The Path to Power
Chapter Sixty One
"I could always hire some lovely retired Israeli special forces. They have a reputation." Lydia muses as she glances out the back window of the brownstone. The press are still hanging at the back fence, if anything they are hugging closer to it knowing that the priest at Queen of Angels has a hose and is willing to use it.
"Roommates aren't part of my job contract and I already have dibs on the garage apartment." Sally transfers all the dry cleaning to real hangers. "If I wanted cute but lethal I would have gone to work for Jason. So if you're going to hire some ex-government spook... they're sleeping in the basement or the attic or in a van across the street." Sally hangs onto the wire hangers. She'll return them to the drycleaners on the next trip. "I thought you said they'd find something else to do. This isn't all from the ribbon cutting is it? I mean come on there was like a major crime spree that weekend complete with someone getting..." Sally makes a motion across her throat.
Lydia gives Sally a grimace and shakes her head. "Change of subject." Lydia sighs. "Although I thought that might help as well. Especially with Helena implicated. My little spider bite never made the papers thanks to Dr. Alan and AJ."
"So if it wasn't them connecting you to Helena..." Sally demands.
Lydia points to the latest paper. Wilson had made it part of his regular duties to stop at the newsstand and pick up the papers for her. "It's on top."
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph." Sally mutters. "Has AJ seen this?"
"I called him at the office and gave him the highlights."
"They are never going to pass the stadium measure." Sally looks up from the paper. "Too many of the voters are going to figure it's pocket change for you." And I really want a raise.
"No, you can't have a raise. You already have Christmas and New Year's off." Lydia can read Sally's expression easily enough. "One-- you work for AJ and two, I don't actually have the money and won't until my grandfather's estate is settled. Ms. Jensen is working on it. But there is no way that should be in the papers, it isn't a matter of public record. Someone is feeding them." Lydia indicates to the press. And then she's distracted as are the press on the back gate who are moving toward Queen of Angels.
"What is it?" Sally asks and goes over to the window.
"Something is happening at the church." Lydia wishes that she were into the opera just to have some glasses around.
"I think they're getting ready for the Morgan/Matthews wedding. That's supposed to be this Saturday. Reggie says the Quartermaines will be going."
"Really." Lydia doesn't know quite what to think of that but believes there is an element of betrayal in there somewhere.
"Yeah, it's the only way most of them get to see Michael. Carly doesn't mind if Michael sees Lila but Jason is the only one that brings him over to the house. And since Sonny married Carly that isn't happening too often. Maybe Jason figures it's interfering in Carly's marriage and Sonny being Michael's Daddy." Sally makes little quote motions in the air. "I know; I know." Sally shakes her head at Lydia's dirty look. "AJ's not here. I'm just giving it to you straight."
"AJ will not be dismissed." Lydia declares. She goes into AJ's closet and pulls down one of the Stallions practice jerseys from the built in cedar dresser . She strips out of the cool sleeveless linen blouse she is wearing and drops it on the closet floor. She pulls the jersey over her head and ties a knot at the base so it's resting above the waist band of her gently distressed designer denims from back in the day when she just handed over the credit card and thought nothing of paying 1000 dollars for a pair of jeans. Her allegiance would be plain to anyone that could read the front of a t-shirt.
"What are you going to do?" Sally asks with some dread.
"I'm going to assist Wilson with the back yard. And I might even answer a few impertinent questions from the gentlemen of the press." Lydia pulls her hair up into a ponytail. "So do I look the part?"
"You need a hat. But yeah." Sally shakes her head. Quartermaines. Even the ones who marry into the family are weird.
Penny raps on the door three times. And then feeling like an idiot raps two more times. She can feel someone looking at her thru the peephole in the door. "Hey." She calls out and holds up a bag with characters rather than letters on it.
There is the sound of a couple of locks being turned and then the door opens. "Hey."
"Well guess this one we can't blame on Luke's potato salad." Penny starts emptying out the bag from the oriental market. In her own undercover efforts with Helena on the loose she'd taken the bus down to Chinatown figuring that there was no way of Helena being able to follow her or anticipate what the bus would do... Cassadines didn't seem to deal well with everyday things.
