And the ever present pit I feel
I’m turning on some spinning wheel
Of faces and the scenes I see
And none of it seems real to me
Just the bleary haze of the morning still to come
I just want to be numb
– Numb, Airborne Toxic Event
Monday, April 28, 2004
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Jason emerged from the bathroom with Cameron already in his first layer of clothes, cradling the newborn against his chest. “I’ll be glad when the weather stays warm,” he said as she dressed him another layer. There would still be another of clothing when she took him outside, but two would be enough inside.
“I know. I’ve barely been able to sleep. I keep coming over to check his temperature.” She wrinkled her nose, zipping up the sweater.
Jason kissed the top of Elizabeth’s head. “A few more months, and we’ll be able to relax more,” he promised. “Why don’t I go with you today? I can put off this meeting—”
“No, it’s okay.” Elizabeth turned to him. “I need to do as much as I can right now because when I have the surgery, I won’t be able to lift him much all summer. Richie will be there, and I’m going to grab lunch with Emily before our appointment with Dr. Devlin.” She handed the fully dressed baby back to Jason so he could feed him. “I already warmed the bottle.”
“If you’re sure,” Jason said, still doubtful. He sat in the chair and arranged Cameron against his chest.
“I’m sure.” Elizabeth took a breath and enjoyed the sensation of nearly being able to expand her entire chest. She’d never take that feeling for granted again. “I can’t wait to be done with this for good.” She bit her lip. “I sent in that acceptance for the grad program. I’m starting in the fall.”
Jason raised his brows, then grinned. “I’m glad you didn’t wait a year.”
“I’m still nervous,” she admitted, “about making it work. But Carly’s running the club full time and she’s got two kids without a nanny now, so I should be able to make it work without a job. Plus, Cameron hasn’t had any complications, so that’s some weight off my shoulders.” She folded her arms. “I can do this. And I miss the support group. I was gonna stop by Gail’s office and find out if they’re still meeting. If they want me back. Or maybe there’s another one she can find for me to work with.”
She sat on the edge of the bed. “It feels so strange to be able to plan for all of this. Like we were living in limbo for so long with the baby, with Ric and Sonny, and all of that—”
Jason glanced up, his fingers wrapped around the end of the bottle, and met her eyes. “But now we get to think about what’s next.”
“Yeah. For the first time since…” Elizabeth shook her head. “God, for the first time in years, honestly. It’s like I’ve just been putting one foot in front the other, scared to look up, but now I can and I like where I am.” She looked down at her hand, twisting her wedding band, then at Jason and Cameron in the chair. “Two years ago, I couldn’t even dream of having this.” She paused. “What about you?”
Jason hesitated. “I told you once that I wasn’t really good at dreams,” he reminded her. “But I liked believing in yours. I still do.”
It was a sweet memory, one of the last good ones before it had gone wrong. Elizabeth smiled. “I remember. I should have told you then what mine were. Maybe it would have been different. I know we said we wouldn’t talk about regrets anymore,” she added when he frowned slightly. “But sometimes I wonder what would have happened. The day you told me that?” She paused. “If I’d told you that my dream was to wake up next to you in Italy and not get out of bed for days.”
“I probably would have tried to get us on the next flight,” he said, and she laughed. “We might not get to Italy this summer, but we’ll go.” Cameron finished his bottle, and Jason adjusted so that he could burp.
“I know. Italy always felt like this far away fantasy that I used to think about when things were bad. When I was unhappy, I’d close my eyes.” She sighed, closing them now. “And I’d think about walking in Piazzo San Marco or taking a water taxi in the canals, or touring the museums in Florence. With that sunlight washing over the buildings.” She opened her eyes. “It was my happy place, but I don’t need it the way I used to.”
“Happy place,” Jason repeated. “Robin used to tell me about that, just the way you described it. When you were unhappy, you’d picture yourself somewhere else. It never made sense to me then,” he confessed. “If you were unhappy, then go make yourself happy. It seemed like the obvious solution.”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course it did.” She got to her feet and went over to take Cameron from him so he could go down for a brief nap before the hospital. She settled Cameron in the cradle, checking his forehead again to make sure he was warm enough, but not too hot. Jason’s arms encircled her waist from behind her. She leaned back against him.
