June 29, 2021

Update Link: Scars – Part 3

Hey! Apologies for the slight hiatus last week. It certainly wasn’t planned, but the week got away from me and the lack of sleep was really starting to wear on me. I slept pretty well over the weekend, but then last night — ugh. Still, I’m hopeful. I also have to remember that I tend to drag in the morning if I don’t get up and start moving. I’m not much of a morning person, but the career I chose forces me to be one, LOL, so the summer is always a strange adjustment. I got up early this morning, went grocery shopping, and tried to get my blood moving. Still dragging a bit, but we’ll see how I feel in a few hours.

I’ve been soundtracking Mad World, and one of the fun things about sound tracking is you start really thinking about the emotional beats and the pacing of the story. Rereading what I planned back in December has me really excited. I worked on soundtracking yesterday, and today, I’m going to kick off writing. If you’re interested, here’s the Spotify Playlist so far:

I’ll be back tomorrow with Signs of Life, and then on Friday with the next part of Scars.

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 58 minutes. Did a spellcheck but not a reread.


General Hospital: Hallway

The world around her fell away. The bright, fluorescent lights, the clean anti-septic smell, the squeaking of shoes against the floor, the beeping of monitors, and the hushed voices —

All of it melted away as Elizabeth stared at the man who had been the center of all her nightmares. Her vision narrowed until it was pinpricks of light in a dark world —

There was something cold and wet against her back, and she could feel the slush of snow under her fingernails as she dug her hands into the ground, bucking wildly against the heavy weight on top her—why couldn’t she scream—why couldn’t she—

“Whoa, whoa—” Dimly she heard a panicked voice from somewhere far away but she couldn’t breath. She couldn’t force air into her lugs—she couldn’t scream, couldn’t speak, couldn’t—

Patrick barely spared a glance for the pair of men as one of them dragged away the new guy—Elizabeth’s face was chalk white as she slid to the ground, Patrick grabbing for her just before she hit the linoleum. “Damn it,” he hissed. He whipped his head around. “Can someone—”

“What’s wrong?” Griffin Munro darted across the hallway, kneeling next to Elizabeth who was still gasping for air, clutching at her throat. “What happened?”

“I don’t—” Patrick just stared in abject horror as the younger doctor attempted to lift her into his arms but Elizabeth began to fight wildly, kicking—and now she was screaming— “Baby, hey—”

“We need a sedative—”

“Wait, wait—” Patrick warded off a nurse who was coming towards them with a syringe. “She’s pregnant,” he bit out. “What’s in that?”

“It’s fine,” another voice barked. Epiphany Johnson grabbed the syringe from the shell-shocked nurse and jabbed it into Elizabeth’s arm. Elizabeth’s struggles gradually disappeared until she slumped back against Griffin, her eyes closed. “What the hell is going on?” she demanded. Then she looked around the hallway. “Go back to work!” she ordered, gesturing with sharp movements. Most scattered immediately.

“But—” the nurse who had attempted to help swallowed. “Can we do anything?”

“You can go back to work.” She nodded at Griffin who was rubbing his shoulder where Elizabeth had nailed him. “Let’s get her into a room. Get Morgan and Laura Spencer down here.”

“I’ll get Laura,” Patrick volunteered as Griffin lifted Elizabeth into his arms, this time without the attack. “And call Jason. Wait—” He put a hand on Epiphany’s arm. “She ever mention the name Tom to you? There was a custodian here. Said she was the reason he went to prison.” He whipped his around. “He’s gone now, but—”

“No, but Laura will. She’s known Elizabeth most of her life.” Epiphany followed Griffin into the room.

Patrick pulled out his phone and sent Jason a quick text to get to the hospital, adding Liz was fine, but she needed him. Then he went to find the hospital administrator.

General Hospital: Administrator’s Office

Laura frowned when Patrick shoved his way into her office, even as her assistant followed him. “Patrick, what on Earth?”

“I’m sorry—but Elizabeth just—” The doctor took a deep breath. “She had a panic attack, I think. Or something like it—”

“What? Why?” Laura started out of the office, both of them ignoring the assistant who was complaining about appointments. “Cancel them,” she snapped. “My daughter needs me.” She went stalked towards the elevator. “What happened?”

“Things were fine. She was fine,” Patrick stressed, “and then we ran into these custodians. There’s this new guy—Elizabeth looked upset when she saw him and then he said she was the reason he went to prison—”

The doors opened but Laura didn’t move. “Laura—”

“What was his name?” she asked, her heart pounding. No. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t be—

“Tom.” Patrick put a hand out to stop the doors from closing. “Laura, what the hell is going on?”

“Tom.” Laura took a deep breath, then stepped onto the elevator. “Tom,” she repeated. “Tom Baker.”

“You know who he is? Laura—”

“It’s not—” Laura fisted her hand against her heart. “It’s not my story to tell, but the only Toms that Elizabeth knows are her uncle…and someone who hurt her very much once.”

Without a word, they stepped onto the elevator and Patrick jabbed a finger against the button. When he spoke next, his voice was tight. “Tom Baker was the man who raped her.”

“She told you?”

“Yeah. A long time ago.” Patrick stared blindly at the silver doors in front of him. “How the hell does that man get hired to work here without you knowing? Without Elizabeth knowing?”

“I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to find out.”

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

Jason didn’t remember much of the drive between the warehouse and the hospital. He’d read Patrick’s text message and had gone on autopilot. Everything shut down inside — he only had one goal.

Get to the hospital. Get to Elizabeth.

At the nurse’s station, he opened his mouth to ask where his wife was, but then the second set of elevators opened and Laura and Patrick stepped out. Jason charged towards them. “Where is she?”

“I’ll take you there, but Jason—” Patrick put up a hand. “She’s okay,” he repeated. “She’s fine and so—” He slid a glance towards Laura. “Everything is fine.”

“Then—”

“She saw Tom Baker,” Laura said softly. “He’s here in the hospital.”

Jason’s hands fisted. “What happened?” he demanded. “Where is she?”

“She lost it,” Patrick said as he walked them both down towards the hallway. “First she went white, and then kind of fell to the floor. Griff tried to pick her up, and she went wild—” He cleared his throat. “We had to sedate her.”

“Oh, God.” Laura pressed her hands to her face. “Oh, God. She didn’t know. If she had known—”

“I don’t think she even knew he was out of prison,” Patrick said. “Jason—”

“He’s supposed to be up for parole in six months,” Jason bit out. He’d been keeping track of the man since the day he’d gone into the system for blackmailing Emily and holding her hostage—along with Elizabeth. “I’ll find out what the hell happened.” And which one of his men had let him down.

“You must have flown here,” Epiphany said as they approached her. “She’s fine,” she assured Jason. “Griffin is with her, and she’s resting. Still out from the sedative,” she added. “But she’ll be coming around shortly.”

