But you can’t walk in my shoes
Every mile just feels like two
I won’t keep explaining
I won’t keep on trying
So what if I’m hiding
You’re giving me a headache
– Please Don’t Shout, Billie Myers
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
General Hospital: ICU
She could hear the voices first. They were whispers, murmurs, sounds. She wanted to stay in the darkness, in the softness and bliss of nothing. Nothingness seemed better.
But then the voices shifted—in tone, in volume. Brooke opened her eyes, turning her head slightly to the side. Where was she? Why did she still feel like she was floating?
And…why were her parents arguing? Why were they together?
“I want to take Brookie home today!” her mother snarled, and blearily, Brooke could see her mother stabbing her finger into her father’s chest, her face screwed up in furious lines, tear stains glinting on her cheeks. “I don’t want her in this godforsaken city another minute—”
“The doctors say it’s more important to let her wake up on her own,” her father retorted. “To say nothing of the police who want to take her statement—”
“The police? You have the nerve to bring them up? The PCPD isn’t getting through that goddamn door—”
“I may not like them very much, but I want this animal caught and that can’t—”
“Hey!” Another voice snapped. “The both of you. This is a hospital—” Brooke knew that sound—her mother’s best friend, Liv. Level-headed Aunt Livvie.
“Brooke?” Olivia murmured, as she approached the bed. “She’s awake.”
“Oh, Brookie—” Lois pressed her fingers to her lips. “Baby. How are you feeling?”
“I—” Brooke cleared her throat. Looked at her parents before looking at her aunt. “What’s going on? It’s hard to—” Why couldn’t she finish a sentence? Why couldn’t she think? “Am…Am I in the hospital—Ma, what are you doing here?”
“Baby, we’ll talk about this later.” Lois whacked Ned in the chest. “Go get a doctor.”
“Hey, we’re not married anymore. You don’t get to order me around,” Ned muttered, but nonetheless obeyed.
“We’re going to take you home to Bensonhurst, just as soon as you’re up to it,” Lois promised, perching on the edge of the bed.
“Lois,” Olivia murmured. “This isn’t the time—”
“Home?” Brooke repeated. “I—I’m going to school here. I got a job—maybe even friends—”
Oh, God, oh, God.
It slammed into her with the force of a freight train—the terror, the tearing pain, the desperation—oh, God. “Ma…” Her eyes filled with tears. “Ma.”
“Oh, my baby…” Lois slid up closer, touching Brooke’s cheek. “Baby…”
Ned returned, with Tony Jones on his heels—and Lieutenant Taggert. “Brooke…”
“I don’t want to talk to anyone. Get out. Get out, get out!” Brooke screeched. She thrashed on the bed. She wasn’t going to talk about it. She was never going to think about it again. She didn’t want to even know about it. “Get out!”
“Go!” Lois snarled, launching herself off the bed at Taggert. “Get out! You’re upsetting her!”
“Call me if she changes her mind,” Taggert murmured to Ned before leaving.
“Aunt Livvie, make them all go away—” Brooke whimpered. She reached blindly for Olivia’s hand. “Make it stop. Make them all stop.”
“All right, baby girl. All right.” Olivia turned to Brooke’s parents and the doctor. “She’s not going to talk to anyone—”
“I need to examine her,” Tony protested.
“That’s my daughter—” Ned added.
“And the first thing she hears when she wakes up is her parents goin’ at each other. Let’s just give her a minute, okay?” Olivia put an arm around Lois’s shoulder. “Go get some coffee. Kill each other in the parking lot for all I care.”
Ned pressed his lips together, looked at his crying daughter and took a deep breath. “Okay. If Brooke needs me to go, that’s what I’ll do.”
“Wait here,” Olivia said to Tony once Ned and Lois had reluctantly left. “Brooke, baby, you were hurt pretty bad. No one is going to talk about why, but can you let the doctor check on you? The faster you heal, the faster you can leave.”
