You’ll say you understand
But you don’t understand
You’ll say you’d never
Give up seeing eye to eye
But never is a promise
And you can’t afford to lie
– Never Is A Promise, Fiona Apple
Friday, June 19, 2003
Pier 52: Warehouse
The building still had the logo of the Roscoe Imports Company emblazoned across the doorway, though it had not done any business since Mickey Roscoe had died the year before. His grieving widow kept it and used the offices, but she had never been able to muster the backing or finances to keep the front going.
Ned walked through the empty building, wishing he had brought someone with him. Not that he had anyone who would fit the bill since no one even knew he was working with Faith Roscoe—and hadn’t that been a stupid idea?
When Faith had wanted revenge on Sonny the previous year, after her husband’s disappearance and after Kristina’s death, it had seemed like a manna from heaven. She’d already arranged for an old associate to come to town—Ric Lansing who was supposed to get into the organization, dismantle it from within while Ned had bankrolled the entire operation.
But nothing had gone to plan, and Ric hadn’t returned any calls for weeks.
Faith Roscoe was pacing the empty office, her black stilettos clicking against the cement floor. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting?” Her blue eyes snapping, digging holes into him, she stopped in front of him, hands planted on her hips.
“I’m sure I don’t care,” Ned said. “What do you want?”
“What do I want?” the blonde demanded with a brittle laugh. “I want to cut that little china doll into tiny pieces.”
Ned furrowed his brow. “China doll?” he echoed. “Is this about Elizabeth?” It hadn’t bothered him at first that Faith and Ric were sleeping together…until Elizabeth had turned up pregnant and married to Ric. He hadn’t paid much attention to her before that, but the miscarriage…had upset Monica who had called Emily.
And he had honestly forgotten Elizabeth had been Emily’s friend—hadn’t thought of her as anything other than a pawn Ric was using to get closer to Jason and Sonny.
It had disturbed him to know he was capable of such…callous disrespect for a young woman who he knew had helped Kristina the year before, had been there when the warehouse exploded. Attended her funeral.
“It’s always about Elizabeth when it comes to Ric. He’s up to something, you know that? He’s not talking to me. He’s not following the plan—he’s got her all set up in a house—” Faith huffed. “You know, if she weren’t around, maybe he’d—”
“Stop right there.” Ned held up a hand, shook his head. “Stop. I’m out. I wanted Sonny to pay for what happened to my fiancée. That’s not news. And I lost my head for a while. But I don’t trust Ric, I don’t trust you—and—” he hesitated. “This just isn’t what I want anymore.”
Faith narrowed her eyes, planting her red-tipped hands at her waist. “You think you’re walking away from me? No one walks away from me.”
“Well, it looks like Ric has.”
“Oh, and he’ll get what’s coming to him, too,” Faith called after him as Ned turned away. “Him and that little china doll!”
“And so will anyone else that gets in my way,” she muttered when he was gone.
Queen of Angels: Bridal Room
In just a little over a year, Courtney Matthews had been engaged twice. Three times, if one counted a blackmailed engagement that had lasted all of an hour and a half.
The first had resulted in quick ceremony—a spur of the moment, spontaneous leap of faith with a man she barely knew. It had been just she and AJ in front of a justice of the peace, a plain white dress and a suit, and two witnesses they’d dragged off the street.
And now, she stood in an elaborate white gown in the bridal suite of a Catholic church sitting in a room with two women who hated her.
Courtney couldn’t explain why but, in this moment, she yearned for the spontaneous sweetness of her first wedding. Their marriage might have ended in disaster—AJ may have broken her heart—but at least she could say she honestly believed in their love for one another, no matter how it had begun or ended.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror and tried to recall the happiness of the moment Jason had proposed but she simply couldn’t. The heavy, tense atmosphere in her bridal suite had poisoned the memory and every other positive emotion she’d tried to dredge up.
“You need anything?” Jason’s sister asked sullenly from the other side of the room. Emily was tucked into one corner of a sofa, her mother in another. But the words meant nothing, spoken merely to break into the tense silence.
After all, neither of them moved towards Courtney to do anything to actually help her put on her veil, adjust her hair. Carly was nowhere to be found, and neither was her brother. Nothing new there. They were somewhere else, concerned about themselves just like they always were.
Jason was slipping away from her and had been for weeks. But that didn’t matter, she told herself, because it was clear Jason would go through with the ceremony. That he would marry her, and then maybe once that was over, Courtney could make him remember the beginning of their relationship. When she had made him happy.
If everyone else would just go away and stop reminding him of everything else, she knew he’d come back to her, and they would be happy together.
