"Come on, Amanda." Kevin held out his hand to her. "Let me take you home. There's nothing more either of us can do here tonight."
She was sitting on a metal chair in the police station's waiting area, furiously texting back and forth with the Brava Public Relations department, debating the merits of simply answering No Comment to every media inquiry that was bound to come in versus launching a massive campaign to paint Allie and her friends in a positive light... or at the very least taint the jury pool and postpone any sort of hearing indefinitely.
"Did you ask again if Allie...."
Kevin shook his head. "Give her some space. She's been through a lot."
"You don't understand."
"I do," he countered firmly. "The minute I saw her, it took all the self-control I'd spent years honing to keep myself from cold-cocking Hamilton and dragging Jenny out of there. I know what you're going through. Jenny's biological father was a convicted felon. Her mother was a drug addict. I promised Jenny's grandmother that I would do anything and everything I had to in order to keep her from following in their footsteps. I'm not trying to one-up you, Amanda, but, believe me, this is my worst nightmare, too."
"We screwed up royally, didn't we?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "This isn't armed robbery the kids are in for. Or even insider trading. They're here because they risked their own futures to help a friend. I can't help thinking maybe we actually did something right."
"Then why do I feel so awful?"
"Because as Jenny's grandmother once told me: Don't worry, whatever decision you make when it comes to your babies, you'll always be wrong."
"What a happy sentiment," Amanda said brightly, finally standing up and stretching, the stiffness in her limbs driving home just how long she'd been there and how much tension she'd absorbed.
"I think she meant it to be liberating. No one gets it right." He held the door open and waited for Amanda to cross onto the sidewalk before following. "Do you need a lift?"
She shook her head. "I have my car."
"Feeling up to driving?"
"Not feeling up to much of anything, actually. Especially facing my mother. Jamie got her primed, but she's always been much easier on him than me. He probably got a pat on the head and a what a wonderful, supportive father you are speech. I'm going to get the third degree with a side of implied what a crushing disappointment you are, Amanda."
"Isn't that always the case with mothers and daughters, though?" Kevin asked.
"I suppose. You're lucky you're a dad. Your daughter just worships the ground you walk on."
"It is rather pleasant," he agreed.
"Are you and Lila thinking of having kids?" Amanda blurted out, wondering where that came from. Then remembering, oh, yeah, she'd been stewing since the 4th of July.
Kevin blinked in surprise. "Why... Lila and I are barely.... What?"
"She reminded me recently how much you want a big family. And then gave me a gynecological progress report on the state of her uterus."
"Would that be a typical Girls Night Out conversation?" he asked, flustered.
"Under some circumstances," Amanda admitted.
"Lila and I are far, far, far from so much as thinking about thinking about "
"You and I talked about it after just a few dates." Amanda wondered whether to be proud or disturbed by that fact.
"It came up organically. We were talking about Lori Ann and adoption and parenting.... You mean that time at the hospital, right?"
"Yeah. When I said how happy I was to be done with the whole thing." Amanda looked over her shoulder at the police station. "Guess I spoke too soon."
After checking at home and in his office at the hospital, Donna finally tracked John down to the front steps of the boathouse, flinging rocks into the water with such ferocity he might have been trying to raise his own personal tsunami.
She called his name softly. He turned around. At the sight of Donna, John allowed the remainder of the pebbles he'd been holding to trickle through his fingers. His knees buckled and he sunk down, collapsing on all fours, shaking violently.
Donna rushed up to him, one hand on John's shoulder, the other stroking his hair. "What can I do?" she begged him. "What do you need me to do for you?"
"Tell me it didn't happen."
"It didn't happen," Donna repeated obediently, knowing better than anyone that sometimes lying to yourself was the only possible way to get through the moment.
"Tell me he's still alive."
"He's still alive. Gregory is going to grow up, and he'll finish college, go to medical school like he planned, follow in your footsteps. He'll get married, he'll have a family, he'll be a wonderful father, exactly like you. You'll be so proud of him, John. He'll be everything you ever wanted."
