It was midnight before Jared arrived home from his latest meeting with Marty who had a list of everybody who had shown interest in Lucy Coe. Long list, Jared grinned, thinking of the pictures of Lucy in the turquoise blue dress. Not that he minded spending time with Marty, though he kept wondering how she could keep her mind on her work while their son was doing heaven alone knew what. Parenthood, he thought. A strange but wonderful thing. As he approached the cottage, he heard a voice call softly from the shadows.

"Jared Andrews?"

"Uh, yeah, that's me."

"We need to talk."

"This is after business hours."

"Our business is 24/7. I can't stay long but I have information for you."

"Who are you?" Jared looked at the man, unable to distinguish his features.

"Let's just say that I used to work for Frisco Jones, and I'd like to think that you and I are on the same side."

"Let's go inside."

Once inside the cottage, Jared turned to study the younger man who stood before him. Odd, but there was something decidedly familiar about his face. He'd seen that same chin before, only on someone else. He'd have to think about that. "Okay, shoot. You said you used to work for Frisco? What happened?"

"His plane went down early this morning-make that yesterday morning somewhere in the Middle East. I don't know if he's dead or in hiding-you know how that goes, but I've got to give this information to someone before I leave."

"Okay, what is it?"

"It's not a lot-this whole thing is buried under so many layers of information that I don't know how long it'll take to dig it out."

"I figured that," Jared commented dryly. What was it about his business that had people lurking around all hours of the day and night turning into paranoid nutcases?

"You see, a few weeks ago, I dumped Tom Hardy's body, more dead than alive, near here."

The cabin was dark that evening when Gil finally returned home. Victoria's body had been taken away and was now in the small medical facility that the mountain village also used as a morgue. Her death was listed as an apparent heart attack, and the sheriff had her address book searching for a next of kin. What he didn't know was that the normally law abiding citizen, Gilbert Andrews, had tampered with what was probably a crime scene and had even stolen evidence. Said evidence was now resting in his hands, hands which were trembling in anticipation.

"You're a fool," he told himself aloud. "A complete fool." He looked at the disks and added, "Well, not a complete fool. A complete fool would have turned the computer over to the sheriff without taking all the information from it, or taken the computer itself, thereby alerting someone to the fact that someone, probably Gil himself, had information that was possibly dangerous. No, he'd done the best thing he could do-copy the information and leave the computer. He could peruse the files at his leisure, which was going to be ASAP, but not around here. No, he was going home, ostensibly on a visit to his brother and soon-to-be ex-wife. People did things like that all the time.

Trouble was, he had the uneasy feeling that there was far more going on here than he'd ever known about, that he'd been maneuvered, or used. Or, manipulated. But why? What did anybody want with a middle aged vintner with a penchant for prose? What would make a lovely lady like Victoria lie to him about computers? He had trouble believing that it was some silly female trick to lure him to her side. No, it was more. If he'd been Travis Hope, his fictional alter-ego, he'd have felt the hairs raising on the back of his neck, and had all sorts of gut feelings. Sort of what he was feeling now, come to think of it. There was definitely something wrong. He thought once more of what he'd seen on the e-mail address he knew by heart, the last one to which Victoria had posted that final, terse note. Just who was Victoria and why was she writing to D.B. Saxon??

"Where is she?" demanded Faison of Matthew Stuart who held his cellular phone somewhat nervously. Faison never called on the regular phone.

"Relax," Stuart tried to calm the Dane.

"The last man who told me that is now permanently relaxed," Faison reminded none too gently. "Where is Angela?"

"I don't know," Stuart replied, his thoughts still filled with Lucy Coe. "Why do you ask?"

"Because, you cretin, Angela has killed Victoria. I told you to get her under control after she nearly botched the Cameron affair."

"Victoria?" Stuart sat up quickly his face suddenly draining of all color. "She's been killed?"

"Victoria e-mailed me with the information as her last move. Loyal to the end, which is more than I can say of you. Where is your mind? Still filled with visions of the lovely Lucy Coe? Are you surprised that I know of your activities?"

"You'd have done better to have spent your time watching that little blond bimbo you brought into the fold," Stuart answered, angered at the implied threat. "Did you forget that you recruited her? It wasn't my idea. In fact, I suggested that she be disposed of after the Bahamian affair, but it was your idea to keep her on. We could have gotten our information some other way."

"You forget yourself," Faison reminded. "I give the orders. You work for me, and as such, you are in my employ. You'd do well to remember that when I terminate an employee, I have them terminated. Permanently."

"You keep threatening me, Faison," Stuart countered. "But you need me. I'm a part of your plan, and you need what I have to offer."

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. "Stuart, you greatly overestimate your value to me. I've only just received notice concerning our first shipment of computer equipment. Did you know that you arranged shipment was completely worthless? Worthless!! I'm giving you this first and last warning, Stuart. You have been paid in advance for this job, paid quite well, but either you have been duped, or you think that I can be."

"What are you saying? That equipment was in perfect order. It..."

"Perfect order? It didn't arrive in that condition. My customers are anxious."

"I'll find out what happened. If Corinthos..."

"Your East coast contact?"


"Make very certain of your business contacts," Faison told him. "Did you know that his right hand man is in love with Robin Scorpio? Did you know that her parents were the best agents that the WSB ever had up until their deaths?"

"Uh, no."

"Do your homework, Stuart. You need to make very sure that your Mr. Corinthos hasn't been compromised by his associations with Miss Scorpio. As I recall, Robin was very much her mother's daughter."

"But her parents are dead."

"Does an acorn fall so far from the oak? I apologize for the cliché, but you must understand that a cliché only becomes one as it is so easily used and recognized as truth."

"Fine. I'll deal with both situations."

Stuart clicked off the phone, disturbed to find his hands shaking. He'd known that Faison was a hard man, a criminal genius, but it was genuinely frightening to hear the calm threat of his own death. No, make that the promise. There was steel in that tone, not an empty threat. His hands still trembling, he turned the phone back on. He entered several numbers, and upon hearing the "Yes?" barked, "I need to find out where Angela is. Find her and take her to my house in the country. Let me know when you have her, and keep her there until further notice."

Then, he called Sonny Corinthos.

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