"This is preposterous," Spencer's stomping around the Bay City Police Station, still dressed in his tuxedo from the wedding, was no less emphatic at seven AM the following morning then it had been for all the previous twelve hours. "Why is this travesty taking so Goddamn long?" he demanded of Kevin.
"She's being processed," his new step-grandson repeated for the umpteenth time.
"Can't you speed up the process, then? What was Grant paying you that huge retainer for all those months?"
"This is the speeded up process," Kevin told him ruefully. "We were lucky we managed to get her on the docket last night. Anyone else would have had to wait till morning, and then some. Plus, it's Election Day, which means District Attorney Hamilton has other business on his plate. He tabled the right to interrogate Alice until a later date. So, soon as the paperwork is ready, you can take her home. Let her get some rest, at least."
"Peelers, Razzers," Spencer exhausted his Irish stash of epithets and moved on to general European. "Storm-troopers, Nazis. The utter lack of courtesy or civility. Class.... Her wedding! Why did it have to be " He snapped his fingers and asked Kevin, "Election Day. You think it was deliberate on Hamilton's part? Make himself look like a big man and stick it to Grant all in one maneuver?"
"I doubt it was a coincidence."
"What do they have on her?" Spencer lowered his voice. "Real evidence, I mean."
"I don't know," Kevin admitted. "But, I've made a formal request and Hamilton has promised to meet with me immediately after the election."
"He wouldn't do something like this, not so high-profile, if he didn't believe he had a slam-dunk of a case."
"No. He wouldn't have."
"You knew about this? Alice helping the Hudson boy?"
Kevin nodded. And braced himself for another Gaelic tantrum.
But Spencer seemed surprisingly philosophical. "Couldn't have been easy for you. Not with Jennifer also...."
"No," Kevin concurred. "It wasn't easy."
Spencer bobbed his head briskly. "Good lad. Looking out for your family." His eyes twinkled. "We'll make a Harrison of you, yet!"
Kevin's bark of a surprised laugh echoed across the early morning institutional walls as loudly as the earlier name-calling had. "Are you threatening me, Spencer?"
"Would it help Alice if I did?"
"No," Kevin told him sadly.
Spencer's expression suggested he'd expected as much. "I would do anything for her. Anything. You understand me?"
"I do," Kevin said. "I even believe you."
"Fowler!" A voice from behind them forced both men to turn around. A guard was leading Alice towards the front of the bullpen. She looked beat, but unbowed. "Your client's free to go."
"It's about damn time!" Spencer rushed over, ripping the officer's hands from where he'd been directing Alice by the arm and hissed, "If you laid one improper finger on Dr. Frame "
"Dr. Frame?" the man asked, confused.
"I told him it was Mrs. Harrison," Alice corrected gently.
Her husband cupped Alice's face in his hands, kissing her repeatedly, murmuring words of concern and comfort with such fervor, Kevin felt compelled to look away and stare at the walls for a spell, until they were done.
As they were heading for the door, Kevin warned, "There's press waiting. Amanda is doing her best to call in favors from her colleagues and keep the coverage under some semblance of control, but, if getting arrested at your wedding wasn't salacious enough, with the mayoral election today on top of that...."
"The election!" Alice realized. "Oh, Spencer, I'm so sorry. I'd completely forgotten. Grant must be counting on you. You should be with him."
"I am exactly where I should be," Spencer corrected, and held the precinct's front door for Alice. "Now, let's go out there and demonstrate what people who have nothing to be ashamed of look like."
"Feeling any better?" Jamie, on the couch, flicked the mute button of the TV's remote control and looked up as Lorna descended the stairs, surprisingly dressed for the day.
"Yes." She rationalized that it wasn't a lie. She was feeling better than last night. She just wasn't feeling well. But, what Lorna needed to do today wouldn't wait. "Thanks for the toast you left on the bedside table, by the way. Actually helped a lot."
"I checked on you a couple of times during the night; didn't want to bother you once you finally fell asleep, though. On the other hand," Jamie said. "Just in case you thought you were in danger of a full recovery, here's something to turn your stomach all over again." He directed Lorna's attention to the TV, volume back on, Alice's face filling the screen.
