The Path to Power

Chapter Sixty




Just Dropping By




Stefan makes no effort to hide or to vary his route. If he could wear a sign that says HERE I AM he would have-- focus the attention away from his sister, away from Nikolas. But there were things he wouldn't be doing for as long as the threat is fresh: going to see Kristina or going to see Dara. Of course direct confrontation isn't his mother's style, stealth is. Stefan stands. "Thank you for meeting me."

"No problem." Ned pulls up a chair but why all the cloak and dagger. "But I don't know why we couldn't have just met at ELQ."

Stefan slowly sits back down. He scans Ned's face to see any sign of knowledge of the weekend's events. "You haven't been watching the news. Didn't read the Herald yesterday." aren't in your wife's confidence.

"Kristina and I read the Herald every Sunday. But never the front section. What happened."

"There was a home invasion..." Stefan pauses to see if there is any reaction before continuing. "... at the Cassadine Summer house. Whoever broke in may have assumed the house was empty. I know I did."


Stefan nods.

Ned reaches into his jacket pocket to grab his cell phone. "I need to call Faith. Warn her."

"I'm... surprised she doesn't already know. That you don't already know. The PCPD is already questioning people. Where were you Friday after the ribbon cutting?"

Taggart walks up in time to to hear the question. "Getting your stories straight?" Taggart says coldly. "I'd like the answer to that as well, Mr. Ashton. Where were you and your lovely wife on Friday?"

"We went straight back to our house and were there all weekend." Ned replies.

"ALL weekend. You and Faith were never apart for the whole weekend."

"What are implying, Lieutenant?" Ned demands. "No, what are you accusing us of?"

"Oh nothing, nothing at all. Just eliminating a few things. Friday... after you left the Memorial Park... you, Dillon and Faith left together and went straight home. Then what?"

"Then nothing." Ned says blankly. "I checked on Kristina. Faith made herself a sandwich and then she and Bruno went out to get ice cream."

"Ice cream?!" Taggart and Stefan say disbelievingly.

"Yeah." Even Ned can hear how lame that sounds. He is going to kill Faith for this. "They brought some for everyone. There must have been about 20 pints."





Skye already knows better than to drop by unannounced, she'd been warned often enough. She calls from the car while she's still about a mile away from the cottage. "Hi, It's Skye-- is it okay to stop by?"

"Sure, I'll let the front know. When?"

"About now." Skye hangs up the phone. But she'd allowed enough time and she is waved thru by the guy up at the edge of the property. The changes are evident. Skye hadn't been by the cottage since the day Edward burned down the gatehouse. There is a guard station at the front of the property for one thing... and a gate where as before there had just been a fence. The stables Nikolas Cassadine put in are clearly being used for other purposes. The cottage itself rather than rustically settling back into the woods now looks like a stylized English cottage complete with containers of all shapes and sizes of flowers and plants lining walks, decks and the eaves of the cottage. If she isn't mistaken there is a ramp going up to the kitchen side of the cottage while the front door still has two steps leading up to the deck. "Faith! I almost didn't recognize the place!" Skye climbs from the car and brings her shoulder bag along with her. The oversized bag had come in handy since she started back to work, substituting for carrying a briefcase.

"Is that a good thing?" Faith is standing out on the front deck and keeping an eye on Kristina who is exploring the deck and had declared her independence not even wanting to hold her hand but instead is getting by hanging onto the railing and pulling herself along.

"Considering I was thisclose to burning this place down. It's a great thing." Skye steps up onto the deck and turns around. "I don't believe it. How did you do it?"

"With that Bitch Cassadine on the loose I'm kind of stuck around here. I had to have something to do. We haven't even been able to get over to the park to get any d-u-c-k time for the kid in weeks. I'm glad you stopped by... I was going to call anyway. Cause if I can't bring the kid to the d-u-c-k-s, I was kinda thinking of bringing them to her."

"You want to put in a pond?"

"Thinking about it. And thinking better of it too. Too much of a temptation for this one, I'd bet." Faith picks up Kristina over her protests and starts walking around to the back of the house. The area between the house and the stables has ended up being a turn around for a number of vehicles. The only ones that are garaged are her Porsche and Alice's project car. "Going to have to figure out what to do with the cars before winter rolls around again."

