"Have you seen Nikolas?" Stefan asked Mrs. Lansbury as she poured his coffee.
"Not lately, Mr. Cassidine," the older woman answered. "He didn't even stop in for cookies and milk today, and I baked his favorite. He's just so busy these days."
(Later that afternoon)
Lucas Spencer Jones looked up from beneath the tarp where he'd stowed away in the boat taking Mrs. Lansbury to the mainland. He'd waited until nobody was looking, then crept out, careful to remain unobserved. He had to find somebody he trusted, someone who wasn't involved with somebody weird, or somebody he didn't like. That left out a lot of people, he decided unhappily. Mom was married to Uncle Stefan, who had hired Mrs. Lansbury. Mom looked worried all the time, and considering that she was living in the creepy old house on Spoon Island, he couldn't say that he blamed her. 'Course, only a couple of days ago, he'd thought it was pretty cool, what with the secret passages and like that, but ever since this afternoon, well things didn't look so good anymore. He sighed and began thinking about his options. He couldn't share this with his Dad, because he was snuggling around with Carly, and Lucas didn't like her much anymore. Uncle Luke was out of town, so he wasn't much help.
Hearing voices, Lucas dashed into a crate, watching as workers strode by. He waited patiently, for them to pass but before he could move, he heard a pathetic whimper coming from a crate next to him. Mustering more courage, Lucas peered inside. "Foster?" The dog, too weak to lift his head, whined and tried to thump his tail in greeting. Lucas reached out and patted him. "It's okay, I'll get help for you. You just keep quiet and out of sight and I'll take care of you." The little boy noticed the rusty stain on the dog's head. "Somebody hit you?" Another whine. "Don't worry, boy. I'm on the job now."
Lucas stood up, and headed down the dock towards Ruby's. She'd know what to do, whom to call. His Aunt Ruby was nobody's fool. Hearing voices, he slid back into the shadows, both energized and unnerved by the weight of his responsibilities. Still, Nik was family now, and nobody was going to mess with him and get away with it. Not even Mrs. Lansbury, whom he'd recently discovered was as wicked as the witch in the fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel. Yeah! No way he'd ever eat her cookies again.
"Got it," Marty smiled. "Now to see if there's anything of use on it." She looked at the computer that had been isolated and made ready to received Jack's transmission. As there had been no way of knowing what was on the disk drive, virus or otherwise, this had seemed the logical thing to do. She looked at the dark skinned woman at her side, and said, "Bonnie, it's all yours. I want a print out of everything on the disk, and I'm especially interested in any hidden files. You know what to look for."
"Right boss," Bonnie grinned, flashing strong white teeth. "Give me a little while and this baby will tell me everything."
Jack sat in front of the computer in his apartment, determined to learn what he'd just sent to WEB. Everything had gone so smoothly, yet there was something nagging at him, something that bothered him. What was it? He turned his mind to the situation at hand, consigning that problem to the back burner of his mind. And, as always, he kept his gun close at hand.
A knock at his door called him from the computer.
"Who's there?" he called, picking up his gun.
"Jake Lowell. Let me in."
Jack opened the door, allowing Jake to enter.
"Did you get what you needed?" Jake asked. "I stalled them as long as I could."
"It's too soon to tell," Jack admitted, his sense of discomfort growing steadily. "But, I have the strangest feeling that something is wrong. This whole thing went too smoothly."
"Sometimes we get lucky," Jake told him. "Have you sent it to WEB yet?"
"Not yet," Jack answered, finding himself reluctant to share the truth with Jake. He turned back to the computer, wondering at his feelings of apprehension. "Why do you ask?"
"It's a need to know thing," Jake answered as he took out his gun and knocked Jack over the head. "We want WEB to have that, old buddy." He pulled a pair of rubber gloves from his pocket, and swiftly connected the computer to the phone lines, then sent the transmission. Apparently, WEB had been waiting, and he smiled as the transmission went through. "Have fun, Marty."
Then, he turned to Jack who was unconscious on the floor. "Jack, my boy, we're taking a little trip. You may well turn out to be a valuable commodity, somewhere down the line, so you're coming with me."
"Hey Boss! Something strange going on here. Jack just sent us another copy of the stuff."
Without breaking stride, Marty picked up the telephone, and entered a few numbers. "Jared? Jack may be in trouble. His place. STAT!"
Jared turned to Justin, his face grim. "Justin, I may need back up. You in?"
Pulling a gun from a drawer in the desk, Justin nodded. "You had to ask? What's going down?"
"Maybe nothing, but Marty thinks that Jack may be in trouble."
Lucas melted into the shadows again, watching as Tom Hardy left Ruby's. A very beautiful blonde woman that Lucas didn't know approached, and pulled Tom aside. They stood so close to Lucas' hiding place that he was afraid to breathe.
"Did you do it?"
"Yeah. Anybody who eats Ruby's chili will be sick as a dog by this evening. Salmonella poisoning, and the place will be closed down for a while at least."
"When will they start serving it?"
"Soon. There's a special on chili starting at seven this evening."
Lucas waited until Tom and the blonde lady had moved on down the dock, then dashed into the restaurant, careful to knock the first steaming bowl of chili onto the floor as he hurried into Ruby's. "Sorry," he grinned, heading back into the kitchen. "I'll get something to clean it up." Once back, he went to the huge pot of chili simmering on the stove, and, grabbing the dishwasher soap from the shelf beside it, he dumped the contents into the chili as Ruby watched in horror. "Lucas Spencer Jones!! What are you doing?"
"Aunt Ruby," he said, taking her hand, his little face solemn with worry. "We're in big trouble. Big trouble."
"You're in big trouble, you mean," Ruby told him. "I've got a whole restaurant full of customers waiting for my chili, and you've ruined the whole pot."
"I've saved your customers," Lucas told her. "There's stuff you don't know about, Aunt Ruby. Bad stuff and I need help."
"Then I'm just the man you need to see," came a familiar voice from the doorway of the kitchen. Looking up, Lucas saw the man he figured was best able to deal with nasty people. "Uncle Luke!"
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