The Path to Power
Chapter Forty Five
Ned hands Faith a neatly folded napkin from off of table. "I found another reason why you can't kill my Mother."
"You want to talk about this now." Faith uses the napkin to clean up and then looks around for her underwear. She ties her blouse in a double knot at her solar plexus. Talk about a mood killer
"I might have just been driving by-- but I was out looking for you, Faith."
"I have a cell."
"We haven't exactly been communicating the last few days." Ned says wryly. "I didn't want you to be able to hang up on me."
"You want something to drink?" Faith changes the subject.
Ned shrugs. "Whatever you're having." He goes over to the bar watching as Faith slides behind the bar. Somehow she had managed to keep her shoes on which is a good thing considering all the glass and mess behind the bar. Ned takes the drink that Faith pours and considers it watching the way the caramel brown liquor clings to the edges of the glass. He takes a drink-- not a sip, not tossing it back-- a measured controlled drink.
Faith matches him then sets the drink down. "What is that so great reason?!"
"I just finished up supervising the fumigation of an entire floor of the Port Charles Hotel. One of the guests ended up in the Emergency Room over at General Hospital from a spider bite."
Faith shudders. She prides herself on being self sufficient. And for the most part she is but there were a couple of things that even though they might be considered girly are just things she couldn't handle. She'd do it if she had to. Spiders gave her the willies. And it was so stupid since most spiders are harmless even beneficial. "Were they wandering around down in the basement or something?"
"It was a black widow. And the person bit evidently managed to get on the wrong side of Helena Cassadine."
Faith had been about to take a drink but at the mention of Helena's name the glass comes back down onto the bar with sharp rap. "That bitch is supposed to be in Europe."
"The World is Helena's oyster. Or so she would have us believe. And Nikolas is the pearl in the middle of it. She'll never be far from him for long. Faith..." Ned sighs. "I need you. Kristina needs you. Not in jail and not going after my Mother. My Mother is... an annoyance. Helena kills people."
"The kid?" Faith's question is terse. She is already looking around for her purse.
"I already called Alice. She was going to put the house on lock down." Ned tells his wife.
"Manny went to pick him up from his job. He's already home too."
"Good." Faith slides her arms into the sleeves of the coat that Ned is holding out for her. "Probably an overreaction. It's just a freaking spider bite."
"I talked to Alan about that. Black Widow bites are nasty but less than 1% end up in the hospital over them. It isn't the bite that is so bad but the secondary infections. He said that this was a spider on steroids. He actually wanted it taken alive so that it could be studied over at the university."
Faith shudders at that. Grinding them to mush under a leather clad toe was more her speed and then only if she couldn't find a combat boot clad man to do the job for her. "Can she do that? The spider on steroids thing?"
"She raised her son, Stavros, from the dead."
"Right." Faith's voice is grim.
"Faith, pull all the strings you want. Make all the trouble you like-- I don't care. But make it long distance-- nothing that can lead back to you. I need you home not in jail."
"Baby, I'm not even going to get a speeding ticket." Faith says grimly. She grabs her purse and starts up the stairs to leave The Cellar.
"What were you doing here anyway? The last place I expected to find you was in Carly's club."
"Like it?! It's all mine now. First installment of breaking my grandmother's will. The Charity is on the run; I can smell the fear." Faith sneers.
Ned takes a last look around at the trashed club with the broken mirrors and glass. "It's looked better."
Faith shrugs carelessly. "Just giving the current tenant their eviction notice. Dara can handle it from here."
At the top of the stairs, Ned starts to make a key exchange with Bruno. "I'll drive Faith home. But she is going to want to talk to you so stop by the house."
"No. Bruno will drive me home. I'll be down at the bunkhouse." Faith gets out her cell phone. "It's Faith. I'm on my way home. Be there in about 15 minutes. Get the guys together. And if Mouse isn't there by the time I am, I'm going to kill him. Dillon needs to be there too." Faith slams her cell phone shut. "You need to go talk to your Mother. She can make up for not telling you about Skye by keeping her nose out of this."
"You think my Mother would team up with Helena Cassadine?"
"Oh you betcha. And so do you. You think Tracy would make a deal with the devil himself with the long term plan of double crossing him to get her way."
Ned winces. "I'll meet you at home." He comes over to Faith and gives her a possessive kiss.
Faith is silent as Bruno leads her around to the passenger side of the Porsche and makes sure she's belted up. The hair goes up on the back of his neck. Faith is stewing on something and it isn't going to be good. "Everything alright, Faith?"
"Just thinking." Faith says absently. Ned's voice runs thru her brain over and over on a continuous loop. "The World is Helena's oyster. Or so she would have us believe. And Nikolas is the pearl in the middle of it. She'll never be far from him for long."
