"I suppose I should get used to this," Jamie sounded like he was trying to convince himself along with Alice as they sat across the table in the prison's visiting area. "Something happening to Steven or Kirkland, and me hearing about it second-hand, long after the fact..."
Alice waited as he quietly reviewed Steven's medical file, briskly flipping back and forth through the scant pages, rereading each several times. Finally, he looked up at her with tired, anguished eyes, "You examined him yourself?"
"Yes. And he checked out fine; better than fine. We just kept him overnight as a precaution."
"His lungs were clear? No signs of edema or fluid perfusion?"
"None whatsoever. No arrhythmias, no tachycardia. Coordination, alertness, and muscle strength were all within normal ranges as of this morning. And he still has all his fingers and toes. He's fine, Jamie. He's a brave kid. You should be proud."
Jamie shook his head, the fear and helplessness turning to anger and frustration. "This is so like him. He thinks he's invincible."
"He did what he felt he had to for Allie."
"I know," Jamie conceded with a small, sad smile of approval. "Are she and the baby okay?"
"They're both great. Your family comes from pretty tough stock."
"Must have skipped a generation. Did you check Steven's "
"He's fine," Alice cut Jamie off and gently squeezed his hand. "You'll be able to see for yourself later today at the sentencing hearing."
"Steven's going to be there?"
"So will Kirkland."
"Damn it, Alice, I told Mike not to involve them in this!"
"They want to help their father. Just because you've accepted your sentence, doesn't mean the rest of us have to."
"I'm not asking you to accept anything. I'm only asking you to respect my wishes. To let me go so that we can all just move on."
"How are your boys supposed to move on from you leaving them? How are your mother or I supposed to move on from the guilt of having failed you?"
"Neither one of you failed me," he insisted firmly. "And you you've been kinder to me than, God knows, Rachel's son ever deserved."
"Steve's son," she corrected. "Your father went to prison out of misguided family loyalty once, too, you know. Loyalty to you. And to me. I don't seem to recall it doing either one of us a whole lot of good."
"You ready to go?" Gregory popped into Allie's hospital room, only to see her sitting, fully dressed, on the bed, anxiously tapping her fingernails atop the stack of pre-signed release forms. He grinned. "Guess so."
"They said I have to leave in a wheelchair. I'm fine. I just want to get out of here."
"Rules." He shrugged. "This could take a while. We might as well just wait."
"I am so sick of waiting. I feel like I've been stuck on hold for the last nine months. I just want to start living my life again."
"Yeah," Gregory said. "I was meaning to ask you about that...."
"Ask me what?"
"You," he observed. "Me. We kind of got together when things were weird."
"That's a nice way to put it, sure. Weird."
"I was wondering if, now that stuff was about to return to normal, whether you'd still want me around?"
"Are you mental?"
Gregory blinked. "Sorry?"
"I'm the one who should be sorry, Gregory. I'm the one who should be wondering if you still want me around after everything I've made you go through. Hell, I've been sitting here trying to figure out how you could ever want to lay a finger on me again after... God, I can't imagine."
"You didn't make me do anything," he reminded. "I knew what I was getting into."
"You knew that you'd end up having to deliver the baby yourself? You're psychic now, like your cousin Frankie?"
"Okay, that part was a surprise."
"A disgusting, bloody, terrifying, screaming, gross "
"I didn't say it was a pleasant surprise."
"Can you honestly say that it doesn't matter? That you'll still be able to look at me "
"Like you're the most wonderful girl in the world?"
"I'd understand if you wanted to, you know, forget the whole thing."
Gregory took Allie's hand, looked into her eyes and asked politely, "Are you mental?"
"I mean it, I'd understand."
"I doubt it. You seem to be having a lot of trouble understanding what I'm saying now."
"Stop trying to make me laugh."
"I'm not going anywhere, Allie. Except home with you for a little bit, just to make sure you're okay. You lost a lot of blood. You should be taking it easy."
"I feel fine. They gave me iron tablets and a shot to keep my milk from coming in and..."
"That's physically okay. What about the rest of you?"
Allie reached for her phone. "Mindy and Rick sent me a picture of Hudson in his new home. Want to see?"
Gregory nodded. He clicked on the image and smiled.
Gregory asked, "Are you okay, Allie? Really?"
She insisted, "I am, I really am. I keep waiting to feel sorry, like my mother said I would. But all I feel is... relieved. Like this huge weight I've been carrying around "
"You mean that extra six pounds, six ounces worth?"