"NO! DOWN!" Kristina demands pushing against Faith and arching her back. "NOW, FATE!"

"Fine." Faith goes to a grassy spot and sets the baby down which immediately makes the kid happy as she starts pulling out tufts of grass. "Little Miss Independent has decided that she doesn't want to be carried anymore. Well I don't think that you stopped by to talk ponds or bossy babies. What do you want?"

"Nothing." Skye sighs. "I actually came by to drop these off for you and Ned. Okay, there is something else."

"What?" Faith takes the manila envelope and unfastens the clasp but the something else has her attention. There was probably a shoe dropping somewhere.

"You've known him longer than I have. Just how long does Cole stay mad once he gets there?"

"What did you do now?"

"Met with Lorenzo Alcazar."

"Yeah, that would do it." Faith takes a seat on the bench that is covered by a bentwood framework. She takes the papers out of the envelope only once they are half out does she realize they are pictures. "Is this from the ribbon cutting?"

"Any picture that any of the photographers took of you, Ned, Dillon or the baby. Grandmother called me with the suggestion that you might need a few pictures around the place." Skye takes a seat next to Faith and keeps an eye on the baby to give her time to look at the pictures.

"I'm going to kill that sonofabitch."


Faith holds up a picture of Ned holding Kristina while working the soundboard.

"She looks like she's having a good time."

"Of course she is. She's a total Daddy's girl." Faith puts the pictures back into the envelope and the words are rusty but she manages it anyway before abruptly changing the subject. "Thanks for this. So you met with Lorenzo Alcazar."

Skye nods. "Saturday in my office. He stopped by. We talked for... oh about ten minutes and then he left."

"And Coleman is ticked."

"Oh yeah." Skye sighs. "I knew he would be, I guess. I sort of made sure that they didn't run into each other."

"Just because Coleman is a lover not a fighter doesn't mean that he can't take care of himself."

"Just cause Coleman is my lover doesn't mean that I can't take care of myself." Skye winces remembering all the times when she couldn't take care of herself and Coleman had been the only reason she hadn't ended up in jail, detox or the funny farm. "Most of the time anyway. I don't see Ned getting all up in arms because you take care of yourself and the kids too!"

"I really don't think you want to go with a comparison between the two of us-- cause nobody could mistake me for a damsel in distress."

"That's not my thing either!" Skye says defensively. "I kickbox! I'm well aware of my right to bear arms and I'm not talking in that InStyle summer fashion b-a-r-e kind of way. I was having a bad spell for awhile but I'm back now. Coleman should be with me because he needs me not because he thinks I need him!"

"Don't tell me." Faith grimaces. The last thing she wants is to be involved in someone else's sticky relationship. "Either tell him or just fu... screw him until he's too tired to be ticked." Faith glances over to the baby and it's a good thing cause Kristina is intent on listening to the two of them. "What do you think you're doing?" Faith demands of Kristina. The baby just smiles and then starts giggling showing off a growing collection of baby teeth. "That kid is going to write a book someday."

"Why did I just get a cold chill?" Skye says wryly, rubbing her arms for dramatic impact. "I do want to touch base with you about Alcazar."

"The guy was taking pictures of you, not me." Faith retorts. She shrugs. It's not her problem for once.

But in this case, Skye knows just how to push both of Faith's hot buttons. "And in the course of our ten minute conversation he mentioned both Cassadine and Ric Lansing."

"ALICE!" Unless of course Alcazar wanted to make it her problem.





Taggart is the first one thru the door when the Baskin&Robbins opens for business.

"What can I get for you?" The young lady tucks the keys back into her pocket and walks behind the counter.

"I need to speak with anyone that was working on Friday."

"Excuse me?" The girl takes a step back from the counter and a step closer to the phone.

Taggart reaches into his pocket and pulls out his badge. "Sorry, I should introduce myself, Lt. Taggart, PCPD. I'm just wondering if you remember anything unusual about Friday."

"We got slammed: school let out, it was a beautiful day and there was some park opening thing. It felt like everyone was getting ice cream. I closed and I thought I'd never get out of here."

