The Path to Power

Chapter Seventy Four

 

 

 

 

August

 

 

"Sooner or later, they always forget about the Cameras." The Suit whoíd just arrived the night before comments to the tech inside the big step van monitoring all the cameras in the cottage.

"She doesnít." The tech says quietly; heíd been there from the very set up. The situation is fun but kind of freaky too. "Mrs. Ashton has the bunkhouse swept daily for bugs and cameras. And she didnít make a secret of it even from the very beginning. She was looking for an excuse to get us gone and any violation of the contract would have given her a reason. We got the one pass through there just to get the lay of the land, take some back ground shots and then it was off limits."

"Damn. If she knows the cameras are there then what is she like when they arenít?"

"Probably quieter." The guy puts his hand out for a high five and gets a quick slap. "Even that is calculated, Man. There is no way any of this could be cut to make it onto basic cable. And Jees. Who knew a bubblegum rocker like Ned Eddie Maine Ashton would be such a freak. Dude plays rough."

"She seems to like it. What is on the schedule today?"

The guy flips thru his log. One thing about Faith Ashton being such a bitch about surprises there is a clear schedule. "Sheís got some stuff with the baby. Aliceís getting the day off. Little brother is going to work at the Video store this afternoon and Ned is off to ELQ for a hard day of robber baroning. X-Zibit is going to be stopping by with a couple of guys from West Coast Custom. Weíre going to have to pick them up at the airport. Going to get the Pimp My Ride stuff in the can today. Alice is just about done with the car. Between the pictures from the beginning to what weíve gotten in the can in the last 10 days.... weíre set. Got Cameras with audio in the Lincoln town car, and in the Mercedes Ned drives normally."

"What about the Porsche."

"She sweeps it for bugs and cameras too. She made very sure it was excluded from the contract. Itís not Nedís car. Itís hers; he bought it for her." The chitty chat continues until the regular realizes what time it is. "Wait. Youíve got to see this."

The camera set up at the front door of the cottage catches Ned leaving for the day. Faith hands him his briefcase and gives him a kiss on the mouth then straightens his tie. "Dinner is at six. Iím trying a new recipe."

"Call me after Kristinaís appointment." Ned gives her another kiss and then strides off toward the Mercedes.

Faith watches as he leaves and then catching his eye smiles and waves before going back into the house.

"You have got to be freaking kidding me! Nobody does that. Itís too June fucking Cleaver. We canít use that-- nobody would believe it."

"Every morning, when he goes to work like clockwork. Only the dialogue changes. Sometimes itís a reminder of a dinner out. Something to do with the kid brother or his grandmother. They do it every morning. And sheís always like that totally dressed, makeup perfect. No robes and mussed hair. Even before we got the okay and were doing long range surveillance. Itís like Stepford, man. Iím thinking using it for the opening. Kinda like you know the Osbournes do that play off the Adamís Family."

"There is little brother."

The tech reaches over and switches to the kitchen camera. Faith is already pouring Dillon a cup of coffee as he walks thru the door. Alice is at the table feeding Kristina. Dillon pulls in a seat across from the baby and makes a face at her, wrinkling his nose to get her giggling. Alice gives him a peeved look. Kristina would always rather play but then sheíd get cranky when she was hungry.

"Sorry."

"Come on, Little Miss. Have a bite. Yum." Even Aliceís version of light and airy sounds like a drill sergeant calling the new recruits out to a ten mile hike.

"I need you, Dillon."

"Sure, Faith." Dillonís agreement is automatic.

"If I donít get to the range today..."

"No problem, Faith. I can use the practice too." Dillon had made an agreement with all the guys. In the interest of keeping Bruno alive, even if he is in the doghouse, there wasnít going to be any more stress on Faith. "Alice, why donít we meet you at the babyís d-o-c-t-o-r-s appointment."

