I am so ashamed,
I am so ashamed of all the trouble I have caused
I am so ashamed of all these unopened doors
I am so ashamed of what I have become
– You Will Leave a Mark, Silent Film
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
General Hospital: Conference Room
Lucky pressed a mug of bad hospital coffee into the younger man’s hands and took a seat across from him. “Are you ready to give a statement now?”
“Yeah. I guess.” Dillon took a deep breath. “Sorry. I know that you guys are just trying to help. I—” He shook his head. “I’m such a fucking coward,” he muttered. “I let her sit in those bushes because I couldn’t do it alone—”
“Hey.” Lucky looked at the miserable brown eyes of the boy sitting across from him and…God, he knew what Dillon was feeling. Without even trying to pull at piece of his memory—
Lucky could remember that shock of discovery, that crushing guilt, that miserable feeling of knowing that no matter what you did, you could never go back. You could never make it unhappen.
He dipped his head, trying to focus. Hell of a time to have memories and emotions rush into his head, into his heart. Use them. Make the connection.
“You waited, what, two extra minutes, Dillon?” Lucky said quietly. “What did that change? Did it make it less awful? I can tell you—” He hesitated. “You’re what, eighteen?”
“Almost nineteen,” Dillon muttered. “Why?”
“I was a little younger than you when I found Elizabeth.” Dillon’s head snapped up at that. “About sixteen, I guess. It was winter. Valentine’s Day. I’d promised that I’d go to the dance with her, but we’d meant it just as friends.”
Lucky managed a half smile. “I knew better. I knew she had a crush on me. But I wanted her sister. When Sarah asked me, I abandoned Elizabeth without a backward glance.” He’d never been able to tell Elizabeth before—that part of the reason he’d agreed to go with Sarah was that he hadn’t wanted to lead Elizabeth on.
“Elizabeth decided to save face, I guess, and made up a date so it would all work out. I don’t know if I believed her. I know I wanted to.” Lucky tipped his head. “But she never came to the dance, and it turns out the Sarah I wanted existed only in my head. All I could think about the entire night was Elizabeth. I got worried about her—she always knew how to get herself into trouble, so I went looking.”
“And you found her—” Dillon swallowed. “Like Brooke—”
“Not exactly. It was actually—” Lucky rubbed his chest, remembering that horrible moment, that stunned terror as he realized the whimpering sounds were Elizabeth as she crawled through the brush. “She was still conscious. He hadn’t—he hadn’t hurt her the same way.” But he sure had destroyed her. “She crawled out of the bushes, and she didn’t even recognize me. When she did, she tried to pretend nothing happened. Like she wasn’t bruised, her dress torn, her shoes broken—” He drew in a shuddering breath. “Anyway. For a long time, I lived with the knowledge if I had just gone to the damn dance with her—”
“Yeah.” Dillon closed his eyes. “Does that go away?” he asked. “You don’t still feel guilty?”
“I got brainwashed by the Cassadines a few times,” Lucky admitted. “And it played with my memories. The way I think about things. And until this minute…I hadn’t been able to remember what happened to her. Not the same way.” And it felt freeing to say that out loud. “But looking at you, knowing what you’re thinking, it’s coming back for me.” He paused. “I don’t know if the guilt will ever go away.”
“Brooke was a real pain in the ass when she moved here six weeks ago,” Dillon said after a long moment. “Just a raging jackass who never had anything nice to say and got pleasure out of making everyone else miserable, you know? I avoided her like the plague.” He sipped the coffee.
“That changed a few weeks ago. Monica kind of snapped at her, something I don’t think anyone else had done. And I guess—it made Brooke decide to try harder. She got a job at Kelly’s, and Georgie and Lucas were coming around.” Dillon paused. “So Lucas invited her to the movies tonight. This was supposed to be our chance to just hang out. To have fun. But Maxie’s boyfriend is an idiot—” He looked away. “He was a stand-up guy tonight, though. So maybe Maxie’s right. Maybe we just don’t know him that well.”
“You were at the Harwin?”
