The Path to Power
Chapter Eighty Two
Dara covers a yawn as she opens up the door to the office. Now the Jensen law offices take up the whole second floor of the building. She isn’t surprised Mary Bishop is already there. Mary is the one for arriving early rather than staying late. Gia is the one for arriving late because of her classes and staying later. As is normal with most self employed people, Dara is there early and stays late but spending Sunday working is something she really preferred not to do. Saturdays... sure. Late Monday thru Friday. That is par for the course. But Sundays are hers damnit. For just this reason. It’s the beginning of the work week and she’s already exhausted.
"I saw the news." Mary shakes her head. "It’s kind of sick. I expect they will be setting up a chimney or something to announce Mrs. Quartermaine’s successor for town saint."
"Okay, I’m not even Catholic and I know you mixed some metaphors in there and maybe even threw in a couple of blasphemes. After some coffee I might even be able to figure out how and where."
"Is Cass in yet?"
"His daughter, Charlie’s, first day at the Port Charles High. He’s doing the checking her in thing. Being the new kid sucks. At least in the on base schools everyone was the new kid at least once. But he knew it was coming and all his appointments are more toward the afternoon. I’ve reviewed all the calls that came in over the weekend and the messages are right here." Mary hands over the slips. "I don’t think many people know you are Mrs. Quartermaine’s lawyer on this so there is actually very little relating to her health.
"Hopefully it will stay that way." Dara says over her shoulder as she heads to the coffee pot. A cup of coffee and a couple of undisturbed hours in her office and maybe this week will work out.
Over on Spoon Island, Stefan is also enjoying his peace and quiet. A morning of tai chi in the brisk fall air to align his body, some meditation to focus his mental energies and he is prepared for the day. With Tasha in the house it is difficult to find a time to meditate. His sister might join him for Tai Chi but the concept of quiet reflection didn’t seem to impact her as anything but punishment... for both of them. Stefan takes a seat at the dining room table and reaches for the newspaper.
Mrs. Lansbury is right there with the tea service and pours her boss a cup of his preferred morning blend. "Good Morning, Mr. Cassadine."
"Good morning, Mrs. Lansbury." And because Mrs. Lansbury only initiates conversations when there is something to be said, he gives her his full attention.
"Mrs. Ashton’s... major domo, Bruno, called to say that they will not be taking Miss Kristina to the park today and will have to reschedule to the Ashtons’ house."
"Was any particular reason given?"
"Mrs. Ashton had a small fall over the weekend and is recuperating at home."
Stefan frowns at that wondering how likely that is but then reminds himself no matter what Faith’s resemblance to his mother she is still human. "Thank you, Mrs. Lansbury."
Mrs. Lansbury nods and goes back toward the kitchens. She glances at her watch. Miss Tasha would be waking soon. This is probably the only quiet that Mr. Cassadine is going to get.
Stefan doesn’t even glance at the front section of the Herald. Most of it is national and international news gathered by the larger news services and regurgitated to the smaller newspapers around the country. If there is any real news to be had in the Herald it will be in the Metro Section. With the election coming up many of the stories are about local races, bond issues and the common man’s major interest– a new stadium for the local sports team.
"Good Morning, Uncle."
"Nikolas." Stefan glances up from the paper. Nikolas is pouring his own tea and takes a seat at the table. "You are up early today."
"Best time to touch base with you." Nikolas agrees as he takes a seat.
"Something Penny and Tasha cannot hear?"
"Penny already knows. Lila Quartermaine’s health... is failing. The Quartermaines did a good job of trying to cover for it over the weekend, writing it off as a bad night rather than cancer. Emily’s mother left for California on Sunday. Emily knows by now– is probably on her way back by now."
Stefan’s voice is actually more of a murmur. "That explains many things which didn’t fit."
"Faith Ashton has been acting out of character for the last few months: spending time with Edward Quartermaine whom she has made no secret of despising and then most recently attending a Breast Cancer Fund Raiser in New York City."
"So she’s known."
"For quite some time." Stefan nods as he mentally puts the time frame together.
"If Faith knew, then it was because Mrs. Quartermaine told her. And if Mrs. Quartermaine has known for quite some time then... Dara would have known. She’s Mrs. Quartermaine’s lawyer."
"Dara is better at keeping secrets than most people." Stefan informs Nikolas. "She wouldn’t have the Cassadine business if she did not."
"Faith, for goodness sake take it easy!" Ned demands as he watches his wife fight to get out of bed. "You should have gone to the hospital."
"Nothing is broken." Faith rolls her eyes. "I feel stupid enough as it is. Thankfully nobody was around."
"You could have cracked your skull. Those steps are concrete. And slick when wet leaves are on them."
"Oh believe me I know." Faith snarks. "Sorry. If you want to help me-- tea, a nice cup of tea."
Ned knows she is planning on doing everything she has to do and would prefer to have him out of the room. "Okay." He comes over and tilting her head back gives her a kiss on the lips. "I hear you. Twenty minutes– then I’m going to be back to help you whether you like it or not." But before he leaves he assists her to her feet and keeps an arm on her while walking her to the bathroom. Today is the day to count blessings for being in the cottage. The stairs might pose a problem but the shower in the bathroom is small enough for Faith to keep a hand on the wall if she should need one.
