“Take it easy, Mom,” Jamie warned Rachel after spending an hour just helping her get out of bed, maneuver towards the door of her hospital room and back again, taking plenty of breaks to catch her breath and get her strength back. He balanced Rachel with the elbow of one arm while pulling her IV pole along with his free hand. “You’ve been through major trauma. You can’t just expect to bounce back as if nothing happened.”
“I need to bounce back,” Rachel insisted while Jamie eased her back onto the bed, tucking the blanket around her waist and checking to see that all her monitors were still connected and working properly. “I have to be strong. For Carl.”
“First you need to be strong for yourself.”
“He needs me,” Rachel said. “He’s in jail right now because he saved my life.”
Jamie hesitated, then gently corrected, “No, Mom, he didn’t.”
“What are you talking about? Carl confessed to killing Chase Hamilton so that I could get my liver transplant.”
“There was no reason for him to do that. You had a liver coming in from Chicago. It would have gotten here within a few hours.”
“I – I don’t understand.”
“Carl didn’t kill Chase because you had no other options. In fact, he didn’t kill him, at all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Jamie. He told me everything.”
“He lied,” Jamie said simply. “I saw the autopsy myself. Chase died from a burst aneurysm in his brain. Carl had nothing to do with it.”
“You’re wrong. You have to be. Carl stood right there, right where you’re standing now; he told me he was forced to kill a man so that I could go on living. He begged for my forgiveness, and then he told me he was turning himself in to pay for his crime.”
“Chase died from an aneurysm,” Jamie repeated. “But the aneurysm was the result of his getting shot in the head.” Jamie asked his mother, “Who shot Chase? You know, don’t you?”
Rachel opened her mouth, then closed it without making a sound. “How – How would I – “
“Why were you in the park, Mom? Why did you come tearing in, screaming for me to get the girls away from Chase?”
“I saved your life,” Rachel hissed. “Does that mean nothing to you?”
“Chase saved yours,” Jamie noted. “Does it mean anything to you?”
“I am eternally grateful to him,” Rachel said stiffly. “As a matter of fact, I have been thinking about starting college funds for both of his children. The younger one has special needs, doesn’t he? Wasn’t he the boy Kevin wanted him and Amanda to adopt? In that case, he’ll probably need lifelong care. I could arrange that. It’s the least I can do.”
“Doug has plenty of money to take care of Ike and send Milagros to college. What he would prefer, instead, is some answers about what happened to his partner. Carl didn’t kill Chase as he lay in the hospital. But, we both know he’s the one who put him there. I’m not an idiot, Mom. You saved my life because you knew Carl had a hit out on Chase. And if you knew, you must have approved. That is, until my family got in the way. Carl is playing you. He confessed to a murder for sympathetic reasons in order to get out of the one he committed for no reason save vengeance. Carl wanted Chase off his case once and for all. You stood by and allowed it to happen. And now a man is dead. But, you’re alive. No one can bring Chase back to Doug and their kids. But you are the only one who can bring him justice.”
“Why was Dennis even here?” Marley demanded of Donna. The police had come up empty in questioning Marley’s mother about Marley’s fiancé and his granddaughter’s disappearance, so Marley figured it would be up to her to get to the bottom of it all.
“He wanted to talk about you.” Donna had nothing to hide in that regard.
“What about me?”
“Dennis wondered if you were happy.”
“Good God, how many times do I have to keep telling that man yes, yes, yes!”
“How very Molly Bloom of you,” Donna couldn’t help observing.
And was rewarded by a smile from her daughter who at first attempted to hide it, then gave in and admitted, “Good one.”
Donna smiled in return. “Truly, darling, he seems to care significantly about you. You deserve that much. And a great deal more.”
“I don’t understand why he keeps pushing the point,” Marley confessed, sinking into a chair in the Cory parlor. “I don’t know what else I can do or say to convince him.”
Donna took a seat across from Marley, gently prodding, “Dennis said you told him you no longer wished to have a child.”
“It’s not that I no longer wished it but, come on, Donna, I am way past that point now.”
“There’s still adoption…”
“With my mental history? I lost custody of Michele and Bridget to Steven! What judge would give me a child? I’m too old, and I’m too crazy. Or so everybody thinks.”
