You took all there was to take
And left me with an empty plate
And you don’t care about it, yeah
And I am giving up this game
And leaving you with all the blame
Cause I don’t care
– Are You Happy Now, Michelle Branch
Sunday, June 29, 2003
PCPD: Squad Room
Kelsey paused just by the main hub of the squad room to pull a notepad and a set of folders from her bag. The officer behind the desk leaned over and with a leering grin she knew all too well, asked, “Can I help you, sweet heart?”
She sighed and, with her free hand, flashed her badge from the DA’s office. His expression didn’t become any less leering, but she was used to that.
A week in Port Charles had taught her that the problems in this city wasn’t just the allocation of resources. “I’m looking for either Detective Vincenzo Esposito or John Beaudry. Or Lieutenant Marcus Taggert—”
“Beaudry and Taggert are out, but Vinnie’s desk is just over there.” The officer jerked a thumb over his shoulder towards a set of desks where a man younger than Kelsey had expected sat. He was leaning back in the chair, his legs up on the desk, a folder in his lap that he appeared to be reading.
He was tall—she could tell that from the length of his legs—and lanky, with brown hair worn short. He glanced up when Kelsey approached his desk, and his chiseled features spread into a grin. “Hey there, good-looking. You looking for some protection?”
She hated these guys. These assholes who knew they were good-looking and wanted you to know they knew it. But Kelsey merely arched a brow, dropped her bag on the floor, and sat in the uncomfortable wooden chair adjacent to his desk. “Kelsey Joyce. Unit Chief of the Major Crimes Unit at the DA’s office.”
“Oh.” The grin faded slightly, and Vinnie sat up. “What brings you by? The Lansing case?”
“I’m not handling that directly,” Kelsey told him as she edged some of the paperwork on his desk aside to clear a space for her to set down her notepad. “I’m looking at the other cases being handled by the MCU.”
“You’d have to talk to our new boss,” Vinnie said caustically, and now the smile had vanished. Sourness had crept into his tone, into his expression. “He has all the answers.”
“He took over less than twenty-fours ago,” Kelsey said in a measured tone. “The open cases I’m here to discuss are older.” She took a freshly sharpened pencil from her bag and opened the first file in her lap. “You have about ten open cases on which you’re serving as primary. Is that typical?”
Vinnie snorted. “Welcome to Port Charles. My partner rides out on patrol, and I’m not entirely sure when he last got out of his damn car.” He shrugged. “So, yeah, ten is about typical. Always has been.”
Kelsey frowned. “What does that mean?”
“I started here at the PCPD,” he told her. “Put in almost five years—got promoted to Detective on a fast-track. That’s how they get you, you know.” Vinnie wagged a finger at her. “They woo you with positions of authority, then blame you for failing. I was in Vice before they shuttered that and merged the divisions into Major Crimes in 1998.” He shrugged. “I got married to a chick in Buffalo, but you know quick marriages crack up fast these days.”
Kelsey was not the least bit surprised this idiot was already divorced once. She nodded. “Well, hopefully, the addition of a Lieutenant and more officers—”
“Rookies,” Vinnie snorted. “And lieutenants just sit in their ass. Didn’t you ever watch Law & Order?”
“Fair enough. I am concerned about the heavy case load. Some of your cases go back to January and are still considered active.” She tapped her pencil. “You’ve got two open sexual assault cases. I checked the files but there’s not much there—”
“Never is in rape cases,” Vinnie said easily. “If you’re lucky enough to get a reporting victim, they usually don’t come in for days. The scene is ruined. No evidence. They go cold almost from the start.” He shrugged.
“Both of these victims were found by others unconscious at the scene.” Kelsey tipped her head. “Both in the park. Are you thinking it’s the same guy?”
“See, that’s how I know you’re brand new.” Vinnie smirked. “This isn’t television and it’s not one of those Eve Dallas books. Not everything is a serial killer or a mystery. What we got is two unrelated incidents, one of which I’m looking at the boyfriend for. His alibi is shaky, so it’s just a matter of breaking it. The other—” He shrugged. “You know the deal. No rape kits processed without a suspect. That’s policy.”
Kelsey nodded. She may not like his attitude, but he wasn’t wrong. Still…it troubled her that he was so quick to dismiss a connection. She’d have to keep her eye on these cases and hoped they progressed. “Well, I wanted to introduce myself in case you need any paperwork or warrants pushed through. I’d like to be someone you can rely on at the DA’s office.” She’d rehearsed that line before arriving and now regretted it because the leering grin had returned.
