They were nothing alike, yet in so many ways they were almost identical. Edward Quartermaine and his grandson Justus Ward sat across from one another and debated the fine points of yet the latest offer for ELQ’s most promising pharmaceutical subsidiary.
Frustration, determination and occasional anger were the order of the day. The two generations of Quartermaine men went back and forth on the matter for nearly two hours and still grew no closer to a resolution of their positions.
Edward took advantage of a break in the discussion to secretly observe his grandson. Justus was deep in telephone consultation with former company attorney Lee Baldwin. In the midst of their legal mumbo-jumbo he had forgotten all about Edward’s presence across the conference table from him.
There was no mistaking the Quartermaine profile, Edward beamed proudly. For anyone willing to look past superficial differences – like color - they would see that Justus possessed the same proud nose and angular jaw that his uncles and grandfather did.
Today Justus wore an exquisite black suit with muted charcoal pinstripes. His tailored jacket, the first casualty of the morning, lay draped carefully across the arm of Justus’ chair.
“Excuse me.” Alice, the new upstairs maid slipped into the room at that moment and refilled Justus’ empty water glass. Alice was well over six feet tall and nearly twice Edward’s weight. All muscle. Still, the big housekeeper became amusingly tongue-tied in the presence of Justus or Edward’s other reprobate grandson Jason Morgan.
The quick smile Justus gave the housekeeper reminded Edward of Mary Mae. She was, Edward decided, one of the two best things that had ever happened to him. Up until the day that she died, Mary Mae Ward was a strong, beautiful and independent woman.
Edward wondered how much like Mary Mae his granddaughter Faith was. Unlike her younger brother Justus, Faith had no desire to associate in any form with her Quartermaine family. Edward was limited to gazing at outdated grainy, far-away photographs taken by a private investigator in his employ.
“Don’t put away your phone,” Edward commanded. “I think that it is time you made a certain phone call.”
“And just who is it that I am calling?” Justus prepared to humor the old man.
“Your sister.” Edward waggled a finger. “Call her up wherever she is and tell her to get here to Port Charles! It is high time that she and I got acquainted!”
When viewed from his position by the entrance, it was easy to appreciate the scene before him. Two silent figures moved in complete harmony, with a grace that came of many hours of practice. The brilliantly polished chien (double bladed swords) they held seemed like extensions of their limbs. Use of the chien was an honor granted to longtime t’ai chi practitioners who had proven to be both scholars and elite warriors.
Andresj’ watched with a newfound awe at the beauty of the scene. His father and Dr. Hyung stood side by side. They executed each t’ai chi movement as though joined by a single thread. ‘Dre had no difficulty following the two men’s routine. He’d done it often enough himself - but never with a sword. He’d not yet progressed far enough to merit more than the traditional spear.
The routine was soon over. Stefan and the t’ai chi master formally saluted one another before leaving the mat.
“Good morning, Dr. Hyung.” Andresj’ respectfully bowed his head to the diminutive Asian gentleman. As he feared, the martial artist responded in a seldom heard and extremely difficult Asian dialect.
Andresj’ was acutely aware of his father’s keen interest in their conversation. He carefully responded to Dr. Hyung’s question, stumbling a bit on the pronunciation of a word. After five weeks of lessons in that particular dialect, Andresj’ was becoming more comfortable with the language.
“You have improved quite a bit,” Dr. Hyung complimented ‘Dre. “Your pronunciation is excellent.” He patted Andresj’ on the arm. “Familiarity will come with practice.”
“Perhaps I should increase the lengths of your sessions with your tutors,” Stefan suggested after Dr. Hyung left the gym.
“I know that I hesitated a bit before replying. But for a moment I could not fathom why Dr. Hyung would question me about tiny little tulips dancing on the mantle.” Andresj’ caught his father’s frown. “I am just kidding, Papa. I understood Dr. Hyung perfectly. He asked when I would return to my t’ai chi training.”
The look on his father’s face did not bode well for ‘Dre. Once again his sense of humor had resulted in negative consequences. At once, Andresj’ could hear Nikolas’ teasing voice in his mind. ‘Again, little brother?’
“You will return to your training tomorrow. I shall also rearrange your morning schedule to allow for time for increased language sessions.”
“That should not be a problem,” ‘Dre accepted stoically. “After today I will have several free hours that I would have dedicated to service at Ward House.”
Stefan finished wiping off the sword. “Is Ward House the reason you sought me out so early this morning?” He turned and carefully put away the polished sword.
“No.” Andresj’ knew that his answer surprised Stefan. He saw the almost imperceptible pause his father gave. “You have explained why I cannot frequent Ward House as I have in the past. And you are correct. My monetary contribution to Ward House is far more valuable to them than my presence.”
“Today I will visit Ward House,” Andresj’ continued, “for the last time as a volunteer. I wished to personally explain to the boys and girls there why I would not be assisting there in the future.”
Stefan gestured for Andresj’ to accompany him as he made his way back to the master suite. “If not Ward House, then what is it that you wished to discuss with me?”
“It is not really a discussion,” ‘Dre explained. “It is more a request.”
Justus snapped shut the cellular phone and dropped it into his breast pocket. “Don’t put it up!” his grandfather railed. “This foolishness about staying away from us has gone on long enough! You and I are that girl’s family! The only family that she has!”
Edward’s dramatics had no effect on the young lawyer. “I will ignore the fact,” Justus said dryly, “that with one stroke you have totally eliminated my mother’s side of the family from the equation.” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “But it is exactly little scenes like that one that help to keep Faith far away from here.”
