Chapter 6

This entry is part 6 of 41 in the Signs of Life

It seems no one can help me now
I’m in too deep
There’s no way out
This time I have really lead myself astray
Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one-way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there

Runaway Train, Soul Asylum

Friday, December 31, 1999

Kelly’s: Diner

Elizabeth dumped a few coffee mugs into the dish tub and turned back to the counter, frowning when she saw her grandmother. “Gram.”

“Elizabeth,” Audrey said with a stiff nod. “I was hoping you would reconsider coming to the hotel with me tonight for the party.”

She opened her mouth, then saw Carly sauntering in and taking a seat at the counter. This was definitely the last thing she needed today. “Thanks, Gram, but I already have plans tonight.”

Audrey’s expression grew even more stony. “With Jason Morgan?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, ignoring Carly’s smirk. “Gram—”

“I certainly hope I won’t have to be attending your funeral,” her grandmother snapped then stormed out of the diner.

Fantastic. Her day was going just great. She turned her attention to Carly. “What can I get you?”

“It’s really what I can get for you,” Carly said coolly. “I’m here to do you a favor, Little Miss Muffet—”

“I doubt that—”

“You know Jason’s only playing around with you because of me,” Carly interrupted and Elizabeth closed her mouth. “Because I made a mistake—”

“Just the one?”

“He always comes back.” Carly leaned forward, her brown eyes dancing with glee and malice. “You can ask Robin. I was his first, you know? After the accident. She wasn’t enough for him—”

“That’s—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “That’s none of my business—”

“It should be. He and I—we have chemistry. You know, where it counts. You’ve seen him, haven’t you? He’s gorgeous, sexy—” Carly closed her eyes and Elizabeth’s throat burned because she knew what the other woman was insinuating. “Mmm, the things he can do with those hands—”

“I have customers—” Elizabeth started to turn away, but Carly’s hand snaked out and wrapped around Elizabeth’s forearm.

“He always comes back to me,” Carly repeated. “He likes to pretend girls like you turn him on—fragile, soft—” She paused. “Damaged.”

Elizabeth flinched at that, and Carly’s lips curved into a smile. “That’s right. He put up with Robin and her sob story for as long as he could. I know about you.”

Her breath froze in her lungs and Elizabeth could only stare at her in stunned silence. “Everyone knows. I’m sorry for you,” Carly added. “Because you were young. Don’t think I’m not sympathetic—”

“Sympathetic—” Elizabeth choked out.

“Sympathetic enough to let you take a few rolls with Jason to get yourself back in the game.” Carly shrugged, released Elizabeth’s arm. “He’ll make you like sex again.”

Her stomach was rolling and bile had risen in her throat until she nearly gagged from it, but Carly just continued. “And you might even entertain him for a little while. At the end of the day, honey, you and I both know you’re not enough to keep him. He’ll get bored, just like he did with Robin, and then he’ll come back to me. He always does.”

Carly got to her feet and adjusted the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “I told you, kid, this was me doing you a favor. Have your fun for as long as he’ll let you but don’t fool yourself. You’re not woman enough for Jason. You’re just a damaged little girl looking for a hero.”

As soon as Carly had left the diner, Elizabeth went into the kitchen and straight into the walk in fridge to give herself a long moment. To take a deep breath. She had Emily’s words rolling in her mind to just talk to Jason, to ask him—

But she also knew that Carly’s venom was rooted in truth. Elizabeth was damaged. She was fragile. Not as much as she had been, that much was true. She could take care of herself — but in the ways that mattered — as a woman — there was a piece of Elizabeth that would always be broken. Shattered.

And she was terrified that Carly was right — that the piece of her soul Tom Baker had stolen that night meant that she could never be okay. That she would always be trapped in those bushes, her back against the cold, frozen dirt with someone looming over her—

“Lizzie?” DJ poked his head in. “You okay?”

She closed her eyes and sank to the ground, resting her head against the cool metal wall. “No,” she said softly.

“Let me call Tammy, kid.” The cook edged his way into the freezer and knelt in front of her. “We’ll get someone to cover your shift—”

“No.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’ll—I’ll do it. I have to call someone anyway.”

Elm Street Pier

Jason was just heading to Kelly’s for some dinner when he felt the phone in his pocket vibrate. He tugged it out and smiled when he saw Elizabeth’s name on the screen. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Her voice sounded a bit strange—almost flat and empty. “I’m not feeling well, so I’m going home early.”

