August 25, 2022

This entry is part 41 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

And I know that I deserve your love
There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

This is Me (Reimagined), Keala Settle, Missy Elliot and Kesha

Friday. August 13, 2004

Isola dei Cappuccini near Sardinia, Italy

The sun glinted off the Tyrrhenian Sea, making it shine like diamonds. Isola dei Cappuccini was little more than a hunk of rock five miles off the northern coast of Sardinia. It had once been home to a monastery that had been abandoned centuries earlier. Now, it belonged to a wealthy member of the Sicilian mafia, Dominic Caruso and rumored to be a cemetery for any man, woman, or even child who crossed the lethal man.

At the moment, it served as a hiding place for Dominic’s goddaughter who had sought refuge in the small bungalow on the coast, the one proper beach front area on the entire island.

Claudia Zacchara had always prided herself on her pragmatism. She’d waited all her adult life to maneuver herself into her father’s organization, to eliminate the lunatic, and take over.  To take the power for herself.

The alliance with Ric Lansing had wasted the most time, but it hadn’t been her first failure, and it might not be the last.

Claudia sighed and leaned back against the lounge chair, sliding one arm above her head, trying to remember how long she’d been out here.  The sun felt glorious against her skin, as it had for all the weeks she’d been in hiding.

Johnny had been a disappointment. Claudia hadn’t counted on him risking the silly blonde — she’d make him pay for that, eventually. She’d never hurt her baby brother — it was hardly his fault he was weak. No, she’d make the blonde nurse pay for his crimes and he’d learn a valuable lesson about crossing her.

A few more months to lay low, let the trail grow even colder, and she’d reach out to others in the syndicate. Claudia had heard rumors that Philly was unhappy with the new status quo, and there was always the fun of unleashing her old friend, Javi, and his little brother.

Her lips curved into a wicked smirk at the thought of Javier and Manny Ruiz running wild on the streets of Port Charles. She’d saved them, only dipping in here and there. When you had a weapon like them in your back pocket, you didn’t pull them out for just anyone.

Towards the end, Claudia had realized that Ric’s obsession with making that stupid little waif pay for her imagined crimes would end in disaster. Pity. He’d been decent in bed, and that was always hard to find. It certainly was a shame that Jason Morgan was a married man and actually believed in loyalty and fidelity. An absolute waste of a beautiful, well-built man.

No, the Ruiz brothers would be perfect for her next grab for power, and this time, when the dust settled, Claudia would reign above them all—

She was dead before she finished the thought, a small circle appearing in her forehead, a slight trickle of blood sliding down the bridge of her nose, disappearing beneath the sunglasses.

She hadn’t heard the quiet footprints in the sand and luckily for him, she’d been too arrogant to hire security to patrol the island or the house where the only visitor was a housekeeper who took the boat from Sardinia weekly. The woman, Marina, had visited the day before. No one would find the body for another week.

He’d been very careful and had planned this moment down to the smallest detail. He’d searched for this final loose end since the day she’d kidnapped his wife and his best friend, delivering them to the man who had haunted their nightmares for nearly a year.

And still did, even months after that terrible day. Some problems couldn’t be fixed with a bullet in the brain.

Jason Morgan waited until Claudia Zacchara’s chest stopped rising, then felt for a pulse. Finally, he shot her one more time in the head. After Ric Lansing had returned from the dead, it was better to be safe than sorry. He left the way he’d arrived, traipsing back up the beach to the quiet house, down to the dock and the boat he’d left tied up. He started the engine.

He had an appointment to keep.

Sardinia, Italy

Villa Stella Marina: Private Beach

Fifty miles away from Isola del Cappuccini, Elizabeth cuddled her infant son closer to her chest. They were tucked safely under the shade of the cabana that opened to the wide, beautiful ocean. Cameron was five months old as of the week before, though his adjusted age was only three months. She looked forward to the day when she didn’t have to do that math—to subtract time from her little boy’s life because he’d spent all those weeks in the NICU.

But that was still months away, and she was going to enjoy the precious time she had with him. He could be out in the sun for maybe an hour a day, less if they were in direct sunlight, and she wanted to enjoy every minute.

“Daddy had to take care of a little business,” she said, stroking his back as the infant dozed in the sun. “But he’ll be back soon. Maybe tomorrow, we can convince him to take us out on the boat. Just for a little while.”

And even if they couldn’t this trip, Jason promised they’d be back. Maybe not to Sardinia, but Italy was going to be their place. Their escape.

“There you are.”

Elizabeth turned at the sound of his voice and beamed. “You’re back early. I thought you said it might take the rest of the day.”

“Got lucky.” Jason perched on the end of the lounge chair, smiling at Cameron who slept on. “He’s not even awake to enjoy the sun.”

“No, but I am, and that’s enough.” She sighed happily, then took a deep breath. She’d never take that simple motion for granted again — since her surgery in June, her health had bounced back, and she felt better today than she had in more than a year.

“There’s room,” Elizabeth said, wiggling to the side, then sitting up and scooting forward. “You wanna sit with us?” Jason climbed behind her, then tucked them both against his chest. “I could sit like this forever,” she said, laying her head back.

“Me, too.”

“But he can’t,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “We’ve got maybe twenty minutes until he needs to go in.”

“We’ll put him down for another nap later,” Jason told her, looping his arms around her waist. “And come back out. We’ve got the monitor,” he added.

“Mmm, sounds like a plan.” She closed her eyes, resting her cheek against his heart, listening to it beat. He liked to watch her sleep, to check her breathing, even now, she knew that, but she liked to lay like this and feel his warmth, strength surrounding her, feeling the beating of his heart. “No trouble?” she asked softly.

“None. In and out.” He kissed the side of her head. “It’s over. That’s the last of it.”

“Good.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Good.”

Monday, January 31, 2005

Port Charles Hotel: Lobby

“I feel like I’m running a thousand marathons today,” Elizabeth complained as she crossed the lobby to meet Carly at the desk. “I’m sorry I’m late. I had to pick something up from a professor, and then the support meeting ran late—” She made a face, looked at her watch. “I’ve still got to pick up dinner from Eli’s—”

“Only you,” Carly said with a roll of her eyes, “would eat Eli’s on your wedding anniversary. Thanks for meeting me here. I just wanted a second opinion on something before I sign the contract.” She folded her arms as they went down the hallway towards the conference rooms and event spaces. “It is absolutely insane that I’m opening a club in this hotel. I’m working with the Quartermaines.”

“Well, it seems like a good way to keep business from being siphoned off to 101 or the Cellar and keep diners from the restaurant in the building—” They stopped outside one of the ballrooms, and Elizabeth smiled wistfully at the space across the hall where they’d posed for their wedding photos. A year ago. It seemed like yesterday — and a million years all at the same time. “I don’t know what opinion you want from me, but—”

“Well, actually—” Carly tipped her head. “That was a lie.”

Elizabeth frowned. “What?”

“I lied to you. Felt good, actually. I haven’t done a lot of it in the last year,” Carly continued. “Haven’t need to, I guess. But it’s good to know I’ve still got it.” She smiled. “It’s January 31. Your anniversary.”

“Uh, yeah. I know. You’re baby-sitting for us tonight—” Elizabeth stopped, then looked at the room where they’d stopped. Then looked back at Carly. “What’s going on?”

Carly went across the hall, opened the door, and went inside. A moment later, she emerged with a garment bag. “It’s not the exact same one,” she continued, “because you know, you’re not pregnant anymore. But Emily and I found the designer who—”


“After the panic room, Jason made me a promise. That he would find a way for me to be okay again. He kept that promise. He kept it for the both of us, even when it was hard. Even when it cost him, and it would have been easier not to. I’m okay. It took me a long time to get here. I can’t get the life I had back. There’s so much Ric stole from both of us that’s just gone. But there’s one thing—” She paused. “There’s one thing he had a part in ruining that we get to fix today. If you’re up for it. And Jason said he made you a promise about today. He didn’t forget.”

Carly gestured towards the door where she’d hidden the dress. “So, if you want, we’ll get you changed, and you can go find out what else Jason has planned for you today.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, looked down at the garment bag. She’d asked Jason if they could dance on their anniversary to the song she’d picked for them. She’d planned it all for home — a light, easy night with a ride on the cliffs, ribs from Eli’s, and a dance in their living room.

She had a feeling that something else waited behind those doors. Something better.

“Let’s go.”

Port Charles Hotel: Renaissance Room

Jason felt a little like an idiot as he waited in the middle of the ball room, not far from the table where dinner waited. He was dressed in the tuxedo he’d worn at the wedding, and the room looked exactly like it had a year earlier, thanks to Emily and the wedding planner who’d kept all their notes.

But last year it had been filled with people, and now Jason was just waiting in an empty room all by himself, having second thoughts. Maybe he should have asked for Bobbie to come. To walk her in or something. Or maybe Elizabeth didn’t feel like doing this. She’d been working so hard since the semester had started, and Cameron was getting bigger, and he was crawling now. He’d nearly caught up developmentally—only a month behind. She’d left the penthouse so early that morning—

The door to the hallway opened, and Jason’s thoughts skittered to a stop as Carly stepped in. “Hey. You look great.” She met him halfway, adjusted the tie on his tux. “We did this at a different wedding,” she murmured, smiling up at him. “Standing outside the church. I fixed your tie, straightened your jacket. And then you went inside.”

“I remember.”

“And then I got your wedding canceled in a very dramatic fashion,” she continued. “I’m not saying I wanted to get kidnapped, but we do find our silver linings wherever we can.” Carly met his eyes. “I’m so glad that I get to help this time. That I get to make this happen for you. And I get to make it a little better.”

“Better?” Jason frowned.

“You didn’t think I’d let you do this all on your own, did you?” she smiled. She went back over to the door, opened it, and Elizabeth stepped into view—wearing the same dress as last year—Carly must have done something, because Jason knew the one hanging in their closet wouldn’t have fit Elizabeth.

And next to her, Bobbie stood, her arm looped through Elizabeth’s side. “You didn’t think I’d miss this part of the tradition, did you?” Bobbie asked. She handed Elizabeth the bouquet in her arms. “You didn’t get to do this last year. Carly and I nearly threw an entire party to make up for it—” Jason winced, and Bobbie laughed. “But maybe we’ll save that. So, go ahead and toss it.”

Elizabeth grinned, closed her eyes, and then heaved the bouquet over her head—where it smacked Bobbie in the chest. Carly had ducked out of the way. “I guess you’re next,” she teased the redhead who had been more of a mother to her than her own.

“Better warn Scott,” Carly quipped. Bobbie scowled at them both, then gave the bouquet to her daughter. She took Elizabeth’s hand and walked her across the ballroom to Jason.

“It’s been a wonderful year watching the two of you start your family,” Bobbie told them. “Thank you for letting me be a part of it. Have a wonderful night. You know that Cameron is safe with me.”

“Always.” Elizabeth hugged her, and Jason kissed her cheek. Carly and Bobbie left, closing the door behind them. She grinned at him, then turned in her dress, the soft, floaty fabric of her skirt lifting in the air. “I can’t believe you thought of this—”

“I didn’t,” Jason admitted, taking her by the hand and drawing her in for a kiss. “Carly must have. I asked her to buy you something nice.”

“Oh.” Her eyes filled. “I mean she said she and Emily—I just—” She looked around the room. “But you did this part. It looks like it did that day. And there’s no one else here. Just the way you like it.”

“You know me so well,” he murmured, kissing her again. “I owe you a dance.” He went over to the table and pressed a button. Somewhere, music started to float out of the speakers, and her tears spilled over. “Emily told me the song you wanted.”

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see

Jason held out his hand. She took it, then he drew her against him, holding their joined hands against his chest. “I hope you didn’t have any other plans for tonight,” he said. “I’m not messing anything up, am I?”

You were my strength when I was weak

“Absolutely not.” They gently swayed as the music swelled around them. “We can do my plans any time. This is much better.”

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

 He raised his brows. “Really? I don’t believe that.”

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me

“Just a ride, some ribs at Eli’s, and this song sitting in our CD player at home.” Elizabeth smiled up at him. “This is perfect. Even better than it would have been last year.”

I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach

“Well, yeah, no one else is here.”

You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love, I had it all

She laughed, long and deep, her eyes sparkling. “No, because I’m not tired and pregnant. My feet aren’t swollen, and I can take deep breaths.” Elizabeth leaned up, brushed her mouth against his. “We didn’t get our wedding night, but I think we can have our anniversary night.”

Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

She’d left her hair down, loose around her shoulders, exactly the way he liked it. He slid his fingers through the soft curls, then cupped her face, sweeping his thumbs across her cheeks. A year ago, he’d been too scared to think about what would happen next—that the promise he’d made her couldn’t be kept.

And now she stood before him, in his arms, more beautiful than any day before. “How did I get so lucky?” he murmured, more to himself than to her, and Elizabeth smiled.

I’m everything I am

“You picked the right night to go to Jake’s. I didn’t even know what I was looking for until I found you. And now neither of us ever have to remember what nothing feels like. I have everything I want.”

“We both do.”

Because you loved me



A long time ago, practically in another life, Ric married Alexis. I sat at home wondering what would happen if Elizabeth had walked in on him marrying another woman with their divorce barely finalized. That was November 2004, and I was still a pantser. I wrote that scene and then continued writing about other characters, and without really thinking about it, I added a scene between Brooke Lynn and Diego. Brooke’s sexual assault is the only real thread that ties the original Mad World from the Fiction Graveyard to this series, but without that scene added randomly when I was 20, I wouldn’t have written these books.

Mad World was only ever supposed to be one book — a story about a serial rapist set in the aftermath of the panic room.  It continued to grow until it was four books, more than a hundred chapters, and over half a million words in length. These were the first books I wrote where I completed the entire story before posting, something I’ve always wanted to do because it allowed me to really edit, add, or cut scenes.

In Book 2, at the end, Dante visits Vinnie in jail — that scene wasn’t in the original draft (I wrote the entire book completely forgetting Vinnie and Dante were cousins because I only used it as a story excuse for Dante being in Port Charles!). But without that scene, Dante’s story in the next two books doesn’t exist.  The majority of Book 3 wasn’t planned — but now I can’t imagine the series without those chapters, without really exploring the aftermath of the serial rapist.

I’m incredibly proud of this insane series, and I want to thank you guys for going on the journey with me and for falling in love with characters who weren’t Jason and Elizabeth. It meant a lot to me. If you get to the end of the book, I hope you’ll give me a quick reply. I’d love to hear what your favorite part was.

It’s time to close the book on this mad, mad, mad world.

This entry is part 40 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

It’s the story of your life
You’re tearing out the page
New chapter underway
The story of your life
You live it everyday
You can run, you run
But you won’t get away
I don’t know what’s coming up
Where will you go now
It’s the story of your life

Story of Your Life, Five for Fighting

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Port Charles Courthouse: Family Court B

When the end came, it was anti-climatic, really. Just a stamp on a piece of paper and an order granted. Carly Corinthos became Carly Benson, and Sonny Corinthos was no longer Michael’s legal father. Carly stared down at the white paper and black text, a bit mystified at how it all had ended with a whimper.

“You know he’ll drop one of the last names,” Lucas told her as Carly blinked at him. “Michael Alan Benson-Quartermaine. He’ll decide the Q name is more useful, and it’ll be done—”

“But it’ll be his choice.” Carly looked over at AJ, standing with his grandfather and parents, grinning. He had every right to look like he’d scored a victory. Sonny was gone, and Michael was back in the Quartermaine fold. Not officially. That would still take time. Carly had put her son back into therapy—family counseling this time, and they were reintroducing AJ slowly.

She’d fought so long for her idea what Michael’s family should look like, it seemed so strange to be done with it.

“I didn’t expect it to go through so fast,” Carly murmured. “But Sonny—” He’d dropped all opposition to her divorce and custody demands and had relinquished his rights to Michael and Morgan.

A man on his way to prison didn’t have much to fight for, he’d told her with those sad eyes the last time she’d met with him, and he’d signed over most of his property to hold in trust for Morgan.

“Are you okay?” Lucas asked. She sighed, then shook her head.

“What does that even feel like?” she murmured. She tucked the paperwork into her bag. “Thanks for being here today. I know it was just a formality—” Carly bit her lip. “I’m just glad I wasn’t alone.” She looked over at AJ, surrounded by his family, then back at her brother. “I know I’ll never be your favorite person, but you’ve been so good to my boys. They’re lucky to have you.”

“They’re pretty cool kids.” Lucas shoved his hands in his pockets. “You can’t choose who you’re related to,” he told her. “My mom adopted me and that made us siblings. I didn’t always like that—”

“And I didn’t always care,” she offered with a half-smile.

“But it’s different now. You’re not the older sister I wanted,” he continued. “That’ll always be BJ. But you’re the older sister I have, and I’m cool with that.” Lucas tipped his head towards the door. “You wanna grab lunch? Felix is meeting me at Kelly’s.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I would. Let me just go talk to AJ about our next appointment with the counselor.” Carly took a deep breath and crossed the room, prepared to responsibly co-parent with her first ex-husband.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason grimaced in front of the mirror, then unwound his tie to begin again. “If you give me a minute,” Elizabeth called from the bathroom, “I can help—”

“I’ve got it.” Jason tightened the knot, then went over to pick Cameron up from his bassinet, remembering almost at the last minute to grab a spit blanket. “You don’t have to go—”

Elizabeth fastened her bra, then reached for the dress on the hanger behind her. “No, but I want to.” She tugged it over her head, then scooped her hair out of the collar. “And Sonny should have people there, I guess.”

Especially since she knew the Spencers were going and would be sitting on the prosecution side. The whole room would be filled with media and gawkers ready to see the infamous Sonny Corinthos go down for murder.

“The papers—”

“The papers will print anything they want. I’m going to support you, and it’s not like you’re paying for some legal team to get Sonny off the hook.” She pressed her lips to Cameron’s head, then stretched up to kiss Jason. “It’s a sentencing. It’s done. And it’s the last time Sonny will be free for a long time. We both know how hard this will be for him.”

“He just gave up,” Jason said. He leaned against the door frame. “He wouldn’t let Justus argue to throw out the confession. He completely caved on the divorce and gave up the kids. He barely agreed to let Justus plea it down to fifteen years.” He exhaled slowly. “He gave up,” he repeated.

Elizabeth studied him for a long moment and thought about how this conversation would sound to someone who didn’t know Jason, hadn’t considered Sonny a friend. To the rest of the world, Sonny had murdered a man in cold blood to cover up the drugging of a young girl he’d been sleeping with.

But that was a version of Sonny they’d never known. It hadn’t been the man who’d held out a hand to Jason, struggling and lost after the accident had stolen his life. Or offered compassion to a young girl broken from the grief of her first love.

Sonny would always be a man of contradictions, and it was hard for Jason to admit that somewhere along the way, their Sonny had been lost to them.

“Maybe there was more we could have done,” Elizabeth said softly. “I think we both knew he struggled when he came home from Ferncliffe. No one wanted to give him another chance. You tried, but it was too hard. He always wanted more than we were ready to give. He fought as long as he could, Jason. I can honestly believe that. But the darkness inside him—we couldn’t save him. It was always going to swallow him whole.”

“Yeah.” Jason stroked Cameron’s back, swaying slightly as the newborn dozed, his eyes fluttering against his father’s chest. “I know. But it doesn’t make it easier.”

Port Charles Court House: Hallway

Ned scowled at the reporter from the Sun following him and ducked down another hallway, hoping to lose the pain in the ass. One of the drawbacks of being mayor, he thought to himself, then stopped when he saw Lois sitting on one of the benches, pressing her hands against her cheeks. “Lois?”

“Ned—” She cleared her throat, and got to her feet, swiping at her eyes again. “I’m sorry. I thought we were meeting in the court room—”

“No—” He stopped her. “We were. I was just hiding from the tabloids. What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing—” Lois closed her eyes. “June 11,” she murmured. “A year ago today, I told Brooke she was coming to live here.”

His chest tightened. “I didn’t—”

“You wouldn’t have known. Couldn’t have,” she added. “I didn’t call you until the next day, but I just couldn’t communicate with her anymore. We couldn’t hear each other, and I was just— I was so scared that something terrible would happen if I kept leaving her in the city while I went on tour—I should have quit,” Lois spat. “I hated touring. I don’t even miss it, and I could have quit. I could have turned the agency over—I did it anyway—”


“But I was bitter. I’d done all the work and you hadn’t done any, so I just shipped her off to you like it was your turn. That’s what I thought about my baby. I was too tired to deal with her anymore, so let her drive you crazy for a while—” Lois faltered. “I’d give anything to go back. To make another choice. Any other choice—”

“I know.” He folded her in his arms, thinking of his own meeting with Brooke the day she’d arrived. He’d dragged Dillon in to help him and hadn’t he given up, too? Hadn’t he just let Brooke go her own way in Port Charles? “I was even worse. I was a terrible father—”


“We could spend the rest of our lives picking out the moments when we were wrong. No one is a perfect parent. Even my own grandmother who comes close—she pushed my mother to marry my father because she thought Mom should settle down.”

“God.” Lois exhaled in a rush. “And we sit here blaming ourselves when the only one to blame is that piece of shit Vinny for what he did to her. I hope he’s rotting in jail. I hope they’re beating him every day until his lungs—” She stopped. “Okay. Okay. That’s enough of that. We need to go to this sentencing because—” She blinked. “Why are we going again?”

“Because he’s Kristina’s biological father, and Alexis feels guilty. I’m going for her, and you’re coming for the both of us.” He slung an arm around her waist. “Come on. Keep me company.”

Court Room B

Jason sat next to Elizabeth, taking her hand in his and holding it tightly in his lap. He could feel the cool metal of her wedding and engagement rings against his skin, and for some reason, it reassured him.

Elizabeth offered him a slight small smile, then squeezed his knee with her other hand. “Almost there,” she reminded him softly, then nodded at the table in front of them where Justus was shuffling some papers around and Sonny’s head was bowed. Across the aisle, there was a district attorney Jason didn’t recognize. Scott had stepped aside of course, and so had Kelsey Joyce. Both of them were sitting opposite.

Jason couldn’t look at them. Couldn’t look at the young woman who’d nearly died to bring Vinnie Esposito to justice and know that Sonny had murdered her father. At Scott, who worked hard to give Elizabeth and Carly closure when Sonny had drugged and slept with his daughter. Next to them was an unfamiliar woman, but she looked a little like Kelsey. That must be her mother.

And in the next row sat the Spencers. Luke, Laura, Lucky—and then Dante and Lulu. Dante, the son Sonny would never know. Luke, the former partner who’d known all along what kind of man Sonny was and might have gone to his grave with those secrets.

On this side of the aisle, it was just Jason and Elizabeth. No one else had come for Sonny, and even Elizabeth wasn’t here for Sonny. Only Jason sat in this room to give him a measure of support.

And he felt like a fraud. Did he even want to be here? A few months ago, he’d shoved Sonny against the wall and nearly choked the life out of him. He would have killed him without regrets. Jason knew he was part of the reason Sonny had given up the fight and was going to prison. There was nothing left for him outside, and Jason hadn’t lifted a finger to change that fact. Not really.

How much did Jason really owe to Sonny for those days in the beginning? When he’d loaned Jason money for a cab fare and bought him a burger? He’d been kind, but maybe he’d seen from the beginning how desperate Jason was for approval, for acceptance. For someone to believe in him.

Had Sonny ever truly loved him like a brother? Or were those just words? Had they meant anything to him?

He’d never know the answer to that now, but this was a day to close the door on Sonny. He’d go to Sing Sing and disappear into the prison system. If he came home after a decade—

Elizabeth squeezed his knee again and he looked at her, at the worry reflected back at him. “Are you okay?” she mouthed.

He shook his head slightly, then focused on the judge. He realized with a start that it was the same judge that had presided over Vinnie’s sentencing in December.

“I have here a sentencing recommendation from the state—” The judge peered at the court. “And the defense has signed off?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Justus said, briefly rising then taking his seat again.

“No impact statements?” the judge asked the state, and the ADA at the other table just shook their heads.

“All right, then let’s proceed. Michael Corinthos, Jr., please stand.” Sonny dragged himself to his feet, swaying slightly. Justus also got to his feet again. “You are pleading guilty to a charge of murder in the second degree, a violation of New York State Penal Code 125.25, a Class A-1 felony. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Sonny said.

“As part of your plea agreement, you are directed to allocute to the details of your crime. Please proceed.”

“I shot Oliver Joyce,” Sonny said. And then he said nothing else. The judge frowned, glanced at the ADA who was scowling.

“Mr. Corinthos, I cannot accept your guilty plea if I am not satisfied that you are making it willingly and knowingly. You must offer details, not simply statements. Mr. Ward—”

“We prepared a statement, Your Honor,” Justus assured him. He glanced at Sonny who closed his eyes. “A moment.”

Sonny turned then, looked behind him for the first time, and saw that the rows behind him were empty, beyond the back row which been reserved for the press. Then he looked at the other side—his eyes held Luke’s for a moment, before rolling over Dante, then Scott—and finally to Kelsey.

He cleared his throat and looked back at the judge. “I managed the Paradise Lounge,” he said, but his voice was a little clearer now. “It was strip club. Oliver Joyce was the business manager. He kept the books for a few clubs. He didn’t care for my relationships with some of the dancers. They often used drugs and I—” Sonny cleared his throat. “I gave them the drugs sometimes. When he found out one of the women was the daughter of a friend, he decided he was going to turn me in. He’d report me for some financial crimes or something. I was never sure what. He confronted me and told me that he didn’t think I was a bad person, but that I needed to pay for what I’d done to Karen. To the other girls. He was going to give me a chance to come clean. I—” Sonny swallowed hard. “I agreed. I told him that I’d go to the PCPD, and he offered to come with me. To help me get started.”

He waited a long moment, and Jason dimly heard crying from the other side of the aisle. Kelsey’s mother had dissolved into tears, Scott had an arm around her.

“But I waited until we were on a quiet road, and I made him pull over. I said I wasn’t sure. I had second thoughts. I couldn’t do it. Ollie—he argued with me. He said that this was my chance to get out. To be a better man. That’s what he was gonna do. He wanted to be better. His little girl was growing up, and he wanted her to look at him with respect. I still had a chance, he said. I was young—” Sonny closed his eyes. “I shot him then. In the head. And then I wiped down the car and left. I called a guy on my payroll at the PCPD, and the whole thing got written off as a car accident.”

He’d murdered that man in cold blood. The words sank in, the horror of them, as Jason struggled to process the facts. A tax case. Sonny might have served a year. Oliver Joyce could have gotten out and left Port Charles. Instead, the man had given Sonny a second chance and had paid with his life.

He heard Elizabeth’s breath hitch next to him and he glanced over to see silent tears shimmering in her eyes.

In front of them, the judge had accepted Sonny’s statement and had moved on to the sentencing. “On the single count of murder in the second degree, I hereby sentence you, Michael Corinthos, Jr. to a serve a sentence not exceeding fifteen years in a state penitentiary.”

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Queen of Angels Cemetery

Kelsey stepped forward and laid the bouquet of flowers beneath the tombstone marking her father’s short life. Lucky slid his arm around her waist. “He was a good man, wasn’t she?” she murmured.

