The shouts came from all directions and she couldn't focus on any of them. Razor sharp pain pierced her mid-section. In a daze, she pressed her hand to her stomach. Liquid, sticky and warm, soaked her glove and seeped through the leather to her bare hand. Realization that she had been hurt hit her just as a pair of arms closed around her. Then everything faded to black.
"What the hell was that?!" Sal Mancusi demanded as he and his entourage slammed into Moreno's headquarters. Moreno's men crowded around their boss who quickly waved them away. Sal ignored both sets of bodyguards as they left the room and continued on with his tirade. "What was that shit on the docks? I thought you were gonna handle the situation! Not make it worse!"
"Don't tell me to relax!" Sal seethed with mounting rage. "First, your little niece hightails it out of here and now this! Cameras were everything and every single one of them got a shot of Joey "Magic Fingers" Patroni! If they connect him back to me, you're a dead man!"
"Is that a threat?" Moreno asked. The expression on his face bordered on mockery. "Are you threatening me?"
"It's not a threat. It's a promise."
"I guess I'm supposed to be scared now, huh?" Moreno jumped from his chair to face Sal down. Their noses were just inches apart. "You don't scare me, Sal. You never did. If I die, you die. Don't forget that."
"Handle Patroni and the fallout," Sal said quietly. "Starting off on a bad foot like this makes us look weak. Morgan mighta learned from Corinthos, but he ain't Sonny. Going at him through his woman was stupid. You gotta get the man."
"We're handling it," Moreno muttered.
"Well, handle it! And get it right this time or you won't be in on it at the end. The East will be mine...whether or not you get a piece of it is entirely up to you."
On the night of the shooting outside of Luke's, Nikolas had been scared. Shots had rung out and then there was a bullet lodged in his throat. He couldn't speak and breathing was nearly impossible. Future Prince or not, he feared for his life. As the cold, brittle asphalt pressed against his back and the frigid air enveloped him, he thought he was facing the worse and would never be that afraid again.
Two months later and his erroneous thoughts mocked him. He had been wrong. So very wrong. The worst was a grim reality that left him terrified and enraged. Cradling an unconscious Dawn in his arms, Nikolas pushed through the crowd to reach his Jaguar. A pair of hands tried to grab him, but he pulled himself free, running with her until he reached the sports car. Once he was there, he carefully placed her inside and raced to General Hospital with the speed of an angel.
"You have no right to hold me here!"
Taggert ignored Jason's shouts as he slammed the iron bars into place and locked the younger man in the cell. "A young woman may be dying and you're crying about your rights. Morgan, isn't it about time you got your priorities straight?"
"Damn you, Taggert!" Jason reached through the bars to grab Taggert. His hands missed and he balled them into fists, pounding them into the bars. "Let me out of here!"
Taggert's smile was humorless as he looked back at Jason. Shaking his head, he turned around and walked away. Behind him, Jason's shouts were loud enough to wake the dead.
"Hello, sweetheart," Mac said quietly into his cellular, "I won't be able to make dinner tonight. There's been another mob hit on the docks."
As Taggert came closer, Mac waved him towards the conference room. Continuing his telephone conversation, he followed Marcus inside and closed the door behind them. "Yeah, it's Jason again. I thank God that Robin isn't with him. Unfortunately, the new girl in his life... Dara, I'll have to talk about this later. It's gonna be a long night, but I will call you first thing in the morning. I wanna hear all about your meeting with Robin and Brenda. Love you."
Taggert watched Mac as he ended the call and slipped the cell phone back into place on his belt. He was happy that things were back on track for his two good friends. It was about time. "I can take it you have plans."
"I need to be here," Mac said, pouring coffee into a mug. He offered some to the Detective, but Marcus declined. While Mac added sugar and cream to his java, he said, "I appreciate the offer, but Dara understands."
"Things are working," Marcus stated more than asked.
Mac smiled faintly. "It seems that way. I can't really complain." He looked outside the window of the door as he joined Marcus at the large wooden table. "Where's Keesha? Did she get the prints?"
"She's at the hospital, checking on the girl and talking to the bodyguard. Before she left, she ran the prints. They're right here." Taggert slid a manila folder across the table towards Mac. "Hitman specialist, Joey 'Magic Fingers' Patroni was his name. He's more connected on the East, but he's been known to take a job for anybody willing to pay the price. I bet he never thought he'd get ousted by a sweet young thing."
"Taggert," Mac warned with a frown.
"What?" Marcus asked. "It was a compliment. She's a cute kid. I hope his knife didn't do too much damage. I think she deserves a medal for thinking so quickly on her feet."
