I know the breakdown
Everything is gonna shake now someday
I know the breakdown
Tell me again am I awake now
Maybe you can find the reason that
No one else is living this way
– Breakdown, Tantric
August 2010 in Bern, Switzerland
Church of St. Peter and Paul
Victor Cassadine smiled as he walked towards the altar of the church, finding great amusement in the sight of the woman dressed from head to toe in unrelieved black with a lace veil covering her face.
“I’m always surprised that you can step foot in a place like this,” he drawled. The woman turned away from the altar where she had been lighting candles. “I thought it might be you asking for this meeting when I received the message.” He glanced around the empty chapel, then lifted a brow at her. “You always did have a flair for the dramatic.”
She lit the last candle, then stepped down to meet Victor. “And you came anyway?”
“It’s never boring,” Victor told her. He sat in the front pew, stretching his arm across the back of the wooden pew. “Why a Catholic church, darling? We’re Orthodox.”
“We’re practical,” she murmured as she sat next to him and lifted the veil on her hat. “You’ve heard the good news?”
“Of course. You’re a great-grandmother again. A little boy born to Nikolas.” Victor narrowed his eyes as the woman’s lips curved. “For someone who has been cast out of his life more than once, I don’t see why you’re so happy.”
“I had a thought, my dear Victor,” she said, “that Mikkos would be disappointed in the children he sired. None of them have taken up the reins the way they ought to.” She tilted her head. “What about Liesl’s brats? Wasn’t one of them yours?”
“Possibly,” Victor said with a light shrug. “They might also be Cesar’s. With Liesl, one never knows. You shouldn’t look for the Cassadine line to continue through me. No, Nikolas and his boys — they’re your best bet.”
“Perhaps,” she purred. “If only there were two of them.”
Victor felt the corner of his mouth tug up. “Darling, what are you up to?”
“Reviving the Cassadine line,” she replied. She straightened the cuffs of her long black sleeves. “It’s not always in the blood, but in the breeding. I have a plan, Victor, but I’m afraid I cannot do it alone.”
“And what can I do for you?”
“You have some old friends that I might want to speak with. And now that you’re at the WSB—” Her smile deepened. “You have so many resources. I thought we might find it amusing to revive some old experiments.”
“You’ll have to be more specific, dear.” Victor shifted. “What experiments?”
“Controlling the mind, manipulating memory—” she sighed dreamily. “I came close with my beloved Lucky. So close to finally cracking it all and getting my revenge on Luke and Laura but I was stopped.”
“And you can’t abide while a Spencer lives?”
“The Spencers remain on my list, but they are not the only ones who have wronged me. My grandson who lied to me—” Her lips trembled before she pressed them together as the fury in her eyes grew. “He deceived me, led me to believe he had finally come to my side—and he might have. But she always stopped him.”
“Elizabeth Webber. The mother of Nikolas’s new son.” She laughed then, a dark chilling laugh. “So many fathers for her children, what’s one more lie for her to live?”
“My dear—” Victor squinted. He didn’t quite understand her delight.
“If Nikolas had killed Elizabeth Webber when he was supposed to, I would have the grandson I deserve. She made him weak, and she keeps him tied to the light. With the death of that insipid girl Emily, he should have been ripe to fall—” She calmed herself, her breathing rapid. “When I have broken Elizabeth, I will have my grandson back.”
“And the experiments,” Victor said slowly. “They’ll help you do that?”
“Oh, I couldn’t destroy her without them. This little lie about Aiden—” She examined her nails. “It’s just the first of the tortures I have planned. And when she is gone, when Nikolas has fallen—then it will be time to finish Luke and Laura—”
“Then how will you revive the Cassadines?” Victor asked, as the woman rose to her feet and reset her veil. “Without Nikolas, there’s just his sons—”
Helena lifted a brow. “I would not put much stock in the elder boy. His mother was weak and easily broken. As for the other—” She turned her gaze towards the altar, at the candles she had recently lit. “Well, that remains to be seen.” She waited. “I have made my request, Victor. What is your answer?”
