Surrounded and up against a wall
I’ll shred ’em all and go with you
When choices end, you must defend
I’ll grab my bat
And go with you, I’ll go with you
I’ll go with you, I’ll go with you, yeah
– My Blood, Twenty One Pilots
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Morgan Penthouse: Bedroom
It took two tries before the door flew off the hinges, the frame cracking from the pressure as Vinnie rushed into the room, his eyes lit with fury. “You fucking bitch!”
And she swung.
She swung for his knees first because Jason had taught her to do that. She swung low and hard, and cracked him right in the kneecaps. He flew forward, arms flailing, his chin hitting the foot board, the crack of bone hitting wood echoed in the room.
She didn’t stop—couldn’t stop—to see if it had taken him down. Baseball bat in hand, she flew out of the bedroom, down the stairs, into the living room—
Where the door was being busted open. She barely had time to see the security guards flying in before Jason and Taggert were there. She dropped the bat and launched herself into Jason’s arms.
“I went for the knees,” she managed as the tears came. “And I ran.”
“Christ,” he managed as he buried his face in her hair and couldn’t say anything else.
Taggert left Elizabeth with Morgan and followed the mixture of security and uniforms into the bedroom where Vinnie Esposito was moaning, his chin busted open and his knee soaked in blood.
“She went crazy,” Vinnie managed. “Thought I was gonna hurt—”
Taggert kneeled down, careful to avoid the blood soaking the bedroom floor. “Not gonna work, asshole. You’re not going to be able to half-ass your way through this. I got you cold. Assault and attempted rape here. But you see this blood? We’re gonna test it, Vinnie. We already knew it was you. Now we’re gonna prove it.”
He looked at the uniform. “Call paramedics. Call CSU. I want his blood collected and taken to the lab.”
“Jesus, Taggert,” the uniform whose name he couldn’t remember. “He’s one of us.”
“He’s nothing now. He raped seven women. He doesn’t walk away from this.”
He left the room and found Jason downstairs examining Elizabeth’s wrists and her jaw from his perch on the coffee table as she sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa. “Elizabeth.”
“How did…” She winced as Jason pressed on her busted lip. “How did you know?”
“Everything came together at once.” Taggert looked at the medics who came in. “He gets cuffed. Cop stays in the room with him. I find out he’s been alone for even a second, I’ll have your asses.”
He returned his attention to Elizabeth. “Lucky tracked down a few records that put him at Kelly’s during that period in contact with you. And then the pattern—we thought it was newspaper coverage—”
“But it was actually talking to the cops,” she murmured. “I’m okay,” she told Jason. “He didn’t—he hit me. And my shoulder is sore from when I hit the sofa. But I’m really okay.”
Jason just pressed his lips together and shook his head. He reached for her wrist so he could take her pulse. “It’s too fast. We’re going to the hospital.” Jason got to his feet, looked at Taggert. “Can you take her statement there?”
“Yeah. I’ll ride with…” Taggert scowled as the medics rolled a stretcher out and Vinnie moaned. “I want to make sure he stays under lock and key. I’ll see you guys down there.”
He nodded at the bat near the sofa. The same bat he’d found her clutching that horrible day in July. “Is that what you took him out with?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s one of the few things I’ve kept with me. Jason taught me to aim low and run.”
“Didn’t think you’d ever have to use it,” Jason muttered gathering her into his arms again, almost as if he weren’t touching her, she’d disappear.
“I’ll meet you at the hospital,” Taggert said, clearing his throat. “Good work, Elizabeth.”
Port Charles Hotel: Lobby
Dante strode into the lobby of the hotel, frantically searching for his mother before heading to the front desk. “I need Olivia Falconieri. Now.” He flashed his badge. “It’s an emergency.”
The desk clerk disappeared into the back. It felt like a thousand hours before his mother rushed out, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.
“Baby, what is it?” Olivia demanded, her dark eyes worried. “Are you hurt? Are you sick—” She hurried around the counter to touch his face. “Dante—”
“It’s Vinnie, Ma.”
