I burn, burn like a wicker cabinet
Chalk white and oh so frail
I see our time has gotten stale
The tick tock of the clock is painful
All sane and logical
I want to tear it off the wall
I hear words in clips and phrases
I think sick like ginger ale
But my stomach turns and I exhale
– Inside Out, Eve 6
Wednesday, May 10, 2000
Port Charles Airport: Gate D
Sonny paced the waiting area, checking his watch. If they didn’t show—
“They’ll be here,” Alexis said patiently. She stepped away from the desk and the flight attendant waiting for them to board. “You know if you get on that plane without Laura, she’ll skin you alive, and Luke will be behind her to cook the carcass—”
“You didn’t hear Elizabeth—” Sonny gritted his teeth. “I knew something was wrong. When she wanted to move up the flight time—”
“He hasn’t called her once since we left on Monday. Forty-eight hours with no contact and nothing is wrong? No. You didn’t see him in Portland. It took everything he had to put her on the plane without him. If he hadn’t heard from her in twenty-four hours, he’d have called me.” Maybe there had been an accident, Sonny thought, sickened. Maybe Jason was lying in a hospital, or Christ, a morgue—
“Hey.” Alexis put her hands on his forearms, and he snapped to attention. “You need to keep your head clear, okay? Whatever is going on, we’ll figure it out. Okay? There’s going to be an explanation.”
“An explanation that doesn’t include alien abduction isn’t going to work for me—” Sonny bit off the rest of his response when he finally saw Luke and Laura approaching. “Good. Let’s get out of here.”
“What else did Elizabeth say?” Laura demanded after they were belted in for takeoff. “All you said she’d called collect and that something was wrong—”
“She hasn’t talked to Jason since we left on Monday. She’s left messages on the phone and with the hotel,” Sonny said, feeling relieved when the plane started to move. “And he didn’t get the flight information, so he wasn’t there to meet her. She called the hotel again, but this time they told her he hasn’t picked up any messages at all.”
“That might not mean anything,” Luke said. “Morgan doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to think about that—”
“His pregnant girlfriend traveling alone hasn’t contacted him in two days, and you think Jason didn’t notice?” Laura wanted to know. Luke winced at that. “Yesterday, she told me she’d had trouble connecting with him since she left, but I just thought—” She closed her eyes. “She was trying to downplay it, and I helped her. I didn’t take it seriously.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Luke told her. “Whatever it ends up being.”
“God. Elizabeth isn’t still at the airport, is she?” Laura asked. She sat up, her eyes wide. “Did she go to the hotel?”
“Yeah, last I heard she was getting a taxi. I thought about waiting until she got there, but—” Sonny shook his head. “Maybe Jason’s just at the hotel, and it’s all fine. We’ll have ourselves a trip to Portland then, but my gut said I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to be another hour behind.”
“I’d rather we all show up looking like fools,” Laura agreed. “I just wish this plane could go faster.”
New Imperial Hotel
Elizabeth stopped by the desk to ask about the messages, but no, he still hadn’t checked for messages. Her heart was in her throat — no, there was no record of the room being cleaned. The Do Not Disturb had been posted— No, Mr. Morgan hadn’t checked out.
God, if the room hadn’t been cleaned, what if he’d fallen—
She waited impatiently as the elevator climbed to the fourth floor and hurried down the hallway, jabbing her key card into the slot, shoving it open—
The room looked as it had the day they’d left for the airport. The bed sheets had been pulled across the mattress and the comforter haphazardly laying on top, as if waiting for house cleaning to finish the job. But they were the same sheets.
She checked the bathroom — but Jason wasn’t in there, lying in a pool of his own blood like she’d pictured. The bathtub and sink were both dry.
Elizabeth to the closet—her heart pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears—
Jason’s duffel bag was gone.
She squeezed her eyes shut. That didn’t mean anything. It didn’t. It couldn’t. Elizabeth got to her feet, turned around and then saw the pregnancy book on the nightstand. Slowly, as if it was a bomb, Elizabeth went towards it. She sat on the bed, held it in her hands, then saw the note that had been left underneath it.
The words had been scrawled on the hotel stationary. I’m sorry. I can’t do this. Don’t look for me again.
Emily set her purse and books down on the table, frowning at the counter where Lulu Spencer was sitting, clutching a pencil, and bowing her head over what looked like homework while Bobbie sat next to her, reviewing receipts.
“Hey,” Emily said, joining them, and trying to think of a way to ask Bobbie why Lu was at Kelly’s after school with her instead of Laura. Not that it was strange or anything — Lu was Bobbie’s niece, after all.
