"Am I going to require a drink for this conversation?" Lila asked Chase after hurriedly and furtively ensconcing them both in the Cory game room, since it seemed that, despite having every diversion known to man at their disposal, Lila's daughter and the other kids preferred to knock golf-balls around a narrow hallway. "Or a lawyer?"
"No need for a lawyer," Chase shook his head. "But feel free to lift a glass and toast your good news."
Lila studied the former District Attorney turned Mayor warily. "Good news?"
"The police forensics lab was unable to find admissible evidence connecting the damaged rental car from Mr. Harrison's campaign to Ms. Devon and Dr. Winthrop's hit-and-run. That's not to say the car wasn't involved in the vehicular assault," he cautioned.
"Just that you can't prove it," Lila supplied with a small sigh of relief, catching herself as Chase's eyes narrowed at her reaction.
"The gentlemen you hired to repair it did a bang-up job. We found it cleaner than when it first rolled off the factory floor. Congratulations, Ms. Hart. Your actions tainted what could have been the means through which Lorna Devon was injured, perhaps fatally."
"You don't know that," Lila defended. "Not for certain."
"No," he conceded. "But even if this car wasn't involved in that particular accident, it was involved in another, that is certain. It could well have affected someone else just as grievously. And you are still actively and deliberately participating in covering it up."
"I was trying to help a friend."
"Funny, you don't strike me as the type who'd accept that as an acceptable defense if the unfortunate soul unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of that smashed up car was a friend of yours."
Lila swallowed. "I'd want them tarred and feathered and tied to a tree, eyeballs taped open, for hungry birds to pick over."
"I surmised as much."
"So are you going to charge me? For being a damn fool accessory after the fact?"
"Not right now. And the future is up to my successor in the DA's office. However, the case is still open..."
"You know, Mr. Hamilton, all this information, sans your obnoxious attitude, could've been delivered via a simple phone call."
"I felt it was only fair, given that I conducted our first interview in person, that I deliver your most recent status update in the same manner."
"Bull. You wanted to watch me with your beady, shark lawyer eyes, and check out how I reacted to the news; wondering if I'd kick up my heels and pop some bubbly to celebrate getting away with it, or give myself up some other way."
"It would make municipal matters a lot easier, I admit."
"You honestly think I had something to do with that accident? I'm still a suspect?"
"Everyone's a suspect until proven otherwise. You, however, are a prime suspect. That is unless you conjure up someone better to take yourself out of the running."
"Are you telling me I have to do the BCPD's job and find the lowlife piece of garbage who did this myself, just to get you off my back?"
"Actually, I was implying that if there are any buddies you still happen to be protecting, you might want to reconsider, ASAP. But, yes, your version works, too."
Lila stomped over to the door, yanking it open and gesturing that Chase knew what to do next. Just in case he didn't, she commanded, "Go away now."
"What? Not even a quick game of billiards?" He tapped the green-felt lined table and looked around. "Air hockey? Darts? Croquet? Lawn Bowling? Badminton? Lacrosse? Damn, it is fascinating just fascinating to see how the other half lives."
"Spare me the poor, put-upon public servant routine. Like you didn't grow up exactly the same way. I know you met Doug at boarding school."
"You read my bio?"
"I had to. I was working for the opposition. I even looked up the school. Fancy place. You know your way around a badminton racquet and more, I'd bet."
He smiled cryptically. "Things aren't always what they seem, Ms. Hart. I would think you, of all people, should know that." He approached the door, needling Lila on his way out, "A pleasure once again. Oh, and I'm sure I don't need to remind you it's probably best if you refrain from suddenly leaving town. At least until the investigation wraps up?"
"Lord, what did I ever do to deserve this?" Lila sighed aloud post-Chase's departure, only to have Matt pop his head into the game room, Lila having no idea how long he'd been lurking along the perimeter.
"Oh, I can think of a few things," he reassured. "What the hell kind of mess have you gotten yourself into now, Lila?"
"You ready?" Kevin asked Jamie as they took their seats across the aisle from Morgan and Stacey, with Felicia and Lucas hovering directly behind them, as all six the room had otherwise been cleared of spectators waited for the judge to render his verdict.
Jamie merely nodded, not trusting his voice. Not trusting much of anything anymore. He glanced over his shoulder at Lucas, who tried to smile reassuringly Jamie's way. But the stiff, secluded way Felicia was holding herself, as if she couldn't bear to so much as share the same space with her husband at the moment, suggested Lucas might be equally in need of bucking up.
Morgan, for his part, was literally on the edge of his chair, leaning forward against the table-top, his hands, the palms upturned, stretched out in front of him, literally attempting to pry the verdict from the judge's conscience so that he might crush it into a ball and stuff it victoriously into his pocket, unchallenged and irrevocable.