Brooke’s tears continued but she nodded. “Okay. Okay. But I don’t wanna see anyone else.” She grabbed Olivia’s wrist. “Do-do they all know?”
“Don’t worry about any of that, baby girl.” Olivia took Brooke’s hand in both of hers. “Let—” She looked at Tony.
“Dr. Jones,” he supplied.
“Let Dr. Jones look at you. And maybe he can give you something that might make you feel better.” She met Tony’s eyes as he hesitantly approached. “Dr. Jones?”
“Sure, sure, if that’s what Brooke wants.”
“I just want it to go away. It didn’t happen, Aunt Livvie. Okay? It never happened—” Brooke continued to cry even as Tony started on her vitals. “Please don’t make me think about it.”
Brooke haltingly got through Tony’s examination, answering his questions in one or two words. With a sigh, Tony reached for her chart. Olivia followed him into the hall. “Doctor—”
“I’m writing her an order for some lorazepam,” Tony told her. “It’s an anti-anxiety drug and it should calm her down—” Lois and Ned rushed up to him. “Brooke is doing as well as can be expected. I think she can leave the ICU in a few more hours — I want to monitor the concussion a bit longer.” He patted Ned’s shoulder before going down the hall.
“He’s going to give her some anxiety medication,” Olivia told the parents.
“Who are you to make decisions?” Lois demanded. She shook her fist at her best friend. “She is my daughter not yours—” And with that, Lois went back into the hospital room where they watched Brooke crying through the clear glass walls.
Ned exhaled slowly. “Let me guess. Lois is hard on Brooke, but you’ve always played mediator.”
“And then she does the same for me and my son. It’s easier when it’s not your kid to see both sides,” Olivia said with a half-smile. “Lois loves too hard sometimes. I get that—that’s how I feel about my Dante.” She looked at Ned. “How are you holding up?”
“I don’t matter,” Ned said softly. “Thanks for stepping in. Brooke’s lucky to have you.”
Port Charles Municipal Building: Kelsey’s Office
Lucky rubbed his tired eyes as he entered Kelsey’s office, unsurprised to find her seated at the conference table, surrounded by casefiles, and sipping from a mug of coffee. “Hey.”
“Hey.” She sprang up, setting the mug down. She crossed to him, putting her hands on his upper arms. “I wasn’t expecting you this early—”
“Taggert wanted me to update you while he went to the station to talk to Mac.”
“Yeah, Scott is there with him.” She gestured towards a table in the corner of her office where a coffee pot sat. “There’s coffee if you need it.”
“Thanks.” Lucky went to pour himself a cup. “Brooke woke up a bit ago—Taggert called me on my way over. She’s not talking yet.”
“I figured.” Kelsey frowned at him as he stirred sugar into his cup. “You interviewed the kids who found her, right?”
“Kids.” Lucky snorted as he leaned back against the table, sipped his coffee. “Brooke’s nineteen. They’re all round that age. It’s not much younger than me.” He stared down into the black liquid. “Or you.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Anyway, they didn’t have a lot more to offer except to tighten the time frame.” Lucky looked at her. “He’s either following them or lying in wait, hoping someone will walk into the clearing.”
“I think he might be following them.” Kelsey turned back to the statements. “I looked over Watson and Norton — both of these statements are pretty basic. It looks like they gave an initial interview when asked, but then there wasn’t a lot of follow up.” She looked at him. “You’re listed on the second Norton interview. Do you know why she didn’t give more information?”
“Because Vinnie opened the conversation by asking why she was wearing such a revealing outfit that late in public,” Lucky muttered. He sat the conference table. “Wendy Morris refused a follow-up altogether. None of the victims liked him much.” He frowned at her. “But you think they were followed?”
“Unless he picks a different fountain to hang out,” Kelsey said as she sat next to him. “I’m hoping Taggert will be able to get the victims to do a follow-up interview that’s a bit more thorough. It doesn’t look like Vinnie asked any of them why they were in the park but—”
“Why can’t you do the follow-up? Or Scott?”
