I guess it’s gonna break me down
Like fallin’ when I’m try to fly
It’s sad but sometimes
Moving on with the rest of your life
Starts with goodbye
– Starts With Goodbye, Carrie Underwood
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Elizabeth gasped for air as she could faintly hear Jason shouting her name. Her fingers fumbled as she tried to fit the oxygen mask over her face. His hands brushed hers aside as he fitted the mask, then switched on her tank. It didn’t work. She couldn’t draw in a full breath. The pressure in her chest grew like someone was squeezing her lungs with their fist—
What had Monica said? Tears stung at her eyes as she tried to pull air in through the mask. She couldn’t remember. Spots swam in front of her eyes.
Jason had flung himself out of bed and was kneeling in front of her. He was saying something, but she couldn’t make it out—
“Look at me,” Jason said, his voice rough, panicked. “Hey. C’mon—” He swore as her breathing remained shallow and rapid. He crossed the room and dug his phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling 911—”
“No—” she gasped. “No. Not again—” Some of the pressure finally started to ease and she was able to take a full breath for the first time.
She pressed a fist to her chest, a sob of relief escaping her lips and causing her mask to fog up. She took another full breath. Then a third.
When she felt like she had it under control, she lifted the mask from her face. “I’m okay.” But she felt exhausted, pressed her hands to her face. “I’m sorry.”
A lamp next to her bed switched on, then Jason handed her a robe that had been hanging from the back of her door. He pulled on his briefs and sat next to her. “You had an oxygen tank,” he said flatly. “Why? I thought Monica gave you the all clear at your last follow up—”
Feeling weary, Elizabeth sighed and stood. She swayed slightly but righted herself. “I need something to drink,” she murmured. She brushed off his hands as he tried to keep her seated. “I need to move, Jason. Monica said moving would help—”
But he said nothing else, just followed her out of the bedroom into her small kitchen and waited as she poured herself a glass of water and sipped it, feeling the cool liquid soothe her sore throat. “I’m sorry,” she repeated as she turned to look at him. There were no lights on in the main part of the apartment, just the moonlight filtering in through the window above her sink.
Jason leaned against the opposite counter, his face hidden by the shadows. “Did Monica give you the all clear or not?” he asked.
“She did,” Elizabeth said, defensively. She tugged her robe more tightly closed, holding the two sides together with a fist at her throat. “Mostly.”
He closed his eyes, shook his head. “You lied to me.”
“I didn’t—” Not really. She just… “Monica told me I was clear for clots, that wasn’t a lie. And that I could resume normal activities…except…” She bit her lip. “She said that I would probably have issues with…stamina, I guess. I couldn’t walk far or—” She took a step towards him, but he didn’t move, so she stopped awkwardly. “She said I might find myself short of breath and that I had to be careful because it might lead to a panic attack or hyperventilating. That’s all that was—”
“That’s all that was,” he repeated. He leaned over and flipped on the light switch. The bright, unnatural light was harsh on her eyes and she squinted. She saw then that Jason wasn’t irritated—
He was furious. His blue eyes had that icy, almost gray flint hue they took on when he was really mad, his shoulders were tense, the muscles in his face twitching.
“You were gasping for air. You couldn’t breathe.” He shook his head and went back into the bedroom. Worried now, she followed him and watched as he started to pull on his jeans. “Why didn’t you tell me what Monica said about breathing problems?”
“Because I don’t—” She tore his shirt from his hands before he could pull it over his head. “Because I can’t keep living my life worried all the damn time, Jason. I’m going to have issues for the rest of my life because of what Ric did to me—”
“You’ve been out of the hospital for two weeks, Elizabeth.” He stabbed a finger in her direction, then pulled his hand into a fist, letting it drop to his side. “Two weeks. You almost died—”
“And I’m tired of hearing that! I know I almost died—I was there. I couldn’t walk from my damn bed to the window without—” Elizabeth threw the shirt at him. “How long are you going to use that to keep me from doing anything? You want to lock me up, too?”
