This entry is part 30 of 37 in the Counting Stars
The angels they burn inside for us
Are we ever, are we ever gonna learn to fly
The devils they burn inside of us
Are we ever gonna come back down
I’m always gonna worry about
The things that could make us cold
– Angels or Devils, Dishwalla
Wednesday, May 10, 2000
New Imperial Hotel: Jason & Elizabeth’s Room
Elizabeth hadn’t thought she was hungry, but as soon as the chicken was put in front her, she felt the hunger pangs. Laura was right. She had to make sure she was thinking clearly, that the baby was getting its nutrients, so she ate — while Laura, then Alexis, started to pace.
“How long does it take to pick up footage?” Alexis muttered.
Elizabeth set her napkin aside. “They’re watching it first,” she said softly. She met Laura’s eyes. “Because Luke thinks they’re going to find Jason leaving on his own.”
“It’s okay. I know that didn’t happen, so—” Elizabeth pushed her plate away. “I can understand. He’s trying to protect me, and Sonny’s no different. They want to have any bad news ready. No surprises.”
“Still—” Laura stopped as there was a knock on the door. Alexis pulled it open, and Luke strode in.
“We got the taxi number.” Luke set the tapes on the nightstand. “Sonny’s tracking that down to see where the car took him. We, uh, watched the hotel footage, too.” Luke sat on the bed. “We don’t have Jason coming back to the hotel. At least not through the lobby.”
Her breath rushed out in a whoosh. “Not at all? He never—”
“We might have missed him. He might have come in a different entrance. Sonny’s contact is getting us Tuesday as well. All we got so far is Monday, but right now, if we go with the theory that he didn’t leave on his own—”
“It’s not a theory,” Elizabeth bit out.
“—it makes sense if he went off the grid on Monday. That’s the day he was expecting you to call, and you didn’t, right?” Luke asked.
“Right, but—” Elizabeth rubbed her chest. Jason had never come back to the hotel. He would have—he’d taken a taxi, not the bike. He wouldn’t have come in through the parking garage. “Are you—are there cameras in the parking garage?”
“No, but we’re looking into traffic cameras to see when the bike left and if we know who was driving it.” Luke paused. “We’re covering every base we can think of, Elizabeth. I promise.”
“I know. It’s just—” She swiped at the tears that had escaped. “I knew something was wrong. I should have said something, but I thought maybe I was overreacting. Or being dramatic—”
“You did say something. To me. And probably to Emily and Bobbie,” Laura added. “And we all thought there was a plausible reason for him to miss your calls. You did nothing wrong.”
“It’s just—” Elizabeth shook her head and went over to the nightstand to pull out the drawer where the hotel stored left extra boxes of tissues. Her heart sank. The postcards.
“Elizabeth?” Laura asked.
Wordlessly, she reached into the drawer to draw out the stack. Jason had kept them in his bag after she’d found them the last time. She’d wanted to read more, but he hadn’t let her. She’d been amused by how embarrassed he seemed to be by their existence.
But they were here. In this drawer. When his bag had been packed, who ever had done it— they’d taken these out and left the pregnancy book behind, too. Stripping any evidence of her existence—of the baby. The little pieces of the life they’d begun to build together.
“He, um,” she turned, the postcards in her hands. “He left—someone left these—” But how had someone known to leave them? How—
Laura reached for the cards, took them from Elizabeth, glanced through them. “I don’t understand—”
“He sent me a few while he was gone. I told you that. But I didn’t know—he, um, had trouble writing, so he kept redoing them. But he kept them all.”
Elizabeth sat down on the bed, her chest aching, the pain radiating out, down her arms, into her fingertips. He’d kept the postcards for months—
But now they’d been left behind like trash—
“There’s an explanation for this,” Alexis said, but Elizabeth could hear the doubt in her voice. See the looks Luke and Laura exchanged. They didn’t believe her. They didn’t understand.
