I thought I saw a man brought to life
He was warm, he came around like he was dignified
He showed me what it was to cry
Well you couldn’t be that man that I adored
You don’t seem to know, or seem to care what your heart is for
I don’t know him anymore
There’s nothin’ where he used to lie
Our conversation has run dry
That’s what’s goin’ on
Nothing’s fine, I’m torn
– Torn, Natalie Imbruglia
Monday, April 17, 2000
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Luke was the last person that Sonny expected to walk in this morning. His former friend and partner sauntered past the guard and poured himself a cup of coffee. “Good morning.”
“Uh—” Sonny squinted, then looked at Alexis with her stacks of contracts at the table. “Was I expecting you?”
“No. But we’re going to be partners again for a bit. The wife—” Luke closed his eyes. “The ex-wife,” he corrected gently, “or very nearly—has requested it.”
“I thought Laura wanted me to burn in hell—”
“It’s been a year,” Luke said, some of the humor fading from his eyes. “And we both know that you were a convenient scapegoat for all of us. If Moreno had been behind that fire, you’d have burned him to ashes then, not waited all these months.”
Sonny stirred sugar into his coffee, remained quiet. Luke continued, “It took us both some time, but Laura and I have accepted that truth. I don’t know if you want an apology—”
“No. No apologies needed. We all thought it.” Sonny sipped his coffee. “What brings you to my doorway? Why does Laura want my help?”
“We got a common goal. Jason Morgan. He needs to be located. Today if it can be managed.” Luke slid a glance at Alexis. “Does Natasha know why you were already on the hunt?”
“Who said I was?” Sonny said.
“Sonny,” Alexis said, kicking him lightly under the table. “Nikolas went to dinner with Laura last night. I’m sure Elizabeth did, too.” She switched her attention to Luke. “And she told you, didn’t you?”
“She told Laura, who offered our unwavering support. I’ve been dispatched to do the dirty work. Did Liz call you with the update?”
“Jason left her a message. I had our guys start scouring Oregon. I’ve got this handled, Luke—” Sonny gently wiped his mouth, set the napkin down next to him. “As soon as I know where Jason is, I’ll turn that information over to Elizabeth.”
“The best you can do, Corinthos, is find out where he’s was. He’s been in Oregon a few days. That’s a big state—and that was on Sunday morning. What if he’s already split?” Luke wanted to know. “You know a lot about traveling with cash? How far someone can get in a day, where the most likely places to stop are? Hell, do you got any contacts in Oregon?”
“And I suppose you do,” Sonny said sourly. “Where would we be without you—”
“Don’t start. My guy has narrowed the possibilities down to six or seven places.” Luke dragged out a piece of paper, slid across the table. “The kid said the waterfront reminded him of home. My hunch is he’s talking about the docks, not the views, so a lot of the lakes are out.”
Sonny peered at the list. “Most of these are on the coast. Why do you think it’s an ocean thing?”
“I don’t. We picked the places with working piers. A mix of warehouses and amusement. Just like we got here. He thought Elizabeth would like it, too.” A smile tugged at Luke’s mouth. “She’s got herself a history with the docks, too. She and Lucky slept under them for a time, and she spent a lot time on Elm Street. Jason worked the docks in the beginning—”
“Then you know that this is the best place to start. We can’t sit around and hope he’ll buy a plane ticket or hit an ATM. And the phone records? Any luck?”
“It’s harder to get phone records for some reason,” Sonny muttered. “Emily ran into some red tape at her school—”
“Liz already called the phone company to get the number. They said they’d mail something back to her in a day or so.”
“What if you’re right and we track him to somewhere he was?” Sonny wanted to know. “How does that help us?”
“He’s reaching out more. He called his sister twice,” Luke reminded him. “Elizabeth said this was the first time he’d called her, after and she asked him not to. That tells me he’s a man missing home. He might call again. Or he might stick around this place that reminds him of here.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then we’ll get on the 101 and head south. Emily said he talked about doing the Pacific Coast Highway—it starts as Route 101 in Washington.” Luke raised his brows. “Does that sound familiar?”
