September 30, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter Thirty-Seven.

I’m closer to nailing down a full plot for Mad World 3. I have the umbrella story (Carly’s kidnapping, the serial rapist, and now something new) but it needs to be integrated properly. I’ve enjoyed writing the larger GH universe in MW and you guys seem to like it too. Hopefully, you’ll have Book 3 by this time next fall.

Lots of busy stuff happening at CG! I’ll see you guys later this week with the next chapter. I’m curious as to what you guys think about the new turn Chapter 37 takes.

This entry is part 18 of 23 in the series All of Me

Is it dark, where you are?
Can you count the stars where you are?
Do you feel like you are a thousand miles from home?
Are you lost, where you are?
Can you find your way when you’re so far?
Do you fear, where you are?
A thousand nights alone
Longest Night, Howie Day


Monday, September 8, 2003

General Hospital: Monica’s Office

Elizabeth shifted in her chair and checked the clock on the wall. It had been at least ten minutes since Monica had gone to get her blood test results. Not that Elizabeth was all that nervous about her two-month checkup — the checkup that would, hopefully, go a long way towards reassuring Jason.

He’d gotten a lot better about her health in the last five weeks and she hadn’t needed the oxygen mask in two weeks, but she still sometimes caught him looking at her closely and hesitating before doing anything more strenuous than walking across the room.

Finally, almost fifteen minutes after Monica had left, Jason’s mother returned, a folder in her hand…and a carefully blank look on her face.

Elizabeth straightened in her chair, watching with trepidation as Monica sat in the empty chair next to her, not behind her desk. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong,” Monica said. “There was…” She pursed her lips. “A result on the initial round of tests that came back that required further testing. The results of that second test just came in…” She looked at Elizabeth. “I had to run a pregnancy test.”

“Pregnancy…” Elizabeth trailed off with a shake of her head. “Well, I’m not pregnant. I mean, it’s too soon after everything that happened, and—” With a slight flush, she lifted her hands in confusion, letting them fall back into her lap. “Jason and I are careful. I mean, I can’t use the pill anymore, but we—Monica, we’re—” She bit her lip. “Did it come back positive?”

“It did. We can run another one if you’re really not convinced. When was your last period?”

“Honestly? Not since before the miscarriage.” Her heart plummeted into her stomach. “Oh, God. Monica. There’s no way I was pregnant before everything happened — I mean, I didn’t…I didn’t sleep with Ric again, but he was drugging me—”

Her stomach lurched as she turned away. Oh, God—

“No, no, of course not. We ran all of these tests at the last appointment and this is the first time this hormone level was elevated. I can assure you, Elizabeth, you were not pregnant when you came in for the overdose. I ran a full toxicology report at the time and pregnancy is just…it’s one of the basic things we test for in our female patients.” Monica exhaled in a huff. “I’m sorry. I never meant to make you worry—it’s not Ric’s child. No chance of it.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. “Okay. Well, then, at the most, I couldn’t be more than seven weeks along. Um…” She looked at Monica, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. “You still look concerned. Worried.”

“This isn’t my specialty,” Monica admitted, “but I will admit to being a bit…apprehensive about what a pregnancy means for your health—at this point. Unfortunately, there’s not a terrible lot of information out there about the risks of embolisms in pregnant patients after already having suffered an occurrence. But—”

“Blood clots, specifically pulmonary embolisms, are a risk factor in pregnancy,” Elizabeth finished. She stared down at her hands. “What else?”

“You didn’t just suffer an embolism, Elizabeth. You were in cardiac arrest. You had a mild heart attack when the second clot burst. You’ve struggled to regain your stamina and energy because of how severe the crisis was.” Monica waited a moment. “If you had come to me, asking for a timetable, I would have recommended waiting at least year.”

“We were safe,” Elizabeth repeated, more to herself. “Jason—I mean, after Robin—and you know obsessed he’s been about my health. He never would have—”

“I think—” Monica bit her lip. “It hasn’t hit the news quite yet, and of course, it depends on your brand, but one of ELQ’s subsidiary companies will be issuing a recall on a batch of condoms. For this very reason, apparently. They were…less than effective.”

“Oh, God.” Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face. “Enduro.”

“Yes.”

Pregnant. Less than two months after nearly dying from blood clots and cardiac arrest…she looked at her doctor, at Jason’s mother. “What…happens next? What would you recommend? I mean, if I were just any other patient—”

“You mean if you weren’t carrying my grandchild?” Monica asked. When Elizabeth nodded, Monica waited another moment before answering. “This isn’t my area of expertise,” she reminded Elizabeth. “I’m going to make some calls and get a recommendation for the best OB/GYN who specializes in high-risk pregnancy, but make no mistake, Elizabeth—this is a high-risk pregnancy. You’re at an elevated risk for another blood clot already, particularly because yours was hormone induced.”

“And adding a condition that elevates the risk even further…I could have a blood clot tomorrow,” Elizabeth murmured.

“You could. I just…” Monica reached for Elizabeth’s hands. “But I think you have time to make a decision. For you and Jason to talk about what it means, to consult a doctor—”

“We talked about children just…just a few weeks ago. I wanted them. I do. But…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Can you make those calls? I’ll…talk to Jason. And we’ll see where we are.”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

Scott glanced up from his paperwork as Taggert entered his office, followed by Kelsey. He exhaled slowly and got to his feet. “Judging by the looks on your faces, the tests came in as scheduled.”

“All fourteen rape kits have been processed. A few of them came back negative, but…” Taggert looked at Kelsey before continuing. “We have results in ten of the cases. Seven of them…linked.”

“Seven.” Scott closed his eyes. “All seven under investigation for the park rapes? Isn’t it unusual for—”

“It is,” Kelsey admitted. “But the lab report…” She set the results on his desk. “Apparently the guy didn’t wear a condom in any case at all. Which…can be a signature on its own. He’s…reckless.”

“He thinks he can’t be caught,” Taggert muttered. “And he’s right. Because Elizabeth Webber’s dress came back positive for semen, and her case matches the other six. Guess who got excluded?”

“Fuck me.” Scott perused the report as his stomach continued to twist and turn. “They covered it up. They made her case go away. Why? Why would they cover for Baker?”

“I don’t think they did.” Kelsey took a seat. “You said you talked to the ADA on the Baker case, right?” she said to Taggert.  “To Dara Jensen, about the rape kit results?”

“I did. Why?”

“Remember what she said about the media circus around the trial? Baker was accused of blackmailing and holding Edward Quartermaine’s granddaughter hostage.” Kelsey arched a brow. “Did Edward Quartermaine know about the Webber rape case and the accusation against Baker?”

“I—I don’t know why he would have unless Emily had told him. You don’t think—”

“I think it’s possible Edward Quartermaine leaned on Floyd to make sure Baker went away. Floyd leaned on the commissioner. And, I guess, look at it from the commissioner’s standpoint—if he believes Elizabeth Webber, Tom Baker admitted he raped her. And he’s going to trial on slam dunk charges that will put him away for at least twenty-five years, if not more.”

Taggert exhaled slowly. “Meanwhile, we got a rape kit that may or may not come back positive — and if there’s no DNA, it’s her word against his. The rape case was weaker.” He hesitated. “And to be honest, we hadn’t really talked about the case at the department after Baker was arrested. The evidence was weak. Dara didn’t tell us outright she wouldn’t file rape charges, but I think there was already an atmosphere…Baker was going to jail. We didn’t need to spend the time or resources.”

The lieutenant looked away, cleared his throat. “But that doesn’t explain what happened to her case. The dress in the evidence box, the way her case was pushed off the open list—”

“Exactly.” Kelsey leaned forward. “And look, if that had been the case — if everyone involved had agreed not to prosecute the rape because of its overall weakness, that would have been fine. But that’s not what happened. Without testing the kit, there was no way of knowing the strength of the case. All we know for sure is that in November, you were told to make the case inactive. If you’d run that kit and it had come back negative for Baker, it might have brought Elizabeth Webber’s credibility into question.”

“Because if she’s lying about his confession, the defense could have made her look hysterical and unstable. She’s the one holding the gun…” Scott shook his head. “Doesn’t explain the falsified lab report—”

“You said Elizabeth nearly caused a mistrial with her outcry in the court room,” Kelsey said. “Maybe Edward Quartermaine got cold feet about hurrying the case along.”

“Or, maybe he found out for the first time that the charge existed,” Taggert offered. “And Mac and Floyd had to cover their tracks. I—” He shook his head. “I thought I got a real big win when Mac said he’d sent the kit out for testing. Even though he wanted me to shelve it, he’d said he’d send it over. He never intended to do that.”

“It doesn’t make any of it right,” Kelsey said. “And the fact that the commissioner put her case in the closed archives rather than cold storage—it meant that we didn’t make the link. Think about this — the seven cases we have—the first three are spread out.”

“Yeah.” Scott looked at his list of dates. “February 1998. April 1999. January 2000. And then nothing until February 2003.” He tapped his pencil. “Taggert, I know you’ve been holding off telling Elizabeth that the case is reopened, but I think with these results—”

“Yeah, I know. I should tell her today, but…” Taggert shook his head. “Let me leave it for last. I’ll officially reopen the 1999 and 2000 attacks, take those victim statements.”

“And what does the delay give you?” Kelsey asked. “I mean—”

“It doesn’t give me anything. It just gives Elizabeth Webber a few more days, maybe even a whole week before I have to rip open that wound again.” Taggert held out his hand and Kelsey gave him back his copy of the lab report. “And yeah, I know it’s special treatment and maybe I should start with her first because, chronologically, she is the first known—”

“I think, for once, it won’t kill us to give Elizabeth Webber a break,” Scott told Kelsey. “This is a lot to ask her take on, and she may not want to get involved. I mean, what do we tell her about what happened with her file? She thinks her evidence was tested.”

“I don’t know,” Kelsey admitted. “I mean, we don’t know anything for sure.”

“I’m not going to lie to her.” Taggert shook his head. “She’s had enough of that from this department. And if I didn’t want to be kicked off this case or fired, I’d be calling the papers.”

“We’re not leaking to the papers,” Scott said. “It’s bad enough the papers are digging into the other three victims and dragging Brooke’s case out every time Ned Ashton makes a speech. You want Elizabeth in the middle of another media circus? With Ric Lansing out on bail?”

“Fine. But I’m not letting Floyd or Mac get away with this forever, Baldwin. So figure out how you want to play this.”

Brownstone: Living Room

Bobbie braced Carly’s elbow as her heavily pregnant daughter lowered herself onto the sofa. “I would have come to you in the penthouse,” Bobbie told her as she sat next to her. “You don’t need to drag yourself out when you’re feeling so tired.”

“Does it show?” Carly bit out as she set her purse next to her and leaned back. “And I needed a break from the penthouse. Sonny is…”

“Driving you crazy?”

“I wish.” Carly sighed. “He’s barely talking to me since Elizabeth and I told Scott that we didn’t want a deal.”

“Is he that angry he’s going to have to wait a few more months for Ric to have an accident in jail?” Bobbie said, rolling her eyes. She crossed into the kitchen as Carly remained seated. “I get that he wants it all over—”

“He’s not mad about that, even though he’d prefer it already be over. He’s mad because I told him…I told him no accidents at all.”

Bobbie hesitated behind the counter where she was pulling out her tea kettle. She filled the kettle and placed it on the stove before rejoining her daughter in the living room. “No accidents ever?” she asked.

“I want Ric Lansing to rot away in a small cell for the rest of his life. I want to visit him there and make sure he knows who put him there.” Carly sat up straighter. “Death is too easy. Too quick. I want him to suffer. Is that so goddamn bad?”

“No,” Bobbie admitted. “And now that the image is my head, I have to admit, I like it. Elizabeth…felt the same way?”

“She didn’t talk to you about this?”

“Not really. I knew she didn’t want a deal either, but…”

“Yeah, it’s one of the few things we’ve ever agreed on,” Carly said, with a shrug. “And of course, Jason was on board with it. Whatever she needs, he gives it to her. But I get stuck with Sonny, who’s so goddamn selfish—”

She let her head fall back against the sofa. “I get Sonny’s life, Mama. I get it. And mostly, I don’t give a shit about it. But this happened to me. Not him. And it’s getting really old trying to balance worrying about Sonny’s mental health when I’m just trying to get through my own day.”

“Are you…” Bobbie pursed her lips. “Are you still having nightmares? I thought Kevin’s sessions—”

“I’m not sure the nightmares will ever go away,” Carly admitted. “But Kevin taught me how to avoid the panic attacks, to manage the stress. But I’m tired, Mama. You know when you told me you wanted Sonny to get help, and I told you not to worry?”

“Because you and Jason would handle it?”

“Well, I’m thinking about what you said back then. About how that’s not fair. And I thought—well I’m his wife. That’s the role I agreed to. It’s in the vows. And Jason is his best friend. That’s how this is supposed to work. You stand by each other until the bitter end. The thing is…” Carly sighed. “I think I’m starting to get to the bitter end part of it, and I have a feeling Jason isn’t far away. He wants his own life. To put Elizabeth and her needs first. And what kind of bitch would I have to be to demand he put me and my family first? He has his own.”

“Carly—”

“I’m just having a bad day, Mama. So I need…I need a break from Sonny, from that penthouse…because I’m starting to forget why I’m there in the first place.”

Port Charles Hotel: Renaissance Room

Alexis walked away from Elton Herbert as the flamboyant and verbose party planner prattled on about the menu for Ned’s fundraiser later that evening.

She might be Ned’s events coordinator (she still wasn’t sure how that had happened) but there was not enough money on God’s green Earth to make her listen to that man for another second.

“Do whatever you want,” she called over her shoulder as Jax, who had been appointed as Ned’s actual campaign manager, entered the room. “Thank God. Tell him to stop asking me about serving caviar or langoustine. I don’t even know what the second thing is.”

She pursed her lips, spying Jax’s pensive expression. “What’s wrong?”

Jax sighed, then steered her over to an empty table in the corner of the room. “I’m worried.”

“About what?” Alexis drew her glasses out of the purse she’d left on the table and reached for the sheaf of papers in his hands. “Are those the polls Ned commissioned? It looks like he’s neck and neck with Floyd, which is good considering—” She caught Jax’s eye. “It’s not good? Why?”

“Because…” Jax sighed, leaned against the wall of the room and watched as the workers on the far aside continued to assemble the stage. “Because in two months this campaign will be over.”

“Uh huh.” Alexis shook her head and removed her glasses. “I’m still not seeing the problem, Jasper. With two more months, Ned could easily overtake—” She tipped her head. “I thought we were in agreement on this. Floyd is a boil on the butt of humanity and Ned was the perfect choice to not only clean his clock but to take over.”

“And I still think that. I just worry…that we’re not doing the right thing by Ned,” Jax shook his head. “I don’t know if he’s really…grieved yet. He lost his daughter. He lost his fiancée last year—” he grimaced, obviously remember Ned’s fiancée had been her sister. “I’m sorry—”

“It’s been a very difficult year for all of us,” Alexis offered. “But this is how Ned gets through things. You know that. You only got out of bed after Brenda went over that cliff because your family lost its fortune and you had a goal.”

“Yeah, I had a goal to get back what my family had lost. To rebuild my future,” Jax reminded her. “Ned got into this for revenge. I think, even if he beats Floyd, he’s going to wake up and realize how empty that really is.”

“I don’t know. I got my revenge on Luis Alcazar,” Alexis said, pitching her voice slightly lower. “And that felt damn good then and still feels good now.” Even if she hadn’t entirely meant to shove him over the balcony, oh man, it had been sweet. Apparently, she’d inherited something from her ancestors.

Even if she’d immediately locked it right back up after pretending to have her mental breakdown and losing custody of Kristina. Nothing ever went well when she unleashed her inner Cassadine.

“Don’t remind me,” Jax muttered. “I’m just worried about him. About the day after the campaign. What if he loses?”

“Let’s just get to the end of the campaign,” Alexis suggested. “One day a time, isn’t that what we said we’d do?”

“Yes, but—”

“It’s healthy for him to focus on the campaign. To have a reason to get out of bed. I know you don’t disagree that keeping him busy is the best idea.” Alexis patted his shoulder. “This isn’t something we can fix, Jax. All we can do is follow his lead and be there when he falls down.”

