The Path to Power
Chapter Forty Six
Supply on Demand
AJ half runs up the stone steps to the brownstone. He'd done everything double time to get done by lunchtime and in fact was going to have to do work from home as well and messenger it over to the government building but at least he'd covered the bases so he could stay home with Lydia until she felt better. Home with Lydia. He unlocks the door. "I'm ba... What the hell?"
"Did your mother happen to mention to you anything about sending some furniture over?" Lydia asks wryly from her spot on the chaise.
"She said something about remodeling the West Wing this summer. Lydia, I'm so sorry-- I had no intention of putting you in this position when you're just coming back from being ill. I had no idea this was going to happen. My mother... this is a surprise."
"I'm fine. I just... directed traffic? You'll have to examine everything to make sure it's where you want it. I didn't leave the living room." Lydia says wryly. She slowly gets up from the fainting style couch. On the coffee table is the rolled up packing paper. She hands it to him. "I tried to make notes as everything was happening."
"I can't believe this." AJ comes over to the fainting couch and reseats Lydia and then sits down beside her. He unrolls the plans. "I can't believe you got all this done. Where was Sally?"
"Putting things together and supervising the other floors." Lydia reminds. "I didn't leave this chaise."
"And where was Dawg?"
"I got to get this to Mrs. Q." Dawg's demand can be heard from the kitchen after the slamming of the back door.
"You could messenger it over. That's how Mrs. Q had it sent." Sally reminds. "You aren't leaving me here with no way home."
"We've been here all day and nuthins happened." Dawg protests. "I have to tell her about this stuff."
"Tell Grandmother about what stuff?" AJ raises his voice to be heard to the back of the house.
There is a significant quiet and then the sound of footsteps. "When did you get back?!" Dawg demands; he is carrying a camcorder in his hand. "Cause if you're back I need to get this to Mrs. Q."
"What is that?" AJ asks.
"Wilson is doing an assessment of what needs to be done with the back grounds." Lydia explains. "I thought it would be okay-- you said he works for your grandmother at the memorial garden?" Lydia's tone is a little defensive.
WILSON?! "I wish I would have thought of it." AJ points to the camcorder. "So that's pictures of everything for Grandmother?"
"I know Sally says I can just messenger it over but I'd just as soon watch it with her, you know, if she has any questions." Dawg explains.
"There is some soup on the stove. It's nothing Cook would claim but I think you'll be able to keep it down, Miss Karenin." Sally puts her jacket on and grabs her bag.
"Would you take AJ on a walk thru before you leave so he has an idea where everything is?" Lydia asks. Sally nods reluctantly since she is ready to leave and find the nearest hot bath with bubbles. AJ follows her up the stairs. Lydia looks at Dawg. "It has possibilities, Wilson?"
"Call me Dawg." Dawg gives a considering tilt of his head and then shrugs. "I got a few ideas. Mrs. Q will have more. This is her thing. Could be awhile before you get all the info back 'cause I took soil samples from all around the yard to find out what was needed where. And I'm gonna come around a couple more times today."
"For what reason?"
"Check the sun angles. I got a pretty good idea but plants are picky about how much light they get. Not enough-- they droop. Too much-- they curl up and die. You're still going to lose some over the year. Cause checking the sunlines one day of the year..." Dawg shakes his head. "But that's what the stakes are in the backyard so don't mess with them. Otherwise I'll be starting all over and it will just take longer. You want Mrs. Q to call you?" Dawg goes back to the authority on the subject-- nobody messed with Mrs. Q when it came to gardens. Not even her old man.
"It's unlikely I'll be doing any digging over the next few days." Lydia reminds wryly. "But I'll tell AJ that if he has any plans to pull up any sticks in the backyard that he should call his grandmother first."
Stefan's mood is... frayed. Faith had called him early enough in the day to reprimand him for not communicating with her and then has her thugs bar him from the property?
After a long wait and then a brief conversation on the phone. "Faith will see you now." The steely eyed guard opens up the gate to the property. It's a very stylish gate-- course it would take C4 to take the thing down.
"It is about time." Stefan drives thru the finally opened gate. Perhaps he should have gone over to ELQ and spoken to Ned instead.
"Make an appointment next time. Have a nice day." The guard adds facetiously.
Stefan takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Soon he is at the front door, it is answered at the first rap on the door. "I do not appreciate being kept waiting."
Faith rolls her eyes. "Then you should have called instead of coming over." She steps away from the door. "Ned told you from the start Kristina has a routine. And I'm not going to change it just because your family is one whack job after another. Did you want coffee or tea?"