Jason hadn’t left her. She would never believe it. After everything they’d been through, all they’d shared. She would never accept it, even if he was standing in front of her, admitting it as a fact. How could she convince everyone else of that?
“I’m going to go check on Sonny,” Luke told Laura. “Natasha—”
“Yes, of course.” Alexis followed Luke out of the room.
“You think he left me,” Elizabeth said dully. She felt the bed sink next to her. “You all think it.”
“I think,” Laura said carefully, “that I don’t know Jason the way you do. If you tell me you believe that someone did this on purpose, I will believe you. And we are going to keep looking. The fact that he didn’t come back to the hotel that day—that’s troubling.” She looked at one of the postcards, smiling. “It’s sweet to think of him, crouched over these, writing over and over again until he had it right.”
“It’s how I knew it would all be okay. Really, truly. We didn’t plan on forever or anything, but I knew whatever happened, I could handle it. Because he’d never forgotten me. He thought about me every day, Laura. How could he do that, and then walk away without a word?”
“I don’t know—”
“He didn’t. I need you to believe me, okay? I can’t be wasting my time convincing all of you—” Elizabeth shook her head. “He left another postcard in my luggage. He wrote he didn’t want to fall asleep without hearing my voice. Maybe he could change his mind about me, about the baby. But that’s not happening here, Laura. He wouldn’t write that, then leave everything behind without telling me. Jason isn’t cruel.”
“No, he isn’t, baby. We’re going to find him. And whoever is making you hurt like this, we’re going to make sure they don’t get away with it.”
“Yeah, okay. Thanks. We’ll pick it up in the morning.” Sonny hung up the phone in the hotel room, then turned to Luke and Alexis’s worried faces. “Taxi company will have a copy of the log from Monday, but we can’t get it tonight.”
“We’ve got—” Alexis made a face. “We’ve got another tick in the Jason did this on purpose category.”
Sonny bristled, but Luke held up a hand. “Apparently, they had this thing with postcards,” he said. “Morgan wrote her some, never sent them, and kept them. She just found them in a drawer.”
“The only evidence left behind points to him cutting ties,” Alexis said. “I don’t like thinking it, Sonny, but—”
“Then don’t.” Sonny growled, stalked across to the balcony doors, looking out over the city. “You think this is me jilting Brenda at the altar and letting her think I didn’t want her anymore.”
Luke sighed. “It’s got elements of it, maybe. You can’t help but see the parallels, and we both know Jason learned a lot about how treat women from you. For better or worse. You kept Brenda from following you, didn’t you? Maybe he’s into something. Someone makes contact with him. Someone could have followed you to Portland, Sonny. You’re telling me I’m crazy—”
“No. No, I’m not.” Sonny dipped his head, took in the information, the possibilities. And yet— “I can’t really see it, but I get how you can. Hotel security says they can get me more footage, but not until tomorrow. There’s not much more I can do from here.” Sonny looked at them. “Did Laura stay downstairs?”
“Yeah, she’s not going to leave her tonight.”
“Good. Get some sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow.”
When they were gone, Sonny went out onto the balcony. It was a different room, different side of the building, but it looked just like the one he’d been in days earlier. The days he’d spent in Portland, watching Jason with Elizabeth, seeing the dynamic they’d created. He’d never been with them before, had never really seen them interact outside that terrible morning in the boxcar.
But Jason had been talking about a future, about finding a place here, a doctor — he’d been happy, ready to share that future with Elizabeth and their child. The way Jason had spoken about his relationship with her, their child—
Sonny didn’t care what they found on the cameras, what the taxi driver told them—Jason hadn’t walked away on his own. Not like this. Not without getting word to Sonny that something was wrong. He knew Elizabeth wasn’t going to give up, and neither would he. He’d keep looking until the day he died if that’s what it took.
Thursday, May 11, 2000
Jason & Elizabeth’s Room
Elizabeth picked at her oatmeal, keeping one eye on the hotel footage that Luke was studying as she forced herself to eat. Sonny had gone to pick up the taxi log, and Alexis and Laura were—she frowned. She wasn’t sure where they were.
