The Path to Power

Chapter Forty Nine





Got His Own


Luke kicks back in the chair in his office, putting his feet up on his desk he leans back and blows a smoke ring, dotting it with the end of his Cuban and then closes his eyes savoring the cigar and the rough, sweet voice of Billie Holiday coming from the speakers carefully placed all around his soundproofed office.

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, papa may have
But god bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Luke starts singing along. He isn't a religious man. He didn't deny it when some called him godless. But there were certain things that just made you believe in the soul: Ella, Etta, Aretha and nobody like Billie.

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
Mama may have, papa may have
But god bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
Money, you've got lots of friends

Luke doesn't notice when the door to the office opens, Lucky holds his fingers to his lips so that Zander doesn't say anything. Instead they both stand respectfully at the door while watching Luke enjoy the song.

Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, papa may have
But god bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Luke opens his eyes and leans forward to flick the ash in the ashtray that Lulu had made him in Bluebelle girls. He waves Lucky and Zander to a seat but before they can say anything he holds up a hand so that he can listen to the end of the song.

Mama may have, papa may have
But god bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
He just worry 'bout nothin'
Cause he's got his own

He hits the remote on the stereo, silencing it. "What can I do for you boys?"

"Helena's in town."

Luke grinds out his cigar. "What? And I'm just hearing about it now?! I must be slipping. Who told you, Cowboy? This one?"

Zander starts to explain. "Cassadine came to me..."


"Nik." Lucky interjects to clarify.

"He wanted me to find out from Sonny Corinthos if there had been a big sale of Russian Beluga Caviar... or who Helena might go to, to get the stuff. I can't go to Sonny. But I have to know if Helena might be coming after Alexis or Kristina. I can't protect them if I'm dead."



"Who are you?" Stefan demands coldly from the door.

"Excuse me? Who are you?! Office hours were over at five." The new secretary snaps back. No wonder Gia said Dara never got out of the office before midnight. Her time isn't her own. Anyone felt they could just walk in and demand...

"DARA!" A big black man comes out from behind the other. After everything he'd heard he didn't like the idea of friends being around strangers any more than Cassadine did.

"That's it! I'm calling the cops." Mary reaches for the phone.

"They're here. Or rather I'm here." Taggart gives Stefan a look and steps in front. "I'm Marcus Taggart with the PCPD."

"And I'm little Mary Sunshine from Saturday Morning Television." Mary keeps her hand on the phone but holds out her hand demanding something.

"Oh. Right." Taggart reaches into his inside pocket slowly since she's already spooked. "I'll just get my ID."

"Good idea." Mary agrees. Only once she's seen the ID does she hit the intercom button on the phone and speaks to Dara. "There is a Lt. Taggart here to see you along with a person who refuses to give his name."

Dara opens the door, the phone still to her ear. "I heard." She clicks the phone off. "Gentlemen... I'd like you to meet Mary Bishop. Mary, you've already met Marcus and this is Stefan Cassadine."

"Sir. Mr. Cassadine." Mary nods at both of them.

Marcus' brow goes up. Sir? I could get to like this.

Dara explains. "Mary started today, and I've already kept her way too late. I appreciate all your help today. See you tomorrow?"

Mary nods. Stefan follows Dara back into her office. Taggart hangs in the lobby area watching as Mary covers the computer, puts the phone to voice mail, locks all the cabinets. When she is reaching for her coat he gets there first and holds it for her as she slides her arms in it. He watches as she pulls her long curly hair out from under. "So where did Dara find you?"

"Temp Agency, Sir."

"Call me Marcus, Sunshine." Taggart suggests. Mary gives him a mirthful look. Marcus considers what he said and restates his request. "Call me Marcus."

"I'll try, sir... um Marcus." Mary winces. "Sorry, too long around military bases."

"Were you in the military?"

"That's a tough question to answer." Mary replies softly. "Technically no, but I felt as if The Corps was my whole life at one point. It giveth and it taketh away."