“I eventually understood what she meant,” Jason told her. “For a long time, it was being on the bike for me.”
“Going nowhere fast,” she murmured, closing her eyes, resting her arms along his at her waist. “That’s a good one.”
“But this right here. Being with you, watching Cameron sleep. This is my dream. I just didn’t know it until it came true.”
Spencer House: Kitchen
Luke knew even before Laura sat down that he was in trouble. She just had that look in her eye and her jaw was set.
He grimaced and poured himself another cup of coffee. “All right, let me have it.”
“Lucky and Kelsey are going to Anna today and having her reopen her father’s case.”
Coffee sloshed over the rim as Luke fumbled and stared at her. “What—”
“And you’ll probably be the first or second person on the list to question.” Laura folded her arms. “When that happens, I expect you to tell the truth.”
“Don’t even bother. I know you can help Kelsey more than you are right now, and I’m not going to sit here and let you lie to me one more time.” She lifted her chin. “Who are you protecting, Luke? If you didn’t do this, and I know you didn’t—”
“I sure as hell hope you know it—”
“Then tell me why you think Sonny deserves your loyalty.”
Luke cleared his throat. “What makes you think I’m protecting Sonny—”
“Because he’s the only person left who might have wanted to do something to Ollie. Ollie worked in the clubs, Luke. Did you think I wasn’t listening?” Laura demanded. “The clubs. Sonny worked there, too.”
“If Sonny ordered Ollie’s murder or he carried it out, Kelsey deserves to know that.” Laura hesitated. “And Lucky deserves to know that you accept him.”
“He’s a cop now, Luke. He’s asking you to help use what you know to give Kelsey justice. Nikolas told me how you reacted when Lucky went into the academy. You told him he wasn’t any son of yours.”
“I’ve asked very little of you over the years,” Laura said, her voice quiet now and Luke just stared at her. “Much less than I ought to have. I’ve forgiven you for what happened between us at the beginning. For what you did to me. I believed you when you said you were a better man.”
Luke didn’t respond this time. He sat at the kitchen table, looked around the room, thought of the house that Laura had set her heart on from the moment they’d returned to Port Charles. The family she’d wanted to build.
The family he’d told himself made him stronger. He was a better man now, wasn’t he? He’d promised himself he’d do better by the people in his life. He’d taken Carly under his wing, and he’d opened his heart to Lucky’s new way of life—
But Laura was right. He was still holding back. Still protecting the pieces of the old Luke.
“I didn’t know anything at the time,” Luke said slowly. “And I meant what I said about only hearing rumors. Ollie worked at the clubs, yeah, and he worked with Sonny. They didn’t get along. Then Ollie was dead, and we were off and running with Frank Smith. I can’t tell you if Sonny had anything to do with what happened, only that—”
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Sonny used to talk about what happened when people came for his power, tried to take it from him. And how he needed to put the Paradise behind him. Why he’d insisted on razing the club to the ground and rebuilding. What happened there needed to stay there. When I asked him about Ollie, he told me never to say that name again.” Luke met Laura’s eyes. “So I didn’t.”
“Will you tell that to the next person who asks?” Laura asked. “Or are you looking to protect Sonny?”
“Not thinking about Sonny so much, darling. Thinking about all the people around him,” Luke admitted. “Caroline doesn’t need one more thing dropped on her, and Jason and Elizabeth have that sweet baby home now. Dragging Sonny into another crisis doesn’t seem like much of a favor. And maybe—” He closed his eyes. “Maybe I don’t want to admit that I suspected what Sonny did and still let my boy grow up to idolize him.”
“I can tell you I’m a better man, Laura, and I think sometimes it’s true. But then I think about the things I’ve done—and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to scrub the red from my ledger.” He got to his feet. “But it’s time to face the music, I guess. If Cowboy or someone else at the PCPD comes at me, I’ll tell them.”
PCPD: Squad Room
Anna ushered Lucky and Kelsey into her office and closed the door. “Lucky said this had to do with your father?”
