Written in 62 minutes.
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
“I have to go to Thanksgiving this year,” Patrick said, slapping a chart down in front of Elizabeth. “So I need you to find a way to get me out of it.”
She lifted her brows, but didn’t bother to look up as she continued to complete the insurance paperwork. “Hey, you decided to go all in. That includes holidays and family celebrations.”
“Her family likes you.” And now Elizabeth did look up. “Count yourself lucky. I had to marry and divorce twice before Gram decided Jason wasn’t so bad.”
“Yeah, well when other options are Ric and Lucky,” Patrick muttered. He leaned over the counter. “But her family liked me before she got pregnant. And now we’re living together.”
“It’s been forty-eight hours since she decided to move in. You said she didn’t even finish moving her things over—” Elizabeth rose from the chair, and picked up the notes for her rounds. Patrick followed her. “Do you think Robert or Mac is going to have a shotgun ready?”
“Do I think the police commissioner and former WSB legend are going to ask questions about marriage? Yes.” Patrick made a face. “So if you could find a way to fake an emergency—”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, stopping at a patient door, and plucking their chart from the plastic holder. “Holidays are part of the package, Patrick. Just smile and nod, divert uncomfortable questions to Robin, and you’ll be fine.”
“Must be nice to be so confident,” Patrick muttered. He leaned against the hallway. “Are you guys going mansion or mob on Thursday?”
“Dinner at the Quartermaines with my grandmother, and then dessert with Sonny.” Elizabeth looked at him. “Patrick. You’re going to be fine. You remember that you used to be charming, right?”
“Yeah, but—it was easier to turn on all that—” He gestured to his face. “You know, you flash the dimples, and you got what you wanted. I could do that before it mattered. Now it matters.”
“And that’s why you’ll be fine.” Elizabeth sighed. “If Robert and Mac want to focus on you and Robin, on the baby, and everything around it, let them. Because there’s going to be an empty chair this year. And every thing they throw at you is going to keep them from remembering that.”
Patrick exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. When you put it that way—” He paused. “You’re going to have an empty chair, too.”
Seventeen days since Emily had died. Only seventeen. It felt like a lifetime since that terrible night — and at the same time, as if it had happened an hour ago. “That’s why we’re going to the mansion. Jason…I worry about him sometimes,” she admitted. She bit her lip. “This stays between us.”
“Like a vault. You know that.”
“When Alan died last winter, it hit Jason really hard. You know, just regretting the time that was lost, and not giving Alan the same chances he gave Monica and Emily. He couldn’t really do anything with that first because, well, there was Jake, and the trial. But then Emily—” She hesitated. “I’m worried that he’s trying to make up for all that too fast. He takes the boys to the mansion every other day to spend time with Monica, which is great. But then he told me about Thanksgiving—”
She put the patient chart back. “I don’t know. It’s like all the regrets he has about things after the accident — he’s on warp speed trying to make up for them. And it’s how he’s dealing with losing Emily.”
“What’s the worst that could happen? So he’s forcing himself to give his family another chance.”
“Well, it’s the Quartermaines, so there’s that. I don’t know. He ran so far and so fast from all of that—” Elizabeth shook her head. “And maybe it’s because I know it’s what I’m doing. I’m spending too much time at work and when I’m at home, I’m obsessing about the boys or Spinelli. Because I don’t want to stop and think—”
He touched her shoulder. “It hasn’t been that long yet, Elizabeth. You gotta give yourself a break.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess so.” Elizabeth flashed him a smile. “And that’s how I know you’ll be okay on Thursday. You know how to listen. Just let Robin take the lead, and follow her.”
She turned down another hallway, and Patrick headed out to his own rounds. Sam slipped around a corner and started after Elizabeth. The PCPD wasn’t moving fast enough to do anything about Jason, she thought bitterly, so she needed something else.
Maybe perfect Elizabeth would screw up at work and Sam could use that to ruin her life—what if she could get the bitch suspended—
“Sam, what are you doing here?”
Sam jolted, turning to find her mother stepping off the elevator. “Uh, Mom. Hey. I could ask the same for you.”
“Just a follow up with the doctor. A scan. Still in remission,” Alexis added. She wound her arm through Sam’s. “I was going to stop off and check in with a client who’s having surgery, but since I came across you, what do you say we get lunch?”
“Yeah. Yeah. All right.” Grateful Alexis hadn’t pushed her on why she was at the hospital, Sam followed her mother back on the elevator.
“Did you swim here?” Nikolas demanded darkly when he found his sister on his footstep.
“No, the launch pilot isn’t the only one who can drive a boat.” Lulu shrugged. “And you just told him he wasn’t allowed to bring me here. No one ever said I couldn’t get myself over here. Dillon knows how to drive a speedboat.” She followed him into the study. “I just wanted to tell you that I wouldn’t come to bother you anymore.”
“Oh—” Nikolas poured himself a drink. “You came to bother me about promising not to bother me? That’s funny.”