“Is Sarah still allowing you to visit with Daisy?” Donna tread even more carefully.
“Well, not now that she’s missing! Oh, and get this, Iris accused me of kidnapping Daisy and Dennis both so I can spirit them off somewhere we can be a picture-perfect family. Can you believe the nerve of that woman?”
“I believe anything and everything when it comes to Iris. There is no depth to which she will not stoop.”
“Why would I do that? Especially now that I’ve finally made peace with never having a child of my own?”
“Maybe Iris doesn’t believe it.”
“Who cares what Iris believes?” Marley snapped, then abruptly asked, “Do you believe it, Donna?”
“Wow, that was fast. You sure gave it a lot of thought.”
“I always believe in you, Marley,” Donna said firmly. “I always have and I always will.”
“So… if you thought that what I needed to be happy was a life with Dennis and Daisy, would you make it happen?”
“What are you asking, darling?”
“You were the last one to see them…”
“Wrong. Whoever kidnapped them was the last one to see them.”
“So it wasn’t you?”
“No,” she visibly deflated. “I didn’t think so.”
“You sound disappointed.”
“I am. If it were you, we could get them back post-haste.”
“Is that all?” Donna pried gently.
“No,” Marley shook her head, realizing that Donna saw right through her. “It – I guess it was nice, suspecting you’d done something for me, for a change.”
“I would do anything for you,” Donna swore fervently, making up her mind on the spot. “Including helping you find out who did abscond with Dennis and Daisy, clearing your name, and reuniting you with the man you love. No more worries, Marley. I shall take care of everything.”
Charlie wrinkled her nose at Cass and Frankie. “You want me to go to court and swear that Mr. Hutchins had problems with me and Charlie being together?”
“It’s the truth, isn’t it?” Cass reminded. “You wouldn’t be committing perjury.”
“Well, no… But it wasn’t because he had trouble with me being a girl. He had trouble with me being… me. Lot of that going around,” Charlie noted.
“Don’t be silly, honey,” Frankie slipped an arm around her daughter.
“Come on, Mom, how else was I supposed to interpret ‘Elizabeth can do better for herself?’”
“Carl Hutchins is responsible for Mayor Hamilton’s death,” Cass attempted to keep their conversation on track. “We’re trying to prove that he had many reasons for targeting Chase in particular.”
“Does Lori Ann know?” Charlie wondered. “I mean, she and his kid, Ike, they’re tight, right?”
Cass and Frankie exchanged glanced.
Frankie said, “We – we haven’t broken the news to her yet.”
“Don’t you think you should, before some other kid at her school tells her?”
“I’m not sure she’d understand,” Cass pointed out. “She’s so young…”
“What about your whole thing about being there for your friends? Didn’t you push me to go see Kirkland when Lorna disappeared, and then to go to the hospital with Elizabeth after Carl got shot?”
“You’re a lot older than Lori Ann.”
“You guys didn’t even think about it, did you?” Charlie accused. “You were so busy playing I Spy, you didn’t even think about Lori Ann or Ike.”
Cass was about to deny when Frankie cut him off. “You’re right. You are absolutely right. We blew it. Big time. It was a clear example of do what we say, not what we do. We got hired to solve a case, and everything else fell by the wayside.”
“Frankie, that’s not true!” Cass argued. “We have been home every night to put Lori Ann to bed, we’ve gotten her to school in the morning, she hasn’t missed a single therapy session. We have not been neglecting her!”
“Not physically, maybe. What about emotionally? Charlie has called us on this before, getting so wrapped up in our work and each other, we’ve forgotten our kids.”
“Charlie usually calls us on this,” Cass pointed out. “When she’s trying to distract us from the real topic at hand.” He crossed his arms and asked, “How is your relationship with Elizabeth going, Charlotte? Have you seen her since Rachel was injured?”
Hoisted by her own petard, Charlie mumbled, “I texted her.”
“You know, this thing where you continue dating Charlie just to prove us wrong – “
“That is so not what I’m doing!”
“Then why are you reluctant to talk about your relationship?”