“Where’s Carly?” Monica asked stiffly. “You’d think since this was her idea she’d be here helping.”
“I’m not sure where she is,” Courtney said carefully. “Um, I think I need some help with my veil—”
“Oh, you know, I’m no good with that sort of thing. Can’t do anything with these fingers,” the award-winning cardiothoracic surgeon said without batting an eyelash.
“I’m clumsy as hell,” Emily said. “Better wait for Carly. She’s been married so many times, she probably has this down to a science. Though I’m glad she never figured out how to get Jason to marry her. Then you guys would really be weird. Two husbands in common. I mean, you already technically share them—”
Yeah, this was going to be a long night. Courtney looked at the filigree silver clock on the mantel across the room. Six-thirty. Was it too soon for a drink?
She suddenly understood all too well how the Quartermaines could drive a person to drink. To drown out their voices—Courtney would gladly take a fifth of vodka.
“Why don’t I go find Carly?” Emily said with a bright smile. “Mom, want to help?”
“That sounds like a great plan.” Monica got to her feet and followed her daughter out of the room.
Everything would be fine once she and Jason were married. Jason loved her. She loved him. They were just…nervous. Or something. Everything would be fine.
Lucky grimaced as he wiped up a spilled drink on the bar with a soggy wet rag. “Claude!” he called to the back. “Your break is over—”
“Not for another ten minutes,” returned the lackadaisical reply of his father’s oldest and most reliable bartender.
Not that Claude showed him any goddamn respect even though Lucky was the only reason this place was still in business and that was only to make sure Lulu could pay her tuition at PCU in the fall. Bad enough she was living with Bobbie who was footing her daily expenses. Lucky wasn’t going to let his little sister hang out to dry, even though clearly their father was content to do so. They hadn’t seen or heard from Luke in nearly six months—not since the day Luke found out Lucky was attending the police academy.
If he ever wanted any proof he’d fallen far short of Luke’s expectations of him—well, the lack of word since then told Lucky everything he ever wanted to know.
He was still Luke Spencer’s son, but not the way he used to be. It was just one more thing the Cassadines had stolen from him.
Above the din of the music and crowd, he saw the front door swing open and Dante walked in. “Pour me a pint, my good man.” He grinned. “I survived my first day, and lemme tell you, that wasn’t a guarantee.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” Lucky scowled. “My day started like shit and went straight down from there.”
“Oh, what? My cousin Vinnie not up to your standards?” Dante asked as he took the Rolling Rock Lucky offered.
“How many times you think you’re going to manage to say my cousin Vinnie today?” Lucky asked. “It’s not nearly as funny as you think it is.”
“Neither is Vinnie. He’s the least favorite son of my Ma’s least favorite sister.” Dante shrugged. “But he recommended me for the job, so I guess…”
“He’s lazy as shit,” Lucky muttered. “You would not believe how he half-asses his reports. We got a robbery today, right? This liquor store on Van Ess. He just hauls in the kids from the corners and starts harassing them into confessing. They did but there’s no way they did it.”
“Well, at least you’re not Cruz and you don’t have to listen to eight hours of Capelli and Taggert trying to figure out to sneak into someone’s wedding. I mean, this is not what I thought I was signing up for.” Dante grimaced.
“What, you’re in it for truth, justice, and the American way?” Lucky said with a smirk. “It’s the PCPD. The cops who aren’t corrupt are generally just idiots.”
“You’re actually from this place. How could you go to work for them when you know what they are?” Dante asked, curiously. “I mean, I know what you said while we in the academy, but I don’t think I really understood it until today. My guy never got out of the damn patrol car. He kept taking calls and then just telling dispatch everything was clear.”
Lucky hesitated, then shrugged. “You know about my mother, right? She had a breakdown last year because Scott Baldwin and the PCPD kept hounding her about her stepfather’s death. Baldwin was so sure she was covering for my dad that he pretty much drove her over the edge. That’s what they are. They’re bullies. They pick a suspect and go at them like a dog in heat.”
“After my mom lost it, my entire family fell apart. My dad went into the bottle, I lost my job at Deception because the new management didn’t want me.” He shrugged. “Nikolas, my brother, took my mom to London with my grandmother for treatment. I’m here, trying to make the club work, trying to take care of my sister, but Lu is running wild. Everything is going down the drain.”
“What does that have to do with you joining the force?”