“He was.”

“He wasn’t even trying to ruin Sonny’s life. He wanted to give him a chance to get out. To look at his life.” Her voice faltered. “He died because of that.”

“He died because Sonny was too selfish to admit he’d been caught.” And because that was the world Oliver Joyce had chosen to live in for all those years, but Lucky didn’t say that. He knew how easy it was to get swept up in the mafia. How close had he come to following in his father’s footsteps? He’d been a courier for Jason, hadn’t he? And if Jason hadn’t left the business even briefly, would Lucky have moved up?

Kelsey looked over at Scott, his hands shoved into the pockets of his suit jacket. “Scott—”

“Crazy fool,” Scott muttered at the tombstone. “Always believed the best about everyone. How he survived working for Frank Smith for so long with that kind of attitude—” He knelt down and tossed the flowers—a bunch of daisies—next to Kelsey’s. “Thank you, Ollie. For looking out for my girl. For doing right by her. I’ll try to do the same for yours.”

Scott got back to his feet and looked at Kelsey, his eyes red. “So many years I chased the dream of getting Sonny Corinthos to pay for what he did to my daughter. I wanted him to go down for something. I thought—” He looked back at the grave. “I thought it would feel different.”

Lucky studied this man who had been part of the reason his mother had broken down—but had also pushed him into the academy. Towards the life that gave him Dante and Cruz—and Kelsey, the best part of it. “If we enjoyed it, we wouldn’t be much better than the people we go after, would we?”

Scott smirked, but then nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. You can rest now, Ollie.” He touched the top of the grave. “Be at peace.”

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

“I was thinking,” Elizabeth said as she handed a clean and dry Cameron to Jason so she could change out of her damp tank top. “Maybe next summer, we can start looking for a house.”

“A house?” Jason echoed. He furrowed his brow. “Why wait until then?”

“Well, I have my surgery tomorrow, and I’ll be useless for like a month. We’re going to Italy in August, then I’ll be at school—” She slid her arms around his waist and kissed him. Cameron cooed, then batted his hand against her cheek. She laughed and broke away, reaching for son. “Jealous?” She bounced him slightly. “Anyway, by then, he should be taking his first steps and I want him to have a yard.” She chewed her lip. “I mean, we could keep the penthouse for security, but—”

“Yeah. I want him to have a yard, too.” He leaned over and kissed her again. “You want me to feed him?”

“No.” She smiled down at Cameron, at her perfect baby. A year ago tonight, she’d been nearly at her lowest. Already on the verge of the embolism that would almost kill her—but it had also been the first time she’d looked at Jason and he’d looked back like he still cared. He’d kissed her.

And nothing had ever been the same.

“I won’t be able to do much with him for almost a month,” she reminded Jason. “So I want to do everything while I can.”

“It’s almost over,” he promised her, brushing his lips against her forehead. “And we’ll get on with the rest of our lives.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

“You know,” Maxie said, sliding her arm through Cruz’s as they walked towards the diner, “about six months ago you and I had a conversation.”

“Why did all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up?” he wanted to know.

“You told me your birthday was in June,” Maxie reminded him. She stopped him just at the entrance. “And that you didn’t do much for it. I declared you a man of mystery, and I was determined to solve it. You looked so damn nervous.”

His eyes widened and he started to look towards the windows of the diner, realizing too late that the blinds had been pulled down.

“But that’s because of your family, isn’t it?” Maxie asked. “You never talk about them, and you didn’t tell any of us were gay even after we practically adopted Felix, and I’m not sure I don’t like him better than Lucas sometimes—” She tipped her head. “Because they rejected you.”

The pain of that squeezed his chest. “Maxie—”

“You don’t have to talk about it. You really don’t. But as soon as we saw you at the club a few months ago, I started to connect the dots, and I made a few phone calls. June 27. You’re twenty-four today.” Maxie went around him to the door, but faced him, reaching behind her for the knob. “In Port Charles, we don’t give a crap about blood. We pick our families, and once I decide to like you, Cruz Rodriguez, there’s no going back.”

She shoved the door open, and then the lights flipped on, and sound exploded as a crowd screamed “Happy Birthday!” Cruz saw Dante and Lucky, Lulu, Kelsey, even Emily and her boyfriend Nikolas. Lucas and Felix. Georgie, Kyle, Dillon—

Everyone he’d met over the last year. And everyone who knew the truth about him.

Maxie beamed as he took it in, then just looked at her. “You’re not a mystery anymore, Cruz. Happy birthday.”

Monday, June 28, 2004

General Hospital: ICU

It never got easier to see Elizabeth laying in a hospital bed, her face pale, her nails unpainted, and a ventilator tube taped to her mouth. Even though Jason knew she’d come through her surgery with flying colors, that Monica said they’d cleared her lungs of all scar tissue, and that she was as good as cured of the condition that had nearly stolen their future.

None of that mattered. Jason wouldn’t be able to relax until she opened her eyes and looked at him. Until she was breathing on her own.

Nearly three hours after she’d come out of the post-op, her eyes fluttered, and she started to cough. Monica was already there, and with Epiphany, they pulled out the tube. Jason had the straw at her lips before Elizabeth had even fully opened her eyes.

“You’re…getting…too…good at that,” she managed, but then she opened her eyes fully. Looked at him. “Hey.”


“It’s done?”

“It’s done.” Jason nodded at Monica. “Monica said we got everything. It’s done. And it’s over.”

“Good. Love you.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, her head lolled to the side, and she drifted back into sleep. But this time, her chest was rising and falling on her own.

“I love you, too.” He slid her wedding ring and engagement ring back on her hand, kissed her palm, and sat back to watch her breathe.

August 23, 2022

This entry is part 39 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

Discomfort, endlessly has pulled itself upon me
Distracting, reacting
Against my will I stand beside my own reflection
It’s haunting
How I can’t seem

To find myself again
My walls are closing in
Without a sense of confidence, I’m convinced
That there’s just too much pressure to take
I’ve felt this way before
So insecure

Crawling, Linkin Park

Monday, May 5, 2004

Lexington House: Living Room

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, as if Carly were moving in a dream—

Elizabeth had attacked Ric and wrestled the gun from him, pulled the trigger three times, and Ric had fallen. Together, Carly and Elizabeth had gone towards him, Carly slightly behind her. She looked down at the carpet and saw the gun.

The gun he’d used to threaten her mother. To take Bobbie away from her, using Carly’s terror of him, of losing someone else—he’d used it to control her.

And now it was just laying on the ground.

Carly was staring at it as she listened to Ric gasping for breath—heard Elizabeth murmur something— look away. Ric’s eyes closed. His chest stopped rising.

He was dead.

She leaned down to pick up the gun, to move it—and then she saw it—

Ric’s eyes opened, his lips curled into a snarl, and his body started to shift, to launch itself off the carpet—toward Elizabeth who had turned away to look at Bobbie—

“Elizabeth—” Carly forced the words out. “Look out!”

But it was too late—Ric was off the ground, Elizabeth couldn’t turn fast enough—

So Carly raised the gun and pulled the trigger, screaming as she kept shooting, kept going until the barrel clicked into emptiness—

Ric was shoved back by the first bullet, slammed into the wall. The first one caught him in the chest, then the second—it hit his throat—

Then his face exploded.

PCPD: Squad Room

Kelsey did not run. She made a conscious effort not to rush down the hallway and burst through the doors. She’d wanted to—the moment Taggert had called her, told her he’d made an arrest—Kelsey had wanted to run.

In the squad room, she found Lucky, Anna, and Taggert clustered around Taggert’s desk, the three of them sharing similar expressions of shock, concern, and relief—

“What is it?” Kelsey demanded. “Who—How?”

Lucky left his bosses and came to her. He took her face in his, rested his forehead against hers for a long moment. “Sonny. He confessed.”


Behind him, Scott came in. “What’s wrong? You told my secretary—” He looked at Kelsey who had started to cry. “What’s going?”

“We made an arrest, Scott,” Taggert told him. He cleared his throat. “Sonny just confessed to Oliver Joyce’s murder.”

“Confessed—” Scott blinked, shook his head. Looked over to the interrogation room. “What?”

“He confessed?” Kelsey repeated. “How—how did his lawyer let that happen?”

“He refused a lawyer,” Anna said. When Scott just stared at her, she nodded. “I can’t explain it. He signed a Miranda waiver, and Taggert even asked him again during the interview.”

“I don’t understand—how—why—” Kelsey took Scott’s hand in hers. He squeezed it. “Why did he kill my dad?”

“Your dad was the business manager at a strip club Sonny ran—and apparently, wasn’t happy about the treatment of the women who worked there. But he swallowed it for a long time,” Taggert said. “Until 1994. When he learned that one of the women who Sonny had fed drugs to, slept with—he found out—”

“He found out Karen was my daughter,” Scott said roughly. “Christ. We were right. It was about Karen. He admitted it?”

“He must have threatened Sonny or said something—that made Sonny worry. And since Sonny was on the verge of going after Frank Smith, getting all that power—” Taggert exhaled slowly. “Oliver Joyce was a threat.”

“My dad—my dad died because—” Kelsey hands were trembling. She looked at Lucky as tears continued to stream down her cheeks.

“Because he wanted to help my daughter.” Scott clenched his hands into fists, forced himself to take a breath. “He confessed. I don’t—how?”

“I’m not sure,” Taggert admitted. “I don’t—I’m not—” He winced looked at Anna. “It’s possible it might not stand up in court—”

“What?” Scott demanded. “Why?”

“Recent mental illness diagnosis,” Anna admitted. “I think we’re on even ground, but Taggert’s right. Any lawyer worth their salt would try to get it thrown out. But you stopped the interrogation, you asked him again—you gave him a break. And he still confessed.”

“I still don’t know why, but I guess it doesn’t matter.” He scratched his temple. “He’s being booked now on charges of second degree murder.”

“Sonny Corinthos is being booked for confessing to murder,” Scott said slowly. “I can’t—” He put an arm around Kelsey’s shoulder. “I can’t wrap my mind around it—”

“I’m going to call Dante,” Anna murmured to Taggert. “He should have a heads up.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Taggert said. He looked back at Kelsey and Lucky, then shook his head. This was not how he’d expected the day to go.

Lexington House: Living Room

Someone was screaming—someone was crying—Her mother shot from behind the chair, wrapped Carly in her arms—and it was then that Carly realized it was her—

She was screaming and crying.

“Is he dead? Is he dead? Don’t let him up—” She looked at Elizabeth, at her mother.

“He’s dead,” Bobbie said.

Carly sank to her knees, sobbing. “No, he always comes back. Always—”

“Not this time,” Elizabeth managed, her voice quivering. “He’s—his face is gone.”

Bobbie rocked Carly back and forth. “Baby, it’s okay. He’s dead, I promise you. You did it.” Bobbie turned to Elizabeth, her face white with shock. “Can you—where’s your phone?”

Elizabeth looked at her, blinked. “Claudia took them,” she said faintly. “She—she made us—”

“Right,” Bobbie muttered. “Right. I can’t—” She took a deep breath. Smoothed Carly’s hair out of her eyes. “We need to call Jason. We need to find a phone—” She got to her feet, started searching for a land line.

She found a phone tucked behind the sofa, her fingers shaking as she tried to dial.

“Let me,” Elizabeth said. “Go sit with Carly.” She turned away from Ric’s body and took the phone from Bobbie. She punched in Jason’s cell number as Bobbie returned to Carly, taking the gun from her.

“Hello?” Jason bit out, irritated, out of patience.


“Elizabeth? Where are you? Are you okay?”

“Y-yes. We’re, um—” Her voice broke. “I don’t know where we are. We drove for a while—we’re okay. I think. For now. I have—I shot him, but Carly—she killed him. Ric—he was—” She swallowed hard. “He was alive. He’s not now.”

“Are you sure?” Jason demanded. “Is he dead?”

“Y-yeah. I thought he was before, but then he wasn’t—Carly—he doesn’t have a face.” Her voice broke.

“We’re pulling up to a safe house that Claudia owns in Port Charles. Can you see us out the window? Is it the same house?”

Elizabeth went over to a window that looked out over the front of the house and nearly sank to her knees. “I see you—you’re here!”

She dropped the phone, ran to the doorway, threw open the door, and met Jason half up the steps of the porch, throwing herself into his arms.

She was safe. They were safe. It was over.

Port Charles Municipal Building: Mayor’s Office

Ned set the phone back on the hook and looked blindly at his desk for a long moment, trying to organize the news he’d been given.

“Ned?” Lois waved a hand in front of his face. “What’s going on?”

“What’s happened?” Alexis demanded.

Ned cleared his throat, then looked at Alexis. “Sonny’s been arrested.”


“What for?” Lois wanted to know. “What in the hell—”

“And Ric Lansing was alive. He’s dead now. But he was alive, and he kidnapped Carly, Elizabeth, and Bobbie. They’re okay.”


“Is that why Sonny got arrested?” Alexis spoke at the same time as Lois. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

“No, he confessed to a murder that happened ten years ago. Different case.”

“That’s a lot of information to get in sixty seconds,” Lois said, her eyes wide. “And we’re gonna need a hell of a press statement. Christ, Sonny’s confessed to it? Who was the victim?”

“And what do you mean Ric was alive?”

“I’m going across the street to find out.” Ned reached for his coat. “Anyone want to come with me?”

Lexington House: Front Porch

When Taggert, Lucky and Cruz arrived at the address given to them by dispatch, they found a cluster of people waiting for him. Jason with his arms around Elizabeth by the front door, Carly and Bobbie were sitting on the top step with Lucas standing over them. Lucky made a beeline for his aunt.

“Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?” Taggert frowned, found a dark-haired young man he’d never seen before. “Who the hell are you?”

“Johnny Zacchara. Just along for the ride.” The kid’s face looked slightly green. “Ah, I think I just saw my first brain matter.”

“Told you to wait outside,” Lucas muttered.

Taggert climbed the stairs to Jason and Elizabeth. “Dispatch said you were kidnapped? How the hell did you let that happen?” he snapped at Jason.

Jason glared at him, and Taggert felt oddly better—the equilibrium had been restored. Still pale, Elizabeth smacked him in the chest. “Stop glaring at him,” she muttered. To Taggert, she said, “Our drivers were waiting in the parking garage. Claudia Zacchara must have followed us—she put a gun to Bobbie’s head, so we didn’t exactly think it was a good idea to stall until the guards could reach us.”

“They brought you here?”

“Yeah—and Ric was here. I’m not—I’m not entirely sure what the plan was, but I think he was going to kill us. Um—he had the gun to Bobbie’s head the whole time, and I didn’t know if he’d move it—”

She looked at Bobbie. “But in the car, I managed to tell Bobbie that if I got the chance—I’d give her a signal—”

“You took longer than I thought,” Bobbie said with a weak smile to show she was only kidding. “But she distracted him—made him angry—”

“I was always good at that,” Elizabeth said. She closed her eyes. “Bobbie got herself away, then I got the gun. I shot him. I-I thought he was dead—but he was just pretending.”

“I got to the gun,” Carly said. She got to her feet, swaying slightly. Lucas put a hand on the small of her back to steady her. “And I shot him. And I kept shooting until he didn’t have a face anymore.”

Taggert winced. “Oh—well—yeah, that seems like a good plan. All right. All right. I need you to go to the station,” he told them.

“Do they have to?” Lucas asked. “They just—”

“I want to get it over with,” Elizabeth said wearily. “Can—you said Lulu was with Cameron? I just want to call her to check on him—but I don’t want to wait. Let’s get the statements done.”

“Agreed,” Carly said. “After tonight, I don’t ever want to think about Ric Lansing again.”

PCPD: Squad Room

Kelsey smiled wanly at Dante as he set a cup of water down in front of her. “I didn’t know you were working today.”

“I wasn’t,” Dante said, sitting down at his desk. “I’m not technically supposed to be back for a few more days, but Anna wanted me to have a heads up—and well, they’re busy today.”

He stared at the desk blotter for a minute. “I don’t know what to say to you,” he admitted. “How to process any of this.”

“Because your father killed mine?” Kelsey asked softly. “I’m not thinking about that, Dante.”

“Why not?” Dante looked at her, then grimaced. “Killer on one side, rapist on the other—” He sighed. “It’s not about me—”

“No, but I get it.” She swiped a tear from her eyes. “Ever since I found out my dad died in a mob hit—since I found out he’d spent most of his career working for a mobster—even on the legal side of things—it made me doubt him. And doubting him—I doubted myself. You know?” She sighed. “But today, I found out that maybe he wasn’t always a great man, at the end of the day, he was just trying to do right.”

She leaned forward. “My dad died because he wanted to make sure Sonny couldn’t hurt any other women like Karen Wexler. And I can let that be enough for me. Dante, he didn’t raise you. But even if he’d taught you to ride a bike and given you the sex talk—I still wouldn’t blame you. We are not our parents. We share DNA, but we are who we want to be.”

Kelsey smiled, a bit brighter now. “Thank you. By the way. For staying last year. I know how much you guys wanted to quit. But we stuck it out. And look what happened. The PCPD just solved a cold case they’d covered up. A cold case that I found, that Lucky convinced me to talk about—that Anna put her resources into, and your lieutenant got a confession. Look at what we’ve helped do in less than a year.”

“And now Ric Lansing is finally dead. My cousin is rotting in a prison.” Dante nodded. “Yeah, things are looking up.”

“Exactly. I’m going to call my mother to tell her—and then we are going to stop worrying about the past so much.” Kelsey picked up the phone, pressed a speed dial.

“Mom? Hey. So today, the PCPD arrested the man who killed Daddy.” Tears spilled down her cheeks again. “I know, Mom. They did it. They got Daddy justice. You’re safe. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

“I thought we were allowed to leave after we gave our statement,” Carly said as Anna opened her door to usher her inside, followed by Jason and Elizabeth. “I just wanna go home. Why did my mother get to go—”

“Something else that happened today,” Taggert said, closing the door as he entered the room last. “Sonny came in for questioning on an unrelated case.”

Jason frowned, turning to look at him. “What?”

“Is he still here?” Carly asked. “I can’t—”

“He came without a lawyer,” Anna continued. “And refused to call one despite being offered the possibility twice.”

Jason exhaled slowly, then closed his eyes. “What was the case?” he asked, a bit pained. At his side, Elizabeth tensed. Was Jason about to be arrested? Oh, God, had Sonny turned on him—

“In 1994, a man was shot dead in his car,” Anna said. “His name was Oliver Joyce, and up until that night, he had been the business manager of the Paradise Lounge and a few other clubs.”


Jason’s eyes flew open as Elizabeth repeated the last name. “1994?”  he asked.

“Yeah, before you came along,” Taggert told him. “When I said it was unrelated—” He tipped his head, understanding exactly what Jason had thought. “I meant it. I’m telling you the outcome of my questioning because you’ll hear it on the news, and after the day Carly and Elizabeth just had—I figured a heads up was warranted.”

“Was he arrested?” Carly asked, faintly. “I don’t—I don’t understand—Joyce—isn’t that—”

“The ADA’s name?” Elizabeth finished.

“Kelsey’s father, yes,” Anna confirmed. She leaned against the desk. “During questioning, Sonny confessed to murdering Oliver Joyce because he’d threatened to turn him in for things that had happened at the Paradise.”

“He confessed—” Carly pressed a fist to her mouth. “Are you—What?” She looked at Jason whose distressed mirrored her own. “How—what—”

Elizabeth touched his arm and he looked down at her. “Call Justus,” she said softly. “Justus will make sure it’s okay.”

“Yeah.” Jason shook his head slightly. “Yeah, okay. Can I—can we call a lawyer for him now?”

“I would appreciate it,” Anna admitted. “While I’m confident that Taggert handled the interrogation fairly—it’s been recorded—I am aware of Sonny’s recent bipolar disorder diagnosis. I think it’s best if we make sure everyone is protected.”

“Okay. I’ll—I’ll get someone down here. But right now—” Jason took Elizabeth’s hand. “I want to take Elizabeth and Carly home.”

“We’ll be in touch,” Taggert said as they passed by him.

“Thank you for letting us know,” Elizabeth told him, flashing him one last tired smile as the trio left the office.

“Well,” Anna said to Taggert with a hesitant smile. “That’s a hell of a day—closed a cold murder and wrapped up the Lansing case. Good work today.”

“I thought I’d feel something more,” Taggert admitted. “When I finally took Sonny down—but you know—I mostly just feel sad. He looked tired, broken.”

“He’s human, after all.” Anna straightened and went behind the desk. “Just like the rest of us. The fact that you don’t feel like you won anything today, Marcus, it tells me you’re doing something right here. Sonny might be a murderer, a criminal, but he’s also a father, a husband, and a friend. Ric Lansing might be dead—” She nodded at the door. “Their statements are signed—but it doesn’t change anything. No one won anything today. They just finished it.”

She picked up her reading glasses, slipped them on. “Time to move on.”

Brownstone: Living Room

Carly was still somewhat numb when she arrived home at dusk. Her mother was waiting for her, sitting on the sofa, tapping her foot restlessly.

When Carly came in, Bobbie shot up. “Why did they keep you?” At her side, Lucas also stood. A year ago, she knew that her mother was on her side, but she hadn’t really realized how lucky she’d been that this woman had forgiven her.

Not only had Bobbie forgiven her—but she’d let Carly into her family, and somewhere along the way—Lucas had become her brother.

“Sonny was arrested,” Carly said after a long moment of silence. “He confessed to murdering a man ten years ago.”

“Oh my God—”

“I don’t know all of the details—I think—I think Jason is going to get them, but—” Carly took a breath. “I don’t want to talk about any of that right now. The boys—”

“With Felix at our place,” Lucas told her. “He said he’d keep Michael busy with video games when he got home from school. Carly—”

“I thought I’d feel like it was over,” she interrupted. “I killed him. I made it over. That was me—and I got to save Elizabeth for a change—but I just—there’s no magic fix, is there?” She looked at Bobbie. “It’s not over because he’s dead. I’m still here.”

“You’re still here,” Bobbie repeated. “And that’s all you need to remember. No matter what happens—you got through it.”

“I did.” Carly reached for Bobbie’s hand. “Because of you. And Jason and Elizabeth, of course. But you made me safe, Mama. Last year, I knew you’d never stop looking. That you wouldn’t stop until I was free.”

“I didn’t—”

“I’m not free yet.” Carly managed a smile. “But I’m going to be. And some day, it will be over.” She looked at Lucas. “But for now, I know I’m safe. I have my boys. And my family. That’s all I need tonight.”

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

“Did you thank Lulu for me again?” Elizabeth asked as Jason entered the room. She looked down at Cameron, lightly dozing in her arms as she gently rocked back and forth. “He looks perfect. Like nothing happened—”

“I did. She’s on her way to check on Dante. Because of Sonny,” he added when Elizabeth frowned at him.

“Are you okay with it?” she asked. “A lot—a lot happened today. You know? Not just Ric—but Sonny—do you think he really confessed?”

“He must have. I don’t understand, but I guess—” Jason shook his head. “I never even knew—I never asked anything about before I knew him. Not really.”

Elizabeth got to her feet, a bit unsteady. She set Cameron down in the bassinet and flashed Jason a smile. “You didn’t even check my pulse.”

He frowned at her, then with a start, realized she was right. “I didn’t—I didn’t think about it. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Kelly did say that a lot of the problems I was having was because I was pregnant—that I would feel a lot better when it was just me and the meds.” She wrapped her arm around his waist, leaned into his embrace as he put an arm around her shoulders. “I forgot, too,” Elizabeth admitted. “Strange. It took over so much of our life for so long, and I didn’t even remember.”

He dropped a kiss on the top of her forehead. “You were always stronger than you gave yourself credit for.”

“I know. I didn’t always,” she said, tipping her face up to his. He kissed her gently, lingering. “But I know it now. I’m sorry about, Sonny, Jason.”

“Me, too. Justus will take care of it,” Jason said. “And we’ll get through it.”

“Just like we always do. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

They stood there, together, watching their son breathe.

August 20, 2022

This entry is part 38 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

In every loss, in every lie
In every truth that you’d deny
And each regret, and each goodbye
Was a mistake too great to hide
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve

New Divide, Linkin Park

Monday, May 5, 2004

 PCPD: Squad Room

Taggert made sure that Lucky was out on a call when Sonny was due in for the interrogation. Lucky probably knew that Sonny was the suspect, but he didn’t see the point in getting the kid’s hopes up.

Better to tell Lucky and Kelsey together that despite his best efforts, there would be no arrest. Sonny would bring the lawyer, nothing would happen—

And then Sonny Corinthos sauntered into the squad room.


Taggert stared at him for a long moment. “Uh, do you want to wait for your lawyer in the interrogation room?”

“No lawyer.” Sonny shrugged. “I don’t have anything to hide and you don’t have anything to scare me with.”

Speechless, Taggert asked a uniform to show Sonny into the interrogation room while he went to get Anna.

She was in her office, picking up files from her desk. “Lieutenant, I was just walking over to observe—” Anna stopped when she saw his face. “Did he not show?”

“He did. Without his lawyer. Says he doesn’t need one.”

Anna blinked. “Are you—are you quite sure—”

“Positive. I’m gonna have him sign a Miranda warning and an official waiver or else Jordan Baines will toss anything we get, but—” Taggert shook his head. “I don’t know about this, Anna. He got out of Ferncliffe with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Without a lawyer—can we even say he’s competent to make that decision?”

“I’ll—I’ll get Baldwin on the line,” Anna said, reaching for the phone. “Start recording. I’ll be in the observation room shortly. Question him. If it gets thrown out, fine. But if we can get something on the record—it’s better than what we have now.”

Taggert returned to the squad room, scooped up his files, and snagged a waiver before opening the door to the interrogation room.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason closed his eyes, then opened them, focused on Cameron napping in his bassinet. “What did you just say?”

“I’m sorry, Jase—the car—it was like they knew—Claudia Zacchara put a gun on Bobbie—no way Carly and Elizabeth are gonna—Claudia fucking smiled, man—”

“Get down to the security room now and get me the parking garage feed. Stan and Spinelli will be there in ten minutes.” He hung up, then punched out the number for Edward.

“Jason?” Edward’s confused voice came over the line. “Why are you—”

“Elizabeth and Carly just got kidnapped from the hotel parking garage,” Jason bit out. “I need my guys to have security footage. They’re on their way to security. Can you make sure they get in?”

“What? What? Of course, of course—but—”

Jason hung up on his grandfather, then sent Stan and Spinelli to the hotel, letting them know they’d have full access. He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe—just had to act. One foot in front of the other.

The phone on his desk rang and he looked at it blankly for a minute, then grabbed it. “What?”

“Jason, Johnny Zacchara is down here—says its an emergency—”

“Send him up,” Jason snapped. He stalked to the doorway, to see if Max was out in the hallway. When he wasn’t, he grimaced then stalked back to the penthouse. Okay, he couldn’t leave Cameron for more than five seconds alone—

Who could he call? Emily was working and wouldn’t be able to just walk out on her shift—damn it, where was—

He dialed another number. “Lulu?”