"Oh, trust me," she looked down at what her body had turned into. "It was a hell of a lot more than that. But, everything turned out better than I could have hoped for. He's got a mom and dad who wanted him so much. I know I did the right thing. You and I, we're still good, right? And GQ is permanently out of the picture."
"Have you talked to GQ," Gregory wondered. "Since..."
"No. As far as I'm concerned, I never need to have anything to do with that jerk again."
"How does fifty bucks sound?" Lorna noted the guard's deeply offended expression and rolled her eyes. "How about a hundred, then? A hundred bucks for five minutes! Work with me, here!"
Displaying all the zeal of a metronome, the guard repeated his mantra, "Please move away from the door, ma'am, or I will have you escorted out of the building."
Lorna made a big show of taking a giant step backwards, then asked, "That far enough, or am I still on the Terrorist Watch List?"
"Yes," he intoned. "Those are precisely the words one should use when attempting to access a secured government building.
A sharp knock from the other side of the door, and the guard stepped aside, allowing a visibly distressed Alice Frame to exit into the hallway.
"Were you with Jamie?" Lorna pounced. Alice nodded.
"She asked nicely," the guard informed smugly.
"Jamie requested to see me," Alice rushed to explain when it looked like Lorna might head-butt the officer in response to his mockery.
"Why?" Lorna probed as Alice took her by the elbow and led Lorna down the hall. "He won't even see Rachel."
"He wanted an update on Steven's condition. He's in the hospital."
"What? What happened? Is he okay?"
"He's going to be fine. I wish I could say the same about Jamie. I was hoping hearing about Steven might make him reconsider accepting the deal but...."
"Jamie can be stubborn." Lorna brushed the hair out of her face and, struck by a latent attack of manners, asked, "I'm sorry, have we actually, formally met? I'm Lorna Devon."
"I know. I'm Alice Frame. Jamie's told me about you. I... I walked in on the two of you in the emergency room... when you were getting your burn bandaged...."
"Oh..." Lorna cringed. "Yeah... I remember now. I was pretty out of it."
"I wouldn't say that," despite the dire circumstances, Alice couldn't help cracking the faintest of smiles. "From where I was standing, it looked like you were pretty... into it."
Lorna ducked her eyes, but also couldn't help smiling just a little. "Yeah. That, too."
"I'm sorry that he won't see you, Lorna. It isn't your fault, please believe me. I'm afraid that things with Jamie are much more complicated than they seem, even now."
"I know," Lorna said, raising her eyes to meet Alice's. Then, with more meaning, she repeated, "I know."
Alice's expression betrayed nothing. "What do you know?" she asked cautiously.
"Everything," Lorna maintained. "Jamie skipping bail? That was my fault. I found him at a bar. He was barely conscious. I took him back to the Cory guesthouse. I told him I wanted to help. He got so furious, he told me everything why I shouldn't be wasting my time on him. He thought if I knew... not just about his being in the hospital in San Francisco, but exactly what had put him there... that I would finally take off, like he kept pushing me to all along."
"But you didn't, did you?"
"No. I didn't."
"Oh, Lorna, Jamie is so lucky to have a woman like you in his corner."
"Could you tell him that, please?" Lorna's facade crumbled, along with her tough talk, by the end of the sentence. "He missed the deadline for turning himself in because I got it into my head that I could figure out who the real killer was. I was flying off half-cocked and Jamie only came along to keep me from getting into serious trouble."
"Did you find any new information?" Alice asked eagerly.
Lorna deflected, explaining, "I wanted to get on the stand and explain that it was all my fault. That I should be the one charged with obstruction of justice or kidnapping or whatever, but Jamie should still get to keep the ten-year deal. Mike passed my message on to Jamie. He said if I did that, he wouldn't set foot out of his cell today, not even for the hearing."
"He can be stubborn," Alice repeated Lorna's earlier words.
"So can I, Dr. Frame."
"Is there anything I can do to help you both?"
"Know how to bake a file into a cake?"
"If it comes to that, I'll learn."
"You're going," Cass said. It wasn't a question.
"I'm going," Frankie reached for her jacket. It wasn't a request for permission.
"Then I'm coming too."
"You don't have to. I know how much it upsets you, hearing me talk about Cecile and what she did to me."
"It would upset me even more to think about you going through it alone. I don't have to agree with your actions in order to support them. I called the nursing service, asked for that one girl, with the nose piercing, that Lori Ann particularly likes. I said we'd probably be gone all day."
Frankie felt herself getting teary. "Thank you, Cass."
"I would do anything for you," he reminded. "Anything."
Lucas asked Felicia, "Are you going to Jamie's hearing?"