“So, around Christmas, Baldwin has the nerve to come into my bar and ask for a drink. I went after him about what he’d done to my mother—” Lucky took a long pull from his beer, “I also told him the PCPD was a useless pile of morons who couldn’t find their balls if they were handed to them on a fucking silver platter. Baldwin told me if I didn’t like the job they were doing, why didn’t I try it? What, did it look easy? I don’t know. The way he said it made it sound like I couldn’t do it.” And the asshole had sneered while he said it.
There was one aspect of Lucky’s personality that hadn’t faded with time and brainwashing—the minute someone told him he couldn’t do a thing, doing it became all he could think about.
“You became a cop on a dare.” Dante nodded. “Fair enough. There are worse reasons.” He shook his head. “If it’s gonna be like this, I don’t think I wanna stay. I’ll get my experience, but—”
“I don’t know,” Lucky said after a long moment. “I mean, how long can they keep going like this? Eventually…something has to change, right? Mac’s not going to get away with this crap forever. Citizens are gonna start to want change. If we keep our noses clean, wait for promotions—”
“Maybe we can change things? Nah, I’ve seen this movie. The good guys usually die in the end,” Dante joked. “I’ll get my rookie year under my belt, and then see if there’s something in Rochester or Buffalo. But you know, this is your hometown. I get it. You want it to get better.” He flashed a grin at pretty blonde at the other end of the bar. “Excuse me. I have business.”
Lucky dismissed him as his phone vibrated in his pocket.
“Lucky?” His brother voice sounded a bit distant, but it was definitely Nikolas Cassadine. “Hey.”
“Hey, Nikolas. What’s up? How’s Mom? Grandma?”
“Good, good. Hey, listen. Luke showed up here a week ago.”
Lucky closed his eyes “Damn it, why didn’t you call—”
“Because he was sober,” Nikolas said simply. “And I wanted to see if it would last. It has. I’m letting him stick around for a while.” There was a pause. “How was your first day?”
“Good. I guess. It’s what I expected mostly, but it’s a job. And something different.” Lucky hesitated. “He was sober?”
“He looked like the Luke I remembered from before. He says he’s serious about Mom’s recovery, and he wants to do what he can. So…I’ll keep you in the loop. Hey…did you know Elizabeth got married?”
Lucky grimaced. “I heard. How did you know?”
“I talked to Bobbie earlier. She gave me Elizabeth’s new number, but I just…I don’t know. I guess I didn’t realize how far apart we’d grown until…who did she marry? I’ve never heard of him.”
“Ric Lansing. He’s…not a great guy,” Lucky admitted. “Bobbie isn’t happy about it, but you know Elizabeth.”
“Yeah, she’s never taken anybody’s advice. All right, well…I guess I’ll call her and at least try to congratulate her.”
“It must be midnight there, Nikolas. Why are you still up—”
“Catching up on paperwork. I’ll talk to you later, Lucky.”
Lansing House: Living Room
The phone rang five times before the answering machine picked up. Ric’s voice greeted the caller, informing them that they had reached Richard and Elizabeth Lansing, but they weren’t available to take the call at the moment.
Not that Elizabeth had changed her name yet. Ric had brought her the paperwork the day after the wedding, but it remained incomplete upstairs in a drawer.
The machine beeped, and Nikolas Cassadine’s voice echoed in the room.
“Elizabeth. Hey. I, uh, talked to Bobbie earlier, and she gave me your new number. I hope it’s okay. She mentioned you got married, and I just—I found myself thinking about the last time we saw one another, and I couldn’t remember when it was. I miss you. I’ll be home for a couple of weeks soon, so maybe…I’ll try to call you back later. Congratulations.”
The phone clicked off.
Stretched out on the sofa, Elizabeth’s eyelids fluttered slightly but she did not move.
Queen of Angels: Courtyard
In less than an hour he would be a married man.
Jason took a deep breath and shook his head, turning back towards the church. He shouldn’t think of it that way—the idea of being married to Courtney shouldn’t…leave him empty.
It should be different. It had been different. He’d proposed to her on his own volition, even if Carly had put the idea in his head. After all, he’d spent almost six months with Courtney. She’d put up with everything he’d thrown at her—a fake marriage to Brenda, a murder trial, car accidents, being kidnapped—she’d stuck by him through everything.
She understood his life. He cared about her and knew getting married would make her happy, so why not?
Then why couldn’t he make himself cross the threshold into the church? Go meet Sonny and Michael at the end of the aisle so the wedding could begin?
It was probably Emily. His sister had made it clear she wasn’t happy about Jason marrying their brother’s ex-wife. And even though Emily hadn’t said much about Elizabeth—seeing her this morning weighed on him.
