"How's he holding up?" Gina's concern was strong and sincere as her voice traveled around the globe.
Tommy could almost see the frown as it creased her brow and the firm set of her jaw as she waited for his response. He moved away from the desk and its pile of mail that consisted of false leads and sadistic suggestions. Holding the cordless telephone to his ear, he moved to stand in the doorway that led to the East Wing's second floor balcony of the Cassadine compound. Outside, stood the object of their conversation. Nikolas' back was to him and he stared sightlessly towards the setting the sun. Another day was nearly done and still there was nothing that could lead them to Dawn. Tommy could feel his friend's heartbreak and his heart went out to Nikolas. After several weeks with empty leads, all of their hearts had begun to break. The pain was evident in Tommy's deep voice as he spoke to Gina. "Barely, Gina. He's trying, but it's not easy."
"How about you?" she asked softly. "I can come over. I want to."
"I know you do, but I'd rather you stayed in Port Charles…not that I'm telling you what to do, of course," he added with a smile.
She smiled in return. "Of course, you'd never do that. But you didn't answer my question, Thomas Hardy, Jr. How are you doing?"
"I'm here, sweetheart," Tommy told her. "It's not easy, you know. Everybody's hurting, and it reminds me of New York."
"But you and Sonny got there in time. Simone is okay now."
"Yeah, she is, but… Well, I can still feel the fear of not knowing if she would be okay and if we would make it in time. We had the advantage of knowing that she was with that asshole, but we don't know who has Dawn. We think it may be Helena, but what if it's not? And, coupled with Lucky's disappearance… None of it makes any sense. Nikolas has lost his wife, child and brother… I try to be here for him, but I don't think I'm helping any…"
His voice broke and he swallowed hard to recover it. Afraid that Nikolas would hear him, he moved away from the doorway and went back inside. He offered Stefan's close friend, Spiros, a faint smile as the older man entered the room. Spiros went to the corner desk and began his ritual of going through the mail and sorting the possible from the impossible. Tommy watched him without really seeing him.
"I think you are helping him, but don't push yourself so much," Gina was softly saying. "Hon, are you sure that you want me to stay here. Gail says that I can take some time off."
"What about Mrs. Spencer? I thought you were helping her."
"The entire town has shut down to help her-"
"Gina," he said gently, "come on, now."
"I'm sorry, but this is so frustrating. I'm glad that you all are in Greece and aren't here for this. I swear you'd think a world leader had disappeared or something from the way some people are acting around here. When word came out that Lucky was missing, everyone harped on him and nearly forgot about Dawn…all because of a last name. She's just as important as he is!"
"Is it really that bad or are you exaggerating?" he asked, running a weary hand over his face. He released a deep sigh and sank down onto the plush deep green sofa. In the background, Spiros' steady pecking on the computer's keyboard drowned out the cry of the sea gulls as they flew off towards the sunset. He turned his attention back towards his beloved. "Are you telling me that they're not even mentioning Dawn in the papers and on the news?"
Gina sighed. "The national coverage has been pretty good, but I'm sure you must know that. Peter Jennings mentioned it again last night. But the local coverage has shifted a little. Some of the papers have tried to tie their disappearances together…maybe hinting that Dawn and Lucky ran off together-"
"What?!" Tommy sat straight up.
Tommy's voice was loud and it carried to Nikolas outside. Nikolas left the balcony and went to Tommy. "What is it?" he asked.
"How can they do that?!" Tommy asked. Nikolas grabbed his shoulder and forced him to look at him. Tommy nodded and said, "I'll tell you in a minute."
"Who was that?" Gina asked. "Was that Nikolas? Are you gonna tell him that the people in Port Charles think that his wife and his brother ran off together? Baby, I'm not sure if that's such a good idea."
"Well, maybe not if it were true, but it's not," Tommy said, becoming agitated. "He has a right to know. I can't believe this crap. So, that's what they're focusing on? No wonder we haven't heard anything new."
"What's going on, Tommy?" Nikolas demanded to know. "Is that Gina? Who's focusing on what? Talk to me!"
"Look, Gina, I have to go. I'll talk to you later. I love you."
Gina repeated the sentiment and they promised to talk again soon. After placing the receiver on the coffee table, Tommy turned to his friend. "She was telling me about the media coverage in Port Charles."
"Yeah," Nikolas said, his brown eyes darkening as he anticipated the worst. "What are they saying? Are they bringing up Mikkos and the weather machine?"
Tommy shook his head. "No, the papers are saying that maybe Dawn and Lucky ran off together-"
"What?!" Nikolas shrieked. "That's stupid! My wife is missing and the best they can do is trash her name??!" He grabbed the telephone from the table. "Which paper is it?"
