November 11, 2019

Your Update Link – Mad World, Chapter 49 & 50

Wow. I really can’t believe we’re here. Thank you guys so much for joining me on this journey. I know it was a dark, twisty one and probably difficult to read. I think this is probably the darkest thing I’ve written in years. I hope you enjoyed it!

Book 3 is probably coming sometime next fall. I’m still working on the details. I’ll have For the Broken Girl in February and Fool Me Twice next summer. I’ll be back later this week with some extra Mad World content and hopefully — flash fiction and some NaNo news. But for now I have to get to work!

This entry is part 31 of 31 in the series All of Me

I am here, I am here
I’ve already seen the bottom, so there’s nothing to fear
I know that I’ll be ready when the devil is near
I am here, I am here
All of this wrong, but I’m still right here
I don’t have the answers, but the question is clear
I Am Here – P!nk


Tuesday, November 4, 2003

General Hospital: Hospital Room

Election Day in Port Charles was a cold and blustery one as winter weather made a surprising appearance—almost as surprising as the birth of Morgan Stone Corinthos, two weeks before his due date. Carly was just grateful she’d sent in her vote for the mayor by absentee ballot the week before.

No way in hell was she going to miss her chance to shove Garrett Floyd out of office.

The birth was relatively easy, and Carly allowed Sonny to be there with her while their son came into the world. She was still staying with her mother, still unsure as to what her marriage was going to look like once the trial—slated to begin in a week—was over.

But Sonny looked nearly like his old self as he beamed at his son and showed off Morgan to Bobbie and to Michael, who was eager to be a big brother. Dr. Meadows proclaimed Morgan to be perfect, which Carly already knew.

Her son was her miracle baby that had helped her survive a nightmare and it was her job to make sure he had the best life possible.

“I want you to come home,” Sonny told her when Bobbie had taken Michael home and Morgan was laying peacefully nearby, dozing off.

“We talked about this, Sonny,” Carly murmured. She shifted, her epidural fully worn off. “After the trial.”

“I know, I know. I just—” He looked over at the portable crib where Morgan’s tiny fist was waving in the air. “I just want my family back. The way we were before any of this happened.”

“I know.” Carly reached up to touch his cheek. “I know. But we can’t go back. We can only go forward. And right now, I’m not sure if we can do that.”

Sonny felt a bit more tense, but finally nodded. “Okay.”

“Okay. Can you turn on the television? WXPC is going to have the election results starting at six, and I don’t want to miss the moment Floyd is gone.” She winced as she shifted again. “Did Jason call?”

“Yeah, he and Elizabeth are on their way. They had a doctor’s appointment first.” Sonny leaned down to touch Morgan’s soft baby skin. “But no one wants to miss that asshole getting thrown out of office.”

Port Charles Hotel: Renaissance Room

 The Ashton campaign was throwing an election night party, and Dillon was there to support his brother even though everyone knew Ned was going to win. The polls had put Ned ahead for the first time shortly after the press conference and Vinnie Esposito’s arrest, but in the month since, they had opened up a gulf so wide that it would take a miracle for Floyd to win.

But this was Port Charles, so Dillon was prepared for anything.

He’d invited Lucas, Felix, Maxie, and Kyle, and of course Lulu.  He’d left Georgie off the invitation list, so he wasn’t expecting anyone to show up. They all did.

“You really voted for Ned, even though he’s going to fire your stepdad?” Felix asked Maxie as they settled at the one of the large round tables set up. He eyed the plate of hors d’oeuvres as a waiter passed them. He looked at Maxie with raised brows. “He’s not mad you’re here tonight either?”

Maxie shrugged. “I’m sure he’s not thrilled, but I’m not gonna make important decisions to be sentimental. One of us has to be a rational adult, and apparently, it’s me. Georgie decided to vote for Floyd.” Maxie rolled her eyes. “Her first vote as a registered voter and she threw it down the drain.”

“How do you know who she voted for?” Lulu asked, leaning forward.

“I heard her talking to Mom about it when we got home. She said she felt like she needed to support Mac. Whatever. Ned is going to be a better mayor.” Maxie popped an olive in her mouth.

“I’d drink to that,” Lucas said, craning his neck, “but all of these people know exactly how old I am.”

“Hey, celebratory party at the pool house?” Lulu asked Dillon. “I can make some calls and pick up something to celebrate with.”

“Hey, let’s not celebrate just yet.” Dillon reached for a glass of water. “You never know in this town.”

Across the room, Alexis worried. When Ned had started this run for mayor, she hadn’t really expected him to win. He’d gotten into the race late, Floyd was a popular incumbent—but after the serial rapist case had blown up in everyone’s face, it was clear that Ned was going to be the next mayor.

And it had occurred to her last night that she was now a liability for him—her daughter was a liability—a secret that a political enemy would love to discover. She fretted as Ned watched the election results on the large television they’d set up for the events, as it inched closer to eight and the official close of the polls—the earliest time the race could be called.

“Sorry,” Lois said, as she retook her seat next to Ned. “Sonny called me to let me know Carly had the baby.”

Olivia started, looking at her oddly—as did everyone else at the table. “When did you get friendly with Sonny Corinthos again?” she demanded. “You haven’t talked to him in years.”

“I saw him when I came up last month, after the arrest.” Lois frowned at her friend. “We reconnected. Don’t worry, Ned. We’re not married anymore so no one is going to complain—”

“I’m not,” Ned said dryly. “I think Sonny might be more popular than the PCPD at this point—”

“That’s not hard,” Jax muttered. “So, Carly had the baby.”

“She did.” Lois looked at Olivia who was still frowning. “Liv, what’s your problem? I know you haven’t talked to Sonny since he left the old neighborhood—”

“I forgot you grew up with him, too,” Ned told Olivia who just sighed.

“I did, but he was closer with my cousin, Connie.” Olivia shifted, looked around. “I think I need to go check on something in my office.”

She got up and left without another a word. Lois twisted in her chair and watched her leave. “Almost twenty-five years later, and she’s still mad that her cousin stole her boyfriend. Liv went away for almost a year to stay with relatives in Buffalo after Connie and Sonny hooked up. But Sonny got his in the end—Connie broke his heart and went away to college.”

“Sounds like a woman I’d like,” Jax said, with a broad grin.

“But it worked out for Liv, too,” Lois said, with a shrug. “She met Dante’s father and now she has that beautiful boy—” She took a deep breath and forced a smile on her face. “Anyway. She’s still sensitive about it.”

“Oh, look they’re going to call the election,” Alexis said, pointing her finger at the screen.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Mac had already largely packed up his office. The new mayor would take office on December 1, but everyone knew that Mac would be the first casualty.  Floyd had all but abandoned him, and Mac had done his best to stay under the radar since Esposito’s arrest a month earlier.

He sat in his office, watching the election returns on a small television. He glanced up when Taggert and Scott came in, both looking disheveled, Taggert carrying a six pack of beer. “They’ve called the election,” he said.

Scott grimaced, looked at the screen. “Well, it was nice working with ya.” He sat on the sofa. “I wonder who they’ll get to replace you.”

Taggert offered Mac a bottle of beer. Mac looked at him. “We’re off duty, and what’s Ned gonna do? Fire you?”

Mac took it, twisted off the cap, then looked at Scott. “Haha. Very funny. Kelsey was back at work today, wasn’t she?”

“I tried to talk her out of it. Told her to take a few more weeks, but she’s determined to make sure I don’t screw up.” He hesitated. “I’m going to make her second chair on Lansing. Ease her back into things, help her run Major Crimes more closely.”

Taggert scowled as Floyd came on the screen to give his concession speech, looking wan and exhausted. “How’s that going? It hasn’t been in the papers lately.”

Scott took one of the beers Taggert was offering. “Nothing to report. Ever since he lost his bid to get Sonny’s medical records, he hasn’t done anything but the bare minimum for this trial.”

“Maybe he’s hoping Carly and Liz will fall apart on the stand,” Taggert said. “He’s in for a rude awakening if that’s it. He might be able to talk himself out of the drugging charges, but there’s no way to talk away those videos of him going into the panic room and Carly and Elizabeth both testifying to the kidnapping and finding her—”

“I don’t know. I just—” Scott leaned over to dig his cell phone out of his pocket as it rang. “Baldwin—” He closed his eyes. “How in the fuck—”

He listened for a long moment, then let loose another string of profanity before flipping the phone shut and almost throwing it.

“Well.” Scott set the beer down. “That was the service monitoring Lansing’s ankle monitor. It was deactivated about ten minutes ago.”

“God, damn it.” Taggert surged to his feet. “I’ll call Crimson PD—”

“I’ll put out an APB,” Mac said as he started for his desk.

“I’ll go give Carly and Elizabeth the bad news.” Scott grimaced. “Better put them on high alert.”

Luke’s: Bar

An election party was also in full swing at Luke’s club. When the results were announced, the crowd cheered, and the party only got more raucous. The live band that had been hired was keeping the crowd happy while Claude kept the drinks flowing.

His parents would be home in another week, his grandmother was currently dancing up a storm with his aunt Amy, but Lucky couldn’t bring himself to be quite as happy as everyone else in Port Charles.

And he wasn’t alone, as his two best friends sat with him at the bar, both of them trying to make the same decision as he was.

Should they keep plugging away at the PCPD? Or was it time to move on? After almost five months on the job, Lucky wasn’t sure it was what he wanted to do. He liked the part where he helped people, and he was glad he’d been able to help put together the case against Vinnie. He knew Dante and Cruz had worked hard on Carly’s kidnapping.

But the PCPD seemed more hopeless than ever.

“We could get a PI license,” Dante suggested. He grimaced. “Or I could go home to Bensonhurst, but it makes you wonder if cops are like this all over the place.”

Lucky hesitated and then straightened as he saw Kelsey winding her way through the crowd, scanning it. He held up a hand and she joined him behind the bar, brushing a kiss against his lips. “Hey, you. Sorry I’m late. Are you guys talking about who might be the next commissioner?” she asked.

“No. You want a drink?” Lucky asked.

“Dr. Jones finally cleared me, so pour me the biggest gin and tonic you can.” She reached for a pretzel. “I think Ashton has to go outside of the city. Bring in new blood. I liked Mac, but he made a lot of mistakes. I definitely think it’s time for a change.”

“So, you’re staying?” Dante asked, frowning. “Even after—”

“Am I thrilled I needed brain surgery because a cop I worked with turned out to be a psychopath?” Kelsey shrugged. “No. But we did the job. We solved the case.” She looked at the Dante. “I know it’s hard on you—he turned out to be family—”

“Yeah, well…he was the least favorite son of my mother’s least favorite sister, so I guess it could have been worse.” Dante shifted. “What about all the crap with Floyd and Mac—”

“It sucks, but it came to light, didn’t it? Because you guys didn’t stop working. Because Taggert didn’t stop working. This isn’t what I thought my first job would be like, but you know what?”

