I never thought I’d end up here
Never thought I’d be standing where I am
I guess I kinda thought it would be easier than this
I guess I was wrong now one more time
– Sick, Cycle Carousel, Lifehouse
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Later, Jason would recognize that the general feeling of discomfort and wrongness felt different than the tension that had existed for the last ten months. But until Carly knocked on the door just past five, he didn’t associate the prickling in the back of his brain with anything serious.
After all, the threat was to Cady, and now that she’d been born, they reasoned Elizabeth herself was relatively safe with the usual cadre of double guards. So she had left that morning with Francis and Oliver, her morning guards, to sign some paperwork for the nursing program, see her grandmother and bring new photos of Cady to Monica. Her plans for the rest of the day were relatively loose, but he knew she was planning to grab coffee with Carly at some point before coming home to dinner with him and Cady.
And Cady was snug and safe in the penthouse, sleeping in the bassinet beside the desk where he looked through Spinelli’s newest reports on the casinos in Puerto Rico, the background checks for the guards working in the warehouse when the shipments were going wrong, and other security matters. There was nothing new from Ric, other than the Port Charles postmarked envelope from the day before, but Sonny had put all their men back into the search, confident that any business troubles were coming from Ric and Faith.
It was a day like many that had passed in the last two months, but later, Jason would blame himself for underestimating Ric Lansing.
Carly knocked and pushed open the door with a frown. “Jase, where’s Cody?” She stepped inside and glanced around.
Jason glanced up and returned her frown with one of her own. “He’s…with Elizabeth. She…” He pushed back from the desk and stood, instinctively checking on Cady before looking back at his best friend. “She was meeting you for coffee at Kelly’s.”
“Yeah.” Carly nodded. “And I waited at Kelly’s for a half hour. We were supposed to meet at four-thirty, after she had lunch with Audrey and Monica and finished her paperwork. I think there was even going to be a tour of the hospital or something. But…she never showed. I called her cell phone, but she didn’t answer. I called Nadine at the hospital—she left there around one-thirty.” She hesitated. “Jason…I would have called her guards, but…” she trailed off as Jason reached for his own phone.
Neither Cody nor Dominic answered their phones, and their shift ran from two until ten, at which point Marco and Ricky usually took over. The penthouse itself was guarded twenty-four hours a day. He remained calm because a hundred things could have happened that weren’t serious, but he could not think of one that would entail Elizabeth and her guards not showing up where they were supposed to while not answering their phones.
Next, he called Francis, who had responsibility for Elizabeth from six in the morning until two in the afternoon. Francis picked up on the first ring.
“Francis, do you and Oliver have Elizabeth?”
“Ah…no, Jase. We brought her to the Towers around two. She finished lunch. We met Cody and Dom in the parking garage. She was going to come upstairs, spend some time with Cady before meeting Carly.” Francis paused. “She should have been home hours ago.”
“I’ve been here all day. She never came in. I need…” Jason closed his eyes and forced himself to sound calmer than he felt. “I need you to get…everyone. Find her.” He set his phone on the desk, leaned against it and took a quick bracing breath.
“Jason…” Carly touched his shoulder. “You’ll find her. Maybe their car—”
“She came to the building three hours ago, Carly. She never made it up from the parking garage.” He straightened and reached for his phone, dialing Spinelli’s number.
“Spinelli, don’t talk, I don’t have time. I need you and Stan to get to the security room of the Towers. I want all the footage for the parking garage, the lobby and the penthouse elevators for the entire day, anything else you might think is relevant. Bring it to Sonny’s. And I need it immediately.” He hit end on that call and placed another one to the security room to let them know the techs were on their way.
“Carly, I need you to go to the kitchen, get the bottles Elizabeth prepared and then get whatever you think Cady need for a few hours. I need…” Focus. He just….he had to focus. “I need you to take her to your place, upstairs, with Morgan and Michael.”
“Right.” Carly nodded. “He took Elizabeth so he could draw your focus from Cady.”
“That’s probably the plan.” Jason nodded. “So I’m not letting it happen. I’m putting my daughter in the safest place in the building, and giving her care to you, because I know you’ll protect her.”