She shoved the bowl aside and went over to the book on the nightstand. She was seven weeks pregnant now. That last night, before she’d flown to back to Port Charles, Jason had read to her from the pages—
“The placenta will finish forming by the end of the trimester,” Jason read. “In the sixth week, the embryo is about the size of a blueberry.” He laid the book upside down on the bed and reached down to tug up her sleep tank, baring her belly. “That seems impossible.”
“I know right—” She held up her fingers, less than an inch apart. “They’re so small, you might accidentally swallow them.”
He brushed his mouth over her smooth skin, and she giggled, lacing her fingers in his hair. “The book says the circulatory system forms first. We can hear a heartbeat soon.”
“We’ll be able to hear at the first ultrasound. I promise. As soon as I get back, we’ll make an appointment. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.”
“I know.” He stroked her belly again, his thumb moving back and forth. “You’ll be an amazing mom.”
“And you’ll be a great dad.”
She opened the book to the seventh week, smiling faintly. Jason had scrawled something in the corner—her symptoms, she realized. Marking them so he could track them better. Nausea, taking a few more naps. They hadn’t been able to drive for long periods of time, reminding her of that morning before things had changed between them, and she’d picked another silly fight.
Elizabeth went to the next page—to the eighth week. Saw that Jason had written another note. Heartbeat this week. Can stethoscope hear it this early?
“Well, that’s the last of it,” Luke said, breaking into her thoughts. “No sign of Jason in the lobby on Monday or Tuesday.” He got to his feet, stretched. “You wanna go for a walk? It’s not good for you to be cooped up—”
“Sonny should be back soon. Where did Laura and Alexis go?”
“To sweet talk one of my old contacts. Wendell is a sucker for a pretty smile, and Laura always had a way with him—” He nodded at the book. “How far along are you?”
“Seven weeks.” Elizabeth managed a smile as she looked further down the page to symptoms where Jason had written a reminder to get more ginger ale and crackers.
“Listen, I know it hurts to think that maybe Jason left on his own,” Luke began, sitting next to her, his tone gentle. “I don’t like suggesting—”
“Just hear me out, darlin’, all right? I’ve known him longer, and I’ve watched him change. I don’t think he’d ever hurt you. Not on purpose—”
“Then how can you think he’d leave?”
“He might have had his own reasons—”
Elizabeth handed him the book. “Do you see the handwriting?” she asked. Luke frowned. “That’s Jason. Jason’s the one who was reading it. Jason was the one who bought it before we even worked things out. He was poring over every page. He made notes. The pages are marked—he used to read to me from it.”
Luke flipped through the pages. “I see that—”
“He was excited to be a father again, Luke. Even if he didn’t want me, he wanted the baby. He never would have left me like this, without a word.”
“I hear all of that, and I believe you. But it’s also—it’s emotion, not facts. And the facts are—”
“You can’t even prove Jason was the one to pack his things.” Elizabeth lunged off the bed, spaced the room. “He never came back from the airport—”
“Not that we can tell—”
“Why are you so determined to make him the bad guy?” Elizabeth demanded. “Don’t you see how much it hurts me when you talk like this?”
“Better you hurt today than to watch you wait for him day after day, and never know.” Luke sighed. “I don’t want this for you—”
“Maybe Jason didn’t want me anymore, okay? Maybe you’re right. But he’d never leave me with the baby alone. Worried about him like this. But maybe you can’t understand that. Maybe you’re the one that can’t believe someone wouldn’t leave his family. Isn’t that what you did to Laura? To Lulu?”
Luke closed his mouth, absorbed the hit. “Yeah, okay. I did that. I left when they needed me the most. And maybe I didn’t really show up for Laura, but I loved my kids—”
“And Jason loves his. He held on to Michael until he realized it was confusing him. He only walked away because he knew Michael wasn’t his. Not really. But this baby—” Elizabeth rested her hand on her abdomen. “Jason is this baby’s father. He knows it. And he wouldn’t leave us.” Her eyes burned. “Thank you for your help, Luke. But if you can’t believe in him, then maybe you should just go home.”