“Hey, Jase, what’s up—”

“Carly, Bobbie, and Elizabeth were grabbed in the hotel parking garage. I can’t leave the penthouse without someone being with Cameron—” His heart was starting to pound—his brain was starting to catch up with what had happened.

“Lucas and Felix are here—wait—” There was a rustle of voices.

“Lulu, damn it, I don’t have time—”

“Okay, okay, Felix is staying with Morgan, Lucas and I are on our way, and he’s not backing down on that, so don’t argue.” She hung up and Jason turned to find Johnny Zacchara in the doorway.

He stalked across the room, grabbed him and shoved the kid against the wall. “What the fuck is going on?”

“Uh—” Johnny’s eyes bulged. “You tell me, man! I came up here to warn you! What the fuck!”

Jason released him. “Warn me about what?”

“My sister—she’s behind everything. I guess—” He grimaced as Jason released him. “Am I too late? What happened?”

“Your psycho sister just kidnapped my wife,” Jason bit out. “What do you think?”

Johnny swallowed hard. “She was behind the other night. And maybe the bear. I don’t know. I just know she’s coming for you.”

“Damn it.” Jason swung away. Why make another move so quickly? Had she been unhappy Friday didn’t make him do anything right away?

“Would she try to go after me without your father knowing?” Jason demanded, turning back to Johnny who was rubbing his throat. “Would she do this alone to show him that she could handle the business? Is that what this is?”

“No, more like she’d toss your dead body in front of him like a cat tosses a mouse in front of a a bird. To show him she could before she slices his head off. Claudia hates my father. She always has. But she—” Johnny cleared his throat. “She wouldn’t go against him alone. She must have found help.”

Jason stared him for a long moment, and then, like a bolt of lighting jolting through his body, he remembered Claudia’s words the night he’d confronted them in Crimson Pointe.

“Dad got into one of his moods—you might be familiar with them—and choked Ric. We dumped his body and deactivated the ankle thing.”

We dumped his body.


He clenched his fists at his side and closed his eyes.

God damn it.

The yellow bear. The only way Claudia could have known about it—

“Who dumped Ric’s body?” Jason demanded. He looked at Johnny. “The night your father choked him—”

“A couple of the guards—and yeah, Claudia went with them.” He swallowed. “I’m pretty sure she took guards who are loyal to her.”

“Did you see his body?” Jason demanded. “Are you sure he was dead—”

“I don’t know,” Johnny managed. “It’s not the first time my dad went crazy and didn’t actually kill someone he thought was dead. The guards were supposed to put a bullet in his head to be sure. I can’t tell you if my father followed up.”

Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “Where would she go? Does she have any resources up here? A safe house she could take them to?”

“Who is them?” Johnny demanded. “Who else—”

“Your sister kidnapped my wife, Carly and Carly’s mother,” Jason bit out. “She just signed her death warrant, so if you’re not in the mood for that, you should go—”

Johnny’s face was pale, but he stayed firm. “Let me help you find her. Find them. My family doesn’t need any more blood on their hands.”

Jason’s phone buzzed, and he saw the call from Stan. “I’ll take this—and you better think of anything you know that might help me find my family.”

PCPD: Interrogation Room

 Sonny was getting really tired of people treating him like he was crazy and weak. He didn’t need a goddamn lawyer to talk to the police—he knew how to get through these meetings without saying a damn word.

And he didn’t even have anything to say—not since Jason had locked him out of the business and refused to let him back in—

When Taggert asked him to sign a paper stating he was waiving counsel, Sonny did it with a sneer. Fucking cops thought they were smarter than him.

“What’s this about? You apologizing for those charges you filed?” Sonny demanded.

“Old business,” Taggert said. He flipped open a file. “You, uh, heard about Karen Wexler, didn’t you?”

Sonny sat up then, frowning slightly. “Karen—Karen Wexler?” He hadn’t heard that name in years. “What about her?”

“Died in a car accident about a year ago.” Taggert slid a picture across the table. A photo of Karen the way Sonny had known her. Beautiful, young—

“Didn’t hear that,” Sonny admitted. “A shame. She was a nice kid.”

“Nice kid,” Taggert repeated. “Karen is why you’re here. Some old rumors surfaced about the Paradise Lounge. You remember that place?”

“Uh, yeah.” Sonny cleared his throat. He wasn’t—he wasn’t prepared for this. Hadn’t expected to get questions about Karen. The Paradise. What was the angle? “That place has been gone for a while—”

“Yeah, you leased the land out for another club. I like Luke’s,” Taggert told him. “Great music, good food, cheap drinks. Smart choice. Luke Spencer’s made you some good money down there.”

“I’m not involved anymore,” Sonny said, squinting. “Sold my interest after the fire. The one at the garage.”

“The fire, right. Luke blamed you for it. Shame for you to have lost a place like Luke’s since it gave you a start, but it served its purpose, didn’t it?”

“Not sure I follow—”

“The Paradise was a seedy strip joint with girls who were rumored to be underage and drugged up to work there.” Taggert focused on Sonny. “The blues club is night and day. Just like you. Part of your own image makeover, huh?”

Sonny exhaled slowly. “What’s this about? Why am I here?”

“It’s just a shame about Karen,” Taggert said. “But you know, women around you and their cars—” He shrugged. “Not a lot of luck with that, huh?”

Sonny tensed, stared at him. “Excuse me?”

“I was wondering about Karen’s accident,” Taggert continued. “I guess that’s what made me think about Luke’s. About how you still kept your interest in the club even after that night in the parking lot. Surprised you could go back, day after day, after what happened. But maybe it didn’t matter. I mean, everyone knows you married Lily Rivera for her father’s connections. Maybe he did you a favor when he blew her up.”

Sonny stared at Taggert, then slowly looked past him, swallowing hard as the woman in the light pink dress leaned past the cop, resting her elbow on the table.

Lily smiled at him, as young and as beautiful as she’d been the day she walked away from him—dangling the keys in her hand.

“I told you, Sonny. Everyone knows the truth. You couldn’t protect me. You didn’t care that I was dead. That our son died.”

Sonny shook his head. “No,” he said roughly. “I—I wanted my son. You were—She was—we would have made a family.”

“Maybe. Karen wanted to make a family,” Taggert said. “Nice young woman, you know? Starting out in life. She ever hunt you up to talk about the old days?”

“No. No—” Sonny shook his head. “No. No reason to. The old days were—they weren’t good for her. For me, either. I’m not that man anymore.”

Taggert lifted his brows, surprised. “No?”

“I didn’t—I wouldn’t hurt Karen. There’s nothing to say—no one who could say anything—” Sonny straightened. “I—I made sure of that.”

“Did you?” Taggert leaned forward. “How did you make sure, Sonny?”

He looked past him again, at Lily and now—Karen? Was that Karen standing next to his dead wife?


Sonny focused on Taggert, blinked again, and Lily and Karen were both gone. “What?”

“How did you make sure that there was no one who could say anything about Karen?”

Lexington House: Entrance

Carly stumbled as Claudia and another man shoved her inside the entry of the house. She fell into her mother.

“Careful, blondie,” Claudia snapped as she yanked Elizabeth by the arm and held the gun under her chin. “Or I’ll take out your bestie’s wife. You might not like her, but he does, doesn’t he?”

“Just stop—” Carly swallowed hard, looked at Elizabeth’s terrified eyes, not wanting to look at her mother. Oh, God. “I’ll do what you want, okay? We got in the car. We’re in the house. Just don’t—”

Her voice broke. “Just don’t hurt her anymore, okay? We’ll do whatever you want. Whatever you want us to tell Jason—”

“I don’t want you tell Jason anything—” Claudia smirked, kicked the door shut behind her. “You think it’s that easy? I’d think you’d know better after the year you’ve had.”

Carly took a deep breath. Thank God her babies were somewhere else, safe. Jason would have been told by now—he’d keep Michael and Morgan safe. Cameron was safe. The people that mattered most outside of this room.

“When Jason gets his hands on you, he’ll rip you to shreds,” Bobbie hissed. Claudia smiled, started to say something—

And then Carly heard it.

She heard the voice that haunted her dreams, that slipped into her nightmares and whispered to her in the dark that she was never leaving, never seeing her baby—

“If Jason wanted me dead, he should have done it when he had the chance.”

Carly started to tremble, started to shake—and knew who was behind her even if she hadn’t seen the gloss of terror in Elizabeth’s eyes. She turned around and saw that her mother had another gun to her head.

And this time it was held by Ric.

PCPD: Interrogation Room

“Sonny,” Taggert said again. “What did you do to make Karen go away?”

“Nothing.” Sonny shook his head. Had to think. Karen wasn’t important. She was gone. Gone forever. “I didn’t hurt her. Wouldn’t hurt her. I don’t—I don’t hurt women—” But his voice faltered there, and Taggert scowled.

They both knew that was a lie.

“You don’t hurt women. Really?” Taggert nodded with a sarcastic sniff. “What about Carly? You shoved her a few months ago. Locked her in a room in December. Bobbie told me you shoved Elizabeth the same night you locked up Carly. A real prince.”

“I was sick—I didn’t mean it—” Couldn’t think. Couldn’t make it work clear. He was just so tired. Just wanted it all over.

So tired. Sonny blinked. Had to focus. Couldn’t slip up.

He wasn’t weak.

“Sure. What about Brenda, huh? Didn’t put your hands on her, but broke her into pieces all the same, didn’t you?” Taggert retorted. “Cheated on Hannah, didn’t you? We’ve already talked about Lily—”

“Didn’t hurt Lily. I didn’t—”

“And you know what you did to Karen Wexler. Not even old enough to drink, was she? High on drugs you were feeding her—” Taggert asked. “And you killed your mother, didn’t you—”

“No—No!” Sonny’s eyes flared. He shoved himself to his feet. “No! I didn’t mean for her—I knew better—shouldn’t have talked back—shouldn’t have talked back to Deke—knew he’d take it out on her—”

“What?” Taggert shot up. “Don’t you dare—”

“He couldn’t—he couldn’t do it to me anymore—” Wasn’t his fault. Not his fault. Not really. Didn’t meant for it to happen. “Too big to lock up—couldn’t put me in the closet anymore—No one puts me in a closet!” Sonny raged. “He couldn’t hurt me, so he just took it out on Mami—not my fault—never meant—”

He sagged back into his seat, closed his eyes. “She shoulda left with me. Wanted her to leave him.”

Shaken slightly, Taggert sank back into seat. “But you did hurt Karen Wexler. You know you did. Drugged. Stripping in your club. Did you stop it? Did you protect her?”

“No.” Sonny looked at Taggert, weary and worn. “No. I didn’t.”

“You slept with her.”


“While she was drugged.”

Sonny closed his eyes. “God, yes.”

“Something you had in common with your brother, huh? Is that why you let Ric live? Because he wasn’t any worse than you?”

His eyes flew open and Sonny jerked his back and forth. “No! No! I never—I’m better—I made myself better!” He slapped his hand against his chest. “I made that go away! I made sure no one could say that about me—”

“No one?” Taggert repeated softly. “You mean you made sure Ollie couldn’t say anything?”

“Ollie—” A name he hadn’t heard in a decade. “Ollie. Yes. I made sure Ollie couldn’t tell anyone.”

When Sonny opened his eyes again, Lily and Karen were back, looking at him. Judging him. Karen just sighed and looked over behind Sonny.

Sonny twisted in his chair, his face paling as Oliver Joyce walked towards him, blood trickling down from a bullet wound in his head. He shoved out of his chair. “No! No! I didn’t—”

Taggert frowned, looked around. “Corinthos—who—”

“Why’d you hurt Ollie?” Karen asked, those sad eyes—those eyes he’d wanted to touch, to own— “He just wanted to help.”

“Corinthos,” Taggert said. Sonny focused on him, blinking. The room was empty, and sweat was dribbling down his face. “Take a seat. Let me get you some water.”

Sonny nodded, sat down, and put his head on the table.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“Can you take him upstairs?” Jason said as he handed the baby to Lulu. He didn’t want Cameron around this. “There’s a bottle in the fridge—he’ll need it in about any hour. It’s already sterilized, it just needs to be warmed up—”

“I remember from baby sitting Morgan.” Lulu took Cameron in her arms, traded a look with Lucas and Johnny. “I’ll make sure he’s safe. Just bring them home, okay?”

“Thank you.”

“What do you know?” Lucas demanded as his cousin climbed the stairs. “Where’s my mother and sister?”

“We got the make of the car from the security footage,” Jason told him. “But there’s—” He looked at Johnny. “There’s another problem.”

“There always is,” Lucas sneered.

“This isn’t about me,” Jason said, then took a deep breath. Because it wasn’t about him now, but it had started with him. With Sonny. “It’s not about my business, Lucas. His sister,” he nodded at Johnny, “is Claudia Zacchara, and Johnny says she’s not working with her father.”

“Not working—” Lucas frowned at Johnny as if noticing him for the first time. “Who the hell is she working with? What—”

“Ric. She’s working with Ric Lansing,” Jason said.

His shocked eyes swung back to Jason. “He’s dead. You told us he was dead—”

“Because my father supposedly choked him to death,” Johnny told him. “And my sister got rid of the body.”

“The same—” Lucas clenched his fists. “The same sister who just kidnapped Carly, Elizabeth, and my mother?”

“Yeah,” Jason said. “Johnny says she’d never do it alone. Which means Ric is—probably—alive.”

“The man who traumatized my sister—your wife—is alive—and kidnapped them—” Lucas cleared his throat. “Okay. Okay. It’s not going to help if I just repeat what we already know. What now?”

“My tech guy is already looking into anything Claudia owns,” Jason told him. “Are there any aliases she might use?”

“Try anything under my uncle — Dominic Bianco. He was my mother’s brother,” Johnny added. “And raised Claudia like a daughter. Also my mother — Maria Bianco.”

Jason turned away to text Stan those names, waiting like hell for anything to change. He couldn’t run, couldn’t search, not until he knew where to go.

He felt useless, felt helpless. Ric had Carly and Elizabeth again—and Bobbie—and it was Jason’s fault for trusting the Zaccharas, for believing them about Ric.

His phone buzzed with a message from Stan. “A house was bought two months ago on the outskirts of town in the name of Maria Bianco.”

Lexington House: Foyer

“You’re dead,” Carly told him. “You’re dead. They said you were dead—”

“Well, they lied.” Ric smiled at her—that smooth, easy smile that had opened all those doors a year ago. “Now, come into the living room, take a seat, and if you’re really good, I might let you live.”

“That’s a lie,” Elizabeth managed as Claudia shoved her forward. Ric stepped back, keeping the gun under Bobbie’s chin. She and Carly edged past Ric into the living room, Carly desperately trying to keep herself present, in the moment—

Don’t slip away, don’t slip away. Stay in control. Can’t leave them alone. Can’t be weak.

“I have to go,” Claudia told Ric. “Mikey is going to call as soon as Morgan leaves. I’ll get it done and we’ll move on to the next part.”

“Go ahead. I’ll handle it from here.” When Claudia left, Ric looked at them. “Take a seat,” he repeated. “And we’ll catch up.”

PCPD: Interrogation Room

Sonny stared at the glass of water but didn’t drink it. He should leave. Taggert didn’t have anything on him. Nothing except what Sonny gave him.

He’d been so fucking arrogant to walk into this room thinking he had things under control. He should have stopped everything the second he’d looked behind Taggert and seen Lily.

He shouldn’t see the ghosts of the women he’d failed. That was supposed to be over. He was supposed to be better now. Hadn’t he done the therapy? Taken the meds?

But Jason had been right to lock him out. Carly was right to take his kids.

And Taggert was right. He’d destroyed everyone he’d ever come into contact with, and it was time to stop.

“Are you ready to continue?” Taggert asked, taking a seat across from him again. “Or do you want to stop? You can call a lawyer—”

“No.” Sonny raised his eyes, met Taggert’s. “I never killed my mother. Deke told you that, didn’t he?”

Taggert’s mouth tightened. “Yes.”

“He was good at that,” Sonny mused. “Good at convincing people he was some kind of hero. Always taking in kids from the neighborhood. You—” He squinted at him. “You were one of the kids. You saw the other side of him. The side that made my mother stay all those years.”

Taggert exhaled slowly. “We’re not talking about the past—”

“Deke was a monster, and Joe Scully killed him. For me. Because of what he did to my mother. Scully couldn’t handle beating on women. He didn’t care that Deke was a cop.” Sonny wiped at his mouth. “I didn’t kill my mother.”

“Okay. Tell me about Karen. About the Paradise and Oliver Joyce.”

“Ollie was—” Sonny rubbed his chest. “Ollie was a good guy. Shoulda been a DA or something. Always looked out for the girls. Didn’t like the ones that used. I told him to butt out. None of his business. They made their choices.”

“Karen Wexler was already clean and gone—”

“He—he told me she was a friend’s daughter,” Sonny said numbly. “He didn’t know it. Easier to forget her until then. She was just one of many. Ollie never liked it—but it was personal now. Scott’s kid. He knew Scott. Told me he was going to get the Paradise shut down. I—I said okay. I didn’t—I wanted to move on, too—”

“You were plotting with Luke to take down Frank Smith.”

“Yeah.” Sonny closed his eyes. “Not enough for Ollie. Not enough. Wanted me to pay.”

“And you made it go away.”


“How, Sonny?”

Sonny looked at him, feeling like he’d been stretched out over a table until his skin had torn. “You know what I did.”

“Yeah, but you gotta say it.”

“I told him I’d come clean, but I needed help. He offered to drive me to the department. Even represent me. Said I’d feel better once it was over. I’d serve a few years, but I could start over. I was young.”



“You gotta say it.”

“I killed him.” He exhaled in a rush of air, tears leaking out of the corner of his eyes, dribbling down his cheeks. “Shot him in the head.”

Sonny looked at Taggert. “He wanted to take everything from me. Couldn’t let it happen. Couldn’t be locked up. Not again.”

Lexington House: Living Room

Elizabeth and Carly were perched on the edge of the sofa, their eyes locked on Ric who still stood in the doorway, a gun tucked under Bobbie’s chin. Carly had an arm looped through Elizabeth’s, their hands clenched together in a joint fist.

She couldn’t stand this. Couldn’t stand looking at this man, at this walking, living nightmare—watching him threaten the closest person Elizabeth had in this world to a mother—knowing that Carly was in danger next to her—that there was no chance that Ric was letting any of them walk out of the room alive.

Jason thought Ric was dead. Claudia clearly wanted a war with her family and Jason. Elizabeth knew Ric and Claudia intended to be the last people standing at the end. And Claudia was on her way to the Towers, waiting for Jason to leave.

There was only one reason for that.

They were going after her son.

Ric and Claudia were going to make sure the Zaccharas were held responsible for killing the three of them and taking Cameron. Jason would burn Crimson Pointe estate to the ground, with Anthony and Trevor inside.

It was—in fact—a very clever plan.

“Why did you wait so long?” Elizabeth asked softly.

Ric frowned at the sound of her voice, dragged Bobbie a few steps closer. “What did you say?”

“You’ve been out on bail since July,” Elizabeth continued, her voice stronger. She looked at him and realized this was the closest she would ever get to letting him know he hadn’t broken her.

He might end her life, but she was not going down without a fight. Without making sure he knew that she saw him for what he was.

“You knew the Zaccharas thought you were dead. Why wait so long to make Jason think so, too?”

Carly cleared her throat—her voice was wavering when she spoke. “Because it wasn’t just about Sonny. It’s about Anthony. You wanted him dead, too. And if you pushed Sonny enough—”

Ric smirked. “Very good, Carly. Why waste my energy and limited resources when I knew that the slightest thing might send Sonny over the edge and they could get rid of each other and clear my path? But Sonny didn’t crack.”

“And then you found out about the truce,” Elizabeth said. “So you decided to wait until Jason’s guard was down. You knew the security measures. When Friday didn’t work out—” She smiled. “Does Claudia know you set her up to take the fall?”

“No, she’s nearly as dumb as you were,” Ric said. “But women as gullible as you aren’t always easy to find. Claudia thinks we’re going rise from the ashes like a phoenix when Jason and her father destroy each other—” He shook his head, then sighed. “It’ll be sad, but I think part of her will understand when Jason doesn’t let her live. He didn’t let Faith live, did he? He’s an equal opportunity killer.”

“Do you know what I find interesting?” Elizabeth asked. She met Bobbie’s eyes. “How men are always underestimating women. Especially women they think are gullible.”

“Well, if you can find me an intelligent woman—” Ric began—then his hand moved slightly — the tip of the gun away from Bobbie’s chin just long enough—

Then Elizabeth jerked her head. “Now!”

Bobbie stomped on Ric’s foot and jabbed him hard in the stomach—by the time Ric had regained his footing, Bobbie was already diving behind a chair, and Elizabeth had gone for the gun in his hand. She bit hard on his wrist and he yelped, grabbing  for her hair—

And released the gun. She snatched it—and squeezed the trigger three times. Ric dropped to the ground.

Breathing hard, Elizabeth walked towards Ric as he lay on the ground. She watched Ric’s brown eyes as life slid out of them and his chest stopped rising. Elizabeth turned to Bobbie. “Oh, thank God—”

“Elizabeth, watch out!” Carly screamed.

Elizabeth spun around only to see Ric charging for her.

August 18, 2022

This entry is part 37 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

Everyone’s got to face down the demons
Maybe today
We can put the past away

I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend
You could cut ties with all the lies
That you’ve been living in
And if you do not want to see me again
I would understand

Jumper, Third Eye Blind

Monday, May 5, 2004

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, sifting through the basket of shirts to use for Cameron’s top layer of clothing. “How many world’s greatest grandmother shirts did Monica buy?” she asked, looking at Jason as he emerged from the bathroom, his hair damp from his shower.

“Knowing her, one for every day of the week,” Jason replied. “Are you taking him out today?”

“I thought about it,” Elizabeth told him. She took out a long-sleeved green shirt. “I know Laura wants to see him, but he’s still sleeping and eating so often, it’s hard to take him out for long.”

He looked at the clock on the nightstand. “Speaking of feeding, I’ll go get the next bottle ready.”

“Thanks,” Elizabeth called over her shoulder as she lifted Cameron into her arms and sat in the rocking chair. He waved his tiny fist, opened his eyes, then pressed his fist against his mouth. “Hey, baby. Does that taste good?” She danced her fingertips over his stomach. “Daddy’s bringing breakfast now.”

Jason returned with the bottle about ten minutes later. As he walked past her bureau, her cell phone rang. “Trade,” he told her. “I’ll feed him while you talk to Bobbie.” He settled himself in the chair with Cameron while Elizabeth answered.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Hey! I hope it’s not too early.”

“No, we were just getting Cam ready for breakfast.” Elizabeth smiled as she watched Jason fit the bottle to Cameron’s mouth. His tiny hand tried to reach for it, but fell back to his side. “What’s up?”

“Oh, well, Carly and I were talking about doing something for us—I’m off from the hospital, and Lulu offered to watch Morgan. We were going to go shopping and have lunch at the Grille. I thought you might want to join us.”

Elizabeth bit her lip, looked over at Jason. “Well, I can’t really go for long—Cameron needs me—”

“I’ve got him,” Jason told her, glancing up at her. “I’ll be gone a while tomorrow, so you should get today.”

“You’re sure?” Elizabeth asked. “I don’t know—”

“Meet us for lunch at least,” Bobbie offered. “We can shop on our own. I mean, I was going to stop at Wyndham’s. You know their baby section is to die for—”

“Oh, that’s not fair—” She sighed. “All right. What time?”  She finished making plans with Bobbie, then closed her phone and tossed it aside. “Are you sure?” she asked Jason. “I haven’t been away from him for more than a few hours since I got home. I feel terrible—”

“Elizabeth, I have to go to Crimson Pointe tomorrow,” he reminded her. “I’ll be gone most of the day. You didn’t even blink at that.”

“Yeah, but that’s important—this is just shopping and lunch—”

“Do you want to go?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yes.”

“Then go. You deserve it.”

“Well, if you twist my arm. I’ll let Cody know.” She paused. “You’re sure?”

“I am,” Jason replied. “I have to leave him for so long tomorrow, so I’m glad I don’t have to share him with you for a few hours today.”

“Well, when you put it that way.” She leaned over, kissed Cameron’s forehead, before brushing her lips against Jason’s. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Dante & Cruz’s Apartment: Kitchen

Dante emerged from his room that morning and went straight for the coffee. “Hey,” he said to Cruz.

“Hey,” his roommate said. “Lu still asleep?”

“Yeah, she’s going to baby sit her cousin today, so she wanted to sleep in.” Dante sat down at the table.

“Yeah.” Cruz shifted. “Uh, listen, we didn’t really talk about it last night. With everyone around. No one really asked why I was there by myself.” He looked away.

“I didn’t want to assume,” Dante said carefully.  “You’ve always been private about that kind of thing. I kind of wondered, but it’s not my business to pry.”

“Oh.” Cruz hesitated. “Well…I’m gay,” he said, almost off-handedly. “I just—being a cop and all—”

“It’s not a friendly atmosphere for that kind of thing,” Dante finished. “Yeah, I’ve heard the idiots in the locker room, too, Cruz. You know I don’t care about any of that. I mean—” He winced. “I mean, it’s good. No, it’s fine—” He hissed. “I’m messing this up.”

“No.” Cruz shook his head. “No, you’re not. I know what you’re trying to say, and I appreciate it. And…the others?”

“They figure the same, but they’re not going to ask. If you want people to be out around—you know, they’re good. Lucky would be, too,” he added. “But that’s up to you. You just—you don’t have to hide it.” Dante sipped his coffee. “I’m going to the PCPD today to talk to Anna.”

Cruz raised his brows. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I’m—” Dante hesitated. “I think I’m ready. I know the rumors will never stop and that people are always going to wonder, but I can’t—I miss it. I miss working with you guys. I miss the squad room. I miss feeling like I can make a difference. All I ever wanted was to be a cop.” He stared down into coffee. “You and Lucky haven’t really pushed me on this.”

“We both saw what you went through, and Lucky knows what happened in February was also about his dad. We all got scars to carry from our families, Dante,” Cruz said. “I came out to my parents when I was eighteen and they told me I was going to hell. I could either give it up or I could stop being their son. And my grandparents were on board. And up until then, my abuela—she was my rock. My champion.”

“Shit, man—” Dante cleared his throat. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well,” Cruz jerked a shoulder and looked away. “I tried it for a year. Dated a girl in the neighborhood, but I couldn’t do it. I was starting to hate myself. So I told them I was sorry, but I couldn’t live like that. If I was going to burn in hell, then at least I’d live my truth. That was four years ago.”

“They haven’t changed their mind?”

“No. You’re always going to be Sonny Corinthos’s son. But that’s biology. Family isn’t supposed to reject their kids like mine did, and they’re not supposed to hold you back. You still got your Ma.” He grinned. “You know, she still dropped lasagnas off every week while you were at the diner.”

“Well, Ma can’t stand to see anyone starving.”

Brownstone: Taggert’s Apartment

Portia made a face as he pulled bacon out of his fridge. “Oh, no. Can you skip that today—” She touched her stomach. “It’s making me want to vomit.”

