“Dr. Frame?” The phone call came just as Jamie was packing up his office, getting ready to leave for the day. He’d texted Lorna that he was on his way home, and was surprised to have received no answer.
“This is Dr. Frame.”
“Dr. Frame, this is the Bay City Police Department. Sir, I’m afraid we have a bit of a situation here. Your daughters, they’ve been found at Bay City Falls. They appear to have been abandoned.”
“What’s all this?” Donna looked around quizzically, having followed Matt’s instructions to find herself atop the highest point on the Cory property – from which she could not only see almost their entire grounds, but over into her own former home, as well.
“Surprise!” Matt indicated the picnic spread he’d carefully set out for them, complete with a small flag in a plastic cup to wave in the breeze. “Happy Independence Day!”
“And the view?” She indicated Cass and Frankie’s pool party in the distance.
Matt handed Donna a pair of binoculars. “I thought you might want to see what a good thing you did. Look how happy everybody seems. Especially Lori Ann.”
Donna took a peek where he directed, smiling wistfully to herself. “They do look happy.”
“Thanks to you,” Matt stressed.
“I suspect they would say: In spite of me.”
Matt pulled her down to sit next to him on the blanket, pouring Donna a glass of wine, and kissing her briefly. “Forget about it. They don’t matter. Nobody matters today except you and me and the Founding Fathers.”
She laughed, kissing him back, wondering, “What would I do without you?”
“Luckily, that’s something you’ll never have to find out.”
Matt attempted to ease Donna from a sitting to a lying down position, but she resisted – albeit politely, reaching for the binoculars again and taking another look. “Marley is there,” she reported with surprise.
Matt sighed, sitting up himself and shrugging. “So?”
“I just… I don’t know. It’s seems somewhat odd, don’t you think? Her being there…”
Donna bobbed her head to concede his point. “It was our home for the majority of our lives. Both of ours’. We raised Victoria’s girls there. Marley was born there.”
Matt promised. “You haven’t lost her the way you have Michael and Vicky. Marley will forgive you someday. She may feel she doesn’t need you now – “
“Well, of course not, she has Grant now,” Donna managed to make the name sound like a four letter word.
“But, she’s going to need her mother eventually. Especially as long as she is with Grant.”
“I want her to be happy,” Donna swore. “That’s all I ever wanted for her. I know she doesn’t believe me. Ever since Jake and… Well, Jake was only one point of contention between us. So much has happened since then.”
“What about you?” Matt asked. “When will you give yourself permission to be happy? When will you stop coming up with excuses not to be?”
“What are you talking about, Matthew? I am very, very happy at this moment. Being here with you is all I need.”
“And I am very, very happy to hear that,” he smiled, brushing Donna’s hair aside in order to kiss the back of her neck, gratified to hear her purr with pleasure in response.
Alas, only up to a point.
“Matthew…” she began. “Stop… Please…”
“You don’t want me to stop…” His mouth moved down to her bare shoulder.
“Of course, I don’t…”
“I love you, Donna…”
“And I you…”
“It’s been way, way too long…”
He’d worked his way around back to her mouth, this time managing to maneuver it so that Donna was lying beneath him, her arms on his shoulders. Matt moved to unbutton her blouse, promising, “Get ready for some fireworks…”
“How have you been, son?” Grant finally managed to maneuver himself so that he could bump into Kirkland accidentally – just like Frankie had suggested.
“What?” Kirkland hurriedly swallowed the forkful of potato salad he’d shoved into his mouth a moment earlier, covering it with a napkin, mumbling, “Fine. Good. I’ve been good.”
“All set for college? Notre Dame, I heard. Spencer would have been pleased.”
“Yeah. I know. That’s kind of why I…”
Grant indicated the scar above Kirkland’s lip. “Healed up nicely. You can barely see it now.”
“Not unless you know it’s there,” Kirkland agreed. The subtext hanging in the air over both of them.
“It’s been a hell of a year for you,” Grant figured they might as well acknowledge the facts. “I’m so sorry. Between that and your accident over New Year’s…”
“I’m fine, Grant,” Kirkland insisted. “I’m okay. Like you said, I’ve got college to look forward to and, you know, other stuff.”