“No, I came to tell you I’m not going to bother you at all. Which means I won’t tell Lucky I’m worried. I won’t complain to Dillon or Spinelli about you. I know what you did to Lucky, and until you figure out how to apologize for it, you’re not worth my concern.”
Nikolas scowled, looked at his sister. “What the hell does that mean?”
“You threw pills at him, Nikolas. At our brother, a recovering addict who’s trying hard to stay clean. Even though he just got divorced, lost custody of his kids, and buried his best friend. How much more do you want to throw at him—”
“Ah, I see Lucky figured out how to make you feel responsible for him—” Nikolas smirked, sipped his drink. “He’s good at that. Didn’t you listen to Elizabeth on the stand? I paid for his lawyer because I felt sorry for him. We both worried he’d fall back into drugs if we abandoned him. Welcome to the club, Lu.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a real pair of winners as brothers. A martyr and an asshole. And I’m a selfish bitch, so I guess Mom is three-for-three with the kids. Good thing she’s not here to see how we turned out.”
Nikolas rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dramatic—”
“Really? I broke up a marriage last year, Nikolas. Just like you did. Emily and Zander? You could have kept your distance and you didn’t. And you slept with Courtney—someone else’s wife—”
“Woes you with the traumatized wife who was raped by a man who looked like you,” Lulu shot back. “Poor little Nikolas who wants to blame everyone else for his problems. Why don’t we all just think about what you’ve lost? Forget Lucky, who knew Emily longer. Forget Emily’s family who already buried Alan this year. Forget Elizabeth who’s been through hell. No, no, let’s just worry about poor baby Nikolas who can dish it but can’t take it.” She sneered. “I’ve been worried about you, but you’re just fine over here, feeling sorry for yourself. But where were you last year when I needed you? Where were you two years ago when Grandma dumped me on Dad who couldn’t bother with me? Where were you when your wife was traumatized and needed patience and understanding?”
She shrugged. “You know what, I think I’m going to be better off without you. Lucky didn’t do a damn thing to you. He asked for your help with the custody case, and you gave it. Suck it up, and admit the only reason you and Emily weren’t together when she died was because you’re a selfish asshole. Until you do that? We’ve got nothing left to say to each other.”
PCPD: Commissioner’s Office
Mac dragged his hands through his hair. “Well, we have our link.” He looked up at Robert. “Too bad it doesn’t tell us anything.”
“No, I guess it doesn’t.” Robert took the DNA report back. “Other than a single killer is responsible. When we find him, we’ll nail him to the wall for all four murders—”
“When we find him—” Mac rose and went to the window. Looked out over the trees with their falling leaves, the mixtures of oranges, yellows, and browns littering the lawn outside the PCPD. “If we find him.”
“We’ve got him. He waited six weeks between the college and the hospital—” Robert grimaced. “I know there’s a chance he won’t wait that long again, but women on alert, aren’t they? The hospital hired extra security. So did the campus.”
“And what about the parking lot by the mall? What about the park? What about the thousands of public spaces in this town? And maybe it’s not about the age of the women. Maybe it’s not about their hair. Maybe it’s not even about women,” Mac muttered. “Maybe it’s just about public killing and the thrill of taking two at a time. What if he escalates to three or more? What if—”
“What if the sky turns orange? You know better, little brother, than to let those kinds of questions drag you down—”
Mac shook his head. “Thanksgiving is five days away. Last year, Georgie spent half the day in the kitchen with Robin, and now—”
“Now she won’t be there. I can’t imagine the depth of your loss, Mac. The thought of losing my daughter—” Robert’s throat tightened. “It’s beyond my comprehension. But we aren’t miracle workers. We have DNA. That’s more than a lot of cases have. Georgie fought hard, and she’s going to help put this bastard away. That’s going to matter one day.”
“Yeah. Maybe. But it won’t be enough.” Mac looked at Robert. “Maxie said something, just before the second set of murders. And it’s stayed with me. Finding out who did this, finding out why he did this—it’s not going to change anything. It won’t ever explain why there’s going to be an empty chair at every dinner for the rest of my life. It won’t ever be enough.”
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Jason jolted awake, but then wasn’t sure what had woken him. The room around him was dark, quiet. Elizabeth was curled on her side beside him, her breathing still deep and even, so whatever it was, it hadn’t stirred her. She’d once been a deep sleeper, but the boys had changed her, making it harder for her to sleep like the dead anymore.
Jason closed his eyes, slid closer to hold her in his arms, kissing her bare shoulder, then tried to go back to sleep—
But there it was again—and this time, the sound was louder, and Elizabeth rolled over on her back. “What was that?” she asked, her voice slurring from sleep. “Jason?”
“I don’t—” He looked past her at the monitor on the nightstand, the little black and white images. The camera was aimed at Jake’s crib and he could see their son laying on his back, his head turned to one side, his chest rising and falling. But just beyond that, they could see the outline of Cameron’s bed, and the blanket was rustling.
And they heard it again, louder. A gagging, hacking sound, then crying. Jason sprang to his feet, followed by Elizabeth as they rushed across the hallway. Jason shoved open the door, and Elizabeth flipped on the light.
