“If you had the evidence to arrest my wife,” Jamie informed Toni through clenched teeth as she stood on his doorstep. “You would have come with a warrant. Since you didn’t, I know you’re just fishing. So, no, Chief Burrell, you may not come in.”
Toni’s expression didn’t flicker, even as she pointed out, “We can always come back with one.”
“You do that,” Jamie suggested, slamming the door in her face.
“I’m sure that didn’t piss them off at all,” Lorna observed lightly, having watched their exchange, more worried about Jamie’s anger and the toll it was bound to take on him than by what all of it might mean to her.
“I don’t give a damn,” Jamie snapped, realizing that Lorna was trying to lighten the mood for his sake, and doing his best to give her what she needed. “They’ve got nothing except Mom’s word for it. No physical evidence, no corroboration. Toni showing up like that was a glorified piece of performance art dedicated to the political cause of staying on the great Rachel Hutchins’ good side.”
Lorna said, “Rachel must have her reasons – “
“I don’t give a damn about those, either,” Jamie dismissed. “Mom wants to go after you? Fine. She’ll have to go through me, first.”
“Thank you,” Lorna told Jamie sincerely, wrapping her arms around him and popping up on her toes to give him a kiss before stepping back and changing the subject, “So, next topic: We all know I’m not a particularly nice person, right?”
He rested his fingers briefly on his lips. “That was nice…”
“I have my moments,” she conceded. “But, overall, nice is not the first word that comes to mind when my name comes up. Will you at least agree to that?”
“Where is this going, Lorna?”
“It’s going here: As I am not a nice person, you understand that it is not from the bottom of my heart but from the height of my selfishness that I’m telling you, Jamie – Do not go to war with your mother over me. I can take care of myself. This blip with Carl is temporary. Your relationship with Rachel has to last a lifetime. She already blames me for so much. Let’s not add ruining her bond with you to that list.”
“If my mother thinks I’m going to take her falsely accusing you of attempted murder sitting down – “
“I don’t think Rachel sees this as having anything to do with you. It’s about me. There is no reason for you to get in the middle.”
Jamie said, “Remember when I had to leave our wedding to go chase down Marley and Grant for trying to run off with the twins?”
“I’ve got a picture of it in the album.”
“You said something about the vows having a part that goes: Wither you go, I goest with you.”
“I lied. There is nothing about that in the vows. I told you I wasn’t very nice.”
“I know,” Jamie said. “But I liked the sound of it enough to let you tag along. Will you do the same for me?”
Lorna turned serious. “When I wanted to go with you to ransom Kirkland, you told me, no, Devon needed one parent at home in case… just in case.” She reminded, “That’s still true. Devon and Zee need one of us home to take care of them… just in case.”
“They’ll have both of us,” Jamie promised. “Just like they should have from the start.”
“Not if you get yourself thrown into jail for obstruction of justice, or whatever they call it, by defending me! What did your pissing off Toni really accomplish, except give her another reason to get that warrant?”
“It bought us time to get our ducks in a row,” Jamie said firmly. “To call Mike Bauer. You are not saying a word to the cops or anyone without a lawyer present. Mom wants to see you behind bars? She’s going to have work for it. They all are.”
“So what do you think?” Sarah timidly asked Kirkland after Grant had taken Daisy out to play in the snow, giving his son and his wife some privacy to discuss his offer.
“I think…” Kirkland shrugged. “I think the same thing I said before: What’s in it for him?”
“He says he’s just trying to do what’s best for both of us. Don’t you believe him?”
Another shrug. “Do you?”
Sarah’s hesitation told Kirkland everything he needed to know.
She scratched her nose sheepishly. “It’s pretty rotten of us, isn’t it? Suspecting Grant of having an ulterior motive?”
“We both know who we’re dealing with.”
“He’s trying to change. He has changed. He loves me, I know he does.”
“He loved my mom, too.”
“We’ve talked about that,” Sarah insisted. “The way he treated your mom, that’s exactly what Grant is trying to avoid by doing this. He doesn’t want to get too possessive of me. And he wants me to have my own thing, outside of him.”
“With me,” Kirkland stressed.
“Yeah….” Sarah said, “You still think he knows about us?”
“I’m not sure. But, I told you, the way he was cross-examining me awhile back about you, and talking about my mom and Ryan and how I’m the only one who could save him from going down that path again… What was I supposed to think?”
“So this is a… test, or something?”
“Maybe. Who knows?”
“And if we say no, what do you think will happen?”
“He’ll probably just come up with some other way to throw us together and see what happens.”
“What does he expect to happen?”
Kirkland raised an eyebrow.
And Sarah promptly punched him in the arm. “You know it’s not!”
“I know it’s not. And you know it’s not. But, Grant….”
“I don’t think he knows,” Sarah asserted, more for her benefit than his.
