Life After Dark
Chapter 53

Simone grabbed the controls and turned off the television. Amy had turned it on 'to give her company'...whether Simone liked it or not. Simone had tried to give Regis and Kathie Lee her full attention, but she couldn't. They annoyed her. The constant bickering which they attempted to disguise with humor grated on her nerves.

She wanted to be calm and receptive when she met with her physical therapist in an hour, not agitated. Her goal was to build her strength up so that she could get the hell out of GH. Now that she was free, she wanted to start living again. Her recovery wouldn't happen as fast as she wanted if she lost focus. As a doctor, she knew that maintaining a healthy mental outlook was just as important as working her underused muscles. She couldn't lose sight of what was important. Nor could she allow her fear of not having a full recovery prevent her from giving her sessions her all. Don't give in to the doubts, she reminded herself, she would come back one hundred per cent. She knew she would.

A light tap at her door interrupted Simone from her private self-help seminar. ''Come in,'' she called.

''Good morning, Dr. Hardy.''

Simone smiled faintly at the use of the title, but her eyes widened at the sight of the man. Good golly, he was attractive, she thought. Skin the color of caramel, sincere chocolate brown eyes, a nice physique, and a well-shaped bald head made her pause. There was a time when she would have been more than interested in getting to know him, but now... Simone laughed at her wayward thoughts. Interested? No way, no how. Not now. But she did enjoy the eye candy he offered. ''Good morning. And you are?''

''I'm Detective Marcus Taggert with PCPD,'' he said with a small smile. He watched her closely as he remained near the door. Dealing with survivors of trauma had taught him that he proceeded at their pace and not his own. If she wanted him to come closer, she would invite him in.

''Hello, Detective. How may I help you?'' Simone asked, pushing herself up so that she sat up straight in her bed. Her eyes narrowed as she wondered what he wanted with her. Surely, Tommy wasn't in any trouble. If he was, Audrey would have notified her.

''I'd like to ask you a few questions if I may,'' Taggert replied. He reached into his jacket and pulled out his standard PCPD issue notepad and pen. He exaggerated his movements to emphasize that he meant what he said.

''Questions about? Does this have anything to do with my son? He's okay, isn't it?

''He's fine, Dr. Hardy. I apologize for not being clear. Maybe I should come back at another time,'' Taggert said as he placed his hand on the door knob.

''No, wait. If you're not asking about Tommy, what do you want?''

''I need to ask you a few questions about''

In the back of her mind, she knew before he said it. Ordeal, he called it. He didn't know the half of it, she thought, shaking her head. Well, if he had questions, she had answers. ''What do you want to know about And, please, have a seat.''

Taggert did as she suggested and sat in the guest chair. He adjusted the position of the chair so that his back wasn't to the door and he began to speak. ''We've questioned the other survivors, and they've been very helpful. However, nothing they've told us has given us any leads to find the person or persons responsible. Your son told us that on the night they found you, he heard someone threaten you. Do you recall the same?''

Simone had listened carefully and closely to Taggert's soft voice. He was speaking in soothing tones in order to reassure and calm her. The police department applied the same tactics as the medical field, she surmised.

Biting her lower lip, she forced her mind to go back to the night he mentioned. She remembered being in pain. Excruciating pain. Someone had hurt her, but Gina helped her. She took care of Simone, tended to her and brought her back.

Simone frowned as she tried to dig deeper into her memory. She remembered going back to her little cell. She remembered laying there, praying and hoping that Tommy would return soon. She dug deeper still, but the only thing she could remember was the sound of Tommy's voice before everything went black. Sadly, she shook her head. ''I can't remember.''

Taggert's eyes had been glued to Simone as she recounted the past in her mind. He saw the torment, pain and anguish as she recalled the years which had been stolen from her. Dr. Baldwin had warned him that she might not be able to recall the past. The mind would protect itself and painful memories could vanish. Taggert had listened closely to Gail's words and he understood what she meant, but he couldn't stop himself from hoping. He didn't want Dr. Hardy to have to relive the events, but he had wanted her to give him enough information to go after the beasts who had caused them. He'd have to think of an alternate plan.

