Chapter 47

Jason pushed open the threadbare door and stepped into the darkness of the place. The smell of sweaty bodies and stale beer filled his nostrils and Jason inhaled gratefully. This uncomplicated bar was far more familiar to him than the trendy, upscale restaurant-slash-bar that the hotel housed.

He had gone to the hotel bar in search of a cool drink and some relaxation. Jason took one look at the clientele and then took a seat as far apart from the suited young executives as possible. He flagged a smiling waitress and ordered a beer.

The sight of the waitress pouring his beer into a strangely shaped futuristic goblet confirmed to Jason that his current surroundings did not really suit him. He slapped a few bills onto the table and made his escape. One hour and an exhaustive search later, Jason pulled his motorcycle into the parking lot of a little dive whose name translated roughly into ‘ The Busted Nut' .

Jason's thoughts returned to the present as a no-nonsense waitress slammed an icy cold bottle of beer onto the scratched and dented tabletop. A basket of salty peanuts quickly followed. With a practiced flex of her wrist, the waitress flipped the cap off the bottle onto the already littered floor. “Here ya go, pal,” she said curtly.   Her accent was thick, but lyrical.  “The name's Melissa. When you need a refill, holler,” she instructed Jason curtly.

The well endowed young woman started to walk away. “But if you don't plan to tip well,” she turned back to add, “then keep your mouth shut.”

Jason reached into his jeans pocket and peeled off a hundred dollar bill from the wad he carried. He held the waitress' gaze as he slid the bill beneath the basket of peanuts.

The woman demonstrated no reaction to his actions so Jason peeled off two more bills and added them to the bill already beneath the basket. He nodded curtly in response to the acceptance he read in the redhead's gaze.

Jason raised the bottle of beer to his lips and took a long pull of the icy beverage. He swallowed appreciatively and allowed his attention to drift all about the bar. Slowly he leaned back against his chair and settled in for a while.

A quick tap on the door of his office awoke Luke Spencer from his unplanned nap. His mouth snapped shut and he quickly wiped at the corners of his mouth just in case. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and tried to appear alert and wide-awake. “Yeah?”

Darin, the UPS driver, stuck his head just inside the door of Luke's office. “Mr. Spencer, I have a package for you. Claude told me to just knock on the door…”

“Well, bring it on in, man!” Luke leaned forward and beckoned the young driver into the room. He bit back a smile as the deliveryman eased just inside the club's office and stopped. He noticed that the other man was very careful to leave the office door wide open. “You're not still hung up on that , are you? That's old news!”

Darin brushed a stray lock of sandy brown hair from his eyes and glared at Luke. “I had to buy a whole new uniform, Mr. Spencer.”

Luke dismissed the other man's protest with a wave. “Foster was just playing…weren't you, boy?”

Foster's massive head rose from the floor where it lay. The big dog gave a single deep bark that ricocheted off the eclectically decorated walls.

“There. You got it straight from the horse's mouth.”

Darin realized that he would get very little cooperation from the offbeat club owner. He took a deep, steadying breath and stepped fully into the room. He tried to ignore the impression that Foster's gaze was focused on his shins. Clad as he was in the short brown uniform, it was easy for Darin to imagine that the deceptively quick old dog saw him as one big chewy treat wrapped in a plain brown wrapper. Darin's brother-in-law – a vet – tried to convince him that Foster's breed, the Dogue de Bordeaux, were always easygoing and that Darin must have done something to threaten the dog's owner.

“Sign, please.” Darin handed Luke the electronic stylus and clipboard first. He had learned the hard way that if he gave Luke whatever delivery he held without first obtaining a signature, it was sure to result in a hasty retreat from the club with Foster close at his heels. And no signature.

Thankfully today's delivery was not the usual fare of bills and notices. Darin glanced again at the misshapen package. “Something different today,” he remarked and thrust the package right in Luke's face. As he hoped, the plainly wrapped delivery caused the jazz club owner's eyes to light up with interest.

“Hmmm…” Luke hefted the package in his hand and began to try to guess its contents. Darin took advantage of his fascination to ease quietly from the office.

“Foster, old boy, let's see what we have here.”

