Voices lulled to mumbles. The uniformed officers became nothing more than blurred images in blue. The entire scene seemed surreal to Stefan. His family had just been reunited. How could something like this happen to his dear Sabrina?
"Mr. Cassadine," Tommy said as Stefan planted his foot on the bottom step of her staircase. "You shouldn't go up there."
Stefan sensed the younger man's agitation the moment he arrived at Sabrina's condominium. He knew that Thomas cared for his younger sister. Their relationship was in its infancy stage, and despite Sabrina's often cavalier attitude toward matters of the heart, Stefan knew she felt something deeper for Hardy.
Stefan glanced up the staircase and back at Tommy. He saw the younger man's face pale and his mouth tightened. Stefan knew he had no choice but to see what desolation lay in wait for him upstairs.
The downstairs living area, in complete disarray, should have been his warning that the second floor would be a horrid sight to behold. Seeing her bedroom tossed as if everything was worthless saddened Stefan's soul. Then, he wandered to the other side of her bed. The thick carpet squished beneath his footsteps. Pools of blood darkened the previously white carpeting.
He shoved his fist into his mouth to keep from crying out. Tears flowed down his cheeks unchecked. He stepped back and stumbled over a fallen bookcase. He came close to losing his footing, but he quickly righted himself. Weakened by his lack of knowledge and fearing for his sister's life, Stefan wept.
Hands gripped his elbows. Unrecognizable people guided him from Sabrina's bedroom to a secluded spot in her kitchen. Someone handed him a shot of whiskey. He drank it all in one swallow before hurling the glass at a far wall. When he could at last focus on his benefactor, he saw the faces of Hardy and Commissioner Alejandro Garcia staring back at him.
"You must find her!"
"We know that," Alex said. "We will."
"Sabrina and I were supposed to have dinner last night. I had an emergency and couldn't make it. I tried to call her later, but she never answered the telephone," Tommy said, his voice shaky. "Do you know where she was last night?"
Stefan sadly shook his head. "I spoke to her earlier in the day. She mentioned her plans with you… What happened here? Who could have done this?"
"There was a struggle," Alex said. "She put up a good fight—"
"She's not dead," Stefan declared.
"I don't believe she is," Alex replied. "The lab has informed me the blood we found upstairs isn't hers. It's a mixture of cow and pig blood. So far, we haven't found anything that would suggest she's no longer alive."
"The blood from cows and pigs?" Stefan questioned, rising to his feet. "What does that mean?"
"We were hoping you'd know," Alex said. "Your family has its share of enemies. Most of the people in Port Charles are unaware of your familial ties. Is that true for your European circles?"
Stefan shook his head. "Are you suggesting this was an attack against her because she's a Cassadine?"
"Given the circumstances, I don't believe this was a random act of violence," Alex said. "As soon as possible, I'd like for you to supply us with a list of your business associates and acquaintances. The more we know, the sooner we'll be able to act."
Stefan ran his hand over his face and nodded. He stood and looked at both men. "I'll have that list for you within the hour."
"Now, this is a pleasant surprise," Laura said as her secretary showed Justus into her office. She crossed the room and gave him a warm hug. "How are you?"
He shrugged. "I have no complaints. And yourself?"
She gestured for him to sit on her leather sofa and poured two cups of coffee for them. When she was done, she sat beside him. "Life isn't so bad. Deception is a dream. I never thought that running a company could be so much fun. I bet Mary Mae is looking down at me and shaking her head."
Justus smiled. "She's probably laughing. Have you been able to find a new Face of Deception?"
"Are you applying?" She laughed as he vehemently shook his head. "I've decided to allow Gia to have the job until her contract is up. She called and I felt sorry for her."
"Is she still with Nick Cassidy?"
"I didn't ask," Laura replied. "I'd rather not think about him and how easily I was fooled. It's a wonder that Nikolas will have anything to do with me at all in light of that."
"Speaking of Nikolas, how was last night's dinner? I bet it was better than the Smackdown I went to last night."
