"I hope you understand why I had to tell Frankie about your hiring me to investigate Lorna and Morgan's accident," Cass called over his shoulder to Lila, forging ahead and entering the rented storeroom where she'd sent all of Grant's campaign documents to be placed into deep storage.
"Way I heard it, she outsmarted you over at the car repair place." Lila looked to Frankie for confirmation. Cass' wife modestly shrugged and nodded in return.
"Well, sure," Cass mumbled. "If you want to be literal about it."
"Less yakking, more snooping." Lila gestured for Frankie to follow them inside, then closed the door firmly behind all three of them. "I still ain't thrilled about this. If Grant finds out I let the pair of you in here..."
"You wanted to get to the bottom of what really happened on Election Night. I'm sorry, Lila," Frankie said. "But, from everything we've uncovered, all roads lead to Grant."
"He couldn't have been driving the car, though," Lila reiterated something they all well knew. "He never left Campaign Headquarters."
"No," Frankie agreed. "But, if we can find evidence of his involvement in the subsequent cover up, it'll get you off the hook once and for all."
"We owe you one, Lila," Cass reminded. "We intend to see this through."
She looked away, unsure precisely how to react the fact of the matter was, seeing Cass and Frankie together didn't make her quite so angry anymore. Unless they did something stupid like remind her of why it should. "Don't go crazy now. I reckon the immediate crisis has passed, in any case. Chase Hamilton ain't so much after my hide anymore."
"I know," Cass said. "I heard you're working for him now."
"Darnedest thing," she admitted.
"I've gone up against Hamilton plenty of times in court. If his people-managing skills are anything like his cross-examination tactics, I don't envy you, Lila."
"I He's... No. It's been fine. He's... different one on one."
"You been playing Beauty to his Beast?" Cass joked as he finally found the box he was looking for, the one with sign-out sheets for all of the campaign cars, and opened the lid, coughing from the dust that rose up in response.
"Don't think so," Lila confessed in all honesty. "He's been nice to me. I can't explain it."
"You're a nice person," Frankie suggested.
"Yeah, I doubt that's it." Lila added, "Grant reckons Chase has some undisclosed reason for hiring me."
"No man thinks to look under the bed," Cass said. "Unless he's had cause to hide there himself."
"Huh?" Lila clarified.
"Grant only suspects Hamilton is up to something, because Grant's usually up to something," Frankie translated.
"Does that include covering up a hit and run?" Lila asked Cass as he leafed through the dusty documents.
"Hard to say," Cass handed a stack to Frankie for her professional perusal. "Our concern right now is just how far Grant might go to cover up his cover up. Marley's accident..."
"I thought it was a suicide attempt."
"What if that's precisely what Grant wanted everyone to think?"
"You think that Grant... No," Lila shook her head. "No. I admit, I'd rather spit than look at Grant in the present time but... he's head over heels about Marley, I was there from the start, I saw it happen. Getting her to trust him, to love him... You don't know how important that was. She means everything to him. Well, that is, of course, after Kirkland..." Lila trailed off as the matching looks on Cass and Frankie's faces drove home their insinuation. "Kirkland?" Lila asked, nearly going numb from the shock.
"He told me himself," Frankie said apologetically.
"Kirkland was the one who hit Lorna?"
"And Grant covered it up."
"Pretty sure," Cass said.
"Well, if that's the case," Lila looked from one to the other, dumbfounded. "How can you be letting Charlie go out with that boy?"
"It's a standard issue self-commitment form," Jamie informed Marley in an emotionless monotone as he placed document and pen on the hospital table in front of her.
"I'll be the judge of that." Grant sneered as he snatched the sheet before Marley could even move to pick up the pen, and proceeded to review the wording with narrowed eyes.
"Quit posturing, Grant," Lorna warned from her spot near the door. "Marley either signs, or Jamie and I let the police handle her."
"And I'm supposed to just stand by and let you railroad a vulnerable woman into "
Jamie shoved himself away from the table without another word, Lorna pulling open the hospital door for him, mutually indicating that they would not tolerate anything other than complete concession.
"Wait!" Marley called out, yanking the form from Grant's hands and signing it on the spot without even a cursory reading. "There. It's done."
"Marley..." Grant sighed in exasperation and despair before refocusing his impotent frustration on Jamie, who approached to retrieve the damning paper. "Have you no compassion? You claimed to love her once. She said she was sorry! It was an accident. A mistake either one of you could've made! You didn't have to do this!"
