October 31, 2018

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

As you turn to your mind,
And your thoughts they rewind,
To old happenings and things that are done,
You can’t find what’s passed,
Make that happiness last,
Seeing from those eyes what you become,
What you become
Haunt, Bastille


Friday, June 27, 2003

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Scott scowled and threw his hands up. “How can we be nowhere after a week?” he demanded.  “Where the hell is she?”

“If we knew that, we’d have her,” Capelli growled. He jabbed his finger at Scott. “If your office could get me my damn warrants—”

“What the hell good is it going to do to search Corinthos and Morgan’s properties?” Scott dismissed it. “You have no probable cause and I’ll be shocked as hell if the judge says anything differently next week.” He looked at Mac. “If I have to take one more angry call from the fucking mayor and be told it’s an election year one more time—what the hell have your men been doing?”

Mac sighed. “We don’t have a lot of leads, Scott. You gotta give us a break—we had one eye witness—a six-year-old kid who was almost too terrified to even give a statement. He saw Ric. Great. We’ve investigated Lansing. We’ve had him under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He goes from his house to search out offices around town and then home again. What do you want me to do?”

Scott sat down on the sofa, put his head in his hands. “I can’t tell Bobbie that we can’t find her daughter. She’s already looking at us like we’re useless, and hell, maybe we are.”

“Hey,” Capelli said. “We’re trying our best—”

“If we hadn’t showed up last week, Corinthos and Morgan would have hung that piece of shit by his dick and they’d have found Carly in hours.” Disgusted with himself, he continued, “That’s where I am, people. I wish like hell our resident gangsters could have free rein because we can’t do shit.”

“We’re pursuing the Zacchara angle,” Capelli insisted. “It’s gotta be it. We know about the wife of someone he had blown up a few years ago. Corinthos’ wife goes missing, it’s gotta be a warning or something. If we had done what I wanted and gotten someone on the inside—”

“No one outside of the inner circle knows what’s going on. That wouldn’t have done us any good.” He looked at Mac. “The press is eating us alive because we haven’t given them any leads. I can’t believe Lansing’s name hasn’t leaked.”

“That’s because Corinthos threatened the papers,” Capelli said with a smirk. “I told you—they’re just waiting until they can get their hands on Lansing. And then we’ll get them all. Lansing for kidnapping, and Corinthos and Morgan for attempted murder—”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about Corinthos and Morgan right now,” Scott snapped. “I care about the missing pregnant woman. I care about the mayor losing my number. I care about the voters who are threatening me with a recall election. They think we’ve been going after the grieving husband—you’ve hauled Corinthos and Morgan in for questioning more than any suspects—in fact, why the hell don’t I have any official police statements from Lansing and his wife?”

Mac raised his brows at his officer. “That is a good question. You should have called the paramedics and forced Elizabeth to go to the hospital. We could have gotten him on drugging her. Made him cool his heels in the cell.”

She wouldn’t go to the hospital,” Capelli retorted. “And she’s in this up to her goddamn elbows. I can’t figure out what game she’s playing. Either she’s in on it with Lansing or she’s screwing Morgan on the side because I got Jason Morgan going to that house every day as soon as Lansing leaves.”

“She’s letting him in to search,” Scott said after a moment. He exhaled slowly. “It’s obvious, you idiot. Read your own report. She’s the one who granted permission for the search in the first place. She’s still there to give him access to Ric’s papers.” Scott gestured at him. “Mac, are all the officers on the case this goddamn stupid?”

“Hey. She’s helping, fine. But we’re not getting anywhere. Wouldn’t he have figured that out after the first day? They’re having some kind of affair.” Capelli narrowed his eyes. “We should leak that to the press.”

“What?” Scott repeated, his eyes wide. “Leak what? Are you fucking insane—”

“Yeah,” Capelli continued with a nod, liking his own train of thought. “They got history. Everyone knows he’s been screwing her since she was barely legal. We leak the affair to the press, Lansing flips out. If he’s working alone, then he kidnapped Carly to get back at Sonny over the kid they lost. He might make a mistake.”

“You are not telling the press that two innocent parties to this investigation are having an affair,” Scott snarled. “Especially to get a rise out of Ric. If you’re right, he might kill Carly.”

“Shit, she’s probably already dead. He probably killed her that night or turned her over to the Zaccharas who wouldn’t have let her live long.” Capelli shrugged. He looked to Mac who had remained silent throughout this exchange. “This is still my case, Mac. Is he going to tell me how to investigate?”

“I’m telling you that you’re not opening this department up for a lawsuit,” Scott seethed. “Get your men under control, Mac. And get some damn results. Lansing should be brought in for questioning.”

He stormed out of the office, leaving the two cops alone. Mac eyed his officer. “I don’t like it,” he said evenly.

“I’m not convinced she’s not involved,” Capelli repeated. “The only reason we think Lansing drugged her is because we know she was high when we were there. She lost a kid, Mac. You’re telling me that doesn’t screw with people? Maybe she and Lansing are both screwed up. Maybe she’s playing everyone. I don’t know. I haven’t pushed because Taggert thinks she’s this innocent kid—but I think she’s proved that she’s not. She’s married to Ric Lansing, we both know she’s been dating Jason Morgan, she was up to her eyeballs in all the Cassadine shit—”

Mac waved at him. “Leak it,” he murmured. “To the Sun. A small gossip item, speculation or something. Make sure it doesn’t come back to us.” He hesitated. “I’m serious, Capelli. Not a single breadcrumb because when it hits the papers—” He looked away. “Scott’s going to kill us if he finds out I allowed this.”

“Hey, I know what I’m doing. It’s time to shake this case up.”

Lansing House: Living Room

Bobbie stepped over the threshold and examined Elizabeth with a critical eye. In the week since Carly had been kidnapped, she thought the younger woman had probably lost even more weight, giving her eyes a sunken in look—the bones of her collarbone prominent beneath the cream-colored tank top she wore.

“No news,” Bobbie said with an irritated sigh. “I talked to Scott and he said they’re nowhere.” She started to pace. “I don’t understand how she can just vanish.” She pressed her fingers to her to her temples. “I keep thinking what if we have it all wrong?”

Elizabeth sighed and closed the door. Her eyes blurred a bit and she stumbled as she turned. Damn it. How much longer would she be dealing with this withdrawal? Monica had told her to expect dizziness, nausea, being short of breath, restlessness—

She felt like she was going to come out of her skin if something didn’t happen soon.

“I know.” She sat down gingerly on the sofa, rubbing her arms. “Jason has been in to search every single day. I feel like we’ve gone over this house a thousand times. Every piece of paper—but nothing. I mean, it has to be Ric. There has to be a clue here. The evidence doesn’t fit any other scenario, but—” Her head was pounding, her mouth was dry. “We put more cameras in, so maybe we’ll get something from that. Maybe it’s just—maybe it’s just the drugs or coming off of them—but I almost feel like she’s watching me. Like there’s something here.”

Bobbie closed her eyes. “I know. Michael saw Ric take her. He’s six, but he’s not stupid. He knew what Ric looked like. We know Ric drugged you. He mixed it with alcohol, so it was even more potent. He wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t involved.”

“Maybe he didn’t bring her here,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe we were wrong about why he drugged me—maybe it was just so I wouldn’t notice he was gone.”

“I just can’t keep—” Bobbie scrubbed her hands over her face. “Everyone is looking at me with pity, like they think she’s already dead. Jason looks like a zombie, you’re on the brink of a medical disaster because you’re not eating and sleeping, and my daughter—” She stopped.

“I’m terrified that we’re wrong. That we’ve spent the last week searching for dead ends, but—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “Jason said that no one from the Zacchara family was in the area. And if it was—if it was business, wouldn’t they know? I mean…when I was kidnapped last year, Jason knew about it. He knew who it was. He accidentally—” Her cheeks flushed. “The guy keeping me died so he couldn’t tell Jason where I was. But—that’s how this is supposed to work. You don’t take someone for leverage if you don’t want to use the leverage.”

Bobbie frowned, folded her arms. “Jason has told you a lot, I see. More than he’s told me.”

“I—” She licked her lips again. They were so damn dry.  “We keep going over and over everything. I think—I think he said Sonny is struggling, and I know from the papers that the PCPD is going after them. Jason said Sonny is working on keeping them out of jail, so Jason is looking for Carly. And I guess—I don’t think he’s keeping things from you, Bobbie.”

“No, no. I don’t think so either. I guess you’ve always known more about Jason’s business than you’ve let on.” She sighed, sat on the sofa. “I think about that Christmas a lot, you know. When I took care of Jason’s gunshot wound.”

“I try not to,” Elizabeth murmured. “I was so scared when I found him. And he was so damn stubborn. He didn’t want me to tell anyone, so I didn’t, but I didn’t know if I could really take care of him.”

“You did such a good job. I guess it just reminds me of Robin and Courtney.” Bobbie looked away. “Jason was shot before that—and Robin called 911, forced him to go to the hospital. And Courtney called the cops. Let them in to search the penthouse. Just—” She shook her head. “I don’t know what made me think of that winter in your studio.”

“Well, we’re working together—the three of us—for the first time since then,” Elizabeth pointed out with a half-smile. “And remembering how much of a pest Carly made herself. After that, she pretty much hated me.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Bobbie dipped her head. “I just want her back, Elizabeth. I don’t know if we’ve missed something. If we’re all just—if we’re all just going in circles, going over the same information again and again. I wish there was someone we could take this to but there’s not. There’s no one who gets it.”

“I know.” Elizabeth’s watch beeped, and she sighed as she reached for her purse. She dug around and pulled out her phone. “I have to check in with Jason.”

“He really meant every hour, huh?”

“Yeah…I fell asleep yesterday at the studio and missed a check in,” she murmured as she pressed the speed dial. “He called Cody within like…I don’t know, thirty seconds—Hey. Yeah, I’m fine. He’s not here. Office space again. He must be looking in every single building in the greater metropolitan area. Bobbie’s here—Okay. Yeah. Bye.” She closed the phone. “He’s at the penthouse with Justus. Sonny’s…having trouble so he had to take care of business today.” She put the phone back in her purse, careful to tuck it into her secret pocket. “I wish I could do more for him. He’s got all this weight on his shoulders.”

“I know.” Bobbie got to her feet. “I should go see if I can do something with Sonny. Carly would want me to look out for him. He must be out of his damn mind with worry.” Elizabeth followed her to the door, and the two embraced. “Take care of yourself and don’t forget to check in with Jason.”

“I won’t. I’m trying very hard not to be one more person he has to worry about.” Elizabeth sighed and closed the door behind her. She leaned back against it.

“Carly?” she called out. Again, a little more loudly. “I don’t know if you can hear me. I don’t know if you’re even here, but I don’t know. Just—don’t lose hope. Jason’s—he’s going to find you. I promise.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Upstairs Hallway

Irritated, Courtney strode towards the guest room where her brother had been holed up for the last few days. He’d refused to take any visitors—had sent Michael to stay with Bobbie as if he couldn’t be bothered with his own goddamn son—

He was being so selfish, so useless. Jason was never home, out until all hours of the night worrying about everyone but Courtney, and she was sick of Jason shouldering all of Sonny’s responsibilities.

She threw open the door. “Sonny—”

She couldn’t see her brother right away—the room was in shambled, the dark comforter twisted and pulled halfway across the bed—the desk chair broken and over turned.

“Sonny—?”

In the corner, her brother sat, crossed legged. His eyes weren’t on Courtney but staring ahead. “You’re never going to forgive me,” he said to the empty space in front of him. “I didn’t want you to die, but you’re never going to stop punishing me—”

“Sonny—” Courtney’s voice trembled. Her brother was disheveled—he hadn’t shaved in days, his hair was in loose curls around his temples, his voice raspy, the dark eyes rimmed so deeply in red— “Sonny,” she repeated, trying to make herself louder.

“Courtney.” Sonny focused on her. He looked relieved to see her. He beckoned to her. “You can—you can tell her. Tell her I didn’t want to kill her. That it’s not Carly’s fault.”

“Tell who?” Courtney said, faintly. Oh, Christ, her brother had snapped.

