Chapter Four

November 2009

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

“Boss-” Max Giambetti pushed open the door. “Johnny Zacchara to see you.”

Jason glanced up from some paperwork and frowned. “What’s he want?”

Max scratched his ear. “He didn’t exactly say. Me and Milo can toss him if you want.”

“No, no…” Jason stood. “Show him in.”  He set his pen down and rounded the desk. “I want to see what could bring him all the way to Port Charles.”

The younger man strolled in and stopped in front of Jason. “I have a business proposition for you,” he said.

Jason eyed him suspiciously. Despite the relative peace since Michael and Sonny’s deaths, he still found it difficult to trust Johnny Zacchara all that much. “Beyond keeping the peace, I’m not interested in doing business with you.”

“I think you might change your mind after you hear me out.” Johnny slipped his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m about to become a father.”

Jason’s eyebrows shot up and he glanced at Max to gage his reaction. Apparently the guard hadn’t heard the news either. “I hadn’t heard that. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. I know all of the families have adopted a hard and fast rule that women and children are off limits but I think you can sympathize with me and agree that you don’t have a lot of faith in that.”

“There are always going to be risks,” Jason admitted. “But we’ve changed the way we do business and overall, it’s safer than it ever has been. I can understand that you might have reservations. When Jake was born, I denied paternity to keep him safe.”

“I won’t raise my child the way I was,” Johnny said resolutely. “I had been thinking about coming here since I found out but yesterday, Nadine agreed to marry me and now I know it’s more important than ever to have a safe place for my family.”

“Nadine?” Jason repeated. “The nurse from the hospital?”

Johnny nodded. “She mentioned that Elizabeth is also expecting. She was excited; their due dates are within weeks of each other and she’s glad to have someone who’s gone through this before.” He paused. “We’re going to be bringing children into this world that will grow up together. I think we owe it to them to give them a better life than my father gave me, and what Michael ended up with.”

He was young, Jason thought. A little younger and definitely less experienced than he’d like. But he was smart and he knew that Jason’s weak spot was his wife and boys—and the child on the way. It appeared that Johnny Zacchara might have the same vulnerabilities. “What did you have in mind?”

“More than a truce. We run territories that border each other and people will always think they can divide and conquer. I suggest we combine our efforts and become partners.”

“I don’t deal with drugs,” Jason said shortly. “That’s a large part of your business.”

“I would, of course, make some concessions to that effect,” Johnny said. “Drugs are a fact of life, Morgan. We can either ignore it or control it. The way I run the business, they’re not marketed to children or teenagers and anyone who breaks that rule forfeits his life. I’d rather be in control of it. I would continue to support the embargo on the trade here in Port Charles. Nothing ships in or out.”

“They’re too risky,” Jason shook his head. “I don’t think—”

“People are going to find ways to kill themselves,” Johnny interrupted. “If they want drugs, they’ll find a way to get them. Like said, this way I can control who gets access better than you can. You simply turn your back and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t like to admit it, but you have a point. All right. As long as you continue to enforce the embargo here, I can deal with that. I don’t want to have to provide protection for a shipment of them.”

“We can handle that on our end.” Johnny paused once more. “I can’t change the bad blood that’s in our past. I’d do anything to give Sonny back to his kids. But we can make sure that our families don’t have to pay for our choices.”

June 2024

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

Johnny had kept the house in Crimson Pointe and after his marriage had imploded, he’d moved back here, keeping a residence in Port Charles for the school year so that Amalia could spend every other week with him.

During the summer, he stayed in the house exclusively, traveling to Port Charles only when necessary. He hated the damn town and he’d be happy once Amalia was eighteen and he would be able to sell the condo and get the hell out. She was the only worthwhile part of his life there.

The strains of piano music drew him into the room that he used exclusively. He wasn’t sure that anyone else had ever played on the grand piano but he entered and saw his daughter playing.

And playing with such ability that it nearly took his breath away. He listened to her play Beethoven and wondered how she could have hid this from him all her life. There was so much about his daughter that he didn’t understand.

She hadn’t always been this uncontrollable and difficult to reach. Though he and Nadine had never been able to keep a civil tongue with one another, he’d had a good relationship with Amalia until she was about eleven years old and like someone had flipped a switch, his sweet little girl disappeared and this…angry young woman stood in her place.

After his terrible fight with Nadine a week ago, he’d stormed out of the house and hadn’t expected see to Amalia for a while. He did not call his lawyer to ask about custody and he knew that Nadine hadn’t either.

They’d been threatening each other with that for longer than either of them could remember. It never failed to incite the anger in either of them.

But his daughter had showed up the day before with a bag. She wanted to spend her scheduled week with him and he would never refuse her.