John nodded, lapping up her words, the severe quaking beginning to lesson like an addict finally getting his fix.
Donna said, "There hasn't been a photograph I've taken of her children over the past ten years when, for a split second, I haven't imagined Victoria in it. I've built her an entire life in my head. I don't know how to go on any other way."
"Are you alright?" Lila asked Rachel, knocking timidly on the doors leading into the living room, even though they stood wide-open. Somehow barging in seemed wildly inappropriate under the circumstances. "I didn't want to interrupt while Jamie was here, but I heard what happened...."
"I am most definitely not alright," Rachel admitted. "But you can certainly come in. No need to tip-toe around, we're all going to be dealing with the ghastly state of affairs for the foreseeable future, might as well get used to the idea."
"Did Jamie say that Kevin was going to be the kids' lawyer?" Lila hated to ask, she knew how self-interested she sounded.
Rachel nodded. "That was my understanding. For now, anyway."
Lila's head bobbed in mirror image. She didn't say anything else. She didn't have to.
Rachel guessed, "You're worried about Kevin and Amanda spending so much time together as a result."
"I'm sorry," Lila pleaded. And she honestly was, too. "How can I even be thinking about my own problems, when your grandchildren are "
"Life goes on. We all ultimately put ourselves first. It's perfectly natural."
"I thought that Amanda was making up excuses to cozy up to Kevin before. She doesn't have to now. She'll be all needy and vulnerable and maternal.... No man can resist that, it's a known fact." Unexpectedly, Lila exploded, "What is wrong with me, Rachel? Why do I always end up with the bastards whose hearts are someplace else? Shane and Matt and Cass and now Kevin. I'm just sick and tired of it, that's what I am."
"Then do something to tilt the odds back in your favor," Rachel proffered calmly.
"I'll tell you...."
John had forced Sharlene to leave the morgue. But he couldn't compel her to leave the hospital. No matter what he said, what arguments he spat, he couldn't make her abandon her post, sitting just outside the doors to the room where her son was.
So, finally, John just took off himself. Which was fine with Sharlene. She didn't need him. She didn't need anybody. The only person she needed was gone.
She got a call from Josie at one point. She let it and all the subsequent ones from Frankie and Marley and Rachel go to voicemail. There was a call from the District Attorney. She took that one. She told Chase Hamilton she'd be at the hearing tomorrow. She'd fill in John about it, too.
A few people passing by offered their condolences. Hospital friends of John's, Sharlene guessed. No one really registered.
Not until Alice sat down next to her. Her one time sister-in-law didn't say anything at all. She didn't offer meaningless, religious and secular platitudes or attempt to cheer Sharlene up or even recount her own experience with the same situation which, Sharlene thought, Alice actually could. Instead, Alice simply sat there wordlessly until daybreak, an unobtrusive presence, but somehow a comforting one, all the same.
"Thank you," Sharlene told her hoarsely the next morning.
Alice smiled sadly, knowingly, squeezed Sharlene's hand, and wished her luck.
Amanda thought she'd dodged a bullet the previous night, sneaking into the house long after everyone had gone to bed and avoiding Rachel's inevitable, smothering concern. But there her mother was, in court bright and early, sitting next to Jamie, leaning over the barrier to confer with Kevin at the defense table. As if any of this were her business in the slightest. (Though, to give credit where credit was due, it had taken a single phone call from Rachel Hutchins to succeed where a flurry of e-mails and threats from both Amanda and her PR department had failed: Banning the press from the courtroom.)
"There you are, darling," Rachel said.
"Late as usual," was what Amanda heard.
She told herself that she had to calm down, focus on Allie and her needs, not Rachel and their issues. But it was easier said than done.
"The bailiff's gone to get the kids from holding," Kevin told everyone. "It should be a few more minutes."
Across the aisle, Chase Hamilton was looking characteristically smug. Jamie's stomach lurched at the memory of his own experience going up against the man only a few months earlier. He snuck a peek at Rachel. He could tell they were both thinking the same thing. Yup, she most certainly could take him; just say the word. Simply imagining the resulting scene made Jamie smile and helped lift a fraction of his nervous tension.