“She’s right there.” Sonny pointed at the empty space. “Tell her, Lily. Tell her why you’re here.”

“L-Lily…”

“She says it’s my fault, that I’m being punished, but it’s not fair to punish me.” He closed his eyes, shook his head. “Not fair to punish me.”

He reached for her, but Courtney had already fled out of the room and down the hall.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason walked Justus out of the penthouse and started for the stairs to exchange the used clothes in his duffel bag for clean ones. He couldn’t bring himself to come back to this place and share a room with Courtney when he knew that one of the reasons Carly was still missing was because Courtney had tied all of their hands and called the police.

He couldn’t look at her, couldn’t understand how he had so badly misunderstood exactly who she was—why he had ever believed she understood his life better than other women who had been in it.

He was considering calling Diego, the guy trailing Ric, to find out how much longer Lansing might be gone. He hadn’t searched the house yet today, and not to search it made Jason feel like they were giving up.

Like they were just waiting to find Carly’s body—and that he was not going to deal with that. The only way this was going to end was finding Carly alive and healthy and getting Elizabeth away from Ric Lansing.

Milo, Max’s little brother, knocked on Jason’s door, intending to announce his visitor but Bobbie came in before he had a chance. “Jason. I’m glad I caught you.”

“Hey.” He hugged her briefly. “I thought you were with Elizabeth.”

“I was, but I wanted to come here to check on Sonny. She said he’s been struggling. I thought—I thought maybe he sent Michael to stay with me because of Lulu and Lucas—so Michael could have someone to distract him.” Bobbie braced her hands on Jason’s forearms. “But it’s worse than that.”

“He—he was doing okay at first,” Jason admitted. “But he stopped letting us in on Monday and I’ve been—I’ve been letting Justus and Bernie take care of business matters. I should be checking on him—”

“But you have a thousand things to worry about—” Bobbie exhaled sharply. “I need to have something to do, Jason. And we need to change tactics. We need to try something new.”

“I know.” Jason groaned as he turned and started to pace. “It’s been a week, and we’re nowhere. I thought Ric was looking for somewhere to move her—but there’s nothing. Elizabeth and I have torn that house apart, and my contacts at the PCPD tell me they don’t know anything either—”

He grimaced. “It’s Friday. I told Elizabeth I didn’t want her to stay another night in the house but she’s going to argue with me. And she’ll be right. I’ve missed something in the house. I must have, I just don’t know where.”

“If you missed it, we all did,” Bobbie reassured him. “Elizabeth and I were going over it, and everything keeps coming back to the house. It’s the only place that Ric spends any time. The only way this makes sense is if Ric didn’t do it—”

“He did it,” Jason said darkly. “Michael saw him—”

“I don’t doubt that, Jason. And Elizabeth said you’re pretty sure the Zaccharas aren’t involved.” She bit her lip. “Or am I not supposed to know that she knew that?”

“I can’t keep any of that straight anymore.” Jason dragged his hands through hair. “No, I guess I shouldn’t have told her, but it just came out. She’s the only one who gets it—and you, I mean—but—”

“She’s someone you trust, I get it.” Bobbie hesitated. “Where does any of this leave us, Jason? Where is Ric keeping my daughter?”

“There—she’s in the house. It’s the only thing that make sense. It’s the only place Ric goes every day. Unless—”

“Unless he killed her that first night. Unless she never stepped foot in the house.” Bobbie was pale but nodded. “I’m—I’m starting to allow that to be a theory. Maybe something went wrong and he—”

“I can’t let it be something I consider. Because she’s out there, and she’s counting on me, and Elizabeth is counting—” Jason broke off. “I just don’t know what to do next.”

The door shoved open, and Courtney ran in. “Jason, you have to—Sonny—he’s gone crazy!”

Jason blinked at his fiancée as Bobbie scowled. “What?” she demanded.

“He’s sitting upstairs and he’s talking to Lily like she’s there—” Courtney didn’t even finish her sentence before Bobbie and Jason rushed out—

And then Bobbie slammed the door shut behind her when Courtney tried to follow.

Corinthos Penthouse: Guest Bedroom

Jason stopped Bobbie before she could follow him. “Listen. There’s—Downstairs, in the room where I used to sleep when I lived here—there’s a first aid kit. It—” He swallowed hard. “There’s a sedative.”

Bobbie frowned. “A sedative? This isn’t the first time then—”

“It’s been a few years since it’s been this bad—and he’s never seen Lily,” Jason admitted. “I think he’s been drinking pretty steadily since Carly was kidnapped, and when he’s stressed—sometimes he has a breakdown and has hallucinations. We got a doctor to give us something to give him—I’ll do it, you just—”

“I don’t care about my license. I’ll go get the kit.” Bobbie went back down the hallway.

Jason walked into the room and found Sonny leaning against the wall on the far side of the room, his legs sprawled out in front of him. “Sonny?”

“I’m useless, aren’t I?” Sonny murmured, his eyes closed. “Lily told me that. It’s my fault, and I can’t even make it right.”

“Lily was a nice a woman who didn’t know you that well,” Jason said gently as he gingerly knelt down next to Sonny. “She never, not for one minute, would have blamed you.”

“She does. Can’t you hear her?” Sonny gestured to a space just behind Jason. “She blames me. Courtney does. I tried to blame her, tried to make it her fault, but it’s mine.”

“Sonny—”

“I’m the reason Ric didn’t have a mother, so that’s why he’s crazy. And it’s my fault my mother died. She tried to give me a father.” Sonny’s voice was monotone, almost eerily empty as he continued. “It’s my fault Lily died. It was supposed to be me.”

“It’s her father’s fault—”

“It’s my fault Ric came for Carly. Why she’s missing. He says I killed his baby.” Sonny opened his eyes. “Did I? I’ve killed babies before.”

“Sonny—”

“I don’t think—” Sonny’s voice was thick now with tears. “I like Elizabeth. I don’t think I would have pushed her. But maybe I did. I’m poison, Jason.”

“No, you’re not. You know Lily’s not here,” Jason said, swallowing a lump in his throat. “It’s just you saying these things. Because you’re scared. I’m scared, too.”

“Yeah?” Sonny focused on him. “Why?”

“Because it’s been a week,” Jason admitted. “And I don’t know if I’m right. I don’t know if Ric has her in that house. And if he doesn’t, Elizabeth will have put herself into danger for nothing. I’m scared she’s already gone, Sonny. Or that Ric is going to cut his losses and hurt Elizabeth—even kill her this time.” Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t have all the answers, Sonny. I wish like hell I did.”

Sonny looked past him again. “She’s not there anymore,” he said quietly. “I guess maybe she never was.”

Behind him, Bobbie gently set down the first aid kit. “Hey, Sonny.”

“Bobbie.” Sonny focused on his mother-in-law. “I’m sorry. I love Carly. I never wanted this to happen. I’m so sorry.”

“I know you are,” Bobbie said gently. “Will you let me take care of you? Carly would want me to look after you.” She held out her hand, and together, they pulled Sonny to his feet.

Sonny bobbed and weaved, then laid on the bed. “I’m so tired,” he murmured. He laid his head against the pillow and didn’t even flinch as Bobble delivered the shot.

They waited until Sonny was sleep, and then went downstairs.

Bobbie closed her eyes. “I’m going to call Nikolas,” she told him. “Nikolas is a set of fresh eyes. He can look at this situation and maybe he won’t get stuck. He’ll want Liz out of the house as much as we do and maybe he’ll have some ideas. He’s the only person I can think of who might be able to help.”

She focused on Jason. “You need to send Courtney away.”

“What?” Jason looked at her, squinted. “Why—”

“Because you’re killing yourself to avoid her. Because you know you’re ending it. And she’s just a distraction. An obstacle. She probably made things worse with Sonny, and God knows if she might cooperate with the cops again. Every time I see her, I want to choke the life out of her, so I can’t imagine how you feel about her. Send her to the island with Michael. I’ll talk to Lucas and Lulu. They can go with her.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I keep thinking I don’t understand how any of this happened,” he admitted. “How—how did I almost marry her, Bobbie? I don’t think I even like her very much.”

Bobbie managed a weak smile. “I’ve been married enough to know that sometimes…you do it because you don’t think there’s anything better out there. It’s never okay to settle, Jason. I’ve done that more than once in my life.”

He sighed. “Yeah, well, you’re right. Courtney can take care of Michael and I won’t have to worry about him. You call Nikolas, and I’ll make the arrangements.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

There was a suitcase by his door when Jason finally went back to his place. He stared down at it—less than a year ago, he had walked through this door and found another suitcase packed, left at his door by a different woman.

When Elizabeth had walked away—when he’d seen that suitcase and known that he avoided the penthouse for too long—that he had waited too long—a hole had opened inside of him—an ache in his chest that only spread when she’d looked at him with those angry, betrayed eyes.

Looking at another woman preparing to leave him—the fact that knowing Courtney was going—it was relief. This was over.  She’d been a mistake—a wrong path—and now he’d have the chance to stop it. To end it before they both made this worse.

Courtney stopped at the bottom of the stairs, another suitcase in her hands. “I think it’s time we both stopped pretending you give a damn about me,” she said flatly. “You can’t say you love me, that you want to marry me, and treat me the way you have for the last week.”

“I—” Jason hesitated. “No. I care about you, but I knew even before Carly went missing that we were making a mistake.”

She swallowed hard, tears shining in her blue eyes. “I could feel you slipping away from me. As long as we were in crisis mode—as long as there was something else going on—we didn’t have to think about the fact that you didn’t love me. I don’t know why you lied to me—”

“I wanted to love you,” he admitted, painfully. “I thought—I thought you understood the way I had to live my life. You acted like you did—”

“I called the cops because my best friend was missing, and my nephew was devastated. I was afraid you and Sonny were going to kill Ric.” Courtney swallowed. “But you know…I guess I’ve ignored what you do. I put it into a box. I’m not like Elizabeth.”

Jason didn’t have the energy to have this conversation. Things had to get done. “I need you to go to the island,” he said, changing course. “I need—Michael needs to get away from this. Lulu and Lucas are going to go with you, but I need to know that he’s okay and somewhere safe.”

“You need me out of the way, too.” Courtney pursed her lips, exhaled slowly, and then nodded. “Yeah. Okay. It’s clear that everything I try to do here is just making it worse. You and Sonny hate me. And I guess bringing the cops in made a mess of things. I didn’t—I didn’t want that, Jason—”

“I know you were trying to help,” Jason cut in. “It just—it didn’t.”

“Yeah. Well, I guess I’ll finish packing. Let me know when I’m leaving.” She went back up the stairs, and he left, feeling dissatisfied with how that had gone.

He’d never meant to hurt Courtney, but by lying to himself, he’d lied to her, too. He didn’t recognize himself and couldn’t understand why it had taken so long to just admit the truth.

He couldn’t worry about Courtney anymore—he had to get the plane ready and let the people at the island know they were coming. Another thing to add to the list that only seemed to get longer every day.

Happy Halloween! I’m excited — I have the day off from work and I get to watch my nieces and nephew in their school’s costume parade and then go trick or treating. I got my cute cat ears headband all ready to go 😛 You’re never too old!

Chapter Nine is now live, and Chapters Ten and Eleven have already been scheduled. I’m super excited about the next two weeks of chapters so remember to let me know what you think!

This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

You can’t play on broken strings
You can’t feel anything that your heart don’t want to feel
I can’t tell you something that ain’t real
Well the truth hurts
And lies worse
How can I give anymore
When I love you a little less than before
Broken Strings, James Morrison


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Lansing Home: Panic Room

He came in the dark when the rest of the world had gone to sleep.

The first time, she had tried to scream when the door slid open, but he only laughed at her. No one could hear her—not the woman sleeping upstairs. He’d drugged her that first night.

And after that night, Ric assured Carly that he’d found ways to continue drugging his wife. He kept the pills in a locked box high on a metal shelf in the panic room—even if Carly could get to it, there was no way to open it.  No way to destroy them.  The chain wrapped around her ankle didn’t allow her to get very far across the room.

Every night he brought her food meant to last her until the next night. She watched as he took pills from bottles—birth control to prevent pregnancy and Valium to keep Elizabeth asleep at night.

