Chapter Forty-Four

This entry is part 25 of 31 in the series All of Me

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl
Say Something, A Great Big World


Tuesday, September 16, 2003 

PCPD: Conference Room

Lucky set down his paperwork and took a seat, waiting for Kelsey and Taggert to finish setting up a white board in the corner of the room. They were both arguing over something, but he wasn’t really paying attention.

He felt better after clearing the air with Elizabeth the day before—he hadn’t realized just how much guilt and frustration he’d been carrying around about not telling her that her case was opened again, that Baker wasn’t guilty.

He and the others had spent all day on the phone and on the street trying to track down the security companies as well their company lists, but it had been slow, and Lucky didn’t have a lot to show for that part of the investigation.  He’d been nominated to represent them as neither Dante nor Cruz wanted talk about how little they’d found.

“Fine,” Kelsey said to Taggert as she threw up her hands and walked over the table. “We’re done arguing about this. Let’s just start.”

“Did you get anything on the guards?” Tagger added as they both took a seat.

“We managed to get the companies, but a lot of them are being cranky about their employee lists,” Lucky admitted. “We didn’t tell them why—we figured you wouldn’t want anyone to know where we were looking.”

“Yeah. Stay on it. It’s one of the few leads we have,” Taggert said. He looked at Kelsey, who cleared her throat.

“Lucky, the thing Taggert and I were arguing about was asking you to dig into Elizabeth’s past.” Lucky frowned at her and Kelsey averted her eyes as she continued. “Because we have another theory of the case—another lead. What we were talking about—all the ways her case was different—” Kelsey looked at Taggert before looking back at Lucky. “It made me think we were really on to something.”

“We think Elizabeth isn’t just the first known victim or the first victim, but she might be our trigger victim.” Taggert tapped a pencil against a notepad. “We think the guy might have known her.”

“That maybe she was a target.” Lucky exhaled slowly. “Are you—How—” He looked at Kelsey. “Why didn’t you say anything? Yesterday. Last night. Any time since Luke’s.’

“I didn’t—” Kelsey bit her lip. “I wanted to talk it over with Taggert. To make sure I wasn’t just…seeing things.” She widened her eyes a bit at him as if to suggest they’d talk about it later.

“Okay. Fine. Why do you think she’s the trigger?”

“Well, the handcuffs were a clue,” Kelsey admitted. “But also the hair. He told our other victims their hair wasn’t right. But that’s not something that happened to Elizabeth. Now maybe it’s simply something she doesn’t remember—”

“But the victims remember the beating beginning after the hair. Elizabeth didn’t have the same injuries—that could be because you showed up,” Taggert continued, “or—”

“Elizabeth was someone he knew,” Lucky finished. “That he’d been following her, waiting for an opportunity.” Jesus Christ. He unclenched his fists, stretched out his fingers. “And that the other women are just…”

“He’s trying to recreate that first experience. Sometimes the first attack gives you a high you simply cannot replicate,” Kelsey said. “Or there’s something about Elizabeth herself. So, I thought—we thought you might be able to help us see if there’s something about Elizabeth that might have triggered the other attacks.”

“If maybe there’s a reason for the other dates,” Lucky said. He looked at Taggert. “I don’t know—” Then he stopped. “Theresa Lopez. April 26, 1999. That’s a week after the fire at the garage.”

Taggert got up, went to the white board and scribbled garage fire under the second victim’s picture. “Okay. What about Veronica Logan? January 2, 2000—” He frowned, tapped the marker against the board. “You weren’t home yet, but that was about a week after the Christmas party at General Hospital. Nikolas went after Jason Morgan. He came in to file assault charges, and I remember seeing it in the gossip papers, all over the Sun.”

He wrote Christmas party under Veronica Logan’s name. “And I bet there was some mention of Elizabeth in the papers after that fire,” he told Lucky.

“February 14 of this year?” Kelsey pressed. “Could it be simply the anniversary?”

“Maybe,” Taggert admitted, writing anniversary under Dana Watson’s name. “Audrey’s obituary would have been in the papers, and I think there was a large write up about her in the Herald about her hospital service.”