"What are you gonna do?"
"Bankrupt them," Nikolas replied in a clipped voice.
Tommy rolled his eyes and expelled a loud breath. He took the phone from Nikolas and held him back with a firm hand to his chest.
"Give it back to me!"
"NO!" Tommy yelled. He sensed rather than saw Spiros' jump at their raised voices. He called over his shoulder. "Spiros, would you please leave us alone?"
"In just one moment," he replied in his heavily Greek-accented voice.
"NOW!" Nikolas bellowed. His glare moved from Tommy to rest on Spiros. "Whatever you're doing can be done later. Leave us now!"
Spiros followed Nikolas' bidding and quickly left the two young men alone.
After the door closed shut behind Spiros, Nikolas eyes went back to Tommy. He held out his hand and through gritted teeth, he said, "Give me the phone, Tommy. I will not allow them to speak of my wife this way!"
"I don't like it either, but-"
"She's not your wife!"
"No, she's my friend! I love her, too, Nikolas! I'm worried about her and about Lucky, too, and I hate that the media is trying to twist this into crap! But I'm not giving you the phone back, and I'm not gonna sit back and watch you raise the unemployment rate!" Tommy fired back. He slammed the receiver down on the table, breaking it in one hit. He flung the trashed phone to the floor and looked at Nikolas. "Now, what?"
Inwardly, Nikolas seethed. The muscles in his jaw worked furiously as he resisted the urge to strike out at his closest friend. He clenched and unclenched his fist, willing himself to regain control. "We have other phones."
"Yeah, and I'll break those, too, if I have to!" Tommy said, his green eyes blazing. "Listen, man, this is dumb! We're fighting over some asinine reporters in Port Charles who-"
"Who are accusing my wife of being a whore, Tommy!" Nikolas shuddered as he drew a long breath. "Dawn is pregnant with our first child. She's probably scared and worried sick, and the best those vultures can do is accuse of her infidelity. I-I… I finally have a brother and they're trying to take him away from me, too. I want them to pay. Somebody has to!"
"I'm with you there, but bankrupting a newspaper?" Tommy asked softly. He placed a hand on Nikolas' shoulder. "The paper didn't abduct Dawn or Lucky-"
"Are you sure? Sometimes, I think they'd do anything to get a story," Nikolas said. His rage had lessened and his breath was slow and even. He covered Tommy's hand with his own and squeezed it. "Thanks, man."
"No problem," he said quietly. He pulled Nikolas into a hug. He felt his friend tremble and he patted Nikolas' back. "It's okay to be angry."
Nikolas pulled away from the hug. He patted Tommy's back as he moved away from him. He moved slowly around the room as he collected his thoughts. "It's not that. I'm furious, but it doesn't compare to the fear. When we first came here, I knew that we'd find her. Helena would be exposed and Dawn would be returned safe and sound. It's been weeks, Tommy, and nothing. Sightings of Helena have kept us here, but why? She hasn't gloated over her capture, and that's not like her. I'm beginning to wonder if Helena has her or if it was some sick psycho…"
Tommy picked up the broken telephone and gathered its various pieces. He followed Nikolas and as he passed a wastebasket, he dropped the telephone into it. "But, who, Nikolas? A fan or something? Would a fan have the resources to just make her disappear like that? And, what about Lucky? I think… Oh, never mind."
Nikolas paused at Spiros' workstation and gave Tommy a hard stare. "What do you think? Listen, Tommy, if you know where my wife is, I demand that you tell me now."
Tommy laughed softly at Nikolas' faint attempt at levity. Neither of them found the disappearances amusing, but after the earlier disagreement, they welcomed the change in atmosphere. Tommy moved closer to Nikolas and absently began to sift through Spiros' papers. "I think that their disappearance isn't a coincidence. Not that I'm saying they ran off together, but something is strange about it. What do you think?"
Nikolas pulled out the black office chair and sat down. His fingers tapped a light beat along the edge of the keyboard. "I've thought about that, and I think you may be right. I know that Lucky wouldn't just run away and that's what it was made to look like and for him to vanish the same night of Dawn is just a little out there. Everything I know and believe is telling me that Helena is behind this, but for her not to give us a little clue or hint that she is is the one behind it… Aside from her many lovers, my grandmother's greatest pleasure is hurting my father."
Tommy frowned. His hands stacked the papers into a neat pile as his mind considered Nikolas' words. "He thinks she has Dawn, right? Has he told you why he thinks that? It can't be just to get back at him because if it is, man, your grandma really is crazy."