Kelsey’s Apartment: Dining Room

Somehow, without Kelsey realizing it, her life had fallen into a routine. Working the serial rapist case full-time had allowed for a regular working schedule for Lucky, which meant they finished their day about the same time. Lucky had started to wait for her outside the Municipal Building, across the street from the department.

She’d driven them back to her place where they both compared notes on their day, on the cases, over dinner. Then they’d go to bed—together. And start over the next day.

They weren’t living together—it was way too soon for that but for right now, they were both eating, breathing, living with this case and somehow, being together made the horrors bearable.

The day the DNA matches came in, they didn’t talk about in the car. Lucky talked about his brother who was coming home in a few days while Kelsey related how much she was looking forward to her mother driving up for dinner again.

But once they got home, spread out their files along with their dinner from Kelly’s, the light banter had ceased. Lucky stared down at his case notes, brooding as Kelsey studied her court docket for the next day.

“You feel guilty,” Kelsey said after a long period of quiet. She pushed her spoon around the bowl of chili. “Because Taggert still doesn’t want to tell Elizabeth.”

“I guess.” Lucky shrugged. “I mean, I get his argument. I understood it back in July. Until we had physical evidence, what was the point of dragging her into this, but we have it now. And Elizabeth would at least sit down with us. She’d give us a statement.”

“Taggert still having issues getting the others to agree to a follow-up?”

“He’s trying to find Logan and Lopez now. They moved out of town, and Taggert’s having trouble finding family members to ask.” He reached for a notebook. “Watson, Norton, and Morris weren’t returning our calls two months ago. What makes anyone think they’ll change their mind now?”

“You don’t think Taggert could persuade them?”

“He could.” Lucky sighed. “I guess I just—I’m not in a hurry to bring that back for her. But waiting for the others to give their statements just delays our progress—”

“I think it’s more that Taggert hasn’t figured out how to tell Elizabeth her case is opened again without explaining why suddenly we have a DNA profile we didn’t have before. Unless he lies to her, she’ll know something happened.” Kelsey shrugged. “He’s taking her case personally. The way you are. And neither one of you wants to let her down. So he’s waiting until he has all the evidence before he has to come clean.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Lucky asked, eyebrows raised.

“I think…” Kelsey looked down at her case notes, at the collection of photographs she kept just inside the top folder—a photo of every single victim prior to their attack. She kept them there to remind herself that they came first, and that everything they did was for them. “I think that after the PCPD screwed up their cases in the first place, the least we can do is avoid further harm. We don’t have a suspect, Lucky. We don’t have a lead. Do you want to tell Elizabeth that we’re reopening her case with nothing more than what we could have had five years ago?”

“I guess. I just don’t want her to fall through the cracks again.”

Port Charles Mall: AMC Movie Theater

It was the first time they’d attempted to have another movie night since Brooke’s rape two months earlier. They’d gone to the mall in the middle of the day, deciding that it would be different enough to keep their minds off that tragedy.

Only Lucas hadn’t really taken into account just how much had changed since that sweltering July night. Maxie had brought Kyle again, but Lucas wasn’t paying that much attention to him. Not since Maxie and Georgie had both suggested he bring Felix.

Lulu had also joined them, sitting with Dillon and looking cozy, which gave Georgie an excuse to glare at the blond who, up until two weeks ago, been one of their closest friends. Lucas didn’t know if his cousin was dating Dillon or not, but Lu liked to cause drama. So she’d hung over him maybe a bit more than she might have otherwise, sharing his popcorn and laughing at any joke, no matter how feeble.

“How long before she goes for the hair?” Felix murmured in his ear as the movie lights dimmed and Georgie got in one more shot about how hard Mac was working that day, which only made Dillon tense more. His cousin really was an idiot, Lucas thought with a grimace.

“Oh, let’s hope we at least get through the movie. I’m not in the mood to get kicked out of another one.”

They managed to get all the way through Maxie’s pick, Intolerable Cruelty, but even she was wrinkling her nose when they filed out of the theater and into the mall at large. “Ugh, that should have been better. It’s a romantic comedy. Why do I not feel flirty and happy?”

“Maybe it’s the company,” Georgie said. “Can we go now?”

Maxie huffed at her younger sister, then turned her back to look at the rest of them. “Wanna go to Kelly’s or the food court?”

“I’m going home,” Georgie announced. “I have work to do. Some of us want to graduate college.” A flick of glance in Lulu’s direction made it clear who she meant.

“Oh, get off it, Jones. We only started classes a week ago,” Lulu said. She rolled her eyes. “You need to get a grip.”

You need to—”

Lucas stepped in front Georgie as she stepped forward while Kyle edged preemptively in front of Lulu. “Let’s just calm down.”

“Oh, relax,” Georgie said, with a roll of her eyes. “No one is gonna stalk off in a sulk—” she pressed her lips closed as the group stilled and Dillon’s already irritated expression grew more furious. “Whatever. I’m going home.”

She stormed off towards one of the mall entrances, leaving the rest of them to stare after her. “Ironically,” Kyle offered, “she’s storming—”

“We all caught it,” Maxie said, pressing her lips over her boyfriend’s mouth. “Don’t mansplain it.”

“Mansplain—”

Anyway,” Lulu said, with a dramatic roll of her eyes. “Can we go to back to the part where we get lunch? I’m starving.”

They opted for the food court, then went off in different directions to get their food. Maxie and Lulu headed for Salad Works while Felix and Lucas decided to get Chinese food.

Kyle followed Dillon to the burger stand, and as they waited their turn, he cleared his throat. “Listen, I’m sorry about Georgie.”

“Why are you sorry?” Dillon muttered. “We broke up two months ago. And Lulu is our friend. She’s been Georgie’s friend longer than I’ve known either of them.”

“Who didn’t mind playing up the new girlfriend role,” Kyle offered. “No, I mean, it just…it sucks that she’s taking it this way. I mean, Maxie is messed up about Mac, too. All the crap that’s been in the press. She’s…” he hesitated. “She’s cried a few times about it. Says Mac’s a great guy, but she doesn’t understand why he didn’t tell them. So she could have warned Brooke, too.”

“She gets it then.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean she likes it.” Kyle jerked a shoulder as they moved up in the line. “And you know it’s been a lot worse with your brother running for mayor. It’s on the news, it’s in the papers. And Georgie’s…she’s always been a…” he trailed off.

Dillon eyed Maxie’s boyfriend, wondering when he’d stopped being annoyed by him. Maybe it had been Kyle’s steadiness in the park that terrible night or later, after Lucas had introduced them to Felix, Kyle had been the first to suggest Felix come to the next group thing.

“Maxie’s made a lot of mistakes in her life,” Dillon said after a moment. “Gotten into trouble. Done dumb things. It’s easier for her to see that other people aren’t perfect.”

“But the thing this—with Mac in the papers all the time, it just means Brooke’s still in the papers. And I know you guys knew that would happen when Ned decided to run, but still—I’m sorry, man, but every time I read another account about how she left us while we were arguing, I get angry at myself all over again. I don’t know what the hell Lucas and I were thinking. Or why it seemed so important.”

“Maxie and I were bickering, too. We were all ignoring Brooke.” Dillon stepped up to the counter and put in his food order. When he and Kyle had moved over to the pick up window, he took a deep breath. “Lucky Spencer told me that it might take a long time to forgive myself. That even though I know, logically, it wasn’t our fault…”

“It still feels like it is,” Kyle finished. “Yeah. Well, I know all about not being able forgive yourself for the dumb stuff you actually do. What happened with Maxie—”

“Is not something anybody but Maxie needs to forgive you for,” Dillon interrupted. He looked back at the table where Maxie and Lulu had returned to. “Can you get Maxie to call Georgie in a few more minutes? Make sure she got home okay?”

“Yeah, but I bet that’s why she’s pulling out her cell phone now.” They picked up their food and headed back to the table.

Condo: Living Room

Elizabeth told herself to put it away for a few hours, to stop thinking about Monica’s announcement, and the implications of it until she could talk to Jason after he got done work.

She had to stop herself several times from going straight to the warehouse and dumping this on him, but truth be told…

She didn’t know what Jason would do when she told him she was pregnant. Because as much as she wanted to be happy—she was terrified. She’d gone to the library and checked out a bunch of pregnancy books, pouring over the side effects and all the possibilities. She’d tried a few Internet searches while there—she still didn’t have a computer of her own—but everything seemed to tell her she was dying.

Instead of calming her down, the fact that pulmonary embolisms were listed as a side effect in every single pregnancy book only worried her more. Did that mean they happened a lot? And apparently, they were more common after birth, which meant her baby might live but Elizabeth would die.

And was that a risk she wanted to take? Was it a risk Jason would be on board for?

She thought about talking to Bobbie or Emily, even calling Nikolas, but she managed to keep the phone on the hook. Jason deserved to get this news first. Even if she didn’t know exactly what to tell him or what he might say.

Finally, around six, Jason walked through the door. He offered a smile as he pulled off his jacket and hung it in the closet next to her door. “Hey.” He joined her in the kitchen where she was perusing the freezer and their selection of frozen pizzas. He kissed her, his hand cupping her jaw. “What’d you do today?”

“Um…” Elizabeth closed the freezer door. “I had my appointment with Monica.”

“Right, the two-month checkup. You said something about it this morning.” Jason followed her out of the kitchen, his brow furrowing. “How did it go?”

“Um, good. I think.” She turned to Jason. “Monica…had to run a secondary test, though. To check out one of my results—” God, why was she stalling?

“Is everything okay?” Jason asked, his voice sharpening. “Elizabeth—”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just…” She sat on the sofa, to stop herself from pacing. “I guess it’s just…I don’t know. I’m pregnant.”

“Preg—” Jason closed his mouth and sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of her. “How—what—”

“Turns out the condoms we use are from ELQ, and Monica said they’re going to recall them for…you know, not actually doing their job—” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “It’s yours—”

Of course it’s mine,” Jason said with an irritated frown. “Why—” He exhaled slowly. “Right. Because you were drugged and not sure—but they would have known in the hospital in July.” He exhaled slowly. “Okay. What…what does that mean? I remember from Carly’s pregnancy that one of the possible side effects—”

“Long story short is that I’m already at risk for another PE. Pregnancy makes that risk higher, but Monica said she didn’t know exactly how high. And she said there was…other issues. My recovery was long and I had heart issues…” Elizabeth shook her head. “She didn’t say it, but I think she was a lot more concerned than she let on.”

“Yeah.” Jason took a deep breath. “What…does she think—” he swallowed hard. “I mean, what do you think—” He shook his head. “I don’t know what to say.”

“That makes two of us. Monica said we should make an appointment with an OB/GYN who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.” Elizabeth watched as he pushed himself off the coffee table and started to pace. “She said, um, she—”

“High-risk pregnancy,” Jason repeated. He dragged his hands through his hair before letting his hands, still laced together, rest at the back of his neck. “Elizabeth—”

“She didn’t say it was too soon after what happened,” Elizabeth offered as she got to her feet. “But she also said if we’d wanted to plan it, she’d have recommended a year. Not…two months.” Her eyes burned. “You’re mad.”

“Mad—” Jason’s hands fell at his side as he crossed back to her and drew her into his arms. “I’m sorry. I’m not—I’m not doing this right. I’m not mad. Why would I be mad? We didn’t plan this. We were careful.” He edged away from her slightly, to frame her face with his hands. “Listen. I’m not mad,” he repeated. “I’m…worried.”

“Me, too.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “We talked about this. We both agreed we wanted children.”

“Yeah, but—” Jason closed his mouth. “Whatever you decide, Elizabeth. I’ll support you.”

“But what do you want?” she asked, covering his hands with her own. “Jason—”

“I want you,” he told her. “And I want you to be happy. At the end of the day…” he swallowed hard. “That’s all that matters.”

“But…” She bit her lip. “I’ll guess we’ll wait for Monica to recommend an OB and see what they say, right?”

“Right.”

She wanted desperately to ask him if he was even a little bit happy about having a baby with her, but she was afraid of what he’d say. Whatever she decided, Jason had told her. She hadn’t even realized a decision was on the table. Did Jason want her to get an abortion?

Did she want an abortion?

But she couldn’t ask him that. He would never tell her what he thought—after all—he’d support whatever decision she made.

But supporting a decision and living with it were two different things.

Elizabeth took a deep breath and tried to smile. “I’m not in the mood to make dinner. How about we order some Chinese?”

September 26, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter 36.

I’m really glad the posting schedule worked out this way so that 36 was the last one over the weekend. It represents the end of part one and it’s the last one set in July 2003. Next week, we’re jumping into September.  I’m starting to final coalesce around another umbrella story for Book 3. I just have to figure out how to make the pieces fit together.

This entry is part 17 of 23 in the series All of Me

‘Cause we break
And we burn
And we turn it inside out
To take it back
To the start
And through the rise and falling apart
We discover who we are
Who We Are, Lifehouse


Saturday, July 26, 2003

 Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

Scott scowled down at the report from the special master who had emailed his preliminary decision regarding the medical records Ric Lansing had subpoenaed. He’d completed reviewing Elizabeth’s files, and—

He looked up as Kelsey, dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt, knocked on his open desk door. “What are you doing here? You’re young. Go have a life. Go call Lucky Spencer.”

His ADA smirked at him. “I was wondering when you’d bring that up. Did his aunt tell you?”

“She said you came to dinner.” And Bobbie had been very effusive in her praise of Kelsey dating her nephew, suggesting that Lucky hadn’t been this happy in a few years. “She liked you.”

“I liked her. As for why I’m here today—I had a meeting with Taggert to catch me up on the park rapist.” Kelsey tilted her head. “Why are you here? Don’t you have Serena this week?”

“Next week,” Scott said. “And she’s too old to be hanging out with her dad during the day. I got the special master’s report back last night—would you believe this asshole thinks all of Elizabeth’s medical records should be open to the defense?”

“Transparency,” Kelsey offered with a shrug. “How many cases do you see get nailed because a prosecutor held something back? He’s probably just erring on the side of caution. And so what? If Elizabeth Webber was traumatized—”

“It’s just crap,” Scott muttered. “Sure, she got her protection order, but she also gets to know her psycho ex has access to her therapy sessions and just based on Gail’s notes, they’re going deep and working through a lot that’s not relevant. Even if he can’t bring it up at trial—”

“He gets to know it. Well, maybe that will help her make up her mind about going to trial.” Kelsey took a seat at Scott’s conference table. “Listen, not that I want to give you any more bad news—”

“Oh, hell.” Scott shoved the special master’s report aside. “What now?”

“You remember when you said something was off in the way Mac was counting open cases? We had nine in cold storage, four open, but Mac said there was fourteen.”

Scott pursed her lips. “He wasn’t wrong, was he? Was there another case?”

“Yeah, but it’s…not good news.” Kelsey took out her notepad. “Elizabeth Webber.”

“Oh, man. Oh, no. Don’t tell me the PCPD screwed up her rape case. This is not something I need in my life. This is not something that she needs either.” Scott buried his face in his hands and moaned. “Give it to me, Kelse. All the bad news.”

“Well, according to her file, Elizabeth was attacked in the park on February 14, 1998. She was sixteen, which meant the statute of limitations didn’t start until she turned eighteen in 1999. She was raped at the same fountain as Brooke, but her injuries were much less severe, and a friend took her home. She didn’t report right away—even took a shower. But someone convinced her to do a rape kit at Mercy Hospital where pictures were taken, and she turned over the dress she’d been wearing that night.”

“Okay. So…?”

“She finally made a statement to the police a few weeks later, sometime in March. Alejandro Garcia and Dara Jenson took the statement, but there wasn’t anywhere to go. Couldn’t send the dress for testing with no suspect, and according to Garcia’s notes, she didn’t remember a lot of details. Some minor things came back to her over the next few months — he’d smelled like soap…and…” Kelsey waited for Scott to look at him. “He only spoke three words to her.”

“Oh, hell. ‘Not a word.’ The same thing Brooke Ashton said.”