Victor mused on this for a long moment, then nodded. “I have been thinking about getting into that line of inquiry,” he admitted. “And, interestingly enough, I have some research going on in the labs now that might be useful.” He stood as well. “But that does not answer my question, darling. Without Nikolas or his progeny, how do you plan to revive the Cassadines? And for whom?”
“It’s time to look to a new branch.” Helena Cassadine lifted her face into the light for a brief moment and her smile would have sent chills down a lesser man’s spine.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Brooklyn, New York: Red Hook Terminal
The freighter bound from St. Petersburg, Russia, set down anchor in Brooklyn just before five that morning. The sun would not rise for another two hours, and the skeleton crew remained asleep in their bunks or in the control room, navigating the thirteen-hundred-foot ship into the world’s deepest harbor.
Only two men stirred from the bowels of the ship, neither of them planning to exchange names or information. They’d passed a comfortable two weeks at sea by speaking very little to one another and planned to go their separate ways.
The elder of the two men stepped onto the docks, taking in the surroundings, his eyes already squinting and planning his next step.
It was all he had thought about since he’d opened his eyes in that clinic more than four thousand miles away in Russia. The comfortable walls of his penthouse. His family. His friends. His life.
He’d tried to contact his wife just once, but the number must have changed—he hadn’t recognized the other man on the line, and he’d decided it was better to wait. To see his family in person. What would they think? How would they react?
While crossing the Atlantic, he had learned that it had been five years and not six months since he had gone to take a meeting on the docks and been shot. What had they gone through at home? How long had they looked for him? Where they still looking?
Did they think he was dead? Did they think he’d left them?
“Happy travels, my friend,” his companion said, tossing him a two-finger salute. “May you make it home as safely as you reached these golden shores.” Then he simply vanished into the shifting shadows of the quiet dock.
But it would not remain quiet for much longer. Already, he could hear the clinks and clanks of cargo being shifted around, the dull roar of engines being started, the murmurs of workers— it might not yet be dawn, but the night was drawing to a close—and the docks never truly went to sleep.
He knew that better than most.
And Jason Morgan was going home.
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
“I’m sorry,” Felix DuBois declared, planting a hand flat against his chest, and widening his eyes. “Where did you say your ex had gone?”
“To New York,” Elizabeth Webber explained patiently as she scribbled her name at the bottom of some paperwork. Since she’d been promoted the year before, it felt like she spent her entire life standing behind this desk with stacks of charts. She really missed her patients. “He’s signing the final contracts to buy Wells Publishing from Julian’s representatives.” She wrinkled her nose. “And don’t start. He’s already mad at me because I made the same face you did.”
“Well, I’ll admit, I didn’t know the man in his glory days,” Felix said, stepping out of the hub to start his rounds, “but even a few months ago, I didn’t peg him as a CEO of a media conglomerate.”
“Oh, God, when you say it like that, it sounds even worse, but—” Elizabeth shrugged. “It’s what he wants, and I don’t have a say in it. He’ll be safer now, which is good because Jake does not need anything else to go wrong this year. He was barely in therapy for the Chimera disaster before my grandmother died, and then his father nearly dies—” She pressed her lips together. “It would be great if the world could leave me and my kids alone for like…eight seconds.”
“I hear ya, babe. Still, Jason Morgan, CEO.” Felix shuddered. “It doesn’t even sound right, does it?”
“I’m stopping—” Felix put up his hands. “I’m innocent, I promise.” He turned around to start down the hall, then made another face as the elevator doors opened and a man stepped out. “If you’re looking for a drama-free life, I’ve got some suggestions on what else to chuck.”
“Don’t start on that either,” Elizabeth muttered as Franco Baldwin, her boyfriend of almost a year, strolled towards them. They’d been rocky over the last few months since he’d moved in with her and the boys. Still, she was hoping with Jason’s recovered health and Franco’s successful art show behind them, it would get better.
It had to get better, didn’t it?
“Hey. How’s Betsy?” she asked as she reached for another chart, and Felix melted away from them. “Was she excited about the money you gave her?”
