Chapter Twenty

September 12, 2003

Elm St. Pier: Security Van

Luke slid on a pair of headphones and looked at his wife. “You ready?”

“Ready.” She leaned forward and spoke into the microphone. “Elizabeth? I’ve got you on camera. Just touch your ear if you can hear me.”

The grainy image on the screen inside shifted and Elizabeth touched her ear. “Great, honey. Luke and I are around the corner in the van.” She looked at another screen. “Sonny’s under the steps and Jason’s about five feet away behind a bush. Nikolas, Lucky and Zander are spread over a few rooftops.”

Elizabeth touched her ear again and Luke smiled proudly and pointed to the screen. “Look at her, she makes one hell of a Spencer.”

Elm St. Pier: Bushes

Jason shifted, not even looking away from Elizabeth long enough to blink. He hated this idea—he hated every inch of it. They could cover all the angles they’d want but Ric could be anywhere and one shot would take her away from him.

But Emily was in danger and Elizabeth would do anything to save her. Better they do this with supervision and all the security money could buy than her rushing off on her own.

“Morgan.” Luke’s hushed voice spoke through his earpiece. “It’s 7:59. You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Jason muttered.

Corinthos Penthouse

Carly shoved another Oreo in her mouth as a silent rebellion to the husband who didn’t think she belonged out tonight.

She took another from the package and raised it up. “This is for you, jackass.”

Elm St. Pier

At exactly eight, her cell rang. Elizabeth kept her hand steady and raised it to her ear. “Yes?”

“Hello, beautiful,” Ric said smoothly.

Inside the van, Luke growled a little but Laura kept her concentration on the tracing machine, trying to pinpoint Ric’s location.

“I want Emily returned now,” Elizabeth said firmly. “Tell me what I have to do to guarantee that.”

“She didn’t think you’d come for her,” Ric informed her. “She prayed for it actually—even now she’s shaking her head. She can’t believe you’d try to save her after how she betrayed her.”

“She was protecting her brother. I’d do anything for mine,” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I want her back.”

“It can be arranged.” Ric paused.

“What do you want?” Elizabeth snapped

“You.”

Elizabeth tensed. “What?”

“You surrender willingly. End this. You turn yourself over to me—walk away from your friends, your family—your beloved husband. In return, your best friend returns safe and unharmed.”

“I’m not stupid, Ric. I do that and I’m dead as soon as the baby’s born.”

“I’m open to negotiations.” There was another pause. “Do we have a deal?”

“No!” Emily shrieked in the background. “Don’t Elizabeth!”

“I have a gun pointed at your lovely friend’s forehead. Do you really want to play with Emily’s life?”

“I’ll do it,” Elizabeth said quickly. “When and where?”

“I’ll be in touch.”

The phone went dead and Elizabeth slowly slid the cell into her pocket. She touched her ear and walked away, slipping into the shadows.

What she really did was move under the steps where Sonny was waiting. “Well?” he asked. “How did it go?”

“It went.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly and when Jason joined them, she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tightly. “I had to agree—I’m sorry.”

“Agree to what?” Jason demanded.

“Oh, Lizzie,” Luke sighed in her earpiece. “Tell Butch and Cassidy we’re heading back to the joint. We’ll have the tapes there.”

“Luke said to go back to the penthouse,” Elizabeth said dully. “He’ll play the tapes for you then.”

“What did you agree to?” Jason repeated.

She didn’t answer him then or the next three times he asked.

Corinthos Penthouse

Carly had hidden all signs of her junk food binge though Sonny studied her as though he’d like to smell her breath. She was rapidly tapping her fingernails against her glass of milk as she watched Laura slide a tape into a tape player on the table. “I didn’t know they still made those things,” she mused.

“Technology’s wonderful but I don’t exactly have the equipment to record CDs in that dingy van,” Luke said dryly.

“Quiet,” Jason said and Laura pressed play.

“Hello, beautiful.”

“I want Emily returned now. Tell me what I have to do to guarantee that.”

“She didn’t think you’d come for her. She prayed for it, actually—even now she’s shaking her head. She can’t believe you’d try to save her after how she betrayed her.”

“She was protecting her brother. I’d do anything for mine. I want her back. ”

“It can be arranged.

“What do you want?”

You.”

“What?”

“You surrender willingly. End this. You turn yourself over to me—walk away from your friends, your family—your beloved husband. In return, your best friend returns safe and unharmed.”

“I’m not stupid, Ric. I do that and I’m dead as soon as the baby’s born.”