“Yeah. Garcia left the PCPD, but Taggert took over. He did some work, but nowhere to go. Until Emily Quartermaine and Elizabeth get held hostage by Tom Baker. Apparently, Elizabeth said Tom Baker admitted to raping to her while they were alone, but he later denied it. He went to trial on the charges in the blackmailing and kidnapping case, but Elizabeth had an outcry—”

“I remember all of this, but what happened to the rape kit—” Scott leaned forward. “Once Baker was a suspect, they must have sent it over—”

“That’s the part where Taggert is getting a little squirrely. Because that’s what our records show. Around Christmas of 1998, Dara Jenson marked into the DA’s file that a rape kit was returned from the lab with no profile or anything else. The same report exists in the PCPD’s file…but…”

“Kelsey—”

“Taggert never saw the report. And he said he was told in November that the kit had come back negative and that the case needed to be made inactive. He fought it, according to him, but eventually agreed. He said he walked the case to cold storage and listed it as an open, but inactive investigation.”  Kelsey rubbed the back of her neck. “Tom Baker pleaded to avoid a mistrial on the rape outcry and a retrial. He’s in prison now, but up for parole in December.”

“Wait…” Scott held up his hands. “Taggert was told in November the kit was sent back negative, but the report we have is from December?” He frowned. “After Elizabeth went public, accusing Baker?”

“Yeah, he noticed that, too. He said he was told a report would be sent over and Mac would take care of the filing. Taggert said he didn’t send the rookies down to get that case, specifically, but Lucky Spencer—”

“Knows Elizabeth. He was the friend who brought her home, right? I remember they were dating when he got…” Scott sighed. “So, Mac faked a report? Why?”

“He also officially listed her case as solved and the box ended up in closed archives. Spencer noticed it when they pulled the other nine—hers was missing from cold storage.”

“I—” Scott stared at her. “That doesn’t make any damn sense. Her case had a suspect, but he wasn’t convicted—”

“Yeah, Lucky pulled it out of the archives himself. He and the rookies went down there a few days ago to look for similar cases. And Lucky knew the details of her case, so he was looking for her case. When he gave Mac the list of cases to reopen, Mac only sent the first two. He didn’t include Elizabeth’s.”

He hesitated. “He didn’t include it—”

“Taggert told me Mac gave him some sort of excuse about how Elizabeth’s case didn’t have physical evidence and, because of Baker, might have reasonable doubt. But that doesn’t explain why the lab says they have no record her kit was ever sent to them and the dress itself doesn’t have any notation it was sent anywhere.”  Kelsey shook her head. “Taggert doesn’t want to call it a cover-up, but either it’s a massive screw up—”

“Or someone wanted her case to disappear.” Scott let his head fall to the surface of the table with a loud thud. “Of all the cases in all the world, Floyd and Mac had to fuck up Elizabeth Webber’s. A young woman we narrowly avoided getting killed this summer. Fan-fucking-tastic. I quit.”

“He sent her kit over with the other nine to the lab.” Kelsey waited to continue speaking until Scott had gathered himself. “I also filed a court order to get Baker’s DNA tested. Elizabeth’s profile matches the other rapes, so I want to exclude him. But I don’t know what to do with all the rest of it. Baker was in jail for the rest of the attacks.”

“Let’s…” Scott took a deep breath. “Okay. When can we expect the DNA on all seven cases to come back?”

“I put a rush order on all of them, but I moved Webber to the top of the list. Maybe the first week of September.”

“Okay,” he repeated. “Tell Taggert to keep investigating, but let’s keep a lid on the case. If her case doesn’t have DNA, we can’t do anything with it anyway. And if she’s believed the right guy is in jail and has been all along, I am in no hurry to bring that trauma up. Not after what she’s been through.”

Not after the horrifying notes Gail had made about Ric Lansing drugging her to have sex. The last thing Elizabeth Webber needed to think was her first rapist was on the loose, too. Motherfucker.

“Scott-”

“I want to have all my ducks in a row before I accuse the commissioner and Floyd—because he’s damn well involved—of covering up the rape of a teenaged girl.” He swallowed hard. “Because that’s not the Mac Scorpio I’ve known for a decade. He has stepdaughters he’s raised practically since birth. He adores them. I can see holding off on a public warning, but actively covering up for another rapist—there has to be a reason.”

“Maybe,” Kelsey said. She sighed. “Lucky and I decided we’d bring this to you because we’ve only been here five minutes, and I think Taggert will probably go along with it but promise me…promise me we’re not going to let this slide. This is…this is sickening. This case, from the start, has been screwed up, but to know it goes so far back—” She shook her head. “I can’t deal with it.”

“I don’t care if I have to broadcast the news myself. If I can prove the PCPD and the mayor’s office covered up a rapist who was then allowed to continue operating, leading to six more rapes and the death of a young girl—I’ll burn this city to the ground.”

Monday, July 28, 2003

 General Hospital: Gail Baldwin’s Office

Elizabeth sat on Gail’s sofa with a smile on her face. “You’ll be happy to hear that I just had my check up with Monica and she said everything looks great.”

“Really?” Gail asked as she set her notebook in her lap. “Your scans are still good?”

“Not a clot in sight. I’ll still have to be careful about exertion because I still get winded easily, but she said that should really start to subside as long as I stick to the physical therapy regimen.” She smirked and rolled her eyes. “And once Jason gets his hand on it, there’s no chance I’ll slack off.”

“He’s still taking your health more seriously than you I see,” Gail said, and Elizabeth winced at the admonition in her therapist’s voice.

“We haven’t argued about it since last week, but yes, Jason is a little more…” She hesitated. “Obsessed with it than I am. He’s been better, though and we’ve been…” Her cheeks flushed. “We went out of town Saturday night. Just overnight to a place he knows in the Adirondacks, not that far away. But we’re…we’re okay in that area, too. As long as he knows where the oxygen mask is.”

“Sounds romantic,” Gail quipped, and Elizabeth managed a short laugh. “That doesn’t bother you?”

“You mean, do I love the fact that the two or three times we’ve been intimate since last week, he stops everything to make sure the mask is within reach if I need it—” She grimaced. “It would, except I needed it on Saturday night, and it was right there. So, no panic attack. No hyperventilating. No embarrassing check up with my boyfriend’s mother in the middle of the night.” She shrugged. “Seems like an even trade. I get Jason, and he gets to make sure I’m alive.”

“I have to say…considering your hearing on Friday, you seem remarkably upbeat. You received my message about the special master?” Gail asked. “I’m so very sorry—”

“You have a court order, Gail. And, no, I’m not surprised Ric is trying anything he can to mess with my credibility. But what is he going to learn from those notes? That I had a damaged view of myself last year? That I thought so little of myself that Ric seemed like the best option?”

Elizabeth sighed, some of her cheer fading. “How does that change the medical reports or Carly’s testimony? I hate that he’s going to have an open window into my relationship with Jason, but you know? It’s more important that I get this right, with Jason, I mean. To understand why I did the things I did last year—to be able to think clearly and make good choices.”

She crossed her legs at the ankle. “I had a run-in with Courtney last week—we talked about that, remember?”

“Yes.”

“And…I remember trying to explain to Jason how knowing he’d gone to the Quartermaines and the police when I was kidnapped—how that would have helped me understand him more last summer. He’s so contained, Gail. I mean, he’s better than he was, but he still keeps so much locked away. And all I could see was him leaving me. Every time he had the chance, he left me to go to someone else…and…”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Somewhere along the way…I decided it was difficult to love me, and that most of the time, people didn’t think I was worth the effort. That’s why…they left. Or forgot me. Or moved on. I thought…there’s something inside of me that makes it impossible for someone to promise forever and mean it.”

“Do you still think it?” Gail asked.

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. “I know I felt that way when I had the miscarriage. I think that’s what made losing the baby so much worse. I thought…I thought I would be a good mother. That I would love my child and give them the unconditional love I never had. And you know, it’s horrible to think this way…but with my baby, I wouldn’t be alone anymore. That I would just have someone who would love me just for…just for what I was.” She met Gail’s eyes. “That’s too much pressure for a baby, I guess.”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”

Elizabeth shrugged. “I just…I made so many choices out of fear of being alone, but I guess I never thought about why I didn’t want to be alone. Why was I so desperate for Lucky to love me? For Jason to put me first? For Ric to give up his vendetta against Sonny? Why would I have…ignored all my instincts and stay when my feelings weren’t there. I agreed to marry Lucky and Ric, and I didn’t really love either of them.” She shrugged. “And you know…I did it because they were going to stay. And God, I guess…that was…I guess I was measuring love by whether someone stuck.”

Elizabeth looked out the window. “I should have found another way to measure it, I guess. It should be more than someone who doesn’t go away.”

“What should it be?”

“It should be…” She hesitated. “Someone who comes back. Who…doesn’t know what you’re thinking, but I guess, but can understand why you think it. Someone who…” she managed a half smile. “Who can cook but eats out because you can’t. Or will let you struggle with something he could do in five minutes because you’re trying to make a point and he respects you. Who watches movies even though he hates it because he knows you like cuddling on the sofa. Who compromises by making sure there’s an oxygen mask because he gets how important it is for you to feel normal and in love when he’d rather wrap you in cotton and keep the world away.”

Another tear slid down her cheek. “Someone who’s honest even when it hurts. Who doesn’t stay because he has nowhere else to go but because there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.” She looked at Gail. “It’s not hard to love me, is it? Jason’s shown me for years what it was supposed to be. I just didn’t know what I was looking at.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Mac paced his office, checked his watch, and swore when Floyd arrived, ten minutes later than their scheduled meeting time. “You know, you could return a few phone calls—”

“What’s so important that you’ve been badgering my secretary for the last week?” the mayor demanded, folding his arms across his chest. “I thought we agreed that I should make fewer visits—”

“Taggert sent officers down to cold storage to look at open cases, looking for a link to this guy.” Mac dragged both hands through his curly hair. “And he sent Spencer who damn well knew that the Webber case was supposed to be there.”

“So, it’s a mistake.” Floyd shrugged. “Her case was considered unofficially solved. Taggert knows that—”

“Dara Jensen called me this morning to ask why Scott Baldwin is asking her about the Webber case and if it was routine for her to check in lab reports a month after they were received.”

Floyd grimaced. “I knew we should have back dated that report to November.” He leaned against the table. “So?”

“So, Taggert sent the rape kit over for testing because he says it was never processed in the first place. I played it off like it was a mistake, but…” Mac shook his head. “You’re going to blame this all on me?”

“Should it come out?” Floyd lifted his brows. “Of course. That’s the deal. Now if it comes back at me, I can throw Edward Quartermaine under the bus. He’s committed so many atrocities against his own family, I highly doubt they’d think was beneath him. You’re worried about this too much. There are only three days left to file paperwork to run against me. By the end of the week, I’ll be officially running unopposed.”

“And how does that help me?” Mac demanded. “Look, maybe I should just come clean. I should resign.” He took a deep breath.  “That’s the right thing to do. I wanted to do it after Brooke, but maybe I’ve just been on borrowed time.”

“You told me Baker was the guy,” Floyd hissed, stabbing a finger at him. “You told me that he confessed. That you believed the Webber girl when she said he confessed. Do you think for one minute either one of us would have falsified that report and closed her case if we’d thought he was still out there?”

“I know I wouldn’t have,” Mac said, with a lift of his chin. “But this guy—the cases are too similar—”

“What purpose does it serve for you to come clean and resign?” With a firm shake of his head, Floyd rejected that premise. “Listen to me, you feel guilty, fine. You think the guy got away, fine. Make it right. Find the guy.”

Mac scowled but the mayor just left. Even if he found the guy, even if they were able to put him away for what he’d done to these women, if it was true that Mac had made Elizabeth’s case go away and left the real rapist out on the streets…

There was no making it right. He’d be handing in his badge one way or another. As soon as this case was closed.

This city deserved a better commissioner, and he hoped like hell a better man than Floyd ran for mayor.

Quartermaine Estate: Poolside

 Dillon scowled down at the computer and deleted the entire chunk of text he’d just typed. Nothing he’d worked on in the last week had been worth keeping, and just like every other screenplay he’d tried to create, this one would go in the trash.

He wanted to get away from everything, had told Reginald that, barring an emergency, no one needed to know where he was.

But better men than Reginald had fallen under the spell of a pretty girl, so Dillon was unsurprised when Georgie turned the corner around a hedge and offered him a sheepish wave. They hadn’t spoken since Brooke’s memorial the week before, and Dillon was okay with that. More okay than maybe he would have been considering they’d been dating for a few months.

But maybe she was here to ask for forgiveness, to apologize for defending her stepfather only days after Brooke had taken her own life. And Dillon could understand if Georgie had lashed out in loyalty. Her fierce devotion to people was one of his favorite things.

“Hey,” she said, taking a seat in the lounge chair across from him. “I always forget this is back here.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of the appeal. I’m the only one who uses it. Emily’s usually too busy.” Brooke had used it a few times, but he left that unspoken.

“When did you guys get back from New York?” Georgie asked.

“I drove back up with Alan on Saturday. Ned and Grandfather stayed until today to go over some business stuff, I think.” Dillon eyed her. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I just…I felt so awful about how we left things last week,” Georgie said. She sighed. “I shouldn’t have said that about Brooke. And of course, you blame everyone. I blame myself, too. We should have been nicer to her. Done more for her after, I don’t know. But…”

And she’d been doing so well. “Georgie, please don’t tell me you came over to plead your stepfather’s case again—”

“I’m not, not really. I just—” She shook her head. “I just thought with some time to calm down, you’d see that blaming someone and them actually being responsible are different. I know Mac didn’t do everything right—”

“He didn’t do anything right—” he bit off the rest of protest and shook his head violently. He closed his laptop, set it on the table next to him before getting to his feet. “I can’t believe you’re doing this again. Georgie, Brooke is dead.”

“And Mac isn’t—”

“I don’t know if she meant to take all those pills or if it was an accident, but either way, she had those pills because some asshole raped her and beat her within an inch of her life. He violated her, and your stepfather—he knew the park was being targeted. He took the time to warn his own kids but said fuck it to everyone else.” Dillon clenched his fists at his side. “So, if you don’t understand why the hell I think Mac should be fired—at the very least—then I don’t think we have anything else to say to each other.”

“Fine!” Georgie threw up her hands and whirled around to find Ned standing just inside the fence that surrounded the pool. “Um—”

“Don’t bother with condolences,” Ned said coolly, “or allow me to interrupt your storming out.”

Georgie’s face was bright red as she rushed past by Ned and fled.

“I’m sorry,” Dillon said, sinking back onto the pool lounger. “You don’t need to be hearing that shit.”

“She’s young,” Ned said after a moment. He sat on the lounger Georgie had vacated. “And she loves Mac. She’ll come around.”

“Yeah, but I think the part where we date is done now.” Dillon grimaced. “I didn’t realize you and Grandfather were back.”

“Just a little while ago. We, ah, stayed in the city for a meeting.” Ned hesitated. “We were hiring a campaign manager.”

“Oh, yeah, you found someone to run against the dick?” Dillon asked as he slid his laptop into his bag. “Who?”

“Me,” Ned admitted. “We filed notice on the way home. It’s surprisingly easy to get listed on the ballot run as an independent.”

“You?” Dillon repeated. “I didn’t see that coming—but I guess that’s good.” He hesitated. “But it means the press will be talking about Brooke all the time—”

“Which means they can’t forget about her case,” Ned said. “But yeah, it’ll be hard. I talked to Lois. She’s okay with it.” He studied his younger brother. “What do you think?”

“I think anyone is better than Floyd, even a Quartermaine,” Dillon said, only half-joking. He was relieved, and more than a little pleased, to see Ned laugh.

Maybe they’d be okay after all.

Condo: Bedroom

Elizabeth was already sitting up in bed, sketching, when she heard the front door open. Jason hadn’t promised to come by that night—only said he’d try to but there was a lot of work at the warehouse. But he was here.

When he appeared in the doorway, she smiled at him. “Hey. You look beat.”

“Yeah, it was a long day.”

She watched as he stripped down to his briefs and tossed his jeans and t-shirt into a duffel bag he kept in the corner of the room. “I cleared out part of the dresser.”

Jason turned to look at her. “What?”

Her cheeks were hot as she continued. “If you…wanted to keep clothes here. I could…um…wash them when I do mine.” Elizabeth bit her lip as he continued to stare at her. “I mean, it seems kind of crazy for you to keep going back and forth. You could just…keep them here.”

He sat on her side of the bed and she crossed her legs, moving into a sitting position to give him room. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, I mean…I know we haven’t really talked about it before…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I got my all-clear from Monica, so we’re fine on that front, but I also…I had kind of a breakthrough with Gail today. Something she said we’ve been working towards for the last few weeks, and it’s just…encouraged me to make sure I’m taking charge. Creating the life I want.”