"It's good to have you here, Mom," he told her. Even if Amanda's body language appeared to radiate the exact opposite. Even if they were all pretending not to notice.
Jamie heard the doors open behind them and pivoted in his seat, expecting Steven, Allie and the rest. Instead, he saw Marley, accompanied by Grant.
"Excuse me," Jamie said, standing up to meet them halfway. He kissed Marley on the cheek and sighed, "Guess you heard...."
"Grant told me," she informed. Jamie thought he detected a bit of an edge in her voice. As well as the expectation of an apology.
"We're still waiting for everyone to be brought up from the holding area."
"Is Steven alright? What about Sarah? Allie?"
"I haven't seen them. Kevin has. He's acting as counsel for the entire group. He says they're fine. Of course, that was last night. I can't imagine any of them slept too well in lock up...." He changed the subject, asking, "How is John? And how are you? Steven may be your family, but so was Gregory."
"I haven't been able to reach John or Sharlene. Or Donna, for that matter. Listen, Jamie, I'm glad we have this chance to talk before everything kicks off. I've been thinking. I think it would be best for Grant to represent Steven in this."
Her request came so out of left field, Jamie had no idea how to react.
Marley proselytized, "Kevin cannot give equal attention to all five. It's just not possible, no matter how good of a lawyer he is. And, for the record, this isn't even his area of expertise. Obviously, Jen will be his priority. And then Allie, because of the relationship with Amanda. Steven's interests would clearly be best served by engaging his own attorney, one who'll put his well-being ahead of all others."
"And that's Grant?" Jamie clarified, trying his best not to laugh or so much as smirk.
"Steven is Kirkland's brother. And Vicky's son. Grant wants to protect him."
"Let's say I believe that," Jamie offered, much to both Marley and Grant's surprise. "But, while this may not be Kevin's specialty, he has seen the inside of a courtroom once or twice over the past twenty years. Can Grant say the same?"
As it turned out, Grant didn't have the chance to say anything. Jamie had barely finished his question before the doors opened and this time it was the kids arriving followed a moment later by Sharlene and John.
Both of Gregory's parents looked like they hadn't slept since their son had gone missing. Sharlene's face trembled, swollen from crying, though her lips were cracked and dry. John's palms were raw, barely scabbed over, at least one cut as far as Jamie could see beginning to show the first signs of a pus-filled infection.
They had to pass by all of the accused before making their way to a seat behind Chase's table. Jen and GQ didn't seem to concern them. Sarah, Sharlene glared at briefly, while John snuck a succinct glance from Steven to Jamie, wordlessly reminding him of their earlier conversation: Just a slight adjustment in the DNA and it could have been Steven on a slab in the morgue, Jamie the devastated father.
The bulk of both Hudsons' attention, though, was focused on Allie. They stared at her as if simultaneously trying to understand how she could have done what she did, begging her to tell them something anything that might make the situation vaguely bearable, and daring her to even think about trying it.
Allie didn't shirk from either gaze. She met both the accusation and the beseeching head-on, looking surprisingly, shockingly collected under the circumstances.
Chase saw it too, realizing quicker than anyone thanks to two decades of prosecutorial work, that Allie's serenity was due to her utter and certain belief that she'd done the right thing. Crack that, he understood, and everything else would fall into place.
Amanda attempted to catch her daughter's eye as Allie and the rest filed past. She saw Steven nod to Jamie, Jen smile sheepishly at Kevin, even Sarah offer a low wave from the hip to Marley. Only Allie stared straight ahead. After her defiant acknowledgement of John and Sharlene, she refused to make eye contact with anyone else.
"How do you plead?" the judge asked each in turn.
"Not guilty," Jen said.
"Not guilty," Steven said.
"Not guilty," Sarah said.
"Not guilty," GQ said.
"Not guilty," Allie finished.
