Chapter Four

Time: 3:45 p.m.
Date: February 12, 2003
Place: Outside Courtney’s Loft

AJ finished putting the suitcases in the trunk and shut it. He looked at Courtney and sighed. “All right. Let’s go.”

“Hold on,” Courtney said, holding up a hand. “I’m calling Jackie to see how it’s going.” She flipped the cell phone open and started to dial.

AJ was beginning to feel uneasy about the whole situation. It was one thing to plot with Sonny’s sister to bring Sonny and Jason down.

It was quite another to watch her call a hitman her uncle had loaned them the use of and make plans to kill off his little sister’s best friend.

AJ felt another wave of guilty wash over him. Emily–one of the last family members he had that actually cared about him. God, if she ever found out–

And just like that, his decision was made.

He looked back at Courtney who had shoved her cell phone back her purse. “Jackie says that Jason took Elizabeth somewhere else. Sonny probably got a hold of them and got them to move. I told him to check out Sonny’s safe houses. Let’s go.”

“Actually,” AJ said taking a step away from her and the car. “I’m thinking it would look highly suspicious if I took off at the same time you did. We don’t want anyone knowing we were in on this together.”

Courtney frowned and nodded. “You’re right. I’ll go now, since Sonny’s on my trail. I’ll meet you in New York.” She brushed a quick kiss on his lips and got into the car. AJ stood and watched Courtney drive away.

He turned and headed for Harborview Towers.

Time: 4:15 p.m.
Date: February 12, 2003
Place: Safe House

Elizabeth shifted in her position on the couch and stared straight ahead at the fireplace. Jason was standing the window, his arms crossed. He was frowning out the window.

She shifted again, wishing she’d had a little warning. She could have packed a sketch pad or maybe a book. She was so bored, just sitting here. A year ago, being in a place like this with Jason wouldn’t have been like this. They might be talking or at the very least not so horribly distant from each other.

This is your fault, Elizabeth reminded herself. As he loves to tell you, you walked out on him without a second glance. He came to you twice and you shut him down.

Jason rubbed the back of his neck and glanced back to Elizabeth before casting his eyes back out the window. It was damn uncomfortable sitting here with her like this. The last time they’d been alone had been the night at the penthouse when she’d left. How had so many months passed without them working this out?

It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried–he’d made two feeble attempts to talk to her, but the second her voice had gotten frosty and her eyes had iced over, Jason had stepped back. After all–wasn’t this what he’d wanted all along? For Elizabeth to realize it wouldn’t work? To realize she was better off without him?

It’d been one thing to convince himself of that–it was completely another to see Elizabeth believing in it as well. He hadn’t realized how much it would sting for her to walk past him like she didn’t know him.

Her sigh broke the silence and he turned to look at her. She was still sitting completely still, a rarity for her. She was always moving her hands or talking. He missed that–he missed hearing her talk about what was on her mind.

“I’m sorry about this,” Jason said finally.

She shrugged. “It’s better than the alternative,” Elizabeth answered. “I’d rather be anywhere than the morgue.” She glanced over at him. “Thank you for coming to get me. I know this isn’t exactly what you want to be doing.”

Jason turned fully around and leaned against the wall. “Well, what did you expect me to do? Leave you there while someone was trying to kill you?”

“To be honest? I didn’t think you’d really care,” Elizabeth said quietly.

Jason frowned. “Elizabeth, just because we haven’t been speaking…that doesn’t mean I stopped caring about you.”

“Wouldn’t know it from my end,” Elizabeth muttered, looking down at her hands.

Jason shook his head. “It’s not like I didn’t try,” he said. Her head snapped up at the words and Jason instantly regretted the phrase he’d used.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth remarked coolly. “Because that’s exactly what it felt like.”

Jason sighed. “Elizabeth–”

She stood up automatically and started talking. “Is there anything to eat here? Because honestly I haven’t eaten all day and I’m starving–”

He caught her elbow as she went in search of a kitchen. “Why don’t you want to talk about this?” he asked.

She jerked her arm out of his grasp. “Oh, now you want to talk?” Elizabeth asked. “As opposed to making a half-ass attempt and walking away when you don’t like what you hear?”

She stormed out of the room and Jason sighed, returning his attention to the window. He’d let her cool down.

And then he’d force her to talk. One way or another — this ended tonight.

