Jason stepped out of the airport terminal and signaled for a cab. He would have preferred to ride away from LaGuardia on the back of his motorcycle, but he had sold it back in Europe. Arranging to have the big bike shipped to America would have drawn unnecessary attention. And attention was the last thing that Jason wanted at that point. He did not want the attention of his family knowing that he was back in town. Nor did he want the Organization's attention focused on him once more.
He gave the driver an address thirty miles or so from the airport. It was the location of a small, secluded neighborhood and a house that only three people knew about - Jason, Sonny Corinthos and Justus Ward.
The unknown little hideaway was his cousin Justus' idea. The savvy lawyer had argued long and hard that both Jason and Sonny should prepare themselves well for the possibility that one day they might not have the support or resources of the Organization behind them. The two men had seen the existence of such a house as both a lack of trust and a sign of disrespect for the other members of the Organization. But now, Jason was grateful for his cousin's foresight.
Jason fished his cellular phone out of the pocket of his faded jeans. “I'm home,” he quietly announced as soon as the call was answered.
“I'm glad.” Justus' voice was businesslike, but Jason easily recognized the warmth his cousin directed his way. “What do you need me to do?”
“Fill me in on everything that has been going on.”
Jason eyed the taxi driver. The man's gaze never wavered from the road before them. And Jason was certain that his voice was not loud enough to carry to the driver's ears. “At the house,” he replied succinctly.
“Give me…” Justus consulted his day planner, “three hours and I'll be there.”
“Thanks, Justus.” Jason thumbed the button that disconnected his call. He sat back against the worn leather seat and watched the scenery rush by. It would be good to see his cousin again.
AJ Quartermaine sighed, leaned back in his seat and continued to nurse the drink in his hand. He had gotten an early start to the day and still it had done him no good so far.
Actually, he had never properly ended the previous day. The night had consisted of tossing and turning atop his bed for several moments and then rising to pace before the curtained windows for several more. This had gone on until an hour or so ago. He'd simply given up on sleep. Instead, AJ showered and got dressed.
The growing murmur of approaching voices made him sit up in anticipation. He peered anxiously around the corner, unconcerned that his intense interest might bring about a negative reaction.
Doctor Linda Roquemore appeared from the corridor. She was deeply engaged in quiet conversation with a young woman in her late teens. The doctor smiled reassuringly at the teenager and sent her on her way. Then without even a glance AJ's direction, she turned and headed back down the narrow corridor to her suite of offices.
“Doctor Roquemore!” AJ sprang from his seat and hastened to follow Michael's court-appointed therapist down the hallway.
Linda Roquemore gave AJ a smile similar to the one she'd used on her teenage patient. She was a slightly built woman of just over five feet tall. First-time observers often thought that her teenage patients identified so easily with Doctor Roquemore because it was very easy to mistake her for one of them.
“Mr. Quartermaine,” the doctor said, “I promise that I will see you shortly. But you have chosen a very busy day to just drop in without an appointment.” She led AJ back to the waiting area. “You will just have to be patient.”
AJ flopped back down onto the molded plastic seat. Frustrated and impatient, he tugged at his hastily tied necktie. Though there were signs all about him that prohibited the use of cell phones in the hospital, AJ dialed his assistant's direct line. “Yeah, good morning, Shari. Look, I am going to be late coming in to the office this morning… No, everyone is okay,” AJ reassured the kindly woman. “But what I have to do is important. And it has to be done today.”
He ended the call. AJ raised the can of now tepid cola to his lips and sipped half-heartedly. And for the fiftieth time since overhearing Emily say that Jason was returning to Port Charles, AJ wished that the drink he held was something stronger.
“This is getting ridiculous.” Diane Jennings quickly hung up the telephone for the third time in as many minutes. She glared at the offending item, almost convinced that the elegant streamlined instrument sat mocking her for her indecisiveness.
Diane let her head drop into her hands. She could not continue to waver as she was. It wasn't fair to her and it certainly was not fair to him. “Okay, Jennings,” the dark-haired beauty chided herself. “It is time to make a decision once and for all.”
She straightened up and picked up the telephone receiver once again.
Diane could not at that moment decide which of her fears was stronger; that Justus would answer her call or that he would not.
Diane froze as a sleepy, but definitely feminine voice answered the phone. “Ahhh, h-hello,” Diane stammered. “I was trying to reach Justus Ward. His secretary said that he was not in and I thought-” Diane attempted to compose herself. “I must have dialed the wrong number.”