Elizabeth hadn’t looked well. Her eyes were shadowed with dark circles beneath them, her skin had been pale almost translucent, and she was thinner than Jason remembered. He knew that she’d lost a baby a month ago, but he hadn’t allowed himself to think about that.
She had married Ric despite everything they knew about him—despite what Jason had told her. She’d made her choice and so he’d put her out of his mind.
Until this morning, until Emily had looked at him with those eyes that asked why he wasn’t doing something to help Elizabeth. Not that he knew what he could do.
Elizabeth had stopped trusting him at some point, and he didn’t know how to get it back. If it was even possible. And the fact that he was moments from marrying another woman but was consumed with thoughts of Elizabeth was probably not a good sign.
“Jase? You ready? We’re going to get started in a minute.”
Jason turned to find Carly peering at him from the doorway. She started towards him. “Oh. Yeah. I was just…” He exhaled slowly. “Getting some air.”
“Some air,” Carly repeated quietly. “Listen. I know I bugged you about this earlier, but I think maybe I should—” She clasped her hands in front of her. “Maybe I pushed Courtney too hard at you. I—I know you were…” She grimaced. “Upset at how things turned out with Elizabeth, I guess. And maybe Courtney was, like, a rebound—”
“A rebound?” Jason echoed. “What—”
“When you hurt, Jase, you try to fill your time with something else. You used to go to Jake’s and get in fights after Robin—”
“Carly—” He couldn’t do this now. He couldn’t let her give him an out—he was almost tempted to take it. But there was no going back, no turning back time and doing something different.
“A-And I just wonder if maybe Courtney was just there. And she was hurting, too. And maybe it all got out of hand because of the trial, and then Sonny—” Carly put her hands up to stop him from talking. “You said it earlier. Courtney gets your life. Maybe. But Jase, c’mon…” She tipped her head. “Is that really enough to promise to spend the rest of your life together?”
Jason didn’t want to think about any of that. It was easier not to think about some things. He could live with the future he planned. He’d do something to help Elizabeth because she was important to Emily, but everything else was off the table.
She’d taken it off the table herself.
He took a deep breath and looked at his best friend. “Carly, it’s done. C’mon, let’s go in—”
“I’ll be in in a minute.”
He hesitated but then nodded and went back inside the church.
Carly watched him go and wondered how much trouble she’d be in if she stopped the wedding. They might all be pissed at her, but—
She knew Jason hated when she meddled in his life, and God knew she’d done it one too many times over the years, so maybe she should just butt out. But if Jason went through with this wedding when his heart wasn’t really in it—if he was staying with Courtney because it was easier than being alone—
Well, maybe Carly should intervene just one more time. So, lost in her thoughts, Carly didn’t hear the heavy creak of the church’s wooden front doors cracking open.
Or the footsteps crunching on gravel behind her.
Carly turned to smile at her son in the doorway to the church. “Hey, Mr. Man—”
A cloth clamped over her mouth as an arm snaked around her waist. Carly inhaled a sickly-sweet scent as she felt herself being jerked backwards. She wrenched out of the grasp, lurched forward, but felt her hair yanked back and the cloth settled over her mouth again. She tried to kick her legs but already…her energy was fading.
“Mom!” Michael cried. He started to run towards her, but Carly was off her feet, being dragged backwards.
The edges of Carly’s world begin to dim and then everything went black.
Queen of Angels: Chapel
Bobbie Spencer checked her watch and frowned. The ceremony should have started five minutes ago, but the doors to the back of the church were still closed. At her side, her son, Lucas, and niece, Lulu, were bickering about who would drive home since they were sharing the Ford Escort.
Bobbie got to her feet. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to see what’s keeping everyone.”
“Yeah, okay,” Lucas said. “It’s my turn to drive, Lu—”
“Ha! Only because I gave you my turn last week—”
“Why do you remember everything?”
Bobbie abandoned the teenagers and made her way up the aisle and into the anteroom where Jason and Sonny were talking. “Hey.” She approached them. “Is anything wrong?”
“Oh, no.” Sonny shook his head. “Courtney stepped on the hem of her dress and the heel ripped it. They’re just fixing it—” He looked at Jason, squinted. “Did you see Carly come back in?”
Jason frowned. “No—I thought she was with Michael.”
“Then where’s Michael?” Bobbie demanded. She pushed past them to go towards the bridal suite. “Is he with Courtney?”
“No, Leticia was going to leave him with Carly, so she could fix the dress—” Sonny looked at Jason. “But…I never saw Carly come back in. I thought she came in while we were in the back, but—”
Jason went to the doorway of the church and threw open the doors. In the courtyard, near the gates, Michael lay sprawled out on the gravel, sobbing.
