Sarah glanced briefly from GQ as he was urging the rest of them to hightail it out of there, over to Allie, planted stubbornly on the bed, arms crossed, quietly but intractably insisting that she wasn't going to abandon Gregory, not even now, she'd given him her word and made up her mind on the spot.
Sarah plopped down next to Allie, crossing her own arms in near-mirror image. "Then I'm staying, too," she announced.
"Oh, come on," Steven looked to Jen and GQ for help. "Forget that he's... That it doesn't...." Clearly unable to get the necessary words out, he ducked behind the tangible, "What's the point in all of us getting arrested?"
"It's called moral support," Sarah said. "It's called being a friend." She squeezed Allie's hand. Allie smiled weakly in return and clutched Sarah's fingers for dear life.
Jen studied the pair of them for a moment, then, as surprised as anyone, took a seat on the other side of Allie. "Count me in," she said.
Now it was GQ's turn to look pissed. "Et tu, Jennifer?"
"Unus pro totus quod totus pro unus," she replied sweetly.
But it was Steven who translated the Latin first, even sounding a bit impressed as he repeated in English, "All for one and one for all?"
"I'll get my feathered hat," GQ snapped. "This isn't an 18th century novel. This is real life. We are all going to be in big, big trouble. Trust me, the only Latin anyone will be interested in from now on is Habeas Corpus."
"You can go if you want," Jen told him. "But there's no point in me trying to hide. Even if we call in Gregory's death from across state lines, all the Bay City cops have to do is ask the management for a description of who rented this particular cabin. You and I kind of stand out. They'll figure it out soon enough." She mock lowered her voice, "I think we're the only Black people the Corys know."
Steven, Sarah and Allie looked uncomfortable at that. But nobody precisely leapt in to contradict her supposition.
"At which point," GQ continued. "All we have to do is tell them that yeah, sure, we rented the cabin, but we changed our minds about staying here. We gave the keys to Allie. Let the DA try and prove that we knew what she was intending to do here." He informed Jen, "I may not be able to say all that in Latin, but I'm not an idiot. You think I would have agreed to any of this if I didn't have a back-up plan?"
"I'm not an idiot either," Steven chimed in. He looked at the three young women sitting there solemnly, facing him, then added, bewildered, "Which is why, honestly, I have no clue why I'm thinking I'd better stick around, too."
"It's because you're smart enough to realize that Allie needs us," Sarah beamed up at him. She popped up to give Steven a kiss, pulling him to stand beside her.
Equally impressed, Jen winked at Steven. "A vir est haud animus quam an vulgaris vir, tamen sit animus quinque minutes."
He smiled sheepishly at that.
"What?" Sarah demanded. "What did she say?"
"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer," GQ shot out swiftly in order to beat Steven to the linguistic punch. And then he took a deep breath, shook his head, glared at the four of them and pulled out his cell-phone, wondering, "So which one of us heroes is going to do the honors?"
It was a combination of genuine worry, guilt over having been too wrapped up in her own problems, and an admittedly futile attempt to put some of those unsolvable issues temporarily on the back burner that drove Frankie to Sharlene's farmhouse, where she found her aunt pacing the well-worn route from front door to kitchen, glaring at the infuriatingly silent phone every time she whipped by it.
"Not ringing is a good sign," Frankie insisted on looking at the bright side. "If Gregory were... Allie would have called you."
"Allie," Sharlene bitterly muttered the name. "I swear, by the time I get through with that girl, she'll be begging to get locked up in jail, if only to keep herself safe from me."
"The minute they're found, you are going to be so happy to see Gregory, you're not going to care one whit about Allie or anything else."
"She couldn't have pulled this off on her own," Sharlene stuck to her train of thought. Because swerving even so much as a hairsbreadth was way too risky right now. "God knows, girl doesn't have the sense the Devil gave lint. That ill-bred friend of hers, though, Sarah; she's Olivia all over again. Conniving. Underhanded. She has to be the brains behind this. Her or Steven. Girls like that, they know how to make any boy do their bidding, genius IQ be damned. What do you want to bet Steven is just like his father? He'll sacrifice anything for a pretty face."
Frankie blanched slightly at the mention of Jamie, their playground conversation still weighing heavily despite the attempt at distraction. She wondered if Jamie were determined to let yet another pretty face talk him into blowing his life up for her? And then Frankie wondered if she'd be the one to actually light the fuse?