“Okay.” He was okay. This was okay. He could handle this. “You said she had to be sedated—”

“I checked,” Patrick added. “They know.” He winced. “Does Laura—”

“Know what?” Laura drew her brows together. “What’s going on?”

“We were—we just found out yesterday—” Jason sighed, then looked at Elizabeth’s mother-in-law. “She’s pregnant.”

“Oh.” Laura’s eyes brightened. “That’s wonderful! I know she said you were trying—but—” she looked at Patrick. “You made sure they knew—”

“I checked it,” Epiphany assured her. “Most sedatives are fine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She nodded her head at Jason. “You better get in there. She needs to see a familiar face when she comes around.”

“Yeah. Yeah.” He looked at Laura. “Why was Baker at the hospital?”

“He apparently works here,” Patrick said flatly.

Jason’s nostrils flared. “He what?”

“I don’t oversee every hire,” Laura said. “But I know he plead guilty to holding Elizabeth hostage. That should have sent up a red flag. We don’t hire anyone who has a felony conviction against a current employee.”

“He didn’t—” Jason took a deep breath. “They plead that down,” he said. “Officially, I mean. It was only—only Emily’s charges went forward. Elizabeth’s case was dropped when they dropped the rape charges.”

“Oh, Christ.” Laura closed her eyes. “I’d forgotten that. I thought—But—but it was in the arrest file, and I know Taggert said he was going to keep his eye on things. He was at the parole hearing the first time. I’ll call Jordan. Maybe something got lost.”

“Maybe.” Jason didn’t want to know anymore. The man who had brutalized and traumatized his wife was out on the loose, breathing the same air—working in the same building—

That wasn’t going to last.

He dismissed the three of them and went into the hospital room where he found a dark-haired doctor sitting by Elizabeth’s side. One of the doctors who was studying with Patrick, he remembered. Griffin something.

“Hey. Hey.” Nervous, Griffin got to his feet. “I’m glad you’re here. Um—vitals are good, I mean. She’ll be okay when she wakes up. I hope—” He looked back to Elizabeth before focusing on Jason. “I’ll get back to work.”

“Thanks.” Jason dismissed the doctor and took the seat he’d vacated. It was strange to see Elizabeth stretched out on the hospital bed, dressed in the purple scrubs she wore on days when she worked on Patrick’s OR team. Her face was pale, her eyes looked almost bruised against her skin. He didn’t like to see her this way. In a hospital bed.

It always brought back the day Jake was born and she’d nearly died. Or when she’d nearly died from the biotoxin and he hadn’t gone to see her. Or when she’d nearly drowned, then had hallucinations of Jake.

She’d spent too much time almost dying in a hospital bed.

Jason reached for her hand, rubbing his fingers over the rings he’d placed there three years earlier. He’d make sure his was the first face she’d see when she woke.

And then he’d finish Tom Baker. The man was never going to get another chance to do this to her.

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

Laura tapped her foot as she waited for Portia Robinson to get her page. Finally, the doctor stepped around a corner, frowning as she approached Laura. “Mrs. Spencer—”

“Dr. Robinson, thank you for answering my page. I apologize if I took you away from anything important,” Laura said. “This isn’t hospital related,” she added, “but it is an emergency. I need Taggert’s contact information.”

Portia frowned, folding her arms across her chest. “You’re the second person to ask me about Marcus this week,” she said. “The commissioner was also trying to track him down. What’s wrong?”

“Jordan was—” Laura hesitated. “Taggert was keeping an eye on a case that was important to my family,” she said. “He contacted my daughter-in-law the last time Tom Baker was up for parole. But this time—”

“Your daughter-in-law—” Portia raised a hand. “Jordan just told me about this yesterday. Baker got out on parole and was working here. I knew Marcus was worried about some case that Baker wasn’t charged with—is that her?”

“Yes. And, according to what he told us then — and what my son-in-law thought — Baker wasn’t supposed to be up for parole. I need to find out what happened—”

“Of course. I don’t understand how Marcus let this go,” Portia murmured. She reached into her pocket for her cell phone. “He never gave me details, but that parole hearing happened right before we separated. He was relieved when Baker didn’t get out. He never would have—”

She pressed a button, dialing her ex-husband. “Voicemail,” she muttered. “Marcus, it’s Portia again. Please get in touch with me. It’s an emergency. Trina is fine, but Tom Baker is out of prison, and he’s working at the hospital. I don’t know the details, but you need to get in touch with Laura Spencer and Jordan as soon as possible. Please.”

“Thank you,” Laura said. “Is it like him to not get back you?”

“Not unusual,” she admitted. “He goes undercover sometimes at the DEA, and he might be under right now. He doesn’t always warn us.” Portia grimaced. “One of the reasons we got divorced,” she muttered. “I’ll let you know if he gets back in touch with me, and I’ll text you his number.”

“Thank you—”

“Mrs. Spencer—is your daughter-in-law all right? Elizabeth is a great nurse, I mean. I just—”

“She’s all right.” For now, Laura added to herself silently as she walked away.

General Hospital: Hospital Room

Elizabeth turned her head and slowly forced her eyes open. She felt like she was swimming through a thick sea of cobwebs. She found familiar blue eyes peering at her, and she frowned. “J-Jason?”

“Hey.” His fingers brushed her cheeks. “How are you feeling?”

“Confused,” Elizabeth admitted. She cleared her throat and gratefully accepted Jason’s help in sitting up and then the water he gave her. “What—” She looked around, realizing she was on a hospital bed. Alarmed, she pressed a hand against her belly. “Jason—”

“The baby is fine,” Jason told her. He covered her hand with his own, the other sliding through her hair. “Perfect,” he promised. “Do you—” He hesitated. “Do you remember what happened?”

“No—” And then she did. Everything inside her trembled. “Jason. I—I saw—he said—he was here—he said—”

“Hey.” Jason edged onto the bed, taking both her hands in hers. “I’m right here. Nothing is going to hurt you. No one,” he added. “Look at me.”

She did, focusing on his eyes, on the feel of his hands wrapped around hers. He always made her feel safe. “Tom Baker,” she said softly. “He was…I turned a corner, and he was just there. We bumped into him, and I started to apologize—” Her voice faltered. “He said not a word. That’s what he said. He said don’t say a word,” she corrected. “But that night—the night he—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. “He hissed it into my ear. Not a word. Then he said it again that day in the studio. That’s how I knew—I recognized him, I could hear his voice, I could feel him—”

“Stay with me—” Jason tipped up her chin. “Stay with me here,” he ordered. “Right here. Right now. That was nineteen years ago,” he reminded her. “You’re safe here. With me. He’s not here.”

“He’s not here,” she repeated. She closed her eyes. “It’s over. I’m not sixteen anymore.” Sixteen. Her whole world had shattered and she’d pieced it back together, painstakingly fitting the jagged shards into something that looked like a normal person.

