‘Cause you play me like a symphony
Play me till your fingers bleed
I’m your greatest masterpiece
You ruin me
Later when the curtains drawn
And no one’s there for you back home
Don’t cry to me you played me wrong
You ruin me
– You Ruin Me, The Veronicas
Saturday, June 20, 2003
Quartermaine Mansion: Garden
“I’m going back to California,” Emily told Elizabeth, “but only because Jason told me to.” She clenched her fists in her lap. “But I want you to come with me. You can make your excuses to Ric, but please—”
Elizabeth sighed, pressed a hand to her aching head. Jason had taken her back to the studio and reluctantly left her alone, promising the burner cell phone would be delivered in a few hours. She’d decided to make her goodbyes to Emily while waiting for the phone to arrive.
She had promised Jason she would not go home until she had that phone—until he had a way to contact her.
She couldn’t quite wrap her mind around anything that happened to her in the last twenty-four hours—knowing that she had overdosed and nearly died only hours earlier or that it had been at the hands of the man she’d married and nearly had a child with—a man who had kidnapped a pregnant woman—and God, had done so many things, because of course Ric was guilty of all the crimes Jason and Sonny had cast at his feet.
Elizabeth couldn’t remember any of the objections she’d made in defense of Ric now or explain how she lied to herself for so long.
“If you talked to Jason,” Elizabeth began slowly, stirring her iced tea restlessly. She should eat before she went home, but she couldn’t find the desire to put anything in her stomach—not after having had it pumped. She closed her eyes. “If you talked to Jason,” she tried again, “then you know why you have to go and why I have to stay.”
Emily scowled. “He doesn’t want you to stay either, Liz. I have his permission to try and convince you differently, and if he were anybody else but Jason, he would put you on the plane himself. You’re not thinking clearly.” Her eyes softened. “I’m so scared about what will happen if you don’t leave.”
“And I’m scared about what happens if I do.” Elizabeth’s voice trembled, and she fought to keep it even. “The police are watching Jason and Sonny. I—I heard people talking at the hospital while I was waiting to get out. They searched the penthouses. The PCPD isn’t looking for Carly like Jason and Sonny can. Taggert and Capelli are going after them. Jason won’t be able to just—do what needs to be done. I have to help—”
“And how does staying in the house do that?” Emily challenged.
“Jason is going to come back and search as soon as I can get Ric out of the house,” Elizabeth told her. “He’s going to set up surveillance and electronics and whatever else he can. But—” She chewed her bottom lip. “If Ric caught him in the house—Taggert will arrest him and you know he’ll get stuck in jail. I can give permission. I can help—”
“I’m worried about Carly, too,” Emily said. “But you matter more to me. And I know how your brain thinks—you’re blaming yourself. If you hadn’t lost the baby—”
Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. God. If she hadn’t lost the baby, she’d be trapped now even more. There’d be no way out. No one to help. And just the small sliver of relief that had crawled into her heart at not being tied to Ric Lansing through a child made her feel so goddamn disgusted with herself.
“Don’t sacrifice yourself because you think no one cares,” Emily said quietly, her dark eyes burning into Elizabeth’s. “I care. You are my best friend. Bobbie cares. My mother cares. Nikolas cares. There are people who love you, Elizabeth.”
And where had any of them been last year? When she’d been drowning after the kidnapping and the crypt? When she had learned her grandmother had died, when she’d been left with an estate to settle, family to grieve. No one had come home to be with her. No one had come to the memorial with her. Held her hand. Held her as she sobbed.
Gram’s friends had sat through the service, but most had made excuses not to go to the reception Elizabeth had tried to arrange at the Port Charles Hotel or had left as quickly as they’d arrived.
Only Ric had showed up. Only Ric had sat beside her. Only Ric had cared.
Of course, that had been a gigantic lie—he’d been using her from the first moment he’d met her. Had only sought her out because she was connected to Jason and Sonny. Joke was on him, she thought bitterly. She didn’t matter to them either.