"Those arrogant brats," Sharlene continued to seethe. "They think they understand what's going on. They think they know best. Based on their years and years of life experience, they've decided I'm the bad guy for wanting to save my son. Allie at least has the excuse of being spoiled and sheltered and raised by her equally over-privileged and clueless mother. But, Gregory... He knows... He's been through so much. He's got to be in such pain right now, Frankie. Why would he put himself through this?"
"Because he's stubborn," Frankie shrugged apologetically.
"Of course he is. Hudson be damned, this proves it, he's a Frame!"
"That Frame stubbornness is what's going to pull him through this, same as it did you and me so many times. We both cheated death more than once, Sharlene. We both refused to let go, no matter what. Gregory has that same fighting spirit. You'll see."
"You and I," Sharlene corrected. "Were dealing with lunatics. Taylor. Cecile. Lunatics, you can fight off."
If they don't completely decimate you first... Frankie thought, then quickly dismissed. This was not about her and her problems. Not today.
"Do you think I did the wrong thing?" Sharlene demanded desperately, asking her niece the same question she'd been endlessly asking herself for days on end. "Do you think I drove my child away to die without me?"
"You're a mother." Frankie turned both hands helplessly towards the heavens. "Mothers don't have any choice but to do anything and everything possible in order to protect their children."
"He'd rather die with Allie than with me. As if she could feel one iota for him that I do."
"He's a nineteen year old boy in love for the first time."
"And the last," Sharlene whimpered.
"Even if he weren't sick, he wouldn't be thinking straight. I'm sure, in his mind, being with Allie right up to the end is romantic."
"I pushed him away," Sharlene answered her own question as if Frankie hadn't spoken. "He was more scared of me than he was of pain or even dying. I became the enemy. I became someone my own son turned away from, hid from... what do I.... how do I live with that? How can I ever look at myself in the mirror, knowing that doing what I thought was right turned me into someone Gregory felt driven to cut out of his life?"
"I don't know," Frankie told her honestly, even as she pondered her own two children, and her exact same options.
"You're running for Mayor?" Kirkland wondered if it was too late to go back to the crazy at his other dad's house. At least Jamie's kind of crazy was familiar. This, on the other hand....
"Only if you're okay with it," Grant stressed. "It could be kind of fun. You joining the old man on the campaign trail..."
"I guess I'm okay with it," Kirkland produced what he knew his father wanted to hear. "If this is something you really want to do..."
"Then you'll suck it up to make me happy. Sorry, Kirkland, not acceptable. This is exactly how my father and I started out. Only, in that case, it was him pushing me to run. You know how that story ended. It's not what I want for us."
"It's only that we just got done with the press sniffing around Grandmother and Dad. You run for Mayor again, and the paparazzi will be hunting us through the streets like we're the Kardashians of Bay City."
Note to self, brush up on the Kardashians.
"The last thing I want to do, son, is to make your life any harder than it already is. So, that's that. Consider the subject closed."
"Just like that?"
"You're more important to me than any political office. Especially one I've already held."
"And lost. Don't you want to get it right, this time?"
"Not as much as I want to get us right."
Kirkland's eyes drifted over his father's head and towards a framed photo on the mantelpiece. Grant and Vicky. Wearing matching Harrison for Senate white straw hats. Grant followed Kirkland's gaze, awkwardly joking, "You wouldn't be here if it weren't for that campaign."
"You know, in spite of everything that happened afterwards, your mother really did believe in me as a candidate. It's funny. Politics is supposed to bring out the worst in people. But, with me, I think it brought out the best. It brought out the man Vicky fell in love with. Maybe if we'd never lost him...."
"You'd never have lost her?"
Grant shrugged. "Your mother moved on to Jake, and that produced Michele and Bridget. I'd never wish those girls away. Not for anything."
"Wow," Kirkland straddled the fine line between precocious cynicism and sincere, adolescent awe. "You're really good at this. No wonder you won all those times."
"I could do it again," Grant snapped his fingers. "A landslide. Just for you."
"You wanna bet on it?"
Grant slowly removed the cigar from his mouth. "Bet on what?"
"You. Winning in a landslide. It'd be pretty cool to see you in action for real, not just read about it in old newspapers."
