"Things are getting......sticky"

Garcia and Taggert stood in the darkness on the dock looking towards Spoon Island, which was virtually invisible in the driving rain.

"Man, I'm getting seasick just looking at the water," Taggert grumbled, pulling his coat collar up around his neck. "Who called this in?"

"Anonymous with an Aussie accent," Garcia answered with a smirk. "Go figure."

"So the Jacks brothers are involved in this?" Taggert was disgusted. "I've been running checks on Jerry and where that guy goes, trouble abounds."

"I'd be inclined to ignore this call, but anything involving the Cassadines, especially since we can't raise them on the phone, has to be investigated."

"You want to tell me how we're going to get over there in this storm?"

"We're going to rent a boat."

"From whom? You see any idiots renting in this weather?"

"Then we commandeer one."

"Um, Alejandro, amigo...there are small craft advisories posted tonight. All the rentals are closed due to the weather. That should tell you something! If you think that I'm getting in anything smaller than an ocean liner..."

"Make sure we have life jackets."

"Man, I want to make sure that I have a life, which I won't if we're dumb enough to go over there in this weather. Look, Garcia, - how do we know that this isn't just a diversion so that Jerry Jacks can pull some stunt or other?"

"There are other cops that will answer if he's trying anything. Look, Tag. You know what all has gone on with the Cassadines lately-Kat's murder, Laura Spencer returning. There's trouble brewing tonight-I can feel it."

Jerry dragged the boat to shore, relieved that he'd made the trip without incident. Nothing like a brisk ride on choppy waters to get the old adrenaline flowing. Grimly, he began the ascent to the top of the hill on which the mansion had been built. Something was wrong-very wrong. He hadn't lived this long though as many adventures as he'd enjoyed without developing that sixth sense warning him of danger.

Tonight that sense was screaming at him.

"It's definitely not water," Bobbie said, looking at the red drops on the floor. "It looks like blood."

"Where is everybody?" Lucky demanded. "Where is Stefan and Luke? We were looking for Alexis and Nik, but couldn't find them. Now neither of them is here."

"I take it that you didn't see your mother when you came down the stairs?"

"She's here?" He focused the light back down on the red drops on the floor, fear running through him in a torrent. "Mom?!?!?"

Orders, when appropriately given, should be followed, immediately, if not sooner. That was what he'd been taught since his youth, and to date, that had worked rather well. Tonight, however, nothing was working. Finding that rather common curses were making their way to his lips, Stefan ground his teeth and kept his mouth shut. A Cassadine would not use such coarse language. But then, his mind taunted him, he wasn't a Cassadine. He cursed steadily as he headed towards his goal, the fuse box that was located down in the wine cellar. Ignoring everything but his goal, he reached out to take the doorknob when his hands came away slick with something. Recoiling was instinctive, and he withdrew his hand immediately. In the darkness, he couldn't determine the nature of the substance, but as he held his hand closer to his face, the scent was unmistakable. Blood.

"Alexis?" Luke called, as he heard a door open and then close a bit farther down the hall. "Nikolas?"

There was no answer, but that had never stopped Luke Spencer. Wishing that he'd kept the flashlight, he mentally shrugged and let his ears lead the way. "Any other home would have those flashlights that go on when the lights go out hanging around where you could find one. But, then, this isn't just any home-this is the Cassadine lair and they don't need the $%^&* flashlights," he muttered as he edged his way forward, one hand feeling along the wall. Pity he didn't have a permanent marker on him-he'd love to leave a few choice comments on the so elegant French silk wallpaper. "Right here," he began, as his fingers guided him through the hall. He paused as his fingers encountered something that didn't belong on the paper-something sticky.

Stopping suddenly, he touched his thumb to his fingertips, running it quickly across. "Damn," he muttered. "Damn!! Nikolas?? Alexis??" His voice rang out as he dropped to his knees to feel around on the floor.


The sound of the silenced bullet was entirely too familiar to Luke, and he heard it thud into the wall above him. With a feral smile, he reached for the weapon he'd been carrying since the Cassadines hit town. This time, when the other gun spat fire, he returned it, gratified when he heard a cry in the darkness. He crept down the hallway-he'd always wanted to go hunting in the Cassadine mansion......

Alexis struggled back to consciousness, fighting the darkness that seemed to go on forever. She felt the burning pain in her side when she breathed in, and as she put her hand to her side, it came away sticky. Blood, she thought dully. My blood. As she felt herself descend into a deeper darkness, she smiled. For one shining moment she had done and said what she'd really thought. For one moment, she'd taken charge of her life, no reservations and no holds barred. For one shining moment...

Tears slipped from her eyes as she thought of what could have been, what she still badly wanted to accomplish in her life. She thought of the children she wanted, little boys and girls with dark hair and dimples.

"No," she whispered. She wouldn't let it end. She was a fighter, had been all her life. Gritting her teeth, she reached for her purse, only to find it missing. Whoever had stabbed her had apparently taken it.

Suddenly a beam of light blinded her.

Had her would be killer returned to finish the job?

Nikolas peered into the darkness, but no way could he distinguish much of anything. "Alexis?"

But, he was speaking into a black void. "Alexis!" Pausing, he mentally pictured the hallway where he was standing. There were times when living in this huge rabbit warren of a structure was very inconvenient. "Alexis!" He called. Still no answer. "Screw this," he thought, using one of Lucky's favorite terms.

Suddenly, Nikolas became aware that he was no longer alone. For a second he froze, then spun and lashed out with his hands and feet. "Ask questions later," Lucky had advised when they had talked about street survival. Taking that to heart, Nikolas fought against the adversary he couldn't see, painfully aware that his opponent was armed with a knife.

He heard a muffled whisper...."To the death."

"So be it," Nik answered. "Any last words?"