She gestured for them to sit at her conference table. “I didn’t realize Oliver Joyce was related to you when we met,” Anna said. “I knew him, of course. I knew most lawyers in town, particularly anyone involved in the clubs back then.”
“I didn’t realize.” Kelsey bit her lip. “Then you knew my dad worked for Frank Smith.”
“Frank Smith was in jail, and wasn’t running much of anything to be quite honest. His daughter had left town, and his son wasn’t really involved with things. If I recall correctly, Damian had kept some of his father’s clubs, but it wasn’t a huge part of the business. Oliver worked for a lot of people during those days.”
“Oh.” Kelsey’s smile was small, but relieved. “So he wasn’t like, actually, a criminal.”
“Well, I can’t say that he wasn’t aware of some wrongdoing,” Anna cautioned, “but no, I don’t think he was actively involved with that part of the business. Generally, most of these organizations have legitimate lawyers working for them that stay apart from the business. I remember your father being more along those lines. I—I’m sorry to hear that he passed—” She gestured at the file in front of Lucky. “What happened to him?”
“Well, my mother told me that he’d died in a car accident in June of 1994, when I was thirteen,” Kelsey told her. “But recently, I found out he’d been shot.”
“We looked up the file in the PCPD archives.” Lucky slid it across the table to Anna. “It was ruled an accident.”
Anna frowned, opened the file and removed the report. “In the head—point blank—” She looked through the rest of the folder, focusing on the autopsy report. “How could this be ruled accidental? Within hours?”
“Mom said she was brought to the morgue the morning after the accident,” Kelsey said. “And she was told that if she fought the report, she’d regret it. She left town.”
“But that’s—that’s not right—I can’t believe Sean would have allowed this.” Anna exhaled slowly. “This was a cover up that went further than just the detective. The responding officers, the coroner—so many people had to be paid off for this to disappear like this.”
“Well, not necessarily,” Lucky reminded her. “The coroner, yeah. But the first responders — if they never followed up, then they might not have known it was filed this way. All they’d think is that it didn’t get headlines.”
“That’s true.” Anna tapped a pen. “You’ve obviously been looking into this. What are your thoughts?”
“My dad—” Lucky winced. “Um, I talked to him because he knew Frank Smith back then. He said that he remembered the cop on that report was one of Frank’s guys. And that he continued, uh,” he scratched his cheek. “His loyalties continued to be divided until he retired.”
“Ah, in other words, he was one of Corinthos’s moles,” Anna said dryly. “Did your father have anything else to offer?”
“He said he didn’t know a lot—he wasn’t really in the Smith fold at that point. He agreed with you that her dad was mostly on the legit side of the business. But that’s all he was willing to say to us.”
Anna sighed, looked down at the file. “And you were thinking maybe we might want to reopen the case?” she asked Kelsey.
“I don’t know. I honestly—I almost didn’t say anything. My mother is still scared,” Kelsey admitted. “And after the scandals the PCPD has weathered, I didn’t feel great about bringing another up. I know from what Lucky’s told me—there’s been a lot of mob turnover—”
“That’s true. The scene faded a bit after the Jeromes fell,” Anna said. “It was all gambling and drugs then. The smuggling—that’s new—mostly because of the fall of the Soviet Union.”
“Wait—” Kelsey frowned, traded looks with Lucky. “Really? That’s why it picked up back up?”
“Well, yes — according to Mac — when Corinthos took over, he brought connections to Puerto Rico and South America,” Anna told her. “Which made a water route to Canada very lucrative for drug and gun runners. There aren’t that many places with a water border to Canada and organized crime as well. You see it in Vancouver on the Pacific Coast. Once something is in Canada, it can be smuggled to Russia more easily—something that was more important once the Soviets fell.” She shrugged. “I had wondered why Corinthos was so important to the syndicate when I moved back. Port Charles had never been much of a power player before.”
She studied the report again. “And since Corinthos took over, they’ve gone through a number of local gangs as well as a few international foes from South America. Most of the men who worked for Smith—if they’re still alive and in the game, they work for Corinthos.”
“Sonny worked for Frank Smith, too,” Lucky said quietly. He looked at Kelsey. “I was thinking about what else my dad would keep secrets about. He never talked about Sonny other than the cop being his inside guy, but Sonny had to know something. He came up in the clubs, too.”