She turned and twisted to gesture at the television screen still carrying the election news. They were rerunning a clip of Elizabeth from the press conference. “At the end of the day, the asshole who hurt her? We get to put him on ice for the rest of his life. And next week, we’ll slam the door on her ex. I can live with that.” She turned to Lucky, who grinned down at her. “I think we did okay, don’t you?”

“Yeah, we did okay.” He kissed her again. “I guess we’ll stick with it.”

Cruz’s beeper started to vibrate. He scowled and looked down at it, then pulled out his phone as a text message came through. He was the only one of them on call. “Hold that thought. Taggert just sent a 911. Lansing jumped bail.”

General Hospital: Hallway

Bobbie closed the door, leaving Sonny and Carly alone with their son and rejoined Jason and Elizabeth in the hallway. “So, does that make you even more excited for your little one?” Bobbie asked with a light teasing smile.

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure it’s possible to be more excited.” She linked hands with Jason. “I just wish my divorce was final. Ric decided to fight it, so it’ll be another month. Maybe two.”

“But it’ll be over,” Jason told her. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder, drew her in close. “And the trial will be over.”

“With any luck, we can all be moving on by Christmas,” Bobbie said with a smile. She stepped forward and wrapped them both in a tight hug. “Thank you so much. Without the two of you, I don’t know what would have happened to my grandson and daughter. You brought her home.”

“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Elizabeth said. She kissed Bobbie’s cheek. “We worked together, and you know, we make a hell of a team.”

“Jason would be happier if we had less drama for a while,” Bobbie said, with pointed look at Jason’s pained expression.

“He’s stopped taking my pulse every other hour,” Elizabeth reported with a broad smile up at him. “Now it’s only every three hours—which is what Kelly recommended.”  The last month had been so good—she’d gone home for bed rest and then Jason had surprised her by taking her to a cabin he’d rented in Niagara Falls. Just the two of them for five whole days.

She was starting to believe that this time, they were going to get it right and get the happy ending they deserved. She smiled up at him, and he grinned at her when he caught her looking.

The elevator doors slid open and Scott hurried out, looking unhappy. Bobbie scowled. “Scott Baldwin, don’t you dare come over here with bad news—”

“It can’t be helped. Morgan, do you have security on Lansing?” Scott demanded shortly.

Jason hesitated, exchanged a look with Elizabeth whose face drained of color. “We have guys on the house where he’s staying—so does Nikolas Cassadine, but—what happened?”

“His ankle monitor has been deactivated. Crimson Pointe PD searched the house—he’s not there.” Scott clenched his fists. “Lansing jumped bail. We don’t know where he is.”

 

THE END


Author’s Note

Wow. So I’ll have more to say at a later date about how much writing this book meant to me and what’s next but I just have to say that I never thought I’d get this far. Book 2 is done and it’s probably the most ambitious project I’ve planned that I actually finished. It’s a complicated ensemble that I think worked really well. I had a lot of things going on and I like to think it got wrapped up at the end.

Obviously, I wanted to leave all of our characters in a good place while setting up Ric. Originally, I was going to deal with Ric in the second story and close the book on the whole thing. But then the serial rapist story got more and more complicated and intricate (at least for me) and having written Book 1, Ric just deserved more space. Elizabeth and Carly deserved more space to deal with it, particularly Carly who basically disappears in this story.

I hope everyone enjoyed this story. I’ll be back in February with For the Broken Girl, then Fool Me Twice in the summer and probably Book 3 next fall. Have a great holiday season!

This entry is part 30 of 31 in the series All of Me

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here
Dare You To Move, Switchfoot


Thursday, September 25, 2003

General Hospital: ICU

Lucky’s chest eased as Kelsey opened her eyes, just a sliver of brown as she shifted and turned her head slightly. “What—” Her voice was little more than a raspy whisper. “What happened?”

“You were pushed down the stairs at work.” He leaned forward, taking a hand in his. “You hit your head.”

“Oh. Ow.” She closed her eyes again. “Am I okay? Why does everything hurt?”

“You cracked some ribs. And broke your ankle. But you had—” He had to stop. Take a breath. Remind himself she was okay. “You had a head injury. A brain bleed.”

“B-brain—” Her eyes opened again, wider now. “What?”

“You’re okay,” Lucky added, quickly. He kissed her palm. “The doctors say you’ll be fine.”

“The warrant—did—I was getting a warrant—”

“We got him, Kelse. He got a call from a cop in Buffalo about you asking for his cases, and he went after you to give him time for his grand finale.” Lucky grimaced. “He attacked Elizabeth—she’s okay,” he assured her when she gasped. “She took him out with a baseball bat. She’s here for observation because of the baby, but she’s okay. We got him. He got moved into lock up earlier.”

“We got him.” Her eyes fluttered close again. “She got him. Did you—”

“We sent out the DNA for a match, but we already charged him with your attack and Elizabeth’s. He’s not going anywhere.” He managed a smile. “Now you can just focus on getting better and out of this hospital.”

“You’re up!”

Lucky turned to find the disheveled district attorney at the door, with Bobbie just on his heels.  “She woke up just a few minutes ago.”

“Hey, sweetheart.” Scott hurried to the other side of the bed to take Kelsey’s other hand. Lucky got to his feet and took the coffee his aunt offered him. “Your mom is on her way up here—”

“Great. Just what I need,” Kelsey muttered.

“Scott, why don’t I go get one of her doctors while you tell them the good news?” Bobbie said, putting a hand on Scott’s shoulder.

“What? Oh. Yeah. Yeah.”

“I’m glad you’re awake and doing better, honey.” Bobbie patted the leg that wasn’t wrapped up in a cast and raised up in the air slightly.

“What good news?” Lucky asked as his aunt left the room. “We couldn’t have gotten DNA back yet—”

“We won’t need it.” Scott looked at Kelsey with a smile, before looking back at Lucky. “I’ve been in a meeting with Vinnie’s newly appointed lawyer. You and Spencer—you put together a tight case. We have the contact with Elizabeth, the contact with cases involving the other victims. We have Baker’s statement, naming him as the cop who confessed to him about Elizabeth. Emily identified him as one of Baker’s security during her photoshoots, and we got word from Brenda Barrett that she also knew Vinnie.”

“Wait—” Lucky held up a hand. “He’s confessing to the rapes? Not just yesterday—”

“He knows the DNA is going to match. He’s looking at seven separate rapes in the first degree, two of which were against minors. Outside the attacks yesterday, at trial, he’ll get seven consecutive sentences of 25 years to life.”

Kelsey sighed. “You’re pleading him down to a single sentence of 25 years, aren’t you?”

“I’ve contacted the other victims. Even Elizabeth Webber.” Scott shrugged. “Up to me, I’d lock the door and forget about him for two hundred years. But the others—”

“They just want it over.” Kelsey looked at Lucky. “I can’t blame them.”

“He’s young, Scott,” Lucky said quietly. “In twenty-five years—”

“He’ll be up for parole,” Scott told him. “But I will crawl out of my nursing home to bring those DNA reports to a parole hearing. He’s pleading to Elizabeth Webber’s rape and the attack yesterday. She deserves that. But his DNA matching in six other rapes? That keeps the door locked.”

He met Lucky’s eyes. “He’s not getting out. It’s over.”

“Yeah. Yeah. I guess—I don’t know. It feels like it’s not enough.”

“There is nothing we could ever do to make him pay enough for what he did to all of those girls. To Kelsey. We can’t bring Brooke Lynn Ashton back. But that’s the job, Spencer. Sometimes…throwing away the key is all we can do.”

“Thank you.” Lucky grimaced as Scott raised his eyes. “I know you’re the one that told Ned Ashton what happened to Elizabeth. I know you did it to get back at Floyd, mainly, but Ned and Elizabeth both deserved to know it.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Scott shrugged. He leaned over to kiss Kelsey’s forehead. “I better go check in with your mother. See how long before she gets into town.”

“Thank you,” Kelsey murmured once Scott had left and they were alone again. “I know he’s not your favorite person—”

“If that guy had been investigating my mom’s case last year—” Lucky shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he turned himself around or something.” He smoothed her hair back, off her forehead, leaving his hand resting lightly against her skin. “You scared me.”

“That wasn’t the plan,” she murmured. “But hey, you’re a cop, so it’s only a matter of time before you’re in this bed, and I’m the scared one.”

“Yeah, well, let’s try not to do this again any time soon.” He hesitated. “I love you, you know.”

“Yeah.” Kelsey opened her eyes again, that smirk he’d fallen for all those weeks ago back in her eyes. “I know. I love you, too.”

Port Charles Hotel: Owner’s Suite

An exhausted Lois opened the door, her face lined with an obvious lack of sleep and her eyes red and puffy. “Hey.” Ned stepped forward to embrace her tightly.

“Hey.” She stepped back, kissed his cheek, and gestured for him to come into her room. “I’m sorry. I only got in around midnight.”

“Yeah, I asked the front desk to call when you checked in. I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Lois shook her head, sat back on the sofa, and wrapped the ends of her cardigan more tightly around her torso. “I can’t seem—I can’t seem to make this work in my head.” She gestured at the television where WXPC News at Noon was muted. “They’ve been running the story all day, and I know what Alexis said on the phone—”

“Yeah. It—” Ned sat down, looked at the screen where the news anchor was speaking, a photograph of Brooke positioned in the upper right corner. “I thought when we knew—”

“I thought it’d be some stranger,” Lois murmured. “Someone we never knew. Not—” She looked at him, the tears sliding down her cheeks. “She knew him, Ned. Vinnie grew up down the street from her. They were never close—he’s older. But he knew her.”

She pressed her fist to her mouth. “I keep thinking maybe that’s why she did it. Maybe she remembered and she needed that image to go away. How—”

Ned slid closer to her and put an arm around her, drawing her in closer. “I know. I wondered, too.”

“Olivia called me as I was getting my things together, and she was—she was crying. Frannie—Vinnie’s ma—she was at my door, blubbering, trying to explain it was all a mistake, and I just kept—” She squeezed her eyes shut.  “Did he go after her because he knew her?”

“Why—”

“The reports said that he went after one of his other victims—Elizabeth Webber—that he went after her again yesterday because he knew her. A-And—” Her voice trembled. “He knew her then, didn’t he?”

“I don’t—” Ned exhaled slowly. “I got a case update this morning from Taggert. That’s the operating theory. He was one of her regulars at Kelly’s, and he started following her around—”

“Jesus. She was just a baby.” Lois lunged to her feet. “I did the math. Sixteen years old, and a grown man—a cop following her around. What? One night, it was just too much and he grabbed her?”

“Yeah. And then he attacked other girls who looked like her every time he came across Elizabeth. He was at the garage fire when Lucky Spencer—” Ned shook his head. “And in Buffalo, he attacked girls on the anniversary of her rape. Taggert said he kept picking girls who looked like Elizabeth, who left the movies, and stopped at a fountain—”

Lois shook her head. “Stop, stop.  I get it.”

