Chapter Twenty-Eight

One thing about Cassadine houses, Luke thought as he crept down one dark hallway, was that they were all creepy. And, he noted as he lurked in and out of rooms, they weren't big on mirrors, either. Not that he'd blame them. He wouldn't go looking in mirrors, either, if he were one of them. No telling what would be looking back at you!

Hearing voices, Luke melted back into an alcove, finding himself sharing close quarters with what he was prepared to swear was a stuffed vulture. He stared back at the beady-eyed creature. "That'll teach you to circle a Cassadine corpse."

The voices faded, and Luke reemerged from the alcove, bent on finding out the identities of the talkers. There was something familiar about one of them, but he couldn't get close enough to actually hear it. It was more the cadence of the speech than anything else, but the identity of the speaker was just out of reach. Stealing closer to the room that they'd entered, Luke pressed himself tightly to the wall and listened at the closed door. The voices were muted through the solid wood door, so looking around to make certain that he wasn't being observed, Luke leaned closer to press one ear against the door.

The voices were still too distant, and as soon as he saw the knob begin to turn, he dashed back to the alcove where he hid behind a huge grandfather clock that gonged ominously. "Shhhhh," Luke cautioned the vulture whose beady eyes stared straight back at him.

Unfortunately for Luke, the voices took off in the opposite direction, more quickly than he could discreetly follow, so instead, he entered the room from which the people had recently exited. He closed the door quietly, then began to check it out. It was only seconds before he noted someone turning the knob to enter, so this time, he stepped into a closet and drew the door closed behind himself. From his vantage point, he watched as a servant carefully cleaned the ashtray, wrinkling her nose at the odor from the crystal dish, at scent that he suddenly realized had permeated the entire room.

It was cigar smoke, but it was from a specially blended cigar. Luke inhaled deeply, savoring the scent. He knew only one other man who smoked those cigars in Port Charles.

So what the hell was Herr Krieg doing in the Cassadine's country home?

Laura dabbed at her eyes again, noting that Stefan seemed very sympathetic to her tears. She sniffed audibly, and squeezed a few more out. She had been sitting quietly in the nurse's lounge area, timing her tears with Stefan's arrival, relieved to have an audience in the form of Amy Vining.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," she whimpered. "My life is over."

"Lesley Lu needs her mother," Stefan comforted, rising to the bait. "Besides, the pain will lessen in time, and..."

"I want my son," Laura insisted, her voice loud enough for Amy to hear. "I want Lucky."

"Laura, he's...gone."

"Bring him back to me," she wailed, turning into his arms. "Oh, God, Stefan. I think I'm losing my mind. I can hear him calling my name at night!"

"Perhaps you need to rest," Stefan consoled, pulling her closer. He wrapped his arms around her, stroking her hair gently.

"Would resting bring back my son?" she demanded, suddenly becoming angry. Dashing away her tears, she asked him, "Do you believe that he's dead? Really dead? Stefan, what we saw-in the morgue-wasn't enough for me. I can't believe that he's dead. Do you understand me? I don't believe that my son is dead. He needs me, Stefan. My son needs me and I can't go to him. I can't find him!"

Her voice rose hysterically, as Laura began to embroider on her performance, mixing truth with speculation. She wanted to give Amy plenty to gossip about, to make certain that Luke heard about her 'breakdown'. "I can't do this, Stefan! I'm supposed to be helping troubled teenagers and my own teenager is gone. Missing! Presumed dead! Presumed! Do you hear me? Presumed means that there's room for doubt. This is your mother's work, Stefan. That bitch has done this to drive me mad! She knows how much I love my children, all of them. She knew that hurting them would be the only thing that could break me, so she did this."

Warming to her topic, and that Amy was blatantly eavesdropping, Laura evaded Stefan's attempts to comfort her. "Don't touch me, Stefan. I can see it in your eyes that you're feeling sorry for me, that you're pitying me. Well, I don't need your pity, I need your help. You're the only one who can control your mother, the only one who truly understands how evil she is."

There were a few more nurses at the station, all keenly aware of Laura's strident voice.

"Calm yourself, Laura," Stefan said softly.

"Calm myself? Calm myself!!?? How the hell am I supposed to be calm?"

"Amy, get Dr. Baldwin, immediately," Stefan ordered Amy who was drawing closer.

"I don't need Dr. Baldwin," Laura spat. "I need my son! I need Lucky!"

"Laura," Stefan began again, moving more closely to her. "You need to sit down."

