Being me can only mean
Feeling scared to breathe
If you leave me then I’ll be afraid of everything
That makes me anxious, gives me patience, calms me down
Lets me face this, let me sleep, and when I wake up
Let me breathe
– Afraid, The Neighborhood
Saturday, June 28, 2003
PCPD: Squad Room
“I am going to have someone fired today!”
Scott Baldwin’s voice boomed through the room even before he crashed through the double doors, waving a copy of the Port Charles Sun in his hand. “Which one of you fucking assholes did this?”
He threw the paper in the direction of the Organized Crime Unit—the set of desks where Capelli and Taggert sat. Taggert scowled as he caught it—the headline screaming FEMME FATALE over a trio of single photos—Elizabeth with Ric and Jason on either side…and in much smaller print on the lower third of the cover it proclaimed LANSING SUSPECT IN MOB KIDNAPPING.
He closed his eyes, crumbling it slightly. It was worse than he’d thought it might be—
“I tried to get the story killed yesterday—I’ve been on the phone with every reporter I know—” Taggert threw a scathing glance at his partner. “How much did you leak?”
“What makes you think I did this?” Capelli asked, even as he smirked. He took the paper from Taggert and opened to the article. “Hmm…they were definitely resourceful…” He held the center spread out. “How do you think they got this picture?”
Taggert glared at a photograph from the warehouse fire in 2001—someone must have snapped it just as Morgan and Corinthos had escaped—and later realized Elizabeth was in the frame, a bouquet of white roses at her feet. There was another photo of Elizabeth at her grandmother’s funeral with Ric at her side.
“You are—” Scott jabbed a finger at him. “Do you have any idea what kind of lawsuit you just opened us up to? You just—” He shook his head, so angry he couldn’t speak. “Mac? Where the hell are you?”
“What are you so pissed about?” Capelli said with a shrug. “We needed to shake something loose on this case. If Lansing kidnapped Carly for her kid, he’s going to make a mistake now—”
“A mistake that might end up—” Scott almost reached for his neck but drew his hands back at the last minute. “I can’t with you right now. I want—”
“Scott,” Mac said, uneasily, carrying his open copy of the Sun, as he emerged from his office. “I know you’re not happy about this—”
“I want them off the case,” Scott cut in. “Give it to Major Crimes—”
“Major Crimes is two detectives that already have their plates full.” Mac looked at Taggert. “Who’s on the Lansing house today?”
“Rodriguez—” Taggert got to his feet. “This is bullshit, I told you she’s not involved—”
Capelli dismissed his concerns but Mac shook his head. “This was supposed to be a line item in the gossip section,” he told Capelli, irritated. “I told you. It was supposed to read like a rumor—you gave them everything we had—Michael’s statement, the fact that Jason Morgan has been inside the house—”
“A gossip item wasn’t going to get Lansing’s attention. Stop worrying,” Capelli said. “We got a car at the house, and didn’t one of the rookies say the wife has one of Morgan’s men following her—”
“They’re not inside the house,” Mac said with clenched teeth. “If Lansing goes after her, we might be too late—”
“Pull him in for questioning now,” Scott barked. “Pick him up, get him out of the house.”
“We’re all acting like she’s an abused wife—”
“You’re off the case, Capelli,” Mac snapped. “And you’re suspended—”
“You’re going to hear from my union rep,” Capelli snarled. But he grabbed his keys and stalked out of the room. “This is bullshit—”
“I told you I didn’t want this leaked to the press,” Scott told Mac. “If anything happens to her because of this, her family is going to own you and this building—”
“She doesn’t have any family,” Taggert murmured. He set the paper down. “I’m going to call Rodriguez and tell him to do a welfare check.” He picked up his keys and drew his badge and gun from the drawer where he kept them.
“There’s a reason we don’t keep rookies, why qualified senior officers don’t stay,” he continued. He met Scott’s eyes, then looked at Mac. “Capelli doesn’t give a shit about Elizabeth Webber because she’s mixed up with Corinthos and Morgan. He figures if something happens to her, then it means Morgan will have a motive to go after Lansing. It’s all about them. Fuck anyone else.”
“And I haven’t been much better. We screwed up this case from the beginning because we all saw it as a back door to maybe getting them.” He started for the door, but turned back just before he left. “If anything happens to her because of this, you’ll have my badge. I’m done with this shit.”