“Absolutely. Go to Sonny’s, Jason. I’ll pack Cady up and bring her over here. Rocco’s right outside, he won’t let anyone come near the penthouse until we get there.”
Jason nodded and numbly moved towards the door. He’d thought Elizabeth was safe now that she had delivered the baby—safe enough. They had all shifted their focus to protecting Cady.
And even though Elizabeth had had two guards at all times, had been in the building…she hadn’t been safe from the traitor in their organization—one of the men who had been protecting her for almost a year.
When he discovered who had taken her from her daughter, from him, there would be nowhere for the bastard to hide.
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
Emily glanced up from a chart to find Nadine staring into space, her phone in her hand. “Hey…” She cleared her throat, as the two of them were struggling to get along for Elizabeth’s sake. She liked the other woman, she did—but it was just difficult to see past everything that had happened. “You look…upset.”
“I…” Nadine hesitated. “Carly called me a little while ago. She and Elizabeth were supposed to meet for coffee.”
And Emily froze, because she somehow knew what was coming next. “She’s missing, isn’t she?”
“Yeah.” Nadine swallowed. “At first, I just…I thought their wires got crossed. You know, Liz thought she’d be at the hospital longer today, but she finished everything this morning, and you know, she had lunch, so she went home to be with the baby and Jason. Maybe she just forgot about Carly. But I’ve been calling her. And calling her. And calling her. There’s no answer.”
Accustomed to the ramblings by this point, Emily waited for her to finish. “M-Maybe she…forgot her phone somewhere.” They shared a look, because neither of them thought was a logical possibility. Elizabeth was married to her cell phone, for security reasons and for her daughter.
“I just…” Nadine closed her eyes. “I called Jason, finally. Elizabeth gave me his number after…October, after the kidnapping, because she wanted me to get in touch with him if I thought…anyone was going to come after me for helping. So I called him.” The pupils of the nurse’s eyes were so dilated with fear that the blue had been nearly eclipsed by the black. “And Jason told me that she’s been missing since two. He hung up because…he’s doing other things.”
Emily closed her eyes and took a step back. After October, and the kidnapping, she had put all thoughts of Courtney out of her head. Courtney had been normal then, they’d shared meals and coffee and the blonde seemed to be slowly recovering. Until Cady was born. And the anger had seeped back in.
Had Courtney been angry because she’d thought she’d never have to see the baby? See Elizabeth again after that day?
I’m not going to sit around and wallow anymore. I’m going to start being true to myself again.
Had Emily read her words wrong? What did Courtney mean by being true to herself? Had…she meant something more? Had…she lured Emily into discussing Elizabeth, latching on a way to expose Elizabeth to danger?
“Emily…” Nadine leaned forward. “Do…do you know something?”
“I don’t want to,” Emily admitted. “I…think Jason’s ex-girlfriend…might have been involved with the kidnapping in October. Because…she and I had had a conversation several weeks earlier. I…was telling her I wanted to fix things, that I wanted to apologize, but with her health, I couldn’t…just go see her. And…I told her…” Her breathing became more rapid. “Nadine, I told Courtney that Elizabeth didn’t always have guards in the hospital. That they were on the exits near Kelly’s office, but not with her. Nadine, I didn’t…think…”
“Why would you?” Nadine said softly. “She was Elizabeth’s friend once. She was your friend. She’s Sonny’s sister, Carly’s friend. Why would you ever suspect her of doing something that might put Elizabeth in danger? I was with Elizabeth some of the times Courtney was nasty. I just thought she was bitter.” She took a deep breath. “But, yeah, Em, it sounds like she might…have maybe told someone else. I mean, who else would know that information except people who worked here? And who was paying attention to Elizabeth?”
“Except me, because I…” Emily felt dizzy. She’d done it again. She’d exposed her best friend in the world to danger. The love of her brother’s life was missing and it was Emily’s fault. “I did it again. Oh, my God. Nadine, I did it again.”
Nadine came out from behind the desk and gently led Emily over to the waiting area. “Sit for a second. We just…need to figure this out. What did you do again?”
“I told Ric Lansing Elizabeth was pregnant. I mean…not straight out, but I was hinting it pretty heavily.” Emily grabbed Nadine’s forearm. “Not to be vindictive. I thought…he was the father, and she didn’t tell me the things he’d done. I just…I wanted to help her. I thought…I knew better. I wanted to help her, Nadine. And instead, she couldn’t hide it from him. She had to…” And then Emily closed her mouth. Because she’d almost let the secret out.
