Through this world I’ve stumbled
So many times betrayed,
Trying to find an honest word,
To find the truth enslaved,
Oh you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath,
Your words keep me alive
– Possession, Sarah McLachlan
Friday, September 6, 2002
Jake’s: Jason’s Room
Elizabeth squinted at her textbook. “What made me think I wanted to major in business again?”
“You thought you should know what you were doing with Kelly’s.” Jason dropped a kiss on top of her head as he set coffee down in front of her. “Sorry—it’s from down the street.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Maybe Jake will let us have a hot plate or a coffee machine in here. You should look into it—”
“Maybe.” Jason sat across from her at the small table currently covered with textbooks, folders, and notebooks. “You don’t like coffee enough to worry about it.”
“You don’t have to like something to appreciate its benefits.” Elizabeth sipped the glorious caffeine. “After January, I won’t need it as much. I won’t have to schedule my shifts around my class schedule, and I think one of the benefits of being manager is I shouldn’t have to work opening. No need for coffee when you’re not dragging your ass out of bed at four-thirty.”
She hesitated a moment before asking, “Are you and AJ still meeting with your attorneys today?”
“Yeah.” Jason rubbed his temple with his thumb. “Yeah. Carly…should be served on Monday. Once I surrender guardianship to AJ…I’m out of it. She won’t have an excuse not to tell me.” He paused. “You still don’t like this idea.”
“Anything that gives Carly more of a reason to be angry with you is not my first choice, no. And you lose your leverage. As long as you control Michael’s custody, Carly has to pay attention to you. You give it to AJ…” Elizabeth shrugged. Picked up her highlighter.
“I know it’s risky. I know it might make Carly…go crazy. But it also might make her angry enough to let something slip. We have to change the situation.”
“I know, I know.” She bit her lip. “I just…I don’t want you to get hurt.”
He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “I’ve survived Carly’s plans before.”
She sighed but said nothing more on the subject. Jason still had his blinders on where Carly was concerned. Carly had only been able to inflict emotional damage on Jason because Jason had never been the direct target, and he wasn’t taking that into account. But she had already voiced her worries and concerned. Jason had considered them but had ultimately decided it was worth the risk.
So, she managed a smile for him. “You have to go to the warehouse today?”
“Yeah, September is the end of the fiscal year, so Benny wants me to look at the books for the warehouse.” Jason eyed her. “You want me to look at Kelly’s records, too?”
“No,” Elizabeth muttered. “I’m smart. I can do it.” She wrinkled her nose. “Maybe you could double check them or something.”
When he just shrugged, she set her highlighter down. “What?”
“You don’t like managing Kelly’s,” Jason said after a moment. “And you hate your business classes.”
“So why do I bother with either?” Elizabeth asked her brows raised. “I needed something to do every day after I called off the wedding. I had really lost touch with my art, and I didn’t have anything else. I was afraid if I didn’t fill every hour of my day with something—I might be tempted to drift back.” She shrugged. “Bobbie asked me to take over Kelly’s. And Gia thought it might be fun to go back to school together. I’m not sorry I did it. And I’m excited to graduate. To finish it. And I know I’ve done a good job at Kelly’s.”
“But you’re right. It’s not really what I want to do. I was gonna talk to Bobbie about it…about maybe training Courtney or someone else so I could start focusing on art.” She bit her lip. “And then Carly came home.”
“Yeah.” He scratched his forehead. “Well, that…I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. But you should tell Bobbie. You know she wouldn’t want you to put your life on hold for her.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth put the cap on her highlighter and closed her economics book. “Well, that’s a conversation for another day.”
Jason followed Elizabeth to the back door, but before she opened it, he touched her elbow. “Hey…about this morning—”
Elizabeth turned back to him with a quizzical smile. “What? Kelly’s?”
“No.” He hesitated. “You…said we should ask Jake about…a hot plate or something.” Jason shifted, unsure why he felt nervous. He knew he wanted to make some changes, grateful that he and Elizabeth were on the same page after last week.
“Oh. I was just joking—”
“Yeah, but it made me think…” He took her hand in his. “It might be nice to have…good coffee for a change. And not always order out.”
“What, can you cook?” Elizabeth asked with a grin. “Because I can make a mean bowl of soup on the hot plate at my studio…” She poked him in the chest lightly with her free hand. “I bet Sonny taught you, didn’t he?”
“Yeah.” He grabbed her other hand, and then held both of them behind her back as he kissed her. She laughed against his lips as he backed her against the brick wall of Kelly’s back alley, deepening the kiss.
“What was that for?” she asked, her breath shallow as Jason pulled back.