"Yes," she was finishing applying her make-up in the bathroom mirror. "Cass told me Frankie is testifying for the defense. He's going to be there to hold her hand. The least I can do is pop by and hold his."
"You might want to consider letting Cass take care of himself, and instead shoring up Lorna a little while you're there."
"Lorna?" Felicia stuck the mascara brush back in the tube, turning around to face him. "Why would Lorna be there?"
Lucas took a deep breath and massaged the crease between his eyebrows with two fingers. He told Felicia, "Our daughter is in love with Jamie Frame."
"Don't be ridiculous," Felicia studied two lipstick tubes, trying to decide which shade best fit the occasion. "Lorna barely knows Jamie."
"They spent a lot of time together when he was Jenna's doctor."
"So? I spent a lot of time with him then, too. And, besides, that was months ago."
"Would you please listen to me, Fanny? Lorna is in love with Jamie. I don't know precisely how it happened, I don't know when, and I certainly can't tell you why. All I know is, it's a fact. She loves him, and he's about to go to prison for thirty years. A girl could use her mother at a time like this. Even if, knowing our girl, that's the last thing she'd ever admit to."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bauer, have you confused my courtroom with a clown car?" Chase Hamilton asked Mike politely upon entering to find it filled to the rafters, every bench behind both the defense and prosecution tables packed with either a Frame, a Cory, a Hutchins, a Matthews, an MD, or a Tiny Tim, eager to testify about Dr. Jamie's selflessly noble qualities. "Are you actually planning to call all these people to the stand, or are we looking at professional seat-fillers, like for the Academy Awards?"
Mike handed him a two-paged list. "I hope you've been eating your Wheaties, Counselor. It's going to be a long day."
Jamie listened to Mike and Hamilton's conversation, as well as to the general din going on behind him, all without turning around.
When he'd first been brought in, he'd spied individual faces in the audience: his mother, his siblings, Alice, his kids, Frankie and Cass, Lorna...
He'd had to block them all out. As far as Jamie was concerned, his one task for the day was to sit silent and immobile, looking without seeing, hearing without listening, waiting for this farce to be over and for the rest of his life to begin.
Without breaking down completely.
Felicia shooed an anesthesiologist who'd worked with Jamie for over twenty years aside by smacking him on the shoulder with her purse, then squeezed into the front-row bench beside Lorna.
"Cass," her daughter jerked her head to indicate the seat one over and two behind them. "Is over there."
"I didn't come here to see Cass. I came here to see you."
"I think a better question is: Why are you here?"
Lorna shrugged and waved a hand at the standing-room only crowd. "It's the hottest ticket in town. You know how I love a good show. Professional curiosity."
"Your father told me something very odd earlier today."
"What?" Lorna's head whipped around. "What did he tell you?"
Unable to comprehend the disproportionate panic in Lorna's voice, Felicia leaned back, more confused than ever. "He said that you... you and Jamie?"
"Oh," Lorna visibly relaxed. "That."
Misunderstanding her reaction, Felicia went on, "Just as I thought. The two of you must have gotten your signals crossed. Jamie? Seriously? You know I adore Rachel, and, honestly, I have nothing against Jamie well, except for how he treated your cousin Lisa, but that was ages ago. He's hardly your type, though, is he, darling?"
"What do you mean by that?" Lorna asked, genuinely curious.
"Nothing bad," Felicia insisted. "Just that he's so... average. So... normal. I know you like your men with a little more edge, a little more excitement to them."
"He's on trial for murdering his ex-wife, Mom. It's plenty exciting. To tell you the truth, I'd give anything right about now for just a bit more average and normal."
"You mean it's true?" Felicia double-checked. "You and Jamie?"
"Would you please stop saying it like I've contracted some horrible disease?"
"I'm sorry. I'm just surprised, that's all. Why didn't you tell me any of this before? Why am I the last to know?"
"We've been busy," Lorna snapped, just as the judge called their proceedings to order.
Jamie managed to keep it together, more or less, through the testimonies by colleagues and patients, though the father of the young girl with cystic fibrosis whom he'd lost the previous year talking about how Dr. Frame was the only one Ella trusted when it came to making her medical decisions including when it was time to die nearly broke his resolve. Especially when Ella's dad pleaded with the judge for leniency on the grounds of how much Jamie's remaining patients, the ones who depended on him for the same daily level of consideration and care, would suffer his loss.
Hamilton's only response was to remind the court, "Jeffrey McDonald was a doctor. So was Josef Mengele. And Hannibal Lector."
