Chapter 13


    The room was tidy now, but twenty minutes earlier it looked as though a hurricane had recently passed through. Toys, books, and electronic game cartridges had been scattered everywhere until the two women moved through the room, straightening up as they went along.

    "Thank you for helping out today," Keesha said, as she flopped onto the overstuffed sofa. "I don't think I would have had the energy to attend Andresj's birthday celebration if you hadn't."

    "Well, I knew that he probably wouldn't be able to come, so I thought I would take his place."

    "And I appreciate it, Laura. You know, I really should tell Andresj' how much I have come to count on his helping out at Ward House. The children love him."

    "He is such a quiet young man," Laura observed, "I wouldn't think that a house full of unruly kids would be to his liking."

    "That's what I thought, too, when I first met him. But after a few weeks here, he really opened up - to the kids and me." Keesha smiled at some private memory. "You wouldn't expect it, but Andresj' has a really warped sense of humor. The kids appreciate that."

    "Nikolas says that Stefan would never admit it, but he enjoys Andresj's sense of humor as much as anyone."

    "It is hard for me to imagine anyone trying to pull a practical joke on Stefan Cassadine," Keesha frowned, "let alone have him enjoy it."

    "Believe it. Nikolas told me about a trip he and Andresj' took to the mall . . .

    "I am sorry I kept you waiting."

    With a start, Diane followed the voice up the well-built torso to the handsome brown face. The man belonging to the voice she had overheard earlier stood before her. A slightly amused smile curved lips framed by a well-kept moustache and goatee.

    "Was I that obvious?" she asked.

    "Only to me," he replied. "Let's just say that my former line of work required that I be alert to certain things." He stuck out his hand. "I am Justus Ward, by the way."

    "Diane Jennings." She accepted the hand he offered and then indicated that he should join her. Justus complied, moving with the easy, well-oiled grace of an athlete. His dark suit was exquisitely tailored and emphasized his broad shoulders and trim waist. 'The man is,' Diane thought, 'a really nice package.'

    Forcing her thoughts back to their conversation, she hazarded a guess. "You must have been a law enforcement officer."

    "Not quite." He gave her an enigmatic smile. " I was lead counsel for a major organization."

    "Really? Which one?"

    "I'm sorry. The main condition of my leaving the organization was non-disclosure . . . So, what can I do for you, Miss Jennings?"

    "I need to speak to Stefan Cassadine."

    Justus' frowned. "That is simple enough. But it doesn't explain where I come in."

    "I wasn't eavesdropping, but I overheard the other gentleman say that you were involved with the Cassadine family. If that's true, then you can arrange a meeting for me with Stefan Cassadine." Diane corrected herself, "Well, actually, you would be arranging another meeting with Mr. Cassadine. The first one did not go too well."

    "Why don't you explain to me just why you want to meet with Stefan. Then I will tell you if it can be done or not." Justus noticed her hesitation at his request. "You'll have to trust me if you expect me to help."

    Diane stared several long moments at the stranger seated across from her. His gaze was unwavering. Instinctively she knew she could trust him with her secrets. And more.

    "Excuse the interruption, Father, but I thought you should see this." Nikolas handed Stefan the file he'd taken from Andresj' and awaited his reaction to its contents.

    After emptying the envelope, the head of the Cassadine family examined each item silently. There were several photographs, each different from the other. But they all shared a common theme - death. The graphic presentation of Piotr's and Ariana's murders was sickening. "Where did you get these?" Stefan asked as he passed the documents and photographs to Alexis.

    "Someone left them at the hospital for 'Dre."

    "How did they come into your possession?"

    "Dre just showed them to me a few moments ago." Nikolas hesitated, "He has had them a few days now."

    Without comment, Stefan turned and left the room.

    "Dre is already angry with me for showing this to Father. Now . . . "

    "You did the right thing, Nikolas," Alexis reassured him. "You'll see."

    "Let me get this straight. You just walked up to Stefan, told him a deceased woman had sent you, and then asked to meet his son?" Justus was incredulous. "And you expected him to agree?"

    "When you put it that way, it does sound a little ridiculous. But as I said, I was just-"

    "- Just trying to carry out your friend's wishes to contact Andresj'."

    "Yes. She trusted that I would do what she asked - no matter how much time had passed."

    Justus sat back and watched Diane as she spoke. From the moment he'd approached her table, her eyes never left his and she leaned forward as if willing him to believe her tale.

