“Oh, what now, Your Eminence?” Lila drawled into the phone upon seeing Chase’s name there – again.
Much to her surprise, the usually brash and, let’s be honest, pompous Mayor of Bay City sounded downright subdued as he explained, “I wanted to check how Rachel was doing.”
“Excuse me?” Lila shook her phone in effigy for the voice coming through the other end. “First you drag the woman’s husband off in handcuffs, then you have the audacity to make a condolence call?”
“What?” Chase’s subdued tone turned to one of seemingly genuine confusion. “I didn’t – Carl wasn’t arrested.”
“He wasn’t?” Lila gasped in relief. “You changed your mind?”
“No! Of course not!” He sounded offended at the suggestion. “He rabbited. Tried to flee the country on his private jet. How’s that for the act of an allegedly innocent man?”
Something about the way Chase said the word tried, tweaked Lila’s radar. “He didn’t make it?”
The pause on the other end turned into a chasm. “I – He – The plane crashed, Lila.”
Now it was her turn to fill the space between them with silence. “He’s…”
“Presumed dead, yes.”
She let out a tiny whimper.
“There’s more,” Chased added uncomfortably. “I’m sorry to break it like this. Honestly, I was sure you knew by now. It’s been all over the news…”
“I was out,” Lila said. “With Jasmine. At the fireworks. We came straight home, she went to bed. No radio, no Internet, we were both beat.”
“Cory and Elizabeth were on the plane with Carl.”
This time, the whimper was more of a squeak, as any words or thoughts Lila might have had proved too massive for actual expression.
“He kidnapped them. Rachel didn’t know anything about it until the call came in about the accident. I was at the house. I’d come to serve Carl’s arrest warrant. She – Rachel – it’s like she couldn’t fathom what had hit her. She knew Carl was planning to run, but the kids… she had no idea he was planning on taking the kids.”
“We killed them,” the words vomited from Lila’s throat along with weeks and weeks of regret she’d been keeping a lid on up to that point. “We killed them, you and me. If we hadn’t – “
“No!” Chase’s voice took yet another left turn, exorcising the regret and doing a one-eighty into resolution. “We did no such thing. Carl did this. Carl did all of it. Every single thing that’s happened is a direct result of bad decisions he made, starting with his choosing to take criminal shortcuts whenever possible, to his continuing to do so in direct divergence with the terms of his parole agreement, to his ultimately opting to run away – and take his children along without informing their mother.”
“Cory and Elizabeth were just kids… They didn’t deserve…”
“Of course, they didn’t. But, their deaths are on Carl’s head, not yours. Never yours. Don’t you think that, Lila, not even for a minute.”
But, from the sound of her sobbing, it was doubtful Lila had heard a word…
“Lorna?” Felicia looked, confused, from Rachel to Jamie and back again, wondering what her daughter had to do with the horrible news about Carl.
Jamie and Rachel exchanged glances, as well. And when his mother declined to say anything, Jamie did, flatly stating, “Carl kidnapped Lorna.”
“You don’t know that!” Rachel shot back.
Jamie continued to address Felicia. “Lorna is missing. She disappeared sometime this morning. The BCPD found Devon and Mackenzie in their stroller, in the park, alone.”
“Alone?” Felicia gasped.
“Yes. On the exact same day that Carl chose to flee the country. Lorna was taken by force, there’s no doubt about that. Who else could it have been?”
Felicia allowed herself a moment to absorb Jamie’s words. And then she turned on Rachel with a vengeance, reminding, “You promised you’d keep him from hurting her!”
“You talked to Mom about Carl and Lorna?” Jamie asked in surprise.
Felicia nodded. “After Carl threatened Lorna, I had to.”
“You only have Lorna’s word for that!” Rachel interrupted.
“Lorna told you Carl had threatened her?” Jamie couldn’t believe his ears.
“Yes. She was terrified. I – I’m not used to seeing Lorna terrified. She told me he came to the house, he accused Lorna of using you to break up him and Rachel.”
“Did you know that, Jamie?” Rachel challenged. “Did Lorna fill you in about that?”
“No,” he admitted.
Which was all the leeway Rachel needed. “Another lie, then. What did I tell you, Jamie? She lied to you, again.”
“She didn’t want to worry you, Jamie,” Felicia explained. “Lorna felt that Carl was her problem. She didn’t want to make things worse between you and your mother.”
At that, Rachel could only snort in disdain.
Leaving it to Felicia to put together the pieces and realize, “If Carl took Lorna, then… Was she – oh, God, oh, God, was Lorna… was she on that plane with him?”
“Yes,” Jamie said.