"Marley needs real help," Lorna hissed as Jamie ignored Grant and took the document from Marley, avoiding her eyes all the while. "Not more of your psychotic enabling."
"What happened... what I did..." Marley looked imploringly at Jamie, begging him to at least look at her... to acknowledge her. "It wasn't Grant's fault."
"I'll submit these to the psych team as soon as I leave," Jamie explained after confirming Marley's legible, legal scrawl. "An intake coordinator will be by this afternoon to escort you to the hospital."
"This afternoon?" Marley gasped, her face draining of its last remaining color.
"You cannot be serious?" Grant sputtered.
"The sooner she gets help, the safer and better for everyone," Lorna replied.
"Jamie," Marley appealed, reaching out to grab his arm only to immediately shrink back when Jamie looked from her hand on his wrist to Marley with a gaze so full of loathing it made her stomach lurch. Still, she recovered enough to ask, to beg, "The girls... I have to prepare them... explain why I'm leaving... that I'm coming back!"
Grant pressed, "Bridget and Michele won't rest easy hearing half-truths from you two."
"Drawing this out is not good for them," Jamie advised, in full impartial doctor mode.
"How do you expect me to focus on getting better if I'm worried about the girls?"
"Don't play this with me, Marley. I'll look out for Bridget and Michele. You have my word."
"Looking out for those children is my responsibility. Vicky and Jake left them to me. I need to make sure they understand I haven't abandoned them. That they understand how much they mean to me and how much I love them. I need to know they believe it so that I can focus... Let me say good-bye in person. Give me and the girls that much."
"Fine." All eyes cut to Lorna, across the board surprised at her unexpected largess. "You can say your good-byes to Bridget and Michele. Then tomorrow "
"You expect her to do this tonight?" Grant refused to stop playing lawyer.
"She could skip it altogether and go straight to the hospital," Jamie reminded.
"No, please, Jamie. Your wedding is tomorrow."
"Yeah. So. What business is that of yours?"
"Bridget and Michele have been looking forward to it for weeks. They went dress shopping with Jasmine and.... Don't make me spoil it for them."
"Oh, come on," Lorna groaned, already regretting having given Marley an inch of wiggle-room.
"I'll tell them right afterwards. Let them have one more good memory before... before I leave. What difference will another twenty-four hours make?"
"After the wedding, then," Jamie said, even though the words felt wrong as they tripped over his tongue. "You tell the girls tomorrow night, I'll have Steven bring them straight from the wedding, and you're in the hospital the morning after. No more stalling. No more stays of execution."
"And," Lorna couldn't stop herself from adding, directing her comment more at Grant than Marley. "Don't you even think about using this reprieve to spirit her away to wherever the hell it was you spent a decade sipping daiquiris and working on your tan."
"You think I'd abandon my girls?" Marley interjected.
Lorna shrugged. "Just didn't want you taking a page from your boyfriend's playbook."
"I would never, ever do that to them."
"Good." Lorna condescended. "Because, trust me, if you so much as glance longingly at your passport, all bets between you and me are off."
"Allie!" Amanda exclaimed in surprise at the sight of her daughter at the front door, book-bag in hand, looking more... normal than she had, in, well, almost two years now.
"Sorry, Mom, can't talk, got to run. I have an appointment on campus."
"You're returning to school?" Amanda could barely believe it.
"Well, I'm going to try to. I know this semester is a total wash, but I don't want to lose the credits I've already got. We still have to work out the details, though the Dean said if I really double up next year, I should still be able to graduate on time."
"That's... that's great, Allie. But, you know, no rush. You've been through so much in the past year..."
"Yeah. That excuse is kind of getting old, you know? We've all been through a lot in the past year. But, if Kirkland can manage to stay in school, and Lorna and Jamie can plan a wedding, and GQ can...."
"GQ," Amanda said softly. "Have you seen him since "
"He came to tell me about giving up Hudson."
"And how do you feel about that?"
"Great. It's what I wanted all along."
"I know. But, what GQ said, in court, about being in love with you..."
"He said he was in love with me. When Hudson was conceived. Past tense. He's with Jen now. He's crazy about her. She's, like, his dream woman. Everything I'm not."
"It's okay, Mom. Really. I may have been pining over GQ before. But, Gregory he taught me what a guy really worth pining over is all about. He loved me. And he believed in me. That's actually the main reason I've decided to stop sitting around, feeling sorry for myself, and get my life together for probably the first time ever. I'm going to live for both of us now. I'm going to make Gregory proud of me.
"Fanny? What is it?" Lucas crossed the threshold of his home to find Felicia sitting on the couch, pale and hugging herself, rocking back and forth, obviously pained.