He mixed the pills into ice cube trays, freezing the pills so that Elizabeth wouldn’t know they were there. Always in every cube, one of each pill to make sure she ingested them.

And Ric was right—every day, Elizabeth drank glasses of water with those ice cubes. Ric thought it was amusing—he knew his wife didn’t trust him—knew there was a kernel of doubt in her mind.

He no longer tried to make her dinners, said nothing when she ordered out or made food for them both even though he was the better cook, he told Carly. Because Elizabeth drank the water without protest.

Carly was horrified—didn’t he worry that she might get sick? That she might take too much Valium?

He wasn’t—now that he was no longer drugging her in the food, he could control her intake more carefully. And the water likely diluted the dosage. He didn’t foresee any problems—he was sure it would be okay until the day her child was born.

Because then Elizabeth wouldn’t need him to drug her. The Valium was to keep her calm, to keep her biddable. If he gave her a baby—through private adoption—then he could stop giving her drugs.

She’d stay with him for the baby. She’d married him for the baby, after all.

Carly knew she’d talked Elizabeth into keeping the child and wished like hell she’d told Elizabeth to go for abortion.

It was nearly four in the morning when the door slid open on maybe the fourth or fifth night of her captivity—Carly was having trouble keeping track.

Ric set a tray of food on the far table, putting some water bottles in the fridge, the chilled soup—the sandwiches. She lay on her side on the cot, staring at him. Not engaging him in conversation.

He was the only link she had with the outside world, but Carly had no interest in talking to him.

Ric Lansing was a psychopath. A monster. Whatever psychological label doctors would put on him—he was wrong in the head—and Carly just wanted her freedom.

She’d watched Jason every day—watched him search. Watched Elizabeth search. She knew the other woman was on her side—prayed Elizabeth wouldn’t get sick, that Ric wouldn’t put her in any more danger.

As each day passed, she could see the hope fading from their expressions, even through the dimly lit screens. They were beginning to think she wasn’t in the house or that there weren’t any clues—and Carly couldn’t blame them.

Jason and Sonny were capable of violence—Carly had no illusions about the men in her life—but Ric was different. There was a deranged streak in his brain that allowed him to claim he loved his wife even as he regularly drugged her. A man who planned to kill a woman for her baby—

Carly knew he wasn’t going to wait until November when her child was due—the child growing inside of her could be viable as soon as September—and after that she would be useless to him.

“I’ll bring some magazines later today,” Ric said as he reached for the lock box. He counted out pills from each bottle and slipped them into a plastic bag. “I don’t want you getting too bored.”

Carly didn’t answer. She’d spent the first few days screaming at him, begging him. Reasoning with him.

But there was nothing inside him to reason with. The charming, smooth, sophisticated face he’d shown to the world for the last six months had been nothing more than a mask to hide the monster beneath.

She saw the true Ric now—the emptiness in his eyes. He was obsessed with his wife—had given up a plan to take out Sonny because of Elizabeth, or so he said—but Carly knew better. It wasn’t Elizabeth that had changed the course of Ric’s plan—no, it was the child. A baby that had given Ric the idea of extending his own existence—of creating another Ric.

He wanted the child—Elizabeth gave him the excuse, the cover to show the rest of the world.

Carly would be damned if she’d help him take her child and destroy Elizabeth in the process. She would hold tight to Jason and Sonny, to her faith in them. They would never stop looking for her, she knew that. And if sometimes that belief felt a little far away—she chalked it up to the darkness she lived with. Even with all the lights in the panic room switched on, the room could never mimic true sunlight.

Carly didn’t plan to die here in the dark and surrender her child to Ric Lansing. She would hold on to her sanity until Jason found her.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

It was with a great deal of reluctance that Jason opened the door to his penthouse, though the place hadn’t really felt like home in months. He’d told Courtney she could decorate it however she wanted, thinking that he didn’t really give a damn.

The truth was that he did care a little about what his apartment looked like—he just hadn’t realized it until Courtney had decorated it with elaborate furniture, knick knacks, and some sort of cabinet that made it almost impossible to use his pool table.

He hadn’t returned to the penthouse since the cops had searched it—had spent Saturday night with his tech guys, Stan Johnson and Damien Spinelli, putting together the surveillance for the house.

Sunday night, he’d been at the warehouse, making sure that everything was in place if they were raided, and he’d spent the last few nights watching footage of the Lansing house. They had only put cameras in areas of the house where Ric spent time alone—but it gave Jason some small comfort when he saw Elizabeth walk past those rooms—she’d made it through another night.

She called him every hour as promised or sent him short texts with nothing more than the words im ok—letting him know when she planned to sleep, when she woke up. It had done little to alleviate his discomfort that she remained in the house, so completely under Ric’s control, but Elizabeth was stubborn in her belief that she could help Carly best by staying close.

It was just past six that morning when Jason came in, worn out from another night watching the surveillance. They had learned nothing, and Jason was beginning to doubt there was anything to learn from the house.

While he hated the idea that it had been a dead end, at least he would be able to convince Elizabeth to desert her post and maybe, just maybe, she’d let him send her to Emily where she’d be safe.

He tried to be quiet as he took a duffel bag out of the closet in the master bedroom and took some clothes from the dresser, but the figure in the bed rolled over, blearily calling his name.

“Jason?” Courtney jack knifed into a sitting position. “What are—did you find her?” She pushed back the thin blue sheets on the bed and swung her legs out over the edge, getting to her feet. “Did you—”

“No.” Jason straightened, a clutch of t-shirts in his hand. “No. I—” He hesitated. “I’m sorry. I was just getting a change of clothing—”

Her lips pressed into a thin line, the color of lips fading into her skin. She switched on the bedside lamp. “You’re taking them with you. Why?” she demanded, her voice crackling with irritation, hands fisted at her hips, causing the silk night shirt she wore to bunch up.

Jason paused, then put the clothes inside the bag. “Because it will be easier,” he said after a moment. He meant every word of that statement. It would be easier for him to do what needed to be done if he didn’t have to come home to Courtney’s accusing eyes.

What exactly he was being accused of, Jason couldn’t say. His own anger hadn’t faded—the woman he’d intended to marry had not only called the police but allowed them to search his home. He couldn’t deal with Ric the way he wanted to with all eyes on him, with the cops breathing down their necks at work—

And somehow, Courtney had put herself in the position of being the victim, of looking so goddamn hurt when he and Sonny had criticized her for doing it.

It was easier to focus on Carly and keeping Elizabeth safe if he didn’t have to look at Courtney.

“Easier,” Courtney repeated. “Fine. Well, I wouldn’t want to distract you from finding Carly.” She folded her arms. “Have you been back to see Elizabeth?” she demanded.

Jason blinked at her. “What?”

“Sonny said Ric drugged her—or at least that’s what you believe. The cops obviously didn’t agree.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Courtney—”

“I mean, how do you know she didn’t help?” Courtney demanded. “She’s always hated Carly, and everyone seems to think Ric is obsessed with her. Maybe Elizabeth blamed Sonny for her miscarriage, too. Maybe she snapped, and Ric helped her—”

Jason stopped listening and returned to the dresser. He put several pairs of jeans in the bag, some briefs, and socks. His deodorant, a comb—

“Jason—” Her voice was shrill now and she yanked on his arm. “I’m your fiancée. Why don’t you talk to me? Why don’t I get to know what’s going on? What you’re doing to find Carly—”

“Because I don’t trust you,” Jason snapped without thinking, and they both stared at each other.

Her eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled. “I made a mistake. I—panicked. I wanted to help Carly. She’s my best friend, and I just wanted her found. I was scared you would hurt Ric before he told us where to find her. I thought they’d find her—”

“I might be able to believe that if you hadn’t called them right away. If you hadn’t let them search.” Jason shook his head and zipped the duffel. “The truth is that you didn’t take it that seriously. You figured it was Ric which meant it wasn’t business, and the rules didn’t apply—”

“You asked Taggert for help last year when Elizabeth was missing!” Courtney shot back. “Is she more special than Carly? She was worth breaking the rules for—”

Jason bowed his head. AJ or Edward must have told Courtney about it—or maybe Sonny and Carly had mentioned it. Elizabeth hadn’t known, so— “Asking Taggert wasn’t my first choice,” he said slowly. “But I was desperate, and he could get information I couldn’t. If I hadn’t asked him for help, she’d be dead—”

“How can you judge me because I was scared—”

“You didn’t even give Sonny and me a chance to deal with it,” Jason retorted. He started for the door.

“Oh, so what, you would have called the police later?” She sprinted after him as he went down the hallway. “Damn it, Jason, don’t you dare leave right now—”

He stopped on the stairs. “I have things to do, Courtney. We can deal with this later—”

She scowled. “I bet you make time for your precious Elizabeth. That’s what this is, isn’t it? Sonny told me this was my fault because I’m not her, and you agree. She would have known the rules.”

Jason had no answer for that, so he continued down the stairs. He didn’t even know what to say to Courtney. How to tell her that in the last five days, he’d realized exactly how close he’d come to ruining his life and marrying her.

So, he said nothing and left. In the elevator, his phone beeped, and he looked down at the at text.

im up. ok.

 

He exhaled slowly, gripping the phone more tightly, and a half a smile curved up the corner of his lips, but there was no joy, no happiness. Just relief. They’d made it through another night.  How many more were left?

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Lucky watched through the windows as Lulu attempted to balance a tray of breakfast dishes with one hand. “She’s not good at this, is she?” he asked his aunt.

Bobbie blinked at him, then mindlessly stirred her tea. “No,” she sighed. “She’s cost herself more in broken dishes than she’s probably made in pay, but well…she’s not our first waitress to fail so completely.” She managed a half smile. “Elizabeth was pretty bad, too, remember?”

He only dimly could remember Elizabeth’s early days at Kelly’s, but he did have a few memories of Ruby chewing her out, and Elizabeth complaining that she wasn’t making any money.

“So, hopefully time will solve that problem.” He touched his aunt’s hand. “I know this week has been tough. You’re holding up well.”

“Clinging to desperation, really. I keep hoping something will happen—a lead will come through—someone will know something, have seen something—” She sighed, propping her chin on her hand. “What do you hear at the PCPD?”

“Not much. They asked me to pull a few shifts sitting outside of Elizabeth’s house. Mostly overnight.” Lucky shrugged. “No one ever leaves.” He stifled a yawn. “I was there last night—I was on my way home to get some sleep when I stopped by to see Lu.”

“I’m glad the PCPD is keeping someone on her house. It must be hard for you not to step in, not to do more for her,” Bobbie murmured. “Even though you didn’t end well.”

Lucky hesitated, then nodded. “Cruz mostly takes the day shift—he says Jason has a bodyguard on her. And Jason’s at the house a lot. I know—I know he’ll take care of her.” He was pretty sure of that. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to get along with Jason all that well, but he remembered Jason better before the fire—and he’d liked Jason then. And once he’d stopped trying to keep Elizabeth in his life, it was easier not to see Jason as an enemy.

“He’s trying, but you know Elizabeth. Stubborn to the end.” Bobbie stirred her tea again, but still didn’t take a drink. “How is your first week going?”

“Not great,” Lucky admitted. “The PCPD is basically what I thought it was. There are some okay cops, but most of them are lazy if not outright corrupt. My supervisor is an asshole.” He rolled his shoulders. “He caught a rape before I started and had me come with him to take another statement from her. Aunt Bobbie, he came pretty close to telling her it was her fault. For walking in the park in a short dress.” His throat tightened. “I thought about…talking to Taggert about it. Because he was—he worked on Elizabeth’s case.”

“And, of course, it makes you think of her.” Bobbie tilted her head. “That poor girl. You should talk to him.”

“I’ve been on the job for five days. If I start complaining about my superiors now, I don’t get to come back from that.” Lucky shifted. “Dante and Cruz already hate it here.”

“It’s…not the police department I remember. Particularly when Robert or Anna was in charge and Frisco was on the force.” A ghost of a smile flitted on her lips. “Or Sean. You don’t remember them, do you?”

“No…I don’t.” Lucky sighed. “I know I did this because Baldwin didn’t think I could, but—”

“Don’t give up yet.” Bobbie squeezed his hand. “After we find Carly, things will calm down and maybe you’ll feel more comfortable taking your concerns to Taggert or Mac.”