"Oh Ling hi mui. You are a true friend." Liz grabs a cellophane bag and rips it open with her teeth popping the first sweet dried plum in her mouth and then putting the rest into the pocket of an oversized shirt she is using as a painting shirt. "I needed this."
"Where is Lucky?"
"Over at Barrington Industries drumming up business doing background checks for the PI business and then he was going to head over to Dara Jensen's. You want some tea or something?"
"Iced if you got it."
"Oh yeah. Just the way I learned to make it for Kelly's." Liz goes into the kitchen and pulls out of the fridge a restaurant sized glass pickle jar Lucky had appropriated from Kelly's. She uses it for brewing tea by the gallon and carefully pours two teas over ice.
"I'd forgotten this place was here." Penny takes one of the ice teas. She looks around the galley style kitchen. It's smaller than the one at her place on Spoon Island. But that made sense since Liz is more likely to be cleaning paint brushes in the sink than whipping up some five course meal. If it isn't take out then it better be something that could be eaten raw. Cooking is not one of Liz's strengths. And when she's painting it could be hazardous to everyone's health.
"I think that was the whole idea." Liz admits. Feeling a bit isolated she really wants to stretch the visit. "Let me show you around. It's just one bedroom but it's more than I've ever had before. The place over the motorcycle shop was basically a studio and well my studio...
Penny fills in the blanks. "Was... a studio."
"Right. The place is starting to come together thanks to Gram's garage, Bobbie's basement and Laura's attic." Liz looks around the living room. "Lucky stripped all the furniture down to the wood up on the roof-- because of the solvents and then I stained or painted depending on the condition of the piece. The couch has to be comfortable."
"Why is that?"
"I'll show you." Liz opens the door to the only bedroom. And it's good sized but it's also a painting studio. "It has the best light." She admits sheepishly. There is a futon bed on one wall but the couch is more comfortable.
"Not to be rude or anything but where are you going to put the baby?"
"Lucy Coe used to live here." Liz explains as if that says it all.
Liz goes over to the walk in closet and opens the door. "I think she knocked out a wall to expand the closet."
"Oh My Gawd." Penny walks into the closet too. "You could put the futon in here and still have room for the crib. But with no windows or anything it's kind of like those panic rooms that rich people have."
"You mean like you?" Liz suggests slyly with a grin.
"No, I mean like really rich people-- rich, paranoid people."
"Well just cause you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get ya." Liz reminds Penny of the Spencer family motto.
Lorenzo Alcazar pauses as he walks up the step to Ric Lansing's house. There is something off about the lawyer. Ric had been angry and focused when working for Luis as if on an agenda that nobody knew but him. And that is what it has been exactly. But even with the embezzlement from Luis' accounts, Lansing had been brilliant-- it had taken too long to discover. One of the reasons why Luis had planned on having Lansing rot in his own private jail until he got a round to killing him rather than just demanding the money back.
Lansing is working another agenda. But his focus appears to be
all over the place. Oh he'd said the right things to placate Lorenzo. They'd
even made a deal to sell Lansing's condo to the arms dealer for a reasonable
amount. But considering one of the reasons Lansing came to Port Charles was to
kill Luis, the lawyer is being too... accommodating.
A movement out of the corner of his eye gets his attention. One wall of the living room is sliding in on itself. Ric Lansing comes out of the hidden room and then going over to the bookcase on the perpendicular wall triggers something at the back of the case. The Wall slides shut again. "What are you up to, Lansing?" When he'd confronted Lansing on Friday night the guy had been bringing in cases of bottled water. "It's a little late for Y2K." Lorenzo ducks back away from the house and decides to wait. Once Lansing left he'd go in and do a little more investigating on what he hadn't discovered the first time around.
"May I help you?" Mary Bishop pulls the headphones away from her ears and stops the tape.
"Lucky Spencer, I'm here to see Dara."
Mary nods and consults her book even though she'd taken the call earlier and knows exactly what it says. "If you want to have a seat... I'm expecting her back from court anytime now. Lucky Spencer from Scorpio Investigations?"