“Vinnie?” Olivia repeated. She stepped back, shook her head. “Is he hurt? Should I call Aunt Fran?” But something in his face, in his tone must have registered. “Dante, stop beatin’ around the bush.”
“It was Vinnie. The whole time. He did it.” He clenched his hands into fists. “All those girls—”
Olivia took her son by the elbow and led him away from the center of lobby, to a cluster of chairs near the large fireplace. “What are you sayin’ to me? That my nephew, your cousin, that he attacked—” She shook her head. “No. He knew Brooke. He grew up with her. Just like you. He was supposed to—”
She squeezed her eyes shut. “How can you know that? What happened?”
“A lot of things, but he went after Elizabeth Webber today. Lied his way into her apartment, pretending he was there to question her.”
Olivia pressed her hands to her mouth, shaking her head. “No. Oh, God, that poor girl. Is she okay—has someone told Ned? Called Lois?”
“I don’t know. Elizabeth is okay, I think. That’s what the report said. She had a baseball bat and went at him.” Dante’s skin felt wrong, like it was stretched too tightly over his body. “Ma—the whole time.”
“I—I can’t—but if he went after—” Olivia set her hand on the wall, looking for balance. “I should call your aunt. I should—I should—Ned is here. His campaign office is here.”
“I’m going to the hospital, Ma. To check on Elizabeth and Kelsey.” At his mother’s mystified look, Dante added, “Oh, yeah. Lucky figured out Vinnie was the guy, and Kelsey called Buffalo for some open cases. They warned Vinnie, and he shoved her down a flight of stairs to keep her from getting a warrant.” He smiled, a broad sour smile. “He needed time to go after Elizabeth. Like a grand fucking finale.”
“I—” Olivia shook her head. “I can’t wrap my head around this. I changed his diapers. I’m—” Her voice trembled as she struggled to get herself together. “I’m his godmother.”
“You all right? I’ll stay—”
“No. No. I can—” Olivia squared her shoulders. “I can do this. Ned should know, and I want him to hear it from me. I want Lois to hear it from him, from me—that my blood did this.” For a moment it looked as though she might crumble. “My blood took their daughter. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he’s the reason—”
Dante hugged her and didn’t pull back until he felt her shoulders stop trembling. “Are you sure don’t want me to stay?”
“No.” Olivia exhaled slowly. “No.”
He walked his mother to the elevators where he helped her in and pressed the button for the fifth floor where the offices were located. “Call me if you need anything, Ma.”
“I’m not the one who needs anything,” Olivia murmured. The doors closed, her son’s face disappearing as the car started to climb.
Oh, how was she ever going to explain this to Ned and Lois? She’d known Brooke all her life—she’d known Vinnie all his life. She didn’t like her sister that much, and Vinnie was a disappointment but this—
She’d never seen this coming.
When the doors opened on the fifth floor, Olivia took a deep breath, pressed a hand to her belly to remind herself to keep it together. This wasn’t about her.
Ned’s campaign office was the third door down, and it was already open. She was grateful he wasn’t alone—relieved to find Jax and Alexis with him as they went over the schedule for the next week.
“Olivia—” Ned said, smiling at first as he saw her on the threshold. Then he saw her face. Alexis and Jax both turned. “What’s happened?”
“Dante just—” Olivia swallowed hard, the bile rising in her throat. “He just came. They—there’s been an arrest.”
“Oh, thank God.” Alexis closed her eyes. “How strong is the case—”
Jax touched her arm, quieting her. His dark blue eyes on her. “Olivia, what’s happened?”
“It’s Vinnie.” Olivia shook her head. “Vinnie Esposito. He’s my nephew. Dante’s cousin.”
“He’s a cop,” Alexis said, moving closer to Ned who just stared at her, expressionless. “You’re telling me they arrested a cop—”
“I don’t—” Olivia’s voice faltered, and she was grateful when Jax came to her side and just took her hand. “I don’t know all the details. I just—I know that it must have happened fast. He was tipped off that he was a suspect and shoved the ADA down the stairs when she went to get a warrant. And then he went after Elizabeth Webber—she’s fine,” she added hastily as Ned started to lunge forward, towards the phone, towards the door, she couldn’t quite say. “At least Dante said he thought she was. She had a baseball bat and went after him.”