“Yeah, they wrote about Steve and Audrey and their family. I could pull it, but I’m sure they would have mentioned Elizabeth,” Lucky pointed out. “What about May 30?”

“Her marriage to Ric was in the paper the week before, and there was a story about her miscarriage, about her fall in the Sun. Sonny Corinthos was suspected, but we never found out who actually pushed her.” Taggert made another note under Renee Norton’s name. “July 2 is easy. Elizabeth was in the hospital, all over the papers. And that continued throughout most of July.”

“What, are we saying this guy stalks Elizabeth through the papers and rapes someone every time she’s in there?” Lucky asked skeptically. “Because that doesn’t track. What about the Face of Deception modeling? She was in the papers for that. We were supposed to get married, and her car accident. Then last year, she was kidnapped.”

“All of that happened during the period our guy was dormant. He might have gone to jail for something unrelated. We could check intake and out take release records,” Taggert pointed out. “His DNA wouldn’t be on file unless it was a felony or required for the case.”

“I can run a search,” Kelsey offered. “I mean, the dates match, Lucky. Something happened in Elizabeth’s life near enough to the dates of the attacks that I don’t think we can rule it out.”

“No, I guess not. I just—I don’t like the idea—it was bad enough when it was just a serial rapist that was never caught…but if you’re right, if this guy knew Elizabeth, and he’s been stalking her—” Lucky shook his head. “It’s almost too horrible to imagine.”

“You and Liz were close around the time she was attacked, right?” Taggert asked. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. I thought you could think back to that time, think about the people who were around her. I’m not saying Liz knew the guy—”

“But he might have seen her at Kelly’s or something,” Lucky said, grimacing. “Yeah. I guess—I can talk to Emily and Sarah. Maybe Nikolas. I’m actually seeing Emily, Nikolas, and Elizabeth for dinner tonight. Can I—can I run this by her?”

“I don’t want to upset her any more than I have to,” Taggert said after a long moment. “But I also don’t want to hide anything from her either. Yeah.”

“I’ve been thinking about what Elizabeth said at the end of her statement,” Kelsey said. “About Baker knowing the color of her dress. How easily he went along with her story.”

“I thought the DNA cleared him,” Lucky said, frowning. “How—”

“Maybe he knew something,” Taggert said. “It bothered me, too. I looked at his history. I called a friend at the Herald to pull some background on him. She said that she called some sources at the NYPD. He left New York around 1995, but there were a few open cases of extortion where he was a person of interest. A few lower level clients of Baker’s studio claiming he was asking for more money to keep bad photos from circulating. It didn’t go anywhere, but he left the city.”

“That jives with him blackmailing Emily, even though in hindsight he must have been nuts to go after a Quartermaine with connections to the Cassadines and Jason Morgan.” Kelsey pursed her lips. “Did she have anything useful for us, though?”

“No, but I heard back from Brenda Barrett today. She remembered Baker hiring security at his photo shoots. Sometimes it was a company, and sometimes it was an off-duty cop, moonlighting for extra money.”

“Maybe our guy knew Baker, too. Bragged to him.” Kelsey shrugged. “Do you want to talk to Baker again?”

“Yeah, I’ll have to arrange a visit. Make sure he tells me the truth.” He looked at Lucky. “Keep Dante and Cruz on the security companies. Kelsey is going to look into the backgrounds of anyone in the PCPD working here then. I want you to look into Elizabeth. It’s a long shot, but maybe you or a friend, or even family might remember something. We’re going to find this guy, Spencer. If it’s the last thing I ever do.”

Port Charles Hotel: Conference Room

Ned frowned when he saw Olivia Falconieri sitting at the long table with paperwork in front of her. “I’m sorry—the clerk in the lobby must have given me the wrong—”

“No, you’re in the right place.” Olivia got to her feet. “I told you I was sticking around Port Charles. As long as Dante is, anyway.” She rounded the table and held out her hand. Ned shook it. “Edward didn’t mention hiring me as facilities manager?”