But shattered glass was easily broken—how many times had she fractured over the years? “Nineteen years,” she murmured. “And it can still hit me. It can still feel like now. How is that possible? How is that fair?”

“It’s not.”

“I want to go home. Can I—can you just—I want to go home.”

“We’ll go home. I’ll get Laura to grab the boys and they can go with her for the night—”

“No, no. I want the boys. I want to go home, and I want the boys. I want our family. And our life.” She took a deep breath. “I worked too hard, fought too long—he’s not doing this to me. I broke a little,” she admitted. “But I’m okay.” Elizabeth squeezed Jason’s hands. “I’m okay. Let’s go home.”

June 27, 2021

Hey! Just popping in to let you know that I’m going to skip this weekend in updating. You guys know I’ve been struggling with back and neck pain due to all the hours spent remote teaching this year.  Combined with all the trouble I had sleeping these last few weeks, sitting at the computer has been really uncomfortable. I’m finally sleeping better (two nights in a row) and my neck is starting to feel better. I’m going to limit my time on the computer today to just this post and rest so that I can come back and start writing full time this week.

I’m going to make up for this delay by posting every day Tuesday – Saturday. Starting tomorrow, I’m also going to be digging into the final book in the Mad World series. I want to rest up and be completely read to throw myself into writing!

June 23, 2021

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 8

Hope everyone is having a good week! I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping which is really making it hard to get going in the morning. I’m not sure what’s up with any of that, but well, here we are. Anyway — fun fact — the scene with Alexis in Part 7 bringing up spousal privilege was NOT in the first plot sketch of this story. So, um, I don’t know if I should toss out my plans and go with it, or just have it be a funny thing that happened. Thoughts?

I’m not sure, again, when I’ll be able to do Friday’s update. I’m spending all day with my mother tomorrow for a procedure (the last one to confirm cancer — it’s not the one they thought it was, but they haven’t ruled out other types), and my electric is being turned off most of Friday. I might do it Friday night or Saturday morning.

See you then!

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 61 minutes.


Studio: Back Alley

Jason was already irritated with himself as he approached the back door entrance to her building. He hadn’t been checking on Elizabeth when he’d called his sister earlier — but Emily had no idea what he was talking about. She was going to a party that night, and Elizabeth was definitely not supposed to be with her.

Elizabeth wasn’t someone who lied without a damn good reason, and Jason had a feeling he knew who had caused all of this. Carly hadn’t gotten the reaction she wanted from him, so she’d gone another someone she thought of as a weaker target.

He’d find out what Carly had said to Elizabeth, he’d fix it — and then—

He stopped short when he saw that the back entrance to her building had been blocked off. There were boards nailed across it.

They had not been there that morning.

Studio

“What do you want?” Elizabeth demanded, her heart racing as she went back to the door and started to pull on it. Damn it, damn it—it wouldn’t turn—

“I can’t have you speaking to the PCPD about the night Anthony Moreno died,” Sorel said, his voice almost tinny in her ear. “You agree not to alibi Jason Morgan, and I’ll tell you how to deactivate the bomb—”

“Are you—” Her heart seized. “Wait — can’t you just turn it off?”

“Oh, it’s not that kind of remote,” Sorel said with a laugh. “Once I start the timer—”

“Then why am I wasting my time talking to you—” She hissed and slammed the phone against the receiver. Almost immediately, it started to ring again. “What? I told you—”

“Elizabeth—”

“Jason!” Elizabeth nearly sank to her knees in relief. “Jason, I can’t get out of the studio—there’s a bomb—”

“What?” Jason bit out. “Where? What—damn it—both entrances to the building are blocked—”

“My door—they did something to the—” She pressed the receiver to her ear, trying to think. He’d never make it upstairs in four minutes. She was trapped. “Jason, you have to go.”

“What—”

“You won’t—” She turned around, trying to gage the size of the window. Could she push it open and get out? It was a hard fall but she had a better chance—She turned back to the phone. “You won’t get here in time, and I don’t want you to get hurt, okay? This is my fault—”

“Elizabeth—”

“I’m sorry.” She hung up the phone and went to the window, shoving the couch over to it. She booted herself onto the window sill and shoved it open. She glanced down, swallowing hard. It was trash day and the alley was littered with boxes and crates—

She looked back to the studio, focused on the door in the back, the closet. Could she hide in there? Would that block the shockwaves? How strong was the bomb? Damn it, why hadn’t she paid attention when bombs went off on television?

She looked under the table, swallowing hard. Two minutes left.

Alley

Jason didn’t bother calling her again. She wouldn’t answer. He needed to get upstairs, he needed to get to her and get her to safety—

He tossed the phone side, grabbed one of the boards with his hands and yanked. Nails and splinters dug into his flesh but he didn’t stop to let the pain register.

He had the door unblocked and was running up the stairs, taking them three or four at a time, his chest heaving, his heart pounding—

How long was the timer—did she know to hide—

Studio

Elizabeth dragged the sofa in front of the table, and then stacked a few things — unused canvases, her easel — anything to block the shockwaves —

And when she knew her time was almost at its end, she went into the closet, curled into a ball in the closet, pulling more boxes and supplies in front of her.

Then she put her head down and hoped for the best.

On her floor, Jason rushed down the hallway towards the studio. He tested the knob but it refused to turn—he braced a shoulder against it and forced it open —

Elizabeth heard a loud bang and screamed, thinking it was the bomb, thinking it was over—

Then the door to the closet was dragged open and hands were reaching in, reaching under her elbow to drag her out. “Jason?”

“Let’s go,” he said, half carrying, half dragging her out of the studio, past the broken down door. Elizabeth didn’t argue.

Elm Street Pier

The blast of wintry cold air against her cheeks forced her brain to react. “Wait, wait—”  She turned back to her building. “It didn’t go off.”

Jason was running his hands down her shoulders, down her arms, checking for injuries — then he stopped. “What?”

“Five minutes.” Her lips started to chatter and Jason yanked off his jacket to wrap it around her. “The timer. And when I went into the closet, it had to be around thirty seconds—”

They both looked back at the building now, waiting to hear the explosion. Waiting. Nothing. Elizabeth blinked. “Was it real?” she asked softly. “Was it fake?”

“I don’t know, but I’m not leaving you out here in the open to find out,” Jason said. “I’ll call a team—” he winced. “Will someone call in the noise I made when I came through the door?”

“Not in that building,” Elizabeth said, leaning her forehead against his shoulder. She frowned, reached for his hands. “What did you do?”

