You can’t play on broken strings
You can’t feel anything that your heart don’t want to feel
I can’t tell you something that ain’t real
Well the truth hurts
And lies worse
How can I give anymore
When I love you a little less than before
– Broken Strings, James Morrison
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Lansing Home: Panic Room
He came in the dark when the rest of the world had gone to sleep.
The first time, she had tried to scream when the door slid open, but he only laughed at her. No one could hear her—not the woman sleeping upstairs. He’d drugged her that first night.
And after that night, Ric assured Carly that he’d found ways to continue drugging his wife. He kept the pills in a locked box high on a metal shelf in the panic room—even if Carly could get to it, there was no way to open it. No way to destroy them. The chain wrapped around her ankle didn’t allow her to get very far across the room.
Every night he brought her food meant to last her until the next night. She watched as he took pills from bottles—birth control to prevent pregnancy and Valium to keep Elizabeth asleep at night.
He mixed the pills into ice cube trays, freezing the pills so that Elizabeth wouldn’t know they were there. Always in every cube, one of each pill to make sure she ingested them.
And Ric was right—every day, Elizabeth drank glasses of water with those ice cubes. Ric thought it was amusing—he knew his wife didn’t trust him—knew there was a kernel of doubt in her mind.
He no longer tried to make her dinners, said nothing when she ordered out or made food for them both even though he was the better cook, he told Carly. Because Elizabeth drank the water without protest.
Carly was horrified—didn’t he worry that she might get sick? That she might take too much Valium?
He wasn’t—now that he was no longer drugging her in the food, he could control her intake more carefully. And the water likely diluted the dosage. He didn’t foresee any problems—he was sure it would be okay until the day her child was born.
Because then Elizabeth wouldn’t need him to drug her. The Valium was to keep her calm, to keep her biddable. If he gave her a baby—through private adoption—then he could stop giving her drugs.
She’d stay with him for the baby. She’d married him for the baby, after all.
Carly knew she’d talked Elizabeth into keeping the child and wished like hell she’d told Elizabeth to go for abortion.
It was nearly four in the morning when the door slid open on maybe the fourth or fifth night of her captivity—Carly was having trouble keeping track.
Ric set a tray of food on the far table, putting some water bottles in the fridge, the chilled soup—the sandwiches. She lay on her side on the cot, staring at him. Not engaging him in conversation.
He was the only link she had with the outside world, but Carly had no interest in talking to him.
Ric Lansing was a psychopath. A monster. Whatever psychological label doctors would put on him—he was wrong in the head—and Carly just wanted her freedom.
She’d watched Jason every day—watched him search. Watched Elizabeth search. She knew the other woman was on her side—prayed Elizabeth wouldn’t get sick, that Ric wouldn’t put her in any more danger.
As each day passed, she could see the hope fading from their expressions, even through the dimly lit screens. They were beginning to think she wasn’t in the house or that there weren’t any clues—and Carly couldn’t blame them.
Jason and Sonny were capable of violence—Carly had no illusions about the men in her life—but Ric was different. There was a deranged streak in his brain that allowed him to claim he loved his wife even as he regularly drugged her. A man who planned to kill a woman for her baby—
Carly knew he wasn’t going to wait until November when her child was due—the child growing inside of her could be viable as soon as September—and after that she would be useless to him.
“I’ll bring some magazines later today,” Ric said as he reached for the lock box. He counted out pills from each bottle and slipped them into a plastic bag. “I don’t want you getting too bored.”
Carly didn’t answer. She’d spent the first few days screaming at him, begging him. Reasoning with him.
But there was nothing inside him to reason with. The charming, smooth, sophisticated face he’d shown to the world for the last six months had been nothing more than a mask to hide the monster beneath.
She saw the true Ric now—the emptiness in his eyes. He was obsessed with his wife—had given up a plan to take out Sonny because of Elizabeth, or so he said—but Carly knew better. It wasn’t Elizabeth that had changed the course of Ric’s plan—no, it was the child. A baby that had given Ric the idea of extending his own existence—of creating another Ric.
He wanted the child—Elizabeth gave him the excuse, the cover to show the rest of the world.
