Written in 66 minutes. Didn’t want to rush the Lucky scene.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
The next morning, Jason opened the door to find a grim Sonny, and frowned. “What’s wrong? I mean—” He stepped aside to let Sonny through, grimacing as he closed the door. “Other than what happened last night.”
“It’s about last night,” Sonny said. He looked around the room. “Where is everyone? Can we talk?”
“Spinelli went to class, and Elizabeth’s in the kitchen with the boys, but even if—” Jason tensed. “Are they seriously looking at me?”
“Depends on who you ask.” Sonny rubbed his thumb against his chin. “Lucky was suspended last night. Tossed off the case and sent home.”
Jason simply stared at him. “Lucky? But—”
“Sam made a report on Halloween that you threatened to kill her, and I guess she didn’t let it go. Lucky didn’t take it seriously,” Sonny continued, “and Sam filed a complaint against him. Now, with Sam being the latest victim—” He exhaled slowly. “It looks like Lucky screwed up.”
“This is—” Jason shook his head. “No. They can’t be taking that report seriously—”
“Robert isn’t. Word is he’s pissed as hell because Lucky was the second in command on the case, and has been on it since the beginning.” Sonny paused. “The rest of the PCPD? Not so much. They’re still ticked after you got acquitted a few months ago. Now, no one figures you for the others, but Sam? Yeah. There’s some talk.”
“This is bullshit—” Jason hesitated as Elizabeth emerged from the kitchen, Jake in her arms, Cameron zooming in front of her. “Hey—”
“Do I need to clear out?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes dark with worry. “Sonny?”
“Uh, no, I guess—” Sonny scratched the back of his neck, looked at Jason. “Depends on if you want this conversation in front of Cam.”
“Here.” Elizabeth handed the baby to Jason, and reached for Cameron’s hand. “Hey, buddy. Let’s go upstairs and play so Daddy and Uncle Sonny can talk.”
“Can we zoom down the hallway? On my bike?” Cameron demanded. “I wanna race.”
“We’ll talk about it.”
When they were out of sight, Sonny looked back to Jason. “I’m not worried they’re coming to arrest you. I think you should call Diane, have her contact Robert. Set up a meeting. I think he might just be worried that if they caught this guy and they didn’t fully eliminate you, a defense lawyer might create doubt. And the PCPD hates you, so that’s not news. You got the alibi here, right?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Jason leaned against the desk, absently stroking Jake’s back. “I was with the boys. And Spinelli. I got the call from Elizabeth and left. The tapes will show that I left the building, and there wouldn’t have been time for me to…and then get back to get the call. It just—” He looked away. “She tried to have me arrested on Halloween, didn’t she? And Lucky rejected it.”
“Yeah. He gave her some lipservice — he’d take her statement, and he’d pull tapes in the morning, but that wasn’t good enough. She wanted you taken into custody. He figured she wanted to humiliate in front of the kids, and that was it.” Sonny sighed. “Hard to believe he turned away a chance to make you look bad with them.”
Jason looked down at Jake, chewing on a set of plastic keys. “I think maybe after the hearing — I think that was real. Backing down like that. Elizabeth’s testimony was…” He paused. “I think he had regrets. But even before that — he was kind to Spinelli after Georgie. He took this case seriously, Sonny.”
“And now he’s off it. Robert’s working it alone, but my big worry is that the PCPD is starting to look for scapegoats. Five women dead. And in each crime, one that they could connect to you.” Sonny’s smile was grim. “Since you’re notorious for getting away for murder, it might buy some grace with the public. Some of those guys aren’t gonna care that you didn’t do it.”
“No, they won’t.” Jason crossed the room and set Jake into the playpen, making sure his favorite stuffed animals were within grabbing distance. “I’ll call Diane. Set it up. At least I can get that off my back.”
“How you holding up otherwise?” Sonny asked. “I know things with Sam were bad at the end—”
“I don’t know what I’m feeling,” Jason admitted. “This last year—since the blackout,” he admitted, “I’ve seen a different side of Sam. Things were never the same. Not just because of Elizabeth,” he added when Sonny opened his mouth. “Although, yeah, that was part of it. But I think I always knew deep down she’d gone after Ric to hurt Alexis. To hurt me. And she wanted to get pregnant because she knew I was upset when I thought Jake wasn’t mine. After the kidnapping…after the trial—” Jason met Sonny’s eyes. “I was a mark to her, wasn’t I?”
“I don’t know. Maybe not at first,” Sonny said. He slid his hands into the pockets of his trousers, looked at Jake babbling to himself in the playpen. “But this last year? Yeah, I think she tried to use her old toolbox of tricks to keep you on the hook. And when it didn’t work, she went a little crazy.”
“I’m sorry she’s gone. No matter what she did, she didn’t deserve it. And Alexis—her daughters. None of them deserve this,” Jason said. “But there’s part of me…” He grimaced, looked towards the window, the harbor visible through the sheer curtains. “You talked to the guy at the PCPD. You know that it was almost Elizabeth and Robin. They think it was supposed to be them.”