"Grandma?" Nikolas repeated, raising an eyebrow. He laughed softly as he turned towards the computer screen. "She would die if I called her that." He slowly sobered as he looked at the monitor. The program that Spiros had been in hadn't closed all the way and an error message read on the screen. Nikolas double-clicked on the icon and the program came back on. His eyes narrowed as a dialogue box from an Instant Message conversation reappeared. "He believes that Helena is punishing him for letting the truth come out about me," Nikolas replied in a soft, distant voice. He rolled his chair to the side. "Tommy, would you look at this?"
"What's up?" Tommy asked, moving to stand beside him. He squinted as he looked at the screen. "It's an IM, but I can't understand it. Is that French?"
"Yeah," Nikolas replied. He scrolled up to the top of the message. His mouth moved as he read the dialogue.
"What are they talking about? Do you recognize the user names?"
"I'm not too sure about the user names," Nikolas murmured as he continued to read through the conversation. "Their conversation isn't make much sense. This one," he said, pointing at the screen, "Shalimar, is talking about a package that's waiting to be delivered."
"The other one, Hugo002, is saying that the package will arrive earlier than expected and that the cows on the farm should be ready for it."
Nikolas frowned. "I told you it didn't make any sense. I guess Valeria's granddaughter was playing around again. Father told her that she couldn't come in here." Nikolas moved to close out the program.
"Wait!" Tommy stopped him. "She hasn't been in here in days. The only person who uses that computer is Spiros."
"Are you sure?" Nikolas questioned.
"Yeah," Tommy nodded. "He's on it a lot, too. He was using it before, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," Nikolas said softly. "I was so mad that I didn't really notice him." Nikolas turned back to the screen and the dialogue box. He maximized the screen and reread the messages. "I don't get this. He doesn't have a farm or cows."
"What if it's a code or something?"
"That could be it, and you're right. He's always sitting over here pecking away." Nikolas clicked on the print icon and stood as he waited for the document to come out.
"Do you think it has something to do with Dawn?" Tommy asked, watching as Nikolas folded the single sheet and placed it inside the front pocket of his jeans.
"Maybe." Nikolas closed the dialogue box and it disappeared from the screen. "It was his surveillance that brought us here, but since then, his leads have been few and far between."
"And, every time we suggest going back to the States, he gets something new in that says that Helena is around her somewhere…"
"…Or that a young pregnant African-American woman has been spotted…" Nikolas added. His voice was soft, but an edge clung to it, just below the surface.
Tommy's eyes narrowed. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Nikolas jaw clenched and he nodded. "I think it's time for a little talk with Spiros."
"Shouldn't we tell your dad first?"
Nikolas shook his head. "I can handle Spiros."
"Correction," Tommy said, placing a strong hand on Nikolas' shoulder. "We can handle Spiros."
"Let's get to it then."
"Where did you learn how to do that?" Dara's eyes were wide as she watched Carrie jimmy the lock of the old, dusty chest. "Mama!"
Carrie smiled at her daughter as she raised the lid of the chest. Dust flew and the two women fanned it away. As they began to dig through the clothing and books, Carrie answered, "Your Uncle Chris kept his girlie mags in a chest underneath his bed. I'd open the lock and then blackmail him later."
"Why you little grifter!" Dara grinned at her mother in humor and admiration.
"Now, what a minute. I'm no Angelica Huston or Annette Benning, but I did okay. You should have seen how fast he'd fork over the bills." Carrie smiled as she remembered her adolescence. "Later, he found another hiding place for his bunnies and then he locked me in the closet for payback. Then my little talent really came in handy."
"I never knew," Dara said softly.
Carrie shrugged. "I would have mentioned it, but it didn't cross my mind." Carrie smiled at Dara and gave her shoulder a warm squeeze. "I have more stories and I'll tell you a few of them as we go through the witch's caldron."
Dara shook her head. "That's your man's mother you're talking about."
Carrie turned up her nose and sadly shook her head. "I know."
Dara laughed out loud. "Mama! You're being bad."
Carrie smiled again. Her eyes, hands and mind devoured the chest's contents as she told Dara more about her childhood. Together, they went through the contents of the chest. Both were disappointed when they came up empty handed. For the past week, they'd searched through Helena's belongings, confident that they would find something that would give them insight about her and where she could have taken Dawn and maybe Lucky, too. The chest was the last item on their list and their disappointment shone in their brown eyes as they stared into the empty space.
"Well, it was a good idea," Dara mumbled.
"Not to mention a good way for us to leave our men alone to do their thing," Carrie murmured.
