The Path to Power
Chapter Fifty Six
Planting A Seed
Would there be anything but a sunny day on the grand ribbon cutting of the Chloe Morgan Memorial Park?
The official ribbon cutting would be at Noon but there is
plenty to do before then to get ready. School is letting out today so the
children would be present in the afternoon and activities have been arranged for
them. There would be face painting, puppet shows, games and enough junk food to
keep them wired until the Fourth of July carnival.
The PCPD is sponsoring a DARE booth. The Ward House is sponsoring a child safety booth where children can have pictures taken and get finger prints done as well. The Gardening Club which had been so instrumental in providing the seedlings are sponsoring a booth where children could plant their own flowers or vegetables. The activities of the Gazebo are plotted down to the hour with speeches and musical acts, underwritten by the Herald and the local radio and television stations. There are even going to be fireworks after dark. The Ribbon Cutting is going to be a launch of summer for the town of Port Charles and expectations are high.
Faith arrives early checking things out. She keeps an eye on the sight lines. Ned is planning on bringing the baby to this but would be arriving closer to the actual ribbon cutting. She snorts when she sees the movie screen painted on the building to the east side of the park. It's not just a movie screen but someone has gone all out and painted curtains around it as well. She rolls her eyes. At least there are plenty of paths thru the memorial park so she doesn't have to worry about her heels sinking into the turf. On the west side of the park is a building that is decorated with hanging baskets and ribbons highlighting the positive impact the park has already made on the neighborhood.
Faith is just finishing up her walk thru when she spots AJ's hummer pulling up. His landscaper climbs out of the back seat and gives a hand to the maid. AJ comes around and gives his new wife a hand down from the oversized vehicle. Only once they are all out of the vehicle and AJ has set the alarm does everyone turn around and see Faith standing there. "I don't think you can park there." Faith points to a sign. "Unless you're planning on being first in line?"
AJ sees the sign for the child safety seat installation seminar along the curb. "I'll move the car."
Dawg excuses himself. "I gotta go. Mrs. Q wanted me to check the sound system on the gazebo before helping out at the Garden Club booth."
"I need to drop off these to my Dad's Meals on Wheels booth." Sally hesitates before leaving but Lydia waves her off.
"Nice catch." Lydia tells Faith wryly. They wait together while AJ re-parks the car.
"I'm a bitch about details." Faith shrugs. "So you and AJ finally getting out?"
"This is our first... public appearance. His Grandmother invited us to this since there is no way she can get to the house with the reporters there and until he has an elevator installed. Wilson has been acting as courier with her missives but I didn't marry AJ to be locked in a house no matter how lovely it is. As you said-- Fight fire with fire."
"Which is exactly why Lydia and I will be taking our turn at the smoke detector booth that city hall is sponsoring." AJ comes up beside Lydia and places a hand at her back.
"You'd think the pyros would be getting enough action on this street already with all the controlled burns the Fire Department is doing taking down the abandoned buildings, after all that's the way they got the park."
"What are you doing here, Faith?"
"Ned is bringing the kid down later once your grandmother is here and Dillon finishes up his last day at school. I'm just checking things out before they arrive. Parking is going to be impossible." Faith looks around the park again checking the windows carefully that look down at the park.
"It's a neighborhood park." AJ shrugs. "Most days that won't be a problem."
"Oh Good! You're both here." Lila rolls up on AJ with the two women. "AJ, will you help Reggie with the supplies? Faith, that blasted volunteer from The Garden Club has cancelled on me at the very last minute. She is afraid of the neighborhood." Lila rolls her eyes and then sighs in disgust. "The children are looking forward to being able to take home some flowers from this. They've been talking of nothing else all week." Lila holds up a gnarled hand. "Reggie and Marshall are fully booked with their own obligations to get this ready."
"You want me to make sure she doesn't cancel on you again?" Faith asks sweetly with a predatory smile.
"Perhaps later, Dear." Lila puts the chair in gear. "But today I need your hands. Both of your hands." Lila looks at Lydia. "I feel like I know you already."
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Quartermaine." Lydia walks along Lila's chair.