Taggert stood and gave Simone a smile which told her that he admired her for trying. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a business card as he said, ''Thank you. If you remember anything...anything at all, please don't hesitate to call me.''

Simone took the card from him and held it in her hand. She nodded briefly at him and said, ''I won't. I wish I could have been of more help.''

''Don't worry about it. It's understandable. I won't take up any more of your time. Good day, Dr. Hardy.''

The door closed swiftly behind Taggert. Simone slumped against the pillows as the impact of Taggert's visit hit her. She was their only hope of finding the bastards responsible for stealing their lives and she blew it! *She* saw the culprit and she couldn't remember anything about the encounter. Maybe they would never find them and it would be all her fault. Simone wrapped her arms around herself as bitter tears flowed freely down her cheeks.


''So many choices. Maybe you should choose for me.''

Robert rolled his eyes at Juan's suggestion as he kept his gaze on the Manhattan morning skyline. He wanted Juan out his office and out his life forever. He hated the day he had met the man. A quick vacation in Acapulco when he had told his family he was in a medical conference in Los Angeles had changed his life forever. He should never have gotten drunk, but more than that, he should never confided in Juan Valdez that his few indiscretions and overspending had cost him and that he was close to losing everything. What he should have done was run like hell the minute he saw the man. If he had half a brain, he'd be running right now instead of staring out of a window and waiting for Juan to choose a face.

''Come on, Roberto. A suggestion. Anything. You've done this before. Who do I want to be? Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves?'' Juan asked, as he continued to leaf through the album of photos he had gathered. The idea of becoming a new person became almost like a game to him. Choosing the right face was akin to choosing the right piece for a jigsaw puzzle. If he chose the wrong one, his plans wouldn't fall into place and everything would be off kilter. And, for what he had in mind, everything had to go just right.

''Pick any damn face you want! No matter what you choose, you will still be the same person,'' Robert replied, not caring and not bothering to mask his irritation and displeasure. He wanted out of his association with Juan, but try as he might, he kept going in deeper and deeper. His mama did raise a fool, he thought with a sigh filled with self-disgust.

''Was that your pathetic attempt at an insult? The same person? Why of course! Why would I want to change?'' Juan asked as his eyes closed in on a face. He rested his back against Robert's leather chair. As he examined his surroundings, he smiled to himself. He was responsible for the office, the chair and the furnishings. How could Roberto be angry in the face of Juan's generosity, he wondered.

Robert ignored Juan's question and asked one of his own. ''Have you decided?''


Robert turned from the window and moved to stand behind Juan. Looking over Juan's shoulder, his eyes were drawn to the face Juan had chosen for himself. ''Figures,'' he muttered.

''Tsk, tsk, tsk. Now that was an insult. Roberto, you wound me? After all of the things I've done for you, how could you willingly hurt my feelings? How would you feel if someone hurt you in the same manner? Or maybe one of your lovely ladies?'' Juan asked the last question softly, giving his threat the attention he felt it deserved. He pushed the chair away from the desk and stood. Seeing the wariness on Robert's face pleased him, but it also saddened him as well. He loved having an adversary, but Robert, skilled surgeon that he was, was not a worthy opponent.

''Don't go after them.''

Juan's feet had carried him to the door, but he stopped as soon as Robert's steely voice uttered the command. Juan raised an eyebrow and slowly turned. ''And if I do?'' he challenged him. Secretly, he was intrigued with the possibility of Robert suddenly growing a spine. Outwardly, he displayed the same cold, emotionless expression he had taken years to perfect.

''Just don't,'' Robert sighed. He wanted to be a man who protected his family, but he couldn't be. Juan's resources were vast and Robert couldn't compare. He backed down in the hopes that Juan would to.

Juan shook his head and pursed his lips. ''Simp.'' He turned on his heel and left. He had things to do before the new Juan emerged and he had no intention of wasting any more time with Robert Jensen than he had to.

Chapter 54

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