The Path to Power

Chapter Fifty Five




Old News



"Come on you ditzy bitch, lets have a look. Where's the bread and butter?" The razzing voice comes from behind the iron gate at the back alley of the brownstone. They are careful enough to stay off the property but the voices carried and drove the occupants indoors with the curtains shut. The marriage announcement had been very civilly done by the Herald and it had snowballed from there. Two days later most of the respectable press had given ground to the influx of European gutter freelance press.

"That is just fucking it. That is just wrong." One of the guys working on the conversion of the garage into an apartment while big enough to park the hummer has had enough. He hadn't worked construction in years but is here as a plant for Faith so she could keep up on what was going on at AJ's. Faith had wanted someone over here ever since Dillon had told her about AJ's new girlfriend. He pulls out a cell phone. "Faith, how much trouble will I get in if I kill something?"

"Define something?"

"Listen to this crap." The construction worker/spy holds his cell phone out so that Faith can hear the catcalls from down below.

"What ya working on?"

"Putting up new walls in the apartment. Got the framing done so AJ can park his tank in there already."

"He's the one that needs to run over those pests with that tank." Faith mutters. "Fine. I'm on my way over. Feel free to drop something on their heads but make it look like an accident. Toilet would be fitting."

"Yeah, now that would be karmic."

Before the guy can hang up, Faith gets his attention again. "They're on the back alley?"

"Yeah. Probably around front too. Pretty much have the place surrounded. The landscaper is the only thing moving. Everyone else is barricaded in the house-- including the dog."

"Call Father Coates. Have him turn the hose on them. Bruno and I are already in the car. We'll be there soon."





"I don't like this." Sally glances out the window of the upstairs of the brownstone. "I think it's getting worse." Right now she is really missing the Quartermaine estate with it's nice big iron gates and fence. The only thing between them and the reporters out on the sidewalk is the front door. Luckily it is a very nice front door.

"Harry will get caught smoking dope or another of Princess Grace's progeny will run off to the circus, AJ and I will soon be old news." Lydia says practically. She gives Rosie a caressing pat on the head. AJ had left the big dog at the house rather than taking her into the office thru the gauntlet of reporters-- here and there. "Besides this way we can be absolutely sure that nobody is sneaking into the house. How could they-- thru that horde? By the time the reporters get bored maybe Helena will as well."

It's like a train wreck or an exhibit at the zoo, but who is the exhibit... us or them? Sally sees the black Porsche pull up and starts muttering. "Oh boy, oh boy."

"What is it?"

"Faith is here. Ned's wife." Sally explains, looking over her shoulder at her employer.

"I've been looking forward to really meeting her. I saw her at the Ward house fundraiser of course but I wasn't paying attention." Lydia replies.

Looking forward to meeting her? Oh no, you aren't. Sally thinks. Not if you have any sense whatsoever. "I'm calling AJ and telling him Faith is here."

"That's not necessary."

"Lydia, you wouldn't see Helena Cassadine without back up-- same rules apply to Faith. They say she killed her own grandmother for the money! Dr. Monica is one thing-- Faith is a totally different ball park." Sally leaves to call AJ.

Curious now, Lydia moves over to the window-- something she'd avoided since the horde descended. As if by magic a parking space clears. A muscular man climbs out of the front passenger seat and comes around to the driver's side. A platinum blonde takes the offered assistance from the low slung car. The local tabloid hounds start going nuts, surging past the international press, calling out questions and pressing close-- snapping pictures. The only better money shot in Port Charles would have been Faith in the company of Sonny Corinthos. The bodyguard clears a path to the front door. Sally has the door open by the time Faith saunters up the stairs. Bruno stands guard glaring at the reporters and keeping an eye on the Porsche.

"Morning, Mrs. Ashton."

"I know you from the mansion."

"Sally, Ma'am. I work here now."

"Smart move." Faith compliments. She sees Lydia coming down the stairs. "So you're the little bitch who is ruining my plan. Congratulations on your marriage."

Sally winces. "May I take your coat, Mrs. Ashton? Will Mr. Ashton be joining you?" please, please, please... even if he and AJ don't get along.

"Nope, just us girls." Faith makes an assessing look at Lydia.

"Mr. Quartermaine did call to say he'd be home soon for lunch."

"Snitch." Faith says softly to Sally.

"Yes, Ma'am." Sally makes no bones about it.

"Maybe I should wait to give my congrats until AJ gets here."

"That won't be necessary." Lydia says firmly. "Sally, will you bring a tea tray to the den? AJ will join us when he arrives." Lydia leads the way to the den. "Ruining your plan, Mrs. Ashton?"

"Call me Faith. This hiding crap is screwing everything AJ is doing to get his kid back. Perfect opportunity for front page and you're hiding."

"This will blow over."

"Yeah, which is why you've got to get out there now. Unless you want someone else telling the story?" Faith reaches into her purse and pulls out a rolled up tabloid which screams the headline. Lady Lydia's Latest Luv, the small print is more titillating with a less than flattering description-- even for AJ. There is all kind of text that implies Lydia had been manipulated or coerced into the marriage by a gold digging, social climbing, drunken ugly American under investigation for money laundering.