“She’s always happy when she doesn’t have to pay her own bills,” Franco said with a shrug, but there was something in the way he wouldn’t meet her eyes—
“What happened?” Elizabeth asked, furrowing her brow.
She clenched her jaw, then took a deep breath. “Look, you can tell me it’s not my business, fine. But don’t lie to me.”
Franco’s eyes flashed as they met hers. “Don’t tell me you’re the honesty police all of a sudden. I can’t have any thoughts to myself?”
“I told you—no lies.” Elizabeth shot back, even as her cheeks flushed from the reminder of why she’d even given him a second look after her wholly insane and apocalyptic lie about Jake Doe’s identity. She’d only barely begun to crawl out from beneath that and have people look at her again without seething hatred. “Tell me to butt out, but don’t lie to me.”
Franco hissed, then exhaled slowly. “You’re right,” he admitted with an irritated flush in his cheeks. “My mother—”He shook his head. “Come with me.”
This did not bode well, Elizabeth thought as she followed Franco down the hall and around the corner to his therapy room. “Franco—”
“I showed my mother the catalog that Ava put together for the show,” Franco said. “And she saw that picture I did of the two boys.”
Elizabeth fought down the urge to roll her eyes. That stupid portrait had haunted him for days while he’d tried to get it out on the canvas. He’d been insistent on getting it just right—and that she wouldn’t understand because it wasn’t like she’d done any art for years.
She hated when he did that. He was right, of course. She wasn’t a real artist, but she knew what it was like to have a vision in your head and need to see it in the world—they’d had a huge fight about it just before he’d left to go see his mother. And if she was honest with herself, she was still irritated with him because he’d never bothered to apologize for the crack about her not being a real artist.
“What, did she get mad when you told her Andre bought it?” Elizabeth asked, folding her arms.
“No,” Franco said. “She actually…” He hesitated. “The boys in that portrait—I thought they were maybe three or four. But she said—” He looked away. “She said that we weren’t that old.”
“Weren’t—”Her hands fell to her side. “What does that mean? Was it a boy you knew when you were young?”
“Not just any boy.” Franco fastened his eyes on her. “Heather wasn’t lying when she told Sam there was another brother. She was just lying about it being me.”
Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment, then shook her head. “Wait. What are you talking about? Are you saying that Jason has a twin brother out there? That Heather just…gave him to Betsy? How do we know she’s telling the truth? What did she even tell you—”
“Why are you so interested? You want to go find him?” Franco asked, his tone caustic. “See if maybe he wants his brother’s leftovers?”
The pain was sharp, and tears stung her eyes as she took the hit. “Why do you do that?” she asked. “Every time I mention Jason, you do this. It’s exhausting—all I was saying was that if he has a brother out there, that means Monica has another child. Jake has another uncle. It matters, Franco—”
“It doesn’t. He’s dead,” Franco snapped. “So just drop it. He died a long time ago when we were two. He fell down the steps, so there’s no magical Quartermaine out there. You wanna go tell them there was one? Just so Monica can mourn another kid?”
Elizabeth rubbed a fist against her chest. It was always going to be like this with Franco. He was still going to have that seething jealousy of her history with Jason and the conviction that she hadn’t really chosen Franco—that he’d just been the only one who wanted her after everything she’d done.
And she didn’t know how to reassure him because, of course, he wasn’t her first choice. He wouldn’t have made the top ten list but after her lie—
Franco had been the only one there who seemed to give a damn. It was just exhausting to always feel like she was fighting the same battles she’d been fighting since she was a teenager. She was always explaining to the man in her life that she and Jason were just friends.
“I guess,” Elizabeth said after a long moment, “that it makes sense not to tell Monica. At least not now. I mean, you don’t even know if Betsey is telling the truth. Maybe he’s not dead. Or maybe he is, and he wasn’t Jason’s brother. You know she tells stories, Franco. She told you that you were Jason’s twin for most of your life.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Sullenly, Franco crossed to the brushes drying next to the sink. “Sorry,” he added as an afterthought. “You know I didn’t mean it. It’s just—I hate him, and he hates me.”