Ned hesitates. "If you need any help, Faith. Call. Hell I’m going to go get the monitor out of Kristina’s room. You need it more."
"Get the hell out of here and let me take a shower in peace!"
"I’m going. I’m going." Ned holds his hands up in surrender.
"And call down to the bunkhouse and make sure Dillon is awake. He sleeps thru first period again and I’m going to have to go down to the school. And he’s not going to like that. Especially today." After Ned shuts the door, Faith winces as she takes off the nightshirt she’s wearing. It might be cut down to her naval but it has long sleeves and covers her down to mid thigh. It’s the most conservative nightgown she has. A quick glance in the mirror confirms what she already knew was going to be there. The bruises are starting to color. She has to be out of the shower and dressed before Ned gets back.
The trip to the cottage is a pleasant one and Stefan enjoys the drive but he is not happy about having his visit with Kristina under the watchful eye of a dozen cameras. How much longer would the Ashton’s be under this surveillance? And where was the surveillance when Faith had fallen? Or perhaps more likely she was attempting to avoid the surveillance when she fell? Speculation is irrelevant. He would know soon enough. Stefan is waved through the gate as he is expected and arrives just as Ned is leaving for the day. Stefan observes Faith handing Ned his briefcase and running her hand down his tie. There is a brief conversation and then Ned goes to the waiting car giving a nod in Stefan’s direction as he does.
Faith sees him and rolls her eyes. She walks back in the cottage and leaves the door open.
Stefan follows Faith into the house and closes the door behind him.
"Alice will be right down with the baby. She already had breakfast so she’ll be in the mood to play." Faith informs Stefan. She goes over to the coffee service and refreshes her cup. Then holding up another she waits for Stefan’s nod and pours him one too.
Stefan comes over to the table and reaches for the coffee cup. His hand hesitates as he reaches for the cup. Faith had moved away from him. The sudden move is almost... skittish. Taking the cup, he goes over to the plate glass window and looks out but really uses the angle of the window as a mirror to more closely study Kristina’s step mother. For the first time he doesn’t see Helena the first time he glances at her. If anything Faith appears... vulnerable. But it’s also something that triggers a memory. A memory reinforced with repetition in his mind. All the times Laura had come to the breakfast table on the Cassadine island the morning after a night when Stavros had been too drunk to pretend to be gentle and not drunk enough to pass out.
It must just be her day for visitors because about an hour later, someone else is making demands. "What is he doing here?" Edward demands with a growl.
"He has visitation with the baby." Faith informs him. "And because I don’t feel up to going to the park, the visit is happening here. Alice will keep an eye on him. We can't talk business here anyway." Faith grabs a coat from the closet by the door.
"Right." Edward nods. Taking the coat from Faith, he helps her put it on. Then taking Faith's hand, he tucks it into the crook of his arm. He wouldn't normally dare but the woman had just fallen down a flight of stairs and he can tell by the way she's moving that hurts. "Lets take a little stroll outside. You'll stiffen up if you don't move around anyway. Ned told me you fell at the park." Edward tsks.
Faith keeps her hand on the older man's elbow but doesn't let him get away with treating her soft. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Had to get out of the house." Edward mumbles.
"Well then you should have gone to Lydia's. She's closer."
"She doesn't know me."
"That's why she might let you in!"
"I forgot about Alexis." Edward blurts out the real purpose of his dropping by.
"I forgot about Alexis being Kristina’s mother. That Alcazar might be less of an annoyance and more of a problem. Jason might hate my guts but he loves his grandmother. He'd have blustered but it wouldn't have been a problem being down at the docks. Well it would have been thumbing our nose at that hoodlum Corinthos but it wouldn't have been dangerous. But Ned told me that Alcazar might come after us because of the baby, because of Alexis' connection to Kristina. We need to dump the warehouse property."
You couldn't have thought of this last week?! "The hell we will. I'm not losing money on this deal. And Ned can just stay out of it. He starts butting his nose in my business; I'll start butting my nose into ELQ."
"Now, Faith..." Edward does half a mental back step. Now that he’d seen Faith in action the last thing he wants is her part of his company.
"Shut up." Faith interrupts. Edward can see the wheels practically turning and wonders who is going to end up underneath them. But he doesn't have to worry for long. "Unless of course, Jax thinks he is stealing it from us. We make our money back and Jax deals with Corinthos and Alcazar."
Edward pats Faith's hand. "That's my girl. Stick it right down the craw of that Aussie raider. Keep him busy and away from ELQ. Now how are we going to make that happen?"
"Tracy is going to do it for us."
Edward stops walking. "Now Faith..."
"Oh she won't know she's doing it. She'll think she's screwing us over. That's why it will work. Leave it all to me."
"Fate!" Kristina points at her step mother thru the picture window that looks out over the back common yard from the kitchen.