Carly would be damned if she’d help him take her child and destroy Elizabeth in the process. She would hold tight to Jason and Sonny, to her faith in them. They would never stop looking for her, she knew that. And if sometimes that belief felt a little far away—she chalked it up to the darkness she lived with. Even with all the lights in the panic room switched on, the room could never mimic true sunlight.
Carly didn’t plan to die here in the dark and surrender her child to Ric Lansing. She would hold on to her sanity until Jason found her.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
It was with a great deal of reluctance that Jason opened the door to his penthouse, though the place hadn’t really felt like home in months. He’d told Courtney she could decorate it however she wanted, thinking that he didn’t really give a damn.
The truth was that he did care a little about what his apartment looked like—he just hadn’t realized it until Courtney had decorated it with elaborate furniture, knick knacks, and some sort of cabinet that made it almost impossible to use his pool table.
He hadn’t returned to the penthouse since the cops had searched it—had spent Saturday night with his tech guys, Stan Johnson and Damien Spinelli, putting together the surveillance for the house.
Sunday night, he’d been at the warehouse, making sure that everything was in place if they were raided, and he’d spent the last few nights watching footage of the Lansing house. They had only put cameras in areas of the house where Ric spent time alone—but it gave Jason some small comfort when he saw Elizabeth walk past those rooms—she’d made it through another night.
She called him every hour as promised or sent him short texts with nothing more than the words im ok—letting him know when she planned to sleep, when she woke up. It had done little to alleviate his discomfort that she remained in the house, so completely under Ric’s control, but Elizabeth was stubborn in her belief that she could help Carly best by staying close.
It was just past six that morning when Jason came in, worn out from another night watching the surveillance. They had learned nothing, and Jason was beginning to doubt there was anything to learn from the house.
While he hated the idea that it had been a dead end, at least he would be able to convince Elizabeth to desert her post and maybe, just maybe, she’d let him send her to Emily where she’d be safe.
He tried to be quiet as he took a duffel bag out of the closet in the master bedroom and took some clothes from the dresser, but the figure in the bed rolled over, blearily calling his name.
“Jason?” Courtney jack knifed into a sitting position. “What are—did you find her?” She pushed back the thin blue sheets on the bed and swung her legs out over the edge, getting to her feet. “Did you—”
“No.” Jason straightened, a clutch of t-shirts in his hand. “No. I—” He hesitated. “I’m sorry. I was just getting a change of clothing—”
Her lips pressed into a thin line, the color of lips fading into her skin. She switched on the bedside lamp. “You’re taking them with you. Why?” she demanded, her voice crackling with irritation, hands fisted at her hips, causing the silk night shirt she wore to bunch up.
Jason paused, then put the clothes inside the bag. “Because it will be easier,” he said after a moment. He meant every word of that statement. It would be easier for him to do what needed to be done if he didn’t have to come home to Courtney’s accusing eyes.
What exactly he was being accused of, Jason couldn’t say. His own anger hadn’t faded—the woman he’d intended to marry had not only called the police but allowed them to search his home. He couldn’t deal with Ric the way he wanted to with all eyes on him, with the cops breathing down their necks at work—
And somehow, Courtney had put herself in the position of being the victim, of looking so goddamn hurt when he and Sonny had criticized her for doing it.
It was easier to focus on Carly and keeping Elizabeth safe if he didn’t have to look at Courtney.
“Easier,” Courtney repeated. “Fine. Well, I wouldn’t want to distract you from finding Carly.” She folded her arms. “Have you been back to see Elizabeth?” she demanded.
Jason blinked at her. “What?”
“Sonny said Ric drugged her—or at least that’s what you believe. The cops obviously didn’t agree.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “Courtney—”
“I mean, how do you know she didn’t help?” Courtney demanded. “She’s always hated Carly, and everyone seems to think Ric is obsessed with her. Maybe Elizabeth blamed Sonny for her miscarriage, too. Maybe she snapped, and Ric helped her—”
Jason stopped listening and returned to the dresser. He put several pairs of jeans in the bag, some briefs, and socks. His deodorant, a comb—
“Jason—” Her voice was shrill now and she yanked on his arm. “I’m your fiancée. Why don’t you talk to me? Why don’t I get to know what’s going on? What you’re doing to find Carly—”
“Because I don’t trust you,” Jason snapped without thinking, and they both stared at each other.