    "I wish Mr. Cassadine had given me enough time to really explain what I wanted, or to tell him just how I fit into this whole scenario."

    'Oh, I don't think you should worry about that,' Justus mused silently. 'If I know Stefan, he is probably having you watched.'

    "There you go again!" Diane exclaimed.

    Justus was confused by the outburst. "I beg your pardon?"

    "Earlier, when I asked about your job, you had this little smile on your face like you knew something I didn't. And just now you did it again."

    "Call it an inside joke, Miss Jennings."

    "Mr. Ward, I don't mean to be impolite. But I don't have time for riddles. I need to speak to Stefan Cassadine again. Better still, Andresj' himself. Will you help me? Because if you won't, then I will find someone who will."

    "My name is Justus, remember? And I won't make you any promises. I'll try to arrange another meeting with Stefan. But it will be up to him whether you speak to Andresj' or not. Where can I contact you?"

    "I made reservations at the Port Charles Lodge, but unfortunately I missed my check-in time. Hopefully, they will still have a room for me there."

    "That isn't necessary. I'll arrange a room for you here," Justus replied.

    Diane took a long look at the decor surrounding her. "I would guess that this hotel is a bit out of my budget."

    Justus laughed. "Don't worry about it. I'll make sure that you get a good discount." Seeing the look of confusion on Diane's face, he explained, "My family owns this place."

    Stefan strode into Andresj's suite of rooms determined to reprimand his son over his recent lapse of judgment. He found Andresj' standing shirtless before the window, his hands in the pockets of his slacks.

    "I thought there might have been a picture of my mother inside the envelope," Andresj' said without turning. "I just wanted to know what she looked like."

    His simple explanation tempered Stefan's anger. "I am sorry the only image you now have of your mother is from the crime scene photographs."

    "It serves me right, I guess, for not telling you I had them."

    "Andresj, it is understandable that you would wish to know your mother's face. I am sorry that I have not been able to provide such for you. At this moment, however," Stefan emphasized, "my concern with the file you received is that you understand the basis of the accusations it makes."

    "I've known the rumors about my parents' deaths since my first week at Swithern Academy. I overheard the Headmaster discussing it with one of the professors." Andresj's smile, reflected in the glass, was sad. "Neither man knew that I spoke Russian."

    "You should have told me then, my son."

    Andresj' shrugged and stared out of the window. "Grandmother knew. She came up to see me that evening and told me that the situation had been taken care of. The next day, it was announced that the Headmaster had resigned and left immediately for another position."

    Stefan closed the distance between them. "How did Helena know what had happened?" he asked.

    "At the time I assumed that one of the bodyguards had included it in his daily report. Now I realize that she must have had someone watching me."

    "Why have you withheld such information? You jeopardize the safety of yourself and others around you when you do." Stefan reached out and turned his son's face toward him. "I do not insist on bodyguards and security because of appearances. I do it because as a Cassadine you have inherited powerful enemies."

    Andresj' twisted his chin free of his father's gentle grasp. "I know all that, Father."

    "Yet, it was your brother who saw fit to inform me of the file's existence."

    "I knew that you would overreact. Just as you are doing now."

    As Stefan opened his mouth to respond, he was interrupted by the shrill ring of his cellular phone. "Our discussion is not over," he cautioned Andresj' and moved to the far side of the room.

    "Yes? . . . Indeed? . . . No. Continue with your original assignment."

    Having concluded his call, Stefan caught Andresj's attention. "We will continue this discussion- at length- tomorrow. But now there is something I must handle."

    "Diane, I can't guarantee anything." Justus searched her face as they stood before the door to her suite. "Stefan is very cautious where his family is concerned. If he doesn't want to meet with you, nothing I or anyone else can say will persuade him otherwise."

    "Justus," she placed her hand on his arm, "I have only known you a very short while, but I find it hard to believe that you would be unable to convince anyone of anything."

    "Thank you for the vote of confidence. But it going to take more than that to sway Stefan Cassadine."

    Diane took a deep breath. "Here," she said, coming to a quick decision, "a gesture of good faith. Give this to Mr. Cassadine."

    Justus accepted the letter she offered him. "A gesture of good faith toward me or Stefan?"


    Luke Spencer sat on the couch and waited with Laura for her ride to that evening's gala at Wyndemere. It felt strange, as though he was a visitor in his own home. True, he hadn't been living there for some time, but still . . .

    "Thank you for watching Lulu tonight," Laura said, interrupting his thoughts. "I'll only be gone a few hours."

