Katherine greeted him with a glowing smile and a vibrant air danced about her, making what he had come to tell her even more difficult. Bending towards her, Stefan placed a chaste kiss upon her cheek before he sat down at the table across from her. Due to the winter storm, the lunch crowd at the Grille wasn't as large as usual. The waiter quickly came and took their orders. When he left, Stefan decided that hesitation would not serve a purpose for either of them so he began by stating his intentions.
"Katherine, some things in life are never easy to speak of," he began, "and are even less gentle to hear."
She reached across the table for his hand. "You seem so serious. I'm sure that whatever it is, you'll be fine. You know that I am here to help you in any way I can. Does this relate to work or your personal life?"
"My personal life," he responded gruffly.
"I understand," she said before he could reply further. "I thought as much. This is about Carlotta, isn't it?"
He took a quick sharp breath. "To a degree, yes. How did you know?"
"I could see this coming for some time," Katherine said with a shrug. "I suppose it was inevitable."
The waiter returned with a Caesar salad for Katherine and a bowl of vegetable soup for him. Stefan pushed the bowl aside as he studied Katherine behind a cool mask. Inside, his mind worked quickly. He found it nearly impossible to believe that Katherine was aware of his feelings for Carlotta. He had only just made the discovery. Katherine could not be more cognizant of his emotions then he. He refused to believe it.
"Have you spoken to her?" Katherine asked. "I'm sure the quicker you inform her of your decision the easier it will be in the long run. If you would like, I can be there. I doubt if she'd cause a scene with me as an audience. I can call Edward and have the best suite reserved for her and Dawn. I can make the arrangements after lunch."
Stefan's eyes narrowed and he sat up straight with interest and curiosity. "Oh?"
"Yes," Katherine said, nodding as she chewed. "Like you, I thought that close friends of Nikolas would help to improve his condition, but it appears that we are both in error. Dawn rarely spends any time with him and Carlotta has done nothing to change that. The few times they've been together have been tense. I've been wondering if their presence has been a hindrance to his recovery. I take it that you've been feeling the same."
Her eyes flew to his upon his quiet admission. "No?"
Stefan shook his head. "It is not my wish that Carlotta and Dawn leave Wyndemere. I apologize for the abrupt disclosure, but I invited you to inform you that a suite has been reserved for you here at the Port Charles Hotel and that your belongings are being transported as we speak. I would have spoken to you about this at Wyndemere, but I felt that this would be less distressing."
Silence descended upon the table. Tears welled within her eyes and she rose from her chair. Staring down at him, she said, "You were wrong. Hearing that you're not wanted is always distressing regardless of where the words are spoken. Good-bye."
"Well, someone is on cloud 9," Carlotta commented after the department heads left she and Pamela alone in the conference room.
The weekly meeting was done and plans to acquire Deception were in place. With work out of the way for a moment, Carlotta could not resist the urge to acknowledge the glow on the younger woman's face or the lightness of her footsteps. Since Stefan threw her into a tailspin with his unexpected admission, she welcomed the opportunity to focus on someone else. Unraveling the mystery of Stefan would have to come later when she was prepared for the answers.
"Does it show so clearly?" the younger woman asked, slightly embarrassed.
Carlotta smiled. "Only to those with a trained eye. I'm just guessing, but I'd say that you've met someone special."
"Maybe," Pamela acknowledged. Averting her eyes, she became busy with the task of gathering her materials and sliding them inside folders. "I've wanted to speak to you about it."
Intrigued, Carlotta leaned back against the leather sofa and gave Pamela her complete attention. "Go on. I'm listening."
Pamela looked Carlotta in the eyes. "I've met Jasper Jacks."
"He's the one who has you floating on air, I take it?" Carlotta questioned.
"Yes." Pamela's face fell and her fingers picked at the folders on the table in front of her.
"You mustn't be so glum." Carlotta reached over and patted the younger woman's hands. "I encouraged you to meet him. You're both young and attractive. Of course, sparks would fly. How close have you become? I am not asking for details, mind you, just in general."
