"I really don't understand what sort of a party this is," Audrey complained to Lucy who was hurrying her up the walkway to the Quartermaine mansion. "It's not his birthday, or any special day that I can think of. And I don't know why the Quartermaines would want to host it. We've been friends for years, but Tom hasn't gotten along with them well enough in the past several months for them to want to have much to do with him. I can't believe that they'd have a party, especially just as they are mourning the loss of Jason. Lucy, are you quite certain about this?"

"Audrey," Lucy explained as they stood in front of the door. "This is one of those circumstances where you need to trust me—and while I realize that this is asking a lot, I really need your cooperation. So does Tom."

Audrey looked around. "For a party, I'd expect to see more cars."

"It wouldn't be much of a surprise if it was obvious," Lucy quickly countered. She rang the bell, and was quickly whisked inside by Reggie.

"Ms. Coe," Reggie smiled, a special gleam in his eyes. "Mrs. Hardy. Ned and the others are waiting for you in the study."

"The study? What an odd place for a party," Audrey commented.

Reggie and Lucy exchanged amused, yet concerned glances, and led Audrey into the appointed room where, to her shock, she saw, "Tom? And Tom? My heavens!! What is going on here?"

"That's what we need to explain," Kevin answered, as Ned stood close to the "Tom" who was bound, hand and foot, and seated in a chair. "You see, things aren't as they appear, and we're hoping that you can get some truth out of this fellow—this fake Tom."

"Ohmigod!" exclaimed Felicia as she entered the room. "Mac said that there was something he wanted me to see, something that you had for me, but for heaven's sake!"

"Exactly," Ned injected, as he shrugged into a black leather jacket. "Felicia, you, Lucy, and Audrey will be here with the tied up Tom, along with Audrey, and the rest of the Qs. We need you to dig any information out of him that you can—we'll be calling back to get whatever you get. There will be plenty of security posted all around—we don't expect trouble, but one never knows."

"And where will you be going?" Lucy asked of Kevin who was pulling on a pair of dark leather gloves. His entire outfit was dark, and it bespoke covert operations, and Lucy knew a moment's concern.

"I'm going to get my life back from the people who stole it, and to help the others put this mess to bed. I'm serving as doctor/shrink as we aren't entirely sure what we'll find. Don't worry, Luce. I won't be the only doctor there."

"Yeah," Tom nodded, but he was dressed in street clothes. His face was pale, but determined. "I'll be there, too. Mom, tell Simone that we'll talk as soon as I get back. Tell her……tell her that I love her and Tommy, that I have to do this."

Audrey looked at the son she'd loved for years, and at the man sitting tied and gagged, who had done his best to destroy that love. She nodded. "Do what you have to do, my dear. I'll do the same."

Just then, Lila wheeled into the room. "Audrey, welcome. I see that you're of the same mind as I am. Reggie—the sodium pentothal. Felicia, how nice to see you again. You are, no doubt, as eager as I am to extract information from this scoundrel."

Just then, Jason leaned in the door. "See you later, Grandmother."

Audrey looked at Lila, questions in her startled eyes. "Jason?"

"Be patient, my dear. I'll explain."

"You aren't going to go in and say 'hello'?" Kevin asked the pilot of the helicopter that had landed on the Quartermaine front lawn. While one of the more quiet choppers, it none the less made considerable noise.

"Hell, no! Not until I can tell her that I'm back for good."

"You're planning to stay this time?" Kevin questioned.

"Damned straight," Frisco answered, his face grim. "I've tracked this SOB all over the world, spent entirely too much time looking over my back.. Faison has cost me more than I can begin to tell you—and this time, he's going down. For good."

Ned glanced at Frisco, remembering him from years ago, and asked, "You still interested in music? I know this recording company…"

"I'd love to record, but I'm sticking close to home."

Ned nodded. "I understand. Time to get your life in order."

"You might say that." Frisco turned to Jason who grinned. "Nice to see that you're not dead either."

Jason grinned in return. "Being dead isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not a gold street or harp in sight."

The atmosphere turned a little darker as the chopper flew low over the trees, and then swooped down in the clearing not far from the estate where the evening's events were about to get underway. The men climbed out, and dashed over to meet with their boss.

"Marty? What's the status?" Frisco asked, as Marty greeted the group.

"I've got agents securing the perimeter, and Anna just let me know that she had found what she believes to be a secret underground entrance. She's taking that and will meet us on the inside. I have one new agent about to make his entrance—he's buying us a few minutes." She turned to Tom, and asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Good, but this is very strange to me."

"Understandable. You don't have to do this, you know. We can do this without you."

"I need to do this for me," Tom told her.

"As do I," Kevin told her, as the radio beeped.

Marty answered. "Yes? Stefan has arrived? Interesting. Okay, we know that he's professed to be on our side, but there's always the chance that he lied. With the Cassadines, you never know. Give him a few minutes and then send our man in. I'll be along as shortly."

"Tom, are you ready?"

Helena and Faison stood glaring at each other, while Stefan stood to one side, silently smirking at them. It had taken him a moment to realize that Helena was now wearing Lesley Webber's face, but when he understood that, he understood the depth of Helena's determination, and the deceit she'd employed to gain her ends.

"I have come for Nikolas," Stefan told them, his confidence grating on Helena's nerves. "I have also come to inform you that your plans are worthless, that I have already defeated you, that wisdom would dictate that you leave the country immediately."

