Chapter One

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Bittersweet

Get up, get out, get away from these liars
‘Cause they don’t get your soul or your fire
Take my hand, knot your fingers through mine
And we’ll walk from this dark room for the last time

Open Your Eyes, Snow Patrol


Sunday, April 14, 2002

Vista Point

After a long shift at Club 101, there was nothing Carly Corinthos loved more than taking her brand-new convertible racing along the high hills that bordered the north side of Port Charles. She’d shake off the frustrations of her day, letting it dissipate into the cold night air.

Spring had come early to upstate New York that year—the days were warm and sunny, the cherry blossom trees that lined her mother’s street had bloomed nearly a week ago, but the nights still held the bitter chill of winter.

But Carly wasn’t thinking about the ice in the winds as she whipped around another corner. Everything in her life was finally just as it should be. She had her beautiful son, a great relationship with her mother, a cordial relationship with her ex-husband, a satisfying career—

She was even considering moving into her own house, but Michael loved the Brownstone and the quiet neighborhood with the park nearby. He liked being around his grandmother, around his uncle Lucas, and he liked when Elizabeth looked after him or picked him up from school. Her son was thriving for the first time in months, and Carly wasn’t ready to rock the boat.

But soon, maybe. Or perhaps she’d ask her mother to rent her the last empty apartment, even though it was across the hall from Marcus Taggart. It would give her some privacy, some space to herself and keep Michael in the same environment, with the same people.

She whipped around another corner and began to slowly decelerate, easing up on the gas and slowly tapping the breaks. Her brief free time was over and it was time to get some sleep before having Sunday morning breakfast with Michael.

This was going to be year of Carly Corinthos, and—

She took the last corner—the final one before she began the descent from the cliffs towards downtown Port Charles—but a flash of headlights blinded her vision. She jerked to the side, her car grinding against the guardrail that separated the road from the edge.

There wasn’t time to scream, wasn’t time to think—There was a loud screech of metal grinding as a car slid past her.

Then her car was through the rail, teetering over the edge. Her hands shaking, she slowly reached for the car door—

Then everything went black.

Brownstone: Elizabeth and Gia’s Apartment, Kitchen

Elizabeth raised the carafe of coffee to her nose, wrinkling as she looked at her scowling roommate. “Did you stay up all night again, Gia?”

“Finals,” came the mutter from the dining table that had never seen a plate of food. The last four months had seen it put into use as a double desk—Gia for her political science and psychology classes and Elizabeth, who was struggling with art history and business.

“I know, but you could have at least cleaned out the coffee for me.” Elizabeth rinsed the carafe before setting it back on the pot. “I could make the argument that if you hadn’t spent the majority of the semester flirting with your classmates, you wouldn’t have to put in so much effort now—”

“But you value your life, so you won’t.” Gia Campbell lifted her head from her studies and frowned. “Why are you up at—” She blinked blearily, trying to focus on the wristwatch on her arm. “Shit. Five o’clock?”

“Morning shift at Kelly’s. I have the opening.” She stifled a yawn. “But I was up late working on a paper about Monet’s use of color.”

“None of that means anything to me—” Gia broke off her smart remark as a cell phone rang shrilly. “Ugh. It is too early for that nonsense. You need to change that ring tone—”

“I’ll get right on that—” Elizabeth fished in the pocket of her robe and blinked at the caller screen. “Why is Lucas calling me—” But she had flipped it open before finishing her question. “Lucas—”

“Can you come downstairs? Right now?”

“Is Bobbie okay? What’s wrong?” Elizabeth asked, already heading to her bedroom. The phone cradled between her ear and neck, she slid out of her pajama shorts and found a pair of jeans.

“Carly—she had an accident. Mom’s freaking out. She wants to go to the station, but she’s in no position to drive. We need you to come downstairs and watch Michael. Can you?”

“Ah, yeah. I’ll be right down.” Elizabeth closed her phone and dragged over a pair of sandals to slide her feet into. “Gia, can you call Courtney and ask her to open this morning? Carly had a car accident, Bobbie’s freaking out—”

“How bad?” Gia asked. “Elizabeth—”

“I don’t know, but it must—” And then Elizabeth stopped, her face pale. “Bobbie wants to go to the police station. Not the hospital.”

“And Carly should have been home from the club hours ago. This is bad, isn’t it?”

“And it’s about to be worse,” Elizabeth sighed. “Because Courtney—”

“Is married to AJ, which means the Quartermaines—”

“God, I hope she’s okay,” Elizabeth murmured, grabbing her keys, her purse and the phone. “Can you call her?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

AJ and Courtney’s Apartment: Bedroom

The land line was a harsh wake-up.  Courtney jerked out of a deep sleep, blinking at the offending plastic piece of junk at her bedside.

