Chapter Three

Ned sat in his grandmother’s room, watching as Lila slept, her breath shallow and assisted by oxygen. "Grandmother," he whispered softly. "Hang on. You’ll be fine. You have to be. We need you. All of us."

Noticing a bit of movement from the anteroom in which the life support equipment was being monitored, he saw Monica. Seconds later, he was holding her as she sobbed, broken and exhausted. It was several minutes before she spoke.

"It was all so senseless," she cried. "And so preventable. We all knew that Carly lied, but we thought that Jason didn't. We should have known when Robin told us that AJ was the father that Jason wasn’t to be trusted."

"I made the same mistake," Ned admitted sadly. "And now AJ is dead, killed trying to murder Jason. God, Monica. What have we done?"

"I’m going to kill that lying little wench, Carly," Monica spat, suddenly raging. "She knew all along."

"Did she? I’ve had nothing but time to think since Grandmother got sick." He looked over his shoulder at Lila who lay quietly. "She’s stabilized, but you’d know more about that than I do."

"Go on. Persuade me that I shouldn’t kill Carly."

"Amy was here a few minutes ago with the news that Tony is suing Bobbie for helping switch the blood tests, for the revocation of her nursing license, and ultimately for custody of Lucas. He’s already got a signed release for custody of Michael."

"Things are moving quickly." She wiped a few tears from her cheeks. "You know, I was just getting used to being a grandmother and now AJ is dead and the baby isn’t ours. Lila is barely holding on, and Edward’s—well, he’s ranting and raving and in serious condition. He’s been calling for the lawyers, threatening everybody."

"That’s a good sign."

"But Bobbie? You said that Bobbie knew all along and she let us be used? She saw what was happening and she could have stopped it at any time by telling the truth? How could she do that? I thought we were friends."

Ned nodded thoughtfully. "As near as Amy could figure it, Bobbie was trying to keep Tony from getting custody of the baby from the start. Once the blood tests were in, and Tony was shown to be the father, Jason and Bobbie conspired to fake everything to buy Carly some time."

"But the baby’s heart problems. They were just like AJ’s."

"Apparently a coincidence. But when Robin came back, and Jason had to tell her something, he dared not tell her that Tony was the father for fear that he’d do just what he’s doing now—demanding custody. So, Jason lied to Robin, thinking that she’d keep his secret because of her love for him. Instead, she told AJ and now here we are."

"Here we are, and my son is in the morgue. The man I once considered my son will be fine, but I can no longer think of him as my son. Not after this. Oh, AJ!!," she sobbed. "Why didn’t I listen? Why did I doubt you for so long? Did we drive you to this? Now, it’s too late!"

"Monica," Ned began, pulling her into his arms. "AJ gave you reason to believe what you believed, and Jason thought that he was doing the right thing."

"As did AJ," she wept bitterly. "I guess he was going to make certain that he got custody of Michael. I can’t believe that he was going to do more than scare Jason. At least not while he was holding the baby."

"I don’t believe it, either," Ned agreed. "For all AJ’s sins, I don’t think that he intended injury to the child."

"Not that it will do him any good now. How’s Emily taking it?"

"She’s horrified," he answered. "I had Reggie take her home a little while ago. I think that she’s going to need some counseling over this. Finding out that Jason lied to her and used the family to essentially steal a baby is shocking to her. Seems he was the one member of the family she trusted."

"You can’t blame her for that. So much has happened to her in her short life. You know, Ned, just when I think that things can’t get any worse, they do."

"Laura? I am going to have to postpone our evening. There has been a problem involving the hospital."

"Is it serious?"

"A possible lawsuit. Tony Jones is suing Bobbie about switching records." He summarized the situation, finishing with, "And as she was on staff at that time, there is the chance that General Hospital may have some liability, should Dr. Jones choose to pursue that angle. I am hoping that he can be persuaded to be understanding, but as you know, the past year or so has left indelible marks on him."