Taggart pulls out some surveillance photos that they'd had for awhile on Faith and her shadows. They date all the way back to her time in the park waiting on the ducks after Fowler was murdered. "Do you recognize any of these people?"

The girl is already shaking her head no before she even sees them. "I mean we were slammed I wouldn't have known my own moth.... Bethany!"

"Yeah?" A voice comes from the back room.

"Come here a sec." The girl pulls the photos closer to her. When the other girl comes out of the back room she shows them to her.

"Why do you have a picture of Bruno and his boss?" Bethany asks Taggart.

"You know Bruno?"

"Well not know him. He gave me his phone number on Friday. He says he normally works weekends and has Sunday and Mondays off if I wanted to hook up. I was going to give him a call today."

"What were they doing?"

That's a really stupid question so it deserves the stupid answer. "Buying ice cream...." duh "They must have been having some kind of party or something. But they didn't like buy a five gallon tub of something or other... there was like twenty, twenty five pints of all different kinds. It would have been easier if they'd just said a pint of everything but Bruno's boss tasted everything before she'd give it a yeah or nay. It took forever."

"And you were slammed." Taggart prompts.

"Oh yeah. But they were really patient. Because only one of us could work on their order at a time while the other took care of the rest of the customers."

How likely is that? Faith... patient?! "Do you have any way of pinning down a time? Are there surveillance cameras?"

Bethany winces. "There are, but they are only like on a one day tape and automatically rewind. Saturday has already been taped over. IF we'd been robbed or something then they'd pull the tape. Did Bruno do something?"

"I'm still working on that. Do you have the receipts? Did they pay by credit card. Anything with a time stamp on it?"

Bethany and the other girl look at each other. "Cash. Sorry."

"Time stamp from the register?" Taggart requests hopefully.

"I'll go see what I can find." Bethany shrugs and goes into the back room.

"So... can I get you anything?" The other girl suggests.





"Go ahead say it." Penny demands. She's done waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Say what?" Nikolas answers quietly staring off into the distance.

"That you want me to leave. That you want me to go somewhere safe."

"Mind reading, Penny?" Nikolas looks at her over his shoulder.

"You've kind of been broadcasting it since we arrived back from the Memorial Park on Friday with Tasha missing and Helena on the loose." Penny says wryly. She comes up behind Nikolas and wraps her arms around his waist. "Okay. Fine. I'll leave if that's what you want. Just tell me where would be safer than right here?" Penny rests her cheek against the middle of Nikolas' back. "And if there is a safe place then lets both go."

"I can't do that." Nikolas says on an exhale.

"I know. Neither can I." Penny says quietly. "All or none of us, Nik. I'm not going if you're not going. And you're not going without Tasha and your uncle."

"Or Lucky and Liz, Kristina and Lulu, Bobbie and Lucas." Nik starts his list.

"Face it. Port Charles is home. Helena is going to have to be the one to leave. Her and Lorenzo Alcazar both."

"I wish Lucky would call." Nikolas mutters. "And I wish I could say this wasn't like him."

"There was no answer at the studio either." Penny is worried as well but is trying to stay positive. "Did Lucky tell you where Liz's staying now?"

"She moved to an apartment over the Outback but she doesn't have her phone hooked up yet." Nik answers offhand. "There is no way of getting hold of her without sending security and possibly drawing attention."

"Oh please." Penny smacks him in the middle of the back and goes over to the phone. She looks around for a minute for a phone book and when she can't find one dials a quick number. "Information? I need the listing for The Outback."





Luke looks up at the sound of a key in the lock. He waits until his son is in his room over Kelly's and then flips the light on. It's daylight outside but all the shades are pulled since Luke has never been a day person. "You got something to tell me, Cowboy?"

"DAD!" Lucky turns around as the light flips on. "What are you doing here?"

"I own half the place. At least I think I still do. Unless Bobbie has kicked me out." Luke leans forward. "So...." Luke looks at the clock. "I've been here since the trail went cold on Helena. That was Saturday night. You haven't done anything stupid, have you? Like go back to the PCPD?"

"Nah, putting out some feelers on the investigation business. I've been expecting you to call if you had any info that you needed me to follow up on."