"Do you think they encouraged us so that they wouldn’t have to deal with us?" Brown eyes darkened as Dara wondered if Alex had feigned support of her and Carrie's idea just to get rid of her and her mother.
"Maybe," Carrie said. She placed her hands on thighs and moved to an upright position. She folded her arms across her chest as she looked at the chest from a different perspective. "Sweet Potato, stand up and look at this thing. Does it look a little off to you?"
Dara rose from her kneeling position on the floor, and with her hands planted firmly on her hips, she walked around the chest. She looked at from all angles and said, "Yeah. It should have been deeper than what it was."
"You said it!"
Mother and daughter knelt on the floor again. Dara pulled out a pocketknife that Alex had given her as extra protection in the Cassadine compound. She ripped the seam and a sound of awe escaped her as another compartment was revealed underneath the "bottom" of the chest. "Mama, look."
Carrie was one step ahead of her. She reached inside the secret compartment and pulled out a small, black box. The box was locked and she pulled out her trusty hairpin to unlock it. She struggled for a few moments until a few soft clicks signaled that her work had been a success. She raised the small lid and found old letters and a worn diary. She handed the letters to Dara and she moved into a sitting position as she opened the diary.
The women read the contents in silence. Their eyes moved quickly over the large, handwritten words. Their eyes grew large as page by page, the mystery that had surrounded Helena Cassadine vanished and the woman was revealed to them.
"I'm reading them out of order. Damn!" Dara muttered.
"What?" Carrie asked.
"Sorry," Dara said. "I just read one from 1956, but this one is dated 1951. I've been reading them out of order. When does the diary start?"
"In 1950. She started it on her sixteenth birthday," Carrie said, her voice distant as her hungry eyes scanned the old, faded pages.
"Anything good?" Dara asked, peering over her mother's shoulder.
"It's okay…typical teenage stuff, I guess. She's talking about make-up, clothes and actors. Who was glamorous and who wasn't. What about you?"
"I'm not sure what's going on. I'm almost done putting it in date order and I'll let you know."
Silence entered the room again, as the women became engrossed in Helena's life. Carrie glanced up from the diary and said, "She met a guy at her birthday party."
"Nope," Carrie chirped. "Some other fella, and she likes him a lot. Mm…" Carrie flipped the page and she laughed. "Looks like the teeny bopper was into experimentation."
"Say what?!" Dara squealed, dropping her letters. She reached for the diary. "Mama, let me see."
"No way," Carrie shook her head and moved the book out of Dara's reach. "This is too much even for you. Oh, my word! She really likes him. She keeps going on and on about him. Looks like he turned Helena out."
"Mama!" Dara reached for the diary again. "You've gotta let me see that!"
"Uh uh." Carrie flipped another page. "Check out the letters and see if you find anything from someone with the initials, 'A. B.' He was an American soldier, and she mentions an accent. She said that it reminded her of Gone With the Wind."
Dara scanned the envelopes and letters. She smiled when her search proved successful. "Here's one from an A. Buchanan. It's postmarked in Paris and the date is kinda hard to read. I think it's from 1951."
"Uh oh. Pops just found out about her secret rendezvous. Little Miss Hot-to-Trot has been placed under house arrest." Carrie snickered as she leafed through more pages. "Mm…this is interesting. She's been given a reprieve. She and her family are attending a gala…at the Cassadines. Her father is very excited about it and she's very excited, too."
"Boy, she got over A. Buchanan pretty fast-"
"Nope. Wrong, babe. The party's in Paris and she's planning to sneak out to meet her soldier."
"I guess Mikkos swept her off her feet, huh?" Dara asked. She placed her stack of letter aside as she listened to her mother paraphrase from the diary.
"Not exactly," Carrie murmured. "She doesn't write for several months after the party, and the first line reads, 'I hate Mikkos.' Too bad, too, because she's getting married to him."
"I don't understand. I thought she was gaga over A. What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Carrie said, shrugging. "She went from being giddy about Paris to grumbling about her upcoming wedding. Read that letter from 1951. Let's find out what happened. Maybe Capt. America got a clue and dumped her crazy ass."
"Mama!" Dara laughed as she reached for the envelope. She pulled the letter out and began to read. While she skimmed down the page, another folded sheet of paper fell from the letter. She told her mother what the first letter had said. "He's begging her to give him another chance. He said that Olympia didn't mean anything to him and that as soon as he could, he'd divorce her and come back to Helena. He told her that he meant to tell her, but he was afraid that she wouldn't understand. He said that he loves her and wants to be with her. He can't live his life without her. He signed it, 'Asa.'"
"Asa Buchanan?" Carrie asked softly. "That sounds familiar… I can't place him. Oh well. What does the other letter say?"
