The Path to Power
Chapter Forty Two
New Day, New Beginning
Lydia kicks back on the floor of her suite at the Port Charles Hotel. On one side of her is the Sunday edition of the Port Charles Herald and on the other is a fully extended map. She pulls out a napkin that she'd written down relevant information on: AJ's address at work, the harborview towers where his son's mother lived, the address of both grandmothers, the park where he likes to run his dog, the private school Michael attends. With a felt tip marker she places a dot on each of the addresses. How far could a child that age walk-- a mile? two? Better stick with a mile.
Looking at the scale of the map, she fakes together a compass with dental floss and the felt tip marker then starts making circles around each of the points approximately a mile out. Where do they overlap? Michael's maternal grandmother's house seems to be included in all of the circles. That is the neighborhood that AJ needs to be in. If he was there then he'd be within walking distance of any place his kid happened to be. Hell! If he couldn't find something suitable there, he could always build. Don't think there will be a problem with permits, not with AJ being on the building commission.
There is a knock on the door. Believing it is room service, Lydia calls out. "Just a second." She looks at the disaster area all around her and shrugs. It isn't like she doesn't need all the information that is strewn around. She'd straighten up before the maid got in the room. No need for the help to knowing her business. Lydia goes over to the door and after tightening her robe at the waist opens it. "You can set up over..."
"I come bringing a peace offering." AJ says wryly. "Coffee and croissants."
"I didn't know we were at war?" Lydia steps back and lets AJ in.
"Maybe it's more of a peace and quiet-- I was offering."
Lydia's eyes go wide. "How bad was it? When you went to check on your Grandmother?"
"Not too bad actually. Nobody wanted to upset my grandmother. Grandfather is afraid that my mother is going to kick him out of the house again. My mother is gloating. And I can't get a read on my dad."
"Did you talk to your sis... um to Skye?"
"There are times when I really wish Skye had gotten a dog. Instead she has a pit bull."
"Aren't they a breed of dog?"
"This is the two legged kind. I tried calling yesterday... Skye hadn't gotten home yet. Coleman... the stray she's taken in wasn't happy I was calling before Skye did. I probably worried him. He told me he'd give Skye a message but to not expect a call until today... late today."
"I have an admission to make." Lydia states with a tad of remorse but not much. "When the maitre de said we'd be better off having room service yesterday-- I well... I wanted him fired. That was none of his business and his comment was inappropriate."
"That man needs a raise. Or a bonus or something. Next time he warns me like that... I'm taking his counsel and going elsewhere."
That gives AJ a chuckle. "I'll mention it to Ned the next time I see him. What are you working on here?"
"Oh check this out." Lydia comes over and kneels down on the floor with everything surrounding her. "I took all the information you gave me yesterday and put it on the map."
AJ sits down on the couch and takes the map that Lydia is offering him. "Wow."
"Do you see where all the circles intersect? Your son's school, your office, the park, even the Harborview Towers."
"Bobbie's house or close enough." AJ realizes.
"That is the neighborhood where you need to begin. It's within walking distance of everything is important to your son. But this is where I ran into a major roadblock." Lydia stretches to grab the real estate section of the paper. "The advertisements are split by neighborhood but I don't know what the neighborhood is called. I don't know what it looks like. So I couldn't go thru this. I suppose you could call a real estate agent or drive around the neighborhood."
"Go get dressed." AJ orders decisively.
"We're going for a drive... maybe a walk too, so bring a jacket."
"Are you sure?"
"Wear comfortable shoes."
Lydia rocks back on her heels and bounces to her feet. "I'll be five minutes. Call room service and cancel my breakfast since you brought some anyway."
AJ picks up the phone to do just that but he is distracted because Lydia has left the bedroom door ajar and he can see her changing in the full length mirror. He focuses on the phone and makes the call cancelling the breakfast. "It's cancelled." He calls out careful where his gaze falls.
"Good. And don't worry if you don't see anything you like." Lydia charges. "Now that you know the area you can always have something built as long as the location is right."
"Location, location, location." See anything I like? AJ groans.
"Exactly. Location is everything." Lydia comes out of the bedroom and is tying her hair back in a scarf to get it out of the way and has a windbreaker tied around her waist. "You're on the building commission you know it's true."
"I thought timing was everything."
Lydia shrugs. "No time like the present."
AJ holds out a his arm for Lydia to take and then hands her, her coffee. He grabs the housing section of the paper and the map and opens the door.
When Skye hadn't arrived back to the Lake house before he had to go to work-- Cole started making calls to get coverage for a Saturday night and for Sunday morning. Hell. As soon as AJ called to check on Skye, he'd started to make calls figuring that things hadn't gone as planned. Skye's cell phone had been off, but no surprise there either. He should have gone with her, damn it. Luckily Skye had showed up before he'd gone looking for her. Kyle had taken one look at her posture and barricaded himself in the spare room.
