October 7, 2018

This entry is part 1 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

It’s on your face; is it on your mind?
Would you care to build a house of your own?
How much longer, how long can you wait?
It’s like you wanted to go and give yourself away
Heaven forbid you end up alone and don’t know why
Hold on tight, wait for tomorrow, you’ll be alright
Heaven Forbid, The Fray


Friday, June 19, 2003

Kelly’s: Courtyard

 Elizabeth Webber pasted a smile on her face as Georgie Jones set a plate of French toast and sausage in front of her, then an omelet and wheat toast in front of her best friend, Emily Bowen-Quartermaine.

This was a happy day, Elizabeth reminded herself. Her best friend in the entire world was in town for a weekend, and Elizabeth desperately needed her cheerful and bright-eyed nature.

Except that Emily was rolling her eyes about the wedding she had come to town for and her idiot brother’s ridiculous choice of a second wife. Like he hadn’t made a terrible choice the first time, right?

Elizabeth managed a weak smile as she sipped her orange juice.

“Oh, ugh, I’m tired of talking about Jason being an idiot.” Emily cut up her omelet and waved her fork at Elizabeth. “You need to tell me everything you haven’t been saying over the phone.” Her best friend’s dark eyes peered at her. “Tell me about the new husband—and what is it with this town and quickie marriages lately? Both my brothers got married and divorced before I could even find out where they were registered, and you’re married to a guy I’ve never met—”

“Oh.” Elizabeth smiled. “Ric is…he’s good. He’s a lawyer, you know. Um, criminal law. He was working for Sonny and Jason for a little while, but it didn’t work out.”

“Yeah, I bet.” Emily hesitated. “Listen, Mom—she called to tell me that you’d had a miscarriage. She was…she thought you might not tell me.”

Elizabeth sighed, put down her fork. “Yeah. I—I was pregnant. For about…” A brief shining moment. “I was about two months along, but I—I fell. And yeah.” She dropped her hands into her lap. “I’m okay.”

“Uh huh.” Emily pushed her egg around her plate with her fork. “You don’t have to talk to me, Elizabeth. No, cancel that.” She leaned forward, lowered her voice. “I wanted to…I wanted to try to pretend for you. I know you want that. You want to stick your head in the sand—”

“Emily—”

“You think because I haven’t been home for two years that I’m an idiot?” Emily rolled her eyes. “A year ago, my brother married this girl. A year later, she’s marrying Jason, and AJ is off in New Orleans trying to put his life back together. Plus, I distinctly remember my mother calling me last fall to tell me you were living with Jason—”

“Emily—”

“I didn’t press you for details then. I figured you want to talk about it, you’ll tell me. I didn’t want to butt in. God knows I did that too much with Lucky when he came home.” Emily pursed her lips. “So, I let it go. And I let you say nothing in phone calls.  Nothing in your letters and emails. When you bothered to send them at all—”

“Emily—”

“I come home, and you’ve lost weight. You look like you haven’t slept in weeks. You look miserable, Elizabeth. I know you just had a terrible tragedy, and I just—you don’t have to pretend for me.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes when Emily finally lapsed into silence. What could she say to her best friend? Why had Emily chosen this moment to finally…look at Elizabeth and see her?

“I am…struggling,” Elizabeth said finally. “I—I—” She hesitated. “I’m not going to talk about what happened with Jason. Or Courtney. I can’t.”

“Okay, but—”

“Ric is…” Elizabeth paused, searching for the right words. She didn’t want Emily to worry about her. Maybe if Emily wasn’t going back to her summer program at UCLA in two days…maybe Elizabeth could feel free to say more.

But Emily wouldn’t be here.

And there were still some things Elizabeth didn’t want to think about it.

“Ric is a choice I made when I thought—when there was a baby involved. But I made it, and I can live with it.”

“You can live with it,” Emily murmured. “That’s not marriage, Elizabeth. You deserve more.”

“I deserve what I have for a lot of reasons. Don’t worry about me, Em. You’re here for a happy reason. You know, Jason is getting married, and—” Elizabeth stopped.

There were some things she couldn’t fake.

“Yeah, my brother is marrying his brother’s ex-wife.” Emily raised her glass in a mock toast. “Awesome sauce. Let’s drink to that.”

“Emily—” Elizabeth shook her head. “It was…complicated.”

“I don’t know how complicated it has to be since the ink on their divorce is barely dry,” Emily muttered. She stabbed a fork towards Elizabeth. “If I find out they were cheating on you and AJ—”

“Emily—it’s not…” Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s over now. That’s—it’s complicated.”

“Oh, my God. That’s what happened. Are you freaking serious? What the hell—”

“Emily, it wasn’t—like that. Not exactly.” Damn it. “Okay, listen. I don’t—yes, I was at the penthouse for a while, but it wasn’t about…I mean, Jason and I were—we weren’t really together. We…talked about it. But it just…it got derailed by other stuff. And I don’t know what was going on with Courtney. I don’t know. Maybe she was—” Elizabeth sighed. “It wasn’t that simple. Please, please, don’t bring this up to either of them. I already—I embarrassed myself enough when—”

Her eyes burned at the memory of confronting Courtney in Kelly’s. Going after her. The way Jason had defended Courtney had stopped Elizabeth from ever asking when it had actually started.

Wasn’t it obvious?

“Please.”

Emily sat back and huffed. “Fine. It’s not my thing to get pissed about, I guess. I’m just—ugh. I should have come back to PCU instead of transferring to UCLA—”

“I miss you so much, Em. I can’t wait until you come back home in August.” Elizabeth reached across to take her hand. “And I love how much you love me. But Jason is your brother. And his choices matter. He…obviously loves Courtney. It’s—” It was the only explanation. “So please, tonight, be his sister. Not my friend.”

“Yeah, okay. But I’m still gonna be AJ’s sister, so I can’t promise anything.”

Elizabeth asked her a question about California and was able to distract Emily for almost twenty minutes. She pushed her food around her plate and listened to Emily talk about college and how hard she was working.

“Oh.” Emily straightened. “Jason! Hey!”

Elizabeth closed her eyes as Emily got to her feet and rushed around Elizabeth—likely to hug her brother who had obviously come up behind them at some point. There was a sour taste in her mouth as she contemplated turning around. She wanted to disappear—just stand up and walk away.

Thank God Jason hadn’t arrived earlier.

She took a deep breath, gathered herself. She could do this.

She was good at this.

Elizabeth took her wallet out of her purse and tossed a ten on the table to cover her breakfast before standing and turning to flash a bright smile at Emily’s brother.

Jason Morgan stood there, looking much as he had the year before in a pair of blue jeans and a dark T-shirt. His arm was loose around his sister’s waist and he was smiling a little.

“Hey.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears as she slid the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “Congratulations.”

Jason’s smile dimmed slightly as he tipped his head, his forehead slightly wrinkled. “Elizabeth. Hey. Um, thanks.”

“We were just eating breakfast—” Emily scowled. “Liz, why did you put down money—”

“Oh, I have to get going. I’m done anyway.” Elizabeth smiled again. “And I know you guys must want to catch up before things get crazy later today.”

“Yeah, but—”

Elizabeth managed to keep the smile on her face as she looked at Jason again, but their eyes met. Held for a moment. “I—I wish you happiness, Jason.” She cleared her throat, fixed the strap higher on her shoulder. Again. She desperately wanted to have something to do with her hands.

“You don’t have to go,” Jason said, stepping forward, his arm falling from his sister’s waist. “You haven’t seen Emily either—”

“I know, and I’ve missed her, but—” Elizabeth looked at Emily. “You’ll be back in two months for good a-and you know, I’ve waited this long. I really do have to go. We just—” She swallowed. “We moved last week, and I haven’t really unpacked.”

And then the interest slid from Jason’s eyes at that reminder. She’d married Ric. A man Jason hated more than anything in the world.

“Congratulations, and good luck tonight.”  And then Elizabeth hurried from the courtyard, not looking back.

Emily stared after her before looking back at the table. “She didn’t eat anything.”

“What?” Jason asked, frowning. “What—”

“We’ve been here for almost a half hour.” Emily gestured at their breakfast plates. Her own plate was half-eaten, but all Elizabeth had really done was cut her French toast and move those pieces around her plate. “She’s lost weight, did you notice?”

“I—” Jason’s shoulders squared, and he squinted. “Yeah, I saw. She…she lost a baby a few weeks ago, Em. She’s probably not doing well.” He looked away.

“Probably?” Emily arched her eyebrows. “I thought you were guys were friends.”

“Emily—”

“By the way, not that I’m gonna rain on your parade or anything, but you should know my loyalties are divided about this wedding.”

Jason closed his eyes. “About Elizabeth? Listen…”

“Who said anything about Elizabeth?” Emily asked, innocently. “I was talking about the fact you’re marrying AJ’s ex-wife. And hey, how solid are you that the divorce is legal? You know us Quartermaines.” She batted her eye lashes. “We lie.”

Port Charles Police Department: Locker Room

It was his first day as a police officer.

If anyone had told Lucky Spencer as a teenager that he would have worked his ass off in the academy to get to this point, well—he would have smirked and flipped that person off.

But he was here. Starting the next chapter of his life.

Lucky grinned when he saw the dark-haired New York native who had the locker next to him. “Hey! I didn’t know you were gonna end up here.”

His roommate from the academy, Dante Falconieri, flashed a returning smile as he buttoned the crisp blue uniform shirt. “Yeah, well, I was waiting on a few places. I wasn’t wild about going back to Bensonhurst and trying to pretend I had some authority. Most of my family would laugh in my face.”

“Cruz is starting today, too,” Lucky said, with a nod. He tugged his t-shirt over his head and tossed it in the locker. “I got assigned to Major Crimes with your cousin.”

“Vinnie?” Dante said with a wicked grin. “Good luck. He’s an asshole. I got Major Crimes, too, but I’m stuck on patrol with some guy who looks like he ate his weight in donuts.” He frowned slightly.  “Where is Cruz? He better not be late on his first day—”

“Oh, he’s got a later shift” Lucky shrugged. “Jason Morgan is getting married tonight, so I guess they’re…I don’t know, worried about it.” He snorted. “Glad I don’t have that detail.”

And hoped he wouldn’t be asked to work any case with people he’d known once. The whole point of this job was a new start. A new life. Putting the old Lucky Spencer behind him.

“Yeah, I do not hear good things about the Organized Crime Unit.” Dante laced his shoes. “But, hell, no one stays at the PCPD for their entire career. You put some time in the streets, get some experience and then go somewhere where the senior officers aren’t a bunch of idiots.”

Lucky picked up the badge he’d been issued the week before after his orientation, then clipped it to his breast pocket.  “I mean, if Taggert, Capelli, and your cousin can do it—” He shrugged. “Hey, how hard can this be?”

District Attorney Wing, Municipal Building: Scott Baldwin’s Office

 

Over a cup of coffee, Scott Baldwin perused the list of new recruits Commissioner Mac Scorpio had sent him earlier that day. A grant from the state had allowed them to hire three new police officers, but they’d had to be pulled from the ranks of the local police academy.

Scott’s eyes fell on one name. Lucas Lorenzo Spencer, Jr. Assigned to Major Crimes under the supervision of Detective Vincent Esposito.

“So, he really did it,” Scott murmured. “I’ll be damned.” Luke Spencer’s son would be fighting on the right side of the law—Scott would believe that when he saw it.

“Mr. Baldwin?”

He glanced up to find his secretary standing at his door, an expectant look on her face. “What is it, Barb? Did I forget an appointment?”

“Your 9 AM meeting with Kelsey Joyce for the Major Crimes division—”

“Right, right.” Scott turned away from his computer monitor and the email and rose from his desk. “Bring her in.”

“He’ll see you now,” Barb said as she turned back to someone outside. She stepped aside, and a young brunette entered, dressed in a slim black pencil skirt with a black blazer over a cotton candy pink skirt.

“Mr. Baldwin,” Kelsey Joyce said, flashing a bright smile, her brown eyes glowing. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Kelsey,” Scott said, extending a hand. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since you graduated high school, though that wasn’t so long ago, huh?” He gestured for her take a seat at the small conference table. “How’s your mother?”

“She’s good.” Kelsey sighed, and now that light dimmed slightly. “Still misses Dad. And she said thanks for taking me on here—with Lee and Gail so nearby, she won’t worry about me as much.”

Oliver Joyce had been a close friend of Scott’s in law school in Buffalo, but they had been in and out of touch over the years. His death in a car accident almost a decade ago had been a shock for everyone who loved him.

“Gail is always looking for someone to worry about, so she’ll be happy to add you.” Scott sighed. “I wish I hadn’t lost touch with your father. He was a good man. Always encouraged me to follow my conscience. I usually ignored him, but sometimes, you know I still hear him in the back of my head.” He smiled at her. “He’d have been proud of you. Graduating high school at sixteen, passing the bar at twenty-three. His brilliant daughter.”

“Well, I hope I can live up to him.” Kelsey folded her hands in her lap. “Your secretary said I’d been assigned to Major Crimes—”

“Yeah, yeah. We had, um, a meeting with the mayor last month—the commissioner and I are old friends, and we work closely together. It seems the mayor’s office is unhappy with the lack of priority Major Crimes gets—”

“Well, it’s Port Charles. You share a water border with Canada.” Kelsey shrugged. “I understand that organized crime would take precedence—”

“And we’re not taking our focus off that, but we’ve been having trouble keeping officers at the PCPD. Frustration over those priorities. Feeling neglected. We need to do more for the rest of Port Charles. I promised I would do more when I got elected.”

“Okay. So, is that where I’ll be working?”

Scott hesitated. “I know this might seem insane, but our resources are limited. We only have one another attorney assigned to Major Crimes—Danielle Simmons—but she’s on maternity leave. For the next two months.” And had given some indication that she planned to go into private practice within the next six months for a better schedule, but Scott didn’t think that was the best news he could give her right.

Kelsey blinked. “Wait. Does that mean I would be—”

“For the moment, yeah, you’re basically running Major Crimes.” He sighed. “I told you. We’re crap at priorities in Port Charles.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Ned Ashton leaned back in his chair, then shifted, crossing one leg over the other. “Brooke, I know you’re not happy—”

His nineteen-year-old daughter rolled her eyes and huffed. “Oh, yeah? What gave it away?”

This is going well,” his younger brother, Dillon, said to him. While his tone was upbeat, his face remained stoic. “I’m glad I canceled my plans to be snarked for an hour, but you know I got a busy day ahead of me to be yelled at by anyone else—”

“Who invited you anyway?” Brooke Lynn retorted. She snorted “Nothing is gonna make me okay with being stuck here in this backwater with a bunch of hicks when I could be at home—”

“Where you were failing out of Columbia?” Ned asked. “Getting arrested?”

Brooke groaned. “Oh, God. It wasn’t that bad. I was just with some friends—”

“Who were shoplifting.”

“One bottle of wine.”

“Your mother and I decided you need a change in scenery—”

“Do you need me for this?” Dillon asked, leaning forward. “Because, seriously, I could go.”

Ned glared at his brother. He’d brought the idiot along because Dillon was only a year older than Brooke. He was supposed to be the mediator. He was supposed to speak Brooke’s language.

But no one spoke Brooke’s language clearly, and Ned was obviously being punished for not being as hands on with his daughter as he would have liked.

“Brooke—”

“You and Ma sicced Grandma on me,” Brooke interrupted, her dark eyes flashing with irritation. “You know what she’s like. How am I supposed to tell her no? But I’m nineteen, Dad. You don’t get to run my life. You couldn’t even do that when you were supposed to.”

“That’s a fair point,” Dillon said to her. “I got one of those, too. I met him once. When I was, like, ten. I think. Maybe I was nine—” He screwed his face up in concentration, and Ned knew his story-telling loving brother could go on for hours off he was on a tangent.

“Dillon,” Ned said, flatly. “Go away.”

“Gone.” Dillon jumped up and moved to the counter where his girlfriend, Georgie, was serving Maxie and Lucas Jones.

“I can make my own friends, you know.”

Ned sighed and reached for his cup of coffee. It had seemed like a good idea at the time to bring Brooke to Port Charles for the summer, to give her time to settle in and make some friends before transferring to PCU for her sophomore year.

But the little girl he remembered had transformed into a sulky young woman who wore too much eye makeup, too much jewelry, and too little clothing. He didn’t know this girl.

He didn’t know how to know this girl.

And he hated himself for letting Lois take the lead on raising her, and Lois for leaving him for no reason at all. But Brooke was his daughter. And he had to make the effort.

“Alexis wanted to have us over for dinner this weekend. To celebrate finishing her therapy and getting custody of Kristina back.” Ned eyed Brooke. “Can you at least join me for that?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Brooke shrugged. “What else am I supposed to do? Go to the movies?” She rolled her eyes. “God, I miss New York.”

Ned rubbed the back of his neck and felt very guilty when his phone vibrated, and he was relieved at the opportunity to talk to someone else. Anyone else. He flipped it open. “Yeah?”

“We need to talk. Immediately.”

Ned grimaced at the sound of Faith Roscoe’s voice. The universe was obviously punishing him for granting his wish, because this he did not need. “I’m busy—”

“We’ve got a problem. You know where to find me.”

“Yeah, okay.” Ned closed his phone and slid into the pocket of his trousers. He dropped a twenty on the table. “I have a meeting—”

“Well, that took five seconds.” Brooke got to her feet. “Are you gonna take me back to the gatehouse or am I stuck here?”

“Dillon,” Ned said, twisting towards the counter. “Can you drop Brooke at the house—”

“I need a car. This is never gonna work—”

“Oh, yeah,” Dillon said with a sigh. “That sounds like a great time. Let me just stop my life and take care of yours.”

“Great. Thanks. You’re the best brother.”

Queen of Angels: Chapel

Carly Corinthos grimaced at the floral arrangements alongside the pews down the aisle. “I thought these were supposed to be yellow.” she said to the wedding planner.

“They were,” the woman said with a harassed smile and clenched teeth. “But the bride called last week to change them to pink. Said money was no obstacle.”

“Oh.” Carly frowned and looked back at the tulips. “We didn’t—All right, it’s not my wedding, I guess.” She signed the last piece of paperwork from her. “All right. I guess that’s everything until later tonight.”

She dismissed the wedding planner from her mind and went to find Jason, so he could take her back to the penthouse where she’d arranged several hours of massages, hair dressing, and makeup before the ceremony at seven that evening.

She found Jason in the anteroom going over the final security arrangements with Father Coates. She hung back until Jason had shaken the priest’s hand.

“You ready to go?” Jason asked. He crossed his arms and looked away from the inside of the chapel where in a few hours, his wedding would begin.

“Yeah, everything is fine here.” Carly smiled at the priest who had performed her wedding to Sonny the year before, and then followed Jason into the courtyard.

Because she was a bit worried about Jason’s…lack of excitement, she decided to inspire him a little bit. Cheer him up—though why he’d need that on the day of his wedding…

She wound her arm through his as they made their way to the parking lot, bouncing a little on her feet. “I can’t believe you’re getting married tonight, Jase! It feels like you just got engaged.”

“Yeah, it does.” He drew his brows together and looked away.

Carly slid a look at him under her lashes as they approached the SUV Jason had driven them in. “You know, I know you’re stoic and everything, but it’s okay to be excited. You’re getting married.”

“I know.”

She put out a hand to stop him from opening the passenger door for her and looked at him.

He looked like he always did. Spiky brownish-blond hair, average height, clad in his usual jeans, a t-shirt stretched over a muscled chest.  But there was nothing in his eyes. No excitement, no interest. Just…nothing.

Jason had never been a man prone to much expression, but if you wanted to know how he really felt about something, you looked him in the eyes.

“Jase…” Carly bit her lip. “Listen, I know—” She turned to face him, and he just sighed. “I know maybe it was possibly my idea for you to propose—”

“Carly—”

“And maybe I encouraged you to ask Courtney out, but that was just because I didn’t want you to get back together with Elizabeth, and you know she doesn’t get you anyway. I mean, God, she married Ric after everything we told her about him. If that doesn’t—”

“Emily is here for the wedding,” Jason interrupted. “And she doesn’t like Courtney. I met her for coffee this morning, so—”

“Oh.” Carly closed her mouth. “I guess that makes sense. I mean, she’s probably the last person in the world that likes AJ, so I guess you marrying his ex-wife…” She shrugged. “Are…are you sure that’s it? I mean, look—if you’re having second thoughts—”

“I’m not.” Jason brushed her hand away from the door and opened it. “I asked Courtney to marry me. You’re right. She’s Sonny’s sister. She understands what I do. I knew what I was doing when I asked her. And that’s it.”

“And you love her,” Carly said with a smile she didn’t feel at all. “So, okay. Let’s go back to the penthouses so we can get ready.” She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “In five hours, you’ll be a married man!”

This time, Jason did smile at her.

But it didn’t change the expression in his eyes.

She climbed into the passenger side, and he closed the door after her. She’d done what she could—she’d given him an opening to tell her if anything was wrong, and he hadn’t taken it.

So, she’d do exactly what Jason had always asked her to do and stay the hell out of it.

Lansing House: Front Porch

When she had left breakfast earlier that morning, she had not gone home to unpack. Instead, Elizabeth had gone to her studio, turned on the small television she always kept there and wasted her day watching day time television and sleeping.

She couldn’t sleep at home, spent hours awake at night next to Ric. Next to her husband. Wondering what happened to her life.  How she had ended up married to a man she didn’t love any more than the one she had left at the altar over a year ago.

So, she spent her days at her old studio, pretending to get ready for a one-woman show that Ric had arranged at a local gallery. Elizabeth kept pushing off the date, kept saying she wasn’t ready. Since she hadn’t picked up a pencil or brush in nearly two months, it was unlikely she would be ready any time soon.

But she couldn’t keep ignoring her life. Couldn’t keep running away from her choices. Everyone else had moved on with their lives.

Emily was pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor, Nikolas was staying in London as Laura recovered from her nervous breakdown, Lucky had started a new career as a police officer, Zander had moved to New York for a job with ELQ, and Jason…

Jason was getting married.

Like she had.

It was over. It had never really existed. Hadn’t she had proof of that over the last year?

So, Elizabeth made a promise to herself. She would go home, and she would try to live the fresh start Ric wanted to give them. He had gone and bought a beautiful home for their new future. He wanted to be with her. He wanted to be a better person.

At six o’clock that evening, Elizabeth opened the front door and accepted Ric’s kiss and the offer of champagne to celebrate their first week in their new home.

This entry is part 2 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

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.

And Jason…

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.

Luke’s: Bar

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.”

“Still—”

“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.

“Yeah?”

“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.

“Mom?”

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.

“Mommy!” 

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.

This entry is part 3 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

I was the match and you were the rock
Maybe we started this fire
We sat apart and watched
All we had burned on the pyre
You said we were born with nothing
And we sure as hell have nothing now
Things We Lost in the Fire, Bastille


Friday, June 19, 2003

Queen of Angels: Courtyard

Jason stared at the pale purple heel that dangled from Sonny’s trembling fingers.

When he had started to work for Sonny years earlier, he had worked a lot of stakeouts. Had followed people, listened as they talked to others. He had trained himself to automatically assess what people looked like and what they wore so he could recall them later. Give Sonny accurate reports.

He hadn’t paid attention to how Carly had dressed for his wedding—had barely paid attention to his own tuxedo. He’d unzipped a garment bag she’d given him and just worn whatever was inside. Now, Jason realized that he knew exactly how his best friend had been dressed. It was crystallized in his memory as if she were standing in front of him.

A pale purple dress with spaghetti straps that fell to her knees with a high waist that covered her burgeoning pregnancy. It had been made of some sort of soft material that Jason didn’t know the name of, beyond the fact it was neither cotton nor silk.  Jason could visualize Carly walking towards him from the doorway of the church, carefully picking her feet over the gravel and soft ground to meet him near the gazebo where he had been standing.

Her feet wrapped in a pair of shoes that had matched her dress with thin straps at the ankle and a type of heel that had always reminded him of an ice pick.

The same shoe that Sonny now held.

Jason swallowed, turned to the little blond boy he still loved as his own, at the scraped and bleeding palms of the five-year-old, the torn dress pants showing a similarly scraped knee. The tear stains on his face.

“Michael,” he said quietly, firmly. “Can you tell me what you saw?”

Michael continued to cry, unable to form words through his choking sobs. Jason lifted him in his arms and looked at Sonny and Bobbie, their faces pale and shaken.

