“Mom needs a liver transplant?” Amanda, with Matt following right behind appeared in the waiting room just as Morgan broke the news of Rachel’s condition to Jamie and Carl.
“Then what are you waiting for?” Carl all but theatrically shoved Morgan back into the operating theater. “I demand that you perform the procedure immediately. There is obviously no time to waste!”
“It’s not that simple,” Jamie said. “This isn’t like ordering take-out. Before Mom can get a new liver, someone else has to donate one. Which means someone else has to die.”
“Wait a minute,” Amanda interjected. “We did an article on this for Brava a few months back. Isn’t there a procedure where a relative can donate a part of their own liver – “
“Are you volunteering?” he asked his sister.
Amanda blanched a bit at that, as if she hadn’t quite thought through her argument this far ahead. She looked from Jamie to Matt, then back again, stammering, “Well, I mean, if it turns out I’m the ideal match, I’d certainly consider – “
“The procedure does exist,” Jamie let her off the hook. Because they didn’t have the time to waste on nonsense. “And it’s a good option in many cases. But Mom, at her age, isn’t a great candidate. Wouldn’t you agree, Morgan?”
“It wouldn’t be my first choice,” he concurred. “The odds of a successful regeneration would be against you. I’d prefer a complete organ, preferably from a fresh donor.”
“Well, how difficult could that be to arrange?” Carl indicated where they were standing. “Considering how haphazardly matters are run here, I presume there would be suitable cadavers at your disposal as far as the eye can see. Simply employ one of those.”
Jamie and Morgan exchanged looks, seeing eye to eye for possibly the first time ever, now that Carl had managed to insult them both while in the process of bargaining for his wife’s life. An interesting approach, to say the least.
Jamie said, “It can’t be just any liver. We’d need to match blood type, for sure. Tissue type would be preferable. Plus there’s the fact that a liver can only survive outside the body for twelve hours, certainly no more than fifteen; so the organ would have to be relatively local to get to us on time.”
Matt spoke up, “There’s a national registry, isn’t there?”
“Yes,” Jamie said. “But there are further criteria. “Patients are prioritized by the severity of their condition, and by how long they’ve been waiting. Mom would go to the bottom of any list. Her MELD score just won’t be that high.”
“Unacceptable,” Carl said. “Surely there’s something we can do.”
“I’m not bribing anyone, Carl.” “Of course not,” he sniffed distastefully. “I wouldn’t expect it of you, Jamie. You have long ago made your indifference to your mother’s welfare perfectly clear.”
“I will make some phone calls, though,” Jamie ignored his stepfather to address Morgan, Amanda and Matt. “Maybe collect on a few favors.”
“Thanks, Jamie,” Matt told his brother gratefully.
Carl turned to Morgan. “Are you telling me that Rachel’s survival depends solely on Jamie’s dubious charm and persuasive abilities?”
“More or less,” Morgan admitted. “I mean, I’ll go through the proper channels, and maybe we’ll get lucky. But, at this point, I’d say the personal approach is your best bet.”
“Unacceptable,” Carl repeated, more firmly this time. “This will not do, at all….”
“Dr. Alice Frame?” He stepped into her office and closed the door behind him. “I am Eduardo Rivera. Douglas Rivera’s father? We met briefly at your grandson’s wedding, I believe. You were there with Lucas, I with Felicia?”
“I remember,” Alice nodded in the affirmative. “Though Steven is my step-grandson. I was married to his grandfather.”
“My apologies. Familial relations in Bay City are… complicated.”
“To put it mildly, yes. What can I do for you, Mr. Rivera?”
“I came to speak to you about my son’s partner, Chase Hamilton.”
“We are doing everything we can for him.”
“According to my son, you are doing nothing.”
Alice chose to interpret his provocative words as ones of honest confusion rather than deliberate belligerence, clarifying, “His condition is very precarious. My team decided that a wait-and-see approach would be the best course of action for now.”
“How can the best course of action possibly include leaving a bullet in a man’s skull?”
“Attempting to extract it right now would do more harm than good. Chase’s brain is severely swollen. We risk destroying healthy tissue. Not to mention, he lost a great deal of blood. I don’t believe he could currently withstand the trauma of invasive surgery.”
Eduardo pointed a finger in Alice’s direction. “You are an intimate of the Hutchins family, are you not?”
“I wouldn’t exactly put it that way.”
“But your stepson is Rachel Hutchins’ son.”
“Dr. Frame, I believe Carl Hutchins is responsible for Chase’s shooting.”
Alice narrowed her eyes. “His own wife was also hurt.”
“Wrong place, wrong time. According to Jamie himself, Rachel appeared to be warning him and his family to get away from Chase. What else am I supposed to think?”