“Yeah. After we find Carly,” Lucky repeated.

Port Charles Grille

It was maybe the fourth time Brooke Lynn rolled eyes dramatically that Ned noticed the blonde over his daughter’s shoulder.  He froze, taken out of the moment, taken away from an awkward, tense dinner and thrust into the memory of his last meeting with the toxic blonde who now raised a glass of wine in his direction with a smirk.

He looked at his brother, Dillon, and to their other dinner partner, Alexis, and then slowly put his napkin on the table. “I have to step out for a minute and take a phone call.”

“Of course you do,” Brooke muttered. “This is supposed to be a family dinner isn’t it?”

“I’ll be right back,” he promised. He made eye contact first with Faith, then with Alexis who only sighed. She was used to Quartermaine antics and decided it was better to distract the teenagers than argue.

“Tell me how your summer jobs are going.”

He could hear Brooke complaining about Lila’s Kids, the charity summer camp ELQ sponsored at Port Charles Park during the summer. Dillon and Maxie Jones had volunteered as counselors, and Ned was trying to convince Brooke to join them.

Maybe it was a mistake to try to force a relationship with Brooke, but Ned had allowed Lois to take control over her childhood for too long—had acquiesced when Lois wanted to keep her or if Brooke wanted to stay in Bensonhurst. He’d distanced himself from his daughter, telling himself he was saving her from the Quartermaines when the truth was he hadn’t known how to be a father or whether to trust he’d be any good at it.

And maybe now it was too late.

He only had to wait in the reception area outside the restaurant for a few minutes before Faith Roscoe sauntered out, her spaghetti-strapped black dress cut too low at the chest and high on the thigh for the standards of most restaurants.

“I see you’ve missed me,” she murmured as she joined him in the dark corner. “This is a bit too public for me, but maybe—”

“I told you I’m out,” Ned said, his teeth clenched. “I want no part of this—” He grabbed her wrist as it tried to slide up his chest. “Kidnapping Carly wasn’t the plan—”

“It certainly wasn’t,” Faith agreed in her breathless sing-song voice. He’d once found that tone mildly attractive. Now the crazy light in her eyes only repulsed him. “And Ric will pay for it. He’s made some enemies—”

“Did you know about the Zaccharas?” Ned demanded. “About Ric and Sonny? You said you didn’t—”

“If I had known Ric had any other loyalties but me, I would have dealt with it.” Faith pouted and stepped back. “I brought him into this. This was supposed to be our revenge, not his. He’s stolen my moment.” She drew her brows down. “I’ll have to punish him.”

Ned hesitated. “Why don’t you just tell Jason and Sonny where Carly is? Isn’t that punishment enough?”

“I would if I could.” Faith huffed. “Apparently, since Ric discovered he can reproduce, he’s less interested in me. If he’d wanted a kid so badly, I’m sure I could have done…” She waved her hand. “Done something. But he’s obsessed with that little pale princess.” She shook her head. “I’ll have to send him a warning. Remind him to focus. If he can’t focus without her around, I supposed I’ll just have to—”

“Don’t—just leave her out of this, Faith.”

Faith tilted her head. “I thought you wanted to be out of this.” She leaned in, her blood-red rips brushing against his ear as she whispered. “You don’t want your little girl to know how naughty her daddy has been, do you?”

“No.” Ned gritted his teeth, put his hands on her shoulders and set her back a step. “I am out of it, Faith. Take your revenge on Ric. Elizabeth has suffered enough.”

“You’re no fun anymore.” Faith sighed. “I don’t make promises I can’t keep, Neddy. You should remember that.” She tapped her index finger against his chest, the nail polish matching her lips. “You take care of your daughter. I’d hate to see any harm come to her.”

“Don’t you threaten me—”

“Don’t you play with me.” Faith pursed her lips, then smiled. “I’ll let you have your little rebellion. I have other matters to attend to, but when I call, you’d better come running.”

Lansing Home: Living Room

Elizabeth stepped off the steps just as the front door opened and her husband stepped over the threshold. Jason had just slipped out the back door—warned by the guard on Ric that he was headed home. Elizabeth had stayed in Ric’s study an extra moment to make sure it looked as it did when they’d arrived.

Another day of searching had brought them no closer to Carly’s location, and Ric hadn’t done anything to indicate he was moving her. She could see the wheels turning in Jason’s head, and she knew that she’d have to keep her promise. Without any leads by Friday, she’d have to let him send her to California, or at the very least—leave the house.

Ric smiled when he saw her, and she plastered a smile on her face, accepted the kiss to her lips, even as her stomach curled in knots. “How was your day?”

“Fine,” she murmured. “I went to the studio this morning, did some work.” She went into the kitchen, poured herself a glass of water and dropped some ice cubes into it. Water was safe—it was the only thing she allowed herself to drink now, and she only ate food she prepared or bought herself.

If Ric noticed her new penchant for cooking, he had said nothing. He poured himself a glass of iced tea from the pitcher. “You think you’re ready to set a date for that show?”

“Oh…probably by the end of August, I guess.” Elizabeth lifted a shoulder. “I’m not sure I’m ready, but I know you went to a lot of trouble to set it up.” It had seemed sweet at the time, a way to bring her out of the fogginess and lows after her miscarriage.

Fogginess his drugs had caused her.

“If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.” He tipped his head. “You were in the guest room again last night. Are you planning to spend the rest of our marriage in there?” Ric attempted to make the statement light, but she could read the expression in his eyes. He was coming closer to pushing her on this.

And…was that a step she was willing to take? To let Ric…touch her? Sleep with him again? Was it worth the chance to find Carly?

No. No, if Ric pushed her on this, then that was her line in the sand, but still her stomach continued to knot as she forced some of her water down. She set the glass aside. “No,” she said softly. “I’m just…I guess maybe I’m not handling things that well. I—I—Carly is still missing. A-and the cops are outside—I’m surprised the papers haven’t seen it—they’re all over the place about her kidnapping.”

“You said you believed me,” Ric said, his jaw clenched. “Are you lying to me?”

“No.” God. “No,” she said again. “It’s just—I mean…Bobbie is starting to have doubts. She—” Elizabeth chewed on her lip. “She came by—she’s angry that no one has found Carly, and she’s thinking that if you did it, they’d have found her by now. I told her that, and maybe…maybe it means the PCPD is going to look somewhere else.”

“Good.” Ric’s shoulders eased, and he nodded. “Then—”

“I don’t know. It’s just…mostly, I don’t want to have…” She swallowed. “I still love you, but I don’t…have any…” And that was true—had been true even before she’d learned the truth of the monster lurking inside the man she’d married. She knew that was a side effect of the drugs he’d been giving her, at least partially. Would he know that?

Ric exhaled slowly and looked away. “Yeah. I guess that makes sense. Have you thought about talking to someone? Trying to sort through it?”

“I was hoping time would take care of it.” Elizabeth picked up her glass, swiping at the water ring left on the counter. They didn’t have central air conditioning, and the kitchen was always too warm. Her ice had mostly melted. She sipped it again. “But maybe you’re right. Maybe Bobbie can recommend someone.”

“Good.” He leaned forward, kissed her again, and she allowed it. “I’ll let you relax. I’m late tonight, I’m sorry. I missed dinner.”

“It’s okay. I grabbed something at Kelly’s.” Or Cody had brought dinner for them as they sorted through his papers, and Elizabeth had forced some food down only so that Jason would eat as well. She worried about him—was he getting any sleep?

She managed to fall asleep every night though she woke up groggy in the morning as if it was a restless sleep. Her health was all over the place, and she was looking forward to this being over.

“We must have missed each other,” Ric said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He played with a tendril of her hair and she forced herself to remain still, to even look at him with soft eyes. “I know it’s been stressful…with the baby, with Carly—”

“I almost feel like we can’t really begin our lives until we know…until we find her, you know? Until we know who really took her. People will always look at you—”

“We may not be able to stay in Port Charles,” Ric said with a sigh. “Maybe we’ll move closer to Crimson Point and I’ll join my father’s practice after all. We’ll have to see how it goes.” He kissed her again. “I’m going to look over some contracts for the places I found this week. I’m close to signing one.”

“Okay. I’ll probably go to the bed early. Maybe a shower or something.” She accepted one last kiss before he left the kitchen and then reached for the water. She drank it until the glass was empty, then filled it again with more ice and water. She really needed to get a portable air conditioner.

“My next house is going to have central,” she muttered as she started for the stairs, and sighed at the pettiness and smallness of the thought. Carly was being kept captive somewhere, and she was worrying about herself and her own comfort.

Lansing Home: Guest Bedroom

Elizabeth set her water on the bedside and locked the door behind her. She went into the adjoining bathroom with her purse and locked that door as well before letting the shower run.

She dug her phone from its hidden pocket and set the purse on the vanity table. She checked her watch—she was a little early checking in, but she knew Jason worried when Ric was in the same house. He’d probably reached wherever Stan and Spinelli were watching them—and had maybe even seen the scene in the kitchen.

She pressed two until it dialed, then sat on the closed toilet seat, biting at her nails until he answered.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Elizabeth’s eyes watered at the sound of his voice, at the concern. “Hey. Um. He’s thinking about signing a lease for a place, so maybe—”

“Maybe he’s getting ready to move her.”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth moved and sat on the floor next to the shower stall, in the corner furthest from the door. Furthest away from Ric. “That’s—we were in the kitchen—”

“I saw.” His tone was short and clipped.

Her chest tightened, and she let her head slump against the wall. “I’m sorry. I had to let—”

“Elizabeth—”

“He was trying to find out why I’m still in the guest room—you don’t care about this. I’m just—I’m checking in for the night, I’m locked in my room—”

“Hey…” His tone was quieter now, and some of the hum that had been in the background had disappeared, as if he’d left the room. “Are you okay?”

“No,” she admitted. A tear slid down her cheek. “I’m afraid he’s not going to take no for answer for long. I—I told him I didn’t want to, and I think he thought about the drugs, but maybe I should so he doesn’t—”

“No! You don’t—Damn it. I’ll pick you up right now—”

“No, no—” Elizabeth shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her. “No. I’m okay. For tonight. And probably a few more days. I told him I’m going to talk to someone. We’ll find her soon.”

“Friday, Elizabeth—”

“I was thinking maybe we need—” Elizabeth took another deep breath. “I was thinking we might need more cameras. Maybe we didn’t—you said Ric gets up in the middle of the night sometimes. He goes downstairs, but he doesn’t leave.”

“Yeah, we thought maybe he was doing something in the basement, but we’ve looked there—”

“So, tomorrow, we’ll put cameras in the places they’re not now. Um. The living room, the basement, and the other guest room—” The room Ric had quietly said he’d thought would be the nursery when they were ready to think about it. “Can you—maybe you can put a camera or something inside his car.”

“We did that—” There was a pause as Jason apparently went back into the room with the others. She heard him murmuring to others. “Yeah. Stan agrees. Do you think we can do it tomorrow?”

“Maybe. I won’t know until I see him.” She closed her eyes. “I want this to be over. I want to be done with him.”

“Justus has divorce papers waiting,” Jason told her after a minute of silence. “Notice of separation. The second you want out—”

“It’s almost done. It has to be.” Elizabeth sighed. “I should—I should go.” But she didn’t want to. She wanted to stay curled up in this room, listening to Jason’s voice. She knew she was safe when he was on the phone with her.

“Elizabeth—any time of the night—you know I’m here.”

“I do. That’s how I get through it.” She got to her feet, took a look at herself in the mirror that was quickly steaming up. She almost couldn’t recognize herself. “Good night.”

“Good night, Elizabeth.”

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

It’s the same sad echo when you lie
It’s the same sad echo when you try to be clear
It’s the same as the same sad echo around here
Echo, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers


Sunday, June 21, 2003

Crimson Point, New York

Zacchara Estate: Trevor Lansing’s Office

It was days like these that Trevor Lansing wished like hell he’d drowned the boy in the bath as a child. Richard had been nothing but a disappointment since the day he’d been born—not even special or important enough for his mother to stick around—

He’d done what he could, but Richard was useless.