“I wish I could.” She sighed and shuffled through some paper. “I can be in the room when Taggert takes the statements. I probably will be. But I can’t take them alone. Not when their initial statements are so bare. Because then I turn into an investigator, and I can’t try the case.”
“If he were following them from one of the shops on Quartz Lane, that would make sense. The timeline is pretty narrow with Brooke’s attack.” Lucky pulled out his notepad. “You’ll get the official copies, but basically — Dillon says they went to a double feature at the Harwin. It started at nine, but they were kicked out around 10:30 PM.”
“The call came in at 11:03.” Kelsey tossed one dull pencil aside and grabbed another, already sharpened. “Is he sure about the time?”
“He said they were almost done the first movie. I’m checking with the theater—they keep exact times of when they start films. Dillon can point out the scene where they left.”
“And they left because of a fight?”
“Yeah. Maxie Jones has a boyfriend the rest of them barely tolerate. He was there that night. It seems like it was small stuff — Maxie didn’t like the movie, Lucas insulted her and Kyle, a soda got knocked over, and another patron punched Kyle.”
Kelsey stared at him. “And the movie theater kicked out them out, but not the guy who actually committed the assault?” She shook her head. “Figures.”
“Yeah, I interviewed all three of the boys when Lucas and Kyle got to the hospital. I asked Kyle if he wanted us to look into it, but he was more concerned with Brooke. The fight continued outside. None of the kids are sure how long they were arguing before they noticed Brooke had left.”
“Any idea why she went off alone?” Kelsey asked, scribbling furiously.
“She’s new to the group and probably got annoyed by the fighting. She doesn’t have a car or a phone—”
“Really?” Kelsey interrupted, frowning. “She’s a Quartermaine—”
“Who got into trouble back in New York. This was part of a punishment—she needed to earn those privileges back or pay for them herself.” He shook her head. “But she’s familiar with the bus system from living in the city. There’s a bus stop on Central Avenue that goes past the Quartermaine house. She cut through the park.”
“Okay. So, we have a half hour between being kicked out and the call to 911. How long do the boys think they were searching?”
“Ten minutes,” Lucky offered. “They were able to pinpoint that because the boys split the park in three. Kyle gave his numbers to both Lucas and Dillon by texting to them. That gave me a time stamp. They started walking through the park at 10:50 PM. Figure in maybe five minutes to figure out a search plan. Maybe two or three minutes of talking about Brooke being gone.”
“That’s…” Kelsey sat back. Set the pencil down. “That’s a very tight timeline. If she gives them five minutes of fighting, it’s only about five minutes before they notice she’s gone. To get to that spot in the park, when you’re not looking for someone—”
“Maybe seven minutes. Ten at most.”
“We’ll have a better idea once you get me the exact time they were kicked out, but if Dillon is right — if they’re kicked out at 10:30, Brooke takes off around 10:35, and it takes until 10:45 to get to that spot—”
“Fifteen minutes before Dillon finds her.”
“Fifteen minutes,” Kelsey repeated. She looked at him. “To beat her unconscious, rape her, and flee the scene. That’s not a lot of time.”
“He followed her from the movies and waited until she got to the fountain. Because that location means something. We can’t rule out the lying-in wait, but—”
“We need to know where the other victims were before the attack.” Kelsey rubbed the back of her neck. “But this is just more proof it’s the same man. He has this down to a science. No way this is the first time.”
“Yeah, that’s definite.” Lucky hesitated. “There’s—there’s something else I need to tell you.”
Kelsey shoved her chair out slightly so she could angle herself towards him. “What’s wrong? I know these kids are friends with your sister. You mentioned it—”
“It’s more—” He looked at her. “I told you about Elizabeth Webber, right? That we dated?”
“She was raped in the park, too. When we were teenagers. Valentine’s Day, 1998. At the same fountain.”