"I'm sorry." Taggart doesn't know quite what he's apologizing for. But it feels necessary. "May I walk you to your car?"

"Shouldn't you wait for your friend?"

"Nah," he isn't a friend "I was just here to see if my sister, Gia, needed some dinner."

"You're Gia's brother? Gia Campbell?"

"Yeah. So she here?"

"She left a few hours ago. Went back to her apartment."

"Should have called her." Marcus mutters. "So let me walk you to your car. I'll touch base with Gia a little later." Marcus holds the door for Mary and then steps out of the way.

Marcy locks the door behind them to make sure that Dara isn't interrupted again. "Gia's studying for her finals."

"Bring her some brain food." Marcus agrees. "So what do you think of working with Dara?" He asks as they walk down the stairs together and to the well lit street where Mary's car is parked.

"It's my first day." Mary reminds wryly. The car she is driving is too old to have a remote lock or a security system on it. It is too old to be stolen and the stereo is a joke at first and last glance. Mary looks in the backseat anyway before she unlocks the driver's side door. One of the consequences of being a Marine's wife even while Conner had been alive she'd been alone so much of the time because he'd been out in the field or training even before the war had started. She'd learned to take care of herself, to take precautions, to make sure that there was nothing to distract Conner from what he needed to do. And even then everything done hadn't been enough.

Taggart interrupts Mary's memories. "She's good people. I worked with her a lot of years on a lot of cases."

Mary is grateful for the distraction and latches on to it. "Why did she leave the DAs office?"

"You'd have to ask her that one... but I think it was politics. You'll figure it out if you ever have the misfortune to meet Scott Baldwin, the current DA." Marcus holds the door for Mary and then after she is buckled up he gives her a nod. "Good to meet you, Mary Bishop."

"Good to meet you too, Lieutenant." Mary takes a hold of the car door and firmly shuts it. Marcus steps back as she starts the engine and drives off.

Marcus pulls out his cell phone and hits the preset for his sister. "Hey Gia."

"Look if you want me to do another research project-- you can just go soak your head, Marcus! I have to finish this paper."

"Hey, Hey hey! I was just calling to find out if you wanted me to pick you up some dinner or something." Marcus makes sure that his tone is hurt and put upon. "There is nothing I want more than for my baby sister to do well in school."


Marcus grins. He can practically hear his sister's wince. This was going to pay off for months if he can just leave it right there. He'd been nice and she's caught being a brat. But all that lordly big brother good karma goes out the window and he doesn't even realize he's said it until he does. "So what do you know about Mary Bishop?"

Gia groans. "Marcus...."



Nik lets himself into the quiet hunter's cabin. He is about to go upstairs to the loft bedroom where hopefully Penny is sleeping the sleep of the innocent and for now-- unknowing. Maybe that was why the Cassadine are a family of insomniacs; innocent or unknowing isn't in their characters. The sound of snoring draws his attention to the living room and he quietly goes to the entry way. He flips on the light behind him not wanting to wake whoever is in the living room but wanting to know who it is since Penny doesn't snore.

He watches as Tasha rolls over and tucks the throw quilt tighter around her, never waking from where she is crashed on the couch.

"Don't wake her." Penny says softly from above. "I already let Mrs. Lansbury know that Tasha is having a sleepover."

Nik nods and turning off the light goes up to the loft. "She didn't tell Mrs. Lansbury ahead of time?"

"No. It was after you left to meet Zander. Lieutenant Taggart was over and spent time with her but when he left with Stefan.... I think they both thought she was already asleep."

Nik groans already shaking his head, knowing what had happened. "What did she overhear?"

"Enough to know the bad lady is around. So she came down thru the tunnel to stay with me. It's okay. We stayed up making cookies and drinking hot chocolate until she crashed out on the couch."


"Alexis can't cook. I'm going to try to fix that this time around with Tasha." Penny declares.

"Maybe you should be giving me lessons too." Nik suggests.

"I'm no expert." Penny shrugs. She crawls back into bed and watches as Nikolas undresses.

