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The next day, Maxie found herself, once more, at work. Not that her mind was really on the task at hand. She transferred calls, handed out bedpans, pushed the magazine cart around.....but if you'd asked her later what she'd done at work, she wouldn't have remembered at all.

Which was part of the reason she nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a commotion coming from down the hall. "What the heck....," she wondered to herself. As she moved out from around the desk to see what was going on, she saw Zander, peeking around the corner. She was stunned at his appearance. His face was pale, and soaked in sweat. Before she could say a word, he took off. Glancing towards the floor, Maxie's stomach lurched as she noticed a small puddle of blood where Zander had stood.

"Maxie!" Ric's voice startled her. Almost of her own accord, she moved away from the blood spot on the floor and back around the corner, where Ric wouldn't be able to see it. "Ric? What's going on?"

"Somebody just tried to kill Officer Beck."

Maxie swallowed, inwardly thinking to herself Zander, how could you be so stupid. "Oh my god!" she responded, doing her best to sound stunned. "Do you know who did it?"

Ric stared at her for a moment, making her nervous. Then, he went on. "He says it was Zander Smith. You wouldn't have seen Zander anywhere around here, would you, Maxie?"

Maxie tried to make her eyes as wide as humanly possible, and shook her head innocently. "N-no, Ric. I haven't. If I did, I'd tell my dad." It had worked with Lucky, but she realized almost immediately that Ric wasn't buying it. Shifting on his feet, he stared at her even more closely. "Maxie, are you sure you haven't seen Zander anywhere? He's very dangerous, you have to realize that. Right before he came back here, he was on the docks. He threatened Nikolas Cassadine, and nearly shot Jasper Jacks."

She was beginning to realize that everything she'd heard about Ric was true. The look in his eyes frightened her. She knew that she couldn't snow him, the way she had Lucky, or even her own stepfather and sister. He was too smart for that. But above that, he knew a liar when he saw one. "Ric, honestly. I haven't seen him."

He continued to stare. His eyes narrowed, but he never took them off of her, making Maxie even more flustered than she already was. "Maxie, Zander Smith shot a cop. And he just went back and tried to finish him off. He threatened Brian Beck with a scalpel. He's in a lot of trouble....but he's not the only one."

Maxie cocked her head slightly to the side. "Wh-what do you mean?"

"Well," and here Ric's eyes began to glitter darkly, "if someone was, say, helping Zander out, then that would mean they would be aiding and abetting. We could bring charges against them, too."

Maxie bit her tongue. "I know that. My dad's the police commissioner."

Ric smirked, and Maxie knew the game wasn't working. Ric Lansing was not the sort of person who would back down, no matter who Maxie's father was. "I just think you should take that into consideration, is all."

Maxie was starting to lose her temper. Ric was scaring her, but above that, he was harassing her. She didn't know much about the law, but she knew enough to know that he shouldn't be questioning her like this with nobody else around. "I'm not helping Zander out," she said, gritting her teeth, "and I wouldn't do it, anyway. Now, I have work to do. If I don't get back, I'll get into trouble." With that, she turned and walked back to the desk, hoping her walk was steady. She could feel Ric's eyes boring into her back, and shivered involuntarily.

She had the feeling Ric was going to try and press the issue, but just then, he got a call over his walkie-talkie. With one more dubious look in Maxie's direction, he took off back towards Officer Beck's room. Heaving a sigh of relief, Maxie quickly grabbed a paper towel and ran back to the spot to wipe up the blood. As she did so, a pair of black dress shoes appeared before her. Gasping, she looked up, expecting to see Ric again. She was almost relieved to meet Zander's eyes instead.

"Maxie, I've got to get out of here!" He was in an absolute panic. Maxie's eyes widened as she took note of a hole in his pants leg, and saw a patch of skin covered in blood. "What happened to your leg?" she asked.

"I got shot....the gun went off, by accident....but Maxie, I've really got to get out of here!"

Hearing voices approach, Maxie grabbed his hand and hauled him into the elevator. Zander winced painfully, trying to stretch his leg once the doors had closed. Maxie hit the button to stop the elevator between floors. "Zander, what is going on?!" she finally burst out. "Ric Lansing is following me around, giving me crap. He thinks that I'm helping you."

Zander looked chagrined. "I'm really sorry, Maxie. Ric's a piece of work. If I'd had any idea anyone would suspect you -"

Maxie didn't need to hear his apologies right now. "What did you do? Did you go to Emily? Are you stupid?! They say you threatened Nikolas! And that you tried to KILL Jax! What is wrong with you?!"

Zander cringed at the onslaught of her words. "Maxie, it all just got so out of control. Emily was on the docks....I just wanted to see her one last time, you know? I wanted to see if she'd come with me."

Maxie stared at him. He couldn't possibly believe that Emily would leave town with him.

"I was trying to talk to her.....and I think I was getting to her, I really do! But then," he gritted his teeth, "HE showed up. He always does."

"Nikolas?" Maxie guessed.

"Of course. He ruins everything. He was going to call the cops. And Emily just.....she just stared at him. Like he was.....everything to her, or something. Like a damn god had just walked in. And I knew she'd do whatever he wanted." He choked back a sob. "I couldn't take it anymore, Max. So I told her I was going to kill him, and make her watch."

Feeling sick to her stomach, Maxie leaned against the elevator wall. "You didn't."

"I just....I just didn't care anymore."

"Obviously," she snarled.

