“Hello, darling,” Iris brushed Dennis’ cheek with her lips, already on the way into his apartment. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by to see how….”
“Your baby boy is doing very well, Iris,” Marley drawled from where she sat, naked save for a sheet in Dennis’ bed, smiling like the proverbial cat digesting his canary.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Iris flung her coat down into a nearby chair and turned to face them both, arms on her hips, prepped for war. “How much more of this am I expected to put up with?”
“No one invited you, Mom,” Dennis reminded, himself addressing his mother while wearing only a robe.
“If I’ve told you once, I must have told you a million times; she’s using you, plain and simple. Your sweet little Marley went sour a long time ago. And you’re the last one to recognize it.”
“I think I know Marley a little bit better than you do, Mom.”
“Intimately, as a matter of fact,” Marley piped up.
Iris refused to allow either one of them to throw her off course. “And a married woman, Dennis? Honestly? That’s just… gauche.”
“Not for long,” Dennis said.
“You mean you’ve come to your senses, at last?”
“One of use has.” Dennis beamed at Marley.
Who, in turn, informed Iris, “Grant and I are over.”
“Did you ever truly begin?”
“She’s left him, Mom. Marley has left Grant. She’s with me now.”
Iris gaped at Dennis in horror. But what came out of her mouth was not at all what he’d expected. “Why you selfish, selfish boy!”
“Excuse me? I’m selfish for wanting to be with the woman I love?”
“Yes! When Marley being with you means Grant is free again to pursue our Sarah!”
“Oh, give it a rest, Mom.”
“That geriatric Lothario already came close to ruining Sarah’s life once. Do you really want to give him the chance to do it again? What kind of a father are you?”
“One who stays out of his adult daughter’s love life,” Dennis informed Iris pointedly. Although, as per usual, his meaning was lost on her.
“And that is precisely the problem. Poor Sarah never received a spot of adequate guidance. From you or from that sorry excuse for a mother of hers. No wonder she found herself bouncing from inappropriate relationship to inappropriate relationship. See her role model!” She indicated first Dennis then, with a look of utter disgust, Marley.
“Sarah is a grown woman.” Dennis wasn’t sure how they’d segued from one argument to the other, but he was determined to try and win, in any case. “She’s smart, capable, and she can make her own choices.”
“Of course, she’s smart. And she should have been capable of making her own choices. If she’d been raised properly; taught to follow her head instead of her heart. As it is, the poor, innocent girl is downright adolescent in her behavior, all starry-eyed romance and no common sense. She is defenseless and frail and vulnerable – “
“And likely in Grant’s bed right now,” Marley couldn’t keep from adding, enjoying the stunned looks on both Iris and Dennis’ faces, temporarily indifferent to the consequences.
“She’s still in there, Alice,” Jamie insisted to his stepmother, sitting in her office at Bay City Hospital, having come in for a consultation about a patient, but ending up with a heart to heart about himself. “I can see it. I can feel it. The way she responded when we were together, she knows me.”
Alice cleared her throat discreetly, deliberately addressing the topic like a medical issue, and Jamie as if he were just another patient. “You and Lorna, before she disappeared, the two of you had a very… physical relationship?”
“Isn’t it possible, then, that what you’re interpreting as Lorna recognizing you and her remembering at least some aspect of your life together, is merely just the same physical attraction manifesting itself?”
“It wasn’t just what she did, okay? It was the things she said. She’s said them before.”
“You and I both know that in cases of head injury and subsequent amnesia, the patient might unconsciously echo conversations from the past, without there being any further significance to it.”
Jamie said, “When she was telling me to get lost, Lorna asked if I got off forcing myself on women.”
“At first, I didn’t know how to react. I mean, I got that I went too far sneaking up and kissing her. But, then it occurred to me: only a handful of people know about what I did to Cecile. You, Frankie, Russ. And Lorna. That’s not something Carl could have told her or something she read on-line. Lorna knows. She knows that if there is one thing in this world that will make me back down, it’s that.”
“Or it could have just been a damn, lucky guess.”
“Lorna doesn’t believe in those,” Jamie mumbled.
“Wasn’t Lorna, herself, raped once?”
“Yeah. But that happened after she came to Bay City. So, theoretically, she shouldn’t remember that, either.”
“You think Lorna is faking her amnesia?”
“Maybe not deliberately. But something is going on. Maybe she’s fighting her memories coming back.”
“Which is also relatively common. Having twenty years come snowballing down at you all at one time can be overwhelming.”
“She’s pushing me away,” Jamie said. “Something’s changed. She wasn’t like this even a week ago.”
“Maybe she’s afraid you’ve gotten too close. And maybe it scares her.”
Jamie smiled grimly. “Now that definitely sounds like Lorna. It’s okay, it’s a hurdle we cleared once. I’m ready and willing to do it again, but what am I supposed to do, Alice?”
His stepmother gave it some thought. And then she offered, “How about something… drastic?”
Kirkland behaved like a perfect gentleman when he came to pick Jasmine up for the date he’d promised. He remained a perfect gentleman all throughout dinner, the movie he took her to, and driving her home.
