Song: Dandelion (Gabbie Hanna)
When I was a little girl, my mama said to me
“What’s your favorite flower, darling? I’ll get you the seed”
As soon as the first scream escaped Elizabeth’s lips, Jason clapped a hand over her mouth. He dragged her away from Carly’s body, his eyes remaining fixed on the pool of blood beneath her. He avoided looking at her face. At her clouded, lifeless eyes facing them. He took his own deep breath, forced down the bile in his throat, and got himself together.
Maybe no one had heard Elizabeth’s scream over the excitement, but he couldn’t know that. They had maybe seconds to get their stories straight.
Elizabeth continued to scream, the sound now muffled by his fingers, but it subsided as her body began to tremble. He removed his hand.
“Jason—” Elizabeth turned in his arms, her own eyes wide, the pupils pinpricks. She pressed her hands to her face, then jerked them away, but it was too late. Carly’s blood was smeared across her cheeks, staining her hands. “Oh my God, oh my God—”
“Look at me—” He took her by the shoulders. “Hey, focus on me, okay? Elizabeth—”
“She’s dead, she’s dead—”
“I know—” And they had to call hospital security, Jason thought with some irritation. There were cameras everywhere and likely had caught them going into the closet. He desperately hoped that the cameras would also see whoever had done this.
Otherwise, they were both screwed.
He stooped down and grabbed his shirt, tugging it over his head. Then he found Elizabeth’s scrub top and pulled it over her head, scooping her hair out of the collar. “We have to call the police,” he told her. “Okay? We came in to talk, and you tripped—”
“I—” Elizabeth stared down at her hands. “Oh, God. There’s blood on my hands, on my face—”
“We have to go now. We’re going to call the police,” he repeated, towing her towards the door. “We’ll report the body, then say nothing—”
“Everyone knows Carly was making me miserable, and she just signed another complaint against you,” he reminded her. Elizabeth swallowed hard. “We found her body, Elizabeth. We’ll be the first suspects. Say nothing. We’ll talk later.”
“O-okay,” she said, and then he jerked open the door, the hospital light nearly blinding.
I said, “Dandelion, dandelion! That one’s so pretty!”
She said, “Child, that one’s not a flower, that one’s just a weed”
Carly was dead. She’d been murdered, her throat sliced open, and she’d bled to death in that closet. How long had she been dead? Oh, God, had she died while Jason and Elizabeth were on the other side of the shelf? Her stomach rolled, and the bile rose in her throat. She was still stained with Carly’s blood on her hands, light streaks dried on her cheeks—
She stood numbly in a conference room, blinking in confusion as Detective Alex Garcia repeated the same question to Jason that Elizabeth knew he’d already refused to answer twice.
“I’ve made my statement,” Jason said without an ounce of emotion in his voice. She knew he felt something—she’d felt his body trembling against hers when they’d been in the closet when he’d been trying to stop her from screaming—but now, the Jason Morgan that the rest of the town feared was firmly in control.
He might as well as have been explaining the weather as he recounted the events of the evening. He had last seen Carly almost three hours earlier in her hospital room. He’d been in the NICU he’d met Elizabeth. They’d gone to talk in the supply closet and found Carly’s body.
The other officer with Garcia had a knowing glint in his eyes when Jason had said he and Elizabeth were only talking and had tripped over the body. She wrapped her arms around her body, her shoulders still shaking.
Carly was dead. Carly was gone. She’d been murdered, slashed in the throat—
And from the clenching of Garcia’s jaw and the sneer on Detective Marcus Taggert’s face, Elizabeth knew that talking wasn’t the only thing they thought Jason and Elizabeth were lying about.
“You’re telling me you have no idea what the mother of your child was doing in that supply closet?” Taggert sneered. “You sure you didn’t drag the mistress in after you got rid of her competition—”
Elizabeth blinked at him, opened her mouth, but she could feel Jason tense beside her, the arm brushing hers like stone.
“If you have any further questions,” Jason said coolly, “you know where to find my cousin. I’m done here—”
“But I’m not done with Nurse Webber. I’m not satisfied with her timeline,” Taggert said, holding up a hand.
“That’s your problem,” Jason began, but Elizabeth knew it wouldn’t look good if Jason did all of the talking. She had to do her part to protect herself—and him.
“You can check the cameras and my access codes,” she said softly, wishing her voice was as cold as Jason’s. But she couldn’t fight the nerves lacing her tone, causing it to tremble. “If you have any other questions, I can give you Lee Baldwin’s name. He’s my lawyer.”
“Does that come as part of the starter package?” Taggert demanded. “Being Jason Morgan’s whore entitles you to your own lawyer—”
“Marcus,” Garcia hissed.
Elizabeth lifted her chin, and now it was easier to keep her voice steady. She knew she was innocent. “No, being Steve Hardy’s granddaughter and Lee’s goddaughter entitles me to his representation. If you have any other questions, call him. I’m done being insulted.”
She turned on her heel and left all three behind her, trying to walk, not run to the nearest bathroom. She shoved the door open, stumbling until she crashed into a stall, her knees hitting the floor with a flash of pain. Then she leaned over the toilet and vomited until she nearly blacked out.
When she’d finally emptied her body, she slid to the floor of the bathroom, tears streaking silently down her cheeks, still stained with Carly’s blood.
Oh, what a shame
Now it don’t look the same
“Oh, Alan,” Monica said, her eyeliner smudged from the long night. She paced the Quartermaine family room, the gold dress she’d worn to the Port Charles Hotel New Year’s Eve gala rustling with every step. “What if he did it?”
Having attempted the murder of at least one of his wife’s lovers, Alan just shrugged. “I imagine he knows how to get himself out of trouble—”
“Oh, don’t you dare—” Monica glared at him.
“Please. As if you weren’t relieved to learn that harpy had been exterminated—”
They were interrupted when the front door opened, and they heard stumbling. Monica and Alan went to the double doors. Monica’s brow creased in concern as AJ stumbled in, his hair disheveled and his clothing rumpled.
“I thought you had stopped drinking,” Monica said sharply.
AJ turned to look at her, his eyes worn and bloodshot. “What?”
“You look like you’ve rolled in an alley,” Alan retorted. “You need to get yourself together if you’re insisting on that paternity test. With Carly out of the picture, there’s no obstacle for you or your brother—”
“What are you—” AJ closed his mouth. “I’m not drunk—”
“Go clean yourself up,” Alan ordered, “and don’t let your grandfather see you like this.”
