The Path to Power
Chapter Seventy Six
Monday morning its back to business as usual thankfully. Most have their power back and the international, national, regional and local finger pointing had begun. The implications had tied up the news for the weekend as everything was about those still without power. On the local news though AJ and Michaelís ice delivery to the elderly and infirm had been the plus side of the disaster. While there are stories like that going on all over, the Quartermaine last name meant that the story had been picked up by the network and even made the national news. When AJ checks his messages at work on Monday not a single one have anything to do with building permits.
When Gia arrives at the office the first thing she does is shed her suit jacket revealing a sleeveless dress. Itís still hotter than heck and hard to believe that sheíd soon be going back to university for her last year of law school. The summer had flown by working with Dara and troubleshooting the Public Relations of the Stallions. AJís sudden high profile with Meals on Wheels had put the team on notice that nothing less would be accepted from the team and the players. The League and United Way had both been in contact with the teamís front office.
As soon as Gia has shed her jacket and set down her briefcase, Mary Bishop hands her the stack of pink messages. "Someone over at the Stallions was up early to beat the heat. Theyíve left a ton of messages on the machine and the phone was ringing when I came in."
Gia groans and already knows that her schedule for the day is going to be blown to hell. What is going to happen when she goes back to school? These guys were getting used to her. With preseason kicking into high gear, the mantra over at the team offices is Let Gia handle it if it involved anything but a diagramed scrimmage play. "What next?"
"Iím so glad you asked." Mary says with a smile.
"It was a rhetorical question. I didnít mean it. I take it back!" Gia declares quickly.
"No take backs." Mary reaches into the bottom drawer of her desk and pulls out the latest edition of the Inquisitor. Lady Lydiaís Baby Bump is the headline along with a front page picture that takes up 3/4 of the tabloid. Lydia looks absolutely gorgeous and obviously pregnant in her skimpy bikini. The shot had been taken just after she and Michael had gotten on the Quartermaine boat. She is helping Michael with his life vest and both of them are applying sun block. AJ is unfastening the lines from the dock. Taking the rag from Mary, Gia quickly scans the little article which is about the way celebrities were beating the August heat with no electricity. The press had been on bump watch since AJ and Lydiaís marriage but this is the first real proof. "She looks gorgeous. I canít believe sheís wearing a bikini though."
"Demi Moore broke that barrier all to hell." Gia winces as she scans the rest of the photos. There is nothing bad. But AJ and Lydia had been doing their best to shut down the press and keep them away from Michael. And this is all so very normal but itís on the front page of the tabloid complete with an inside spread. Just like AJís helping out with ice, because of Lydiaís money this is going to be blown all out of proportion on two different continents. "Although with Lydiaís luck, sheís going to make some best dressed list for the blackout. And there will be all kinds of stories about how they had to get married."
"Who had to get married?" Dara asks as she walks thru the door. Gia holds up the Inquisitor. "Oh lovely. Anything libelous?"
"Nope. All looks good." Gia admits.
"Then it is not our problem." Dara sighs cheerfully as she lets it go. "Iím just here to pick up some files. Iíll check in between cases." Dara heads back to her office grabs her files and heads back out.
"We need more help." Gia tells Mary.
"I know." Because Mary is an organizational wiz she has everything she can control under control even Giaís schedule of classes due to start in just a couple of weeks. She knows as soon as Gia heads back to school her time is going to be severely limited even if the younger woman did all her studies here. "I can handle the basic billing and do the office manager type things but the real estate side of the practice is really beefed up since I started. Need help there. An accountant would be great and if it happened to be a real estate lawyer who was also a CPA."
"You donít want much." Gia laughs.
"At least two more paralegalsĖ for a start."
"Daraís going to need a bigger office space." Gia looks around. "This has been coming really since she took over all of Alexisí files. Slow growth went out the window." She sighs. "I know Iím being greedy but I was kind of hoping that Iíd be the partner. By the time I get out of school and pass the bar, Iím going to be way down the seniority list." Taking a seat in one of the chairs normally reserved for the clients in the reception area, Gia cocks her head to the side. "Youíve already got a plan."