“Just wanted to.” Jason slid a tendril of hair behind her ear. “What I was thinking is maybe we should find a place. With a kitchen.”
“You mean…live together?” Elizabeth asked. She bit her lip but smiled. “You could always move into our place. I bet Gia—”
“Yeah, I want live downstairs from Taggert,” Jason replied with a grin. “Elizabeth—”
“No, I think—” She hesitated. “I like it. Let’s talk about it. You’re coming by after you and AJ meet with the lawyers, right?”
“Yeah.” Though he shared her concerns that this wasn’t the best way forward—no one had had a better idea when they’d talked about it earlier that week. And he still had an itch between his shoulders at the thought of going to AJ with problems and working together to solve them.
He wondered if that was what was to really have a brother. A person you didn’t like one hundred percent of the time, respected sometimes, wanted to slap upside the head for being an idiot most of the time, and yet…turned to for help when you needed it.
“Well, you owe me a rain check on driving…” She pressed her lips to the corner of his mouth. “So, I’ll take it tonight, and we’ll talk it over…but…” Elizabeth licked her lips. “I like it. We already spend all our time together anyway. Might be nice not to pay rent on a place where I barely live anymore.”
He laughed, kissed her again. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Mmm, I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Elizabeth grimaced as she saw Carly sitting at a table in her section. That’s what she got for trading the opening shift with Penny.
“Carly,” she said with a wary smile, digging a notebook out of her pocket. “What’s—” And then she looked at the blonde for the first time since their encounter the Sunday after she’d blown up all their lives.
Carly looked like shit. Her eyes were red, her makeup nonexistent, her hair drawn back into a ponytail—Elizabeth wasn’t entire sure she’d seen the woman not look perfectly put together.
“Tell me about the custody problems Jason had,” she said softly, her fingers clutching the empty water glass like a lifeline. “Why did he agree to give AJ custody?”
Elizabeth sighed, and then sank down into a chair across from her. “Carly, you should talk to Jason about this—”
“He’s so angry with me,” Carly murmured. Not meeting her eyes. Her red nails were chipped. “I’ve never seen him so angry. Not even when I slept with Sonny. When I went to the Quartermaines. I see him now, and it’s that look—it’s not even hurt. It’s just…anger.”
“Okay.” Elizabeth set her order pad and pencil on the table. “Jason couldn’t get back for almost a week. By that time, the Quartermaines had already started circling Bobbie. Not AJ—it’s important that you know that. AJ told me, and he told his family, that he would not go after Michael’s custody right away.”
Carly raised her eyes. “What? Why? Wouldn’t—Jason wasn’t there—”
“To disrupt Michael’s life in that way when he was already grieving you,” Elizabeth said slowly, “was something AJ didn’t want to do. I’m not going to pretend it was his conscience entirely making that decision. He had an attorney advising him to wait as well. To go after Michael before his legal guardian could take stock of the situation—it wouldn’t reflect well. So, yeah, AJ waited.”
“It wasn’t…” Carly closed her eyes. “You said Mama grieved.”
“She went to the PCPD every day for a week. The Coast Guard wouldn’t search after the first few days. The currents were too strong, they told us. But Bobbie convinced Mac to keep looking. And Sonny offered money if they wanted to do private searches. But…. based on what we knew about the location of the accident—it’s where Brenda’s car went into the lake.”
“I—” Carly cleared her throat. “I remember. I think they said it would be impossible. With—with how deep the lake is there.”
“Her car would have been swept out towards the St. Lawrence.” Elizabeth rolled the pencil between her fingers. “You know how Bobbie gets. She started to throw herself into the details. Into dealing with your estate. Into the memorial service. Anything she could do to occupy her brain. Lucas and I took care of Michael the first week because she wouldn’t sit down long enough. If she did—she wouldn’t be able to breathe.”
Carly nodded. “Okay. Then what happened?”
If Carly wanted a blow by blow—if this would help—Elizabeth just shrugged. “Jason came home. And then your will was read. Alexis told him his chances in court were just…awful. He was probably not going to win.”
“Why?” Carly demanded, her eyes fierce now. “That’s stupid. AJ gave up his rights. So, it shouldn’t have mattered—”
“And that’s how Jason saw it at first, too. AJ wasn’t in the picture for him. He had this promise to you, and he wasn’t convinced AJ was good for Michael.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “But it wasn’t that simple, Carly. AJ didn’t have his rights taken by the court. He surrendered them voluntarily.” Her lips twisted. “Or so the court is concerned. Jason is Michael’s uncle, but he was also the reason AJ wasn’t in Michael’s life from birth. His lie was part of it. And Jason actively worked to keep them apart.”