Lord, grant me patience. She got to her feet and packed up her files and folders. “Please pass that along to Detective Beaudry and Lieutenant Taggert. I’ll be in touch.” She, after a moment, gave him her card.
“Not a problem. Nice to have an ADA prettier than Baldwin,” he called after her. Kelsey left the room, but knew he was watching her.
She hated cops. Bunch of sexist assholes who still thought women only came in two categories, virgin and whore.
General Hospital: ICU
Almost an hour after Monica’s team had rushed Elizabeth away, Jason jumped out of his seat at the sight of his mother returning with Elizabeth on a gurney behind her.
He caught Monica’s arm as the team rolled Elizabeth back into her room and got her settled back into her bed. “Monica—”
“I broke up the last clot,” Monica told him with a triumphant, exhausted smile. “I’m not saying another won’t form, but we’ve cleared her for now. We’ll keep monitoring, but her heart rate stabilized after we completed the procedure. I’m upgrading her to stable condition.”
Stable condition. Jason’s grip on her hand tightened as Nikolas visibly relaxed. “Stable. We’re not talking about percents anymore.”
“No, barring infection or a sudden clot, I’m cautiously giving her the green light. She stirred a bit during the recovery, and her score on the Glasgow scale went up—” At Jason’s frown, she explained. “We have stages of a coma. She was at a seven yesterday and this morning. She’s responding to pain and her eyes opened a few times. She’s at an eleven. A fifteen is fully conscious.”
“But that’s good,” Sonny said. “It means she’ll be okay. That she’ll come out of the coma.”
“Improvement on the scale does indicate that. I don’t want to promise anything, Jason,” Monica told him. “Or give you false hope.”
“I know that. But it’s good news.”
“It is.” Monica seemed to finally realize that it was Sonny who had asked the original question. “Oh, Sonny. I hadn’t—I’m so sorry. I didn’t even ask how Carly was.”
“Health wise, fine,” Sonny told her. Jason looked at him and grimaced. “Jason, it’s fine. I understand. We knew from the second Carly got here that her condition was okay. Elizabeth should have been your top priority.” He hesitated. “Physically she’s fine, but Bobbie’s with her now, trying to convince her she should talk to someone.”
“I’m just so glad you were able to find her. I know how it weighed on you and Elizabeth.” Monica touched his arm. “I need to go get some sleep. I’ve been…” She sighed. “Up too long. And I need to be at my best if any of my patients need me.”
“It’s fine, Monica. Go ahead. Thank you. For everything.”
“We got a miracle,” she murmured, looking back at the sleeping figure in the room. “Audrey and Steve were looking over her.” She patted his arm again, but this time, Jason embraced her because he knew that’s what she really wanted.
“Thank you,” he repeated.
“Take care of yourself, Jason. You need rest, too.” She touched his face with just a caress of her fingers before she withdrew. “I’ll be at the mansion if you need me.”
Zacchara Estate: Study
Trevor grimaced as Anthony Zacchara took his seat behind the desk. He’d had a plan to dispose of this crazy, insane bastard. That was supposed to be his chair.
But instead he remained exactly where he’d been for the better part of the last twenty years—cleaning up Zacchara’s messes.
“What’s the situation in Port Charles?” Anthony demanded as he lit a cigar. “Your dumb fucking son dimed us out?”
“Not yet,’ Trevor admitted. “He’s playing a lot of legal games. He tried to get control over the girl’s condition so he could…” Do what, he wasn’t entirely sure. “But he was taken into custody about an hour ago for the charges against his wife and Carly.”
“Panic room in his own house,” Zacchara said with a sour grimace. “We groomed that little fucker to be smarter than that, didn’t we? What the hell was he thinking?”
“I’m not sure he was. I think…” Trevor stopped. “I think it’s time we discussed doing something permanent with my son.”
Zacchara lifted his bushy brows. “Yeah? Your own kid? I knew you were a cold fish, but—” He shrugged.
Trevor scowled. As a man who had killed his second wife while trying to kill his young son in a fit of psychotic rage—Anthony had some goddamn nerve. “However, I do wonder if we do something to Ric, if it might attract more attention than we want.”
“You mean we got the same problem Corinthos and Morgan have? Yeah, Ric is too hot to pick off just yet. They’re probably waiting for the trial.” Anthony leaned back, took a long puff on the cigar, considered their options. “Corinthos has to guess we were a little bit involved.”