“A cop did this,” Alexis repeated. She wrapped a hand around Ned’s upper arm. “How could—”
“He was the investigating officer Floyd was trying to suspend,” Ned managed to say. He was shaking—just the slightest tremble. Alexis could feel it beneath her fingers. “He—he investigated the first three—refused to make the connection.”
“I can’t—he knew Brooke,” Olivia said, her voice thick. “He knew her. What kind of animal could—” She couldn’t say anything else.
“I have to call Lois,” Ned said after a long moment. He closed his eyes. “And then my family. I want to go to the hospital. I want to see Elizabeth. I just need to be sure—”
“I’ll make some calls,” Alexis told him. “Jax, can you call the hospital? Get Elizabeth’s status? I’ll call your family. And I should call Nikolas. If he doesn’t know already—”
“I’m so sorry,” Olivia said faintly, the tears sliding silently down her face. “So goddamn sorry.”
But Ned was already picking up the phone to call Lois and shatter her world just as thoroughly as Olivia’s. After all…Lois knew Vinnie, too.
General Hospital: Emergency Room
Sonny rushed through the doors, almost skidding to a stop as he made his way to the front desk where a harried nurse was making notes on a chart. “Elizabeth Webber,” he demanded.
“Family or police?” the nurse asked without looking up.
Sonny scowled, but Bobbie came up and grabbed his arm. “We’re over here, Sonny.” Her face was pale as she led Sonny towards a closed curtain.
“They called me at the warehouse—” He dragged his hand through his hair, mussing the curls. “How the hell did this happen?”
“I’m not—” Bobbie exhaled slowly. “I’m not sure. It—it happened fast. Everything fell into place—Lucky developed Vinnie as a suspect at the same time Baker was confessing to Taggert and Jason. But by the time we knew—he had already talked himself into the penthouse, unhooked her phone and gotten rid of her guard.”
“This is why you don’t cooperate with the goddamn PCPD,” Sonny muttered as he followed Bobbie behind the curtain where a pretty Asian doctor was studying an ultrasound monitor.
Elizabeth was stretched out on the bed, dressed in a hospital gown. Her face was bone white. There was a new bruise on her cheek bone, another blooming at the edge of her collarbone, and her upper lip was cut and slightly swollen. Jason was standing next to her, one of her hands intertwined in both of his and pressed to his chest.
“Elizabeth,” Sonny said, simply. “I—”
“Sonny.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “Don’t look so worried. I’m okay—” She winced. “My face hurts—”
“Jason—” Sonny looked at his partner who didn’t have much more color than his girlfriend. “What—”
“We’re waiting,” Jason said, flatly, but not unkindly. “Bobbie, have you heard from anyone at the department—”
“No, but my usual source is up in surgery, waiting with Lucky about Kelsey Joyce.” At Sonny’s confused glance, Bobbie shook her head. “Lucky went to Kelsey Joyce, the ADA, and they looked up Vinnie’s record in Buffalo. There were a bunch of Valentine’s Day attacks. She requested the files, hoping it would strengthen her case for DNA. But someone at the Buffalo police called Vinnie and warned him. He shoved her down a flight of stairs, and she hit her head pretty hard.”
“I hope she’s okay,” Elizabeth told Jason. “She was working so hard on this case.” She twisted her head back to Kelly Lee. “Dr. Lee?”
“Your vitals are high, but that’s not unexpected,” the doctor told her. “Elevated blood pressure is common after someone fights for their life.” Her smile didn’t match the worry in her eyes. “But the baby looks good on the ultrasound so far. We’ll keep you overnight, and I’m sure Monica will want to run some additional tests.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “That’s not what I wanted to hear.”
“I know, honey,” Bobbie murmured, touching Elizabeth’s foot at the bottom the bed. “But you’re in the best hands, and we’re right here. Emily is in surgery, but she’ll be down, and Nikolas is on his way. You’re not alone, baby.” She looked to Sonny. “Why don’t you and I go update Carly? She’s at the Brownstone with Michael, and I’m sure she’s worried.”