"Iíll take it from there, Alice. I made an appointment for you at the Spa. Those... people arenít going to be here until two. A manicure would be a waste of money but you might as well get your hair and face done. Let those jerks know what a real motorhead wet dream looks like."

"Mrs. A, I donít know what to say..." Alice is flabbergasted. She hadnít expected anything like this.

"And for Christ sake wear something that shows your figure. Youíve got a nice ass and more rack than those walking hardons would know what to do with. Give them a peek and maybe they wonít notice your nails."

"Oh Gawd get me out of here." Dillon pleads to the ceiling. Faith throws the Porsche keys at this head. Dillon catches them neatly and standing up finishes the last of his coffee. "Really. Iím happy for you, Alice. But Iíve already got a girlfriend and if I start thinking of you that wayĖ."

"Youíre off the hook, Kid." Alice just shakes her head. "Iíd snap you like a twig."

Faith grins at that and grabs her purse and starts toward the back door. Dillon is there to open it for her. He follows her down the ramp and to the Porsche opening the passenger door for her.

"She is not about to let that kid drive that Porsche. There is no freaking way that she would be letting a teenage boy drive that Porsche." The Suit is shaking his head in disbelief and then rubs his eyes as sure enough Dillon comes around to the drivers side and climbs in.

The tech guy is already on the phone letting the chase crew know that Faith is on the move. Because Faith didnít allow any monitoring inside the Porsche it meant that she was followed by a motorcyclist with a camera mounted to the front. Theyíd tried it with a car and they hadnít been able to keep up. Mrs. Faith Ashton got around and quickly. After the chase vehicle is notified, the guy hangs up. "She always rides shotgun. The only times she drives is if she is the only one in the car or if sheís driving Edward Quartermaine around."

"They werenít dressed for going golfing."

"Yeah, about that..."

 

 

 

 

How heíd managed to pick up another job is a source of amazement not only to him but to his Uncle Cole. And yet here he isĖ four hours a day, five days a week in the fields behind Queen of Angels. Father Frank had caught him and Michael working out a couple of weeks ago and all of a sudden heíd become part of the summer school/ bible camp program. Evidently Futbol is big with the parishioners of Queen of Angels and it isnít even a World Cup year. Futbol is big with Father Frank who had been trying to coach the kids himself. But the priest had a lot of things he had to get done and Godís business always went to the front of the line. So technically they are co-coaches.

Maxie works mornings anyway. Heíd pull a few hours at Jakes getting things set up there and then head over here to put the kids through their paces.

Evidently summer school is a huge thing with Queen of Angels. And instead of a variety of PE it seemed like the kids were rotating onto the soccer field. And itís okay. Cept for the looks some of those 6th grade girls were giving him. Definitely going to have to get Maxie over here to run interference on her day off. And if they werenít practicing their flirting skills on him then they were crying all over him. Drama. Luckily the little kids made it worthwhile. They are totally into it but in general so uncoordinated itís pure luck when a pass actually reached the guy they were aiming at.

And Skyeís nephew, Michael, is doing the bible study part a couple mornings a week. Father Frank had pulled AJ aside when theyíd been caught on the field and theyíd had a long chat. Father Frank had made a case about Michael needing to get used to Queen of Angels again before September rolled back around. It wouldnít do for him to be dealing with the fear of being in the place where his mother was kidnapped and school too. AJ had kept his temper but you could tell he was about to tell the priest where he could stuff his unsolicited suggestion. But Michael had been happy to see the priest and had talked like he assumed heíd be going there rather than to public school. AJ had folded like a house of cards and justified it all by remembering that the school is basically in their back yard, unlike the public school which would involve a bus or a driver.

