August 29, 2019

This entry is part 9 of 24 in the series All of Me

Come and see him when she is gone
He’s surprised but knows he is wrong
A simple case of do or die
And now she’s cut and run
Your vision let you down
You almost let her drown
Liberty, Olive


Friday, July 18, 2003

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Main Floor

Bernie had called Sonny just past dawn, passing on a report from a concerned night shift manager. He didn’t have a lot of the details, but something was wrong with Jason—he wasn’t hurt, Bernie said, but Sonny was needed.

So Sonny dragged himself out of bed, murmured something to a sleeping Carly, and came over to the warehouse at six in the morning to find a cluster of his men talking just inside the large bay doors that led to the dock out on Lake Ontario.

He followed their concerned looks and frowned, spying a familiar set of shoulders lifting coffee sacks out of crates and handing them off to the next worker. When was the last time Jason did grunt work in the warehouse?

“How long has he been out here?” Sonny asked. “He looks like hell.”

“Since last night,” Max Giambetti murmured. “The foreman said he was in his office all night going over books and then came out here around three in the morning.”

Sonny sighed and crossed the floor. “Jason—”

“I’m busy.” Jason reached for another sack, but the employee who had been handing them to him was standing with his hands at his side. Sonny had signaled him to stop work. “Sonny—”

“Take a walk with me. The guys got this.”

And Jason followed—not because he wanted to, but because Jason would never countermand an order in front of the men, warehouse or organization. Sonny was in charge, and Jason followed him.

Wordlessly, Sonny led Jason outside, to the pier that set out over the lake. His back to the muddy brown water, Sonny raised a brow. “You suddenly have a hankering for back breaking work on no sleep?”

Up close, Jason looked even worse. His eyes were red, nearly blood shot. His hair was sticking in all directions, his jaw was shaded with a day-old beard. And his t-shirt was wrinkled as if he’d worn it the day before.

“What’s going on, Jase?” He hesitated. “Is Elizabeth okay?” Ah, there it was. The flicker in Jason’s eye. “You tell her about Baker?”

All Jason offered was a short nod. “Just that I went to see him. I never got a chance to say the rest—she was upset—”

“She’ll get past it,” Sonny said, but he was unsure. Jason’s relationship with Elizabeth was fragile, still in the rebuilding phases. Even a light blow could knock it back to its foundations. “I’m sorry it shook out like that.”

“It’s…” Jason rolled his shoulders. “It’s fine.”

“Jason.” Sonny tilted his head. “I know Elizabeth. I know you. You’re not fine.”

Jason hesitated, pressed his lips together, looked away across the lake where Spoon Island rose out of the water, towering over the western landscape. “She threw me out. She cried.”

His tone was even, the sentences short and choppy. Sonny knew that Jason had said it in the order in which it mattered. He was upset Elizabeth had thrown him out, but making her cry—

But all Sonny did was nod.  “Okay. Well, I’m sorry for that. Give her some time, some space. Why don’t you take off for the day? Get some sleep?”

“Can’t. Can’t sleep. Don’t—” Jason swallowed. “If I stop, I think. And I don’t want to think about it.”

“Okay. Well, I’d rather you not be around heavy machinery so if you need something physical to do, Bernie’s been bitching about reorganizing the storage room. He’s in his office.”

“Okay.” Jason disappeared back inside, and a moment later, Max emerged, his expression still worried. “He okay, Boss?”

“I don’t know,” Sonny admitted. “I guess we’ll have to see.” He rubbed his neck. “Give Bernie a call. See if he can talk Jason into going home in an hour or two. He might do it if it comes from someone else.”

And if Jason didn’t go home by the end of the day, if he didn’t get some sleep, Sonny might have to do something more drastic. He didn’t think Jason had slept more than a handful hours since that damn letter from Tom Baker had arrived.

Something needed to be done.

General Hospital: Gail’s Office

She hadn’t had an appointment scheduled with Gail that day, but she must have sounded terrible on the phone because Gail’s secretary had penciled her in for Gail’s lunch hour. And now, sitting in front of her grandmother’s friend, Elizabeth didn’t know what to say to her.

How to explain any of it. How what Jason had done seemed like the worst thing he could have done to her. She was in the process of divorcing an actually abusive sociopath who had nearly killed her, and yet…

“Why don’t you simply start at the beginning, dear?” Gail asked as she handed Elizabeth a glass of water. She did not take her seat on her chair, but rather stayed next to her on the sofa. “Just tell me what happened yesterday. Hilda said you were upset this morning. That you’d had a panic attack last night?”

“Panic attack,” Elizabeth repeated, closing her eyes. “That’s what Monica said. Jason called her after—but yeah. I—I don’t even know where the beginning is, because when I try to explain it to myself, I don’t understand it. How did it—How did it happen—why did something—he didn’t even tell me—” She sipped her tea, more to stop the babbling flow of nonsense than from thirst.

“What did you do yesterday?” Gail asked. “Was Jason the only person you spoke to?”

“No.” Elizabeth sighed. “No.” She set the tea on the table in front of them and clasped her fingers in her lap. “Ned asked me to talk to his daughter. To just…give her advice. And so I did. And I tried—I tried to be honest with her, but I feel like I messed it up. I didn’t—I didn’t really know what to tell her. And I guess talking about it…with what we’ve been doing in here about what happened with Ric—” She squeezed her eyes shut until she almost felt dizzy. “The fact that Ric basically raped me God knows how many times thanks to the pills—”

She pressed a fist to her mouth. “It’s hard to say it out loud, but I need to. But with Brooke being attacked in the park, with that newspaper article about the other attacks, and the letter from…” Elizabeth opened her eyes and leaned back against the sofa, suddenly exhausted. “It wasn’t even what happened with Jason. Not really. Or it wasn’t just that.”

“And what happened with Jason?”

“He didn’t just read the letter.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “He went to see Baker. I still—I still don’t know what he said. I don’t want to know. But he went to see him, and it’s—it’s what’s been bothering him. I guess. He knew how upset I’d be but even I didn’t—” She met Gail’s kind eyes. “He took out the letter and that’s all it was. He just took it out of his pocket, put it on the coffee table, and I—I flipped out.”

She pressed her hands to her face. “I was in the park. I could literally feel the snow on my skin and how cold it was that night. The sound of his heavy breathing, the weight of him on top of me, inside—” Her voice broke. “I could hear Lucky’s voice—God, if he ever knew how close he was—he’d never forgive himself. I just—I was in that moment again, Gail. Being raped again. It was like living in a nightmare while still being awake, and I couldn’t make it go away. I couldn’t make it stop. I know I was screaming, and Jason tried to help me— I scratched him—”

Elizabeth pushed herself to her feet, too restless to stay in one place. She paced the small room, stopping by the window that overlooked the park. She couldn’t see the fountain from here, but that didn’t even matter. “When I came back to myself, and I saw Jason standing there, I—couldn’t stand it. I blamed him. It was like he’d—God, it was like he’d raped me. Just like Ric. Just like Tom. And that’s insane, because all he did was take out a fucking letter—”

Her voice broke again and this time, Elizabeth couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t stop the sobs bubbling up and breaking free. She wrapped her arms around her torso, her shoulders shaking. “I threw him out. I told myself and him I couldn’t trust him.”

“Elizabeth.” Gail’s voice was closer now and Elizabeth opened her eyes to see her therapist standing in front of her. “Do you really think it happened because of a letter?”

“I—” Elizabeth shook her head, her chest heaving. She shook it again. Struggled to get out the words. “No. No. It was just—it was the last piece. I hadn’t really—I guess I haven’t really dealt with any of it. I keep thinking I have, but I keep falling apart. When does it stop? When do I get to stop having to start all over again?”

She scrubbed her hands over her face. “It’s stupid for me to think Jason and I could work right now. I am a complete disaster and he deserves someone who isn’t certifiably insane.” She turned back to the window, rubbing a fist over her heart. It was the right thing to do. To let him go. She knew that.

“Maybe you’re not in a position to be in a new relationship,” Gail allowed as she came to stand next to Elizabeth. “But is that why you’d step back from him now? Because you’re not ready?”

“No.” Elizabeth’s breath was shaky. “No. But he’s…there’s no way…he thinks I’m strong. And I’m not. And when he figures it out—”

“He’ll leave you,” Gail said when Elizabeth broke off abruptly. “So you’re planning to leave first.”

“Just like last year,” Elizabeth murmured. She closed her eyes. “God. Why do I do that? Why is it so easy for me to walk away from Jason? I stuck with Ric. With Lucky. When I shouldn’t have. But at the first sign of trouble with Jason, I’m right out the door. What is wrong with me?”

“I don’t know if that’s quite the question I would pose to myself, but I think maybe that should be your homework this time.” Gail touched her shoulder. “And remember what we talked about before. You’ve been through a lot these few months. And this is coming from the woman who has known you your entire life, Elizabeth. I remember you running down these halls, hoping your grandfather would chase you, hiding from your parents who wanted to take you back to Colorado.”

Elizabeth laughed, despite her tears. “I always begged them to let me stay here. With Gram and Gramps. They knew me. They loved me. They never wanted me to be anyone else.” She exhaled slowly. “The thing is…I’ve never understood why he would stay. Why would he want me?” she said softly. “After everything I’ve done to him, Gail, and God, it’s been legion. I’ve never done anything except hurt him. Why does he still want me? Why can’t he just…” Her throat burned. “And if he does really want me, he won’t stay. Something will blow it up. Something will go wrong.”

“Something?”

I’ll do something awful to make him go away.” She used the heel of her hand to swipe at the tears. “I always do.” She laughed bitterly. “I did it last night. I threw him out. It’s not even the first time I’ve hurt him.”

“Oh?”

“I believed Lucky when he said Jason hurt him. I walked away from him—I was so angry with him. And he offered me the world, and I said no.”

“Why?”

“I—” Elizabeth stared at her. “I couldn’t walk away from Lucky. Lucky never walked away from me, and he needed me. I had to see him through that. And then Jason…he went. And he was gone by the time I realized that—And then Zander…” She looked away. “I just…I’m in love with him, and I think he loves me, too. But I can’t believe it. Because I don’t deserve it.”

Gail glanced at her clock. “We only have a few more moments, and I have another appointment, or I would keep you here.” She leaned forward. “So, let me leave you with this. I can’t make you feel like you deserve love. I wish I could flip a switch—that it were that easy. But you are loved. And you are worth it. So, if you really want to know why he’d want you, then you should ask him.”

PCPD: Conference Room

Ned braced Brooke’s elbow as his daughter gingerly lowered herself into a chair across from Lieutenant Taggert and the lawyer lady who had introduced herself as Kelsey. Brooke had only checked out of the hospital a few hours earlier, and Ned had wanted her to wait, but—

She just wanted this over with. She wanted to move on with her life and to stop thinking about this. She’d told her mother to wait back at the gate house, exhausted by her parents and their constant arguing. She didn’t want to go back to Brooklyn with her mother, but she didn’t want to stay here either.

She didn’t know what she wanted.

Except for all of this to just go away.

“We appreciate you coming in, Miss Ashton,” Kelsey said quietly. “We’d like to tape this to make sure your statement is taken accurately. Would you—would you prefer if I took the statement alone or—”

“You mean do I want to talk about being raped in front of my father and a guy cop?” Brooke demanded. She clenched her hands into fists on the table. “Look, he’s gonna hear it. And the way this place works, everyone is gonna read it in the papers, so I don’t care. I just want to answer your questions and then I want you to leave me alone. I’m only doing this because—”

She took a deep breath. Forced herself to breathe more slowly. “Because Elizabeth Webber told me not reporting it as soon as possible was a big regret for her, and I guess—I guess I don’t wanna look back and wish I had done it better.

“So I’m gonna tell you what I remember and then I’ll try to answer any of your questions. But after that, I don’t want to deal with it again, okay?”

“Okay.” Kelsey leaned back and looked at Taggert before looking at Brooke’s father, who hadn’t taken a seat yet. “So, let’s get started.”

Harborview Towers: Hallway

Elizabeth managed a smile for Max who knocked lightly on the door before opening it and announcing her. Sonny was standing by his minibar, a bourbon in his hand. He glanced at her briefly before taking a sip and looking back at the collection of bottles and glasses.

“Hey. I’m—I hope it’s okay I stopped by. Max said Courtney wasn’t here, so—”

“I haven’t seen Jason since this morning,” Sonny told her. He finished his drink, then poured another. “You want anything?”

“No.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I stopped by his place and called him, but he didn’t pick up.” She shifted from one foot to another, feeling uncomfortable. Sonny wasn’t exactly being all that welcoming, and it was a stark shift in how he had treated her since Carly’s kidnapping.

She might as well not even be in the room. He’d treated her this way last year, just before he faked his death and the lying began.

“Well, can you blame him?” Sonny shrugged. “He tries to look out for you, feels bad about not telling you, and you rip his head off when he tries to be honest?” He snorted, took another drink. “I mean, you want honesty, don’t you, Elizabeth? Isn’t that what that crap was about last year?”

She blinked at him, took a step back. “I—yes. It’s—” She took a deep breath. “That’s why I’m looking for him. I need to talk to him. To explain—”

“To explain why you threw him out after everything he’s done for you this last month?” Sonny demanded. He looked at her again and she frowned at him. She didn’t recognize that strange light in his eyes. “I told him to stay out of it. To lie to you. Looks like I was right. You know what your problem is, Elizabeth?”

She folded her arms and arched a brow. “No, but I bet you’re going to tell me.”

“You’re just a kid. That’s the problem.” He threw back the rest of his drink. Poured another. And this time, his hand trembled slightly. “You run from your problems. As fast as you can. As soon as things get hard, you run away.”

“That’s not true—”

“Oh, you want credit because you stuck with Lucky Spencer until he slept with your sister?” Sonny sneered. “You were punishing yourself. For whatever the hell you did to Jason that sent him out of town last year.”

“Last year—” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “Sonny, Jason left in 2001. Two years ago. He’s been back a year.” Her ire fading, she stepped forward. “Are you…okay?”

“What?” He blinked at her. Cleared his throat. “What?”

“Jason came home last year,” Elizabeth said gently. “After he thought Carly had died in that car accident. He came home and he almost married Courtney.”

“I—” Sonny swallowed hard. Shook his head. “I know that. Why are you—” He looked around the room, looked down at the glass in his hand. “What’s going on?”

“Let’s sit down.” Elizabeth took him by the elbow and led him to the sofa where they both sat down. She was not at all comforted by the fact that Sonny followed her. “I know you had some…when Carly was gone, you—”

“Went crazy,” Sonny muttered, digging the heels of his palm into his eyes. “I thought I was talking to Lily. And then I was—I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened.” He set the bourbon glass on the table. “I should stop drinking. It makes it worse. I lose track of time.” He met her eyes. “I’m sorry. I had no right to talk to you like that.”

“I know that I hurt Jason,” Elizabeth said carefully. “And I know you’re protective of him. He’s not answering my calls which tells me how much I hurt him. He’s almost smothered me since I got sick. But he hurt me, too, Sonny.”

“I know.” Sonny took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was—you know I think the world of you. I don’t—you’re not—Damn it.”

“Hey.” Elizabeth touched his elbow. “Have you talked to someone—”

“I don’t need to talk to anyone,” Sonny retorted. He shook her hand off and got to his feet. “I know better than to drink. That’s all. It’s not good for me. It just brings back a lot of stuff and I lose track of time.”

She bit back a protest. “Okay. Okay.” She stood up. “Well, I need to find him. So, if you see him, please let him know.”

“I’m really sorry, Elizabeth.” Sonny followed her to the door. “I don’t—”

“It’s okay, Sonny. I’ll talk to you later.”

She managed to extract herself from the penthouse, then offered a few words to Max before getting on the elevator. As soon as the doors slid closed, she pulled out her cell phone and pressed Bobbie’s number on her speed dial.

The Cellar: Office

“Mama?” Carly set her contracts aside and struggled to stand up when her mother appeared in the doorway of her office. “I didn’t know you were coming by—”

Bobbie kissed her cheek and let her daughter lead her to the sofa. “Well, I wasn’t planning on it, but I got a call from Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth?” Carly bit her lip. “Oh, man, did Jason finally tell her?”

“What?” Bobbie shook her head. “Tell her what? No, she called—” She hesitated. “Though that might explain why she was at Sonny’s if she’s trying to find Jason.” She’d track that story down later. Right now, there was something more important to worry about. “She said she was talking to Sonny and he forgot where he was. Or what year it was.”

Carly sighed, leaned back against the sofa, and rubbed her forehead. “Yeah. That’s…that’s not the first time. He had the breakdown while I was gone, and then my first day home, he thought it was 1999 and demanded to know why I was in his house. He couldn’t remember how old Brooke Lynn Ashton was. Did Elizabeth tell you any details?”

“Just that he thought it was last year and that Jason hadn’t come home yet. She said she was able to bring him back around, but—” Bobbie clenched her hands in her lap. “Are you telling me that Sonny is regularly losing track of time and place?”

“Not regularly. Just…not…” Carly wrinkled her nose, defensive now. “I know what you’re going to say, Mama. I know you wanted him to get help after the breakdown. I thought maybe he would, but he changed his mind. And I guess I get it. I mean, it’s not the first time it’s happened, and me and Jason are always able to talk him out of it. He’s just stressed because of the kidnapping and Ric’s case—” She shook her head. “We’ll be fine.”

“You’ll be fine,” Bobbie repeated. “You know, Jason drove himself into the ground because he had to handle everything himself. Keeping the PCPD from arresting him, looking for you, trying to keep Elizabeth alive. And worry for Jason kept Elizabeth in that damn house long enough for Ric to attack her and drug her more. You were held hostage in a dark, cement panic room for a week. Why the hell is it your or Jason’s job to keep Sonny sane?”

“Because he’s my husband. He’s our family,” Carly snapped. She pulled herself to her feet, her hand braced over her belly. “And we’ve always kept him safe.”