All three of them rushed forward, but Bobbie was slowed down by her heels. Jason reached the little boy first and swept him up in his arms. “What happened?” he demanded, roughly, checking him over for scrapes.
“I—I f-fell!” Michael wailed. “I t-tried to stop h-him! But the bad man took Mommy!” He sobbed, throwing his head back, the tears streaming down his face.
Jason’s heart stopped as he set Michael on his feet and knelt in front of him. “What?”
“Jason,” Sonny said thickly, from a few away. Jason turned away from Michael to find Sonny standing just beyond the church gates, a pale purple heeled shoe in his hand.
Lansing House: Living Room
Ric carefully pushed open the door and breathed with relief—Elizabeth was exactly where he had left her thirty minutes earlier—sleeping on the sofa. He had worried over the dosage of Valium in the champagne—he had given her three more pills on top the two he generally slipped in her food and drink.
He hated drugging her, but it was the only way to keep her calm. To keep her with him. Ric just wanted to keep her safe. To give her the baby she deserved. And when she had that baby again, it would all be okay.
Elizabeth would love him again. She would be happy. She’d love the man who gave her the baby. She’d be such a good mother. So much better than Carly. If she could just give their new life a chance. She’d see it eventually.
Ric gently closed the door behind him and returned to the driveway. He opened the trunk, took out the portable wheelchair, unfolded it, and then wheeled it to the back passenger door.
Ric carefully lifted the unconscious Carly into the wheelchair and then wheeled her straight up the walk and into the house. He closed the door behind him, pulled the remote from his pants pocket, and watched as the wall slid back, revealing a hidden room with screens. He steered Carly across the room and into the panic room, pressing the remote again. The wall slid closed again, neatly hiding the small space from the rest of the room.
Ric laid Carly out on the bed and then attached the leg cuff to her right leg, hearing the metal clink and smiling in satisfaction. He switched on the screens in the panic room. He checked his watch, then opened the door again, walking into the living room and closing the panic room just as Elizabeth made a sound.
He had been cutting it close, and if Michael had recognized him—Ric expected Jason and Sonny to storm his door any minute. But he had carefully thought out this plan. He, of course, would be the primary suspect, but Elizabeth wouldn’t know he’d been gone. And whenever Jason had gone after Ric in her presence, Elizabeth had always defended him.
Her loyalty would clear him, and well, Sonny had so many other enemies. He planned to lay some false trail and some red herrings to distract everyone. He hadn’t planned on Michael though, and Ric wasn’t sure how that would complicate things. He’d planned on at least another twenty minutes before Carly’s absence was noted—maybe even an hour before Jason and Sonny came to him.
As long as Ric remained calm, stuck to the plan, this would all be fine.
Elizabeth murmured something and then started to sit up, pressing a hand to her head. “Oh. Oh, my head is killing me.”
“Hey, Beautiful. Your headache didn’t go away?” Ric murmured as he sat on the sofa beside her. “The champagne was probably not a great idea—”
Elizabeth blinked at him, her pupils so dilated that only a thin ring of blue was visible. “Headache?” she said. She licked her lips. “I don’t feel so good—how long was—was I asleep?” she asked, her words slurring.
Damn it. Had he given her too much? Had mixing the pills with the alcohol been a mistake? If Jason Morgan showed up now, there would be no hiding Elizabeth’s condition—Damn that little gremlin for being where he wasn’t supposed to be! He had to get her more alert. Had to get her out of sight.
“Ric—how long—was I asleep?” she repeated. She tried to stand but swayed. Fell back onto the sofa.
“Just for a few minutes,” he lied. “You dozed off. You haven’t been sleeping much these last few weeks, you know. I guess it caught up with you.” He slid his fingers through her silky chestnut hair. “Why don’t you take a hot shower? I know it’s summer, but it might help.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth licked her lips again. “Yeah, okay.” She rose to her feet again and this time, she managed to remain standing. “I’ll just—I’ll be upstairs.”
“Okay.” Ric watched her go slowly, her hand bracing along walls and banisters as she climbed the stairs. He took a deep breath. Okay, the steam and water ought to clear some of the fogginess from her head. He needed Elizabeth to be clearer. Firmer.
She was his alibi after all.
He waited until he heard the water turn on upstairs before opening the panic room again. Carly should be waking any moment now, and he wanted her to see him.
To know that she and Sonny were finally going to pay for everything they had stolen from him, from Elizabeth.
This was righteous.
This was justice.