You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time
You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together
You’ll be fine
Tell me what the hell do you know
What do you know
Tell me how the hell could you know
How could you know
– Til It Happens To You, Lady Gaga
Sunday, September 14, 2003
PCPD: Conference Room
Kelsey lifted her brows in surprise as Taggert set down the phone. “Did I hear you right? Jason Morgan is on his way up with Elizabeth Webber?”
“I’m not sure he’s ever come here voluntarily, much less without representation,” Taggert admitted. They both got to their feet when the door opened, and Elizabeth and Jason were led in.
Once they were settled, Elizabeth let out a shaky breath. It wasn’t the same room—the old PCPD had burned down the year previous. They weren’t even in an interrogation room. It wouldn’t be like before.
“Let me tell you a few things before we get started,” Taggert told her. “When you gave your statement the first time, it was still early in your investigation. To be honest, none of us working here had much more than rudimentary training for dealing with these kinds of crimes.”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “Is that to explain what happened with my rape kit?” she asked. “The mistakes made?”
“I meant…” Taggert paused. “There are things we could have done differently. For example, you came in a few times to add to your statement, but we never took you through it all the way again. All the workshops say witnesses remember more details in these kinds of crimes after some time—”
“Because we’re still processing it,” Elizabeth nodded. When he frowned at her, she shrugged. “I’ve had therapy, Taggert. It’s kind of like your workshops. I stopped going after that fire at the garage, but Gail and I worked out a lot of things I never thought I’d remember.”
“That’s why I need you to go through it from the top,” he said. I’m not asking to torture you or be cruel. But we’ve taken all the—” he hesitated.
“You’re trying so hard not to say victims.” And the consideration of that…it relaxed her slightly. “I was a victim. I’m not now. But we all were, and I know that’s also a legal term. You can use it.”
“Right.” Taggert looked to Jason briefly before turning back to her. “We’ve taken all the victims through it again. We might do it one more time. So, this might not be the only time we talk.” He nodded to Kelsey who pressed record on a tape recorder sitting in the middle of the table.
There were a few legal things—and she could feel Jason tensing next her as she signed some paperwork. It went against everything he believed in to sign papers without a lawyer for the cops, but she trusted Taggert. On this anyway.
“Okay, let’s start at the top,” he told her.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, leaned back in her chair, and under the table, reached for Jason’s hand just to hold it for a moment. He squeezed back.
“I went to the movies that night,” she said. “I’d lied to my grandmother, my sister, my friends. I’d told them I was going to the dance with a football player who didn’t know I existed.” Her mouth twisted. “It seems so silly now…that lie. As soon as I’d said it, I knew I was digging a hole. He’d be at the dance, and Lucky and Sarah would see him. They’d know I lied. And God, the thought of going home to face…
“So, when the movies were over, I still had an hour left before I could go home and not be interrogated by my grandmother. I didn’t think she’d wait up for me. So, I walked home through the park. God it was so cold, and I had these stupid strappy heels on. I can still feel the snow soaking my stockings as I went through the park.”
“You stopped at the fountain on the southern edge of the park. Was that where you entered the park?” Taggert asked.
She frowned at the question but was grateful at the detail it had brought back to her. “Oh. No. That’s…the side of the park where it borders Central Avenue. A lot of buses run past there, and I was going to take one home. I came in from the opposite side. I guess, from the north. It was across the street from the movie theater. I had crossed most of the park by then.”
Had been just yards away from the park entrance.
“I stopped because the walk had only taken ten minutes and it seemed so important to kill more time. I didn’t want to go to a cafe or diner—what if someone from school was there? And I didn’t have a story yet to cover where I’d been. How to explain my lies to Lucky or Sarah.” Elizabeth looked down at her fingernails, at the chipped red nail polish she never remembered to remove or reapply.
“So, I stopped at the fountain. There was a bench, and I had my leftover popcorn. I thought…I’ll sit here for about ten minutes and maybe I could get away with going home early. I could lie to my grandmother about it. Or maybe…God maybe I would have just told her the truth. I think I was close to just saying to hell with it, and maybe Gram would have—”
At the thought of her beloved grandmother, her voice broke and she dipped her head.
“Do you want to take a break?” Taggert’s voice broke through. She felt Jason turning towards her, his arm along the back of her chair.
“No, no. Just…my grandmother.” She accepted the tissue Kelsey offered her and took another deep breath. “I don’t know how long I sat there. It felt like hours, but it could have been seconds.”
