Helena let that settle in for a moment. Then, a smug look on her face, she continued. "I see that you hadn't thought of that yet." She sighed deeply. "Let me spell it out for you. The Kathryn Bell I knew would not have hurt anyone. Yes, she had the morals of an alley cat in heat, and I make no apologies for my grandson's lack of discretion, but Kathryn was not a violent woman."
Mac allowed his face to go vacant while he pulled the knife from his desk. He slipped it from the plastic bag and asked, "Do you recognize this?"
Helena studied the dagger with obvious interest, a collector's gleam in her avaricious eyes. "Is it for sale?"
"No. It's evidence. It's the dagger that killed Kathryn Bell, and nearly killed Nikolas. We're trying to determine where it came from."
"From Russia," she opined. "I daresay that it belonged to the Royal family at one time." She picked up the dagger and seemed to caress it, running her finger along the blade, over the richly appointed gold carvings that were cleverly designed to secure the precious stones. "Curious. I wonder how Ms. Bell came by this? I am familiar with nearly all of the Faberge works that are in museums or private collections, but this one I do not recognize. Perhaps I will purchase it when this wretchedness is finished."
"If it goes anywhere," Mac told her. "It will go to whoever inherits Kat's estate. She was, apparently, the owner."
"And who might that be?"
"Ms. Cassadine, the woman is barely cold in....wherever the hell she is, and you're already making arrangements to divide the spoils?" Mac was openly sarcastic.
Helena's eyes narrowed as she studied Mac's face a bit closer. "You are your brother's brother, aren't you? I remember Robert Scorpio very well. Very well indeed. It remains to be seen if you are as good as he was."
"We'll see," Mac smiled. "We'll see."
Helena reluctantly put down the dagger and walked away, aware of the challenge that was left hanging in the air.
"That's one seriously creepy old broad," Taggert observed a minute later. "But do you think that she really believes that Kat was used as a murder weapon?"
"I wouldn't put it past her," Mac muttered. "I wouldn't put anything past her, if you want to know the truth. She has rattlesnake venom in her veins. Kat was doomed from the minute that she hooked up with the Cassadines. Helena saved her only because she had a reason. Helena always has a reason."
"You're starting to sound like Luke Spencer," Garcia suggested.
"Maybe I'll go chat with him," Mac told them. "After all, he's the only man I know who has gone multiple rounds with the Cassadines and lived to tell about it."
Ned lay back, sated, wondering if loving Alexis would be the death of him yet. Still, he thought with a smile on his well-kissed lips, a guy had to go somehow!
"Don't look so smug," Alexis whispered, turning to him. She regarded him thoughtfully. "You know, I was worried for a while that I'd never see that particular smile on your face again."
Ned leaned over and whispered something in her ear that brought a blush to her face. "Ned Ashton! Has ELQ added something new to its pharmaceutical division, or are you just really glad to see me?"
"Let me show you how glad..."
Much later, they lay back. Loving had taken the urgency from them, leaving both thoughtful and relaxed. "So tell me, would you really take exception to my killing Jax?"
"I would," Alexis answered. "Have you ever heard of anybody known as Zandor?"
"Zandor? That's a strange name. Is it short for something? Alexander, maybe?"
"No clue. He was with Robin Scorpio when they found us in the desert. I told you that, but I haven't been able to get him out of my mind."
"Should I be jealous?"
Alexis laughed out loud. "After the last...how long has it been? You have to ask?"
"Just checking. Okay, what is it about this guy that bothers you?"
"He looks familiar somehow. I don't know him, but there's something about him that rings a bell in my memory."
"Describe him to me. I don't know him, or of him."
"He's tall-I'd say about six feet tall or thereabouts. He has dark brown hair-he wears it shoulder length. Dark eyes, too. But it's the scar on his neck..."
"Maybe that's it. Helena had my mother killed. I told you that. She had her throat cut..." Alexis' voice wavered, and her own hand clutched at her throat. "That woman is evil. Evil." She took a deep breath and continued. "But that's neither here nor there. Zandor said that it happened when he was a child."
Ned shook his head. "How can people hurt children?" He looked into her eyes, then pulled her close. "I'll never hurt ours...."
Their eyes met. "Ours?"
"Yours and mine. Ours." Ned looked pleased with himself. Indeed, he felt pleased as well. "I don't know why we haven't discussed this before."
"Our forthcoming marriage. The one in which we fall asleep every night in each other's arms, the one in which we forget that we have insane relatives that care more for their companies than their children, then marriage in which we have children that we love more than life. Little honey-haired girls with big, dark eyes. Maybe their daddy's dimples."
"No little boys?"
"We'll have an assortment." Ned was agreeable. "A few of each."
