“Big day,” Doug observed between handing first Milagros, then Ike, their breakfasts as Chase entered the kitchen, reaching for coffee only and waving away the rest. As if he needed any reminders, Doug noted, “Carl Hutchins is turning himself in.”
“Again,” Chase drawled.
“Think you can make it stick, this time?” Doug took a seat next to their daughter and gestured that Chase should do the same on the other side of Ike, even if he wasn’t eating.
“Who knows? He may suffer a deadly hangnail and find himself too incapacitated to sign his confession. Eduardo is meeting me at the station. I just hope I won’t disappoint him a second time.”
“You didn’t disappoint him the first time,” Doug reminded.
Chase ignored the not-so-subtle rebuke. “The only thing your father has ever asked of me, and I’ve managed to blow it how many times now?”
“The only thing my father ever asked of you is that you treat me well. How about you let me be the judge of how that’s going?”
“I need to do this for him,” Chase insisted.
“No. You don’t. I admire the hell out of you for trying, but you don’t.”
“I wouldn’t have any of this,” Chase indicated the home, the kids, the life they’d built. “If it weren’t for you and your family. Carl Hutchins decimated it fifty years ago. Putting him away for good is the least I can do to thank you and Eduardo for everything you’ve given me.”
“I didn’t do it for the thanks,” Doug noted. “And Papa didn’t do it for the vengeance. He did it because he loves me. And I did it because I love you.”
“Not exactly a paradigm I’m familiar with,” Chase admitted.
“It’s just,” Chase downed the remnants of his cup and reached for more. “It would mean so much to me if I could finally do this for you and Eduardo.”
“I know,” Doug said softly. “And it would mean the world to Papa to have his parents and his siblings and his nieces and nephews avenged for Carl’s betrayal. But, you know what? Today, if you come home and announce you’ve finally brought down Carl Hutchins, your family will love you. And if he somehow manages to wriggle off the hook for the umpteenth time – “
“Thanks for the reminder.”
“We’ll still love you.” He turned to the kids. “Right, guys?”
“Right,” Milagros agreed, distracted trying to suck the syrup out of each of her individual waffle squares.
While Ike offered conversationally, “Astronauts in space poop through a tube.”
“There you have it,” Doug deadpanned.
“Are you just getting in, darling?” Donna asked, more in surprise than judgment at the sight of Jasmine not so much walking into the Cory house, as floating in, still dressed in the clothes she’d worn to Grant’s memorial service.
“Uh-ha.” Jasmine seemed anything but embarrassed to be caught. Her eyes glistened and her whole body, not just her mouth, appeared to be smiling in triumph.
“Did you,” Donna ventured cautiously. “Were you with… Kirkland, by any chance?”
Another fevered nod.
“The entire night?” Donna did her best to ask without asking.
Jasmine grinned. “All night.”
“And… how do you… feel?”
“Fantastic,” Jasmine burst out, leaving no more doubts in her stepmother’s mind about what exactly had been going on between Matthew’s daughter and Donna’s grandson.
“I’m… glad,” Donna ventured, realizing that there was probably a protocol for this sort of discussion. And that she had no idea what it might be.
“It was amazing, Donna,” Jasmine confided, lowering her voice just a little, her euphoria rising to the rafters nevertheless. “What was Mama so worried about?”
“I – I’m afraid I can’t speak for your mother. I presume Lila was just worried that you might be taken advantage of….”
“By Kirkland?” Jasmine asked incredulously. “Kirkland is the nicest guy in the world, Mama knows that.”
“Your mother was just looking out for you, Jasmine,” Donna said firmly.
“But why? What happened between Kirkland and me was amazing. I’m so happy right now. Why wouldn’t Mama want me to feel this way?”
“Maybe… Maybe it’s because, these sort of things, they don’t always work out.”
“It was wonderful, Donna. Every single second of it.”
Donna couldn’t help being touched by Jasmine’s joy. “It can be,” she agreed.
“Was it like that with you?” Jasmine felt like she would burst if she didn’t talk about it with somebody. And she was still grounded enough to realize that Lila, probably, wasn’t the best choice. “I know that you and Marley’s dad… he was your first, wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” Donna remembered with a wistful smile. “He was.”