They left the curtain as Bobbie’s face dimmed slightly. Sonny winced. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
“He threw her around the living room, chased her up the stairs—” Bobbie wrapped her arms around her torso. “So far so good, but if after everything they’ve been through—everything Elizabeth went through—to lose the baby—that just wouldn’t be fair.”
“Elizabeth is tough, Bobbie.” Sonny put an around her, and Bobbie allowed him to pull her into a light hug. “Tougher than anyone I know. And she hasn’t had one of those panic attacks Jason told me about, right? No breathing problems?”
“No, but I don’t know if it’s even hit her yet. The man who raped her was a police officer she willingly let into her home.” Bobbie managed a sad smile. “And upstairs, Scott is worrying about a young woman he’s known all her life. I didn’t tell Elizabeth, but—” Her voice broke. “Kelsey had serious bleeding on the brain when she came in.”
Bobbie bit her lip, then shook her head. “But I don’t want Elizabeth or Jason to deal with any of that right now. Can you stay with them while I call Carly, then check on Scott and Lucky?”
“Sure. Whatever you need. You said Emily and Nikolas were on their way?”
“They’ll be here shortly.” Bobbie hesitated once more before she went down the hall. “You look good, Sonny. Better. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. I want—” She pressed her lips together. “I want us all to put last summer behind us. Including you.”
“I hope we can do that soon,” Sonny told her.
General Hospital: Surgical Waiting Room
Scott couldn’t sit. He’d always been restless, and even now—pacing the length of the room, back and forth until he was dizzy—it didn’t change the fact that a woman barely out of law school, a woman he’d known since she was born—she was in an operating room, fighting for her life.
He’d given her too much responsibility. End of story. Put her in charge of this rape case her first month on the job? He scowled at himself, dragged his hands through his hair, letting it stand up crazily on its ends. What the hell had he been thinking?
He looked over to find Lucky and Cruz sitting next to each other, both pale and silent. Fucking kids. That’s all they were. They’d come on the job, looking to do good, and what had they gotten? Nothing but bullshit.
“Spencer.” Scott looked at him, swallowed hard, as Laura’s son turned to look at him—his mother’s eyes in his father’s face. He liked them together, liked how happy and settled Kelsey had seemed these last few months. “Don’t go blaming yourself for this.”
Lucky grimaced. “I shouldn’t have left her alone. I should have realized that a request for the case files might leak back to Vinnie—”
“Five minutes after you left the office?” Cruz demanded. “Fucking cops protecting each other.” He snorted. “That’s it. I’m turning in my badge.” He glared at Scott. “And if you think I’m alone—”
“I don’t.” Scott sat down, but his foot kept tapping. “I don’t know how we could have missed it, but—”
“We didn’t miss it,” Lucky cut in. “The evidence wasn’t there to see until we had the link, until we talked to all the victims. Until we knew Elizabeth was the trigger. The problem isn’t that we didn’t know it was Vinnie. It was that Vinnie was left in charge of these cases for six months. A blind man would have seen the connection.”
“You didn’t miss it,” Cruz said with a pointed look at his friend. “You knew Vinnie was wrong. You just didn’t know why.” He looked at Scott. “He went with Vinnie to interview Renee Norton. He could tell he was handling the case wrong, that he was giving Renee the creeps. But Taggert brushed it off. Didn’t even get a reprimand for telling a sixteen-year-old girl she shouldn’t have been in the park alone at night. The only heat Vinnie ever took was to save Floyd’s worthless ass.”
Scott sighed, rubbed his eyes. “We all dropped the ball. Everyone but you two and Dante. And Kelsey. You took care of Elizabeth Webber during the Lansing case, Rodriguez, and Spencer, you cracked this case wide open. Don’t think that because of what happened to Kelsey that it wasn’t worth it. You got all those women justice. When we work together, when we put the cases first—we do good work.”
“Yeah, but an innocent woman always seems to pay the price,” Lucky muttered. He shoved himself to his feet. “Dr. Jones said it might be a few more hours, so I’m going to check on Elizabeth downstairs.” His hand was almost trembling as he let it fall to his side. “I can’t sit here anymore.”