She couldn’t look at Taggert, couldn’t turn to Jason, or even look at Kelsey who was a relative stranger. So, she looked between the two of them, at the window across the room.
“I was yanked back before I felt the hand on my mouth—I couldn’t scream, but I held on to the bench. I tried so hard, but it was stone and—” She held up her hand, looking at it. “I broke nails. One of them was completely gone, and it was hell hiding that. I had to lie about closing my hand in the door.
“But it wasn’t enough,” she murmured. “He was so strong…” Elizabeth had to take a moment. To just…breathe. “He dragged me into the bushes—there weren’t leaves and the branches scratched at my legs. I kept struggling. I tried to fight. I don’t know…what happened to my coat. It was gone. I never did…find it.
“He threw me on the ground. Hard. It was so cold…. He grabbed me by the hair and slammed my head into the ground.” She closed her eyes again, trying to put herself back in that moment. She’d gone through it with Gail in therapy but there were things even Gail didn’t know.
“He let me go…just briefly—I could feel his weight lift off me for a second, and I tried to get myself together to scream, but I couldn’t. Everything hurt, and it was just this ugly horrible blur. I wanted to curl up and just…go away. But he grabbed my hands and he held them over my head.” She rubbed at her wrists. “I tried to kick, tried to get away, but then he shoved me on my stomach—” She looked at Taggert. “He handcuffed me. My hands were behind my back—and I—I don’t know how I forgot that. I didn’t remember that until…months later, but I don’t know how I could have forgotten. The metal was freezing. And then he shoved me on my back again, my shoulders—it hurt so much to move for days. To lift my arms.
“I tried to kick him again and I think I must have hurt him because he slapped me. And then…” Her voice trembled, and she did look at Jason this time. His eyes were wet as they met his, and something about that broke her. He never let Taggert see any emotion, and this—because he was hurting for her, he wasn’t protecting himself.
“He smelled my hair. It was a little shorter then…” Her stomach rolled as bile rose in her throat. “He put his face down next to my ear, but it was just to say something. He was—in my hair. Smelling it, rubbing it against his cheek.”
Without a word, Kelsey slid a bottle of water across the table and Elizabeth took it, taking a long gulp as if that could make it go away.
“Do you need a break?” Taggert asked again, but this time his voice sounded rusty.
“No, we’re…it’s almost done.” She rubbed her chest. “That’s when he said not a word in my ear. His breath smelled like soap. Clean. I didn’t remember the stuff about the hair until after I stopped going to therapy. I remembered it when Lucky came home. I couldn’t look at my hair then, I almost dyed it, but then people would have asked, so I just—I chopped it as short as I could.”
She took a deep breath. “That’s not relevant, I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t but she just shook her head. Had to get this out. “He pulled down the top of my dress—that’s when he ripped one of the straps. And he touched my…my breasts. Squeezed them so hard I had bruises there, too. I think I was a walking bruise for weeks. And then—I heard a rip, and it must have been my—because he was just…”
The stabbing pain came back to her then, but Elizabeth was ready for it. She shoved it aside. “He was inside of me. It felt like hours, but it really wasn’t. I don’t know. I just…it was happening. And then it was over, and I was crying. And then he…I don’t know. He tried to pull my dress up, and he was sweating. Panting, I thought. But I think…” She frowned. “It sounded like crying, but that’s not possible, right? I mean, that doesn’t make sense. I heard Lucky’s voice. Calling my name.”
She dipped her head. “I never told Lucky that it was…it was that close. That I don’t know what would have happened if Lucky hadn’t come along. Maybe he would have killed me. But he just uncuffed me and ran. I laid there a few minutes, trying to just…and then Lucky was closer. He was right there, and I thought…I had to get to him, because it would be over if I could just…so I crawled.”
She fell silent and looked at Taggert. “Is that what you were looking for?”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Yeah. Um…” He scratched his cheek, looked at Kelsey. “Any questions?”
“Would you be willing to let us talk to Gail Baldwin?” Kelsey asked. “If you remembered this in pieces and in therapy, she’d have notes. And it would corroborate the timing of it. That you remembered before you knew it was…”
“Because there are things that happened to me that happened to the others.”
“Yeah,” Kelsey admitted. “I can’t…be more specific at this time, but it will be helpful—”
“I’ll sign a release.” Elizabeth sighed exhaled slowly, because somehow…knowing that the entire story had been told—that it was on tape—that she wasn’t the only one with these memories now—some of the darkness swirling inside had dissipated. “You said it wasn’t Baker. That he’d been excluded.”
“Yeah.” Taggert furrowed his brow. “The DNA didn’t match. Why?”
