Dennis waited until after Iris had gone flying out of his apartment upon hearing that Sarah and Grant were ostensibly back together to turn towards Marley, still sitting naked in his bed, wrapped in only a sheet to observe, “So that’s why you came to me. Because Grant went back to Sarah.”
“Not at all,” she swore. “I don’t know anything about Sarah and Grant. I just said that to upset Iris and get her out of here. I mean, I assume now that he’s a free man, Grant will make a beeline straight back to Sarah. But that has nothing to do with my being here with you.”
“You once told me you’d never leave Grant, because that would make it harder for you to go after his fortune or custody of Daisy.”
“I don’t want either of those things, anymore. I never wanted Grant’s money; I have plenty of my own. It was about making him pay. I used to care about that. But, now I don’t. Live and let live. If he and Sarah want each other so badly, they deserve each other.”
“And Daisy? They’re her biological parents.”
“And you’re her grandfather, which means I’ll still get to be a part of her life.”
“You’re so sure about us,” Dennis suddenly sounded much less so.
“You love me,” Marley reminded, rising to her knees and moving closer to Dennis, letting the sheet fall. “And I love you. It’s the only thing I am sure of.”
He stepped away, thinking. “So it won’t bother you, seeing Grant and Sarah and Daisy together as a family?”
“If that happens,” Marley pointed out. “Your daughter is not a dumb girl. Do you really think she’ll take Grant back after everything he did to her?”
“Love is… complicated.”
“And Grant thinks Sarah is dating someone else, anyway. Some boy her own age. If that’s case, why would she give Grant the time of day? He’s going to end up with nothing, mark my words. I can’t wait.”
“If you no longer care about him, why should that make a difference?”
“Who said I didn’t care about Grant? I said I didn’t love him. But, I haven’t loved him in years. As your mother so astutely pointed out, we’re not over – we never began. I don’t love him. But, I am going to enjoy watching him suffer. He won’t have me to hide behind the next time Sarah kicks him to the curb. He’ll be exposed for what he really is: An over-the-hill, desperate, pathetic loser without a friend in the world or a child to call his own. You know what Grant did to Vicky. To Amanda, to Lorna, to me. It’s about time he got a little of his own back. But, that,” Marley pulled Dennis to her. “Has nothing to do with you and me and the wonderful future we’re going to have together.”
“I’ve been waiting for this for so long…” Dennis allowed himself a moment of hope.
“It’ll be worth the wait,” Marley swore. “I promise. Everyone is finally going to get exactly what they deserve.”
“Hi, Steven,” Frankie welcomed her cousin into her house. “Thanks for stopping by.”
“You said this had to do with Carl and Lorna.”
Frankie nodded. “Have a seat,” she gestured towards the couch and Steven accepted her invitation, still not sure exactly what he was doing there. She told him, “Lucas hired Cass and I to investigate Lorna’s disappearance.”
Steven nodded, “Good. You know, my dad doesn’t buy a word of Carl’s cock-and-bull story.”
“Neither does Lucas.”
“Well, Carl says Lucas was in on the whole thing.”
“Lucas denies it. Which is where Cass and I come in.” She showed Steven the medical report Donna and Matt had scanned and emailed over. “This looks to be the clinic where Lorna was taken for her head injury.”
Steven nodded, reading it over, then asked, “Can I have a copy to show Jen? She’s not a neurologist, but she might have some insight on Lorna’s amnesia – from a cognitive perspective.”
“Of course,” Frankie said, clicking her phone. “I’ve emailed it to you.”
“Let me know if Jen sees something interesting. But, in the meantime, here’s what I noticed. Look at the date of admission. It’s the same as that phone-call from Cory that your grandmother got. The one that you proved was a fake.”
“It was definitely a fake. The first word, “Mom,” and the second one, “Loran,” were recorded at different volumes and frequencies, like they’d been spliced together from two separate recordings.”
“Were you able to figure out who might have sent it?”