Lucky turned back to Anna. “Sonny helped Dad get out from under Frank Smith, and Dad got caught up in that stuff for a while. Until my mom almost left him. Sonny used to own shares in Luke’s. That’s why my dad wants it to be left alone. He doesn’t want us to dig up dirt on Sonny. Especially now.”
“It’s possible that’s a motive, but we won’t know unless your father divulges more.” Anna looked at Kelsey. “If you’re sure, I’ll assign the case to Lieutenant Taggert.”
“I’m as sure as I can be. I have to know the truth.”
The Star Lounge: Bar
Johnny stepped out from the office, wincing when he saw Jason seated at the bar. “Oh, man. My old man did something, didn’t he? That dumb fuck.”
“I don’t know,” Jason said. He reached into the inside pocket of his leather coat and set something on the bar. “You tell me.”
Johnny stared down at the stuffed yellow bear, then blinked at Jason. “I’m lost.”
“The bear came from Solana Ruiz for my son. Javier Ruiz did a favor for Anthony and told us that Ric Lansing had tried to use them to get back into the country back in January.”
Johnny exhaled slowly. “Which would have been three months after my father killed him. Okay, so that means the Ruiz family is just cruel and insane. That can’t be news to you. You’ve heard the rumors about the youngest son, haven’t you?”
Jason’s glare just grew colder. “That bear is an exact replica of one Ric Lansing gave my wife just before she miscarried last year.” He leaned forward. “You’re telling me that’s a coincidence?”
Johnny looked at the bear with renewed interest. “Someone sent her a bear to remind her of her first marriage and a miscarriage? That’s pretty cold,” he admitted. “And, yeah, I guess sending it through the Ruiz family is gonna make you wonder.” He put the bear down. “If it was my father, I don’t know anything about it. He likes to say he wants me to take over the business, but he’s kept me out of it.”
Jason put the bear back into his coat pocket. “You said you liked it here,” he said. “I know you’ve settled in and started to make a life for yourself. Tommy says the club profits are up.”
“Yeah,” Johnny drawled, skeptically. “I like it fine, so what?”
“Would your family do something like this?” Jason wanted to know. “Dig up something like that to use against me?”
“Would my father use psychological torture by attacking you through your family? Yes,” Johnny said. “Absolutely. But—I mean, who would know about the bear except your wife and Ric Lansing? I doubt Lansing told my dad or his own about any of this. And before you ask—” He held up a hand. “I had the unfortunate pleasure of being in the room when my father snapped and choked the life out of him.”
Jason nodded. “Why did Anthony snap that night?”
“Oh.” Johnny grimaced. “Well, the trial was coming up, and Dad was getting antsy about it. He thought Ric would make a deal, and he tried but your DA refused. Said he wanted to go to trial and wasn’t gonna give an inch. Basically, the only way Ric was gonna get out of this was to disappear or make a better deal with someone higher up.”
Jason’s mouth twisted. “He was thinking about turning on Zacchara.”
“Yeah, I think Dad got wind that Lansing was talking to the feds. I don’t know all the details — Dad just called a family meeting. He was fuming, and I knew he was on the edge. He doesn’t get like that a lot,” Johnny continued, “and when he does, you try to stay out of his way. Ric showed up and said something sarcastic, and Dad lost it. Trevor tried to get him off Ric, but when Dad gets like that—” Johnny shook his head. “Then Ric was dead. And Dad dumped his body. They deactivated the ankle bracelet and tossed it with him.”
“So, at first, the sightings were so no one would look at them for the murder,” Jason surmised. “To keep the suspicion from themselves.”
“Yeah, I think so. Always thought it was pretty cold for Trevor to help cover up his kid’s murder, but he’s always had ice in his veins.” Johnny shuddered. “Like I said, I’m not saying my dad wouldn’t do this — I just don’t know how he’d have the knowledge.”
“Yeah.” Jason got to his feet. “Thank you.”
“No problem. I told you, I don’t want any piece of this. I came here to keep things quiet and to get away from my father. If he’s doing anything to screw up the truce—” Johnny’s mouth twisted. “Doesn’t say much about how much he actually values me, does it?”
