Mike Bauer was long out the door, but Cass and Frankie's argument continued, sotto voice, so as not to wake up either Charlie or Lori Ann.
"Jamie doesn't deserve your loyalty," Cass insisted. "The first thing he did after being arrested for Cecile's murder was storm over here and try to pin it on you."
"Jamie could have drugged me before Christmas, when Cecile tried to force him to. That would have ended all of his problems then and there. He didn't."
"I didn't say he was a monster. Just that, if it were up to him, you'd be the one facing a sentencing hearing tomorrow."
"If that were true," Frankie challenged, "Then why hasn't Jamie told the police about you and I also being in possession of the same drug that killed Cecile?"
"Because," Cass explained, somewhat patronizingly, "No attorney with half a brain would let him do that. Sure, it might point the finger at us for a few seconds, but Jamie can't prove his story of having given it to us. On the other hand, it would confirm that he once had the drug, which would explain the fingerprints on the vial, which would tighten the noose around his neck that much more. Believe me, Frankie, Jamie is no hero for keeping that piece of information quiet."
"What if I go to the police and tell them myself? I'll confirm that yes, Jamie had the vial, but he gave it to me and I threw it away, so he couldn't have..."
"Are you out of your mind? What good would it do? At best, they'll ignore you completely as a liar. At worst, you will have shoveled more dirt onto Jamie's grave by not only corroborating that he had the drug in his possession, but also by leaving it open for the prosecution to speculate that Jamie merely gave a portion of it to you and kept the rest back in order to poison Cecile!"
"My goodness," Frankie sighed. "Being a lawyer must be very unpleasant. You always see the worst in every situation."
"I get paid to see the worst in every situation. Just because Jamie fired me, doesn't mean I want to see him lose and go to prison for thirty years."
"Then let me testify for him. Even a few years off his sentence "
"On the other hand, I don't want to see this damn case tear you apart anymore than it already has."
"I'm fine," Frankie bluffed.
"You're becoming obsessed."
"I am not."
"You're dreaming about Cecile! Tell me that's not the definition of an obsession."
"You can't blame me. It's perfectly normal after everything she did to "
"Exactly. I don't blame you. I want to protect you. The way that I couldn't thirteen years ago."
"Oh, Cass, you didn't "
She reached for him, but he jerked away, unwilling to open the subject up for debate. He reminded, "And she didn't just do it to you. She did it to me and to Charlie, too. We suffered just as much as "
"I know." Frankie cupped Cass' face in her hands; this time, he let her. "Please believe me, I know."
"Then know that I can't go on like this. I can't keep letting Cecile continue to destroy our lives from beyond the grave. Look at this: We're fighting because of her. Instead of enjoying every minute of being back together, we're fighting! Over Cecile! Do you know how happy that would have made her?"
"Yes. But, if we don't if we don't want her to win, like you said before, we have to put this behind "
Cass bargained, "If you want me to put what she did to us behind me, then you have to put her behind you, one hundred percent. And that means not caring who killed her, or involving yourself in the investigation. I need this to be over. Today. Right now. This very minute. Don't you realize that every time you say her name, all I can think of is how I failed you?"
Rachel told Carl, "If you have a legal way for extricating Jamie from this mess, then I'm all ears. Otherwise..."
"Not entirely legal," he hedged. "But not precisely immoral, either."
Rachel hesitated. Then, unable to bear the curiosity, admitted, "I'm listening."
"Earlier, when you asked what I would do if it were Cory in this situation, I told you I would force him onto a private jet, drugged, bound and gagged if need be, and spirit him out of the country. There is no reason why we can't do the same for Jamie."
"Except for the minor fact that he is currently incarcerated, no, no reason at all."
"There are ways to get around that."
"Do I want to hear them?"
"If we could remove Jamie from the clutches of the Bay City Police Department without anyone being hurt..."
"And then what? Where would he go? How would he get by?"
"We'd provide for him, of course."
The offer was tempting. Very, very tempting. Carl was making everything sound so easy. So... harmless.
"No," Rachel finally said. "If Jamie had wanted to run, he would have done so the other day. He came back to turn himself in. He doesn't want to be spirited out of the country."
