Chapter Fourteen

"Nikolas?" Laura began, facing her oldest son.

Nikolas turned tired eyes to his mother, seeing his father as well, but even his own fatigue and the drugs he'd been given couldn't dim his perception that something was greatly wrong. Kathryn, he figured, turning away from them. How to explain what he didn't understand himself? "It was an accident," he began. "She attacked me."

"No," Laura began. "We know about Kathryn, and it definitely wasn't your fault." Laura's expression changed to one of pure anguish, tears cascading down her cheeks. "It's Lucky."

"Lucky?" Nik asked, horror and disbelief dawning in his mind. "Is Lucky...dead?"

Laura nodded, unable to speak, so Stefan stepped in. "There was a fire in his room last night. Arson is suspected at this point, but yes, he's.....gone."

"My God!" Nikolas moaned, turning away. His pain burned deep as he realized that he'd lost the brother he'd only recently begun to know. "Lizzie?"

"She knows," Stefan told him. "As does Emily who found you this morning."

Nikolas closed his eyes as shame and pain filled him completely. "She shouldn't have seen.....what she saw. I'm so sorry."

"Excuse me," Taggert broke in, strolling into the room. "Glad to see you're feeling better, Nikolas."

"He is in no condition to talk with you at this time," Stefan broke in, his tone icy.

"It's okay," Nikolas countered. "He can ask me anything he wants. I don't care."

"He will not question you without an attorney present."

"Please, let me answer any questions. I have nothing to hide. God knows that everybody has seen or heard everything by now."

"Mr. Cassadine," Taggert began. "There is no reason to think that Nikolas will be charged with anything. If anything, this will be ruled self-defense. We just want to know if Nikolas has any idea what motivated Ms. Bell to do what she did."

"I have no idea," Nikolas said. "We'd...that is...everything was fine. Then, I awoke when she started to stab me. I tried to get away, but got tangled in the sheets and fell. I made it to the bedroom doorway and fell out onto the landing. She followed, and I kicked out, tripping her. She fell and that's the last thing that I remember until Emily Quartermaine called my name. It gets vague after that."

"That tracks well with what we've heard and with the evidence at the scene. One more thing, however." Taggert held out a picture of the dagger to Nikolas. "Aside from tonight, have you ever seen this before?"

Nikolas looked at it, again recalling the nightmarish seconds when it plunged towards him, and something more, something elusive. "Aside from tonight, I can't be certain. There's something familiar about it, but given my family's possessions, it's possible that we have or had something like it somewhere."

"Thank you, and I'm sorry about your brother. Lucky was a good kid."

Taggert looked at Laura whose eyes were awash with more tears. "I wish I could do or say something to make your pain go away," he began.

"Just tell me that Lucky is alive," she whispered brokenly. "Tell me that my son didn't die in that fire."

Wishing he dared say more, Taggert turned and walked away.

Robin looked up from the computer which had signaled an e-mail arriving. "My God!" she breathed as Alexis approached.

"What's wrong?"

"What's right?" Robin asked, her voice quivering. "Zandor, it's beginning. Just like you said it would."

Zandor hurried to her side. Scanning the letter, he smiled. "We may not be too late after all. Read it carefully, Robin. Body burned beyond recognition, virtually cremated, so that there was very little to identify, and that much of the identification was based on some subway token that survived the fire and the fact that the body was in..."

"Whose body and what happened?" Jax demanded. "What the hell's going on?"

"Lucky Spencer may or may not have burned to death last night in Port Charles," Zandor told them bluntly. "But he is presumed dead. And curiously, on the same night, Kathryn Bell tried to kill Nikolas. She didn't succeed, and paid for her efforts with her life."

"My God!" Alexis echoed softly. "What is going on?"

"Far more than you can imagine," Zandor smiled at Alexis. He turned his head at the sound of the computer bringing in more e-mail, and Alexis caught sight of a slashing scar across his throat. Suppressing a shudder, she looked away.

"It doesn't hurt anymore," Zandor told her, noting her reaction. "It happened when I was very small."

"What's beginning, and what the hell are you guys talking about?"

"Let's just call it a hostile takeover," Zandor suggested. "And some are more hostile than others."

Stefan entered his office, closing the door behind himself. Taking his cellular phone from his pocket, he quickly punched in the requisite code. "All is proceeding according to schedule, but your plans nearly cost Nikolas his life. There will be no more slip-ups. And, make certain that the cleanup crew is efficient. No. No funeral. She has served her purpose."

Mac looked at the woman he loved more than life itself, and wondered once more what it was that she saw in him, an ex-mercenary with a less than pristine past. She'd buried her nose once more in the chest of things that Lila had given her. "Find anything else that interests you?"

"It's a little like a puzzle only I'm not sure if I have all the pieces, or even what the picture is supposed to look like when I put it together. Still, the most curious thing so far is the locket."

"When is your grandmother arriving?"

"Tomorrow. She said that she had a few things to do before she left Texas. It was weird, Mac, but she sounded a little stressed. Maybe this visit will be good for her-you know, getting away from the hacienda for a while."

"Yeah. I wish that we could get away from here for a while, though I don't think it would make much difference. What has happened has happened."

"You mean Lucky?"

"Yeah, and Nikolas Cassadine. He's alive and has been cleared of any charges, but it can't be a pleasant thing to remember, especially what with losing his brother like that." Mac shook his head. "Been there, done that."

"So what do you think is going on?"

Mac shrugged and leaned back. "Okay, think about everything. Short of being a storyline in the soap opera from hell, the only time things like this happen is nightmarish coincidence or there's someone behind this pulling the strings."

"Because of the condition of Lucky's body and the attack on Nikolas?"

"Exactly. Look, you know that Kathryn and I were involved in the past."

"I forgave you for that. **** happened."

"You could put it that way. But, my point is that Kathryn isn't the sort of woman to get off on trying to stab a young lover to death with a golden dagger. She's more likely to have it turned into a piece of jewelry or selling it to the highest bidder. And, she definitely wouldn't have tried to take out the Cassadine kid."

"But she did."

"Which means that something happened to her since I knew her."

"She died," Felicia pointed out. "She fell off the parapet and was pronounced dead. Then, she miraculously came back to life thanks to..."

"Exactly," Mac said, picking up the phone. "I wonder what the autopsy on her turned up." He entered the numbers and waited patiently. "Scorpio here. What's the latest on the Bell autopsy? Any...What???!?!?? What do you mean, there's no body? Corpses don't just get up and walk off!"