"Dr. Winthrop," the judge began, prompting Jamie to groan inwardly. His Honor wasn't even peering in Jamie's direction. Incongruously, Jamie remembered sixth-grade English class, and To Kill A Mockingbird; Scout's observation that a jury never looked at a defendant they'd convicted. "It is the opinion of this court that your marriage to Ms. Devon does indeed meet the legal criteria for legitimacy."
"Thank you, sir." Morgan's head bobbed up and down as he quickly turned to smile at Felicia, while squeezing Stacey's hand in appreciation.
"However, if this were merely a case hinging on a point of law, we wouldn't have been here these past few days, listening to testimony from people who weren't speaking from the head, but the heart. Ms. Gallant," he addressed Felicia. "We are not unsympathetic to your position. To lose one child is a tragedy of immeasurable order. To even face the possibility of losing two... in your position, I would be doing the exact same thing."
"Yes," Felicia whispered, happy to hear that, at long last, somebody finally understood.
"Dr. Frame," finally, he looked Jamie in the eye. "Your devotion to Ms. Devon, in spite of the... complicated circumstances, is to be commended. Now, this isn't my field of expertise, but, I believe it is the Hippocratic Oath that states: First, do no harm."
At that, both Jamie and Morgan swallowed the customary correction they'd have offered at this point; that, despite popular belief, such a directive appeared nowhere in the Oath, but in the Hippocratic Corpus, and, in fact, didn't even say exactly that, either. But now just somehow didn't seem like the proper time.
Unenlightened, the judge went on, "It is my understanding that no one, expert physician or passionate civilian, can currently say with certainty which course of treatment might prove most beneficial for Ms. Devon. Dr. Frame's approach of waiting and giving both mother and child a fighting chance to prevail sans a potentially damaging intervention appears to be the one least likely to cause irreparable harm in the long run. As a result, the court grants Advance Health Directive Power of Attorney over Lorna Devon to Dr. James Frame, until such time as the patient is deemed competent to resume said decision-making. Good luck, Dr. Frame. Case dismissed."
Jamie barely moved. The only discernible change in posture being his head, which had been squarely aimed towards the judge for the duration, abruptly pitching downward, his chin nearly smacking his chest, his breath quickening, his fingers loosening from the tight fists he'd unconsciously curled them into.
"Jamie," Kevin rested a hand on his client's shoulder. "You won. You didn't imagine it. It really happened. The judge ruled in your favor. You won. It's all over. It's done."
Jamie nodded, still without raising his face or seemingly exhaling, to indicate he'd heard. When he finally straightened up, Jamie, somewhat dazed, as if recovering from a punch or a full-body pummeling, said, "I need to go see Lorna."
"Go," Kevin agreed. "I'll collect the paperwork, have it sent to you in a few hours."
Jamie had already taken several steps towards the door when he remembered, pivoted and stretched out his arm. "Thanks."
Kevin shook his proffered hand, unable to keep from asking, "We good now? About the whole Kirkland thing, Uncle Jamie?"
His mother's half-brother didn't reply one way or the other. But, Jamie did smile briefly before walking away.
"Jamie!" Morgan called, jacking up his pace to a half-run and following Jamie from the courtroom once Morgan realized the other doctor had no intention of stopping. "Hold up. Give me a minute. I need to explain. I know what you think but, I swear to God, this wasn't a case of me trying to dick you over. I want Lorna to get better as much as you do. Damn it, Jamie, I love her, too."
"I believe you," Jamie informed Morgan without breaking his stride. "I just don't give a damn."
"You think I'm going crazy?" Allie asked her mother as if double-checking a grocery list.
"I didn't say that," Amanda defended.
"But, you want me to see a shrink?"
"Only because it might help you work through some issues. Like about Gregory's death, for instance."
"Will me talking to a shrink bring Gregory back?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Allie. You know what I mean."
"I don't. What can a shrink tell me? That I shouldn't be upset that Gregory died? That's stupid. And impossible. You and Grandma still miss your dad, and he's been dead how long? Carl talks about Ryan like it happened yesterday. And Steven and Kirkland with their mom and Jake... Look at Ms. Gallant now over Jenna. Why is everyone allowed to be sad when somebody they loved dies, except for me?"
"You aren't listening to what I'm saying."
"One of us isn't listening," Allie agreed.
"Well, then, if you don't want to talk about Gregory, how about Hudson?"
"I'll have plenty of time to talk about him in court. Kevin says GQ's attorney is planning to call me as a witness."
"Exactly! Wouldn't you like some help getting your thoughts and feelings straightened out before then?"