Carly huffed and sat back. “So, the court would have thrown the book at him for it,” she muttered. “That’s fucking stupid.”
“Maybe. But that’s how the court would have seen it, Carly. And if Jason had a prayer of winning, he’d have to drag Michael to therapists. He’d have to talk to lawyers and judges and counselors. He’d already lost you, and to do that to him, and not be guaranteed anything—do you have any idea how much that broke his heart?”
“Maybe,” Carly murmured. “Then he should have taken Michael and left—” Her eyes burned. “He wouldn’t leave you.”
“I was not a factor in this, Carly,” Elizabeth retorted. “We weren’t even dating at the point most of this was happening. The truth of it is, Carly, AJ is not the villain you think he is—”
“He killed my baby!”
Elizabeth sat back. Waited a moment. “I won’t pretend I understand that pain, Carly. I don’t. I know what it is to lose someone you love, but I can’t imagine it holds a candle to the loss of a child.”
A tear slid down Carly’s cheek. “It was his fault. It is. He pushed me…” Her voice faded, and she looked away. “I wanted him dead. But Sonny wouldn’t let me. So, I had to settle for taking Michael away. Keeping him safe.”
“And punishing AJ for it forever.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Carly said, lifting her chin defiantly. “But, yes. Why not?”
“Because AJ didn’t push you—”
“You weren’t there—”
“But other people were,” Elizabeth said gently. “And no one else tells the story that way. I get it, Carly. I get why you blame him. You have to blame him. It has to be his fault completely. Because it’s the only way you can get past it. But it doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t push you.”
“You don’t understand—” Carly shoved to her feet. “It is his fault. And now he has my little boy—”
“He’s been sober a year, Carly, but Jason was worried. He signed an agreement that kept him in control. AJ only saw Michael when Jason said it was okay. They talked to therapists. AJ and Michael went to a counselor. They started with supervised visits. Last week? It was the first full week after three entire months. Jason did everything he could to protect Michael, and AJ agreed every step of the way to let Jason keep that control. Because Michael came first for both of them.” Elizabeth pushed to her feet. “Can you say that for yourself?”
“Excuse me?” Carly demanded.
“Have you ever put anyone but yourself first?”
“How dare you—”
“Were you putting Michael first when you slept with Sonny and ruined his family at the Quartermaines? When you forced AJ to give up his rights in the first place? When you ran away for five months?” Elizabeth retorted. “When you came home and refused to tell anyone what the hell was going on? Did you put Michael first when you tried to seduce Jason last week?”
“Oh, that’s what this is about.” Carly flipped her hair over her shoulder and that arrogant light was back in her eyes. “You’re just mad because I tempted your boyfriend. You worried?”
“Not in the slightest, Carly. If Jason wanted you, he’d have you. And you know that. I am not the reason you don’t have Jason.” Elizabeth jabbed a finger at her. “That’s on you. You destroyed any chance you ever had with Jason, and you hate me because I’m the one he loves. That’s not my fault. None of this is my fault.”
“I don’t even know why I bothered to ask you anything—”
“Because you know I don’t give a shit about you enough to lie.”
Elizabeth’s words stopped Carly as she started to storm out of the courtyard. “What?” Carly asked, whirling around.
“You thought your mother would sugar coat it. Make AJ into some kind of sympathetic hero. Or absolve Jason of something. Because she loves you. And Jason would take the blame all on himself. You know I don’t care enough to do either.”
Carly pressed her lips together and looked away. “I had my reasons for what happened.”
“And that’s great. I don’t care about your reasons, Carly. They’re not my problem. What matters to me is Jason, Bobbie, and Michael. They’re my family. And you destroyed them. Right now, you have the two people who love you—who genuinely grieved your loss—you have them thinking you did it on purpose. That you faked your death to get Jason’s attention or something.”
“Yeah, everyone loves to make me the bad guy,” Carly muttered.
“And I’m not saying it’s not something you would never do,” Elizabeth said. “But I know how much you love Michael. And how much you loved that club. And your car. You never would have sacrificed all three of them to make a stupid point.”
Carly’s eyes were wet with tears when she met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I didn’t fake my death.”
“I’m not the person you should be telling.” Elizabeth gestured in the direction. “You should tell Jason. Because whatever trouble you’re in, he can fix it. More than that, he wants to fix it. So just let him.”
Corinthos & Morgan: Warehouse
When one of the guards told Jason Carly was there to see him, Jason almost told him to send her away. Having made the decision to surrender guardianship to AJ, Jason really didn’t want to go another round with Carly.
