You spend your days alone
Still hoping for the truth, oh
But all you hear are lies
But no one else is going
To tell you what to do now
No one else is going
To help you hold the line
– Something to Believe in, Parachute
Monday, December 18, 2006
Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott Baldwin’s Office
When his secretary showed Diane Miller in first thing that morning, Scott knew he’d won.
Oh, she wouldn’t admit it. She would still put up a fight. There would be skirmishes. She might try to force this as far as a preliminary hearing, try to call his bluff.
But she’d taken a week to review the evidence, and then asked for a meeting without her clients.
He’d won, and they both knew it. He had Elizabeth Morgan dead to rights, which meant he had Jason Morgan right where he wanted him.
Scott Baldwin loved his job.
“Scott.” Diane took a seat at the conference table. “I hope you’re doing well. Christmas is coming fast.”
“It is,” he nodded. “My daughter came home from college.” He sighed at the thought of the beautiful girl he had left at home. His beautiful Serena. “I’m not sure how she got to be old enough to be in college, but time sure does fly.”
“Hmmm…” Diane pursed her lips. “I reviewed your case files. You were…quite thorough. I don’t believe I’ve seen a special prosecutor be quite so thorough before.”
“Well, Diane—may I call you Diane?” Scott asked. When she just glared at him, he continued. “I want you to be prepared. To have your resources in order, so to speak.”
“You didn’t mention some of the more…prominent pieces of evidence during our meeting last week.” She rested her hands on the tale, laying them flat. “The, ah, security footage…I feel as though that should have come up.”
“Would you believe General Hospital keeps security footage for six months?” Scott told her, with his eyes wide. “When I saw Alexis’s notes that she had informally asked Elizabeth about the file by the nurse’s station, I knew exactly what to look for and where.” He leaned back in his chair. “Have you mentioned the footage to your clients?”
“Not…” She hesitated. “Not yet, actually. I, ah—”
“It’ll be convincing in a courtroom,” Scott said. “And the camera is at a great angle, don’t you think? You can see Elizabeth from the back as Alexis steps up. They speak briefly. And then Alexis walks away. Then Elizabeth takes out a file and starts feeding it into a shredder. You can’t quite see what’s being shredded, but it’s a thick manila file. Quite similar to the PCPD files.”
“Scott…” Diane leaned forward. “I’d like to discuss a plea agreement. I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement—”
“No.” Scott was careful to keep his tone pleasant. “There’s no point, Diane. I only plea down when I’m not convinced of a conviction. I put that video along with the other evidence—after I prove Elizabeth Morgan will do anything to protect her husband—I put all of that in front of a jury, and they’ll convict her in a heartbeat.”
“Be that as it may,” Diane murmured, “she’s a young mother. Expecting another child. I should think probation—”
“She’ll do hard time. I intend to ask for the maximum.” When the redhead merely scowled, Scott shrugged. “And I’ll get it. That judge is going to take one look at Elizabeth Morgan and he’ll see through her town sweetheart persona to who she really is. She broke the law, Diane. She did it, and you and I both know she’d do it again. Look at the things she’s already done to protect Jason Morgan. Do you think she blinked at this? Do you think she wouldn’t do more in the future? That judge is going to give her ten years. She’s going to lose her freedom.”
“How can you be so cold?” Diane demanded. “She’s pregnant—”
“I’m not doing anything to her.” Scott arched a brow. “She committed a crime, Diane. You and I both know she’s guilty. I’m giving her a chance to avoid jail, because I don’t think she’s a hardened criminal. I think she’s a woman who fell in love with a man who treats her relatively well, and after her last two husbands, I don’t blame her. That doesn’t mean she gets a free pass. She’s guilty,” he repeated, “but you’re all acting like I’m the bad guy because she’s a nice girl.”
“I’m not the bad guy,” he repeated. “She broke the law. I’m trying to give her a break. You need to make the facts of life clear to your clients, Diane. Because unless Jason Morgan figures out a third option, I’m putting someone he cares about in jail. I’m just leaving the choice to him. That’s downright generous.”
Diane rose to her feet. “You’re a regular saint,” she drawled, but her voice had lost some of its anger. She left the office without another word or backward glance.
It would be easier for her to be self-righteous if not for the security footage that proved the case. Scott could arrest Elizabeth today and have her convicted by spring.
But he wasn’t the villain here. He wasn’t the man who had married the woman and brought her into the line of the fire. He wasn’t the schmuck who thought he was a character in a Godfather movie.