“That’s a matter for the police,” Alice dismissed.
“The police have been heartily fooled by the scene Hutchins staged for them. And now, I cannot help but wonder if you are not also part of his plans?”
Alice barely suppressed her laughter, realizing how unprofessional it would come off, and reminding herself that, no matter how rude, the man was genuinely worried about his son’s partner. Still, she did say, “Actually, I’m the last person Carl would turn to. Chase was so sure of it, in fact, that he requested me specifically as the doctor to treat Carl following his episode at the police station a few weeks ago. He knew we could never be in cahoots.”
“Then why are you resisting removing the bullet from Chase’s brain? It could serve as a vital connection between Carl and the assassination attempt.”
“I am resisting it,” Alice repeated firmly. “Because I believe that is in the best interest of my patient.”
Eduardo appeared unconvinced.
So Alice changed tactics. “I could ask you why you’re so determined to see the procedure done?”
“My son and Chase have two children together. It is in their family’s best interest for him to recover and return to their life as promptly as possible.”
“Or,” Alice challenged. “You are more concerned with bringing down Carl, than you are with Chase’s ultimate recovery. Tell me, Mr. Rivera, do you even care if he lives or dies, just as long as you get the incriminating evidence you’re looking for?”
“No,” Lila told Grant. “I can’t just drop everything and run away with you.”
He looked so crestfallen at that, she felt compelled to add, “You know, it’s not too late. You can still forget about all this and go back to Sarah and Daisy. Just tell her you had amnesia and didn’t remember who you were up until now. Goodness knows, memory loss is practically as common of a malady in Bay City as the common cold.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Come on, Lila, you were just talking about Kirkland depriving Jasmine of her own college experience because he’s – what? – four years older than she is and in a different place in his life? Where does that leave Sarah and me?”
“Kirk and Jazz are a summer, teen-age fling. Whatever happened to Sarah being the love of your life?”
“She is. She always will be. That’s why I’m doing all this. For her.”
“So what’s the plan, this time? Back to your tropical island paradise?”
“No. I – I’m not exactly… welcome there anymore.”
Lila snorted. “How many fathers you got waiting, ready to string you up for defiling their daughters?”
“Enough,” Grant mumbled.
“Ha! See, that’s another reason why you should go back. Raising Daisy is the universe’s best revenge for the way you’ve treated women all these years.”
“Daisy can do better than me. So can Sarah.”
“Not how it works, Grant. Weren’t you the one always going on and on about how Vicky didn’t get to cut you out of Kirk’s life, just because you weren’t the father she’d have picked for him? Well, you’re Daisy’s daddy, for better or for worse.”
“I’m sure Sarah will find herself her own version of Jamie. Someone that Daisy can call “Daddy” and tell anybody who’ll listen how my giving her up was the best thing that ever happened to her.”
“Oh, do stop feeling sorry for yourself. Green ain’t your color.”
“You heard Kirkland at my funeral.”
“Now there’s a phrase you don’t come across every day.”
“Kirkland said it’s a good thing I’m dead, so I can’t mess up my relationships with Sarah and Daisy the way I did with him and Vicky.”
“This isn’t a political focus group, Senator. You don’t have to go with majority rules. Man up, Grant. Grow some balls and go deal with your messed up life, instead of running away from it.”
“She’ll hate me.”
“She’ll get over it. She’s done if before,” Lila prompted.
Grant hesitated, her words seemingly sinking in for the first time. “Yeah… I guess she has done that, hasn’t she?”
“Numerous times.” Lila was about to move in and close the deal once and for all, when her cell-phone chirped and she automatically checked the incoming text message.
“Oh my God,” Lila gasped, looking at Grant, her eyes huge. “Rachel is in the hospital. She’s been shot.” She grabbed her purse. “I need to go,” and blew out of Grant’s hotel room without another word.
Their conversation unfinished, and Grant’s resolve vanishing as quickly as it had come.
“Hi, Doug,” Frankie leaned next to him against the wall in the hallway outside of Chase’s room. He’d been shooed out while they ran some tests. It seemed to Doug like they were constantly running tests. And Chase was failing all of them.
“Hey, Frankie,” he barely looked up to acknowledge her presence. It had only been a few weeks since she’d seen him at the last adoptive parent support group meeting. Except Doug looked years older.
“How you holding up?”
“I wouldn’t be,” he groaned. “If it weren’t for the wall.”
“And the kids? How are they doing?”
“They’re terrified. I had my father staying with them last night; but we decided to send them to school today. Some normalcy, you know?”
“Sounds like a good call.”