“Scott,” Mac began once Taggert had left but Scott just shook his head.
“He’s right. We figured Elizabeth was making her own choices. We should have hauled him in for assault last week. There was enough probable cause.” Scott exhaled slowly, looked down at the paper. “We forgot what we’re supposed to be doing here. She’s not a pawn, not someone we can use to get to someone else.” He glared at the commissioner. “And you can tell the mayor I don’t give a shit if it’s an election year for him. I’m tired of ignoring what I know what is right.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason had fallen sleep on his sofa in the early hours of the morning after overseeing the cleanup and dump of Faith Roscoe’s body. She was one more threat they should have neutralized months ago, and it felt almost like a relief to do something proactive.
And knowing she would never be in the position to hurt Elizabeth again was just a bonus.
He was jarred out sleep by a pounding on his door—it was too early for the guard to be on Sonny’s door and run interference—so by the time he got the door unlocked, his cell phone had started to ring.
“Oh, God, I thought you weren’t here,” Bobbie said, tears in her eyes, her chest heaving. She pushed a paper at him. “This was dumped on my doorstep about twenty minutes ago.”
Jason shook his head, trying to clear the fog of sleep—he was usually a pretty light sleeper and alert once he woke, but he’d been running on fumes for days—last night had been the most sleep he’d managed at once since Carly had gone missing.
He stared down at the paper, horrified to find his face next to Elizabeth’s—with a headline accusing them of an affair. He ripped the paper open and started to skim the article. “What the hell is this? How did—”
Sonny had threatened all the papers if they ran anything about Ric, but maybe the Sun—
“The article cites sources in the PCPD,” Bobbie snarled as Jason struggled to understand what was happening. “It says you’ve been in her house for hours—and they’ve got you visiting her at the studio—”
“It also says one of my guys is on the door at the studio—to keep people out—” Jason squeezed his eyes. “If Ric sees this, he’s either going to believe it’s an affair or he’s going to know she’s been helping us—either way—”
He let the paper fall to his feet and scooped his phone from the charger on the desk. He pressed Elizabeth’s speed dial—but it went straight to the automated voicemail. “Damn it. Is it too early?” It was just after eight AM and he saw now that she’d sent a text at six to let him know she was awake, and he had missed a call at seven so he had two additional texts from her, both simply stating that she was okay.
The last text at eight had asked him if he was okay. He sent her another text asking her to call him, but he couldn’t wait for her to check in—
“Call Cody—” Bobbie suggested as Jason told her about the texts. “He’ll know if Ric brought in the paper.”
Cody picked up on the first ring. “He hasn’t left yet,” he said, the usual greeting.
“Did he bring in the newspaper yet?” Jason demanded. “Could you see which ones?”
“I didn’t—I didn’t really pay any attention—from the shapes, it looked the Herald and the Sun—why?”
“Okay. Okay. I need you to—” Do what? Call the police? Storm the house? What if Ric didn’t notice right away—what if Elizabeth was able to hide the paper—
“Jason—” Bobbie said. “I can go over. I can check on her. I should have gone straight there, I just—”
“Wait—” Cody said, drawing Jason’s attention. “There’s something happening in the police car—”
“Rodriguez is getting out and going up the walk to the door. Should I find out?”
“I—I don’t know.”
“I’ll go.” Bobbie darted out the door, leaving Jason standing there, cell phone in one hand—the paper sprawled open at his feet, Elizabeth’s face staring up at him.
Fuck it. “I’m coming over,” he told Cody. He snagged his boots from the sofa and managed to catch Bobbie before she got on the elevator.
Lansing Home: Panic Room
Carly barely recognized that it was morning—only the sunshine pouring in when Ric opened the door to get the paper told her it was a new day—and the sunshine was a dim white on a small black and white screen in her prison.
Almost as an afterthought, she watched him scan the headlines on the top paper—the Herald from the way it was folded—before setting it aside for the Sun. She missed reading the tabloids—it was always filled with someone else’s misery and someone’s scandal—those were the days.
When she saw Ric’s expression change, Carly sat up straight. What was in the paper that would make him so angry—He hurriedly opened the paper—continued to read, then to started to shout—no mistaking the anger in his features, even on her tiny screen.
“What’s going on?” she murmured, leaning in.