“No. It was a clean, professional job. But, Grandma seemed pretty certain Hamilton was behind it.”
“Chase denied knowing anything about it.”
“He’s a politician. Isn’t that his job?”
Frankie ventured, “I had a strange thought, Steven. Would you just bear with me while I pick your brain a little?”
“Okay,” Steven said, as unenthused as he ever was when amateur tried to speak tech.
Frankie noticed his disdain, but plugged on, anyway. She said, “What if Cory did call Rachel in order to leave that message? He was calling to tell Rachel that Lorna had been hurt. But, what if someone went in later and made the message seem fake?”
Steven was looking at Frankie now, less annoyed, more intrigued.
Emboldened, she went on, “There was plenty of time. After all, Rachel didn’t admit she’d gotten the call until Chase exposed her. He’d bugged her line – “
“Which meant he could have gone in and faked the message.”
“But, why would he? It wasn’t in his best interests. He’d have no reason for faking an actual call. And he certainly would have no reason to expose a fake call if he knew in advance that’s what it was.”
“You’re wondering if Carl could have done it?”
Steven gave the matter some thought. “Technically it’s possible. Someone could have logged in remotely, heard the original message, chopped it up and altered it to make it sound fake, then replaced the authentic message. If that’s what happened, he sure fooled me.”
“Is that something you could investigate?”
“Yeah. I mean, the first time, I didn’t go any deeper than I needed to prove that the message was patched together. I didn’t bother to check if it had overwritten something else.”
“Would you now? I’d pay you for your time, of course.”
“Forget it. If this helps Dad and Lorna… no charge, don’t worry about it.”
“And if you do prove that the message was tampered with, can you figure out who did it?”
“That’s a little trickier. I could try tracing ISP addresses, but that’s more or less a dead end unless I have access to the servers Carl used while he was on the run. It would be great if I knew where he was hiding out – at least the general area, anyway. Or his phone number, that would be good, too. Heck, even the phone number of anyone he called. I could reverse engineer from that. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be a start.”
“Hey, Mom,” Charlie tromped down into the living room. “Hi, Steven.”
Charlie told her mother, “I’m going out.”
“Okay,” Frankie said distantly. “Where?”
“Elizabeth’s house,” Charlie said.
What was wrong with that guy? Did he not know how to take a hint?
Lorna stood at her window the next morning, furious at the sight of Jamie’s car pulling into the driveway. She grew even angrier as she watched him unload the stroller, then plop first one kid, then the other into it.
Was he seriously going to force her to see Devon and Mackenzie? After Lorna had expressly told him she wanted nothing to do with any of them?
She’d kill Jamie, first.
As he began pushing the stroller towards the house, Lorna couldn’t decide whether she wanted to run down and scream at him for doing this to her, or simply hide and claim she wasn’t home. What was the point of having servants, after all, if not to lie for you?
Didn’t Jamie realize what this would do to the kids, being confronted with a mother who didn’t remember them, who didn’t want to remember them? Was Jamie out of his mind? What was he thinking?
Lorna fought the urge to pound on the glass and shoo him away before either of the girls saw her.
But then, something unexpected happened.
Marley showed up.
Why was Marley….
She stood chatting with Jamie for a few minutes and then, without any warning, Jamie handed the stroller over to her, kissed each of the girls good-by, turned on his heel, got back into his car and drove away.
Leaving Marley with his children.
With their children.
If Lorna thought she’d felt angry before, that was nothing compared to the fury that shot through her now.
She flew down the stairs, out the front the door and into Marley’s face before Lorna even realized she was doing it.
Shaking with rage, Lorna only took a moment to note that both Devon and Mackenzie were sleeping before she exploded, “Get your hands off my kids, you psychotic bitch!”
“I told Grant I’d marry him,” Sarah filled in Kirkland, half thrilled, half embarrassed, half… something she couldn’t quite identify.
“Okay,” Kirkland nodded his head in exactly the same way Grant did when he wasn’t sure how to react to what he’d been told.