"I know. Okay, another time. Call me if you can stop by later"

Stefan hung up the telephone and removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes wearily. Another child custody case was now being brought by a man whose child had been denied him years ago. One lie had begotten another lie and a child had once again been the innocent pawn of those who needed a child for their own purposes. Nikolas had come into his life years ago, all dark hair, dark eyes and cherubic smiles, winning even his most hardened heart.

Had he, Stefan, stolen the child from his brother? No. He had stolen only his wife, and that he had done without a twinge of remorse, no matter what he had later said.

Laura had been young, beautiful, and so malleable. Stavros made it easy for him to seduce Laura with his brutal treatment of her. In fact, Stefan smiled, that had been the plan. Stavros was the heir and needed a son. Stefan had been only too happy to be of assistance.

Unfortunately, now things were in danger of slipping from his hands, a fact that he would have to work around. He picked up a pen from his desk and noted the Cassadine crest on it. Things had changed quite a lot since that crest had been designed several hundred years ago. Back then Cassadines only married virgins and kept them secluded until they had borne an heir. Blood was everything then, and oddly enough, the same could be said today. Now DNA made it possible to determine paternity, or to deny it. So much hinged upon blood. Fortunes rested upon a twisted spiral staircase of information.

One was whatever was dictated by one’s blood.

So what did that make him?

"I’m sorry to delay our departure, but you can see that had I not filed these briefs, Stefan would have become suspicious."

"Alexis, you don’t need to explain everything to me. I heard all about the shootings and the paternity scandal." Jax grinned. "Besides, by the time we get back, we’ll have our own paternity scandal to raise."

"You make that sound so...sleazy."

"That kind of money is never sleazy. Obscene, maybe."

"Then let’s go. Switzerland, here we come."

Carly lay quietly in the bed, staring mutely at the ceiling as Bobbie looked on, tears slipping silently down Bobbie’s face as she thought of all she stood to lose, all she’d lost and all she’d thrown away through her own inexperience and sheer stupidity. Once upon a time, she’d had it all. Love, security, and money. Then, to atone for the pain she’d caused another human being, the daughter she’d given up in hopes of giving a better life, she’d lashed out at the man who had betrayed her, a man she’d betrayed. Betrayal upon betrayal, pain feeding upon pain, and now, now, everything was wrong. All to make up for a past wrong.

"But I wasn’t wrong then," she whispered to the mute young woman. "I did the best thing. I didn’t want you to grow up in a whore house. That’s right. I was a whore. I wanted better for you, not the shame that would come from what I’d done. I couldn’t even tell you your father’s name, and I didn’t want to have to explain that to you, to see your rejection and shame when you realized what it all meant. So, I did what I thought was right. I gave you the chance that I’d have wanted for myself. I’m just so sorry that it turned out the way it did."

But, Carly lay mute, staring at the ceiling.

"Can you hear me, Carly? Caroline? What have I done? Oh, God, what have I done?"

"Ned?" whispered Lila as she opened her eyes.

"Grandmother? Nurse!"

"No. No nurses. I need to talk and I don’t want to be bothered by nurses or doctors."

Fearing a deathbed confession, Ned nodded. "What is it that you want to say?"

"I need you to give Felicia the small leather box that is in the old trunk that I had Reginald bring down from the attic last week. In fact, give her the entire trunk and its contents."

"You mean let her borrow it? For research?"

"No, Ned. Give it to her. I want her to have it. Now." Lila closed her eyes, then reopened them. "I’m not ready to die yet, Ned, but I fear that I haven’t much time. Please hurry. And, tell Felicia that I want to see her right away."

"But what about the others?"

"What about them?" Lila sighed. "They’ve thought of themselves for years. They will continue to do so. We’ve lost AJ, and Jason, I don’t even want to think about him. I’ve done wrong, Ned, and I have so little time to make up for it. Old wrongs must be set right. Pray God I’m not too late..."