As soon as the words left her lips, she wanted to call them back. “I’m sorry,” she said almost immediately but it was too late. Jason pulled on his socks and sat on the edge of the bed to tug on his boots. “I didn’t mean that, Jason—”
“You think I’m using what happened to you as a weapon?” he demanded, looking at up at her. “That I’m trying to guilt you by reminding you—” He broke off, shook his head. “I knew you were sick. I could have forced you to see Monica. To get you help. But I wanted to find Carly. And you almost died. You—”
He stopped, took a deep breath. “You’d pressed that button, then collapsed. Your heart stopped beating right in front of me. You stopped breathing. And I just—you could have told me.”
“How could I tell you what Monica said when this is what happens every time I so much as yawn?” Elizabeth demanded, planting her hands on her hips. “I get what happened was awful, but I’m alive, and I’m here—”
His boots now on, Jason stood and found his phone where he’d tossed it after his aborted attempt to call 911. “I don’t want to argue with you,” he said.
“Because I might hyperventilate?” she all but snarled as she charged after him only to for her lungs to seize again as she stumbled, grabbing the kitchen counter to keep from sprawling on the ground. “Damn it,” she gasped, pressing a fist to her chest. “Damn it!”
Jason was back at her side, lowering her to the ground gently so she was resting with her back against the cabinets. He had his phone out again, but he didn’t call 911—he could hear him saying Monica’s name—
“It’s after midnight,” she tried to say, grasping weakly at his phone.
“Yeah. Okay, thanks. They’ll buzz you up downstairs. The door will be unlocked,” Jason said, ignoring her protests. He closed his phone and put it back in his pocket. “You either let her take a look at you or I’m calling an ambulance.”
Because she was too tired to argue, she just closed her eyes and let her head fall gently back against the wooden cabinet. Jason lifted her into his arms and carried her to the sofa before unlocking the door.
“I can’t live my life in fear,” she said softly, almost a murmur. “I can’t. I can’t keep letting it drive. I have to be in charge of my own life. And that means I can’t let your fears run my life, either.”
He said nothing as he sat on the end of the sofa, his head bowed. “Then don’t lie to me.”
“If you had told me—”
“Monica never said I couldn’t have sex,” Elizabeth muttered, pressing a hand to her forehead. Everything hurt—why did everything have to feel like it was on fire?
“But she said to take it easy, didn’t she?” Jason challenged. He scrubbed his hands over his face. “You didn’t tell me about the oxygen tank. What else don’t I know?”
“I’m not allowed to have a single thought to myself?” she shot back. “Isn’t that the line you threw at me when you lied to me?” He threw her an exasperated look which only made her angrier. “I get it. You watched me die. Well, I’m the one who actually died. I’m the one who couldn’t breathe when I woke up. I’m the one that was drugged. This didn’t happen to you—”
“I watched you die,” he said slowly, his voice sounding calmer than she knew he felt. “I watched you gasp and struggle for air, and with what you thought was your dying breath, try to tell me you loved me.” He looked at her, his eyes red and damp with tears of his own. “And then tonight, I watched you gasp and struggle for air again. And I thought—I thought it was another embolism. I thought you were going to die again. In front of me. They told me in the hospital that if you’d had another one, that was it. No more miracles.”
Some of her irritation faded then. She hadn’t—of course it must have looked— “I’m sorry. I didn’t—I didn’t think of what it looked like—I mean—to you.”
“I don’t want you to live in fear, Elizabeth. To always worry about what might happen with your health, but at the same time—” he shook his head. “I’m not sure I can stop.”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated.
Monica knocked on the door, then opened it, entering with a little black bag. Jason got to his feet and closed the door behind her. “I came as soon as I could—” She raised her brows at the two of them, both with red eyes, Elizabeth half-dressed, Jason fully clothed. “Jason said you had to use the tank?”
Elizabeth hesitated, then got to her feet. Jason steadied her with his hand under her elbow. “I’m sorry to drag you over here. I didn’t—I didn’t tell Jason I might need an oxygen mask.”
