The stand-off which, in reality, couldn't have lasted more than a minute, tops, felt like an eternity to both Lorna and Marley. They glared at each other across the latter's hospital bed, neither willing to back down. Lorna's eyes bore into Marley as if she could literally wrench the truth out of her skull. For her part, Marley met Lorna's gaze head-on, shoulders squared, chin up, lips set in a straight line, the better to keep the truth from inadvertently bursting out in spite of her best efforts to remain strong.
Finally, the most Marley would concede to was a rhetorical, "What's your deal?"
Lorna exhaled. Despite her determination to confront Marley and not let up until she'd extracted a confession by any means possible, a part of Lorna still hadn't been convinced that Donna was telling the truth. Now there could be no doubt. Even if Marley still thought there was room for ambiguity as to her guilt, Lorna finally knew the score. She wouldn't be backing down.
And, once again, her initial flare of fury wasn't for herself, but worry about how in the world she'd break this to Jamie.
Pushing that dilemma out her mind for the moment, Lorna acted as if they'd already settled on terms as she laid out, "Voluntarily commit yourself to Clareview. Stay there until you're no longer a danger to society. And, in return, I won't go to the police."
"Why would you agree to that?" Marley's queries remained rhetorical. As far as she was concerned, she hadn't admitted to anything. They were just talking.
"I told you. It's for the kids' sakes. They don't need to see their aunt on trial for attempting to murder their future stepmother and baby sister."
"If you're so concerned about the children, what about Bridget and Michele? If you force me to... leave," Marley wasn't quite ready yet to tackle the issue of her mental stability. "What happens to them? Do you realize that would leave my girls in Donna's clutches?"
Actually, Lorna hadn't given that aspect any thought. She faltered for just a moment, then, realizing Marley could use that chink in the armor against her, resolved to come back even harder.
"That's your problem," Lorna snapped, breaking eye contact for the first time since she'd come in. "The fact is, you need to be taken off the streets. You belong in jail. But, I'm willing to settle for a mental hospital. As long as there's no chance of you getting out until half the AMA deems you good and ready. I'm being a hell of a lot more generous than any judge or jury. After Donna walked on killing Jenna with a two-minute stint in the loony bin, you think there's a D.A. in their right mind or re-election ambitions who'll let you do the same?"
"It was an accident!" Marley burst out, unable to refrain from defending herself any longer. "How can you possibly imply that I meant to hurt you or your baby?"
At that, Lorna just stared at Marley coldly, letting the plethora of obvious points fly by, unsaid.
"No," Marley insisted. "This wasn't about you. Or Jamie or... I was exhausted. It was Election Day. We'd been up practically the entire previous week in the home stretch of Grant's campaign. I had no idea how stressful something like that could be. I was on edge. And having Donna around didn't help. Between her laying it on thick about how lucky I was to have a man like Grant, and your mother going on and on about how Grant and Donna made such a great team and "
"My mother?" Lorna interrupted, realizing that this had nothing to do with the point at hand, but unable to just let the reference slide. "What does my mother have to do with this?"
"Nothing," Marley dismissed with a wave of the hand. "Just something she said to me, at Spencer and Alice's wedding. I don't think she meant it that way why would Felicia care? But, she made it sound like Donna and Grant were... like they might have something going on behind my back. She probably doesn't even remember the conversation, to be honest. But, it gnawed at me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Grant he doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to fidelity."
"Is that a fact?" Lorna drawled.
"Right. Obviously, you know what I mean. So, that's what I was upset about that night. See, it has nothing to do with you and Jamie."
"So what?" Lorna refused to be distracted. "The fact remains, if an off-handed comment from my mother is enough to make you flip and ram your car into anybody "
"It wasn't just that. It was Sarah coming to me, upset because Steven had broken up with her. I was very fond of Sarah, and I know what it's like to have the man you love just dismiss you without a second thought, unwilling to even let you defend yourself."
Lorna finished her accusation. "Did you ever think to check and see if we needed help? You got lucky that Morgan managed to pull it together enough to call 911, despite a broken arm and taking care of me. What if he'd been knocked out? What if we both had been? Then what? You didn't know. We could've died waiting for help to come."