"I know how I feel about Hudson. He should stay with Rick and Mindy."
"Damn it, Allie, you've been like a ghost lately. You float out to go to school, you come back, you eat alone in your room...."
"Who should I eat with? Carl's turned Grandma all European, so they eat in the middle of the day, then have tea or whatever it's called with Cory and Elizabeth later. Lila hangs out with Jasmine when she comes home. Uncle Matt made it clear how he feels about being around me, and you're always at work. Gets kind of lonely in that huge dining room. Just so many times you can count the crystals on the chandelier."
"Well, alright then, so this isn't the most exciting place in the world. But, that's just the point. You're young, you should be out having a good time, meeting people."
"Isn't that how all this trouble started?" Allie asked, and Amanda could have sworn that she was actually making a joke, of all things.
"I'm worried about you."
"Don't be. You're right. I am sad. I miss Gregory."
"There are medications that could help you with that."
"I said I was sad, not sick. I'm sorry if that upsets you, Mom. But, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. I loved Gregory. He died. I watched it happen, too. If I did feel like going out and having a good time after, wouldn't that be the crazy part?"
"Have you made up your mind, Harrison?" Carl snarled at Spencer, wondering if the father planned to act as tiresome as the son had earlier. "Are you in or out? I can't be waiting about exposed while you stall and lollygag."
"Give me one good reason, Carl, why I shouldn't simply sit back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the spectacle of your well-earned, long overdue and hopefully bloody demise?"
Ah. So tiresome it would be. Honestly, Carl felt like he warranted a medal for putting up with two Harrisons in the space of a single day. Especially after the first, post a most promising start, had clammed up and stormed out, lobbing only impotent threats in his wake, and muttering something about not being able to stop Carl no matter what he said, so what was the point of trying?
"In fact," Spencer went on. "How does that go? The enemy of my enemy is my friend? If it comes to all-out war, frankly, I have far more incentive to buy my way back into our foes' good graces and earn my family's safekeeping by taking you out myself."
"And what's to keep them from using you to dispatch me as if you were capable of such a feat; but let's make believe and then disposing of you to tie up the loose ends?"
"What's to keep you from doing the same? Making me your fall guy, especially when it comes to Rachel and your customary pleas of innocence?"
"My wife is aware of my intentions. She understands that our family must be protected at all costs. I have been kind and extended an equal opportunity to you primarily for the sake of those who might get caught in the crossfire. People Rachel cares about, like Kirkland and Jamie. I won't ask again, you may harbor no doubt of that."
"But how can you be sure, Carl?" Spencer dropped his pretense of indifference and, again just like his spineless son, zeroed in on the topic that continued to haunt, and thus hold him back. "How can you be absolutely sure that there is no other way out?"
"Because if our friends decline to launch a follow-up assault, I will. If only to give myself the advantage of controlling the tide."
"In that case, what assistance could I possibly give you?"
"There is something to be said for strength in numbers."
"Strength in numbers," Spencer repeated his words thoughtfully. "Could this really be the mighty Carl Hutchins talking? Once upon a time, you ruled with an iron hand. And you ruled alone. It's no defense, but most of us who brushed up against you did what we did out of desperation, hunger, an utter lack of any other options. Not you. You reveled in the pain and destruction your actions brought about. You were no less than a plague that ruined, altered and ended countless lives in the pursuit of your power, your personal glory. You are reaping what you've sown, Carl."
"The same could be and has been said about you. Despite the delicate parsing of your own motives vis-a-vis mine, don't think for a moment that you shall be granted the right to select the currency with which to settle your personal outstanding debts. Intentions be damned, innocent people will be hurt unless you step up, and step up now."
"Since when do you give a damn? The innocent never factored into your computation... until they were yours. Now you want the world to grant consideration to your family, your children; consideration you never gave anyone else. You want to fight and most likely kill more innocent people, so that those who matter to you may go on living."
"The only other option is to stand by and allow my house to come to ruin. That is simply unacceptable."
"It was their fate to suffer for your sins the moment they came into being. You say that all-out war is the only alternative. You're wrong. Or lying. Or deliberately ignoring the obvious. If you truly want to secure your family's lives, you always have the option of defusing yourself as a threat in the eyes of those who feel threatened by you."
"What are you implying?"
"Concede. Surrender. Give up. For Rachel and your children's sakes, offer up your life, Carl. And settle your multitude of debts once and for all."
"What did he do, Lila?" After a few minutes of perfunctory pleasantries, Kirkland shored up his courage and took the plunge, "What'd Grant do that's got you so mad at him?"
"Shouldn't you be asking your daddy that question?" Lila deflected easily, having figured out Kirkland's intentions the moment he walked through the door.