"If you can do more than microwave popcorn..." Nik replies.

"Are you going to tell me what happened tonight?" Penny interrupts. "Can Zander help?"

Nikolas climbs into bed. He takes his watch off and lays it on the bedside table before turning off the light. He draws her close to him. "No. He won't. Lucky had an idea that may bear fruit. There is another who may help and already knows Helena's habits."

"Damn." Penny mutters.


"I should have thought of that." Penny muses. "Luke right? He's the Port Charles expert on your grandmother."

I should have talked to her about this. It might have saved time. "Yes, Lucky and Zander went to talk to him. Luke takes one look at me and he's too busy poking me with a sharp stick to think about the big picture."

"Because of your mom?"

"Even before that but that is what has him focused on me now. I won't turn her care over to him." Nik waits for Penny to say something about that but she doesn't. "He refused to see her illness while there was still time to help her and now she's so far gone.... It wouldn't be in my mother's best interests for him to see her."

"And Lucky agrees with you."

Penny can feel Nik's shrug. "Most days."



The sun is up and making itself known, even early. Faith gives Ned a kiss and hands him his briefcase as he heads out to the office. She even watches as he gets in his car and reverses down the drive with a wave. "Okay. Stepford wife moment over." She turns around to go back in the house when she sees Zander's car pulling in the drive. "Well isn't that interesting timing." Faith tightens the belt on her black silk robe and waits for Zander to reach the house. "You planning on telling me something before you tell Ned? That will make a nice change." One brow goes up.

Zander winces but he nods as he climbs out of his car. "Yeah, I had a visit from Nik Cassadine about caviar and Helena Cassadine."

"Chicken shit." Faith mutters. "I told Stefan Cassadine to go make his own deal with Corinthos and instead he drops it on his nephew and you rather than doing what he has to do."

"Don't think he's going to have to, Faith. That's why I'm here. You don't have to make any deals with Sonny. No need to be making any deals at all." Zander says reassuringly.

"You thought I was going to rat you out." Faith pouts. "I'm hurt. Would I do that to you?!"

"To protect Kristina? Yeah. And I'd expect you to. That's why I'm saying you don't have to. Not on this. Not for this."

"Helena is a long shot, a sucker's bet." Faith declares coldly. "So what if the bitch is back? If she gets in my way, I'll take her out. I don't care how much caviar she goes thru. So what? That doesn't tell me where she is or what her plans are. You aren't the bait she'd bite on. You're the bait that Sonny would bite on."

Zander frowns at Faith. He believes her. She isn't going to give up either him or AJ to Sonny to get the information. There are too many links in the chain. If it was a flat out trade between Sonny and Faith-- his silence for Helena. Maybe. Probably. But not his silence for a clue to maybe Helena might come again or not. But it does sound like Faith has an idea of what bait Helena would take. I don't want to know. "Lucky Spencer and I went to talk to his father last night."

"Luke Spencer? What does that nut job have to do with anything?" All Faith really knows about the present incarnation of Luke Spencer is a vision of him on the nightly news on the roof of General Hospital ready to jump.

"He's got a history with Helena Cassadine. Hell with all the Cassadines. He's been able to take her down before..."

"If he'd been able to take her down we wouldn't be having this conversation!" Faith protests.

"Yeah, but he's motivated. If he calls in any favors from Sonny Corinthos they'll be his favors. What Sonny is to you... that is what Helena is to Luke. He won't stop, Faith. Luke will keep her busy and if he gets what he wants-- he'll put her in a box."

Faith leans back against the deck railing. She spreads her arms out along the top rail and crosses one ankle over the other. "So in your opinion, I'm back to the just making sure that the kid is fine and Sonny Corinthos is a miserable son of a bitch?"

"I don't think I would have put it quite that way." Zander says wryly. He shrugs. "You're the expert, Faith. I'm not going to tell you how to protect Kristina. Helena hated Alexis' guts and came after her: threatened to slit her throat a couple different times; tried to run her down with a car. But Alexis is... small potatoes, an afterthought really, where Helena is concerned. She is after the Cassadine power which means she has to take out Stefan, control Nikolas. Honestly? The person who has to look out is Penny."