“Yeah, that theory was passed down to me. If Sam doesn’t go first, then maybe—” Sonny nodded. “Yeah, I get it. Being relieved it wasn’t Elizabeth, it doesn’t mean you’re glad it was Sam. No one thinks that. Just like being glad it wasn’t Robin that night in the parking garage doesn’t mean anyone is glad it was Emily. Or that other woman.”
“Yeah.” Jason nodded. “You talk to Alexis?”
“Last night. I went over. She’s managing, but you know her. She holds it in — ” Sonny paused as they heard footsteps. Elizabeth came around the landing.
“Hey. I managed to get Cameron settled.” She switched on the monitor that sat on the desk, and Cameron’s voice warbled out as he played and talked to himself. “I was just worried—”
“Sam tried to file a report on Halloween,” Jason told her. “Lucky refused to arrest me, and she stormed out. She filed a complaint against Lucky, and he got suspended last night.”
“That’s horrible—” Elizabeth shook her head, looked at Sonny. “They’re coming after Jason?”
“Not in any way you should worry about,” Sonny told her. “Optically speaking, maybe. I told Jason to set something up with Robert and get it cleaned up. But Lucky’s taking the public hit.”
Elizabeth bit her lip, folded her arms. “I’m sorry for him. I know how important the job is it to him.”
“I’ll call Diane now.” Jason crossed to her, kissed her forehead. “And maybe once I get this statement in, they’ll change their mind and let Lucky back on the case.”
“Maybe. It just never ends, does it?” She sighed. “I’ll go back upstairs and play with Cam. Let me know if you have to go.”
Patrick’s Condo: Living Room
Robin switched off the television, and went over to the dining table where Patrick was seated, a stack of books to his left, each with a myriad of multicolor tabs sticking out at different spaces of the books. He had a few pens, pencils, and highlighters — and a notebook, covered in scribbles.
She sat down, rested her chin on her first, and watched him. “How much research are you planning to do on this? You look like you’re doing graduate level work—”
“It’s like a literature review,” Patrick said absently, reaching for a different book. “You look at how each book tackles the same topic — where are they the same, how are they different? How important are the differences—”
“I don’t miss those assignments. Graduation couldn’t come fast enough. Any conclusions?”
“No, not yet. But just in case—” Patrick set down his pen, looked at her. “It’s distracting me right now. Because I’m pretty sure you’re not going to let me lock you down in this apartment.”
“Figured.” He paused. “What about asking Jason for a guard? That’s what scared this guy last night, right? Can you get one for just you?”
Robin pressed her lips together. “Patrick—”
“Second time, Robin. It was supposed to be you both times. Why aren’t you more worried about that?” Patrick wanted to know. “Maybe I need to read more about serial killers,” he said. “The methodology. Like, isn’t there research that says they spiral when they break pattern, and Sam is breaking pattern, isn’t she?”
“You’re his pattern. Or you were supposed to be,” Patrick continued. “Yeah, call your dad. I have questions. Because maybe it was actually supposed to be you that night in the garage, but it wasn’t, and now this guy is following you around because it needs to be—”
Robin touched his hand, and he stopped talking. “I’ll talk to my dad. I’m scared. Of course I am. Emily was part of my family, and she mattered so much to the people that I love. And yes, that night, it was supposed to be me. But no one came in after I did at Kelly’s, Patrick. He wasn’t following me that night. I think it’s more likely that he’s about opportunity. Maybe he was at the hospital and overheard us making plans. Maybe he was eating dinner at Kelly’s, and saw his chance. There’s a thousand reasons—”
“I’ll ask Jason myself,” Patrick interrupted. “He likes you. I know he does. And even if he didn’t—”
“I’ll talk to him,” Robin interrupted. “Okay? I will. I’m only working a few days this week, but I can call Elizabeth and see if she has a similar schedule. We can coordinate. I’ll leave with her and her guard or something, okay?”
“Or me. You’ll be with me.” He took a deep breath. “I want—I need you to be okay. I need you to be safe. Alive and breathing. So yeah, either I’m with you, or you’re with Elizabeth and her guard—but I still think you need your own. Because his orders are for her—”
“I’ll call Jason myself,” Robin promised. She leaned forward, kissed him lightly. “I’m not going to take any stupid chances.”
“Okay. Okay.” Patrick grimaced, and she knew he would still rather she lock herself away from the world, but she couldn’t do that. But she certainly wasn’t going to pretend he didn’t have a point.
And the thought that a serial killer might be targeting her specifically only because she’d managed to slide through his grasp twice chilled her to the bone.
Harborview Towers: Lobby
Elizabeth stepped off the elevators, scanned the lobby, then approached the waiting area. “I was surprised to hear from you.”
Lucky rose to his feet, his eyes somber, his face lined with exhaustion. She searched them for another moment, wondering —
“I’m sober,” he told her, and she looked away. “You heard about the suspension?”
“Yes. I’m sorry—”
“That’s why I—” Lucky dragged his hand through his hair, leaving it more disheveled. He sat on the sofa, put his head in his hands. “I almost did,” he murmured.
Elizabeth sat in a chair near him, perching at the edge. “You almost…?”
