"Another satisfied customer." Marian, her chief assistant buyer at the gallery announced as she walked into Eliana's office. This was two days later after Eliana and Sonny had met down on the docks. In her arms, she carried a huge white box. "And yes, before you ask, your watchdog checked out both the deliveryman and the package."
Eliana knew they all thought she was being a bit paranoid with a bodyguard at the gallery, but with her being the boss, they didn't question it.
"Thanks, Mari." Eliana said as the other woman set the box on a side table. She rose from her desk, crossed the room and opened the box. The scent of fresh blooms filled the office. Mari went out to fetch a vase.
Eliana picked up the bouquet, enjoying the colors and fragrance. She'd forgotten to ask Mari about a card. She cradled the mass of flowers, smiling as she wondered who the sender was.
Searching for the card, she winced as a sudden sharp pain sliced into her fingers. That's strange; none of these particular flowers came with thorns. Eliana dropped the bouquet back into the box. Gingerly, she picked through the blooms, trying to find the offending blossom. In the middle of the bouquet, she came upon a dead rose, thorns still intact. Eliana lifted it gingerly from the bunch. Frowning, she was about to toss it into the garbage can when she noticed what appeared to be something unfurling from the stem, just below the dead bloom. She picked at it and it unraveled further, until it came loose in her hand. One side had been colored green to match the stem. She turned it over. "With fondest memories of our last encounter, until we meet again. I hope you won't fight it." It was signed with an "S."
Instead of fear, for the first time she felt angry. She snatched up the phone and dialed Sonny's private number.
"I received a package today." She picked up a pencil and holding it in the middle, began drumming it on the desktop.
"What kind of package?" He was instantly wary.
"A bouquet. Very beautiful, very lush. With a single dead rose in the heart of it." Eliana answered. "I'm pretty sure it was from Sorel."
Sonny swore. "Anything positive?"
"Just a note signed with an 'S'." she read him the exact wording of the note.
"I'll get my people on it and see what we can find out." Sonny paused. "Are you okay?"
"Oh, I'm fine. If he thought he was going to scare me with this, he thought wrong." Eliana slowly crumpled the note into her fist. "He's trying to play with my head this time; it's as transparent as glass. And it isn't going to work."
"Good." Sonny said approvingly. "Don't worry about it. He won't be getting any closer to you than this and he knows it. Play it like the bluff it is."
They talked for a few minutes more, then hung up. Eliana called Mari on the intercom and tells her to come and take them away. The dead bloom and the note she tore up and threw in the garbage.
"Are you sure you want these gone?" Marian asked. "This is no run of the mill, generic bouquet. I mean, this was put together with care. If you want, I could probably tell you exactly what they mean."
"Not now, Mari. Just get them out of the building. Now." Eliana's tone told her assistant there was no arguing the decision.
As Mari carried the box out, Taggert slipped past her and entered her office.
Eliana sighed. "Now is not a good time, Detective."
"Seems like there's never a good time for you, Ms. Salazar." Taggert said. He began walking around her office, checking out the art. Studying a piece of sculpted crystal set in a wall niche, he began speaking conversationally without turning. "Our department has tried to get in touch with you several times to pursue your case, but you don't respond."
"I wonder why that could be, Detective?" Eliana responded icily staring at the back of his head. "Do you think it might have anything to do with your bedside manner?"
Handsome and sure of himself, he turned to face her, his deep brown eyes looking into hers. "I apologize for that, Ms. Salazar."
Mac had reprimanded him severely for that one, and the memory still rankled, worse because he'd deserved it. "But it doesn't change the fact that you were the victim of a heinous crime, and yet you're doing little to pursue the matter. I would think that you would want whoever did that to you to be caught."
"In the name of justice, right?" Eliana picked the pencil up again, this time twirling it in her fingers. Her voice was sarcastic now. "Justice is a laugh, a joke. A commodity that's bought and sold everyday."
"I have to ask myself why this is not a priority for you?" Taggert said, watching her carefully. He crossed the room to stand before her desk. "Is it Corinthos? Why are you protecting him?" He asked, changing the subject suddenly. "Is he coercing you into keeping quiet? You don't have to be afraid of him."
Taggart figures he might find out something by throwing her off balance. He leaned over her desk. "While you were indisposed, you had to know that we received warrants to go through your client files. For your own protection, of course." He said as her expression flared into anger. "I've done a little checking on the ties between you and him. He's bought quite a few pieces of art from you over the years. And he's the funding for some scholarships you provide, both here and in New York City. And now you're staying at his number one sidekick's place. I have to ask myself why?
"So what is it? You Sonny's little toy on the side, his enchilada mamma? Angerboy keeping you on a tight leash for him?"
Eliana flicked her eyes up to his. "Good bye, Detective. I have nothing further to say to you."
He knew what he was saying had him skirting dangerous ice again, but her refusal to cooperate was infuriating him. He wanted some reaction out of her, something to crack that stone wall she was presenting him with. "I can only imagine what it must feel like to be raped. How vulnerable it must feel. To scream for help and have no one answer. To feel yourself losing the fight and know what's coming next….you're going to let whoever did this get away with it? Don't you want some justice?"
As Taggert spoke, she felt her heart begin to pound. Without her realizing it, her fingers tightened on the pencil she was holding. It snapped in two. "How dare you…." she breathed. "You're right….you can only imagine it. So don't try. There are other ways to get justice." Eliana shot back. "Justice means I live my life. The way I choose to."