“Yeah. Yeah, he talked about it some. All right.” Sonny heaved a sigh. “I’ll have my guys focus here. Call some of the hotels and motels in the area to see if we can find him. And hope we get a hit on the phone or bank—”
“Or that postcards shows up and he’s still there.” Luke got to his feet. “When you find him, let me know. Me and Laura, we’re going to take Elizabeth where she needs to go. So we can be there no matter how this turns out—”
“Jason’s going do the right thing,” Sonny said, offended. He shoved himself to his feet. “You’re not her father, and I don’t see a shotgun—”
“However it turns out,” Luke repeated, then left.
Sonny scowled and sank back to his seat. “Arrogant jackass,” he muttered.
“Are you talking about yourself?” Alexis said pleasantly. Sonny shot her a look. “I get that you want to deliver Jason to Elizabeth so you can make up for whatever crime you think you committed, but at the end of the day, as long as we find him, that’s what should matter.”
“I know that—”
“Then don’t go around Luke on this. He’s got contacts you don’t, you got the financial resources. That’s why you used to make a half decent team,” Alexis reminded him. She got to her feet. “Now you’re sniping at each other because you both want to be the hero. Knock it the hell off.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth tried not to wince as Nikolas came into the diner, saw her, and smiled hesitantly. She returned the smile, then looked at the counter to see if her lunch was ready. She just wanted to pick up her food and head back to the studio. She’d been there since saying goodbye to Emily, hoping Jason might call again.
“Hey.” Nikolas slid into the stool next to her. “I was hoping to run into you here—”
“I’m not—I’m just waiting on a to go order.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. She’d promised civility. “Uh, how are things?”
“Good. Good.” Nikolas flipped over the coffee cup, waited as the waitress poured. “Last night—it was nice but it was awkward. I don’t think Mother will do it again.”
“No, probably not.” Elizabeth checked her watch. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to see Emily much while she was here.”
“She’ll be home soon,” Nikolas said with a shrug. “I’m sure you both had a lot to do.” He paused. “And this is awkward.” When she frowned at him, he gestured at the space between them. “This. I know you’re still not happy with me—”
“But am I at least allowed to say I miss your friendship?” he asked. “I may not have deserved it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate it. I wouldn’t have survived everything with Katherine if it wasn’t for you.”
She didn’t want it to be like this either, but as much as she missed the good times—it was hard to erase the bad ones. His seething anger in the studio, the humiliation of the party—and that last fight— “I understand that, Nikolas. But you hurt me. A lot. And that doesn’t go away because you want it to. I was a good friend to you, and I didn’t deserve the way you treated me.”
“I know nothing but time will fix it—”
“I told you—” Elizabeth’s lunch finally arrived. She took the bag and slid off the stool. “I’m okay with being civil, for Laura and Emily’s sake. But I can’t see us going back. I really can’t.”
“So that’s it?” Nikolas said, impatience lacing his tone. That familiar irritation sliding in. “A guy gets one chance to mess up—”
“You didn’t get just one chance. I forgave you the first time you threw my rape in my face after the Nurse’s Ball,” Elizabeth reminded him. “And I wasn’t going to let my birthday make things weird. But you were the one who decided you had a right to control my life. The studio, the party, that day at Kelly’s—if you think I’m going to forgive that in a matter of weeks, then—”
“I was hoping for a little bit of grace,” Nikolas bit out. “All the things Sarah and I forgave you for—”
“The condoms? Being angry about my grandfather’s heart attack?” Surprised, Elizabeth lifted her brows. “You want to hold those against me, fine. Like I said, Nikolas, we didn’t like each other when we first met—”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t—”
“You didn’t mean it. Same old routine. Say what you mean in the moment, and apologize later when you don’t like the consequences. I’m tired of this rollercoaster. I’m getting off.”
