"I want to fight this," Alice finally said, following a pause that felt interminable to both Spencer and Kevin. "But, I do not want it to be at the expense of Jen, Steven and the rest. If my defending myself makes it more difficult for them, I won't do it."
"It's not a question of that," Kevin explained for her and Spencer's benefit. "You can't make their case worse, the evidence is already there on all counts. Their defense hinges on proving that they were simply following Gregory's wishes, and that he was, in fact, capable of making a rational decision. They, however, can make your case worse, since, at the moment, the DA's evidence is presumably circumstantial Hamilton will need at least one of the kids' testimonies to put you definitively on the scene. Not to mention that, as a medical professional, you're held to a higher standard when it comes to assisted suicide. Gregory's wishes and competency are not the primary concern."
"I presume Hamilton is ready to offer a deal to anyone willing to testify against Alice?" Spencer guessed with the sigh of someone who'd been down this road before.
"A damn generous one. Full dismissal of all charges."
"So Rachel was right," Alice looked down at her hands, then up again. "It really is my life against theirs."
"Rachel is a desperate grandmother," Spencer said. "She'd do or say anything to protect her own, which is as it should be, I'm certainly not blaming her for it. But, neither should you be taking her words to heart. Fact is, this doesn't need to be a zero sum game. You could still all walk away scot-free, isn't that right, Kevin?"
"Innocent until proven guilty," Kevin confirmed without agreeing.
"Is that why, when I came in, you two were making plans for spiriting me out of the country?"
"Nothing wrong with exploring all options," Spencer harrumphed.
"Which is precisely what I'd like you to tell your clients, Kevin." Alice locked eyes with her grandson and commanded him, with no room for argument. "Please inform Steven, Jen, and Allie, that if they feel they need to turn state's evidence against me in order to protect themselves, I won't hold that against them."
"Now, see, here," Spencer began. "No need to offer engraved invitations!"
"They should think of themselves first. And before you interrupt again, no, I am not being noble. I'm being selfish. I won't have their fate on my conscience. You are their attorney, Kevin. If you come to believe that this is ultimately their best course of action, promise me that you'll urge them to take it. With my blessing."
"Has everybody gone home finally?" Marley whispered into her cell phone to Grant, still afraid of being overheard despite being the only person left on the empty street.
"Yes," he reassured. "Bring the car to the back parking lot. I'll be waiting outside."
Marley wasted no time following his instructions, checking to make sure there were no other cars or straggling pedestrians in the vicinity before finally taking off and delivering the shattered vehicle to its return destination.
"Did anyone see you?" Grant asked upon opening the side door and helping Marley out.
Marley shook her head as Grant took in the car, wincing at his sharp intake of breath while he got a good look at the damage. Grant swiveled his head from the smashed front end to Marley's pale face. "Are you sure you weren't hurt, too?"
"I'm fine," she hugged herself with both arms, shivering. "I had the radio on while I was driving. I thought there might be news... But, it's all just election coverage so far."
"Thank goodness for that," Grant said.
"Maybe it means Lorna and Morgan are okay? I mean, if it were bad... really bad... it'd have made the news by now, right? Felicia is pretty famous locally, and Lorna's her...."
"You should go inside," Grant said gently, his words more a directive than a suggestion. "Warm up. I can take it from here."
"What... what are you going to do?"
"The less you know, the better."
"Don't!" The color returned to Marley's cheeks and her entire body tensed like a cat ready to spring. "Do not treat me like I'm some helpless child!"
"I'm just trying to take care of you. You've been through a horrible ordeal tonight. You're in shock. You need to recover."
"Lorna needs to recover," Marley stressed. "Her baby needs to be okay. Even if it's not Jamie's."
"What are you talking about?" Grant stopped his assessment to turn around. "What do you mean the baby isn't Jamie's? Whose baby could it be?"
"Morgan's. I saw her kissing him. In the car. Right before..."