Kyle calls out to the middle of the field. "Maria, this is soccer, not ballet-- more feet less arms." He shakes his head. Thing is because of the little girlís dance class she is the best one on the field moving the ball. "And pass it around some." Kyle looks down toward the goal. They rotated the goaltender position because it could be really boring. And just like he fearedĖ the person who is supposed to be tending goal is actually chasing... a butterfly. Oh Jees. "Britney, heads up. Theyíre coming your way." Eventually. Itís like herding cats. What the hell are 4 year olds doing in school anyway? He glances down at his watch and realizes thankfully that their play period is almost over. The next group out are the 7 year olds and they actually almost get it. Or maybe itís just that most of them look like hockey players anyway with the missing teeth. Kyle blows his whistle and waves the kids in.

The homeroom teacher arrives at the same time. "What do we say, boys and girls?"

"Thank you, Coach Kyle." There is a chorus of little voices shouting at the top of their lungs.

Kyle applauds. "Good job, you guys, youíre really looking good out there. Iíll see you all tomorrow." The two lines of kids come by Kyle and give him a hug around the knees. It gives him time to give each one a pat on the back and another chorus of, "Good Job."

Knowing he only has a few minutes before the next class comes out Kyle grabs some water from his bag by the fence. When he looks up he sees an unexpected face on the other side of the fence. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I was just bout to ask you the same question." Casey Marcos shakes her head. "And me without my camera."

One of Lydiaís security force walks across the alleyway. "Can I help you?"

"Itís okay. Sheís my social worker. Lydia and AJ know about it." Kyle vouches for Marcos. He leans up against the fence. They both wait until the security guard goes back to the garage on AJís property.

"Scary guy."

"Scary situation. You guys did a home study on them too. Michael Corinthos?"

"Ah." Casey nods. "From the newspapers alone I know that one is a mess."

"Skyeís been keeping Michaelís name and face out of the Herald. Definitely keep his face out of the paper but sheís got no say on the other bloodsucking rags. But between the kidís mom getting kidnapped and Lydia being loaded.... Lydia and AJ imported a security force filled with Israeli hit men or something.

"Israeli hit men." Marcos shakes her head in disbelief. And it seemed that Kyle was doing so well.

"Government hit men. Massage or something."

"Mossad." Marcos grimaces. "I can safely tell you that would have been a big old no-no on the home study scale."

"I might have overheard that Sonny Corinthos wouldnít even let you guys do a home study. Which is why Michael is staying with his father."

"I have no idea." Marcos answers honestly. "Thankfully there is more than one CPS worker in this county. Seriously, how are things going?"

Kyle shrugs. "Nothing from Mom. If she does come back sheís going to be really pissed."

"How do you figure?"

"She isnít going to have a place to stay. Uncle Cole rented out the house. One year lease to start. The rent and stuff is going into a trust Skyeís accountant set up for me. Uncle Cole says I can use it for college. Skyeís though... she didnít touch hers just let the accountant work some magic on it... thatís how she bought the Herald." Kyle makes a clicking noise with his tongue and gives Marcos a thumbs up.

"Have they thought any more about what I talked to Skye about?" In its own way itís a test. How is the communication in the house.

"The real Foster Parent thing?" Kyle takes another drink. "I donít think Uncle Cole is pumped about the idea. And Skye is a ducks in a row person." He is quick to add. "Donít get me wrong. She deals with stuff and thinks fast but if she was going to do something major like that then it would be planned out so that the other person is boxed in to do what she wants. The one year sobriety thing is an excuse to Uncle Cole but itís huge to Skye. You get Skye to go for it... Uncle Cole will make it work. But you arenít going to get Skye until her year is in."

Marcos nods her head consideringly. "I guess that makes sense." She sighs.

"Why? You got someone you need a place for?"

"Unfortunately just bout always." Marcos sighs again. "Okay, Kyle, weíre back to where we were. Iíll do some record checks to make sure youíre keeping it real. If something major, like your mom showing up happens, let me know. If you need me just callĖ okay? You still have my card?" Marcos reaches into the messenger bag across her body and pulls out her cards. She hands Kyle another. She starts to walk away and turns around. "You figure out yet that you have a real good thing going?"

