Chapter Forty

Felicia eyes the green kiwi-lime juice bottle and her imagination begins to concoct a plan. At first, she considers mulling it over with Kevin, but changes her mind. He'd only try to talk her out of it. In fact, she could hear him now: "Felicia, You don't want to do that. First off, it's illegal, not that that's ever stopped you before. Secondly, you don't know what effect it might have on Tom. For all you know, he might already be taking the stuff, himself, and following orders from somebody else. Or, he might be taking something that might interact with it and who knows what would happen then? What if the guy up and died on you? Imagine explaining to Mac and the PCPD how you came to have a dead guy in your apartment. Or, what if he lost it completely, and tried to kill you? No, don't look at me that way. I don't intend to go one on one with a drugged maniac, no matter who he is. Thirdly, or is it fourthly..."

"It's sixthly, but who's counting?" she says aloud to the imaginary Kevin who promptly vanishes. "Then, that's that. No point talking with someone who is going to disagree with me, anyway. Now, let me see." She picks up the telephone, and enters Tom's number. "Tom? Look, darling, I know that you've been under a lot of stress lately-and I thought that if we got together for a while, maybe we could, well, you know....the kids are with Simone tonight...."

She sounded sultry, inviting, and downright seductive, she thought as she whispered the things she intended to do to him into the phone. Creative, too. Tom finally agrees to the appointed hour, and Felicia hangs up the phone. She smiles, and Kevin, who has just entered the room, cringes.

"I've seen that smile before," he says, darkly. "And it bodes no good."

Felicia chuckles and says, "I've got a plan. You stay in the basement, and leave this to me." Hmmmmmmm

"There's some really weird stuff about Tom on the net," Lucky says to Nik who has returned to the catacombs. "Hey, Ruby's chili!! When did she reopen the diner?"

"This morning," Nik replies. "Apparently the police decided that keeping Carly's and Gina's rooms closed for now is enough."

"Makes sense. Any word on our Mom?"

That sounded strange to the boys, and their eyes meet.

"No," Nik replies. "They let me in for a few minutes to see her, and I took that opportunity to plant a bug."

Lucky's eyes glint with admiration. "No kidding?"

"Piece of cake," Nik answers. "I've got a receiver here, and all the stuff we need to listen in and record what we hear so we can play it back and analyze it."

"That's sneaky. Wish I'd thought of it."

"You've sort of got your hands full," Nik told him. "So, what did you learn about Tom Hardy?"

Lucky gets a strange look on his face, and says, "Well, I hacked into a file-not going to say whose file it was, and I hope like heck that I didn't leave any traceable tracks, but apparently he was involved in some tribal warfare, a territorial thing-involving food, lands, and some serious political manipulations."

"That's nothing new," Nik said. "I've heard those rumors before."

"Yeah, but there are allegations that the purpose for the wars was basically genocidal. They used tribe against tribe to weaken them to the point that someone else could come in, and take over. The worst thing was that apparently Tom's outfit was accused of violating the rule, 'First do no harm.' It's said that they were seeing that many of the warriors received improper medical care, or none at all. There are even rumors of deliberately infecting certain groups with incurable diseases."

"So what is he doing at GH?"

"That may be why he isn't there anymore."

Nik scowls. "If any of that is true, then GH is going to be open to major lawsuits."

"No kidding. The hospital is already in trouble with Dr. Kevin Collins and his problems." Lucky pauses, and asks, "I wonder if any of this has to do with Gina's death?"

"That remains to be seen," Nik tells him. "One thing I know-the deeper we go into this, the more interrelated it appears to be."

"What I'm wondering about are the hidden players," Lucky says. "And, if there are hidden players, there must be something very big at stake."

"That's what I figure," Nik said. "And something tells me that when we find out what it is, we'll know who the players are." Hmmmmmmmmm

It's about one half hour until he's supposed to be at Felicia's place, and Tom is definitely antsy. Unless he's able to produce results, he will be regarded as useless, and useless items are a liability. And, liabilities are things to be limited, and eliminated whenever possible. He looks nervously over his shoulder. It has been too long since he's been contacted, and a lack of contact might well mean a lack of confidence. A lack of confidence was a death penalty. This isn't the way it's supposed to work out, he tells himself. He has a plan, and he is one of the insiders. Isn't he? Or, had he ever been?

All his life, he tells himself savagely, he's been on the outside looking in. Oh, yeah, he was his mother's son, but not his father's. Not Steve Hardy's. The other man wasn't worth ... thinking about. No, Steve had given him his name, but there was always something missing, some element of acceptance. And, Tom had gone looking for it, he realized, in some very strange, very out of the way places. Places like Africa.

As he headed towards the brownstone, towards home and towards a form of acceptance, he forced himself to face the facts that he was kidding himself there, too. Were it not for the drug, that mind altering drug, Felicia would never have felt anything more than pity for him, for that quivering mass of manhood she'd found sitting in his room cowering from the memories that he couldn't escape, from the mistakes that he couldn't leave behind...

Tom stopped and stared at the sky, seeing sparkling stars. He paused and wished for what might have been, what would never be, and against what he knew would eventually catch up with him.

With gritted teeth, he turned towards the brownstone, and towards what little pleasure he sensed remained for him. Very little, he realized, knowing that Felicia knew something was wrong.

As he turned the corner onto the street, he didn't see the shadowy figure following him......Hmmmmmmm

Stay tuned!! Will Felicia find out what she wants to know?? Does Kevin have a clue as to what she's up to?? Would he have objected, were he given the chance?? And, what of our youthful investigators?? Brothers by blood, partners by necessity, will they become friends by choice?? Will Tom arrive safely at the brownstone?? Who is the shadowy character lurking in the darkness? Hmmmmmmm