Taggert closed the fridge. “Why don’t I stop at Kelly’s and grab something to go?” he suggested, sitting down to finish his coffee. “I don’t wanna make you sick.”

“Well, since your kid makes me hate all food—”

“I’m guessing it’s always going to be my kid when you’re feeling miserable?” Taggert grinned at her when she just scowled. “Fair enough. You gonna be at the store all day?”

“That’s the plan. I want to finish some designs, so we can get them into production, and I have a client coming who wants a custom gown for something.” Portia sipped her tea. “What about you?”

He hesitated. “I’m contacting Sonny Corinthos to have him come in for questioning. I have enough probable cause to get him into the box,” he told her. When Portia blinked at him, he added, “I didn’t mention it because I knew it wouldn’t be a big deal. He’ll bring his lawyer, he won’t answer anything, and that’ll be that.”

“You don’t think you’ll be able to get anything?” Portia asked. “Then why do it?”

“Because it’s the only thing I haven’t done,” he replied. “I’ve interviewed anyone who might answer questions—not a long list. I’ve read all the paperwork—there’s nothing else except to interview my primary suspect.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry, baby, I know how much you struggled with this one. It’s hard knowing you might not close it.”

“Yeah, but I guess…” He sighed. “I guess it’s not the end of the world. The thing that bothered Anna in the first place was the lack of an investigation. We might not have had an arrest ten years ago, either. At least—at least we did what was right. We investigated, we followed the leads, and sometimes…”

He kissed her forehead as he got to his feet. “Sometimes you just can’t win.”

“Come by the store when you’re done today,” she suggested. She caught his arm. “We’ll get some dinner and I’ll make sure you get your mind off it.”

“If anyone can, it’s you.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

It had been two days and Jason had steadfastly refused to even let Sonny in to discuss the attempted kidnapping. Carly didn’t want him involved, and Jason wasn’t giving Sonny a chance to show his worth.

It was exhausting not to have control over a single damn thing. To see Lily out of the corner of his eye even though he dutifully took the damn medication every day and went to see Lainey Winters every week. He could feel the difference — his brain wasn’t so fogged up and his impulses were easier to control.

He felt more in control, so why the hell wasn’t anyone giving him the chance to show it?

Max knocked lightly on the door, then pushed it open. “Hey, Mr. C. Ms. Baines is here to see you.”

Ms. Baines? Sonny frowned, it clicked. Jordan. His lawyer. Maybe it was an update about the divorce. He was eager to get into court, to show everyone that he wasn’t going to let Carly push him around and pretend to be better than him.

“Sure, sure. Jordan.” Sonny smiled at her. “You want some coffee or something?”

“No thanks, Mr. Corinthos.” Jordan returned the smile, but it was thin and a bit impatient. “I have a few updates for you. We finally have a date for the first divorce hearing,” she reported. “We see the judge on June 7. Then we’re due on the adoption question on June 10.”

A month away, but Sonny couldn’t do anything about that and it certainly wasn’t Jordan’s fault. “Fine.”

“There was also a request from the PCPD to come in for questioning,” Jordan said. “Lieutenant Taggert didn’t say what the case was, so I told him I’d ask and get back to him. I’ll call him and tell him we’re not interested—”

“What’s this we bullshit?” Sonny demanded. “You don’t speak for me—”

“With the police I do—”

“You think I can’t control myself in an interrogation room?” Who the hell was this bitch to treat him this way?

“No, Mr. Corinthos—”

“Because I’ve been dealing with the cops since I was twelve.” Sonny reached for his coffee. “Tell him I’ll be there.”

“All right.” Unhappy, Jordan shifted her briefcase from one hand to the other. “I don’t see the point. We’ll simply refuse to answer questions—”

“And you can stay at home,” Sonny retorted, stopping her in mid sentence. “I can handle this.”

“Mr. Corinthos, while I’m unaware of any active investigations involving you,” Jordan began, “I think it is a bad decision to go without representation—”

“But it’s my decision, isn’t it? I still get to make those, don’t I?” Sonny demanded. “I’m still in charge here, aren’t I?”

“Of course.” Jordan drew back her shoulders. “I’ll tell them—”

“Don’t tell them I’m waiving my right to counsel,” Sonny ordered. “It’ll catch them off guard.” And then he’d control the room.

He’d remind everyone that he was Sonny fucking Corinthos, and he still had power. He was still someone to reckon with.

Someone to fear.

Port Charles Grille: Restaurant

“It’s hard to see who he’s taking after,” Elizabeth admitted as she gave Bobbie the set of photos she’d picked up on her way to Wyndham’s.

Carly tilted her head as she looked at a picture of Jason and Cameron. “I think he might have Jason’s jaw.”

“You can’t tell that on a eight week old preemie.” Bobbie rolled her eyes, but smiled and held up a picture of Elizabeth, Jason, and Cameron in the nursery. “This is a good one—”

“She took it, didn’t she?” Carly asked dryly.

“Yeah, on Friday—these are Friday’s pictures. I dropped off Saturday and Sunday when I picked these up.” Elizabeth sighed. “I can’t stop. I’m with him all the time, but I just—I guess I just want to mark every single minute.”

“Jason took a lot of photos of Michael,” Carly said. She handed the stack back to Elizabeth and picked up her mimosa. “When I, uh, left. And then while I was—” She squinted. “Detained.”

Bobbie lifted her brows. “Detained?”

“It’s how I’m going to explain not being in any photos with Michael one day,” Carly told her mother. “Until he’s old enough to understand temporary insanity, terrible mistakes, and how not to ruin people’s lives.” She shook her head. “Not like I’m looking forward to that conversation, but there’s a whole lot of people who don’t like me in this town, so it’s probably better if I get ahead of the damage.”

The waiter brought their orders and the conversation shifted to Carly teasing her mother about her undeclared relationship with Scott Baldwin. “I mean, why aren’t you guys just admitting it? How many dinners can someone share?”

“Why aren’t you guys saying what it is?” Elizabeth asked. “I mean, I don’t even see you that much, and I know you guys are dating.”

“Because every time I get into a relationship,” Bobbie said dryly, “it ends in public humiliation, arrests, and tears—”

“Oh, so you come by this genetically,” Elizabeth said to Carly. “That’s a relief.” Carly snickered, and Bobbie glared at them both.

“I liked you both better when you hated each other,” she said in withering tone. “Now you’re bickering like sisters.”

“Oh, that was mean—” Carly tossed an olive at her mother. “Take that back!”

“I had it coming,” Elizabeth admitted. Her phone buzzed and she grinned when she flipped it open. “Jason sent me a picture message—”

“Right on the hour. You have him trained so much better than I ever could.” Carly leaned over. “Oh—he’s taking a nap?”

“Yeah, he’s sleeping a lot. Up for an hour or two—usually to eat, then sleeping for two to three hours. On repeats,” Elizabeth said. “Jason and I mostly take turns, but I’m worried about my surgery. I won’t be able to do anything for almost a month—”

“Well, you know you just say the word and Monica will move into the guest room.” Bobbie wrinkled her nose. “Don’t let her hog my baby—I’m gonna want to help.”

“Oh, this is not going to be like the hospital,” Carly complained. “Emily better let me take a turn—”

Elizabeth pressed two fingers to her lips as tears suddenly burned in her eyes. “I’m okay—” she said when Bobbie frowned. “I just—it’s um—” She took a sip of water. “Last year, when I was pregnant the first time—” she looked at Carly. “I was so scared.”

“I remember,” Carly murmured. “I saw you at the hospital. I can’t decide if I gave you good advice or not—”

“I appreciated it,” Elizabeth told her. “But I was alone. Gram was gone, and Emily was out of town. I was barely friends with Nikolas. I just—I didn’t think there was anyone I could turn to, and now—God—less than a year later—I have people fighting over who gets to help—”

Bobbie covered her hand, laced their fingers together, then squeezed. “I should have been there for you after losing Audrey. I’m so sorry, baby.”

“It’s okay. Um, I’m not sorry about what happened last year. I mean, other than—” Elizabeth looked at Carly, “—obviously if I could have everything I have without either of one of us going through what we did—”

“But since we can’t take any of it back,” Carly said, “and we’re not going to get a real resolution, at least we can point to a silver lining. You and Jason have Cameron, and that wouldn’t have happened.”

“You don’t feel like it’s resolved?” Bobbie asked with a frown. “I mean—Ric is dead—”

“He is. But I didn’t—” Carly leaned back in her seat, hesitating. “I didn’t get to be part of it. He didn’t pay enough.” She squinted at Elizabeth. “Do you know what I mean?”

“Yeah. I remember arguing with Jason—” she paused. “At Thanksgiving, when we were still kind of dealing with the idea of him being out there—what would happen when he was found—I told him that the only way Ric being dead would feel fair was if I got to pull the trigger.”

“Exactly. Otherwise—” Carly stabbed her fork into her salad. “It will never feel over.”

Elm Street Pier

Claudia was right. Nadine did like to sip a hot chocolate while walking on the pier.

Johnny swallowed hard and started down the steps towards the pretty blonde nurse sitting on the bench looking over the water. She turned her head at his entrance and smiled. “Hey! I don’t usually get to see you in the daylight.”

“Yeah, I keep crazy hours at the club.” He sat next to her, then stared at his hands. He should break things off. It hadn’t really even started. A few dates didn’t mean anything, and maybe it wouldn’t go anywhere.

But Claudia already knew about her.

“Johnny?” Nadine frowned at him. “Are you okay? You have the strangest look on your face.”

“That guy who came to the club the other night—he’s one of your patient’s fathers,” Johnny said.

“Yeah. His son was in the NICU for a while.” Nadine’s smile faded. “You work for him. I know that. I read the papers, Johnny. He’s Jason Morgan and you’re Anthony Zacchara’s son. I’m not stupid. What’s going on?”

“I—You never said anything.” Christ. He hated this. He didn’t want any of this. He stared back at his hands. “I never should have walked up to you at the club,” he muttered.

“Is it because I took care of his son? Does he think something’s going on? I don’t know anything—”

“No. That’s just a coincidence.” Johnny sat up. “I know something bad is going to happen,” he told her bluntly. “But if I say anything to stop it, something might happen to you.”

Nadine stared at him for a long moment, then turned to look out over the lake. She sipped her hot chocolate. “How bad?” she asked.

“I don’t know. But it probably involves that kid you took care of.” His sister was crazy that way, and if she needed to get to Jason Morgan, the quickest way was through his wife and son.

“He was so small when they brought him in,” Nadine said softly. “Preemies don’t always make it, you know, and it’s hard. You tell yourself don’t get attached. Don’t get involved. But you can’t help yourself. Sometimes the parents don’t visit because they know and it hurts too much, but someone has to love them.”


“He’s a baby, Johnny. If he’s in danger, if someone is going to hurt his family, I want to help them. I’m a nurse, and I’m an adult. I can take care of myself, okay? You can tell me where to go and what to do.” She lifted her chin. “But you know what you have to do.”

“Yeah.” Johnny nodded. “Yeah. I do. But first, I’m going to make sure you’re safe. Come on.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

“I know that it’s unlikely that Jordan Baines will allow Sonny to answer any questions,” Anna said to Taggert, “but there’s a chance that simply bringing up Oliver Joyce will disarm him.”

“Yeah, that’s my best shot at this. He’s not going to be looking for that case to come back. As far as I can tell, I don’t think he’s even connected Kelsey to her father. All I need is him to say one thing,” he muttered. “One thing I can use to investigate.”

“It’s more likely that this will be the last step,” Anna said gently. She looked up at the knock on her door. “Yes?”

“Sorry, Commissioner,” her secretary said. “I know you’re in a meeting, but you told me if Dante Falconieri ever showed up—”

“Yes, yes—” Anna went to the doorway to usher the young man in from the waiting area. “Dante.”

“Hey.” Dante winced when he saw Taggert in the office. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt anything—”

“It’s fine. We were finishing up. What can I do for you?” she asked, almost eagerly. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Um, I was—I’ve been working through a lot the last few months,” he told her, then looked at Taggert. “I was hoping the offer to get my badge back would still be open.”

Taggert’s shoulders slumped in relief. “Hell, yes.”

Anna arched a brow, amused at Taggert’s impatience. “The lieutenant is correct. We desperately need good officers, and you were one of our best.” She went over to her drawer and drew out the badge. “There will be some paperwork, so you won’t be back on the job for a few days, but this is yours.”

Dante took it from her, then looked down with slow exhale. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s mine.”

“It’s good, actually, that you can’t start for a few days,” Taggert told him. “We’re pulling Sonny in for questioning on a case. It won’t go anywhere,” he added when Dante just sighed. “But the dust will probably settle on it before you start.” He extended a hand. “Welcome back.”

Dante shook the lieutenant’s hand. “Thank you, sir.”

Port Charles Hotel: Parking Garage

“I’m still surprised Jason didn’t send you with a guard,” Bobbie said to Carly as they left the elevator and started for the section where their cars were parked. “After Friday—” she looked at Carly with narrowed eyes. “Shouldn’t someone be following you around?”

“Things have been quiet for months,” Carly pointed out. “Literally since everything happened with Ric in the first place. And—” She handed her shopping bags to Cody who already had Elizabeth’s. He started for the car.

“Other than Vinnie Esposito,” Elizabeth said. She gestured at the end of the row where her car was parked next to Carly’s. Cody had gone ahead with their bags and was maybe fifteen feet away. He met Carly’s driver, Chris, at the car and opened the trunk.

“I suppose,” Bobbie murmured. “But you know me, I’d wrap my girls in plastic wrap if you’d let me—”

“See, when she calls us that,” Carly said to Elizabeth, “I think she’s just trying to mess with us.”

“Don’t take the bait,” Elizabeth replied. Bobbie rolled her eyes.

“I’m just saying—”

They stopped as a blue sedan slowly rolled past them, down towards the next level—but then it stopped in front of them.

Carly blinked, took a step back. Elizabeth locked eyes with Cody—grabbed Carly’s arm—reached out for Bobbie—But a woman with long black hair swinging over her shoulder was out of the car before Elizabeth could reach her—and had a gun to Bobbie’s temple.

“Get in the car—”

The guards were already running towards them—but—

“Get in the car or I’ll blow her brains out right here,” the woman snarled. Carly rushed forward, fumbled with door latch.

“Don’t hurt my mother—” she said, turning to Elizabeth who was already behind her. “Don’t hurt her—just leave her—”

“No chance—” When Carly and Elizabeth were inside, the woman hurled Bobbie in after her—then got into the car, stopping to wave at the guards—it squealed away just as Cody and Chris reached them.

“Damn it—” Cody panted. “Get back to the car—call Jason—”

He winced as he heard the car squealing on the lower levels—they’d never get back to the car in time and catch up. “Fuck!”

“That was Claudia Zacchara,” Chris said. “She waved at us—”

“She fucking smiled—” Cody hissed. “She wanted us to know—” He yanked his phone out of his pocket. He’d walked away from Elizabeth for less than a minute, and she was gone.

August 16, 2022

This entry is part 36 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

I’ve got my memories
Always inside of me
But I can’t go back
Back to how it was

I believe in now
I’ve come too far
Now I can’t go back
Back to how it was

This is Home, Switchfoot

Friday, May 2, 2004

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

“I agree,” Bernie declared. “This doesn’t make any sense unless if it’s someone trying to trash the truce.” He leaned back and looked at Justus. “What do you think? Another member of the Zaccharas?”

“Maybe someone in our organization dissatisfied with how Jason handled things,” Justus suggested. “That would explain Richie.”

Jason scowled. He didn’t like the thought of another guard who’d been near Elizabeth turning on him. Cody, he could understand, but Richie? “What do you mean?”

“Richie wanted you in on this as soon as possible,” Justus said. “But he also brought it directly to your home — which is across the hall from Sonny. Making sure that this happened there meant it was more likely Sonny would know about it.”

Jason sat down. He hadn’t considered that angle. “But who would Richie be working with? Tommy?”

“The Vinnie thing scared him straight,” Bernie said. “He was so worried you’d cut off his balls for even accidentally protecting Elizabeth’s, uh, attacker, that he’s been quiet. I also think Sonny being clearly out has helped. Not that I don’t think Tommy shouldn’t be watched, but I don’t see him going after Carly.”

“Tommy’s more direct than that.” Justus tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair. “What if Anthony is trying to trash the truce himself? He wants to test to see if you’re gonna go after the kid. Johnny doesn’t get any marks on him, that just gives Anthony reason to think you’re weak.”

“So I’m supposed to knock the kid around on the half-chance that Anthony’s behind this?” Jason shook his head. “I’m not going to do that—”

“Well, what if it is the daughter acting on her own? Trying to prove to Anthony that she can play with the big boys?” Bernie said. “You said she’s barely tolerated. Maybe she wants more.”

“Then why fake a kidnapping against Carly? It would make more sense to go after Elizabeth if she really wanted to get Jason riled up. Not that Carly isn’t important,” Justus added, “but—”

“But it’s what Zaccharas do. Anthony’s known for targeting families. She went after Carly because of Richie.” More and more, Jason was convinced that Richie had acted deliberately. Francis trained the guards better than that, and Richie had been with them too long not to know how to play the game. “If Richie had still been guarding Elizabeth, it would have been her last night.” And that thought chilled him to the bone. If not for the blackout making Elizabeth uncomfortable, would it have been her?

He went over to the phone and pressed a speed dial. “Hey, Francis. Can you get Richie over here? Yeah, too. We need to debrief about last night.”

“What if it’s Sonny?” Justus asked quietly as Jason put the phone down. Jason frowned at him. “We know Sonny’s unhappy about being out of power. He still has connections, still has supporters. And he was quick last night. You said he was waiting.”

“No—” Jason paused. “No,” he repeated. “I’m not saying Sonny’s not capable of coming after me, but I don’t think—”

“You don’t think he’d go after Carly?” Justus asked flatly. “He’s done it before, hasn’t he? Maybe he just wanted her grabbed so he could force her into talking. I know he’s supposedly on medication, but doesn’t it sometimes take years to find the right treatment for bipolar disorders?”

Jason grimaced. There was nothing Justus was saying that wasn’t true, but it didn’t—it didn’t click. It didn’t work for him. “You’re not wrong, but what woman would Sonny have asked to carry this out? Sonny barely let Carly in the same room when talking about business. He’s…” He paused. “He’s sexist,” he admitted. “He likes keeping women out of it. Completely. I can’t see him having a woman grab Carly.”

“Okay, that I can understand. I still think it’s worth looking into, even if we end up ruling it out. Outside of this kidnapping attempt, Jason, things have actually been quiet,” Justus reminded his cousin. “And they’ve been quiet for months. Ric Lansing has been the only thorn in our side since last summer. Ric and the Zaccharas. Even through all of it, we kept things together.”

“The warehouse operated, and we still did the job. I’m with Justus. I don’t think we need to look too far for who’s behind this. It might be temping to think it’s a new enemy, but I think we’re looking at an inside job. At least partially,” Bernie offered.

“Yeah, I agree—” Jason paused as the phone lit up. He answered. “Francis?” He grimaced. “How long? Okay. Okay. Yeah, come over. We need to talk about this.” He set the receiver in the hook. “Francis sent Richie home last night with a guard watching. They’re both gone.”

Justus got to his feet. “The other guard?”

“Chuck Ohlendorf. Pull his file. I want to know what the hell he’s worked on for the last few weeks. Either Richie killed him and escaped or they were in on it together. Francis said Chuck volunteered.” Jason clenched his jaw. He was done with people inside the organization coming after him.

He’d get to the bottom of it, once and for all.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“Hey.” Elizabeth stepped back to let Carly and Michael in. “Jason had to go into work, so he’s not going to be here.”

“Oh.” Carly chewed on her bottom lip, clutching Michael’s hand in hers. “That makes sense, I guess. After last night.”

“Mommy?” Michael tipped up his head. “Can I still meet my cousin?”

“Yeah, sure, Mr. Man.” She ruffled his blond hair and smiled weakly at Elizabeth. “I think Aunt Elizabeth said some more of Cam’s family was going to come by. You know Jason’s mom?”

“Yeah.” Michael nodded. He bounced over to the sofa. “Where’s Cam? Can I hold him?”

“Monica is on her way up,” Elizabeth told Carly. “The front desk called while you were in the elevator. Does he remember—”

“I don’t know. He might.” Carly folded her arms. “But that’s my problem. Why don’t you go get Cameron? He might distract Michael.”

“Okay. I’ll be right back. Michael, I’m going to get Cam now.”

Elizabeth had just disappeared around the landing when the knock came. Carly braced herself, then opened the door to find Monica and AJ waiting. “Hey. Elizabeth just went to get the baby, and, um, Jason had to go into work.”

Michael slid off the sofa, his eyes furrowing as AJ came in after Monica, his steps hesitant. “Mom.”

“Michael, this is Uncle Jason’s brother. You, um, remember him, I guess.” Carly’s palms felt sweaty. “He came over to meet his nephew.”

Michael cleared his throat. “I thought you and Daddy didn’t like him.”

To AJ’s credit, his face didn’t change at the mention of Sonny, though Carly’s stomach lurched. “People can be wrong, baby. And I was. AJ’s a nice guy. He’s—I mean, we’ve talked about him.” She went over to the sofa and tugged Michael towards her so that he focused on her. “We talked about families are all different, and that some families are made because of blood, and others because we pick each other. Right?”

“Right. You said he—” Michael slid a suspicious glance at AJ who put his hands in his pockets. “You said he was my family by blood.”

“He is.” She pointed at Monica. “And that’s your  grandmother.” Was she doing this wrong? How did you undo six years of damage, she wondered. Six years of lies and betrayal. “Jason and AJ are brothers. It’s why Cameron is your cousin. You’ve got a lot of family you haven’t spent a lot of time with.”

“How come? Didn’t they want me?”

Monica sucked in a breath, and Carly flinched. “They wanted you. They always wanted you. I was just so scared—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I was scared they’d take you from me. But I was wrong.”

“Oh.” Michael didn’t really know what to do with that, but he’d learned to roll with the punches these days. He looked back at AJ and Monica, some of the suspicious gone. “You didn’t meet Cam yet either?”

“I have,” Monica volunteered, her eyes lighting up as she took a few steps forward. “I’m a doctor and I got to see him at the hospital. But—” She touched AJ’s shoulder. “He hasn’t. You’ll get to meet him together.”

“He’s very little,” Michael told AJ seriously. “He was born before he was done cooking. That’s what Uncle Lucas says.”

“I know, we have to be careful with him.” AJ crouched down in front of his son. “You have a new little brother, don’t you? So you know all about being a big brother and being careful.”

Michael beamed. “Mommy says I’m the best big brother. Right?”

“The best of the best.”

“Can you help me?” AJ wanted to know. “You’ll hold him first? And show me how?”

“You got it.”

“Sorry,” Elizabeth apologized as she turned the corner, carefully coming down the second set of stairs. “We had a diaper situation.”

Monica hurried over to the foot of the stairs, her hands outstretched in case Elizabeth needed her. “How is he this morning?”

“Perfect.” Elizabeth was smiling as she stepped off the bottom step. “Hey, Michael.” She flicked her eyes to AJ. “AJ.”

“Elizabeth.” AJ rose to his feet. “Michael’s going to show me how to hold a baby. I haven’t done it in a while.”

Michael clambered onto the sofa, tucked himself in the corner so that he could hold up his arm and then waited. Elizabeth carefully set Cameron into his arms, then stepped back. “He’s so little,” the boy said in awed voice. “Is it because he didn’t cook all the way?”

“Yeah, but he’ll catch up and one day, you won’t even be able to tell.” Elizabeth stepped back.   “And he’s gonna need you and Morgan. He doesn’t have any older siblings of his own. You okay with that?”

“I’ll show Morgan how,” Michael said. He looked down at Cameron. “Hi, Cam. I’m Michael.”

Carly stepped back and watched as AJ gingerly stepped forward and sat next to Michael on the sofa. Her breath came a bit easier as Michael’s smiles seemed genuine.

“Thank you,” Monica murmured. Carly turned. “For this.”

“Don’t thank me for doing the right thing. I should have done this years ago.”

“As someone who made mistakes of her own as a new mother—” Monica took a deep breath. “Better late than never.”

Luke’s: Office

“This is becoming a regular occurrence,” Luke grumbled as he let Taggert in. “What do you want?” He went over to the mini bar and poured himself a water, though he was tempted to reach for the whiskey.

“Oliver Joyce knew that Karen Wexler was Scott Baldwin’s daughter,” Taggert said. He rested his hands on the top of a chair in front of Luke’s desk. “He found out sometime in the fall of 1993. Rhonda was worried about Karen, and wanted Oliver’s help.”

“Okay.” Luke paused. “So?”

“And according to the widow, Oliver was having issues with the new manager of the Paradise. The new manager installed by Frank Smith as a favor to Joe Scully.” Taggert paused. “Sonny was that manager. The problems began, as far as I can tell, around the time Oliver found out that Karen was Scott’s daughter.”

“Hell.” Luke sat down at the desk. “Damn it.” He reached for a cigar, placing the tip in his mouth.

“And Angela Joyce identified Sonny as the man who threatened her in the morgue the morning after he was murdered—”

Luke yanked the cigar out of his mouth as it dropped open. “The hell it was—”

“I wasn’t sure either, but then I started thinking about it. This was personal, Luke. Even you didn’t know anything for sure, and no one was closer to Sonny than you. Someone threatened her. I believe that much. Who would Sonny have trusted to do that? It had to be him.”

“Christ.” Luke put his head in his hands. “There’s enough truth in that—”

“Angela Joyce isn’t going to come forward at this point. Not to point the finger at Sonny,” Taggert continued. “I can’t do anything with what I have so far. All I have is rumors and speculation.” Taggert met Luke’s eyes. “I know you’re out of the game, Luke, but you know things. I need a reason to get him into interrogation. It’s the only chance I got.”

“Sonny’s never going to admit to anything, Taggert—”

“Maybe not. But it’s the only card I got left to play. Everything leads to him. Ollie worked for Frank Smith for years, and clashed with Sonny after learning Karen was the daughter of an old friend. Ollie was murdered by someone he’d get into a car with, and the case was covered up by a corrupt cop who was always Sonny’s guy and never Frank’s. I need you tell me what you know.”

Luke twirled the cigar in his hands and thought about his own family. His parents—the sweetness of his mother, the cruelty of his father—if there was a chance that young Luke could have brought Tim Spencer to justice for what he’d done, would have he have done it? Were old loyalties to a man who didn’t understand the meaning of the word enough to stay silent?

“I’ve told you everything I knew for sure,” Luke said after a minute. “Sonny was close to challenging Frank Smith, and he didn’t want anything getting in his way. I needed Sonny to win that war, Taggert, because getting rid of Smith would keep my family safe. He had to be gone, and I’m not sorry I was the one who did it.” He smiled thinly. “That’s off the record, by the way.”

“I’m not here on that case, Luke. I just want Kelsey to have some answers.”