"Yeah. I get it. Figured that one out right about the time I walked into my house and all the furniture was gone."

 

 

 

 

Stefan isnít surprised when Faith shows up at the park without her normal entourage. Itís just her, the baby and one bodyguard. He shudders. The idea of being under constant scrutiny of cameras and secret microphones is offensive. When the film crew had practically moved in he could see the tension in his nieceís step-mother. Faith had informed him through gritted teeth that the bunkhouse on the property is off limit to the cameras and her guys would still be looking for Helena but that if he had any news about her that he should contact the bunkhouse number and talk to someone called-- Mouse.

He is also not particularly surprised that rather than her normal taunts, Faith hands the baby over to him and takes a position a few steps away. Like the other body guard her focus is anything perceived to be a threat to Kristina. And he isnít. Of course if he tried to leave with the baby that would be another situation all together. "Hello Kristina, how are you this morning?" Stefanís voice is light and loving. He gives the child a kiss and caress over the top of her head and then remembering Nikolas at that age takes a seat on the bench. He holds Kristinaís hands while she stands by the bench and tests her legs. "Soon you will be into everything."

"Sheís already into everything." Faith snarks from the short distance away. She glances over to Bruno who is still on her list and gives a quick nonverbal signal. He walks over and gives Faith a clean phone. Moving away a couple more steps, she takes care of the calls that just canít wait. The afternoon and evening are going to be shot. Nothing is going to get done down at the bunkhouse with those Pimp My Ride people doing their thing. Aliceís project car is in the garage attached to the bunkhouse. Everything had to be put away so that those wide angle lens werenít picking up something that was none of their business. And you could bet as soon as news got out about this MTV fiasco that the FBI or whatever local authority would be going after the footage trying to trip her up on something, anything. "There is bread in the bag to feed the d-u-c-k-s." Faith looks over her shoulder at Cassadine. The phone is still by her ear. She gives attention back to the phone. "Yeah, Iím here. Donít make me come down there. We have a contract. You will get the work done just as you promised. That is not my problem. Youíre so funny. Do you really think Iím going to sue you if you donít get it done? Iím hurt. Bruno, do I look hurt?"

"Oh yeah, Faith. Cut deep." Bruno nods. He doesnít stop looking around for threats.

Faithís voice drops lower. "I wonít be the one hurting if the work doesnít get done by the time the next contractor comes in." Faith clicks the off button on the phone to disconnect the call. She glances over at Bruno.

Bruno nods again. No problem. Heíd check on things in the morning.

 

 

 

 

The paper is about 75% laid out with about 6 hours to go until the 10:30pm deadline. Early stories are already placed. Ads already set. What the hell did they do before computers? Oh yeah, do everything by hand. Space is set aside for the big stories that are going to come in late, baseball games and the like. The paper might run round the clock but a lot of people still liked to get out of the office by 5pm and there is still an hour to go until that. Skye digs through her desk for something to munch on, just something to tide her over until she could leave. Darn taking to the last minute reporters. All of a sudden there is a moment of unnatural silence. Skye pops up from behind her desk. "What was that?"

"The power is out."

"Oh no, itís not."

"Oh yes, it is."

"Generator."

"Already calling. But it should kick on automatically." The receptionist counters. Sure enough the totally inadequate emergency lights kick on in the hallway.

Skye walks out to the reporters bull pen. "What the hell is going on?"

Someone calls out covering the mouth piece on their phone. "Down in Manhattan."

"Down in Toronto too." Someone else calls out. There is a moment of silence as everyone realizes that the front page is going to have to be redone. This is a BIG story.

The Editor starts calling out assignments. And since he is old school lets them in on a few secrets. "Get out the pens and pads, boys and girls. Your laptops and recorders are only as good as your batteries. Use landlines for the phone cause I got a dollar here that says your cell isnít going to work in about ten minutes; itíll be like 9/11 all over again. No power to cell towers equals no cellsĖ Got it?! I want to know if this was a terrorist attack. I want to know if the nuke plants are involved."