"Call me Lila dear. Or Grandmother. AJ needs to bring you by the house. Edward and I have your wedding present there. AJ told me you aren't taking deliveries at the house because of the press being such pests. Marshall could have brought it over I know but I did want to meet you."
"AJ and I were considering all the furnishing you and Dr. Monica sent over to be the wedding presents. It really made it so he could make the new house a... home." Lydia replies.
"Oh no, Dear. That was you helping Monica out. She is already planning on redecorating the west wing. And of course a housewarming present for AJ." Lila rolls up on the Garden Club's booth that is two long tables put together under a tent. There is plenty of room behind the tables for the plants, peat pots and potting soil. "This is going to be just lovely. Now if only Skye and Emily were here everything would be perfect; I'd have all of my granddaughters with me. The regulars to the park already know I was bringing the plants and potting soil. They may bring their own containers. Where is Reginald?!"
"Right here." Reggie has a wheeled cart that is topped with bags of potting soil and has a big rake stuck in it as well. "What do you need, Mrs. Q?"
"I forgot my clipboards. For the signups."
Reggie snaps his fingers. "Right. I'll get them on the next load." He positions the cart and then takes off again.
Faith leans over and in a low voice that doesn't carry gives her own order. "Pace yourself, old woman, or you won't even make it to the ribbon cutting."
Lila gives her a glare and looks over at Lydia quickly to make sure she hadn't heard anything. "Faith has done lovely things out at the cottage with containers, really softened the lines. Decks are so... angular. I know you've been directing Marshall for the project at your house, Lydia. But I don't know how much gardening you've done in the past, Dear."
Lydia winces. "A little flower arranging back at school. I'm great at giving directions."
"Excellent. Then you can be in charge of the signups." Lila nods. "I've been holding informal seminars while putting the park together and Marshall thinks they should be more organized-- so the neighborhood won't have to go to the community college the way he is. Reggie will be bringing back the clipboards and you'll see what I mean."
Faith shrugs. If Lila isn't going to pace herself it's not her problem. Reaching into her red leather clutch she pulls out the illegal butterfly knife and with a flick of her wrist exposes the double edged blade. Which causes both of the other women to catch their breath while they wait to see what she is going to do next. Faith starts slicing the plastic bags the potting soil is in and dumping the contents into the rolling cart. Then she uses the rake to aerate the soil and stir it up. Once that is done she puts the butterfly knife back and grabs her cell phone. "Bruno? Yeah, it's Faith. I need Manny down here at the Memorial Park. And have him bring my gardening kit. He'll know. No, you're with the kids. Yeah, see you before the ribbon cutting. Tell Ned I'll be at the Gardening Club booth. Bruno... Bruno... if you don't stop snickering I'm going to plant you the next time I see you.. Much better. Manny. Now." Faith snaps the phone shut and then puts it away.
"Where do you want these?" AJ asks with a grin. He'd heard the entire conversation.
Faith gives herself some room on one end of the tables for partially filling the containers and marks off a spot. "Here is good. The far end is going to be for the signups evidently."
AJ slides the flat of plants onto the table. "I figured there would be more demand for flowers than veggies, so I'm bringing them out first."
"Yeah, whatever." Faith dismisses AJ's comment. But it doesn't stop her from sticking a finger in one of the peat pots to check how dry it is. Manny better remember to bring her watering can too.
AJ snickers and then goes over to nuzzle on his wife's neck. "How you doing?"
"She's really quite... forceful isn't she?"
"No, your grandmother. AJ, she said something about wanting Skye and Emily here so she could have all of her granddaughters working in the booth." Lydia says quietly just for AJ to hear.
"Can't do anything about Em but I'll call Skye and see if she can get over here."
"In her grubbies."
"I'll warn her." AJ gives Lydia another kiss.
"I don't think this is a good idea."
"If I didn't get out of that apartment and get some fresh air other than when I was up on the roof painting furniture-- I was going to go crazy. Besides. This is Courtland St. Ric will never be here." Liz says cheerfully as she takes Lucky's hand and twines her fingers in his. "It's a great way to honor Chloe. She would have loved this. The paper said there was going to be live music, face painting and even fireworks."