Jason hesitated. “Okay—”

“When we talked about last summer, I said I had this thing about staying, but I didn’t want to get into it. The thing is…I needed to get into it. I needed to understand why I doubted you last year. Why I doubted myself. And why I keep making decisions out of fear.”

“You’ve been through a lot—”

“I have, but it’s not why.” She took his hand in hers, tracing the lines on his skin, the rough calluses on his fingers. “People tend to have a hard time loving me.” When he scowled, she added, “And I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about my parents. My sister. My brother. My grandmother. Even Lucky at first. And they all…left me. So somewhere along the line…I decided it was me. That I should work harder to make people stay. To make them love me.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Okay.”

“Knowing that doesn’t really fix anything, but it does…I can step outside of myself and see it. I look at you…and even after everything we’ve been through…sometimes I think there’s no reason you’ll stay. No reason to believe I can make you happy.” She took a deep breath. “But I don’t feel that way all the time. Most of the time, I can shut the voices up. It’s just…it’s hard for me to trust that I can do this. That we can make this work.”

“Elizabeth…”

“But the only way for me to get over it is to just…” Elizabeth shrugged. “Is to just do it. I’ve been scared to ask you about what’s next. What you want from me. What you want from us. And I keep hoping you’ll do it first, but I think you haven’t brought it up because maybe you’re just as scared as I am.”

“For a long time,” Jason began, looking down at their intertwined hands. “I didn’t think about the future. I didn’t really know what to do with the idea of one. I didn’t have a past, I couldn’t think past the moment. And, you know, Robin felt the same way. She didn’t really think of herself as having a future even though she planned for one.” He looked up, met her eyes. “But I want to think about it. With you.”

“Okay.” She smiled. “So, I’m going to start by being honest with you about what I want. And if it’s not what you want, you need to tell me that, okay?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

She bit her lip and looked down at their joined hands. “I want you to keep your clothes here. I mean, I guess you can keep your room at Jake’s if you want, but I want you to be here at night. And when you want us to, we can go to the penthouse. And maybe you can teach me to cook so we stop spending all our money on takeout.” She peeked up at him to find him smiling. “How are we doing so far?”

“All good things. I can bring over my stuff tomorrow—”

“Okay, good. Because I…I want children.”

His smile slipped just a bit as his eyes widened. “What?”

“Not now,” Elizabeth said immediately. “I mean, I said Monica gave me all the clear, but I still have physical therapy to deal with and I need to figure out what kind of career I’m gonna have, but…I want a family, Jason. And that’s going to be a deal breaker.” Her heart was pounding as she continued. “I don’t want to hear in a year or two that it’s too dangerous and we have to stop—”

“It’s never going to be perfect,” Jason cut in. “And I can’t promise you one hundred percent safety, but I won’t walk away from you because of it. And I would never walk away from a child. Which…” He nodded. “Yeah, I want that, too. When you want it. When you’re ready.”

“Okay.” She just stared at him. “Really?”

“Really.” He leaned forward and kissed her, sliding his hands through her hair, then framing her face. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she murmured as she drew him back against the pillows, parting her legs so he could settle between them. “And before you ask…I already set out the oxygen mask.”

He laughed and reached over to switch off the light.

September 23, 2019

Your Update Link: Mad World – Chapter Thirty-Five

Hey! Sorry this update post is so late! The chapter was up at 7, but I got distracted at work and haven’t had a chance to deal with it until now. This week’s chapters are the halfway point in this book — when we come back on Monday, the story picks up in September. I’m reallllly excited to be getting to this part of the story. I’ve moved a lot of pieces around, set up a lot of things and I feel like the last 14 chapters are just jam-packed with a lot of emotion and action. This chapter also has one of my favorite scenes — the ending scene with Ned and Lois. Hope you like it!

This entry is part 16 of 23 in the series All of Me

I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow

Every step that I take is another mistake to you
Numb, Linkin Park


Friday, July 25, 2003

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Bobbie stirred sugar into her coffee and grimaced as she looked at her watch. “Elizabeth’s hearing starts in two hours. I wonder if she’ll change her mind.”

“She seemed pretty sure when she called yesterday.” Carly sighed. “She feels the same way I do about the trial, Mama. She told me that she and Jason talked about it, and we’re on the same page.”

“And Sonny is the odd man out,” Bobbie said, with a lift of her brows. “Well, he’s never been one to trust the police. I’m surprised Jason is going along with it—but—” She pursed her lips. “Maybe not. If Elizabeth said this is what she needs—”

“I knew he’d listen to her on this. Just like I know he’d have agreed to it if it was just me. It’s just…” Carly shook her head. “I understand why Sonny…I get it. But I’m kind of tired of this attitude he has—Courtney has a little bit of it, too. This—I get how awful that week must have been for the people looking for me. I mean, I watched Elizabeth and Jason—I watched you when you came over. And I know Sonny had a breakdown. I know all of that, but at the same time—is it wrong to be angry that everyone is treating my trauma like it happened to them personally?”

“No—”

“I mean, I’m in the hospital, barely recovering, and Courtney wants to know if I could see any evidence of an affair on the monitors. And Sonny keeps talking about how they all went through it, but I’m sorry, Mama —” She bit her lip. “And maybe I’m starting to get why you wanted him to talk to someone.”

“I just…I wonder how much more could have been accomplished if Sonny had been involved. If he’d been another set of eyes. I mean, what Nikolas suggested about a panic room—that shouldn’t have been brand-new information to us. It shouldn’t have taken us until Friday to talk to Ned and learn about Faith and Ric. But Elizabeth had her overdose less than twelve hours after you went missing. She nearly died, Carly. And after that—”

“She became someone else Jason had to worry about.” Carly said, with a sigh. “She refused to leave which ended up being the right call, but—” She shook her head. “I just…I want this to be over, and part of me wants Sonny to just…make a call and end it. To make it over tonight. It’d be so easy and—” Tears stung her as she looked away from her mother. “To be able to lie my head down tonight and know he wasn’t in the world anymore—it’s disgusting how much he hangs over me and he’s not even in the zip code.”

“But you still want to testify.”

“I think—and knowing Kevin, he’d agree—that maybe I’m still processing the worst of it. I said it out loud to Sonny the other day and had a panic attack about ten minutes later. And no, I didn’t tell you when I got to your place that night, Mama, because I knew you’d worry. I had the guard drive me around for a while.”

“Carly—”

“Ric was going to kill me. He was going to keep me in that room for as long as he could, then kill me and take my baby to give to Elizabeth. And if Michael hadn’t seen him, if Jason and Sonny hadn’t gone to the house that night and found Elizabeth drugged up—”

“It haunts me how close we came to losing you, Carly.” Bobbie swallowed hard. “It was easier for Elizabeth to believe what happened because we were there, telling her she was drugged. And Ric only doubled her dose because he doubted her. But if she hadn’t believed, if Michael hadn’t seen you—”

“I might have been in there for weeks,” Carly murmured. “Longer. Maybe Ric would have been able to move me. And it’s hard to admit how close it all was. How if one thing had been different, I might still be gone.” She sighed. “I think I need to look him in the face, Mama, so I can put it away. I need to be the reason he’s gone. I need to be part of it. And I need to know that he’s rotting away, dying in a cell, just the way I nearly did. So yeah, as easy as it would be to just tell Sonny to hell with everything else, end it tonight—it wouldn’t stop the nightmares. It wouldn’t stop the panic attacks.”

She picked up her fork to stab at her omelet. “And if Sonny doesn’t understand that, then I don’t know where that leaves us. Because if he gives the order—”

“Will Jason allow it?” Bobbie finished. “I hope we won’t have to find out.”

Warehouse: Sonny’s Office

 “I don’t know what the hell Carly is thinking,” Sonny said as he paced the confines of his office. He turned back to Jason who remained sitting quietly in his seat. “Doesn’t she get how weak this makes me look—”

“To who?” Jason asked, interrupting him. He’d listened to Sonny complain about Carly’s decision to testify and her request that Ric be allowed to rot away in prison. He hadn’t been surprised to learn Carly’s wishes aligned with Elizabeth—in a lot of ways, the two of them were similar though he’d probably be risking his life if he told either of them that.

And he couldn’t understand why Sonny was turning Carly’s reasonable request into some sort of betrayal. He wanted Ric wiped from the face of the Earth, too, but as long as he was sent to prison, away from Elizabeth and Carly, Jason could live with not actually seeing him dead.

If he ever got out—if he were a free man—well, that was a different situation entirely.

“Zacchara? Ruiz?” Sonny sneered. “They’re going to think I’m weak, that I can’t handle my business—”

“And they’d be right, wouldn’t they?” Jason said, irritated for having let Elizabeth head to the courthouse without him because Sonny wanted to have a meeting. Once again, he hadn’t been there for her because of Sonny. He promised himself this would be the last time.

“What the hell does that mean—”

“It means you should have taken Ric out back and shot him months ago,” Jason shot back. “When you learned about the shit he did to Carly. When he kidnapped Courtney. When he tried to kill you. He shouldn’t have been breathing long enough to get to Carly again, to put a hand on Elizabeth. But you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t kill your mother’s son. Do you think you don’t already look weak?”

Sonny glared at him. “You think I’m a coward for letting him live?”

“I think I don’t give a damn—” Jason bit off his words. “Elizabeth wants to testify, too. And she also wants Ric to rot in prison. So that’s what going to happen—”

“If I give the order—”

“I’ll refuse it. I’m not breaking a promise to her because you need to feel strong, Sonny. And you can’t do it without me,” Jason said even as his partner opened his mouth to protest. “I’m the one with the prison connections. You wouldn’t even know who to ask.”

He exhaled slowly. “Carly went through hell. She gets to decide how this goes. Ric didn’t go after her because of who you are in business, Sonny. He did it because of your blood. It was personal. You had your chance to get rid of Ric.”

“You’d refuse a direct order—” Sonny stared at him blankly. “After everything Ric did to Elizabeth, you’d let him live—”

Jason checked the clock on the wall. He’d have to leave now if he had a prayer of making it to the hearing on time. “Look, she and I agreed — she gets to testify and if he goes to prison, he gets to rot there. If he gets acquitted, if he gets out on parole, all bets are off. I have to go, Sonny.”

“Where the hell do you have to go that’s more important?” Sonny demanded.

Jason got to his feet, impatient. “To the courthouse. Elizabeth might still have to testify, even though—”

Sonny blinked. “Testify? Wait.” He held up his hands, some color draining from his face. “Did I—what day is it? I don’t—when did the trial start? Did—”

His ire drained, Sonny sat down. “Did I lose time again? What day is it?” he repeated, his voice climbing in volume and tone.

“It’s July 25, Sonny. And it’s Elizabeth’s hearing about the restraining order. She’s not pushing hard to renew it, but the judge still might ask her to testify.” Weary now, Jason shook his head. “You need to talk to someone, Sonny. I thought after Carly was found, things would get better. But it’s not. And you’ve lost track of time before. You need—”

“I need the people in my life to do what hell the I say!” Sonny jumped back to his feet. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“I have to go,” Jason repeated and then left, even as his partner sputtered in protest.

Port Charles Courthouse: Courtroom

 “Am I reading this correctly, counselor?” the judge asked as he peered at Diane Miller over the top of his glasses. “Your client has decided against testifying in today’s hearing?”

Elizabeth stared straight ahead at the judge. She hadn’t seen Ric since that terrible morning at the house almost a month earlier when she’d had to protect herself with a baseball bat, and she’d realized, just outside of the courtroom, that she wasn’t entirely ready to see him now.

But she knew she had people behind her that cared. Emily and Monica had come to give her support, while other members of the family had gone to Bensonhurst to bury Brooke. Scott and Bobbie were sitting in the front row, while Jason had taken a seat next to his sister and mother. Even Taggert and Cruz Rodriguez had shown up.

She had people behind her that cared, and that mattered.

“Your Honor, my client feels now that she has filed for divorce and moved out of the marital home, along with the fact that the defendant has moved to Crimson Point, her order is unlikely to be renewed. Putting herself through testifying would be useless.” Diane lifted her brows with a smirk. “Particularly given Your Honor’s history with the case.”

“Don’t get cute, Ms. Miller, or I’ll find you in contempt—”

“He means it, too!” Scott called out as Bobbie elbowed him. “Ow! Just giving her a warning.”

The judge ignored the outburst and looked at Elizabeth. “Mrs. Lansing—” Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest but the judge held up a hand. “I apologize. Miss Webber.” He eyed Ric’s table. “You might want to correct your legal petitions to the court, Mr. Lansing. Referring to her with a name that she never took doesn’t bode well for your case and makes me wonder if maybe Miss Webber might be better off with a formal, permanent order of protection after all.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped slightly as Diane scowled. “Politics,” she muttered. “The judge took a beating in the press after the way your case was handled. He’s up for re-election this year.”

“I apologize, Your Honor,” Ric said smoothly, his voice causing Elizabeth to shudder. “In my defense, I gave my…estranged wife…the necessary paperwork and she told me she had filed it.”

A lie. He’d given Elizabeth the paperwork, she’d said she’d get to it, and that had been the end of it. But it wasn’t important anymore.

“Miss Webber,” the judge began again. “Does Ms. Miller state your case correctly? Do you not intend to testify? Do you not think a protection order is warranted?”

“To be honest,” Elizabeth said, as she stood. “I didn’t intend to put myself through Ric Lansing’s cross-examination at this point because I didn’t think you’d renew the order anyway. It’s no doubt reached Mr. Lansing’s attention that I have reunited with the man I was dating before I met my estranged husband. I worried you might see my moving on as some sort of sign that I wasn’t…”  Afraid was not the right word. God, she didn’t want to admit it, but—  “That morning, when he threw me across the room, when he grabbed me, chased me—I was terrified. I knew he’d kidnapped Carly, I knew he’d drugged me. But somehow…I didn’t think he was capable of that.”

She took a deep breath. “And despite my charges of assault against him, Your Honor, you agreed to a temporary injunction that gave him power over me as I recovered from an illness he was responsible for and then kept him from being arrested for nearly killing me and kidnapping Carly Corinthos. So, with all due respect, Your Honor, I’d rather have the protection order, but I didn’t trust the system to grant it.”

The judged stared at her for a long moment with a furrowed brow, as if not sure whether to find her in contempt as he’d threatened her lawyer or just ignore her outburst. “Miss Webber, if I decide not to grant your request, you understand that Mr. Lansing will be allowed to contact you. He’s serving as his own attorney in the case you referred to.”

“And it’s my understanding that if I decline to sit for an interview with him, asking me again would count as witness harassment and intimidation,” Elizabeth said.  “Which might cause his bail to be revoked.” She looked at Ric who was almost smirking at her in return. “So, let this serve as your notice. Mr. Lansing, that it will be a cold day in hell before that happens. The next time you and I see one another will be in a court room to make sure you pay for what you did to me and to Carly.”

“Your Honor,” Ric protested. “I have every right to build the case to clear my name, and we’re in the middle of divorce proceedings. Contacting her—”

“Miss Webber, I’m granting a renewal of the protection order,” the judge said. “For an additional six months.” He banged the gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

Ric scowled, but gathered his papers, then stalked out. Taggert and Cruz got up and followed, likely to make sure he actually left the premises and didn’t hang out to wait for Elizabeth afterwards.

Elizabeth blinked and looked at Diane. “Why did that work?”

“I’m not sure…” Diane frowned as she twisted in her seat to look at Scott. “Thoughts, Scott?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Scott said with a shrug. “Maybe a few calls from some well-placed donors reminded him who the hell he was here to serve. He wants to win re-election in November, he can’t afford to annoy some people.”

“Some people?” Elizabeth repeated only to catch Emily’s eye as her best friend, Monica, and Jason joined them at the front of the court room. “Emily—”

“Grandfather was more than happy to make a few phone calls on your behalf, Liz. He’s feeling really helpless with everything that’s going on with Ned and Brooke, so this was something he could do. And Nikolas also made some calls from London.”

“I appreciate the support.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’m glad we were able to get the order renewed without Carly having to testify. I think we both only really want to do this once, you know?”

She looked at Scott, who raised his brows at her. “We haven’t—we’re still talking about it, Scott. But I know I’m leaning towards a trial.”