Nadine smiled wryly. “She had to accept Jason’s help. Because Jason claiming the baby seemed like good sense at the time, but Ric told everyone and blew the situation up.” She placed her opposite hand on Emily’s and squeezed it. “Em, Elizabeth glossed over a lot of details this summer, and I figured it wouldn’t do her any good that I knew, but I…did. Of course, I did. It’s okay. I even believe you honestly thought you were helping.”
“I…” Emily swallowed. “I never would have put her in danger. Not for a second. No matter how angry I was, I loved her. And then I told Courtney how to get to her in the hospital.”
“Jason and his partner need to know if she had anything to do with it,” Nadine pointed out. “It may have been a coincidence but if it wasn’t, then they need to know. They’re looking for a traitor, that much was clear from things I overheard this summer. I’ll tell your resident that you had to go home, that you were ill. You need to go help find Elizabeth.”
“You’re right.” Emily nodded. “And…I’m glad Elizabeth had you. That she still has you. She really needed you, you know, because I was a selfish bitch.” She rose to her feet and Nadine followed suit.
“You were,” Nadine acknowledged. “But you’re not now. Go before someone catches you not being sick.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
The situation didn’t get better once they had the security footage. Stan and Spinelli had worked together to find the events as fast as possible—so within twenty minutes, they knew how someone had grabbed Elizabeth.
Jason watched as Francis, Oliver and Elizabeth greeted Cody and Dominic. There was some small talk, and then Francis and Oliver walked away, heading to the room they kept for shift changes for their guards to check out.
He watched Cody and Dominic escort Elizabeth to the elevator from the parking garage to the lobby, where they then transferred her to the lobby to get the second, private elevator that connected to the penthouse levels.
On the elevator footage, he watched as Dominic pressed the button, and Cody asked Elizabeth something. She laughed, but there was no audio. And then she and Cody frowned when the elevator stopped, because it took longer to rise all fifteen floors to the penthouse level, and it had been less than a minute.
Jason watched Cody say something, and then start to follow Dominic out into the hallway. Elizabeth hesitated inside the elevator, glanced at the buttons and he wished she had followed her instinct, had pressed the button for the penthouse.
Instead, she followed her guards. Cody had been her guard since April, had been her guard initially the September she lived with him. Dominic had guarded her since June, when they had doubled her guards. Both of the men had been there with her through her doctor’s appointments, through the kidnapping attempt, and with her when she brought Cady home from the hospital.
He did not blame her for thinking that these men who had already protected her through attempted kidnappings wouldn’t betray her now. Cody had been with her that night at Kelly’s, had looked Jason in the eye and offered him the gun if Jason wanted to end him for not protecting her better. Dominic had had a head wound that day at the hospital.
“Put in the hallway footage,” Jason said tightly. “Was it both of them? Just one?”
Spinelli clicked something on his computer, for once realizing that this was not the time to speak. Sonny stood next to Jason, his hand over his mouth.
They watched Elizabeth step out of the elevator, the doors sliding closed. Jason recognized the hallway as the fourth floor, one they kept empty for security reasons. She was frowning, asking something. Maybe if there was a security issue. Cody stood in front of her, separating her from Dominic. And Jason saw the way the man was tensed, his hand braced.
And he knew then that Dominic was the traitor.
Dominic was a shade quicker than Cody. He drew his gun, with its attached silencer, and shot the man twice, a bullet hitting the wall just inches from Elizabeth’s head. She screamed, and he watched as she hesitated. Had probably thought of going to Cody. But then she turned and moved towards the stairwell. Dominic caught her before she got there, and then he placed a hand over her mouth.
He watched the woman he loved, his daughter’s mother, struggle and kick against a man Jason told her was safe. But Dominic was holding something over her mouth. Chloroform again, maybe.
And for five excruciating minutes, he watched as Elizabeth’s struggles lessened, and when she slumped in Dominic’s arms, he pushed open the stairwell.
“How…” Sonny cleared his throat. “How did they get her out of the building?”