"Fireworks is right." Lucky keeps an eye out for Lansing. Elizabeth might not think the guy would show up here but for once Courtland St. is the place to be for something other than scoring drugs. It's looking like the who's who of Port Charles. The place is lousy with Quartermaines of course since it's the Chloe Morgan Memorial Park. And there is a strong police presence because it is Courtland St. Taggart is running the DARE booth. Commissioner Scorpio is wandering around the whole park. The kids are out of school so he's seen Lucas with all of his friends.
Lucky turns around when he hears his name being called. "Hey Lulu. Did Grandma bring you?"
"Niky and Penny." Lulu points to where she'd come from and sure enough there is Nik and Penny checking out one of the booths but also keeping an eye on baby sister. "They have face painting." Lulu's eyes are pleading.
"I don't know, kiddo." Lucky hesitates just for show.
And in that time, Liz holds out her hand. "That is just the booth I wanted to go to. I can't decide between a lady bug or a daisy. Tell you what... you get one and I'll get the other." Before Lucky can say a word they are gone.
"Lose your date, Bro?" Nik says wryly. But it doesn't stop him from keeping Penny tucked close to his side. He'd almost not come to this-- considering it's because of Stavros that this is a Memorial park.
"Face painting. Just tell me you haven't seen Ric Lansing."
"No, but we haven't been looking for him either." Penny answers after a quick nonverbal consult with Nik. "You think he's going to be here?"
"I don't think anything else is going on in this town. Everyone seems to be here." Lucky shrugs. "Gia is over at the Stallions booth doing PR for the team and talking up the Stadium. Mrs. Q is at the Gardening Club booth. Taggart is at the DARE booth. AJ was at the podium a bit ago doing some speech and then I think I saw him go over to the Child Safety Seat area to help out over there. Jax is staying at the playground end of the park... which is good because Skye is at the Gardening booth and the restraining order is still in effect. It's like invasion of the uptown crew."
This is the first time he's been down to Courtland St. when it wasn't to score some weed. Course he'd always been careful to come down here kind of at dusk not wanting to be in this neighborhood after dark. He isn't stupid. "I can't believe I'm down here. And my Uncle knows about it and approves."
"I wouldn't be here if Uncle Mac wasn't." Maxie replies. "And if I hadn't signed up for a shift at the face painting booth."
Kyle sees someone he knows and stiffens. Shit "Yo."
Dawg stiffens too and looks around. "Look Dude, I'm not working. And there isn't any of that going on in the park." Most of the dealers are taking the day off and playing with their kids down by the playground. The ones who are working are down at the far end of Courtland. Course that would all change when the sun went down and the cops all headed back to their side of town.
"Good. Way too many cops around here."
"Haven't seen you much." Dawg checks out Maxie while he is talking to Kyle.
Kyle strings an arm around Maxie's neck and brings her in close. "Been busy. You know how it is."
"Yeah, I guess. I gotta check in with my peeps. See ya." Dawg strides off.
"Yeah, see ya." Kyle mutters.
"Who was that?" Maxie asks.
"My dealer. And the guy Beavis was with when he got caught by the cops."
Maxie looks around. "If Mac saw you talking to him...."
"Yeah, I know. Lets go over to that face painting booth."
"Dillon, give me a hand here." Ned calls out.
Dillon and Georgie change direction and end up at the sound table that Ned is standing by. "Ned, isn't it kinda... noisy?"
"Yeah, exactly. Would you take Kristina over to Faith and Grandmother. Kristina seems to be loving it but Faith is going to kill me. I didn't know I was going to end up running the sound board and I didn't bring any ear protectors for the baby."
"I'll take her, Mr. Ashton." Georgie holds her hands out to take the baby.
Ned and Dillon's eyes meet and there is a mutual wince. "I better take her, Georgie." Dillon intercepts Kristina before Georgie can take her. "Just until we get to Faith."
"Oh. Right." Georgie reaches for the stroller that has the diaper bag tucked into the bottom. "I'll just bring this."