Pamela laughed softly. "He doesn't even know my name. We've flirted a few times and had a drink together. He seems interested, but nothing serious has happened."
"And yet, the mention of his name has you blushing like a schoolgirl," Carlotta teased. "I won't discourage or encourage you where he is concerned, but I will say this...the acquisition will happen. If you would prefer to not be involved with that, say so now. There are other areas where your intelligence can be put to good use."
Pamela frowned as she considered Carlotta's question. After a few moments of silence, the frown faded and she answered, "I want to be involved. I've done so much work and I've learned so much. I will admit that I am attracted to Jax, but for now, my career is more important."
"Very well then," Carlotta said, nodding.
The telephone beside Carlotta buzzed and then her secretary announced, "Ms. Christofides, you have a call from Mr. Hunter on line one. Shall I take a message for you?"
"That won't be necessary." As Carlotta brought the receiver to her ear, Pamela picked up her materials and left the room, closing the door behind her. "Yes, Quentin?" Carlotta said once she was alone. "How may I help you?"
"Good day to you, too, Carlotta," Quentin murmured, his voice deep and warm. "You sound so professional and cold. Is that any way to speak to the father of your child?"
"I was in the middle of a meeting," she explained.
"You're lying," he told her. "I can hear it in your voice. That's okay. I forgive you."
His laugh filled her eardrums and washed over her. Even though their romantic relationship hadn't survived, their friendship never waned. He was a good man and a wonderful father and was one of a small number who truly knew and understood her. She relaxed and allowed herself to play along with him. "You are a very generous man to be so forgiving."
"I know," he agreed, continuing to tease her. "I saw that Port Charles was hit pretty hard yesterday. How are you and my little girl?"
"We're fine. Neither of us were affected by the blizzard."
"That's good about the blizzard," he said, "but what about the rest? How is Dawn dealing with Nikolas? She tries to hide it, but I know she still cares about him. If things aren't going well with that, she should come and stay with me for a while."
"She's okay, Quentin, but I will let her know about your offer."
"It's not just an offer, Carlotta," he said firmly. "Something's been nagging me lately about her. Just because she'll be eighteen in a few weeks doesn't make her any less my child. Are you sure she's fine? You're not so wrapped up in your company that you haven't been paying attention to her, have you?"
"My daughter is always foremost in my thoughts and you know that," Carlotta reminded him. Surprisingly, his questions didn't anger her. His concern for Dawn was genuine and she would have behaved the same if Dawn were with him. "She's been a little out there lately, but she seems to be coming around."
"Out there? Out where?" he asked.
"She is a good girl with strong values."
"That's not what I asked you," Quentin responded. "Has Terranova been keeping a good eye on her? Never mind. Don't answer that. I'll find out for myself."
"Find out, how?"
"I'm in Boston right now," he said. "I'll be in Port Charles by tonight."
"You don't have to come. I'm telling you that she's fine. You've always been too overprotective, Quentin."
"She's the best part of me," he said. "I won't apologize for loving her. Don't tell her that I'm coming. I want it to be a surprise. Can you do that for me?"
Carlotta nodded even though he couldn't see her. "Sure. Anything else?"
"Keep your schedule free," he added softly, "and maybe we can catch up on old times."
"Quentin!" She called out, but he had already hung up. The seductive tone he used was one she had heard before. He had some tricks up his sleeve and now, it seemed that she would have two impossible men to contend with. Great.
"Heading out so soon?"
The rich baritone voice was unmistakable. Quentin turned away from the telephone and smiled at Hawk and Spenser as they entered the spare bedroom that Hawk had loaned him for the night. "Don't look so sad. I would've said goodbye first."
"Sho' you right," Hawk declared with his trademark smile.
Spenser grabbed a chair and straddled it. Nodding his head towards the phone, he said, "Are you going down to Port Charles?"
"I thought PI's had excellent eavesdropping ability, my man," Quentin teased.
"We do," Spenser admitted, "but it's our boyish charm that gets the leads."
Hawk shook his head and laughed. "You should see what happens to him when he tries to use that boyish charm down on the docks."
