"So, lady, is it true? Does absence make the heart grow fonder?"
Geez, Sonny thought. Did he have to sound so cheesy? Hadn't he always been smoother than that?
"What do you want?" Dara's voice was tight with apprehension and irritation.
Sonny cringed. Maybe calling her hadn't been such a good idea after all. She certainly didn't sound thrilled to hear from him. He refused to punk out, though. He would play it off. Somehow.
"How are you?" he asked, his voice unnaturally low and husky. He coughed to clear his throat and tried again. "Dara?"
"You didn't call me for that. What do you want?"
"I did," he insisted. "I heard that you quit your job and I wanted to make sure that everything is okay... That you weren't forced to quit… because of what happened between us in Hawaii...You weren't forced out, were you?"
She released a harsh breath into the telephone. "No, I resigned of my own free will. No one knows about .. that"
"Good," he said quickly.
"Well, that's all settled, I need to go now-"
"Wait!" he called out before she could end the call.
"What?" she bit out.
"When can I see you again?" he asked, hoping that he didn't sound as desperate as he felt. When did the overpowering need to be near her consume him, he wondered. And why did hearing her voice suddenly make it worse?
"You can't be serious," she whispered harshly. "Dammit! Where are you? Are you back in Port Charles? What the hell are you doing? We settled all of this-"
"Nothing was settled when you walked out on me, Dara."
"What do you mean by that?"
He sensed fear and silently cursed himself. He was coming on too strong. He needed to back off. "Nothing. I didn't mean anything. I just thought that maybe we could get together again, you know? I just wanted to make sure that you're safe."
A suffocating sensation tightened his throat. He felt exposed, open and raw. Calling her had been a mistake. His thumb hovered over the telephone's off button as he prepared to end the call.
"Okay," she said in a voice that seemed to come from a long way off.
His dark eyes widened in surprise. Were his ears playing tricks on him? He didn't dare to ask her to repeat herself He chose to go with it and see what her next response would be. "There's a vacant suite on the tenth floor of the Harbor View Towers. I'll have a messenger send a key to your place."
"Tomorrow at noon."
Vinnie shivered as the cold January wind pierced through the lining of his charcoal gray wool coat. About fifteen feet away, Dawn and Jason sat on one of the park benches while Vinnie presented the picture of an up and coming businessman as he sat on another bench with the latest edition of the Wall Street journal masking his acute surveillance of the scene.
When his good friend, former CIA operative and hired mercenary Roger Loccoco, hooked him up with the bodyguard position, he thought it would be a piece of cake. He would earn a good chunk of cash and get his head together before he made peace with his former life. Never in a million years did he think his present job would dump him right back in the underworld mix again.
Vinnie glanced over the headlines to look at the couple. They were close and Jason made sure to keep a protective hand or arm around her at all times. Vinnie understood the gesture. Jason had fallen for her. Vinnie wasn't too sure if Dawn was aware and he planned to bring it up the next time they had a moment alone.
The game she played was dangerous and the stakes were high. Since giving her the profile on Morgan and his cohorts, Dawn's attitude had changed. She wasn't as outgoing as she had been when he first met her. She had become quiet, pensive. Her feelings for the Cassadine kid were obvious, even to an unromantic guy like him. She loved the fella. A lot. And Vinnie's instincts told him that the feeling was mutual. He doubted if she was any more aware of that as she was of Morgan's escalating interest in her. Her European upbringing had given her an air of sophistication that went beyond her years, but in some matters, she was still a teenager. A kid.
Continuing to play his part, Vinnie turned the page of the boring newspaper. From the corner of his eye, he saw a new character enter the scene. The man had a deep scar that ran high across his left cheekbone and extended down to his chin. A thick white streak was startling against his shoulder length black hair. Joey 'Magic Fingers' Patroni was unforgettable and Vinnie remembered him well from his two-year stint at the Newark State Penitentiary. He was an enforcer and proud of his accomplishments. Ice cold fear trickled down Vinnie's spine. The SOB had Dawn and Morgan in his sights.