“I got another call on my way over. Scott Baldwin said he’s been in contact with the other victims, and he wanted my input. Vinnie’s asking for a deal. He wants to plead guilty—”

“You tell him to go to hell!” Lois snarled. “You tell him that we will see him fry—”

“The case is airtight, Lois. The DNA is gonna match. But a trial means all those women have to testify. Be cross-examined—”

“In front of the man who raped them.” She sighed. Leaned her head against the window that overlooked the park. God, she could see the fountain where her daughter had been stolen from her. “Yeah. I guess that makes sense.” She pursed her lips. “What’s the deal Baldwin wants to make?”

“Twenty-five to life for rape in the first degree of Elizabeth Webber, aged sixteen.”

“Just her case—” Lois furrowed her brow. “Why—”

“Because he’ll never plead to all seven of them. And Elizabeth’s case started it all. She ended it yesterday with a baseball bat. She said she would come to the hearing, give a victim impact statement if we needed. No one else would. It was hard enough to get the other women to sit down for an interview, Lois. We can’t ask them to do more.”

“They want it over.” Lois rubbed her fist against her chest. “He’s only twenty-nine years old, Ned. Twenty-five years—he’ll be in his fifties—”

“And we’ll go to his parole hearing with his DNA match in every other case. Scott said he’d make it a point to make sure the DA’s office fought parole. And honestly, Lois—” Ned offered her a grim smile. “How long do you think Vinnie’s gonna live in prison after raping Jason Morgan’s girlfriend?”

Lois exhaled slowly. “I believe in the system most of the time,” she said finally. “But there are just some people who don’t deserve to live. But he can’t get the death penalty for our girl. He should. Because Brookie? That’s on him. He did that to her.”

“I know, baby—”

“But you’re right. A trial would make this all last so much longer. If he’s willing to sign a deal today—” She pressed her lips together. “If that part of it can be over today, we can all find a way to move on. I mean, nothing is bringing back our little girl, so better if it’s just over.”

“I told Scott to go ahead,” Ned admitted, “but I warned him I hadn’t run it past you. He assured me if one of the women or you or I had vetoed it, he’d go forward with our charges.”

“I appreciate it. At least something in this town is working right.” Lois looked back out over the park that stretched along several city blocks in downtown Port Charles. “You wipe the floor with Garrett Floyd in November, Neddy. And you make this a better place.”

“That’s the plan.” He put his hands on her shoulders and rubbed them lightly. “Come to the house. Lila is worried about you. And we have a better view.”

“Yeah. You’re not wrong. Thanks.”

Port Charles Police Department: Lock-Up

Dante was grimly pleased when he found his cousin laying on his back in the cell, moaning slightly. Vinnie’s face was bruised and cut from where he’d busted his cheekbone on Elizabeth Webber’s bed, and Dante knew the asshole was walking with a limp from the hit he’d taken from the bat.

He only wished Jason Morgan had had a chance to go after him—to finish the job.

“Hey, Cuz,” Dante said with a pleasant smile he didn’t feel. “Bad day?”

“Go to hell,” Vinnie muttered.

“Just found out my cousin is a dirty cop who brutally raped and beat seven women that we know of, so I don’t know, I kind of think I’m already there.” Dante tipped his head, jerked his chin out. “Why Brooke?”

“What?” Vinnie turned his head and looked at him, his brown eyes blood shot. “What?”

“You knew her. You went to her Communion. Her birthday parties. She and the Cerullos—they’re family. Why Brooke?”

It was a horrible ache in his chest, in his head, a rage coursing through his blood. Blood he shared with the animal locked in his cell. He had to know. He had to understand how someone he’d known all his life could hide this part of him.

“You really wanna know?” Vinnie looked back up the ceiling. “I mean, Dante, if you really wanna know, I’ll tell you.”

Dante closed his eyes, took a deep breath. “Yeah, Vin. I really wanna know.”

“I thought it would be like the first time.” Vinnie’s voice turned slightly wistful. “You know the first time you’re with a girl, and it’s everything you pictured? Everything you fantasized about? I kept trying to figure out why it was never right.”

Oh, God. Dante’s stomach pitched, but he kept his features even. “That’s what you always told them. It was never right.”

“You didn’t know Elizabeth back then. You should get some pictures.” Vinnie laughed, a slow, smooth chuckle like they were trading stories in a bar. “She was hot. I saw her when she first moved here that summer. High cut shorts, low cut tops. Oh, man. She had a way of smiling at you—”

Jesus Christ. He knew from Elizabeth’s file that Vinnie was waxing poetic about a fifteen-year-old girl. “Why didn’t you just ask her out?” he forced himself to ask.

“Thought about it. But I figured her old bat of a grandmother wouldn’t like it. Would tell her no. I’m not that much older than her, but you know how some bitches are about that shit.”

“That doesn’t explain Brooke—”

“For months, I followed her around, waiting for an opening. Hoping she’d look at me, that she’d give me that smile—but that night at the movies—I saw her dress. She wanted it, man. Dressed in that slutty red dress, mmm….”

Bile rose in his throat, but Dante swallowed hard. He needed to hear it. He needed to hear him say it, to admit it. “Get to Brooke—”

“I thought about going after Elizabeth again. Followed her a couple of times, but she never went anywhere alone at dark again. So, I tried to find someone else. Someone who looked like her. I followed them, just like her. They had her hair—and you know, if they stopped at the fountain—it was a sign that it meant to be.”

Vinnie sighed, almost sadly. “But it was never right. They never smelled right. Their hair never felt right against my skin. I thought…I thought maybe I had to know her. I had to want her. When I saw Brooke at the theater, I saw her go into the park, and man, I just knew it would be right. I knew it would feel good. And I knew I’d be her first. That would make it special. Like it was with Elizabeth.”

Oh, God. Vinnie had followed Brooke on purpose. Had known—had intended it—

“How’d you know—” Dante had to struggle to force the words. “How’d you know you’d be—”

“I caught her once with the Graziano girl.” Vinnie grinned, sat up and leaned back against the wall, his bruised and torn cheek looking grotesque. “She was a lesbo. Never drove stick, you know?” He shook his head. “Maybe part of me wanted to make her understand what she’d been missing—”

“I read her statement, Vinnie. You beat her. Like the others.”

“Brooke—I figured out what I’d been doing wrong with Brooke.” Vinnie nodded, as if he’d answered some philosophical mystery. “All those girls—it didn’t matter if they were virgins. If they stopped at the fountain. If they were young or brunette. Valentine’s Day didn’t work. Even if I knew them. It would never be right. It would never be as good as the first time.” He got to his feet, limped closer to the cell wall, to Dante. “It needed to be her.”

Dante swallowed hard. “So that’s why you went back. Why you went after Elizabeth Webber.”

“She’s my soulmate.” Vinnie sighed happily. “She doesn’t understand that yet. But she will. One day.” He looked at Dante. “Sorry about Brooke. I should have figured it out a long time ago. That’s on me.”

“Yeah.” Dante’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Yeah, that’s on you.”

He turned and stalked out of the holding area, straight down the hall to the bathrooms and into one of the stalls. And then he threw up.

When he’d finished, cleaned his mouth out, and could think clearly again, he pulled out the recorder he’d stowed in his pocket. He pressed the stop button, rewound it, and then played. When he heard the beginning of his conversation with Vinnie start to play, he stopped it again. He didn’t know if this would be admissible, but if Vinnie tried to back out of his deal, maybe Scott could use it as leverage.

Dante slid down against the tiled bathroom wall, pressed the recorder to his forehead, and didn’t even bother to wipe the tears as they stained his cheeks.

Port Charles University: Campus Center

Lulu dropped her bag down next to Dillon at their usual table and frowned at him. “You’re here.”

“Yep.” Dillon didn’t look up from the reading response he’d been trying to finish for the last hour. “I had class this morning. And another in about an hour—”

“Yeah, I know your schedule, dink.” She tugged out her own laptop, scowling at the notebooks and folders that came with it. She’d promised her aunt she’d go to college, make her mother proud, but man, academia was not her thing. “I mean, why are you here today?”

“Because sitting at home wasn’t going to change anything.” Dillon looked at her. “Mom’s in from New York, and she and Grandfather are figuring out how to spin this so Ned can get elected—”

“Ugh, really?” Lulu wrinkled her nose. “But—”

“That’s how the Quartermaines cope with tragedy. Some people cry in each other’s arms, we plot to take over the world. Don’t make that face, Lu. Spencers are just as crazy.”

“Yeah, fair play.” She waited a beat. “Have you seen Brooke’s mom yet?”

“No. She’s at the hotel, and Ned was leaving to see her when I left for class.” Dillon cracked his knuckles. “Lu—”

“The thing is, Dillon, even though we’ve known each other for five minutes and have been dating for thirty seconds, I know you.”

He met her eyes. “And—”

“And maybe the rest of the Quartermaines plot to take over the world, but you don’t. You live your life. You go back to work. To your movies.”

“Sounds normal to me—”

“Hey. Dillon—” She put a hand in front of the screen to force him to turn, to really focus on her. “I get it. I did the same thing when my family fell apart last year. I pretended nothing was happening. And eventually, everything slid back the way it was supposed to be, and my mom is coming home. I just—I don’t know. I wanted you to know that you’re not invisible to me. That I see you. That I get you. And if you want us to just sit and study and go to class like we do every other day, then okay.”

“That’s what I want, Lu. I just want to finish this thing, go to class, and—” Dillon exhaled slowly. “I think Brooke killed herself, Lu. I think that’s what made her take all those pills. I think she remembered him, and she wanted it to go away. She couldn’t live with it.”

“Maybe,” Lulu said, softly.

“And just maybe, if I’d been a better friend to her—if I hadn’t treated her like such a pain in the ass when she moved here, instead of taking those pills—maybe she would have called me.” He sat back in the hard, plastic chair. “It’s not—it’s not my fault that any of this happened, but you know, it’s a little on me that she didn’t feel like she could turn to anyone.”

“Maybe we all could have done more when she moved up here. I could have called before I went to London,” Lulu said. “I mean, I knew her, too. Dillon, you’re not the only one who bailed because she wasn’t friendly. Me, Maxie, and Georgie—we’ve known each other all our lives. And we used to play with Brooke when she visited Ned. We knew her, too. So, if this is on you, it’s on us.”

She waited a moment. “The thing is that even if we had been best friends, even if we’d all been like a family, she might not have called. Because all the friends in the world doesn’t change the fact that maybe she knew the guy who raped her, that it was someone she’d known her whole life. She might have taken the pills anyway.”

“Yeah.”

“And no matter how close we might have been, we would always have thought we could have done more. That’s just who you are, Dillon. And it’s hard to accept that maybe we couldn’t save Brooke.”

Lulu straightened, took a deep breath. “So maybe we should try to help people like her. We could do some shifts at a suicide hotline or something. Maybe you could talk to your brother about doing a charity thing for rape victims. I don’t know. My brother might have some ideas, too.”

“Yeah.” Dillon’s chest felt a bit easier as he looked at Lulu. “Yeah. Thanks.”

