The first and final scenes have a trigger warning. The final scene also features music from Angel (Sarah McLachlan)
Don’t be mad if I cry
It just hurts so bad sometimes
Cause everyday it’s sinking in
And I have to say goodbye all over again
You know I bet it feels good to have the weight of this world
Off your shoulders now
I’m dreaming of the day when I’m finally there with you
– Save a Place for Me, Matthew West
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Gatehouse: Living Room
Telling her story, going through every detail—
It hadn’t helped.
Brooke was curled up in the corner of the sofa, wrapped in a thick cardigan, her legs drawn up under her chin. She had begged her parents to leave her alone. For just a few hours. To just give her some space. Since the moment she’d woken up in that terrible haze of pain in the hospital, she hadn’t been left alone for more than five minutes.
Everyone was staring at her. They knew. They all knew and they all probably thought it was her fault. Maybe she had smiled at the wrong guy, worn the wrong outfit…hadn’t she walked through the park late at night? In the dark?
Didn’t she have it coming?
She could still see her mother’s worried face, her father’s angry expression—they’d both tried to hide it, both had plastered fake smiles across their face. But then one of them would say something to set the other off, and then they’d be screaming at one another.
She couldn’t deal with it. Didn’t want to deal with it. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. Everything hurt. Her jaw, her chest…
Between her legs.
She didn’t even know she was crying until the tears soaked through her sweater and hit her skin. Oh, God. It was never going to end. What did Elizabeth Webber say? It would get better one day?
Why couldn’t one day be today? Why couldn’t it all go away now?
She just wanted to sleep. She wanted to sink into dreams, where nothing but darkness waited but even that hadn’t kept out of the terror and pain. She just wanted it over.
There was a hesitant knock on the front door that Brooke nearly ignored, but she didn’t want to be alone with her thoughts, and maybe it was Monica up at the main house. Monica had been kind, but not pushy. Probably had known what to do from listening to Elizabeth Webber, Brooke thought darkly as she struggled to her feet and headed for the door.
But it wasn’t her aunt at the door. It was her uncle, his girlfriend, and…Lucas. The trio of them looked worried, uncomfortable, nervous.
Doing the good Samaritan duty, Brooke thought but stepped back to let them in. “You come to gawk at the freak show?” she demanded, her voice laced with bitterness.
“No.” Dillon shoved his hands in his pockets, Georgie hovering just behind his shoulder while Lucas didn’t move far from the threshold. “We just—we wanted to wait a few days before we…”
“Came to visit?” Brooke demanded. She lifted her chin and sneered. “Well, take a look. Here’s the damaged victim. You’re no different than anyone else in the hospital. Another sad little girl raped in—” She broke off, bile rising in her throat as she turned away.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have all come,” Georgie murmured to Dillon. “Why don’t Lucas and I go? You can—”
“No, no.” Brooke turned back to them, flipping her hair over her shoulder. She spoke through clenched teeth. “I don’t need your pity. I don’t need your kindness. I don’t need any of you. So just get out—”
“We’re going. Lucas—” Georgie touched her cousin’s shoulder, but Lucas shook his head.
“You and Dillon go, I’ll catch up in a minute.”
Dillon hesitated another moment, before swallowing and nodding. “I just want to do what you need me to do, Brooke. So, I’m going. I’m sorry.” He took Georgie’s hand and they left.
“You can go to,” Brooke muttered as she turned her back on Lucas and curled back up on the sofa. “You think because we had five minutes of being friends that I need you?”
“No,” Lucas said. He perched on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “I needed to say I was sorry. That I feel like this is my fault. I invited you. And you only left because we were—”
“Oh, God!” Brooke exploded. She shifted and shoved him back, sending Lucas tumbling off the table to the floor. “You came here because you feel guilty! Not one of you actually gives a damn about me! No one does! You didn’t even notice I was gone! If you had, if you’d come even five minutes earlier—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. I want you to get out.”
“I’m sorry,” Lucas repeated. He got to his feet and took a deep breath. “You’re right. I came here to make myself feel better and that was selfish. If it makes you feel better to hit me, you—”
“Nothing makes it better!” she cried. She pushed him again, and he fell back a step. “Nothing is ever going to make it go away or not have happened. Everyone knows. It’s all they can think when they see me, do you have any idea what that’s like?”
“No,” he admitted. “Brooke—”
And this time, Lucas listened though he waited another moment before he left, closing the door gently behind him.