"Boss, it could be just because freaking hot." The optimist in the group offers.

"Right youíre on the weather aspect. Find out if this was an unplanned rolling blacknout or something. Move people! I want to know what the hell is going on before the lights come back on."

"What do you need me to do?" Skye offers.

The Editor looks at the owner of the paper. If he would have just given her a job then he wouldnít have her as a boss and donít think that he ever forgot that. "Find facilities make sure that nobody is stuck in any elevators. Heat rises; need to get people from the upper floors down here so nobody passes out from the heat. Even if this only lasts fifteen minutes itís going to be news. Canadaís involved?! Weíre going to have to divert all generator power to the presses. If we canít get an edition out we might as well send everyone home."

Skye nods in agreement. "And then?"

The Editor already knows that Skye is going to delegate. "Take a walk. Weíre half an hour from rush hour. Are we going to have buses, trains, traffic signals? Is the man on the street going to start throwing bricks through windows?"

Skye nods again. "You got it. Iíll be back in about half an hour." She stops to brief the receptionist who is going to have to be the hub where facilities are concerned and grabs her purse. She is already on the phone to the one person she knows who is over-reliant on his cell phone. "Kyle? Itís Skye. Iím going to talk fast. There is probably only going to be about 5 more minutes of cell service before the towers are overwhelmed. Iím going to be at work. Find a land line and call your uncle and let him know okay? Where are you going to be? Kellyís? Are you sure thatís a good idea? Okay. Well be carefulĖ the traffic signals arenít working. Iíll try to call later once I know how bad this is going to be." Skye says her goodbye and then puts her cell phone back in her bag and pulls out a small mini recorder. Like Lila, sheíd learned to get her thoughts down quickly before the next thought occurred. Taking the editorís advice she is very conservative with the batteries as she walks the area around the Herald.

 

 

 

 

"Oh you have got to be freaking kidding me." Faith protests as the power goes out. First things first she picks up the phone. "Yeah, Reggie. Power out there too? Good, good that makes sense. Well tell her I checked in and everything is fine over here other than the power. Iíd come over and give the Old Man hell for her but Iíve got a property full of guests I suspect arenít going to be heading back to the hotel anytime soon." Turning the heat down on the stove, gas luckily, she picks up Kristina and heads out to the bunkhouse where the guys from West Coast Custom and XZibit have been doing their thing. "Mouse?"

"On it, Faith." Mouse is already heading back to his hidey hole. He and the guys had been hanging around watching the show. "Oh man this sucks."

"What?!"

"Dial up. The cable is out. This is going to take awhile."

"Manny, take a couple of guysĖ do a perimeter check. It isnít just us but whoís saying someone wouldnít take advantage." I would if all these people werenít here. This constant surveillance has been screwing her out of taking advantage of Jason and Sonnyís recent absence from Port Charles.

"On it, Faith." The guns come out as the guys start checking the property.

"Bruno?"

"Yeah, Faith."

"Our guest stay right here until after the perimeter check. I donít want anyone to get shot... by accident."

"Right, Faith."

Alice comes over and takes Kristina. "Iíve got this one. Best time for this to happen. Weíve got hours of light yet. This could all be fixed before dark. Just be a little adventure. Not even as challenging as that wilderness training I did back in the day." Her gruff voice is reassuring.

"Oh man." Bruno groans.

"What now?!" Faith demands.

"I made an Ice cream run yesterday. We got a freezer full and the bunkhouse is totally electric."

"Life is fucking short. Eat dessert first." Faith stomps back toward the house with Alice bringing the baby with her. "I hate fucking surprises."

"You heard the lady: Jamoca Almond Fudge, Rocky Road? Iíve got about ten different kinds here. We got to eat it before it turns into a puddle." The guests from out of town are just shaking their head. Where in the hell are they and what happened to reality?