“I know.” Luke sat up and reached for the lighter. “You have to trust people in that life, Taggert. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but you gotta know someone’s got your back. Sonny—back then—he had my back. And I kept his secrets. He kept mine. He never screwed me over. It’s hard to let that go. It’s a code—”


“But I can’t walk around pretending I’m a better man if I don’t do right by Ollie and his daughter now. By Scottie and his kid, either. Laura wants me to tell you everything. She wanted it from the start, and I keep trying to slip past it.”

Taggert studied Luke for a long moment. “What haven’t you told me yet? What secret are you keeping?”

“Ollie didn’t like me, going back to the breakup of Scottie and Laura’s marriage. He always gave me the stank eye when we came around, but he finally confronted me one day. Wanted to know how I could be around Sonny when he was hurting women.” Luke swallowed hard. “He knew about the girls. Karen wasn’t the only. Not the first. But maybe the last.”

“Did Ollie get in Sonny’s way?”

“Yeah. Yeah, he did.  He was planning to go state’s witness. I couldn’t tell you how Sonny found out—maybe Ollie trusted the wrong guy. But Sonny found out, and then the next thing I knew, Ollie was gone. The papers said it was a car accident.”

“Did you know it wasn’t?”

Luke exhaled a long waft of smoke and looked at the glow of the cigar tip. “Not for sure, mind you. But Sonny was worried, and then he wasn’t. I suspected it, but I couldn’t let myself think about it. I’m pretty good about locking up unwanted thoughts and bad memories.” He looked over at the lieutenant. “I considered Sonny a friend for a long time, Taggert, but I always knew he’d sell out his own mother for power. He’s been chasing it for too long, and I think he’s forgotten how to live without it. I didn’t know for sure that Sonny was the trigger man, but if Ollie was going after him because of Karen — I think maybe Ollie might have tried to be fair and give him a chance to come clean.”

“That would have been a mistake,” Taggert said. He straightened. “Would you go on record with a statement that Oliver and Sonny were fighting around the time of the murder? Because it’s thin, but it’s enough to request an interview.”

“On the record,” Luke repeated. He set down the cigar, and thought again of his family. Of Laura and the little she’d asked of him. “Yeah, okay. On the record.”

The Star Lounge: Upstairs Apartment

Johnny paced the small living room area, dragging his hands through his hair, waiting impatiently as the phone rang. If Claudia didn’t pick up, he was going to drive down to Crimson Pointe and—

“What’s up, little brother?”

“What’s up?” Johnny bit out, pitching his voice low because he wasn’t convinced this apartment hadn’t been bugged. “What’s up is someone tried to grab Carly Corinthos last night, and Jason came to the club looking for me—”

Her voice sharpened. “Are you somewhere safe? Does he think you were involved?”

Johnny stood still as the truth sank in. “What the hell are you up to, Claudie? I know Dad wouldn’t sanction this, and Jason knows it, too—”

“You don’t need to worry about any of that—”

“The hell I don’t—maybe Jason wouldn’t slit my throat, but he’s not the only guy around. I get the feeling that there are people who wouldn’t mind seeing me down for the count just to stick it to Dad. Did you go after Carly?”

“No. Oh my God, John, why would you think I’d do anything to put you in danger?”

“Because everyone is banking on Jason Morgan being a soft family man, and I think that’s a fucking mistake,” Johnny retorted. “The fact that he has a family makes him more dangerous, and if he doesn’t come for me, he’s coming for you, Claudie. And I don’t think he’s gonna care that you have tits.”

“Don’t be so crude, John—”

“And don’t be such a bitch. You told me to come up here—” Johnny closed his eyes. “Fuck me, I’m a plant, aren’t I? This is all a game. You sent me here knowing that anytime you tried something, Jason would come to me looking for information. You wanted to see his reaction.”

“You’ve always had an active imagination, little brother. I wasn’t ready for Jason to kill Daddy yet, and I knew you being there would buy me time—”

“Being an unwitting source was just the icing on top?” Johnny demanded. “It stops now. I’m going to tell Jason—”

“I wouldn’t do that.”

Her voice had flattened and the hairs on Johnny’s neck stood on end. “Claudia.”

“You think I haven’t been keeping tabs on you? I know you’re enjoying your life up there. Running that club, looking at your investments to see if Jason will let you buy into it. You think I don’t know you’re planning on throwing in with Morgan?”

Johnny looked out the window, his heart beating faster. How the hell could she have known any of that—

“I know you too well, little brother. You went to Port Charles to get away from Daddy, and you found something you liked. Keep your mouth shut and I won’t ruin it for you. If everything goes the way I want it to, Daddy won’t be a problem anymore for either of us.”

Johnny swallowed hard. “You’re framing Dad for all of this, aren’t you? Just like Dad framed Ric?”

“I learned from the best, didn’t I?”

“What stops me from going to Jason right now?” Johnny demanded. “Why shouldn’t I turn you in? Make the truce real—”

“Because I know that cute little blonde likes hot chocolate and walks along Elm Street Pier before starting her shift.”

The chill slide down his spine as Johnny struggled for form words. “What are you talking about?”

“Now, I know you’ll tell me you and Nurse Nadine have only had two dates, but I know you, little brother. You’re a romantic, and those pink roses you sent to her today—she loved them. I know which vase she used and where those flowers are. Right next to her bed. Have you been in yet yet? That yellow comforter looks soft.”

Johnny closed his eyes. “She has nothing to do with this—”

“No, she doesn’t. But if you even sniff at Jason before I’m ready to make my move, I’ll make her the star. I’m doing this for us, John, even if you can’t see it. I’m not planning to hurt Jason or anyone else. I just want what’s mine and what Daddy refuses to give me. You don’t want the business. It should be mine. You don’t have to do anything but sit there and let it happen.”

“Don’t hurt her, Claudia. Please.” He didn’t even know Nadine that well beyond her pretty smile and sparkling eyes, but he’d be damned if she’d end up as part of all this because of his sick and twisted sister.

“It’s all in your hands, little brother. I’ll be in touch.”

The line went dead, and Johnny stared at his phone for a long moment. What the hell was he supposed to do? If he made one move towards Jason, Claudia would know.

And unlike Jason, Claudia wasn’t bluffing. She’d let John live for betraying her, but Nadine would pay the price. Just like his mother had when she’d tried to step between Johnny and his father.

He couldn’t let another woman suffer for him. Jason was going to have to solve the problems in his organization himself. Johnny only hoped that Claudia wasn’t lying this time.

But that was the trouble with Claudia. Even when she was telling the truth, she somehow managed to lie.

Rain Lounge: Bar

“You know,” Lucas said as he and Dante approached the bar to get a round of drinks. “I gotta say, I was surprised when Lu said you were coming tonight.”

“Yeah?” Dante gestured at the bartender. “Three appletinis,” he said, “a virgin Mary, and two raspberry margaritas.” He focused on Lucas again. “Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s a gay bar.” Lucas shrugged. “You’re a cop.” When Dante grimaced, Lucas shook his head. “You’re a cop, Falconieri. Don’t start. You’re just on a break.”

“Yeah, well—” Dante laid his credit card on the bar so the bartender could put it on his tab. “I wish I could have found a way to tell Brooke that I supported her. She should be here tonight.”

“Yeah.” Lucas looked back at their table where Kyle and Felix were talking about something in Kyle’s pre-med program while Lulu and Maxie laughed. “A year ago, I thought Kyle was an asshole. He was one of the reasons I didn’t wanna go out that night, you know? I just figured he’d be a dick. With Maxie dating him, it made me want to forget ever telling anyone.”

He shook his head. “When Brooke told me—when she realized I was gay—I thought—this was great. I wasn’t going to have to hide. We could—we could support each other. I’m sorry neither of us ever got the chance to do that.”

The bartender set the tray of drinks down and took the credit card away. Lucas lifted the tray and started back towards the table, but Dante frowned because he thought—

He thought he saw someone he knew at the other end of the bar.

“I’ll be right there,” Dante told Lucas who looked back at him. He started to walk over just as the man turned and froze.


His roommate and best friend swallowed hard. “Dante. Uh. What are you—”

Dante gestured towards the table. “I’m here with Lu and her friends. It’s Felix’s birthday—” He hesitated. “You, uh, alone?”

“Yeah.” Cruz cleared his throat. “Yeah. I just wanted to, uh—”

“You can come over and hang with us if you want.” Dante lifted his brows. “I mean, we got the space, and you know everyone.”

“Hey, what’s taking—” Maxie bounced up to them and then blinked at Cruz. Then she grinned. “Hey! I thought Dante said you had to work!”

“I, uh, got my shift covered,” Cruz said, his cheeks flushing at being caught in an obvious lie.

Lulu joined them, sliding an arm through Dante’s. “You should come over and help us settle an argument,” she said. “Kyle—who is wrong—says that the best song ever written was Hotel California.”

“Hotel California?” Cruz winced. “Oh, man.”

“Right? I tried to explain that everyone knows that ‘N Sync is the greatest band ever—” When Cruz just looked at Dante helplessly, Maxie erupted into giggles. “Oh, man, your faces! Come on, Cruz. Help me gang up on this sad man who needs our help.”

Maxie reached for his arm and Cruz allowed himself to be led over to the table, as Dante and Lulu followed in the wake of Hurricane Maxie who never knew how to let anyone sit by themselves when they could be with friends.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason set the takeout containers on the desk when he came in that night, smiling at the sight of Elizabeth on the sofa with Cameron. He was awake and she was reading to him from one of the travel books Jason had read to Michael when he was a baby. He’d recognize those dogeared pages anywhere.

“Hey,” Elizabeth said, pausing on a section about the crocodiles of Egypt. “I wasn’t expecting you home yet. Where’d you stop for dinner?”

“Eli’s,” he said. He hung up his jacket and locked up the gun. “You said this morning you were thinking about ribs.”

“Mmmm, that does sound good.” Elizabeth marked the page and set the book aside.

“How was the hospital?” Jason asked, bringing the containers over and sitting down. “Any news on the surgery?”

“Yeah, Monica is going down to Temple next week to observe one of the procedures and meet with the doctor who’s going to be performing it.” Elizabeth went over to set Cameron in the bassinet by the fireplace. “June 28.”

Jason frowned. “June 28?” Something about that day stuck in his head and he couldn’t remember why.

“They gave me a few dates to work with, and I picked that one.” Elizabeth paused. “It’s the day we found Carly and I had the embolism.” She twisted her wedding ring. “It felt, I don’t know, symbolic. I can’t face Ric and make him pay for what he did to me, but I can be done with the rest of it. Exactly one year later. And then I won’t have to think about him anymore.”

“I’m looking forward to that,” Jason agreed.

“Exactly. I’ll have to be in the hospital for about a week after the surgery, but Monica said as long as there aren’t any complications, I’ll be good around the beginning of August. Which—” Elizabeth paused and smiled. “I thought maybe we could use those tickets to Italy. We’ll take Cameron with us. Dr. Devlin said he was doing great, and should be okay to travel.”

“And we’ll be back before classes start at PCU,” Jason reminded her, and she nodded.

“Exactly. That’s what I want. I want this condition to be gone, at least as best as possible. I’ll need to be on blood thinners pretty much forever,” she said with a grimace. “And there’s a possibility I’ll develop hypertension again, so if we do end having more children, I’ll have to keep a close eye on all of that. I won’t ever—” Her throat tightened. “It won’t ever really be gone, but it’s as close to a cure as possible.”

It killed him that all the money in the world couldn’t really take this weight off her. Jason drew her in for a hug, kissing her forehead. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. It really is. I’ve been feeling better since Cameron was born, and Monica said that my vitals are better now than they’ve been since before I got pregnant. I’m okay.” She squeezed his hand. “I’ll go get something to drink.”

He had the dinners set up when she returned with a bottle of beer for him and a glass of water for herself. “You haven’t asked about last night,” Jason said after they’d eaten and he began to clean up.

“If there’s something I need to know, then you’ll tell me.” Elizabeth drew her brows together. “Is there something I need to know?”

“Maybe.” Jason paused, then wiped his hands on a napkin. “Richie’s gone. Along with another guard. I think they set up last night.”

Elizabeth drew in a sharp breath. “Richie set Carly up to be kidnapped?”

“Yeah. Looks like your instincts were good,” he said. “He couldn’t be trusted. Even with security on the club. I don’t know—” He paused. “I don’t know who he’s working for or if this was something he did on his own, but when I wanted to ask him more questions—he was in the wind.”

“That’s disappointing,” Elizabeth grumbled. She leaned back against the sofa, drawing her legs up. “Carly and I were thinking that something wasn’t right. She said it didn’t even really feel like a real kidnapping attempt. Like whoever it was hadn’t tried hard enough.”

“Yeah. That’s what I think, too. I think whoever it was wants me to go after Anthony Zacchara.” Jason’s mouth twisted. “I just wish I knew who or why.” He looked at her. “I might have to go down to Crimson Pointe. Anthony will just lie if I do this on the phone or refuse to come here. If it’s not him, it’s someone who’s trying like hell to see him dead.”

“He might be invested in knowing who that is,” Elizabeth reminded him. “When will you go?”

“I’m going to try to track down Richie first. I want to know more before I go. Maybe on Monday or Tuesday.” Jason shook his head. “Every time I think we’re out of this, something else happens.”

“You’ll figure it out, and then maybe things will be actually quiet and calm. I mean, I know things have been for a while, but it hasn’t felt real,” Elizabeth said. “Since you told me Ric was dead and it was over, I couldn’t really let myself believe it. It’s just felt like the quiet before a storm.”

“I know what you mean.” He leaned back and stretched his arm along the back of the sofa, then she curled in his side. He stroked her hair, and they sat in comforting silence — until Cameron fussed for his next bottle, and his phone rang with news from Francis that Richie and Chuck had emptied their bank accounts on their way out of town. No mistake about it — they’d been involved and were now on the run.

How many more snakes were in his organization? Jason wondered as Elizabeth snuggled up next to him to feed Cameron. Would he be able to find them all and keep his family safe?

Lexington House: Living Room

Claudia peered through a slit in the front curtains, glaring at the suburban houses on the street. “I hate this place,” she muttered. She turned to find Ric studying blueprints on the table. “How many times are you going to look through those? There’s no way into the Towers.”

“There’s always a way,” Ric muttered. “You find those guards yet?”

“Not yet,” Claudia said darkly. As soon as they’d fallen under suspicion, Richie and Chuck had disappeared, likely knowing that with their cover blown, Claudia had no use for them. She needed to find them first before they could report to Jason about her dealings. And it went without saying that Jason was looking for them, too.

She was feeling restless. Time was running out, and Ric was procrastinating, looking for the perfect plan to snatch Elizabeth and the kid. Ric had been a useful tool, she reflected, and she’d delighted in watching Jason and Sonny fall apart over the mere mention of him.

But he was a perfectionist. He’d made a mistake the year before when he hadn’t killed Carly’s little demon child. If the little bastard hadn’t seen Ric and been able to tell Jason and Sonny that Ric had snatched his mother, everything would have been different. They would have searched for her longer—blah, blah.

She’d heard it over and over again.

She knew better. You couldn’t make anything perfect. You just had to seize your opportunities.

It was time to seize hers.

“I’m telling you,” Claudia said to Ric. “Jason is suspicious. Right now he doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, but he thinks I’m involved.” And eventually he’d take those suspicions to Anthony or Johnny would decide that he could protect his lady love better if he had more power.

“I warned you pretending to kidnap Carly wouldn’t work,” Ric said. “Not only did you end up blowing both your inside sources, but you did it yourself. Carly probably already identified you—”

“I’m working with it. Every failure gives us more information. Jason’s smarter than I thought he’d be. I thought he’d immediately go for Daddy.” But he hadn’t. He was patient and smart. A combination that Claudia whole-heartedly hated.

She had to force Jason into action. Had to make him get up and do something. If she could get her hands on the wife—

Claudia looked back at Ric. “How much do you want Elizabeth?”

Ric frowned at her. “What are you talking about?”

“You want revenge on her, sure, but wouldn’t it be more fun to torture her first?” Claudia asked. She sat down. “What if we can find a way to make sure Jason leaves the kid alone? That he’s not with either of them. You want the kid more than you want her.”

Ric’s mouth tightened. “She’s going to keep her promise to me.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Absolute psycho, Claudia decided. “The kid never leaves the penthouse. One of them is always with him. If we can grab Elizabeth, Jason will absolutely go after her—”

“That doesn’t solve my problem of getting inside—”

“And that’s where you should have trusted me.” Her lips curved into a wicked smile. “Because Zander Smith gave me three names, and he was right on the money. Little Mikey is still working for Jason, and he’s already on my payroll. I just haven’t called him up from the minors yet. And guess where Mikey works.”

Ric’s eyes burned into hers. “The Towers.”

“In the security room.” Claudia folded her arms. “We grab the kid, and Jason will go straight for my father. He won’t have a choice. Even if he thinks I’m behind it, he’ll still go for Daddy. Maybe he kills him, maybe he won’t. But I can be there when it happens, and I’ll finish the job and make it look like he did. And Elizabeth will have to live with the fact that her precious miracle baby is in your hands.”

And then Jason would hunt Ric to the ends of the earth to get his son back, Claudia thought. Which meant it would be in Claudia’s interest to deliver Ric to Jason in exchange for letting her take over her father’s business.

Everyone would win in the end.

Well, except for Ric, but those were the breaks.

All they had to do was wait for the little bitch to leave the penthouse and give them an opening.

August 13, 2022

This entry is part 35 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

Did you think that this would
Make everything right
Did you know the price you’d pay
Is your own life and now
You’re screaming out to me
To make things right tonight
How will you end your pain

Angry Situation, Save Ferris

Thursday, May 1, 2004

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

The alarm jerked Elizabeth out of a light doze and she blinked blearily at the clock. It was just before midnight which meant she’d only laid down twenty minutes ago.

“It’s not time,” she said, confused and rolling over to see Jason sliding out of bed and pulling on his sweatpants. “Jason?”

“It’s not the alarm,” Jason said, leaning over to brush his lips across her forehead. “Go back to bed.”

“What—” Elizabeth sat up. “What’s going on?”

Jason pulled on a t-shirt, then went to the cradle, pressing two fingers against his cheek to check the temperature. Cameron’s eyes fluttered but the newborn slept on and hopefully would for at least a while longer. “Call from Richie at Kelly’s.”

“Richie?” Elizabeth pushed back the comforter and got out of bed. She wrapped a robe around herself. “What happened? Is Carly all right?”

“I don’t know. He just said there was a problem and he was bringing Carly by to talk about it.” Jason paused. “I need to go make sure they get upstairs without Sonny finding out—”

“But why is Richie bringing Carly here?” Elizabeth asked, grabbing the baby monitor as she followed Jason down the stairs, her brow wrinkled in confusion. “Why aren’t you going there?”

“That’s the first question I’ll be asking.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Dante clicked the lock in place after Richie hustled Carly out the front, then stared out the window.

“This doesn’t feel right,” Lulu said from behind. Dante turned, frowned at her. “All of this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Richie just called Jason and told him he was bringing Carly to the penthouse, then hung up.” Lulu’s brow creased into a frown. “That’s not how it’s done.”

Dante switched off the lights. “Maybe he knows something we don’t—”

“Maybe, but—” Lulu trailed after Dante as he went into the kitchen. “What made you come outside? We weren’t even gone that long.”

He paused as he lifted his jacket off the peg. “I heard a car in the staff parking lot. We’ve been closed almost an hour. No one should be out there or leaving since I knew you and Carly were outside.”


“It just struck me as out of place, so I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He helped her into her own jacket, then held her tight, running his arms up and down her arms. “You are, aren’t you?”

“I guess. I still—The car came up right to us, Dante, so whoever was in it knew Carly wasn’t alone. Why didn’t the driver get out to help? And she gave up too easily—I don’t know. It just…” Lulu shook her head. “It felt wrong.”

“Well, Carly’s on her way to see Jason. I’m sure he’ll figure it out whatever it is. Carly didn’t want to talk to the PCPD—” He winced. “Not that I’m the PCPD—”

“No, but—” She tilted her head. “But you ran towards the danger just like a cop would. And you still have instincts.”


“I’m not saying anything. You’ll know better than anyone when you’re ready to go back.” She paused when he didn’t say anything. “And the fact that you’re not arguing tells me that you know it’s a matter of when, not if.”

“I’m getting there. Helping Carly tonight felt right,” he admitted. “And I miss it. I like working here—with you,” he added, “but—”

“But it’s not your dream. It’s not mine either, but it’ll do until Dad lets me take over the club.” Lulu slid an arm around his waist as they headed for the kitchen exit. “Your place or mine?”

“Mine since your dad has a shotgun.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

The universe was not on Jason’s side that night. He opened the door to let in Richie and Carly, only to see Sonny lurking behind them. He gritted his teeth. “Do you need something?” he asked.

Sonny dragged a hand though his hair. “To find out why my wife is being brought here in the middle of the night by a guard.” He pushed past Jason and went into the living room.

Elizabeth was standing by Carly, and both women tensed when Sonny appeared. Jason put himself between Sonny and them. “Why did you bring Carly here?” Jason demanded.

“I thought it was better to get her out of there as soon as possible.” Richie folded his arms. “There was a kidnapping attempt in the parking lot—”

“What?” Jason demanded as Sonny growled behind him. “Carly, are you—”

“I’m fine.” Carly rubbed her elbow, wincing. “It was almost over as soon as it began. I was in the back alley, talking to Lulu—she and Dante were closing down—and this car pulled up. A woman grabbed me, but Lulu tried to hold on to me. Then Dante was there, and they left.”

Jason frowned, then looked at Richie. “Where were you?”

“You put me on the Cellar,” Richie reminded him. “Not Carly. The club is still open, and I came up when I heard the shouting—”

“You just left Kelly’s?” Sonny demanded. “What about Dante and Lulu? What if they circle back?”

Jason wanted to tell Sonny to be quiet, but he had a point. “Dante and Lulu both tried to stop it. Did you call any extra security?” he demanded. “To make sure they get home and that no one follows?” When Richie grimaced, Jason stalked towards the landline and snatched it up. “Francis, I need someone on Dante Falconieri and Lulu Spencer. Check Kelly’s and their houses to make sure they got home safe—” He saw Elizabeth gesturing at him. “What?”

“Dante and Lulu are dating,” Elizabeth told him. “I doubt he let her go home alone after that. They’re probably at his apartment.”

“Right, I can—” Carly fumbled in her bag. “I have Lu’s number. I can call her—”

“Okay.” Jason turned back to the phone. “Francis, I’m going to find out where they are. I’ll call you back—”

“You’re going to let them help?” Sonny demanded of Jason. “Just send the guards—”

Carly rolled her eyes and went over to the terrace doors as she pressed the phone to her ear. “Lu? Oh, good, you—I’m fine. I’m okay. I was just worried about you and Dante. Are you together? Okay. Jason’s going to send someone over just to sit outside the apartment building tonight. Don’t argue, Lu, or I’ll have Mama call Laura. Okay.” She hung up. “Dante took her to his apartment.”

“That saves us time, thanks.” Jason reported the location to Francis, then turned his attention back to Richie. “You know the protocol. Why did you break it?”

“I—” Richie blinked. “I don’t know. I just thought Carly was the priority. Isn’t that what you always say—”

“The priority—” Jason bit off whatever he was going to say next. “The protocol is to call me and wait for instructions. Not to decide on your own. You left two witnesses and potential targets unguarded. Go downstairs with Francis. I’ll deal with it later.”

Richie scowled, then shoved past Sonny, slamming the door behind him.  He was definitely going to be a problem. Jason turned his attention back to Carly. “Let’s start over.”

“I was at the Cellar, working on some paperwork. The club was, and still is, open,” she told him. “It doesn’t close until two. I parked out back in the staff lot at Kelly’s, so I left through the kitchen.”

“Where the hell was your driver?” Sonny snapped.

Carly closed her eyes, looked over at Sonny. “I don’t have one right now. Jason and I discussed this. Things are quiet—”

“I bet his wife still has a driver—”

“Not that I owe you any explanations,” Jason said, flatly, “But it’s for medical reasons, Sonny. She just had a baby and almost died. In case you forgot.”

Carly lifted her brows at the sarcasm dripping from his voice, but thought it was earned on Sonny’s part so didn’t comment. “It doesn’t matter what Elizabeth or you choose,” she told Jason. “I asked to drive myself, and you agreed. So this is on me. I cut my own security—”

“Why the hell—”

“Because Ric is dead, and he’s not the one I have to worry about anymore,” Carly retorted. “Jason told me it would be suicide for the Zaccharas to come after me. Stop acting like we always have guards and drivers every damn day, Sonny. No threat, less security. Ric is dead,” she repeated.

Sonny clenched his jaw, closed his eyes again, forced another deep breath. “I know that,” he said, his voice more quiet when he spoke again. “I know that. It’s—it’s just been a year of worrying about him. Of knowing he’s coming for my family. It’s hard to readjust.”

“We’ve had a little more time than you,” Carly told him, softening her own voice. “I went to the kitchen to take the back way out,” she told Jason. “Lulu was there with Dante.” She shot Sonny a side glance, but he didn’t comment on Dante’s presence.

“I wanted to talk to Lulu about doing something for Mother’s Day,” Carly lied, “so she walked me to my car. Dante offered, but I wanted to talk to Lu alone. We were outside, talking . Then a car drove up fast—their headlights blinded us. A woman jumped out, tried to drag me into the car—Lulu grabbed my arm, then Dante was there. It happened really fast,” she said. “The car got away and it was too dark for license plates.”

Jason frowned. “She only grabbed you? The woman?”

“Yeah. Barely even left a mark—” Carly held out a wrist. “And it was definitely a woman. That was different. I don’t know anyone who sends a woman to do this stuff.”

“Not unless it’s personal.” Jason folded his arms. “A woman does sound strange. You didn’t see the driver? Was that a man or a woman?

“No idea.”

“Can you describe the woman?”

“She was—I think a bit taller than me. Long hair—I remember it swinging out—but all I know it is that it was kind of dark,” Carly continued. “I’m sorry, Jason. I wish I could say more. I was scared, but it was over so quick—”

“All right.” Jason paused. “Can you both go upstairs for a while? I’m sorry—”

“No, it’s fine,” Elizabeth said. She looked at Carly. “Cam is going to need a bottle soon. We’ll go warm it up and maybe Carly wants to feed him.”

“Absolutely.” Grateful, Carly followed Elizabeth into the kitchen, and Jason turned to Sonny.

“You can go—”

“Call Bernie! Call someone! Get these people out of bed—”

“To do what?” Jason cut in, sharply. “Some woman made a grab at Carly in a parking lot. Anthony and Trevor aren’t going to send a woman to do anything. You know that. A woman tells me this is personal.”

Sonny hesitated, then nodded. “You’re thinking of Faith. Of what she did to Elizabeth last year.”

“This was sloppy, Sonny. And it’s not worth dragging anyone out of bed to do anything that can’t be done tomorrow. It’s after midnight—” Jason frowned. “How did you know this happened? Why were you in the hallway?”

“I didn’t know,” Sonny muttered. “I can’t sleep at night anymore. It’s too dark. So I was walking around and sometimes I pace the hallway.”