“Yeah, it was a Bette Davis double feature. Jezebel and Of Human Bondage. I’m kind of obsessed with old movies,” Dillon confessed. “Georgie tries, but I know everyone was bored. And they were in black and white. I should have picked something else, but it was my turn, you know? Lucas and Kyle were arguing even before we went in, but we got almost through Jezebel before Maxie started complaining, then Lucas said something, and Kyle spilled his soda on some guy who punched him—” Dillon shook his head. “We got kicked out.”
“Brooke wasn’t in on the fight?” Lucky asked, scribbling something on his notepad. “This guy who punched Kyle—”
“Oh, he got to stay,” Dillon said sourly. “Because he’s an adult. Whatever. Um, we kept fighting outside. I don’t know how long we were out there when we noticed Brooke was gone.” He managed a weak smile. “I was defending Bette Davis’s honor.”
“Do you think Brooke left on purpose?” Lucky asked. “Could she have seen someone she knows?”
“I doubt it. Brooke really doesn’t know a lot of people here. I know she’s been working at Kelly’s, but—she’s not a really friendly person.” Dillon winced. “That sounds bad. What I mean is—she’s not immediately friendly. Once you get to know her, it’s better. No, I’m pretty sure Brooke went off on her own. There’s a bus stop on Central Avenue, a few blocks from the hotel. She’s taken it before—it goes right past the mansion.”
“Which explains why she was on the south side of the park.” And so close to the bus stop. “Okay, so walk me through realizing she’s gone.”
“It was Lucas who realized it,” Dillon said. “He looked around and she wasn’t there. Um, we got worried right away because Brooke hasn’t lived here long. I mean, I’ve only been here like four more months, but still, it’s longer.” He cleared his throat. “But I figured she’d head for the bus stop. Maxie and Georgie didn’t want to walk in the park, so they volunteered to drive to the bus stop, to see if Brooke went around.”
Lucky hesitated. “Was there a reason they didn’t want to walk in the park?”
“I don’t know, I think their dad—their stepdad, I mean—he said something about the park after dark or something.” Dillon frowned. “I don’t know. They didn’t say anything. Why?”
“Just trying to get a better picture. So, you split up.”
“Yeah, then me, Lucas, and Kyle took the park. Brooke didn’t have a phone on her, so we just kind of walked the paths—separate areas—and I got to the fountain and I saw her shoe.” Dillon’s jaw trembled slightly. “I didn’t—I froze. And I just—I was so goddamn scared I was about to find her dead, and I didn’t want to do that alone.”
“I don’t blame you, Dillon.” Lucas looked down at his notepad. “What time you do think you got kicked out?”
“Oh. Well, the movie started at like nine. We got kicked out at around ten-thirty.”
And the call had come in at 11:03 p.m. that evening. “How long you do think you were fighting outside the theater before you noticed she was gone?”
“Maybe five minutes,” Dillon said with a shake of his head. “But I don’t know. I don’t know the time, but I can tell you what scene we got kicked out at, and maybe theater knows exactly when they started it. Would that help?”
“We’re just trying to narrow down time frames for security footage.” Lucky tapped his fingers against the pad. “Is there anything else?”
“No, um, but is Brooke…” Dillon trailed off. “I just want to go check on Brooke. Can I go?” He got to his feet when Lucky nodded. He waited a moment though. “How did you deal with the guilt?” he asked, avoiding Lucky’s eyes, staring at the ground.
“I decided the best way to make it better was to help Elizabeth. I did whatever she needed when she needed it. I made her my number one priority.”
“And that helped?”
“I could sleep better at night, but for the rest of my life, Dillon, I’ll wonder if I was just a little bit quicker…if I could have prevented it.”
Dillon swallowed. “You said it happened at the same place—at the fountain—”
“Coincidence,” Lucky assured him. “The guy who attacked Elizabeth confessed and is in prison now.” He got to his feet, put a hand on Dillon’s shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
He stepped out into the hall, leaned against the wall, and took a deep breath. He tried to calm the swirling thoughts, the ache in his chest. The flashes in his head. He’d kept it together. He’d gotten through the interview, but, oh, man.