"I didn't mean to," Marley swore. "It's not like I made a conscious choice to abandon you. I was in shock. I didn't know what I was doing when I hit you. I just stepped on the wrong pedal, that's all."
"So you were out of your mind, is that what you're saying?"
"I yes. For a little bit. Yes, I guess."
"Then you should be happy with my offer of a nice, long sanitarium stay. It's for your own good, Marley. They'll make sure you won't have anymore little... accidents. That I end up paying for."
"Okay," Marley said softly, looking down at her hands, looking around at herself as if she wasn't certain how exactly she'd gotten to this place. "Okay... Only... I Lorna, promise me one thing? Please? Please, Lorna, don't tell Jamie...."
"How did I miss the Chicago Bulls suddenly getting good?" Jamie shook his head in disbelief as he and Kirkland stared at the basketball game on television.
"Niiiiice!" Kirkland fist-pumped after Derrick Rose dunked the ball in an Indiana Pacers' face. "Keep up, Dad. They're primed to make it to the finals. Though they'll have to get through the Heat or Celtics first."
"You know, we could've actually gone to this game. Sitting on the couch, eating fried chicken somehow doesn't feel as epic a seventeenth birthday celebration as doing the same thing center-court."
"We've been over this. Epic is Grant's thing. You're all about heartfelt gestures."
"He took you surfing. Indoors. I'm feeding you a bucket of chicken. Also indoors."
"Being my dad isn't a contest. I just got Grant to buy into that, do I need to start all over with you?"
"It's not like we haven't gone to Bulls' games before. I could've gotten you nosebleed seats and soggy hot dogs from a cart. Less epic, but still a festive atmosphere."
"The atmosphere here in Kirkland's Birthday Mancave is just fine. I've got food, root-beer, and an awesome home-theater where I can watch my favorite basketball team kick butt in HD before settling in for our traditional Star Wars marathon with Jamie Frame's peanut gallery commentary."
"I do give good commentary."
"Is Lorna going to join our party? I know this is a mancave, but girls are allowed on special occasions."
"Lorna was adamant that you should get me all to yourself today. Guy time."
"Guy time is good," Kirkland said slowly, before wondering even more slowly, "But what's wrong with, you know, family time? All three of us hanging out for a change?"
"We hang out."
"Not really. You and Lorna do your thing. Then she hurries and finds something to keep her occupied so you and me can have one-on-one time. It's like we're slotting appointments. Did I piss Lorna off or "
"No! You've been great. Lorna thinks you're great. She just wants to be sensitive to "
"She's being too sensitive. And so are you. I get that you love me. Same way I get that things have changed. We can't spend as much time together as we did before. At least, not in the same way. And that's okay. It doesn't have to be the same. I don't mind if Lorna tags along. Listen, Dad, I know this sounds stupid but, I've been wanting this for a long time. You, me and Steven, the three guys it's been great. But, do you realize the only time I've had a real, traditional family like on TV was when Mom and Jake were together? And that wasn't a very long time at all. Another year, and I'll be going off to college. You want to offer me a memorable present for my seventeenth birthday? How about we give this boring family life thing a shot?"
"That's honestly what you want?"
"More than a day of indoor surfing. More than a bottomless bucket of chicken-wings, even."
"Wow, you are serious!"
"I know I'll probably eat my words the first time you and Lorna embarrass me by groping each on the couch..."
"We'll try to control ourselves," Jamie promised solemnly.
"Thanks, Dad," Kirkland said.
"What's going on?" Matt pushed his way through the throng of camera-crews pressed up against the security gates surrounding the Love mansion until he found Jeanne elbowing aside other reporters to secure her spot right at the front, microphone in hand.
She signaled for the guy filming her to cut by slashing her hand below her chin, and led Matt to the side of the crowd, lowering her voice. Although, to be fair, considering the rest of the noise level, shouting would have been more appropriate.
Jeanne said, "I got a tip from a source inside the BCPD that Donna's file finally surfaced at the D.A.'s office."
"The one she threatened could expose all of Carl's former associates?"