But Emily looked upset, so Elizabeth sighed. This would pass. Emily would worry, they would find Carly, and then it would go back to the way it had been for the last few years. Two ships passing in the night.
“I’m not trying to get myself killed,” Elizabeth said after a long moment. “I’m just trying to help the best way I can. I can’t fight the feeling that there’s something in the house—Ric didn’t want them to search. He wasn’t gone that long. There’s something there.”
“Okay.” Emily lifted a shoulder. “Okay. I know that face. I know better than to argue because now I’m just wasting breath. Jason said you promised to keep in contact with him. You’ll do that, right?”
Sure. Jason worried about her. He was a good person, but hadn’t he given in, too? Hadn’t he stopped arguing? Everyone knew Elizabeth was right. Ric was her problem to fix, Carly was her fault. And the only way Elizabeth could be of use to anyone was to stay in the house and make sure they could find Carly.
“I promise, Emily.” Elizabeth raised the glass of iced tea to her lips and let the cool liquid slide down her throat. Her throat was raw from the morning, and the tea settled uncomfortably in her empty stomach. “And you’ll be home in a few months anyway—”
“I guess.” Emily sighed. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay here but getting into the internship at GH in the fall—it only works if I finish this program.”
“All you could do here is hold my hand, and I’d rather you were doing something that matters. You’re going to be a doctor, Em. I’m so proud of you.”
“Well, we’ll celebrate when I come home in August.” Emily bit her lip. “Liz, if you change your mind—you just go to the airport. You call me, and I’ll have a ticket waiting. Don’t let that get in your way.”
Elizabeth exhaled slowly and forced a smile on her face. “Don’t worry. I—I’ve got it under control. I know what I’m doing.”
PCPD: Squad Room
Taggert scowled as he sifted through the paperwork and photographs they’d taken from Harborview Towers that morning. He had finally gotten the chance to get inside the inner sanctum of the Corinthos Organization and what did he have to show for it?
Nothing. Zip. Nada. Just a bunch of paperwork about coffee exporting.
He looked over as the rookie assigned to his squad came out of the locker room area, his dark eyes heavy with fatigue. “Rodriguez, you’re supposed to be at the Lansing house.”
Cruz furrowed his brow and joined Taggert at his desk. “What do you mean? I was. I spent the night outside and then left when my shift was over. I told Capelli—he said you’d send over another uniform—”
“Goddamn it.” Taggert lunged out of his seat and towards the roster schedule. “Capelli!” That goddamn idiot—no one had called in for a new patrol and the Lansing house had been left unsecured for almost—he glanced at his watch—eight fucking hours. It was already four in the afternoon—
Did he have to do everything around here?
“What’s your problem?” Capelli said, sauntering in from the break room, a cup of coffee in his hand. “You need to get some sleep—”
“Why the hell didn’t you send another uniform over to the Lansing place?” Taggert demanded.
“Figured the kid would take a double,” Capelli said with a shrug. “You’re not showing a lot of initiative, rookie,” he said to Cruz who blinked in surprise.
“It was literally his first shift,” Taggert said through clenched teeth. “Who knows what the hell is going on over there? He could have had her in that house and moved her by now—”
“Relax.” Capelli flicked some crumbs from his shirt. “She was never in the house anyway. We looked.”
Sure, they’d looked, but it didn’t mean that they hadn’t missed something. Why did Lansing drug his wife if he wasn’t planning to stash Carly at the house at least temporarily?
“Besides.” His partner slapped a file at his chest. “We got a lead.” He nodded to Cruz. “You’ll want to hear this. I can prove this is a mob hit.”
Taggert flinched at the word. He didn’t want to think of Carly as already beyond their help—as a body they were just trying to find. She was a pregnant woman, the daughter of his landlord. He liked Bobbie, liked Carly’s kid despite his family connections.
“How?” Taggert asked. “There’s none of the markers—”
“Ric Lansing’s background came back. Take a look.”
Taggert sighed and opened the file. He skimmed—his heart started to pound—then raised his eyes. “His father is Trevor Lansing, lead counsel for Zacchara Trucking.”