"The waitress from Kelly's?"

"Yeah, I hear she's been living with Nik Cassadine since she won the lottery. After the way Helena went after Gia for not being good enough for Nikolas-- it could get really ugly."


Tasha is still wearing her PJs and has a severe case of bed head when she shows up to the table with a cloth napkin that she sets by her brother's breakfast plate.

"Mrs. Lansbury told me that you had a sleepover at Penny's last night." Stefan sets aside the paper and tries to not wince at his sister's appearance.

"I didn't think she should be all by herself if the bad lady is near."

Stefan nods consideringly. "That is every well thought out, Natasha. But it would have been better thought out if you had told someone before you went."

Tasha thinks on that for a bit. "It was rude?" She guesses.

"Very. You don't like it when Nikolas leaves and doesn't tell anyone when he will be back. You did much the same. You caused Mrs. Lansbury to worry." Stefan makes the situation clear.

Tasha sighs but nods her agreement. Then she straightens. "Aren't you going to try them?"

"Try what?"

"Penny and I made cookies while we were waiting for Nikolas to come home. You have to try them."

"You made cookies." Stefan looks at the crumpled napkin next to his plate as he would one of his mother's black widow spiders. "That was very... thoughtful but I don't particularly care for sweets."

"That's what Penny said you'd say. That grown ups don't like really sweet things." Tasha looks bewildered at that incomprehensible idea. "So these are special for you."

Knowing there is no way of getting out of it, Stefan unwraps the cookies and takes a careful bite, ready to lie to protect his sister's feelings but he doesn't have to. The cookies might be misshapen but they have good flavor. "These are excellent, Tasha."

"You like them?!" Tasha basks in his praise. "Even though they aren't really sweet?"

"They are just sweet enough. Like you." He leans over and gives Tasha a kiss on the forehead. "Now I think you should go upstairs and get dressed for the day. We might have guests."

"Is Zander coming over? I can get more cookies from Penny for him." Tasha stands up ready to run thru the tunnels back to the hunter's cabin.

"After you get dressed and brush your hair please."

"Okay." Tasha sighs as if put upon but then runs up the stairs to her room.

Stefan reaches for another cookie and the newspaper. They are really quite good.



At the Chloe Morgan Memorial Park, Dawg is working on everything within Lila's hearing so that he can fill her in on what's going on while he checks the status of all the raised beds and how the sod is coming in. It hadn't been too long since they'd been weeding .38s and 9mm out of the abandoned lot. He looks around. Things had changed a lot The gazebo was in place. The playground was already being used by the neighborhood kids. Some of the old ladies from the neighborhood that never ventured out unless they had their grown kids with them were getting sun on the benches and a few had brought their broad brimmed hats and gardening gloves more than willing to take on anything that might poke on out of the raised beds.
And the neighborhood was perking up too. All the fire escapes and windows had pots on them little spots of color whether it was pansies, petunias, geraniums or even pots of herbs. And all the windows facing the park are shiny as if nobody wanted anything blocking their view of the green space.

"... so that Dara broad says that before I go to court, I have to have a j-o-b. You know something with paystubs and everything. Not volunteering here and definitely not working for myself if you know what I mean. Although she says the volunteering is a good start and shows community activism."

"I do know, Darling." Lila nods. She hits the juice on her wheel chair and advances to the next area where Dawg is ready to work. "And you should really call her Ms. Jensen."

"I can't believe you set me up with an attorney who used to work at the DAs office, Mrs. Q."

Lila indicates that Dawg should come over with a crook of her finger and her voice is very low. "That just means she knows where the bodies are buried, Darling."

Dawg grins and nods. "Yeah, that makes sense. So she's good?"

"The best in town still practicing." Lila sighs. "And how are things going with you?"