"A couple of them." Mary admits. "One thing about moving around so much with Connor and the Marines and then working temp agencies after he was killed... I did get to see a lot of different law firms. The temp agencies will be able to help with the paralegals and even property management if Dara wants to go there but we may be able to do some informal head hunting on some of the firms I used to work at. Associates who are good but who arenít going to make partner in the next decade because theyíre in firms with good names but where advancement only happens when someone dies. Maybe someone just coming off of clerking for a Judge."
"You think you can block some time for everybody to go over everything?"
Mary rolls her eyes. "Only if it involves lunch or because Iím sure things are going to be a disaster down at the courts with the unplanned long weekend... dinner."
The mall is back up and running. It had to be, they are in the midst of the Back to School sales. All the latest styles and colors of sweaters and heavy boots nobody will be wearing because the temps are still up in the 90s. In many cases a summerís worth of earnings are going to be going right back into the mall coffers as teenagers spend everything they made for the kewlest clothes and gadgets for the fall.
Since there are few days of freedom left the gang gathers at the food court: Lucas, Georgie, Maxie, Dillon and Kyle. Their table is busy as everyone they know funnels through doing the same thing. Getting the meet and greet out of the way and making sure that nobody is wearing the same thing on the very first day of school.
Dillon is the local celebrity right now because everyone seems to know that MTV has been hanging at his house for the last few weeks. Course it isnít like Spring Break or something and Dillon is over it. Happy for Alice but over it. He can see Faith fraying around the edges and wonders how long it is going to take before she puts a cap in someone. The only person having any luck with her at all is Sam and thatís because itís his shooting gallery. If Faith wasnít blowing off steam shooting targets everyday sheíd probably be shooting something a little more animated. Of all the people to be grateful for, Grandpa Edward had dragged Faith off this morning giving everyone a chance to breathe. Ned is acting weird, like he has a secret or something, which is something else putting Faith on edge. He is really getting to hate surprises too but can feel in his gut that there are more on the way.
Off in their own world as they often are, even in a crowdĖ Maxie is astraddle Kyle resting her hands on his shoulders while he has his hands slid into the rear pockets of her jeans. "When I get done with you, youíre going to be volunteering to carry all my bags." Maxie grinds against Kyle with a grin.
Kyle groans. "Tease. Iím not going to be able to walk."
"Yes." Maxie agrees with a breathy whisper in his ear. "Guess we blew the plan to break up as soon as school let out. Weíre going to have to stay together all senior year now."
"Hell. What have I gotten myself into?" Kyle growls. Maxie is having too much fun with this.
"Kyle?!" A familiar voice draws Kyleís attention.
His eyes go wide as he sees who is standing there. "Mom?"
Maxie practically swallows her tongue and Georgieís attention is fixed by Kyleís answer. "Mom?!" Maxie half falls off Kyle but makes sure that sheís standing half in front of him as Kyle surges to his feet. "Thatís your mom?"
"Yeah. Hey Mom. Long time no see."
"Babe, I just got a call from Maxie on Kyleís phone. Margery showed up at the mall. Iím kicking everyone out now but it will be at least half an hour before I get there. I hate to do this to you."
"Iím already on my way. They are still at the mall?" Cole can hear the sound of the drawers being slammed and knows that Skye is gathering her stuff.
"As far as I know."
"Port Charles Grill. Go there. My family holds all their scenes there. The staff is used to it."
"Right." Cole agrees. And he knows its to keep Margery away from the house. Just like with Rae keeping the drama to neutral territory and away from their safe place. "Iíll call him. Thanks Babe."
"Donít thank me yet. Iím wearing my Italian pumps." Skyeís voice is grim as she hangs up.
Cole grins. Skye had been wearing those shoes when she beat the tar out of Kyle. He hits the speed dial on his phone and this time Kyle picks up. "Take her, no-- meet her, at the Port Charles Grill. Skye reminded me thatís where her family holds all of their scenes and as soon as your mother finds out about the house she is going to throw one."
"You want me to call Marcos?" Kyle offers.
"Thatís your call, Kid."
The Law firm of Dara Jensen, et al is meeting for a late lunch at the Port Charles Grill. Mary Bishop had made the reservations for the three of them. It had ended up being later than Dara had thought but not later than the reservation that Mary had made. Dara always got held up at the courthouse complex because she always stopped by to see someone. It could be a client in the jail, a judge in their chambers or someone in the DAís office that she was keeping ties with. It made negotiations easier later but it made for a very long day now.