"I don't know if this is such a good idea." Lydia leans heavily on AJ as he fumbles to unlock the front door of the dark house.
"It'll be like camping. The house is still in the name of the previous owners so there is nothing leading to either of us. Most of the utilities will be turned on tomorrow morning-- first thing. It will give you time to get your strength back."
"I don't like being a bother."
"Reggie was over earlier, while we were still at the hospital and set things up. And you're no bother." AJ opens the front door to the brownstone and as Lydia sags against him, sweeps her up in his arms, carrying her over the threshold. He sees the note hanging on the railing to the stairs. He carefully sets Lydia down so that she is sitting on the beautifully finished stair treads. Lydia hangs on to the railing for support. AJ glance thru the note, holding it up to the front living room window to use the street light to see it. "Reg set up a room for you on the main floor. And brought over a generator from the mansion."
"Who is Reggie?"
"The family butler-- he's kind of like the Maitre De at the Grille." AJ says absently. "He oversteps and puts your back up and is too often right. Which is really annoying. He's also very efficient when he wants to be. Which really ticks people off because he looks like he won't move faster than a stroll with anyone but my Grandmother-- whom he adores. Wait here. I'm going to check out what he's set up." AJ moves thru the dark toward the back of the house where the kitchen is located.
"I'm not going anywhere." Lydia says wryly. The body aches had already set in. Along with a killer headache. She closes her eyes and leans her head against the railing. It's already to the point of being too heavy to lift.
"Are you going to be able to walk?"
"How much further?" Lydia asks tiredly.
"Not far." AJ gives her a hand up and sliding an arm around her waist supports Lydia as they walk to the back of the house. He'd already turned on a battery operated lantern. Reggie's efficiency is evident. There is a queen sized airbed inflated and made; the smooth cotton sheets already turned down. Lydia's clothes had been brought over from the hotel. Off the hallway there is another lit battery lantern showing a half bath. AJ sees her looking. "The water is on. But the generator is going to have to run awhile to get the water hot. First thing tomorrow, I promise." The apology is clear in AJ's voice.
"You've already been so kind. Why? Why are you doing this for me?"
"Because you've let me." AJ turns at the sound of scratching on the door. "There you are." He goes over and unlocks and opens the back door. "Hey Rosie." AJ gives the dog a combination of rub and pat. "Do you need help changing?"
"I think I can manage." Lydia unzips the small overnight bag that is sitting on the bed hoping that it has everything she needs in it. Evidently AJ hadn't overstated this Reggie's efficiency. Her movements are slow and laborious but she's getting it done.
"I'm going to check things out a bit. If you need me just give a shout." AJ keeps a hand on Rosie's collar.
"My own Galahad."
"Is everything okay?" Penny asks softly in the darkness.
"Why do you ask?" Nik replies guardedly.
"Because I can't breathe." Instantly the pressure of the band around her waist is eased.
Penny turns on the light and then turns so that she is facing Nikolas in the bed. She tucks an arm under her head so she is making direct eye contact with him. "You've been... frantic since you arrived back on the island after that mysterious phone call. You and Stefan both have gone... silent running... like submarines or something. And okay, Mrs. Lansbury and I can try to keep Tasha... unknowing but it would be easier if we knew what we were keeping from her. Is it Alcazar? Did he follow Stefan back to Port Charles?"
"Bite your tongue; that is all we'd need at this point."
"So it's not Alcazar."
Nikolas shakes his head no and then reaches over and turns back off the light. Maybe talking about the insanity in his family would be easier in the dark. "The call was from Lydia. Helena made contact with her."
The darkness is a blessing. It covers Penny's wince. "I guess it wasn't an email or a phone call."
"Black widow spider." Nik says tersely.
"Is she okay?"
"She received medical attention in time."
"But she didn't actually see Helena. Or talk to her?" Penny says reassuringly.
"I have heard a story. I have no idea if it's true. It is said that a buzzing mosquito does not bite. So if you hear buzzing you're fine but if you don't..."
Penny laughs. "Nice analogy-- course you're comparing your grandmother to a mosquito." She rests the palm of her hand against the center of Nik's bare chest, feeling the comforting beat of his heart. She leans in and gives him a kiss on the side of the mouth, missing her target because of the dark.
Nik places a hand on her hip and turns his head so that their lips meet. Slowly, lingeringly the kiss goes on. "Are you trying to distract me?" He growls.
"Is it working?" Penny gives a shuddering sigh her head falling back on the pillow. "So how long until you send me away?"
"You would be safer..."
