Deceit and Discovery

She sighed aloud, finally setting the papers down. Reading that paragraph three times hadn't made it make any more sense then it did the first time she'd read it. Not for the first time since she and Sonny had argued, Eliana found her thoughts in turmoil over the situation. Ever since her harsh word to her new found brother, she wasn't sure if she'd done the right thing. He deserved it, one part of her argued. No matter he'd known Elizabeth longer…she was blood…and that should count for something…shouldn't it? Her own sense of right and wrong warred with her pride… but when had she lost her ability to forgive?

Now thoughts of her other brother flooded into her mind. He had killed that in her…She'd thrown him out of her life, with nothing or no one else to depend on, no wonder that he'd made the choice that he'd made. I'm sorry Eduardo, we never got that second chance. Would she make the same mistake now, with Sonny? Lost in her reverie, she didn't hear the first knocking at her door. It came again, startling her.

"Boss lady," Mari said as she poked her head just inside the door. "Not meaning to bother you, but I thought you'd want this message right away."

"That's okay, Mari," Eliana said, waving her into the room. "What is it?"

"You won't believe this, but guess who I finally managed to snag?" In response to Eliana's questioning gaze, Mari grinned triumphantly. "Councilman Antonio Velez left a message for you…he is very interested in having some of our pieces used for exhibits for some upcoming functions. The great mucky muck himself called."

"Why didn't you get me on the line when Mr. Mucky-muck called?" Eliana grinned as she felt her spirits lift. They'd been trying to get an appointment with the mayor's cultural liaison for more than a month, with no success. The publicity she could gain for her artists and the gallery could hold unlimited potential for both and both she and Mari knew it.

Mari handed her a note. "Because he doesn't want to speak with you on the phone…he wants to meet you and discuss the details in person."

Eliana read it. Simple enough, it invited her to meet with him in his office downtown at six pm. "Today? And I'm supposed to just drop everything out of my own schedule just for him. After hours, at that."

"I guess so. After all, there are a lot of functions coming up, and if we can get our foot in the door, there's no telling what the benefits could be. He knows this as well as we ought to."

"True enough; it doesn't mean I have to like it."

"So don't like it. Just remember..." the two of them finished the sentence together. "Business is business. Shine it up, shine him on and make the deal." It was something Eliana had drummed into all of her people and was a running private joke among the staff. Let the clients have the attitudes. Shine it up, shine it on and make the deal.

At the end of the day, Eliana found herself downtown. She'd known from the first that she'd make the meeting. There was a receptionist preparing to leave, but she'd been expecting Eliana and took the time to show her to Councilman Williams office. The other woman had informed her that the Councilman might be a little late, but he apologized for the delay and had suggested that she use the time to set up her portfolio and that way they could get directly to business.
"There's a bar." The receptionist pointed out. "And Councilman Velez suggested that you make yourself as comfortable as you need to. He'll be with you within the next twenty minutes."

Eliana took her suggestion and set up her portfolio. It didn't take long, and afterwards, she wandered around the office idly, rehearsing her words in her head. She paused in front of one of the large plate glass windows and stared out over the view of the city. Another ten minutes went by before she herd the door open. Eliana turned, a professional smile on her lips. It quickly died away and she froze in mid-motion.

"Have a seat, Ms. Salazar. I'm so glad you agreed to this meeting. Mr. Velez won't be joining us."

"I agreed to meet the councilman…not you, Mr. Quartermaine." She watched warily as AJ walked into the office and tried her best not to show the shock and yes, small sense of fear that had shivered through her as she'd turned and met his eyes. Eliana was used to men eying her, but there was no desire in his eyes...just something cold that made her flesh crawl.

"I'm afraid I must insist." He smiled at her, but it didn't reach his eyes. They were cold and calculating.

It had all been a set-up, Eliana realized, and she'd walked right into it. "I don't think so. What's the game here?" She asked, watching him suspiciously.

"I don't mean you any harm. I just wanted to have a little chat with you. And this seemed the best way to do it. After all, if I had asked you nicely, would you have come? I think not." AJ said. He walked to across the room to the sidebar. "Can I offer you a drink?"

"Like I would ever drink with you." Eliana answered, her contempt very evident in her voice. "Whatever it is you have to say to me, I am not interested."

AJ smiled, shrugging his shoulders. He made himself a drink, then walked over to the desk and began leafing through the portfolio pages. "Nice stuff. Very classy - just like you." He commented. "How my brother was lucky enough to get next to you, I'll never know. But then again, Jason always did live a charmed life." His last words came out as a verbal sneer.

Eliana moved to close the portfolio, her senses were screaming warning, and she felt her heart begin to race while some sense of panic nibbled at the edge of her senses, but she wouldn't show any fear to a man like him. Despite her brave thoughts, she froze as AJ's hand came down hard on the open pages with a sharp sound loud enough to make her jump.