“Whatever he said to Elizabeth today had her rattled enough to call me, worried about Sonny, worried about you and Jason.” Bobbie stood, planting her hands on her hips. “Tell me, Carly. When Sonny has these nervous breakdowns, have you ever feared for your safety?”

When her daughter looked away, didn’t answer, Bobbie nodded. “It’s one thing for you and Jason to sign on to be his nursemaids. But you are raising children with him. Elizabeth is planning a future with Jason. Do your children deserve this life? Does Elizabeth?”

Carly rolled her eyes. “Spare me your concern about precious Elizabeth. She’ll be just—” She stopped. Took a deep breath. “When exactly did you get so damned worried about Elizabeth Webber?”

“Because she’s part of my family, too,” Bobbie snapped. “And don’t give me that look, Caroline. She risked her life to save you—”

“She risked her life because she’s obsessed with Jason,” Carly retorted, but her shoulders hunched. “And maybe some of that was about me—”

“I will not let you belittle what she did. How—with nearly her last breath—she found the button that set you free.” Bobbie stabbed a finger at Carly. “You like having Jason to yourself because he’s there at your beck and call to save Sonny. To keep him sane. That’s why you wanted him to be with Courtney. Because you knew he’d never go far. It is not fair to ask that Jason keep saving Sonny. One day, that man is going to have to save himself and stop depending on the rest of us to carry the weight.”

And with that, Bobbie stormed out.

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Kelsey sighed in relief as she dumped a pile of folders on Lucky’s battered desk and turned to him. “Thank you.”

“For what?” He opened the paper bag he’d brought up from the diner downstairs and started unpacking the Styrofoam containers on the table tucked into the corner. “We both have to work. There’s no reason we can’t do it together.” Lucky managed a weak grin. “Second date, right?”

A laugh escaped her lips as she rubbed her temples. “This has been the worst day, I swear. Did you read Brooke Lynn’s statement yet?”

“Not yet,” Lucky admitted. “Taggert just got us copies before I signed out for the day.” He pulled out a chair and waited for her to sit down. “But it must have been hard to sit through.”

“She says she won’t sit for another interview.” Kelsey sat down and unpacked the burger she’d ordered, then stared at it. “She only talked to us at all because Elizabeth Webber said it was her biggest regret.”

Lucky frowned at her. Shook his head. “I don’t—”

“Ned asked Elizabeth to talk to Brooke. And I guess Elizabeth said something about not reporting right away, and how it made it harder to get Tom Baker when he became a suspect.” Kelsey studied him for a long moment. “It was smart of her dad to go out and try to find someone who could help her. Support her. Elizabeth told Ned Taggert could be trusted and had been kind to her, so…we benefited from that.”

“Yeah.” Lucky shifted in his seat. “Yeah, Taggert didn’t like me much back then, but he always liked Elizabeth. Garcia didn’t do much with her case, but every time Elizabeth came to Taggert with some—” He squeezed his eyes shut.

Kelsey reached over to cover his hand with hers. “Hey. Something else coming back?”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Yeah. She didn’t remember a lot at first. But details came back. Just small ones. He smelled like soap and he’d said something to her—I don’t—” Lucky grimaced. “I can’t remember all of it yet. But I will. Anyway, every time, Taggert sat down. Wrote it up. Had her look at mugshots. He knew it was a long shot, but he always took the time for her.”

“I can tell this matters to him.” Kelsey cut her burger into quarters, hoping she could eat at least something. “He was kind to her, but Brooke didn’t remember a lot. Her details are similar to the attacks from this year. She remembered handcuffs and that he smelled her hair. He also said something to her. She thinks it was just him telling her to be quiet. Then beat her when it was over.”

Her stomach rolled. “They think they might be able to get DNA, though. He didn’t wear a condom.”

“Risky or dumb?” Lucky asked.

“It probably means his DNA isn’t in the system, or if it is, it’s never been attached to a name.” Kelsey sighed. “She just—I remember the girl we met last week. She was so vibrant. And today—it’s like night and day. This guy—men who do this—they steal something that we can never give them back, you know? It doesn’t matter if we find this guy. We can’t ever make it right.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Lucky nodded towards the files. “Do you think she gave us anything we can use?”

“Taggert is trying to get the other three victims to do a follow up, but they’ve refused. The press coverage—they don’t have a lot of faith anything can be done.”

“Maybe if the forensics come back and give us a link, they’ll reconsider.” Lucky shoved his dinner, mostly untouched, aside. “But the hair thing. That’s interesting.”

“Smelling her hair? Maybe. They’re all brunettes. Maybe he’s looking for something specific. Scott managed to convince the city council to give the PCPD emergency funding to cover overtime and testing. You guys can now carpet the park with officers and test every single kit in storage.”

“I guess that’s something.” Lucky grimaced. “We’re not really eating, are we?”

“No. I guess we should get back to work. I want to read over her statement again, and there’s a couple of cases I’m going to court for in the morning. I’ll be relieved when Scott can manage to get a few more ADAs in my office.” She twisted to look at the stack of files on his desk. “It’s going to be a long night. Maybe I should just head home—”

“No, hey—” Lucky stood, grabbed the files, then set them down. “We’ll go through them together. I probably worked some of them.”

“Well, I’ve got three vandalism cases, one simple assault from a bar fight, and two burglaries—all of which are guilty pleas, so at least that’s more cheerful than a serial rapist.” She reached for her briefcase with her stationery and notebooks. “Let’s get started.”

Condo: Hallway

After looking for Jason in a few other places, Elizabeth finally gave up and returned home—only to find Jason sitting outside her door, his back against the wall with his legs stretched out. When he saw her, he got to his feet.

“I know you said not to come back—”

“I’m glad you’re here—” she said at the same time, throwing herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He lifted her slightly in the air as she kissed him hard. “I’m sorry,” she murmured against his lips. “I’m sorry.”

“You never ever—” He tightened his arms around her torso, holding her against his chest. “I’m sorry. I can’t stand how much I hurt you—”

“It’s not—” She sighed and waited for him to release her. When she was back on her feet, she unlocked her door and invited him in. “I’m not sorry I was angry about what happened. That you not only took the letter, read it, and then went to…see him…I didn’t want you to do that.”

She dumped her purse on the table and turned to face him, taking in the fact he was wearing his shirt from the night before, wrinkled now. He had a day’s growth of stubble lining his jaw and his eyes were rimmed with red. She bit her lip. “Have you slept?”

“I went to the warehouse. I packed coffee until Sonny sent me to the office. Then Bernie sent me home.” Jason shook his head. “I went for a ride. I didn’t even know you were calling me, but—I’m sorry.”

“Come here.” She took his hand and led him to the sofa where he sat down and she curled up against him. “I saw Gail today and she…helped me understand what happened last night.”

“I did that—I made you—”

“Not—” She laced her fingers through his. She’d always liked the way their hands fit together, her much smaller fingers against his larger ones. “Thank you for calling Monica. Part of it was a panic attack, but it was triggered by something else. It was like…” She rested her chin on his shoulder, waited until he turned his head slightly to meet her eyes. “It was like I saw that letter—and just that was enough to put me back in that moment. It was like I was there. And it was happening again. And that—” She bit her lip. “Gail said I was re-experiencing the trauma.”

He closed his eyes. “Because of me—”

Ric did that to me,” Elizabeth said softly. “Ric, Tom Baker, and whoever attacked Brooke Lynn Ashton and those other girls. They created the conditions, and you just lit the match. It was always going to be something. I’m so sorry it was you.”

She bit her lip. “While I was with Gail, I started to think that I was a complete mess. That this is the wrong time for us to be trying this—that I don’t even understand my own brain, how could I ever hope to have a healthy romantic relationship right now?”

She could feel his muscles tense as he exhaled slowly. “Are you—Do you want—”

“And Gail asked me if that was really why I would step back, and I realized…” She drew back slightly. “I guess I realized that’s usually what I do when it comes to you. When it gets hard, I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. With Lucky, with Ric, I dug in. I stayed.”

Jason frowned, shifting on the sofa, turning slightly to face her more fully. “Why?”

“Because you’re not like them. You see me. You’ve always seen me, and I think…” Her throat burned as she forced out the words. “I think I’m afraid one day you’ll see that I don’t deserve it.”

“Deserve…” Jason shook his head. “You don’t—deserve what?”

“My parents. They left. As soon as they could. And even my grandmother, as much as she loved me, I knew she was disappointed in me. Lucky left. He never came back. And you left. Everyone leaves. And after that first time, Jason, when you left and I was crying, begging you to stay, I knew it would happen again. So, I left first. I sent you away when you offered me the world, and I walked out on you last year—”

He took her hand in his, shaking his head. “That’s—what did you say in the hospital? About telling yourself stories that make you out to be the bad guy?”

“Yeah, but that’s what happened—”

“Elizabeth, you—” He sat up straight and took a deep breath. “You have to stop taking on the weight of the world. You threw me out last night because I didn’t listen to you. You knew you weren’t ready to deal with Tom Baker or his letter, and I decided what I needed was more important. I was selfish. You had every right to be angry at me, but now we’re here and you’re telling me that you don’t deserve me, and I just—” He shook his head. “I’m supposed to be the one apologizing here.”

“I—” She bit her lip. “I guess. But—”

“When I left that first time—after I got shot. I told you that I had to go.” Jason tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear, letting his fingers trail down her jawline. “The thing is you were the only reason I would have stayed. If you hadn’t left first, I don’t know if I could have gone through with it. But I knew Carly was on the warpath and she was determined to make my life a living hell. I had to get away from her. I had to force her to fix her own problems. But I didn’t want to leave you.”

Something deep inside of her loosened and she managed a smile. “Really?”

“And when I—how did you put it?—offered you the world—” Jason shook his head. “You’re making it sound like I got down on one knee and begged you to leave with me. You didn’t spit in my face, Elizabeth. I knew how hard all of that was for you. I asked you to leave, and when you asked me if it meant with me, and I didn’t—” He grimaced. “I didn’t say the right words. I knew it even as I was saying them. I told you that it didn’t have to be with me.  Just as long as you were safe.”

She closed her eyes. “I didn’t—I forgot—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You’re right. I have to—I need to be kinder to myself. Gail tells me that all the time. And you do, too. It’s just hard. I’m trying.”

“I know.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you about the letter.”

“I’m still not ready to know what he said or what happened when you saw him.” She leaned back against him and he put an arm around her. “Will you stay here tonight? I didn’t sleep last night. And I don’t want to be alone.”

“I missed you.” His fingers slid through her hair. “We’re going to get this right this time, Elizabeth. I promise. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Your Update: Mad World – Chapter Twenty-Eight. Keeping this short and sweet so a reminder that Patreon tiers were revised — the ebook for Mad World, Book 2 will be released on Sunday, September 1 on the Crimson Adored tier if you’re interested.

August 26, 2019

This entry is part 8 of 24 in the series All of Me

Please note that the final scene has a trigger warning. See Content Notes for more information.


She wants to go home
But nobody’s home
That’s where she lies
Broken inside
With no place to go
No place to go to
To dry her eyes
Broken inside
Nobody’s Home, Avril Lavigne


Thursday, July 17, 2003

General Hospital: Brooke’s Room

That morning, Brooke’s doctor had agreed to move her out of the ICU with its clear, transparent walls, and into her own room. She’d begged to be released, begged to go home, but then her parents had just argued again about whether Brooke would go home to the gatehouse or to Bensonhurst—and though Olivia had managed to quiet them both—Brooke stopped asking to leave.

She was tired of her parents arguing. It was the dominant memory of her childhood and had been the reason she had never believed or even hoped her parents would get back together. She had no memory of them being together and couldn’t imagine them ever being in love enough to create a child.

She refused all visitors, refused to talk to the police. This just needed to be over. She wanted to close her eyes, go to sleep, and just never wake up. Every time she was conscious, there was pain. Her head. Her arms.

And inside. Sometimes she woke gasping for air, the stabbing pain of being held down while someone forced himself inside her—

Brooke couldn’t even curl up, couldn’t even disappear into dreamless sleep. Her ribs pained her, her dreams haunted her—

Every second of her life was a waking nightmare, and sleep provided only minimal escape.

Her father lightly tapped on the door and pushed it open. “Brooke, I know you said you didn’t want to see anyone—”

“And that’s still true,” Brooke muttered, but she couldn’t force any anger or heat into her words. All of that took too much energy.

“I just—I thought you might want to talk to someone—”

“I already told you, I’m not talking to a shrink—” Brooke turned her head to face the door, then blinked because the woman standing next to her father wasn’t a shrink. She’d seen the woman’s face all over the newspapers for the last few weeks. “What—”

“I can go, Brooke,” Elizabeth Webber said. “The last thing you need is someone forcing you to talk to anyone. I—I know what that’s like.”

Brooke fumbled for the remote on the left side of her bed slightly. “How?” she asked with suspicion. She furrowed her brow. Why would her father bring this woman to see her?

“Because when it happened to me, I spent the next three days in bed, and then a few more weeks pretending it had never happened,” Elizabeth said, meeting her eyes. “And when I finally told people, it felt like it was all they ever saw when they looked at me.”

Brooke looked at her father, but Ned’s face remained expressionless. She knew her father hated being powerless, of not being able to fix this for her. So clearly, he’d gone out to find a way to fix it.

He was trying, and Brooke so desperately wanted to believe this was something that her father could make go away.

“You can come in, I guess. Just you,” she said quickly. Elizabeth turned, flashed a half smile at Ned, then let the dark wooden door fall shut behind her. “I’m not going to talk about it.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth looked around the room, exhaling slowly. “It wasn’t so long ago I was stuck in a room like this,” she murmured. “I hated the ICU, too. Hated the way people seemed to stop and stare at me. I mean, maybe it was in my head, but it just felt like I was some sort of circus show.”

She sat in the chair near Brooke’s bed and folded her hands in her lap. “Do…do you want to ask me anything?”

“I—” Brooke bit her lip. “When did it happen to you?”

“I was sixteen,” Elizabeth said. “Valentine’s Day, 1998.” She rubbed her hands together, staring down at the chipped nails. “It’s been five years.”

Brooke leaned her had back against the pillow. “Did you—did they get the guy?”

“Eventually. Not for what happened to me. They couldn’t prove it by then. I did—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I guess people would say I did everything wrong, you know? I took a shower. I waited to report. And by the time I did, there was nowhere to look. I mean, I did a rape kit right after and gave them the dress I had been wearing, but I still didn’t officially file a report.”

“Is that why you’re here? To tell me to talk to the cops?” Brooke demanded with a scowl. “I’m not going to. Some asshole already told everyone about me, and I just—maybe if the world didn’t know—but—” The pressure building behind her eyes released and tears slid down her cheek. “I can’t. I can’t say it out loud.”

“I get that,” Elizabeth said softly. “I’ve never really—I locked it away for a long time. At first, I could only—I could only give some details. I couldn’t face it. Even when I did face it—I still only did it halfway. There’s no right way to handle something this big, Brooke. You have to do what’s right for you, you know? I can wish I did things differently. Hindsight gives me that ability to see everything I could have done to make it easier for me, but that’s me.”

She bit her lip. “I was in a survivor’s group for a while as part of my therapy, and God, the stories broke my heart. I started to tell myself I’d been lucky to be attacked by a stranger. At least it wasn’t my boyfriend. Or my father, or my brother.” Her fist clenched in her lap. “But that was me trying to make it less awful, trying to minimize what happened to me.”

Brooke closed her eyes. “I don’t want to say it out loud,” she managed. “I don’t want it to be true, and I don’t want anyone to know. But I guess…I guess that ship has sailed on that. I belong to a prominent family, so I guess I don’t have a choice—”

“You always have a choice, Brooke. He didn’t take that from you.” Elizabeth hesitated. “When it happened, I had never been with anyone. I hadn’t even really been in love. I couldn’t imagine ever letting someone touch me because then—then they might see how broken and dirty I was.”

Brooke choked as a sob pushed its way up her throat. “I don’t like boys. I never ever wanted—” The tears came fast now. “I knew someone whose guy friend found out she was gay, and he—he forced her to prove she really wanted boys. And I was always scared—and now—” She managed a deep breath. “Does it ever stop being the worst thing that ever happened to you? How do you sleep and not think about it? How do you stop?”

“Time. Nothing but time,” Elizabeth admitted. “And sometimes…sometimes, the dreams come again. I wish—I wish I could give you sunshine and rainbows, Brooke, and promise you there will be a turning point where it stops being something that you think about. For years, I thought of myself as the girl who got raped, and while I don’t give myself that label anymore, there will never be a time when I don’t see that day as…”

Elizabeth hesitated. “It’s like this giant thing in the middle of my life. There will always be a before and an after for me. A time before I got raped, and everything that happened after.”

Her chest ached as Brooke tried to take another deep breath, tried to stop crying. “B-but it got better.”

“It did. I started to let people in. I didn’t have a choice about Lucky Spencer. He found me that night and took me back to his house where his father and his aunt took care of me. Bobbie became someone I could say anything to. I eventually told my grandmother and my sister. And others in my life if it became relevant. I fell in love—with Lucky, and then Jason. For a long time, I thought of myself as two people. Lizzie came before, and I used to blame her. That wild child who lied, broke the rules, and stayed out late. I did everything I could to drown Lizzie’s voice out.”

Brooke sniffled and took the tissue Elizabeth offered. “You don’t anymore?”

“No. Lizzie wasn’t to blame.  I wasn’t to blame. I walked through the park one night and I sat on a bench, and that was something I had the right to do. It didn’t matter what I wore, where I was, or how late it was. Someone came in and tried to steal that from me, and eventually, it became easier to blame him and not myself.”

Brooke blinked at her. Bench. Park. “Y-you said they caught him. H-how did you know?”

“He admitted it. It’s—complicated.” Elizabeth shook her head. “He denied it later, and they couldn’t make a case against him.”

