Part Three: Mercy
“If I can’t feel, if I can’t move, if I can’t think, and I can’t care, then what conceivable point is there in living?”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
There’s a darkness living deep in my soul
I still got a purpose to serve
So let your light shine, deep into my home
God, don’t let me lose my nerve
Don’t let me lose my nerve
– Put Your Lights On, Santana featuring Everlast
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Warehouse: Sonny’s Office
Everything was going to pieces around him. Two bookies had been arrested, a third had disappeared outright, their warehouse had been raided by the PCPD, and there was a labor strike among the waterfront workers.
It should have been a disaster—he should be ready to burn the place down.
Sonny had complete control over it all.
He looked to Francis Corelli. “You look like shit, man. You slept?”
Francis scrubbed a hand over his face, his skin shadowed with stubble, his eyes rimmed with red. “No. I came here straight from the airport. Alcazar is still in Venezuela. I talked to Ramon down there, he said there’s been no peep of him outside his usual territory.”
Sonny scowled and pointed at Johnny O’Brien. “What about the Ruizes?”
“Nothing. Which doesn’t mean anything,” Johnny said. He shifted on his feet. “They usually play things pretty close to the chest until it’s too late. I’m working on getting a mole inside the organization, but Hector is old school and usually doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t family.”
Sonny looked at Tommy Esposito who didn’t look remotely cheerful. “And nothing from the Zaccharas.”
“No, sir.” Tommy’s scowl matched his three co-lieutenants. “I got a guy inside. He’s one of Trevor’s lackeys, but he says there hasn’t been any notion of Anthony moving on anything up here.”
From his position at Sonny’s side, Jason spoke for the first time. “What about his son? He still out of the game?”
“Yeah.” Tommy’s eyes flicked at Sonny, but Sonny said nothing. Sonny’s earlier suspicions of the Zacchara were well-known, but that was then. “As far as Trevor and Anthony are concerned, Johnny’s a dilettante. Does nothing all day but hang around a girlfriend he thinks Anthony doesn’t know about or go to art shows and music clubs. Mostly, people think he’s useless.”
Sonny sat in his chair and sighed. “So we’re no closer to the bastard who’s gas lighting us.” He did have the urge to swipe all his papers from the desk, but he didn’t feel it the way he might have just a month earlier.
He was just…frustrated. Someone was coming at him and they were investigating all the usual suspects in the usual ways, and they were getting nowhere. “Who haven’t we thought of?” Sonny asked Jason. “You call in Stan? He still got Faith Roscoe on his radar?”
“She’s sunning herself in Ibiza,” Jason said. “We have a guy at the airport. As soon as she makes moves to leave, we’ll know, but we made our position real clear when we forced her and Alcazar out of town last year. Either of them steps foot in our territory, we’re not going to ask questions first.”
“She’ll come back eventually,” Sonny murmured. “But this doesn’t feel like Faith.” He looked back at the three men standing in front of him. “Until one of these assholes does something to warrant my lieutenants on them 24/7, I’m pulling you. Pick the best guy from each of your crews. Keep them on Alcazar, Hector, and Anthony.” He looked at Jason. “Send someone to keep a closer eye on Faith. I don’t want any surprises. Maybe they’re not behind what’s going on, but I don’t want any of them reading weakness. Keep working on getting guys into higher levels. Moles are always good.”
He rose to his feet again. “I need you three at home for now. Tommy, the bookies are running scared after Frankie and Ollie were arrested. Get them under control. Get collections moving again. Johnny, I want you on security with Jason.” He looked at Jason again. “I know you’re solid on that, Jase, but an extra pair of eyes never hurts. We got too much at stake to put anyone at risk. Make sure the Towers are safe, Carly’s clubs, Michael’s school, ah…” Sonny hesitated and squinted. “Elizabeth’s got her old studio opened up right? At the docks?”
“I bought the building last month,” Jason told him. “We’re upgrading the security now. I also have the hospital secure and Elizabeth’s grandmother.”
“Kelly’s,” Francis said. They looked at him. “You’re not directly linked to it, but Carly’s connection is well-known. And your father still manages it. And you know, Elizabeth used to work there.”