“No,” Rachel spat. “But, Cory and Elizabeth were.”
“Cory and Elizabeth…” Felicia momentarily forgot her own troubles to gape at Rachel with horror.
“My children are dead,” Rachel moaned. “My husband is dead.”
“No, they’re not,” Jamie said evenly. “And neither is Lorna. Carl faked this. The same way he faked all his previous, tragic passings. He kidnapped Elizabeth, he kidnapped Cory, and he kidnapped Lorna. In order to cause all of us as much pain as humanly possible, while he sits back and laughs at having gotten away with it – again.”
“How can you say that, Jamie?” Rachel’s eyes blazed murder in the direction of her oldest son. “How can you even suggest that Carl could hurt me in such a brutal manner?”
“Because he’s a monster, Mom. Because, deep down, under the Oxford accent, and the tailored suits, and the veneer of charm, and the contrition act, you married a monster.”
“You’re the monster,” Rachel stepped up, slapping Jamie across the face with every ounce of strength she still possessed. “My family is dead. The man I love, two children, your own brother and sister, who had their entire lives ahead of them, they’re gone, and you come here to hurl accusations, to attack me – “
“I came here to find out what happened to my wife. Whom I love, Mom. Who also has two children. Who happen to be your grandchildren.”
“You really think she’s okay, Jamie?” Felicia all but pleaded with her son-in-law. “You think that Lorna is alive.”
“She’s alive,” he confirmed grimly. “But, Carl’s got her.”
“I’m sorry for just dropping by like this…” Grant stood at Sarah’s front door, looking somewhat lost. “I know it’s late, but, I – I was driving around and I – I ended up here.”
She let him in, looking at Grant in a combination of compassion and confusion. “Are you okay?”
“I should be,” he stumbled into the living room, stone cold sober, but feeling as if the floor might still fall out from under him. “I should be more than okay. I should be popping champagne corks.”
“Allie texted me about Carl,” Sarah guessed.
Grant raised his flattened palm and mimed an airplane first coasting, then plunging straight down, complete with attendant sound-effects. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”
Sarah hesitated, suspecting he didn’t know the rest of it. “KBAY News just updated the story. Cory and Elizabeth were on-board, too.”
Grant stared at Sarah in disbelief. And then his legs did finally give out, Grant collapsing on the couch. “Shit.”
“That son of a bitch. That goddamn son-of-a-bitch,” Grant cursed. “Do you know how he treated me over Ryan? The things he said? The things he accused me of? He made it sound like I did it on purpose. Like I murdered my brother in cold blood. And look at him now! His own kids! Carl killed his own kids because he didn’t have the balls to stay and fight like a man. Son of a bitch…”
Sarah settled next to him, stroking the back of Grant’s head in a manner almost identical to what Marley had tried to do only a few hours earlier. This time, he didn’t pull away.
His face buried in his hands, Grant mumbled, “Carl got what he deserved. For Ryan. For Kirkland. For Dad. I hope he suffered. I have his whole, damned, cursed, sadistic life flashed in front of his eyes in that moment before he hit the water.” Grant straightened up, looking at Sarah, his gaze feverish in his intensity. “No. I take that back. I hope the exact opposite happened. I hope, as soon as he realized that this was it, he remembered Rachel. And how much she loved him. How hard she fought for him, the sacrifices she made for him. And how badly he let her down. I hope he felt every ounce of his failure. And, if there is a Hell, I hope he goes on feeling it for eternity.”
“Uh-ha, yeah, great,” Sarah nodded absently, dismissing his entire rant with the wave of a hand. “Except, at the moment, only one I see suffering – is you.”
Grant’s smile was indisputably of the non-joyful variety. “Doesn’t seem fair somehow, does it?”
“What’s really going on?” she asked.
He bit his lower lip, thought about it, hesitated, then confessed. “I don’t know. I should be happy. Ding, dong, the witch is dead, et. al. Instead, all I feel is…”
“Angry,” he finished his thought. Then, considered her suggested and amended, “As well as frustrated.”
“You wanted to kill him yourself,” Sarah said. It wasn’t a question.
He looked at her queerly. “Is that what you really think of me? That I’m a killer?”
“No. But, you are someone who’s spent the past what, twenty years? thinking of how you were going to be the one to bring Carl down, make him pay for everything he did to your family. And now you’ve been deprived of the opportunity.”
Grant’s laugh was more of a disdainful cough. “That’s a remarkable analysis. May I inquire what inspired it?”
“It’s how I would feel if I were in your shoes.” Sarah shrugged.
“You really are Iris Cory’s granddaughter, aren’t you?”
“Underestimating me is always a bad idea,” Sarah confirmed.