“I really am sorry—I’m just—” Nikolas’s hand snaked out to grasp her arm. “Please. I’m not holding any of that against you. I just meant that we’ve both done things, said things we regret. You accused my uncle—” He winced. “My father,” he corrected gently, “of killing your grandfather—you think that didn’t hurt?”
“I’m sure it did. It might surprise you, Nikolas, that I still hold him responsible,” Elizabeth said gently. “At least partially. Stefan made sure General Hospital was failing financially so he could swoop in and save it. He didn’t care what would happen to the people. My grandfather worked himself to the bone to save it — of course it created more stress on his body. Of course it led to his fatal heart attack. My grandmother might have forgiven him, and I don’t talk about it. My mistake was holding it against you. I apologized then, and I meant it. I never brought it up again, did I?”
“You’re twisting my words—”
“You’re angry because I’m not letting it go. I’m sorry, Nikolas, but I’m done pretending. You hurt me.”
“You hurt me, too—”
“When I didn’t return your feelings?” She tilted her head. “You think that’s the same thing as telling the entire hospital Jason and I were sleeping together? Of accusing me of not loving Lucky enough because I wasn’t ready to have sex? I didn’t owe you anything, Nikolas. I wasn’t obligated to love you.”
“That’s—” Nikolas’s face burned with heat, as color crawled up his throat. “You’re blowing this out of proportion—”
“I said I would be civil for Emily and for Laura. You’re the one who keeps pushing to go back. I won’t do it.”
“This is because of Jason. He’s made you hate me. He’s not even here for you—” Nikolas slapped a hand against his chest. “I’m here. Why doesn’t that matter?”
She shook her head. He would never understand and she had wasted enough breath trying to get him there.”I’m going. Goodbye.”
But she kept going. There was nothing left he could say, and she had places to be.
Spencer House: Kitchen
Laura barely glanced up from the table at the sound of the back door, only turned the page in the travel guide and made a note on a nearby pad. “Are we sure we should rule out lakes?” she asked as Luke took a seat. “Some might be pretty big enough for docks—”
“I’m not ruling them out, just putting them low on the priority list—” Luke picked up the top book from the stack. “A Guide to Oregon.”
“I went to the library and cleaned out their travel guide section. When we get the location of his last phone call, we’ll want to have places to look in case he’s moved on—” Laura tapped the pencil against her mouth. “I was looking at Diamond Lake—”
“Angel—Laura—” Luke put a hand over her notepad. “We’re doing everything we can. I talked to Corinthos this morning. He’s doing the bank and phone records. As soon as we get a location, we can do this. But you’re just going to drive yourself insane—”
“Better to be doing something then just waiting around—” Laura cleared her throat. “It could be a week before that card gets here. Who knows when he put it in the mail? Or when it got picked up. And what if that phone call doesn’t come through—what if the records—”
“No one is going to rest until we’ve put these two in a room together,” Luke promised. “Sonny’s just as worried as we are. He doesn’t want to let Jason down, and you and I are looking out for Elizabeth.”
“I couldn’t—” Laura took a deep breath. “Sometimes I have dreams. I force Lucky to come home. To work things out. If I had just done that, he would have been here that night. Not in the garage—”
“And he still might have lit those candles, and taken himself, you and our little gumdrop with him. Where would we be then?” Luke asked. “I thought about making the cops bring Lucky in, but he just would have kept running. He got a taste of independence and liked it. He was never going to come back.”