"Rachel," Carl tread carefully. "We know now that Jamie has been hospitalized once before. Is it not conceivable that he is simply, once again, not in his right mind?"
"Not by the medical definition of the term, at least according to Alice."
"I wasn't suggesting we hire a team of psychiatrists to testify to the fact. I was merely offering you a "
"Justification?" Rachel snorted.
"Something to ease your conscience."
"I don't need justification to save my son's life. I would kill for Jamie if I had to, and my conscience would be perfectly clear. What I will not do, even for Jamie, is sacrifice my other children."
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"If I asked you to bend the law for Jamie even in a, what did you call it, not precisely immoral way? what leg would I have to stand on in continuing my objection to your going after Donna? And you would, wouldn't you? I dare you to tell me you wouldn't. In fact, I dare you to tell me that, at least on some very, very basic level, that isn't exactly what this conversation is about."
Carl didn't say anything. Which was the same as saying it all.
"Thank you for not lying to me," Rachel said sincerely. She added, "And, with the flood-gates opened, how long until you'd fall back into old habits? Donna can't be the only person you're holding a grudge towards. What about Grant? He killed Ryan, after all. Spencer? Lorna? Iris? You never got my sister, Nancy, back for shooting you all those years ago in Arizona..."
"Please, Rachel, you're being ridiculous. I'm hardly some rabid dog that can't control its bloodlust when given the opportunity to attack."
"I'm telling you what I am afraid of, even more than Jamie's going to jail. I am afraid of being the one responsible for unleashing the Carl Hutchins of old. Not just on the world and all those people I've mentioned, but on Elizabeth and Cory."
"I would never hurt Elizabeth or Cory," he seethed.
"You would, Carl. Simply by reverting to type, you would." She explained, "I cost Jamie a father. And that's something he still suffers from to this day. I will not do the same to our children, even to save their brother."
Amanda was certain she hadn't imagined it. When she kissed Kevin, he kissed her back. Exactly the way he'd always kissed her before.
Except it was only for a moment.
After a moment, he pulled away.
"I'm sorry, Kevin," Amanda rushed in before he'd had a chance to say anything. "I am so, so sorry for how I behaved. You were right, I was wrong. You were looking out for Allie, and I got all bent out of shape because I thought it was a slam against me."
He nodded, apparently agreeing with her, but declining to comment one way or the other.
Scared, she heard herself babbling on, "You were wonderful with Allie today. I could see how much you cared about her, and Hudson, and seeing that they both got what they needed. It reminded me of everything... everything that I loved about you."
He still didn't say anything.
Leaving Amanda with no other ideas but to repeat, "I love you, Kevin."
"I love you, too." He shrugged. "But it's not really relevant anymore."
"Why not?" Amanda fought the urge to stomp her foot for emphasis, sensing it wouldn't go over well. "Is it Lila? Are you and she..."
"Lila and I are dating, yes."
Amanda's voice wavered, "Do you love her?" the "More than me?" implied.
"That's also irrelevant."
"How can it be? How can the way that you feel about "
"I love you, Amanda," he confirmed. "But I don't trust you anymore. You threw a hissy-fit and walked out on me because I was doing my job."
"That won't happen again," she swore.
"I don't believe you," it was the most crushing, straightforward statement of fact Amanda had ever heard. And she responded to it as maturely and graciously as she knew how. She burst into tears.
Kevin reached behind him and took a box of tissues off his desk, handing them to Amanda. Fortunately, being a Family Law attorney meant he always had plentiful tissues on hand.
She took one gratefully and wiped her eyes, then blew her nose, no longer caring what she looked like.
Once she'd calmed down a little, Kevin observed, as calmly and dispassionately as if giving a deposition, "Those tears weren't for me. I'm a great catch, no question about that. But no one cries over me."
Amanda tried to laugh, though it came out as a sniffle. "You don't seem offended."
"What's the point of getting offended by reality?" He took her hand and led Amanda to the couch, sitting down next to her. "What's really wrong? Why did you come here?"
"I did come to see you."