"Simple enough question." Faith walks away from Stefan and back to the kitchen area. "Kettle or Pot?" Faith has a little smirk when she asks the question while holding up a tea kettle in on hand and a coffee pot on the other.
"Kettle." Stefan looks around the well lit breakfast nook. This is where the majority of meals would be taken. Or at least the majority of Kristina's meals. There is a folder on the table. He runs his index finger over it.
"Go ahead." Faith puts the kettle on, and sets up the tea pot.
Stefan opens up the folder. "Where did you get this?" He demands after glancing thru the first couple of pages. The first page was sufficient, the next pages just confirmation of the first.
"You don't need to know. All you need to know is that it's fact. One of the stones from the dower set was pawned in New York City a week ago for seventy five thousand. You're the best gauge of how long that will last your mother."
"Thus your call. Not to inform me but to find out my mother's habits."
"You wanna talk about spiders?!" Faith counters with a snarl. "You want to play this like a game of poker and not show me your hand... that'll be just fine. But then don't start questioning what I do to protect the kid." Stefan nods but doesn't say anything in agreement or not. "So how long will 75g last?"
Stefan shrugs. "Helena's expenses vary depending on what her plans are."
"Funding a lab to put black widow spiders on steroids?"
"Exactly. Was she able to access that information or did she have to generate it? But which ever way Helena went on that project... it is now over. And I suspect that she has no further use for the lab or the researchers."
Faith remembers how she saved expenses on the hit woman she hired to take out Sonny Corinthos. There was no reason to pay the woman since she hadn't fulfilled the contract-- the dead have no use for money. "So not looking for real estate transactions. Got it. Anything she can't live without... you said she likes Madeira. But what about some kind of fancy champagne or caviar or something. Something niche-- something perishable."
Stefan strokes his beard. He can see where Faith is going with this. He taps the folder. "The police will not find this information any time soon?"
"So your sources are not..."
"Theirs." Faith fills in the blank simply but it says it all.
"Caviar then. Russian beluga. It can be purchased of course but there is a massive problem with poaching. The yield this last year is 15% of the year before-- making the cost very dear indeed. And yet there has been no reason given for the fall off. No explainable reason other than poaching. And if Helena can't find it thru legitimate sources..."
Faith leans back in her chair. She crosses her legs and taps her fingers on the table. "And how much does your mother like her fish eggs?"
"Supplied at all times."
"I can work with that." Faith nods.
"Look who is here." Alice announces from the doorway. She makes her presence known as so not to hear anything she doesn't want to hear.
"Good day, Kristina." Stefan says softly to the small child who is already reaching out to him. Already a daddy's girl she knows how to wrap men around her little fingers. When she needs something it's all about Alice or Faith... but when she wants something it's all about the boys. And they never refuse her: not Ned, Dillon, the Guards, Zander nor even Stefan.
Faith uses Stefan's distraction in taking the baby to pick up the folder and going into the kitchen. She takes the close enough to singing kettle off the heat and pours it into the teapot to let it steep. She writes Russian Beluga Caviar-- NE supplier on the folder. "Alice, we're going to be talking for awhile if you want to work on your own projects." Faith slips Alice the folder.
"I could put an hour in." Alice curls it in her hand and tucks the folder in the pocket on the side away from Cassadine. "Give a yell if you need me." Alice stuffs her hand in her pocket angling her arm so that it covers the folder and strolls casually out of the house. That Cassadine is a handsome man and she wouldn't mind spending a little time with him but she'd heard enough over the last couple of days to know that someone was threatening the baby. Proving to Stefan Cassadine that he needed to leave the twigs behind for a real woman would just have to wait.
Faith makes Kristina up a bottle. The kid is a little pig. Alice had already gotten the okay from the pediatrician about adding some rice cereal to her formula. It's a little earlier than the books said but that's what doctors were for. Considering the rocky start the kid had and all the time in the hospital putting on a little weight is a good thing. "You want to give her this?" Faith offers Stefan.
"What are you watching?" Alice demands from the door way.
"It's research." Mouse says defensively. "Hackers, The Net, I even got a copy of The Parent Trap. Faith wants me to submarine Ric Lansing-- take his life apart, blow him out of the water. I want to take a holistic approach."
Alice snorts at that. "Yeah, right. Here."
"I just deliver-- I don't read them." Alice leaves Mouse to his movies and goes to the garage where her project car is. The seats are coming out today to be sent to the reupholster shop. Bruno had promised to drop a name or two to get them back before her next day off. Not that she'd need them that soon. She was still trying to get the chassis down to bare metal to get it painted.