All three men laughed then. Their friendship spanned almost three decades. In their younger years, they pummeled their way through the boxing circuit until common sense convinced them all that getting beat up was not a good way to earn a living. Quentin was based on the West Coast, but he made sure to keep in contact with his buddies. And when the chips were down, he knew that he could count on them for sound advice or a good laugh.
"Why did you wanna know about Port Charles?" Quentin asked after they had become serious again.
"A friend from down there asked me to do some work for her. I was wondering if you knew her, that's all."
Quentin shrugged. "I doubt it. I've never been to the place. I'm only going now because Dawn and Carlotta are there. What kind of work are you doing for your friend?"
"Felicia asked me to talk to some people. A young woman is missing and the boyfriend hired Felicia to find her," Spenser explained.
"What did you find out?" Quentin asked out of idle curiosity. He stood up and began packing his things as Spenser answered him.
"I spoke to the mother briefly. She gave me the cold shoulder and practically threw me out of her house."
"That boyish charm never fails," Hawk commented.
"I never said it was 100%," Spenser explained. "Anyway, I didn't like the way she treated me so I dug a little. I found out that she's originally from Port Charles and left it to marry the missing girl's father."
Spenser ignored Hawk and continued. "It turns out the mother is the sister of one of Port Charles' more unsavory characters. Her brother is Luigi Moreno."
"Never heard of him," Hawk dismissed the name as he went to the window and looked outside. "But go on."
Quentin bit back a chuckle as Spenser rolled his eyes behind Hawk's back. "Yeah, man, keep going. I know there's a punch line somewhere."
"I don't know if it's a punch line but it is interesting," Spenser continued. "Apparently, Moreno is involved in a turf war with Jason Morgan who took over PC when his mentor, Sonny Corinthos, disappeared. Word has it that in late December Moreno put a hit out on Morgan and missed. Some rich European kid was shot in the neck-"
"What?" Quentin interrupted. His heart pounded with uneasiness. A vision of his daughter came to mind and a sense of dread clouded his thoughts. "What was the name of the kid?"
"Cassadine," Quentin interrupted again. "Nikolas Cassadine."
"Yeah," Spenser said. "Do you know him?"
"He's my daughter's ex-boyfriend," he said as he slowly sat down on the edge of the bed. "He suffered a stroke soon after the shooting. That's why she and Carlotta left Europe. They wanted to help him. What else did you find out?"
"Moreno was pissed that his target was missed so he hired Joey Patroni-"
"Magic Fingers?" Hawk asked, turning around with a frown. It was apparent that he had heard of the man and, didn't like what he knew about him.
Spenser nodded. "You got it right on the first try. So far, nothing else has happened, but that's Joey's style. He likes to be unpredictable."
"Shit!" Quentin stood up abruptly and moved frantically around the room, hurriedly packing the rest of his stuff.
"Quentin?" Spenser questioned. "What's wrong? Dawn and Carlotta wouldn't have anything to do with Joey or the turf war."
"And she has protection," Hawk added. "What's your worry?"
"Just something in my gut is all," Quentin answered. "Can one of you give me a ride to the airport? I have a plane to catch."
"I've gotcha covered, baby," Hawk said. "Spenser, get on the horn to your friend in Port Charles."
"I'm way ahead of you. I told her everything about an hour ago."
Hawk's smile was wide and glittered like diamonds. "But you didn't tell her I was coming."
Spenser returned his smile. "Make that we."
"There's been a change in plans," Felicia announced as soon as Tommy entered the brownstone. "Take your coat off and have a seat. A lot has happened since our earlier conversation and our trip to the city has been canceled."
Tommy's eyes brightened with expectation. "Did you find her?"
Felicia nodded. "Yes. She's with Thomas and she's fine."
Tommy closed his eyes for a moment and released an audible sigh of relief. When he opened his eyes, he pulled Felicia into a hug. As the embrace ended, he asked, "When can I see her?"
"I'm working on that," she said with a tight smile. "Please, sit. I have to bring you up to speed on some things."