Her eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled. “I made a mistake. I—panicked. I wanted to help Carly. She’s my best friend, and I just wanted her found. I was scared you would hurt Ric before he told us where to find her. I thought they’d find her—”
“I might be able to believe that if you hadn’t called them right away. If you hadn’t let them search.” Jason shook his head and zipped the duffel. “The truth is that you didn’t take it that seriously. You figured it was Ric which meant it wasn’t business, and the rules didn’t apply—”
“You asked Taggert for help last year when Elizabeth was missing!” Courtney shot back. “Is she more special than Carly? She was worth breaking the rules for—”
Jason bowed his head. AJ or Edward must have told Courtney about it—or maybe Sonny and Carly had mentioned it. Elizabeth hadn’t known, so— “Asking Taggert wasn’t my first choice,” he said slowly. “But I was desperate, and he could get information I couldn’t. If I hadn’t asked him for help, she’d be dead—”
“How can you judge me because I was scared—”
“You didn’t even give Sonny and me a chance to deal with it,” Jason retorted. He started for the door.
“Oh, so what, you would have called the police later?” She sprinted after him as he went down the hallway. “Damn it, Jason, don’t you dare leave right now—”
He stopped on the stairs. “I have things to do, Courtney. We can deal with this later—”
She scowled. “I bet you make time for your precious Elizabeth. That’s what this is, isn’t it? Sonny told me this was my fault because I’m not her, and you agree. She would have known the rules.”
Jason had no answer for that, so he continued down the stairs. He didn’t even know what to say to Courtney. How to tell her that in the last five days, he’d realized exactly how close he’d come to ruining his life and marrying her.
So, he said nothing and left. In the elevator, his phone beeped, and he looked down at the at text.
im up. ok.
He exhaled slowly, gripping the phone more tightly, and a half a smile curved up the corner of his lips, but there was no joy, no happiness. Just relief. They’d made it through another night. How many more were left?
Lucky watched through the windows as Lulu attempted to balance a tray of breakfast dishes with one hand. “She’s not good at this, is she?” he asked his aunt.
Bobbie blinked at him, then mindlessly stirred her tea. “No,” she sighed. “She’s cost herself more in broken dishes than she’s probably made in pay, but well…she’s not our first waitress to fail so completely.” She managed a half smile. “Elizabeth was pretty bad, too, remember?”
He only dimly could remember Elizabeth’s early days at Kelly’s, but he did have a few memories of Ruby chewing her out, and Elizabeth complaining that she wasn’t making any money.
“So, hopefully time will solve that problem.” He touched his aunt’s hand. “I know this week has been tough. You’re holding up well.”
“Clinging to desperation, really. I keep hoping something will happen—a lead will come through—someone will know something, have seen something—” She sighed, propping her chin on her hand. “What do you hear at the PCPD?”
“Not much. They asked me to pull a few shifts sitting outside of Elizabeth’s house. Mostly overnight.” Lucky shrugged. “No one ever leaves.” He stifled a yawn. “I was there last night—I was on my way home to get some sleep when I stopped by to see Lu.”
“I’m glad the PCPD is keeping someone on her house. It must be hard for you not to step in, not to do more for her,” Bobbie murmured. “Even though you didn’t end well.”
Lucky hesitated, then nodded. “Cruz mostly takes the day shift—he says Jason has a bodyguard on her. And Jason’s at the house a lot. I know—I know he’ll take care of her.” He was pretty sure of that. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to get along with Jason all that well, but he remembered Jason better before the fire—and he’d liked Jason then. And once he’d stopped trying to keep Elizabeth in his life, it was easier not to see Jason as an enemy.
“He’s trying, but you know Elizabeth. Stubborn to the end.” Bobbie stirred her tea again, but still didn’t take a drink. “How is your first week going?”
“Not great,” Lucky admitted. “The PCPD is basically what I thought it was. There are some okay cops, but most of them are lazy if not outright corrupt. My supervisor is an asshole.” He rolled his shoulders. “He caught a rape before I started and had me come with him to take another statement from her. Aunt Bobbie, he came pretty close to telling her it was her fault. For walking in the park in a short dress.” His throat tightened. “I thought about…talking to Taggert about it. Because he was—he worked on Elizabeth’s case.”
