“Where is everyone?” Jamie asked after returning to the hospital waiting area and finding only Rachel there.
“Amanda had some emergency at Brava to take care of. Matt had to go to work. And I sent Cory and Elizabeth home. Carl is stable. The worst of the crisis has passed.”
“Is he awake?”
“He was, for a little while.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“He can barely keep his eyes open, much less speak.”
“Did you ask him who shot him?”
“I didn’t have to,” Rachel’s eyes flashed furiously. “I know what I saw.”
“I talked to Lorna, Mom. She didn’t do it.”
“Well, of course, she’d say that. What did you expect?”
“I expect my wife to tell me the truth. Always. Just like I do with her.”
“You mean, the way she told you about still being married to Morgan?”
“Don’t. Please. That has nothing to do with anything.”
“The way she told Felicia about Lucas being alive?”
“I asked you not to – “
“The way she swindled Matt out of his money? The way she accused Morgan of rape? Damn it, Jamie, how could you? How could you take Lorna’s word over mine?”
He crossed his arms, standing about as far away from Rachel as it was humanly possible without leaving the room and asked, his voice steely, “Would you like me to start listing all your past transgressions?”
“I would like you to acknowledge that you cannot trust the woman you married!”
“I love her,” Jamie said simply, as if that wiped the slate clean.
“What about me?”
“I love you, too. But, when it comes to Carl, I have seen you lie too many times – “
“Why do you always assume I’m the one who’s lying?”
“Lorna didn’t shoot Carl.”
“How can you be so sure?” Rachel stood up, crossing the chasm between them to stand right in front of her son, pleading with him, “You have no idea what your wife is capable of. Will you trust me on that, Jamie? Please, darling. Trust me when I say you simply do not know. Because, otherwise, you are forcing me to prove it. And that means hurting you even more than I already have….”
“Marley and I, we’re getting married. I just wanted you to know,” Dennis feebly filled in Olivia, unsure of why he was there exactly, but feeling obliged, nonetheless.
“How nice. And do you plan on giving her my baby as a wedding present, same way as you tried to do with Sarah?”
“I never…” Dennis began, then threw his arms up in the air. What was the point, after all? Olivia would always cling to her version of events, no matter how many people produced how much evidence to the contrary. “Never mind. Forget I ever said anything about it.”
“How can I, when you’re finally getting everything you ever wanted, and I’m stuck in exactly the same place I was over twenty years ago, the first time you knocked me up and dumped me.”
“Would you make up your mind, please?” Dennis sighed tiredly. “Is this baby mine or Jamie’s?”
“Would it matter to you, either way?”
“Yes,” he insisted.
He sputtered, “Well, if it’s Jamie’s, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“You don’t seem too worried now, in case it is.”
“I just don’t like the idea of lying to Marley. If the baby is mine, we’ll… deal with it.”
“You mean, the way Marley dealt with Sarah and Daisy?”
“Marley was a great stepmother to Daisy! A heck of a lot better that what would have happened had the tables been reversed. Can you imagine Grant agreeing to take in and raise his wife’s illegitimate child?”
“Well, maybe if he’d had the option of running the real father out of the country, first.”
“Isn’t that more Jamie’s style?” Dennis couldn’t help it. She always did bring out the worst in him. “It must kill you, Olivia, to know that Jamie was willing to fight for Grant Harrison’s child, but not for yours.”
“At least Jamie is willing to acknowledge our baby publicly. You didn’t even have the balls to do that much. What’s the matter, lost them in Marley’s purse… again?”
“You know what?” Dennis said. “This is stupid. I made a mistake coming here. I’m going to go. I’ve got a million things to do, and I figure you probably do, too. What with the latest news about Lorna and everything.”
“What news about Lorna?” Olivia’s head jerked up.
Dennis stopped in his tracks, smiling. “You mean, you haven’t heard?”
“Heard what? What about Lorna?”
“She’s been accused of shooting Carl.”
Olivia’s mouth dropped open.
“Yup,” Dennis knew he shouldn’t be taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. So he told himself that he was merely taking pleasure in filling in Olivia about it. “Looks like Jamie might be back on the market, soon. And this time, he won’t be pining away for some saintly, presumed dead wife. This time, his flesh-and-blood wife tried to kill his mother’s husband. You know how close Rachel and Jamie are. Not exactly something he’ll be willing to overlook. Could be a real deal-breaker.”
“Did she do it?” Was all Olivia wanted to know.
Dennis shrugged. “All depends on what kind of evidence the cops will be able to dig up against her, I presume.”
“What the hell is going on?” Amanda huffed, arriving at the Oakdale Police Station to find Zeno out front, waiting for her, just like he’d promised. “What happened?”
“We were out at the farm,” Zeno tried to keep her calm at least long enough for him to get through all the details. “Some folks from the city council showed up to serve us papers claiming Eminent Domain. Basically, they alleged they could take our land because what they would do with it was for the greater good of the community than what we were doing with it.”