Jason opened his mouth, but Elizabeth and Carly returned, Elizabeth holding a bottle, and then they went upstairs. He looked back at Sonny. “I’m going to do a security check at Kelly’s, Sonny. I need you to go home and promise me you won’t come back over tonight. Carly will be with Elizabeth and Cameron, and I’m going to have Francis send up a guard.”

Sonny clenched his jaw, then stormed out. Jason sighed, rubbed his hands down his face. He wasn’t going to Kelly’s, but to find Johnny Zacchara. He didn’t think Sonny needed to know that Anthony’s only son was staying in town under Jason’s protection.

The Star Lounge: Club

Johnny Zacchara wasn’t behind the bar or in the office when Jason arrived almost a half hour later, but somewhere on the floor. The club was still packed an hour, meaning Jason would have to fight his way through the partier—the absolute last thing he wanted to do tonight.

He didn’t have a choice. He’d let the teddy bear go, allowing it just to be a coincidence, but an attempted kidnapping by a woman with long dark hair?

That sounded like Claudia Zacchara.

While Jason didn’t think Anthony was the type to let his daughter take on any important jobs in the organization, he wanted to verify that. After all, the mobster had let her sit in on meetings and Claudia had known about Ric Lansing’s death.

He might buy Johnny Zacchara’s claim not to give a shit about the business, but he’d never believe Claudia didn’t want power.

He finally located the kid in a back booth, curled up next to a blonde that Jason dimly recognized. “Johnny.”

Johnny blinked and then alerted to attention when he realized Jason was standing there. “Uh, Jason. Hey. Um—” He glanced over to the blonde. “I need a minute.”

“Okay,” she drawled, sliding out of the booth. “Um, nice to see you again, Mr. Morgan. I hope Cameron’s doing well at home.”

“He is,” Jason told the NICU nurse. “Thank you.” When Nadine Crowell melted back into the crowd, Jason sat down. “Did you know that she was my son’s nurse?”

“No—” Johnny cleared his throat. “No, of course not. I just knew she was a nurse—is that what this is about? It’s just a few dates—”

“No, it’s not that.” But Jason filed the information away for later. “Your sister.”

Johnny closed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. “What did she do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe tried to kidnap Carly.” Jason cocked his head to the side. “Would your father send her?”

“No way my father would put Claudia on something like that, but—” Johnny swallowed. “Maybe she’d try it. You know, deliver Carly on a platter to my father.” He sat back. “You sure it was her?”

” I don’t know a lot of dark-haired women who have a reason to try to grab Sonny’s wife,” Jason bit out. “I’ve given you a lot of freedom up here. Does Claudia know I’m not planning to hurt you?”

“Not in so many words, but yeah,” Johnny said after a minute. “Dad believed it, but Claudia thinks—” He paused. “Claudia thinks you might be a bit soft on kids being used as collateral damage. She said as long as I stayed clean, I’d probably be okay.”

And if Claudia knew that, was it possible Anthony was testing him? That thought didn’t sit well, but neither did the idea that Anthony would come at him through Carly. And Richie’s strange behavior was also something to think about. Why had the guard rushed Carly to him? To make sure Jason got the description that matched a Zacchara?

Did Claudia want the truce to be broken? If Jason removed her father and Trevor—

Jason shoved himself to his feet. “If your sister comes to you for help, you tell her no. Stay out of this, Johnny. She’s right. I don’t go after kids just because of their father, but if you get involved—if you come for my family, then all bets are off.”

“I won’t,” Johnny said but Jason was already disappearing back into the crowd.

Cruz & Dante’s Apartment: Bedroom

Lulu peered out the window, some of the tension easing when she saw a familiar SUV parked across the street. Dante stepped up and looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know if I like the mob putting a guard on me,” he muttered.

Lulu folded her arms, letting the curtain fall back into place. “It’s not the mob, and it’s not Sonny. It’s Jason, and I know it’s because of Carly and Elizabeth. They’re just worried about me. And you’re not a cop right now, are you?” she reminded him.

He scowled, wandered over to the bed and sat down. “That’s not fair—”

“Doesn’t make it less true.” Lulu sat next to him, curling a leg underneath her. “You’re cop inside where it matters, Dante, but you don’t have the badge right now. And the bad guys out there know it. I feel safer knowing someone is watching the building.”

“Okay. Okay,” he repeated when she just sighed. “I don’t want to fight about this. I know Carly was shaken up, so if it makes you both feel better, this is fine.”

“Okay, then.” Lulu pulled her other leg underneath her body. “How’s it feel being back home?”

“I like the bathroom better.”


“Good,” he said, offering her a half smile. “It feels right. I missed it. It’s only been a few nights, but—” He looked back out the window. “I meant what I said earlier. Running towards the fight. Helping Carly—I missed it.”

“Go see Anna,” Lulu said gently. “You’re ready. You know you are. And, God knows, the PCPD needs you. So do Lucky and Cruz. You’ll never be all the way back until she gives back the badge.”

“I’m thinking about it,” Dante told her. When she scowled, he added, “That’s better than saying I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Maybe, but—” She squealed when he tackled her and lightly shoved her onto her back. “Not fair—”

“I’m tired of talking.”

“That never happens to me,” Lulu said, but she flashed a grin and reached for the snap on his jeans.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Carly sighed as she gently burped Cameron, patting his back. “He’s so still small,” she murmured.

She handed the baby to Elizabeth who reswaddled him. “Until he catches up developmentally,” she told Carly, “we have to use an adjusted age. So even though technically, he’s eight weeks old, he’s more like two weeks because that was my original due date.”


“It helps us set better expectations of when he’ll start to crawl or walk.” Elizabeth cradled him close to herself, swaying slightly as she rocked him. “But Dr. Devlin says he’s coming along really well. No complications so far. He might need glasses or something later, but—”

“But you’re still in the clear?”

“For the most part. And we might have behavior difficulties. A lot of kids who are born at Cameron’s age develop ADHD or have learning disabilities. But he could also not have any of it. We won’t know until we get there.”

“He’ll be lucky, though, to have all the support.” Carly looked at the little bundle fondly. “He’s so beautiful. I’m relieved that he’s healthy. Jason—he was really wrecked at the thought of losing either of you.”

“I know.” Elizabeth set Cameron down in the cradle, checking his temperature one more time. “I felt the same.” She paused. “Are you really okay? You’re not having any symptoms?”

“Of the stress disorder? No.” Carly pressed a hand to her chest. “No. I don’t know why,” she added. “I think maybe I didn’t have time to really take it in while it was happening. It was over so fast, and—” She paused. “It didn’t even feel real, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean—” Carly extended her wrist. Her arm was scraped from where she’d fallen on the gravel, but her wrist was unmarked. “You’d think I’d start to see bruises or feel sore from where she grabbed me, but I don’t think she was holding on too tightly. Like she wanted me to get away.”

Elizabeth folded her arms and frowned. “But why? Why pretend a kidnapping—” Her eyes widened. “Why pretend to see Ric?” she murmured.

“Exactly. Someone’s using the same play book hoping Jason would finish the job this time. If Jason had found out about the Zaccharas screwing with us about Ric any other day, would he have done things differently? Probably. But you were still on a ventilator and Cameron wasn’t in the clear.”

“But instead of wanting Jason and Sonny to worry about Ric, they’re making Jason worry about Anthony Zacchara?” Elizabeth sat on the bed. “Who would want that?”

“I don’t know. There’s always someone out there,” Carly said darkly. She rubbed her eyes. “I just want to go home and get into bed. It’s been a long day.”

“I know. Jason will be back soon.” She hoped. He was only supposed to go down to Kelly’s and check on things.

She heard a door close downstairs and went to the hallway. “Jason?”

“Yeah,” he called back, appearing at the top of the stairs. He came down the hallway and kissed her. “Cameron down again?”

“Just now. He had some trouble with the bottle,” Elizabeth told him, “so it took longer. Everything okay?”

Carly got to her feet as Jason entered. “Jason?”

“It’s fine. I’m going to have a guard take you home,” Jason told Carly. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on right now, but the Cellar is secured. Someone is going to sit outside the Brownstone tonight, and we’ll talk tomorrow if we need to add more security.”

Carly wrinkled her nose. “All right. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night,” she said to Elizabeth.

“I’m going to walk her down,” Jason told Elizabeth.

Elizabeth cleaned up Cameron’s bottle in the bathroom sink, putting it aside for a deeper cleaning in the morning, then went back to climb into bed. Jason came back up a few minutes later and slid into bed next to her, drawing her close.

It had been quiet for weeks, Elizabeth thought as she snuggled closer to her husband, and she desperately hoped that what had happened tonight didn’t mean it was coming to an end.

But her question to Carly still echoed in her head.

Who would want Jason to go after Anthony Zacchara?

August 11, 2022

This entry is part 34 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

There’s another world inside of me
That you may never see
There’s secrets in this life that I can’t hide

And somewhere in this darkness
There’s a light that I can’t find
Or maybe it’s too far away, yeah

Or maybe I’m just blind
When I’m Gone, 3 Doors Down

Thursday, May 1, 2004

Lexington Avenue: Street

Claudia pulled the car into the garage. She waited until the door had closed behind her before removing her sunglasses and turning to her backseat and grinning. “It really should have been harder to sneak a dead man into Port Charles.”

Ric straightened, running his fingers through his disheveled hair with a grimace. “A few more weeks, and I won’t have to do this anymore,” he muttered. He shoved open the door. “This guard better be better than the last one you turned—”

“Hey, don’t knock Cody Paul,” Claudia retorted. “I called it from the beginning. He was only with us for a reason. I told Daddy that he wasn’t committed to our end game, but he thought it was worth a shot. We got what we wanted—”

“We wanted Jason to go after your father and eliminate him,” Ric retorted. He slammed the car door. “Then your idiot brother would be in charge and hand things over to you, and we’d go in for the kill.”

“Who knew the stupid wife would almost die?” Claudia muttered. They moved into the house and she dumped her purse on the kitchen counter. “If she hadn’t ended up in the hospital, Morgan would have gone nuclear. Bad timing.” She leaned against the counter. “But this guy—Richie—he’s the real deal. He was already pissed off when Cody Paul got promoted last summer. Thought it should have been him. And then Morgan pulls Richie just days after he finally gets the nod.” Claudia shrugged. “Just Morgan’s bad luck that Richie can be bought.”

Ric folded his arms. “So he’s on Carly’s club. That can work for us. Thanks to your brother, we know Jason’s agitated. We know he got the bear, took it home, and brought it back—he’s looking for a reason to go after Anthony.”

“Exactly. We roll with the plan, and he’ll head off to deal with my father personally. Then—” Claudia smirked. “He gets rid of my father just like we planned. A few months late, but better than never.” She paused. “I get what I want from this — everyone knows John isn’t cut out for this, but what makes you think you’ll be able to get close to the wife and kid?”

“You leave that up to me,” Ric retorted. “She’s not your problem anymore.”

“Whatever. Just as long your bullshit doesn’t get in my way.” Claudia’s eyes flashed. “I’m too close to what I want to let your revenge screw me over.”

He grabbed her elbow as she started to pass him and yanked her towards him. “Don’t cross me, Claudia. I can end all of this with one phone call. Morgan might want me dead, but he has no problem eliminating women who put Elizabeth in danger. He finds out you’re actually behind all of this? You’ll be rotting next to Faith Roscoe.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason rocked Cameron in his arms. “Didn’t I give you power of attorney?” he asked Justus, shifting Cameron to his other shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah, but this isn’t the normal problem.” Justus leaned against the desk. “I think our supply chain is getting screwed with. We’re having shipping issues out of Philly.”

Jason grimaced. “Not Tagliatti again—”

“No, this is coming from Joe Ligambi,” Bernie told him. “He’s still trying to consolidate things after Merlino went inside in ’01.” He sighed. “And he’s not exactly happy about the contract Sonny and Merlino had—he wanted a bigger take—”

“It came up while you were at the lake,” Justus continued. “But we put it away, and I thought Joe sucked it up and let it go, but two of the last three shipments that came through Philly were damaged by the time they got to us. We were able to make our buyers whole—”

“But it’s a pattern.” Jason sighed and went over to set Cameron in the bassinet by the fireplace. He checked his son’s temperature, then turned his full attention to Justus and Bernie. “I wasn’t here when Sonny negotiated with Merlino.” And he barely knew the Philly crime scene. “You know Philly better than I do, Justus. What’s the story?”

“Joe’s trying to do the Sonny Corinthos makeover,” Justus said dryly. “Trying to make the family seem less trigger happy. That’s the crap that got Merlino and Natale in trouble. Every time they offed one of their rivals, it just made the police look at them harder. Joe just wants to look tough, and it’s easy to practice on us right now.”

Jason hated that thought, but he knew that Justus had a point. They’d weathered the internal storm after pushing Sonny out of the business, but it was going to be harder to shore up their reputation to everyone else.  “I’m not interested in doing Joe any favors that make us look weaker. He needs us more than we need him. Pull our shipments from Philly and route them somewhere else.”

“He’s not going to like that,” Justus warned Jason as he scribbled something on a contract. “And our only other option is Baltimore. You in the mood to toss them business? They were part of the Lansing sightings.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Nicky claimed that he’d been passed the intel by someone he trusted. We can probably swing a better deal in Baltimore than Philly because he wants to make good.” He didn’t want to let a single person who’d passed on false information about Ric Lansing to get away with it, but he had to be practical. Elizabeth and Cameron were safe and healthy. Sonny wasn’t a threat anymore. “Make the offer.”

“Got it.” Justus tossed the contract into his case, then started towards the door. He pulled it open only to reveal Sonny on the other side. Justus stepped back, and Bernie paused as he closed his own briefcase. “Sonny.”

“Hey, I was hoping you had a minute.” Sonny put his hand on the door frame. “I, uh, saw that the guard wasn’t on the door so I figured Elizabeth wasn’t here.”

“She had a doctor’s appointment,” Jason said. “I’ll talk to you both later,” he said to Justus and Bernie. The two of them filed past their former boss, keeping their eyes averted.

“I got a call from a friend in Philly.” Sonny closed the door and shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants. “You remember Stevie Mazzone?”

Jason tensed. “Why did he call you?” That shouldn’t be happening any more, and he’d make it clear to Mazzone.

“I guess to take our temperature on how you’re dealing with Joe’s, uh, offer.” Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m not trying to get involved, but you know, I got a lot of contacts still. I can be useful, Jason—”

“If I let you back in, even for information,” Jason said, “you won’t be satisfied, Sonny. I know you. You’ll tell yourself it’s just advice. Just a bit of help. But what happens when I don’t listen?”

Sonny’s jaw clenched. “You haven’t been in this game as long as I have—”

“That didn’t bother you when you dumped things on me and left Brenda at the altar.” Jason folded his arms. “I told you, Sonny. You have to be out. You wanna stay across the hall and in Port Charles, fine. But that’s it.”

“You don’t even wanna give me a chance? You know exactly how I’ll act?” Sonny demanded. “You’re just like everyone else—”

Jason exhaled slowly, tried to gather his patience. “I’m just being realistic. I can’t have people calling you and trying to get between us. I already got Joe’s offer. I don’t need to hear it from Stevie—and he has no business talking to you. That’s what got us into this mess—people not going through the channels—”

“You think everything has to be all neat and tidy?” Sonny demanded as Jason turned away from him to check Cameron again. “That’s not how this business works! It’s messy! People get hurt!”

“Which is why we don’t take the risks that aren’t necessary. Baltimore is weaker than Philly and they need us more. I never liked working out of Philly anyway.” The city and the business had been too violent, and it left a bad taste in Jason’s mouth. He was, in a lot of ways, relieved to be pulling out.

“One day, you’re gonna need me,” Sonny told him darkly. “I won’t be there, and you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself—”

“I did need you!” Jason retorted. “Last summer. I needed you to keep the cops off my back, but you decided to drink yourself into oblivion! Where were you when Elizabeth nearly overdosed and died? When she was getting drugged night after night to rescue your wife? Where were you when my family needed you?”

Sonny’s face lost its color. “I didn’t—I didn’t mean it that way—”

“I needed you to hear me when I told you that Elizabeth has a potentially fatal condition that could have killed her and our son at any minute. I needed you to not lock Carly in her room. Do you think I wanted to take over all of this at the same time my son was in the NICU?” Jason demanded. “Don’t tell me that I need you, Sonny. That’s the one thing I’ve learned this year. This business does not need you. I don’t need you. Don’t you come in here and demand to be included. You threw that away over and over again. Get out.”

Sonny stared at him, swallowing hard. “Jason—”

“The worst part of all of this?” Jason interrupted, his voice rough and tight. “I let you get away with the dark moods for years until it nearly cost me everything. So congratulations, Sonny. You were right. I needed you, you weren’t there, and it was my fault. Are you happy?”

“No.” Sonny took a deep breath. “No. I’ll go.” He fumbled for the door and left. Jason stared hard after him, then closed his eyes. He turned back to his son as Cameron started to fuss. He didn’t have the time or energy to deal with this. He couldn’t worry about Sonny anymore.

Buffalo, New York

Joyce House: Front Step

Angela knew why they were there. It was written in every line of her face, in the way her knuckles clutched at the door, curling around the edge. “She didn’t put it away,” she said softly, looking at the man standing just behind Taggert. “Did she, Scotty?”

Scott sighed and tipped his face to the sky for a long moment before focusing on his friend’s widow. “Did you really think she would, Angie?”

“No. No, I guess not.” Angela stepped back and let the two men into the house. “I blame myself,” she murmured. “I should have guarded my tongue better.” She folded her arms as they stood there in the entryway of the house. “It was the guilt. The way she sounded on the phone when I said I wouldn’t come to Port Charles after Lucky was shot, I had to go.”

“You’ve been running scared too long, Ang.” Scott put a hand on her elbow. “Let us try to dig you out.”

“It’s not possible,” Angelia murmured. “I should have paid closer attention when Ollie got that job with the Smiths. He was just happy to have something that paid well. He wanted the world for our little girl, so he stayed. He wanted the best schools, the best clothes—”

“Any father would,” Taggert said.

Angela shook her head. “I just—I believed him when he said he was just doing the legit side of the business, but—” She sighed, then rubbed the side of her face. “You know, he talked about quitting but there were always reasons to stay. He always found a reason. I think he liked it, but he was afraid to admit say so.”

“Liked what?” Taggert asked.

“Power,” Scott murmured, and Angela flashed him a grateful smile. “A powerless kid goes out and tries to get some of it for his own so no one can ever hurt him again.” He paused. “Ollie was a foster kid who scraped and crawled for everything he had. He didn’t want that for Kelsey, I know that. He’d have been proud as hell of her, Angie. Everything she’s done with her life.”

“It’s what gets me through it.” Angela hesitated. “I don’t know what I can tell you, Lieutenant Taggert. I knew who and what Ollie worked for but he never brought it home with him.”

“Then give me some impressions,” Taggert asked. “Tell me about the last few months he was alive. Did he change? Was he worried?”

“He was more anxious. Damian Smith wasn’t fond of Ollie, and he was always concerned that Frank couldn’t protect him forever. Ollie stayed in the job because he was Frank’s choice,” Angela added. “We had dinner with Frank a few times before he went to jail, and Ollie visited him regularly.”

“Was it just Damian that was giving him anxiety?” Scott asked. “He wasn’t all that involved in Frank’s business back then. I thought he was more interested in ELQ.”

“You also know how fickle and dangerous Damian was,” Angela murmured. “But I think Ollie was worried about the girls. He was never a fan of the strip clubs but he tried to make sure they were respectable. He was having trouble with one of the new managers.”

“New managers?” Taggert echoed. Oh, hell. “How new?”

“I’m not sure. Ollie never got into it. He just said that he’d overlooked something but it was bothering him. He said something after Christmas, I think. Or—” Angela paused. “I think it was closer to the spring. Yes, it was in March. The last week of it, because he didn’t want to go on a family trip to Florida we’d planned. He needed to stay home.”

“The last week of March 1994,” Scott repeated. He looked at Taggert. “Karen and Jagger were married that week.”

“Karen?” Angela echoed.

“My daughter, Karen Wexler,” Scott clarified. “Rhonda, Ollie, and I went to high school together. Rhonda never told me about her, not until just before Karen’s wedding.” His heart twisted at the memory of his daughter. “Ollie knew. Rhonda had reached out to him the summer before when she was at the Paradise Lounge—”

“The Paradise—” Angela snapped her fingers. “That’s it—that’s where Ollie was spending a lot of time right before that night. He didn’t trust the manager.”

Taggert grimaced. He’d wanted this to lead anywhere else, but it looked like he had no choice but to see it through. It always came back to Sonny. “Kelsey told us you were threatened directly the morning after your husband was murdered. Did you know the man who threatened you?”

Angela cleared her throat. “Not by name. Not then,” she said softly, “but I’d seen him around the clubs. I went to pick Ollie up one night, and he was outside with him. But then, later in the papers—I’ve seen his face.” She paused. “That’s why I couldn’t go back. He’s still there. He murdered my husband and told me that if I ever said anything, he’d make sure it was the last words I ever spoke.”

Scott went over to her, took her hands in his, squeezed them. “I can’t bring back Ollie. I can’t even promise you justice. I wish I could. But I can promise that you can trust the lieutenant and I to look after you.”

Angela drew in a deep breath, her eyes intent on him. “Sonny Corinthos. He stood over my husband’s dead body and threatened our daughter. I had to run, Scotty. I had to let Ollie go so that Kelsey would be safe.” Her face crumpled. “I didn’t have a choice.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Sonny slammed his bedroom door, his hands shaking. He dragged them through his hair and started to pace the room.

I did need you—

I’m not interested in giving you a break—

I don’t really have an interest in getting to know you better—

Needed you—I can’t—I’m sorry—that’s just how it is—

The voices of Jason, Carly, and Dante rolled around his head, repeating over and over again until Sonny wanted to scream—his fist was aching—why did it hurt—

He squinted down at his fingers, then slowly stepped back, wiggling them as he focused at the hole in the wall.

He’d done that. He didn’t remember.

“It should have been you.”

The soft voice that was always with him swirled around him. Sonny turned and found Lily sitting on the edge of the bed, in the silky pink sheath dress she’d worn that fateful night, her lovely face unchanged. He could still remember her, dangling the keys with a bright smile as she walked towards the car.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“You think the pills keep me away?” Lily leaned forward, her eyes amused. “We both know better, don’t we, baby? I’ll be the last face you see.” She flicked to something behind her, and Sonny turned around to find the first woman who had haunted him standing there.

Adela. His mother. “Mami—”

“Mi hijo.” Adela’s mournful expression. “Still lost. Still in the dark.”

“No. No,” Sonny repeated forcefully. “I got out of the dark. I made it happen—”

“Didn’t matter who you had to hurt to make that happen.” A new voice made him jump as Brenda Barrett sauntered across the room and sat next to Lily. “We’re all just collateral damage, aren’t we, Sonny?”

“You—” Sonny swallowed hard. “You’re not dead. You shouldn’t be here—”

“You’re the one that makes the rules.” Brenda arched a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “You always had to be in control.You have a real problem with hurting women, don’t you?”

“I have never hurt—” Sonny gasped.

“We both know that’s not true.” A hand slid over Sonny’s shoulder and he turned to blink at Carly as she sat next to Brenda. “Not slapping a woman around doesn’t make you a saint, Sonny. You don’t get a cookie because you didn’t turn into an abusive asshole like your stepfather.”

“He could be good sometimes,” Adela said softly. “You never wanted to give him a chance—”

“You—” Sonny’s throat was tight as he squeezed his eyes shut. “None of you are here. All of this is in my head. I know this. I know you’re not here. You can’t be—”

“That’s right, Sonny,” Brenda’s voice was sardonic even as it faded into nothing. “Wish us away. That’ll work.”

When he opened his eyes, he was alone in the bedroom again, the only sound his ragged breathing.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth removed her necklace and set it in the tray on her vanity, then twisted on the stool as Jason emerged from the bathroom, Cameron already swaddled in his bedclothes. “The bottle is warm,” she told him.

“Thanks.” Jason sat down and began to feed the baby. She studied him, squinting. He’d been quiet since she’d returned from the doctor, but she knew it wasn’t about her or Cameron. His energy was quiet and subdued, but it didn’t feel directed at her.

She went over to the dresser to pull out a pair of sweats to change into for bed. “Did I tell you today was the last appointment with Kelly?” she asked as she shimmied into the pants, wincing slightly as they rubbed against her c-section scar. “It feels weird that the next appointment is just with Monica.”

Jason looked up. “But she said everything was healed, didn’t she?”

“Clean bill of health, and she doesn’t think I should have to have another c-section if we decide to have another baby.” Elizabeth smiled as Jason set the bottle aside and set Cameron on his shoulder to gently pat his back. “When she said that, I almost laughed. It feels so weird to be able to think about it.”

Jason raised his brows. “Are we thinking about that?”

“Eventually. If this surgery goes well. I asked Monica and she said that to be safe, she’d advise waiting at least two years.” She twisted her fingers. “I mean, I know my siblings were crap, but I think that’s mostly how our parents raised us, you know. In competition with each other.”

“Yeah. AJ said that once about Monica and Alan,” Jason said. He set Cameron in the cradle, then removed the spit towel from his shoulder and tossed it in the hamper. “He said they were doing better with Emily.”  When she frowned at him, Jason continued, “After the accident, there was a time when AJ and I could talk to one another. I think he was always hoping I’d remember Jason Quartermaine.”

“I bet. Jason Quartermaine always seemed to have AJ’s back, even when AJ didn’t deserve it. To lose the person that supported and loved you best and to know it was your fault—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Anyway, I see the way you and Emily love each other. And Luke and Bobbie. Lucky and Lulu. I’d like that for Cam. But if it doesn’t work out, he’ll have Michael and Morgan.” She paused. “Did something happen today? I mean, I’m not asking about work, it’s just—”

“Sonny came by,” Jason cut in. “And we—” He sat on the bed next to her. “It didn’t go well. He was angry because I wouldn’t take advice from him about a business thing, and I—” He grimaced. “I lost my temper.”

“I’m sorry. I know how hard it is for you to keep Sonny in the dark and out of things—”

Jason shook his head. “It’s not hard,” he told her. “I thought it would be, but it just makes sense. And I don’t need his advice. That’s what Bernie and Justus are for. I told him he can’t be someone that weighs in. It complicates things.” He hesitated. “And then he told me that one day I’d need him, and he wouldn’t be there. That it would be my fault.”

Elizabeth reached out for his hand and held it between her own. “I can’t imagine that went well,” she murmured.

“I told him that time had already come and gone. I needed him when Carly was in that panic room. He had just one job — to keep the police on him and not me. But he didn’t do that. So Capelli focused on you and me.”

“Then planted that story,” Elizabeth finished. “If Sonny had been distracting him—Jason, Capelli was always going to be watching us—”

“If I could have just taken a minute that week, I might have thought of the real estate agent, the panic room—how many pills did Ric give you because Sonny couldn’t do anything?” Jason pushed himself to his feet, drawing his hand out of her grasp. “Then when you got sick, he could have taken the weight off me. If he’d dealt with his mental health after the panic room—”

“He wasn’t ready—” Elizabeth nodded. “But okay. I get it. You needed him and he didn’t show up.”