AJ growled at both of them, then went for the stairs.
“Alan—” Monica came up to her husband’s elbow. “You don’t think—”
“I don’t think anything,” Alan said flatly, “and neither do you. Let’s go to bed.”
Guess it don’t look the same
Oh, what a shame
Bobbie had barely laid down before she heard banging on the front door. She attempted to ignore it, but it wouldn’t stop.
She drew on her robe, shivering as she opened the door to the bitter January winds. “Tony, what on Earth—” She stared at him, taking in the bloodshot eyes, rumpled hair, and strange smile. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m free,” he told her. He grasped her shoulders. “Do you understand, Bobbie? I’m finally free! I’ll get my son, and we’ll never have to worry about her again—”
“Tony—” Bobbie wrenched out of his grasp. “What are you talking about—”
“Carly.” His eyes lit up with glee. “She’s dead. Someone slit that little bitch’s throat. And now we’re all free!”
Call me what you want
The next morning, Elizabeth dragged herself into the shower and got ready for work. She was innocent, she reminded herself, and she knew Jason was, too. He never would have let her drag him into that supply closet if he knew Carly was dead inside.
She wiped the steam from the mirror, studying her bedraggled and worn expression. At least she hoped she knew him well enough to assume that. She knew what he did for a living, after all. But even so—
She got dressed and headed into the hospital, bracing herself for more whispers and stares. She was so tired of being the center of attention, the source for gossip and rumors.
She stepped inside the security entrance, heading for the elevator, only to be stopped by a security guard.
“Elizabeth—” Epiphany was nearly wheezing when she rounded a corner. “I’m sorry, I thought I’d be down here before you arrived—”
“What’s going on?” she asked her supervisor. “Harry says I can’t—”
“I’ll take it from here,” Epiphany said to the guard who returned to his desk. She turned worried eyes to Elizabeth. “I’m sorry, honey. The board met early this morning for an emergency session—”
“Am I—” Her throat was tight. “Am I out of the program?”
“Suspended,” Epiphany assured her. “They need to investigate the last complaint Carly made, and well—”
“The fact that Carly was found dead after I was informed of the complaint—” Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face. “And I’m sure finding the body while I was in the supply closet with Jason instead of being on duty—”
“I don’t think that’s registered to them,” Epiphany said. “They pulled your file because of it and saw the new complaint. With everything else—they’re worried about the liability.” She paused. “They sent your file to the PCPD.”
“What? Already? The PCPD couldn’t have—” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “They didn’t get a warrant or anything, did they? The board just handed me over.”
“It’s fine. I’ll just—I’ll go home.” Elizabeth looked around the hospital lobby, her eyes focusing on the memorial portraits of her grandparents. She’d worked so hard to get here. To prove to her parents, her grandparents, to everyone that she belonged here.
Carly had destroyed it all, just like she’d promised to, and Elizabeth didn’t even have the satisfaction of being the one who’d killed her.
You can’t stop me multiplyin’
Pull me from the dirt
It was probably too early for the whiskey in his shot glass, but Luke Spencer had never cared much about clocks and calendars or what people thought was proper. And he needed the burn of the alcohol sliding down his throat.
He studied the Port Charles Herald headline gleefully announcing the death of Carly Roberts, town pariah and whore. Not that they used those words, but it was the truth, wasn’t it? Not that Luke cared all that much—
Except that he knew who Carly really was and that Barbara Jean didn’t. She already believed her child dead, and it would do no good to bring the truth to her now—
But this investigation—
Luke picked up the paper again, studying the quote from Mac Scorpio, promising justice. How deep would they dig into Carly Roberts’ past? Would they unearth Caroline Benson? Would it all come out anyway?
Troubled, Luke took another sip of the whiskey and offered a silent prayer to a God he scarcely believed in, asking for some grace for his precious baby sister. She deserved so much better than he or the world had given her.
No, you don’t want me in your garden
“What do you mean they think she did it?” Jason demanded, whirling around to face his cousin, his eyes hot with fury. “What the hell—”
“Our guy at the PCPD said Elizabeth’s file was volunteered to the PCPD,” Justus answered. Jason grimaced, then crossed the room to glare out over the city. “It’s full of run-ins with Carly—Carly filed complaint after complaint against Elizabeth. Most of it was in the nursing program—”
“Some of it stuck, but most were dismissed. Still, it’s motive. Add in these two recent complaints — Elizabeth was suspended this morning. They also can’t alibi her for the time of death.”
Jason frowned. “What? What do you mean? She was working—”
“The hospital security cameras have Carly going into the closet at 11:16 PM. They can’t find Elizabeth on any of the other monitors — and at 11:20, something happened to that camera. It went out. By the time the guard realized it, Carly’s body had already been reported. But Elizabeth can’t be located between 11:15 and 11:30 when she shows up on the NICU floor.”
“That’s the case right now,” Justus cut in. “The theory is that Elizabeth resented Carly for dinging up her reputation and nearly costing her the job—then wanted to get rid of a romantic rival. She used you to look innocent.”
“I know that,” Justus told him patiently. “Fortunately, all they have are these complaints and the gap in her timeline. That’s not enough for an arrest. Lee Baldwin is a good lawyer. Plus, the PCPD knows Carly has a credibility problem. They have no evidence that Elizabeth even confronted Carly over these complaints or made any threats.”
Jason dragged his hands down his face. “They won’t find any. She was avoiding Carly at all costs.” And had done a pretty good job of that until Jason had ruined everything.
“Okay.” Justus paused. “You need to stay away from her right now, Jason. You make each other look guilty. The PCPD will go harder at her to get to you.”
“I know. I just—” Jason stared back out the window at the clouds gathering on the horizon. “I just don’t want her to think I’m abandoning her.”
I still loved those mellow yellow petals anyway
What’s that thing they say about a rose by any other name?
Robin nearly walked past the forlorn figure sitting on the bench, but then she recognized her.
The nurse blinked and turned back to face her. “Robin.” She slid down to make room. “Are you sure you want to be seen with me?” Elizabeth said dryly. “I’m apparently a murderer.”
“Yeah, but it was Carly, so we’re better off,” Robin said with a half smile. She sobered. “I know you didn’t do it. If you didn’t kill her last year, you weren’t going to give in this year.”