"God!" Lorna gasped. "What..." her eyes darted side to side, trying to both read the captions and keep up with what the announcer was saying.
"Seems we missed a lot of excitement," Jamie sighed.
Lorna kept her gaze glued to the set. "Is Alice alright?"
"I don't know. I haven't been able to get a hold of her. I called Amanda; she's in touch with Kevin. I guess Alice is out on bail for now."
"Do you want to go see her?"
"I'd just be in the way," Jamie said. "Spencer and Kevin are there. Plus, I remember my own experience. She's got to be exhausted. I left her a message. I'll call again later."
"If Hamilton plans to try this in public "
"I believe having her arrested on her wedding day suggests that he is...."
"A lawyer is fine and dandy, but she's going to need a kick-ass PR person."
"Know any?" Jamie asked, standing up and taking Lorna in his arms.
"Anything she needs," Lorna swore. "You say the word, I'll drop Matt and his tone-deaf clients to focus on this."
"I'll make sure she knows that." Jamie kissed Lorna. "I'm glad you're doing better."
"Me, too. We've got plans tonight, remember?"
He shook his head. "I'm not going to hold you to that. Not if you're sick."
"It's your birthday! And I'm not sick," Lorna told him the technical truth. "Kirkland went to the trouble of cooking dinner for the two of us, not to mention making plans to be out of the house. We're going to enjoy it. Especially after how and where we spent my birthday. Besides, I told you I'd make it up to you for spoiling last night."
"Alright," Jamie acquiesced. "As long as you're sure you're up to it, I'll see you back here after work."
"You're going to work? On your birthday?"
"It's not a national holiday," Jamie reminded.
"Really? 'Cause the public schools are closed."
"I think that has more to do with the election."
"Oh, yeah. Right. Grant or Hamilton. Makes you wish for a None of the Above option."
"For Kirkland's sake, I hope everything goes well. Marley's, too. I don't care if Grant wins or loses. Just that he doesn't disappoint them."
"That sounds unlikely. Disappointing people who love him is kind of Grant's thing."
"I'll see you tonight," he reached for his jacket hanging on a peg by the door.
"Jamie?" she called after him. "That ring that you bought? You remember where it is?"
"Yeah," he told her without turning around, keeping his tone deliberately neutral.
"Good," Lorna said.
"Ready?" Marley asked Grant with an encouraging smile as she gave him a final once over, plucking a stray thread from his pinstriped lapel.
"Any chance I can convince you to lock the door and stay in here with me all day?" He kissed the back of Marley's hand. "We can make love on my desk as the returns come in. That should kick the proceedings up a notch."
"Unfortunately, the panoramic view from your office to the bullpen works both ways," Marley reminded, indicating the transparent glass window and the chaos bustling below. "We don't want to distract the volunteers. Or give Kirkland post-traumatic flashbacks."
"He's here already?"
"Bright and early," Marley searched the crowd. She spotted her nephew helping Lila distribute last-minute posters for the polling area perimeters and pointed him out. The boy looked up, waved at them, then dutifully returned to work. "He's having a blast."
"He thinks he's going to win our bet."
"We're still working out the details. Hopefully it will not involve Elmo," Grant mumbled.
Materializing as if from a puff of smoke, Donna poked her head into the office. "Grant, darling, I need you desperately. Jeanne is ready for your interview." She informed Marley. "We'll be streaming the entire Election Day live from Grant's headquarters on the KBAY website! Isn't that exciting? Very cutting edge. Grant will be a pioneer!" She grabbed him by the arm, pulling Grant away before Marley could respond. Clearly, the question had been rhetorical.
"That's weird," Kirkland noted as his father and grandmother blew by him, a frowning Marley bringing up the rear. "All I ever heard was how much she hated him, and now, Grandmother's working harder than anybody to get Grant elected. What's up?"
"Politics make strange bedfellows," Marley figured it was never too early to introduce a growing boy to meaningless cliches. "Forget about Donna," she urged Kirkland, trying desperately to do the same. "The most important thing for Grant about this day is having you on-hand to share it with him. He's so happy you decided to come."