Tommy followed her bidding and sat beside her on the overstuffed sofa. Twisting to face her, he was quiet as she spoke.
"First of all, Lynn is safe and she's in good hands. Thomas will do everything he can to protect her-"
"Protect her from what?!"
"Tommy..." Felicia took his hand. "We have reason to believe that her life is in danger. She received a threat when she was in Saudi Arabia and that's why she left so abruptly. The threat was also extended to you."
"What?!" Tommy's voice rose as he leapt from the sofa. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. It didn't make sense. "Are you sure that you found the right Lynn. Lynn O'Rourke."
"Yes, I'm sure. Thomas has a copy of the picture you gave me and what she's told Thomas matches what you've told me. She is your Lynn."
He sat down again. His mind was in limbo as he tried to process what Felicia had told him. He had a feeling that the threats were only the tip of the iceberg. "Who threatened us?"
"His name is Bobby Mancusi. He's a part of the Mancusi family of Philadelphia."
"I've heard of them," Tommy quietly admitted. "Why would he threaten us?"
"He wants to marry Lynn-"
"Hear me out," Felicia advised. When he nodded his head, she continued. "After we hung up, Spenser called me. He told me that Lynn's mother had given him the run around so he checked her out. He found out that she and Luigi Moreno are siblings. When he started to get involved with organized crime, she married Collin O'Rourke and tried to break all ties with her brother. Thomas called and picked up where Spenser left off. Moreno promised Lynn to Bobby Mancusi."
"He can't do that!" Tommy exclaimed in outrage. "Isn't that against the law?"
"Not exactly," she explained. "Some cultures still practice that, but that's besides the point. If Lynn marries Bobby, the families' union would be official and they could assume control over the Eastern seaboard."
"Why can't they do that without him marrying her?"
Felicia shrugged. "I don't know. Moreno never gave Lynn any other reason than that. She wasn't given a choice in the matter, but to appease her, Moreno allowed her to join the Peace Corps. Somehow, Mancusi found out about your relationship and he threatened her. That's why she took off."
"And you're sure she's safe now?" Tommy asked. "Magnum can protect her? He can't let anything happen to her."
"He won't," Felicia assured him. "She is in very capable hands."
"So what happens now?" he asked. "I wanna be with her, but not if it puts her life in danger."
"I know." She gently patted his cheek. "Thomas is working on something. He's going to call when he gets it all figured out. The only thing we can do now is wait."
Tommy nodded. "I can do that."
After the situation was explained to Higgins, a guestroom was promptly prepared for Lynn. While she settled in, Thomas consulted in Higgins' study with his closest friends about the young woman's predicament.
"She doesn't want to go back to Port Charles, but she also wants to see Tommy again," Thomas explained. "I told her that I would think of a way for them to be united."
"You're always a sucker for a love story," Rick commented.
"Orville," TC grunted, "This is serious. She's a nice young lady who's in a bad spot. Do you have any bright ideas for reuniting them?"
"Me?" Rick asked, pointing a finger at his chest. "I have loads of bright ideas, but I can't guarantee if any of them will work. I spoke to Icepick like you asked, Thomas. He's heard of both the Mancusi family and Moreno. He said that they are bad enough as individuals and united, they'd be hell. It's a good thing you found her when you did, Thomas. Mancusi has his boys looking for her and he told them to bring her back any way they could."
"What do you think, Carol?" Thomas asked, looking at the intelligent, quick-witted Assistant DA. "You have any ideas on what we can do for her?"
"Has she witnessed anything?" Carol asked. "Or can give testimony to any underworld activity?"
Thomas shook his head. "No, not really. Mancusi and her uncle were careful about what was said around her."
"I can call a friend who's a Federal Marshal and see what he says," she replied. "The Witness Protection Program is usually used for witnesses, but maybe because she's so young something could be worked out."
TC frowned and shook his head. "Wouldn't she have to change her name and leave everything behind?"
"Yes, she would," Higgins said from his seated position behind his large cherrywood desk. "She would never be able to see her young man again."