“You and Charlie seem happy,” Grant took the hint to change the subject.
“Yeah. We’re… yeah.”
“Enjoy it, son,” Grant advised. “It’s all so fleeting. I thought I had all the time in the world and… look at you, nearly a grown man. College, serious girlfriend…”
“Feeling old?” Kirkland tried to joke his father out of what he suspected was an oncoming bout of melancholy.
Unfortunately, his jab failed to hit the intended target. “Very,” Grant confessed.
“Are you okay?” Kirkland asked, concerned.
“I’m getting by,” was all his father would commit to at this time.
“You and Aunt Marley… You love her, right?”
“I do love your Aunt Marley, yes,” Grant answered automatically. And sincerely.
“And she loves you?”
“So that’s… good. ?”
“Are you in love, Kirkland?” Grant turned the interrogation around… for a variety of reasons.
His son blushed and mumbled something non-committal.
“Should I take that as a yes?”
“I don’t know,” Kirkland confessed. “I mean, some days I think I am, and some days I wonder… how do you know? How do you really know? My mom must have thought she was in love with you, and look how that ended. Uncle Matt and Grandmother have been married and divorced how many times? They thought they were in love. And then there’s Dad and Aunt Marley, Cass and Lila… I can go on and on, you know I can.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“So how are you supposed to know when it’s really real, and not just, I don’t know – “
“Isn’t that just, like, for my age?”
“You’d be surprised,” Grant corrected dryly.
“Okay, then, yeah, that. How’s a guy supposed to know the difference? Especially before he does something really stupid and ends up hurting people just because he, well, he couldn’t control himself.”
“That doesn’t sound like you, son,” Grant shook his head. “I can’t imagine you ever purposely – “
“I didn’t say it was on purpose. I just said, how are you supposed to know?”
“That you’re genuinely in love?”
“I have no idea.”
“Me and your mother, me and your Aunt Amanda, me and your Aunt Paulina, me and Lorna…” A smile danced around Grant’s lips. “I can go on and on, you know I can.”
“Yeah… That’s okay.”
“Do you think any of that would have happened if I knew the answer to your question?”
“So that’s it? Everybody is just winging it?”
“Well, maybe not everybody. Merely the majority of us.”
Grant smiled, his heart breaking for his son, knowing that these were all things Kirkland was going to have to define – and figure out, most likely through painful experience – for himself. So in lieu of further inadequate words, Grant merely stepped forward and pulled the boy into a hug. Getting a small sense of just what it meant to truly love someone, when Kirkland let him.
“Your dad around?” GQ asked Jen as he pulled up a chair next to the hospital bed, kissing her, then taking her hand.
“He left. He wanted to give us some privacy.”
“Really?” GQ couldn’t hide the amazement in his voice.
“He’s not exactly the ogre you make him out to be, you know,” Jen teased.
“I didn’t say he was an ogre.”
“Just the guy from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“Hey, he brought up chainsaws first.”
“Cut him some slack, okay? He’s freaking out about this.”
“So am I!” GQ defended.
“I know. Except you didn’t make my grandmother a promise to take care of me, and now feel like you’ve let us all down.”
“I may not have made your grandmother any promises, but, it’s killing me that I can’t do anything for you, either.”
“You’re keeping an eye on Horace. That’s the most important thing.”
“I’m not… I mean, thanks, but… I don’t think he needs to be watched. He’s not going anywhere. If he was going to flake on you, why even bother coming?”
“When I was little, he’d come to my grandmother’s, all polite and cleaned up – not that she ever bought a word of it – asking if I could go for a visit. She’s say yes eventually, especially when he started talking about lawyers – that’s when I first found out the law could get involved, how powerful it could be. And he’d take me to his house, talk to me for a couple of minutes, ask if I was hungry, maybe get me something to eat, and then he’d lose interest and go hang with his buddies or his girlfriends, or…” She changed her mind about finishing the sentence, and merely substituted a shrug.
GQ said, “I wonder if that’s how Hudson will remember me? As this guy who stopped by every once in a while, brought him some toys, played with him a little, then took off again – because I lost interest.”
“Horace and I are nothing like you and Hudson. You love him!”