“What the hell?” AJ demanded at her side. “I had the second shift—”

And she’d closed the night before and hadn’t been able to fall asleep until nearly one. Still, phone calls at—she looked at the clock—five-ten in the morning were never a good sign.

“Hello?” she all but yawned into the phone.

“Hey, sorry to call so early,” Gia said, “but there’s some kind of emergency. Carly was in a car accident of some sort, so Bobbie needs Elizabeth to look after—”

“Oh, no. Come on, Gia. I just closed—” Then the implications slid into Courtney’s sleep-fuzzed mind. “How bad was the accident?”

“What accident?” AJ asked. “Was it Elizabeth? Is that why you have to go in?”

“I don’t know how bad, Courtney, but Bobbie’s going to the police station, not the hospital, and they waited to call her until now when Carly should have been home almost three hours ago.” Gia sighed. “Elizabeth wouldn’t ask, but Penny is still being trained, and—”

“I’m the only one who’s trained for the opening shift, yeah.” Courtney sighed. “I’ll be there, but I might be a bit late.”

“I highly doubt Bobbie is going to care if Kelly’s opens at all, so it’s not going to matter.”

Courtney hung up and looked at her husband. God, this was the last thing she wanted to tell him because she knew the devastating implications if Carly didn’t survive. “Carly didn’t come home from the club last night, apparently, and the cops called Bobbie this morning.”

“They waited—” AJ closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “That’s not a good sign.”

“Gia didn’t think so. Bobbie’s going to the station to get more information, I guess she’s too upset to drive, so Lucas is taking her, and Elizabeth is going to watch Michael—”

“So you need to open.” AJ swung his legs over the side of the bed. “I should get to the mansion—”

“Do you really need to?” Courtney asked, shoving the comforter back. “It’s so early, and maybe they won’t know yet—”

“When Grandfather finds out that Carly has been in a bad car accident, the first thing he’ll do is find a lawyer to challenge Bobbie for custody. I have to head him off.” He hesitated. “Because we don’t know anything yet. If we go after Michael now before Carly’s condition is clear, then we risk alienating the family court judge.”

“And if it’s the worst case scenario?” Courtney asked softly. “AJ—”

“I don’t know what’ll happen,” he admitted. “But I have to head off my family from making this situation worse.”

Harborview Towers: Corinthos Penthouse, Living Room

The news trickled to Sonny almost two hours later, when Max knocked on the door to the penthouse.  Sonny paused at the foot of the stairs, two steaming cups of coffee in his hands. “Yeah?”

“Uh, Boss?” Max stepped over the threshold, his face hesitant. “Benny’s here. And there’s—there’s some news.”

If his business manager was here this early, this couldn’t be good. Maybe it was fortuitous that his lawyer was currently warming the sheets upstairs—though Alexis would be mortified if he fetched her now.

“Benny, what’s up?” Sonny crossed the room, setting the coffee on the table as he met the older man at the desk, his hangdog expression so much more pronounced. “Benny?”

“There was a car accident around three this morning,” Benny said. He set his briefcase on the desk. “We’ve spent the last hours piecing together what the police know.”

“Man, not one of our guys—” He stopped. “Three this morning,” he finished.

“A witness called in a report—he saw a car swerve off the road, crash through the guardrail, and go over the side. He was on the phone with 911, calling in the make and model and the license plate when the car went over.”

“God.” Sonny closed his eyes. “Not the stupid red Porsche she bought with the divorce settlement—”

“By the time the authorities made it to the scene, by the time the Coast Guard was called in—” Benny stopped, exchanged a glance with Max, who stood solemn and silent. “Sonny, it’s the same part of the road—I mean, it’s where—”

“Where Brenda died,” Sonny murmured, remembering the reports back then. “Jax saw the car go over the cliff, but the currents there are so strong that the car was swept away. The depths of the lake in that region—”

“The Coast Guard is still searching,” Benny reported. “Mac decided to wait until morning, until he had something definite to tell Bobbie before waking her. When the Coast Guard realized the search would be extensive, and that it was unlikely she survived—he called her about five.”

“Damn it,” Sonny murmured. A pit formed in his stomach. “Ah, tell our source at the PCPD to keep us informed. I wanna know if it’s—if it was an accident. Find Cody and Milo. I want them over at the Brownstone. Um—” He stopped. There were steps to take, things to be done, but he couldn’t—

He couldn’t think.

“Cody and Milo are already on their way. Bobbie and Lucas were at the station for a while, but Felicia drove them both home about thirty minutes ago. Elizabeth was with Michael. She’s staying with them until around noon. Courtney’s been stuck at Kelly’s with Penny and Don by herself.” Benny looked at Max. “Everything is good here?”

“Ah, yeah, yeah it is. We got it under control, Mr. C,” Max told him.

“Thanks.” He dismissed them both and returned to the coffee mugs, only lukewarm. He stared at them for a moment, wondering if he ought to dispose of them.