"I called ahead once I knew you were done with court." Mary informs the others not taking her eyes off the road. "There will be a table waiting with water poured and salads dished, dressing on the side, when we get there."
"Excellent." Dara leans back in the passenger seat of the car. They are all driving in Maryís beater car. It might be old but itís well maintained and has room for all of them. "Sorry-- I got hung up at the courthouse."
"What else is new?" Gia interjects from the backseat. Sheíd cleared her afternoon because she had to go by the campus. Classes are going to be starting up again too darn quick.
The trip to the Grille is in nothing flat and Mary doesnít bother with the valet parking. It just isnít worth the joyful giggles it gives to the parking attendants. But a girl had to have priorities. Winter is coming and the cabin needs new windows. Which will save on what is surely going to be huge heating bills. Parking on the street near the hotel, the women gather their thingsĖ Dara, her briefcase, Gia, a backpack and Mary her oversized purse. Then they walk over to the hotel entrance not bothering to lock the car after them. Because Maryís car is spotless, it is clear to anyone walking by that there is absolutely nothing to steal.
Just as Mary promised they are immediately seated with their drinks and salads in front of them. Dara spears some of her salad and before taking a bite nods in Maryís direction. "Youíve called this meeting to discuss the state of the business. You have the floor."
Because she wants to eat her salad too, Mary reaches down into her bag and pulls out three copies of the meeting notes already written. She hands them out and takes a quick bite of her salad. After chewing and allowing the information to be digested she begins. "Weíre holding our heads above water right now. Itís not the money. Plenty of clients and plenty of things to do but youíre barely keeping up with everything that needs to get done, Dara. Once Gia goes back to school youíre going to be losing 40-60 hours a week there. You are already working beyond what is reasonable for one person; you canít pick up that amount of workĖ even if you decided you didnít mind not having a life. Gia will probably be able to hold onto most of the work for the football team but even that is going to be exploding geometrically as the bond measure comes up to a vote. Please look at page three."
Dara groans when she sees the personnel proposal Mary has laid out. "I canít afford this."
"You canít afford not to." Gia counters quickly. "I know I dumped Alexisí clients on you but she was a workaholic too, Dara. You know that. There is already enough work for two more attorneys. This is lean really. Really lean. But itís dealing with the practice growth. Youíre going to start losing clients, Dara. All itís going to take is one big trial tying up your time. Youíve been lucky that it hasnít happened already."
Dara sighs and shakes her head. "I know youíre right. Damn."
"And weíre going to need more space." Mary goes on to the next point. "A lot of the stop gap measures can be up and running say... just after labor day. That would give me time to get the phones, computers and supplies in. I would contact the same temp agency get some paralegals, a receptionist. Thing is it means a lot more traffic in the conference room/library so Gia is going to need an office of her own."
"You didnít tell me that!" Gia flips to that part of the proposal. "Sweet."
"It wonít be as big as the space youíre in now but hopefully itíll be quieter." Mary reminds. "There is space available on the same floor and I touched base with the property manager when I was storming ideas for the proposal. He seemed open to the suggestion of a little barter going on-- services for space. And he also seemed open to the idea of maybe managing the properties Faith Ashton has been dropping on us."
"Oh I like that idea." Dara leans back and waits for the empty salad plates to be taken away the drink refilled and the entrees slid right in front of them. Then she leans forward. "Iíve been concerned somehow Faith is going to be doing at least a little um... laundry through her real estate purchases and would really like to get everything but the legal aspects away from our office. Iíll do the contracts but I donít want to be the bookkeeper or the landlord."
Mary nods and makes a note on her copy of the minutes. "This could be a nice exchange of headaches. We take over their contracts and they take over the day to day management. It also protects Mrs. Ashton from collecting her own rents." There is a knowing look around the table.
"Uh oh." Gia looks at the doorway of the Port Charles Grille. She isnít super familiar with Skye Quartermaine, knowing her by sight but she can tell by looking at the woman that there appears to be steam coming out of her ears.