“No, but I’ve been busy.” Ned glanced around the room, furrowing his brow. “You got the memo? We’re holding a press conference on Friday.”

“Yes.” Olivia picked up a clipboard from the table, perused it. “Alexis sent over the list of media you want to invite, and she said there would be a few statements made.” She looked up at him, tipped her head. “We’ll be ready, so we just need to sign the papers. I could have faxed these to your campaign office—”

“I didn’t have anything else to do today and it’s important—I need to make sure you got the note about having a room ready. The next room, I think, it’s an unused office?”

“Alexis said one of the people giving a statement might have some difficulties.” Olivia frowned. “Is this…is this about your daughter’s case? Was there a lead? Lois didn’t say anything, and Dante’s been pretty close-lipped—”

“She doesn’t know yet. No one does. It hasn’t hit the papers yet. They’re keeping this one close to the chest.” Ned leaned against the table. “Elizabeth Webber is going to give a statement. I’m not sure about the content, but the gist is going to be that she was raped by the same man in 1998. The PCPD didn’t bother to run the basic lab work that would have exonerated a suspect in custody for other crimes. Her case and two others were basically ignored for three years until he came back, raped four more women, and drove my daughter to suicide.”

Olivia stared at him for a long moment before slowly exhaling. “You’re not…you’re not serious, are you?”

“I wish I were kidding. I wish this was just a nightmare I could wake up from.” Ned rubbed his eyes. “Someone leaked this to me, so I took it to Elizabeth. Someone has to stand up for her. Mac, Floyd—everyone at the PCPD refused to five years ago and my little girl paid the price. I didn’t do enough for Brooke. But I can do this.”

“Yeah, it seems like the kind of thing the public should know, but…” Olivia pursed her lips. “What will you do after the election? When Floyd is gone, when you’ve fired the commissioner?”

“I—” Ned shook his head. “I’ll be the mayor. I’ll work—”

“I mean, when this case is over, when Elizabeth Webber doesn’t need you to fight her battles…” Olivia handed him the paperwork to sign. “What happens then?”

“You mean when there’s nothing left to do for Brooke?” Ned scribbled his name at the bottom. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when that happens.”

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Lucky tugged a pair of jeans from his dresser with one hand as he towel-dried his hair with the other. He looked over at the sound of his door opening and frowned as he saw Kelsey close the door behind her. “Hey. I thought—”

“I waited for you after work.” She leaned against the door, her eyes a bit sad. “You’re mad at me.”

“I’m not mad.” He tossed the towel over the back of a chair and sat on the bed to pull his jeans over the briefs he wore. “I told you I was having dinner with my brother, Emily, and Elizabeth tonight.”

“I thought we’d talk after work.” Kelsey bit her lip, folding her arms. “I know you’re mad that I just…that Taggert and I talked about all of that without running it past you first—”

“He’s the lead investigator, you’re the ADA. I’m just a patrol—”

“Stop—”

Kelsey put a hand on his chest as he started past her to grab a shirt from where he’d left a pile of laundry. “Stop talking past me.”

He stilled, then looked down at her. “What do you want me to say? We’ve been working on this case together for months. We talked on Saturday about Elizabeth’s case being different. And instead of telling me what you thought that meant, you went to Taggert.” He shrugged. “You made it very clear what you think of my contributions—”

“I was wrong, okay?” She balled her hands into fists at her side. “I wanted to protect you—”

“Protect—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “Because of my memories. Because there are still some spots that aren’t so great.”

“You’re—” Kelsey swallowed hard, her voice just a little raspy as she continued. “You think I don’t know how much this all hurts you? I know we talked on Saturday. I know you know you shouldn’t blame yourself. But I know you, Lucky Spencer. And you do blame yourself for what happened to Elizabeth. For not taking her to that stupid dance. For not being quicker. For not realizing the guy was still in the area—”

Lucky sank on the bed. “It’s not my fault,” he said, but even he heard the lie in his voice. “Kelsey—”

“I thought—God, I thought if I told you that I thought Elizabeth was the key to this—that somewhere in her past—somewhere in your past—she came across this guy—how much worse would it be if you couldn’t remember it?”