"Oh Gawd. Where did you get this?!"

"Some of my guys branch out from the standard men's magazines." Faith says wryly. "It surprised me too."

"This is too specific." Lydia mutters as she quickly scans thru the article. She winces. There were things in the article that she would have preferred telling AJ herself.

"Excuse me?"

"They have information here that didn't come from the Herald release that AJ gave Skye and it is just too fast. They had to be working on it before the Herald announcement. And Helena didn't know where I was, or that I was with AJ-- or she would have come after me before we got married." Lydia goes over to the phone. "Dara Jensen please, it's Lydia Quartermaine... Dara, yes, thank you-- I'll make it brief; your secretary told me you have court. I think the trustees have fired their volley." Lydia gives the name of the paper and the date. "...the information they have could only have come from the trustees. It's not like I make my family's financial statements public-- or some of the conditions of my grandfather's will. This hasn't even gone to court yet. It's definitely not a matter of public record!"

Faith listens carefully to the conversation not making any pretense of minding her own business. As far as she is concerned this is her business-- Especially after AJ's new wife mentioned Helena Cassadine. And since Lydia had said that the article was too accurate that mean that the part about all the freaking money is probably on target too. Which makes Lydia and AJ a threat to Ned's position at ELQ. Time to get a few ground rules set with the new family member-- just so there wouldn't be any misunderstandings.

Dawg bursts into the house. "Anyone got a video cam?"

Lydia covers the phone. "Why?"

"Because there is a priest turning the hose on the reporters out back."

"Dara, could you call me back after you get done with court?" Lydia nods at the answer, then hangs up. "Wilson, I have a guest."

"Yeah, I noticed." Dawg checks Faith out and his eyes start popping. "How you doin'?" He gives her a lopsided grin that some gal had told him was sexy once upon a time.

Faith snorts and rolls her eyes. "I take it this is the landscaper."

"This is Wilson; AJ's grandmother recommended him."

Faith's eyes narrow and she checks Dawg out more closely. "Really." She walks around Dawg and he starts getting that really bad feeling. "I'm married to another of Lila's grandsons-- Ned. Maybe you should come over and work on my yard next. If he's good enough for Lila, I guess he's good enough for us, right Lydia?" Somehow it just sounded nasty the way Faith said it.

"Wilson, why don't you go find a video camera. I think Sally would know if there was one in the house. I know AJ would appreciate your efforts."

"Right." Dawg beats a quick retreat. "Should have asked her first."

"I apologize." Lydia says after Dawg leaves. "Wilson is... unorthodox. But I've found since moving to Port Charles that most of the staff are."

Faith stiffens. If this bitch is expecting a pedestal she's in for a big surprise. Her eyes go flat. "Yeah, us common folk are just... colorful."

"That's not what I meant." Lydia protests.

"I know exactly what you meant."

"Hello Darling, what did I miss?" AJ walks into the den. His tone is wry. Why doesn't it surprise him that Faith would be spreading sweetness and love thru the family?! Crossing to where Lydia is standing he puts an arm around her waist and gives her a reassuring squeeze and a kiss on the temple.

"I've made a muck of things." Lydia explains apologetically.

"Happens quite a bit around Faith. She just brings it out in people. Isn't that right, Faith?"

"Hey lover boy, I was just here to give my congrats." Faith retorts. "And ask when you were going to get your head back in the game and out from under your wife's skirts?"

"Back off, Faith." AJ says too quietly.

"Now is not the time to be backing off, Junyer." Faith stalks over to the desk and grabs the tabloid. "Unless you want your son to be asking his psycho slut of a mother what a..." Faith starts picking words out of the article and calling them out. " digger or social climber or drunk-- wait he has probably heard that one already, even read it about you in the papers before. How bout this-- American Lothario under investigation for money laundering." Faith reads aloud and then adds her own commentary. "Bet nobody tells him that the wrong Daddy got busted for the RICO violations! Isn't that just so special?!" Faith throws the paper at AJ's head. "You think Sonny's son knows how to spell Lothario? Maybe some of his little buddies can teach him what it means. The only way to fight fire is fire. Why do I even bother?! You men are all alike. Piece of ass comes along and you'll follow it anywhere."

"You've made your point." Lydia declares flatly. "My husband won't lose his son because of blatant lies and a breech of confidentiality by the trustees of my grandfather's estate." Lydia starts toward the front door.

AJ grabs her hand and pulls her back. "No. You can't be around a mob of people. Anything might happen to you or the..." His mouth snaps shut quickly but Faith is already on the scent.

Faith slowly grins. "Well... . well... quite the stud, aren't you? Congratulations, Daddy."

Sighing AJ runs a hand over his closed eyes then looks at Faith. "It's too soon to be talking about the baby, Faith. We don't want to do anything to... jinx it."

Slowly nodding, Faith agrees. "Yeah, a lot can go wrong between now and then. You think you could have picked a house with more stairs?"

"No. But I'd already bought the house before Lydia agreed to marry me."