"Thanks Georgie." Ned says gratefully. "Dillon, Alice was going to stop by later to pick Kristina up after she'd seen everything. So even if Faith is busy it won't be long." Dillon carries Kristina toward the Garden Club booth and Georgie pushes the stroller. They only stop long enough to buy a balloon for Kristina which Georgie ties to the stroller.
Business is booming at the booth, there isn't really a line but there are a number of people standing at the booth. Some at one end signing up for seminars with Lydia and talking to Lila. At the other end, Skye is doing a quick consult with Faith about a container offered by a child on the other side of the table.
"Your mom know you brought this?" Faith asks the kid.
"I picked it up on the street. Nobody wanted it." The child says defensively.
Faith eyes the copper tea kettle missing its lid. "It'll work for awhile but then the bottom will start rusting out cause you are going to have to water it." She warns.
"Lots of light in your room or just some?"
Skye goes over to the racks of plants behind her and grabs two. "Faith?"
"Perfect." Faith holds the two plants out to the little girl. "Okay, here is the deal. Neither of these plants like lots of sun. You leave them outside on a sunny day they'll burn to a crisp, roll up their leaves and die." Faith waits until the child nods and then continues. "AND they don't put out flowers, BUT you treat them right and they'll keep going and going. You could take this plant with you when you move out and get your own place. You give them a place to trail and they'll grow all the way round your room."
The girl nods seriously and then points. "I want the purple one."
"Figured." Faith puts the philodendron back and works with the wandering jew. She fills the teapot up to the spout level and then funnels one of the stems down the spout and into the planting medium. Adding more potting soil she puts the rest of the plant from the smaller pot into the opening on top. Then she gives the plant a good drink of water and hands the tea kettle back to the little girl by the handle. "There you go. Check in with Mrs. Q to make sure I did it right and to sign up for the container class." Faith orders.
"The Container class?"
"You brought in the most original container so far. Most people have just been bringing in buckets. You did great." Skye compliments. "In fact if you don't mind, I'd really like to get a picture of you with your plant." She goes over to her purse and grabs her camera. Coming around to the front of the booth she takes a quick couple of pictures. "Perfect. Thank you."
"Thanks." The little girl replies. Then she goes over to the elderly lady in the wheel chair. "Mrs. Q, the lady wants you to check the plant to make sure it's okay. And she says I should sign up for the container class."
"I think that is a very good idea." Lila agrees. "What did Faith tell you about your new plant?"
"The Lady said some sun but not a lot cause it'll get crispy and die."
"And don't water too much because you don't have any holes in the kettle for the extra water to drain out. A little water more often not a lot of water at one time." Lila counsels. "If you have questions there will normally be someone in the gardens that can help you."
"Okay." The little girl runs off carefully hanging onto the tea kettle by the handle and making sure that it's held steady.
"I think you made another convert, Mrs. Q."
"Coleman!" Lila holds a hand out to Skye's beau.
Cole kneels down next to the wheelchair. "Been checking out the park. Everyone's talking about your booth.... and the gorgeous women running it."
Lila gives Coleman a little pat on the back of his hand. "Have you come to steal Skye away?"
"Maybe for a little while. Go listen to some music. Maybe get her to dance with me."
"Guilty." Cole gives her a lopsided grin.
"Grandmother, is Faith still here?" Lila turns the chair when she hears Dillon calling out to her.
Faith ducks her head out of the booth. "What the hell are you doing with Kristina?"
"Ned is working the sound board. He thought it was too loud for the baby."
"Damn straight." Faith agrees coming out from behind the table. "If I would have caught him at it I would have fired off a 9mm next to his ear and see how he likes it!"
Dillon winces. "Yeah, I'm sure that occurred to him too."
"Faith, Darling." Lila has a hint of wheedle in her tone.
"Fine, fine." Faith takes the baby from Dillon and places her in Lila's arms making she that she has one arm around to support as well since Kristina had a habit of going and doing what she liked, when she liked.
Lila starts cooing at the baby. Skye is glad she still has her camera out and starts snapping pictures. Coleman comes over and takes the camera from her. "Go ahead. Let me get some with you in the picture."
"Are you sure?"