Trembling, Brooke pressed her hands to her eyes. God. It all hurt, and she just wanted to sleep. To make it go away for a few hours. She stumbled into the bathroom and saw the bottle of pain medication that Tony Jones had sent home for her. Hadn’t he said one of the side effects was fatigue?
If she could…could just close her eyes, if she could just sink into the darkness…maybe the pills could keep the demons from chasing her in her dreams, making her wake up in a cold sweat, still lying on her back in the park…
Looking into his face…
Because, oh, God.
She knew that face.
It had to go away.
She had to make it go away.
Condo: Living Room
Elizabeth scowled as she stepped back inside the apartment, kicking the door closed behind her with her foot as she stared down at the paper. “You know, maybe I should have sued the PCPD.” She handed it to Jason who was sipping his coffee at the table by the window. “Clearly they didn’t get the point before.”
Jason scanned the headline. “It’s another story about the attacks in the park.” He cleared his throat, set it on the table. “I thought that was leaked a few days ago…when Ned’s daughter was attacked.” He shifted in his seat.
“Yeah, the dates of the attacks but not the details.” She flicked the paper. “How did they not know it might be the same guy?” She picked up the paper and scanned it again. “It looks like they never even bothered to send out the rape kits after the first two. I can’t believe they’re still pulling the same crap they did on my case.”
Jason furrowed his brows, set his mug on the table, and leaned forward. “I thought you said they didn’t go forward because Baker denied making the confession.”
“Yeah, well…” Elizabeth bit her lip. “They said they couldn’t send my rape kit for testing without a suspect, and then when…after he was arrested, they finally did. Or at least that’s what Mac told me when I called after Taggert closed my case. They said it came back inconclusive. I never asked anything else. I didn’t want to know anything else. I mean, Baker confessed. He was going to prison for what he did to Emily.” She sighed and leaned back. “It just seemed insane to me then that they would refuse to test without a suspect. How do you even get a suspect if you don’t find the DNA? And how could that still be the policy all these years later?”
She got to her feet and wandered back into the kitchen to make herself another cup of tea. “I guess it’s a good sign that I can read that story and talk about my case without freaking out.”
“Yeah.” Jason stared down at the paper she’d left behind and wondered. If Baker hadn’t done it, if those kits had never been processed…what if they were now and came back to link with Elizabeth’s case?
What if Tom Baker hadn’t been lying and this scumbag was still active, nearly six years later? He glanced at her, took a deep breath. He needed to think about this. He didn’t want those other girls going through what Elizabeth had, but he didn’t exactly trust the Port Charles Police Department to take what he might know seriously or not to throw him in jail for meeting with Baker.
And Elizabeth had made it clear that she did not want to know the contents of Baker’s letter or the visit. Jason had already hurt her once putting himself first; he wasn’t going to do it again. But maybe he could still do something that would encourage the police to look into their cold files.
“So, what’s your plan today?” Elizabeth asked, settling across from him with a smile on her lips, looking brighter and happier than she’d looked in days. He put away the dark thoughts and returned the smile.
“Well, I was thinking of taking a ride up through the foothills,” Jason said. He arched a brow. “You know anyone who might want to join me?”
“You don’t have to ask me twice.”
“Great. I just have to make a call before we go.”
“Lois,” Jax said, his voice taking on a tone even Ned knew would piss off his ex-wife. “Ned isn’t suggesting that suing the PCPD is going to make Brooke’s situation better—”
“Going after people and making them pay—that’s all he ever knows how to do,” Lois snapped, slapping her hand over the newspaper and glaring at Ned. “If he had been a better father, a better husband, we wouldn’t be in this position—”
“And if you hadn’t expected me to change into a completely different man after we got married the second time,” Ned said, through clenched teeth, “we wouldn’t be here. You keep making me pay for something I can’t change—”
“You don’t want to change,” Lois snarled. She leaned forward, her teeth bared. “If you had paid one ounce of attention to our daughter instead of the new one, then maybe Brooke wouldn’t have been alone in that park—”
“It was your bright idea to send her here. You told me I had to set boundaries. I took away her phone. I made her get a job. She was making friends—” Ned threw up his hands. “You didn’t want her in New York. You made that clear. All I want to do is make sure what happened to Brooke never happens again—”
Olivia, still silent, cleared her throat. “I think Lois has a point, Ned—”
“Oh, great. Here comes the reasonable, rational Olivia to bail him out again. You know what, Liv?” Lois demanded as she got to her feet and shoved her purse strap over her shoulder. “You understand him so much, you should marry him.”