“Yeah.” Sonny nodded. “And make sure Bobbie and Lucas have good security at the Brownstone.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m missing something.”
“The warehouse is already pretty secure,” Jason said. “I can’t think of anything else, Sonny.”
Sonny nodded. “Francis, then, I want you to get together with Jordan. Meet with the head of the waterfront union. I’m supposed to control these damn workers, make them remember that. I own half the water front. They don’t want to work for me, they can go somewhere else. Get this strike over with. It puts too many eyes on our activities. I got Vega in my ear about suspending his shipments into Canada, and it goes without saying I don’t want to hear Zacchara bitching at me about not moving his product.”
“Sonny…” Johnny traded a look with Francis. “Have you thought about the other possibility for what’s going on?”
Sonny slid a hand over his face. “You mean that it’s not an external threat?” He exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Yeah. I know it might be an inside job. It has the hallmarks.”
He watched as Jason tensed slightly at his side and knew his partner expected some sort of explosion. But Sonny felt calm. Pissed as fucking hell, but calm. He could do this. He’d dealt with traitors before.
“Yeah. I got Stan and Bernie coming in after you guys. We’re going to start in depth background checks, identify some possibilities.” Sonny hesitated. “I know things have been…rocky this last year. I let my personal life get a bit out of control, but that’s over now.”
He knew his lieutenants weren’t completely convinced but Sonny knew as long as Jason was loyal to him, these men would be too. And while that did claw at him a bit, he knew it wasn’t undeserved.
“You guys got your assignments. You can report to Jason unless I need to see you again.”
Once the three men had filed out, Jason took a seat in front of Sonny’s desk. “I didn’t know you had considered a possible traitor,” he said, his tone carefully flat.
“Didn’t want to voice it for sure until I heard from the guys.” Sonny twisted off the cap from a bottle of water and sipped. “I fucking hate traitors, but I guess with the bullshit of the last few years, I shouldn’t be surprised.” He met Jason’s eyes. “I know you’re waiting for me to lose it over this.”
“I…” Jason shook his head. “No, you’ve been better, Sonny. I hope it’s okay that I say—” He shifted. “I know we don’t have a good track record of talking about this.”
“No, we don’t, but that’s about me, not you.” Sonny laid his hands flat on the desk. “I’m on medication. It’s early days yet, I won’t know if it’s the right answer for another month or so, but for now, it keeps me balanced.” He met Jason’s eyes. “Thank you, for standing by me. I’m not—I’m not saying we’re right yet. That I’m good. But I’m closer today than I was yesterday, and I have every hope that tomorrow will be better.”
“So you did go to New York to see a doctor,” Jason said, some of tension bleeding from his shoulders. “I—I wondered.”
Sonny nodded. “I met with a doctor. He comes up once a week for a therapy session.” He hesitated. “Did—did Elizabeth mention she had come to see me?”
Jason nodded. “Yeah. She—she wanted to help.”
“That’s usually how she gets herself in trouble,” Sonny murmured, but he smiled. “She’s like you, Jason. Too generous with herself. Gives and gives until there’s not much left to her. She told me a bit about California. I got the idea maybe she’s not all the way past the crap my brother put her through, so I hope she’s okay.”
“She is.” Jason leaned forward, hesitated a moment. “She still has a lot of guilt inside. About that summer and the panic room. She’s…been talking to a friend at the hospital about it.”
“Good.” Sonny sipped his water again. “Good. I like her. I always did. I hope she’ll let me take her for a spin on the dance floor at your party next week.”
Jason winced. “Yeah. I’m sure she will.”
Sonny laughed, and God, didn’t it feel damn good to be doing this? To be talking to Jason like they were friends again and not undeclared enemies? Fuck what a wasteland this last year had been. He could do this. He could pull himself back from the edge.
“It’ll be a good time,” he told his friend. “You’ll wear a suit, pose for some pictures. She’ll look gorgeous as always, and you’ll make her happy.”
Max knocked on Sonny’s slightly ajar door and pushed it open. “Yo, boss, Bernie and Stan are here.”