"Are you kidding? Where else would I be?"
"Well, it is Jamie's birthday, too, and I know you and Steven usually do the Frame men dinner followed by some live sporting event thing."
"Dad was cool about postponing. He saw I wanted to be here. Besides, there's Lorna now, and I figured they didn't need a third wheel around for the celebration, you know?"
"Yeah..." Visualizing that particular scenario somehow made even Donna cooing over Grant the preferable image. Marley refocused her attention towards her mother's camera crew, where Jeanne Ewing stood amidst the frenzy of campaign activity, interviewing a cool, collected, dapper Grant.
"Are you concerned, Senator, about the effect that Dr. Alice Frame's earlier arrest might have on your chances today?"
"My only concern," Grant reassured. "Is for my new stepmother. Alice has been forced to endure a most difficult twenty-four hours, including utterly unnecessary humiliation on her wedding day. As Mayor, I will see to it first thing that the District Attorney's office and the Police Department issue a public apology, as well as take immediate steps to insure that no other citizen is ever treated in such a callous manner."
"Do you believe your opponent, Chase Hamilton, deliberately orchestrated this attack on your family in order to sully your operation?"
"Mr. Hamilton and I agreed at the onset to run mutual, clean campaigns. There are many personal charges he might have leveled towards me, which he chose not to. I am grateful for that. Of course, I could have easily done so, as well. But, that sort of bigoted mud-slinging is grossly inappropriate in this day and age. The people of Bay City should be proud of how both their candidates were able to rise above the traditional partisan fray."
"Wow," Kirkland whispered to Marley. "He's really bringing it. He got to call Hamilton names while telling people how awesome he is for not name-calling!"
"And managing not to answer Jeanne's question at the same time," Marley marveled. Just as Jeanne, equally cognizant of Grant's verbal run-around, decided to switch tactics.
She gestured for her cameraman to pivot and settle on Kirkland and Marley, who both froze awkwardly in response. Jeanne chirped, "I see your son is in attendance today."
Behind Jeanne's back, Donna frantically gestured for Kirkland to respond. And smile!
"I'm really excited to be here with my dad," Kirkland stumbled for a moment before, from somewhere deep inside, the Harrison DNA kicked in and he finished triumphantly, "I'm just sorry I can't vote for him myself!"
"It's a family affair," Grant stepped smoothly into frame, more to relieve Kirkland than out of a need for personal glory. "Kirkland is here, his aunt, Marley Hudson..."
"And your former mother-in-law, Donna Love," Jeanne pressed. "She appears to be an integral part of your campaign."
"Indeed she is," Grant extended his arm and pulled Donna into the inner circle, the act inadvertently forcing Marley out of the shot. "From the beginning, my campaign has been about redemption. It's been about the belief that people can change, that they can learn from their mistakes, that a zebra can, in effect, change its stripes if only they want to badly enough. Who better to represent that spirit of rebirth, of faith and forgiveness and hope for the better than Donna Love and myself? Everyone in Bay City has made mistakes. Doesn't everyone in Bay City deserve a second chance?"
"Which is precisely what we'll be getting with a Harrison administration," Donna purred.
"Dang, they make a fine team," Lila sidled up to Marley. "Like they're sharing a brain."
"How are the car assignments going?" Marley abruptly changed the subject. "Are there enough for everybody who needs one?"
"Yup," Lila tapped her clipboard with a pen. "I got folks signing in and out after each run to make certain we don't suddenly come up short."
Lila stepped away and Kirkland popped into her spot, reporting to Marley, "Grant and Grandmother are still talking. I couldn't take it anymore. We got anything to eat?"
Marley indicated the buffet set up in the back, but warned, "Don't know if it'll meet your exacting, gourmet standards. Fernando wasn't available to cater..."
"No kidding," Kirkland assessed his culinary choices at the table. "Should have put me in charge. This, I could actually help with! Sheesh, how are you supposed to elect a guy on cold cuts, Swiss cheese and white bread?"
"Tell me about it," GQ picked up a plate and stood next to Kirkland, surveying the spread with equal derision. "How about some pigs in a blanket? Ribs, maybe? Real food."