He gives her a brushing motion as if scooting her over there. "Lydia right? Get in here."
"Yes, I should have a picture with my granddaughters." Lila insists. "Lydia, Skye come over here."
"At least I'm wearing something that can be puked on this time." Skye says wryly as she leans down by the other side of the chair and looks over toward Cole.
"Kristina hasn't hurled on anyone in..." Faith shrugs.
"Since she started in on the grown up food." Dillon starts making faces at the baby from beside Cole to get her looking in the right directions. "Now she just throws stuff-- cheerios, spaghetto's, jello. It ends in O she gives it a go."
"She's such a beautiful baby." Lydia says softly. "Oh look at those dimples, and that curly hair."
"Kristina looks just like Ned as a baby." Lila declares.
"Will you just take the damn picture?!" Faith demands. "I swear Cole that Charlies Angel's fantasy you've got going is older than the shirt you're wearing. Skye, I can give you the name of the guy at the men's department at Wyndams. They deliver."
"Hey. I like this shirt." Cole protests. "No teaming up." But figuring that the longer they are together the more likely it is that they will team up he quickly snaps off a picture and another just to be on the safe side. "And now if you'll excuse me." He hands Dillon the camera. "I think they're playing our song." He comes over and takes Skye's hand. "Good seeing you, Mrs. Q."
"Good seeing you too, Coleman."
Maxie and Liz work from the same paints decorating small children who hold their faces up and close their eyes waiting to be transformed. Maxie keeps it simple with ladybugs and flowers and on a few-- some whiskers. Liz gets a little more fanciful on kids that are old enough to sit still while she transforms them into lions or tigers or fairy princesses. She is so involved in what she is doing she doesn't notice until she's finished, the problem that has just landed in front of her. "There you go. What do you think?"
"I look SCARY!" The Tiger Boy grimaces in the mirror and then grins at the artist.
"Yep. All done. Okay, who is next?" As the little boy runs off, Liz looks up and then blanches. "Ric."
"We need to talk, Elizabeth."
"No, we really don't." Liz counters swiftly. "I've said everything I'm going to."
"Then hear me out."
Maxie knows there is trouble even if she doesn't know what it is and starts looking around. "Kyle!" She waves her hand to get his attention. "Get Mac." Maxie takes Liz's hand. "My Uncle Mac, the Police Commissioner, is on his way over here. I think it's time for you to leave."
"I just need a couple of minutes." Ric pleads his gaze never leaving Elizabeth's face-- searching for the minute changes-- was her face a little rounder, did she have a special glow?
"Why won't you get it?! The thought of you-- the look of you makes me want to throw up. I look at you and I get sick to my stomach. I think of you touching me and I want to boil my skin off. You disgust me. I pray you get a disease and your dick falls off." Liz rants.
"I know about my baby, Elizabeth. I know you're pregnant."
"You may be having a baby, but it's not with me." Liz declares flatly. "I would never carry a rapist's baby. I'd throw myself down a flight of stairs before I'd have your baby. This is my child." Liz puts a hand over her still flat stomach.
Oh My GAWD! where is Uncle Mac?! Maxie starts looking around for help because this is just insane. She sees Lucky running toward them with Nikolas right behind him. She squeezes Liz's hand harder both of them are white knuckling the other. Help is on the way. Help is on the way.
Lucky puts a hand on Elizabeth's shoulder. "I think you mean our child, babe."
"Elizabeth would never have cheated on me! Never." Ric denies it, but the work Audrey had done, hell even Faith back when she'd taken possession of the Cellar from Carly, is a wedge in his confidence-- in his sanity. If it had been anyone but Lucky claiming paternity... anyone but Lucky.
"Lot of nights when you were out with Courtney, out with Carly. Did you really think Elizabeth was sitting home twiddling her thumbs? Can you really call it cheating? It's not like you two were exclusive. Didn't you ask Courtney to marry you?"
"Ric knows you were at my studio that night, Lucky. I was your alibi when Capelli was killed. Remember, Ric?" Liz taunts.
"I think you've outstayed your welcome, Mr. Lansing, and should be leaving." Nikolas orders as he steps on front of Maxie and Liz. "You can go on your own or with a police escort."