“Nothing—”

“Jason—” His hands were bleeding, scraped, and there were splinters—She raised her eyes to his. “I—”

“Come on.” He reached for his cell phone, then grimaced. “I lost it in the alley. We’ll go to the penthouse. We’ll figure it out.” He hesitated. “Please. I just—I need you to be safe. We can—”

She hadn’t listened to him earlier. He’d asked her not to go back to the studio alone, and she’d not only done that—she’d lied to him about it. Elizabeth swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t—I didn’t think—” She pressed a fist to her mouth as it sunk in. She’d nearly died and Jason might have trying to get her out— “I’m sorry,” she repeated.

“We’ll talk about it later, it’s okay,” he assured her, tugging on her her arm again. She sighed and followed him. Sure they’d talk about it, and then it would probably be over. He’d never trust her again. Not after she’d nearly gotten them both blown up.

Harborview Towers: Hallway

“Wait here,” Jason told Elizabeth as they stepped off the elevator. “I need to get Sonny to get guys to your place.”

“Okay.” Feeling exhausted, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. She couldn’t think about it yet. Couldn’t really understand how it had happened — in less than five minutes —

“They did what?” she heard Sonny demand. Then he appeared around the corner, following Jason. “Elizabeth, you okay? What the hell?” Without waiting for her to respond, he turned back to the guard on the door. “Get a team to down there. Grab Mikey and Paulie. They got explosives training. I want to know if that was a dud —” He turned back to Elizabeth. “What happened?” he bit out. “How did you find the bomb?”

“Sonny—” Jason began.

“He called me,” Elizabeth said at the same time. Jason blinked and looked at her. “I got home from work and maybe two or three minutes later, the phone rang. He said he was Joseph Sorel. Something happened to do the door and I couldn’t open it. Then he told me to look under the table.”

Sonny hissed. “He was watching you.”

“I guess so. There was a bomb under the table. And while I was looking at it, the timer started. Five minutes.” Elizabeth lifted a hand up, intending to rub her temple, but it was shaking. Instead, she curled it into a fist. “He told me that if I promised not to alibi Jason about that night with Moreno, he’d tell me how to deactivate it.”

“That doesn’t—” Jason narrowed his eyes. “It wasn’t on a remote timer then. Or it was just a starter timer. He couldn’t stop it.”

“Risky as hell,” Sonny muttered. “If it was a live—” He bit off his words. “What happened then?”

“I realized it wasn’t a bomb he could turn off, so I hung up on him,” Elizabeth admitted. “I didn’t think it was a great use of my time. Then Jason called — but when he told me the studio was blocked—”

“Back and front—they’d nailed boards to the front,” Jason said, flexing his hands.

“I didn’t think he’d make it in time, so I hung up on him, too,” Elizabeth said with a wince. “I thought about going out the window—”

“That’s three stories into the alley—” Jason began, clenching his jaw. “And all that crap—”

“Yeah, so I piled a bunch of crap in front of the bomb and then hid in the closet. I thought it might block some of the shockwaves.” She rubbed her fist against her collarbone, restless. “I read that somewhere.”

Sonny grunted. “Not a terrible idea. Would it have worked?” he asked Jason.

“I don’t know. I got through the door and heard her in the closet. I didn’t stop to look.” Jason paused. “Is that all Sorel said to you?”

“That’s all I gave him a chance to say,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sorry—”

“You did the right thing,” Sonny said with a wave of his hand. “We’ll get some guys down there to look at it. I’ll go supervise,” he told Jason. “You get those hands taken care of.”

“Yeah—” Jason paused. He looked at Elizabeth. “Can you go inside? I’ll be there in a minute.” He reached into the pocket of the jacket she still wore and drew out his keys. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I mean, well, no, but I can manage,” she clarified. Her fingers fumbled as she slid the key into the lock, but then she went inside and closed the door.

She was tempted to press her ear against the door, but she knew she wouldn’t need to do. Jason and Sonny would make sure she was safe, but she knew she’d made a mistake. She hadn’t taken Jason’s safety concerns seriously, and—

She went over to the sofa, sat down, and clung more tightly to the jacket. She was such an idiot.

Back in the hallway, Jason looked after Elizabeth, his browns pinched together. Was she okay? Was she angry at him? She was going to change her mind, he decided. This wasn’t what she wanted—

“Jason.”

Jason blinked, realized Sonny was looking at him. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat, flexed his hands again. Now that some of the adrenaline was fading, he could feel the stings. “Look, something about this feels strange,” he told Sonny. “Sorel calling her? Leaving her a warning?”

“If the bomb is a dud, then he was just trying to scare her. If it was live and just didn’t go off for whatever reason, he was playing with her. Next time, it’ll be real — ”

“There’s also the chance that he meant it to go off and it didn’t. He tried to kill Elizabeth,” Jason said flatly. “Because of me—”

“Don’t go there yet,” Sonny warned him. “He wanted her to refuse to alibi you. Whether the two of you are together or not — that doesn’t change the fact that she’s involved. People know it. The PCPD has her in their sights over all of this. Moreno and her part exists either way.” He paused. “You’re scared, but this isn’t the first time people you know have been targeted because of you.”

But it was the first time with Elizabeth. “Sonny—”

“Don’t be stupid, and and don’t do anything you can’t take back. You could walk away from her,” Sonny said, and Jason grimaced, “but it won’t change anything. Sorel had guys watching that building. Guys who just saw you rip your hands apart and bust down doors to get her out.”

“I know all of that,” Jason retorted.

“Okay. Then I’m going to go see what I get from the studio.” Sonny jabbed the elevator button. “Get those hands looked at,” he repeated. “And make sure she’s okay. You’ll feel better when you know she is,” he added.

Jason watched him step on the elevator, and then looked back at the penthouse. He took a deep breath and headed for the door.

Elizabeth was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly at the television that wasn’t even switched on. She turned when he came in, rising to her feet. “Um—” She stripped off the jacket and handed it to him. “I forgot to…”

“It’s okay.” He tossed it on the desk, then went to the closet for the first aid kit. He really didn’t know what to do or say to her. He had that ridiculous conversation with Alexis rolling around in his brain, the threats from Carly — and now Elizabeth was standing in the penthouse, a place she clearly didn’t want to be.

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I—you didn’t want me to be at the studio tonight. You asked me not to go back there.”

Jason remained silent, setting the kit on the desk. That was true, but he also knew if she’d run into Carly — Carly had a way of making people do destructive things. “It’s okay,” he said finally.

“It’s not. You need to know that I know it’s not. You—you need to be able trust that I’ll do what you need me to do with things like this. With safety—and your job, I mean.” Her voice was shaking, but the words made sense to him. “I was going to do that. I was just—” Elizabeth faltered. “I was going to do it tomorrow. Emily had plans tonight, and I just—”

“Didn’t want to come here,” Jason finished. He cleaned off the last of the blood on his hands, then started to close the kit. Instead, Elizabeth came forward to grab it.

