"We may have a slight problem," Justus reported to Jason. "Laura Spencer is back in jail, this time for the murder of Kathryn Bell. That is, she is charged with hiring the killer who did the job."

"Did she?" Jason asked, dispassionately. "Did she arrange the hit?"

"She says that she didn't," Justus answered. "Don't tell me that you think her capable of that?"

"She's married to Luke Spencer which in my book makes her capable of a lot of things. He's hardly a saint, himself."

"That would be like suspecting Robin of murder because of her association with you," Justus countered.

"Not quite," Jason pointed out. "From what I've heard, Laura has an interesting history. Robin's is very nearly pristine, aside from her past associations with Stone, Sonny and me. Add to that her parents and their connections, and Robin is unlikely to wield a weapon except in self-defense."

"So you think that she might have done this?"

"I'm saying that I don't make a habit of trusting anybody simply on the basis of their looks. I prefer information. But, in reference to your worries about Damian-they can't try her twice for the same crime. That's double jeopardy."

"No, but I have to cooperate with them or they can finger me in the killing."

"All they have is accusations and videotape. Right?"

"The accusations I can stand, but the videotape might make my life a little bit difficult."

"So, all we have to worry about is Luke Spencer?"

"More or less. Edward knows, as does my cousin, but as far as I know, that's all."

"And they won't tell. Okay, let me handle this. If Luke knew and he didn't tell, then he could be charged with obstruction of justice. That's a felony. He can also be charged with blackmail, if he's been leaning on you, holding this over your head."

"Jason, I can be charged with murder."

"Don't sweat it. There's no reason for Luke to use this other than to get a free legal ride. If he turns you in, he knows that I'll be pi$$ed and he wants to maintain my friendship, no matter what he says. Like I said, I'll take care of this. Just defend Laura like any good friend would."

Justus looked relieved. "I appreciate this. You know, I hit Damian, but I didn't think that I really hit him that hard. He died from smoke inhalation, but the autopsy report indicated multiple hits with the bat. I only hit him once."

"Only once? Are you certain?"

"Hey man, I was there."

"So was Laura," Jason pointed out. "So was Laura."

Bobbie looked at Stefan who had entered the house in a state of depression. "What did the police want?" she asked. The relationship that they'd developed since she'd returned to Windemere was a bit strained, but no way was she going to live there and be as quiet as a mouse.

"They wanted me to know that they were planning to charge Laura with the crime of hiring my agent, Reece, to kill Kathryn, a crime for which he supposedly killed himself upon discovering that the orders had not been given by me."

"They believe that Reece would have killed for you?"

Stefan looked at her very calmly. "Yes."

"Would he?"

"More importantly, Barbara, do you think that I would give such orders?"

Bobbie paused and considered the question. "Do I believe that you'd give orders to kill? You've told me things about your mother and the rest of your family that would lead me to believe that they would have done that, but no, I don't think that you'd do that. This doesn't mean that you wouldn't do other things, but you're not a murderer. You might kill, but you wouldn't murder."

"You understand the difference?"

"Yes," she told him. "You understand power and the abuse of power. No, Stefan, you're not a murderer." She chuckled. "Besides, if you were a murderer, you'd have long since killed my brother."

"An excellent point, Barbara, and one temptation to which I might yet yield." He poured himself a drink, reconsidered, and added another measure. Staring straight ahead, he downed the drink as Bobbie watched.

"Stefan. What happened? I knew that you were upset, but there's more, isn't there?"

"She was pregnant. Kathryn was pregnant, and I failed her. Had I been a better man, the man she deserved, the man I had intended to be, I would be looking forward to being a father, and in many ways, for the first time." Stefan looked at the bottle of brandy that beckoned to him from the table, and then thought better of it. "I was unable to look forward to the birth of Nikolas with that anticipation, and knowledge of Lucky's birth was denied me. I would have liked a daughter, Barbara, a little blond daughter to bring laughter and love to this place, one to help erase the hideousness of the Cassadine past. I had thought it possible to escape our legacy of power and pain, but the curse follows me still."


"I speak figuratively, Barbara. The curse of which I speak is that a man reaps that which he sows, and I have sown discord and deceit. I deceived my brother, sired his son, and moved to claim the power for my son that should have been reserved for his."

"But he'd have had no son by Laura."

"He should have. Do you know that she promised him one? She promised him a son in exchange for rescuing her, or so he told me, but fool that I was, I didn't believe him. I knew that he wanted her, and I allowed myself to be persuaded that she was being abused by him. You see, when she turned those lovely, tear-filled eyes on me, I would have believed nearly anything she said. But, I saw no bruises, Barbara. I saw nothing to indicate that he had in any way injured her, and outside of the fact that she was unable to leave the island, she was treated very well."

"What do you mean, 'rescuing her'? From whom? This doesn't make any sense to me. She was kidnapped, Stefan. Held against her will."

"Did you know that Laura had met him in New York some weeks earlier, and that Stavros told me that she begged him to take her away from Port Charles? That she told him that she had been forced to marry Luke? That she feared him, feared his anger, his vindictiveness? She feared that he would decide to make certain that she could never reveal the truth about the rape."

"You're kidding. She told him that?"

"Until this day, I had discounted all that he'd said, believing that Laura had been kidnapped, taken against her will as she'd told me. I knew that my mother was capable of evil, and that Stavros was her favorite son, perhaps because of his willingness to be ruthless. Now, I'm not so sure."

"Are you saying that you think that Laura manipulated all of you back then?"

"Brilliantly," Stefan answered. "I had never considered it a possibility before, but I see now that once I had slept with her, my separation from my family, from my brother was inevitable. I could not claim my son, a fact that I have long resented. To do so was to declare my dishonor, and to lose everything that I held dear. I had thought to free Laura from the unwanted attentions of my brother, to care for her, and now I see that I have been used. What is the expression? Divide and conquer?" He turned tortured eyes to Bobbie and added, "This much I swear, Barbara. I will release my family from the lies and machinations of Laura if it's the last thing I ever do."