“And you loved him?”
“Very, very much.”
“So it was perfect.”
“It was,” Donna had to admit. “Awfully close to perfect.”
“That’s how it was with Kirkland and me, too. He was so… nice. I thought I’d be scared. And I was. But, it was a good scared. An exciting scared. And then I wasn’t scared anymore.”
“You were careful?” Donna felt compelled to double-check. Especially in light of Jasmine bringing up Michael. “You used protection of some sort? Condoms?”
“Three of them!” Jasmine beamed. And boasted.
Donna shook her head from side to side. “My, I am impressed.”
“Are you going to tell Mama and Daddy?” Jasmine came tumbling down to earth.
“I… It’s not my place to tell them anything.”
“Thank you.” Jasmine hugged her stepmother quickly.
“Though, if I may say, your behavior… Your parents are not idiots.”
“Oh, I know. And I’m not exactly going to keep it a secret. I just don’t think it needs to be, like, a big announcement. It’s just between Kirkland and me. I know Mama and Daddy will figure it out soon enough. But, I don’t want to ruin things. Not yet. I just want to keep it special for a little while longer.”
“Mum’s the word,” Donna promised. Even as she wondered how much it was going to cost her.
“What the hell do you think you were doing?” Morgan burst into Amanda’s Brava office. “Where do you get off telling Lila I was only dating her in order to spy on Kevin for you?”
“It’s the truth, isn’t it?” Amanda asked innocently, pushing her work off her desk and peering up at him, hands primly folded in front of her.
“No! Well, I mean, yes, in the beginning, but…”
“Then you got too close to your mark?”
“She wasn’t a mark!”
“What was she, then?”
“It’s none of your business,” he mumbled.
“She really got to you, didn’t she?” Amanda mused. “Funny, I never pictured the sophisticated Dr. Winthrop falling for the Southern-fried type. I thought you’d be too worldly to get suckered in by all that eyelash batting and ego fluffing.”
Morgan ignored the insult to both of them. Instead, he returned to his original point. “Why did you need to tell her?”
“Because I was getting tired of her smugness. First Kevin, now you. Did you see how she was lording it over me?”
“It was her best friend’s memorial service. I really don’t think you were the most important thing on her mind, yesterday.”
“Grant was my ex-husband,” Amanda reminded. “Where’s my sympathy?”
“That all went to you being stupid enough to marry him in the first place. You really can pick ‘em, can’t you, Amanda?”
“I picked you,” she snapped.
“Like hell you did. Every chance you got, you made it clear I was just a place-holder for the guy you really wanted.”
“Well, I’ve changed my mind,” Amanda announced. “I think it’s well past time for you and I to give this relationship a real try.”
“What relationship?” He scoffed. “We don’t have any relationship.”
“We’re friends,” she told him, seemingly genuinely hurt.
“You mean, we were friends. That stunt you pulled….”
“I’m sorry, ok?” She dismissed with a wave of the hand. “It was stupid. I wasn’t thinking straight. Funerals don’t exactly bring out the best in me. Can we just forget it and start over?”
Morgan gave it some thought. Morgan said, “No.”
Clearly it wasn’t the answer Amanda had been expecting. “Why not?”
“Because I… I… “
“You think you can do better?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“With Lila? For real?”
“It’s none of your business.”
Amanda sniffed. “Tough row to hoe, take it from me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s tough, being with someone who’s in prison. I ought to know.”
“What?” Morgan shook his head, confused. “What are you talking about? Who’s in prison?”
“Well, not yet,” Amanda conceded. “But if word gets out that she was an accessory after the fact to Horace Johnson’s murder, just what do you think will happen to your precious Miss Lila?”
“Rise and shine, Carl.” Jamie pushed a wheelchair through the door of Carl’s hospital room, catching his stepfather in the process of buttoning up his jacket in anticipation of being discharged from the hospital. “You’ve got a big day ahead of you!”
“I beg your pardon?” Carl craned his neck, looking behind Jamie for the orderly he’d been expecting.