Particularly when he was almost convinced that she would never tell him what the hell was going on, and he wasn’t interested in keeping his life on hold to fix hers anymore.
He’d wanted to take a few days with Elizabeth before her classes started. He knew that she and Gia had been saving for a vacation for that week all summer, and Jason had planned to surprise them both with a week on the island. He could have gone to Puerto Rico to do some business, giving them time alone.
But Carly had come home, and none of them had left. Gia Campbell would never be his favorite person, but she’d proved to be the kind of loyal and devoted friend Carly had always claimed to be, and she’d stayed home with Elizabeth.
“Jason?” Max asked again with raised brows. “You want me to get rid of her?”
He sighed. “No.” Jason waved his hand. “Let her in.”
He’d tell her in person what he was planning to do. Maybe the shock of it—
But then Carly came in, tears stained her cheek, her hands were trembling. “I can’t—I can’t do it.”
“Okay.” Jason got to his feet and steered her to one of the chairs in front of the desk. “Can’t do what?”
“I can’t do what he asked. I can’t. I’m so mad at you, Jase. So angry. But not that angry. I’m not. I can’t ever be that angry.”
With a sinking feeling, Jason sat in the chair next to her. He’d been right. Someone had orchestrated this. “Who asked what? Let’s…start at the beginning.”
“Elizabeth was right. I loved that car.” Carly’s lip trembled, but she swallowed hard. “I was just…I was driving the cliff roads. You used to talk about your bike a-and I hated that stupid thing, but I loved taking those turns in that car. Sonny hated that car, but I loved it—”
She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. “I don’t—I don’t remember the accident. Just—there were bright lights. And then pain. And then nothing. I don’t know if the car went into the water. God. I don’t know if I went into the water. I just—there was an accident, Jase.”
Bright lights. Maybe headlights. “What is the next thing you remember?”
“It’s hard…I feel like…” She bit her lip. “I think I was kept drugged. I don’t know. You know that feeling when you just drift? You can’t…you can’t wake up. You can’t open your eyes. You just…drift. You tell your body to move and it just ignores you.” She sucked in another shaky breath. “I don’t know how long that…that lasted. I just don’t. But um, when I was conscious—I thought I was in a hospital or something. A nurse told me—she told me I was in Canada. Toronto. But I think—”
“That was a lie,” Jason told her gently. “The PCPD looked in all the hospitals in the region. Sonny and I did, too. And then we looked a second time when you came home. No one with your description was admitted and then wasn’t accounted for.”
“Okay. Okay. Um, she told me there was an accident. That I had been in a coma for a while or something. It was…I woke up two weeks before that night. I didn’t stay away the whole time, Jason, I wouldn’t do that to Michael.”
“I didn’t think so, either.” Jason hesitated. “I thought you might have…that you might have faked the accident, but not for so long. I thought whoever helped you kept you—”
Carly closed her eyes. “Yeah, I guess…I guess I haven’t given you a reason not to…think that. The shit I’ve pulled, Jase…I’m surprised your hair isn’t white.”
She dragged her hands through her hair. “Okay. Okay. So, then this guy comes in and he’s got this—he’s got these pictures. And this crap from the court. It’s AJ and Michael. And he’s telling me that AJ has my son. That Michael is living there. That no one misses me. And I’m like, that’s bullshit. I told him it was bullshit, Jase.”
“But he showed me the court records and photos from the Fourth of July, and you’re—you’re with AJ. And Michael is with them. And I was so angry—and then pictures of you and that stupid twit—” She closed her eyes. “Pictures of everyone laughing. Smiling. Like I didn’t matter.”
“I get it. I mean, I kind of get it. I understand mostly. It was months, right? April, May, June—July. Of course, life moved on. But it didn’t for me—” Carly pressed a hand to her chest. “I wasn’t dead. And I didn’t—I didn’t know it was faked. I just thought no one was looking for me—”
“A guy comes in with all this information and you didn’t think someone faked your death?” Jason asked skeptically. “Carly—”
“You know I don’t think,” Carly snapped. “So, I kept telling him it was bullshit and as soon as I got out of the hospital, I’d prove it to him. You were my best friend and you loved Michael. You would never do that to me.”
“So, he told me that that was the plan. That when I went home, I should see how much people missed me. And—and I could go home. But there was a deal. There was a catch—”
“You couldn’t tell me anything.” Jason leaned back in his chair. “It was a test, wasn’t it, Carly? If I had given you Michael right away, you’d have told me everything.”
“B-but you wouldn’t.” Carly’s hands fisted. “You refused. A-And I was so angry. And when I get angry, I just—I react. I tried to—I used Michael the way you hate. I knew you’d say no. But it was the last thing I knew to do. Nothing else was working.”