"Yup. Chief Burrell ran it over to Mayor Hamilton, so I hightailed it over here to see if I could get a statement. I figure the least Donna could do was grant her own station the exclusive."
Matt raised an eyebrow and tilted his head it in the direction of the rather pointedly locked gates.
"Yeah... That didn't go so well. Not only did Ms. Love decline to speak to me but, once word got out, every other news-crew in town showed up, too. Now it's just a mad house of No Comment."
"Is Donna alright?" Matt glanced towards the house, and the East Wing, where Donna's rooms were, as if he might be able to gauge the emotional temperature inside that way.
Jeanne shrugged. "She's locked in safe and snug, that's all I know."
"Wouldn't you be, if you'd just pissed off a gang of thugs capable of making people disappear for decades at a time?"
"That's why she should go on camera, protect herself, name names. Make sure that, if anything happens to her, we've got a trail straight to the people behind it."
"Your concern for Donna's well-being "
"Is genuine," Jeanne insisted. "Not only is my professional star currently hitched to hers, but, fact is, if she gets taken out, it's everybody's story. If she decides to talk, it's mine."
Matt looked at Jeanne with an expression that could have been horror... or respect. There was often such a fine line between the two. "You're scary, you know that?"
"Weren't you the one just praising my honesty recently?"
"Among other things."
Jeanne grinned. "Thanks for not freaking out about this. I know my stalking Donna can't be fun for you."
"If it weren't you, it would've been somebody else. And you're right, talking to you would be in Donna's best interests."
"She'd talk to you," Jeanne pointed.
"Let me see your cell-phone," Jeanne suggested.
"Don't tell Jamie?" Lorna repeated, incredulous.
"What good would come of it?" Marley challenged. "It would only add fuel to the fire. I'll do what you say. I'll commit myself. I'll get treatment. I'll make sure I never hurt anyone else again. Why does Jamie need to know any of this?"
"Look, Marley, I don't know what kind of relationship you and Grant have..." Lorna's voice trailed off as she realized this was another aspect she'd given no thought to previously. "Does Grant know about this?"
Marley hesitated, weighing the pros and cons of telling the truth versus lying. But, in the time that it took her to make up her mind, Lorna drew her own conclusions.
"Son of a bitch. He's in on it, too."
"No," Marley insisted, figuring if Lorna was so pleased by her conclusion, the best course of action had to be contradicting.
"That's aiding and abetting. He could end up in a cell right next to you. How cozy."
"No! You said if I... we had a deal!"
"That was before I knew Grant was involved. He probably wished it'd been Jamie in the car instead of Morgan. He could've smothered him with a pillow in the ER and kept Kirkland all to himself."
"Grant has nothing to do with it. The police cleared him. He was on camera all day."
"There's covering up after the fact. That's a crime, too."
"Lila took the car to be fixed. You want to press charges against Lila?"
"Forget it," Lorna snapped. "Stop trying to distract me. This isn't about Lila, or Michele and Bridget, or even about Grant. We're talking about you and what you did. Or, rather, what you're going to do. You're still on a psychiatric hold from your alleged suicide attempt by the way, nice touch. Like mother, like..."
"I did not try to commit suicide! If you had any idea what was really going on, you'd understand that coming after me is the least of your "
"That hold will make sure you're not going anywhere for at least a few days. Oh, and if you or Grant get any bright ideas about fleeing the jurisdiction, please keep in mind I've spoken to Morgan and to Alice and to Russ about making sure you're well taken care of which is hospital code for Watched Every Second. Out of concern for Steven and Kirkland, of course." Lorna smiled and, for a moment, there was a glimpse of the woman who'd first come to Bay City almost exactly twenty years earlier. The one who had no qualms about using less than scrupulous means to get her way. "And in regards to Jamie, as you so helpfully pointed out earlier I think I've done enough lying to him. I'm going to go home, and I'm going to tell him everything. He'll decide for himself what to do with you then."
"That stupid, stupid..." Carl let out a stream of curses that, had his hair already not boasted a rather eye-catching wave, would have certainly prompted it to spring into curls worthy of that Carrot Top fellow. Eyes on the television, ear to his cell-phone, he lamented to Spencer. "Does the little fool possess any inkling of what she's done? All our work, all our intricate planning, and she stands to potentially bring the entire house of cards down with her blasted special report and desperate craving for the spotlight."