Inside the house, Alice asks. "Mrs. Q okay?"

"Yeah, they have had a generator over there for a million years because of the elevator. Reggie says sheís got a full charge on her chair and a spare battery just in case."

Alice grimaces. "Sorry. I knew that. I tuned up the generator before I left. You really think they arenít going to be leaving?"

"What floor were they on at the hotel?"

Alice winces again. "They took the penthouse."

"Set the kitchen table up as a buffet. If we can get this on the table soon enough they can eat outside. Like you said weíve got four hours or more of light. They can crash at the bunkhouse or back at the hotel I could give a rats ass."

"It was going really well, Mrs. A."

"Iím glad, Alice. Because now weíre the ones paying the piper. As soon as Manny gives the all clear set up the area between the bunkhouse and the house like itís a big freaking party. The guys have a boom box. Put on some tunes. Let them all kick around and tell stories about all the groupies theyíve gotten freebies off of."

Out in the MTV productions surveillance van, "Are you getting all this?"

"Oh yeah, all the cameras are on battery back up. Weíre getting everything. We have the feeds from the Pimp My Ride too. Weíre going to get guys into the bunkhouse."

"Itís like an armed camp. She might put a shiny face on it but they just went on red alert or something."

Just then there is a pounding on the door. "You guys okay in there?"

"Donít let them see we still have power." The Suit makes a quick decision. "This is just starting to get interesting."

 

 

 

 

"I think we should wait to turn on the generator until it starts getting dark." AJ suggests to Lydia. As soon as the power had gone out heíd headed home from the office. The only thing that would have been better is if the blackout had happened on a Friday instead of a Thursday. If everything that was being said on the radio is true then itís going to be a long weekend. The estimates are now that power may be on by 1am. But the problem stretches all the way to the Midwest and up into Canada. The only thing everyone seems to be confident is that it wasnít a terrorist attack. Just plain old weather plus human error cascading cross country.

"Itís come in handy." Lydia nods. "Itís probably going to get very hot up stairs and it will be unbearable if we start cooking. We should probably plan on staying on this floor until the power comes back on. So much for painting the nursery this weekend. Canít run the fans to suck the fumes out."

"Weíve got time." AJ cuddles her close as they watch Michael play with Rosie in the back yard. "And it looks like Iím going to have to break out that monster gas grill. Really Iíd planned on having it like lawn art, not actually use it."

"Should I call Bobbie?" Lydia looks back over her shoulder.

"Honestly? Maybe." AJ grins. "Maybe one of the security guys knows how to run it. Iím sure we can fumble thru without blowing anything up."

"Iím going to call Bobbie." Lydia replies.

"Oh yea of little faith." AJ jokes.

"Youíre the one that mentioned blowing things up." Lydia retorts.

AJ opens up the back door. "Hey Michael! Why donít you get Rosieís l-e-a-s-h and weíll walk over to Grandma Bobbieís house to see how sheís doing."

"Okay!" Michael runs toward the house with the dog on his heels.

As soon as the two of them are gone, Sally comes up to Lydia who is watching them walk up the street toward Bobbieís. "If the power is still out tomorrow Iím going to need the day off."

"Oh?" Lydia still has a wee bit of trouble with the staffís habit of telling rather than asking.

"You know my dad does the Meals on Wheels for the elderly? He splits his route up, you know, some on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If this doesnít break then heíll do his whole route tomorrow checking everyone for heat stroke. He made sure they all have fans but fans are useless without electricity."

"How horrible." Lydia grimaces. "Of course you have to help him. Wait a second." Lydia walks quickly to the study with Sally on her heels. "I know itís in here somewhere. I know itís here. Yes. Now hopefully they are still there." Lydia picks up the phone and dials a number from Lilaís 4th of July to do list. "Yes, Port Charles Ice? This is Lydia Quartermaine. We spoke often around the 4th when we were putting on Lila Quartermaineís Independence Day celebration? I am going to need a full truck of ice and a driver tomorrow at the..."