“As in Anthony Zacchara?” Cruz asked. “Didn’t he take over for the Gambinos in Manhattan?”
“Yes, yes, he did.” Capelli grinned, raised his coffee cup in salute. “Mob hit. Taking out the wife. I bet Trevor got himself tangled up in the Zaccharas just to get at Sonny.”
“I can buy that Ric Lansing has a hard on because his mother chose to raise Sonny, but I’m not seeing it for a grown ass man who made the demand in the first place,” Taggert muttered, even as he continued to look through the file. “Ric has had himself an interesting job history. Counsel of record for Luis Alcazar until the man went over the balcony, wonder why that never came up. And—look at this—”
Taggert touched a canceled check on the last page of Ric’s financial records. “Why is Ned Ashton paying Ric Lansing for legal advice? The lawyer of the man who killed his fiancée?” He closed the file and slapped it back at Capelli. “But I still don’t buy this is a mob hit.”
“If they didn’t take Carly to get rid of her,” Capelli said, “then maybe they’re just trying to get leverage. You remember two years ago? There were rumors Zacchara was sick, and one of the Vega kids tried to ham in on the cigarette trade.”
“They never did find all of the pieces of the wife,” Taggert murmured. “He probably should have made the deal.” He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I can buy that Corinthos and Morgan have something Zacchara wants. Probably why Lansing came to town in the first place.”
“And why he hooked up with the wife. She’s been mixed up with those idiots for years,” Capelli said. “You think she’s in on this? Looking for revenge?”
“No,” Cruz said without thinking. Both older detectives looked at him and he swallowed hard. “I mean, I just—I met her. But she looked pretty upset yesterday. Sick, too. And she—I think she thinks her husband is involved. She acted one way when Ric was with you guys—talking to that Morgan guy. And then she flipped a switch when you all came back.”
“She’s smart,” Taggert murmured, but now he was worried. If Lansing had drugged her once—would he drug her again? Would he hurt her even more? “Cruz…until further notice, I want you on the house. I want you to pull that other kid who just started—the one on the patrol?”
“Yeah. Rotate shifts with him. Can you both pull twelve hour shifts for a few days?” Taggert exhaled slowly. “I know it’s a lot to ask so soon, but I got a bad feeling. I want someone on Elizabeth Webber at all times. At least for now.”
“I’m sure Dante wouldn’t care, but we could also use Lucky—I know you didn’t want him on this—”
“I don’t,” Taggert admitted. “And he’s not assigned to me, he’s assigned to Esposito. But—” Lucky might have a vested interest in doing right by Carly and Elizabeth. “You and the other kid—you take the first day. I’ll try to get Lucky assigned to this detail.”
He looked to Capelli. “We need to get those warrants for the business records before Corinthos and Morgan can shred any connection. Zacchara is the key to this.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
It had been more than twenty-four hours since Sonny had slept. He hadn’t even gone into his bedroom and had decided, arbitrarily so, that he wouldn’t go near that room until Carly was home. Until they could go to bed together.
Michael was asleep in his room with a worried Leticia standing guard. He’d finally cried himself to sleep the night before and had been upset most of the day. He’d wanted Jason, he’d wanted his mother, he’d wanted Aunt Courtney—
He wanted safety and security, and Sonny couldn’t give that to him right now.
Not until he found his wife and brought her home.
“Thanks for coming so fast,” Sonny told the two men who had just been shown into the penthouse by Max. Both of the men wore familiar faces—but only one of them was known to Sonny. Justus Ward had immediately flown in from Philadelphia, promising to keep the PCPD at bay at least for a little while.
And Bernie Abrams, brother to the deceased and dearly missed Benny, was there to make sense of the mess that had taken over their lives since Benny’s death in March.
“I’ve drawn up paperwork,” Justus began, “to inform the PCPD that no one will be allowed on the premises without a search warrant and revoking any right that Courtney Matthews has to give permission to search either penthouse.” He hesitated. “I had to…use some legal language that might be bit harsh about Jason’s place. It basically calls her a squatter who has residential rights but no legal authority. You might want to make sure she never sees this.”