The light hearted banter of the past few moments were forgotten as Jason and Sonny got down to business.
Carly sipped her iced tea and tried not let her eyes cross as Bobbie talked about the work Lucas was doing at PCU in his pre-med program. Carly thought she should get credit for even remembering what the little pissant was studying. He always looked at her as if she was still the home wrecker that broke his parents apart.
She was, but she didn’t like it when people who didn’t know better judged her. Fucking Lucas. He’d been adopted, but Bobbie had fought for him. Wanted to keep him. Not like the bastard daughter she’d tracked down just for shits and giggles long after she’d thrown Carly away.
Carly swallowed those thoughts, because that wasn’t her life anymore. She and Bobbie were even now, after all. Bobbie’s perfect life had been smashed to smithereens, and that’s all Carly had ever wanted.
It was enough. Carly had other things on her mind—more important than reminding Bobbie what a shitty mother she had been.
“…and I’m so glad you and Jason are doing better…”
Jason’s name in the middle of Bobbie’s babble caught Carly’s attention so she tuned back into her mother. “What? Why do you say that?”
Bobbie set her water on the table with a frown. “Well, you’re hosting his engagement party next week, Carly. Why else would Jason allow that if things weren’t better?”
Because that old harridan had been cornered into it. Carly smirked. She had seen the annoyance in Audrey Hardy’s eyes when Jax called Carly to the table. She had seen the way Audrey’s eyes darted back and forth, but there had been no graceful way to bow out, not without possibly complicating matters between Jason and Sonny.
“That’s got nothing to do with me and Jason,” Carly said. She pushed her fork around her in her salad. “It’s about Jason and Sonny. Preserving the peace at any cost.”
“I will admit, things seem to be better in that quarter,” Bobbie said. “I was doing the books last week, and they came in and had coffee at the counter. Sonny seems to be doing so much better, Carly. It’s wonderful to see the light back in his eyes.”
Fucker was probably having an affair again. She didn’t care what Courtney said—Sonny had been different after that trip to New York. He’d found someone who didn’t remind him of the daughter he’d given away. He disappeared for hours every week. She knew there was something going on, and oh, wouldn’t Sonny be sorry when she got to the bottom of it?
If Port Charles thought Carly had been a vindictive slut when it came to her mother, oh the world had better put on their fucking seatbelts if she discovered Sonny cheating on her again. She would burn it to the ground. Total war. Scorched earth. Nowhere Sonny could hide. She would rip his balls out—
“Carly? Isn’t it better at home?”
Carly blinked and looked at her mother, realizing for the first time Bobbie had expected a response. “Oh. Yeah. Things are fan-fucking-tastic. The perfect marriage, Bobbie.”
Bobbie frowned. “Carly—”
“Is Lucas dating anyone?” Carly asked, because she was tired of talking about Sonny.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth winced as she saw Carly and Bobbie were still in the courtyard eating lunch. She was going to have to wait them out—she was doing such a great job of avoiding Carly these days.
“I hope that’s not for me,” Nikolas said, arching a brow as he pulled out a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. “I like to think I’m not that much work.”
Elizabeth laughed. “No, no, of course not.” She gestured toward the door. “Carly and Bobbie were in the courtyard when I got here, so I came in through the back—Mike loves me, after all. But they’re still out there.”
“Ah.” Nikolas nodded. “Still keeping the peace by not talking to her. I suppose that means Audrey is dealing with the details for the party?”
“Well, it was her idea to have it at Carly’s club.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Carly’s assistant is doing most of the stuff. Gram says she only signed the contract with Carly.”
“Hmm…” Nikolas handed her the papers. “I had Andrew go over this. He made a few notations and offered to handle the negotiations if you’re inclined to go forward.”
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as she took in the post-it note attached to the proposed partnership agreement. “What does he think?”
“Well, I knew the name Jerome sounded vaguely familiar,” Nikolas told her. “So I asked Emily, who thought Luke might know. I had Lucky run interference. Luke asked Bobbie because he couldn’t remember where he heard the name—”
“Is this going somewhere?”