It had started in the park. When he’d walked into that clearing, and he’d just—he’d gone back. Back to the terrible, freezing night when he’d trekked through the snow, his breath white puffs of air. He could remember his irritation at annoying Lizzie Webber who never told the truth if a lie was more interesting.
And then the sound of the bushes rustling—he’d heard her first, her soft whimpers, the crunch of snow as she’d dragged herself back to the clearing—
The look in her eyes, the tear in her dress—
Lucky exhaled slowly, then took out his cell phone and dialed.
“Lucky? Hey. You’re at the hospital, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.” His voice cracked as he spoke, so he cleared his throat. “You heard already?”
“Yeah.” Kelsey’s voice was thick. “Yeah. I’m on my way into the office. Scott and I are meeting tonight—Mac’s supposed to come with the details. Damn it. I knew—I knew we didn’t have a lot of time, but I didn’t think—”
“And Brooke Lynn—the girl at Luke’s last week—she’s a kid—” He listened as her voice broke. When she spoke again, Kelsey sounded stronger. “I’ll be here all night, but if you can—I’ll see you tomorrow?”
He closed his phone and slipped it back into his back. He felt better just hearing her voice, but knew he’d have to tell her tomorrow why finding a young brunette in a park had hit him so hard. Lucky knew now it wasn’t fair to go forward without admitting just how much of his previous life Helena had destroyed—
And how he now had to cope with the fact that it was coming back.
General Hospital: ICU Waiting Room
It was nearly two in the morning before the hospital was able to move Brooke from the emergency room to her own room in the ICU—a precaution, Tony had assured Ned when it was time to make the move. They were concerned about the head injury, the cracked ribs, and Brooke’s unconscious state.
Ned thought, and his mother had agreed, that this sounded more like the hospital trying to cover its ass with the niece of the Chief of Staff and granddaughter of members of the hospital board, but he wanted Brooke to have the best care.
They sat with her in shifts—Dillon and Tracy were taking this half hour as Ned sat in the waiting room, trying to draft a press statement. Alexis, representing both the hospital and the family, had left to find out exactly how Brooke’s name had been leaked to the press.
So far, only the Sun had run her name because the Sun had zero journalistic principles, but Brooke was a Quartermaine and the other media would eventually run with it.
And the fact that he had to run damage control before his daughter was even conscious—
The door to the room opened, and Ned was relieved to find Jax on the other side, with two cups of steaming coffee in his hand. “I thought Alexis said you’d be here tomorrow—” Ned rose to his feet. Jax set the coffees on the small table next to one of the chairs and embraced Ned tightly.
“I turned the plane around over the Atlantic,” Jax told him. He drew back, keeping his hands on Ned’s shoulders. “How is she?”
“Ah—” Ned had to struggle to think straight. “Still hasn’t—she hasn’t woken up. Tony doesn’t seem to think that’s unusual. It’s been about—” He checked his watch— “God, it’s been about five hours. Concussion, sprained wrist, cracked ribs—” His voice faltered. “He beat her within an inch of her life—her face is—” He collapsed onto the seat, his head in his hands. “It’s my fault.”
“I brought her up here, didn’t care what she thought. I took her phone away, I wouldn’t let her have a car—she was only walking in that park because she was trying to take the bus—”
“Hey, you know better than that.” Jax shook Ned’s shoulder. “This is about the animal who did this to her. No one else.”
“Yeah. Yeah, well, they better hope when they get him, I’m not left alone with him.” Ned looked at his friend. “Someone at the department leaked her name. The press was at the house—Alexis only just managed to get them away from the hospital.”
“Why—why would they do that?” Jax demanded. His eyes flashed. “She’s a child—”
“To cover their asses. The PCPD has been under a lot of criticism for handling Carly’s kidnapping and putting Liz Webber in danger from her violent husband—this shifts it away from their screwups.” Ned shook his head. “I don’t know what to do. Lois is going to come through those doors in an hour or two, and she’s going to be angry with me, and I deserve it.”
“We’ll take this one step at a time—”
The doors opened again, and this time it was his grandfather, looking impossibly old and worn. “I got a copy of the Herald delivered express.” Edward blinked. “Oh. Jax.”
