The phone had barely begun to ring when it was answered by a harried voice.
"Stefan!" she interrupted, "what's going on?" Alexis moved away from the staff to an empty corner. "Where are you?"
"The Port Charles Hotel. I have been detained by a matter which requires my attention."
Alexis lowered her voice. "Is it about the woman you met?"
"Yes, but I cannot go into details now. You must handle things at Wyndemere until I arrive."
"Of course. But quite a few of the guests have already asked for you. How am I supposed to explain your absence?"
"You need only explain to Nikolas and Andresj'. Tell them that I have been detained by a security matter, but all is well."
"Is it really, Stefan?"
"Yes. In fact, tonight's celebration may take on a whole new meaning," he answered cryptically.
Luke left his young daughter playing with her cousin Lucas and went in search of his sister. They had always been close, adopting an ‘Us against The World' mentality in order to survive their youth. The bond they shared had been stretched to the breaking point many times over the years. Most often by Luke, who tended to act first and then rationalize his actions into truth.
"Barbara Jean," he greeted her with open arms, "how is my favorite baby sister?"
She stopped him with a curt gesture. "What do you want, Luke?"
"You see, it's like this. I was all set for an evening of quality time with the Princess Lesley Lu when an emergency came up. So I was hoping you would be able to fill in for me."
"Of course. Tell me what the emergency is and I will handle it for you."
"Barbara Jean, don't give me a hard time tonight. Please?"
"Certainly not, big brother," Bobbie answered sarcastically. "Why should I hassle you about disrupting a seventeen year old boy's birthday party?"
"Well, of course if you put it like that, it sounds . . . dirty." Luke tried to coax a smile from his long-suffering younger sister. "Okay, look. I just want to be on hand in case something goes down at Spook Island tonight. You and Laura may trust Stiffen, but I don't."
"Luke, do you promise you won't make a scene?"
"Darlin', I won't even let ‘em know I'm there."
Wyndemere was alive with activity. Keesha, who'd entered the estate with two other guests, was directed immediately to another section of the immense dwelling. Uncertain of her destination she followed the sound of voices speaking fluent Russian to Stefan's study. There, conversing, was a circle of men with Andresj' as its center. Keesha stood at the door, marveling at how comfortable he seemed among men several times his age. Handsome and self-assured, Andresj' reminded her at that moment of his father.
Clearing her throat, she stepped into the room. At her entrance, the men ceased their conversation and stared curiously. Raising her chin, she strode toward them.
Andresj' gestured and the circle parted, allowing her access.
"Happy birthday, Andresj'," Keesha said softly.
Andresj' drank in the sight of Keesha standing before him. From head to toe she was, no doubt, the most perfect thing he had ever seen. And the fact that she wore blue was not lost on him. Unmoving, Andresj' stared at her, admiration and appreciation evident on his face.
"Five languages at my disposal, yet none seems adequate to describe your beauty." Bowing slightly, he reached for her hand and raised it to his lips. "I am honored that you have chosen to attend my celebration."
Keesha felt herself melt at his charming display. The courtly behavior and formal speech was very attractive. She understood all at once the allure that heroes of romance novels held for the women who read them.
Her exchange with Andresj' did not go unnoticed by the men assembled. Their intense interest reminded her just who she was in public conversation with. Get a hold of yourself, girl . . . No matter how charming and mature he seems, he's only seventeen!
"May I escort you to the ballroom?" Andresj' asked, extending his arm.
"What about your meeting?"
"There is no business for me tonight. Only pleasure."
As days went, it was pretty quiet. All the building's regulars had gone about their daily routines without event. Michael Corinthos' head of security reflected on a question he'd pondered quite a bit lately. Would he find his job more fulfilling if the area occasionally came alive with conflict?
The nose of a stretch limo popped into view on his monitor, momentarily startling him. He wasn't the jumpy type. But at that moment, it was as if the fates had decided to pull a gag on him and answer his unspoken question at the same time.
Slowly the limo pulled further into view. It stopped, and the front window began to lower. The driver turned unerringly toward one of the hidden cameras, allowing the security chief an unobstructed view of his face. A three-second pause and the limo moved on.
"Heads up, Francis." He spoke into a mike. "The Cassadine limo is on its way. Probably the old man," he added. That done, the security chief made a note to find out just how the driver knew where the cameras were hidden.
In spite of his misgivings, the three local men he'd hired had performed with the efficiency of a well-coordinated surgical team. They moved through the small house, leaving no area unscathed. As a professional used to precision and perfection, he had enjoyed watching the three men execute their craft. Nearly two hours later, though, they stood before him empty-handed.
"Are you sure there's nothing here?" he asked unnecessarily. The stare they gave was his answer. He would have to call her.
His fingers seemed strangely reluctant to cooperate. He dreaded making the call. Relaying that their search had proven fruitless was not something he relished doing. No doubt she would fly into a scathing diatribe that he would have to sit and endure.
'How did I end up here?' he wondered as the phone rang. 'I used to own the world. Now I take orders from an egotistical bi-.'
"This had better be good news," the woman's voice grated through the phone.
"I'm afraid not. The men took the house apart. There is nothing here."
"There has to be. I know I shouldn't have trusted you with this."
"Look," he insisted, "these men are professionals. If they say there's nothing here, then there is nothing here."
"You had better pray they are right. ‘Cause if you mess this up for me, you will regret ever knowing me!"
Justus stepped out of the elevator into the well-lit parking garage. As he strode toward his car, the driver of an idling limousine got out and began walking toward him. For one split second Justus' thoughts went to his former employers, or more specifically, their rivals. His relief at recognizing Ivan, Stefan's driver, was overshadowed by the realization that he would never be completely free of his life as a mob lawyer. He would forever carry some degree of baggage from that life- caution, distrust, fear.
"Everything okay, Justus?' came Francis' quiet voice from behind.
"Everything's fine, Francis. Thanks."
Justus returned his attention to Ivan, who stood waiting.
"Mr. Cassadine wishes a moment of your time. This way, please."
Francis watched Justus enter the limo. It was more than simple courtesy that had motivated him to check out the situation. Sonny's men were under standing orders to look out for the organization's former attorney - without his knowledge. True, Justus had left the business because of a beef with Jason. But no one could deny the enormous support that same Justus had provided Jason during the tragic incident with Michael. For that alone he would always be under the organization's protection.
Luke carefully broke the water's surface and slowly surveyed the area. All he saw was an unbroken expanse of jagged stones. ‘Where there's a will, there's a Spencer,' he thought smugly, and began to climb the small rocky overhang. Carefully he climbed, his concentration centered on finding another rock to grip as well as testing each foothold for stability before shifting his weight. Near the top he reached blindly overhead for an anchor to pull himself up and onto the little jut of land. Strong hands grabbed his and rapidly pulled him up. Luke found himself face-to-face with two very large, unsmiling men.
"Good evening, fellas. I don't suppose you would believe that I'm lost, would you?"
The two guards silently held their positions, leaving Luke very little stable ground on which to stand. One guard placed a hand over his ear, straining to hear through the tiny audio device there.
"Since we're standing around waiting for someone in this outfit to have an original thought," Luke said, looking from one guard to the other, "I've got a joke for you. Do you know why Stefan the Vampire put plastic caps on his teeth? He wanted to practice safe sucks! Safe sucks! . . . Get it?"
The guards looked at Luke, and then turned to one another and smiled. The next moment Luke found himself flying through the air, only to land with a splash in the water surrounding Spoon Island.
"It was a good joke," the first guard conceded as they returned to their posts.
"Yes, but his delivery sucked . . . Get it?"
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*