She stomped out of the courtyard. With a sigh, Jax followed.
“All she does is yell at you,” Ned said, dryly. “Why exactly are you friends again?”
Olivia sighed and shrugged. “I don’t make the rules. Her ma is my godmother, my ma is her godmother. We’re god sisters. Or so I’ve been told my whole life.” She shifted, uncomfortable. “Listen, you know Lois. She’s a pitbull. Her baby has been hurt and she can’t make it go away. I mean, isn’t that what you’re doing? Going after anyone who might be held accountable because it’s all you can do?”
“I’m not wrong,” Ned insisted. He tapped the headline. “Someone has to pay for this asinine decision. Not running rape kits? Not warning the women of this city that a serial rapist was on the loose? This isn’t even the first time this summer that the PCPD has nearly gotten a woman killed. They leaked a story that ended up with a woman getting attacked by her husband—” He shook his head. “That department is a cesspool.”
“I get you, but it looks like everyone already knows that. It’s in the papers.” Olivia shrugged. “How does suing them change anything? That’s your answer because you’re a businessman, but it’s not going to do anything.”
“Maybe. It’ll make me feel better,” Ned muttered. He sighed. “But that’s not the point, is it? Going after the papers for leaking her name, after the police for screwing up—it’s not going to change anything. I can’t turn back time.”
“You should go home and be with your kid. Brooke may want alone time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in the house, ready if she needs you.” Olivia sighed. “I’m sure Lois is already on her way there and I bet it’d be nice if the two of you didn’t yell and scream with Brooke in the room.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Thanks.”
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
Floyd slapped the Herald down on Mac’s desk. “Who the hell is telling these reporters all of this?” he demanded with a growl.
Taggert leaned back in his chair, stretched his legs out in front of him, and crossed his ankles. “I did.”
The mayor glared at him. “Under whose authority? I never agreed to release any more details—”
“You didn’t agree to release any details at all,” Mac interrupted with some heat. He got to his feet and leaned over his desk, planting his hands on the desk. “That’s what got us into this damn mess—you trying to protect your election—”
He looked at Vinnie, slouched next to Taggert. “And why the hell didn’t you bring this to my desk? Once you had a third attack in the same location with same type of victim—”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Vinnie retorted, not moving a muscle. “Maybe it’s because up until five minutes ago, I was investigating every goddamn crime in this city while everyone else was chasing after Corinthos and Morgan. I missed it. You think that makes me happy?”
“First your guy Capelli nearly gets Elizabeth Webber killed, and now this incompetent jackass misses the mark on—”
“You told us not to release the story,” Taggert interrupted. He looked at Mac. “I came to you with this link before the granddaughter of this town’s most prominent family was brutally attacked and raped. I begged you. But you refused.” He shoved himself to his feet. “You interfere with this case again, Floyd, and I will walk. I’ll turn in my badge, I’ll walk out of this building and straight over to Jessica Mitchell to give her an exclusive interview—”
“I’ll see that you never work in law enforcement again,” Floyd retorted, but Taggert only smirked.
“You’ll have already lost the election in a scandal. I’m not worried about your leverage—”
“Let’s just—” Mac took a deep breath. He stood up and held his hands out. “Let’s just take a deep breath here. We missed this. Departmental policy, lack of officers, whatever the reason. We’re not going to get anywhere by screaming at each other.” He looked at Vinnie. “You should have said you were overworked, but I’m not recommending any discipline be taken. Your case load has been cut in half and you’ve been reassigned. I think that should satisfy everyone.”
Vinnie scowled. “I swear if he tries to throw me under the bus about these damn cases—”
“The last thing the mayor wants to do with the deadline for candidates to declare themselves so close is talk more about how the PCPD under his care screwed up cases,” Mac said, looking pointedly at Floyd who glowered back at him. “From now on, you bring your complaints to me, Floyd. You don’t talk to my men.” He hesitated. “And you don’t give orders on cases. Ever again.”
Something passed between the two men that Taggert didn’t quite understand. He frowned—there was something there he didn’t know. But for now, Mac was on his side and he wasn’t going to question it. “Great. Glad we understand. You go run Port Charles, Floyd. Let me catch this sick son of a bitch.”