"Lorna and Morgan are friends. They go way back," he dismissed. "When she and I were "
"Exactly. She cheated on Morgan with you, and now she's cheating on Jamie with Morgan. Why else wouldn't she have told Jamie about the baby? But, it doesn't matter now. For all I know, I may have killed them both." Marley clamped a hand over her mouth before pulling herself together thought sheer force of will to assert, "Whatever you are planning to fix this, I need to know. I'm not letting you do it alone."
"Okay," Grant said in a calm voice, realizing it would be more expedient to comply with her wishes. "I'm going to wipe down the car to remove your fingerprints, then vacuum the interior and get rid of anything that could connect you to the car."
"Won't that look suspicious? No prints at all on the car?"
"Horribly. But, it still beats leaving physical evidence behind."
"Where's Kirkland?" Marley suddenly asked as she watched Grant go over the car with a cloth, wiping every indoor surface she may have touched.
"I had Lila take him to my house, just like we planned all along. I told him I had a few things to finish up here and would be home shortly. He's probably asleep by now. Why?"
"Do you think he knows anything? About Lorna? Maybe Jamie's called him."
Grant quickly plucked the cell phone from Marley's fingers. "No. You can't mention this to anyone, do you understand?"
"I need to find out how she is. I can't stand not knowing."
"We'll hear about it organically sooner or later. Mustn't tip our hand right now."
"You know what's funny? I keep remembering the look on Lorna's face. I can't stop wondering if that's how I looked when Donna hit me. You were there, you saw..."
"My God, I have officially turned into my mother. I'm Donna. I did exactly what she always does. Hurt someone, then throw up my hands and say it was an accident..."
"This was an accident, Marley."
"I wanted Donna punished over what she did to me. Pleading neglect wasn't enough. I wanted her to pay. Lorna, Jamie, Felicia... they're going to want the same from me. And they'll be right, too."
"How would you being arrested help Lorna right now?" Grant challenged. "Tell me, Marley? If she does lose her baby, if Jamie loses her will your going to jail bring either of them back? What matters right now is Lorna and her child. But, that outcome is out of our hands, in any case. The only thing your volunteering to martyr yourself would do is hurt more people Bridget, Michele, Kirkland, Steven. You said it yourself earlier. You are the closest thing they have to a mother. What would finding out about this do to them? You owe it to Vicky's children and to yourself not to give up, not to give in. Nothing good will come of making foolish sacrifices. Do you understand?"
Grant waited for the words to sink in, even as he returned his attention to the car, working as quickly as he could to put this night behind them.
"What the hell happened in here?" Jamie barked as he pushed his way into the Radiology lab, an equally anxious Morgan bringing up the rear. The entire time he'd been dashing up the steps, a desperate part of Jamie had been reminding himself that Lorna couldn't be the only patient scheduled for an MRI tonight, that he was leaping to conclusions and quite possibly worrying about nothing.
But, the fraught attempt at self-delusion shattered definitively when he burst through the doors to catch the crowd of nurses and technicians clustered on both sides of Lorna's gurney. And Lorna, silent, her eyes closed, her body limp and completely inert as the entire Code Blue team scrambled around her, swabbing, jabbing, and mounting new needles, IV lines and leads into her arms.
"Patient was in the process of being loaded into MRI when she complained of headache and dizziness," the nurse depressing a BVM over Lorna's mouth informed Jamie. "By the time we withdrew the examination table from the tunnel, she was unconscious."
"...No response to pain stimuli..."
"...Unequal pupil dilation..."
Jamie heard it all. The dispassionate diagnosis, the angry blinking lights on the monitors, the alarms screaming their beeps loud enough to wake the.... All he felt, though, was the outside world circulating around him in excruciatingly slow motion. Which was perplexing, really. Since everything inside of him Jamie's brain, his lungs, his heart was moving, so, so fast....