“There has never been a single moment since I came to work for him that I didn’t stand by him,” Jason said roughly. “When he dumped everything on me, including jilting Brenda, I did it. When he wanted to go back into the business, I did it. When he wanted to me to keep secrets from you, I did it. But it’s never been equal.”

Elizabeth got up and went to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, and leaning her head against his chest. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.

“I needed him, he wasn’t there, and it was my fault. I could have done what Carly did. Months ago. In December, when he locked Carly in that room — I could have done more. I should have done more to force him to get help.” He kissed the top of her head. “I can’t go back and fix my mistakes. All I can do is try not to make the same ones over and over again. I’ve always protected Sonny. Time after time. All he does is take. I can’t give him anymore. I have nothing left.”

“All right.” She leaned up on her toes to brush her lips against his, lingering. “Don’t blame yourself. Maybe you could have done more, but Sonny still had to be ready to accept help. If he’s still not there, then there’s nothing else we can do.” She paused. “It was my last appointment with Kelly today,” she reminded him. “And I have a clean bill of health.”

Jason drew his brows together, then his eyes widened as that sank in. “Really?”

“Yeah, and Cameron only sleeps an hour at a time, so we should make the best of it.” She kissed his jaw. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss her again.

Kelly’s: Kitchen

Lulu sighed for the third time, and Dante glanced over his shoulder from the sink where he was finishing the last of the dishes. “What?”


“You said that the first two times.” Dante dried his hands and turned to her, leaning against the counter. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s just—it’s Friday night and we’re working.” She made a face. “It sucks. Listen, if I make sure I’m off next weekend, can you do the same? We’ll go do something that is not this.”

“We’re going down to Rochester tomorrow, remember?”

“Yeah, but that’s with everyone else—”

“You just look for things to be annoyed about, don’t you?” he asked. He walked over, took her face in his hands and kissed her. “Relax.”

“Hey, I don’t have to look for things. This crazy—” She grinned and nipped at his mouth. “It comes naturally. And you signed up for it.”

“Yeah, well, you know—I’m a glutton for punishment—”

Someone cleared their throat from behind them, and Dante and Lulu turned to find Carly standing in the doorway. “Oh…” Lulu blinked at her cousin. “We’re, um, closed.”

“No, I know.” Carly was smiling faintly. “Sorry. I parked in the back, and the Cellar’s outside entrance goes to the front. I didn’t feel like walking all the way around. Sorry to interrupt.”

“No, no, it’s cool.” Dante stepped back. “You want me to walk you to your car?”

“No, I’m just outside.” Carly hesitated. “Listen, Dante—Alexis told me she reached out to you about Kristina—and I—”

“I don’t expect anything,” he said quickly, expecting her to tell him her boys weren’t part of the deal. “I’m not even sure I’m going to really take Alexis up on her offer—”

“Oh. Well, I just—I wanted to tell you that I should have said something earlier. Michael saw some of the papers, and he’s asked about you. He’s, uh, kind of interested in having an older brother.” Carly smiled. “He thinks you can give him some tips so he can do a good job with Morgan.”

Dante blinked at her. “Oh.”

“Think it over,” Carly told him. “There’s not a lot of upside to being related to Sonny,” she continued, “so you might as well as take the good where you can find it.”

“Thanks,” Dante said.

“Lu, walk me out,” Carly said. “I wanted to talk to you about something for Mother’s Day.”

“Oh, cool. I wanna do something awesome for my mom.” Lulu hopped off the counter. “I’ll be right back,” she told Dante.

Outside in the alley, Carly turned to Lulu. “Hey, we can talk about Mother’s Day another time. I actually wanted to ask you if Sonny has been annoying Dante since he got out.”

Lulu folded her arms and walked with Carly towards the back lot. “Why didn’t you ask Dante?”

“I didn’t think he’d tell me. I just—I know he’s got a mother of his own,” Carly said. “But that doesn’t stop me from being worrying.”

“Sonny came by once, but Dante made it clear—”

Lulu frowned as a pair of headlights washed over them—She shielded her eyes, temporarily blinded— “What the—”

Brakes squealed as a car swerved then came to a screeching halt. The passenger door flew open and someone rushed out—towards Carly—


Someone—a woman—Lulu thought—grabbed Carly’s arm and started dragging her towards the car. Carly screamed and Lulu grabbed Carly’s other arm to hold her back. “Help!” Lulu screeched.

Footsteps pounded towards them as Dante ran up, shoved the woman back, Lulu and Carly falling to the gravel—the woman snarled, then got back into the car. It peeled out of the lot—

“Get the license plate!” Lulu panted as Carly struggled back to her feet.

“Damn it, it’s too dark—” Dante scowled, looked at them. “What the hell is going on?”

Shakily, Carly swallowed. “That’s what I’d like to know.”

August 9, 2022

This entry is part 33 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

There’s not enough rope to tie me down
There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won’t stop until we’re free
Wild hearts can’t be broken
No, wild hearts can’t be broken

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, P!nk

Wednesday, April 30, 2004

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

Jason closed the door behind him, then turned to Justus and Bernie. “It’s been almost two months since Cameron was born,” he said, then took a minute to let that information sink in because sometimes it felt like he was still standing outside the trauma room, waiting to hear if his wife and son would live or die.

“Okay,” Justus said when Jason didn’t continue. “And things have been mostly quiet which is good. Things are getting back to normal.” He tipped his head. “Aren’t they?”

“As far as I know.” Even if the bear was still poking at his brain, Jason hadn’t found a single reason to be sure that it was more than a coincidence. “How many people know what Cody did?”

“Cody?” Bernie repeated. “Uh, well, the three of us and Elizabeth, but I don’t think it really went further than that. Most of the guys think Cody got reassigned because he let Sonny get that close to Elizabeth.”

“What’s going on?” Justus asked. “Are you thinking of putting him on Elizabeth again?”

“Not just thinking about it. I called him back from Puerto Rico.” He sat down behind the desk and told them about the stairwell. “Elizabeth stayed home yesterday,” he said, “and I told Richie she’d be home again today but then I had Marco stay with her. She likes Marco and he’s been trustworthy—”

“Why not keep Marco on her, then?” Bernie wanted to know. “Cody’s a security risk—”

“Not to Elizabeth, he’s not,” Justus said and Jason nodded. “He did the wrong thing for the right reasons, and we were all looking for a way out. If you’d told him how sick she was, he never would have taken that risk. I think we can agree on that. But still—why not Marco?”

“He’s got a kid,” Jason told them, “and he asked us from the start to work nights. He wants to be at home so his mom doesn’t do all the work. He stays with us for the paycheck. He did me a favor until I promoted Richie, and he’s doing me another one right now. But it can’t be permanent.”

“Fair enough. Still—”

“I need someone Elizabeth feels safe with. The safer she feels, the more she trusts her guard, the better off she’ll be. I was going to do this no matter what you said,” he told them. “But I’m glad that what happened with Cody never got out. It’ll be easier.”

“It’s your risk to take,” Justus said with a shrug. “You know that I was on Cody’s side for the most part, but if it gets out that Cody turned and not only lived to tell the tale but got to keep his plush assignment guarding the boss’s wife, there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Remembering the flush of shame in Elizabeth’s cheeks, and the discomfort she’d shown a few days earlier, Jason just nodded. “I’ll deal with that if I have to. It’s worth the risk.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Taggert checked his watch for the third time since sitting down and across the table, Portia arched her brows. “Marcus, you look at that thing one more time, I’m gonna choke with you it.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He focused on her and smiled. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, more genuinely. “I know I’ve been busy—”

“You’re just lucky you’re cute,” she murmured, lifting her coffee cup. “What’s so important about this case, anyway?” Portia asked. “I know it’s your ADA’s dad, but it’s a cold case, isn’t it? Aren’t you just talking to people?”

“Normally, but I’m—” Taggert hesitated. “It’s not just who the victim was,” he admitted. “I’ve been going over every step a thousand times, making sure all the paperwork is right, that I’m documenting everything—”

“Why?” she pressed. “I mean, I’m glad you’re doing the job right, but you usually do—”

He pushed his food around on his plate, wondering whether or not he should explain that he’d been obsessed with Sonny Corinthos to the point he’d nearly gotten two women killed. Was there ever a good time to bring that up?

“I told you I started in the NYPD, didn’t I? In Brooklyn.”

“You did. That’s where you grew up, right?”

“Yeah, in Bed-Stuy. It was just me, my sister, and my mom for the longest time.” He paused. “You’d like my sister, Gia. She’s in law school in the city.” Taggert sipped his coffee, then set down the cup. “I joined the department in 1992, but it might as well as have been 1972.”

“92?” Portia’s brows lifted. “You were only twenty?”

“Did two years at city college like I promised my mom, but I always knew I wanted to be a cop. I wanted to make a difference.” Taggert grimaced, looked away. “It was tough those first few years, but I made it happen. I kept at it, and I didn’t let any of those assholes stop me.”

“What does that have to do with this case?” Portia folded her arms on the table and tipped her head to the side. “I thought the vic was from here—”

“He was, but—I’m sorry. I’m—I’m not doing this right.”

“Don’t worry.” She smiled at him, reached across the table to squeeze his hand. “Just tell me.”

“I was going the wrong way back when I was a kid. When I was fourteen, I almost ended up in a street gang. My mother was so sure I’d end up no good like my father. Then I got hauled in on a vandalism charge—” He snorted. “It wasn’t me, but it could have been. I’d tagged so many damn cars and walls in that neighborhood, I figured they’d grabbed me when they had the chance.”

He rubbed his jaw. “It was a tough time to be a Black kid in New York,” he admitted. “It was 1986, a few years before those kids got arrested for that rape in Central Park.”

“The boys that just got released last year? Did you know any of them?” she asked.

“No, they weren’t from my neighborhood. But I knew kids like them. Kids that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hated the cops.” Taggert sighed. “But the guy who pulled me in that night believed me when I told him I didn’t do it. He believed my mom, too, when she gave me the alibi. Ma never would have lied for me, but you know—most of the dicks never believed her.”

“But this guy did.”

“He saw my mom as someone whose word could be trusted. You know what that was like?” Taggert asked her. “For a guy like that to look at me, and take me at my word? He went to bat for me with the other cops, and I got released.”

“One of the rare ones.”

“Yeah. He kept in touch after that. He was married, and his wife came over a few times with him. She was really nice. She had a kid—he was older than me and out on the streets. Deke took an interest in me—took me to ball games, irritated me about school. I became a cop because of him.”

“What happened to him?” Portia said softly, but in her eyes—she could see that he knew.

“The kid—the stepson?” Taggert said. “When I say he was out on the streets, I mean he ran with Joe Scully’s crew. I didn’t know much about him then—Scully worked out of Bensonhurst and we had our own problems in my neighborhood.”


“The kid had him killed. Had Joe Scully put a bullet in his brain.”

Portia inhaled sharply. “What? Why?”

“Because he hated him. Hated cops.” Taggert met her eyes. “That kid grew up to be Sonny Corinthos. My mentor—the reason I got off the streets—he was Sonny’s stepfather, Deke Woods.”

Taggert’s mouth twisted as he continued. “People forget what garbage Sonny was back then. He ran drugs and women in Port Charles. He did it in New York, too. He beat his mother when Deke wasn’t looking. He killed her, but Deke said they couldn’t prove it—”

Portia’s eyes widened. “Oh my God—”

“After Deke died, I knew I had to become a cop. I had to join the force and make sure Sonny paid for everything—” He sat back. “I moved to Port Charles to take him on. For seven years, he was all I could think about.”

“But you transferred out of Organized Crimes,” Portia said. She shook her head. “And…you went to the wedding. He—he was Jason Morgan’s best man, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah, well, since he took over for Frank Smith, Sonny’s been trying to pretend he’s some sort of honorable criminal. He doesn’t run drugs or women, and he’s got money now. I couldn’t nail him—” He hesitated. “Carly’s kidnapping last year. The Lansing case. I got tunnel vision. I thought I played it right, and the record reads like I did—but I know better. I know that I saw my chance to get him, and I almost got Elizabeth and Carly got killed.”

He sipped his coffee. “Letting go of this thing with Sonny—I had to. Or I was gonna have to give up the job. But this case…”

“You said it was related to the mob. Is Sonny a suspect?”

“Yeah. The main suspect. I just—I don’t have any direct evidence, just rumors. Part of me wonders if I just want it to be him.” He looked at her. “What if I’m focusing on Sonny because of that? Because of my past with him?”

Taggert leaned back in his chair, shook his head. “No, I got too much going for me. I’m doing good work at the PCPD. Those kids—” He glanced at the kitchen. Dante wasn’t working today, but he’d let him down somehow. “The rookies. I owe it to them to be better than I was. And you. I got you, and we’ve got a kid coming—”

“You think you’re getting obsessed with Sonny Corinthos again?” Portia asked. “Marcus.”

“I don’t know. I thought about passing the case,” he admitted. “After I talked to Luke Spencer—after I realized what I was getting into—” He broke off abruptly.

“This man broke into the Brownstone, attacked his ex-wife and her brother. He punched you. And you offered to drop the charges to make Carly’s life easier.” Portia arched her brows. “Would you have done that even a year ago?”

“No,” Taggert said, after considering the question. “I just—”

“The fact that you’re worrying about it? Thinking about passing the case? ” Portia leaned forward. “That’s not a man obsessed with anything other than doing the right thing.”

Taggert smiled at her, feeling lighter. She was right, of course, and now he was glad he’d talked to her about it. “Thanks.”

“I have to run,” Portia said, getting to her feet. “But it’s gonna be one of those days.” He stood and kissed her. “Call me tonight. We’ll get dinner when I close.”

“Count on it.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Bobbie sighed happily as she strolled around the living room while Cameron dozed in her arms. “I just love having another grandbaby to spoil,” she told Carly and Elizabeth who were sitting on the sofa. “I can’t wait until he’s old enough to run around with Morgan and Michael.”

Morgan still isn’t old enough to do that,” Carly reminded her mother, then looked at Elizabeth. “I didn’t see Richie outside today.”

“No. You were right. I told Jason, and he immediately volunteered to change the guards. I feel bad because Richie didn’t really do anything wrong—” Elizabeth grimaced, then looked at Bobbie. “Did Carly tell you about Monday?”

“She mentioned it, but didn’t get into the details. Something about the lights and a panic attack.”

“Her guard thought she was crazy, or at least made Elizabeth feel crazy,” Carly told Bobbie. “So Marco’s on days?”

“For a bit. Jason’s going to get me another guard, I guess. I don’t know. I feel stupid because it’s not like Ric was even there.” She sighed and checked her watch. It was almost time for Cameron’s next bottle. “I don’t know why it can’t just be over,” she murmured. “He’s dead. It should be over.”

“I know.”

“And the crypt—God, why am I having panic attacks after almost two years?” Elizabeth demanded. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

“I wish I could say that you’ll get over it for good,” Bobbie said as she sat down in the armchair. Carly rose to go check on Morgan, napping in the portable crib. “But you know better than that.”

“I know. The rape came back and slapped me around again, didn’t it?” Elizabeth grimaced. “It’s like, I resolve one thing, and then the next one comes around. I’m just—I’m exhausted. From not sleeping because of Cameron, and then worrying all the time—and now this.” She shoved herself to her feet and crossed over to the mantel. “I hate that Jason had to reassign a perfectly nice guy because I can’t handle the dark.”

“Elizabeth—” Bobbie began, but Carly shook her head.

“That’s not why he did it, and you know that. And it’s not your fault.” Carly got up. “Do you remember when I came to see you at the hospital last summer? And you told me that you had the same stress condition I did? Why didn’t you tell Jason at the time?”

Elizabeth sighed. “Because I was scared he’d think I was weak and stay away from me.”

“And this time you told him. Were you worried that he’d think you were weak?”

“No. No, not really. I was embarrassed, but—” Elizabeth managed a smile. “I knew he wouldn’t see it that way. I came to see you so that I’d be calmer when I came home. To I could have a minute to think.”

“You’ve both come so far since last year,” Bobbie told them. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have a long way to go. You’ll get there.”

“Yeah. Probably.” Carly wrinkled her nose. “Sonny’s been home for like a month. Have you talked to him?”

“Not yet. Jason said he came by on Monday, and they talked. I’m going to ask him over for dinner sometime this week,” she admitted. “Jason said Sonny’s struggling with a reason to stay on the meds, and I guess we’re both going to try to find a way to give him one. He can’t get the business back or fix things with you,” she added to Carly. “But I know how important Sonny is to Jason, and God knows, I know how your mind can screw with you.”

“Are you sure you’re ready to let Sonny in?” Bobbie asked skeptically. “Don’t do it just because of Jason—”

“It’s not just because of Jason. It’s a different sort of pressure for me, I guess. He was Jason’s best friend, not mine. He wasn’t my husband or the father of my children. There’s just not the same expectations, you know? I wasn’t even as angry with him as everyone else because I didn’t have a reason to be. I was disappointed and irritated, but not angry.” Elizabeth took Cameron from Bobbie. “I can do this for Jason. I want Sonny to be better so that one day, he might get more of his life back.”

“I suppose that makes sense, and I don’t want Sonny to stop taking the meds.” Carly bit her lip. “But I hope he gets healthy and stable again for his sake.”

“And that’s all I want to do. Keep him on the road to that stability,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll all be better off.”

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

Jason braced himself as Richie knocked on the open door. “Francis sent me over. Said you wanted to talk to me.”

“Yeah.” Jason got up and went to close the door. “I appreciate you stepping in and helping out with guarding Elizabeth for a few days, but I wanted to let you know that I’m reassigning you.”

Richie’s hands curled into fists at his side. “Did I do something wrong? Is this about Monday? I swear—I tried to tell her to take the elevator—we never should have been in that stairwell—”

Jason bristled at that statement, but shook it off. “It’s just not going to work out. Don’t take it personally,” he said. “Cody became available again, and he’s a better match.”

“Cody?” Richie echoed. “I thought he went to Puerto Rico.”

“He did, but he’s back, and he’s been her guard for almost a year.  I talked it over with Francis, and he suggested you could take over the security detail at the Cellar.”

“The Cellar.”

“Yeah. Jimmy was doing that, but he’s going down to Puerto Rico. You’re not guarding Carly—she doesn’t need one anymore—but you’ll be on the building. Making sure it’s secure.”

“Okay,” Richie said. He nodded. “Okay. Uh, thanks for the opportunity. Tell Mrs. Morgan I said goodbye.”

“I will.” Jason opened the door to let him out, and saw Cody waiting. “Hey, Cody. I didn’t think you’d get here until tomorrow.”

“O’Brien said you needed me here, so I thought—” Cody glanced at Richie as the other guard glared at him and left. Jason made a note to keep an eye on that situation. “Um, I didn’t think—I didn’t know if maybe you changed your mind about—”

Jason waited for Cody to come into the office and then closed the door. “I haven’t. You did what you did, and it’s over. I’m satisfied that you did it to protect Elizabeth. She sent you away because she was worried what the other guards would think if I let you stay on as her guard.”

“I know. And I’m still sorry for what I did. I should have come to you or found another way to take care of the situation. Um, am I being reassigned to the warehouse?”

“No. I haven’t talked to Elizabeth yet, but assuming she’s okay with it—” Jason went back to the desk and looked at the stuffed bear that he’d left on top as a reminder to never take chances with Elizabeth. “She needs a guard who makes her feel safe, but I also need someone I know will put her first. Not just her physical safety.” He paused. “You know what she’s been through this last year.”

“I do.”

“It’s why you did what you did.”

Cody swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“She needs someone who understands all of that and doesn’t treat her differently. I don’t have anyone else working for me who I think fits that better than you. She still has to agree,” he warned Cody. “But if she does, I hope you’ll come back to guard her.”

“You’re—” Cody cleared his throat. “I didn’t—you’re giving me another chance.”

“It’s the last one. Elizabeth and my son are more important to me than anything else. The business, the organization — she’s number one. They both are. If you think something I’m doing is dangerous to her, then you better bring that to me.” Jason met Cody’s eyes. “You get me? You don’t get another chance, Cody. This is it.”

“You told me that I had to make her number one when I started guarding her,” Cody said. “And she made it clear that that you were her number one when she sent me away. I messed that up. I put you in danger by trying to help. I won’t do it again. You won’t regret this.”

Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

“Come in, come in.” Scott gestured for Taggert to take a seat. “You have an update on Ollie’s case?”

“Uh, sort of.” Taggert set a few files on the desk, waited for Scott to sit down. “I talked to Spencer. He added some things to what I already knew.”


“I need to clear up some timeline issues.” Taggert hesitated. “Karen.”

“Karen?” Scott leaned back. “What about her?”

“When did you find out she was your daughter?”

“Oh. Uh—” Scott blinked, then squinted. “Um, sometime in early January of…’94. Yeah, about six months before Ollie died. Rhonda called me—she said she’d been thinking things over, felt bad I didn’t know. And that it might be nice for Karen to have a relationship with me if we wanted that. I think she didn’t tell Karen until she was marrying Jagger. In March, that same year. Why?”

“Because I think this goes back to Karen and the Paradise. Sonny was hired on there as a favor to Joe Scully, according to Luke. And based on what I’ve learned—the Paradise changed under his management. It had probably always been a front for gambling—”

Scott twisted in his seat. “Wait a second—”

“Luke only knew rumors, but he thought Oliver was unhappy about the treatment of some of the girls. That he knew drugs were being used on the premises. Did he know about Karen? Being your daughter?”

“Yeah. Uh—” Scott shook his head. “I’m sorry. This is—this is just a lot. I—are you telling me that maybe he got killed because of what was going on at the Paradise?”

“That’s the rumor,” Taggert said slowly. “Did Oliver know Karen was your daughter?”

“Yeah,” Scott said faintly. “Rhonda said she’d reached out to him—we all went to school together. When Karen was struggling. She’d wanted some help. I never asked why she’d called him. I wasn’t involved then. But if—if he was working at the Paradise, it makes sense Rhonda wanted to talk to him.”

Scott looked at Taggert. “Wait. Wait. Is Corinthos a suspect?”

“I don’t have any evidence,” he said, “but yeah, based on Spencer’s statement, he is. The cop that buried the case—he never worked for Frank Smith. He was always on Sonny’s payroll.”

“Damn it. Damn it. And there’s no way to prove any of this—” Scott shoved away from the table. “Ollie got himself killed because of Karen?”

“I don’t know for sure, Scott. We might never know. I’m driving down to Buffalo tomorrow to talk to Angela Joyce. Now that Kelsey’s brought this to us, her mother might agree to help. I’m hoping she saved some of her husband’s paperwork to see if I can make any connections to Corinthos to pull him in for questioning.”

“Christ.” Scott crossed over to the window, looked down at the street. “It always comes back to him,” he muttered. “Even when we try to get away. I tried to let it go, Taggert.”

“So did I. And I sure as hell didn’t go looking for this case or for Sonny. I thought maybe we’d find some evidence of Smith ordering someone to do it—I never thought it’d be tied to Karen or Sonny. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Scott met his eyes. “Last year—last summer—we made mistakes. And we went after Sonny hard. That was wrong. And we learned from it, didn’t we? I think I did. I mean, I tried to do right by Carly after it went down. And you—you made nice with Morgan for Elizabeth’s sake.”

“I had my doubts, too,” Taggert admitted. “But this case—I’m on even ground here. I crossed all the boxes, and I’m waiting for probable cause before I pull Sonny in.”

“Luke pointed you in this direction? Luke Spencer?” Scott grimaced. “Never thought he’d turn on Sonny.”

“A lot of people are turning their back on Corinthos these days. Even Morgan.”

“I never thought I’d have a chance to get my daughter any justice for what that man did to her.” Scott looked at Taggert. “You’re going to Buffalo tomorrow? Let me move some things around. I’ll go with you. Angie might talk to me.”

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bathroom

“I think this is my favorite part of the day,” Elizabeth told Jason as she carefully washed the soap suds from Cameron’s body. His little fists splashed the water in the basin and his lips curved into what might have been a smile. “He loves the bath.”

“Smart guy.” Jason kissed the side of her neck, and Elizabeth laughed. “I think he likes it better when you do the bath.” He handed her a dry towel so she could wrap the baby in it and quickly dry him.

Once Cameron was double layered, Jason stayed behind in the bathroom to clean up while she went to feed him. Cameron had only been home for five days, and while she hadn’t had a lot of sleep, it was the best she’d felt in months. Maybe even years.

“I have something I want to run by you,” Jason said, switching off the light and closing the door. “You know I’ve been looking for a new day guard.”

“Oh, did you find someone? Marco won’t say anything but I know he’s worried with summer coming — he wants to be with DeeDee as much as possible. Did you know she was almost done with preschool? There’s a graduation, and I want to send a card—” Elizabeth stopped. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

“No, but thanks for letting me know. We’ll do something for him. I asked Cody to come up from Puerto Rico.”

Elizabeth blinked at him, then readjusted when the bottle slipped out of the baby’s mouth and he started to fuss. “Cody. I—”

“I know why you sent him away and I agreed. But it’s been two months, and no one really knows what he did. But before I gave it a green light, I wanted to make sure you’d feel okay with it.”

“I don’t know. I’ve missed him,” she admitted. “I was so angry and upset when I found out what he did, but it’s helped with time. I really would feel—I don’t know. He was there at the house and with the hearing, and—I guess I wouldn’t have felt so embarrassed if he’d been there. But I don’t want to cause trouble. Won’t it be a problem if it gets out?”

“It might be, but I’ll handle it. If you want Cody back on the door, then I’ll tell him to show up tomorrow.” Jason paused. “I don’t know anyone else in the organization who would be a better fit or who would protect you better. He was willing to go against me to keep you safe. That’s worth something to me.” He crouched down in front of the chair and met her eyes. “I can’t be with you all the time,” he continued. “And you wouldn’t want me to be. But I need you to not only be safe but feel safe. You and Cameron.”

“We’ll try it out and see how it goes.” Elizabeth paused. “Thank you. For thinking of this. I wouldn’t have even considered asking for Cody.”

He stood up and kissed her forehead. “I love you. If you don’t end up feeling comfortable with Cody, let me know. He’ll understand.”

“I know he will. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Joe’s: Bar

Claudia sauntered through the door and stood in the entrance for a minute, scanning the dive bar for her prey. Finding him at a back table, slumped over a shot glass with a bottle of tequila nearby, her lips curved into a smile. Drinking away his sorrows. Just the way she liked her men.

She weaved through the crowds of dockworkers, avoiding the stares. Most people didn’t know what she looked like and by the time anyone realized she was from the Zacchara family and that she’d been in Port Charles—

Well, it would be too late.

She tugged out a chair from the table and slid into it. “Richie, isn’t it?”

Richie looked up, his eyes glassy. “Who’s asking?”

“Someone who hears that you’ve been done wrong.”

