Written in 51 minutes.
Smoke nearly choked her as soon as Elizabeth pushed her way through the broken front door and she almost fell down the stairs into her former living room. She stumbled back to her feet—dimly she could hear Jason and Drew’s voices behind her but she couldn’t stop.
Her baby was in this house and if it cost her life, she was going to get him out.
The living room was an inferno—the flames eating up the walls that still held the char from the explosion a year ago. She pushed through towards the kitchen, trying to force Cameron’s name through her lips which were already blistering.
She heard a crack and then an intense blinding pain at the back of her skull.
There was nothing but fire and smoke. Any sane man would have turned out, given up those inside for dead. But Jason wasn’t so easily defeated, and he’d be damned if he’d abandon Elizabeth and Cameron. If it took his last breath, they would live.
Jason tried to shield his nose from the thick black smoke and the flames eating their way towards him. “Do you—” He coughed, choking. He grabbed Drew’s shoulder, found the other man’s eyes through the haze of smoke. “Where did—”
Before he could force out the rest of the question, a portion of the ceiling came down with a heart-rending CRACK and CRASH. He heard a dim cry from the old kitchen. “There—”
“Where?” Drew coughed, but followed him.
They found Elizabeth underneath rubble, flames eating down from the second floor, little pieces of fire dropping down on her—any minute this pile would ignite and there’d be no saving her.
“I can’t—” Jason gestured at one end—Drew moved to start heaving pieces off Elizabeth’s prone body. Her face, darkened with soot came into focus. Her head slumped to the side, her eyes were closed. Jason quickly shoved more pieces away.
There was another ominous creak and Jason took precious seconds to look up. “This place is gonna come down—”
“Get her out of here, I’ll look for Cameron—” Drew’s voice cut off as another crack.
Jason tugged Elizabeth into his arms, struggled to his feet. “C’mon, I don’t—”
The ceiling in the kitchen just feet away collapsed and the structure wouldn’t hold. If Cameron had been downstairs, they would have seen him.
And the entire second story was engulfed.
If Cameron had been in this house—
Jason moved towards the stairs, Drew on his heels—and then the ceiling collapsed onto the stairs. Drew stared at it for a long second. Any chance of trying a desperate search was gone. It would be suicide.
Just as the brothers made it to the porch and onto the sidewalk—the entire second floor collapsed into the first. The house was gone.
Jason fell to his knees, cradling Elizabeth in his arms. “Do you—”
Drew was already reaching for a pulse. Dante at his side. Dimly, Jason could hear the screaming of sirens in the distance.
A chill slithered down Jason’s spine as he slid his hand out from behind Elizabeth’s head—it was sticky with blood. “Elizabeth—”
“I’ve got a pulse—where’s the ambulance?” Drew shouted just as the white bulky vehicle squealed to a stop.
But her eyes remained close, her head lolled in his hands.
Paramedics rushed to them and he was forced to release her. Dante was trying to pull him to his feet—he needed to get out of the way so firefighters could get inside.
“Was Cameron in there?” Dante demanded, his fingers digging into Jason’s bare forearm. “Damn it, Jase—”
“If he was—” Jason looked back at the house where he’d once dreamt of living with Elizabeth and the boys, and swallowed hard.
Its already charred remains had been fragile even before this new assault—there was no house left. Only flames and scraps of wood. “I don’t know,” he managed. He coughed again—and then couldn’t stop coughing.
Dante muscled him over to the second ambulance where Drew was already sitting, a mask pressed against his face. Jason accepted his own mask and watched as Elizabeth was loaded into the stretcher.
“Was he in there?” Drew asked, taking the mask away for a moment. “Or was this another one of Franco’s sick games?”
“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “I don’t know this Franco. I only—” He swallowed hard. Looked at his brother. “You have my memories. You know what he was like.”
“I do. Torturing Elizabeth, setting her home on fire, pretending to kill her son—that would be right up his alley. You should have been here when Carly had an affair with Sonny. He locked her in a warehouse and threatened to—” Drew squeezed his eyes shut. “I should have killed him.”