"Brain bleed," Morgan diagnosed grimly in the same instant as Jamie's mind leapt to the identical conclusion. "Damn it, I told you we should've gone for the CAT-scan!"
"Let's move it!" the head of the Code Blue group gave the order, grabbing the head of Lorna's gurney and wheeling it briskly out of the room, not even bothering to look over his shoulder and insure that the rest of the team was scrambling to keep pace. They all knew the drill. "Get CT ready for her... Page the Neurosurgeon on call and tell him he's cutting in five.... Call OR and tell them we're on our way..."
Jamie ran after them, following Lorna into the CT imaging room, while Morgan dashed into the monitoring area, hunched over the technician, studying the images from Lorna's scan as each popped up on the multi-colored screen.
"Subdural hematoma, right parietal lobe," the consulting neurologist confirmed with a regretful shake of her head, and gestured for the orderlies to immediately transport Lorna to the OR.
"You're going to be fine," Jamie reassured her, running down the hall alongside the gurney for as long as he knew he'd be allowed. "The surgeons know what they're doing. They'll take good care of you. And the baby, too. You have nothing to worry about. Nothing to be scared of. I'll be right here. I'll be waiting for you as soon as...."
"Push Dilantin," Russ ordered, Jamie only now realizing that he'd joined the entourage on their way to the Operating Room.
"Dilantin," Jamie blinked. "No, Russ, she's "
"I know," the older doctor squeezed Jamie's arm apologetically. "But we need to get her stabilized right away. It's the absolute minimum dosage."
Dazed, Jamie nodded numbly, having no other choice but to trust him.
"How about I take it from here?" the avuncular words nevertheless an order, not a suggestion, pushing Jamie back and away from Lorna's gurney.
"I love you," he managed to get out as they wheeled Lorna away, pressing his lips gently to the palm of her hand before she was sped through the OR doors. "I love you both."
"You were slumming out in Bakersfield writing radio jingles? Seriously, man?"
Dean plucked a tortilla chip from the extra-large bag he'd brought, dunked it in the guacamole and washed both down with a swig of beer. "I didn't cut out for the coast to live the good life, Matt. Jingles paid the bills so I wouldn't have to sink to sleeping in my car or on the beach, that's all."
"Even sleeping on the beach, as long as it's far away from here, sounds damn good right about now," Matt sighed wistfully.
"What?" Dean gestured broadly with his nearly empty bottle to encompass the reams of paper, empty CD case and take-out food container strewn C-Squared office. "And leave show business?"
Matt snorted. "You want it? You can have it. I'm fed up. Place has become nothing but a massive pain in the ass, especially once Lorna conned her way into working here. I tell you, my life would be a Hell of a lot easier if she'd just drop off the face of the Earth."
"Been there," Dean sympathized. "Felt that. Pretty recently, as a matter of fact. Who knew Lorna's pushiness was the gift that keeps on giving?"
"She pushed you back here, though," Matt said. "It's good to see you. I..." he hesitated. "I never got the chance to tell you how sorry I was am about Jenna. Especially since, well, Donna..."
"Don't," Dean warned. "Don't go there. You say her name one more time, and I'm out the door."
"You finally wised up and dumped the homicidal bitch, that's all that matters."
"Actually, she..." Matt forced himself to swallow the rest of the sentence. "You're right. Don She has nothing to do with you or your daughter. Have you seen Lori Ann, yet?"
Dean nodded. "Felicia went with me to Frankie's the night I got back. Lori Ann's gotten so big. When she was first born..." Dean tapped the tip of his left middle finger against the right, then trailed it down to the bottom of his palm, indicating how tiny she'd once been.
"Yeah, it all goes by in a heartbeat. I swear it was only a couple days ago I had a playpen set up here for Jazz. I'd be playing the new demo CDs I was getting, and Jazz would clap when she liked something; blow raspberries when she didn't. You think I'm full of it, but she knew her stuff even then. Every band she picked was right on the money."