"Okay. But about what?"
"Allie..." Amanda took a deep breath, attempting to compose herself. Unfortunately, as soon as she started to repeat what Allie had said to her earlier, the tears returned with a vengeance. "Allie accused me of being sorry that Sam and I decided to keep her."
His expression didn't waver. An occupational ploy, no doubt. "How did you respond?"
"I didn't." Amanda rolled her eyes. "I couldn't think of how. Any words that came into my mind, they sounded so... pointless. So I just got up and left. I didn't come back into Allie's room until I saw Gregory going in, and figured he could play the buffer for us."
"Was Allie right? Is that why you're so upset?"
"I don't regret having Allie," Amanda insisted. "I regret when... and how." She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand, having run out of tissues. "Sam and I were so young. We were in love, we really were. But, if I hadn't gotten pregnant, we never would have gotten married as soon as we did. We'd have had time to... live a little. And maybe then we both wouldn't have wondered what we were missing. And maybe then, we both wouldn't have had affairs in order to find out. Sam and I might still be together today, if it weren't for..."
"No!" Amanda shouted. Then, "Yes..."
Again, no response, visual or otherwise, from Kevin.
She admitted, "I came to see you because I needed to know... I need to know if you think it would have been better for Allie and Sam and I, too if we'd done what she's doing, and given Allie up for adoption?"
"I'm a lawyer, Amanda, not a soothsayer."
"You think you would have been better off if Sally had left you with your adoptive parents."
"That's different. I was happy with them; they were the only parents I knew. If I'd never known David or Jennifer Thatcher, the situation would have been completely different."
"Allie spent her life feeling unwanted."
"So did I, and look how great I turned out."
Amanda looked at Kevin as directed. And then she shoved him. Hard.
He fell back against the couch, laughing, ultimately prompting Amanda to do the same.
"I miss you," she told him honestly.
"I miss you, too."
"Then why can't we "
"You broke my heart once. I'm not willing to risk that again."
"You are certainly a woman who enjoys her barbecue," Grant observed, deeply amused at the sight of Lila inhaling her second rack of ribs.
"Real women have curves, Senator. Besides, no worries, this won't rest on my hips for long. Kevin keeps me plenty busy."
"Unless you want my dinner to perform an encore appearance, kindly spare me the details."
Lila laughed as she nibbled a rib bone. "I thought we were friends. Isn't this what friends do? I know you're always happy to share the details of your latest conquest...." The silence coming from the other side of the table caused Lila's eyes to shoot up and zero in on Grant, suddenly fascinated with the last bit of lettuce on his plate. "Or maybe not. Have you been holding out on me?"
"Lila, I am a gentleman. And a gentleman " Lila's hooting, followed by a rather raucous fit of giggles put a damper on his assertion. "Alright, fine, that was a bit of a reach."
"Who is she?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Most likely because you know that whatever you're doing with whomever you're doing it with, ain't right. And that I'll be happy to tell you so, instead of allowing you to keep fantasizing whatever bull-spittle you currently have playing in that dreamy head of yours."
"What? Only one man ever was allowed to have a dream?"
"Are you honestly arrogant enough to think that you can juggle lassoing a reluctant paramour while properly tending to your son, right now?"
"She is not as reluctant as she believes herself to be. Otherwise we wouldn't have spent such a memorable evening together in my bed. Actually, I owe you belated thanks for the role you played in allowing those events to transpire. If you hadn't been supervising Michele and Bridget, Marley wouldn't have been free to "
"Marley?" Now Lila's meal looked poised to make a return appearance.
"She came barging into the house, breathing fire about my filing for Kirkland's custody. Look, Lila, I know what you're going to say. That she was upset, angry, emotional; and that I took advantage of the situation. Which makes me a louse. Well, I'm putting forward that Marley is an adult. She knew exactly what she was doing and what she wanted, and, at that moment, what she wanted was me."
"Anger sex does not the love of a lifetime make."
"It's a hell of a start. Come on, you know that she and I have been building towards this for months. The rest will follow. Sooner or later."
"So it never crossed your mind that she might have been using you? What an ego!"