“No problem. Now, leave me alone because I was supposed to read all of this stupid book by my next class, and I have like twenty minutes to find an online reading guide.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth stepped just inside the penthouse door and stared at the sofa where, less than twenty-four hours earlier, her rapist had attacked her again.

“We should have gone to the condo,” Jason said. He set her duffel bag down. “Let me just pack a few things—we’ll go now—”

“No—” Elizabeth touched his arm. Looked at him. “No. The whole point of telling Scott I wanted to plead out the case was I needed this to be over. And now…in a few days, when he goes for his arraignment, it will be.”

She looked at the sofa, took a deep breath. “Yeah. Yesterday was bad. I was terrified. I made it out. I fought back, and I won, you know?” Elizabeth turned to frame his face with her hands. “This is your home—”

“It’s just a place. We can go anywhere—”

“I’m not letting Vinnie Esposito steal one more thing from me, Jason. We—” She turned around, gestured at the window. “You remember last year? When we stood there, and I talked about the yachts in the harbor—”

“Yeah.”

Elizabeth whirled back around, a grin on her face. “I remember the way you asked me about it—you asked me if I wanted a boat like one of those—and I thought—you know, I wondered if I said yes, if you’d go buy me one.”

Jason smiled now, warmth and humor back in his eyes. “I might have. I liked seeing you here. I did not like Zander. I should have shipped him to a safe house or locked him in his room, but I—” He hesitated. “You’re right. This is just a place.”

“I like the view from this penthouse. I always have. Those windows look out over the water, and it’s not that different from the view at Vista Point. Sometimes when I stand here, I think about being up there with you. We can remember the bad things that happened here, but I don’t want to do that.”

She gripped the sides of his leather jacket and smiled up at him. “This is the place where we talked about names for our baby, and where you almost offered to buy me a yacht. We played pool here. We’ve made love in that bed. I’m going to decorate one of the spare rooms so our child has a place of his own. This is our home. And if we decide to move one day, it’s going to because we decided to. Not because of bad memories.”

Elizabeth leaned up to press her lips against his, tugging him closer. “We could go upstairs now—the cops said they cleaned the carpet—”

Jason broke the kiss with a groan— “You’re really mentioning the cops right now? And Monica said bed rest.”

“Can you think of a better reason to stay in bed?” Elizabeth grinned, winding her arms around his neck. “Because I can’t.”

This entry is part 29 of 31 in the series All of Me

Surrounded and up against a wall
I’ll shred ’em all and go with you
When choices end, you must defend
I’ll grab my bat
And go with you, I’ll go with you
I’ll go with you, I’ll go with you, yeah
My Blood, Twenty One Pilots


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Morgan Penthouse: Bedroom

It took two tries before the door flew off the hinges, the frame cracking from the pressure as Vinnie rushed into the room, his eyes lit with fury. “You fucking bitch!”

And she swung.

She swung for his knees first because Jason had taught her to do that. She swung low and hard, and cracked him right in the kneecaps. He flew forward, arms flailing, his chin hitting the foot board, the crack of bone hitting wood echoed in the room.

She didn’t stop—couldn’t stop—to see if it had taken him down. Baseball bat in hand, she flew out of the bedroom, down the stairs, into the living room—

Where the door was being busted open. She barely had time to see the security guards flying in before Jason and Taggert were there. She dropped the bat and launched herself into Jason’s arms.

“I went for the knees,” she managed as the tears came. “And I ran.”

“Christ,” he managed as he buried his face in her hair and couldn’t say anything else.

Taggert left Elizabeth with Morgan and followed the mixture of security and uniforms into the bedroom where Vinnie Esposito was moaning, his chin busted open and his knee soaked in blood.

“She went crazy,” Vinnie managed. “Thought I was gonna hurt—”

Taggert kneeled down, careful to avoid the blood soaking the bedroom floor. “Not gonna work, asshole. You’re not going to be able to half-ass your way through this. I got you cold. Assault and attempted rape here. But you see this blood? We’re gonna test it, Vinnie. We already knew it was you. Now we’re gonna prove it.”

He looked at the uniform. “Call paramedics. Call CSU.  I want his blood collected and taken to the lab.”

“Jesus, Taggert,” the uniform whose name he couldn’t remember. “He’s one of us.”

“He’s nothing now. He raped seven women. He doesn’t walk away from this.”

He left the room and found Jason downstairs examining Elizabeth’s wrists and her jaw from his perch on the coffee table as she sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa. “Elizabeth.”

“How did…” She winced as Jason pressed on her busted lip. “How did you know?”

“Everything came together at once.” Taggert looked at the medics who came in. “He gets cuffed. Cop stays in the room with him. I find out he’s been alone for even a second, I’ll have your asses.”

He returned his attention to Elizabeth. “Lucky tracked down a few records that put him at Kelly’s during that period in contact with you. And then the pattern—we thought it was newspaper coverage—”

“But it was actually talking to the cops,” she murmured. “I’m okay,” she told Jason. “He didn’t—he hit me. And my shoulder is sore from when I hit the sofa. But I’m really okay.”

Jason just pressed his lips together and shook his head. He reached for her wrist so he could take her pulse. “It’s too fast. We’re going to the hospital.”  Jason got to his feet, looked at Taggert. “Can you take her statement there?”

“Yeah. I’ll ride with…” Taggert scowled as the medics rolled a stretcher out and Vinnie moaned. “I want to make sure he stays under lock and key. I’ll see you guys down there.”

He nodded at the bat near the sofa. The same bat he’d found her clutching that horrible day in July. “Is that what you took him out with?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s one of the few things I’ve kept with me. Jason taught me to aim low and run.”

“Didn’t think you’d ever have to use it,” Jason muttered gathering her into his arms again, almost as if he weren’t touching her, she’d disappear.

“I’ll meet you at the hospital,” Taggert said, clearing his throat. “Good work, Elizabeth.”

Port Charles Hotel: Lobby

Dante strode into the lobby of the hotel, frantically searching for his mother before heading to the front desk. “I need Olivia Falconieri. Now.” He flashed his badge. “It’s an emergency.”

The desk clerk disappeared into the back. It felt like a thousand hours before his mother rushed out, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.

“Baby, what is it?” Olivia demanded, her dark eyes worried. “Are you hurt? Are you sick—” She hurried around the counter to touch his face. “Dante—”

“It’s Vinnie, Ma.”

“Vinnie?” Olivia repeated. She stepped back, shook her head. “Is he hurt? Should I call Aunt Fran?” But something in his face, in his tone must have registered. “Dante, stop beatin’ around the bush.”

“It was Vinnie. The whole time. He did it.” He clenched his hands into fists. “All those girls—”

Olivia took her son by the elbow and led him away from the center of lobby, to a cluster of chairs near the large fireplace. “What are you sayin’ to me? That my nephew, your cousin, that he attacked—” She shook her head. “No. He knew Brooke. He grew up with her. Just like you. He was supposed to—”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “How can you know that? What happened?”

“A lot of things, but he went after Elizabeth Webber today. Lied his way into her apartment, pretending he was there to question her.”

Olivia pressed her hands to her mouth, shaking her head. “No. Oh, God, that poor girl. Is she okay—has someone told Ned? Called Lois?”

“I don’t know. Elizabeth is okay, I think. That’s what the report said. She had a baseball bat and went at him.” Dante’s skin felt wrong, like it was stretched too tightly over his body. “Ma—the whole time.”

“I—I can’t—but if he went after—” Olivia set her hand on the wall, looking for balance. “I should call your aunt. I should—I should—Ned is here. His campaign office is here.”

“I’m going to the hospital, Ma. To check on Elizabeth and Kelsey.” At his mother’s mystified look, Dante added, “Oh, yeah. Lucky figured out Vinnie was the guy, and Kelsey called Buffalo for some open cases. They warned Vinnie, and he shoved her down a flight of stairs to keep her from getting a warrant.” He smiled, a broad sour smile. “He needed time to go after Elizabeth. Like a grand fucking finale.”

“I—” Olivia shook her head. “I can’t wrap my head around this. I changed his diapers. I’m—” Her voice trembled as she struggled to get herself together. “I’m his godmother.”

“You all right? I’ll stay—”

“No. No. I can—” Olivia squared her shoulders. “I can do this. Ned should know, and I want him to hear it from me. I want Lois to hear it from him, from me—that my blood did this.” For a moment it looked as though she might crumble. “My blood took their daughter. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he’s the reason—”

Dante hugged her and didn’t pull back until he felt her shoulders stop trembling. “Are you sure don’t want me to stay?”

“No.” Olivia exhaled slowly. “No.”

He walked his mother to the elevators where he helped her in and pressed the button for the fifth floor where the offices were located.  “Call me if you need anything, Ma.”

“I’m not the one who needs anything,” Olivia murmured.  The doors closed, her son’s face disappearing as the car started to climb.

Oh, how was she ever going to explain this to Ned and Lois? She’d known Brooke all her life—she’d known Vinnie all his life. She didn’t like her sister that much, and Vinnie was a disappointment but this—

She’d never seen this coming.

When the doors opened on the fifth floor, Olivia took a deep breath, pressed a hand to her belly to remind herself to keep it together. This wasn’t about her.

Ned’s campaign office was the third door down, and it was already open. She was grateful he wasn’t alone—relieved to find Jax and Alexis with him as they went over the schedule for the next week.

“Olivia—” Ned said, smiling at first as he saw her on the threshold. Then he saw her face. Alexis and Jax both turned. “What’s happened?”

“Dante just—” Olivia swallowed hard, the bile rising in her throat. “He just came. They—there’s been an arrest.”

“Oh, thank God.” Alexis closed her eyes. “How strong is the case—”

Jax touched her arm, quieting her. His dark blue eyes on her. “Olivia, what’s happened?”

“It’s Vinnie.” Olivia shook her head. “Vinnie Esposito. He’s my nephew. Dante’s cousin.”

“He’s a cop,” Alexis said, moving closer to Ned who just stared at her, expressionless. “You’re telling me they arrested a cop—”

“I don’t—” Olivia’s voice faltered, and she was grateful when Jax came to her side and just took her hand. “I don’t know all the details. I just—I know that it must have happened fast. He was tipped off that he was a suspect and shoved the ADA down the stairs when she went to get a warrant. And then he went after Elizabeth Webber—she’s fine,” she added hastily as Ned started to lunge forward, towards the phone, towards the door, she couldn’t quite say.  “At least Dante said he thought she was. She had a baseball bat and went after him.”

“A cop did this,” Alexis repeated. She wrapped a hand around Ned’s upper arm. “How could—”

“He was the investigating officer Floyd was trying to suspend,” Ned managed to say. He was shaking—just the slightest tremble. Alexis could feel it beneath her fingers. “He—he investigated the first three—refused to make the connection.”

“I can’t—he knew Brooke,” Olivia said, her voice thick. “He knew her. What kind of animal could—” She couldn’t say anything else.