“I could not care less right now,” Sonny said, his blood still simmering at the perfidy and stupidity of his sister, the woman Jason had nearly married. Well, that was as good as over—there was no way Jason was going to be able to trust Courtney again after not only calling the police but allowing them to search their homes. “Whatever it takes.”
“Do we want to think about making an appeal to the media?” Justus asked. “I’m aware you already have an idea of who did this, Sonny, but it might put public pressure on the PCPD to stay out of your hair—”
“My contact—” Bernie flushed slightly. “He was my brother’s contact, I mean, but at any rate, the DA’s office is writing up warrants for the warehouse and the coffee house.”
“We haven’t even opened the goddamn place yet,” Sonny muttered, raking his hands through hair. His eyes felt gritty and he just wanted to lay down. This was all a dream. A horrible nightmare.
He wanted his wife back.
“They’re going to come up with some bullshit reason to grant the search warrants,” Sonny said, “so we gotta clear out the warehouses. We got stay a step ahead of them. Bernie, I need you to get my guys together. Johnny—he’s running the warehouses. You get him, and Francis on security, and Tommy—he’s my bookie guy. Get them all. We need to have a status meeting. It needs to be now.” He looked at Justus. “How much insulation do you want?”
“I’ll worry about that after Carly is found, Sonny,” Justus told him. “Don’t think about that right now. I’ll work on a press release, and Bernie and I will sort through the paperwork while you’re making sure everything is ready for the prying eyes of the PCPD.”
Max knocked on the door and opened it slightly. “Hey, Boss….your, ah, sister was hoping to check on you—”
“No,” Sonny said bluntly. “I’m not interested.” When Max shut the door, Sonny looked at Bernie and Justus. “This—all of this is because Courtney called them. I can’t make a fucking move to find my wife because everyone is watching me.”
“You know Jason is going find her,” Justus said. “He won’t rest until he does.”
“She’s my wife,” Sonny growled. “I should be finding her.” He poured himself a tumbler of bourbon and then drank it in one thirsty gulp. “Let’s get to work. Carly is screwed if Jason and I end up in jail.”
Kelly’s: Parking Lot
Emily slid off the hood of her car as Jason’s motorcycle parked in the spot next to hers. “Hey. I know you’re busy—”
“I wanted to say goodbye.” Jason embraced his sister tightly. “Thank you. I know you don’t want to leave.”
“No, but…” Emily bit her lip. “Any news?” She folded her arms. “I mean, that’s a stupid question, but—”
“Nothing. It’s like she vanished into thin air. I’ve had someone watching Lansing all day—he hasn’t left the house.” Jason shook his head, frustrated. “She has to be in the house, but I don’t know how. The PCPD searched it, and they’re morons, but they’re not that bad.”
“That’s what Elizabeth says. She just has this feeling that the answer is in the house.” Emily closed her eyes. “The only reason I’m leaving is because you said it will be easier for her to lie to Ric if I’m not here challenging her, but I feel like leaving just convinces her that no one cares about her.”
“I can’t—I tried to convince her to leave, Em. If I put her on that plane without her permission, she’d just come right back.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what I could have said to change her mind. If almost overdosing didn’t convince her, nothing will.”
“Well, maybe we just need another voice of reason. Bobbie is going to try to talk to her, and if that doesn’t work—” Emily hesitated. “It’s not that I don’t want to find Carly. I do. I don’t like her, but I love you. And she matters to you. And I love Michael, and I know he loves his mother. But Elizabeth is risking her life, and I’m just—I’m scared. I thought about calling Lucky to see if his dad would help.”
“Luke’s been pretty useless since Laura got sick,” Jason told her with a bit a regret. “I don’t know what—”
“Luke doesn’t have your penchant for letting people make their own decisions. Yeah, if you made Liz get on that plane with me, she’d come right home. But Luke would just lock her up until it was safe.” Emily leaned her forehead against her brother’s chest. “I haven’t been the kind of friend she needed. I know I’m abandoning her. Please don’t let her do this alone.”