“Edward. Is there anything I can do for you? Get you? Some breakfast?” he asked, turning to Ned, but Ned just shook his head.
“Grandfather, tell me the Herald didn’t publish her name—”
“No. Only the Sun, and believe you me, I already have Alexis drawing up a lawsuit. I am going to buy that rag and burn it to the ground,” Edward growled. He tossed the paper down on the seat next to Ned. “The Herald has another story that might interest you.”
Ned picked it up and just stared at the two-inch banner headline. SERIAL RAPIST STRIKES AGAIN
“Serial…” he swallowed hard, his fingers gripping the paper hard. “What the hell is this—”
“Brooke is the fourth young woman attacked at a fountain in that park since February,” Edward revealed, jabbing his finger at the paper. “According to the Herald, the department refused to make a connection after the first two attacks in February and May, and then asked the paper to hold the story after the third—”
“Two weeks ago,” Ned breathed, the fury rising inside like a volcano. “If they had just said something about this before—this didn’t—” He stared at his grandmother. “That goddamn department is so concerned with saving their own asses—”
He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. His little girl was lying in the hospital, bruised and broken, because the PCPD hadn’t bothered to warn the public.
He looked across the room, at the notebook where he’d been scratching out a draft of a press statement.
Ned was going to destroy the career of any man who had held back this story and make them regret the day they’d pinned on a badge.
Port Charles Airport: Arrivals Hall
Dante moved from one foot to the other, his eyes studying the arrivals board closely. The chartered flight from New York City had landed ten minutes ago, so where the hell were they?
Cruz nudged him and offered a cup of coffee he had bought from one of the stalls nearby. The arrivals hall was basically deserted this early in the morning—Port Charles saw its share of international and domestic flights, but few of them arrived in the hours between four and seven.
“You know, if Mac tracks the leak back to you—”
“I didn’t tell them her name,” Dante muttered. “They must have gotten that somewhere else. I just wanted them on the serial rapist. I wanted the city to know—” He shook his head. “I didn’t look out for Brooke when she got here. Not like I should have.”
“You’ve been busy.”
“Doesn’t matter. I could have done more.” Dante clenched his jaw. “So now I will. The PCPD isn’t going to sweep this story under the rug anymore. They’re going to do this right, and the only way they’ll process those damn kits is if they have to.”
He saw the two women walking briskly towards him—both dark haired and petite, but the anger and despair radiated from Lois Cerullo even from fifty feet away. With a large handbag over her shoulder, her almost black hair cropped short to her chin, Lois’s expression was set in battle mode.
Behind him, Dante’s mother, Olivia Falconieri, looked tired and simply sad. Her streaky caramel hair pulled into a messy tail, pieces of it falling in her face and around her neck. She carried a duffel bag and pulled a smaller travel carry-on behind her.
“Hey, kiddo,” she murmured, pressing her lips to his cheek. “Has there been anything? We couldn’t get any service in LaGuardia—”
“Brooke was moved to her own room in the ICU—” At Lois’s muffled gasp, Dante hurried to explain. “Lucky Spencer has been at the hospital all night monitoring her, and he says it’s just because of her concussion—”
“And the fact that she’s a Quartermaine,” Olivia said dryly. She sighed and looked at her old friend. “Why don’t you let Dante drop you at the hospital and I’ll check in our things at the hotel.”
Dante shuffled his feet. “I’m supposed to remind you that the Qs have offered—”
“I’m not staying in that house.” Lois rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, yeah, that’d be great, Liv. I want to see what’s going on, and how soon I can take Brookie home.” Her eyes were glimmering with tears. “This was a gigantic mistake, sending her here when I damn well knew that Ned was too worried about himself to look after her.”
“Lois,” Olivia murmured. She touched her friend’s shoulder. “C’mon. Don’t start with that tonight. I always thought he was a good guy who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. I don’t want you to fight with him.”
“Yeah, okay.” Lois looked at Dante—who was also her godson—and nodded. “Let’s—” She seemed to notice Cruz at his side. “Who’re you?”
“My roommate and another rookie,” Dante told her. “Cruz just—he wanted to keep me company while I waited.”