“Ah.” Monica studied her son for a long moment before looking back at Elizabeth. “Why don’t we go into your room and I’ll take your vitals. We’ll see if we have any reason to be worried.”
Leaving Jason behind in the living room, Elizabeth sat on the edge of her bed as Monica took her temperature, her blood pressure, and then checked her heart. “I told you I’m fine—”
“Your blood pressure is up, but that’s probably to be expected.” Monica pursed her lips. “You didn’t tell him what I said about possibly finding yourself short of breath and needing some back up?”
“No,” Elizabeth said on a sigh. “And he found out—well, he found out the hard way. He thought I was having another embolism. I didn’t—I didn’t—I guess I was hoping it wouldn’t happen like that, but—” she shrugged. “He’s angry at me.”
“It’s hard,” Monica said as she started to repack her instruments. “I’ve always found the hardest part of being in a relationship is the sharing. Alan and I are terrible at it. Ninety percent of our problems have been trying to solve our problems on our own.” She wrinkled her nose. “The other ten percent was all the affairs.”
“I get that Jason was upset because of what happened to me—”
“He blames himself, Elizabeth. Even if it’s not true, even if it’s not fair, Jason blames himself for letting it to get to the point that you almost died.” Monica picked up the bag. “And right or wrong, he probably sees what happened tonight as also being his fault. That’s something the accident didn’t change about him. Even as a small child, Jason always took the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
She sighed. “Monica—”
“I want you to spend some time resting,” Monica said, cutting her off. “Not bed rest but taking it easy. I know your hearing is at the end of the week and the memorial service—” She pressed her lips together. “After that, we’ll talk about some ways to get you back on track, physically.” She hesitated. “Elizabeth, you’re young. You were healthy before Ric got his hands on you, but a pulmonary embolism—the cardiac arrest that followed—that’s not something you bounce back from in two or three weeks. Not completely.”
“I know. Thank you for coming over so late.”
A few minutes after Monica left, Jason returned to the bedroom and sat next to her on the bed. She sighed. “I’m sorry. I just—I wanted to be normal. To feel like my old self.” She looked at him and was relieved to see most of the anger had left his eyes. “I just wanted to be with you.”
Jason put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stormed out—”
“I never meant to put you through that again—to make you think about the embolism—”
“You need to tell me when things affect your health. I can’t—” He tipped her head up to her look at her, his hand framing her jaw. “I can’t lose you.”
“I promise. Will you stay? Just—to sleep, I mean. Monica wants me to take it easy this week, at least until the hearing.”
“Yeah, I’ll stay.” He brushed his lips over her forehead, but she knew this probably wouldn’t be the last time they argued about her health or safety.
General Hospital: Kevin’s Office
Carly shifted in her seat, pressed her hand to her belly where the baby had decided to perform a somersault. “Like I said,” she told Kevin, “I feel like I’ve got my issues under control.”
“You know, just because this is our last scheduled session,” Kevin told her, “it doesn’t mean we can’t meet again if you need me.” He waited a long moment. “How are things with Sonny? You haven’t mentioned him today.”
“Things are…” she bit her lip and looked away, out the window. “I guess things are okay. I don’t know if you talk to my mother—”
“I haven’t spoken to Bobbie, no. You told me that Sonny had some problems while you were gone.” Kevin leaned forward at his desk, his elbows resting on the surface. “I was just wondering how that was affecting you. You’ve been trying to get back to normal, but—”
“Sonny’s struggling,” Carly admitted. “You know what happened to his first wife, Lily. Well, this brought it all back and he had a…” she paused. “Jason said it was a breakdown. That he was hallucinating and seeing Lily. That she was blaming him for what happened that night, for what happened to me. He hasn’t hallucinated since, but…sometimes he loses track of time.”
Kevin merely lifted a brow. “Loses track how?”