“I have to call Lois,” Ned said after a long moment. He closed his eyes. “And then my family. I want to go to the hospital. I want to see Elizabeth. I just need to be sure—”

“I’ll make some calls,” Alexis told him. “Jax, can you call the hospital? Get Elizabeth’s status? I’ll call your family. And I should call Nikolas. If he doesn’t know already—”

“I’m so sorry,” Olivia said faintly, the tears sliding silently down her face. “So goddamn sorry.”

But Ned was already picking up the phone to call Lois and shatter her world just as thoroughly as Olivia’s. After all…Lois knew Vinnie, too.

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Sonny rushed through the doors, almost skidding to a stop as he made his way to the front desk where a harried nurse was making notes on a chart. “Elizabeth Webber,” he demanded.

“Family or police?” the nurse asked without looking up.

Sonny scowled, but Bobbie came up and grabbed his arm. “We’re over here, Sonny.” Her face was pale as she led Sonny towards a closed curtain.

“They called me at the warehouse—” He dragged his hand through his hair, mussing the curls. “How the hell did this happen?”

“I’m not—” Bobbie exhaled slowly. “I’m not sure. It—it happened fast. Everything fell into place—Lucky developed Vinnie as a suspect at the same time Baker was confessing to Taggert and Jason. But by the time we knew—he had already talked himself into the penthouse, unhooked her phone and gotten rid of her guard.”

This is why you don’t cooperate with the goddamn PCPD,” Sonny muttered as he followed Bobbie behind the curtain where a pretty Asian doctor was studying an ultrasound monitor.

Elizabeth was stretched out on the bed, dressed in a hospital gown. Her face was bone white. There was a new bruise on her cheek bone, another blooming at the edge of her collarbone, and her upper lip was cut and slightly swollen. Jason was standing next to her, one of her hands intertwined in both of his and pressed to his chest.

“Elizabeth,” Sonny said, simply. “I—”

“Sonny.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “Don’t look so worried. I’m okay—” She winced. “My face hurts—”

“Jason—” Sonny looked at his partner who didn’t have much more color than his girlfriend. “What—”

“We’re waiting,” Jason said, flatly, but not unkindly. “Bobbie, have you heard from anyone at the department—”

“No, but my usual source is up in surgery, waiting with Lucky about Kelsey Joyce.” At Sonny’s confused glance, Bobbie shook her head. “Lucky went to Kelsey Joyce, the ADA, and they looked up Vinnie’s record in Buffalo. There were a bunch of Valentine’s Day attacks. She requested the files, hoping it would strengthen her case for DNA. But someone at the Buffalo police called Vinnie and warned him. He shoved her down a flight of stairs, and she hit her head pretty hard.”

“I hope she’s okay,” Elizabeth told Jason. “She was working so hard on this case.” She twisted her head back to Kelly Lee. “Dr. Lee?”

“Your vitals are high, but that’s not unexpected,” the doctor told her. “Elevated blood pressure is common after someone fights for their life.” Her smile didn’t match the worry in her eyes. “But the baby looks good on the ultrasound so far. We’ll keep you overnight, and I’m sure Monica will want to run some additional tests.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “That’s not what I wanted to hear.”

“I know, honey,” Bobbie murmured, touching Elizabeth’s foot at the bottom the bed. “But you’re in the best hands, and we’re right here. Emily is in surgery, but she’ll be down, and Nikolas is on his way. You’re not alone, baby.”  She looked to Sonny. “Why don’t you and I go update Carly? She’s at the Brownstone with Michael, and I’m sure she’s worried.”

They left the curtain as Bobbie’s face dimmed slightly. Sonny winced. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

“He threw her around the living room, chased her up the stairs—” Bobbie wrapped her arms around her torso. “So far so good, but if after everything they’ve been through—everything Elizabeth went through—to lose the baby—that just wouldn’t be fair.”

“Elizabeth is tough, Bobbie.” Sonny put an around her, and Bobbie allowed him to pull her into a light hug. “Tougher than anyone I know. And she hasn’t had one of those panic attacks Jason told me about, right? No breathing problems?”

“No, but I don’t know if it’s even hit her yet. The man who raped her was a police officer she willingly let into her home.” Bobbie managed a sad smile. “And upstairs, Scott is worrying about a young woman he’s known all her life. I didn’t tell Elizabeth, but—” Her voice broke. “Kelsey had serious bleeding on the brain when she came in.”

Bobbie bit her lip, then shook her head. “But I don’t want Elizabeth or Jason to deal with any of that right now. Can you stay with them while I call Carly, then check on Scott and Lucky?”

“Sure. Whatever you need. You said Emily and Nikolas were on their way?”

“They’ll be here shortly.” Bobbie hesitated once more before she went down the hall. “You look good, Sonny. Better. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. I want—” She pressed her lips together. “I want us all to put last summer behind us. Including you.”

“I hope we can do that soon,” Sonny told her.

General Hospital: Surgical Waiting Room

Scott couldn’t sit. He’d always been restless, and even now—pacing the length of the room, back and forth until he was dizzy—it didn’t change the fact that a woman barely out of law school, a woman he’d known since she was born—she was in an operating room, fighting for her life.

He’d given her too much responsibility. End of story. Put her in charge of this rape case her first month on the job? He scowled at himself, dragged his hands through his hair, letting it stand up crazily on its ends. What the hell had he been thinking?

He looked over to find Lucky and Cruz sitting next to each other, both pale and silent. Fucking kids. That’s all they were. They’d come on the job, looking to do good, and what had they gotten? Nothing but bullshit.

“Spencer.” Scott looked at him, swallowed hard, as Laura’s son turned to look at him—his mother’s eyes in his father’s face. He liked them together, liked how happy and settled Kelsey had seemed these last few months. “Don’t go blaming yourself for this.”

Lucky grimaced. “I shouldn’t have left her alone. I should have realized that a request for the case files might leak back to Vinnie—”

“Five minutes after you left the office?” Cruz demanded. “Fucking cops protecting each other.” He snorted. “That’s it. I’m turning in my badge.” He glared at Scott. “And if you think I’m alone—”

“I don’t.” Scott sat down, but his foot kept tapping. “I don’t know how we could have missed it, but—”

“We didn’t miss it,” Lucky cut in. “The evidence wasn’t there to see until we had the link, until we talked to all the victims. Until we knew Elizabeth was the trigger. The problem isn’t that we didn’t know it was Vinnie. It was that Vinnie was left in charge of these cases for six months. A blind man would have seen the connection.”

You didn’t miss it,” Cruz said with a pointed look at his friend. “You knew Vinnie was wrong. You just didn’t know why.” He looked at Scott. “He went with Vinnie to interview Renee Norton. He could tell he was handling the case wrong, that he was giving Renee the creeps. But Taggert brushed it off. Didn’t even get a reprimand for telling a sixteen-year-old girl she shouldn’t have been in the park alone at night. The only heat Vinnie ever took was to save Floyd’s worthless ass.”

Scott sighed, rubbed his eyes. “We all dropped the ball. Everyone but you two and Dante. And Kelsey. You took care of Elizabeth Webber during the Lansing case, Rodriguez, and Spencer, you cracked this case wide open. Don’t think that because of what happened to Kelsey that it wasn’t worth it. You got all those women justice. When we work together, when we put the cases first—we do good work.”

“Yeah, but an innocent woman always seems to pay the price,” Lucky muttered. He shoved himself to his feet. “Dr. Jones said it might be a few more hours, so I’m going to check on Elizabeth downstairs.” His hand was almost trembling as he let it fall to his side. “I can’t sit here anymore.”

He stalked out of the room, leaving Scott alone with Cruz.

“I understand if you go,” Scott said after a long moment of silence, “but I’m asking you to give us a chance—”

“Funny. That’s what Taggert said the last time the PCPD put a woman in the hospital,” Cruz muttered, but then fell silent as they waited for news.

General Hospital: ICU Waiting Room

When Ned had arrived at the hospital, Jax and Alexis following in his wake, he’d been told that Vincent Esposito was being treated in the ICU for shattered kneecaps, a busted jaw, and a concussion, and that Mac and Taggert were upstairs waiting to take his statement.

“Maybe this isn’t a good time,” Alexis said softly as they stepped off the elevator. She touched Ned’s arm. “Maybe we should come back or meet with them—”

“No. I want to see them. I want to see their faces,” Ned muttered as he stalked towards the waiting room. He shoved open the door to find Mac and Taggert both sitting down, a coffee table in front of them covered in paperwork.

Taggert got to his feet as Ned walked in. “Ned—”

“What’s the case against him?” Ned asked as he looked at the man who had allowed his daughter’s rapist to literally operate beneath his nose. “How strong is it?”

“We got him cold on the assault today which is the initial charge we’re filing,” Mac said, without any inflection in his voice. “Elizabeth Webber reported that he confessed to her about being her attacker, that he had come back to finish it. We’re filing charges of aggravated assault and battery, with an option to upgrade to attempted murder on Kelsey.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

“He was one of Elizabeth’s regulars back at Kelly’s where he rented a room. Ruby Anderson kept a lot of notes from that time, and Lucky and Bobbie both remember him coming in every evening for coffee. He also took statements from Elizabeth and Sarah in 1997 and was involved in several other police cases—”

“That’s all circumstantial,” Alexis interrupted. “What do you have—”

“Today, I went to the prison to interview Tom Baker,” Taggert told them. “He will also testify that Vinnie confessed to him about attacking Elizabeth. More importantly, we got the warrant for his DNA which will link him to all seven rapes. And the security cameras show him going into the stairwell at the same time Kelsey Joyce was known to be shoved down the steps.”

Ned thought all of that sounded good, but he looked to Alexis for confirmation. She pursed her lips but nodded. Ned looked back at Mac and Taggert. “He knew my daughter.”

“Dante said as much,” Mac said. He got to his feet. “Ned—” He swallowed hard. “There’s no words—there’s nothing I can say—”

“No, there’s not.” Ned clenched his fist. “A serial rapist operated in this city while you missed every sign. And then it turned out to be the very officer investigating the case. Your career is finished, Mac. Even if I were in a mood to forgive—”

“I offered my resignation to the mayor,” Mac told him. “I tried earlier this summer, but he refused to take it. He refused to take it again today. He believes any indication of fault from me will follow him.” His lips twisted into a sick smile. “It’s already too late, but he doesn’t see it. I can quit outright, or you can fire me as your first act.”

“You think you’re doing me a favor?” Ned demanded. His temper broke and he lunged across the room, taking Mac by the collar and shoving him against the wall. He shoved him once more, even as Jax and Taggert were scrambling to pull him back.

He wrapped his hand around Mac’s neck and squeezed. “You son of a bitch—you stole my daughter from me. You and this entire system—and you think you’re doing me a favor by letting me fire you? Fuck you—” He released Mac with another shove.

“Ned,” Jax said, taking Ned’s arm and pulling back slightly. “Lois is on her way. Let’s—let’s go make sure she’s got a place at the hotel. We can work on a press statement—”

Ned shook off Jax’s arm and stalked out of the room. Jax sighed, then followed. Alexis hesitated. “Ah, I hope we can just—chalk that up to—”

“I don’t intend to press charges if that’s what you mean,” Mac muttered as he touched his throat. “I owed him that. And a lot more.”