“And Bobbie remembered Victor and Julian Jerome. Some crime family from New York that set up shop for a few years in Port Charles about fifteen, sixteen years ago.” Nikolas sighed. “Always comes back to that. Anyway, she didn’t remember any Ava Jerome attached to that. There was a sister, but she had a different last name. Lucas’s natural father is Julian Jerome—”
“Oh, yeah, I remember now.” Elizabeth frowned. “Hmm. Jason didn’t say anything but I guess if they were that long ago, it was before Sonny’s time. I guess I’ll get him to run a background check on Ava before we go any further.”
“It’s probably a coincidence,” Nikolas said. “But better safe than sorry. Anyway, as for the contract itself, Andrew said it was a bit unfair. Considering your reputation in the art world—”
“The fact that I have one still astounds me,” Elizabeth murmured.
“And the fact that your work was shown at the Harris Gallery, which is more prestigious and has a longer history in New York—the Jerome gallery is a bit more niche. It tends to launch careers but that’s pretty much it.” Nikolas sipped his coffee. “So he thinks the fifty-fifty profit offering isn’t very fair. You’ll be doing most of the work here in Port Charles. Once the galley is open, that agreement provides you’ll head up the gallery and the foundation, which means you’ll be doing the lion’s share of the work.”
Elizabeth scowled. “I told Luther I didn’t want something so time consuming. I have two small children and a career of my own, not to mention I’m getting married.”
“It wouldn’t be that difficult, Liz.” Nikolas leaned forward. “I could put you in touch with some good managers. They’d steer you through a lot of the grunt work. You’d show up, be the gorgeous face at the benefits, but you could leave them most of the work. Still, Andrew says you should counter with an eighty-twenty split and refuse to go lower than seventy-thirty. You don’t need Ava Jerome. You have your own reputation.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth chewed her lip. “But I want someone to share the risk. I made a lot from my first show, and Luther has looked at the work I’ll be exhibiting in December—he expects it to be even bigger. But still, I don’t want to tie up my capital in this.” She glanced at him. “And it goes without saying that while Jason would invest if I needed him, he doesn’t want to.”
“He wants it to be separate in case…” Nikolas waved his hand in the air. “Something happens. I suppose he wants to keep your art money separate as well.”
“Yeah. I mean, I’ll have access to his accounts, but you know, it’s just easier this way. I have my own money manager, too. Literally the only thing Jason and I are sharing are the kids.” She smiled. “It’s fine. It’s nice to have enough money to worry about it.”
“Any idea if you’ll be adopting Evie?” Nikolas asked.
“No.” Elizabeth tucked the partnership agreement in her bag. “No, but I don’t think either of us will. Sonny’s been doing so much better lately. And while Carly is a concern, Jason seems to think we’ll be able to work something out with custody at some point. We did, however, start the process for Cameron.”
Nikolas hesitated, and she sighed. “Go ahead, Nikolas. I know you want to say it.”
“You know that I’ve tried very hard to be supportive this time,” he told her. “And I haven’t even been lying. I can see you’re happier with Jason, and since my family has tried to kill you on more than one occasion, it’s not like I have a lot of room to talk. So when I say this next part, I want you remember how good I’ve been.”
“You’ve been the very definition of a best friend,” Elizabeth told him with mock somberness. “So carry on.”
“You and I both know the next danger is not going to come from what Jason does for a living,” Nikolas said. “It’s going to come from Sonny and Carly. Now, I know Sonny is doing better. He and I were part of the meeting with the union leaders last week since this godforsaken strike is screwing up both our businesses. There was a calmness about him I have not seen in years. So whatever he’s doing, I’m glad.”
“But?” she prompted.
“But if Sonny’s being treated with medication, as Emily thinks, she worries that he might stop taking it. Or that it’s something that working for now, but it might not work full-time. She’s been studying bipolar disorder like crazy and she says it’s a difficult illness to treat. If Sonny’s doctor caught him in the middle of a low cycle, he might prescribe anti-depressants, thinking it was depression.”