"I love this house." Lydia declares. "I helped you pick it out remember?"

"Oh this is just so sweet." Faith rolls her eyes. "So what are you going to do about the other kid? You know, Michael-- the bun out of the oven?!"

Lydia looks at AJ. "They're here now. We could... get it over with and if there starts to be a crush we'll have the door right behind us."

"Great! So lets do this." Faith gives them a little waving motion toward the door. "And don't worry. Anyone gets near either of you and I'll put a cap in their ass."

"Did she just say that she'd shoot someone?" Lydia asks in a whisper to AJ.

"Don't ask."





Zander comes into the big office at ELQ. "Ned, you got a minute?"

"Not really." Ned doesn't look up from what he's doing.

"Make one." Zander goes over to the TV that is used for presentations and flips it to the local news station. "Faith is on the news and she's not alone."

Ned bangs his head on the desk and then sighs. "Okay. I'm ready."

"AJ! AJ! Why the secret wedding?" One of the reporters calls out.

AJ keeps it simple. "It wasn't a secret. It was small. It was..."

"Impulsive." Lydia tucks her hand into AJ's.

"Yes, impulsive." AJ agrees bringing Lydia's hand to his lips. "But we both believe a big wedding would have been inappropriate so close to Lydia's grandfather passing away."

"Where did you two meet?"

"The Ward House Fundraiser." Lydia replies. "We were introduced by a friend of both of our families."

"Faith-- were you surprised by the news?"

"Not after a few minutes. Although I'm starting to see a pattern here." Faith shrugs and grins. "It's not like Ned and I had a long engagement either. You really didn't think that Lydia and I would let those two get away?!"

"No way." Lydia smiles at Faith. Only someone who knew her might see the strain. But nobody there does-- cept AJ.

"AJ! AJ! Where's the honeymoon?"

AJ laughs and shakes his head. "Next question?"

Zander turns off the television. "I really wish Faith wouldn't go on television. I don't want Natasha to see her."

Ned winces and shakes his head. "I'll call Cassadine make sure that he stops the papers. I've never seen a television over there. Faith has had someone watching the house ever since she found out that Lydia was the one set up by Helena with the venomous spider."

"You think Helena would come after her again, after AJ's wife I mean?"

Ned shrugs. "Who the hell knows how that woman thinks. The only one that is even close would be Luke Spencer... and nobody has seen him in days."

Zander makes a note to himself that maybe it's time that Tasha had another tape for her walkman. Maybe it's time for another visit to Luke's club. "Maybe this Lydia is old news now where Helena is concerned. You know the one that got away?"

"I don't know if I should wish for that or not."





Maxie tilts her head back to catch all of the sun's rays. The weather had been beautiful ever since the weekend at the lake. The teachers are getting short tremors syndrome same as the kids and are allowing study halls and free periods to be held outside.

"I wish it was over." Kyle murmurs in Maxie's ear. He looks over her shoulder at the cluster of kids doing the same thing they are. Soaking up rays seeing who the whose who was as the year came down to a close. He and Maxie could probably break up now. He hadn't heard any comments about Maximum Maxie in the locker room in a couple of weeks. But the only thing he wanted over is school and right now he isn't so sure about that.

"Friday can't come fast enough. Then three months of freedom. No more prying eyes."

"From this place at least." Kyle agrees. "I'm sure my Uncle has plans for my ass this summer." Which made now even more special. And he's going to savor every minute since there isn't a chance in hell that his summer is going to be like anything he'd had before.

"You still haven't heard from your Mom?" Maxie rests her hands on Kyles' thighs that frame either side of her body

"Not since she called Uncle Cole at the bar. The calls have been forwarded now but there is no way of her knowing that. What about you? You heard from your Mom?"

"Sure. She calls every week, every Sunday like clockwork to tell me and Georgie how much she misses us. And how much she wants to be here."

"But you didn't tell her about..." Shut Up, Radcliffe, you fucking idiot.

"No." Maxie states flatly. "There is nothing she could have done. Nothing that Aunt Bobbie didn't do already. It wouldn't have changed anything only made her feel guilty about being with great grandmother in Texas."

Welcome to the mine field. Alarms start going off in the back of Kyle's head and he has no clue what to say that won't blow the situation all to hell so he decides to just keep his mouth shut. He rubs his hand down Maxie's arm from shoulder to elbow, and watches the others making idiots of themselves. Time to change the subject. "Got the hot tub installed out at the lake house. Course I'm a dead man if I ever stick a toe in it. It's strictly for Uncle Cole and Skye. You can't even get to it now cept from Skye's room."

Maxie half turns so she is looking at Kyle but his face is so close she is practically looking at him cross eyed so she tilts her head back again, closing her eyes and resting her head on his shoulder. "There wasn't a way from Skye's room to the deck when I was there."

"Uncle Cole took care of that Monday when he had the wiring and everything taken care of-- Nice big French doors. I thought you'd know that since your Uncle Mac was over."

"He what?"

"Yeah, freaked me out too."

"I'll find out what's up and call you tonight."

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