"I agree, but before we can start penning medals on her, we need to be sure of the facts," Mac explained. "Garcia's team has sealed off the docks and an autopsy is being performed on the deceased. In the mean time, I want you to find out whom Patroni was working for. If they went after her once, they'll go after her again. Even if it is Morgan they're ultimately after, she's not safe."
"The Cassadine kid snatched her out of there as if his life depended on it," Marcus told him. "I don't know how he plays into this, but if she's tied to him, they'll make sure she is protected."
"Add that to your list. Find out about her connection to the Cassadines. I'm surprised that you missed it the first time," Mac said. "You're usually so thorough."
Taggert shrugged. "I'm good, but I guess I was having an off day. What's gonna happen with Morgan?"
Mac's smile was chilling and heartless. "I'm taking care of him."
Screaming at the top of his lungs, Nikolas burst through the Emergency Room doors. Orderlies appeared from nowhere. They took her from him, placed her on a gurney and whisked her behind green curtains. Nikolas made a move to follow them, but someone grabbed his arm. He shook it off. "You don't understand. I have to be with her. She's afraid. She needs me."
"She knows you're here," a young man with a white lab coat said to him. "I'm Dr. Ramsey. You have a great deal of blood on you. You should be examined, too."
Nikolas walked away from him. "I'm fine. I'm not hurt-"
"I said I am fine!" Nikolas bit out with fury that almost choked him. "See to her! Make sure that she lives! Do you understand me? She must live!"
Security approached the two men as Nikolas' shouts escalated. Chris frowned and told the security guards that everything was under control. "Shouting won't help her. Please, try to remain calm, Mr. Cassadine. We're doing everything we can to help her. We need some help from you. The nurse will assist you. It's important that you answer all of her questions."
Chris left him and a nurse quickly took his place. She asked him questions about Dawn's medical history and he answered them. By the time she stepped away from him, he was calm enough to make the necessary telephone call. He pulled his cellular from his pocket and started dialing.
"Quentin, this is bordering on childish even for you-"
"Auntie," Nikolas interrupted Carlotta's reprimand that was intended for Dawn's father, "this is Nikolas."
"Nikolas!" she softly exclaimed. "Nikolas! You're speaking-"
"Yes," he broke in, unintentionally cutting her off. His mind raced and he needed to get the words out as quickly as possible. "There's been an ac-cident. Dawn's been h-hurt. She's at General Hospital and I'm with her."
"Oh, my God!" she cried. "How bad... How is she? Will she be okay? What happened?"
"I can't... I'm sorry. I don't have the answers for you. Please, Auntie," Nikolas begged. "She needs you."
"I'll be right there. Tell her I'm coming."
Abruptly, the dial tone buzzed in his ear. Nikolas closed the phone and shoved it inside his pocket. Drawing in a harsh breath, he wrapped his arms around himself and moved towards the curtains. Behind them, the doctors spoke a language that sounded foreign to Nikolas. They were brisk and controlled. He prayed that their actions would protect her.
Stefan's ironclad grip rested on Nikolas' shoulders and spun him around. Lines of worry creased his brow. His hands tightened their hold while his eyes raked over Nikolas, widening at the bloodstains that were darkening Nikolas' overcoat and sweater. "My God! What happened?"
Nikolas gulped hard, hot tears falling down his cheeks. "Dawn was hurt. I-It was so bad. There was bl-blood everywhere. I brought her here as fast as I could."
Nodding, Stefan guided Nikolas away from the curtains that separated them from Dawn. They went inside the Staff Lounge and Stefan led Nikolas to the sofa. The room was empty and gave them the privacy they needed to regain their composure. As Stefan sat beside Nikolas, he gently patted the younger man's back until his tears had subsided and he was able to speak. "What happened to her?"
Nikolas shook his head. "I think she was stabbed. I saw a knife and then there were shots... I'm not sure."
"Where were you?"
"We were on the docks. The AIDS clinic was being dedicated today-"
"So this was an attempted robbery?" Stefan asked. "Did you see his face? Do you remember anything that will enable us to find this person?"
"It happened so fast," Nikolas explained. "I can't remember anything. I'm sorry, Uncle."
"No need for apologies. What has transpired was not caused by you." Stefan took Nikolas' hand and squeezed. "Whoever harmed her will not go unpunished."
"How did you know?" Nikolas asked.
"A member of the staff recognized you and had the aptitude to notify me immediately. I must notify Carlotta-"
"I telephoned her. She's on her way." Nikolas rose from the sofa and opened the door. "Dawn's been in there for quite some time now. What does that mean? Is that good or bad?"
"It means that patience is required in a time like this." Stefan joined Nikolas in the doorway. Wrapping his arm around Nikolas' shoulders again, he said softly, "Patience and prayers."