Rachel came next, trying to convey, in a few minutes, why Jamie's current situation was all her fault. "I didn't know what I was doing when he was born. I can't claim to be a parenting expert now, but at least now I understand that you must never burden a child with adult problems. From the time Jamie was a little boy, I've led him to feel responsible for everything around him. That's what makes him such an excellent doctor. But it's also what made him a person who keeps everything inside, who never asks for help, who thinks he needs to handle every difficulty on his own. Mr. Hamilton wants to know why Jamie didn't go to the police for help with Cecile's blackmail. It's because he doesn't believe that he can count on other people. And that's not Jamie's fault, it's mine. Children learn trust from their parents. All I taught Jamie was that, when things get rough, he is completely and irrevocably on his own."
Amanda and Matt echoed Rachel's assertion, explaining how Jamie had always been there for them growing up he'd been the one, consistent, adult male figure, even as their respective fathers floated in and out. But that he'd never let them return the favor. They both begged the judge for a chance to make it up to Jamie. Something that would be impossible for them to do if he were to spend the next thirty years in jail.
Steven got on the stand without meeting Jamie's eyes. His father didn't blame him. Instead, Jamie searched Steven's countenance for any sign of a lingering infection the medical staff at Bay City Hospital may have missed. When he cleared his throat before speaking, Jamie listened for bronchial or lung involvement. When he nervously rubbed his hands together, all Jamie cared about was how fast the color returned to his skin.
"My dad isn't a bad guy," Steven stammered, deeply uncomfortable to be speaking in front of so many people, especially about a subject the feelings for which he had yet to thoroughly acknowledge, even to himself.
"You don't think killing a woman is a bad thing, son?" Hamilton queried.
"Not her," Steven found anger the easiest emotion to access, and so he went with it. It sure beat grief. Or fear. "I know what she did to him. She threatened to make it so that he could lose Kirkland. My dad's taken care of him since Kirk was five years old. He loves him as much as he loves me, there's no difference. I don't have to like it, but I know it's true. When someone threatens your kid, you're supposed to protect them."
"Perhaps there might have been some other way?"
"No," Steven said, as surprised to be saying the words as everyone else seemed to be hearing them. "If my dad did it, that means he'd exhausted all of his other options. It means he tried everything else, and there was nothing left to do. Look," Steven leaned forward, finally blinking at Jamie as if just now beginning to understand. "My mom, she did a ton of crazy stuff to protect Kirkland from Grant. I'd tell you some of it, but I doubt you'd believe me. When she left Kirk and me to Dad, it had to be because she believed he'd be... yeah, she believed he'd be just as crazy about it as she was. She trusted him. And Dad knew that. So he did what he had to do. For us, and for her, too."
"Jamie has devoted his life to my sister, Victoria's, boys for the past eleven years," Marley confirmed next. "He moved back to Bay City from San Francisco, so that they could grow up in the same town as their sisters. He took in Kirkland, so that Steven wouldn't be separated from his brother. Every decision he's made," she looked over at Jamie to indicate that, like Steven, she too finally understood. "Has been about what's best for them, no one else."
"So can we expect," Hamilton wondered, "The next time Kirkland gets body-checked at a hockey-game, for Dr. Frame to continue with his killing spree?"
"You're an idiot," Marley said, prompting titters from the gallery and, in spite of himself, a miniscule smile from Jamie.
The only person distinctively un-amused by her words, was Grant. Sitting next to Kirkland, he shifted uncomfortably, as the reality of just how much Jamie still meant to Marley, how much she still worshipped him, no matter what he did or how many times Jamie pushed her away, became painfully, glaringly clear.
Kirkland was the next one called to the stand, and Grant obliged himself to give the boy a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, forcibly dragging his thoughts away from Marley and focusing, as he supposed he should have been all along, on his son.
Grant figured that, after hearing Kirkland sing Jamie's paternal praises non-stop over the course of the past year, there was very little the teen could say that might prove capable of wounding Grant any further.
On that score, he was wrong.
It was one thing to hear Kirkland announce his name to be Frame to an indifferent security guard in a pique of anger. It was quite another for him to proclaim it in open court, under oath, with a stenographer to take it down and register the contention as a part of the judicial permanent record.
"State your name."
Grant inhaled hard and all but doubled over from the blow. To his surprise, Marley, passing by him on the way back to her seat, paused and offered Grant what he could only infer was a look of sincere sympathy, before continuing on. He turned his head, watching her go, hoping for another glance, a smile, something, anything. But, once she retook her seat, Marley's eyes were, once again, locked onto Jamie. Even if it was only the back of his head and tightly hunched shoulders.