He rubbed his chest. “I didn’t think about that.”

“I just—I thought Taggert would ask to talk to Elizabeth. That he’d interview people himself. It was his idea for you to do it.”

“It makes sense,” he murmured. “I already have relationships with the people Elizabeth knew. I was there. He doesn’t know.” He looked at her, standing miserably in front of him. “You don’t have to protect me.”

“No, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to. I mean…” She sighed, sat next to him. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I should have told you before Taggert got involved. It won’t happen again.”

“It might,” Lucky pointed out. “I am just a patrol officer. You are the ADA assigned to my division. The next case won’t be as personal—I hope not anyway. But there are always going to be things you and my commanding officer know that I don’t.” He managed a smile. “I just have to get over myself and remember how—” His smile deepened into a smirk. “How lucky I am to have such an impressive woman in my life.”

Kelsey rolled her eyes and slugged him lightly in the shoulder. “Yeah, okay.” She leaned in to brush her lips against his. “We’re okay?”

“We’re okay.” He deepened the kiss, losing himself in her for another moment before wincing. “But I have to finish getting dressed and start dinner. My aunt agreed to close the diner for me. Emily is coming by to help, and then Elizabeth is coming early with brownies for dessert.”

“Sounds like a good night—”

He grabbed her arm before she could leave. “Hey. Next time, we’ll all get together. This is just—”

“I know. I’ll look forward to it.” She kissed him again. “Have a good time with your friends.” Kelsey danced her fingertips down his bare chest. “But come by my place after you’re done.”

“Promise.”

Harborview Towers: Hallway

Jason braced himself as he stepped out of his penthouse and walked towards Sonny’s place. Max’s stance at the head of the elevators indicated his partner was home, which meant it was time to stop putting this off and confront Sonny about the threats he’d leveled at the district attorney.

The fact that Sonny’s anger had reached levels where he was threatening public officials was bad and Jason really didn’t know how to deal with that. It was an unspoken rule, but it was a strong one in nearly every organization in their syndicate: going after officials didn’t do shit. It brought more attention, it never stopped the cases, and it was nothing more than suicide.

And Jason couldn’t bank on hoping that none of their guys wouldn’t eventually decide to do what the boss said. Not every guy was loyal to Jason, and there was always one asshole who wanted to move up the ladder.

With Elizabeth’s case reopened and her pregnancy, with Carly nearing the end of her own pregnancy—there was no way Jason was going to let Sonny get away with creating more trouble for them.

Sonny was sitting on the sofa in front of the dark fireplace, a tumbler of bourbon in his hand. He didn’t look over at Jason’s entrance, merely took another sip. “What?”

“We need to talk.”

“You mean you want to tell me how wrong I am again,” Sonny muttered. He sat up, set the tumbler on the coffee table with a clunk. “You talk to Carly?”

Jason exhaled slowly, sat in the armchair next to the sofa. “Do you think for one minute that I don’t want to be the one that puts a bullet between Ric’s eyes?” he asked.

Sonny frowned. “Look—”

“He went after Elizabeth when she was at her lowest. She’d lost her grandmother, most of her friends were out of town, and I—I wasn’t around. But that wasn’t enough for him. He drugged her repeatedly for six months. He drugged her with sedatives so she’d be more compliant, so she’d sleep with him. He drugged her with birth control so she would want the baby he was stealing for her. He nearly killed her. He kidnapped my best friend, locked her in a small room, and threatened to kill her and take her baby on a daily basis for a week.”

Sonny closed his eyes. Said nothing.

“If I had lost that court case, Sonny—if he’d been in charge of her care one second longer—I would have taken him out then. I don’t care if I would have gotten caught. If it would have put us in danger—Ric was never getting the chance to go after the people I cared about again.”

“Then how the hell can you fight me on this?” Sonny demanded, lunging to his feet. He gestured wildly with one arm. “I want him dead. I want him gone.”