“There are other girls. That’s what the papers say.” Brooke met Elizabeth’s eyes. “Maybe…talking to the police…that could help them, right?”

“It could.”

“I should—I should try to help so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else. I—I can do that. I guess. Tell them what happened. Once,” she added quickly. “If I just say it once, then maybe it won’t hurt so much.”

“Maybe,” Elizabeth said softly. “But don’t expect miracles, Brooke. This—this isn’t going to go away tomorrow or if you wish really hard. This is something that’s going to stay with you. Expecting to put it in a box in your head and lock it away—I’ve tried that.”

“Can—if I wanted to talk about it again, could I talk to you?” Brooke asked hesitantly.

“I’ll leave you my number,” Elizabeth said, looking at the table for a pen and paper. “You call me any hour of the day or night. I will be here for you if you need it.” She scribbled something and handed it to Brooke. “That’s my land line and my cell phone.”

“Thanks. Um, I guess I should tell my dad to call the police and tell them—”

“There’s no rush,” Elizabeth said, getting to her feet. “Brooke—”

“If I don’t do it now, I might never do it.’

General Hospital: Conference Room

Taggert could see, even before Ned took a seat across from him at the table, that Brooke’s father was boiling with rage—that it lay simmering beneath the surface, threatening to bubble over given even the slightest opportunity. His ex-wife, Lois, didn’t bother to sit, though the woman who had traveled with Lois—Olivia Falconieri—gingerly took a seat next to Ned. Taggert was a bit mystified to see Lois throwing angry looks in her friend’s direction.

“I appreciate you meeting with me,” Taggert began.

Before he could continue, Ned leaned forward and pointed a finger at the table, all but stabbing it. “Let’s get one thing straight. The only reason I am in this room with you and not with Alexis preparing a gigantic lawsuit is because my daughter has decided to make a statement and Elizabeth Webber said you could be trusted.”

Taggert exhaled slowly. He had shown Elizabeth some kindness all of those years ago, and now he was benefiting from it. After the way the department had screwed her over, he hadn’t expected that. “Ned—”

“Are the papers right?” Lois demanded, her face mottled with red, her dark eyes molten with fury. “Is my daughter a victim of a serial rapist?”

“Yes,” Taggert said.

“How long have you known?” Olivia asked quietly. Lois threw her another dirty look, but Olivia ignored her. “My son is thinking about quitting. You know that, don’t you?”

“I started to suspect about two weeks ago when I transferred to Major Crimes,” Taggert told the trio. “I took a look at the open case files. The officer assigned had reasons to doubt it, but there were too many similarities. The DA’s office is on board with linking the cases. We were held back from issuing a public alert.”

“By who? The mayor?” Ned demanded. “Why?”

“A few reasons that don’t matter,” Taggert offered with a shake of his head. “But more likely because it’s an election year.”

Olivia raised a thin brow. “Should you be telling us that?”

“Why the hell are you even here?” Lois exploded, and Olivia looked at her now, mystified. “Brooke is my daughter, not yours—”

“Because I asked her to be,” Ned snapped at his ex-wife. “Because we’re both too angry and upset, and I wanted someone else Brooke trusted to listen to an investigation update. Her son works for the PCPD, Lois. You asked her to come here to Port Charles. Let her help.”

“I’ll go.” Olivia got to her feet. “I don’t want to make things worse—”

Lois scrubbed her hands over her face, digging her heels into her eyes. “No. No. Ned is right. I’m sorry.”

“There isn’t much Floyd can do to me,” Taggert said, answering Olivia’s question as if the intervening argument hadn’t happened. “Scott Baldwin has assigned an ADA to this case full-time, and Kelsey Joyce is already getting us the extra funding we need to test all the rape kits we have as a backlog. We should have those results back in a few weeks.”

“My daughter’s life has been destroyed,” Ned said. “And you don’t have a single lead?”

“We have leads,” Taggert said, a bit defensively. “But, no, we don’t have any suspects. But based on the types of women this asshole targets and the way he targets them, we have places to look. I’m putting the entire unit on this, and I’ll be in charge—”

“Why should that make me feel better?” Lois jabbed a finger at him. “Did you find Carly Corinthos? She was locked behind a damn wall in the house of the man her son told you kidnapped her, and you still couldn’t find her. His wife had to nearly die in order to make that happen.”

“I—” Taggert shook his head. “I’m sorry. I wish I had more to give you—”

“You tell Mac and the mayor that I don’t care what asshole I have to pick up off the streets,” Ned began as he shoved himself to his feet. “I am putting the full force of the Quartermaines behind who ever runs against that son of the bitch in the fall. He sacrificed my daughter for his fucking election. You and the rest of the PCPD—”

He sliced his hand through the air. “I am through accepting the bullshit this town has for police protection. You couldn’t protect my daughter, my fiancée last year—and you have no problems throwing innocent women to the wolves to cover your own asses—it has to stop.”

He stormed out of the room, Lois and Olivia on his heels.

Brownstone: Living Room

Lulu dropped her bags on the chair and scowled at the police officer in the foyer. “Why are you here bothering my cousin?” she demanded.

Dante Falconieri rolled his eyes at his friend’s younger sister. Apparently, according to Lucky, Lulu had taken the first flight home when she found out Brooke had been hurt and was now acting like a guard dog for Lucas Jones. “We just have a few follow-ups—”

“Because the only thing you assholes definitely know is that Lucas, Dillon, and Kyle didn’t do it.” Lulu lifted her chin. “So, go find the piece of shit who did—”

Dante held up his hands. “Hey. Knock off the attitude. Your brother is one of us, remember? And I just started this job a month ago.”

None of the fire was extinguished from Lulu’s angry dark eyes. “Oh, yeah? You think I’m not pissed at my brother either? That could have happened to any of us—Brooke walked through the park like I’ve done a thousand times—” Her voice wavered slightly. “She never would have done that if we’d known—”

“Brooke’s my friend, too,” Dante returned, more gently. “We grew up together in Bensonhurst—”

Lulu perched on the arm of the chair and sighed. “Right. Shit. I’m sorry. I forgot—” She chewed on her bottom lip. “If I hadn’t been in London, I probably would have been with them that night. We do a movie night every month, and it was Dillon’s turn to pick the movie.” She folded her arms. “Last month, we invited Kyle for the first time, and it was a major drama because Lucas is like a five-year-old who can’t keep his mouth shut.”

Dante tilted his head. “Why does everyone hate Kyle Radcliffe?”

“Oh, we have legitimate reasons. He seduced Maxie in the spring and then broadcast their first time on a webcam. Complete asshole.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “But like Maxie tells us, that’s her shit to forgive, not ours. Whatever. Anyway, if I had been there, I could have done something. Maybe I would have seen her leave. I could have stopped her. Or I could have—” She shook her head again. “Lucas isn’t here. He’s at Kelly’s. Trying to keep his mind off of things.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Dante hesitated. “Did Brooke go last month? Was she part of the group then? I know she moved here early in June—”

“No, she was still having a temper tantrum. And I don’t even know her that well. She only visited a few times when we were kids, and sometimes Ned had me and Maxie and Georgie to come play with her. We weren’t that close. And we didn’t even go to the Harwin, if you’re wondering if maybe the group was targeted. That’s why you’re asking, right?”

“Yeah.” Dante lifted his brows. “How did you know?”

“That’s how this works. These are the questions.  Was Brooke targeted? How did the asshole find her? Was she random?” She shrugged. “So, no, that was the first time at the Harwin for the group at large. That’s Dillon’s favorite theater. It shows all the old movies. We usually hit the Loewe’s or AMC out at the mall. We went to AMC last month.” Lulu hesitated. “Hey, is my brother okay with all of this?”

“Lucky?” Dante asked. “Yeah. I guess, why?”

“Oh. I just worried it might bring back bad memories.” Dante’s mystified look must have read on his face because Lulu continued. “When he was sixteen, he found Elizabeth in the park after she’d been raped. I was just worried about him, that’s all. Can you tell him to return my phone calls when you see him?”

General Hospital: Administration Suite

Alexis shifted uncomfortably in her chair and watched as Ned paced the small office she occupied as the hospital’s attorney. Her ex-fiancé had been on the phone for the last twenty minutes trying to find someone willing to run against Garrett Floyd before the deadline at the end of the month.

Ned tossed his flip phone onto the glass conference table with a grimace. “The Barringtons have already promised their support to Floyd.”

Alexis pursed her lips. “They weren’t swayed by the recent reports?”

“They think it’s too soon to assign blame.” Ned rolled his shoulders. “I’m doing this all wrong, aren’t I?”

She shook her head. “Uh uh. Don’t ask me. I’ve been a mother for less than a year and I’m pretty sure I’m messing it up.”

He scrubbed his hands over his face. “I can’t fix this, Alexis. I wouldn’t let her have a car. I took away her phone—”

“You were disciplining her—and you never would have done that if you’d known there was a serial rapist targeting young brunettes.” Alexis leaned back in her chair. “You could always file suit against the city—”

Ned hesitated. “Maybe, but…the whole world already knows this happened to her. Elizabeth told me Brooke is struggling with that. She wants to make a statement to the police and move on with her life.” He grimaced. It burned at him, though, that such callous decisions had been made without even an of ounce concern for all the damage that could be done.

Someone had to pay.

“It’s good that she’s ready to make a statement, and I’m glad Elizabeth could be there to help her.” Alexis hesitated. “Ned, it doesn’t matter what happens with the investigation, with the election—this is always going to have happened. Don’t be so hard on yourself for not having all the answers yet.”

“I’ve never been able to be there for my daughter,” Ned murmured. “I’ve never been a good father. I just wanted to be better this time.”

“Maybe you haven’t been the world’s best father.” Alexis rose from her chair and rounded the desk to step in front of him. She put her hands on his cheek, framing his face. “But you’re a good man, and you’re going to do the best you can. That’s all you can ask of yourself. Be there for Brooke, listen to what she needs. Everything else can—and should—wait.”

Elizabeth’s Condo: Living Room

Elizabeth managed a tired smile when Jason came over that night. She brushed her lips against his. “Hey. I hope you don’t mind Kelly’s again.” She gestured towards the counter in her kitchen where takeout containers sat. “I went by the hospital today and I wasn’t really up to anything else.”

“No, no, that’s—” He swallowed, slid his fingers through his hair. “I forgot you were talking to Brooke today. I should have called.”

She opened a drawer to pull out some utensils. “It’s so different for her,” Elizabeth murmured. “No one knew about me. No one I didn’t want to know, anyway. But someone leaked her name, and she had to go to the hospital—it’s been a circus.” She sighed. “Kind of like this summer when I was in the ICU and all the papers, you know? I felt like I was on display.”

“Why would they leak her name? Because of the Quartermaines?” Jason took the food from her and set it on the table. They both sat down but neither started eating. “To sell papers?”

“Bobbie told me it was two separate leaks. Brooke’s name and the serial rapist—” Elizabeth pushed her chili around in the plastic bowl. “Justus called from Philly—he thinks we should go after the PCPD after all because of the negligence—and I just—I don’t know. I can’t do it.”

“They put you in danger. They didn’t warn people about the park,” Jason said. “Do you think that’s something they should get away with?”

“No.” She sighed. “But I just keep thinking about that poor girl, looking at me and asking me if it gets better. If it would all go away.” Her throat thickened and she swallowed hard. “I should have lied to her. I should have told yes, of course. It gets better. It goes away, and you’ll never have to think about it again.” She turned to look out the window. “It gets better, but it never ever goes away. And you never know what will trigger the memory.”

She looked back at him, at the untouched dinners in front of them, and sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m a mess. I feel like every time we see each other, I’m crying again, or—” Elizabeth shook her head and shoved away from the table, crossing to the sofa. She folded herself up into the corner. “I don’t know why you bother.”

Behind her, she heard him sigh and get up. He sat next to her on the sofa, at the other end with space between them. “I bother,” he said, stressing the word, “because I love you. I’m sorry about what Brooke’s going through. What it’s brought back for you—”

“I told you—it was already in my head.” Elizabeth leaned back against the sofa, tilting her head up to the ceiling. “That last day with Ric, when he was coming after me—I’m not even sure if I had time to realize that the fear I felt—that it was familiar. That it was something I had lived with for months after I was raped. It took me years to walk through that park alone without breaking into a sweat or a panic attack. And then when I started to think about being drugged—” She bit her lip. “And of course, that letter.” She looked at him. “Did you get rid of it?”

Jason hesitated.  And there was something in his eyes, in the way the muscles in his cheeks twitched slightly. Her heart started to pound. “Jason.”

“No, I didn’t throw it away,” he said finally. He reached into his back pocket and took out the letter which had been folded several times over, then looked at her. “I told you that I read it.”

“What else did you do?” she asked. She shoved herself to her feet, her heart pounding. Because she knew—she knew what he was going to say next. Her mouth dry, her head screaming, she swallowed hard. “Did you go to see him?”

He winced, closed his eyes, and everything inside her just exploded.

“I shouldn’t have,” Jason acknowledged. “I wish I hadn’t. But I couldn’t get it out of my head. I told myself I would go and keep whatever he told me to myself. If you ever wanted to know, I could…I could tell you then.” He stood. “I had a friend in the prison let me in to see Baker a few days ago. I wanted to warn him to stay away from you. But then he said something—so I read the letter. After Brooke, I realized if what he said was true—”

Stop! Don’t say another—” She broke off abruptly, her mouth dry, her heart racing so fast—the room started to spin. Elizabeth moved hastily around the back of the sofa. Wanting something between them. Needing something between them. She couldn’t…she couldn’t breathe. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to make it all go away—but instead—

Don’t say another…

Despite the artificial cold of the air conditioning unit hanging in one of her windows, the air felt more bitter than that. That was all it took—just the mention of his name, the closing of her eyes, and she could still summon the sensation of bitter February winter, the wetness of the snow after he’d stripped her of her warm wool coat.  It had seeped into her dress, drenching her skin.

Not a word.

Even taking hot showers every day for more than a month hadn’t been able to banish that feeling from her mind.

“Elizabeth?”

Jason’s voice came from somewhere far away—as Lucky’s had that night. She’d heard Lucky calling her name, then the vanishing of the weight from above her. The bright burst of pain as he’d taken a hunk of her hair and slammed it one more time against the frozen dirt—

“Elizabeth—”

Something touched her shoulder, and Elizabeth’s eyes flew open. She stumbled back, her hands flying out to push against whatever was next to her—she could sense that weight more than see it.

And then she was back in the present. In July 2003, not February 1998. Inside her small living room, with the warm yellow light filtering through the lamp shades and the humming of her air conditioner.

Not outside. Not on the ground. Not in the snow.

“Elizabeth—”

She looked at Jason. He stood a few feet from her, his hands up in surrender, a scratch on his forearm already beginning to drip with blood. She looked down at her hands, at the blood underneath one of her fingernails before looking back at him. His eyes were bright with worry, with sorrow.

He’d done this to her. He’d brought this feeling back. Hadn’t she told him not to do it? To leave it alone?

“I just wanted it to stay locked up,” Elizabeth murmured. She looked at the letter sitting on her table as it weren’t a ticking time bomb. “I wanted it to stay away.”

“I know. I’m sorry—”

“I asked you to not to do anything.” A tear slid down her cheek. “I—I already have nightmares. I see the panic room every night. I see Carly and I can’t get to her, and he comes home, and he stops me. He puts me in there with her—”

Jason said nothing, only swallowed hard, but now his eyes were damp. What right did he have to cry? This was his fault.

“I had nightmares last year. Of the dark. Of never getting back out of it. Bad things come in the dark. They happen in the dark, when you can’t see to stop them. They grab you—” She choked off the words, pressed her hands to her mouth. “I can’t…I can’t…I have them, too. I’m locked in the dark, and I can hear Carly screaming. And now I’m going to think about the snow. About lying on that ground and not being able to stop him. How I felt like I was being torn in two—”

Jason took a single step towards her, and Elizabeth backed up until she hit the wall and then slid to the ground. She couldn’t do this again. She couldn’t be that girl. She wasn’t even put together yet, and he was breaking her again.

“I thought it would be different,” she managed. She raised her eyes to look at him as he stood across the room, holding one hand against the scratch—probably to stop the blood from dripping. “I thought you could be someone I could trust.”

“That’s why I had to tell you. I didn’t want to lie to you.”

“I guess your epiphany came too late,” she retorted. “I asked you to not to do anything. Because I can’t—I don’t want to know what he said. I need you to go. I can’t…I can’t have people I don’t trust in my life. Not ever again.”

He exhaled slowly. “I’ll go because you’re asking me to, and I’ve done enough to hurt you. I know that, but Elizabeth…I know it was wrong to go when you’d told me not to do anything. That was your decision to make, not mine.”

“Too little, too late.” Elizabeth forced herself to rise but remained against the wall. “I want you to go.” When he still didn’t move, she screamed it this time. “Go! Get out!”

He went, taking the letter with him. She should have been angry about that, but she didn’t want it in her house. Didn’t want to have to look at it. Touch it.

When the door closed behind him, she slid back onto the ground, wrapping her arms around her legs, tucking her head down.

And cried.

Outside her door, Jason made a call and then waited until the elevator at the end of the hall opened and his mother stepped out. She carried a black bag and hurried towards him.

Monica frowned at him. “Why—”

“She threw me out.” Jason shook his head. “I can’t—I can’t talk about it. The door’s open. Please. Just make sure she’s all right. That it was just—Please.”

“Okay.”

“I have to go.”

He left then, afraid if he waited until Monica was done, he might not be able to go at all.

And she wanted him gone.

Your Update: Mad World – Chapter Twenty-Seven. Please note that the final scene in this chapter has a trigger warning attached as Elizabeth deals with her rape. The whole story has a content warning, but I’m labeling specific chapters where I go into more details than some readers might be able to handle.

I’m looking forward to this week’s content — the scene in question for Chapter 27 was actually written two years ago, during the first draft of Mad World before I turned into a trilogy. I’m glad I finally get to release it.