“We got time, Elizabeth. This was a win today.” He looked at Bobbie. “Do you want a ride home or am I still in trouble?”

“You’re always in trouble,” Bobbie muttered but she followed the district attorney out of the room. Within twenty minutes, Jason and Elizabeth were able to extract themselves from the rest of the crowd and head for the parking garage where Jason parked his SUV.

Once inside the car, Jason exhaled slowly and just sat for a moment before starting the engine.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth leaned back against the headrest, her eyes closed. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m glad the judge changed his mind and renewed the order. With any luck, six months from now, the trial will be over, and he’ll be sentenced.” She looked at Jason. “Carly and I didn’t talk long yesterday, but I got the impression Sonny is maybe less on board than you are.”

“He thinks letting Ric live makes him look weak,” Jason admitted. “But I made it clear to him — this is what you and Carly want. This is what you guys get. It’s not up to me and Sonny. This isn’t business, it’s personal and—” He hesitated. “He’s not doing well, Elizabeth. He thought the trial was today.”

“He’s still refusing to get help?”

“He came close after Carly was rescued, but…he’s been doing this for years. Crashing, getting well again, sliding towards the edge again—”

“Jason—”

“Carly and I—we’ve been good at keeping him together. We just…it’s hard right now—with Ric.”

Elizabeth bit her lip and stared out the windshield at the cement walls of the parking garage. “If letting Ric go to trial and live in prison is such an issue, if Carly changes her mind, then I—”

“No.” He shook his head. “You told me this is what you need. I’m not going to asking to you change your mind because of Sonny—”

“You’re not asking me, Jason. I’m offering. I know how scary it was for Sonny to hallucinate Lily, and I don’t want to create problems with him—”

“You’re not, Elizabeth—” He looked at her. “You told me that you hated when I put them first—”

“And you listened. That matters, Jason. But it’s important that I listen to you. So, let’s…it’s an option I’m willing to consider if Carly ends up changing her mind, okay?”

“Okay.” Jason switched on the engine. “Let’s get out of here.”

Brownstone: Front Steps

Lucky leaned against the car as he waited for Kelsey to stop scowling at her phone. “It’s good news,” he repeated. “The last thing PCPD or the DA’s office needs is Ric Lansing with the freedom to go near Elizabeth.”

“I know, I know—” Kelsey finally shoved her phone in her purse and climbed out of his car. He shut the door. “I guess I’m just—I’m nervous. This is a huge case, and Scott’s trying so hard to do the right thing. He offered them a deal to avoid testifying—”

“Yeah.” Lucky rolled his shoulders. “Yeah, well he probably feels guilty for railroading my mom—” When she shot him a dirty look, he held up his hand in surrender. “Okay. Fine. I appreciate that Baldwin has approached Elizabeth’s case with this much care, and I know my aunt is relatively happy with him.”

“Yeah.” Kelsey blew out a breath. “Your aunt.” She looked at the Brownstone. “Are you sure we need to go to dinner tonight? I mean, it’s been a long day. I’m sure your aunt is tired—”

Lucky put his arm around her shoulders and propelled towards the stairs. “Hey, are you and I serious about doing this? You still want to date me?”

“Yes.” Kelsey wrinkled her nose, looked at him. “Yes. But if I have to meet your family, you have to meet mine. My mother is coming up to see me next month, and I want you to come to dinner with us.” She stopped him before he could open the front door. “And Scott.”

“Oh, man—” Lucky grimaced. “Kelsey—”

“You don’t have to like him,” she told him. “But I think we’ve moved past the part where we declare a neutral zone, you know? He’s my boss, and he’s someone that—” She bit her lip. “He’s a connection to my father. And I miss my dad, so sometimes, I can still feel close to him because my dad really loved Scott.”

“Okay.” He kissed her forehead. “Okay. Now, c’mon, I want you to meet my Aunt Bobbie. She’s been the rock of the Spencer family for most of my life, and she’s important to me.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry in advance about my sister, though. There’s no explaining her.”

Kelsey laughed as he opened the door and gestured for her to go inside.

Brooklyn, New York

 Cerullo Home: Front Porch

 When Ned stepped out the front door, he found Lois sitting in a patio chair on the cramped porch of her family’s home. With a glass of wine in her hand, his ex-wife sat in stony silence, oblivious to the sound of conversation coming from inside.

“I wondered how long you’d last,” Lois said sourly as Ned leaned against the porch post and looked out over the streets of Bensonhurst. “Ma never really liked you after we got divorced.”

“Well, she never really believed I was good enough for you.” Ned sipped his water. “Thank you. For letting my family come.”

“Yeah, well, that was Ma and Liv’s idea. Me? I don’t want to think about Port Charles again. You and me never have to talk again.”

Ned exhaled slowly and gently sat at the top of the stairs, his back to Lois. “Fair enough. I loved you. Part of me always will. I wanted to believe I could be the man that you thought I was. Eddie Maine. The good guy who did good things for the right reasons. I wanted that life. I wanted it with you.”

“You chose not to have it with me. Don’t give me none of that bull about what’s in your blood and how you’ll never be different—”

“It’s easy to blame my family,” Ned said, cutting in almost as if Lois hadn’t spoken. “Easier to think I couldn’t escape being Edward Ashton, but you’re right. I chose to lie to you about who I was. Chose to bring you to Port Charles. Chose to break promises to you, to put my family over you. I did all of that. And I knew even as I was doing it, I was hurting you. I was arrogant. I thought you’d stay with me. You’d already forgiven me for so much, I just assumed your generosity was a bottomless well I could never drain.”

Lois sat beside him and sighed. “Yeah, well, I was sure the man I loved was buried somewhere deep inside of you. That if I could just hold on tight, show you how much I loved the good in you, you could be that man all the time.”

“Lois—”

“The thing that maybe I didn’t want to see is that it was wrong to want you to change. I mean, I knew you were the kind of guy who not only would lie about his entire identity, but also marry someone else, have an affair…” She grimaced. “Anyway—”

“I was a terrible husband and an even worse father,” Ned continued. “And I don’t blame you for not wanting to have anything to do with me again.”

“It’s—you weren’t a terrible husband and father,” Lois said after a long moment. “It’s easy to blame you,” she continued, echoing his earlier statement. “Because then I don’t have to remember I was fed up with her before I sent her away. I cut her off from NYU. I sent her far from her friends and family. And I was on board with you keeping away the car and the phone. We made those decisions together, Ned.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “Looking at you, thinking of you, it reminds me that we killed her, together. We took away her freedom, her choices, and we drove her into that park. And then when she needed us, we were angry with each other. We’re responsible for her death.”

“Maybe two percent of the responsibility is with us, Lois, but I’m gonna blame the animal who did this to her. Who made her hurt so badly, who took away her security and dignity. We punished her, Lois. Maybe too harshly. But—” Ned swallowed hard. “I’m not going to sue the city. It’s not enough. I don’t want them to just pay. I want to make sure it can’t happen to another family.”

“You mean, you want to clean up the streets of Port Charles?” Lois snorted. “I’ve heard this before. I don’t think it’s possible.”

“Maybe not,” he admitted. “But it’s time for someone to do something. Floyd put all those girls in danger for his political career. You think this is the first time he leaned on Mac to do something like this? You think this is the first cover-up?”

Lois hesitated, then sipped her wine. “Probably not. Ned—”

“I tried to find someone else. I don’t—if I run for mayor, Lois, Brooke’s case doesn’t go away. It stays on the front page. But I don’t want it—” He shook his head. “I’m not using her to get power. And people might come talk to you. If you tell me you can’t handle this, I’ll keep trying to find someone else. I have six more days before the deadline to register for the election.”

She was quiet for a long moment as the sunlight dipped below the horizon at the end of the street. The streetlights flickered on as he waited.

“Losing my little girl was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but maybe I could live with it better if it’d been a car accident.” She finished her wine. “But the city knew the park was being stalked and didn’t even increase police presence. Floyd and anyone who went along with it—they threw our little girl away. Like she didn’t matter. And she’s not the only one. I didn’t do right by Brooke, Ned. Neither of us did. But maybe…maybe if we get someone in there who wouldn’t use it for his power—”

“Ten years ago,” she murmured. “Ten years ago, I probably would have thought you’d be the worst candidate for mayor. You were blackmailing Justus, covering up the accident, but you know…you did all of that to protect your family. Because you protect what’s yours.” She looked at him, met his eyes. “You end up as mayor, Ned, they’re all yours. Every single person. Protect them. Protect them better than we did our girl.”

He exhaled slowly, closed his eyes. “I wouldn’t have done it without your blessing, Lois.”

“Yeah, well, it’s gonna take some time before I can be in the same room with you, and that’s not because I hate you.” They got to their feet and Lois reached out to adjust his tie, smiling up at him almost like she’d done once upon a time. “She had your eyes. The way she carried herself sometimes and smiled at me—I can’t look at you and not see her. Right now…it’s too much.”

She leaned up and brushed a kiss against his lips. “But I’ll always love you and the perfect angel we created together.”

“I’ll always love you, too,” he murmured, kissing her again, remembering what he’d once discarded and taken for granted.

She stepped back and smirked at him, that gorgeous knowing look in her eyes that had always drawn him to her— “I better get back inside to Ma and the others. I’m…I’m glad you came.”

“Me, too.”

September 19, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter 34

Late again with this update post, even though the chapter went up at 7 AM. Apologies — I was trying to get to work before 7 and almost made it. But then my Wawa coffee cup somehow….imploded in my hand as I was walking towards my classroom. I had to get the floor cleaned up and get new copies of my HR’s class voting forms. (Because of course, why not). I really hope that’s not a sign of how the day is going to go, but since I still have to see my ninth period students, it probably is.

 

This entry is part 15 of 23 in the series All of Me

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting
I’m through with doubt
There’s nothing left for me to figure out
I’ve paid a price, and I’ll keep paying
Not Ready to Make Nice, Dixie Chicks


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

Elizabeth flashed Carly a hesitant smile as she stepped into the lobby of Scott’s office and found the pregnant blonde occupying one of the other seats. Scott’s secretary told them both it would be a minute, then stepped out into the hallway.

“Do you know why Scott called us?” Elizabeth asked as she sat next to Carly. “He wouldn’t say over the phone.”

Carly grimaced, shifted in her seat. “No. Just that it was about the case. I thought maybe he wanted to go over my statement…but now that you’re here…” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s more serious than that.”

God, she hoped nothing had gone wrong with the case. Elizabeth closed her eyes and leaned back against the seat. Her protection hearing was at the end of the week and she wasn’t convinced that the same judge that had let Ric within five feet of her medical care after the embolism would renew the protection order, much less make it permanent.

If the case went south and her protection order expired…

“Hey, sorry to make you guys wait.” Scott gestured for them to go into his office, even helping Carly get to her feet. “How are you feeling today?”

“Just tired,” Carly admitted warily as she lowered herself into a seat at Scott’s conference table. Elizabeth took the seat next to her as Scott closed the door. “What’s up? Did something go wrong with the case?”

“No. It’s moving slow, but it’s moving. We have a preliminary trial date set for November, but I might push that out or Lansing might ask to move it up. We should know in a few weeks for sure.” Scott sat across from them. “I’ve been going over the medical records and your initial statements, and well, last week it occurred it me exactly what it means for Lansing to represent himself.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Wait, would he be the one cross-examining us?”

How is that allowed? Letting the defendant near the victims?” Carly demanded. “Why wouldn’t the judge make him have someone else do it—”

“If Lansing weren’t an attorney, the judge would have assigned one to his case to advise him. I might have been able to petition for the other guy to do the questioning, but…” Scott shrugged. “I can’t take this to trial without putting you both on the stand, and you needed to know what that meant.”

Elizabeth looked at Carly, alarmed at her pasty complexion. “Carly, are you—”

“I feel sick,” she muttered, pressing her hand to her abdomen. “You mean he gets to stand in front of me and call me a liar about what he did? He gets to accuse Liz to her face, saying that it was her idea?”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “I haven’t even seen him since he was arrested the first time.” After he’d thrown her around their living room and tried to attack her over that Sun article. “But I didn’t—that means he’s probably representing himself in family court. Didn’t he have a lawyer at that first hearing? Jason said—”

“He fired him. I don’t know what Lansing is thinking, but yeah, I think maybe he is going to be do the presentation on Friday. Which means he’ll be cross-examining you about the assault and—” Scott sighed. “That’s why I asked you both to come in. We got a strong case. And Taggert took this case seriously. Even when your kidnapping veered away from Lansing, Carly, he did everything right, paperwork wise. There’s no technicalities. No corners cut.  With the two of you testifying, along with the medical evidence of your overdose and embolism, Elizabeth, I’m gonna put him away for the rest of his natural life.”

“Okay…” Carly tipped her head. “Are you just trying to reassure us?”

“The thing is…reading the statements, looking at the evidence…the two of you have been through hell. And it was bad enough when it was me and some other guy making you relive it. But I don’t know if I feel comfortable asking you to do it when Lansing is the other guy. He’s looking at twenty-five to life on two charges—the kidnapping and the attempted murder. Another ten on the assault earlier that day, Elizabeth. If he were found guilty of all three and sentenced consecutively, that’s sixty years before he gets to think about parole. But if he were to plead guilty—if we avoided a trial—”

Elizabeth blinked, looked at Carly whose eyes were wide. “But this is good publicity for you, Scott. I know how hard you’ve worked for us. I mean, you got those contempt charges when it looked like the judge might let Ric win my power of attorney—”

“Yeah, I mean, don’t you take a hit if you plead it down?” Carly asked. Her color had returned.

“Maybe,” Scott admitted. “If we go that route, I mean, it’d be nice if you two would release a statement saying we decided it together, but I just—” He shook his head. “The PCPD has done enough damage here, and my office wasn’t much better. We knew who kidnapped you that first night, Carly. We knew he was probably drugging you, Elizabeth. And we didn’t do enough. I can’t ask either of you to put your lives on hold for six more months, at best, and then let that scumbag torture you on the stand.”

“What would you offer him?” Elizabeth asked softly. “Not that—I just want to know. Because I really like the idea of him rotting away in prison.”

“Yeah, in a small cell with other people bringing him food and never seeing the light of day,” Carly muttered. “If we could swing solitary confinement, that’d be great—”

“Well, I’d open with twenty-five to life on the kidnapping and ten for assault. Basically, cut that sixty years almost in half, and see where the negotiations go from there.”

“You would drop the attempted murder charge,” Elizabeth murmured. She rubbed her chest, still remembering the pain and pressure before the embolism. “What about the overdose?”

“We have a little less evidence there without the overall murder charge.” Scott grimaced. “I don’t love it, but it’s a place to open the bargaining.”

“What’s the bottom line, then?” Carly raised her brows. “What’s the least you’d take before you walked away? If I’m giving up the idea of putting him away for sixty years, then I wanna know what we might expect—”

“I’d probably drop the negotiations if we got less than fifteen to life. I think fifteen is rock bottom, and he knows it. He’d probably accept it.”

“Fifteen years,” Elizabeth murmured. He’d be gone, out of their lives for fifteen years. Long enough to forget him, maybe. “I don’t know.”

“You know what? Let’s revisit this after the hearing on Friday.” Carly looked at Elizabeth. “I might have to testify. Your lawyer asked me to, and it’ll be…it’ll be a test run.” She looked back at Scott. “I get what you’re trying to do, Scott. And I appreciate it. Is there any other reason you might not want to go to trial? Is it just us?”

Scott pressed his lips together. “I think your mother might have told you that Lansing has subpoenaed your medical records and Elizabeth’s. Once he saw the referrals to therapists, he also asked for Kevin and Gail’s records—”

“Wait, what?” Carly demanded, leaning forward as Elizabeth’s stomach pitched. “He can’t have those—”

“I’m asking for the judge to appoint a special master to make that distinction, but…anything that goes to credibility…the thing is, Carly…”

“It wasn’t just my records he asked for,” Carly muttered, pressing a hand to her face. “Well, we’re in luck—Sonny’s never talked to a—” She scowled. “Scott, don’t tell me you’re turning over my mother’s statement—”

“She hasn’t officially made one. I’m dancing on an ethical line there because I know she’s got information that I haven’t asked for. But the last thing I want to do is piss Bobbie off or make this worse. I’m filing an injunction—Sonny was tangential at best to your rescue. The ultimate information came from the security footage and the real estate agent. The fact that Sonny called Jason isn’t important. I can call anyone else who watched that video.”