“Yeah, well, it’d be great if you stopped taking it out on me. He’s Jake’s father. Even when he hated me, that didn’t change. He will always be part of my life, Franco. And if you really can’t handle that, then I don’t know what we’re doing here.”
He turned to look at her but said nothing. Finally, she sighed. “I have to get back to work. I’ll see you at home later.”
“I’ll probably put some time in at the studio tonight,” he said. “I’ll call.”
New York City, Penn Station: Empire Service Track
It had seemed like a romantic decision at the time, Samantha Morgan reflected as she stepped off the elevator and followed her husband onto the Amtrak service train. They went moved through several cars until they could locate the private one he had organized.
A second honeymoon, he’d told her, even it was just overnight. Things had been so crazy since he’d come home from the hospital that he wanted her to himself for just a little while. An overnight train ride from New York City to Rochester, and then a limo for the journey’s final leg home to Port Charles.
They were in New York to sign the final papers to start their new life, and Sam couldn’t decide if she was terrified, excited, or just plain worried.
“I think this is us,” Jason Morgan said, as he stared down at the ticket, then squinted up at the train car. He looked at her, flashed that grin that she loved so much—the grin that didn’t quite seem like the man she’d fallen in love with a lifetime ago, but the man that had woken up from his coma two months earlier—he was different.
Jason seemed happier once he’d decided to walk away from Sonny Corinthos and the business he’d been in his entire adult life. Sam didn’t really understand how it was an option now when it never had been before, but she wasn’t going to argue. All she’d ever wanted was for Jason to put her first. To choose her over everything else. Over Sonny and Carly. And Michael. The business. Elizabeth and Jake.
Finally—finally—Sam and the life he’d promised her was the priority. She had been wrong when Sam told Carly that Sam was happy being second or even a distant third on Jason’s list of priorities.
Jason wanted her, and he wanted their kids together. It was the dream she’d never thought possible all those years ago when she’d been pregnant with Danny. They’d had those terrible arguments about John McBain, Franco, and the baby she was bringing into this world. In the last year, since their most recent wedding and the birth of their precious daughter, Sam knew that he loved her. That he wanted her and their children. She could stop wondering if she was a second choice, a backup.
“You okay?” Sam asked as Jason stowed their baggage in the overhead compartment. “You’ve been quiet since we got to Penn Station.”
“Yeah, I guess I just—”He looked around. “I didn’t really look at the pictures. It’s…cramped.”
“It’s cozy.” Sam slid her arms around his waist and smiled up at him, her lashes fluttering as he lowered his head to kiss her. “Do we need a lot of space?”
“No, I guess we don’t.” Jason paused. “Is this what you want?” he asked. “Not the train,” he said quickly. “But the…company. I feel like I pushed you into this.”
“I was surprised at first, you know that,” Sam said. “But you’re going to be safe. And you want this. So, we’ll do it together. We’ll build something for Danny and Scout to have.”
“And Jake,” Sam said, her smile tightening. “Right. For all of the kids. A legacy better than the one either of us had before. You want this, Jason, so let’s make it happen.”
New York City Port Authority
Less than half a mile away, another man named Jason Morgan pulled a baseball cap tight over his eyes and set down money at the ticket desk. “Port Charles,” he said roughly, deepening his voice.
He’d once been good at blending into a crowd — he was fortunate to be of relatively average height and build with dark blonde hair that didn’t stand out. He could disguise his bright blue eyes with a hat and avoiding eye contact, and with a shift in the octave of his voice — he could disappear anywhere.
But he wasn’t used to people, not anymore, and every time someone bumped or shoved him in the crowd, he stopped, forced himself not to tense or brace for a hit or an attack. He was in New York; he’d made it into the city without anyone following him. The men from the clinic should have no way of knowing he’d made it this far—that he was actually in the United States. For all Jason knew, they were still chasing him around Russia.
He would get home, and he would figure out everything else then. Once he was back inside the safe and familiar walls of the penthouse where’d he lived most of his adult life—once he’d talked to his family, reassured them he was alive—everything would be okay.
He would be okay.