“It’s possible he thinks Ric was acting alone on anger against him. After a certain point, it’s clear that’s exactly what happened. I raised him to hate Sonny. I guess I went too far.”
“Eh, what are you gonna do? Kids end up being disappointments most of the time anyway. Mine are completely useless.” Zacchara shrugged. “Let’s play this one by ear. Ric ain’t gonna flip on us if he hasn’t yet. He’s got nothing to tie us to all this crap, and if the PCPD or the state could have gone for us, they would have. If we need to take of things later, we will.”
Trevor released a long breath. He knew the right answer was to eliminate the threat, but Ric was his son, after all, and maybe he could still be saved. They just had to tread carefully.
General Hospital: Carly’s Room
Carly blinked and tried to focus on her mother as Bobbie spoke again. That was the trouble—people kept talking and she kept drifting away. She couldn’t focus, couldn’t stay in the moment.
She’d tried to sleep the night before, but had woken with the room darkened—she’d started to scream—convinced she was still in the panic room, still trapped, still living with the threat of death hanging over her—
Sonny had rushed to her side trying to get her to come back to him, but she’d kept screaming—and the next thing Carly knew, it was morning. They must have given her something.
Carly realized Bobbie had stopped talking and was looking for her to answer. She forced herself to look at Bobbie. “I’m sorry,” she said slowly. “I—I don’t know what you just said.”
Patiently, Bobbie repeated, “I’d like you to speak with Kevin Collins. He specializes in trauma disorders. I think you’re at risk, Sweetheart.” She stood, smoothing the hair over Carly’s forehead. “You had a panic attack last night. And then when Sonny tried to talk to you about it, you just kept folding and refolding the same clothes.”
“I did?” Carly sighed. Closed her eyes. “I don’t remember. I—” She swallowed hard. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Mama.”
“I know, and that’s why it’ll help to talk to Kevin. I’m not asking you to sign up for a year of therapy. Just let him come in. Ask a few questions.”
“Will he make it all go away?” Carly murmured. “I don’t want to think about it. I close my eyes, and I-I think I’m back there. I open my eyes, and for a minute, I’m still there. I know I’m in the hospital, but I can’t—I still feel like I’m chained, and I’m terrified he’ll come in the room—”
“He’s in jail. They took him into custody earlier today. He can’t hurt you or Elizabeth anymore.”
“Elizabeth.” Carly licked her lips. “She…was sick. They took her away. He tried to kill her. Every night. He put pills in her—” At her side, the heart monitor started to race.
Her mother squeezed her hand. “You told us, and you saved Elizabeth’s life. We knew immediately what was wrong. The paramedics brought the right equipment. You gave her a chance, and she’s doing better. She’s…” Bobbie hesitated. “She’s in a procedure right now that should make it better.”
“He wanted to give my baby to her, but she wouldn’t have done it. She didn’t trust him. I could see that.” Carly’s voice trembled. “I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t—”
“I know, sweetheart. And you did what you could. Now I’m asking you to do the same for yourself. Let me call Kevin. He’s an old friend, and I know he’ll come see you.”
“Okay.” Anything to make the darkness stay away. Anything at all.
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
Floyd tossed the newspaper down in front of Mac. “It’s worse than we thought it would be,” he told him.
“I know,” Mac muttered as he picked it, looked at the editorial again. “Our closure rates are in the toilet, the conviction rates at the DA’s office aren’t great—”
“And I’m sure Baldwin getting himself arrested for contempt isn’t helpful,” Taggert muttered from his spot in the chair in front of Mac’s desk.
“Actually, I’m told initial response from the media is good. He was making an outcry on behalf of a victim. Baldwin always knows how to come out on top,” Floyd muttered. “You, my friend, are not so lucky,” he said to Mac.
Mac scowled. “What do you expect me to do? The city keeps cutting my budget. I’ve had to lay off officers—most of detectives are overworked—”
“And the ones who aren’t are lazy assholes the union won’t let us get rid of,” Taggert said. “I spent all night looking at the Major Crimes Unit, and it’s a fucking mess, Mac. If Beaudry was ever a good cop, it was years ago. I can’t tell if Vinnie is lazy or just overworked because he’s been the primary on every case to cross the squad’s desk since he came back to the job.”
“Can you reassign one of them?” Floyd demanded.
“No,” Taggert said bluntly. “Because I can’t do this on my own. Vinnie is carrying ten cases. If I get rid of Beaudry, that’s five for us each—which isn’t going to make new cases coming up easier to deal with. I still have to do administrative crap.” He rubbed his forehead. “We got the rookies. They’re green, but I think they’re good.”