"Port Charles Senior Center."

Lydia repeats what Sally had prompted. "Oh yes, the sooner the better. Seven AM sounds lovely before the day gets too hot."

"Thanks, Lydia."

"Oh donít thank me yet. Youíll have tomorrow off with my blessing and full pay but I will try to rope you into helping me paint that nursery, probably on your day off, just as soon as the power is back on."

"Deal." Sally smiles.

 

 

 

 

Cole lights another candle and puts it out along the bar. The place is normally dark but abnormally so because of the black out. Theyíd thrown the door open for a little light and some asshole has the music cranked on his car out in the parking lot but in general things donít change much. The beer is still running and the whiskey is being served neat. And as long as they didnít start getting into the coolers, hopefully the contents would even stay cold. The one thing that isnít running is the dishwasher so everyone is hanging on to their own glasses and just bringing them up for a refill. Doing dishes by hand sucks. But heíd do it when he had to. Kyle is going to have a hell of a to do list in the morning.

The core of regulars that could run the place is supplemented by all the people who have no clue what else to be doing with the power out. Cole knows what he would be doing if he wasnít here but then sighs. Skye is at work too. This is a big story. He might as well stay at the bar, Skye isnít going to be home until this is about over or she fell out from exhaustion and Kyle is at Kellyís. The Police Commissioner is on duty so the girls were hanging at Kellyís where at least there was company, and something to do. Mac didnít seem to mind Kyle hanging around Maxie if there is work involved. Itís the idle hands that he worried about, with good reason.

"Cole, could I get another pitcher?"

"Sure no problem." Cole grabs the pitcher and refills it. He takes the money and stuffs it in a bank bag under the counter next to the baseball bat and the shot gun. Damn electric cash registers. Cole pounces on the phone just as soon as it rings. Everyone in the place falls silent. Cole got these calls periodically and it is like a touch of the outside world. He covers the mouthpiece as Skye updates the situation and calls out the news. "The power company is aware of the problem." There is a roar of laughter and applause at that one-- considering the power company is sitting in the dark too. "Power out all the way to Ohio and Michigan. Ports are shut down because they canít do their inspections. Canada is saying this is all our fault blaming it on some squirrel in Ohio. May be power back by 1am. That is all." Everyone goes back to their beers as they discuss the latest information. Cole finally gets to talk to Skye. "Are you okay?"

"Oh this is great!" Skye says enthusiastically. "This is exactly the reason why I wanted to work here. There is going to be Herald delivered on schedule tomorrow, Cole. They will have the latest information that we can provide. Weíre already working up stories for tomorrow and the rest of the week. This is huge, Cole. This isnít supposed to happen. I mean come on-- a squirrel in Ohio?"

"Isnít there some fruity saying about a butterfly in South America?"

"Oh youíre brilliant! Brilliant! I have to go. You just gave me an idea for the editorial page. Iíll call just as soon as the paper goes to press. I should be able to get away then. Love you!" Skye hangs up before Cole can answer.

Cole stares at the phone. Trust that the first time Skye ever said the L word; itís a throw away line at the end of a conversation. Still... "Next round is on me. Bring up your glasses."

 

 

 

 

"If I eat anymore Iím going to explode." The crew of Pimp My Ride is crashed out on the lawn. Faith had strongly separated herself from the whole interview process having it be all about Alice and the car. Her guys had put their two cents in, at least those who are absolutely sure they have no wants or warrants anywhere in the United States or Canada. "No wonder the guy quit touring. Would you leave if you had that waiting for you at home? Was that the Italian version of soul food?"

Alice comes over with more food. "No leftovers, guys. The fridge may not hold out until morning. Youíve got to eat it."

"Oh damn. Well if we have to..." They sit up happily and reach for the bowls. This is literally what would be the leftovers put in the fridge so they are pretty much licking the bowls clean. Alice sits down with the guys. She sees this as being her crew. They have so much in common. Well at least cars. "Does she cook like this all the time?"