“I saw your chart. You’re healthy as a horse. There’s nothing stopping you from heading straight to the police station, turning yourself in and letting Mom and Cory off the hook. Right?”
“I am offended you even feel compelled to ask,” Carl sniffed. “What else did you imagine I could possibly have scheduled for today?”
“I knew we could all count on your sense of honor.”
“Thank you,” poison dripped from every world. “Your opinion means the world to me.”
“But, just in case, I’m here to provide you with a personal, medical escort. You know, on the off chance that you’re suddenly stricken with another unexplained health setback.”
“How very thoughtful of you, Jamie.”
“Trust me, I’ve been thinking of nothing else ever since Mom and Cory were railroaded into jail in your place.”
“On that we are in complete agreement. Chase Hamilton grossly abused his power by arresting Cory and Rachel. It is up to us to teach that man a lesson.”
“Or you could keep your word and turn yourself in. That could work, too.”
“Very impressive,” Carl bobbed his head, seemingly sincere with his kudos.
“My grasp of basic legal procedure? Thank you. Lorna helped me with the big words.”
“Your loyalty. I have no doubt that you love your mother, and would move Heaven and Earth to see her freed from the shackles Hamilton sprung on her. But, Cory… I am most impressed by your concern for Cory.”
“I love my brother, too,” Jamie said stiffly, grasping exactly where Carl was going with this.
“Truly commendable of you. Especially in light of our boy’s unfortunate dalliance with your wife.”
Jamie took a deep breath. It might have looked like he was trying to control his anger. But it was, in fact, frustration. “Don’t, Carl,” he warned with a tired sigh.
“I apologize. How crass. Naturally, you don’t care to hear any further reminders of Lorna’s infidelity.”
“It won’t work,” Jamie advised. “You using Cory to turn me against Lorna. She told me all about it, months ago. And now I will tell you the exact same thing I told her. I don’t give a damn what she had to do in order to get away from you, and home to me.”
“But, it didn’t work, did it?” Carl mused as if Jamie had presented him with a particularly exotic puzzle to solve. “Lorna failed to return to Bay City, despite her fervid protestation of multiple escape attempts, until she followed Cory here, with absolutely no memory of you.”
“And whose fault was that last part?”
“Don’t you find it fascinating?” Carl continued, seemingly enthralled by his own tale. “Your wife, who now swears her fidelity to you – in spirit if not actual body – only found herself back in your arms because of her devotion to… my son. Rather curious, wouldn’t you say?”
“Why are you still in town?” Lila demanded of Grant, having responded to his urgent summons. “I thought the plan was to blow this Popsicle stand at first light?”
“Did you hear what Kirkland said at my funeral?”
“I was hoping you hadn’t,” Lila admitted.
“He basically said it’s a good thing I’m dead, so I can’t screw up with him, Sarah or Daisy anymore. Did you hear him, Lila? Now do you believe I was right to do what I did?”
“Asking the question a million different ways to Sunday won’t change the fact that I think you’re a damn fool.”
“I was right,” Grant supplied the answer Lila should have. “They will all be better off without me.”
“Fine. Have it your way.”
“What about you, Lila?”
“Excuse me?” Her head bobbed up.
He admitted, “I overheard your little dust up with Amanda and Morgan.”
“What dust up? She talked, I let her. Tell me something, was she this much of a bitter hag while the two of you were married, or is this a more recent development?”
“Being married to me probably didn’t help,” Grant conceded.
“I can just picture her, Rachel and Mac Cory’s little princess. Bet she was one of those kids who had no interest in a toy till somebody else started playing with it. First Kevin, now Morgan. Why does she think I’m after her men?”
“Well,” Grant counted off on his fingers. “First Kevin, now Morgan…”
“She can have ‘em both.”
“Really. I’m washing my hands of that Brava Drama Queen.”
Grant grinned. “I’d forgotten how funny you could be.”
“Yeah, well, that a nickel will get me five cents.”
Grant sat down next to her. “That’s kind of what I was talking about, earlier. Seems to me like you don’t have much going for you in Bay City.”
“There’s Jasmine,” Lila recoiled instantly.
“Of course, of course. But, she’s what, a junior in high-school this year?”