"How bad was it?"
"I didn't get round to telling them I bought the paper." Skye drops her purse on the table and shrugs from her jacket.
"Aw Babe." Coleman brings Skye in for a bone crunching hug and doesn't ease up on it until Skye does too.
"Things didn't quite go as I planned."
"Tell me." Coleman sits down in the oversized comfortable chair and pulls Skye down in his lap.
Skye wraps a hand around Cole's shoulders. "Well when your only ally in the situation is Faith... you know it's going to be bad."
"What the fuck was Faith doing there?! You were going to talk to your mom at the hotel?"
"Oh I did. It just ended up being in the Grille instead of her room." Skye sees the look on Cole's face. "Yeah, I know. It gets better. Mom had stopped by the mansion before the hotel so she had Edward with her. Tracy was there with Ned and Dillon...."
"Right, and Faith. Alan and Monica showed up."
"AJ was there." At Skye's questioning look, he explains. "He called a couple of hours ago looking for you. He didn't give me any details though."
"AJ was on a date." Skye laughs. "I am sure he was claiming no relation at all. Edward was doing some major smoozing on Rae. Seems Mom got married. First I've heard of it-- to Asa Buchanan."
"Who?" Coleman asks blankly.
"Not important. It won't last. The guy has been married at least ten times. But the smoozing got Tracy all... venomous- not that it takes much. I didn't even have to ask Rae. Tracy threw it out there for everybody. Rae didn't deny it. Edward knew all along."
"It kinda explains him selling me over and over again like some generational con game. As Tracy pointed out, Edward wouldn't have done that not even to a Quartermaine bastard."
"Everything okay?" Kyle breaks into Cole's thought as he joins him leaning on the rail and looking out over the trail to the lake.
"Yeah. Took the day off so you've got the day off too." Cole straightens but keeps both hands on the railing.
"I thought you said I was off punishment." Kyle protests.
"Sure-- just thought you might want to make some money."
Kyle winces. His mother used to just hand over dollars on demand. He is getting an inkling that won't be the case with Uncle Cole. "Mom used to give me an allowance out of the support checks Dad sent."
"I got a thing about forging signatures. Not going to happen." Cole says wryly. "So when your mother shows back up... bill her." Damn if I'm going to be sending money to finance her abandoning her kid. "And if you're thinking of hitting me up for a loan-- wanna talk interest rates?"
Kyle winces again. "Right. I don't think so."
"Summer's coming, Kid. Better start planning now."
"Unless he's playing sports." Skye counters from the front doorway. She is still dressed in a robe although her hair has been brushed. At Cole's questioning gaze, Skye explains. "If Kyle is in sports then he won't be doing drugs, he'll be keeping busy. And if he's good, it might pay for college. Besides your mother will probably be back by then. Is the paper here?"
Cole grabs the plastic wrapped Sunday Herald from the slider on the porch. "Here you go, Babe."
"Thanks." Skye says absently. She is already unwrapping the paper, reading the headlines and walking back inside.
Looking at Kyle consideringly, Cole shrugs. "She's got a good argument. Something to think about." Coleman stiffens as he sees a car pulling in. "Keep Skye busy." Cole walks down the steps and meets Alan Quartermaine as he pulls up. Alan rolls down his window. "What's up?"
"Is Skye okay?" Alan worries.
Coleman shrugs. "Probably too calm. She was just planning on talking to her mother yesterday not take on the whole clan."
Alan turns off the engine and steps out of the car. "It wasn't comfortable or pretty." Alan admits. "But Skye was the only blameless one. How much has Skye told you?"
"That your mother is a classy broad. But I knew that already from Christmas."
Alan smiles. "Yes, she is. I'd like to speak with Skye." His smile falls away. "What I have to say might upset Skye, but I hope in a good way. I didn't react well yesterday and I'd really like to clear the air."
"I take it you don't care for surprises either?"
"Surprise! You have a beautiful, smart capable daughter? Those kind of surprises I can handle. Surprise! You don't. That's the kind I can live without."
Coleman nods consideringly. "Yeah. And if you need a topic changer. Ask her what her good news was."
"Ask her. And send Kyle out." Cole steps out of the way so that Alan can walk up to the house. Alan Quartermaine out weighed him by a few pounds... okay more than a few and was a little long in the tooth, not to mention that Skye would have never forgiven him for kicking the guy's ass. It would be a no win situation.
Kyle comes out of the house and checks in with Cole first thing. Leaping down all the stairs at once. "Did I just get suckered?"
"No, I told him to have you come out. They need to settle it."
Inside the house, there is a long awkward silence. Finally Skye stands up and tucks the belt on her robe a little bit tighter. "Did you want some coffee?"