"Heck no." Alice nips that thought in the bud. "Mrs. A has too many things going on to do it up like this all the time. But she does know how to set a table. Nobody head hunts her people. They canít match the benefits." Realizing that loose lips sink ships, Alice changes the subject." So what does next season look like... what are you guys working on?"

Over at the picnic table, Faith joins Ned, XZibit and the Suit from the network talking music news and trends. She has the baby monitor with her. Thank goodness something runs on batteries. "Dillon called; heís still at Kellyís. Itís evidently teenage hormone central. But every flatfoot in the city is rotating thru there for their doughnuts and coffee since the Police Commissionerís kids are there."

Ned slides over and makes a spot for Faith. "Kristina go down okay?"

Faith nods and looks over at the others. "No offense, guys, but Iíll be happy when you are all gone and the babyís routine can get back to normal." She lies thru her teeth, well at least in part because she really doesnít care if they take offense.

The Network Suit nods. "Iíll be happy just to have the power back on. Itís very entertaining now but this is going to cost money, lots of money."

"Speaking of that, anyone for some Texas Hold Em? Friendly game just to pass the time." Ned suggests oh so innocently.

 

 

 

 

Bobbie and one of the security guys man the big gas grill. AJ had hung around for a while just to get some pointers but seeing that itís handled heíd gone over to the folding chairs to sit with his wife. "They seem to have everything in hand. Worked out well. Bobbie was kind of at loose ends. Taggart was called in of course and Lucas is at Kellyís with his cousins and friends. "

"Itís quite lovely really. Dining late is so... continental" Lydia leans over and gives AJ a kiss. "When was the last time you saw all those stars?"

AJ tilts his head back. "Probably not since boarding school. St. Swithens is out in the middle of nowhere. It cuts down on students trying to run away. And back then I wasnít interested in checking out the stars."

"Co-ed school?" Lydia gives him a pinch.

AJ rubs the spot in defense since Lydia hadnít pulled her pinch. "No. Drinking."

Bobbie comes over and pulls up a familiar folding chair. They must have come out of AJís hummer from all of the trips to the soccer fields. "Sally has informed me she has it from here."

"We do appreciate you coming over, Bobbie. Because of the generator we could have eaten inside I know but it would have been so hot in the house after. Hopefully this way the house will still be cool enough to sleep."

"My logic exactly." Bobbie agrees. "Even if you had decided to cook, I would have come over rather than heating up my kitchen."

AJ glances around to see Michael who is at the far side of the yard with Rosie. "Any word on Carly." He keeps his voice low.

"Somethingís happened." Bobbieís voice isnít happy. "We found out why Jason could never find where that bastard Ric was keeping Carly."

"Why?"

"There was a Panic Room in the house Ric was staying in. When they finally got in there they found chains on the wall, a cot and a crib. A crib!"

Lydia puts a protective hand over her stomach. "That is awful. Itís insane!" She glances a concerned eye over toward poor Michael.

"Okay so where is Carly?"

"Jason and Sonny have left for South America. They think Alcazar has her. About the time Ric reported a home invasion only because he was seeking medical attention; you understand. I donít think he actually wanted the cops to show up but he had a nasty bump on his head, concussion. Thatís when the police got to finally see the room. They are doing forensic stuff to figure out if Carly was there. But Alcazarís yacht left the same day as Ric made the report."

"This might actually be good news for Carly, Bobbie." AJ says slowly. "Ric Lansing was clearly crazy. If Alcazar has Carly itís because he wants something from Sonny. Hopefully this means theyíll be able to make a deal with the guy."

"I hope youíre right." Bobbie says grimly. She remembers perfectly all the trouble Carly had giving birth to Michael. Sheíd been there for most of it. Carly had barely survived and that was in a US hospital with every possible care and test available. "I hope this will be over soon."

 

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