“Maybe I should have,” Elizabeth murmured, turning to stare at the gray water. “If you know about Carly, then I guess you know how I found her.”
“In the supply closet. With Jason.” Robin tilted her head. “Brenda told me you were involved.” She paused. “How long—”
“Not—not long. A few weeks. We’ve been—” Elizabeth looked at her hands. “We met a few times at Jake’s, played pool. Talked. Things hadn’t really gone anywhere yet, and then Carly—I found out about Carly.”
“That’s an understatement.” Robin wrapped the edges of her coat more tightly around herself. “But I guess you’d decided to look past it if you were together last night.”
“You could say that.” Elizabeth was quiet for a long moment. “You should ask Jason about it again. It’s safe now.”
“Safe?” Robin echoed, but the other woman got to her feet. “Elizabeth—”
“Just ask him. I have to go talk to my lawyer.”
Then my fragile flower turned into a ball of gray
So I took a breath and made a wish and blew them all away
“I just can’t believe it,” Monica murmured, stepping up next to Bobbie in the nurse’s station. “Are we allowed to be relieved?”
Bobbie flashed her old friend an irritated glance. “Not if Elizabeth is going to be railroaded for this.” She jabbed a pen into a cup on the counter. “As if she was the only person in Port Charles angry enough to kill Carly—”
“No, unfortunately that list is long.” Monica tapped a pencil against a chart. “I lied,” she confessed in a small voice. “Mac came to talk to us this morning, and I—” She swallowed hard. “I told him that Alan and I were with AJ last night.”
“Monica—” Bobbie turned to stare at her. “Are you insane?”
“I’m not sorry she’s dead,” Monica whispered furiously. She looked around to be sure they were alone, then lowered her voice even further. “And neither are you. Admit it.”
“Of course not, but Elizabeth doesn’t deserve this! She didn’t do it—”
“And neither did Jason. He would never have gone with Elizabeth in that supply closet and put her at risk.” And they both knew Jason would have done a cleaner job disposing of Carly.
Bobbie closed her eyes. “It could have been Tony,” she said softly. “He came to my house last night and he was so happy. So strange looking. God, Monica, what do I do if it was Tony?”
“What if it was AJ?” Monica speculated. “What if Alan and I let him get away with it? And what’s going to happen with that baby? This is such a disaster, Bobbie.”
Oh, what a shame
Now it don’t look the same
Later that afternoon, Jason reluctantly returned to the hospital, irritated when he found himself in a waiting room alone with AJ and Tony. The three of them had been court-ordered to submit blood samples for the paternity test, and the only reason Jason hadn’t entirely turned his back on all this bullshit was he didn’t know who’d killed Carly.
He had hated Carly by the end, but that didn’t mean he’d wanted her dead. He cared what happened to the baby and didn’t want him to end up with a murderer who didn’t mind letting an innocent woman get railroaded in their place. He wanted Elizabeth exonerated and back at work. He wanted both of them to be safe.
“Little brother,” AJ said with his characteristic sneer, but it lacked its usual heat. He ambled over to a seat and dropped into it, resting his elbows on his knees and staring hard at the linoleum.
Tony’s eyes looked a little wild, but Jason knew that the other man had been through hell the last few weeks. He regretted adding to the misery, but then again—he had just as much of a reason to kill Carly, if not more. Carly had humiliated this man, hadn’t he? Made him angry enough to kill.
“Now that the bitch is gone,” Tony said flatly, “why don’t you just drop this pretense?” he demanded of Jason. “Admit that Carly lied about the paternity and let me and the drunk battle it out. Don’t waste the hospital’s time—”
Even if Tony had a point, Jason didn’t appreciate being told what to do. He met Tony’s eyes, then slid up his sleeve. “I’ll go first,” he bit out. “Let’s get this over with.”
Guess it don’t look the same
Oh, what a shame
“Now, Elizabeth, dear—” Lee Baldwin patted her hand as they waited in the PCPD interrogation room. “Don’t be nervous. This is a good sign.”
“A good sign?” she echoed with scorn. “It’s been three days, Uncle Lee. I’m out of a job, my savings are low, and the whole world thinks I murdered someone. Now I’m sitting in the police department—”
“You weren’t arrested. We came in to see what they have. I am confident that we’ll clear this up today—”
Elizabeth sighed, then turned to the door as it opened. Garcia and Taggert strode in. Taggert dumped out a box with evidence bags while Garcia sat down with a manila folder. He flipped it open.
“Ms. Webber, when did you meet Carly Roberts?” Garcia asked.
Elizabeth glanced at Lee, who nodded. “Last April, over a year ago, when she moved to Port Charles. We were in the nursing program together, and we met on the first day of orientation.”
“Did you get along?”
Lee shook his head, so Elizabeth remained silent. “That calls for a conclusion, and we won’t be answering it. Do you have something specific to ask her?”
“All right.” Garcia set down a complaint. “This was filed on May 25, 1996. It accuses you of stealing Carly’s watch so that she was late for rounds. The watch was found in your locker.”
“If you’ve read that far, I hope you also read that it was considered an unfounded charge. Carly arrived at the hospital before I did that morning, and my time was accounted for. I was with Bobbie Jones from the moment I arrived until I went to my locker and found the watch—which I found with witnesses. Lorraine Miller was there. So were several other nursing students. Those witnesses should be all listed.”
Garcia arched a brow. “But you were probably angry about the accusation.”
“Anyone would be,” Lee said shortly. “Next question.”
“The next complaint comes two days later. Carly Roberts accused you of changing the schedule so that she went to the wrong rooms during her rounds.”
“That was also dismissed for lack of evidence,” Lee stated. “As was every single complaint Ms. Roberts filed against my client.”
“Yes, including this one—” Garcia slid over another complaint. “Filed August 1996. Drugs went missing on your shift. You were in charge of distributing them to the patients, then returning the cart to the dispensary. When you arrived, you were short several bottles of Percoset. As a result, you were suspended indefinitely, pending a criminal investigation.”
“Now, we know that you were framed for that,” Taggert said coolly before Elizabeth opened her mouth. “We have the investigation records indicating that Carly was actually dispensing drugs that day and left a cart untended. She was kicked out of the program, and you were cleared. But you weren’t exonerated until after your grandfather had passed away. He never learned you were innocent.”