“You didn’t clean—” Elizabeth bit her lip and reached for his hands. “It wasn’t about not wanting to come here,” she finished. “I mean—” She took one of the antiseptic pads and pressed it against a particularly nasty gouge in his palm.

“Then what was it about?” Jason asked. “I’m not mad,” he reassured her when she didn’t reply. “I didn’t think the safety thing was such an issue,” he admitted. “If I thought things were bad enough there’d be a bomb, I would have said something. I’m not mad,” he repeated. “I just want to know what I did wrong, so I don’t do it again.”

“Nothing.” Her eyes flew up to meet his. “Nothing! It’s just, um, I thought—staying at the penthouse for a few days—I thought it would mean—” She bit her lip, color staining her cheeks. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that—”

Jason started to frown because he didn’t really understand, but then with her next words — “I was going to talk to you about it, and then Carly—”

“Carly,” he muttered. “I knew it.”

“She just…I don’t know. She just has a way of saying things that get in your head,” Elizabeth said in a quiet voice. “Things you know aren’t true the way she means them, but they are—”

Knowing some of the vile things Carly had spewed to Robin in the past, Jason steeled himself. “What did she say?”

When Elizabeth started to pull back, he wrapped his hands around her wrists to keep her in place. “Elizabeth.”

“She just reminded me that I’m not…” Elizabeth looked away, broke eye contact as a tear slid down her cheek. “I’m not…I can’t—I don’t know if I’ll ever able to trust anyone—even you—because of what happened to me.”

Jason stared at her for a long time, trying to absorb it—trying to wrap his head around all the implications. Elizabeth had been nervous about the penthouse because she thought it meant he expected sex, and then Carly—

“What,” he said, “exactly did she say to you?”

“Why does that matter?” Elizabeth asked. “I just told you—”

“We’ll talk about that,” he told her. “Because that’s important, but I can’t—she came to me first,” he said finally. “And when I didn’t give her the reaction she wanted, she went straight to you. I need to know what she threatened you with.”

“Threatened—” Elizabeth’s eyes were wide. “Is that what she did to you?”

“Yeah. That’s something else we need to talk about,” he admitted. “But she did, didn’t she? She threatened you.”

“Not—not in so many words—” Elizabeth tried to edge away again.

“We need figure it out, Elizabeth—”

“This is just like that night at Vista Point,” she muttered. “You just keep pushing—fine—fine—” She twisted until he released her hands. “Fine. She reminded me that I’m fragile and I’m damaged, okay? Because I don’t like sex, and according to her, you do. A lot. Happy now?”

 

June 22, 2021

Update Link: Scars – Part 2

I hope everyone is having a good week! I’ll probably be moving the Flash Fiction update on Friday to either Saturday or later on Friday. They’re going to be turning off the electric on my block between 10 AM – 4 PM to do some work on the lines. I could try to do it earlier, but we’ll see.

I cleaned up the widgets a bit — in that I updated the Recently Updated/Completed/What’s Next sections. I’ll be cleaning it up further when I’m done Flash Fiction today. My Photoshop decided to take forever to open up any files, so I got a little behind.

I’ll see you tomorrow for the next part of Signs of Life!

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 48 minutes. Did a quick spell check and readthrough. I didn’t think I’d finish another scene in 12 minutes, so I just stopped.


Morgan Home: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth lingered in the doorway, listening as Cameron and Jake bickered over who would get to use the bathroom first. “You have about thirty seconds before I come in there and brush your teeth myself!”

There was some silence, then a hushed, fervent set of whispers before Jake slunk out of the room, sending his mother a beleaguered glare. “I’m not a baby anymore,” he muttered.

“That’s how I knew it would work.” She rolled her eyes and left the doorway, unfastening her watch. “Never fails,” she told Jason. “Threaten to hold them down and shove a brush in their mouth, suddenly they’re the souls of cooperation.”

He grinned at her, sitting on the bed to take off his boots. “I told Laura the adoption was finalized,” he said.

Elizabeth made a face, tossing the watch and her necklace into the porcelain tray atop the dresser. “I meant to say something,” she confessed, “but it’s been awkward. I know she supports it—”

“But she’s not one hundred percent on board,” her husband finished. He came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. She leaned back against him, closing her eyes. “She knows it was the right decision, but—”

“But it’s admitting that Aiden is never going to know the boy I fell in love with.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s hard,” she continued. “When I was just a little older than Cameron, I had all these dreams about a family with Lucky. Remember?” She twisted. “When we talked in Jake’s that first night, and I told you about wanting a baby with Lucky?”

“Yeah.”

“That boy—that sweet, caring boy deserved to be a father. It hurts to let go of that. I thought I had years ago, but when I realized I was still holding onto a small piece of it when Lucky sent the paperwork to terminate his parental rights. I know Luke said he’s been better, but he’ll never be that boy again.” She stared at the collar of Jason’s t-shirt. “I don’t know why I have to keep relearning that. He hasn’t been that boy for nearly twenty years.” She forced a smile. “Sorry. I don’t know why I’m so maudlin about this. Aiden loves you, and I love that he has you.”

“I know, but he and Cameron both know they’re not my biological sons. Aiden’s going to have questions one day. We need to be ready to answer them.”

“Thank you for putting up with me.” Elizabeth leaned up to kiss him, then lingered. “How long do you think we have before Cam tries to sneak downstairs for one more video game?”

“It’s only nine,” Jason murmured, brushing his lips down her jaw. “Maybe ten minutes before he thinks we’re not listening.”

“Well, not enough time for that,” Elizabeth replied, “but—” She put her hands against his chest, pushing him back gently so their eyes could meet. “I’ve been waiting all day to get you alone.”

“I can be creative in ten minutes,” Jason offered, but she shook her head. She went over to the purse hanging on the back of her door. When she turned back to him, she was holding out the pregnancy test. He stared at him for a long moment before raising stunned eyes to hers. “Is that—”

“Yeah. I, um, thought maybe, but I didn’t want to get our hopes up—” She bit her lip. “So I took it at work, and then Britt did a blood test to confirm—” She laughed as Jason came forward to pick her up and swing her around before hugging her tightly. “I guess you’re happy.”

“We’ve been talking about it for a year,” Jason reminded her. He pushed her hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ears, then letting his thumbs slide down her cheeks. “Everything we’re going to get right this time. You won’t need double shifts, and I’ll be here for the cravings and to take care of the boys—”

“And you’ll get to hold the baby in the hospital and everyone will know—” Elizabeth sighed happily. “I was so afraid to hope—so sure I was just being selfish. I mean, we have three beautiful boys—we have Jake, our miracle—I didn’t know if we’d get another chance—” She broke off when she heard a tell tale creak.

“I got it,” Jason told her, kissing her forehead. He pulled open their door to catch Cameron at the top of the stairs. “No.”

“Just one more game—”

“No.”