“No,” the mystery woman replied. “You have reached the right number. Justus is not in. What can I do for you?”
There was no mistaking the other woman's air of entitlement. The very ease with which she inquired about Justus' business indicated that the unnamed woman was supremely confident about her place in Justus' life.
Diane felt a sense of loss that was devastating. Her fears and uncertainty had made her hold Justus at arms length. He hadn't asked much of her, just some kind of sign that Diane wanted to explore the possibilities of what they might be together. Obviously, Justus had grown tired of waiting for Diane to make up her mind.
“This call was a mistake.” Diane's words tumbled out. “I am really sorry I disturbed you. Goodbye.”
As Jason watched, the swarthy taxi driver placed a single bill into the box and then tucked the remainder of the crisp hundred dollar bills that Jason gave him into his shirt pocket. Both men understood that such a large sum was not a tip for good service, but a precaution against the temptation to reveal Jason's presence, if asked.
When the taxi had been gone ten minutes, Jason finally turned and went inside the house. Since deciding to return to Port Charles, the mob hitman had become cautious to the point of paranoia. No action was considered trivial. No decision was made without intensive consideration. Jason could not afford a repeat of the tragedy that originally drove him from Port Charles.
The air inside the house was stale from lack of use. Jason made a mental note to open one of the windows as soon as he had completed his inspection of the premises. He went through the house room by room. Jason opened each closet and drawer, and looked under the beds and dressers. The meticulous inspection was completed with patience.
Sooner than anticipated, Jason detected the quiet hum of a heavy car pulling up before the house. He picked up his handgun from the table in the front room and moved quietly over to a window where he could gaze out on his visitor. Justus emerged gracefully from the car and Jason put away his weapon. He unlocked and opened the front door and accepted the heavy box that Justus thrust into his arms. “I've got a few more like this,” the handsome lawyer said.
The two men quickly made short work of unloading all the boxes from Justus' car. By the time they had finished, there was no unoccupied space left in the small kitchen.
“This will hold you for awhile.” Justus put the last box down onto the floor. He straightened up and extended his hand. “Jason, it is good to have you back.” Impulsively he pulled the stoic young man into a fleeting embrace.
It might have surprised Justus to know that Jason was less uncomfortable with the fond embrace than he imagined. Jason realized that his cousin's love for him was genuine, and like Emily or Michael, the lawyer was not hesitant to demonstrate it.
“So…” Justus became all business again, “Does anyone else know that you are back?”
Jason shook his head. “Sonny and Emily know that I decided to come home. But you are the only one who knows that I am here. And I'd like it to stay that way for a while.”
“Mr. Quartermaine, have a seat.” Doctor Roquemore directed AJ to one of the chairs opposite her. “Now, what can I help you with?”
“I found out some disturbing news,” AJ replied. “And I don't know what to do about it.”
That was not quite the truth. AJ had no doubts about what his next course of action should be. His visit to Michael's therapist was made in the hope that her advice would parallel the decision he had already made in his mind. “My brother Jason, the one responsible for Michael's accident, is on his way back to Port Charles.”
Doctor Roquemore held up a calming hand. “Your brother returning is not necessarily a bad thing for Michael. In fact, this will give us all a chance to gauge Michael's reactions to Jason's gradual reintegration into his life.”
“That's just it, Doctor Roquemore. Jason doesn't understand concepts like gradual,” AJ protested. “In his world, things are either black or white. He is going to head straight for my family's mansion to see Michael, and I won't be able to stop him. He'll have to see for himself how my son is doing. And it won't matter if I tell him that Michael's not ready to see him. Jason will do what he wants.” AJ rose abruptly and ran a hand through his hair. “And knowing my family, they will all bend over backward to help him.”
The doctor's expression was thoughtful as she observed the agitated man. “Exactly what is it about your brother reconnecting with Michael that disturbs you, AJ?”
“Listen, I already know what my family will think,” AJ responded acidly. “They'll say my reaction is because of jealousy for my brother. But I don't care. All their accusations can't change the simple fact that Jason's poor decision-making nearly destroyed my son's life. I don't intend to give him a second chance to get it right.”
“So…exactly what is it that you're looking for from me?”
AJ sat back down. “I want to take Michael – and his mother – away from Port Charles for a week or two. And I would like you to officially approve it.”
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*