Jason frowned. “I’ll be right there. We can get your stuff tomorrow—”

“No, I—” She cleared her throat. “No, I—I, um, talked to Emily. I’m going to stay with her. I just—I’m sorry.”

“Elizabeth, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I mean, except for—I think I’m getting a cold—”

“Then let me—” He could take care of her, the way she’d done for him. “I’ll come right now—”

“Jason, I—look, I’m sorry. Please. I just—I have to go.” The line went dead, and Jason found himself staring at the silent phone, unsure what had happened. Things had been fine that morning. She’d been happy and hadn’t seemed sick at all.

He grimaced. If Carly had gone after him—why wouldn’t she confront Elizabeth? Damn it.


Wearily, Elizabeth pushed open her door, then slid the bolt to lock it behind her. She’d felt terrible lying to Jason about where she was spending the night. She reminded herself that she’d go to Emily’s in the morning.

She just didn’t want to see anyone or anything right now. She wanted to sit with herself in the dark, the quiet—

Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair and took a deep breath. It was stupid to let Carly into her head, stupid to let the words sink into her bones.

Stupid to think that Carly wasn’t right.

The phone rang, and Elizabeth jumped from the sound. She turned to look at her landline, wondering if it was Jason. Or maybe it was someone else—

She bit her lip, considered letting the machine pick up but then reached for it. If it was Jason, she almost wanted him to catch her in the lie. To come over.

Elizabeth lifted the receiver to her ear. “Hello?”

“Miss Webber, hello. This is Joseph Sorel.”

Her heart froze for a moment, then began to beat wildly in her chest. “What—”

“I regret to tell you that this will be the last time we speak. I hope you’ve made peace with yourself.”

“What the hell—” Elizabeth began, then she heard something slam against her door. She rushed towards it — tried to twist the knob. It wouldn’t turn.

“It won’t open. Now, go check under the table.”

Elizabeth obeyed, kneeling down to peer underneath her artist’s table—then her mouth dried up.

“Have you found it yet? You’re trapped, my dear, and unless you do exactly as I say, you won’t see the year 2000. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she breathed, staring at the 5:00 numbers blinking in red, attached to a bulky device. Then, in horrors, they stopped blinking, then began to change. 4:59. 4:58.

Oh, God. There was a bomb in her studio.

Studio: Back Alley

Jason was already irritated with himself as he approached the back door entrance to her building. He hadn’t been checking on Elizabeth when he’d called his sister earlier — but Emily had no idea what he was talking about. She was going to a party that night, and Elizabeth was definitely not supposed to be with her.

Elizabeth wasn’t someone who lied without a damn good reason, and Jason had a feeling he knew who had caused all of this. Carly hadn’t gotten the reaction she wanted from him, so she’d gone after someone she thought of as a weaker target.

He’d find out what Carly had said to Elizabeth, he’d fix it — and then—

He stopped short when he saw that the back entrance to her building had been blocked off. There were boards nailed across it.

They had not been there that morning.


“What do you want?” Elizabeth demanded, her heart racing as she went back to the door and started to pull on it. Damn it, damn it—it wouldn’t turn—

“I can’t have you speaking to the PCPD about the night Anthony Moreno died,” Sorel said, his voice almost tinny in her ear. “You agree not to alibi Jason Morgan, and I’ll tell you how to deactivate the bomb—”

“Are you—” Her heart seized. “Wait — can’t you just turn it off?”

“Oh, it’s not that kind of device,” Sorel said with a laugh. “Once I start the timer—”

“Then why am I wasting my time talking to you—” She hissed and slammed the phone down. Almost immediately, it started to ring again. “What? I told you—”


“Jason!” Elizabeth nearly sank to her knees in relief. “Jason, I can’t get out—there’s a bomb—”

“What?” Jason bit out. “Where? What—damn it—both entrances to the building are blocked—”

“My door—they did something to the—” She pressed the receiver to her ear, trying to think. He’d never make it upstairs in four minutes. She was trapped. “Jason, you have to go.”