“Because. He’d be… different, if he did. I don’t think he’d be able to look at me in the same way again, if he knew that you and I….”
“So we’ve got nothing to worry about then, right?”
“Right.” Her voice wavered only a very little bit as she said it.
“So we’ve got no reason not to accept his offer. Right?”
“You mean, you actually want to work with me?”
“Why not? You’re smart. You’re dependable. I like you. I could do a whole lot worse for a business partner. Especially if Grant is picking up the tab. Why? You don’t want to work with me?”
“I just – I just don’t know if the restaurant business is a good fit for – “
“Give it a try,” Kirkland urged. “What have you got to lose?”
Sarah briefly looked out the window, at Grant and Daisy attempting to turn a snow lump into some semblance of a man. “Nothing to lose,” she agreed.
Rachel sat at Carl’s bedside, waiting for the anesthesia to wear off and him to wake up. She’d passed a good part of the morning there, jumping every time he stirred or groaned in his sleep. Her nerves coiled and rubbed raw. She couldn’t concentrate on anything but the paleness of his face, the stillness of his limbs and the infernal beeping of the monitors that seemed connected to every part of him.
Rachel supposed she should be grateful for the monitors and their infernal noise. They, at least, told her that he was still alive.
It felt like hours since she’d come in before Carl’s eyes finally fluttered open. She rushed to his side, stroking Carl’s forehead, reassuring him that it was alright, she was here. And he was going to be alright, too, the doctors had promised her he would be.
It took a moment for his pupils to focus but, once they did, Carl’s entire countenance seemed to lock in on her, full of questions he was having a hard time articulating.
Rachel continued caressing his face, telling him how relieved she was that he’d pulled through the worst of it, how she intended to be there every step of the way for his recovery, the plans she was already making to set him up comfortably at home.
She told Carl that the police were there now, going through their tedious motions, but it shouldn’t be much longer, and that she intended to wipe every trace of this incident from the study so that, by the time Carl returned, he wouldn’t be bothered by –
It took every ounce of strength Carl had, plus a few failed attempts before he was able to muster his lips and tongue into enough cohesion to force the word, “Who?” in a strangled gasp from his throat.
Rachel understood what he was asking. And she told him, “Lorna. Lorna was the one who shot you.”
Her husband’s entire body startled, as if hit by an electrical current. “How… How do you… know?”
Rachel said, “You told me you didn’t see who it was. But, I did. I saw her. I saw Lorna.” She explained. “I was so hoping I was wrong. For Jamie’s sake, and the girls’. And for yours, too. That’s why I asked you. I was praying you’d tell me differently. But, I can’t deny it anymore. Lorna is who I saw. My son’s wife is the one who did this to you.”
“Cer…tain?” Carl seemed to be having trouble believing her accusation.
“There is no doubt in my mind. But, problem is, I don’t know if the police will be able to round up ample evidence. That’s why, Carl, that’s why you need to tell them that you saw her, too.”
“Am I disturbing… important doctor business?” Lila asked, popping her head into Morgan’s office.
He looked up, surprised but unmistakably pleased. “Nope, not at all.”
She stepped the rest of the way inside, explaining herself, “I came by soon as I could, thought I’d check on Rachel. But, she doesn’t seem to be in the waiting room…”
“She’s in with Carl,” Morgan said.
“Matt tells me you save his life.”
He tipped an imaginary hat. “Just doing my job, ma’am.”
“Well, my money says you do it damn well.”
“No. Thank you. Really. I mean, some doctors… especially considering your past with Lorna and what Jamie thinks Carl did to her…”
“I try to keep my personal life out of the operating room.”
“Still, you’re only human.”
“Jury’s still out on that,” he teased. To hide just how serious he was.
“Well, I’m grateful to you. Rachel’s been through so much. I don’t know if she could have survived losing Carl again.”
“So maybe I’m not as all bad as you thought, after all, huh?” Morgan teased.
Prompting Lila to defend, “It’s a lady’s prerogative to change her mind.”
“May I consider yours changed, then?”
“You may consider it… getting there.”
“I’ll take it!” Morgan smacked his desk with the palm of one hand. “And, because it’s been mentioned in the past that I don’t know when to quit, I’ll push my luck with an invitation to go get coffee. You and me. Right now.” He stood up. “To celebrate Carl’s pulling through. What do you say, Lila?”
Rachel waited for Carl to drift off to sleep and for a nurse to assure her that he’d probably stay that way for at least a few hours, before she allowed herself to step out of the ICU and grab a few gasps of fresh air just outside the hospital, enjoying the cold as a nice change from the suffocating recycled fans indoors.
Rachel was standing there, rubbing her hands one against the other – she’d thrown on a coat upon leaving the house with Carl, but hadn’t remembered her gloves – when Russ pulled his car into the parking lot.
He stopped by Rachel on his way in. “How is he?”