“Come on, Dad!” Cameron scowled. “Spencer keeps saying that I only suck because I’m not allowed to have it in my room—”

“You don’t have to go to sleep, Cam, but you know the rules. In your room at nine.”

“When I’m an adult, I’m going to have all the game systems right next to the bed,” Cameron muttered but he slunk back to his room and slammed the door.

“Are we being too strict?” Elizabeth wondered as Jason returned.

“He’d play those stupid games all night. We already took away the phone and tablet,” he reminded her.

“I know. And he doesn’t look death warmed over because he’s actually sleeping at night.” Satisfied, Elizabeth perched on the edge of the bed. “You sure you want sign up for another eighteen years of enforcing rules?” she teased.

“Only with you.”

General Hospital: Hub

Jordan stepped off the elevator and headed straight for Portia Robinson. She waited as Portia finished talking to Finn, then waved to get her attention. Portia made a face that reminded Jordan that they were not friends — but came over anyway.

“This isn’t about Trina, is it?” Portia asked. “I told her about curfew—”

“No. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Marcus,” Jordan said. “But he hasn’t returned my calls. I thought you might know what’s going on—”

“He’s working a case,” Portia said. “As always. Or at least, that’s what he said when he canceled last weekend with Trina. You know, Jordan, the whole point of divorcing Marcus was so that I didn’t have to constantly answer questions. Leave a message with the DEA—”

“Wait—wait—it’s about one of his cases from when he worked here,” Jordan said as Portia turned to leave. “It was before he started seeing you, I think, because it’s definitely before he left the PCPD for the DEA, but this guy is up for parole and the case file said to contact the arresting officer.”

Portia sighed. “He never talked about his cases—”

“Thomas Baker,” Jordan cut in. “Arrested in 1998 for blackmail and holding Elizabeth Webber and Emily Quartermaine hostage. It looks like a pretty straight-forward case — do you know why Marcus would care about his release?”

“Baker?” Portia repeated. She held a chart against her chest. “I actually—it’s one of the few cases Marcus checked in on when he left the department. He went to Baker’s first parole hearing five—no, six years ago. Wanted to make sure he’d serve the full twenty. I think he said Baker was suspected of another crime, but Marcus couldn’t make the charges stick.”

“Do you know what kind of crime?” Jordan asked. “Should I be keeping an eye on this guy?”

“Rape and assault of a teenaged girl. Marcus never got specific with me, and I knew better. I think maybe he wanted to keep the victim in the loop since she wouldn’t be notified. Why is the case coming up now?”

“Because he made parole,” Jordan said with a wince, “and his parole officer got him a gig here. At General Hospital.” She pulled out her phone. “I’ll have Dante pull the rape files from back then. Can you get in touch with him?”

“Yeah. I’ll do what I can. This case—it stuck with him,” Portia murmured. “He’d wanted to know the guy is out.”

General Hospital: Hallway

“Hey. Got a minute?” Elizabeth asked, catching up to Patrick Drake as the neurosurgeon started his rounds.

“For you, Webber, no.” Patrick flashed her a grin. “You can have two.”

“Generous.” Elizabeth paused. “I don’t know if Robin told you we talked in the locker room yesterday—”

“Yeah, she told me you know about the IVF.” Patrick rocked back on his heels. “Crazy, right? Starting over again, but it went great yesterday. Hopefully it’ll take.”

“So she didn’t tell you what she and I talked about?” Elizabeth asked.

“No, she said you’d be tracking me down on your own.” Patrick furrowed his brow. “You good? Anything wrong? The adoption?” He scowled. “Did that little bitch mess things up—”

“No, I told you it was finalized. It’s good news.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “You’re not the only ones starting over. Jason and I have been trying for a year, and yesterday—” She grinned. “It came back positive.”

“Oh, yeah?” Patrick wrapped her in a tight hug. “Look at you, joining us on the crazy train.” His grin was broad as he pulled back. “Oh man, can you be excited and terrified at the same time?” he asked as they started walking down the hall. “I used to be a lot younger.”

“Yeah, but think of all the mistakes we won’t make again,” Elizabeth said. She slid her arm through his. “And you know, we were both kind of alone for the hardest parts. Right after they were born, when they were just babies.” She took a deep breath. “I know Robin didn’t want it that way—”

“But it’s how it rolled out. It’s part of the reason we’re doing it again. She didn’t get to have everything. Between the PPD, Africa, and those psychos—she missed half of Emma’s life. We’re making up for it, but it’s not the same.”

“Same. Jason’s been in and out since Cam was born,” she told him, “but we really just—we want that experience. Start to finish, you know? I want him to have all the moments.”

“Still, we made a pretty good team,” Patrick said. “The pair of single parents in history. Those kids never got away with a single thing.”

“Well, they almost managed to stow away on a plane and get to Greece,” Elizabeth reminded him.

“You know, I should have been more angry about that,” he admitted, “but Dante said seeing Maxie and Lulu tied and gagged up by a bunch of fifth graders was a highlight of his life. And hey—”

“They left Aiden with a remote and a Lunchable,” Elizabeth finished, grinning at the memory. It had once been a terrifying one to recall—how close their precious babies came to joining the chaos in Greece, but after three years — it had become almost a legend. “Did you hear the late gossip from the ninth grade?”

“I try hard to forget that’s happening,” Patrick said with a grimace, “how did Emma get old enough to be a freshman?” He sighed. “What did Joss do this time?”

“She tried to make Trina miss the cheerleading tryouts, so Trina might have enlisted Cam to dump blue hair dye in Joss’s shampoo.” Elizabeth paused. “I don’t think Emma was part of it—”

“Who do you think talked Cam into doing it?” Patrick said. “I may not acknowledge this whole dating thing, but I know your kid is a sucker for anything mine asks him to do.”

“They’ve been dating for a year, Patrick. When are you going to admit it—” Elizabeth laughed as they turned a corner, walking straight into a pair of custodians. “Oh, I’m sorry—”

“No worries,” one of the men said as they turned to face Patrick and Elizabeth. Elizabeth stared at him as the man smiled. “Don’t say a word.”

Elizabeth’s hand slid from Patrick’s arm as she forced herself to speak. “How—why—I don’t—”

“Elizabeth?” Patrick asked, concerned. “Do you know him?” He squinted at the man’s name tag. “You’re new, aren’t you? Tom? When did you start?”

“Just last week,” Tom said with another smile. “Elizabeth and I go way back.” He fastened his eyes on hers. “She’s why I went to prison.”

June 20, 2021

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 7

Happy Sunday! I’ve spent the last five days doing very little, lol. I played a lot of The Sims 4, to be honest. I’ve been working on the Decades Challenge — a version of the legacy challenge that begins in the 1890s and works its way up to the 2000s, changing rules for historical play. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been suuuper unstructured, lol. That’s good a for a bit, but I actually am better when I have some sort of plan for the day.