“Where are the guards?” Sonny bit out. “I thought you went over security—”

“I’m taking Michael inside,” Jason cut in. “Sonny, go find Francis. He’s head of the security detail. Find out where the hole in the perimeter was—there shouldn’t have been one,” he said as Sonny’s face darkened and his partner opened his mouth. “But obviously there was.”

“What do you want me to do?” Bobbie asked, crossing her arms.

“I need you to go find Emily and Monica,” Jason said. “Tell them—” He hesitated.

He had to clear the church without anyone knowing what was going on. If the PCPD got wind that Carly was missing, they would shut the scene down. Jason wouldn’t be allowed to question Michael, to calm him down on his own. And he knew Taggert and Capelli would leap at the opportunity to tear apart Sonny and Jason’s holdings.

Whatever was happening, wherever Carly was—it was crucial that Sonny and Jason retained control of the scene and situation.

Bobbie pressed her lips together and nodded. “You need me to get everyone out of the church without telling them why,” she said. She twisted her fingers together. “Okay. Do you care what I tell them?”

“No,” Jason said shortly. “But ask Monica to do it. I need you and Emily in the back with me. Michael trusts both of you.”

The little boy was still crying in Jason’s arms, his face buried in the shoulder of Jason’s tuxedo jacket, the tears soaking through to the linen shirt beneath.

“Bobbie,” he said as a fuming Sonny disappeared through the gates—the shoe still clutched in his hand. The strap dangling. “I will find her.”

“I know.” Bobbie took a moment. Took a deep breath. Composed herself. “I’ll get it done, Jason. I trust you.”

They returned to the church together—Bobbie went through the wide double doors and Jason strode down the hall where the bridal suite was located. He pushed the door open and Courtney gave a startled shriek as she topped backwards off the small step stool she had been standing upon, falling to the floor in a heap of white tulle and silk.

Leticia Juarez, Michael’s nanny, wrinkled her nose and started to stand to assist the bride, then froze when she saw her charge in Jason’s arms. “Michael?”

Courtney tried to sit up, to find the leverage to pull herself into a standing position, almost lost in the full skirts of her elaborate wedding dress. “You’re not supposed to be back here—”

But she closed her mouth as Jason ignored her completely and set Michael on the sofa. Leticia knelt in front of Michael, taking his small bleeding hands in hers. “What’s going on?”

“Mommy,” Michael managed to sob but couldn’t get anything else out.

The door opened again as Emily and Bobbie rushed in. “Jason—” His little sister quickly came to Michael’s side, sitting on the sofa. “Hey, buddy. What happened?”

Bobbie handed Leticia a first aid kit. “Monica is clearing the church as we speak.” She hesitated. “She may have taken some liberties with the story I gave her.”

“Clearing the church?” Courtney demanded as Bobbie reluctantly pulled the bride to her feet. “What are you talking about? Jason, what the hell is going on? What happened to Michael—”

The door opened again as Sonny came in, his eyes a burning pit of coal as he closed it behind him. “They found a guard on the south side of the church.”

Jason looked at him. “Found—”

Sonny gently shook his head, and Jason understood. A guard had been killed. That was the hole in the security.

“I want to know what the hell is—” Courtney tried again, but her voice died as she saw the shoe in Sonny’s hand. “Where is Carly?” she demanded, her voice trembling.

Jason ignored all of this, concentrated on Michael. He cupped his nephew’s face in one hand and kept his eye contact. “Hey, buddy. I need you take deep breaths for me. Okay. Breathe with me.”

He drew in a deep breath and Michael did the same.

“I will find your mother,” Jason said. “I just need you tell me what happened. Okay? I need you to be the best big brother and son you can be.”

“Mommy—she was standing outside,” Michael choked out. “And—And then a man p-put something over her mouth. Mommy—she tried to fight him. But he started dragging her away. I screamed. I ran after them, b-but I tripped—” His lips trembled as sobs continued to wrack his frame.

“We have to call the police,” Courtney said. “They—”

Bobbie closed a hand over the bride’s wrist and squeezed it hard. “No. Wait let him finish.”

“Do you know the man?” Jason asked. “Have you seen him before?”

“B-bad man,” Michael said with a nod. “Mommy doesn’t like him. He—he worked with her.”

Behind the sofa, Sonny braced his hands along the edge, dipping his head. Everything inside Jason went cold.

“Did he have dark hair?” Jason asked. “Like Daddy?”

“Oh, God—” Emily met Bobbie’s terrified eyes. “He can’t mean—”

Michael nodded. “R-Ric. I—I thought he-he was Mom—Mommy’s friend, but-but she was fighting—a-and then she stopped.”

“Drugged her,” Sonny muttered, dragging his free hand through his hair and closing his eyes.

Jason leaned forward, kissed Michael’s head. “Okay, okay. Michael, you did good. I’m so proud of you. I need you to stay here with Aunt Emily and Grandma Bobbie, okay? Can you stay here? Stay safe—”

And then he and Sonny left the room without speaking further. No communication was needed. They knew where they had to go.

“We need to call—” Courtney started, but winced as Bobbie squeezed her wrist again. She yanked her arm away from Bobbie with a scowl. “What is your problem? We need to call the police. They need to start looking for Carly, too—”

“Jason and Sonny already know what happened to her,” Bobbie shot back. “Calling the police—”

“Oh, it’s not like it’s about their business,” Courtney cut in with a scathing tone. “Ric hates Sonny because of their mother. If Ric took Carly, then the police need to arrest him—”

“My brother is really marrying her?” Emily said to Leticia who just busied herself patching up Michael’s scratches.

“Hey, I get Jason’s life,” Courtney snarled. “But this is different. Carly was kidnapped by someone who hates Sonny because of personal reasons. Jason’s gone to the police before. Last year. Because Taggert was there when the crypt exploded. Remember, Bobbie—”

“As a last resort,” Bobbie said with a weary sigh. “Courtney, I’m terrified, but we need to handle this the way Jason and Sonny want us to. Carly wouldn’t—”

“Carly isn’t here.” Courtney stalked towards the vanity where her purse sat, her dress rustling.

“Don’t—” Bobbie began, but Emily shook her head.

“We can wrestle her to the ground, but the second we turn our backs, she’s gonna call them. I’ve got something else.” Emily got to her feet. “Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth,” Bobbie repeated. “I—”

“You know what’s going to happen. My brother and Sonny are going to burst into that house and start demanding answers. And Elizabeth is going to be in the middle of it all.” Emily folded her arms over her chest. “I want to be there. And I want to make sure Ric didn’t do anything to her.”

Bobbie scowled. “Courtney, this is my last warning—” But the bride was already speaking into the phone. “Okay, let’s go to the house. We can at least warn Jason and Sonny.”

Lansing House: Panic Room

Carly moaned, pressed her face into the fabric beneath her cheek. A hammer pounded inside her skull. Her body ached. Her mouth was dry. What the hell had happened to her?

Her vision blurred as she opened her eyes. This wasn’t her bed. The pillow beneath her head was too rough, the mattress thin and bumpy. Carly turned slightly and forced herself to sit up slowly. She was lying on a cot that was maybe a foot off the ground and…her ankle felt heavy. Cold. She tried to concentrate, to bring her location into focus.

A thick, heavy, metal bracelet was wrapped around her right ankle and attached to a chain. Carly stared at it for a long time because it didn’t make sense.

Nothing about this made sense. Where the hell was she? What—

“There’s enough slack for you to move around, to use the bathroom but not to get near the door.”

A voice sliced through the fog, forcing Carly to turn, to find a shadow in the darkness. A light switched on over her and suddenly, the dim light of a single low-watt lamp next to her was replaced by brightness.

Carly cried out, her head exploding from the pain. “W-What—”

“You’ll have everything you need,” the voice continued, and Carly knew it. She couldn’t place it. Couldn’t make herself think. Couldn’t think past the pain.

“But you won’t be leaving this room.”

“What’s—” Carly managed. “What’s going on—”

“Don’t bother screaming. This room is sound proof and I will never be—” The voiced stopped. “That wasn’t long enough,” came an aggravated mutter.

She heard some moving—a new source of light, but she just couldn’t make herself move. And then the light was gone.

The voice was gone. The light was gone.

With the room once again plunged into the shadows, Carly could take a deeper breath. Her head was still pounding, but the piercing pain had faded.  She could focus now, and some of her panic was starting to recede.

There was some dim movement out of the corner of her eye, and then Carly could see a row of screens across from the cot. She took a deep breath and started to stand. The room wavered, but she forced herself not to sway.

Fought down the nausea.

She had to figure out where she was. Had to make sure she knew everything so that when Jason and Sonny found her—she’d be ready.

Carly limped the short distance between the cot and the little desk in front of the row of the screens built into the wall. The images were in black and white—and she didn’t recognize them. There was a living room with a sofa. A front door. A view of a street and driveway. A kitchen. A staircase. A bathroom. Two bedrooms—

But in the second bedroom, Carly did recognize someone. A short, thin woman was sitting on a bed, wrapped in a terry cloth robe.

Her dark hair bundled up in a messy bun, tendrils falling around her face, damp from a shower.

Elizabeth Webber was in that room.

And the voice…Oh, God. Now Carly knew that voice.

Ric Lansing.

Ric had kidnapped her. Locked her in this room.

She searched the screens frantically and finally found him climbing the stairs. He must have been out of frame before.

She watched him as he went into the bedroom. Elizabeth—she couldn’t know, could she? Carly had always disliked the other woman, but Elizabeth was like Robin. A goody two shoes. An angel. Soft. Fragile. She could be a moron about guys, Carly knew that. But there was no way Elizabeth would be in on this.

She watched Ric pull Elizabeth to her feet—and there it was—a slight wobble. A sway. Elizabeth put a hand to her head. Said something. But now Carly knew. Elizabeth had been drugged just as she had been.

Michael. She brought a fist to her mouth. Oh, God, she remembered her little boy had been there. Crying. Screaming. Running after her. Had Ric hurt him? Where was he?

Had he seen Ric? Could he—

Carly forced down her worries, her terror. Ric handed Elizabeth some clothes from a drawer and then she watched as the married couple talked for another moment. Ric was frowning, Elizabeth was holding the sweats in front of her.

She didn’t begin to change until Ric had left. An odd lack of intimacy for newlyweds and Carly looked away, followed Ric, rather than continuing to watch Elizabeth.

What did he have planned? Why—What had he said? She would have everything she needed…?  Why had he kidnapped her and locked her inside his own home? How could he possibly think to get away with this?

Lansing Home: Master Bedroom

When Ric was finally gone, Elizabeth released a breath and managed to pull on the thin gray sweatpants and blue tank top he had given her. He had been irritated that she wouldn’t dress in front of him, and Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure where her reticence had come from. Hadn’t she just promised herself that she would reapply herself to her marriage?

She looked at the clock and frowned slightly. It was nearly seven-thirty.

How long had she dozed? Ric had said it was for a few minutes but that couldn’t be right. She’d arrived just before six. She had had a glass of champagne.

And her head was fuzzy. Her mouth was still dry. She felt a bit better after the shower but—

She looked at herself in the mirror and shook her head. There were circles under her eyes, her skin was pale—even more than usual. She wasn’t sleeping. Wasn’t eating well. And she hadn’t felt right since her miscarriage. Dr. Meadows had given her a clean bill of health, but Elizabeth thought maybe it was time to go back—

A crash and men’s shouts drew her attention. Elizabeth’s ears perked up—she knew those voices. But—but he was getting married—

Elizabeth stumbled out of the bedroom and towards the stairwell, bracing herself against the wall, vertigo sending her spinning. Why couldn’t she walk straight?  She could hear the shouts more clearly—Sonny’s demanding tones—something about Carly—and Jason’s growls. Something else crashed.

Elizabeth started down the stairs, holding on the rail with a death grip. Her stomach was rolling, and her head was swimming.

“J-Jason?” she managed as she came to the bottom of the staircase, switching her grip to the doorway that separated the stairwell from the living room.

Sonny and Jason were in her living room, clad in disheveled tuxedos. Sonny had Ric against the wall, his hands at his throat while Jason was opening a closet door.

All three men turned to look at her and she couldn’t process the scene. Couldn’t make it come out right. “You’re getting married,” she said without thinking to Jason. “Aren’t you?”

Jason scowled at her and then something in his eyes changed as he drew closer. He touched her chin, turned her head slightly and then turned back to Ric. “What did you give her?” he said, his voice reaching a low dangerous growl she had only heard a handful of times.

“What are you talking about?” Ric asked, his fingers digging at Sonny. “She’s fine. Elizabeth, tell them—”

“What’s going on?” Elizabeth licked her lips. She reached out, but she just couldn’t…there was no energy in her fingers as they brushed Jason’s tuxedo jacket. “What—I don’t—”

She could feel the fury radiating from him, but Jason’s touch was gentle as he put a hand under her elbow and led her to the sofa. Helped her to sit.

He took her wrist in his and laid two fingers against her skin. “Your pupils are dilated,” Jason told her. “Your pulse is ragged. What did you eat or drink tonight?”

Elizabeth stared at him. Shook her head. “N-No—”

“Leave my wife alone,” Ric growled, but he couldn’t quite break free of Sonny’s grip.

“I had—what’s going on? Did-did you say something about Carly?” Elizabeth said, drawing her wrist from Jason’s grip. “Is she okay?”

“She’s missing,” Sonny said flatly. “And Michael saw Ric take her. Where is she?” he demanded, digging his hands in more tightly. Ric gasped.

“He was—” Elizabeth forced herself to think. “He was here. I think. I don’t know—” Why did her tongue feel so heavy?

“Elizabeth. He drugged you.”

“Call the cops, Elizabeth,” Ric choked out.

Elizabeth turned to look at him. At the man who had fathered her child. Whom she had promised to love, honor, and cherish.

Had he drugged her tonight? Had he drugged her before? Is that why this sensation felt so…familiar?

“I need you to tell me what happened tonight.”

She turned her head back to that familiar voice. That gentle, beloved tone in Jason’s voice that he adopted when he spoke to her. Tears slid down her cheeks. She missed his voice. The way he said her name. Had he said it tonight? Yes. Yes. She remembered that.

“I don’t know,” she managed to say. “I can’t—I came home at six. I was at the studio. I—I don’t—We had champagne…” Elizabeth looked at the table, but the glasses were gone. The champagne was gone. Like it had never happened. “Didn’t we?”

“No,” Ric said, as Sonny finally released him. “No, we didn’t. Elizabeth, you came home and went upstairs to sleep. You’ve been sleeping so much since we lost the baby.”

The baby. God. She closed her eyes. Her baby. Her little shining ray of light in the darkness.

“Shut up,” Sonny growled.

She had been sleeping a lot, Elizabeth thought. Or no, wait. No, she hadn’t. She never slept. Did she? Why couldn’t she remember?

“I—” Elizabeth looked at Jason. “I don’t know. Maybe—maybe I took a nap. I don’t know.”

“Michael said he took Carly. Was Ric gone?” Jason asked.

“I’ve been here the whole goddamn time. Tell him, Elizabeth. You woke up at seven and I was here. You took a shower—”

“I—” Elizabeth’s voice faltered. “Maybe.”

“Damn it, we’re not going to get anything from her,” Sonny growled. “Whatever he gave her is screwing with her memory. I’ll take him to the warehouse. Jase, you take her to the penthouse. Get her some rest. Some coffee. I don’t know. Call Bobbie—”

And then the door was open again, and two women clad in evening gowns rushed in. “Courtney called the PCPD,” Emily said in a rush.

“Where’s my daughter?” Bobbie cried as she pushed past Emily and started for Sonny and Ric. Jason sprang off the sofa and intercepted her, wrapping an arm around her waist and holding back.

Emily sat next to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said slowly, drawing out her words. “Am I?” she asked, twisting her head to look at Jason. Jason would know. Jason would protect her.

“He gave her something,” Jason bit out. “What did you say about Courtney?”

Bobbie pushed herself away from Jason’s grip. “I tried to stop her, but she called the cops.”

“My sister did what?” Sonny demanded.

“Called the authorities,” Marcus Taggert said as he and Andy Capelli swaggered into the room. Behind him, a shorter dark-haired uniformed officer entered, his expression aggravated. “When someone is missing, the first few hours are crucial, Corinthos.”

Sonny closed his eyes, and Jason scowled.

“These people are trespassing,” Ric snarled. “I want them out of here—”

“No—” Elizabeth managed. She stood. Shook her head. “No. They’re not. They—” She closed her eyes, and Emily rose, putting an arm around her waist to steady her.

“What happened to her?” Capelli demanded of Sonny. “Did you terrify her into a nervous breakdown?”

“Oh, for the love of—” Bobbie muttered.

“They’re not trespassing,” Elizabeth said. She could do this. She had to do this. Everyone was so angry. So afraid. “They—they’re looking for Carly. And—they should look. You should all look.”

“Elizabeth—” Ric said with a devastated look in his eyes, in his words. “You don’t believe I would—”

“They have to look,” she repeated. “Or they won’t know for sure. They have to know for sure—”

“We have your permission, Elizabeth?” Taggert asked. He approached her. “You’re sure—”

“You don’t have mine!”

“We just need yours, Elizabeth. And exigent circumstances will take care of any gray areas.”

She latched onto that. She could do this for Jason and Sonny. Carly was missing. Carly was important to them. She knew how much Jason loved Carly.

“You can look.”

“Damn it,” Ric growled. “You should get a warrant—”

“Got something to hide?” Sonny demanded.

“No, but—”

“Rodriguez, make sure Corinthos and Morgan stay right here. Lansing, you come with us. We’re going to search this house from top to bottom,” Taggert said. To Jason, he growled, “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jason muttered.

When the trio had disappeared into the back of the house where the basement door and back stairs was located, Jason released Bobbie, and turned his attention back to Elizabeth. “Bobbie, Ric gave her something. Her pulse isn’t right—”

Bobbie hustled over to Elizabeth, repeating Jason’s earlier measurements. “Honey, you need to come to the hospital. We need to take care of you—”

“N-No.” Elizabeth shook her head. She had to stay here. Had to make sure the PCPD could look for Carly. If she left, Ric would stop them from looking. “I—I have to stay.”

“Elizabeth,” Emily said, with anguish. “You look like hell. Your pupils are so big I can’t even tell what color your eyes are—”

“Elizabeth, I appreciate you giving your permission for them to look,” Sonny said with a soft sigh. “But he probably already stashed her somewhere else.” He scowled at Jason. “We’re wasting our time here.”

All eyes turned to the uniform at the doorway who took a deep shaky breath. “Look, if you leave now,” he said with a sigh, “you know Taggert and Capelli are gonna just come after you. It’s better if you let them do what they want and then you’re not running from warrants, too.”

“Why is it always the rookies with common sense?” Sonny muttered.

Jason ignored him, gently pulling Emily away from Elizabeth so he could take her place on the sofa. “You have to go to the hospital, Elizabeth. Please. I need you to be okay. I can’t worry about you—”

“You’re not,” Elizabeth said, deliberately taking her time with her words. Couldn’t slur them. Couldn’t mess this up. “I’m…I’m okay. I, um, I haven’t—” She closed her eyes. Her hands were shaking. Why were they shaking?

Jason’s warm hands closed around hers, stilling them. “Elizabeth—”

“Since the baby. Haven’t been okay,” she admitted, finally saying out loud what had been locked away. “I’m not okay about that. I mean…” What did she mean? “I’ll see someone. But this—”

“Elizabeth,” Emily muttered. “For God’s sakes, Jason, don’t argue with her. Make her go—”

“With the PCPD here?” Sonny shook his head. “Elizabeth, do you think you gotta stay so me and Jason don’t get arrested for trespassing?”

“I—” Elizabeth stared at the other man for a long moment. “I—yes. I’m here. I can let you in. The police—” She licked her lips. They were dry and cracked. How long had they been like that? “Maybe they don’t believe Michael. Maybe they won’t look very hard.”

“And if you’re here, you can let Jason and Sonny in again to look for more evidence,” Bobbie said with a shake of her head. “Elizabeth—”

“Can’t get arrested. He’s—” Elizabeth turned squinted at the uniform, who was trying to pretend he was anywhere else. “He’s right. You can’t find Carly if you—”

“That is not your job,” Jason began. “It’s mine—”

“My fault.” Elizabeth wasn’t sure how, but it had to be. Ric was hers. She had promised herself to him. Chosen him.

“No—”

“Elizabeth, do you believe Michael?” Sonny said, his voice tight. “Do you think Ric is involved?”

Elizabeth drew in a sharp breath. “Oh, God. Oh, God.” She couldn’t say it. Couldn’t. If it was true, oh God, what had she done?

“Please come with me,” Emily begged, tears sliding down her cheeks. “Please don’t stay here. It’s not worth it. Jason and Sonny—” She got to her feet, went to the uniform. “You’re new, right? Do you know Lucky Spencer?”

“I—” The uniform nodded. “Yeah, we’re friends—”

“Then you need to listen to me. My brother is going to get Elizabeth out of here. And you have to help—”

“I can’t—” the cop shook his head. “I can’t let him leave—”

“Then, Jason, you have to come back—”

“Elizabeth is right,” Sonny muttered. “Even if she’s drugged out of her goddamn head, she’s right.” He scrubbed his hands over her face. “Taggert and Capelli are just looking for Carly. They’re not going to tear the house apart. But Elizabeth being here means we can. Jason—”

Elizabeth nodded, relieved that someone understood. “You can come back. If Ric did it, you need to know for sure. You can’t waste your time. I can’t go.”

She had to stay. Had to make it right. Her head started to swim, and she pressed a hand to her eyes. “Oh, God. I think I’m going to be sick.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Jason growled. “I’ll come back with or without permission. She’s not staying here another minute—” He started to get up, but Elizabeth’s other hand shot out, took his hand.

“I can do this. I’m—I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I might be sick.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, and her stomach started to settle. “But I told you. I wasn’t lying. I haven’t felt well in weeks. I’ll go see a doctor. But Carly’s missing. And she’s pregnant.”

Her head was starting to clear. She could finally feel herself coming back. Elizabeth rose to her feet and saw Jason’s expression as he also stood up. The anguish. The fear.

And the knowledge that some of that was for her—that it wasn’t just because of Carly—that filled something in her. An empty piece of her soul that she hadn’t even realized was missing.

This is the way I can help,” she said softly. Meeting his eyes. Looking at him the way she used to, begging him to believe her. To know her again.

His eyes softened. “Don’t ask me to leave you here—”

“You can’t make me go. You know I’m stubborn. I promise. I—I’ll go talk to a doctor or something. But right now, you need me here.” She looked to Bobbie. “I can be more useful here. Let me help.”

Jason pressed his lips together, shook his head. “No—”

But he was cut off when the police returned with a smug Ric. “Now that you’ve looked in all the rooms,” her husband said as he wisely stopped at the doorway, scowling at how close Jason was standing to her. “You can all get the hell out of my house—”

Elizabeth took a step back, relieved when her balance held. “I let you look,” she said, hardening her voice. She kept walking back, away from their worried expressions. “She’s not here. Ric didn’t do this, okay? He wouldn’t hurt Carly.”

“See?” Ric said with a lift of his chin. “You tried to make her turn against me, but Elizabeth loves me, Morgan. Not you.”

Jason swallowed, looked at Sonny. “Let’s go,” he said.

He stalked towards the doorway and out to the porch.

“Don’t think this clears you,” Taggert said with a jab of his finger. “Just because she’s not in here, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“I’ve been home all night,” Ric retorted.

“Elizabeth, please—” Emily said, anguished. But Bobbie took her arm and led her from the room.

“Corinthos,” Taggart said. “Let’s go. We need to go down to the station.”

Sonny shook his head, but left the living room, following Taggert out the door. The uniform looked back at Elizabeth once more before closing the door behind him, leaving her alone with her husband.

Lansing Home:  Front Lawn

Jason wanted to put his fist though the goddamn wall. Why the hell had Courtney called the fucking police? If Taggert and Capelli hadn’t shown up, Ric would be somewhere being tortured for what he knew, and Elizabeth—

Elizabeth would be safe.

He had seen her swaying, her pale face, her dilated pupils, listened as she tried to think. Tried to understand what was happening around her. And the fact that this wasn’t the first time she had felt like this didn’t really make him feel better.

It just meant that the fucking monster had been drugging her for weeks.

When that asshole had brought up her miscarriage, Jason had watched her crumble inside and admit that she wasn’t okay. He’d wanted to take her away, to tell everyone else to go to hell, Elizabeth had to be safe.

