“They’re in Treatment Room #4B, Dr. Frame,” a nurse looked up to direct Jamie as he flew through the door in response to Alice’s page, pulling on his white lab coat with one arm while reaching for Jen’s chart with the other.
Kevin’s daughter was lying, eyes closed, in a hospital bed, while her great-grandmother hovered nearby, checking various read-outs from at least three different monitors, each of which stood attached by wire to a different part of Jen’s body.
“What happened here?” Jamie hoped Alice might be able to connect the dots between the scribbled notations in his hands.
“She was testifying for Kevin when she collapsed. She went into cardiac arrest, I had to use the AED.”
“Jen’s lucky you were there.”
“The court-house has trained personnel. I’m sure they would have handled it.”
“How’s she doing now?” Jamie asked.
“How about you? How are you doing?”
“It hasn’t been a banner twenty-four hours for me,” Alice confessed.
“Lucas told me about Kevin.”
“The charges are ridiculous. I’m sorry, Jamie, I know Elizabeth is your – “
“I’m having a tough time with it myself. I’ve been trying to reach Amanda, but…”
“She’s with Kevin. She texted me to say Mike got the judge to release him on bail. They’re waiting for the paperwork to come through so he can come here and see Jen.”
“Kevin must be going out of his mind.”
“Understatement of the year. My day,” Alice sighed. “Doesn’t even compare to his.”
“I know how he feels. I was in prison when Steven ended up in the hospital after hiking through the rain to help Allie. I was frantic trying to get information. I’m sure Kevin is, too. Has he said anything about why he thinks Elizabeth would accuse him like this?”
“I haven’t really talked to Kevin. Amanda believes it’s your sister following through on her promise to make you three sorry for forcing Rachel to choose between you and Carl.”
“By picking on Kevin, who didn’t have anything to do with it?”
“Hurting Kevin hurts Amanda. A charge like this would destroy any man. But, someone like Kevin? Who works with children? Who was planning to adopt one with Amanda?”
“I didn’t know that.”
“They’ve just started the process. There’s a little boy with special needs that Kevin was working on placing. He and Amanda decided to adopt him themselves. Now…”
“Mike’s a great lawyer. He’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“Listen, Jamie, I appreciate your concern, but Kevin wasn’t what I brought you in here to talk about. After I admitted Jen, I ran some tests. Purely routine. This is what came back from the lab.” Alice handed him a print-out.
“Shit,” Jamie choked, instantly apologizing to Alice for his language.
She waved it away. “My sentiments exactly.”
“Could this be a mistake? A lab error?”
“I ran a second panel, just to be sure.”
“This is… the odds… I don’t even tell patients about the possibility usually, because it’s basically a statistical rounding error.”
“Kevin mentioned that Jen tested in the 99.9th percentile for intelligence. I guess she’s remarkable in more ways than one.”
“Thank you all for coming,” Judge Landregan addressed the trio. “Ms. Love, Mr. Frame, Mrs. Cory.”
Donna visibly shuddered at the last moniker. Just before she demanded, “Would you be so kind as to explain the reason behind our mutual command performances?”
“Mrs. Cory has leveled a very serious charge against you. She claims that you coerced Mr. Frame into dropping his charges of wrongful death against you by threatening to publish incriminating photos of him and Mrs. Cory.”
Dean turned to Jeanne in surprise. She merely nodded to indicate it was true.
“Preposterous,” Donna trilled. “How would Ms. Ewing have any knowledge of private communiqué between Mr. Frame and I?”
“Dean told me,” Jeanne reminded. “And you confirmed it.”
“Since when is this court in the business of accepting hearsay from third parties?”
“Since Mrs. Cory was willing to incriminate herself in order to convey the sincerity of her claims. I must admit, that did capture my attention. Mr. Frame, tell me, is what Mrs. Cory claims accurate? Did Ms. Love blackmail you into dropping your suit?”
Dean momentarily froze, unsure of what to do or say, trying to quickly think through all the consequences for either response. He looked to Jeanne, who was all but willing him to say yes. He looked to Donna, who appeared calm, composed… and lethal. If she was worried about what Dean might reveal, she didn’t act it. Which, naturally, made Dean wonder what else she could possibly have up her sleeve to decimate them both.
“She… did,” Dean all but whispered.