"It's from Helena to Asa. I'll read it to you."
You will never see this letter, as I must be extra careful
in these times. I wish I could tell you that I forgive you
and that I still love… But Father has become such a
tyrant. He and Mikkos are close, and whether I wish it
or not, I am to be Mikkos' wife.
I suppose it is just as well, for although I carry your child,
Father would never allow me to be with you. He would
see me to my death before he allowed me to share my
life with you. Please forgive me, dearest, but I had no
other choice than to betray our love. I feared and in my
fear, I allowed Mikkos to take liberties with me. I assure
you that I did not enjoy them, but at least for now, we are safe.
"Stavros wasn't a Cassadine," Dara said softly. "Do you think Stefan knows?"
"No," Carrie shook her head. "He would have said something-"
"Mama, come on," Dara said, giving her mother a hard stare.
"He's changing," Carrie said with a smile. "He would have told me."
"Okay," her daughter said softly. She pointed towards the diary. "What happens next?"
Carrie leafed through the pages. Some of them were empty, and on some, the writing was barely legible. "I don't know. She's not talking as much as before. She wrote a few lines about Stavros' birth. She mentions that his cry is strong, and she talks about how she loves him. She says that he's a beautiful boy despite the difficult labor. A few pages over, she says that the doctor advises her not to conceive again. Mikkos is upset, but he has his heir so he doesn't- I can't make it out."
"Here's something new," Carrie said, sitting up straight. "Look at this. Her penmanship has certainly gone downhill, hasn't it?"
"What year is it?" Dara asked.
"I believe it's 1956."
"You were four then," Dara grinned. "Do you remember-"
"Shut up, Dara," Carrie muttered. "And, if you mention anything about me being older than Stefan, I'm bopping you one, do you hear me?"
"Yes, Mother." Dara's voice was solemn, but her eyes danced with merriment.
Carrie ignored her eldest child and read the entry. She frowned and her mouth dropped open. Tears came to her eyes and she closed the book.
Dara placed a hand on her shoulder. "What happened?"
"St-Stefan…" she said, her voice catching in her throat.
"What about him?" Dara asked.
Carrie swallowed back a sob. "He…um… Mikkos found out about Stavros and she doesn't really say how. Anyway, soon after, he went into Helena's chambers and forced himself on her. He raped her. She went into detail about it."
"Oh, no," Dara murmured. Her hand closed over Carrie's and she held on to her mother tightly.
"Yeah," Carrie nodded. "She mentioned that after her family moved to Geneva and Mikkos began to change. He was very moody. She made the best of it, but then she became tired of him. She devoted her time to Stavros and shut Mikkos out. He turned to mistresses and she was glad of it. She began to have affairs and Mikkos didn't care…until he found out about Stavros and then raped her."
"Are you sure that Stefan was conceived then?" Dara asked gently. "Do you mind if I read the rest?"
Carrie shook her head. She sat back and watched Dara's face as she silently read the remaining passages. "He was conceived that night, and she hated him for it. She nearly died during childbirth and she hated him for that, too. I guess that explains their relationship."
"Yeah, and it also explains why she would take my little girl."
"I don't understand," Dara said with a frown. "What does Dawn have to do with any of this?"
"Stefan is the true heir which in turn, makes Nikolas the next in line."
"And the baby, too," Dara murmured.
"Yeah, and the baby, too."
"But, for her to use the baby… Well, that would mean that she'd have to tell the truth about Stavros and Stefan, and I don't see her doing that-"
"She would," Carrie said with conviction. "Stefan says that she hates him, and I believe him. I wouldn't put it past her to tell him the truth about what Mikkos did to her just for the sole purpose of hurting him, and with her hands on our grandchild…" Carrie swallowed hard before she could continue. "Having our little baby would only make the telling that much sweeter."
"Mama, you have to tell him."
Carrie shook her head. "I don't know if I can do that. Tell him that he's a product of rape? I will if I have to, but maybe I won't."
This time, Dara shook her head. "I don't see any other way. That's her trump card, Mama. Play it before she does."
"We'll see," Carrie said softly. "Let's look through the rest of this stuff. Maybe we'll find something useful."
"What are we gonna do with the letters and her diary?" Dara asked, as she sorted through the letters again.
"Give them to me. I'll take care of them."
Dara slowly handed her mother the stack of envelopes and papers. Carrie noted her daughter's hesitation, but she didn't comment on it. She needed time to think and to plan. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt a man who had already suffered a great deal of pain his entire life. Dara doubted that there would be any way around Stefan knowing the truth, but Carrie believed that if there was a will, there was a way. She would just have to find it.