“And, of course, it makes you think of her.” Bobbie tilted her head. “That poor girl. You should talk to him.”
“I’ve been on the job for five days. If I start complaining about my superiors now, I don’t get to come back from that.” Lucky shifted. “Dante and Cruz already hate it here.”
“It’s…not the police department I remember. Particularly when Robert or Anna was in charge and Frisco was on the force.” A ghost of a smile flitted on her lips. “Or Sean. You don’t remember them, do you?”
“No…I don’t.” Lucky sighed. “I know I did this because Baldwin didn’t think I could, but—”
“Don’t give up yet.” Bobbie squeezed his hand. “After we find Carly, things will calm down and maybe you’ll feel more comfortable taking your concerns to Taggert or Mac.”
“Yeah. After we find Carly,” Lucky repeated.
Port Charles Grille
It was maybe the fourth time Brooke Lynn rolled eyes dramatically that Ned noticed the blonde over his daughter’s shoulder. He froze, taken out of the moment, taken away from an awkward, tense dinner and thrust into the memory of his last meeting with the toxic blonde who now raised a glass of wine in his direction with a smirk.
He looked at his brother, Dillon, and to their other dinner partner, Alexis, and then slowly put his napkin on the table. “I have to step out for a minute and take a phone call.”
“Of course you do,” Brooke muttered. “This is supposed to be a family dinner isn’t it?”
“I’ll be right back,” he promised. He made eye contact first with Faith, then with Alexis who only sighed. She was used to Quartermaine antics and decided it was better to distract the teenagers than argue.
“Tell me how your summer jobs are going.”
He could hear Brooke complaining about Lila’s Kids, the charity summer camp ELQ sponsored at Port Charles Park during the summer. Dillon and Maxie Jones had volunteered as counselors, and Ned was trying to convince Brooke to join them.
Maybe it was a mistake to try to force a relationship with Brooke, but Ned had allowed Lois to take control over her childhood for too long—had acquiesced when Lois wanted to keep her or if Brooke wanted to stay in Bensonhurst. He’d distanced himself from his daughter, telling himself he was saving her from the Quartermaines when the truth was he hadn’t known how to be a father or whether to trust he’d be any good at it.
And maybe now it was too late.
He only had to wait in the reception area outside the restaurant for a few minutes before Faith Roscoe sauntered out, her spaghetti-strapped black dress cut too low at the chest and high on the thigh for the standards of most restaurants.
“I see you’ve missed me,” she murmured as she joined him in the dark corner. “This is a bit too public for me, but maybe—”
“I told you I’m out,” Ned said, his teeth clenched. “I want no part of this—” He grabbed her wrist as it tried to slide up his chest. “Kidnapping Carly wasn’t the plan—”
“It certainly wasn’t,” Faith agreed in her breathless sing-song voice. He’d once found that tone mildly attractive. Now the crazy light in her eyes only repulsed him. “And Ric will pay for it. He’s made some enemies—”
“Did you know about the Zaccharas?” Ned demanded. “About Ric and Sonny? You said you didn’t—”
“If I had known Ric had any other loyalties but me, I would have dealt with it.” Faith pouted and stepped back. “I brought him into this. This was supposed to be our revenge, not his. He’s stolen my moment.” She drew her brows down. “I’ll have to punish him.”
Ned hesitated. “Why don’t you just tell Jason and Sonny where Carly is? Isn’t that punishment enough?”
“I would if I could.” Faith huffed. “Apparently, since Ric discovered he can reproduce, he’s less interested in me. If he’d wanted a kid so badly, I’m sure I could have done…” She waved her hand. “Done something. But he’s obsessed with that little pale princess.” She shook her head. “I’ll have to send him a warning. Remind him to focus. If he can’t focus without her around, I supposed I’ll just have to—”
“Don’t—just leave her out of this, Faith.”
Faith tilted her head. “I thought you wanted to be out of this.” She leaned in, her blood-red rips brushing against his ear as she whispered. “You don’t want your little girl to know how naughty her daddy has been, do you?”