“The same—” Kelsey’s eyes flared wide. “Lucky, do you think it’s—”
“No, no. I just—they caught the guy. He confessed. He’s in prison for an unrelated crime, but that’s not—” Lucky rubbed a hand over his chest. “I found her like Dillon. She wasn’t hurt as badly. And she didn’t report it right away. That’s not—that’s not why I’m telling you this. I told you that I was kidnapped and brainwashed.”
“You told me that night at Luke’s.” Kelsey put a hand on his arm. “Lucky, I don’t want you to think you have to tell me anything you’re not ready to—”
“She removed memories of Elizabeth, I told you that.”
“Oh.” Kelsey pursed her lips. “I thought you meant recent ones—but…all of them?”
“And not just Elizabeth. I had trouble remembering my family. I remembered more about them, but Elizabeth—that was almost completely gone. It started coming back last night. While I was interviewing Dillon. Like it was happening all over again.” Lucky shook his head. “It’s…I can do the job, but I think—”
“This one hits home more than the other cases because it’s so similar.” Kelsey tightened her hand slightly on his arm. “Hey. I get it. These kids—they’re not much older than you guys were, I guess. And in the same location. And you’re just remembering it again, so it feels like it’s now. I get it, Lucky. And I can tell you’ll be fine doing the job. You finished the interviews. And we’ve put together a good theory.”
She leaned in closer. “But if you want me to tell you if I think it’s affecting your work, I will. I promise.”
“Thanks. I…I really like you,” he confessed, his cheeks flushing just a bit. “I want to keep seeing you. I just—I thought you had a right to know.”
“I appreciate it.” She leaned forward, kissed him, sliding her fingers through his hair. “We’ll get Brooke justice. Like you and Elizabeth Webber got. We’ll put this guy away so he can’t hurt anyone else.”
Corinthos Coffee: Office
Jason squinted at the rows of numbers in the latest batch of invoices and rubbed his eyes. Sonny wanted to open this place in two weeks—a new legitimate business and place to meet—but everything had stopped while Carly had been missing. The builders had continued their work, but without a business manager on the paperwork—
Sonny had a habit of starting projects that ended up being Jason’s problem.
The door opened and Carly entered, a large book of fabric and patterns in her arms. He got to his feet and rushed to take it from her. She frowned at him. “I’m pregnant, Jase, not dead. It’s not even that heavy—”
But he’d already set it on the table serving as a temporary desk—that was why Carly was here. One of her “getting back to Carly” projects was finishing up the design of the coffee house and furnishing their office. She settled herself in the lone chair he’d vacated, and he stood by her side.
After they’d gone through a few pattern choices, Carly closed the book they were looking at and set it on the table. “I have a confession to make.”
Jason frowned, then leaned against the table so he was facing her. “What’s up? Is anything wrong?”
“I was upstairs when you were over yesterday. I didn’t mean to listen—” She bit her lip. “Okay, I meant to listen. I thought you might say something about Ric—”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Carly—”
“I know, I know. I know better. The thing is, I only kind of heard what you and Sonny were talking about. But I know he wanted you to keep something from Elizabeth.”
“And then I see you today—the first time I’ve seen you in a few days mind you—and you look like you haven’t slept. I’m just—” She shook her head. “I don’t know. I feel like I owe Elizabeth since she helped find me. And I know you love her.” She smirked. “I may not understand it, but I know it.”
Jason looked away, sighed. He knew what Sonny thought about this topic, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a bad idea. “You probably saw the papers about Brooke Lynn Ashton.”
“Yeah. I know her a little from when I lived at the mansion. She visited Ned a few times.” Carly leaned back against the chair, rubbing her belly. “What does that have to do with anything—” She tilted her head. “I know Elizabeth was raped when she was younger.”
Jason blinked at her. Shook his head. “How—”
“It came up when she was in the running to be Face of Deception,” she explained. “She had trouble with some of the photoshoots, and I guess we’d rented the same studio where she’d been held with Emily. That photographer, right?”