“I just…” Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. “It just seemed so…he seemed to know what I was talking about. He didn’t even…skip a beat. And…I went to see him in prison a few months later. After he’d been sentenced. And he said something about my red dress. But maybe…” Elizabeth sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe he just took a lucky guess.”
Taggert frowned but nodded. “Maybe. That’s all we needed from you right now. I know with everything else you’re dealing with, Liz, that it couldn’t have been easy to do this. Thank you.”
“Just promise me you won’t give up this time.”
Elizabeth and Jason left without giving Taggert a chance to respond. She’d had enough.
Gate House: Living Room
Ned grimaced when he found Scott Baldwin standing on his doorstep, but he stepped back to allow the district attorney to enter. “What do you want?”
“You know, what happened to your daughter—” Scott shook his head. “It makes me sick, Ned. It makes me sick that I couldn’t do more. I didn’t know how bad the case was screwed up—but—” He hesitated. “I should have.”
“You said all of this in July. If that’s all you have—” Ned started to open the door, but Scott remained planted in his spot by the sofa. “What is it?”
“Floyd can’t win in November. I can’t serve another term under him. I thought about resigning but God only knows who he’d put in my place.” Scott scowled. “So, I’m gonna do what someone should have done a long time ago. I’m gonna give you the ammunition you need to put him in the ground, but you can’t tell anyone I’ve leaked information in an ongoing investigation.”
Ned growled at him. “I don’t want to know anything that’s going to compromise that case—”
“It won’t. It’ll just show this goddamn city how corrupt Floyd is, how corrupt he makes the people working for him, and how easy it is for him to sacrifice everyone else for his power.” Scott took a deep breath. “Floyd threatened to fire Mac if he didn’t close Elizabeth Webber’s rape case in the fall of 1998. Edward was making threats about funding another candidate in the ‘99 election so Floyd wanted the Baker case to go away.”
Ned just stared at him, shaking his head. “Why does—” He stopped as the realization began to spread throughout his body. “Are you—what do you mean he closed her case?”
“I mean that Mac put her case in the closed storage without running the rape kit that would have cleared Tom Baker of her rape. And because everyone assumed his confession was true, the bastard went on to keep raping women. Including…”
“Including my daughter.”
The fury all but consumed him, made him dizzy. He put a hand against the wall to brace himself. “I don’t understand. How—”
“Taggert figured it out when he pulled Elizabeth’s case after he linked the other cases. He found a falsified lab report stating the kit was negative and was livid when he realized her case had been moved from cold storage. He had put it there himself. He reopened her case and also found two other victims. This bastard kept raping because Mac and Floyd made her case go away.”
And now his daughter was dead.
“Because Grandfather—” Ned squeezed his eyes shut, his brain screaming. Because Edward had gone through the roof when Emily had been held hostage by Tom Baker. Had been livid when the trial began, and Elizabeth Webber had made her outcry. He’d been so angry—
And Ned knew—Christ, he knew Floyd had been under pressure from the Quartermaines.
“I called him,” Ned said faintly. “I’m the one—I made the call. Grandfather told me to do it, but I made the contact. I told Floyd that we wanted to make sure that Baker’s case was handled by the book. We wanted him to go away. Whatever he had to do.”
Oh, God. He’d never meant…
“I didn’t—we didn’t know about Elizabeth’s attack. Emily didn’t tell us. And it wasn’t in the papers. Not until the trial. And then…then Grandfather was so upset. He wanted to make sure that Steve’s granddaughter got justice. I called Mac personally, and he told me—”
His chest was on fire as he forced the words out. “He told me that there just wasn’t enough—he lied to me.”
“Everyone believed the confession, so they figured what harm would it do. Investigating it might have taken two or three months — Baker might have dragged out the trial into election season. Floyd wanted it to go away. And after the Quartermaines contacted him again, Floyd had Mac create the lab report in case anyone ever came looking.”
“But no one did. No one gave it a second thought. And he raped six more women.” Ned slid down the wall until he was sitting on the ground, looking helplessly up at Scott. “He raped my daughter. And now she’s dead. Because I made a phone call.”
“Bullshit to that.” Scott sliced his hand through the air. “Bullshit to all of that. You want to blame yourself for wanting Emily to have justice? For making sure Floyd knew the Quartermaines were watching? Any other man with a fucking conscience would have pushed back and told you there were other charges. Edward would have backed down. Your family might be ruthless and insane, but not one of you would have fed Elizabeth Webber to the wolves for Emily’s sake. Any other man would have told Edward and you about the rape case.”