Quartermaine Mansion: Parlor
AJ stared at the petition for a long moment before looking at his grandfather. “I’m not crazy for signing this, am I?”
“No, I negotiated in good faith with Alexis.” Edward tipped his reading glasses up, glanced over his copy one more time. “Your parental rights will be reinstated, pending termination of Sonny’s adoption.” His mouth twisted. “This might be my favorite sentence ever put in print.”
AJ agreed but it still didn’t feel real. “And visitation. Carly agreed to it.”
“She did. She’s worried, of course, about Michael adjusting to everything, but your idea about family visitation rights helped.” Edward found the provision. “A supervised visit in a group setting for the first six weeks. At that point, you’ll determine whether Michael is ready for one on one.”
“It’s just—I’m close to getting my son back,” AJ murmured. “I’ve missed so much time with him, but he’s only six. I-I can make up for that, can’t I?” He found his grandfather’s eyes. “I don’t even remember anything before I was six. Maybe Michael won’t even remember any of this one day.”
“Maybe.” Edward slid the paperwork across the coffee table. “So sign it and let’s get your son back.”
AJ scribbled his name at the bottom, and a few minutes later, Alice led Carly and Alexis in from the foyer. Edward handed the petition to Alexis who put it in her bag.
“I’ll be filing it first thing in the morning,” Alexis told them. “I think it should be on the docket in about a month.”
“If not sooner.” Edward lifted his chin. “I’ll be making some calls,” he told Carly. “I think we’d all breathe more easily when this custody situation is dealt with.”
“Yeah.” Carly’s smile was thin and nervous. “Sonny had some sort of epiphany and he dropped his countersuit for the divorce, so it might not be as bad as I thought. At least that part. The custody, I still think he’s going for blood.”
“After what happened to Jason’s family, I fully support getting both those boys away from Sonny,” Edward said darkly. “I’ll be keeping my eye on this—”
“You don’t have to do that—”
“Morgan is Michael’s brother,” Edward said. “Which makes him part of this family. You spent a lot of time running from us, young lady—”
“For good reason,” AJ replied, and his grandfather glared at him. “What? We were all thinking it. And it’s not like Alexis didn’t run screaming from the altar when faced with joining the family.”
“I wasn’t screaming,” Alexis pointed out. “But, uh, yes, there was running involved.” She turned to Carly. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, I have to get to the club.” Carly looked at AJ, hesitated. “This weekend, I’m taking Michael over to Jason’s to meet Cameron. I’ll talk to Jason, but maybe we can make that the first visit.”
“I’d like that. Maybe Mom can come with us to make it less obvious why I’m there,” AJ offered.
“I’ll call you when it’s filed,” Alexis reminded AJ.
When they were gone, AJ looked back at his grandfather. “I’ll be going back to New Orleans next week, but I’ll be back June 1 to officially take over ELQ.” He was coming home to Port Charles and getting his son back.
As long as nothing went wrong.
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
“Scott, Taggert, thank you for coming in.” Anna closed the door behind the lieutenant and district attorney, waited for them to take a seat. “I had a cold case brought to my attention yesterday, and I think it’s worth looking at.”
“Oh, God, not another rape we missed.” Scott shook his head. “If you tell me we screwed up one more sexual assault, I’m going to throw myself out that window—”
“I invited you here because you have a connection to this case.” Anna set the file on the table. “And Taggert, I know that there are reasons this case ought to be assigned to Organized Crime, but I think that it requires your eye for detail.”
“What’s going on?” Taggert asked, looking at Scott, then Anna. “What’s the cold case?”
“Oliver Joyce.” Anna slid the file over to Taggert as Scott closed his eyes and exhaled slowly.
“Joyce?” Taggert repeated. “Is that—is that someone related to Kelsey?”
“Her father,” Scott said quietly. “Kelsey looked up the file, didn’t she?”
“She did.” Anna watched as Taggert opened the file, skimmed the report, then frowned as he saw the autopsy report. “You see the problem?”