As most of you read this, I’ll be in the middle of my first day at my new long-term substitute position. I’m pretty excited to start — this week is all staff development, and I’m looking forward to seeing my classroom, the curriculum, and getting settled before classes start next Tuesday.

Writing wise, I managed to finish three chapters of Fool Me Twice last week. I had hoped to write through Chapter Five, but I only got through Chapter Three. That’s not a big deal honestly — the first week or two of any project takes some time to get going. Every story has its own voice and momentum, and something like FMT is probably going to need some time to settle in. Since I came back to writing in 2014, I haven’t written anything for GH set later than 2006 other than Damaged which doesn’t really count in my eyes since I changed so much. I’m getting a handle on the voices of Liz and Jason after all this time has passed, and doing the work GH refused to do — figuring out exactly who Drew and Sam are.

I also launched the new tiers for Patreon and revised the benefits there. There’s a few more things in the works, but most of the benefits are what I suggested earlier this month. The support levels range from $1-10 and there are a few different rewards at every level. This support has allowed me to keep the lights on at Crimson Glass and I’m hoping to expand into creating more promotional materials for my stories. I liked the promo I made The Best Thing back in the day, and I know there’s video editing software out there I can use to make similar ones.

August 22, 2019

This entry is part 7 of 24 in the series All of Me

But you can’t walk in my shoes
Every mile just feels like two
I won’t keep explaining
I won’t keep on trying
So what if I’m hiding
You’re giving me a headache
Please Don’t Shout, Billie Myers


Wednesday, July 16, 2003

 General Hospital: ICU

She could hear the voices first. They were whispers, murmurs, sounds. She wanted to stay in the darkness, in the softness and bliss of nothing. Nothingness seemed better.

But then the voices shifted—in tone, in volume. Brooke opened her eyes, turning her head slightly to the side. Where was she? Why did she still feel like she was floating?

And…why were her parents arguing? Why were they together?

“I want to take Brookie home today!” her mother snarled, and blearily, Brooke could see her mother stabbing her finger into her father’s chest, her face screwed up in furious lines, tear stains glinting on her cheeks. “I don’t want her in this godforsaken city another minute—”

“The doctors say it’s more important to let her wake up on her own,” her father retorted. “To say nothing of the police who want to take her statement—”

“The police? You have the nerve to bring them up? The PCPD isn’t getting through that goddamn door—”

“I may not like them very much, but I want this animal caught and that can’t—”

“Hey!” Another voice snapped. “The both of you. This is a hospital—” Brooke knew that sound—her mother’s best friend, Liv. Level-headed Aunt Livvie.

“Brooke?” Olivia murmured, as she approached the bed. “She’s awake.”

“Oh, Brookie—” Lois pressed her fingers to her lips. “Baby. How are you feeling?”

“I—” Brooke cleared her throat. Looked at her parents before looking at her aunt. “What’s going on?  It’s hard to—” Why couldn’t she finish a sentence? Why couldn’t she think? “Am…Am I in the hospital—Ma, what are you doing here?”

“Baby, we’ll talk about this later.” Lois whacked Ned in the chest. “Go get a doctor.”

“Hey, we’re not married anymore. You don’t get to order me around,” Ned muttered, but nonetheless obeyed.

“We’re going to take you home to Bensonhurst, just as soon as you’re up to it,” Lois promised, perching on the edge of the bed.

“Lois,” Olivia murmured. “This isn’t the time—”

“Home?” Brooke repeated. “I—I’m going to school here. I got a job—maybe even friends—”

Oh, God, oh, God.

 It slammed into her with the force of a freight train—the terror, the tearing pain, the desperation—oh, God. “Ma…” Her eyes filled with tears. “Ma.”

“Oh, my baby…” Lois slid up closer, touching Brooke’s cheek. “Baby…”

Ned returned, with Tony Jones on his heels—and Lieutenant Taggert. “Brooke…”

“I don’t want to talk to anyone. Get out. Get out, get out!” Brooke screeched. She thrashed on the bed. She wasn’t going to talk about it. She was never going to think about it again. She didn’t want to even know about it. “Get out!”

“Go!” Lois snarled, launching herself off the bed at Taggert. “Get out! You’re upsetting her!”

“Call me if she changes her mind,” Taggert murmured to Ned before leaving.

“Aunt Livvie, make them all go away—” Brooke whimpered. She reached blindly for Olivia’s hand. “Make it stop. Make them all stop.”

“All right, baby girl. All right.” Olivia turned to Brooke’s parents and the doctor. “She’s not going to talk to anyone—”

“I need to examine her,” Tony protested.

“That’s my daughter—” Ned added.

“Brookie—”

“And the first thing she hears when she wakes up is her parents goin’ at each other. Let’s just give her a minute, okay?” Olivia put an arm around Lois’s shoulder. “Go get some coffee. Kill each other in the parking lot for all I care.”

Ned pressed his lips together, looked at his crying daughter and took a deep breath. “Okay. If Brooke needs me to go, that’s what I’ll do.”

“Wait here,” Olivia said to Tony once Ned and Lois had reluctantly left. “Brooke, baby, you were hurt pretty bad. No one is going to talk about why, but can you let the doctor check on you? The faster you heal, the faster you can leave.”

Brooke’s tears continued but she nodded. “Okay. Okay. But I don’t wanna see anyone else.” She grabbed Olivia’s wrist. “Do-do they all know?”

“Don’t worry about any of that, baby girl.” Olivia took Brooke’s hand in both of hers. “Let—” She looked at Tony.

“Dr. Jones,” he supplied.

“Let Dr. Jones look at you. And maybe he can give you something that might make you feel better.” She met Tony’s eyes as he hesitantly approached. “Dr. Jones?”

“Sure, sure, if that’s what Brooke wants.”

“I just want it to go away. It didn’t happen, Aunt Livvie. Okay? It never happened—” Brooke continued to cry even as Tony started on her vitals. “Please don’t make me think about it.”

Brooke haltingly got through Tony’s examination, answering his questions in one or two words. With a sigh, Tony reached for her chart. Olivia followed him into the hall. “Doctor—”

“I’m writing her an order for some lorazepam,” Tony told her. “It’s an anti-anxiety drug and it should calm her down—” Lois and Ned rushed up to him. “Brooke is doing as well as can be expected. I think she can leave the ICU in a few more hours — I want to monitor the concussion a bit longer.” He patted Ned’s shoulder before going down the hall.

“He’s going to give her some anxiety medication,” Olivia told the parents.

“Who are you to make decisions?” Lois demanded. She shook her fist at her best friend. “She is my daughter not yours—” And with that, Lois went back into the hospital room where they watched Brooke crying through the clear glass walls.

Ned exhaled slowly. “Let me guess. Lois is hard on Brooke, but you’ve always played mediator.”

“And then she does the same for me and my son. It’s easier when it’s not your kid to see both sides,” Olivia said with a half-smile. “Lois loves too hard sometimes. I get that—that’s how I feel about my Dante.” She looked at Ned. “How are you holding up?”

“I don’t matter,” Ned said softly. “Thanks for stepping in. Brooke’s lucky to have you.”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Kelsey’s Office

 Lucky rubbed his tired eyes as he entered Kelsey’s office, unsurprised to find her seated at the conference table, surrounded by casefiles, and sipping from a mug of coffee. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She sprang up, setting the mug down. She crossed to him, putting her hands on his upper arms. “I wasn’t expecting you this early—”

“Taggert wanted me to update you while he went to the station to talk to Mac.”

“Yeah, Scott is there with him.” She gestured towards a table in the corner of her office where a coffee pot sat. “There’s coffee if you need it.”

“Thanks.” Lucky went to pour himself a cup. “Brooke woke up a bit ago—Taggert called me on my way over. She’s not talking yet.”

“I figured.” Kelsey frowned at him as he stirred sugar into his cup. “You interviewed the kids who found her, right?”

“Kids.” Lucky snorted as he leaned back against the table, sipped his coffee. “Brooke’s nineteen. They’re all round that age. It’s not much younger than me.” He stared down into the black liquid. “Or you.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Anyway, they didn’t have a lot more to offer except to tighten the time frame.” Lucky looked at her. “He’s either following them or lying in wait, hoping someone will walk into the clearing.”

“I think he might be following them.” Kelsey turned back to the statements. “I looked over Watson and Norton — both of these statements are pretty basic. It looks like they gave an initial interview when asked, but then there wasn’t a lot of follow up.” She looked at him. “You’re listed on the second Norton interview. Do you know why she didn’t give more information?”

“Because Vinnie opened the conversation by asking why she was wearing such a revealing outfit that late in public,” Lucky muttered. He sat the conference table. “Wendy Morris refused a follow-up altogether. None of the victims liked him much.” He frowned at her. “But you think they were followed?”

“Unless he picks a different fountain to hang out,” Kelsey said as she sat next to him. “I’m hoping Taggert will be able to get the victims to do a follow-up interview that’s a bit more thorough. It doesn’t look like Vinnie asked any of them why they were in the park but—”

“Why can’t you do the follow-up? Or Scott?”

“I wish I could.” She sighed and shuffled through some paper. “I can be in the room when Taggert takes the statements. I probably will be. But I can’t take them alone. Not when their initial statements are so bare. Because then I turn into an investigator, and I can’t try the case.”

“If he were following them from one of the shops on Quartz Lane, that would make sense. The timeline is pretty narrow with Brooke’s attack.” Lucky pulled out his notepad. “You’ll get the official copies, but basically — Dillon says they went to a double feature at the Harwin. It started at nine, but they were kicked out around 10:30 PM.”

“The call came in at 11:03.” Kelsey tossed one dull pencil aside and grabbed another, already sharpened. “Is he sure about the time?”

“He said they were almost done the first movie. I’m checking with the theater—they keep exact times of when they start films. Dillon can point out the scene where they left.”

“And they left because of a fight?”

“Yeah. Maxie Jones has a boyfriend the rest of them barely tolerate. He was there that night. It seems like it was small stuff — Maxie didn’t like the movie, Lucas insulted her and Kyle, a soda got knocked over, and another patron punched Kyle.”

Kelsey stared at him. “And the movie theater kicked out them out, but not the guy who actually committed the assault?” She shook her head. “Figures.”

“Yeah, I interviewed all three of the boys when Lucas and Kyle got to the hospital. I asked Kyle if he wanted us to look into it, but he was more concerned with Brooke. The fight continued outside. None of the kids are sure how long they were arguing before they noticed Brooke had left.”

“Any idea why she went off alone?” Kelsey asked, scribbling furiously.

“She’s new to the group and probably got annoyed by the fighting. She doesn’t have a car or a phone—”

“Really?” Kelsey interrupted, frowning. “She’s a Quartermaine—”

“Who got into trouble back in New York. This was part of a punishment—she needed to earn those privileges back or pay for them herself.” He shook her head. “But she’s familiar with the bus system from living in the city. There’s a bus stop on Central Avenue that goes past the Quartermaine house. She cut through the park.”

“Okay. So, we have a half hour between being kicked out and the call to 911. How long do the boys think they were searching?”

“Ten minutes,” Lucky offered. “They were able to pinpoint that because the boys split the park in three. Kyle gave his numbers to both Lucas and Dillon by texting to them. That gave me a time stamp. They started walking through the park at 10:50 PM. Figure in maybe five minutes to figure out a search plan. Maybe two or three minutes of talking about Brooke being gone.”

“That’s…” Kelsey sat back. Set the pencil down. “That’s a very tight timeline. If she gives them five minutes of fighting, it’s only about five minutes before they notice she’s gone. To get to that spot in the park, when you’re not looking for someone—”

“Maybe seven minutes. Ten at most.”

“We’ll have a better idea once you get me the exact time they were kicked out, but if Dillon is right — if they’re kicked out at 10:30, Brooke takes off around 10:35, and it takes until 10:45 to get to that spot—”

“Fifteen minutes before Dillon finds her.”

“Fifteen minutes,” Kelsey repeated. She looked at him. “To beat her unconscious, rape her, and flee the scene. That’s not a lot of time.”

“He followed her from the movies and waited until she got to the fountain. Because that location means something. We can’t rule out the lying-in wait, but—”

“We need to know where the other victims were before the attack.” Kelsey rubbed the back of her neck. “But this is just more proof it’s the same man. He has this down to a science. No way this is the first time.”

“Yeah, that’s definite.” Lucky hesitated. “There’s—there’s something else I need to tell you.”

Kelsey shoved her chair out slightly so she could angle herself towards him. “What’s wrong? I know these kids are friends with your sister. You mentioned it—”

“It’s more—” He looked at her. “I told you about Elizabeth Webber, right? That we dated?”

“Yeah?”

“She was raped in the park, too. When we were teenagers. Valentine’s Day, 1998. At the same fountain.”

“The same—” Kelsey’s eyes flared wide. “Lucky, do you think it’s—”

“No, no. I just—they caught the guy. He confessed. He’s in prison for an unrelated crime, but that’s not—” Lucky rubbed a hand over his chest. “I found her like Dillon. She wasn’t hurt as badly. And she didn’t report it right away. That’s not—that’s not why I’m telling you this. I told you that I was kidnapped and brainwashed.”

“You told me that night at Luke’s.” Kelsey put a hand on his arm. “Lucky, I don’t want you to think you have to tell me anything you’re not ready to—”

“She removed memories of Elizabeth, I told you that.”

“Oh.” Kelsey pursed her lips. “I thought you meant recent ones—but…all of them?”

“And not just Elizabeth. I had trouble remembering my family. I remembered more about them, but Elizabeth—that was almost completely gone. It started coming back last night. While I was interviewing Dillon. Like it was happening all over again.” Lucky shook his head. “It’s…I can do the job, but I think—”

“This one hits home more than the other cases because it’s so similar.” Kelsey tightened her hand slightly on his arm. “Hey. I get it. These kids—they’re not much older than you guys were, I guess. And in the same location. And you’re just remembering it again, so it feels like it’s now. I get it, Lucky. And I can tell you’ll be fine doing the job. You finished the interviews. And we’ve put together a good theory.”

She leaned in closer. “But if you want me to tell you if I think it’s affecting your work, I will. I promise.”

“Thanks. I…I really like you,” he confessed, his cheeks flushing just a bit. “I want to keep seeing you. I just—I thought you had a right to know.”

“I appreciate it.” She leaned forward, kissed him, sliding her fingers through his hair. “We’ll get Brooke justice. Like you and Elizabeth Webber got. We’ll put this guy away so he can’t hurt anyone else.”

Corinthos Coffee: Office

 Jason squinted at the rows of numbers in the latest batch of invoices and rubbed his eyes. Sonny wanted to open this place in two weeks—a new legitimate business and place to meet—but everything had stopped while Carly had been missing. The builders had continued their work, but without a business manager on the paperwork—

Sonny had a habit of starting projects that ended up being Jason’s problem.

The door opened and Carly entered, a large book of fabric and patterns in her arms. He got to his feet and rushed to take it from her. She frowned at him. “I’m pregnant, Jase, not dead. It’s not even that heavy—”

But he’d already set it on the table serving as a temporary desk—that was why Carly was here. One of her “getting back to Carly” projects was finishing up the design of the coffee house and furnishing their office. She settled herself in the lone chair he’d vacated, and he stood by her side.

After they’d gone through a few pattern choices, Carly closed the book they were looking at and set it on the table. “I have a confession to make.”

Jason frowned, then leaned against the table so he was facing her. “What’s up? Is anything wrong?”

“I was upstairs when you were over yesterday. I didn’t mean to listen—” She bit her lip. “Okay, I meant to listen. I thought you might say something about Ric—”

He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Carly—”

“I know, I know. I know better. The thing is, I only kind of heard what you and Sonny were talking about. But I know he wanted you to keep something from Elizabeth.”

“Carly—”

“And then I see you today—the first time I’ve seen you in a few days mind you—and you look like you haven’t slept. I’m just—” She shook her head. “I don’t know. I feel like I owe Elizabeth since she helped find me. And I know you love her.” She smirked. “I may not understand it, but I know it.”

Jason looked away, sighed. He knew what Sonny thought about this topic, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a bad idea. “You probably saw the papers about Brooke Lynn Ashton.”

“Yeah. I know her a little from when I lived at the mansion. She visited Ned a few times.” Carly leaned back against the chair, rubbing her belly. “What does that have to do with anything—” She tilted her head. “I know Elizabeth was raped when she was younger.”

Jason blinked at her. Shook his head. “How—”

“It came up when she was in the running to be Face of Deception,” she explained. “She had trouble with some of the photoshoots, and I guess we’d rented the same studio where she’d been held with Emily. That photographer, right?”

“Yeah.” He reluctantly told her about the letter, his visit, and Elizabeth’s reaction to his reading the letter. “Sonny thinks I shouldn’t tell her. That if it is related, the PCPD knows about her case—”

“But you feel like you’re sitting on this evidence that her rapist is still out there, and she doesn’t know it,” Carly said. “You have to tell her—”

“I just—she’s going through so much, and she begged me not to bring it up—”

Carly leaned forward. “I know that, and I’m sorry. But you have to tell her. Because she thinks you only read the letter. You already went to see this guy. You know what the letter says. What it might mean for this investigation. I get that it’s going to be hard on her. And I know it’s hard on you. But think about—”

She saw a copy of the Herald buried under some of the paperwork. SERIAL RAPIST STRIKES AGAIN. She picked it up, held it so that Jason could see it. “Four women this year. All of them in the park. Like her. The woman who nearly sacrificed her life to help you? To find me? She’d want the police to have all the information they need.”

Jason exhaled slowly, looked away. “Carly—”

“Not talking to the cops when I was missing—that’s one thing. But—” She raised her brows. “How are you gonna feel if you stay quiet, and someone else gets attacked? What if the PCPD doesn’t make the connection in time? What if this guy hurt other women and they don’t know?”