“So?” Amanda spat, uninterested in the details.
“I told them where they could stick those papers,” Zeno said. “And I refused to budge. They threatened to arrest me – “
“So why aren’t you in there now, instead of Allie?”
“Because, I was going the passive resistance route – which, in this case, actually meant calling a lawyer – when Allie… she…”
“She took a shot at the head of the Oakdale City Council.”
“My shotgun, I’d left it lying around – “
“That sounds safe.”
“In it’s place. That happens to be perfectly safe. I trust the people I live and work with.”
“Yet another character flaw,” Amanda mumbled.
“Everyone out at the farm knows how to use a firearm safely… Except for,” he admitted. “Allie.”
“Did she actually shoot the man?”
“It was a woman. And no. We got lucky. Because Allie doesn’t know how to shoot properly, she missed by a mile. The recoil really took her by surprise.”
“So why are we even here, if there was no harm done?”
“Because. She did fire at a politician. They tend not to like that.”
“Let me talk to them.” Amanda attempted to push Zeno aside and enter the police station. “One thing that politicians do like, is money. I’m sure there’s a re-election fund there that wouldn’t say no to a generous contribution, plus a glowing profile in Brava.”
“I’m not so sure.” Again, Zeno struggled to keep Amanda from going off half-cocked and making the situation even worse. “See, the city of Oakdale, they’ve decided to make an example of Allie. They think that if they can get her convicted, they can prove – to everyone who still supports us; not just the court – that our farm is dangerous. And then they can take it away from me, for good.”
“Daisy isn’t here,” Sarah told Marley, blocking Grant’s ex-wife from setting foot into their home. “And since you didn’t call ahead, don’t go running to the court claiming we’re keeping you from seeing her. She’s at school.”
“I know,” Marley said. “That’s why I came now. You’re the one I wanted to talk to.”
“What?” Sarah set her lips into a straight line.
“May I come in?”
“Did you make Grant sign you a court order for that, too?”
“Please, let me come in, Sarah. I promise I won’t stay long. I’ll be gone by the time you have to go pickup Daisy.”
“Actually, Grant’s going to do that from now on.” Sarah begrudgingly did as Marley requested. “He’s going to play Mr. Mom for a while.”
“Really? I find that hard to imagine.”
“You don’t need to imagine it. He’s going to do it. It was his idea, too. He doesn’t want to miss any time with Daisy. And he wants me to go out and have a career. To have a life outside of him.”
“Now that, I find even harder to imagine.”
“Grant wants me to be happy. He realizes it isn’t good for either one of us to be totally focused on each other at the expense of everything else.”
“Wow,” Marley said, sounding almost genuinely impressed – if Sarah didn’t know better, that is. “Seems you’ve had quite the profound influence on him. I tip my hat to you.”
“Don’t bother taking it all the way off,” Sarah advised. “You’re not staying long.”
“Right. I did promise that, didn’t I?” Marley took a deep breath. “I guess I’d best get right to the point, then. Sarah, your father – he’s asked me to marry him.”
“Oh.” Sarah blinked, having not been expecting that particular bombshell, at all. “And what – what did you say?”
“I said yes.” Marley stretched forward her hand. “This is the ring he got me. Isn’t it lovely?”
“It’s nice.” Sarah barely glanced at it.
Marley withdrew it awkwardly and, for a moment, the two women merely stood, staring wordlessly at each other. Finally, Marley said, “I’d like us to have a fresh start. You and me. There was a time, Sarah, when we were actually friends. Do you remember that?”
“Sure,” Sarah couldn’t quite look Marley in the eye.
“I’d like us to be friends again. For your father’s sake, if nothing else.”
“Did Dad put you up to this?”
“No. It was my idea. I love your father, Sarah, I really do. He looks at me, and he sees the Marley that used to be. I’d like to become that Marley again. For him. And for me.”
“So where do I fit in?”
“Thanksgiving at your grandfather’s was less than pleasant.”
“Well, Iris is known for a lot of things. But her cooking isn’t one of them.”
“It’s bad enough now Russ and Iris are married, that Olivia will always be in the picture. But, I don’t want Dennis spending the rest of his life feeling like he has to play referee between you and I, too. If we can’t have a fresh start, exactly, how about a truce?” She reached into her bag and pulled out a document which she then handed to Sarah. “My custody agreement with Grant. Here. Take it. Do whatever you want with it. Rip it up. I don’t care. It’s my peace offering to you. What do you say, Sarah? Can we try this again? For Dennis’ sake? And maybe for Daisy’s, too?”
“Good morning, sunshine!” Iris trilled perkily, reaching over to shake Carl’s inert form, making certain he was awake and conscious for the duration.