"Uh oh what?" Dara looks over her shoulder and sees Skye. Following Skyeís gaze she sees something she hadnít observed when they arrived. Kyle and Maxie are sitting with a woman more Daraís age. "Uh Oh." Dara agrees and then her eyes go wide as Coleman arrives right after Skye. But if anything that has brought Skyeís temperature down as she puts on a cool facade to deal with the steam coming off of Coleman. Reaching down to the floor she grabs her mini-recorder out of the side pocket and quickly puts in a new tape. "I think I need a quick trip to the ladies. Excuse me." Dara walks to the entry and brushes up against Skye and passes her the recorder. "Voice activated and donít forget itís there." She keeps on walking.
"What was that about?" Coleman growls.
"Dara wants us to record the conversation. So youíve got to let Margery be the one who loses it, Cole." Skye warns.
Over at General Hospital, Lydia looks up from her book as Michael comes out of his appointment. "You have perfect timing. I just finished my chapter." She pats the spot next to her on the waiting room couch. "Did it go well?"
Michael shrugs as he takes a seat. "I guess. I told Dr. Cam what you and AJ heard from Grandma Bobbie. He thinks the Police should handle Ric too."
"Ric isnít important, darling." Lydia brushes a hand long Michaelís very tense jaw. "Getting your mama back is the first priority. Right?"
"Right." Michael agrees with an emphatic nod.
"Good." Lydia puts her book back in her oversized bag. "Now help me up so we can have Grandma Bobbie paged, say hello and then go get ice cream. The baby has been wanting a blackberry shake all day."
"Kay." Michael agrees as he pops up from the couch and taking hold of Lydiaís wrist gives her some unneeded assistance up. Together they walk over to the nurses station to page Bobbie and make their next appointment.
The nurse is giving her an odd look. Since moving to Port Charles, Lydia has started taking the odd looks of staff seriously. "Michael, will you call the driver and tell him to meet us at the emergency room entrance today." Michael is used to the way Lydia varied the entrances and exits every week. It made it more fun when they drove by the other entrances and saw all the photographers waiting for them. Lydia hands over her phone. Michael takes a couple of steps away. Lydia steps nearer to the station. "Yes?"
The nurse leans in close and stage whispers the latest information. "Itís all over the hospital. Bobbie is down in the ER. Carly was brought in by her husband and Jason Morgan... it was about ten minutes ago."
"Michael! Wait! Tell the driver to get your father now and bring him to the emergency room. We arenít going anywhere!"
"What do you mean?" Michael looks up to Lydia.
"Tell the driver your Uncle Jason found your mother. AJ needs to be here."
"Is she hurt?" Michael worries even as he relays the message and hangs up the phone, handing it back to Lydia.
"That is what we are about to find out." Lydia takes his hand. "Thank you." She tells the nurse and they walk over to the elevators. "Hopefully itís just a check up because she hasnít seen her doctor in so long. But it wouldnít surprise me if the doctors want her to stay overnight even if she is perfectly fine. They always want people to stay overnight."
Michael breathes a little easier. Even as he grips Lydiaís hand so tight that her fingers are flushed with constricted blood. "Thatís true. Lydia, is your baby going to be okay without the blackberry shake?" Itís a pitiful attempt at distraction but he has to think about anything else than his mother being back but sick.
Lydia considers his question carefully and frowns. "I believe so. But if your mother is having tests or something I think we should have the shakes and maybe dinner delivered here. We wonít want to leave until you get to see your mother and really I do not want to eat hospital food."
"Mama would probably like a shake too."
"Excellent idea. Weíll ask your grandmother Bobbie if there is any reason why she canít have one. If it looks like it is going to be awhile maybe you should ask everyone what kind of shake they want. It wouldnít be kind to have ice cream in front of them."
"Maybe Aunt Faithís guy Bruno could bring them over. He likes a girl at Baskin Robbins and he goes there all the time."
"I think we should call the ice cream place ourselves and have the driver pick up. Mr. Bruno is still very busy over at Aunt Faithís house because of those TV people being there. If he helps us with the ice cream then the film people will be following him around here rather than being stuck outside with all the photographers."
"Oh. Okay." Michael sees the sense in that and nods.
As they step off the elevator to the corridor that leads to the ER, Lydiaís phone rings. She looks at the number. "Itís your fatherís cell phone. He must already be on his way here." She clicks open the phone. "Are you on your way?"