“Because it didn’t happen to me,” Jason said. Sonny scowled, but Jason pressed on. “It didn’t happen to you. We didn’t get kidnapped. We didn’t overdose from drugs fed to us in our water and food. Sonny, the day Elizabeth learned the drugging had been going on for months, she also learned there was a chance the drugs had damaged the baby she’d lost. She has nightmares. Still. She has to sleep with an oxygen tank next to her. There is never a single minute of her life when she doesn’t have to deal with what he did to her.”

Sonny looked away, his face pale. “I know that, Jason—”

“I couldn’t stop it. We didn’t stop Ric before he had the chance to damage Carly more than he did that night in February. We never knew what he was doing to Elizabeth until the kidnapping. We failed to protect them. And they’re not blaming us. All they want is the chance to put him away. To testify against him.”

Jason shook his head. “I know it was bad for you. I know you fell apart, and I’m sorry I didn’t see it earlier, but Sonny—I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t keep the business going, look for Carly, and protect Elizabeth at the same time. I know it scared you to see Lily.”

“Do you think I like knowing how useless I was to everyone?” Sonny muttered. He crossed over to the minibar, poured himself another glass of bourbon, ignoring the one left on the table. “Nikolas fucking Cassadine did more than I did.”

“He did more than I did. Sure, we used those cameras, but at the end of the day — the real estate agent was all we needed. And I didn’t think of it. No one else thought of it. Do you think that makes me feel great, Sonny? Elizabeth went back to him day after day, pretending to be his wife—he attacked her, Sonny, because I wasn’t smart enough to think about the damn house.”

“It’s not that I need to be the hero,” Sonny said slowly after a long moment. “But it was my fault. My fault my mother died. She took a beating meant for me, and she never would have been there if it hadn’t been for me. I used to blame Mike for not staying—for my mother needing to stay with Deke. But it was my fault—” He shook his head. “It’s all my fault. He came to town because of me. I need to be the one to end it.”

“Sonny—I’m asking you as a friend—as a brother—don’t make this one more thing I have to worry about,” Jason said. “Elizabeth is pregnant, and it’s high-risk because of Ric. Carly is pregnant and upset. And there’s more—the rape case—the Baker letter? It was real. It’s the same guy, Sonny. And it wasn’t just Elizabeth and Brooke Lynn Ashton. There are seven women.”

Sonny stared at him, shook his head. “What? What you are talking about?”

Jason told him about the visit from Ned and Taggert, about Elizabeth getting involved with the new case and the cover-up. “This guy is still out there, Sonny. And she’s going to give a press statement that goes after the police, the mayor, and—” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I can give her all the guards and security I want, but that doesn’t mean I can keep her safe.”

“The same man,” Sonny repeated softly. He frowned. “I—I meant to keep up on the case. My source at the PCPD.”

He set the still full tumbler back on the bar. “I forgot. I forgot to ask.” He frowned, shaking his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sonny—”

“I’ve—” Sonny looked around the penthouse, as if noticing it for the first time. “I’ve been so angry. When Carly left, when she took Michael, I just—I let it happen. I thought—good. One less person to tell me I’m wrong all the time—but—” He focused on Jason. “I forgot about that letter from Baker. I forgot how bad you said Elizabeth handled you going to see him. But she knows what he said now. Is she okay?”

“I think so,” Jason admitted. “She—it was bad when Taggert came over, but I guess I didn’t give her enough credit. She said she’d had this fear in the back of her mind ever since Brooke was attacked.”

“Brooke—” Sonny pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, digging in. “Christ, I never even talked to Lois. I never checked in with her.”

“Sonny—”

“Her daughter—and you said the PCPD screwed up Elizabeth’s original investigation? Does Lois know that?”

“I don’t know if Ned warned her yet. Maybe. She will after Friday. I imagine the national press might pick it up because of the Quartermaines.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Sonny—”

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “I just—” Sonny let out a harsh chuckle. “Maybe Bobbie is right. Maybe I do need to see a shrink.” He looked at Jason.  “About Ric—”

“The trial date is set for November,” Jason told him. “Let’s just—let it happen. We can talk about all of it again after that. Maybe Elizabeth and Carly will change their minds. Maybe you’ll feel better about their decision.”