"If that's what she needs right now, I am happy to oblige."
"Grant Harrison: Doormat. Nope, sorry, can't see it."
"I'm not being a doormat. I'm being understanding. Patient. Reliable. Once the dust settles, Marley will realize that I have proven myself, and that I'm completely sincere about a long-term relationship, a family, with her."
"That woman is going through some major changes. When the dust settles, who knows who she'll be or who she'll want in her life?"
"This downbeat streak of yours, Lila, it isn't particularly attractive."
"No. It's just accurate."
"Whatever changes you think Marley is going through, we'll go through them together."
"I don't want to see you get hurt. Haven't you already been down this road with Vicky?"
"Totally different situation."
"Except that you've fallen for her sister in the exact same way. Which means that now Marley can hurt you without even trying. And all I know is, most of the time, she's trying."
Donna asked John, "Did I ever love Michael?"
He stared at her, dumbfounded, still reeling from everything she's already told him, and thus in no shape to process the latest. "Yes, Donna, yes, of course," he stammered.
"How could I?" Her voice was disturbingly calm, almost pensive. "I realized a long time ago that Michael couldn't have really loved me, not when everything that he knew about me was just a facade I'd created."
"Michael adored you! Married, divorced, it didn't matter. You were the woman for him."
"He adored his Donna well, some of the time, anyway. The Donna I put on just for him. It's not the same thing."
"No one can keep up an act twenty-four hours a day for over forty years. Don't be ridiculous. He had to have seen the real you at some point."
"No. He didn't. Just like, with Reginald, I became whoever my father expected me to be, I did the same with Michael. The good and the bad, it was all just a reflection of Michael's preconceived notions."
"That's impossible. I don't believe you."
She shrugged, indifferent, and went on with her primary point. "Michael couldn't have really loved me. And, for years, I've wondered whether, under the circumstances, I could have honestly loved him? After all, how can you truly love someone, when there's no you to do it?"
"What," John, unable to untangle her briar patch of semantics and double-talk, zeroed in on the less obscure, more tangible, original point. "Does any of this have to do with why you tried to commit suicide?"
"I was tired, John. I didn't have the energy to pretend anymore. So I gave up."
"Pretend what? Pretend to whom? All of your schemes had finally been exposed. The whole town knew about Jenna and Carl. If anything, you could finally stop pretending. Who else was there left to fool?"
"Matt," Donna said simply. "I just didn't have the strength or the inclination to lie to Matt anymore."
"Lie to Matt about what?"
"If," Donna explained patiently, "After forty years, I couldn't genuinely love Michael, then how could I believe that my feelings for Matthew were any more real?"
"It's not going to help Jamie for you to show up at his hearing hungry," Mike told Alice the next morning over breakfast at Cafe Paradise. "You might as well eat."
"I'm actually going to see him first, nine AM on the dot." She checked her watch to make sure there was still plenty of time before then.
"Really? I thought he'd decided no more visitors."
"He got a message to me last night. He wants a report on Steven's condition."
"I told him the boy was fine. In the hospital, but overall fine."
"For some reason, Jamie would like an opinion on his son's health from a doctor, not a lawyer."
"Well, good. Maybe you can talk some sense into him. He can still change his plea, you know, we haven't signed anything yet."
Alice sighed. "It's like Kevin all over again. Jamie's put up his wall, and all I can do is beat my head against it. I've been just as useless to my stepson as I was for my grandson."
"You have gone above and beyond the call of duty for Jamie. And as for Kevin..."
"Cat got your tongue, Mike? Or attorney-client privilege?"
"I'm sorry you were hurt by his actions."
"Not sorry enough to refuse to represent him."
"He was determined to go through with the emancipation no matter what. Another attorney might not have been quite so... reserved... in getting him his verdict."
"I know," Alice admitted. "There were a lot of potentially humiliating things you could have brought up about me and Sally in court. You didn't. I'll always be grateful."
"I was trying to look out for both of you."
"Mike!" Well, speak of the plaintiff! Kevin, with Jen in tow, approached their table, more or less ignoring Alice to extend a hand to his mentor. "This is terrific. What a surprise. I'm sorry about the phone tag."