“Cut the martyr act, Commissioner,” Alexis said, coolly. “No one is impressed. You made a selfish choice, and you’re going to pay for it.”

She stormed out. Taggert looked at his boss, then took his seat again.  He wasn’t sure what the world would look like after Ned was sworn in as mayor, but he didn’t think the PCPD would ever be the same.

General Hospital: Hospital Room

The room was quiet, and all the lights were off save the one near her bed. It was nearly midnight, and most of the hospital floor had long since retired for the night.

But not Elizabeth. She was wide awake, staring at the monitors that were tracking her vitals and the fetal heartbeat. Both had remained steady since her blood pressure had returned to normal around six that evening, three hours after the attack.

She turned her head to find Jason still sitting next to her bed, still staring at the same monitor.

“I can’t believe it’s over,” she murmured. She took his hand in hers, tracing her fingers over the roughened skin. “And here I am, in another hospital bed.”

“All the security we put into place and…” Jason shook his head. “Guards. Alarms—” He dipped his head. “None of it worked.”

“You bought the baseball bat,” she offered weakly, but she knew the fact that this had happened to her in the penthouse—the fortress where he’d insisted they move—was going to bother him for a long time.

“And you’ve used it twice,” he said with some exasperation. “That was supposed to make you feel better, not—”

“I knew—” She sighed. “I knew I’d never make it to the door and unlock it before he got to me, but I thought I might be able to get to the bedroom, that I might be able to get to the bat under the bed. I knew it was there. I knew it was the last resort. But it worked, and you know what?” Her smile was faint but genuine. “It felt damn good to swing that bat, to see him fly forward and crack his head open on the end of the bed. But I ran. I did what you told me to do.”

He brushed her hair back, off her forehead, letting his thumb rest against her temple. She closed her eyes, comforted by his presence, his scent. “Are you…we haven’t really talked about what happened. What he said.”

Jason had listened as Elizabeth had painfully recounted Vinnie’s actions, his words, and most importantly, his confession to Mac and Taggert. He’d said nothing, hadn’t even been sure what he could say.

“That night I told you I’d been to the prison—” He couldn’t force the words out. “You went back to that night. You were living through it again. And you’ve had it in your head since—”

“I was terrified,” she murmured. “He talked about what happened between us like it was a bad date. He looked at me like I was supposed to have remembered him and I just—I didn’t. Until I remembered—he was there at Luke’s. After Nikolas went to the hospital…” She closed her eyes. “Such a scary night, and I didn’t even think about the cop who took our statements. I didn’t remember he was someone who came into Kelly’s all the time. How could he have been so obsessed with me, been around me so much without me knowing?”

“I don’t know,” Jason said. “He’s sick. And you were just the excuse he used to go after these women.”

“Brooke knew him. She’d grown up with him.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, a sob bubbling up in her throat. “I keep thinking about her final words. The last thing she said before the phone went dead. She remembered something. Was it him? Do you think part of her knew it? Knew he was someone she knew? Poor Ned. And poor Lois. She must have known him, too.”

“Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll never know for sure.”

“I just—I want to go home. I want Monica to come in here, to tell me the scans are clean, that our baby is okay—” She shook her head. “I just want this to be over. It’s so close to being over.”

“It will be. And by the time the baby is born, all of this—” He stopped. God, he wanted to promise her that it would be a distant memory by May, but—

“I know. But whatever happens next—” She reached up, touched his cheek. “We’ll get through it together.”

He leaned down to kiss her, brushing his lips against hers and lingering.

The door opened then, and Monica stepped into the shadows. “I’m so sorry,” she murmured. “I know it’s late, but the scans came back—”

Jason pulled back and switched on another light. “No clots?”

“The MRI was clear. Your vitals have remained stable for six hours, and Kelly said the fetal heartbeat is strong. We’ll be releasing you in the morning.”

Monica came to the bedside and touched her son’s shoulder. “We might recommend some light bed rest, but beyond that, we’re cautiously in the clear.”

The pressure on her chest eased. She looked at Jason who was smiling down at her. “Bed rest,” she repeated. “Not a problem.”

“I’m so glad you’re all right,” Monica told her, and now she sounded less like a doctor and more like Jason’s mother. “That this horrible case is over. I only wish that Brooke—I wish that she were here to see it. But the other women will sleep more peacefully knowing that animal is behind bars.”

“I know I will,” Elizabeth said. She watched as Monica left. “Of course, it means I might have to testify at another trial. But after today, nothing will feel scary again.”

November 4, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter Forty-Seven

We’ll be wrapping Mad World up next Thursday which makes me a little bit sad, but happy. I’ve been living with this story in one way or another since 2004, and though I’ve got a Book 3 planned, the bulk of what I wanted — the serial rapist story — that goes back to 2004 and Brooke’s original rape and the original version of Kelsey & Lucky — Lucky and Brianne. Tying it to Elizabeth, making it her story, too — that’s been with me since 2017. It’s great to finally see it reach you guys.

 

This entry is part 28 of 31 in the series All of Me

That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heartache, cast away
Just another product of today
Rather be the hunter than the prey
And you’re standing on the edge, face up ’cause you’re a
Natural
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To make it in this world
Natural, Imagine Dragons


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Bobbie knocked on Lucky’s slightly ajar door, a folder tucked under her arm. “Hey. I didn’t think I’d catch you here—” She grinned. “You never seem to be in this room anymore.”

“Yeah, well—” Lucky shrugged. “I’m spending a lot of time with Kelsey right now.” He nodded at the folders. “Did you find something?”

“I don’t know,” Bobbie admitted. “I found some of Elizabeth’s old timecards and tried to match her schedule to Ruby’s notes. She liked to keep her thoughts about the waitresses. What needed to be done.” And reading her aunt’s spidery handwriting had opened that well of sadness. She hadn’t realized just how much she missed Ruby’s comforting presence.

She handed a notebook to Lucky. “This covers the period between the time Ruby hired Elizabeth and shortly after the attack. She talks about hiring Elizabeth—mostly because Audrey begged her.”

Lucky opened it to one of the pages Bobbie had flagged and smiled, his fingers tracing the papers. “Aunt Ruby was a soft touch.” He skimmed an entry.

“Didn’t fire the Webber girl again,” he read. “Wanted to. But there’s something about her that reminds me of Barbara. A fire. If it’s not tended properly, it can burn out of control. Better to watch her.” He laughed at that. “God, she really was a terrible waitress.”

“A disaster,” Bobbie agreed. “Anyway, Ruby didn’t comment much on the customers, but she said for some reason, Elizabeth had a small stable of regulars.”

“Yeah.” Lucky blinked up at her. “Aunt Ruby couldn’t understand it, but there were a few people who came in when she was working. Mrs. Hanson. My dad liked her attitude.” He frowned. “I can’t remember who else.”

“Well, that’s what gave me the idea to start pulling her timecards and see if I could match some receipts. People didn’t pay by debit card that often, but Ruby ran tabs for the regulars who were just getting coffee or something quick.”

“Yeah, I remember that—”

“And I thought you could ask Vinnie Esposito if he saw anything.”

Lucky looked at his aunt. Shook his head. “Vinnie? Dante’s cousin?”

“Yeah, he was staying in one of the rooms. Right around the time Lois Cerullo moved back to Bensonhurst, she said a friend’s nephew was starting at the PCPD and could we do them a favor. Give him a room? So, Vinnie lived up here for…oh, almost two years, I think. From…”

Bobbie pressed a finger to her chin, trying to remember it. She hadn’t really been involved as much with Kelly’s then. But it was in the middle of that awful time when her marriage had fallen apart. She could remember that Lois’s call had been commiserating about Tony’s affair, asking if Bobbie was doing all right. “1996, I think. He moved out, oh, before Ruby died, I think, but he was still here in the fall of 1997. I’d have to double check the tax records to be sure, but—”

“Vinnie lived at Kelly’s.” Lucky just stared at her. Because damn it—that was it. That was what he’d been trying to remember.

“Yeah, and so I thought maybe he might…” Bobbie trailed off. “Lucky—?”

“He was one of Elizabeth’s regulars,” he murmured, more to himself. “I…I remember that now. He came in for coffee in the evenings, halfway through the third shift.”

“Strange he wouldn’t have mentioned that if he knew her case was being reopened.” Bobbie tilted her head. “Lucky—”

“I need to…” He swallowed hard, closed Ruby’s book. “I need you to get me those tax records. Find out exactly how long Vinnie lived here. What kind of tab he ran. Ruby used to write down the dates and times so she could track their expenses. Do we still have those?”

“Ruby never threw out anything,” Bobbie murmured, as she realized what Lucky was getting at. “I’ll get that for you.”

“I’ve got to talk to Kelsey. I have to check on something.” Lucky’s hands were shaking as he reached for his jacket.

“Lucky, you should call Taggert.”

“Accuse another cop because he used to live here?” Lucky shook his head. “No. Besides, Taggert is out of town. There’s just…there’s something else I need to check. Something that might…Aunt Bobbie, thanks for this. But I gotta go.”

And then he ran out, leaving Bobbie with the horrifying concept that maybe Elizabeth had known her rapist…and had continued to serve him for months after it had happened.

Pentonville: Interrogation Room

Baker was pale when he was led in, his eyes fixated on Morgan. Taggert eyed the prisoner before looking at Jason Morgan, who remained standing, leaning against the closed door.

Something told him that Baker wasn’t entirely surprised to find Jason Morgan here today, and however the hell Morgan had managed it—Taggert didn’t give a damn.

On this case, cutting a few corners was worth it. At least it was for the right reasons this time. He hit record on the player in front of him.

“You know why we’re here, Baker.” Taggert raised his brows. “Do we have to go through the motions where I promise you I’ll make sure you never see parole if you don’t come clean?” He offered a short sardonic chuckle. “That’s if you even get that far. You never know what might happen in a prison.”

And now Baker’s eyes flitted from Morgan to Taggert and back to Morgan. “You dirty son of a bitches. Cops ain’t no better than the assholes in here—”

“Cut the crap, Baker. You know something. You knew the color of her dress.”

“I—” Baker shifted. “Valentine’s Day. Lucky guess.”

“How’d you know Elizabeth was attacked on Valentine’s Day?” When Baker remained silent, Taggert slapped the table, and Baker visibly jumped. “Tell me!”

“No way.”

“Did you gossip with the cops you hired for security?” Taggert demanded. “Did someone talk too much?”

Baker’s eyes slid away. “Maybe.” He looked up to find Jason staring at him. Hard. Then Jason uncrossed his arms, flexed them, crossed them again.

“Sometimes…I got some…help with my…” Baker coughed. “Plans. Endeavors. Some…enforcing.”

“Someone helped you blackmail people?” Taggert asked. His blood boiled. “A cop helped?”