"We needed this done quietly," Spencer agreed. "Hamilton was to pass the report on to the approprite authorities and they would presumably charge the compound and round up everyone involved. Or, at least, send them scattering in directions opposite from ours. Now..."
"They've been warned," Carl intoned, closing his eyes, pained through to the core. "Jeanne Ewing has given them opportunity to clear out. By the time anyone gets there now, there shan't be a trace of evidence remaining."
"There is a silver lining," Spencer tried to remain optimistic. "You know they'll destroy every last record before they take off. Anything that could link or corroborate back to their activities. No chance of our pasts coming to light now."
"Ours... or theirs. Or Donna's."
"They'll need time to go underground, and then to regroup again. There's no base of operations anymore. That's something. Retaliation won't it shouldn't be the first thing on their minds." Spencer understood that he was whistling past a graveyard. He also understood that it was the only avenue left open to him.
"They'll get to it eventually," Carl predicted. "We always knew they would. The hope was that some, at least, would be swept up in a surprise dragnet operation. As things currently stand... I doubt they'll be able to pin down so much as the cleaning staff."
"When they are ready to strike back, Donna should be the first name on their list. She's the one everyone thinks turned in that file. Donna, not us."
"Donna, who used my access information. Donna, whose file you gave to Rachel."
"Which you gave to Lucas to plant on Cecile."
"Yes," Carl sighed, tired of rehashing the same old ground. What did it really matter who was to blame, now? All that mattered was who might remain standing at the end. "Donna may have had the motive, but it were you and I who gave her means. They'll blame us all for the ultimate exposure. You and I and Lucas, as well as Donna. We did our best to put her unabashedly at the head of the hit list. I don't suppose it will be long now before we know if our efforts were successful...." Carl trailed off at the sight of Elizabeth entering his office. He hung up without another word. Sometimes manners were best sacrificed in the service of matters more important.
"I thought," Elizabeth plopped down in his leather chair, legs crossed, arms on the rests, spinning first one way then the other. "What you didn't know couldn't hurt you?"
"Actually, poppet," Carl reached out to stop her rotating. "As they used to say in the days of Josef Stalin: The less you know, the sounder you sleep."
"I know that you made it look like Marley was attacked so that Donna would get scared and turn over her dossier on the people you used to work with... and I slept just fine." Elizabeth grinned, the combination of attempted sophisticated speech and pure childish glee at thinking she'd figured out something she wasn't supposed to making her look even younger than thirteen the exact opposite of what Elizabeth had been shooting for.
"You know that, do you?" Carl confirmed in a measured tone.
Elizabeth nodded eagerly. "Uh-ha."
"Good work." Carl turned away, not nearly as impressed by her cleverness as Elizabeth had hoped he'd be.
"Father?" Elizabeth called him.
"I There's something I don't understand."
"Is there indeed?" He struggled to hide his amusement. After all, it was quite rare an occasion when Elizabeth might admit to a weakness.
"Wouldn't it have been a more direct punishment for Donna if you'd just killed Marley? Why go through all this trouble to set her up instead?"
Another father might have startled a bit at his teen-age daughter asking why he didn't choose to commit cold-blooded murder in the same tone of voice others reserved for inquiring about his wine or evening wear selection process. But, Carl was too pleased at the opportunity for unleashing a teachable moment to worry about the adjoining details.
"Because, my dear," he rested a hand atop Elizabeth's head. "In life, as in chess, the direct attack might be the easiest, but it is rarely the most efficient. Whenever the enemy can see you coming, they have time to prepare a defense. However, when you allow them to destroy themselves, you not only gain an element of surprise, but also plausible deniability. For unlike in chess, in life, it isn't enough merely to get your way. It is also imperative to see that you don't end up suffering the resultant consequences. Do you understand now?"
"I think so...." Elizabeth said, the truth of whether or not she actually did, irrelevant. It was the only possible answer Carl might accept.