August 5, 2022

This entry is part 32 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

A broken shadow falls across your face
As you hesitate
Trying to think of all the things you need to say
Bare faced the truth lies at my feet
As you turn away
Sometimes silence has a way of making peace

A Few Words Too Many, Billie Myers

Monday, April 28, 2004

General Hospital: Stairwell

The lights flashed again, and then the weakened, emergency lights finally kicked in as Elizabeth’s scream echoed in the stairwell. She looked around frantically—

There was no one at the top of the stairs. Her heart was racing as she clutched her son tightly, Cameron’s crying bouncing off the cement walls.

A few feet away from her, Richie was pulling himself to his feet, shaking his head and wincing. “You okay, Mrs. M? You trip or anything?”

“N-No—” Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath. “I was just—I heard you fall, and I—” She closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm down. Her lungs were burning and she didn’t have her oxygen with her. She hadn’t needed it since being released from the hospital. “Are you okay?” she finally managed.

“Yeah, yeah. Tripped when the lights went out.” Richie grimaced as he righted the stroller.

The doors above them opened as someone called out. “Everyone okay here? I heard screaming.”

“Yeah, we’re good. Thanks!” Richie called back. He looked back at Elizabeth, his brows raised. “Right? Or did you want me to get someone?” There was something in his eyes. In his tone. She swallowed hard.

“No. No. I just—” It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. She hadn’t seen Ric. It was just a trick of her eyes. He’d been on her mind, lurking in the back of it since that stupid bear showed up— “I’m fine. Let’s just go downstairs and get out of here. I need to make a stop before we go home.”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Kelsey’s Office

Scott knocked lightly on the door frame, and Kelsey glanced up. When she realized it was Scott, she sat straight and met his eyes. “You’ve talked to Anna.”

“I have.” He closed the door and came further into the room. “I’m sorry you didn’t feel like you could talk to me about it.”

“You wanted me to drop it.” Her eyes burned into his. “Did you know?”

“That the PCPD had covered up a murder? Of course not!” Scott scowled, then dragged a hand over his face. “But I knew it wasn’t a car accident. Your mom told me it was a stray bullet and that the case was cold. She didn’t even tell me that until a few years ago.” He exhaled slowly. “I never even realized your dad was working for Frank Smith.”


“We drifted apart after law school, you know that. And I was in and out of Port Charles. I loved him, Kelse, but if I’d know what was going on, I would have said something. I promise you that. I would have talked him out of it, or hell, forced him into private practice with me. I never would have kept that from you.'”

Kelsey shoved back from the desk. “I don’t understand how Daddy had this whole life and no one ever told me. How could my mother lie to me? How could he—”

“You were just a kid when he died—”

“Is that what you’d tell Serena if this were happening to her? If she found out you did something terrible—”

“There’s a whole lot of shame in my past,” Scott said and Kelsey stumbled to a stop, just staring at him. “I married Jason Morgan’s biological mother when he was a baby and embezzled his trust fund. Did you know that?”


“And I definitely got up to no good with Lucy a time or two. No one is perfect. And your parents were human. Finding out what Ollie did as a job—that doesn’t change who he was to you, kid. He was still your father and he loved you.”

Kelsey squeezed her eyes shut. “Mom’s mad at me for bringing this up. For turning the case over to the PCPD. I tried to put it away, Scott. I really did, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let it go.”

“We might not get answers, sweetheart, but your dad deserves his case to be reopened and investigated properly. You did the right thing. Even if it hurts.”

“Maybe. But maybe I’ll just find out more about my dad I don’t want to know.” Her lip trembled. ‘”There’s no turning back now.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason checked the clock on the desk again, frowning. He hadn’t heard from Elizabeth yet. Was she still at the hospital? He’d left her a message to let her know he was done and waiting at home, but—

She was probably fine, he reassured himself. She had her guard, and he knew she’d made it to the hospital since she’d called him before the appointment.  She didn’t have to report to him, Jason reminded himself.

He went to answer the knock on the door, frowning when he saw Sonny there. “Hey. Uh, did you need something?”

“I, uh, thought I’d stop by and—” Sonny smoothed a hand down his shirt. “We haven’t really—we haven’t talked in a few days.”

“No, we haven’t.” Jason stepped aside to let his former partner into the room. Sonny looked around, likely taking in the changes since Cameron had come home. There was a cradle and a changing table next to the fireplace, and a few stuffed animals and other things littered around.

“Is Elizabeth here?” Sonny asked. “I haven’t really had the chance to see her.” He paused. “I mean, if she—I don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t want to see me.”

“We haven’t talked much about it,” Jason said. He closed the door. “But she said she’d be open to it when I was comfortable.” He met Sonny’s eyes. “I’m not there yet.”

“I get it.” Sonny paused. “I’m trying to get it,” he corrected. “It’s been…difficult the last few weeks. I know things weren’t okay before I went to Ferncliffe, but I didn’t know it.” He cleared his throat. “I mean—I knew it. But I didn’t feel about it the same way I do now. That doesn’t make sense—”

“You had the pretense of everything being the same,” Jason said. “You were still in charge even though we both know I’ve been doing everything for months. If you’re here to talk about that—”

“No. I want it back, but then I think about that day.” Sonny looked towards the sofa. “It’s a blur,” he said softly. “If I really think about it, I can remember that she doesn’t look well, but I can’t stop myself. I see her coughing, but then there are arms dragging me back.”

“Max and Cody,” Jason said tightly. “They had to physically remove you because you wouldn’t leave. She was supposed to check into the hospital that day for a safe delivery. Instead, she was rushed in for massive bleeding in her lungs and ended up on ventilator.”

“Did I—” Sonny’s face was gray as he forced out the question. “Did I do that? I know that stress makes the situation worse—”

“No. You didn’t cause the bleeding. That might have happened anyway. But you wasted time. Cody was going to call me when you stormed in. He thought Elizabeth looked sick.” Remembering that, remembering that Cody had always put Elizabeth first even when Jason couldn’t, made him feel slightly guilty for sending the guard away. Even after everything he’d done. “Instead of making that call, he wasted five minutes listening to you scream at her, and then five more getting you out. That’s ten minutes. Enough time to have her almost at the hospital before the bleeding started.”

“There’s no—there’s no apology that can be made for that,” Sonny told him. “Carly will never forgive me for what I did in December, and I know you can’t forgive me for it either. For any of it. I’m trying to be okay with that.”

“I can’t help you get there, Sonny. I spent too much time protecting you. Walking the line to make sure you were okay,” Jason told him. “Stay in therapy, take the meds. That’s all I can say.”

“It’s just—” Sonny looked out towards the window, towards the harbor. “I don’t know what the point is,” he said softly. “I dropped my divorce protest like you asked, but Carly’s still going forward with taking the boys away from me for good. Alexis will never let me near Kristina, and Dante doesn’t want a damn thing to do with me. And there’s no chance that you’ll let me back in. As a friend, as a partner, as a boss—” He closed his eyes. “It’s all gone.”

And with nothing from his life to hold on to, why bother taking the meds? Jason put his hands in his pockets. “It doesn’t have to be,” he found himself saying. Sonny looked at him, opening his eyes in surprise. “The business—I can’t do anything about that. The men won’t follow you. They’ve made it clear to me. I had to fight off a power grab because of it, and the only reason it didn’t go to an all out war is because they felt sorry for me with Elizabeth. That’s it. Her health was the only reason we got a chance to keep it together.”  He paused. “But I’m still here. Elizabeth—she told me that if I wanted to keep you in our lives, she’d be okay with it.”

“She said that, huh?”

“I didn’t know you were seeing Lily and your mother, Sonny. I can’t apologize for what happened the day Elizabeth went into the hospital. Maybe you think I should. But I would have killed you if Carly hadn’t stopped me, and I wouldn’t have regretted it. Maybe you don’t want to be around someone that feels that way.”

Sonny sighed, then looked down at the desk where Elizabeth had set a framed photo of Cameron in the NICU, being held by Jason with Alan by his side. Emily had taken it, and Jason hadn’t argued when Elizabeth had put it on the desk. Sonny picked it up. “I remember how scared you were last summer when Elizabeth was in the coma and they didn’t know if she’d survive the embolism.”

Jason remained silent, so Sonny kept talking. “She’d nearly died to give me back my wife and son. She stayed in that house, ignoring the symptoms, putting herself in danger over and over again to give us a chance to find Carly. She did that for you, I know, but I benefited. And when I think of the way I’ve treated her these last few months—since Carly told me about wanting to testify—” he looked at Jason. “It shames me. The things I said to her. The things I did and said to Carly. I can’t blame the illness. Not all the way. I wish I could. It made it worse, but you were right at Ferncliffe. Sometimes I knew exactly what I was doing and did it anyway.”

He set the frame back down. “You should have killed me that day for what I did to your family, for what I did to my own.” Sonny looked at Jason. “Elizabeth might be okay with me being in your life, but are you?”

“I don’t know,” Jason said. “At the end of the day, Elizabeth and Cameron survived. I have my family. If bending a little on this, if forgiving you helps you stay well, Sonny, and gives you a reason to stay on the medication and in therapy—” he shrugged. “I think it’s worth a try.”

“Thank you for at least considering it.” Sonny touched the frame. “Your kid looks like a fighter. I hope I get to meet him one day.”

“He’s with Elizabeth at GH for a checkup,” Jason told him as he followed Sonny to the door and opened it. “I’ll talk to her and see when she’s ready to have him meet you.”

“Thank you,” Sonny told him. “For at least listening.”

Jason closed the door, then shook his head. He went over to the phone, breathing a sigh of relief. Elizabeth had sent him a text. Cam, a-ok. Stopping somewhere. Be home soon.

The Star Lounge: Office

Johnny closed the door behind him, then answered the phone vibrating in his pocket. “Claudia.”

“Hey, baby brother. You said it was an emergency. Do I have to come and clean up a mess?”

Johnny hissed as he came away from the door, keeping his voice hushed. “Not yet. Are you or Dad up to anything with Morgan? Is he going to break the truce?”

His sister was quiet for a long moment. When she spoke again, her voice was flat and serious. “What’s going on? Is that bastard threatening you? Because—”

“Claudia, don’t bullshit me. Are you up to something? What is Dad planning?”

“First of all, even if Daddy was planning something, he wouldn’t tell me. I only find things out when I screw one of the guards.” The resentment dripped from every word, but Johnny knew she was telling the truth on that score. Anthony only let Claudia in on the family business when he didn’t have a choice — or when she was a witness to one of his rages and had to help clean up the mess.

“Okay, so you don’t know anything.”

“I didn’t say that, just that I’m not planning anything with Daddy. Maybe he’s thinking of calling Morgan’s bluff. I mean, does anyone think that marshmallow is actually going to do anything to you?” Claudia snorted. “Please—”

“He might not, but—” Johnny paused. “What about the guys who work for him and know I’m here for leverage? Jason doesn’t have to do the deed, just look the other way when one of them slits my throat and tosses me on Dad’s doorstep.”

There was silence again on the other end. “I’m not planning anything, John, but I can’t promise Daddy isn’t. What’s going on? I can’t snoop if I don’t know where to look.”

Johnny grimaced. “Something got sent to Morgan’s wife and it’s got him on edge. I’m not gonna say anything other than that. He thinks he can trust me, and he can. I just don’t want any damn surprises, Claudie. If you find out Dad’s planning something, you need to give me a heads up so I can get the hell out of here.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll look into it and see what we find out.”

Luke’s: Office

Luke grumbled and sat up, shoving his cigar in an ashtray. “Claude!” he called, getting to his feet. “Why didn’t you tell me the damn PCPD was here?”

Taggert smirked and walked into the office. “You still expecting Claude to have your back?”

“No.” Luke scowled as he sat back down. “I’ve been expecting you,” he muttered.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Laura told me Kelsey was taking her dad’s case to the Anna, so I figured someone would be along sooner or later.”

He stared at his desk for a long moment. “He’s happy, you know. Working as a cop. Even after everything that’s happened with Dante and all of that. Never could understand it, but you know, Laura likes to help people. Always did. He must get it from her. Lucky’s happy. And Kelsey’s part of it, so…” He shrugged a shoulder, looked at the wall.

“I knew Ollie back in the day—back with the Campus Disco, a club I was running for Frank Smith. Ollie did the books. He was green, just out of law school, and he did not like me.” Luke smirked. “He was Baldwin’s best friend, even though I think they lost touch around that time. Went their different ways.”

“Was Joyce in the business? Or legit?”

“In those days, completely above the board.” Luke grimaced. “You always keep one guy on the outside who can’t be tied to anything. Not saying Ollie didn’t know what was up back in those days, but he wasn’t actively involved. There’s a difference.”


“After Smith went to prison, Ollie stayed on with the clubs. Damian took over, but he was a young kid just out of college. I think Ollie helped keep them afloat at first—you know, hiring managers, but the Smiths lost a lot of power and clout without Frank. He still had power inside, but you need someone outside who can make things happen. Damian Smith couldn’t. He didn’t have the same power.”

Luke picked up his cigar, then relit the tip. He took a long puff. “I’m not sure what went on with Ollie after Laura and me split town. When I came back to Port Charles, he was still handling club business and Damian was climbing the ladder. I think there was a power vacuum or something.”

“The Jerome family had fallen,” Taggert told him, and Luke nodded.

“Yeah, that makes sense. Ah, I wasn’t involved mostly at that time, but Frank was trying to pull me back in. He escaped from prison, and I got swept up in all of that.” He looked at Taggert. “I’m a confidential informant, yeah?”

“No one’s looking to get you in trouble, Luke. I know Smith put you and your family through hell. Lucky’s mentioned it.”

“Yeah, well, Damian was taking more control of the clubs, I think, when I moved back. The Campus Disco was gone, but the Paradise Lounge—that, was, ah, Damian’s main front.” He looked at Taggert. “It was managed by Sonny. Frank had known Joe Scully back in New York, and Scully wanted Sonny out of New York after some cop died.”

Taggert tensed. “So he came up here.”

“Yeah, Frank had him take over the club. Damian hated Sonny—hated that his father was still calling the shots.”

“Do you—” Taggert hesitated. “Do you know anything about the cop in New York?”

“Not much. You know, not all cops are great guys.” Luke sat up, leaned forward. “What I heard was Scully was doing Sonny a favor. Getting rid of a cop who’d been beating on his wife, but Sonny was a suspect. Easier to leave town.”

“Beating his—” Taggert shook his head. “That’s—” He stopped. That wasn’t what he was doing here. “Let’s talk about Oliver Joyce.”

“I heard a rumor somewhere, I don’t really remember where now,” Luke admitted, “that Ollie had drifted out of the legit side of the business. He hadn’t meant to, but sometimes—you know, you can’t help yourself. He wasn’t happy about the way the business was run at the Paradise. How the girls were treated.”

Taggert tensed. “Do you think that’s why he’s dead?”

“I can’t tell you that for sure. I wasn’t in the inner circle like that. But,” Luke said, meeting Taggert’s eyes, “I don’t think Frank Smith was paying too much attention to details like that in June of 1994. Ollie wasn’t on his list of priorities.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, then Taggert exhaled on a long breath. “He wasn’t on Frank’s list, but he was on someone’s. Who pulled the job, Luke?”

“I never really knew,” Luke said. “I still don’t. But knowing that Ollie’s death was closed pretty quick, no real investigation?” He shrugged. “When I found out David Case investigated—I knew.”

“Anna said that Case was a dirty cop. He retired in ’97. You know anything else about him?”

Luke waited, then sighed. “The things you do for your boy. Yeah, I know him. He was Sonny’s guy. Sonny lured him in at the Paradise with some girls, got some dirt on him, then paid him off until retirement.”

“Sonny’s guy,” Taggert repeated. “Not Frank’s. You didn’t tell Lucky that. You let him think he was Sonny’s inheritance from Frank.”

“That’s when I thought I could get Lucky to leave it alone.” Luke hesitated. “Sonny told me that he’d wanted a cop in his pocket that was loyal only to him. Not Frank or his kid. He had plans. He thought Port Charles was a good place to get power, and he wanted a hell of a lot of it.”

Taggert scrubbed his hands over his face. “God damn it.”

“I told Lucky—what I know can’t be proved. I’m sorry for it, I’m sorry for Kelsey. She’s a nice kid. But her dad played with some real bad people, and he didn’t get out soon enough.”

Taggert nodded, then made a face. “You said Ollie wasn’t happy about the girls at the Paradise. How? What was the issue?”

“Sonny used to traffic in girls,” Luke told him. “He stopped after the Paradise, at least as far as I know. Fed them drugs so they’d dance with less…” He wiggled his fingers. “They were looser,” he said. “I never liked it either, but I wasn’t in a position to argue. Sonny wanted Smith out of the way, and I needed Smith gone.”  He hesitated. “Karen Wexler worked at the Paradise.”

“Karen—” Taggert winced. “Did—did Ollie know Karen was his kid?”

“I don’t know. I never knew when Scott found out, so I can’t say when or what Ollie knew. I just know he and Sonny didn’t get along.” Luke looked at him. “I know how you feel about Sonny. You think there’s any chance of getting him on this?”

“I don’t know.” Taggert got to his feet. “But I guess we’re gonna find out.”

The Cellar: Office

Carly practically shot out of her seat when Elizabeth appeared in the doorway of her office, holding Cameron in a baby carrier. “Oh my God, is that Cameron?” she squealed. She hurried around her desk, then frowned when she realized Elizabeth was alone and her eyes were bloodshot. “What’s wrong? Where’s Jason?”

“He’s—” Elizabeth closed her eyes and swayed a little. Carly took her arm and with her other hand, took the carrier. She led her over to the sofa, helping her to sit, setting the baby between them. “He’s at home. Waiting for me. I just—I needed a minute before I went there. I’m sorry. I knew you were working—”

“It’s fine—” Carly sat next to her and took in her first real look at the dozing baby. She hadn’t realized just how little Cameron still was. She’d seen pictures, but at the same time—she’d thought— “He’s big enough to be home?”

“What? Oh—” Elizabeth focused on her son, then leaned forward to unfasten the straps. “Here. You haven’t had a chance to hold him, have you?”

Carly lifted Cameron into her arms, her heart aching at just how different his weight felt from the day she’d held Morgan after giving birth. Morgan had been healthy and full-term, weighing almost twice as much as Cameron.

“The doctor said he was doing better than expected,” Elizabeth said, a smile lighting up her face. “I know he still doesn’t look like other babies. I mean, he’s perfect to me, but—”

“No, no, I didn’t mean—it just—I don’t want to hurt him,” Carly told her. “You know? He seems…” Breakable. “Fragile.”

“He’s stronger than he looks. Jason wants to have you over this weekend to meet him. We’ve just been getting him into a routine, and I’ve messed that up—” Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair and got to her feet, starting to pace. “I just—I need to get myself under control before I go home.”

“Okay,” Carly said with a nod. “And you came to me.”

“I did. Because I know you’ll understand.” Elizabeth turned to face her, folding her arms. “A bunch of the families and business people sent us gifts, and one of them—it was a bear. A bear that looked just like one Ric gave me for the baby last year.” She closed her eyes. “I put it out of my head. I had to. And most of the time, I don’t think about Ric anymore, but it’s hard. Because so much of what I’m dealing with is because of him. I still have to have surgery because of Ric. Cameron was born premature because of Ric. And this bear—” She looked away. “It just came back to me, and I shoved it out again.”

“You told Jason about it?” Carly asked, readjusting Cameron in her arms. “What did he say?”

“We both decided it was a coincidence and he took it away. But today, at the hospital — the storm was making the lights flicker, so I took the stairs. The lights went out, and it was all dark.”

Carly’s throat tightened. Small, dark space. “What happened?”

“The guard—he fell—but it was just—it was all so quick—we were in the dark, and all of a sudden, I felt like I was back in the crypt, and then the lights flashed, and I thought I saw—” She gulped in a breath. “I thought I saw Ric.”

“You thought—”

“I didn’t. I didn’t,” Elizabeth added. “I know it wasn’t him. There wasn’t anyone,” she continued. “Because the lights came back on right away, and there wasn’t anyone there. I imagined it. I thought I heard someone attacking Richie, but he’d just tripped with the stroller and fell down the stairs.”

She rubbed her arms. “I’m okay,” she repeated. “I just needed a minute, and Richie—he wouldn’t understand. I didn’t tell him. He wasn’t there. He’s new, you know. And he hasn’t—”

“He hasn’t been there long.” Carly tipped her head. “I know about Cody. I’m sorry. It’s hard to have a guard following you around, so it’s better when you can trust and know them. I always felt better with Max or Rocco.”

“It’s not Richie. I don’t think. I don’t know. It was just—” Elizabeth sighed and sat down. “He heard me screaming, and he looked at me like I was insane. That’s exactly what it was. Because he doesn’t know me or what I’ve been through. And it’s been months since I had a panic attack. I know I didn’t see Ric. I know he wasn’t there.”

“You had your son with you, alone with just a guard,” Carly said. “A guard you don’t know very well yet. And you’ve got Ric in your head.” She paused. “The first time I came back to the Cellar after getting out of the crypt, I had a panic attack. Because it’s underground without any windows. And then I had a few more after December. I hear Ric in my dreams. And then sometimes I think he’s in the room with me.”

“Still?” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah. More since Jason told us he was dead. I thought it would help knowing it was over,” Carly said. “But knowing and feeling it are different. How many times have you left the penthouse since Cameron was born without Jason?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Today was the first time,” she admitted.

“There you go. You were already on edge and didn’t even know it.” Carly paused. “You should talk to Jason. If you’re not comfortable with Richie, you need to tell him that.”


“No buts,” Carly said firmly, getting to her feet and readjusting the baby who was starting to fuss. She handed him back to his mother. “We put up with a lot to exist in that life,” she continued. “The one thing you absolutely deserve is to be able to trust the man who’s supposed to protect you. And you don’t. If you think Richie’s judging you for what happened today, it’s going to be harder to build that trust. And—” she paused. “If you’re struggling with Ric and all of that, Jason should know that, too. I didn’t tell anyone but Kevin about the panic attacks. I never let Sonny in, not until it was too late. Don’t make that mistake.”

Luke’s: Bar

“Hey, isn’t it a little early?” Dante joked as he slid onto a stool next to Cruz while Lucky wiped a glass behind the bar.

“I’m here for the cheese fries,” Cruz said. “Didn’t think you’d show.”

Lucky set a Rolling Rock in front of Dante. “Thought you’d be busy at work,” he said with a raised brow. Dante rolled his eyes and took a long pull. “You do make a mean bowl of chili, I’ll be honest.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dante looked at Cruz. “I was thinking about maybe coming back to the apartment. The press is long gone, so they probably won’t bother us.”

“Are we still pretending that’s the only reason you moved out?” Cruz asked, turning slightly to face Dante fully. “Because staying at Kelly’s made it easier for you to make googly eyes at his sister.”

Lucky winced. “Hey, I can be completely okay with Dante dating Lulu as long as we don’t talk about it.” He rolled his shoulders. “As far as I’m concerned, they play checkers.” He paused, then focused on Dante. “But are you serious? Are you done with Kelly’s?”

“Done with living there,” Dante corrected.

“Excellent timing,” Cruz said, “Maxie was planning an intervention.”

Dante grimaced. “Oh, hell—”

“Yeah, I don’t even want to know what that would have looked like,” Lucky said, shaking his head. “What about the department?”

“I—” He paused. “I’m starting to think about it, but like I’ve been saying to your sister—if I do, I gotta be ready for the press to start all over again. I’m not there yet.”

Cruz nodded. “Yeah, that’s fair. I mean, we can say we want you back, and we do. Spencer doesn’t even blame you for getting him shot—” Lucky flicked a pretzel at him. “But if it you makes you feel better, the PCPD’s about to have another scandal that might dwarf yours.”

“Oh, yeah?” Dante straightened. “What’d they do this time?”

“They might have covered up the murder of Kelsey’s father,” Lucky said grimly. Dante stared at him. “Yeah, you’re a little out of the loop. Let me catch you up.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason knew something was wrong the minute the door opened, and Elizabeth maneuvered the stroller through. She glanced at Richie. “Thank you, Richie.” Then she looked away and smiled at Jason. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He brushed a kiss against her cheek, then looked at Richie. “We’re in for the day,” he told the guard. “So you can take off.”

“Uh—” Richie glanced at Elizabeth again. “Sure thing. I’ll hang out down in security for a while if you change your mind.”

Jason closed the door behind the guard and looked at Elizabeth as she took Cameron out of the stroller. “I have a bottle waiting,” he told her. “I’ll go get it.”


While Elizabeth fed Cameron, Jason folded up the stroller and put it in the closet, along with her coat, then tucked the diaper bag away. “You said the appointment went all right?” he asked, sitting next to her. “Did you get caught in the storm? I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. We lost power here for about ten minutes.”

“Yeah, um, about that.” Elizabeth sighed and let him tuck her into his embrace. She curled into his side, rearranging herself so that Cameron was comfortable, too. “Dr. Devlin said Cameron is doing better than expected. If he keeps the same pace, he’ll catch up by his first birthday.”

“That sounds like good news,” Jason said, frowning. He smoothed a thumb down Cameron’s cheek, reassuring himself that their son was all right.

“It was after. Um, the storm was bad, you know. And the lights kept flickering, even at the hospital. I decided to take the stairs because I didn’t want to get stuck in the elevator.”


“The lights went out while we were there. Um, I heard Richie fall, but I thought—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I had a panic attack. It was really dark, and I just went—my mind went directly to the crypt.”

Jason tightened his other arm around her, drawing her in more tightly. “I should have been there—”

“No, no, it’s not—it was just—the lights flickered, and for a minute I thought I saw Ric.” She blinked at him when he clenched his jaw. “I know I didn’t. No one was there. It was just my mind playing tricks on me, but I guess he’s been in the back of my mind more than I thought, and it was just—it was dark. I’m okay. We’re okay.”

“Okay.” Jason paused. “Then what’s the problem with Richie? You were acting strangely when you came back.”

“You really notice everything.” Elizabeth grimaced. “The lights were out for maybe thirty seconds, you know, and it all happened so fast. When they went back on, I had—I had screamed, and I probably looked upset and a little crazy. Richie—he just looked at me weird, you know? It’s fine,” she added. “He doesn’t know me very well yet, and I don’t know him. So we’re just—it’s bumpy.”

Jason exhaled slowly. He could tell she was more upset about being embarrassed than she was about the panic attack, and it killed him because he knew—he absolutely knew—that she wouldn’t feel that way if Cody had been with her. Cody would have made her feel safe. “Okay.”

“I took Cam to see Carly afterwards. I just wanted to calm down, and I knew she’d understand. I really am fine, it just shook me and I felt stupid, you know? It was just a storm.” Elizabeth leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m okay.”

“I know, but I’ll talk to Marco. You know him better than Richie. I’ll have him switch to days. He likes nights better, but I’d rather you have someone you feel comfortable with during the day. And I’ll work on finding a new day guard.”

“Oh—Jason, you don’t have to—I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

“You’re not. It’s only been a few days, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve changed up guard duty. It’s not a big deal,” Jason promised her. “I’ll make sure Richie understands. He probably isn’t the right guy to be with you.”

“If you’re sure,” Elizabeth said.

“I’m sure.” He kissed her forehead. “Tell me more about the appointment. How much did Cameron weigh?”