“But Floyd didn’t.”
“And when he was faced with the serial rapist this summer, he tried to bury it. But it didn’t work.” Scott hesitated. “I know who leaked the investigation when Brooke was attacked. He leaked the attacks, not her name, Ned. Because he was angry. Because he wanted justice. And then when the mayor’s office got the first request for comment, I think Floyd put your daughter’s name out there. Because he’s the only one who benefited from having the spotlight on the PCPD and on your family.”
Ned took a deep breath and got to his feet. “Does Elizabeth know?”
“Taggert told her last night the case was re-opened, and she had questions about the rape kit. I think she’s curious what happened.”
“Then I think it’s time I tell her.” Ned lifted his chin. “And if she’s okay with it, I will use this to raze this city to the ground.”
In the back office, while Claude was manning the bar, Lucky was leaning back in his chair, staring that ceiling. He’d gone into work for a little while that afternoon and discovered Elizabeth’s statement had been transcribed.
He’d sat down to read it, to see if he could offer any details or clarification because he knew how little she’d remembered about her attack.
Only to realize just how much of the horror she’d never told him about.
Kelsey knocked on the open door and waited a moment at the threshold. “Hey. Taggert called me. He said you’d stopped in. You saw her statement.”
She nodded, then walked in and rounded the desk. She set her briefcase down and leaned against the desk. “You didn’t listen to the tape, did you?”
“No.” He cleared his throat. “No. I didn’t—once I got to the end—” He shook his head. “She never…she was never able to do that before. You know? She couldn’t get through the details back then. I never—it’s stupid. It’s not about me.”
“No, but you went through it with her. And you’ve been remembering more and more of it in the last few months. It makes it now instead of then.” She tipped her head to the side. “I don’t even know her, and it was a hard statement to sit through. Sitting there, watching her relive it. But she’s strong, Lucky.”
“Yeah. She always was.”
“Are we interrupting?”
Lucky and Kelsey looked to find Dante and Cruz sauntering into the office. “Hey. I didn’t know you guys were off tonight,” Lucky said. He sat up and Kelsey straightened away from the desk.
“We were signing out for the night when we saw Elizabeth Webber made her statement. After we read it over…” Cruz shrugged. “Dante figured you might need to talk.” He grinned at Kelsey. “I guess we weren’t the only ones.”
“I can’t believe how much her statement sounds like Brooke’s attack,” Dante said as he sprawled out in one of Luke Spencer’s battered armchairs. “How did they not know?”
“Her original statement wasn’t that detailed,” Cruz reminded him. He shrugged and sat on the bench that stretched out along the wall next to the door. “That’s why you do follow-ups with cops who aren’t assholes.”
“Oh, yeah.” Dante grimaced. “Vinnie’s original interviews are bad. I mean, I know he’s worried about being a scapegoat for Floyd, and Taggert said he’d watch out for him, but I don’t know…maybe he should be held responsible.”
He looked at Kelsey who had remained quiet so far. “What do you think?”
“I think Vinnie Esposito is a crappy cop,” Kelsey offered bluntly. “With poor training and not enough experience. I also think he’s a misogynistic asshole. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if he makes it out of this investigation without being written up.”
“What about the fact that the guy didn’t beat Elizabeth Webber like he did the rest of them?” Cruz asked. “Do you think that’s because she was the first and he was just…” He grimaced. “Figuring out what he liked?”
“I scared him off,” Lucky said dully. He scrubbed his hands over his face. “She said so in her statement. He didn’t get the chance.”
“It’s not your fault,” Dante told him. “Isn’t that what you’re always telling me?”
“My voice scared the guy off,” Lucky repeated. He closed his eyes. “But that means I should have heard him running away. I could have caught him—”
“And I could’ve been President if you listen to my mother,” Dante shook his head. “Look at it this way—her case doesn’t match the others, right? I mean, she wasn’t left unconscious and beaten nearly to a pulp. Because you stopped it.”
“Maybe.” Lucky sat up, then squinted at him. “Maybe. But maybe not.”
“What do you mean?” Kelsey asked as Lucky got up and crossed the room to dig through a box in the corner. “What is that?”
“I’ve been taking my own notes and bringing them home to think about the case when I’m not at the station. I read over all the victim statements and you’re right. Elizabeth doesn’t match the others.” He flipped through a notebook he brought back to his desk. “This thing about the hair. She didn’t remember that then. She only remembered he smelled like soap and that he said not a word.”