Mike stood, enveloping Kevin in a bear hug and thumping him on the back. "No apologies necessary. We've both had a full professional plate this week. Would you believe I didn't even get a chance to see my nephew, Rick, while he and Mindy were in town? They're over the moon, as I'm sure you can imagine. No small thanks to you."
"Anything for a Bauer," Kevin said. He beckoned his daughter forward. "You remember Jenny?"
"It's nice to see you again, Mr. Bauer."
"Jenny, Jenny, of course. Last time we talked, I believe you were on your way to Yale?"
"Summa cum laude," Kevin said proudly.
"And a Masters in Cognitive Science from MIT."
"She's a professor now at Bay City University."
"Associate Professor," Jen corrected. And then, because Kevin obviously wasn't going to do so, greeted Alice, "Good morning, Dr. Frame."
"Good morning, Jennifer," Alice said softly.
Forced to acknowledge his grandmother's existence for the first time, Kevin smiled stiffly and told Mike, "It was good to see you. I didn't mean to interrupt."
"I'd say not to leave on my account," Alice observed. "But since you always do...."
"I'm sure you and Mike have a lot to discuss," Kevin defended. "Jamie's hearing is in a couple of hours, isn't it?"
"How nice of you to remember. Especially considering you're part of the reason he's in jail."
"Excuse me?" Kevin didn't know whether to sound more affronted or astonished.
"None of this would have happened if you and Grant Harrison hadn't teamed up to take Jamie's son away from him."
On firmer ground now, Kevin turned to Mike, "Would you please explain to my grandmother that I was simply acting in a professional capacity to "
"Don't you condescend to me. And don't you dare look me in the eye and lie."
"What precisely am I lying about?"
"There was nothing professional about your deliberate decision to go after Jamie. Jamie, of all people! He never did anything to you! Or were you so blinded by petty, childish anger that hurting anybody with the name Frame would do? You were mad at me? At least have the courage, the decorum, the class, to confront me face-to-face, rather than hiding behind your damn professionalism. You're nothing but a coward, Kevin."
"I'm a coward?" he clarified, though the self-righteousness was long gone from his voice. "I'm not the one who knuckled under to Hamilton's demands, then went crying into a bottle of Smirnoff. That would be your precious Jamie."
"At least Jamie came back to face the consequences of his actions. You just ran away. And got a really big stick to whack people with in order to make yourself feel better."
"Fine." Kevin raised his hands in surrender, his perennial smirk looking a bit more forced than usual. He nodded his head at Alice, "You win." Then wished Mike, "Good luck in court today. If she's batting clean up, I'd say your odds are pretty good."
"You're better than this, Kevin," Alice informed his departing back, though she noted that Jen turned around and absorbed every word. "And I know you're smart enough to realize that this kind of juvenile vengeance will never make you happy. It's not going to fix the damage that Sally or I or anyone did. It's long past time for you to grow up and accept that."
Soon, my pretties...
Wasn't that what the witch in The Wizard of Oz had said right before dispatching her flying monkeys or whatnot to wreak havoc over Dorothy and her flea-bitten, yowling friends?
Damn, but Cecile, still trapped in endless, pristine, unspeakably dull limbo, wished she could think of a more... elegant... metaphor to describe her state of anticipation as the day of Jamie's sentencing finally dawned. Alas, this was the best she could do. It's not like wherever she was had cable. Or even a library.
Her enthusiasm for the big day had nothing to do with Jamie, of course. God or whoever had put her here certainly knew she was so over Jamie by now. (Frankly, she'd been over him halfway through the wedding vows, and that was over a quarter of a century ago.)
No. Her glee was saved for the knowledge that, considering the motley crew about to descend upon the Bay City courthouse, Cecile's real killer was bound to be revealed in the ensuing melee.
It was inevitable. The rest of them could wring their hands oh, how Cecile wished she still had hands left to wring and moan and beat their breasts at the injustice of it.
But all Cecile had to do was sit back come to think of it, she also really missed having something to sit on and watch the events unfold.
And finally have her revenge.
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