn't merely an advocate for his clients in a court of law, but a father, brother, priest, psychiatrist and bartender all rolled into one. Whether he liked it or not.
So, he heard their confessions and their regrets, their hopes and their dreams. He offered a glass of scotch to those struggling to calm their nerves, and a cup of coffee for those needing to sober up.
And then he sent them on their way, hopefully their chests a little lighter, their consciences a little clearer, and many times his job even a little easier thanks to his new and improved understanding of a troubled client. On occasion there were patrons that didn't need Mike to do any of those things. These clients only came to him in the middle of the night for one purpose and one purpose only.
"I want to take Hamilton's deal," Jamie Frame said.
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