“Because she blames herself for all of it. This is how she’s going to make it right. That’s what she’s telling herself.” Emily’s voice broke. “She’s so lost and broken, Jason. Her husband nearly killed her, and she doesn’t have enough goddamn sense to just leave. You’d find Carly without her staying here—she says she doesn’t have a death wish but how else to explain it—”
“I promise you, Emily,” Jason took his sister by the shoulders and Emily looked up at him. “I am not going to let Elizabeth do this alone. If there are answers in that house, we’ll find them in a few days. And if we don’t, there’s no reason to let her stay.” He cleared his throat. “I’m not going to let her down again.”
Elizabeth ran her fingers over the flip phone that the guard had delivered to her. He was apparently her guard, the man who called himself Cody Paul said. He wouldn’t drive her around, but he’d follow her. His number was in the phone, right after Jason’s. Both of them on the speed dial.
Just an extra reassurance that someone was always close, someone would always be there to help.
And now she had to go home. To figure out a way to go back to the house and to being Ric’s wife. Would he let her sleep in the other room again? Maybe she should tell him she got sick at the studio. Maybe she should guilt him the way that he did her, make him feel sorry for trying to kill her with drugs.
She opened the phone and looked at the speed dials—there were only two programmed. Jason was number two, Cody number three. She committed that to memory, then pressed two.
“I got the phone,” she told him. “I just—I figured you’d know when I got it—and if you meant it about checking in—”
“Every hour,” Jason cut in. “Except, I guess, when you sleep. But every hour.”
“Okay.” Elizabeth slowly exhaled. “Okay. And I got—Cody is here. Um, thank you.”
“The minute you want to get out of this, you tell Cody. He has instructions to take you to a safe house or put you on a plane to Emily,” Jason said. “I will always take your call, but I don’t—the cops are all over us and I wanted you to have options if I can’t be there.”
Her eyes burned, and she couldn’t speak for a moment. “Okay.”
There was a knock on her sturdy studio door—the one that Jason given her the year before. Cody opened it slightly. “Bobbie Spencer, Miss Webber.”
“I have to go,” she told Jason. “I’ll call you back in an hour.”
“Okay. Be careful.”
She closed the phone, then waved for Cody to let Bobbie in. The redhead bustled in, crossed the room, and drew Elizabeth into a tight hug. “You are scaring the life out of me, Elizabeth Webber.”
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. She drew back, wiping her eyes. “Did Jason or Emily send you?”
“Monica, actually,” Bobbie told her. She took Elizabeth’s chin in her hands and peered into her eyes. “I saw your chart on the desk, and I broke all the codes and rules. I looked up your visit today. Goddamn it, Elizabeth. The levels of benzos in your blood gave me the chills.”
Elizabeth sighed. “I know. I know what you’re going to say.”
“I know that Jason, Emily, and Monica have already tried to talk to you. I know that Monica nearly called in a psych consult.” Bobbie took Elizabeth’s arms, wrapping her hands around them just below Elizabeth’s elbows. “The risk you are taking to help my daughter, it humbles me because I know you don’t like one another. But don’t do it. Let Jason and Sonny handle it.”
“They told me months ago that Ric was a mistake, but I ignored them. I let Ric into my life, into my heart—I let his lies put me in a prison cell, lock me away from everyone who I could have reached for—” Tears slid down her cheeks. “I can’t let him get away with this. Please don’t ask me to be weak, Bobbie. I can do this. I can make this right.”
“Okay.” Bobbie embraced her again. “Okay. I’m sure Jason has taken all the precautions he could. I saw the guard. I guess that’s the phone he said he’d give you. You put me on that speed dial, too, Elizabeth. You take care of yourself.” Tears slid down her cheek. “And, oh, God, find my daughter. Please. I need to have her back.”
“We’re going to find Carly.” Elizabeth returned the hug even more tightly. Finally, she was in the strong position. Giving comfort. “I won’t rest until I do.”