Elizabeth hesitated. “Jason—he said Sonny hasn’t said much about the medication he’s on. Barely acknowledges it. I don’t know what he’s taking. But—” She bit her lip. “An anti-depressant would help him in the low points, but if he starts to cycle up—”
“Yeah, exactly. Emily gave me this list…” He pulled it out from his pocket. “Some symptoms to look for if he starts to cycle. She’s been so busy at the hospital—”
Elizabeth took it. “An anti-depressant would probably aggravate the situation during a manic episode, wouldn’t it?” she said softly. “Heighten it.”
“I’ve never seen Sonny during a truly manic episode, but I can’t imagine it’s pretty. Jason would know better.”
She pursed her lips as she scanned symptoms. “Jason…” She closed her eyes, feeling guilty about talking about this behind Jason’s back, but this was her life she was protecting. “He said that Sonny’s been trying to control it for months. That he hasn’t crashed.”
“If he crashes on anti-depressants, it could make it worse.” Nikolas leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know much about this, Liz. And maybe I don’t care for Sonny much, but I’ve seen what mental illness does to people. God knows my family is delusional. I just…maybe we’re overreacting. We don’t even know if it’s bipolar disorder.”
“No, I guess we don’t.” Elizabeth sighed and put the list away. “But I can’t think what else it might be.” She looked at him. “Thank you for being such an amazing friend, Nikolas. I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
“The feeling is more than mutual.”
Morgan Penthouse: Bedroom
Jason pulled back the bed sheet and frowned slightly at her. “Jerome? No, there’s no one on the radar with that name.”
Elizabeth unclasped her necklace and set it inside her jewelry case. “Nikolas thought it was probably a coincidence, but he wanted me to be aware.”
He sat on the edge of the bed and watched as she removed her watch and earrings before opening a dresser drawer for one of his t-shirts to sleep it. “I’ll have Bernie run a check on her. It’s probably nothing, but Nikolas is right. Better to be safe than sorry.”
She smiled at him as she drew the cotton over her head, the hem hanging halfway to her knees. She crawled over the bed until she was on her knees in front of him. “I’m going to hire a lawyer Nikolas recommended to go over the contract anyway.”
“But you think you’re going to go through with it.”
“Yeah, but I’m definitely going to be bugging Nikolas for all kinds of advice.” She bit her lip. “I know we talked about you not investing in it, and you know, I get it, but if Nikolas offers, you won’t be mad?”
“No.” Jason twisted until he was seated fully on the bed and rested his hands at her hips. “I don’t want the gallery combined with my money in anyway. If the IRS ever came after us, if any assets were ever seized, I don’t want you to be left without any resources. You should get your own investors, your own lawyers, and business managers.”
“That’s what I figured, but I thought I should be sure.” She brushed her lips against his before sliding under the sheets and adjusting the monitor for Evie and Cam’s room. Nora had one as well and normally reached the nursery before Elizabeth or Jason, but Elizabeth still kept it on her side of the bed.
“But I would feel better if you’d let Bernie run background checks on any investors or people you hire to work there,” Jason said. “Just to be safe.”
“I figured. And you’ll be in charge of the security, too.” She turned on her side. “After everything my grandmother is putting you through with this party, it’s the least I can do, right?”
Jason smirked as he switched off his lamp, plunging the room in shadows. He drew her to her side. “Sonny asked if you’d save him a dance.”
“Yeah?” She peered up at him. “So things really are better?”
“They are.” Jason hesitated. “Sonny is seeing a doctor. Once a week. And he’s on medication. He says they won’t know for a few more weeks if it’s the right dosage, but he’s…it’s as close to his old self as I’ve ever seen him. He’s been calm, in control. Even joked with me today.” He stroked her back, his fingers dancing down her spine. “He told me you came to see him.”
“And he said he hoped you were doing okay. It was like…”
“Like it used to be?” she murmured.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I don’t know if it’s going to last, but whatever you said to him—it got through. Maybe it’ll still be rough while he gets his treatment adjusted, but maybe it’ll be all right.”
“I’m so glad.” She leaned up to kiss him more fully. “I told you we’d get through this.”
“Yeah, you did.” And he rolled her to her back, kissing her neck as she giggled.
He was not a good man, but whatever he’d done to deserve her walking back into his life last December—he would spent the rest of his life making sure she never regretted it.