“No.” Ned gritted his teeth, put his hands on her shoulders and set her back a step. “I am out of it, Faith. Take your revenge on Ric. Elizabeth has suffered enough.”
“You’re no fun anymore.” Faith sighed. “I don’t make promises I can’t keep, Neddy. You should remember that.” She tapped her index finger against his chest, the nail polish matching her lips. “You take care of your daughter. I’d hate to see any harm come to her.”
“Don’t you threaten me—”
“Don’t you play with me.” Faith pursed her lips, then smiled. “I’ll let you have your little rebellion. I have other matters to attend to, but when I call, you’d better come running.”
Lansing Home: Living Room
Elizabeth stepped off the steps just as the front door opened and her husband stepped over the threshold. Jason had just slipped out the back door—warned by the guard on Ric that he was headed home. Elizabeth had stayed in Ric’s study an extra moment to make sure it looked as it did when they’d arrived.
Another day of searching had brought them no closer to Carly’s location, and Ric hadn’t done anything to indicate he was moving her. She could see the wheels turning in Jason’s head, and she knew that she’d have to keep her promise. Without any leads by Friday, she’d have to let him send her to California, or at the very least—leave the house.
Ric smiled when he saw her, and she plastered a smile on her face, accepted the kiss to her lips, even as her stomach curled in knots. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” she murmured. “I went to the studio this morning, did some work.” She went into the kitchen, poured herself a glass of water and dropped some ice cubes into it. Water was safe—it was the only thing she allowed herself to drink now, and she only ate food she prepared or bought herself.
If Ric noticed her new penchant for cooking, he had said nothing. He poured himself a glass of iced tea from the pitcher. “You think you’re ready to set a date for that show?”
“Oh…probably by the end of August, I guess.” Elizabeth lifted a shoulder. “I’m not sure I’m ready, but I know you went to a lot of trouble to set it up.” It had seemed sweet at the time, a way to bring her out of the fogginess and lows after her miscarriage.
Fogginess his drugs had caused her.
“If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.” He tipped his head. “You were in the guest room again last night. Are you planning to spend the rest of our marriage in there?” Ric attempted to make the statement light, but she could read the expression in his eyes. He was coming closer to pushing her on this.
And…was that a step she was willing to take? To let Ric…touch her? Sleep with him again? Was it worth the chance to find Carly?
No. No, if Ric pushed her on this, then that was her line in the sand, but still her stomach continued to knot as she forced some of her water down. She set the glass aside. “No,” she said softly. “I’m just…I guess maybe I’m not handling things that well. I—I—Carly is still missing. A-and the cops are outside—I’m surprised the papers haven’t seen it—they’re all over the place about her kidnapping.”
“You said you believed me,” Ric said, his jaw clenched. “Are you lying to me?”
“No.” God. “No,” she said again. “It’s just—I mean…Bobbie is starting to have doubts. She—” Elizabeth chewed on her lip. “She came by—she’s angry that no one has found Carly, and she’s thinking that if you did it, they’d have found her by now. I told her that, and maybe…maybe it means the PCPD is going to look somewhere else.”
“Good.” Ric’s shoulders eased, and he nodded. “Then—”
“I don’t know. It’s just…mostly, I don’t want to have…” She swallowed. “I still love you, but I don’t…have any…” And that was true—had been true even before she’d learned the truth of the monster lurking inside the man she’d married. She knew that was a side effect of the drugs he’d been giving her, at least partially. Would he know that?
Ric exhaled slowly and looked away. “Yeah. I guess that makes sense. Have you thought about talking to someone? Trying to sort through it?”
“I was hoping time would take care of it.” Elizabeth picked up her glass, swiping at the water ring left on the counter. They didn’t have central air conditioning, and the kitchen was always too warm. Her ice had mostly melted. She sipped it again. “But maybe you’re right. Maybe Bobbie can recommend someone.”
“Good.” He leaned forward, kissed her again, and she allowed it. “I’ll let you relax. I’m late tonight, I’m sorry. I missed dinner.”
“It’s okay. I grabbed something at Kelly’s.” Or Cody had brought dinner for them as they sorted through his papers, and Elizabeth had forced some food down only so that Jason would eat as well. She worried about him—was he getting any sleep?