“Yeah.” He reluctantly told her about the letter, his visit, and Elizabeth’s reaction to his reading the letter. “Sonny thinks I shouldn’t tell her. That if it is related, the PCPD knows about her case—”
“But you feel like you’re sitting on this evidence that her rapist is still out there, and she doesn’t know it,” Carly said. “You have to tell her—”
“I just—she’s going through so much, and she begged me not to bring it up—”
Carly leaned forward. “I know that, and I’m sorry. But you have to tell her. Because she thinks you only read the letter. You already went to see this guy. You know what the letter says. What it might mean for this investigation. I get that it’s going to be hard on her. And I know it’s hard on you. But think about—”
She saw a copy of the Herald buried under some of the paperwork. SERIAL RAPIST STRIKES AGAIN. She picked it up, held it so that Jason could see it. “Four women this year. All of them in the park. Like her. The woman who nearly sacrificed her life to help you? To find me? She’d want the police to have all the information they need.”
Jason exhaled slowly, looked away. “Carly—”
“Not talking to the cops when I was missing—that’s one thing. But—” She raised her brows. “How are you gonna feel if you stay quiet, and someone else gets attacked? What if the PCPD doesn’t make the connection in time? What if this guy hurt other women and they don’t know?”
Carly pursed her lips. “But beyond that, it’s not up to you to decide what Liz can’t handle. You already went to see this guy. You hold on to what you think you know, and it’s going to eat you alive. You think she won’t see it in your face? That she won’t know you’re holding back?”
“Since when do you take advice on women from Sonny? I love him, Jase, but his first instinct is always to keep the secret.” Carly looked at the paper again. “Elizabeth and I are never going to be best friends, but I just—if you keep this to yourself when this guy could be out there raping other women and she finds out? C’mon, Jase. You know her better than I do. How’s that going to shake out?”
She sighed. “You’re going to hurt her either way. This is not a secret you can keep forever. You already know that. You know you have to tell her. So, stop pretending it’s going to suck less a few weeks from now.”
General Hospital: Conference Room
Ned collapsed into a chair at the long wooden table and put his head in his hands.
It had been hours since Brooke had woken up, crying, refusing to talk to anyone, and Ned simply didn’t know what to do. How to keep Lois from taking his daughter out of the hospital and taking her home.
How to get her justice.
How to make it so that this never happened. He just wanted to turn back time, give his daughter a damned cell phone.
Another Styrofoam cup of coffee was placed in front of him as his two best friends in the world sat down at the table. Neither Jax nor Alexis looked as though they had slept, and Ned was ridiculously grateful to them. His mother and grandfather were trying to run to damage control at ELQ and demanding retractions from the media, threatening them with lawsuits if they didn’t stop using Brooke’s name.
Victims of sexual assault were typically not identified, Alexis had told Ned quietly, but apparently, Brooke’s case was now the symbol of a corrupt and negligent police department, and even the normally staid Herald was trumpeting her case as a need for reform. She was over eighteen, and hey, her name had been leaked, so it really wasn’t their fault.
Ned just wanted them all to go away.
“No change?” Jax murmured. He slid a few packets of creamer and sugar across the table. “She still isn’t speaking to anyone?”
“No. That—that’s not good, is it?” Ned asked. He hated how his voice sounded—high-pitched. Desperate. He needed someone to tell him what came next, and he hated that feeling.
Ned always knew the next step, always knew how to make things better. He was the fucking gatekeeper for the Quartermaines—it was his job to make things better. To protect his family.
Why couldn’t he do that this time?
“I really couldn’t say,” Alexis said, with an almost helpless glance at her ex-husband. “The police are going to keep asking her for a statement unless you bar them—”
“The police,” Ned scowled. “I swear to God—” He pressed his fingertips to his temples and took in a deep breath. “Right. I don’t give a shit about the statement to the police right now. Lois just wants to take her home to Bensonhurst. Pretend none of this ever happened.”
“That might be for the best,” Alexis said, but Jax pressed his lips together, furrowing his brow.
“I think the best way forward is research,” the corporate raider declared. Ned glared at him, but Jax continued. “When I don’t know something, I find someone who does. You can’t know what’s right for Brooke. Or even what might be a good idea. None of us have ever been through anything like this.”