Rachel glanced at her ex-husband oddly. “I didn’t expect that from you.”
“Then you don’t know me very well,” he bristled. “I’m happy that Carl is going to be fine – for your sake.”
Rachel rested her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. You have more important things to worry about.”
“It’s not,” she corrected. “Alright, that is. You have been a better friend to me than I deserve. I was wrong to forget it.”
Not wanting to go down that particular path – because, really, what was there to say but, “Yes, you were?” – Russ asked, instead, “Any idea yet who might have done it?”
Rachel nodded, swallowing hard and telling Russ, “Lorna.”
“Lorna!” Russ gasped. To be honest, the possibility had never crossed his mind. “But… why…”
“I don’t know. After everything Carl has done for her… Then again, she always did resent him for no reason.”
“But, I thought… I thought she didn’t remember… I thought, when they came back, she backed you up. She said that she went with Carl willingly. She said he saved her life.”
Rachel shrugged. “Who knows?”
“Yes. I told him.”
“How did he react?”
“How do you think?” She blinked back tears. “He didn’t believe me. Why should he believe me? I’m only his mother. Lorna is the one who doesn’t even remember him. Him or their children. Lorna is the one who lied and played him for a fool where Morgan was concerned. Who played his brother for a fool years ago. And still, Jamie will always believe her over me. In a way, I’ve almost given up agonizing about it. All I want now is justice for my husband.”
Rachel noticed that Russ’ mind seemed to have wandered. She gave him a questioning look.
“Oh, sorry,” her ex shook his head. “I couldn’t help wondering… I guess I’m just wondering what all this might mean for… Olivia.”
With Rachel having stepped out for some air, Jamie gone, and Cory and Elizabeth sent home with the promise that they’d be called with news of any change in Carl’s condition, Amanda and Matt were left in the waiting room, holding down the fort, as it were.
“So how long are we supposed to keep this up?” Amanda wondered.
“What? Sitting vigil?”
“Pretending we give a damn whether Carl lives or dies.”
“Oh, you give a damn,” Matt reminded. “You give a lot more than a damn. Don’t tell me you weren’t already picking out your funeral outfit while we sat here?”
“Do you think something in red – with steamers – would have been inappropriate?”
“I suspect he’s not going anywhere quite yet.”
Amanda pressed her fingers together. “Missed it by that much.”
“You had your periods of liking him,” Matt reminded. “And Allie was really crazy about him when she was a kid.”
“Allie’s judgment has never been much to write home about. Plus, let’s remember that he didn’t stalk her, either. Not like he did me.”
“I thought that was water under the bridge.”
“Just how much am I supposed to forgive and forget?” Amanda demanded. “Carl stalked me? Eh, I should take it as a compliment. Carl, blinded Mom? She shouldn’t have stuck her nose into his business. Carl killed Frankie? Hey, she came back to life, didn’t she? Carl had me paralyzed? It’s not like I had anywhere important to go. Carl kidnaps Cory and Elizabeth and Lorna? He and Mom claim it was for their own good. Fine, all water under the bridge, like you said. But, how about the fact that his being unable to let go of his money, like he promised he would to the Justice Department, led to us almost losing Cory Publishing to Iris? Whose interests was he acting in then, except solely his own?”
“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” Matt admitted. “I keep waiting for Mom to acknowledge that, despite all her denials, Carl was guilty of everything Hamilton said.”
“She won’t. She’ll just sweep it under the rug along with the rest of Carl’s crimes. And she’ll tell us again how, if we don’t agree that he’s changed, we’re dishonoring Daddy’s memory. Can you believe that? Can you believe that’s how low she’ll stoop to get her way? Dragging Daddy into this? Daddy might still be alive today if Carl hadn’t hounded him the way that he did!”
“I think Mom needs to believe in Carl. For Mac’s sake, like she keeps saying. I really think if it ever came out that Carl isn’t the reformed hero she’s painting him as, Mom would feel like it takes away something from her and Mac.”
“That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“It doesn’t make much sense to me either. But, she’s our mother, and we owe her – “
“What? We owe her to play along with her delusions?”
“We owe her our respect and our support. Especially now.”
“I’m here, aren’t I? Which is more than her precious Jamie can say.”
“Jamie had a good reason.”
“So if I got Kevin to shoot Carl, I could go, too?”
“You really think she did it? Lorna?” Matt had been trying to wrap his brain around it ever since Rachel made her accusation.
“She’s not the most stable personality. And she really, really hates Carl.”
“Not anymore. Not since she’s come back.”
“I’m sure Jamie filled her in. Heck, maybe she’ll get off on a diminished capacity plea. Head injury and everything. Maybe that’s what she was counting on when she did it.”
Amanda’s phone beeped, signifying a text. She told Matt to hold on a second, raised the screen to her face and read the words:
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