“You won’t—” She turned around, trying to gage the size of the window. Could she push it open and get out? It was a hard fall but she had a better chance—She turned back to the phone. “You won’t get here in time, and I don’t want you to get hurt, okay? This is my fault—”


“I’m sorry.” She hung up the phone and went to the window, shoving the couch over to it. She boosted herself onto the window sill and shoved it open. She glanced down, swallowing hard. It was trash day and the alley was littered with boxes and crates—

She looked back to the studio, focused on the door in the back, the closet. Could she hide in there? Would that block the shockwaves? How strong was the bomb? Damn it, why hadn’t she paid attention when bombs went off on television?

She looked under the table, swallowing hard. Two minutes left.


Jason didn’t bother calling her again. She wouldn’t answer. He needed to get upstairs, he needed to get to her and get her to safety—

He tossed the phone aside, grabbed one of the boards with his hands and yanked. Nails and splinters dug into his flesh but he didn’t stop to let the pain register. He kept going.

He had the door unblocked and was running up the stairs, taking them three or four at a time, his chest heaving, his heart pounding—

How long was the timer—did she know to hide—how to protect herself—


Elizabeth dragged the sofa in front of the table, and then stacked a few things — unused canvases, her easel — anything to block the blast—

And when she knew her time was almost at its end, she went into the closet, dragging boxes and supplies behind her, not caring as they tipped and spilled. She closed herself inside, then curled into a ball in the closet.

Then she put her head down and prayed.

On her floor, Jason rushed down the hallway towards the studio. He tested the knob but it refused to turn—he braced a shoulder against it and forced it open —

Elizabeth heard a loud bang and screamed, thinking it was the bomb, thinking it was over—

Then the door to the closet was dragged open and hands were reaching in, reaching under her elbows to drag her to her feet. “Jason?”

“Let’s go,” he said, half carrying, half dragging her out of the studio, past the broken down door. Elizabeth didn’t argue.

Elm Street Pier

The blast of wintry cold air against her cheeks forced her brain to react. “Wait, wait—”  She turned back to her building. “It didn’t go off.”

Jason was running his hands down her shoulders, down her arms, checking for injuries — then he stopped. “What?”

“Five minutes.” Her lips started to chatter and Jason yanked off his jacket to wrap it around her. “The timer. And when I went into the closet, it had to be around thirty seconds—”

They both looked back at the building now, waiting to hear the explosion. Waiting. Nothing. Elizabeth blinked. “Was it real?” she asked softly. “Was it fake?”

“I don’t know, but I’m not leaving you out here in the open to find out,” Jason said. “I’ll call a team—” he winced. “Will someone call in the noise I made when I came through the door?”

“Not in that building,” Elizabeth said, leaning her forehead against his shoulder. She frowned, reached for his hands. “What did you do?”


“Jason—” His hands were bleeding, scraped, and there were splinters—She raised her eyes to his. “I—”

“Come on.” He reached for his cell phone, then grimaced. “I lost it in the alley. We’ll go to the penthouse. We’ll figure it out.” He hesitated. “Please. I just—I need you to be safe. We can—”

She hadn’t listened to him earlier. He’d asked her not to go back to the studio alone, and she’d not only done that—she’d lied to him about it. Elizabeth swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t—I didn’t think—” She pressed a fist to her mouth as it sunk in. She’d nearly died and Jason might have died, too, trying to get her out— “I’m sorry,” she repeated.

“We’ll talk about it later, it’s okay,” he assured her, tugging on her her arm again. She sighed and followed him. Sure they’d talk about it, and then it would probably be over. He’d never trust her again. Not after she’d nearly gotten them both blown up.


  • Thanks for the update. You had me crying for what Carly told Liz about her rape.

    According to Shelly Samuel on February 8, 2023
  • I really hate Carly. I hope Elizabeth tells Jason what Carly said and her fears.

    According to Carla P on February 8, 2023
  • Why would there be a fake bomb? Carley is really a piece of cake. Devils food.

    According to leasmom on February 8, 2023
  • I can’t stand Carly!!! She was so cruel and vile to Elizabeth. I was so worried about Elizabeth getting out but Jason saved her. Sorel just made his biggest mistake. This is so good!

    According to arcoiris0502 on February 13, 2023
  • So hate Carly. Every time I read this chapter, a part of me thinks Carly is the one who instigated the bomb threat. (I know it’s not her voice, but still always makes me think she’s connected to it somehow.)

    According to LivingLiason on September 1, 2023