"Please don't send Jamie to jail for thirty years," Kirkland bypassed both Hamilton and Mike's questions to address the judge directly. "He's a good person. His patients need him. And I need him. I don't have a mom anymore. And he's my dad."
"Kirkland is right," Grant, also under oath, told the judge, albeit unable to simultaneously stop himself from sneaking a peek to catch the full effect of his proclamation on Jamie. He was, to put it mildly, stunned. "If you have any doubts about Dr. Frame's character, take a look at Kirkland. He gets good grades at school. He plays sports. He knows right from wrong. But he also knows that, sometimes, good people do the wrong things for the right reasons. He understands that we're all human, that we all make mistakes. My son knows how to be loyal, and he knows how to forgive. He didn't learn that from me. The fact that Kirkland is here, speaking up for Jamie, shows what an incredible young man he is. And how much he still needs... his father."
Grant stepped down, passing by Jamie. The good doctor didn't need to ask "Why?" The question was obvious, if unspoken.
Grant ducked his head and, loudly enough for only Jamie to hear, hissed, "Because now, we're even."
It was left up to Alice to give the factual account of Jamie's past breakdown, to insinuate, even though she couldn't prove it in any legally sanctioned sense, that his drastic actions towards Cecile were not ones of a well man who understood what he was doing, but rather those of an already fragile psyche pushed too far, and for far too long. Jamie needed help, not incarceration. The fact that he was so readily willing to accept what could only be deemed an unreasonably harsh sentence wasn't so much evidence of his guilt, as it was of his instability.
"Are we done?" Jamie asked Mike through clenched teeth. "Have you put my family through enough pain yet? I don't know what's worse, them all hearing that I'm crazy, or the fact that they now blame themselves for it. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid."
"Not quite," Mike calmly read one more name off the witness list. "Mary Frances Frame Winthrop."
"What?" Jamie practically leapt out of his chair. "You told me she "
"I'm as surprised as you are. Frankie called me early this morning, said she'd changed her mind."
"What the hell do you think she's going to say?"
"I have no idea," Mike hedged, though, like any skilled attorney, he knew better than to ever put an un-prepped witness on the stand. He turned to peer into the galley, spotting an obviously distressed Cass glaring back at him. "And neither does he."
Actually, from the looks of it, neither did Frankie. She approached the witness stand as if she were the one facing a potential firing squad.
She'd barely given her name and explained her relationship to both the defendant and the deceased, when the doors at the back of the room swung open, and Lucas stepped inside.
There would have been nothing remarkable about the act, people had been constantly coming and going as morning stretched into mid-day and well beyond. But something about the way Lucas carried himself, the way he strode in, at once determined and wary, as if freshly emerging from what could only have been a bloody and brutal internal struggle, caught Frankie's eye not to mention her oft-invoked sixth sense.
She faltered in what she was saying and stared quizzically right at him. The rest of the court instinctively craned their necks to follow her gaze.
Lorna got it first. But, then again, she was the only one, except for Jamie and, well, Carl, who knew that...
A part of her wanted to jump up and yell for her father to stop, to turn around, to just leave now, before it was too late. But another part of her couldn't help looking to Jamie. And thinking about what this would mean for him.
She froze. Unable to do more than shake her head mutely in response to Felicia's wary, mystified demand of, "What is going on? Lorna? Tell me!"
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Carl, sitting with Rachel on one side, Cory and Elizabeth on the other, each feature a perfect approximation of utterly guileless curiosity, no different from that of anyone else currently in the room. Except that Lorna knew Carl. She knew that the more innocent he looked, the guiltier he inevitably was.
To the accompaniment of various astonished murmurs, Lucas walked down the aisle between the two sets of seats. His eyes fleetingly met Lorna's. Wordlessly, pleadingly, he indicated for her to take care of Felicia and herself for him.
He leaned over the barrier and whispered something into Mike's ear. Jamie turned in his chair, grabbing Lucas by the shoulder. Lucas brushed him off dismissively, and kept speaking to Jamie's attorney.
It was only after Mike had given a curt nod to indicate he understood and rose to his feet in order to address the court, that Lucas allowed himself to recognize Jamie.
Lorna couldn't make out what either said to the other. All she knew was, at one point, she saw her father's lips very distinctively form the word, "Lorna."
"No!" Now she did shoot to her feet, but Lorna's cry was drowned out by Mike telling the judge, "Lucas Castigliano would like to testify, Your Honor. Regarding his having murdered Cecile de Poulignac."
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