"You read about me?" Grant couldn't help feeling touched.
"Well, yeah. For ten years, practically nobody said your name without making the sign of the cross. I had to find out about my dad somehow."
That warm, fuzzy feeling in Grant's stomach turned to lead. "I can't imagine what you dug up. No. Scratch that. I can."
"It doesn't matter now. I can see for myself." He stuck his hand out for Grant to shake. "So, you want to bet on it or not?"
Grant moved to comply automatically, even as he asked, "What exactly are we shaking on?"
"Let's say... if you fail to produce anything other than a complete landslide victory, you have to give your concession speech dressed as Elmo."
"Elmo? The furry, red muppet from Sesame Street."
"I know who Elmo is, Kirkland. I even remember when you slept with one. I just don't know why you would pick "
"Not so cocky anymore, are you? Okay, fine, exact terms are still up for negotiation."
"And what will I get, if I win?" Grant quirked a brow at his son.
"A lot of headaches as the new Mayor of Bay City. And me, going around telling everybody, "Hey, you better show some respect, I'm Mayor Harrison's son, you know."
Not giving him the chance to change his mind, Grant thrust out his hand and grabbed Kirkland's for a hearty, deliberate shake. "That," he said. "Is how a real Harrison makes a deal."
Her youngest son stood at the window, forlornly watching as the moving van carrying his oldest brother's belongings pulled away from the curb, followed by Jamie, in Lorna's car, waving good-bye. Rachel came up to slip an arm around Cory's shoulders.
"He'll be back to visit," she reassured.
"I know," Cory sighed. "Kirkland, too. They promised."
"One day," Rachel gave him a comforting squeeze. "That'll be you, moving out the house, a grown man ready to start his own life."
Cory's eyes danced mischievously, so much like Carl's that it gave Rachel pause. "But then I'll probably come back. Like Jamie. And Amanda. And Matt. Even Lila, too."
She swore, "I'm pleased when my children and grandchildren are under my roof, and I'm equally pleased when they decide to fly the coop. If they're happy, then I'm happy."
"I don't think Matt is very happy," Cory observed.
Rachel's eyes narrowed. "What makes you say that?"
"So how did your little playground chat with Frankie go?" Lorna inquired conversationally, turning the steering wheel to follow the moving van around a corner.
"Now?" Jamie wondered from the passenger seat. "You want to talk about this now?"
"This is the first private moment we've had since you came back from seeing Frankie. Would you have preferred I brought it up while you were packing in your room; Rachel lurking on the periphery, glaring daggers at me for absconding with her little boy?"
"She wasn't well, maybe a little."
"Or perhaps you're looking to give the movers an earful?"
"Okay, I see your point."
"So," Lorna repeated, more gently this time, no longer kidding around. "How did it go?"
"Not sure," he confessed, tapping his fingers aimlessly on the car window. "My gut says she won't go through with it."
"Because you Frames are all-around decent sorts?"
"Frankie is. This is unlike her. You backed her into a corner, and she panicked. But, when push comes to shove, she won't... she can't... I know it sounds foolish, but I really believe it would hurt her more than it would me. I've already been to Hell and back. I've dealt with accepting that I did something I never, ever thought I was capable of. Frankie hasn't. And I don't think she'll risk it. She has too much to lose."
"Are you willing to bet your life on that?"
"Mine? Yes. Yours? Steven's? Kirkland's? No."
"What does that mean?"
"It means," he sighed. "That I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. If Frankie does decide to expose me so be it. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."
"No you won't," Lorna said, slamming the brakes hard enough for them both to briefly lurch forward against their seatbelts, then back. "I've been thinking about this ever since you left to meet with her yesterday. Sure, Steven and Kirkland already know, but I bet they wouldn't be too thrilled with their friends finding out. And this could cost you your job. It would most certainly cost you some patients. Not to mention, I can only imagine what Grant would do with... No. I won't let it happen. I'll drop my custody petition."
She hit the gas, deliberately avoiding his eyes as she prattled on, "You were right. You and I can still do a lot for Lori Ann from the sidelines. Besides, I I realized that I've broken a pretty big promise already. I swore to you, right at the start, that I wouldn't be like all your other women."
Jamie couldn't help grinning. "And I swear to you, Lorna, you are nothing like any other woman that I have ever known."
"Not even Marley?"