“My grandmother’s bathroom cabinet. I just wanted some aspirin,” Lucky said. He looked at her. “But she had an old bottle of pain pills. Ancient. Probably would have needed the whole thing to get the high I wanted—” He stared at his hands. “Nearly did it,” he said again. “But I didn’t. Flushed it. I found a meeting.”
“I wanted it to go away. All of it.” He squeezed his eyes closed, his voice raw. “I don’t want any of this. I don’t want to hate you. I don’t want to be the reason you don’t love me anymore. But I am—”
“And I’m not here to change that. I’m not. I know you moved on. I know the boys are happy. And that’s what I want for you. For all of you.” He took a breath, raised his eyes. “I loved you so much, Elizabeth. You need to know that was true. I still do. I always will. But I always thought you settled for me. I always thought you would leave me when you found someone you really loved.”
He exhaled slowly. “And you did, of course. That day at the trial, I saw the misery in your eyes when Ric asked you about Jake. About that night last year. But I also saw you look at him, and I knew that look. You used to look at me that way. You were in love with him.”
Elizabeth bit her lip, then nodded. “Yes. By that point, I was. But—”
“But not always. Not always.” Lucky cleared his throat. “I didn’t come here to do this. To rehash all of that, but I just—I saw you—and I saw you looking for the drugs—for the high, and I just—I wanted it to go away. Losing you. The boys. Emily. God, losing her—all I had was the thought that I could make it okay. That I could get her justice. As if justice solves anything,” he muttered.
“I know how hard you’ve worked on this,” Elizabeth said softly. “You came to question us, remember? And you were professional. And you were so kind to Spinelli, Lucky. I know you took care of him. Made it so he didn’t get in trouble for hacking into the college. He told me that you helped him not to blame himself. You’re a good cop, Lucky. I’m sorry for what’s happened. Jason’s going to talk to Robert, okay? And maybe when he clears it up, and they have the alibi—”
“Yeah, maybe,” Lucky murmured. “I flushed the pills, and I went to a meeting,” he told her. “But part of the process is facing the why. And you’re part of it. I want to forget that I destroyed us,” he told her. “I want to forget that I threw away my boys — that I threw Cameron away. You have to know that I regret that day in the park. I hate myself for letting my anger win. For letting it be more important than him for a second.”
Elizabeth sighed. “It’s all right—”
“It’s not. It’s not. You need to know that. I know it’s not. You were right last summer. When Jake was gone — when we were so worried, and you told me you were too tired to fix me. That I was always trying to live up to some image of myself — I wanted you to be wrong. I needed this to be your fault. The drugs. Maxie. I needed it to be you.”
“I wasn’t innocent, Lucky. I should have told you the truth about Jake. And I never, ever should have married you again. That was unfair and it was cruel.” Her eyes burned. “I’m sorry. I wanted to believe in our dream, Lucky. But it’s been over for a long time.”
“I know. I know.” He took a deep breath. “But it’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll be okay. I forgive you,” he told her. “For marrying me again. For lying. I forgive you. You did the best you could. You were scared—”
“I was selfish, too. I didn’t want to be alone,” she confessed. “And I thought…I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you,” Lucky said again. He rose to his feet, and she stood as well. “I stopped myself last night. I wanted the pain to go away. To stop thinking about Emily. To stop thinking about you and the boys, but if I lose the pain — I also lose the good. I thought I wanted to feel nothing. But eventually the bad will burn away, and all that will be left is the good. I can’t have that if I take those pills.”
“I meant what I said in court,” Elizabeth said. “I’m proud of you for staying clean. A year now, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Lucky nodded. “I almost threw it away, but I didn’t.” He rubbed his face. “I didn’t throw it away.”
“I forgive you,” Elizabeth said, and he looked at her, surprised. “We both need to hear that, don’t we? We hurt each other so much and in so many ways. I don’t want that to be our story, Lucky. I don’t want to remember the bad, either. I want us to be able to look back and remember the sweet.” A tear slid down her cheek even as she smiled. “And you were the sweetest boy a girl could ever love. The perfect first boyfriend. You should know that.”
“You, too.” He reached out, and squeezed her hand. “Thank you. For listening to me. For all of it.”
“Thank you for coming to me. For trusting me one more time. If there’s anything I can do help with the department or the case—please. Just tell me.”
“I will. I should get going. I want to call my sponsor. Find another meeting. I think I need them daily for a while again.” He squeezed her hand again, then left.
Elizabeth watched him go, passing by another cluster of sofas and chairs where several people sat. When Lucky had disappeared through the glass doors, she went over to the security desk to get their mail, then went to the elevators.
At one of those sofas, a man with a newspaper lowered it so that he could watch the brunette leave. She and Robin had escaped him the night before, but there had to be a way to get them again. He’d be ready for the guard, he thought. This time — it would be different. He’d have his perfect pairs. Elizabeth and Robin were the perfect complement to Emily and Leyla. To Georgie and Chelsea. They were worth waiting for.
Even as he thought it, his fingers curled more tightly around the edge of the paper, ripping the thin material. He’d been so patient waiting for another chance — but his patience was running thin.
And their time was running out.