He just had to go home.
“Only bus going to Port Charles has two transfers,” the man behind the window said in a bored, listless tone. He wasn’t looking at Jason—he was probably one of those workers who never focused much on the customers, just on doing the job. Good. Jason preferred it that way. “Gotta switch in Syracuse and then in Rochester.”
“Fine,” Jason said flatly. “Book it.” The transfers were good. He could blend into the crowd or change the route if he thought he was being followed.
“It don’t leave until 1:15 in the morning.”
Jason grimaced, then glanced at the red digital clock behind the man. It was only six in the evening. He’d have to find something to do with the next seven hours. Maybe he’d check into a hotel and get some sleep. Just an hour or two. Maybe even three. How long had it been since he’d slept three full hours? Would he even be able to?
He had barely slept on the journey from Russia, not even after he’d been joined by the anonymous friend in the cargo hold. A few hours of rest —
“You want the ticket?”
“Yes.” Jason slid another twenty over when the man told him the price and then retrieved his ticket. He shoved the precious ticket into his pocket and walked away from the window. He didn’t duck his head too much, didn’t stare at the ground — that looked too suspicious. No one in the city wanted to look at him; he didn’t want to look at them.
He thought about calling Sonny again now that he was in the States. Sonny could have a jet here in an hour. He could be back in Port Charles by nine. He looked over at a solitary payphone in a corner by the entrance. Sonny would recognize his voice.
But what if men were watching Sonny? What if the only thing keeping Sonny and everyone else at home safe was that Jason hadn’t made contact yet? No. Better this way. He’d get back to Port Charles. Get home.
Just had to get home.
He left the Port Authority terminal and blended into the crowds heading towards Times Square. This part of New York didn’t have that many dingy motels that would rent by the hour. Still, there were a few chains across the street. It was worth it — worth the chance to check in, to shower, to just have a minute where he could lock the goddamn door and breathe— But he didn’t have any identification.
That stopped him just outside the Hilton. He had nothing but maybe another hundred dollars given to him by the guy in the church. No credit cards. No driver’s license. Nothing identifying him as Jason Morgan from Port Charles, New York, or anyone else.
He exhaled slowly, grimacing as someone bumped him from behind. Okay. So, he’d have to find something else to do for seven hours. Maybe he’d walk the city. Keep moving. Good. That was the right thing. He’d just stay on his feet.
He’d sleep when he was at home.
“Hey, Miss Webber,” Max Giambetti said cheerfully as he pulled open the door to Elizabeth, gesturing for her to come in. “Cam and Joss are in the living room—”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “You know, how come my kid gets to go by his first name? I’ve known you longer, and I’ve asked you to call me Elizabeth a thousand times.”
“Uh—” Max hesitated, then blinked. “I don’t know. I never really thought about it. Sonny and Carly thought it would help Joss adjust to the guards when she moved in if they didn’t always call her Miss Jacks, but—” He furrowed his brow, thinking it over. “You know, honestly, it was just something Sonny and Jason always drilled in. Respect. You and Mrs. C.”
“I’ve heard you call Sam by her first name,” Elizabeth said, lifting her brows. “What, don’t you respect her?”
“I am not answering that,” Max said with a swift shake of his head. “Not even if she’s in New York City and can’t hear me.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes but let the man off the hook. “Thanks.” She left him in the hallway and headed for the open double doors of the Greystone living room where Cameron and Joss were sitting on the sofa, phones in their hands, their math textbooks and notebooks open on the coffee table — not being used.
“This looks like studying to me,” she said dryly, folding her arms. Cameron turned to her and grinned immediately.
“From what Gram used to say about you in high school,” he said, “that’s probably true.”
“Oh, good one—” His best friend and eternal partner in crime, Jocelyn Jacks, slapped him playfully. “I’m stealing it to use on Carly.”
“Hey, to you—” Carly Corinthos declared as she sauntered into the living room from the other direction, probably from the kitchen, “that’s Mom.” Ignoring her daughter’s eye roll, she lifted her chin. “Elizabeth.”
“Carly.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “How’s the, uh, hotel?”