“You haven’t stuck to the plan since day one,” Trevor snarled when his son arrived that Sunday. “You had your instructions—”

“It’s working,” his son retorted. “I’m just not following your orders.” Ric scoffed. “I’m the one in the middle of everything—why should I listen to you?”

“I got the PCPD breathing down our necks—you know the Crimson Point police are just chomping at the bit to get to Anthony. Faith Roscoe is calling me, making threats—” Trevor whirled around, stabbed a finger at his phone. “You were supposed to be taking Corinthos down from the inside and you’re so far outside—”

“They’re weak right now. Looking for Carly.” Ric shrugged. “You worry too much. Don’t call my home—”

“What, because I might meet your wife?” Trevor let his eyes open wide. “You think I’m stupid, Richard? You think I don’t know about the lure of a pretty girl? You had one job with the Webber girl. Screw her secrets out of her. Find Morgan’s Achilles heel. Get rid of her, Richard. And—well, you might as well kill the Corinthos woman as well. Cut your losses.”

He scowled, turning back to his desk. Perfectly good plan shot to bloody hell. This was supposed to be his chance—his moment to get revenge on Sonny Corinthos for costing him a good woman, leading Adela to her death, and for him to step out from under Anthony Zacchara’s thumb.

The territory was supposed to be his, and he was damned if Richard was going to blow it for him.

“Elizabeth stays,” Ric said, stubbornly. “Morgan doesn’t care about her.”

“Damn it.” Trevor rubbed his face. “This weakness comes your mother, I just know it. Dead more than two decades and she’s still haunting me.” He sat behind his desk. “Look, I’m sure the girl is nice. I’m sorry you lost your kid. Tough break—”

“It’s Sonny’s fault,” Ric insisted. “He pushed her. He killed my baby. And he’s stealing Elizabeth from me.” He shrugged. “So I’m taking his woman. His kid.” He smirked. “I should have killed the little bastard when I grabbed Carly. No witnesses—”

Trevor stared at his son—for the first time, seeing the light in his eyes as something more insidious than anger. Talking about killing kids—Jesus. “Maybe your idea had merit before the cops got involved, but it’s time to cut your losses,” he repeated. “You know your wife only married you because of the kid. Cut her loose. We’ll give her a nice settlement. Come back home. We’ll figure out another way to get at Corinthos—”

This will work.” Ric shook his head. “You just have to let me handle it.”  He paused. “The PCPD thinks I did it for you and Anthony. Maybe if they had a lead to investigate—maybe you can find a way to make them think Carly just left.”

“I can try to lay a few false trails.” Trevor waited a moment. “My patience is running thin, Richard. You’ve let Faith Roscoe dangle in the wind, and she’s crazy. You don’t want her thinking you’re the enemy.”

“I’ll take care of Faith,” Ric said. He glared at his father. “Don’t summon me again. Get the cops off my back so I can do what needs to be done.”

Trevor watched him go and shook his head again. Ric had gone off the deep end, and he had a bad feeling that if he didn’t get the idiot under control, Ric would take everyone down with him when he crashed. He had no intention of helping him with any false leads, to tangle himself up more in this catastrophe than he already had.

They would wait for the scheme to explode and deal with the pieces then.

Monday, June 22, 2003

Brownstone: Living Room

It had been more than three days since Carly had vanished from the church, and Bobbie looked as if she had been awake for every single hour of those days. Her dark red hair lay limply against her shoulders, her dark eyes shadowed.

At her side, her niece Lulu was attempting to feed her—a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee lay untouched on the table.

“I don’t understand how he could have taken her and not have led you to her yet,” Bobbie said, her eyes rimmed with red. “Taggert tells me Ric has barely left the house—only went down to Crimson Point yesterday—no stops. No evidence he’s gone to see her.”

“I know,” Jason said, dragging his hands through his hair. “It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what to do next.”

“You’re sure he acted alone?” Lulu asked, unable to control herself anymore. No one ever asked for her input, and she was eager to try to help. To do something for the aunt that had taken her in without protest after her mother had fallen…. ill.

“Yes,” Jason snapped, tired of defending himself even to a kid. “I am.”

“Hey.” Lulu held up her hands. “Listen. I’m just trying to help. I believe you. I just—” She bit her lip. “A girl listens. And pays attention, you know? Maybe he took Carly on his own, but I mean—has he been working against you guys alone the whole time?”

Jason frowned at her. “What?”

“He’s been in Port Charles since November,” Lulu pointed out. “I remember when he came to Kelly’s because it was my first week and I broke like eighteen plates. Liz was trying to figure out how much to take out of my paycheck when he rented the room.”

“Odd that he went to Kelly’s to rent a room,” Bobbie said, tilting her head. “I remember thinking that then. He dressed in Italian suits, custom made shoes but lived at Kelly’s. He threw a lot of money around—remember?”

“Yeah,” Lulu nodded. “At Mrs. Hardy’s service, I remember he handled all the arrangements, which I thought was nice because Liz was so upset. She argued later because he had paid for a lot of it up front and then wouldn’t take any money when it was settled.”

“He came to Kelly’s because of Elizabeth,” Bobbie murmured. “He was pursuing her almost immediately. Oh…” She pressed her fingers to her lips. “He targeted her.”

“Because of me.” Jason looked away. “Yeah. I tried to tell her that, but—”

“She wouldn’t have listened.” Bobbie got to her feet. “He comes from money, that’s clear. But I’m trying to think of anyone else he’s done legal work for—”

“Well, he helped Ned,” Lulu said. “Remember? They had meetings at Kelly’s. I don’t know what about—Liz always told me not to eavesdrop, but they had paperwork and stuff. And wasn’t Ned pretty pissed at you guys last year?”

“The warehouse.” Jason sat down, put his head in his hands. “Yeah. Kristina, his fiancée was killed. And he’s never liked Sonny.”

“Ned might know something. Maybe a property or just—something.” Bobbie clenched her fists in her lap as Jason’s cell phone rang.

He took it out of his pocket and exhaled slowly, answering it with some relief. “Hey. Yeah. Okay. Thanks. Look, we’ve been talking, and I think we’ve—” He stopped, his brow creasing in frustration. “Elizabeth, don’t—Fine. Yeah, I’ll talk to you in an hour—okay, no, I’ll meet you there.”

He stared at the closed phone for a long moment. “Ric was out looking at office spaces this afternoon,” he said. “She searched the house again. Nothing. Nothing we missed yesterday.”

“There’s nothing in the house,” Lulu said, with some irritation. “Why is she still there? We should just force her to leave. She’s so selfish—”

Jason scowled at her, and Lulu blanched at the banked fury in his eyes. “What?” she said defensively. “She’s making everyone worry about her instead of Carly—”

“She’s doing this for Carly,” Bobbie said, touching Lulu’s hand.

“I get that, but it’s just stupid.” Lulu shrugged. “She knows that as soon as she leaves the house, she’s going to be put on the plane to California. This way, she gets to stay in the middle of it and have everyone look at her.” She pressed her lips together. “Everyone thinks it, Jason, I’m not the only one—”

Everyone,” Jason repeated, getting to his feet. “How many people are speculating about Elizabeth where anyone, including her psycho husband, can hear?”

Feeling a bit chastised now, Lulu hastily tried to take it back. “That’s not what I mean. I mean—I just—I went to check on Michael this morning, and I was talking to Courtney, and she’s—she’s so worried about Carly, and I mean—I’m right, aren’t I? I mean we’re talking about Liz, not Carly. Liz made her choice. It’s like Courtney said—”

“I’m going,” Jason said to Bobbie, tuning Lulu out. “We’ve got eyes and ears on Ric. I’m not going to rest until she’s home, Bobbie.”

“Don’t kill yourself.” Bobbie got to her feet, embraced her daughter’s best friend. “You need to keep your strength up. Eat. Rest. Take care of yourself.”

“I will.” Jason flashed an irritated glance at Lulu before he left.

“He’s just mad because I’m right,” Lulu complained. “I get Liz is trying to help, but now look, Jason’s meeting her at the hospital instead of looking—”

“What is Jason supposed to do?” Bobbie snapped. “Ric is the one who took her. We know he acted alone. He’s watching Ric—” Her voice broke. “And if Ric doesn’t lead us to Carly, then we know she’s—she’s somewhere for us to find, and maybe he’ll—”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Bobbie,” Lulu said miserably. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I know Jason is trying hard. I’m just—I don’t know. Something is so weird about all of this. Like, how can Carly have just vanished? It’s like she has to be in the house because that’s the only place Ric has been, but she can’t be.” She sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I probably shouldn’t have told Jason what Courtney’s been saying about Liz. It’s probably not helping.”

“No, it’s not,” Bobbie said, but then she looked at the meal her niece had been trying to convince her to eat before Jason’s arrival. “We’re doing everything we can right now,” she told Lulu. “But I should take my own advice.” She got to her feet. “I think I’m going to go make some pasta for dinner. I’m suddenly starving.” She would need all the energy she could muster to get through the next few days.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Courtney stepped off the bottom step and frowned as she watched her brother take another drink. She knew for a fact that the bottle of bourbon at the mini bar had been replaced three times since Carly had gone missing.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” she asked, irritated. Why the hell wasn’t he out looking like Jason? Jason was trying to find Carly and had barely been back to their penthouse while her idiot brother sat in this room, drinking himself into a stupor.

“Don’t talk to me about having enough,” Sonny muttered as he tossed back the entire tumbler of bourbon. “There’s not enough alcohol in the world.”

“Michael’s asleep,” Courtney said, folding her arms. “If you even care.”

Sonny whirled around, his dark eyes bright with anger. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that you’re not doing anything to help Carly,” Courtney snarled. “You’re not cooperating with the police, you’re not taking meetings, you’re not even talking to Michael—you’re just drinking yourself into oblivion.”

I’m not doing anything to help?” Sonny shot back, waving the glass at her, weaving slightly. “Fuck you. I don’t cooperate with the police—”

“Oh, yeah, because God forbid Big Bad Sonny Corinthos asks for help!”

“You’re a dumb little girl, you know that?” he squinted at her, then dismissed her by turning back to the bar. He reached for the bourbon.

She rushed across the room and jerked the bottle out of his grasp. “You keep trying to make this my fault, Sonny. Like I did what I did to hurt you and Jason—”

“No, I honestly think you thought you were helping. That’s what makes you an idiot.” Sonny sighed and reached for the vodka instead. “I knew you were an idiot. That’s why I told Jason to stay away from you.” He shook his head. “I told him you couldn’t do this.”

“But Jason ignored you. He loves me,” Courtney said, with a confidence she no longer felt. “He chose me—”

“He wanted to prove me wrong,” Sonny said. He bypassed pouring the alcohol this time, and just drank straight from the bottle. “Wanted to prove everyone wrong.”

“What are you even talking about?”

“Wanted to prove he was his own man, that he didn’t always put me first.” Sonny shook his head. “I should have let him tell her. This is my fault. If I had just told her the truth, she would have stayed.”

“Are—” Courtney frowned. “What did you lie to Carly about? She didn’t leave you, Sonny. She was kidnapped.” With disdain dripping, she continued, “Or are you too drunk to remember that?”

“If she had stayed, you wouldn’t have been there.” Sonny sank onto the sofa, leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “She wouldn’t have called the cops.”

Her blood boiled as she realized exactly who the hell her brother was talking about. “Oh, right, because perfect sainted Elizabeth knows your life,” she growled. “She’s the one who couldn’t handle it. I’m still here. I got kidnapped, didn’t I? Did I run to someone else? Did I leave Jason?”

“No.” Sonny met her eyes. “You got kidnapped for five hours. Not weeks. Not trapped in the dark.” He closed his eyes. “I should have been a better friend. I should have explained it to him. Trapped in the dark. You do anything to make the dark go away.”

“You’re too drunk to talk to,” she muttered, starting across the room. She turned around. “Right now, you’re blaming me. You’re blaming Elizabeth for not staying. Me for calling the police. Look in the goddamn mirror, Sonny. The only person here to blame is you!”