Penny interrupts. "Would I?"
"Penny, everything has happened so fast. This isn't your fight." I don't want anything to happen to you.
"I'm really trying to decide whether or not I'm insulted." Penny keeps her voice light to cover the hurt. "How long are you going to put your life on hold, Nikolas? Are you supposed to give up everything to accommodate your..."
"Psycho." Nik offers.
"Since you said it. Yes, your psycho grandmother. She's cost you everything so far: your Mother, your father, Gia, just about every rocky patch you've had with Stefan, Lucky and Lulu for most of your life, your Aunt Kristina. Hell she's cost you Alexis. Don't get me wrong. I know she's dangerous. I told you from the start that I know that. Nik, I'm going to be straight with you."
"You haven't already?"
Penny gives him pinch. "Pay attention."
You've been spending too much time around Mrs. Lansbury. "Yes, ma'am."
"You listening?" Penny demands.
"Okay. Then here is what I think. I think Helena is never going to die. Never! I think waiting until she's dead to start living your life is a waste of your time. I get it. Do everything you can to stop her but you can't stop living... or that makes the battle... pyrrhic."
"I thought that Stefan was just giving you lessons in economics."
"He's been going over Greek heroes for Natasha. I don't think she got it. I know I didn't. I mean I did but I didn't. I don't get it. That's what I'm trying to say and making a hash of it."
"One more such victory and I am lost" Nikolas gives the quote.
"That's what Stefan said too. Maybe you'll eventually win. But win what? What will be left when you're done?"
"How can someone crave what they've never had?" Nik wonders aloud.
"Peace. Sanity. Common Sense. Not qualities normally found in the Cassadine. And everything I find in you." Nik brushes a caress across Penny's face. "Run while you can. Leave while I can let you go."
"No." Penny kisses the palm of his hand.
"So be it." Nikolas leans in and seals the deal with a kiss.
The following morning Lydia doesn't know what wakes her, but she doesn't feel uneasy-- for the first time since her grandfather's death. There is a movement from the foot of the airbed as Rosie jumps off the bed and heads toward the front door. Lydia turns over and sees the dented pillow next to her. It starts to come back-- all the times in the night when she'd thought her body was going to revolt. AJ had been there supporting her when she had to go to the bathroom, rubbing out the muscle cramps that had attacked her screaming in the night. He probably hadn't slept at all. "AJ?"
AJ comes back toward the kitchen carrying a brown bag. From his dress it's obvious that he's been out. "Sorry. I was hoping to be back before you woke up. How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been hit by a car."
AJ winces. "Some thing else I need to warn you about. That's actually one of Helena's preferred methods. Mostly poison yes but she's been known to run people down with her car... my cousin Chloe for example."
"Of the Chloe Morgan Memorial Park. That is your grandmother's passion."
"Yes. And knives. Helena plays with knives not my grandmother." AJ just wants to be clear. Lydia shudders. AJ sees it and decides to change the subject. "But enough about that. She doesn't know you're here. So you've got some time to get your strength back. I stopped by Kelly's and picked up some tea... breakfasts don't seem to travel well so just got a couple of muffins... but help is on the way in that department too."
"Exactly." There is a knock on the door. "That should be her."
"Sally... one of the maids from my parents' place. Today is her day off. I need to go into the office for at least a few hours and tie up some loose ends. I'll be back as soon as I can." AJ goes to get the door.
Lydia start half crawling out of bed.
AJ opens the door and it's not just Sally but his grandmother's work in progress. He groans and closes his eyes briefly.
"Dawg gave me a lift." Sally explains. "You said someone is trying to kill her." Sally says defensively. "Sick is one thing-- I can handle sick. Target for assassination... I want someone else here with me so we can make a run for it if we have to."
"Fine, fine come on in. Let me introduce you." AJ leads the way. Sally follows behind and Dawg checks out the space with slack jawed appreciation. It was a hell of a lot better than his basement apartment. Most of that was taken up with his grow anyway. This is empty space. Something not even Mrs. Q's place had. "Lydia, this is Sally and..." He winces. "Dawg. Dawg is my grandmother's foreman on the community park."
"Marshall T. Wilson." Dawg steps up and shakes Lydia's hand. "Nice crib."
"Thanks." AJ says wryly. He looks at Lydia and mouths the word, "Sorry." Then he speaks in this normal voice. "I'll be back as quickly as I can. Don't let anyone in that you don't know or aren't expecting. Hell don't let anyone in. I'll be right back."
Sally goes over to the kitchen and sets the grocery bags on the counter. "I brought everything for breakfast but I need electricity. Reggie said that he brought the generator over."