"Right." Lucky gets comfortable in one of the easy chairs there for the clients. Not that anyone really felt comfortable in a lawyer's office.
"Free at LAST!" Gia announces as she strides thru the door. "Last test taken, last paper handed in. I am on vacation. I don't even want to think about school until August."
"Your messages." Mary hands over a handful of pink slips.
Gia groans. "No, didn't you hear me? I'm on vacation."
"The GM called twice. The coach once and believe it or not the Rook called but I think he's looking for a date." Mary announces the calls since it doesn't sound as if Gia is going to look at them. "AJ Quartermaine called too. He wants to touch base on some community meetings to talk up the stadium."
"Curse of the Supermodel." Lucky grins at Gia.
"Lucky Spencer." Gia puts her hands on her hips. "How are you? Mary, did you know that Lucky is going to be a Daddy? He announced it at the Chloe Morgan Park. I'm surprised it didn't make the Herald."
"Congratulations." Mary tells Lucky automatically.
"Thanks." Lucky gives Gia the We've got to talk look.
"Why don't you step into my office." Gia clears the path to the library that's she taken over between her studies, research and whatever Dara handed her to do.
"Yeah. Why don't I?" Lucky counters. He gets as far as the door and then moves aside to let Gia go first. Then he walks in and shuts the door. "So you seem to be doing well."
"Was I supposed to curl up and die when Nikolas dumped me?" Gia counters sharply.
Lucky winces. "Yeah, sorry. Seriously Gia, you look great. This law student gig seems to be agreeing with you."
"Don't tell my mother. I would never stop hearing the I told you so's."
"Oh yeah. I got those from my dad about being a cop."
"Your dad wanted you to be a cop?" Gia's brows go up in disbelief.
"Hell No. He just about disowned me for throwing in with The Man." Lucky raises a closed right fist in a nonverbal power to the people sign. "So when I got booted off the force the only reason the I told you so's didn't start was because he was out of town tracking Helena."
"How is that going?" Gia takes a seat and rests her arms on the conference table.
Lucky pulls up a chair as well. "It's a good time to not be tight with the Cassadines." Lucky says ruefully. "I worry about Nik but you and I both know that if Helena is doing her thing that she's going to come after Penny or Lulu. Something to leverage Nik. The only thing that Helena cares about is Nikolas. She's not easy to leverage."
"They said in the paper it was a home invasion. I know it was the Cassadine Summerhouse. I've been swimming there before. I probably still have swim suits there. Marcus isn't talking but what else is new?"
"To me either." Lucky shrugs. "Everything I know, I know from my dad. He figured that Helena would use the summer house to rub Stefan's nose in her being around. But he showed up after Helena had already done in her henchman and taken off."
"So it wasn't a home invasion-- that's just a cover story."
"Oh it was. It definitely was. Someone was counting coup on Helena. Or throwing down the gauntlet. However you want to put it. Took it straight to her just to prove that they could. Helena doesn't appreciate anyone getting the better of her."
"I think the phrase you're looking for is-- sore loser."
"Definitely." Lucky agrees with a nod.
There is a rap on the door and Dara sticks her head in. "I'm sorry I'm late, Lucky."
Lucky rises to his feet. "I appreciate you seeing me."
"Your timing is excellent. You're just the guy we're needing around here." Dara ignores Gia's dismissive snort. "I have a few cases that are going to... be involved. And I really don't want there to be any surprises if I end up having to litigate. Of course you understand that anything you discover would be considered work product and it would be Confidential? You couldn't tell anyone about the work you do for me... not your father, your brother, or any of your contacts on the PCPD."
"No problem." Lucky agrees.
You say that now. "Let's talk in my office." Dara suggests.