“I thought I did,” Jason muttered. Dante joined them. “Are they—”
“There’s no search for survivors,” Sonny’s son told them with some regret. “The structure isn’t safe. They’ll focus on putting it out and then looking for…” He shook his head. “You should both go to the hospital. Get checked out.”
“I want to stay here until we know for sure about Cam—” Drew’s voice broke. “I need to know. But Elizabeth—she doesn’t have any other family.” He looked at Jason. “There’s no one left—”
“You stay here,” Jason told him. He grimaced at his SUV with its windows blown out. “I’ll go to the hospital.”
“I’ll get you a ride—” Dante signalled to another officer. Nathan West trotted up. “I need you to get Jason to GH. He needs to get checked out—and he hates ambulances.”
Jason left with Nathan and Dante looked at Drew. “Is Franco crazy enough to commit a murder suicide?”
“You know, I don’t know.” Drew stared hard at the remains of the home where he’d lived before he’d had any memories to call his own. Before she’d known who he was supposed to be, Elizabeth had opened her heart and home to him. “God, I hope not. I hope Cam’s last—” He couldn’t continue. Couldn’t manage any words for the bright-eyed boy he’d almost made his own.
And had abandoned.
Jason shrugged off Monica’s concern and demanded to know Elizabeth’s condition. His mother had demurred—she wasn’t sure who Elizabeth’s legal next of kin was and had gone to check.
The pedestrian entrance to the emergency room slid open and Sonny and Carly rushed in, followed by Sam and Spinelli. “What’s going on?” Sonny asked as Carly took Jason’s facei n her hands, examining the soot and the singed burns in his hair. “We just—”
“We heard that the house blew up,” Sam interrupted. Her eyes darted around. “Where are Drew and Elizabeth?”
“Drew stayed behind to make—” Jason’s throat tightened. “The house exploded when we got there. Franco called one more time—he had Cam with him. He told Elizabeth to say goodbye—and then it exploded.”
“Oh, God, no, not with—” Carly pressed her hands to her mouth. “Not with Cam inside—” She reached out blindly for Sonny’s arm. “Not like Morgan—” Her voice broke on a sob. “Not again.”
“Elizabeth ran in, didn’t she?” Sonny asked. He craned his neck around. “Where is she? Does—you found him, didn’t you?”
“No.” Jason closed his eyes. “No. The house collapsed—we barely got Elizabeth out. Part of the ceiling fell on top of her—she’s got a head injury—I don’t know anything else. Drew was going to try to keep looking but—the stairs—we only just got out before the entire—”
Sonny took Jason’s arm in his and steered him to a seat. “Sit down. Can we get someone to check him out?” he called to one of the nurses.
“I’m fine. I had—” Jason shook his head again. “Monica—” He said, jumping back to his feet as his mother returned. “Can—”
“We’ve got a problem here,” Monica said. “I’d need to consult with the hospital’s lawyers but—” She shook her head. “Elizabet doesn’t have a legal next of kin. Not in Port Charles. We’ll have to call Sarah or her parents but they’re six or seven hours away—”
“What about one of her kids?” Carly asked. “Jake—he’s ten. And Jason—” She grabbed Jason’s arm. “He’s Jake’s father. Can’t—can’t he stand in for—”
“Monica, no one is going to sue you if you tell me what’s going on,” Jason interrupted. “I know you’re protecting the hospital—”
“We’re tracking down power of attorney paperwork,” Monica said, “but I guess you’re right. Griffin is looking at her now. We’re worried that she hasn’t regained consciousness. They’re putting her in a CT scan as we speak to see what we’re dealing with.”
She took a deep breath. “Was Cameron in the house?”
“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “I don’t—we didn’t seen any evidence, but we never got upstairs. Drew—” He looked at Sam and saw her worry. “He didn’t want to leave until we knew for sure, but someone—”
“I’m going to go down there,” Sam said. “If—if they find—” And even she couldn’t get the words out. “I don’t want him dealing with that alone. He nearly adopted Cameron.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” Sonny told her. He turned back to Jason. “Hey, you know Elizabeth has a hard head. And wherever this psycho is, we’ll find him. We won’t rest until we know where Cameron is.”