He was an officer of the court trying to bring criminals to justice. He just believed Sonny Corinthos was the more dangerous criminal. He didn’t want Elizabeth Morgan in jail, but he’d settle for her if it that’s what it took for Jason Morgan to see the truth. Sonny Corinthos didn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.
And it would be Scott’s pleasure to prove it to the world.
Elizabeth waved goodbye to Robin and Patrick as she exited the restaurant, Cody on her heels. They turned out of the archway and walked toward the parking lot.
Having lunch with two of her favorite people in the world had bolstered her spirits. Robin and Patrick seemed convinced Diane would find a loophole. “She’s amazing,” Robin had said. “Didn’t she wipe the floor with Ric?”
And they’d talked about the baby and names, though Patrick had been more uncomfortable by that part of the conversation, darting looks at Robin that looked downright terrified. He’d joked about wanting the baby named for him, but Elizabeth knew he’d seen the baby fever in Robin’s eyes. Poor bastard.
But now that she was away from her friends and their bright spirits, she felt the doldrums beginning to settle around her again. If Diane could have found that magical legal strategy, surely she would have found it already, wouldn’t she?
Cody stopped in front of their SUV, and pulled open the door. Just as Elizabeth set her purse on the seat, she saw Emily’s car pull up. She paused for a moment, hoping the brunette would engage her in civil conversation again. She had mostly given up on regaining their close friendship, but this was Jason’s sister, and that meant something to her.
“Hey.” Emily closed the door. “I—I was hoping I’d see you around.” She flicked her eyes at Cody, but when it was clear he wouldn’t leave the two of them alone, Emily approached. “I don’t know if you’d heard, but Lucky decided to drop the custody suit.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth blinked. “No, ah, I guess Diane hasn’t heard yet.” She gripped the car door. “Not that I’m not relieved, but why?”
Emily hesitated. “He went for custody of Cameron because he was angry with you,” she admitted. “And because he thought he owed it to Cameron to stick around, to make it up to him. But once the paternity results for the baby came back…” She lifted a shoulder. “The chances were slim to none to begin with, and I told Lucky that Jason would take care of Cameron.”
“Oh. Good.” Elizabeth shifted. “I never—I never meant to hurt Lucky. Or for any of this to happen, Emily. It just—everything got away from me a bit. I’m not sorry it’s turned out this way,” she added quickly. “It’s just…I wouldn’t have picked the way it happened.”
“I get it. I’ve done my share of hurting people when I should have been able to let go. Everything that happened with Zander was a huge mess, and maybe it soured things for me with Nikolas.” Emily looked away. “Hard to know for sure.”
“I just wanted to support Lucky the way he did when I had a drug problem in high school,” Emily added. “Maybe I didn’t do it right, and I know I pushed you aside. I’m sorry about that, Liz. But you know, he never blinked. He never pretended he didn’t know me. He stood by me. I thought…I thought I owed him.” Her cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry.”
And the apology meant a lot to her, even if it meant things would never be the same. She even understood Emily’s point of view. What had she sacrificed because she’d felt as though she owed Lucky for his support back then? How many relationships had she wrecked in pursuit of that support?
“I’m sorry I wasn’t more honest with you,” Elizabeth said. “You shouldn’t have found out about Jason and me through newspapers and gossip. I just—I hope you’ll be involved with Cameron and the baby.”
“I’m sure I will.” Emily took a step backwards. “I should go. I’m meeting my mother for lunch. I’ll see you around.”
When Emily had disappeared into the courtyard, Elizabeth finally climbed in the car, relieved that Jason would be able to end his cold war with his sister. If the worst happened, if she ended up in jail, she wanted to know Jason could count on Emily.
She had to start preparing for the worst, even as she tried to hope for the best.
Jason scrawled his name across the bottom of the page. “And the guardianship agreement should go into effect by the end of the month?” he asked, sliding the paperwork back across her desk.
His lawyer nodded, taking it from him. “You’ll be his legal guardian by January, and if all goes well, his legal father by June.” Diane slid it inside a folder and set it aside on the desk. “Jason, you know…the week Scott Baldwin gave you—that’s up tomorrow.”
“I know.” Jason exhaled slowly. “Did you go through the files? Is there something—” He stopped speaking when Diane gently shook her head. “You’re not finished?”
“Jason…” Diane pursed her lips, a pen in her hands. “There were a few things Scott didn’t tell us last week, things that change the complexion of this case.”
He shook his head. “Diane, I don’t care about any of that. I want this to go away—”
“Jason,” Diane said his name again, her tone more gently. “Scott has her destroying the file on hospital security footage.”