“Oh, please.” If rolling her eyes weren’t utterly gauche, Donna most certainly would have done so. “Your Honor, only a few days ago, photographic evidence of Ms. Ewing and Mr. Frame’s affair was the talk of the Internet. Obviously, they are working together against me.”
“To what end, Ms. Love?”
“Clearly, Mr. Frame had been informed that his claims toward me carry no weight. He cannot prove that I had anything to do with his wife’s death, so he is grasping at straws, accusing me of any and every crime under the sun in the futile hope that one might stick.”
“What do you have to say to that, Mr. Frame?”
“I dropped the charges,” Dean reminded. “I was done.” It was primarily Jeanne whom he reminded, “I wanted it all to be over.”
“You deserve to get your justice for Jenna and Lori Ann,” Jeanne insisted.
“By any means possible?” Donna questioned. “What other lies have you been telling the judge?”
“I told her everything,” Jeanne snarled. “I told her how I blackmailed you with the tape of Marley driving.”
“Oh,” Donna startled, having not at all expected that.
“And then I told her how you threatened to expose me as an accessory after the fact, unless I seduced Dean so you could get your pictures.”
This time, no sound came out of Donna’s mouth. Her lips merely made an O shape to match her eyes and brows.
It was Dean who roared, “What?”
Jeanne turned to face him, working on three different levels, striving to convince the judge, while threatening Donna, while making it clear to Dean that she was lying. Easier said than done. Jeanne honestly had no idea if any of it were getting across. “I’m sorry. I had to tell. It was the only way Her Honor would believe me.”
Dean dropped his head, shaking it slowly from side to side, mumbling under his breath, even as Donna struggled to defend herself against this latest accusation.
Dean ignored Donna. When he finally looked up again, his eyes bore solely into Jeanne as he croaked out, “That explains it.”
“Explains what?” she asked timidly.
“All your ridiculous answers every time I tried to pin you down about why you were with me when you obviously loved Matt so much. When he was obviously the one you really wanted. You made it sound like I was the idiot for not understanding your twisted logic. I understand just fine, now. Donna made you do it. You never wanted to be with me, in any capacity, at all.”
“Oh-oh,” Jasmine said when she returned home from a sleepover to find both Lila and Matt waiting for her, looking grim. “I must have really done something awful.”
“No! No!” Her parents tripped over each other to reassure, leaping on Jasmine, hugging and kissing her like she’d been away in the Merchant Marine, rather than a few miles down the road, each swearing that she hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Then what’s going on?” she wondered.
“We just wanted to talk to you, Sugarplum,” Lila soothed. “Together.”
Jasmine wrinkled up her face. “Is this about Jeanne and… and Lori Ann’s daddy?”
“You heard?” Matt did his best to stifle a groan.
“People were… talking.”
“I’m sorry you had to hear them,” Matt said.
“I thought Jeanne loved you, Daddy.”
“I – It’s… complicated.”
“Are you angry at her?”
“I’m pretty darn angry, yeah, Jazz.”
“Does that mean she’s not going to be your wife anymore?”
Matt shot Lila a look pleading for help, and she stepped in with, “Let’s not hound your daddy about it, right now. He and Jeanne have a lot of things to work out between the two of them, before they start telling other people what’s next on the agenda.”
“Oh,” Jasmine frowned, confused. “But, I thought you wanted to talk to me about Jeanne?”
“No,” Lila said. “This is about something else.”
Matt and Lila exchanged looks, this time both were wishing someone might swoop in and help them with this. Finally, Lila said, “Kevin. We wanted to talk to you about Kevin.”
“Why?” she all but took a step back.
“Something happened last night,” Lila eased her way into the subject. “Elizabeth – Elizabeth claims Kevin was… inappropriate to her. That he tried to touch her like – “
“Like they keep telling us in school nobody should be allowed to,” Jasmine guessed, not nearly as traumatized as either of her parents were by the discussion.
“Yes,” Matt exhaled at the reprieve. “Exactly.”
“Did he do it?” Jasmine wondered pragmatically.