"Now, hold on a minute," Thomas interjected. "The whole point of this was to reunite them. We can't tell her that she'd never see him again. I practically promised her that he'd be on the next flight out."
"Well, you shouldn't have spoken out of turn," Higgins reprimanded him. "Raising her hopes is cruel and grossly irresponsible, Magnum-"
"I am not a child, Mr. Higgins," Lynn said quietly from the doorway. Freshly showered and somewhat rested, she entered the room. "He hasn't been cruel or irresponsible. He's been concerned and I appreciate that. I appreciate everything that each of you has done for me. I know the situation I'm in. That's why I ran in the first place. I don't want to be burden on any of you or put any of you at risk. Thomas has convinced me that I can't run any more, and quite frankly, I don't know what else to do."
"We'll figure out something," Rick assured her. He patted the empty space beside him on the long leather sofa and she sat down. Thomas gave him a warning glance and Rick shrugged in response.
"Say, Thomas," TC began, "what if Tommy came here? If Higgie-baby didn't object, of course. Would that work?"
"That could lead them straight to her," Rick quickly replied.
"I didn't ask you," TC countered.
"Guys, come on," Thomas said, interrupting what could have escalated into one of their typical disagreements. "You both have a point. Once he was here, he would be safe, but getting him here could be a problem."
"What if he had a police escort?" Lynn asked.
Rick shook his head. "Nah, that would be too obvious."
"Not if they were undercover officers," Lynn said.
"It wouldn't matter," Rick told her. "They'd still be too obvious. What about your friend, Felicia?"
"She's a single mother with two little girls," Thomas informed them. "I couldn't ask her to do that. "
"Magnum," Higgins spoke up again, "what about you?"
"Could you, Thomas?" Both Lynn and Carol asked.
"I could," he answered, "but who's going to look after you here?"
"I will," TC and Rick volunteered.
With blurred vision, Matt tried his best to read the information on his laptop screen. He needed to know what the Philadelphia newspapers had to say about the explosion that had caused his injuries, but the pain in his shoulder was making concentration difficult. Drifting in and out of consciousness hadn't helped either, but he was determined. If his life was still in danger, he refused to find out when it was already too late.
A coded knock sounded on his door and waited for his visitor to enter. To his relief, it was Ellen who appeared in the doorway and not Grace. The other woman was a good friend, but his interests lie elsewhere. He had hoped that Grace would have understood that by now.
"Ellen," he whispered, reclining back against the pillows. "Hi."
"Hi, yourself" she greeted him after she closed and locked the door behind her. As she headed towards him, she frowned. "What is that laptop doing on your lap, Matt? You're supposed to be resting. One day you will learn to listen to me."
"Haven't you guessed that I love to listen to you?" he said, smiling at her dreamily. "Come, sit here and talk some more."
"Matt," she said, warning him with her voice. Despite his weak protests, she removed the laptop from his lap and set it on the coffee table. She then turned back to him and said, "I got the tests back from the lab. I can't treat you properly here anymore."
His jaw clenched. "I'm not going to the hospital. What did the tests say?"
"The tests said that you are suffering from blood poisoning," Ellen said as she pressed the back of her hand against his forehead. "You're burning up right now. If you don't get proper treatment, you will die."
She squatted down so that they were eye-level. Her large brown eyes were dull and filled with despair. "I don't want you to die, Matt. You have to let me admit you into GH. I will assume all responsibility for you as my patient. I can even admit you under a different name. We can bandage your face so that no one recognizes you. Please, Matt, just give me the word."
He reached blindly for her hand. She gave it to him and he squeezed with all of his strength. "Ellen, you don't know what you are asking. They will kill me if they find me and they might hurt you for helping me. I can't let you take that risk."
"You're not letting me do anything," she said softly. "I'm volunteering. I want to help you. Trust me. Let me do this."