He ventured into the room, Amalia never looking up from the piano. Her eyes were closed but her notes were perfect. Another sign of her talent. She was as swept away by the music as he had been at her age. An escape from reality. A place in which he was in control and all was right and perfect.

The notes trailed off and she stopped. She opened her eyes and stared at him.

“I used to play that for your mother,” Johnny murmured. “When she was pregnant.” He trailed his fingers over the piano as he moved to join her on the bench. She shifted to the side just a bit. He picked up the piece where she left off. “She used to complain that I spent too much time alone in here so she had a sofa moved in so she could read while I played.”

Amalia joined him after another moment, playing the left hand portion of the music. He let his hand fall away and they played the piece together. “She wasn’t really into classical music,” he continued, “but she liked this one. She said it sounded sad and hopeful at the same time. I tried to teach her but she never really caught on. She told me to save it for our daughter.” He smiled to himself. “We knew  by then…that you were a girl. I was terrified because I didn’t know anything about raising a girl. I could have fumbled my way through with a boy, but girls were a whole other thing. Your mom…never had any doubts though. She knew from the second she was pregnant that you were something she’d waited her whole life for.”

“Do you realize,” his daughter said softly, never missing a note, “that what you just told me is the nicest thing you’ve ever had to say about Mom? Or that it’s the first story I’ve ever heard about you two? About how you were before?”

The piece drew to a close and Johnny let his hands fall from the keys. “Your mom and I have our issues,” he said after a long moment. “I won’t pretend to understand them or expect you to. But we love you. Every single inch of you. Even when you mouth off. Even when you run out of restaurants. Even when I want to throttle you, Li, I love you. And I know your mom does.” He took her chin in his. “Our marriage may have ended up being a mistake, but you never were.”

She bit her lip and cast her eyes to the side. “But I was an accident.”

“No,” Johnny shook his head. “An accident is something you’d change, that you would take back.”

“You didn’t plan to have a kid with Mom,” Amalia continued, sliding back on the bench. “I know all about it, Aunt Claudia told me when I was eleven.”

“I’ll bet she did,” Johnny muttered. “No, you weren’t planned but please don’t mistake planning with wanting.  It’s not the same.”

“But you ended up marrying Mom because of me,” she said stubbornly. “And you guys make each other miserable. How can you not hate me for it?”

“The things that happened between your mom and me are because of who we are,” Johnny answered slowly. “We were happy for a while. I don’t want you to think that we always…that we were always like this.”

“Then what happened?” Amalia pressed. “Why don’t you guys tell me?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t know you could play,” Johnny changed the subject. “You’ve never used this piano before.”

“Mom has an upright one at the house.” Amalia sighed, knowing that subject was closed. “I’ve been taking lessons since I was six.” She hesitated. “I knew you could play,” she admitted. “And I was stupid when I was little, I didn’t really know what being divorced or even being married meant. I just knew we weren’t a family so I thought if I could play and I was good at it, you might come home and love me again.” She drifted her fingers over the ivory keys. “It was stupid.”

“Li…”

“No, I mean, I know you love me. I guess. And I know you definitely did when I was six. But I practiced every day, all day. I thought Mom was going to kill me, but she just smiled and told me I was getting better.  I was going to show you how good I was but you came home with Candace before I could and I just…I was so mad at you because you’d ruined my plans,” she admitted. “You were supposed to see how good I was and marry Mom again but you couldn’t because you were married to someone else. So I decided I would never tell you.” She jerked a shoulder. “And even when I was old enough to know better, I decided I wouldn’t tell you because you might be proud of me and I didn’t want that anymore.”

Johnny exhaled slowly. “Well, I’m sorry, Li,” he said, “but I am proud of you. That’s a hard piece at any age, much less fourteen. And to be able to drop it and pick it up again so flawlessly, you’re further along than I was at your age.” He hesitated. “What made you decide tackle Moonlight Sonata so young?”

“It was something I used to hear Mom play on her stereo,” Amalia told him. “I was twelve and I figured if she liked it so much, I wanted to be able to play it, too. So I learned it for Mother’s Day. And when I played it…she smiled.” She paused. “So I guess it’s a good memory for you both.”

“I guess so,” Johnny murmured. He cleared his throat. “How are you with Mozart?”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Cameron dropped into a seat across from Morgan and grinned at him. “It’s a crying shame that you suck so much at basketball.”

His cousin glared at him. “You play dirty,” he accused. “If we had a competent referee, you would’ve been thrown out!”

“Lucky for me Mal spends more time watching CeCe than he does on the game.” Cameron glanced up as Molly Lansing stepped outside the restaurant and went to check on a table across the courtyard. “Hm.”

“Oh, if that’s anything like the hmm you got with Sarah Elliot, I would like to ask you to just stop it now because I’m still getting yelled at by Mom and Jax about the tires on my car being slashed,” Morgan complained.

