The Path to Power
Chapter Seventy One
4th of July Celebration
The biggest park in Port Charles has been converted to a carnival atmosphere. There are rides and booths. Families are having picnics staking out the best spots for the fireworks later. The Quartermaines had forked over the bucks for the fireworks just as they had done in years past. But hopefully the fireworks wouldnít start until after dark.
AJ and Michael have gone on all the rides. Some of them twice. Poor Rosie had been left at the house because of the fireworks. The Quartermaine picnic is going to be interesting. Jason and Courtney had already let Lila know they were going to be there. Sonny might even be stopping by. It had all the ear marks of ugly. And ugly is furthered by the knowledge that Faith is going to be there with Ned, Dillon and the baby. The bodyguards alone for all the factions if laid down end to end would stretch all the way to the hospital. Which might be a prophetic thought.
Lydia and Sally are acting as Lilaís legs getting everything ready before Lila and Edward even arrive. Lila is saving her strength for the actual picnic and resting up so that sheíd be able to stay up all the way to the fireworks.
The teenagers are traveling in a pack: Maxie, Kyle, Georgie, Dillon and Lucas at the core. They are catching up with all their friends that have been off doing other things because nobody missed the 4th.
The twenty something's are listening to the music and maybe doing a few of the rides and a few of the games. Penny and Nikolas have already agreed to do the picnic thing with Lucky and Elizabeth as part of Bobbieís picnic plans for the Spencer's including Lulu and Lesley. Elizabeth had finally gotten fed up with being holed up over the Outback and is making a public appearance. Didnít mean she wasnít going to be surrounded by her friends and family. Ric Lansing is sure to be here but heíd have to go through quite a few before he got to her. But it is also part of the plan to draw Ric out.
Jason had gotten hold of her and asked for the favor. While everyone was distracted he wanted another shot at Lansingís house. The guy hadnít been out of town for any amount of time since the kidnapping. Itís unlikely that Carly would be at any of the other Lansing properties. Even if Lucky had still been a cop, he would have gone along with it. Carly is his cousin. Whatís a little breaking and entering when family is involved?
Zander hadnít been welcomed in that little foursome even when he had been dating Emily to much water under that bridge. The only reason he is here is to win a stuffed animal to take to Tasha. Theyíd be watching the fireworks from Spoon Island. It would be cheaper to just go to a store and buy a stuffed animal. Next time he would but that was no help today since the stores are all closed for the holiday.
The police presence is strong both uniform and in civilian dress. The cops might be able to get a funnel cake or a turkey leg at one of the booths but they were getting paid double time and a half for it. There is a tent set up at the end of the park with an old style paddy wagon at the far end of it. Itís cute in a relic kind of way and fully functional for anyone that lets the holiday get the better of their judgment. They even had twoĖ no lines, no waiting to be hauled off to the police station. There they would probably be released with a ticket but they would have missed a lot of the fun at the park.
Even Faith had gotten into the holiday spirit wearing a boat necked red and white striped top and royal blue capris that hug her legs. She wears flats so she can walk easily on the grass. But never one to be totally unarmed especially at a party where her two worst enemies are potentially going to be sheís packing her smallest and least favorite firearm, a .38, in a purse that is worn across her body. Ned knows itís going to be tough for Faith to resist taunting Jason or Sonny, if Sonny is stupid enough to show up. He keeps a close arm around Faith nuzzling her neck and focusing Faithís attention on him. Hopefully Jason would be like in years past and just stick around long enough to say hello to Grandmother but then head off in his own direction. But with AJ taking custody of Michael that dynamic might change.
Lucky and Nikolas are each keeping a hand on their little sister. Penny and Elizabeth follow behind catching up on all the local gossip. They both notice a problem at the same time. "Lucky?" Elizabeth gets his attention.
Lucky looks over his shoulder but keeps it casual as he looks around to see what Elizabeth has noticed. Itís not that Courtney is at the park. No, itís that Jason is NOT with her. And they arenít the only ones that have noticed. All of a sudden Ric Lansing is making a break for his car. "Hell." He glances down at his watch. "I figure Jason has about twenty minutes if he is already in the house." They go over to Courtney to give her the news about Jasonís cover being blown. Penny and Elizabeth take the lead because they worked with Courtney at Kellyís and the guys want to have deniability. As soon as Courtney is given the news she makes a call to Jasonís cell but isnít surprised when he doesnít pick up. Even a phone set to vibrate could give away location if Jason were in danger.
Lucky comes over. Screw deniability. "Here, call this number from a payphone." Lucky scribbles a number on Courtneyís hand.
"What is this?"