“I guess.” Sonny looked away, towards the window. “I’ve always been selfish, Jason. But I used to take the time to at least think about other people. Lois was one of my oldest friends. I’ve known Elizabeth for years. And Carly—Christ, what she’s been through because of Ric—I threw them all away because of what I wanted. What I thought was best.”

He grimaced, picked up his bourbon. “Doesn’t make me much better than Floyd. And doesn’t that make me feel like shit?”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Like they had on that fateful April night more than four years ago, Lucky arranged to close Kelly’s early so that he and Emily could cook dinner. Elizabeth stopped by about twenty minutes before they were going to start, a tray of brownies ready for the oven.

The four of them sat at the same table in the center of the restaurant and got caught up. Not on the big things—everyone knew about the case, the trial—Elizabeth wanted to talk about something happy. So, they talked about Laura Spencer—their memories of her, the joy in her homecoming. Lucky and Nikolas reminisced about how much they’d hated one another when Nikolas had moved to Port Charles.

“I mean, I hated him so much,” Lucky said, with a roll of his eyes, “that I questioned what was wrong with me that night at the club when you got shot and I was happy you were still alive.”

“The Cassadine hatred gets bred in early,” Nikolas said with a serious nod. “We had the Spencers on dart boards back in Greece.”

“You see, he says that like it’s a joke,” Emily said, pointing a French fry in his direction, “but I kind of think he might be serious.”

Nikolas smirked but didn’t say one way or another. “It became clear that if I wanted to be friends with Emily and Elizabeth, I was gonna have to suck it up and stop treating you like the plague,” he told Lucky.

“Well, once I realized my dad wasn’t infallible, I started to question why the hell we were treating you like trash anyway,” his brother offered with a shrug. “And I got tired of making my mother cry.”

“So, any luck on the job front?” Emily asked Elizabeth as the brothers started to clear away their dinner. Lucky set Elizabeth’s finished stack of brownies on the table. “Or have you decided to take a break from all of that until the baby gets here?”

“Well, Jason and I haven’t really talked about it,” Elizabeth admitted. “Obviously, if I decided not to work, it’s not like he’d be all that irritated. I’m also not qualified to do a whole lot. I can’t waitress—way too much stress on my body which I’m not allowed right now.”

She put a brownie on her plate and started to split it into smaller pieces. “But Gail suggested volunteering to lead a survivor’s group, and after Taggert came over last week, I agreed. Today was my first meeting.”

“You okay with it?” Nikolas asked, touching her hand.

“I wasn’t sure if it was something I really wanted to do—you know, steep myself in what happened—but you know, as hard as it was listening to the women who came today—” Elizabeth shrugged. “I don’t know. I felt like I was doing something that was useful. Helpful, even. I used to volunteer taking phone calls at the rape hotline downtown, so this was similar.”

She popped a piece of brownie in her mouth, then swallowed. “Now is as good as any to tell you that on Friday, I’m going to be at Ned’s press conference. I’ll be going public about what happened with my case and the others.” She looked at Lucky. “I hope it won’t cause any issues at work. I mean, for you.”

“I think the people I work with the most will be glad,” Lucky admitted. “It’s all Cruz and I could do to keep Dante from quitting, Kelsey was disgusted when we started to figure things out, and Taggert—” He saw Elizabeth scowl. “What? I thought Taggert was okay—”

“There was something I didn’t think of until Edward came over yesterday,” she told him. “They didn’t call Floyd or Mac until a week after Baker was arrested. So why wasn’t my case already at the lab?”

Lucky sat back in his chair, blinked. “I—I don’t know.”

“They never started the investigation,” Emily murmured. “Which made it easier when Floyd pressured them to drop it.”

“Why investigate and spend the time when Baker was already on the hook for twenty-five to life?” Nikolas pointed out. “Seems like something the PCPD would tell themselves.”