He sat back, his shoulders slumping. “That’s not possible—”
“You can’t see the file very clearly, but she talks to Alexis, then shreds a brown folder that looks like a PCPD file. And it is after the file disappears, on a day when she is signed in at the time the file goes missing. Jason, I am an excellent attorney, but I am not a miracle worker.”
He shoved away from the table, his chair flying back. “There’s a technicality then. Some dirt on Baldwin—”
“If I take this to trial,” Diane cut in as if he hadn’t spoken, “I will lose. A jury is going to listen to Baldwin prove all the ways Elizabeth has been connected to you over the years, and then use your marriage, the existence of your child, the fact you saved Elizabeth’s life—he’ll tell them all of that and then he’ll show them that footage. And that’s the end of it. I cannot make this evidence go away.”
He shook his head. “Diane—”
“And Scott Baldwin intends to ask for the maximum. She’ll serve eight to ten years, and I can tell you the parole board isn’t going look kindly on a woman who helped an alleged mobster get away with crimes. She’ll serve every minute of those eight years. By the time she comes home, her sons will be half-grown.”
His chest was tight, and Jason shook his head again. “No, that’s not going to happen.”
“It will if you don’t take the deal Baldwin put on the table,” Diane said softly. “Jason, I’m sorry, but the only way to keep her out of jail now is…you’re going to have to testify against Sonny.”
In the back of his head, he’d known she would come to that conclusion. And yet, somehow, he’d ignored that possibility. He’d never been in true jeopardy before, beyond the murder charges after Luis Alcazar had gone off the balcony at the Port Charles Hotel.
His lawyers had always kept him out of jail, had always swooped in on some technicality.
But the one time Jason depended on a lawyer, the one time he needed the system to work for him and not against him—he’d lost.
“Testifying against Sonny isn’t an option,” Jason said roughly. “Not just…not just because of who Sonny is, and my friendship with him. If I testify against him, if I turn against him, my life isn’t worth anything. I’ll be a traitor. People will come after me. They might come after my family.”
“There’s always witness protection,” Diane reminded him. “Jason—”
“And take Elizabeth and Cameron away from everyone they know, from their lives. Do you want to tell Carly and her kids they can’t be in my life anymore?” He couldn’t imagine life without his best friend. “Diane, I can’t do it.”
Diane looked away. Her normally bright, crackling, laughing eyes were somber. “I truly am sorry, Jason, but Baldwin hasn’t left us with many options.” She sighed. “Maybe I’m too pessimistic about a trial. I suppose I can try to spin it. Come up with an alternate theory as to why Elizabeth is shredding files that look so similar.” She met his eyes. “But I’d be lying to you if I felt confident. I am your lawyer, Jason. I am Elizabeth’s lawyer, and I’m supposed to give you the best advice I can.”
“And that’s to turn in Sonny?” Jason demanded.
Troubled, Diane waited a moment. “I hadn’t thought of the implications of you turning on Sonny,” she admitted. “Perhaps, Jason, we might consider asking Elizabeth to plead guilty and let the sentence be up to the judge. He may only give her five years if she cooperates—”
“She doesn’t spend a day in jail,” he cut in roughly. “Not a single moment. She belongs with the boys. She did this to protect me—”
“And she got caught.” Diane rose to her feet. “I am sympathetic, Jason, but throwing ourselves on the mercy of the court may be the safest bet. Or you can roll the dice with turning Sonny in and hoping that the people around you know the choices you were faced with. Both options are difficult. So pick your poison.”
He scrubbed his hands over his face and exhaled slowly. “I’ll turn myself in, then.”
Diane straightened. “Jason—”
“He wants a high profile criminal, doesn’t he?” Jason asked. “I’ll confess to whatever he wants from me. Racketeering. Manny Ruiz, Moreno, Roscoe. I don’t care. Tell him he’s got a deal if he wants me.”
“Jason—” Diane put her hands up. “That’s insanity—”
“I’m not letting Elizabeth go to jail and I can’t risk my family’s safety by testifying against Sonny.” Jason nodded toward the landline on her desk. “Set up a meeting—”
“Jason, he doesn’t want you—” Diane bit off her words. “It won’t work. If that were an option, don’t you think Scott would have suggested it? Jason, whatever he charges you with—it would put you in jail for decades! If you won’t testify against Sonny, then Elizabeth serving five years is your best bet.”
“Stop being so goddamn stubborn, Jason Morgan!” She fisted her hands at her side. “You think Elizabeth would let you go to jail for twenty-five years? Think of what you’d be walking away from—not just her, not just Cameron. But this baby would never even know you.” Diane stepped around her desk. “Jason, I cannot, in good conscience, be part of any deal that puts one client away for decades when the other could serve a handful of years.”