But Elizabeth had just returned to Portland that morning, and there was something pricking at Emily’s senses that something was not quite right. Elizabeth hadn’t heard from Jason by the time Emily had dropped her off at the house the day before, and—she checked her watch—Elizabeth would have landed in Portland several hours ago. She’d promised to call—
“Um, have you heard from Elizabeth?” Emily asked finally. “She went back this morning and should have landed around three our time—” She gestured at the clock on the wall behind Bobbie. “It’s almost six now—”
Bobbie exhaled and straightened. “I haven’t heard from her, no, but—” she glanced at Lu who continued working on her math. “Laura called and asked me to look after Lu for a few days because she was flying out there.” She tapped a pencil against her yellow notepad. “They said they’d call as soon as they knew anything.”
Emily swallowed hard. “Elizabeth couldn’t get Jason on the phone the entire time she was here. She should have met up with him—”
Bobbie put out a hand, rested it on Emily’s forearm. “We’re not going to go there yet,” she said softly. “Whatever it is, Luke and Laura are on their way with Sonny and Alexis. Until I hear differently, everything is fine.”
“Bobbie—” Emily shook her head. “He’s my brother—”
“I know, sweetheart. But he’s dropped off the grid before, remember?” Bobbie said. “We didn’t hear from him for months—”
“But it’s different this time. Elizabeth said they were going to stay out there—” Emily took a deep breath. “If it were really bad, she would have called me. She would have. She always does.”
“Exactly. Maybe there’s some complication with Jason’s job, and it needs some delicacy. Laura said she’d call,” Bobbie reminded her. “So we’ll wait here until we know more.”
“Okay. Okay.” Emily flashed a smile at Lu who had stopped working and was peering at them curiously. “Hey, Lu. You need some help with that math?”
New Imperial Hotel: Lobby
Elizabeth paced in front of the entrance, her thoughts completely scattered. It was almost six o’clock. And there was still no sign of Jason. She’d gone to the parking garage for the hotel — to the spot assigned to their room, and it had been empty.
It looked as though he’d packed everything and left, but it was a lie.
She knew it was a lie.
Elizabeth saw Laura’s blonde hair first as a dark car pulled up to the hotel, outside the glass doors. She flew through the entrance and hurled herself at the older woman. “I thought you’d never get here.”
Laura hugged her back, then drew away to frame Elizabeth’s face in her hands. “We’re going to figure this out, honey. We brought the cavalry.” She turned to Sonny and Luke who were unloading bags from the trunk, and to Alexis who was coming around the front.
“I, um, I got you guys rooms. I didn’t—” She twisted her fingers together. “I didn’t—”
“Let’s go check in, darlin’,” Luke said gently. He hoisted his bag and reached for Laura’s. “We’ll get sorted and organized. We’ll find him. Wherever he ended up.”
Elizabeth blinked at him, at the anger in his tone. Bewildered, she stopped short. “Do you think he left me?”
“I think we don’t know anything,” Alexis said, sending Luke a scathing glance. “So we’ll check in, and I’ll take the bags up. You’ll feel better if we get started,” she added, “and I know the least.”
“All right.” Elizabeth folded her arms and went to the entrance.
“He didn’t go on his own,” Sonny told Luke. “Knock it off—”
“I’m being realistic,” Luke bit out. “Guy leaves without a trace once, he can do it again.”
Jason & Elizabeth’s Room
“I got back to the hotel, and I checked with the, um, desk first.” Elizabeth twisted to look at them as they filed in behind her, save for Alexis who had gone one floor up to dump the bags. “Someone put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door—and we didn’t do that when we left.”
“No cleaning, then.” Sonny opened the balcony, stepped out. “And he didn’t check out.”
“No, but his bag and the bike are gone.” Nothing had terrified her more than seeing that empty parking spot. She swallowed hard, went to the nightstand. “And I found this.” She held it out, and Laura took it.
Her eyes softened with worry as she read it, then wordlessly handed it to Sonny who just scowled. “This is bullshit.”
Relief flooded her body to hear Sonny reject the note. “I thought so, too. It’s to throw me off—”
“Elizabeth,” Luke said as he studied the note. He grimaced. “It looks like he had some second thoughts, all right? He packed his bags, the bike is gone—”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Sonny cut in as Elizabeth started to protest. “The bag and bike—the note—it looks bad. But if he was going to leave like this—” He gestured with the note. “Then why the Do Not Disturb? Why not check out? Because he wanted her to find the note? I think we’ve got enough here to say it’s fishy—”
“Listen, whether the kid left willingly or not, I’m still going to track him down,” Luke interrupted. “I’m just—”
“Luke, stop speculating and tell me your contacts came through,” Laura snapped. “And Sonny, you spent most of the car ride here on the phone. Did either of you manage to get the security footage?”
“Security?” Elizabeth shook her head. “What—”
“Luke knows a guy who knows a guy who can get us airport footage of the day you left. Jason went to the gate with you, right? Did you come on the bike or—”
Luke’s phone rang and he went to answer it. Elizabeth closed her eyes, holding herself tightly. “Taxi,” she finished. “Because Sonny was with us.”