"The phone number at Lansingís house. Just let it ring twice and then hang up. Then try the cell again. Come on, babe. Weíve done what we can here. We need to get over to the picnic area before Aunt Bobbie sends out a search party." Leaving Courtney to make the call, Lucky, Liz, Penny and Nikolas head over to the Spencer Celebration with Lulu in the middle of everything.
Lila and Edward time their arrival to when Alice arrives with Baby Kristina and her entourage. Kristinaís area is soon set up with playpen for naps, a blanket for crawling around, cooler stocked with treats, and a necessary bag with toys and changes. Alice lays down the law with Edward pulling him aside so there arenít any public spectacles. She likes the old man but until either Faith or Ned say Edward could spend time with Kristina he is just going to have to keep his fingers off. Lila had already been cleared thru after her numerous visits to the cottage.
Because of all the practice with the soccer games, Skye soon has her area set up as well with chairs, blankets, cooler and umbrella. Lila joins her under the umbrella. Itís a brilliant idea really. It reminded her more of trips to the beach rather than picnics in the park but it is sensible for Skye with her fair skin. Because the umbrella is so big they can fit both Skyeís chair, Lilaís wheel chair and significant corner of Kristinaís playpen under the umbrella so the baby will be able to nap in the shade. Edward is wearing a brand new sporty driving cap with his 4th of July finest. Truly he looks like he could be the 4th in a barbershop quartet.
Alan and Monica had a standing day off for the 4th. Everyone would have to be called into the hospital for them to get the call today. It would have to be an outbreak of the plague or natural disaster to get them away from the park. This is their sonís first holiday with his new wife and with Michael too. Monica had already promised to be on her best behavior, after sheíd rung a promise from Alan that there is no way in hell that Rae was going to be there. All the family got together on the 4th and for once everyone at least appeared to get along. It really is not to be missed.
Down at the games, the teenagers are drawing a crowd. Or rather Dillon is drawing a crowd as all the practice at a real shooting gallery is being rewarded. Georgie is going to get the biggest stuffed animal in the display to make up for all the times heís had to cancel on her lately. The carny running the booth is torn between letting this go and trying to rig his way out of this one. But the crowd is good for business... but is it good enough for giving up the big prize?
"Donít even think of fucking with the odds or youíll lose what is left of your teeth." Faithís voice is soft but menacing. Itís what gets Nedís attention from his brotherís amazing and, maybe horrifying, display of skill.
The carny is about to tell her to go back to knitting or whatever but then he sees the muscle behind her and shrugs. "Just enjoying the show. Boyís got some chops there."
Bruno is the one that speaks up. "And heís not the best shot in the family." He looks pointedly at Faith. The carny blanches.
"Donít worry when itís my turn, Iíll shoot left handed." Faith shrugs. "Just to keep it fair." As soon as Dillon has won the big stuffed animal and is winding it up Faith walks over to him. Cutting off Georgie, she slides in next to Dillon and is the first to congratulate him with a hug and a close mouth kiss on the mouth. "That was great. Guess you could start riding shot gun."
Dillon blushes but says. "I prefer driving."
"I bet you do." Faith gives him another kiss then steps back. "Donít get totally filled up on this crap. Your grandmother is going to want to see you at the picnic." Faith turns to the carny with a full toothed smile. "My turn. Left hand just like I promised."
Ned comes up behind Faith and nuzzles her neck. "What are you going to get for me, Faith?"
"Anything you want, Lover. Anything you want."
Bruno steps up and puts his money down too. He hadnít made any promises about left hand or right hand. The gal down at the Baskin and Robbins would love that Bubblegum Pink teddy bear. The Carny resolves himself to not making any money today.
Bobbie and Lesley have everything set up for the Spencer gathering. Amy had made her appearance and then wandered off with her latest boyfriend. Itís a casual get together put together with a lot of help from the local deli and Eliís, canned sodas and paper plates. There is enough there to feed an army and Bobbie is relieved when she sees Georgie, Maxie and Lucas and the rest of their crew head in their direction. For someone carrying a stuffed bear almost bigger than she is, Georgie looks... depressed. "Uh oh."
Lesley looks up and scans the crowd with a skilled motherly/grandmotherly eye and winces as well. "Rick never won me a bear that big. Lucky and Nik are going to be hating it soon. You know Lulu is going to want one too."
Bobbie laughs at that but makes a mental note to have a private talk with Georgie. "Oh that goes almost without saying. I donít think weíre going to have to worry about too much food very much longer." She greets the kids as they arrive. "Georgie, that bear is going to need itís own seatbelt!"