“That’s what the police are trying to decide right now. But, in the meantime,” Lila knelt in front of her daughter. “Your Daddy and I wanted to make sure… When Kevin and I were dating, and he was around here, did he ever try anything with you that made you uncomfortable or scared, or hurt you in any way? It’s alright to tell us. We won’t get mad, I promise. And you have nothing to be afraid of as far as Kevin is concerned. If he threatened you or warned you that something bad could happen if you told, that’s totally wrong. You’re safe. Your daddy and I will protect you. But, you have to tell us the truth.”
“You said our dad raped you,” Michele reminded Marley. “Were you telling the truth?”
The color drained from Marley’s face and she froze in place, unable now to even look to Grant for help.
He tried in any case, stepping forward, instinctively raising his arm as if the assault against Marley were a physical blow, something he could actually protect her from. Grant was about to tell the girls that the subject they’d brought up was inappropriate and much too complicated, when Marley surprised all three of them by saying, simply, quietly, yet firmly, “Yes.”
“That’s why the police thought you shot him,” Michele seemed unable to let go, no matter how much Bridget was silently pleading for her to.
They all waited for Marley to say something else. She didn’t. But, she didn’t appear to be backing down, either. Her eyes blazed as if feverish.
“Why?” Bridget all but whimpered. “Why would our dad do something bad? You said he was a good person. Everyone – you, Steven, Kirk, Aunt Mary, Uncle Vince, Kathleen, Ben, everybody says our dad was a good person. But, a good person wouldn’t…”
“Good people make mistakes, too,” Marley spoke slowly, feeling her way around each word, gingerly poking it with her tongue before letting it out. “I didn’t know that when I was your age. I thought you could be good or you could be bad. And once you’d crossed the line, you could never go back. I judged people without trying to see things from their point of view. That’s a mistake. That’s always a mistake. It wasn’t until I… I did some pretty awful things, too.”
“You mean like trying to run away with us?” Michele asked.
“Yes,” Marley said. “Trying to run away with you. And, before you were born, trying to hurt your mother. I didn’t mean to hurt your mother. I wasn’t thinking straight. Just like I didn’t mean to hurt Lorna or her baby last year. But, I did hurt her. And I did hurt Vicky. And Jake did hurt me.”
“He raped you,” Michele reiterated, unlike her aunt, tearing into the word with a combination of repulsion, malice, and tearful confusion.
“And you forgave him?” Bridget wanted to know.
“No,” Marley said. “I merely moved past it.”
“But….” Michele frowned. “You loved our dad. You wanted him back. That’s why you went after our mom. You kidnapped her so you could have him for yourself. So you must have loved him. Even after…”
“A lot of time had passed by then,” Marley said. “And I was very sick. I’d been in an accident…”
“The one that changed your face.”
“Did our mom know what he did to you?” Michele blurted out.
“And she still married him? She married somebody who hurt her sister?” Michele looked at Bridget protectively.
“Vicky and Jake grew up together. They loved each other long before I came into the picture. They were destined to be together.”
“But, he hurt you…”
“That’s enough, Michele,” Grant couldn’t take it any longer. “Browbeating your aunt isn’t going to get us anywhere.”
“But, I don’t understand!” Michele’s last vestige of hard-won maturity faded away as she stomped her foot in fury. “You said our dad was a good person, but he raped you. And then our mom married him. And then you wanted him back. How can that happen?”
“There’s a lot more to Jake McKinnon,” Marley stressed, “Than one horrible night over twenty years ago. Your father’s entire life should not be defined by a single error in judgment. No one’s life should be. So many people loved him. Not just your mother and I, but Paulina and Molly – you remember Molly? From Oakdale? The one who found you for us? – and his family, and Amanda, even Donna. Donna! And you know how… discriminating your grandmother is. He accomplished many wonderful things in his life. I’m looking at the two most important of them right now.”
“Kevin Fowler,” Bridget said. “The one who Elizabeth said… He was arrested.”
“Was our dad arrested?”
Marley shook her head. “I – I didn’t press charges against him.”
“Well, you must have read about how he was shot soon after and he was in a coma…”
“What about after he got better?”
“I just – I wanted – Your father admitted, to me, at least, what he’d done, and he went to get counseling and… I just wanted it all to be in the past.”
“Were you ever going to tell us about it?” Michele wondered.
“No,” Marley confessed. “If there was any possible way to avoid it, I was never, ever going to tell you.”