“And I’m getting hotel footage to track comings and goings, okay? We get lucky with the airport, maybe we get some way to track the taxi.” Sonny looked at his watch. “I’m going to go grab it now. Between me and Luke, we got money and contacts everywhere.”
“You saw him—” Elizabeth stopped Sonny from leaving. “You know that he didn’t leave me.”
“I know it. Now we’re going to prove it. Luke’s just—he’s a cynic. And maybe we need someone like that to keep us on our toes. We’ll do this—”
Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face, swaying slightly. “This is a nightmare. I don’t understand how this—could someone have found us here? Did someone hurt him?”
“When did you eat?” Laura wanted to know. She steered Elizabeth over to the bed to sit down. “Have you eaten today?”
“I had something at the airport, but—”
“Let’s get some dinner ordered up. You might not feel hungry,” Laura told her, “but I promise you, that baby will make you sorry you didn’t pay attention. And you need to stay strong. Alert.”
“Right. Right. If Jason’s in trouble, he’s going to need me.” Elizabeth hurried over to the table to rummage for the room service menu.
“I’m going to pick up the footage,” Sonny told Laura. He gestured to Luke, still on the phone, to follow him.
“I don’t know what you think we’re going to find on this tape that she can’t see,” Sonny said, sliding Luke’s footage from the airport into the VCR in the room. “What’s on this anyway?”
“The gate,” Luke said, focusing on the screen, his remote in hand. “Tape is about eight hours. We find the exact time you’re at the gate, I can work the other footage better.” He pressed the fast forward button. “Find the taxi, then we can figure out when he came back to the hotel—”
“Laura’s going to kill you for not bringing this directly to her.” Sonny grimaced. “And me for listening—”
“She’s pregnant,” Luke said flatly. “And already not doing well. You see the circles under her eyes? She didn’t get those in the last few hours. She didn’t sleep last night. Not eating right. I see that asshole on these tapes walking out the door with his bag, I need to be ready with that—”
“He didn’t leave her, Luke—”
“You gotta think that. He’s yours. She’s mine.” Luke exhaled slowly, as the sped-up footage raced through. “I don’t want it to be true,” he said quietly. “I’ve always liked Jason. And if it can’t be my boy, I thought it was okay it’d be him. But you and I both know—” he looked at Sonny. “Sometimes we hurt the women we love. Could you have ever predicted what you did to Brenda if you hadn’t lived it—”
Sonny closed his eyes. “Shit.”
“You got a heavy threat to your life. Either you disappear or Brenda is first in line to get whacked. You knew you had to go. Knew you had to break her so she wouldn’t be seen as a resource to get to you. And it worked. You lived to tell another tale, and Brenda—” Luke grimaced. “She wasn’t a casualty in the war.”
But she’d died all the same, Sonny thought. What if he’d taken her with him, taken her underground. Would she still be alive?
“You think Jason left to protect her?”
“I’m saying that he’d better—” Luke stopped, and pressed play. “There it is. 10:04. Write that down.” They watched the grainy image on the screen—Sonny going to the desk to make sure they were set for departure, Jason saying goodbye to Elizabeth—Sonny watched, as he had that day, the two of them—Jason holding on to her until the last moment.
“He heads back to the entrance at 10:10. We’ll start there—”
“He didn’t leave her willingly,” Sonny said. “Tell me you watched the same tape—”
“I’m not ruling anything out, but—” Luke swallowed. “I don’t know. Something about all of this isn’t right.”
Jason knelt in front of the lock for what had to be the fifteenth or sixteenth—maybe hundredth time—and tried to pick it with the sliver of wood he’d chipped from the cot in the corner. He didn’t care if he had to break the cot into cinders—he was going to get out of here—
He swayed slightly, then swallowed hard. How long since he’d eaten? Since he’d had water? He didn’t know how many days had passed, if it was still the same day—
All he knew, all he remembered was the taxi at the airport and then waking up here.
When the sliver snapped, Jason scowled and shoved himself to his feet, bracing his body with a hand against the rusted bars. He scanned the surroundings again, hoping for something different. It wasn’t a jail, but a wall of bars chiseled into stone. The walls themselves weren’t cement, but rock, a strange, unfamiliar musty scent.
It was like a dungeon, he thought. No windows. A stone floor. Who the hell was behind this?
Jason whirled back to the bars, wrapped his fingers around them and pulled. He yanked them back and forth—maybe they were old, maybe he could pry them loose—
But they didn’t budge. “Let me out!” Jason shouted again, but his voice just echoed up and down the dark passage. He couldn’t see how far it went on either side, but he’d seen no other signs of life.
He trudged towards the cot, sank down, and put his head in his hands. Thought of Elizabeth. Safe in Port Charles. She had to be. Sonny would make sure of it. Even if he never made it out, if he starved to death or died of thirst, he knew she was okay. No matter what issues Jason still had with him, Jason knew Sonny would look after her and the baby. His family was safe. And if that was all he could cling to, for the moment it was enough.