Courtney stabbed a finger at him. “You put Carly in danger, Sonny. Just like you do to everyone in your life. How lucky are we that Michael wasn’t grabbed, too? You couldn’t protect Carly any more than you could protect him. He’s traumatized and you’re down here getting drunk. Some fucking father and husband you turned out to be.”

She slammed the door behind her as she left the penthouse, the door frame cracking.

Sonny opened his eyes and blanched. “You’re not here. You’re not here,” he told himself, squeezing his eyes shut. But when he opened them again, Lily just smiled at him. That sweet smile.

“You couldn’t protect me either, Sonny. You’re not supposed to be a father.” Lily tilted her head. “You should have known better.”

General Hospital: Monica’s Office

Elizabeth stared at the lab report and swallowed hard. “How-how long did you say you could trace the…” She looked up at met Monica’s kind but worried eyes. “Not…not just a month…”

“The hair follicle test suggests it’s around January. Not in great doses—”

Elizabeth closed her eyes as Monica continued, remembering the home cooked dinners he’d made her once he’d moved into his own apartment in February. The spontaneous pastries and treats he had brought to work. The wine he’d brought to her the night her grandmother had been buried.

“Why…why would he—” She swallowed hard. “Why would someone use Valium to drug someone? You said the doses weren’t—”

“It’s used to treat anxiety mostly,” Monica told her. “Panic disorders—” She pressed her lips together. “I don’t know why he started to drug you back then. To keep you calm?”

“I guess.” Elizabeth slid her fingers over the report. “I haven’t felt well since my grandmother passed away. I’ve—I’ve had trouble sleeping. Eating.”

“He might have been trying to help you at first, but at some point—” Monica hesitated. “It’s possible you’ve developed a tolerance, and he had to keep increasing the dosage—”

Her breath seized. “Oh, God, is this why I had the miscarriage? Does this—”

“Valium use during the first trimester can cause malformations, defects.” Monica shook her head. “But not necessarily a miscarriage, though it’s likely—” She bit her lip.

“It’s likely for the best that it happened because my baby would have been damaged.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “It just never stops. He’s been drugging me for months—I nearly died—and if our child had lived—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “What—what happens next? I mean—I don’t know—I don’t understand it—He let me drive—I could have killed someone on Saturday—”

“Elizabeth—” Monica stopped as her intercom beeped. “Yes?”

“Ah, Dr. Quartermaine, your son is here. He said he’s expected.”

“Oh, right, I asked Jason to meet here because Ric’s at the house.” Elizabeth sighed.

“I can have him wait, Elizabeth, while we talk—”

“I’d just have to go over this with him—he knows I’m here for my results.” And even if she didn’t want to tell him—somehow, she knew she had to. She couldn’t live with this on her own.

“Send him in.”

A moment later, Jason entered the office, his expression hesitant. “I didn’t mean to interrupt—I could still wait outside—”

“No, it’s…” Elizabeth handed him the lab report, knowing Jason would understand it. “It turns out he turned me into a drug addict.” She looked back at Monica. “Because I can’t sleep. And—I feel—” She held out her hand which shook slightly. “I think I’m in withdrawal.”

Jason scowled. “He’s been drugging you since January?”

“Well, what I’d like to do, Elizabeth, is to check you into the hospital overnight and we could talk about some things you could do—” Monica nodded. “But I can see from your expression that’s not going to happen.”

“Ric would find out if I was in the hospital overnight,” she told her. “He’s leaving the house more. Looking for office space, but maybe he’s looking for a place to move Carly.”

Jason grimaced. “Elizabeth, this is about your health—”

“We knew Ric was drugging me. We knew it wasn’t just on Friday,” Elizabeth interrupted. “This doesn’t change anything—”

“Your symptoms could get worse, Elizabeth,” Monica pressed. “They can last up to two weeks—” She bit off her words. “I can’t watch you walk out of here, knowing that you risk that animal doing this again—”

“Keep the lab report.” Elizabeth took it back from Jason and handed it to Monica. “Because I might—we might need proof later. But—this can’t keep going on, right? He’ll move Carly this week. We’ll find her. And then, I promise, Monica, anything you want me to do—I’ll do it.”

Monica scowled. “Elizabeth—”

“I’ve made it this far.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, fought back the urge to just scream at them both. She was a goddamn adult and could make her own decisions. “Thank you. I know you’re worried.” She looked at Jason. “I know you’re both worried. But knowing that he’s been doing this to me—I have to help take him down. I have to be part of it. I can’t just fly away to California.”

“If he hasn’t moved Carly this week,” Jason said slowly, “we’ll figure out something else. But this is it, Elizabeth. After Friday—” He swallowed hard, likely upset at the idea that Carly could continue to be missing for that long— “We try something new.”

“Thank you.” She looked back to Monica. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” Monica sighed and looked at her watch. “I have to make my rounds. You can use the office as long as you need to. And keep my number on speed dial, Elizabeth.”

With another unsure sigh, Monica left.

“I know you don’t agree,” Elizabeth said when she was gone. “But—”

“The only reason I’m not throwing you over my shoulder and dragging you kicking and screaming onto a plane is because you’d just turn around and come right back.” Jason swallowed. “I don’t know if Carly is even alive, Elizabeth. And every minute you’re in that house, you might end up dead, too—”

“She’s alive.” Elizabeth touched his arm. “She has to be. There’s no reason for Ric to do anything to her. I think—I think he’s trying to replace our baby.”

“What?” Jason demanded, his face draining of color. “What do you mean?”

“Before—before we moved,” she said. “When I came home after losing the baby—he wanted to try again. Immediately. For a couple of days, it was all he could talk about. I think he thought I’d leave him.” She sighed. “He was right. I only married him because I was pregnant, scared, and alone. But then he stopped talking about it. And he bought the house. And now…I basically told him I don’t want to get pregnant again. I don’t sleep in the same room. And he keeps telling me everything will be fine—that we’ll have our family and I’ll understand.”

Jason sat down in one of Monica’s chairs. “You think—”

“I think he’s got Carly somewhere—alive—and he’s planning on taking her baby. It would be justice. Taking Sonny’s child because he thinks Sonny took ours.” Joke was on Ric—Ric had murdered their child long before Elizabeth was pushed down those steps. “I don’t know who pushed me—”

“That’s who I should be looking for. I should have been looking for them all along.” He stood back up. “Because the police report said you were pushed, they just didn’t have any suspects.”

‘The report—” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, Ric said the police didn’t—” She huffed. “Of course, he lied about that, too. He said the police weren’t interested—but they did look into it.”

“Taggert likes you,” Jason said plainly. “And he thought he could get Sonny. But Sonny was caught on camera in the parking lot. He questioned Sonny, but—he seemed to think it wasn’t likely Sonny would use you to get at Ric.”

“I never thought he would.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “But someone did. I—I don’t know why I haven’t really—could finding that out help us find out where Carly is?”

“I know Ric kidnapped her on his own, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working with someone since he came to Port Charles. “Jason hesitated. “What do you know about Ned working with Ric?”

“Ned?” she repeated. “I mean—I think Ric handled some property stuff for ELQ after Sonny and Carly fired him—” She hesitated. “But Ned hates you. And—And I know Ned has…worked with Faith Roscoe. She…. really hates me.”

“Faith?” Jason shook his head. “Why?”

“Because—” Elizabeth looked away. “Because I—of Ric. I don’t know if they were—I don’t know. But she’s been…. around.”

“Okay.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay. I can look into them. Is—is Cody working out okay?”

“Yeah, he’s great. And it’s been—” Her throat felt thick as she tried to continue. “I’ve felt a lot safer knowing he was right outside if I needed him. Thank you.”

“I wish like hell you’d just leave, but I don’t have time to argue that again. I have to meet Justus and Sonny—” Jason hesitated. “You’ll call or text me in an hour?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth nodded. “I promise.” She picked up her purse. “I should get going. If I get home first, I can order dinner in and not have to make excuses.”

Jason followed her out, but they split up at the end of the hall. She took the elevator down to the lobby, and he took the stairs.

Corinthos Penthouse: Hallway

When Jason stepped off the elevator, he was surprised to find Justus waiting outside the door with Max. He frowned. “Is there something wrong?”

“Sonny isn’t letting me in,” Justus said with a sigh. “He’s…Max said he’s having a rough day.”

They looked at Max, who just shrugged. “Miss Matthews was over earlier, and they had words.” Jason scowled at the thought of his fiancée—whatever good sense he and Sonny had attributed to Courtney had disappeared since Friday night and her call to the cops.

Courtney had done nothing but be a nuisance for four days straight.

Jason stepped past Max and knocked. “Sonny—”

Sonny jerked the door open, his black hair disheveled, his eyes red. “Did you find her?”

“No, but—”

“Don’t come back until you do.”

He slammed the door. Jason glanced at Justus, who looked as troubled as Jason felt. It had taken only days for Sonny to hit the edge of what he could handle—

And Jason wasn’t sure he had the time or energy to drag Sonny back from the abyss.

“Is—anyone home at my place?” Jason said hesitantly. The fact that he was dreading the thought of facing Courtney told him he had some decisions to make when this was all over.

“Miss Matthews went to the Brownstone. She took Michael to see his grandmother when he woke up from his nap.”

“We can go to my place,’ Jason told Justus.

“It’s fine,” Justus said, with a wave of his hand. “I just wanted to let you know that we got the injunction against the search warrants of the commercial properties. It’s going to give us some breathing room to get things in order, but there’s a hearing next week.”

“By then, this should be over. “Jason didn’t want to think about how horrible it would be for all of them to be living in this nightmare much longer.

“If it isn’t,” Justus continued, “the odds are that they’ll grant the warrant. Should—should I let Johnny O’Brien continue taking care of what needs to be done?”

“Yeah.” They looked towards Sonny’s closed door. “Yeah.  Johnny and Tommy know what to do. You—you can touch base with me for a few days. I think we need to give Sonny some space.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

The room was dark—the only light slipped through the curtains he’d drawn across his windows. Sonny sat on the floor in front of the unlit fireplace, his knees drawn up, a bottle of whiskey at his side—he’d gone through the vodka once Courtney had taken Michael to Bobbie’s and moved on to what was left.

Courtney was right. They were all right. He was a drunk who couldn’t protect his family. Why did he think he could have children? Why did he think God would stop punishing him?

“That’s right,” Lily said, her smile warm and encouraging. She slid the whiskey closer to him. “That’s right, Sonny. You will never be a father. Everything you touch dies. You’re poison.”

“You’re not real,” Sonny muttered, bringing the whiskey to his lips, desperate to make her go away, even if he had to black out to do it.

“No, I’m dead. And it’s your fault. It’s your fault your son is dead. All of your sons.” A smile spread across Lily’s face—a malevolent smile that his sweet wife had never had in real life. Was he being haunted? Was he being tortured?  “For all you know, Carly is already dead. So, drink up Sonny, until you’re too drunk to care.”

This entry is part 6 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Its just that we stayed, too long
In the same old sickly skin
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go
Full of Grace, Sarah McLachlan


Saturday, June 20, 2003

Lansing Home: Panic Room

 Despite her best efforts, Carly spent most of that first day dozing off and on, fighting the vestiges of the drug he’d given her. Ric had only come in once that morning to bring her a daily ration of food—she suspected he was never sure when Elizabeth might be home and didn’t want to be caught coming and going.

It reassured her that the twit wasn’t involved. Elizabeth had terrible taste in men, but she wasn’t evil. If only she could somehow get Elizabeth’s attention—if she could force the room open—

When she was awake, Carly was planning. She could try to knock Ric out, but what if she killed him and then no one ever found him? She might end up chained in this room forever—

And so she spent time trying to pick a lock, promising herself it would be the first skill that she learned when she got out of here. Because she would get out of here. She knew Jason and Sonny would be looking for her—and she didn’t believe Ric that no one suspected him.

Last night had been hazy, but Carly had been awake enough to see the monitors—to know that Jason and Sonny had crashed through the door—that only the arrival of the PCPD had made them leave. They would be back. And she would be ready for them.

She sat cross-legged on the tiny cot, having exchanged her evening gown for a pair of stretchy black pants and a long-sleeved gray shirt, protection against the artificial chill created by the air conditioning and concrete walls. She stared at the monitors, tracking comings and goings and the lack thereof.