“This Lansing case—this is the city’s chance to make good. The closure rate is crap, and maybe we didn’t find Carly Corinthos, but we did arrest Lansing yesterday—”
“Because a member of this department leaked the story that put her in danger,” Mac said dryly. “I tried that spin. Jessica Mitchell—” He waved the paper. “She threw it back in my face. She’s got something against us—this isn’t the first time she’s come for me, but it’s the hardest, and well…” He sighed. “The most well-deserved.”
“You didn’t tell him to give the goddamn farm away,” Taggert said. “You wanted it in the gossip column to shake something loose. A rumor is one thing, verifying that Jason Morgan was at the goddamn house every damn day was…” He hissed. “Suicidal.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Floyd asked. “I need to have something to give the press, Mac, or as much as I personally like you, this department isn’t going to sink my career—”
Mac got to his feet. “Can you get the budget to hire experienced officers? Can you get me money to take care of testing? You know why Taggert’s in here, don’t you? He wants our back log of rape kits processed.”
“Twelve from the last three years haven’t been processed because of the policy against testing without a suspect. It’s a ridiculous policy—”
“It’s the only way to keep costs down. My only job here isn’t justice, Floyd,” Mac snapped. “If I go over budget, the council will have my job. If I don’t close enough cases, you’ll fire me. And if something slips through the cracks or my officers don’t do their jobs right, someone might die. Someone almost did. So what fucking miracles do you want me to accomplish without damn money or good cops?” He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you think you’ve put enough fucking political pressure on me since you got elected?”
Floyd hesitated. They stared at one another for a long moment. “The end of the fiscal year is in September. I can request more money next year, but the council will have to take it from somewhere else—”
“And then we’ll just go around in more circles.” Mac sat back down, put his head in his hands. “Taggert, any bright ideas?”
“I guess…we can try to arrange the unit to deal with what we’re good at. Beaudry is okay at patrol. We’ll keep him on that. He can be first responder during his shifts. He can train the rookies to do that—show them the shortcuts.” Taggert squinted. “I guess Vinnie and I can figure out what we’re good at. He worked Vice and Sex Crimes in Buffalo, but I think he’s burnt out on it. Maybe I can give him Robbery and Homicides, I’ll take everything else.” He exhaled slowly. “We can try that.”
“I can sell that to the press,” Floyd said. “We’re re-evaluating our personnel, making sure that everyone is in the position that best suits their abilities. I’ll make the money a thing, Mac. But I’m not a miracle worker.”
“Yeah, me either.” Mac shot the mayor a dirty look that made Taggert frown, but it was gone so quickly he wondered if he’d imagined.
“Let’s see if I got any in me,” Taggert said, finally getting to his feet.
General Hospital: ICU
The layers of darkness began to dissipate and with a struggle, Elizabeth Webber opened her eyes.
And immediately started to choke and gasp for air.
“Wait, wait—” a hoarse voice touched her shoulders. “There’s a breathing tube—Monica!”
Her eyes focused on the man speaking—he was blurry, but she could make out the edges of his face—his tired and worn blue eyes, the stubble of beard on his jaw, the tousled dark blond hair.
She knew that face.
She thought she’d never see it again. Her fingers drifted up to touch it, and he took her hand, pressed it against his roughened cheek, closing his eyes briefly.
She could hear footsteps, felt someone else’s fingers near her face—and then burning pain as something slid out of her throat, scraping the raw skin.
“Careful now,” the familiar tones of Monica murmured. “Jason, some water—” And then a straw was at her cracked, sore lips. She drank greedily, quickly and then coughed when it was too much.
“What…what’s going on?” she managed, the words nothing more than a whisper. She felt herself rising up slowly as Monica Quartermaine pressed a button at the side of her bed.
Jason was at her side, one hand holding hers, the other smoothing her hair out of her face. She struggled, trying to remember what happened and where she was.
“Elizabeth,” Monica said, gently. “What do you remember?”
She licked her lips and Monica brought the water to her again. She drank a bit more. “I—I was—I was at the house. We were looking…but I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe, and everything was—” Her eyes widened, and she jerked her gaze to Jason. “Carly—”
She reached out, twisting her fingers in his oatmeal colored shirt. “Carly. She’s—the button. Did I find it? The panic room—I can’t remember—”
“You found her,” Jason told her softly, his voice hoarse as he bent down to be closer to her. He took both her hands in his now, warming them. She could feel the tingles through her entire body as she became aware of everything.