“In court! I’m reluctant to talk about it in court! How would you feel if I put you on the stand to talk about Mom and who did or didn’t think you were good enough for her?”
“She’s right, Cass, we were being insensitive.”
“Or maybe we’re just being played.” Cass warned Charlie, “Your mother is a loving, warm, generous person who sees the best in everyone. She will never get over the guilt she feels over all those years when she wasn’t here for you. I am not your mother. I was here for you all those years, and I can be a son-of-a-bitch when the situation warrants, besides. Don’t push me, Charlie. I don’t appreciate it. And I will only stand for it for so long, you follow me?”
“Where have you been?” Iris demanded of Russ as he walked through the door, offering her a token kiss, his mind obviously somewhere else.
“At the hospital.”
He paused in his tracks. “Among dozens of other patients, yes.”
“But you did see Rachel today?”
“She’s my friend, Iris.”
“She’s your ex-wife!”
“And you are my current wife,” he attempted to appease.
“Which is why you should have been home with me, not her.”
“Rachel is in the middle of a very serious crises.”
“So am I!” Iris’ eyes blazed. “Dennis and Daisy have been missing since last night!”
“What? How? I – I didn’t know! Sarah didn’t tell – “
“That’s because your granddaughter has spent the last twenty-four hours in a state of mortal panic. As,” Iris sniffed. “Have I.”
“What do you mean, they’re missing?”
“No one has seen hide or hair of them ever since they left Donna’s house last evening.”
“Donna? What does Donna have to do with any of this?”
“That’s what I’d like to know. Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past her to be aiding and abetting that deranged daughter of hers with acting out some sick fantasy, using my son and our great-granddaughter to do it!”
“You suspect Marley is behind this?”
“Iris, think for a moment. You are a very wealthy, prominent woman. This could be a genuine kidnapping.”
“Then where is the ransom demand, I ask you?”
“I realize you’re upset…”
“Though not in the middle of a ‘very serious crisis,’ ala Rachel?”
Russ took a deep breath. “Which is why I’m not going to reply to that. Tell me what you would like me to do, and I will do it. Tell me what you need from me, Iris.”
She melted at that, having expected more of an argument. “Help me find my son, Russ.”
“Done,” he swore, taking her into his arms.
Leading Iris to murmur, “You really do love me, don’t you, darling?”
“I love you,” he reassured.
“More than anyone?”
He held her closer.
“Go lie down and try to get some sleep,” Kirkland urged Sarah. “I’ll man the phones.”
“Pointless,” she told him, eyes locked on the display as if she could make it ring with good news through sheer force of all. “All I can think about is Daisy.”
“I’m sure Dennis is taking care of her.”
“What if he can’t? What if they wanted only her? There’s a reason ‘kid’ is part of the word ‘kidnapping.’ What if they got rid of my dad, and she’s all alone?”
“I…” Kirkland spread his arms helplessly. “I don’t know, okay? I’m sorry, Sarah, I wish I could say the right thing, but I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, that makes two of us.”
“Do you want me to call the cops again? Or, I was thinking, maybe we could hire Cass and Frankie to investigate privately.”
“Cass and Frankie didn’t know their own daughter was plotting to kill Allie and set her boyfriend’s farm on fire. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of their skills.”
“Okay, what do you want to do?”
“I want my daughter back!” Sarah’s bravado dissolved into tears. “And I want Grant.”
That only served to make Kirkland feel even more helpless than ever.
“He should be here!” Sarah raged. “He should be here with me! Maybe if he were here, none of this would have happened. And even if it had, he’d be here… with me….”
Kirkland said, “When my mom died, Dad said she became my guardian angel. That she’d always be with me.”
Sarah snorted. “I’m not five years old, Kirk. I need something a little more substantial than fairy tales.”
“Did you know that my mom helped Jake find Michele and Bridget? And this is after she was dead. She was still looking out for us.”
“Does Grant strike you as the magnanimous guardian angel type?” Sarah asked wryly.
“No,” Kirkland admitted.
“Except when it comes to you.”
Sarah swallowed hard. “W-What?”
“If Grant were going to make a big, dramatic, from the grave gesture for anyone, it would be for you. Because he loved you that much.”