“Yeah, you can drop me at the hospital, too,” Cruz told Dante. “I’m supposed to relieve Lucky. I’m very sorry, Ms. Cerullo. Brooke seems like a great girl, and I know that we’ll work hard to find this guy.”
Dante wanted to argue with his friend—they were only rookies and what could they really do—but this wasn’t the time, so he took the bags from his mother and started for the parking lot.
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
It was rare to see Garrett Floyd in a full-fledge rage, and to be honest, under other circumstances, Mac might have enjoyed it. But right now, he just sat back in his desk chair, his hands clasped in his lap, and waited for him to wind down. It was just past seven in the morning after a long night, and he was more interested in finishing his coffee than trading insults.
Floyd raged about the incompetency of the officers, the inability to control leaks, protect victims, and keep the streets safe. He fired Mac six times during the rant, but that was normal. Floyd usually fired Mac once a month, but then remembered why he kept Mac on.
For better or worse, Mac played ball when Floyd needed him to, and that made him more valuable than anyone else who might take over.
“Who the hell leaked the girl’s name?” Floyd demanded. He shook the newspaper in Mac’s face. “I got not only Edward Quartermaine threatening me, but a state senator—and goddamn Hilary Clinton contacted my office, worried about victim’s rights.”
A former First Lady and current sitting United States Senator. Mac raised his brows. Edward was bringing in the big guns. Not that Mac blamed him—the PCPD had sat on a serial rapist for at least the last two weeks, hoping that they could apprehend the guy before they had to terrify the public.
Taggert had argued, but Mac knew the company line. Alerting the public to danger in their midst months before a mayoral election was not even an option. Without convincing evidence that they were linked, and with a direct order from the mayor—Mac’s hands were tied. In a twisted way, he was glad one of his officers had leaked the information and relieved him of the decision.
“I don’t know which one of my guys leaked the name—and before you throw Capelli at me—he’s still on suspension for two more weeks,” Mac reminded him. “I told you that my guys wanted to put out a warning. You vetoed it.”
Floyd bared his teeth with a growl. “If I have to sacrifice you and throw you under the bus—”
Calmly, Mac reached into his desk, pulled out a tape recorder and pressed play. After getting the notification from Taggert about Brooke Lynn Ashton, Mac had come into work, gone into his office, and cued this tape up.
I don’t want any goddamn people talking about a serial rapist—you issue that warning, and I’ll replace so you damn fast—
Floyd narrowed his eyes. “You recorded me.”
“Since the Tom Baker case and the first time you tried to sacrifice this department for an election, yeah. I also have the memo you sent out. So does the DA’s office.” Mac looked at him. “Brooke was with my daughters last night. It could have been one of them. For years, I’ve done what you asked. I’ve pushed on suspects, made some things less of a priority—I’ve done what you asked.” Mac leaned forward. “I will eat this story, I will personally take the blame, but this is it. This is the last time you push me around and threaten my job.”
“I can put anyone else in your job—”
“And I’ll release this tape. You think Edward Quartermaine is crawling up your ass now? The deadline to register for the election is July 31. You think the Quartermaines won’t throw their weight behind any goon on the street if I tell them you’re the one who pushed back on a public warning?”
Floyd yanked his suit jacket from the back of the chair. “How long have you been waiting to pay me back for the Baker case?” he demanded.
“You asked me to ignore protocol and close a rape victim’s case so that Baker could go to jail faster. I did that because I honestly thought Baker was the guy.” Mac shook his head. “I don’t know anymore.”
“Listen to me—”
“In the last six months, four young women have been attacked and raped in the Port Charles Park. Near fountains. Five years ago, Elizabeth Webber was raped at the same location as Brooke. We never ran her rape kit—never knew if there was DNA to be found on her dress.”
Floyd’s face paled. “Are you going to run it now?”
“What do you think it would do to the election if we did?” Mac murmured. “If that kit came back with DNA that matched the new victims? You think anyone is going to care that we thought Baker was the guy? No. We run that rape kit now, you’re not the only one who will pay. I’ll go down with you.”
He looked at the photographs on his desk. On one side, he stood with both his girls at Georgie’s high school graduation only last month, and on other side, Robin and her father, Robert—the last photo of the two of them together. They all looked at him, accusing.