"Dillon won it for me." Georgie sets the bear down near Aunt Bobbieís stuff knowing it will be safe there. "Definitely better than what I won last year."
"What was that?" Kyle asks. He knows Georgie is hurt by what Faith had done and the fact Dillon seemed so comfortable with it. There is definitely something warped going on over in that house. Itís perved. Like if Skye started hitting on him or something.
Maxie is the one who answers. "Giant comb. One of those two foot long monsters. Darts right?"
Georgie nods. "Everyone wins something!" She says in her best barker imitation.
"Well damn. Darts I might have stood a chance. I do get to throw some on breaks from Jakes." Kyle protests.
"Dillon drives Faith to the shooting range two or three times a week." Georgie explains.
"Yeah, but when you told me that before I figured that Dillon just drove Faith there not that he was shooting too!" Maxie shakes her head.
"Where is Dillon?" Bobbie asks.
"He had to stick around. Faith and Bruno were shooting next and then Lt. Taggart showed up too. Heíll probably be there all afternoon now."
"Hey babe." Coleman leans over and gives Skye a kiss.
"You got out of work early." Skye says with some surprise. "I wasnít expecting you to be here until six."
"Iíve got an in with the boss." Coleman counters with a cheeky grin. He pulls Skye out of her chair and sits down pulling her into his lap. Theyíd tested these chairs in the store before buying them. This way he could have his hands on Skye whether at a soccer game or here at this family gathering. "Too beautiful of a day to be stuck indoors."
"I couldnít agree more, Coleman." Lila agrees with a nod drawing Colemanís attention to the older woman.
"Youíre looking as beautiful as the day, Mrs. Quartermaine." Cole puts on his flirty best but it doesnít stop him from trailing a finger up Skyeís spine and wishing it was a cube of ice. "Ran into Kyle on my way over. He was at the Spencer thing. Heís going to bring the cooler from the car."
"Really, Cole you didnít have to bring anything. This is our treat." Lila protests. "As often as Alan has been having dinner over at your house it really is our turn."
"I appreciate Skyeís dad coming over." Cole shrugs.
Skye looks at him in surprise. Itís the first that sheís heard of it.
"He keeps the kid busy so I can get some time with my girl." Which is a very real reason but the second one counts as well. "Dr. Alan can say things to Kyle in a way I just donít. Weíre still paying him back for the chat he had with Kyle back when he gave the kid his soccer physical. That one has paid some real positive dividends."
Skye nods. "Itís true, Grandmother." Skye spies Ned, Faith and Bruno approaching and Bruno is looking decidingly glum. She whispers in Coleís ear. "Bruno looks like someone stole his puppy or something."
Ned puts the giant stuffed animal in the playpen where it takes up 2/3 of the pen. There is just enough room for Kristina already stretched out for a nap. Lila examines the creature. "Oh my, Ned, did you win that at the games?"
"My wife." Ned grins. "But really itís the consolation prize. The real prize was beating Taggart in marksmanship."
Faith sniffs. "Itís a disgrace when a citizen can beat a police officer. Makes you think they should go back to just carrying billy clubs if they canít hit what they are aiming at." The triumphant glint in her eye belies the comment.
"And why are you so glum?" Skye asks Bruno who is about to go to the picnic table that is loaded with food and make himself a plate.
"He beat me." Bruno sighs. "Iím never going to hear the end of this from the guys."
Faith is the first to rub it in. "Dillon could have beaten you today. Maybe you should be driving me to the range."
"I didnít know you played golf, dear." Lila interjects deflecting Faith from a very grateful Bruno who makes his escape. "If I would have known that I would have had Edward take you golfing rather than pressuring you to take him shopping. I think you would like Edwardís club. But they donít allow women on the course. I never could break them of it." Lila muses.
"Excuse me?!" Faith looks the old woman square in the eye. Then she looks at Ned. "Do you belong to this club?"
Ned winces wondering what is going to happen next. "They donít have the same rules for the clubhouse or the tennis courts. Just the golf course, Faith."
"And you think thatís alright?"
"Everything smells so good, Grandmother. I think Iíll go dish up." Ned beats a quick retreat.
"You couldnít fill me in on this between gardening tips, Old Woman?"
Lila shrugs. "I didnít know you were interested in golf."
"I am now."
"Me too." Skye agrees. "Tis the season for a nice fat op/ed piece. What do you say? You, me, Lydia who should we get for a fourth?"
"Monica has played some. I believe she still has her clubs. Or maybe you can drag Dara away from her office if Lydia or Monica canít make it." Lila offers. "Oh it would be lovely. Youíll have to remember every word for me. Because if they refuse you four, you know they would refuse anyone." Her troublemaking done for the day, Lila goes on to happier things. "When are you going to reopen the Cellar, Faith?"