“Horace loves you. But, you don’t believe it. Why should Hudson?”
“Because kids are smart. They know who really loves them, and who’s just going through the motions.”
GQ smiled ruefully. “What about adults?”
Jen cocked her head to the side, confused. “I don’t understand.”
He sighed. “Do adults know the difference? I wonder sometimes. I love you, Jen. I really do. But, I just get this feeling sometimes…”
“I know you love me! Of course, I do.”
“I’m sorry I’m not that guy.”
“What guy? What are you talking about?”
“You know, the guy who makes the big gestures, all devil may care. I wish I could be him. I wish I could be the sexy bad boy who says to hell with right and wrong. I’ll be your hero, no matter what. I’ll wave my hands and fix everything, laws and standards be damned; come and get me you uptight, stick in the mud, Boy Scout types. I’m too cool to care. Like Allie did with Gregory, when everyone said she was a hero. But, I can’t. Instead, I’m the guy who just plugs along best he can, trying to do right by everybody, only getting called names for my trouble.”
“Hey,” Jen said. “That happens to be the guy I fell in love with. Watch what you say about him.”
While Steven, standing outside the door, listening, decided he’d heard enough.
“You came,” Dean couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice once he and Jeanne were finally face to face at Cass and Frankie’s pool party.
“You called,” she reminded, equally as surprised. And unsure.
“Why?” Jeanne wanted to know, reminding Dean of her tendency to cut straight to the chase. He wasn’t certain how he felt about it yet.
“My cousin Frankie told me to.”
“And, I mean, I wanted to. I guess.”
Jeanne said, “You still think I slept with you because Donna ordered me?”
“What? Huh, no. I – Matt set me straight.”
“I went to apologize to him. You know, about us. And he… said some stuff.”
“He reminded me that you never lie. Except that you did. For me. And what did I think about that?”
“What do you think about that?”
“I dunno. I mean, Jeez, you could have warned me, first.”
“I assumed you’d know it was a lie. You know what happened. How it happened.”
“What about why it happened? Got any answers for me about that one?”
“I wanted to,” was all Jeanne said.
“God!” Dean nearly spun around in place from the whiplash. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Yeah. I’ve heard that before.”
Dean couldn’t help smiling just a little. “Damn, but we’re a messed up pair.”
“What? Messed up? Hell, yeah.”
“No. A pair?”
Dean swallowed hard, unsure of what to say. Thankfully spared having to come up with an answer one way or the other by Felicia’s arrival, carrying Lori Ann. She stepped deftly between Dean and Jeanne.
“Look who wanted to come say hello to her Daddy.” Felicia plopped the little girl into Dean’s arms.
“Whoa. Hey,” Dean tried to juggle Lori Ann along with the drink he’d been holding.
Jeanne saw his dilemma and moved to take the cup, Dean flashing her a grateful smile.
“She’s missed you, Dean,” Felicia said. “You haven’t been around much lately.”
“You’re right. I – I’ll try to do better.”
“Frankie says therapy has been going wonderfully. Having an on-site pool has made a world of difference. I had on some music the other day, and Lori Ann got up and started swaying, I really think she was trying to dance. Wouldn’t that be something, if she became a dancer, like Jenna?”
“Yeah,” Dean said softly. “That would really be… something.”
No introduction forthcoming, Jeanne took matters into her own hands, thrusting her palm forward. “How do you do, Ms. Gallant? I’m Jeanne Ewing.”
Felicia turned around slowly, her face a mask. “I know precisely who you are, Ms. Ewing.”
Jamie could hear Devon crying as soon as he entered the police station. He followed the sound down the hall to find his older daughter sitting next to Detective Chiang, who was trying to entertain her via a makeshift puppet of forensic rubber glove with a Styrofoam cup, a face drawn in black marker, over it.
Despite the sincerity of his effort, Devon appeared unappeased. Seeing Jamie, she shrieked and held out her arms to be picked up, launching into a fresh outbreak of sobs.
Jamie nearly crushed her against his chest in relief, patting Devon’s hair, kissing the top of her head, whispering that it was okay, Daddy was here now, everything was going to be okay, while, at the same time, his eyes swept the room for Mackenzie.
He found her in the corner, asleep in the stroller, seemingly content for the time being.