"Like Grant would tell me anything that might remotely make him look bad."
"Look at it this way, considering I'm the one sitting here, spittin' mad, you can hardly trust me to give you an unbiased account, either."
"So, I'll run it by Grant later. He might be more willing to blab if he thought I'd already gotten the scoop from you. Come on, Lila. Was it really so horrible that you had to quit talking to him? That you ordered Jazz to quit talking to him, too?"
It was on the tip of Lila's tongue to say yes. After all, she'd hardly be lying to the boy. But then, the thought of how she'd feel if someone ever decided to fill Jasmine's head with the truth and nothing but the truth about the way Lila had once acted towards Matt... and a few others, and she reconsidered.
"No," Lila grumbled, angry for not having it in her anymore to sink so low as to hurt Grant that way, even after how he'd hurt her. "It wasn't. Maybe I overreacted."
"Or maybe you're just lying. If it wasn't all that horrible, then why can't you tell me?"
"Because. Horrible is one thing. Personal is another."
"Personal? Like in the two of you "
"No! And don't you go telling anyone otherwise, neither."
"Oh," Kirkland frowned, surprised by the stab of disappointment at Lila's firm, sincere denial. "Then what do you mean by personal?"
"Personal means none of your business," Lila huffed in exasperation. "Why are you so interested anyway? Don't tell me, let me guess: Jasmine put you up to this."
"Jazz did mention something about..."
"But, she's not the only one who liked you two hanging out. I was kind of into it, too. If someone like you was willing to be Grant's friend, then maybe that whole 'I'm a changed man' bit wasn't a con, after all. You wouldn't put up with his, uh, extreme tendencies. And you'd at least try to keep him in line and away from his more destructive impulses."
"You're making me out to sound like I'm his mama."
"No. That's the whole point. A mom has to love you no matter what. A friend doesn't. And the fact that you just dropped him like that, after everything that you already knew he'd done in the past, that tells me... it tells me that this latest thing, it's got to be pretty damn unforgivable. Which makes me wonder if Grant is back to his old tricks again. And if I should be bracing myself for "
"Friends fight, Kirkland," Lila jumped in. "It happens. And over the most trivial things, ask anybody. Maybe I just got tired of Grant butting his nose into my business. Or him being a self-involved prima donna. Or forgetting my birthday. Or making one too many snide cracks about those green drapes I hung in his den."
"I know I shouldn't always be suspicious like this," Kirkland acknowledged. "I should have faith in him and not be worrying that something bad is going to happen if I look away for just a sec."
"But it is Grant," Lila flashed him a sympathetic look.
"Yeah," Kirkland nodded sadly, regretfully. "It's Grant. Which means I have to know."
"I understand. But, Sugar, I don't have to be the one to tell you."
"We still have options," Stacey was reassuring Felicia and Lucas as Morgan came back into the courtroom, dejected from his futile attempt to catch up to Jamie. "You heard what the judge ruled. He affirmed the marriage. We could appeal."
"How long would that take?" Felicia wondered.
"Several weeks," Stacey admitted. "Possibly even months."
"No point," Morgan mumbled. "The baby would be viable by then."
"You could have it delivered early," Stacey pointed out.
"No," Felicia shook her head. "No. I saw what... with Lori Ann. She nearly died, and it still wasn't enough to save Jenna."
"So what do you want to do?" Stacey asked her brother.
Morgan looked at Felicia. "I'm sorry. I tried my best. I did everything I could. I even went after Jamie now, hoping we could come to some sort of compromise."
"You want him to compromise on killing his child?" Lucas asked, incredulous.
"I want him to think about Lorna, not his own ego," Morgan snapped back.
"The drugs that Jamie mentioned," Felicia clung to straws. "Might they do the trick?"
"That depends on a number of factors, most importantly the dosage," Morgan offered. "If Jamie plays it safe to shield the baby, they'll be no better than placebos."
"Do you think maybe you could talk to Dr. Marsh, urge him to do everything possible..."
"I'm on it." Morgan dipped his head to kiss Felicia on the cheek. "I'm not giving up. We'll get our Lorna back. I promise you."
"What about us?" Lucas asked Felicia later, once they'd said good-by to and thanked Stacey. Once it was just the two of them again, back home, no place left to hide. "Is there a chance of us getting each other back? After all of this?"
"I don't know." Felicia raised her shaking hands to bracket both sides of her face, as if that might somehow keep all her other problems at bay. "I can't think or suppose or plan anything right now. I can't think of anything but Lorna."
"That's not true," Lucas told her, his voice level, with just a trace of judgment to it. "I saw you trying to call him earlier. You're planning to confront Cass regarding his lying to you about my still being alive."
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