“But a deal would keep all of that off the table,” Elizabeth said slowly. She sighed. “Carly’s right. I think we should revisit this after the hearing.”

A hearing where it would be Ric questioning her instead of some random lawyer. God help them all.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Taggert stormed into Mac’s office and threw a file down on his desk. With some trepidation, Mac looked down and saw the name Webber, Elizabeth scrawled on the tab, along with a notation that the case had been closed.

“You know where that was?” Taggert demanded. “You wanna know where the rookies found this?”  He leaned over Mac’s desk, planting his hands on the edge. “Not in cold storage. In the closed archives.”

“Taggert—”

“Falconieri and Rodriguez thought it was a mistake—you know, there was a confession, maybe the cop who put away just got it wrong. I could tell Spencer didn’t buy it, and you know why? Because he knows I’m the one that put that case on the inactive list.” Taggert bared his teeth as he growled. “Because I personally walked that fucking box down to cold storage myself and put it on a shelf. What the hell happened to her case, Mac?”

Mac slowly got to his feet. “It must have been a mistake,” he said, but his voice sounded weak even to his own ears. “Taggert—”

“The dress you told me you sent to testing? It’s still in the fucking box. It wasn’t supposed to be in there. It wasn’t when I walked that box down there. It was in in the evidence locker, and what’s worse—it hasn’t been touched since we checked it into evidence in March of 1998. You falsified a lab report.” Taggert shook his head. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on, but—”

“I’ll look into it—”

“Spencer gave you a report with her case listed as one that should be reopened and pulled. And you edited that report before it went to the DA—you took the Webber case off the list—What the hell—”

“Her case has another suspect—it would be harder to link it—” Mac shook his head. “I was going to talk to you about it today. As for why it wasn’t in cold storage, I don’t know. I’ll look into it,” he repeated.

“Don’t bother.” Taggert grabbed the file back from Mac’s desk. “From now on, only my team comes near these cases. And I’m reopening the Webber case.” He arched a brow at his boss. “Anything you want to tell me before I dig deeper? Because if Baker isn’t the guy, and we could have known that five years ago—”

“Taggert—”

“Do you know how close we are to running out time on the statute because you didn’t process her fucking kit?” Taggert snarled. “We got five years from the date she turns eighteen. We got until November 1 this year to get, at least, a DNA profile. And the only reason we got a break is the poor kid was sixteen when the whole thing happened. If she’d been an adult, we’d be out of luck.” He shook his head. “This is bullshit.”

He stormed back out the way he’d come, and Mac sat down at his desk, staring blindly at the blotter in front of him. God help him, he’d really thought Tom Baker had raped Elizabeth Webber. He hadn’t thought they’d get any DNA running her dress since it had been turned over to the hospital several days after her rape—so he’d gone along with Floyd, thinking that it might be their best bet to make sure Baker did time for something.

But if Baker had been innocent of the rape—

If Elizabeth’s rapist had continued his rampage and raped six more girls—including Brooke Lynn—

How was Mac ever going to live with himself?

Harborview Towers: Lobby

Elizabeth kept her expression carefully blank as her elevator was boarded just before the doors closed. Courtney Matthews hesitated before crossing the threshold but eventually stepped into the elevator and then stood in the opposite corner.

She looked at the button lit up on the panel, then stared straight ahead as the doors closed and the car began its ascent. “I didn’t think Jason was staying here these days. Didn’t he take a room at Jake’s?”

Elizabeth bit her lip before answering. “He did, but he had a meeting he couldn’t take at the warehouse.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. What to say to the woman that had once been engaged to your boyfriend? Especially the woman who had been…basically jilted at the altar even though the ceremony had actually been canceled because of Carly’s kidnapping, not because Jason had left Courtney for Elizabeth.

The elevator climbed slowly to the penthouse level as Elizabeth dug her fingers tightly into the strap of her purse.

“I can’t stop being angry at you,” Courtney finally said as the elevator reached the eighth floor. “I know you weren’t having an affair before Jason broke the engagement, but I still can’t seem to make myself any less angry or not hate you. Because if you’d just…” She shook her head with a rueful laugh. “If you hadn’t believed him, if you hadn’t helped to find Carly—God, maybe he wouldn’t have been so angry with me.”

“Courtney—”

“But no. You had to go and prove how much more well-suited you are for his life than I am. I loved him, Elizabeth. That wasn’t a lie.”

“I didn’t think it was—”

“And I was humiliated when he left me. When those tabloids said he was at your house every day—you were calling him, checking in, and damn you, he looked forward to those calls—” Her voice broke as the elevator opened on their floor.

Courtney stepped off, started for Sonny and Carly’s penthouse but then whirled around to face her. “He never loved me. I get it now, but you know what should worry you, Elizabeth? How easy it was for him to lie about it. He lied to me, he lied to you, but he lied to himself—” She shook her head. “It should worry you that he could stop giving a damn about me like he flipped a switch in his head. Maybe the doctors were right—maybe he really is damaged—”

“Stop—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You’re hurt. And none of us look great in this situation. Yes, Jason and I are together now. And yes, we’ve been together almost since you two broke up. But you were my friend and you went after him—”

“He sure didn’t run away,” Courtney snapped. “I went after him, but he didn’t seem to mind it.” She smirked. “We were sleeping together by Christmas. Did you know that?”

“Did you know he and I nearly got back together that November?” Elizabeth said softly, not even a little threatened by Courtney’s revelation. After all, hadn’t she run away from Jason? Run to Lucky? Run to Zander, to Ric?

Wasn’t Jason allowed to be lonely?

Courtney pressed her lips together.  “So, what—I was nothing more than a rebound—”

“That’s not for me to answer, Courtney. Jason and I had our problems, and we both ran from them. We’re really good at running, and we’ve been doing it for years. I’m sorry you were hurt. I know Jason cared about you—”

Courtney threw up her hands as if to ward off Elizabeth’s empathy. “Don’t bother trying to make yourself look good. He was engaged to me and that didn’t seem to bother you at all.”

“And he had broken up with you before anything happened. You know that Courtney. You know he broke up with you before you took Michael to the island. Before I got sick. And yeah, he broke up with you in part because of me, but it was because of you, too. I believed Ric had kidnapped Carly, and I believed he was drugging me. I let Jason search my home. I let him install cameras and surveillance. You called the cops who searched his home.”

“I called the cops because of Carly—”

“And that’s why Jason broke up with you. Because you don’t want to live in a world where your best friend gets kidnapped and you can’t call the police as a first choice—”

“I just—” Courtney’s voice broke. “I just thought if Jason could call the cops last year, why couldn’t I? Why was it okay for him to work with Taggert for you and not Carly?”

Elizabeth sighed. “Courtney—”

“Just save it. You’ve got all the answers, don’t you? You and Jason are this great, epic love story and people like me are just the obstacles on the road to your true love,” she spat out. “Lucky, me, Zander—we’re just roadkill.”

She spun around and slammed the penthouse door. Belatedly, Elizabeth realized that in the tiny hallway outside of the Corinthos penthouse, stood poor Max Giambetti, Sonny’s guard when the penthouse was occupied.

“Miss Webber,” Max said blandly. He carefully kept his eyes forward. “Nice to see you looking so well.”

“Nice to see you, too,” Elizabeth muttered before walking over to Jason’s penthouse.  She knocked lightly, hoping she wasn’t interrupting his meeting.

Jason pulled open the door and she bit her lip, finding Bernie, their business manager, sitting on the sofa. “Oh, hey, I thought you’d be done by now—”

“We’re just talking about regular business now,” he told her, catching her elbow as Elizabeth turned to leave. “And we’re almost done.” He kissed her, his hand sliding from her elbow to her wrist. “Your pulse is racing,” he said, drawing back, his brow furrowed. “Are you okay?”

She very nearly rolled her eyes, but she accepted that it was going to take longer than three weeks for Jason to stop monitoring every little change in her health. “Yeah. It’s just been a long morning. I’m sorry to interrupt—”

“I’ll just leave these contracts here for you,” Bernie said as he slid the last of his paperwork into his briefcase. “We really were done, Miss Webber.” He got to his feet. “It’s good to see you on your feet again.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

When he’d left, Elizabeth sighed and dropped her purse on Jason’s desk. “Now I know why you never come here anymore. I ran into Courtney on the elevator.”

“I just thought it would be better if I gave her some space until she figures out what to do about…” Jason shrugged, sitting on the arm of his sofa. “I mean, your condo is good, and the security upgrade is okay but—”

“It’s not quite the bulletproof fortress this place is,” Elizabeth finished. She wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned in to kiss him again. “It’s okay. It’s awkward, and she has every right to be angry at us both. I mean, at least you didn’t actually marry a sociopath who tried to kill you.”

Jason grimaced and drew her in more closely against him. “I hate that I hurt her, but if I had gone through with it just because I didn’t want to be a bad guy or because she’s Sonny’s sister, it would have been worse.”

“She did say something interesting that I wanted to ask you about,” Elizabeth said, tilting her head to the side, her fingers playing the hair at nape of his neck. “She said she thought it would be okay to call the police because you’d worked with Taggert for me.”

Jason frowned. “Yeah. I told you about it in the hospital, remember?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth smiled at him. “But we were talking about something else and I never really thought about it after that. I just…I wish I had known, that’s all.”

“Why?”

“Jason, half the problems we had last summer was because neither one of us was being all that up front about how we felt. If I knew you’d cooperated with the police—Taggert specifically—to find me, let me tell you, I wouldn’t have had any doubts in my mind about how you felt.”

“I was desperate,” Jason admitted. “Courtney probably knows because of AJ. I went to the Quartermaines—Edward blackmailed me into dinner—”

“Cooperation with Taggert and dinner at the Quartermaines?” Elizabeth smirked. “That’s a declaration of love right there. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It didn’t seem important,” he said with a shrug. “We found you. You were alive.” And that was true—Jason wasn’t the kind of guy to broadcast anything that might put him in the position of being a hero. He’d done what he’d done to find her, and once he had, he probably hadn’t thought about it again. “Does it really matter?”

“No, but it’s nice to know.” She pressed her lips together. “That’s a lie. Yeah, it matters. Because I was a mess last summer. I thought we were going somewhere, but you kept leaving for Sonny and Carly, and then not making a move—I thought I was imagining things and I made…choices based on that. But knowing what you went through to find me—I wasn’t imagining any of it.”

“I wish I could have handled everything better. Been more honest with you.” He sighed. “But I guess I wasn’t ready to do that yet.”

“Yeah. Well, it’s not your fault I have this thing about people who stay…” She shook her head. “Anyway. I came over to tell you about my meeting with Scott.”

Jason frowned at the change in topic, but he allowed it. He straightened, and she stepped back. “What happened at the meeting? I found out after you left that Carly got called there, too.”

“Yeah, he wanted to talk to us about the case.” Elizabeth dropped onto the sofa with a huff. “Ric is going to be representing himself at the trial—and probably at the hearing on Friday.”

Jason scowled, taking a seat next to her, turning to face her slightly. “What does that mean? Why does that change the case?”

“It doesn’t, but Scott wanted to make sure Carly and I understood that a trial where Ric is his own attorney means he’ll be questioning us.”

“What? Can’t he stop that—”

“Not really. Which also means he’ll be questioning us on Friday. Scott…isn’t sure he wants to put us through that. He said the case is rock solid, but…” Elizabeth shrugged and picked at a loose thread on her jeans. “It doesn’t mean it won’t suck. Particularly since Ric subpoenaed records from Kevin and Gail. Scott’s trying to keep that access limited, but—” She looked at Jason with some trepidation. “Ric also subpoenaed Sonny’s medical records.”

Jason winced. “Well, there’s nothing to find in the records, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things Ric could do.” He hesitated. “Are you okay…with testifying?”

“Well, that’s the thing. Scott offered—he thinks if he drops the attempted murder charges, he could get Ric to plead to just the kidnapping.”

“But that’s almost your entire case,” Jason told her. “And isn’t the kidnapping only twenty-five years? That’s cutting it in half—Damn Baldwin—”

“The whole point of a plea deal is to make it attractive enough for Ric to take it. My case isn’t as solid on its own, and there’s still a chance Ric could ask for a severance. And then it’s just my medical records and Carly. Which means—”

“You’d have to testify a third time—” Jason shook his head. “So, Baldwin wants to plead it out—”

“He could probably get life without parole in a trial, Jason. Carly’s case is really strong. If it went to trial—Ric would get put away for probably the rest of his life. Baldwin isn’t asking because of the strength of the case. I honestly think he wants to spare us.”

“He’s close to Bobbie,” Jason admitted. “He never did go after us for search warrants on the warehouse—And he got himself charged with contempt over your case.” He hesitated. “Is that what you want? To avoid testifying?”

“Well, Diane isn’t really that hopeful that we’ll get the protection order renewed on Friday,” Elizabeth admitted. “I talked to her after the meeting with Scott. She thinks Ric is going to go after you. And since the judge is the same guy who gave Ric that injunction—”

“He’ll paint himself as the wronged husband with an adulterous wife who is now public with the guy from the papers.” Jason exhaled slowly. “What about Carly?”

“She said she’d testify, but honestly, Jason, I don’t know if I want to go through with testifying at the hearing at all. Ric is in Crimson Point. Carly and I are surrounded by guards. If I testify at that hearing, it’s going to be about you and me, not what Ric did to me.”

He put an arm around her and drew her in closer. “What do you want to do about the trial?”

“Diane said Ric won’t be able to use you against me the same way. Not with Carly’s case at the same time. And all of the medical experts and witnesses can testify—” She hesitated. “We’ll go to the hearing, but I’m not going to push the order hard. I want to testify at the trial, though. I want to go to trial. I mean, if Carly doesn’t want to, that’s okay with me. And we can handle it that way, but…” She took his other hand and laced their fingers together. “I know…we don’t really talk much about what’s going to happen to Ric after he’s sentenced. I mean, once he’s in jail.”

“Elizabeth—”

“But Carly and I were talking about how long he’d be in jail, and I realized…I want him to rot in prison. I want him to be locked away, in a cell.” She looked up at him, meeting his eyes. “I get there may be reasons I can’t…that it can’t happen that way, but if there’s a way that it can…”

He was quiet for a long moment, but then nodded. “If that’s what you need—if that’s what Carly needs, then that’s what will happen.”

“Are you sure? Because—”

“This time, I’m listening to you,” he cut in. “And if this is something you need to get past this, that’s what matters to me. How I feel about him? Not gonna change if he’s dead.” He winced, as if the blunt statement had gone too far. “Anyway—”

“Thank you,” she said. She turned slightly to slid her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Thank you.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny waited until after dinner had been cleaned up and they’d put Michael down to bed that night before asking Carly about her meeting. She had remained at the dinner table, going over some paperwork from the club and didn’t notice at first when he’d come down from tucking Michael in.

He pulled out the chair across from her, sat in it, but didn’t pull himself to the table, angling the chair slightly out towards the rest of the room. “Are you ready to tell me what happened in the meeting today?”

Carly looked up at him, sighed, and put down her paperwork. She didn’t say anything.

“You didn’t say anything when you got home,” Sonny continued. “What happened? It can’t be that bad, Carly. If they’d dropped the charges or anything else ridiculous, I’d know. It’d be all over the news.”

She sighed. “No, it’s not bad news. I just…I knew it would be an argument, Sonny. And I just…” Her brown eyes, so often lit with humor or mischief, were dull now. Fatigued.

“He called me…and asked Elizabeth to come in as well to…ask us how we wanted this to happen.” She grimaced. “The trial, I mean.”

Sonny tilted his head. “What do you mean? You’ll testify, Ric will go to jail.” Where he would meet with a very much deserved accident.

“Yeah, well, Scott is taking into consideration that Ric is defending himself. Which means when I testify, when Elizabeth testifies…it’s him we face. Not some lawyer I don’t know. But the man who actually…” She looked away.