"Sit down? Why is it that when a person is legitimately upset someone always tells them to sit down? Like that's going to do any good? I'm telling you what will do some good, Stefan. Getting that old hag of a mother of yours to tell me what she did with my son. That's what will do me some good."

"Laura," Gail Baldwin began soothingly. "You need to come with me."

"Why?" Laura demanded. "Do you have Lucky? Do you know what Helena did with my son? Oh, yes, Gail. Helena is behind this. She did it to me years ago. She had everybody believing that I was dead. Then, she ordered my mother killed, but Stefan rescued her." Laura turned to Stefan. "You did it before, Stefan. Can't you see? This has your mother's fingerprints all over it. She has Lucky-I can feel it. Make her give him back to me, Stefan."

Then, artfully, deliberately, Laura collapsed in a fit of weeping, falling into Stefan's waiting arms.

"There are trails to follow," Jax advised Ned. "You know that. You're in the business world, same as me, but you don't know all the things I know."

"Yeah," Ned snapped back. "I build companies. You tear them apart and sell the parts off to the highest bidder."

"Shut up, Ned," Alexis ordered. "Jax is talking about paper trails, front companies, phony buyers, and all the dodges that ELQ has used in the past. He's just a bit more familiar than you are."

"She's right. Unraveling company secrets, strengths and weaknesses are my specialty," Jax said. "So, if somebody is trying to use your daughter against you with the end result a takeover of ELQ, I'm the man to come to for help."

"You've definitely got the shady connections."

"Can it, Ned," Lois told him. "Okay, Jax. You're on." She flashed him a dimpled grin as she moved farther from V.

"I've already got feelers out on this, and frankly, I'm thinking that the Cassadines may be involved. You notice that the desert plane wreck happened rather close to this event."

Alexis nodded. "We know that Helena was behind this, and that she's doing her best to consolidate her Cassadine holdings. If she thought that she could create a difficult situation for Stefan, it would be worth her while to arrange for the kidnapping of your child and set him up to take the fall."

"I'll kill her," Lois promised passionately.

"You'll have to take a number," Ned injected.

"I've got first dibs," Alexis told them all. "I owe her from way back, and if she's behind this, she's going down for good."

"Rest," Gail told Stefan as she stood with him outside the door of the hospital room where Laura lay, sedated. "She needs rest. My guess is that she's hardly slept since Lucky died."

"Perhaps I should take her away from here for a while?"

"It would be a good idea," Gail agreed. "She and Luke are separated, and I'm guessing that a divorce is coming. Tell me, Stefan. Do you think that your mother might be involved in Lucky's death? I realize that you and your mother have an unfortunate relationship, and that she doubtless deserves your animosity, but is she really so evil?"

Stefan paused, choosing his words carefully. "My mother is capable of anything. There is nothing too callous, too fiendish for her to contemplate, indeed, to undertake. But, as you ask, might she have been responsible for Lucky's death? I sincerely hope not. Laura has suffered too much at the hands of my family. I will, however, thoroughly investigate that horrible possibility, if only so as to assure her that her son's death was only a nightmarish accident."

"But I thought that the fire was arson," Gail asked.

"Arson, yes, but was murder intended?" Stefan queried. "After all, Lucky was staying at a place with connections to Jason Morgan. Lucky might well have been the unintended victim. Regardless, I will look into it personally."

"That would be helpful to Laura," Gail smiled. "She does depend on you."

"I shall not fail her," Stefan promised. "Her happiness is my deepest desire."

From within the darkened hospital room, Laura smiled.

"Okay, people," Sean began. "Now that the welcoming is done, here's the plan. Jason, I want you to head back to Port Charles. Underground, undercover. Whatever it takes. I want to know what you can find out. Somebody there knows something about what's coming down. An operation this big can't be kept completely silent, and if Port Charles is in trouble, then somebody on the other side of the law has to be involved. Two men are vying for power there. Sonny Corinthos, and some guy named Moreno."

Jason nodded. "I can do that."

"One more thing. My sources tell me that Sonny just got married to woman named Hannah Scott who looks like a cross between Brenda Barrett and Lily Rivera Corinthos. It was very sudden. We don't have any good information on the woman, just that she showed up a few days ago and now they're married."

"Married? Sonny?"

"Yeah. We're looking into it, but nothing definite more than that yet. I want you to find out all you can. See if there is any truth to the rumors that she's working for Moreno. We know that she's not with the Feds."

"Got it."

"Robin? I want you to return to Port Charles for a visit.............."