Sonny followed Sam outside, Monica went to answer the question about power of attorney, and Jason directed his attention to Spinelli. “How sure are you that Cameron’s phone was ever at the house?”
“I didn’t have time to dig into the signal,” Spinelli said with a grimace. “I brought my computer—I can get—”
They all turned their attention to the elevators as they slid open and Griffin directed a team of orderlies with a gurney back to an examining curtain. Elizabeth’s face had been cleaned of soot, and they could see the cuts and bruises blooming on her face.
Carly grabbed for Griffin. “What did the CT show?” she demanded. “And don’t give us any crap about next of kin.”
Griffin shook his head a bit as if in a daze himself. “There’s—there’s bleeding on the brain. She has a skull fracture. Uh, Monica thought Elizabeth had a power of attorney on file, but it might be old. We’re trying to get Alexis to give us an idea—but—”
“Skull fracture,” Jason repeated. “You need to do surgery.”
“Ideally, yes. But I need her vitals to stabilize first. Her blood pressure is all over the place and her heart rhythm—” Griffin scrubbed his hands over his face. “I didn’t—Monica said there was an explosion, and Franco had Cameron in the house—”
“We don’t know for sure Cam was in the house,” Carly said. “Spinelli—”
“On it,” the younger man declared as he held up his laptop. “Can I use a conference room—”
“You can use my office,” Griffin told him. “You know where it is right? It’s Dr. Drake’s old office.”
“I’ll be down the hall,” Spinelli told him. “I’ll text when I’ve got news.”
Monica returned with a pained expression. “Elizabeth drew up a power of attorney after Jake was born and gave it to Emily, so it’s useless. We’ll have to get someone assigned officially as guardian to make decisions but for now, the hospital will step in.”
Griffin and Monica went to go check on Elizabeth’s vitals leaving Jason alone with Carly. “Are you sure you got looked at?” Carly asked with some hesitation. “You were inside—”
“I’m fine,” Jason said, though his throat was sore and he could hear the raspy tone of his voice. “I need to find Cameron. When Elizabeth wakes up, I can’t tell her—”
“I know. Believe me. She’s been through it once. I’ve been through it. No mother wants that, and God, Jason, it could have been Jake he took. He’s always been obsessed with you and he’s taken such an interest in Jake—”
“That’s why he took Cameron.” Jason sat back down, his head in his hands. “Cam and Aiden have relatives. Elizabeth has always been sensitive about Cameron’s lack of family. Especially after Emily died. She must have told him that at some point.”
“That sick psycho—this is my fault. I tried to have him killed and they missed. They hit Olivia instead, but if Sean could have just aimed better—” Carly closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just—I’m just thinking about las year. About losing Morgan. An explosion caused by a psycho. It’s just—” Her voice broke. “And you know, Joss is going to be devastated if something happens to him. They’ve been friends for years—”
“I need Spinelli to find Cameron’s phone. I need to be sure the signal was in that house—” Jason shook his head. “I’m not going to watch Elizabeth grieve another child. Not again.”
Ensconced in Griffin’s office, Spinelli worked his way through layers and code, then frowned. Narrowed his eyes. He reached for his phone and dialed an unfamiliar number.
“This is Damien Spinelli. Are you at home?” Spinelli asked.
Scott Baldwin’s voice was hesitant. “No. I’m at the courthouse, and I’ve been in court all day. What are you—”
“Has he called you today?”
“No—what is going on?”
“Elizabeth broke up with Franco this morning, and then a few hours later, Franco kidnapped Cameron from school. He also blew up Elizabeth’s old house after making us all think Cameron was inside. Do you know where your son is?”
“Why are you asking me this?” Scott demanded.
“Because Cameron’s phone—his real signal—is pinging at your address.”