She had watched as Elizabeth woke up and ate a breakfast Ric made for her—Carly had screamed at her until her voice was hoarse because she had seen him dumping pills in the eggs, in the hollandaise—in her orange juice—everywhere. Why was he still drugging his wife?

Elizabeth had left and then hadn’t returned for the entire day, but Ric still didn’t come inside. He sat in a room looked like it was meant to be a study at a desk piled with paperwork like he was a real lawyer.

The panic room also had screens that looked outside and showed her the front of the house and street. She’d seen the patrol car parked all night—she’d watched Jason’s familiar figure approach that morning—still dressed in the tuxedo from the wedding—then leave. The patrol car had left shortly after, only to return around five that afternoon.

She’d seen Elizabeth’s car pull away—and now—now it was returning. Her screen was in black and white, the quality was horrible—but Carly had made fun of the battered gold Nissan Sentra enough with Courtney to recognize it when it pulled into a driveway.

Carly narrowed her eyes as another car drove down the street, parked just past the house with no one exiting. Elizabeth got out of her car, looked towards the other one—and then went towards the house.

Something warm spread through her chest. She recognized the car as one that the guards drove with the darkened windows. Sonny had someone following Elizabeth. And Elizabeth knew it. Elizabeth knew Ric was guilty. Carly might have an ally.

If only she could figure out how to contact her, to get her attention.

Lansing Home: Front Step

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder one last time to the darkened car where Cody sat guard and to the patrol car out front. She didn’t recognize this officer, but it was good to see the PCPD hadn’t given up.

She could do this. She could go back into this house as if she didn’t know Ric was a kidnapping monster who had nearly killed her that morning.

Her phone was tucked securely in her purse, inside a hidden lining that she herself had ripped open. She’d have to find a way to keep it on her person—too bad it was summer and baggy clothes wouldn’t work as well.

Elizabeth pushed open the door and looked around the living room, towards the stairs. Somewhere in this house there had to be a clue to Carly’s kidnapping. How was she supposed to get Ric out of the house tomorrow so Jason could come in and tear it apart? So his men could plant devices to track Ric?

She’d just have to do figure it out. No way around it.

She heard Ric’s steps on the stairs and arranged her features into a smile. She knew how to fake happiness—she was a master of that at least. “Hey.”

“Hey. I thought you’d be home sooner.” Ric crossed the room and kissed her cheek. His lips drifted towards her mouth, but Elizabeth shied away. “What’s wrong?”

“The patrol car is still out there,” Elizabeth said with a grimace. “And I just keep thinking about Carly. Wherever she is, you know?”

“I’m sure she’ll turn up.” Ric narrowed his eyes. “Sonny has a lot of enemies, I’m sure you know that.”

“Oh, I know. I’ve been shot at, kidnapped, and nearly blown up, so…” She lifted her shoulder in a careless shrug. “Still, she’s…she’s going to have a baby.” And the distress wasn’t forced now. “She’s due only a little before I would have been—”

“Of course, I should have realized.” She let him draw her into an embrace, her heart pounding. If she hadn’t known—if she hadn’t overdosed that morning—if no one had come to the house last night—God, would she have suspected him?

If she hadn’t had proof, would she still believe Jason and Sonny’s certainty as she did now? She wasn’t entirely confident that she would have seen through him.

After all, she hadn’t before despite all the evidence to the contrary. She had deluded herself into thinking this man could be saved. That she could be the one to save him.

“And then when I went to see Emily,” Elizabeth said, drawing back, “I felt really sick.”

There—she didn’t imagine the way his eyes focused on her. The anxiety in the dark depths. “Oh?” Even his voice had risen just slightly in pitch.

“Yeah, I—I was dizzy. Tired. And sick to my stomach.” She set her hand against her abdomen, still feeling unsettled. “You know the Quartermaines—Emily made me talk to her mother—”

“You didn’t—you didn’t go to the hospital, did you?” Ric asked with a nervous laugh. “I mean, you would have called me if it was serious.”

“No, Monica looked at me at the mansion,” she lied. “But Monica said I had a bit of a stomach virus. I guess that explains why I felt so awful last night. On top of Carly being kidnapped and everyone saying all those terrible things—” Elizabeth managed a half smile. “So, I’m—I’m going to stay home tomorrow. Rest.”

“Oh.” Ric drew his brows together. “Are you sure it’s that serious? I know how hard you’ve been working on the show—”

“It’s only one day,” Elizabeth said, clasping her purse tightly to her. Twenty minutes before she was supposed to check in with Jason. “And it’s not like I’d get a lot done—”

“Yeah, well—” Ric stopped when his own cell phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket and scowled. “It’s my father.”

“Your father—” Elizabeth blinked. “I thought you weren’t in touch—”

“I’m not.” Ric opened the phone. “Dad—What? No. I—I don’t know what—” He was quiet for a long moment, his expression like granite. “Yeah. Yeah, fine.”  He closed the phone and tossed it on the coffee table. “I have to…I have to go down to Crimson Point tomorrow.”

Crimson Point was just outside of New York City, Elizabeth knew that. “I thought your dad lived in New York City—”

“He does,” Ric snapped, then smoothed out his features. “Sorry. I just—he has a client in Crimson Point. He wants me to meet with him. He’s, ah, been trying to get me into his practice.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth nodded. “Did—did you want me to go—I mean, I haven’t met—”

No,” he said sharply. Then he took a deep breath. “You said you needed to rest, so I guess—” He rolled his shoulders. “It’s fine. Why don’t you go lay down? I’ll bring you something to eat—”

“I already ate with Monica and Emily,” Elizabeth said quickly. “They had Cook make me something gentle for my stomach flu.” Which was partially true.  “I—I’m probably going to be up and down all night, so I thought I’d stay in the guest room again—it has its own bathroom.”

Ric tilted his head. “You haven’t wanted to sleep in the same room with me since we got here,” he said quietly. “Is there something I should know?”

“I—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “It’s all just…. a lot,” she said, flustered. “So much has happened these last few weeks and you know, Dr. Meadows said it might be…it be might be sometime before I was ready—”

“I thought you got a clean bill of health,” Ric said flatly. He stepped towards her.

“I’m scared,” Elizabeth admitted without thinking. “I mean…. of getting pregnant again. I—don’t want to lose another baby.”

And that at least was true. Or it had been the truth up until the night before. Now, she was terrified of having to play that part of being Ric’s wife. Would she have the courage?

How far was she willing to go?

“Ah.” Ric’s eyes cleared. Softened. A calculated move—and Elizabeth wondered how she had ever seen sincerity in those eyes. “I understand. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. We can take as much time as you need.” He kissed her forehead. “I love you. Everything I do is for you.”

And the truly horrifying thing was that Elizabeth believed him.

Sunday, June 21, 2003

PCPD: Interrogation Room

Taggert scowled as Justus laid out the statement he had already delivered to the newsroom of the Port Charles Herald. “What the hell is this?”

“This is my appeal to the media,” Sonny said, leaning back in the hard, wooden chair.  At dawn, Sonny had woken up to the pounding on his door and the demands of Taggert and Capelli to come down to the station voluntarily or be arrested.

Sonny had agreed only because he wanted to keep the PCPD focused on him while Jason did whatever needed to be done. Jason had briefly brought him up to date—there was no sign of Carly, but Elizabeth had remained adamant about staying even after nearly overdosing on Valium Ric had surely slipped her.

Sonny believed Jason’s theory—that the house held some sort of clue as to Carly’s whereabouts or Ric wouldn’t have bothered drugging Elizabeth, but he was less confident that Elizabeth would be valuable. He had been touched, oddly, that during her drugged stupor, she’d insisted on staying. That her loyalty to them had surfaced then despite neither Jason nor Sonny really having given her much reason to believe in them over the last eight months.

But Ric was a dangerous sociopath who had already proven once that Elizabeth’s health was less important to him than getting his revenge on Sonny.

Sonny had hoped that by coming to the station without an argument that Taggert would give him the benefit of the doubt and start treating him like the victim—his wife was missing after all.

“The papers are already dogging us—it’s all we can do to keep them from interfering as it is,” Taggert snarled. Sonny was too tired to be amused by the idea that the only reason Lansing’s name hadn’t been leaked to the papers as a person of interest was because of the cops.

Sonny had put the Herald on an embargo, threatening to buy them out and close the paper down if Ric’s name was publicized. The last thing he and Jason wanted a bunch of reporters dogging Ric’s steps. Bad enough the PCPD was involved.

“Well, then stop going after my client and find his wife and we won’t have to tell the media how you’re screwing up,” Justus retorted. “You’re wasting our time here, Taggert—”

“I’m trying to find his wife and he’s not cooperating—”

“You searched my home, you’re trying to search my financial records, my business—” Sonny waved off Justus’s irritated expression. “Do you really think I’ve got my wife stashed somewhere? Look at me, Taggert. My pregnant wife is missing. My son saw the man who did it. And you let him stay in his home, dragging me down to the station instead.”

“I’m not perfect,” Sonny continued with a shake of his head. “I’m not even close, but you know me better than that. Tell me why I’m here and that sick son of a bitch isn’t.”

Taggert hesitated, sat back. “Because Michael is the only link to Ric,” he admitted. “He’s a small boy who was clearly upset. We searched Ric’s home. There’s no evidence he ever left—” He held up a hand. “Look, you want to me to level with you, Corinthos? I’m working my ass off to find Carly. Look at me, I ain’t slept either.” He shoved himself to his feet. “But what do I got? I got Carly being violently kidnapped from your partner’s wedding—where everyone knew she’d be.”

Taggert paused. “I got your kid telling me it was Ric Lansing, and when we get to the house—there’s no sign Ric ever left, and yet his wife looks like she’s been drugged. She’ll never hold up as an alibi. But Carly’s not in the house. Even if we take Ric in—”

“You don’t necessarily find Carly.” Sonny’s mouth was dry as he considered that for the first time, he and Taggert were actually on the same side—to a certain extent.  “Yeah, I get that.”

“Of course Lansing did this. Of course that’s what I’m trying to prove. But why? That’s how I’m going to get him. We’re following him. He’s going to lead us to Carly eventually. But I gotta use all my sources, and my sources tell me this is about your business.”

Sonny snorted. “That’s what it always comes back to, isn’t it—”

“Ric Lansing’s father is Trevor Lansing, lead counsel for Anthony Zacchara,” Taggert cut in sharply. “You’re telling me that I’m crazy for thinking Zacchara might have something to do with your pregnant wife going missing?”

Sonny exhaled slowly. Closed his eyes. Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Anthony Zacchara,” he repeated. “You fucking with me, Taggert?”

Justus hissed. “Sonny—”

“I am being one hundred percent honest with you, Corinthos. I can see from your face that you get it.” Taggert slapped his hand on the table. “Look, you know I want you behind bars. It’s all I can think about. But Carly doesn’t deserve this. So give that bastard whatever he wants so you can bring your wife home.”

“I would,” Sonny said slowly as something crawled inside his chest, wrapped itself around his heart and squeezed. “If I knew what he wanted.” He met Taggert’s eyes. “If Zacchara is involved, this is the first I’m hearing about it.”

Taggert furrowed his brow. “You telling me you didn’t know Ric Lansing was tied to them?”

“No—I—” Sonny shook his head. Had to stop himself from answering. The truth that he hadn’t done nearly enough leg work into Ric’s past. The man had showed up when things had been so chaotic—Jason and Brenda had been on trial for murder. And by the time they realized something was wrong—

Benny had been gone—and Ric had been wreaking havoc with Carly, trying to blackmail Courtney, then kidnapping her—getting Elizabeth pregnant—staging the scene at the Vineyard—

It had never occurred to Sonny that this might be anything but personal. And God, what if they were wrong about why Ric had taken Carly? What if he had kidnapped her and given her right to the Zaccharas on Friday night?

Sonny exhaled slowly. “Am I under arrest?” he said mildly. “I’d like to be at home with my son.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

 

Kelsey Joyce listened with half an ear as Scott and Mac Scorpio discussed the open cases and investigations in Organized Crime—Major Crimes was next, and she wasn’t all that interested in mafia crime.