“Jamie!” Kevin burst through the office door without knocking, looking as out of breath as if he’d run the entire way to the hospital from the courthouse. “I’m sorry to interrupt. I was looking for Alice, but they tell me she’s with a patient. I tried to see Jenny…”
“She’s having some tests run,” Jamie kept his voice neutral.
“How is she? I got over here as fast as I could. Paperwork took forever. If it weren’t for Mike I’d probably still be there.”
“So you’re out on bail?”
“Yeah.” Kevin waved away any further questions Jamie was obviously itching to ask. “I know Elizabeth is your sister; and then there’s Amanda…. But can we not talk about any of that right now? Please? Just tell me what’s going on with Jenny.”
“She’s stable,” Jamie reassured, obeying Kevin’s wishes.
“What the hell happened?” Kevin walked in, closing the door behind him.
“She went into cardiac arrest.”
“Her heart stopped?” Kevin’s mouth dropped open. “Jesus Christ.”
“It’s not as bad as it sounds. The stress, plus her overall weakened condition…”
“But, she’s fine now?”
Jamie hesitated just a bit too long before answering, for Kevin’s comfort.
“What is it?” he leapt on the pause. “What’s wrong? Tell me, please.”
“I… can’t,” Jamie tried to soften the blow. “Jen’s not a minor. I can’t talk to anyone about her condition without Jen’s permission.”
Kevin barely let that stop him. He assured Jamie, “I’ve been in this business for a long time. Let me rephrase the question,” he cleared his throat. “Dr. Frame, could you tell me, hypothetically, what sort of complications might occur in similar medical cases?” He sighed tiredly. “How’s that?”
Jamie shrugged grimly and gestured for him to sit down. “Good enough.”
Kevin braced himself.
Jamie said, “When it comes to radiation treatment, there is a very, very rare complication. Basically, a majority of the cancerous calls are killed off as intended. But, the few that remain are particularly hardy, basically indestructible. And if they manage to multiply at a rapid pace…”
“The patient ends up worse off than they were before the treatment,” Kevin guessed, taking absolutely no pleasure from his accurate assessment.
Jamie nodded apologetically.
Kevin grasped at straws. “So radiation is off the table then. What next? Chemotherapy?”
“I wouldn’t risk it.”
“Are you saying there’s nothing to be done?”
“At this point, the best odds for survival are a bone marrow transplant.”
“That’s the only thing that could help her?” Kevin dropped his pretense at impartiality.
So did Jamie. “I’m afraid so. Now, usually, we’d look for a blood relative to make a match. But, in Jen’s case, we’ll have to hope for the best with the national registry. I’ll be honest with you, Kevin, the national registry is very, very low on minority donors. I realize that her mother and grandmother are dead, and her biological father has been off the radar since he left prison. But, if you know anything about other relatives? Maybe half-siblings or even cousins, second-cousins, any relation would be better than – “
“I know where he is,” Kevin said stiffly.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Jenny’s father. I’ve kept track of him ever since I had his parental rights terminated. I know where Jenny’s father is.”
“Hey,” Cory looked up to see Elizabeth from where he sat eating lunch alone in the smallest formal dining room.
She entered cautiously, looking around. “Where’s everybody?”
“I think Mom and Father are resting. They were up all night.”
“I was there,” Elizabeth reminded with a snort.
“Are you alright?” Cory asked politely.
“No. Those doctors… I bet they went to the Josef Mengele School of Medicine.”
“They have to be thorough. It’s for the police report.”
“Why can’t they just lock Kevin up and throw away the key and leave me alone?”
“Just based on your word?”
“Why not? I gave them everything they asked for. I answered all their questions. I stuck to my story, no matter how hard they tried to trip me up.”
“I bet Father was proud.”
“He was! He told me I was a brave girl for not letting Kevin intimidate me.”
“Amanda was here earlier. She was very upset.”
“Amanda is getting what she deserves. Looking down on Father, calling him a dangerous criminal, bullying Mom into throwing us out in favor of her precious Holy Trinity. How does it feel, having the tables turned on her for once? Look whom Amanda brought into her house! Let’s see our big sister get a taste of her own medicine.”
“Amanda thinks you’re lying, that you made it all up to get back at her.”
“Amanda can think whatever she wants.”
Cory took a deep breath, debating the wisdom of his next statement, deciding to put it out there, anyway. “I think you’re lying, too.”
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