I think I’m nearly ready to confirm that Mad World will be the next project, starting in June. I do like the opening scenes I played with for Broken Girl, but I was looking over my plans for the story and I think I need to go back to the drawing board on the second half just a little bit.

I’ll see you guys on Tuesday!

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 63 minutes.


December 31, 1999

Corinthos-Morgan Warehouse: Office

“You know, if you’re going to do the books for this place,” Alexis Davis began amicably as he put down his briefcase on the rickety table, “you should get a room that doesn’t look like it could double as solitary confinement.”

Jason frowned at his lawyer. “Why? All I need is a table, a chair, and some lights.” He shook his head and went back to the ledgers. “Sonny has an office. People are always trying to make appointments.”

“Yeah, that’s how you stay legit,” Alexis began, then shook her head. Trying to make Jason even slightly more corporate to support the image of the warehouse as a legal business was never going to work. “I was able to get that search warrant quashed, by the way. It was clearly fishing.”

“Thanks.”

“But,” Alexis continued, “it would be simpler if you could alibi yourself for the night Moreno went missing. They can’t pinpoint an actual time of death, only that the body was in the harbor for a few weeks.” She tilted her head. “Elizabeth—”

Jason leaned back. “She can alibi me for a few hours,” he said slowly, “and I know that if she phrased her answer just right and they didn’t follow up, it would hold. The problem is she wasn’t with me the whole night.”

Alexis wrinkled her nose, then gingerly perched on the edge of a chair that looked like it had been dragged up from storage. “I was afraid of that.”

“There’s—” Jason grimaced. “There’s more. I got shot that night.” He stared at his lawyer, waiting for her to ask the question.

Alexis pursed her lips. “Okay.”

“Elizabeth found me the next morning. I stayed at her place while I was recovering, and Bobbie looked in on me.” Jason rolled the pencil between his fingers, feeling the ridges against his skin. “How much trouble would they be in if someone told the PCPD that?”

“Well,” Alexis drawled slowly, “that would depend. You’re not required seek to medical assistance. If Bobbie gave you medical help—” She paused. “Did it include any medication?”

“Not from her,” Jason said.

“But from someone,” Alexis continued. “Did Elizabeth give you medication? Does anyone know that?”

“I—” Jason frowned over the question. “I don’t know if anyone other than Sonny knew.” Did Carly? She might have. “Maybe.”

“That’s likely where the problem would come,” Alexis told him. “If anyone gave you pain pills and the PCPD could somehow prove it enough to file charges — they could be in trouble. Elizabeth could be charged with distribution of a narcotic. They wouldn’t even have to tie you to Moreno’s death,” she added. “If someone knew Elizabeth was doling out pain meds—” She stopped. “Maybe we should stop speaking in hypotheticals, Jason, and you tell me what’s going on. I’m your lawyer. I can be Elizabeth’s lawyer if she needs one, at least until there’s a conflict of interest—”

“Carly knows I was shot,” Jason said. “Sonny gave Elizabeth the medication I needed. I only took the antibiotics after the first day. But, yeah, she got me some pain meds. She flushed them when I refused to use them.”

Alexis perused that information for a long moment. “Carly knows you were shot, and from what you’ve asked, I imagine she also knew Bobbie and Elizabeth were involved. She might not make the connection with the drugs, Jason, but I assure you — if she goes to Taggert, he will. He’s already trying to tie Elizabeth to this anyway he can to force her statement.”

Jason sighed. And if Carly had the chance to throw Elizabeth under the bus— “Her statement would be enough to force Elizabeth on the record, wouldn’t it?”

“It might,” Alexis admitted. “Again, a gunshot wound around the time Moreno was presumed to be murdered—that doesn’t look great for you. It’s circumstantial, but it’s enough to pull Elizabeth and Bobbie in for questioning. If they can threaten either of them with accessory, particularly if they make this drug connection — I don’t know, Jason. It would depend on the evidence. I could probably get it dismissed eventually, but I wouldn’t be able to represent you and them.”

He’d been afraid of that. “Carly is threatening to turn them in,” he admitted. “If I don’t help her disappear with Michael and get out of the marriage.” He paused. “I told her I’d do that—but she wants me to go with her.”

“Of course she does,” Alexis muttered. “Jason—” She hesitated. “The rumors about you and Elizabeth—are they true?”

Jason frowned at her. “What? About the party? What Nikolas said? Why does that matter?”

“I’m certainly not interested in your love life,” Alexis said dryly, “nor am I helping you to circumvent the law. I just wanted to point out that you need to shake Carly’s credibility and prevent any situation where Elizabeth could be forced to testify against you. Taggert doesn’t want her. He wants you and Sonny.”

Jason squinted. “I don’t understand—”

“The entire town knows that Carly is a jealous shrew,” Alexis reminded him. “You make this look like it’s revenge for you moving on with another woman—it’ll take her down a notch. And if Elizabeth wasn’t in a position to testify against you because of, I don’t know, some sort of confidentiality—”

“Alexis—”

“There’s several types of confidentiality,” Alexis continued. “Priest, doctor, and, well—spousal.”

Jason just stared at her. “Alexis—”

“It’s tricky to assert it about actions,” Alexis continued, “but generally lawyers try to avoid calling spouses to the stand because if it’s not voluntary, then the spouse can sabotage the case by offering material that was confidential—”

“Just— Jason put up a hand. “Listen—”

“It would work both ways,” Alexis continued, “because then if you were asked if Elizabeth gave you narcotics, you could—”

“This is—” Jason took a deep breath. “That’s—” He paused. “That’s your best advice?”

“I’m not advising you to do anything that circumvents the legal execution of the law,” Alexis said blandly. “I’m merely stating the ways in which you could protect one another under current legislation. Now, there are some challenges to privilege, but it usually gets tied up in appeals and goes for years — it’s messy,” she repeated. “And it mostly gets avoided by just not asking the spouse to testify if they’re the only witness.”

“Uh, thanks—”

“Don’t thank me. I didn’t do anything. Remember — I gave you zero advice. We just chatted about the law.” She got to her feet. “Right?”

“Right.” He watched Alexis go, then sat back in his chair, thinking over the conversation. He hadn’t thought twice about Elizabeth getting supplies from Sonny — he had only take two doses of the pain pills on the first day when it had been unbearable, but those kinds of charges—even the accusation—

He scrubbed his hands over his face. He’d have to find another way to deal with Carly.

Kelly’s: Diner

Elizabeth dumped a few coffee mugs into the dish tub and turned back to the counter, frowning when she saw her grandmother. “Gram.”

“Elizabeth,” Audrey said with a stiff nod. “I was hoping you would reconsider coming to the hotel with me tonight for the party.”

She opened her mouth, then saw Carly sauntering in and taking a seat at the counter. This was definitely the last thing she needed today. “Thanks, Gram, but I already have plans tonight.”