Scott scowled. “What problem? The case went cold, didn’t it? That’s what Angie said, but—”
Taggert passed him the autopsy report and Scott stared at it. “Wait. This isn’t—this isn’t right—”
“You knew he’d been murdered?” Anna asked. “I’ve looked at this — even the newspapers reported it as a car accident. How did you—”
“Angie told me a few years ago,” Scott admitted. “When Kelsey was talking about being a lawyer like her dad. She got into college at sixteen, you know,” he reminded them. “And Angie was worried. She let something slip, so I pressed her. She said Ollie was killed by a stray bullet while driving. This isn’t—” He swallowed. “This isn’t a stray bullet. How did this get closed as a car accident?”
“David Case.” Taggert’s mouth tightened, and he looked at Scott who closed his eyes. “Yeah, you remember that asshole.” He looked at Anna. “Why is this coming up now? I mean, not that Kelsey doesn’t deserve to know what happened, but—”
“After Lucky was shot last month, Kelsey’s mom came to Port Charles, and said some things that made her wonder. She looked up the case, found out he’d been murdered, but held on to it.” Anna hesitated. “Yesterday, she and Lucky brought it to me.”
“A mob case from ten years ago.” Taggert looked at her. “I don’t do mob cases—”
“I know,” Anna said gently. “But I can’t give this to anyone else, and while I don’t know Kelsey very well, I respect her. Robin was only a little older when Robert and I—” She cleared her throat. “Robin didn’t know what happened to us. I don’t want to leave another little girl wondering.”
“Not a lot of suspects left,” Scott said, grimly. “You could talk to Luke Spencer—”
“Lucky did talk to his father briefly, but Luke was cagey. He did say that Detective Case was one of Corinthos’s moles, likely inherited from Frank Smith. Then he told Lucky to leave it alone.”
“Did he?” Scott lifted his brow, scowled. “So he knows something.”
“I think that if all the people who mattered were dead,” Anna said slowly, “Luke probably would have been more forthcoming. I believe Luke when he says he only has rumors. But her mother might know more. She’s just too scared to say anything.”
“But it’s a place to start.” He looked at Scott. “You knew this guy.”
“I did. You wanna start with me?”
“No, I think—I think maybe I wanna get some impressions from Spencer first. He might be willing to talk more now that Lucky’s had the case reopened. And if he doesn’t, well, I’m not sure we can do much without his help.” Taggert closed the file.
Scott looked at Anna. “Thank you. For putting this on the front burner.”
“One of our own failed this family,” Anna said as they stood. “It doesn’t matter if none of us were here then. We carry the weight.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
“Okay, so I got his schedule.” Maxie laid a sheet of paper flat on the table and looked expectantly at Cruz. “What day is good for you?”
“I think I missed something,” Cruz said, squinting and looking over at Dillon. “What’s going on?”
“I find if I’m quiet long enough, Maxie will keep talking and answer all my questions,” the other man said. He winced at the crash of thunder. “How long is it going to rain?” he complained. “All day—”
“Surprised you came out of your house long enough to notice,” Maxie muttered, still smarting from his earlier comment. “Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted—” She picked up the schedule. “I think Thursday is my best day. What about you?”
“Thursday’s child is full of woe,” Cruz offered. “So no.” He leaned over, then frowned. “That’s Dante’s work schedule.”
“Yeah, we’re planning the intervention.” Maxie made a face. “You’re right about Thursday. It has bad connotations.”
“That’s not what I—”
“Intervention?” Dillon said at the same time. “And wasn’t it Wednesday’s child was full of woe?”
“That’s right—” Maxie slapped his arm. “Thursday has far to go. There’s something to this. Thursday’s back in—”
“I have absolutely no idea what’s going on,” Cruz complained. “I was just eating my lunch—”
“We’ve given Dante plenty of space,” Maxie said in a tone that was clearly exasperated with the dumb boys around her. “Lucky got shot almost two months ago. No one is talking about Sonny anymore. Capelli’s long gone. It’s time for Dante to stop wallowing, go home to Cruz, and back to work protecting and serving. Lulu has let me down—”
“Why is this your business?” Dillon wanted to know. “And maybe Lulu knows more than we do—”
“Impossible. And it’s my business because I decided it was. That’s how it works here,” Maxie told Cruz. “Dillon’s slow on this—”
“Dillon’s going to declare mutiny in five seconds—”
“I run this show,” Maxie explained, patiently putting a hand up when Dillon opened his mouth to protest that. “No one likes to admit it, but that’s just how it rolls. I plan the events, I spread the gossip, and I fix the problems.”