“Mama said Elizabeth told her she was talking with Sonny and he seemed to think it was last year. He remembered after a minute, but it’s not the first time…” She rubbed her belly again. “Sonny’s always had some issues, but Jason and I can usually handle it. It’s just been—we’re both exhausted right now. Jason’s worrying about Elizabeth, which is fine, I guess, since she almost died, and you know, I’ve got the boys—we haven’t been able to take care of him the way we used to. But we’re going to do better.”
“Okay,” Kevin drew out slowly. “Have you thought about—has he thought about—”
“Talking to someone? Mama tried, and I thought Sonny might actually do it, but he seems to think it’ll make him weak. He’s not the type to reach out for help, Dr. Collins.” Carly wrinkled her nose when the clock next to her turned to 11:50. “Thanks. I appreciate all the help you’ve given me.”
“Carly, don’t hesitate to reach out,” he said as she stood up. “I’m always here—”
“Thanks, but I’m not the one that needs the help.”
Lucky grimaced as he pulled the ninth and final box from the shelves and put it on the table for Cruz and Dante to open and go through. “This doesn’t make any sense,” he muttered as he took a seat and started to through their notes.
“We have two more cases in the park,” Cruz sighed, tossing his pencil to the table and leaning back in disgust. “Two more cases of a young brunette raped in the park near a fountain. April 1999 and January 2000. Why the hell didn’t Vinnie see this?”
Dante smiled humorlessly. “Now you get why he’s my least favorite cousin. He probably didn’t even remember these cases even though he was the responding officer—” He looked at Lucky who ignored them both and started to look back at the files again. “What’s wrong?’
“The nine cases we pulled—” Lucky started turning around the other boxes on the cold shelves, but none of them had the SA notation for sexual assault. “None of them were Elizabeth’s.”
“I thought you said they got the guy,” Cruz said as he joined Lucky in his search. “Wouldn’t her case be in the closed room?”
“They couldn’t make the case, and her rape kit came back negative for any DNA,” Lucky said as he went to the other side of the shelving unit to check those boxes. “It was ruled inactive—which is the same thing as cold. I don’t understand why it’s not here.”
“Well, it’s the PCPD,” Dante said, climbing to his feet. “What do you want to bet some idiot thought that the guy’s confession meant the case was solved? I bet it got put in closed storage by accident.”
“Maybe.” But that didn’t make sense to Lucky. He’d seen a few cases get moved into cold storage since he’d started at the department, and the investigating officers usually moved it themselves. And Taggert had been the primary at the time Elizabeth’s case was ruled inactive.
He wouldn’t have made that mistake.
Dante and Cruz both followed Lucky to the next room which was twice the size as the cold storage. The rooms were organized chronologically, so they split up to find the 1998 cases. Finally, after nearly ten minutes, Lucky located the case boxes from that period—
And sure enough, Elizabeth’s name was scrawled across the side of a file box—and then Lucky saw something truly disturbing. The lid had been labeled in dark black marker CLOSED. Which, in PCPD parlance, meant solved. He shook his head and took the case to the table in the room. This really didn’t make sense.
Cruz took the lid as Lucky tugged it off the box, examining the notation. “I can see filing it here by mistake, but writing closed—”
“That’s not the only place it’s written,” Dante said. He lifted the top folder from the box—a thin manila folder with only a few documents. The original report and a few statements. There was a label on the front of the file proclaiming the case closed. Dante handed Lucky the investigator’s closing remarks.
“Taggert and Garcia worked this case,” Lucky murmured as he looked over the closing report. “But Mac wrote this up as closed with Baker in prison—” He shook his head. “Why—”
“So, it didn’t show up as an open case on the reports, maybe,” Cruz offered. “Maybe Taggert and Mac didn’t want—” He frowned. “Didn’t you say her rape kit came back negative?”
“Yeah—” Lucky’s mouth was dry as Cruz lifted out the plastic bag containing a red dress. He hadn’t seen that dress since the night he’d taken Elizabeth home, since she had put it back on after Bobbie took care of her, after she’d crawled out of the bushes—
“There’s no notation on it—” He reached for the folder in Dante’s hand. “Where’s the chain of evidence document—”
“The one that’s supposed to list every time it’s touched?” Dante found it and whistled. “Handed over to PCPD by Mercy Hospital, March 1998. That’s it.” He snorted. “Checked in by Vinnie, naturally. Asshole.”