He’d done the wrong thing five years ago and he was terrified that the same man was at work now, but if Mac could catch this guy now—if he could make it right—
Then no one would ever have to know what a terrible choice he’d made. He’d had his reasons, and maybe some would believe him. Forgive him.
But it wouldn’t ever take the horror away. It wouldn’t ever erase the guilt.
“Not unless I have to,” Mac said finally. “But I’m not the only one who knows about that case. Taggert worked it—he thinks the rape kit was already run. That we had a negative return. Lucky Spencer found her that night. They both work for me. And Elizabeth Webber is about to be the star witness against Ric Lansing.”
“I can spin it if I have to. We thought we had the guy, Baker confessed. Closure. I might take a hit—but it wouldn’t be fatal. But you better hope Edward Quartermaine doesn’t make the connection. You wanted that case to go away so the Quartermaines would stop pressuring you, but you and I both know that he never wanted us to throw Elizabeth away with it.”
Floyd gritted his teeth. “Mac—”
“She’s dating his grandson. And the Quartermaines are even fonder of her now than they were before. If it comes out that we didn’t run the rape kit, Edward Quartermaine will put the entire force of all his connections against someone in the fall.”
“You’ve made your point. We’ll just agree that I was perhaps…hasty…in my decision not to issue a public warning. I’ll have my office draft a statement.” Floyd hesitated. “I know that you hate what we did in the Baker case, but we had no way of knowing Baker didn’t do it—we still don’t know—”
“If we had investigated it properly, maybe we would know.” Mac rose to his feet. “I have a briefing with my guys. You know the way out.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Sonny carefully folded the Port Charles Sun and exhaled slowly. He hadn’t been close with Lois Cerullo or anyone in the Bensonhurst crowd since he had migrated up to Port Charles to work the clubs for Frank Smith in his early twenties. There hadn’t been much to stay around for after Connie Falconieri had dumped him.
He and Lois had briefly resurrected their friendship when she’d been married to Ned, but it brought back too many memories and Lois had never been comfortable with his criminal tendencies. But he knew Brooke Lynn, had seen her around town as a child—
He’d been, literally her godfather, along with Brenda.
And now, according to the tabloids, she’d been brutally beaten and raped in the park. Just like three other women.
Max knocked on the closed door, then opened it. Sonny looked up to find Jason standing in the hallway, looking again as if he hadn’t slept. He knew why, of course—
The visit to Tom Baker had suddenly taken a new, horrifying meaning. If he hadn’t been the one to attack Elizabeth—if the animal was still out there—
Could it be the same man?
Jason closed the door behind him and just stood there. Silently.
“I saw,” Sonny said. He scowled at the tabloids. “I thought they weren’t supposed to print names, but then again, this is the same damn paper the PCPD leaked the affair to.”
Jason sat on the sofa, put his head in his hands. “I tried to tell her last night. I just—I just started with something small. That I had the letter, that I’d read it—”
“And she was angry with me. Hurt. It was just like you said. I put it back in her head, and then Emily called her last night—it happened at the same place, Sonny.”
Sonny nodded, gesturing towards the Herald laying underneath the Sun on the coffee table. “Yeah, the paper said it was in the park—”
“No. The same exact place. Sonny, they found Brooke Lynn Ashton at the same fountain where Elizabeth was attacked.” Jason shook his head. “I can’t—I can’t ignore that. Baker says he didn’t do it, and now apparently, there’s someone raping young women in the park. They said all of the women were in the same age range, all with brown hair—”
“I get it, Jason. I know what it might mean. What did Elizabeth think about it—”
“We didn’t—I didn’t ask, and she didn’t say. I couldn’t.”
“That’s smart.” When Jason looked at him, surprised, Sonny continued, “Don’t bring it up. The last thing she needs now is to think it’s the same guy, Jase. It’s bad enough that she’s thinking about it. You said she was upset just at the thought of you reading the letter—what—”
“It’s not just about not lying to her—I mean, it’s that. But it’s—if this is the same guy, Sonny, then it’s not just these four women. It’s Elizabeth. Her attack was more than five years ago.” Jason swallowed hard. “How many other women are there?”