Vinnie slipped his hand inside the jacket of the Armani suit he wore. His fingers grasped the handle of the Glock in anticipation. His eyes watched every move Magic Fingers made. Relief swept over him when the assassin finally walked away.
From the positioning of Morgan's bodyguards, Vinnie knew that Patroni hadn't been spotted. Magic Fingers had just targeted Morgan and by association, Dawn, too. Dammit! This job had just taken a hazardous turn down a dark, curvy road. Vinnie needed to know what he was dealing with and he needed to know now.
Rising from the park bench, he headed towards the pay phone that was a few feet away. Dawn was still within his sights and he could continue to watch her while he made his call. He inserted the coins and dialed the old telephone number from memory. The call was answered on the first ring.
"Uncle Mike, your runaway nephew here..."
A slight pause and then a warm voice said, "So, you're alive."
"Yeah, just barely," Vinnie said told his former Organized Crime Bureau contact. "Would I be asking too much if I asked for a favor?"
"You're my favorite nephew. The family's been lonely without you. Ask away."
Vinnie released the air he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Joey Patroni. Who's he working for these days?"
"Ole Magic Fingers?" Uncle Mike asked for clarification.
"The one and only."
The sound of punching keys echoed through the telephone line. Vinnie's gaze never wavered from Dawn and Jason. When the bodyguards moved a few feet away from the couple, Vinnie's hand closed over his piece again. He was too far away to hear their conversation, but he could definitely keep an eye out for her. At the first sign of trouble, he was getting her the hell out of there.
"Still there?" Uncle Mike's voice came back on the line.
"Yeah," Vinnie answered. "Did you find anything?"
"He's been recently signed to a contract. Moreno, out of Port Charles, New York, is his employer. They're into more shit than my database can pull up at one time. Are you involved?"
Uncle Mike hadn't changed. He didn't pull any punches. He went straight for the jugular. Vinnie hadn't expected anything less. "In a way, yeah."
"They're animals, nephew. Are you sure-"
"I don't have a choice," Vinnie informed him. "Listen, I gotta go now. But, thanks."
"If you need anything, I'm just a phone call away-"
Vinnie smiled. "I know."
"Why did you send them away?"
Jason glanced around at his group of protectors before he looked at Dawn again. He lightly caressed the swell of her cheek and leaned towards her when he answered, "I wanted some privacy."
"Oh, really?" Her brown eyes danced as a faint smile parted her rosy lips. "This sounds serious."
"It is," Jason admitted. "An AIDS clinic is opening on the North end of the docks. I'm one of the backers and I've been informed that it would be good for business if I show my face. I wanted to know if you would join me. We'd only be there for the opening ceremony and then we'd leave. It wouldn't last for very long."
Dawn looked away from Jason's searching eyes to stare at the skaters dancing across the iced over pond. "I'd like to join you, but..."
"Yeah?" He placed two fingers underneath her chin, turning her head so that her gaze was on him again. "What's wrong?"
"This may sound silly, but I don't want my picture taken. Is this something I should worry about? I know the request is strange and I cannot go into the details, but I would rather not.."
"Ssh." Jason pressed a finger against her mouth. "You don't have to explain. If you don't want your picture taken, it won't be. No questions asked. Anything else?"
Dawn smiled and shook her head. "Nothing else. I look forward to it"
"I look forward to afterwards." He bent towards her, sealing his vow with a searing kiss.
"I can't get over how much you've grown."
While Tommy blushed, Felecia pulled him into another hug. Sarah hid a smile as she watched her cousin reunite with his former girlfriend's mother. The young man usually seemed so mature. It was actually fun to see him revert back to adolescence right before her very eyes.
"I'm sorry for gushing," Felecia said as she released him, "but I can't get over it." She moved to sit down behind a medium-sized wooden desk and pointed towards the two guest chairs that faced it. "Please, sit down. How are your parents? Are you here for a visit or are you here to stay?"