Lucky grimaced. “I—I really didn’t think about it. I was so angry when I found the case had been marked solved—when I saw the kit hadn’t been processed—” He sighed. “But yeah. I guess that makes sense. I hate my job.” He shoved his plate away. “You should know the investigation has opened up a new track, a theory of how he picks his—” His mouth twisted in disgust. “How and when he picks the women.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “And it’s something you think I need to know?”

“They put me in charge of it,” Lucky admitted. “And it’s not something I could hide from you even if I wanted to. The thing is, Elizabeth, your statement has a lot in common with the others, but the parts where it deviates—we think it can tell us something about our perp.”

“Okay.” Emily took Elizabeth’s hand in hers, tightened it. “Okay. Like what?” she asked her friend. “What happened to Liz that didn’t to the others?”

“The hair thing,” Lucky said. “You said he smelled your hair—how did he react afterwards?”

“Lucky,” Nikolas muttered. “Really?”

“He wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important,” Elizabeth said, her eyes on her ex-fiancé, her face pale. Without even thinking about it, Emily flipped Elizabeth’s hand in hers, pressed two fingers to her pulse. “He didn’t smell my hair so much as—he buried his face in it. That’s when he whispered to me. He was next to my ear. He stroked it, I think. And I was crying. I think—” She closed her eyes. Forced herself back to that moment.

Because whatever it took, they had to find this guy.

“I was crying, asking him to stop. He hadn’t—not yet. But he kept his face—” Her stomach rolled as bile rose in her throat. Oh, God. How had she forgotten any of this? It seemed so goddamn clear to her now. “He kept his face in my hair the whole time. I was crying, but I could hear him breathing in my ear.”

“What happened to the others?” Emily asked softly. “Are you allowed to tell her, Lucky?”

“He smelled their hair, said it wasn’t right, brutally raped them until they were torn inside, then beat them unconscious,” Lucky said flatly. Emily gasped, releasing Elizabeth’s hand and putting her fist at her mouth.

“Lucky—” Nikolas started, then stopped. “Wait, he…beat them all?”

“All of them?” Elizabeth asked faintly. “Not just Brooke—”

“The reason we have so many victims who reported is that he beat them all unconscious. They were all found in the park.” Lucky shifted. “That’s part of the reason we think that there was something about your attack that was different. Not that what happened to you wasn’t violent—”

“But I walked away. And I—I don’t think he was going to hit me. Not like that.” Elizabeth clenched her fists. “So, I was different.”

“You’re the earliest known victim, Elizabeth. But we think it’s more than that. We think it’s—we think he was looking for you that night. Not just any woman. But you. Or maybe he’d been following you—”

“Waiting for an opportunity.” Elizabeth looked at Nikolas and Emily, both as horrified as she was. “You think he knew me. That I knew him—”

“You were working at Kelly’s,” Nikolas reminded her. “Maybe you didn’t know him. Maybe he was a customer.”

“And the others were picked because, what, they were at the fountains and they looked like me?” Elizabeth asked. “Please tell me—”

“You said you had a theory about when the attacks happened,” Emily said slowly.

“It’s not a great one, but the thing is—all of the known attacks happened around the time you would have been in the newspapers. The garage fire, the Christmas party where you got into a fight with Jason,” he said to Nikolas. “Your miscarriage and what happened with Ric—this year, on February 14, another woman was attacked in the park. That might have been because of the anniversary or Audrey’s death—”

“Or both,” Elizabeth murmured. She looked at Lucky, her throat thick. “Taggert said there was a gap between the groups of women. Three, then four. And the first new one was February 14.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry—”

“Don’t be sorry. I don’t—I don’t need to be protected. If he was someone I saw—I need to know that. I need to be able to help.”

“But wouldn’t you have gone through all of this back then?” Emily asked Elizabeth. “Didn’t Garcia or Taggert ask these questions back then?”

“They did. And honestly, Lucky, I don’t know. I mean…after my attack, you know better than anyone I suspected everyone. And I had regulars at Kelly’s.” She bit her lips. “Ruby’s gone now, but maybe Bobbie knows if she kept track of that stuff. Maybe there’s somewhere she wrote that stuff down. That’d be the best bet. I mean, outside of you guys, your families, and school, I spent most of my time here before the attack.”