Inside the bunk house, Mouse looks at the comment on the front of the folder and winces. Faith isn't going to like it. He already knows the major underground importer of Beluga caviar for the northeast: Corinthos/Morgan. At two thousand dollars a 500 gram tin and no drugs involved it's an easy guess. A lot of it went to Sonny's enterprises-- his casinos and the like for the high rollers. Hell Faith could probably find the same shit she's looking for down in the fridge of The Cellar now that she owned it. "Bruno!"
"Yeah, yeah what?" Bruno is dressed only in a towel and has one around his neck as well. He'd ended up doing the night shift of guard duty and was just waking up.
"Can you get into The Cellar?"
"I think Faith was going to have it padlocked today. Have the mouthpiece serve Corinthos' broad with eviction papers."
"But can you get in?"
"Stupid fucking question."
"Yeah," Mouse holds up the folder so that Bruno can see and taps the note she'd written. "You think you can go to the Cellar, get this stuff and deliver it to Faith while that Cassadine dude is still here? It would make us look real good and him real slow-- short bus slow."
Bruno grins. "Yeah. I like that idea. Just take me a minute to get dressed."
Dawg pauses the tape. "You see this spot here. The lady your grandson left in charge-- she wants some kind of hedge or something to obscure the blankness of the fence." Dawg makes his voice high and a bit prissy with the hand holding the remote on his hip.
"That is what she said." Lila has a smile in her voice.
"Pretty much. That and water and it had to be secure. I figure everyone else has a hedge. How about a nice blueberry bush or apple tree but you know pruned and tied out fancy."
"That's the ticket." Dawg agrees. "Espalier." He drawls out the french phrase.
"I don't know that it would take the place of the hedge however since 5-6 months of the year there would be no leaves on the trees. So you're back to the problem of a blank fence."
"Yeah, there is that." Dawg sits down on the chair next to Lila's and starts the tape up again. "And the sunlight thing. The fence would screw that up. Would really cut down on production."
Lila sighs. "Always production with you."
"I just think there ought to be some payoff, you know?"
"Beauty is it's own payoff." Lila reminds.
"Yeah, yeah, I get that." Dawg says. "But...."
"Stop the tape. Go Back. Right there." Lila indicates the frame with a bent hand. "That is where you'd have the apple trees. Not on the wooden fence but up against the iron fence in back. The part that backs to the alley. AJ would be more than willing to share the apples with the children at Queen of Angels walking home from school."
"You're bad. You're very bad." Guy could learn a lot about baiting the hook from Mrs. Quartermaine.
"Don't let it get around, Darling. Did you bring me soil samples?"
"Yeah, I got them right here." Dawg reaches into his pocket and pulls out the ziploc bags that are all carefully labeled where they came from.
"Go give them to Reginald so he can send them out for analysis. And get my tape player too. We'll need to go thru the video again from the top."
"Right. I'll be right back." Dawg leaves the study and as soon as he is in the foyer does what he's heard Quartermaines do all the times he's visited. "YO REGGIE! MRS. Q WANTS YA AND BRING HER TAPE RECORDER!"
Bruno knocks on the door but then walks right on in. "Hey Faith, Mouse said you were looking for this." He hands over a 500gram tin of Russian Beluga Caviar- near on a pound of fish eggs.
Stefan gets to his feet from the carpet where he'd been playing with his niece. "Where did you get that?!"
Bruno looks at Faith for confirmation. Faith shrugs and nods. "The Cellar."
"WHERE?!" Faith demands, not believing what Bruno is saying.
Faith's jaw gets tight and her face flushes an unattractive color. "Watch the kid."
"Yeah, Faith, No problem." Bruno agrees quickly.
Faith stalks out of the room and out of the cottage. Stefan watches with interest. He sets down the tin of caviar on an end table and picks up Kristina before she can start to fuss. "I would have thought this good news?" Stefan says quietly to the bodyguard.
"I guess I didn't think it thru." Bruno winces. "Should have figured. Ned's gonna be hot if he finds out about this. Probably be a good time for you to leave. Faith ain't gonna be happy."
"I fail to see why the best lure to trapping my... to ensuring the success of our endeavor would put Mrs. Ashton... out of sorts."
Alice is wiping her hands and tucks the rag in the pocket of her apron as she marches up to Stefan and plucks the baby right out of his arms. "Come on, Little Miss, time for your nap." Alice does a quick 180 and goes straight up the stairs with the baby.
Faith stands in the doorway between the kitchen and the front room. She waits until she hears the door shut upstairs. "Timing is fucking everything."
Bruno winces and brings his shoulders up to protect his neck. This was going to hurt. "Sorry, Faith. I should have known better. I know you don't like surprises."