Cameron was sitting up, his face red, tears streaming down his cheeks, his fingers clutching his blanket. He gagged again, and Jason realized that he was throwing up, the vomit landing on his blanket, his pajamas and around his mouth.
“Baby, hey—” Elizabeth knelt down next to the bed and Jason went to the linen closet just a few steps away in the hallway. He dragged out a stack of towels, plucking the largest. He returned to the room just as Jake woke and started crying. Elizabeth was stroking Cameron’s head.
“Does he have a fever?”
“Tummy—” Cameron hitched another sob. “Hurt.”
Jason knelt next to Elizabeth, taking in Cameron’s glassy eyes, red face. “Do you want to call a doctor? I can—”
“No, no, there’s no fever—” Elizabeth brushed Cameron’s hair back. “Let’s just clean him up, um, some ginger ale—”
“Can I help?”
Jason glanced to the door, finding Spinelli there, one side of his cheek red from sleep. “Hey, we—”
“Actually—” Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder at the crying infant. “Okay. Okay. Jason, can you clean Cam up? He’ll feel better with a warm bath and new pajamas. I can throw all of this in the laundry—”
“I’ll do that, Fair Elizabeth,” Spinelli said. “The Jackal has a very strong stomach. You should calm Stone Cold the Sequel and get Little Dude his munchies.”
“Oh, Spinelli, you don’t have to—”
“Thanks,” Jason said, interrupting. He wrapped Cameron in the towel and scooped him against his chest. “That would be a lot of help.”
“The Jackal reporting for duty.”
Jason went across the hall, back into their bedroom, and into the master bathroom. He set Cameron down on the counter to start the water running. “How are you feeling, buddy?”
“Throat hurt,” Cameron managed, but his sobs had quieted. Jason touched his forehead, but Elizabeth was right — he was cool to the touch, and she’d know better. She was a nurse and had more experience—
Jason peeled off the pajamas, wrapping them into the towel, and then set Cameron into the tub after making sure he’d dumped some of the bubble bath Elizabeth kept on the shelf. He used a water glass to pour water over Cameron’s head, carefully cleaning him up but making sure the water didn’t get into his eyes or mouth—
“B-better,” Cameron managed.
Spinelli appeared in the doorway. “Fair Elizabeth sends clean jammies and a new towel for the Little Dude, and I’m here to fetch the, uh, soiled materials.” He made a face as he set down the pajamas and towel, then picked up the rolled up towel Jason had set aside. “She went to get the munchies.”
“Thanks,” Jason said.
“No worries. How’s the Little Dude feeling?”
“Snelli,” Cameron managed. “Tummy hurt.”
“Less orange soda at bedtime,” Spinelli said, nodding sagely. “The Jackal takes the note.” He left then, and Jason lifted Cameron from the tub, wrapping him in a fluffy, warm towel. He took the pajamas into the bedroom with him, and sat on the bed, rubbing Cameron’s back.
Elizabeth came in a moment later, holding Jake on her hip and balancing a pack of crackers and a can of ginger ale in her hand. “Hey, baby.” She sat on the bed next to them, putting Jake down in the middle of quickly arranged pillows. She cracked the ginger ale. “Sip slowly, honey.”
Cameron nodded and did as instructed. Then he ate a cracker slowly, in little nibbles. Time passed excruciating slow as Elizabeth repeated the process. A sip of ginger ale, then another cracker, eaten slowly. Behind them Jake fussed, but then fell back into a doze.
Finally, Cameron started to droop. “Feel better,” he said, his eyes closed. “Tummy okay.”
“All right. Let’s get you into jammies and back in bed.”
“Wanna stay here,” Cameron said, opening his eyes briefly. “Comfy.”
“That’s fine with me,” Jason said, brushing his lips against Cameron’s drying curls. “But clothes first.”
“Kay,” he murmured.
Jason handed Cameron to Elizabeth to change, then went to put the towel in with the rest of the laundry. He found Spinelli in the room downstairs, peering curiously at the dials. “Oh, you can hack into any network in the country, but a washing machine defeats you?”
Spinelli made a face. “Lots of buttons,” he muttered. “And Fair Elizabeth does my laundry. How’s Little Dude?”
“Better. Ready to go back to bed.” Jason started the washer. “Thank you, Spinelli. Sorry to wake up.”
“No worries. That’s, um, what family does, right?” Spinelli folded his arms, looking at the washer. “All hands on deck.”
“Yeah. That’s what family does. Go back to bed, okay? You have a paper due on Monday. And no, I didn’t forget,” Jason said.
Spinelli grumbled as he followed Jason up the stairs. “Family is overrated,” he muttered, but went into his room.
Jason returned to his bedroom. Elizabeth had returned the sleeping Jake back into his crib and was tucking Cameron into their bed.
“Go sleep?” Cameron asked, snuggling against the pillow. “Tired, Daddy.”
“Yeah, we’re going to bed.” Jason slid under the comforter, and Elizabeth did the same on Cameron’s other side. He switched off the light. “Good night.”
“Night,” the toddler sighed. “Tummy all better.”