"Sure. Skye... I want to apologize for yesterday."
"Why? You have nothing to apologize for. You've been great. I've enjoyed being your daughter, Alan." Skye straightens as if facing a firing squad.
"Present tense. You enjoy being my daughter. Or I hope you'll enjoy being my daughter in the future."
"I know Rae lied. And it's a little late to adopt you." Alan adds wryly before continuing. "But if there is anything Emily and you prove it is that family doesn't have much to do with blood. I love my daughters... both of them."
"Did Lila talk to you?" Skye still isn't believing it and there is a defensive element in her tone.
"Mother is actually a really good listener." Alan reminds. "She gave me some time to get my thoughts together-- a luxury that neither of us had yesterday. That's another thing I have to apologize for. I keep hearing myself asking you about telling your grandmother about the blackmail. I know, Skye, that you would never do anything to hurt or upset Lila."
"I had to have someone to talk to, Alan."
"Dad." Alan corrects.
"Dad, I didn't want her to be ambushed. I certainly didn't want it at the mansion. I couldn't let Tracy blackmail me, Alan. But Grandmother knew... I could see it in her eyes."
"The first clue you weren't a biological Quartermaine..." Alan jokes. "Rather than paying the blackmail or killing the blackmailer you just took the weapon away. I am so very proud of you, Skye."
Alan shakes his head. "Not yet. I think she'll try. Tracy always tries." Alan holds out an arm to Skye. Skye hesitates but then comes in close and gives Alan a hug. Alan wraps his arm around Skye and rubs her back and gives her a kiss on the top of the head. "And Tracy can try all she likes, because we're solid." Alan rubs Skye's back again. "Now... Cole said you had some good news..."
Skye steps back and her eyes go wide. She grins. "Ohmygawd. You'll never believe what I did. What Grandmother helped me do. She hooked me up, helped me get the introduction..." Skye goes over to the breakfast bar and holds up the front page of the paper in front of her.
"You got a job at the paper?" Alan guesses.
"Yeah, you might say that. I bought the Herald."
Alan takes a half step back and his jaw drops. "Skye!" He half laughs. "You bought the Herald?!"
"I tried to get a job there and they wouldn't even talk to me not really. All they wanted was the inside scoop on The Quartermaines and the Fundraiser for the Ward House. I told Grandmother what was going on and she made one phone call. ONE."
"Skye... how could you afford... do you need any money?"
Skye laughs. "That's sweet, Dad. But really you know how Monica is always saying it's her house and you gave it to her?"
"Well this is the business my ex's bought. It's my paper. They gave it to me. They just don't know it."
"Lets keep that just between you and me." Alan suggests wryly.
"Oh?" Skye asks curiously.
"Yes, If Monica finds out she's going to want me to buy her General Hospital."
AJ had parked the hummer down the street and assisted Lydia in jumping down from the oversized vehicle. He points out landmarks. "That's Bobbie's house."
"It's charming. Rowhouse."
"Brownstones, is what they call them on this side. Bobbie's is split into apartments- flats. But she owns the whole thing."
"They have a lot of character. Possibility. You would never be able to buy your son a pony." Lydia warns. "Unless you are planning on getting a country house too?"
"Michael is more into boats, at least last I heard. One of the few things that Carly liked about being married to me was the Quartermaine stable. Horses are not going to be a way that I'll be able to make whatever time I get with Micheal about him and me. He does like the dog. Rosie is about our only line of communication when I run into Michael in the park or outside of Kelly's."
"The neighborhood is within a mile of the river as well. You really need to know which way the wind blows. I remember one fall in Pisa..." Lydia makes a face. "The Arno was low because it had been a dry, hot summer... everything gets dumped in the Arno. Pisa is the last major stop before it hits the sea."
"The Charles River can get bad but it's pretty localized to the harbor area. So it should be fine. If what is coming across my desk is any indication... there is a renaissance going on with these." AJ indicates as he offers Lydia his hand and they start walking the neighborhood. "There are a lot of proposals for remodels and the like."
"They are very convenient." Lydia suggests. "With a lot of work they could be charming." They kind of remind her of similar house in New York City and London-- very upright and sturdy with faces to the front.
AJ spots the small sign decorated with balloons ahead and knows exactly what it means. "An open house. A Sunday staple of the real estate business. Ever been to an open house?"
"Sure." Lydia agrees then wonders. "What's an open house?"
"A time when properties that are for sale are open to the public. Come on." Together they walk up to the heavy stone steps that lead to the available property.
Lydia pauses at the base of the steps and looks to either side of the property. A country house where your nearest neighbor is a mile away is one thing. But this is like her grandfather's apartment in Monaco. The wrong neighbor could make your life a living hell. It's one reason the Cassadines always lived on islands. There is nothing to immediately give her a bad feeling so she starts up the front steps.