“She’ll be off to college before you know it. And then what will you have?”
“Well, not my best friend, that’s for sure.” She punched Grant in the arm. With a bit more anger than could be called merely playful.
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Grant said.
“No kidding. Changed your mind, yet? Thinking of sticking around?”
“No,” Grant said slowly, realizing he might have only one chance to make this offer, and it had better be a good one. “But, I was thinking. What if, when I leave town, what if you… come with me?”
“How kind of you to join us, Mr. Hutchins!” Chase, with Eduardo by his side, threw out both arms in greeting as Carl walked into the police station, Jamie grimly bringing up the rear like an unwilling, but dogged, honor guard.
“You hardly gave me the choice, did you?” Carl growled, then turned to address the pair of uniformed guards loitering by the door. “You are to immediately free my wife and my son, and bring them here so I can see for myself how they have been treated.”
The officers looked to Toni. Who sighed and looked to Chase. A discrete nod of his head and both men moved off to do as directed.
“You shan’t get away with this,” Carl advised. “You broke the terms of our agreement.”
“One of us did,” Chase agreed pleasantly.
Carl looked to Eduardo. “You foolishly believe you can protect him from above? Allow him to operate outside the law?”
“When Chase steps outside the law,” Eduardo assured. “You will be the first to know.”
“Carl!” Rachel exclaimed, rushing to him, throwing her arms around his neck, taking only a moment to register Jamie’s presence but ignoring it in favor of her husband. “You’re alright!”
“I am fine, my dear, just fine. Despite Mr. Hamilton’s best efforts to the contrary.”
Cory advanced more slowly, keeping his distance from both his parents, persistently looking over his shoulder, as if he expected to be pulled back into his cell at any moment.
“No worries, son,” Carl reassured grandly, reaching for the boy. “I am here now. I shall take care of everything.”
“Does that mean you’re ready to make your confession?” Chase wondered.
“If you mean, am I ready to prostrate myself on the altar of your twisted justice system in order to protect my son then, yes, Mr. Hamilton. I am more than ready.”
“Tomato/to-mah-to,” the Mayor dismissed blithely. He told Cory, “I’m sure you understand why I’m going to need you to stick around until your Dad actually deigns to keep his word, this time.”
“No,” Cory said.
“It will only be for a little while,” Rachel assured. “I’ll stay with you. I’ll make sure they do the right thing.”
“No,” Cory repeated. “I’m the one who’s going to make sure of that.” He turned to Chase. “What if I don’t accept your offer?”
Chase furrowed his brow. “I don’t remember making you one.”
“You told my father you wouldn’t press charges against me for shooting him if he confessed to all his past crimes. That sounds like a two-part deal to me. Don’t you need my buy in to make it work?”
“No, he does not,” Carl interfered. “The onus is solely on me, in this instance.”
“What if I don’t agree to it?” Cory challenged. “What if I don’t want to take the deal?”
Chase and Eduardo exchanged looks. This aspect of the equation had never occurred to either of them.
“Cory, please,” Rachel begged. “Let your father handle this.”
“She’s right,” Jamie felt compelled to chime in. “He deserves this.”
Cory shook his head. “No. It’s not fair. It’s not right. Why isn’t anybody listening to me? He can’t be allowed to get away with it again.”
“That’s the whole point, son,” Chase said gently.
“Do not,” Carl seethed. “Ever address my child in such a fashion again, is that clear?”
Chase ignored him to continue speaking to Cory. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make your father pay. Precisely because we don’t want to see him get away with anything ever again.”
“You’re making him a martyr,” Cory argued. “Anything he confesses to now, the people who believe in him blindly,” the boy glanced at Rachel over his shoulder. “They’ll just tell themselves he only said those things to protect me.”
“Be that as it may,” Chase agreed. “He’ll still be in jail. We’ll still be stopping him from doing any more damage.”
“He’s been to jail,” Cory reminded. “It didn’t stop him before.”
“It will be different this time,” Eduardo attempted to assure.
“No,” Cory looked from his parents to Chase and back again. “It won’t. Not if I can help it. I don’t agree to this deal. Don’t arrest him. Arrest me. Please.”
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