“Whatever you have to do,” Floyd said, his jaw clenched. “Any test. Any budget request. The city council has declared a public emergency. Get this case solved and out of the newspapers.” He stormed out of the office.
“What a dick,” Vinnie muttered as he followed a few minutes later.
Left alone, Taggert looked at Mac with a sigh. “We’ve got a problem, Mac. Brooke Lynn Ashton’s statement…” He grimaced. “I don’t think…I don’t think this guy just started this year.”
“Oh. Hell.” Mac sank back into his chair and put his head in his hands. “Why? I haven’t read the statement yet.” He swallowed. “I couldn’t—I can’t stop thinking about Maxie and Georgie being there. How it might have been one of them—” He exhaled slowly. “What makes you think there are other cases besides the four we have?”
“The location,” Taggert admitted. “The victim profile. And the fact that…” He paused. “Brooke said her attacker grabbed her from behind, dragged her back into the bushes and handcuffed her. He only said one thing to her.” His stomach clenched. “He said ‘not a word.’” He saw the realization slowly dawn on Mac’s face. “You remember the case.”
“I—” Mac sat back. “Of course. It ended up—it was a big trial.” He met Taggert’s eyes. “But we got that guy. We closed that case. Baker confessed, even if we couldn’t prove it.”
“Maybe. Maybe there’s something we don’t know. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that four young women with dark hair have been attacked at fountains in the park, Mac. The first one we know about is in February.” He shook his head. “Maybe Baker talked to someone in prison who got inspired. Maybe he had an accomplice.”
He scrubbed his hands over his face. “God, I wish her rape kit had come back positive for something. Maybe if we ran it again—” He looked at Mac. “Can I pull her case out of cold storage?”
“I—” Mac exhaled slowly. “Are you sure you want to drag it up? I mean, I understand why you think it might be connected, but if you pull it out and it turns out it’s not related—I think this department has put that woman through enough.” He shook his head. “After nearly dying, she’s still got the case against Lansing to deal with.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess. I just—I can’t forget the way she looked when I told her we had to close the case.” Taggert rubbed the back of his neck. “What about looking for other priors? Our cases prior to 2001 haven’t been put on computer yet. Can I send the rookies down to look at cold storage? You’re right. I don’t want to put Elizabeth through opening her case again unless I have something better than a phrase.”
“Yeah, yeah, that sounds good.” Mac nodded. “I hope we don’t find anything, but I agree with you that it’s better safe than sorry. Ah, Scott Baldwin already requested a copy of our open files. Maybe you can check with him to see if he’s already done the legwork.”
Taggert returned to his desk and stared down at his notes, tapping his fingers. He knew he’d just been told to leave the Webber case alone, but something about Mac’s expression troubled him. Maybe there was something he didn’t know. And hell, if he didn’t tell the rookies to leave her case alone, they would pull it from cold storage on their own.
He just wanted one more look at the file. He wanted to be sure that the man who had attacked Elizabeth was Tom Baker. After the last few weeks, he owed her that much.
He flipped through the phone messages that had been left on his desk during the meeting. He frowned when he came to the last one, left just ten minutes earlier. From the hot line — an anonymous caller suggesting that the PCPD should link into cold cases of rapes in the park.
He stared at it, then exhaled slowly. Maybe a victim who didn’t want to come forward officially. It just convinced him he was right to send the rookies to storage. And if, for what reason, they didn’t pull Elizabeth Webber’s file, he would.
Condo: Parking Garage
Jason pulled the bike into the parking spot next to her battered Nissan and switched off the engine. Elizabeth was still laughing as she swung her leg over the back of the bike and pulled off her helmet. “That was even better than I remembered,” she said as he parked the bike and set her helmet on the back. She leaned up to kiss him, sliding her fingers through his hair.
“I’m glad you had fun. You’re not mad because I wouldn’t let you drive?” he asked when they parted. Jason rubbed his thumb against her bottom lip.
“No. Monica barely lets me take my own car around town. I’m not ready to drive your bike on those cliff roads.” Elizabeth smirked. “I will be, before you know it.” She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I’ll be ready to do a lot of things soon.” She rose on her toes and kissed him again, pressing herself tightly against him.
He groaned and pulled away from her. “That’s not fair.”
She giggled, then reached for her purse where he’d stowed it in one of the side compartments. She dug out her phone and went through her messages. A few voice mails—Bobbie, Emily, even Nikolas—but her final one, left almost an hour ago, had her frowning.