Lansing Home: Living Room
“What the hell is this?” Ric snarled. Elizabeth rose from the sofa, confused until she saw a glimpse of her own face on the cover of the Port Charles Sun. “Are you fucking him?” His face seemed somehow twisted, flushed red, the cords in his neck bulging. His teeth were bared as he spit out the words.
“What?” Elizabeth blinked. She took an involuntary step back at the light in his eyes, the set of his mouth. But she was having a particularly rough morning and her reflexes were not nearly as fast as they needed to be—before she could even register that he was moving—he had grabbed her arm and was shoving the paper into her face.
“He’s been in my damn house, Elizabeth—” Ric was so close—his nostrils flaring, his teeth bared. “Every day—”
“It’s—” Elizabeth struggled to make sense of what was happening. Her heart was racing, and she couldn’t find the words at first. Make it stop, make it stop. How did she make it stop? “What are you talking about?”
He shoved her away—and she hit the floor, her elbow hitting the table as she fell. Pain exploded in her arm, in her side as she crashed into the hardwood floor. She sucked in a deep breath. Phone. Get to the phone. Elizabeth started to crawl towards her purse—why didn’t she keep the damn phone with her? Why had she tried to get cute and hide it?
Get to the phone. Call Cody. Call Jason. Get help—
She tried to scream as Ric grabbed her again, wrapping his fingers around her upper arm, digging into the skin, and almost lifting her to her feet in one fell swoop. He shoved the paper at her again—she tried to claw away from him—pushing him—scratching him—
“Let me go!” she cried. Her elbow hit something hard—and something crashed and shattered. The vase on the table next to the sofa.
“Everything I’ve done for you!” Ric was screaming at her. “And you’ve been betraying me!”
Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears—her chest aching—she finally managed to break away from him and throw herself at her purse. It fell from the small book case against the back wall, and she scrambled for it. She could almost hear him now coming after her and she flipped on her back, kicking out with her feet.
She managed to land one right in between his legs and Ric fell to the ground, giving her a small break—a chance. Elizabeth lunged to her feet, her purse in her hands, trying to fish the phone out.
“Fucking whore. Bitch—” Ric managed. On all fours, trying to grasp his breath, he stared her, his jaw clenched, a vein throbbing in his neck. “I gave up everything for you!”
One hand on her phone, she pressed speed dial, bringing it to her ears. With the other—she fished something from behind the umbrella stand—a baseball bat. She shifted her grip so she could swing it more easily. “Stay away from me—” she choked out. “Cody? Cody! I need you! Please! Call 911—”
But the words were no sooner out of her mouth then there was a furious pounding on the door—and then it burst open. Cruz Rodriguez rushed in, followed closely by Cody—and then bringing up the rear—Taggert who swept his eyes over the room, took in Elizabeth’s tears stained face—the scratches on her arm—the dark red marks from where Ric had grabbed her.
“You son of a bitch,” he breathed. He almost went for Ric with his fists—but drew himself back. He pulled out a set of handcuffs out. “You’re under arrest—”
“Me?” Ric got to his feet, his eyes bulging. “What for—” He gestured at her. “She’s the whore—she’s been screwing Jason Morgan—”
Elizabeth closed the phone and shifted the bat until she gripped it with both hands. “Even if I were, you have no right to put your hands on me. To drug me!”
Ric scowled. “I knew you believed him—I knew you took his side—”
“I didn’t need to take his side!” She screamed and then sucked in a breath as her head started to spin. “I nearly died last week—I overdosed, and Jason found me. He took me to the hospital—you can talk to Monica. She ran the tests—” This she let tumble out to Taggert, whose face darkened into a furious scowl.
She actually saw Ric rein himself in now. His expression softened. His voice changed. “You’ve been taking Valium since the miscarriage—I’m—I’m so sorry, Elizabeth. I overreacted, the paper—”
And how quickly he shifted personalities—from the angry, violent, cuckolded husband to the worried husband. God, how many faces did he have? “I’ve tried to talk to you—” he continued, talking to her as if she were stupid. As if she had imagined it all.
“Don’t you even dare try it—Monica can prove you started drugging me in January!” She pointed the bat at him. “Did you drug me because you knew I’d never sleep with you otherwise?”
“What?” Taggert demanded, his eyes burning as he stepped between them. “You son of a bitch—” He strode over to Ric who didn’t fight too hard as he was roughly handcuffed. “You’re under arrest for assault—”
“It’s her word against mine,” Ric grunted. All traces of the worried husband had vanished now.