Time: 4:25 p.m.
Date: February 12, 2003
Place: Corinthos Penthouse

Carly frowned. “What do you mean, stay away from Courtney?” she asked.

Sonny sighed and shook his head. “She’s not welcome in this house anymore, Carly–”

“You are not going to give me an order without at least giving me a good reason behind it,” Carly argued. “What is wrong? What did Courtney do? Go back to AJ, break up with Jason, what?”

Sonny chuckled bitterly and shook his head. “No. It’s far worse than that.”

“How?” Carly demanded.

“She hired a hitman,” Sonny bit out. “To kill Elizabeth Webber.” He glanced at Carly who was staring at him, her mouth wide open in shock. “I know it’s hard to believe. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t heard her do it with my own ears.”

“Why…” Carly shook her head, trying to force some words to come out of her mouth. Normally, she had no trouble speaking but the idea that her young blonde and perky sister-in-law had hired someone to kill Jason’s annoying ex-girlfriend was something her mind was just not processing right now.

“I don’t know. She denied it, but I heard her giving the hitman the motel where Jason is hiding–” Sonny stopped, instantly regretting his quick explanation.

Carly glared at him. “That’s who he’s guarding, isn’t it? Elizabeth Webber. Wait, does that mean someone has already tried to kill her?”

Sonny sighed. “Yeah. Someone took a shot at her. She called Jason.”

Carly rolled her eyes. “Typical. The princess runs to Jason–”

“Carly, knock it off. Someone took a shot at her and she called the first person she could think of. She’s not stupid. She knows that Jason will protect her.”

“Why is that exactly?” Carly asked, scratching her head. “I mean, the little twit walks out on him, ignores him for months and yet the first time she crooks her finger, he goes running. How many different types of idiot is he?”

Sonny frowned. “Carly. How many times did you accidentally wreck Jason’s life only to ask him for more help?”

She rolled her eyes.” All right, all right. Point taken. So, Courtney told the guy where Jason and Elizabeth were. So, did Jason get her out of there? Are they okay?”

Sonny nodded. “Yeah, they got out of there just in time. I’m hoping to get this guy and maybe he can tell me what’s going on. Until then, Jason’s keeping Elizabeth hidden.”

“I guess it’s for the best,” Carly said, grudgingly. “What about Courtney?”

Sonny sighed. “She left and I sent a guard after her, but she lost him.”

There was a knock on the door and the guard opened it. “AJ Quartermaine.”

AJ didn’t wait for Sonny or Carly to admit him, he barreled past the guard and into the penthouse. “You’ve got to stop Courtney,” he said, out of breath from his jog to the building. “She’s supposed to be heading out of town, but I think she’s going after Elizabeth again.”

Sonny glared at his sister’s estranged husband. “How do you know all this?”

AJ took a minute to catch his breath before looking at Sonny. “If I tell you what’s going on, you have to promise you’re not going to kill me.”

Sonny rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine. What’s going on?”

“All right, Courtney isn’t just your sister,” AJ said. “Her mother’s half brother is Frankie Gregory.”

Sonny looked down and shook his head. “Well, it explains how she got Ortolino.”

“Who’s Frankie Gregory?” Carly asked, trying to keep up.

“He practically runs New York City,” AJ clarified before continuing to Sonny, “When Frankie realized that Courtney was related to you, he took the opportunity to send her and Janine here. He wants your territory and he thought Courtney would be able to help.”

“And how are you involved?” Carly asked, a little disturbed by the fact that Courtney had apparently snowed them all.

“When I started with Courtney to get back at you, she took advantage and recruited me. Everything we’ve done up until now was to gain your trust,” AJ reported. He started ticking things off on his fingers. “The marriage, the disinheriting–I called in a favor with Edward. He was only too happy to help. My return to drinking, the stripping, the stalking–everything was so she could gain your trust and love.” AJ took a deep breath. “We didn’t plan it out in detail–we kind of went along with the flow. When Courtney told me the real reason she’d stripped so that you could find out, she suggested using Jason to further the cause.”

Sonny scratched the side of his nose. “AJ, you do realize that you’re very lucky I’ve already agreed not to kill you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” AJ said. “Look, I didn’t agree with the Jason part of the plan. I also didn’t think she’d pull it off. I still don’t know how she snowed him into believing she was such a helpless female when she’s the direct opposite, but it worked.”