Chase made his argument, pointing out that every one of the defendants came from a family of ample means; flight from justice was definitely a possibility. Kevin countered that if they had wanted to flee they could have done so long before Gregory's body was ever found. They'd turned themselves in. Why would they flee now?
After another fifteen minutes of back and forth posturing, during which no one said anything not expected of them, bail was set at $50,000 each. Jamie had to grab at Amanda's arm to keep her from leaping out of her seat and waving her checkbook.
As the paperwork was being assembled, Kevin leaned over to GQ and whispered, "I'd be happy to take care of this for you. I realize it may be a bit difficult "
"No, thank you, sir," GQ said stiffly. "I'll manage. It's only ten percent cash, after all."
"That's still a substantial amount for a struggling student."
"With all due respect, Mr. Fowler, please don't patronize me. I said I've got this. I don't need charity from my girlfriend's father."
"Alright," Kevin backed off. "I'm sorry if I offended you."
Jen ducked her head and hissed, "He didn't mean anything by it."
"That's what you think," GQ corrected.
Marley came up, resting a hand on Steven's shoulder, asking, "How are you holding up?"
"I'm fine." He didn't exactly shake her off him, but the instinctive stiffening was enough of a clue. "Please don't worry about me. I'm sorry to put you through this."
"You aren't putting me through anything, that's what I'm here for, to look after you." She tried patting his hair and was promptly rebuffed just as gruffly. "Steven, I mentioned this to your dad earlier, and I still believe it's a good idea: What do you think of Grant being your lawyer? Just yours, no one else's? To really make sure you're looked after."
"No," Steven said tersely.
Marley waited for a follow up. None came. She pressed, "He wants to help you. He cares about you. He has for a long time."
"I'm familiar with Grant's version of caring. My mom would still be.... Forget it, Marley. Just leave me alone."
At the same time, Sarah turned to Jamie and, making sure that Steven couldn't overhear, beckoned him forward. "Dr. Frame..."
"Yes?" He looked her way, distracted.
She lowered her voice even further. "There's something weird going on with Steven."
That got Jamie's attention. "What do you mean?"
"Ever since we got to the cabin and saw Gregory and everything he's... shut down. Last night, I tried talking to him our cells were right next to each other, and it's not like there was much else to do. Nobody could sleep, so we just talked most of the time. Even Allie. But, Steven barely said anything, he just kept staring into space, like he was there, but he wasn't. Do you know what I mean?"
Slowly, Jamie nodded, wishing that he didn't. "Yeah. I know exactly what you mean."
Having gotten almost a literal cold-shoulder from Steven, Marley found herself changing places with Jamie as he moved two seats over to address his son, so that Marley ended up directly behind Sarah.
After a few reassuring words, she asked the girl, "So, how did Olivia take the news?"
Sarah admitted, "I didn't call her. Or my dad. They wouldn't know what to do, anyway other than start frantically blaming each other. Crises aren't exactly their thing."
"I remember," Marley said. "There was this time, your father was in an accident with his race-car "
"Oh, yeah. The Great Race Car Accident That Changed Everything. If he hadn't crashed, Olivia might never have told him about being my father. You and Dr. Frame might have gotten to adopt me, after all."
"I'd like to help you now, Sarah. If you need any help with bail or... a lawyer...."
Steven proved no chattier on the steps of the courthouse than he had been inside, despite Jamie's dogged attempts to pin him down.
While Rachel went to bring the car around, he reminded his son, "We've been through this before. After Vicky died, you had no idea how to react. So you didn't react at all. Kirkland would cry for hours every night. He'd throw tantrums. And then, when you both lost Jake, too, it just got worse. Kirkland couldn't even fall asleep for close to a year unless I was in the room with him. He was devastated. But, you never said a word."
"Kirkland was a little kid."
"So were you. A kid who refused to so much as mention his mother or Jake for, I think it may have been literally years."
"What would have been the point?"
"The point would have been to deal with what'd happened, with how you felt about it."
"Would my dealing or talking have brought either of them back?" Steven challenged.