“How dare you—” Lee began, straightening his shoulders, nostrils flaring.
“I find it hard to believe you didn’t hold a grudge against Carly Roberts for that.” Taggert planted his hands on the table, leaning forward. “She stayed off your radar for over a year, but then she comes crashing back into your life. Witnesses from Jake’s say you and Morgan started seeing each other around Thanksgiving. Then the big bomb drops. Carly’s carrying his bastard—”
“Well, maybe she was,” Garcia pointed out. “Carly was lying to a lot of people about that kid. I bet that made you mad, Elizabeth. She had blown up your life over and over again, was trying to get her hooks into Morgan, torturing AJ Quartermaine and Tony Jones—” He raised a brow. “You probably did the world a favor. You come clean now, I bet Mr. Baldwin could get you a lighter sentence. A jury would feel sorry for you, and maybe the DA will, too—”
“Are you arresting my client?” Lee cut in. When Garcia just stared at him. “I thought not. Then we’re free to go—”
“But before you do—” Taggert held out a hand as Elizabeth started to stand. “You need to understand how much danger you’re in. We have motive, we have opportunity, and you have access to the murder weapon—” He folded his arms. “We just need one more thing to tie this together.”
“What you have,” Lee said, “is a list of crimes committed against my client by a woman who had many enemies with the same motive. Until you have evidence that ties Elizabeth directly to this murder, then you will leave her alone. We are done making statements.”
Call me what you want
Jason waited until his brother reached his car, then lunged out of the shadows of the parking garage to grab AJ around the neck and drag him out of camera view.
“What the hell—” AJ clutched at the hands, trying to shove Jason away from him. “What is your goddamn problem—”
Jason shoved AJ against the wall. “You did it, didn’t you?” he demanded. “You killed Carly, and you’re going to let Elizabeth get dragged through the mud—”
“Don’t act like you’re any better than me,” AJ retorted, shoving Jason back. “I didn’t kill her,” he said. “I didn’t have to. The paternity test will come back, and we know the only reason you got involved was to buy Carly time. I don’t know what the hell she had on you, but it had to be big for you lie like this—”
Jason’s glare only intensified, but AJ didn’t seem to care. “You wouldn’t hurt Robin like that, and I know damn well you didn’t kill Carly, either. Just tell the truth about the baby—”
“I’m not doing anything,” Jason growled, then shoved past his brother. If AJ hadn’t killed Carly, then who else could have? Tony seemed angry enough, but did he really possess the capability to kill?
You can’t stop me multiplyin’
Pull me from the dirt
Elizabeth wanted to leave it alone like Lee had told her, wanted to forget about it, and shove it out of her head, but how could she? Her entire future rested on Carly’s murderer being revealed. If the shadow guilt lingered indefinitely, she’d never be able to go back to the hospital —
And whatever she might have had with Jason was gone, too. The rumors would follow them both. The list of people who might want to kill Carly was long, but Elizabeth knew the police were asking the wrong question.
Many people wanted Carly dead, but someone had lured her into that closet to talk. How many of her enemies could have done that? Carly wouldn’t have gone to the end of the block with Elizabeth.
A familiar, if unwelcome voice, broke into Elizabeth’s thoughts as she waited at Kelly’s counter for her order. She turned to find Lorraine Miller with her expectant eyes.
“I don’t think you killed her.”
Elizabeth pressed her lips together, then turned away. The last thing she wanted was to discuss with Lorraine. “Go away.”
“No, I’m serious. Everyone hated Carly, but I know you. You wouldn’t have done it.” Lorraine wrinkled her nose and slid onto a stool, picking up a menu. “At least not at the hospital. You’re smarter than that.”
“I already—” Elizabeth paused, then narrowed her eyes. “You said you wanted Carly to pay, didn’t you?”
Lorraine scowled. “Yeah, but I meant financially.” She snorted. “I knew a bunch of things about her that she didn’t want any of the baby daddies to know. She can’t pay me if she’s dead, can she?”
That was true, but — “What did you know?”
“Oh, no. I’m not saying a word for free. A girl’s gotta have a backup plan, and I’m working on mine.” Lorraine perked up. “You think Jason Morgan would be interested? He has a lot of money—”
“Never mind,” Elizabeth muttered. She grabbed her order and left.
“It’s what we expected,” Justus told Jason a week after Carly’s murder. “Tony’s been ruled out, but they need to do more advanced DNA testing because you and AJ are related.” He handed Jason a copy of the results. Jason set them aside because they didn’t matter.
“How long until they’re in?”
“Maybe another couple of days. Longer if the lab gets backed up. These aren’t really a priority, and the family court is satisfied that the baby is in good hands.” Justus arched a brow. “He’d be more satisfied if you named the kid—”
Jason winced, turning away from his cousin and lawyer. “I can’t do that,” he muttered. “What did you tell him?”
“That you and Carly hadn’t decided on a name and that you’re grieving.” Justus smirked. “You’re gonna pay extra for me lying to the man. At least it wasn’t in court or on the record.”
“I can’t just turn the kid over to AJ,” Jason told him. “You understand that, don’t you? I mean, if the DNA comes back and I’m forced to—” He put his hands on his waist. “That’s one thing, but—”
“But right now, AJ and Tony are suspects number one and two, and you don’t want the kid with someone who murdered his mother and is fine with screwing Elizabeth over. I’m not arguing with you on that, Jase.” Justus paused. “But you’re running out of time. You either have to find out what happened to Carly or come clean with AJ and the court.”
“The PCPD isn’t even trying, are they?” Jason demanded. “They’re still investigating Elizabeth?”
“Yeah,” Justus admitted, “and my guy says they just need one piece of evidence to push the DA into charging her. A threat, a witness, something tying Elizabeth to the scene outside of finding the body.” He folded his arms. “Do you think AJ did this?”
“I think AJ was angry enough to do it, but—” Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t know. Tony was angry, too. And that’s just the people we know about. If Bobbie didn’t have an alibi, I’d even put her on the list.”
“If the cameras hadn’t found you in the NICU around the same time as Carly’s time of death, you’d still be on the list for the PCPD.” Justus paused. “They’re watching you and Elizabeth closely. The working theory is that she either did it on her own without you or on your orders, so you’d have an alibi. Either way, they’re focused on her. Getting you is just a bonus.”