But then she’d been there at the end, her head had cleared enough for her to give him that look. She wasn’t asking to stay because she didn’t understand what was happening.

No, Elizabeth had done what she always did—took the weight of the world on her own shoulders. Blamed herself for Carly’s kidnapping. Made it her problem to fix.

“Jason,” Bobbie said with tears in her eyes. “I am so sorry, I tried—”

“I’m going back there,” his sister hissed as she left the house, joining them on the front step. “As soon as Taggert lets us go, I’m going to drag her out of here by her hair, and then you’re going to lock her somewhere until she stops being so goddamn hard headed—”

“Right now, she thinks she’s helping. She’s upset. She’s not thinking clearly.” Jason swallowed. And if the PCPD hadn’t been there, he could have done more. She would have come with him willingly before they arrived. Before she understood Carly was missing.

“Are you going to meet us at the station?” Taggert demanded as he joined the group and the front door closed. “Or do we have to take you in the patrol car?”

“I should stay here,” the uniform said. Capelli turned to glare at him. “I mean, the witness saw Lansing. If he leaves the house—”

“That’s a good idea,” Taggert said before Capelli could snarl at the uniform. “Good clear thinking, Rodriguez.” He looked at Morgan. “I saw her, too, Morgan. He’s guilty as fuck.”

“Taggert,” Capelli began.

“He did it. I don’t know how, but she consented to a search which gave us nothing. She refused medical treatment, didn’t she?” he asked Bobbie. Bobbie sighed, and Emily just folded her arms with a scowl. Taggert nodded. “Exactly. We don’t have a lot of options. Rodriguez, you stay here until the end of shift—we’ll bring someone to relieve you—”

“I’m fine. I’ll work a double. I’ll stay all night if I have to.” Rodriguez lifted his chin. “I—I didn’t like how she looked, sir. If she changes her mind—”

“A patrol car should be right outside.” Taggert nodded. “Okay. Let’s get down to the station and figure out what’s next.”

Jason met the rookie’s eyes and, for the first time in his known life, felt a rush of gratitude for a cop. He’d listened to them. He knew Elizabeth’s condition. And the kid was going to stay.

And as soon as Taggert let him go, Jason was coming right back here to force her to go. He just had to pray she would be okay until then.

Lansing Home: Living Room

Her shoulders slumped when the door closed, and she looked at Ric. “Why did he say those things?”

“What?” Ric said, with wide eyes. “You know I didn’t take Carly. I’ve been here—”

“About my pulse. My pupils.” Elizabeth went to the mirror over the fireplace mantel and scowled. She couldn’t tell now, but she didn’t doubt Jason for a moment. Still… “My eyes look okay—”

“He was lying to you,” Ric said gently. He moved behind her, put his hand around her shoulders, gently rubbing. “Trying to get you to leave me. You stayed. You believed in me.”

He leaned down, brushed his lips against her neck, and it took everything in her not to flinch. Not to move away.

Because she didn’t believe Ric. She believed Michael. She believed Jason. And she knew…she knew something wasn’t right about tonight. It wasn’t the first time she had felt so fuzzy, so tired, and weak. She’d thought it was from the fall. The recovery. The deep sadness inside.

But maybe…

She had a job to do. She turned and managed a weak smile. “He was scared. Carly’s missing. And Michael probably saw something in the dark that looked like you. Poor kid. He must be terrified.”

Ric nodded. “But the PCPD are involved, and you were right to let them search. I’m sorry I was so angry—”

“Well, now they know she’s not here.” She forced herself to kiss his cheek. “They can look for her somewhere else. I’m still not feeling well—I think I’m just going to go upstairs. Get some sleep.” She hesitated. “I’m going to sleep in the other room, though.”

“Elizabeth, I thought—”

“I’m just feeling sick to my stomach a-and you know I haven’t been sleeping well. You said you were getting up early to look for office space, right? I don’t want—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. She could do this. “You need your rest.”

“Okay,” Ric said, with a tilt of his head. “If you’re sure.”

“Very sure. Good night, babe.”

She kept the smile on her face as she turned away, as she climbed the stairs, and went into the second room. She wouldn’t sleep, but at least…she wouldn’t feel obligated to let him touch her again.

Not tonight.

October 14, 2018

This entry is part 4 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

When I pretend
Everything is what I want it to be
I look exactly like what you had always wanted to see
When I pretend
I can forget about the criminal I am
Stealing second after second just cause I know I can, but
I can’t pretend this is the way it will stay, I’m just
Trying to bend the truth
I can’t pretend I’m who you want me to be
So I’m
Lying my way from you
Lying From You, Linkin Park


Saturday, June 20, 2003

Brownstone: Foyer

Bobbie kicked off her heels almost as soon as she walked through her front door and frowned when she saw the light filtering out from the living room and voices.

“What are you doing up?” she demanded as she crossed the threshold. “It’s after three—Lucky?”

Her nephew rose from the sofa where he had been sitting next to his sister. In the armchair under the window, Lucas sipped from a bright orange mug with the General Hospital logo. In her bewildered fatigue, Bobbie wondered when her son had started to drink coffee.

“Lu called me around midnight when you didn’t come back.” Lucky slid his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I had already heard some rumors, so I called the station and they told me you were in interrogation.”

“What’s the deal?” Lucas demanded. “Monica told us the wedding was off and we should all go home. But Lucky says Carly is missing, and you were with the police.”

Bobbie hesitated, looked at Lucky. “What do you know?”

“Cruz Rodriguez is a friend of mine from the academy,” Lucky explained. “He was the uniform that went to the house.” His face was lined with worry. “He said that Ric Lansing is the primary suspect in Carly’s kidnapping, that Taggert and Capelli think Lansing drugged Elizabeth—” He shook his head. “What’s going on, Aunt Bobbie?”

Bobbie sighed and sat next to Lulu. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “They questioned me for hours but there was nothing to tell them. When we got to the house, Jason was checking Elizabeth’s pulse. Something is definitely wrong, but she refused to leave.”

“Yeah, Cruz said he was going to take the overnight shift in case she changed her mind.” Lucky hesitated. “I called in, offered to take tomorrow’s shift but Taggert doesn’t want me on the case. Dad’s partnership with Sonny and my relationship with Elizabeth—” His mouth pinched. “They’re going to keep me out of it, I know it.”

“Jason said he’s going to go back when they let him and Sonny go, but—”

Lucky shook his head. “They’re going to hold them until a lawyer forces their hand.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Why the hell would Lansing do this?”

“He hates Sonny,” Lulu offered. They all looked at her, frowning, and she just shrugged. “What? I hear stuff. I’m working at Kelly’s with Georgie, and Courtney came in after they found out about Sonny and Ric being brothers.”

Lucas rolled his eyes. “Lots of people hate Sonny—”

“Lansing accused Sonny of pushing Elizabeth when she had her miscarriage,” Lucky said. “I was signing paperwork for human resources when he came in, demanding an investigation. No evidence she was pushed, and Elizabeth refused to say anything on the record, so nothing happened.”

Bobbie closed her eyes. “God. I can’t. I don’t know where she is. Or how he could have—it was less than thirty minutes between Carly going missing and Jason and Sonny going to the house. They searched the house. Where could he have taken her?”

“Maybe he had help,” Lucas suggested. “Mom. Hey.” Bobbie looked up. Met her son’s eyes. “She’s never going to be my favorite person, but you love her. Carly’s too stubborn to go out like this. She’s going to fight tooth and nail, so we have to do what we can here.”

“Yeah, Aunt Bobbie.” Lulu stood and pulled Bobbie up. “We’ve been in these uncomfortable dresses for hours. Why don’t we go get into something more comfortable. Maybe get something to eat.”

“Try to sleep, Aunt Bobbie.” Lucky embraced her tightly. “You need to keep your strength up.”

Bobbie just sighed, shook her head. She was too exhausted, too terrified to argue, and allowed her niece to lead her out of the room.

Once he heard his aunt’s bedroom door close, Lucky released a long breath, and looked back to Lucas. “She’s too tired to think it through, but—”

“Lansing kidnapped a pregnant woman,” Lucas said with a shrug. “The wife of a man he already hated. The man he blames for the loss of his child. Yeah, I’m not an idiot, Lucky. I’ve seen this movie.” He shook his head. “I don’t like my sister, but I’m human. And this is…”

“Horrifying,” Lucky murmured. He and Elizabeth were no longer close…and the intimacy and passion he’d once felt for her had been all but destroyed by Helena Cassadine’s last brainwashing, but he objectively knew she’d been important to him. That she remained important to Emily and Nikolas.

That she had stayed, kept herself in danger…that she might have been drugged by the man who was supposed to take care of her…

“I’m going to try to keep my hand in,” Lucky said. “Take care of your mom. I’ll call when I know something.”

Harborview Towers: Parking Garage

Sonny scrubbed his hands over his face and looked at the head of security with disgust. “What?

Francis Corelli winced at the scathing anger in his boss’s face. “The PCPD is searching both penthouses as we speak. We tried to keep them out but—”

“How the hell could they get a search warrant so fast?” Jason demanded.

They had been kept at the PCPD until dawn broke over the city and an exhausted Mac Scorpio had told Taggert and Capelli to let them loose. They had gone back to the Lansing home where a bleary-eyed Cruz Rodriguez still sat in a patrol car at the curb. No sounds from inside the house, and Ric hadn’t left.

Neither had Elizabeth.

With Rodriguez standing guard, Jason could hardly storm the house, pick Elizabeth up, and carry her out if she didn’t cooperate. Not without getting tossed into a jail cell, and that wouldn’t solve anything.

But he would get her out of the damn house today if it killed him.

Francis hesitated, and Sonny glared at him. “Answer the goddamn question. Did you see the fucking warrants?”

And then Jason knew why the other man looked so uncomfortable. He closed his eyes. “Courtney let them in.”

“Yeah,” Francis admitted. “I tried to keep them out of your place, Sonny, but she told Taggert she’d been staying there off and on—and her legal residence is your place, Jason—”

“And it’s not like the PCPD is going to argue with someone just letting them in,” Sonny muttered. “Did we not go over the rules with her? She called the police and we wasted hours—” He growled. “They’re not going to stop with the penthouses.”

“They’re probably trying to get warrants for the warehouse. For the other properties—”

“Damn it,” Sonny swore. “We haven’t replaced Benny or found a lawyer—” He clenched his fists. “My wife is missing. That sociopath has her somewhere and every time I turn around, my own fucking family is helping the police fuck me over—”

“I’ll find Carly,” Jason said, his voice tight. “You deal with the police. Get someone in here to look at the books. Get a lawyer on retainer. You keep the PCPD out of my face. I—” He took a deep breath. “Elizabeth offered to help us with Ric. If she’s still willing today when whatever he gave her wears off, I’ll have to let her. Because he did this, Sonny. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but he’s behind this.”

“Yeah.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “Where is my sister?” he bit out to Francis. “Helping the goddamn police go through our things?”

“She’s supervising, yeah,” Francis said with another wince.

“We’d better get upstairs and revoke permission for this fucking search.” Sonny shook his head. “I knew she wasn’t cut out for any of this.”

Jason ignored him as they got onto the elevator, but he knew his partner was right. He had intended to marry Courtney because he cared about her and because she understood his life.

But in the last twelve hours, she proved definitely that understanding his life and actively supporting that life were very different.

Lansing Home: Kitchen

Ric watched as Elizabeth pushed her fork around her plate, gently moving the pieces of her Eggs Benedict from one side to the other.

She had hadn’t much of an appetite in weeks—he knew that. It had been suppressed by the Valium he slipped into her meals and drinks. She rarely ate, rarely slept, and spent most of her time in that run-down studio. His jaw clenched at the thought she preferred that fire trap to the beautiful home he’d given her, but Ric forced himself to relax.

Elizabeth was just…she was grieving over their loss, just as he was. They were just handling it in different ways. He was going to get justice and give her a baby to raise, and she was just trying to survive.

They could start trying for a baby—or at least pretending—Ric told himself—in another few weeks. It took time to make sure the birth control he’d begun to give her was working effectively—and she still needed time to recover, her doctor had told them that.

And in a few months, when there was no baby, Ric could gently talk to her about adoption. She’d be ready for a baby when Carly was due in November. He would have laid the foundation.

It really was the perfect solution—Elizabeth wouldn’t even have to get pregnant and carry a child. It was better for them, and maybe they would always adopt. If he got a vasectomy, surely, Elizabeth would never question their lack of conception.

She’d blame herself, Ric knew that. He was counting on it. She would want to fix it and would never argue with his solution. But this morning, as Ric watched her barely eat anything, as she only drank half her orange juice—he worried that it was more than just her appetite keeping her from eating the food he prepared.

“You believed him,” he said without thinking. “You’re not eating.” He forced a hurt tone into his voice to mask his fury. How dare she believe Jason Morgan instead of him? “You think I’m trying to drug you.”

“What?” Elizabeth blinked at him, her eyes a bit tired. Shadowed. The circles were deep grooves beneath her eyes, a sickly dark purple. “What? N-No.” She swallowed hard. “No, of course—I just—” Her eyes filled, and she bowed her head. “They made me remember the baby.”

Oh. Of course. His angel. Ric sat next to her, touched her shoulder and if she flinched, he told himself it because she was so upset. That he had upset her by making her think about the baby again. “They’ll find Carly. Sonny has so many enemies, they probably just started with the last known conflict.”

Elizabeth nodded. She picked up her fork and ate a bite. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I-I should eat more.” She reached for her orange juice, took a long swig.

Ric grimaced—this was going to backfire. She was trying so hard to convince him now—she quickly finished the orange juice and most of her breakfast.  Which meant she’d gotten double the dosage of the birth control he’d meant to give her—and he’d already doubled it up in case she only drank or ate one or the other. Not to mention the six pills of Valium he’d slipped into various elements of her breakfast. On top of the dosage from the night before…

He rolled his shoulders. Well, it was just once. He wouldn’t guilt her about eating again—clearly, she hadn’t believed Jason and Sonny. She could sleep off any bit of extra Valium at the studio—as long as he got her out of here before they kicked in.

Maybe he should offer to drive her—

“I should get going.” Elizabeth pushed herself away from the table. “I—I promised Emily—she’s going back today—and I wanted to see what happened last night. If they know anything.”

“Of course.” Uneasy, Ric watched as she left. Should he follow her to the studio? But…he had to stay here, to check on Carly—to make sure Jason and Sonny didn’t come by and search again. And…

She was gone before he’d made up his mind. He would call her later to make sure she got there, and he’d just have to be more careful in the future.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to.

She was supposed to be married right now—she and Jason were supposed to be leaving for a honeymoon on the island. Instead, Jason’s mother had gleefully told everyone the wedding was off—her fiancé and brother were barely speaking to her, her nephew was all but traumatized—

And Carly was missing.

Courtney bit her nails as the last of the PCPD offices exited the penthouse. Jason and Sonny had arrived home only minutes earlier but the cops had already finished their search of the Corinthos penthouse, and were now here. Jason had tried to revoke permission, but the cops had already started their search and Capelli threatened to arrest Jason for interfering.  Without a lawyer on retainer, Jason had probably not wanted to spend any more time with at the police station.

So, Jason had waited, glowering with rage as Taggert and Capelli had finished up, then left.

Sonny was across the hall doing damage control of his own, but Courtney couldn’t understand why they were so angry. They didn’t keep anything worthwhile at the penthouse, and if it helped them find Carly faster, what was the issue? Wasn’t that the goal?

If Ric had taken Carly, shouldn’t that come above all this other crap?

Jason slammed the door shut behind the cops and turned back to face her, his hair mussed, the tie of his tux undone, dangling against the creased white of his shirt. The jacket had long ago been discarded.

“You called the cops,” he said in a low, even tone. “Why?”

“Why?” Courtney stared at him. “Ric kidnapped her—of course I called them. Ric wasn’t going to let you in the house to search—the cops could make him—”

Jason laughed then, but it was a sour, angry sound that she had never ever heard from him before. A chill slithered down her spine. She hurried to continue. To explain. If he would only try to understand how scared and desperate she’d been. “I had to let them in here—they said getting warrants would just make them think we did something to Carly, and it was a waste of time—”

“I was so close to getting her out of there,” Jason murmured, shaking his head. “Five more minutes, we could have taken care of Ric, I could have gotten Elizabeth to go with Bobbie to the hospital—and we could have torn that house apart.”

Courtney scowled at the mention of Jason’s ex-girlfriend. “You’re more worried about her, aren’t you?” she demanded. “Carly wasn’t at the house—you heard the cops—”

“How hard do you think Taggert and Cappelli looked?” Jason demanded. “They didn’t think he had enough time—”

“He didn’t.” Courtney huffed. “Maybe Michael was wrong. He’s only a little boy, you know. Maybe the guy just looked like Ric. Maybe it was someone else who hates you.” There had to be a long goddamn list of people Jason and Sonny had pissed off.

“I thought you understood,” Jason said with another shake of his head. “There are no circumstances, ever, that we cooperate with the police. Not as a first resort, and we sure as hell don’t call them in when we haven’t secured the scene—”

“Listen to yourself,” Courtney scoffed. “Secured the scene. Who the hell do you think you are? My best friend is missing—”

You know who the hell I am!” Jason shot back, his face red. “You know who your brother is.” He jabbed a finger at her. “What the hell did you think all this was about? Did you think it was a game?”

“Carly’s missing, so it’s hardly a game,” Courtney snarled. She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “And you’re just wasting time. You should be finding Carly.”

“I wish I could only worry about finding Carly, but now I gotta make sure our business papers are in order because I can’t do a hell of a lot if Sonny and I are fighting off warrants and raids.” He shook his head with a sharp jerk. “I’m getting changed. Don’t let them in again.”

“This is my home, too,” Courtney said. “You don’t have a right to tell me—”

Jason glared at her as he started up the stairs. “My name is on the lease. You’re a guest. I pay for everything. You let the cops in again, Courtney, and that’s it.”

Tears burned her eyes. “That’s the deal breaker? You said you loved me.”

He turned to face her, and the expression almost had her take an actual step back. “You know who I am. You said you could handle it. Maybe you’d better think about that. I got things that have to get done.”

“Damn it, Jason—” She almost followed him, but she was terrified that he was perilously close to just throwing her out entirely. Maybe she’d been wrong, but why wasn’t he even trying to see it from her side?

She was terrified—she just wanted to find Carly like the rest of them. She had to do whatever she believed was right, no matter what the cost.

She and Jason—they would just sort it out after it was over.

PCPD: Locker Room

Lucky took a seat next to to Cruz who was staring blankly at his open locker. “You look like hell, man.”

“Yeah.” Cruz rolled his shoulders, nodded to Dante to sat on his other side. “I just got off—I sat in front of the Lansing house until about—” He looked at his watch, then dragged a hand through his hair. “Twenty minutes ago.”

“Yeah? Why?” Dante frowned. “I thought the overnight report said there was nothing at the house.”

“Something’s not right,” Cruz insisted. “I got there last night, and Corinthos and Morgan are there—but they’re not tearing the house apart. They’re with Lansing and his wife.”

“You said Elizabeth looked like she’d been drugged,” Lucky said quietly. “How did you—”

“She looks a bit spacey, like maybe she’s high.” Cruz exhaled slowly. “Morgan’s sister, the mother-in-law—I guess that’s your aunt. They’re there. And they’re begging the wife to leave, but she’s refusing. And there’s this weird tension in the air. If Morgan wasn’t in a tux, if we literally weren’t only allowed in the house because she’s married to the asshole—there’s just something…Morgan wanted her out of the house. He came back today.” He managed a half smile. “And I gave him a report. I’m sure Taggert will cut off my balls if he finds out.”

“Jason and Elizabeth used to kind of date,” Lucky said. “Or something. I don’t know. It’s…it’s complicated.” And it brought him back to all the swiss cheese holes in his memory. He knew that there had been a romantic past for Jason and Elizabeth the same way he knew he’d once been engaged to Elizabeth.

But the memories were mostly gone and so were the emotions.

“Well, that explains it. Maybe both their marriages were just rebounds. I bet Morgan never walks down the aisle with the twit who called us in.”

“Yeah, I heard Taggert and Capelli when they got back from the searches.” Dante shook his head, changed into his uniform shirt and started to button it. “She actually let them search both penthouses.”

Lucky exhaled slowly. He couldn’t imagine his mother letting the PCPD just blindly search their home with Luke being part of the decision—but Laura Spencer had always had a better understanding of life and her husband’s place in the world.

“But there are no leads on Carly?” Lucky asked.

Cruz hesitated. “They really don’t want you involved, Lucky, but…” he shrugged. “No. Capelli isn’t sure Lansing did it, but I guess the wife’s condition convinced Taggert. He actually—he almost seemed to be on the same page as Morgan last night. They’re going to split the search — Capelli is going to look into all the other connections while Taggert takes on the Lansing stuff. They’re pulling his background now. I think Capelli is going to use this to go after Corinthos and Morgan. He’s trying to get warrants for the businesses.”

Dante frowned. “What is that going to prove? This is the shit I’m talking about. I don’t even know these people, but just from the reports I read—it’s clear that they’re not involved. I mean, why go right to searching their properties? If Carly’s on them, they’ll find her. They don’t need the PCPD to search for them—”

“Welcome to the PCPD, where truth, justice, and the American way are just words,” Lucky said. He sighed and pinned his badge to his shirt. “I have to go watch your cousin Vinnie do a lot of nothing all day.”

“See, if you just say his name that way, at least you get to have a small laugh.”

“It keeps me from crying.”

Elizabeth’s Studio

Elizabeth forced her eyes open—the chirping from inside bag had jarred her from a restless sleep—and now her head hurt. Her body felt heavy as if someone was sitting on it—

Someone was at her side. Saying her name. She could feel someone’s fingers at her wrist.

“Elizabeth?”

She tried to focus, tried to find the voice. It was Jason. He sounded worried. She missed the sound of his voice, the times when he smiled. Sometimes he even laughed.

“Elizabeth?” A hand cradled her neck and she felt herself being lifted into a sitting position. The movement caused her stomach to lurch and before she could stop herself—

Elizabeth rolled on her side and threw up.  She was dimly aware of Jason edging out of the way quickly, and then dragging a trash can over for her to finish up. She kept heaving until her throat was raw, until her eyes were burning with tears, and her hands were shaking.

“You have to let me take you to the hospital,” Jason told her. “He gave you something this morning—I couldn’t find your pulse—” He swallowed hard, then shook his head. He got to his feet, then crossed to the sink and wet a napkin. He gave it to her.

Elizabeth pressed it to her face. God, everything hurt, and she was humiliated. Disgusted. She had just thrown up all over her floor—probably had splashed him—and she just wanted to go back to sleep.

She just wanted to sleep.

Her eyes started to drift shut again, but Jason took her shoulder and sharply jerked. “Don’t you dare,” he snapped, fear threading in his voice, making it higher than she remembered. “Stay awake, do you hear me, Elizabeth?”

Jason wanted her to stay awake. It sounded important. And—and wasn’t there something she was supposed to be doing?

“J-Jason?” Elizabeth coughed as his name was swallowed by the rasp in her throat. “What’s going on? What’s happening?”

“I’m taking you to the hospital,” he said with steel in his voice. She grimaced, shook her head, but he stood up, grabbed her purse, tossed it at her, and then lifted her into his arms. “This time, I’m not taking no for an answer.”

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Monica closed the curtain and stepped back out to see Jason who was pacing back and forth. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in days—his hair sticking up on end, his eyes wild—and his black shirt was stained in some places. She made a mental note to offer him a scrub top to change into as she suspected the stains were from vomit.

“How is she?” Jason demanded. “I know you can’t give me—”

“She told me to tell you anything you wanted to know,” Monica murmured. “Take a deep breath, Jason.” She held his hands up. “Look at me. You got to her in time. She’d already thrown up the worst of it, and we were able to pump her stomach.” Her voice cracked as she continued to speak. “The stick was positive for benzos. There was enough—it was quadruple the recommended dose. And that’s a few hours after she ingested it.”

His eyes glinted and narrowed until the pupils were nothing more than icy flints. “Quadruple.”

“I’m doing a follicle test.” Monica crossed her arms. “I know she’s been having a rough time, but I don’t think she’s the type to mess up her medication—and I’ve checked her charts. There’s no prescription for any Valium or anything else.”

“Ric. He’s been drugging her,” Jason growled. He dipped his head. Took a deep breath. “Can you keep her?”