"Yes, that is Faith. And it appears she is talking to your... great grandfather." Stefan agrees. He puts the snack provided by Alice on the table. "Please pay attention here." He taps the table beside the plate.
Kristina turns around but looks at Alice and her lower lip starts sticking out. "None of that, Missy." Alice says sternly. "Mrs. A is busy with Mr. Q. She'll be in soon. So you take care of that now."
"If the child isn't hungry..." At Alice’s glare, Stefan stops right there.
"See Mr. C is going to have his snack now too. Aren’t you, Mr. C?"
"Yes, of course." Stefan takes a seat across from Kristina. "I was feeling a little peckish."
Alice puts a small plate of snacks in front of him and keeps her voice low. "Mrs. A likes her routines. Doesn’t mean she’s pushing them on the baby. Just recognizing when there needs to be a snack or a n-a-p before the tantrum hits."
After dealing with Natasha since her break Stefan can see the logic in that although he can’t help but wonder who would be throwing the tantrum if routines are upset: Kristina or her stepmother.
Over on Spoon Island, "It's about time to close up the pool." Penny pulls on a sweater over a turtleneck. Today is a jeans day and thick socks-- thick warm socks. The weather had started to really turn. It's like after the power came on after the blackout that fall really started kicking in gear. If she were back in her apartment she'd have already finished getting ready for the winter. The windows would be insulated. There would have been the big trip to the Laundromat to get all the comforters cleaned and piled on the bed.
Mrs. Lansbury had been taking care of all that. She'd just arrived with one of the maids from the big house through the tunnels bringing groceries to restock the kitchen and a change in bedding. Because Mrs. Lansbury knows everything, it's flannel sheets and a couple of comforters. The maid starts putting things away in the kitchen and Mrs. Lansbury heads up to the loft to the master bedroom. "The Head Grounds man has said as much, Miss Penny." She starts stripping the bed.
Penny goes to the far side and assists in stripping the bed and then in putting the fresh sheets on. The first time she'd helped Mrs. Lansbury had a silent hissy fit. But she'd finally broken the woman down, to allow her to help. It's a way of touching base with the woman who keeps the Cassadines running like clockwork. Hell the woman who is making her life run like clockwork! And it didn't hurt that she already knew how to make a bed up to Mrs. Lansbury's standards. "Oh this is so nice."
"Silk filling in the comforter. It's really quite warm and no worries about the allergies so many people have to down." Mrs. Lansbury nods. "And not as bulky as the down comforters either. I do prefer them to the electric blankets. Wyndemere does have it's own generator but down here if power is lost then you'll be relying on the fireplace."
"You rely on the fireplaces up there too. Wyndemere is so big it's drafty in the summer with or without the generator."
"And Miss Tasha is not one for shutting doors behind her."
"Unless she's slamming them." Penny grins as she starts stuffing pillows in cases.
Mrs. Lansbury gives her a rebuking look but a small smile.
"I want to help!" Tasha demands after pounding up the stairs.
"We’re all done." Penny does a price is right style wave over the bed. "But I bet when Mrs. Lansbury has supplies brought down she must have known we were going to be making cookies today. It’s so cold outside it’s a perfect day to get the oven going. So it will be toasty warm in here."
"Why I do believe I did." Mrs. Lansbury nods.
Penny looks at Tasha. "Do you want to stay down here with me until Stefan and Nikolas get back from their business?"
"Is it okay?" Tasha looks pleadingly at Mrs. Lansbury.
"That’ll be fine. But you don’t be any trouble or Miss Penny will send you right back up to the house." Mrs. Lansbury gives Penny a nod knowing that the young woman had just given her a few hours to actually get some work done.
Nikolas raps on the door to Zander’s office. Knowing they don’t get along and probably never will despite the people they have in common or the protective way Zander keeps tabs on both Tasha and Kristina, Nikolas starts with the verbal white flag. "Truce."
Zander knows exactly what he means. "Has anyone heard from Em?"
"I suspect we’ll see her before we hear from her. You didn’t know about this?"
"Me?" There is practically a squeak in Zander’s voice. He has no idea why Nikolas Cassadine would think he would.
"Faith Ashton is in this up to her..."
"That will work." Nik shrugs.
Zander’s eyes narrow. "Hindsight is twenty twenty. I try not to look to hard at what Faith is doing. It’s safer that way." Then he nods. "There were a few visits with Kristina where she was out and it was just me, the baby, Alice and the bodyguards. The real estate thing with Edward Quartermaine wasn’t a surprise really just figured she was scamming him. But there were a couple of times when Alice told me the Garden Club and I just thought she was telling me to mind my own business."
"Monica left this weekend to tell Emily the truth of whatever is going on. We still know nothing but what the tabloids have put out there."
"It’s cancer." Ned informs them both from the doorway. "It’s terminal and Grandmother has known for months and didn’t tell any... only told the people who wouldn’t interfere with her wishes: her doctors, Reggie, Dara Jensen and Faith. Emily needed a business day to close down her life in California. She’ll be back tonight."
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