"Defeated?" Faison responded with a sneer. He tipped the ash from his cigar on the floor, causing Helena to give him yet another disgusted look. "That is a rather strong word for a man who doesn't know the names of all his enemies."

"Their names are irrelevant," Stefan returned. "It has taken a bit of time, Helena, but I have gathered all the information, all the codes, everything I need to take complete control of the Cassadine empire, and more—much more, rendering you utterly powerless."

"You've tried that before," Helena smiled smugly back. "But I found other backers, others who understood that you don't have the genius, the guts, if you will, to wield this kind of power. You, my pitiful excuse for a son, don't have the ruthlessness that true greatness requires." She laughed, and motioned to one of the men who stood at the entrance to the room. "Remove Stefan from here…"

"Not so quickly, Helena," Stefan said, "I am not in this alone."

"He has allies," came a voice from a man just entering the room. "As do I. Peter Castles, and not at your service." With a slight nod at Helena, he continued. "This is my lovely wife and partner, Suzanna Castles, who is well and truly irritated with you for disrupting our lives. We've come for our son, P.J. You will turn him over to us immediately."

Helena glanced over at Faison, a slightly perturbed look in her eyes. Things weren't going as expected. "I don't think that you understand your position here. We took your son to insure your cooperation, not to merely inconvenience you."

"That was one of many mistakes," Suzi told the woman bluntly. Her dark eyes flashing, Suzi continued. "Shall I enumerate them, or shall we just cut to the chase?"

Helena laughed suddenly. "This is priceless! First my worthless son, Stefan enters, and proclaims his power over us, and now, you and your husband expect us to turn over your son without question. I think not. Gentlemen, take the Castles to the dungeon. Yes, don't look so surprised, we do have one. All Cassadine strongholds have one, regardless of where they are constructed. Stefan, you may remain—this will be, no doubt, an edifying experience for you."

"Aren't you even wondering how we knew how to find you?" Peter asked, as he and Suzi were escorted from the room.

"You are in the intelligence field," Faison pointed out, reasonably. "I had expected you to do so." He smiled. "Now you must learn to take orders from your new employer. You see, Stuart Matthews is no longer with us."

Anna Devane Scorpio moved quickly through the tunnel, careful to listen for any footsteps other than her own, tracking the prints left by someone who had entered this tunnel not long ago. The footprints were easy to read in the dust, easy to follow, and suddenly, as she stopped, aware of someone just ahead of her in a larger room. She heard a voice, oddly sympathetic, yet determined—a feminine voice, yet one that was like velvet sheathed steel. A formidable woman, she realized, and then, she knew the identity of the speaker. Alexis Cassadine.

"I'm sorry, but with any luck, this will all be over in a little while, and we will both return to our respective lives. You just need to trust me and cooperate with me. You see, I know the truth about you, and you know what they say—The truth will make you free!"

"Interesting," Anna whispered to herself, and picked up her radio to relay what she'd discovered. Things were moving a little faster than they'd thought.

"He was demanding entry," explained the guards as they ushered Tom Hardy into the room. Tom was wild-eyed, disheveled, and nearly beside himself.

"They don't believe me," he told them. "They think that I lied, that I killed Angela. I've got to bring her back to prove that I didn't. This wasn't how it was supposed to work."

"Get him out of here," Faison ordered, and quickly, he was taken from the room by the guards that had removed the Castles.

"Tom Hardy?" Stefan asked, his curiosity piqued. "He was working with you all along? That makes sense, now that I come to think of it. You needed someone on the inside, but Tom? A Hardy? I am surprised."

Helena smiled. "You always underestimated me, Stefan."

"It would seem that you have underestimated several people, Helena," Stefan pointed out. "Does it not seem odd to you that your hiding place has been discovered by these people? Soon it will be revealed that you have kidnapped the Spencers, and your own grandson, along with, apparently, the Castle boy. Americans have a very dim view of kidnappers."

"Considering that we'll be out of the country before anybody finds out, that won't be a problem. Now, Stefan, I'll offer you one chance to join us, one chance to regain the glory due the Cassadine name, one chance to take your place in history."

"What are you talking about?" Stefan asked, quietly, suddenly feeling that he'd missed some vital bit of information.

Just then, Nikolas and Lucky were led into the room, both boys looking surly and angry. Nikolas gave the Cassadines a disgusted look, and turned away. A maid brought Lesley Lu into the room where she was given to Helena. The little girl squirmed, aware of the tension in the room, and, seeing Lucky, cried out to him. He moved to take her, but the guards held him back.

"It's okay, Lulu," he said, his voice strained. "Dad will find us and we'll go home."

Helena smiled indulgently. "Not this time, Lucky—that name—how ghastly. It will be changed to something more appropriate. Perhaps Alexei. I shall consider it."

"Are you nuts?" Lucky scoffed.

"No," Helena told him, "and you'll understand when we reveal the reason for our actions."

"Oh, I understand that already," Lucky spat. "Greed. You Cassadines think that you have to own and control everything and everybody. Well, I've got a hot flash for you. You don't own the Spencers and you never will. Dad will stop your plan—just like he did before."

"There won't be any need for Luke Spencer to come to the rescue," Alexis announced as she entered the room with Laura who was walking with some effort.

Seeing Helena as Lesley Webber had come as a shock, but she handled it easily by accepting the change. "In fact, there is no need for us to bother with any Spencer ever again." She turned to Laura, and said, "Tell them, Laura. Tell them what we already know. Tell them about Nikolas."

8,935 Fans of "Web of Deceit" visited us previously