Matt closed his eyes and thought about her offer. Her suggestion was well thought out and could work. If no one saw his face, the danger should be reduced to nothing. More pain pressed against his shoulder and he grimaced. He didn't want to die like that. He didn't want his father and his brother to win. And then there was Ellen. His feelings for her grew by the minute, and from the concern she'd shown him, he knew that her feelings for him were almost impossible to ignore. She cared about him as a man.
Opening his eyes, his gaze locked with hers. "If I agree to this, there's something you have to know first. I can't let you do this blind. After I tell you everything, I want you to really think about it and then decide. If you choose not to help me anymore, there won't be any hard feelings, Ellen. I promise. I would totally understand."
She moved to sit beside him on the sofa. Nodding, she said, "Tell me."
"Matt Harmon isn't my birth name. My real name is Eric Mancusi of the Mancusi family in Philadelphia. My father, Sal, is the head of the organization there and my brother, Bobby, is next in line. He's also the person who put a bullet in my spine. He killed someone in front of me when we were kids. I promised that I wouldn't tell, but he and Sal didn't believe me. Sal ordered that I be made quiet and Bobbie tried to make good on that. He didn't and I've been in the Witness Protection Program ever since.
"I was supposed to testify and that's why I was gone for a week. The Feds came and took me back to Philadelphia. Somebody snitched and the hotel room I was staying in was bombed. The Feds were killed instantly. My shoulder was hit, but I was able to make it back here without too many problems...until now. So, there you have it, Dr. Burgess," Matt finished. "The decision is yours."
A single tear slid down her round cheek. She brushed it away with the back of her hand. "I will need Grace to help me. I'll call her and see how soon she can be here. Your face will be completely covered and I will admit you as Joe Brown."
"Here's the number where I can be reached," Jason said, handing Sonny a slip of paper. "Only you and Johnny have it. Unless it's an emergency..."
"Don't use it," Sonny said with a knowing smile. He glanced at the paper and said, "This is the number at the fishing cabin. I already know you're not going alone, but are you taking any guards with you?"
Jason shook his head. "We won't need any guards. I can protect us well enough."
"Well enough is never good enough," Sonny advised. "Moreno's hot about the docks project and you know how he feels about the AIDS clinic that's being dedicated today. Don't take any unnecessary chances. Take Johnny or Frankie with you."
"I want to be alone with her," Jason explained. "It's hard to do that with a bunch of guys hanging around outside. She hasn't said anything about them so far, but I bet if they tagged along it would freak her out."
"That's something she will have to get used to," Sonny told him. He balled the paper up and tossed it into the fireplace. The flames ate the paper up, sending embers flickering about.
"Yeah..." Jason turned away from Sonny's curious eyes and reached for his overnight bag. He was almost at the door when Sonny spoke to him again.
"She doesn't know, does she?" Sonny asked quietly. "She has no idea what you do for a living. What business you're in... Does she?"
Without turning around, Jason said, "She knows that I own warehouses that export and import coffee."
"What about the rest?" Sonny asked. "Before you whisk her away, she should know everything."
"She knows what she needs to know," Jason informed him. "I don't tell you how to run your love life. Don't tell me how to run mine." He opened the door and handed his bag to Johnny. Giving Sonny one last look, he said, "I'll see you later."
"I can't believe this thing wasn't canceled," Vinnie grumbled as he pulled up to the North end of the docks. "There was a freaking blizzard yesterday."
Dawn extended her hand from the back seat of the Lincoln Town car to pinch his cheek. "Oh, perk up! You have been down in the dumps all morning. Think of all the good this clinic will do. Many of the residents cannot afford hospital care. This clinic will be a Godsend."
"I'm not denying that," he said, swatting her hand away from his cheek. "I'd just rather you not be here is all."
"This is the last time, Vincenzo," Dawn said. "I swear it. There will be no more secret meetings with Jason and no more undercover work for me. As soon as the ceremony is over, I will tell him that I no longer wish to see him and then you and I will go back to Wyndemere. Capisce?"
Vinnie shifted in the driver's seat to look at her. "Do you really think it will be that easy? He cares about you. He won't let you walk away without a fight."
Biting down on her lower lip, she shrugged. "He will not have a choice. He will have to understand that."