“She’s resting now, but she already said she wanted to be signed out. That Ric couldn’t find out she was here.” Monica chewed her lip. “I can get Social Services involved if you’re sure—she’s declined it, but I’ll—” She lifted her chin. “I’ll do it anyway.”

“If Ric knows she was here, then—” Jason closed his eyes. “Christ. I knew I should have dragged her out of that house. I let her stay.”

Monica exhaled, took a chance, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Come with me. We need to figure out the best way to handle this.”

And it was a testament to how upset her son was that he followed her without a word. She led him into the break room and locked the door to keep anyone out. “Carly’s missing. I know that—it’s all over the news, and I talked to Bobbie and Emily. Ric is the top of the suspect list.”

“Yeah. We got to the house last night, and I found Elizabeth—not as bad as today—but she was drugged. Weaving around. She couldn’t keep herself straight. Talking in circles. But she started to come around the longer I kept her talking. She refused to leave. Because—”

“Because Ric wouldn’t let you or the cops search, but Elizabeth could give them permission.” Monica nodded. “Emily told me that when she came home. I’m aware of the situation, Jason. I know she thinks she needs to go back to the house to protect Carly. I cannot in good conscience let her do it. I took an oath, and she is not in her right mind if she puts herself back into that situation.”

“You think I like any of this?” Jason demanded. “Sorry,” he said immediately. He dragged his hands through his hair. “I went to talk to her today, just to figure out the next step—and she was barely breathing. I couldn’t find a pulse—I thought she was already—” He squeezed his eyes shut. “I let her stay in that house.”

“It appears to me that you weren’t left with a lot of choices.” Monica sighed. “If I call in Social Services or a psych consult, the odds are that she would probably just talk her way out of it. She seemed pretty adamant that she had to get back to the house to find Carly. That she could only be useful if she stayed.”

“He probably gave her too much last night to make sure she’d sleep through whatever happened,” Jason said, more to himself. “And then—I think he gave her more this morning. He probably put it in everything—she’s not eating, and—”

“If a lot of the drug was in her breakfast, she’d get some of it.” Monica nodded. “She must have eaten more than he expected.”

“Probably to convince him that she didn’t believe me,” Jason muttered. “She’s going to get herself killed.” He shook his head. “He’d only give her so much and risk her leaving if her staying was against the plan. Carly. She has to be in that house somewhere. It’s the only explanation.”

“I can get her ready to leave,” Monica said reluctantly. “But I’m going to have to talk to Bobbie. Between the three of us—and maybe Emily—we need to figure out how to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. We all want to find Carly, Jason, but Elizabeth has to look out for herself. Her blood counts are all over the place—she is not in a good place, and it goes against everything I believe in to let her go.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I get that. Thanks.” He rubbed his eyes. “Can—Can I see her?”

“Yeah. Do you want a change of clothes—” She gestured at his shirt. “She’s feeling mortified that she threw up on you—it’s not important in the scheme of things, but I think—”

“Yeah, yeah thanks.” He met her eyes and repeated himself. “Thank you. For taking her case personally. For helping me. Elizabeth—she matters.”

“She matters to me, too, Jason,” Monica told her though her heart warmed at the gratitude in his eyes. “Since she lost Audrey—”

“Audrey?” Jason repeated. “What happened to her?”

“She passed away in January.” Monica tilted her head. “You didn’t—you didn’t know? Elizabeth was a wreck, but Ric Lansing was there for her. Helped her settle the estate. Sell the house. Stood by her side at the funeral. He was definitely in the right place at the right time.” She grimaced. “I should have kept a better eye on her for Audrey and Steve. I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to her.”

Emergency Room: Cubicle

 Elizabeth sighed when Jason drew back the curtain and came into her examining area. Her cheeks flushed as she took in the bright blue scrub top he wore—she knew he’d changed his shirt because she’d vomited on him. God.

But her head felt clear—painfully clear—and Monica’s eyes had been sad as she’d delivered the preliminary blood results. She’d nearly died from an overdose of benzodiazepines, probably Valium. Whatever had been in her system from last night, plus whatever she’d eaten this morning—

Maybe she could have lived in denial about being drugged—but not now. There was proof. And the hair follicle test Monica had ordered would tell her just how long Ric had been poisoning her. Controlling her with drugs.

She shuddered. “Well. You were right.” Elizabeth closed her eyes as Jason came closer. “But you’re too nice to say so.”

“You’re not going back. We’ll figure out something else—”

“She’s in that house,” Elizabeth said flatly. “There’s no other reason he drugged me last night. He tried to confuse me. First, he told me I had barely dozed off, and then apparently, I came home and slept—but I know I came home at six. Carly only went missing around seven.”

“He didn’t have enough time to take her anywhere else.” Jason nodded. “Okay. So, she’s in the house. I don’t need you to be there—”

“You need me in that house. Because you can search his papers. You can know what he’s doing at all hours. I’ll let you put electronics in there. I’ll let you gut the fucking place to get her out—” Her voice broke. “You know why he kidnapped Carly, Jason. She’s pregnant.”

Jason shook his head. “We don’t know that—”

“He blamed Sonny for the miscarriage. He wanted the PCPD to arrest him for assault, for pushing me—Sonny would never do that, I told him that—but he was so angry, I was afraid of what would happen. It was all crushing down around me, you know, and I just knew something bad was going to happen—” Elizabeth forced herself to continue. “And then he came home with this house. It was a surprise. It was a new start. And that’s—I think the follicle test is going to tell you that I’ve been drugged for at least month. Because there’s a lot about this last month—I’ve got some holes. I thought I was sleeping too much—”

“Elizabeth—”

“He kidnapped Carly because she’s pregnant. I think he wants Sonny to suffer like we did when we lost the baby, but I just—it’s about that baby, Jason. We need to find Carly.”

He took her hand in his. “I know that,” Jason told her, his eyes locked on hers. “But I’m not going to let you kill yourself to do it—”

“You can’t stop me,” Elizabeth said. “You’ll have to tie me up and lock me away. Go tell your mother that I’m crazy and suicidal. She’s already halfway there. But you can’t stop me.”

“Carly’s already—I don’t know where she is,” Jason said, with a slight crack in his voice. “And about an hour ago, I found you without a pulse—I am not going to take any chances with your life.”

“It’s not your chance to take,” she said softly. She covered his hand with hers so that his larger hand was enveloped in both of hers. “I don’t have a death wish, Jason. I know Ric is poisoning me. He’s feeding me Valium to keep me under control. To keep me fuzzy and from asking questions. So that’s what I’ll give him. I’ll be the perfect wife.” She swallowed hard. “Whatever I have to do. I’ll find something to lead us to Carly. She’s in the house or there’s some sort of clue that will give us the answers.”

He closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. “You don’t eat any or drink anything he gives you, do you understand me?” he told her. “Promise me.”

“I promise I’ll try,” Elizabeth said. “I—I may have to, sometimes. But I won’t eat or drink a lot. I promise. This won’t last long. We’ll find her, Jason. And then you can help me find a divorce attorney.” She managed a wisp of a smile. “Unless I somehow become a widow.”

Jason shook his head slightly at her small attempt at humor. “I’m going to get you a cell phone. You use that phone and you check in every goddamn hour. If you can’t get a hold of me, you can call Monica or Bobbie. I’m going to talk Emily into going back to California. Ric will never believe this if she’s still here.” He stared at her, his eyes burning with exhaustion, fear, worry— “Promise me. You’ll check in.”

“I promise.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Go tell Monica I need to get out of here. Ric is expecting me back.”

He looked as if he wanted to argue, but mercifully he didn’t. She wasn’t sure she had the energy for another go around. If he kept looking at her—kept making her think of everything she’d thrown away last year—

She might not be able to do what needed to be done.

This entry is part 5 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

‘Cause you play me like a symphony
Play me till your fingers bleed
I’m your greatest masterpiece
You ruin me
Later when the curtains drawn
And no one’s there for you back home
Don’t cry to me you played me wrong
You ruin me
You Ruin Me, The Veronicas


Saturday, June 20, 2003

Quartermaine Mansion: Garden

“I’m going back to California,” Emily told Elizabeth, “but only because Jason told me to.” She clenched her fists in her lap. “But I want you to come with me. You can make your excuses to Ric, but please—”

Elizabeth sighed, pressed a hand to her aching head. Jason had taken her back to the studio and reluctantly left her alone, promising the burner cell phone would be delivered in a few hours. She’d decided to make her goodbyes to Emily while waiting for the phone to arrive.

She had promised Jason she would not go home until she had that phone—until he had a way to contact her.

She couldn’t quite wrap her mind around anything that happened to her in the last twenty-four hours—knowing that she had overdosed and nearly died only hours earlier or that it had been at the hands of the man she’d married and nearly had a child with—a man who had kidnapped a pregnant woman—and God, had done so many things, because of course Ric was guilty of all the crimes Jason and Sonny had cast at his feet.

Elizabeth couldn’t remember any of the objections she’d made in defense of Ric now or explain how she lied to herself for so long.

“If you talked to Jason,” Elizabeth began slowly, stirring her iced tea restlessly. She should eat before she went home, but she couldn’t find the desire to put anything in her stomach—not after having had it pumped. She closed her eyes. “If you talked to Jason,” she tried again, “then you know why you have to go and why I have to stay.”

Emily scowled. “He doesn’t want you to stay either, Liz. I have his permission to try and convince you differently, and if he were anybody else but Jason, he would put you on the plane himself. You’re not thinking clearly.” Her eyes softened. “I’m so scared about what will happen if you don’t leave.”

“And I’m scared about what happens if I do.” Elizabeth’s voice trembled, and she fought to keep it even. “The police are watching Jason and Sonny. I—I heard people talking at the hospital while I was waiting to get out. They searched the penthouses. The PCPD isn’t looking for Carly like Jason and Sonny can. Taggert and Capelli are going after them. Jason won’t be able to just—do what needs to be done. I have to help—”

“And how does staying in the house do that?” Emily challenged.

“Jason is going to come back and search as soon as I can get Ric out of the house,” Elizabeth told her. “He’s going to set up surveillance and electronics and whatever else he can. But—” She chewed her bottom lip. “If Ric caught him in the house—Taggert will arrest him and you know he’ll get stuck in jail. I can give permission. I can help—”

I’m worried about Carly, too,” Emily said. “But you matter more to me. And I know how your brain thinks—you’re blaming yourself. If you hadn’t lost the baby—”

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. God. If she hadn’t lost the baby, she’d be trapped now even more. There’d be no way out. No one to help. And just the small sliver of relief that had crawled into her heart at not being tied to Ric Lansing through a child made her feel so goddamn disgusted with herself.

“Don’t sacrifice yourself because you think no one cares,” Emily said quietly, her dark eyes burning into Elizabeth’s. “I care. You are my best friend. Bobbie cares. My mother cares. Nikolas cares. There are people who love you, Elizabeth.”

And where had any of them been last year? When she’d been drowning after the kidnapping and the crypt? When she had learned her grandmother had died, when she’d been left with an estate to settle, family to grieve. No one had come home to be with her. No one had come to the memorial with her. Held her hand. Held her as she sobbed.

Gram’s friends had sat through the service, but most had made excuses not to go to the reception Elizabeth had tried to arrange at the Port Charles Hotel or had left as quickly as they’d arrived.

Only Ric had showed up. Only Ric had sat beside her. Only Ric had cared.

Of course, that had been a gigantic lie—he’d been using her from the first moment he’d met her. Had only sought her out because she was connected to Jason and Sonny. Joke was on him, she thought bitterly. She didn’t matter to them either.

But Emily looked upset, so Elizabeth sighed. This would pass. Emily would worry, they would find Carly, and then it would go back to the way it had been for the last few years. Two ships passing in the night.

“I’m not trying to get myself killed,” Elizabeth said after a long moment. “I’m just trying to help the best way I can. I can’t fight the feeling that there’s something in the house—Ric didn’t want them to search. He wasn’t gone that long. There’s something there.”

“Okay.” Emily lifted a shoulder. “Okay. I know that face. I know better than to argue because now I’m just wasting breath. Jason said you promised to keep in contact with him. You’ll do that, right?”

Sure. Jason worried about her. He was a good person, but hadn’t he given in, too? Hadn’t he stopped arguing? Everyone knew Elizabeth was right. Ric was her problem to fix, Carly was her fault. And the only way Elizabeth could be of use to anyone was to stay in the house and make sure they could find Carly.

“I promise, Emily.” Elizabeth raised the glass of iced tea to her lips and let the cool liquid slide down her throat. Her throat was raw from the morning, and the tea settled uncomfortably in her empty stomach.  “And you’ll be home in a few months anyway—”

“I guess.” Emily sighed. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay here but getting into the internship at GH in the fall—it only works if I finish this program.”

“All you could do here is hold my hand, and I’d rather you were doing something that matters. You’re going to be a doctor, Em. I’m so proud of you.”

“Well, we’ll celebrate when I come home in August.” Emily bit her lip. “Liz, if you change your mind—you just go to the airport. You call me, and I’ll have a ticket waiting. Don’t let that get in your way.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly and forced a smile on her face. “Don’t worry. I—I’ve got it under control. I know what I’m doing.”

PCPD: Squad Room

Taggert scowled as he sifted through the paperwork and photographs they’d taken from Harborview Towers that morning. He had finally gotten the chance to get inside the inner sanctum of the Corinthos Organization and what did he have to show for it?

Nothing. Zip. Nada. Just a bunch of paperwork about coffee exporting.

He looked over as the rookie assigned to his squad came out of the locker room area, his dark eyes heavy with fatigue. “Rodriguez, you’re supposed to be at the Lansing house.”

Cruz furrowed his brow and joined Taggert at his desk. “What do you mean? I was. I spent the night outside and then left when my shift was over. I told Capelli—he said you’d send over another uniform—”

Goddamn it.” Taggert lunged out of his seat and towards the roster schedule. “Capelli!” That goddamn idiot—no one had called in for a new patrol and the Lansing house had been left unsecured for almost—he glanced at his watch—eight fucking hours. It was already four in the afternoon—

Did he have to do everything around here?

“What’s your problem?” Capelli said, sauntering in from the break room, a cup of coffee in his hand. “You need to get some sleep—”

“Why the hell didn’t you send another uniform over to the Lansing place?” Taggert demanded.

“Figured the kid would take a double,” Capelli said with a shrug. “You’re not showing a lot of initiative, rookie,” he said to Cruz who blinked in surprise.

“It was literally his first shift,” Taggert said through clenched teeth. “Who knows what the hell is going on over there? He could have had her in that house and moved her by now—”

“Relax.” Capelli flicked some crumbs from his shirt. “She was never in the house anyway. We looked.”

Sure, they’d looked, but it didn’t mean that they hadn’t missed something. Why did Lansing drug his wife if he wasn’t planning to stash Carly at the house at least temporarily?

“Capelli—”

“Besides.” His partner slapped a file at his chest. “We got a lead.” He nodded to Cruz. “You’ll want to hear this. I can prove this is a mob hit.”

Taggert flinched at the word. He didn’t want to think of Carly as already beyond their help—as a body they were just trying to find. She was a pregnant woman, the daughter of his landlord. He liked Bobbie, liked Carly’s kid despite his family connections.

“How?” Taggert asked. “There’s none of the markers—”

“Ric Lansing’s background came back. Take a look.”

Taggert sighed and opened the file. He skimmed—his heart started to pound—then raised his eyes. “His father is Trevor Lansing, lead counsel for Zacchara Trucking.”

“As in Anthony Zacchara?” Cruz asked. “Didn’t he take over for the Gambinos in Manhattan?”

“Yes, yes, he did.” Capelli grinned, raised his coffee cup in salute. “Mob hit. Taking out the wife. I bet Trevor got himself tangled up in the Zaccharas just to get at Sonny.”

“I can buy that Ric Lansing has a hard on because his mother chose to raise Sonny, but I’m not seeing it for a grown ass man who made the demand in the first place,” Taggert muttered, even as he continued to look through the file. “Ric has had himself an interesting job history. Counsel of record for Luis Alcazar until the man went over the balcony, wonder why that never came up. And—look at this—”

Taggert touched a canceled check on the last page of Ric’s financial records. “Why is Ned Ashton paying Ric Lansing for legal advice? The lawyer of the man who killed his fiancée?” He closed the file and slapped it back at Capelli. “But I still don’t buy this is a mob hit.”

“If they didn’t take Carly to get rid of her,” Capelli said, “then maybe they’re just trying to get leverage. You remember two years ago? There were rumors Zacchara was sick, and one of the Vega kids tried to ham in on the cigarette trade.”

“They never did find all of the pieces of the wife,” Taggert murmured. “He probably should have made the deal.” He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I can buy that Corinthos and Morgan have something Zacchara wants. Probably why Lansing came to town in the first place.”

“And why he hooked up with the wife. She’s been mixed up with those idiots for years,” Capelli said. “You think she’s in on this? Looking for revenge?”

“No,” Cruz said without thinking. Both older detectives looked at him and he swallowed hard. “I mean, I just—I met her. But she looked pretty upset yesterday. Sick, too. And she—I think she thinks her husband is involved. She acted one way when Ric was with you guys—talking to that Morgan guy. And then she flipped a switch when you all came back.”

“She’s smart,” Taggert murmured, but now he was worried. If Lansing had drugged her once—would he drug her again? Would he hurt her even more? “Cruz…until further notice, I want you on the house. I want you to pull that other kid who just started—the one on the patrol?”

“Dante?”

“Yeah. Rotate shifts with him. Can you both pull twelve hour shifts for a few days?” Taggert exhaled slowly. “I know it’s a lot to ask so soon, but I got a bad feeling. I want someone on Elizabeth Webber at all times. At least for now.”

“I’m sure Dante wouldn’t care, but we could also use Lucky—I know you didn’t want him on this—”

“I don’t,” Taggert admitted. “And he’s not assigned to me, he’s assigned to Esposito. But—” Lucky might have a vested interest in doing right by Carly and Elizabeth. “You and the other kid—you take the first day. I’ll try to get Lucky assigned to this detail.”

He looked to Capelli. “We need to get those warrants for the business records before Corinthos and Morgan can shred any connection. Zacchara is the key to this.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

It had been more than twenty-four hours since Sonny had slept.  He hadn’t even gone into his bedroom and had decided, arbitrarily so, that he wouldn’t go near that room until Carly was home. Until they could go to bed together.

Michael was asleep in his room with a worried Leticia standing guard. He’d finally cried himself to sleep the night before and had been upset most of the day. He’d wanted Jason, he’d wanted his mother, he’d wanted Aunt Courtney—

He wanted safety and security, and Sonny couldn’t give that to him right now.

Not until he found his wife and brought her home.

“Thanks for coming so fast,” Sonny told the two men who had just been shown into the penthouse by Max. Both of the men wore familiar faces—but only one of them was known to Sonny. Justus Ward had immediately flown in from Philadelphia, promising to keep the PCPD at bay at least for a little while.

And Bernie Abrams, brother to the deceased and dearly missed Benny, was there to make sense of the mess that had taken over their lives since Benny’s death in March.

“I’ve drawn up paperwork,” Justus began, “to inform the PCPD that no one will be allowed on the premises without a search warrant and revoking any right that Courtney Matthews has to give permission to search either penthouse.” He hesitated. “I had to…use some legal language that might be bit harsh about Jason’s place. It basically calls her a squatter who has residential rights but no legal authority. You might want to make sure she never sees this.”

“I could not care less right now,” Sonny said, his blood still simmering at the perfidy and stupidity of his sister, the woman Jason had nearly married. Well, that was as good as over—there was no way Jason was going to be able to trust Courtney again after not only calling the police but allowing them to search their homes. “Whatever it takes.”

“Do we want to think about making an appeal to the media?” Justus asked. “I’m aware you already have an idea of who did this, Sonny, but it might put public pressure on the PCPD to stay out of your hair—”

“My contact—” Bernie flushed slightly. “He was my brother’s contact, I mean, but at any rate, the DA’s office is writing up warrants for the warehouse and the coffee house.”

“We haven’t even opened the goddamn place yet,” Sonny muttered, raking his hands through hair. His eyes felt gritty and he just wanted to lay down. This was all a dream. A horrible nightmare.

He wanted his wife back.

“They’re going to come up with some bullshit reason to grant the search warrants,” Sonny said, “so we gotta clear out the warehouses. We got stay a step ahead of them. Bernie, I need you to get my guys together. Johnny—he’s running the warehouses. You get him, and Francis on security, and Tommy—he’s my bookie guy. Get them all. We need to have a status meeting. It needs to be now.” He looked at Justus. “How much insulation do you want?”

“I’ll worry about that after Carly is found, Sonny,” Justus told him. “Don’t think about that right now. I’ll work on a press release, and Bernie and I will sort through the paperwork while you’re making sure everything is ready for the prying eyes of the PCPD.”

Max knocked on the door and opened it slightly. “Hey, Boss….your, ah, sister was hoping to check on you—”

“No,” Sonny said bluntly. “I’m not interested.” When Max shut the door, Sonny looked at Bernie and Justus. “This—all of this is because Courtney called them. I can’t make a fucking move to find my wife because everyone is watching me.”

“You know Jason is going find her,” Justus said. “He won’t rest until he does.”

“She’s my wife,” Sonny growled. “I should be finding her.” He poured himself a tumbler of bourbon and then drank it in one thirsty gulp. “Let’s get to work. Carly is screwed if Jason and I end up in jail.”

Kelly’s: Parking Lot

Emily slid off the hood of her car as Jason’s motorcycle parked in the spot next to hers. “Hey. I know you’re busy—”

“I wanted to say goodbye.” Jason embraced his sister tightly. “Thank you. I know you don’t want to leave.”

“No, but…” Emily bit her lip. “Any news?” She folded her arms. “I mean, that’s a stupid question, but—”

“Nothing. It’s like she vanished into thin air. I’ve had someone watching Lansing all day—he hasn’t left the house.” Jason shook his head, frustrated. “She has to be in the house, but I don’t know how. The PCPD searched it, and they’re morons, but they’re not that bad.”

“That’s what Elizabeth says. She just has this feeling that the answer is in the house.” Emily closed her eyes. “The only reason I’m leaving is because you said it will be easier for her to lie to Ric if I’m not here challenging her, but I feel like leaving just convinces her that no one cares about her.”

“I can’t—I tried to convince her to leave, Em. If I put her on that plane without her permission, she’d just come right back.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what I could have said to change her mind. If almost overdosing didn’t convince her, nothing will.”

“Well, maybe we just need another voice of reason. Bobbie is going to try to talk to her, and if that doesn’t work—” Emily hesitated. “It’s not that I don’t want to find Carly. I do. I don’t like her, but I love you. And she matters to you. And I love Michael, and I know he loves his mother. But Elizabeth is risking her life, and I’m just—I’m scared. I thought about calling Lucky to see if his dad would help.”

“Luke’s been pretty useless since Laura got sick,” Jason told her with a bit a regret. “I don’t know what—”

“Luke doesn’t have your penchant for letting people make their own decisions. Yeah, if you made Liz get on that plane with me, she’d come right home. But Luke would just lock her up until it was safe.” Emily leaned her forehead against her brother’s chest. “I haven’t been the kind of friend she needed. I know I’m abandoning her. Please don’t let her do this alone.”

“I’m not—”

“Because she blames herself for all of it. This is how she’s going to make it right. That’s what she’s telling herself.” Emily’s voice broke. “She’s so lost and broken, Jason. Her husband nearly killed her, and she doesn’t have enough goddamn sense to just leave. You’d find Carly without her staying here—she says she doesn’t have a death wish but how else to explain it—”

“I promise you, Emily,” Jason took his sister by the shoulders and Emily looked up at him. “I am not going to let Elizabeth do this alone. If there are answers in that house, we’ll find them in a few days. And if we don’t, there’s no reason to let her stay.” He cleared his throat. “I’m not going to let her down again.”

Elizabeth’s Studio

Elizabeth ran her fingers over the flip phone that the guard had delivered to her. He was apparently her guard, the man who called himself Cody Paul said. He wouldn’t drive her around, but he’d follow her. His number was in the phone, right after Jason’s. Both of them on the speed dial.

Just an extra reassurance that someone was always close, someone would always be there to help.

And now she had to go home. To figure out a way to go back to the house and to being Ric’s wife. Would he let her sleep in the other room again? Maybe she should tell him she got sick at the studio. Maybe she should guilt him the way that he did her, make him feel sorry for trying to kill her with drugs.