“One guy. He…wanted to make money. Security wasn’t enough. Had a gambling problem. I hired him for shoots. And then to make visits. Marks paid faster when they thought the cops were in on it.”

Dirty piece of shit. “Which cop?”

“He liked to talk. Liked to brag, and I didn’t care much. He talked about this girl he wanted. She was a little young for him, he thought. But another year, maybe he could talk her into bed.” Baker licked his lips, sweat dripping down his cheeks. “But…I dunno, something happened. He couldn’t wait.”

“Couldn’t wait.” A cop. Fucking Baker was telling him it was a cop. A name skittered at the edge of his consciousness, but Taggert shoved it back. No fucking way. “What does that mean?”

“Saw her walking. She was sad. He liked her dress. Talked about the pretty red dress.” Baker slid back, almost as if he could feel the fury emanating from the mob enforcer behind Taggert.

“And he just…took it. Took her. She didn’t know him. Or didn’t realize it. She saw him all the time, but never knew it.” Baker wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“The name,” Taggert said quietly. “Which cop?”

But he already knew it. Even as Baker said it, Taggert knew it. It made too much sense, closed too many holes.

“Esposito. The one who moved to Buffalo.”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Kelsey’s Office

Kelsey stared him. Visibly swallowed. “Lucky, just because he lived at Kelly’s—” Her face was pale as she shook her head.

“Just listen to me,” Lucky said as he set a pile of folders on the conference table in her office. “Listen. I get it. I know it sounds insane, but once I realized Vinnie lived at Kelly’s—I started to think how well he fit the investigation. He was one of her regulars, but he was also the first reporting officer to the Lopez and Logan attacks. He was assigned to Watson, Norton, and Morris. He never made the link, Kelsey. What if it wasn’t just laziness? He knew the department policy on testing suspects. He knew his DNA wasn’t in the system. He knew we’d increased patrols in the park after Brooke. That’s why there hasn’t been another attack.”

He set out the victim statements. “Every single one of the victims this year expressed a dislike for the investigating officer. And both Lopez and Logan didn’t think much of the first responding officer.”

“But about our theory about newspaper coverage?” Kelsey asked, leaning forward. “How does that fit?”

“It still tracks.”  He took out a manila folder. “The investigation into Nikolas’s shooting? Vinnie took statements from Elizabeth and Sarah. He also took statements at the Christmas party where Nikolas and Jason went after each other, and Nikolas almost pressed charges for assault.”

Kelsey rose to her feet and reached for the folder. “He took a statement from Nikolas about the punch?”

“Veronica Logan was attacked in January of 2000. Vinnie got married in February of 2000 and moved to Buffalo. He moved back last fall.”

“And then first attack was February 14. Anniversary?” Kelsey asked. “She was questioned at Rice Plaza—” Her face paled as she saw the report. “By Vinnie.”

“He didn’t work the kidnapping case, but it was all over the squad room.” Lucky shook his head. “It wasn’t the newspapers. And what’s worse, back in ‘98, Vinnie logged Elizabeth’s dress into evidence.” Lucky tossed the copy of the evidence log on top of the others. “I know this is all circumstantial—”

“If your aunt can get us those timecards and the tab that shows he was in Kelly’s at the same time as Elizabeth, it’s something to start with.” She looked at Lucky. “I believe you. It’s too much of a coincidence that he took those statements. That he investigated. It was never the newspapers or tabloids, it was her involvement with the cops.”

“Yeah.” Lucky exhaled slowly. “I think maybe that’s how Baker knew about the dress. Vinnie moonlights as security at some of the clubs in town. He probably worked for Baker back then. I think if we showed Brenda Barrett his picture or Emily—”

“They might pick him out as a cop who ran security. Maybe.” Kelsey looked at the pile of work. “If we could get his DNA, we’d lock it up, but I don’t know if this is enough for a judge.”

“But—”

“We can put him at Kelly’s, yeah, but that’s not getting us anywhere. If Taggert gets his name from Baker, maybe…” Kelsey bit her lip. “Did you look into Buffalo?” She went back to her computer and pulled up a database. “I can’t remember if Buffalo is reporting yet to the state database—”

And there it was. February 14, 2000. February 14, 2001. February 14, 2002. Three more rapes. In a park. All unsolved. Nothing more was listed.

“Buffalo has three unsolved rapes on Valentine’s Day from the time Vinnie moved there until he came home.”

“Then Dana Watson here on Valentine’s Day. Sticking to his schedule—-”

“Until he sees Elizabeth at the hospital. Takes her statement about the fall. A week later, Renee Norton. It triggers the old pattern.” Kelsey reached for the Corinthos kidnapping file. “You said he didn’t work the Lansing case, but…” She nodded. “I remember his name. He signed up for shifts to watch the Webber house, but Taggert didn’t need him.”

“And he was one of the responding officers when Elizabeth found Carly. Because Capelli had been suspended, we were short-staffed. Vinnie was there that day.”

“Then a few days later, Wendy Morris.” She looked at him. “What about Brooke?”

“Elizabeth had been released from the hospital, but she came by the station that same day to fill out some paperwork. Vinnie was probably there.”

Kelsey chewed her lip as she made notes, trying to make it all line up. “It’s…too neat to be a coincidence, but—”

“He’s a cop,” Lucky said. “That’s how they’ll play it. This isn’t enough, is it?”

“We’ll need more. Your aunt’s records will help. If Baker gives us Vinnie’s name as guy who told him about the dress, I think it’ll add to it. I need to call Buffalo. Ask about these cases. If Vinnie investigated even one of them—if all the victims are similar in any way—” She reached for her phone.

“He came in for months afterward. I remember him now,” Lucky said, his teeth clenched. “She thought he was safe. He was a cop. She never once suspected him.”

“We’ll get him, Lucky.” The misery on his face tugged at her, and she reached out to touch his forearm.  “Once we have his DNA, he won’t be able to talk his way out of it.”

“Yeah, well. We better get it soon.” He exhaled slowly. “I should check in with Taggert on this, but he left for the prison.” He looked at his watch. “They’re probably there by now. I’ll call him in about a half hour. Get those files from Buffalo.” He leaned in, kissed her hard. “Be careful, okay? Let’s keep this under wraps. I don’t want to spook him.”

Buffalo Police Department: Squad Room

 “Some skirt from Port Charles DA office wants the files on our Valentine’s rapist.”

Chuckie Johnson scowled as his commanding officer dumped the memo on his desk. “What for?”

“Says there’s a link to an open case they got there. Get her copies,” the captain said, “but don’t give away the farm. She’s got a lead on the bastard, I want the collar. We worked the case too hard not get it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” When his captain had gone back into the office, Chuckie reached for his phone. If some bitch wanted the details on his cases, she could damn well get them from the original investigating officer. Why bother wasting his time with copying and scanning when he could just make a call?

“Yo, Esposito. How are the sunny shores of Port Charles treating you?”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Hallway

Kelsey scowled as she saw the line for the elevators. Lunch rush. Damn it. It would take at least two trips before she could make it on board, and the last thing she wanted to do was pull rank and force her way forward. She didn’t want to draw any attention to herself. If anyone found out she was looking at a cop—

She checked her watch and sighed. She wanted to get this search warrant before a judge as soon as possible. Lucky’s aunt had dropped off tax records proving Vinnie’s residence, records of his tab that were dated and could be corroborated by Elizabeth’s timecards. She’d combined that along with the handcuffs, the hair signature, and Elizabeth’s official interactions with Vinnie on the job—

Kelsey had polished everything up and had decided not to wait for official word from Buffalo—the captain she’d spoken to hadn’t seem all that enthusiastic. She would never understand people who got their panties in the twist because someone else might solve the case.

She knew Vinnie was guilty—could feel it in her bones—and she was determined to get a judge to sign an order for DNA to prove it.

Kelsey pushed open the door to the stairwell and started down the three flights to the ground floor. The courthouse was only across the street and down two blocks—she could catch Judge Farrell before he left—

Her thoughts flew out of her head as something shoved her forward, a force between her shoulder blades sent her flying through the air.

She landed hard halfway down the stairs, her hip and shoulder slamming against the concrete treads. She hardly had time to scream as she tumbled the rest of the way—

And then her head slammed into the floor. Everything went black.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth looked at the clock. She’d hoped that Jason would call at some point to tell her how the visit went—they should have been on their way back home by now, but—

She picked up her cell phone, then scowled. She’d forgotten to plug it in. Again. Jason was always reminding her to do it but—

She sighed, plugged it in and was reaching for the landline when it rang. She picked it up.

“Miss Webber, Detective Esposito from the PCPD is here. He’d like to talk to you.”

“Oh. Uh, send him up, I guess.” She didn’t really remember talking to Detective Esposito before—the name sounded dimly familiar so maybe he’d been around during the summer. Taggert was with Jason, so it was likely he’d sent this detective with follow-up questions. Maybe everyone else was busy putting out fires after her press conference.

When the knock at the door came, Elizabeth opened it. “Detective Esposito?” she asked. He was tall, lanky with short dark hair and brown eyes. He did look familiar. “Have we met before?” she asked with a slight frown. She looked past the detective, noticed that her guard, Cody, wasn’t there. Maybe he’d stepped out to use the bathroom. Strange. But maybe he’d taken the opportunity because she was with a cop.

“Yeah.”  He flashed her a hesitant smile. “You probably don’t remember. I talked to you after your fall in May.”

“Oh. Right.” She stepped back to let him in. “I knew you looked familiar. How can I help you?” Out of habit, she flipped the deadbolt and secondary lock on the door.

As Elizabeth turned her back to walk towards the sofa, Vinnie carefully unhooked the phone cord from the back of her receiver.

“Just a few questions, Miss Webber. It won’t take long.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

 It was too horrible to be true but as Lucky Spencer detailed the case he’d built against Vinnie Esposito, Mac simply closed his eyes, his stomach twisting. A cop. A cop under his command was a serial rapist. And it made too much sense for it to be anything else. It all fit.

God help them.

He took a deep breath, looked at his officer. “This isn’t going to be easy,” Mac warned him. “Vinnie filed a complaint about the suspension. He’s back on duty, pending a hearing. We need more—”

“Can’t we bring Vinnie in? Do something to get his DNA? I could get him a soda or something.” Lucky paced the office. “Aunt Bobbie got Kelsey the records, but there’s no way to know how long before Buffalo gets back to us—”

“Lucky—”

“If this is his pattern, Elizabeth was in to give a statement. He could be looking for a new victim.” His eyes found Mac’s. “With the press conference—he might go for her next.”

“It’s not dark yet, Lucky. I’ll…give him an assignment. Something overnight.”

“Mac—”

Lucky’s phone rang, and he scowled at the ID. “Why the hell is Scott Baldwin calling me?”

“Spencer—” Scott’s characteristic bombastic nature was absent from his tone. “You tell Scorpio to get everyone over to the MB. All the crime scene people. His best—” His voice faltered. “Kelsey was pushed down the steps. Some people heard her scream. We don’t know anything yet. She’s on her way to the hospital—”

“I’ll take care of it.” Lucky cut him off. His hands were trembling as he shoved the phone into his back pocket. “Mac. Someone just shoved Kelsey down the steps.”