He stalked out of the room, leaving Scott alone with Cruz.
“I understand if you go,” Scott said after a long moment of silence, “but I’m asking you to give us a chance—”
“Funny. That’s what Taggert said the last time the PCPD put a woman in the hospital,” Cruz muttered, but then fell silent as they waited for news.
General Hospital: ICU Waiting Room
When Ned had arrived at the hospital, Jax and Alexis following in his wake, he’d been told that Vincent Esposito was being treated in the ICU for shattered kneecaps, a busted jaw, and a concussion, and that Mac and Taggert were upstairs waiting to take his statement.
“Maybe this isn’t a good time,” Alexis said softly as they stepped off the elevator. She touched Ned’s arm. “Maybe we should come back or meet with them—”
“No. I want to see them. I want to see their faces,” Ned muttered as he stalked towards the waiting room. He shoved open the door to find Mac and Taggert both sitting down, a coffee table in front of them covered in paperwork.
Taggert got to his feet as Ned walked in. “Ned—”
“What’s the case against him?” Ned asked as he looked at the man who had allowed his daughter’s rapist to literally operate beneath his nose. “How strong is it?”
“We got him cold on the assault today which is the initial charge we’re filing,” Mac said, without any inflection in his voice. “Elizabeth Webber reported that he confessed to her about being her attacker, that he had come back to finish it. We’re filing charges of aggravated assault and battery, with an option to upgrade to attempted murder on Kelsey.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“He was one of Elizabeth’s regulars back at Kelly’s where he rented a room. Ruby Anderson kept a lot of notes from that time, and Lucky and Bobbie both remember him coming in every evening for coffee. He also took statements from Elizabeth and Sarah in 1997 and was involved in several other police cases—”
“That’s all circumstantial,” Alexis interrupted. “What do you have—”
“Today, I went to the prison to interview Tom Baker,” Taggert told them. “He will also testify that Vinnie confessed to him about attacking Elizabeth. More importantly, we got the warrant for his DNA which will link him to all seven rapes. And the security cameras show him going into the stairwell at the same time Kelsey Joyce was known to be shoved down the steps.”
Ned thought all of that sounded good, but he looked to Alexis for confirmation. She pursed her lips but nodded. Ned looked back at Mac and Taggert. “He knew my daughter.”
“Dante said as much,” Mac said. He got to his feet. “Ned—” He swallowed hard. “There’s no words—there’s nothing I can say—”
“No, there’s not.” Ned clenched his fist. “A serial rapist operated in this city while you missed every sign. And then it turned out to be the very officer investigating the case. Your career is finished, Mac. Even if I were in a mood to forgive—”
“I offered my resignation to the mayor,” Mac told him. “I tried earlier this summer, but he refused to take it. He refused to take it again today. He believes any indication of fault from me will follow him.” His lips twisted into a sick smile. “It’s already too late, but he doesn’t see it. I can quit outright, or you can fire me as your first act.”
“You think you’re doing me a favor?” Ned demanded. His temper broke and he lunged across the room, taking Mac by the collar and shoving him against the wall. He shoved him once more, even as Jax and Taggert were scrambling to pull him back.
He wrapped his hand around Mac’s neck and squeezed. “You son of a bitch—you stole my daughter from me. You and this entire system—and you think you’re doing me a favor by letting me fire you? Fuck you—” He released Mac with another shove.
“Ned,” Jax said, taking Ned’s arm and pulling back slightly. “Lois is on her way. Let’s—let’s go make sure she’s got a place at the hotel. We can work on a press statement—”
Ned shook off Jax’s arm and stalked out of the room. Jax sighed, then followed. Alexis hesitated. “Ah, I hope we can just—chalk that up to—”
“I don’t intend to press charges if that’s what you mean,” Mac muttered as he touched his throat. “I owed him that. And a lot more.”
“Cut the martyr act, Commissioner,” Alexis said, coolly. “No one is impressed. You made a selfish choice, and you’re going to pay for it.”
She stormed out. Taggert looked at his boss, then took his seat again. He wasn’t sure what the world would look like after Ned was sworn in as mayor, but he didn’t think the PCPD would ever be the same.