"Itís already reopened. Reopened a little bit ago as Flynnís. Brunoís been handling that for me. He liked the idea of a sports bar. Spruced up the decor, put in a lot of big screen televisions, satellite, upgraded the booze. Heís got a thing for microbrew beers." And if there was a little off track betting going on... so much the better for the bottom line. "Ned said I couldnít have a grand opening until Sonnyís stupid wife is found. Same reason why we havenít had a big party for Lydia and AJ there to celebrate tying the knot. Course now that Bruno has had his way with the Sports Bar motif, weíd probably be better doing that back at Club 101."
Lydia pulls up a seat next to Lila. "Considering that is where AJ and I met it would be lovely idea. Really how much longer can this kidnapping go on? Surely there has been a ransom demand by now? Now that AJ has everything straightened out with the courts we need Carly back to make everything formal and final. The trustees have been putting on the pressure wanting me to travel to Europe so they can do their mea culpa's or whatever about Grandfatherís will."
"Unless you want to go over there..." Faith shakes her head. "...I went thru this with my Grandmotherís will. Youíve got the wheel. Make them come to you and then punish them for... messing with you to start."
"It would be so lovely to show AJ Monaco." Lydia says wistfully. "Grandfatherís apartment is just sitting there empty."
Faith straightens at that. "Son of a fucking bitch." She stalks over to Bruno and grabbing by his shirt front brings his ear down to her lips. Whatever she says has Bruno nodding fervently and mouthing curses too. He puts aside his plate and takes off. When Faith comes back to the group, her eyes are different. Flat and cold, it sends a shiver thru Skye and Lydia both and even Lila can measure the difference in temperature. "I suggest you postpone any trips to your familyís holdings. You arenít the only one who knows they are empty. Unless youíre planning on taking along a case of Raid to deal with the Black Widows."
Lydia shudders but then nods. "Iíll authorize Dara to give you the list of properties."
"Appreciate it." Faithís response is terse and still ticked. "I donít have the resources over there. You might want to open it up to Cassadine too." You can tell itís just grating on her last nerve to even give that suggestion.
"Iíll mention it to the security firm as well. They are based out of Europe. They are very good, Faith." Lydia says reassuringly.
"Well whatever fumigation you order might just be pushing the infestation around." Faith shrugs.
"Information is always good, Darling." Lila says comfortingly to Faith.
The tension is broken when Kristina wakes from her nap. The first thing she sees is the giant stuffed animal and it scares the heck out of her. She starts crying and calling out for the person she knows that will fix it. "Fate! Fate!"
"Oh for Christís sake." Faith goes over to the baby and picks her up cuddling her close. "What the hell is your problem?"
"Fate." Kristina points to the bear.
Faith reaches over and with a swift vicious backhand knocks the bear to the floor of the playpen, face down. "I get you just woke up but you have to keep your stuffed animals in line yourself." Faith gives her smooches until the baby is giggling and then hands her off to Ned. She turns around and catches everyone watching her in amazement. "What?! You think I was going to shoot the thing?"
Cole grins. "It did occur to me."
Over at the Spencer picnic, everyone is digging into the wonderful food when Bruno comes up on the gathering. He spots Cassadine straight away and catching the guyís eye makes a tilting motion with his head.
Penny takes Nikís plate from him and The Prince gets to his feet following Bruno a distance away from the gathering so they can have a private conversation. "Is Kristina okay?"
"Down for her nap." Bruno reassures Nik on that score. "Your psycho granny was match making you and AJís wife right?"
Nik slowly nods. "Yes."
"So sheíd know all the Karenin properties, and the fact they are empty because Lydia is fighting with the lawyers?"
Nik gives a laughing snort in disbelief and shaking his head is already reaching for his cell phone to call his Uncle on the island.
"Consider this one a freebee from Faith, any info you get off it you better tell us. We got to be ready if youíre turning the heat up on the old bitch in Europe. Anything." Bruno declares emphatically.
Nikolas nods. Bruno listens as Nik relays the information to Stefan. Nik closes his phone. "The lovely thing about the 4th? Itís not a holiday in Europe. Our people will get right on this."
"Iíll let Faith know." Bruno nods and as heís heading back to the Quartermaine party he stops at a both to get an Elephant ear with cinnamon and sugar. While they are making it for him he is on the phone to Mouse to inform him of the development to add to the Helena Tracking Program.
Nikolas retakes his seat next to Penny and takes back his plate from her. Penny leans in. "Should I ask?"