And God…everything hurt.
“I found her,” Elizabeth managed. She squeezed her eyes shut. “I was talking to you.” Listening to his voice, thinking it would be the last she’d ever hear. “And then you…you were there.”
“I was on my way back,” Jason told her. He sat on the edge of her bed. “I promised I wouldn’t leave you again. But you—” He couldn’t speak, and Elizabeth looked at Monica, confused.
“Did I overdose again?” she asked, trying to search her brain. How could Ric have drugged her? She hadn’t eaten anything he’d made.
“Pulmonary embolism. Blood clots in your lungs. One choked off your oxygen, the other went to your heart.” Monica hesitated, her own voice faltering. “You went into cardiac arrest twice, Elizabeth.”
“Cardiac…” She furrowed her brows, looked at Jason. “Did—I died?”
“Your heart stopped twice,” he confirmed. “But they got you back, and you kept fighting. You’ve been in a coma—” He stopped, took a deep breath, as if trying to find the energy, the strength to continue. “For the last twenty-four hours.”
“How—how did—” She shook her head. “How did I get—”
“The symptoms were very similar to the withdrawal,” Monica sighed. “You would have dismissed them.” She came to the other side of the bed, studying the monitors. “But you should make a full recovery.”
There was more they weren’t telling her—she could see that. But for now, she focused on Jason’s face, and saw the exhaustion in his eyes. “Carly,” she said again. “We found her.”
“She’s here. She’s…okay.” Jason smoothed his thumb over her palm. “You found her.”
“I did it.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, sank back against the pillows. “And…Ric…”
“Still in jail, charged with—” Monica stopped. “Well, we’re not expecting bail,” she said. Elizabeth frowned, but it was clear they wouldn’t tell her anything else.
“I’m going to go call Bobbie and Nikolas to let them know,” Monica told Jason. She looked back at Elizabeth. “Take it easy, okay? Don’t give us any more scares for a couple of hours.” She touched Elizabeth’s shoulder, then left the room.
Elizabeth looked back at Jason. “Have you been here the whole time?” she asked. “Did you see Carly? Is she really okay?”
“I was here until…” Jason hesitated. “I had to leave, but I—no, I haven’t seen Carly since we got here. There’s a lot…but-”
“You don’t want to tell me,” she said with a half-smile. “Because it’s all probably bad news.”
“Yeah,” Jason admitted. He brushed her hair behind her ear, letting his fingertips trail down her cheek. “And I promised Monica I’d keep you resting as long as I could. There’ll be time for all of that.”
“Jason…how close did I—” She hesitated. Coughed. “How close…”
Jason was quiet for a moment, as if debating what to tell her. “When we got to the hospital, after the second cardiac arrest, they gave you a five percent chance of survival,” he admitted. “And you didn’t get upgraded into stable condition until this morning.”
And Elizabeth grimaced. “Was Ric here? Did…he’s—we’re married, so I guess—I don’t know. Was he here?” she asked again.
“Actually,” Jason said, “Nikolas found some paperwork you had drawn up last year giving me power of attorney.” A flush crawled up his neck as he cleared his throat. “I signed it, and Alexis filed it.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “After the crypt,” she murmured. “I…never got a chance to ask you.” She opened her eyes, looked at him. “I’m glad Nikolas found out, but…so you had to make the decisions.”
“Yeah,” Jason admitted. “I’m glad it worked out, but…” He managed a smile of his own. “I’m with Monica on this. Can you try not to scare me again like that? At least for twenty-four hours?”
And if finding out the extent of Ric’s crimes and what had happened while she was in a coma would possibly upset her and compromise her condition—well then, Elizabeth didn’t think she wanted to deal with that right now anyway.
“I can try,” she murmured, and he smiled at the words—as if he knew exactly why she’d said it that way. She looked down at his knuckles, frowning at the bruised and broken skin. “What happened? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just—” He shook his head. “That’s for later.”
“Okay.” Her eyes drifted closed. “I’m so tired. Is that normal?”
“Yeah, Monica said you’d be drifting in and out.” He kissed her forehead again. “Rest. You earned it.”
“Thank you for not leaving,” she murmured as she felt him lift himself off the bed. She tightened her grip on his hand as it started to slide out of her grasp.
But she was sleep before he could respond, and Jason took a deep breath, scrubbing his hands over his face. Somehow, he hadn’t believed she’d really wake up.
But now she had.
And it was time for everything that came next.