Alexis was silent, so Ned kissed her softly. "I know that I haven't told you everything that's in my heart, but it's full and it all belongs to you." He sensed her reluctance, her fears. "I haven't given you all the right words, Alexis, but words without deeds are nothing. No, they're worse than nothing. They make you believe that the person who said them meant them. Then, there's the disillusionment that comes when you find that the words meant something different to the other person, that the meaning changes according to their whim. I can give you the words, darling, and I will, but I'd rather give you myself and everything that I'll ever be." He looked back into her eyes. "I love you, Alexis. Marry me."
Alexis looked deeply into Ned's eyes, seeing what she'd seen before, but truly believing it for the first time. "You really mean it. You really mean it."
"That I love you? That you're the only woman I've ever really loved? Oh, I loved Lois, but, and I realize it now, she was just a little girl playing dress-up. I love you, Alexis, the woman. Let's marry tonight-not let my family turn what is ours, is beautiful and sacred, into a costumed fiasco. This is between you and me, and whatever God chooses to let us enjoy."
Her heart filled beyond words, Alexis nodded. "Tonight."
Just as they began to kiss again, the phone beside the bed rang.
"Let it ring," Alexis murmured, her eyes bright with excitement.
"Duty calls," Ned told her. "Besides, I was going to leave a message that I'll be unavailable for a few days, anyhow." He lifted the receiver. "Ashton."
Suddenly, he sat upright, his face a mask of horror and disbelief. "I'm on my way. Absolutely not."
"What is it?" Alexis asked, realizing that something bad had happened. "Is it your grandmother?"
"No," Ned answered, tersely. "It's Lois. I mean, that was Miguel. Lois was apparently killed a little while ago in a suspicious looking automobile accident. Her car went off a bridge and into the harbor when it was sideswiped by someone shooting at them. Brook Lynne is missing."
"My little girl has been kidnapped, Alexis." He turned anguished eyes on her.
"I'm coming with you."
Robin sat before the computer, her fingers flying across the keys like her father's had years ago. Somehow, knowing that Robert had done the same sort of research was comforting to his daughter, comforting and inspiring. He'd been able to ferret out information, pulling clues out of the air, so to speak. Now, his daughter pulled them out of cyberspace, and, more particularly, out of a variety of databases, many of which were not available to the general public. Some not available even to her, if legalities had been observed. Robin, however, was becoming increasingly adept at hacking into other systems, and even better at doing it with a minimum of tracks being left.
Jason watched, realizing that the Robin he'd known was only a small part of a very complex person. She wasn't the same person he'd known, and the world as he'd known it had changed as well. Nothing was the same, which was just as well, as far as he was concerned. He was a man denied his yesterdays. The present was all he had. "Any more information about the Cassadine kid?"
"Not yet, but listen to all that's happened in Port Charles since you left....wait a minute-there's more. Good grief! First Lucky dies in a fire, then Kat loses it and almost kills Nikolas but gets killed herself. While that is going down, Jax and Alexis went down, literally, but survived, and now Lois Cerrullo, you know, Ned's ex-wife, has been killed in a suspicious looking accident while in Puerto Rico, and their little girl has apparently been snatched from the arms of the baby-sitter that very night." The phone rang, and Robin answered it, noting everything that was said.
"It's building," Zandor observed, strolling into the room. "Everything is connected to a Cassadine one way or another."
"You're starting to sound like Luke Spencer," Jason told him. "He's convinced that the Cassadines are behind just about everything."
"He may be right."
"But what about Lois?"
"Ned, her ex, is having an affair with a Cassadine. Alexis is a Cassadine."
Jason nodded. "Ned is a decent guy. Is there any way we can help him locate his little girl?" He thought of the little boy he'd left behind, thought of the dangers Ned's daughter faced. His expression changed to one of stern intent. "We can't just stand around doing nothing."
"We're not doing nothing," Zandor told him. "We've got someone on the situation as we speak."
"Yeah? Then why didn't he prevent the accident and keep Brook Lynne from being kidnapped?"
"Have you ever tried to stop Lois from doing anything?" Robin asked, hanging up the phone. "She was supposed to wait until after the show to head back to the hotel, but she didn't. She got a message that her regular baby-sitter was sick, so she approved one over the phone without telling our man. She violated her own security orders all the way around."
"So Miguel didn't know until it was too late that Brook Lynne was in danger. His partner, the baby-sitter, was actually a bodyguard for the child. She was apparently poisoned."
"Miguel? Miguel Morez is WSB?"
"Living the Vida Loca," Miguel muttered under his breath. "They don't know the half of it." He answered his cellular phone, "Morez."
"Lois?" Miguel dropped his voice. "Where are you?"
"I'm sopping wet, that's where I am. Damnit to hell and back again, somebody tried to kill me. Where is Brooke Lynn?"
Miguel took a deep breath. "You know already?"
"She's missing, isn't she? That's why they tried to get rid of me. They'll use her to get to Nedly."
"They won't hurt her," Miguel promised. "She's the bait. They'll take good care of her."
"And I'll take good care of them," Lois countered, a note that Miguel had never heard before in her voice. He shivered, knowing well the gleam of sheer rage that was in her eyes. "Nobody messes with my kid and gets away with it."