“No, I guess not,” Alexis murmured. “Research, huh?”
“I think we ought to talk to someone who has some experience, and this…” Jax tapped a copy of the Port Charles Sun’s latest edition. “This gives me ideas.”
“Burn down the offices?” Ned asked dryly. He took the paper and skimmed the cover. “It’s just another headline about the PCPD—” He hesitated. “It’s a list of their most recent scandals. Elizabeth Webber.” He frowned. “She was—she was hurt once, wasn’t she?”
“She used to work for you and Chloe, remember?” Jax said. He tapped Elizabeth’s picture. “Chloe said something to me then about her.”
“I remember this now. She was raped by the man who blackmailed Emily,” Ned murmured. “I was there the day at the courthouse when she made her outcry. Edward was upset—he wanted me to see if anything could be done for her. But there wasn’t enough evidence, they said.” He exhaled slowly. “I don’t know if I should ask her.”
“She’s been through a lot this summer, Jax,” Alexis told him. “Between a miscarriage in May, Ric’s assault, and then her pulmonary embolism. She nearly died a few times thanks to Ric. I don’t think we want to ask her to revisit this kind of experience.”
“Fair enough,” Jax said. “But you wouldn’t have to ask her for details. It would just be asking her how to talk to Brooke. Should you leave her alone, for example? Push her? She might have some ideas.”
“I guess.” And still, Ned hesitated. He’d already used Elizabeth once as a pawn in his misguided grudge against Sonny Corinthos. He hadn’t done anything really to push her towards Ric Lansing—but he had given Ric support and cover a few times.
He didn’t want to ask her for anything—didn’t feel like she owed him any help at all. But this wasn’t about him—it was about his little girl. And there was very little he wouldn’t do for Brooke.
Brownstone: Living Room
When Lucas got home from the police station, Bobbie was waiting for him. She’d been unable to talk to her son since receiving the phone call from Felicia the night before—Lucas had gone to the station, then to the hospital, and then back to the station—and Bobbie hadn’t wanted to hover.
Hadn’t wanted Lucas to feel smothered.
But she called in a favor at work and waited for him to finally walk through the door. She got to her feet. “Lucas.”
“Mom.” Her little boy stared at him, his blond hair disheveled, his dark brown eyes bloodshot from exhaustion. “I thought you—I thought you had to work—”
“Felicia called last night when she picked the girls up from the station.” Bobbie couldn’t stop herself anymore and put her arms around him. Lucas hugged her back. “I didn’t know if you’d want me to come—”
“I’m okay,” he told her quickly. He stepped back. “Really, I mean it didn’t even happen to me, and it’s stupid for me to be upset. I didn’t even do anything wrong. We found her, didn’t we? It’s not—” He swallowed and looked away, his lower lip trembling. “I thought she was dead, Mom.”
“I thought she was dead, and that it was my fault because I invited her and I let Kyle goad me into a fight, and then we all—we all missed her walking away. It wasn’t that long, but it didn’t matter. She looked like a broken doll laying on the ground, and I—” His voice trembled, and he swallowed again. “I checked her pulse, and I was so damn scared—”
She hugged him again, his words fading away as she ran her fingers through his hair, scratching his scalp as she had done when he was a little boy. “I’m so sorry, Lucas.”
“How can a man do that to a woman?” Lucas demanded. “And how the hell can he keep doing it and get away with it?” He drew back with a sharp shake of his head. “It’s just bullshit. I wanted to go to the hospital again when we were done, but Dillon said she wasn’t seeing anyone. Refused to talk to anyone.”
“It’s going to be hard for the next few days,” Bobbie murmured. “You have to just listen to her. Let her set the pace. She knows what she needs. You just have to follow her.”
“I ever find the asshole who did this—” Lucas shook his head. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” he admitted. “But I suddenly understand men like Sonny and Jason today.’