“Yeah.” Sonny got to his feet. “Yeah, but you’re not the only one who knows about her attack. Taggert worked her case, didn’t he? He’s still there. And Lucky Spencer—they were friends. He’s on the force now. Her case is a matter of public record. What’s it gonna serve for you to turn that letter over to the police and force Elizabeth to confront something that might not even be true?”
“And even if you did tell the PCPD, what makes you think they’ll handle it right?” Sonny shook his head, crossed to the minibar and poured himself a glass of water. “They couldn’t find Carly. If you believe the press, they didn’t even notice they had a serial rapist. You gonna put Elizabeth through this for something that might not be worth it?”
“I just—” Sonny hesitated. “I don’t know. It’s up to you, Jase, but what does it change? It’s been five years. They might not be able to open her case again. Why do you have to be the one that drags this up for her? She has closure right now, Jason. You want to take it away?”
“And is there any reason it has to be today? Right now? Why don’t you give it a few days? Let all of this settle.” He put a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Give her time to settle. Isn’t her protection hearing coming up next week?”
“Yeah.” Jason nodded. “Yeah, I guess you have a point. I just—I don’t want to hurt her, Sonny. But I’m not sure there’s a way to avoid it.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m gonna go home, shower and change. I have to be at the warehouse in a bit.”
“Okay.” Sonny watched him go, then shook his head again. Man, he did not envy Jason this dilemma.
“You told him to lie to her.”
Sonny turned to find Carly standing at the top of the stairs, one hand braced on the banister. “Carly—”
“I don’t know what secret Jason’s keeping,” she said as she slowly made her way down the stairs. “But if it’s about this attack on that poor girl—if he knows something, he should tell someone.”
“You know, what happened to not cooperating with the police?” Sonny muttered. He grimaced, his head starting to spin.
“I get that lying and keeping secrets is your favorite thing to do, Sonny, but believe it or not, not every woman finds it charming,” Carly snapped. “How can you want Jason to keep quiet about something like this? You know Lois. Her daughter has been attacked—”
“When?” Sonny demanded. His skin felt pale, clammy. He could feel a bead of sweat sliding down his face. “How? Brooke’s in New York. I haven’t seen her since she was christened.”
Carly blinked, her mouth falling open slightly. She gestured at the papers. “Last night, Sonny. Brooke moved here to go to college—”
“That’s not possible. She can’t be more than ten,” Sonny said as he yanked the papers up. “She—” He closed his eyes. “No, no. I remember now. She’s…she’s nineteen. I—I—think Benny reminded me to send her a card last year.” He laughed, a bit uncomfortable now. “I can’t—I’m sorry. They just—kids grow up so fast, you know.”
“Yeah.” Carly squinted at him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Sonny rubbed his chest. “I’m fine. I, ah, have work. I have to go to work.”
General Hospital: Gail’s Office
“Where do you want to start?” Gail asked as she leaned back in her armchair, a notepad in her lap, a pen in her hand.
“I got a call from Emily last night,” Elizabeth confessed, then told Gail about Brooke and asking Jason to come over. “He encouraged me to talk about why things with my rape are—” She sighed. “In my head.”
“It was on your mind before the letter?” Gail asked.
“Sort of, yeah.” Elizabeth waited a moment, trying to find the courage, the energy to do this. “When I found out Ric had been drugging me since January, I thought about what had happened then. Was there some reason he started it then, you know? And I remembered that after my grandmother’s reception, I was so tired and just…not ready to go back to my studio. I had put off the grieving because I kept planning—and then it was over, and she was buried.”
Elizabeth stared at her clasped hands. “Ric said he’d taken a room in the hotel for me because he’d thought I might be too tired, and he wanted me to be comfortable. I remember thinking—God—I remember thinking that I was so lucky to have him. He had helped me with Gram’s estate. He’d been there when I found out—he’d explained all he estate paperwork to me, and—he kept putting me first.”