"Really good. Everything's coming together and I'm already seeing a strong growth spurt. Should be ready for my first harvest... month or so-- then I can start wholesaling rather than retailing, ya know? I'll be able to get some good bud over to the senior center to Sally's dad."

Lila nods. "It would be best if it was kept as... discreet as possible."

"Oh yeah." Dawg agrees. "Nobody's business right, Mrs. Q?"

"Exactly. Now about this employment situation..."

"I guess I can pick something up flipping burgers. That would give me a couple of paystubs before court." Dawg shrugs.

Reggie comes over with some pots that he sets in the raised bed that is ready for planting. He arranges it, fussing with it a bit but then backs off. "Don't see what judge would be impressed with flipping burgers, unless you were trying to sell him on the idea that you wanted your own burger flipping place. I bet all the criminals try to get a j-o-b with paystubs. Paystubs that are nothing in comparison to their potential ill gotten gains."

"That is scarcely kind, Reginald." Lila rebukes but she does see the logic in it. "Perhaps you have a helpful suggestion."

"The Community College offers courses in Landscape Technology. It's designed for people who want to be self employed for everything from landscaping to nurseries. So it includes small business courses that would be good whatever business to which you applied them. Landscaping or..." Reggie continues in a mutter under his breath "...dealing."

Dawg looks from Lila to her Dude and his eyes narrow. "You two setting me up here?" When there is no answer, he thinks about it. "The Judge would never buy it. How would I be coming up for the cash to be going to school? It would be a total giveaway."

"Unless of course my garden club were to offer a scholarship-- which they have done regularly in the past." Lila suggests. "And considering your volunteer work and your... innate skills I suspect you'd be an excellent candidate to put forth. But I don't know if the judge would be satisfied with a plan or what proof he would need." Lila frowns. "Marshall, darling, you're going to have to look into that. Find out what you think the judge would be satisfied with. Pick up a class schedule or something."

Dawg nods. No harm in looking. "What about the j.o.b? You think your dude is right?"

Lila taps the arm of her wheel chair as she considers that. "Reginald, Call AJ and tell him I want to speak to him."

"I'll take care of it now." Reginald pulls out a cell phone from his vest pocket and steps away from Lila to make the phone call.



Enough of this cloak and dagger bull... Dara thinks as she pulls out her phone and calls a prearranged number. I'm the house counsel for the Cassadines... or is it counsel to the House of Cassadine anyway-- I've got a full caseload. I could stay at the office until midnight every night of the week and I'm making freaking housecalls?! "This is Dara Jensen. I'm in front of the house." Dara hangs up and walks up the stairs.

The door opens as she reaches it. "Thank you for coming, Miss Jensen." Lydia lets Dara in, making sure that she is standing in such a way as to not be seen from the street and then carefully locks the door. "I know this is... unusual."

"Yes. It is." Dara says flatly.

"I was staying at the Port Charles Hotel but their security was compromised."

"YOU were the one bit by Helena Cassadine's spider?!" Dara puts everything together. "I thought you were calling me about your grandfather's will."

"Oh I am. Helena wants my family's money in her family's coffers. And if it's over my mostly dead body she'd be okay with that." Lydia says wryly.

"So you're in hiding. Whose house is this? The address sounded familiar."

"It should-- I believe you did the paperwork for the transfer. AJ Quartermaine."

"Ah." Dara looks around. It has a settled been there forever feel. "He's had this house for what-- less than a week?"

"Because I've been ill, AJ rearranged his schedule so that he's here most of the time. It's allowed him to set things to rights. It's starting to come together." Lydia looks around consideringly. "AJ would have been here to perform the introductions but his grandmother called. He's hoping to be back before we finish. I'll set up a tray in AJ's office... the file is there as well." Lydia leads the main floor study that has been turned into AJ's office. So far it's just the chaise, desk, chair and computer. There are boxes that have yet to be put up. There is a rug rolled out and a picture of Lila in her youth hanging on the wall furthest from the curtained windows that are drawn for privacy. "It's a work in progress." Lydia apologizes. "But we do spend most of our time here, I'm still avoiding stairs. Dizzy spells-- thanks to that damn bug."