He expected to be a perfect gentleman as they sat in the car on the stone-carved driveway leading up to the backdoor of the Cory Mansion. Kirkland was saying good-night to Jazz when she all but leapt over the gear-shift and into Kirkland’s lap, kissing him in a manner that was neither cousinly, nor particularly just-turned-seventeen.
He responded instinctively, because that was the mechanical… not to mention polite… thing to do. But, when Kirkland realized that Jasmine had a lot more in mind than just a good-night kiss, even a particularly amorous one, he gently attempted to extricate himself and ease her back into the passenger seat.
Except Jasmine wasn’t having any of it.
“Come on,” she urged him. “I know you want to.”
“Actually, Jazz, I don’t.” He held her at arm’s length and attempted to look stern, all the while wondering when he’d become the grown up.
“You mean,” she made a face. “You don’t want to… with me.”
“That, too,” he agreed, trying to sound pleasant and reasonable.
“Why not?” Jasmine demanded, leaning back until she was pressed against the steering wheel. Kirkland winced. The last thing he needed was for her to accidentally honk the horn. And for Lila to come out and see what was going on.
“Well, for one thing, because you’re seventeen, and the technical term for that with guys my age is jailbait.”
“You slept with Charlie when she was my age.”
“We were both the same age,” Kirkland clarified. “And that’s beside the point. I was in love with Charlie.”
“She wasn’t in love with you.”
“Thanks for bringing that up.”
“If I said I was in love with you, would you do it then?”
“Oh, fine.” She flopped back into her seat. And Kirkland let out a sigh of relief. Though she wasn’t quite done yet. “Go ahead. Leave me to be the world’s oldest virgin.”
“I really don’t think you’re in contention for the title,” Kirkland reassured, even as he wished she’d change the subject.
“I’m the oldest one at school.”
“Don’t believe that, either.”
“I’m serious. Ask around. Everyone has done it, except for me.”
“I assume those statistics are self-reported.”
“Come on, Kirk, I want you to be my first. You’re a nice guy. You like me. Right?”
“I do. In fact, I like you too much to mess this up for you.”
“Your first time should be really special, Jazz, okay? It should be with someone you care about. That way, even if it doesn’t work out, you know you haven’t… that you haven’t thrown yourself away on… on nothing.”
“You’re not nothing.”
“I’m nothing to you. You deserve better. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.” He stared out the window.
And Jasmine ventured to ask, “Are you sorry that Charlie was your first? I mean, because of how everything turned out.”
He tapped the glass aimlessly with his fingers. “Maybe. A little bit.”
“Charlie was pretty screwed up then. You know, the stuff she did to Allie and everything.”
“At least Charlie had an excuse. The dumb stuff I’ve done… that was all on me. I don’t want you making the same mistakes, Jazz. Promise me this,” he indicated what had just happened in the car between them. “Promise me there won’t be a repeat performance. Not with me, not with anybody. Promise me you’ll wait until you love somebody, and you’re pretty sure he loves you. You’re too special of a person not to.”
“Why are you showing me this, Rachel?” Russ leafed through the stacks of files and photos and documents she’d brought him. All in the interest of proving to Russ that his wife had, in fact, been trying to kill Rachel’s husband, her children, and Jamie’s wife.
“I wanted you to see the sort of woman you married. Listen to me, Russ, please. I know what it’s like to want to see the good in Iris. Believe it or not, I’ve been trying the same thing myself for the past thirty-plus years. No matter what she may have done, she is still Mac’s baby girl. He loved her, and he did his best to believe in her.”
“You’re calling her a killer.”
“She already went to prison once for trying to murder Carl.”
“An accident, and you damn well know that.”
“I tried, Russ. I really did. I kept telling myself that all the things Iris did, they were… petty. Yes, she hurt people. Yes, she played games and manipulated and blackmailed and ruined lives. But, those were the actions of a spoiled child. I tried to look the other way. I can’t look the other way when she hires assassins to go after my family.”
“All this evidence. Where did it come from?”
Rachel knew exactly what he was asking, and she gave him the answer he expected. “Carl.”
Russ swept the tableau onto the floor with a single stroke. “And you expect me to believe it?”
“Yes. Because what’s in those folders is what forced my husband to take my children and my grandchildren’s mother and to go on the run for three years. It’s what forced me to lie to my son… and to you. I would never, ever have done it, unless it was literally a case of life and death. And now I’m afraid it is, again. Your life and death.”
“So now Iris is a serial killer?”
“Your wife is involved with some very, very dangerous people. People who don’t care who becomes collateral damage on their path to victory. The compound wants to regain the control they lost when Carl, Spencer and Lucas exposed them. You think they would hesitate to sacrifice you, if it looked like you might be in their way?”
“And how would I, a humble, small-town doctor,” Russ spat. “Ever get in the way of people like that? Save for, of course, my relationship with Carl Hutchins’ wife? And him looking to express his displeasure about it.”