Dawg perks up. He's not stupid. He knows most pot growers are busted from their electric bills which is one reason why they jack their neighbor's juice instead. It took a lot of power for the grow lights. "A generator? That can run this whole place?! Let me at it."
AJ and Dawg go out the back door to figure out the generator. AJ pauses by Lydia and gives her a kiss on the temple. "I'll be back soon. You're in charge."
"Right." Lydia gives a lingering brush of her hand over AJ's arm.
Ned had left for the office, Dillon for school. The guards are on alert. Faith is having a cup of coffee and still stewing. It's just her nature. Things that tick her off have a way of taking on a life of their own.
"I am a fucking genius." Not bothering to knock, Mouse announces from the door. He has a folder of papers under his arm. "I am worth every penny I steal for you."
"Yeah, yeah. There is nothing wrong with your ego either."
"Stone the same weight as one that was reported stolen to FBI and Interpol has hit the market at the diamond exchange in NYC." Mouse pulls out a copy of the report that he'd hacked from the PCPD and then produces the inventory sheet from a diamond house. He points out the match. "Here and here. Same weight, same color, cut, clarity. Week ago."
"How much did she get?"
"The PCPD have this?"
Mouse grins. "Not exactly. The diamond dealer-- he's kinda gray. He keeps good records but he doesn't show them to anyone.
"A fence." Faith says flatly. "And a good one."
"Exactly." Mouse agrees with a nod touching index finger to the tip of his nose.
Faith reaches for a phone. "I want to see you. Now."
"Mrs. Ashton, I was waiting for a more civilized hour to call you." Stefan replies.
"Screw that. Let me tell you how it's going to be, Mr. Cassadine. When you got information that will impact my security-- you call. No matter what the fucking time." Faith snarls.
"I don't appreciate your language nor your tone." Stefan's reply is glacial.
Faith continues as if she hasn't been interrupted. "And when I have information, I'll return the favor. This is my call, Cassadine. What you do is up to you." Faith hangs up. "Arrogant, tight-ass, sonofabitch, know it all."
"You going to tell him, that Cassadine guy, about this?" Mouse asks.
"That's up to him. But if he thinks he can just spring little surprises on me. I've got an idea for a hell of a good one on him."
Mouse winces. "Right. Well I'm going to get back to it."
"Mouse?" Faith's voice is practically a purr.
Which is enough to put the hair up on the back of the neck of any guy that went by the nickname of a fuzzy little rodent. "Yeah?"
"You're a freaking genius." Faith smiles at her computer hacker. "Since I'm kinda on house arrest until this nutjob is under control will you do me a favor and make Ric Lansing's life miserable?" Faith asks nonchalantly-- like asking him to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home from errands.
Faith just smiles.
"Okay. One super deluxe coming up." Mouse shakes his head. "Poor SOB won't know what hit him."
"Make it a freight train. A nice big one-- figuratively speaking of course."
Stefan hangs up the phone and sets it to the side of his breakfast place. His movements are abbreviated and forceful. Nik and Penny look at each other from across the table. Luckily, Tasha hadn't woke up yet and was still upstairs. This was probably the only real safe time to talk.
"That was Faith?" Nikolas asks. He'd heard Stefan say as much.
"That woman..." Stefan focuses on controlling his breathing. "...believes she can order me."
Nik winces. "I should have called her yesterday from the hospital after I talked to Lydia. Ned must have told her what happened since it did happen at the Port Charles Hotel. I apologize, Uncle. I should have made sure she was informed since she does manage Kristina's security."
"Having her in charge of my niece's wellbeing..." Stefan clips off what he is going to say. In a perfect world Kristina would never meet someone such as Faith Roscoe Ashton. But in a perfect world his Mother wouldn't still be breathing and his sister's mind wouldn't be fractured. Faith did guard Kristina, hoarded the child like gold. That is as much as he is willing to give. Stefan frowns as he reconsiders the conversation. "She has information."
"She indicated it was her telephone call-- implying she was showing me more courtesy than I had shown her. She has information." Stefan wipes at any stray crumb that would dare to imbed itself in his beard and tosses the napkin to the side of his plate. He rises from the table and strides out of the room toward the front door and the launch.
"I wonder what Faith could know."
"She's... scary." Penny tells Nikolas. "I have no idea what made Faith Roscoe the way she is. She's been cleaning up her act since she married Ned but she still has connections I'm sure that you don't want to know about."
True to his word, the rest of the utilities had been turned on first thing. What happened next had been the surprise. Although not much of a surprise to Sally who is used to dealing with the Quartermaines. Reggie had given her a call, a bit of warning. But only about twenty minutes worth and then the truck arrived.