“She will come if, and when, she chooses. Not before.” Justus rose and began to gather up his things. They were nowhere near coming to an agreement on the purchase proposal. Now was as good a time as any to call an end to their meeting.
“Edward?” The old man’s silence was curious. Justus peered over his shoulder to see him holding a framed photograph of Mary Mae Ward. Mary Mae’s photo sat prominently atop the shiny black grand piano that dominated the Quartermaine study.
“Is she very much like her grandmother?” Edward asked quietly. His fingers tightly gripped the smiling photo. “I stare at this picture and wonder. You know, I never got a chance to really know the kind of man your father Bradley was.” He shook his head. “And that was my own fault, I know.”
“Faith is a lot like Granny Mae,” Justus heard himself offer. He felt sorry for the old man. Edward rarely exposed the truly caring side of himself for others to see. When he did, it was difficult not to respond. “I am sure that some day she will want to get to know you, to know all the Quartermaines.”
Edward sighed. “I hope so.” He turned away from his grandson. “Right about now, though,” his voice dropped to a whisper, “I would be happy just to have her call me sometime.”
Justus felt a tug of sympathy. But only for a moment. “I don’t believe you, old man!” He pointed toward the opposite wall. “I saw you just now,” Justus uttered through clenched teeth. “I saw that smile in the mirror!”
Edward whirled. “Well, I wouldn’t have to go to such lengths if you would just get your sister here like I asked!”
Justus counted to ten before replying. He genuinely loved Edward Quartermaine. He did not want to say something that he might someday regret.
“The only reason that you still have a chance with Faith is because I never told her what you did.” Justus’ voice was hard. “Leave her alone, old man,” he threatened. “Or I will blow any chance you have to get to know your granddaughter out of the water.”
‘Dre entered the master bedroom and took a seat upon the bed. His pose was a familiar one. Stefan had seen it many times over the years. It was an unconscious ritual left over from the initial stages of Stefan’s relationship with Andresj’…
A tiny shuffle from the other room caught Stefan’s attention. He peered back through the doorway of the large walk-in closet and spotted his young ward standing apprehensively beside Stefan’s bed. The little boy was poised for flight.
Stefan’s gaze flickered to the closed bedroom door and he frowned. After a moment, however, he realized that he had not completely shut the door. He could see a sliver of light along its edge. It was, apparently, just enough for four year old Andresj’ to silently squeeze his way inside.
There was no response. Whether the little boy did not understand the Ellinika greeting or simply chose not to respond was unclear to Stefan. “Zdravstvuite,” Stefan tried again.
“Zdravstvuite,” the tiny whisper came.
Stefan ignored the way Andresj’ froze at his approach. Gently he lifted the four year old ‘Dre and placed him securely in the very middle of his king-sized bed. With Sabrina’s departure from the estate several weeks earlier, Stefan realized that it was loneliness that drove the little boy to seek other companionship.
“Now,” Stefan deliberately turned his attention back to the clothing he would wear to that night’s formal outing. “What shall you…”
“and I discuss?”
“As I mentioned before, Papa, it is not a discussion, but a request I would like to make of you. I would like one of our cousins brought to Port Charles for a visit.”
“Grigori.” It was not a question.
“No.” Andresj’ shook his head. “While I am certain that Grisha would relish an opportunity to explore the United States, he was not the one that I had in mind.” Andresj’ privately enjoyed the faint expression of surprise his father could not completely hide. “I wished to extend an invitation to his sister Evgenia to travel to Port Charles for a visit of several weeks.”
Stefan raised a trademark brow. “An invitation to Evgenia… And yet I detect your cousin’s signature over every inch of this gesture. Why would that be?”
“My invitation to Evgenia does come as repayment of a private debt I owe to Grigori.” Andresj’ did not go into details. “But I assure you that there are no hidden agendas here. My request is just what I ask of you.”
“I will require additional details.”
“Of course, Papa,” Andresj’ readily complied. “Here is the situation...”
“And try to slow it down just a bit, sir.”
Justus accepted his license and registration from the stern-faced young cop. “Thank you, Officer,” he responded sincerely. “I will.”
Justus pulled back onto the highway. He watched the speedometer of his BMW climb to within five miles of the speed limit and held it there. Just because the young cop had not given him a ticket was no reason to disregard the officer’s gentle reminder to obey the law.
Which was ironic, if he thought about it. That rookie cop, along with one other from his class, was firmly in the pocket of one Michael Corinthos, Jr. Sonny made it his practice to try to recruit at least one member of each class of police academy graduates.
Such corruption no longer troubled Justus too much. He knew that he would never again see things in terms of black and white after embracing the underworld lifestyle several years earlier. Even now he moved freely in and out of that world as circumstances dictated.
Justus had not hesitated to call upon his connections and his status as former organization lawyer where he decided to ensure his sister’s privacy. A hushed warning from the housekeeper Alice had led Justus to discover Edward’s appalling intrusion into Faith’s personal life. The old man had engaged a private investigator to observe Faith and document her activities with pictures taken by a telephoto lens.
A single visit from Justus’ cousin the Enforcer was all it took to convince the private investigator to abandon Edward’s assignment. Word quickly spread among other investigators that any assignment involving Faith Ward was a potentially life-threatening endeavor.
It had also only taken a single visit from Justus to convince Edward Quartermaine that any repeat of his attempt to invade Faith’s privacy would result in a permanent loss of both Ward grandchildren from his life. “Nobody,” Justus quietly informed his grandfather, “is more important to me than Faith. Nobody.”
He thought that Edward had taken his threat to heart. But after observing the old man’s latest attempt to manipulate him, Justus knew that there was no way he would ever let Edward know that Faith was now in Port Charles – right under his very nose.
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*