She opened the phone and looked at the speed dials—there were only two programmed. Jason was number two, Cody number three. She committed that to memory, then pressed two.

“Elizabeth.”

“I got the phone,” she told him. “I just—I figured you’d know when I got it—and if you meant it about checking in—”

“Every hour,” Jason cut in. “Except, I guess, when you sleep. But every hour.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth slowly exhaled. “Okay. And I got—Cody is here. Um, thank you.”

“The minute you want to get out of this, you tell Cody. He has instructions to take you to a safe house or put you on a plane to Emily,” Jason said. “I will always take your call, but I don’t—the cops are all over us and I wanted you to have options if I can’t be there.”

Her eyes burned, and she couldn’t speak for a moment. “Okay.”

There was a knock on her sturdy studio door—the one that Jason given her the year before. Cody opened it slightly. “Bobbie Spencer, Miss Webber.”

“I have to go,” she told Jason. “I’ll call you back in an hour.”

“Okay. Be careful.”

She closed the phone, then waved for Cody to let Bobbie in. The redhead bustled in, crossed the room, and drew Elizabeth into a tight hug. “You are scaring the life out of me, Elizabeth Webber.”

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. She drew back, wiping her eyes. “Did Jason or Emily send you?”

“Monica, actually,” Bobbie told her. She took Elizabeth’s chin in her hands and peered into her eyes. “I saw your chart on the desk, and I broke all the codes and rules. I looked up your visit today. Goddamn it, Elizabeth. The levels of benzos in your blood gave me the chills.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I know. I know what you’re going to say.”

“I know that Jason, Emily, and Monica have already tried to talk to you. I know that Monica nearly called in a psych consult.” Bobbie took Elizabeth’s arms, wrapping her hands around them just below Elizabeth’s elbows. “The risk you are taking to help my daughter, it humbles me because I know you don’t like one another. But don’t do it. Let Jason and Sonny handle it.”

“They told me months ago that Ric was a mistake, but I ignored them. I let Ric into my life, into my heart—I let his lies put me in a prison cell, lock me away from everyone who I could have reached for—” Tears slid down her cheeks. “I can’t let him get away with this. Please don’t ask me to be weak, Bobbie. I can do this. I can make this right.”

“Okay.” Bobbie embraced her again. “Okay. I’m sure Jason has taken all the precautions he could. I saw the guard. I guess that’s the phone he said he’d give you. You put me on that speed dial, too, Elizabeth. You take care of yourself.” Tears slid down her cheek. “And, oh, God, find my daughter. Please. I need to have her back.”

“We’re going to find Carly.” Elizabeth returned the hug even more tightly. Finally, she was in the strong position. Giving comfort. “I won’t rest until I do.”

October 22, 2018

This entry is part 6 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Its just that we stayed, too long
In the same old sickly skin
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go
Full of Grace, Sarah McLachlan


Saturday, June 20, 2003

Lansing Home: Panic Room

 Despite her best efforts, Carly spent most of that first day dozing off and on, fighting the vestiges of the drug he’d given her. Ric had only come in once that morning to bring her a daily ration of food—she suspected he was never sure when Elizabeth might be home and didn’t want to be caught coming and going.

It reassured her that the twit wasn’t involved. Elizabeth had terrible taste in men, but she wasn’t evil. If only she could somehow get Elizabeth’s attention—if she could force the room open—

When she was awake, Carly was planning. She could try to knock Ric out, but what if she killed him and then no one ever found him? She might end up chained in this room forever—

And so she spent time trying to pick a lock, promising herself it would be the first skill that she learned when she got out of here. Because she would get out of here. She knew Jason and Sonny would be looking for her—and she didn’t believe Ric that no one suspected him.

Last night had been hazy, but Carly had been awake enough to see the monitors—to know that Jason and Sonny had crashed through the door—that only the arrival of the PCPD had made them leave. They would be back. And she would be ready for them.

She sat cross-legged on the tiny cot, having exchanged her evening gown for a pair of stretchy black pants and a long-sleeved gray shirt, protection against the artificial chill created by the air conditioning and concrete walls. She stared at the monitors, tracking comings and goings and the lack thereof.

She had watched as Elizabeth woke up and ate a breakfast Ric made for her—Carly had screamed at her until her voice was hoarse because she had seen him dumping pills in the eggs, in the hollandaise—in her orange juice—everywhere. Why was he still drugging his wife?

Elizabeth had left and then hadn’t returned for the entire day, but Ric still didn’t come inside. He sat in a room looked like it was meant to be a study at a desk piled with paperwork like he was a real lawyer.

The panic room also had screens that looked outside and showed her the front of the house and street. She’d seen the patrol car parked all night—she’d watched Jason’s familiar figure approach that morning—still dressed in the tuxedo from the wedding—then leave. The patrol car had left shortly after, only to return around five that afternoon.

She’d seen Elizabeth’s car pull away—and now—now it was returning. Her screen was in black and white, the quality was horrible—but Carly had made fun of the battered gold Nissan Sentra enough with Courtney to recognize it when it pulled into a driveway.

Carly narrowed her eyes as another car drove down the street, parked just past the house with no one exiting. Elizabeth got out of her car, looked towards the other one—and then went towards the house.

Something warm spread through her chest. She recognized the car as one that the guards drove with the darkened windows. Sonny had someone following Elizabeth. And Elizabeth knew it. Elizabeth knew Ric was guilty. Carly might have an ally.

If only she could figure out how to contact her, to get her attention.

Lansing Home: Front Step

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder one last time to the darkened car where Cody sat guard and to the patrol car out front. She didn’t recognize this officer, but it was good to see the PCPD hadn’t given up.

She could do this. She could go back into this house as if she didn’t know Ric was a kidnapping monster who had nearly killed her that morning.

Her phone was tucked securely in her purse, inside a hidden lining that she herself had ripped open. She’d have to find a way to keep it on her person—too bad it was summer and baggy clothes wouldn’t work as well.

Elizabeth pushed open the door and looked around the living room, towards the stairs. Somewhere in this house there had to be a clue to Carly’s kidnapping. How was she supposed to get Ric out of the house tomorrow so Jason could come in and tear it apart? So his men could plant devices to track Ric?

She’d just have to do figure it out. No way around it.

She heard Ric’s steps on the stairs and arranged her features into a smile. She knew how to fake happiness—she was a master of that at least. “Hey.”

“Hey. I thought you’d be home sooner.” Ric crossed the room and kissed her cheek. His lips drifted towards her mouth, but Elizabeth shied away. “What’s wrong?”

“The patrol car is still out there,” Elizabeth said with a grimace. “And I just keep thinking about Carly. Wherever she is, you know?”

“I’m sure she’ll turn up.” Ric narrowed his eyes. “Sonny has a lot of enemies, I’m sure you know that.”

“Oh, I know. I’ve been shot at, kidnapped, and nearly blown up, so…” She lifted her shoulder in a careless shrug. “Still, she’s…she’s going to have a baby.” And the distress wasn’t forced now. “She’s due only a little before I would have been—”

“Of course, I should have realized.” She let him draw her into an embrace, her heart pounding. If she hadn’t known—if she hadn’t overdosed that morning—if no one had come to the house last night—God, would she have suspected him?

If she hadn’t had proof, would she still believe Jason and Sonny’s certainty as she did now? She wasn’t entirely confident that she would have seen through him.

After all, she hadn’t before despite all the evidence to the contrary. She had deluded herself into thinking this man could be saved. That she could be the one to save him.

“And then when I went to see Emily,” Elizabeth said, drawing back, “I felt really sick.”

There—she didn’t imagine the way his eyes focused on her. The anxiety in the dark depths. “Oh?” Even his voice had risen just slightly in pitch.

“Yeah, I—I was dizzy. Tired. And sick to my stomach.” She set her hand against her abdomen, still feeling unsettled. “You know the Quartermaines—Emily made me talk to her mother—”

“You didn’t—you didn’t go to the hospital, did you?” Ric asked with a nervous laugh. “I mean, you would have called me if it was serious.”

“No, Monica looked at me at the mansion,” she lied. “But Monica said I had a bit of a stomach virus. I guess that explains why I felt so awful last night. On top of Carly being kidnapped and everyone saying all those terrible things—” Elizabeth managed a half smile. “So, I’m—I’m going to stay home tomorrow. Rest.”

“Oh.” Ric drew his brows together. “Are you sure it’s that serious? I know how hard you’ve been working on the show—”

“It’s only one day,” Elizabeth said, clasping her purse tightly to her. Twenty minutes before she was supposed to check in with Jason. “And it’s not like I’d get a lot done—”

“Yeah, well—” Ric stopped when his own cell phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket and scowled. “It’s my father.”

“Your father—” Elizabeth blinked. “I thought you weren’t in touch—”

“I’m not.” Ric opened the phone. “Dad—What? No. I—I don’t know what—” He was quiet for a long moment, his expression like granite. “Yeah. Yeah, fine.”  He closed the phone and tossed it on the coffee table. “I have to…I have to go down to Crimson Point tomorrow.”

Crimson Point was just outside of New York City, Elizabeth knew that. “I thought your dad lived in New York City—”

“He does,” Ric snapped, then smoothed out his features. “Sorry. I just—he has a client in Crimson Point. He wants me to meet with him. He’s, ah, been trying to get me into his practice.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth nodded. “Did—did you want me to go—I mean, I haven’t met—”

No,” he said sharply. Then he took a deep breath. “You said you needed to rest, so I guess—” He rolled his shoulders. “It’s fine. Why don’t you go lay down? I’ll bring you something to eat—”

“I already ate with Monica and Emily,” Elizabeth said quickly. “They had Cook make me something gentle for my stomach flu.” Which was partially true.  “I—I’m probably going to be up and down all night, so I thought I’d stay in the guest room again—it has its own bathroom.”

Ric tilted his head. “You haven’t wanted to sleep in the same room with me since we got here,” he said quietly. “Is there something I should know?”

“I—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “It’s all just…. a lot,” she said, flustered. “So much has happened these last few weeks and you know, Dr. Meadows said it might be…it be might be sometime before I was ready—”

“I thought you got a clean bill of health,” Ric said flatly. He stepped towards her.

“I’m scared,” Elizabeth admitted without thinking. “I mean…. of getting pregnant again. I—don’t want to lose another baby.”

And that at least was true. Or it had been the truth up until the night before. Now, she was terrified of having to play that part of being Ric’s wife. Would she have the courage?

How far was she willing to go?

“Ah.” Ric’s eyes cleared. Softened. A calculated move—and Elizabeth wondered how she had ever seen sincerity in those eyes. “I understand. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. We can take as much time as you need.” He kissed her forehead. “I love you. Everything I do is for you.”

And the truly horrifying thing was that Elizabeth believed him.

Sunday, June 21, 2003

PCPD: Interrogation Room

Taggert scowled as Justus laid out the statement he had already delivered to the newsroom of the Port Charles Herald. “What the hell is this?”

“This is my appeal to the media,” Sonny said, leaning back in the hard, wooden chair.  At dawn, Sonny had woken up to the pounding on his door and the demands of Taggert and Capelli to come down to the station voluntarily or be arrested.

Sonny had agreed only because he wanted to keep the PCPD focused on him while Jason did whatever needed to be done. Jason had briefly brought him up to date—there was no sign of Carly, but Elizabeth had remained adamant about staying even after nearly overdosing on Valium Ric had surely slipped her.

Sonny believed Jason’s theory—that the house held some sort of clue as to Carly’s whereabouts or Ric wouldn’t have bothered drugging Elizabeth, but he was less confident that Elizabeth would be valuable. He had been touched, oddly, that during her drugged stupor, she’d insisted on staying. That her loyalty to them had surfaced then despite neither Jason nor Sonny really having given her much reason to believe in them over the last eight months.

But Ric was a dangerous sociopath who had already proven once that Elizabeth’s health was less important to him than getting his revenge on Sonny.

Sonny had hoped that by coming to the station without an argument that Taggert would give him the benefit of the doubt and start treating him like the victim—his wife was missing after all.

“The papers are already dogging us—it’s all we can do to keep them from interfering as it is,” Taggert snarled. Sonny was too tired to be amused by the idea that the only reason Lansing’s name hadn’t been leaked to the papers as a person of interest was because of the cops.

Sonny had put the Herald on an embargo, threatening to buy them out and close the paper down if Ric’s name was publicized. The last thing he and Jason wanted a bunch of reporters dogging Ric’s steps. Bad enough the PCPD was involved.

“Well, then stop going after my client and find his wife and we won’t have to tell the media how you’re screwing up,” Justus retorted. “You’re wasting our time here, Taggert—”

“I’m trying to find his wife and he’s not cooperating—”

“You searched my home, you’re trying to search my financial records, my business—” Sonny waved off Justus’s irritated expression. “Do you really think I’ve got my wife stashed somewhere? Look at me, Taggert. My pregnant wife is missing. My son saw the man who did it. And you let him stay in his home, dragging me down to the station instead.”

“I’m not perfect,” Sonny continued with a shake of his head. “I’m not even close, but you know me better than that. Tell me why I’m here and that sick son of a bitch isn’t.”

Taggert hesitated, sat back. “Because Michael is the only link to Ric,” he admitted. “He’s a small boy who was clearly upset. We searched Ric’s home. There’s no evidence he ever left—” He held up a hand. “Look, you want to me to level with you, Corinthos? I’m working my ass off to find Carly. Look at me, I ain’t slept either.” He shoved himself to his feet. “But what do I got? I got Carly being violently kidnapped from your partner’s wedding—where everyone knew she’d be.”

Taggert paused. “I got your kid telling me it was Ric Lansing, and when we get to the house—there’s no sign Ric ever left, and yet his wife looks like she’s been drugged. She’ll never hold up as an alibi. But Carly’s not in the house. Even if we take Ric in—”

“You don’t necessarily find Carly.” Sonny’s mouth was dry as he considered that for the first time, he and Taggert were actually on the same side—to a certain extent.  “Yeah, I get that.”

“Of course Lansing did this. Of course that’s what I’m trying to prove. But why? That’s how I’m going to get him. We’re following him. He’s going to lead us to Carly eventually. But I gotta use all my sources, and my sources tell me this is about your business.”

Sonny snorted. “That’s what it always comes back to, isn’t it—”

“Ric Lansing’s father is Trevor Lansing, lead counsel for Anthony Zacchara,” Taggert cut in sharply. “You’re telling me that I’m crazy for thinking Zacchara might have something to do with your pregnant wife going missing?”

Sonny exhaled slowly. Closed his eyes. Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Anthony Zacchara,” he repeated. “You fucking with me, Taggert?”

Justus hissed. “Sonny—”

“I am being one hundred percent honest with you, Corinthos. I can see from your face that you get it.” Taggert slapped his hand on the table. “Look, you know I want you behind bars. It’s all I can think about. But Carly doesn’t deserve this. So give that bastard whatever he wants so you can bring your wife home.”

“I would,” Sonny said slowly as something crawled inside his chest, wrapped itself around his heart and squeezed. “If I knew what he wanted.” He met Taggert’s eyes. “If Zacchara is involved, this is the first I’m hearing about it.”

Taggert furrowed his brow. “You telling me you didn’t know Ric Lansing was tied to them?”

“No—I—” Sonny shook his head. Had to stop himself from answering. The truth that he hadn’t done nearly enough leg work into Ric’s past. The man had showed up when things had been so chaotic—Jason and Brenda had been on trial for murder. And by the time they realized something was wrong—

Benny had been gone—and Ric had been wreaking havoc with Carly, trying to blackmail Courtney, then kidnapping her—getting Elizabeth pregnant—staging the scene at the Vineyard—

It had never occurred to Sonny that this might be anything but personal. And God, what if they were wrong about why Ric had taken Carly? What if he had kidnapped her and given her right to the Zaccharas on Friday night?

Sonny exhaled slowly. “Am I under arrest?” he said mildly. “I’d like to be at home with my son.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

 

Kelsey Joyce listened with half an ear as Scott and Mac Scorpio discussed the open cases and investigations in Organized Crime—Major Crimes was next, and she wasn’t all that interested in mafia crime.

She frowned when she heard the word kidnapping and tuned back in. “You have a kidnapping case being investigated by Organized Crime?”

“Yes.” Mac focused on her. “The Corinthos kidnapping. We’re—we’re thirty-six hours in. No leads.” He grimaced at Scott. “And you know Floyd is on my ass.”

“Of course, he is,” Scott offered with a smirk. He looked at Kelsey. “Floyd is currently running for re-election.” Turning back to Mac, “I don’t know what he’s worried about. I don’t even know who’s running against him.”

“Yeah, well, we screw up a high-profile case like this, and someone might crawl out of the woodwork. Deadline to get on the ballot isn’t until September.” Mac sighed. “It’s still early, but Capelli and Taggert have some leads—”

Kelsey put up her hand to interrupt the commissioner. “I don’t have anything in my files about a kidnapping case. I should be copied on this—”

“Why?” Scott said, in a tone that advised her not to argue. “It’s Sonny Corinthos—”

“It’s Carly Corinthos, a pregnant woman,” she said, calmly. “I’m not saying Major Crimes should be running it, I’m just saying that we should be involved. OCU is bound to have tunnel vision.”

“Tunnel vision?” Scott repeated with a snort as the commissioner looked amused. “Listen, Kelsey—this is only your first day—you’re here as a courtesy—”

“Your conviction rates in Port Charles for both Major Crimes and Organized Crimes are at an all-time low,” Kelsey interrupted, her tone cool. She hadn’t volunteered to come in on a Sunday for shits and giggles. She’d spent the hours since being hired researching the new job she’d started. “You put too much resources into OCU, and MCU is usually left to flounder.”

“Listen—”

But now the commissioner sighed, the amusement having left his face. “She’s not wrong, Scott. Corinthos was just in here waving around a media statement that said the same thing.” He focused on Kelsey. “Taggert requested some help from the MCU, and I shot him down. He wanted another uniform to do some legwork.”

“You should agree to it. It would be a good sharing of the resources and reassure the MCU that you value them.” Kelsey held out her hand. “And I’d like a copy of the file as well.”

“No need,” Scott said. “I’m taking point on the Corinthos—”

“Am I in charge of the MCU or not, Scott?” Kelsey asked. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweaty, but she was determined not to let them see her as a weak little girl they could push around. “If the MCU is involved in a case, my office gets copied on the files. That’s the policy. I’m just asking you to enforce it.”

“Fair enough.” Scott raised his brow. “Anything else?”

“No.” Kelsey exhaled slowly. “No, we can move on. Thank you.”

Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room

Lucky set the phone back on the bar and stared at it for a long moment. The next morning, when he reported for duty, he would be sitting in a patrol car outside of the Lansing home.

He knew that his aunt would be happy that Lucky was working the case, and part of him was glad to be able to reassure her with any news he could offer.

But he was supposed to be watching Ric Lansing and keeping an eye on Elizabeth.

He had tried so hard to avoid Elizabeth these last nine months—since she’d helped him get his father out of jail. For nearly a year after the last brainwashing, he’d gone through the motions with her, pretending they might be able to get things back to where they were—and then pretending they could be friends.

But Elizabeth had always known him better than anyone else and there were times that he slipped—times when he didn’t remember something he was supposed to—and he didn’t want to explain to anyone that Helena Cassadine had not only manipulated his emotions, she had made Swiss cheese of his memory.

His memories of Elizabeth and of the last three years, were hazy and insubstantial—and every time Elizabeth looked at him, he was afraid she could see how empty he was now.

But she was in trouble, Taggert told him. And Emily had given him some cryptic hints that something was even more deeply wrong in Elizabeth’s new marriage.

So…he would look out for her. She deserved that from him, at least. After everything he’d put her through since his ignominious return from the dead, she deserved whatever help he could give her.

Lansing Home: Front Porch

Elizabeth waited until Ric’s car had pulled out of the driveway and turned the corner before leaving the house. She knew that the drive to Crimson Point would take two hours each way—giving her at least four or five hours to let Jason do what needed to be done.

She walked down to the patrol car where she recognized the rookie from Friday night. She had expected the patrol car to follow Ric, then had been irritated when he didn’t.

“Why are you still here?” she demanded. “You’re supposed to be following my husband.”

Cruz Rodriguez blinked at her. “Ah, what? I—” He shook his head. “No. My orders are to watch you, Mrs. Lansing.” His olive-skinned cheeks took on a bit of a red hue. “We, ah, got someone else on your husband.”

“You think I’m going to lead you to Carly?” Elizabeth demanded. “You think I did this?”

“No,” Cruz said. He sighed. “No, but we know that your husband drugged you, and Detective Taggert was worried about you.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth exhaled. “Oh. Well, okay. Then you need to do something for me.”

He eyed her a bit suspiciously. “Uh—”

“Jason Morgan is going to come to this house and he’s going to tear it apart,” she told him. “He’s going to look for Carly or anything that might lead to her. I doubt that surprises you. I remember you from Friday.”

“I…yes. I guess I figured he was just waiting for Lansing to leave. I—I have to tell my superiors—”

“It doesn’t matter what they know,” Elizabeth muttered. “Because I’m giving the permission. You got it? I don’t want anyone calling anyone at the PCPD about Jason or whoever he brings here. I know how you guys work. How you jump on anything—”

“Mrs. Lansing…” Cruz held his hands up in defeat. “My only orders are to make sure you’re okay. If Jason Morgan can find Carly, then that’s what matters.” He stopped. “You think your husband did this, don’t you?”

“If you tell Ric I do, I’ll deny it,” Elizabeth said with some irritation. She saw a dark SUV pull up. Jason got out of the driver’s side, another man in the passenger, and then—oddly enough—a teen-aged boy from the backseat with a laptop bag. “You seem like a nice guy. Why don’t you drive around the block or something?”

“If you’re okay,” Cruz said after a moment, “there’s no reason anything else has to go in my report.”

Jason approached her, eying the patrol car suspiciously. “He’s still here.”

“He’s here to check on me, I guess.” Elizabeth gestured to the house. “We should go inside.”

Jason signaled to the two men to follow them.

Lansing House: Panic Room

Carly could have wept with joy as she saw Jason on the screen—as she watched Jason follow Elizabeth into the house.

Two men followed—she recognized one as Stan, someone who worked on electronics for them, but she didn’t know the second, younger boy who set up a laptop in the living room and took a large orange soda from his bag.

She watched Jason and Elizabeth go from room to room, looking in every crevice and cranny, opening every door—searching the basement, the study—

For an hour, she watched their slow careful progress—she watched as Jason became frustrated, as Elizabeth became increasingly flustered. They had kept up a conversation the whole time, but with no audio, she could just see that neither of them was happy with how it was going.

How could they miss the panic room? How was it built into the house so that it wasn’t obvious? Frustrated, Carly pounded the walls again. Screamed for them to hear her.

Why couldn’t Jason find her?

Lansing Home: Guest Bedroom

 

Jason almost slammed the closet door shut. That was it. This was the last room in the house.

He’d…he’d really expected to find her today. To find some hint of her. A shoe. A piece of fabric. Some hair. Some sign that she’d been here.

Elizabeth hovered at the doorway, her eyes dark with worry, concern. “I don’t understand,” she murmured as she drifted inside. “There wasn’t enough time for him to go anywhere and still make it home.”

“He must have delivered her to the Zaccharas that night.” Jason slammed his hand on the bureau, the combs and small pieces flying up slightly in the air. “Damn it.”

“I don’t—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “I don’t think so. I—I know you said you and Sonny were worried about it, but—his father—when he called—”

Jason looked at her. “What?”

“Ric didn’t seem happy about it. Irritated. If Ric was working with his father and the Zaccharas—then why did Ric kidnap her himself?” Elizabeth folded her arms, restlessly rubbing them. “Why risk it?”

Jason sank onto the mattress. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he admitted. “I mean, Michael saw it happen. He saw Ric. If Ric had gotten her away without that sighting—it might have been longer before we knew she was gone—” He looked at her. “You wouldn’t have looked so drugged if we’d been even twenty minutes later.”

Elizabeth nodded. “That’s what I’m saying. If Taggert is going after this connection, what are the odds that Ric’s father hasn’t heard about what happened? Maybe that’s why Ric was so irritated when Trevor called.” She sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just over thinking it.”

She looked around the room and then back towards the hallway where she watched as Jason’s electronics man, Stan, placed a camera and bug in the smoke detector in the master bedroom.