She frowned when she heard the word kidnapping and tuned back in. “You have a kidnapping case being investigated by Organized Crime?”

“Yes.” Mac focused on her. “The Corinthos kidnapping. We’re—we’re thirty-six hours in. No leads.” He grimaced at Scott. “And you know Floyd is on my ass.”

“Of course, he is,” Scott offered with a smirk. He looked at Kelsey. “Floyd is currently running for re-election.” Turning back to Mac, “I don’t know what he’s worried about. I don’t even know who’s running against him.”

“Yeah, well, we screw up a high-profile case like this, and someone might crawl out of the woodwork. Deadline to get on the ballot isn’t until September.” Mac sighed. “It’s still early, but Capelli and Taggert have some leads—”

Kelsey put up her hand to interrupt the commissioner. “I don’t have anything in my files about a kidnapping case. I should be copied on this—”

“Why?” Scott said, in a tone that advised her not to argue. “It’s Sonny Corinthos—”

“It’s Carly Corinthos, a pregnant woman,” she said, calmly. “I’m not saying Major Crimes should be running it, I’m just saying that we should be involved. OCU is bound to have tunnel vision.”

“Tunnel vision?” Scott repeated with a snort as the commissioner looked amused. “Listen, Kelsey—this is only your first day—you’re here as a courtesy—”

“Your conviction rates in Port Charles for both Major Crimes and Organized Crimes are at an all-time low,” Kelsey interrupted, her tone cool. She hadn’t volunteered to come in on a Sunday for shits and giggles. She’d spent the hours since being hired researching the new job she’d started. “You put too much resources into OCU, and MCU is usually left to flounder.”

“Listen—”

But now the commissioner sighed, the amusement having left his face. “She’s not wrong, Scott. Corinthos was just in here waving around a media statement that said the same thing.” He focused on Kelsey. “Taggert requested some help from the MCU, and I shot him down. He wanted another uniform to do some legwork.”

“You should agree to it. It would be a good sharing of the resources and reassure the MCU that you value them.” Kelsey held out her hand. “And I’d like a copy of the file as well.”

“No need,” Scott said. “I’m taking point on the Corinthos—”

“Am I in charge of the MCU or not, Scott?” Kelsey asked. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweaty, but she was determined not to let them see her as a weak little girl they could push around. “If the MCU is involved in a case, my office gets copied on the files. That’s the policy. I’m just asking you to enforce it.”

“Fair enough.” Scott raised his brow. “Anything else?”

“No.” Kelsey exhaled slowly. “No, we can move on. Thank you.”

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Lucky set the phone back on the bar and stared at it for a long moment. The next morning, when he reported for duty, he would be sitting in a patrol car outside of the Lansing home.

He knew that his aunt would be happy that Lucky was working the case, and part of him was glad to be able to reassure her with any news he could offer.

But he was supposed to be watching Ric Lansing and keeping an eye on Elizabeth.

He had tried so hard to avoid Elizabeth these last nine months—since she’d helped him get his father out of jail. For nearly a year after the last brainwashing, he’d gone through the motions with her, pretending they might be able to get things back to where they were—and then pretending they could be friends.

But Elizabeth had always known him better than anyone else and there were times that he slipped—times when he didn’t remember something he was supposed to—and he didn’t want to explain to anyone that Helena Cassadine had not only manipulated his emotions, she had made Swiss cheese of his memory.

His memories of Elizabeth and of the last three years, were hazy and insubstantial—and every time Elizabeth looked at him, he was afraid she could see how empty he was now.

But she was in trouble, Taggert told him. And Emily had given him some cryptic hints that something was even more deeply wrong in Elizabeth’s new marriage.

So…he would look out for her. She deserved that from him, at least. After everything he’d put her through since his ignominious return from the dead, she deserved whatever help he could give her.

Lansing Home: Front Porch

Elizabeth waited until Ric’s car had pulled out of the driveway and turned the corner before leaving the house. She knew that the drive to Crimson Point would take two hours each way—giving her at least four or five hours to let Jason do what needed to be done.

She walked down to the patrol car where she recognized the rookie from Friday night. She had expected the patrol car to follow Ric, then had been irritated when he didn’t.

“Why are you still here?” she demanded. “You’re supposed to be following my husband.”

Cruz Rodriguez blinked at her. “Ah, what? I—” He shook his head. “No. My orders are to watch you, Mrs. Lansing.” His olive-skinned cheeks took on a bit of a red hue. “We, ah, got someone else on your husband.”

“You think I’m going to lead you to Carly?” Elizabeth demanded. “You think I did this?”

“No,” Cruz said. He sighed. “No, but we know that your husband drugged you, and Detective Taggert was worried about you.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth exhaled. “Oh. Well, okay. Then you need to do something for me.”

He eyed her a bit suspiciously. “Uh—”

“Jason Morgan is going to come to this house and he’s going to tear it apart,” she told him. “He’s going to look for Carly or anything that might lead to her. I doubt that surprises you. I remember you from Friday.”

“I…yes. I guess I figured he was just waiting for Lansing to leave. I—I have to tell my superiors—”

“It doesn’t matter what they know,” Elizabeth muttered. “Because I’m giving the permission. You got it? I don’t want anyone calling anyone at the PCPD about Jason or whoever he brings here. I know how you guys work. How you jump on anything—”

“Mrs. Lansing…” Cruz held his hands up in defeat. “My only orders are to make sure you’re okay. If Jason Morgan can find Carly, then that’s what matters.” He stopped. “You think your husband did this, don’t you?”

“If you tell Ric I do, I’ll deny it,” Elizabeth said with some irritation. She saw a dark SUV pull up. Jason got out of the driver’s side, another man in the passenger, and then—oddly enough—a teen-aged boy from the backseat with a laptop bag. “You seem like a nice guy. Why don’t you drive around the block or something?”

“If you’re okay,” Cruz said after a moment, “there’s no reason anything else has to go in my report.”

Jason approached her, eying the patrol car suspiciously. “He’s still here.”

“He’s here to check on me, I guess.” Elizabeth gestured to the house. “We should go inside.”

Jason signaled to the two men to follow them.

Lansing House: Panic Room

Carly could have wept with joy as she saw Jason on the screen—as she watched Jason follow Elizabeth into the house.

Two men followed—she recognized one as Stan, someone who worked on electronics for them, but she didn’t know the second, younger boy who set up a laptop in the living room and took a large orange soda from his bag.

She watched Jason and Elizabeth go from room to room, looking in every crevice and cranny, opening every door—searching the basement, the study—

For an hour, she watched their slow careful progress—she watched as Jason became frustrated, as Elizabeth became increasingly flustered. They had kept up a conversation the whole time, but with no audio, she could just see that neither of them was happy with how it was going.

How could they miss the panic room? How was it built into the house so that it wasn’t obvious? Frustrated, Carly pounded the walls again. Screamed for them to hear her.

Why couldn’t Jason find her?

Lansing Home: Guest Bedroom

 

Jason almost slammed the closet door shut. That was it. This was the last room in the house.

He’d…he’d really expected to find her today. To find some hint of her. A shoe. A piece of fabric. Some hair. Some sign that she’d been here.

Elizabeth hovered at the doorway, her eyes dark with worry, concern. “I don’t understand,” she murmured as she drifted inside. “There wasn’t enough time for him to go anywhere and still make it home.”

“He must have delivered her to the Zaccharas that night.” Jason slammed his hand on the bureau, the combs and small pieces flying up slightly in the air. “Damn it.”

“I don’t—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “I don’t think so. I—I know you said you and Sonny were worried about it, but—his father—when he called—”

Jason looked at her. “What?”

“Ric didn’t seem happy about it. Irritated. If Ric was working with his father and the Zaccharas—then why did Ric kidnap her himself?” Elizabeth folded her arms, restlessly rubbing them. “Why risk it?”

Jason sank onto the mattress. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he admitted. “I mean, Michael saw it happen. He saw Ric. If Ric had gotten her away without that sighting—it might have been longer before we knew she was gone—” He looked at her. “You wouldn’t have looked so drugged if we’d been even twenty minutes later.”

Elizabeth nodded. “That’s what I’m saying. If Taggert is going after this connection, what are the odds that Ric’s father hasn’t heard about what happened? Maybe that’s why Ric was so irritated when Trevor called.” She sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just over thinking it.”

She looked around the room and then back towards the hallway where she watched as Jason’s electronics man, Stan, placed a camera and bug in the smoke detector in the master bedroom.

“No. You’re—I haven’t really slept,” Jason admitted. “And it’s been almost forty hours. Between Carly’s kidnapping, and the cops being all over everything—”

“Having to save my life,” Elizabeth pointed out with a sigh. “Yeah. I get.” She bit her lip. “Have you…eaten? You should eat and sleep. Carly wouldn’t want you to worry yourself like this. You know she’ll stay strong until you find her. But you’re only human, Jason.”

“Yeah.” Jason hated to admit it, but he had probably run into himself into the ground—he hadn’t wanted to return to the penthouse where he knew Courtney waited.

He was so angry at her for putting them in this position, for putting them under the scrutiny of the PCPD. For what? So that she could feel like she was doing something?

He couldn’t help but compare Elizabeth’s reaction to all of this—her husband had drugged her, nearly killed her, and still—she stood in this room, having opened her home to Jason and his guys—had put her life on the line to find Carly.

And she was right. Taggert and the PCPD might want to think Anthony Zacchara was involved because it would give them the excuse they needed to dig into their businesses, but too much about the kidnapping showed it was done by one man.

“I should check in with Stan and Spinelli.” Jason checked his watch. “We need to talk about the next step. Carly’s not here. There’s no clues.” He met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I can put you on a plane to Emily tonight.”

She was already shaking her head before he even finished speaking. “It’s not just the house I can get you access to,” she told him. “New York is a community property state. As long as I stay here, play along, I can give you permission to go into anything Ric owns. Anywhere. I leave, and you run the risk of getting arrested—”

“I don’t care about getting arrested,” Jason muttered. Even if she was right— “It’s not worth—”

“I told Ric I got sick yesterday. And I could see that worried him. He didn’t mean for me to eat all of that food—that’s why the dose was so high—”

“Don’t—” He blinked at her. “Are you making excuses for him?” Damn it—

Her smile was wry, even as her eyes were irritated. “Because that’s what I do, right? Make excuses. For him. For Lucky, For Zander. He didn’t mean to kill me, so I guess it doesn’t matter that he almost did.”

“I—”

“I think he knows he went too far,” Elizabeth said flatly, cutting off his reply. “I haven’t been eating—so I think he overdid how much he put in. But I didn’t—I didn’t want him to suspect me. I thought it would be okay. So I told him I got sick, and he was terrified that I almost went to the hospital. I told him I wanted to sleep in separate rooms because I didn’t want to have another miscarriage.” She exhaled slowly. “Ric thinks he can manipulate me. Why wouldn’t he? He did it for months and I didn’t even blink.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason’s tone was gentler now. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

“I don’t expect you to understand,” she said with a quick shake of her head. “Because I’m good at ignoring things in front of my face—you should know that. I never thought Lucky would—and I sure as hell defended Zander at every turn—” She looked away, and he could see the shimmer of tears in her eyes. “Anyway. My eyes are open now. I think I can do this for a little while longer.”

Jason sighed. She wasn’t wrong that it would be more convenient to have permission to get into places Ric owned—he didn’t care about the law, but he really didn’t want to be dragged into the police station and locked up. Not while Carly was out there, waiting for him to find her.

“Okay,” he said finally. “Let’s talk about the next step then.”

October 17, 2018

Sorry this was not posted earlier this morning. I forgot I hadn’t scheduled it, and then I was studying and doing laundry, oy.

A note that this story is going to be an ensemble piece, so the scenes I’m throwing at you with the PCPD and the rookies as well as Ned, Brooke, and the teens are there for a reason and are going to be crucial for Book 2. Just an fy 🙂

Chapter Five

October 15, 2018

So happy with all the response to this so far! Before I give you the link, I wanted to put a mild trigger warning on this chapter (and one for the next). This chapter talks about the effects of drugs and overdoses, so just in case.

Chapter Four