“Stop it,” Sarah shook her head, feeling tears coming on when she’d been absolutely sure there were none left.
“He loved you, Sarah,” Kirkland rested a hand on either of her shoulders, forcing her to meet his eyes. “Like he’d never loved anybody before in his life. You remember when he told you he didn’t want you in his life? That was for your sake, not his. Grant actually did something unselfish – for you. How can you doubt he’s watching over you now?”
“Then where’s Daisy?”
“We’ll find her.” Kirkland wiped tears from Sarah’s cheeks, first with one palm, then the other. And then he just stood there, trying to make her listen, trying to make her believe it. “We’ll find her.”
A knock on the door made them both startle and jump back guiltily – though both knew they hadn’t been doing anything worth feeling guilty about.
Nevertheless, Sarah was relieved for the chance to break Kirkland’s gaze and scurry towards the door, covering her relief with the hope, “Maybe that’s news about Daisy!”
Kirkland smiled weakly in reply.
But it was only Jasmine, standing awkwardly in the doorway, wondering, “Am I interrupting?”
“No!” Kirkland said.
“No,” Sarah echoed sadly. “There hasn’t been any news.”
“I’m so sorry,” Jasmine stepped in to give her a quick hug, then moved to stand by Kirkland, who gratefully clutched at her arm, kissing her hello without looking at Sarah.
Daisy’s mother glanced from one to the other and blurted out, “You should go!”
“Oh,” Jasmine stammered. “Then I am interrupting?”
“No, no. I meant both you and Kirkland should go. Seriously, he’s been here all night. I didn’t mean to monopolize – “
“I wanted to help,” Kirkland defended.
“Well, there’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing anyone can do. And I don’t need a baby-sitter.”
“We could just keep you company,” Jasmine offered.
“I’m fine. I’ve imposed on Kirk long enough. This isn’t his problem.”
“Daisy is my sister!”
“Yeah, well, you’ve got four more of those.”
“It’s okay, Sarah. I can stay if you need me.”
“I don’t,” she snapped sharply, then turned to Jasmine. “Is your boyfriend always such a damn Boy Scout?”
“Usually,” she admitted, cuddling Kirkland’s arm, gazing at him adoringly.
“Well, it can get a little suffocating.”
“I don’t think so.” Jasmine smiled.
“Just get him out of here, okay? He’s done enough. I appreciate it but, please, he’s done enough….”
“What is it, my darling? What has happened?” Carl came tearing into Rachel’s hospital room. “They informed me at the prison that you had phoned and requested an audience with me immediately. I was compelled to don the same manacle they’d shackled onto Cory, but I came as summarily as I could. Have you taken a turn for the worse? Leave it to your blasted family to continue keeping me in the dark.”
Rachel looked at him for a moment, and then she indicated the tray in front of her. It had been wheeled up to Rachel’s bed and set at approximately chest level. On the tray, were a dozen different pills, each in a separate plastic compartment.
Rachel said, “This is the medicine I’m going to have to take every day of my life, for the rest of my life, to keep from rejecting the organ Chase Hamilton gave me.”
Carl nodded compassionately. “A great burden, to be certain. But still preferable to the alternative.”
“I’m not going to take them,” Rachel informed her husband.
“What? Why? Is it a matter of side-effects? Surely we could arrange to get the protocol adjusted. I realize that, oftentimes, the cure is worse than the disease but, in this case…”
“I am not going to take them, Carl, until you confess to me exactly what happened with Chase Hamilton.”
“I beg you pardon? I don’t follow. You have my word that I have been forthright – “
“Not good enough,” Rachel snapped. “Your word… is no longer good enough.”
He blanched. “What would you have me say, Rachel?”
“Say whether or not you actually killed Chase Hamilton, or whether you merely claimed you did in order to come off as a more heroic defendant – to the jury, and to me.”
“Why in the world would you suspect – “
“Tell me, Carl!” Rachel raged, snatching the container off her tray and tilting it towards the floor, centimeters away from sending all the pills down in a colorful shower of waste. “Tell the truth, or so help me, you won’t only be responsible for Chase’s death, but for mine, too.”
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