“Of course, he still needs to divorce Marley, first…”
“Yeah… How is… Is that going to happen?”
“He says he told her about me.”
“And Marley is… cool?”
“There’s not really much she can do.”
Kirkland smirked. “Don’t bet on it.”
“She doesn’t want Grant.”
“Doesn’t mean she wants you to have him.”
“She can’t really stop us,” Sarah repeated.
“Is that all you’re going to say?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted.
“Do you love him?” Kirkland ended up beseeching, when he’d intended nothing of the sort.
“I do,” she said.
“I mean, I think I do.”
“You’re not sure?” Kirkland asked, dumbfounded.
“I don’t know,” she confessed. “I mean, everything happened so fast. Grant spent years – literally years – claiming he didn’t want me and then, all of a sudden…”
“So you don’t love him?”
“I did,” Sarah swore. “I’m sure of that. I loved him so much. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done for him. Daisy… I had Daisy because I wanted to make him happy. To finally let him be a dad to a baby he’d never have to give up.”
“Except he did. He tried to, anyway.”
“That was for my sake. Everything he’s done – even marrying Marley – that was all for my sake. Because he loved me so much.”
“I don’t get it,” Kirkland said. “If Grant worked so Goddamn hard to protect you from himself, why is he changing his tune now?”
“Because he says he can’t live without me. Do you know how long I waited for him to say that? I used to fantasize about it. And now it’s all happening.”
“Too fast,” Kirkland reminded. “You said it’s all happening too fast.”
“But, that’s good, isn’t it? The faster the better. Maybe if we get married right away, Daisy won’t even remember that there ever was a time when we were apart. She’ll grow up with a mother and a father in the same house. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something you wish you’d had?”
“Not my mother and my father,” he qualified. “They’d have killed each other. They’ve both tried to, you know.”
“It’s different with Grant and me. Grant loves me.”
“Grant loved my mom.”
“But, she… I thought… Ryan…”
“Yeah. My mom was in love with someone else when she married Grant. And that just went really, really bad; really, really fast.”
“So it wasn’t Grant’s fault then,” Sarah announced triumphantly, as if Kirkland had given her the answer she’d been searching for. “Grant could have been a great husband and father, if your mom had let him.”
“You’re right,” Kirkland agreed. “She shouldn’t have married him while she was in love with someone else. But, Ryan had dumped her for cheating on him with Grant, and Mom figured, what the hell? In for a penny, in for a pound. She convinced herself she could make it work with Grant. That she could forget Ryan. Well, guess what? She never forgot Ryan. That’s what drove my dad around the bend. He’s never gotten over it; her breaking his heart like that.”
“Grant broke my heart,” Sarah said softly. “I didn’t think I’d ever get over it, either.”
“But, you’re still going to marry him.”
“He needs me,” Sarah said. “Grant needs somebody to love him. That’s all he’s ever needed.”
Kirkland rolled his eyes. “Seriously?”
“He loves me,” Sarah said. “I can’t let him down. That’s what all those other women did. I’m not like them.”
“No,” Kirkland sighed. “You’re not. That’s the problem.”
In response to Lorna’s outburst, Marley only raised her head, her eyes focused on a spot somewhere behind Lorna.
Lorna whipped around. To find Jamie standing there, watching them both.
Smiling. Not so much with triumph, but with relief.
“You remember,” he said softly, not giving her any room for argument, making it clear that he knew the truth, so Lorna might as well drop her pretense. “You remember Marley.”
Lorna looked from one to the other, her brain spinning desperately, searching fruitlessly for an excuse she could make to disprove whatever it was Jamie thought he knew.
“You remember that I hit you with my car,” Marley swallowed hard, nearly gagging on the words. “That you thought I was a threat to your kids.”
“So what? I read about that. I knew about Morgan and Jamie going to court while I was in coma, so, of course, I knew…”
“We settled things privately,” Jamie corrected. “That was never a matter of public record.”
“Carl told me,” Lorna insisted.
“Carl doesn’t know.”