"Marley," she looked up at Lucas and croaked out. "Marley was the one who hit Lorna and Morgan."
"What?" The air expelled from Lucas' lungs like a shot as he sat down next to Felicia.
"Lorna told me. Marley confessed to her. She did it. Marley did it. And Lorna blames me for it."
This was all too much for Lucas to process. If Marley was the one who hit Lorna, then... Then... They'd done it all for nothing. They'd started a full out war for... nothing.
Interpreting Lucas' shock as confusion, Felicia explained, "Marley is out of her mind, I gather. Lorna thinks it's because Carl and I "
"Carl?" Lucas hissed the name, wondering if there was any facet of his life that man didn't currently have a finger in.
"Carl and I..." Felicia said timidly. "We wanted to punish Donna."
"How?" Lucas asked, already knowing he'd regret hearing the answer.
"We were going to turn Marley against her mother. It's the least Donna deserved."
"What did you do, Fanny? What did you and Carl do?"
"We made insinuations. About Donna and... Grant. Lorna says that between that and losing Jamie, it made Marley so unbalanced that she drove off in a rage and she "
"Almost killed our daughter!"
"I didn't mean for it to happen. For goodness' sake, Luke, you can't possibly think I meant for any of this to happen?"
"I begged you, Fanny. I begged you to stay away from Carl. Don't we all know by now what associating with him leads to? Even when you think you're on the same side, that you've got the exact same goals so how could anything possibly go wrong? Carl has one priority in his life, and that's Carl. If he has to destroy every last one of us to get what he wants, do you think he'll hesitate for a minute to do it?"
"Donna killed his child!"
"Our child! Jenna was our child! Didn't we owe it to her not to make deals with the man who was just as responsible for her death as Donna?"
"Carl did not have Jenna kidnapped and left to die!"
"No. He simply lived a life where the mothers of his children Donna wasn't the only one, what about Justine with Ryan? where the mothers were so desperate to be rid of him that they abandoned their own flesh and blood rather than share any sort of tie with a monster."
"Carl was willing to help me. He understood why I found it impossible to just turn the other cheek where Donna was concerned."
"And you think I didn't? Understand, that is?"
"I don't know," she told him honestly.
"You don't believe I want Donna punished just as badly as you do?"
"If that's the case, then what have you done about it, Luke?"
"What have I done?" her husband asked, stifling a moan as the full weight of her question hit him. "What have I done...."
"So. How mad was she?" Jeanne wondered once Matt finally managed to meet her for dinner, looking as if he'd been through a meat-grinder on the way.
"She asked me if you were worth it?" he plopped into a chair, reaching for Jeanne's drink and downing it without even inquiring what it might be. It was a Cosmo. Matt hated Cosmos. He ordered another one, anyway.
"That's silly," Jeanne popped up, surprised, in her chair, blinking. "I've got nothing to do with this."
Matt studied her sardonically over the rim of the glass. "Little late for a sail down Denial River."
"You did this for her, not for me. It's in Donna's best interests to defend herself. Especially in the court of public opinion."
"Why do you care what she thinks about my motives?" Matt wondered.
"I'm a reporter. I live for accuracy."
Another smirk on Matt's part.
"I don't want her thinking this was personal," Jeanne insisted.
"And what if it was?"
"You think I'd have done the same thing for anyone else at the station?"
"Of course. It was the only way for you to protect Donna. Whether she liked it or not."
"I did it for Donna."
"And I did it for you, too, Jeanne."
"I don't need your charity."
"It wasn't charity. I was trying to help. I know how important your career is to you, and if I could kill two birds with one covert recording, why not?"
"I'll tell you why not."
"Just... don't, okay, Matt?"
"No. Not okay. What's going on? I thought we were... dating. And not just in order to hustle Donna, either. I thought we liked each other."
"I like you," she sounded like she had a gun to her head.
"Well, alright then. In my world, people who... like each other, do favors for each other. In and out of bed."
"I didn't ask you to do me a favor. The piece I ran this afternoon was good for Donna, the station, and for you. It was business. We both got something out of it."
Matt smiled. And, the more he smiled, the more uncomfortable Jeanne seemed to get. It was cute. He'd never seen her frazzled before.
"Remember when you told me about your mom and her past and how you didn't like nice guys, because they we always finished last?" Jeanne declined to answer one way or the other, leaving Matt to finish his thought without confirmation. "I don't think you dislike nice guys. I think you're afraid of them."