He startled, looking around, panicked, before registering that it was Iris. At that, Carl’s face took on a more ambiguous expression, a combination of interest and resignation.
“Yes?” He coughed out as politely and forcibly as possible under the circumstances.
Iris smiled. “So sorry for disturbing you. But you know how I love kicking a man when he’s down. Especially some men in particular.”
“Get… out…” Carl rasped, his hand reaching feebly for the nurse’s call button at his side.
Iris moved quicker, wrapping her own fingers around it and jerking the device out of Carl’s reach. “Oh, no. I’m not nearly ready to go yet. You and I, we need to have a little chat, first.”
“Go… to… Hell.”
“After you,” Iris seethed, dropping her cheery pretense for the genuine purpose of her clandestine visit. “You know, Carl, in case I failed to mention it, I truly did not appreciate you telling the world that I was the one who put out the contract on you, Lorna, and the twins. While, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t precisely shed a plethora of tears on the occasion of your long-overdue demise, going after new mothers and children is not exactly my style. You’re the one who shrugs off collateral damage like Kirkland and Spencer and anyone else not deemed worthy of wrapping in the Hutchins Banner of Protection. Admit it, you son of a bitch. Admit that you lied.”
Carl’s lips stretched into what might have been a smile… or a grimace. “Never,” he hissed.
Iris sighed like the exasperated parent of a particularly stubborn toddler. “I’m afraid you aren’t understanding me. That wasn’t a request. I’m the one with all the power now.”
She slipped her hand under Carl’s head, yanked the pillow out from under him, and held it menacingly over Carl’s face. “I’m the one giving the orders.”
Carl looked up at Rachel’s stepdaughter. And smirked. “Wouldn’t…dare.”
“Why not?” She mused out loud. “After all, I’ve already done the time for trying to kill you. I might as well experience the satisfaction of actually committing the crime. Isn’t there some kind of double jeopardy statue in play here?”
“No,” Carl took great satisfaction in mouthing.
“I’m warning you, Carl,” Iris lowered the pillow menacingly. “I’m not kidding around.”
“And I’m… no… fool,” Carl countered. The thrill of the confrontation seemed to be giving him a surge of energy Rachel’s loving, calming presence earlier hadn’t managed to summon. “You kill me… Your name… Never cleared.”
“You already told me it wouldn’t be anyway,” Iris pointed out. “What do I have to lose?”
“You… kill… me,” Carl said. “And Rachel… wins.”
“That’s utterly ridiculous!”
“I’m proven… right… all… along. I’m… the hero.”
“A dead hero.”
“Even… better. A martyr.”
“I’m warning you, Carl. You know I didn’t do anything to you. Even if your life was, in fact, in danger these past few years, it had nothing to do with me.”
“Not to mention,” Carl went on, visibly enjoying himself now, starting to look downright chipper, as a matter of fact. “With me dead… would not that free our good Dr. Matthews up… for Rachel?”
“Is Lorna home?” Olivia looked around before taking off her coat, unsure whether it was safe to fully enter Jamie’s house.
“No. She’s meeting with an attorney.”
Olivia nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah. I heard about that.”
“The girls are both napping,” Jamie explained. “I just put them down, so I don’t think there’s any point in you staying.”
“I came to see you.”
That certainly got Jamie’s attention. “What about?”
“Lorna,” Olivia said.
He cocked his head, suspicious.
Olivia wondered, “Has she been arrested?”
“No. The meeting with the lawyer is a precaution.”
“But, it sounds like your mother…”
“The police have no physical evidence. Or even a motive.”
“Yeah. Actually, I was thinking about that, Jamie. Right now, nobody knows that Lorna has her memory back. So it seems like she’d have no reason to go after Carl. But, if the truth got out, well, then, everything would be different, wouldn’t it?”
Jamie inhaled sharply, his entire body stiffening, already suspecting what she was getting at, but unable to make himself fully believe it.
Olivia went on, “It wouldn’t be good for Lorna, if the police found out she remembers everything that’s happened, and that she’s keeping quiet about it because she believes Carl is a threat to her and to you and Devon and Zee. That would make a pretty strong motive for murder, wouldn’t it? I mean, sure, she could claim self-defense but…”
“What do you want, Olivia?” Jamie all but barked, struggling to keep his temper under control for the second time that day.
“The same thing I’ve always wanted,” she told him quietly. “You.”
“Are you threatening me again?” He bit off the last word with venom. “Are you honestly standing there and threatening to go to the police and tell them that Lorna has her memory back unless I – what? Unless I what now?”
“I want Lorna to move out,” Olivia said calmly. “It makes perfect sense. She tried to kill your Mom’s husband. She’s dangerous. What kind of dad would want a woman like that around two, defenseless little girls?”
“The kind of dad who knows that his wife is innocent.”
Olivia ignored Jamie’s stipulation in order to finish her own. “I want Lorna to move out. And then I want to move in. Today.”
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