"You faithless, lying slut." Ric swears at Liz. "I loved you. I trusted you and you betrayed me."
"Your mistake." And mine. Why won't he leave?!
Ric turns away and starts stalking out of the park just as Mac and Kyle arrive. Maxie throws herself into Mac's arms. "Oh Mac, he was crazy. He said awful things to Elizabeth and then he wouldn't leave and I didn't know what he was going to do. If Lucky and Nikolas... if Kyle hadn't gotten you..." Maxie shudders.
Mac rubs her back and then tilts her head back looks her in the eye. "Find your sister and stay close to her. I have to check this out."
Maxie nods tearfully and steps back.
"The rest of you okay?" At the chorus of nods, Mac takes off in the same direction as Lansing.
Kyle steps up and puts an arm around Maxie's shoulder. "Are you okay-- really?"
"I just want to get my sister and go home."
"I'm really sorry, honey." Liz tells Maxie. "Thank you for staying with me."
"Thanks Maxie." Lucky leans over and gives Maxie a kiss on the temple. "I owe you. Big time."
At the Garden Club's booth Lydia and AJ are off dancing as are Cole and Skye. Leaving Faith to run the damn booth since Reggie had wheeled a protesting Lila away to the car and back to the mansion to make sure she didn't get overtired. But Faith isn't in it alone-- Dawg is on one side of her and Dillon on the other with Georgie down taking names on the sign up sheets. Kristina had already headed home with Alice and Bruno. As soon as they ran out of supplies they'll close up shop, and drag Ned away from the soundboard.
"Oh my gosh! What happened?! What did you do now, you pervert?!" Georgie comes out from behind the table and runs to her sister's side.
"It wasn't Kyle." Maxie immediately protests. "He went to go get Mac. Elizabeth Webber's ex- boyfriend was getting really scary. Really scary. If Lucky and Nikolas hadn't shown up..."
"Ric Lansing?" Faith inquires.
"Do you know him?"
"You might say that." Faith looks around the park. "Where did he go?"
"He left. Mac is following him."
"Georgie, Maxie wants to go home." Kyle tells Maxie's sister. He studiously avoids making eye contact with Dawg at the booth. Dawg does the same. "I think that would be a real good idea."
"If you took us home then Mac would kill you as soon as he got home." Georgie says practically. Her concern for Maxie is so great that she isn't even giving Kyle a ration just the facts.
"Skye has her cell, Kyle." Faith's eyes are vigilant watching everything. Lansing had killed Fowler, had tried to jump start the war that never really ended between her and the crew at Morgan/Corinthos. Dillon picks up on what Faith is doing and starts watching the crowd as well. Luckily most of the action now is down by the gazebo where people are listening to music and dancing. "Dillon, Dawg start packing this place up."
"Faith...." Dillon doesn't like the idea of leaving Faith. He knows that Ric Lansing killed Fowler and if Faith did something stupid then Bruno was going to have more than something to say.
"Don't fuck with me, Dillon! Pack it up now." She turns on Kyle. "Are you going to call your Uncle or are you going to stand there with your thumb up your ass?"
Kyle pulls out his cell phone. "Dialing now. See-- numbers being pushed."
"You should have them on speed dial. Oh would you please stop sniveling and make yourselves useful?! Pack up the tent!" Faith orders with a snarl at Maxie and Georgie. "Brats. How did I get stuck babysitting brats?"
"What?!" Faith turns with a snarl toward Dillon. He is holding out her red leather clutch bag. He knows exactly what is in it. Faith grabs it and ducks it under her arm. "Good thing one of you is thinking."
"Keep it frosty, Faith." Dillon says soothingly. Bruno should be doing this, not me. What the hell do I know? "You decided Ric could wait... Mouse is handling it, right? You have other... fish to fry." Maybe he's imagining it but he thinks he sees Faith relax just a little.
"Pack up the supplies."
"You got it, Faith."
"Is she always like that?" Dawg asks Georgie who happens to be standing right next to him, stacking empty flats and consolidating left over plants.
"No, sometimes she's scary."
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