Carly pursed her lips. “But beyond that, it’s not up to you to decide what Liz can’t handle. You already went to see this guy. You hold on to what you think you know, and it’s going to eat you alive. You think she won’t see it in your face? That she won’t know you’re holding back?”

“Sonny said—”

“Since when do you take advice on women from Sonny? I love him, Jase, but his first instinct is always to keep the secret.” Carly looked at the paper again. “Elizabeth and I are never going to be best friends, but I just—if you keep this to yourself when this guy could be out there raping other women and she finds out? C’mon, Jase. You know her better than I do. How’s that going to shake out?”

She sighed. “You’re going to hurt her either way. This is not a secret you can keep forever. You already know that. You know you have to tell her. So, stop pretending it’s going to suck less a few weeks from now.”

General Hospital: Conference Room

 Ned collapsed into a chair at the long wooden table and put his head in his hands.

It had been hours since Brooke had woken up, crying, refusing to talk to anyone, and Ned simply didn’t know what to do. How to keep Lois from taking his daughter out of the hospital and taking her home.

How to get her justice.

How to make it so that this never happened. He just wanted to turn back time, give his daughter a damned cell phone.

Another Styrofoam cup of coffee was placed in front of him as his two best friends in the world sat down at the table. Neither Jax nor Alexis looked as though they had slept, and Ned was ridiculously grateful to them. His mother and grandfather were trying to run to damage control at ELQ and demanding retractions from the media, threatening them with lawsuits if they didn’t stop using Brooke’s name.

Victims of sexual assault were typically not identified, Alexis had told Ned quietly, but apparently, Brooke’s case was now the symbol of a corrupt and negligent police department, and even the normally staid Herald was trumpeting her case as a need for reform. She was over eighteen, and hey, her name had been leaked, so it really wasn’t their fault.

Ned just wanted them all to go away.

“No change?” Jax murmured. He slid a few packets of creamer and sugar across the table. “She still isn’t speaking to anyone?”

“No. That—that’s not good, is it?” Ned asked. He hated how his voice sounded—high-pitched. Desperate. He needed someone to tell him what came next, and he hated that feeling.

Ned always knew the next step, always knew how to make things better. He was the fucking gatekeeper for the Quartermaines—it was his job to make things better. To protect his family.

Why couldn’t he do that this time?

“I really couldn’t say,” Alexis said, with an almost helpless glance at her ex-husband. “The police are going to keep asking her for a statement unless you bar them—”

“The police,” Ned scowled. “I swear to God—” He pressed his fingertips to his temples and took in a deep breath. “Right. I don’t give a shit about the statement to the police right now. Lois just wants to take her home to Bensonhurst. Pretend none of this ever happened.”

“That might be for the best,” Alexis said, but Jax pressed his lips together, furrowing his brow.

“I think the best way forward is research,” the corporate raider declared. Ned glared at him, but Jax continued. “When I don’t know something, I find someone who does. You can’t know what’s right for Brooke. Or even what might be a good idea. None of us have ever been through anything like this.”

“No, I guess not,” Alexis murmured. “Research, huh?”

“I think we ought to talk to someone who has some experience, and this…” Jax tapped a copy of the Port Charles Sun’s latest edition. “This gives me ideas.”

“Burn down the offices?” Ned asked dryly. He took the paper and skimmed the cover. “It’s just another headline about the PCPD—” He hesitated. “It’s a list of their most recent scandals. Elizabeth Webber.” He frowned. “She was—she was hurt once, wasn’t she?”

“She used to work for you and Chloe, remember?” Jax said. He tapped Elizabeth’s picture. “Chloe said something to me then about her.”

“I remember this now. She was raped by the man who blackmailed Emily,” Ned murmured. “I was there the day at the courthouse when she made her outcry. Edward was upset—he wanted me to see if anything could be done for her. But there wasn’t enough evidence, they said.” He exhaled slowly. “I don’t know if I should ask her.”

“She’s been through a lot this summer, Jax,” Alexis told him. “Between a miscarriage in May, Ric’s assault, and then her pulmonary embolism. She nearly died a few times thanks to Ric. I don’t think we want to ask her to revisit this kind of experience.”

“Fair enough,” Jax said. “But you wouldn’t have to ask her for details. It would just be asking her how to talk to Brooke. Should you leave her alone, for example? Push her? She might have some ideas.”

“I guess.” And still, Ned hesitated. He’d already used Elizabeth once as a pawn in his misguided grudge against Sonny Corinthos. He hadn’t done anything really to push her towards Ric Lansing—but he had given Ric support and cover a few times.

He didn’t want to ask her for anything—didn’t feel like she owed him any help at all. But this wasn’t about him—it was about his little girl. And there was very little he wouldn’t do for Brooke.

Brownstone: Living Room

 When Lucas got home from the police station, Bobbie was waiting for him.  She’d been unable to talk to her son since receiving the phone call from Felicia the night before—Lucas had gone to the station, then to the hospital, and then back to the station—and Bobbie hadn’t wanted to hover.

Hadn’t wanted Lucas to feel smothered.

But she called in a favor at work and waited for him to finally walk through the door. She got to her feet. “Lucas.”

“Mom.” Her little boy stared at him, his blond hair disheveled, his dark brown eyes bloodshot from exhaustion. “I thought you—I thought you had to work—”

“Felicia called last night when she picked the girls up from the station.” Bobbie couldn’t stop herself anymore and put her arms around him. Lucas hugged her back. “I didn’t know if you’d want me to come—”

“I’m okay,” he told her quickly. He stepped back. “Really, I mean it didn’t even happen to me, and it’s stupid for me to be upset. I didn’t even do anything wrong. We found her, didn’t we? It’s not—” He swallowed and looked away, his lower lip trembling. “I thought she was dead, Mom.”

“Oh, baby—”

“I thought she was dead, and that it was my fault because I invited her and I let Kyle goad me into a fight, and then we all—we all missed her walking away. It wasn’t that long, but it didn’t matter. She looked like a broken doll laying on the ground, and I—” His voice trembled, and he swallowed again. “I checked her pulse, and I was so damn scared—”

She hugged him again, his words fading away as she ran her fingers through his hair, scratching his scalp as she had done when he was a little boy. “I’m so sorry, Lucas.”

“How can a man do that to a woman?” Lucas demanded. “And how the hell can he keep doing it and get away with it?” He drew back with a sharp shake of his head. “It’s just bullshit. I wanted to go to the hospital again when we were done, but Dillon said she wasn’t seeing anyone. Refused to talk to anyone.”

“It’s going to be hard for the next few days,” Bobbie murmured. “You have to just listen to her. Let her set the pace. She knows what she needs. You just have to follow her.”

“I ever find the asshole who did this—” Lucas shook his head. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” he admitted. “But I suddenly understand men like Sonny and Jason today.’

He started for the back of the house where his room was, and Bobbie squeezed her eyes shut. She’d never wanted her little boy to know the horrors of the world up close, but there was no protecting him or anyone else from the evil that walked the Earth.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

 “I swear to God, the level of incompetence is really starting to piss me off,” Scott seethed as he threw the latest copy of the Herald on Mac’s desk. Behind him, the mayor quietly removed his suit jacket and set it on the back of the sofa. “First I got motherfucking Ric Lansing trying to get the charges dropped—”

“Is that a possibility?”

“This is the same justice system that let him have control of his wife’s medical care less than twenty-four hours after he assaulted her, so I’m not putting anything past these bitches.” Scott all but tore folders from his briefcase. “And now—now I got this serial rapist fuckery—what the hell is this bullshit, Mac?”

“I don’t know where the paper got their information,” Mac said, his expression all but blank. Scott was going to shove his thumb in that bastard’s eye in a minute. “We hadn’t officially linked them—”

“Bull-fucking-shit. I linked them—my office linked them two weeks ago,” Scott said with a stab of his finger. “I called you after the third—an investigation, by the way, on which your boys fucked up protocol again. Lazy ass Esposito wasn’t supposed to be working sex crimes, and yet he grabbed the case and didn’t put it on the report—”

“Taggert took over all three last week—”

“And is the Herald right? Not one of these cases have had their rape kits processed?” Scott demanded. He slapped his hand on the paper. “This is amateur hour, Mac! We’ve talked about trying to get back on the right track and every time we come close—”

“Scott,” Floyd said, but his voice was quiet, so the raging district attorney didn’t hear him.

“We don’t test rape kits without a suspect,” Mac said, but this came with a heavy sigh. “That’s been the departmental policy since it even became an option to process them—”

“What, because of budgets? Fuck that shit, Mac. How the hell can you find a suspect if you don’t test for DNA? How many unprocessed rape kits do we got in this damn building?”

“We don’t get that many rapes, believe it or not,” Mac said dryly. “Maybe ten.” He hesitated. “Fourteen if you count these four.”

“I do count these four,” Scott said, his teeth clenched. “How many of those ten are within the statutes of limitations? Jesus, Mac, if we get DNA profiles, we can stretch out the statutes—don’t you pay attention to the change in the laws? The DNA puts a hold on the statute, but you have to process the kits and get the profile!”

“Scott, there have been budget issues,” Floyd tried again, but this time Scott heard him. He whirled around and shook his finger at him.

“Then you go hold a press conference and you tell this city that quibbling over fourteen thousand lousy dollars, a serial rapist was able to go—”

“He isn’t responsible for all fourteen,” Mac interrupted.

“How the hell do you know that?” Scott shook the paper. “Your idiot detectives couldn’t even link three cases with young brunettes in their twenties being raped at night near fountains in the park. Jesus fucking Christ, Mac! Don’t tell me that these four are the only cases we have in the park—”

Mac glanced at Floyd, who shook his head. Scott narrowed his eyes. “What is this? Do you want me to pull the cases? Because I can—”

“I think there are…” Mac shook his head. “One or two. I’d have to look—”

“Don’t bother. I’m assigning Kelsey to this. She’s going to personally look over every single sexual assault case run by this office since you took over—”

“You don’t have authority.” Mac lunged to his feet. “Who the hell are you—”

“I’m the fucking district attorney, and I can look at whatever case I want. You get them on my desk by the morning, Mac, and you send all the rape kits you can in this building for processing now, or I swear to God, I will leak this to the press myself.”

Scott grabbed his briefcase and files, then stormed out.

Floyd exhaled slowly. “It’s a pity I can’t fire him,” he murmured. “Don’t send the Baker case, Mac—”

“Oh, yeah, because I’m going to get away with holding out on one case,” Mac retorted with a dismissal of his hand. “Taggert worked that case.”

“Her case is officially solved, Mac.” Floyd raised his brows. “Baker confessed. Her kit wasn’t processed, but there’s no reason to.”

“Her case fits the profile—”

“And we have a confession,” Floyd pressed. “You send her case down to Baldwin, he’s pissed off enough right now to see we didn’t process the kit and start asking questions. Don’t send it. You can always tell him later her case was solved.”

Mac sat back down, put his head in his hands. “But Taggert knows it wasn’t supposed to be listed that way. It was supposed to be put on the inactive list. I listed it as solved.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Mac. At the end of the day, you made the decision not to investigate Baker and hold up the trial. You and Dara Jensen.” Floyd put his jacket back on, buttoned it. “Which will be the statement I release to the press if this should blow up in our faces.”

Mac scowled as the mayor left, but knew he’d been left with no choice. He had two girls in college—he couldn’t afford to lose his job right now, and that’s exactly would happen if the Baker case went public before the election.

After all, Tom Baker had confessed. Elizabeth had gotten her justice. Even if hadn’t happened in the way it supposed to—

This…the fact that her case seemed similar was just a coincidence. It had to be. She was in his head because of what had happened this summer. He called his secretary into begin collecting the case files.

Elizabeth’s Condo: Living Room

She was almost grateful when the doorman in the lobby telephoned her to say that Ned Ashton was downstairs to see her. Elizabeth honestly couldn’t think what Ned would want from her, but she was happy for the distraction.

Jason had had to go to work, leaving Elizabeth alone with her thoughts. She’d thought about calling Lucky a few times, just to ask about the case. Or to call Bobbie and check on Lucas. She’d tried to sketch, she’d tried to paint. She’d tried watching television and even had attempted to do some reading. But nothing distracted her.

She was starting to get her energy back and struggled to find something to do with it— should she be looking for a job? Some way to fill her hours?

She pulled open the door when Ned knocked, and her chest ached at the sight of Emily and Jason’s cousin, a worried and exhausted father, as he stood on her doorstep. “Ned. I’m surprised to see you.”

“I’m sorry to just show up here,” he said. He took a deep breath, cleared his throat. “Can—Can I come in?”

“Oh. Yeah, sure. Do you—do you want some water? I keep coffee for Jason, if you want some.”

“No, no, I’ve been drinking my weight in coffee thanks to Jax and Alexis.” Ned rubbed the back of his neck. “Now that I’m here, I’m reconsidering why I came. I don’t have the right to ask you anything—”

“Because of Ric?” Elizabeth tilted her head to the side as she sat on her sofa. She gestured for Ned to sit in the armchair and waited until he did so. “Jason said you helped us figure out it was the house, which led us to the real estate agent. I don’t care that you worked with Ric. I know how hard it must have been when Kristina died last year.”

“You’re…too generous.” Ned rubbed his eyes. “I’m sure you’ve heard what happened to my daughter, Brooke, last night. She was attacked and—” He struggled to get the words out. “Raped.”

“Emily called me.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Did she tell you about what happened to me?”

“Oh. No. I—Jax remembered Chloe saying something, and I remembered the Baker trial. I—” Ned shook his head. “I don’t know what to do to help her. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to act. I just want to make it better, and I know I can’t. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be asking—”

“Do you think it would help if I talked to her?” Elizabeth offered almost before she had even realized it. “I was a little younger than her, but I remember those first few days. They were…they were the worst of my life. And eventually I went to a support group. I could—if you thought it would help.”

Ned looked stunned. “I had only thought to ask you for some advice, but—” He swallowed hard. “God, yes. I think if Brooke could look at you and know it doesn’t have to mean the end of everything—” He got to his feet. “I would be profoundly grateful.”

She also stood. “Of course. I’ll come by the hospital tomorrow. She might need some time to process and just…be alone. The first twenty-four hours, I was mostly in denial. I didn’t want anyone to look at me.” Elizabeth managed a half smile. “Eventually I let people in.”

“Thank you,” Ned reached for her hand, folded it between both of his. “Thank you. You have no idea—”

“It’s good to know you’re not alone,” Elizabeth told him. “I can at least let Brooke know that.”

August 19, 2019

This entry is part 6 of 24 in the series All of Me

I am so ashamed,
I am so ashamed of all the trouble I have caused
I am so ashamed of all these unopened doors
I am so ashamed of what I have become
You Will Leave a Mark, Silent Film


Wednesday, July 16, 2003

General Hospital: Conference Room

Lucky pressed a mug of bad hospital coffee into the younger man’s hands and took a seat across from him. “Are you ready to give a statement now?”

“Yeah. I guess.” Dillon took a deep breath. “Sorry. I know that you guys are just trying to help. I—” He shook his head. “I’m such a fucking coward,” he muttered. “I let her sit in those bushes because I couldn’t do it alone—”

“Hey.” Lucky looked at the miserable brown eyes of the boy sitting across from him and…God, he knew what Dillon was feeling. Without even trying to pull at piece of his memory—

Lucky could remember that shock of discovery, that crushing guilt, that miserable feeling of knowing that no matter what you did, you could never go back. You could never make it unhappen.

He dipped his head, trying to focus. Hell of a time to have memories and emotions rush into his head, into his heart. Use them. Make the connection.

“You waited, what, two extra minutes, Dillon?” Lucky said quietly. “What did that change? Did it make it less awful? I can tell you—” He hesitated. “You’re what, eighteen?”

“Almost nineteen,” Dillon muttered. “Why?”

“I was a little younger than you when I found Elizabeth.” Dillon’s head snapped up at that. “About sixteen, I guess. It was winter. Valentine’s Day. I’d promised that I’d go to the dance with her, but we’d meant it just as friends.”

Lucky managed a half smile. “I knew better. I knew she had a crush on me. But I wanted her sister. When Sarah asked me, I abandoned Elizabeth without a backward glance.” He’d never been able to tell Elizabeth before—that part of the reason he’d agreed to go with Sarah was that he hadn’t wanted to lead Elizabeth on.

“Elizabeth decided to save face, I guess, and made up a date so it would all work out. I don’t know if I believed her. I know I wanted to.” Lucky tipped his head. “But she never came to the dance, and it turns out the Sarah I wanted existed only in my head. All I could think about the entire night was Elizabeth. I got worried about her—she always knew how to get herself into trouble, so I went looking.”

“And you found her—” Dillon swallowed. “Like Brooke—”

“Not exactly. It was actually—” Lucky rubbed his chest, remembering that horrible moment, that stunned terror as he realized the whimpering sounds were Elizabeth as she crawled through the brush. “She was still conscious. He hadn’t—he hadn’t hurt her the same way.” But he sure had destroyed her. “She crawled out of the bushes, and she didn’t even recognize me. When she did, she tried to pretend nothing happened. Like she wasn’t bruised, her dress torn, her shoes broken—” He drew in a shuddering breath. “Anyway. For a long time, I lived with the knowledge if I had just gone to the damn dance with her—”

“Yeah.” Dillon closed his eyes. “Does that go away?” he asked. “You don’t still feel guilty?”

“I got brainwashed by the Cassadines a few times,” Lucky admitted. “And it played with my memories. The way I think about things. And until this minute…I hadn’t been able to remember what happened to her. Not the same way.” And it felt freeing to say that out loud. “But looking at you, knowing what you’re thinking, it’s coming back for me.”  He paused. “I don’t know if the guilt will ever go away.”

“Brooke was a real pain in the ass when she moved here six weeks ago,” Dillon said after a long moment. “Just a raging jackass who never had anything nice to say and got pleasure out of making everyone else miserable, you know? I avoided her like the plague.” He sipped the coffee.