"If I would have known about the damn caviar yesterday I would have had a bargaining chip with THAT BITCH."
Bruno cringes away from Faith. "We didn't know, Faith. Ned could still talk to Morgan."
"Shut the hell up!!" Faith hisses in Bruno's ear.
Bruno tries another angle. "We could give them Lansing. They'd like that."
"Lansing is mine. He'll crawl in the dirt like a worm pleading forgiveness. THEN I'll give him to Morgan and take pictures of the results."
"What do you want me to do, Faith?" Bruno asks in a whisper.
"I need to think."
"I'm gonna just see Cassadine out then." Bruno steps away from Faith. "Time for you to go."
"He stays." Faith states flatly.
"You sure?" Bruno tightens his jaw at his own loose lips. "I'll just... uh... be out on the front porch when you want him gone." Not looking back, Bruno goes out on the front deck and stands by the window where he can still see everything out of the corner of his eye.
Stefan's look of distaste is plain at Faith's loss of control and vulgarity. "Would you care to explain yourself?"
Faith snorts. "You smug sonofabitch. So sorry you're going to have to get your hands dirty."
"The biggest NE importer of Russian caviar is Sonny Corinthos." Faith watches Stefan's face carefully. His only reaction is a blink. "Yeah. Thought you'd like that one. You withheld the information so it's your problem now. You go make a deal with Corinthos to find out who he sells to. Find out who is selling to your Mother. I have a sit down with Sonny Corinthos and only one of us will walk away from the table. Now get out."
"Where did you learn how to do this?" Lydia's voice is muffled against a pillow.
"Once upon a time in another life I managed the gym at General Hospital and dated a physical therapist." AJ admits as he continues with the massage. "I learned a few things."
"I knew you were good when you always managed to find the knots and cramps last night but I don't think I can move. " Lydia admits. "If you ever lose your fortune you can always find work in any spa."
"You'll write me a recommendation?"
"Oh yes." Lydia sighs. Holding the sheet to her she manages with great effort to turn over. She pats the spot on the bed next to her. "You know, today has been a good day."
"Really? Considering you're coming back from a major bug bite, ended up supervising a move and Dawg. Drank dinner out of a mug. I am going to find some bowls though...." AJ promises.
"The soup was excellent. Sally seems very competent."
"I don't know her that well. She keeps a low profile at the mansion."
"Probably too young to be considered for a housekeeper." Lydia comments but her tone of voice says the opposite.
"You think it would be a good idea." AJ counters.
Lydia shrugs. "Unless you want to be the one looking for the bowls."
AJ laughs; then he gets serious. "True. Besides Sally is actually a known quantity since she has worked at the mansion for a number of years. My Grandmother knows her father thru the senior center. She wouldn't be a stranger. Or someone that would be tempted by Sonny Corinthos or Helena Cassadine. If she was spying it would be for my grandmother."
Lydia shudders. She's managed to not think about Helena for most of the day.
"Are you cold?" AJ grabs the blanket and tucks it around Lydia.
"Have you thought anymore about my... proposal." AJ hesitates as he asks.
Lydia wraps her arms around her knees. "Yes. And No. I haven't made up my mind. I still think you have no idea what you are getting into. Sure, you'll be saving me from Helena. But only until she kills you. And then it can start all over again."
"I don't agree." AJ counters. "I've learned many lessons from watching my parents marriage but the biggie seems to be... Never be worth more to a spouse dead than alive. Have you been able to get hold of Dara?"
"It's just a matter of writing the right contract. You said that your grandfather wrote his will that way to protect you... as much as he was able, from Helena. Marry me. Take care of your Grandfather's will. But we get a prenup lined up. What's mine is mine. What's yours is yours. Take away any incentive Helena might have to tamper with you or our marriage." or my brakes.
"And this prenup you suggest... would it include back rubs? Could I divorce you if you didn't give a back rub... twice a week?"
AJ laughs. "Will you be serious?!"
"Oh I am, very serious. It's a deal breaker." Lydia says straight faced. "No back rubs and the engagement is off."
"Could I substitute foot rubs?"
"Ohhhh You do feet?" The gal with over a hundred pairs of Italian heels in her closet back in Monaco croons. "Yes. You could substitute foot rubs." Lydia brushes her hair back with both hands twisting it so that if falls down the middle of her back and out of her way. "It still doesn't work, AJ. There is incentive for neither of us to kill the other. Not that I believe that was a possibility anyway."
AJ bites his tongue. Saying anything about his parents at this point would not be encouraging.
"The only way to stop her is for there to be another heir."
"I have to be pregnant."
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