“Yeah, I’m not worried about that—” Taggert glanced over as they heard another car screeching to a halt in the street.
Cody leaned out the open doorway and winced. “It’s Bobbie-” He glanced at Elizabeth with almost a bit of regret. “And Jason.”
“Of course,” Ric snarled. “Her lover’s coming to check on her—”
“Shut up, asshole,” Taggert hissed. He looked to Elizabeth. “I’m taking him down to the station. I’ll need you to come down to the station to press charges—” He hesitated. “Please, for the love of God—”
“Just tell me where to sign,” Elizabeth almost growled as Jason and Bobbie joined the crowd at the door. She watched as they took in the scene, as Jason’s eyes raked over her disheveled and bruised appearance. Bobbie put a hand on his shoulder as if to hold him back. “Where is she, Ric? It’s over. You know that, don’t you? Where’s Carly?”
Ric smirked as Taggert almost dragged him towards the door. Bobbie had to literally pull Jason out of the way as they came within a hairbreadth of one another. “I have no idea. I hope she’s still alive.”
And then he was gone, down the steps to the sidewalk. Cruz cleared his throat awkwardly after a moment or two had passed. “Um…do you want me to drive you there? To the PCPD, I mean,” he said hesitantly.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and loosened her grip until the tip of the bat hit the ground. “I can’t—” She pressed a fist against her chest. “I can’t seem to—”
Bobbie and Jason both moved at the same time, but Jason reached her first. He put an arm around her shoulders and almost carried her to the sofa, so she could sit down. She closed her eyes. Tried to catch her breath. Why couldn’t she stop breathing so fast—
Dimly she was aware of Bobbie perching on the coffee table in front of her, taking her wrist. “Your pulse is racing, Elizabeth. Let me call Monica—have her meet us—”
“No…” Elizabeth opened her eyes. “No, I’m—I’m okay. It’s just—” Her lips were dry. “It’s—I’m halfway through the two weeks she said it would take to withdraw from the—” She blinked as Jason took the bat and set it aside. “I need that,” she murmured. “Don’t take it —”
“It’s right here.” Jason glanced around the room—took in the shattered vase, the newspaper in tatters, the furniture moved out of the way—her purse’s contents strewn across the floor. “Elizabeth—”
“I’m sorry, I ruined everything,” she said sucking in a deep breath. “Ric knows. He knows. And it’s my fault. I didn’t know how to—I couldn’t think—he was so angry, and I couldn’t calm him down—I couldn’t get him to stop screaming long enough to make up—”
“You don’t need to apologize for anything,” Bobbie hissed. She got to her feet and glared at Cruz. “Sources at the PCPD,” she said, scathingly. “No wonder you and Taggert were practically on her doorstep when the story broke. Guilty conscience?”
“What?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I didn’t even see the paper—I just—he was so angry, he knew you’d been here—”
“You were already coming up to the house when Miss Webber called,” Cody said to the officer flatly. “You knew there’d be trouble.”
“I don’t—” Cruz shook his hand, clearly shaken. “I got word from Taggert he was on his way, but he wanted me to do a welfare check. I didn’t know until I heard something break and then you were screaming so—” He swallowed hard. “I didn’t know.”
“He’s a rookie, Bobbie,” Elizabeth murmured. She pressed her hand to her head. Everything hurt so much. “Last week was his first day. You told me he started with Lucky, remember?”
Bobbie exhaled slowly. “I know. I know. He’s just—” She gestured uselessly. “He’s here. Who am I supposed—” She narrowed her eyes. “Scott. That’s who I’m going to kill next. Then maybe Mac. Depends who I see first. They’re both too fucking concerned with Sonny and Jason and my daughter is gone—” Bobbie’s voice broke.
“He’ll never tell us now,” Elizabeth said. She squeezed her eyes. “Maybe if I don’t press charges—”
“He’ll never tell us,” Jason repeated. “Because it puts him on the hook for kidnapping, and if something happens to Carly because of it—” He couldn’t finish his sentence. “We can’t think about that right now. We need to make sure he stays behind bars at least for right now. Until we can figure out what to do next. So, we’ll go sign a statement, and then you’ll come back here, get your stuff—”
“I can’t go,” Elizabeth said, and she scowled when almost everyone in the room groaned. “No, no, you don’t get to act like I’m being stupid about this. There’s something in this house—” She shoved Jason’s hands away from her arms and rose to her feet, grimacing when a wave of a dizziness swept over her. “You know I’m not stupid. If I stop living here, I can’t come back—”
Jason hesitated, and Bobbie glared at him. “Stop letting her guilt you into this! Elizabeth, it’s done. There’s nothing here. She’s not here—”
Jason held up a hand to cut Bobbie off, and then eyed the cop for a long moment. “You can go to the station,” he told him blandly. “We’re going to let Elizabeth clean up, calm down, and then we’ll be down.”