“Your gallantry is very sweet,” Diane continued, “but you can’t give up your life to save hers. If Elizabeth didn’t want you to testify against Sonny, then why the hell would she want you to go to jail?”
He looked away. Elizabeth would be upset if he sacrificed himself rather than allow her to go to jail. But she’d be safe. She and the boys would never want for anything, and he knew he could count on Sonny and Carly to take care of her, look out for the boys.
“Elizabeth isn’t going to jail,” Jason told her. “Tell Scott I want to meet with him.”
“I’m not going to do that.” Diane lifted her chin. “You can fire me, but I’m not going to let you commit suicide. Jason, there’s no guarantee you would even survive a prison sentence. If something happened to you in there, what do you think that would do to Elizabeth?”
When he could think of nothing to rebut that point, Diane sighed. “Let me take another look at the files. I may come up with a trial strategy I feel better about. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have the rest of today and tomorrow. And maybe if we call Scott’s bluff, and force him to put her on trial, he’ll blink. I don’t like any of our options.”
Jason nodded, but he’d already made up his mind. It was going to have to be him.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
It was Jason’s turn to pick Morgan and Cameron up from preschool—and host his nephew overnight with Cameron at the penthouse. He’d wanted to turn Carly down when she had suggested it because he thought he and Elizabeth needed a break, but Cameron had been so excited, and it was probably best they keep the next few weeks as routine as possible.
So he drove home in his SUV with two rambunctious boys strapped into booster seats in the backseat, both tossing questions at him, laughing at each other—
If his meeting with Scott the next day went as he expected, he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise to Cameron. He wouldn’t see the bright-eyed little boy with the messy curls grow up. He might see Cameron and the baby once a month if Elizabeth brought them to visit, but he didn’t want that. He didn’t want Elizabeth and the boys to wait for him.
Diane was right—if Scott took his deal, he wouldn’t be satisfied with a five or ten year sentence. Jason would go to prison for the rest of his life, and he would have to forfeit a future with Elizabeth that might have included another child, the little sister Cameron was chattering about to Morgan. Maybe she would marry again and have that little girl with someone else.
The image of that was almost too painful to bear and he’d had to dip his head and take a deep breath when it had occurred to him in the elevator.
Turning himself in to Baldwin was the right thing to do, even it would be the most difficult thing he’d ever done his life.
Elizabeth had plastered a smile on her face when the boys came in from school, though he could see it wasn’t completely genuine. The boys both ran to her—Morgan was excited to see his Aunt Liz, and the boys were both over the moon that Aunt Liz said they could have Christmas on the island together after all.
Would he be able to do that? Would Scott have him arrested then? Would he give Jason a few days to wrap up things? He couldn’t tell Diane—she would refuse to represent him until it was a fait accompli, he knew that. And Elizabeth would probably have Sonny lock Jason up somewhere if she knew what he was planning.
Elizabeth tilted her head at him as she sent the boys into the kitchen where their snack waited. “Hey. Did you sign the guardianship papers?”
“Oh. Yeah, she said it’ll go through by the end of the month.” He continued to stare at her—would he even be able to see his child? Would she agree to bring the baby to the jail after he was born?
Did Jason want either of his children to make the journey to whatever facility Scott sent him?
“Jason?” Elizabeth asked. She stepped forward, pressing her hands to his chest. “Are you okay? You seem distracted.”
He gave himself a mental shake. If this was his last night at home with his wife, with his son, then he wasn’t going to waste it thinking of all the ways it would change tomorrow. “I’m fine, just some hiccups at work.” He kissed her, cupping her jaw in his hand. There was so much he’d never said to her, so much he’d felt but never admitted.
And now, Jason didn’t see the point. If he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, he didn’t want Elizabeth to feel obligated to stay with him because he loved her, because of the kids. If she never knew, she would feel better when she inevitably left him and moved on. She wouldn’t feel as guilty.
“Did Diane have any ideas about…you know?” Elizabeth asked when he drew away, furrowing her brows. “We have to give Scott an answer on Wednesday.”
And for the first time since the day he met her, Jason looked into Elizabeth’s eyes and lied to her. “She has some ideas she think might work. She wanted to review it, but she looked optimistic.”
Elizabeth smiled then, the first signs of happiness in days filling her expression. “Oh. Oh, that’s great. I’m so relieved.” She kissed him. “Maybe this will be over for real this time. I just want to get on with our lives.”
“Mom!” Cameron called from the kitchen. “You gotta pour the juice—”
“So do I,” he murmured as she headed for the kitchen. Jason took a deep breath and followed. He didn’t want to miss a minute.