“Good. The hospital?”
“You know, I think I liked it better when you guys weren’t trying to be civil,” Joss complained as she leaned forward to close her math book. “This is weird, isn’t it, Cam?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Cameron said. He got to his feet and started shoving things into his bag.
“Elizabeth and I have no issues with each other,” Carly said, making a face. She looked at Elizabeth. “At least not this month.”
“No, I’m sure we’ll find something later to yell at each other about, but right now we’re good.”
“See, weird!” Joss declared. “Anyway, Mom, I wanted to ask if I could hang out at Cam’s tomorrow night. With the relaunch party, he’s gonna hang out with his brothers, and Oscar and I wanted to do pizza and a movie or something.”
“The party,” Carly repeated. “I forgot about that.” She sighed. “Yeah, I mean, if Elizabeth doesn’t mind you annoying her—”
“No, it’s fine. I, um—” Elizabeth shrugged. “I think I’m still invited, anyway. Jason and I—well, let’s just say that I didn’t take this whole new career direction all that well.”
“You?” Carly frowned. “You’re usually jumping at the chance to lick Jason’s—”
“See, you had to say something,” Cameron muttered to Joss as Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. Joss shrugged unapologetically. Sometimes a girl had to push the drama.
“Believe it or not,” Elizabeth said coolly, “when Jason Morgan announced he was leaving the warehouse and Sonny to become a CEO of a media company, I thought I was having a hallucination. He was annoyed when I asked him to repeat himself.” She paused. “And when I asked what he knew about running a media company—”
Carly winced. “Okay, yeah, I might have asked the same question when he told us, so depending on what order—” She huffed. “This is weird, right? It’s weird.”
“It’s…” Elizabeth glanced at Cameron and Joss, unabashedly listening. “It’s something.” And she wasn’t really sure she wanted to reflect all that long on the whole thing since it just reminded her of the fight she’d had with Franco. The same fight they’d had since the day they’d started seeing each other.
She was exhausted by the presence of Jason in every piece of her life, even when he shouldn’t be there. Was she going to be punished forever?
“You know what?” Joss said. “Cam wanted to take home some of Uncle Sonny’s cookies to Aiden. We’ll go into the kitchen and get them and give you—” She checked her phone. “Like five whole minutes to complain to each other and use words and phrases you don’t want us to hear.”
“What if they start fighting?” Cameron asked, following Joss out of the room.
“Then we’ll come watch—”
Carly rolled her eyes, then crossed the room to stand closer to Elizabeth and pitch her voice lower — waiting until she knew Cam and Joss were out of earshot. “This is insane. It’s completely insane, and I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking.”
“Carly…” Elizabeth pressed her lips together but then remembered the incredibly devastating year Carly had suffered—from the loss of Morgan and the near-collapse of her marriage to Sonny— “I don’t know either. I didn’t realize—” She paused. “I didn’t realize leaving the warehouse was an option. He never made it seem like it was before.”
“Because it wasn’t—”
“Or maybe he just wants this life with Sam that much,” Elizabeth said, even as her chest tightened. And he hadn’t wanted it enough with her.
Carly paused, then exhaled slowly. “I guess. After losing two years to the Cassadines and another to amnesia and you—”
“I’m not starting; I’m just stating facts,” Carly said blandly. “And maybe he’s tired of dealing with Sonny and me.” She looked away then, her expression shifting for a moment. “Hard to blame him there.”
“All we can do is support him,” Elizabeth said. “That’s what I’m going to do.”
“Yeah. Well, I’ll try,” Carly muttered. “But I can’t make any promises.”
“Always good to know your limits.” Elizabeth ignored Carly’s scowl and raised her voice. “Cam, let’s head out!”
The teenagers came back in the living room faster than they should have if they were in the kitchen, but Joss looked annoyed enough that Elizabeth thought maybe they hadn’t heard anything.
As Elizabeth turned the car back down around the circular driveway and headed back to the gate, Cameron cleared his throat. “About tomorrow night and the party.”
“Yeah? Trina can come over, too. If you were going to ask that,” she added, waving at the guards who let her through the gate.