“I know, but—” Justus met his eyes. “Unless something breaks, Elizabeth is going to end up charged. There’s enough circumstantial evidence as it is, and I’ve seen weaker cases go to court. If you’re planning to do something about this, I’d do it fast. And don’t get caught.”
No, you don’t want me in your garden
Robin had thought about Elizabeth’s words that day on the pier for nearly a week, but she hadn’t gathered the courage to actually do anything about it. What if she did ask Jason again about the baby, and he actually said the words this time? Confirmed it?
As long as she never asked, she could live in denial. She could pretend that it wasn’t true, that Jason hadn’t become frustrated by her own sexual limitations and their long-distance relationship. She wanted to believe that he wouldn’t turn to someone who had hurt her so much—
But maybe that was why she needed to do it. With this doubt lingering, the memories of her relationship with Jason would always be tainted. They’d broken up because of who they were and what they wanted from life—Robin needed that to be the truth.
So she stood here in front of the penthouse where Jason now lived—the penthouse where Stone had died only two years earlier—and knocked.
Jason jerked open the door, then his eyes widened. “Robin—they didn’t—” He swallowed, then stepped aside to let her in. “They didn’t tell me you were coming up.”
“Max was downstairs—I asked him not to.” She wanted him to be caught off guard. “I think he still has a soft spot for me.”
“Probably.” Jason closed the door, then cleared his throat. “Um, what’s up?”
“I need to ask you—” Robin met his eyes. “I never did. I just believed what Brenda said, but I never asked you. I asked you why. I asked you how, but I never asked—” She swallowed hard. “I never asked if it was true. Elizabeth told me I should.”
“Elizabeth?” Jason echoed, his brows drawing together. “When?”
“The day after Carly was murdered.” Robin exhaled slowly. “Because it’s safe to ask now. Carly is gone. You can tell me the truth now. That’s what Elizabeth meant, isn’t it?”
Some of the tension slid from Jason’s expression, and he nodded. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I mean—it’s safe. I couldn’t have—” He dragged a hand down his face. “I couldn’t have told you before. You wouldn’t have let it go.”
“So, it’s not—” Tears burned, and hope flooded. “It’s not true.”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “It’s not. I never—I promise you. I never touched her, and I never thought—” He stepped towards her. “I never would have agreed to lie if I had thought— I didn’t think it through. I didn’t expect anyone to even tell you, and it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“What was it then?” Robin demanded. “How did you think pretending to be the father of a child conceived while we were still together was supposed to go—”
“I didn’t think about any of that,” Jason admitted. “Not until Brenda came in. I didn’t remember how long Carly had been pregnant. I just—” He spread his hands out as his sides. “The Quartermaines were threatening to take the baby from her, Tony was doing the same. Because they said she wasn’t good enough. That she was trash and couldn’t raise a baby.”
“Man, she knew how to play you,” Robin bit out. “She knew exactly what to say, huh? Because they said the same thing to you.”
Jason nodded, his cheeks flushing. “I’m not—I was wrong. I just—she was supposed to have the baby, then disappear. And then I could tell the truth to anyone who cared.”
Robin turned away, irritated at his obliviousness, but understanding that Carly had appealed to Jason’s need to prove to the world he wasn’t damaged and to punish the people who’d thought him little better than a walking, talking vegetable after the accident. She pressed her fist to her mouth, then faced him. “And once you agreed, she wouldn’t let you back out.”
“Now she’s dead.”
“Yeah.” Jason folded his arms. “I didn’t—”
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Robin said with a shake of her head. “I know you didn’t. You wouldn’t. And even if you would, you’d never let Elizabeth go through any of this.” She hesitated. “Elizabeth knew about the baby, didn’t she? You told her.”
“I—” Jason nodded. “Yeah. I told her. As soon as she told me it was a problem. I didn’t know about her history with Carly.”
“No, I guess I never talked about it much, and you never really got to know Elizabeth again after the accident.” She tipped her head. “But that’s changed, hasn’t it?”
Jason grimaced. “Robin—”
“I’m not angry that you started dating again, Jason.” Sad, a bit wistful, but not angry. “When we broke up in August, we knew we were doing the right thing. You like your life the way it is. You like this…job,” she finally settled on. “And I don’t see a future with you that way. Even after October—” She shook her head. “That hasn’t changed.”
“I had a date last month,” she told him, and he stopped. “I mean, I’m not ready for another relationship, but when we started seeing each other, I didn’t believe I could be with anyone again. You gave me back that dream, Jason. You gave me back my future. How could I want anything for you but happiness?”
“I don’t know if that’s what—” Jason put his hands in his pockets. “I didn’t plan it. I didn’t even know there would be anyone else. But—”
Robin took a deep breath. “We agreed that we would try to be friends, Jason. And now that I know you didn’t do this—that the baby isn’t yours—I can do that now. Let’s stop apologizing to each other. I’d rather talk about how the hell we’re going to get you, Elizabeth, and the baby out of this.”
When Garcia got to the squad room that afternoon, he found Taggert sitting behind his desk, a grin on his face. “You look happy. You steal candy from a baby?” he asked, stripping off his coat and tossing it over the desk. He reached for the papers in his tray, glancing through them.
“You bet I am. We got a hit on the Roberts murder from the hotline.”
Garcia glanced up, intrigued. They’d run into a wall on that—they were both sure the Webber woman had done the deed, but they needed just a little something more. “Yeah? Credible?”
“Oh, yeah. These came in about an hour later.” Taggert shoved an evidence bag over to him. “I was about to walk them down to evidence to get them dusted and photocopied.”
Garcia tossed aside his own paperwork and reached for a pair of gloves. “What was the tip?”
“A source said that Webber was blackmailing Carly Roberts and sending threatening letters. These are supposed to be them.”
Garcia grimaced. “How’d they get them?”
“Carly was scared of Webber and gave them to the source,” Taggert continued. “I imagine the defense will have fun with that for a while, but if the handwriting expert says it matches Webber’s writing, it won’t matter, will it?”
Garcia thought it might, but that was a problem for the DA’s office, not him. He scanned the first one, then grinned at his partner. “Jackpot. Let’s call the DA.”
Call me what you want
It went against Bobbie’s better judgment, but the moment she learned the results of the initial DNA tests, she went to Tony’s apartment to check on him.