"Mi ragazzina (my little girl)," he murmured softly. Shaking his head at her, he shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "Do you have the piece?"
"Where is it?" he asked, looking as if he'd search her if she didn't answer him fast enough.
"In my pocket!" Dawn rolled her eyes when he raised an eyebrow. Releasing a dramatic sigh, she pulled out the gun and showed him. "See!"
"Is it loaded?"
"Of course!" she snapped all set to put the gun back into her pocket.
"Show me," he demanded. "Now, Dawn."
Without argument, she showed him the fully loaded clip. He nodded his approval and she reassembled the gun, engaged the safety and stuck the gun back inside the pocket of her coat.
"If anything comes up," he advised, "do not hesitate to use it or any of the moves I taught you. Capisce?"
She nodded again. "Where will you be?"
"Within sight the entire time. I won't leave you."
"I can't believe this thing wasn't canceled," Taggert complained as he parked the unmarked squad car behind bushes and trees on the North end of the docks. "Don't they know there was a blizzard yesterday?"
Keesha opened her thermos and poured steaming hot chocolate into a mug. She handed the mug to Taggert and began to pour one for herself. "The AIDS clinic is a good thing. The sooner it's opened, the better."
"I guess," he unwillingly agreed. He took a sip of the hot chocolate and said, "This would be great if we had some marshmallows."
"There are some in the bag on the backseat. Help yourself."
Taggert reached behind him for the bag. As he dropped the marshmallows into the mug, he gave her an open smile of appreciation. "I like that, Officer Ward. Good thinking ahead."
Keesha laughed. "That was easy enough."
The dedication ceremony was to be held outside of the new AIDS clinic. A platform had been set up and a bright, red ribbon covered the entrance to the clinic. From their stakeout position, the officers would see everyone in attendance. No coming or going would be done without them witnessing it.
Joey "Magic Fingers" Patroni stepped onto the dock with a gleam in his eyes and a spring in his step. Moreno had given him his orders and he anticipated getting the job done.
He planned to have fun with this one. There were no bones about it. The brisk, cold air and the crowd of spectators energized him. His best work had always been done in the great outdoors. Having a live audience only sweetened the thrill.
At his sides, his fingers flexed. They were just as eager as the rest of him. The space started to fill up with the honored guests and onlookers. His prey arrived right on time. Keeping his gaze trained on his target, he stepped back into the shadows and waited.
Following Vincent and Dawn had been no easy task for Nikolas. The bodyguard was watchful and took his protection of Dawn very seriously. Nikolas admired that, but couldn't help the surge of jealousy that passed through him. He would rather it was he at her side instead of Vincent. And if Vincent could go with her, why couldn't he?
After parking the Jaguar in a secluded spot, Nikolas doubled back to the docks. The festive decoration made the dedication ceremony impossible to miss. Upon his arrival, he noted that there would be a good turnout for the program. Many of the locals were there and Nikolas was happy about that. He hoped that despite the ostentatious happenings, they knew that the AIDS clinic was there to service them.
The thickening crowd provided cover for him. Standing behind a woman with a large hat, Nikolas quickly spotted Vincent's 6'3 frame. He glanced around the man and was surprised that Dawn wasn't at his side. An overwhelming sense of dread filled Nikolas and his heart pumped soundly in his chest.
Careful to remain hidden by the crowd, he moved closer to Terranova. The older man's attention was drawn to a spot just in front of the platform. Nikolas followed the direction of Vincent's gaze and saw that Dawn sat front row center. Jason Morgan sat beside her. He whispered something in her ear and then took a seat directly in front of her on the platform.
Disbelief and the agony of betrayal slowly began to form in the pit of Nikolas' stomach. Before the bitterness could take root, a flash of silver caught his eye. A man with a shocking streak of white hair had just appeared beside his beloved. He clutched a shiny knife in his hand and he was poised for attack.
Oblivious to the world around him, Nikolas pushed through the crowd, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Soon after, shots were fired and the AIDS dedication ceremony was besieged by pandemonium.