    He shrugged. "You don't have to thank me. I love spending time with my baby girl."

    "And I knew she would enjoy spending this time with you." Luke carefully examined the unlit cigar in his hand. "Your asking me to watch Lulu tonight wouldn't have anything to do with trying to keep me out of little Cassadine's hair, would it?"

    "He's just a boy. Beside, your feud is with Stefan," Laura protested. "Andresj' deserves to have this night without any surprises."

    "Careful, Laura," Luke snorted, "your weakness for all things Cassadine is showing."

    "Not tonight, Luke. Please." Laura was saved from further argument by the arrival of Stefan's limousine. She grabbed her handbag and moved quickly to the door. "Thank you, Luke."

    "Yeah, whatever, babe." As the door closed behind her, he muttered, "Give my worst to the Count."

    "I'm going to kill him," Keesha muttered, looking at the tuxedo still hanging on the closet door. "He promised me he wouldn't be late." She picked up the phone and dialed his pager. "If he tells me that he is in a meeting with Edward, I will never speak to him again."

    Heels tapping angrily against the hardwood floor, Keesha strode to the full length mirror in Justus' bedroom and took another look at her appearance. She looked good. There was no ego involved in her evaluation, just fact. Her dress fit like second skin. Not tight enough to be in bad taste, but form-fitting enough to show off the body she worked so hard to keep fit. And it was deep blue, Andresj's favorite color.

    Keesha knew that the younger man had a crush on her. She was flattered, but that was all. Still, it was his birthday . . .

    Justus leaned against his black BMW 740 and waited. Absently he rubbed a smudge of dirt from the car's smooth finish. It was the one true luxury he had allowed himself. Edward had offered to buy it as a gift for him, but he'd refused, choosing to pay for it with money he'd earned honestly.

    Looking up, he could see the launch from Spoon Island grow closer with each passing minute. Just then, his pager went off, startling him with its vibrations. Upon seeing his own phone number in the small display, Justus knew he was in trouble.

    "Little Bit," he began as soon as she answered the phone, "I - "

    "Don't 'Little Bit' me, Justus! Where are you?"

    "Calm down and I'll explain. Something came up and I need to take care of it."

    The silence his statement met was deafening. Justus hurried to explain. "I am meeting with Stefan about tonight."

    "Is something wrong?" Keesha asked worriedly.

    "No. And that's what I need to convince Stefan. Look, it is a long story, but as soon as I've done my part, I am on my way. I promise."

    "You can explain when you get here," Keesha stated bluntly, and hung up.

    Justus breathed a sigh of relief. 'Just in time,' he thought, as the launch docked. He walked toward Stefan, meeting the other man halfway.


    "Justus." Stefan did not pretend he was surprised to see him. He'd had the man investigated the moment he was declared Edward Quartermaine's grandson. It was such a detailed dossier that Stefan knew Justus' thoughts as well as he knew his own. Over time, Alexis had developed a bond of trust with the man; and so, grudgingly, had Stefan. He would hear him out.

    "Miss Jennings told me she met with you. She also told me that the meeting didn't go well," Justus explained. "Stefan, I have spoken to this woman. I've heard her story, and I believe that she is legitimate. All she wants is another chance to speak to you."

    "What is your part in this Justus?"

    "She sought me out."

    Stefan did not react to his statement. He knew from the detective's report that Justus had approached the woman first.

    "Technically," Justus clarified, "I could see that see was listening to my conversation with Edward. And she kept trying to get a look at us without being obvious." He didn't have to explain to Stefan how he knew those things. "As soon as Edward left, I went and asked her what she wanted."

    "What did she want?" Stefan asked, strangely relieved to find that Justus had not lied to him.

    "Like I said, she just wants to talk to you - about Andresj' and his mother." Reaching into his pocket, Justus offered Stefan the letter Diane had entrusted to him. "Here. It is a gesture of good faith from Miss Jennings."

    After a moment's consideration, Stefan accepted the long white envelope. "I make no promises."

    "She knows that. But if you do decide to see her, you can let me know sometime tonight." With a nod to Stefan, Justus walked back to his car and left.

    As the sound of the car's engine grew faint, Stefan looked down at the envelope within his hand. It was addressed simply, Stefan . Sliding a well-manicured finger under the envelope's flap, he opened the letter and began to read . . .

    Dearest Stefan, Writing this letter is the second most difficult thing I have done in my life. The first is not telling you that we share a son .

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*