“No. You’re—I haven’t really slept,” Jason admitted. “And it’s been almost forty hours. Between Carly’s kidnapping, and the cops being all over everything—”

“Having to save my life,” Elizabeth pointed out with a sigh. “Yeah. I get.” She bit her lip. “Have you…eaten? You should eat and sleep. Carly wouldn’t want you to worry yourself like this. You know she’ll stay strong until you find her. But you’re only human, Jason.”

“Yeah.” Jason hated to admit it, but he had probably run into himself into the ground—he hadn’t wanted to return to the penthouse where he knew Courtney waited.

He was so angry at her for putting them in this position, for putting them under the scrutiny of the PCPD. For what? So that she could feel like she was doing something?

He couldn’t help but compare Elizabeth’s reaction to all of this—her husband had drugged her, nearly killed her, and still—she stood in this room, having opened her home to Jason and his guys—had put her life on the line to find Carly.

And she was right. Taggert and the PCPD might want to think Anthony Zacchara was involved because it would give them the excuse they needed to dig into their businesses, but too much about the kidnapping showed it was done by one man.

“I should check in with Stan and Spinelli.” Jason checked his watch. “We need to talk about the next step. Carly’s not here. There’s no clues.” He met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I can put you on a plane to Emily tonight.”

She was already shaking her head before he even finished speaking. “It’s not just the house I can get you access to,” she told him. “New York is a community property state. As long as I stay here, play along, I can give you permission to go into anything Ric owns. Anywhere. I leave, and you run the risk of getting arrested—”

“I don’t care about getting arrested,” Jason muttered. Even if she was right— “It’s not worth—”

“I told Ric I got sick yesterday. And I could see that worried him. He didn’t mean for me to eat all of that food—that’s why the dose was so high—”

“Don’t—” He blinked at her. “Are you making excuses for him?” Damn it—

Her smile was wry, even as her eyes were irritated. “Because that’s what I do, right? Make excuses. For him. For Lucky, For Zander. He didn’t mean to kill me, so I guess it doesn’t matter that he almost did.”

“I—”

“I think he knows he went too far,” Elizabeth said flatly, cutting off his reply. “I haven’t been eating—so I think he overdid how much he put in. But I didn’t—I didn’t want him to suspect me. I thought it would be okay. So I told him I got sick, and he was terrified that I almost went to the hospital. I told him I wanted to sleep in separate rooms because I didn’t want to have another miscarriage.” She exhaled slowly. “Ric thinks he can manipulate me. Why wouldn’t he? He did it for months and I didn’t even blink.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason’s tone was gentler now. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

“I don’t expect you to understand,” she said with a quick shake of her head. “Because I’m good at ignoring things in front of my face—you should know that. I never thought Lucky would—and I sure as hell defended Zander at every turn—” She looked away, and he could see the shimmer of tears in her eyes. “Anyway. My eyes are open now. I think I can do this for a little while longer.”

Jason sighed. She wasn’t wrong that it would be more convenient to have permission to get into places Ric owned—he didn’t care about the law, but he really didn’t want to be dragged into the police station and locked up. Not while Carly was out there, waiting for him to find her.

“Okay,” he said finally. “Let’s talk about the next step then.”

October 24, 2018

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

It’s the same sad echo when you lie
It’s the same sad echo when you try to be clear
It’s the same as the same sad echo around here
Echo, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers


Sunday, June 21, 2003

Crimson Point, New York

Zacchara Estate: Trevor Lansing’s Office

It was days like these that Trevor Lansing wished like hell he’d drowned the boy in the bath as a child. Richard had been nothing but a disappointment since the day he’d been born—not even special or important enough for his mother to stick around—

He’d done what he could, but Richard was useless.

“You haven’t stuck to the plan since day one,” Trevor snarled when his son arrived that Sunday. “You had your instructions—”

“It’s working,” his son retorted. “I’m just not following your orders.” Ric scoffed. “I’m the one in the middle of everything—why should I listen to you?”

“I got the PCPD breathing down our necks—you know the Crimson Point police are just chomping at the bit to get to Anthony. Faith Roscoe is calling me, making threats—” Trevor whirled around, stabbed a finger at his phone. “You were supposed to be taking Corinthos down from the inside and you’re so far outside—”

“They’re weak right now. Looking for Carly.” Ric shrugged. “You worry too much. Don’t call my home—”

“What, because I might meet your wife?” Trevor let his eyes open wide. “You think I’m stupid, Richard? You think I don’t know about the lure of a pretty girl? You had one job with the Webber girl. Screw her secrets out of her. Find Morgan’s Achilles heel. Get rid of her, Richard. And—well, you might as well kill the Corinthos woman as well. Cut your losses.”

He scowled, turning back to his desk. Perfectly good plan shot to bloody hell. This was supposed to be his chance—his moment to get revenge on Sonny Corinthos for costing him a good woman, leading Adela to her death, and for him to step out from under Anthony Zacchara’s thumb.

The territory was supposed to be his, and he was damned if Richard was going to blow it for him.

“Elizabeth stays,” Ric said, stubbornly. “Morgan doesn’t care about her.”

“Damn it.” Trevor rubbed his face. “This weakness comes your mother, I just know it. Dead more than two decades and she’s still haunting me.” He sat behind his desk. “Look, I’m sure the girl is nice. I’m sorry you lost your kid. Tough break—”

“It’s Sonny’s fault,” Ric insisted. “He pushed her. He killed my baby. And he’s stealing Elizabeth from me.” He shrugged. “So I’m taking his woman. His kid.” He smirked. “I should have killed the little bastard when I grabbed Carly. No witnesses—”

Trevor stared at his son—for the first time, seeing the light in his eyes as something more insidious than anger. Talking about killing kids—Jesus. “Maybe your idea had merit before the cops got involved, but it’s time to cut your losses,” he repeated. “You know your wife only married you because of the kid. Cut her loose. We’ll give her a nice settlement. Come back home. We’ll figure out another way to get at Corinthos—”

This will work.” Ric shook his head. “You just have to let me handle it.”  He paused. “The PCPD thinks I did it for you and Anthony. Maybe if they had a lead to investigate—maybe you can find a way to make them think Carly just left.”

“I can try to lay a few false trails.” Trevor waited a moment. “My patience is running thin, Richard. You’ve let Faith Roscoe dangle in the wind, and she’s crazy. You don’t want her thinking you’re the enemy.”

“I’ll take care of Faith,” Ric said. He glared at his father. “Don’t summon me again. Get the cops off my back so I can do what needs to be done.”

Trevor watched him go and shook his head again. Ric had gone off the deep end, and he had a bad feeling that if he didn’t get the idiot under control, Ric would take everyone down with him when he crashed. He had no intention of helping him with any false leads, to tangle himself up more in this catastrophe than he already had.

They would wait for the scheme to explode and deal with the pieces then.

Monday, June 22, 2003

Brownstone: Living Room

It had been more than three days since Carly had vanished from the church, and Bobbie looked as if she had been awake for every single hour of those days. Her dark red hair lay limply against her shoulders, her dark eyes shadowed.

At her side, her niece Lulu was attempting to feed her—a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee lay untouched on the table.

“I don’t understand how he could have taken her and not have led you to her yet,” Bobbie said, her eyes rimmed with red. “Taggert tells me Ric has barely left the house—only went down to Crimson Point yesterday—no stops. No evidence he’s gone to see her.”

“I know,” Jason said, dragging his hands through his hair. “It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what to do next.”

“You’re sure he acted alone?” Lulu asked, unable to control herself anymore. No one ever asked for her input, and she was eager to try to help. To do something for the aunt that had taken her in without protest after her mother had fallen…. ill.

“Yes,” Jason snapped, tired of defending himself even to a kid. “I am.”

“Hey.” Lulu held up her hands. “Listen. I’m just trying to help. I believe you. I just—” She bit her lip. “A girl listens. And pays attention, you know? Maybe he took Carly on his own, but I mean—has he been working against you guys alone the whole time?”

Jason frowned at her. “What?”

“He’s been in Port Charles since November,” Lulu pointed out. “I remember when he came to Kelly’s because it was my first week and I broke like eighteen plates. Liz was trying to figure out how much to take out of my paycheck when he rented the room.”

“Odd that he went to Kelly’s to rent a room,” Bobbie said, tilting her head. “I remember thinking that then. He dressed in Italian suits, custom made shoes but lived at Kelly’s. He threw a lot of money around—remember?”

“Yeah,” Lulu nodded. “At Mrs. Hardy’s service, I remember he handled all the arrangements, which I thought was nice because Liz was so upset. She argued later because he had paid for a lot of it up front and then wouldn’t take any money when it was settled.”

“He came to Kelly’s because of Elizabeth,” Bobbie murmured. “He was pursuing her almost immediately. Oh…” She pressed her fingers to her lips. “He targeted her.”

“Because of me.” Jason looked away. “Yeah. I tried to tell her that, but—”

“She wouldn’t have listened.” Bobbie got to her feet. “He comes from money, that’s clear. But I’m trying to think of anyone else he’s done legal work for—”

“Well, he helped Ned,” Lulu said. “Remember? They had meetings at Kelly’s. I don’t know what about—Liz always told me not to eavesdrop, but they had paperwork and stuff. And wasn’t Ned pretty pissed at you guys last year?”

“The warehouse.” Jason sat down, put his head in his hands. “Yeah. Kristina, his fiancée was killed. And he’s never liked Sonny.”

“Ned might know something. Maybe a property or just—something.” Bobbie clenched her fists in her lap as Jason’s cell phone rang.

He took it out of his pocket and exhaled slowly, answering it with some relief. “Hey. Yeah. Okay. Thanks. Look, we’ve been talking, and I think we’ve—” He stopped, his brow creasing in frustration. “Elizabeth, don’t—Fine. Yeah, I’ll talk to you in an hour—okay, no, I’ll meet you there.”

He stared at the closed phone for a long moment. “Ric was out looking at office spaces this afternoon,” he said. “She searched the house again. Nothing. Nothing we missed yesterday.”

“There’s nothing in the house,” Lulu said, with some irritation. “Why is she still there? We should just force her to leave. She’s so selfish—”

Jason scowled at her, and Lulu blanched at the banked fury in his eyes. “What?” she said defensively. “She’s making everyone worry about her instead of Carly—”

“She’s doing this for Carly,” Bobbie said, touching Lulu’s hand.

“I get that, but it’s just stupid.” Lulu shrugged. “She knows that as soon as she leaves the house, she’s going to be put on the plane to California. This way, she gets to stay in the middle of it and have everyone look at her.” She pressed her lips together. “Everyone thinks it, Jason, I’m not the only one—”

Everyone,” Jason repeated, getting to his feet. “How many people are speculating about Elizabeth where anyone, including her psycho husband, can hear?”

Feeling a bit chastised now, Lulu hastily tried to take it back. “That’s not what I mean. I mean—I just—I went to check on Michael this morning, and I was talking to Courtney, and she’s—she’s so worried about Carly, and I mean—I’m right, aren’t I? I mean we’re talking about Liz, not Carly. Liz made her choice. It’s like Courtney said—”

“I’m going,” Jason said to Bobbie, tuning Lulu out. “We’ve got eyes and ears on Ric. I’m not going to rest until she’s home, Bobbie.”

“Don’t kill yourself.” Bobbie got to her feet, embraced her daughter’s best friend. “You need to keep your strength up. Eat. Rest. Take care of yourself.”

“I will.” Jason flashed an irritated glance at Lulu before he left.

“He’s just mad because I’m right,” Lulu complained. “I get Liz is trying to help, but now look, Jason’s meeting her at the hospital instead of looking—”

“What is Jason supposed to do?” Bobbie snapped. “Ric is the one who took her. We know he acted alone. He’s watching Ric—” Her voice broke. “And if Ric doesn’t lead us to Carly, then we know she’s—she’s somewhere for us to find, and maybe he’ll—”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Bobbie,” Lulu said miserably. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I know Jason is trying hard. I’m just—I don’t know. Something is so weird about all of this. Like, how can Carly have just vanished? It’s like she has to be in the house because that’s the only place Ric has been, but she can’t be.” She sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I probably shouldn’t have told Jason what Courtney’s been saying about Liz. It’s probably not helping.”

“No, it’s not,” Bobbie said, but then she looked at the meal her niece had been trying to convince her to eat before Jason’s arrival. “We’re doing everything we can right now,” she told Lulu. “But I should take my own advice.” She got to her feet. “I think I’m going to go make some pasta for dinner. I’m suddenly starving.” She would need all the energy she could muster to get through the next few days.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Courtney stepped off the bottom step and frowned as she watched her brother take another drink. She knew for a fact that the bottle of bourbon at the mini bar had been replaced three times since Carly had gone missing.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” she asked, irritated. Why the hell wasn’t he out looking like Jason? Jason was trying to find Carly and had barely been back to their penthouse while her idiot brother sat in this room, drinking himself into a stupor.

“Don’t talk to me about having enough,” Sonny muttered as he tossed back the entire tumbler of bourbon. “There’s not enough alcohol in the world.”

“Michael’s asleep,” Courtney said, folding her arms. “If you even care.”

Sonny whirled around, his dark eyes bright with anger. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that you’re not doing anything to help Carly,” Courtney snarled. “You’re not cooperating with the police, you’re not taking meetings, you’re not even talking to Michael—you’re just drinking yourself into oblivion.”

I’m not doing anything to help?” Sonny shot back, waving the glass at her, weaving slightly. “Fuck you. I don’t cooperate with the police—”

“Oh, yeah, because God forbid Big Bad Sonny Corinthos asks for help!”

“You’re a dumb little girl, you know that?” he squinted at her, then dismissed her by turning back to the bar. He reached for the bourbon.

She rushed across the room and jerked the bottle out of his grasp. “You keep trying to make this my fault, Sonny. Like I did what I did to hurt you and Jason—”

“No, I honestly think you thought you were helping. That’s what makes you an idiot.” Sonny sighed and reached for the vodka instead. “I knew you were an idiot. That’s why I told Jason to stay away from you.” He shook his head. “I told him you couldn’t do this.”

“But Jason ignored you. He loves me,” Courtney said, with a confidence she no longer felt. “He chose me—”

“He wanted to prove me wrong,” Sonny said. He bypassed pouring the alcohol this time, and just drank straight from the bottle. “Wanted to prove everyone wrong.”

“What are you even talking about?”

“Wanted to prove he was his own man, that he didn’t always put me first.” Sonny shook his head. “I should have let him tell her. This is my fault. If I had just told her the truth, she would have stayed.”

“Are—” Courtney frowned. “What did you lie to Carly about? She didn’t leave you, Sonny. She was kidnapped.” With disdain dripping, she continued, “Or are you too drunk to remember that?”

“If she had stayed, you wouldn’t have been there.” Sonny sank onto the sofa, leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “She wouldn’t have called the cops.”

Her blood boiled as she realized exactly who the hell her brother was talking about. “Oh, right, because perfect sainted Elizabeth knows your life,” she growled. “She’s the one who couldn’t handle it. I’m still here. I got kidnapped, didn’t I? Did I run to someone else? Did I leave Jason?”

“No.” Sonny met her eyes. “You got kidnapped for five hours. Not weeks. Not trapped in the dark.” He closed his eyes. “I should have been a better friend. I should have explained it to him. Trapped in the dark. You do anything to make the dark go away.”

“You’re too drunk to talk to,” she muttered, starting across the room. She turned around. “Right now, you’re blaming me. You’re blaming Elizabeth for not staying. Me for calling the police. Look in the goddamn mirror, Sonny. The only person here to blame is you!”

Courtney stabbed a finger at him. “You put Carly in danger, Sonny. Just like you do to everyone in your life. How lucky are we that Michael wasn’t grabbed, too? You couldn’t protect Carly any more than you could protect him. He’s traumatized and you’re down here getting drunk. Some fucking father and husband you turned out to be.”

She slammed the door behind her as she left the penthouse, the door frame cracking.

Sonny opened his eyes and blanched. “You’re not here. You’re not here,” he told himself, squeezing his eyes shut. But when he opened them again, Lily just smiled at him. That sweet smile.

“You couldn’t protect me either, Sonny. You’re not supposed to be a father.” Lily tilted her head. “You should have known better.”

General Hospital: Monica’s Office

Elizabeth stared at the lab report and swallowed hard. “How-how long did you say you could trace the…” She looked up at met Monica’s kind but worried eyes. “Not…not just a month…”

“The hair follicle test suggests it’s around January. Not in great doses—”

Elizabeth closed her eyes as Monica continued, remembering the home cooked dinners he’d made her once he’d moved into his own apartment in February. The spontaneous pastries and treats he had brought to work. The wine he’d brought to her the night her grandmother had been buried.

“Why…why would he—” She swallowed hard. “Why would someone use Valium to drug someone? You said the doses weren’t—”

“It’s used to treat anxiety mostly,” Monica told her. “Panic disorders—” She pressed her lips together. “I don’t know why he started to drug you back then. To keep you calm?”

“I guess.” Elizabeth slid her fingers over the report. “I haven’t felt well since my grandmother passed away. I’ve—I’ve had trouble sleeping. Eating.”

“He might have been trying to help you at first, but at some point—” Monica hesitated. “It’s possible you’ve developed a tolerance, and he had to keep increasing the dosage—”

Her breath seized. “Oh, God, is this why I had the miscarriage? Does this—”

“Valium use during the first trimester can cause malformations, defects.” Monica shook her head. “But not necessarily a miscarriage, though it’s likely—” She bit her lip.

“It’s likely for the best that it happened because my baby would have been damaged.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “It just never stops. He’s been drugging me for months—I nearly died—and if our child had lived—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “What—what happens next? I mean—I don’t know—I don’t understand it—He let me drive—I could have killed someone on Saturday—”

“Elizabeth—” Monica stopped as her intercom beeped. “Yes?”

“Ah, Dr. Quartermaine, your son is here. He said he’s expected.”

“Oh, right, I asked Jason to meet here because Ric’s at the house.” Elizabeth sighed.

“I can have him wait, Elizabeth, while we talk—”

“I’d just have to go over this with him—he knows I’m here for my results.” And even if she didn’t want to tell him—somehow, she knew she had to. She couldn’t live with this on her own.

“Send him in.”

A moment later, Jason entered the office, his expression hesitant. “I didn’t mean to interrupt—I could still wait outside—”

“No, it’s…” Elizabeth handed him the lab report, knowing Jason would understand it. “It turns out he turned me into a drug addict.” She looked back at Monica. “Because I can’t sleep. And—I feel—” She held out her hand which shook slightly. “I think I’m in withdrawal.”

Jason scowled. “He’s been drugging you since January?”

“Well, what I’d like to do, Elizabeth, is to check you into the hospital overnight and we could talk about some things you could do—” Monica nodded. “But I can see from your expression that’s not going to happen.”

“Ric would find out if I was in the hospital overnight,” she told her. “He’s leaving the house more. Looking for office space, but maybe he’s looking for a place to move Carly.”

Jason grimaced. “Elizabeth, this is about your health—”

“We knew Ric was drugging me. We knew it wasn’t just on Friday,” Elizabeth interrupted. “This doesn’t change anything—”

“Your symptoms could get worse, Elizabeth,” Monica pressed. “They can last up to two weeks—” She bit off her words. “I can’t watch you walk out of here, knowing that you risk that animal doing this again—”

“Keep the lab report.” Elizabeth took it back from Jason and handed it to Monica. “Because I might—we might need proof later. But—this can’t keep going on, right? He’ll move Carly this week. We’ll find her. And then, I promise, Monica, anything you want me to do—I’ll do it.”

Monica scowled. “Elizabeth—”

“I’ve made it this far.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, fought back the urge to just scream at them both. She was a goddamn adult and could make her own decisions. “Thank you. I know you’re worried.” She looked at Jason. “I know you’re both worried. But knowing that he’s been doing this to me—I have to help take him down. I have to be part of it. I can’t just fly away to California.”

“If he hasn’t moved Carly this week,” Jason said slowly, “we’ll figure out something else. But this is it, Elizabeth. After Friday—” He swallowed hard, likely upset at the idea that Carly could continue to be missing for that long— “We try something new.”

“Thank you.” She looked back to Monica. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” Monica sighed and looked at her watch. “I have to make my rounds. You can use the office as long as you need to. And keep my number on speed dial, Elizabeth.”

With another unsure sigh, Monica left.

“I know you don’t agree,” Elizabeth said when she was gone. “But—”

“The only reason I’m not throwing you over my shoulder and dragging you kicking and screaming onto a plane is because you’d just turn around and come right back.” Jason swallowed. “I don’t know if Carly is even alive, Elizabeth. And every minute you’re in that house, you might end up dead, too—”

“She’s alive.” Elizabeth touched his arm. “She has to be. There’s no reason for Ric to do anything to her. I think—I think he’s trying to replace our baby.”

“What?” Jason demanded, his face draining of color. “What do you mean?”

“Before—before we moved,” she said. “When I came home after losing the baby—he wanted to try again. Immediately. For a couple of days, it was all he could talk about. I think he thought I’d leave him.” She sighed. “He was right. I only married him because I was pregnant, scared, and alone. But then he stopped talking about it. And he bought the house. And now…I basically told him I don’t want to get pregnant again. I don’t sleep in the same room. And he keeps telling me everything will be fine—that we’ll have our family and I’ll understand.”

Jason sat down in one of Monica’s chairs. “You think—”

“I think he’s got Carly somewhere—alive—and he’s planning on taking her baby. It would be justice. Taking Sonny’s child because he thinks Sonny took ours.” Joke was on Ric—Ric had murdered their child long before Elizabeth was pushed down those steps. “I don’t know who pushed me—”

“That’s who I should be looking for. I should have been looking for them all along.” He stood back up. “Because the police report said you were pushed, they just didn’t have any suspects.”

‘The report—” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, Ric said the police didn’t—” She huffed. “Of course, he lied about that, too. He said the police weren’t interested—but they did look into it.”

“Taggert likes you,” Jason said plainly. “And he thought he could get Sonny. But Sonny was caught on camera in the parking lot. He questioned Sonny, but—he seemed to think it wasn’t likely Sonny would use you to get at Ric.”

“I never thought he would.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “But someone did. I—I don’t know why I haven’t really—could finding that out help us find out where Carly is?”

“I know Ric kidnapped her on his own, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working with someone since he came to Port Charles. “Jason hesitated. “What do you know about Ned working with Ric?”

“Ned?” she repeated. “I mean—I think Ric handled some property stuff for ELQ after Sonny and Carly fired him—” She hesitated. “But Ned hates you. And—And I know Ned has…worked with Faith Roscoe. She…. really hates me.”

“Faith?” Jason shook his head. “Why?”

“Because—” Elizabeth looked away. “Because I—of Ric. I don’t know if they were—I don’t know. But she’s been…. around.”

“Okay.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay. I can look into them. Is—is Cody working out okay?”

“Yeah, he’s great. And it’s been—” Her throat felt thick as she tried to continue. “I’ve felt a lot safer knowing he was right outside if I needed him. Thank you.”

“I wish like hell you’d just leave, but I don’t have time to argue that again. I have to meet Justus and Sonny—” Jason hesitated. “You’ll call or text me in an hour?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth nodded. “I promise.” She picked up her purse. “I should get going. If I get home first, I can order dinner in and not have to make excuses.”

Jason followed her out, but they split up at the end of the hall. She took the elevator down to the lobby, and he took the stairs.

Corinthos Penthouse: Hallway

When Jason stepped off the elevator, he was surprised to find Justus waiting outside the door with Max. He frowned. “Is there something wrong?”

“Sonny isn’t letting me in,” Justus said with a sigh. “He’s…Max said he’s having a rough day.”

They looked at Max, who just shrugged. “Miss Matthews was over earlier, and they had words.” Jason scowled at the thought of his fiancée—whatever good sense he and Sonny had attributed to Courtney had disappeared since Friday night and her call to the cops.

Courtney had done nothing but be a nuisance for four days straight.

Jason stepped past Max and knocked. “Sonny—”

Sonny jerked the door open, his black hair disheveled, his eyes red. “Did you find her?”

“No, but—”

“Don’t come back until you do.”

He slammed the door. Jason glanced at Justus, who looked as troubled as Jason felt. It had taken only days for Sonny to hit the edge of what he could handle—

And Jason wasn’t sure he had the time or energy to drag Sonny back from the abyss.

“Is—anyone home at my place?” Jason said hesitantly. The fact that he was dreading the thought of facing Courtney told him he had some decisions to make when this was all over.

“Miss Matthews went to the Brownstone. She took Michael to see his grandmother when he woke up from his nap.”

“We can go to my place,’ Jason told Justus.

