"My guests are treated with hospitality," Stefan answered, "whether or not they deserve it." He turned the flashlight on the painting. "At the moment, however, I have other things on my mind."
"Laura's portrait?" Luke flashed his light on it. "There was a time when I'd have asked what you were doing with it-maybe I still should-but all I want to know right now is--Who did this?"
"Who did it is less important than where she is. Have you seen her?"
"She arrived moments after you did, and was speaking with us when the lights went out. We haven't seen her since, and, though that has been only a few minutes..."
"Whose blood is it?" The sick feeling was getting stronger, and Luke forced himself to be calm. "What's going on, Stefan? Somebody upstairs was shooting at me and I returned fire. I tracked blood drops here."
"I came here in order to check the breaker box which is down here. The knob to the door to this room was bloody, and you can see the painting yourself."
"How about the knob on the other side of the door?" Luke asked. "Was the blood from someone coming in, or going out?"
Luke walked to that door to get an answer, noting that the knob was clean. "Probably coming in." He looked at Stefan and asked, "How many entrances to this room?"
"Two...that I know of."
"Then whoever I was tracking....." Their eyes met, and the two began to carefully search the cellar, moving in and out of the wine racks.
Jerry flashed his light on the floor, away from the direction in which he'd found Alexis. His lips thinned in a grim smile as he counted Alexis' injury as one more debt to lay at Helena's door. That old harridan would pay, and soon, he vowed. Pity you couldn't kill someone more than once. Oh, well, he'd take what pleasure he could in the thought that there was probably a special pit in Hell reserved exclusively for her, and he planned to see that she made use of it very soon. Shining the light on the floor, he could see bloodspots leading away down the hall, giving him a trail to follow. "Laura?" he called. "Laura?"
Suddenly, he felt himself being jerked back, felt the business end of a blade against his throat. "What do you want with my mother?"
"Nikolas? Alexis is downstairs."
"Who are you?"
"Jerry Jacks. We've got to find your mother. Helena sent someone here tonight, I think, to kill her and blame it on Stefan."
"You expect me to believe that?" Nik whispered harshly in Jerry's ear. He brought the blade to rest on Jerry's neck, gently pricking it. "How did you find out about this?"
"I've been eavesdropping on the old bat."
"My sort of kid," Jerry murmured. "Look, I'll be brief. Helena knows that Alexis is onto something and what I heard was someone reporting to Helena that it was done, and she told whoever it was to begin the cleanup-Alexis and the children, and to see that Stefan was blamed. You are one of the children. Am I to take it that you've been attacked tonight, as well?"
"You take it right. Now, give me one good reason to trust you."
"I've been working with your mother behind the scenes to over throw the Cassadine empire as it is currently known and represented."
"And this is supposed to make me want to trust you?"
"Look, kid-we can stand here arguing all night, but unless you are the one who knifed your aunt Alexis, and since I'm not, then we have somebody here bent on mischief. I'd rather work with you than against you, but hey, I'm flexible."
"Is Alexis all right?"
"She's with Bobbie Spencer downstairs-along with Lucky and the little kid. I think that she'll make it. How about you? Who'd you take the knife from?"
"Somebody attacked me. I couldn't see who it was, but I managed to disarm him."
"Are you okay?"
"I'll live." Nikolas reluctantly released his captive, stepping back. "Now, you said that my mother was here?"
"According to Bobbie, Luke Spencer, Laura, and Stefan are also here somewhere. They mentioned you, but since we've met..."
"I see. Okay, then we need to find my mother, Luke and Stefan."
"Not 'we'. You are going downstairs to keep an eye on the women. I left Lucky there with a gun..."
Suddenly, a light from down the hallway illuminated the duo.
"Stay there. PCPD here."
"About time you guys got here," Jerry began. "What'd you do? Swim?"
"It's done," the dark figure reported. "I did as you asked. You think that it will work?"
"It'll work. You didn't hurt him, did you?" The words were forced, filled with pain, but with determination, as well.
"No, but it was a near thing. He's a fighter. Alexis is injured, perhaps worse than we intended, but she'll survive. How about you?"
"I'll be fine. This will work to our advantage. Okay, then we have to end this little charade very quickly." Above, the thunder crashed, and once again, the lightning illuminated the skies. "They'll be coming soon. You know what to do?"
"There's a door here," Luke told Stefan. "Complete with bloody doorknob. This must be the way."
"I've never used this passageway before," Stefan told him. "I have no idea where it leads."
"No time like the present to learn." Luke opened the doorway and stepped into a damp, dank tunnel. Something skittered past, and he wasn't overly interested in examining whatever it had been. "What is it about your family and underground tunnels?" he shot over his shoulder at Stefan.
"My family has learned the art of survival over the centuries," Stefan answered. "And if that includes the occasional subterranean tunnel, so be it."
"Works for me. I hear something-like we're getting closer to being outside."
Moments later, they pushed vines away and stepped into the storm. As the thunder crashed around them, they looked out to see figures silhouetted against the sky, struggling on the edge of the cliff.
"Laura!" Luke cried, recognizing her.
"They're coming," Laura said. "Now, we've got to make this look good." With her back to Luke and Stefan who were running towards the cliff, she ordered, "do it. Quickly!"
Horrified at what he was to do, her partner lunged quickly at her, plunging the knife into her body. Reeling with renewed pain, Laura fell against him, pulling his gun from his waist holder. Pointing it at him, she said simply, "I'm sorry." Closing her eyes at his appalled understanding of her betrayal, he watched as she pulled the trigger, sending his mortally wounded body hurtling over the cliff.
Laura slumped to the ground, bleeding from her wounds.
"Laura?" Luke cried, falling to the ground beside her. "Babe?"
"Luke," she whispered painfully. "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."
"Who did this? Who was that?"
"Helena's man. He was going to throw my body over the cliff."
"He won't be throwing anybody anywhere," Stefan reported, shining his light over the cliff to the rocks below. "From the looks of it, he's dead."
"I couldn't help it," Laura whimpered. "He was going to kill me."
"What's this?" Luke asked, finding what appeared to be a bullet wound in her side. "I thought he had a knife."
"He was dragging me down the upstairs hallway, and he shot at someone who shot back," Laura whispered, brokenly. "He used me for his shield."
"God, Laura-that was me. I almost killed you."
"I'll be okay, Luke. Just hold me....."
Moments later, the trio was once more in the mansion, this time answering questions from Garcia and Taggert who had searched the place over, finding nothing but the staff which had been locked in a storage room earlier. The storm had died down the point where PCPD was able to send more officers, and the emergency crew from GH was en-route.
"My sons," Laura whispered as Nikolas and Lucky stood by her side. "I had to see you again." She looked tearfully at them, and continued, "I've done so many things wrong. So many things. Please give me another chance..."
Lucy watched from the other side of the room, feeling once more like an outsider. There was something wrong with this whole scenario, she felt instinctively. She felt like Windemere was a stage, and she was an actress who had inadvertently walked onto it only to find that she was in the wrong play. She looked at Luke who was standing beside his wife, who was, as usual, crying beautifully. The damned woman even managed to look beautiful after nearly being murdered in a storm while Lucy looked like she'd been dragged through a muddy bush backwards. Life wasn't fair, she decided, standing up and limping to the door. It was time to go home, wherever that was.
Hobbling down to the dock on bare feet, Lucy pushed her hair out of her eyes and reflected that she'd done what she came to do, that the Spencer family was safe, and that Helena would be locked up shortly.
So why did she still feel that something was wrong?