“But here’s the test from the lab,” Cruz said. “They—how did they get a rape kit tested without—”
“Maybe they fucked up the chain of custody,” Dante offered. He glanced over the log Cruz handed him. “Forgot to write it—”
“Maybe,” Lucky allowed. “Let’s pack it up and take it upstairs.” He swallowed hard. He didn’t like to think of Elizabeth’s case being messed up, but…Baker was the guy. He’d confessed. “We can talk to Taggert about it tomorrow. We should get cleaned up.”
“Yeah.” Dante sighed. “Yeah, we gotta be at the service soon.”
Emily sighed, watching as Reginald wheeled Lila back into the house so she could lay down before the memorial service that evening. “She blames herself for not doing more for Brooke.” She turned back to Elizabeth and offered to pour her more lemonade.
“We all do,” Elizabeth said with a weary smile. Jason had stayed the rest of the night and had attempted to talk her into staying in bed all day, but she’d reminded him that Monica had only recommended taking it easy. There was nothing easier than sitting in the garden, drinking lemonade with Emily and Lila, so he’d backed down. Reluctantly.
“What’s wrong?” Emily stirred some more sugar in her glass. “And don’t ask — I can almost always tell. Especially when I’m actually paying attention.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “I may have overstated my recovery to Jason a bit. Your mother told me I could resume normal activities but nothing too strenuous and to keep an oxygen tank for emergencies. I didn’t tell Jason that second part. Last night…” She wrinkled her nose. “Well, let’s just say I attempted a strenuous activity.”
Emily arched a brow. “Oh, really? And lemme guess, instead of the afterglow, Jason got to watch you put on an oxygen mask. Sexy. Is that what’s bothering you?”
“I wish it had been that simple—I couldn’t get the mask on right away, so what should have been a simple thing ended up with panic attack and a dose of hyperventilation. Jason thought I was having an embolism, which scared the crap out of him. He got mad at me. I got mad at him. Your mother had to come over after I had a second dose of hyperventilation while we were arguing.”
She sat back against the cushions. “It’s not like I don’t understand his reaction, especially once I realized he thought it was another PE, but is it going to be like this every time we argue? He throws it in my face I almost died—”
“To be fair, he probably only brought it up because you were literally gasping for air,” Emily reminded her. “Liz, look, I am over the moon that you and my brother are together, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. You guys fell apart last year for very good reasons. None of that gets solved because you almost died, and he’s decided to stop wasting time.” She shrugged. “You still need to trust each other. And I’m sorry, Liz, but you don’t get to hold it against him that he doesn’t want to do anything that might end up with you back in the hospital. That’s just normal human nature. Do you want to do something that puts him at risk?”
“No, but—” Elizabeth huffed. “You’re annoying.”
“That’s why everyone loves me,” Emily said with a sunny smile. It faded as she looked through the patio doors into the family room where Ned and Edward had entered. “It feels terrible to be home to bury Brooke. I don’t know how Ned is going to be able to deal with this.”
“He’ll have his family be his side,” Elizabeth told her, reaching across to squeeze her best friend’s hand. “That helps.”
Kelly’s: Lucky’s Room
Lucky scowled as he pulled the knot on his tie tight and grimaced in the mirror. He hated wearing a suit, and he really hated wearing a suit to the funeral of young woman.
He didn’t know if Brooke had committed suicide—if she’d meant to take the overdose of pills that had killed her. A lot of his memories of Elizabeth were still vague and dim, his swirling with bits and pieces that didn’t always make sense.
But being around this case, looking over her original statement and the one he’d given Dara Jensen and Detective Garcia…so many pieces were starting to fit together like a puzzle. And he remembered Elizabeth’s face as she’d crawled out of the bushes, the way her voice had trembled as she denied what happened, refused to let him do much more than bring his aunt to her.