"Now who's acting like a little kid?" Jamie asked gently, just as his phone went off. He checked the number, sighed, and took the call, "Dr. Frame, here," even as he signaled for Steven to wait, they weren't done yet.
Amanda and Allie, along with Kevin and Jen, came out then. As Rachel's car pulled up to the curb, Allie said, "I'll hitch a ride home with Grandma. You probably have to get back to the office, right, Mom?"
"I don't No I took the day off. I took the week "
But Allie had already slipped into the passenger seat.
Rachel rolled down her window. "Anyone else headed my way? Steven? Jamie?"
Hanging up the cell-phone, Jamie shook his head. "I have an emergency at the hospital. Steven, how about you drive part of the way with me, we can continue our conversation."
"I think I'll just head back to the dorms. I'm kind of tired. Didn't get much sleep. I'll see everybody later. Thanks, Dad, for coming to help me out."
"Anytime," Jamie stressed. "You know that, don't you? Call, text, holler. I'll be there."
His son didn't reply, just walked off in the opposite direction. Terrific....
Rachel asked, "Do you need a lift, Amanda?"
"No," she spoke slowly. "I have my car, here. I'll catch up with you at home. And I'll see you at home, too, Allie," she added impotently.
"Bye, Mom," her daughter continued staring straight out through the windshield.
Amanda and Jamie watched their kids disappear around a pair of respective corners before Jamie commented, "Well, that went well."
Amanda could only snort in reply.
Kevin said, "Actually, it did, all things considered. If Hamilton had decided to press those manslaughter charges, I was afraid we'd have been refused bail entirely."
Jamie said, "Marley brought up an interesting point. She reminded me that criminal law wasn't your specialty. You think you're up to this?"
"No," Kevin told him honestly. "But, I will be. Give me twenty-four hours, there's something I have in mind. If it doesn't work, I promise I will let you know."
"Marley also wondered how committed you're going to be to defending the rest of them, if it comes down to a choice between our kids and your own daughter."
"My dad would never " Jen began, but Kevin cut her off.
"It's a legitimate question. And you certainly have every right to seek independent counsel. All I can tell you is, it looks like the kids are going to be tried together, which means what's good for one is good for all. It also means that I'm going to defend every one of them as if they were my own child. Who else can match that?"
Sarah stood at the courthouse window, watching Steven stomp off out of view. She'd been talking to Marley and Grant about Mr. Harrison taking on her case, when Marley said, "Would you both excuse me for a moment?" crossing the room to catch GQ just as he picked up his confiscated wallet and cell-phone before getting ready to leave.
"GQ?" Marley stretched out her arm. "I'm not sure if you remember me. The last time I visited your parents, you were maybe ten or eleven..."
"I remember you, Ms. Hudson." He shook her hand politely. "And you're Steven's aunt."
"I have to admit, I was surprised not to bump into Carter and Thomasina here."
"I asked them not to come. They don't need to see me like this."
"But, surely, you explained the circumstances of your arrest?"
"It doesn't matter. I'm an embarrassment to them. And deservedly so."
"That doesn't sound like the Carter and Thomasina I know."
GQ's smile was courteous but condescending. "Some things are too complicated to explain, Ms. Hudson."
"Mr. Todd!" Chase entered the room as if expecting applause, or at least personalized theme music. "Glad to see you're still here. We need to have a chat."
"I'm out on bail," GQ said cautiously. "The bondsman was here, everything's in order."
To Marley's surprise, at the first sight of authority, GQ's voice grew softer and higher in pitch, he dropped his hands to his sides, palms out, fingers spread to demonstrate that he was defenseless, and he actually crouched, straining to appear shorter than the District Attorney.
"I reserve the right to re-interview you at any time, Mr. Todd. I am exercising that right."
"I'm not talking to you without an attorney."
"Okay. Call Jennifer's daddy back, I can wait."
GQ hesitated, and Marley took advantage of the opportunity to tell him, "Mr. Harrison is also an attorney. He's going to be working with Sarah. He'd be happy to sit in on Mr. Hamilton's questioning with you."
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