"You're comparing yourself to Marley?" he gaped.
"She used you to plug a hole in her idea of a perfect family portrait: Mommy, Daddy, Baby Girl. And now, I'm doing the exact same thing." Lorna snuck a look at Jamie, wondering how he was responding to her assertion. Wondering what it meant that, more than anything, he looked... amused. "Everyone keeps telling us that we're moving too fast. Poor Kirkland has to go over to Grant's to find some stability! You mention buying a house and, in the next breath, I'm asking you to help me raise my niece. Any normal woman would have seen it as just a natural next step, us moving in together. But, me, I leapt straight to us being parents. I've been using you, Jamie. Just like Marley."
"Wow, that's a pretty high opinion you have of yourself. And of me."
"I'm sorry. Blaine and Cecile wanted you for your money. Vicky and Marley needed you to play Daddy to their kids."
"And don't forget Marianne Randolph. She was trying to make her husband jealous." In response to Lorna's confused look, he defended lightly, "What? I thought we were making a list of all the women who done me wrong through the years?"
"I wanted to be different," Lorna said softly, refusing to let him kid her out of her mood.
"You are different."
"True. I needed my mother and yours to point out to me what I was doing. I couldn't even see it for myself."
"My mother put this idea in your head?"
"Technically, she put it in Felicia's head. Felicia helpfully ran it straight over to me."
Jamie fell back in his seat and groaned, "I don't believe this."
"It doesn't matter who brought it up. They were right. And I'm doing my best to rectify the situation."
"Not like this," Jamie warned.
"What do you mean?"
"You aren't being honest with me. Worse, you aren't being honest with yourself. And, truth be told, that's what's been the downfall of every relationship I was ever in."
"Jamie, I swear, I am being honest." Lorna's head swiveled back and forth from him to the street. "I love you for wanting to help me with Lori Ann, no matter what it may end up costing you. But, I don't want, down the road I can't bear the thought of you coming to blame me for your life falling apart."
"I would never do that," Jamie insisted, happy, at last, to have gotten to the real gist of the matter.
"Never say never," Lorna laughed bitterly. "In my experience, promises that start with those words always end up in disappointment."
"So, down the road," Jamie echoed her phrasing. "Should I expect you to blame and resent me for the fact that my past is what kept you from pursuing Lori Ann?"
"Of course not!"
"I believe you. How come you can't believe me?"
"Because Trust 101 wasn't on the syllabus at Carl's College of Carnage?"
"Do you think it's easy for me to believe, after everything I've told you, that you could still want me? Much less a life with me? That you can even stand the sight of me? But, I've decided to go on faith faith in you, no one else that you are being as honest with me about what you're feeling as I am with you. And that when there's a problem, you'll let me know. I trust you to tell me the truth, Lorna. Please, try to do the same with me."
"We've found him, Dr. Hudson." John could tell that the voice on the phone was attempting to break the news to him gently. But the fact that there was gentle news to be broken, already told John everything he needed about what was coming next.
He stood in the farmhouse kitchen, using the rotary wall phone they still kept for its "old-fashioned" charm. Sharlene was at the table. She turned around, resting her arm on the back of the chair, watching John closely.
They'd expected it to be just another "no progress" update from the police. One look at John's face, and Sharlene realized it was more than that.
She half-rose, tempted to rip the receiver out of John's hands. He turned his back on her, as if protecting Sharlene from seeing anymore, as if determined to absorb all the agony himself before breaking down the pain into smaller, more bearable increments for her.
"He's..." John began, reluctant to say the word in front of Sharlene. Reluctant to make it irrevocably true for them all.
"I'm sorry," the faceless voice did its best to cushion the blow. "Your son is... gone. We're bringing the body to Bay City Hospital now. Unfortunately, as with any unattended death, we will still need to perform an autopsy. I'm sure you're familiar with standard procedure."
"Procedure," John repeated. Sharlene's hands were on his shoulders now, shaking John, willing him to turn around and face her, hissing, demanding to know what was going on.
He wouldn't. He couldn't.
"Yes. And there's one more thing, Dr. Hudson. We have Gregory's... accomplices with us. There was no attempt at subterfuge or resistance. They called the authorities, and simply waited for us to come. All five are in custody now. We need to know, from you or from Mrs. Hudson, what would you like to be done with them now?"
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