Her eyes glittered and her voice thickened. “And I hated myself because I kept thinking—I kept wishing he was Jason. That I wished that I loved Ric the way he seemed to love me, but I couldn’t. And I thought I was pathetic because it was clear Jason didn’t. I told myself that I was going to make it work with Ric. That’s why I didn’t—I didn’t really—”
She bit her lip. “We went upstairs and inside the suite, he offered me a glass of wine. I was grateful to have company, and I drank the wine. I had another glass—and then I didn’t really remember anything else.” She met Gail’s warm eyes, filled with concern. “I woke up the next morning, naked under the sheets, next to Ric. I just—I thought maybe I had been tipsy, or God, maybe I’d had another panic attack like I had with Zander.”
“So, you didn’t think about it much,” Gail said quietly.
“No—I just…I got dressed, left him a note, and went home. I just—I thought maybe I had rushed it, and I wanted to pull back, because I still didn’t quite—” She bit her lip. “It’s the only time I really don’t have any memory of having sex with Ric. The other times we were together, I know he always fed me something he’d made or brought some wine, but I can honestly say that I didn’t think much of it. That maybe he put more in my glass that first time—enough to make me black out.” Her lip trembled. “The way he must have done to Carly.”
“And after that?”
“I don’t remember resisting. It was usually his idea, and I just—I went along with it because I didn’t really care. I—we weren’t even together after I found out about what he’d done to Carly, and then what happened with Courtney and learning about Sonny—even after I went back to him—I shied away from him and I wasn’t drinking any more wine.”
“You think Ric drugged you the first time to get you to sleep with him, and then after that, maybe to just make you less resistant,” Gail said slowly. For the first time, Elizabeth was able to read the disgust and anger in her grandmother’s old friend.
“I’m pretty sure. And if it’s true, then I know it means Ric raped me.” Her voice faltered, and Elizabeth closed her eyes against the rush of tears. “And I just don’t know if I can really—I don’t know if I can deal with this. If I can even allow myself to accept it.” She accepted the tissue Gail offered her. “I had to claw and drag myself back the last time—and how can I accept it’s happened again?”
“I don’t know,” Gail said honestly. “But I think just addressing it is the first step.” She squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Knowing that you’re not alone is also important. Have you told anyone else?”
“I told Jason last night. He encouraged me to talk to you. That’s—that’s good, right? That I opened up to him before you assigned it for homework.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “He was so angry, but he tried to hide it. Tried to make me the focus.” She sighed. “I guess it makes sense that I’m thinking about all of this now. I told you about that letter from Tom Baker, and then Jason told me he’d read it—”
“He did?” Gail repeated, her brows lifting slightly. “When?”
“He grabbed the letter the day I tried to throw it out. I guess he thought I’d change my mind. I don’t know what it says, and I don’t want to know. He’s up for parole, and I just—I mean, is it wrong that I don’t want to deal with it?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s wrong. I think you should just be aware of why you don’t want to deal with it. You do have a great deal going on, and it can often feel overwhelming to tackle all your trauma at the same time.”
“Yeah. That’s kind of what I figured. I mean, it doesn’t matter. Tom Baker is in jail. He—hearing about Brooke was hard because she was…raped in the park. Like I was.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Apparently at the same place in the park.”
“It’s in a quiet area. Just the fountain with a few benches and lot of bushes and trees. I mean…I don’t—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Tom Baker confessed. I have my justice. I hope Brooke and the others get theirs. It’s hard enough for me to wake up with what Ric’s done to me.”
“Okay.” Gail pursed her lips. “Are you all right with what Jason did? That he read it?”
“I don’t know. I guess, I understand it. And part of me—” She tilted her head towards the ceiling and blew out an exasperated breath. “As irritated and upset as I was with him last night, there’s part of me that is relieved. Because he didn’t want to lie to me. Even when it might hurt me, he didn’t want to lie to me.”
“And that matters?”
“It’s everything.” Elizabeth met Gail’s eyes. “Being honest, being open—that’s the thing we’ve both struggled with. He’s trying as much as I am. He started to tell me, but then he listened when I told him to stop. It’s just…it means that we’re on the same page. Finally. After all these years. It gives me hope that I can stop saying my goal is to be okay. That one day, I can actually hope to be happy. With Jason.”