He remembered now that he used to wish he’d forced to go to the cops that night, that if he’d called 911 and they’d taken care of then, before she’d showered—
But knowing Brooke, seeing what she’d gone through, what he knew the other victims this year had dealt with—
He’d told Dillon Quartermaine that he’d taken his cue from Elizabeth, and Lucky was desperately grateful he’d done so. She’d made it through the darkness, and despite all the pain and loss that had come later, he was glad he’d been there for her.
He heard a knock on his door. “Come in,” Lucky called as he grimaced at his tie, undoing the knot and attempting it again. In the mirror, he saw Kelsey step in and close the door behind her. “Hey.”
“Hey,” she said softly. She walked forward and wrapped her arms around him, leaning her face against his back. “I thought we could drive over to the memorial together. Scott’s going with Bobbie.”
Lucky covered her hands with his own, then turned to face her. “Yeah, sure. You okay?”
“No.” Kelsey sighed, then walked away to sit on the edge of his bed. “Mac called before I left the office. You found two more case files in the archives?”
Lucky frowned. “No—I mean, yeah, but we found three.” He pulled out his desk chair and sat on it backwards, resting his elbow on the back of the chair. “Taggert was gone for the day when we got done, so I gave the report to Mac—we pulled three.” He hesitated. “Which cases did he tell you about?”
“Veronica Logan and Theresa Lopez—” Kelsey narrowed her eyes. “Three? Which one is missing—” She shook her head. “This is weird. This is the second time the number of cases have been wrong. Before Brooke was attacked, Taggert told Scott he had twelve untested rape kits. Nine in storage, three open—Watson, Norton, and Morris. But when Scott asked Mac, Mac told him there was fourteen. Brooke would have made it thirteen.”
“And now Mac only passed on two cases. You know—the third case was Elizabeth’s.”
“Elizabeth Webber?” Kelsey repeated. “Your ex? But I thought you said they got the guy—”
“He confessed, but they couldn’t make the case. Taggert told Elizabeth he was moving her case to cold storage, and a few weeks later, Mac told her that her rape kit had come back negative.” He told her about finding the case in the closed storage with no evidence that her evidence had ever been sent to the lab.
“Her dress was in the box?” She scowled. “Why isn’t it in Evidence? With everything else? Damn it—wait, why did you pull her case?”
“Because I thought—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “I was sure that Tom Baker was the guy. He confessed. I mean, who does that, right? And he didn’t deny it. Not in the studio that day. But I read over Brooke’s statement. You remember you told me that Brooke said the guy told her to keep quiet—”
“’Not a word.’ That’s what Brooke remembered.”
Kelsey stared at him for a long moment. “And you—that’s what Elizabeth’s attacker said to her, isn’t it? That’s what you’re going to tell me.”
“Some of it doesn’t fit,” Lucky admitted. “He didn’t—I mean, he raped her, but he didn’t beat her. She was able to leave the park on her own. With me. She had bruises, scratches. But she wasn’t like the others. And I don’t know about the hair. She didn’t remember a lot of details at first. But it was in the park, it was at a fountain—it was after the movies. At night. With a guy who said not a word.”
Kelsey exhaled slowly. “And for some reason, this case was put into cold storage, the evidence mishandled, and not turned over to the DA’s office with the progress report. I’m guessing Mac didn’t tell you he was only sending over two of the cases?”
“No—” Lucky shook his head. “It doesn’t make any sense, Kelse.”
“On the one hand, if her case was mishandled, I can see Mac not wanting it to come to light. She still has time to file suit against the city for the domestic assault last month. But…” Kelsey shook her head. “I don’t know. You said you were teenagers—”
“Valentine’s Day. 1998.”