“You’d be surprised by what Carl knows,” Lorna went for her Hail Mary pass, already knowing it wouldn’t land.
“You remember,” Jamie insisted. “Why else would you be so angry to see Marley with Devon and Zee?”
“You set me up,” she accused.
“Yes,” Jamie agreed.
Backing away, Marley said, “I’ll take the girls to Felicia’s, like we arranged, Jamie.”
“Thank you,” he said. Then, looking her in the eye, Jamie said, “Thank you, Marley. I - You and I, we’re… good.”
Marley beamed. “It’s about time.” She maneuvered the stroller with the still-sleeping girls down the driveway, telling Lorna over her shoulder, “He’s a good guy. I’d hold on to him, if I were you.”
“Who the hell is she to be giving me advice?” Lorna fumed to Jamie. Because if she stopped being angry even for a moment… well, Lorna couldn’t imagine what might happen if she stopped being angry. Or, rather, she could imagine it, all too well.
“Lorna,” Jamie repeated again.
She expected him to be angry, too. Furious. Fed up. He didn’t appear to be any of those things. And then Lorna realized she didn’t expect that at all. Because this was Jamie. And, no matter what, he could never ever really be fed up with her. No more than she could be with him.
“No,” Lorna whimpered, shaking her head. He didn’t understand, he couldn’t understand, and she could never, ever tell him.
“It’s okay,” he swore. “Whatever it is, it’s okay.”
“No,” she insisted.
“Yes,” he corrected in a tone that was less argumentative and more consoling.
“I’m sorry,” she began.
“Nothing to be sorry about.” He was inching towards her, his arms both out. All Lorna had to do was take a tiny step, a single step, and there he was, waiting for her.
“You shouldn’t have done it.”
“I had to.”
“Devon and Zee… If they heard…”
“It’s their nap time. They’re used to sleeping in the stroller. They didn’t hear a thing. I knew they wouldn’t. I’d never risk….”
“They’re so beautiful, Jamie. Even more than I could have imagined. I’ve missed them so much. I’ve missed you… You have no idea.”
“I do,” he reassured. “Believe me, I do.” He was standing right next to her now. “It’s going to be okay, Lorna. Whatever it is, it’s going to be okay.”
She allowed him to hold her. She allowed him to tell her, “You’re home now, and that’s the only thing that matters. You’re home.”
And she allowed herself to believe him.
But, only for a moment.
Because, ultimately, Lorna knew better.
“My, my. All this work… For me.” Iris critically eyed the folder Rachel had left with Russ, outlining Iris’ alleged crimes against humanity in general, and one Carl Hutchins in particular.
“Chase Hamilton wouldn’t accept it. He said all the evidence was unverified.”
“Not to mention fabricated,” Iris dismissed, then wondered, “And what did dear Rachel expect you to do with it?”
“Are you to torture a confession out of me, darling? That sounds rather fun.”
“Rachel is afraid for her husband and children’s lives.”
“And well she should be. If I’d lived the sort of infamy Carl has, I’d be expecting assassins and grudge-holders to materialize out of every shadow. I have no doubt there is an entire army out there of citizens who wish to see Carl dead.”
“You among them?”
“Of course.” She looked Russ in the eye. “But, that doesn’t mean I would take steps to make my dreams a reality.”
“You did once.”
“And I served my time for it. Rather unfair, don’t you think? I languished in jail over a decade for the crime of attempted murder, while Carl continued to walk about free.”
“Rachel thinks you finally decided to rectify your mistake.”
“Rachel can take a flying leap from the parapet of that over-decorated monstrosity she’s turned into a lair for her felonious husband, for all I care.”
“What? For goodness’ sake, Russ, if you have something to say to me, say it. I’m a big girl, I can take. Unlike Rachel, I don’t fall apart and commence throwing tantrums the moment someone looks at me cross-eyed. You’ve been wanting to say something to me from the moment I walked in. Out with it, already. What’s on your mind, my darling?”
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