"What's there to be afraid of with nice guys?"
"That you might actually like one. Really like one. And then where would you be?"
"I didn't ask you to do me any favors," Jeanne reiterated, even as the corners of her mouth couldn't help twitching in response to Matt looking at her expectantly, grinning.
"Doesn't matter if I have to do it tonight, tomorrow night, or a dozen nights from now, I don't know what I'm going to say to Bridget and Michele," Marley lamented to Grant after Jamie and Lorna had left. "How do I explain what's happening? Where I'm going? What's going to happen to them? I don't want to scare the girls."
"You're not going to," Grant said with authority, perching on Marley's bed and taking her hands in his. "Because you are not checking yourself into that damned hospital. Not tonight, not tomorrow night, not a dozen nights from now."
"But I signed the commitment papers."
"Screw the papers. Screw Lorna and Jamie. You don't deserve to suffer because Jamie and Lorna can't get over themselves."
"If I don't fulfill my promise, they'll go to the police."
"Let 'em. You'll be long out of the BCPD's jurisdiction by then."
"You want me to run?" Marley whispered as if she were afraid the walls had ears.
"I can have you out of Bay City and in a country with no US extradition treaty before Jamie and Lorna polish off their 'I do's."
"Grant..." Marley sighed in exasperation and weariness, a bit angry that just as she had resignedly accepted her defeat, Grant was offering her a lifeline. "I can't go through this again. The hiding, the secrets, the lying, always watching my words, looking over my shoulder... It's finally out now. It's over. I ...we can all start to move on."
"Do you really think Jamie or Lorna will ever let you forget what happened? That they won't hold this one mistake over your head any chance they get and use it to manipulate you into doing whatever they want? Even after you're released from this dungeon-under-another-name they're banishing you to, you'll still be their prisoner, you'll still be subject to their whims. I will not stand by and watch that happen."
"You heard what Lorna said. If I try to flee if she even suspects I'm thinking about it "
"Tomorrow is a big day for her," Grant reminded, determinedly ignoring the way Marley flinched every time the topic was touched upon. "By the time she and Jamie pop out of their self-satisfied euphoria bubble and realize what's happened, you and the girls will be long gone and out of their clutches."
Marley stared at him. "Me and the girls? You want me to go into hiding with Bridget and Michele?"
"I know you'd never leave without them."
"No, but...I'd be taking them away from everything they know. Everyone they love... Steven and Kirkland... the McKinnons... their family."
"Jamie and Lorna have no problem taking you away from them, and you're the closest family they've got."
"It's not the same thing and you know it. What kind of upbringing would I be giving them, a life on the run?" Marley shook her head. "I can't. I couldn't do that."
"Is leaving them to Donna's tender mercies any better?" Grant challenged.
"There's the McKinnons," Marley offered weakly. "Vince and Mary, MJ and Adam, Ben and Justin... They could look after the girls until I... until I'm better."
"And what if the fine, upstanding, judgmental and self-righteous McKinnon clan decides to fight you for custody? Do you really want your girls being raised by Mary McKinnon, someone who once thought Reginald was an okay guy?"
"They wouldn't do that. I mean, they didn't when Jake died, why would they now?"
"What if they aren't satisfied that you've recovered sufficiently? There is still a stigma of being committed to a sanitarium. You can't take that chance. Yes, it will be hard, yes, it will uproot them, but the girls will be with you, and that's what's important."
"Steven and Kirkland... How can I take away their sisters, their last connection to Vicky and to Jake?" Marley looked at Grant suddenly with anguished eyes. "How can I let you do this to Kirkland? Leave him again, be party to all of this?"
"I wouldn't be going with you," Grant gently broke. "At least, not right away."
"What? Grant, I can't do this without you."
"Yes, you can. I'll make all the arrangements. You'll be fine. But someone needs to keep the police off your scent and that someone would be me. "
"Jamie and Lorna will rip you apart."
"They can try. But I didn't sign any papers. Nobody can accuse me of doing anything wrong."
"They'll know, though. And so will Kirkland. After everything you've been through with him, after how hard you've worked to win him back "
"Don't worry about Kirkland and I," Grant assured, even as his stomach tightened at the thought of what was to come, of looking in his son's eyes and seeing Vicky looking back at him with loathing... and vindication. "He and I will be fine. Once matters settle down here, I'll come visit you. We'll regroup and figure things out from there. Our immediate concern now is getting everything squared away for your escape, and, in order to do that, I need to know you're onboard. This won't work if you have any doubts. So tell me now, Marley, are you in?"
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