Detective Chiang explained, “She’s fine. We had to give her a bottle, she was a little uncomfortable with it at first…”
“She’s never… We don’t…. She’s never had one before.” Jamie’s first instinct was to scoop Mackenzie up, as well. But, Devon was still so upset, and the baby didn’t need to be disturbed.
Detective Chiang nodded. “Figured. Same with all five of my kids when they were this age. She got the hang of it eventually, drifted right off afterwards. We had a doctor in. Checked them both out. They’re fine. No heat stroke, no dehydration.”
“What the hell happened?” Jamie demanded, keeping his voice down so as not to upset Devon further. The little girl was clinging to his neck for dear life, sniffling plaintively.
“We got a call from the park police, telling us they had a case of two unaccompanied minors. When we got there, we found no sign of the mother.”
“That’s impossible. Lorna would never have left them alone. Never.”
“We canvassed the area thoroughly.”
Jamie swallowed hard, doing his best not to gag. “The waterfall. Could she have…”
“Thought about that. I’ve got divers looking. Nothing so far.”
“How did you know to call me?” Jamie wondered, desperately seeking any kind of clue to make sense of all this.
“Mrs. Frame’s wallet and identification were in the children’s diaper bag. We also checked the parking lot. We found her car. Judging by the internal temperature, it had been there for most of the day.”
“Something must have happened to her. She didn’t just walk away.”
“We saw no signs of a struggle.”
“She didn’t just walk away,” Jamie repeated, more urgently this time. “Lorna would never abandon the girls. She’s in trouble. She’s in big trouble. I have to find her. Please, you have to help me find her.”
“And a very happy 4th of July to you, Mr. Hamilton,” Rachel observed upon opening the door to find the Mayor of Bay City, along with his unbearably smug smile.
“Good evening, Mrs. Hutchins. May I come in?”
“I have a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Carl Hutchins.”
“Working on a holiday. How patriotic of you.”
“We all celebrate in our own ways.” Chase beckoned to the pair of uniformed officers behind him. “Now. May we come in?”
“My husband isn’t here.”
Anger flickered behind Chase’s lashes. At least it dimmed the smirk. “Where is he, then?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” she told Chase truthfully.
“In which case, you won’t mind us taking a quick look around? In the spirit of the holiday?”
“Suit yourselves,” Rachel stepped aside, bidding them entry.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hutchins.” He signaled for the men to spread out and search.
“I hope you’re pleased with yourself, Mr. Hamilton.”
“I usually am, as a rule.”
“You’re a disgrace.”
“Feel free to make your displeasure clear at the polls come Election Day,” he smiled pleasantly and continued to do so for the next ten minutes, whereupon the uniformed men returned and confirmed that Carl Hutchins did not, in fact, appear to be on the premises.
“Very sloppy work, Mr. Hamilton,” Rachel couldn’t help gloating. “Not that I expected any different from you. If you’d bothered to do an iota of research before running off half-cocked, you’d have learned that my husband hasn’t lived in this house for months.”
“I am well aware of that, Mrs. Hutchins. We searched his apartment first. It, too, came up empty.”
“What do you mean?” Rachel startled.
Now it was Chase’s turn to be confused. “I mean, we searched it thoroughly, and there was no one there.”
“Except for my children,” Rachel prompted.
“No…” Chase shook his head.
“My children? My youngest children? They were very upset. Elizabeth wanted to spend the night there. It made her feel closer to her father. And Cory went with her. He – he’s very protective of his sister…”
“No one was in residence, Mrs. Hutchins. Not even any staff. We called your husband’s houseman. He informed me they’d all been laid off. With a very generous severance.”
“That’s… you’re lying.”
Chase shrugged. “To what end? It would be trivial to disprove. Call him yourself.”
She didn’t have an answer to that. Thankfully, right then, her phone rang. Rachel snatched it up, despite not recognizing the number.
“Hello? Mrs. Hutchins? This is Bay City Airport. Mrs. Hutchins, I’m afraid we have some disturbing news. Your husband’s plane… We’ve lost contact with your husband’s plane. We’re afraid it may have…. We’re afraid it may have gone down, Mrs. Hutchins.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|