"I think you do want to hear what I have to say. It's very interesting." He pulled an envelope out of his pocket. "Here we have tissue samples of you from your attack. Nothing out of the normal there, but a few weeks after that, there is a sample sent out to Llanview Hospital. Now why would your samples need to go to some hospital in Pennsylvania? I couldn't figure that out. And I love to figure things out. So what do you think I found?
A second set was sent out along with the first." AJ smiled as she looked at him carefully. Satisfied that he had her undivided attention, he smiled again, enjoying the fear he sensed. "That's right, I've got copies of the blood tests. You thought you were smart by sending your tests out to another lab, but they got the tissues samples from you here. And a second set was sent off with them. All I had to do is trace the request. Not to worry, it was done very discreetly, very hush hush. Most people wouldn't have noticed it. But I'm not most people; And after all, with my grandfather being on the board, my father Chief of Staff and my mother being a highly respected surgeon here, there was no problem with me accessing the files I needed.

"I know Sonny is your brother." He watched as her eyes widened and her face paled. It was a shame she'd gotten in between him and Jason; she really was a beautiful woman. Jason always could pick 'em. "And you did some work for him. Strictly legitimate, I know. At least that's all my preliminary digging turned up so far. I wonder what else I could dig up if I really tried."
"Can't you just see the headlines? Tabloids love this kind of stuff. Hell, I'm betting that the major news services would pick up on this too. You'd be an overnight celebrity." he said to her. "If celebrity is the word for it. Infamous, rather than famous, don't you agree? And then I'm sure the DA's office would like to talk to you. Barely legal, working for known gang leader back in Brooklyn. You two go back quite a ways, don't you? I'd bet the FBI would love to make your acquaintance as well. They'd love to find something to pin on you. Just to get big brother. And then there's Marcus Taggert. He hates Sonny and would do anything to bring him down. With real ammunition like you to start with, how long do you think it would take for either Taggert or the Feds to dig up your past."

"So you put me on trial. How does that help you?" Eliana's voice was strained.

"Think it through, pretty lady. They get you on charges, maybe a grand jury investigation, probably a special prosecuting attorney. Then all they have to do is put you up on the stand, and then we find out how much would you be willing to lie for him. Perjury is a jailable offense, remember that.
"To get to Sonny, they will rip your life apart in court without a second thought. And in the end, they'll get your gangster brother anyway. And Jason. Could you live with yourself after that?"

Could she? Or would she? That thought chilled her as it flooded into her mind…The Council. She might become a liability. Not only her, but Sonny and Jason - oh God - a rush of fear flooded through her… maybe even Carly or Alexis…they could all be put in lethal danger by this fool's machinations. He had no idea of what he might be unleashing.

AJ was looking all too pleased with himself as he watched the play of emotions across her face. "With you, Taggert could get to Sonny and Jason. God, I love it!" he laughed. "Two for the price of one!"

Eliana stared at him hatefully. "So, what do you want, Quartermaine? Not money, your people are richer than Midas himself, so a cash payoff isn't what you want."

"You're right. I'll tell you what I want. I want you out of Jason's life."

"You want me…out of his life?" she couldn't believe what he'd just said.

"You heard me right. See, I had a chance at the perfect life. I had the wife, the kid, the family I deserved, the respect and power as the Quartermaine CEO that the rest of my family was finally willing to give me. Jason took all that away from me."

"Carly is with Sonny, not Jason. She's loves Sonny. Jason didn't take anything from you."

"Everything that's happened got its start with Jason. The golden boy who could do no wrong. Well, he's wronged me for the last time. I figure I owe him payback. Him and Carly. So Carly's happy with Sonny," He looked her up and down slowly and her skin crawled, even though he made no move to come near her. "And I bet you make Jason real happy -- why should they be happy while I'm miserable?"
So here's the deal. Unless you want your life story - and your brother's -- splashed all over the papers, with all the ensuing -unpleasantness - you leave Jason."

It wasn't a hard decision to make. At least they'd all be alive. "So how soon do you want me to leave town?"

"I don't want you to go anywhere." He laughed at her startled expression. "I want you to keep on with your life. Stay at Deception, stay with your gallery. Nothing else in your life is to change. I want Jason to see you, but not be able to touch you."

"How am I supposed to do that, you bastard?!" she could barely keep the tears from her voice but she didn't want to give him the satisfaction.

"You figure it out. I don't really care how. I'll leave the details up to you." AJ said cold-heartedly. She'd give in; he could see it in her eyes. He'd won. AJ turned and headed towards the door. Before he opened t, he turned back to her for a moment. "I'll be keeping an eye on you, you know that right? So if you want to keep your brand new family out of jail and happy, you'll do what I say. If you don't, think about the consequences. You, Sonny and Jason, in jail. Carly, devastated. All because of you."

AJ stood, taking a short list from his jacket pocket. He tossed the list on her desk before heading towards the door.
"I'm pretty sure big brother has eyes on you, so that no one wonders about your meeting today, here's a few pieces you can send over to the councilman's office. You can bill it to my account at ELQ. If anyone does figure out that it was me that you saw instead of the councilman, say that I was trying to talk you into helping me see my son. Which now that I think about it, might not be a bad idea."

"You've got all the angles figured out, don't you?" Eliana asked bitterly.

"You should remember that." AJ said. His voice was cold and uncaring. "Give me a call when you've made up your mind. But don't take too long."