She released a wry chuckle. "It was worse than my worst nightmare. Luke showed up. Lucky blew up. I insulted Nikolas' fiancée, and she and Nikolas stormed out. I stuck my foot in my mouth so deep that I'm sure I'll be tasting shoe leather until the next millenium."
Justus patted her back. "I'm sure it wasn't that bad. Lucky will blow off his steam and come back. The same is true for Nikolas and his girlfriend."
"If you're not right about this, you're gonna be in big trouble." She took a sip of coffee and regarded him over the rim of her cup. A warm glow radiated from him. His smile was brighter than usual and he just seemed really happy. It pleased her to see her good friend in such a good mood! She was dying to know the cause. "Tell me about your love life."
"Wh-what?!" He sputtered and nearly choked. "Where did that come from?"
"You're unusually chipper today, Justus Ward," she informed him. "I can't imagine that working as Stefan's counsel can be that invigorating. It can only be a woman…unless there's something you haven't told me."
"Ha, ha," he said. "Very funny. I had fun last night with a friend. That's about it."
Laura's eyebrow arched. "Must have been some friend."
"Cut that out!" he said, an embarrassing grin spreading across his lips. "That's all she is. I'm lucky she agreed to go with me last night considering your daughter turned me down. I was beginning to think I was chopped liver in this town."
"You'll never be that," she said softly.
Tall, dark, handsome and intelligent. Justus Ward was one helluva catch. Laura wasn't immune to his charismatic personality. It's just that their friendship put things on a different level for them. If he had any idea how dazzling she thought his smile was, he'd probably die of embarrassment. When it was all said and done, she was happy he found someone to pique his interest. Maybe if she was lucky, the same would happen for her.
After he and Dawn parted ways that morning, Nikolas went to the cottage and had a nice, long visit with Sheba. He and the horse rode for hours through the woods. Nikolas lost all track of time until his stomach started to rumble. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was well past lunchtime. He tugged on the reins and guided the horse back to the stables.
Ignoring his grumbling stomach, Nikolas brushed Sheba's coat and fed the horse. A car's engine died, a car door slammed and seconds later, a silhouette filled the stable's doorway.
"Nikolas? Are you in there?"
Nikolas recognized his younger brother's voice and smiled. "Back here, Andrèsj!"
"What are you doing?"
Nikolas rolled his eyes. "What does it look like?"
"There is no need for the attitude," Andrèsj scolded.
Nikolas laughed. "Where did you learn that terminology?"
"Your fiancée willing obliged." Andrèsj sauntered toward Nikolas. "Where is she?"
His happiness faded. "She's with Frisco Jones, learning what it is required to be a WSB agent."
"You sound thrilled."
"Is there a purpose to your visit?" Nikolas knew the comment was snide, but he didn't care. Dawn's chosen profession seemed exciting at first thought, but it wasn't. Danger and doom lurked around every corner. He would never know a moment's peace for worrying about her.
"Yes, there is," Andrèsj answered. "Have you eaten?"
"Not yet." He finished rubbing Sheba down and went to his brother. "Weren't you and Lesley Lu having lunch together?"
"We were scheduled for a lunchtime engagement. I suppose she changed her mind."
"You suppose?" Nikolas prompted. "Don't you know?"
"She failed to appear. I left a message for her and she hasn't returned my call. Perhaps, her father changed her mind."
Disappointment hung over Andrèsj. Nikolas felt sorry for his younger sibling. He knew how much he was looking forward to spending time with Lesley Lu. Wrapping his arm around Andrèsj, he said, "I'll find out what happened. I'm sure Luke had nothing to do with it. I'm not much for eating out today. Let's just grab something inside."
"You mean cook?" Andrèsj frowned. "The two of us?"
"Sure. I learned how during my time away. Dawn loves my French fries."
"She's besotted with you. She wouldn't find fault with anything you prepared," Andrèsj said as Nikolas laughed. "I will be the judge of your fries. If they are up to muster, I will let you know."
"Very well then, little brother. I anticipate your critique."