“You’re right,” Grant sighed. “You’re absolutely right. That’s exactly how I feel. I keep thinking of the way my father looked as he lay dying. He’d been tortured. Tortured. Carl set all of that up. And he, in turn, got off easy. A quick, painless death.”
Sarah shook her head. “Remember what you said about Carl’s life flashing before his eyes, and thinking about how he’d betrayed Rachel? Even if that didn’t happen, Carl was on-board with his kids. As soon as the plane started going down, he must have realized he didn’t just sign his own death warrant, but Cory and Elizabeth’s, too. He realized he was responsible for their deaths. Think of how torturous that must have been for him.”
“Not enough,” Grant said. “Not nearly enough.”
“You haven’t let your father down, you know.” Sarah seemed to have abruptly changed the subject. Although, in her mind, they were still on track. “Just because you weren’t the one to finally get Carl, that doesn’t mean your Dad would be disappointed in you.”
Grant stared at her for a long, meaningful beat. And then he said, “It really is a very bad idea to underestimate you.”
She beamed, taking it as a compliment.
At the sight of Sarah’s smile, Grant couldn’t help grinning like a loon in return. It was uncanny, really, the effect this young woman had on him. He could enter a room draped in blackness and despair, and all it took was one ray of light from her, and he was floating on air.
Grant leaned in to kiss her, and Sarah let him. However, as soon as Grant’s hand slipped around her waist, she tactfully disengaged it, pushing him back and breaking off the kiss, as well.
“No. Not tonight. Marley is waiting for you at home. You don’t want to worry her.”
“I told her not to wait up,” Grant reassured, trying to pick up where they’d left off.
“She’ll wait up,” Sarah insisted. “And she’ll worry. You don’t want to give her any reason to suspect you.”
Feeling whip-lashed, Grant had to know, “Why are you doing this, Sarah?”
“Because. I told you before. I would never do anything to hurt you. You’re not thinking straight right now. You’re upset. That means it’s up to me to make sure you don’t do anything stupid. I’m looking out for you, Grant. I promised that I would always look out for you.”
“You scared me tonight,” Frankie admitted to Cass as they lay in bed, he with his back to her, while she had rolled over on her side, stroking his bare shoulder, ignoring the fact that he declined to respond. “How angry you sounded. About Carl.”
“He deserved every bit of it. And more,” Cass mumbled into his pillow.
“Maybe. But, you don’t.”
That, at least, got his attention. Cass rolled over to demand, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that, no matter how justified your grudge against him is, it isn’t worth the negative energy and pain you’re bringing upon yourself.”
“Not now, Mary Frances. Please, none of that karmic bullshit, now.”
“You don’t have to believe in karma, Cass, to agree that you’ve been affected. Look at how tight your shoulders and back are. You’re grinding your teeth and clearing your throat. That means you must have bile just churning through your stomach. The anger is literally making you sick.”
“So. Carl isn’t worth it.”
“You’ve got that right.”
“You know,” Frankie began cautiously, hating even admitting it, but knowing it was for the greater good. “I get angry, too. About a lot of things. About an amazing woman like Orly dying before she got to see her son grow up. About a kid Zeno’s age having to deal with adult problems. About Lori Ann being sick and possibly never being able to live a normal life, about Charlie being a virtual stranger to me, about the years Cecile stole from us, and yes, Cass, about the time you added to that when you were in jail. Trust me, if I wanted to, I have plenty to get angry about.”
“I wish you would be,” Cass countered. “I wish you would get good and angry once in a while, instead of meditating your way up to a higher plane of existence and leaving the rest of us to feel like disappointments because we’ve failed to reach your high standards.”
“And what good would it do?” Frankie asked, utterly reasonable, utterly non-pulsed.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what good would my allowing the anger to win do anyone? Would it bring Orly back? Or help Zeno? Cure Lori Ann? Erase the past? The way I see it, Cass, we all have two choices. We can continue letting the people and events that hurt us keep on hurting us, or we can use that energy to try and make the situation better. I could stomp around furious about what the county tried to do to Zeno’s farm, or I could think of ways to help. I could curse the fates – or Donna – about Lori Ann’s disabilities, or I could use my time and resources getting our daughter the best therapy available. When you went to prison, I had the choice of fighting you, or fighting to keep our marriage together. Are you sorry that I went with Option #2?”
“Sometimes,” Cass admitted.
She only stared at him, open-mouthed.
“I wish you had cursed me out. At least a couple of times. I love you, Frankie, and I love being married to you. I am grateful for everything you did while I was in jail. But, you know what, it’s not the easiest thing in the world being married to someone who is just a better person than you in pretty much, well, everything.”