New Imperial Hotel: Lobby
Sonny came into the lobby, frowning when he saw Laura by herself near the elevators. “Where’s Alexis?”
“She’s making a phone call—” Laura sighed. “We got the traffic camera footage—did you get the taxi info?”
“Yeah, the taxi let Jason off downtown. They gave me the address. I thought about going on my own,” Sonny said, “but I thought maybe Elizabeth would know more. She was traveling with him. Maybe it’s a place they talked about.”
“Okay, you take her—” Laura stopped as Alexis approached them. “Everything all right?”
“Oh, fine. Stefan wanted to let me know he’d arrived in Greece. Nikolas left a few days ago and Stefan decided to join him,” Alexis reminded Sonny. “He thought it might help to have someone to talk to. We’ll see.”
The doors opened, and they stepped on board. Laura pressed the fourth-floor button. “If we don’t get a lead from all of this, we need to talk about checking out and taking Elizabeth home,” she said. She looked to Sonny. “The odds are this is connected to your business—”
“And we need to make sure Elizabeth is safe. I’m not sure there are any more answers to find in Portland.”
Cassadine Island, Greece
Cassadine Estate: Terrace
Nikolas scowled when Stefan emerged from the house. He shot to his feet. “I told you I didn’t need a babysitter.”
“I’m not here to baby sit,” his father said coolly. He sat at the table, smiled as a maid brought him a coffee and a croissant. “Thank you, Mia.”
“Port Charles can be a bit stifling, and the weather is beautiful this time of year. Greece is my home, Nikolas,” Stefan reminded him. He stirred sugar into the coffee. “I’ll be saddling Demetrius this afternoon. Would you like to join me—”
“No. I came here to be alone.” Nikolas got to his feet, then stormed back inside the house. Stefan sighed and continued with his breakfast.
“I’m so glad you’re home sir,” Mia said when she came back out to gather Nikolas’s breakfast dishes. “The young master has concerned us all.”
“Oh?” Stefan raised his brows. “Is he throwing tantrums? Stomping around the place?” He thought he’d raised a better child than that, but perhaps he’d spoiled him too much.
“Spending too much time on his own. Disappearing,” Mia said. “And Arturo thought he saw Master Nikolas coming out of the dungeons. I hope you’ll be able to sort him out.” She went back inside, leaving Stefan to stare after her with squinted eyes.
Why in all the worlds would Nikolas be going anywhere near the dungeons? They hadn’t been used since in Stefan was a child, and even then, only as a threat. They were remnants of a different world, left over from a time when the island had been stronghold for an Ottoman warlord. Stefan mulled it over in his mind, then put it away. Whatever the reason, Nikolas clearly needed closer attention.
New Imperial Hotel: Jason & Elizabeth’s Room
Laura slid in the first traffic camera footage and pressed play. Beside her, Alexis picked up the pregnancy book that had been left open.
“I hope Sonny and Elizabeth can find a lead at that address.” Luke shook his head. “But we’re just about out of ideas—”
“Jason was making notes about the pregnancy,” Alexis noted. Laura frowned, looked down at her. “That’s really sweet.”
“Yeah, Elizabeth thinks it’s good evidence he didn’t leave on purpose.” Luke went over to the drawer where Elizabeth had left the postcards. “Me? I think it’s more telling it was left behind. With these cards—”
“I guess.” Alexis made a face as he dumped them on the bed. She reached for one. “Badlands—”
“Look—” Laura said, grabbing their attention. She paused the tape. “There’s a bike—Luke, that looks like the one we saw in Astoria—”
Luke knelt in front of the television, squinted. “Yeah. Can’t tell much about the driver—”
“Because he’s wearing a helmet,” Alexis finished, then Luke straightened, his eyes widening as they met hers, the words registering the significance of them. “Jason never wore a helmet.”