In the foyer of the brownstone, is the real estate agent. The house is vacant which is mixed blessings. Many people had a clearer idea when they saw a house with furniture. On the downside...some people's taste was enough to drive potentials away. "Good morning." She smiles at Lydia and AJ. The guy looks familiar. "Here are flyers on the property." She indicates the flyers on the end table right next to her business cards. "The house is available for immediate occupancy for preapproved buyers. If you have any questions please ask or if you'd like I can show you through?"
"Thanks. We'll just wander if you don't mind." AJ picks up a flyer. He and Lydia start checking it out from basement to attic, hard wood floors to crown molding, front steps to back yard. It's the backyard that has AJ on the verge of a huge impulse buy. The yard backs up to an alley where the garage is but beyond the alley is Queen of Angels.
Lydia stands beside him. "You'd be hearing church bells at ungodly hours."
Can church bells be ungodly? "That's Queen of Angels. Michael's school."
"Oh." Lydia's eyes narrow at that. "Location, location, location."
"It's perfect and that makes me nervous." AJ says simply. "Nothing is perfect. Not around me anyway."
"Well you'd have to convert the space over the garage into servant's quarters if you are going to have a live in. And I don't think your car will fit in that garage. It needs to be totally re-landscaped back here. It's hideous. I don't know what they were thinking." Boxhedges to block that ugly fence. No water elements... a fountain or something.
"I need to show you my grandmother's park. Landscaping isn't going to be a problem." AJ says wryly.
"And I'm sure there are all kinds of inspections that need to be done."
"That would be easy enough to arrange. One phone call. I could know by tomorrow."
"But that salesperson wouldn't need to know that." Lydia suggests. She looks over the flyer again. "How much time do you have? Is this a good price?"
Coleman raps on the door of a room at the Port Charles Hotel. He can feel eyes upon him and it takes a long time for someone to answer the door.
A middle aged woman who looks like she's had a rough night finally answer the door. "Can I help you?"
"My name is Cole Radcliffe. I'm a friend of Skye's."
"Really?" Rae has a tough time believing that.
"Yeah. Really. I was there when she fell off the wagon. I made sure she had an alibi when she was a suspect in the Alcazar murder. I was there when Jax dumped her to go back to his little girlfriend and rubbed her nose in it in front of the Quartermaines. So I guess the question is... where the fuck were you?!"
"Come in." Rae offers reluctantly. The last thing she wants is a scene in the hallway of the hotel. She's already had enough scenes. "How is Skye?"
"Little late to be asking." Coleman comes in and closes the door behind him.
"You don't know what's going on. You have no right to judge."
Cole shrugs. "Lady, I'm not the judgmental type. I could give a rats ass who Skye's parents are. I'm more of a cleaning house kind of guy. I just want to make sure that there isn't going to be anyone showing up at Skye's door with a hand out claiming to be her dear old dad. You set her up to be blackmailed by Tracy Quartermaine. That's not going to happen again. So start naming names so I can do damage control."
Rae sits down and runs a frazzled hand thru her hair. "It was a long time ago." She looks up. "I really thought that her father was Alan. I wanted it to be Alan. That's what would have been best for Skye. You don't know what things were like..."
Coleman interrupts harshly. "I don't care. Look, Lady, this isn't about you. It's about Skye. Skye now. Not you back then."
"It was a different time."
"Okay so you didn't get his name. How about a general description, age, height, occupation. Red hair?"
"No. Blonde. I met him at a club over by the university. He wasn't some dockworker like Tracy was claiming. We didn't do a lot of talking." Rae finally admits too tired to put a shiny face on it. "Alan was at school, we'd had a fight. I was all alone."
"About your age?" Coleman doesn't get sucked into the drama and tries to stick just with the facts. Anything that might give him a clue.
Rae nods. "Thin build, tall."
"I don't remember!" Rae stands up and starts pacing. Then she stops. "Soft-- no rings." Then she looks at Coleman. "He was charming and bad and..." Rae shrugs. "He was a walk on the wildside. I don't know what else to tell you. I tore up his phone number when I got back to my place and the phone was ringing. It was Alan. Don't you see-- it should have been Alan?!"
"So he lived here in Port Charles?"
Rae shakes her head. "I don't think so. I think he was visiting. He said he had family here." Rae snaps her fingers. "That's right. He was here because it was the anniversary of his mother's death and he was trying to find his father. They'd lost touch."
In another part of the hotel, Tracy slams into her room only to come to an abrupt halt. "What are you doing here?"
"Why Mother Quartermaine, Aren't you happy to see me?" Faith raises a brow. "And I thought we were going to be such friends. Course friends share." Faith tsks. She pours two glasses of sherry and reaching for one glass takes a small sip.
"I don't share." Tracy declares.
"Me either. Which is why it's time for you to be leaving."
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