Tommy's gaze dropped to his hands that were clenched in his lap. 'I'm here for awhile, Flea," he said adopting the nickname that he called her when he was younger and his dad was involved with her. He continued in a rough, husky voice. "This isn't just a social call. I dropped by to see if I could hire you. That is if you're still a private investigator."
Felecia brushed wisps of blonde tendrils from her eyes. Frowning, she rested her elbows on the desk and leaned towards Tommy. She glanced at Sarah and then focused her attention onto Tommy again. "I am. Are you in some kind of trouble?"
Tommy shook his head. "Someone I care about disappeared. I want to hire you to find her." He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a photo. He handed it to Felecia. "Her name is Lynn O'Rourke. She's 19. I met her in Saudi Arabia. She's American and was a part of the Peace Corps until she disappeared a few weeks ago."
Felecia stared at the photograph of the smiling young woman with flaming auburn hair and crystal blue eyes for several minutes. No one said anything until Felecia broke the silence. She set the picture on her desk and reached for legal pad and pen. As she spoke to Tommy, she began to take notes. "Why do you keep saying she disappeared? What makes you think she didn't have a change of heart and decided that Saudi Arabia wasn't for her?"
"She wouldn't have left me without saying good-bye," Tommy told her.
"You were friends?" Felecia questioned.
He shook his head again and raised his eyes to look at Felecia. A faint smile touched his lips. "We're more than that. We are in love. I was planning to ask her to marry me."
"I see," Felecia said, her voice warm with understanding. "I'll do what I can, okay?"
"Thank you," he said, releasing an audible sigh of relief.
"I have a few questions for you so that I can establish her background. Do you know anything about her life here in the States? Her family? Where she lived?"
"I know that she is the youngest of three. Her oldest brother is Peter. He's 29. The middle brother is Joseph. I think he's 25. She's closer to Peter. Her parents split up when she was 12. Her father took the New York area and her mother moved to Boston. Peter moved to Hawaii and Lynn stayed with him until she joined the Peace Corps."
"This is great stuff, Tommy." Felecia's hand moved quickly as made fast notes. When she was done, she flipped through her Rolodex until she found the number she was looking for. Once she did, she reached for the telephone.
"What happens now?" Sarah asked. "How long do you think it will take to find her?"
"I don't know, but I have a few contacts who may be able to help us. I have one in Hawaii, another in Boston and I can take care of New York. I'm sure that when we get our heads together, something will turn up." She punched in eleven digits and waited. Eventually, the call was picked up. Her blue eyes danced and she smiled as she spoke. "Stop screening your calls. I know you're there. Come on, Thomas. Pick up the phone."
"I'm here and I wasn't screening my calls," came the jovial voice of Thomas Magnum. "How's it going, Felecia? Still recovering from the Private Investigators Conference?"
"I think the pain in my head is finally fading," she admitted. "How goes it with you?"
"I can't complain," Thomas said. "Something tells me that you didn't call just to check up on me. What gives?"
"How would you like to help me out on a case? I have a client here who also happens to be a very good friend. I could use your help. Are you free?"
The laughter in Thomas' voice faded. "Sounds serious. I wouldn't say I'm free, but I am available. What can I do?"
"I need you to check out Peter O'Rourke. His last known address is somewhere on the island. I don't know which one. Sorry."
"It's not a problem," Thomas told her. "Why am I looking up O'Rourke? What's the tie to your client?"
"O'Rourke is the brother of the young woman I am trying to find. Her name is Lynn. She's nineteen, a knockout redhead. She and my good friend (and client) were a couple. She disappeared and he wants to make sure that she's okay," Felecia explained. Tommy's gaze never strayed from her and she smiled at him to let him know that the conversation was going the way it was supposed to.
"And this friend of yours," Thomas asked, " ... there's no question of foul play right?"
"None at all. He's one of the best," she assured him.
"Okay," Thomas agreed. "I can look into this for you. I will need a picture to go by."
"I will email one to you within the hour. Thanks, buddy."
Felecia ended the call with Magnum and then called her connection in Boston. Spenser answered on the first ring.