Because Cruz badly wanted to go and get his head on straight, he nodded, and then left. Cody closed the door behind him and leaned against it, remaining silent.
“I talked to Faith Roscoe last night and she told me that Ric was looking for a particular house. That something about this place was important.” He rubbed his eyes. “I just—you’re right, Elizabeth. I know you’re right. But if you stay here, it’s like we’re saying Carly is more important than you—”
“No, you’re not.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No. That’s not what I think is happening here. Hey, look at me, Jason. Every second of the last week, you’ve been trying to drag me out of this house because you were worried what would happen with Ric. Not for one minute have I thought you put Carly’s safety in front of mine. And I—” Her voice trembled. “And what happened was—I was scared. But I got myself out of it. And Ric’s gone. He’s not in the equation. You—You can get me a lawyer who can get me a restraining order. I’m in less danger now—”
She looked at Bobbie. “It’s even worse now. Wherever Carly is, she’s alone. And I know she’s scared. Ric’s gone. If he was taking her food or supplies—I don’t know how—but if he was—then that’s done now. We have to find her now. Today. I don’t have to worry about Ric finding out what I’m doing anymore. He knows. So I need a ride to press charges, I need to get a restraining order, so we can come back here and gut this place if we have. Rip out the walls. I don’t care.”
She pressed a hand to her head. “But I need a ride because I don’t think I can drive. I don’t feel that great.”
“We’ll go to the hospital after—”
“After we find her,” Elizabeth said, interrupting Bobbie. She gingerly moved towards her purse and knelt on the ground, trying to reach for the contents that had spilled in her desperation—for her wallet, her keys— “I know what’s wrong with me, and there’s nothing Monica can do for me except give me more drugs, and I’m not interested in that.”
Bobbie helped her gather the rest of her things, and then helped her to stand. “Okay, let’s go press charges.”
“Elizabeth…” Jason hesitated. Holding her arm back. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. Bobbie tipped her head at Cody, and the two of them went outside.
“No,” she admitted. “I’m not. I am—I’m so far from okay, right now.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t even know what happened. What he accused me of—why—”
Jason picked up the torn Port Charles Sun and held it out. She looked at him, then took it. “’Femme Fatale’,” she murmured. “Nice that I get top billing.” She found the main article and sighed at the photos the paper had dug up of her with Jason and Ric. “Lucky for them that they took this photo at just the right minute, huh?” She said, holding it up. “Five seconds later and I wouldn’t have been in the frame.”
“’Sources in the PCPD’,” she murmured, “’suggest that the affair is recent after a long period of estrangement. Jason Morgan reportedly spends hours in the newlywed’s home after Richard Lansing leaves…’” Her eyes burned. “I thought everyone was trying to keep Ric’s name out of the papers—why would the PCPD leak his name and let them think—” She swallowed hard. “I guess…I mean.” She set the paper down. “It’s only partially a lie.” She licked her lips. “I mean—I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”
She moved past him and picked up the baseball bat. “I brought this home from the studio a few days ago and hid it in the umbrella stand.’
He took it from her, turned it over in his hands. “It’s the one I got you last year.”
“Yeah. I didn’t get to use it.” When he handed it back, she tucked it back in the stand. “But I remember what you told me. Go for the knees.” She rubbed her chest again. “Let’s get this over with. Nikolas’s plane is supposed to be coming in soon, and I want to be able to focus on what we’re going to do next.”
“Okay,” Jason agreed. He opened the door for her, locked it, and then followed her down the walk.
Behind the walls of the living room, Carly sat on her cot, her arms wrapped around herself, rocking back and forth. Oh, God, what was she going to do? Ric would never tell them where she was—she’d screamed herself raw while Ric was attacking Elizabeth—when the cops were there—
But he’d been right. The room was sound proof. And they were never ever going to find her. She was going to die in these walls.