"Yes, what is going on? The message seemed garbled."
"Then you know as much as we do. The hospital grapevine let us know Carly was brought into the ER. Michael and I are on our way to find his grandmother to see what is happening."
"Iíll be there in ten minutes."
"Good. Drive safely, AJ."
"Iím not driving." AJ laughs ruefully as he looks over at Lydiaís driver capably handling the hummer as if he was born driving an army tank. Course the guy probably was. "Iíll be there soon. Give Michael a kiss for me."
"I will." Lydia hangs up the phone and puts it back in her bag. Leaning over she gives Michael a kiss on the top of the head. "That is from your father. He is going to be here in ten minutes. Then we can all wait together while they donít tell us anything."
"You really donít think theyíll tell us anything?" Michael wonders.
"They will probably talk to your mamaís husband. But to us-- no. You are a child and Iím your motherís ex-husbandís new wifeĖ not exactly a close relationship. So we shall have to be very quiet, listen carefully and do nothing that will draw attention to us."
Michael nods knowingly and adds a cagey grin. "Mama does that all the time. Right on the top of the stairs." His grip eases slightly on Lydiaís hand even though he doesnít let go. This is something he knows how to do.
"I should have gone to the hospital." Skye curls into Coleman. He gives the glider another little push and rests his chin on the top of Skyeís head. "AJ could probably use a friend, a sister, right now." They look out toward the lake where the sun is finally starting to go down.
"His wife is there. And if heís smart heís already home too tucking his kid into bed." Coleman counters. "Sorry to say Iíve already given you a full plate. I cannot believe that bitch shows up now like it was all planned like weíre running a fucking summer camp out here."
"Cole." Skye sighs. "You donít know..." Skye stops at Coleís pulling back and giving her an incredulous look.. "Okay, you donít know for sure what she is doing."
Cole growls. "I never thought Iíd be saying this but Iím glad the kid went to CPS. It was real easy to tell Margery she didnít have squat and if she tried anything with the kid sheíd be busted for kidnapping. That if she wanted anything she could just contact Marcos. I am not going to make it easy for her. Sheís back probably expecting to get her house back, hell have me buy new furniture for her and start making payments again! One bullet is my limit."
"Sheís an adult. Sheís got a problem." Skye tries to say all the right things and then groans. "And I so totally agree. I just wanted to rip her hair out." Skye takes a deep breath and counts to ten. Then continues on to twenty. "Itís not about her. Itís about Kyle and what Kyle wants and needs."
Kyle who had been listening to everything from inside the house comes out and leans up against the railing. "You think that is really going to matter now that sheís back? She was talking like..." Kyle snaps his finger. "And everything was going to be back to normal. She called it normal." Kyle snorts and there isnít a hint of humor in his laugh.
Skye looks from one stubborn male to the other. She closes her eyes and leans into Coleman. "Your mother is not the definer of normal. Hell not one of us is in the dictionary under the definition of normal either." Skye pets Colemanís thigh. "Whatever happens we can make it work. Just because sheís back doesnít mean Cole isnít your uncle. That Iím not..."
"Keeping us both in line." Kyle offers with a grin.
"Thanks." Skye shakes her head. "Kyle, I canít be around her. Not if sheís using. Iím sorry if that is hypocritical because Iím still around my family and Cole, and they drink. Iím so sorry because it means youíre running interference for me when I should be running interference for you."
Kyleís posture is defensive as he slouches against the railing and crosses his arms in front of him. He nods. "Iím not a little kid, Skye. I donít want you guys to get in trouble because of me." Kyle looks from one to the other and knows that is a very real possibility. Uncle Cole is an equal opportunity kind a guy and if Mom was stupid enough, or high enough, to physically come after Uncle Cole... well Uncle Cole wouldnít let something like hitting a girl slow him down. And Skye... He already knows her temper is fierce. "I know Ms. Jensen wants the tape of what Mom was saying at the Grille. But I think Ms. Marcos needs to hear it first."
Skye and Cole both say together. "Second." Cole continues on. "Dara first. Sheís running your trust."
"She can have it transcribed and then we can give the original to Marcos." Skye offers as a compromise. "I think we can get the tape back from Dara, Kyle. I really donít think Marcos would give it back."
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