For all the humiliation, for all the pain and anger, Bobbie still loved the man she’d married, the man with whom she’d raised and buried a child—the man who had never, ever truly recovered from BJ’s death.
To lose another child, even one that had never been his—
Bobbie knocked a third time, then Tony finally pulled open the door. His hair was disheveled, and his eyes bloodshot. He looked little better than he had the night he’d appeared on her doorstep, gleeful over Carly’s murder.
“You here to gloat?” Tony bit out. He stalked into the apartment, leaving the door open. Bobbie entered, then closed the door after herself.
“No. For all that’s happened, Tony, you’re still Lucas’s father, and I’m worried about you. I know how much you wanted this child.”
Tony squeezed his eyes closed and sat on the sofa, dragging his hands through his hair. “I wanted it to be worth it,” he muttered. “I wanted to be a father again. A chance to be better.”
Bobbie exhaled slowly. “You are still a father—”
“That’s not. I didn’t—” Tony shook his head. “That’s not what I meant, Bobbie. I love Lucas. He’s my son, and I’ve never treated him differently from BJ. You know that—”
“But he’s never forgiven me for Carly. I don’t know if he ever will. This child would—” A tear slid down his cheek, and Tony swiped at his cheek angrily. “It would have made everything I put us through worth it.”
“Maybe.” Bobbie perched on the arm of the sofa. “But that’s a lot of pressure to put on a child. Perhaps it’s for the best.”
“For the best,” Tony gritted. “For a drunk or a gangster to be his father? He should be mine. After everything I did—” He lunged to his feet, and Bobbie flinched. “I ruined my life for her! And what do I have to show for it? Nothing!”
Bobbie got to her feet, her hands shaking. “You didn’t—you still have your career—”
“Oh, yeah, where that bitch made me a laughingstock—” Tony growled. “Well, she got what she deserved, didn’t she? I hope she’s rotting in hell.”
Then he stalked into his bedroom, slamming the door, leaving Bobbie with the fear that Tony had done something worse than having an affair with a younger woman.
Elizabeth thought she was hallucinating when she looked through her peephole and saw Jason at the door. She yanked him inside. “Are you insane? The PCPD is watching my building, you know they are—”
Jason arched a brow at her, and she flushed, remembering that she was lecturing the town’s resident criminal on the workings of the police. “I know they are. They’re out front and back, but I can get around them.”
She glared at him. “We’re not supposed to be seen together. I’m sure Justus told you that, and Lee made it very clear—”
“I know.” He stepped closer to her, their bodies brushing one another. “But I couldn’t stand it. I don’t want you to be in danger because of me—”
“I wish it was just because of you,” she muttered. She leaned her head against his chest, then felt his arms encircle her. “But Carly hated me long before you came along. You’re just the motive for why she started targeting me again.” She looked up, met his eyes. “But I don’t blame you for that. Carly was always going to circle back to me.”
He brushed his lips against hers, gently at first, then harder, pulling her closer. Elizabeth dug her fingers into his shirt, then slid them up into his hair—
“They’re going to arrest me,” Elizabeth said when they separated. “But if you stay away from me, they won’t think you’re involved—”
“The PCPD doesn’t care that you didn’t do it,” Jason interrupted. He framed her face with his hands. “So it doesn’t matter if they can tie me to you or not. They’re coming after you. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let you deal with this alone.”
“We have to find out who did it,” he continued. “You need to be free, and the baby—I need to know if it’s safe to turn him over to AJ. You know it might have been him.”
Elizabeth sighed, letting her head drop slightly, his lips against her forehead. “I know.”
“I’ll make sure the PCPD doesn’t see me with you,” he continued, “because I know that’s better for you. I don’t care what they think about me, but don’t ask me to leave tonight.”
“Let me stay,” he murmured, threading his hand in her hair, his fingers sliding through the strands. He kissed her again. “Please.” Their eyes met again, his burning. “You told me you didn’t want to wait on the sidelines anymore. How can you expect me to do the same when you’re in trouble? I know you can do this without me, but you shouldn’t have to.”
She closed her eyes, tears stinging. She was so tired of being alone.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down for another kiss. If the PCPD was determined to make her pay for Carly’s murder, then at least she’d have this to hold on to. Elizabeth drew out of his arms. She went to the door, flipped the locks, and turned back with a smirk and a raised brow. “I hope you weren’t planning to sleep tonight.”
You can’t stop me multiplyin’
Elsewhere in Port Charles that night, Monica had her own thoughts about the PCPD and their investigation. She paced her bedroom from one end to the other, irritated with her own doubts and misgivings.
“I know that you don’t think Elizabeth could have done this,” Alan said, watching Monica, “but you and I both know anyone could have committed the actual murder. A scalpel across the throat from behind—with the right amount of surprise—”
“Oh, please, don’t tell me you think Steve and Audrey’s granddaughter could have murdered a new mother and left her to bleed out on the floor—” Monica glared at her moronic husband. “Not to mention, we both know why Elizabeth dragged Jason into that supply closet. Heaven knows, we found similar uses for those closets.”
Sometimes they’d even used them together, she thought bitterly.
“All right, while Elizabeth is physically capable, I do think she likely didn’t—but that does not mean one of our sons did—”
“I don’t see Jason doing it and not doing a better job,” Monica muttered. “But AJ—” She turned to him. “We gave him an alibi, Alan. Are we sure that was the right decision?”
“With the way the PCPD have tunnel vision about Elizabeth? Unless there’s something actually tying AJ to this mess, I’m glad he’s not a suspect.” Alan folded the newspaper he’d been reading and got to his feet. “Tony is still on the list—”
“I just—how can we go on, not knowing for sure?” Monica demanded.
“We might not have a choice, Monica. Why don’t we hope for the best and remember the silver lining.” When she frowned at him, he reminded her. “Carly Roberts is gone for good. That’s better for everyone.”
Mac looked up when Bobbie knocked on the door to his office. “What brings you here so late?”
“It’s this Carly situation.” Bobbie took a deep breath. “Tony came to my door the night it happened. Around two in the morning. I was upstairs that night with you and Felicia, remember? You were called into work.”
“Tony came to tell me, but I already knew. He looked—he looked terrible but so happy.” She rubbed her arm. “It was chilling, but I put it away. I had to. Then I talked to him earlier—the DNA results are in, and he was excluded—” Her voice faltered. “Mac, I think Tony had something to do with Carly’s murder.”