“Is it my fault Sarah turned out to be both a stalker and colorblind?” Cameron demanded.

“It’s your fault for not demanding a psych work up before you make these girls fall for those pretty eyes,” Morgan grumbled. “And don’t forget, Molly Lansing is my cousin.”

“Only technically,” Cameron shrugged. “Alexis never let those girls anywhere near you or your mom.”

“Exactly, so you can imagine how it’ll piss her off if Jason Morgan’s son goes after her precious dumpling,” Morgan countered. “And you do not want that woman on your butt. She still has friends at the DA’s office.. Do you know what she did to Kristina’s last boyfriend? Had him hauled in on a speeding ticket. A speeding ticket! She’s nuts.”

“Paranoid,” Cameron corrected. “Besides, I only gave her a hmm. I’m not an animal, you know. Yo, Molly, are you going to take our order or are we going to pass out here?”

Molly Lansing planted her hand on her hip and smirked. “Yeah, like you boys are going to suffer if I don’t feed you in the next ten minutes.” She sauntered over, her long brown pony tail swishing back and forth. “What do you want?”

“Hamburger, well done, with fries and a soda,” Morgan answered. “How is your mom handling your newfound career?”

“Still having a conniption.” Molly rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m not like my perfect sister and going to college to be a lawyer doesn’t mean my life isn’t worthwhile.” She flicked her caramel eyes at Cameron. “What do you want?”

“Chili and a soda,” Cameron said. “You know what you could tell your mom the next time she starts in on you? Elizabeth Webber started out as a waitress and ended up a surgical nurse. All she needed was time to figure it out.”

Molly studied him curiously, realizing it was the first time Cam had brought his mother up willingly. “That might work. Mom always had a soft spot for your mom. Or so I’m told.” She tapped her pencil against her order pad. “What are you doing tonight?”

Morgan groaned. “It never fails,” he muttered.

After making plans to take Molly to the movies, she went to put in their orders. Cameron sat back in his chair and cracked his knuckles. “It’s a gift, man. Plain and simple. The old Morgan charm.”

Morgan snorted. “Yeah, I somehow doubt that. No offense man, but the day they gave out charm, your dad was….somewhere else entirely.” He tilted his head to the side. “Maybe your biological dad had the charm.”

“Don’t know,” Cameron shrugged. “Died way before I was born and he’s another person no one ever talks about but with him, I think it’s more that there aren’t a lot of people around that remember him. It’s not a big deal to me. He was never a father to me.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, yeah, Sonny was my dad and I kind of remember him,” Morgan said, “but Jax has been there my entire life. Even before my dad died, I think he was around more.” He hesitated. “So how have things been at the house since all that stuff last week?”

“It’s been okay.” Cameron shrugged. “I mean, Jake’s still pissed off and Jules has gone off the deep end. She keeps hanging pictures of Mom everywhere and Dad’s just letting her go wild even though it’s got to hurt to see her face everywhere after so long. She keeps talking about her plans to find out what happened to Mom but I can’t see how that’s going to happen. If my father couldn’t find her, how the hell does Jules think she’s going to be able to?”

“You never know,” Morgan said. “It’s not like anyone’s actively looking, right? And dude, someone out there has to know the answer, Cam. She didn’t just fall down a hole in her car and disappear. Someone out there knows exactly what happened to her. Like someone knows exactly who killed my brother,” his face hardened. “Someone has the answers and things like that? They got a way of coming out.”

“I guess you’re right,” Cameron agreed. “If someone…hurt her,” he said, not able to admit his mother might have been murdered, “that person is out there. You hear about people going in and confessing all the time. Someone has to know what happened and it’s only a matter of time.”

Nadine Zacchara’s Home: Living Room

The house was always eerily quiet when Amalia was with her father and Nadine hated the summers more because it meant her daughter was not a few blocks away but an hour, in Crimson Pointe.

It was these weeks that made her regret staying in this house after the divorce. They’d bought it just before the wedding because Jason and Elizabeth Morgan lived a few streets away and Johnny knew how much her friendship with Elizabeth meant to Nadine, especially while they were both pregnant. This house was a constant reminder of what their lives had been and what they could have been if things hadn’t changed.

She had moved out of the house temporarily when Amalia was three, but once they were legally separated and dueling in court, Johnny had retreated to Crimson Pointe and she’d returned here. She’d stayed because she wanted to believe that maybe they could work out their problems, at least for Amalia’s sake and she’d never left because her daughter had enough turmoil in her life. She deserved this stability for as long as Nadine could provide it.

When she was alone in this house, she couldn’t stop herself from remembering what it had been like then. The piano on the sun porch that she’d scrimped and saved to buy for Johnny as a wedding present. It was nothing like the beautiful grand piano he used at the estate, but he’d been so pleased and she’d been so proud that she could find something worthwhile to give this man with all his money.