“I’ll ask my aunt. That’s a good idea—I don’t know if we kept records, but Kelly’s has the rooms. Tax records would tell us who rented them out. It’s something to start with. Do you remember any security guards or—” he hesitated. “Cops?”

“Cops?” Emily repeated.

“More likely to be a security guard,” Lucky said quickly. “It’s—because of the handcuffs, I mean. Remember all the security guards patrolling the movie theaters and the street around it?”

“I guess.” Elizabeth bit her lip, tried to remember that. “No one sticks out. I mean, everyone came into Kelly’s, Lucky. Taggert, Garcia, Mac. Capelli. And a bunch whose name I never knew. We’re on the waterfront, and Sonny sometimes had private security guards outside of the regular guards. For the warehouses. Maybe I can ask Jason if there’s a list of companies.”

“That’d be helpful.” Lucky shook his head. “I’m sorry, guys. I didn’t mean to do this tonight—”

“Hey.” Elizabeth reached across the table, took his hand in hers. “Don’t ever apologize to me for trying to get me justice. You always listened when no one else could. Or would. I’m glad you’re on this, Lucky. I want you to fight for Brooke, for the others, the way you always fought for me. They deserve someone like you on their side.”

“Nikolas and I will try to remember if we came across anyone,” Emily told Lucky. “ELQ hired security companies and I’m sure Stefan did back then, right?”

“Right. We’ve all had waterfront interests,” Nikolas said. “I think Uncle often outsourced security. I’ll get you those records.”

“Thanks. About Friday—” Lucky looked at Elizabeth. “I’d like to be there. Because I want to show support, but—”

“I’ll be putting myself in the papers,” Elizabeth said softly. “And you’ll want to see who shows up. Ned is going to announce my name to the media he invited tomorrow. If you’re right, and it’s about the papers—”

“Shit, maybe he works for the tabloids or something.” Lucky dragged a hand through his hair. “It’s something else to think about.”

“Next time we get together,” Emily said as they started to clean up their desserts, “we’re only talking about unicorns and kittens.”


Comments

  • Excellent chapter! Glad Lucky and Kelsey talked it out. Intense convo with Jason and Sonny. I’m hoping that Jason got through to Sonny on some level and he at least doesn’t put an order out on Scott. This is a bit of the Sonny that at one point I liked. He at least had some sense of self knowledge and he did care about others. The Sonny that emerged after that time period I couldn’t stand. I liked the four muskateers dinner and talk. I think that the four of them given their history would likely piece clues together pretty quickly now that there is a direction to go in. Jason can of course be helpful as well. Liked that Em picked up the mantle in monitoring Elizabeth’s pulse. I miss having a little bit of Liason in this chapter but it was such a great chapter, I am sure I will get over myself. Can’t believe this book is winding down so soon but for now I’ll look forward to the next installment.

    According to nanci on October 24, 2019
  • Thanks for the update I love the conservation between Lucky and Kelsey and Lucky and the gang are all for each other and will figure out who is doing the rape. Sonny needs to get off his high horse and pay attention to what is going around him and let Liz and Carly deal with their ordeal.

    According to Shelly W Samuel on October 24, 2019
  • Keep up the good work. loved the conversations. Liz is getting stronger every day. I was pulling for Ric to we the rapist but now not so sure

    According to leasmom on October 24, 2019
  • I still think it might be a cop. Great update, This just shows how strong Elizabeth is. I hope Jason got through to Sonny.

    According to Carla P on October 24, 2019
  • Well, Elizabeth keeps astounding me chapter after chapter. She is definitely the star and almost definitely the decisive heroine. You are writing with so many different layers and each one is deeper than the last one. I actually appreciate Lucky in this story, he’s a stand up guy. I’m still holding on to my original guess that it’s a cop, not sure if it’s Vinnie but believe a cop none the less. Hopefully Sonny does get some help. Thank you.

    According to Sandra on October 25, 2019