"What is this?" Lydia demands as she looks out the front windows from a peek along the side of the curtains.
"According to Reggie, it's everything that Dr. Monica and Ms. Lila pruned from the house that AJ might need." Sally explains. "The Quartermaines don't do garage sales." Lydia looks at her blankly. "Guess your family doesn't do them either."
Dawg nods. "Sweet. This is better than the fifteenth of the month down on the block."
"What happens on the fifteenth of the month down on the block?" Lydia asks. Sally is wondering the same thing but is too polite to ask.
"That's when the sheriff throws out everyone evicted and their stuff ends up out on the sidewalk. Huge sidewalk sale. Anything that folks wanted they made sure didn't end up there. Guy could furnish his whole crib in just a couple of months and not spend a dime."
"That is just so depressing." Lydia shakes her head in disbelief. At the same time she wonders if that is what her future holds-- once the purse strings are permanently in the hands of the trustees. The process is probably the same even if the scale are grander.
"Do you have any idea where AJ is going to want these things?" Sally asks Lydia. She'd overhead the comment that AJ had made to his guest that she is in charge and is more than willing to drop the whole thing in Lydia's lap, knowing that she is going to be stuck unpacking everything. It's a good thing AJ is paying a hell of a bonus for the day's labors.
"I have no idea what is on the truck."
"This is going to be fun." not "Let me go out and talk to them and see if there is something to be figured out immediately and then work from there." Sally goes out to the street where movers are jumping down from the truck and already have the side panels up and ready to start unloading.
Lydia looks at the stairs. There is no way. There are three floors above them including the attic and then the basement below. Her strength is sapped and not even on the road to recovery from the spider bite. She'd be lucky to make it up half a flight and the trip down would probably be a combination of gravity and unconsciousness. Lydia looks around the living room and wonders if everything in the truck will fit in the one room for AJ to sort out when he finished tieing up his loose ends.
"Where do you want it?" The mover asks.
Before Lydia can answer, Sally does. "Set it up right here along with the coffee table and that throw that Mrs. Quartermaine sent along."
It is a old style fainting couch. Soon enough there is a seating area where Lydia can sit right by the front door, actually lay down, with silk throw over her legs and a coffee table in front of her. Next thing put in front of her is 3 sheets of plain wrapping paper out of the moving truck. Figuring out Sally's plan, Lydia sketches the basic rectangles of the three main floors. Anything going to the basement and attic would just have to be figured out later. She draws in the basic rooms from memory. As each mover comes in he calls off what the item is and shows some aspect of it-- the shade of the wood or the colors in the carpet, the subject of the original paintings. Lydia points out on the plan where she thinks it should be located.
"What am I supposed to be doing?" Dawg asks bored out of his gourd.
Lydia and Sally look at each other. Neither really have an idea what task wouldn't insult the guy but didn't particularly want him around the silver either-- if there was any sent over from the mansion. "You are the foreman for AJ's grandmother at a community garden?" Lydia asks.
Dawg shrugs. "You might call it my day job." no pay involved but it's saving him a bundle on lawyer fees. And there was no way he would have gotten ROR without Miz Lila's influence-- so it was paying off in other ways. "Why you want to know?"
"When AJ was going thru the house before buying it... he observed that the back grounds need... something. Actually I did. The fence is hideous. The area does need to be secure because AJ has a dog and a small child but there has to be a way of obscuring the...boring blankness..."
Sally straightens at Lydia's comment about Michael and her eyes go wide. Every thing was starting to make perfect sense. Junior is up to something. Reggie would kill for this information although Ms Lila probably already knows.
"...Plants will have to be carefully selected to make sure that there isn't any poisonous elements." Lydia tries to remember what else had occurred to her looking at the back area. "Water. There needs to be some kind of water-- a pond, a fountain. AJ mentioned his grandmother would probably handle it for him or at least give a recommendation but since you're here--"
"I can check it out." Playing it cool, Dawg does a one shoulder shrug. "I know what Mrs. Q likes. Maybe give you a few ideas."
"I'm sure that AJ will appreciate it." Lydia replies. She takes an easier breath when Dawg goes out the back and into the yard. She looks at Sally. "Was that wise?"
"Before he started working at the community garden with Mrs. Q? No. Now..." Sally goes down the hallway so that she can see the backyard and not be seen by the street dealer. "He's already on the cell to Mrs Q. It'll be fine."
Everyone has their task. Lydia directs the movers from the front door. Dawg is exploring the back yard and taking soil samples in some ziploc bags he happens to have in his jacket pocket. Sally is concentrating on getting two rooms in order-- the kitchen and the master bedroom.
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