Rage, always simmering beneath the surface, boiled over, but Sonny kept his face calm. His voice even. “I hadn’t…I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

“I guess we hadn’t either. As bad as it will be for me, I didn’t…I didn’t spend time with Ric the way Elizabeth did,” Carly admitted. “He doesn’t know the buttons to push. He didn’t spend all those months manipulating me. He’s going to get into that courtroom and he’s going to blame it on the miscarriage, and God, Sonny, I’ve lost a child. All I can think about is her on the stand having to deal with that, and I get sick to my stomach. I don’t want to face him. I don’t want to look at him. And I don’t want Elizabeth to do it either.”

“And Baldwin is going to force you do it?” Sonny demanded. “Can’t he just find a way to do this without you?”

“He has,” Carly said. “That’s why he called us in. Ric also subpoenaed our therapist’s records.” Her eyes shifted away for a moment before returning to him.  “He suggested maybe he could plead Ric out. Avoid a trial.”

A deal would be good. Faster. Sonny could arrange for that accident by the end of the year. “Why would you think this would be an argument?”

“Because I can practically see what you’re thinking right now. A deal gets this over faster, and Ric can die in prison.”

Sonny shrugged slightly. “That’s the plan, isn’t? Trial or now. He doesn’t get to live, Carly. Kidnapping you. Locking you in the room. Nearly killing Elizabeth. We’re done with him—” He stopped. “Exactly what is it that you think is supposed to happen?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t want to think about it. But now…we asked Scott for time. To get through the hearing on Friday…but…” Carly met his eyes. “I think I have to testify, Sonny. I have to get on the stand and face him. I don’t think I’m going to get past this unless I do.”

“Okay, I can see that. I don’t like it, but I can see it. And if I know Elizabeth at all, I figure she’ll probably come to the same conclusion. Or I hope so. I think you’re right. I think it’ll be good for both of you to face that bastard. Put him behind you.” Sonny frowned. “What are we arguing about then—” He stopped. “No.”

“I also want him to rot in prison,” Carly murmured. “So that I can go see him once in a while. See him in that ugly prison clothing. Without his manicures. Without his fancy clothing. I want to see him broken. And I want to see it repeatedly. He wanted me to live in that box until I had my baby, and then he was going to kill me. I want him to live every day in a small box until he goes mad, and I want him to always remember who put him there. I want him to rot away slowly, Sonny.” She paused. “I don’t want you to do anything.”

The image she painted was seductive and he was nearly swayed. But every moment Ric was alive was a moment that son of bitch hadn’t earned. He’d signed his death warrant and leaving him alive at this point would be a sign of weakness Sonny simply couldn’t afford.

“I get why you want that,” he said slowly. “But I can’t do it. He needs to die, Carly. And I need to be the one to do it.”

“Sonny—”

“Look, this happened to you. And it happened to Elizabeth. Don’t think Jason and I don’t know that. That we don’t grieve for all we could have done to stop it. To keep you from hurting, but I promise you he wants Ric’s blood as much as I do.”

“Sonny—”

“No, no. This happened to you. And it should be about you,” Sonny agreed. “And I get that. But, damn it, Carly, I went through it, too.” And now his voice cracked. He looked away. “Not knowing if you were still alive—I—I fell apart, Carly. I know that, and this—this is how I can make it right. Jason, Bobbie, and Elizabeth ran themselves ragged trying to find you, tearing that house apart—”

While he had babbled like an idiot, hallucinating back here in the penthouse, wallowing in own self-pity. No—this was his chance to finally do something right. Something he should have done months ago when Ric had showed his true colors. He’d let the bastard live to torture his family.

He pushed away from the table, stood. “This happened to you, and it happened to Elizabeth. But we went through it, too. Testify. Face the demons. We can talk about how long I’ll wait. A year, two. You can visit him, see him begin to rot. But that’s all I can give you.”

Carly exhaled slowly. Also stood. “I would never pretend that you and Jason, that my mother and Courtney—that there wasn’t suffering. Worry. Terror. I get that. But you were all bystanders. Collateral damage.”

She picked up her purse, looped the strap over her shoulder and edged around the table, away from Sonny. Toward the door.

“I don’t know what Elizabeth wants to do,” Carly said. “And that’s something she and I will decide, but you know what? She and I will decide, and I can promise you, Sonny, that when Elizabeth tells Jason how she wants to handle it, he’ll listen to her. That’s how much he loves her. I just wish I could say the same.”

“Damn it, Carly—”

“I’m going to talk to my mother. We’ll—” Carly stopped at the door. “You’re angry now,” she said gently. “And the thought of letting Ric rot in prison probably never crossed your mind. So, we’ll talk about this later.”

“Wait—”

But she had already slipped out the door, and to be quite honest, Sonny wasn’t sure what he would have said if she’d turned back.

September 16, 2019

This entry is part 14 of 23 in the series All of Me

I guess it’s gonna break me down
Like fallin’ when I’m try to fly
It’s sad but sometimes
Moving on with the rest of your life
Starts with goodbye
Starts With Goodbye, Carrie Underwood


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Condo: Bedroom

Elizabeth gasped for air as she could faintly hear Jason shouting her name. Her fingers fumbled as she tried to fit the oxygen mask over her face. His hands brushed hers aside as he fitted the mask, then switched on her tank. It didn’t work. She couldn’t draw in a full breath. The pressure in her chest grew like someone was squeezing her lungs with their fist—

What had Monica said? Tears stung at her eyes as she tried to pull air in through the mask. She couldn’t remember. Spots swam in front of her eyes.

Jason had flung himself out of bed and was kneeling in front of her. He was saying something, but she couldn’t make it out—

“Look at me,” Jason said, his voice rough, panicked. “Hey. C’mon—” He swore as her breathing remained shallow and rapid. He crossed the room and dug his phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling 911—”

“No—” she gasped. “No. Not again—” Some of the pressure finally started to ease and she was able to take a full breath for the first time.

She pressed a fist to her chest, a sob of relief escaping her lips and causing her mask to fog up. She took another full breath. Then a third.

When she felt like she had it under control, she lifted the mask from her face. “I’m okay.” But she felt exhausted, pressed her hands to her face. “I’m sorry.”

A lamp next to her bed switched on, then Jason handed her a robe that had been hanging from the back of her door. He pulled on his briefs and sat next to her. “You had an oxygen tank,” he said flatly. “Why? I thought Monica gave you the all clear at your last follow up—”

Feeling weary, Elizabeth sighed and stood. She swayed slightly but righted herself.  “I need something to drink,” she murmured. She brushed off his hands as he tried to keep her seated. “I need to move, Jason. Monica said moving would help—”

“Elizabeth—”

But he said nothing else, just followed her out of the bedroom into her small kitchen and waited as she poured herself a glass of water and sipped it, feeling the cool liquid soothe her sore throat. “I’m sorry,” she repeated as she turned to look at him. There were no lights on in the main part of the apartment, just the moonlight filtering in through the window above her sink.

Jason leaned against the opposite counter, his face hidden by the shadows. “Did Monica give you the all clear or not?” he asked.

“She did,” Elizabeth said, defensively. She tugged her robe more tightly closed, holding the two sides together with a fist at her throat. “Mostly.”

He closed his eyes, shook his head. “You lied to me.”

“I didn’t—” Not really. She just… “Monica told me I was clear for clots, that wasn’t a lie. And that I could resume normal activities…except…” She bit her lip. “She said that I would probably have issues with…stamina, I guess. I couldn’t walk far or—” She took a step towards him, but he didn’t move, so she stopped awkwardly. “She said I might find myself short of breath and that I had to be careful because it might lead to a panic attack or hyperventilating. That’s all that was—”

“That’s all that was,” he repeated. He leaned over and flipped on the light switch. The bright, unnatural light was harsh on her eyes and she squinted. She saw then that Jason wasn’t irritated—

He was furious. His blue eyes had that icy, almost gray flint hue they took on when he was really mad, his shoulders were tense, the muscles in his face twitching.

“Jason—”

“You were gasping for air. You couldn’t breathe.” He shook his head and went back into the bedroom. Worried now, she followed him and watched as he started to pull on his jeans. “Why didn’t you tell me what Monica said about breathing problems?”

“Because I don’t—” She tore his shirt from his hands before he could pull it over his head. “Because I can’t keep living my life worried all the damn time, Jason. I’m going to have issues for the rest of my life because of what Ric did to me—”

“You’ve been out of the hospital for two weeks, Elizabeth.” He stabbed a finger in her direction, then pulled his hand into a fist, letting it drop to his side. “Two weeks. You almost died—”

“And I’m tired of hearing that! I know I almost died—I was there. I couldn’t walk from my damn bed to the window without—” Elizabeth threw the shirt at him. “How long are you going to use that to keep me from doing anything? You want to lock me up, too?”

As soon as the words left her lips, she wanted to call them back. “I’m sorry,” she said almost immediately but it was too late. Jason pulled on his socks and sat on the edge of the bed to tug on his boots. “I didn’t mean that, Jason—”

“You think I’m using what happened to you as a weapon?” he demanded, looking at up at her. “That I’m trying to guilt you by reminding you—” He broke off, shook his head. “I knew you were sick. I could have forced you to see Monica. To get you help. But I wanted to find Carly. And you almost died. You—”

He stopped, took a deep breath. “You’d pressed that button, then collapsed. Your heart stopped beating right in front of me. You stopped breathing. And I just—you could have told me.”

“How could I tell you what Monica said when this is what happens every time I so much as yawn?” Elizabeth demanded, planting her hands on her hips. “I get what happened was awful, but I’m alive, and I’m here—”

His boots now on, Jason stood and found his phone where he’d tossed it after his aborted attempt to call 911. “I don’t want to argue with you,” he said.

“Because I might hyperventilate?” she all but snarled as she charged after him only to for her lungs to seize again as she stumbled, grabbing the kitchen counter to keep from sprawling on the ground. “Damn it,” she gasped, pressing a fist to her chest. “Damn it!”

Jason was back at her side, lowering her to the ground gently so she was resting with her back against the cabinets. He had his phone out again, but he didn’t call 911—he could hear him saying Monica’s name—

“It’s after midnight,” she tried to say, grasping weakly at his phone.

“Yeah. Okay, thanks. They’ll buzz you up downstairs. The door will be unlocked,” Jason said, ignoring her protests. He closed his phone and put it back in his pocket. “You either let her take a look at you or I’m calling an ambulance.”

Because she was too tired to argue, she just closed her eyes and let her head fall gently back against the wooden cabinet. Jason lifted her into his arms and carried her to the sofa before unlocking the door.

“I can’t live my life in fear,” she said softly, almost a murmur. “I can’t. I can’t keep letting it drive. I have to be in charge of my own life. And that means I can’t let your fears run my life, either.”

He said nothing as he sat on the end of the sofa, his head bowed. “Then don’t lie to me.”

“Jason—”

“If you had told me—”

“Monica never said I couldn’t have sex,” Elizabeth muttered, pressing a hand to her forehead. Everything hurt—why did everything have to feel like it was on fire?

“But she said to take it easy, didn’t she?” Jason challenged. He scrubbed his hands over his face. “You didn’t tell me about the oxygen tank. What else don’t I know?”

“I’m not allowed to have a single thought to myself?” she shot back. “Isn’t that the line you threw at me when you lied to me?” He threw her an exasperated look which only made her angrier. “I get it. You watched me die. Well, I’m the one who actually died. I’m the one who couldn’t breathe when I woke up. I’m the one that was drugged. This didn’t happen to you—”

“I watched you die,” he said slowly, his voice sounding calmer than she knew he felt. “I watched you gasp and struggle for air, and with what you thought was your dying breath, try to tell me you loved me.” He looked at her, his eyes red and damp with tears of his own. “And then tonight, I watched you gasp and struggle for air again. And I thought—I thought it was another embolism. I thought you were going to die again. In front of me. They told me in the hospital that if you’d had another one, that was it. No more miracles.”

Some of her irritation faded then. She hadn’t—of course it must have looked— “I’m sorry. I didn’t—I didn’t think of what it looked like—I mean—to you.”

“I don’t want you to live in fear, Elizabeth. To always worry about what might happen with your health, but at the same time—” he shook his head. “I’m not sure I can stop.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated.

Monica knocked on the door, then opened it, entering with a little black bag. Jason got to his feet and closed the door behind her. “I came as soon as I could—” She raised her brows at the two of them, both with red eyes, Elizabeth half-dressed, Jason fully clothed. “Jason said you had to use the tank?”

Elizabeth hesitated, then got to her feet. Jason steadied her with his hand under her elbow. “I’m sorry to drag you over here. I didn’t—I didn’t tell Jason I might need an oxygen mask.”

“Ah.” Monica studied her son for a long moment before looking back at Elizabeth. “Why don’t we go into your room and I’ll take your vitals. We’ll see if we have any reason to be worried.”

Leaving Jason behind in the living room, Elizabeth sat on the edge of her bed as Monica took her temperature, her blood pressure, and then checked her heart. “I told you I’m fine—”

“Your blood pressure is up, but that’s probably to be expected.” Monica pursed her lips. “You didn’t tell him what I said about possibly finding yourself short of breath and needing some back up?”

“No,” Elizabeth said on a sigh. “And he found out—well, he found out the hard way. He thought I was having another embolism. I didn’t—I didn’t—I guess I was hoping it wouldn’t happen like that, but—” she shrugged. “He’s angry at me.”

“It’s hard,” Monica said as she started to repack her instruments. “I’ve always found the hardest part of being in a relationship is the sharing. Alan and I are terrible at it. Ninety percent of our problems have been trying to solve our problems on our own.” She wrinkled her nose. “The other ten percent was all the affairs.”

“I get that Jason was upset because of what happened to me—”

“He blames himself, Elizabeth. Even if it’s not true, even if it’s not fair, Jason blames himself for letting it to get to the point that you almost died.” Monica picked up the bag. “And right or wrong, he probably sees what happened tonight as also being his fault. That’s something the accident didn’t change about him. Even as a small child, Jason always took the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

She sighed. “Monica—”

“I want you to spend some time resting,” Monica said, cutting her off. “Not bed rest but taking it easy. I know your hearing is at the end of the week and the memorial service—” She pressed her lips together. “After that, we’ll talk about some ways to get you back on track, physically.” She hesitated. “Elizabeth, you’re young. You were healthy before Ric got his hands on you, but a pulmonary embolism—the cardiac arrest that followed—that’s not something you bounce back from in two or three weeks. Not completely.”

“I know. Thank you for coming over so late.”

A few minutes after Monica left, Jason returned to the bedroom and sat next to her on the bed. She sighed. “I’m sorry. I just—I wanted to be normal. To feel like my old self.” She looked at him and was relieved to see most of the anger had left his eyes. “I just wanted to be with you.”

Jason put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stormed out—”

“I never meant to put you through that again—to make you think about the embolism—”

“You need to tell me when things affect your health. I can’t—” He tipped her head up to her look at her, his hand framing her jaw. “I can’t lose you.”

“I promise. Will you stay? Just—to sleep, I mean. Monica wants me to take it easy this week, at least until the hearing.”

“Yeah, I’ll stay.” He brushed his lips over her forehead, but she knew this probably wouldn’t be the last time they argued about her health or safety.

General Hospital: Kevin’s Office

Carly shifted in her seat, pressed her hand to her belly where the baby had decided to perform a somersault. “Like I said,” she told Kevin, “I feel like I’ve got my issues under control.”

“You know, just because this is our last scheduled session,” Kevin told her, “it doesn’t mean we can’t meet again if you need me.” He waited a long moment. “How are things with Sonny? You haven’t mentioned him today.”

“Things are…” she bit her lip and looked away, out the window. “I guess things are okay. I don’t know if you talk to my mother—”

“I haven’t spoken to Bobbie, no. You told me that Sonny had some problems while you were gone.” Kevin leaned forward at his desk, his elbows resting on the surface. “I was just wondering how that was affecting you. You’ve been trying to get back to normal, but—”

“Sonny’s struggling,” Carly admitted. “You know what happened to his first wife, Lily. Well, this brought it all back and he had a…” she paused. “Jason said it was a breakdown. That he was hallucinating and seeing Lily. That she was blaming him for what happened that night, for what happened to me. He hasn’t hallucinated since, but…sometimes he loses track of time.”

Kevin merely lifted a brow. “Loses track how?”

“Mama said Elizabeth told her she was talking with Sonny and he seemed to think it was last year. He remembered after a minute, but it’s not the first time…” She rubbed her belly again. “Sonny’s always had some issues, but Jason and I can usually handle it. It’s just been—we’re both exhausted right now. Jason’s worrying about Elizabeth, which is fine, I guess, since she almost died, and you know, I’ve got the boys—we haven’t been able to take care of him the way we used to. But we’re going to do better.”