"Then.....I was holding the gun on them, and I didn't know if I could do it. I really didn't. I wanted to," he added sadly, "I wanted him dead. But I kept looking at her.....and I thought, how can I hurt her? But, I mean, maybe she'd be okay, right? Once she saw that he was wrong for her -"

"Zander, shut up." Maxie hissed, pressing her fingers against her forehead. She was getting a migraine. That wasn't exactly the worst of her problems at the moment, but it certainly didn't help.

"Maxie?"

"She's not coming back, Zander! She's not! And when you do stupid things like this, when you threaten to kill her fiancé, then you're just digging your hole deeper! Come on, you know how much trouble you're in. And then you do this? And you expect me to help you?!" She stomped her foot on the elevator floor. Maybe that made her look childish, but she was past the point of caring.

Glancing back up, she saw that Zander had grown quiet, and was also leaning against the wall. His face had grown paler, and Maxie took a deep breath. She worked in a hospital - she was supposed to help people - and, all things aside, Zander was hurt. "So what happened then?" she finally asked.

"I shouldn't tell you - I don't want to get you more involved -"

"Well, I am involved now. There's cops all over this building, and I'm stuck in this elevator with you. So I want to know the truth. Tell me."

Nodding, he took a deep breath and went on. "Jax was there - he walked in on the middle of it, and tried to get the gun away from me. It went off," he gestured towards his injured leg, "and then I got the gun back and knocked him down."

"And you tried to shoot him."

"The gun wouldn't work."

Maxie squeezed her eyes shut. "So you didn't shoot him because the gun didn't work?"

Zander paused. "Yeah. I was going on adrenaline, Maxie. I wasn't thinking."

"No kidding," she muttered. "You and me both."

"Max?"

She shook her head. "So, go on. Officer Beck. What happened with him?"

"I had to know the truth. I had to know why he would say I shot him. I had to know if Ric was setting me up."

"So you threatened him with a scalpel?" she asked, raising her eyebrow at him. "That doesn't seem like the best way to go about it."

"I had no choice," Zander said quietly. "I didn't want to hurt him. I just wanted the truth."

Maxie chewed her lip. "So what did he say?"

"He said I was right. That Ric did set me up." He held his hands out to the side. "I told you."

Maxie rolled her eyes at him. "So you don't think he might have only said that because you were holding a freakin' scalpel on him? Personally, if someone was holding a scalpel to my throat, I wouldn't exactly say 'Yeah, I turned you in because I just don't like you.' I'd try to blame someone else, too."

"No, he was telling me the truth, Maxie. I knew it was Ric. I just knew it."

She sighed. "So what happens now?"

"I have to get to Canada."

She glared at him. "None of this would be happening if you had gone to Canada in the first place, like you said you were."

Zander sighed. "Yeah. I know. I just wanted that one last look, you know?"

Maxie didn't meet his eyes. "I guess." Deep down, she knew only too well. It was the way she'd felt when she'd seen him standing there in the hospital hallway.

Zander's voice broke into her thoughts. "I need some place to hide. I can't get to Canada right now, not with my leg like it is. I need to hide out for a few days, and then, when this has died down a little, and I've started to heal, I can leave."

Maxie stared at him. "Zander, you can't expect me to -"

"No, no, Maxie!" He held up his hands. "I'm not asking you to hide me at your house again. Don't worry. Besides, if Ric really is onto you....."

Just then, the elevator started moving again. "The hell?" Zander and Maxie both said simultaneously. The moment would have been funny if it wasn't so critical. "The cops," Zander realized. "They've figured out we're in here."

This was no time for maturity. "Oh my god," Maxie whimpered. "What are we gonna do?"

Zander seemed to think for a minute. "Play dumb," he instructed.

"What?"

He held his finger to his lips, and somehow managed to pull himself into a standing position on top of the handbar in the elevator. Maxie bit her lip as she watched his painful progress. Finally, he pushed the ceiling panel aside, and scampered on top of the elevator. Just as the panel slid back into place, the elevator stopped, and the doors began to open.

Maxie came face-to-face with Lucky, and was momentarily relieved that it wasn't Ric. "Maxie?" he said, sounding surprised. "What are you doing here?"

Maxie stared at him like he was an idiot. "I work here, Lucky. What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for Zander Smith." He squinted at her. Oh boy, she thought, here we go. "Have you seen him?"

"No, and I just told Ric Lansing the same thing," she snapped.

Lucky sighed. "It's just that this is the second time I've found you somewhere when I've been looking for him. It looks suspicious, Maxie."

Maxie blinked, noticing a trickle of blood that had dripped down the wall during Zander's escape. Not wanting Lucky to notice it, she quickly left the elevator behind. "Lucky, it's a hospital. I work here. I don't see why you're so surprised to see me. Ask your aunt Bobbie, she'll tell you. I really do work here, I swear." She knew she was getting snippy, but she couldn't help it. She hadn't exactly had the greatest day.

Lucky looked slightly hurt. "Maxie, I believe you. I do. I'm just saying, it's weird. I don't want you to get sucked in by Zander. He can be pretty charming when he wants to be, and he used to be a pretty decent guy." He shrugged. "I can just see how someone like you would be taken in by him, is all."

Maxie's nostrils flared. "Someone like me?"

Lucky gave her a look. "A nice girl, Maxie. That's what I meant."

She sighed. "Oh. Okay." They were quiet for a minute, and then he shook his head. "I need to get back to work. If you do hear from him -"

"I know. Tell you, or my dad."

"Or Ric."

She snorted. "Whatever."

Lucky couldn't help but crack a grin at that one. "The feeling's mutual," he whispered, giggling slightly before he took off again. Maxie took another deep breath. Safe again.

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chrysalitron

July 2009

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