Smoothly Jason slid out from under the thigh draped over his own. Melissa, the taciturn waitress he had taken home from ‘The Busted Nut', stirred restlessly at his departure, but soon rolled over onto her stomach and fell deep asleep once again.

Jason gladly abandoned the hotel bed to the weary woman. He rarely slept more than four hours per night. And his one-time bed partner needed the rest far more than he did. Between the shift she had just completed at the bar and Jason's vigorous efforts to relieve the tension gripping his restless body, she was exhausted.

He wandered out onto the hotel room's balcony and clambered up onto the railing, where he sat with his legs dangling. Stoically Jason took in the breathtaking vista before him. The sky never seemed clearer or the stars brighter. An overly sentimental man would attribute such observations to the decision that he'd made and the resulting relief he felt. But Jason Morgan was not a sentimental man.

There were those people who believed him to be an unfeeling man. The truth lay somewhere between the two extremes. Those things Jason felt, he felt deeply. He chose his loyalties with care, but once made they were unwavering.

Jason sat atop the polished steel railing outside his hotel room and reflected. His brilliant blue eyes constantly scanned the horizon, pausing only occasionally when his gaze moved off to his left. Somewhere there, across a distance of hundreds of miles and a single ocean, was Port Charles, New York. His home.

He stretched and rolled his neck to ease the kinks of tension there. Perched nine stories above ground, Jason was totally unaffected by the height. He did a quick conversion of the time in his head and realized that it was still mid-morning in Port Charles. Effortlessly Jason swung his legs over the railing and dropped lightly to his feet onto the balcony. His bare feet did not react to the cool tiles as he padded into the darkened hotel room.

Ignoring the naked redhead sprawled asleep atop his bed, Jason reached blindly into the pocket of his ever-present leather jacket. His fingers closed upon the seldom-used cellular phone that Sonny had insisted he carry along with him on this journey of self-discovery.

Naked, he padded back onto the balcony and eased the glass door closed behind him. After a second's hesitation, Jason pressed and held the first key, sending his phone call to Sonny Corinthos speeding on its way.

Luke let the plain yellow package lay undisturbed atop his desk. Something about the day's delivery niggled at the corners of his mind and he was loath to alter the envelope until he figured out why.

Several minutes of futility later, Luke shook his head and carefully slit open the nondescript packaging. Gingerly he grasped the corners with just his fingertips and slid the contents on the desktop.

Luke was nonplussed. Of all the possibilities he had imagined the package's contents to be, this surely was not among them. He took a letter opener and pushed the curious object around. ‘W hy in the world would anyone send him a coil of rope?'

“Claude!” Luke's roar exploded through the empty club.

“You bellowed?”

Luke motioned the bartender closer to his desk. “What does this make you think of?” With a wave he indicated the coil of rope sitting innocuously upon his desk.

Claude took a single quick glance at Luke's latest interest and shrugged. “Mississippi.”

“You wanna explain to me why a piece of rope would make you think of a river?”

The bartender scowled. “I said Mississippi – the state. Not The Mississippi.” At his employer's blank stare, Claude elaborated. “Ropes?? Lynchings?!? Your ancestors' favorite recreational pastime?”

Luke pulled himself upright. “The Spencers don't have any southern ancestors,” he said. “Beside, my ‘people' were just as likely to find themselves hanging from a tree as yours.”

“Right,” Claude huffed jokingly. “From the way you act around here I would never know you didn't come from a long line of slave owners.”

“The next time I ask for your opinion on something,” Luke glared at the bartender, “remind me of this little exchange.”

“Gladly,” Claude quipped and sauntered from the office, totally ignoring the familiar threat of discontinued employment that Luke yelled his way.

Back inside the office Luke returned the coil of rope to the envelope and crossed the room to place it inside the club's vault for safekeeping. His hand stilled as he spied the dull yellow of another padded envelope inside the safe. Carefully he swept to one side the stack of papers that lay atop the envelope and was struck by a sense of deja' vu. The envelope already inside the safe was a smaller version of the one Luke had just taken possession of from Darin. A line of western themed stamps decorated both envelopes.

Luke made note of the date he had scribbled on the first delivery. He pulled the pencil from above his ear and in a similar fashion wrote the date across the corner of the newest delivery. It seemed, Luke thought as he placed the coil of rope inside the safe, that someone was trying to send him a message.

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*