General Hospital: Hospital Room
The room was quiet, and all the lights were off save the one near her bed. It was nearly midnight, and most of the hospital floor had long since retired for the night.
But not Elizabeth. She was wide awake, staring at the monitors that were tracking her vitals and the fetal heartbeat. Both had remained steady since her blood pressure had returned to normal around six that evening, three hours after the attack.
She turned her head to find Jason still sitting next to her bed, still staring at the same monitor.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” she murmured. She took his hand in hers, tracing her fingers over the roughened skin. “And here I am, in another hospital bed.”
“All the security we put into place and…” Jason shook his head. “Guards. Alarms—” He dipped his head. “None of it worked.”
“You bought the baseball bat,” she offered weakly, but she knew the fact that this had happened to her in the penthouse—the fortress where he’d insisted they move—was going to bother him for a long time.
“And you’ve used it twice,” he said with some exasperation. “That was supposed to make you feel better, not—”
“I knew—” She sighed. “I knew I’d never make it to the door and unlock it before he got to me, but I thought I might be able to get to the bedroom, that I might be able to get to the bat under the bed. I knew it was there. I knew it was the last resort. But it worked, and you know what?” Her smile was faint but genuine. “It felt damn good to swing that bat, to see him fly forward and crack his head open on the end of the bed. But I ran. I did what you told me to do.”
He brushed her hair back, off her forehead, letting his thumb rest against her temple. She closed her eyes, comforted by his presence, his scent. “Are you…we haven’t really talked about what happened. What he said.”
Jason had listened as Elizabeth had painfully recounted Vinnie’s actions, his words, and most importantly, his confession to Mac and Taggert. He’d said nothing, hadn’t even been sure what he could say.
“That night I told you I’d been to the prison—” He couldn’t force the words out. “You went back to that night. You were living through it again. And you’ve had it in your head since—”
“I was terrified,” she murmured. “He talked about what happened between us like it was a bad date. He looked at me like I was supposed to have remembered him and I just—I didn’t. Until I remembered—he was there at Luke’s. After Nikolas went to the hospital…” She closed her eyes. “Such a scary night, and I didn’t even think about the cop who took our statements. I didn’t remember he was someone who came into Kelly’s all the time. How could he have been so obsessed with me, been around me so much without me knowing?”
“I don’t know,” Jason said. “He’s sick. And you were just the excuse he used to go after these women.”
“Brooke knew him. She’d grown up with him.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, a sob bubbling up in her throat. “I keep thinking about her final words. The last thing she said before the phone went dead. She remembered something. Was it him? Do you think part of her knew it? Knew he was someone she knew? Poor Ned. And poor Lois. She must have known him, too.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll never know for sure.”
“I just—I want to go home. I want Monica to come in here, to tell me the scans are clean, that our baby is okay—” She shook her head. “I just want this to be over. It’s so close to being over.”
“It will be. And by the time the baby is born, all of this—” He stopped. God, he wanted to promise her that it would be a distant memory by May, but—
“I know. But whatever happens next—” She reached up, touched his cheek. “We’ll get through it together.”
He leaned down to kiss her, brushing his lips against hers and lingering.
The door opened then, and Monica stepped into the shadows. “I’m so sorry,” she murmured. “I know it’s late, but the scans came back—”
Jason pulled back and switched on another light. “No clots?”
“The MRI was clear. Your vitals have remained stable for six hours, and Kelly said the fetal heartbeat is strong. We’ll be releasing you in the morning.”
Monica came to the bedside and touched her son’s shoulder. “We might recommend some light bed rest, but beyond that, we’re cautiously in the clear.”
The pressure on her chest eased. She looked at Jason who was smiling down at her. “Bed rest,” she repeated. “Not a problem.”
“I’m so glad you’re all right,” Monica told her, and now she sounded less like a doctor and more like Jason’s mother. “That this horrible case is over. I only wish that Brooke—I wish that she were here to see it. But the other women will sleep more peacefully knowing that animal is behind bars.”
“I know I will,” Elizabeth said. She watched as Monica left. “Of course, it means I might have to testify at another trial. But after today, nothing will feel scary again.”