“Iris thinks she’s a killer,” Rachel said. “But, she’s not in their league. She’s vulnerable. There’s you, there’s Dennis, there’s Sarah, there’s Daisy. The first time she steps out of line, the compound will come after all of you. Iris was put in charge of getting revenge on Carl and Lucas. She botched the job. How do you think the compound will respond to that?”
“It’s been months,” Russ noted. “And nothing’s happened.”
“I’m sure that’s because Iris has told them she’s biding her time, looking for the perfect opportunity to strike again. Except I’m not about to give her the chance. We’re leaving town, Russ. Carl, the children and I. Going to where no one will ever find us.”
“How nice. And I presume your other children, Jamie, Amanda, Matt… that would be the collateral damage you referred to earlier?”
“Jamie, Amanda, and Matt made their choice where Carl was concerned a long time ago. My relationship with them is none of your business.”
“And neither is mine with Iris. In fact, if you’re so sure she’s gunning for your family, why come here and tell me you’re leaving? Aren’t you afraid I’m going to tip her off?”
“Because I care about you. And I wanted to give you every opportunity to extricate yourself from this treacherous liaison of yours before it’s too late.”
“I’d say Physician, Heal Thyself, but, you know, I’m the doctor here, so it wouldn’t really work.”
“And also because I’m giving you a choice. If you really trust Iris as much as you claim you do, go ahead, tell her that Carl and I are leaving. Just remember, whatever happens after that, will be all on you.” Rachel kissed Russ on the cheek. “I know you’ll do the right thing. I’m betting my life on it.”
“And then, of course, it turns out not to be Rachel’s file, after all!” Donna announced triumphantly over Skype, having decided that Cass and Frankie were dying to hear every detail of her and Matt’s adventures thus far, including her husband’s ever so clever stunt with Anna, and Donna’s own role in prying open the dead doctor’s filing cabinet.
“It says Mrs. Carl Hutchins,” Matt attempted to hurry his wife along. “But, the patient description is definitely Lorna. Height, weight, age… also, the obvious… most people come to the clinic for plastic surgery, and this was a brain injury.”
“So that’s where Carl brought Lorna,” Cass tapped a pen against his teeth.
“They are known for their discretion,” Matt reminded. “And it looks like the surgery he performed was in total secrecy. No other attending staff members are listed. The doctor might even have brought in people from the outside, people he – and Carl – could trust.”
“Does it say anything about how Lorna got hurt?” Frankie asked.
Matt turned the file over so that the Winthrops could see. “It says she slipped on the ice and hit her head. She must have been lying there for quite a while, too, because they note having to treat her for hypothermia.”
“Can you bring that closer?” Frankie gestured for Matt to move his arm. “And show me the top part… yes, there, perfect.”
“What do you see?” Cass turned to his wife.
Frankie rifled through the notes she’d already taken on the case, double-checked, then tapped the computer screen with her nail. “The date of patient admission. See anything interesting about it?”
“May 7, 2013?”
Frankie showed him her notebook so he could see for himself. “That’s the day that Rachel supposedly didn’t get a phone call from Cory. About Lorna.”
Amanda had to hand it to Iris. Her sister’s state of the art listening devices were, as advertised, top of the line and seriously effective.
Amanda could hear everything going on in his office.
She heard Kevin talking to potential adoptive parents, guiding them through the process, offering assurance at the same time as he tried to manage expectations, consoling them through the inevitable broken hearts and celebrating their successes.
She heard him talking to birth mothers, giving them the same speech that he once gave Allie, promising that, if they changed their minds, Kevin would take care of everything and he wouldn’t blame them. But also urging them to be absolutely certain about what they were doing, because regrets down the line would only haunt everyone involved
Amanda had forgotten how good he was at this. How seriously he took his job and what a good person he was, trying to do right by everyone but, most importantly, the child in question.
Amanda’s heart melted and she shifted uncomfortably in her office chair, where she sat with a discrete bud tucked into each ear, spying on her husband.
What the hell was she doing? Why was she doing this? Amanda loved Kevin. Didn’t that mean she should trust him, too?
It was bad enough he’d spent over two years in prison, having his every move monitored. Did Kevin really need to face more of the same at home?
Amanda resolved to put an end to her disgusting actions once and for all.
Just as soon as she listened to Kevin’s conversation with Lila.
It wasn’t very interesting to start. They really did sound like a pair of friends catching up. They talked about Jasmine and about Jen. Lila mentioned that Jazz had vetoed working at Cory in favor of finding her own position. Amanda tried not to take it too personally.
Kevin said that it looked like Steven had finally finished his PhD thesis, all that was left now for him and GQ was to defend it.
Amanda also tried not to take personally the fact that he knew something about her own nephew that she didn’t.
Amanda waited for Lila to bring up their earlier conversation. But, it seemed Kevin’s wife didn’t warrant a spot on their agenda.
They just kept chatting amiably. And then, in passing, they chatted about the fact that Kevin hadn’t really been the one responsible for Horace’s death. That he’d only taken the blame. For Steven.
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