Lorenzo leaves Javier as the lookout when he breaks into Lansing's house. Going straight to the book case he triggers the mechanism to open the door to the secret room. Walking into the room the first thing he sees is a metal shelving unit loaded with supplies and then on the back wall is a bank of a video monitors that seem to monitor everything in the house and both the front and back doors. Looking at the angle of the front door monitor, Lorenzo winces. The only way that Lansing wouldn't have seen him earlier was if he hadn't been looking. Turning around, Alcazar sees the single cot with it's utilitarian bedding and then the Cadillac of baby cribs. Secret room or cell? Lorenzo comes out of the secret room and closes it behind him. He meets Javier out front and they drive off.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Javier asks.
"I don't know." Alcazar says quietly. "It could be nothing. I want you to put Ric Lansing under 24 hour surveillance. Don't interfere but I want to know exactly what he is doing."
Even though the Karenins had been low profile it doesn't mean they don't know how to deal with the press. They were low profile because they did know how to deal with them. Lydia reminds herself. They are like a pack of dogs-- show fear and they'd compete to tear their prey to shreds. She ignores the rapid snapping of film and digital cameras being advanced as images are stored. At least she isn't wearing a sheer skirt that would appear transparent with the sun behind it.
"Lydia! Lydia! When are you going back to Europe?"
"I'll go back to visit and to take care of business but Port Charles is my home now." Lydia speaks clear enough to be understood without appearing to be shouting.
"You're going to be living here?!" The foreign press hound makes his distain known in his tone.
"This is my husband's house, of course I'll be living here." Lydia declares evenly. "AJ is very proud of Port Charles and involved in the community thru his work at the Building Commission as well as his ownership of the Stallions, the local professional football team."
"Of course she's going to be living here. What kind of fool question is that?!" Edward grumbles from behind Lydia. "The Quartermaines have been in Port Charles since the 1700s and Lydia is a Quartermaine now."
Hoping that she has it right and isn't going to look like an idiot. "Edward, I wasn't expecting you today."
"I didn't know if I'd be able to get away until the last minute." Edward covers smoothly but before any of the press can ask him any questions that would end up being a discussion of his golf score-- since Ned had kicked him out of his own company. "Sally sent me on thru but I have a package for you from Lila inside."
"Please excuse me." Lydia says politely to the press and starts walking toward the house. Edward puts a hand on her back to give an impression of closeness for the press. Once they are inside, Lydia steps away and turning around holds out a hand to Edward. "I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Lydia Quartermaine."
"Edward Quartermaine. AJ's grandfather." Edward takes Lydia's hand and shakes it and then covers it with his other hand. "You're prettier than your pictures."
"Thank you, I think." Lydia says wryly and reclaims her hand. "What can I do for you, Mr. Quartermaine?"
"Call me Edward."
"Honey, I'm home!" Lucky calls out as he lets himself into the apartment above The Outback.
"Ricky, is that you?"
"Yeah, and that's about my limit of the I love Lucy role playing." Lucky locks the door behind him and tosses his keys on the table next to the door. "Did Penny stop by?" He already knows the answer after all he is a detective and there is a plastic grocery bag on the kitchen counter.
"Yeah, she brought by some dried plums." Liz comes out of the bedroom, wiping her hands on a towel. The phones for the PI business including the fax are routed thru her place. It would come in handy when Lucky wasn't around... people liked to talk to people not answering machines. Even if the person was acting as an answering service. "The fax machine hasn't stopped since about a half hour after you left."
"Barrington is in the midst of bidding for a big government contract. They don't want any surprises on their team. No security holdups." Lucky says absently as he starts glancing thru the faxes. It isn't anything exciting but it's enough to start having money come in. Hell Elizabeth could do this with a little bit of coaching and not much of that and it would leave him time to do some real detecting for Dara. Playing Paul Drake to her Perry Mason.
"I think Penny has managed a way to duck Helena if Helena is looking."
"Oh?" Lucky asks looking up from the faxes.
"She takes the bus. She didn't have a car before when she was working at Kelly's so it's nothing new. But she's right... a Cassadine would be clueless... I mean public transportation?!"
Lucky smirks thinking of the look on Stefan's face. Public anything would definitely be something to avoid: pools, toilets and transportation. Yep, that would be would be worth seeing. Stefan would be as likely to take the bus as he would to escape thru the sewer system. Then Lucky gets serious. "The weak part of that is getting on the bus the first time. She's a sitting duck from the Elm St. pier until she gets on the bus. And Penny's hitting the lottery means that there are a lot more people out there interested other than Helena."