“It’s fine,” Justus said, with a wave of his hand. “I just wanted to let you know that we got the injunction against the search warrants of the commercial properties. It’s going to give us some breathing room to get things in order, but there’s a hearing next week.”

“By then, this should be over. “Jason didn’t want to think about how horrible it would be for all of them to be living in this nightmare much longer.

“If it isn’t,” Justus continued, “the odds are that they’ll grant the warrant. Should—should I let Johnny O’Brien continue taking care of what needs to be done?”

“Yeah.” They looked towards Sonny’s closed door. “Yeah.  Johnny and Tommy know what to do. You—you can touch base with me for a few days. I think we need to give Sonny some space.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

The room was dark—the only light slipped through the curtains he’d drawn across his windows. Sonny sat on the floor in front of the unlit fireplace, his knees drawn up, a bottle of whiskey at his side—he’d gone through the vodka once Courtney had taken Michael to Bobbie’s and moved on to what was left.

Courtney was right. They were all right. He was a drunk who couldn’t protect his family. Why did he think he could have children? Why did he think God would stop punishing him?

“That’s right,” Lily said, her smile warm and encouraging. She slid the whiskey closer to him. “That’s right, Sonny. You will never be a father. Everything you touch dies. You’re poison.”

“You’re not real,” Sonny muttered, bringing the whiskey to his lips, desperate to make her go away, even if he had to black out to do it.

“No, I’m dead. And it’s your fault. It’s your fault your son is dead. All of your sons.” A smile spread across Lily’s face—a malevolent smile that his sweet wife had never had in real life. Was he being haunted? Was he being tortured?  “For all you know, Carly is already dead. So, drink up Sonny, until you’re too drunk to care.”

October 29, 2018

This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

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?

Kelly’s: Courtyard

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.”

“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—”

“Elizabeth—”

“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.”

“Friday, Elizabeth—”

“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.”

October 31, 2018

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

As you turn to your mind,
And your thoughts they rewind,
To old happenings and things that are done,
You can’t find what’s passed,
Make that happiness last,
Seeing from those eyes what you become,
What you become
Haunt, Bastille


Friday, June 27, 2003

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Scott scowled and threw his hands up. “How can we be nowhere after a week?” he demanded.  “Where the hell is she?”

“If we knew that, we’d have her,” Capelli growled. He jabbed his finger at Scott. “If your office could get me my damn warrants—”

“What the hell good is it going to do to search Corinthos and Morgan’s properties?” Scott dismissed it. “You have no probable cause and I’ll be shocked as hell if the judge says anything differently next week.” He looked at Mac. “If I have to take one more angry call from the fucking mayor and be told it’s an election year one more time—what the hell have your men been doing?”

Mac sighed. “We don’t have a lot of leads, Scott. You gotta give us a break—we had one eye witness—a six-year-old kid who was almost too terrified to even give a statement. He saw Ric. Great. We’ve investigated Lansing. We’ve had him under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He goes from his house to search out offices around town and then home again. What do you want me to do?”

Scott sat down on the sofa, put his head in his hands. “I can’t tell Bobbie that we can’t find her daughter. She’s already looking at us like we’re useless, and hell, maybe we are.”

“Hey,” Capelli said. “We’re trying our best—”

“If we hadn’t showed up last week, Corinthos and Morgan would have hung that piece of shit by his dick and they’d have found Carly in hours.” Disgusted with himself, he continued, “That’s where I am, people. I wish like hell our resident gangsters could have free rein because we can’t do shit.”

“We’re pursuing the Zacchara angle,” Capelli insisted. “It’s gotta be it. We know about the wife of someone he had blown up a few years ago. Corinthos’ wife goes missing, it’s gotta be a warning or something. If we had done what I wanted and gotten someone on the inside—”

“No one outside of the inner circle knows what’s going on. That wouldn’t have done us any good.” He looked at Mac. “The press is eating us alive because we haven’t given them any leads. I can’t believe Lansing’s name hasn’t leaked.”

“That’s because Corinthos threatened the papers,” Capelli said with a smirk. “I told you—they’re just waiting until they can get their hands on Lansing. And then we’ll get them all. Lansing for kidnapping, and Corinthos and Morgan for attempted murder—”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about Corinthos and Morgan right now,” Scott snapped. “I care about the missing pregnant woman. I care about the mayor losing my number. I care about the voters who are threatening me with a recall election. They think we’ve been going after the grieving husband—you’ve hauled Corinthos and Morgan in for questioning more than any suspects—in fact, why the hell don’t I have any official police statements from Lansing and his wife?”

Mac raised his brows at his officer. “That is a good question. You should have called the paramedics and forced Elizabeth to go to the hospital. We could have gotten him on drugging her. Made him cool his heels in the cell.”

She wouldn’t go to the hospital,” Capelli retorted. “And she’s in this up to her goddamn elbows. I can’t figure out what game she’s playing. Either she’s in on it with Lansing or she’s screwing Morgan on the side because I got Jason Morgan going to that house every day as soon as Lansing leaves.”

“She’s letting him in to search,” Scott said after a moment. He exhaled slowly. “It’s obvious, you idiot. Read your own report. She’s the one who granted permission for the search in the first place. She’s still there to give him access to Ric’s papers.” Scott gestured at him. “Mac, are all the officers on the case this goddamn stupid?”

“Hey. She’s helping, fine. But we’re not getting anywhere. Wouldn’t he have figured that out after the first day? They’re having some kind of affair.” Capelli narrowed his eyes. “We should leak that to the press.”

“What?” Scott repeated, his eyes wide. “Leak what? Are you fucking insane—”

“Yeah,” Capelli continued with a nod, liking his own train of thought. “They got history. Everyone knows he’s been screwing her since she was barely legal. We leak the affair to the press, Lansing flips out. If he’s working alone, then he kidnapped Carly to get back at Sonny over the kid they lost. He might make a mistake.”

“You are not telling the press that two innocent parties to this investigation are having an affair,” Scott snarled. “Especially to get a rise out of Ric. If you’re right, he might kill Carly.”

“Shit, she’s probably already dead. He probably killed her that night or turned her over to the Zaccharas who wouldn’t have let her live long.” Capelli shrugged. He looked to Mac who had remained silent throughout this exchange. “This is still my case, Mac. Is he going to tell me how to investigate?”

“I’m telling you that you’re not opening this department up for a lawsuit,” Scott seethed. “Get your men under control, Mac. And get some damn results. Lansing should be brought in for questioning.”

He stormed out of the office, leaving the two cops alone. Mac eyed his officer. “I don’t like it,” he said evenly.

“I’m not convinced she’s not involved,” Capelli repeated. “The only reason we think Lansing drugged her is because we know she was high when we were there. She lost a kid, Mac. You’re telling me that doesn’t screw with people? Maybe she and Lansing are both screwed up. Maybe she’s playing everyone. I don’t know. I haven’t pushed because Taggert thinks she’s this innocent kid—but I think she’s proved that she’s not. She’s married to Ric Lansing, we both know she’s been dating Jason Morgan, she was up to her eyeballs in all the Cassadine shit—”

Mac waved at him. “Leak it,” he murmured. “To the Sun. A small gossip item, speculation or something. Make sure it doesn’t come back to us.” He hesitated. “I’m serious, Capelli. Not a single breadcrumb because when it hits the papers—” He looked away. “Scott’s going to kill us if he finds out I allowed this.”

“Hey, I know what I’m doing. It’s time to shake this case up.”

Lansing House: Living Room

Bobbie stepped over the threshold and examined Elizabeth with a critical eye. In the week since Carly had been kidnapped, she thought the younger woman had probably lost even more weight, giving her eyes a sunken in look—the bones of her collarbone prominent beneath the cream-colored tank top she wore.

“No news,” Bobbie said with an irritated sigh. “I talked to Scott and he said they’re nowhere.” She started to pace. “I don’t understand how she can just vanish.” She pressed her fingers to her to her temples. “I keep thinking what if we have it all wrong?”

Elizabeth sighed and closed the door. Her eyes blurred a bit and she stumbled as she turned. Damn it. How much longer would she be dealing with this withdrawal? Monica had told her to expect dizziness, nausea, being short of breath, restlessness—

She felt like she was going to come out of her skin if something didn’t happen soon.

“I know.” She sat down gingerly on the sofa, rubbing her arms. “Jason has been in to search every single day. I feel like we’ve gone over this house a thousand times. Every piece of paper—but nothing. I mean, it has to be Ric. There has to be a clue here. The evidence doesn’t fit any other scenario, but—” Her head was pounding, her mouth was dry. “We put more cameras in, so maybe we’ll get something from that. Maybe it’s just—maybe it’s just the drugs or coming off of them—but I almost feel like she’s watching me. Like there’s something here.”

Bobbie closed her eyes. “I know. Michael saw Ric take her. He’s six, but he’s not stupid. He knew what Ric looked like. We know Ric drugged you. He mixed it with alcohol, so it was even more potent. He wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t involved.”

“Maybe he didn’t bring her here,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe we were wrong about why he drugged me—maybe it was just so I wouldn’t notice he was gone.”

“I just can’t keep—” Bobbie scrubbed her hands over her face. “Everyone is looking at me with pity, like they think she’s already dead. Jason looks like a zombie, you’re on the brink of a medical disaster because you’re not eating and sleeping, and my daughter—” She stopped.

“I’m terrified that we’re wrong. That we’ve spent the last week searching for dead ends, but—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “Jason said that no one from the Zacchara family was in the area. And if it was—if it was business, wouldn’t they know? I mean…when I was kidnapped last year, Jason knew about it. He knew who it was. He accidentally—” Her cheeks flushed. “The guy keeping me died so he couldn’t tell Jason where I was. But—that’s how this is supposed to work. You don’t take someone for leverage if you don’t want to use the leverage.”

Bobbie frowned, folded her arms. “Jason has told you a lot, I see. More than he’s told me.”

“I—” She licked her lips again. They were so damn dry.  “We keep going over and over everything. I think—I think he said Sonny is struggling, and I know from the papers that the PCPD is going after them. Jason said Sonny is working on keeping them out of jail, so Jason is looking for Carly. And I guess—I don’t think he’s keeping things from you, Bobbie.”

“No, no. I don’t think so either. I guess you’ve always known more about Jason’s business than you’ve let on.” She sighed, sat on the sofa. “I think about that Christmas a lot, you know. When I took care of Jason’s gunshot wound.”

“I try not to,” Elizabeth murmured. “I was so scared when I found him. And he was so damn stubborn. He didn’t want me to tell anyone, so I didn’t, but I didn’t know if I could really take care of him.”

“You did such a good job. I guess it just reminds me of Robin and Courtney.” Bobbie looked away. “Jason was shot before that—and Robin called 911, forced him to go to the hospital. And Courtney called the cops. Let them in to search the penthouse. Just—” She shook her head. “I don’t know what made me think of that winter in your studio.”

“Well, we’re working together—the three of us—for the first time since then,” Elizabeth pointed out with a half-smile. “And remembering how much of a pest Carly made herself. After that, she pretty much hated me.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Bobbie dipped her head. “I just want her back, Elizabeth. I don’t know if we’ve missed something. If we’re all just—if we’re all just going in circles, going over the same information again and again. I wish there was someone we could take this to but there’s not. There’s no one who gets it.”

“I know.” Elizabeth’s watch beeped, and she sighed as she reached for her purse. She dug around and pulled out her phone. “I have to check in with Jason.”

“He really meant every hour, huh?”

“Yeah…I fell asleep yesterday at the studio and missed a check in,” she murmured as she pressed the speed dial. “He called Cody within like…I don’t know, thirty seconds—Hey. Yeah, I’m fine. He’s not here. Office space again. He must be looking in every single building in the greater metropolitan area. Bobbie’s here—Okay. Yeah. Bye.” She closed the phone. “He’s at the penthouse with Justus. Sonny’s…having trouble so he had to take care of business today.” She put the phone back in her purse, careful to tuck it into her secret pocket. “I wish I could do more for him. He’s got all this weight on his shoulders.”

“I know.” Bobbie got to her feet. “I should go see if I can do something with Sonny. Carly would want me to look out for him. He must be out of his damn mind with worry.” Elizabeth followed her to the door, and the two embraced. “Take care of yourself and don’t forget to check in with Jason.”

“I won’t. I’m trying very hard not to be one more person he has to worry about.” Elizabeth sighed and closed the door behind her. She leaned back against it.

“Carly?” she called out. Again, a little more loudly. “I don’t know if you can hear me. I don’t know if you’re even here, but I don’t know. Just—don’t lose hope. Jason’s—he’s going to find you. I promise.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Upstairs Hallway

Irritated, Courtney strode towards the guest room where her brother had been holed up for the last few days. He’d refused to take any visitors—had sent Michael to stay with Bobbie as if he couldn’t be bothered with his own goddamn son—

He was being so selfish, so useless. Jason was never home, out until all hours of the night worrying about everyone but Courtney, and she was sick of Jason shouldering all of Sonny’s responsibilities.

She threw open the door. “Sonny—”

She couldn’t see her brother right away—the room was in shambled, the dark comforter twisted and pulled halfway across the bed—the desk chair broken and over turned.

“Sonny—?”

In the corner, her brother sat, crossed legged. His eyes weren’t on Courtney but staring ahead. “You’re never going to forgive me,” he said to the empty space in front of him. “I didn’t want you to die, but you’re never going to stop punishing me—”

“Sonny—” Courtney’s voice trembled. Her brother was disheveled—he hadn’t shaved in days, his hair was in loose curls around his temples, his voice raspy, the dark eyes rimmed so deeply in red— “Sonny,” she repeated, trying to make herself louder.

“Courtney.” Sonny focused on her. He looked relieved to see her. He beckoned to her. “You can—you can tell her. Tell her I didn’t want to kill her. That it’s not Carly’s fault.”

“Tell who?” Courtney said, faintly. Oh, Christ, her brother had snapped.

“She’s right there.” Sonny pointed at the empty space. “Tell her, Lily. Tell her why you’re here.”

“L-Lily…”

“She says it’s my fault, that I’m being punished, but it’s not fair to punish me.” He closed his eyes, shook his head. “Not fair to punish me.”

He reached for her, but Courtney had already fled out of the room and down the hall.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason walked Justus out of the penthouse and started for the stairs to exchange the used clothes in his duffel bag for clean ones. He couldn’t bring himself to come back to this place and share a room with Courtney when he knew that one of the reasons Carly was still missing was because Courtney had tied all of their hands and called the police.

He couldn’t look at her, couldn’t understand how he had so badly misunderstood exactly who she was—why he had ever believed she understood his life better than other women who had been in it.

He was considering calling Diego, the guy trailing Ric, to find out how much longer Lansing might be gone. He hadn’t searched the house yet today, and not to search it made Jason feel like they were giving up.

Like they were just waiting to find Carly’s body—and that he was not going to deal with that. The only way this was going to end was finding Carly alive and healthy and getting Elizabeth away from Ric Lansing.

Milo, Max’s little brother, knocked on Jason’s door, intending to announce his visitor but Bobbie came in before he had a chance. “Jason. I’m glad I caught you.”

“Hey.” He hugged her briefly. “I thought you were with Elizabeth.”

“I was, but I wanted to come here to check on Sonny. She said he’s been struggling. I thought—I thought maybe he sent Michael to stay with me because of Lulu and Lucas—so Michael could have someone to distract him.” Bobbie braced her hands on Jason’s forearms. “But it’s worse than that.”

“He—he was doing okay at first,” Jason admitted. “But he stopped letting us in on Monday and I’ve been—I’ve been letting Justus and Bernie take care of business matters. I should be checking on him—”

“But you have a thousand things to worry about—” Bobbie exhaled sharply. “I need to have something to do, Jason. And we need to change tactics. We need to try something new.”

“I know.” Jason groaned as he turned and started to pace. “It’s been a week, and we’re nowhere. I thought Ric was looking for somewhere to move her—but there’s nothing. Elizabeth and I have torn that house apart, and my contacts at the PCPD tell me they don’t know anything either—”

He grimaced. “It’s Friday. I told Elizabeth I didn’t want her to stay another night in the house but she’s going to argue with me. And she’ll be right. I’ve missed something in the house. I must have, I just don’t know where.”

“If you missed it, we all did,” Bobbie reassured him. “Elizabeth and I were going over it, and everything keeps coming back to the house. It’s the only place that Ric spends any time. The only way this makes sense is if Ric didn’t do it—”

“He did it,” Jason said darkly. “Michael saw him—”

“I don’t doubt that, Jason. And Elizabeth said you’re pretty sure the Zaccharas aren’t involved.” She bit her lip. “Or am I not supposed to know that she knew that?”

“I can’t keep any of that straight anymore.” Jason dragged his hands through hair. “No, I guess I shouldn’t have told her, but it just came out. She’s the only one who gets it—and you, I mean—but—”

“She’s someone you trust, I get it.” Bobbie hesitated. “Where does any of this leave us, Jason? Where is Ric keeping my daughter?”

“There—she’s in the house. It’s the only thing that make sense. It’s the only place Ric goes every day. Unless—”

“Unless he killed her that first night. Unless she never stepped foot in the house.” Bobbie was pale but nodded. “I’m—I’m starting to allow that to be a theory. Maybe something went wrong and he—”

“I can’t let it be something I consider. Because she’s out there, and she’s counting on me, and Elizabeth is counting—” Jason broke off. “I just don’t know what to do next.”

The door shoved open, and Courtney ran in. “Jason, you have to—Sonny—he’s gone crazy!”

Jason blinked at his fiancée as Bobbie scowled. “What?” she demanded.

“He’s sitting upstairs and he’s talking to Lily like she’s there—” Courtney didn’t even finish her sentence before Bobbie and Jason rushed out—

And then Bobbie slammed the door shut behind her when Courtney tried to follow.

Corinthos Penthouse: Guest Bedroom

Jason stopped Bobbie before she could follow him. “Listen. There’s—Downstairs, in the room where I used to sleep when I lived here—there’s a first aid kit. It—” He swallowed hard. “There’s a sedative.”

Bobbie frowned. “A sedative? This isn’t the first time then—”

“It’s been a few years since it’s been this bad—and he’s never seen Lily,” Jason admitted. “I think he’s been drinking pretty steadily since Carly was kidnapped, and when he’s stressed—sometimes he has a breakdown and has hallucinations. We got a doctor to give us something to give him—I’ll do it, you just—”

“I don’t care about my license. I’ll go get the kit.” Bobbie went back down the hallway.

Jason walked into the room and found Sonny leaning against the wall on the far side of the room, his legs sprawled out in front of him. “Sonny?”

“I’m useless, aren’t I?” Sonny murmured, his eyes closed. “Lily told me that. It’s my fault, and I can’t even make it right.”

“Lily was a nice a woman who didn’t know you that well,” Jason said gently as he gingerly knelt down next to Sonny. “She never, not for one minute, would have blamed you.”

“She does. Can’t you hear her?” Sonny gestured to a space just behind Jason. “She blames me. Courtney does. I tried to blame her, tried to make it her fault, but it’s mine.”

“Sonny—”

“I’m the reason Ric didn’t have a mother, so that’s why he’s crazy. And it’s my fault my mother died. She tried to give me a father.” Sonny’s voice was monotone, almost eerily empty as he continued. “It’s my fault Lily died. It was supposed to be me.”

“It’s her father’s fault—”

“It’s my fault Ric came for Carly. Why she’s missing. He says I killed his baby.” Sonny opened his eyes. “Did I? I’ve killed babies before.”

“Sonny—”

“I don’t think—” Sonny’s voice was thick now with tears. “I like Elizabeth. I don’t think I would have pushed her. But maybe I did. I’m poison, Jason.”

“No, you’re not. You know Lily’s not here,” Jason said, swallowing a lump in his throat. “It’s just you saying these things. Because you’re scared. I’m scared, too.”

“Yeah?” Sonny focused on him. “Why?”

“Because it’s been a week,” Jason admitted. “And I don’t know if I’m right. I don’t know if Ric has her in that house. And if he doesn’t, Elizabeth will have put herself into danger for nothing. I’m scared she’s already gone, Sonny. Or that Ric is going to cut his losses and hurt Elizabeth—even kill her this time.” Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t have all the answers, Sonny. I wish like hell I did.”

Sonny looked past him again. “She’s not there anymore,” he said quietly. “I guess maybe she never was.”

Behind him, Bobbie gently set down the first aid kit. “Hey, Sonny.”

“Bobbie.” Sonny focused on his mother-in-law. “I’m sorry. I love Carly. I never wanted this to happen. I’m so sorry.”

“I know you are,” Bobbie said gently. “Will you let me take care of you? Carly would want me to look after you.” She held out her hand, and together, they pulled Sonny to his feet.

Sonny bobbed and weaved, then laid on the bed. “I’m so tired,” he murmured. He laid his head against the pillow and didn’t even flinch as Bobble delivered the shot.

They waited until Sonny was sleep, and then went downstairs.

Bobbie closed her eyes. “I’m going to call Nikolas,” she told him. “Nikolas is a set of fresh eyes. He can look at this situation and maybe he won’t get stuck. He’ll want Liz out of the house as much as we do and maybe he’ll have some ideas. He’s the only person I can think of who might be able to help.”

She focused on Jason. “You need to send Courtney away.”

“What?” Jason looked at her, squinted. “Why—”

“Because you’re killing yourself to avoid her. Because you know you’re ending it. And she’s just a distraction. An obstacle. She probably made things worse with Sonny, and God knows if she might cooperate with the cops again. Every time I see her, I want to choke the life out of her, so I can’t imagine how you feel about her. Send her to the island with Michael. I’ll talk to Lucas and Lulu. They can go with her.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I keep thinking I don’t understand how any of this happened,” he admitted. “How—how did I almost marry her, Bobbie? I don’t think I even like her very much.”

Bobbie managed a weak smile. “I’ve been married enough to know that sometimes…you do it because you don’t think there’s anything better out there. It’s never okay to settle, Jason. I’ve done that more than once in my life.”

He sighed. “Yeah, well, you’re right. Courtney can take care of Michael and I won’t have to worry about him. You call Nikolas, and I’ll make the arrangements.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

There was a suitcase by his door when Jason finally went back to his place. He stared down at it—less than a year ago, he had walked through this door and found another suitcase packed, left at his door by a different woman.

When Elizabeth had walked away—when he’d seen that suitcase and known that he avoided the penthouse for too long—that he had waited too long—a hole had opened inside of him—an ache in his chest that only spread when she’d looked at him with those angry, betrayed eyes.

Looking at another woman preparing to leave him—the fact that knowing Courtney was going—it was relief. This was over.  She’d been a mistake—a wrong path—and now he’d have the chance to stop it. To end it before they both made this worse.

Courtney stopped at the bottom of the stairs, another suitcase in her hands. “I think it’s time we both stopped pretending you give a damn about me,” she said flatly. “You can’t say you love me, that you want to marry me, and treat me the way you have for the last week.”

“I—” Jason hesitated. “No. I care about you, but I knew even before Carly went missing that we were making a mistake.”

She swallowed hard, tears shining in her blue eyes. “I could feel you slipping away from me. As long as we were in crisis mode—as long as there was something else going on—we didn’t have to think about the fact that you didn’t love me. I don’t know why you lied to me—”

“I wanted to love you,” he admitted, painfully. “I thought—I thought you understood the way I had to live my life. You acted like you did—”

“I called the cops because my best friend was missing, and my nephew was devastated. I was afraid you and Sonny were going to kill Ric.” Courtney swallowed. “But you know…I guess I’ve ignored what you do. I put it into a box. I’m not like Elizabeth.”

Jason didn’t have the energy to have this conversation. Things had to get done. “I need you to go to the island,” he said, changing course. “I need—Michael needs to get away from this. Lulu and Lucas are going to go with you, but I need to know that he’s okay and somewhere safe.”

“You need me out of the way, too.” Courtney pursed her lips, exhaled slowly, and then nodded. “Yeah. Okay. It’s clear that everything I try to do here is just making it worse. You and Sonny hate me. And I guess bringing the cops in made a mess of things. I didn’t—I didn’t want that, Jason—”

“I know you were trying to help,” Jason cut in. “It just—it didn’t.”

“Yeah. Well, I guess I’ll finish packing. Let me know when I’m leaving.” She went back up the stairs, and he left, feeling dissatisfied with how that had gone.

He’d never meant to hurt Courtney, but by lying to himself, he’d lied to her, too. He didn’t recognize himself and couldn’t understand why it had taken so long to just admit the truth.