"That'd be good," Kirkland agreed, picking through the fruit plate as his last hope for flavor. "So, you had your fifteen minutes on-camera with Grant yet, or is my Grandmother still hogging the spotlight?"
"Donna promised I was up next. I'm in no hurry, to be honest. After the last time, well, I got some pretty nasty e-mail. People actually went to the trouble of tracking down my Bay City U account and... sharing their feelings with me."
"Look," Kirkland said. "I know this is none of my business, and you probably don't care, anyway. But, I think you're doing the right thing, fighting for Hudson."
"Really? You? I would've thought, you especially...."
"I love my dad. Jamie. But, the fact that Grant fought for me, it matters. I may not have wanted him to get me, but I wanted him to want me. Does that make sense?"
GQ nodded slowly. "Yeah.... It does."
"Rise and shine!" A newly confident in her lock-picking ability Lorna sang as she threw open the door to Morgan's bedroom, catching him still asleep; though not for long. "You and I have a date with a lawyer."
"Go away," he groused, throwing a pillow in Lorna's general direction.
"Happy to. Soon as you give me my divorce."
"I have a better idea." Morgan grinned salaciously, sitting up in bed to lean against the headboard, the sheets falling across his hips. "Why don't you join me instead?"
The suggestion seemed to make Lorna vaguely ill. "I am giving you to the count of three to get up, put some pants on, and " she faltered, holding up one finger and instructing him, "Hold that thought. I'll be right back," before tearing out the door, heading for the bathroom.
"I didn't think I was that bad," Morgan mumbled to himself, even as the obvious pieces clicked into place, followed by shock, disbelief, and finally a bittersweet acceptance.
None of which was evident on his face when Lorna returned and he conversationally asked her, "How far along are you?"
Lacking the energy for further lying, Lorna gave up. "Far enough that I don't have time to play juvenile games with you anymore. It's Jamie's birthday. We have a whole evening planned. I'm going to finally let him propose, and I'm going to accept, and then I'm going to tell him we're having a baby."
"All while you're still married to me? Way to set the guy up for a broken heart."
"I won't be married to you because you're giving me a divorce!" Lorna wavered on the fine line between fury, pleading and coercion. "Don't do this to me, Morgan, don't screw around with me about this. Not this. Not when there's a baby involved. My baby with Jamie. You know he's a good guy. He's everything I've ever wanted. He's more than I dared hope for. And he's certainly more than I deserve. I can barely keep my eyes open, I've been living on Saltines and ginger ale for days, I feel like I could burst into tears or a homicidal rage at any moment... and I've never been happier in my life."
"Endorphins. It's a perfectly normal side effect of pregnancy. You're not happy, you just think you are."
"Jamie makes me happy. And the baby.... That old expression, 'over the moon?' I never understood what it meant before. You know how long I've wanted a baby. You and I... we even tried halfheartedly for a while, remember?"
"I don't remember doing anything half-heartedly where you were concerned, especially not "
"Yeah, well, despite your self-proclaimed best efforts, I guess Jamie proved to be the better man, after all."
"Ouch. Man, you're mean when you're pregnant. And without grounds, too. I'm just doing what you need me to, what we agreed on, why we got married in the first place. My job is to save you from your own crappy decision-making, and keep you from getting stuck with the wrong guy. Again. You're having a baby? Great! Congrats! I make an awesome labor coach. I delivered Charlie, you know. In an elevator. I am also excellent godfather material."
"My baby is going to have a real father. Who's also a doctor. So thanks, but no thanks."
"But, just because Jamie got lucky and slipped a winning puck past the goalie, it doesn't mean you're obliged to shackle yourself to the dude for the rest of your life. I know your hormones are pushing you towards steady, boring, broad-shouldered Ward Cleaver. But, he's not what's going to make you happy in the long run, Lorna. It's my duty to remind you of that. That's what friends are for."
"I don't need anything from you, except to back off and let me go!" Lorna hissed, even as she was forced to take a seat on the edge of his bed. It was either that or keel over.