Alexis stepped around the landing, dressed in the business suit he’d peeled off her the night before. “I heard.” She cleared her throat and came down the second flight of stairs. “I’m sorry, Sonny.”

“Ah, yeah.” Sonny looked at her, blinking. “I—”

“I think we should just chalk last night up to a mistake.” Her cheeks flushed as she refused to meet his eyes. “It didn’t—it never happened.”

“Alexis—” he began, but she rushed past him and out the door. He thought about going after her, but he didn’t have the time.

He crossed back to the desk, reached for the phone, and started to dial. It was time to track down Jason and bring him home.

Oasis Strip Club: Back Office

“You’ll like the Paradise,” Dominic Savarolli—Nico to his friends and intimates—told his protégé. “It’s not as refined as things here at the Oasis, but you won’t have to complete with Coleman for the girls.”

Zander Smith leaned back, a bottle of Rolling Rock clasped in his hands. “I’m not much interested in the girls who work here,” he told his boss. “I like the idea of being in charge.”

Nico grinned. “Yeah, I’ll bet you do. I’ll talk to Sonny, but he’s a rubber stamp at this point. He don’t care who runs the crews as long as we make them money. He wants me to expand to Las Vegas, he’s gonna have to let me put who I want in charge of the bookies and games here.”

“Sonny’s never cared much for me,” Zander admitted. “After I dealt drugs for Sorel, he only let me live because I was useful.”

“True, true,” Nico replied. “But he put you to work with me instead of removing you permanently. You’ve done good work for me. And Sonny trusts me. I’ve been in the business through four bosses, I know talent when I see it.”

And Zander was banking on Sonny deferring to Nico under those circumstances. His boss was in his early forties and had been running the Oasis and several clubs of its kind as fronts for gambling casinos for the better part of two decades. He’d started as a runner under Frank Smith and had managed to survive the rough transition between Moreno and Sorel. When Sorel had been offed by his own kid, Nico had elected to toss his support behind merging with Sonny rather than backing the upstart Mickey Roscoe.

Zander had briefly considered going to Roscoe. Mickey liked him better—they worked the rave scene together for a few months, Mickey as the supplier and Zander as the guy on the scene. But Mickey didn’t have the balls or head for this game, and now, all these months later, only accounted for a handful of bookies and a single holding company on Pier 52. He didn’t have the juice to take on Corinthos, so Zander—ever the opportunist—had stuck with what he knew.

And now Nico was prepared hand over the lucrative Port Charles gambling trade so he could concentrate on the casinos in Atlantic City, the Caribbean, and a new one in Las Vegas. It was exactly the opportunity Zander had been counting on.

The door opened, and Nico’s long-time right hand entered. Lenny Hauptmann’s thin face looked drawn. “We got ourselves a situation, Nicky.”

Nico grimaced, but Lenny had almost two decades on him and had watched him rise up in the ranks. Lenny liked the money and the girls—occasionally dipped in the product Nico still ran in the clubs under Sonny’s nose—but he didn’t want the power. He was happy to see his Nicky enjoy the fruits of their combined labor.

“What’s up, Len?” Nico rose from his desk. “Ollie didn’t report in? He’s got his boys tracking down the last the money owed from the Super Bowl—”

“It’s not business, Nicky. The boss’s ex drove herself over the cliff last night. Or something. No one knows exactly what’s going on, but her car is somewhere in the lake.”

“Carly?” Zander asked. “She’s dead?”

“They don’t know that as of yet,” Lenny reported. “But word on the street is they’re not holding out much hope, what with the currents this time of year, and the location of the crash. You know what this means, Nicky.”

“Yeah.” Nico rubbed his eyes. “Call the boys. Start flushing out the product.”

“What’s going on?” Zander asked. “Nico—”

“Carly’s dead, her boy is up for grabs. Jason Morgan is gonna come back, and he ain’t gonna let us get away with dealing the product. Sonny don’t care as long as the books balance. Jason? He’s funny about this kind of thing.”

“Jason Morgan? No way. He hasn’t been around for a year. He didn’t even come home when his sister was in the accident.” Zander felt the usual twinge when Emily entered his brain, but he’d put her out of his life. He’d been a different man for her, but she hadn’t wanted him. Fine. He had his own life to lead.

“Nicky’s right, Smith. Morgan’s gonna come back, even if it’s to settle the estate. No way that dumb bitch didn’t leave the kid to him. I remember when Moreno almost blew the kid up. Pure accident, of course,” Nico murmured. “But Morgan nearly took him apart. And then walked away. He loves that boy like a son. He’ll be home.”

“Ah, Morgan doesn’t really…” Zander coughed in his hand. “He doesn’t care for me much after everything that happened with his sister.”