“Valentine’s—” Kelsey got to her feet. “Okay. Okay.” She laced her fingers together as she started to pace. “Okay. I can’t accuse the commissioner of negligence. And neither can you. We’re both rookies. No one is going to take us seriously, but—” She turned. “Taggert—he’ll get your report. I’ll talk to Scott. We’ll get Elizabeth’s case re-opened. And send the kit over to the lab with the others. Honestly, Lucky—”
“We need more,” he finished. He ran his hands down her arms. “I get it. I want to handle Elizabeth’s case right. And there might not be any physical evidence to link her to the others. She didn’t even turn over the dress for a month. She showered—”
“She did what she needed to do to get through it.” Kelsey looked at him. “We’ll get to the bottom of it, Lucky. I promise. Because if she was raped by the same man five years ago, if those other two cases are linked—then this just got a lot worse. And after what happened with Brooke, I didn’t think that was possible.”
Quartermaine Estate: Foyer
The service, held first at the Queen of Angels church, followed by a reception in the Quartermaine garden, was somber. Ned sat in the first row, with Jax and Alexis on either side of him, Dillon next to Alexis. Lois, true to her word, didn’t show.
Afterward, he’d driven back to the estate with his grandparents and had calmly accepted the condolences and sympathy from everyone who offered it. Almost no one in Port Charles had known his daughter, but that never stopped the people of the town from trying to find any way to get into the Quartermaine family’s good graces.
Felicia and her girls had offered their sympathies, but Ned had been grateful Mac had stayed home. The only people from PCPD he wanted to see were Dante Falconieri and his friends. Even Taggert had had the decency to stay away. If Floyd had tried to show up at the church, Ned—
Well, Ned wouldn’t have been responsible for his actions.
After almost an hour, Ned slipped away from everyone else and went into the foyer to take a break. He was sitting on a chair, tucked away behind the stairwell when he heard the family room door open.
“I told you, Jason, I’ll be fine. I’m just—I’m going to lay down upstairs for a little while—no—”
He rose to his feet when the door closed as Elizabeth rolled her eyes and slowly crossed the foyer. She saw him just as she stepped onto the stairs. “Oh. Ned, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
“Are you all right? I heard you tell Jason you needed to lay down—” Ned stepped towards her, a hand extended as if to offer it to her.
“I had an issue last night, but I’m fine. Monica is just after me to take it easy and avoid stressing my body out. When I get tired, I’m supposed to stop and lay down.” She sighed, pressed a fist to her chest. “With the hearing at the end of the week, I’m trying to conserve my energy. Emily offered her room—anyway, I’m sorry to bother you—”
“You’re not. I just—” He hesitated, dragged a hand through his hair, then let it rest on the back of his neck for a moment before dropping it to his side. “I haven’t talked to you since—since—” He couldn’t say it.
She nodded. “Since,” she repeated softly. “I know I said it earlier, but I’m so sorry, Ned.”
“Thank you for—” He exhaled slowly. “You said she left you a voicemail. I never—what did she say?”
“Oh…Ned—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Don’t let that in your head, you know? It—” She pressed her lips together. “She sounded upset. Her words were slurred. I think she’d already taken the pills. She said it was better when everyone didn’t know. She wished no one knew. And then the call ended.”
“One day, I might want to listen to it,” he murmured. “Maybe not. I don’t know.”
“I’ll make sure I get it saved. Ned—”
“Don’t—don’t blame yourself. I’m glad Brooke reached out to you.” His throat tightened as he looked away. “If she’d already taken the pills, it was probably already too late by the time she did. I could have done more for her. And I’ll always regret not being a better father, but at the end of the day, whatever you and I could have done for her—it doesn’t change the fact that she was—”
He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t force the word out of her lips.
“So, we need to focus on that. That some animal is attacking girls, and the police let them get away with it. He took my daughter away from us, and the PCPD—Floyd—they’re responsible for what happened to her. The same way they’re responsible for what happened to you.”
“Ned—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Revenge sounds good. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. But at the end of the day, it won’t change what happened—”
“No, but it—” He took a deep breath. “I can’t help my daughter. But I can stop it from happening again. I will stop it. My daughter is going to be the last victim. One way or another.”