He started for the back of the house where his room was, and Bobbie squeezed her eyes shut. She’d never wanted her little boy to know the horrors of the world up close, but there was no protecting him or anyone else from the evil that walked the Earth.
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
“I swear to God, the level of incompetence is really starting to piss me off,” Scott seethed as he threw the latest copy of the Herald on Mac’s desk. Behind him, the mayor quietly removed his suit jacket and set it on the back of the sofa. “First I got motherfucking Ric Lansing trying to get the charges dropped—”
“Is that a possibility?”
“This is the same justice system that let him have control of his wife’s medical care less than twenty-four hours after he assaulted her, so I’m not putting anything past these bitches.” Scott all but tore folders from his briefcase. “And now—now I got this serial rapist fuckery—what the hell is this bullshit, Mac?”
“I don’t know where the paper got their information,” Mac said, his expression all but blank. Scott was going to shove his thumb in that bastard’s eye in a minute. “We hadn’t officially linked them—”
“Bull-fucking-shit. I linked them—my office linked them two weeks ago,” Scott said with a stab of his finger. “I called you after the third—an investigation, by the way, on which your boys fucked up protocol again. Lazy ass Esposito wasn’t supposed to be working sex crimes, and yet he grabbed the case and didn’t put it on the report—”
“Taggert took over all three last week—”
“And is the Herald right? Not one of these cases have had their rape kits processed?” Scott demanded. He slapped his hand on the paper. “This is amateur hour, Mac! We’ve talked about trying to get back on the right track and every time we come close—”
“Scott,” Floyd said, but his voice was quiet, so the raging district attorney didn’t hear him.
“We don’t test rape kits without a suspect,” Mac said, but this came with a heavy sigh. “That’s been the departmental policy since it even became an option to process them—”
“What, because of budgets? Fuck that shit, Mac. How the hell can you find a suspect if you don’t test for DNA? How many unprocessed rape kits do we got in this damn building?”
“We don’t get that many rapes, believe it or not,” Mac said dryly. “Maybe ten.” He hesitated. “Fourteen if you count these four.”
“I do count these four,” Scott said, his teeth clenched. “How many of those ten are within the statutes of limitations? Jesus, Mac, if we get DNA profiles, we can stretch out the statutes—don’t you pay attention to the change in the laws? The DNA puts a hold on the statute, but you have to process the kits and get the profile!”
“Scott, there have been budget issues,” Floyd tried again, but this time Scott heard him. He whirled around and shook his finger at him.
“Then you go hold a press conference and you tell this city that quibbling over fourteen thousand lousy dollars, a serial rapist was able to go—”
“He isn’t responsible for all fourteen,” Mac interrupted.
“How the hell do you know that?” Scott shook the paper. “Your idiot detectives couldn’t even link three cases with young brunettes in their twenties being raped at night near fountains in the park. Jesus fucking Christ, Mac! Don’t tell me that these four are the only cases we have in the park—”
Mac glanced at Floyd, who shook his head. Scott narrowed his eyes. “What is this? Do you want me to pull the cases? Because I can—”
“I think there are…” Mac shook his head. “One or two. I’d have to look—”
“Don’t bother. I’m assigning Kelsey to this. She’s going to personally look over every single sexual assault case run by this office since you took over—”
“You don’t have authority.” Mac lunged to his feet. “Who the hell are you—”
“I’m the fucking district attorney, and I can look at whatever case I want. You get them on my desk by the morning, Mac, and you send all the rape kits you can in this building for processing now, or I swear to God, I will leak this to the press myself.”
Scott grabbed his briefcase and files, then stormed out.
Floyd exhaled slowly. “It’s a pity I can’t fire him,” he murmured. “Don’t send the Baker case, Mac—”
“Oh, yeah, because I’m going to get away with holding out on one case,” Mac retorted with a dismissal of his hand. “Taggert worked that case.”
“Her case is officially solved, Mac.” Floyd raised his brows. “Baker confessed. Her kit wasn’t processed, but there’s no reason to.”