"I don't think you're full of it. I think you're just a proud, obnoxious, oblivious parent."
"Check back with me in a year, dude. You'll be dragging me over to listen to Lori Ann banging on her toy piano and asking how soon do I think I can get her debut single out."
"Really?" Dean asked quietly. "You can really see me doing that?"
"What? Thinking anything you had a hand in creating is brilliance personified? Yes, that part kind of comes naturally to you, if I recall right."
"No. I mean, being a dad. Raising Lori Ann. You can see me raising her by myself?"
"You wouldn't be by yourself. Some folks need a village... you'll get a whole town."
"I wouldn't even know where to start."
"Neither did I when Jasmine was born. Neither do most guys. I'm not going to lie to you; it's tough as hell. Worse than a 20 hour straight recording session. Worse than a sixty-five city tour. And the reviews? Forget about it. You're lucky if you get an "I guess you don't completely suck," every once in a while. Between the constant pans."
"Thanks, Matt, you're really pumping me up to bite the bullet and do this."
"It's worth it, though," Matt continued. "Now, granted, few can rise to the challenge of being the world's greatest dad and raising an awesome kid like Jasmine "
"Word on the street is she's awesome in spite, not because, of you."
"But, yeah, I can see you being a great dad to Lori Ann. You put your heart and soul into everything you do, Dean. You wouldn't know how to half-ass if you tried. Those jingles you were supposedly writing just to keep from being homeless, tell me you didn't pour as much effort into them as you did into one of your love songs."
"Lori Ann is a little bit more important than a musical couplet praising discount lube jobs, but, okay, I see your point. Now... any tips on how to raise a girl specifically?"
"Understand that the word no has been permanently removed from your vocabulary. Get ready for her to tell you her new boyfriend is awesome because he's totally just like you and realize that's never a good thing. And, ultimately, love her enough so that, sooner than you'd like, she can tell the real thing from a guy who's just feeding her a lame line."
"Take it easy, Sugar Ray," Jen warned GQ the next morning as he blindly pummeled the University Gym's punching bag with a single-minded intensity that had already prompted several nervous glances in their direction.
"Hey, I'm just trying to exemplify the Roman ideal of a healthy mind in a healthy body. Mens sana in corpore sano, et al..." he translated into Latin. "Not my fault that all these philistines see is an angry Black man. Oooh... scary."
"How did your meeting with Hudson's adoptive parents go?" Jen figured she'd skip the dead languages and cut straight to the subtext.
"They want to keep him. Which, I'm sure, comes as no surprise to you, since you agree that they should."
"I do," she confirmed. "But, that doesn't mean I still can't be there for you, that I can't support you. How about you ease up on the bag for a bit, and talk to me? I promise just to listen, no judgments, no unsolicited advice."
"Wow," GQ dropped his arms and turned away from the bag. "That's huge for you."
"I know," she teased. "Bet you didn't think I had it in me."
"We'll see," he matched his tone to hers as they both stepped out of the gym area and headed up to the indoor running track, a more conducive spot for private conversation.
They jogged side by side in silence for a few moments, Jen doing her best to honor her promise and well, just shut up and listen for a change.
Finally, GQ blurted out, "I want to take responsibility for Hudson. It's not about making myself look good, or getting back at Allie or about getting Allie back, either. It's about me needing to raise my own flesh and blood. Except it feels like nobody wants me to do it. They keep telling me I can't do it. I don't get it. I wouldn't be the first single parent in America. I wouldn't even be the first single dad. Guys younger than me have babies all the time, and nobody is trying to take their kids away from them."
"Your situation isn't the same," she offered tentatively, realizing that could be interpreted as a judgment.