“No, I mean, yeah, but I was—Franco’s probably not invited tomorrow.”
“I don’t think he was left off the invitation by accident, no. Which—” Elizabeth glanced at Cameron. “I mean, if you guys want to go out, I can ask if Franco will stay with your brothers—”
“No,” Cameron said sharply. “No. I said I’d hang with them. And it’s fine, Mom. My friends get it. No, I wanted to know if Franco was gonna be at the house.”
“I—” Elizabeth tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. “No, I don’t know. He’s been putting in a lot of time at the studio. Why?”
“Nothing. I guess I just—it’d be more fun if it was just us at home. Like it used to be,” Cameron said after a long moment. “Before he moved in.”
There was something there, something in the tone of his voice—Elizabeth hesitated. “I’ll ask him to stay in the studio tomorrow,” she said.
“Thanks. I mean it, Mom. I appreciate it. I get—” He was quiet for a moment as she steered her car onto the road that took them to downtown Port Charles and their house. “He makes you happy. And I want that. So, thanks.”
“Cameron—is—” She hissed as someone pulled out of a parking spot in front of her, cutting her off. “Damn it! Don’t people look where they’re going—”
“No, I guess not. Hey, question. Did you have McGinty for bio when you were at PCH?”
Recognizing that Cameron wanted to change the subject, Elizabeth didn’t press him — but she put it away in her head.
Because something wasn’t right.
New York City Port Authority
Jason slunk past the chain link fence that wrapped around one of the alleys behind the bus terminal. It was dark, but the streetlights flickered enough to keep him going. Just another hour until he could board the bus.
Just one more hour—he’d be home tomorrow. He’d be home, and he’d find out what the hell was going on—
But he just had to keep his eyes open, and be on alert for another hour—
He heard the scritch and squeak of something skidding—a sound that likely saved his life because Jason turned to look and saw the foot flying at him—it would have landed in his back, sending him sprawling to the concrete.
Jason’s hand flew up and shoved the foot away from him—then he spun around, and his hand lashed out at the neck of a second man coming for him. Jason choked him briefly, digging his fingers into the vocal cords before throwing him across the alley—the man slammed into the brick wall and slumped to the ground.
A third man came right at him, but Jason ducked and flipped him over his back before reaching for a metal trash can. He swung it out, knocking the first man back as he had picked himself up for a second attack.
Three of them. Jason took them in, his eyes squinting in the dark. No, definitely just three of them—
He snatched the metal trash can lid from the ground and used it like a shield as his eyes scanned the alley for something—anything he could use. Finally, he caught sight of something long and slim on the ground—a pipe.
The second man—the one he’d thrown in the wall—came at him again, and Jason swung out with the pipe—feeling the familiar satisfaction when the metal connected with a jaw—blood spurted, and the man slumped to the ground.
“Damn it! He didn’t say he was a fucking maniac!” the third guy grunted. “Some fucking mental patient—”
“Just get him!”
“Fuck you, you get him!”
Jason gripped the pipe in one hand, the trash lid in his other hand, and faced the two still standing. “Go back to Klein! This is your last chance!”
Not taking him seriously — the first guy made another frontal attempt, and Jason caught him under the chin with the pipe. He went flying to the ground and didn’t get up.
“Shee-yit, there’s not enough money in this,” the third guy decided as he took in his two companions on the ground. “I’m going! I’m going!”
He took off down the alley and disappeared. Breathing hard, Jason glanced around the alley, but no one was coming. No police. No curious bystanders. He edged towards the two unconscious men, then kicked one of the legs. Nothing. They didn’t move.
Jason tossed aside the pipe and lid, then searched them. He took the three hundred dollars he found in one of the wallets and the fifty from the other. He found a gun tucked into a holster on one of them, likely unused to avoid the sound of bullets echoing and drawing attention.
Jason straightened, checked the safety, then tucked the gun into the waistband of his jeans.
And for the first time since he’d woken up in St. Petersburg all those months ago—he almost felt like himself again.
He was going home. And no one was going to stop him.