Nico shrugged. “He knows you’re working for Sonny. Morgan ain’t never involved himself in low-level decisions. I’ll get Sonny to sign off on it without Morgan in the room. Don’t worry, Zander. Sonny wants me to go make money in Vegas, he’s gonna have to let me do it my way.”

Zander wished he could have the confidence of the man behind the desk, but he had a sinking feeling that if Jason Morgan did return to Port Charles, any chance of his rising higher than bone-cracking thug had died along with Carly Corinthos.

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

AJ was convinced that the best decision he’d ever made was to walk away from this family two months ago. He’d had moments in the ensuing weeks as he and Courtney had struggled to pay bills on her tips until he’d completed training as a forklift operator and starting working at the waterfront.

It was backbreaking work and he often fell into his bed at night, exhausted from the manual labor.  But he knew he was making it on his own, and he hadn’t had the urge to drink in in weeks.

He had one now as he stood in the estate’s family room, just steps from the mini bar. His mother was at work, but his father and grandfather were debating the merits of one family law attorney over another. Alan wanted to stay local, while Edward wanted to bring in the best in the state. If not the world.

“They haven’t even declared her dead yet,” AJ muttered as he sat in the sofa and put his head in his hands. “Jesus, Grandmother.”

“I’ll talk to your grandfather, my love, but you know how he can be,” Lila Quartermaine said in her soft, gentle voice. “I agree with you.”

“How can you?” he demanded. “They haven’t even asked me what I think, yet.”

“Because I know your heart, AJ.” Lila reached for his hand and squeezed it once he placed it in her palm. Her grasp was not as strong as it had once been, but the comfort was there. Here was a woman who, even at the depths of her disappointment in him, believed he could do better.

“If she is dead—” And there was a surprising swell of grief for the thought that his nemesis and one-time friend had departed this world. “If she is dead,” AJ began again, “I can only imagine what Bobbie’s going through. I can’t—how can we tell her now that she might have lost a second daughter, we want to take her grandson?”

“They’re not considering Bobbie. They only see a chance to have Michael in their lives—”

“To shape him, to make him into the kind of Quartermaine they think he should be,” AJ muttered, the resentment all but swallowing him whole. “Their chance at a new generation.”

“I suppose that is one way to consider it.” Lila said. “But I think they’re attempting to get ahead of the situation.”

“Because Jason will be coming home,” AJ said, leaning back. “Sonny never adopted Michael, and I would bet anything Carly left Jason guardianship. It’s not Bobbie we’ll have to deal with. Carly would never leave this up to her. She’s too close to the family.”

“And if they can file a suit before Jason arrives, they hope to fast-track and present a fait accompli.” Lila focused her soft blue eyes on her grandson. “But you would prefer to wait. To give Michael time to adjust. To allow Bobbie space to grieve.” She smiled at him, pride shining in her gaze. “And that’s exactly what we’ll do. You leave it to me.”

Mumbai, India

Hotel: Jason’s Room

It was two days after the accident by the time Sonny’s myriad of phone calls finally tracked Jason to a hotel in Mumbai, India, where he’d been spending the last few weeks.

Jason had taken in the news—including the fact that there had been no update and Carly was all but declared dead—and promised to be home as soon as possible.

Neither of them had spoken of the complications created by Carly’s death or his return—that custody of Michael would be a pitched battle, that Sonny would have to create space for Jason to come back to his job—because his rivals would assume Jason would be back at Sonny’s side whether he was or not.

They spoke of none of these things—only that Jason would catch the next flight out of India. He threw his things into a duffel bag, checked out, and headed home.

 

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Comments

  • Thanks so much for this start. I can see Edward acting like the proverbial shark, smelling blood in the water, and ripping Michael from everything he knows. I look forward to EW protecting the boy till JM shows up. I love the convoy with Lila and AJ. So much to enjoy in this first chapter! Yowza!! Enjoy your wedding activities and we’ll see you when you get back.

    According to Carla on June 17, 2016
  • My comment above included “convoy” when I meant “convoy(conversation). Sorry.

    According to Carla on June 17, 2016
  • Interesting start. Sor far this is the AJ & Courtney I loved, as well as Elizabeth, of course…lol. Can’t wait for more

    According to Pwrmom2 on June 17, 2016
  • I hope Carly leave Michael to Jason and Liz Sonny is an ass to have drugs running in PC I hope Jason clean house can’t wait to see Johnny, Francis and the other gang members. Thank you for the first update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on June 17, 2016
  • Love the start to this story.

    According to Carla P on June 19, 2016
  • Love your stories. This one is off to a great start, looking forward to reading more.

    According to Tonya on June 23, 2016
  • great start to the story.. can’t wait to enjoy another one of your fab tales

    According to tish on June 28, 2016
  • how do I get to the rest of the story????

    According to leasmom on August 13, 2016