“That changed a few weeks ago. Monica kind of snapped at her, something I don’t think anyone else had done. And I guess—it made Brooke decide to try harder. She got a job at Kelly’s, and Georgie and Lucas were coming around.” Dillon paused. “So Lucas invited her to the movies tonight. This was supposed to be our chance to just hang out. To have fun. But Maxie’s boyfriend is an idiot—” He looked away. “He was a stand-up guy tonight, though. So maybe Maxie’s right. Maybe we just don’t know him that well.”

“You were at the Harwin?”

“Yeah, it was a Bette Davis double feature. Jezebel and Of Human Bondage. I’m kind of obsessed with old movies,” Dillon confessed. “Georgie tries, but I know everyone was bored. And they were in black and white. I should have picked something else, but it was my turn, you know? Lucas and Kyle were arguing even before we went in, but we got almost through Jezebel before Maxie started complaining, then Lucas said something, and Kyle spilled his soda on some guy who punched him—” Dillon shook his head. “We got kicked out.”

“Brooke wasn’t in on the fight?” Lucky asked, scribbling something on his notepad. “This guy who punched Kyle—”

“Oh, he got to stay,” Dillon said sourly. “Because he’s an adult. Whatever. Um, we kept fighting outside. I don’t know how long we were out there when we noticed Brooke was gone.” He managed a weak smile. “I was defending Bette Davis’s honor.”

“Do you think Brooke left on purpose?” Lucky asked. “Could she have seen someone she knows?”

“I doubt it. Brooke really doesn’t know a lot of people here. I know she’s been working at Kelly’s, but—she’s not a really friendly person.” Dillon winced. “That sounds bad. What I mean is—she’s not immediately friendly. Once you get to know her, it’s better. No, I’m pretty sure Brooke went off on her own. There’s a bus stop on Central Avenue, a few blocks from the hotel. She’s taken it before—it goes right past the mansion.”

“Which explains why she was on the south side of the park.” And so close to the bus stop. “Okay, so walk me through realizing she’s gone.”

“It was Lucas who realized it,” Dillon said. “He looked around and she wasn’t there. Um, we got worried right away because Brooke hasn’t lived here long. I mean, I’ve only been here like four more months, but still, it’s longer.” He cleared his throat. “But I figured she’d head for the bus stop. Maxie and Georgie didn’t want to walk in the park, so they volunteered to drive to the bus stop, to see if Brooke went around.”

Lucky hesitated. “Was there a reason they didn’t want to walk in the park?”

“I don’t know, I think their dad—their stepdad, I mean—he said something about the park after dark or something.” Dillon frowned. “I don’t know. They didn’t say anything. Why?”

“Just trying to get a better picture. So, you split up.”

“Yeah, then me, Lucas, and Kyle took the park. Brooke didn’t have a phone on her, so we just kind of walked the paths—separate areas—and I got to the fountain and I saw her shoe.” Dillon’s jaw trembled slightly. “I didn’t—I froze. And I just—I was so goddamn scared I was about to find her dead, and I didn’t want to do that alone.”

“I don’t blame you, Dillon.” Lucas looked down at his notepad. “What time you do think you got kicked out?”

“Oh. Well, the movie started at like nine. We got kicked out at around ten-thirty.”

And the call had come in at 11:03 p.m. that evening. “How long you do think you were fighting outside the theater before you noticed she was gone?”

“Maybe five minutes,” Dillon said with a shake of his head. “But I don’t know. I don’t know the time, but I can tell you what scene we got kicked out at, and maybe theater knows exactly when they started it. Would that help?”

“We’re just trying to narrow down time frames for security footage.” Lucky tapped his fingers against the pad. “Is there anything else?”

“No, um, but is Brooke…” Dillon trailed off. “I just want to go check on Brooke. Can I go?” He got to his feet when Lucky nodded. He waited a moment though. “How did you deal with the guilt?” he asked, avoiding Lucky’s eyes, staring at the ground.

“I decided the best way to make it better was to help Elizabeth. I did whatever she needed when she needed it. I made her my number one priority.”

“And that helped?”

“I could sleep better at night, but for the rest of my life, Dillon, I’ll wonder if I was just a little bit quicker…if I could have prevented it.”

Dillon swallowed. “You said it happened at the same place—at the fountain—”

“Coincidence,” Lucky assured him. “The guy who attacked Elizabeth confessed and is in prison now.” He got to his feet, put a hand on Dillon’s shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”

He stepped out into the hall, leaned against the wall, and took a deep breath. He tried to calm the swirling thoughts, the ache in his chest. The flashes in his head. He’d kept it together. He’d gotten through the interview, but, oh, man.

It had started in the park. When he’d walked into that clearing, and he’d just—he’d gone back. Back to the terrible, freezing night when he’d trekked through the snow, his breath white puffs of air. He could remember his irritation at annoying Lizzie Webber who never told the truth if a lie was more interesting.

And then the sound of the bushes rustling—he’d heard her first, her soft whimpers, the crunch of snow as she’d dragged herself back to the clearing—

The look in her eyes, the tear in her dress—

Lucky exhaled slowly, then took out his cell phone and dialed.

“Lucky? Hey. You’re at the hospital, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” His voice cracked as he spoke, so he cleared his throat. “You heard already?”

“Yeah.” Kelsey’s voice was thick. “Yeah. I’m on my way into the office. Scott and I are meeting tonight—Mac’s supposed to come with the details. Damn it. I knew—I knew we didn’t have a lot of time, but I didn’t think—”

“Yeah.”

“And Brooke Lynn—the girl at Luke’s last week—she’s a kid—” He listened as her voice broke. When she spoke again, Kelsey sounded stronger. “I’ll be here all night, but if you can—I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah.”

He closed his phone and slipped it back into his back. He felt better just hearing her voice, but knew he’d have to tell her tomorrow why finding a young brunette in a park had hit him so hard. Lucky knew now it wasn’t fair to go forward without admitting just how much of his previous life Helena had destroyed—

And how he now had to cope with the fact that it was coming back.

General Hospital: ICU Waiting Room

 It was nearly two in the morning before the hospital was able to move Brooke from the emergency room to her own room in the ICU—a precaution, Tony had assured Ned when it was time to make the move. They were concerned about the head injury, the cracked ribs, and Brooke’s unconscious state.

Ned thought, and his mother had agreed, that this sounded more like the hospital trying to cover its ass with the niece of the Chief of Staff and granddaughter of members of the hospital board, but he wanted Brooke to have the best care.

They sat with her in shifts—Dillon and Tracy were taking this half hour as Ned sat in the waiting room, trying to draft a press statement. Alexis, representing both the hospital and the family, had left to find out exactly how Brooke’s name had been leaked to the press.

So far, only the Sun had run her name because the Sun had zero journalistic principles, but Brooke was a Quartermaine and the other media would eventually run with it.

And the fact that he had to run damage control before his daughter was even conscious—

The door to the room opened, and Ned was relieved to find Jax on the other side, with two cups of steaming coffee in his hand. “I thought Alexis said you’d be here tomorrow—” Ned rose to his feet. Jax set the coffees on the small table next to one of the chairs and embraced Ned tightly.

“I turned the plane around over the Atlantic,” Jax told him. He drew back, keeping his hands on Ned’s shoulders. “How is she?”

“Ah—” Ned had to struggle to think straight. “Still hasn’t—she hasn’t woken up. Tony doesn’t seem to think that’s unusual. It’s been about—” He checked his watch— “God, it’s been about five hours. Concussion, sprained wrist, cracked ribs—” His voice faltered. “He beat her within an inch of her life—her face is—” He collapsed onto the seat, his head in his hands. “It’s my fault.”

“Ned—”

I brought her up here, didn’t care what she thought. I took her phone away, I wouldn’t let her have a car—she was only walking in that park because she was trying to take the bus—”

“Hey, you know better than that.” Jax shook Ned’s shoulder. “This is about the animal who did this to her. No one else.”

“Yeah. Yeah, well, they better hope when they get him, I’m not left alone with him.” Ned looked at his friend. “Someone at the department leaked her name. The press was at the house—Alexis only just managed to get them away from the hospital.”

“Why—why would they do that?” Jax demanded. His eyes flashed. “She’s a child—”

“To cover their asses. The PCPD has been under a lot of criticism for handling Carly’s kidnapping and putting Liz Webber in danger from her violent husband—this shifts it away from their screwups.” Ned shook his head. “I don’t know what to do. Lois is going to come through those doors in an hour or two, and she’s going to be angry with me, and I deserve it.”

“We’ll take this one step at a time—”

The doors opened again, and this time it was his grandfather, looking impossibly old and worn. “I got a copy of the Herald delivered express.” Edward blinked. “Oh. Jax.”

“Edward. Is there anything I can do for you? Get you? Some breakfast?” he asked, turning to Ned, but Ned just shook his head.

“Grandfather, tell me the Herald didn’t publish her name—”

“No. Only the Sun, and believe you me, I already have Alexis drawing up a lawsuit. I am going to buy that rag and burn it to the ground,” Edward growled. He tossed the paper down on the seat next to Ned. “The Herald has another story that might interest you.”

Ned picked it up and just stared at the two-inch banner headline. SERIAL RAPIST STRIKES AGAIN

“Serial…” he swallowed hard, his fingers gripping the paper hard. “What the hell is this—”

“Brooke is the fourth young woman attacked at a fountain in that park since February,” Edward revealed, jabbing his finger at the paper. “According to the Herald, the department refused to make a connection after the first two attacks in February and May, and then asked the paper to hold the story after the third—”

“Two weeks ago,” Ned breathed, the fury rising inside like a volcano. “If they had just said something about this before—this didn’t—” He stared at his grandmother. “That goddamn department is so concerned with saving their own asses—”

He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. His little girl was lying in the hospital, bruised and broken, because the PCPD hadn’t bothered to warn the public.

He looked across the room, at the notebook where he’d been scratching out a draft of a press statement.

Ned was going to destroy the career of any man who had held back this story and make them regret the day they’d pinned on a badge.

Port Charles Airport: Arrivals Hall

Dante moved from one foot to the other, his eyes studying the arrivals board closely. The chartered flight from New York City had landed ten minutes ago, so where the hell were they?

Cruz nudged him and offered a cup of coffee he had bought from one of the stalls nearby. The arrivals hall was basically deserted this early in the morning—Port Charles saw its share of international and domestic flights, but few of them arrived in the hours between four and seven.

“You know, if Mac tracks the leak back to you—”

“I didn’t tell them her name,” Dante muttered. “They must have gotten that somewhere else. I just wanted them on the serial rapist. I wanted the city to know—” He shook his head. “I didn’t look out for Brooke when she got here. Not like I should have.”

“You’ve been busy.”

“Doesn’t matter. I could have done more.” Dante clenched his jaw. “So now I will. The PCPD isn’t going to sweep this story under the rug anymore. They’re going to do this right, and the only way they’ll process those damn kits is if they have to.”

He saw the two women walking briskly towards him—both dark haired and petite, but the anger and despair radiated from Lois Cerullo even from fifty feet away. With a large handbag over her shoulder, her almost black hair cropped short to her chin, Lois’s expression was set in battle mode.

Behind him, Dante’s mother, Olivia Falconieri, looked tired and simply sad. Her streaky caramel hair pulled into a messy tail, pieces of it falling in her face and around her neck. She carried a duffel bag and pulled a smaller travel carry-on behind her.

“Hey, kiddo,” she murmured, pressing her lips to his cheek. “Has there been anything? We couldn’t get any service in LaGuardia—”

“Brooke was moved to her own room in the ICU—” At Lois’s muffled gasp, Dante hurried to explain. “Lucky Spencer has been at the hospital all night monitoring her, and he says it’s just because of her concussion—”

“And the fact that she’s a Quartermaine,” Olivia said dryly. She sighed and looked at her old friend. “Why don’t you let Dante drop you at the hospital and I’ll check in our things at the hotel.”

Dante shuffled his feet. “I’m supposed to remind you that the Qs have offered—”

“I’m not staying in that house.” Lois rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, yeah, that’d be great, Liv. I want to see what’s going on, and how soon I can take Brookie home.” Her eyes were glimmering with tears. “This was a gigantic mistake, sending her here when I damn well knew that Ned was too worried about himself to look after her.”

“Lois,” Olivia murmured. She touched her friend’s shoulder. “C’mon. Don’t start with that tonight. I always thought he was a good guy who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. I don’t want you to fight with him.”

“Yeah, okay.” Lois looked at Dante—who was also her godson—and nodded. “Let’s—” She seemed to notice Cruz at his side. “Who’re you?”

“My roommate and another rookie,” Dante told her. “Cruz just—he wanted to keep me company while I waited.”

“Yeah, you can drop me at the hospital, too,” Cruz told Dante. “I’m supposed to relieve Lucky. I’m very sorry, Ms. Cerullo. Brooke seems like a great girl, and I know that we’ll work hard to find this guy.”

Dante wanted to argue with his friend—they were only rookies and what could they really do—but this wasn’t the time, so he took the bags from his mother and started for the parking lot.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

It was rare to see Garrett Floyd in a full-fledge rage, and to be honest, under other circumstances, Mac might have enjoyed it. But right now, he just sat back in his desk chair, his hands clasped in his lap, and waited for him to wind down. It was just past seven in the morning after a long night, and he was more interested in finishing his coffee than trading insults.

Floyd raged about the incompetency of the officers, the inability to control leaks, protect victims, and keep the streets safe. He fired Mac six times during the rant, but that was normal. Floyd usually fired Mac once a month, but then remembered why he kept Mac on.

For better or worse, Mac played ball when Floyd needed him to, and that made him more valuable than anyone else who might take over.

“Who the hell leaked the girl’s name?” Floyd demanded. He shook the newspaper in Mac’s face. “I got not only Edward Quartermaine threatening me, but a state senator—and goddamn Hilary Clinton contacted my office, worried about victim’s rights.”

A former First Lady and current sitting United States Senator. Mac raised his brows. Edward was bringing in the big guns. Not that Mac blamed him—the PCPD had sat on a serial rapist for at least the last two weeks, hoping that they could apprehend the guy before they had to terrify the public.

Taggert had argued, but Mac knew the company line. Alerting the public to danger in their midst months before a mayoral election was not even an option. Without convincing evidence that they were linked, and with a direct order from the mayor—Mac’s hands were tied. In a twisted way, he was glad one of his officers had leaked the information and relieved him of the decision.

“I don’t know which one of my guys leaked the name—and before you throw Capelli at me—he’s still on suspension for two more weeks,” Mac reminded him. “I told you that my guys wanted to put out a warning. You vetoed it.”

Floyd bared his teeth with a growl. “If I have to sacrifice you and throw you under the bus—”

Calmly, Mac reached into his desk, pulled out a tape recorder and pressed play. After getting the notification from Taggert about Brooke Lynn Ashton, Mac had come into work, gone into his office, and cued this tape up.

I don’t want any goddamn people talking about a serial rapist—you issue that warning, and I’ll replace so you damn fast—

Floyd narrowed his eyes. “You recorded me.”

“Since the Tom Baker case and the first time you tried to sacrifice this department for an election, yeah. I also have the memo you sent out. So does the DA’s office.” Mac looked at him. “Brooke was with my daughters last night. It could have been one of them. For years, I’ve done what you asked. I’ve pushed on suspects, made some things less of a priority—I’ve done what you asked.” Mac leaned forward. “I will eat this story, I will personally take the blame, but this is it. This is the last time you push me around and threaten my job.”

“I can put anyone else in your job—”

“And I’ll release this tape. You think Edward Quartermaine is crawling up your ass now? The deadline to register for the election is July 31. You think the Quartermaines won’t throw their weight behind any goon on the street if I tell them you’re the one who pushed back on a public warning?”

Floyd yanked his suit jacket from the back of the chair. “How long have you been waiting to pay me back for the Baker case?” he demanded.

“You asked me to ignore protocol and close a rape victim’s case so that Baker could go to jail faster. I did that because I honestly thought Baker was the guy.” Mac shook his head. “I don’t know anymore.”

“Listen to me—”

“In the last six months, four young women have been attacked and raped in the Port Charles Park. Near fountains. Five years ago, Elizabeth Webber was raped at the same location as Brooke. We never ran her rape kit—never knew if there was DNA to be found on her dress.”

Floyd’s face paled. “Are you going to run it now?”

“What do you think it would do to the election if we did?” Mac murmured. “If that kit came back with DNA that matched the new victims? You think anyone is going to care that we thought Baker was the guy? No. We run that rape kit now, you’re not the only one who will pay. I’ll go down with you.”

He looked at the photographs on his desk. On one side, he stood with both his girls at Georgie’s high school graduation only last month, and on other side, Robin and her father, Robert—the last photo of the two of them together. They all looked at him, accusing.

He’d done the wrong thing five years ago and he was terrified that the same man was at work now, but if Mac could catch this guy now—if he could make it right—

Then no one would ever have to know what a terrible choice he’d made. He’d had his reasons, and maybe some would believe him. Forgive him.

But it wouldn’t ever take the horror away. It wouldn’t ever erase the guilt.

“Not unless I have to,” Mac said finally. “But I’m not the only one who knows about that case. Taggert worked it—he thinks the rape kit was already run. That we had a negative return. Lucky Spencer found her that night. They both work for me. And Elizabeth Webber is about to be the star witness against Ric Lansing.”

“Mac—”

“I can spin it if I have to. We thought we had the guy, Baker confessed. Closure. I might take a hit—but it wouldn’t be fatal. But you better hope Edward Quartermaine doesn’t make the connection. You wanted that case to go away so the Quartermaines would stop pressuring you, but you and I both know that he never wanted us to throw Elizabeth away with it.”

Floyd gritted his teeth. “Mac—”

“She’s dating his grandson. And the Quartermaines are even fonder of her now than they were before. If it comes out that we didn’t run the rape kit, Edward Quartermaine will put the entire force of all his connections against someone in the fall.”