Morgan plopped down next to her, taking Lorna's hand. She attempted to yank it away, but Morgan held on tightly, squeezing her fingers. "Come on," he said gently. "Let me take you home. You're in no shape to drive. Or really to do much of anything."
"I'm fine," she insisted. "I just happen to hate you right now," her voice tight as she struggled not to cry in frustration.
"I meant what I said," Donna, finally back behind the camera, addressed Marley as they observed Grant, GQ, and Jeanne filming. "Grant truly has changed. I didn't see it before, but after working with him... I've developed a whole new appreciation for the man."
"Have you now?" Marley struggled to remain civil. And wondered why she was bothering.
"He's protective, considerate, he puts his family first you know how important that is to me. The girls adore him and Kirkland... it's amazing how Grant has at long last stopped looking at Kirkland like he's a possession. He is finally treating him like a father should treat his son. And then, of course, there's the way Grant is with you..."
"And how might that be?" Marley clenched her teeth.
"Respectful. Considerate. Doting. And, just between us girls my, my, Marley, the way Grant looks at you! The sheer, blatant desire, it's almost unseemly; but he knows exactly when to pull back, keep it charming, not overpowering or worse, tacky. What woman wouldn't want to be looked at like that by a man? How I envy you, darling."
"I know what you're doing," Marley turned abruptly on Donna, the latter doing her best not to flinch away. "And you need to stop. Right. Now."
"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't comprehend what you mean."
"I warned you, no game playing, especially not with me. Not anymore. I've had it."
"Marley, mind yourself, we're in public! The cameras!" Donna whispered harshly, then softened enough to admit, "Fine, alright, maybe I have been laying it on a trifle thickly. But, it's only because I want you to understand just how much I support your relationship with Grant. I thought maybe now we could be close again. It's been so wonderful, the past few weeks, working side by side. You, me... "
"And Grant," Marley finished.
"Exactly. The three of us worked so well together, I just don't want it to end."
"I don't particularly care what you want, Donna. But, once the votes are tallied and our deal is up, I want you out of my life. Completely. Once and for all."
Standing on her aunt's doorstep, Frankie wordlessly handed Sharlene that morning's edition of The Bay City Herald, the one with Alice's picture on the front page, and a cover story regarding her role in Gregory's death.
Sharlene nodded to indicate that she'd seen it and more already. She stepped aside and allowed Frankie to enter the house.
"How... are you?" Frankie winced at her own banality.
Sharlene let the question fly by unanswered. Instead, she recalled, "I spent the night outside the morgue after Gregory was first brought in. I couldn't bear to be away from him. Not when I knew that, eventually, I'd have to be away from him forever. I wasn't ready for that yet. So I sat there. Alice came and sat with me. I was so grateful to her. Just having a hand to hold onto when it felt like my entire world had been wrenched away. I remember thinking: She knows how I feel. She lost Sally. She understands. How," Sharlene wracked her brain trying to make sense of it. "How could Alice, after losing her own child, how could she do the same thing to me? I know we were never particularly close. But, she's been a Frame most of her life. Steve meant the world to her. Gregory was his nephew. How could she look at a nineteen year old boy and believe that he deserved to die?"
Frankie tread carefully, indicating the newspaper again, although what she ended up saying was really more her own assumption than anything she'd read. "Maybe Alice believed that a nineteen year old boy deserved to die how he wanted, when he wanted, without suffering. She injected him with morphine, Sharlene. He was in agonizing pain before that. She helped him. She risked her career to "
"You think I give a damn about Alice Frame's medical career? She's alive. My son is dead. Because of her. Those are the only facts that matter to me."
"Maybe you should talk to her," Frankie suggested gently.
"Maybe if you heard her side of it, it might help bring you some closure. Maybe if you understood why she did what she did, you wouldn't want to press charges against her."
"Is that why you're here?" Sharlene bristled. "You're on her side?"
"I'm on your side," Frankie reassured. "First, last and always. But, Sharlene, I've been given cause lately to think quite a bit about justice and revenge, and the toll those things can take. If you continue down this road, you might end up doing yourself even greater damage than you can possibly imagine. Yes, Gregory is dead. But, destroying the lives of six people who only wanted to help him, that won't bring him back...."
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