"There may be a lead on Grandmother in Europe. You know I initiated a full scale search of all the Cassadine properties and...put out the bounty to the relatives?" Nik waits until Penny nods. "She hasnít been spotted but hopefully there is another set of resources we can block from her. Since she is the one who hastened Georges Karinenís death, she would know his properties would be vacant or minimally staffed."
"Is it selfish of me to hope that she is over there. At least what-- 8 hours away by plane?" Penny reminds Nikolas of the silver lining. "And your uncle is now on the case."
"On what case?" Lucky and Liz pull up a seats on the blanket. Heíd seen Brunoís imitation of a guy on his way to a twitchy seizure. "Since I am now officially a Private Detective if there is a case then Iím the guy who should be on it."
"Just a reminder from Faithís guy, Helena would know where Lydia Karinenís family properties in Europe are."
Lucky winces and pulls out his phone. "Well thatís one way to make sure my dad shows up for a family gathering." Lucky leaves a cryptic message with no information on Lukeís machine.
Games, junk food, family picnicsĖ all the makings of a traditional 4th in the Park. Most everything is cleaned up now because the last thing for the evening, at least for most of the people is the fireworks and then theyíll head home even though the games and rides will be open until midnight. The Quartermaine picnic had run like a well oiled machine with the real meal happening, seconds and thirds for a few. Then the catering staff took away all of the paraphernalia cept for a cooler with a few late night snacks, a cooler with sodas and a carafe of hot beverages. Reggie is in charge of that.
As soon as the sun started going down, Coleman had packed up Skyeís umbrella and made a trip to her SUV with all the extra junk. As soon as the fireworks were over theyíd be heading back to the lake to make a few of their own. Kyle already had the all clear to stay out until midnight seemed like all the teenagers did.
In preparation for the fireworks, AJ and Lydia had packed up everything that needed packing into their picnic basket that has been seeing itís share of business since theyíd bought it down in Washington, DC to take a supper with them while listening to music in the park. The only thing left out is their blanket stretched out so they could get the best view of the fireworks AJ is laying in the middle of the blanket with his jacket tucked under his head. Lydia lays beside him with her head on his shoulder. Michael is on the other side trying to keep his eyes open until the fireworks started but it has been a full day.
Bruno and Alice had left after dinner with the baby. The kid is too young to know what the hell where fireworks are concerned. And Bruno still had high hopes of getting two scoops of good loving with a cherry on top. Ned and Faith sit at the cleared picnic table. Ned has his arm around her and is nuzzling at her neck. Faith really had been on her best behavior today. Even after the realization that sheíd missed a clue where Helena was concerned. Course finding out Helena is in Europe would be a relief for him. But having Helena out of the picture meant Faith would pick up the gauntlet again with either Sonny or his Mother. His wife just canít have nothing to do. His pleasant thoughts about the nape of Faithís neck and the way her hair felt fisted in his hand are rudely interrupted by Edward sitting down across from them. With a put upon sigh, "Yes, Grandfather?"
"Figured your grandmother wanted some time with him and if I stick around then heíll leave." Edward looks back over his shoulder to where Jason and Courtney are greeting Lila.
"And the problem with that is?" Faith says with a put upon bored tone.
"Just thought maybe we could talk a little business." Edward suggests.
Faith looks over at Ned wondering if this was something he and his grandfather had arranged. Ned shrugs. "We already know heís not going to be talking ELQ. Let me get you another drink." Ned gives her a kiss and then removes himself from the table.
"UNCLE JASON!" Michael realizes his favorite uncle is there and races over to give the guy a hug.
Faithís hands close into fists. Dear Uncle Jason was probably the hammer that had finished off Roscoe. Dear Uncle Jason had probably been having a beer and game of nine ball after a nightís work while sheíd been at Mercy hospital losing her baby. It takes her a minute to hear what Edward is saying.
"Heís a weapon, Faith. A weapon with the face of my grandson. You donít blame the weapon. You blame the man pulling the trigger."
Faith focuses in on Edward. "Oh I do. Believe me I do. Every time I go to the cemetery and look at the grave of my husband."
"Ned is your husband." Edward reminds. "Youíre taking care of my great granddaughter, my grandson. Youíre on your way to becoming a real estate mogul."
Faith laughs at that. "I believe the phrase youíre looking for is slum lord, Old Man."
Edward leans in. "I hear Pier 49 is up for sale."
Faith leans back. "You are just trouble on a stick arenít you, Old Man? That would be buying the battlefield in the middle of a gang war. I thought you were trying to keep me legit."
"Well there is legit and then there is legit." Edward grumbles.
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