She managed to fall asleep every night though she woke up groggy in the morning as if it was a restless sleep. Her health was all over the place, and she was looking forward to this being over.
“We must have missed each other,” Ric said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He played with a tendril of her hair and she forced herself to remain still, to even look at him with soft eyes. “I know it’s been stressful…with the baby, with Carly—”
“I almost feel like we can’t really begin our lives until we know…until we find her, you know? Until we know who really took her. People will always look at you—”
“We may not be able to stay in Port Charles,” Ric said with a sigh. “Maybe we’ll move closer to Crimson Point and I’ll join my father’s practice after all. We’ll have to see how it goes.” He kissed her again. “I’m going to look over some contracts for the places I found this week. I’m close to signing one.”
“Okay. I’ll probably go to the bed early. Maybe a shower or something.” She accepted one last kiss before he left the kitchen and then reached for the water. She drank it until the glass was empty, then filled it again with more ice and water. She really needed to get a portable air conditioner.
“My next house is going to have central,” she muttered as she started for the stairs, and sighed at the pettiness and smallness of the thought. Carly was being kept captive somewhere, and she was worrying about herself and her own comfort.
Lansing Home: Guest Bedroom
Elizabeth set her water on the bedside and locked the door behind her. She went into the adjoining bathroom with her purse and locked that door as well before letting the shower run.
She dug her phone from its hidden pocket and set the purse on the vanity table. She checked her watch—she was a little early checking in, but she knew Jason worried when Ric was in the same house. He’d probably reached wherever Stan and Spinelli were watching them—and had maybe even seen the scene in the kitchen.
She pressed two until it dialed, then sat on the closed toilet seat, biting at her nails until he answered.
“Hey.” Elizabeth’s eyes watered at the sound of his voice, at the concern. “Hey. Um. He’s thinking about signing a lease for a place, so maybe—”
“Maybe he’s getting ready to move her.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth moved and sat on the floor next to the shower stall, in the corner furthest from the door. Furthest away from Ric. “That’s—we were in the kitchen—”
“I saw.” His tone was short and clipped.
Her chest tightened, and she let her head slump against the wall. “I’m sorry. I had to let—”
“He was trying to find out why I’m still in the guest room—you don’t care about this. I’m just—I’m checking in for the night, I’m locked in my room—”
“Hey…” His tone was quieter now, and some of the hum that had been in the background had disappeared, as if he’d left the room. “Are you okay?”
“No,” she admitted. A tear slid down her cheek. “I’m afraid he’s not going to take no for answer for long. I—I told him I didn’t want to, and I think he thought about the drugs, but maybe I should so he doesn’t—”
“No! You don’t—Damn it. I’ll pick you up right now—”
“No, no—” Elizabeth shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her. “No. I’m okay. For tonight. And probably a few more days. I told him I’m going to talk to someone. We’ll find her soon.”
“I was thinking maybe we need—” Elizabeth took another deep breath. “I was thinking we might need more cameras. Maybe we didn’t—you said Ric gets up in the middle of the night sometimes. He goes downstairs, but he doesn’t leave.”
“Yeah, we thought maybe he was doing something in the basement, but we’ve looked there—”
“So, tomorrow, we’ll put cameras in the places they’re not now. Um. The living room, the basement, and the other guest room—” The room Ric had quietly said he’d thought would be the nursery when they were ready to think about it. “Can you—maybe you can put a camera or something inside his car.”
“We did that—” There was a pause as Jason apparently went back into the room with the others. She heard him murmuring to others. “Yeah. Stan agrees. Do you think we can do it tomorrow?”
“Maybe. I won’t know until I see him.” She closed her eyes. “I want this to be over. I want to be done with him.”
“Justus has divorce papers waiting,” Jason told her after a minute of silence. “Notice of separation. The second you want out—”
“It’s almost done. It has to be.” Elizabeth sighed. “I should—I should go.” But she didn’t want to. She wanted to stay curled up in this room, listening to Jason’s voice. She knew she was safe when he was on the phone with her.
“Elizabeth—any time of the night—you know I’m here.”
“I do. That’s how I get through it.” She got to her feet, took a look at herself in the mirror that was quickly steaming up. She almost couldn’t recognize herself. “Good night.”
“Good night, Elizabeth.”