“You’ve made your point. We’ll just agree that I was perhaps…hasty…in my decision not to issue a public warning. I’ll have my office draft a statement.” Floyd hesitated. “I know that you hate what we did in the Baker case, but we had no way of knowing Baker didn’t do it—we still don’t know—”

“If we had investigated it properly, maybe we would know.” Mac rose to his feet. “I have a briefing with my guys. You know the way out.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny carefully folded the Port Charles Sun and exhaled slowly. He hadn’t been close with Lois Cerullo or anyone in the Bensonhurst crowd since he had migrated up to Port Charles to work the clubs for Frank Smith in his early twenties. There hadn’t been much to stay around for after Connie Falconieri had dumped him.

He and Lois had briefly resurrected their friendship when she’d been married to Ned, but it brought back too many memories and Lois had never been comfortable with his criminal tendencies. But he knew Brooke Lynn, had seen her around town as a child—

He’d been, literally her godfather, along with Brenda.

And now, according to the tabloids, she’d been brutally beaten and raped in the park. Just like three other women.

Max knocked on the closed door, then opened it. Sonny looked up to find Jason standing in the hallway, looking again as if he hadn’t slept. He knew why, of course—

The visit to Tom Baker had suddenly taken a new, horrifying meaning. If he hadn’t been the one to attack Elizabeth—if the animal was still out there—

Could it be the same man?

Jason closed the door behind him and just stood there. Silently.

“I saw,” Sonny said. He scowled at the tabloids. “I thought they weren’t supposed to print names, but then again, this is the same damn paper the PCPD leaked the affair to.”

Jason sat on the sofa, put his head in his hands. “I tried to tell her last night. I just—I just started with something small. That I had the letter, that I’d read it—”

“Jason—”

“And she was angry with me. Hurt. It was just like you said. I put it back in her head, and then Emily called her last night—it happened at the same place, Sonny.”

Sonny nodded, gesturing towards the Herald laying underneath the Sun on the coffee table. “Yeah, the paper said it was in the park—”

“No. The same exact place. Sonny, they found Brooke Lynn Ashton at the same fountain where Elizabeth was attacked.” Jason shook his head. “I can’t—I can’t ignore that. Baker says he didn’t do it, and now apparently, there’s someone raping young women in the park. They said all of the women were in the same age range, all with brown hair—”

“I get it, Jason. I know what it might mean. What did Elizabeth think about it—”

“We didn’t—I didn’t ask, and she didn’t say. I couldn’t.”

“That’s smart.” When Jason looked at him, surprised, Sonny continued, “Don’t bring it up. The last thing she needs now is to think it’s the same guy, Jase. It’s bad enough that she’s thinking about it. You said she was upset just at the thought of you reading the letter—what—”

“It’s not just about not lying to her—I mean, it’s that. But it’s—if this is the same guy, Sonny, then it’s not just these four women. It’s Elizabeth. Her attack was more than five years ago.” Jason swallowed hard. “How many other women are there?”

“Yeah.” Sonny got to his feet. “Yeah, but you’re not the only one who knows about her attack. Taggert worked her case, didn’t he? He’s still there. And Lucky Spencer—they were friends. He’s on the force now. Her case is a matter of public record. What’s it gonna serve for you to turn that letter over to the police and force Elizabeth to confront something that might not even be true?”

“Come on—”

“And even if you did tell the PCPD, what makes you think they’ll handle it right?” Sonny shook his head, crossed to the minibar and poured himself a glass of water. “They couldn’t find Carly. If you believe the press, they didn’t even notice they had a serial rapist. You gonna put Elizabeth through this for something that might not be worth it?”

“Sonny—”

“I just—” Sonny hesitated. “I don’t know.  It’s up to you, Jase, but what does it change? It’s been five years. They might not be able to open her case again. Why do you have to be the one that drags this up for her? She has closure right now, Jason. You want to take it away?”

“No. But—”

“And is there any reason it has to be today? Right now? Why don’t you give it a few days? Let all of this settle.” He put a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Give her time to settle. Isn’t her protection hearing coming up next week?”

“Yeah.” Jason nodded. “Yeah, I guess you have a point. I just—I don’t want to hurt her, Sonny. But I’m not sure there’s a way to avoid it.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m gonna go home, shower and change. I have to be at the warehouse in a bit.”

“Okay.” Sonny watched him go, then shook his head again. Man, he did not envy Jason this dilemma.

“You told him to lie to her.”

Sonny turned to find Carly standing at the top of the stairs, one hand braced on the banister. “Carly—”

“I don’t know what secret Jason’s keeping,” she said as she slowly made her way down the stairs. “But if it’s about this attack on that poor girl—if he knows something, he should tell someone.”

“You know, what happened to not cooperating with the police?” Sonny muttered. He grimaced, his head starting to spin.

“I get that lying and keeping secrets is your favorite thing to do, Sonny, but believe it or not, not every woman finds it charming,” Carly snapped. “How can you want Jason to keep quiet about something like this? You know Lois. Her daughter has been attacked—”

“When?” Sonny demanded. His skin felt pale, clammy. He could feel a bead of sweat sliding down his face. “How? Brooke’s in New York. I haven’t seen her since she was christened.”

Carly blinked, her mouth falling open slightly. She gestured at the papers. “Last night, Sonny. Brooke moved here to go to college—”

“That’s not possible. She can’t be more than ten,” Sonny said as he yanked the papers up. “She—” He closed his eyes. “No, no. I remember now. She’s…she’s nineteen. I—I—think Benny reminded me to send her a card last year.” He laughed, a bit uncomfortable now. “I can’t—I’m sorry. They just—kids grow up so fast, you know.”

“Yeah.” Carly squinted at him. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Sonny rubbed his chest. “I’m fine. I, ah, have work. I have to go to work.”

General Hospital: Gail’s Office

“Where do you want to start?” Gail asked as she leaned back in her armchair, a notepad in her lap, a pen in her hand.

“I got a call from Emily last night,” Elizabeth confessed, then told Gail about Brooke and asking Jason to come over. “He encouraged me to talk about why things with my rape are—” She sighed. “In my head.”

“It was on your mind before the letter?” Gail asked.

“Sort of, yeah.” Elizabeth waited a moment, trying to find the courage, the energy to do this. “When I found out Ric had been drugging me since January, I thought about what had happened then. Was there some reason he started it then, you know? And I remembered that after my grandmother’s reception, I was so tired and just…not ready to go back to my studio. I had put off the grieving because I kept planning—and then it was over, and she was buried.”

Elizabeth stared at her clasped hands. “Ric said he’d taken a room in the hotel for me because he’d thought I might be too tired, and he wanted me to be comfortable. I remember thinking—God—I remember thinking that I was so lucky to have him. He had helped me with Gram’s estate. He’d been there when I found out—he’d explained all he estate paperwork to me, and—he kept putting me first.”

Her eyes glittered and her voice thickened. “And I hated myself because I kept thinking—I kept wishing he was Jason. That I wished that I loved Ric the way he seemed to love me, but I couldn’t. And I thought I was pathetic because it was clear Jason didn’t. I told myself that I was going to make it work with Ric. That’s why I didn’t—I didn’t really—”

She bit her lip. “We went upstairs and inside the suite, he offered me a glass of wine. I was grateful to have company, and I drank the wine. I had another glass—and then I didn’t really remember anything else.” She met Gail’s warm eyes, filled with concern. “I woke up the next morning, naked under the sheets, next to Ric. I just—I thought maybe I had been tipsy, or God, maybe I’d had another panic attack like I had with Zander.”

“So, you didn’t think about it much,” Gail said quietly.

“No—I just…I got dressed, left him a note, and went home. I just—I thought maybe I had rushed it, and I wanted to pull back, because I still didn’t quite—” She bit her lip. “It’s the only time I really don’t have any memory of having sex with Ric. The other times we were together, I know he always fed me something he’d made or brought some wine, but I can honestly say that I didn’t think much of it. That maybe he put more in my glass that first time—enough to make me black out.” Her lip trembled. “The way he must have done to Carly.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t remember resisting. It was usually his idea, and I just—I went along with it because I didn’t really care. I—we weren’t even together after I found out about what he’d done to Carly, and then what happened with Courtney and learning about Sonny—even after I went back to him—I shied away from him and I wasn’t drinking any more wine.”

“You think Ric drugged you the first time to get you to sleep with him, and then after that, maybe to just make you less resistant,” Gail said slowly. For the first time, Elizabeth was able to read the disgust and anger in her grandmother’s old friend.

“I’m pretty sure. And if it’s true, then I know it means Ric raped me.” Her voice faltered, and Elizabeth closed her eyes against the rush of tears. “And I just don’t know if I can really—I don’t know if I can deal with this. If I can even allow myself to accept it.” She accepted the tissue Gail offered her. “I had to claw and drag myself back the last time—and how can I accept it’s happened again?”

“I don’t know,” Gail said honestly. “But I think just addressing it is the first step.” She squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Knowing that you’re not alone is also important. Have you told anyone else?”

“I told Jason last night. He encouraged me to talk to you. That’s—that’s good, right? That I opened up to him before you assigned it for homework.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “He was so angry, but he tried to hide it. Tried to make me the focus.” She sighed. “I guess it makes sense that I’m thinking about all of this now. I told you about that letter from Tom Baker, and then Jason told me he’d read it—”

“He did?” Gail repeated, her brows lifting slightly. “When?”

“He grabbed the letter the day I tried to throw it out. I guess he thought I’d change my mind. I don’t know what it says, and I don’t want to know. He’s up for parole, and I just—I mean, is it wrong that I don’t want to deal with it?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s wrong. I think you should just be aware of why you don’t want to deal with it. You do have a great deal going on, and it can often feel overwhelming to tackle all your trauma at the same time.”

“Yeah. That’s kind of what I figured. I mean, it doesn’t matter. Tom Baker is in jail. He—hearing about Brooke was hard because she was…raped in the park. Like I was.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Apparently at the same place in the park.”

“Really?”

“It’s in a quiet area. Just the fountain with a few benches and lot of bushes and trees. I mean…I don’t—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Tom Baker confessed. I have my justice. I hope Brooke and the others get theirs. It’s hard enough for me to wake up with what Ric’s done to me.”

“Okay.” Gail pursed her lips. “Are you all right with what Jason did? That he read it?”

“I don’t know. I guess, I understand it. And part of me—” She tilted her head towards the ceiling and blew out an exasperated breath. “As irritated and upset as I was with him last night, there’s part of me that is relieved. Because he didn’t want to lie to me. Even when it might hurt me, he didn’t want to lie to me.”

“And that matters?”

“It’s everything.” Elizabeth met Gail’s eyes. “Being honest, being open—that’s the thing we’ve both struggled with. He’s trying as much as I am. He started to tell me, but then he listened when I told him to stop. It’s just…it means that we’re on the same page. Finally. After all these years. It gives me hope that I can stop saying my goal is to be okay. That one day, I can actually hope to be happy. With Jason.”

August 15, 2019

This entry is part 5 of 24 in the series All of Me

Why’d you have to wait?
Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
Why’d you have to wait
To find me?
To find me?
You Found Me, The Fray


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Port Charles Park

If anything happened to Brooke, his brother would make his life a living hell.

This had been the reasoning that Dillon offered to Kyle and Lucas when they had stopped fighting long enough to notice Brooke was gone.

Kyle had smirked, and Lucas had rolled his eyes, because that was clearly Dillon’s problem. Well, bastards, it was going to be their problem, because Ned was a Quartermaine.

And Quartermaines were really good at revenge.

Maxie and Georgie had agreed to get into Maxie’s car and drive around the park while the three guys had split the park into thirds, planning to meet on the sidewalk at the other side.

“You got your cell phones, right?” Dillon asked as they stood at the entrance of the park and at the division of the pathways. “They’re charged?”

“How dumb do you think I am—” Kyle held his hand up as Lucas opened his mouth. “Don’t say it. Never mind. We’re in a crisis here. Let’s knock this shit off until we find Brooke.” He checked his watch. “Maxie and Georgie should be at the bus stop right now—”

“And they haven’t called yet, so she’s probably in the park,” Lucas said, craning his neck with a grimace. “It’s a big park, do you think she got lost? I mean, how often did she visit growing up?”

“Not a lot. Okay, I’ll go straight down the middle,” Dillon told them, feeling better that the other two were more concerned. “Kyle, take the far left, Lucas, the far right. We’ll meet at the bus stop.”

“Okay.” Lucas took a deep breath. “She’s probably lost,” he repeated.

The trio divided and Dillon started his trek through the center of the park. He called Brooke’s name every few minutes, irritated that he’d allowed the night to end in complete disaster. He’d tried to be the good guy, hadn’t he? Tried to make peace between Maxie and her boyfriend and the rest of the group. He’d tried to make Brooke give his friends a chance, but what did it get him?

Searching the damn park at eleven at night for his niece who had decided to go off on her own. When Dillon found her—

The pathways met one another at the center of the park before splitting again, and Dillon sighed when they all three reached it at about the same time. “No sign?”

“Not a peep. Did you try her phone?” Kyle asked.

“Her parents took it as a punishment,” Dillon said. “Don’t worry, I’m going to be bringing that up in some great detail when Ned is blaming me for losing his kid.” He gestured to the path. “Let’s keep going.”

Five minutes later, Dillon reached the fountain that rested near the south entrance to the park—just twenty feet from the bus stop. He stared down at the ground—at the single sneaker laying on its side near the bench.

He knew that sneaker—the bright electric yellow high-top—Brooke had worn those shoes that night, and he’d pointed out it was so bright they would get kicked out of the theater. She’d just rolled her eyes—

Dillon’s heart started to pound—could you actually hear the sound of your own heart? He fumbled in his pockets for his phone and shakily—he found Lucas’s number in his contacts.

“Lucas.”

“You found her?”

“I don’t—I found her sneaker.” Dillon swallowed hard. “I haven’t—I didn’t look any further.”

“Where?”

“The south fountain—”

“I’ll meet you there.”

He placed a similar call to Kyle, put his phone back in his pocket and just stood there, listening to the water trickle down in the fountain. “Brooke?” he called, his voice trembling. “Brooke?”

Nothing.

Maybe she’d lost the shoe and was now, limping her way to the bus stop, cursing—but Dillon couldn’t think of any way someone could lose their sneaker that didn’t end in…

He’d watched too many movies. That’s all this was.

Lucas appeared, running towards him, breathing hard as he drew to a stop. He cleared his throat as he, too, saw the sneaker. “Dillon—”

Kyle arrived and the three of them stared at the sneaker for another long moment. “The girls haven’t called, have they?” Kyle asked, his voice subdued.

“No.” Lucas squeezed his hands into fists. “Should we call the police—”

Dillon took a deep breath. “No, I just—I didn’t want to be alone if I—” He met their eyes, these two men who had been at each other’s throats earlier. “I just didn’t want to be alone.”

“So, let’s look,” Lucas said, putting a hand on Dillon’s shoulder. As a group they began a search of the bushes and trees around the fountain—

It didn’t take them more than two minutes to find her.

Her jeans tossed beside her, her t-shirt in shreds, and her other sneaker peeking out from under a bush.

Her legs with scratches and blood—Dillon’s heart seized. Her legs laid open. Oh, God.

“Is she—” Kyle asked with a waver in his voice.

The pre-med Lucas took a deep breath and moved forward. With shaky fingers he reached for Brooke’s pale slim arm, placed two fingers at her wrist. After a moment, he nodded. “There’s a pulse. Call—call 911.”

He backed away and stopped Kyle as he started to approach. “Don’t touch her. Don’t touch anything. You’ll mess up the scene.” He met Dillon’s eyes as Dillon put his phone to his ear. “Tell them she’s unconscious, her pulse is faint, and that she’s been sexually assaulted.”

Port Charles Park

It was Taggert’s worst nightmare. Another attack in the park before the city council had had a chance to approve extra security. After the mayor had denied them the chance to warn the public. Taggert had hoped for more time, for a longer cooling off period.

But this guy had gone from eleven weeks to five to two. Would there be another victim this week? Next? How was Taggert supposed to protect the public if he wasn’t given the tools?

And the identity made everything worse. The granddaughter of the town’s most powerful and ruthless family. Not that it mattered to Taggert, but it would matter to the Quartermaines. It would matter to the mayor, to Mac, to the press—

Even if Brooke’s name was kept quiet, he knew the shit had hit the fan. They’d never be able to keep the Herald from printing the story. Which might be the only sliver of good news he’d find in this tragedy.

Taggert pulled the car to screeching halt at the south entrance to the Port Charles Park, his siren still wailing. He switched off the ignition, looked at the pale countenance of Lucky Spencer in the seat next to him. “You ready?”

“Yeah.” Lucky nodded. He took a deep breath. “Yeah. We need to—we need to get this guy, Taggert. Four women in six months—”

“Yeah, I know.”

They got out of the car and hurried the short distance between the entrance and the fountain, where they found a group of teenagers clustered. Taggert recognized the commissioner’s daughters standing with a trio of boys. Georgie had buried her head in Dillon Quartermaine’s chest, as her sister clung to a boy he didn’t recognize. Off to the side, Lucas Jones stood somberly, staring at the bushes.

Taggert’s attention was drawn to the stone bench and something rolled in the pit of his stomach. He glanced at the fountain, at the bench, and then at Lucky, who seemed to be coming to the same realization.  He hadn’t made the connection when he’d gotten the call, had only heard the bare details.

But now he remembered another young girl’s life destroyed in those bushes.

Beyond them, the crime scene unit had already arrived along with paramedics. Brooke Lynn Ashton had been loaded into a stretcher, a white cotton sheet pulled up to her chin. Behind her, a tech had plastic bags filled with cloth that resembled clothing, sneakers, and a purse.

“I want to go with her,” Dillon said. “I didn’t call Ned yet, but I want to go with her.” He stared at Taggert, almost defiant. “I’m her family—”

“Lucky,” Taggert said. “Take Dillon to the hospital. Get me a statement, okay?”