Mac grimaced. “He was high on the list of suspects,” he told her. “Number two, honestly. And I made sure Taggert and Garcia investigated him thoroughly. It took a few days, but we finally were able to eliminate him tonight.”
“You—” Relief flooded her. “You were able to eliminate him. How?”
“Bobbie—” Mac sighed. “He was with a prostitute that night, and we were able to corroborate it. He checked into a motel and paid with a card. He was checking in around 11, and, uh—” His cheeks flamed. “He was occupied at the time of death.”
Bobbie pursed her lips, then nodded. “All right.”
“Don’t worry, Bobbie.” Mac touched her shoulders. “Lucas’s father is not a murderer. He’s a moron, but not a murderer.” He paused. “Is that all?”
“Tell me you’re close to eliminating Elizabeth, then. You know she’s innocent, Mac—”
Mac closed his eyes. “I can’t comment on that, Bobbie. It doesn’t matter what I think—”
“It should! She babysat for Felicia’s girls! She practically grew up with Robin—”
“And that’s why it can’t matter what my opinion is,” Mac cut in. “I have to go with the evidence—”
Bobbie slapped his hands away from her. “She didn’t do this, Mac Scorpio! Have you even bothered to investigate AJ Quartermaine? He was just as angry as anyone else, if not more—”
“We talked to Monica and Alan—”
“And they’re lying—” The words were out of Bobbie’s mouth before she realized it, and she closed her mouth as Mac frowned at her. “They’re covering for him. They have no idea where he was.”
He exhaled slowly. “All right, I’ll follow up, but—”
“But Elizabeth is still the number one suspect.” Her throat burned. “Shame on you if you don’t stop this. You’re supposed to stand for justice—”
“I’ll look into it, Bobbie. That’s all I can promise.”
Pull me from the dirt
Headlights flashed through the sheer curtains, jerking Elizabeth from a light doze. She frowned at her window for a moment—why hadn’t she pulled down the shades—
Then she felt movement behind her as Jason shifted, curling an arm around her waist, drawing her against him.
“Are you awake?” she murmured, twisting slightly.
“Yeah.” She could hardly see him in the shadows, but his warmth surrounded her. “I should probably go soon.”
“Maybe.” Elizabeth sighed. “What time is it?”
“Almost four. I should be gone before the sun comes up.”
“You have sources in the PCPD, don’t you?” she asked. “How close am I to being arrested?”
She felt him tense and wondered if he was going to refuse to answer. Was she allowed to ask questions like that? Finally, he sighed. “They’ve asked the DA for an arrest warrant a few times, but my source says they’re waiting for something more. They can’t prove you were anything more than Carly’s victim, and there’s more than enough of those in Port Charles. So they have motive and opportunity, but it’s not enough.”
“It’s not?” She twisted to face him.
“No.” He paused. “If they can prove you made threats or something—”
“I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find something.” She sighed. “I keep trying to think of who could have done this, but it’s really just AJ or Tony.”
“AJ says it wasn’t him, but I don’t believe him either.” Jason’s fingers trailed down her forearm. “The autopsy results suggest that whoever used the scalpel was Carly’s height or shorter.”
“The angle of the cut?” she asked, and he nodded. “Well, that doesn’t help,” she muttered. “Because that’s me—”
“Maybe—but that kind of thing can be faked.” Jason grimaced. “If you’re trying to frame someone, you can adjust—” He shook his head, and she could tell he was uncomfortable talking about this with her.
“You mean someone taller could adjust the knife to frame someone shorter,” Elizabeth finished. “Well, I’ll make sure Lee remembers that when I’m on trial.”
“I’m not going to let it get to that—”
“We might not have a choice—” She touched his cheek. “Hey. If I get arrested, I’m not going to let them scare me into a plea deal. I’m going to fight.”
He dropped his head to her shoulder, his breath hot against her skin. She stroked his hair for a long moment as they lay in silence.
“You can’t let AJ have that baby,” Elizabeth said. Jason raised his head slightly so that they were face to face, inches apart. “Unless you can be convinced that he didn’t do this. He was so angry at her. He could have done this. I don’t care about Carly, but I don’t think that baby should be with someone who murdered his mother.”
Jason kissed her, long and slow. “That would mean paying off the lab to fake the test,” he murmured. “Committing perjury. And then the baby—he’s mine. So I’ll have to raise him.”
“Then you’ll have to do it. He’s your nephew. And even if he weren’t—” Her eyes burned. “He didn’t ask for any of this. The same reasons you stuck by him after he was born and when he needed surgery—I didn’t even ask. How is he?”
“He’s doing well,” Jason told her. He smoothed her hair back, his fingers trailing down her face. “Recovering. The doctor said I can bring him home in a week.”
“Good. I’m glad. One day, you can tell him the truth, maybe. But as long as we don’t know who murdered Carly, promise me you won’t let that baby go with AJ.”
“I promise.” He paused. “As long as you promise to not push me away if you get arrested. If you end up on trial. Unless Lee thinks a jury will convict you because of me—”
“Whatever Lee tells me to do to be free, I’ll do it.” She gently pushed Jason onto his back and slithered on top of him. “But until then, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him or me.”
Robin approached her uncle’s office, a cup of coffee and a bag in her hand, intending to pump him for any information on the investigation. Like everyone else, she was concerned that the baby’s father had murdered Carly.
The rest of the world might be okay with Carly being dead and getting what she deserved, but Robin still thought it was a horrible way to die. But, more importantly, they couldn’t let an innocent child be raised by someone capable of that.
And that meant Robin needed to get to the bottom of this case before she returned to Paris in a few weeks. She wanted to make sure Elizabeth was exonerated, too. It was the least the woman deserved after everything she’d been through.
She heard voices outside Mac’s office, so Robin slowed, stopping just outside the open door.
“I know you have doubts,” she heard Taggert saying, “but I don’t actually need your permission. Dara already got a judge to sign off on a warrant.”
Robin’s eyes widened.
“It doesn’t bother you that we had a source just drop these letters into our hands?” Mac demanded. “We don’t know where they came from—”
“No, but the preliminary reports say the handwriting is enough of a match with Webber, Mac. This is a problem for her defense attorney. Not us.”