"If, on the off chance that Sonny isn't the one who did the deed, are you counting on Corinthos to avenge your honor? I wonder why that is?" he leaned closer. "Just what is it with you and him anyway?"
"This interview is over, Detective. As of right now. Or do I call my lawyer? Alexis Davis. I think you know her."
When he didn't move, Eliana reached for her phone, then changed her mind. "I think you are coming close to harassment. I've asked you to leave my office and you refuse to do so. But that's okay. You stay." Eliana stood, slipping on her jacket and picking up her purse. "I'll go. Have a nice day, Detective Taggert."
She walked out without a second glance.
Carly took some time off that afternoon to spend some time in the park with Michael. After spending the morning arguing with Laura Spencer, she welcomed the quiet time. They were playing on the swings, when she got the oddest sensation of somebody watching her. She shook it off. After all, Johnny was there.
But the sensation wouldn't go away. A few minutes later, she looked around again. Then she saw him. On the opposite side of the playground area, AJ Quartermaine stood, staring with longing at his son.
Carly's stomach tightened. She really wasn't up to tangling with AJ right now; all she wanted to do was come to the park and be with her son.
He started towards them. She could tell from his walk he was already drunk, in a low voice, she told Leticia to keep Michael occupied.
"I'll take him over to the sandbox to play with his trucks." Leticia suggested.
"Good idea; I'll be over as soon as I get rid of AJ. No, Johnny," she said to the bodyguard as he made to move in AJ's direction. "I got this."
She turned and headed towards AJ, brown eyes shooting sparks.
"God, AJ, it's not even three o'clock in the afternoon and I can smell you from ten paces."
"I want to see my son." AJ slurred.
"Yeah? Well, I don't want him to see you. Not like this."
"This from the mob-connected tramp." He pointed a wavering finger in her face.
Carly slapped his hand away. "Look who's talking! The Q-connection is damn near the cosa nostra, so get off your high horse with me, okay?"
"You can't keep my son from me, Carly!" AJ said, his voice getting stronger.
"I already have, AJ. And as long as you stay drunk, I will never let you near him. Does Jason Quartermaine ring a bell? Or my unborn child? Do you think
I would ever let you take a chance with my son's life?"
"It's not fair." AJ whined. "I would never hurt Michael."
Great, now he was feeling sorry for himself. With everything he had put her through, she was definitely not in the mood to feel sorry for him. "Life isn't
fair, AJ. I asked you a million times to be fair, let me go, let me and Michael go. I offered to set up joint custody, liberal visitations between us. But no, you had to have it all your way. You never thought of being fair to me. So now you pay."
"Payback is all you about now, huh?"
"I learned it from the Q's, baby. Right from Granddaddy Edward on down."
"No, you had that down pat the day you blew into town and slept with your mother's husband." AJ said. He switched subjects abruptly. "He needs his family, Carly."
"He has a family, AJ. Michael has enough people in his life that love him and care about him. He doesn't need you and the house of horrors you call family!"
"I am going to see Michael. To hell with you." AJ shouted suddenly.
"AJ, don't! This is not good for Michael to see you like this!" He started past her, violently shrugging off the hand she put out to stop him.
Johnny was there suddenly, jerking him backwards.
"I think Mrs. Corinthos has made herself clear." He said to the shorter man. "Don't make this more than it has to be."
AJ struggled in Johnny's grip, but couldn't free himself. Flushing with humiliation he began screaming obscenities at Carly.
She shook her head, almost sadly. "And you wonder why I won't let you anywhere near my son? Take a good look in the mirror, AJ, the next time you ask yourself why not. Do you really want Michael seeing you like this?"
Her words struck him dumb. Shaking her head, Carly turned and walked away from him. Johnny glared down at him a final time, then let him go with a small shove backwards.
AJ watched as Carly crossed over to their son. Another woman came along the path then and greeted her, then the two of them knelt down with him to play. Tears of self-pity welled up in his eyes. Michael had reached up and given the unknown woman a hug; he hadn't even so much as glanced at him. His own son was happy to see a stranger and he didn't even know who his real father was. It wasn't fair. AJ turned and stumbled away, fumbling for his flask as he went.
A few days later, Sonny was at the warehouse, barking into the phone when Jason came in.
"You put everybody free on it…right now, Benny. I don't care what it costs. You gotta pull in freelancers, I don't care, just get the word out and get it taken care of!" Sonny shouted the last five words into the phone before slamming it down.
"Have you heard?" Sonny asked. Jason shook his head. He'd just come from seeing his grandmother, Lila, the only Quartermaine besides his little sister Emily and his cousin Ned Ashton that he could stand being around for more than five minutes at a time.
"Sorel managed to get a second bail hearing. His lawyer found a technicality and he made it stick. The judge was mad as hell and slapped a five million dollar bail on him, but he paid it right then and there and walked." He slammed his hand down on the desk in disgust. "We didn't clear out his bank accounts fast enough."
"Sonny, don't blame yourself. He was bound to have a few offshore accounts. We couldn't touch those."
"He's already disappeared."
"And we'll find him."
"Damn right we will. I've already put orders into motion. I'm shutting this town down. Nothing moves in or out without our personal okays. I've set up a meet with the council this week. I'll deal with the shut down and them when I get there. You stay on top of things while I'm gone."
Before morning, the alert on Sorel was out. Sonny was betting there hadn't been time for him to make it out of the state before the police roadblocks had gone up. With luck, he might even still be in the city. The word he put out on the street emphasized the bounty was for Sorel alive.
Dead wouldn't be half as fun.