Lucky nodded. He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Yeah, okay. What about the notification—”

“Mac is already on his way to notify Ned.” Taggert put a hand on Lucky’s shoulders. “I know where we are, man. Put it away for now.”

“Yeah.” Lucky cleared his throat. He looked at Dillon. “C’mon, I’ll drive you in the car. We’ll probably beat the ambulance there.”

Dillon murmured something to Georgie who nodded and then broke away from her, following Lucky out of the park. Lucas stepped forward to put an arm around Georgie’s shoulder.

Taggert approached those who were left. “What happened tonight?” he asked. He generally didn’t like group statements, but there was little doubt that none of these kids were involved, and they needed to stick together.

The dark-haired boy with Maxie cleared his throat, stepped forward. “I’m Kyle Radcliffe. Um, we went to the movies—the Harwin—” he gestured behind him, in the direction of the theater. “It was a double feature. It started around nine, I think. But we, ah, got kicked out around ten-thirty.”

Taggert lifted his brows. “Okay.”

“We were fighting outside,” Maxie said, miserably. Her voice sounded thick as though she’d been crying. “All of us, except Brooke. I guess she got bored or mad, and decided to go. We didn’t—” she sucked in a deep sob. “We didn’t notice.”

“She knows all the bus stops in Port Charles,” Lucas offered, dully. “She doesn’t have a car, and she’s used to them from being in the city. She’s taken the bus from Central a lot because it has a route past the Quartermaine estate.”

“So, we thought maybe she’d gone through the park,” Kyle picked up the story. “Maxie and Georgie got in the car, went looking on the sidewalks, and we divided up the park.”

“How did you end up here together?”

“Dillon saw Brooke’s sneaker out here.” Lucas gestured. “And he didn’t—” He swallowed hard. “He didn’t want to find her alone. He called us both, and we came to meet him. And then we found her.” His voice faltered. “Um, her clothes were torn and scattered all around her. Her other sneaker—and she had bruises and cuts—um, her—” He shook his head.

“We thought maybe she’d been hurt…” Kyle continued another swallow. “Because her jeans were off—and her legs were…anyway, we called 911, and then I called Maxie. I didn’t want them out there alone.”

“We came here and waited for the cops,” Georgie said. She sniffled. “Can we go? I want to go to the hospital. I want to check on her.”

“Yeah, okay. We’ll probably have to sit down for a more formal statement, but yeah.” Taggert watched as the group filed out of the park, then turned to the crime scene techs. “Frankie, what do we got?”

“We got clothes, we got sneakers. Not much else.” Frankie shrugged. “Kids are right, though. She was likely raped or there was an attempt. We found her underwear in shreds near the jeans. He really did a number on her.”

“Fantastic.” Taggert scrubbed his hands over his face, a sour feeling settling in his abdomen. It was only going to get worse.

Quartermaine Estate: Study

 Ned grimaced and looked at his mother’s tired face as she stared at the report he’d just handed her. He looked at his grandfather, who looked impossibly old. They were surrounded by paperwork, similar reports. All of them with the same results.  “We’ll have to do an immediate recall.”

“I know.” Tracy leaned back, folded her hands in her lap. “I wish I could say we only used the latex in the one product, but—”

“If we get out of ahead of this—” Edward cleared his throat, but he looked every bit his of eighty-five years. “So far we’ve only located one damaged shipment. One batch of faulty latex. You’ve already tracked the lot numbers, the products that have been shipped?”

“I have,” Tracy said. She looked at Ned. “It’s not a lot, but I’m worried if we don’t do a full recall of all the products, we might miss something. This isn’t something I want to play around with.”

“I know. Neither do I—” Ned glanced up as there was a knock on the door. He frowned, then traded troubled looks with his mother and grandfather. Every member of the family knew they were closeted in here on dire ELQ business.

To interrupt them meant an emergency.

Ned left Edward and Tracy at the conference table and crossed to the door, finding a sleepy, worried Reginald. Their butler retired when Lila did, keeping the same schedule as the woman he cared for. “Reggie?’

“I’m sorry, Mr. Ashton, I know you said you couldn’t be disturbed, but Mac Scorpio said it was an emergency—”

Ned’s hand, wrapped around the brass doorknob, tightened. He knew Mac, of course, but they were not friends, and there was no reason for the commissioner of the Port Charles Police Department to be visiting him this time of the evening. He swallowed hard and followed Reginald into the foyer where a somber Mac Scorpio was waiting.

He was only dimly aware of his mother and grandfather following him.

“Brooke,” he managed. “My daughter.” Because why else would Mac ask for him after eleven at night?

Mac took a deep breath and nodded. “Dillon and a few friends found her in the park. She’s alive—” he hastened to add when Ned started forward. “But she’s hurt.”

“Hurt—”

Monica stepped out of the family room, followed by Alan where they usually shared a night cap before retiring for the evening. “What’s going on—”

“Brooke’s been hurt,” Tracy said quickly, putting a hand on Ned’s arm. “You said Dillon found her in the park—”

“They were supposed to be at the movies,” Monica murmured. “They—” She gratefully gripped Alan’s hand when he offered it to her. “What happened?”

“We don’t know yet,” Mac admitted. “She was unconscious, and she’d been beaten.”

There was a sharp inhale of breath as Edward pushed forward. “How can you not know anything—”

“Father,” Tracy murmured. “Hush. Because it’s just happened.” She looked at Mac. “Was she—was she—” She couldn’t force the words out, and Monica paled. Ned frowned at his mother, saw that his grandfather and Alan also looked mystified.

“Based on the initial report,” Mac said slowly, “we think so.” He looked at Ned, shook his head. “We suspect, in addition to the physical assault, your daughter was—”

Ned threw up a hand. “No. No. Don’t—you don’t—” Because now he knew what why Tracy and Monica had looked so concerned. His little girl. His baby.

Tracy closed her eyes. “Okay, Ned, we’ll go to the hospital. Right now. Father, you should be here when Grandmother wakes up.”

“I’m going to the hospital, too,” Alan declared.

“I have to—” Ned shook his head. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t think straight. His little girl. Attacked. Hurt. Violated. “Lois.”

“I’ll call Lois,” Monica said immediately. “I’ll help her make arrangements to get here.”

“Okay.” Ned nodded. “Okay.” He still didn’t move, couldn’t until his mother pressed gently on his shoulders. “Okay. Let’s go.”

Cruz & Dante’s Apartment: Dante’s Bedroom

Dante had just drifted to sleep after pulling a double shift when his door swung open and the bright lights of the living room woke him.

“Hey, what the fuck man!”

“Sorry—” Cruz grimaced. “But I wanted to—Lucky just called because you—you know her.” He paused. “Brooke Lynn Ashton was just found beaten and unconscious in the park.”

Dante jackknifed into a sitting position. “What? What? What are you—” He shook his head trying to clear the fogginess of the sleep. “What are you saying?”

“She’s on her way to the hospital,” Cruz told him. “I figured—”

Dante just stared at him for a long moment before taking a deep breath. “Yeah, I know her,” he managed. He got to his feet. “Beaten and unconscious in the park,” he repeated. “Wait.”

“Yeah, Lucky didn’t say for sure because he was with Dillon Quartermaine who found him, but it was near a fountain.” Cruz paused and nodded.  “Like the others.”

“Fuck me.” Dante fell back onto his bed. “I gotta call my ma. She’s close with Brooke’s ma and—Christ. A fucking serial rapist and we’re not allowed to tell anyone, hey don’t walk through the park if you’re a young woman with brown hair—”

He lunged to his feet and slammed his fist on the dresser, cracking the cheap plywood. “This fucking city!”

“You want to go to the hospital?” Cruz asked after a long moment. “Be with the family—”

“No.” Dante shook his head. “No. I want to go down to the station and rip my fucking cousin’s head off. That lazy son of a bitch refused to say they were one guy—refused—and Mac insisted on waiting for permission—” He clenched his jaw. “And now Brooke is paying for it. Well, fuck this.”

He reached for his phone and dialed for information. “Yeah, I need the number for the Port Charles Herald.” He reached for a stub of a pencil and started to write.

“Dante, think about this,” Cruz said, crossing the room rapidly, trying to stop Dante from dialing the number he scrawled out on a napkin. “If you tell the press—”

“What, I’ll lose my job?” Dante demanded. “Did Capelli lose his damn job when he nearly got an innocent woman killed? Fuck this. I got into this to protect people, not cover asses.” He jammed every number in. “This city only understands pressure. Change ain’t gonna happen if we shove our heads into the sand. We gotta make it happen.”

“Dante—we don’t know anything—”

“Yeah, I need Jessica Mitchell,” Dante said, naming the reporter on the crime beat. “I know it’s late. Can you just see if she’s still there? I got an anonymous tip for her.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

 Condo: Bedroom

It was just after midnight when Elizabeth’s cell phone began to chirp, pulling her out of a fitful sleep. She sighed, sat up, and reached for the phone charging near her bed.

“This better be good,” she grumbled.

“Liz? I’m so sorry for calling this late. Maybe I should have waited, but I was worried you’d hear about it in the papers because I bet the press is already sniffing it out—”

“Em, Em—” Elizabeth folded her legs underneath her. “Slow down. What’s wrong?”

“My cousin Brooke? She was just…I don’t know if you know her.”

“Yeah, she’s been my waitress a few times at Kelly’s—” Elizabeth rubbed her eyes. “She’s okay, right?”

“God. I don’t think so. I’m stuck here, can’t get out of here—I am so sick of this program—”

“Emily.”

“Dillon found her in the park. She was unconscious and hurt pretty bad.” Emily swallowed hard. “And Mom said they think she’s been sexually assaulted.”

“In the park,” Elizabeth repeated. She closed her eyes. “Where in the park?”

“Near the fountain on the south side. Mom said the press already knows somehow—they’re not supposed to report Brooke’s name, but they’re already at the house—I was afraid it would be in the papers—and I just—I wanted you—”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth cut in. “I appreciate it. I’ve been—Thank you.”

She and Emily spoke for a few more moments before they hung up. Elizabeth switched on the lamp next to her bed, unable to handle the shadows in the corners.

The fountain at the south side of the park. The same place where Elizabeth’s world had been broken into pieces only five years earlier.

She didn’t think about it too hard as she pressed a speed dial on her phone. It took a few moments, but a voice came over the line—Jason didn’t sound groggy, and she wondered if he’d had problems sleeping, too, after their conversation at the bridge.

“Hey. I’m sorry—”

“Are you okay? Don’t worry about it—”

“I, um—” Her tears spilled over now. It was in her head now, and she was terrified she might never ever be able to get rid of it. To put it away again. “Ned’s daughter, Brooke—she was raped in the park. At the same place—”

“I’ll be right there, okay? I’m coming over.”

She didn’t even bother to argue with him. She wanted to feel safe, and right now, that meant Jason.

General Hospital: Emergency Room

It was almost surreal, Ned thought, as he sat on a hard plastic chair in the emergency room. He felt as though he were floating above his body. Was he really there? Was he really waiting to hear about his daughter?

Was this really happening?

“Ned…” Alexis rushed in, clad in jeans and a gray sweatshirt. He rose to greet her, and Alexis wrapped him into a tight hug. He buried his face in her hair, but he couldn’t lose it. Not yet.

He had to keep it together.

He drew back from her, resting his hands on her shoulders. “Who—”

“Monica called.” Alexis glanced at Tracy, nodded absently in greeting. “She thought you might need someone who wasn’t family. I called Jax—he’s on his way back from Europe. He’ll be here tomorrow.”

Ned exhaled slowly. “They don’t know anything yet. I haven’t been able to talk to Dillon—he’s still with the police—” He drew back further and started to pace the small space, dragging his hands through his hair, clutching at the strands. “No one has told us anything about her condition—”

“Does Mac know anything yet?”

“No,” Tracy said with a shake of her head. “Not yet. Monica was supposed to contact Lois—”

“Edward already arranged for a charter flight out of LaGuardia,” Alexis murmured. “She’ll be here in a few hours.”

Tony Jones stepped out from behind a curtain, clearing his throat. Ned turned to face him, Alexis leaving a hand on his shoulder for support.

“Ned, Brooke is—” He hesitated. “She came around in the ambulance and they had to sedate her.”

Ned closed his eyes. “But she’s awake—”

“It was heavy sedation,” Tony said awkwardly. “She has a fractured cheekbone, a concussion, and sprained wrist. She also sustained a cracked rib, so we’re keeping an eye on her for internal bleeding.”

“Was she—” Tracy managed a deep breath. “The police suggested she may have been—”

“There is evidence of a sexual assault,” Tony said with deep regret. “Bruising on the thighs—the PCPD is arranging for our S.A.N.E nurse to take a preliminary rape kit.”

“Jesus Christ,” Ned managed as his knees gave out and he sunk back onto the chair. “Oh, God. Oh, God. What do I do?”

“I don’t mean to make it worse,” Alexis murmured as she sat next to Ned, rubbing his back. “But press is already outside, and Monica said they’d showed up at the house.”

Ned’s head snapped up, flames in his dark eyes. “What?” he demanded. “I thought the identities of sexual assault victims were protected—”

“They are, but I imagine someone leaked it,” Alexis said with a heavy sigh. “I can make some calls—”

“Do it,” Ned ordered. “I don’t want anyone—” He put his head back in his hands. “How is this happening? How can I—What do I do?”

“I wish I knew.” Alexis closed her eyes and rested her forehead on Ned’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Ned. I’ll make those calls, and I’ll get them away from the house.”

“When I find out who is responsible for this,” Ned said, lifting his head to meet Alexis’s eyes. “They are going to wish they’d never been born.”

Condo: Living Room

Elizabeth had jerked the door open almost before Jason could knock, throwing herself into his arms. She just wanted to feel safe and warm.

She wanted it to go away—to never think about her rape again.

“Hey,” Jason murmured as he gently steered her back into the apartment and closed the door behind him. He ran his hand up and down her back, his fingers warm and smooth against the thin cloth of her tank top.

“I’m sorry. You must think I’m crazy—I mean this didn’t even—” Elizabeth choked out a sob as her voice faltered. She pressed her forehead into chest, covered with a gray t-shirt. “I’m sorry if I woke you up.”

“Couldn’t really sleep,” Jason admitted. He took her hand and led her to the sofa where he sat down and she curled into his side. “You said Ned’s daughter was hurt?”

Elizabeth nodded and related the phone call she’d received. “I know Emily was trying to help,” she said. “But at the same time…I don’t know…maybe I could have avoided it.” She grimaced. “But probably not. Brooke works at Kelly’s. She knows the same people. But God, Jason, she was attacked at the same place. How is that possible?”

Jason seemed to hesitate for a moment before speaking. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “It probably didn’t help that I told you tonight that—”

“I wish I could blame it on you,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “But the truth is that I’ve been thinking about the rape since before I got that letter.”

Jason frowned at her, shook his head. “Why? What—” He clenched his jaw. “Ric.”

“I think the first time he drugged me was the night I—” Her stomach rolled as she tried to continue. “I don’t—I don’t remember wanting to—but he had been at the viewing and I was tired. I didn’t really want to go home, and he told me he had a room upstairs in case I hadn’t wanted to go home. He gave me some wine, and then—I don’t know. I woke up the next morning, and I just—” She winced as she saw the banked fury in Jason’s eyes. “I knew we’d slept together, but I just…didn’t remember why. I thought I was just sad and lonely. We weren’t together a lot, but I always remember wine or something else he’d brought to eat.”

“He drugged you to—” The muscles in the arm around her tightened until it felt like she was being embraced by concrete. And then, as if it cost him, Jason took a deep breath, relaxed his arm. “Have you talked to Gail about it?” he said finally.

“No. I guess I just—I wasn’t ready to think about it—because I know that’s—” Elizabeth pressed her face into his side, trying to find the courage to say it aloud. “I know that it means Ric raped me.”

She felt his hand clench into a fist. She leaned up, unwound his arm from around her, and took his clenched fist between her own hands. “I’m sorry, Jason. I should—”

“No, this—it didn’t happen to me,” Jason said after a moment. “I’m sorry. I just—I know he went after you because we’d been together. That doesn’t make it my fault, but I wish like hell—” He drew in a deep breath, then slowly exhaled it. “You should talk to Gail. It’s not that I don’t want to hear it,” he added. “It’s just—”

“You love me,” she murmured, “and it hurts you to hear me talk about things that hurt me.” She kissed his knuckles until his hand loosened. “Yeah. I think between admitting that out loud, the letter, and what happened with Brooke—I think I should talk to Gail.” She waited a long moment. “Will you—will you stay tonight? Not to—I just don’t want to be alone.”

“Yeah…” Jason nodded with a raspy tone to his voice. “Yeah, I can stay.”

Here’s your Thursday update: Mad World – Chapter Twenty Four.

August is a special month for the Liason fanbase, and following the #Liason20 hashtag at Twitter will keep you up to date on all the screencaps, videos, and memories being shared by active members. It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since that day in August when our favorite couple saw each other through different eyes — they didn’t meet on August 27 for the first time, but it’s definitely the day Jason stopped being just Emily’s brother.

I’m writing this on August 14, and it will be posted on August 15 — two landmark anniversary dates for us. The Vista Point Kiss in 2002 and of course the Night of Passion in 2006. I was spoiled for the NOP and wrote Choose Your Moment in anticipation, thinking that we weren’t going to get anything all that great. This was the one time when GH’s writing far out paced anything I could have written for Liason. Guza went above and beyond in those glorious scenes. A love letter to those of us who had waited for so long.

I’m nearly finished editing the posting draft of Mad World — I finished Chapter 40 today, and will get through four more chapters tomorrow. I was hoping to finish on Friday, but I ended up adding an extra chapter at the very end of the story which might end pushing my final date to Saturday.That’s no worry– that’s the date of completion on the Production schedule. I was just hoping for a day off, ha.