“It should be our problem—”
“I have the warrant, Mac. Are you telling me to stand down?”
Robin held her breath as her uncle remained silent for a long moment. Then he sighed. “No. I’m too close to this. Pick her up.”
Robin bolted down the hall, throwing the coffee and bag into the trash.
No, you don’t want me in your garden
Lorraine gritted her teeth, tapping her foot impatiently, waiting for the Quartermaine scion to leave Kelly’s.
He was her last, best chance to make any damn money off all of this. Carly’s murder had brought her a little time as the board was too busy fighting off Lee Baldwin’s lawsuit threats over Elizabeth’s suspension, but Lorraine knew it was just a matter of time before they learned why Mercy had fired her.
She needed to cash in and get the hell out of here. Start over somewhere else where no one had ever heard of Carly Roberts.
“Hey—” Lorraine said as AJ appeared in view. “Wait—wait—”
AJ cast her a suspicious glance, then paused, squinting, recognizing her. “Get away from me—”
“You need to listen to me! I can help—”
“I don’t need your help,” he cut in. “The paternity test will do that. So thanks, but go blackmail someone else—”
“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” Lorraine cried, desperate now. She grabbed his arm. “Listen. Listen to me! I didn’t tell you everything before! And you know as well as I do there’s no guarantee Jason Morgan is going to let you have that kid!”
“Why the hell wouldn’t he?” AJ demanded.
“You think he’s going to give you that kid while he thinks you murdered his mother?” When AJ’s expression changed, she nodded. “That’s right. So you need to listen to me, and you need what I’m about to give you. And you’re going to pay for it, you get me? Or I’ll sell it and everything else I gave you to Jason, who will definitely be interested in burying any evidence that you’re the kid’s father.”
“You think there’s something to what Mac was saying?” Garcia asked as they approached Elizabeth Webber’s apartment. “About the source just dropping things in our lap this way?”
“Maybe,” Taggert admitted. “But the expert said it was probably her writing. You think someone forged it?” He knocked briskly on the door. “Who hates Elizabeth Webber that much and isn’t already dead?”
“Someone hates her enough to turn her in,” Garcia pointed out.
“Maybe, but—” Taggert gritted his teeth, then banged on the door again. “Webber! It’s the PCPD! We have a warrant for your arrest and to search the place.”
The door across the hall opened, and an irritated man with dark hair stepped out. “Hey, some of us are trying to sleep, asshole—”
“Have you seen the woman who lives in this apartment?” Taggert demanded, trying the knob. It wouldn’t open.
“Not today—” The man grimaced. “Why?”
“Because I have a search warrant, and I’m about to break down the damn door,” Taggert retorted.
“Don’t do that—” The guy dragged a hand through his hair, then disappeared into the apartment. He returned with a key. “I work with her at the hospital. Show me your badges and the warrant. I’ll let you in.”
Once they’d satisfied Dr. Patrick Drake of their identity, he unlocked the door grumbling about moronic detectives on a witch hunt. “The last thing she needs once you idiots find out she’s innocent is to replace her door. Don’t break anything. I’m gonna stand right here.”
Taggert looked like he might not mind arresting him, but Garcia stopped him. A quick examination of the apartment revealed that Elizabeth wasn’t there.
“Call the guy at the Towers,” Taggert told Garcia. “Maybe she went there—”
“Unlikely. They haven’t stepped foot near each other since that night,” Garcia muttered. He went over to the landline and picked it up. “Mac? Yeah. No, either she happened to be out for the first time all week, or she’s in the wind. I don’t know. Put out an APB.”
Hours later, Robin approached the stone bridge with some trepidation, her heart pounding. The wind and snowflakes swirled as she caught sight of the duo on the bridge, standing close, whispering.
While there were some pangs of personal resentment that she couldn’t have brought herself to accept Jason’s life or that he didn’t love her enough to leave it behind, Robin forced it away. That was her issue, not theirs, and they had much more important problems to worry about.
“Hey,” she called softly. Jason and Elizabeth turned to her. “I’m sorry I’m late.”
“It’s okay.” Elizabeth smiled gratefully as Robin handed over the envelope she carried. “If you hadn’t called me this morning, I’d be in jail right now. Right now, at least I can say that I don’t know about the warrant.”
“As soon as you told us about these letters—” Jason shook his head. “Someone is trying to frame you. If the PCPD charges you, we don’t have a chance to find out who it is. And we might not get bail.”
Robin flinched. He talked about we as if they were already a team. And maybe they were. She exhaled slowly. “It took me a while before I could get a copy of them, but Uncle Mac finally left his office. And don’t worry—I was wearing gloves, and I used the machine in the office to make copies.” She grimaced. “It helps to be considered a goody-two-shoes. Since these letters won’t actually go missing, they’ll never suspect anything.”
“Thank you for taking this risk. I’ll never be able to repay you,” Elizabeth said. She opened the envelope. She scowled as she skimmed the first letter. “This is my handwriting—”
“That’s what Taggert said—”
“But I didn’t—” Elizabeth passed it to Jason. “I didn’t write this. Someone forged it.”
“Who would have done that?” Jason asked. “They’re deliberately framing you now. Before, it felt it was just convenient to let you take the fall—”
Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “This has happened before. A few times. The first time, Carly filed a complaint about me saying I’d left a note in her locker, threatening her. But they knew it wasn’t me because I hadn’t even been in the day they found the note. I was scheduled, but I’d called out. So they just decided Carly was wrong to accuse me and assumed someone else was threatening her.”
“But someone forged it to set you up,” Jason said. “Who would have done that?”
As soon Jason asked, Robin and Elizabeth locked eyes, and the epiphany hit simultaneously. “Of course,” Robin breathed.
“I should have thought of her,” Elizabeth said with a wince.
“Who?” Jason demanded.
“The only person who ever seemed to hang around Carly,” Robin said.
“Lorraine,” Elizabeth clarified. “She was Carly’s partner-in-crime, and she used to talk about forging notes in college all the time to get answers on the exams. I know she helped Carly forge the notes against me and the records in the drug investigation. Lorraine knew a lot of Carly’s secrets, and the last time I talked to her, she was trying to sell them. If Lorraine forged these notes—”
Robin grimaced. “Then she’s the one framing you.”
“And that means she probably killed Carly,” Elizabeth finished.
So I took a breath and made a wish and blew them all away