“What’s the time code?” he wanted to know.
“Monday—” Laura frowned. “9:59 AM. But that’s—”
“Definitely not Jason,” Luke finished grimly. “Someone was clearing the kid’s belongings out of this hotel room while Jason was waving goodbye at the gate. Christ—get me the hotel footage.”
Laura switched the tapes and went to Monday morning. “There!” she slapped the screen, hitting pause. “That’s someone walking out of the elevators ten minutes before the bike is moved—and look at what he’s holding—”
“It’s a duffel that looks like mine—” Luke gestured to the bag Elizabeth had left on the floor. “I gave it to Liz because it’s more portable than hers—”
“Elizabeth told me that’s how she found the postcards.” Laura went back to the bed, held them up. “He kept them in the bag. Always. And she went into it, thinking it was hers. Because they both had black duffel bags.”
“Wait—wait, where’s the letter that was left for her?” Luke rummaged through the table to find it. “Give me those postcards, Laura.”
“What is it, Luke?” Laura hurried over. He snatched the card out of her hand, then took the note over to Alexis who was still squinting at the screen. “Luke—”
“The handwriting. Look—the postcards — it’s a good match for the book, right? Book’s a bit cramped, but it’s still the same—” Luke exhaled slowly. “But it’s not anything like the note.”
Laura’s face was flushed as she took the note out of his hand, studied it alongside the book. “He didn’t write this.”
“And he didn’t clear out his things. Whoever came into this room packed his things, went through the bag and got rid of anything that could be linked to Liz—and then left.”
“I think—” Alexis moved the screen forward a bit more. “We need to call Sonny.”
“I know—” She closed her eyes, steadied herself, then looked at Laura. “I know this man—and it’s not Sonny’s. It’s not one of his. He’s mine.”
“He’s—I’m going to be sick—” Alexis got to her feet. “He’s one of our retainers from Greece.”
“Greece?” Luke echoed. “The hell—”
“Stefan said it was his idea for Nikolas to go to Greece—” Laura looked at the screen, then back at Alexis as the implication sank in. If one of the Cassadine retainers—a loyal family servant—had cleaned out Jason’s belongings— “Oh my God.”
“We need Sonny back here now. Alexis, get him on the horn. I’m gonna call the airport. We need to get to Greece—”
“No, no—it’s not—” Laura couldn’t finish the sentence. Couldn’t breathe. Had Nikolas done this? Had her son done something to Jason?
Broadway & Taylor Street
Elizabeth glanced around the street, looking at the mixture of buildings and stores, frustrated when nothing leapt out at her. “They wrote down the address, right?” she demanded of Sonny as he squinted down at the photocopy of the log.
“Yeah, yeah — but maybe this wasn’t the address he gave them at first,” Sonny said. “This is only a few blocks away from the hotel—” He took another few steps, gestured down the street where the sign from the New Imperial was barely visible. “He might have wanted to be let out there and walk the rest of the way.”
“I guess.” Elizabeth bit her lip, folded her arms. “I really wanted this to be a lead,” she said softly. “I needed this to work.” She looked at Sonny. “You believe me, don’t you? Luke and Alexis, they have doubts. And Laura’s telling me what she thinks I need to hear. But I know you believe me.”
Sonny hesitated, and she drew in a sharp breath. “Sonny—”
“No. No, I believe you.” Sonny cleared his throat. “I thought…there might be a possibility he took off to protect you, but the more I thought about it—” He looked around the area again. “I thought maybe,” he began again, “that he’d decided to use a trick out of my playbook. The day I jilted Brenda at the altar, I asked him to do the impossible.” He concentrated on the passing cars. “I needed her to stay safe. To believe I left her so she wouldn’t look for me. I needed her to hate me.”
“No. He wouldn’t.” Sonny looked at her again. “He hated every minute of what I asked him to do, but he did it for me anyway. He’d never do it to someone he loved. I believe Jason might walk away from you if he thought it would keep you safe. But not like this. He never would have left you that note. Or the book and postcards. And he’d have told me what was going on.”