“He carried her down the stairs,” Stan reported. “And to a waiting car just outside the building. We’re tracing it now, but the car was reported stolen a few hours ago.”
“Cody.” Jason swallowed. “Did you get to Cody? Was he…”
Spinelli shook his head. “He was still alive.” For once the colorful tech was subdued. “He was crawling towards the elevators, we think, but passed out. We called to Doc Lowenstein, who took him to the clinic. We haven’t heard anything else. He lost a lot of blood.”
“What do we know so far?” Sonny demanded. “The men know that Dominic is to be brought to us alive, as soon as possible. Do we know anything else?”
Stan nodded and looked to Benny who had joined them. “Dominic’s cousin is Freddy DiGarno in the warehouse. He’s one of the men who’s been on several of the shipments that have gone missing. Not all of them, but enough. We haven’t found any concrete money trails yet, but Spinelli thought he might have a lead on some numbered accounts.”
He wanted to rip apart the town, search every building, alley, street…but he knew that they had to be smart about this. Had to be systematic. He only had one chance to get this right. Elizabeth would not have a second chance.
“Any unusual movements around town?” Jason asked. “Men being places they’re not usually at. Warehouses in use that weren’t before?”
“We try to keep a handle on that in general,” Benny offered. “We haven’t heard anything, but with the circumstances, we’ve spread the word. Anyone seen with Dominic or Freddy who don’t report it back to us, will be dealt with. Swiftly.”
Sonny nodded. “Get Zacchara on the phone. Tell him his lawyer’s son has just kidnapped…” He hesitated. “Jason, I can’t just tell them…”
“Tell them they’ve just kidnapped my fiancée,” Jason said. “It’s close enough.” Girlfriends didn’t rate, and that wasn’t the right word for what Elizabeth was to him. She was everything, a concept someone as ruthless as Anthony Zacchara did not understand.
“And the other Families, make sure they’re aware of it. We…don’t appreciate the lack of cooperation we’ve had in this matter,” Sonny said. “And it’ll be duly noted the next time they want to use my precious shipping lanes.” He took a deep breath. “Okay. Keep the men on the streets, everyone. Nothing else goes through until Elizabeth is found. No shipments, no collections from the bookies. Vega’s scheduled to move something through the territory tomorrow, let him know that’s off.”
Benny nodded and moved aside to make his phone calls.
“If Cody can wake up, and tell us what was said in those last minutes, it might give us something.” Sonny rubbed his forehead. “Ah…Stan, Spinelli. Try…to figure out if you can trace the route of the car. They’ll have dumped it, but if you can… check any cameras on the streets that saw it. It turned left leaving the alley. Start there. Maybe there was a GPS or something.”
The techs nodded and they both started whispering furiously to each other, making notations on a sheet of paper.
“We…” Sonny approached Jason. “We’re doing everything we can think of Jase. I know you want to be out there…” He pressed hand to his chest. “I-I do, too. But right here, we get all the information as soon as we know it.”
“I know.” Jason nodded. “I know that this is where I need to be. Elizabeth would want me to sticking close to Cady until I had something concrete to follow. And I have nothing. She was gone for three hours before I ever knew she was in danger.” He closed his eyes. “I told her she could trust Dominic, Sonny. How could he guard her for all these months and turn on her? Was the head wound in October just a goddamn cover? To keep us from suspecting him if it didn’t work?”
“Could be.” Sonny nodded. “I just…can’t see how Ric thinks this is going to work. Does he think we’ll trade Cady for Elizabeth? Does he really think we’re not going to protect Cady as well as search for her mother?” He shook his head. “I don’t know, this is just…this is just not what I thought.”
“Maybe he thinks he can convince Elizabeth to come to him willingly,” Jason said. “To bring Cady to him. She’d give her life first, but maybe…maybe he doesn’t know that.” He hesitated. “She was…different last year, Sonny. When they were seeing each other. She was vulnerable, almost meek. It took her months to get herself back. Does he think that’s who she is? Someone can be manipulated?”
“Maybe.” Sonny rubbed his chin. “Maybe he thinks you manipulated her. After all, you were the one who approached him on the docks, you came up with the lie. And the letter you got…it wasn’t addressed to her. It was addressed to you.” He frowned and reached for doctored certificate. “He didn’t cross Elizabeth’s name off.”