"Remember this for the remainder of your days: No weapon of force is ever as powerful as the possession of information which your opponent does not realize you have."
"Yes, Father," Elizabeth nodded diligently as she thought about the piece of paper she had hidden at the bottom of her desk drawer. And how she might use it to her advantage.
"I don't get it," GQ paced back and forth as Grant watched sympathetically. "What did I do that was so wrong that I... that I'm being forced to give up my kid?"
"No one is forcing you to do anything. You have options. I spoke to Ms. Boudreau. She believes you are on target to win your case. Honestly, you were immensely generous to even consider "
"No matter what I do, no matter how far backwards I bend, I'm still the bad guy who wants to wrench a happy little kid out of his home," GQ seethed.
"Don't fall for that trap, son. Opponents will label you as they see fit in order to get the outcome they want. If you truly believe you are doing what's best for Hudson, then you are, in fact, the hero, not the villain."
"I can't deny that Rick and Mindy love him. But, they want to make it so I have no say in my son's upbringing whatsoever." GQ refused to give in to the angry tears welling in his eyes. "I made a mistake. I led a girl on when I shouldn't have... a mistake practically every guy makes at least once in his life."
"My primary mistake with Kirkland's mother was that I wasn't the man she loved. Which was unfortunate, since we were married and I was Kirkland's father."
"So because things didn't work out like they wanted, they get to screw around with our lives? With our kids' lives? How is that fair?"
"It isn't. But it's the way our society and legal system is stacked. In their favor. It doesn't mean you have to play by their rules. You do have legal recourse."
"You keep saying that, but do I really? Allie made it so that her decision was a noble sacrifice, and anything I do is the act of a selfish jerk. I was viewed as the villain for trying to rectify her deceitful act. I finally made my peace with it enough to concede that the best thing for Hudson would be to give him the family he deserves, and then Mindy Bauer blindsides me."
"At least Mindy is giving you the choice that Allie didn't. You can agree to her request or you can fight for your son. It's that simple."
"No, it isn't."
"It is," Grant stressed. "If your one concern is making a place for yourself in your son's life. If you truly believe your presence will be good for Hudson, then nothing the press, the Bauers, your family, your friends, or Jennifer Fowler say should matter one way or the other. But if you have doubts..."
"I don't have doubts. I do deserve a place in Hudson's life. Still, I need to be mindful of how I achieve it. I don't care what other people say, but I do care how Hudson will view my actions ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, when he learns the whole truth of how he came to be. You, better than anyone, should know that."
"Touche," Grant conceded with a bitter smile. "Admittedly, I've done things I'm not proud of when it comes to my son. Things escalated with his mother to a degree that I regret and having to explain that to him, explain my actions, was one of the hardest, most humbling things I've ever had to do. Looking into your son's eyes and seeing what's reflected there is pretty much what tells you who you are as a man. Fortunately, Kirkland was kind enough to forgive me."
"I'd rather just not have to apologize for my actions in the first place."
"History is written by the victors. Take custody of Hudson and you can tell him any story you like from Day One. Make yourself the hero; Allie and the Bauers the villains."
"I'm not like you," GQ sighed. "I'm not..."
"A ruthless bastard?"
"I was going to say 'cunningly determined'."
"Cunningly determined," Grant tried the designation on for size. " I like it."
"Back on Election Night, Kirkland told me it mattered a lot knowing that you fought for him all those years. He didn't appreciate how you went about it, but..."
"He said that?"
"Yeah," GQ nodded. "It made me think I was doing the right thing, you know? Hearing from a kid who'd been through it. Only turns out Mindy has some other kid telling her how crappy it was to be split down the middle, and Allie's got her own issues with her parents that made her give up Hudson ..."
"Everyone has their story," Grant gently cut GQ off. "Good, bad, somewhere in-between. You can take their experiences into consideration up to a point. Ultimately, however, what they went through doesn't necessarily mean Hudson will suffer or enjoy the same fate."
GQ sighed in frustration, his pacing beginning anew. "No matter how many times I go over it, I don't know how I got here. I don't know where I went wrong. And I don't know what or how to make it right. For everybody."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|