His laugh sounded more like a whimper. “I have no idea what’s good or bad anymore. My father is telling me we should push to have Chase operated on; get that bullet out of his head… Oh, God, I feel like I might throw up every time I say the words. There is a goddamn bullet in his head, Frankie.”
“I know. I heard.”
“But the doctors say we should wait. How the hell do I know what’s best for him?”
“For what it’s worth,” Frankie offered. “I’ve always been a do-something over a do-nothing type of person. And my brother-in-law, Morgan Winthrop, he’s an excellent surgeon. Chase couldn’t be in better hands.”
“So you agree with my father? You think we should demand surgery?”
“It’s none of my business!” She raised both hands in surrender. “I just know that, when Cass was in jail, the worst part about the whole thing was me sitting around, feeling helpless. I know it’s not the same situation – not at all. But, I do think you’d feel better if you took some kind of charge. At least then, you’d know you were doing something for Chase, outside of just waiting.”
“He’s the take charge one in our relationship. Always has been. He decided that we should be together, and he just doggedly went after me, until I couldn’t deny it either.”
Frankie smiled. “Romantic.”
“He would hate hearing you say that.”
“Doesn’t match up with how he wants to be seen?” she guessed.
“Doesn’t match up with how he sees himself. I’ve been trying to convince him for years that he’s not the bastard he thinks he is. I’ve asked him, “Why do you think nobody believes you’re a nice guy?” His answer was, “Maybe it’s because I’ve never finished last.” Doug shook his head at the memory.
Frankie smiled. “That sounds exactly like him.
“But he is a good person. Whether he realizes it or not. He’s an amazing person. I can’t lose him, Frankie.”
“Then you know what you need to do,” she said softly.
“Mom’s in the hospital,” Elizabeth told Cory, facing her brother from the other side of his jail cell.
“I know. One of the guards told me.”
“Father says she could die. She needs a liver transplant, and I guess that’s not something you can order online for delivery.”
“How did it happen?”
“The police say it was a random shooting in the park.”
“Do you believe that?” Cory met her eyes defiantly.
“I… Father would never hurt Mom. Ever.”
“Who else got hit?” Cory promoted.
“Chase Hamilton,” his sister sighed, suddenly exhausted.
“She was protecting Jamie,” Elizabeth said. “Always Jamie. It doesn’t matter how many times he spits in her face and tells her he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her – he’s still her first priority. He’s still her favorite.”
“You don’t think Jamie has a good reason to be mad at Mom? Come on, Elizabeth, we both know Lorna didn’t go with him of her own free will.”
“Who the hell cares? That was years ago. The point is Mom took a bullet for – “
“Father. That’s whom she took a bullet for. She wasn’t doing it to protect Chase or even Jamie. She was doing it to protect Father.” Cory said, “It’s exactly what I was trying to keep from happening when I – “
“Yes. When I shot him.”
“Don’t, Cory, please,” she begged. “Don’t go to jail. I won’t have anybody left if you’re gone for good. I can’t deal with this on my own.”
“What about Charlie?”
“She – it’s complicated.”
“Do you love her?”
“I don’t know! I can’t think straight right now! Everything is such a mess….”
“Does she love you?”
“What difference does it make? Whether she does or she doesn’t, she can’t fix… this. You, me, Father, Mom…”
“And you think I can?”
“You can try. It would be a start. Our whole family is falling part. No, scratch that. It’s already fallen apart. And you’re the only one who make things better. Please, Cory. Please. We need you. I – I need you.”
Carl ventured that Doug wound need to step away from Chase’s room sometime. To eat or consult with a physician or make the telephone call home to check on his children
So Carl bided his time.
He was quite good at that. He’d had many years of practice.
Chess helped. It taught him to wait for just the right opening, and then pounce, rather than settle for a good enough option and risk failure a few moves down the line.
Failure wasn’t an option when it came to his upcoming maneuver. Rachel’s life was on the line.
And there was nothing more important than that.
Chase waited for Doug to disappear down the hallway, into the elevator before entering Chase’s room.
Bay City’s mayor lay on his back, half of his head bandaged, his appendages a ghostly white and eerily immobile. He might as well have been dead already, but for the noises made by his assorted medical monitors.
And the steady, in and out hiss of his breathing.
Chase was still breathing.
Jamie and Alice had both observed what a good sign that was.
Carl approached Chase’s bedside. He stretched his arm forward and reached for Chase’s chart.
Carl may not have understood a good part of the mumbo-jumbo vernacular Jamie and Morgan had traded back in the waiting area, but he’d understood enough.
He knew what he was looking for.
Carl flipped through the pages. He checked Chase’s blood type.
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