Audrey’s expression grew even more stony. “With Jason Morgan?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, ignoring Carly’s smirk. “Gram—”

“I certainly hope I won’t have to be attending your funeral,” her grandmother snapped then stormed out of the diner.

Fantastic. Her day was going just great. She turned her attention to Carly. “What can I get you?”

“It’s really what I can get for you,” Carly said coolly. “I’m here to do you a favor, Little Miss Muffet—”

“I doubt that—”

“You know Jason’s only playing around with you because of me,” Carly interrupted and Elizabeth closed her mouth. “Because I made a mistake—”

“Just the one?”

“He always comes back.” Carly leaned forward, her brown eyes dancing with glee and malice.  “You can ask Robin. I was his first, you know? After the accident. She wasn’t enough for him—”

“That’s—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “That’s none of my business—”

“It should be. He and I—we have chemistry. You know, where it counts. You’ve seen him, haven’t you? He’s gorgeous, sexy—” Carly closed her eyes and Elizabeth’s throat burned because she knew what the other woman was insinuating. “Mmm, the things he can do with those hands—”

“I have other customers—” Elizabeth started to turn away, but Carly’s hand snaked out and wrapped around Elizabeth’s forearm.

“He always comes back to me,” Carly repeated. “He likes to pretend he likes girls like you—fragile, soft—” She paused. “And damaged.”

Elizabeth flinched at that, and Carly’s lips curved into a smile. “That’s right. You know all about Robin and her sob story. He put up with that for as long as he could. I know about you.”

Her breath froze in her lungs and Elizabeth could only stare at her in stunned silence. “Everyone knows. I’m sorry for you,” Carly added. “Because you were young. Don’t think I’m not sympathetic—”

“Sympathetic—” Elizabeth choked out.

“Sympathetic enough to let you take a few rolls with Jason to get yourself back in the game.” Carly shrugged, released Elizabeth’s arm. “He’ll make you like sex again.”

Her stomach was rolling and bile had risen in her throat until she nearly gagged from it, but Carly just continued. “And you might even entertain him for a little while. At the end of the day, honey, you and I both know you’re not enough to keep him. He’ll get bored, just like he did with Robin, and then he’ll come back to me. He always does.”

Carly got to her feet and adjusted the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “I told you, kid, this was me doing you a favor. Have your fun for as long as he’ll let you but don’t fool yourself. You’re not woman enough for Jason. You’re a damaged little girl looking for a hero.”

As soon as Carly had left the diner, Elizabeth went into the kitchen and straight into the walk in fridge to give herself a long moment. To take a deep breath. She had Emily’s words rolling in her mind to just talk to Jason, to ask him—

But she also knew that Carly’s venom was rooted in truth. Elizabeth was damaged. She was fragile. Not as much as she had been, that much was true. She could take care of herself — but in the ways that mattered — as a woman — there was a piece of Elizabeth that would always be broken. Shattered.

And she was terrified that Carly was right — that the piece of her soul Tom Baker had stolen that night could never be fixed.  That she would always be trapped in those bushes, her back against the cold, frozen dirt with someone looming over her—

“Lizzie?” DJ poked his head in. “You okay?”

She closed her eyes and sank to the ground, resting her head against the cool metal wall. “No,” she said softly.

“Let me call Tammy, kid.” The cook edged his way into the freezer and knelt in front of her. “We’ll get someone to cover your shift—”

“Okay.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’ll—I’ll do it.”

She had another call to make.

Elm Street Pier

Jason was just crossing to the stairs to lead him to Kelly’s for some dinner when he felt the phone in his pocket vibrate. He tugged it out and smiled when he saw Elizabeth’s name on the screen. Maybe she was getting done early—

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Her voice sounded a bit strange—almost flat and empty. “I’m not feeling well, so I’m going home early.”

Jason frowned. “I’ll be right there. We can get your stuff tomorrow—”

“No, I—” She cleared her throat. “No, I—I, um, talked to Emily. I’m going to stay with her. I just—I’m sorry.”

“Elizabeth, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I mean, except for—I think I’m getting a cold—”

“Then let me—” He could take care of her, the way she’d done for him. “I’ll come right now—”

“Jason, I—look, I’m sorry. Please. I just—I have to go.” The line went dead, and Jason found himself staring at the silent phone, unsure what had happened. Things had been fine that morning. For both of them—

He grimaced. If Carly had gone after him—why wouldn’t she confront Elizabeth? Damn it.

Studio

Wearily, Elizabeth pushed open her door, then slid over the bolt to lock it behind her. She’d felt terrible lying to Jason about where she was spending the night. She reminded herself that she’d go to Emily’s in the morning.

She just didn’t want to see anyone or anything right now. She wanted to sit with herself in the dark—

Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair and took a deep breath. It was stupid to let Carly into her head, stupid to let her words sink into her bones.

Stupid to think that Carly wasn’t right.

The phone rang, and Elizabeth jumped from the sound. She turned to look at her landline, wondering if it was Jason. Or maybe it was someone else—

She bit her lip, considered letting the machine pick up but then reached for it. If it was Jason, she almost wanted him to catch her in the lie. To come over.

Elizabeth lifted the receiver to her ear. “Hello?”

“Miss Webber, I’m  glad I caught you. This is Joseph Sorel.”

Her heart frozen for a moment, then began to beat wildly in her chest. “What—”

“I regret to tell you that this will be the last time we speak. I hope you’ve made peace with yourself.”

“What the  hell—” Elizabeth began, then she heard something slam against her door. She rushed towards it, flipped back the bolt, then tried to twist the knob.

“It won’t open. Now, go check under the table.”

Elizabeth obeyed, kneeling down to peer underneath her artist’s table—then her mouth dried up.

“Have you found it yet? You’re trapped, my dear, and unless you do exactly as I say, you won’t be able to see the year 2000. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she breathed, staring at the 5:00 numbers blinking in red. Then, in horrors, they stopped blinking, then began to change. 4:59. 4:58.

Oh, God. There was a bomb in her studio.

June 18, 2021

Update Link: Scars – Part 1

Happy Friday! Today, we’re starting a new Flash Fiction story, the sequel to Darkest Before the Dawn & Shot in the Dark. Scars takes place in 2016, three years later, and rewrites the Tom Baker storyline. Tania asked for the rewrite, but in order to set it in 2016, I had to do some things first. I thought about just making some of it backstoy we’d talk about, but as I planned it, I realized I wanted to write those parts of the story, LOL.

If you’re a Patreon supporter, I posted some opening scenes for Mad World and Broken Girl to get some thoughts about which story I should focus on. If I’m still undecided next week, I’ll post them here for general thoughts.

I hope you guys are having a great week! I’ll see you on Sunday for the next part of Signs of Life!