“And what does Elizabeth Webber have to do with this?” Carly demanded. “She and Jason have been over for months. Actually, I think her walking out left him vulnerable to Courtney.”

Sonny stared at her for a moment, almost in awe. “I think you’re right.”

“Courtney hates Elizabeth,” AJ confided. “At first, she thought Elizabeth could be of some use–being close to both you and Jason, but Elizabeth never warmed up to her, not really. And once Courtney realized that Jason wasn’t emotionally involved enough with her to do any good, she figured she had to render him useless to you. Courtney knew Jason was in love with Elizabeth–”

Carly snorted. “Yeah, right. Jason has better taste.”

Sonny shot her a glare before returning his attention to AJ. “So, killing Elizabeth would devastate Jason.” Sonny considered this and nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right. And what was supposed to happen after that?”

“Sonny, everyone knows Jason’s your rock,” AJ told him. “You don’t have Jason, the only thing you got is Carly. You’d be ripe for a takeover.”

Sonny crossed his arms. “And if that hadn’t worked?”

“Look, does it matter right now?” AJ said, testily. “Courtney told Ortolino to check your safe houses. She got a list of them.”

“How’d she get that?” Sonny asked, alarmed.

“I have no idea. Probably screwed someone to get it,” AJ snapped. “Right now, I’m betting that she split up the houses with Ortolino. He searches half and she’s taking the other half. If that’s where Elizabeth and Jason are, you need to move them or warn them or something. Because if Ortolino finds them, he’s going to finish his job. And right now, Courtney’s pissed that Jason went to Elizabeth’s aid instead of coming over to the loft like they’d originally planned. I wouldn’t put it past her to try and kill them both.”

“All right, I’m gonna call Jason. Where does Courtney think you are?” Sonny asked, heading for the phone.

“Waiting until tomorrow to join her in the city so it doesn’t look suspicious,” AJ answered. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand by and let Elizabeth get killed for some stupid revenge shit. My sister would never talk to me again–and if Jason ever found out I had a hand in it, I’d be dead. I know you both hate me, but I couldn’t let Elizabeth die.”

“Very noble of you,” Carly snipped. Sonny finished dialing and glared at Carly. He waited and frowned when Jason’s voice mail clicked on. “Jason’s phone is off. He never turns it off–Jason, it’s me. The second you get this, get the hell out of there. I just got a lot of information and Courtney gave a list of the safe houses to Ortolino. They’re probably on their way now. Get out of there and call me back.” He hung up. “Okay, AJ, you’re coming with me.”

“Where are you going?” Carly demanded. “And why are you taking him?”

“Because there’s no where that I can leave him that he won’t get into trouble,” Sonny shot back. “And we’re going to the house. I can’t guarantee that Jason will get that message in time, so we’re leaving.” He looked to AJ. “Wait in the hall for a second. You’re getting a chance to redeem yourself–don’t blow it.” AJ glared at his nemesis and left.

Sonny went to Carly. “Stay here. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything crazy.”

“You don’t need to give me that speech every time you leave the penthouse,” Carly grumbled. “I’m capable of dealing.”

“I know.” Sonny sighed. “Stay near the phone in case Jason calls. If he does, tell him to get out of there, got it?”

“Got it,” Carly agreed. She put her hands on Sonny’s face to keep his still and leaned in for a soft kiss. “Be careful. Shoot the witch if need be. Just come home.”

“I promise,” Sonny replied. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Time: 6:00 p.m.
Date: February 12, 2003
Place: Safe House

Elizabeth sighed and glanced up at Jason over a bowl of soup. She couldn’t help but giggle when she noticed the glare he was giving the bowl. “Still not fond of soup, huh?” she asked.

“I hate the stuff,” Jason grumbled.

“Well, it was the only thing here,” she replied. “Sorry.”

He shrugged. “S’okay. At least it’s chicken noodle and not that broccoli cream whatever you used to feed me.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “You’re such a baby, sometimes.” She stared down into her rapidly cooling bowl. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” Jason agreed.

“Why would you tell me it was too dangerous for us to be together but go out in public with Courtney?” Elizabeth asked softly, not looking up.

Jason frowned and tried to come up with a good answer that didn’t make him look like a hypocritical ass. He was saved by a strange sound and he sat up straight, trying to place it.

Elizabeth immediately forgot what she’d asked as the sound registered. “Jason…that sounds like glass breaking,” she said softly.

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