"I'm still putting my office together and it's been about a year." Dara goes over to the desk and sees the file on top. "This?"

"Yes. That is actually the very simple part. I've read thru it..." about a thousand times "...things start getting complicated when the accountants and the trustees become involved. They will be the big losers if I take control of my grandfather's estate. But I'll leave you to review the information and get the tray of refreshments." Lydia indicates with a hand for Dara to take the seat behind AJ's desk.

Dara takes the suggested seat and opens up the file. True to what Lydia said the details of the will are really very simple and tightly drawn. The financial ramifications of whatever decision Lydia makes are outlined in the rest of the folder. Dara flips thru page after page of assets that circle the globe. "Son of a bitch."

"It's appalling isn't it." Lydia pours Dara some tea and points to the sugar.

"I'll take it straight." Dara can't help but blurt out as she leans back in the chair. "How much are you worth? Exactly."

"I have no idea." Lydia pours her own tea and takes a seat on the chaise. "It varies from day to day. That Microsoft Man? One bad day on the market and he's worth millions of dollars less. But if he doesn't sell his stock on that day then the next day he might be worth millions more." Lydia shrugs.

"But that's the ballpark you're playing in." Dara wants to clarify. "Not millionaire but billionaire."

"If I'm married within one year of the reading of my grandfather's will. If not then I will receive a stipend from the trustees; I'll be the wealthiest woman with absolutely no money. They've already let me know it's a good thing I have enough shoes to last me for the rest of my life because there will be no more. And you can see why Helena would want to... unify the fortunes."

"She can't have access to that kind of money." Dara declares. "Sorry, I know you already know that but that woman has been a plague on Port Charles for almost thirty years! She's a war crime waiting to happen."

"Luckily the Cassadine bridegroom feels the same way you do." Lydia says wryly. "But it is doubtful that Helena will ever put a black widow spider in her grandson's bed to get him to go along with her plans."

"You're right; your grandfather's will is tight. If you wanted I could try to contest it. You wouldn't be any worse off for trying to fight it. Although you might want to contest the choice of trustees rather than the will itself. That would protect you from Helena and hopefully ease up the purse strings."

"Do you really think that anyone would give up that kind of money without a very ugly and dirty fight? Administering the estate is going to make the trustees millions." Lydia shakes her head.

"Okay then what did you have in mind?"

Lydia sets aside the tea cup. "I want a prenuptial agreement. Something as basic as my grandfather's will. What is mine is mine, what is his is his. Everything to be inherited by the children of the marriage. Oh and there has to be a clause in there that failure to give backrubs is just cause for divorce."

"Excuse me?" Dara chokes on a sip of tea and coughs to clear her airway.

"Okay foot rubs may be substituted-- make that a codicil that is just between me and my husband." Lydia nods. "And then there will be wills. Mine and his. They have to be set up so that neither of us would have a reason to be suspect of harming the other."

"If you don't mind me asking... who is the bridegroom?"

"AJ Quartermaine."

"Does AJ know..." Its a crass question but working in the DAs office Dara had got used to asking the rude questions. " much you're worth?"

"No, He knows I'm well off, or will be if we marry. The Karenin's have never courted the media-- we have kept a low profile." Lydia makes a so/so motion with her hand before explaining further. "No marrying the widow of a beloved president. No drug overdose dramas. In some circles we might be considered nouveau riche since it's only really grown in the last hundred years or so...."

"Hundred years." Dara laughs before adding wryly. "In the US you have to have made your money in the last twenty years or so to be considered nouveau riche."

"I don't think it would matter to AJ even if he did know the extent of the Karenin holdings. That's not what AJ wants from me."

"CEO of ELQ right?" Dara guesses. Having spent enough time around Justus Ward and Ned Ashton back in the day she knows it is the holy grail of Quartermaine living.

"To be the head of his own family." Lydia says simply.

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