“And when I refused, what did this man ask you to do?” Jason said, but he had a feeling he already knew.
“He—he asked me if I wanted revenge.” Tears slid down Carly’s face. “And I did. I did. Until he told me what he wanted me to do. I agreed, but I was scared, Jase—I never would have—”
“What did he ask you to do?” Jason repeated, getting to his feet. “Carly—”
“There’s—he wanted me to get you to come to a warehouse tonight.” Carly also stood. “But I wasn’t gonna be there. He said he just wanted to talk to you away from Sonny, but I knew what he was asking. I never—I couldn’t.”
“Tonight.” Jason hissed under his breath. “When did he ask you this?”
“A few—a few days ago. I was still so mad. I didn’t want to do it, but I thought I would just ignore it all, but then he called me today and told me that he knew I hadn’t come to see you yet. He was watching me—watching you—”
Her eyes filled with tears. “So, I had to come to you. But I didn’t know what to do. How to deal with it. But—I wanted to know. I wanted to know what Elizabeth knew about AJ and Michael. She’s right. She doesn’t care enough to bullshit me. So, I get it now. I still hate what you did, Jase, but I get it. And I’m sorry, but—”
Jason held up a hand to cut off her rambling apologies. “Stop. When is this ambush? Because that’s what it is, Carly. You agreed to lure me into an ambush.”
“I wouldn’t do that!” Carly cried. “Except. Yeah. I did. But to stall for time. I didn’t—Tonight. At nine. At Pier 52. Jason—”
“Just stop.” Jason took a deep breath. It was almost four o’clock. They had time…time to set up something. A trap, maybe. To get at the bottom of all of this. “Did the man ever introduce himself?”
“No, but I know who he is. I’ve seen his face in the paper and his wife has come to my club. Mickey Roscoe.”
“Roscoe,” Jason repeated. He had to be working with someone. Could Nico and Roscoe have started to work together? They didn’t have evidence of that, but— “Okay. You can go. You’ve done your part, Carly. Go.” He hesitated. “Go talk to Bobbie. Tell her that you’ve told me everything, and that I’m satisfied. Tell her you were kidnapped. I’m sorry this happened to you, Carly, but damn it—” He closed his eyes. “Go talk to your mother.”
“I’m sorry, Jase—”
“Yeah, me, too. Now go. I’ve got things to do.”
She left with more tears on her cheeks, but he couldn’t spare time to think about that. He knew what had happened during those five months, but why was Roscoe’s first plan to take Jason out? What did that serve?
He strode down the hall to Sonny’s office, pushing the door open to find Sonny meeting with Benny. “We’ve got a problem.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Courtney returned from her break with a pensive look on her face and made a beeline for Elizabeth counting receipts behind the counter. “Hey. Have you talked to Jason today?”
“Not since he dropped me off. And he hasn’t called–” Elizabeth reached into her purse for her phone and cursed. “I left it at Jake’s. Damn it.” She looked at Courtney. “Why?”
“AJ just called. His lawyer said that Alexis Davis called him and canceled the meeting for tonight. He tried to call Jason, but—”
“It’s already five—” Elizabeth frowned. “They were supposed to meet in an hour—why would Jason—” She bit her lip. “Maybe something came up at the warehouse.” And wasn’t that a comforting thought? Why had she forgotten her phone today of all days?
She picked up the phone behind Kelly’s counter and dialed Jason’s cell. It went straight to voicemail. That did not make her feel better. She tried Sonny’s number. Nothing.
She furrowed her brow. What was Alexis’s office number? Had they been arrested? Should she call the PCPD to find out? Damn it.
Elizabeth met Courtney’s worried gaze and took a deep breath. “This is something that happens sometimes,” she said softly. More to herself than to her friend. “Things come up. A-and I can’t know about it until it’s okay. So, they’re not answering their phones. I just—I have to wait. Someone will tell me something soon. It’s how it works.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “There’s no reason to panic. This just happens sometimes. Jason had to go out of town once really unexpectedly, and he couldn’t tell me. I kind of freaked out a bit, and I felt stupid asking Sonny about it. So…this is fine. I’ll just…wait it out.”
Even as all her nerve ending were standing up and screaming that Jason and Sonny were never out of touch at the same time.
“I could cover for you if you want to go to the warehouse? Or to Jake’s to get your phone.”
Elizabeth hesitated, considered it, but ultimately shook her head. “No. No, it’s fine. Jason will probably stop by before closing and let me know what’s up.”
And if she went to the warehouse or to get her phone…it would be admitting something might be wrong. And she wasn’t ready to do that.