"Damn right. My kid was stolen from me. All I'm trying to do is get him back. But, now I've got to prove that I deserve to raise him, when if I went out and fathered another kid, nobody from Social Services would come rushing in to say I can't be a part of that kid's life. I don't see why it's any different with Hudson. I'm not on drugs. I'm not mentally deficient. I'm financially capable, and I can always make more money if I need to. I have a stable support system to help me. There is nothing that indicates I couldn't be a good parent. I have more advantages than most single parents my age, and if they can do it, if they're allowed to do it, then why aren't I? Look at it from the other side. If Allie who has the same resources I do had changed her mind before the six-month deadline and decided to take Hudson back, she'd get him back. No question."
"I'd have questions," Jen corrected. "More like really angry statements."
"But, it wouldn't matter. At most, people would pay lip service to it being a bad idea. And you know what else? Nobody would worry that Allie hadn't bonded with him or that she's taking Hudson away from the only home he's ever known. The potentially life scarring disorientation he'd supposedly experience if I reclaimed him would magically disappear all due to a biological mother's love."
"Okay, now you're really talking to the wrong person about that."
"I'm sorry. I know you've got your own issues at play here, and I'm honestly not trying to make light of what you went through when you were a kid. But, you've got to admit, our situations are completely different."
"You're nothing like my biological dad," she agreed.
"Good. Thank you. And, while we're on the subject: You got lucky with Kevin. He obviously gave you what you needed from a parent. Everyone keeps talking about how perfect the Bauers are for Hudson, how he'll get a mom and dad if he stays with them. Well, what if Rick and Mindy get divorced? This isn't a first, or second, or even third marriage for either of them. They are far from perfect, and they are far, far from a sure bet when it comes to providing a stable, loving home for my son. Still, somehow, I'm the one who has to prove my competence, both in court and to random people who feel like e-mailing me about it. Everyone seems so sure that I'd make a horrible father to Hudson. That raising him on my own would be the worst thing for him. Why is everyone so convinced about that, but also willing to give the Bauers the benefit of the doubt even when there's evidence to the contrary?"
"I know you could be a good father to Hudson," Jen insisted. "Just because I disagree with you about what to do, doesn't mean I agree with your pen pals about that."
"You think that Hudson should stay with the Bauers because why make Allie's mess worse, right? He's happy now. They're good parents to him now, so... leave it alone?"
"You're simplifying but, in a nutshell, yeah, I guess."
"Well, I can't. I can't abandon my son. I can't not fight for him. He's worth fighting for. I know I can give him a good life. I'd be the first to admit if I couldn't, but I can. Hudson and I don't deserve to be deprived of a real father/son relationship because his mother I'm sorry, but, it's true is an immature, selfish liar. Or because she got me into this damn, legal mess over Gregory that could "
"Wait? What?" Jen stopped running abruptly. "What does Gregory have to do with anything?
"Oh, this is priceless," GQ had darted ahead of her and now needed to double-back. "Get this: The Bauers filed an injunction forbidding me from suing for custody until the Assisted Suicide case is settled. They argue that, until I know whether or not I'm going to jail, I can't claim to be capable of providing Hudson with a stable home. So not only did Allie deprive me of my son in the first place, now she's the indirect reason I can't immediately fight for him, too."
"But, Gregory's case might not come on the docket for weeks, maybe even months."
"Sucks to be me," GQ agreed. "Let's not even get into the fact that every day Hudson spends with the Bauers is another day they can point to and claim he's too settled in with them to be moved."
"GQ..." Jen began tentatively; no longer because she was afraid of giving unsolicited advice, but because she really wasn't sure how she felt about the advice she was about to offer. "I I assume, when this all first went down, that Chase Hamilton offered you the same deal he offered the rest of us."
It took GQ a moment to comprehend what she was saying. Once he did, though, he appeared even more scared of the words and their potential than Jen had been. "No... Jen... I I couldn't..."
"I'm not saying you should," she agreed vehemently. "Just that it's, well, its, a solution."
"That would be... how would I ever explain it to Hudson?"
Jen nodded. Even as she felt compelled to point out, "It might be your only chance to ever explain anything to him at all...."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|