Elizabeth nodded, relieved to have Sonny on her side. She turned in a circle, slowly taking in every storefront and building, looking for some small hint as to why Jason had taken a taxi here instead of directly to the hotel. Sonny’s pocket began to ring, and he dug for the cell phone.
“Yeah?” His expression changed and he looked at Elizabeth. Her throat tightened. After another moment, he nodded. “We’re a few blocks away. We’ll be there in ten.” He closed the phone. “We have to go—”
“The handwriting on the note doesn’t match the postcards and that book you showed Luke. Laura found someone getting off an elevator with Jason’s bag and then riding out with the bike at the same time Jason was at the airport with us—”
“Oh my God—” She’d known, she’d known all along he was in trouble, but—
“And—” Sonny hissed when they got caught at a red light. “This is the hard part, okay, so I’m just going to say it quick. Alexis recognized the guy. He works for her family in Greece.”
“In Greece—” The world came to a stop, and everything fell away. The cars, the people around them — it all just went disappeared.
Cassadine Estate: Dungeons
Jason paced the short length of his cell. Back and forth, back and forth—he was nearly dizzy. He didn’t know where he was. Didn’t know why he’d been grabbed—
And he knew it had to be at least a day. He’d been awake at least twenty-four hours, and—he touched his jaw. The stubble there was maybe two or three days old.
He closed his eyes. Okay. Gone two days. Monday. Elizabeth would know something was wrong. She’d tell Sonny. Sonny would start looking.
His stomach rumbled, reminding him just how long it had been since breakfast with Elizabeth in their room on Monday morning. He closed his eyes, trying to bring up a picture of her in his head. What would they be doing if they were together right now? Would they be meeting with doctors? Finding an apartment?
Maybe he would be reading to her. It was week seven. Heartbeat week. He’d thought about getting a stethoscope since they didn’t have a doctor yet, but then he read somewhere else in the book it wouldn’t work.
“If you’re praying for rescue, it won’t work.”
At the sound of a voice not his own, Jason’s eyes snapped open, and a figure emerged from the darkness, walking into the dim light offered by a sconce across from the cell.
“No one knows you’re here,” Nikolas continued, “and I left instructions for a note to be left for Elizabeth.” His lips curved into a smile. “You already did this to her once, you know. She’ll believe you left her again. Especially as my man left behind anything that was sentimental. The pregnancy book, some postcards you’d written her.”
Jason stared at him, at this man who’d been Elizabeth’s friend, Lucky’s brother—Jason had saved his life once. “You did this. Why?”
“Because she won’t be one more casualty,” Nikolas bit out. “You stole my brother. He’s dead. And you manipulated a grieving girl into sleeping with you. But don’t worry about her. My mother will look after her, and eventually, when she realizes I’m the only one she can rely on, Elizabeth will let me back in.”
Nikolas tipped his head as Jason remained silent. “Nothing to say, I see. Well, it won’t be long. I hear the human body can only last about three days without water. You’re in good shape, so maybe double that for you. Have you ever been dehydrated?” he asked idly. “Your mind starts to wander. You’ll feel dizzy. Tired. Chills. Any of those yet?”
Just the fatigue, Jason realized. “You’re going to kill me—”
“No, no.” Nikolas shook his head, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Something much better than that. You didn’t kill my brother, but you let him die, so I will return the favor.” Nikolas shrugged. “I’ll make sure you get buried at sea. I hear you love the water.”
Then he disappeared into the darkness and Jason realized, for the first time, that he wasn’t going to survive this. He wasn’t going home. He wasn’t going to be a father. He wrapped his hands around the bars of the cell, squeezed his eyes shut. No one would ever suspect Nikolas. Laura’s son, Emily and Elizabeth’s friend. They’d spend their time hunting Sonny’s enemies—
And Jason would be dead before they realized their mistake.