“She’s the control freak,” Dillon clarified. “And we let her get away with it because—” He squinted, then scowled. “Okay, sometimes she’s right. But not this time. This time, Maxie, I think we just need to leave Dante alone.”
“But nothing.” Dillon shoved the schedule at Cruz. “Not everyone likes being dumped in the deep end of the Maxie Jones friendship pool, okay? You’re an acquired taste.”
Maxie pursed her lips, trying to decide if she’d been insulted or not. Cruz didn’t think they’d want to find out what happened if she decided on the former, so he jumped in. “Dillon’s right. Dante’s getting closer. I mean, he’s dating Lulu now, and you know she’s not gonna let him sit around much longer.”
“Hmmm, maybe. But I’m keeping my eye on this.”
GH: Examining Room
Elizabeth tried hard not to fidget as Dr. Devlin checked Cameron’s weight and other vitals, then his reflexes. “He’s sleeping well,” she volunteered. “I mean, as much as they said he would. About an hour at a time. And we’re checking his temperature all the time. Plus—”
“Relax, Mrs. Morgan,” the doctor said with an easy smile. He lifted Cameron from the scale and handed him back to Elizabeth. “I know how scary and nerve-wracking the first few days at home can be, but Cameron is progressing very well.”
“He is?” Elizabeth asked doubtfully, checking Cameron herself as if she couldn’t believe it. “Are you sure? I mean, of course you’re sure.”
“He’s gained weight faster than some babies his age, and that’s good,” Dr. Devlin assured her. “He’s a little ahead of where we thought he’d be. It’s only the first follow-up,” he cautioned her. “But if he continues to progress at this rate, then I think he’ll be caught up with other babies his age by his first birthday.”
“Caught up?” Elizabeth echoed. “Like developmentally, you mean. We won’t have to adjust his age anymore?”
“No, you won’t. He could still slow down, and we could have some complications,” the doctor warned as Elizabeth fastened Cameron into the stroller. “But you’re doing everything you should be.”
Elizabeth smiled down at her son who had already started to doze. “You hear that, Cam? We’re both getting a gold star.”
She took down the notes and suggestions, then thanked the doctor before heading out to the hallway where Richie was waiting outside the door.
“You ready to head home, Mrs. Morgan?” Richie asked as he straightened. Before she could answer, they heard the roll of thunder, and then a sharp crack of lightening. The lights flickered slightly in the hospital before coming back on. He frowned. “That storm is getting worse.”
“Yeah. It’s supposed to rain all day.” She grimaced, glancing at the elevator. “Maybe we should take the stairs. It’s only three flights, but I’d hate to get stuck in the elevator.”
“That probably won’t happen,” he said as she started down the other hall towards the stairwell. There was another roll of the thunder, and the lights flickered again. “Then again—”
He braced open the door for her to push the stroller through. “You okay to carry him down the stairs? I can take the stroller,” he offered.
“Yeah, that’ll be the best.” Elizabeth leaned down to unfasten Cameron and lift him into her arms. God, she loved holding him. Her precious miracle. “Let’s get down to the parking garage level and get home. I can’t wait to tell Daddy how good you were,” she told Cameron as they started down the stairs. She went first, and Richie came behind her, grunting a bit from the weight of the stroller.
She reached the landing below, then turned to find Richie still halfway up the stairs. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said to him, seeing how he was struggling from the awkward shape and weight.
The lights flickered again, and then went out completely, plunging the stairwell into inky darkness. Elizabeth heard a grunt and a shout, then the sound of crashing. She clutched Cameron tightly, looking around frantically, trying to get her bearings.
Then the lights flashed and, and for a moment, at the top of the stairs—Elizabeth saw the outline of a man with dark hair. She screamed, then the lights went out, leaving them in complete darkness.