He couldn’t worry about Courtney anymore—he had to get the plane ready and let the people at the island know they were coming. Another thing to add to the list that only seemed to get longer every day.

November 5, 2018

This entry is part 10 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
I don’t know why I instigate
And say what I don’t mean
I don’t know how I got this way
I’ll never be alright
So I’m breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit tonight
Breaking the Habit, Linkin Park


Friday, June 27, 2003

 Brownstone: Living Room

 Bobbie tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the long-distance call to connect with Nikolas. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lucas and Lulu bickering about what to pack, what not to take, and Lulu trying to get out of the trip altogether.

“Bobbie?” Nikolas’s voice seemed a bit faint. “Hey—”

“Hey. I don’t know how much you know about what’s going on here this last week,” she said as she cut off his greeting. “Has Lucky called you?”

“Ah…no.” Nikolas’s voice got a bit stronger. “But Emily did—Carly’s missing, and Elizabeth’s husband is the primary suspect? She called me a few days ago, but she said I shouldn’t come to Port Charles—”

“That was then. This is now.” Bobbie pressed her free hand to her temple. “We’re out of ideas. The PCPD can’t find Carly, Jason is frantic, and Sonny’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown—though I think maybe that’s actually more like he’s now recovering from some kind of breakdown. I don’t know. You’re the only person left in Liz’s life who gives a damn. And you—well the Cassadines are psychos, so—”

“Maybe I have some insight into other psychos?” Nikolas said dryly. “I can be there tomorrow, Bobbie. You can explain everything to me then and I’ll see what I can do.”

Bobbie closed her eyes. She hadn’t imagined he’d come right home. “You can leave Laura? It’s not going to mess her up? Elizabeth would never forgive me if I—”

“Mom is responding well,” Nikolas said. “And Lesley and Luke can handle things for a few weeks. And she’d never forgive me if I let something happen to Elizabeth.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She and Nikolas said their goodbyes, and Bobbie hung up. She turned her attention to the bickering idiots in her living room. “Look, I get that neither of you want to go to the island with Courtney and Michael.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to go,” Lucas said. “I don’t know why she’s coming.”

“Hey, I can stay home—”

“Michael likes you, Lu,” Bobbie said, almost exasperated. “And I thought you’d have some sympathy for him. You know what it’s like to be missing your mother, to be worried about her.”

Lulu closed her mouth and frowned. “I do, Aunt Bobbie. I just…” She lifted her hands. “You sure you won’t need me here? Who’s going to take care of you?”

“Nikolas is coming back tomorrow,” Bobbie said, instead of arguing that she’d taken care of herself for her entire life and certainly didn’t need a teenager to look out for her. “Thank you.”

“Mom….” Lucas embraced her, and Bobbie hugged him back tightly. “Hey. I know you’re scared. If this is what is going to help you deal with this, then that’s what I’m going to do. I just….” He drew back, shaking his head slightly. “I hope everything turns out well.”

“Me, too.” Bobbie then hugged Lulu. “Jason said the plane should be ready in a few hours, so you guys better get going to the airport and meet Courtney there with Michael.”

Elizabeth’s Studio

Elizabeth stared at the sketch pad in her hand, the pencil lines little more than scribbles. She’d come to the studio today because she needed a break from the house—because she needed to pretend for just one minute that her life was okay.

But it was hard to hold up that pretense with the patrol car that had followed her car from the house to the studio—right behind the dark car which Cody drove. She had her own personal escort to keep her safe, but what did Carly have?

And where was Carly? Was she in the house? Elizabeth couldn’t imagine how she was, but maybe she wasn’t crazy. She felt like she wasn’t alone when she should be.

If Carly was in the house—was she alive? She had to be alive—why else would Ric kidnap her?

Elizabeth rubbed her head. She was tired of the headaches, the exhaustion she carried with her, the nausea—all of the things Monica had warned her she’d deal with for the next few weeks as she came down from the Valium Ric had been giving her for months.

Drugging her for months. Elizabeth still couldn’t wrap her mind around that kind of betrayal—couldn’t understand it—Monica had said the dosages had been low, infrequent, and hadn’t picked up until after the miscarriage. But knowing that there had been the possibility that her child had already been…. compromised…she almost couldn’t process that.

Had…had he drugged her when he wanted to sleep with her? Was that why she’d turned to him after her grandmother’s funeral? They’d slept together then for the first time…and then infrequently after that. She’d never really been able to find the comfort she sought—

Had Ric drugged her to sleep with her? God. Didn’t that mean she’d—

She cut herself off from that train of thought immediately because she really couldn’t process the logical next step.

Cody knocked on her door, then opened it slightly. “Jason’s here.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth frowned, let her feet fall to the ground from the sofa as she set the sketch pad aside. “Was—was I expecting you?”

“No,” Jason admitted, dragging his hand through his hair, leaving it to rest at the nape of his neck. He waited for Cody to close the door. “I—I was on my way to meet with Ned, but I wanted—” He hesitated. “Bobbie came by earlier, and—”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “You’re upset,” she realized. “What happened?”

Jason sat on the edge of the sofa—at the other end. He clasped his hands between his spread-out knees and stared down at them. “You know Sonny has been struggling…”

“I mentioned it to Bobbie—I hope that was okay—”

“Yeah. No, it was fine. She was there when—” He paused. “Sonny has dark moods. I don’t really understand them, but sometimes he…breaks down. And today…he was talking to Lily.”

“Lily…the wife that…” Elizabeth restlessly rubbed her hand against her jean-clad thigh. “Oh, God. Poor Sonny. This must bring that all back. He’s always blamed himself for that, right? And now…another pregnant wife he couldn’t protect.”

Jason nodded wordlessly. “I gave him a sedative, but—yeah. I don’t know. I knew he wasn’t doing well, but Courtney was supposed to be taking care of him.” He glanced at her quickly then looked away. “She’s taking Michael to the island tonight.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip. “It’ll be good for Michael to get away. I’m sure he’s been so upset by all of this.”

“I just—” He shook his head. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. I’ve—I’ve been able to see you every day, and I didn’t—we didn’t search the house today.”

“No, I guess we’ve gotten what we can from the house.” She sighed. “I still…I feel like we’ve missed something, you know? I don’t know how because we’ve torn the place apart, but there has to be something there.”

“I know. I can’t think of what could be there, but—it’s the only place where he spends any time, so…” Jason trailed off. Shook his head. “I meant to tell you that Bobbie called Nikolas to ask him to come home.”

“Nikolas?” Elizabeth repeated, leaning back a little. “She’s not trying to get him to talk to me about—”

“No,” Jason said. “We’ve both given up on that. But we’ve…we’ve gone in circles with what we know. Maybe someone who hasn’t been here—”

“And someone who has crazy in his DNA?” Elizabeth suggested with a half a smile. “Yeah, maybe that makes sense. It can’t hurt, and it’ll be nice to see him. He left a message last week on the machine while I was—” She blinked. “He left a message for me,” she repeated. “I must have been asleep when he called. And Ric would have picked up if he’d been home—”

“It could narrow down the time frame. Prove Ric didn’t have the time to take her somewhere else.” Jason got to his feet. “I’ll call Stan and Spinelli and get them on the phone records.” His eyes caught the clock on her wall next to the door. “I should—I’m supposed to meet Ned about his business dealings with Ric and Faith, so I should go.”

Elizabeth stood as well and followed him to the door. “I should be getting home,” she admitted. “The last thing I need is for Ric to show up here and—” She gestured at the door. “Find Cody.”

He turned to face her. “Elizabeth—I know I said I’d given up, but—” He swallowed hard, his eyes searching hers. “I hate you going back there.” He hesitated. “Back to him.”

“I know,” Elizabeth murmured. Without meaning to, her eyes filled, and her throat felt tight. “I don’t want to,” she admitted. “Everything in the last six months—it’s been a lie—and I keep thinking about why he started to give me Valium—every time I look at him, I know what he did to the baby—”

“I didn’t even—” Jason touched her shoulder, his face stricken. “Is that what caused the—”

“No, but Monica said it might have been a blessing,” Elizabeth’s voice trembled. “Because…it…there might have been defects and—” A sob slipped out and she turned away. “I can’t stand it. What kind of person am I to be glad I lost my baby? I wanted that baby. I know all the reasons it was wrong—that I’m better—”

“Hey—” Jason turned her back to face him, lifting her chin so their eyes met. “You would have been an amazing mother, but it’s okay to feel however you want to feel about it. I’m so sorry, Elizabeth. I wish I could have done something to stop it.”

“You tried.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “You warned me, but I didn’t listen. I was so angry with you, so hurt—I couldn’t breathe. And he kept saying all the right things—I don’t know why I couldn’t just let myself trust you.”

He gently kissed her forehead. “We hurt each other,” Jason murmured. She opened her eyes to look at him and saw the regret in his eyes. “But we’re going to find Carly and we’re going to make Ric pay for everything he’s done to you both.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath, nodded. “I know. I can believe it when you say it.” His thumbs gently wiped away her tears. “It’s stupid to wish I could turn back time, but I wish I could go back to that night I left you,” she said softly. “And just…not do it.”

“If I could go back,” Jason said hesitantly, “then I would have stopped you from leaving.” His eyes still on hers, he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. Her knees nearly buckled at the softness of the kiss—even as he was already stepping back, letting his hands fall to his side.

Elizabeth cleared her throat. “You should meet—you should go talk to Ned.” Her hands fluttered in front of her, unsure what to do with them. “I mean…he might have something to tell us about what Ric’s been up to.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m already late—” Jason waited another a moment. “I—I know this isn’t the time, but I wanted you to know that before Courtney left, we—I told her it was over.”

“Oh.” Her eyes widened. “Oh—I didn’t—”

“We can—we can talk about it later. After we find Carly.” After another long, lingering look, Jason left, and Elizabeth stood there, her hands fisted at her heart.

“He always does this,” she muttered. “Kisses me senseless and leaves. Every time.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

 Ned checked his watch for the fifth time and scowled. He’d agreed to meet with Jason against his own better judgment—the last thing he needed was for his erstwhile cousin to think that he was in any way involved with Carly’s kidnapping.

And now Jason was almost twenty minutes late. Had he changed his mind?

Ned was getting to his feet when Jason ducked under the archway of the courtyard and approached him. “I’m sorry,” the younger man said, looking nearly exhausted as Ned remembered him looking before he’d taken his MCATs, back in the day when he’d been Jason Quartermaine.

“You know, you asked to meet me,” Ned said mildly as he took his seat again and gestured for Jason to join him. “If you were running late—”

“I didn’t—” Jason shook his head as if to clear it. “I had to see someone.” He shifted uncomfortably in the seat, then leaned forward, his hands clasped together, his elbows on the table. “You’ve worked with Ric Lansing.”

“I asked him for some legal advice,” Ned said mildly. He pushed his glass of water restlessly from one hand to another. “Nothing all that interesting—”

“You met with him here and there was paperwork. Look…I know how angry you were after Kristina—” Jason swallowed. “That was a bad time. I know you were angry. I don’t care about any of that, Ned. If anything happened to—” He grimaced. “I get it.  I just—I need to know about Ric.”

Ned tilted his head. “Before Emily left for California, she asked me to keep an eye on Elizabeth with Ric being the prime suspect in Carly’s kidnapping. You dated her, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Jason said flatly. “And she’s—she’s in danger. You know that. You know Ric is crazy. He’s already—I need to find Carly and get Elizabeth out of this. So stop—” He sat back, shook his head. “You can be pissed at me and Sonny all you want. Come at us, I don’t care. That’s the business. But Carly and Elizabeth don’t deserve this—”

“I was approached last fall,” Ned said when Jason stopped abruptly. “Just after Luis Alcazar tumbled off that balcony. Faith Roscoe wanted to know if I hated Sonny enough to get revenge. I did. It was never about you. It was always him.” He sighed. “I can see how terrified you are for Carly and Elizabeth, so I think you can understand why I agreed.”

“What did Faith want to do?”

“Ric was a connection of hers,” Ned continued. “I don’t—I don’t know how they met or how long they knew each other. But he was set up in Kelly’s pretty quickly, sometime in November. He was supposed to get inside Sonny’s circle and find me something we could—I don’t know. I don’t know if I had an endgame.”

“Ric and Faith were working together?”

“They are were still supposed to be working together up until the last few weeks. And…” Ned frowned. “He and Faith were sleeping together. They might still be, I don’t know. But he started seeing Elizabeth because of you. He thought she’d be angry enough to help.”

“But she didn’t help.”

“No.” Ned rubbed his chest, uncomfortable. “I don’t know how—I don’t know why I didn’t step away when she got involved. I wasn’t thinking clearly—I hadn’t—I didn’t think about the fact that she was Emily’s friend which meant she was still so young.  I just—I saw her as a pawn.” He’d never forgive himself for that. Elizabeth wasn’t that much older than Brooke, and he’d sat by while she got involved with a monster.

Jason nodded, dismissed that. “Could Faith be helping him with Carly?”

“I doubt it. Ric stopped returning phone calls in May—right about the time everyone found out he was actually Sonny’s brother. Faith didn’t know that either—she didn’t realize he had a personal stake. We didn’t know about Anthony Zacchara or Trevor Lansing. He might have come to Port Charles on their orders. He always seemed to be playing his own game.” Ned rubbed his chin. “I think he was obsessed with Elizabeth. And that pissed Faith off. When Ric married her—when Faith found out about the baby—she was livid. She’s still making threats about doing something to her, but I think—”

“You think Faith pushed Elizabeth?”

“I do,” Ned admitted. “She called me last week to complain about Ric not talking to her, to complain about Elizabeth. She made threats again a few days ago— she’s not happy with me either. My daughter moved to Port Charles, and time has…it’s cleared out my head. When Elizabeth had that miscarriage, Monica was upset. And I remembered who Elizabeth was to my family.”

Jason rubbed his hands over his face. “You backed out.”

“With Faith. I haven’t officially pulled the plug on Ric yet. I figure he pulled the plug on me first.” Ned waited a moment. “I don’t think Faith would have helped Ric, but if there’s anyone who knows where Ric might have taken Carly, it’s Faith.”

“Okay.” Jason shoved back his chair. “Thanks.” He hesitated. “You said Faith is still making threats. About Elizabeth?”

“About Elizabeth, mostly. A few for me and Brooke.” Ned rose to his feet. “Jason, Grandmother is, for some reason, very fond of Carly. I hope you find her.” The word alive hung between them, unspoken.

Jason nodded and left the courtyard. Ned watched him go and wondered if he was ever going to be able to forgive himself if something happened to Carly or Elizabeth because Ned had given Ric help once upon a time.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Taggert tapped his pen against a folder. “There’s no way around it, Mac. Somewhere, we missed something.” He scowled, dumped the folder on Mac’s desk and pushed himself to his feet so he could pace. “Maybe we concentrated too fast on the Zacchara angle. Maybe we rushed into the situation too fast—if we had waited twenty more minutes before going to the Lansing house—if we’d watched him first—”

“You can second guess yourself until you’re blue in the face,” Mac said mildly from behind his desk. “I’ve been looking through your reports. Capelli might have cut some corners, but you didn’t. You followed the leads you had. Michael Corinthos told you he saw a man who looked Ric Lansing. You went to Lansing’s house and searched it. You looked into Ric’s background. You investigated his connections. You’ve had men watch him for the last week.”

“Maybe it wasn’t Ric,” Taggert muttered, rubbing his hand over his bald head. “I mean, it’s summer, so I guess we can’t say it was too dark Michael to know the difference. But he was a traumatized six-year-old, right? Maybe he just saw a dark-haired man. Luis Alcazar had family. A brother who looks a lot like him.”

“I saw that in your file, too — Lorenzo Alcazar was awarded custody of Luis’s daughter, Sage. They currently live in Caracas, Venezuela. No reports that Lorenzo has left the country.” Mac tipped his head. “Who else?’

“You’d think Corinthos and Morgan have a long list of enemies, but they don’t. Not anyone who would do this. The Families aren’t in for this, you know? Tagliatti and Vega like money too much, and this isn’t Ruiz’s style. Zacchara is a dead end. We got nothing to tie him to this. Maybe it goes back further than that.”

“Moreno? Sorel?”

“Maybe even Frank Smith,” Taggert said restlessly. “Or revenge for the car bomb. What do we know about Hernando Rivera’s people?”

“All of those people are gone now,” Mac reminded him. “We’ve had reason to look into them before. You researched the Rivera connection when Juan was here.”  He shrugged. “I hate this, too. I hate knowing that we’ve done everything we could have and we’re still at a dead end.”

“We could have brought Ric in for questioning.” Taggert resumed his seat. “Elizabeth had clearly been drugged—he was the only one who could have done it. We should have searched for medication. We could have nailed him—”

Mac hesitated. “You…you’re sure she was drugged?”

Taggert frowned at him. “Don’t tell me you’re listening to Capelli. He doesn’t know Elizabeth like I do. This is not a woman who turned to drugs after her miscarriage. That’s not who she is—”

“She’s had a rough year—between her botched wedding to Spencer a year and half ago — being kidnapped last year—being cheated on by Morgan with Sonny’s sister—her grandmother—the miscarriage—you don’t think it’s finally been too much?”

“Maybe I could see her using a prescription—leaning on it a bit too much,” Taggert said. “But I handled her miscarriage case—I have her medical records. She wasn’t prescribed anything then.” He leaned forward.  “I know she’s had a bad year, Mac, but I’m telling you—that’s not what was going on last week.”

Mac exhaled slowly. “Then why is she still with Lansing? Capelli says Morgan has been in that house almost every day this week. He thinks it’s an affair—”

“And that means what exactly?” Taggert said, irritated. “So, the fuck what? Morgan is looking for Carly. The only reason we got into that house to search last week was Elizabeth giving us the go. As long as she’s in that house, we get to search it any damn time we please. You think she hasn’t thought of that with Morgan? Community property. He’s not getting arrested.”

“Damn it.” Mac closed his eyes. “Capelli had me half thinking she might have…helped Ric.”

“She didn’t—” Taggert frowned. “He’s been wanting to leak to the press—shit, Mac.” He shot to his feet. “Tell me you didn’t give him the go head to leak an affair to the tabloids?”

“It’s just the tabloids—”

“What exactly about the affair is he leaking?” Taggert demanded. “Did he tell the bastards Morgan’s been in the house?”

Mac hesitated. “It was supposed to be just a small line item, so no.”

“And you think Capelli is going to listen? You gave him permission to do exactly—” Taggert stared at his commissioner. “Haven’t you screwed with her life enough? Is this because of Floyd, too? I’m so sick of that asshole and his election year pressures.”

“Don’t bring that up—it has nothing to do with this—”

“If Lansing finds out Morgan’s been in the house, what the hell you do think is going to happen to Elizabeth?” he snarled. He sliced his hand through the air. “This has always been the goddamn problem in this department. We got no problem sacrificing innocent people to get ahead. You better hope I can get that story pulled before it hits the stands tomorrow.”

He stormed out of the office.

Lansing Home: Panic Room

The entire time her mother had been in the house, Carly had been glued to the screen. When she was rescued she was going to learn how to read lips. This was so damn frustrating.

She watched as Elizabeth and Bobbie talked. She could tell they were both agitated. Upset. Not with each other—she could see that Bobbie was worried about Elizabeth, that the younger woman shared the same concern in reverse.

Had she really ever known how close Elizabeth was to her mother? Had she cared to learn anything about this woman?

She watched Elizabeth make a phone call—something she did almost constantly, Carly realized. Five or six times a day, Carly had caught her taking phone out of her purse—except when Jason was there. This was the first day since Sunday—how many days had actually passed?—that Jason hadn’t come to the house and searched it from top to bottom.

She was calling Jason.

Why was she calling Jason so much? Carly squinted. She saw her mother leaving—the hug—and then Elizabeth was talking.

No one was home, but the brunette had her eyes lifted to the sky—almost to the camera—did Elizabeth know it was there? No…no that wasn’t possible—

But somehow, Carly thought Elizabeth knew she was in the house. Maybe should sense how closely she was being watched—that was a thing, right? People could tell.

“I’m here, Elizabeth.” Carly pressed her fist to her mouth. “Please. Find me. Tell Jason. Tell Jason I’m here. You know I’m here. You can feel me here.”

She got up, tried to get to the walls—but she couldn’t reach that corner where the door slid open. She wanted to pound on it, scream Elizabeth’s name.

This room was so dark—even when all the lights were lit—it was still so dim. The shadows were inching closer to her, and she was tired of her own company, tired of her own voice.

Why couldn’t they find her? How could they not know about the panic room? This was Elizabeth’s house, wasn’t it?

“Please, find me,” she murmured. “Please don’t let me disappear.”

Faith Roscoe’s Apartment

When Faith Roscoe turned on the light in her living room that night, she was tickled pink at the sight of Jason Morgan casually sitting in her plush white armchair. “Well, well, I have to admit, I’ve always wondered what it would be like between us,” she purred.

Jason’s face didn’t change. “You’ve been working with Ric Lansing and Ned Ashton since last fall.”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Someone’s been talking out of turn.” She wagged her finger. “Ned is a very naughty man.” She sashayed over to her wine cabinet and selected an excellent white vintage. “I haven’t had time to take care of him, but he’s on my list.”

“Is Elizabeth Webber on that list, too?”

Faith nearly bobbled the cork at the thought of that insipid little mouse. “My, my, does the dear girl have another champion? I must ask her how she does it—”

She never heard him move. One second, she was smirking, pouring her wine—and then the next she was shoved back against the wall, Jason’s hand tight around her throat.

“I never thought you were into games,” Faith said breathlessly, trying to sound amused. She was a woman, so Jason was trying to scare her. Well, mission accomplished. Time to give him what he wanted so he’d go away. “You’re here about Carly. You want to find her.”

“Did you help Ric take her? Are you hiding her?”

“I have no interest in Sonny’s wife,” Faith managed, as Jason’s grip relaxed enough for her to draw in a full breath. “And Ric has been a very disappointing boy. No, I did not help him. And I do not know where she is, buuuut….” She drew out in a sing-song voice, careful to keep her eyes locked on his. “I know he was quite desperate to find a house for his little china doll. Just the right house. The house was all he could talk about.”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “He was looking for that house or a particular kind of house?”

“I don’t know, and I didn’t ask. I’m not interested in helping Ric start the perfect life with that—” Faith broke off whatever insult she was about to launch. Keep the eye on the prize. “There’s something about the house that made his plan complete. They moved in a week before Carly went missing.”

Jason nodded. Released her neck and started across the room. Faith rolled her shoulders, irritated. “If I knew where Carly was, I would have already found a way to make Ric pay for it. He’s become very boring, don’t you know?”

“Mmm…” Jason squinted at her. “You pushed her down the stairs, didn’t you?”

And the way he said it told Faith she’d already been convicted of the crime. Sentenced. Her palms began to sweat. How had she forgotten the reason they’d targeted the tedious little bitch in the first place? She was Jason Morgan’s ex-girlfriend—though maybe the ex was something he’d like to change.

“I did you a favor,” Faith said, spreading her hands at her sides. “Now you don’t have to take on Lansing’s bastard when you toss in him the harbor and take her back—and really—you’d be so much nicer to her, and he’s been just awful—” Her voice stopped abruptly when Jason drew his gun from where it had been tucked behind his back.

Faith swallowed. “I shouldn’t have done it, of course. I was angry, and I wanted to make Ric hurt. I didn’t even think about her. I should have. I should think more about other people. I will. I’ll enter a convent—” Her voice became more rapid as she watched Jason screw a silencer into the barrel. “I can help you,” she said desperately. “I can make Ric tell me—”

“Even if that were true,” Jason said slowly, meeting her eyes again. “It still wouldn’t save you.”

“Hey, you’re supposed to be the good one,” Faith retorted. “I’m a woman—isn’t there a code—”

“You don’t get to play in this world, Faith, and expect special treatment,” Jason said. “And this isn’t business. This isn’t about Sonny. This…this is personal.” He lifted a shoulder and looked at her without any expression in his eyes. “You knew who she was when you went after her. And as long as Ric wants her, she’s not safe from you.”

“Listen, that’s just not true—”

But she was dead before she could finish the sentence, the bullet hitting her just between the eyes. A nice, neat bullet hole between those wide blue eyes, still open—her mouth still forming words.

She hit the floor, her black sun dress pooling around her. Blood starting to soak into the carpet.

Jason stared down at her, then pulled out his cell phone. “Hey, Francis. Yeah, I got a cleanup for you to handle.”