“Brooke Lynn Ashton called me.”
Jason leaned back against the bike. “You think she wants to talk again?”
“I hope so.” Elizabeth pressed play and put the phone against her ear.
The storm keeps on twisting
Keep on building the lies
“Elizabeth…” Brooke’s voice sounded tired, even slightly slurred. “I just…I wanted to ask you why it never stops. Why can’t I close my eyes? Why doesn’t he ever go away.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth murmured, pressing her fingers to her lips. “I missed—”
That you make up for all that you lack
It don’t make no difference
“He’s always there. When I’m awake. When I’m asleep. I wish I had never—why did I wake up—I didn’t feel anything before I…it was better when I didn’t know. I wish I didn’t know. I wish no one knew. But they all…do…they all stare at me…they’re all sorry for me…the sad little girl…who…got…and…then I remembered…oh, God…I remembered what he did to me…I remembered…”
Escape one last time
It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness
Brooke’s voice faded away and then the message ended. Elizabeth took a deep breath and stared at her phone for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what she’d heard.
Oh, this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees
“Do you have Ned’s number?” she demanded. She grimaced, looking through her contacts. “I think someone should check on her. I just—I have—” She looked at Jason. “I have this terrible feeling, Jason.”
He took out his own phone, glanced through his contacts, and grimaced. “No. But Emily or Monica will have it—let me call them.”
In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
Ned pulled into the driveway just behind Lois and got out of his car. but it was almost a minute before his ex-wife stepped out of hers. When she did, she stopped at the garage door, and they stared at one another for a long moment, the sounds of the trees rustling around them.
From this dark, cold hotel room
“I know you love Brooke,” Lois said quietly, her face withdrawn. “I know you feel as helpless as I do. It’s easier to yell at you. To make this your fault.” She swallowed hard. “It’s not your fault. It’s not mine. I just—” Tears slid down her cheeks, and despite all the time and the anger that had created that gulf—it still decimated Ned to see this strong woman break.
“I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, her voice breaking into a sob.
And the endlessness that you fear
“I know.” Ned rounded the car and for the first time since she’d arrived, he drew her into a hug. “We’re just stumbling in the dark, hoping we’ll figure it out. And we can scream and yell at each other, but we have to stop around Brooke. We have to put her first.” He shook his head. “We have to be people she can depend on.” He drew away and tucked her hair behind her ears before gently kissing her forehead. “We’re better than this, Lois.”
You are pulled from the wreckage
“You’re right.” Lois managed a smile for him. “Let’s go in and check on her. I know she wanted some time alone, but—”
“I want to be near if she needs us,” Ned finished. His phone rang. He tugged it from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and looked at the caller id screen. “It’s Elizabeth Webber,” he murmured with a frown.
“She’s the one that tried to talk to Brooke?” Lois asked. She patted his chest. “You take that. I’ll go in and check on my baby.” She disappeared up the front walk while Ned flipped open his phone.
Of your silent reverie
“Elizabeth?” Ned greeted. “Hello—”
“I’m sorry to bother you, and it’s probably nothing. I had my phone turned off for a while and Brooke called me about an hour ago. She sounded…tired. And really upset.” He could hear her voice shaking as his heart dropped down into his stomach.
“An hour ago?” Ned repeated.
“She trailed off and the message just ended—I’m afraid—”
From inside the house, he heard a blood-curdling scream. His phone dropped to the ground as Ned ran.
You’re in the arms of the angel
He took the steps two at a time, the railing shaking under his weight as he all but flew up to the second floor and down the hall where Lois’s screams had been replaced by sobbing, deep heart-rending cries, repeating Brooke’s name over and over again.
He found her sitting on Brooke’s bed, their daughter in her arms as Lois rocked back and forth. Brooke’s eyes were closed, and her arms were lying limply at her side.
May you find some comfort here
“Wake up, baby, wake up—”
On the ground, next to Brooke’s bed, a phone receiver sat, the dial tone relentless and jarring, a bottle of prescription pills next to it.
You’re in the arms of the angel
Almost in a daze, Ned gently hung up the phone, then picked it up to dial 911, not taking his eyes off his daughter. Cradling the receiver between his shoulder and face, he reached out a hand to touch her cheek and a shudder ripped through his body.
She was cold.
They were too late.
May you find some comfort here