There were so many things Frankie could say at this point. So many arguments she could make, so many past examples to bring up, so many platitudes and wise sayings.
But, instead, she decided to go with the show, not tell approach. As Cass looked up at her, half-defiant, half-terrified at the what he’d allowed himself to confess, already wishing he could take it back, Frankie leaned over, kissing her husband on the mouth while she pressed her body against his, wrapping Cass’ arms around her as she whispered, “Oh, I wouldn’t say everything….”
The look on Jamie’s face when he finally dragged himself home a few hours after midnight more or less told Alice everything she needed to know.
Still, out of a lack of anything else to say, she felt compelled to ask, “Any news?”
“How are the girls?” Jamie ignored her question in favor of a more pressing concern.
“They’re fine. Mackenzie went straight to bed after I fed her. Devon was a little more upset. I stayed with her until she fell asleep. I promised you’d kiss her good-night as soon as you got home.”
“I’ll do that,” Jamie nodded, though he looked too exhausted to even make it to the couch, much less upstairs. Too tired even to think of a logical transition as he flatly told Alice, “Carl’s got Lorna.”
Alice froze in her tracks, stunned into silence.
“She disappeared the same day he fled the country. Who else could it have been?”
“But, Jamie, in that case – “
“He’s not dead. Carl’s not dead, Cory and Elizabeth aren’t dead, and Lorna isn’t dead. He’s got them all stashed somewhere. No matter what Mom may think.”
“You’ve talked to your mother?”
“How is she?”
“Still brain-washed,” Jamie decreed. “Unable to imagine that her husband has kidnapped her children and her daughter-in-law, then faked his own death yet again.”
“You can’t blame her, Jamie. Think of what she’s been through in just the past twelve hours.”
“How about what I’ve been through? What Devon and Mackenzie have been through? What Lorna is going through, still. The evidence is staring her straight in the face, and Mom just refuses to believe it. Lorna would not have left of her own volition. She was taken by force. And there is only one person who has that kind of power over her.”
Alice said, “I don’t know whether you’d consider this evidence, but…” she moved over to the table, where she’d dropped the girls’ diaper bag upon coming in. “I was looking for Mackenzie’s pacifier. I found… these.”
Alice handed Jamie all three of Lorna’s rings; wedding, engagement, and Mercury dime.
He stared at the trio of gold circles in his palm, a maelstrom of emotions washing across his face until Jamie tightened his fist, driving the edges into his skin. He looked pleased, if grimmer than ever. He said, “Even if Mom were right, even if Lorna had run out on me, she’d only leave the wedding and engagement rings. Though, following Mom’s logic, she’d have hocked them first. She’d never get rid of the Mercury Dime, though. She’s had it her entire life. It’s how Felicia and Lucas found her. There’s no reason for her to put it with the rest. Except to send us a message.”
“She’s not dead,” Felicia insisted frantically to Lucas following her making a beeline to the hotel where he was currently staying and filling Lorna’s father in on everything that had transpired that day. “Jamie is sure of it. Carl has her. But, she’s not dead.”
Lucas sat across from her, shaking with a combination of shock and barely controlled rage. “Jamie doesn’t know anything,” he insisted. “He’s just grasping at straws.”
Felicia stared at him oddly. “Now you sound like Rachel.”
“Rachel was married to Carl. She understood him better than anyone.”
“Not well enough to realize that he was planning on absconding with her children. And ours.”
“Carl loved Rachel,” Lucas said. “Making her think he’s dead…”
“You mean, like you did to me?” Felicia realized it was a low blow. But, she was still recovering from the shock of hearing Lucas side with Rachel and Carl over her and Jamie.
“Like I did to you,” he agreed tiredly. “Except I had a damn good reason.”
“So does Carl! He was going to be arrested. He was facing never seeing Elizabeth and Cory again! He was desperate. You know how Carl gets when he’s desperate.”
“And Lorna? Where does she fit in?”
“He blamed her and Jamie for destroying his family. So Carl turned around and destroyed theirs. He threatened them both with it. He told them if they didn’t withdraw their objections and allow him to reunite with Rachel, they’d be sorry.”
“So you think Carl has Lorna stashed away somewhere? That he’s holding her prisoner?”
“More or less.”
“Keeping her from her family, forcing her to live knowing that her children are growing up without her, that her husband is going through Hell mourning her, that you and I have lost both of our daughters?”
Felicia nodded, her eyes filling with tears, thankful that at least he believed her now.
“If that’s the case, Fanny, then you’d better wish Lorna really is dead. Because an existence like that is Hell on Earth. Believe me, I know.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|