“It haunts me,” Laura murmured. “I feel like I let him down. But Elizabeth—I can do this. I can help her. I don’t want her to be scared or alone. And she’s not going to be able to really confront this without talking to Jason. She won’t make any decisions. We need to find him—”
“We got lot of pans in the fire, Angel.” And this time she didn’t wince when Luke used the old nickname. He squeezed her hand. “He could use an ATM today, and we’ll know tomorrow. Hell, he could be on a plane back here for all we know. We’re doing everything we can—”
“We could go to Oregon,” Laura said. “To Portland. At least then we’d be on that side of the country—if we wait, it’s a six hour flight—”
“And what if he’s long gone? What if he’s in Iowa or back in Arizona? I know it’s hard to sit and do nothing. But it’s what we have. The minute we get a confirmed location, Sonny will put us on a jet.”
Laura exhaled slowly, then nodded. “I know you’re right.” She forced a smile, looked back at her research. “But it won’t hurt to go through these books and know the lay of the land if we need it.”
“No, it won’t.” Luke reached for a book of his own. “Let’s do it.”
Elizabeth ripped another sketch from the pad, crumbled it, and tossed it aside. Nothing was coming out right, and she had a contract due at the end of the month. Now, more than ever, she needed to make this work.
If she could make a decent enough body of work with the greeting cards, she was going to try to get an agent who could get her work illustrating other things. She could do children’s books, couldn’t she? Or maybe art for doctors and hospitals, and other places that liked plain, boring landscapes.
In order to get there, she had to come through. She had to build a reputation. She needed three more prints for this contract—
But all she could do was stare at her phone and will it to ring.
What if it did ring? What if it was Jason on other side of the line? What was she going to say to him?
What would she say when they finally tracked him down—Elizabeth let her head fall back as she stared at the ceiling. Four days she’d known about this pregnancy — less than, since it had been almost Friday evening when she’d taken the first test — and she was still nowhere.
The best choice for everyone, probably, was to terminate. She was too young, too financially unstable, and too unsure of what her future looked like. No one would blame her. Maybe Jason would be upset if she did it without finding him, but—
Elizabeth slid her hand over her abdomen which didn’t feel any different than it had on Friday. She still had trouble sleeping, and she still had a bit of nausea, but—
Elizabeth set the sketch pad aside and went over to the answering machine, pressing play.
“I’m—I’m sorry. I know you said it was too hard, and I shouldn’t have called.”
She paused the tape, nearly rewound it again. He knew he wasn’t supposed to call, but he’d done it anyway. He’d been selfish. Why? Because he’d needed to hear her voice? Nearly as much as she’d needed to hear his?
“…I’m sorry I’m not there. Today. I should be. I almost did, but I can’t until I’m ready to stay, and I’m not.”
That was the part of the message that gave her the most hope. He’d nearly come home — but he’d stopped himself. He wasn’t ready to stay, but maybe it meant he wanted to. And he’d told her, so he wanted a future with her. Or was she reading too much into this? Elizabeth scowled, and walked away from the machine—then winced, and went back. If she didn’t finish replaying it, the machine would record over him. And right now — this was all she had.
“I’ve, uh, been in Oregon the last few days. You’d like it. The—it’s waterfront. It’s almost like home, but it’s not the same. I—I hope you’re okay.”
The tape whirled to a stop, and Elizabeth opened the machine, removed it, and put a new one in. She closed her fist around it, took a deep breath. “I’m okay. No matter what happens, I’ll be okay.”
And wherever Jason was, she hoped he was okay, too.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
The Wayside Inn
Jason glanced at the clock on the night table, and sighed when the phone didn’t connect. He wanted to talk to his sister — he hadn’t heard her voice in months. “Hey, Emily. I guess I missed you again. I’m, uh, going to keep trying. I hope classes are good, and that New York is fun. I’m in Oregon—” He glanced around the room. “Sticking to the coast, mostly. You know I like the water. Uh, I’ll try again later. Good night.”
He hung up the phone, then went over to the table, already irritated at the set of postcards that had been given to him when he checked in. He hadn’t even bought them this time, but—
He picked up a pen, stared at the card, then started to write. Scowled at the first attempt, then reached for the second one. When that didn’t go any better, Jason shoved both into his bag, switched off the light and went to bed.