He’d sat with their daughter when Amalia was no more than six months and tapped out everything – from the simple scales to complex pieces Nadine almost couldn’t follow. Amalia had soaked it in and Nadine wasn’t sure if her daughter knew it, but Amalia was entirely capable of playing simple scales by the time she was three. It had been the first thing that had truly bonded father and daughter and now Nadine was sure Johnny didn’t even know how beautifully she could play.

Nadine moved restlessly from the living room to the sun porch and sat down on the piano bench. He’d tried to teach her while she was pregnant but she wasn’t able to catch on and now she couldn’t even remember those scales. When she sat here, she could remember how much she’d loved her ex-husband once. She hadn’t when they’d conceived their daughter, and not when she’d told him she was pregnant.

But two months later, when he’d asked her to marry him so sweetly, she’d loved him desperately and hoped one day he’d feel the same. He had always been kind to her, but it only took a few years and a few slaps in the face from his past to know that she was a consolation prize.

She rubbed her face tiredly. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery, she sighed. She was only making herself worse by dwelling on these things.  Johnny certainly didn’t. He’d married just over two years after the divorce. It hadn’t lasted more than six months, but before the ink had been dry on the second divorce papers, he’d married again. And had stayed with the second one for almost two years.

The doorbell broke into her musings and Nadine left the sun porch, grateful for the distraction. And even more thrilled when she pulled open the door and found one of her favorite people standing there.

“Nikolas!” she cried, embracing him tightly. She laughed and pulled away. “I didn’t know you were coming to Port Charles!”

Nikolas Cassadine smiled in return. “I decided to bring Spencer for the summer. He’ll be starting Oxford in the fall and I wanted him to have some time with Lucky.” He hesitated.

“And Lulu,” Nadine answered with a wry smile. “You don’t need to tiptoe around it, I know she’s popped back into town.”

“Yeah, well…” Nikolas shrugged and followed Nadine inside. “It’s been too long since I’ve spent any time here. Wyndemere looks more and more gothic every time I see it. It amazes me I spent more than fifteen years in that house.”

“London looks good on you,” she smiled. “It was good that you got away from here.” She sat on the sofa and he sat next to her. “So how is Spencer doing? Aside from going to college?”

“Well,” he nodded. “He has Courtney’s stubborn nature, of course. I had to practically wrestle him into registering at the university. He wanted to come back to the States but I’m not nearly ready for him to be so far away.”

“We never are,” Nadine sighed.

“Is Amalia with her father?” Nikolas said, keeping his tone light and even. He’d never disguised his dislike for Johnny Zacchara and had been one of the few people in her life that had whole-heartedly supported the divorce.

“Yes, this is his week. I didn’t think she was going to go, they had an awful fight the last time she was there and I don’t think he was going to push for it but she asked Jake Morgan to drive her there yesterday.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about them. She has a very large crush on him.”

“He’s three years older than her, nearly to the day,” Nikolas murmured. “Not a very big difference, but almost insurmountable at seventeen and fourteen.”

“I know that age is just a number,” Nadine sighed. “I remember all the people who are far apart in age and still happy, but she’s my little girl and I’m not ready for her to be dating and falling in love. She’s got Jake Morgan wrapped around her finger ,though, so I guess it’s about out of my hands. You can’t live their lives for them.”

“No, I don’t suppose you can, no matter how much you try,” Nikolas said with a grin. “How is Jake? And Cameron and Juliet? Are they doing well?”

“Better,” Nadine answered. “Jason found a box that Juliet had been hiding, with pictures and clippings of her mother and I guess he realized how much Jules needed to know, so last week he sat the kids down and told them anything they wanted to know. Amalia told me that Jules is hanging pictures everywhere so she can see Elizabeth in every room.”

“That’s good,” Nikolas said softly. “It’s good that Jason is finally ready to take that step. I didn’t handle Emily’s death any more easily so I can sympathize with him.” He started to say something else but then shook his head. “Never mind, it’s insane.”

“What?” Nadine asked with a smile. “What’s insane?”

“I was doing a tour of the estates last summer,” Nikolas said slowly, “and I went to the estate in Greece, outside of Athens. I saw a woman who looked so much like Elizabeth, it nearly took my breath away.”

Nadine frowned. “You don’t think…”

“No, no,” he shook his head. “No, I don’t think it’s her at all. I long ago accepted that she’s gone but I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me. I had been thinking about her, she and Emily and growing up together had been on my mind because Spencer was the age I was when I moved here. I had been thinking about how awful it was that no one knew where her body was, that she’d been unable to have a proper funeral and burial. It’s just amazing how much your mind can want something that you almost make it happen.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Nadine sighed.

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