“I’m open to negotiations. Do we have a deal?”

“No! Don’t Elizabeth!”

“I have a gun pointed at your lovely friend’s forehead. Do you really want to play with Emily’s life?”

“I’ll do it. When and where?”

“I’ll be in touch.”

Laura turned it off and sighed. “He’s in Port Charles. All we could pinpoint was that he was within five miles of the pier. Voices didn’t echo so it’s probably an apartment or a house of some kind.”

“I’ll have my men search every inch of the surrounding five miles,” Sonny said. “Elizabeth bought us some more time.” He leveled a cool gaze at the brunette in question. “Which is all you did. Don’t think for one second any of us are entertaining the idea of letting you walk away.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “If we don’t find Emily or Ric and Faith before that, we might have to. It would buy even more time since Laura’s not due until January—”

“Don’t ask me to let you do it,” Jason told her quietly. “It was hard enough doing this tonight. I’m not going to hand you off to him.”

“You’re not going to do anything,” Elizabeth said testily. “You may be my husband but—”

“He’s right, Elizabeth. He needs you alive to get Laura but there are other ways to hurt you. It’s very noble of you but Emily doesn’t really deserve that kind of loyalty,” Nikolas said. “I want her back as much as you do but you even heard her in the background. She doesn’t want you do this either.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Fine. I just—I wish I could go back eight months and run screaming the first time I laid eyes on Ric Lansing.”

“Well wish in one hand—Ow!” Luke rubbed his elbow. “Watch it woman,” he snarled good-naturedly at Laura.

“We’ll find Emily,” Laura told Elizabeth. “You’ve put yourself on the line for someone who hurt you so much. But don’t let your love for her blind you. You’re a mother now.”

“Right,” Carly said. “I love Courtney but you wouldn’t see me putting this kid on the line for her.” She snorted. “Even if that girl can’t keep a thought in her head anymore.”

Sonny frowned and looked at Carly oddly. “What does that mean?”

“Well, she came by about two weeks ago. Something about going to lunch—making up for distance. I went up to get changed and when I came back down, she told me it was nice visiting and she’d see me later.”

Jason sat up slowly. “She was alone downstairs?”

“Yeah.” Carly narrowed her eyes and looked from her husband to Jason and back again. “Why?”

“How well does Courtney know the guards?” Lucky asked.

“Pretty well. Francis guarded—” Carly bit her lip and looked down. “Well, there’s a strange coincidence.”

“I’ll have someone take a look at her place first,” Sonny said softly. “Just…just to rule it out.”

Elizabeth frowned. “You think Courtney did this? She’s angry but working with Faith and Ric—isn’t that taking it a little far?”

“Well….” Nikolas hesitated. “I would say yes under normal circumstances but did anyone really think Emily would do it either?”

September 13, 2003

Quartermaine Mansion: Terrace

“It’s not like Emily to just take off without any word,” Monica murmured as she traded speculative looks with her husband.

Jason shifted uncomfortably. “With everything that happened with Elizabeth, she and Zander wanted to take some time. They left for the island a few days ago. I meant to come and tell you sooner but Elizabeth’s been feeling ill. I didn’t want to leave her.”

“Of course not,” Monica replied. “Is she feeling better?”

“Much.” Jason hated lying. Even if it was for the good of everyone involved—he hated it and he hated that he knew Monica and Alan didn’t believe a word of what he said.

“When you see Emily, tell her we understand,” Alan said after a moment. “That we trust her to take care of herself and if she can’t, that you will.”

The silent message was understand and Jason nodded before leaving the terrace.

Monica sagged against Alan. “Do you think Emily’s all right?”

“I think that Jason will do whatever he needs to do to be sure she is.” Alan wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Do you think he’ll ever tell us what happened to her?”

“I somehow doubt it,” Monica said, slightly resigned. “I want to run to the police and demand they find her. I hate knowing that that Jason is our only hope of having Emily home again.” She exhaled slowly. “It makes me feel so useless.”

Corinthos Penthouse

Sonny stared at the report in his hands and then flipped to the accompany pictures. If he hadn’t seen proof, he might not have believed it.

A picture taken from the roof of the building across the street revealed the shadow of a man in Courtney’s apartment. A second picture found a blonde much smaller than Courtney lounging in the living room.

And still a third revealed a slim brunette sitting in a chair in the kitchen. Tied to a chair to be more exact.

Ric and Faith were indeed hiding in Port Charles. They were hiding in Courtney’s loft.

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