“Her case fits the profile—”
“And we have a confession,” Floyd pressed. “You send her case down to Baldwin, he’s pissed off enough right now to see we didn’t process the kit and start asking questions. Don’t send it. You can always tell him later her case was solved.”
Mac sat back down, put his head in his hands. “But Taggert knows it wasn’t supposed to be listed that way. It was supposed to be put on the inactive list. I listed it as solved.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Mac. At the end of the day, you made the decision not to investigate Baker and hold up the trial. You and Dara Jensen.” Floyd put his jacket back on, buttoned it. “Which will be the statement I release to the press if this should blow up in our faces.”
Mac scowled as the mayor left, but knew he’d been left with no choice. He had two girls in college—he couldn’t afford to lose his job right now, and that’s exactly would happen if the Baker case went public before the election.
After all, Tom Baker had confessed. Elizabeth had gotten her justice. Even if hadn’t happened in the way it supposed to—
This…the fact that her case seemed similar was just a coincidence. It had to be. She was in his head because of what had happened this summer. He called his secretary into begin collecting the case files.
Elizabeth’s Condo: Living Room
She was almost grateful when the doorman in the lobby telephoned her to say that Ned Ashton was downstairs to see her. Elizabeth honestly couldn’t think what Ned would want from her, but she was happy for the distraction.
Jason had had to go to work, leaving Elizabeth alone with her thoughts. She’d thought about calling Lucky a few times, just to ask about the case. Or to call Bobbie and check on Lucas. She’d tried to sketch, she’d tried to paint. She’d tried watching television and even had attempted to do some reading. But nothing distracted her.
She was starting to get her energy back and struggled to find something to do with it— should she be looking for a job? Some way to fill her hours?
She pulled open the door when Ned knocked, and her chest ached at the sight of Emily and Jason’s cousin, a worried and exhausted father, as he stood on her doorstep. “Ned. I’m surprised to see you.”
“I’m sorry to just show up here,” he said. He took a deep breath, cleared his throat. “Can—Can I come in?”
“Oh. Yeah, sure. Do you—do you want some water? I keep coffee for Jason, if you want some.”
“No, no, I’ve been drinking my weight in coffee thanks to Jax and Alexis.” Ned rubbed the back of his neck. “Now that I’m here, I’m reconsidering why I came. I don’t have the right to ask you anything—”
“Because of Ric?” Elizabeth tilted her head to the side as she sat on her sofa. She gestured for Ned to sit in the armchair and waited until he did so. “Jason said you helped us figure out it was the house, which led us to the real estate agent. I don’t care that you worked with Ric. I know how hard it must have been when Kristina died last year.”
“You’re…too generous.” Ned rubbed his eyes. “I’m sure you’ve heard what happened to my daughter, Brooke, last night. She was attacked and—” He struggled to get the words out. “Raped.”
“Emily called me.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Did she tell you about what happened to me?”
“Oh. No. I—Jax remembered Chloe saying something, and I remembered the Baker trial. I—” Ned shook his head. “I don’t know what to do to help her. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to act. I just want to make it better, and I know I can’t. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be asking—”
“Do you think it would help if I talked to her?” Elizabeth offered almost before she had even realized it. “I was a little younger than her, but I remember those first few days. They were…they were the worst of my life. And eventually I went to a support group. I could—if you thought it would help.”
Ned looked stunned. “I had only thought to ask you for some advice, but—” He swallowed hard. “God, yes. I think if Brooke could look at you and know it doesn’t have to mean the end of everything—” He got to his feet. “I would be profoundly grateful.”
She also stood. “Of course. I’ll come by the hospital tomorrow. She might need some time to process and just…be alone. The first twenty-four hours, I was mostly in denial. I didn’t want anyone to look at me.” Elizabeth managed a half smile. “Eventually I let people in.”
“Thank you,” Ned reached for her hand, folded it between both of his. “Thank you. You have no idea—”
“It’s good to know you’re not alone,” Elizabeth told him. “I can at least let Brooke know that.”