Jason hesitated. “You think…he wants her, too.”
“It’s interesting,” Sonny said. “He didn’t want to be separated from his child, but…you know…” He furrowed his brow. “He didn’t make an attempt to break things off with Elizabeth. Even after it was clear she wasn’t going to be useful. He kept her around. Even with Faith on the side, making threats. And after you and I found out about him, he still tried to keep her with him.”
“He might think he’s in love with her,” Jason forced out. “Which is why the attempts haven’t been more forceful. He never put the baby or Elizabeth in serious danger.”
“Nope.” Sonny tapped his finger on the desk. “So that’s his endgame. He thinks the woman he met last year is the real Elizabeth Webber, a woman who was hurt, maybe a little more gullible than she would normally be. A little too trusting. She probably swallowed some lies.”
“She…told me,” Jason said slowly, feeling uncomfortable, “that she overlooked some of the outright lies because he told her he cared about her, that he made time for her…” He looked away. “All the things I didn’t.”
“Exactly. But you and I know that Elizabeth Webber, when she’s got her sense of self about her, she’s a fighter. She doesn’t take any bullshit. She doesn’t swallow lines. But he doesn’t know that. He thinks this woman who had his child will come to him because he turns on the charm.” Sonny nodded. “It’s starting to come together. He knew what went wrong between the two of you.”
“So he came after the business,” Jason said. Because Sonny was right. Everything made sense now. The patience Ric had showed—wanting Cady to be born, because then he could be rougher with Elizabeth in the kidnapping, but not too rough. It would have been quicker to use physical force to knock her out, but they’d used a difficult chemical. “He came after the business hoping it would lead me to treat Elizabeth like I did the last time. Never coming home, never talking to her.”
“He’s not working with all the facts, only what he knows.” Sonny hesitated. “It makes sense for Ric. He’s going to try to charm her into being with him, into bringing Cady to him, because hey, what could you do if she wants to take her daughter and be with the biological father?” He shrugged. “But that doesn’t explain Faith.”
“Maybe Faith doesn’t know the plan. Or the motivations,” Jason pointed out. “She might be getting frustrated.”
“If she gets frustrated, I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s her resources that Ric’s using. If she just decides to cut her losses and go…” Sonny shrugged. “He’s on his own. But if she decides to raze the people involved to the ground…”
Max pushed the door open. “Boss, Emily Quartermaine is here and she says she might know something about Elizabeth.”
Emily barely waited for him to finish speaking before she rushed into the room. “I’m sorry, but Nadine told me she’s missing and I can’t live with myself if I don’t tell you what I think happened.”
“What is it, Em?” Jason asked. “Did you see something at the hospital?”
“No, but I think I know what happened in October, and maybe it’s related to this,” Emily said. “I…was having a conversation with someone about trying to apologize to Elizabeth. And we were just…talking about why I was angry, and how I didn’t think the guards would let me near her.” She swallowed. “So I said that I could probably do it at the hospital, because the guards are only the exits on the maternity floor. They don’t…follow her around.”
Jason stilled, because his sister looked so upset about this. He knew she wouldn’t have done it intentionally, but…he thought he might know who she had related this information to.
“Emily, who did you tell?” Sonny said, his voice so soft that Jason knew the other man was aware of what Emily would say before she could say it.
“Courtney,” Emily confessed. “And…that was the period when she seemed like she was getting over it. She seemed…to be moving on, but she told me something that maybe didn’t…mean what I thought I meant. She told me she wasn’t going to wallow it in it anymore. She was going to be true to herself. And then…she became angry again around the baby shower, but more so after Cady was born. And it’s worse than ever lately.” Her lip trembled, so she bit on it. “Jason, I am so sorry—”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Jason said. “It’s me. I set this in motion last year when I started dating Courtney, when I damn well knew I was still in love with Elizabeth. She was hurt, and vulnerable to Ric. None of this is your fault, Emily. It’s mine.” He looked to Sonny. “I…don’t know how it could have happened, how she could have given that information to anyone else, but it…”
“It fits,” Sonny said, with a deep sigh. He looked to Max. “Find my sister. Bring her to the penthouse whether she likes it or not.”