He shouldn't be surprised but he is. "Grandfather." AJ goes over to his wife and gives her a kiss. He runs a hand over her shoulders. It's an affectionate gesture but it also checks for stress. Lydia might prefer the nightly foot massages but she carried her stress in her neck and shoulders. "You should have called me."
"We're fine." Lydia declares and takes AJ's hand so that he takes a seat next to her on the couch. "Your grandfather brought a present from your grandmother for me. I suspect a little bird told them that I was going to be helping Wilson with the back grounds."
"Oh?" Wasn't me so it must have been Sally.
Lydia leans over and picks up a hatbox. She pulls the hat out and places it on her head. It's very cute, functional with its broad brim but rather ridiculous as well. "There are gloves, a basket and a beginners gardening set as well."
"It looks great on you." And if Grandfather wasn't here I'd want to see you wearing nothing but that hat. AJ smothers a grin.
"Edward has a present for you as well." Lydia turns to Edward and prompts the older man.
Edward clears his throat and doesn't quite make eye contact with AJ when he tells him. "I made some phone calls and arranged some meetings in Washington, DC for you on Friday so that you can get your money back."
"Isn't that lovely of your grandfather, AJ?" Since Lydia knows that Edward is the one that had arranged for his grandson to be broke and humiliated, her question isn't as gushing as it might have been if it had been an altruistic gesture. "And the timing is so fortuitous. I'm sure Washington DC is lovely this time of year."
"Lovely." AJ agrees. "It'll be a nice weekend to be away." With my ex wife marrying my brother on Saturday basically in my backyard with my family in full supportive attendance.
"I thought so too." Edward nods but then gives his cover story. "It'll get the both of you out of town while they're looking for Helena Cassadine. Kill two birds with one stone. And you haven't been on a honeymoon either."
"The killing two birds with one stone seems to be a shared family trait." Lydia replies. "AJ and I have already discussed taking our honeymoon to Europe when I have to finish settling my grandfather's affairs. Edward, I do hope I'm not stepping on anyone's toes when I invite you and Lila to Thanksgiving here this year. I know I'm thinking far in advance... but I do feel I have so much to be grateful for this year and I would like to share that with my new family."
"I think that's great idea." Edward says quickly before anyone can change their mind. "Lila will call." He gets to his feet.
AJ and Lydia do as well, walking Edward to the door. As soon as the door opens, Edward shakes hands with AJ and then leans over to give Lydia a kiss on the cheek. It's a performance but one he hoped to make real. Skye and Faith would definitely be tougher nuts to crack. "Welcome to the family."
"Thank you." Lydia steps back. They watch from the open doorway as Edward goes to the waiting car. Both of them give a little wave and then step back into the house and shut the door-- sealing out the rest of the world. "Well that was interesting."
"Yeah. Interesting just about covers it." AJ agrees. "You okay? He didn't say anything out of line before I got here... try to buy you off... talk you into moving into the mansion?
"Mansion yes. Buy off no. My darling husband, I think you have your grandfather... on the ropes." Lydia gives a questioning look just to make sure that she'd used the phrase correctly. "He can't buy us off. Thanks to my grandfather's will, your grandfather will have to come up with other ways to get back in your good graces. And cleaning up the mess he created is a start. How was your day?"
"Not as eventful as yours evidently." AJ really notices the t-shirt that Lydia is wearing. "Raiding my closet?"
"I wasn't kidding about the two birds with one stone. Just thought as long as I was putting on a pretty face for the press that I might as well do a little advertising for the team and the stadium."
"I don't know... I think I want my shirt back."
"Do you?" Lydia leans in and gives AJ a kiss. "But what if it was the only thing I was wearing?"
"Then I would definitely want it back."
"Let me see if I can arrange that." Lydia turns and runs up the stairs.
AJ is about to follow her but then takes a quick detour back to the living room to grab the hatbox with Lila's present in it.
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