“Which he said to, what, four of the other victims?” Cruz squinted at him. “So?”
Kelsey frowned at him, her eyes narrowing with interest. “You think there’s something to the hair, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. He’s always saying they’re not right. Did he say that to Elizabeth? Or maybe she just doesn’t remember then.”
“You’ve got a point. Let me think it over. I think there’s something there.” She looked at Cruz. “What do you think?”
“I think Lucky’s got a point. Elizabeth’s the first known victim. Her case is different. We should be looking at how they’re different.”
Lucky nodded. “All of the victims after Elizabeth say the first thing, he did was handcuff them. But he doesn’t do that with Elizabeth.”
Dante nodded, “Okay. Maybe he learned from her.” He looked at Lucky. “But she still got handcuffed. How could she have forgotten that?”
“She was in denial at first. It took time for her to even admit what had happened even though I knew it right away. It was hell even getting her to go to Mercy to have the rape kit, to turn over her dress—that’s not my point. If we’re right, and the handcuffing wasn’t his first choice—”
“Then why did—” Dante exhaled slowly. “Why did he have handcuffs in the first place? Jesus, are you telling me you think it was a cop?”
“Or a security guard. One of those rent a cops. They hired them at the Harwin for a while back in 1997 and 1998. There were a lot of burglaries. I remember reading them in the papers. They had a bunch of officers on Central Avenue where the hotel was, but the Harwin and the businesses on the other side of the park hired a bunch of security firms to patrol the area.”
“Yeah, and sometimes they carry handcuffs to detain people until the cops get there. It’s not really legal, but we usually don’t bat an eye at it.”
Kelsey took a deep breath, looked at the trio of friends. “We’re going to run down every lead, guys. Even if it takes us to places we don’t really want to go.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Elizabeth had convinced Jason to take them to the PCPD on his bike, though he’d initially protested. Elizabeth had reminded him that Kelly had told them to let Elizabeth set her own limits and that she could do whatever she’d done before, at least for a while.
So, after she’d finished giving her statement, without being asked, Jason had taken them both on a ride on the cliff roads, to let the wind and the roar of the motorcycle clear their heads and try to put it out of their minds.
It worked. At least until they returned to the Towers parking garage and made their way upstairs to the penthouse. Jason nodded to the guard on duty in the hallway, but he and Elizabeth still didn’t say anything to each other when they were alone in the living room.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said after a long moment in which they stood there, looking at one another. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come—”
“It’s—” Jason shook his head, looked away. “I knew before that night at Jake’s—before you told me. I knew what you’d been through. Logically. Until these last weeks—until that letter from Baker and what’s happened to Brooke—I don’t think I ever really understood it.” He sighed. “And to listen to you go through it, it just—I don’t understand men who hurt women. And I hate that it happened to you. I hate that it’s still happening.”
He shook his head again. “But this isn’t about me.”
“We’ve already talked about this, Jason. Yes. The rape exists in my head, and it’s not as locked away as it used to be. I hate that this case is open again, but maybe this time they’ll do it right.” She put her hands on his shoulders, sliding her fingers down to his elbows, then back up again. “It was hard back then, thinking that it had ruined my life. That I was never going to be able to fall in love and be normal. But Lucky, then you—you both proved to me I had so much more to give. And I’m okay. I’m not alone.”
He dipped his head down, let his forehead rest against hers. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
The phone on the desk rang then, and Jason sighed before pulling away to answer it. “Yeah?” He frowned. “Really? Okay. Send him up.”
He looked at Elizabeth, a bit bewildered. “Ned’s downstairs. He says he needs to talk to both of us.”
“Oh, man, I wonder if he found out about the first three cases.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Maybe he wants me to make a statement or something.”
“I know, I know. You want me to avoid stress.” She held her wrist out to him. “Go ahead, check my pulse.” She was joking, but Jason clearly wasn’t.
By the time Ned reached the door, Jason was satisfied that her pulse rate was normal and had let her sit down.
“I’m sorry to just show up,” Ned told them when he closed the door. “But I just—I had a source leak some details about my daughter’s investigation.”
“Taggert came to talk to us last night,” Elizabeth said as Ned sat down in the armchair. “I know my case was reopened. That the case count is up to seven.”
“I’m glad he finally let you in on it, but did he explain what happened to your rape kit?” Ned pressed.
Elizabeth exchanged a troubled look with Jason. “Is that what your source told you? How my kit was messed up?”
“I need your okay before I go public with this,” Ned said, “because what I’m about to tell you is going to ensure that Garrett Floyd’s days as mayor are done.”