“What?” Mac lunged to his feet. “Why? How could he—” He rushed out of the room and Lucky followed.

Vinnie was nowhere to be seen, but Dante was at his desk, watching security footage. He blinked as they rushed towards him. What’s—”

“Where’s your cousin?” Lucky demanded.

“Why?” Dante slowly got to his feet. “Everything okay? He got a call and left—”

Mac ignored him and grabbed for Vinnie’s extension, called down to the receptionist and switchboard operator. “Judy, did you transfer any calls to Vinnie Esposito today?” He listened to her answer, then closed his eyes. “Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”

He set the phone down carefully. “Charles Johnson from the Buffalo Police Department called Vinnie about a half hour ago. What do you want to bet he was giving a friend a heads up that some old files were being requested by his new ADA?”

Lucky fisted his hands at his side. “He knew we were on to him. Why the hell go after Kelsey? Why not run?”

“What the hell is going on?” Dante demanded. “What do you—No fucking way. My cousin isn’t a rapist—” He grabbed Lucky’s shirt, fisting his hand in the fabric. “No—not Brooke—He knew her!”

“Dante—” Mac shook his head. He looked at Cruz. “Rodriguez.”

“Yeah, boss?”

“Put together a detail. Call CSU and get over to the Municipal Building. There’s been an assault.” He looked to Lucky. “I need you to put out an APB on Vinnie. No details. Just locate him and report. And call Taggert.” He checked his watch. “They should be on their way back by now.”

“Mac, what about Elizabeth?”

Mac frowned. “What about her—” He swallowed. “A distraction. Kelsey’s a distraction. Vinnie knows it’s over for him. If he’s not using this time to get out of town, then—”

Lucky tugged his cell out of his pocket. Started to dial. “He’s been trying to recreate it all along. He was always going back to Elizabeth eventually. Let me call her—”

“Call her. She’s at the Towers, and their security is top notch. Get them to hold Vinnie if he shows up. Get that APB out. Get Taggert up to speed.” He jabbed a finger. “Rodriguez, I’m with you.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

 “So, what brings you by?” Elizabeth asked. “I know Lieutenant Taggert is up at Pentonville.”

“Yeah.” Vinnie leaned against the arm of their sofa and looked at her. “I don’t know if anyone’s told you but there’s a theory that maybe you knew the guy. That you came into contact with him.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Yeah. They said they think I was the first.”

“Yeah. You were.” Vinnie tilted his head. “And you know they say there’s something special about the first.”

Elizabeth hesitated as she shuffled some magazines on the coffee table into a pile, but then shook it off. She was just…feeling a bit jumpy, maybe. “I guess. To him. So…you want me to try to remember back then?”

“Yeah. Someone maybe you didn’t even realize was around. Someone who you saw at Kelly’s. Or maybe when you went out. What did you do for fun back then?”

“Oh…not much.” Something was making her skin crawl, and she just…she wanted to believe it was that she was talking about this era with a cop she didn’t know. That was it. He was a man and talking about her rape was uncomfortable with men.

“I was grounded a lot. Um. Usually, Kelly’s. Sometimes the mall. The movies. We used to go to Luke’s but not after the shooting.” She sighed at that memory as she picked up a glass of water she’d left on the table. “My grandmother worried about us, I guess.”

“The shooting?” Vinnie prompted.

“Oh. December ‘97. Nikolas Cassadine was shot.” She sipped her water, remembering that night. “In the throat. God, it was so terrifying. He couldn’t breathe, and he just—he almost died. But Jason…saved his life. My sister was dating him—Nikolas I mean– so I tried to keep her…”

And then she turned, the glass in her hand, and stared at him. “You were there.”

“I wondered if you would remember.”

And this time, when Vinnie Esposito smiled, she knew.

She knew.

SUV

Taggert had to let Morgan drive on the way back. He had brought a copy of his files with him and was now pouring over them, looking for any connection he could find. He wanted to have everything together before he presented a case to Mac and Kelsey.

And he knew that Morgan needed something to do, something on which to focus his anger.

Now that they had a name.

They were just inside the city limits when Taggert’s cell rang. Out of habit, he hit the speaker phone so he could take the call without stopping his work. “Yeah?”

“Taggert, we’ve—we’ve had a development here.” Lucky Spencer’s voice was tremulous as it echoed in the car. “I think we know who it is.”

“Hopefully it matches what Baker gave us—” Taggert said, leaving the phone on speaker. He hesitated. “What’s wrong? You sound like shit—”

“Uh, I got a lead—I took it to Kelsey Joyce, and…Christ, he shoved her down the stairs. We can’t find him. Elizabeth’s not answering. Where the hell are you guys?”

Taggert felt the speed increase as he glanced at Jason. Those features could have been etched in stone for all the emotion that could be seen—and yet, the fury was palpable, radiating throughout the car.

“What the hell happened?”

“I talked to Bobbie who remembered Vinnie lived at Kelly’s during Elizabeth’s attack. And then I remembered he came in almost halfway through his shift. During Elizabeth’s. So, I just…I pulled records. He interviewed her at the drive by at Luke’s.  And then—”

“He took my statement when Cassadine went after me at the Christmas party,” Morgan said, his voice flat. “Elizabeth was there.”

“Yeah. And the garage fire. He responded then. Wasn’t on call but came. He investigated the Rice Plaza fall before I took over—”

“And the Lansing house this summer. He wanted to take a shift watching it. Fuck me. He investigated three of the rapes. Fucked them up, but he’s a goddamn lazy piece of shit so I thought–”

“You’re not surprised— did Baker gave his name?”

“Yeah. Baker gave his name. You said he went after Kelsey?”

“Yeah.” He could hear Lucky swallow hard. “She was putting together a warrant for his DNA. She found three other rapes in Buffalo while he was there, but when she made the request for more info—”

“One of his good buddies gave him the heads up because I’ll just bet he investigated those, too.” Fuck this world. “Is she okay? What’s going on?”

“She’s…in surgery. She, um, hit her head pretty hard. And there’s some bleeding. We got an APB out on Vinnie. Just to locate and report back. But I tried to call Elizabeth. Her cell goes to voice mail and her phone just keeps ringing. She’s not here at the hospital. I had her paged. I’m calling everybody—”

“Get uniforms to her place. We’re going there first. I’ll be in touch.” He ended the line. “You got security at the building, yeah?”

“Yeah, on the door, but—” Jason swallowed hard. “We’ve been cooperating with the police lately. And she doesn’t know—” He gave Taggert a number to dial and put on speaker phone. “Wally, is Elizabeth at home?”

“Yeah, she came home about twenty minutes before the cop got here. I let him up about ten minutes ago.” There was a pause. “You know, Cody came downstairs like five minutes ago, said Miss Webber was going to be down to go to the station, but she’s still not—”

Jesus Christ. “Get up there!” Taggert ordered.

“Was that…Lieutenant Taggert?” Jason’s security guy asked, confused.

Jason’s hands clenched on the steering wheel. “Get anyone you know. Anyone on duty. Get upstairs.”

The line went dead as Jason pressed down on the gas pedal. Taggert reached into his glove compartment, pulled out the portable siren, and stuck it on top of the car.

They raced towards Harborview Towers, praying they wouldn’t be too late.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

 “You…took our statement,” Elizabeth said. Her cell was dead, but maybe…if she could get the cordless off the receiver. She looked at it…and saw the thin telephone cord laying on the ground. Could she—would the cordless work if the base wasn’t plugged in? Could she get to the phone in time?

Her blood froze over, but she sipped her water. “I’m sorry, I didn’t remember you when you came to the door. That was so long ago. And…I think you used to come to Kelly’s.”

“I used to live there before I got married,” Vinnie said easily. “You know you’re not the only woman. The first. But not the only.”

“No.” She cleared her throat. “No, I mean, I know.” Keep calm. Keep cool. Get to the door. Get to the intercom. “Lieutenant Taggert told me.”

“Do you know why there were others?” Vinnie asked as she slowly stepped towards him. Get around him. Get to the door.

“I…I’m not sure. Um…” Elizabeth hesitated. “Maybe I know them. Did you bring pictures? Do you know any names?”

“They look like you,” Vinnie said. “But they were never you.” His smile slid away a bit. “I tried so hard to find someone who was as perfect as you.”

Oh. God.

“I—” Her mouth was dry. She was two feet from him. More than fifteen from the door. Oh. God. “What was wrong with them?”

“They should have been right.” He shook his head. “Same hair. Same ages. Same body. I followed them all just like you. They stopped like you. It was supposed to be a sign. It should have been right.” His face twisted in irritation as he swung out— the glass flying from her hand and shattering against the hardwood floor.

She bolted, but never made it more than half a step before he grabbed her from behind, an arm around her waist, another at her mouth.

Just like before. It was just like before. Her brain froze. Blackness threatened at the edge of her vision. Oh, God. Oh, God. She had to get away. Had to make this stop.

“They were wrong!” he raged as he lifted her, tossed her on the sofa. He straddled her, took her hands in his, wrapping his fingers around her wrists. “They didn’t smell right. Didn’t feel right!”

“Please, God, please. Please.” She’d never make it out alive this time. She knew him. Could identify him. “Please don’t.”

“I never wanted to hurt you.” His grip softened as he stroked her cheek. Bile rose in her throat. “I was sorry. I saw your statement. You knew I was sorry. You heard me crying. You didn’t…you didn’t like it.”

“No.” She closed her eyes, the tears streaking down her cheeks. “No. I didn’t. I didn’t want it. Please don’t…. not again.”

She’d never survive it again.

“I couldn’t try again. Not with you. I had to wait. For you to get older. To understand. To see me. I waited, but—” He slapped her face. “Look at me, damn it!”

Elizabeth did and saw the insanity lit in his eyes. “Please—”

“But you never saw me. I had to find someone else. But they were never you. They were never right. I knew you had to be next, and I wanted it to be perfect. But that bitch attorney—” He hissed. “She’s on to me. I took care of her, but she probably told that pissant Spencer. I had to get to you. To see if it would be the same. Or better.”

Oh, thank God. Kelsey Joyce somehow knew. Maybe Lucky knew. He wouldn’t get away with it.

“It won’t—”

“No, it’ll never be the same,” Vinnie agreed. “I was your first. That’s why you were special. Because I was first. But it’ll be better than the others. Because it’s you. It had to be you.” He slid his hand down to stroke her hair.

His grip loosened on her wrist and she took her chance, maybe the only chance she’d ever have.

Elizabeth brought her knee up sharply against his groin and then sprang up, twisting until her elbow could get him in the abdomen. He howled, reared back.

He’d catch her before she could unlock the door—so she ran upstairs, to the bedroom.

She slammed the door shut, flipped the lock, and reached under her bed for the baseball bat Jason had given her. If he came through that door, she’d be ready.