"Oh so you were at the office." Luke has a sarcastic tone to his voice.

"You got something to say, Dad?" Lucky says wryly not planning on being drawn. His father would get around to what ever is bothering him when he felt like it.

"A grandfather, Lucky?!" Luke is still aggrieved at the new title. He'd been called many things in his life, many of which couldn't be used in mixed company but this is a first-- as far as he knows.

"Ah." Lucky nods and grins. "So that's what's got you waiting up for me. Maybe you should have been waiting up a few months ago. Hell-- years ago. Relax, Dad. It's Elizabeth."

"Since when? I thought she was dating the lawyer; I was already planning an intervention! There has to be a twelve step program for that kind of sickness. There is one for everything else. There is no way I could have missed it. Lulu would have told me."

"Ric Lansing has been hassling Elizabeth. He's already proven to be the type to not hear the word no." Lucky doesn't look at his father as he says that. They'd cleared the air over the years or at least reburied things deeper this time. But everyone knows exactly where the bodies are buried. If his mother could forgive the old man then who was he to say differently? He meets his father's steady gaze. "It's Elizabeth's baby, Dad. You can consider it an immaculate conception or you can consider it mine. But anything else would be a World O'Hurt for Elizabeth."

"Tough row." Luke doesn't need more of a picture drawn. "So what do you think... Larry, Leon-- How about Louis? For the Old Satchmo?"

"I'll run them by Elizabeth." Lucky shakes his head but he's smiling. "And what if it's a girl?"

"Laura." Luke says softly.

Lucky nods. He sits down across from his father. "Nik has put more security on Mom since the thing with the spiders."

"Your mother is in hell. She's never been safer from Helena. Anything Helena did to her would be redundant or an end to her suffering." Luke says bitterly.

"What did you find out about that lab? Any sign of Faison?" Lucky tries to change the subject.

Luke quirks a brow. "Where in the hell have you been? It's been all over the news. I'm surprised Bubba didn't fill you in. Wasn't Faison; was Helena's boytoy and he's chilling a slab down in the morgue. Just a little bonus from his employer. Happened Friday at the Cassadine Summer house outside of town."

Lucky gets up and goes over to his answering machine; there are over twenty messages there. He hits play.

Lucky, it's Nikolas. Helena has been staying at the summerhouse. She'll be on the run now. Lorenzo Alcazar was on the island. I hope you're over at Elizabeth's. Call me when you get this." The date and time stamp announce the message has been blinking away for about 48 hours.

Lucky stops the messages there. "Guess I should have recharged my cell. So did Helena really kill her guy or did you just make it look that way?"

"Wasn't me." Luke shrugs.





The door bell announces his presence with a pleasant chime. "I'll be right with you!" A voice calls out from the back room.

"Take your time." Taggart says politely although he's starting to get a distinct bull in a china shop feeling. There are plants and gifts everywhere and huge refrigerator cases filled with the more fragile blooms. But he'd follow every lead. Maybe it would be the thing that led back to Helena Cassadine and whoever killed her manservant.

"Well hello. What can I do for you?" The florist checks out the hunky lieutenant. or more to the you?

"Lieutenant Marcus Taggart, PCPD." Taggart brings out his badge. "I was wondering what you could tell me about this." He brings out a copy of a florist card.

Considering the name and address is on the card. "It is one of ours. Did something happen?"

"I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about it?"

"Maybe you could give me a little bit more of a hint... an address perhaps?" The florist goes behind the counter. As Marcus reads the address out of his notes the Florist enters it in his computer. Then starts nodding. "New customer. Just in the last couple of weeks but the deliveries 2x3 times a week... very spendy, very exclusive."

"Did they pick them up in person?" Marcus is ready to pull out the pictures of Helena or the manservant.

"Placed the order over the phone and then we delivered."

"I'd like to talk to the delivery driver."

"I am sorry. I'm afraid he was only working here while school was in. He's gone to his full time summer job."

"His name? And his full time job?"

"Dillon Quartermaine. I think he said he was going to be working at the video store over at the mall."

Really. "I'll need a copy of whatever paperwork you have to this address. Credit card numbers. Anything."

"Anything for you." The florist gives him a wink.

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