“Okay,” Kevin drew out slowly. “Have you thought about—has he thought about—”

“Talking to someone? Mama tried, and I thought Sonny might actually do it, but he seems to think it’ll make him weak. He’s not the type to reach out for help, Dr. Collins.” Carly wrinkled her nose when the clock next to her turned to 11:50. “Thanks. I appreciate all the help you’ve given me.”

“Carly, don’t hesitate to reach out,” he said as she stood up. “I’m always here—”

“Thanks, but I’m not the one that needs the help.”

PCPD: Archives

 Lucky grimaced as he pulled the ninth and final box from the shelves and put it on the table for Cruz and Dante to open and go through. “This doesn’t make any sense,” he muttered as he took a seat and started to through their notes.

“We have two more cases in the park,” Cruz sighed, tossing his pencil to the table and leaning back in disgust. “Two more cases of a young brunette raped in the park near a fountain. April 1999 and January 2000. Why the hell didn’t Vinnie see this?”

Dante smiled humorlessly. “Now you get why he’s my least favorite cousin. He probably didn’t even remember these cases even though he was the responding officer—” He looked at Lucky who ignored them both and started to look back at the files again. “What’s wrong?’

“The nine cases we pulled—” Lucky started turning around the other boxes on the cold shelves, but none of them had the SA notation for sexual assault. “None of them were Elizabeth’s.”

“I thought you said they got the guy,” Cruz said as he joined Lucky in his search. “Wouldn’t her case be in the closed room?”

“They couldn’t make the case, and her rape kit came back negative for any DNA,” Lucky said as he went to the other side of the shelving unit to check those boxes. “It was ruled inactive—which is the same thing as cold. I don’t understand why it’s not here.”

“Well, it’s the PCPD,” Dante said, climbing to his feet. “What do you want to bet some idiot thought that the guy’s confession meant the case was solved? I bet it got put in closed storage by accident.”

“Maybe.” But that didn’t make sense to Lucky. He’d seen a few cases get moved into cold storage since he’d started at the department, and the investigating officers usually moved it themselves. And Taggert had been the primary at the time Elizabeth’s case was ruled inactive.

He wouldn’t have made that mistake.

Dante and Cruz both followed Lucky to the next room which was twice the size as the cold storage. The rooms were organized chronologically, so they split up to find the 1998 cases. Finally, after nearly ten minutes, Lucky located the case boxes from that period—

And sure enough, Elizabeth’s name was scrawled across the side of a file box—and then Lucky saw something truly disturbing. The lid had been labeled in dark black marker CLOSED.  Which, in PCPD parlance, meant solved. He shook his head and took the case to the table in the room. This really didn’t make sense.

Cruz took the lid as Lucky tugged it off the box, examining the notation. “I can see filing it here by mistake, but writing closed—”

“That’s not the only place it’s written,” Dante said. He lifted the top folder from the box—a thin manila folder with only a few documents. The original report and a few statements. There was a label on the front of the file proclaiming the case closed. Dante handed Lucky the investigator’s closing remarks.

“Taggert and Garcia worked this case,” Lucky murmured as he looked over the closing report. “But Mac wrote this up as closed with Baker in prison—” He shook his head. “Why—”

“So, it didn’t show up as an open case on the reports, maybe,” Cruz offered. “Maybe Taggert and Mac didn’t want—” He frowned. “Didn’t you say her rape kit came back negative?”

“Yeah—” Lucky’s mouth was dry as Cruz lifted out the plastic bag containing a red dress. He hadn’t seen that dress since the night he’d taken Elizabeth home, since she had put it back on after Bobbie took care of her, after she’d crawled out of the bushes—

“There’s no notation on it—” He reached for the folder in Dante’s hand. “Where’s the chain of evidence document—”

“The one that’s supposed to list every time it’s touched?” Dante found it and whistled. “Handed over to PCPD by Mercy Hospital, March 1998. That’s it.” He snorted. “Checked in by Vinnie, naturally. Asshole.”

“But here’s the test from the lab,” Cruz said. “They—how did they get a rape kit tested without—”

“Maybe they fucked up the chain of custody,” Dante offered. He glanced over the log Cruz handed him. “Forgot to write it—”

“Maybe,” Lucky allowed. “Let’s pack it up and take it upstairs.” He swallowed hard. He didn’t like to think of Elizabeth’s case being messed up, but…Baker was the guy. He’d confessed. “We can talk to Taggert about it tomorrow. We should get cleaned up.”

“Yeah.” Dante sighed. “Yeah, we gotta be at the service soon.”

Quartermaine: Patio

Emily sighed, watching as Reginald wheeled Lila back into the house so she could lay down before the memorial service that evening. “She blames herself for not doing more for Brooke.” She turned back to Elizabeth and offered to pour her more lemonade.

“We all do,” Elizabeth said with a weary smile. Jason had stayed the rest of the night and had attempted to talk her into staying in bed all day, but she’d reminded him that Monica had only recommended taking it easy. There was nothing easier than sitting in the garden, drinking lemonade with Emily and Lila, so he’d backed down. Reluctantly.

“What’s wrong?” Emily stirred some more sugar in her glass. “And don’t ask — I can almost always tell. Especially when I’m actually paying attention.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “I may have overstated my recovery to Jason a bit. Your mother told me I could resume normal activities but nothing too strenuous and to keep an oxygen tank for emergencies. I didn’t tell Jason that second part. Last night…” She wrinkled her nose. “Well, let’s just say I attempted a strenuous activity.”

Emily arched a brow. “Oh, really? And lemme guess, instead of the afterglow, Jason got to watch you put on an oxygen mask. Sexy. Is that what’s bothering you?”

“I wish it had been that simple—I couldn’t get the mask on right away, so what should have been a simple thing ended up with panic attack and a dose of hyperventilation. Jason thought I was having an embolism, which scared the crap out of him. He got mad at me. I got mad at him. Your mother had to come over after I had a second dose of hyperventilation while we were arguing.”

She sat back against the cushions. “It’s not like I don’t understand his reaction, especially once I realized he thought it was another PE, but is it going to be like this every time we argue? He throws it in my face I almost died—”

“To be fair, he probably only brought it up because you were literally gasping for air,” Emily reminded her. “Liz, look, I am over the moon that you and my brother are together, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. You guys fell apart last year for very good reasons. None of that gets solved because you almost died, and he’s decided to stop wasting time.” She shrugged. “You still need to trust each other. And I’m sorry, Liz, but you don’t get to hold it against him that he doesn’t want to do anything that might end up with you back in the hospital. That’s just normal human nature. Do you want to do something that puts him at risk?”

“No, but—” Elizabeth huffed. “You’re annoying.”

“That’s why everyone loves me,” Emily said with a sunny smile. It faded as she looked through the patio doors into the family room where Ned and Edward had entered. “It feels terrible to be home to bury Brooke. I don’t know how Ned is going to be able to deal with this.”

“He’ll have his family be his side,” Elizabeth told her, reaching across to squeeze her best friend’s hand. “That helps.”

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Lucky scowled as he pulled the knot on his tie tight and grimaced in the mirror. He hated wearing a suit, and he really hated wearing a suit to the funeral of young woman.

He didn’t know if Brooke had committed suicide—if she’d meant to take the overdose of pills that had killed her. A lot of his memories of Elizabeth were still vague and dim, his swirling with bits and pieces that didn’t always make sense.

But being around this case, looking over her original statement and the one he’d given Dara Jensen and Detective Garcia…so many pieces were starting to fit together like a puzzle. And he remembered Elizabeth’s face as she’d crawled out of the bushes, the way her voice had trembled as she denied what happened, refused to let him do much more than bring his aunt to her.

He remembered now that he used to wish he’d forced to go to the cops that night, that if he’d called 911 and they’d taken care of then, before she’d showered—

But knowing Brooke, seeing what she’d gone through, what he knew the other victims this year had dealt with—

He’d told Dillon Quartermaine that he’d taken his cue from Elizabeth, and Lucky was desperately grateful he’d done so. She’d made it through the darkness, and despite all the pain and loss that had come later, he was glad he’d been there for her.

He heard a knock on his door. “Come in,” Lucky called as he grimaced at his tie, undoing the knot and attempting it again. In the mirror, he saw Kelsey step in and close the door behind her. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she said softly. She walked forward and wrapped her arms around him, leaning her face against his back. “I thought we could drive over to the memorial together. Scott’s going with Bobbie.”

Lucky covered her hands with his own, then turned to face her. “Yeah, sure. You okay?”

“No.” Kelsey sighed, then walked away to sit on the edge of his bed. “Mac called before I left the office. You found two more case files in the archives?”

Lucky frowned. “No—I mean, yeah, but we found three.” He pulled out his desk chair and sat on it backwards, resting his elbow on the back of the chair. “Taggert was gone for the day when we got done, so I gave the report to Mac—we pulled three.” He hesitated. “Which cases did he tell you about?”

“Veronica Logan and Theresa Lopez—” Kelsey narrowed her eyes. “Three? Which one is missing—” She shook her head. “This is weird. This is the second time the number of cases have been wrong. Before Brooke was attacked, Taggert told Scott he had twelve untested rape kits. Nine in storage, three open—Watson, Norton, and Morris. But when Scott asked Mac, Mac told him there was fourteen. Brooke would have made it thirteen.”

“And now Mac only passed on two cases. You know—the third case was Elizabeth’s.”

“Elizabeth Webber?” Kelsey repeated. “Your ex? But I thought you said they got the guy—”

“He confessed, but they couldn’t make the case. Taggert told Elizabeth he was moving her case to cold storage, and a few weeks later, Mac told her that her rape kit had come back negative.” He told her about finding the case in the closed storage with no evidence that her evidence had ever been sent to the lab.

“Her dress was in the box?” She scowled. “Why isn’t it in Evidence? With everything else? Damn it—wait, why did you pull her case?”

“Because I thought—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “I was sure that Tom Baker was the guy. He confessed. I mean, who does that, right? And he didn’t deny it. Not in the studio that day. But I read over Brooke’s statement. You remember you told me that Brooke said the guy told her to keep quiet—”

“Yeah—”

“’Not a word.’ That’s what Brooke remembered.”

Kelsey stared at him for a long moment. “And you—that’s what Elizabeth’s attacker said to her, isn’t it? That’s what you’re going to tell me.”

“Some of it doesn’t fit,” Lucky admitted. “He didn’t—I mean, he raped her, but he didn’t beat her. She was able to leave the park on her own. With me. She had bruises, scratches. But she wasn’t like the others. And I don’t know about the hair. She didn’t remember a lot of details at first. But it was in the park, it was at a fountain—it was after the movies. At night. With a guy who said not a word.”

Kelsey exhaled slowly. “And for some reason, this case was put into cold storage, the evidence mishandled, and not turned over to the DA’s office with the progress report. I’m guessing Mac didn’t tell you he was only sending over two of the cases?”

“No—” Lucky shook his head. “It doesn’t make any sense, Kelse.”

“On the one hand, if her case was mishandled, I can see Mac not wanting it to come to light. She still has time to file suit against the city for the domestic assault last month. But…” Kelsey shook her head. “I don’t know. You said you were teenagers—”

“Valentine’s Day. 1998.”

“Valentine’s—” Kelsey got to her feet. “Okay. Okay.” She laced her fingers together as she started to pace. “Okay. I can’t accuse the commissioner of negligence. And neither can you. We’re both rookies. No one is going to take us seriously, but—” She turned. “Taggert—he’ll get your report. I’ll talk to Scott. We’ll get Elizabeth’s case re-opened. And send the kit over to the lab with the others. Honestly, Lucky—”

“We need more,” he finished. He ran his hands down her arms. “I get it. I want to handle Elizabeth’s case right. And there might not be any physical evidence to link her to the others. She didn’t even turn over the dress for a month. She showered—”

“She did what she needed to do to get through it.” Kelsey looked at him. “We’ll get to the bottom of it, Lucky. I promise. Because if she was raped by the same man five years ago, if those other two cases are linked—then this just got a lot worse. And after what happened with Brooke, I didn’t think that was possible.”

Quartermaine Estate: Foyer

 The service, held first at the Queen of Angels church, followed by a reception in the Quartermaine garden, was somber. Ned sat in the first row, with Jax and Alexis on either side of him, Dillon next to Alexis. Lois, true to her word, didn’t show.

Afterward, he’d driven back to the estate with his grandparents and had calmly accepted the condolences and sympathy from everyone who offered it. Almost no one in Port Charles had known his daughter, but that never stopped the people of the town from trying to find any way to get into the Quartermaine family’s good graces.

Felicia and her girls had offered their sympathies, but Ned had been grateful Mac had stayed home. The only people from PCPD he wanted to see were Dante Falconieri and his friends. Even Taggert had had the decency to stay away. If Floyd had tried to show up at the church, Ned—

Well, Ned wouldn’t have been responsible for his actions.

After almost an hour, Ned slipped away from everyone else and went into the foyer to take a break. He was sitting on a chair, tucked away behind the stairwell when he heard the family room door open.

“I told you, Jason, I’ll be fine. I’m just—I’m going to lay down upstairs for a little while—no—”

He rose to his feet when the door closed as Elizabeth rolled her eyes and slowly crossed the foyer. She saw him just as she stepped onto the stairs. “Oh. Ned, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”

“Are you all right? I heard you tell Jason you needed to lay down—” Ned stepped towards her, a hand extended as if to offer it to her.

“I had an issue last night, but I’m fine. Monica is just after me to take it easy and avoid stressing my body out. When I get tired, I’m supposed to stop and lay down.” She sighed, pressed a fist to her chest. “With the hearing at the end of the week, I’m trying to conserve my energy. Emily offered her room—anyway, I’m sorry to bother you—”

“You’re not. I just—” He hesitated, dragged a hand through his hair, then let it rest on the back of his neck for a moment before dropping it to his side. “I haven’t talked to you since—since—” He couldn’t say it.

She nodded. “Since,” she repeated softly. “I know I said it earlier, but I’m so sorry, Ned.”

“Thank you for—” He exhaled slowly. “You said she left you a voicemail. I never—what did she say?”

“Oh…Ned—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Don’t let that in your head, you know? It—” She pressed her lips together. “She sounded upset. Her words were slurred. I think she’d already taken the pills. She said it was better when everyone didn’t know. She wished no one knew. And then the call ended.”

“One day, I might want to listen to it,” he murmured. “Maybe not. I don’t know.”

“I’ll make sure I get it saved. Ned—”

“Don’t—don’t blame yourself. I’m glad Brooke reached out to you.” His throat tightened as he looked away. “If she’d already taken the pills, it was probably already too late by the time she did. I could have done more for her. And I’ll always regret not being a better father, but at the end of the day, whatever you and I could have done for her—it doesn’t change the fact that she was—”

He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t force the word out of her lips.

“Ned—”

“So, we need to focus on that. That some animal is attacking girls, and the police let them get away with it. He took my daughter away from us, and the PCPD—Floyd—they’re responsible for what happened to her. The same way they’re responsible for what happened to you.”

“Ned—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Revenge sounds good. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. But at the end of the day, it won’t change what happened—”

“No, but it—” He took a deep breath. “I can’t help my daughter. But I can stop it from happening again. I will stop it. My daughter is going to be the last victim. One way or another.”

Your Update Link: Mad World – Chapter 33

I don’t have a lot to report outside of the update. Writing for Fool Me Twice is moving steady, but very slowly. That should change this week. I say that a lot, heh, but seriously — we’re in the third week of school which means my curriculum is moving along, the students and I are mostly in a routine, and I’m going to be taking my other laptop to work.

I had been taking the older laptop, but it started having issues on Friday. Plus, it has a different screen resolution than my new one which made it a giant pain to go from screen to screen with writing. Bringing this one means I can actually get a scene or two done on my lunch. It’s actually a win-win situation. I’m even buying a second adapter to keep at work to make transporting it back and forth every day easier.

I had always planned for Fool Me Twice to be posted starting in February, so if it takes a bit longer than two months to get the first draft done, it just cuts into my three months of revision time. That’s why I pushed the production schedule so far out to begin. I wrote an update over at Dear Isobel talking about writing and why this story has been hard to get going.